New research builds directly on the Schrödinger, Stuart Kauffman canon to derive not just life but intelligence from entropy. In What is Life?, Schrödinger defines life in thermodynamic terms, i.e.: entropy (or disorder). In At Home in the Universe Kauffman shows how order spontaneously emerges to create life. Now, Alexander Wissner-Gross (aka @alexwg), "a physicist at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology", has published research showing how intelligence emerges from the goal of maximising entropy.
The researchers developed a software engine, called Entropica … In one test, the researchers presented Entropica with a situation where it could … move a cart to balance a rod standing straight up in the air. Governed by simple principles of thermodynamics, the software responded by displaying behavior similar to what people or animals might do, all without being given a specific goal for any scenario.
Entropica’s intelligent behavior emerges from the “physical process of trying to capture as many future histories as possible,” said Wissner-Gross. Future histories represent the complete set of possible future outcomes available to a system at any given moment.
Wissner-Gross calls the concept at the center of the research “causal entropic forces.” These forces are the motivation for intelligent behavior. They encourage a system to preserve as many future histories as possible. For example, in the cart-and-rod exercise, Entropica controls the cart to keep the rod upright. Allowing the rod to fall would drastically reduce the number of remaining future histories, or, in other words, lower the entropy of the cart-and-rod system. Keeping the rod upright maximizes the entropy.
"The universe exists in the present state that it has right now. It can go off in lots of different directions. My proposal is that intelligence is a process that attempts to capture future histories," said Wissner-Gross.
If this is right, then the same force that creates life — the intentionality of physical systems to minimise order within the body — also leads to intelligence — the intentionality to maximise order outside the body. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Intelligence and life are two sides of the same coin.