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AI made of light "possibly science" or "pure fiction"?

  1. May 3, 2016 #1


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    At the end of the movie about a robot boy who sleeps a long time under water ("AI"? by Spielberg?), sentient beings seemingly made of light appear. That's what I remember anyway. Is that within the possibilities of known science? Can light particles behave as organized matter in and of themselves? What level of scientific possibility would you grant the idea, according to Prof. Kaku's possibility classes?
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  3. May 3, 2016 #2
    After a quick image search I would not guess they are made of light.

    This should not affect your question much. I've wondered much the same myself. Can I tie an electromagnetic knot that would not simply unravel itself? I would guess not, because light has a tendency to not hold still.

    Unfortunately, this is well outside my area of expertise. I look forward to the answers of others.
  4. Jan 19, 2017 #3
    "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence." Yeah, definitely one of the weirder endings in a movie.

    Insofar as the question goes, I don't think so, at least not with our current understanding. Individual photons can't carry much information on their own, and don't tend toward self-organization. Nuclear particles have a mutual attraction, but photons don't seem to. Without a natural tendency toward greater complexity, it seems unlikely that photons could be used to synthesize a complex system unless they're being directed and affected by some controlling system or force.

    However, if you're using photons merely as an end-result product - such as free-form holography - that is being controlled by another system, then it comes back toward plausibility.
  5. Jan 25, 2017 #4
    There are some big issues with being a creature made entirely of light - first of all to me is that "creatures of light" are generally shown to be glowing. Something that glows is emitting photons. As a creature made entirely of light that means you are, literally, leaky. How would you stop from simply fading away as the photons that make up your very existence depart you?

    Second, how is the light that makes up your form being restricted to making up your form? Photons travel at the speed of light. They don't generally choose paths that would outline a closed form. To be purely made of light would mean that you are specifically NOT made of anything that could reflect or refract the light, nor be made of anything particularly cold or dense. That leaves the possibility of gravity - maybe you can manipulate gravity? That would make your outside "shell" an event horizon (the point at which light can no longer escape your form). Even assuming you can somehow warp space inside you to keep the light in, that reopens the first problem - we can't see you because you can't leak light, and you can't reflect light because light coming in would cross the event horizon.

    How does such a creature perform work? You must expend energy - nothing is free. But we humans are made of matter, which can be thought of as super-super-super dense energy. We think nothing of picking up a hammer. But a creature made of nothing but photons would be ridiculously energy-poor. Even given our miserable conversion rate, humans have exponentially more energy to expend and can pick up hammers, turn pages in books, push buttons, and consume and digest more matter. A creature made purely of light might die of exhaustion while screwing in a light bulb.

    Finally, here's the brutal truth - matter has a variety of particles that can combine to form other particles with different properties. Those can combine to form atoms with different properties. Those can combine to form molecules with different properties. Those can combine to form materials that have yet other properties. A creature of pure light is limited to photons. Photons don't combine to form other unique particles. There are no photonic atoms or molecules or materials. There isn't anything to build up complexity from.

    Pure light creatures are not viable. At least, not as anything we'd define as "creature" or "viable".
  6. Jan 25, 2017 #5


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    An AI using light in matter is certainly possible (and optical computing is a very active research topic), but with light alone you cannot create anything useful. Light-by-light interactions exist, but they are way too weak to be useful, and they cannot contain light inside some volume.
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