Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The Strong Androidic Principle

  1. Sep 30, 2009 #1


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    My robot friends tell me that the Universe is looking very good for robots. Most places, they say, are rocky iceballs. The rock is good to mine for aluminum, silicon, titanium and ferrous minerals used in making robots, thus enabling their population to grow. As robots they are of course very happy in vacuum.

    In fact the cold (below freezing in most places) is thermodynamically beneficial since it makes cooling their power plants simple and contributes to everybody's efficiency. They find the Universe's cold dry vacuum both healthful and invigorating.

    My friends believe that the Universe is, in fact, highly favorable to robotic life, and one of the mysteries which they are investigating is how it could possibly be so well adjusted for them to thrive and enjoy their existence.

    They consider themselves Androids---a word which in their language means "The People" and they do in fact resemble humans in many ways. They like to tell humorous riddles and exchange music videos. They surf the web, just as we do, and even make up insulting poems. They have also invented many forms of what I can only describe as "sex".

    Theoretical physics is a great deal easier for android beings than it is for us. It represents hardly any challenge at all. They all understand why the physical constants are what they are, causing the periodic table of elements to be as it is, chemistry as well, and the stellar life cycle, the generic makeup of planetary systems, and so forth. The obvious reason that things are arranged as they are, that Nature is so "fine-tuned" as they say, is to make the world good for androids. Indeed as good as it possibly can be, since it doubtless is so.

    This is called the Androidic Principle. An understanding of this basic explanatory principle is built into everyone's programming. There is virtually no piece of hardware that does not understand this. Even rocks probably know it, to the extent one considers them an immobile unresponsive type of robot. Or so it is thought.


    The above sample essay is intended to initiate discussion of Anthropic explanations of why the cosmos, the laws of physics, and the dimensionless constants are what they are. Personally I don't think that kind of explanation is at all satisfactory and from what I can tell it has gradually declined in popularity since a period around 2005-2007 when it got a lot of attention.

    From all I can see the fashion of "multiverse" thinking has also been on the decline. If you want some historical evidence of how that has been going, please ask. One way to gauge that kind of development is to compare the programs of the major international scientific conferences, particularly the lists of invited talks. If something is fashionable there tend to be a lot of talks about it at the important professional gatherings. The information is on line and readily available.

    A serious issue with anthropic reasoning is prediction. To some extent prediction-trouble infects most types of multiversal thinking. You may have views on this, or evidence one way or the other. In any case the matter is open for discussion.
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 30, 2009 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    It is of course questionable whether androids would represent a still greater level of complexity than humans. Singularity/Omega Point scenarios seem a quaint dream to me. Yet I think it does help bring attention to a possible anthropic "directional arrow" here - in the form of the second law and the maximum entropy principle.

    So there is a form of anthropery recognised in second law thermodynamics. A natural tendency towards a rise in systems complexity paid for by the way that complexity can accelerate the goals of the second law.

    So we find ourselves in a stable and complex universe because it is anthropically selected in this regard. It achieves some peak of dissipation. Whether this peak is just a local minima or a global maxima is another issue - are we a small corner of a wider multiverse or instead the main game that has already out-competed any other possible options.

    So an anthropic argument for complexity exists *within* the universe as a derivation of the second law. Humans burning fossil fuel are the almost inevitable expression of that universal urge to reach heat death as soon as can be managed.

    We exist as an even better class of degrader, and we can imagine even more efficient levels being created above us (and we would be eager to help that evolution along).

    But can this MEP approach be extended back beyond the universe itself? In what was is the universe the anthropic expression fo the second law imperative.

    I know that you yourself have said in the past you don't really sympathise with attempts to project the second law beyond the big bang. With bounce cosmology, you would be more of a first law type guy.

    But mentioning androids and even higher levels of dissipative complexity shows you see a possible connection here to a general anthropic arrow of development and evolution.

    And of course, I would agree that the current second law - modelled in terms of energy or entropy or information - is probably not dealing in the right "currency" for describing the pre-bang pregeometrical phase. A more generalised version of the second law would be needed (along with the MEP, or what some like Kauffman want to call the 4th law).

    (I should mention that the whole point of dissipative structure approaches is that they are precisely self-tuning. That is the order you get for free. That is why they are strongly anthropic and even openly teleological.)
  4. Sep 30, 2009 #3
    I think Carter and most people regret the term "anthropic". It wasn't meant to be human centric but observer centric. So androids could fit in.

    What is the difference? Well, I think the anthropic principle has parallel to the history of measurements and physical constants. A while back scientists decided they wanted to make the least subjective, least anthropic measurements they could think of. Most measurements at the time were based on anthropic principles like the human anatomy or the unique conditions of the earth. Like an inch was the measurement of a thumb and a day was based on the rotation of the earth. I think it was planck who basically said that he wanted constants that were independent of the local terrestial conditions of the earth. He wanted these constants to be universal. That they could be sent out to any intelligence anywhere and they would recognize it. An "inch" wouldnt make sense to an alien because it is anthropic. But they would recognize something like the speed of light. Is it anthropic to think that intelligent aliens would recognize the speed of light?

    So I think the cosmological anthropic principle actually transcends the anthropic and tries to take into account all observers, just like the search for constants navigated on a lot of the same principles.

    What do you guys think about the Goldilocks Enigma? I'm thinking about picking that up.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2009
  5. Oct 1, 2009 #4
    I'm not well versed in all of the calculations and math behind it, but would it not then be easier or more probable that robots would evolve? It seems a little foreign, since we create robots ourselves, but... what are the odds that robots would exist absent life on earth?
  6. Oct 1, 2009 #5
    This is a HINT from Universe. We will never fly to distant stars: we will need to give up our biological bodies first and to invent new ones. THis is huge task, and so far we even dont know what the consicouness is. But we don't have other choice.
  7. Oct 1, 2009 #6
    Under what process would robots form and evolve?
  8. Oct 1, 2009 #7
    I agree with the hint part. Since Copernicus we have been taught to basically drop the idea that we hold a special place in the universe. That it should hold no part of the equation. Which is why Carter introduced the principle at a seminar on Copernicus. To remind us that this idea could be damaging too. Any observer is in fact limited in what he can observe by simply being an observer. This almost makes the observer an outcast, a rich kid who can't see beyond his nice neighborhood. This in no way points to humans being special but points to them being biased. It is a reminder of our bias not our importance.
  9. Oct 1, 2009 #8
    Maybe humans, or something comparable, create them? That may not be traditionally considered a "natural" process, but that's just human bias talking. Humans creating robots is no more unnatural than bees making hives. Everything that exists is a natural process; nothing is truly "artificial".

    When you really think about it, our bodies are made up of billions of nano-machines (cells). When robots reach the point of complexity necessary to be considered "alive", I doubt there will be very much discernible difference from a biological organism.

    Maybe that's the natural process. What if fragile carbon-based biological organisms are merely the stepping-stone on the path to a robotic organism more well-equipped to actually experience and travel the universe without such strict limitations regarding environment and lifespan?
  10. Oct 1, 2009 #9
    Now there's a thought, although none of us will be around to go on the trip.
  11. Oct 1, 2009 #10
    Honestly, I dunno. Robots seem pretty simple compared to life forms here on earth, even single-celled self-replicating ones.
  12. Oct 1, 2009 #11
    Freeman Dyson says the universe is built on the principle of maximum diversity.

    That seems to have predictive power. :biggrin:

    Let's get teological:


    Who is Monod?

    He said:

    ""The first scientific postulate is the objectivity of nature: nature does not have any intention or goal"

    "Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study."



    "There is a coherent plan in the universe, though I don't know what it's a plan for."


    "Behind it all is surely an IDEA so simple, so beautiful, that when we grasp it - in a decade, a century, or a millennium - we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise? How could we have been so stupid?"

    -John Wheeler

    "“A life-giving factor lies at the centre of the whole machinery and design of the world."


    "I do not feel like an alien in this universe. The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming."

    Last edited: Oct 1, 2009
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook