It would seem that for meaning to exist there must be an intelligent mind to assemble some purpose from discernible patterns, and that meaning is the product of assembling some of these things into a goal-driven pattern with consequence. For a meaning to come into being there must be a mind structure for generating a need and a goal, and from that point of view the Universe didn’t have a goal or a meaning a few moments after the Big Bang. It didn’t have a mind to form need or a goal, but only an onward trend of purposeless interactions.
13.7 x 10 to the 9th power years ago the physical universe was progressing in a presently understood way, but at that time life did not exist. There was the potential for life, and when life arose there developed a potential for goal-directed behavior. At first that would be limited to moving toward or away from beneficial or noxious things, but with life it became inevitable that offspring would vary, and those members best adapted to their local time and place would have the most offspring. Eventually, we humans evolved with goal-directed intelligence, and now we have created machines that have evolved to where they perform many functions we would call thinking, and these machines are in the process of evolving into niches which develop goals. It now requires an industry of people to create these machines, but that may be temporary, and the machines may soon develop factories devoid of people. This process of manufacturing intelligence is at the very beginning. The ability to generate “thinking-material” is limited only by the availability of materials, energy, time, and equipment. With few or no improvements, the amount of total memory is growing rapidly, as well as interconnections and reasoning power too, so it would appear that self-designing and self-producing minds can’t be far off.
It is the vastness of these resources that are available to this new type of mind-factory, that makes the end of the process unknowable. Consider the potential materials, 10 to the 22 star systems with power and matter to build thinking machines, and 10 to the 120 years of possible life expectancy of the Universe. What would be the goal of a system that used the potential of such a Universal mind? Our usual human values and goals would vanish in this future Universe. What would replace them? Would each galaxy seek to convert its matter and energy into some kind of higher thought, and would it then seek to drain off the energy of other galaxies? Or would it choose to find entertainment in some kinds of super-computer games, on the premise that there was no meaning to anything, other than to beat opponents at games. Would it seek to win for the simple thrill of winning a single game, even though there was an infinity of past and future games to be played? What’s the point? Humans would sink into despair, but a machine might be perfectly content to just do what it is capable of doing – forever!
Are the evolutionary goals of a Universal superintelligence even conceivable to humans, or should we accept our station in this Universe and choose a life of tranquility for our personal selves, and accept a contentedness with the rest of the world as it is? That Universe is totally outside of our control, or even influence, today so why worry?