Creating Souls is like Boiling the Ocean

Let’s say you want to boil the ocean.  Or, to make a slightly less violent example, let’s say you want to raise the temperature of the ocean by one degree (note: various sources indicate that this requires 3.4E25 joules of energy).  How might you go about doing it?

One possibility is to find a corner of the ocean and attempt to heat it through some means.  I can imagine buying a heat lamp at Home Depot, getting a really long extension cord, plugging it in, leaving it on the sand in Playa del Rey, and waiting for the ocean to warm up.

Clearly, a highly ineffective strategy.

Assuming zero radiative cooling to the atmosphere, 100% heat transfer from the heat lamp to the water (both invalid assumptions), and a convection heating process whose losses are insignificant, it would take a 1000-watt heat lamp about 78,000 times the age of the universe to accomplish that task.  The biggest part of the problem is that we are applying a relatively tiny amount of energy to the problem.

But what if we were able to distribute the energy source and hover a 1000-watt heat lamp over every square meter of ocean water?  Now the problem becomes a combination of source energy and convection process (how long it takes for the heating at the surface to make its way to the bottom of the ocean.)  In this case, we would be applying 3.6E14 times the energy, which should reduce the duration of heating to only 3 years.  However, now we are bound by the slowness of the convection process, which would take 200 million years, again assuming no radiative cooling.  Still, highly ineffective, but for a different reason.

Now, what if we were able to apply a 1000-watt heating source to every cubic meter of water in the ocean?  Disregarding convection, it would take a little over an hour to supply enough energy to raise the ocean temperature by one degree.  Convection inefficiencies could be resolved by further subdividing the ocean (e.g., have a 1 watt heating source per liter of water).

What is interesting about this is the simple observation that distributing a process recursively can be hugely more efficient than injecting energy at a single point, or even a linear distribution of function.

There are all sorts of situations for which this metaphor can be useful.  For example, let’s say you want to start a movement, like OWS.  If your method of distribution is to stand on a street corner with a megaphone, it will take a very long time for your message to reach the rest of the 300 million people in the country.  However, if you are able to recruit 1000 lieutenants, each of whom are armed with the same energy and message, and send them out to 1000 population epicenters, the movement will grow much faster; perhaps even 1000 times faster.  But that may still not be the fastest possible way to achieve the end result because each lieutenant still has to reach 300 thousand people.  But, if each of the 1000 lieutenants recruits 1000 sergeants, each sergeant only has to reach 300 people.  Any further levels of distribution would probably only result in overlaps of audiences and thus not achieve any incremental effectiveness.  I cannot think of a more efficient way to achieve the desired result than this recursive distribution process.

Let’s apply this idea to the ultimate metaphysical scenario, whereby the grand purpose behind “all that there is” is to increase the quality of the universal consciousness.  How might a universal consciousness self-organize in such a way as to optimize the rate of growth of consciousness quality?

The answer is to follow the recursive model outlined above for boiling the ocean.  Break the universal consciousness into chunks and ask each chunk to optimize its quality level through some sort of consistent organizing principle.  Each chunk can in turn break itself into even smaller chunks and make the same request, until the chunks are so small that they start to overlap their function.  Those smallest practical chunks are our individual consciousnesses.  The goal of each individual consciousness would be to raise its quality level.  How?  Perhaps via experiences obtained from this learning lab virtual reality we call “physical reality.”  Think “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles.

These ideas of individuated consciousnesses increasing their quality level, thereby contributing to the quality of the whole, are well documented by Tom Campbell (“My Big TOE”) and Steven Kaufman (“Unified Reality Theory”).  I am merely providing an ocean boiling metaphor as a means to relate to the idea of optimizing the efficiency of a change process via recursive distribution.

Perhaps this is why we see fractal patterns all over the universe – similar structures at different scales imply an underlying recursive process at work.

And, after all, wouldn’t we expect the universal consciousness to be pretty efficient after all these years?


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.