Saturday, November 12, 2005

Olum's Paradox, Religion and Intelligent Machines

What does a paradox discovered by Ken Olum in his article:
Conflict between anthropic reasoning and observation have to do with religion and artificial intelligence?

Ken Olum argues in his article that intelligent observers should find themselves living in ''galactic'' civilizations that have colonized entire galaxies or even larger regions of space. Such civilizations contain such an enormous number of observers that even if a small fraction of civilizations like ours develop into these galactic civilizations, the typical observer should still expect to find him/herself in galactic civilizations.

Olum's article is a bit vague about how to resolve this problem. It offers no reasonable solutions. Questioning anthropic reasoning is clearly not an attractive option as is explained in the article. Olum argues that a combination of factors could reduce the probability that a planet bound civilization develops into a galactic civilization.

I have always found science fiction movies where humans explore the galaxy very unrealistic. I.m.o. people like Hans Moravec and Hugo de Garis are right to question the assumption that we humans will be in power for much longer. There will come a time when machines can do everything better than humans. I predict that when we make a serious effort to colonize the Moon and Mars, robot technology and artificial intelligence will make quantum leaps and will rival human abilities.

Spending 40 billion dollars to develop a very sophisticated robot with the intelligence of a mouse capable of searching for fossils on Mars is money well spend. That would allow NASA to do a mission with robots instead of humans and save more than hundred billion dollars. So, the space program may give us intelligent machines as a spin-off. These machines will replace us long before we decide to colonize the galaxy. The galaxy will be colonized by robots, if at all.

Even if one thinks of unlikely scenarios where humans in biological form start out to colonize the galaxy, what will stop them from making intelligent machines later on? Once intelligent machines are produced somewhere, they will take over the entire galaxy. To end up with a galaxy colonized entirely by humans, you need to assume that throughout this entire civilization a ban on producing intelligent machines can be maintained. That is, i.m.o., totally unrealistic.

So, I'm of the opinion that biological civilizations transform to machine civilizations around the time they start to colonize space. The reason is that biological creatures simply can't compete with machines in space. This is like a phase transition; a biological galactic civilization is as unlikely as liquid water at 1 K and 1 bar.

One problem with this explanation is that it introduces another problem: Why aren't we machines? I would say that a galactic civilization of machines doesn't need to consist of a huge number of intelligent machines. Intelligent machines will be able to merge with each other, upload themselves via radio to other machines lightyears away etc.

So, the fact that we are neither machines nor part of a galactic civilization is consistent with anthropic reasoning. Perhaps anthropic reasoning can also explain why we aren't very rational beings. Most people still hold on to religious believes that are incompatible with (modern) science. Perhaps there is an anthropic factor that at work here. Scientific progress has been hindered by religion over the centuries. Perhaps civilizations consisting of more rational beings evolve faster than us and transform to machines in less generations than we will do. The total number of individuals that will ever have lived in our backward civilization may be much larger than in rational civilizations.


Blogger Frank said...

This is actually known in the philosophy literature as doomsday argument. Population grows exponentially until a catastrophe eradicating or severly reducing (by orders of magnitude) the population, therefore the majority of people will live close to the catastrophe. Therefore every observer along the exponential grow concludes that it would be extremelyunlikely that by mere chance he/she was born into the small end of the exponential curve, that the probability of being born into the large end is much higher, and that therefore doomsday is around the corner.

Sun Feb 26, 06:31:00 AM PST  
Blogger Count Iblis said...

Certhas, I agree that the Doomsday Argument (DA) is related to this. But there is one important difference. In the DA one argues that the chance of ''Doomsday'' is much larger than usually thought.

This conclusion, however, has been refuted in another of Ken Olum's article, see here. Ironically, it is precesely the fact that you are more likely to be in a large population that makes the DA ineffective.

Tue Feb 28, 04:26:00 PM PST  
Blogger QUASAR9 said...

We are the most sophisticated thing ever created or designed. Fragile & brittle yes, but complex beyond the dream of any machine or metal. Incidentally memory metals? hmm would you like it if someone could turn the heat on and make you bend. Well I guess if someone aims a flame thrower you might duck or dive, but not in any predictable fashion, you might lie down, you might jump to the left or right, or if he catches you on a bad day, walk right up to him take the flame thrower of him & shove it in his ... u know where.

Wed Jun 14, 06:42:00 AM PDT  

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