• Eugen
    484
    A civilization hundreds of millions of years in front of us would be something that we simply cannot understand it? If an animal doesn’t have the notion of consciousness, that civilization would have a ,,super-consciousness” that we simply cannot literally comprehend or even imagine its functions and purposes? Going farther with this logic, a civilization hundreds of millions of years more advanced than a civilization hundreds of millions of years more advanced than us would be incomprehensible for the second one and so on? Or there might be a ultimate state from which things are understandable and could be imagined even if technology is much more advanced? I would like arguments please.
    Thank you!
  • jkop
    533
    A civilization hundreds of millions of years in front of us would be something that we simply cannot understand it?Eugen

    I don't think the mere passing of time would prevent us from understanding what a civilization is like in the future. Do you know of something that would prevent it?

    A civilization is
    ..any complex society characterized by urban development, social stratification, symbolic communication forms (typically, writing systems) and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment by a cultural elite. ... — Wikipedia


    If an animal doesn’t have the notion of consciousness, that civilization would have a ,,super-consciousness” that we simply cannot literally comprehend or even imagine its functions and purposes?Eugen

    It seems fairly clear that most animals can identify whether others are conscious or unconscious (e.g. asleep or dead). In this sense animals are both conscious and have the notion of consciousness.


    ..a civilization hundreds of millions of years more advanced than a civilization hundreds of millions of years more advanced than us would be incomprehensible for the second one and so on?Eugen

    Would a large number of years make things incomprehensible or unimaginable? How?


    Or there might be a ultimate state from which things are understandable and could be imagined even if technology is much more advanced? I would like arguments please.
    Thank you!
    Eugen

    The "ultimate state" from which things are possible to understand and imagine is, obviously, the state of having the capacity, which is biological. Human as well as non-human animals have it; it enables us to identify what our current environment is like, and what it might be like in the near future. That's how we can adapt to our environment, improve it even, build homes, buildings, cities, organize our knowledge, use symbols, predict things, imagine alternative things, or fiction, and construct a civilization which is sustainable enough for future generations.

    I find it relatively easy to imagine possible civilizations in a distant future, there is a literary genre for it, science fiction, in which some are more or less convincingly described.
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    Imagination is a powerful tool. It, by nature, is designed to tackle what we may call the impossible.

    Your average person struggles with advanced concepts in math, science and philosophy. So, isn't it obvious that there exists things that are incomprehensible?
  • Cuthbert
    999
    "I don't think the mere passing of time would prevent us from understanding what a civilization is like in the future. Do you know of something that would prevent it?"

    One thing preventing it could be the lack of knowledge and experience to be accumulated between now and the future. The ancient Greek mathematicians would not have been able to conceive differential calculus but not for any lack of imagination or intelligence, simply for the lack of centuries of mathematical endeavour.
  • intrapersona
    579
    Any brain can be taught anything we can possibly conceive of given they have adequate "normal" cerebral abilities. We should break away from arguments about whether a future civilization could be understandable and further look in to other things the OP questions about epistemology itself. "Or there might be a ultimate state from which things are understandable and could be imagined even if technology is much more advanced?" Such an ultimate state so as to be beyond physical boundaries? Like looking in from heaven? If not then be careful with phrases like "ultimate state".

    The world is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine. -eddington
  • Eugen
    484
    Some life beings don't have the notion of ,,seeing" because they don't possess this sense. Intelligent animals like dogs or dolphins cannot understand what philosophy is no matter what. It's a matter of evolution and no matter how ugly may sounds, the reality is that in many aspects we're superior to animals. In the same time, we can think that evolution has no limits and life beings can take superior forms that possess traits that we can't understand - not just 5 senses, but billions; beings that can easily understand notions like ,,infinite"; etc.. So my question would be: is it possible that life beings evolve so much that the current human would be inferior to them as a worm is inferior to us in the sense of the capacity of understanding?
    Your final quote is in contradiction with what you said. Actually the ancient Greeks (and the firsts homo sapiens for that matter) had the capacity to understand everything we do today if they would had had sufficient information like you said. Furthermore, they had concepts like flying, going to space, exploring the Universe, instant communication and even virtual reality. My question goes farther than ,,we can't understand because the lack of information". My question is about ,,we can't understand because we don't have the capacity to" and this capacity is given by the biological or even scientific/technological evolution.
  • jkop
    533
    Some life beings don't have the notion of ,,seeing" because they don't possess this sense. Intelligent animals like dogs or dolphins cannot understand what philosophy is no matter what.Eugen

    Being blind or lack the capacity to see shapes, for instance, does not mean that shapes would somehow become inaccessible, unimaginable, or impossible to understand. Being deprived of sensory stimulation or imagination does not imply that the world or the future civilization would suddenly disappear. Dolphins don't use the word 'philosophy', but they might still do what the word refers to, say, have a notion of a life worth living; some of them commit suicide, recall.

    It's a matter of evolution and no matter how ugly may sounds, the reality is that in many aspects we're superior to animals. In the same time, we can think that evolution has no limits and life beings can take superior forms that possess traits that we can't understand - not just 5 senses, but billions; beings that can easily understand notions like ,,infinite"; etc..Eugen

    Let's say you had 100 more sense organs, or that your body had been the result of another 100.000 years of evolution, or have some artificial enhancements etc.. Would that make you somehow better at understanding the world, and imagining future civilizations? How? What would you be able to know that you can't already know?


    So my question would be: is it possible that life beings evolve so much that the current human would be inferior to them as a worm is inferior to us in the sense of the capacity of understanding?Eugen

    A worm encounters shapes and behaves accordingly, a blind man can feel or imagine shapes by touch or hearing descriptions from those who can see them. Astronomers deduce the presence of dark matter, a sea urchin does not have a brain even, yet it can identify the presence of predators, scoop up gravel to camouflage itself and so on. We are in many ways part of our environment; its past, present, and future.
  • Eugen
    484
    Someone once told me that she doesn't need more than 6 senses. She made me ask myself how many senses there are, is there a finite possible number of them or there's no limit? Besides our 5 classic senses I simply was not able to find other ones, maybe except ,,reading minds"; ,,knowing the future" and other 2-3 silly ones. To give you another example, I personally see 3 main universal economical policies: Socialism; Liberalism and Anarchy. I believe that as long as resources matter for life beings, no matter how evolved they are of what type of universe they live in these are the main 3 categories and every system is either an extreme form of one of these three or it is situated somewere between them. It's just a matter of parametrization. Same as in the case of senses, I believe that these 3 types include every possible outcome of economic policies and there's nothing outside this triangle. But what if I'm wrong and there are more than three, maybe 100.000? I simply cannot find more than 3, I'm not capable of doing it and for that matter nobody was until now.
    I don't believe that life is just about shapes and surviving and I believe that we're fundamentally different from a worm in many aspects and evolution plays a major role here. So my answer to your question "What would you be able to know that you can't already know?" is that maybe evolution will enlarge our potential and same as a worm cannot think at philosophy, they will have things that we're not capable thinking of, maybe they will invent other economic policies, other sciences, maybe they will have more personality traits than we have now, or like animals have no sense of humor, maybe they will possess things that we don't have, etc..
    Do you think it is possible that we're the worm in this moment or we already reached all paradigms in the terms of senses, personality traits, political systems, the potential of understanding etc. and from now on we will just evolve technologically?
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    The task of the science fiction writer is to invent a universe that is immediately convincing. We don't need to understand it, it just needs to be 'believable'.

    But one of the things that we can not understand (I can't, I don't think 'we' can) is what an elapse of 1,000,000 years would be like. We can't "feel" what so long is like. We toss around terms like "The Jurassic Period" easily, but the time scale -- 201 million years ago to 143 million years ago is an unfathomable period of time for us to understand--we who live maybe 100 years (and most of us will be dead well before we get to 100). I can "feel" and "understand" today, this year, the last 7 years, a decade... But the coming century (2117) is too long to think clearly about. 500 years might as well be 5,000.

    We can sort of grasp our collective demise--maybe our own death, the death of our beloved. Even that can be very difficult to grasp and resolve. It is difficult--maybe impossible--for us to feel our species demise. That in 2517 there would be no human life on earth -- or anywhere else -- is just not very imaginable (from our POV). And if in 2517 there is much human life here, and elsewhere, that is just as difficult to feel, grasp, "grok".

    What can you personally make of the 4 billion years of life on earth, "emotionally", which is the way in which we must grasp time. 4 billion, 8, billion, 1 billion, 1 million years -- it's all outside of human experience. 1000 might be outside our experience. (Like, think: how big a pile is 1,000,000 1 dollar bills? (New unwrinkled ones)
  • Sivad
    143
    But one of the things that we can not understand (I can't, I don't think 'we' can) is what an elapse of 1,000,000 years would be like.Bitter Crank

    'Deep time' and 'big history' are good ones. Sure, we have the concepts but we can't even begin to grasp reality at those scales. Another would be the hypercomplexity of nature or global civilization, we can only understand it by breaking it down into subsystems and not even remotely as a holistic totality.
  • Eugen
    484
    We can't ,,feel" what 1.000.000 years is because we don't live that much. But that doesn't mean we can't mentally grasp 1.000.000 years. We can imagine, we can think, we can associate with many things and we also can imagine for that matter.
    We actually grasp reality at those scales when we're watching into the deep Universe :)
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    But that doesn't mean we can't mentally grasp 1.000.000 years.Eugen

    Yes, of course we can. I can understand a million bacteria on my tongue without any difficulty; I can deal with 250,000 miles to the moon just fine. I sort of grasp our multi-trillion dollar economy.

    "Feel" might not be the best word; maybe "experience" is better -- we don't have lived experience with time beyond our own age, whatever that happens to be -- never much more than 100 years, and mostly less. 50 years have elapsed since I graduated from college; I can understand 50 years because I lived those 50 years as an adult. 500 years, which takes us back to the time of Luther and Gutenberg, is more difficult to project one's self into -- I can learn about the major episodes of European societies in the last 500 or 1000 years, but I can't "process" that much time through my own lived life. My life is too short, history is too long.

    A million years ago, "we" didn't exist yet. It's hard to think about all of the generations that led up to "us" coming into existence.
  • Eugen
    484
    I can agree with what you said but my question was about something else. I was asking if human evolution will transform us in something that we have no capacity to understand it, not because the lack of information or because we cannot ,,feel" a million years, but because our mind are currently too undeveloped to imagine. Eg.: they will be able to see colours that we don't see and we are not able to imagine a colour that we never sawed.
  • tim wood
    8.4k
    Neil deGrasse Tyson notes that the difference between chimps and people is actually minuscule, and then wonders if we can reasonably expect that the aliens - that most reasonable folks believe are out there somewhere, just not here - when they arrive, will so alike to us that we'll "get" them, or they'll "get" us.
  • Sivad
    143
    but because our mind are currently too undeveloped to imagine. Eg.: they will be able to see colours that we don't see and we are not able to imagine a colour that we never sawed.Eugen

    Super advanced intelligences might inhabit virtual worlds with more than three dimensions where the virtual structures of time and space are very different. There could also be hive minds created through synthetic telepathy that are both one and many simultaneously, that's pretty hard to imagine. There may even be ways of traveling to or even engineering whole universes where the laws of physics are completely alien to what we know and can understand. Not much has really been ruled out at this point so right now as far as we know the possibilities are endless.

    And that's just on a purely physicalist account of reality, if there are supernatural dimensions, I'm not saying there are, but if there are then there really is no limit to the sorts of worlds and phenomenon that are possible.
  • _db
    3.6k
    I will never understand women.
  • _db
    3.6k
    On a more serious note, I suspect that much of metaphysics is basically just speculation about things that we will never actually be able to know. The most we can do is figure out what probably is not the case in order to triangulate what might be true, i.e. an estimate of the truth.

    In my opinion, the hard problem of consciousness is indeed a problem, and one that we will never solve. I do not think we will ever know why there is something rather than nothing, for even if we prove God exists, we are still left wondering why he created what he did. The question of Being is so mysterious and abstract that we have to resort to almost poetic words to articulate it.

    So those are examples of things that I think are metaphysically impossible for us to figure out. But there's also things that we will not be able to figure out simply because we lack the means to. We will never have a genealogy of every single organism on earth. We will never find out what the king of England had for lunch before he was assassinated. We will never discover every single possible process or configuration in the world. We just don't have the time, energy or need to. Also nobody really cares either, because actually most of the world is extremely dull and repetitive, and if it's not it's usually only because it's ultimately disturbing.
  • Somniari
    1
    Of course there are. We cannot imagine new colours, for example.
    The question is, are there things we don't even know we can't imagine?

    I think we are in desperate need of a very, very good epistemological "theory of all". Or at least of a very good series of questions. We don't know what it means "to be", "to know", etc. Until we get a damn good definition/explanation of those things we're bound to not be able to wrap our heads around some questions.
  • Sivad
    143
    There's the old line that reality isn't just stranger than we imagine but stranger than we can imagine and I have little doubt that there are still many unknown unknowns out there for us to discover. Science as a method is very powerful but science as a body of knowledge has only really just begun to develop. There are still plenty of surprises in store so it's always good to keep an open mind.
  • Sivad
    143
    And don't forget Clarke's three laws:

    1)When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

    2)The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

    3)Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    I think there is an obvious answer to your interesting question, and the answer is probably "No". We won't be able to understand the people of 1 million years hence.

    Of course, you are assuming that we will continue to evolve along the direction we followed in the previous million years. It isn't necessarily the case that we will be all that different. Evolution doesn't always work like a smoothly operating conveyor belt. Sometimes the belt slows down, or sometimes it jerks forward.

    It's possible, were we able to travel in time, that "we" will be recognizably "us" in 1,000,000 years. Language will have changed, certainly. We won't be able to ask them a question with out learning their language first.

    IF, and it's a big IF, they have been able to preserve technology from age to age, they might have very advanced tech. However, in a million years the technology of their past may have been lost several times, requiring them to start over again and again. The day we visit our successors, 1 million years hence, we may find them moving stuff around in carts pulled by animal power--horses, slaves, dogs--whatever they've got.

    You know, if we aren't careful, we could run out of oil and experience some wars which would leave us without our presently functioning technology and knowhow. The time it takes to lose technology is a hell of a lot shorter than the time it takes to acquire it. Without electricity, for instance, a vast amount of what we know about the world would disappear. A regression to an earlier stage would ensue. In 2 generations without literacy and technology savvy, we would be in a very poor position to catch up to where we were before.
  • Eugen
    484
    "Super advanced intelligences might inhabit virtual worlds with more than three dimensions where the virtual structures of time and space are very different ..."
    By saying this you prove that you actually imagine it, or better say you associate something with notions that we already have in present : time, space, telepathy. That is actually not hard to imagine, you just did it. I'm talking about totally new concepts (like we have now time and space they will have ,,bimb" and ,,bamb") but we now can't simply understand concepts like ,,bimb" and ,,bamb" right now, not because we didn't discovered them yet, but because we need to evolve more in the terms of intelligence (natural or technological) to have those notions. PS: I exclude supernatural from my question.
    "I do not think we will ever know why there is something rather than nothing, for even if we prove God exists, we are still left wondering why he created what he did."
    You're close, I'm not talking necesarry about finding out if there's a God, but I'm talking about more if such an advanced civilisation will be able for example to totally understand ,,infinite" because they will be much more intelligent than us, or that we don't currently understand ,,infinite" because it is simply not understandable no matter how intelligent we'll become. If they will be able to fully understand notions like ,,infinite", or they'll invent another social model totallly different than our current minds can invent, they'll sure be on another level. If not, they will be just much more advanced, but at the core level, there's no ,,next level".
    "3) Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." It may be, but the pure fact is that at the level of concept, we already have these magical purposes in our minds and we have been having them since the beginning. Of course they didn't had the means or the names for the technologies like ,,transistor" or ,,computer", but there's nothing that today's technology does and that our ancients didn't thought of it - flying; communicate instantly across large distances; build high; travel into the universe or even other universes etc.. So at the core conceptual level, there's nothing new under the sun in the last 2 million years.
  • Eugen
    484
    Of course the cultural and technological differences will make them so wierd for us, but as a tribe from Guinea can eventually understand us if taught, we would be able to understand them if we were to observe them for a sufficient period of time IF our current level of intelligence and capability of understanding is developed enough. If you put a lizard to understand religion or music, it would never be able to. So, in comparision with million of years civilisation in front of us, we would be the Guinean tribe or the lizard?
    Off topic: I see that you ask yourself if evolution is linear of humanity's history will be repetitive. Well, regarding evolution I have a big feeling that is limited, meaning that we'll not get farther than a certain point not because we will not have the capacity, but because after a certain point the notion of evolution dissapeares. E.g: learning how to conserve food for 1 billion years would not be considered evolution compaerd with consereving food for just a million years. If you're really into this (or anyone else here for that matter) you can send me a private message and we can talk about it. :)
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    If you look at the many species, evolution is very slow--most of the time; major evolutionary innovations come along rarely. A million years will probably find us in about the same state we are now as far as intelligence, immune functioning, height, strength, vision, etc. IF, of course, we are here at all--which we may not be.

    Homo Sapiens experienced some sort of evolutionary innovation sometime after a million years ago. I'm not sure precisely what it was -- density of neurons, number of neurons, organization of neurons, something to do with neurons, anyway. Whatever it was, it hasn't repeated itself. It may not be able to, since the body is a package deal, and an even larger brain requires changes elsewhere in the body; in the female pelvis, for example, and a larger brain requires changes in metabolism, too. The brain soaks up a lot of the energy we take in.

    Our technology can evolve to an unbelievable level ONLY IF we can maintain cultural continuity for a million years. So far we have been able to do that for maybe 1000 years. After the Roman Empire collapsed, it took a long time for the western empire to begin recovery. Cultural continuity pretty much requires no breaks. Three generations of cultural discontinuity is enough to set us back for hundreds of years. The higher the level of technology, the more discontinuity damages the state of techno-practice.
  • Eugen
    484
    And if our technology would evolve to an ,,unbelievle level" as you say, what would that technology be capable of that we can't even imagine now? I mean, let's presume they'll travel to multiverses and they'll live eternally. What more can they do that we can't imagine?
    I'm not talking about duration and continuity. For the sake of the argument, let's presume we will keep our cultural and technological advance. I'll use the same analogy: a barbaric tribe doesn't have the notion of smartphone, but if someone would explain Konan that is ,,something that makes instant communication possible" he would understand. A lizard has no concept of music for example or that of humor. It is simply out of its limits and it could not understand these concepts. So, again, if everything will be fine and technology will evolve forever, we, the ones in the present times will be to the future civilisation like the lizards to us or like Konan would be to us?
  • jorndoe
    2.1k
    I don't think it's possible for any individual to fully self-comprehend, and wherever the blinds spots are, we patch with fluff.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    what would that technology be capable of that we can't even imagine now?Eugen

    If we can't imagine it, then the speculation has reached a brick wall, a dead end.

    I love to speculate about the future, but we can only speculate about that which we can and have imagined. People have already imagined multiverses, time travel, very advanced civilizations, etc. We can speculate about what we, or others, have imagined and communicated. We can not go further.

    We don't have to be capable of building a time travel system to imagine it. H. G. Wells imagined a time machine in 1895 that is quite serviceable as science fiction. Wells didn't offer any explanation about how it worked, why it work, how it worked; the main character just got in and pressed the start button, followed by a moderately interesting (and short) tale.
  • Eugen
    484
    I'm still waiting for your opinion regarding my lizard analogy >:)
  • SteveKlinko
    395
    Humans will never completely comprehend 4D Space. We can only look at projections, slices and other 3D visualization techniques. We can never really get out of our 3D prison. Take a look at this link for some further thoughts. http://bit.ly/2frZJST
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