Over time, the universe has become more complicated. New levels of complexity become the foundations for yet deeper levels of complexity. And this phenomenon of the production and conservation of what I call novelty is not something which goes on only in the biological domain or only in the cultural domain or only in the domain of physics. It is a trans-categorical impulse in reality, meaning: it’s everywhere. Everywhere! The universe was born in a state of great simplicity. There were no atoms, there were no molecules, there were no stars. There was only a plasmic ocean of energy. The physics for describing this were very simple. As time passed, you could almost imagine complexity crystallizing out of a universe that cools. As it cools, new properties emerge.
Not only is biology progressive, but it emerges out of an antecedent progressive process—the evolution of physical matter and the physical universe of stars and so forth—and it anticipates a deeper advance into progressive integration in the form of culture, language, human beings, the creation of material culture, the elaboration of the arts and sciences, so forth and so on.
I submit to you: this is the most complex moment in the most complex place in the universe to date.
Not only has novelty conserved itself and built on what has been achieved in the past to move toward the future, but—and of the two points, this is the more important—each stage of advancement into novelty, into complexity, into concrescence, has proceeded more quickly than the phase which preceded it. The universe is in a state of asymptotic acceleration of some sort. And this has been completely ignored—not ignored, denied—by science.
As a process with inert tenacity, life is as persistent as the stars themselves—in fact, more so. Now, we know that stars are simply large nuclear furnaces which eventually use up all their fuel and run down. But what life is, we’re not at all sure—hardly to speak of intelligence. Life and intelligence are the wildcards in the universal deck. We now aspire to a planetary civilization, to the electronic storage of information for eons, and we have only been at this global cultural game for about fifty years. It’s very clear—to me, at least—that life is a process as important in shaping the eventual destiny of the universe as physics or chemistry, and that intelligence also plays a role there.
If you have a universe that is building on achieved novelty, and building faster and faster, then you have a universe which is consuming its share of time, if you will. A universe which is building toward its conclusive denouement much faster than the entities, the beings embedded in it might suppose.
For a very, very long time, the human species has been knitting itself together, claiming technologies which allow the manipulation of energy, letting its population run uncontrolled to force an ever-expanding cultural and technological frontier. The presence of ourselves on this planet is the major evidence that a transcendental process of some sort is underway here.
The institutions which created this situation have no notion as to how to direct and control it. This is why we’re not getting any kind of leadership from the top, why everything is managed toward a steady state. Meanwhile, technology—which is the downloading of human ideas into the domain of matter—is proceeding unabated around the clock. We have hardware for which we have not yet written software because we have no idea how to take advantage of the machines that have already been put in place. There is no one planning the evolution of our integration into our technology. You are free to write any kind of software you like. No one can foresee, then, the consequences of all of this technological development—software, wetware, hardware—being stirred together. The planet has shrunk to a single informational point.
We, as moderns, are very conflicted about this because the only vocabulary we have to deal with something like this is the vocabulary of discredited religions.
What we should all do is buy antiques. Don’t consume anything which hasn’t already been made. There’s a lot of shit that’s been made; it’s all over the place. I see it in Manhattan going for a bundle! If we—what we need to do, you see, is retool our values so that what is new is odious, tasteless, déclassé, embarrassing, and not to be found in the better homes. The older things are, the better they are. Here’s a fifty-year-old chair, fine. Here’s a five-hundred-year-old chair, how much better!
We are creating a world that celebrates diversity, that celebrates the uniqueness of every person. The complexification of our species is a process directly dependent on the complexity that we each bring to the process. The diversity that is spreading through society is concomitant to the boundary-dissolution. And I really believe that science’s inability to make sense of human beings in the world as part of nature—to make sense of art, love, hate, aspiration, fear—the failure to make sense of this is the failure to come to terms with the transcendental aspect of reality. We are the best evidence there is that something extraordinarily unusual is happening on this planet.
There is no going back from the momentum that history has imparted to the human imagination. There is only a going forward into what is called a forward escape: through art, through design, through management and integration, that we have to push the art-pedal to the floor. We have never designed our societies. We have never managed our societies, or our lives. We have never tried to make what we were serve an aesthetic agenda, and that’s why we’ve created a mess.
We cannot become the species we want to be with an unconscious mind. That’s an artifact of the monkey-phase that has no place in a global civilization.