Disorder and the Miracle of Existence

Thursday, July 27, 2006
Today's Technology Review has this article.

Q&A: Seth Lloyd
TR talks with one of the pioneers of quantum computing and author of Programming the Universe.


TR: And why does the universe tend to complexity?

SL: This notion of the universe as a giant quantum computer gets you something new and important that you don't get from the ordinary laws of physics. If you look back 13.8 billion years to the beginning of the universe, the Initial State was extremely simple, only requiring a few bits to describe. But I see on your table an intricate, very beautiful orchid -- where the heck did all that complex information come from? The laws of physics are silent on this issue. They have no explanation. They do not encode some yearning for complexity.

I have always wondered about this ever since I learned the Second Law of Thermodynamics as a teenager. If you do not experience wonder and awe at this miracle, you are missing out.


Knucklehead said...

Is it complexity or beauty that the universe tends toward?

truepeers said...

The universes, both physical and cultural, are expanding. That means there is more to behold; and for the being capable of synthesizing an understanding of all he beholds, the universe thus becomes more complex. But at the same time evanescent "beauty" keeps popping up all over the place, as it always has, irregardless of the existence of these synthesizing humans. Yet it may only be beautiful to us, just as only for us is the whole world complex - for an animal, a particular task may be difficult, but I doubt the bear fishing for salmon ponders the complexity of the whole scene he's in... It's only beautiful or complex for us because of our esthetic capability which is essentially the function of our minds to continually oscillate between the contemplation of real worldly things and of our signs/ways of imagining things, as we try to reconcile the images and symbols in our heads with the real things before us, as we refine or synthesize our understanding of reality and of our humanity in continually expanding its skills in reflecting on itself in reality.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

The Second Law used to depress me, long after I first learned of it.

But lately I have come to realize that it is necessary in the grand scheme of things for things to work themselves out, for their entropy to increase. The orchid is a good example. This is fundamentally a spiritual belief I have come to in recent years and I cannot justify it, but it seems right.