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Author Topic: The Purpose of Life  (Read 3276 times)
bb113
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February 17, 2012, 10:34:01 AM
 #41

It's immensely more complicated -- life need not be restricted to biological.  IMHO, in the grandest scale of things, the definition of life should include no restrictions save one:  that it reverses entropy.

I think most people here would agree that what's to be replicated is the totality of information one holds. You not only reproduce by physical means, your ideas reproduce themselves (just like your genes do when you reproduce, it's actually their will that pushes you to reproduce more than the totality of "your will"). Not only ideas (in the strictest sense) of course, but your habits, gestures, etc.

Natural selection plays the same role in that arena. If you have an idea that by itself doesn't have self-replicating properties, it will not survive, however "good" it is (therefore you won't call it "good" anyway). Therefore we tend to have ideas that have this property.

I call the totality of these things we talk about, "norms", since the only thing that they have in common is that they are normative.

What I want to speculate about though, is what "self" means in the contest of this discussion. We casually mention pleasure of the self, replication of the self, and so on... However, a person is not atomic. A person is more like a vessel where the fight for dominance is taking place. Not only your ideas are fighting among themselves, there is a more holistic aspect of the quarrel among the totality of your norms. For instance, you can decide not to reproduce, and can spread that norm with passion, even though your body dictates that you should. Of course this war is seamless in every resolution, so everything you do, from holding a cup to forming a sentence, is a result of this process.

This is why superficial hedonism doesn't work. You can take pleasure from anything, and it's up to you as a whole to decide (usually not consciously, sometimes even not mentally) what will please you. Taking this into account, an enlightened hedonism would be in fact the same as any other philosophy of life.

So, briefly, you don't have a definitive purpose at any given moment. You have elements within you that have different purposes. If you want to define yourself as a single atomic entity, that itself defines a purpose. So the purpose would be to find coherence. Know thyself, and all that.


Wouldn't spreading (what you perceive as) a good idea also be contributing to the copying of genetic material though? I think the meme/idea part of it is subservient to the genetic aspect. Then again, I am sure at least one person has lived who had the idea that all humans should be wiped from the earth. Perhaps this plays into crypt_currents idea that life is that which reduces the entropy of the system it is a part of. So then the Sun is alive? Interestingly, when a star goes supernova it makes more like itself, while also seeding the surrounding area with heavier elements that allow for planets and biological life.
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February 17, 2012, 11:20:36 AM
 #42

I don't like the EAT-SHIT thing, honestly.

You just eat at McD for the toy?

How dýou know that?

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February 17, 2012, 11:23:07 AM
 #43

Wouldn't spreading (what you perceive as) a good idea also be contributing to the copying of genetic material though? I think the meme/idea part of it is subservient to the genetic aspect. Then again, I am sure at least one person has lived who had the idea that all humans should be wiped from the earth. Perhaps this plays into crypt_currents idea that life is that which reduces the entropy of the system it is a part of. So then the Sun is alive? Interestingly, when a star goes supernova it makes more like itself, while also seeding the surrounding area with heavier elements that allow for planets and biological life.

I agree to all your points. Actually I was discussing with a friend who argued that he would wipe off most of humanity if he had the power to do so. He sees himself as belonging to the larger ecosystem and that humans are not beneficial in the long run.

For an idea to survive, commonly, it needs to be beneficial in coexistence with the popular norms (edit: popular to the targeted faction at least), and since humanity has an intention to survive, they indeed serve the purpose of physical survival and therefore reproduction. In a more local sense, I have kids because I imagine that they will be like me, and physical attributes are not what I have in mind. However this is not a rule by any means. An extreme case would be engineering and standardization of the human genome, and ultimately robotization of mankind and even human mind. Depending on the case, I could see such a thing as beneficial, while it destroys the biological stance of human existence. I would further argue that it is actually not so much against the will of the genes themselves, but that borders on metaphysics I guess.

If you are a materialist, it should be obvious that the normativity of life comes from the normative aspect of our universe, and steady increase of entropy is the actual embodiment of this idea. Since the line between life and non-life it is pretty arbitrary, it is quite plausible to see a star system as a living thing.

Though we should keep in mind that life does not reverse entropy, while it decreases local entropy, it increases the entropy of the system. Actually, I wonder if life would ever come to exist on earth were there any other method that increases entropy more than life does. The system favors means that maximize entropy and life is a damn good solution.
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February 17, 2012, 11:28:37 AM
 #44

I don't like the EAT-SHIT thing, honestly.

You just eat at McD for the toy?

How dýou know that?

Lol, that's your grandpa sleepyhead.

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February 17, 2012, 11:29:37 AM
 #45

I don't like the EAT-SHIT thing, honestly.

You just eat at McD for the toy?

How dýou know that?

Lol, that's your grandpa sleepyhead.

Papa, is that you?

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February 17, 2012, 11:47:38 AM
 #46

I think people are conflating "What is the purpose of *your* life" with "What is the purpose of Life". The OP gave life a capital 'L' so I'm going with the former.

I think its slightly more complicated. The purpose is to facilitate copying more genes similar to your own relative to genes that are more dissimilar. This explains phenomenon like altruism, possibly the existence of homosexuality, care for animals, etc. The caring for animals (like pets) is kind of a hijack, since people can't know exactly how many genes they share with other animals, they use human-like behaviors as a heuristic.

If for all you know it was only you and your ant farm left alive on the earth though, you'd care the shit out of those ants.

You're confusing what *I* would care about - and you're certainly right, the ants would have the shit cared out of them by me in that circumstance - and what Life would care about (which it can't, because as a thing that could care it doesn't exist, but oh well) which is the fact that the ants can reproduce and I can't.

The purpose of Life and the purpose of any individual living thing isn't the same. I personally still may have a purpose in life, even if I don't reproduce.

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bb113
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February 17, 2012, 11:54:17 AM
 #47


If you are a materialist, it should be obvious that the normativity of life comes from the normative aspect of our universe, and steady increase of entropy is the actual embodiment of this idea. Since the line between life and non-life it is pretty arbitrary, it is quite plausible to see a star system as a living thing.

Though we should keep in mind that life does not reverse entropy, while it decreases local entropy, it increases the entropy of the system. Actually, I wonder if life would ever come to exist on earth were there any other method that increases entropy more than life does. The system favors means that maximize entropy and life is a damn good solution.


I don't follow, you are saying that life increases the overall entropy of the universe. How so? The current understanding (as I know it) is that the universe started as a point of minimum entropy, and is progression towards a state of maximum entropy. This phenomenon is what we perceive as time passing. If this process goes on long enough* however, the seemingly infinitely improbable event of the subatomic particles arranging themselves into a state of minimum entropy will occur, thus restarting the cycle

*Long enough= years

Are you proposing that life somehow accelerates the rate of entropy increase, and thus the passage of time?


By the way, this is perhaps the most interesting wikipedia page I have ever come across: Timeline of the far future
bb113
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February 17, 2012, 11:55:44 AM
 #48

I think people are conflating "What is the purpose of *your* life" with "What is the purpose of Life". The OP gave life a capital 'L' so I'm going with the former.

I think its slightly more complicated. The purpose is to facilitate copying more genes similar to your own relative to genes that are more dissimilar. This explains phenomenon like altruism, possibly the existence of homosexuality, care for animals, etc. The caring for animals (like pets) is kind of a hijack, since people can't know exactly how many genes they share with other animals, they use human-like behaviors as a heuristic.

If for all you know it was only you and your ant farm left alive on the earth though, you'd care the shit out of those ants.

You're confusing what *I* would care about - and you're certainly right, the ants would have the shit cared out of them by me in that circumstance - and what Life would care about (which it can't, because as a thing that could care it doesn't exist, but oh well) which is the fact that the ants can reproduce and I can't.

The purpose of Life and the purpose of any individual living thing isn't the same. I personally still may have a purpose in life, even if I don't reproduce.

haha, I'm not confusing it, the other people are confused... And right, you don't need to reproduce to serve a purpose from the standpoint of "life", only help other forms of life to reproduce.
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February 17, 2012, 12:13:58 PM
 #49

I don't follow, you are saying that life increases the overall entropy of the universe. How so? The current understanding (as I know it) is that the universe started as a point of minimum entropy, and is progression towards a state of maximum entropy.

Any process that does work increases the entropy of a bounded system. Reading the 2nd Law of thermodynamics will help your understanding here.

Quote
This is perhaps the most interesting wikipedia page I have ever come across:
Timeline of the far future

Are you proposing that life somehow accelerates the rate of entropy increase, and thus the passage of time?

Personally I don't if memvola would have meant that, and I also don't know about entropy increasing the rate of time (how would you measure the rate increase - against time?) I've studied chemical engineering - years back, I'll grant, but laws of thermodynamics haven't changed - and I can guarantee you that in a bounded system heat will never transfer from cold to hot. If the transfer of heat from hot to cold or heat changing to a state of less usefulness 'speeds up time', then I guess time is speeding up.

Life increasing the rate of time? Well, time flies when you're having fun!

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bb113
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February 17, 2012, 12:21:06 PM
 #50

I don't follow, you are saying that life increases the overall entropy of the universe. How so? The current understanding (as I know it) is that the universe started as a point of minimum entropy, and is progression towards a state of maximum entropy.

Any process that does work increases the entropy of a bounded system. Reading the 2nd Law of thermodynamics will help your understanding here.

Quote
This is perhaps the most interesting wikipedia page I have ever come across:
Timeline of the far future

Are you proposing that life somehow accelerates the rate of entropy increase, and thus the passage of time?

Personally I don't if memvola would have meant that, and I also don't know about entropy increasing the rate of time (how would you measure the rate increase - against time?) I've studied chemical engineering - years back, I'll grant, but laws of thermodynamics haven't changed - and I can guarantee you that in a bounded system heat will never transfer from cold to hot. If the transfer of heat from hot to cold or heat changing to a state of less usefulness 'speeds up time', then I guess time is speeding up.

Life increasing the rate of time? Well, time flies when you're having fun!


Honestly you are probably more an expert than me (I do biology), so correct me where wrong. You mention bounded system, is the universe considered a bounded system? The activity of all life on earth is dependent upon the sun and somewhat geothermal energy. In this context, I don't think the activity of life is increasing entropy, in fact it is locally decreasing entropy, in effect slowing the propagation of entropy outwards to the rest of the system (the universe). I am thinking this is analagous to the way the greenhouse effect works with energy. Energy comes into the earth system, and it will leave eventually, but the presence of an atmosphere slows this process (resulting in a local increase in energy).
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February 17, 2012, 12:28:38 PM
 #51

Quote
I also don't know about entropy increasing the rate of time (how would you measure the rate increase - against time?)

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February 17, 2012, 12:59:27 PM
 #52

I don't follow, you are saying that life increases the overall entropy of the universe. How so? The current understanding (as I know it) is that the universe started as a point of minimum entropy, and is progression towards a state of maximum entropy.

Any process that does work increases the entropy of a bounded system. Reading the 2nd Law of thermodynamics will help your understanding here.

Quote
This is perhaps the most interesting wikipedia page I have ever come across:
Timeline of the far future

Are you proposing that life somehow accelerates the rate of entropy increase, and thus the passage of time?

Personally I don't if memvola would have meant that, and I also don't know about entropy increasing the rate of time (how would you measure the rate increase - against time?) I've studied chemical engineering - years back, I'll grant, but laws of thermodynamics haven't changed - and I can guarantee you that in a bounded system heat will never transfer from cold to hot. If the transfer of heat from hot to cold or heat changing to a state of less usefulness 'speeds up time', then I guess time is speeding up.

Life increasing the rate of time? Well, time flies when you're having fun!


Honestly you are probably more an expert than me (I do biology), so correct me where wrong. You mention bounded system, is the universe considered a bounded system? The activity of all life on earth is dependent upon the sun and somewhat geothermal energy. In this context, I don't think the activity of life is increasing entropy, in fact it is locally decreasing entropy, in effect slowing the propagation of entropy outwards to the rest of the system (the universe). I am thinking this is analagous to the way the greenhouse effect works with energy. Energy comes into the earth system, and it will leave eventually, but the presence of an atmosphere slows this process (resulting in a local increase in energy).

The Universe is a closed system.  If the Real Universe contains all that is real, and if there were something else outside of it that is 'real' enough, then it would be IN the Real Universe.  Maybe there is such a something 'real' enough outside of it, but since our capacity for observation is (assumption) limited to this Universe only, it would be pretty much irrelevant.

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February 17, 2012, 02:14:19 PM
 #53

On the Universe -- Tipler found it to be "finite but unbounded" (he proved that, among many other interesting things, mathematically in his book The Physics of Immortality).  It's been a while since I read it, but from what I remember, it means that spatially and temporally, the universe is "closed", but information can be theoretically transferred an infinite amount before the end (omega) point.  This is what makes it "unbound".  Unbound systems do not follow the second law of thermodynamics, and therefore entropy can be reduced within them.

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February 17, 2012, 02:55:54 PM
 #54

If this process goes on long enough* however, the seemingly infinitely improbable event of the subatomic particles arranging themselves into a state of minimum entropy will occur, thus restarting the cycle

Then it conflicts with the second law of thermodynamics doesn't it? I'm not a physicist, but I suspect that strong chaos is necessary for such a system to oscillate and the universe doesn't appear that way. The common example I usually come across is that it is infinitely more plausible for you to believe that your brain was spontaneously formed in space with all the information you have now than to believe that the whole low entropy universe was formed by chance. So the cyclic universe idea seems out of favor, but I think there are some cosmologists working on other explanations. Penrose for one.

Others have responded to your other points.

In this context, I don't think the activity of life is increasing entropy, in fact it is locally decreasing entropy, in effect slowing the propagation of entropy outwards to the rest of the system (the universe). I am thinking this is analagous to the way the greenhouse effect works with energy. Energy comes into the earth system, and it will leave eventually, but the presence of an atmosphere slows this process (resulting in a local increase in energy).

Yes, sunlight, for instance, has low entropy, because it radiates from a point in an otherwise dark background. The presence of Earth at this spot messes it all up, but some of that potential is accumulated on Earth, partly in the form of life. However, scattered light still has lower entropy than thermal radiation (yep, not a physicist, so take it with a grain of salt), and living organisms increase light absorbtion. Plus, we mess with the Earth's crust.

Unbound systems do not follow the second law of thermodynamics, and therefore entropy can be reduced within them.

Is it unbound in the same sense? Can you point me to a source? Haven't heard about that before and very interested.
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February 17, 2012, 10:16:12 PM
 #55

Also, consider the mathematical proof of "the boundary of a boundary = 0."  This has vast implications for the "boundary" of the Universe, as well as all conditional objects/events/concepts contained therein. 

Also relevant is the idea that any identifiable object/concept/idea/etc. can only be identified in relation to what it is not.  So, the Universe can only be identified in contrast to what it is not (all not-Universes), and yet, logically, there must be some relationship binding the Universe to all not-Universes.

Syndiffeonesis ("sameness-in-difference") is the logical principle that any 2 relands 'x' and 'y' must share some common fundamental medium, even if it's a medium of absolute difference.  So, even if you say the Universe is absolutely different from any and all not-Universes, they still fundamentally reduce to common syntax, i.e. inclusion within the medium of absolute difference.

So, eventually what you get is an infinite regression, or a "tower of turtles," and every time you attempt to unify everything (e.g. the 'Singularity') you ultimately make the mistake of identifying that unity in contrast to what it is not.

Christopher Langan attempts to solve this problem of infinite regression in his theory the CTMU (www.ctmu.org), and even if he's a bit of a whack job, he has some really fucking good ideas.

But really, why not just come to your own conclusions?  I can't think of any good reason why a scientist or philosopher has any better chance of understanding absolute truth than I/you do.


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February 18, 2012, 11:40:34 AM
 #56


Unbound systems do not follow the second law of thermodynamics, and therefore entropy can be reduced within them.

Is it unbound in the same sense? Can you point me to a source? Haven't heard about that before and very interested.


The Physics of Immortality by Frank J. Tipler (professor of mathematics and physics, Tulane University).  I tentatively plan on re-reading this now (albeit very slowly, as time permits) because it's one of my favorites and I haven't read it in a few years.

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February 18, 2012, 01:08:15 PM
 #57

The Physics of Immortality by Frank J. Tipler (professor of mathematics and physics, Tulane University).  I tentatively plan on re-reading this now (albeit very slowly, as time permits) because it's one of my favorites and I haven't read it in a few years.

Thanks, I'll try to get my hands on that book. Don't get me wrong though, but I asked a thermodynamics expert about this and he found the idea nonsensical. Since the community opinion on Tipler is that he's a crackpot, and lack of textbook material on that hypothesis, I think I'll stay skeptical about that claim. I see no reason for a closed finite system to defy the second law, and an unbounded finite universe is exactly that.
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February 20, 2012, 05:32:26 AM
 #58

The Physics of Immortality by Frank J. Tipler (professor of mathematics and physics, Tulane University).  I tentatively plan on re-reading this now (albeit very slowly, as time permits) because it's one of my favorites and I haven't read it in a few years.

Thanks, I'll try to get my hands on that book. Don't get me wrong though, but I asked a thermodynamics expert about this and he found the idea nonsensical. Since the community opinion on Tipler is that he's a crackpot, and lack of textbook material on that hypothesis, I think I'll stay skeptical about that claim. I see no reason for a closed finite system to defy the second law, and an unbounded finite universe is exactly that.


That community opinion is true but IMO unfortunate, because it probably causes people to not even start to read the book.  Once you start it, you probably won't be able to stop until the end.  It is truly the most fascinating thing I have ever read.

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