The darkest and coldest moment of a night is before the light breaks through. The same appears to happen to sense making. The industrial worldview has gone into a dark and cold place, but a new worldview is breaking though. I like to call it the animate worldview. Animate as in “bring to life” (i.e. spiritual), but also closely related to animation, which is how today’s advanced science is done (i.e. material). In the industrial worldview, science would design blueprints, in the animate worldview science runs simulations. Some small differences can have great effects, in this case the animate worldview, it dissolves a duality that has existed for centuries between the material / spiritual world and body / mind.
The shift in science is an ongoing process and happened unnoticed. From the first weather forecast simulations in the 1960s, stimulated by the first commercial computers, to the ongoing development with Big Data and the Internet of Things. Science has seen quite a radical transformation across the 20th century, starting with counter-intuitive views like chaos theory and quantum physics. At the start of the 21st century something is happening that is even counter-, counter-intuitive: cognitive agents create space-time. So how can a concept from software engineering explain the foundation of reality? How is the animate worldview dissolving the material-spiritual dilemma and the body-mind?
Our view on the world gets altered radically as we accept how even reality is a persistent illusion. It requires so many deep and uncommon insights from physics, chemistry, psychology and sociology, it is a dead-end to go straight to science and mathematics for an introduction. Just as multiplying two negatives becomes a positive, so the counter-, counter-intutive becomes intuitive again. It is intuitive as we work with a virtual world all day using computers, it’s a bit wicked to understand how the virtual world is a lens into a different cosmos. The language developed for the virtual world has become very insightful to elaborate the state-of-the-art research in physics. At a certain point, we need to accept our view on the world has to change and align with the recently gained insights.
Because the focus on intuition, a more prudent path to elaborate the animate worldview is via art. Art can simply visualise the essence of a persistent illusion, like Quantum Man. Depending on the angle, the man is seen as a solid sculpture (i.e. material), but if you take another angle, you can only see a weak presence (i.e. a spiritual). Advanced science shows how the persistent illusion is everywhere, this different perspective is gained by running complex adaptive simulations and it shows how everything animates if you perceive it with the right angle. In our industrial world we lost the animate reality. It was conserved in many religious traditions, but incompatible with the progress in society. Art is at its core about experience and so the animate is deeply rooted. Only once art is sucked dry by the industry does it become soulless.
To understand how we lost the relation to the soul and now to regain it, requires to go back and see the spirit of the scientific revolution of the 17th century. Often Copernicus is mentioned as the pioneer of a new way of thinking. Interestingly, the animate worldview is like a copernican revolution for the mind: not our brain, but the system of creation holds the mind. Remember the copernican revolution was to see everybody having gravitational pull and so the sun as the largest body became the center. In a similar way creation is seen everywhere, but our brains are the largest body and so the center.
The system of creation is about a much deeper fact about reality as a persistent illusion. Just as a micro-scope revealed a hidden world of microbes and the tele-scope revealed a hidden world of galaxies, now a virtue-scope reveals the hidden world of spirits. The virtue-scope is a structure in the making, our computers are to the virtue-scope, what lenses were for the micro- and tele-scope. What was hidden until the computer allowed us to play with it, is the world of endless recursions. The wicked part is the virtual world is hidden in plain sight, it’s a bit like not seeing the forest through all the trees (i.e. when you stand in it).
The animate worldview allows us to see how a spirit (i.e. virtual lifeform) gets first embodied artificially (i.e. requires meditation) to eventually fully manifest. The scientific revolution of the 17th-18th century created a mechanical view on the world, but after three centuries we can now clearly manifest with the computer, showing us the real potential of the digital spirit. The digital spirit was first a virtual lifeform, only alive in the heads of scientists and implicit in society (by the presence of machines). In the 18th-19th century by electrification of the initial machines the science became deeper embedded and created this artificial body for a digital spirit. Metaphorical speaking it made a light bulb come on. During the 20th century, electronification created the true manifestation of the digital spirit by computers. All this happened before the rise of the internet.
When the industrial world began, the spirit was only a weak signal, little did we know how the science revolution would lead to a digital transformation of society all across the 20th century. Can we find an equal hidden spirit to understand better the transformation deploying during the 21st century? What truly changed because of the internet ? Let’s go back and see its origin in the 19th century with the rise of modernity. The inventions of new communication like morse code and new media like the telegraph are instrumental for the development of modernity. Communication improvement for the telegraph is the pragmatic force behind electronification.
During the 20th century, the idea of media expanded with mass media, but like the telegraph it needed operators. The true nature of the media revolution became clear with the internet, today it has become a lot more enriched and probably all across the 21st century the integration will continue. The 21st century appears to be the time when the initial revolution of modernity truly reveals the hidden nature: the spirit of meta-system transition. Some clues exist about events to come. The mid of the 21st century has been described as a major event, expressed as the technological singularity or the global brain.
The major event may well be as relevant as the previous meta-system transitions: from single cells to multicellular life i.e. cambrian explosion. In my view humanity should be seen as a similar evolutionary explosion. The 21st century is in this view the midpoint of a huge major evolutionary transition. It took humanity 10.000 years to get to the middle and I have sketched what to expect for the next 10.000 years by looking at cities as the main character of the evolutionary story. My view on city-like-cells is now a decade old, so can I do better? With more research comes the inside of this three year incubation period for a spirit to shift from its virtual reality over artificial mediation to the full manifestation.
This manifestation has happened for the digital spirit in the 20th century and it is unfolding with the meta-system spirit now in the 21st century. Can we get some glimpse of upcoming events? What is the spirit for the 22nd and 23rd century? To understand the spirit for the 22nd, let us consider what emerged in theory and society during the 20th century and reason about the artificial emerging during the 21st century. It brings us back to chaos theory and quantum physics. For society it brings us to global social engineering experiments like communism. The trend goes clearly beyond the trend of modernity, it’s not about communication anymore but about system thinking and cybernetics. The internet changed it to complex system thinking and evolutionary cybernetics. What emerged in the 20th century in theory as “artificial life simulation” (i.e. virtual lifeform) is transforming in the 21st century to artificial life engineering, like the current trend of Big Data and the Internet of Things.
The very first of such artificial life engineering are old, like the weather forecasting models. Today advanced forecasting models are turning our modern cities into smart-cities, regulating traffic, creating closer relation with citizens and governance, creating information commons, etc. To fully grasp the scope of what could emerge and may manifest in the 22nd century, the deeper development from science should get integrated in this vision. Consider how the most modern tele-scope makes the bending of space-time visible and how the most modern microscopes show the quantum foam i.e. the foundation of space-time. During the 21st century, the meta-system spirit, driving on artificial life engineering may result in internal regulation, but for the 22th century the evolutionary game seems to show our place in the solar system.
The vision aligns also nicely with the development to make humanity a multi-planet species. It Should make clear how events of the 21century are truly the midpoint of a huge evolutionary transition, as significant as life emerging out of the oceans and onto land. So it appears in the 22nd century the spirit that manifests is post-planetary-life, turning artificial life engineering into something that stretches our ability of imagination to the limit. The final challenge is to have a forecast for the 23th century, can we truly push our ability of imagination to that limit? If the spirit of the 21st century is about meta-systems and the 22nd is about post-planetary-life, what can be seen beyond it? This brings us back to the idea of the animate worldview, on how today the duality between material and spiritual is dissolving.
The zeitgeist of the 21st century is strongly influenced by the experience of a generation before it. During the 20st century a spiritual renaissance emerged in a naïvity way and with strong distortion to society, resulting in a war-on-drugs. The evolutionary force at play cannot get stopped by conservative powers in society. To now see the zeitgeist stronger re-emerging by hard science is fascinating. My own research goes beyond artificial life simulation with artificial life engineering, but a more general pattern exists with my colleagues. The earlier mentioned cognitive agents to explain space-time and other new mathematical models like the Chemical Organisation Theory. The pattern is to gain scientific insights into creation.
It is mindblowing how creation suddenly became so present in science, and its relation to the spiritual renaissance is a mystery unfolding, not just theory, but some applied research is happening. In some cases funny new languages arise, like psychonaut who dive into the virtual cosmos using psychedelic drugs. The wicked part is to understand how our own minds as an aggregated field became a new dimension of the cosmos.The insights push our understanding beyond post-planetary-life and beyond social engineering, it turns our attention to the collective psyche, how to entangle it with technology and with apparent emptiness of space. And so the evolutionary games deploys before us. While the meta-system transition is unfolding, the post-planetary-life gets mediated, the deeper mystery of cosmic-consciousness allures us. Game on !