Progression of Intelligence

by bsrubin on November 8, 2012

Life. WTF is it?

The universal question.

I don’t have a strong religious or cultural tradition to guide my way – and as a result I’ve wandered broadly.

  • Is the purpose of life to increase personal happiness?   Doesn’t feel right – Sebastian Marshall does a great job of explaining why happiness shouldn’t be our goal.
  • Increase happiness and fulfillment for all?  ‘Will this choice being fulfillment and happiness to me and also to those who are affected by this choice?’Deepak Chopra.  Not quite there either – at least for me.
  • Am I on team human?  In Ikagai Sebastian postulates that ‘I like humanity, I think our species is cool, and I want to see it thrive.’ I’m applying myself to build and serve that goal and do what I can.’ .  This strikes me as a bit provincial.  Don’t get me wrong – I like humans.  But I don’t think we are the end game in this universe.

Progression of Intelligence

I’ve recently been exposed in multiple ways to a ‘purpose of life’ that rings most true for me: The universe is designed to increase intelligence.  Our role in the universe as individuals is to help increase the intelligence of the universe.  This joint goal becomes crystal clear if we accept that at some deep level the self and the universe are one.

My definition of Intelligence: The organization of matter and energy to enrich consciousness.

This idea has presented itself to me in many contexts recently.

  • In The Singularity is Near Ray Kurzweil postulates that we are rapidly approaching a ‘singularity’ point where all matter and energy in the universe merges and supports a universal intelligence.
  • A Mormon friend described eternal progression - the perfection of humanity until we merge with God.
  • The Buddhist concept of enlightenment: ‘In Mahayana Buddhism the Bodhisattva is the ideal. Not one’s own liberation in Nirvana, but the liberation of all living beings is seen as the ultimate goal.’

I think it’s all the same idea.  Each group has a cultural interpretation of an underlying universal reality.  My interpretation works for me without discounting other ways of looking at intelligence.

I’ll also remain open to being completely wrong here – I don’t think any of us - and certainly not me - know what’s really going on here :)

Philosophy as a Personal Operating System

‘I don’t view philosophy as an idle form of intellectual masturbation. I really view good philosophy as a set of rules that allows you to make better decisions.’ - Tim Ferriss

I strongly agree with this statement.  The only thing in the universe we can influence and control is our decision in the present moment. The past is gone and future is a fiction.  But the decision we make right now are everything.

Being devoted to increasing the intelligence of the universe puts everything in perspective:

  • Work: The products we build help people increase their personal intelligence.  At scale this has an excellent multiplier effect: help a molecular biologist sleep and you’ve helped increase her intelligence so she can invent a new technology to increase intelligence for the universe.
  • Relaxation:  Rest time helps me recover so I can make my contribution optimally.

Intelligence as a goal also highlights areas where we all fall short.

  • Destruction: Being distracted and smashing a glass plate full of food on the floor.  Matter that served a purpose (hold nutrition, nutrition for my intelligence) is now chaos.  Be mindful and don’t destroy stuff.
  • Laziness:  Zoning out on the inter-webs beyond useful recovery time doesn’t add intelligence to the universe.
  • Beating Myself Up: Ironically this also serves no purpose – I should be softer on myself and recognize that we all have challenges.
I haven’t quite figured out how this concept relates to concepts like personal happiness or relationships.

By thinking through my personal belief systems and philosophy I hope to better answer the question ‘what decision do I make right now’.  I’ll be continuing to build up a personal philosophy in a deliberate way – for now the mission of increasing intelligence in the universe is a useful one for me.


  • Ldepetrillo

    i ordered this book from amazon and think it may be of interest in your current concerns.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Larry – added to my reading list!

  • Ldepetrillo

    short read – sheds some light on singularity.

  • Kevin Vogelsang

    Love it. And I love that you’ve come to this based off your own personal observations. 

    My main philosophical man, Mihaly, can help you sharpen these ideas and round out the framework. If you want to just dive into it directly, check out Evolving Self:
    Or, I can just lend a hand and discuss with you if you can talk me into going on a hike with you guys :)  I’ve been a student of this stuff (and consequently internalized Mihaly’s work) for the last 5 years or so.

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