by Alex Vikoulov [Posted June 24, 2019 3.33 pm PST]
James Scargill at UC Davis finds the theoretical grounds for existence of low-dimensional lifeforms based on neural network connectivity, making this discovery a great contribution to Digital Physics and Digital Philosophy.
The Anthropic Principle, a "tautological" principle in cosmology that presupposes the "fine-tuned" universe where complex observers like us humans arise to ponder about how it came into existence and turned out just right to accommodate all its diversity and complexity of life, has been recently called into question. At first glance, it's hard for us humans to imagine any complexity to which we would ascribe qualities of living things to arise in 2+1 dimensions. Should "life" arise in this low dimensionality surely it would be "too simple" because of a lack of topological dimension and physical forces we enjoy in our 3+1D "human" universe. Or, so the anthropic argument goes.
But according to the new paper, titled "Can Life Exist in 2+1 Dimensions?" by James Scargill at the University of California, Davis, this kind of 2+1-dimensional universe could support both gravity and complexity that life would require to exist. The author examines the anthropic argument and its derivatives and demonstrates how a purely scalar theory of gravity may circumvent certain restrictions inherent in real-life biological neural networks that are crucial for their functioning.
The Conway's Game of Life with its "digital lifeforms" comes to mind, but this latest model seems to be a more sophisticated theoretical version of it, to be clear. We don't necessarily have to imagine a cyberspace simulated with quantum neural networks and AI in the future, the one which would be conducive to the emergence of "digital life" like this. Looking back at evolution of life on Earth, even our own early ancestors — earthly microorganisms — that "processed" their environment in essentially 2+1 dimensions can be regarded as such "flatlanders."
"As the saying goes, 'life finds a way,' and it is not inconceivable that beings which evolved under such circumstances would find a way to nonetheless communicate effectively," writes the researcher in his paper.
In his groundbreaking paper, Scargill examines the “small-worldness," a pattern of connectivity that makes it possible for information to propagate within a complex network by passing through a small number of nodes. Another property of neural networks, known as 'criticality', is that they operate in a regime that is delicately balanced between the transition from high to low activity. And this also seems possible only in networks that have a modular hierarchy in which small sub-networks combine to form larger networks.
This is an impressive discovery with some unexpected result for cosmologists which implies that lower-dimensional networks with certain features — small-world properties, modular hierarchy, and critical behavior — can support quite a surprisingly complex "intersubjective" behavior.
READ MORE: Life could exist in a 2D universe (according to physics, anyway) [MIT Technology Review]
Keywords: digital life, digital physics, digital philosophy, 2D Universe, Anthropic Principle, cosmology, fine-tuned universe, complex observers, complexity of life, topological dimension, physical forces, anthropic argument, James Scargill, University of California, gravity, Game of Life, digital lifeforms, cyberspace, flatlanders, small worldness, pattern of connectivity, complex network, neural networks, criticality, small-world properties, modular hierarchy, intersubjective behavior.
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