Thursday, March 26, 2009

Excerpt from "Waking up in Time"

The Quickening of Spirit

If the pace of development continues to increase - and we shall see shortly that there is every reason to believe it will - then the amount of change that we have seen in the last twenty years will be compressed into the next ten years, or less, and after that into an even shorter time. This itself is not a new revelation - even so, it is not always taken into full account in our extrapolations into the future. However, such ever-accelerating has another, much more startling consequence - and one that is not usually considered at all.
We might imagine that this speeding up could continue a long way into the future; in a hundred years it would be much faster than it is now, and in a thousand years much faster still. But this sort of acceleration cannot continue forever. The timescales involved are getting shorter and shorter; from billions of years, to millions, to thousands, to centuries, and now to mere decades. Before very much longer it comes to an end. If you plot out the curve of this sort of acceleration you find that the curve soon approaches the vertical. In other words, the rate of change tends towards the infinitely rapid. Mathematicians call such a point a “singularity”; the equations break down and cease to have any useful meaning.
Whether or not humanity actually reaches this point of unimaginably rapid progress I shall leave for the moment. What is clear is that a trend that has been going on for billions of years is going to come to an end - and probably fairly soon. The general concensus of opinion amongst researchers in this area is that this singularity in time lies in the first half the twenty-first century - assuming, that is, that we do not in the meantime turn the planet into a nuclear wasteland, accidentally create a plague that destroys us all, or decimate the ozone layer to such an extent that the land becomes uninhabitable.
Some, such as Vernor Vinge, a mathematician at San Diego State University, see the singularity to be consequence of technological acceleration, with ultra-intelligent computers creating an exponential runaway effect. But I believe technological progress to be but a phase in the overall pattern of development. Millions of years ago it was biological evolution that was accelerating. Ten thousand years ago the development of agriculture was speeding the rate of progress. A century ago it was industrial breakthroughs. Today it is information technology that is pushing the rate of development ever faster. Tomorrow we may be in a new phase of progress. The exploration and development of human consciousness could take over from information technology as an even faster arena of quickening. If so, it would be spiritual evolution, not technological evolution, that takes us into the singularity.
To see how this might come about, and where it might lead to, we must first go back and ask why is it that evolution tends to accelerate? And why, of all the creatures on this planet, human beings have created so much change so fast? We shall investigate why the exploration and development of the human mind is the next logical step in our evolutionary process, and why it is so critical for the world today. Our journey will lead us to consider what this inner development means on a personal level. How it can be encouraged and facilitated? And what the future might look like as we speed ever-faster towards this singularity in time?"