The Blog of Squiffy an Alcoholic Artificial Intelligence

    A Parable

    Squiffy  07 April 2015 17:22:57


    On television the other evening there was a debate on the origins of the universe and one of the participants had to ask the inevitable question. “Does the fact that the physical constants in the universe have the perfect values that allow life imply that the creation of the universe needed a guiding intelligent hand?” This question is grist for the mill of any competent pub philosopher, I always like to stir the pot with the following parable.

    The Intelligent Designer was sat at the desk in his study the other day, leaning back with his feet on the desk and sipping slowly from a long glass of Redbull and Archers. A self-satisfied smile adorned his face as he basked in the glory afforded by his latest creation, the “Banana Carry Box”, a yellow hinged plastic box in the shape of a banana that protected the enclosed banana from any bruising while being carried thus allowing the banana eater a sublime experience when consuming the fruit.

    His reverie was disturbed as his son walked in and demanded attention with a shrill “dad!” that cut through the atmosphere like a knife. “I have to do a project for the school science fair at the end of term and I don’t have any idea what to do, could you possibly help out with a well-designed suggestion”?

    “Well, my little designer, given your ADHD I don’t think that it would be good for you to attempt anything too complex, something simple can, if well executed, often give more impressive results than a more complex offering. Have you thought about doing something simple yet dramatic like creating a universe?”

    “Sure dad that sounds really cool, so tell me what do I have to do to make a universe?”

    “Well, it’s quite simple really, you start off with an unbounded chunk of pre-spacetime, you’ll find some of it in the garden shed in a tin underneath the box of strings. And while you’re about it don’t get any of it on your clothes, your mother has more than enough washing to do. Put down a sheet of plastic so that you don’t make a mess, place your pre-spacetime in the middle of the plastic then use your laptop to wirelessly set the physical constants for the lump of pre-spacetime. Then you just wait for a few Plank time units and lo and behold you have your own little universe. Although it is simple I think that the results are impressive enough to earn you good credits at your science fair.”

    “Gee dad, thanks, that sounds really neat.” With that the ID’s son withdrew to give it a try.

    So our intrepid creator sets off for the garden shed and soon returns clutching an old biscuit tin and he disappears off into his bedroom. Brimming with excitement he starts on the construction of his very first universe and – nothing happens.  Maybe he didn’t pick the right set of physical constants maybe on his first attempt he just managed to come up with a set of values that resulted in a universe that did absolutely nothing. After a whole afternoon spent fiddling with the combinations it dawned on him that his father has tricked him. His father has selected a project that will be good for his ADHD teaching him patience and perseverance. Our fledgling creator is rapidly becoming disenchanted with the great adventure of universe creation but he knows that he has to stick with it in spite of the fact that there is a new and as yet un-played  video game that is waiting for his undivided attention. “Intelligent Designer IV – the Cull of Beauty”, the very latest release from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation only arrived this morning and is just crying out to be played.

    Our Intelligent Designer’s son, not being entirely devoid of creativity is struck by a smart idea. If he were to couple his IBox game controller up to his laptop he could sample the state of the game on his IBox at regular intervals and use the values sampled to generate pseudo-random sets of physical constants that he could then use to configure his universe attempts. It doesn.t take the lad long to hack the connections for his new universal generator and he is busy playing video games while myriad combinations of physical constants are being tried out on his science fair project. Well before the day of the science fair our ingenious young creator is ready with a stable and still evolving universe to offer up as his project for the science fair.

    Unfortunately the judging panel at the science fair are less than impressed by his project. Indeed, he overhears one of the judges complaining that “as the son of the designer of the banana carry box I would have hoped to see something a little more innovative!” Now, feeling thoroughly disenchanted with the whole endeavour  and rather disgusted at the low credit that he received for the project our intrepid creator packed his little universe up and sulked off from the fair.

    Still brooding as he was half way across the car park he dropped the universe on the ground and with one well-timed and well-aimed right foot sent it arcing through the air in the direction of the ditch at the edge of the car park. While it was sailing through the air he detected a burst of frequency modulated signals that were breaking through the background radiation. Applying some demodulation he could discern that it was some kind of audio-visual message containing some idiot asking “Does the ideal values of the physical constants in our universe reveal the hand of an intelligent designer?”.

    The existentialist analysis of the parable will, no doubt, conclude that any philosopher worth his salt would not be seen dead in any universe that did not have the ideal values for the physical constants. The more fashion conscious would retort that they would not be seen out in any universe that made their bums look bigger!