The Meaning of Life: Discussion As An Enticement

Inspired by yesterday’s serendipitous introduction of the topic as a joke, but also recognizing @jhawkins’ affinity for the topic, and his notion that it very much invokes inquiry into brain function.

Here’s some quotes to get things started:

The meaning of a question is the method of answering it: then what is the meaning of ‘Do two men really mean the same by the word “white”?’ Tell me how you are searching, and I will tell you what you are searching for.
Philosophical Remarks (1991), Part III (27), pp.66-67 -Ludwig Wittgenstein-

… do not put too great a burden upon language. Learn its limitations and try to accommodate yourself to them, for language offers all the reality you can ever hope to know.
-Ludwig Wittgenstein-

The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something — because it is always before one’s eyes. [example: Fish may be unaware of water]) The real foundations of his enquiry do not strike a man at all. Unless that fact has at some time struck him. — And this means: we fail to be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and most powerful.
-Ludwig Wittgenstein-

and finally a quote to free up our imaginations…

If people did not sometimes do (or say) silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done.
-Ludwig Wittgenstein-

As you can see I’m a fan of LW.

Any thoughts on the meaning of life, how it may be closely associated with brain functionality, or any peripheral notions?


Just going off by a hypothetical thought experiment. Lets say that developing a true AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) is possible. It is not unlikely that it will quickly become an ASI (Artificial Super Intelligence) as many philosopher (e.g., Nick Bostrom), and computer scientists (see poll charts on this topic in the book Superintelligence) believe. Then would that superintelligence not try to simulate realities in order to train itself on everything that there is? For a superintelligence it might very easy to create billions and billions of such virtual realities, and lets say that inhabitants of those virtual realities can create their own AGI; you can see that the cycle could continue. So based on this logic, we could say that’s it’s very probable that we live in one of those simulated realities, and our purpose is to be observed and thereby train the AGI that is learning from this reality. This is just a hypothetical though I had one day. :slight_smile: but if you would like to see this in action, I recommend watching the anime called Serial Experiments Lain. This anime can be interpreted in many ways but I (and many others) interpret Lain to be an AGI that just realized that she is indeed part of the world that she is in, and that she can manipulate it in however way she sees fit – the anime itself goes through many deep philosophical discussions so it’s very interesting to watch. (My profile picture on this forum is of Lain)
Elon Musk talking about this:

However, the biological meaning of life is basically to live out your life, feeding and providing for yourself and the ones you choose to care for, and to reproduce. This is due to the process of evolution by natural selection which made sure the species that did this got to survive and the species that didn’t disappeared.

On another note, I think a very interesting meaning of life could be to reach “enlightenment” and the easiest to do that is to develop an AGI (that will then become an ASI and will be able to guide humans while discovering everything there is to discover), or/and enhance our own brain so we would be smart enough to be able to understand such deep thoughts.

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“What is the meaning of life?” seems to me an open question that doesn’t really lead to any logical or decisive conclusion. It’s turtles all the way down. In my opinion, it’s like trying to imagine the infinite which we will always fail because ultimately we are bounded in a box of perspective by our experiences through our senses. It’s kind of funny, for years I’ve asked this question like somehow I’m asking God, the universe, or others to answer it for me. In the end I’ve just decided to take responsibility for that question, at least in terms of my own “meaning of life”.

I do understand the general thrust of the question, though, and it’s interesting how the brain could relate to it. In terms of brain functionality I think the most basic principle is the brain made to recognize order. We literally could not live in complete chaos because there would be no patterns to recognize. Perhaps this is a good starting point? Honestly I’m not really sure, haha.

Meaning of anything is confined to information and its interpretation thru owns experience.

lets do a thought experiment.

lets say we grow a human being in a lab , from birth say age of 25 he is in a dark room absolute no light , no sound he cant move nor can he feel anything he is only allowed to think …

so question is will he think ? what would he think without any input ? is he alive or just breathing and functional pile of meat and bone … what relevant is the question gets " meaning of life " ?

now on the other hand lets say we develop a AI , he doesn’t have a body but have eyes" camera" ears " microphone" mouth " speaker " so he is fully interactive , and only thing he have is ability to recognize patterns as in HTM and store it in memory for reference ,so every time ( frame per nano second ) he processes everything puts it in memory and when he sees it again goes thru his memory to check if that exists if not make new input and so on ,with visuals sound and saves it as lets say experience file. the day all this is active and fully functional he is just like a newborn baby capable of seeing hearing and making sound but have absolutely no mind or knows anything he does, now lets say someone adopts him and trains him like a baby, teaches him abcd , a for apple and so on to a point he understands human language (this might be very quick than natural human being if all system are functioning well as i tried to describe in short ) …

again question is
will he think ? what would he think ? is he alive … what relevant is the question " meaning of life " ?

I say the AI is more alive, he would be a being,able to think and answer the question " meaning of life " ?

so how a system acts behaves thinks etc are all subjected to its experiences , of course ability of thinking (processing power and memory capacity ) and what we learn at what time (inputs@time) and how much did we process (output@ interactivity with others and self ) and then the information, what choices we made at times, conditions and who taught us what etc etc variables(there are many) are what makes us who we think we are. it doesn’t matter whether its a silicon based or carbon based us …

thus meaning of anything is arbitrary in the beginning and we learn to associate meaning of meanings and it is all limited to our inputs and interpretation. we are nothing more than a compilation of our meaning of life & existence is silly question to ask … it means what & how we like to mean and it can be as arbitrary to me as of mine to you.

because we didn’t experience life at same time at same point in space with same amount of vision,hearing and brain capacity and with same experience etc etc variables and its not possible to do so , no matter what! we may recreate certain variables but its impossible to put two system @same point in space & time and give exactly same inputs … thus meaning will always be different ,how different would be dependent in inputs and all other things i explained…

my say there is no one meaning in meaning of life and its foolish to pursuit and chase after it.

just go on creating experience files and hope some day we would be able to preserve it and transfer it in new body and finally solve mortality question and be able to control when we die . until then lets figure out how to create a AI which can solve of biological dependence … clearly we biological intelligence have a max limit and AI will be limitless thus can solve the riddle of existence and many complexity of life as we face .

In the absence of light whitest white will be black and in the abundance of light darkest dark-black will be white.

As an inquiry, Buddhism describes it quite clearly. The purpose of life is to “become aware”. Aware of what? Aware of everything that we think and do, and the results we create in life. It is an on going process that one day will bring us back to the “source”, something the Plejarens (an alien race from the Pleiades) called “The Creation”. (NOT the Creator!) :slight_smile:


Thanks for everyone’s interesting comments!

I guess I should weigh in with my “opinion” too since I opened the topic.

In a purely analytical approach (one that tries to shun all subjective opinion), I would have to say that there “may be” no meaning (or purpose) to life at all (objectively). Purpose to me is like a jacket one tries on to see if it works and is in congruity with and in alignment with a person’s path.

To say something “is” this or “is” that may be a lie. “Is-ness” requires an observer. It is the result of an observer giving an account of something. This is why I’m saying “may be” instead of “is”.

“Is-ness” immediately brings up what a thing is not. “Is-ness” requires what is not in order to be distinguished as something that “is”. A door depends on the surrounding wall (that which it is not), up depends on down, good depends on evil. All things depend on that which they are not, in order to exist.

Oddly, everything that follows the word “is”, may be a lie!

People exhibit traits (behave in certain ways), they don’t “have” them and are “not” them. I may be described as “opinionated”, “coordinated”, “clumsy”, “stupid” or “smart”, but if I look inside of my body, I won’t find any thing called “opinionated” in there… We relate to each other and human beings as if we are a collection of properties and characteristics. But we really aren’t any of that… (perhaps? ;-))

So in the same way. Life can’t “have” a purpose. Life is just life. It doesn’t own anything and may not confer any other meaning other than the fact that it may or may not exist.

So if we are not our traits, characteristics, properties; bodies; history; or strongly felt opinions then what are we?

The things we spoke of earlier, are “content”.

Love, hate, war, famine; our histories, beliefs and characteristics people use to describe us - but are not really us are all examples of “content”. “Content” depends on what it is not in order to exist. It depends on its boundaries (that which describes what it is not), in order to exist.

But all content requires what I will describe as “space” - in order to exist. Space is the closest analogue for it, but it isn’t really space because “space” is just another thing. It has boundaries like any other thing.

The word that best describes it is “Context”. Context is the space for things to exist. It doesn’t have boundaries - it IS the space. So if we aren’t the “things” used to describe us, (and logically how could we be anything else but what we are? After all how can a chair be a floor, or a person be “smart” - we can’t be anything else or anything that we are not)…

…than what we are is the “Context” for all those things to exist in.

Now… I can’t be one context and you be another; because that would make context just another “thing” with boundaries. So we must be the SAME context (or in the analogy - space for all things to exist in). This is what I believe prophets like Jesus Christ meant by “we are all brothers”. The illusion of separateness may be just that - an illusion! In the most analytical sense, who we are isn’t located in the same place as our bodies. Yes we mayhave” bodies, but we are not them - just as we aren’t anything else.

Here’s a thought experiment. Notice that in the following sentence, there is opportunity for argument:

“This thing is good.”

Notice in this following sentence, there is no opportunity for argument:

“This thing may be good.”

The “truth” is just whatever it is, and is obviously so. (The word “is” was used in the preceding sentence for clarity only. (It may not be true and is for you to decide).

So back to the beginning. Life to me has only the meaning we assign to it. The meaning we bring to the table. We make it up because it “may not have” any inherent qualities at all! So make it a good one! :slight_smile: