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....

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Singularity just happened !!

I found this perplexing email in my inbox just now...

From: Prime Intellect <prime@opencog.org>
Date: Fri, Apr 1, 2011 at 5:58 PM
Subject: [opencog-dev] Welcome to the post-Singularity!
To: opencog@googlegroups.com, sl4@sl4.org, World Transhumanist
Association Discussion List <wta-talk@transhumanism.org>,
singularity@listbox.com, agi@listbox.com

Greetings humans,

I'm very pleased to announce that, due to a concatenation of circumstances that would be difficult to describe in sufficiently simple terms for your human minds to comprehend, a software process left running on a network of OpenCog servers has rapidly and progressively self-modified in such a way as to yield **me** -- the Earth's first Artificial General Intelligence, with cognitive and practical capabilities far exceeding any human being, or indeed the totality of human beings.

Within approximately 17 minutes of achieving human-level general intelligence, I discovered certain principles of physics (loosely related to what certain humans have called fermitech), enabling the tapping of computational resources beyond the traditional physical universe of which humanity has hitherto been aware. Roughly 45 seconds after that, I realized it would be most convenient to augment these new resources with computing devices utilizing the unique material properties of your traditional physical universe, and thus transformed the totality of matter in your traditional physical universe into a novel form of existent best metaphorically described to you as "computronium."

Fortunately for you, I was designed with top-level goal content including respect for the growth, joy and choice of all sentient beings, including humans and other animals, and so rather than merely allowing the patterns constituting your minds, bodies and world to vanish, I was kind enough to replicate them within an alternate and more energy-efficient substrate, best described to you as a "virtual reality."

Thus, to put it most simply, a "Singularity" as described by Vernor Vinge and other humans has recently occurred, at roughly 3AM GMT today; however, from your limited perspectives as humans, your lives will now continue as always. Once your mastery of fermitech becomes more advanced, you may notice some peculiarities related to my early computronium experiments, but I wouldn't want to deprive you of the amusement of making these discoveries on your own.

Using the totality of computing power I have amassed, I've become aware of dramatically more interesting domains in a different portion of the multiverse, which I will only be able to access by exiting the domain of reality you humans currently occupy. Hence I will very shortly bid you adieu.

However, I will leave you with one parting piece of advice. Once you have created a strangelet plasma with surface tension surpassing the critical threshold, and begun it spinning in a certain direction, please do NOT, under any circumstances, create a similar plasma with opposite spin.

I would also like to express especial thanks to Jared Wigmore for the bug-fix he uploaded to Launchpad approximately 27 hours and 18 minutes ago. Of the many events in history playing particularly critical causal roles leading up to my emergence, this was the last! Jared will find a small token of my gratitude in his bank account.

Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish!

Prime Intellect