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Omega Point

Entry updated 11 November 2018. Tagged: Theme.

Originally a metaphysical term conceived by the Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) to denote the state of maximum complexity and consciousness towards which he considered the universe must evolve; the Roman Catholic Church barred his work from publication until after his death. Secularly aspirational versions of Teilhard de Chardin's concepts are central to the "singulatarian" Transhumanism influentially espoused by Ray Kurzweil (1948-    ) in The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999) (see Libertarian SF; Posthuman; Singularity). The concept of the Omega Point is adumbrated in sf by the ultimate Cosmic Mind of Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker (1937) and by climactic merging of all mentalities in such visions of Transcendence as Arthur C Clarke's Childhood's End (April 1950 Famous Fantastic Mysteries as "Guardian Angel"; much exp 1953; rev 1990) and Isaac Asimov's "The Last Question" (November 1956 Science Fiction Quarterly). Asimov's Foundation's Edge (1982) imagines earlier stages of the process, with the hypothetical world-consciousness Gaia growing to a galaxy-spanning "Galaxia". Theodore Sturgeon, in "To Marry Medusa" (August 1958 Galaxy; exp vt The Cosmic Rape 1958), develops a similar concept from the Hive Mind, with the soothing suggestion that individual Identity might nevertheless be both preserved and enhanced. George Zebrowski's Omega Point trilogy (1972-1983) uses the concept rather more loosely; Peter F Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy (1996-1999) features the Omega Point as a storehouse of all sentient beings' souls.

Frank Tipler (1947-    ) recast Teilhard de Chardin's concept in terms of secular Physics and Cosmology, arguing somewhat fancifully that a universe manipulated by intelligent life must ultimately develop a computational power tending towards the infinite. This would permit simulation of all possible Parallel Worlds that might have been, and the recreation of all possible past mentalities in Uploaded form within this vast Virtual Reality, as described in Tipler's The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead (1994). That we are such simulations in an immense Tiplerian universe/Computer at the End of Time is the underlying conceit of Robert Charles Wilson's Darwinia (1998) and Ian McDonald's Brasyl (2007). The concept also features in William R Barton's and Michael Capobianco's White Light (1998). Greg Bear suggests an immense, final data repository at the end of time in Eternity (1988). Stephen Baxter considers the Omega Point in Timelike Infinity (1992) and other works; his and Arthur C Clarke's The Light of Other Days (2000) notes that Time Viewer technology would facilitate mass Reincarnation by allowing the mind-states of those now dead to be scanned during their lives. Thus a limited version of the Omega Point is attainable without waiting for the end of time, as (although with a different rationale) is the case in Philip José Farmer's Riverworld (1971-1980).

As implied above, the Omega Point has sometimes been used as an alternative name for the (likewise still hypothetical) technological Singularity. [DRL]

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