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.