Apr 3, 2010

Natural selection of universes and risks for the parent civilization

Posted by in category: existential risks

Lee Smolin is said to believe (according to personal communication from Danila Medvedev who was told about it by John Smart. I tried to reach Smolin for comments, but failed) that global catastrophe is impossible, based on the following reasoning: the multiverse is dominated by those universes that are able to replicate. This Self-replication occurs in black holes, and in especially in those black holes, which are created civilizations. Thus, the parameters of the universe are selected so that civilization cannot self-destruct before they create black holes. As a result, all physical processes, in which civilization may self-destruct, are closed or highly unlikely. Early version of Smolin’s argument is here: but this early version was refuted in 2004, and so he (probably) added existence of civilization as another condition for cosmic natural selection. Anyway, even if it is not Smolin’s real line of thoughts, it is quite possible line of thoughts.

I think this argument is not persuasive, since the selection can operate both in the direction of universes with more viable civilizations, and in the direction of universes with a larger number of civilizations, just as biological evolution works to more robust offspring in some species (mammals) and in the larger number of offspring with lower viability (plants, for example, dandelion). Since some parameters for the development of civilizations is extremely difficult to adjust by the basic laws of nature (for example, the chances of nuclear war or a hostile AI), but it is easy to adjust the number of emerging civilizations, it seems to me that the universes, if they replicated with the help of civilizations, will use the strategy of dandelions, but not the strategy of mammals. So it will create many unstable civilization and we are most likely one of them (self indication assumption also help us to think so – see recent post of Katja Grace

But still some pressure can exist for the preservation of civilization. Namely, if an atomic bomb would be as easy to create as a dynamite – much easier then on Earth (which depends on the quantity of uranium and its chemical and nuclear properties, ie, is determined by the original basic laws of the universe), then the chances of the average survival of civilization would be lower. If Smolin’s hypothesis is correct, then we should encounter insurmountable difficulties in creating nano-robots, microelectronics, needed for strong AI, harmful experiments on accelerators with strangelet (except those that lead to the creation of black holes and new universes), and in several other potentially dangerous technology trends that depend on their success from the basic properties of the universe, which may manifest itself in the peculiarities of its chemistry.

In addition, the evolution of universes by Smolin leads to the fact that civilization should create a black hole as early as possible in the course of its history, leading to replication of universes, because the later it happens, the greater the chances that the civilization will self-destruct before it can create black holes. In addition, the civilization is not required to survive after the moment of “replication” (though survival may be useful for the replication, if civilization creates a lot of black holes during its long existence.) From these two points, it follows that we may underestimate the risks from Hadron Collider in the creation of black holes.

I would repeat: early creation of a black hole suggested by Smolin and destroying the parent civilization, is very consistent with the situation with the Hadron Collider. Collider is a very early opportunity for us to create a black hole, as compared with another opportunity — to become a super-civilization and learn how to connect stars, so that they collapse into black holes. It will take millions of years and the chances to live up to this stage is much smaller. Also collider created black holes may be special, which is requirement for civilization driven replication of universes. However, the creation of black holes in collider with a high probability means the death of our civilization (but not necessarily: black hole could grow extremely slowly in the bowels of the Earth, for example, millions of years, and we have time to leave the Earth, and it depends on the unknown physical conditions.) In doing so, black hole must have some feature that distinguishes it from other holes that arise in our universe, for example, a powerful magnetic field (which exist in collider) or a unique initial mass (also exist in LHC: they will collide ions of gold).

So Smolin’s logic is sound but not proving that our civilization is safe, but in fact proving quiet opposite: that the chances of extinction in near future is high. We are not obliged to participate in the replication of universes suggested by Smolin, if it ever happens, especially if it is tantamount to the death of the parent civilization. If we continue our lives without black holes, it does not change the total number of universes have arisen, as it is infinite.


Comments — comments are now closed.

  • jared daniel on April 6, 2010 6:47 pm

    Is the multiverse concept a hypothesis that makes predictions that could be falsified by any experimental observations?

  • Alexei Turchin on April 7, 2010 3:05 am

    In this case Smolin meen not a quantum multiverse but buble universes that appears by the means of cosmic inflation.

    And in this case it have observable predictions — that it would bу easy to create dagerouse black holes, and difficuolt to create dangerouse nukes, for example.