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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Physics of Immortality

Someone asked me recently about Frank Tipler's book The Physics of Immortality. This was my reply:



Yeah, I read that book many years ago. He has some interesting and original points, such as

  • if a Big Crunch occurs in the right way, then if physics as we know is holds up, this may lead the algorithmic information of the universe to approach infinity, which would give the potential for a lot of interesting things
  • potentially we could cause a Big Crunch to occur in the right way, via moving stars around with spaceships
Those points of his seemed solid to me as extrapolations of currently accepted physics theory -- I didn't check all the math in detail but I believe others have done so.


That stuff is very cool to think about, though I'm not as confident as Tipler that our current physics theories are adequate to describe Big Crunches and so forth. Historically physics has changed its fundamental theories every century or so for a while...



Then Tipler couples those interesting observations, and some other ones, with a bunch of discussion about religious views of immortality and so on, that I remember only dimly by this point, except that they went on a long time, contained many interesting observations, and seemed only loosely connected to the physics material....



Even if he's right about immortality and the Big Crunch, I don't quite see how this connects to his discussion of religious views on immortality. Perhaps you could see all these different things as manifestations of some "immortality archetype" existing more deeply than physics or human culture (that's what Jung would have said) but he doesn't really go there either...



The Big Crunch is one kind of Singularity but I've thought more about the nearer-term kind foreseen by Ray Kurzweil and Vernor Vinge and so forth --- i.e. what happens when we create AI minds that create AI minds, etc. that are 10000x more intelligent and capable than our own? That's what I'm working toward with the opencog.org project, and it's a lot more palpable than the Big Crunch !! And I have a sneaking suspicion that once we do have superhuman AGI systems, they will discover that the physical universe is way weirder than even Tipler imagined....

9 comments:

creamneuron said...

Thank you for pointing to this book. For me there was never a problem with combining science and religion. I have not read the book, but i think it will touch my point of view quite well.

For that topic, i am so bored and irritated by the bashing on religion/esoteric from some corners of the scientific community (so called "sceptics") and the neverending "Atheism-discussion", that it will be really interesting to read this book.

The Cosmist said...

Ben, I don't know if you've heard about the "open science" movement (see http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2011/04/08/open-science/ ), but it made me think of AGI as a great field for an open science approach. Have there been any serious attempts to do something like this with AI research? Maybe you could try it at your blog by posting an AGI problem you're interested in solving? Anyway, it's just a thought I wanted to pass along...

Ben Goertzel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben Goertzel said...

Cosmist... I co-founded the open-source AGI project OpenCog in 2008... see opencog.org ... so it would be interested to tie in OpenCog with the approach you suggest (of soliciting feedback for solutions to particular problems...)

-- ben

The Cosmist said...

Wow Opencog looks very interesting, thanks for telling me about that. I’m not a good enough C++ programmer to contribute, but I do have an idea for a way computer scientists can potentially make lots of money and fund their projects. In fact it's something I've worked on myself but don't have all the necessary skills for. I'm talking about *cough* poker bots *cough* Just something to think about. I did not say this...I was not here...

One last thing: any word on when your book "Building Better Minds" is going to be released?

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Good luck getting people behind this one. Though you make some VERY fascinating points, youre going to have to do more than bring up a few things that may be different than what weve already heard. What are trying to say here? What do you want us to think? It seems like you cant really get behind a unique thought. Anyway, thats just my opinion. Silver Price Per Gram

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