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The purpose of life


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#21 taby   Members   -  Reputation: 387

Posted 10 July 2012 - 01:30 PM

I only have about 5 minutes right now, so I'll reply later to others. Thanks to everyone for commenting though!

I thought about the following things yesterday:
- Second law of thermodynamics: Heat naturally flows from a system of higher temperature to a system of lower temperature, which I also see manifested in how higher temperature processes take precedence over low temperature processes. Burning wood adjacent to unlit wood is an example of what I'm thinking of here.
- Heisenberg uncertainty principle: Copies of systems and processes are never perfect, which I see manifested in quantum tunneling and the quantum no-cloning principle. Genetics is an example of what I'm thinking of here.

So, perhaps the purpose of life is to obey the second law of thermodynamics and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, just like any other process involving burning material is.

Edited by taby, 10 July 2012 - 01:32 PM.


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#22 zedz   Members   -  Reputation: 291

Posted 10 July 2012 - 02:46 PM

years ago I wrote a 20 minute song about it

the final part

the meaning of life is to fuck
to fuck until you loose your mind
youve gotta love everyone in sight
youve gotta do it till you go blind
and with any luck
there will be an afterlife
but until that day comes along
youve just gotta keep on moaning and sighing

#23 HappyCoder   Members   -  Reputation: 3120

Posted 10 July 2012 - 05:46 PM

I don't know how relevant this is but I don't think the dominant species isolated on a planet will be able to access it's intelligence/greatness. We humans think we are pretty smart, but to a weak mind it's own accomplishments seem great. So basically we as humans may be the big fish in the pond but there is a whole ocean out there that we have only had a minuscule glimpse of. There is a lot we don't know.

#24 ApochPiQ   Moderators   -  Reputation: 18041

Posted 10 July 2012 - 05:53 PM

Life, as has been clearly established, has no "purpose" in the canonical sense of the word.

However, it does follow a simple guiding principle, which is that certain patterns tend to outlast other patterns. This is the essence of natural selection. At some point in the past, certain chemicals become more likely to form than others; these chemicals began forming compounds, some of which had more longevity than others; and these progressed into fundamental components which also tended to stay intact for longer periods of time than alternative blobs of matter. Give it a few billion years and these compounds organize into information-storage structures (DNA et. al.) and start creating replicating organisms which ultimately wind up producing countless species of life across the globe.

It's not really all that mysterious or profound, frankly. It's just a simple mathematical principle: if something is more likely to remain intact and/or propagate, it will do so on statistical average. The reason life developed is that this pattern recurses. You start with particles, which tend to organize into atoms, and atoms into molecules, molecules into compounds, compounds into structures, structures into life forms.

I highly recommend anyone with a little bit of programming experience to dabble in genetic evolutionary algorithms. Nothing scary or complex (unless you want to) - just look at how incredibly powerful this principle really is. Start with some random gibberish and watch as almost-organic-looking bits of code end up coming out the other side. It's not a direct correlation to real life (since you have an external force "choosing" to kill certain code forms) but it's very instructive about how evolution operates.

#25 Oberon_Command   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3255

Posted 10 July 2012 - 08:01 PM

- Heisenberg uncertainty principle: Copies of systems and processes are never perfect, which I see manifested in quantum tunneling and the quantum no-cloning principle. Genetics is an example of what I'm thinking of here.


Eh? The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle I learned is that you can't measure both the exact position and momentum of any particle at the same time; that is, the more precise your measurement of position, the less precise your measurement of momentum, and vice versa.

Also, from a semantic point of view, asking what the "purpose of life" is implies (in the sense of linguistic implicature, not logical entailment) that life is an intentionally created artefact. To ask this particular phrasing of the question without having first demonstrated (or listed as an assumption, at the very least) that life is such an artefact begs the question thereof.

Edited by Oberon_Command, 10 July 2012 - 08:08 PM.


#26 laztrezort   Members   -  Reputation: 1039

Posted 10 July 2012 - 09:50 PM

So, perhaps the purpose of life is to obey the second law of thermodynamics and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, just like any other process involving burning material is.


Everything "obeys" these (as far as current scientific knowledge goes), like rocks, clocks, oranges and the vacuum of space. This just sounds like anthromorphism to me.

I highly recommend anyone with a little bit of programming experience to dabble in genetic evolutionary algorithms. Nothing scary or complex (unless you want to) - just look at how incredibly powerful this principle really is. Start with some random gibberish and watch as almost-organic-looking bits of code end up coming out the other side. It's not a direct correlation to real life (since you have an external force "choosing" to kill certain code forms) but it's very instructive about how evolution operates.


I second this, I was into making ALife sims years ago in school, and found it fascinating. The strategies that evolutionary processes (artificial and biological) produce are a surprising mixture of hacks and kludges, yet at the same time often beautifully genius.

Edited by laztrezort, 10 July 2012 - 09:50 PM.


#27 taby   Members   -  Reputation: 387

Posted 10 July 2012 - 09:58 PM

Life, as has been clearly established, has no "purpose" in the canonical sense of the word.

However, it does follow a simple guiding principle, which is that certain patterns tend to outlast other patterns. This is the essence of natural selection. At some point in the past, certain chemicals become more likely to form than others; these chemicals began forming compounds, some of which had more longevity than others; and these progressed into fundamental components which also tended to stay intact for longer periods of time than alternative blobs of matter. Give it a few billion years and these compounds organize into information-storage structures (DNA et. al.) and start creating replicating organisms which ultimately wind up producing countless species of life across the globe.

It's not really all that mysterious or profound, frankly. It's just a simple mathematical principle: if something is more likely to remain intact and/or propagate, it will do so on statistical average. The reason life developed is that this pattern recurses. You start with particles, which tend to organize into atoms, and atoms into molecules, molecules into compounds, compounds into structures, structures into life forms.

I highly recommend anyone with a little bit of programming experience to dabble in genetic evolutionary algorithms. Nothing scary or complex (unless you want to) - just look at how incredibly powerful this principle really is. Start with some random gibberish and watch as almost-organic-looking bits of code end up coming out the other side. It's not a direct correlation to real life (since you have an external force "choosing" to kill certain code forms) but it's very instructive about how evolution operates.


Well said, and pretty much in tune with what I had in mind this morning. Life's nothing special, though it does indeed act differently than dead matter, but defining that difference isn't really why I started this thread.

Edited by taby, 10 July 2012 - 10:12 PM.


#28 taby   Members   -  Reputation: 387

Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:03 PM


- Heisenberg uncertainty principle: Copies of systems and processes are never perfect, which I see manifested in quantum tunneling and the quantum no-cloning principle. Genetics is an example of what I'm thinking of here.


Eh? The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle I learned is that you can't measure both the exact position and momentum of any particle at the same time; that is, the more precise your measurement of position, the less precise your measurement of momentum, and vice versa.

Also, from a semantic point of view, asking what the "purpose of life" is implies (in the sense of linguistic implicature, not logical entailment) that life is an intentionally created artefact. To ask this particular phrasing of the question without having first demonstrated (or listed as an assumption, at the very least) that life is such an artefact begs the question thereof.


Seems like we're talking about the same uncertainty principle?

I realize now that the word "purpose" was probably not the best word. I wonder what a better word would be, other than "role". For sure it's pretty hard not to anthropomorphize what I'm trying to ask about.

#29 taby   Members   -  Reputation: 387

Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:07 PM

Everything "obeys" these (as far as current scientific knowledge goes), like rocks, clocks, oranges and the vacuum of space. This just sounds like anthromorphism to me.


I think you're getting me backwards, because of how I was coming at it yesterday. What I was saying earlier today was that all processes -- dead or alive -- "compete" to "obey" these laws. It's not just "as far as current scientific knowledge goes", because it's not just a theory, it's a law. Of course, you're still ignoring the spontaneity aspect, which sounds like so much reverse anthropomorphism, so it can't be quite right either. Surely you're not going to accuse me of saying that smoke and fire are alive. LOL.

Edited by taby, 10 July 2012 - 10:13 PM.


#30 Oberon_Command   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3255

Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:45 PM



- Heisenberg uncertainty principle: Copies of systems and processes are never perfect, which I see manifested in quantum tunneling and the quantum no-cloning principle. Genetics is an example of what I'm thinking of here.


Eh? The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle I learned is that you can't measure both the exact position and momentum of any particle at the same time; that is, the more precise your measurement of position, the less precise your measurement of momentum, and vice versa.

Also, from a semantic point of view, asking what the "purpose of life" is implies (in the sense of linguistic implicature, not logical entailment) that life is an intentionally created artefact. To ask this particular phrasing of the question without having first demonstrated (or listed as an assumption, at the very least) that life is such an artefact begs the question thereof.


Seems like we're talking about the same uncertainty principle?


I'm not sure that we are. How do you get "copies of systems and processes are never perfect" from "one may not precisely measure the momentum and position of a particle at the same instant?"

#31 phantom   Members   -  Reputation: 8941

Posted 11 July 2012 - 02:52 AM

Surely you're not going to accuse me of saying that smoke and fire are alive. LOL.


Smoke might not fit but a fire isn't a million miles away from life.

Consider;
Life consumes resources, replicates and spreads and produces waste.
A fire consumes resources, it replicates and spreads as it consumes them and produces waste.

The properties of a fire are not unlike those of a bacterium, all be it on a simpler scale and yet bacteria are, last I checked, considered 'alive'.

#32 mdwh   Members   -  Reputation: 993

Posted 11 July 2012 - 07:50 AM


Everything "obeys" these (as far as current scientific knowledge goes), like rocks, clocks, oranges and the vacuum of space. This just sounds like anthromorphism to me.


I think you're getting me backwards, because of how I was coming at it yesterday. What I was saying earlier today was that all processes -- dead or alive -- "compete" to "obey" these laws. It's not just "as far as current scientific knowledge goes", because it's not just a theory, it's a law.

Sidetracking a bit, I don't think this follows "because it's a law" - I think you're misunderstanding "theory" and "law". In science, theory isn't the same meaning as the common usage of "theory" (i.e., an educated guess), it means a model that's supported by evidence. A "law" on the other hand is something that's a simple statement or rule - e.g., a simple relation - based on observed behaviour. So the laws of thermodynamics are called because they are each a statement on how things behave, as opposed to being a scientific model. Theories and laws aren't rungs in a ladder of correctness - laws aren't things known to be true anymore than theories, and theories never turn into laws. A law could still turn out to be wrong, indeed, some laws are known to be only approximations (gas laws). Not that I think this is likely true of thermodynamics, but it isn't anything to do with being labelled a law or theory (and it seems odd to say that something must be universally true, just based on how humans decide to call it).

For example, the law of gravity is the equation that gives the force between two objects. The theory of gravity is the model that describes how this happens (e.g., Newtonian, or General Relativity).
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#33 phantom   Members   -  Reputation: 8941

Posted 11 July 2012 - 08:09 AM

In science, theory isn't the same meaning as the common usage of "theory" (i.e., an educated guess), it means a model that's supported by evidence.


And now if we could get every Anti-evolution/Inteligent Design nutjob to realise this life might get a bit easier.... That or they stop believing in the theory of gravity and float away...

#34 laztrezort   Members   -  Reputation: 1039

Posted 11 July 2012 - 08:28 AM


In science, theory isn't the same meaning as the common usage of "theory" (i.e., an educated guess), it means a model that's supported by evidence.


And now if we could get every Anti-evolution/Inteligent Design nutjob to realise this life might get a bit easier.... That or they stop believing in the theory of gravity and float away...


Somehow I don't think it would matter - these types of pseudo-science arguments are never grounded in reality or common sense anyway. If the common usage of "theory" went away, there would be a whole slew of other nonsense arguments put in their place (although perhaps it might make it more difficult to convice school boards to buy into it).

I think you're getting me backwards, because of how I was coming at it yesterday. What I was saying earlier today was that all processes -- dead or alive -- "compete" to "obey" these laws. It's not just "as far as current scientific knowledge goes", because it's not just a theory, it's a law. Of course, you're still ignoring the spontaneity aspect, which sounds like so much reverse anthropomorphism, so it can't be quite right either. Surely you're not going to accuse me of saying that smoke and fire are alive. LOL.


My anthromorphism comment was mostly due to ascribing to these processes a "purpose" (as in a directed plan or goal, or some sort of reason other than naturual laws for existing). Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you mean by "purpose".

My qualification of "as far as current scientific knowledge" was to leave open the possibility that such laws are open to modification by later discoveries - and mdwh pretty much summed up what I would have said about "law" and "theories".

I'm not sure what you are getting at with "spontaneity" either, unless you are touching on free will or something. For the record, I tend toward the philosophy of Mechanism, and am fairly convinced that free will is an illusion, an artifact of how our brains work.

#35 taby   Members   -  Reputation: 387

Posted 13 July 2012 - 11:33 AM

So, rather than ask "what is the purpose of life" or "what does life aim to achieve", a better question would be "what does life achieve".

Of course now that it's been brought up, I thought about what may or may not mark the boundary between living and dead matter. I'll reply tonight in-depth, but here's a quick list of things:
- Structure, which implies low entropy and repeated states. Stable relationships. Not too many relationships though. Ie. Not a fire, not a blacl hole. A boundary (shell) as manifestation of system concept.
- Use of mass and light for sustenance and to duplicate.
- Disproportionate response to stimuli. A cheezeburger's photons and aromatic components do not give enough energy to a human to compensate for the movement of a human arm involved in grasping the cheezeburger.


So, basically fire and rocks and fridges and stars are not alive.

#36 mikeman   Members   -  Reputation: 2419

Posted 13 July 2012 - 07:41 PM

Well, if there is god(s), probably more specifically a creator of the Universe, then life could have some "higher" meaning itself. If there isn't any such thing as the divine, it doesn't have an inherent one, but one's personal life might still have meaning, you just have to define it yourself :)

#37 ligh   Members   -  Reputation: 572

Posted 13 July 2012 - 08:17 PM

So, perhaps the purpose of life is to obey the second law of thermodynamics and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, just like any other process involving burning material is.


To me the answer is in the question. The purpose of life is to live. Why else do we eat, breath, protect ourselves and protect our young.

#38 laztrezort   Members   -  Reputation: 1039

Posted 13 July 2012 - 08:59 PM

To me the answer is in the question. The purpose of life is to live. Why else do we eat, breath, protect ourselves and protect our young.


The "Selfish Gene" by Dawkins posits a way to look at organisms as basically just machines being used by replicators (genes) to copy themselves. I'm probably not doing the book or idea justice, but it is an interesting read.

The purpose of life is to live, so we can breed. And breeding is the means for our genes to replicate. So in a sense, replicating molecules "built" us to carry them around in relative safety, and programmed us with the drive to survive and breed in order to facilitate their replication. Living things are nothing but glorified, clumsy tools of replication.

"We are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world"

#39 Sean T. McBeth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1697

Posted 15 July 2012 - 11:36 PM

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To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Edited by capn_midnight, 15 July 2012 - 11:36 PM.

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#40 GninjaGnome   Members   -  Reputation: 182

Posted 16 July 2012 - 12:23 AM

If humanity has a purpose, than, I'd guess we are the product of intelligent design. If that is the case, then who, or whatever designed us is pretty damn smart, so I'd assume that we are currently fulfilling whatever task we were created for. So, our purpose is to breed, consume, and pollute until this planet is inhabitable

Maybe life is just this gross film that gets all over a planet every so often, and humanity is the scrubbing bubbles of teh universe. I figure we should have done something to finish our job in teh next few thousand years. ...it's not like the universe is in a rush anyway.

So I'm gonna say we are anti-life, ...and god or whatever must be very proud of us :)

...and Conan is way off, cause killing people just slows down teh process.




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