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Creative immortality

Another concept of immortality can be called creative immortality, or evolutionary immortality. This uniquely human motive underlies, probably, all major creative feats of human history. The idea is that mortal humans contribute, through their creative acts, to the ongoing universal and eternal process --- call it Evolution, or History, or God --- thus surviving their physical destruction. I call it Evolution, because contemporary science tells us that human history is but a small part of the universal cosmic process.

The theory of evolution is the cornerstone of the contemporary scientific worldview. Evolution is a constant emergence of higher and higher levels of cybernetic control. This process provides a material means for the manifestation of the mysterious something that we call freedom, or will, or free will. Evolution proceeds by metasystem transitions, in which a number of pre viously uncoordinated systems become controled by a metasystem, which thereby vastly expands the effects of its free choices. Hierarchical levels of control created by evolution are, essentially,amplifiers of freedom.

The evolutionary growth of the control hierarchy is a natural law, to which we refer as the Law of Evolution, or the Plan of Evolution. Like every law of nature, the Plan of Evolution does not determine uniquely and in detail how things will develop. It only sets the boundaries between the possible and the impossible. But it introduces a new dimension into the world, which provides a basis for distinguishing between good and evil. No one has proved, and hardly will ever prove, that the existence of life, and specifically, highly organized life, is inevitable. We have not yet had any sign that life exists outside Earth; as for humankind, it can destroy itself, and possibly the whole of life, if it chooses to do so. Continuing constructive evolution is a possibility but not a necessity. Acts of will can contribute to evolution or counter it. Because of the natureof evolution, there is a fundamental difference between constructive and destructive contributions.

The fate of the world is not predetermined, it depends, among other things, on what I and you are doing. The contribution to the Evolution made by an individual can be of critical importance. It can also be everlasting. For example, the contribution made by Aristotle or Newton is written down into the history of mankind and will stay there forever, even though there are only very few people who read Aristotle or Newton now. But each next stage of evolution is dependent on the preceding stages. The acts contributing to evolution create structures which will outlive the actors and determine the structures that follow. In this way, they are eternal. Those acts which go against the plan of evolution will be drowned in chaos and erased from the memory of the world. Evolutionary immortality is the immortality of deed. The deeds of mortal men may be immortal.

You can say that this evolutionary immortality is rather pale, not real. But it is quite real, especially for imaginative and creative people. The reason why we appreciate creative per sons -- sometimes even deify them -- is that we understand the eternal nature of their contributions. For creative persons it is important that their achievements are known and used, i.e. that they make a difference, and in this way stay forever. It may become more imortant than life itself. You know the famous story about Archimedes who said to the Roman soldier: you can kill me but please do not destroy my drawings. Even if this story is invented, which is quite possible, it still is very telling.

Copyright© 1997 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

V. Turchin,

Mar 20, 1997 (modified)
Sep 1991 (created)


Metasystem Transition Theory


Will for immortality

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