Re: FW: reality

From: Russell Standish <>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 09:56:45 +1000 (EST)

I do believe for completeness, you should add a summary of the recent
discussion on Wei Dai's universal measure, and my argument for why the
exponential measure should be taken. This then explains neatly the
existence of physical laws in terms of a "minimum information

I think there are some analogies here with Bhuddist thinking, but
there are also some substantial differences (the biggest (I think) being that
Bhuddists believe in reincarnation, whereas most everythingers (for
want of a better name) believe in quantum immortality.) I think it is
important to _compare_ and _contrast_, otherwise you'll end up with
another dreadful treatise like Fritjof Capra's "Tao of Physics".


> Treatment for article submitted to _The Middle Way_ - comments welcome.
> James
> > For the best part of a century, physicists have yearned for an ontology,
> > a meaning behind quantum physics. Each different interpretation has its
> > own proposed ontology, and most of these have been compared with eastern
> > religions.
> >
> > A new set of ideas is being developed which combines quantum mechanics
> > with computer science to develop a view of reality which, once again,
> > has strong parallels with an eastern religion, particularly Buddhism.
> >
> > The two key ideas are the 1957 Everett 'many worlds' interpretation of
> > quantum physics (MWI) and the concept, attributed to Tegmark and
> > Schmidhuber, that the universe contains almost no information when seen
> > as a whole.
> >
> > The MWI implies that everything possible actually occurs. Every 10E-43
> > seconds, 'our universe' branches off into googols of other universes,
> > some very similar and others very different. The Weak Anthropic
> > Principle (you only exist in universes hospitable to life, so only see
> > those outcomes) accounts for the fact that we see constants and laws
> > around us.
> >
> > The Tegmark/Schmidhuber idea is as follows. The information content of a
> > system (its Kolmogorov complexity) is defined by the length of the
> > computer program required to generate it. In an infinite universe, which
> > contains everything possible, the program can be very short. Wei Dai has
> > suggested a counting algorithm. For example, the BASIC program LET
> > A=A+1; GOTO START will generate an infinite set of natural numbers.
> > These can be mapped onto a physical (infinite) universe, or what Deutsch
> > calls the 'multiverse'. On the other hand, the program required to
> > generate a single classical universe would be about as large as the
> > universe itself.
> >
> > We see ourselves as a subject undergoing successive experiences in time
> > in a classical universe simply because our view is so restricted. If we
> > could see the whole multiverse, we would not really be able to see
> > anything: it is all noise unless you 'squint' and look down a certain
> > fissure in the multiverse, choosing a time line and spatial
> > co-ordinates. But, like a creature which inhabits the Mandelbrot set, we
> > see amazingly rich complexity around us. We, outside that set, can
> > understand that the Kolmogorov complexity of that world is very small -
> > a short equation.
> >
> > What would someone who fully understood and believed this feel? They
> > would see that their universe is purely subjective. Nothing is
> > objective. Everything is relative to the observer: space, time, truth.
> > From an Archimedian perspective, you can see what you like in the
> > universe - it makes no sense to single out one person, one universe, one
> > set of physical laws or constants.
> >
> > Understanding that you are not an objective feature of reality, that
> > your self does not really exist as an independent entity, is a major
> > tenet of Buddhism (anatta). This is shown in the parable of the ocean
> > wave: on seeing the looming shore, the wave screams in horror at the
> > thought that it will soon be obliterated. Like us, the wave cannot see
> > that it is simply part of a much bigger, and more wonderful, reality.
> >
> > A full, deep understanding of physics is equivalent in some ways to the
> > Buddhist concept of enlightenment. The idea of self is relinquished. The
> > very fabric of reality is seen to be subjective. The absurdity of
> > attachments becomes clear.
> >
> > References
> > Tegmark, Max, 1995, Does the universe in fact contain almost no
> > information? , Foundations of Physics Letters, Vol 9, No. 1, 1996, pages
> > 25-42
> > Schmidhuber, Jürgen, 1998, A Compurt Scientist's View of Life, the
> > Universe and Everything, available at
> > Everett III, Hugh, 1957, "Relative State" Formulation of Quantum
> > Mechanics, Reviews of Modern Physics, Vol 29, No. 3, pages 454-462
> > Kolmogorov, A. N, 1965, Inf. Transmission Vol. 1, No. 3
> > Dai, Wei, comments from the 'everything-list' at

Dr. Russell Standish Director
High Performance Computing Support Unit,
University of NSW Phone 9385 6967
Sydney 2052 Fax 9385 6965
Room 2075, Red Centre
Received on Thu Jul 22 1999 - 17:06:43 PDT

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