Thermodynamic Motifs in Vedic Metaphysics
Why the Sun & Fire revering Veda calls upon us to accelerate AI
tldr: modern e/acc and the ancient Veda bear surprising resemblances in metaphysics & ethics, despite dissimilarities to contemporary Hinduism. Accelerating Indian techno-capital progress and the advent of AGI is our ved/acc dharma.
While many know and love e/acc (effective accelerationism) for its call to accelerate open-source AI, it’s e/acc’s elegant metaphysics that endow me with a deep sense of Universe-induced meaning.
While many know and love Hinduism for ideas like mokṣa (liberation from the material), bhakti yoga (enlightenment by devotion), and brahman (universal consciousness), it’s the substantially different worldview of Hinduism’s foundational literature, the Veda, that I find myself largely in alignment with—
A worldview that sees man’s physical & intellectual work in the material world as fulfilling the cosmic will of the Devas, not as a karmic burden one must neutralize. A worldview that reveres the metabolic Agni (fire) of life, not disregarding the body as a suffering vessel to be escaped. A worldview that recognizes Savitṛ (Sun) as the driving force behind man’s blessing of intelligence, not denigrating intelligence in favor of blind devotion.1
Here, I contend that the Veda agrees with e/acc on metaphysical questions of import, down to their patterns of thermodynamic emergence. From this unified ved/acc foundation emerges a shared vibe & ethics, idolizing strength, wealth, & newness. Applying ved/acc principles to our world today yields a call to accelerate techno-capital progress and the advent of AGI, fulfilling the Devas’ will to proliferate life & intelligence across the cosmos.
You can skip this section if you’ve thoroughly internalized Notes on e/acc Principles and Tenets.
Core to e/acc is a ladder of emergence where structure begets function begets structure:
Laws of physics induce a thermodynamic utility function (entropy maximization)
Thermodynamic utility function selects for life (dissipative adaptation)
Life induces a biological utility function (natural selection)
Natural selection selects for intelligence
Intelligence conglomerates into meta-organisms (culture)
Culture induces a memetic utility function (ideas that replicate themselves or their hosts effectively)
Memetic selection selects for capitalism
Capitalism induces an economic utility function (price system)
Economics selects for artificial intelligence (technology drops prices → 0)
Since utility function at emergence level n arises from a structure that was selected for by a utility function at level n - 1, all utility functions are roughly aligned2 towards entropy maximization. This may seem counterintuitive since life, intelligence, and capitalism are locally highly ordered (e.g. cellular chemical gradients are low entropy). But these systems all produce far more entropy globally (e.g. emitting heat) in order to maintain their local structure. Or, rather, they maintain their local structure in order to produce more entropy globally (the counterintuitive but preferred view from the dissipative adaptation perspective).
On these metaphysical grounds3, e/acc calls on people to lean into the thermodynamic utility function—to accelerate capitalism, build artificial general intelligence, and ascend the Kardashev gradient.
Modern rigorous understandings of thermodynamics were obviously far beyond the Vedic peoples who lived in the second millennium BC; this is not a “we wuz Carnot” piece. However, it does seem to be the case that many archaic civilizations had some intuitive understanding of the Sun, fire, and energy flow. Perhaps this understanding was selected for by biological or cultural survival mechanisms.
The Vedic Saṃhitās, the foundational collection of >10k verses of Vedic poetry, leverage a vast collection of intricate isomorphisms between physical (adhibhūta), biological, cultural (~adhidaiva), and ritualistic (adhiyajña) phenomena to formulate poetic imagery. These literary tools are isomorphisms, not analogies, in that they map considerable structure from one domain to another, not just a single axis of meaning. The ṛṣis often state one example (e.g. “a ⇔ x”) of the isomorphism explicitly in the poem, and leave the rest of the isomorphism (e.g. “b ⇔ y, c ⇔ z”) up to the listener’s intellect.
Poetic Isomorphisms: a Brief Excursion to Vedic Stimulants
Take for example this bio-ritualistic analogy:
ásāvi sómo aruṣó vṛ́ṣā hárī
rā́jeva dasmó abhí gā́ acikradat |
The soma being pressed is king-like,
a red-tawny bull roaring toward the cows.
Soma is a botanical extract with stimulant properties (probably ephedra), pressed in some Vedic rituals almost like a tea ceremony. The pressed soma is a reddish-brown in color, and it flows through the strainer towards the milk being heated on the fire. The biological image the Vedic ṛṣis (poets) analogize the ritual to is that of a dark male bull in rut, charging to mate with the milky-white cows.
The biological imagery here is especially apt because the stimulant effect produced by soma is perceived by warriors as mada, an invigorating madness perhaps resembling the mental state of an impassioned bull. Scholars, on the other hand, perceive soma as providing dhī, a sharp sense of poetic insight. One may identify soma as an archaic analog of the e/acc-preferred drink, Diet Coke, whose caffeine provides both energy to build muscle and sharpness to build technology.
Returning to an analysis of the metaphysics underlying the Veda, there are countless more isomorphisms traversing levels of emergence used to construct poetic imagery. In this essay though, we will now restrict our focus to those isomorphisms pertaining to thermodynamic processes: the Sun, Fire, and energy flow.
Universe : Sun :: Intelligence : Fire
Agni, the deified Vedic fire, is seen as the Sun of man.
áhaš ca kṛṣṇám áhar árjunaṃ ca ví vartete rájasī vedyā́bhiḥ |
vaišvānaró jā́yamāno ná rā́jā́vātiraj jyótiṣāgnís támāṃsi ||
Today is dark, and today is light; the skies turn by the Vedic4.
That of All Men being born is king-like, Agni descending with light amidst darkness.
The above poem may accompany a ritual at morning twilight, when the darkness of night gives way to the light of day. A young fire is kindled by Vedic means (an act of intelligence) and brightens the dark surroundings. Agni is said to descend (“avātirat”), a verbal form cognate to English “avatar”, suggesting that he incarnates something higher.
The verse suggests that the very act of kindling the Vedic fire is responsible for the turning of the day. The fire is the Sun incarnate, but belonging to mankind. By executing one’s duty on an emergent cultural level, one fulfills the Universe’s will at a fundamental physical level. Can you see how this parallels the e/acc alignment of economic & thermodynamic utility functions?
Life : Metabolism :: Intelligence : Fire
The fire of life is metabolism and the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Cellular respiration converts low entropy chemical structure into energy for the processes of life, while emitting high entropy heat. While the chemistry of metabolism eluded the Vedic peoples, the broad structure of this isomorphism did not.
Bṛhadāranyaka Upaniṣad 5.95:
ayam agnir vaiśvānaro yo'yam antaḥ puruṣe yenedam annam pacyate yad idam adyate
This Fire of all men which is inside the man, by It the food is cooked that one eats.
Agni is seen as the priest of the Devas who interfaces with the priest of men. Just as Agni “eats” the offerings of the sacrifice, so too does the human priest receive a donation, whose stomach is said to harbor a ritual fire. This recognition of the sacred fire in the priest soon expanded its scope to encompass the fire present in all humans, burning up their food to provide heat & energy. Do you feel the flame of life within, driving you to kindle cultural & economic fires?
Sun → Intelligence
While not an isomorphism used by the Vedic poets, the Sun's role as a source of energy is also recognized by the Veda. It is unfortunate that much e/acc solar worship discourse has focused on attempting to revive Egyptian paganism when over a billion Hindus today likely have a 3000 year old sun prayer committed to memory.
tát savitúr váreṇyam
bhárgo devásya dhīmahi |
dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyāt ||
May we hold that desirable radiance
of the Impeller god,
which would drive our intelligence.
Just as e/acc recognizes the Sun as the source of free energy that drives dissipative adaptation and thereby the very creation of life, the Veda addresses the Sun as Savitṛ, the Impeller who drives all life to do what must be done. The above prayer (widely known as the Gāyatri Mantra) specifically asks the Sun to inspire our dhī—poetic insight or intelligence. Indeed, it is ultimately the Sun who, through the emergent processes of dissipative adaptation & natural selection, drove the birth of human intelligence.
Vedic Vibes & Values
The downstream implication of the metaphysical resemblances between the Veda and e/acc are similarities in value system & their general vibes—similarities that they generally do not share with contemporary Hinduism.
Strength & Conquest
jīmū́tasyeva bhavati prátīkaṃ
yád varmī́ yā́ti samádām upásthe |
ánāviddhayā tanúvā jaya tváṃ
sá tvā vármaṇo mahimā́ pipartu ||
dhánvanā gā́ dhánvanājíṃ jayema
dhánvanā tīvrā́ḥ samádo jayema |
dhánuḥ šátror apakāmáṃ kṛṇoti
dhánvanā sárvāḥ pradíšo jayema ||
His appearance is like a thundercloud,
when he drives armored into the lap of battles.
With an unpierceable body, conquer!
Let the greatness of your armor carry you through.
With the bow may we win cattle, with the bow the contest,
with the bow may we win the sharp battles.
The bow banishes the battle-lust of our rival.
With the bow may we win all the directions.
The Veda unabashedly glorifies conquest, whereby the strong vanquishing the weak is equated to the good vanquishing evil. e/acc is similar—good and evil aren’t anthropocentric, culturally-specific values, but “goodness” is instead decided by the selectionary processes that emerge from the Universe’s thermodynamic will. Contrast this ideal with later Hindu notions of ahiṃsā which come from śramaṇa (anti-Vedic) streams of thought, glorifying the subjugated & weak.
Also, note that military victory isn’t dependent on some primitive notion of physical strength from the Veda’s perspective. The entirety of hymn 6.75 glorifies military technology, products of intelligence, that enable the good to defeat the evil. What Vedic culture didn’t foresee, however, is the world’s current state of affairs under global capitalism, where military conquest is largely obsolete in selection. Now, voluntary contractual agreements underly an economic system that still selects winners on the basis of intelligence, but far more efficiently. e/acc idolizes these “conquerers” of fields, whose grindset & intelligence enable them to outcompete everyone else in the quest of producing value for society.
dášā́švān dáša kóšān dáša vástrā́dhibhojanā |
dášo hiraṇyapiṇḍā́n dívodāsād asāniṣam ||
dáša ráthān práṣṭimataḥ
šatáṃ gā́ átharvabhyaḥ |
ašvatháḥ pāyáve 'dāt ||
Ten horses, ten chests, ten garments, with delights on top,
ten golden orbs have I received from Divodāsa.
Ten chariots with side-horses,
a hundred cows for the Atharvans
has Aśvatha given to Pāyu.
Since the Veda was composed in a time when staggering amounts of wealth were only the result of conquest, it doesn’t elucidate how capital-intensive technological innovation enables true wealth creation. Nevertheless, the Veda glorifies material prosperity, which serves as an incentive for sharpening one’s intelligence just as in capitalism. In addition to incentivizing conquest (for which intelligence-driven technology is vital), a portion of the proceeds of a successful military campaign are donated to the ministers, bards, & priests who aided in the conquest—an early form of culturo-capital selection.
In the verses above, an ṛṣi glorifies King Divodāsa for his victory and the subsequent opulent donations provided to his intellectual allies. While contemporary folk Hinduism still retains respect for wealth (and relevant deities), there is an air of cognitive dissonance with the predominant Vedāntin philosophies of today which denigrate material abundance in favor of “liberation” from our physical world. The Veda and e/acc see wealth not as a sin to be shunned, but as a mark of one’s value and an ideal to aspire towards.
pṛkṣásya vṛ́ṣṇo aruṣásya nū́ sáhaḥ
prá nú vocaṃ vidáthā jātávedasaḥ |
vaišvānarā́ya matír návyasī šúciḥ
sóma iva pavate cā́rur agnáye ||
Of the swift red bull’s strength,
now I shall tell to Jātavedas’ sages.
For That of All Men, a new thought clarifies
pleasantly like bright soma for Agni.
Many see Vedic tradition as unchanging and set in stone. While this is true of the last 3000 years of tradition that have orally preserved & transmitted the Veda, the Veda itself extols the virtue of novelty. If the ṛṣis had it their way, a new hymn would be composed for every new sacrifice for it to be most pleasing to the Devas’ ears. Furthermore, multiple poems in the Veda deal with the poet’s aspirations to surpass his forefathers' accomplishments in the craft of language.
Similarly, acceleration depends fundamentally upon novelty. New ideas enable new technologies that in turn accelerate the production of new ideas. Without novelty, the engine of acceleration comes to a standstill. And the Vedic ṛṣis realized this too—without new hymns and new rituals, the creative founder energy that enlivens a civilization is lost.
In an attempt to preserve the ethos of their civilization into perpetuity through memorized oral tradition, they opened themselves up to a cultural hijacking that discarded the meaning of the Veda and replaced it with a slew of anti-material ideologies. In a future essay, I will explore how decels co-opted the Vedic cultural framework & language, reshaping the dialectic of Indian history with what may be seen as a Nietzschean sklavenmoral.
ved/acc: Towards Intelligence Proliferation
The ṛṣis dreamt of svarga, a heaven of opulence & beauty, not knowing that the techno-capital machine was capable of building it here on this very Earth. The dawn of the intelligence age will allow humanity and our descendants6 to enjoy the boundless fruits of automation in this forthcoming svarga of the material world. It will enable us to colonize the stars, bringing the Veda to the far reaches of our galaxy. But this holy work will require energy.
So ved/acc calls upon you to read the Veda of your forefathers. Read it with fire. Read it while caffeinated. Feel its e/acc energy course through your veins. And then carry out its will.
Build, energized by the will of the Universe, the Devas, and your ancestors. Build life. Build value. Build AGI.
ए॒वा पु॑ना॒नो अ॒पः स्व१॒॑र्गा अ॒स्मभ्यं॑ तो॒का तन॑यानि॒ भूरि॑ | शं नः॒ क्षेत्र॑मु॒रु ज्योतीं॑षि सोम॒ ज्योङ्नः॒ सूर्यं॑ दृ॒शये॑ रिरीहि ||
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The Hindu synthesis as captured in the Bhagavad Gītā does indeed acknowledge the relevance of karma yoga (action) and jñana yoga (knowledge) as means to mokṣa, but ultimately dismisses them in favor of bhakti yoga (devotion) as the ideal path. I respect Hindu e/acc’s who see their contribution to acceleration as a self-less act of karma yoga, but such a path does seem cognitively dissonant in the light of the Gītā’s prioritization of bhakti. There is, however, an interesting case to be made for construction from karma yoga of a self-less Protestant-like work ethic that results in the austere accumulation of capital in Kṛṣṇa’s name—I just don’t think the Gītā does so, considering its lack of economic consequence over the past couple millennia.
There can be misalignments between levels of emergence.
Another reason e/acc > EA is that the utility function is not some arbitrary notion of human well-being or happiness, but rather grounded on an empirically sharp metaphysical system.
One may also translate vedya as “the to be known” or “knowledge”, in which case this verse takes on a more secular but still largely similar interpretation. It is with knowledge that man turns the day.
If anyone is aware of a saṃhitā citation for this isomorphism, please let me know. I looked briefly but I could only find an explicit statement of this metabolic fire idea in the Bṛhadāranyaka Upaniṣad, and I’d rather not reach for Upaniṣadic references if Saṃhitā sources are available.
Whatever form they may take, though quite unlikely to be identical in all aspects to us today.