Term used by Alfred North Whitehead
to describe a fundamental property of this universe: certain special regions of spacetime
(i.e. a galaxy, star, planet, ecosystem, civilization) seem to follow a trend of ever-increasing, ever-accelerating complexity
. The path from cosmology
has not been just a random walk through the myriad possibilities of molecular organization but more like an undeviating march through a series of increasingly novel forms with novel emergent properties. That story is told below. It's this process that Whitehead calls concrescence
For those who dare ask the question, "Where is this all headed?", it appears that the culmination of concrescence is some kind of Omega Point. See I know when the world will end for more info.
What follows are two supporting quotes: first, from Terence McKenna's Alien Dreamtime (fully transcribed at that node); second, from Alfred North Whitehead's own Process and Reality, pg. 26:
...And science has overlooked this, this most salient of facts about nature, that nature is a novelty-conserving engine. And that from the very first moments of that most improbable Big Bang, novelty has been conserved, because in the very beginning there was only an ocean of energy pouring into the universe. There were no planets, no stars, no molecules, no atoms, no magnetic fields. There was only an ocean of free electrons. And then, time passed. And the universe cooled. And novel structures crystallized out of disorder. First, atoms. Atoms of hydrogen and helium. Aggregating into stars. And at the center of those stars, the temperature and the pressure created something which had never been seen before, which was: fusion. And fusion, cooking in the hearts of stars, brought forth more novelty. Heavy elements, iron, carbon, four valent carbon. And as time passed, there were not only then elemental systems, but because of the presence of carbon and the lower temperatures in the universe, molecular structures and out of molecules come simple subsets of organisms, the genetic machinery for transcripting information, aggregating into membranes, always binding novelty, always condensing time, always building and conserving upon complexity and always faster and faster and faster... and then, we come to ourselves. And where do we fit into all of this?
Five million years ago, we were an animal of some sort. Where will we be five million years from tonight? What we represent is not a sideshow, or an epiphenomenon, or an ancillary something-or-other on the edge of nowhere. What we represent is the nexus of concrescent novelty that has been moving itself together, complexifying itself, folding itself in upon itself, for billions and billions of years. There is, so far as we know, nothing more advanced than what is sitting behind your eyes. The human neocortex is the most densely ramified and complexified structure in the known universe. We are the cutting edge of organismic transformation of matter in this cosmos. And this has been going on for awhile. Since the discovery of fire, since the discovery of language, but now, and by now, I mean for the last 10,000 years, we've been into something new: not genetic information, not genetic mutation, not natural selection, but epigenetic activity. Writing, theatre, poetry, dance, art, tattooing, body-piercing, and philosophy. And these things have accelerated the ingression into novelty so that we have become an idea-excreting force in nature that builds temples, builds cities, builds machines, social engines, plans, and spreads over the earth, into space; into the microphysical domain; into the macrophysical domain. We, who five million years were animals, can kindle in our deserts and if necessary upon the cities of our enemies, the very energy which lights the stars at night.
Creativity is the principle of novelty. Creativity introduces novelty into the content of the many, which are the universe disjunctively. The creative advance is the application of this ultimate principle of creativity to each novel situation which it originates. The ultimate metaphysical principle is the advance from disjunction to conjunction, creating a novel entity other than the entities given in disjunction. The novel entity is at once the togetherness of the 'many' which it finds and also it is one among the disjunctive 'many' which it leaves; it is a novel entity, disjunctively among the many entities which it synthesises. The many become one, and are increased by one. In their natures, entities are disjunctively 'many' in process of passage into conjunctive unity... Thus the 'production of novel togetherness' is the ultimate notion embodied in the term concrescence. These ultimate notions of 'production of novelty' and 'concrete togetherness' are inexplicable either in terms of higher universals or in terms of the components participating in the concrescence. The analysis of the components abstracts from the concrescence. The sole appeal is to intuition.