The Technium

Cosmic Origins of Extropy

Technology is the visible extension of an archaic force which runs up in time while the universe runs down.

Technology is the latest chapter in a continuous story that builds up order, structure, freedom, possibilities and good against the inescapable black drain of entropy. While the universe cools and dies, the spreading differential of life (and technology) warms up a greater portion of cosmic coldness.

This rising flow, called extropy, enlivens our current technology on earth but was first birthed in the unlikely genesis of the universe 12 billion years ago. In that way all machines trace their origins to the big bang; Technology is a cosmic force.

As primeval matter swirled into galaxies, extropy rose as stuff gathered into life and finally unleashed its full power as self-consciousness mindfulness. Extropy is now unfolding the technium – the autonomous planetary technological system created by our minds. It is this awakening sphere of technology which is so altering our planet, shaping our history, and disturbing the universe.


Everything we find interesting and good in the cosmos – living organisms, civilization, communities, intelligence, evolution itself – has the strong hand of entropy running through it. While the cosmic background slips away to its eternal rest, the energy coursing through these systems flings forward an unbroken sequence of ever unlikely existences. By the normal calculus of entropy, the appearance of both kangaroos and 747s should be impossible. And yet their unlikely existences, and the surprising appearance of any extropic organization that stands upright in the stream of heat death, serves as a platform for yet newer ways to continue the story of unlikely possibilities.

Our global technium is the current stage of this story. It is the mythic midpoint between a cascade of extropic organization reaching back to the genesis of the universe, and forward to an unseen “next’.

If we follow the trajectory of this very long continuum, it suggests not only a future, but a destiny as well. It is a course in which we humans will play a role but we are still determining our exact role. At every stage in this long continuum, choices are expanded and freedom to be is enlarged.

  • Long before I ever heard of funky terms like ‘extropy’ or ‘entropy gradient reversal’ I was fascinated by an obscure mathematical concept known as Fixed Point Theory.

    A lot of computer algorithms are designed to compute fixed points by some kind of iterative calculation. Indeed, Newton himself gave such an iterative algorithm for finding the roots of differentiable functions.

    Some years ago, I wrote an essay connecting Fixed Point Theory to the phenomenon which Kevin calls Extropy.

    The essay is named after an important mathematical theorem about Fixed Points, but addresses the roles it plays in the emergence of complex systems (notably including life itself).

    “The Brouwer-Kakutani Fixed Point Theorem”

  • Berend Schotanus

    Yesterday I have read your post “Extropy” (written 5 years later than this one) and I have been thinking it over all night. I am excited, even when I maybe reach a different conclusion than you do.

    Let me first say the concept of extropy is new and extremely appealing to me. It summarizes in one word the paradox of life that seemingly does things that challenges the laws of physics. And on top of that it also encloses both “natural” life and “artificial” technology, two concepts that, until now, always have been seen as opposites of each other.

    My conclusion would be that extropy isn’t part of physics at all. I would rather see it as a rare, powerful, mathematically valid “exception” that allows to circumvent the laws of physics. It is inherently metaphysical. Extropy (as you say in your next article) is carried by information. Information can jump (copy itself) from one set of atoms to another set. These sets of atoms have to, at least temporarily, obey the laws of physics but the information can get away with things that are physically impossible.
    This might explain the enormous diversity and complexity of extropy, this is simply needed to stay ahead of the laws of physics and prevent entropy to reverse the system to its normal state. I guess it is impossible to catch extropy in a simple set of physical, or physics like, rules. Once you try to do that you cancel the exception and the system reverts to its normal state of entropy. Which explains why rigid one-truth systems in technology are so vulnerable for failure.

  • david kuller

    I’ve only just begun reading over your essays, very interesting. I was pointed here by Bob Lefsetz.

    I highly recommend the book “Lila” by Pirsig (yes the same one who wrote “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”). This is the only serious book I’ve read that constructively arrives at a conclusion which I seem to be seeing throughout your essays so far – that is how evolution works in a universe governed by the laws of thermodynamics (where entropy should prevail?)


  • LeegleechN

    Kangaroos and 747s are not at all surprising when you consider the unimaginably large increase of entropy radiating from the sun that’s been necessary for them to come about.