Posted by: grokscience | September 7, 2011

Infinite Beginnings

How are explanations of the world developed and how do we sort good and bad explanations?  Is there a limit to our knowledge of the world?  On this program, Prof. David Deutsch discussed the beginning of infinity.

Where’s the finish line?



  1. Refreshing and inspiring. I thought that thinking like this had died in the 1990s.


  2. I thought speaker’s full of it until later about sustainability. He’s absolutely right. The only constant we can count on is change, good or bad. All the doomsayers running around trying to stop the change will not solve the real problem. We have to face the change and act on it. How? It’s not about forcing people to make less fart (methane/CO2), but about what to sell to people as the changes come.

    The ability of the species to survive through the changes depend on their intellectual ability or adaptability. Highly intelligent beings will adapt quicker to changes and survive (ie, humans). Highly adaptable beings can also survive through changes (ie, some forms of bacteria). But if the rate of change exceeds the being’s intellectual / adaptable ability, they would not survive. For example, nuclear war might not allow humans to survive, but bacteria probably will survive if the planet is not giant ball of magma. But if humans have the technology to leave the planet to other places (which we don’t yet have), humans would survive even if the planet becomes a ball of magma swallowed by red giant.

    That begs the question, what does it mean by surviving? Is it just perpetuation of our DNA or is it our thought process? If it’s DNA, it seems that’s possible with taking a genome of a person, combine with another person’s genome and mix it up and come up with new DNA (as in Aldus Huxley’s novel). In that case, body is not needed for survival. We can construct machines that can do this, even after nuclear war. But if it’s our thought process, then what does that mean? Robots that think? I would think that for humans, especially at this stage of technology, survival would mean more than just DNA preservation and beyond our carbon bodies.

    As for manned space exploration, we’re going about it all wrong. Sending fragile carbon bodies into space is useless and wasteful. We should be researching more robust bodies better suited for space (and beyond?) rather than wasting billions of dollars to send the “man”. Someone (I think someone GSS interviewed) posed an argument that robots are inefficient compared to man, and that man on Mars could’ve done so much more than robots. But shouldn’t that be the reason to put more research into making robots that can do man’s work rather than trying to send man to Mars? If the robot can be made as effective as man, then we can send it (them) to Mars, Io, Titan, maybe even to Alpha Centauri. And if one wanted to, we can include some DNA info and computers that combine different sources of DNA to make new ones every few years. That will be our survival, both in thought and DNA with DNA part of it being completely optional.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love the act of sharing DNA to make new ones. It’s my most favorite sport. But still, there might be something better maybe even beyond just sharing DNA. I’m open for it. Bring it on.

    I just noticed GSS haven’t been on a while. I have some catch up listening to do.

  3. Very interesting, but the bit about sustainability I didn’t get. Did DD mean living within our means as a species is somehow undoable, not worth doing… what? We haven’t done too well at it so far, so maybe it is (practically) undoable, but it is worth doing.

    Or did he mean something else by “sustainability”?

  4. […] Groks Science Show is a weekly science radio show and podcast hosted by Dr. Charles Lee, Dr. Frank Ling and Dr. Elise Covic. Each episode features an interview with a leading scientist, researcher, or industrialist. Interviewees have included familiar figures like Brian Cox and a variety of other less well known but equally compelling guests.  A personal favourite of mine is quantum computation pioneer David Deutsche. […]

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