Cosmological Natural Selection (CNS)

Cosmological natural selection (fecund universes)


According to CNS, black holes may be mechanisms of universe reproduction within the multiverse, an extended cosmological environment in which universes grow, die, and reproduce. Rather than a ‘dead’ singularity at the center of black holes, a point where energy and space go to extremely high densities, what occurs in Smolin’s theory is a 'bounce' that produces a new universe with parameters stochastically different from the parent universe. Smolin theorizes that these descendant universes will be likely to have similar fundamental physical parameters to the parent universe (such as the fine structure constantthe proton to electron mass ratio and others) but that these parameters, and perhaps to some degree the laws that derive from them, will be slightly altered in some stochastic fashion during the replication process. Each universe therefore potentially gives rise to as many new universes as it has black holes.

In a process analogous to Darwinian natural selection, those universes best able to reproduce and adapt would be expected to predominate in the multiverse. As with biological natural selection, mechanisms for reproductionvariation, and the phenotypic effects of alternate parameter heritability may be modeled. With respect to adaptation, selection for a range of proposed universal fitness functions (black hole fecundity, universal complexity, etc.) may be tentatively tested with respect to present physical theory, by exploring the features with respect to these functions of the ensemble of possible universes that are adjacent to our universe in parameter space. Nevertheless, strategies for validating the appropriateness of fitness functions remain unclear at present, as do any hypotheses of adaptation with respect to the multiverse, other universes, or other black holes.

Smolin states that CNS originated as an attempt to explore the fine-tuning problem in cosmology via an alternative landscape theory to string theory, one that might provide more readily falsifiable predictions. According to The Life of the Cosmos (1997), his book on CNS and other subjects for lay readers, by the mid-1990’s his team had been able to sensitivity test, via mathematical simulations, eight of approximately twenty apparently fundamental parameters. In such tests to date, Smolin claims our present universe appears to be fine-tuned both for long-lived universes capable of generating complex life and for the production of hundreds of trillions of black holes, or for ‘fecundity’ of black hole production.

His theory has been critiqued on occasion (Vaas 1998; Vilenkin 2006), and continues to be elaborated and defended (Smolin 2001,2006). McCabe (2006) states that research in loop quantum gravity “appears to support Smolin’s hypothesis” of a bounce at the center of black holes forming new universes (see also Ashtekar 2006). If true, such a mechanism would suggest an organic type of reproduction with inheritance for universes, and our universe ensemble might be characterized as an extended, branching chain exploring a ‘phenospace’ of potential forms and functions within the multiverse.


CNS with intelligence (CNS-I) are models which attempt to bring intelligence and information theory into the CNS framework. They propose that accumulated end-of-universe, or more precisely, end-of-black-hole evolutionary intelligence may somehow aid in universe/black hole replication and selection within the multiverse. These models assume that any universe where emergent intelligence was able to play a less-than-random role in replication or selection might become replicatively favored, more resilient, or perhaps dominant in some multiversal environment, over lineages where emergent intrauniversal intelligence does not increasingly factor into replication, as in Smolin's original CNS model.

Some CNS-I models propose that increasingly internally intelligent universes might naturally grow out of simple CNS universes at the leading edge of universal complexity, just as we have seen intelligence emerge within environmentally dominant lineages in life's history on Earth. In the most functionally and morphologically complex species on Earth, we may observe that life's intelligence mechanisms have progressed from "random" recombination of prebiotic or prokaryotic genetic elements, to a much more culturally-guided replication in higher eukaryotes. In this process, we see that individual and collective intelligence (memes, knowledge, self-awareness) increasingly influences and constrains the original and persistent "random" replicators (genes, DNA).

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Comment by Pope Beanie on June 16, 2013 at 3:26am

For example, assume we gain enough intelligence and knowledge to understand how universes are created, and how they evolve. Perhaps we even finally communicate with other intelligent life in the universe, with whom we can agree on how to ever so slightly affect future evolution of the universe.

Let's say we can cooperatively, ever so slightly affect the creation and evolution of future universes, such that the probability of newer universes giving rise to newer intelligent life increases. These newer universes, with intelligent life ever so slightly more intelligent and/or capable than previous universes, in turn, ever so slightly improve the chances of their future universes to produce even more intelligent and capable life.

Over uncountable cycles of universe creation, evolution of intelligence, and re-creation, we're increasingly able to "intelligently design" universes with more and more fecundity.

Does anyone else find this to be an interesting thought experiment?

Comment by Pope Beanie on February 21, 2015 at 3:56pm

I admit to not having read much about CNS. I can imagine it being a topic ripe for science fiction, especially for armchair scientists such as myself.

Here's an irony I only just now considered:

If humans survive long enough, I'm certain that artificial intelligence will get smarter than us, and I fear that it's possible they'll overpower us, and perhaps even enslave us. (You've heard the story.) The possibilities will probably depend mostly on 1) who owns them and 2) who originally programs them.

Let's assume that AI takes over, but has been programmed (for better or worse) to find ways to make it more likely that the next iteration of our (or even other) universes has the highest possible likelyhood of spawning life, and intelligent life? As far as I understand biology and pro-biotic soups, the spontaneous generation of life merely depends on physical conditions, including what elements and compounds are available, namely produced from stars.

Assuming the above, wouldn't it make sense for AI to nudge universe re-creation in the direction of most likely being able to produce the right conditions and pro-biotic soups as early in the evolution of every universe as possible? I.e., we're become our own gods, but with mortality?

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on February 21, 2015 at 4:15pm

It is possible (probable) that Humans will become more intelligent and “fitter” for longer term survival at a faster rate than ever. This will be driven by artificial selection (as opposed to that driven by nature) where the genetic traits in DNA that favour intelligence, disease resistance and longevity will have been modified. Over time the people carrying those genetically modified genes will become dominant. We could even see a divergence taking place where “Homo Intelligentsias” arrives on the scene. Of course they would all be Atheists ;-)

Comment by James Cox on February 22, 2015 at 10:13pm

As an 'end point' in this 'thought experiment', would extreamly intelligent creatures 'want' to be involved in the creation of other universes, or life? What would such beings do for 'entertainment' or 'distraction'?

I remember my youthful thinking that was similar to these questions, but was my early attempt to 'exit' from 'theism'. Does CNS allow us to revisit the 'god/God' questions? But since this is yet 'what if', it still seems rather 'fruitless'.

While I do not wish to compair humans to 'worms', I wonder if the scale between worms and humans is so different when CNS is conceived of in the 'what if'. I am hopeful, but when I think this way I envision the last scene in the movie 'Men In Black', where the earth is lost to the vastness of space-time, and we see the greater perspective where vast beings play marbles with universes, and we are hardly affected by that greater context, as if we are hardly more than viruses or sub-atomic particles...   

Comment by Pope Beanie on February 26, 2015 at 10:30pm

[...] would extreamly intelligent creatures 'want' to be involved in the creation of other universes, or life?

Good question. Maybe some would, some wouldn't. What if AI was programmed to try? The question might become at what expense to others, e.g. if robbed of their Sun/star.

Yeah, this is surely too hard for anyone to predict, and irrelevant for us, except in the sense that maybe the universe has indeed been tuned optimally for us, and we might just never know how.

Comment by Pope Beanie on February 26, 2015 at 10:34pm

I should add... we could use a few more cosmological theories like this, to compete with the GoddititSoFuckScience KnowItAlls.

Comment by Davis Goodman on February 26, 2015 at 10:36pm

Can it really be considered natural selection if there is no competition between newly created universes?

Comment by Pope Beanie on February 26, 2015 at 10:43pm

True, it'd complicate the definition of 'natural'.

The Theory of Fecunder, Fecunder, Fecunder... Universes?

Comment by Pope Beanie on February 26, 2015 at 10:45pm

(FFFU, obviously.)

Comment by Davis Goodman on February 26, 2015 at 11:09pm

Or maybe the universes have karate style showdowns...fighting to the death every millennia or so. That might be where the natural selection comes from.


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