Why is there something rather than nothing?


#1

Been getting very interested in philosophy, physics and consciousness.

I want to start up a discussion here on these things. Dive in!


Edit: I’ve done some more thinking on this. Found a bunch of holes in my thinking, realised a bunch of misconceptions, and realised I had crossed some wired between unrelated things. Below is a reformulation of my thoughts. You can find my original post (basically a load of waffle) in the post directly below this one.

I wanted to re-formulate the idea, if it is even still valid, now that I’ve absorbed the details and thought it through more clearly. Or, at least I think I have. I guess we’ll find out!

Also, I’ve been doing some more research. Turns out Lawrence Krauss has said some similar things before. I’m going to keep looking into that to make sure I’m not misinterpreting.

In a few words: there is something rather than nothing because nothing is necessarily impossible

Before I get into it, I’ll put these two open questions I cannot answer:

  1. Is reality necessarily computation/logic?
  2. Even if reality is necessarily computation/logic, does it matter for the question of the paradox of nothing? In other words, is nothingness still paradoxical in context with a non-computable reality? Am I unnecessarily crossing wires between unrelated things?

Anyway, with that out of the way… I’ll continue on with the reformulation and simplification by removal of unrelated lines of thought.

So, the basic argument is as follows (I’ll expand on my reasoning for each premise):

  1. The necessary and fundamental nature of reality is computation
  2. Absolute nothing is not a possible computation, as it implies the lack of computation, which we have said is a necessary feature of reality (perhaps only in light of a fundamentally computable reality)
  3. Therefore, existence is necessary

I’ll now explain the reasoning behind each premise.

1. The necessary and fundamental nature of reality is computation
There are two primary candidates (possibly the only candidates) for the fundamental nature of reality and the universe:

  1. Reality is computational, therefore the universe is some kind of discreet cellular automaton, only integers exist, and there are sets of rules that govern the nature of the underlying computations. Maybe different rules lead to different universes with different physics.
  2. Reality is not computational, and instead is instead continuous, where relationships are expressed in terms of equations, with real numbers and perfect curves, and the observed discreet elements of nature are emergent properties of a fundamentally continuous form.

Now, the question is, if reality is computational, is it necessarily so?

I’m not sure. I guess you could say that if reality is computational, then the chances are that it is necessarily so, due to a non-computational system not being actualisable,

I don’t know enough about mathematics to really answer this question.

We have a system of formulae and equations that describe the universe and treat space as continuous. But those equations cannot be calculated without computation inside of the universe. Because of that, the true real-number values of the results of those equations can only be computed to a limited resolution. In order to calculate a truly continuous space you would require an infinite number of computations.

But I can’t fine a thread that would make a computational universe necessary.

2. Absolute nothing is not a possible computation
If reality is necessarily computational, then it could not exist in any other way. In this way, computation is self-causal.

This raises a side question: If existence is necessary, then why is the universe the way it is? It seems so arbitrary. This leads to the idea that whatever is computable, and can exist, does exist.

However, there’s potential problem here: if everything that can exist, does exist, this means that there are an infinite number of possible existences, which would imply that there is an infinitely large universe, out there. However, this isn’t the case. There is no infinitely large universe or reality, there just isn’t any end to how many extra particles you can fit into one universe, so you’ll just keep finding one more finite universe, never ever reaching an infinitely large universe, therefore always remaining computational and actualisable.

This logical point would seem to assist in the weight of this premise.

If reality is computational, and indeed every possible existence is out there, then all universes are cellular automata, every possible state of every possible one exists.

This would seem to lead to the idea that in each state we constantly have the illusion that we are living now, moving through time. But really, each moment is just a possible state of existence that is permanently living out and experiencing that one state.

Maybe there’s no real fundamental distinction at the lowest levels between the universe and any actualisable system. In the same way, one state of a universe is the same thing as any one possible state of any actualisable system in the most fundamental sense. Imagine an artificial consciousness that, if you were to take a snapshot of every possible state of the neural network, the data in each snapshot is permanently experiencing that one state eternally.

3. Therefore, existence is necessary
So, if the premises are true, then existence is indeed necessary.


#2

ORIGINAL POST


Edit: I want to start a discussion here. I don’t usually tend to do this much. But I think it’s good to get discussion like this going. It really makes you think. I’ve seen some excellent discussion here: so jump in guys!


Recently I’ve been addicted to learning about consciousness and the nature of reality.

I’ve just watched an interesting debate between a theist and an atheist on the subject of the existence of god and the nature of reality. I’m an atheist, by the way. Though I do have pantheistic urges, but only emotionally. Rationally things are what they are.

I’ve been forming a representation of the nature of reality.

My thinking is this: something exists because it is impossible for nothing to exist.

The concept of non-existence is paradoxical, for it is predicated on the possibility of existence, which presupposes the something.

Paradoxical concepts are not computable.

But there’s a problem when talking about existence from the outside.

That may be down to the answer to this question: do concepts exist as something external to the physical?

All concepts as thought are only representations. Whilst concepts seem to exist external to our representations of them: I suppose that they do not exist. For, given some initial specification, you can derive all possible concepts using computation, in principle, because all computable and internally consistent concepts follow from one another logically. There is no other possible way that the space of all internally consistent concepts could be.

So, I don’t think they could be said to exist in any physical sense, it is just the necessary nature of reality that the space of all computable concepts is logically deducible, so therefore we can arrive at similar enough representations that there is no circumstance in practice where any differences in representation lead to a conflict. The representation of any concept is subjective and will depend on the structure of the object that is conceptualising it.

So, if concepts don’t really exist as things external to the physical, then it may be the case that no conceptual representation exists that maps onto reality as seen from the outside, because then it would explain itself by reference to something which can only exist on the inside.

This leads onto another layer: is there a distinction between reality and the universe?

Is the universe predicated on a base layer to reality: computation - where anything that is computable and internally consistent can exist, but anything paradoxical cannot exist because it is not computable?

If this is the case, then it matters not whether concepts exists, only that anything computable and logically consistent can exist, but everything else that can be specified, or represented abstractly, but is not computable cannot exist.

So, we’re back to: only that which is internally consistent can exist, therefore it is impossible for nothing to exist, therefore it could be suggested that everything that can exist, does exist, on some strata, adjacent and/or hierarchical, of reality.

Though, this does lend itself to another layer of regression: computation. Why does does this base layer of computation exist? Well, one avenue is: if reality regresses infinitely, then itself it is a paradox, because infinity is not computable. So, this lends itself to what is perhaps the bottom layer, if it really exists: that which enables computation to exist.

Or does computation explain itself, in of itself, because by it’s own workings, it makes finite the set of all possible computations. You might say there’s still an infinity there: the possible range of values that can be input. But, that would necessitate that an infinite value could exist, and could even be computed, which we know cannot happen, because the computation would never end.

Or, maybe there are universes that are set up in such a way that they recur infinitely, and never end, because no infinite value exists, per se. Because time is meaningful only from inside the recurring universe, then it is possible to encapsulate that universe in a bottom strata of reality that has no bounds in terms of time.

Or maybe entropy is required in order for time to be meaningful, in which case an infinitely recurring universe is paradoxical as it includes within itself the concept of time or progression. And if entropy is a necessary element to any physical system, then perhaps there exists no infinitely recurring universe, because all activity would necessarily cease once maximum entropy is reached.

Perhaps there does exist a universe which is unchanging, where time is meaningless. In that sense it can be called as infinite as dividing by zero is infinite.

Is base reality circular and self-causal?

This is really pushing my brain to its limits.

As you can see, the stages of my thought process as it has evolved as I’ve written this post can be seen.


Edit 1: More thoughts.

I think fundamentally, we can never prove anything like this. Like Godel’s incompleteness, there are propositions within mathematics that have no possible proof, because in order to prove it, you must be able to compute a result, which for an infinitely regressing process, cannot ever elapse. A bit like the halting problem where you cannot prove whether or not a program will cease running from within mathematics. You can only really make these inferences by trying to look at it from the outside. Please correct me if I’m deeply misinterpreting incompleteness here.


Edit 2: …

As for Gödel’s incompleteness and the Halting problem. I think they do fundamentally relate to the world, as they deal with the fundamental nature of computation, and everything is thought to be a computation.

No matter what kind of computer you build, no matter how powerful, or how big, Incompleteness and the Halting problem are still unsolvable, as a solution would require an infinite number of steps.

It is believed that at some level the universe is quantised, and energy can exist in only in multiples of the smallest possible quanta of energy. If the universe were continuous as far as you kept looking at smaller and smaller things, then we’d find an infinite amount of memory is required to stores even an infintitesimally small part of the universe.

A bit like, if the coastline of the UK were continuous and not contiguous, then if you keep using a smaller and smaller measuring stick, the length of the coastline can become infinitely long. So that the length is really dependent on the resolution you use to measure it.

So it would be impossible for a continuous and non-quantised universe to exist, because it would be infinite in dimensions and description, which could not be computable.

The issue of proof I think comes in the underlying assumption that the bottom layer of reality is one of pure computation. Only if this is the case is nothingness paradoxical. If the universe and reality is fundamentally non-computable, then it might not matter that the paradox of nothing seems to exist within itself, because clearly computation is then something that exists only within the universe, and is incomplete to relate to anything outside of it, if there is such a thing.

I think the problem with proving any of this is that proof requires proof at every level of abstraction, with every assumption accounted for and reduced to basic axioms. Here we still assume that reality is computable, but we can’t proof that, so there is no proof beyond trying to make inferences looking from the outside in.

It is in this sense that nothing outside of systems defined in terms of certain assumptiuous axioms can be proven from within them. And in the same sense, that there may be elements of reality that cannot be proven from within reality because what is within is incomplete.


Edit 3: I’ve had some more thoughts on this:

If it is computation that underlies all of reality, then an infinite computation cannot exist. But, there could still be an infinite number of computations being computed. To explain: what is the maximum possible number of particles that can exist in a universe? Why would there be any limit, or cap. If there is a limit, then what defines that limit? Any limit seems arbitrary, so it would seem the answer is infinite. But an infinite thing cannot exist in a finite computational reality, because it is paradoxical. So there seems to be a contradiction here, since you can always add just one more particle, but you can never have an infinite number of particles in a computational universe.

Even if this universe is it, it is still finite in extent. It began expanding at the big bang, from an infinitesimally small point. But only because it lacked any dimension or form. So exactly determined this limit? This would seem to imply that we are not in a reality with only one universe, since it seems so arbitrary.

Or maybe I’m missing some critical point here: perhaps reality is infinite, and due to it being infinite, it is therefore possible to contain within itself an infinite number of infinities, therefore solving the paradox of infinity in terms of computation. Since reality itself is infinite and is the fundamental, self-contained and self-causal bedrock out of which all existence stems, the one true infinite value. Since an infinite value would by definition contain within itself all possibility. Perhaps within the bounds of our specific universe, we are limited to the finite.

Either way, I don’t think this last point necessarily solves the paradox of nothing, so I still feel that point may hold some water.


Edit 4:

If reality is infinite, then there’s also fractal structure. The set of all sets is infinite and would therefore contain itself an infinite number of times. So, perhaps there are infinitely recurring fractal universes that contain within themselves all possible reality, an infinite number of times, infinitely deep. Meaning there are an infinite number of us typing and reading this very same thing right now, if it even makes sense to talk about now in relation to time in another clone of our universe.


Edit 5:

Started watching this podcast with Stephen Wolfram on the nature of computation.

Some really interesting stuff.

I’ll put some of it here as it links in, and the podcast is 3 hours long.

Space and time appear to be continuous, and the equations of relativity treat space and time as a continuum.

If at the bottom level of reality, it is computation from which all existence emerges, then this would mean that relativity only makes space and time appear to be continuous, as it is a description of physics at a high level of abstraction from what would be an underlying theory of everything. So, this means that, this underlying theory of everything could be a very simple set of rules from which all existence emerges, in that relativity and quantum theory are emergent phenomena. And the contiguous nature of the underlying computation is sufficiently high resolution that things appear more and more continuous at higher and higher levels.

An explanatory metaphor: relativity and quantum physics are to the unified theory of everything, what chemistry is to particle physics. Or what psychology is to the neurology of our brain and the nature of consciousness. Such that you could derive relativity and quantum physics from the unified theory of everything, in the same way that you can derive chemistry from particle physics, or psychology from the neurology of the human brain.

As an interesting, but scary side side: a potential problem Stephen poses is that we may not be able to understand the lowest levels of reality. There’s a concept known as computation irreducibility, whereby some computation processes cannot be simplified to shortcut the process, and jump ahead. For example, we can’t predict the future without actually simulating a sufficiently large portion of the universe, because there’s no way to jump from one state to another, as each intermediate state depends upon the previous state. If it is the case that there are no “waypoints” - or layers of abstraction - which can explain certain emergent phenomena without having to consider the entirety of the system, then no intellect, or computer, no matter how mighty, will be able to understand it, since within the universe, we are limited to the particles and processes within it in to simulate it, which would not be sufficient to build a computer sufficiently large. Let along the practical engineering challenges.

Back to automata…

Stephen Wolfram personally feels that the underlying nature of the universe is computation. In other words, the universe is a kind of emergent automata.

Though, one of the things he suggested that differs from our typical rigid notion of automata: is that the cells in the universal automata are not updated at regular intervals, like a clock pulse, but rather that they are updated locally by the local interaction between them, rather than globally. So each event is local, and causality propagates outward.

But, here’s where it gets mind-bending. The chains of causality at a macroscopic level are independent from the chains of events at the level of individual automata. It is somewhere here that special relativity emerges, because this is what causes the laws of physics to be the same everywhere, but for the appeared chains of events to differ depending on the frame of reference. There is some threshold in the chains of automaton updates that marks the boundaries between reference frames in special relativity.

Back to computation again. If it is computation, then it would require that within our finite universe, space is discreet, and that we’re always, really, dealing with integers. Floating point numbers are represented with whole integers at the lowest level, because computation is not a continuum. That’s why you can precision errors, where the error compounds and the end result is way off. So you need to compute at a high enough resolution such that the error margin is always below the functional resolution required.

However, he also concedes to the possibility that at the lowest level, it in fact is not computation which underlies reality. But instead, there is indeed a continuous universe, but that the discreet elements that we do see are only an emergent property of what is a continuous system.

Something that troubled me is how this could be possible, because this would imply an infinite resolution, and that infinite information is required to represent it. But, that’s not the case. I can describe a circle to an infinite degree of resolution with a simple function that if you were to compute over time, would give you a circle at the resolution in which it was computed.

So, you can compress the information down to the rules that are followed to get the end result. This also links back in with automata, because, interestingly, you can get enormous complexity out of systems of very simple rules. Look up for example Conway’s Game of Life. And, if it is not computation, but rather some continuous system, then it doesn’t matter that to compute the value, you’d need an infinite computation. But if it’s not even computation, then the constraints of computation don’t apply. But, Wolfram believes that it probably is computational, and not continuous, and is betting his research on it.

Another interesting aside on automata: Wolfram says that in principle you could define a very simple set of rules and a set of initial conditions in such a way that the automata compute prime numbers as an emergent phenomena. This is actually how so much information about our bodies and brains are compressed into DNA sequences that can fit on a CD. Just the initial conditions are set, and chemistry and physics are the rules.

Automata. Love it.


Edit 6: Clarification

I didn’t really go into it in my previous post, as I was struggling to understand it.

This is the relevant excerpt from my previous post.

But, I think I’ve got a clearer picture, now.

One of Wolfram’s ideas is that the underlying structure of the universe may be some kind of hypergraph.

To add some context, one of the things Wolfram talked about was that all out of all the representations of an underlying structure he had considered, they were all identical, in their purest, most general conception. They were all representations of the same underlying idea.

They’re all graphs. What is a graph? It is a set of N-tuples (a tuple is a set of values, any number of values, where N is the number of dimensions in the graph). So, you can represent a 2-diensional graph as a set of tuples (sets of two values) or “nodes”, where the order of the nodes doesn’t matter. The two values in each tuple would be the value of X and Y in the graph which can be interpreted as coordinates to place a point, in that for this X value, it is mapped to this Y value. If you were to simply iterate through them, in any order, and plotted the X Y values as points on a 2-D graph, which if the values represented a curve, a curve would appear on the graph, giving the illusion of a set order being fundamental to the data.

So: the hypergraph of the universe. It is some graph as described above, who knows how many dimensions. But, there are a set of rules which govern transformation of nodes in the graph. These rules are the underlying rules, or fundamental computations, of the universe (perhaps even reality at a lower level… more on that).

There are certain types of computations on the graph where it doesn’t matter in which order you perform them. In the same way that if you simply an equation to it’s simplest representation, then it doesn’t matter in what order you cancel out terms, or rearrange the equation, the end result is always the same. Adding to what I explained of Wolfram’s ideas in my previous post: this is where perhaps relativity emerges. The boundaries between reference frames is marked by changes in the underlying order that certain operations are performed. So, even though it doesn’t matter in which order they are computed, you still see a slightly different apparent order to events, or a different perspective of the same thing. This is special relativity, Wolfram posits, if his theory that the universe is fundamentally a hypergraph.

Of course, Wolfram has simplified many notions here.

Now… back into speculation land (the following is not what Wolfram said, to be clear)

This idea of graphs lends itself to the idea that different universes might be islands of nodes in a giant hypergraph. Imagine islands on a 2-D graph. In this way, at the level of operations applied to nodes in the network, there is no link for any computation in one island to affect computations in the other island. Hence different universes could never be causally related.

So, perhaps there exists a hypergraph that describes all possible universes. And, since time is meaningless outside of the meta/emergent operations within the graph, then each computation can’t be thought to take any amount of time. And hence, all hypergraphs exist in all possible states as the meta-hypergraph of the change the universal hypergraph over the course of the computations.

So each state of the universal hypergraph exists as a separate node in a meta-hypergraph, and that it is simply an illusion that in each snapshot, or state, of the graph, that there is time progressing.

Who knows. Crazy stuff to think about.


Thoughts?


#3

I do not see exactly the purpose of the main question honestly, but i would like to know.
So, what could it benefit and how is it put to use.

You really went deep into it heh

I do not see why it is impossible for nothing to exist. Because:
to exist means something being present in the world that we know. So the sentence nothing exist is not false or unreal, but just unlogical. Can nothing be present in itself? Does nothing nothingfy its nothingness? Does it? Language is just retarded.

We are looking for the physical concept of existence of nothing. So the equation goes like this:. Oh wait… Physics more or less focus themselves of forces. So, speed = distance/time
Because there is nothing there is no distance.
Speed = 0/ time .
Does time exist if there is nothing? I believe it does.
Speed = 0/24seconds
0/24 = 0 there are no particles if the distance does not exist obviously. Measuring speed for a particle that is not there is retarded.
But , time = distance / speed and the result is
Time = 0\0, time is = 0 so if there is no space and particles there is no time.

When there is nothing , there is nothing to meter like weight or any force, there is no physics- and no chemistry, you cant compute nothing , and you cannot even talk about it .

If there would be nothing, we would not even be here thinking about something or nothing. Can nothing even exist,? If it would, nothing could ever know about this.
But according to some rule nothing can start to exist out of nothing, ( like making gold out of piss in middle ages) , and nothing can not just vanish , therefore absolute nothing can not exist because the matter can not just dissapear - this is logical i hope. The big bang is said to be a change from dark matter to matter. There are many particles smaller than quantum ones that we know currently and in millions of ages we might find out more, and explain the existance of itself.
And things we label as unphysical - they are here.

I too have changed my mind.


#4

@Unk_Nown - hey man, glad to see others chiming in so soon!

The purpose of the question is purely one of a childish, obsessive curiosity. Philosophy would not exist if nobody kept asking the childish question of why until they reached a layer they have trouble conceptualising, but become emotionally attached to.

It is also hypothesised that the universe may be the result of a random quantum fluctuation. But perhaps only appears random as we lack the tools and understanding to work up from a lower strata of reality.

Perhaps we may never figure it out, since there is no way for there to be any causal relationship with events inside the universe with events outside, because it doesn’t even make sense to talk about cause and effect outside of a closed continuum that curves back in on itself.

I don’t know enough about the intricacies of quantum mechanics to really talk about it at that level. Though maybe it is necessary, as might be a lower level unified theory of everything. Which may only ever attain a description of the workings of the universe from within, and not from the outside.

If I follow your thought process, I take that to mean you too conclude that absolute nothing cannot exist, and therefore there must be something?

I think fundamentally, we can never prove anything like this. Like Godel’s incompleteness, there are propositions within mathematics that have no possible proof, because in order to prove it, you must be able to compute a result, which for an infinitely regressing process, cannot ever elapse. A bit like the halting problem where you cannot prove whether or not a program will cease running from within mathematics. You can only really make these inferences by trying to look at it from the outside. Please correct me if I’m deeply misinterpreting incompleteness here.


#5

Yes, i concluded that nothing can not exist. I am sure if anyone can prove that matter, in its simplest form dissapears into nothing ( which could cause nothing) or manifests itself from nothing ( if the universe(s) came out of nothing ) that would mean nothing can physically exist. I am sure it is just that simple. So, because the matter does not do that unexistence is impossible.

the mathemathic problems, those must be interesting. Some of those are extremly academic, but i am not sure if they have a stong connection to physical world. I do not think you are deeply misinterpreting there way no, this is just what i would like to add.

I agree. How fun is it going to be in like 200 years having more tools and understanding if the people do not kill themselves worldwide ; it is going quite worse these last years


#6

@Unk_Nown - I think what you point out in your first paragraph there is another way of representing the paradoxical nature of nothing.

As for Gödel’s incompleteness and the Halting problem. I think they do fundamentally relate to the world, as they deal with the fundamental nature of computation, and everything is thought to be a computation.

No matter what kind of computer you build, no matter how powerful, or how big, Incompleteness and the Halting problem are still unsolvable, as a solution would require an infinite number of steps.

It is believed that at some level the universe is quantised, and energy can exist in only in multiples of the smallest possible quanta of energy. If the universe were continuous as far as you kept looking at smaller and smaller things, then we’d find an infinite amount of memory is required to stores even an infintitesimally small part of the universe.

A bit like, if the coastline of the UK were continuous and not contiguous, then if you keep using a smaller and smaller measuring stick, the length of the coastline can become infinitely long. So that the length is really dependent on the resolution you use to measure it.

So it would be impossible for a continuous and non-quantised universe to exist, because it would be infinite in dimensions and description, which could not be computable.

The issue of proof I think comes in the underlying assumption that the bottom layer of reality is one of pure computation. Only if this is the case is nothingness paradoxical. If the universe and reality is fundamentally non-computable, then it might not matter that the paradox of nothing seems to exist within itself, because clearly computation is then something that exists only within the universe, and is incomplete to relate to anything outside of it, if there is such a thing.

I think the problem with proving any of this is that proof requires proof at every level of abstraction, with every assumption accounted for and reduced to basic axioms. Here we still assume that reality is computable, but we can’t proof that, so there is no proof beyond trying to make inferences looking from the outside in.

It is in this sense that nothing outside of systems defined in terms of certain assumptiuous axioms can be proven from within them. And in the same sense, that there may be elements of reality that cannot be proven from within reality because what is within is incomplete.

This may be one giant brainfart but by brain is taking me to these places for some reason.


#7

I’ve had some more thoughts on this:

If it is computation that underlies all of reality, then an infinite computation cannot exist. But, there could still be an infinite number of computations being computed. To explain: what is the maximum possible number of particles that can exist in a universe? Why would there be any limit, or cap. If there is a limit, then what defines that limit? Any limit seems arbitrary, so it would seem the answer is infinite. But an infinite thing cannot exist in a finite computational reality, because it is paradoxical. So there seems to be a contradiction here, since you can always add just one more particle, but you can never have an infinite number of particles in a computational universe.

Even if this universe is it, it is still finite in extent. It began expanding at the big bang, from an infinitesimally small point. But only because it lacked any dimension or form. So exactly determined this limit? This would seem to imply that we are not in a reality with only one universe, since it seems so arbitrary.

Or maybe I’m missing some critical point here: perhaps reality is infinite, and due to it being infinite, it is therefore possible to contain within itself an infinite number of infinities, therefore solving the paradox of infinity in terms of computation. Since reality itself is infinite and is the fundamental, self-contained and self-causal bedrock out of which all existence stems, the one true infinite value. Since an infinite value would by definite contain within itself all possibility. Perhaps within the bounds of our specific universe, we are limited to the finite.

Either way, I don’t think this last point necessarily solves the paradox of nothing, so I still feel that point may hold some water.

Edit:

If reality is infinite, then there’s also fractal structure. The set of all sets is infinite and would therefore contain itself an infinite number of times. So, perhaps there are infinitely recurring fractal universes that contain within themselves all possible reality, an infinite number of times, infinitely deep. Meaning there are an infinite number of us typing and reading this very same thing right now, if it even makes sense to talk about now in relation to time in another clone of our universe.


#8

Started watching this podcast with Stephen Wolfram on the nature of computation.

Some really interesting stuff.

I’ll put some of it here as it links in, and the podcast is 3 hours long.

Space and time appear to be continuous, and the equations of relativity treat space and time as a continuum.

If at the bottom level of reality, it is computation from which all existence emerges, then this would mean that relativity only makes space and time appear to be continuous, as it is a description of physics at a high level of abstraction from what would be an underlying theory of everything. So, this means that, this underlying theory of everything could be a very simple set of rules from which all existence emerges, in that relativity and quantum theory are emergent phenomena. And the contiguous nature of the underlying computation is sufficiently high resolution that things appear more and more continuous at higher and higher levels.

An explanatory metaphor: relativity and quantum physics are to the unified theory of everything, what chemistry is to particle physics. Or what psychology is to the neurology of our brain and the nature of consciousness. Such that you could derive relativity and quantum physics from the unified theory of everything, in the same way that you can derive chemistry from particle physics, or psychology from the neurology of the human brain.

As an interesting, but scary side (@Unk_Nown, this might be of interest, specifically, since you mentioned 200 years in the future and a better toolkit) side: a potential problem Stephen poses is that we may not be able to understand the lowest levels of reality. There’s a concept known as computation irreducibility, whereby some computation processes cannot be simplified to shortcut the process, and jump ahead. For example, we can’t predict the future without actually simulating a sufficiently large portion of the universe, because there’s no way to jump from one state to another, as each intermediate state depends upon the previous state. If it is the case that there are no “waypoints” - or layers of abstraction - which can explain certain emergent phenomena without having to consider the entirety of the system, then no intellect, or computer, no matter how mighty, will be able to understand it, since within the universe, we are limited to the particles and processes within it in to simulate it, which would not be sufficient to build a computer sufficiently large. Let along the practical engineering challenges.

Back to automata…

Stephen Wolfram personally feels that the underlying nature of the universe is computation. In other words, the universe is a kind of emergent automata.

Though, one of the things he suggested that differs from our typical rigid notion of automata: is that the cells in the universal automata are not updated at regular intervals, like a clock pulse, but rather that they are updated locally by the local interaction between them, rather than globally. So each event is local, and causality propagates outward.

But, here’s where it gets mind-bending. The chains of causality at a macroscopic level are independent from the chains of events at the level of individual automata. It is somewhere here that special relativity emerges, because this is what causes the laws of physics to be the same everywhere, but for the appeared chains of events to differ depending on the frame of reference. There is some threshold in the chains of automaton updates that marks the boundaries between reference frames in special relativity.

Back to computation again. If it is computation, then it would require that within our finite universe, space is discreet, and that we’re always, really, dealing with integers. Floating point numbers are represented with whole integers at the lowest level, because computation is not a continuum. That’s why you can precision errors, where the error compounds and the end result is way off. So you need to compute at a high enough resolution such that the error margin is always below the functional resolution required.

However, he also concedes to the possibility that at the lowest level, it in fact is not computation which underlies reality. But instead, there is indeed a continuous universe, but that the discreet elements that we do see are only an emergent property of what is a continuous system.

Something that troubled me is how this could be possible, because this would imply an infinite resolution, and that infinite information is required to represent it. But, that’s not the case. I can describe a circle to an infinite degree of resolution with a simple function that if you were to compute over time, would give you a circle at the resolution in which it was computed.

So, you can compress the information down to the rules that are followed to get the end result. This also links back in with automata, because, interestingly, you can get enormous complexity out of systems of very simple rules. Look up for example Conway’s Game of Life. And, if it is not computation, but rather some continuous system, then it doesn’t matter that to compute the value, you’d need an infinite computation. But if it’s not even computation, then the constraints of computation don’t apply. But, Wolfram believes that it probably is computational, and not continuous, and is betting his research on it.

Another interesting aside on automata: Wolfram says that in principle you could define a very simple set of rules and a set of initial conditions in such a way that the automata compute prime numbers as an emergent phenomena. This is actually how so much information about our bodies and brains are compressed into DNA sequences that can fit on a CD. Just the initial conditions are set, and chemistry and physics are the rules.

Automata. Love it.


#9

I didn’t really go into it in my previous post, as I was struggling to understand it.

This is the relevant excerpt from my previous post.

But, I think I’ve got a clearer picture, now.

One of Wolfram’s ideas is that the underlying structure of the universe may be some kind of hypergraph.

To add some context, one of the things Wolfram talked about was that all out of all the representations of an underlying structure he had considered, they were all identical, in their purest, most general conception. They were all representations of the same underlying idea.

They’re all graphs. What is a graph? It is a set of N-tuples (a tuple is a set of values, any number of values, where N is the number of dimensions in the graph). So, you can represent a 2-diensional graph as a set of tuples (sets of two values) or “nodes”, where the order of the nodes doesn’t matter. The two values in each tuple would be the value of X and Y in the graph which can be interpreted as coordinates to place a point, in that for this X value, it is mapped to this Y value. If you were to simply iterate through them, in any order, and plotted the X Y values as points on a 2-D graph, which if the values represented a curve, a curve would appear on the graph, giving the illusion of a set order being fundamental to the data.

So: the hypergraph of the universe. It is some graph as described above, who knows how many dimensions. But, there are a set of rules which govern transformation of nodes in the graph. These rules are the underlying rules, or fundamental computations, of the universe (perhaps even reality at a lower level… more on that).

There are certain types of computations on the graph where it doesn’t matter in which order you perform them. In the same way that if you simply an equation to it’s simplest representation, then it doesn’t matter in what order you cancel out terms, or rearrange the equation, the end result is always the same. Adding to what I explained of Wolfram’s ideas in my previous post: this is where perhaps relativity emerges. The boundaries between reference frames is marked by changes in the underlying order that certain operations are performed. So, even though it doesn’t matter in which order they are computed, you still see a slightly different apparent order to events, or a different perspective of the same thing. This is special relativity, Wolfram posits, if his theory that the universe is fundamentally a hypergraph.

Of course, Wolfram has simplified many notions here.

Now… back into speculation land (the following is not what Wolfram said, to be clear)

This idea of graphs lends itself to the idea that different universes might be islands of nodes in a giant hypergraph. Imagine islands on a 2-D graph. In this way, at the level of operations applied to nodes in the network, there is no link for any computation in one island to affect computations in the other island. Hence different universes could never be causally related.

So, perhaps there exists a hypergraph that describes all possible universes. And, since time is meaningless outside of the meta/emergent operations within the graph, then each computation can’t be thought to take any amount of time. And hence, all hypergraphs exist in all possible states as the meta-hypergraph of the change the universal hypergraph over the course of the computations.

So each state of the universal hypergraph exists as a separate node in a meta-hypergraph, and that it is simply an illusion that in each snapshot, or state, of the graph, that there is time progressing.

Who knows. Crazy stuff to think about.


#10

Concepts are not part of the physical. Words written echo in mind not in flesh.

At zero hour there was nothingness, greymatter. A something moving is a line that cause divide between parts. A dark a white, a negative a positive. With charge, vector and spin the big bang could be explained in a simple formula.

When you look into a starry night sky you see the sparkles of a giant explosion in slowmotion. A chaos falling into greater order.

It is only a paradox for them that refute the creator.

Maybe it is you standing there one day with the immovable grey mass that is nothingness in front of you and have to stroke it just right to get things in proper motion.


#11

I cant think of nothing


#12

@HotRodnCakeRecipes

Perhaps you’re just iterating that whilst going through your own thought process. But the wording seems to be as if you’re responding that to me.

If you are, then I already have stated this in my first message.

No. There was not nothingness. The universe is thought to have existed as a singularity. Infinitesimally small. However, it was not “nothingness”. All current theories break down just before a tiniest fraction of time after the big bang had started.

No, the cosmos is not falling into greater and greater order. In fact, entropy is irreversibly increasing. At some point in the distant future, thinking trillions to the power of trillions of years: the universe will be a cold and dark. Not one single star shall shine for eternity in blackness, whilst the blackest of the black beats of the night - black holes - gorge on all remaining inert matter. After then, all black holes will evaporate and all energy will exist in a useless form. What could be called the most disordered possible form of the universe.

No. It isn’t. The notion of a creator is a faulty solution that doesn’t actually solve anything. It is assumed that a creator is self-causal. It must be so. But, why does there need to be a deity in this? If the deity can be self-causal, why not existence itself, as a result of the logical and likely computational nature of reality?

You’re very poetic, and I love it, but I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that. Are you talking about a first mover?


#13

@bfk - no, you can’t. Nor can I.

Nothing is the lack of properties, the lack of existence, the lack of object, the lack of logic.

But nothingness does have definable properties, they are just negated qualities, so to speak. Which would seem to contradict the idea of nothing.

As an idea or concept it is nonsensical. But, does it only not make sense in context with existence? If so, then can existence and nothingness really both be equally plausible. Since would not both occur, or in one case not occur?

Saying 1+0 is identical to just saying 1. Nothing as a value is not absolute nothing, but rather the implied lack of action. You could say, do nothing, or do everything zero times. It’s functionally equivalent.

If reality must fundamentally be computable, and logically consistent, then it is not possible for there to be nothing.

Numbers have the same properties wherever they are thought.

We can think up non-Euclidian spaces, that can’t exist in our universe, but could exist because they are logically consistent. And they behave the same wherever they are thought. It is a necessary consequence of logic.

Logic, or computability, seem the bottom layer to reality. It is impossible for logic to not exist, because it is a necessary consequence of logic. It seems self-causal.

There is no other possible way logic could be, whilst being internally consistent with itself.

Do you see what I’m getting at?

Have a think guys. You’re all very smart people, moreso than myself! I’m just odd and like thinking deeply about stuff. :slight_smile: I never used to, though (probably all the acid :stuck_out_tongue: for better or for worse)

Find the flaw in my logic! I’m sure there must be one, because I don’t think that little old me is going to answer a question like this. If it is true, I’m certainly not the first to think it!


#14

I’m so tempted to insert a wisecrack like:

“So, like, dude. Are there any tracks in here u want us to check out?”

But I’m not all that. As noted before, I’m a noob here so getting familiar with all this and then, boom, there’s this thread!? I can DEF hang here!

tl;dr all of it but some and I’ll just say that i spent a year or so reading Gödel Escher Bach and almost finished. i kinda revel in the mystery of it all. we can go as deep or as shallow as we want but we never find out how deep it goes. ever.

will read more and post later.


#15

Hey man!

Welcome to the forum. Glad to see someone eager for this sort of discussion here. I’m sure there are others here that’ll crawl out the woodwork soon enough.

I look forward to the upcoming discussion.


#16

I’ve done some more thinking on this. Found a bunch of holes in my thinking, realised a bunch of misconceptions, and realised I had crossed some wired between unrelated things.

I wanted to re-formulate the idea, if it is even still valid, now that I’ve absorbed the details and thought it through more clearly. Or, at least I think I have. I guess we’ll find out!

Also, I’ve been doing some more research. Turns out Lawrence Krauss has said some similar things before. I’m going to keep looking into that to make sure I’m not misinterpreting.

In a few words: there is something rather than nothing because nothing is necessarily impossible

Before I get into it, I’ll put these two open questions I cannot answer:

  1. Is reality necessarily computation/logic?
  2. Even if reality is necessarily computation/logic, does it matter for the question of the paradox of nothing? In other words, is nothingness still paradoxical in context with a non-computable reality? Am I unnecessarily crossing wires between unrelated things?

Anyway, with that out of the way… I’ll continue on with the reformulation and simplification by removal of unrelated lines of thought.

So, the basic argument is as follows (I’ll expand on my reasoning for each premise):

  1. The necessary and fundamental nature of reality is computation
  2. Absolute nothing is not a possible computation, as it implies the lack of computation, which we have said is a necessary feature of reality (perhaps only in light of a fundamentally computable reality)
  3. Therefore, existence is necessary

I’ll now explain the reasoning behind each premise.

1. The necessary and fundamental nature of reality is computation
There are two primary candidates (possibly the only candidates) for the fundamental nature of reality and the universe:

  1. Reality is computational, therefore the universe is some kind of discreet cellular automaton, only integers exist, and there are sets of rules that govern the nature of the underlying computations. Maybe different rules lead to different universes with different physics.
  2. Reality is not computational, and instead is instead continuous, where relationships are expressed in terms of equations, with real numbers and perfect curves, and the observed discreet elements of nature are emergent properties of a fundamentally continuous form.

Now, the question is, if reality is computational, is it necessarily so?

I’m not sure. I guess you could say that if reality is computational, then the chances are that it is necessarily so, due to a non-computational system not being actualisable.

I don’t know enough about mathematics to really answer this question.

We have a system of formulae and equations that describe the universe and treat space as continuous. But those equations cannot be calculated without computation inside of the universe. Because of that, the true real-number values of the results of those equations can only be computed to a limited resolution. In order to calculate a truly continuous space you would require an infinite number of computations.

But I can’t fine a thread that would make a computational universe necessary.

2. Absolute nothing is not a possible computation
If reality is necessarily computational, then it could not exist in any other way. In this way, computation is self-causal.

This raises a side question: If existence is necessary, then why is the universe the way it is? It seems so arbitrary. This leads to the idea that whatever is computable, and can exist, does exist.

However, there’s potential problem here: if everything that can exist, does exist, this means that there are an infinite number of possible existences, which would imply that there is an infinitely large universe, out there. However, this isn’t the case. There is no infinitely large universe or reality, there just isn’t any end to how many extra particles you can fit into one universe, so you’ll just keep finding one more finite universe, never ever reaching an infinitely large universe, therefore always remaining computational and actualisable.

This logical point would seem to assist in the weight of this premise.

If reality is computational, and indeed every possible existence is out there, then all universes are cellular automata, every possible state of every possible one exists.

This would seem to lead to the idea that in each state we constantly have the illusion that we are living now, moving through time. But really, each moment is just a possible state of existence that is permanently living out and experiencing that one state.

Maybe there’s no real fundamental distinction at the lowest levels between the universe and any actualisable system. In the same way, one state of a universe is the same thing as any one possible state of any actualisable system in the most fundamental sense. Imagine an artificial consciousness that, if you were to take a snapshot of every possible state of the neural network, the data in each snapshot is permanently experiencing that one state eternally.

3. Therefore, existence is necessary
So, if the premises are true, then existence is indeed necessary.


#17

The universe is thought to have existed as a singularity.
Yes a dot and before it nothing.
Into a line with spin like ying and yang.
A picture of the early universe in formation.
The dark which is unseen and called space.
And white which is called light and matter.

No, the cosmos is not falling into greater and greater order.
Yet here you are, a hydrogen atom falling into a higher consciousness.

** logical and likely computational nature of reality**
While there is logic in reality it is hardly logical.

why not existence itself
Existence is the longing and the wish to be separated from nothing, it might have sparked existence but it did not create it.
Nothing or a singularity wouldn’t know what to do, metaphysically or mathematically as it takes a specific vibration.

Are you talking about a first mover?
We might be a 100ed cycle we could be the first. For sure we are not the last.