[extropy-chat] Breaking the laws of physics.

The Avantguardian avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com
Mon May 9 07:36:38 UTC 2005

     It is perfectly rational and extropic to attempt
to break the laws of physics from time to time. First
of all it is because the laws of physics are not the
Laws of Nature. The laws of physics are meme-sets that
arose by the natural selection of empiricism. The Laws
of Nature simply are. They are the way that true
objective nature existed long before sentient minds
evolved to walk this planet. While it is much harder
to argue for an objective morality, I would hope not
to have to argue for the existence of an objective and
very real nature. This existence of nature is argued
for by a fossil record way too expansive to be a
simulation of any type. If you firmly believe you live
in the Matrix then just humor me and let me make my

     Now if you accept that nature simply is then one
comes to understand that our brains built by genes and
our minds built by memes evolved to maximize their
fitness relative to a many dimensional fitness
landscape. In essense both genes and memes seek
maximums on the fitness landscape relative to an
environment that can be "sensed" but not absolutely
known for certain.
     Now it is commonly thought that evolution happens
by mutation, one base pair of DNA at a time. True
enough, for fine tuning of fitness these small steady
changes of genes and memes is beneficial. But the
problem with this is two-fold. First of all, this slow
gradual change does not fit with all the existing
data. In a laboratory one does see small changes in
phenotype, like fruit flies changing the their eye
color and such. 

     But in the fossil record one sees a totally
different story. One sees that a particular phenotype
is stable for extended periods of time, then suddenly
in a very short span of time new phenotypes will
diverge from it and change rapidly. These phenomenon
are called adaptive radiation and punctuated
equilibrium respectively. While the exact mechanisms
of these phenomena are not exactly known, they are
thought to involve such traits as runaway sexual
selection, genetic hypermutation, recombination, and
lateral gene transfer.

     What is important to understand however is, that
regardless of the mechanism involved, these changes
serve the purpose of moving one very far from ones
current location on the fitness landscape. This allows
for one to escape what mathematicians and computer
scientists refer to a local maximum. Now this is a
very risky venture, because one is leaving the safe
realm of ones little ecological niche so it is not
something one should do lightly. But from the point of
a search algorithm trying to find the global maximum
of the fitness lanscape, reality function, or whatever
you want to call it, it has to be done.

     An example of this is the lowly cockroach. Yeah,
cockroaches are enourmously successful life-forms but
I would not want to be one. The cockroach has remained
virtually unchanged for hundreds of million years. It
had found a pretty high point on the fitness landscape
and stayed there. A very long long time ago, our genes
and the cockroaches genes were very much alike. But
the genes that became our ancestors moved out of that
local maximum and found a higher point on the fitness
landscape. So because of those brave genes so willing
to face change and the unknown, there you now sit
reading this and hopefully thinking about it. What
does this have to do with the laws of physics?

     Physics is an abstract model of Nature. It is
built of memes, in the form of equations. Functions
that attempt to capture the multidimensional shape of
reality. They are in the end mere abstract models of
Nature and not Nature itself. The ultimate reality of
Nature is probably not knownable. But thats not
important. What is important is that the laws of
physics should be as close to that reality as they can
be, like a function approaching an asymptote.

      I would say that the laws of physics as they
are, are trapped in a local maximum. That general
relativity and quantum mechanics conflict with one
another in their regions of overlap indicate that
physics is not at a global maximum. Sure we can putter
around and try to figure out the next few decimal
places of plank's constant but that is not going get
us out of this rut.

     Not only is this a problem in a philosophical
sense in that physics should be as close to the truth
as possible, but the laws of physics as they are seem
to doom us to be trapped here on this third rock of
Sol. And the universe is so big and beautiful and
hanging out there just waiting for us. So to all the
crack-pots and lunatics on this list in search of cold
fusion, Casimir turbines, and what not, I say this: Go
forth and be fruitful.


The Avantguardian 
Stuart LaForge
alt email: stuart"AT"ucla.edu

"The surest sign of intelligent life in the universe is that they haven't attempted to contact us." 
-Bill Watterson

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