Do You Believe Is True Even Though You Cannot Prove It?"
Scientist, Brandeis University
believe that that systems of self-interested
agents can make progress on their own without
There is an isomorphism between evolution, economics, and education.
In economics, the supervisor is a central government or super rich
investor, in evolution, it is the "intelligent designer",
and in education, its the teacher or outside examiners. In economic
systems, despite an almost religious belief in Laissez-Faire and incentive-based
behavior, economic systems are prone to winner-take-all phenomena and
boom-bust cycles. They seem to require benevolent regulation, or "managed
competition" to prevent the "rich get richer" dynamic
leading to monopoly, which leads inevitably to corruption and kleptocracy.
In evolution, scientists reject the intelligent designer as a creationist
ruse, but so far our working models for open-ended evolution haven't
worked, and prematurely convergence to mediocrity. In education, evidence
of auto-didactic learning in video-games and sports is suppressed in
academics by top-down curriculum frameworks and centralized high-stakes
If we did have a working mechanism design which could achieve continuous
progress by decentralized self-interested agents, it would settle the
creationist objection as well as apply to the other fields, leading
to a new renaissance.
Scientist, Yale University;
Chief Scientist, Mirror Worlds
Technologies; Author, Drawing
believe (I know—but
can't prove!) that scientists
will soon understand the
physiological basis of the "cognitive
spectrum," from the bright
violet of tightly-focused
analytic thought all the
way down to the long, slow
red of low-focus sleep thought—also
known as "dreaming." Once
they understand the spectrum,
they'll know how to treat
insomnia, will understand
analogy-discovery (and therefore
creativity), and the role
of emotion in thought—and
will understand that thought
takes place not only when
you solve a math problem
but when you look out the
window and let your mind
wander. Computer scientists
will finally understand the
missing mystery ingredient
that made all their efforts
to simulate human thought
such naive, static failures,
and turned this once-thriving
research field into a ghost
town. (Their failures were "static" insofar
as people think in different
ways at different times—your
energetic, wide-awake mind
works very differently from
your tired, soon-to-be-sleeping
mind; but artificial intelligence
programs always "thought" in
the same way all the time.)
will understand why we can't force ourselves
to fall asleep or to "be creative"—and
how those two facts are related. They'll understand
why so many people report being most creative
while driving, shaving or doing some other activity
that keeps the mind's foreground occupied and
lets it approach open problems in a "low focus" way.
In short, they'll understand the mind as an integrated dynamic process
that changes over a day and a lifetime, but is
characterized always by one continuous spectrum.
what we know about the cognitive spectrum: every
human being traces out some version of the spectrum
every day. You're most capable of analysis when
you are most awake. As you grow less wide-awake,
your thinking grows more concrete. As you start
to fall asleep, you begin to free associate.
(Cognitive psychologists have known for years
that you begin to dream before you fall
asleep.) We know also that to grow up intellectually
means to trace out the cognitive spectrum in
reverse: infants and children think concretely;
as they grow up, they're increasingly capable
of analysis. (Not incidentally, newborns spend
nearly all their time asleep.)
what we suspect about the cognitive spectrum:
as you move down-spectrum, as your thinking grows
less analytic and more concrete and finally bottoms
on the wholly non-logical, highly concrete type
of thought we call dreaming, emotions function
increasingly as the "glue" of thought. I can't
prove (but I believe) that "emotion coding" explains
the problem of analogy. Scientists and philosophers
have knocked their head against this particular
brick wall for years: how can people say "a brick
wall and a hard problem seem wholly different yet I
can draw an analogy between them?" If we knew
that, we'd understand the essence of creativity.
The answer is: we are able to draw an analogy
between two seemingly unlike things because the
two are associated in our minds with the same
emotion. And that emotion acts as a connecting
bridge between them. Each memory comes with a
characteristic emotion; similar emotions allow
us to connect two otherwise-unlike memories.
An emotion (NB!) isn't the crude, simple thing
we make it out to be in speaking or writing—"happy," "sad," etc.;
an emotion can be the delicate, complex, nuanced,
inexpressible feeling you get on the first warm
day in spring.
here's what we don't know: what's the physiological
mechanism of the cognitive spectrum? What's the
genetic basis? Within a generation, we'll have
Writer; Author, Rational
believe neuroscientists will never have enough
understanding of the neural code, the secret
language of the brain, to read peoples' thoughts
without their consent.
neural code is the software, algorithm, or set
of rules whereby the brain transforms raw sensory
data into perceptions, memories, decisions, meanings.
A complete solution to the neural code could,
in principle, allow scientists to monitor and
manipulate minds with exquisite precision; you
might, for example, probe the mind of a suspected
terrorist for memories of past attacks or plans
for future ones. The problem is, although all
brains operate according to certain general principles,
each person's neural code is to a certain extent
idiosyncratic, shaped by his or her unique life
neural pattern that underpins my concept of "George
Bush" or "Heathrow Airport" or "surface-to-air
missile" differs from yours. The only way
to know how my brain encodes this kind of specific
information would be to monitor its activity—ideally
with thousands or even millions of implanted
electrodes, which can detect the chatter of individual
neurons—while I tell you as precisely as
possible what I am thinking. But data you glean
from studying me will be of no use for interpreting
the signals of any other person. For ill or good,
our minds will always remain hidden to some extent
from Big Brother.
Coauthor, Up From
what I believe but cannot
prove: human beings,
like all animals, have
evolved a range of capacities
for fighting disease
and recovering from injury,
including a variety of
humans beings alone however
have discovered the advantages
of off-loading much of
the responsibility for
managing their sickness
behaviors to other people;
the result is that for
human beings the very
nature of illness has
is now largely a social
is possible because "illness" is
a response. A rise in body temperature, for
example, kills many bacteria and changes the
membrane properties of cells so viruses cannot
replicate. The pain of a broken bone or weak
heart makes sure we let it heal or rest. Nature
supplied our bodies in this way with a first-aid
kit but unfortunately like many medicines their "treatments" are
unpleasant. That unpleasantness, not the dysfunction
which they seek to remedy is what we call "illness".
remedies, however, have costs as well as benefits
making it often difficult for the body to know
whether to deploy them. A fever might fight
an infection but if the body lacks sufficient
energy stores, the fever might kill. The body
therefore must make a decision whether the
gain of clearing the infection merits the risk.
Complicating that decision is that the body
is blind, for example, to whether it faces
a mild or a life-threatening virus. The body
thus deploys its treatments in a precautionary
manner. If only one in ten fevers actually
clears an infection that would kill, it makes
sense to tolerate the cost of the other nine.
Most of the body's capacities for fighting
disease and repairing injury are deployed in
this precautionary way. We feel pain in a broken
limb so we treat it over protectively—in
nine occasions out of ten we could get by with
less protective pain but on the tenth it stops
us causing it further injury. But precautionary
deployment is costly. Evolution therefore has
put the evaluation of such deployment under
the control of the brain in attempt to keep
their use to a minimum.
the brain on its own often lacks the experience
to know our own condition. Fortunately, other
people can, particularly those that have studied
health and illness.
evolution therefore changed illness by offloading
decisions about deployment whenever possible
on to professionals. People that make themselves
experienced in disease and injury, after all,
have the background knowledge to know our bodies
much better than ourselves. Healing professionals—healers,
shamans, witch doctors and medics—exist
in all human cultures. Of course, such professionals
were seen by their patients as offering real
treatments—and a few did help such as
advising rest, eating well and some medicinal
herbs. But most of what they did was ineffective.
Doctors indeed had to wait until 1908 and Paul
Ehrlich's discovery of Salvarsan for treating
syphilis before they had a really effective
treatment for a major disease. Nonetheless
earlier doctors and healers were considered
by themselves and their patients to be in the
possession of very powerful cures.
The answer I believe was that their ineffective
rituals and potions actually worked. Evolution
prepared us to offload control of our abilities
to fight disease and heal injuries to those
that knew more than us. The rituals and quackery
of healers might have not worked but they certainly
made a patient feel they were in the hands
of an expert. That gave a healer great power
over their patient. As noted, many of the body's
own "treatments" are used on a precautionary
basis so they can be stopped without harm.
A healer could do this by applying an impressive "cure" that
persuaded the body that its own "treatments" were
no longer needed. The body would trust its
healer and halt its own efforts and so the "illness".
The patient as a result would feel much better,
if not cured. Human evolution therefore made
doctoring more than just a science and a question
of prescribing the right treatment. It made
it also an art by which a doctor persuades
the patient's body to offload its decision
making onto them.
Mainz; Author, Being
believe, but cannot prove,
that a First Breakthrough
on Consciousness is actually
around the corner. "Actually
around the corner" means:
less than 50 years away.
My intuition is that,
roughly, all we need
for this first breakthrough
are four convincing stories.
first story will be about global integration,
about the dynamical self-organization of long-range
binding operations in the human brain. It will
probably involve something like synchrony in
multiple frequency bands, and will let us understand
how a unified model of the world can emerge
in our own heads.
second story will be about "transparency":
Why is it that we are unable to consciously
experience most of the images our brain generates as images?
The answer to this question will give us a real
world. The transparency-tale has to do
with not being able to see earlier processing
stages and becoming a naive realist.
third story will focus on the Now,
the emergence of a psychological moment—on
a deeper understanding of what William James'
called the "specious present". Experts
on short term memory and neural network modelers
with tell this story for us. As it unfolds,
it will explain the emergence of a subjective
present and let us understand how conscious
experience, in its simplest and most essential
form, is the presence of a world.
today almost everybody in the consciousness
community already agrees on some version of
the fourth story: Consciousness is directly
linked to attentional processing, more precisely,
to a hidden mechanism constantly holding information
available for attention. The subjective presence
of a world is a clever strategy of making integrated
information available for attention.
believe, but cannot prove, that this will allow
us to find the global neural correlate for
consciousness. However, being a philosopher,
I want much more than that—I am also
interested in precise concepts. What I will
be waiting for is the young mathematician who
then comes along and suddenly allows us to
see how all of these four stories were actually
only one: The genius who gives us a formal
model describing the information flow in this
neural correlate, and in just the right way.
She will harvest the fruits of generations
or researchers before her, and this will be
the First Breakthrough on Consciousness.
three things will happen.
The Second Breakthrough on Consciousness
will take much longer. Things will get messy
and complicated. The philosophy and neuroscience
of consciousness will get bogged down in
diabolic details and ugly technical problems.
Public attention will soon shift away from
the problem of consciousness per se.
Instead, new generations of young researchers
will now focus on the nature of self and
The overall development will have an unexpectedly
strong cultural impact. People will not want
to face their own mortality. There will be
fundamentalist and anti-rational counter
movements against the scientific image of
man. At the same time crude new ideologies
propagating vulgar forms of materialism and
primitive forms of hedonism will spring up.
Scientists will realize that one can not
reductively explain the human mind and then
simply look another way, leaving the consequences
for someone else to deal with.
We will be able to influence consciousness
in ways we have never dreamt of. There will
be a new form of technology—Consciousness
Technology—exclusively focusing on
how to manipulate the neural correlate of
consciousness in ever more fine-grained,
efficient, and risk-free ways. People will
realize that we need some sort of applied
ethics for this new type of technology. And
hopefully we will all together start to tell
a new story—a story about
how to live with these brains and about what
a good state of consciousness actually
Director of CyberLab
GmbH (Burda Media Group).
considering this question one has to remember
the basis of the scientific method: formulating
hypotheses that can be disproved. Those hypotheses
that are not disproved are thought to be
true until disproved. Since it is more glamorous
for a scientist to formulate hypotheses that
it is to spend years disproving existing
ones from other scientists and that it is
unlikely that someone will spend enough time
and energy trying to disprove his/her own
statements, our body of scientific knowledge
is surely full of statements we believe to
be true but will eventually be proved to
So I turn the question around: What scientific
ideas that have not been disproved, do you
believe are false.
my field (theoretical economics), I believe
that most ideas taught in economics 101 will
be proved false eventually. Most of them would
already have been officially defined as false
in any other more hard-science, but, because
of lack of better hypotheses they are still
widely accepted and used in economics and general
commentary. Eventually, someone will come up
with another type of hypotheses explaining
(and predicting) the economic reality in a
way that will render most existing economics
Oxford University; Author, The
I believe that all life, all intelligence, all
creativity and all 'design' anywhere in the universe, is the direct
or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection. It follows that
design comes late in the universe, after a period of Darwinian evolution.
Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.
Scientist, MIT Media
What would it be like to be part of a distributed intelligence but
still with an individual consciousness? Well for starters, you might
expect to see the collective mind 'take over' from time to time,
directly guiding the individual minds. In humans, the behavior of
angry mobs and frightened crowds seem to qualify as examples of a
'collective mind' in action, with non-linguistic channels of communication
usurping the individual capacity for rational behavior.
But as powerful as this sort of group compulsion can be, it is usually
regarded as simply a failure of individual rationality, a primitive
behavioral safety net for the tribe in times of great stress. Surely
this tribal mind doesn't operate in normal day-to-day behavior—or
does it? If we imagined that human behavior was in substantial part
due to a collective tribal mind, you would expect that non-linguistic
social signaling—the type that drives mob behavior—would
be predictive of even the most rational and important human interactions.
Analogous with the wiggle dance of the honeybee, there ought to be
non-linguistic signals that accurately predict important behavioral
And that is exactly what I find. Together with my research group
I have built a computer system that objectively measures a set of
non-linguistic social signals, such as engagement, mirroring, activity,
and stress, by looking at 'tone of voice' over one minute time periods.
Although people are largely unconscious of this type of behavior,
other researchers (Jaffe, Chartrand and Bargh, France, Kagen) have
shown that similar measurements are predictive of infant language
development, judgments of empathy, depression, and even personality
development in children. Working with colleagues, we have found that
we can use these measurements of social signaling to automatically
predict a wide range of important behavioral outcomes—objective,
instrumental, and subjective—with high accuracy, accounting
for between 30% and 80% of the total outcome variance.
Examples of objective and instrumental behaviors where we can accurately
predict the outcome include salary negotiations, dating decisions,
and role in the social network. Examples of subjective predictions
include hiring preferences, empathy perceptions, and interest ratings.
Even for lengthy interactions, accurate predictions can be made by
observing only the initial few minutes of interaction, even though
the linguistic content of these 'thin slices' of the behavior seem
to have little predictive power.
I find all of this astounding. We are examining some of the most
important interactions a human has: finding a mate, getting a job,
negotiating a salary, finding your place in your social network.
These are activities for which we prepare intellectually and strategically
for decades. And yet the largely unconscious social signaling that
occurs at the start of the interaction appears to be more predictive
than either the contextual facts (is he attractive? is she experienced?)
or the linguistic structure (e.g., strategy chosen, arguments employed,
So what is going on here? One might speculate that the social signaling
we are measuring evolved as a method of establishing tribal hierarchy
and cohesion, analogous to Dunbar's view that language evolved as
grooming behavior. On this view the tribal mind would function as
unconscious collective discussion about relationships and resources,
risks and rewards, and would interact with the conscious individual
minds by filtering ideas by their value relative to the tribe. Our
measurements tap into the discussion, and predict outcome by use
of social regularities. For instance, in a salary negotiation it
is important for the lower-status individual to establish that they
are 'team player' by being empathetic, while in a potential dating
situation the key variable is the female's level of interest. In
our data there seem to be patterns of signaling that reliably lead
to these desired states.
One question to ask about this social signaling is whether or not
it is an independent channel of communication, e.g., is it causal
or do the signals arise from the linguistic structure? We don't have
the full answer to that yet, but we do know that similar measurements
predict infant language and personality development, that adults
can change their signaling by adopting different roles or identities
within a conversation, and in our studies the linguistic and factual
content seems uncorrelated with the pattern or intensity of social
signaling. So even if social signaling turns out to be only an adjunct
to normal linguistic structure, it is a very interesting addition:
it is a little like having speech annotated with speaker intent!
So here is what I suspect but can not prove: a very large proportion
of our behavior is determined by largely unconscious social signaling,
which sets the context, risk, and reward structure within which traditional
cognitive processes proceed. This conjecture resonates with Pinker's
view about brain complexity, and with Kosslyn's thoughts about social
prosthetic systems. It is also provides a concrete mechanism for
the well-known processes of group polarization ('the risky shift'),
groupthink, and the sometimes irrational behaviors of larger groups.
In short, it may be useful to starting thinking of humans as having
a collective, tribal mind in addition to their personal mind.
career has been guided
by just the sort
of unproven guess
this year's question
My belief is that the potential for expanded communication between
people far exceeds the potential both of language as we think of
it (the stuff we say, read and write) and of all the other communication
forms we already use.
Suppose for a moment that children in the future will grow up with
an easy and intimate virtual reality technology and that their
use of it will become focused on invention and design instead of
the consumption of pre-created holo-video games, surround movies,
or other content.
Maybe these future children will play virtual musical instrument-like
things that cause simulated trees and spiders and seasons and odors
and ecologies to spring up just as manipulating a pencil causes
words to appear on a page. If people grew up with a virtuosic ability
to improvise the contents of a shared virtual world, a new sort
of communication might also appear.
It's barely possible to imagine what a "reality conversation" would
be like. Each person would be changing the shared world at the
speed of language, all at once, an image that suggests chaos, but
often there would be a coherence, which would indicate meaning.
A kid becomes a monster, eats his little brother, who becomes a
vitriolic turd, and so on.
This is what I've called "Post-symbolic communication," though
really it won't exist in isolation of or in opposition to symbolic
communication techniques. It will be something different, however,
and will expand what people can mean to each other.
Post-symbolic communication will be like a shared, waking state,
intentional dream. Instead of the word "house", you will
express a particular house and be able to walk into it, and instead
of the category "house" you will peer into an apparently
small bucket that is big enough inside to hold all the universe's
houses so you can assess what they have in common directly. It
will be a fluid form of experiential concreteness providing similar
but divergent expressive power to that of abstraction.
Why care? The acquisition of post-symbolic communication will be
a centuries-long adventure, an expansion of meaning, something
beautiful, and a way to seek cool, advanced technology that focuses
on connection instead of mere power. It will be a form of beauty
which also enhances survivability; Since the drive for "cool
tech" is unstoppable, the invention of provocative cool tech
that is lovely enough to seduce the attention of young smart men
away from arms races is a prerequisite to the survival of the species.
Some of the examples above (houses, spiders) are of people improvising
the external environment, but post-symbolic communication might
typically look a lot more like people morphing themselves into
varied forms. Experiments have already been conducted with kids
wearing special body suits and goggles "turning into" triangles
to learn trigonometry, or molecules to learn chemistry.
It's not only the narcissism of the young (and not so young) human
mind or the primality of the control of one's own body that makes
self-transformation compelling. Evolution, as generous as she ended
up being with us humans, was stingy with potential means of expression.
Compare us with the mimic octopus which can morph into all sorts
of creatures and objects, and can animate its skin. An advanced
civilization of cephalopods might develop words as we know them,
but probably only as an adjunct to a natural form of post-symbolic
We humans can control precious little of the world with enough
agility to keep up with our thoughts and feelings. The fingers
and the tongue are the about it. Symbols as we know them in language
are a trick, or what programmers call a "hack," that
expands the power of little appendage wiggles to refer to all that
we can't instantly become or create. Another belief: The tongue
that can speak could also someday control fantastic forms beyond
our current imaginings. (Some early experiments along these lines
have been done, using ultrasound sensing through the cheek. and
the results are at least not terrible.)
While we're confessing unprovable beliefs, here's another one:
The study of the genetic components of pecking order behavior,
group belief cues, and clan identification leading to inter-clan
hostility will be the core of psychology and sociology for the
next few generations, and it will turn out we can't turn off or
control these elements of human character without losing other
qualities we love, like creativity. If this dark guess is correct,
then the means to survival is to create societies with a huge variety
of paths to success and a multitude of overlapping, intertwined
clans and pecking orders, so that everyone can be a winner from
equally valid individual perspectives. When the American experiment
has worked best, it has approximated this level of variety. The
virtual worlds of post-symbolic communication can provide the highest
level of variety to satisfy the dangerous psychic inheritance I'm
guessing we suffer as a species.
Implicit in the futures I am imagining here is a solution to the
software crisis. If children are breathing out fully realized creatures
and skies just as they form sentences today, there must be software
present which isn't crashing and is marvelously flexible and responsive,
yet free of limiting pre-conceptions, which would revive symbolism.
Can such software exist? Ah! Another belief! My guess is it can
exist, but not anytime soon. The only two good examples of software
we have at this time are evolution and the brain, and they both
are quite good, so why not be encouraged?
The beliefs I chose for this response are not fundamentally untestable.
They might be tested someday, perhaps in a few centuries. It's
not impossible that medical progress could keep me alive long enough
to participate in testing them, so strictly speaking I can't guarantee
that I can't ever prove these beliefs to be true.
There are not too many potential beliefs that could really never
be tested by anyone ever.
Consciousness, meaning, truth, and free will and their endless
permutations just about complete the list. The reason philosophy
is so much harder to talk about than science is that there's so
little to talk about. It quickly becomes almost impossible to distinguish
repetition from resonance.
Proposals like post-symbolic communication, however, frame questions
about meaning that are small enough to be fresh and useful. Am
I right that there can be meaning outside of words, or are the
word-as-center-of-meaning folks correct?
Cambridge University; Author, The
That our universe is infinite in size, finite in age, and just one
among many. Not only can I not prove it but I believe that these
statements will prove to be unprovable in principle and we will
eventually hold that principle to be self-evident.
and Technologist; Author, The
Age of Spiritual Machines
will find ways to circumvent the speed of light
as a limit on the communication of information.
We are expanding our computers and communication systems both inwardly
and outwardly. Our chips use every smaller feature sizes, while at
the same time we deploy greater amounts of matter and energy for
computation and communication (for example, we're making a larger
number of chips each year). In one to two decades, we will progress
from two-dimensional chips to three-dimensional self-organizing circuits
built out of molecules. Ultimately, we will approach the limits of
matter and energy to support computation and communication.
As we approach an asymptote in our ability to expand inwardly (that
is, using finer features), computation will continue to expand outwardly,
using readily available materials on Earth such as carbon. But we
will eventually reach the limits of the resources available on our
planet, and will expand outwardly to the rest of the solar system
So how quickly will we be able to do this? We could send tiny self-replicating
robots at close to the speed of light along with electromagnetic
transmissions containing the needed software. These nanobots could
then colonize far-away planets.
At this point, we run up against a seemingly intractable limit: the
speed of light. Although a billion feet per second may seem fast,
the Universe is spread out over such vast distances that this appears
to represent a fundamental limit on how quickly an advanced civilization
(such as we hope to become) can spread its influence.
There are suggestions, however, that this limit is not as immutable
as it may appear. Physicists Steve Lamoreaux and Justin Torgerson
of the Los Alamos National Laboratory have analyzed data from an
old natural nuclear reactor that two billion years ago produced a
fission reaction lasting several hundred thousand years in what is
now West Africa. Analyzing radioactive isotopes left over from the
reactor and comparing them to isotopes from similar nuclear reactions
today, they determined that the physics constant "alpha" (also called
the fine structure constant), which determines the strength of the
electromagnetic force apparently has changed since two billion years
ago. The speed of light is inversely proportional to alpha, and both
have been considered unchangeable constants. Alpha appears to have
decreased by 4.5 parts out of 108. If confirmed, this would imply
that the speed of light has increased. There are other studies with
similar suggestions, and there is a table top experiment now under
way at Cambridge University to test the ability to engineer a small
change in the speed of light.
Of course, these results will need to be carefully verified. If true,
it may hold great importance for the future of our civilization.
If the speed of light has increased, it has presumably done so not
just because of the passage of time, but because certain conditions
have changed. This is the type of scientific insight that technologists
can exploit. It is the nature of engineering to take a natural, often
subtle, scientific effect, and control it with a view towards greatly
leveraging and magnifying it. If the speed of light has changed due
to changing circumstances, that cracks open the door just enough
for the capabilities of our future intelligence and technology to
swing the door widely open. That is the nature of engineering. As
one of many examples, consider how we have focused and amplified
the subtle properties of Bernoulli's principle (that air rushing
over a curved surface has a slightly lower air pressure than over
a flat surface) to create the whole world of aviation.
If it turns out that we are unable to actually change the speed of
light, we may nonetheless circumvent it by using wormholes (which
can be thought of as folds of the universe in dimensions beyond the
three visible ones) as short cuts to far away places.
In 1935, Einstein and physicist Nathan Rosen described "Einstein-Rosen" bridges
as a way of describing electrons and other particles in terms of
tiny space-time tunnels. In 1955, physicist John Wheeler described
these tunnels as "wormholes," introducing the term for the first
time. His analysis of wormholes showed them to be fully consistent
with the theory of general relativity, which describes space as essentially
curved in another dimension.
In 1988, California Institute of Technology physicists Michael Morris,
Kip Thorne, and Uri Yertsever described in some detail how such wormholes
could be engineered. Based on quantum fluctuation, so-called "empty" space
is continually generating tiny wormholes the size of subatomic particles.
By adding energy and following other requirements of both quantum
physics and general relativity (two fields that have been notoriously
difficult to integrate), these wormholes could in theory be expanded
in size to allow objects larger than subatomic particles to travel
through them. Sending humans would not be impossible, but extremely
difficult. However, as I pointed out above, we really only need to
send nanobots plus information, which could go through wormholes
measured in microns rather than meters. Anders Sandberg estimates
that a one-nanometer wormhole could transmit a formidable 10^69 bits
Thorne and his Ph.D. students, Morris and Yertsever, also describe
a method consistent with general relativity and quantum mechanics
that could establish wormholes between Earth and far-away locations
quickly even if the destination were many light-years away.
Physicist David Hochberg and Vanderbilt University's Thomas Kephart
point out that shortly after the Big Bang, gravity was strong enough
to have provided the energy required to spontaneously create massive
numbers of self-stabilizing wormholes. A significant portion of these
wormholes are likely to still be around, and may be pervasive, providing
a vast network of corridors that reach far and wide throughout the
Universe. It might be easier to discover and use these natural wormholes
than to create new ones.
Would anyone be shocked if some subtle ways of getting around the
speed of light were discovered? The point is that if there are even
subtle ways around this limit, the technological powers that our
future human-machine civilization will achieve will discover these
means and leverage them to great effect.
Santa Fe Institute; Author, Investigations
there a fourth law of thermodynamics, or some
cousin of it, concerning self constructing non
equilibrium systems such as biospheres anywhere
in the cosmos?
like to think there may be such a law.
this, the number of possible proteins 200 amino
acids long is 20 raised to the 200th power or
about 10 raised to the 260th power. Now, the
number of particles in the known universe is
about 10 to the 80th power. Suppose, on a microsecond
time scale the universe were doing nothing other
than producing proteins length 200. It turns
out that it would take vastly many repeats of
the history of the universe to create all possible
proteins length 200. This means that, for entities
of complexity above atoms, such as modestly complex
organic molecules, proteins, let alone species,
automobiles and operas, the universe is on a
unique trajectory (ignoring quantum mechanics
for the moment). That is, the universe at modest
levels of complexity and above is vastly non-ergodic.
conceive of the "adjacent possible",
the set of entities that are one "step" away
from what exists now. For chemical reaction systems,
the adjacent possible from a set of compounds
already existing (called the "actual" )
is just the set of novel compounds that can be
produced by single chemical reactions among the
initial "actual" set. Now, the biosphere
has expanded into its molecular adjacent possible
since 4.8 billion years ago.
life, there were perhaps a few hundred organic
molecule species on the earth. Now there are
perhaps a trillion or more. We have no law governing
this expansion into the adjacent possible in
this non-ergodic process. My hoped for law is
that biospheres everywhere in the universe expand
in such a way that they do so as fast as is possible
while maintaining the rough diversity of what
already exists. Otherwise stated, the diversity
of things that can happen next increases on average
as fast as it can.