A Brief Glimpse of my Neurosis and the Nature of Evolution
I have always been curious about how the mind works. Since I only have direct access to mine, I have spent a lot of time over the years watching it. Meditation has definitely helped in this regard. For the most part, it’s a fairly banal bit of business, but occasionally it does something interesting. I’ve noticed this mostly happens when I have an “Ah-hah!” moment. Usually, this occurs when a problem I have been ruminating on for some time finally moves a bit forward. One of those leaps happened today.
The ah-ha moment I got to witness today has to do with a couple of things that Buckminster Fuller, Ray Kurzweil, and Terence McKenna have in common. They actually have a lot in common, but the two things that are important here is that they all had some very interesting notions about the acceleration nature of time and evolution and that they all happen to be people whose work I admire (and hence have studied.) Buckminster Fuller was famous for carrying with him a set of charts which showed the accelerating curves of a number of areas of human development. Ray Kurzweil, in his book “The Singularity is Near”, features a number of these type of charts especially focused on the accelerating development of computing power, while also showing the trend to decrease in pricing and size of said computing power over time. Terence McKenna talked about this tendency of evolution accelerating in his work on novelty theory, and his time wave zero model of time. These three deep thinkers (along with many others) have noted that the amount of change over a given period of time is accelerating. As an example I’ve talked about before, if you take the amount of information available to humanity as a whole in the year 0 AD as one unit, the amount of information humanity has doubled by the year 1500. It doubled again in 1750, then again in 1900, and again in 1950, etc. As you can plainly see the rate of accumulation of information (new discoveries, sparks of genius, fresh fields of research, etc.) is plainly accelerating.
Several mathematicians have worked on this notion as well. A pair of them calculated that by around noon on June 12th, 2012 there would be an invention on the order of the wheel, the mastery of fire, the creation of the printing press, or the development of the Internet, happening every second, and that new invention would have been propagating into general use by the human species as a whole the next second. Not only do I have no idea what that would look like, it also does not seem to have occurred. Similarly, Terence McKenna showed mathematically that on December 21st, 2012 the amount of evolution that has happened since the big bang would happen in one seconds time, and all of that evolution would happen again int the next pico-second, etc. He called this the collision of our reality with the transcendental object at the end of time. Again, I have no idea what that would mean, and again it does not seem to have happened.
All of these thinkers were quite brilliant, and their math seems to hold up. So, what happened? That’s the very problem my brain has been chewing over for the last five years. Normally when a problem like this clicks it’s because another notion collides with the first. That’s what happened. It went like this: I was watching Red Dwarf (one my favorite science fiction series) on my iPhone. I got up to go to the restroom, paused the show and stuck it in my pocket. The thought came to me, “How amazing that in my lifetime TVs have gone from back breaking cubes with bad black and white pictures to something I can keep in my pocket. Hmm, why can’t I fit an oven in my pocket? Ovens have been around for longer than TVs. What’s the difference?” What came to me was information. Information is the difference between a TV and an oven. A TV is (to a large degree) all about transmitting information. An oven is about physical material, and the transformation of physical material. That was where the second notion came in.
Most of the major traditions of contemplation on the nature of existence have some form of a “ladder of existence.” The Hindu traditions breaks it down (basically) into the gross, subtle, and causal realms. One way to think of this is that the gross realm is the waking world or rocks and trees. The subtle realm is the dreaming world of ideas, emotions, and thoughts. The causal realm is the deep dreamless sleep world of being without form. This conceptual framework collided with the theory of accelerating change over time which led to my ah-hah moment.
The material world which ovens play in is the gross realm on the ladder of existence. The information world of TV is mostly in the subtle realm. So, rather than thinking of evolution as one thing, what if we think of it as a multi-faceted affair. Some of it is material, and it obeys the rules of that realm. Some of it is informational, and it obeys the rules of the subtle world. Perhaps then what is happening with the fact that there seems to be a slow down in the speed of progress has run into a limit in the material realm. Perhaps material evolution cannot go any faster than it currently is. The informational portion of evolution may still be accelerating as it always has, but now with the drag factor of the “material evolution speed barrier.”
Of course, this is a new notion for me, and I am sure it will lead me to more areas of research and study, but it may be that I am on to something. It’s likely an old notion to other people out there. However, this moment is an example of when such a moment of insight happens to an individual.
Anyway, that’s how things happen inside my whacked out brain.