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Ugh.. The Boltzmann Brain Paradox momentarily gave me an existential crisis, until I worked out how you refute it..

Well, perhaps crisis is the wrong choice of words... For a few seconds, I wondered how James's Special Anthropic Principle of Existence Through Perception could possibly hold up under such an obvious argument - that the degree of complexity and organisation required for perception is more easily achieved through a single brain-sized fluctuation than a universe-sized one.

Of course, the argument against it is a bit.. dodgy.. But it goes something like this - given a set of laws of physics, it's a lot easier for a random fluctuation to jump start some wider system (i.e. the big bang) than for a random fluctuation to create a conscious brain at will. I mean, the entire basis of the point hinges on the second law of thermodynamics, so presumably we're assuming that the system itself already has its pre-set rules. Which is kind of silly anyway, because the whole anthropic principle thing allows for an infinite set of rules in an infinite variety of universes, whereas this one assumes that the natural increase of entropy is constant across all of them. In any case..

Point is, building a big complicated ordered system is.. tricky.. But building a hugely chaotic system in an instant that will become big and complicated as a natural consequence of its tendency back towards a high-entropy fuzzy average? Now that can be done... In an infinite universe with all manner of variation, I can far better imagine consciousness being the gap between a big bang and a return to a big nothing than I can imagine it just popping up on its own.

It's just about paths of least resistance really, though I can't fully explain how that all works, not in words anyway.

Of course, spiritually speaking, there's another point to make - individual consciousness is about more than just the complexity of the brain. There is some other component at work - it's not just about the complexity of the brain, there's a spark to self awareness that a Matrix-style brain-in-a-jar wouldn't have / would not be permitted by the will of God. Uh, that alternate ending to that sentence is not meant entirely sincerely, though it does squash the argument if you want to bring God into it.

Point is, the principles of evolution encourage the development of complexity out of simplicity. Local decrease in entropy in spite of a system-wide increase in entropy facilitates the development of structures complex enough to house a consciousness. The path of least resistance here is to create a giant lowish-entropy soup, in which lower-entropy life can evolve via established mechanisms, rather than to go straight for a super-low-entropy brain. Note, this may be incorrect, I didn't bother running the equations. Still, seems likely that building a system in which a brain (and indeed multiple brains) can evolve is lower cost than building a brain with all the requisite complexity to perceive a self-created imaginary universe.

Metaphysical crisis averted!


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