Monday, September 9, 2013

Morality Machines in the Distant Future Universe

Far Futures is a collection of stories put together by Gregory Benford, with contributiosn from Greg Bear, Poul Anderson, Haldeman, Kingsbury, and Sheffield.

Not going to happen. But great story. If you don't like it, then re-write it with a Maxwell's demon catching particles as the universe continues to accelerate outward, trying to predict which ones it should grab based on current projected but not-quite-there solutions. Now would that really make the story better?

They're all excellent as you might expect from a Benford-edited collection, but the one story in particular that stood out to me was Bear's Judgement Engine. The story is a collision of thermodynamics, morality, and metaphysics. At the Big Crunch there remains a single library where the far future's remaining minds remain, crunching through possible solutions to suffering and the nature of existence.

Essentially, consciousness requires life, which requires energy, which requires things to prey on other things, and in all the aeons of existence, no one has found a way around this brute fact of reality. There is either non-existence, or there is suffering - which includes things making each other suffer. As the edge of the universe and the end of all things draws quickly and inexorably closer, this Problem is the last unsolved conjecture at the end of time. Why do they care? Because (in an homage to Buddhist ideas about death and reincarnation) their thoughts at the moment of the Big Crunch will determine the nature of the entire universe that will appear at the next Big Bang. A story like this can only end in tragedy.

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