Ever Expanding Horizons

Tribal Era

tribalera200Imagine the human world tens of thousands of years ago.  A tribal community lived together, farming, hunting, trading, and taking care of each other.  There was plenty of land to support the community and as long as there were no strong forces driving them to move, they stayed where they were, content.  As far as they knew, “all that there is” was just that community and the land that was required to sustain it.  We might call this the Tribal Era.

Continental Era

continentalera200But, at some point, for whatever reason – drought, restlessness, desire for a change of scenery – another tribe moved into the first tribe’s territory.  For the first time, that tribe realized that the world was bigger than their little community.  In fact, upon a little further exploration, they realized that the boundaries of “all that there is” just expanded to the continent on which they lived, and there was a plethora of tribes in this new greater community.  The horizon of their reality just reached a new boundary and their community was now a thousand fold larger than before.

Planetary Era

planetaryera200According to researchers, the first evidence of cross-oceanic exploration was about 9000 years ago.  Now, suddenly, this human community may have been subject to an invasion of an entirely different race of people with different languages coming from a place that was previously thought to not exist.  Again, the horizon expands and “all that there is” reaches a new level, one that consists of the entire planet.

Solar Era

The Ancient Greek philosophers and astronomers recognized the existence of other solarera200planets.  Gods were thought to have come from the sun or elsewhere in the heavens, which consisted of a celestial sphere that wasn’t too far out away from the surface of our planet.

Imaginations ran wild as horizons expanded once again.

Galactic Era

galacticera200In 1610, Galileo looked through his telescope and suddenly humanity’s horizon expanded by another level.  Not only did the other planets resemble ours, but it was clear that the sun was the center of the known universe, stars were extremely far away, there were strange distant nebulae that were more than nearby clouds of debris, and the Milky Way consisted of distant stars.  In other worlds, “all that there is” became our galaxy.

Universal Era

universalera200A few centuries later, in 1922, it was time to expand our reality horizon once again, as the 100-inch telescope at Mount Wilson revealed that some of those fuzzy nebulae were actually other galaxies.  The concept of deep space and “Universe” was born and new measurement techniques courtesy of Edwin Hubble showed that “all that there is” was actually billions of times more than previously thought.

Multiversal Era

multiversalera200These expansions of “all that there is” are happening so rapidly now that we are still debating the details about one worldview, while exploring the next, and being introduced to yet another.  Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, a variety of ideas were put forth that expanded our reality horizon to the concept of many (some said infinite) parallel universes.  The standard inflationary big bang theory allowed for multiple Hubble volumes of universes that are theoretically within our same physical space, but unobservable due to the limitations of the speed of light.  Bubble universes, MWI, and many other theories exist but lack any evidence.  In 2003, Max Tegmark framed all of these nicely in his concept of 4 levels of Multiverse.

I sense one of those feelings of acceleration with the respect to the entire concept of expanding horizons, as if our understanding of “all that there is” is growing exponentially.  I was curious to see how exponential it actually was, so I took the liberty of plotting each discrete step in our evolution of awareness of “all that there is” on a logarithmic plot and guess what?

Almost perfectly exponential! (see below)


Dramatically, the trend points to a new expansion of our horizons in the past 10 years or so.  Could there really be a something beyond a multiverse of infinitely parallel universes?  And has such a concept recently been put forth?

Indeed there is and it has.  And, strangely, it isn’t even something new.  For millennia, the spiritual side of humanity has explored non-physical realities; Shamanism, Heaven, Nirvana, Mystical Experiences, Astral Travel.  Our Western scientific mentality that “nothing can exist that cannot be consistently and reliably reproduced in a lab” has prevented many of us from accepting these notions.  However, there is a new school of thought that is based on logic, scientific studies, and real data (if your mind is open), as well as personal knowledge and experience.  Call it digital physics (Fredkin), digital philosophy, simulation theory (Bostrom), programmed reality (yours truly), or My Big TOE (Campbell).  Tom Campbell and others have taken the step of incorporating into this philosophy the idea of non-material realms.  Which is, in fact, a new expansion of “all that there is.”  While I don’t particularly like the term “dimensional”, I’m not sure that we have a better descriptor.

Interdimensional Era

interdiensionalera200Or maybe we should just call it “All That There Is.”

At least until a few years from now.

Alien Hunters Still Thinking Inside The Box (or Dyson Sphere)

As those who are familiar with my writing already know, I have long thought that the SETI program was highly illogical, for a number of reason, some of which are outlined here and here.

To summarize, it is the height of anthropomorphic and unimaginative thinking to assume that ET will evolve just like we did and develop radio technology at all.  Even if they did, and followed a technology evolution similar to our own, the era of high-powered radio broadcasts should be insignificant in relation to the duration of their evolutionary history.  In our own case even, that era is almost over, as we are moving to highly networked and low-powered data communication (e.g. Wi-Fi), which is barely detectable a few blocks away, let alone light years.  And even if we happened to overlap a 100-year radio broadcast era of a civilization in our galactic neighborhood, they would still never hear us, and vice versa, because the signal level required to reliably communicate around the world becomes lost in the noise of the cosmic microwave background radiation before it even leaves the solar system.

So, no, SETI is not the way to uncover extraterrestrial intelligences.

Dyson Sphere

Some astronomers are getting a bit more creative and are beginning to explore some different ways of detecting ET.  One such technique hinges on the concept of a Dyson Sphere.  Physicist Freeman Dyson postulated the idea in 1960, theorizing that advanced civilizations will continuously increase their demand for energy, to the point where they need to capture all of the energy of the star that they orbit.  A possible mechanism for doing so could be a network of satellites surrounding the solar system and collecting all of the energy of the star.  Theoretically, a signature of a distant Dyson Sphere would be a region of space emitting no visible light but generating high levels of infrared radiation as waste.  Some astronomers have mapped the sky over the years, searching for such signatures, but to no avail.

Today, a team at Penn State is resuming the search via data from infrared observatories WISE and Spitzer.  Another group from Princeton has also joined in the search, but are using a different technique by searching for dimming patterns in the data.

I applaud these scientists who are expanding the experimental boundaries a bit.  But I doubt that Dyson Spheres are the answer.  There are at least two flaws with this idea.

First, the assumption that we will continuously need more energy is false.  Part of the reason for this is the fact that once a nation has achieved a particular level of industrialization and technology, there is little to drive further demand.  The figure below, taken from The Atlantic article “A Short History of 200 Years of Global Energy Use” demonstrates this clearly.


In addition, technological advances make it cheaper to obtain the same general benefit over time.  For example, in terms of computing, performing capacity per watt has increased by a factor of over one trillion in the past 50 years.  Dyson was unaware of this trend because Moore’s Law hadn’t been postulated until 1965.  Even in the highly corrupt oil industry, with their collusion, lobbying, and artificial scarcity, performance per gallon of gas has steadily increased over the years.

The second flaw with the Dyson Sphere argument is the more interesting one – the assumptions around how humans will evolve.  I am sure that in the booming 1960s, it seemed logical that we would be driven by the need to consume more and more, controlling more and more powerful tools as time went on.  But, all evidence actually points to the contrary.

We are in the beginning stages of a new facet of evolution as a species.  Not a physical one, but a consciousness-oriented one.  Quantum Mechanics has shown us that objective reality doesn’t exist.  Scientists are so frightened by the implications of this that they are for the most part in complete denial.  But the construct of reality is looking more and more like it is simply data.  And the evidence is overwhelming that consciousness is controlling the body and not emerging from it.  As individuals are beginning to understand this, they are beginning to recognize that they are not trapped by their bodies, nor this apparent physical reality.

Think about this from the perspective of the evolution of humanity.  If this trend continues, why will we even need the body?

Robert Monroe experienced a potential future (1000 years hence), which may be very much in line with the mega-trends that I have been discussing on theuniversesolved.com: “No sound, it was NVC [non-vocal communication]! We made it! Humans did it! We made the quantum jump from monkey chatter and all it implied.” (“Far Journeys“)

earthWe may continue to use the (virtual) physical reality as a “learning lab”, but since we won’t really need it, neither will we need the full energy of the virtual star.  And we can let virtual earth get back to the beautiful virtual place it once was.

THIS is why astronomers are not finding any sign of intelligent life in outer space, no matter what tools they use.  A sufficiently advanced civilization does not communicate using monkey chatter, nor any technological carrier like radio waves.

They use consciousness.

So will we, some day.

Grand Unified Humanity Theory

OK, maybe this post is going to be a little silly – apologies in advance.  I’m in that kind of mood.

Physicists recently created a fascinating concoction – a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) that was stable at a temperature 50% higher than critical.  Check out this phys.org article with the deets.  In this bizarre state of matter, all particles act in unison, entangled, as if they were collectively a single particle.  Back in Einstein’s day, BECs were envisioned to be composed of bosons.  Later, theory predicted and experiments demonstrated fermions, and ultimately, atoms.

bose185A comparison is made to an analogous process of getting highly purified water to exist at temperatures above boiling point.  It seems that phase transitions of various types can be pushed beyond their normal critical point if the underlying material is “special” in some way – pure, balanced, coherent.

Superfluids.  Laser light.

It reminds me of the continuous advances in achieving superlative or “perfect” conditions, like superconductivity (zero resistance) at temperatures closer and closer to room.  I then think of a characteristic that new agers ascribe to physical matter – “vibrational levels.”

Always connecting dots, sometimes finding connections that shouldn’t exist.

Given the trend of raising purity, alignment, and coherence in conditions closer and closer to “normal” transitions and scales, might we someday see entangled complex molecules, like proteins?  BECs of DNA strands?

Why stop there?  Could I eventually be my own BEC?  A completely coherent vibrationally-aligned entity?  Cool.  I’ll bet I would be transparent and could walk through doors.

And what if science could figure out how to create a BEC out of all living things?  Nirvana.  Reconnecting with the cosmic consciousness.

Grand Unified Humanity Theory.

You Are Not Your Body

The debate rages on, but those of us who have done the research know which side is true.

We are NOT our bodies.

I am posting this as a reference to all of the excellent scientific research that has been done around this topic so that I can easily refer to it during future blog posts.  For example…

Gary Schwartz, HaConsciousness185rvard-educated professor of psychology, medicine, neurology, psychiatry, and surgery at the University of Arizona, has done extensive research in peer-reviewed journals and several books, such as “The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death”, where he states: “consciousness exists independently of the brain. It does not depend upon the brain for its survival. Mind is first, the brain is second. The brain is not the creator of mind; it is a powerful tool of the mind. The brain is an antenna/receiver for the mind, like a sophisticated television or cell phone.”

– Here are 290 Scientific papers on NDEs, such as: K. Ring and M. Lawrence, Further evidence for veridical perception during near-death experiences, Journal of Near-Death Studies, 11 (1993), pp. 223-229, which provide evidence and support for the theory that consciousness is separate from the brain.

– Research by the University of Virginia School of Medicine Division of Perceptual Studies includes a compilation of 12 books on reincarnation, 39 articles and research papers, 3 books on NDEs, and 71 articles and research papers, all supporting the evidence that we are not our bodies.

– “Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century” was written by six interdisciplinary scientists who present years of evidence and thought that lead to the conclusion that “the mind as an entity independent of the brain or body.”

– Cardiologist Pim van Lommel’s presents 20 years of research and supporting scientific data on Near Death Experiences in his book “Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience.” “Ultimately, we cannot avoid the conclusion that endless consciousness has always been and always will be, independent of the body.”

– Harvard-educated neurosurgeon Eben Alexander explains in this article about his new book that “the brain itself doesn’t produce consciousness.” “it is, instead, a kind of reducing valve or filter, shifting the larger, nonphysical consciousness that we possess in the nonphysical worlds down into a more limited capacity for the duration of our mortal lives.”

– Kenneth Ring is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Connecticut.  In his new book, “Mindsight: Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences in the Blind”, he documents 31 cases of blind people who had OBEs and NDEs who not only gained “knowledge of facts they could only have learned through a faculty like vision”, but there were also relevant eyewitnesses who corroborate their testimonies.

There is much more – this barely scratches the surface.  Don’t take my word for it, do your own research.  If you maintain an open mind, you will find that there is a boatload of supporting evidence for a separate brain and consciousness.  And pretty much no evidence to the contrary.

And yet, the idea is heretical in scientific circles.  Because it is not understood, it is scary to the closed-minded.

Einstein Would Have Loved Programmed Reality

Aren’t we all Albert Einstein fans, in one way or another?  If it isn’t because of his 20th Century revolution in physics (relativity), or his Nobel Prize that led to that other 20th Century revolution (quantum mechanics), or his endless Twainsian witticisms, it’s his underachiever-turned-genius story, or maybe even that crazy head of hair.  For me, it’s his regular-guy sense of humor:

“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”


“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.”

Albert Einstein on a bicycle in Niels Bohr's garden

But, the more I read about Albert and learn about his views on the nature of reality, the more affinity I have with his way of thinking.  He died in 1955, hardly deep enough into the digital age to have had a chance to consider the implications of computing, AI, consciousness, and virtual reality.  Were he alive today, I suspect that he would be a fan of digital physics, digital philosophy, simulism, programmed reality – whatever you want to call it.  Consider these quotes and see if you agree:

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

“I wished to show that space-time isn’t necessarily something to which one can ascribe a separate existence, independently of the actual objects of physical reality. Physical objects are not in space, but these object are spatially extended. In this way the concept of ’empty space’ loses its meaning.”

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are uncertain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe’ —a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

“Space does not have an independent existence.”

“Hence it is clear that the space of physics is not, in the last analysis, anything given in nature or independent of human thought.  It is a function of our conceptual scheme [mind].”

 “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”

I can only imagine the insights that Albert would have had into the mysteries of the universe, had he lived well into the computer age.  It would have given him an entirely different perspective on that conundrum that puzzled him throughout his later life – the relationship of consciousness to reality.  And he might have even tossed out the Unified Field Theory that he was forever chasing and settled in on something that looked a little more digital.


Plato’s Cave, Flatlanders, and Us

The Allegory of the Cave was an allegorical scenario and dialog described by Plato in his work “The Republic.”  In it, a number of prisoners occupy a cave and are forced to only look in the direction of a wall.  Behind them is a huge fire.  Between the prisoners and the fire, people walk along a walkway, their shadows being cast upon the wall and echoes of the sounds of their footsteps reflecting off the wall.  Given that the prisoners have been in that position for their entire lives, this is their entire reality.  They have built a reality around the shadows and sounds emanating from the wall.  Their “futurists” are the ones who can best predict the next shadow.  Plato then imagines what might happen if a prisoner were released and free to discover the truth about the world; what created the shadows, and what lies beyond the cave.  If he attempted to explain the truth behind the “shadow reality” to his former fellow prisoners, he would likely be shunned as they would fear and ridicule his outlandish perspective.


In 1884, Edwin Abbott Abbott wrote a novella called “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” in which the characters lived in a two-dimensional world.  Originally intended to be a social satire about Victorian culture, it is now often referenced by scientists and mathematicians who imagine the possibilities of higher dimensions.  In Flatland, the Flatlanders can’t conceive of a reality with three dimensions.  When a sphere visits their world, all they can perceive is a 2D slice of the sphere and so they remain unconvinced that higher dimensions could exist.  Interestingly, even the sphere denies the possibility of spatial dimensions higher than three, despite his conviction in his argument with the flatlanders that there is a spatial dimension higher than their two.  It seems that everyone is stuck in their physical reality, with little imagination nor open-mindedness to the possibilities of a greater reality.


We are amused as we read these stories.  But are we any different?  Have we become any more enlightened as to other possibilities since Plato’s time?  In some contexts, perhaps.  Believers in some new age philosophies, followers of some ancient eastern or shamanic traditions, certain practitioners of the use of entheogenic plants, and even fundamentalists in western monotheistic religions will acknowledge that our reality is but a subset of a much greater one.  But that is the spiritual side of the great divide.  From a scientific perspective, there are very few who appear to be willing to think outside the physical reality box.

Physicist Thomas Campbell, in his “My Big TOE”, and Steven Kaufman, in his “Unified Reality Theory” have developed comprehensive theories based on experience and rigorous logic which demonstrate that our physical experience is but a tiny subset of a much larger and more complex reality.  But how many scientists and rational thinkers buy into the idea?  Not many.  They are too busy living in Flatland.  Or Plato’s Cave.


Bizarro Physics

All sorts of oddities emerge from equations that we have developed to describe reality.  What is surprising is that rather than being simply mathematical artifacts, they actually show up in our physical world.

Perhaps the first such bizarro (see DC Comics) entity was antimatter; matter with an opposite charge and spin.  A mathematical solution to Paul Dirac’s relativistic version of Schrödinger’s equation (it makes my head hurt just looking at it), antimatter was discovered 4 years after Dirac predicted it.

One of last year’s surprises was the negative frequencies that are solutions to Maxwell’s equations and have been shown to reveal themselves in components of light.

And, earlier this month, German physicists announced the ability to create a temperature below absolute zero.

So when we were told in physics class to throw out those “negative” solutions to equations because they were in the imaginary domain, and therefore had no basis in reality…uh, not so fast.

What I find interesting about these discoveries is the implications for the bigger picture.  If our reality were what most of us think it is – 3 dimensions of space, with matter and energy following the rules set forth by the “real” solutions to the equations of physics – one might say that reality trumps the math; that solutions to equations only make sense in the context of describing reality.

However, it appears to be the other way around – math trumps reality.  Solutions to equations previously thought to be in the “imaginary domain” are now being shown to manifest in our reality.

This is one more category of evidence that underlying our apparent reality are data and rules.  The data and rules don’t manifest from the reality; they create the reality.

Bizarro185 antimatter185

The Power of Intuition in the Age of Uncertainty

Have you ever considered why it is that you decide some of the things that you do?

Like how to divide your time across the multiple projects that you have at work, when to discipline your kids, what to do on vacation, who to marry, what college to attend, which car to buy?

The ridiculously slow way to figure these things out is to do an exhaustive analysis on all of the options, potential outcomes and probabilities.  This can be extremely difficult when the parameters of the analysis are constantly changing, as is often the case.  Such analysis is making use of your conscious mind.

The other option is to use your subconscious mind and make a quick intuitive decision.

We who have been educated in the West, and especially those of us who received our training in engineering or the sciences, are conditioned to believe that “analysis” represents rigorous logical scientific thinking and “intuition” represents new age claptrap or occasional maternal wisdom.  Analysis good, intuition silly.

This view is quite inaccurate.

According to Gary Klein, ex-Marine, psychologist, and author of the book “The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work,” 90% of the critical decisions that we make are made by intuition in any case.  Intuition can actually be a far more accurate and certainly faster way to make an important decision.  Here’s why…

Consider the mind to be composed of two parts – conscious and subconscious.  Admittedly, this division may be somewhat arbitrary, but it is also realistic.

The conscious mind is that part of the mind that deals with your current awareness (sensations, perceptions, memories, feelings, fantasies, etc.)  Research shows that the information processing rate of the conscious mind is actually very low.  Tor Nørretranders, author of “The User Illusion”, estimates the rate at only 16 bits per second.  Dr. Timothy Wilson from the University of Virginia estimates the conscious mind’s processing capacity to be little higher at 40 bits per second.  In terms of the number of items that can be retained at one time by the conscious mind, estimates vary from 4 – 7, with the lower number being reported in a 2008 study by the National Academy of Sciences.

Contrast that with the subconscious mind, which is responsible for all sorts of things: autonomous functions, subliminal perceptions (all of that data streaming in to your five sensory interfaces that you barely notice), implicit thought, implicit learning, automatic skills, association, implicit memory, and automatic processing.  Much of this can be combined into what we consider “intuition.”  Estimates for the information processing capacity and storage capacity of the subconscious mind vary widely, but they are all orders of magnitude larger than their conscious counterparts.  Dr. Bruce Lipton, in “The Biology of Belief,” notes that the processing rate is at least 20 Mbits/sec and maybe as high as 400 Gbits/sec.  Estimates for storage capacity is as high as 2.5 petabytes, or 2,500,000,000,000,000.

Isn’t it interesting that the rigorous analysis that we are so proud of is effectively done on a processing system that is excruciatingly slow and has little memory capacity?

Whereas, intuition is effectively done on a processing system that is blazingly fast and contains an unimaginable amount of data. (Note: as an aside, I might mention that there is actually significant evidence that the subconscious mind connects with powerful data and processing elements outside of the brain, which only serves to underscore the message of this post)

Kind of gives you a little more respect for intuition, doesn’t it?

In fact, that’s what intuition is – the same analysis that you might consider doing consciously, but doing it instead with access to far more data, such as your entire wealth of experience, and the entire set of knowledge to which you have ever been exposed.

Sounds great, right?  It might be a skill that could be very useful to hone, if possible.

But the importance of intuition only grows exponentially as time goes on.  Here’s why…

Eddie Obeng is the Professor at the School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, HenleyBusinessSchool, in the UK.  He gave a TED talk which nicely captured the essence of our times, in terms of information overload.  The following chart from that talk demonstrates what we all know and feel is happening to us:


The horizontal axis is time, with “now” being all the way to the right.  The vertical axis depicts information rate.

The green curve represents the rate at which we humans can absorb information, aka “learn.”  It doesn’t change much over time, because our biology stays pretty much the same.

The red curve represents the rate at which information is coming at us.

Clearly, there was a time in the past, where we had the luxury of being able to take the necessary time to absorb all of the information necessary to understand the task, or project at hand.  If you are over 40, you probably remember working in such an environment.  At some point, however, the incoming data rate exceeded our capacity to absorb it.  TV news with two or three rolling tickers, tabloids, zillions of web sites to scan, Facebook posts, tweets, texts, blogs, social networks, information repositories, big data, etc.  For some of us, it happened a while ago, for others; more recently.  I’m sure there are still some folks who live  simpler lives on farms in rural areas that haven’t passed the threshold yet.  But they aren’t reading this blog.  As for the rest of us…

It is easy to see that as time goes on, the ratio of unprocessed incoming information to human learning capacity grows exponentially.  What this means is that there is increasingly more uncertainty in our world, because we just don’t have the ability to absorb the information needed to be “certain”, like we used to.  Some call it “The Age of Uncertainty.”  Some refer to the need to be “comfortable with ambiguity.”

This is a true paradigm shift.  A “megatrend.”   It demands entirely new ways of doing business, of structuring companies, of planning, of living.  In my “day job”, I help companies come to terms with these changes by implementing agile and lean processes, structures, and frameworks in order for them to be more adaptable to the constantly changing environment.  But this affects all of us, not just companies.  How do we cope?

One part to the answer is to embrace intuition.  We don’t have time to use the limited conscious mind apparatus to do rigorous analysis to solve our problems anymore.  As time goes on, that method becomes less and less effective.  But perhaps we can make better use of that powerful subconscious mind apparatus by paying more attention to our intuition.  It seems to be what some of our most successful scientists, entrepreneurs, and financial wizards are doing:

George Soros said: “My [trading] decisions are really made using a combination of theory and instinct. If you like, you may call it intuition.”

Albert Einstein said: “The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you, and you don’t know how or why.”  He also said: “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”

Steve Jobs said: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

So how do the rest of us start paying more attention to our intuition?  Here are some ideas:

  • Have positive intent and an open mind
  • Go with first thing that comes to mind
  • Notice impressions, connections, coincidences (a journal or buddy may help)
  • Put yourself in situations where you gain more experience about the desired subject(s)
  • 2-column exercises
  • Meditate / develop point-focus
  • Visualize success
  • Follow your path

I am doing much of this and finding it very valuable.

Complexity from Simplicity – More Support for a Digital Reality

Simple rules can generate complex patterns or behavior.

For example, consider the following simple rules that, when programmed into a computer, can result in beautiful complex patterns akin to a flock of birds:

1. Steer to avoid crowding local flockmates (separation)
2. Steer towards the average heading of local flockmates (alignment)
3. Steer to move toward the average position (center of mass) of local flockmates (cohesion)

The pseudocode here demonstrates the simplicity of the algorithm.  The following YouTube video is a demonstration of “Boids”, a flocking behavior simulator developed by Craig Reynolds:

Or consider fractals.  The popular Mandelbrot set can be generated with some simple rules, as demonstrated here in 13 lines of pseudocode, resulting in beautiful pictures like this:


Fractals can be used to generate artificial terrain for video games and computer art, such as this 3D mountain terrain generated by the software Terragen:

Terragen-generated mountain terrain

Conways Game of Life uses the idea of cellular automata to generate little 2D pixelated creatures that move, spawn, die, and generally exhibit crude lifelike behavior with 2 simple rules:

1. An alive cell with less than 2 or more than 4 neighbors dies.
2. A dead cell with 3 neighbors turns alive.

Depending on the starting conditions, there may be any number of recognizable resulting simulated organisms; some simple, such as gliders, pulsars, blinkers, glider guns, wickstretchers, and some complex such as puffer trains, rakes, space ship guns, cordon ships, and even objects that appear to travel faster than the maximum propagation speed of the game should allow:

Cellular automata can be extended to 3D space.  The following video demonstrates a 3D “Amoeba” that looks eerily like a real blob of living protoplasm:

What is the point of all this?

Just that you can apply some of these ideas to the question of whether or not reality is continuous or digital (and thus based on bits and rules).  And end up with an interested result.

Consider a hierarchy of complexity levels…

Imagine that each layer is 10 times “zoomed out” from the layer below.  If the root simplicity is at the bottom layer, one might ask how many layers up you have to go before the patterns appear to be natural, as opposed to artificial? [Note: As an aside, we are confusing ideas like natural and artificial.  Is there really a difference?]

The following image is an artificial computer-generated fractal image created by Softology’s “Visions of Chaos” software from a base set of simple rules, yet zoomed out from it’s base level by, perhaps, six orders of magnitude:


In contrast, the following image is an electron microscope-generate image of a real HPV virus:


So, clearly, at six orders of magnitude out from a fundamental rule set, we start to lose the ability to discern “natural” from “artificial.”  Eight orders of magnitude should be sufficient to make natural indistinguishable from artificial.

And yet, our everyday sensory experience is about 36 orders of magnitude above the quantum level.

The deepest level that our instruments can currently image is about 7 levels (10,000,000x magnification) below reality.  This means that if our reality is based on bits and simple rules like those described above, those rules may be operating 15 or more levels below everyday reality.  Given that the quantum level is 36 levels down, we have at least 21 orders of magnitude to play with.  In fact, it may very well be possible that the true granularity of reality is below the quantum level.

In any case, it should be clear to see that we are not even closed to being equipped to visually discern the difference between living in a continuous world or a digital one consisting of bits and rules.

The Digital Reality Bandwagon

I tend to think that reality is just data.  That the fundamental building blocks of matter and space will ultimately be shown to be bits, nothing more.  Those who have read my book, follow this blog, or my Twitter feed, realize that this has been a cornerstone of my writing since 2006.

Not that I was the first to think of any of this.  Near as I can tell, Phillip K. Dick may deserve that credit, having said “We are living in a computer programmed reality” in 1977, although I am sure that someone can find some Shakespearean reference to digital physics (“O proud software, that simulates in wanton swirl”).

Still, a mere six years ago, it was a lonely space to be in.  The few digital reality luminaries at that time included:

But since then…

– MIT Engineering Professor Seth Lloyd published “Programming the Universe” in 2006, asserting that the universe is a massive quantum computer running a cosmic program.

– Nuclear physicist Thomas Campbell published his excellent unifying theory “My Big TOE” in 2007.

– Brian Whitworth, PhD. authored a paper containing evidence that our reality is programmed: “The emergence of the physical world from information processing”, Quantum Biosystems 2010, 2 (1) 221-249  http://arxiv.org/abs/0801.0337

– University of Maryland physicist, Jim Gates, discovered error-correction codes in the laws of physics. See “Symbols of Power”, Physics World, Vol. 23, No 6, June 2010.

– Fermilab astrophysicist, Craig Hogan, speculated that space is quantized.  This was based on results from GEO600 measurements in 2010.  See: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/10/holometer-universe-resolution/.  A holometer experiment is being constructed to test: http://holometer.fnal.gov/

– Rich Terrile, director of the Center for Evolutionary Computation and Automated Design at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, hypothesized that we are living in a simulated reality. http://www.vice.com/read/whoa-dude-are-we-inside-a-computer-right-now-0000329-v19n9

– Physicists Leonard Susskind ad Gerard t’Hooft, developed the holographic black hole physics theory (our universe is digitally encoded on the surface of a black hole).

Even mainstream media outlets are dipping a toe into the water to see what kinds of reactions they get, such as this recent article in New Scientist Magazine: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528840.800-reality-is-everything-made-of-numbers.html

So, today, I feel like I am in really great company and it is fun to watch all of the futurists, philosophers, and scientists jump on the new digital reality bandwagon.  The plus side will include the infusion of new ideas and the resulting synthesis of theory, as well as pushing the boundaries of experimental validation.  The down side will be all of the so-called experts jockeying for position.  In any case, it promises to be a wild ride, one that should last the twenty or so years it will take to create the first full-immersion reality simulation.  Can’t wait.