Of the many levels of sociality, the top position stands at the cosmic level. However, this level is reserved for species who have demonstrated all lower levels with consistency.
For an individual to care for their person is one level: this is level-one, a required disposition of any species in having a sense of self-preservation.
Level-2 includes an individual’s family: care for siblings and offspring. Evidence of this in nature is abundant, as any species defending a nest or a burrow would easily confirm.
Level-three aims at one’s community: a sense of empathy for those who are part of a local group or tribe. This level is where interesting things are found: teamwork, social order, and where community values are built.
Level-four includes many groups with a common interest for all. This is harder to find examples of, but is seen by species with higher social intelligence. The key trait in this level of sociality is the transcendence of empathy across different species. We see evidence of this when a hippo defends a gazelle from an attacking crocodile, or those accounts of dolphins helping humans from drowning.
Still, these acts are not limited to empathy, but include a more complex understanding of sociality — independent of aid for others. This social complexity shows evidence of recognizing other species of sociality. Examples like these are less frequent, but well documented. One such scenario includes a shark with a large fishing hook caught in its fin, who approaches a diver for help in removing it. This demonstrates a clear awareness by one species that another species is capable of empathy, and in rare situations can be leveraged to aid the survival of not just another species, but of a predator no less.
For humans, the fourth level is an ever expanding envelope. This level draws heavily on the recognition of any living thing as needing the aid of others. It also includes the use of genetically developed morality. From this we seek the aid of others we don’t know, and offer aid to others we don’t know — even if there was the potential both sides were previous adversaries. This scenario is recognized as a uniting social cause: a situation where all members of various species work towards a common interest. This level also provides insight into how advanced species reach an advanced level — by developing an unlimited sense of sociality as a survival trait. The question quickly becomes “When would this high level survival trait come into play, and what kind of fourth-level mechanics are involved?”
The interesting element in such questions comes from the fact that a level-four sociality trait cannot be developed without first developing traits from all previous sociality levels. One cannot read a book without first knowing how to form words with letters. The implication is this: to have such a high level of sociality indicates a clear understanding of social complexities in all previous levels. This is a natural mechanism as a right-of-passage, a graduation of social potential granted to those who’ve clearly earned it.
The fact that this level of sociality exists in nature is clearly remarkable, for nothing in nature is developed without a purpose in response to a survival need. As a result, the use of fourth-level sociality is without question, a survival trait for those who’ve reached that level. Further, those at this level are required to exercise this survival trait — supporting the continuance of this level of sociality (you have to use it to keep it). The implications of this finding are profound, and reveals much about ourselves as a social species.
Lastly, what of the cosmic level of sociality? At this level of sociality, one species will have developed sociality to include the social rights of all other possible species as a whole. This level demonstrates a level of understanding where social aid of a specific kind can only be offered in a sustainable form. In a way, non-interference is one form of aid — in preventing a threatening situation from escalating to an uncertain and irreversible situation. While such an example is not within the grasp of humanity on a cosmic scale, it does borrow many of the aspects of the previous levels of sociality.
Were an intergalactic species to make contact with humanity, the consequence of that contact would have to include the impact of that action. On one hand, the act of contact could disrupt social order around the world, not out of fear, but out of the implications this one act opens up (introduces many new uncertainties for a global civilization). On the other hand, if humanity were on a path to extinction, a single event such as this could unite all social groups of earth by elevating their understanding of a new more complete reality.
If there’s one thing nature is consistent with, it’s truth. Nothing in nature offers a sugar-coated version of reality, or a softened introduction to an impending threat. We only need to look at the craters around earth to see what impacts were responsible for the extinction of so many past species. Were humanity to learn we are not alone in the universe is not a choice, but an inevitable consequence of our innate sense of expanding potential and our Universal Right to know. We seek to expand our potential as a species, and in time will discover the answer first hand — without a sugar coating.
With exposure to this inevitable reality, and the fact that nature waits for no one to be ready for such events, the issue quickly points to what might be said if humanity found evidence of life elsewhere. As a galactic species might look upon earth, what scenarios might realistically be placed on the table if they learned humans had discovered them? Would they claim noninterference, or offer aid to humanity in some benign manner?
Level-5: As any species of cosmic sociality (currently not for humans), there would be reason enough to provide aid to humanity, possibly preventing our extinction. However, there are two angles to consider in such a scenario: first, aiding humanity in a certain way might inadvertently offer us permission to continue in an unsustainable way, never dealing with the issues that put us in our situation in the first place, or second, humanity only needs to realize the scope of our true environment (cosmic) to change our perspective above the current scope currently holding us back from our true potential.
Does humanity deserve to fall into extinction from our own actions? Do we deserve to suffer the fate of our ignorance? As it turns out, we do, but only if we continue to refute all information describing our true environment. The question isn’t about what should happen, but if we deserve such an ill fate. It would be one thing to never know the potential of our species and die off in ignorance, but something completely different to actually know a portion of our potential and still turn away from it. In such a situation, yes, we would certainly deserve to fall into extinction.
Who would come to our aid, and why? To compare from what’s known in nature, a crippled animal with a mortal wound is seen by its peers as a lost cause. There are even species with well developed sociality that will attack and kill a wounded member. The reasons for this are many, however, if a member of a colony was trapped in a snare or cornered by a predator, would the community not come to its aid? There are many examples of this to be true, and it gives a lot of weight towards the preservation of a colony by looking after the members that can still support the greater potential of the species. Clearly, there’s an innate sense of assessment we all carry, a built-in sense that tells us how feasible it is to aid a member of society without risking the viability of the whole group.
In comparison, humanity may reach a situation where its caught in a self-made trap: full of potential to one day support the cosmic level of sociality, but currently missing the critical information that could change our perspective and become aware of the true scope of our place in the universe. What might this survival aid come as? Would humanity need a new technology to save it from itself, what about free energy? Neither as it turns out. The human species only needs a complete picture of where it stands in the universe, an objective peak into what humanity could become if accepted. From that point, the fate of our species would clearly be in our own hands, as we would have the full picture and the focus to solve all of our problems if given the chance to see those problems in the correct frame of reference.
To evolve socially is how members of a species of sociality learns to survive, and if humanity caught a glimpse of what could be, humanity might find our way out of the self-made trap as a united level-four species. Without this realization, humanity is categorically barred from becoming an advanced species, much less a species that endures the test of time. If the goal is to survive as a species, learning to evolve into an advanced level-four global society must be paramount, for this cannot be achieved by looking at the social teachings of the past as the way forward, neither can the ideas that brought humanity so many global challenges, be used to solve those challenges.
Globally as a species, humanity needs only to see the full picture of our cosmic environment in order to develop a sustainable global perspective. Might humanity find evidence of other life in the universe? In time, if our species survives long enough, quite likely. Will the global society wait until then to change social behaviour, or might it be realized it’s not required to see the scope of our unsustainable social nature?
Unfortunately, the unification of the human species will likely require a catalyst blatant enough to catapult the global awareness of our species towards a new reality. It would have to be such that our place in the cosmos could not simply be revealed from a quantum equation, or the last paragraph in a scientific report, but from a profound revelation independent of language or the interpretation of anything other than an overwhelming personal experience — shared globally at the same time.
If humanity were given such an experience, it would invite our species to see a level-five sociality in action. In doing so, all global societies could come to a consensus on the awareness and scope of all levels of sustainable sociality — and (most importantly) our current position within that scope.
Perhaps the discovery of a cosmic civilization would bring humanity together. For at that moment humanity might begin to evolve a level-five sense of sociality with a more inclusive cosmic perspective. Humanity might then begin to shed the unsustainable social constructs that are incompatible with a level-five awareness, and start moving forward as a unified and sustainable species.