A Brief History of Convergence

People interested in the singularity love fitting the singularity into some sweeping conception of time, and I am no exception. Many focus on the topic of information or energy and our growing mastery of it. Others do exactly what I am about to do: frame the evolution of life on earth in terms of convergence. Let us begin:

In the beginning the earth was a very hot rock. There is no point at which the earth took shape, it was a gradual convergence of dust into a large ball which trapped a lot of energy in its core. This is the case for all convergences: they are gradual, yet we talk of them as if they are a point (like finding the point on an exponential curve where the line looks vertical). keep this in mind as I talk about each convergence as if it was a point in time. anyway, we generally agree that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

4 billion years ago, the first cell appeared. The first “life” was probably free floating RNA, self replicating molecules in a simple string. Some of this RNA became DNA and found a home inside a sphere of phospholipids, which form a sphere naturally because one end of a phospholipid is hydrophobic and the other is hydrophilic. This was the nature of the first cell, our ancestor. It was simply code inside a membrane.

2 billion years after the first cells formed, eukaryotic cells formed. These cells came about from the convergence of simpler prokaryotic cells, which came to be the organalles of eukaryotic cells, little cells which perform specialized functions such as providing energy, handling waste, or producing proteins. Each small cell lost its identity and became a part of a whole.

1 billion years after eukaryotic cells first appeared on this planet, many eukaryotic cells converged and formed multicellular organisms. Once more, each individual began to perform specialized functions, losing identity and becoming part of a whole. At this point you may notice that “multicellular” does not have much meaning, as eukaryotic cells themselves are composed of multiple cells. The first multicellular life to appear were colonies of algae.

500 million years after the first simple multicellular life appeared, complex multicellular life exploded on this planet. This started with large, stationary filter feeders, and quickly gave way to animal life, amongst many other kinds of life. These organisms could do novel things such as produce shells and fur, turning dead matter into a valuable part of the organism.

After complex multicellular life erupted on this planet, things get, well, complicated. I can point out so-called “superorganisms,” such as bees, where each “individual” is not an individual at all, but rather a cell in a larger organism. each bee is an exact clone of most every other, with only the queen having reproductive power. I would prefer to skip forward to the next convergence which is significant to us.

500 million years after the first complex life formed on this planet, and about 40 years beyond the present time, one species, Homo sapiens (by the way, we aren’t one species, we are composed of  many species of bacteria too) will consciously gain a mastery of the matter that composes its bodies and the information that composes its minds, and very, very quickly converge into one being, an intelligence with the power to rearrange matter into any imaginable state. Once more, each individual will lose its identity, perform a specialized function, and become a part of a whole. This is the end to our evolution as we know it: from then on we will be in control of our own code.

I hope you have noticed the exponential nature of this process. With each new convergence, life gets better at converging, and thus each subsequent convergence was met in about half the time of the previous process. The model isn’t perfect, and I’ve rounded off some numbers to fit into the scheme better, but there are many variables in a system as complicated as a planet. The general curve is apparent though, and it is certainly interesting to see where we fit in it.



About Prometheus

I write about the coming technological singularity and its implications for our sense of identity, individuality, meaning, and existence. I argue that the most significant aspect of the singularity is the convergence of our consciousnesses into one superconsciousness, and that we should be very happy about this.

Posted on April 28, 2011, in Consciousness, Existence, Technological Singularity and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Keep up the good work on this blog!

  2. “Once more, each individual will lose its identity, perform a specialized function, and become a part of a whole.”

    Reminds me of the Borg in Star Trek.

  3. As a technical writer for over 30 years, I have to say, well done! It was easy to understand, made sense even to me who has mostly worked in the IT and aerospace fields, not biology.

    Good work!

  4. I’ve often wondered, just as the bacteria and eukaryotes in your examples are still around, might we not provide a copy of ourselves to be part of this bigger being, this Superconsciousness, while still retaining our individual selves, flawed as we are?

    At this point in time, I’d prefer this future if we can link these two or more selves, individual and collective. And you might seed more than one Superconsciousness like minor ones for special interest activities (such as those related to you or fellow photographers for example) as well as the “Singleton” overarching world-spanning all-encompassing collective Superconsciousness.

  5. I’ve pondered the idea of such convergences, especially by way of the Internet allowing us to share our minds and physical perceptions. However, not everyone will want to be one with everyone else. But we may end up fusing into small collectives here and there, communities, lovers and friends wanting to attain ultimate closeness. Some will of course opt to remain completely individual, so there will be a great deal of variance. Should be interesting.

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