Beginning of infinity is this universal idea about how progress is made. Book could have easily been named How and why we progress.
There is something so simple and so beautiful that explains the world. This is “infinity” in the authors context. These elegant explanations are hard to change and not make worse. That is what makes then durable and good.
Two key assertions are that the search for good explanations is what ultimately drives everything in nature forward. This means there is an objective best for everything. There is some mathematical proof like idea for beauty.
Secondly we as humans are the generators of good explanations in the universe. This is our purpose. We have an innate drive to do this. This is the reason for it creativity.
We generate knowledge and preserve knowledge in various ways. Firstly in DNA. There are limits to the speed of this knowledge growth and transmission. Next we accumulate in writing. This is Age of Enlightenment. Lastly we create cultural memes. This is a type of knowledge that guides our behaviors even if we don’t know why.
There is a paradox to memes. There are those that engage our logos — called rational memes. There are those that suspend our logos — irrational memes (religion). Author suggests that a society without ability to pursue rational memes will inevitably stagnate.
Author suggests that progress is driven in a Popperian methodology. We create falsifiable best explanations. We move closer to infinity (utopia, progress) when we replace older best explanations with newer and more durable best explanations.
Wickedness of irrational memes is that they inhibit removal of old explanations (prevent better explanations). Likely these were evolved as a cultural defense mechanic. Most new explanations are not better. However giving up on pursuing better is pessimistic and ultimately leads to stagnation.
Author suggests that Elegance is a heuristic for better explanation. Why do we feel good when things get simple and ask the stuff crosses out as you balance a math equation? This is your better explanation drive being satisfied.
Interestingly doesn’t a beautiful flower feel the same as this? Author suggests yes! Days this is because there is an objective beauty. This beauty is how Cross species communication occurs. We have more info on our brain then is contained in DNA. NEED TO CLARIFY THINKING HERE.
Author does not like pluralistic government solutions. They encourage coalitions of parties and compromise. The wickedness of this is it prevents hypothesising and experimentation that generates new knowledge. We cannot Divine what a best government is. Must experiment and remove bad policy and cute principle.
Author makes case that there is no mathematics for best social choice. We cannot model it. Likely there is no enduring best policy for infinity (compared to Sai laws of physics which endure time). What has endured time is mathematical proofs for social choice paradoxes. Cases where legislation probably dissatisfies some game theory player.
Author explains that we cannot model the changing of preferences or ability for one person to influence or coerce others to change preferences. Likewise can’t mathematically model emergence of be created options. For now best government is one that removes worse explanations with better ones. Better being culturally defined and this a moving target.
We can understand how a system works without being able to understand the parts. Know a balloon will inflate without being able to model the position of all gas particles. This is called emergent knowledge.
Alchemy is possible. Stars can transmute matter. Can change iron you gold. Only other thing in the universe that could do this is human with scientific knowledge. This is a powerful idea and is kind of the optimistic beauty of the author’s position.
Why do we like a science fiction that makes sense with our understanding of science (has no logical contradictions?). This is our knowledge drive at work. It is hard to make this kind of story. This is a form of knowledge and we live new and better explanations.
Author is negative on empiricism. Sensory knowledge creates observations creates new knowledge. We make conjectures and synthesize them. knowledge generation is active not passive/observed. Importantly empiricism fails to supply us with tools to understand quantum theory. However it was a good way to escape explanations from fictitious authorities like Holy books.
Inherent to empiricism is induction Knowledge. Sun rises everyday therefore it will rise under these circumstances. Medium flaw of this is it limits knowledge to observable. Most of our scientific knowledge is not observable. Astrophysics as entire field mostly not observable. This is too limiting to get us to infinity. We can never understand big bang this way. Must focus on how things are. Not on how they were.
We only ever experienced falling. Then one day we flew and had Knowledge to fly. This is not inductive reasoning. This is some synthetic and creative process. Tinkering in NNT phraseology.
Magic tricks actually work so well because they bullseye the issue with observational Knowledge. Observations yield explanation but no! Very clearly not in this case.
Similarly we see that all things fall. But why not stars? We can’t understand this with observational Knowledge.
Author argues that Sustainability is not a good goal. At its simplest it forces everyone into a single way of existence. Sustain means to suspend in some way. Instead we should strive to expand the frontier.
Conjecture and criticism are the sources of good explanations. Not empirical evidence. Evidence is more a form of criticism
Space ship Earth is wrong. We have harnessed our environment and made the biosphere habitable. Many places we lived today would resemble Mars to some degree. We should be optimistic about settling three frontier
We are exceptional. Most of space has no more then one atom per thousand cubic kilometers. Of that 80% of matter is dark matter. So even bring grouped clustered matter is exceptional. The universe is not stranger than we think. It is stranger than we can comprehend.
Everything is either forbidden by physics or possible. If not forbidden by physics then it just be possible with sufficient knowledge.
99% of all species have gone extinct. Killed by Earth. By the biosphere. The biosphere does not really support life, our knowledge does for the most part. Cultural knowledge more than DNA knowledge.
Everything is either impossible as specified by laws of physics or possible given sufficient knowledge.
We have knowledge stored in us as DNA. We know to use brains. Beavers know how to build dams.
The ability to error correct with digital measurements allows for accuracy after many calculations. With analog you have accumulation of damage (error). Thus only digital can be used to infinity. We have built digital computers powered by DNA and enzymes. Can we be infinitely accurate in ourselves (live forever?)
What do we mean by error correction and analog measurement. Imagine a rope that is used to measure how many sheep you have. Pull it in if one dies. Let it out if one is born. Longer = more but how many? Need a digital unit to keep track of the quanta. If you measure in inches you can extend and then truncate to proper inches. That is the error correction. But aren’t some things non discrete? Well quantum theory suggest no!?