The Superorganism called Human


Daily Nous posted about a paper, that I think everybody needs to read. Humans as Superorganisms: How Microbes, Viruses, Imprinted Genes, and Other Selfish Entities Shape Our Behavior is about the diversity of nonhuman entities in our body that co-decide our actions, thoughts and behaviours.

Daily Nous obviously places the focus of inquiry on philosophical consequences. There is much talk about the human as a superorganism. Traditionally, a superorganism consists of mutiple organsisms or individuals. Usually hive-building insects are superorganisms.

But after the introduction of the paper it should already be clear that a superorganism can constist of very different organisms:

Psychologists and psychiatrists tend to be little aware that (a) microbes in our brains and guts are capable of altering our behavior; (b) viral DNA that was incorporated into our DNA millions of years ago is implicated in mental disorders; (c) many of us carry the cells of another human in our brains; and (d) under the regulation of viruslike elements, the paternally inherited and maternally inherited copies of some genes compete for domination in the offspring, on whom they have opposite physical and behavioral effects.

The topic of Superorganism in the context of posthumanism is important. It's not only technology or anti-humanistic critique that deteriorates the idea of the human or humanity. De facto were we never just human from the beginning. We were always a conglomorate of living and dead entities - a mashup of what has been in a non-linear fashion.

To be continued.

The article might not necessarily be for the faint hearted. The paper is accesible via or here as PDF.