2008-03-14

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...

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