Monday, May 08, 2023

Can a theory of events-in-time - our future history - ever be crafted?

I first drafted this as I usually do to pass on clips that attempt to extract the core points from a fascinating brief piece by Venkatesh Rao.  I then decided to ask Chat GPT 4, Google's bard and Microsoft Bing to "Please condense the core ideas in the following document into a few paragraphs:"  The response from Chat GPT 4 was amazing, so I paste it in here before giving you my clips :

Venkatesh Rao explores the idea of the "End of History" as an analogy to the "End of Biology," where biology transitioned from an independent area of intellectual inquiry to one subservient to the sciences of non-living matter. The End of History could signify a move away from vitalist understandings of the logic of events-in-time. Rao acknowledges that the End of History theory is not widely popular due to its non-constructive nature, as it subverts vitalist understanding of events without providing a parsimonious and generative alternative.

Rao suggests that deeper logics of events-in-time exist in nature, with biological evolution and thermodynamics offering more complex explanations than a mere "one damn thing after another" perspective. He proposes that events-in-time might be viewed as the trace of an irreversible, non-ergodic computation process, with long-term collective memory playing a significant role. History, as we have understood it so far, might be considered a particular memory architecture with a specific irreversible and non-ergodic structure to the evolving computation. This perspective could potentially pave the way for a more refined and deliberate understanding of future events, reducing events-in-time after the End of History to a specialized kind of computation.

Here are my clips that Chat GPT 4 used to generate the above condensation:

What if the Hegel-Fukuyama idea of the End of History is something like Darwin’s idea of natural selection?

The Darwinian century began with The Origin of the Species in 1859 and ended with the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953. Humanity experienced an End of Biology moment somewhere between those bookend events…a demotion of the discipline from an independent area of intellectual inquiry to one subservient to the sciences of non-living matter…Biology went from being an inscrutable aspect of providence to an emerging engineering discipline, subservient to physics and mathematics by way of chemistry.

By analogy, the End of History moment is something like an end to vitalist understandings of the logic of events-in-time…There is no role for divine agency, and no justification for assigning a particular positive or negative valence to apparent secular tendencies in the stream of events…The fact that the theory is historicist without being normative is perhaps what makes it so powerfully subversive. The End of History theory is the historicism that kills all other historicisms. Past the End of History, notions like progress must be regarded as analogous to notions like √©lan vital past the End of Biology. …it is undeniable that 30 years in, the End of History theory is still not particularly popular…One obvious reason is that it is non-constructive. It subverts a vitalist understanding of events in time without supplying a more parsimonious and generative alternative.

In Fukuyama’s theory, there are no notions comparable to variation and natural selection that allow us to continue making sense of events-in-time. There are no Mendelian clues pointing to something like a genetics of events-in-time. There is no latent Asimovian psychohistorical technology lurking in the details of the End of History theory…Perhaps one damn thing after another is where our understanding of events in time ought to end, for our own good.

I think this is too pessimistic though. Deeper logics of events-in-time abound in nature. Even biological evolution and thermodynamics, which are more elemental process aspects of reality, admit more than a one damn thing after another reading. History, as a narrower class of supervening phenomena that must respect the grammars of both, ought to admit more interesting readings, based on broadly explanatory laws that are consistent with both, but more specific than either. Dawkins’ memetic view of cultural evolution, and various flavors of social darwinism, constitute first-order attempts at such laws. Some flavors of cosmism and transhumanism constitute more complex attempts that offer hope of wresting ever-greater agency from the universe.

So what does explain the logic of events-in-time in a way that allows us to make sense of events-in-time past the End of History, in a way that improves upon a useless one damn thing after another sense of it, and says something more than the laws of evolution or thermodynamics?

I don’t have an answer, but I have a promising clue: somehow, events-in-time must be viewed as the trace of an irreversible, non-ergodic computation process, in which long-term collective memory plays a significant role.

History, as we have understood it so far, is something like a particular memory architecture that assumes a particular irreversible and non-ergodic structure to the evolving computation. The contingency and path dependence of events-in-time in human affairs is no reason to believe there cannot also be theoretical richness within the specificity. A richness that might open up futures that can be finely crafted with a psychohistorical deliberateness, rather than simply vaguely anticipated and crudely shaped. 

Perhaps, just as life after the End of Biology was reduced to a specialized kind of chemistry, events-in-time, after the End of History, can be reduced to a specialized kind of computation.


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