"...Guth likens the universe in which we live to the two-dimensional surface of a sphere which, because of its immense size, appears to us to be almost perfectly flat. There are circumstances, he says, in which an ‘’aneurysm’’ could develop on this surface, a region in which space and time bulge like a tumor, eventually pinching itself off from its parent into a new universe.
"To a hypothetical observer inside the bulge, conditions might initially resemble those of the Big Bang explosion from which our own universe is thought to have arisen. But to observers in our own universe, Dr. Guth said, the aneurysm would merely resemble a black hole — a supermassive object whose immense gravity prevents the escape even of light. After a certain amount of time the black hole would evaporate, leaving no trace of the place where a new universe had been born."
"So will the universe end in a big crunch, or in an infinite expansion of dead stars, or in some other manner? In my view, the primary issue is not the mass of the universe, or the possible existence of antigravity, or of Einstein’s so-called cosmological constant. Rather, the fate of the universe is a decision yet to be made, one which we will intelligently consider when the time is right."Intelligence, predicts Kurzweil, will eventually prove to be more powerful than any of the universe’s big “impersonal” forces.
The Selfish Biocosm
Complexity theorist James Gardner took this idea to its furthest extreme, by arguing that the life-friendly nature of the universe can be explained as the predictable outcome of natural processes, including life and intelligence.
According to his “selfish biocosm” theory, “the emergence of life and ever more accomplished forms of intelligence is inextricably linked to the physical birth, evolution, and reproduction of the cosmos.” In other words, intelligence exists in the Universe not by accident; rather, it’s a deliberate and purposeful force of nature.
A consequence of Gardner’s theory would be that intelligent life creates new universes and its own successors. We may or may not be able to survive the ultimate destruction of the universe, says Gardner, but our progeny will live on elsewhere. He writes:
"[We] and other living creatures are part of a vast, still undiscovered transterrestrial community of lives and intelligences spread across billions of galaxies and countless parsecs who are collectively engaged in a portentous mission of truly cosmic importance. Under the Biocosm vision, we share a common fate with that community—to help shape the future of the universe and transform it from a collection of lifeless atoms into a vast, transcendent mind."Gardner’s theory is interesting in that it applies the Strong Anthropic Principle—the philosophical idea that the laws of the cosmos make life not just possible but inevitable—in such a way that life itself becomes responsible for the very presence of the universe.
Both Kurzweil and Gardner agree that advanced intelligence will spread out into the cosmos and convert matter into a more useable form. But while Kurzweil concedes that intelligence may not migrate far beyond its local galactic confines, Gardner speculates that intelligent life will somehow find a way to branch out “across billions of galaxies.”
The Ever-Unfolding Universe
But the Fermi Paradox could suggest otherwise. A so-called Great Filter may be in effect, that precludes intelligent life from advancing beyond a certain developmental stage. And you could argue that the laws of the universe, as they’re currently set up, actually prevent life from advancing to a futuristic space-faring, universe-engineering phase.
As unlikely as it seems, however, the cosmological situation could change billions of years from now. Similar to how our Solar System was chaotic and grossly uninhabitable billions of years ago, the Universe may likewise become “safer” and more hospitable towards superintelligence in the far future than it is today. Once that developmental stage is reached, there may be no limits to what superintelligent civilizations could do to ensure their own long term prospects.
Sadly, it’s fair to wonder if our civilization didn’t show up too early in the history of the universe, to take advantage of this opportunity to shape it.