What does a paradox discovered by Ken Olum
in his article:Conflict between anthropic reasoning and observation
have to do with religion and artificial intelligence?
argues in his article that intelligent observers should find themselves living in ''galactic'' civilizations that have colonized entire galaxies or even larger regions of space. Such civilizations contain such an enormous number of observers that even if a small fraction of civilizations like ours develop into these galactic civilizations, the typical observer should still expect to find him/herself in galactic civilizations.Olum's
article is a bit vague about how to resolve this problem. It offers no reasonable solutions. Questioning anthropic reasoning is clearly not an attractive option as is explained in the article. Olum
argues that a combination of factors could reduce the probability that a planet bound civilization develops into a galactic civilization.
I have always found science fiction movies where humans explore the galaxy very unrealistic. I.m.o. people like Hans Moravec
and Hugo de Garis
are right to question the assumption that we humans will be in power for much longer. There will come a time when machines can do everything better than humans. I predict that when we make a serious effort to colonize the Moon and Mars, robot technology and artificial intelligence will make quantum leaps and will rival human abilities.
Spending 40 billion dollars to develop a very sophisticated robot with the intelligence of a mouse capable of searching for fossils
on Mars is money well spend. That would allow NASA to do a mission with robots instead of humans and save more than hundred billion dollars. So, the space program may give us intelligent machines as a spin-off. These machines will replace us long before we decide to colonize the galaxy. The galaxy will be colonized by robots, if at all.
Even if one thinks of unlikely scenarios where humans in biological form start out to colonize the galaxy, what will stop them from making intelligent machines later on? Once intelligent machines are produced somewhere, they will take over the entire galaxy. To end up with a galaxy colonized entirely by humans, you need to assume that throughout this entire civilization a ban on producing intelligent machines can be maintained. That is, i.m.o., totally unrealistic.
So, I'm of the opinion that biological civilizations transform to machine civilizations around the time they start to colonize space. The reason is that biological
creatures simply can't compete with machines in space. This is like a phase transition; a biological galactic civilization is as unlikely as liquid water at 1 K and 1 bar.
One problem with this explanation is that it introduces another problem: Why aren't we machines? I would say that a galactic civilization of machines doesn't need to consist of a huge number of intelligent machines. Intelligent machines will be able to merge with each other, upload themselves via radio to other machines lightyears
So, the fact that we are neither machines nor part of a galactic civilization is consistent with anthropic reasoning. Perhaps anthropic reasoning can also explain why we aren't very rational beings. Most people still hold on to religious believes that are incompatible with (modern) science. Perhaps there is an anthropic factor that at work here. Scientific progress has been hindered by religion over the centuries. Perhaps civilizations consisting of more rational beings evolve faster than us and transform to machines in less generations than we will do. The total number of individuals that will ever have lived in our backward civilization may be much larger than in rational civilizations.