Gerald O'brian


This conversation is closed.

Are we too smart for this universe?

Can you think of a better hypothetical universe where the natural laws would be more of a challenge?

  • Nov 5 2013: You want more of a challenge than understanding multi-dimensional space-time, conciousness and the fundamental nature of reality? I admire your ambition sir.

    But perhaps any universe capable of producing conciousness has to be basically stable, predictable, repeatable; at least for long stretches of "time".
    If it's true that life needs low entropy to evolve, it may also be true that life is destined to be a little disappointing.
    Somewhere a nine-dimensional hyper-cloud stretches it's conciousness along the very fractal curves of time itself, surveys the deepest structure of reality and mutters "Yes, yes it's all very well, but if *I'd* put this lot together...."
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    Nov 5 2013: Could I ask for clarification? Are you asking whether it would be better or more interesting if the force of gravity swung widely among possible values from one day to the next (so that we would have to adapt daily to the new parameters) or if items of matter changed form spontaneously and without alert (tree to bird, wood to water)?
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    Nov 6 2013: It has been proved that we are quite dumb, because we did not even notice the date or era when we started to consume more than the environment could provide. We crossed that cusp some decades ago. We are scientifically quite dumb because almost every process for industrial product and agricultural produce assumes that water and air is a free resource and more and more is required per unit of output. We are quite dumb because despite learning by default/failures; about the prohibitive cost of "renewal" we continue to consider anything available naturally in the universe to be free of basic cost to us. Commercially we are dumb because we only add the cost of extraction and add our profit from natural resource as per demand and supply. Rarely do we ever cost the replacement. Even Adam smith referred to the "Paradox of water". How dumb we will look as we seem to be waiting for the time when air and water becomes a product whose "cost needs to be valued based on its non availability". Fortunately the universe is smarter and it can renew itself after we destroy ourselves. The universe has far more intelligence, as it has seen so many species come and go, and will wait for a better species than us.
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      Nov 6 2013: " it can renew itself after we destroy ourselves "

      I hope you're right, otherwise we're just going to keep ruining the environment forever until the entire universe looks like crap. That's how dumb we are.
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    Lejan .

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    Nov 6 2013: No, the universe is just to simple for us.
    • Nov 6 2013: Damn Lejan you hit that one right out of the park again.... Lejan is right... Long live Lejan!
  • Nov 6 2013: This puts the cart before the horse. The properties of this universe that make both life and evolution possible are the very same properties that make it understandable. If natural laws were much more of a "challenge" life, evolution, and intelligence would be much less possible, if at all.

    As per the title question: nope.
  • MR T

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    Nov 5 2013: Dude nobody even knows what the universe is
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      Nov 5 2013: Well, Elenora Smith did. Unfortunately she passed away many years ago before she decided to share her knowledge. :o)
    • Nov 6 2013: I used to know, but then I forgot. :(
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        Nov 6 2013: Have you been somehow related to Elenora or was it pure coincidental that both of you..., well, you know ... ?
        • Nov 6 2013: Yeah, that she passed away might be part of the reason why I forgot. She kept the memories fresh.
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        Nov 6 2013: My deepest condolences! :o)
    • Nov 6 2013: I dunno what it is but I know what size it is:
      "The universe is the same size as your imagination"- Keith W Henline
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        Nov 7 2013: Luckily the universe is completely independent from us.
        • Nov 7 2013: That's a jest right? I don't think you believe that, do you? In any case I believe we are all connected.
          "You are a child of the universe,
          no less than the trees and the stars;
          you have a right to be here.
          And whether or not it is clear to you,
          no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."- Max Ehrmann
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        Lejan .

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        Nov 7 2013: I am absolutely serious as connection is different from dependence. If the universe was dependent on us, which it isn't, it could not have hopped into existence before us, which it did. Organics is build out of inorganic matter and thats a vector you can not swop around, although some organic creations like to have it this way.
        • Nov 7 2013: I C You are talking about apples and I am talking about oranges.
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        Nov 7 2013: I don't know what you see, I can only take what you wrote and that is pretty anthropomorphic to me.
        • Nov 7 2013: You are asking the wrong guy, I do not know whether we were here before or after the universe, my guess is we have always existed in the form of a soul and that we will always exist in that form. That coming to earth was just another part of our evolution. I do not have that kind of data, do you? I, probably like you can only go by the information available to me and ask for more to be revealed.
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        Lejan .

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        Nov 7 2013: Because I do not have that kind of data I do no guessing. Let me know when you can prove the existence of your souls, then I will have a look at it. Up to then I take it as the wish for meaning and endurance.
  • Nov 5 2013: You seem to think we have a better understanding of this universe than we actually do.

    Ask any specialist in a scientific field. They'll tell you just how many holes there are still to be filled in. Some field are relatively well off, others look like sieves.
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      Nov 5 2013: What fields are well off, and relative to what?
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        Nov 6 2013: Economic sciences is already done. Result : Capitalism. No further questions asked ... :o)
        • Nov 6 2013: Considder what you are not thinking right now.
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        Nov 6 2013: @ george

        Yes, this usually helps to gridlock neural activity. Highly recommended to consider at any time indeed! :o)
      • Nov 6 2013: Biology is one, big, non-precise mess at the moment, for example. It gets more precise as time goes by, but large aspects are very poorly understood.
        Economics is actually so bad a lot of people don't even consider it a science at the moment.

        There are also plenty of holes to be filled in chemistry and physics, albeit not nearly as much.
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          Nov 6 2013: i would claim that every science has problems on the edge. the thing with physics is the edge is so far away from our everyday reality, for the most part, that we don't face it. while for example with medical sciences, we meet the limitations of our knowledge quite often, and quite painfully, literally.
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          Nov 6 2013: " There are also plenty of holes to be filled in chemistry and physics, albeit not nearly as much. "

          Not nearly as much?? How can you tell? I thought knowledge was an infinite pursuit.
      • Nov 6 2013: Come to think of it, I have no way of knowing we're closer in terms of physics and chemistry. I'm just assuming so because our models tend to predict their behavior much better in the confines we deal with them today (they work better from an empirical standpoint).

        We can land a man on the moon, but we can't cure the common cold. Ironically enough, its not for lack of trying; with what we know of physics, engineering and biology today, landing on the moon is the simpler of the two feats.
        And don't get me started on the more 'humane' sciences like sociology or economics. Makes biology seem exact by comparison.

        Don't worry, there's no shortage of things we still need figured out.
  • Nov 14 2013: We are by no means smart enough to say we need a 'new' universe to challenge us. We don't even understand ourselves. The science of consciousness is far from finished, and in fact is really just beginning. We cannot claim to be too intelligent if we don't even understand the mechanisms behind our intelligence.
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    Nov 12 2013: We need to identify non linear solution design, and perhaps have the audacity to seek just one single correction that could have far reaching impact. Paradoxically this should not be a "hypothetical universal Law" but a "re-interpretation of the original intent of our democratic laws". The original intent and design was focused on the elimination of slavery based on the logical assumption that if each individual is free then society will be free. This trickle down "deductive logic" has failed in democracy as it has in economics and most areas. Yet it continues to be obsessively guarded and being pushed to become the global democratic model for the whole world. The original solution design and intent was to give Freedom and protection to the individual from society. Today the individual within the mass majority needs protection only from the state. The mass majority in Society need protection from less than 5% who control majority of wealth and global resources. This minority has the economic power and special interest to be adequately protected because they influence the state. These individuals as a small group should no longer misuse the charter to always "be more equal than others". They are a constituent of society and yet seem to have greater rights than society. The interpretation of democracy must be enlarged and redefined based on its intended result. The smaller unit must secede to the next larger constituent which represents the majority. This could start with individual seceding to immediate society, then that unit to a zone which gives in for benefit to the city. The city gives up for the state, then the environment and finally for the economic stability of the entire world. Today small groups and individuals misuse democracy to keep increasing their hold. Since special interest would never allow "change in Law", this is seen as a reinterpretation to enlarge the scope within the current Law, to get the intended result.
  • Dan F

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    Nov 11 2013: Intriguing delimic question.

    My answer is yes and no.

    Especially in the modern era, we have as a species been able to establish and expand a cultural scientific evolution that has enabled us to better understand natural laws and cash in on this knowledge in incredibly diverse ways both individually and collectively.

    This ability to better understand and benefit from what we know has resulted in an ongoing geometric progression in our world human population growth. This in turn taxes us in what it takes to continue to maintain our health and welfare as these increasing numbers drain physical resources that tend to be finite and can produce indirect effects as in the case of fossil fuel consumption, etc, which impacts on our future well being.

    Beyond mystical escapes (alternative universes, time travel, etc.), we as a species are considerably bound by the realities of the environment we inherit and we in turn, affect the future by the trust we assume in how we live our lives. So in that sense it may prove out that along with having smarts, it equally important to realize smarts (especially clever overly self serving smarts) isn't all that is necessary for what future generations would consider a desirable legacy. A legacy that should be accountable for responsible self constraining behavior to help insure a bright future to those we reproduce.

    Let's face it being "too smart" can be described with reverse meanings in this context.
  • Nov 11 2013: If you are not confused it is because you do not have in depth knowledge of the reality of our universe. read the book: "Godel Escher Bach an eternal golden braid". When we master time travel we'll give Archimedes a copy. That's when we're really too smart. when we beat the death of the universe, the death of our sun. we can keep cycling back through time over and over compacting indefinitely the rate of technological advance.
  • Nov 11 2013: We are too smart for this universe when we build spacecraft that can travel faster than the speed of light. the natural laws being in such an arrangement that we could construct a number system that can be geometrically represented with spacial symmetry was a godsend. i.e. 1 10 100 1000 10000. That was the training wheels for our technological development and we still haven't moved past that. when computers can multiply concepts to understand what humans find merit in, without sampling or surveying, we will be off of training wheels. Flying (REACHING the speed of light) is still a long ways off. exceeding the speed of light, which newton called impossible.. may very well be so
  • Nov 11 2013: Your question is kind of peculiar. How can we say that we are too smart for this universe when we probably know only a tiny portion of the universe? For example ,if a child caught a beetle and put it in a jar. The beetle runs all over the confinement inside the jar and claim that it knows all about the inside of the bottle that gives it the feeling of smartness "in the whole universe" ( in the view of the beetle, the jar is the "universe").
    Because we really don't know the whole universe, or multiverse, it is meaningless to speculate what the "natural laws" really mean.
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      Nov 11 2013: Yes, it's more of a joke to get people talk about reality and the quest to understanding it.
      No human being claims to be the wise bug in the jar, though. Belief in the outside world is part of human nature.
      Some beetles believe the outside can be understood by repeating the words "consciousness" and "awareness" over and over and, occasionally use jargon like "quantum leaps" to substantiate the intellectual gaps they're tenaciously ignoring.
  • Nov 10 2013: Some may be arrogant to think that we are. 8>))
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    Nov 6 2013: This is the earth-school, where our main purpose is to wake up and grow in consciousness. If we were genuinely smart we would not need to be here in the first place.
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    Nov 6 2013: Just vice versa: many of us are too naive. In fact our life is quite a challenge: it is an invisible game for our souls.
    Being naive makes us vulnerable 'dolls' in the hands of Satan...Imagine, in this game, we, at times, become victims of even religious servants - an obsessed priest (consider recent child sex abuse scandals publicised?! ) whereas they should serve to a human salvation. A human often end in tragedy, becuase they are blind " in spiritual terms" - the evil can posess a human as a vessel and we cannot see the soul and nature of "Hudas" among us... who can betray or destroy... Yet it is a will of God for us to be smarter than we are and see beyond frontier of human power to see... It is his will for us to understand to hear his voice... Actually, listening to voice and guidance of God has become a way of my life.... And I am winning in most "battles" due to an extraordinary gifts - hearing God's guidance... I wish you escape what I have escaped in my life... Well I will teach to understand universal language of God ... once my Prophetic film script is written - to guide to mastering a skill to win in spiritual warcraft. If you are curious on what I mean by "I wish you escape what I have escaped" start reading my blog (see my blog: and see the "critical point" in the first post.
  • Nov 6 2013: That's a joke right?? We are the dumbest animal on the planet.
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      Nov 6 2013: wow, that is an argument that somehow supports itself. i didn't know it is possible.
      • Nov 6 2013: TY, I was agreeing with your comment earlier. I liked the way Lejan put it.
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      Nov 7 2013: .
      We make invalid (harmful) happiness for our self-extinction.
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    Nov 6 2013: duh...
    Not really a smart to even question that i.m.h.o.

    Smart in throwing everything that is important to us out of balance, yes.
    Smart enough to dig our own graves by doing this, yes.
    Smart in ignoring grave warnings mother nature is giving us, yes.
    Smart to screw up our environment for self-gain, yes.

    If this is smart, yes we are too smart indeed, and the universe will be better of without such smart beings as ourselves.
  • Nov 6 2013: yes! In fact, we are so smart that we are destroying our little speck of the universe. :-) Very smart bacteria gone unchecked.

    I joke with you offense intended.
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    Nov 6 2013: Would we have ever risen from simple religious explanations if the moon and sun moved at random?
    Could Neanderthal have had a scientific revolution, given time-off from his daily butchery, burial rites, or autistic silex fascination?

    Ok. I actually had a smart question for this community, but it was censored by the TED administration. So there.
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    Nov 6 2013: maybe the opposite is true?

    (btw what is that later habit of ted to change the titles of talks? that happened to talks i translated, and now we have the weird situation that the translation is from the original and so does not match the current title. the original was actually much better.)

    anyway, in the light of recent developments in physics, the laws of the universe seem to be completely out of grasp as of now.
  • Nov 6 2013: That seems contradictory to me.
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    Nov 6 2013: Would we be at the same evolutionary state as we are in the present or would all life start from basic organisms and build up?
    • Nov 6 2013: We couldn't be. Evolution, the nature of intelligence, and the possibility to understand nature are parts of the same cloth.
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    Nov 5 2013: Some of is and some of us ain't. I think this is probably one of the more remedial universes. Perhaps your done with the learnin this one can provide?
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      Nov 6 2013: And Pat, are you on the 'is' or the 'ain't' side of this universe?

      You can take this question rhetorical if you choose not to answer me. :o)
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      Nov 6 2013: Nice pun, yet do you think those who need to get it actually will get it?
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    Nov 5 2013: I think we are too arrogant specs of dust in an endless space to think we are too smart for this universe. In Kardashev scale we are not even Type I civilization.