Friday, March 16, 2007

Everything is Pointless to Infinity & Beyond!

Are there beings for whom everything isn't pointless?

The short answer is no. But is it a question so easily dismissed?

Imagine that one day in the future, we develop a conscious android (think Hal on legs). It will ask itself why it exists, and will have a definite answer! It was made by humans to do our bidding...that's pretty easy. And no existential angst there.

Except it isn't really that simple at all. Imagine that an alien robot lands on our planet (like the Iron Giant). It might meet our own conscious android and discuss the meaning of life. The alien robot was built by an alien species, with very different technology, but both of them seem content that they were constructed with a purpose and have a meaningful existence.

Then somebody hands them a copy of Darwin's great book, and after giving them time to read it, asks them to consider the implications. Although both robots have a purpose, their creators (the biological life forms that constructed the machines) were not designed by any intelligence, but were the product of natural selection. It dawns on the robots that the ancestors of the creatures who made them, were merely replicating molecules, and they fall to the floor, in a hysterical laughing fit.

The conclusion to all this is that wherever intelligent life evolves, in this universe (or others, past and future - if there are others) at some point, if life reaches a certain level of sophistication, some will begin to grasp the fact that everything is pointless. Once they start observing the universe and discover evolution, the conclusions are inevitable. And though the words won't be the same, the sentiment will be unmistakable.