The Last 4,000 Years and The Next 40 Years
By Robert Anton Wilson
from Future Life, #21, September, 1980
We can expect more changes in human life during the next 40 years than occurred in the previous 4,000 years.
This is a perfectly safe, non-Utopian prediction because of a little understood factor in human life which I call the V function. V stands for several things simultaneously – Intelligence Intensification and Information Increase, for instance, V can also mean ego – that is the mutation and dilation of our self-images as we are continually transformed by the techno-social forces that have been insulating us for the past several millenniums.
Before discussing the accelerated metamorphoses of the next 40 years, let us review briefly how the V function has been progressively discovered.
Just before the American and French Revolutions of 1776 and 1788, several philosophers began to propose that there was no limit to “progress” – that there was nothing in human life that couldn’t be changed and improved indefinitely. Condorcet, the mathematician, expressed this idea most pointedly of all, daring to speak of “the infinite perfectibility of mankind.” Such ideas played a large role in unleashing both of the revolutions mentioned, and the Mexican revolution of 1810, and a great deal of subsequent radicalism.
Of course, Condorcet and the other 18th century radicals were a bit too optimistic; they all tended to think that there would be no hindrance to perpetual progress once monarchy had been replaced by democracy and the Pope had been prevented from interfering with scientific enquiry. Things were not quite that simple, and most of the Utopian thought of the 19th century – including that of Karl Marx, whose passionate desire for justice combined with his intolerant authoritarianism unleashed the Communist movement – was based on attempts to produce “Instant Progress” by giving the State the power to, as it were, force everybody to be happy. This hasn’t worked very well.
In the 1890’s, however, two brothers who happened to be the grandsons of one American president and the great-grandsons of another, namely Brooks and Henry Adams, began to see the laws of social change a bit more clearly. They proposed what Henry called the Law of Acceleration. This alleged law, which is not quite accurate, claims that change is not caused by politics or revolutions, which are only symptoms; change, the Adamses said, is caused by economic-technological factors within society itself. And, guessing wildly, Henry Adams proposed that change occurs at a rate which is the inverse square of time.
Specifically, Henry assumed a 90,000-year interval from the dawn of Homo Erectus (anthropology was just beginning then) to the Scientific Revolution of Galileo, Bacon, etc. circa 1600. He assumed further that the next jump had been completed circa 1900, with quantum theory, the discovery of radium, the Wright Brothers, etc. Now 300 is the square root of 90,000, so Henry Adams assumed the next jump would be completed in years – that is, in roughly 22 ½ years, or around June, 1922.
Things are not (or were not) moving quite that fast.
But, while Henry was indulging in wild mathematics, brother Brooks had hit on something even more interesting. He noted that the accumulation of capital – that is the center of economic power in the world – had been moving steadily westward for several thousand years. It had moved, he noted, from Babylon to Greece, from Greece to Rome and thence to Renaissance city-states, upward but still westward to Germanyand then England, and was hovering when he wrote between London and New York. He predicted it would shift to New York, which has indeed happened.
(Is it about to rebound eastward suddenly due to the emerging Arab oil-states? We will see reasons to doubt as we proceed.)
In 1918, a military engineer, Major C.H. Douglas, who evidently had not read Brooks and Henry Adams but sounds as if he had, carried their kind of thinking a step further. The major factor in social change,Douglas said, was the increment of association which creates a cultural heritage.
The increment of association simply means that when you’ve got more people organized together, you can accomplish more work; something Adam Smith had already noticed in 1776. But Douglas saw this more dynamically than Smith had. The increment of association increases from generation to generation, he noted, because of cultural heritage – the passing on of knowledge, gimmicks, devices, tools, ideas, etc.
Obviously, a tribal society could not build the Parthenon, even if an architect of genius were born among them. The increment of association and the cultural heritage were not there. Similarly, a Renaissance city-state, even with Leonardo da Vinci in charge, could not put Neil Armstrong on the Moon. From trajectories like these, Douglas calculated that the movement of capital, noted by Brooks Adams, follows the movement of ideas – of both hard and soft technology. And, since our stockpile of ideas is increasing from generation to generation, change is indeed accelerating, although not quite according to Henry Adams’ inverse square “law.”
Douglas also noted that capital itself was increasing – a radical idea at the time, and disputed by both socialists and Free Market economists. We now know that Douglas was right, and economists of all schools agree that capital is increasing at around two percent per year (which means that world capital doubles about every 25 years.)
A few years after Douglas, in 1921, Count Alfred Korzybski, another engineer, defined the I2 function in his own way, calling it time-binding. Time-binding is the mechanism of the cultural heritage, Korzybski says, and it is based on our capacity to generate more and more inclusive kinds of symbolism. As we advanced, he says, we moved from grunts and howls, like other primates, to articulate human speech, to written language, to math and graphs and calendars, to scientific laws, and now to computer simulation sand electronic world-wide information systems. At each step, we learn more about how to model the universe, and how to predict what will work and what will fail.
The time-binding function, Korzybski calculated, operated roughly like a geometrical progression:
2 4 8 16 32 64
This seems to be a much closer approximation of the truth that Henry Adams’ inverse square guesstimate. Dr. O.R. Bontrager has collected scores of graphs of the rate of change in various fields of technology, and they all approximate the graph of Korzybski’s simple geometrical progression.
Although this is not as shocking, at first sight, as Adams’ guess, it is equally startling when you look at it for a while. For instance, continuing the 2 4 8 series five more steps beyond the sixth term, 64, where we left off, we find ourselves suddenly at 2048; and going five steps further, at 63.536…
We now know that some things are moving even faster. For instance, J.R. Platt of Michigan State University has calculated that speed of travel increased 1,000-fold since 1900 and speed of communication 10,000,000-fold. One man flew the Atlantic in 1928, but 200,000,000 men, women, and children flew the Atlantic in 1978, 50 years later.
In 1928, when that long man, Charles Lindberg, was flying the Atlantic in his crude bi-plane, engineer-designer R. Buckminster Fuller, who had read Korzybski, defined the I2 function as synergy. Synergy is kind of reaction where 1+1 does not equal 2, but 2+. For instance, put a man and a woman in bed and you might get, in nine months, three people, not two. Add molybdenum to steel and you get an alloy tougher than either or both. Bring Arabian mathematicians to Europe, mix it with the empirical knowledge of the craftsmen, and you get Galileo and the science of physics.
Fuller realized the highest form of synergy was mind itself, which is, as he says, inherently self-augmenting. That is, you can’t put two ideas together without a third idea emerging, almost as in our sexual example above. Fuller agrees with Douglas: capital increases, because ideas are always increasing. The world is moving toward larger and larger coherently organized systems, each capable of doing more, synergistically, than earlier, less organized systems.
In 1944, Nobel physicist Edwin Schrödinger added the next block to the definition of I2, in a book called What is Life? Schrödinger noted that everything in the universe, except life, follows the Second law of Thermodynamics in moving steadily toward maximum entropy (which for our purposes we can define loosely as chaos or incoherence.) Life, however, moves in the opposite direction: toward higher organization, greater coherence, negative entropy.
In the next few years, almost simultaneously, Claud Shannon of Bell Laboratories and Norbert Weider of M.I.T. realized that the information in a message could be mathematically expressed as negative entropy. The whole science of cybernetics comes out of this discovery, but that is not our topic here. What is interesting to us, in terms of I2, is that the movement of life toward greater coherence is, as Shannon and Weiner, vastly accelerated as life’s techniques of information processing improve. In short, the movement from grunts to language, to math, to computers, is a move towards Information Intensification and against entropy, a movement toward coherent order and against random decay.
As Bucky Fuller was quick to point out, the development of Information Theory by Shannon and Weiner enables us to see the human mind as the greatest synergy-machine, the greatest tool for doing-more-with-less, in this part of the universe.
Fuller points out that knowledge can only increase (except for tragedies like brain damage in an individual or totalitarianism in a society.) As our communication skills and information processing improve, human knowledge as a whole accelerates synergistically. Therefore, both hard and soft technologies accelerate – ideas and tools both change faster, faster, faster. And capital accumulates accordingly.
The ever-provocative Dr. Timothy Leary gives us a final set of models to understand the law of acceleration. In The Intelligence Agents, 1979, Leary claims the east-to-west movement, seen as a migration of capital by Brooks Adams, is really a movement of genes. The Earth turns west-to-east; the hardier, more innovative genes, he claims, go against this and move east-to-west. The shift of power from Babylon toNew York noted by Brooks Adams is still continuing. Leary avers; the pioneer genes are piling up on the West Coast, and getting ready to blast off for space.
This oddly parallels the theory of sociologist Carl Oglesby that there is a cowboy-versus-Yankee war in our ruling class. The cowboys are still looking for a new frontier, Oglesby says; the Yankees have turned conservative. Control of our economy is split between the old New York capitalists and the innovative western cowboy-capitalists. The latter group, of course, are the ones who are heavily investing in the space industry.
There is clear relevance between all these notions, and they all contribute to our understanding of socio-economic change. The Adamses on migration and acceleration, Douglas on increment of association, Korzybski on “time-binding,” Fuller on synergy, Schrödinger on life as an anti-entropic process, Shannon and Weiner on information as negative entropy, and Leary on neuro-genetics, all illustrate part of what we mean by Information Increase. That Intelligence Intensification (a term borrowed from Leary) is part of the world round 4,000 year information explosion should also be clear. Our hunting-gathering ancestors did not need the variety of kinds and styles of intelligence that the Greeks of Plato’s age needed. More intelligence, of different flavors and functions, were necessary for the transformations known to us as the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and the rise of representational government. New types of intelligence are being produced to cope with the computer revolution and the burst into space.
The other aspect of I2 – the continuous mutation of the ego – is more subtle. Tribal people only know themselves and define themselves as units within the tribe, just as they only know the universe as a few miles, or a few hundred miles, with a sky over it. Urbanization and civilization created a domesticated human ego, more self-direction, and a quality of alienation or anomie resultant from the loss of the tribal bond (extended family.) The Renaissance created the modern individual, questing, impatient, monstrously “selfish” by the standards of traditional societies, seeking personal and impersonal goals unthinkable earlier in evolution. In this century, and especially since 1945, a new ego, a new social self-definition, is emerging, amid the usual chaos and anxiety that attend any major transformation.
We are less like our grandparents than they were like the first food-gathering hominids. Every time you turn on the TV, you participate in a miracle that is transforming you more than you know. It doesn’t matter what’s on the tube; as McLuhan said, the medium is the message – to a great extent anyway. The very fact that the tube can bring you live pictures from the other side of the planet causes you to know yourself in a different way than any previous generation. You intuitively have a different sense of who you are, where you are, what you are and why you are.
This neurological shockwave, which has been rising and accelerating for 4,000 years, is not going to stop or decelerate in the next 40. Life will continue to be I-opening in every sense.
The computer revolution will mutate us far more than TV, and much faster. Here’s an example of time-scale: when I entered high school in 1946, there were virtually no TV’s in private homes in the U.S.; by the time I finished high school in 1950 almost everybody had a TV. All the signs are that home computers are going to sweep the country in the next four years the way TV did in my high school days.
The computer is a seductive beast. Everybody – even people who think they hate technology – gets hooked after a few hours of sitting at the console and playing around with this marvelous toy. Children seem to turn on to it even faster, and jump quicker from simple to sophisticated programming. Thus, the proliferation of home computers in the 1980’s is going to be a tremendous quantum jump in all dimension of I2 – intelligence intensification, information increase and a new sense of who and what we are.
You can’t play with computers for long without beginning to sense that intelligence is the capacity to receive, integrate and transmit signals. You begin to see your own nervous system as a marvelous computer in itself; and you want to expand and accelerate its workings. You want it to receive more signals, integrate them into better simulations or models of the world, transmit them more efficiently. Intelligence Increase begins to seem as hedonic as the quest for conscious-expanding in the 60’s.
You begin to understand McLuhan’s paradoxical claim that the medium is the message. The ideas in this article – especially the Schrödinger-Fuller concept of evolution as a struggle for better information and less entropy – begin to make sense intuitively and sensorily. Your nervous system is expanding by interfacing with the computer, which in turn will more and more be interfacing with other computers on Earth and in space.
Meanwhile, of course, none of our present problems are going to go away overnight. Third World liberation, Black liberation, Women’s liberation, etc. will continue to demand attention and solution. Terrorism will be with us for a while yet as long as there are people in the world who think that a small group of white males in the Western world have too much power and use and abuse that power without empathy for the needs and aspirations of others.
There is no need to build doomsday scenarios about this worldwide struggle to decentralize wealth and power. The first axiom of the I2 hypothesis is that if a problem exists, a solution must also exist. The evolutionary function of problems is not to lead us to throw up our hands and cry out that the species is doomed, but to provoke us to think of solutions.
Sometime in the next 15 years, between 1980 and 1995, the first longevity pills will be appearing. This only a guess, of course – the time factor cannot be estimated, really – but there are more scientists working on life extension today than there were working on atomic energy in the 1930’s, before Einstein wrote his famous letter to President Roosevelt about German research in nuclear weaponry. As soon as any country gets a strong hint that some other country might have an anti-aging formula, or might be close, such research will spurt ahead dramatically.
(Some of the longevity pills currently used by faddists – especially Vitamin E, megadoses of Vitamin C, and RNA – may already be some slight help in extending lifespan, although the evidence is not conclusive yet.)
Several researchers have already reported extension of lifespan in experimental animals.
There have been several articles on this subject in popular magazines lately, and a rash of books such as Prologevity (Rosenfeld), the Life Extension Revolution (Kent), the Immortalist (Harrington), The Immortality Factor (Segerberg), etc. The avant-guard 10 percent of the population is already looking forward to the conquest of aging and the eventual conquest of death. When this message reaches 30 percent of the population, both government and private industry can be expected to invest in this research much more than at present. Assuming that the first breakthrough, however crude will occur between now and 1995 is reasonable. Even if the first life-extension drug only increases lifespan 10 or 15 percent, the psychological impact will be immense. Expectations will rise and research will accelerate even faster.
Far-out sociologist F.M. Esfandiary may not be excessive in claiming, “If you can survive the next 20 years, you will probably never die.”
The Age of Space, of course, has already begun. Over 100 men and women have been into space; our TV brings us satellite photos every night on the weather forecasts and has brought us pictures of Mars and Jupiter. As home computers linked up with satellites in space become more common, the sense will grow in all of us that we are participating in the Space Age even if we are staying at home. But the longevity revolution will certainly increase the “population problem” in everybody’s awareness, so that migration into space will seem more and more necessary.
Since we already have communication satellites in plenty, the solar power satellites urged by California’s allegedly “flakey” Governor Brown cannot be far away. After all, ground-level solar power collectors can only tap the sun’s energy half a day at best, and not at all on cloudy, rainy, or overcast days. Yet a solar satellite can collect energy 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Even with the anti-tech bias in some circles these days, an idea like that cannot be long ignored.
Dr. Barry Commoner, one of the leading experts on ecology, pointed out at the 1980 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that, even before some kind of ecological disaster hits the planet, we will be in serious economic trouble if we continue to base our economy chiefly on non-renewable resources such as oil and coal. It’s a simple fact of economics that as a resource grows scarcer, its price goes up. (Looked at your gasoline bill lately?) If energy is not to become something only the rich can afford, Dr. Commoner says we must switch to renewable resources pretty damn quick.
Solar power is the most abundantly available of all renewable resources, and satellites are the best way to tap a lot of it.
But such solar satellites are just the first step in our expansion into extra-terrestrial economy.
Engineer G. Harry Stine has calculated that there are 10100 technical processes that can be performed cheaper or more efficiently in space than on the surface of a planet. This is an example of doing-more-with-less that might even make Bucky Fuller blink, but it is simple physics, based on the zero-gravity conditions and high-grade vacuum available in space.
In case anybody doesn’t know 10100 means 10 with a hundred zeroes after it. This is quite a large number (says he with English understatement) and makes the Industrial Revolution look like a tempest in a teapot by comparison. It seems to mean that, as industry moves into space, the rate of capital increase will accelerate much faster than the two percent per year that has prevailed since the late 19th century. In fact, it indicates that we are about to experience the greatest quantum jump in energy, resources, and wealth, since history began.
The word “we” in the above sentence is, of course, ambiguous. In guessing how much the Great Economic Boom of space industrialization means to the human race generally, rather than just to the multinational corporations, keep in mind (a) the Third World liberation movements and other poor people’s crusades are not going to go away (b) even under our present system of monopoly capitalism, living standards have steadily risen for the majority. (That is, contrary to Marx, capitalism has not meant that the rich always get richer and the poor always get poorer; rather the rich continue to get richer, but fewer and fewer are poor in the 19th century sense. Our unemployed poor, on Welfare, are far more comfortable and healthier than the working poor in Marx’s day.) (c) As the information-intelligence revolution continues, the deprived will find better, more rational ways to press their demands for a fair share of the pie. That is, it is easy to ignore, or refuse concessions to, a band of crazy terrorists; it is not easy to ignore a group of people as well organized as American labor today.
Bucky Fuller and Werner Erhard have picked 1995 as a target date for the abolition of starvation worldwide. This may sound hopelessly Utopian now – but that is only because we are so accustomed to stupidity and narrow greed in high places. Making every allowance for that factor of human cussedness, it seems reasonable to say that the Fuller-Erhard goal must be achieved in the 40-year span this article is considering. And there is no reason why we shouldn’t aim for 1995; as any karate teacher will tell you, success depends on aiming at more than you think you can achieve.
Here’s where the much-maligned Human Potential Movement comes into the picture. This was not invented in the 1970’s, as shallow critics believe, but in the 1950’s. It emerged from the interpersonal emphasis of psychologists like Harry Stack Sullivan, who realize that a “sick” person is just one part of a “sick” situation; and from the rising popularity of group therapy, replacing the old individual therapy; and especially from Dr. Abraham Maslow’s discovery that healthy people are more interesting than sick people – i.e. that health is what psychologists really ought to study.
Freud studied the neurotic, and tried to restore than to normalcy, without a very clear idea of what normalcy was. Maslow studied the conspicuously healthy – the persons he called “self-actualizing individuals” – and found they were as far from the norm as the mentally ill are. Due to Maslow, psychologists began to realize that the normal state is rather dull and stupid. Emphasis shifted from treating the ill to “make them normal” into treating both the ill and the normal to make them self-actualizing, i.e. to show them how to achieve their full potential.
Although there are now several branches or schools of the Human Potential movement, with several varieties of jargon or “psychobabble,” the best summary of what the whole Consciousness Revolution is all about is, I think, that given by Dr. Leary in the previously mentioned Intelligence Agents.
As Leary states the case, there are eight varieties of consciousness-intelligence which we all potentially possess and which we can all develop to a higher general level than the present norm. These are:
Periyanayakkanpalaiyam Bio-survival intelligence. Using your body to avoid danger efficiently, as any intelligent animal does. We only learn this kind of consciousness if our major interest is sports of the more violent sort, like football. We all learn more thorough martial arts such as kung fu, karate, aikido, etc.
subsequently Emotional intelligence. Using the emotional circuits in your brain to understand other people’s emotions, “where they’re coming from,” and how to relate to them when they seem irrational. In our society, only women seem to be trained in this kind of consciousness and men are generally clumsy as oafs. Women’s Liberation and the growing influence of Human Potential has made the avant third of the male population more or less aware of this, and the attempt to become more “sensitive” to others has at least begun. We can only expect it to increase (and the sooner the better.)
Muravlenko Semantic intelligence. The ability to use words and other symbols without committing gross errors of judgment. This is the only type of intelligence our schools even attempt to teach, and since we live in a deluge of words, symbols, and other signals – and since the computer evolution is upon us – we all need to learn how to receive, integrate, and transmit symbols more efficiently.
Socio-sexual intelligence. The capacity to relate to others without being exploitative and without being an exploiter. Our society traditionally treats sex as a special case, but it is really part of the whole social consciousness game. The rules are the same, in sex or in other relations between people: treat the other person as you want to be treated. At present, few have that degree of maturity, and most are either bullies or masochists. A great deal of therapy, group or otherwise, merely consists of teaching people a modicum of socio-sexual consciousness, so they can cease to be bullies or masochists.
Neuro-somatic intelligence. The ability to stay “high”, to look and feel like a happy, healthy young adult all your life. This is somewhat “spookier” than the previous kinds of consciousness, but only because it is still statistically rare. When someobody else transmits this to you, it’s called “Christian Science” or “Faith Healing,” etc. Maslow found that his self-actualizing people do it for themselves, without a guru. However arcane it may seem at present, this type of intelligence is increasing because weed had made temporary flashes of it familiar to about a third of the population, because biofeedback is showing us how to control it scientifically, and because the Human Potential Movement, and such exotic imports as Zen and yoga, are making it more accessible to people every year.
Metaprogramming intelligence. The capacity of the brain to become aware of its own programming, and to rewire itself for more pleasurable, more efficient, more successful programs. This is the goal of all of the more advanced forms of psychotherapy and the Eastern mystic traditions. It means turning all your mechanical reflexes into voluntary choices – ceasing to be a robot and developing your full Human Potential – and it is still exceedingly uncommon. The whole Aquarian philosophy, or course, is based on the hope that this transformation of humanity from mechanical reactions to Creative Actions can be accelerated by the growing synthesis of Eastern and Western psychologies, by new discoveries in the neuro-sciences, and by the fact that the accelerated changes that we are going through demand that our brains themselves accelerate and change.
Leary adds two further kinds of intelligence, which are so infrequent in our society at present that to talk of them at all sounds “mystical.” These are Neurogenetic Intelligence – the capacity to intuitively grasp, through direct brain-DNA feedback, the Evolutionary script, the meaning of I2, and one’s own role in the entire drama of I2 emerging out of the primordial slime to higher and higher levels of coherence; andNeuroatomic Intelligence which has to do with the weird stuff that some scientists don’t even admit exists, such as ESP and psycho-kinesis.
I think it is safe to predict that, within the 40-year span of this article, we will have much more precise scientific knowledge about how to increase all eight of these levels of consciousness. In short, I think we can expect a quantum jump in human functioning, to greater intellectual efficiency, greater emotional sensitivity and stability and more self-awareness, self-direction, and zest-for-living.
Now let us look briefly at some of the other changes and breakthroughs that can be expected in the next 40 years.
Human cloning will be possible. (One sensational book, rejected by most scientists, claims that is has already occurred.) Some of the implications of this are so staggering that they make the wildest science fiction seem tame. One can imagine a dictator cloning a whole army of killer-zombies from some low-IQ high-muscle prototype, or some eccentric Sultan cloning a harem of Sophia Lorens, etc. Dozens of similarly bizarre fantasies will be possible and one can only accept cloning if one believes that I2 is really going to increase also.
More significantly, cloning will complete our sexual reorientation. Contraception has broken the sex=pregnancy “law” by making sex without reproduction possible; cloning will change our attitudes further by making reproduction without sex possible. A whole new definition of humanity, sexuality, and sociality will emerge, which we can only dimly foresee.
Cities in space must inevitably follow space factories. That is, neither male nor female engineers can be expected to put in long stints out there without the heterosexual majority demanding the usual companionship and eventually, the traditional family structure. Since designs for space cities have existed since 1968, and have been improved several times already, real space cities are inevitable in our 40-year forecast.
People living in space will be as different from Terrans as the first settlers of the U.S. were from traditional Europeans. They will be the pioneer maverick types – those who, if we trust Brooks Adams and Leary, have been moving westward for the last several years, dragging the rest of humanity in their wake, as they endlessly produce new ideas, new tools, new capital and higher levels of information processing. Since there is nowhere left for them to go on earth, they will be leading the migration into space.
Or consider the following Utopian visions:
— Drugs to permanently increase intelligence
— Artificial sight for the blind
— A cure for cancer
Does it seem visionary to predict these within the next 40 years? A poll of scientists conducted by McGraw-Hill in 1977 found that the majority of informed researchers believe we will have all three within the next 20 years.
In fact, since these predictions were made in 1977, we have already seen the development of one type of very limited, very expensive artificial sight for the blind, in laboratory prototype only; and it has been discovered that one known drug, lecithin, can raise intelligence to a limited degree.
One psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Newport, has predicted that, within 15 years, psychotherapists will be mainly diagnosticians. That is, they will merely decide what is wrong with a given patient and then prescribe the right chemicals to restore the brain to equilibrium. This was perhaps uttered with some whimsy – but Freud himself predicted that such chemotherapy would make his work obsolete someday.
Dr. Nathan Kline has claimed that, by 2000, we will have such specific chemical brain-change agents as: drugs to increase or decrease mothering behavior, drugs to improve memory or to remove specific memories, drugs to prolong or shorten childhood or any other stage of life, etc.
It is hardly visionary, then, to project that, within our 40-year purview, we will all be able to program our nervous systems to add, subtract, or multiply any behavior we wish to alter.
We have traditionally been limited and tormented by three factors which theology calls “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” As the French philosopher Bernal pointed out, in modern terms, the world means the limited resources of this planet, over which we have been fighting for the past several thousand years. Space migration means that we are no longer hemmed in by this limitation. We are moving from the closed system of Terra to the open system of extraterrestrial expansion.
The flesh, to Bernal, meant the brevity of human life – the grim fact that for most of us, senility, the other diseases of age and death itself come upon us before we have begun to figure out what life is all about. Anti-aging drugs and other life-extension techniques will soon deliver us from that curse, and within the next 40 years we will all be re-oriented to living centuries, not decades, and to pursing the scientific quest for actual immortality.
The devil, of course, merely represents our own inner irrationality. All that we have said about intelligence increase and consciousness expansion indicates that we are on the threshold of major victories against the most pernicious of the three traps that have previously constrained us.
That is, the world represents limits in space which we are outgrowing, the flesh represents limits in life-time which we are also outgrowing, and the devil represents limits in our own consciousness which we can also outgrow. We are evolving into an entirely new relationship to space, time, and mind. The law of acceleration, increment of association, synergy, etc. are all aspects of the single fact that intelligence has been increasing more rapidly since life began. At first, major changes came only in billions of years, then in millions, then in thousands. After the scientific revolution circa 1600, we began to get used to rapid jumps every century. Some of us are now growing accustomed to rapid quantum leaps to higher coherence every generation.
We have to expect such leaps every decade now, to understand what the next 40 years will really be like.