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The creative universe

Inanimate matter has evolved to reproducing molecules, to single cells made of trillions of molecules, to complex organisms composed of trillions of cells, to the broad spectrum and extraordinary richness of human experience. One can only gasp in dumbfounded wonder at the miracle of it all!

The astounding history of the creativity of evolution is the most compelling argument for the expansion of creativity in the future. It makes no more sense to see humanity as the end point of this process than it does to see the earth as the center of the universe. The essence of this creativity resides in conscious experience. Meaning and value is created as experience with an intrinsic nature is created. It is only the structural aspect of immediate experience that we can approach with intellectual understanding, but that is adequate to extrapolate from the historical record with the aid of mathematics.

That is the subject of this section. It starts with a discussion of why the higher levels of induction that mathematicians do not consider that important may be crucial to the future evolution of consciousness. Central to this issue is the way in which evolution creates its own environment and meaning that is dependent on that environment. This section ends with some speculation about genetic engineering and the future of evolution.

Few mathematicians see the need for a creative approach to mathematical truth in the light of Gödel. Higher levels of induction beyond those derivable in ZFC are not needed for practical problems or `normal' mathematics[9]. Does this stem from the limitations of the human mind and imagination or the nature of mathematical truth? Two aspects of evolution are central to addressing this question. First is the observation that evolution creates its own environment. This is most obvious in the oxygen atmosphere of the earth. Because oxygen reacts with so many elements it cannot persist in an atmosphere unless there is a process that continually replenishes it. It requires a living planet to maintain this atmosphere. More subtly much of what is characteristically human only has meaning in a cultural environment. A baby that is never held or fondled dies. We are designed to exist only in a human culture that is an extraordinarily complex product of evolutionary creativity.

The other aspect of evolution that is important to understanding the relevance of higher levels of induction is the creation of meaning and values. We can explain the evolution of a mother's love for her child from the vulnerability of the human infant for an extended period of time. But the feelings of the mother are a primary irreducible reality that is incomprehensible and meaningless at lower levels of evolution and consciousness..

It is in this context that one must consider the relevance of Gödel's result. The ever increasing diversity needed to explore all mathematical truth is important because the evolutionary processes that can explore these truths create meaning. At no point in the evolutionary process can one understand the nature of higher levels yet to be created. What could an insect make of human values? We cannot understand higher levels of abstraction but we can extrapolate from the history of evolution to see they may have profound meaning and value in the contexts in which they evolve.

How can such creativity function? How can a Darwinian struggle for survival between creatures at a low level of evolution lead to levels so radically advanced? How can the human mind evolve from single celled animals? Perhaps the best example of the creative potential in a low level Darwinian struggle is the evolution of sexual reproduction. There is substantial evidence that going to the trouble to find a mate to reproduce is not worth it from the standpoint of Darwinian survival except in environments that are infested with pathogens[13]. What is perhaps the single most creative force in evolution did not evolve as a creative force but to stay in place by running as fast as possible in the lethal evolutionary struggle against infection.

Is there a relationship between the richness of evolution and the structural possibilities inherent in the levels of mathematical truth? The level of induction in a formal mathematical system determines what mathematical structures are definable in that system. The Totality Axiom suggests that this is also true of conscious experience. The degree of abstraction or iteration a being is capable of imposes a limit on the richness and depth of their experience. In mathematics, if one has strong enough axioms of induction, one can construct any mathematical object. Similarly if a mind is capable of a sufficiently high level of abstraction it can embed simpler structures and thus have (or more correctly be) the simpler experience.

Levels of induction or abstraction set boundary conditions on what is possible. They are nothing like a complete measure of this richness of structure or the richness of conscious experience. There are many other dimensions to structure. The most obvious is size measured by the number of bits it takes to describe the structure. This dimension equally limits what structures can be embedded in a mind. A single linear scale such as the ordinal numbers that characterize the level of induction in a mathematical system are a limited aspect of structure. Such a scale can do little to characterize the richness of mathematical structure but it can define limits on what is possible. The ordinal numbers do that for mathematics. The Totality Axiom suggests they do the same for conscious experience.

It would be wrong to think that we are at or even remotely near an end to the creative evolution of consciousness meaning and values. But we are at a unique time in evolutionary history. As a species we are dramatically altering the environment of the planet and we are acquiring the technology to consciously control our own future evolution. If we survive the multiple crises that this situation creates future evolution will in large measure be a matter of conscious choice.

Genetic manipulation will begin with efforts to cure or eliminate horrible genetic diseases. Few will quarrel with developing such technology. Once the technology exists, it will inevitably be used more widely. We will in the next few decades be able to create intelligent conscious robots. We will begin to directly interface technology to our nervous system expanding our senses and consciousness. Deciding how to use this enormous power is the fundamental problem facing humanity today. The next section suggests an approach.


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