[ExI] Life simulating life

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Thu Apr 16 10:06:14 UTC 2015

John Clark <johnkclark at gmail.com> , 15/4/2015 7:01 PM:

Here is a very cool short video showing Conway's Game Of Life simulating Conway's Game Of Life: 


It is beautiful. 

At the same time, it is intriguing to see how non-Life the pattern looks. This is nothing that would ever evolve naturally given the normal behaviour of the Life universe. It might be that one could set up an even more amazing synthesis pattern that actually builds these machines (once upon a time the glider gun was the only known constructor, and over time we have learned how to use them and their descendants to build ever more advanced constructors), but that would itself almost certainly be rather non-lifeish. Maybe it is possible to get a "natural" simulator in Life, but it seems very unlikely.

This ties in to a part of a paper I am working on right now, related to a peculiar physics risk. We humans create conditions that likely have never ever occurred before in the universe (unless some aliens beat us to it). For example, there is a good chance Einstein-Bose condensates did not occur until 1995. And while fission chain reactions can happen naturally (the Oklo reactor), fission nuclear explosions likely never happen. Both of these things are allowed by the laws of physics, but it takes intelligent beings to figure out that they could happen and then arrange things so exceedingly odd conditions occur (like optical crystals of laser light with monoatomic gases cooled by laser cooling, or implosion assemblies of enriched isotopes surrounded by high explosives controlled by well-timed signals). Intelligence hence allows the dynamics of the universe to make sudden jumps pretty far outside the envelope of what is normally going on.

The *truly* amazing thing is that we think intelligence itself is part of the *normal* dynamics. Just biological signal processing and adaptation taken far. If we can amplify intelligence and move it outside the envelope, it can likely achieve truly transcendent things. 

Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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