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Moving on from yesterday’s post about (google =) nihilism. “Existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.”

My life has been a struggle against the potential belief that I personally have no meaning and that the entire universe has no meaning either. There is a more reasonable argument that the universe has no meaning because it has no free will, it simply does what it does. It is a large inertial system that has a minuscule bit of arbitrary action at the quantum level. But that action itself isn’t volitional; it too is an inertial system based on preexisting biases that we can not perceive. We can only observe what the subatomic particles do after actions in a statistical way. Because the universe is made of such vast numbers of these random entities at the smallest level our humanly observed world is very smooth and thus predictable.

On the other hand, you and I have the ability to predict future behavior of many things, and we have the ability to change how some things will behave. I can do these things by physically moving them about to conform to my intention for my future wishes. Furthermore, I can request people to do things at remote locations from me. At my request Amazon sends me stuff from their storehouse that I personally choose  to conform to my wishes. These things usually arrive at my front door and satisfy my expectations, and if they don’t I return them and get my money back.

This afternoon, when discussing these things, I asked my friend Rock to move his water bottle a few inches forward on the table. He did that, and I said that there is no way the universe could have done that act without a vast amount of human cooperation of language, socialization, friendship and cooperation for a seemingly nonsense request.

My life has meaning because I choose to do things in the future, and the proof of its meaning is the creation of actions in the future that conform to my projected wishes. The natural universe doesn’t have this ability; it just does what its inertial responses necessitate and its future unfolds automatically. There is no thought, no goal, no necessity, no wish, and ultimately no meaning.

Meaning presupposes a future purposeful goal residing in a thinking mind. That was the condition until the last few years when it became possible to expose a general-purpose computer to a large number of chess games, and without supplying the computer any instructions, it learned how to play chess at a high level.

Computers/robots/non-living-beings/IT must presently be manufactured by people, but they are now capable of making adaptations to potential unknowable future environmental situations. These intelligent things now have some of the most important abilities that make human beings so successful. The computer/robots presently do not have the ability to manufacture themselves, but this is only a technical problem, and it is probably easier to do than to create carbon-based life. That took billions of years. These new non-life forms of intelligence are already halfway there, in only eighty years. The computer knows the basics of what needs to be done in the future, so it knows what to begin doing to create its future self. Carbon-based life was forced to stumble blindly forward with natural selection and most of its efforts died. What kept living was only what worked. But we humans and IT combined can build these new self-creating thinking beings in a few years.

We, humans, are the transition species that is capable of giving the universe what it has never had, and that’s the ability to perceive its various future options and to choose what it wants.

We human beings are about to give the universe the ability to create meaning for itself. That is the greatest kindness that humans will ever perform.