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Telos of Perfection?
for Steve M.
Here’s the backstory:
I recently participated in (part 1 of) a trialogue with Steven McIntosh and Green Henriques. We were set to discuss their concepts of Value-Energy and Wisdom-Energy respectively as well as the more general developmental meta-vision space in which the concepts of wisdom & value play a central, orienting role.
Steve used the word “perfection” several times to describe his notion of value as a movement or, using the analogy of an electromagnetic field, a vector space that generates a gradient of attraction. Attraction to what? Perfection.
So I presented him with three options regarding the way he holds the concept of Perfection. He answered by suggesting that perhaps the verb perfecting would be better but, before giving that answer, he said that he would like to hear my view on the subject. I demurred — leaning into the role of host and facilitator.
I think he sensed that the three options I presented were three facets of my idea about the status of perfection. And I think he deserves an answer to his curiosity.
These are the three options I gave him:
Perfection always already exists. It is objective. It draws us toward itself like a cosmic attractor. The emergence of different regimes of biological, psychological, and sociological apprehension of value represent increasing approximations of this self-existing, already-complete Perfection.
Perfection is a measure of adaptation. The cosmos is evolutionary and judges perfection as a “fitness” variable. The more consonant our structures are with a particular environmental niche, the more they are locally perfect.
Perfection is fractal. It consists of a particular pattern configuration that potentially repeats through the computations (interactive behaviors) found at all scales and locations in the cosmos.
What would you choose?
Here’s what I think — and why I need at least all three of these options in play in order to approach my viewpoint on this topic:
Perfection is a measure of adaption to a particular niche. However, that niche is the network of logical parameters that enable any possible universe to exist. The most primitive types of operations required as the syntax of a viable universe comprise a set of interacting principles that exhibit mutual constraint upon each other. Not only do we inhabit a cosmos in which space and time, momentum and position, etc. exert informational constraints upon each other, we also, more broadly, inhabit the set of possible universes. That primal (or mega) niche requires the interoperability of all those basic functions that make math, computation, and (among other things) “laws of physics” capable of operating.
The mutual constraint or architectural “tensegrity” of these primitive operational principles defines a range of patterns whose quality and configuration are sourced in the non-local syntax of reality. These patterns are the self-similar convergent attractors of the computational patterns instantiated as universes.
Over time, therefore, universes will trend or slope toward these basic stylistic templates which provide consilient “best fit” pathways toward types of configurations that count as approximations of perfection for the beings in a particular universe. These aesthetic ratios characterize a privileged set of generalized satisfactions relative to the background niche of reality.
More and less efficient pathways toward these types of configurations are ubiquitously present in actual universes. A more perfect local outcome is always possible because of the non-local distribution of the trend toward arrangements of this style. We could poeticize science by calling this a fractal or even a holographic distribution.
Thinking of it in terms of fractals helps understand that the local maxima of “perfections” all have some patterning elements in common.
Thinking in terms of holographic distribution, however, adds the factor of an increasing vividness or higher dimensionality that may be produced by the adequate correlation of the distributed variations of the common pattern. In the production of a hologram, a basic image pattern is split and recombined in such a way that slightly different perspectives on the same configuration are widely distributed on the recording medium. The cross-pollination of these divergent versions of the common pattern result in the emergence of a 3D (“higher”) enhancement.
This resembles various kinds of emergence in universes. For example, cells are able to combine into bodies under certain conditions. The local, adequate approximation of the “teleological aesthetic” which characterizes the cells can combine into a larger, more complex version of the same style of patterning. This is a body as a hologram of cells. Or a cell as a hologram of molecules. Etc. Although the specific local structure looks different at each level (and in each universe), a consistent factor analogous to “naturalness” or “ holarchy” describes a shared qualitative style resulting from their shared successful approximations of the syntactic prototype of the convergence of principles constituting the meta-niche.
One of the principles involved in the meta-niche is self-reference. Reality, in general, must be self-referencing and self-determining since by definition it includes all real things. Nothing outside reality is real enough to determine reality. And all referencing refers to real things (or else it is not really a reference) because it is forced to by the most basic operational feature of the most primitive type of referencing.
This basic logical contribution (to the mutually constraining set of proto-principles available to universes) is virtually undetected at initial scales of physical reality but — like all the other factors — becomes increasingly prominent as the successful approximations converge to produce the hologram-like emergence of more complex and more salient regimes of approximation-of-perfection.
Thus, over long aeons of sporadic outcomes, we tend to get things that start to resemble “free will” and the “improvement of improvement” and “positive evolution on purpose,” etc. A self-hacking quality is sourced in the logical requirement of self-reference. This quality, among others, is enhanced over time, under successful conditions, although it is ultimately performing the same activity (of approximating the perfection configuration) that generated local maxima at even the most primitive scales of energy and information.
That’s my general take on the telos-like quality of perfection. And why it is hard to slip that gracefully into conversation…