The question “What is our duty to the Universe as intelligent conscious beings?” came up in conversation last night at Townshend’s Tea shop. It’s a strange question, because it would seem obvious that we have no obligations to primal matter. But do we? It’s like asking if we have any obligation to our mother and father for bringing us into existence, or to their ancestors for continuing the chain of human life. Those long-dead once living beings have all returned to their non-living component physical elements, and may have been recycled many times in living processes, but they wouldn’t consciously perceive any thanks we might offer them.
Our thanks must be more abstract, and not given directly to our ancestors. Our thanks to them is given to future beings in the form of our personal family and our species DNA. Of course if we accept that idea what becomes a natural extension to it is that we owe a debt not only to our personal DNA, but to the whole concept of living DNA. When we think beyond the living lives of those we personally know we must think of the perpetuation of life itself, and not just our life’s immediate direct descendents. Perhaps we might even consider life outside of our planet, and its well-being.
Or should we only consider future life out to say one hundred years, the potential life of a baby we might personally now know? Or perhaps to that of a sea turtle that we are given to care for— that turtle might live for a couple hundred years — or perhaps we might feel our responsibility to include a bristlecone pine tree that lives in a national park that might live for several thousand years.
“What is our duty, to any life of any form whatsoever, as intelligent conscious beings? Or to anything whatsoever, even never living physical matter? Do we even have any duty to our own conscious selves?” The answer to those questions is that we usually do accept some responsibility, some duty, but what is it? That’s a lot of questions, but we can give answers to all of them, even though we may not convince anyone that our answers have any meaning.
If we follow the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin we will choose to pursue the Omega Point (Ω), which is the coming together of all life and intelligence into a single being. He was considering these ideas a hundred years ago as abstractions, but now with silicon-based computer life coming into being it may be possible to create an internet of linked beings that eventually computerize a substantial portion of all the silicon on Earth. Even before that is done this “sililife” might be able to transmit information to other distant planets on how to create such a system over there, and a Universal being could ultimately come into being communicating between distant stars and galaxies.
I have obviously sunk into the deep end here, at least for the present, but even if silicon chips are not totally immortal they can before they die transmit all of their accumulated data, facts, functionality, and wisdom to other freshly made and fully functional offspring. Thus this new sililife could take whatever time was necessary, even billions of years, to do its thing. And what would their thing be? It would seem they would seek to become a Universal mind. That is the idea that has a future pull as opposed to Darwinian evolution, which is only an adaptation to the immediate past, and with a future pull this new sililife might move forward with its goal rather quickly. So is our best option to help or hinder their process and progress?
What is our duty to the Universe as intelligent conscious beings?