Re: Alternate deductive route to the existence of all universes

From: Christopher Maloney <>
Date: Fri, 09 Jul 1999 08:20:39 -0400

Hans Moravec wrote:
> Christopher Maloney:
> > I was a little turned off, if I remember correctly, by some
> > of the book flap, where they described some of your predictions.
> They're my best shot at extrapolating the developments I see. One
> branch of machine development seems to be roughly recapitulating the
> evolution of our own minds, but at about ten-million speed. It has
> progressed from the equivalent of no nervous system 100 years ago to
> the very bottom of the vertebrate scale (roughly insect nervous
> complexity) now. Computer power is growing fast enough to zoom
> machines through reptile-, mammal- and human-like complexity over the
> next 50 years. I do my best to figure the consequences of that
> development, and make a few suggestions.

Sorry - I meant to back and finish that thought before I clicked the
"Send" button, but I forgot. I wasn't turned off that your predictions
were too fantastic, but that they were not fantastic enough - too
mundane. I just glanced at the customer reviews on, and
I see that my reaction is unusual. Most people, I guess, still have
trouble seeing where we are headed.

I think that as soon as machines become intelligent, we're going to
see some serious sh** (to paraphrase Dr. Brown in "Back to the Future").
Many people believe in a "singularity" of technological progress, but
I'm not a strict adherent of that (have you heard of it?) But where
I think most people go wrong is in imagining that the AI systems we
create will remain discrete, full-featured entities that communicate
with each other. To my mind, that seems like a tremendous waste of
resources. I could imagine some redundancy for purposes of
reliability and sensing, but nothing like what the human race has.
I predict that the various AI's will merge and coelesce into a single
super-intelligence. The distributed processing power among all the
computers in the world will be utilized in the most efficient manner,
with each running a different peice of the AI. "Robots" will be sort
of dumb drones, in and of themselves. But since they'll be networked
in with the AI, they'll be just like hands are to us - agents of

>From your book flap, I got the impression that you were describing
teams of robots that were independent and individual, just like we
are. That seems to me to be another variety of anthro-centrism.
But maybe I was too quick to judge. I've ordered the book now, BTW,
and look forward to reading it.

(More below.)

> >> It also notes that, no matter
> >> what happens to us, among all universes there are some in which our
> >> consciousness continues, and we will always find ourselves in those
> >> (and never in ones where our consciousness does not continue!).
> > So do you believe in immortality? Where do you stand on the FAP the
> > Final Anthropic Principle, ala Tipler and Barrow)?
> In all possible universes there are always some where your subjectivity
> continues, no matter what, and those are where you'll find yourself!
> That much I find convincing. But I never found the logic for an Omega
> point compelling. I don't see why you can't just keep on going and
> going on your own unique subjective paths through the space of possible
> universes.

The FAP is not the same as the Omega Point Theory. The Omega Point
Theory is one possible realization of the FAP. The FAP merely points
out that if we are indeed going to live forever, then the universe must
be such as to allow that to happen. In a nutshell, there must be some
way for us to avoid the Heat Death.

(More below)

> >> For some things that happen (like our brain rotting) the simplest
> >> continuation of our consciousness may no longer involve the exact
> >> continuation of the old physical laws.
> > Huh?
> The evolution of the universe, earth, life and yourself from the
> working of a very simple (maybe null) TOE and its consequent steady
> physical laws must be the simplest way to produce your subjective
> existence. Now that your mind-implementing brain exists, exquisitely
> evolved to certain physical laws, the simplest continuation of your
> subjectivity is surely for those laws to continue to operate as
> always. But in normal operation your body has a finite lifespan: you
> see other people die all the time. So eventually the continued
> operation of your brain, the mechanism of your subjectivity, becomes
> less and less likely. To continue one day, maybe you need a lucky
> escape from an accident. Later it may take medical luck to keep you
> alive: a cancer cell happens to die, some thymus mutation rejuvinates
> you a bit, an infection happens to clear some arteries ... But as
> more and more coincidences are needed, your subjective continuation
> through the continued operation of physical law may become less
> probable than other continuations among the possible worlds, most of
> which don't have our physics. For instance, you may suddenly discover
> that the physical universe is just a simulation in some other world
> with different laws altogether, and as your brain falls apart, your
> abstract subjective processes, without the underlying physics, are
> "uploaded" into some strange new substrate.

You've said a mouthful. I think I've said several of these things
on this list, in particular the point that there is *always* a non-
vanishing probability that our conscious selves will continue, even
if it means discovering that we're really a body floating in a tank
plugged into a VR generator, ala "The Matrix".

However, as I was reading your post, I was thinking, the breakdown
of physical laws must be *very* unlikely. Perhaps even zero, if the
measure of those universes is of a different order thant the measure
in which the physical laws stay the same. In fact, I think that's
likely. Remember that the "physical laws" we witness are all
already statistical in nature. One could even say, there are no
physical laws! All we can do is give relative probabilities about
the outcome of experiments. Another way of saying this is, all we
can calculate are the relative probabilities of what we will
experience next.

I love this quote from John Wheeler so much that I'm going to post
it again:

    I cannot believe that nature has "built in", as if by a corps
    of Swiss watchmakers, any machinery, equation or
    mathematical formalism which rigidly relates physical
    events separated in time. Rather I believe that these events
    go together in a higgledy-piggledy fashion and that what
    seem to be precise equations emerge in every case in a
    statistical way from the physics of large numbers; quantum
    theory in particular seems to work like that. . . . The
    second law of thermodynamics does not go back to any
    equations written down at the beginning of time, not to any
    "built in" machinery - not to any corps of Swiss
    watchmakers - but rather to the combination of a very large
    number of events.

(from Ghost in the Atom).

Chris Maloney
"Knowledge is good"
-- Emil Faber
Received on Fri Jul 09 1999 - 05:30:44 PDT

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