> (I think Egan gives us a fairly plausible, fictional timeline for
> figuring this stuff out: a workable TOE by the middle of this century,
> i.e., within our lifetimes. That is, a theory which unifies relativity
> and QM, and which is presumably also brings in QED, QCD, etc.
> Then perhaps several centuries of very little progress, as the energies
> to get to the Planck energy are enormous (e.g., compressing a mass
> about equal to a cell to a size 20 orders of magnitude smaller than a
> Of course, breakthroughs in mathematics may provide major new clues,
> which is where I put my efforts.)
I think this is certainly a plausible prediction of the future, but I see it
as an unlikely one.
I think that intelligent software programs will be brought into existence
within the next 10-50 years, and that among other effects, this will cause a
physics revolution. Furthermore, it will be a revolution in a direction now
Right now we analyze data about the microworld in a very crude way. For
example, we scan Fermilab data for "events" -- but what about all the other
data that isn't "events" but contains meaningful patterns?
Create an AI mind whose sensors and actuators are quantum level, and allow
it to form its own hypotheses, ideas, concepts, ontologies.... Do you
really think it's going to come up with anything as awkward and overcomplex
as our current physics theories?
I suspect our current physics theories are overcomplex because they're based
on extrapolating into the microworld, mathematics and intuitive concepts
that originated primarily in models of our everyday physical world.
Particle theory... wave theory ... path integrals. There are no particles,
waves or paths down there.... There is no "observation" either.... No
strings. No membranes. Our attempts to project these concepts onto an
inappropriate domain may well strike future quantum-domain-natural minds as
Humans may or may not arrive at a workable TOE before the advent of AI's
with quantum-level sensors and actuators. Following this advent, however,
the progress of fundamental physics will be unimaginably fast, and will move
in humanly-unimaginable directions.
Will mathematics be central to this new physics? Maybe. But not our
Anyway, this was part of why I decided to start thinking about AI rather
than fundamental physics ;->
I think Greg Egan's fiction is great, but I also think Diaspora is badly
flawed futorology, because his uploaded minds never get tremendously more
intelligent than humans. I don't think that's a very realistic
prognostication, though it makes for easier storytelling.
-- Ben Goertzel