23 November 2011

What the universe wants.

I've been inspired by reading Kevin Kelly's book, What Technology Wants:

Why is our universe so friendly to life? All physical constants allow it, some are even finely tuned to decimal points away from excluding it.

The Strong Anthropic Principal was advanced to address the problem. According to this hypothesis, the universe is built the way it is because life is somehow necessary.

My favorite twist on the S. A. P. is that one universe can create other universes and the resulting descendants may vary enough in conditions that evolution can operate. Somewhere along the line life either inserted itself virus-like into the process or arose naturally in the more fruitful creations.

Now, in the same way we can speak of an organism wanting something, say food or sex, we can talk about the universe wanting something. We can even venture into what a universe should want.

Clearly, if the S. A. P. is true, our universe was made to want atoms and stars and life. It looks like it also wanted the water molecule, and DNA. I think an argument can be made that it also wants us, sentient life, to have wants and desires.

To paraphrase Steven Weinberg, the universe is perhaps more beautiful than strictly necessary. I think this means two things.

First, the universe is built to be admirable. Second, life is built to admire the universe. Both may be necessary to help the universe reproduce.

Humans obviously have an aesthetic nature. The universe may require this. We love art and regularity. Physicists often say beautiful theories are more likely to be true.

Art appreciation may be a general feature of sentient life. Birds enjoy a good song and a well made nest. Dogs and elephants show taste in music and even paintings.

Without a sense of beauty we may never have contemplated the universe or developed science. Without science we could never develop strong technological skill. Technology may be one essential trait in advanced universe reproduction.

This universe building business would be much easier if we had an operating manual. Perhaps we will write it and encode it into the next iteration. Maybe it's lying around somewhere waiting for us to find it (Carl Sagan suggested we could look far, far to the right of the decimal point of pi).

If the S. A. P. is true, the evolution of universes is a slow affair, billions of years between generations. The process is hindered by it's asexual nature. Each universe is isolated, incommunicado from any neighbor. However, we can look to the future, when our (or some further universe's inhabitant's) science is advanced to the point where we can open a window to another realm, another cosmos.

On that day, the multiverse will discover sex.