Singularity Watch
HomeNewsletterReading GroupsConferencesPublications"Singularity Studies" LinksDegree ProgramsCritiques

Intro to the Developmental Singularity Hypothesis (DSH)

A Speculative Evolutionary Developmental (Evo Devo) Model for Our Universe's History of
Hierarchical Complexity Emergence Under Conditions of Continously Accelerating Change

© 2000-2010, John M. Smart. Reproduction, review and critique encouraged with attribution.
First presented at the Foresight Vision Weekend, Palo Alto, CA, May 20, 2000.




Developmental Singularity Hypothesis (DSH) Overview

Core Assumptions

Relevant Academic Disciplines



Some Key Ideas of the Hypothesis

1: Accelerating Change
2: Computational Substrates
3: STEM Compression
4: Autonomous Systems
5: Informational Metaproperties
6: Developmentalism
7: Self-Organization in the Multiverse



Further Reading

See my articles, Answering the Fermi Paradox, 2002, and The Transcension Hypothesis, 2011 for more recent explorations of the Developmental Singularity Hypothesis. A longer treatment of the DSH, in the context of universal evolutionary development, may be found in my chapter-length article:
Evo Devo Universe? A Framework for Speculations on Cosmic Culture (PDF), 2008.
Your feedback, edits, and critiques are greatly appreciated, and acknowledged if desired.


The developmental singularity hypothesis (DSH) is a rather speculative proposal concerning the mechanisms, purpose, and trajectory of universal accelerating change. I have periodically revisited it since first conceiving it as a youth in 1972. It is best treated as speculative philosophy of science, though it aspires to be investigated, and validated or refuted, by scientific inquiry. This is something that, to the best of my knowledge, has not yet occurred. Fortunately, beginning in 2008 I and a colleague, Clément Vidal, formed a research community, Evo Devo Universe, to explore and critique this and a range of related models of universal change. We welcome you to join us there if you have an interest in these topics.

The DSH proposes that universal complexity emerges as a naturalistic developmental process within increasingly localized, accelerated, and energy-dense physical-computational niches over astronomical time. The historical record of complex systems development has been via accelerating transitions through a long succession of hierarchically emergent 'substrates' for information production, computation, and adaptation. The leading edge of morphological and functional complexity in each of these transitions always supported greater internal organization, specialization, and control, greater awareness and modeling of the universal environment, and greater adaptiveness and autonomy from that environment in the emergent system. They have been described by many scholars. Systems theorist and computer scientist Valentin Turchin calls these developmental emergences meta-systems transitions, biologists John Maynard Smith and Eors Szatmary call them evolutionary transitions. Many of these transitions have a resemblance to what the physicists call phase change singularities. They may be described by future models that are analogous to processes occurring in biological development.

As in developmental processes in biology, the development of universal complexity may have been previously tuned, via prior episodes of universal evolutionary development in the multiverse, in a way that allows not only evolutionary variation, but also a probabilistic convergence to set of prespecified developmental forms. The DSH places our apparent local acceleration toward a coming "technological singularity" (the eventual emergence of human-surpassing machine intelligence) within the broader framework of universal evolutionary development.

The developmental singularity hypothesis, among other models of accelerating change, is also a topic of interest to our nonprofit, the Acceleration Studies Foundation. Eventually, we hope to see a range of paradigms that formally acknowledge, investigate, and seriously extrapolate the implications of our little-discussed yet long-apparent universal record of continuously accelerating change. The consistency and resilience of this universal acceleration, irrespective of local catastrophe, suggests that the process is developmental, and thus guided and aided by a host of internal processes, still awaiting scientific characterization.

Developmental Singularity Hypothesis Overview

An overview of the developmental singularity hypothesis now follows in brief.

It appears likely, to a growing number of scientists and scholars, that we inhabit an evolutionary developmental (evo devo) universe, where many (pseudo-)random evolutionary events occur, yet certain developmental emergences are future-specified within the unfolding structure of the system (e.g., Big Bang 'seed'), much as a biological seed utilizes chaos and evolutionary contingency in its development, yet temporally specifies unique emergent future form and function. The history of our universe appears to be one of creating ever more local (and highly parallel), ever more accelerated change. The history of complex systems development in our universe involves the creation of a subset of ever more spatially, temporally, energetically, and materially (STEM) efficient and dense substrates for computation and physical transformation. We may call these twin universal trends of ever increasing efficiency and density of complex adaptive system structure "STEM Compression," and observe that the most STEM compressed complex systems, invariably also emerge as the most computationally complex (most intelligent and globally adaptive) systems in the local environment.

In this accelerating procession, the coming technological singularity (Emergent A.I.) may be expected to be constrained to create a developmental (or "reproductive") singularity (local black hole equivalent, or new universe seed) very soon after its emergence, in universal time. This would be consistent with Lee Smolin's model of Cosmological Natural Selection (CNS, or universe reproduction and fine tuning through a succession of replicating black holes in the multiverse), and such a process of local compression and ever-increasing computational efficiency would be expected to lead to the formation of a new, more complex universe in the subsequent cycle.

Cosmological evolutionary convergence (development), a necessary counterpart and complement to Darwinian evolutionary variation and natural selection, allows us to understand the universe as an evolutionary developmental system, and posits the most parsimonious mechanism yet advanced to explain the apparent anthropic tuning of observed universal parameters. Rather than space colonization ("expansion"), the near-immediate transcension (into hyperspatial domains/new universe creation) of all technologically sophisticated civilizations, shortly after their emergence within this universe, via the constrained creation of black-hole-equivalent densities in their local computational systems, would also be a simple and coherent solution to the Fermi Paradox, a fundamental unresolved issue in current models of extraterrestrial life. The Fermi Paradox is a problem made particularly intransigent by the likelihood of ubiquitous locally accelerating technological complexity in a universe apparently well-tuned for the multi-point emergence of life.

As a paradigm, the developmental singularity hypothesis also informs the problem of time by specifying the trajectory of the arrow of universal change, toward the formation of local black holes in the development of space-time topology. It is consistent with Eric Chaisson's (Cosmic Evolution, 2001) measure of the free energy rate density (Phi), as a metric for the exponential local emergence of computational complexity. It is also uniquely conceptually parsimonious, as it treats the universe itself as a system with the same replicative and self-organizing features as living systems, and thus offers an evo devo dynamic to undersand such universal and living system properties as self-similarity, modularity, parallelism, co-adaption, environmental feedback, strange attractors (chaos), self-organization, and phase transitions in development.

If this model is correct, and all evidence I have seen so far suggests that it is, we will soon come to understand that our culture's common perception of the future frontier for exploration is 180 degrees out of phase. In the developmental singularity hypothesis, outer space appears to be no more than a rear-view mirror, reflecting the past trajectory of universal intelligence. The DSH argues that a future in inner space, not outer space, what we may call the Transcension Hypothesis rather than the Expansion Hypothesis for universal intelligence, may be our constrained developmental destiny.

Perhaps the simplest way to understand and critique the DSH is via the following seven-assertion outline. The first four steps are courtesy of my colleague Clement Vidal:

1. Energy=matter (Einstein's e=mc2).
2. Space-Time is curved by Energy-Matter density (much more by density than by total E-M in fact)..
3. STEM density and efficiency of information production/ computation/ metabolism/ perception/ action grow superexponentially at the leading edge of universal intelligence development (STEM compression hypothesis).
This gives ever greater space-time curvature in complex environments, and at the limit, a black hole.
5. In standard relativity, black holes are near-instantaneous one-way information collection (to the hole, almost exclusively) and time travel (to the future only) devices. Even in our dark energy universe, black holes merge nearly instantaneously, from their unique reference frame, with all other black holes in their local gravity wells. For us, this is Andromeda and Milky Way Galaxies, which begin to merge in 20 billion years (our time) but instantaneously in black hole time. All matter in each gravity well may end up inside merged black holes.
6. If Smolin's CNS is true, then the physics of black hole singularities allows for universal replication. If the most advanced, miniaturized, and STEM-compressed universal intelligences can exist either inside or at the edge of black holes, they will thus nearly-instantaneously merge, compete, cooperate, and compare their unique, locally developed models with all other local advanced intelligences prior to the next replication event. Such a transcension and merger process would add multi-level selection dynamics and great new diversity to the process of cosmological evolution and development.
7. In an evolutionary developmental CNS universe under black hole transcension physics, advanced intelligences should develop highly effective ethical and physical constraints against sending out one-way broadcasts or probes prior to transcension, as this would greatly reduce the evolutionary variety of their later mergers. This provides a testable explanation of the Fermi paradox. For this to be proveably true we would have to develop a predictive information theory of ethics in complex systems, in the same way that we have predictive physical theory of STEM processes. We are likely many years away from such a capacity, though the powerful civilizing effect of complexity on human nature to date provides early evidence for this.

Note that of the first four assertions most critical to contemplating the developmental singularity hypothesis, it is only Assertion 3. the STEM compression hypothesis, that is not widely known by researchers today. Nevertheless, the data are broadly evident for this as a natural evolutionary developmental process defining the leading edge of complexity emergence. For example, see Chaisson 2003 for some density data, and read my Transcension Hypothesis paper for references on efficiency data.

The developmental singularity hypothesis must remain speculative until such time as it receives significant further scientific attention, theory, experiment, and critique. Fortunately, given the rapid rate of change we are observing today, we may not have to wait much longer for this to occur. This is a model which can only be confirmed or disproven by coming advances in theory and universal simulation, as various relevant academic domains are further investigated by the scientific community. Like Smolin's cosmological natural selection hypothesis, the DSH is extensively testable by future advances in simulation, but also by near-term prediction and experimental observation and quantitation of local trends in STEM efficiency and STEM density, computational capacity and autonomy.

Arguably, the emergence of increasingly autonomous nanocomputational systems, furthering the advances seen to date in integrated circuit manufacture, would be evidence of the latter kind. So would an accelerating deployment of biologically-inspired, evolutionary computational approaches to hardware and software development in coming years.

Any theses which investigate local and universal processes of accelerating change are topics of exploration within the ASF community, whether supporting, refuting or ignoring the developmental singularity paradigm, in any of its variants. Independent proposals, supporting evidence, and constructive criticism are equally encouraged.

Core Assumptions

The DSH and the evolutionary developmental paradigm seem to require the following core assumptions (at least):

1. Evolutionary development of complex adaptive systems
2. Local computational closure in hierarchical substrates (hierarchy theory and local optima in simulations)
3. Global essential incompleteness of intelligence in all finite-state simulations
4. STEM efficiency and STEM density (together "STEM compression") of computation
5. Cosmological selection in the multiverse (both natural/chaotic and self-/development-directed)

For more on these, see the ACSAIDS summary below.

Relevant Academic Disciplines

To best explore the implications of these concepts, and to clearly see developmental patterns and hierarchical emergence in universal accelerating change, evolutionary developmental systems theorists and acceleration scholars must strive to understand both basic scientific knowledge and systems theory within at least the following broad scientific and philosophical domains:

1. Informational Substrate
    Examples: Computation, information theory, dynamical systems theory
2. Physical Substrate
    Examples: Astrophysical, physical and chemical sciences
3. Genetic Substrate
    Examples: Biological sciences, evolutionary psychology
4. Memetic (Cultural) Substrate
    Examples: History, social sciences, cognitive sciences, philosophy of mind
5. Technologic Substrate
    Examples: Engineering (chemical, mechanical, electrical, software, etc.), science and technology studies, history and philosophy of science and technology, technology roadmapping and forecasting

To quantitatively model the way accelerating change leads to finite-time singularities and phase transitions (hierarchy development, the emergence of a new and 'partly-decoupled' complex system on top of progenitor systems) in a range of complex systems, one should attempt to familiarize oneself with advanced mathematical tools and models. Some books that outline these challenging analytical techniques are:

Critical Phenomena in Natural Sciences: Chaos, Fractals, Self Organization, and Disorder: Concepts and Tools, Didier Sornette, 2004.

Advanced Mathematical Methods for Scientists and Engineers: Asymptotic Methods and Perturbation Theory, Carl Bender and Steven Orszag, 1999.

New Developments in Singularity Theory, D. Siersma (Ed.) et. al., 2001

Courses in complex systems mathematics, such as the Complex Systems Summer School at the Santa Fe Institute can build one's mathematical aptitude for exploring these ideas quantitatively. Courses in nonlinear mathematics are rare, even in large universities. These subjects are daunting but worth pursuing for the insights they may potentially provide into processes of change common to all physical systems. Such mathematics are presently beyond my own capacity, though I find much can be learned by reading the literature of these mathematicians.

Some Key Ideas of the Developmental Singularity Hypothesis
An Evolutionary Developmental Paradigm for Understanding Universal Accelerating Change

The developmental singularity hypothesis seeks to describe universal accelerating change as an evolutionary developmental process culminating in some form of cosmological singularity. A quick summary of several broad assertions or fundamental ideas underlying this hypothesis can be presented via an "ACSAIDS" mnemonic.

These assertions are presented below in increasing order of disbelief within the scientifically literate lay populace at the present time. In other words, the further down the list you proceed, the less substantiated is each assertion given the present state of science. All of these ideas may eventually be demonstrated to be central to understanding accelerating change in a universal context. Some may be refuted in coming years, and other fundmental ideas are likely to emerge to modify this framework. But it is possible that the basic insights of the evolutionary developmental paradigm may be only refined, not shifted, for many years to come.

Assertion 1: Accelerating Change Exists Universally

Special elements of the universe have been continually speeding up for at least the last six billion years, roughly the last half of the universe's present lifespan.. This perspective has been represented elegantly by Carl Sagan's Cosmic Calendar, a record of the rapidly accelerating pace of "important emergent events" in the latter half of universal history. This insight is widely shared by modern thinkers.

Assertion 2: Computational Substrate Hierarchies Exist Universally

The history of the universe involves an accelerating emergence of hierarchies of complex adaptive systems, or computational substrates, within our universe. Such physical and computational substrates as galactic-atomic systems, stellar-elemental systems, planetary-molecular-chemetic systems, genetic systems, instinctual-neurologic systems, cultural-linguistic-memetic systems, and technologic complex adaptive systems have unfolded, within our universe, in an ever more accelerated manner over time.

Each substrate has computational capacities that are sharply limited by its physical structure, each incorporates (encodes) some model of its past explorations of universal space within it physical structure, and each can be usefully seen as semi-independent (the last, technological systems, perhaps not yet clearly so) of the other substrates on some relevant computational dimension, such as each systems unique choice of physical path. (For example, the course of human ideas does not generally significantly influence pathways in new molecular evolutionary development, and vice versa.) This insight concerning unique hierarchical substrates is widely shared by systems theorists who hold a computational perspective on the universe, yet such thinkers are presently a minority of those considering accelerating change.

Assertion 3: Space-Time and Energy-Matter (STEM) Efficiency and Density Trends ('STEM Compression') Operates Universally

The universal evolution of information at the leading edge of functional and morphological complexity involves the continuous movement to new physical-computational substrates, with the most computationally complex of local emergent systems always exponentially increasing their information processing pace by comparision to their immediate ancestors. How has this this been possible over cosmological time? Apparently computational development, as generally defined, necessarily involves the continual migration to new, more Space-Time and Energy-Matter (STEM) efficient substrates over time. Over the last half of universal history, the leading edge of universal computation has become hyperexponentially more resource efficient, more energetically and physically dense, more miniaturized, more localized, and more accelerated in time. I call this phenomenon Space, Time, Energy, and Matter efficiency and density of standardized computation or physical transformation. We may colloquially call this 'STEM compression' when referring to both efficiency and density trends simulataneously. Systems theorist and futurist Buckminster Fuller independently observed this phenomenon, calling it the "ephemeralization" trend in universal development.

Given our universe's unique and apparently carefully tuned physical architecture, one that is not anthropomorphic, but what we may instead call 'infomorphic' (information-shaping, information-centric), there is plenty of computational architecture and powerful physical energies and transformation efficiencies to be discovered "at the bottom." Because of this, universal computation has always been able to discover these more STEM efficient and STEM dense (STEM compressed) substrates, "hidden in the microcosm" of physical and informational transformations. Thus computation as a process, unlike the replication of physical systems of fixed complexity (galaxies, organisms, thoughts) has never run into physical resource limits to its exponential expansion, as each new substrate discovers efficiencies that turn local STEM into a "paradise of resources." The dinosaurs, for example, may have died off due to environmental constraints, but human beings have learned to burn a small fraction of their decomposing biomass to generate incomparably greater computational complexity, in a vastly shorter time period. Likewise, the intellligent nanotechnological systems soon to follow us will be able to make universe-modelling supercomputers out of the refuse of one modern family, surprising as that seems from our macroscopic vantage point.

At the same time, the most computationally complex local systems which emerge, at any time, find no other competition for these new niches of complexity (e.g., genetic colonization for the first gene-based molecular energy systems, land colonization for the first tetrapods, language colonization for the first sophisticated bipeds, silicon colonization for the first digital computational systems). Thus they can expand at their intrinsic exponential replication rates, which become ever more STEM compressed as a direct fuction their complexity.

This leads to a gently double exponential, or "hyperexponential" growth function, producing increasingly local systems of computation, as they rapidly drill down to the lowest level of STEM efficiency/density/compression, allowed by the system. Present physical theory argues that this lower bound rapidly approaches the Planck scale, and the form of a black hole singularity. This developmental trend, while occasionally acknowledged at least in part by prominent systems theorists of my acquaintance, has not yet been systematically analyzed as apparent natural law.

Assertion 4: Autonomous Systems Emerge Predictably In Each Substrate

In a parallel with the historical emergence of life, the technologic substrate is presently engaged in an increasingly autonomous program of evolutionary development. When they have gained sufficient autonomy, today's ever more powerful self-replicating, self-repairing, self-directing, and self-modifying computing systems will soon (perhaps only a few decades from now) reach human-surpassing levels of intelligence. Technology, considered broadly as a substrate, is presently engaged in a generalized program of environmental learning that is progressing at least ten million times faster than our metazoan genetic learning historically proceeded. Humans, in co-evolution with technology, are best described as selective catalysts, rather than true controllers, of this process, which is an apparently universal phenomenon.

At present, perhaps less than 100,000 scientifically literate and open-minded individuals are today willing to admit the reasonable likelihood of Artificial/Autonomous Intelligence, or AI, arriving within a subset of Earth's technological systems some time during the 21st century. Yet there are a significantly larger number of individuals, perhaps millions at the present time, who presently have no firm opinion on this topic, but have decided that our record of increasingly autonomous and accelerated technological development deserves serious scientific investigation. We call this larger and perhaps most important set of individuals "acceleration aware."

Assertion 5: Informational Metaproperties (such as Intelligence, Interdependence, Immunity and Incompleteness) Emerge Within, Predictably Constrain, and Can Be Measured in Each Substrate

As local complex adaptive systems accelerate their collection of environmental information, they incorporate exponentially more intelligence (better internal models of external reality), interdependence (computational connection to, and ethical optimization with, neighboring complex systems), and immunity (ability to protect their average distributed complexity from informational loss, on a statistical basis) with time.

Each of the above phenomena may be understood as emergent properties of local computational closure (local optimization of the search of a physical-computational phase space, attained by developmentally constrained systems). Local closure leads to a range of emergent stable metaproperties, but at the same time, the knowledge that any finite computational system has about the full possibilities of the larger phase space that they inhabit must always remain globally incomplete. It is postulated that the interplay between closure and incompleteness, in addition to the inherent STEM compression gradients built into universal physics, is an essential driver of the creation of new hierarchical levels of computational complexity in the universe.

Unlike intelligence and interdependence, these latter concepts (immunity and incompleteness) are still rather poorly characterized within the systems theory community, and are often hotly contested. While increasing intelligence and interdependence have been long-discussed as a function of complexity, our planet's rapidly increasing functional immunity from any universal events that might cause informational destruction is a meme that is largely unknown to most scholars, though the evidence for it seems pervasive as our planet is on the cusp of highly redundant and resilient machine intelligence. Dramatic scenarios of statistically implausible destruction and chaos gain far greater press coverage, for deep evolutionary psychological reasons. This is valuable, as it causes us to immediately seek social and political solutions, but hopefully our misconceptions regarding accelerating plantetary informational immunity will be rectified in coming years, as our information theory undergoes inevitable improvement, particularly within the new sciences of simulation.

Assertion 6: Developmentalism (Universal Evolutionary Development) Guides A Critical Subset of Universal Dynamics

In the paradigm of evolutionary development, universal emergence of the broad frameworks and attributes of physical form, and most morphogenesis at any substrate level, is understood to primarily developmental, and secondarily an evolutionary process. In the evolutionary development of a tree, a human, or a universe, chaos, randomness and evolutionary search are used, in broad but subordinate and carefully constrained ways, to unfold a future-specific hierarchical developmental plan. Such disparate events as galaxy formation, stellar nucleosynthesis, planetary and molecular emergence, biogenesis, multicellular forms, neural wiring, organogenesis, thought and personality creation, and social and technological architectures have all been convincingly described as randomly and contingently driven evolutionary events that nevertheless rapidly converge on and are constrained by a succession of developmental endpoints, emergent form and function that is prespecified in both the specially tuned initial parameters of the continually cycling seed and in the stable boundary conditions of the developmental environment. The importance of this rarely-heard paradigm in understanding universal change cannot be overestimated.

Growth, maturation, seed production, and senescence are essential phases of all known cyclic developmental systems, the universe included. In all such systems, growth to maturity is period of deceleration (starting from a very energetic initial seed, slowing to an unfolded mature state), and seed production to senescence is a phase of acceleration (seed creation and courtship are positive feedback cycles, and senescence involves a slowly accelerating loss of function). Evidence for both phases at the universal level can be found in what I propose as the "U shaped curve" of emergent events in evolutionary development. The first half of our Cosmic Calendar involved deceleration and unfolding, and the second half is now apparently engaged in acceleration and local seed creation.

If certain multiverse cosmologies are correct, this seed will involve the production of a new universe as a lineage descendant of Earth's intelligence, apparently soon after the emergence of a local technological singularity, in cosmologic time. New cosmological discoveries, including the phenomenon of dark energy, are also providing early evidence of the accelerating senescence of this universe.

The evolutionary developmental paradigm is presently underdeveloped in the scientific community. Even within the realm of biology, there are today perhaps only a few thousand publishing evolutionary developmental (evo-devo) biologists (e.g., Rudolf Raff, Wallace Arthur, Simon Conway Morris, Stan Salthe). The evo-devo perspective often notes the ways that evolutionary processes can be considered subordinate to developmental cycles, as the process of development must strongly constrain the "evolvability" of biological systems within any particular developmental cycle, in ways that are intuitively obvious but not yet scientifically demonstrable. Within the realms of cosmology, astrobiology, computer science, science and technology studies, future studies, and other disciplines of systems theory, there are again only a handful of individuals, at present, who are cognizant of this paradigm and its potential application to their work.

Assertion 7: Self-Organization Guides Evolutionary Development of the Universe in the Multiverse, via Developmental Singularities.

All cyclic complex adaptive systems quickly tune their developmental parameters to produce internal models of the external environment. They rapidly learn how to use evolutionary processes, specifying the unfolding of their complexity with a minimum of initial developmental information. This "tuning" of developmental parameters to exploit stable boundary conditions eventually produces highly specified complexity in ways that appear undirected by any local agency. This is self-organization, what Stuart Kauffman calls "order for free." Where evolutionary events emerge by a process of chaotic natural selection, developmental events emerge by a process of cyclic self-selection (or directed selection), and both sources of selection are fundamental to evolutionary development.

Our universe appears to be one of a long chain of replicating universes, the seeds of which are still in the early stages of scientific description. Our universe is also full of apparently non-locally directed (self-selected, not naturally selected) emergence. Scholars within the anthropic cosmology and astrobiology communities, and a few scholars within the (extremely problematic and politicized) "intelligent design" community are among those few who most clearly understand this at the present time, though the latter apparently interpret this as evidence for a supernatural, embodied Designer. Such an interpretation is not parsimonious, as in biological systems, evolutionary developmental order is self-organized, not designed. So it seems likely to be with the universe as a system, evolving and replicating within the multiverse.

Assuming a multiverse with boundary conditions that are stable to the replication of universes, the high degree of observed self-organization in our universe provides early evidence that the developmental parameters which created our present universe have been carefully self-selected, through a multitude of prior self-improving developmental cycles, for the emergence of universe-modeling intelligent systems (our ancestors, humanity, and our descendants). This selection for increasing universal intelligence would occur if that complexity, at the start of each new replicative cycle, had the ability to less-than-randomly improve the computational parameters of universe created in the subsequent developmental cycle.

The growing body of literature on the anthropic principle/design-for-intelligence provides circumstantial evidence for the specialness of the parameters of our universe for supporting the emergence of universe-modeling intelligence. The history of the evolutionary development of life on Earth also provides a strong analogy for the history of universal evolutionary development. In the initial developmental cycles of living systems, it is clear that fundamental parameters (critical genes) are initially primarily naturally (chaotically) selected (e.g., Darwinian evolution), while still guided by occasional developmental attractors (eyes, binocular vision, jointed limbs, vertebrae, neurons, instincts, language, math, technology, etc.). But as local computational complexity increased, our natural genetic parameters have became increasingly self-selected (e.g., rationally-directed, by human society, first through mating choices, and then through medical intervention). This is indeed the apparent teleology, or purpose, of intelligence, to move us from evolutionary (random, chaotic) to developmental (statistically predictable) contexts.

In the same manner, then, we can expect that the parameters for universal replication in the multiverse were initially randomly developed, within some minimal fundamental developmental framework. This is Lee Smolin's speculative model of "Cosmological Natural (e.g., Evolutionary) Selection" (see The Life of the Cosmos, 1997) Yet as internally developed cosmological intelligence has increased in subsequent cycles, we must assume that those parameters have become increasingly self-selected (determined by the models of internal intelligences), which increasingly influence the conditions for subsequent development. We might call this extension to Smolin's model "Cosmological Directed (e.g., Developmental) Selection." It appears to be a necessary and important refinement.

My speculative proposal then, the developmental singularity hypothesis, is that, due to STEM compression trends that have long been self-tuned into the structure of universal computational development, local intelligence (local life, humanity and our descendants) is rapidly engaged in a developmental transcension from, and computational outgrowth of, our present universe, and that the form of this transcension will be analogous to the production of a local black hole/new universe by intelligent systems, leading directly to some form of "bounce" (white hole, Big Bang singularity, or analogous new universe creation) in a recursive restart of the developmental cycle. All multi-locally emergent universal intelligences are apparently engaged in this process of evolutionary developmental universe modeling and seed recreation—this again is the apparent cosmological developmental purpose, or teleology of intelligence in the universe.

As in biological processes, having a robust and redundant program of evolutionary search provides both critical variation and immunity to any univesal developmental process as it seeks to increase its adaptive complexity. Therefore, our universe protects this variation by starting with initial parameters (speed of light limit, vast distances between planetary systems) that create enforced isolation of cosmic intelligences, allowing our universe to engage in multiple independent pathways of exploration in the construction of universal simulations/new universal seeds. This drive for universal computational diversity in the search to better understand the multiverse provides a powerful, parsimonious explanation of the Fermi Paradox, a longstanding open question in astrobiology.


Note that the first four of these ACSAIDS assertions, "ACSA," Accelerating change, Computational substrates, STEM compression (efficiency and density) trends, and Autonomous systems serve as a useful summary of the technological singularity hypothesis, as described by Vernor Vinge and others. The last three memes, "IDS," Informational metaproperties, Developmentalism, and Self-organization within the multiverse, serve as a useful summary of the developmental singularity hypothesis, which may occur if our present sustained double exponential growth in computational complexity leads us relatively soon in cosmologic time (1,000 years? 10,000?) to a universe-modelling and universe recreating system involving Planck-scale processes. In the DSH model, the future of Earth's intelligence must involve a constrained transcension into some postuniversal state or environment.

As one of a range of possible hypotheses in universal evolutionary development, we look forward to increased scientific critique of the DSH in coming years. Conjectures and hypotheses with similarity to the DSH have been proposed by cosmologists such as Lee Smolin, Ed Harrison, and Bela Balazs, astronomers such as Steven Dick, complexity theorists such as James N. Gardner, and systems theorists such as myself (John Smart).

This is a multidisciplinary approach to the study of complex adaptive systems which suggests that the nature and trajectory of accelerating change may be similar on many different substrates and timescales, including the universe itself as a coherent substrate. It also suggests that new developments in astrobiology, cosmology, and evolutionary developmental biology may soon provide us with a powerful framework for understanding the constrained future of local computation.

For a brief, accessible, and valuable background paper to the developmental singularity hypothesis, read Bela Balazs' "The Role of Life in the Cosmological Replication Cycle," 2001. James N. Gardner's books, Biocosm: The Mission of Life in the Universe, 2003, and The Intelligent Universe, 2007, are another commendable introduction to some of these ideas. Lee Smolin's The Life of the Cosmos, 1997 and Eric Chaisson's Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature, 2001 are two additional books that provide highly valuable support and background, though their authors do not yet state the hypothesis in the manner of the first two authors. To understand some of the theory and evidence for developmentalism, the idea that certain (and certainly only a minority) of outcomes may be statistically predictable in macrobiological change, an excellent introduction is Simon Conway Morris's Life's Solution, 2004.

For a brief article overview of Chaisson's thesis, read Chaisson, E.J., "A Unifying Concept for Astrobiology," International Journal of Astrobiology, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 91-101, 2003. For a brief article overview of Smolin's thesis, read Smolin, L, "Did the Universe Evolve?" Classical and Quantum Gravity, Volume 9, pp. 173-191, January 1992.

The DSH assumes that the modelling of locally accelerating change is a potentially universal process, and a phenomenon of all complex adaptive systems when analyzed from a multidisciplinary perspective. It draws on such disciplines as cosmology, physical science, complexity studies, niche construction, theory of computation, information, communication, and autonomy studies, cybernetics, systems theory, and evolutionary and developmental biology. Additionally, models of complexity in linguistics, evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, economics, sociology, anthropology, history, future studies, computer science, artificial intelligence, evolutionary computation, communications and internet evolution may also yield deep insights into computational mechanisms of locally accelerating change. Finally, studies of the technological singularity hypothesis can play a useful role if evidence for sustained acceleration of technological-computational capacities remains consistent in the decades ahead.

As an independent scholar of accelerating change for over twenty years, my primary goal is to use this site, my writings and research, and my networking connections to collect and publicize multidiscipinary perspectives on accelerating change. My secondary and personal goal is to see the speculative topic of the developmental singularity hypothesis gain further scientific attention so that it may be modified, refuted, or further refined.

As a proponent of the topic of accelerating change, and one who holds an unusual, minority view of the dynamics of this change, I consider these goals to be a similar challenge to that faced by Christopher Langton in the early 1980's, when he was attempting to promote the serious study of artificial life.

Through a series of academic conferences, beginning in 1987 at the Santa Fe Institute, Chris succeeded in helping the field of A-Life progress quickly from a fringe subject, considered almost pseudoscience by many researchers at the time, to a thriving academic and professional discipline. In this process, Langton was not hesitant to propose some of his own A-Life hypotheses which were then productively critiqued in scientific debate. His "edge of chaos" concept is the most famous of these, and it persists today only a modified form as a successor hypothesis, Per Bak's self-organized criticality, due to the insightful critiques of Melanie Mitchell and others at SFI. None of this lessens the great value of Langton's influence on the development of the field. A similar fate may occur with the developmental singularity hypothesis, and I welcome constructive critique. Each of us, whether theorists or experimentalists, should seek out such informed criticism, as this allows our understanding to rapidly advance.

For my part then, with regard to the multidisciplinary study of accelerating change, I wish with this site and its projects to recapitulate Langton's catalytic role on a more modest scale within the developmental systems theory and futurist communities, without the significant resources of the Santa Fe Institute, and so perhaps over a substantially longer interval, at least until such time as other better known academics, institutions, or philanthropists see fit to join in this endeavor or to take up this banner themselves.

I have some self-interest here as well, as promoting the development of the field may be one of the most direct ways that the DSH will eventually receive the scientific attention (including model construction, metrics, and falsifiable prediction and experimentation) that I believe it deserves.

Should you have evidence or arguments for or counter to this perspective, you are welcome to contact us. We hope you will also subscribe to our newsletter, and participate in the ongoing conversation about our fascinating and ever-accelerating journey. As our community develops in coming years, we look forward to refining and critiquing this dialog on what may be the most important and fundamental questions of our era.

Further Reading

Some additional literature relevant to the DSH may be found at found at Background Readings on the Developmental Singularity Hypothesis.

Comments? Additions? Critiques? Please share your feedback at johnsmart{at}accelerating{dot}org. Thank you.