by David M. Petersen
There are so many dystopian movies these days! The Terminator, Elysium, etc., even WallE! I love a good sci-fi flick as much as the next guy, but on the whole, we need to be more positive. The human race is actually undergoing a beautiful transformation. This transformation is not without imperfections and is very hard to see on short time scales of only a hundred years or so. However, when viewed from the perspective of thousands of years (thousands of years into the past and thousands of years into the future) a process becomes clear. No one really thinks about the future, it seems; I mean the future a thousand years from now (in a positive way, anyway!) In my view we have a duty to try to pull together and visualize where we are going from the perspective of a thousand years from now; a duty to understand survival on a next level; a duty to build; a duty to pull together to fight to solve problems. This is true because, as may become clearer by the end of this essay, conflict for which we will be forced to pull together is coming. The human race as a whole has a responsibility to come together to take control over its own destiny, otherwise we will become extinct, like the poor dinosaurs, for example. In fact it's obvious that what seperates us from the dinosaurs and every other species that has become extinct is precisely our potential ability to pull together to solve problems. I think that the perspective that is necessary for this undertaking can be outlined roughly in seven stages, as hopefully is shown below. Keep in mind that these stages are not hard and fast and will all flow into each other one after another over time. By the way, the first world leaders to grasp this process will be first to power positions within it, so it will pay off to understand it.
To begin, Imagine the big bang, the expanding universe, first, second and third stage stellar evolution, etc. Then Imagine our solar system forming and heating up from clouds of star dust from first generation stars pulled together by gravity, our planet congealing from the swirling mass, gradually cooling and almost imperceptibly bridging the gap between non-organic and organic matter. A good source that details this process (before the arrival of organic mater that is) is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Chronology_of_the_universe. Interestingly, this overall evolution picture is best explained with current scientific research being conducted under a fairly new scientific heading called Complexity. The science of Complexity studies the evolutionary tendency of systems with independent entities to spontaneously self organize into larger entities that transcend the sum of their parts. This type of behavior can be observed in all natural systems, from stellar evolution, to biology, to the economy, and beyond, and is very important to our 'thousands of years or more' perspective. So moving on, basically the chemistry of the early earth resulted in the creation of organic molecules, the type of molecules neccessary to evolve life.
The next stage to discuss then would be the emergence of unicellular organisms from these organic molecules. More specifically, the progression from organic molecules to macromolecules, to self replicating RNA, to the development of photosynthesis and oxitive metabolism, etc. A really good source outlining this process is at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/
NBK9841/, which is an article at the National Center For Biotechnology Information called The Origin and Evolution of Cells. One very important aspect of this particular process is begining of the phenomenon that I will be refering to as "entity specialization," which at this stage is represented by "the acquisition of membrane-enclosed subcellular organelles, allowing the development of the complexity characteristic of ... cells." (NCBI) In other words, smaller organic entities called organelles came together within cells to provide specific seperate functionality within the living cell. This entity specialization phenomenon is very important and will be shown to be present at every stage of the future evolutionary picture that we will be discussing.
The next stage of our evolutionary picture displays continuing entity specialization with the emergence of multicellular development, which is now about actual cell specialization. From the NCBI article: "Increasing cell specialization then led to the transition from colonial aggregates to truly multicellular organisms. Continuing cell specialization and division of labor among the cells of an organism have led to the complexity and diversity observed in the many types of cells that make up present-day plants and animals." (NCBI). One really important aspect of this ongoing evolutionary process that emerges is the phenomenon of 'survival advantage,' which is a phenomenon that is also present at every future stage we will be discussing. Basically, all of this complexity driving forward is like a constant 'arms race of evolution,' if you will. As everyone knows, mutations that happen to give an organisim a survival advantage stick around and allow them to survive better relative to other organisms.
Now picture the earth gradually and eventually developing more and more complex forms of evolving life that struggle against each other to survive, with multicellular evolution driving forward and eventually yielding man. Picture man's emergence from the lower primates, his bloody struggles with the rise and fall of civilizations and empires, and his continuing survival advantage over other creatures on the earth in the form of the development of consciousness, the most previlent of man's survival traits. Also there is the emergence of another extremely important phenomenon relative to our evolution picture, man's beginning control over his environment in the form of science and technology. In fact, Intelligence is clearly man's "edge" over all other creatures on earth and so makes him dominant on the earth.
So, picture Man's subsequent slow spread in a thin layer to all points of the globe, gradually being culturally altered by different environments, and just as gradually increasing in numbers that begin to not only encompass more and more global space, but also to remix in newer and stronger cultural combinations. Culture mixing is a particuarly powerful and fascinating aspect to man's development. From Thomas Sowell's book Race and Culture: "the cultural history of the human race is not simply the sum of the discrete histories of particular groups. Because groups interact in various ways--through trade, migration, or conquest, for example--the benefits of one group's cultural advantages spread to other groups. The most obvious way this happens is when products or services are interchanged. Sometimes the technology or the knowledge behind the technology, also spreads. In addition, the interaction in itself tends to shatter cultural insularity, which can otherwise be stultifying." (Sowell, p4). Culture mixing is another phenomenon that will continue in our future and is very important to our future evolutionary picture, as will be shown. Now picture Man within a completely intertwined and codependent ecological system on earth, the leading edge of all life on the planet with the emerging technology, again, a natural result of consciousness, to begin to control its own evolution and survival with two very important technological tools; computers, and the emerging ability to understand and manipulate his genetic code. What we know now as the Internet will clearly evolve further into networked and augmented individuals who will display continued entity specialization and continued survival advantage because of their augmentation. Our evolution will be constantly driving forward, moving from networked individual post-human entities to one essentially interconnected 'multi-human' entity that will display continued advancing control over its environment.
Imagine Mankind then, becoming more and more like a unified organism as the barriers of his lesser organizations gradually dissolve (nation states, religions, etc), and information passes more and more freely between all points around the globe. The Internet, the global economy, networking technology, the trans-human/post human movement etc. are all clearly advancing towards a kind of 'human unification'. This picture bears a strong resemblance to what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French evolutionary philosopher, called the "Omega Point." This point can be described as a pinnacle of the evolution of life on this planet, with mankind embodying the conscious edge of a total planetary organism that is becoming more and more unified. The Omega Point, according to Chardin, will display a characteristic that he called the "Hyper-Personal." Basically, this concept can be described as a total union of consciousness that displays no loss of the individuality of each person. Rather, every individual is plugged into a more efficiently organized thinking whole that transcends the sum of its parts. (Chardin). In other words, this state will not compromise human freewill. Basically, your freewill will continue to exist and just be plugged in to a larger whole. The Omega Point is a beautiful idea but is incomplete; it just doesn't go far enough. I believe the real picture is more like an Omega Point then outward. In other words, Imagine this global organism beginning to exert more and more interaction with, and more and more control over, an interconnected section of the entire universal energy system within which it resides and within which it grows, consuming more and more resources in the galaxy and taking up more and more space around it via colonization of planets and moons, becoming better and better at solving its survival problems such as global warming and defending from deadly space objects like asteroids and long period comets, on earth and its other planets.
Just a note on humans and computers; conciousness augmented by computers is in our immediate future, this of course would just be the next example in the chain of entity specialization involving super networked individuals augmented to perform more and more complex specific tasks, however, computers are not conscious no matter how much data you give them or how much processing power they have, or how much you network them together. Consciousness and computers are two radically different things! One has evolved over millions of years and involves emotions and experiences through a process we don't understand and the other is a useful tool that has been discovered in only the last century and involves mere calculation. The only thing they have in common is that computers can mimic our logical forebrain activity and of course they are beginning to do it much better and faster than us. However, equating them with our consciousness is an enormous fallacy. They are as aware as door knobs. They could, however be hooked into our infastructure too much and be programmed with very dangerous algorithms that could get out of control. All this talk of a singularity (with a kind of strange glee that I find disturbing) in which machines take control over humans would be a disaster to avoid at all costs. We have to watch ourselves with nuclear weapons; we have to watch ourselves relative to this danger also. We have gotten to this point with virtually no awareness of ourselves as part of a whole; clearly we have to gradually take responsibilty for our own survival as a whole in order to truly survive, and this issue is a perfect example of this challenge facing us.
Through science fiction we have been conditioned to think that there are alien races out there that are far more advanced than ours, but I seriously doubt that this is true. It is far more likely that there are millions or even billions of civilizations that are roughly in the same place we are evolutionarily, and who are also very very far away from us as well, otherwise why have we not had any interaction wih them? As far as the rate of the development of life in the universe, I would point the reader to the fifty percent order, fifty percent chaos mathematical characteristic of emerging complex structures as described in general by the science of Complexity, and in particular by Chris G. Langton's, work, Computation at the Edge of Chaos: Phase Transitions and Emergent Computation. (Langton). This concept, which boils down to the fact that if organisms have to much order they die, and if they have to much chaos they die as well, plus the length of time that generations of star systems take to synthesize heavy elements strongly implies an overall rate of development of life that is universal within our universal energy system. Also, in terms of the distance seperating life in the universe, according to Carl Sagan, "the bulk of the current evidence suggests a vast number of planets distributed through the Milky Way with abundant liquid water stable over lifetimes of billions of years....and, of course, the Milky Way is one of an enormous number, perhaps a hundred billion, other galaxies." (Sagan). So, imagine all the other myriad 'multi-other' organisms of the same scale as our 'multi-human' organism scattered throughout our universe, all at roughly equivalent points in space-time, all around the same approximate level and rate of development, and all struggling to survive.
It is not a great leap of imagination that because of this reality, conflict is coming. There will be wars, battles for resources and planets, as well as ongoing culture mixing just like what has happened on our planet down through our history. By the way, there are potentially billions of these 'multi-other' organisms and not all will survive! We must grasp the fact that we are not necessarily special and we are going to have to fight to survive and be a part of the next stages of universal evolution, and whether or not we can grasp this concept and be prepared in time will most certainly affect our success or failure to do this.
Now picture these 'multi-other' organisms (including the mult-human organism hopefully) reaching the peak of their power and gradually waning to be incorporated and superseded by more advanced 'omni organisms' within the total energy system - emerging through the connections between the previous lesser organisms through culture mixing and technology in the same flowing, interconnecting evolutionary process, again, as described in general by the science of Complexity. There will be continued culture mixing, continued advances in technology, probably the development of structures that can generate or store consciousness for real (having nothing to do with computers). There will continued entity specialization among these 'omni-organisms', continued manuvering for survival advantage, and continued control over environment.
Now it is necessary to see this entire scenario not only as evolving in three dimensions, but as a smoothly flowing organic structure in four dimensions. The science of physics has found that the universe cannot be described accurately as a three dimensional space with absolute time. In other words, time cannot be separated from space, and the universe therefore possesses 'block time,' in which the past and the future exist simultaneously. I find the description 'block time' to be somewhat clunky and misleading. I believe that the universe is really an expanding and contracting four-dimensional sphere. Anyway, to quote Albert Einstein, "There is no more commonplace statement than the world in which we live is a four-dimensional space-time continuum (Einstein, p61). All 'parts' then are occupying completely essential positions within the total four dimensional energy system, existing simultaneously as a series of events and eternally, and flowing towards an ultimate culmination of pure consciousness. This is possible because consciousness has always been "physical" energy. So, in other words, the universe is evolving into God, or a pure conscious entity that has control (with limits) over the past present and future of the universe. At this final stage there will be a few big omni-organisms left to integrate into this one entity. Physical structure, biological structure, technological structure, such as they are will all merge into conscious structure. Control over the past, present and future of the universe will be essentially total, although there are some limits to this. (updated 3/24/2016.) At this point (and indeed it has always been true that consciousness creates order) all the order in the universe will have been created by consciousness and all the chaos in the universe will have been controlled by that order.
The sooner we all start adopting this perspective in total the better. there is no guarantee we will make it! Do you want our lineage to be a part of the coming unity? The human race as a whole has a responsibility to come together to take control over its destiny, otherwise we will become extinct. In fact again, what seperates us from the dinosaurs and every other species that has become extinct is precisely our potential ability to do this. In my view we have a duty to try to pull together and visualize where we are going from the perspective of a thousand years from now; a duty to understand survival on next level; a duty to build; a duty to pull together to fight to solve problems like global warming, the threat of long period comets that could hit the earth, as well as the eventual attempted colonization of our planet. Conflict for which we will be forced to pull together is coming, we must be ready.
The Origin and Evolution of Cells - The Cell, National Center For Biotechnology Information, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/
Race and Culture, A World View, Sowell, Thomas, BasicBooks. 1994.
Computation at the Edge of Chaos: Phase Transitions and Emergent Computation, Langton, Chris G.
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