Successively closer mindsteps, until the limit of the series in 2053

19 Jan

In his book “Mindsteps to the Cosmos” (HarperCollins, August 1983), Gerald S. Hawkins elucidated his notion of ‘mindsteps’, dramatic and irreversible changes toparadigms or world views. He identified five distinct mindsteps in human history, and the technology that accompanied these “new world views”: the invention of imagery, writing, mathematics, printing, the telescope, rocket, radio, TV, computer… “Each one takes the collective mind closer to reality, one stage further along in its understanding of the relation of humans to the cosmos.” He noted: “The waiting period between the mindsteps is getting shorter. One can’t help noticing the acceleration.” Hawkins’ empirical ‘mindstep equation’ quantified this, and gave dates for future mindsteps. The date of the next mindstep (5; the series begins at 0) is given as 2021, with two more successively closer mindsteps, until the limit of the series in 2053. His speculations ventured beyond the technological:

The mindsteps… appear to have certain things in common – a new and unfolding human perspective, related inventions in the area of memes and communications, and a long formulative waiting period before the next mindstep comes along. None of the mindsteps can be said to have been truly anticipated, and most were resisted at the early stages. In looking to the future we may equally be caught unawares. We may have to grapple with the presently inconceivable, with mind-stretching discoveries and concepts.



Examples of large human “buy-ins” into technology include the computer revolution, as well as massive government projects like the Manhattan Project and the Human Genome Project. The foundation organizing the Methuselah Mouse Prize believesaging research could be the subject of such a massive project if substantial progress is made in slowing or reversing cellular aging in mice.

Both Theodore Modis and Jonathan Huebner have argued—each from different perspectives—that the rate of technological innovation has not only ceased to rise, but is actually now declining. The validity of their conclusions has been criticized byJohn Smart.[17]

In fact, “technological singularity” is just one of a few singularities detected through the analysis of a number of characteristics of the World System development, for example, with respect to the world population, world GDP, and some other economic indices.[18] It has been shown[19] that the hyperbolic pattern of the world demographic, economic, cultural, urbanistic, and technological growth (observed for many centuries, if not millennia prior to the 1970s) could be accounted for by a rather simple mechanism, the nonlinear second order positive feedback, that was shown long ago to generate precisely the hyperbolic growth, known also as the “blow-up regime” (implying just finite-time singularities). In our case this nonlinear second orderpositive feedback looks as follows: more people – more potential inventors – faster technological growth – the carrying capacity of the Earth grows faster – fasterpopulation growth – more people – more potential inventors – faster technological growth, and so on. On the other hand, this research has shown that since the 1970s the World System does not develop hyperbolically any more, its development diverges more and more from the blow-up regime, and at present it is moving “from singularity”, rather than “toward singularity”.[20]

Juergen Schmidhuber calls the Singularity Omega, referring to Teilhard de Chardin‘sOmega Point (1916). For Omega = 2040, he says the series Omega – 2n human lifetimes (n < 10; one lifetime = 80 years) roughly matches the most important events in human history.


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