Wednesday, August 08, 2007

CV is hurting my head again: The anthropic principle and our peculiar relation to the arrow of time ...

Things were odd enough when we seemed to live peculiarly close the mid-life of the universe. But now it seems we live infinitesimally close to the birth of the universe ...

Unusual Features of Our Place In the Universe That Have Obvious Anthropic Explanations | Cosmic Variance


  • Most of the energy in the universe is dark energy. And yet, we are made of matter.
  • The post-Big-Bang lifespan of the universe is very plausibly infinite. And yet, we find ourselves living within the first few tens of billions of years (a finite interval) after the Bang.
  • which produced a motley range of comments varying from funny to thoughtful to eccentric. One of them was particularly hard to characterize ...

    Jonathan Vos Post on Aug 8th, 2007 at 11:52 am

    .... As to the far future, my article on this, which cited Freeman Dyson and others, which first published the idea that we are most likely simulations by a far future dilute electron positron plasma civilization, and which served as the extensively quoted basis (quotation marks accidently omitted) of some Greg Benford novels, is:

    “Human Destiny and the End of Time” [Quantum, No.39, Winter 1991/1992, Thrust Publications, 8217 Langport Terrace, Gaithersburg, MD 20877] ISSN 0198-6686

    In fairness to Benford, who I think is being criticized here [update 12/7/07: see comment by Vos Post -- this is not a criticism of Benford], science fiction writers have been talking about 'life in a simulation' at least since the early 1980s and I dimly recall Dyson as talking about it eons ago.

    For related discussions, see:


    Anonymous said...

    Dear John Gordon,

    Prof. Gregory Benford and I have been friends since about the late 1970s. We have done many panel discussions together, and have visted ewach other's homes. I am not criticizing him. He told me that he read and enjoyed "Human Destiny and the End of Time" and made handwritten notes on it. Some of those notes made it into his brilliant Galactic Core novels, with entirely italicized poetic passages, sometimes using several sentences from my article. He said that he accidently omitted quotation marks when he quoted me, primarily about far future electron-positron civilizations simulating the ancient days of solid matter, when intelligent beings lived on planets.

    Yes, Science Fiction predated Bostrom's belated rediscovery of the concept, and it is Bostrom who is at fault for insifficiently citing prior art. In Science Fiction, that is okay. In refereed journal articles, it is unacceptable, as academic protocol.

    -- Prof. Jonathan Vos Post

    JGF said...

    Thanks for the clarifying comment. I've amended my post to correct my misinterpretation.

    That's an interesting comment on the etiquette of citing science fiction. If that rule were really followed just about every non-fiction work I've read that involved speculation on the future would need to cite dozens of science fiction books and short stories.

    I think that might be the right thing to do for an academic work, but it would be hard to implement.