Entropy, complexity, and the amazing gift that is choice as residents in a universe with 2 trillion galaxies

I was doing some exploration on the connection between entropy and complexity, and came across a lecture from theoretical physicist Sean Carroll.

The thing with physics for me, even the page-turner common man physics explanations of Carlo Rovelli, is that I enjoy taking it in to a much greater extent than I understand it, at least at present … all that to say there’s a bit of the lecture where Carroll describes what I came for, that is: while entropy is always increasing, complexity comes and goes. Given my limited ability to describe it, just scroll to 32:08 for the explanation.

As Carroll concludes, he shares his thoughts on the meaning of life given laws of physics … and there’s something I quite like about how insignificant we are in relation to the ever-accelerating expansion of the universe, and yet we have the capacity to make of our lives as we choose.

We are very, very tiny and insignificant. The universe is not about us. If the universe was about us, if there was some purpose to the world that was for our greater glory, we would not be around a medium-sized planet, around a medium-sized star in a galaxy with 100 billion stars in a universe with two trillion galaxies.

We’d be more central.

Despite that, we are the little part of the universe—in this age when things are complex and interesting—that has developed the capacity for self-awareness and reflection and thinking and rational thought and writing books and buying books … and that should make us feel pretty good … we have the ability to be rational to think to invent to discover to create new things to care about each other in ways that other parts of the universe just don’t care about each other.

That capacity that we have, as fleeting as life is, it’s up to us what to make of it.

The fact that we are made of atoms and particles obeying the laws of physics doesn’t stop us from caring about ourselves, the rest of the world, our legacies, the people next to us right now. So that’s a choice we can make completely compatible with the laws of physics. I urge you all to choose very wisely.

Here we are on a single medium-sized planet circling a single medium-sized star in a galaxy with a 100 billion stars in a universe with 2 trillion (and increasing) galaxies, and we get choice in our 4,000 weeks.