Welcome to Impermanent, my notes on the way to an ontology.
The Genesis of Impermanent: My exploration started as a personal pursuit, driven by an ontological curiosity. As I traversed through various philosophical landscapes, I amassed a wealth of insights. Yet, I faced a recurring challenge – the fleeting nature of this knowledge. Time and again, I struggled to retrieve these pearls of wisdom from the depths of books, notes, videos, websites, and endless online searches.
A Personal Invitation: While Impermanent started as a tool for my own reference,I hope it grows into something more meaningful. Whether you’re a seasoned philosopher, a casual ponderer, or simply someone curious about the deeper questions, you’re welcome here.
An international team of researchers has developed a groundbreaking theoretical framework known as assembly theory, uniting the principles of physics and biology to shed light on the evolution and complexity in nature. Published in the esteemed journal Nature, this new work marks a significant advance in our understanding of biological evolution and its interaction with the universe’s physical laws.
The genesis of assembly theory lies in its potential application in life detection, with profound implications for searching alien life and evolving new life forms in the laboratory. The theory revolves around the molecular assembly index, a complexity score assigned to molecules, which is experimentally measurable and correlates with life-derived molecules. This innovative approach bridges the gap between physics and biology, offering a fresh perspective on evolution and the construction of complex objects through natural selection.
The recent study introduces a mathematical formalism around a physical quantity called “assembly,” quantifying the selection required to produce complex objects. This concept allows for a deeper understanding of the processes underlying biological complexity and evolution.
Lead author Sara Walker, a theoretical physicist and professor at Arizona State University, emphasizes that assembly theory offers a new lens for viewing physics, chemistry, and biology. It aims to unify inert and living matter, narrowing the gap between reductionist physics and Darwinian evolution.
Furthermore, the theory’s applications are vast, ranging from simple molecules to complex cellular structures, elucidating both the discovery of new objects and the selection of existing ones. It promises open-ended increases in complexity, akin to those observed in life and technology.
Professor Lee Cronin, a co-lead author, highlights that assembly theory redefines our understanding of matter, considering the memory needed to build objects over time. This perspective could revolutionize multiple fields, from cosmology to computer science, standing at the crossroads of physics, chemistry, biology, and information theory.
The researchers aim to refine assembly theory further and explore its applications in characterizing life forms and testing hypotheses about life’s emergence from nonliving matter. The theory’s experimental testability opens up new possibilities for designing experiments to solve the origin of life conundrum.
In conclusion, assembly theory not only provides profound insights into biological complexity and evolutionary innovation but also opens up numerous research directions at the boundary of physical and life sciences.
This video, titled “The Precipice,” presented by the philosopher Toby Ord, explores the concept of humanity’s vulnerability to self-annihilation and its potential cosmic significance.
Our Vulnerability to Annihilation: The video opens with the idea that our current historical moment, which Ord calls “The Precipice,” is defined by humanity’s newfound capacity for self-destruction. This existential risk is a unique feature of the last century, a mere blip in the span of human history.
Cultural Reflection of Impending Apocalypse: The awareness of potential annihilation permeates our culture, art, and media, creating a sense of imminent apocalypse. This includes fears of climate change, nuclear war, and unaligned AI.
Potential for Long-Term Survival: Despite these risks, Ord argues that they are not insurmountable. Humanity still has the potential for long-term survival, with the capacity to explore both the physical universe and the vast realm of consciousness.
Part One – Cosmic Reach: The video then delves into humanity’s potential to settle other planets and traverse the vastness of space, exploring the idea that our descendants could inhabit deep time and significantly impact the cosmic stage.
Earth’s Long-Term Future and Human Interventions: It discusses Earth’s habitability over the next billion years, the gradual changes it will undergo, and how future civilizations might intervene to prolong Earth’s lifespan and habitability.
Moving Beyond Earth: Eventually, the video suggests, humanity will need to move beyond Earth and the solar system to ensure its survival, particularly as the Sun evolves and expands.
Interstellar Travel to Proxima Centauri: The possibility of reaching Proxima Centauri, a nearby star system with an Earth-like planet, is explored. It discusses the challenges and long-term potential of interstellar travel.
Part Two – Life Beyond Earth: The video speculates on the discovery of extraterrestrial life and its implications. It addresses the Fermi Paradox and the potential for advanced life forms that have evolved beyond physical detection.
Part Three – Deep Time: This part discusses the potential for intergalactic travel and the future merger of the Milky Way with Andromeda, leading to a new era of galactic isolation or reunion.
Human Transformation – More Than Human: The video considers how humanity might evolve over millions of generations, embracing enhancements in intelligence, compassion, and other traits, potentially leading to a radical transformation of human experience.
Part Four – The Universal Self: It explores the philosophical concept of Open Individualism, where consciousness is the basis of identity, suggesting that advanced beings in the universe may share common ethical values.
Ethical Convergence and Altruistic Exploration: The idea that advanced civilizations may converge on ethical principles like compassion and cooperation is proposed, potentially driving interstellar exploration as a form of altruistic mission.
The Universal Implications of Consciousness: Finally, the video contemplates the role of conscious life in the universe, suggesting that life and consciousness might be integral to the universe’s fabric and destiny.
Spirituality and Oneness: The video begins by highlighting the spiritual beliefs of the First Nations people of Australia, emphasizing a sense of oneness and interconnectedness with all things, living and non-living. It mentions Muduru, a First Nations Australian known for his literary contributions, who spent significant time in India and Nepal, including as a Buddhist monk.
Time and Memory in First Nations Spirituality: The concept of time and memory in First Nations culture is explored. Unlike the Western linear perception of time (past, present, and future), First Nations people perceive time in unique dimensions, deeply intertwined with their spirituality. This is exemplified by the concept of the Dreamtime.
Dreamtime and Creation Stories: Dreamtime is central to First Nations spirituality, explaining the creation of all existence. The video compares this to other creation stories from various cultures, noting that most, including the Big Bang Theory, follow a linear time concept, contrasting with the Dreamtime’s non-linear nature.
Conception of Time in First Nations Culture: First Nations Australians view time as circular and rooted in consciousness, differing significantly from the Western linear concept. This view regards time as states of consciousness rather than a progression through moments.
Ontological States of Consciousness: The video delves into the First Nations’ subtle conception of time, where time is seen as expressions of consciousness, visible or invisible. This perspective posits that nothing ceases to exist; instead, it merely changes in its appearance to consciousness.
Mindfulness and the Present Moment: The video compares the Western spiritual emphasis on being in the ‘now’ with the First Nations’ view. In their understanding, the ‘now’ is a constant state, making the effort to be in the present unnecessary as everything exists perpetually in the now.
Dreamtime Stories and Song Lines: Dreamtime stories, vital to First Nations spirituality, are living narratives explaining the origins and interconnectedness of life and land. These stories, timeless and always relevant, are linked to the landscape through song lines, which are pathways connecting sacred sites and carrying songs, stories, and knowledge.
Memory and Knowledge Preservation: The video compares the First Nations’ methods of preserving knowledge through song lines and Dreamtime stories to the ancient Greeks’ memory palaces. This method involves associating knowledge with the landscape and using memorable narratives.
Environmental Knowledge and Loss: It emphasizes the depth of environmental and natural knowledge possessed by First Nations people, likening their knowledge to a vast, living database. The loss of First Nations cultures is equated to the loss of significant environmental knowledge and understanding.
Reevaluating Time and Existence: Finally, the video invites viewers to consider the First Nations’ conception of time as an alternative to the linear time concept prevalent in Western thought. This view challenges traditional perceptions of existence and creation, offering a unique perspective on stories like The Big Bang Theory.
These are a simple set of tables that I made for quick reference. They catalog different schools of vedanta along with aspects of each school. Of course this is an vast oversimplification of the topic. However, they helped me keep things sorted.
Non-dualism: Atman (soul) and Brahman (universal soul) are one.
Qualified non-dualism: Atman is distinct yet dependent on Brahman.
Dualism: Atman and Brahman are eternally separate.
Concept of Brahman
Brahman is the only reality, formless, and beyond attributes.
Brahman is with attributes and is the inner controller (Antaryami).
Brahman is a personal God, with attributes, separate from the individual soul.
Nature of Atman
Identical with Brahman, no individuality.
Atman is distinct but eternally linked to Brahman.
Atman is distinct and different from Brahman.
The world is illusory (Maya) and a manifestation of Brahman.
The world is real and a body of Brahman.
The world and its entities are real and distinct from Brahman.
Path to Liberation
Through knowledge (Jnana) and realization of the self’s unity with Brahman.
Through devotion (Bhakti) and surrender to God.
Through a strict dualistic devotion and adherence to Dharma.
Interpretation of the Upanishads emphasizes non-dualism.
Interpretation acknowledges a personal God and individual souls.
Stresses a strict dualistic interpretation of the scriptures.
Shankaracharya’s commentaries on the Upanishads, Brahmasutra, Bhagavad Gita.
Ramanujacharya’s ‘Sri Bhashya’ commentary on the Brahmasutra.
Works of Madhvacharya including commentaries on Vedanta texts.
Emphasizes renunciation and detachment.
Focuses on loving devotion and surrender to God’s grace.
Advocates a life of righteousness and strict adherence to duty (Dharma).
Achintya Bheda Abheda
Various (e.g., Bhaskara)
Simultaneous oneness and difference between the soul and God.
Pure non-dualism, Brahman (Krishna) is the only reality with multiplicity.
Dualistic non-dualism, a complex relationship between soul and God.
Both difference and non-difference between the individual soul and Brahman.
Concept of Brahman
Brahman as Krishna, both distinct and non-distinct from the universe and souls.
Krishna as the supreme, singular reality.
Brahman is both distinct and non-distinct from the soul and the universe.
Brahman is simultaneously different and not different from the universe.
Nature of Atman
Soul is both distinct and non-distinct from Krishna.
Soul is a part of Krishna, but maintains individuality.
Souls are distinct yet have a non-dual relationship with Brahman.
Souls are different yet in some way non-different from Brahman.
The world is a real and dynamic expression of Krishna’s energy.
The world is real and a manifestation of Krishna.
The world is a real and integral part of Brahman.
The world is both real and illusory, with a complex relationship to Brahman.
Path to Liberation
Through devotional service (bhakti) to Krishna.
Through loving devotion and the grace of Krishna.
Devotion to Radha-Krishna, emphasizing duality and non-duality.
Both knowledge and devotion, depending on the specific thinker.
Emphasizes Bhagavata Purana and Chaitanya’s teachings.
Focus on Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures that highlight Krishna’s role.
Interpretations emphasize both the unity and duality aspects of scriptures.
Varies; some focus on the dual aspects of scripture, others on non-duality.
Stresses the importance of devotion and community in spiritual life.
Focuses on the grace (Pushti) of God and loving devotion.
Advocates a balance between devotion and adherence to dharma.
Emphasizes a holistic approach combining devotion, knowledge, and ethics.