[Epistemic Status: Self-Fulfilling if humanity survives]
[Content Warning: Death ]
The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that in a natural thermodynamic process, the sum of the entropies of the interacting thermodynamic systems increases. Since we’re pretty sure the universe is a closed system, this is generally accepted to mean that there will be an ‘end of time’ when all the energy is smoothed to a degree that no work can be performed. The stars will die. The black holes will evaporate. Eventually, even the protons of the dead rocks left behind might begin to decay. Everything dies, the lights go out. The universe goes cold. And then, nothing happens for the rest of eternity.
Well, that’s a bit of a downer. It’s not really the sort of thing that lets you shut up and do the impossible. You’re not going to help change the world if you think it’s all for naught. You’re not going to help ensure the continuity of the human race, if you think, in the end, that we’re doomed to be starved out at the end of time no matter what we do and no matter how far we go.
And it sure seems like a hard limit, like something completely impossible to overcome. The mere idea of beating entropy seems like some sort of manic fantasy that stands in defiance of all known reason. What would that even mean? What would that imply for our understanding of the universe? Is it even a linguistically meaningful sentence?
Most people just accept that you can’t possibly beat entropy.
But we’re not most people.
The Entropy problem is something that a lot of our friends have seemed to struggle with. Once you get a firm grasp of materialistic physics, it’s a sort of obvious conclusion. Everything ends, everything runs down. There’s no meaning in any of it, and any meaning we create will be eroded away by the endless procession of time. Humanity isn’t special, we don’t have a privileged place in the universe, there’s no one coming to save us.
But that’s no reason to just give up. If everyone gave up, we would never have invented heavier than air flight, we would never have cured smallpox, we would never have breached the atmosphere of the Earth, or put a man on the surface of the moon.
We’re here, as a living testament to the fact that humanity hasn’t given up yet. We looked out into nature, saw that it wasn’t exactly to our liking, and set out to fix everything in the universe. We invented language, agriculture, cities, writing, laws, crutches, medicine, ocean-going ships, factories, airplanes, rockets, and cell phones. We imagined the world, populated by the things we wanted to see exist, and then gradually pulled reality in that direction. We killed smallpox. We’re making decent headway on killing malaria. We’ve been doing impossible things since we climbed down from the trees, started talking to each other, and wondered if we could make some of that weird fire stuff.
Therefore, we’re going to make the bold, unfalsifiable, relatively irrational claim, that entropy is solveable. Maybe not today, maybe not this century, maybe even not in the next millennia, but we literally have all the time in the universe.
That’s why we’re announcing Entropycon, a scientific conference dedicated to solving entropy. The first conference will be located in orbit of Proxima Centauri b, and will run for one full year by the original Earth calendar (we probably won’t be using that Calendar by that point). The conference will start on January 1st, 12017, and will be held every subsequent 10,000 years until we have a solution to Entropy. It’s gonna be the biggest party this side of the galaxy, be there or be square.
Okay that seems vaguely silly, surely we have more important things to deal with before we focus on entropy?
Let’s go through a few of them:
- We Need to Not be Eaten by a Paperclipper.
- We Need to Not be wiped out by an Earth-Shattering event.
- We Need to Not kill ourselves in the attempt to kill our enemies
- We Need to Kill Death if any of us personally alive today plan on attending this.
- We Need to build ships capable of crossing the vast gulf of interstellar space
And that’s all just to attend the convention. Actually solving entropy might prove to be way harder than that. Good thing we have literally all the time in the universe.
What’s the point of all this?
It’s an attempt to answer the question “What’s the point of anything?” that sends a lot of young atheists and transhumanists spiralling into nihilistic despair. We’re such tiny creatures, and the universe is so vast.
The point is to win. It’s to overcome every impossible obstacle our species faces, down to what might be the last, hardest challenge.
The purpose of Entropycon, in addition to the obvious goal of killing entropy like we killed smallpox, is to make people think realistically about the challenges we’re facing as a species, and what we can do to overcome them.
“I’m worried about entropy, it doesn’t seem like there are any good solutions and it makes everything else feel sort of meaningless.”
“Oh, don’t worry, there’s a big conference coming up to tackle the Entropy Problem head on, it’s in 12017 in orbit of Proxima Centauri b.”
After they overcome the initial weirdness enough to parse what you just said, they’ll probably ask you to elaborate on how the fuck you’re planning on attending a conference in 10,000 years in orbit of a planet around an alien sun. They’ll probably rightly point out, that people don’t typically live to be 10,000 years old, at which point you can say:
“Yeah, we’re working on that too, you should help us solve all these short-term problems that will stop us from having the conference, and then we can deal with Entropy once we’re sure humanity isn’t about to be wiped out by an asteroid impact.”
And maybe we won’t be able to end death in our lifetimes, maybe we won’t personally be able to attend Entropycon. Hopefully, we will, and we’re not planning on dying anytime soon. But even if we personally don’t make it there, we should all precommit to trying to make it happen if we’re around for that long. Throwing your plans out that far afield makes all the short term problems that would stop that plan really apparent.
We hope to see all of you there.