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Can life survive till the end of universe?

How life can “cheat” its way out of the heat death of the universe

  1. The Computational Theory of Mind is true
  2. The Landauer’s limit can be avoided
  3. Reversible computing is possible

What is the ultimate fate of the universe?

Physicists theorise that ultimately, the universe subjects itself to heat death.

Can intelligent life survive?

In the 1970s, Freeman Dyson was one of the first physicists to contemplate the end of the universe using modern cosmology. His eternal intelligence thought experiment was published in an exceedingly thought-provoking paper: ‘Time without end: Physics and Biology in an open universe’.

Consume energy and think → save energy and hibernate → consume energy and think → …..all over again

Dyson’s eternal intelligence is possible….

  1. If The Computational Theory of Mind is true
  2. If the Landauer’s limit can be broken
  3. If reversible computing is possible

(1)….if The Computational Theory of Mind is true

Dyson holds a reductionist view of intelligence. In fact, he subscribes to a view called The Computational Theory of Mind (CTM).

Source: NCL
What if the entire universe is just a simulation?

(2)….if the Landauer’s limit can be avoided

Landauer’s Principle dictates the lower theoretical limit of energy consumption of computation. For example, erasing a bit (which contains either “0” or “1”) of information gives off an amount of heat related to the temperature and Boltzmann’s constant — a total of 3 x 10^-21 Joules at room temperature.

Source: Link
Every type of logic gate. Source: Link
  1. Assume that computation itself as a process does not absorb energy
  2. Logic gates give off heat
  3. There must be a source of heat running through logic gates
Mathematically, it can be expressed as such
Source: Link

(3)…. if reversible computing is possible

If we don’t stick with irreversible computing, we can avoid the Landauer’s Limit! As far as we know, there is no physical limit as to how efficient we can perform reversible computing.

A reversible circuit has exactly as many outputs as inputs. Each input can be reconstructed from the output; no bits are lost, so reversible circuits will not give off heat from bit loss.

Source: Link

Conclusion: why does all this matter?

Isaac Asimov wrote a short story called “The Last Question”. In the far, far future of the universe all the way until the very end, somebody talks to a computer and asked the computer a question, and the question is: can entropy — meaning, the amount of disorder in the universe — ever be reversed? This was a really interesting problem because we know, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, entropy always builds up over time. As a result, the universe gets more and more disordered.



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Jack Chong

I review products, strategy and startups. Twitter: @jackchong_jc