Through the Wormhole s05e08 Episode Script

Will We Become God?

Since the dawn of our species, humanity has never stopped moving forward.
First, we mastered fire.
Today, we play with the fabric of space and time.
Now technology is about to advance beyond our wildest dreams.
We may soon know the future And learn to move matter at the speed of light.
Could we mortals ever gain power over the entire universe? Will we become God? Space, time, life itself.
The secrets of the cosmos lie through the wormhole.
The Bible says that God is the master of all things in heaven and on earth, that God created us and guides the world we live in.
But a total mastery of the universe may not be just a divine power.
It could be our destiny.
Will we someday not only play God But be God? And what will we do with our omnipotence? I played cowboys when I was a kid.
The sneak attack was my trademark move.
In the world I created, bullets couldn't harm me.
I was invincible.
I could do anything I wanted.
Could these God-like powers one day be a reality in the real world? U.
Berkeley bioengineer Adam Arkin believes we are very close to one divine ability -- creating new forms of life.
Want evidence? He's sitting right on top of it.
Well, these very organic-looking pieces of furniture are actually formed out of a fast-growing fungus.
The artist's name is Philip Ross.
He calls this type of work mycotecture, because the study of fungi is mycology, and so they're like architecture of fungus.
The artist crafted these tools by feeding wood chips to mushrooms.
As the mushrooms feast, they grow fibers that interlock, forming a substance that is stronger than concrete.
We are learning how to shape life to fit our needs.
But Adam wants to take this idea a step further, to have living objects shape themselves according to our design, just as the Bible says God shaped Eve from Adam's rib.
What we would like to do as engineers is to program the cells to self-organize into shapes like this, or into more complicated, articulated shapes than even this is.
Adam's dream is to create living organisms that can sense their surroundings and change their shape on demand.
Instead of a mushroom chair always being a chair, it would know when Adam got tired Wow.
And then, organically, morph itself into a mushroom bed.
To do this, he needs to learn how to control the movement of molecules inside living cells.
Well, imagine the dancer is a molecule that's going inside her cell.
Molecules are what make the cell act.
They bounce into each other, they bind, they pull, they stretch, and in doing so, make the cell do, you know, do all these amazing acrobatics, all of which we can exploit for our own needs.
Every movement a cell makes stems from instructions in its D.
Adam had been subtly altering this code to change how the molecules in a cell are programmed to perform.
As cytoengineers, what we're able to do these days is to take D.
, engineer it, and put it back inside cells so it can direct the dancer you're seeing here, and so we can, on a computer, program what we expect to see happen, make that into D.
, put it into the cells, and then watch to see if they follow our instructions.
If Adam can control the behavior of one cell, imagine what he can do with many.
He could program cells to grow into whatever he wants.
He could create an apple a tree, or maybe something even God never considered, like a living bicycle.
In the case of the bicycle, each part has to work together.
There's gears and wheels and steering, and the like.
And so, each cell has to be aware of its surrounds and work with other cells, each one different, each one with its own job.
And part of our instruction set is to make that happen.
Adam's work could be the foundation for creating a modern garden of eden, where we, not God, get to decide what kind of life grows inside of it.
I think humans want to feel in control over their world.
We are animals that build things and control things and change things, and I think it's part in process with who we are.
The Bible says, "God's ultimate creations were man and woman -- beings with their own free will.
" We have already crafted new life-forms, but could our creations ever have conscious souls? Most scientists consider conscious experience to be an elusive property that may never be fully understood, much less artificially created.
But neuroscientist Melanie Bolling, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, doesn't think it's so mysterious.
In fact, she thinks it can be boiled down to a single number.
What we try to do in our work is to quantify consciousness.
By the quantity, we say, "How much understanding there is? How much consciousness there is in a system?" One way to understand consciousness is to observe what happens when it fails.
Different brain injuries have dramatically different consequences.
We learn from neurology that there are some brain lesions that make you unconscious and some that don't.
When damage occurs in the cerebral cortex, body organs like the heart and lungs may continue to function.
However, a patient won't show any awareness of his or her environment.
But a person with injuries only to the cerebellum could still be perfectly awake and alert.
Even though the cerebellum has many more neurons than the cortex, it doesn't play a vital role in consciousness.
So when you look at what makes the difference between the cortex and the cerebellum, you will see that the difference is not in the number of neurons.
What is making the difference is the way the different brain areas talk to each other.
Imagine that each neuron throughout the brain is a light bulb.
What would happen if every single one had its own switch? So if I turn this light on, it won't make any difference to the rest of the system.
Melanie believes that consciousness arises in the cortex, because the neurons it stems from are not isolated bulbs.
They form an interconnected network that communicates.
If we had a set of lamps that are connected to each other, then actually turning the lamp on or off would make a lot of difference to the rest of the system.
And there, we would say that the information is shared or integrated.
Now the lights are talking.
When one turns on, it signals another to turn off.
When one turns off, it signals another to turn on, and so on.
Together, they create a dynamic symphony of thoughts and emotions, leading to the feeling of being alive.
So, this interconnectedness is thought to be important for consciousness to arise in the brain.
This idea led Melanie to develop a formula that will allow us to measure consciousness.
It calculates the degree of interconnectedness of neurons in any system.
The answer is a number represented by the Greek letter, Phi.
The more conscious something is, the greater its value of phi.
The human brain, with trillions of neuroconnections, has a large value of phi.
An earthworm's phi is exponentially smaller, but it's still not zero.
So one of the implications of the theory is that consciousness is not necessarily only in humans.
We could use phi as a way to measure the level of consciousness in a lot of different cases, being living beings or computers.
If Melanie and her colleagues have found a way to measure consciousness, how long could it be before we design and build systems that are self-aware, just as God populated earth with sentient beings? In the Bible, God solved the consciousness equation in one day.
This puzzle master thinks he can solve any equation and any problem.
If he's right, divine wisdom could be right at our fingertips.
If you're a salesman or maybe an actor, and you have to travel to 15 cities around the world, what's the shortest route you could take to visit each one only once? Well, there are an awful lot of possibilities -- Of course, God would know the answer instantly.
Mathematicians have wrestled with this type of logistical problem for centuries.
If we could discover the answer, we would know the perfect way to do almost anything.
Computer scientist Tom Rokicki has been on a lifelong quest for divine wisdom, at least when it comes to puzzles.
Well, I got a cube when I was in high school, and I just could not solve it.
It was the first puzzle that I just could not solve.
And I eventually realized I had to, like, keep notes.
I had to write, "Oh, this move does this, and this move does this.
" And I built up a notebook that helped me figure out how to solve it.
Merely solving the Rubik's Cube is not enough for Tom.
He wants to conquer it entirely.
He sought the underlying principle that would allow him to crack the cube in the fewest possible moves, from any starting position.
Mathematicians call this step-by-step code "God's algorithm.
" So God's algorithm is the ability to solve a random position as quickly as possible, as efficiently as possible.
If you just had infinite knowledge, you could always know what the next move was to take you closer to a solution.
In his journey to crack this little puzzle, he may have stumbled across the secret to cracking really big ones -- problems that have dogged humanity for centuries.
Solving the Rubik's Cube won't, by itself, make the world a better place.
But the method Tom uses to find the quickest solution from any of the 43 quintillion starting positions might work for much larger puzzles.
Tom quickly realized that even an army of highly skilled Rubik's Cube solvers wouldn't be enough for him to find answers to every possible scrambled configuration.
The fastest cube solvers can solve the cube in about 10 seconds.
Now, if you took all and trained them all to solve the cube that fast, it would take them more than a thousand years to explore this many different positions.
And even the fastest hands and minds sometimes take a wrong turn on their way to reaching the final arrangement.
Tom needed an unprecedented amount of power.
He needed a super brain.
I've always been fascinated with the ability of computers to expand what you can figure out.
With computers, you can actually set up experiments and play with math.
So, you know, if I can sit there and, by hand, figure out that if I make this move and then this move and then this move, that it changes this cubey in a particular way, the sequences get too long.
I can't think -- I can't remember all that stuff.
And a computer is very good at enabling me to answer questions like that.
Even the most powerful computer in the world is not powerful enough to calculate God's algorithm.
So, Tom decided to break up the cube into small chunks.
Hoo-hoo! We were able to figure out a way to use a mathematical concept called group theory and cosets to actually partition the problem into 2 billion other problems that were smaller, and then solved each of those problems on separate computers.
So that let me take advantage of parallel processing and solve the entire problem with a lot of computers.
Each of these cubers is like a separate computer.
Each is trying to figure out the series of moves needed to get from a random, scrambled position to another less scrambled position.
After about 1 billion seconds of computing time, Tom finally discovered God's algorithm.
The minimum number of moves to solve the Rubik's Cube is 20.
Ultimately, I was able to prove that every single position of the Rubik's Cube can be solved in 20 moves or less.
No matter how much you scramble it, there's always a 20-move sequence that takes you back to solved.
That's what God would do.
God would always be able to solve this cube in the minimum number of moves.
Tom has cracked God's code for the Rubik's Cube.
In the process, he's shown that if a puzzle has a final solution, there's a right answer for each step of the way.
So could we solve any problem that has interconnected parts? Imagine being able to eradicate world hunger by optimizing food distribution to billions of people, or instantly curing diseases in the body just by knowing the right sequence of procedures to target pathogens.
If a solution exists, Tom believes he can find it.
The ability to actually solve this problem really tells us that computer power plus a couple of good ideas can take us much further than we would have thought.
So I think that there's a lot of optimism to solve other more difficult problems, like car accidents and poverty or economic issues.
There's a lot of opportunity for that, I believe.
God's algorithm only works for problems that have a definite solution.
But real life isn't as simple as a brain teaser.
We can't be sure which puzzles are actually solvable.
So how do we know what to tackle? One scientist is using numbers to look into the future to give us mortals a helping hand.
Imagine if you could take a look at someone and instantly know everything -- where they were born, where they live, and what will happen to them in the future.
If you were god, you could.
And in this age of digital data collection, humans are getting closer to achieving this power.
Will we become omniscient? Richard Janikowski is not a God.
He's a former statistics professor at the University of Memphis.
But sometimes, he seems to be all-knowing.
Hi, Allison.
How are you doing today? Good.
Our analysis shows you're gonna want to spend about $7.
10, so one of the first things you're gonna want is a salad.
Thank you! And, Allison, you've always been a big fan of beets.
So have some beets for lunch.
How do you know this? And now, since payday was yesterday, you can treat yourself to some pumpkin pie.
Oh, my gosh.
And our prediction is that either you or one of your children will spill something, so here's some extra napkins.
I can't believe it.
You know everything.
Richard's uncanny predictions don't come from divine insight.
They come from collecting data -- lots and lots of data, and then finding patterns hidden in the numbers.
To go? Hot sauce to go.
If you were attempting to predict what customers would order in a restaurant like the Picadilly, if you began observing customer patterns, how many people, what hours of the day, what days of the week, then you can begin looking at what they order in terms of coffee or green beans or chicken-fried steak.
If you also collect, then, data on their individual demographics, you can begin connecting that data.
Richard's data patterns can read the tea leaves of any restaurant patron.
But he has an even greater power.
He can use data to see evil in the hearts of men.
In 2005, Richard joined a groundbreaking crime prediction center in Memphis.
It's called Blue Crush.
Blue Crush takes in video surveillance from cameras distributed throughout the city and centralizes data gathered by numerous agencies.
At the heart of the operation lies a program designed by Richard to comb through all the data.
The idea is to stop crime before it happens.
What we integrated was both arrest data and incident data, and then we used the theory that has evolved from research on offenders to look for certain types of patterns of behavior, because the past really is the best predictor of the future.
The data show that some types of crime concentrate in certain areas and at certain times.
Richard learned that home burglaries tend to take place during business hours, when most people are away from home.
Businesses, on the other hand, usually suffer break-ins after hours.
Its guiding principle really is that if you effectively deploy police resources in the right place, on the right day, at the right time, you're gonna be able to reduce crime.
Out on the street, patrol officers in Memphis now work with central command to anticipate and stop crime before it starts.
You actually can figure out where there's gonna be concentration of robbers.
Actually, the research shows that burglars tend to operate in a doughnut around their house.
They don't want to be too close to the house, because then people know them.
But they don't want to be too far away from the house either, because they don't know the territory.
The data channeling through Blue Crush's predictive computers has made Memphis a safer place.
From 2006 to 2010, violent crimes fell by about 25%, and burglaries declined five times faster than the national average.
Today, Richard's methodology can predict hot spots of criminal activity throughout an entire city.
But what about predicting the behavior of a single individual? The explosion of social media, market trackers, and surveillance cameras are converting our lives into data.
With enough number crunching, could the criminal justice system achieve an all-knowing presence? Could that ability tempt governments or corporations down a dark path, toward a world where big brother watches our every move? Technology could soon grant us the ability to know what our neighbors will do tomorrow.
But we have to do more than that to be God-like.
We need to be able to control the world with the power of thought.
In the Bible, God said, "Let there be light.
" And there was light.
Now, what if you could use your mind to make things do whatever you wanted? Could we control the universe with our thoughts? We might soon achieve the power of mind over matter, thanks to the work of Brazilian neurobiologist, Miguel Nicolelis, at Duke University.
For the past two decades, he has been discovering ways for the brain to control its surroundings using only its thoughts.
Miguel believes the brain's potential can be understood by looking at his country's most beloved sport -- soccer.
Well, you know, in a field like that, when the players start, you know, passing the ball, when we score a goal in a soccer game, the equivalent is any behavior that a brain produces.
It results from this interplay of many players, the neurons, interacting with one another.
Figuring out how neurons produce a behavior is like understanding how a team of soccer players scores a goal.
One way is to track every single movement from each of the players separately.
But there are many thousands of separate movements that lead to a goal.
Miguel has a simpler idea.
If he has a seat in the nosebleeds, where he can barely see the players and can't even see the ball, he still knows when a goal has been scored, because he can see when all the players end up near the goal Goal! And half of them start celebrating.
When neurons achieve a behavior, they also create a noise that Miguel can actually hear and record.
He calls them "brainstorms.
" Well, this is the true sound of a brainstorm -- a real brainstorm.
So all the electrical signals of a few neurons have been combined to produce this popcorn-like sound, that basically reflect when the neurons start firing.
By analyzing a brainstorm, Miguel can see, as well as hear, neurons in the act of producing a behavior.
Miguel wondered if he could replicate one of these brainstorm patterns digitally, and, in this way, harness thoughts to control devices.
Miguel set up a trial with rhesus monkeys.
He first recorded the brainstorms of a monkey watching an avatar moving its arms.
Brainstorm patterns made by observing an action are similar to those arising from either performing or imagining one.
Miguel digitized the monkey's brainstorms into a program that a computer could execute.
So whenever the monkey even thought about moving the avatar's arms, the computer recognized the brainstorm.
The result -- monkey see, computer do.
The power of thought successfully moved the avatar.
Miguel's experiment points to a future where any person's wish instantly becomes a God-like physical command.
So you can get your mind now controlling devices that are next to you or in a different part of the planet, or even outside earth.
We haven't done that one, but we have this dream of one day sitting here on earth and controlling a robot on the moon or on Mars just by thinking.
If it's possible for our brains to control objects with our thoughts, perhaps we can control the actions of living beings.
What if we could see inside the minds of others and know their most intimate thoughts just like God? Miguel set up another experiment.
He implanted brain activity monitors into a pair of rats.
The rats hardly noticed, because brain tissue does not have pain receptors.
It is a very thin, hair-like filament that we use to create sensors that can be implanted in the brain like a pacemaker's implanted in the heart, to record the signals.
He wired the rats so that neural activity, the brainstorms, could travel from one rat to another.
He then placed the rats into individual cages.
In the cage of the first rat, one of two hatches, either on the left or the right, opens.
The ink holder, the first rat -- this guy's getting the information from the environment.
And his job is to use its brain to encode that information.
And the brain activity that we're recording from this animal's being broadcasted to a second animal.
In the cage of the second rat, two hatches open.
This rat now has to pick the hat on the same side as the one that opened for the first rat.
If he gets it right, both rats get a reward.
And it turns out that about 70% of the time, this guy got it right.
So random chance would be 50%, so just if he's trying to guess, would be 50%, but he got 70.
It was not perfect, but the experiment showed that information could flow from one brain to the other.
Miguel's research might lead us to a future where thoughts can be shared as easily as words.
Imagine receiving feedback instantaneously from millions of people, that you can, you know, decide which ones you want to listen to, or, eventually, collaborating.
We are probably, for the first time in our evolutionary history, influencing directly our own evolution.
Evolution will continue to unfold in unpredictable ways.
Will linking our brains help humanity achieve infinite wisdom? And if our brains can be in so many places at once, what will happen to our bodies? God is not only omniscient but also omnipresent.
One scientist prophesizes the same for mankind -- the ability to be anywhere and everywhere.
Believers in God say they feel his divine presence, no matter where they are.
With all the billions of faithful in the world, God must be everywhere at the same time.
Quantum physicists know that tiny particles already have this God-like ability, and we are made of these subatomic particles.
So why can't we be omnipresent, like God? Anton Zeilinger is a pioneer of quantum information theory.
He studies the strange laws that govern how tiny particles communicate with one another.
But every now and then, he likes to communicate with his peers the old-fashioned way.
In any communication today, we use classical methods.
Take this letter here.
I'm sending it now to my friend in China.
So it means that it follows a path.
It goes to the post office.
The post office brings it to the airplane.
The airplane flies to China, and so on and so on.
It's a well-defined trajectory, and I can follow it.
When a letter goes through the mail, the information inside follows a physical trail.
In the quantum world, the rules are entirely different.
In quantum communication, the information disappears here and reappears at another place.
It does not follow a path.
You cannot track it.
You cannot follow it.
In the quantum world, information is carried by tiny particles in what scientists call "quantum states.
" A state tells us which features a particle can show if I measure it.
You can think of particles like glowing balls of light that are constantly changing colors.
If one is in a sealed box and Anton never opens it, the particle will forever exist in the changing state of red and blue.
However, when he opens the box and observes the particle, it will take on one of those colors.
But the rules of quantum information get even stranger than this.
If you take two boxes and two particles, you can connect them through a bizarre process called "entanglement.
" Two entangled particles can be connected in such a way that, if you do a measurement on one, it influences the state of the other one, no matter how far away, instantly.
Anton realized that this strange property can be used to teleport information.
Imagine Anton entangles the glowing balls of light in these two boxes.
These two particles will remain entangled, no matter how far they are separated.
So I will now send this box off to a friend far away.
Anton is sending one box of light miles and miles away.
When he unseals his own box, the light turns blue, which means the distant entangled partner instantly becomes red.
This is what Anton is doing with real particles, and in the process, achieving something fantastic -- quantum teleportation.
He's sending tiny particle messages from one island in the Canary islands to another in a literal flash.
We can keep one of the two entangled particles locally, and then you do measurements on the two, and you see that they are still entangled.
Having teleported information across a short distance, Anton's next goal is to do it between earth and space using satellites.
In the satellite experiment, there is a satellite in orbit, which sends down to the earth two entangled particles.
And then you do measurements on them and show that they are still entangled.
Using quantum teleportation, we may be able to send and receive information to and from anywhere in the cosmos.
But could we teleport enough information to transport physical objects? Perhaps even ourselves? There's nothing in the laws of quantum mechanics which says that it would not be possible to teleport the state of a system as a big as a living person, but it takes a lot of ingenuity and many generations to come up with how to do it, if it can be done.
Someday, in the far, far future, we may have the power to be anywhere, instantly.
It appears that science may eventually give us both omniscience and omnipotence.
But are we fooling ourselves? Does mankind really have what it takes to become God? Scientists are gradually giving us powers we once thought only a God could have.
Will this progress come to an end? To become truly God-like, we need to go back to the beginning of time and figure out how the cosmos was created.
Can our mortal minds ever grasp the universal master plan? Physicist and philosopher Marcelo Ggleiser has spent his career contemplating whether humans have what it takes to become God-like, both mentally and physically.
So this is the spartan race.
It's an obstacle race.
This one in particular is a very tough one.
It's called "the beast.
" It goes up Mount Killington, about 14.
3 miles, 25 obstacles, jumping walls, climbing ropes, under mud ponds, you name it, and, you know, they say the elites are gonna do it in four hours.
We're hoping to do it under eight.
We'll see what happens.
Marcelo competes in these grueling races for one main reason -- to push his body to the limits and to find out what he's really made of.
It has taught him that, no matter how hard he trains, he can never reach the physical levels of a God.
Our bodies impose limits on what we can do and what we cannot do.
So even the most accomplished of athletes, most perfect body, is never exactly perfect.
Marcelo believes that humans not only have physical limits that prevent us from becoming God-like, we also have mental limits.
He sees evidence of this in science, as physicists have been competing in their own cosmic spartan race.
So it all started with Plato.
You know, Plato loved geometry, and he thought that, to understand nature, find symmetry, find the most fundamental symmetry that exists, and then you unlock the secret of everything.
Most physicists still use Plato's idea of symmetry to try to explain how the universe works.
When one thing on one side is the same as on the other side, we call that a symmetry.
So you look around yourself, and the world has all these shapes.
Animals, there are butterflies, plants, and there is a natural drive of us humans to identify patterns in everything we see.
Our desire to seek symmetry in the world has lured physicists into applying this rule to one of the greatest mysteries of all -- how the universe began.
Many physicists believe that just before the big bang, the universe was like a perfectly symmetric glass chandelier, and suddenly the whole fixture shattered into billions of pieces.
Scientists have been trying to put the pieces back together, to know what the original structure looked like.
If we can understand how everything fits, then maybe humanity can take God's place in the celestial throne room.
But Marcelo thinks physicists are trying to put together a puzzle that will never fit, because when scientists do experiments, symmetry often falls apart.
One of the most fascinating particles that exists in nature is called the neutrino.
Now it turns out that most particles, as most things in nature, they spin.
They have a rotational motion.
And you would expect the neutrinos, like everything else, could spin clockwise or counterclockwise, perfect symmetry.
But it turns out that in nature, you only find neutrinos that are what we call left-handed.
They only spin in a certain way.
Nature does not like right-handed neutrinos.
So there is clear, right there, a very fundamental system of particles that interact where nature is not perfectly symmetric.
So even at the level of our own bodies, our hearts are on the left, right? And our livers are on the right.
Then, in fact, if I would get my face, which you may think is symmetric, and I would superimpose my left side with my right side, I would definitely not look symmetric at all.
Marcelo believes the asymmetries of nature tell us our theories are wrong.
In fact, he suspects we will always be wrong.
Finding one theory to explain everything may be a race with no finish.
Everything that we know about nature depends on how we see nature.
And it turns out that our tools are limited, that what we can infer from nature is limited.
We cannot know everything.
It's really about our urge to understand the world that is never final and never perfect.
This notion that there is always something else, that there is always a imbalance in the way we perceive things, is what makes us human.
The human drive to become all-powerful and all-knowing seems unstoppable.
Science has given us tremendous power, but we have limitations that we may never overcome.
But maybe our fallibilities are a gift.
After all, they are what keep us striving to achieve what seems impossible.