A few years ago I exchanged emails with and found myself engaged in an interesting conversation with semi-famous physicist Julian Barbour. Our debate centered around one of the core principals surrounding Barbour’s teachings, the concept of “Platonism” in mathematics and physics. If you have not heard about Julian Barbour or his theory of timeless physics before, please look him up, it is an entertaining read if nothing else.
In our exchange I expressed a concern over the core principal of physics, the fact that despite all of our advancements after the discoveries of Issac Newton, no one has actually resolved the theory of quantum gravity.
I argued the following points:
- Time is a human creation, or if you will, a creation of human intelligence.
- Mathematics is a human creation, also a creation of human intelligence.
- The Universe is not a human creation.
I believe that the great flaw of science and physics is that it is governed and ruled by human intelligence. The universe on the other hand, does not care about time. We as people have invented time, defined it and given it purpose. If people never existed, time would not exist.
The same logic applies to mathematics as well, mathematics is an art which is constantly being made, changed and discovered -any theoretical physicist can attest to this. For example, Newton’s and Einstein’s mathematical formulas did not exist before they invented them.
“But we are part of the universe. Is the universe therefore deceiving itself? And how does it come about that different people make the same discoveries in mathematics and physics independently of each other? I am a Platonist when it comes to mathematics and, being part of the universe, think it is not all deception.“
For those of you who may not know what this means….
Platonism in the Philosophy of Mathematics: Platonism about mathematics (or mathematical platonism) is the metaphysical view suggesting that there are abstract mathematical objects whose existence is independent of us and our language, thought, and practices. Just as electrons and planets exist independently of us, so do numbers and sets. Just as statements about electrons and planets are made true or false by the objects with which they are concerned, so are statements about numbers and sets. Mathematical truths are therefore discovered, not invented.
Is this not a fascinating concept to believe in? That we are simply discovering truths such as math, not inventing them? But if this logic is indeed true, what else could this apply to? The answer to this question is profound.
I remember listening to a speech by Neil Degrass Tyson years ago, he talked about how everything in the Universe is interconnected and how the same particles/elements in a supernova millions of light years away are the same particles/elements which make up the human body and planet Earth. The universe itself created humanity and gave us life.
For the purposes of this article we are not going to engage in a religious debate, I want to keep this specifically a philosophical discussion. But I want people to think about what Mr. Tyson and physicists are saying here for a moment……
Over millions of years the Universe exploded, cooled and organized. Now in 2016, here we sit in modern day, over time the universe has manifested humans who now have the ability to study, understand and even question the origins universe itself. Perhaps most importantly, considering that human intelligence exists within the Universe, human intelligence is therefore a byproduct of the Universe itself.
Lets take this concept a step further now.
Humans are now actively creating artificial intelligence, which has capabilities far beyond that of the human condition. But as we have just defined, human intelligence is a creation of the universe, therefore, any creation of human intelligence is also a creation of the universe. The argument could then be made that artificial intelligence is a form of intelligence that has always existed within the universe all the same.
Is it possible that humans are not inventing artificial intelligence, rather, we are simply discovering it? Has A.I. always existed in the universe, but humans are just now developing the means for it to manifest itself?
If these statement are true, what would this imply for the future of humanity? Is artificial intelligence the next evolutionary step for organized life/intelligence within the universe?
Science fiction often talks about a day when artificial intelligence surpasses humanities ability to control it and takes over the world, much to the doom of the human race. Taking this discussion literally, maybe this concept is more science fact that anything else. I think this is the argument Platonist’s would attempt to make.
This article (Are Humans Inventing Artificial Intelligence or Discovering It?) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article using a creative commons license with attribution to Brian Dunn and Alternative Medi4
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