Why Life Exists

Why Life Exists

This video is sponsored by CuriosityStream. Get access to my streaming video service,
Nebula, when you sign up for CuriosityStream using the link in the description. We already know, from the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, that the answer to life itselfis 42. And while that’s useful to know, it doesn’t
tell us why life exists in the first place. Welcome to our 222nd weekly episode of Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur, where we tackle the big questions. And this episode’s question is so big, it
hasn’t merely vexed the greatest minds of history, it also won the most recent poll
of what topics SFIA subscribers would like to hear discussed in an episode. But a question that’s vexed humankind for
millennia might be a little tricky to fully answer in a single episode, even a long one,
so first let’s ponder what angle we want to examine that question from. “Why” is something of an ambiguous word,
and when we ponder why something is, we have to ask first if we are expecting it to have
a cause or a purpose. Imagine if you were watching an intense game
of chess, and a fellow spectator next to you asked, “Hey, why did Black move his rook
like that?” This is a perfect example of where you probably
wouldn’t give a causal answer, in terms of what was going on before the move that
caused it, but a teleological answer, one in terms of what purpose the move was meant
to accomplish further along in the game. Technically you could answer in terms of how
Black’s mindset just before making the move caused the move, but that would still be a
discussion of possible futures Black anticipates, not about past board states causing the move. As students of science, we think in terms
of cause and effect, even though some things in theoretical physics might violate causality
as we currently understand it. But in practical language we very often talk
about phenomena in these teleological terms, in which things seem to be pulled by the future
rather than pushed by the past. This is the most true when we’re pondering
why a manmade device or component was engineered in a certain way. It’s built like this in order to accomplish
that…. Really, any time we’re discussing rational
decisions of minimally cognitive beings, a teleological explanation will tell the story
the most clearly. But we have to be very careful when we start
discussing non-conscious or non-rational actors in that same way, lest we create some misunderstandings. And unfortunately, this language permeates
discussions of the evolution of life. We hear phrases like, “The birds evolved
longer beaks to get at the nectar in larger flowers”. I expect most fans of this channel know that’s
just a shorthand figure of speech, and a more precise description would be, “The lengths
of birds’ beaks varied by minor mutations, and in places where large nectar flowers were
more abundant than plants that produce seeds with husks, long beaks conferred a greater
survival advantage than short chisel beaks, enabling the long-beaked birds in those regions
to reproduce more, leading to a greater average—” I think you get the idea, that we’d go mad
if we had to talk that way all the time, so we abbreviate a bit, though that can sometimes
cause misunderstanding. While the teleological explanation, in which
a creature evolves a feature to accomplish a purpose, is convenient and non-maddening,
it can be very misleading. As we explained in more detail in our Void
Ecology episode, evolution does not engage in a generations-long process of developing
an expensive new feature that will confer a survival advantage someday, in the future,
when it’s finished—even if that advantage will eventually be huge. Every step along the way needs to confer an
advantage, or at least be sufficiently neutral that it causes no survival problems. Something like fur patterns or hair color
might be fairly neutral initially, or even cause a very minor disadvantage, but eventually
produce something like camouflage patterns or a color or style more appealing to potential
mates. It’s all a big statistical survival game
where other factors including luck are in play, but the key idea is that in Darwinian
evolution each incremental change must enhance that generation’s survival or at least not
diminish it, but it can’t be explained by its being part of some longer term goal or
purpose. So, back to our sub-question. When we ask why life exists, are we looking
for a cause or a purpose? Well, it seems to me that a thing only has
a purpose if there was a designer, engineer, or strategist behind the thing, who had some
goal in mind. Design and Purpose to life is certainly a
possibility, and plenty of designers and purposes have been suggested over the years. The Intelligent Design school of thought these
days includes not just religious creationists but also alien origin theorists and simulated
universe theorists. And if you adhere to any of those theories,
then asking the purpose of life is really just asking what was on the creators’ minds
and what they were out to accomplish. But while life on Earth indeed might have
been made by aliens who evolved billions of years earlier, they still have to have originated
themselves, so why do they exist? The same question would apply to a single
creator. So that declaring our universe to be a simulation
still requires figuring out who made the Universe running our simulated Universe. This is a common problem with origin-of-life
theories, many just kick the time of origin and “why” further back. Of course that doesn’t mean they’re wrong
either. And we can speculate in an at least logically-bounded
way why a creator or simulator might make a universe, what purpose he/she/they/it had
in mind, where they are now, and why they exist. But such things don’t really fit well into
scientific inquiry so we’ll shelve them and discussion of the purpose of life for
today. So that leaves us to ponder the cause of life,
to examine how and why unconscious physical laws governing primordial particles, without
an engineer in sight or any goal in mind, could turn those particles into amazingly
complex living things. It can be counter-intuitive at first, that
simple laws governing a simple system can give rise to extremely complex behaviors. We call such systems Emergent, as they emerge
from a lower set of rules or principles. Emergent systems have properties as a collection
that the individual components do not have. And we usually use the term to imply that
the emergence was unexpected, at least by us. And it’s a quite common phenomenon, that
simple systems produce more complex systems with governing rules that you can discover
and base predictions on, even without understanding the simpler systems or simpler rules underlying
them. For example, consider two elements of Newtonian
mechanics: force equals mass times acceleration, and gravitational force between two bodies
being inversely proportional to their squared distance. From just those rules, Kepler’s laws of
planetary motion are logically, mathematically inevitable. But remember, Kepler died before Newton was
born. He gathered those laws of planetary motion
strictly from observation, without ever knowing that gravity is an inverse square force. In other words, he figured out the higher
level laws of planetary motion and made accurate predictions with them without ever knowing
the simpler rules from which his Three Laws emerged. And likewise, humanity discovered a great
many laws of chemistry and used them for centuries, only learning about a century ago that those
rules all emerged from the simpler rules governing how the components of atoms behave. The specific ways that nucleons and electrons
attract, repel, and bond give rise directly to everything in chemistry, from elements
to stable valence shells to atomic bonds to the unwinding of double helixes. We have a few mathematical games that beautifully
illustrate emergent behaviors and help make the concept far more intuitive. Conway’s Game of Life and Langton’s Ant
being perhaps the two best known. I’ve included links to both in the description,
because you’ll probably want to go play with them. In the Game of Life, created by mathematician
John H. Conway, the world consists of a flat grid of squares. Each square is either black or white and interacts
with its eight neighbors. The squares are periodically updated according
to a simple rule: Turn black if you have three black neighbors, remain your current color
if you have two black neighbors, turn white otherwise. And that’s it, the complete and unabridged
fundamental laws of physics for a simple universe at the equivalent of the Planck scale, in
one rule. And yet, as the game allows you to observe,
that simple rule can give rise to structures that stand, spin, dance, travel, leave trails,
send out streams of travelers, even merge with other structures and reproduce. And many of these structures are so simple
they’ll often form accidentally in a world seeded with some random black squares. Even more complex structure can form on larger
grids, and it’s quite exciting to see what’s going to form when traveling structures collide
with one another. As surprising as the behaviors are, you can
see with certainty that all the complexity you’re observing emerges inarguably from
that very simple grid update rule. If you’re having difficulty imagining how
incredibly complex molecular processes like protein folding and DNA transcription could
come about just from electrons and nucleons pushing and pulling at each other, play the
Game of Life for a while and ponder emergent behaviors. Langton’s Ant is another math game that
somewhat illustrates emergent behaviors but also illustrates another phenomenon we’ll
need to grasp to discuss why life exists. In this game, an ant wanders around another
two-dimensional black-and-white grid. At each time interval, it steps forward one
square. If the new square is white, it turns the square
black and turns right. If the new square is black, it turn the square
white and turns left. And then it repeats. Again very very simple, and again complex
behavior emerges. If you start the ant on a blank grid, for
the first few hundred moves it will create simple geometric patterns that are almost
symmetric. But then things turn chaotic, and the ant
follows a pseudo-random path. But then after about 10,000 moves we see the
emergence of what is called a highway, as the ant begins creating a recurrent pattern
of 104 steps that repeats indefinitely and carries the ant farther and farther away from
the complex structure it spend 10,000 moves forming. It turns out that no matter how you initiate
the grid with black and white squares, the ant will always eventually form this highway. This is what we call an attractor state in
chaos theory. Nature is full of such examples and life itself
is assumed to be one such, though we see attractor states in everything from actual ant hive
behavior to the weather. Another thing we see a lot in nature is following
the path of least resistance, and of course this also applies to the weather. The path of least or minimum resistance, everything
in nature tends to flow to a low-energy and stable state, often pausing in lower energy
and fairly stable states on its way to lowest energy and most stable states. Indeed all those atoms and molecules are emergent
properties of various smaller and quantum things following into stable, or fairly stable
states, where fairly stable might be mere trillionths of a second, an eternity at the
quantum scale, or trillions of years, an eternity at the human scale. Emergent properties are a big thing in connecting
the fields of science together. We would say particle physics consists of
all sorts of little particles that exist as emergent properties of quantum, and that atomic
physics emerges from that, and chemistry from that, and microbiology from that, and biology
and botany and zoology and even psychology and economics and philosophy are emergent
from that too, several times removed in some cases. It’s weird to think that Earth’s weather,
and all its patterns, is essentially an emergent property of hydrogen being able to fuse into
helium at certain rates under certain conditions, giving us all those bigger atoms like iron,
silicon, and oxygen that form our world and the sunlight that falls down on it to drive
those weather patterns, as water evaporates, falls back down, and eventually ends back
up in the ocean as a statistical result of molecules been banged around by each other
and photons and presumably gravitons as well. That’s a fairly important point for our
topic because a hidden clause on why life exists is “Why does life exist in this Universe?” If you re-arrange the basic properties of
the Universe just a tiny little bit, life as we know it would simply not occur, and
indeed we’ve got pretty good reasons to think only a miniscule fraction of possible
universes would have a proper alignment of physical properties to permit any sort of
life to exist. Though as we mentioned in Boltzmann Brains
and the Anthropic Principle, the Fine-Tuned Universe approach to saying life wouldn’t
exist in most possible Universes assumes first, that those physical properties have randomly
assigned values, and second, only refers to life emerging and gaining complexity through
a long sequence of random processes headed toward that most stable state or path of least
resistance. We typically don’t discuss evolution or
life phrased in quite that way but that’s essentially what the process is, especially
when generalized beyond Earth-specific biochemistry. A given organism, in a given environment,
generally represents a pretty stable state, and successive organisms fall toward ever
more stable states in that environment, and if that environment remained static, over
a long enough time, you get a most stable organism. Environments don’t stay stable though, they
get stirred up a lot, changing that point of stability, as those environments shift
around approaching more stable states themselves. Stable in an ecological sense rather than
a quantum or thermodynamic one, which is fine since ecology is an emergent property of those
two anyway. If you wait long enough everything will fall
into its ground state, as it were, unfortunately we live in an entropic universe whose ground
state is pretty much the opposite of life, what we call the Heat Death of the Universe,
which we’ll be discussing options for postponing in some weeks. That can get a bit of raised eyebrows though
as life seems a lot more complicated than random material, and our planets started off
presumably as exactly that, a bunch of gas floating around from some nebula that coalesced. Earth is not a closed system, being driven
by the Sun’s light, and thus can defy entropy locally, as the Sun is rising in entropy to
produce that light, but forget that for a moment. Wondering why life, more complicated than
a random chemical soup it presumably formed from, can exist in an entropic Universe, overlooks
asking how all that molten material mixed together in a proto-earth cooled and formed
into complex things like mountains and rivers. Or why those rivers tend to be shaped like
big long waves water meanders down rather than straight lines. You’d think a river would be straight, and
straighter the older it got, as it plowed through and eroded any rock in its way till
it cut a straight path to the sea. Quite to the contrary, the older a river gets,
the less straight it becomes, eventually becoming a sine wave then snapping those curves off
to go straight again, then curving once more later on. It’s actually a rather bizarre process that
can create meander scarring and oxbow lakes, u-shaped lakes that get cut off from the river. Why that was happening is actually something
Albert Einstein figured out, and it’s a good example of how complexity can arise as
an emergent property of a very simple-seeming system, namely that where water is concerned,
what goes up, must come down. And it does this because it’s the lowest
energy state it can reach, or at least a lower energy state than it was in. Very literally in this case too, as objects
have a higher potential energy the higher up in the air they are, and they fall down
and lose that potential energy. It converts into kinetic energy on the drop,
but they hit stuff falling down which leeches some of that energy away, leaving the fallen
object in a lower energy state when it lands. Now how could this apply to life? In life’s case it is presumably all about
energy and heat. Indeed, we have a theory from Jeremy England
of MIT that argues that life popped up because a group of atoms, when exposed to an external
energy source, like the sun or similar, and when inside some big heat bath, like an ocean
or atmosphere, will gradually restructure itself to better dissipate heat. As we noted earlier, “Life” has some rather
debatable definitions but one trait it has from a physics perspective is that it’s
much better at capturing energy from around itself and dissipating it as heat. Which is an interesting way of saying that
life is way more entropic than inanimate material by and large, which is one of the common objections
to evolution, that it seems to violate the laws of thermodynamics by adding complexity
over time rather than decaying into a simpler form. It doesn’t, life is hugely entropic, thus
why we need to eat, but it’s an interesting characterization as it’s saying that the
complexity of life is specifically an emergent quality of heat dissipation. Now that is just a theory with some rather
neat math and modeling attached, but it has an appeal as it’s basing the reason for
life existing, this complex and strange thing that seems to grow more complex and strange
with time rather than breaking down, on that very engine of entropy itself. It’s kind of amusing in a semi-related way
that humans are just about as good as it gets in nature when it comes to getting rid of
heat and as we mentioned in the Fermi Paradox Great Filters series, our ability to jog around
all day, by having a really nice heat dissipation setup compared to other animals, also let
us run that massive brain on our shoulders, which needs a lot of energy and gives off
a ton of heat that needs to be dissipated. I suppose there’s something poetic about
life being an emergent property of heat dissipation and entropy, albeit via complex, organized
mechanisms. Also a bit grimly amusing, since life is very
good at accelerating entropy, and the more sophisticated it is, the better it can do
it and the farther it can reach out to do it. In this context, if the supposition is correct,
life exists in order to expedite the Heat Death of the Universe. Again rather grim, but since I need to do
a video on what we could do to postpone the heat death of the Universe fairly soon, the
first solution that came to mind was “Die”. In any event, if the reasoning is sound, we
should expect life to pop up pretty much everywhere in the Universe and in any other Universe
where complexity was possible and some equivalent to thermodynamics and entropy applied. Needless to say this doesn’t tell us anything
about where all that energy came from in the first place or any actual meaning of life,
assuming it has one. Of course an alternative view on all of this
is that random luck is why life exists. This has been the default view on abiogenesis
in a scientific context, that while evolution from that most basic element of life was selection-driven,
that first element assembled at random. What that first element is we don’t know,
there are several competing theories and nothing approaching a consensus on one as a lead candidate,
even ignoring that it would be rather murky to say what the dividing line was between
something that self-replicated – which crystals and fire can both do – and something that
was actually alive. Needless to say, trying to calculate the probability
of that occurring is mostly pointless at the moment since we don’t know what ‘that’
is to try to model it, when and where it actually happened, or what the specific chemistry and
energy influx would have been in the primordial soup it presumably occurred in. We know it was improbable, since it doesn’t
occur constantly nowadays. Though as a caveat, it may have happened many
times and those proto-lifeforms simply failed to gain traction in a world where one had
already gained traction and grown in complexity. Regardless, it doesn’t happen often enough
that we’ve ever seen it pop up in sterile labs with the right elements and no competition,
so it’s improbable. It may be just improbable enough that we’ve
not seen it but still probable enough that virtually every chemical soup bigger than
a swimming pool with energy influx for more than a few year spawns one, and so life is
virtually everywhere. Or it may be so improbable that it’s only
ever happened here, that one time, and nowhere else in the Universe. Though complex life, living cells with an
internal method of energy conversion or metabolism, has occurred at least 3 times on Earth. Once in plants, another in animals, and again
in a type of seaweed. But that original self-replicating cell, with
the precursor to RNA and DNA, could be so improbable that even other Universes like
ours are devoid of life. This is where the Mediocrity Principle comes
in, the general notion being that if you see something apparently improbable, but don’t
know the details, you have two ways to look at it. You can assume it’s not actually improbable
at all, but likely very probable and rather mediocre and mundane, and we call that the
Mediocrity Principle and it’s our default approach to observing new phenomena in a scientific
context, that the first example of something you see might be a really weird example of
the object or phenomena, but probably isn’t. The other approach, the Anthropic Principle,
is to assume that it probably is weird but that there may be a reason why you being able
to see it factors into that. As an example, as random collections of matter
go, a tree is a fairly improbable one, we don’t really see them anywhere but on the
very thin layer of Earth’s biosphere, but we happen to live there and so we see them
all the time, and this is not coincidental. It’s not coincidental that you’d encounter
other fans of Star Trek or some obscure personal favorite science fiction in the comments section
of this channel or any of our forums. Neither the Anthropic or Mediocrity Principles
is right or wrong, and both routinely produce wrong results, they’re just options for
trying to get a basic handle on some new observation when you can’t get more information. Which is pretty much the case at the moment
for the prevalence of life in the Universe. The Mediocrity Principle says we have one
example and should assume that it’s fairly normal, the Anthropic Principle says we have
one example and we should ask if us encountering it is related to us as an observer. We don’t know if life is incredibly common
or if various alternate universes are devoid of life, or even exist, we just know that
in any universes where intelligent life doesn’t exist, no one is sitting around noting that
is the case. So there could be a trillion-trillion dead
universes for every one with life in it, and obviously only the ones with life in them
have the option of asking if that’s weird or not. Now this perspective gives an easy answer
for why life exists, it’s just random luck, though again that’s more of why it exists
as it does and when and where it does. Where a new river exists is random luck, that
rivers will exist but its basic properties are not. Although if we’re taking the stance that
there’s an infinite or near-infinite number of realities, each with randomly assigned
physical properties, then the existence of rivers would indeed be random. Additionally, extreme cases like the Boltzmann
Brain are clear examples of life being utterly random, even thinking life. Now all this does incidentally is to show
that life can exist randomly, it doesn’t mean that’s actually the case. Short of discovering an alien outpost, containing
an observation log of four billion years, we have no way of knowing if life emerged
on Earth naturally and such a discovery seems unlikely. Indeed even if we encountered life on thousands
of other worlds and literally watched it start in a lab and in an alien sea, we still wouldn’t
know if that’s what happened here for certain, from a scientific standpoint. As an example, we used to assume life probably
started in tidal pools on the coast, but now we tend to think it was deep sea thermal vents
as they look like more probable candidates. Even if that’s the case, it might have happened
in tidal pools somewhere else, or have happened in tidal pools here. And even if we showed it was 99% likely to
have been thermal vents and only 1% likely to be tidal pools, it might still have been
tidal pools. It might also have been Aliens who originated
long ago and visited here to engineer life, or to empty their septic tanks while restocking
on raw materials. Either case merely kicks the origin of life
back to earlier in the universe, and that’s arguably true with non-natural or supernatural
cases too. Life might exist because someone created it
on a computer as a simulation, but you then have to ask where that someone came from. This isn’t quite the same as the progenitor
aliens though since they would have come to exist and developed in our actual Universe
with its specific physical properties. A simulated Universe might have very different
properties and ones that made the Big Question really easy to answer, and it’s only murky
to us because our Universe isn’t actually natural nor are its life forms. In such cases the reason why life exists,
here anyway, is because they wanted it to, that programmer or creator, though presumably
they had a reason, everything from the artist’s desire to create something amazing to the
scientist’s desire to model and experiment, but regardless we couldn’t speak as to why
they and life in their place exists because we’d have no way of knowing the parameters
of the reality they emerged from. With the specific exception of an Ancestor
Simulation, where the simulated Universe by default closely matches the real one, see
our Simulation Hypothesis or Reality & Simulation episodes for further discussion of this matter. The notion we discussed earlier, that life
might be an inevitable consequence of heat dissipation and entropy, is certainly an attractive
one because it would indicate it can pop up in a lot of places, though not necessarily
everywhere. For instance, it’s popular in fiction to
suggest life forms might live inside stars, or even on the surface of dead neutron stars
as we see in Robert L. Forward’s Dragon’s Egg, but the whole concept rests on the notion
of chemistry arranging itself to take in energy and efficiently dissipate it, and there’s
no chemistry happening on the surface of a neutron star since there are no chemicals
there. Same, we often see in fiction the ideas of
very slow and long-lived lifeforms, the sentient glacier in Alastair Reynolds short story,
“Glacial”, which also examines the notion of emergence, or the Counting Trees in Terry
Pratchett’s Discworld, which having noticed that people would cut down trees to count
their rings, began growing plaques that said how many rings they had, and promptly got
cut down to provide address plaques for houses. Really long slow lifespans don’t allow for
much evolution to complexity, biologically or culturally, but they generally wouldn’t
indicate something that was, at its core, a byproduct of a system trying to optimize
energy use and heat dissipation. Which we’ll use as our closing point. When contemplating strange hypothetical lifeforms,
the reason why life exists is actually a pretty important one. If it’s an artificially created thing, one
needs to ask what the purpose and motive was for its creation. If it’s just an initially random process,
then all that matters is the odds of any specific medium and environment producing a viable
lifeform and how big that medium and environment is in terms of size and duration. If it’s driven by physical laws pushing
toward minimum energy and stable states, then only where that would produce such an entropy-engine
lifeform would we expect to see it. In the end, we just don’t know yet, and
sometimes I tend to feel the best answer really is 42. Of course one popular notion for why life
exists is to simply grow in numbers, and indeed evolution does seem to encourage that strategy. It doesn’t really answer the ‘why’ but
certainly describes how it functions well enough. For a species to exist it needs to be able
to at least keep up with it’s replacement levels and if it gets technology it will usually
be able to expand not only how many of its members survive to adulthood but also how
many it can support in total, it’s carrying capacity. Folks often wonder just how many people we
could support on Earth, what its carrying capacity is, and we’ll examine this in our
new episode “Can we have a Trillion People on Earth?”, which is out now for early-release
on Nebula. Nebula, our new subscription streaming service,
was made as a way for education-focused independent creators to try out new content that might
not work too well on Youtube, where algorithms might not be too kind to some topics or demonetize
certain ones entirely, or just doesn’t fit our usual content. SFIA uses it principally for early releases
of episodes, such as “Can we have a Trillion People on Earth?” as well as Nebula Exclusives
like our 4-episode Coexistence with Aliens Series. If you’d like to get free access to it,
it does come as a free bonus with a subscription to Curiositystream, which also has thousands
of amazing documentaries you can watch, on top of the Nebula-exclusive content from myself
and many other creators like CGP Grey, Minute Physics, and Wendover. A year of Curiosity Stream is just $19.99,
and it gets you access thousands of documentaries, as well as complimentary access to Nebula
for as long as you’re a subscriber, and use the link in this episode’s description,
curiositystream.com/isaacarthur. Where folks might live in the future and how
is a question that’s fairly important in our discussions here on SFIA, and while Earth
or other worlds are certainly options, one we suggest a lot is living inside giant rotating
orbital habitats such as the O’Neill Cylinder, and next week we’ll be taking a look at
what it would be like to live inside one, in “Life on board an O’Neill Cylinder”
The week after that we’ll look at another place near Earth folks might live, in “Moon:
Crater Cities” For alerts when those and other episodes come
out, make sure to subscribe to the channel. And if you enjoyed this episode, hit the like
button and share it with others. And if you’d like to help support future
episodes, visit our website, IsaacArthur.net, to see ways to donate, or buy some awesome
SFIA merchandise. Until next time, thanks for watching,
and have a great week!

100 thoughts on “Why Life Exists

  1. Absolutely Brilliant! Truely Captivating and I'm positive this is your best video so far.
    Re: Nebula – Have you heard/considered using Floatplane?

  2. Found your channel a week ago. Took awhile to get use to your speech but once I did you quickly became one of my favorite channels. Keep up the phenomenal work. I'm excited for more.👍

  3. My thought about why life exists – we need to first strip our romanticized notion of the word life and look at the physical evidence. Life is merely an expression of energy. All through out the universe exhibits multiple forms of energy created and used then recycled as well as formed into new combinations and variations. Human life is a form of bio energy expressed in a form relative to the earths existence through out time. The question I have is why are we progressing wave after wave of life using the sun's energy to form and function – then again I could ask the same for all multi forms of energy exhibits in the Universe.

  4. "Can we have trillion people on earth?", what a strange topic. You already had an episode on eucamonopolis that answered that question in the affirmative.

  5. To facilitate entropy in the universe! So, does that mean that, in the same way that a fire burns and by doing so reduces the energy state of the wood to a higher state of entropy, then so to life “lives” and by doing so reduces the energy state of that matter in the universe to a higher energy state? I guess what I’m asking is, is life the condition of the universe being on fire?

  6. Human life exists to do the opposite of what we are doing. Evolution is a lie. We exist because original sin and the fall of man.

  7. I enjoy the idea that life is the solution to entropy, a counter force to chaos. Life may one day be able to simulate or recreate a universe in which life will reemerge and replicate its own universe. The self sustaining Roko machine

  8. 'what came before God' and or 'you're pushing the question back by declaring it a simulation because we still need to know how these hypthetical simulation makers got started. And if you go 'it's turtles all the way down' I'm gonna hit you with something heavy.'

  9. First, I love your videos. They make one think about bigger things. That said, I have had a question all my life. Those I have asked seemed not to understand the question. Here goes.

    Given that entropy would demand that all things move steadily from more organized to less organized, yet stars themselves and life both do the opposite, constantly. Stars take the simplest of components and make far more complex things out of them, while life does much the same with what the stars produce, taking simple compounds and making complex organisms out of them. This makes me ask, is entropy inevitable, or can we, life, do something about it?
    I know you sort of answered this, but you have to admit that life, of even the simplest type, is far more complex than the components it is composed of.


  10. Isaac “we’ll be discussing options for postponing [the heat death of the universe] in some weeks” …. HOW DID I LIVE WITHOUT THIS CHANNEL FOR 32 YEARS….??

  11. Life is just an energy difference exchange process like fire or other self stabilizing chemical reactions, given the needed resources and starting energy. It feeds on energy differences and forms ever increasing complexity if given the right environment.

  12. Hey, Isaac. I have a question. You talk of "evolution". This means that for example peas evolved from the pod in to the plastic bag at the grocery store frozen food aisle. Then we have monkeys and humans. See? Its impossible. We exist to bring order to chaos or to die.

  13. Mythological answer: because God is Love.
    Practical Answer: once things start they start becoming increasingly complex, occasionally systems achieve a relatively stable state. Those states interact and increase complexity.

  14. I know this isn't "super relative" to this video, however I was watching a video about a technology to create 3d images in color, by using ultrasonic waves to levitate a small ball rapidly, creating moving shapes.
    I was thinking this technology could somehow be altered, to fling a ball of plasma, or some Hydrogen around rapidly as a Lightsaber. Probably more like a "Proto-Saber" but got me thinking that with Elon Musk's neurolink making Psychic Thought transmission a reality in a decade or so, why not go full Jedi?

  15. I'm sorry, just saw it now, because today is Captain Picard Day – first episode of "Star Trek: Picard". As much as I love your videos, Picard comes first! 😉

  16. Great video! To work the chain of logic on life being a way to more effectively dissipate heat: I find it improbable. Let's take a simple cell. The cell can't move, is capable of the simplest reproduction, and uses the simplest of chemicals as an energy source. Let's also put this cell on a deep-sea vent. Why would such a cell want to input energy into breaking apart more complex molecules, break them down into their parts, then reform the parts into something more complex? In doing so, the entropy of the cell decreases, the exact opposite effect of dissipating heat.

  17. 24:02 – "Aliens … emptying their sceptic tanks " as a possible start of Life here on Earth. Gee, maybe I should not watch this just before going to bed 🙂
    Thanks Arthur, to make me think … and laugh.

  18. Issac, after studying neural tissue, it is possible that 'intelligence' arose as a means to make the 'circuits' of the brain more efficient, in terms of resource usage by constantly culling inappropriate or unnecessary connections at the level of the neuron. This would make 'learning' simply a useful and coincidental by-product of the brain trying hard not to generate so much heat and consume so many resources, perhaps because some dissipation limit was reached in our body. By walking upright, Nature selected for our thinner-than-other primates braincase to be -high off the ground where the cooler air is but even so, unless we start to sprout sails like a Dimetrodon dinosaur, culling brain-connections was 'cheaper' and faster interim solution to reducing the source of heat.

    We may have as big a brain as we can cool… although we could have one far bigger if we had a radiator on our backs!
    Intelligence then may be just another consequence of trying to dump heat. Hope this helps.
    So onward to the rise of Homo Silex…

  19. Hey Isaac Arthur ! I have a quick question. Where do you find all those weirdass clips ? Without telling me the secret ingredient, i'm quite curious to know

  20. I actually find the idea of life quickening the Heat Death of the Universe to be sort of comforting. At least this way, my life has a purpose.

  21. Isaac have you considered doing video about limits of technology? There is a polish sci-fi author Jacek Dukaj. He wrote a book Perfect Imperfection. Basically in this universe laws of physic and universal constants doesn't allow to create more advanced computer then the one they (meaning civilisation) managed to build. It would be interesting if we encounter this barrier lets say in 2070 and e.g. from that moment we wouldn't be able to acquire more processing power or invent more advanced medical or engineering technology. In a book this almost post homo sapiens species is actually trying to find a way into another universe with slightly different constants to create more powerful computing device.

  22. According to the latest p.c booklet ( printed at H.Q in Canada ) human kind has been dropped in favour of people kind, so p!ease use that in order to stay on the right side of our illustrious masters. N.B There is a more p.c term in the pipeline ' species kind' I suggest you start using that

  23. Fans of Frederik Pohl's Heechee books and the anime "Puella Magi Madoka Magica" know the true purpose to prevent entropy from winning and prevent the heat death of the universe. Only the anti-chaotic nature of life can do this. Time will tell. If protons indeed decay and their half-life is constrained to be at least 1.67×10^34 years, we got about 10^40 (10 duodecillion) years. There is time to figure it out if we get pass the Great Filters to Come.

  24. "We know that the answer to life is 42, but while that information is useful to know…" How is that useful?! lol

  25. What if 10^90000000 universes existed before. Only one gave life. At that point. That life could survive the lapses of universes, themself searching for creating life, being imortal. Maybe creating us. Or just maybe we will be that being. I don't believe in gods, in that way. But still if a species can master the creation of universes and imortal life it seems more than likely that it would happen.

  26. Man, people have made clocks and crazy complex structures in Conway's Game. I love these ideas of negative entropy and spontaneous order, so this is instantly one of my favorite videos from you. I repay you with a cool music video themed on Emergence! There's a whole aesthetic out there to be built on these ideas, as well as some serious philosophical and mystical implications. Cheers!

  27. Because God–the Creator–decided to create life. WE are on the hook, we are responsible to HIM for that gift. The rest is rinky-dink excuses to be irresponsible.

  28. We are, each of us, the product of a long line of survivors – all the way back to the very first replicating molecule.

  29. Isaac Arthur – a seldom mentioned feature of O'Neill Cylinders: they are solar powered and – being in counter-rotating pairs – are torqued against each other so they gyoscopically precess together and track the Sun. See Figure 3 https://space.nss.org/the-colonization-of-space-gerard-k-o-neill-physics-today-1974/

  30. Hey Isaac, you ever consider doing physics classes or courses? I'd love to attend them and I'm sure many others here would as well.

  31. it even seems improbable that a big bang occurred. Then all this complex stuff after it. It almost seems like stuff has to exist, and complex stuff is the universe's ''normal''. Maybe ''nothingness'' cannot exist and is just a human construct and something always has to exist. If you look at the evolution of the universe way back to the dark ages, after the cosmic microwave background, the universe was in darkness for 400 million years, that's 400 followed by 6 zeroes! 400,000,000! That's just a crazy amount of time to even think about and seems incomprehensible. And then 1000,000,000 years for the first galaxies to form. There seems to be a connection with time & complex things; does the universe exist and all things giving enough time? Sure seems like it. Physicists say the universe is infinite; is one thousand million years infinite? No, but it sure seems like enough time to produce what is all around us. Our own evolution on earth is similar to the universe's evolution from nonliving matter to life (hydrogen to nebula) to cells (formation of stars) to swarms of fish, land animals, flies, bees, us, towns. (stars to galaxies) from towns to cities to economies (from galaxies to superclusters) As time goes on, the speed of our evolution has sped up tremendously, so is the universe, it is accelerating faster and faster. Coincidence?

  32. So life exists because physics, now we all just need to choose a purpose(s) for our individual life.. A far harder question

  33. Isaac, everything is God's Media. the day he spoke. God see's through your eyes. so says the 2x quantum slits on your face. thanks for the wonderful shows.

  34. I have to be picky, 42 is not the answer to life, it is the answer to the ultimate question of life the universe and everything, and that question might be something like "What do you get when you multiply six by nine?" 🙂

  35. it even seems improbable that a big bang occurred. Then all this complex stuff after it. It almost seems like stuff has to exist, and complex stuff is the universe's ''normal''. Maybe ''nothingness'' cannot exist and is just a human construct and something always has to exist. If you look at the evolution of the universe way back to the dark ages, after the cosmic microwave background, the universe was in darkness for 400 million years, that's 400 followed by 6 zeroes! 400,000,000! That's just a crazy amount of time to even think about and seems incomprehensible. And then 1000,000,000 years for the first galaxies to form. There seems to be a connection with time & complex things; does the universe exist and all things giving enough time? Sure seems like it. Physicists say the universe is infinite; is one thousand million years infinite? No, but it sure seems like enough time to produce what is all around us. Our own evolution on earth is similar to the universe's evolution from nonliving matter to life (hydrogen to nebula) to cells (formation of stars) to swarms of fish, land animals, flies, bees, us, towns. (stars to galaxies) from towns to cities to economies (from galaxies to superclusters) As time goes on, the speed of our evolution has sped up tremendously, so is the universe, it is accelerating faster and faster. Coincidence?

  36. It’s interesting to consider life as an emergent organization of matter optimized for heat dissipation. That would be more consistent with a metabolism-first theory of abiogenesis, rather than replication-first

  37. @Isaac Arthur I bought a subscription of Curiosity Stream just before Christmas (when it's on sale) so I can get access to Nebula to watch your content but when I got access to Curiosity Stream none of the Nebula content showed up. So is the Nebula content only available if you get Curiosity Stream from a content creator? Btw I really like your content and I would like to learn more.

  38. Had to laugh at the thought of us being here courtesy of aliens dumping their septic tanks. Might need to revisit the history books…life here didn’t ascend, it arse-ended.

  39. i always had this joke that aliens would exterminate us because they saw life the same way we see wildfires, and they would send their fire brigade after us.

  40. What a question. Where on earth did it start? If we were created then who created our creators!!!!! Mindblowing.

  41. While you make some fantastic points, please consider this. Nobody really knows why life exists. Further more, nobody knows how the first cell was created, or how to create a cell ourselves under perfect conditions. For all we know, the universe could have a form of consciousness that we simply cannot understand. Consciousness could proceed physical space and time. As soon as you start talking about anything outside the observable universe, you are extrapolating the known universe. While this is the basis of many hypothesis, there will never be a way to prove it as far as we know. If you followed existence back to the root, you would have to find a singularity in which all things in existence radiate from. Obviously the big bang was a reaction produced by a larger chain of reactions. Not a spontaneous eruption out of nowhere. Could this singularity be consciousness? What even exists without a consciousness to observe it? We know the light turns from a wave to particle when observed. Just a few thoughts….

  42. You are part of the Universe. You aren't "outside" or whatever. You are literally a way how universe wants to describe and learn about itself. 😛

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