Re: Article: How Will the Universe End?

From: Tommy McCabe (
Date: Sat Mar 06 2004 - 14:24:03 MST

--- Emil Gilliam <> wrote:
> How Will the Universe End?
> A cosmic detective story about the demise of the
> world, in three parts.
> By Jim Holt
> ...
> What could our descendants possibly look like a
> trillion trillion
> trillion years from now, when the stars have
> disappeared and the
> universe is dark and freezing and so diffuse that
> it's practically
> empty? What will they be made of?
> "The most plausible answer," Dyson said, "is that
> conscious life will
> take the form of interstellar dust clouds." He was
> alluding to the kind
> of inorganic life forms imagined by the late
> astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle
> in his 1957 science fiction novel, The Black Cloud.
> "An ever-expanding
> network of charged dust particles, communicating by
> electromagnetic
> forces, has all the complexity necessary for
> thinking an infinite
> number of novel thoughts."
> How, I objected, can we really imagine such a wispy
> thing, spread out
> over billions of light-years of space, being
> conscious?
> "Well," he said, "how do you imagine a couple of
> kilograms of
> protoplasm in someone's skull being conscious? We
> have no idea how that
> works either."

I'm personally surprised you didn't snipe yourself.
First of all, this article is from Microsoft, one of
the worst companies of all time (I could go in to a
big long discussion of why that is, but that would be
irrelevant to SL4. Google is your friend). Second of
all, the material in the brain isn't "protoplasm"- the
supposed existence of such material, which was thought
to give life to beings, was disproven centuries ago.
Third of all, this completely ignores any kind of
ultratechnology or even a Singularity happening.
Fourth, the Singularity could prevent, or at least
postpone, the universe winding up in such a state.
Fifth, there is no communication mechanism specified.
Interstellar dust doesn't have an electric or magnetic
charge. Sixth, unless some form of FTL travel is
assumed, the entity would take trillions of years to
think a thought. Seventh, the particles would have to
know exactly where the other particles were in order
to relay signals (at least to relay signals
efficiently- omnidirectional transmissions waste huge
amounts of energy). Eighth, even given a workaround to
seven, the particles are likely to be moving and so
would have to keep constant track of each other
(sounds like a lot for a little bit of dust!). Ninth,
although we of course don't fully understand the
brain, it isn't true the we have "no idea" how it
works. Just ask a neurologist. Tenth, this organism
would still consume quite a lot of energy, and no
energy source is given. Eleventh, given the time frame
(10^36 years in the future), and given current
theories about cosmic expansion, who says there would
even be dust? The human brain can easily get around

1. The human brain was designed by Darwinian
evolution, which, although stupid, isn't actively
malicious like Microsoft.

2. N/A

3. The human brain was developed when there was no
good reason to expect any sort of a Singularity- now
there is good reason o expect one in this century.

4. N/A

5. The communication mechanism in the brain is well
known and doesn't have to cover vast distances.

6. The brain is extremely small compared to the
proposed organism and therefore doesn't suffer this

7 & 8. The brain's neurons are physically connected to
each other and don't really move relative to one
another. This isn't a problem.

9. N/A

10. The brain does have a proven energy source- solar
nuclear fusion, which is transferred indirectly
through light and food.

11. The universe is about 1.3 * 10^10 years old, not
10^36. The Universe is still dense enough for entire
solar systems to form.

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