СодержаниеGod’s Consciousness → Часть 1

“What makes things do what they do? ” he asked. “What makes dogs bark, cats purr, plants grow? ”

“Before today I would have said evolution makes everything do what it does. Now I don’t know what to think. ”

“Evolution isn’t a cause of anything; it’s an observation, a way of putting things in categories. Evolution says nothing about causes. ”

“Evolution seems like a cause to me, ” I argued. “If it weren’t for evolution I’d be a single-celled creature in the bottom of some swamp. ”

“But what makes evolution happen? ” he asked. “Where did all the energy come from and how did it become so organized? ”

It was a good question. “I’ve always wondered how something like a zebra gets created by a bunch of molecules bouncing around the universe. It seems to me that over time the universe should become more screwed up and random, not organized enough to create zebras and light rail systems and chocolate-chip cookies. I mean, if you put a banana in a box and shook it for a trillion years, would the atoms ever assemble themselves into a television set or a squirrel? I guess it’s possible if you have enough boxes and bananas, but I have a hard time understanding it. ”

“Do you have any trouble understanding that a human embryo can only grow into a human adult and never into an apple tree or a pigeon? ” he asked.

“I understand that. Humans have different DNA than apple trees or pigeons. But with my banana in the box example, there’s no blueprint telling the molecules how to become something else. If the banana particles somehow stick together to become a flashlight or a fur hat, it’s a case of amazing luck, not a plan. ”

“So you believe that DNA is fundamentally different from luck? ”

“They’re opposites, ” I said. “DNA is like a specific plan. Probability means anything can happen. ”

The old man looked at me in that way that said I would soon doubt what I was saying. He didn’t disappoint. As usual, he began with a question.

“If the universe were to start over from scratch, and all the conditions that created life were to happen again, would life spring up? ”

“Sure, ” I said, feeling confident again. “If all the things that caused life the first time around were to happen again, the result should be the same. I don’t know what you’re getting at. ”

“Let’s rewind our imaginary universe fifteen billion years, to long before the time life first appeared. If that universe’s origin were identical to our own, would it unfold to become exactly like the world we live in now, including this conversation? ”

“I guess so. If it starts out the same and nothing changes it along the way, it should turn out the same. ” My confidence was evaporating again.

“That’s right. Our existence was programmed into the universe from the beginning, guaranteed by the power of probability. The time and place of our existence were flexible, but the outcome was assured because sooner or later life would happen. We would be sitting in these rocking chairs, or ones just like them, having this conversation. You believe that DNA and probability are opposites. But both make specific things happen. DNA runs on a tighter schedule than probability, but in the long run—the extreme long run—probability is just as fixed and certain in its outcome. Probability forces the coin toss to be exactly fifty-fifty at some point, assuming you keep flipping forever. Likewise,

probability forced us to exist exactly as we are. Only the timing was in question. ”

“I have to think about that. It sounds logical but it’s weird, ” I said.

“Think about this, ” he continued. “As we speak, engineers are building the Internet to link every part of the world in much the same way as a fetus develops a central nervous system. Virtually no one questions the desirability of the Internet. It seems that humans are born with the instinct to create it and embrace it. The instinct of beavers is to build dams; the instinct of humans is to build communication systems. ”

“I don’t think instinct is making us build the Internet. I think people are trying to make money off it. It’s just capitalism, ” I replied.

“Capitalism is only part of it, ” he countered. “In the 1990s investors threw money at any Internet company that asked for it. Economics went out the window. Rationality can’t explain our obsession with the Internet. The need to build the Internet comes from something inside us, something programmed, something we can’t resist. ”

He was right about the Internet being somewhat irrational. I wasn’t going to win that debate and this was not a place to jump in. He had a lot more to say.

“Humanity is developing a sort of global eyesight as millions of video cameras on satellites, desktops, and street corners are connected to the Internet. In your lifetime it will be possible to see almost anything on the planet from any computer. And society’s intelligence is merging over the Internet, creating, in effect, a global mind that can do vastly more than any individual mind. Eventually everything that is known by one person will be available to all. A decision can be made by the collective mind of humanity and instantly communicated to the body of society.

“In the distant future, humans will learn to control the weather, to manipulate DNA, and to build whole new worlds out of raw matter. There is no logical limit to how much our collective power will grow. A billion years from now, if a visitor from another dimension observed humanity, he might perceive it to be one large entity with a consciousness and purpose, and not a collection of relatively uninteresting individuals. ”

“Are you saying we’re evolving into God? ”

“I’m saying we’re the building blocks of God, in the early stages of reassembling. ”

“I think I’d know it if we were part of an omnipotent being, ” I said.

“Would you? Your skin cells are not aware that they are part of a human being. Skin cells are not equipped for that knowledge. They are equipped to do what they do and nothing more. Likewise, if we humans—and all the plants and animals and dirt and rocks—were components of God, would we have the capacity to know it? ”

“So, you’re saying God blew himself to bits—I guess that was the Big Bang—and now he’s piecing himself back together? ” I asked.

“He is discovering the answer to his only question. ”

“Does God have consciousness yet? Does he know he’s reassembling himself? ”

“He does. Otherwise you could not have asked the question, and I could not have answered. ”


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