Re: TECH: Fractal Tardis Brains
Sat, 12 Jun 1999 14:06:33 -0700

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky, <>, writes:
> wrote:
> > This is far from clear. You can argue that as our scientific knowledge
> > has increased, we have found more limits, rather than fewer. Who would
> > have suspected a speed of light limitation prior to this century?
> > Who would have suspected the uncertainty principle prior to this century?
> I entirely disagree. These things aren't limits. Laws, maybe, but not
> limits. This century's history has been the history of people realizing
> that so-called "limits" had been obviously bankrupt from the beginning.
> 100 years CRNS (current-rate no-Singularity) from now, everyone will be
> laughing at us for believing in the lightspeed limit when there was
> General Relativity, wormholes, Warp-Tardis Drive...

I am confused here whether you consider lightspeed to be a limit or a law. Is it something that we will transcend, or a law which we will use as a tool?

> As for the uncertainty principle, despite the name, it isn't a limit on
> knowledge. Not at all. It describes a very specific process known as
> state-vector reduction which randomizes certain quantities at a certain
> point in time. This process, in turn, has all kinds of interesting
> potential - including an apparent FTL propagation, come to think of it.
> Calling it a "limit" is abusing the term, if you ask me. I say it's a tool.

I can see that such things as quantum uncertainty, or conservation of energy, or the law of gravity can be seen either as limits that constrain what we do, or as tools that we can exploit to accomplish our aims. It is a bit harder to see how FTL limitations can be used as a tool, but perhaps once we are able to bump up against them things will look different. Black hole engineering, for example, is intimately intertwined with the FTL limits and may be an important tool someday.

> > Everyone seems to be ignoring Anders' post of a proof that wormholes can't
> > exist. The current state of play is that there ain't no such animals.
> > You can't use the discovery of the wormhole concept as evidence for
> > breaking through limitations, if wormholes are impossible.
> What, the circular temporal loop of virtual particles? That's only if
> you have a closed timelike line, isn't it? My understanding is that you
> *can* build those with wormholes but you don't *have* to. Besides, I
> don't think the Tardis drive used wormholes.

Well, I wasn't able to understand the paper very well, but it appeared that the objection was different from the closed timelike path. Based on some very general assumptions, any non-simple topology gets surrounded with an event horizon.

> > All the universe guarantees us is that life and intelligence is possible.
> > That must be true or we would not be here. There are no guarantees
> > beyond that. The universe may be friendly or unfriendly, malleable or
> > difficult to manipulate. We only know what we have learned, and there
> > is no basis for guessing that future discoveries will fall into one
> > category or the other.
> Actually, my position that all laws are malleable isn't based on an
> Extropian morality; it's based on my ontological belief that "laws" are
> actually "stuff". Anything real can be modified; if laws are real, they
> can be modified. A rigid, Turing-like distinction between "program" and
> "content", or "rules" and "cells", starts getting you into the same
> paradoxes that made me a noncomputationalist in the first place.

This is an interesting speculation, but it is not really a philosophically defensible derivation IMO. You need to analyze the meaning of "real" very carefully. I suspect that when you do, you find that when you say "anything real can be modified" you mean one thing, and when you say that "laws are real" you mean something else by "real".

When you say that you are a noncomputationalist, do you mean that it will be impossible to construct a working AI which is conscious? Or do you mean that computational worlds holding intelligent entities may exist, but that our own particular world is not computational, because of certain specific characteristics that may not be shared with other worlds?