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Messages - sciborg2

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Philosophy & Science / The Universal Law That Aims Time’s Arrow
« on: August 15, 2019, 12:42:41 pm »
The Universal Law That Aims Time’s Arrow

This gradual spreading of matter and energy, called “thermalization,” aims the arrow of time. But the fact that time’s arrow is irreversible, so that hot coffee cools down but never spontaneously heats up, isn’t written into the underlying laws that govern the motion of the molecules in the coffee. Rather, thermalization is a statistical outcome: The coffee’s heat is far more likely to spread into the air than the cold air molecules are to concentrate energy into the coffee, just as shuffling a new deck of cards randomizes the cards’ order, and repeat shuffles will practically never re-sort them by suit and rank. Once coffee, cup and air reach thermal equilibrium, no more energy flows between them, and no further change occurs. Thus thermal equilibrium on a cosmic scale is dubbed the “heat death of the universe.”

But while it’s easy to see where thermalization leads (to tepid coffee and eventual heat death), it’s less obvious how the process begins. “If you start far from equilibrium, like in the early universe, how does the arrow of time emerge, starting from first principles?” said Jürgen Berges, a theoretical physicist at Heidelberg University in Germany who has studied this problem for more than a decade.

These conditions would have occurred right after “cosmic inflation” — the explosive expansion of space thought by many cosmologists to have jump-started the Big Bang. Inflation would have blasted away any existing particles, leaving only the uniform energy of space itself: a perfectly smooth, dense, oscillating field of energy known as a “condensate.” Berges modeled this condensate in 2008 with collaborators Alexander Rothkopf and Jonas Schmidt, and they discovered that the first stages of its evolution should have exhibited fractal-like universal scaling. “You find that when this big condensate decayed into the particles that we observe today, that this process can be very elegantly described by a few numbers,” he said.

It seems that as a system begins to evolve, key details, like its symmetries, are retained and become encoded in the scaling exponents dictating its fractal evolution, while other details, like the initial configuration of its particles or the interactions between them, become irrelevant to its behavior, scrambled among its particles.

And this scrambling process happens very early indeed. In their papers this spring, Berges, Gasenzer and their collaborators independently described prescaling for the first time, a period before universal scaling that their papers predicted for nuclear collisions and ultracold atoms, respectively. Prescaling suggests that when a system first evolves from its initial, far-from-equilibrium condition, scaling exponents don’t yet perfectly describe it. The system retains some of its previous structure — remnants of its initial configuration. But as prescaling progresses, the system assumes a more universal form in space and time, essentially obscuring irrelevant information about its own past. If this idea is borne out by future experiments, prescaling may be the nocking of time’s arrow onto the bowstring.

Philosophy & Science / Is the Cell Really a Machine?
« on: August 12, 2019, 06:40:39 pm »
Is the Cell Really a Machine?

It has become customary to conceptualize the living cell as an intricate piece of machinery, different to a man-made machine only in terms of its superior complexity. This familiar understanding grounds the conviction that a cell's organization can be explained reductionistically, as well as the idea that its molecular pathways can be construed as deterministic circuits. The machine conception of the cell owes a great deal of its success to the methods traditionally used in molecular biology.

However, the recent introduction of novel experimental techniques capable of tracking individual molecules within cells in real time is leading to the rapid accumulation of data that are inconsistent with an engineering view of the cell. This paper examines four major domains of current research in which the challenges to the machine conception of the cell are particularly pronounced: cellular architecture, protein complexes, intracellular transport, and cellular behaviour. It argues that a new theoretical understanding of the cell is emerging from the study of these phenomena which emphasizes the dynamic, self-organizing nature of its constitution, the fluidity and plasticity of its components, and the stochasticity and non-linearity of its underlying processes.

Philosophy & Science / Re: Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence?
« on: August 12, 2019, 02:29:23 pm »
"Sublimed" is an amazing way to describe physical transcendence of a species lol.

Heh, Iain Banks used that in his novels, figured it was the best word as a catch-all for all these options.

Philosophy & Science / Re: Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence?
« on: August 12, 2019, 01:31:44 pm »
Just wanted to let you know Sci, these threads you've been posting here semi-recently are ridiculously useful for me personally, and are really interesting just in general -- hopefully some day I will have the time to actually engage in some more genuine discourse on the topics!

Good to hear, I assume you mean useful to your writing?

I've recently begun to wonder about "immaterialist" sci-fi...a thread for another time...

Instead of focusing on e.g. finding water or whatever, people should pay more attention to finding anomalies.

That's a good take away - anomalies in general seem like a good thing to try and find to help us understand reality so it's interesting to try and detect life that has "Sublimed".

Philosophy & Science / Re: Would an uploaded mind have value?
« on: August 11, 2019, 01:36:01 am »
Of course. You could create a copy of say, a specialized engineer who's an expert in something, to a lot of different places that can then simultaneously make use of this engineer's knowledge.
Mind uploading is like FTL travel tho if you ask me, it's cool to think about but will never happen.

So each "genre" of upload faces a diminishing value right? Upload enough engineers and you can then write a good AI for novel circumstances?

Thinking about this perhaps it's like machine learning for facial recognition - we have the probability weights and locations on the face to compare, but as humans we don't (at least when I read about it) know why the program said those locations and those weights work so well.

So maybe uploaded structure allows you access to a particular human's memory and cognition but this doesn't given you actual understanding of what algorithms would be useful for writing an engineer AI from scratch?

RPG Discussion / Re: Eclipse Phase 2nd Edition
« on: August 10, 2019, 11:43:01 pm »
I love the idea of a Transhuman RPG but Eclipse Phase has stuff like the following that I just cannot wrap my mind around:

Transhumanity’s grasp of neuroscience extends to scanning and copying a mind, but the most intricate workings of memory are still imperfectly understood. Making precise edits to individual portions of a neural network (to alter recollections, skills, and the like) is still a black art. The difficulty with neural pruning is that taking a weed whacker to the tree of memory isn’t an exact science.

Keep in mind the RPG allows the mind to live in virtual somehow there has to be a way to upload a mind, preserve its memories, but also not fully understand how memory works...

Philosophy & Science / Re: Would an uploaded mind have value?
« on: August 10, 2019, 11:26:40 pm »
Given the malleability of value in general, I think it's fairly reasonable to assume that a successfully digitized or in any way 'uploaded' human mind and its relative value would be a highly polarizing topic of debate, made no easier by the fact that it would be impossible to know just what sort, if any, sentience such a being would possess (unless we are assuming a full-blown, reliably testable theory of consciousness also exists). I only bring up sentience because I think that would end up as the determining factor in such debates, or perhaps 'personhood' is a more likely name for the same basic idea.

Your last point is the most relevant I think, and the trickiest. While I can certainly imagine a scenario such as that, it still leaves open the question of whether the uploaded mind was capable of being enhanced, which seems very likely -- and at that point, is there really much of a difference between it and an artilect?

Ah I have to admit I was thinking of strategic/economic value, not human-rights value.

It just seems to me that for a mind to have value as an asset it would have to be either one of the first minds or there would have to be something about consciousness that allows us to generate it by emulating structure. Basically we'd have to figure out uploading but not memory, cognition, and possibly not the Hard Problem.

Then I could see, for example, a military special operative's uploaded mind having value b/c it's too hard to make a General Intelligence that can emulate that expertise.

addendum: But what makes reverse engineering so difficult?

RPG Discussion / Eclipse Phase 2nd Edition
« on: August 10, 2019, 10:22:39 pm »
It's under CCL, so here's a copy.

But if you want to buy a copy to support the RPG, go to DriveThruRPG.

Philosophy & Science / Would an uploaded mind have value?
« on: August 10, 2019, 09:41:08 pm »
While I don't think it's possible - a discussion for another thread - let's say you could upload a mind in the sense that the mind becomes software - is there a good reason for anyone besides the uploadee to think of such a mind as valuable?

Is it valuable because it's easier to replicate the physical structure of a brain in simulated space rather than trying to create a mind from scratch?

I suppose if it's the structural aspects that ensure successful uploads one might be able to upload minds but have no idea how to create true AI?

Philosophy & Science / Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence?
« on: August 10, 2019, 11:39:49 am »
Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence?

For example, if machines continue to grow exponentially in speed and sophistication, they will one day be able to decode the staggering complexity of the living world, from its atoms and molecules all the way up to entire planetary biomes. Presumably life doesn’t have to be made of atoms and molecules, but could be assembled from any set of building blocks with the requisite complexity. If so, a civilization could then transcribe itself and its entire physical realm into new forms. Indeed, perhaps our universe is one of the new forms into which some other civilization transcribed its world.

These possibilities might seem wholly untestable, because part of the conceit is that sufficiently advanced life will not just be unrecognizable as such, but will blend completely into the fabric of what we’ve thought of as nature. But viewed through the warped bottom of a beer glass, we can pick out a few cosmic phenomena that—at crazy as it sounds—might fit the requirements.

In that case, dark matter could contain real complexity, and perhaps it is where all technologically advanced life ends up or where most life has always been. What better way to escape the nasty vagaries of supernova and gamma-ray bursts than to adopt a form that is immune to electromagnetic radiation? Upload your world to the huge amount of real estate on the dark side and be done with it.

If you’re a civilization that has learned how to encode living systems in different substrates, all you need to do is build a normal-matter-to-dark-matter data-transfer system: a dark-matter 3D printer. Perhaps the mismatch of astronomical models and observations is evidence not just of self-interacting dark matter, but of dark matter that is being artificially manipulated.

Or to take this a step further, perhaps the behavior of normal cosmic matter that we attribute to dark matter is brought on by something else altogether: a living state that manipulates luminous matter for its own purposes. Consider that at present we have neither identified the dark-matter particles nor come up with a compelling alternative to our laws of physics that would account for the behavior of galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Would an explanation in terms of life be any less plausible than a failure of established laws?

 The universe does other funky and unexpected stuff. Notably, it began to expand at an accelerated rate about 5 billion years ago. This acceleration is conventionally chalked up to dark energy. But cosmologists don’t know why the cosmic acceleration began when it did. In fact, one explanation with a modicum of traction is that the timing has to do with life—an anthropic argument. The dark energy didn’t become significant until enough time had gone by for life to take hold on Earth. For many cosmologists, that means our universe must be part of a vast multiverse where the strength of dark energy varies from place to place. We live in one of the places suitable for life like us. Elsewhere, dark energy is stronger and blows the universe apart too quickly for cosmic structures to form and life to take root.

But perhaps there is another reason for the timing coincidence: that dark energy is related to the activities of living things. After all, any very early life in the universe would have already experienced 8 billion years of evolutionary time by the time expansion began to accelerate. It’s a stretch, but maybe there’s something about life itself that affects the cosmos, or maybe those well-evolved denizens decided to tinker with the expansion.

There are even possible motivations for that action...

A species can mitigate risk by spreading, decentralizing, and seeding as much real estate as possible. In this context, hyper-advanced life is going to look for ways to get rid of physical locality and to maximize redundancy and flexibility. The quantum realm offers good options. The cosmos is already packed with electromagnetic energy. Today, at any instant, about 400 photons of cosmic microwave radiation are streaming through any cubic centimeter of free space. They collectively have less energy than ordinary particles such as protons and electrons, but vastly outnumber them. That’s a lot of potential data carriers. Furthermore, we could imagine that these photons are cleverly quantum-mechanically entangled to help with error control.

By storing its essential data in photons, life could give itself a distributed backup system...

Toward the end of Carl Sagan’s 1985 science-fiction novel Contact, the protagonist follows the suggestion of an extraterrestrial to study transcendental numbers. After computing to 1020 places, she finds a clearly artificial message embedded in the digits of this fundamental number. In other words, part of the fabric of the universe is a product of intelligence or is perhaps even life itself.

It’s a great mind-bending twist for a book. Perhaps hyper-advanced life isn’t just external. Perhaps it’s already all around. It is embedded in what we perceive to be physics itself, from the root behavior of particles and fields to the phenomena of complexity and emergence.

In other words, life might not just be in the equations. It might be the equations.

That can be generalized even further. I don't think most people can be convinced on a contrary view to the one they have with direct confrontation. In fact, this is an obvious and known phenomenon. Whole industry are based on this, form cigarettes and phony medication, to advertisements successfully selling you products you dont need or want.

Yeah confrontation is more about the satisfaction of the person haranguing their interlocutors than actually convincing others. To tie this into stats, confrontation based on asymmetries gleaned from social science research has probably reached its limits.

Political solutions should turn on principles tied to moral qualia, and these principles (IMO anyway) work best when they apply to everyone in the same way. Unfortunately this kind of appeal to transcendent principle seems to have fallen to tribal morality where we separate what's good for the goose vs. the gander.

Philosophy & Science / Re: Do you know the mushroom man?
« on: August 09, 2019, 04:35:26 am »
IIRC this guy claimed his mom's cancer was cured by mushrooms. I think he's a scammer.


I have a rant somewhere buried in this forum when I was yelling at ( Wilshire? ) that statistics was the worse for argumentation - I know, this is about science, but I'm not a scientist, so taking you'alls word for it here.

I've been thinking about this - stats oftentimes are only going to be convincing as buttresses for things you already believe otherwise you'll hunt and peck for errors. Whether it's police brutality or workplace bias or psychic powers, people already know the "truth" and as such your study's correctness is measured by that personal gnosis.

Solutions turn on the irrational, qualitative raw feeling or at least to get to what the stats say you have to get past those feelings.

Is holding a pen between your teeth while power posing something very popular on this forum?

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