Road to Omega: a plan to save the world with science and epistemology.
We can heal division, fight misinformation, and redistribute wealth and power with a unifying worldview based on evolution and emergence.
Welcome to Road to Omega. If you are reading this, then you are about to discover an elaborate plan to save the world with science. The plan entails:
healing the division in America and abroad by fighting tribalism
fighting misinformation with a logical reasoning system
decentralizing wealth and power with blockchain technology
creating a new political party based on self-correction
unifying the sciences with a new kind of “Theory of Everything”
dissolving the boundary between science and spirituality
developing a “religion for robots” that provides a code of ethics for AIs
In addition to being highly skeptical, you probably have some questions, like: Does the world really need saving? Who’s going to do it? How are they going to pull it off? And how can I help?
Well, you may have not been wondering about that last one just yet, but we hope that the content you are about to consume inspires you to join the effort. This introduction post and newsletter provides a brief overview of the Road to Omega project, our motivation for trying something so crazy, and evidence for why you’d be wise to bet on its success. I mean that literally—you can bet on the mission’s success by crowdfunding its projects with NFTs (non-fungible tokens) that will make you a stakeholder in return. But before we get into the details, let’s answer those initial questions.
Does the World Need Saving?
We are currently experiencing an age of chaos in the United States and across the globe unlike anything we’ve seen in the new millennium. This era of unrest was actually predicted by the Russian-American scientist Peter Turchin, who issued a warning in this article published by the prestigious journal Nature back in 2010. This prediction-come-true has been covered by major media outlets like The Atlantic, who published an article titled “Can History Predict the Future?” with the disturbing headline “The Next Decade Could Be Even Worse,” followed by the even more disturbing teaser text, “A historian believes he has discovered iron laws that predict the rise and fall of societies. He has bad news.”
But don’t be alarmed, discouraged, or depressed by this so-called bad news, because Turchin has mostly based his analyses off of historical trends, in particular social and political trends, which don’t tell the full story. What this newsletter hopes to convince you of is that it is precisely the predictability of such cycles that will enable us to avert what would otherwise be an inevitable societal collapse.
While Turchin looks to historical data to predict the foreseeable trajectory of human civilization, the aforementioned “Theory of Everything” provides a new paradigm of emergence and evolution that reveals why these predictable cycles exist in the first place. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, Peter Turchin’s father, a trailblazing Russian computer scientist named Valentin Turchin, was among the first to put forth such a paradigm in mechanistic detail in his under-appreciated cybernetic epic The Phenomenon of Science: A Cybernetic Approach to Human Evolution (1977). This book was blocked from being released in the Soviet Union because the systems-based philosophy went against the nation’s rigid political ideology, forcing Turchin to flee to America. Fortunately, Columbia University Press later published it, and it is now available for free on the website Principia Cybernetica.
While Turchin’s obscure Metasystem Transition Theory was an obvious precursor to the paradigm proposed on this website, the general concept of a unified systems theory can be traced back further to Donald Campbell and Karl Popper’s Evolutionary Epistemology, which was preceded by General Systems Theory, proposed by the cybernetician Ludwig Von Bertalannfy in 1954. Going back further, we have the Omega Point Theory of the French Jesuit and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, which inspired the name of this project (it was also Teilhard’s controversial book The Phenomenon of Man that inspired Turchin’s book title). And before any of these scientists were born there was Herbert Spencer, a famous contemporary of Charles Darwin who saw that the evolution of the biosphere and human civilization was but a small part of a cosmic-scale evolutionary process that begins before biology and goes far beyond.
But don’t go thinking that the scientific and philosophical framework being proposed here is outdated; the idea of an evolving cosmos that inexorably generates the open-ended growth of complexity, knowledge, and sentience has been articulated with precision and nuance in modern science classics like David Deutsch’s The Fabric of Reality (1997) and The Beginning of Infinity (2011), Stuart Kauffman’s At Home in the Universe (1995) and Humanity in a Creative Universe (2016), Ilya Prigogine’s Order Out of Chaos (1984), Harold Morowitz’ The Emergence of Everything (2002), Seth Lloyd’s Programming the Universe (2006), Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near (2005), Lee Smolin’s The Life of the Cosmos (1997), Julian Barbour’s The Janus Point (2020), Eric Chaisson’s Cosmic Evolution (2001), Freeman Dyson’s Disturbing the Universe (1979) Dan Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (1995), Terrence Deacon’s Incomplete Nature, and some lesser-known but equally-amazing books like James Gardner’s Biocosm (2003) and Erich Jantsch’s The Self-Organizing Universe (1980).
While David Deutsch carries the flag of Evolutionary Epistemology, and Dan Dennett the flag of its more recent incarnation Universal Darwinism, a new generation of scientists inspired by the influential neuroscientist Karl Friston are updating those paradigms and mathematizing them with the tools of Bayesian inference, giving us a theory of cosmic evolution that some are calling Universal Bayesianism. Complexity scientists at the Santa Fe Institute are developing similar theories and information measures that can be applied to life and other adaptive systems, allowing us to quantify progressive evolution, in theory. Origin-of-life researchers, like Eric Smith, Paul Davies, and Sara Walker, are playing an important role in unifying biology and physics by reconceptualizing those fields in terms of statistical thermodynamics, information theory, and cybernetics. Additionally, scientists studying consciousness, like Giulio Tononi, Christof Koch, Larissa Albantakis, and Erik Hoel are also using information theory along with Judea Pearl’s causal calculus to show that mental causation is real and measurable.
Not only does this work paint a picture of life and mind as inevitable regularities that naturally emerge from the laws of physics, it creates new formalisms that provide a mechanistic explanation for phenomena previously considered mystical or religious, like agency and free will. Just as important as the science is the outreach, and popular authors like journalist Philip Ball and neurogeneticist Kevin Mitchell are helping to make the science of purpose go mainstream.
So while some of the ideas presented here may be new to you, know that they are part of an evolutionary paradigm that has been building momentum for more than a century. It took some time, but we are finally approaching a tipping point called a phase transition, which is a spontaneous jump to higher order and harmony, or the opposite, a collapse into chaos. Obviously the former is better for life than the latter, and what we should strive for collectively. Social phase transitions are higher-order phase transitions that occur when a new ideological or existential worldview emerges and shifts the general perspective of a society or civilization.
Since phase transitions are known to occur at “the edge of chaos,” the social and political chaos we are experiencing currently indicates that such a transition is on the horizon. Too much order means a system is rigid and therefore unable to adapt or evolve, so an injection of chaos actually provides the flexibility the system needs to change its organization. If steered in the right direction by a unifying worldview, the imminent phase transition will push the social system we call civilization toward a state of higher order, control, and causal power. This is the goal of the Road to Omega movement, and also the goal of the cosmic evolution process, which is simultaneously Darwinian (involves natural selection) and teleological (goal-directed). The universe moves toward an increasingly complex state not because it is being driven to do so by some mystical force, but because life learns from its mistakes; in other words, progressive evolution proceeds through experiment and error-correction.
Who’s going to save the world?
A radical “forward-wing” group known as the Neuromantics, that’s who! This is our leader, Kiki Miyazaki, donning the Neuromantic uniform in a short film for the Global Bayesian Brain Project.
Who are the Neuromantics? Simply put, if a person feels an unquenchable thirst to understand the mystery of existence—a yearning to grasp the nature of complexity, consciousness, or cosmic evolution—then they are a Neuromantic. You might be a Neuromantic. If you are, we would love your help!
This catchy name can be traced back to William Gibson’s cyberpunk classic Neuromancer and the 1981 album Neuromantic by the Japanese musician Yukihiro Takahashi, and it is a neuroscience-inspired pun on the early 1980s British fashion movement, the New Romantics. It is also a philosophical concept described by anthropologist Bradd Shore as “the cybernetic frame of mind,” which emerges when an individual becomes aware that they are a part of a cosmic self-organization process that is larger than oneself. However, like every idea, what it means to be a Neuromantic will evolve as the Road to Omega movement progresses.
The seed that would become the Neuromantics would be planted in 2008 at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, when Harold Morowitz, founding editor of the journal Complexity and Chairman Emeritus of the Science Board at the Santa Fe Institute, created the Foundations of the Mind Guild—a club of neuroscientists, physicists, computer scientists, and machine-learning researchers looking to better understand the nature of mind and cosmos. The club sadly ended when Morowitz passed away in 2016, though some of its younger members have created similar groups, such as the Complexity, Cognition, and Conscious Club, and now, the Neuromantics.
While the name and fictional story behind the group (which will be given in a future newsletter) is meant to create mystique and intrigue, the Neuromantics are really just a loose network of scientists, philosophers, artists, and average Joe’s that have in some way contributed to the articulation of a new scientific paradigm that stands to replace Reductionism as the reigning scientific worldview. This theoretical framework, being a merging of prior frameworks, is most accurately described as the Evolutionary Epistemology-Universal Darwinism-Universal Bayesianism (EE-UD-UB) framework, or Poetic Meta-Naturalism for short (an adaptation of Sean Carroll’s Poetic Naturalism), and the spiritual worldview associated with this framework is known as the Cosmic Perspective. This worldview views life as cosmically significant. What is the purpose of life in the universe? To perpetuate life and mind forever through constant learning and adaptation. As David Deutsch often reminds us, the potential for progress and knowledge growth is infinite. However, we should keep in mind that life cannot be separated from the universe it inhabits—adaptive complexity spreading through space is the cosmos waking up through a recursive process of hierarchical (multi-level) emergence called cosmic evolution. “You are the universe” may be the title of a Deepak Chopra book, but that doesn’t make the statement any less true. In his epic book The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil mapped out the major stages of the cosmic process in all its glorious detail.
While some might believe this view to be in conflict with the almighty second law of thermodynamics—which says an isolated system must (on average) grow increasingly disordered—this website will show why this new cosmic narrative is in fact emergent from the second law. In short, the second law is the selection pressure for self-organizing systems, because it filters out the unstable configurations and selects the most resilient and functional designs. As a result, adaptive complexity (aka life as a whole) grows more computationally powerful as evolution proceeds, and better able to predict and control the world around it. This expansion of evolutionary theory is called the Integrated Evolutionary Synthesis, and this synthesis will be described in detail in future newsletters.
The founder of evolutionary genetics, Theodosius Dobzhansky, famously said “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Well, the Integrated Evolutionary Synthesis says that nothing in biology or evolution makes any sense except in the light of thermodynamics and information. It is the need to stay out of thermodynamic equilibrium—a state of death, decay, and disorder—that forces adaptive complexity to search the “design space” for adaptive solutions to the problem of survival. Solutions are adaptations that help the system avoid threats and extract the energy the system needs to sustain its ordered state.
This search for “fit” configurations is a form of trial-and-error learning that occurs through the evolutionary algorithm known as variation-and-selection. Through adaptation, an evolving biosphere reduces its ignorance or uncertainty about all the ways the world can surprise it. In other words, the information embedded in biological memory (DNA, brains, societies) is knowledge. As life adapts to its surroundings, natural selection generates predictive knowledge, and recursive self-organization generates increasingly complex, resilient, and intelligent cybernetic systems. You can get a glimpse of the mechanistic story below, as described in The Romance of Reality (TRoR), courtesy of the software company Infinity Maps, who has partnered with the Neuromantics to turn the Unifying Theory of Reality into a visual story. The depiction of life exploring the design space was first proposed by Dan Dennett in his 1995 classic Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, but in addition to phylogenetic learning (Bayesian model-updating through competitive evolution), ontogenetic learning through self-organization (model-updating through cooperative evolution) has also been included. Self-organizing systems evolve through the mechanism known as blind variation and selective retention (BVSR).
Beyond being unapologetic cosmic optimists, Neuromantics are radical Bayesians, meaning that they believe the logical reasoning system known as Bayesian inference is the only surefire way to acquire valid knowledge about the world. Bayesian reasoning offers a relatively simple way for people to test their beliefs and update those beliefs in light of new evidence. Therefore, the Bayesian reasoning system is the Neuromantics’ secret weapon in the fight against misinformation and bogus conspiracy theories. At the same time, this method provides a tool for detecting real conspiracies, should they exist. In this way, Bayesian epistemology is a unifying approach to determining truth. Absolute truth is never attainable, but we do get closer to understanding objective reality by formulating and testing theories. Physicist Sean Carroll and philosopher Julia Galef are two major advocates for Bayesian reasoning, and the Neuromantics hope to make radical Bayesianism go mainstream.
Who am I, the creator of this site? The bridge between the Neuromantics and the public, for now. My name is Bobby Azarian and I’m a cognitive neuroscientist, Psychology Today blogger, freelance journalist, and author of the forthcoming book THE ROMANCE OF REALITY: HOW THE UNIVERSE ORGANIZES ITSELF TO CREATE LIFE, CONSCIOUSNESS, AND COSMIC COMPLEXITY, as well as the forthcoming novel ROAD TO OMEGA (A NEUROMANTIC MANIFESTO), about the decentralization movement—an ideological revolution inspired by blockchain technology. ROAD TO OMEGA is also a story about complexity, emergence, and collective computation—features of nature that suggest that such a revolution could be a natural part of an evolutionary process that eventually brings about the emergence of a global brain through the creation of an Internet and peer-to-peer technology. In the words of Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly, the technological trajectory we are on may have been largely inevitable.
These books are vehicles for the scientific and philosophical paradigm associated with Poetic Meta-Naturalism and the Cosmic Perspective. THE ROMANCE OF REALITY will be published by BenBella Books and distributed by Penguin Random House on June 21st, 2022, though it will go on presale shortly. The draft of ROAD TO OMEGA has been written but is to be altered and optimized through crowdsourced writing via this Substack. An NFT will be created for this novel shortly, so that the members of the Road to Omega community who contribute to the final version of the book through feedback (via the comment section) will become stakeholders who benefit from the book’s success. In fact, NFTs will be used to crowdfund many of the projects on this site, so that there is value in participating in the Road to Omega movement. Unlike traditional crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, NFTs turn patrons into investors. By creating incentives for the community of Neuromantics, followers become active members in the movement, shaping the content and worldview that they’ve decided was important enough to get behind.
While the developers of this plan—a group of high-level Neuromantics known as the Square Circle—acknowledge the difficulty of the challenge ahead, we also recognize that failure is not an option. Because all of our futures depend on the success of our mission, we have been diligently working on this project for many years, with a diverse team of minds contributing to its design. It might sound complicated on the surface, but all these ideas are really just different aspects of one overarching concept, an elegant paradigm we are calling a Unifying Theory of Reality, because rather than reducing the higher sciences to lower ones (the reductionist approach), it unifies them, bringing about consilience. Poetic Meta-Naturalism is that theory. This theory and the logic behind the name will be explained in future newsletters, but in the meantime you can find a brief technical introduction to the Road to Omega website, and the genealogy of the theory in the diagram below.
How are the Neuromantics going to achieve their goals?
Some of that has been explained above, but we’ve really only scraped the tip of the iceberg. Efforts include (but are not limited) to:
a 90k word nonfiction book to be published in 2022
an 80k novel called Road to Omega to be tokenized and released shortly
a Road to Omega YouTube channel, podcast, and Substack
a series of articles at Psychology Today (Mind in the Machine blog) shortly
an interactive website with (Gödelian) games and educational tools
a series of crowdsourced projects (e.g., the Global Bayesian Brain Project)
a short film about the data privacy crisis and the need for decentralization
In addition to these efforts, the Neuromantics are partnering with various companies to help make all the proposed projects a reality, like Infinity Maps, a software company based in Germany that is turning the Unifying Theory of Reality into a visual story by mapping out its mechanisms. You can see some screenshots of the project and a detailed proposal here. A collaboration with the VR studio Tourism Infinity aims to create immersive games that reduce tribalism and promote empathy. More collaborations are in the works, and that information will be shared as they become official.
At this point in time the Road to Omega movement is not so much a movement but a conspiracy to create one. Whether it will work and to what degree, only time will tell, but if the story you are being presented is correct, some kind of emergence-inspired movement is inevitable. For this reason it is not surprising that similar projects are sprouting up, like journalist and author Robert Wright’s Apocalypse Aversion Project (check out his Nonzero substack newsletter here), and Daniel Schmachtenberger’s Consilience Project. A future goal is to unite these efforts and communities through mutually-beneficial collaborations.
The new cosmic narrative is a story of evolution and revolution, and in this corner of the universe, at this point in time, we are the stars of the show. Overcoming our collective existential challenges (the pandemic, growing income inequality, climate change, weaponized AI, etc.) requires that we recognize our role in the process of cosmic evolution and take control of our future.
How can I help bring about the Omega Point?
An Omega Point is a hypothetical state of optimal complexity that a biosphere will naturally move toward over evolutionary time as a result of the accumulation of adaptive information in genetic, neural, and cultural memory. In dynamical systems theory, such a point is called an attractor, but an Omega Point is a very special type of attractor. As a point of grand unification, Omega entails maximal levels of computational power and information integration, out of which a new level of intelligence and awareness inevitably emerges. This inevitability is not driven by some mystical force—it is a result of recursive self-organization and Darwinian-driven error-correction (natural selection is a filter that removes errors in design). In the context of the decentralization movement, Omega refers to a state of hyperconnection among humans that is achievable through peer-to-peer technologies that are emerging today, like blockchains and decentralized applications (dApps).
ROAD TO OMEGA is a novel about this movement—an ideological and technological revolution that aims to restore data privacy, redistribute wealth and power, and facilitate human progress. By promoting the emergence of self-organizing social, political, and economic networks, decentralization and hyperconnection may bring about new levels of order and knowledge. Supporting this movement is an ethical and spiritual imperative for those who want to see the human race succeed and evolve into something greater.
There will be an increasing number of ways to get involved, but for now you can start by subscribing to the Road to Omega youtube channel, subscribing to and sharing the Road to Omega Substack newsletter, and following me on Twitter for updates. NFT crowdfunds (token sales) will be announced soon, so that new Neuromantics (those who subscribe to the YouTube channel and Substack) will be able to invest in the movement they are helping shape and promote. To see a successful example of an NFT-crowdfund for a novel, along with how token holders get stake in the book, check out Emily Segal’s Mirror page. Those who help crowdfund, write, or promote Road to Omega, or simply purchase it, will receive $OMEGA tokens in proportion to their contribution. The idea is to provide incentives to create a self-organizing community that can amplify the message and extend the collective mind formed by Neuromantic collaboration.
Thank you for taking an interest in the Road to Omega movement. If you like the content on the YouTube channel or this website, please feel free to share it on social media. If you’d like to become part of the Neuromantic tribe—the anti-tribe tribe—there will soon be instructions for how to do so. If you think this sounds like a cult, well you are right—the Neuromantics are a cult of radical Bayesians who want to promote logical reasoning, decentralize wealth and power, connect all humans with technology and a unifying worldview, and give people a purpose or teleology that in some way contributes to the evolution of the biosphere toward higher order and functionality.
We are many, and we are one.