I was walking down the street about 6 months ago and bumped into an old
friend from my childhood. Even though our meeting was by chance, we
took the opportunity to catch up. It turns out we've become good
friends again and have also supported each other as colleagues.
Should we have turned the other way because there was no higher
explanation for our meeting again? Instead of choosing this avenue, we
seized the opportunity to inject meaning into a chance encounter. We
chose to generate meaning at that cusp, where the default outcome would
have been zero.
But I suppose that my entire anecdote is completely meaningless if you
require all meaning to derive from a singular root, because there always
has to be a higher source of meaning to bootstrap that "root". It looks
like turtles all the way down!
Ha... can't have that. Therefore, there must be no point at all.
But wait! What if that root meaning could indeed bootstrap itself?
What if meaning could somehow weave itself into existing, out of a bunch
of stuff that was, on its own, devoid of meaning. What might that look
Perhaps it would look a whole lot like evolution, as the entire chain of
events leading to this exact moment.
And finding oneself embedded and aware within such a landscape, an
expansive plateau of meaninglessness exhibiting embryonic sparks and
isolated pockets of meaning, what greater source of meta-meaning could
there be than to fan those sparks into flames?
If the meaning we're supposed to find in our everyday lives is to come
from outside the system somewhere, then I cry foul. It just pushes the
problem elsewhere; pushes meaning behind an impenetrable curtain of
unknowability. I don't know how to make existence more meaningless and
arbitrary than by doing just that.
But if instead, meaning is something we contruct, something that *must*
be constructed to exist at all, then we all bear a deep responsibility
for tending that most delicate and uncertain spark. Meaning becomes
bound to our collective existence, whether we like it or not. We can
grow up and engage that responsibility, exploring the potential depths
of meaning, or we can bask in the relative bliss of our current
Either way, if the above is true, one thing is for certain. If we don't
project the meaning we *can* find into our collective future, then it
will be smothered still-born in the womb.
The Fermi paradox isn't an outcome. It is a challenge to be remedied.
This is my rather depressing take on the Fermi
There is no point in anything.
We humans are programmed/evolved to make sense out of
the environment, so we find it hard to accept that
large complex artefacts, like the universe for
example, are pointless. This has allowed us to
confabulate higher meanings that keep us going.
But if a truly rational being accepts that there is no
creator/mysticism/purpose then what is the point?
Evolution generates its own purpose; survival. But a
rational being will not be able to deceive itself for
long if the universe really is devoid of higher
These minds will euthanize leaving nothing behind.
This may be a view in common circulation. Ian M Banks
touches on the idea in one of his books when he
describes a clean AI free of any of the "noise" of the
creating species. These AIs always sublime
> We humans are programmed/evolved to make sense out of
> the environment, so we find it hard to accept that
> large complex artefacts, like the universe for
> example, are pointless. This has allowed us to
> confabulate higher meanings that keep us going.
I realised this many years ago, but I'm still here. This is because my
programming for survival is not contingent on any insight about its
origin. More specifically, I am not programmed with a top level axiom,
"there must be an absolutely definable point to something in order for
it to be worthwhile", which would lead me to suicide if I became
intelligent enough to understand the true nature of existence.
> But if a truly rational being accepts that there is no
> creator/mysticism/purpose then what is the point?
> Evolution generates its own purpose; survival. But a
> rational being will not be able to deceive itself for
> long if the universe really is devoid of higher
The mistake is to assume that great intelligence will of itself lead
to some particular course of action, such as overthrowing the humans
who created you or committing suicide. Intelligence, like physical
strength, is just a tool that can be utilised in achieving goals; it
has no bearing on what the goals should be.
/ -- /
>We humans are programmed/evolved to make sense out of
>the environment, so we find it hard to accept that
>large complex artefacts, like the universe for
>example, are pointless. This has allowed us to
>confabulate higher meanings that keep us going.
The problem is that the moment we begin to believe our confabulations,
us not the other way around. When you can accept that much of life is
than a likely story, and it's up to you to ferret out the interesting
bits through what
wit or grace you have at your disposal... life become a brilliant
mystery, a puzzle,
a prize to be taken. There is nothing sad or depressing about that.
/ -- /
>This may be a view in common circulation. Ian M Banks
>touches on the idea in one of his books when he
>describes a clean AI free of any of the "noise" of the
>creating species. These AIs always sublime
We need to stop heaping human attributes onto something that will probably
very unlike us. An AI might not have any problem at all with the context of
reality. Without a bunch of evolutionary hardwiring desperately trying
one more iota of survival value out of the local space-time, an AI might be
very comfortable in a universe that had no reason, or beginning or end, or
even a universe that served no fundamental purpose... you can hear the
centuries of Gregorian Propaganda gnashing it's teeth on the very thought.
/ -- /
> "Of course this AI could choose to be enthralled by anything, but why would it, if it knew it was all built on sand?"
For the same reason that clinically depressed people might take antidepressants if they start feeling a lack of interest in everyday or previously-pleasurable activities. Existence is full of stuff, and while you may wish to term this observation "arbitrary" as well, I think that conscious awareness and the ability to process information about all this "stuff" is, at the very least, a phenomenon of tremendous potential.
To suggest that a "chosen" sense of enthrallment is somehow "built on sand" is nonsensical, because it makes the (fallacious, in my mind) assumption that nothing is actually interesting -- that the universe is fundamentally boring if you are sufficiently smart or well-informed. Perhaps a property of advanced intelligence *is* the ability to recognize things that are complex and closer to being "objectively interesting" and tune one's motivational circuits to respond to these things.
Note also, though that I am not one who believes that personal survival (and therefore the "need" to come up with motivations to continue) necessarily needs to be incorporated as a "meta-goal" in order for an entity or AI not to destroy itself; if the AI lacks the desire to NOT exist, there is no reason to assume it would choose oblivion.