This is an incipient essay about the nature of conflict in other universes, such as Conway’s Life universe. It is about possibility of protection or lack thereof in other universes. Turing complete universes such as Conway’s support intelligent agents according to many. What mechanisms are possible there that protect agent from other agents? Dennett’s Freedom Evolves (ISBN = 0670031860) (page 36) speculates entertainingly on these questions. They are of considerable practical importance within the real alternate universe of the modern computer. I think that asking protection questions in other universes may hone our skill at thinking about protection in computers.

I quote Dennett, page 56:

In some deterministic worlds there are avoiders avoiding harms.
Therefore in some deterministic worlds some things are avoided.
Whatever is avoided is avoidable or evitable.
Therefore in some deterministic worlds not everything is inevitable.
Therefore determinism does not imply inevitability.
I think that there is not evidence for avoiders in Life at least of the entirely impervious sort. Yet I am certain that in some such deterministic universes there are impervious avoiders. I think that Dennett does not require his avoiders to be impervious and this is not a flaw in Dennett’s line of arguments.

This argument is somewhat like my note on free will which is not about conflict unless you consider nature malign.

There is no Fort?

Some years ago I think that I wrote down a clear challenge for a Life universe that I cannot find now. It goes as follows: I suspect that this is impossible in Life but I also suspect that it is possible for other cellular rules. Warning: My intuition has a remarkably poor record of predictions of what is possible in Life. Having admitted that I will go further and conjecture that this problem will not be settled either way.

By evidence I merely mean a boolean expression on the cells of the square. The expression is to be evaluated with each input taken in the same time step. A simpler question: “Is there a boolean expression that is not always true but eventually becomes true due to Life rules alone?”. There is such an expression: It asserts that the square is not some particular Garden of Eden which is a pattern which has no possible predecessor. There are such Life patterns. Such an expression does not count as evidence.

Note the connection with the old conundrum: “What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?”. Logic says that one of the two cannot exist. I think there is an analog in the Life world. I think this argues against irresistible forces in Life. Definitions are subtle and delicate, however. Non existence of irresistible forces does not imply existence of an immovable object. It seems likely that for every object, there is an environment that will obliterate it, and perhaps for every environment (outside a square) there is an object that will maintain an invariant (boolean expression) within the square.

There are more subtle questions that are even harder to frame: Are there patterns that survive a benign environment—one chosen at random perhaps, or evolved from a random state? Our universe evidently provides for such patterns but with much qualification.

See Tierra.