The Generative Universe Hypothesis

Remembering Lee Smolin’s theory of the dynamical evolution of the universe  where through a form of natural selection, black holes spawn new universes, I thought that if a superintelligent civilization understood its mechanics, they may try to control it, and engineer or bias the physics in the spawned universe – and possibly migrate to this new universe.   Say that they found out how to talk along the parent/child relations between universes, it may be a an energy efficient way achieve some of the outcomes of simulations (as described in Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Hypothesis).

The idea of moving to a more hospitable universe could be such a strong attractor to post-singularity civs that, once discovered, it may be the an obvious choice for a variety of reasons.   A) Better computation by faster/easier networking – Say for instance, that the speed of light were a lot faster, and information could travel over longer distances than in this universe – then network speed may not be as much of a hindrance to developing larger civs, distributed computation, and mega-scale galactic brains. B) As a means of escape – If it so happened that neighbouring alien civs were close enough to pose a threat, then escaping this universe to a new generated universe could be ideal – especially if one could close the door behind, or lay a trap at the opening to the generated universe to capture probes or ships that weren’t ones own.  C) Mere curiosity – it may not be full blown utility maximization that is the lone object of the endeavor,  it could be just simple curiosity about how (stable) universes may operate if fine tuned differently. (How far can you take simulations in this universe to test how hypothetical universes could operate without actually generating and testing the universes?)  D) To escape the ultimate fate of this universe – according to the most popular current estimates, we have about 10100 years until the heat death of this universe. E) Better computation by a ‘cooler’ environment – A colder yet stable universe to compute in – similar to the previous point and the first point.  Some hypothesise that civs may sleep until the universe gets colder when computation can be done far more efficiently, where these civs long for the heat death so that they can get really get started with whatever projects they have in mind that require the computing power only made possible by extremely low temperatures more abundantly available at or near the heat death.  Well, what if you could engineer a universe to achieve temperatures far lower than that which would be available in this universe, while also allowing the benefit of the universe being relatively steady (say that’s something that’s needed) – and if it could be achieved sooner by a generative universe solution than waiting around for this universes heat death then why not?  F) Fault tolerance – distributing a civ across (generated) universes may preserve the civ against risks of the current one going unexpectedly pear shaped – the more fault tolerance the merrier G) Load balancing – if it’s posisble to communicate between parent/child relationships, then civs may generate universes merely to act as containers for computation, helping solve really really really big problems far faster, or scaffold extremely detailed virtual realities far more efficiently – less lag, less jitters – deeper immersion! 

If this Perhaps we will find evidence of alien civs around black holes generating and testing new universes before taking the leap to transcend so to speak.

Why leave the future evolution of universes up to blind natural selection?  Advanced post-singularity alien civs might hypothesize an extremely strict set of criteria to allow for the formation of the right kinds of matter and energy in child universes to either mirror our own universe, or more likely take it up a notch or two;  to new levels of interestingness – while computational capacity is limited if constrained by the laws of this containing universe, it may be that spawning a new universe could allow for more interesting and efficient computation.

It may also be a great way to escape the heat death of the universe 🙂

I spoke about the idea with Andrew Arnel a while ago while out for a drink, where I came up with a really cool name for this idea – though I can’t remember what it was 🙂  perhaps it only sounds good after a few beers – perhaps it was something like the ‘generative’, spawnulation or ‘genulation’ hypothesis…


Update: also more recently I commented about this idea on a FB post by Mike Johnson:
I may have a similar idea relating to smolins darwinistic black-hole universe generation. Why build simulations where it would be more efficient to actually generate new universes not computationally bounded by or contained by the originating universe – by nudging the physics that would emerge in the new universe to be more able to support flourishing life, more computation and wider novelty possibility spaces.

Furthermore I spoke to Sundance Bilson Thomson (a physicist in Australia who was supervised by Lee Smolin) about whether what influenced the physics in the child universes was local phenomena surrounding the black hole in the parent universe, or global phenomena of the parent universe.  He said it was global phenomena based on something to do with the way stars are formed.  So this might lower my credence in the Generative Universe hypothesis as it pertains to Lee Smolin’s idea – though I need to seek out whether the nature of the generated child universes could still be nudged or engineered.

Why don’t we see more larger brained species in our ecosystem?

Species with larger brains seem to have a higher general intelligence. So why haven’t all species evolved larger brains? Possibly because general intelligence relies on a capability for social learning, so larger brains are only useful for species that rely more on social learning. – Kaj Sotala

Larger brains cost require more fuel, larger brains require larger heads, larger heads are harder to scaffold, scaffolding costs nutrients, there are so many trade-offs… scaffolding+big brains are often a the expense of other important morphologies … locomotion abilities, large craniums at the expense of stronger and bigger mouths, and in many species larger heads correlate with more complications during birth.

Perhaps I should add – (and this seems similar to some AI singleton scenarios) – larger brains (as mentioned, correlates with greater intelligence), could give distinct first mover advantages when coupled with other morphologies that enable the organism to generally & efficiently manipulate its environment (opposable thumbs etc). The first mover advantage may be so powerful as to diminish dependencies on environmental factors – or the rest of the ecological web. We, as arguably the most intelligent species on the planet, seem to be moving through an era where we as a species decreasingly depend on aspects of the ecosystem or aspects of our evolutionary endowed morphology – we synthesize better alternatives – and its happening so fast that evolution by natural selection can’t keep up – it’s production of ‘new better models’ of organisms is crowded out by the rapid progress of civilization. So perhaps one reason we don’t see more larger brained species, is for anthropic reasons – ruffly that the higher the occurrence of large brained morphologies, the higher the likelihood of one single species taking the first mover advantages related to high intelligence – and as a result quickly becoming technologically advanced enough for either subduing and manipulating the ecosystem – which may crowd out (and essentially retard) the power of evolution by natural selection to evolve larger brains in other species. The species may go on to inadvertently destroy the ecosystem, intentionally phase out the current ecosystem (involving blind natural selection) perhaps for ethical or instrumental reasons, or leave the ecosystem and natural selection to its own devices and go interstellar – in which case there would be at least one less large brained species in the ecosystem, and perhaps re-opening a niche for another species to fill.

This was inspired by Kaj Sotala’s query about why we don’t see more larger brained species than we currently do.