As a heads up, I think I’ll be widening the topics on this blog to include topics which some may consider a bit “out there” or “all over the place”. This blog isn’t on a specific topic like parenting or science or personal philosophy – it’s more like a public diary.
Anyway, today I’m going to be writing about something that fundamentally builds us – all the matter, energy and more that is around us. One could ask: “What is the purpose of the universe” or “Is there a purpose to the universe”. We’ll explore a possible solution: “the sole purpose of the universe is information processing”. And, raw “information” doesn’t mean human designed “information technology” (that’s extraordinarily narrow) but something much wider like quantum arrangements or genetic buildup or super-cluster structures etc.
So lets explore this idea …
Everything is information
Almost everything can be represented in terms of their “informational content” i.e. a description of it’s structure, it’s working, it’s properties etc. So the state of “everything” can be extracted for storage and processing. Take for example a proton. As a baryon it is composed of 2 up quarks and 1 down quark. We examine a particular proton and then record this ‘fact’ into human readable form (say a science paper or an encyclopedia or a physics textbook). But the original source of this data comes from the examined proton itself i.e. this data is already contained in the proton (in fact, every proton in the universe). So one safely say, the information is already encoded and stored inside the real proton itself.
Basically, this information is encoded and saved into the quantum fields. But our real world consists of stuff happening, not just a static storage of information. In other words, we need a “processing” component to complete the picture.
We postulate that the information is stored in the quantum field permeating space-time. There is a wild theory that the entire universe is a (perfect) simulation inside an unimaginably powerful “computer” (which in turn could itself be a simulation – we leave that tangent aside for now). It stems from the understanding that matter/energy falling into a blackhole leaves it’s entropic imprint on the surface of the black hole event horizon. Specifically, the surface area of the black hole grows by the square of Planck’s length for every bit of entropic information falling into it. If so, then by symmetry, it’s possible that our universe could be a “projection” off another event horizon at infinity i.e. the storage medium is an event horizon at infinity. Equivalently, the storage medium exists in a higher dimensions and as 4D creatures we experience it as an event horizon at infinity in an ever expanding universe. I feel all three cases of state storage – state in quantum fields everywhere, state being projections off an all encompassing event horizon at infinity and state in storage within a higher dimensional medium – are equivalent and differ only based on your perspective.
Storage and ‘CPU’ as two whole pieces?
One would think that merely storing the state of the universe is not enough because it still has to “run” i.e. a way of moving from one state to another with passage of time. So you’d need 1) storage (of state) and 2) processing (of state) as two separate pieces. This in turn requires us make a distinction of “inside the universe” (experiencing state being processed) and “outside the universe” (processing the state itself). The “we’re in a simulation” camp basically assigned a home to the “outside the universe” part, saying it’s inside an inconceivably large computer, possibly built by inconceivably more intelligent creatures. Again, we leave that orthogonal concept aside.
Or two halves of a single whole?
What if data storage and the data processing elements are one and the same. Taking the previous proton example, it’s not just a static representation of it’s informational content. It’s also “does stuff” – it exhibits a net positive charge, it’s got a gluon field that binds the quarks together and does a whole bunch of other fundamental stuff. And it does so without any additional help implying that a proton is equipped to to not only fully “describe” itself but “work” on it’s own. This of course has to hold true not just for protons but for any combination of quantum field values. So image a regular 3D structure, where at every Plank length we have 1) a simple processing node able to perform transitions in quantum fields and 2) values for quantum fields. I’m calling this a Plank computer node for simplicity. Effectively the very fabric of space-time is “working” i.e. everything around us has the ability to ‘store’ AND ‘compute’ and it’s happening everywhere and all the time. So the entire universe itself is an infinitely parallel ‘computer’ or plank computer nodes. Hence, universal processing.
There is an alternative to this. Instead of viewing state (“now”) and processing (giving us “now+1”) as two pieces separated by temporal causality (or equivalently –
processing), you could simply view them both as state. But a state in a higher dimension. This would imply that the past and future exists ‘simultaneously’ – because it’s already there in the (higher dimensional) state of the universe. For us, it gives us the illusion of passage of time or dynamism. But the information or state is ‘always there’.
Just a different perspective
This is merely a different view on things. If you read carefully, we’re not explaining anything new. Like a new particle or force. It merely looks from a different – but hopefully congruent – perspective. So if you have a question like “Why does a proton built that way to have a net positive charge?”, under the ‘theory of universal processing’, the answer would be “Because that’s how it’s specified in our tiny plank computer”. The burden is simply translated from “because it works that way” to “because its specified that way”. And “specified” doesn’t imply will of an omni-potent being, it could very well be the outcome of random or biased/evolving process governing these plank computers. Perhaps all these plank computer nodes started as same in the cosmic primordial soup (when entropy was at it’s minimum) and, over time, collapsed into certain specific configurations. Self replication would be analogous to inflation.
What gets interesting is applying the evolutionary model to non-biological physical systems. Something that’s been bouncing in my head for a while. I’ll try to pen those thoughts, because that’s where stuff above becomes very interesting!