Humanity is already capable of simulating fractions^ of the universe. We started with cave sculptures and, step by step, we have perfected the art of building entire worlds. We now delve into virtual reality and there are many more amazing technological breakthroughs that await. Eventually, we will probably end up being able to transport our entire sensory apparatus into universes of our own making. Are we the first iteration of this matter organization process?
The simulated reality hypothesis^ has been around for quite some time, but can we find some proof for its existence in the strange quantum behaviors that we’ve been observing? What if the hypothesis can be improved in a way that would resolve one of its biggest caveats: if this is a simulated reality, aren’t the simulators a simulation themselves?
Just like the Sun does not revolve around the Earth, it is quite probable that this universe itself is part of a larger system. One such system, the multiverse^, is a well-known theoretical concept in modern physics. Mysteries are often the source of all sorts of suppositions, from magic and gods to scientific theories; the paradox presented by the double slit experiment is no exception. I see it as a confirmation for the hypothesis of the multiverse, which reconciles a deterministic universe (devoid of free will) with the possibility that free will actually exists (in a probabilistic multiverse).
If you are not familiar with the double slit experiment, you have two choices (pun intended): you either stop reading now, or you see this explanatory video^, because the rest of the article will often refer to this phenomenon. The video is 10 minutes long and it is very well explained, but it’s not the kind of stuff that goes well with interruptions.
A Quantum Computer Simulation
In my previous article^ I used the ocean analogy to explain how consciousness travels through the multiverse, but the question “why is this even happening?” demands answers.
Let us proceed with another analogy, one that likens the multiverse to a computing device, more precisely, a quantum computer. If we look at our universe from a software perspective, not only is it optimized for good computation (here’s a superb way to show^ that this might indeed be the case), but it also presents a possible explanation for why we cannot (yet) bridge general relativity with quantum mechanics.
Before we continue, let me clarify one thing. Words such as “software” and “computer” are nothing more than substitutes for much more complex systems. The difference between our current technology and the “technology” which is used to “render” life is as large as the difference between a gramophone and a 7.1 home theater featuring the latest virtual reality headset powered by a monster PC, perhaps larger.
In software, variables are used to express data, but due both to standardization and limited hardware resources, they are capped to certain values (differentiated by data type). This does not mean that it is impossible to express much more than a variable is limited to, it only means that when the reaching the precision limits of a variable, we must switch to a different system of coordinates. This method can scale to infinity, but is in fact limited by hardware resources.
And within this fact lies a probable cause for the difficulty in reconciling relativity with quantum mechanics. Relativity works because it happens to have been hatched in one system of coordinates, but it is completely dependent on certain constants (such as the cosmological constant or the value of pi). However, quantum mechanics works in a different system of coordinates.
This is not to say that there is no law which reconciles these two systems (and others which are on top of this universe, such as the multiverse, or further beneath). The problem is that we might have to study our universe from the outside in order to find out what the law is, and that, at the moment, is simply not possible.
Like in my previous article, I will refer to computational irreducibility^, not as a means to escape difficult questions, but as a possible explanation for the brick wall we sometimes face. In the future, scientists might infer a “theory of everything”, but as long as there is a single constant in laws which aim to explain phenomena that might belong to two different systems of coordinates, that is a sign of trouble.
The only constant in the multiverse is “change”. Sure, we can find laws which apply to our cosmic vicinity, and we can use them to harness the forces of nature, but just like various societies on Earth have different rules, so it goes with the multiverse: if we were able to explore it, we would find huge differences between certain universes. This doesn’t even have to do with the multiverse being a quantum computer simulation, it’s almost common sense.
In the same way we succeeded in breaking through gravity to explore what lies beyond Earth, then our solar system, I’m sure that given enough time we will eventually be able to one day explore other galaxies. Will we ever be able to launch vehicles outside this universe? It’s probably as likely as being able to land on an electron. Both of these feats might be achievable though, but lead to more difficult questions: if our consciousness resides in the multiverse, will it move one level up the scale when we chase it to its source?
Finite And Infinite
If indeed the multiverse is hosted inside a quantum computer, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that the resources of this system are limited? Even if the limit is very high, then this means that the number of universes contained in the multiverse is finite. This would still allow for these universes to cover the entire range and combination of what we today call “constants”, for all possible Planck times^ and for all possible choices a consciousness might make.
The speed of light that we observe as a constant is in fact a variable which has a certain local value – it is a localized constant. Our consciousness just happens, for now, to be somehow bound to travel through universes which have the value that we currently observe. By “travel”, I am referring to the ocean analogy presented during the previous article^, and I will offer a reason as to why we are “bound” to universes sharing certain localized constants in the next article^.
Some scientists toy with the statement that our universe is “fine-tuned for life”. Define “life”. It’s quite possible that there are universes in which the value of pi is 2 or where the speed of light is ten times lower. How would such a universe look is hard to imagine, but why wouldn’t an existence be possible there as well? By thinking of life as variations of our own microcosm (planet Earth), we fall pray to a nasty variety of mind-limiting anthropomorphism^.
One of the main advantages of a quantum computer is that it can operate in more states at once, and this property of our universe is evident in the wave-like behavior of particles in the double slit experiment, where atoms are actually probability clouds. This would greatly contribute to the existence of the multiverse as an up-scaled probability cloud, one made up of universes.
Keep in mind that this is still an analogy used to express a much more complex situation: it doesn’t have to be a quantum “computer”. It is something much more advanced than that. Let’s call it the quantum super-system.
Just like a fractal, this quantum super-system unifies a (possibly) finite number of states, scaled up and down, seamlessly meeting itself in the process: ∞. Our consciousness just happens to be, right now, in this current set of coordinates which we perceive as the universe. If we were to keep switching to the next, and the next state of energy organization, it would be like circling the Earth (a wonderful tour, to be sure).
So if this is a simulation, who built this quantum super-system? The right question to ask is: who built this particular state in which we find ourselves. As for the quantum super-system itself: it simply is.
It’s hard to understand “simply is” because we’re very entrenched in our own universe and its dimensions. A consequence of this is that we give a lot of importance to “time”. But “time” is just a property of a limited sub-set of universes from the multiverse, something that doesn’t even exist in the quantum super-system. The system contains all time, it is time, just as it is everything else.
To conclude, even though the multiverse might contain a finite number of universes, the ladder upon which these probability clouds of various systems (universes, multiverses, etc.) are stacked is infinite through its seamless composition. This stack is what the quantum super-system is, and its laws are probably quite simple and beautiful, without the constants and overly complicated mathematical constructs through which we try to work around the inexplicable phenomena of our tiny universe.
In all fairness, the quantum super-system hypothesis lies in the same category as the mathematical constructs that I mentioned: it tries to offer an explanation without having sufficient experimental data, trying to figure out a larger system by looking at bits and pieces and extrapolating from there. It’s like a game of “connect the dots” where we’re provided just a fraction of the dots and we might draw a shape which is completely wrong.
Mathematics is doing a beautiful job of explaining a deterministic universe, but it needs to take into consideration much more than we can currently observe in order to address the mysteries of quantum mechanics. This situation is unlikely to change until we can analyze our entire universe from the outside. It’s like we’re trying to figure out the producer of a projector’s lamp while staring in front of its blinding light and unable to move.
The quantum super-system hypothesis and the ocean analogy approach quantum mysteries from an unorthodox angle, but I see this as potentially inspirational and a requirement for breaking new ground.
What properties and effects of the quantum super-system could we observe in our day-to-day life? And more importantly, what other mysteries await? My third and final article^ in this series is exactly about this.