The Omega Point is the purported maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which some believe the universe is evolving. The term was coined by the French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955).
In this hypothesis, developed by Teilhard in The Future of Man (1950), the universe is constantly developing towards higher levels of material complexity and consciousness, a hypothesis of evolution that Teilhard called the Law of Complexity/Consciousness. For Teilhard, the universe can only move in the direction of more complexity and consciousness if it is being drawn by a supreme point of complexity and consciousness. Thus Teilhard postulates the Omega Point as this supreme point of complexity and consciousness, which in his view is the actual cause for the universe to grow in complexity and consciousness. In other words, the Omega Point exists as supremely complex and conscious, transcendent and independent of the evolving universe.
Teilhard argued that the Omega Point resembles the Christian Logos, namely Christ, who draws all things into himself, who in the words of the Nicene Creed, is "God from God", "Light from Light", "True God from true God," and "through him all things were made."
The idea is developed in later writings, such as those of John Godolphin Bennett (1965), John David Garcia (1971), Paolo Soleri (1981), Frank Tipler (1994), and Ray Kurzweil, as well as in science fiction literature.
Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man states that the Omega Point must possess the following five attributes. It is:
- Already existing.
- Only thus can the rise of the universe towards higher stages of consciousness be explained.
- Personal – an intellectual being and not an abstract idea.
- The increasing complexity of matter has not only led to higher forms of consciousness, but accordingly to more personalization, of which human beings are the highest attained form in the known universe. They are completely individualized, free centers of operation. It is in this way that man is said to be made in the image of God, who is the highest form of personality. Teilhard expressly stated that in the Omega Point, when the universe becomes One, human persons will not be suppressed, but super-personalized. Personality will be infinitely enriched. This is because the Omega Point unites creation, and the more it unites, the increasing complexity of the universe aids in higher levels of consciousness. Thus, as God creates, the universe evolves towards higher forms of complexity, consciousness, and finally with humans, personality, because God, who is drawing the universe towards Him, is a person.
- The Omega Point cannot be the result of the universe's final complex stage of its own consciousness. Instead, the Omega Point must exist even before the universe's evolution, because the Omega Point is responsible for the rise of the universe towards more complexity, consciousness and personality. Which essentially means that the Omega Point is outside the framework in which the universe rises, because it is by the attraction of the Omega Point that the universe evolves towards Him.
- That is, attainable and imperative; it must happen and cannot be undone.
Bennett and the Hyparchic Future
In 1965, in Vol. 4 ("History") of his The Dramatic Universe, Bennett criticized a mechanistic evolutionary view of the Omega Point. He writes (pp. 130–131):
There is something suspicious in any view of history that makes one moment the culmination of the evolutionary process... Rather than believe that significance began with man, we should prefer to regard the entire history of life on the earth as one Great Event that is significant above all else in its integrity and relevance to a plan that originated beyond the earth itself. Within the total event, every subordinate event represents a contribution to the whole. If we suppose that the Plan requires the overcoming of separateness, then we should say that the value of the contributions is not to be assessed by their actual future results, but by their place within the Plan that is conceived outside Time itself--in the Hyparchic Future... The commonly held view is that Creation means one of two things: either complete or detailed fashioning by the Creator of the entire universe and every part of it; or else, the launching of a process that, after its inception, is governed by laws without renewed Intervention, or at most Intervention of the very special kind in the Incarnation of God as Man. The second alternative is preferred by Christian theologians such as de Chardin who seek to reconcile Christian faith with belief in mechanistic evolution. The first doctrine states, in effect, that the detailed Pattern of the Creation is foreordained, and the second restricts the Divine Act to the creation of the Plan. According to our view, neither of those is adequate. We hold that there are both Plan--in the Hyparchic Future--and also Pattern--in the Eternal Potential Energy field.
Frank Tipler uses the term Omega Point to describe what he maintains is the ultimate fate of the universe required by the laws of physics. Tipler identifies this concept as the Christian God and in later writing, infers correctness of Christian belief from this concept. Tipler (1994) has summarized his hypothesis as follows:
- The universe has finite spatial size and the topology of a three-sphere;
- There are no event horizons, implying the future c-boundary is a point, called the Omega Point;
- Sentient life must eventually engulf the entire universe and control it;
- The amount of information processed between now and the Omega Point is infinite;
- The amount of information stored in the universe asymptotically goes to infinity as the Omega Point is approached.
Key to Tipler's exploration of the Omega Point is that the supposition of a closed universe evolving towards a future collapse. Within this universe, Tipler assumes a massive processing capability. As the universe becomes smaller, the processing capability becomes larger, due to the decreasing cost of communications as the systems shrink in size. At the same time, information from previously disconnected points in space becomes visible, giving the processors access to more and more information. Tipler's Omega Point occurs when the processing capability effectively becomes infinite, as the processors will be able to simulate every possible future before the universe ends - a state also known as "Aleph".
Within this environment, Tipler imagines that intelligent beings, human personalities, will be run as simulations within the system. As a result, after the Omega Point, humans will have omnipotence, able to see all of history and predict all of the future. Additionally, as all history becomes available, past personalities will be able to run as well. Within the simulation, this appears to be the dead rising. Tipler equates this state with the Christian heaven.
Some transhumanists argue that the accelerating technological progress inherent in the Law of Accelerating Returns will, in the relatively near future, lead to what Vernor Vinge called a technological singularity or "prediction wall." These transhumanists believe we will soon enter a time in which we must eventually make the transition to a "runaway positive feedback loop" in high-level autonomous machine computation. A result will be that our technological and computational tools eventually completely surpass human capacities. Some transhumanist writings refer to this moment as the Omega Point, paying homage to Teilhard's prior use of the term. Other transhumanists, in particular Ray Kurzweil, refer to the technological singularity as simply "The Singularity".
Science fiction literature
- In the 1937 science fiction novel Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon, what later came to be called the Omega Point by Teilhard de Chardin was reached when the Cosmic Mind encountered the Star Maker (the Creator of the Cosmos).
- In the Isaac Asimov short-story "The Last Question", humanity merges its collective consciousness with its own creation: an all-powerful cosmic computer. The resulting intelligence contemplates the cyclic nature of the universe, ending with a twist.
- In Childhood's End, a novel by Arthur C. Clarke, the destiny of humanity – as well as most of the other intelligent species in the universe – seems to merge with an overall cosmic intelligence.
- In Dan Simmons's Hyperion Cantos series, the Omega Point is used extensively. The Catholic priest character Father Hoyt/Duré who is introduced to the story frame as one of the pilgrims in the first two volumes of the tetralogy (Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion) eventually becomes Pope Teilhard I.
- In Darwinia, a novel by Robert Charles Wilson, a mysterious event in 1912 transforms Europe into an immeasurably strange place, full of hitherto unknown flora and fauna, and it is revealed at the very end that the entire story is a tiny part of a virtual war inside what is effectively an Omega Point metacomputer at the end of time.
- In the first part of Poul Anderson's novel Harvest of Stars, North America is ruled by the Avantists, an oppressive pseudo-religious regime that draws its justification from a commitment to take humanity to what they call the Omega Point. It uses the Greek infinity symbol as a logo, and it is deemed politically correct to greet each other with "alpha", to which the reply is "omega". However, since the Avantist Advisory Synod believes in social engineering and technical progress as the means to advance humanity, its teachings are in fact transhumanist.
- In Tomorrow and Tomorrow, a novel by Charles Sheffield, the main character Drake Merlin is on a quest to cure his dying wife. He has her frozen and then freezes himself in the hope that the future holds the cure. Eventually, he finds that the only hope to having her back is to wait out the aeons until the Omega Point, at which time she will again be accessible.
- George Zebrowski wrote a trilogy of space opera novellas, collectively called The Omega Point Trilogy and published as a single volume in 1983. The name appears to be a coincidence; it predates Tipler by many years and does not involve any of the Omega Point ideas listed above.
- In Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy, the Omega Point is a repository for the souls of the dead of all sentient species in the Universe. It is implied that this is also the point to which the universe will eventually collapse.
- Humayun Ahmed's novel Omega Point (2000) concerns multiverses, a developing theory of time and a manifestation of the Omega Point that interferes with history to allow the theory to reach fruition.
- Stephen Baxter writes about the Omega Point in many books including Manifold: Time and Timelike Infinity.
- Julian May's Galactic Milieu Series draws heavily for both plot and background on the concepts of Teilhard de Chardin's Omega point theories.
- Shantaram, a novel by Gregory David Roberts, refers to the philosophical theory that the universe "tends towards complexity."
- Frederik Pohl's The Other End of Time tells of a war between two alien civilizations for control of the Omega point.
- In the A Certain Magical Index series, the concept of Level 6 for espers in Academy City is basically the same as the Omega Point for humans.
- Chardin, Pierre Teilhard de ♦ The Phenomenon of Man Scanned book in the Internet Archive
- Chardin, Pierre Teilhard de ♦ The Phenomenon of Man An HTML version of the book (without illustrations)
- Human Evolution Research Institute
- Princeton Noosphere project cites Teilhard de Chardin
- Teilhard de Chardin on evolution
- Essays by Tipler on the Omega Point
- Computer history's stride towards an expected Omega Point by Jürgen Schmidhuber, from "The New AI: General & Sound & Relevant for Physics, In B. Goertzel and C. Pennachin, eds.: Artificial General Intelligence, p. 175-198, 2006."