The Ultimate Future of Artificial Life?

My friend Clément recently uploaded this preprint:
Among other things, he explores a possible solution to the heat death problem, i.e. our universe will die as its energy dissipates and will reach thermodynamical equilibrium. This is to create a new universe, not necessarily in simulation, but a brand new physical universe.

I agree with some of his ideas, but not with others. E.g. he believes that OUR universe was created by a higher civilization (otherwise why all the cosmological constants are just right for life? this is known as the fine tuning problem), while I believe in natural selection at all scales. But anyway, that is not even in the paper (gladly, since it smells of intelligent design...), but remains from our discussions on the topic. I'll just list the obstacles I find in the creation of a universe from ours:
  • Even when Moore's law has increased the speed of computers amazingly, our ability to program them hasn't, i.e. Moore's law is for hardware, not software. We haven't been able to scale up the complexity of our computer programs that fast... I wonder if this increase is logarithmic, linear, exponential, or what... it would be difficult to measure anyway, since "number of lines of code" are not necessarily an indicator of software complexity.
  • ALifers have struggled to create "open ended evolution" (is our evolution open ended?). Some people say that e.g. in the Game of Life you could have much more complex structures emerging, but you would need billions of cells running for billions of time steps. OK, let's say that in a century computers will allow you to run such simulations. How do you detect such structures? Even if they are detected, they would reach another "ceiling" of complexity.
  • More computing power does not necessarily mean better predictive abilities (to the point of being able to predict or simulate a planet, let alone the universe). Moreover, if you had a simulation of the universe, it would need to be inside our universe. So it would need to be also simulating itself... Russell's paradox?
  • If you create a new universe, wouldn't it be inside ours? How do you keep it from interacting with our universe? (toss it into a black hole and good luck?). How can you prevent heat death from invading the new universe? (that is, if heat death will ever come... there are forces that create organization, e.g. gravity.)
Well, if we decide to change the meaning of universe (all that there is around us), just as we changed the meaning of atom (indivisible) when it was divided, maybe some of the above obstacles will disappear? Like Wittgenstein said: it's a language game...

Comments

Clément Vidal said…
Hi Carlos,

Thank you very much for your sharp feedback!

"he believes that OUR universe was created by a higher civilization "

I indeed think it is rational to believe this, although the argument is too long to be exposed here in details. It has to be made from a synthetic philosophic perspective, I’ll develop it further in the coming years… The alternative of “natural selection at all scales” is attractive but does note tackle ultimate-questions like: where did this first “thing” comes from, allowing the self-organization and fine-tune the physical laws/constants to start? Some comments about the obstacles you mention.

"Even when Moore's law has increased the speed of computers amazingly, our ability to program them hasn't, i.e. Moore's law is for hardware, not software. "


I agree, but there is still and I hope there will be at least some progress in the way we program. When someone plays with an ALife simulation, it is a very different activity than classical programming. I do not know enough about programing languages to see a pattern in this evolution. Maybe you do?

"Some people say that e.g. in the Game of Life you could have much more complex structures emerging, but you would need billions of cells running for billions of time steps. "

That sounds to me not very well founded. Who says that? On what ground?

"More computing power does not necessarily mean better predictive abilities (to the point of being able to predict or simulate a planet, let alone the universe)."

Indeed, as you explained me earlier, if the system is very chaotic, more computing power would be of very weak usefulness. But to predict or to simulate is NOT the same. What I find particularly interesting in the ALife paradigm is that you don’t fully predict what you are going to get. In the game of life, could Conway predict that so many interesting structures could emerge of such simple rules?
In my view, it could in principle be possible to simulate an entire universe, even without being able to predict it in a deterministic way.

"Moreover, if you had a simulation of the universe, it would need to be inside our universe. So it would need to be also simulating itself... Russell's paradox?"

Not every self-reference is paradoxical. See Popper, K. R. 1954. Self-Reference and Meaning in Ordinary Language. Mind 63, no. 250:162-169. Reprinted in Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. Routledge. (2002).
I am not sure to get precisely the paradox you want to pinpoints, but there are surely problems with this simulation hypothesis.

"If you create a new universe, wouldn't it be inside ours? "

No, since a few decades, many physicists speculated that new space-time regions could emerge out of black-holes. More mysteries than answers, but it is at least plausible.

"How do you keep it from interacting with our universe? (toss it into a black hole and good luck?). "

That is the idea! :) Or maybe there is a form of interaction from one universe to another? This remains to be investigated.

"How can you prevent heat death from invading the new universe? (that is, if heat death will ever come... there are forces that create organization, e.g. gravity.) "


Probably that you cannot prevent it. At this depth of reflection and speculation, you can postulate a more general cosmological replication cycle, where the same happens in the new universe that is happening to ours: a cycle of intelligent universes.

"Well, if we decide to change the meaning of universe (all that there is around us), "

The term “universe” can indeed be misleading in the context of multiverse talks. But we can clarify. In his glossary, John Leslie proposed the following distinctions (I added the numbers): "1. Everything In Existence, ever, anywhere;
2. The region we inhabit plus everything that has interacted or ever will interact with this region
3. This region plus everything that has interacted with it by now, or will at least do so in the next few billion years
4. any gigantic system of causally interacting things that is wholly (or very largely) isolated from others
5. Any system that might well have become gigantic, etc., even if it in fact recollapsed while still very small
6. or…
(Nowadays, the word cosmos might be used to refer to Everything In Existence, while universe was used in a way permitting talk of several universes inside the cosmos.)." Leslie, J. (ed.) 1998. Modern cosmology & philosophy. Prometheus Books, page 363.

"Like Wittgenstein said: it's a language game... "

I would say the game is much bigger and much more fun :)

Truly yours,
Clément.
Hi Clément,

"I do not know enough about programing languages to see a pattern in this evolution. Maybe you do? "

I think it's too early to tell whether there's such a pattern. From what I've seen, I can say that it is veeery slow... but the interesting thing is to see whether the evolution is linear, exponential, logarithmic, or what. It seems it is NOT exponential, so it is not as promising as hardware evolution...


""Some people say that e.g. in the Game of Life you could have much more complex structures emerging, but you would need billions of cells running for billions of time steps. "
That sounds to me not very well founded. Who says that? On what ground?"

On the fact that you don't see an ever increasing complexity in the game of life, as larger structures are more difficult to find, since it is a very fragile CA, i.e. a change in one cell can have drastic effects in the dynamics. So some people BELIEVE (indeed, it is not well grounded, or grounded on their hunches) that you just need to give it more time, and complexity will keep on increasing. However, I don't think there's a tendency towards higher complexity in the game of life... it's too simple for that.

"In my view, it could in principle be possible to simulate an entire universe, even without being able to predict it in a deterministic way. "

I agree, but I think it would be much simpler than our universe, and even when it might seem causally independent from it, when our sun runs out of energy, that will be the end of the simulated universe(s) as well.

"Not every self-reference is paradoxical."

And not every paradox is problematic. But this one is both... the simulated universe draws information from ours, so it cannot contain more information than our universe, just like the set theory paradox.


""How do you keep it from interacting with our universe? (toss it into a black hole and good luck?). "
That is the idea! :)"

Well, 2 problems: 1. how do you check if the universe you created survived? 2. From what I understand about black holes, they are very dense massive objects, but still part of our universe. Anything you throw in there, will still be subject to the heat death of our universe. And thanks to Hawking radiation, something does come out of the blackhole, so it's still interacting with our universe.

"Nowadays, the word cosmos might be used to refer to Everything In Existence, while universe was used in a way permitting talk of several universes inside the cosmos."

OK, then is the cosmos doomed to heat death as well? As I said, I'm not sure that (our) universe is doomed to it, as e.g. gravity could restore the organization that is lost to heat...

And then, where did the cosmos come from?

Popular posts from this blog

Atomium pictures

New draft: Information in Science and Buddhist Philosophy: Towards a non-Materialistic Worldview

New Essay Published: Harnessing the complexity of education with information technology