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The Transcension Hypothesis: Cosmic Censorship of Advanced Civilizations Royal Society Satellite Meeting October 2010  Buckinghamshire, UK John Smart, President Acceleration Studies Foundation |

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The Transcension Hypothesis:

Cosmic Censorship of Advanced Civilizations

Royal Society Satellite Meeting

October 2010  Buckinghamshire, UK

John Smart, President Acceleration Studies |

acceleration studies foundation what we do
Acceleration Studies Foundation: What We Do

We practice evolutionary developmental (“evodevo”) foresight, a model of change that proposes our universe contains both:

1. Contingent and unpredictable evolutionary choices that we use to create unique, informationally valuable, and creative paths (many of which will fail) and

2. Convergent and predictable developmental constraints (initial conditions, constancies) which direct certain aspects of our long-range future and

Some developmental trends that may be intrinsic to the future of complex systems on Earth include:

Acceleratingintelligence, interdependenceandimmunityin our global sociotechnological systems

Increasing technological autonomy, and

Increasing intimacy of the human-machine and physical-digital interface.

evo com pu devo ecd cartoon post darwinian model evol devel evo devo
EvoCompuDevo (ECD) CartoonPost-Darwinian Model: Evol. Devel. (EvoDevo)

“Natural Selection”

Main Actor: Organism

Modularity, Responsiveness,

Plasticity, Intelligence

(Local Adaptation)

Requisite Variety

Mixed Attractors



Main Actor: Seed

Variation, Emergence,

Chaos, Contingency,

Early Species Radiation

(Mostly Nonadapted)

Stochastic Search

Strange Attractors


“Convergent Unification”

Main Actor: Environment

Heritability, Life Cycle, Replic.,

STEM Compression, Self-Org.,

Ergodicity/Comp. Closure,

‘Evolutionary’ Convergence,


Dissipative Structures,

Positive Sumness/Synergy,

Niche Construction/Stigmergy

(Global Adaptation)

Environmental Optimization

Standard Attractors



‘Left Hand’ of Change


‘Right Hand’ of Change

Compu (EvoDevo)


New Computational Phase Space ‘Opening’

Well-Explored Phase Space ‘Optimization’

Evo Devo Universe?, J. Smart, In: Cosmos & Culture, Steve Dick (ed.), 2009

an edu analogy genetically identical twins and parametrically identical universes
An EDU Analogy: Genetically Identical Twins and Parametrically Identical Universes
  • In genetically identical twins, organogenesis, fingerprints, brain wiring, learned ideas, behaviors, all the local, microscopic processes are unpredictably (evolutionarily) unique in each twin (Jain 2002). Yet many global, macroscopic processes are predictablythe same.
  • Would parametrically identical universes also be evolutionarily unique yet developmentally the same? Are our universe’s(proposed)manyintelligent civilizations also evolutionarily unique yet developmentally identical? Key questions for cosmology, astrobiology, simulation science.
  • The Hypothesis: (Predictable and conservative) development is always different from but works with (unpredictable and creative) evolutionary processes. Both seem fundamental to universal complexity.
evo devo in observ emergence control the 95 5 rule of thumb
Evo Devo in Observ., Emergence & Control:The ‘95/5%’ Rule of Thumb
  • The vast majority (we may roughly propose 95%) of the information and computation to describe and model emergence of a new complex adaptive system (CAS), or control in a mature CAS involves bottom-up, local, evolutionary processes. A minor yet critical contribution (again, let us roughly propose 5%) comes from top-down, hierarchical, developmental processes.
  • Ex: No. of genes used (and highly conserved) in developmental toolkit in any species (eg., Dictyostelium, 2-3%), vs. the much larger number of ‘evolutionary’ genes much more frequently modified and which affect phenotype variation, not development.
  • The 95/5% Rule may explain why discovery of universal development been difficult not in physics and chemistry (e.g., mechanics, relativity, particle physics), and in developmental bio, but in macrobiological change, in society, and technology.
  • In these latter substrates, which are not yet ergodic, the life-cycle of the (‘5%’) nonrandom devel. signal is much longer and only partly observable vs. the (‘95%’) near-random evolutionary signal.
evo compu devo ecd examples experimentation selec tion convergent unification
Evo Compu Devo (ECD) Examples:Experimentation + Selection + Convergent Unification
  • ‘Quantum Darwinism’ in the transition from quantum to classical (relativity, thermo, classical mechanics) physics (Blume-Kohout and Zurek 2005)
  • Transition from chaotic/unpredictable to probabilistic/predictable physical regimes
  • Invariant vs. unpredictable emergences in cellular automata (Wolfram)
  • Stellar nucleosynthesis (Wallenberg)
  • Biogenesis (Smith and Morowitz 2006)
  • Multicellularity (Newman and Bhat 2008)
  • ‘Neural Darwinism’ in development (Edelman 1989)
  • Cognitive selectionism (thinking) (Calvin 1985)
  • Evolutionary psychology (Wright 1998)
  • Cultural, ‘memetic’ selection (Dawkins, Aunger)
  • Technological ‘technetic’ selection (Kelly, Blackmore)
  • Evolutionary computation and artificial life (Koza, Sipper)
  • Cosmological natural selection (Smolin 1992)

free energy phi of dissipative structures traces out a universal hyperbolic curve
Free Energy (Phi, Φ) of Dissipative StructuresTraces out a Universal Hyperbolic Curve

Energy Flow Density (Φ)

Substrate (ergs/sec/gm)

  • Global AI of the 21st C 10^12+
  • Pentium II of the 1990's (10^11)
  • Intel 8080 of the 1970's10^10
  • Modern Engines 10^5 to 10^8
  • Culture (human) 500,000 (10^5)
  • Brains (human) 150,000 (10^5)
  • Animals (hum. body) 20,000 (10^4)
  • Ecosystems 900
  • Planets (Early) 75
  • Stars2

Galaxies 0.5

Eric Chaisson, Cosmic Evolution, 2001

Free energy flow density values inhierarchically emergent CAS.

the j curve and the tech singularity
The J Curve and the“Tech Singularity”
  • First-Order Components are Growth-Limited Hierarchical Substrates (S and B Curves)
  • Second-Order Hyperbolic Growth Emergence Singularities and a Limit Singularity


▪ Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar

▪ Chaisson’s FERD (Complexity)

▪ Global Economic Performance

▪ Sci & Tech Performance Metrics

▪ Cultural Adoption of Innovation

Accelerating Socio-Technological Evol.: From Ephemeralization & Stigmergy to the Global Brain, Francis Heylighen, 2007.

The Larger Context for Moore’s Law: Superexponential Long-term Trends in Information Technology, Nagy et. al., 2010

black holes as evolutionary developmental systems engaged in cosmological natural selection
Black Holes as Evolutionary Developmental Systems Engaged in ‘Cosmological Natural Selection’
  • Black Holes as ‘Seeds’ for New U. Production.
  • At least 8 of the 20+ fundamental parameters of our standard model of particle physics (potential initial conditions of our universe) appear fine tuned for:
  • - fecund black hole production
  • - universes with multi-billion year lifespans,
  • capable of creating life.

Start with: Lee Smolin, The Life of the Cosmos, 1997

More speculative: James Gardner, Biocosm, 2003

cns is testable by simulation
CNS is Testable By Simulation
  • Just as we see developmental (conserved, critical, internally selected) and evolutionary (varied, externally selected) genes in biological phenospace, we must find both developmental (fine tuned) and evolutionary (variable) fundamental parameters in our own universe’s particular set of initial conditions.
  • Per Smolin (1996) and Vaas (1998) this prediction is already (and increasingly) testable by simulation.

‘Baby universes’ exploring universal phenospace on a phylogenetic tree, with a low branching rate and frequent terminal branching in this cartoon (Adapted from Linde 1994).

Systematics diagram. Living organisms exploring a phylogenetic tree in evo-devo biology

black hole transition optimal computational and forward time travel devices
Black Hole Transition: Optimal Computational and Forward Time Travel Devices


  • Black holes are the most efficient computational systems known in physics. tflip = tcomm on the event horizon (Seth Lloyd, Ultimate physical limits to computation, Nature, 2000.

Forward Time Travel:

  • Black hole time dilation allows instantaneous forward time travel. Inside a black hole, external clocks move arbitrarily fast.

Benefits:Instantaneous observation of: the remainder of local universal change. Instantaneous travel to: all the places possible under dark energy.

black hole mergers our long term universal future
Black Hole Mergers: Our Long Term Universal Future
  • From the black hole’s time perspective, such mergers will occur virtually instantaneously, in no subjective time. This is because black holes, and only black holes, are a ‘one-way time travel device.’
  • On the universal scale, complexity is now self-fractionating into local ‘informational islands’ (supergalaxies). Our supergalaxy will include onlythe Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies (Nagamine and Loeb 2003)
  • Each of these supergalaxies contains evolutionarily uniqueness, and may be expected to engage in natural selection upon merger.

Passive or active black hole merger scenario.

transcension hypothesis the inner space answer to the fermi paradox
Transcension Hypothesis:The Inner Space Answer to the Fermi Paradox

Even Andromeda Galaxy is

only 2 mill. light yrs away.

Our Milky Way Galaxy is just 45,000 light-years in radius. Earth-like planets are 1-2 Billion years older

than us, closer to the core in the GHZ.

  • So where are the ET’s? A few primitive civs are in Normal Space, all advanced ones are in Inner Space.

“Leakage signals” and mini-beacons are sent overa very short (200-300 yr?) span prior to transcension.

They have no desire to communicate once they

recognize one-way communication is either not

useful or will reduce their evolutionary diversity.

A Prediction: Leakage signals (10-10,000), and their annual cessation (r = 1/lifespan), will both be detected by future SETI. Major beacons simply won’t be found (except in developmental failure galaxies)

Answering the Fermi Paradox: Mechanisms of Universal Transcension, JE&T, J. Smart, 2002

testing the transcension hypothesis
Testing the Transcension Hypothesis

1. Study Tech Performance Curves.Benefit: Better technology foresight & R&D.

2. Study Acceleration and Complexity Transitions in Cosmology, and Black Holes. Benefit: A developmental physics?

3. Study Immune Systems and Info Theory in Biology to Improve our Models of One-Way (developmental/control?) vs. Two-Way(evolutionary/ complexity construction?) Communications. Benefit: Better Models of Symbiosis, Morality, Resiliency.

4. Search for Very Low Power, Unintentional Leakage Signals of Very Limited Lifespan. Benefit: Empirical confirmation of the transcension hypothesis, even before the theory arrives.

Developmentalists are like Giordano Bruno in 1600, talking of heliocentrism, an infinity of suns like ours, and ETI, before much of the science existed.

Let’s not get burned at the stake, or ignoredbut instead… seriously critiqued.


Campo de' Fiori, Rome

di s cu ss ion



toward a theory of universal development 1 physical inner space
Toward a Theory of Universal Development:1. Physical ‘Inner Space’
  • Science Now Talks About:
  • Galactic Development
  • Stellar Development
  • Planetary Development
  • Biosphere Development
  • Organismic Development
  • Socioeconomic Development
  • Technological Development
  • We are Still Reluctant to Talk About
  • Macrobiological Development (Simon Conway-Morris)
  • Macromoral/Cultural Development (Ron Inglehart)
  • Universal Development (John Stewart, John Smart)
  • Modeling Development Is Hard, But Very, Very Important. These are the processes that constrain us. There aren’t many of them.

Is There a Computational Advantage (Selective Pressure, Dev. Constraint) Pulling Complexity into Physical Inner Space?

It seems so.


Toward a Theory of Universal Development:2. Virtual ‘Inner Space’

Real structures in “outer space” (the physical world) are being modeled rapidly better and faster in inner, virtual space (first human brains, then the digital world). By comparison to inner space, outer space is:

  • Computationally much simpler and more tractable (transparent)
  • A vastly slower substrate for evolutionary development
  • A much older, “rear view mirror” on the developmental trajectory of emergence of universal intelligence
  • Rapidly encapsulated by our simulation science



~200 Bill. Unique Solar Systems

Many More Unique Sims

~100 Trill. Unique Connections

The Future of Scientific Simulations: From A-Life to Artificial Cosmogenesis, C. Vidal, 2008

present score 13 for transcension 2 for expansion
Present Score: 13 for Transcension, 2 for Expansion

The Case For Transcension

1. Universal Speed Limit (c), and Isolation of Everything Interesting

2. Hierarchy Emergence Exhibits Singularities (Phase Transitions)

3. Relentless STEM Compression of Hierarchy Emergence

4. Age of Simulations (Networks, Inner Space)

5. Technological Singularity Hypothesis

6. “Plenty of Room at the Bottom” (Richard Feynman about Nanotech)

7. Bottom is Strange (Quantum Weirdness) and Computational

8. Hyperspace (String, M, Supersymmetry or some such theory, 10,11,26D)

9. Multiverse Theories with very early simulation testability (CNS, CNS-I)

10. Fermi Paradox Explanation (Constrained Developmental Transcension)

11. Lambda Universe Explanation (The Kerrigan Problem. "Why Now?")

12. A Non-Anthropomorphic Future

13. Midpoint Evidence (weak but potentially useful)

The (Highly Suspect) Case for Expansion

1. 3D Space was the Cradle and is the Playground for Biological Life

2. Expansion is a Comfortable Extrapolation of our Frontier Experience

© 2008

accelerating change is broadly ignored by the scientific community except for tech learning curves
Accelerating Change is Broadly Ignored By the Scientific Community, Except for Tech Learning Curves

Learning/Experience/Performance Curves (Moore’s Law, etc.) show accelerating exponential or power-law increases in capacity or efficiency over time. We’ve known about them since the 1930’s.

Santa Fe Inst has started the first online open PCDB

(2008, Such data sets are critically important to understanding accelerating tech change and convergence. The SFI PCDB has almost no funding however.Feel free to donate!

I think accelerating change has been ignored for so long because:

  • It looks too much like “progress,” a forbidden word in science, as we have no “universal” theory of values or complexity yet.
  • It looks suspiciously like (smooth, hierarchical, predictable) complexity development, when the only dynamic that complexity scientists are presently willing to discuss is (noisy, branching, unpredictable) complexity evolution.
  • A few do see parts of development (e.g., Salthe, 2nd law of thermo (hierarchical decay), or Chaisson’s free energy work (hierarchical acceleration). But we all know such people are crazy.
what comes after the tech singularity
What Comes After the Tech Singularity?
  • Future evolutionary details are contingent and intrinsically unknowable.
  • But if you have a theory of development, the developmental futures are not opaque:
  • Massive Computational Acceleration, Physical Control, & Simulation
  • Biohumans vs. Postbio. Intelligence become like Plants vs. Humans.
  • Local Intelligences Head Further into Virtual & Physical Inner Space.
  • Massive Increases in Robustness of our Complexity.
  • Superexponential Growth in Local Intelligence, to the Asymptote
  • Objective End (in just hundreds or thousands of Years) of Local Time
  • Subjective Eons of Local (Hyperaccelerated) Time Ahead
search basins and portal pathways developmental portal pathways must exist
‘Search Basins’ and ‘Portal Pathways’:Developmental Portal Pathways Must Exist
  • Key Research Questions:
  • Are portals/bottlenecks that lead to increasing complexity plentiful or rare?
  • Are such portals/bottlenecks sequence-dependent or randomly traversible?
  • Are such portals convergent, divergent,or non-vergent (as depicted here)?

Crutchfield, J.P. 2001. When Evolution is Revolution: Origins of Innovation. In: Crutchfield, J.P. and Schuster, P. (eds.), Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Interplay of Selection, Neutrality, Accident and Function.

portal pathway for complex chemical evo devo carbon chemistry
Portal Pathway for Complex Chemical Evo Devo – Carbon Chemistry

Genesis of Chemical Elements

  • Carbon is the only way forward to complex (living ) chemistry. Boron and Silicon no longer considered viable enough to form autocatalytic cycles in liquid phase.
  • Note that four of six most common elements in life chemistry (CHNOPS), and both of the great oxidizers, oxygen, and sulfur, are formed in the small, third generation (Population I) stars like our Sun
portal pathway for cells lipids rna aa s
Portal Pathway for Cells – Lipids, RNA, & AA’s
  • Lipids, RNA, & AA’s may be the only time-efficient way from o-chem to cells!
  • RNA, lipids/cell membranes, and protein precursors (amino acids) all form spontaneously in Earth’s chemistry (and precursors form on meteorites).
    • Nucleobases (AGCT/U) form from cyanide, acetylene and water.
    • Sugars form from alkali and formaldehyde
    • Phosphates are released from schreibersite in meteorites (“solar system assist”), and (a little) from (modern) volcanic vents.
    • Sutherland et. al., mixing sugar and nucleobase precursors and phosphate got 2-aminooxazole (partial sugar, partial nucleobase)
    • Exposure to intense solar UV in shallow water (“solar system assist”) destroys the incorrect forms of nucleobases, leaving behind C and U.
  • RNA is today the only known heteropolymer (of ~10M species) that can both reproduce itself and catalyze 3D (protein) construction (ribozymes)
  • RNA later learned to store itself more permanently as DNA (RNA World Hypothesis), but DNA may not be the only more stable nucleic acid.

Alonzo Ricardo and Jack Szostak. Life on Earth, Scientific American, Sept 2009.

Matthew W. Powner, Beatrice Gerland & John D. Sutherland. Synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions, Nature V. 460 May 13, 2009.