Here is a lay description:
Is the Universe a Computer? New Evidence Emerges.
March 22nd, 2012
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I haven’t posted in a while, but this is blog-worthy material. I’ve
recently become familiar with the thinking of University of Maryland
physicist, James Gates Jr. Dr. Gates is working on a branch of physics
called supersymmetry. In the process of his work he’s discovered the
presence of what appear to resemble a form of computer code, called
error correcting codes, embedded within, or resulting from, the
equations of supersymmetry that describe fundamental particles.
You can read a non-technical description of what Dr. Gates has
discovered in this article, which I highly recommend.
In the article, Gates asks, “How could we discover whether we live
inside a Matrix? One answer might be ‘Try to detect the presence of
codes in the laws that describe physics.’” And this is precisely what
he has done. Specifically, within the equations of supersymmetry he
has found, quite unexpectedly, what are called “doubly-even self-dual
linear binary error-correcting block codes.” That’s a long-winded
label for codes that are commonly used to remove errors in computer
transmissions, for example to correct errors in a sequence of bits
representing text that has been sent across a wire.
Gates explains, “This unsuspected connection suggests that these codes
may be ubiquitous in nature, and could even be embedded in the essence
of reality. If this is the case, we might have something in common
with the Matrix science-fiction films, which depict a world where
everything human being’s experience is the product of a
virtual-reality-generating computer network.”
Why are these codes hidden in the laws of fundamental particles?
“Could it be that codes, in some deep and fundamental way, control the
structure of our reality?,” he asks. It’s a good question.
If you want to explore further, here is a Youtube video by someone who
is interested in popularizing Dr. Gates’ work, containing an audio
interview that is worth hearing. Here, you can hear Gates describe the
potential significance of his discovery in layman’s terms. The video
then goes on to explain how all of this might be further evidence for
Bostrom’s Simulation Hypothesis (in which it is suggested that the
universe is a computer simulation). (NOTE: The video is a bit annoying
– in particular the melodramatic soundtrack, but it’s still worth
watching in order to get a quick high level overview of what this is
all about, and some of the wild implications).
Now why does this discovery matter? Well it is more than strange and
intriguing that fundamental physics equations that describe the
universe would contain these error correcting codes. Could it mean
that the universe itself is built with error correcting codes in it,
codes that that are just like those used in computers and computer
networks? Did they emerge naturally, or are they artifacts of some
kind of intelligent design? Or do they indicate the universe literally
IS a computer? For example maybe the universe is a cellular automata
machine, or perhaps a loop quantum gravity computer.
Digital Physics – A New Kind of Science
The view that the universe is some kind of computer is called digital
physics – it’s a relatively new niche field within physics that may be
destined for major importance in the future. But these are still early
I’ve been fascinated by the possibility that the universe is a
computer since college, when I first found out about the work of Ed
Fredkin on his theory that the universe is a cellular automaton — for,
example, like John Conway’s Game of Life algorithm (particularly this
article, excerpted from the book Three Scientists and their Gods).
Following this interest, I ended up interning in a supercomputing lab
that was working on testing these possibilites, at MIT, with the
authors of this book on “Cellular Automata Machines.”
Later I had the opportunity to become friends with Stephen Wolfram,
whose magnum opus, “A New Kind of Science” is the ultimate, and also
heaviest, book on this topic.
I asked Stephen about what he thinks about this idea and he said it
is, “a bit like saying ‘there’s a Fibonacci sequence there; this must
be a phenomenon based on rabbits’. Error-correcting codes have a
certain mathematical structure, associated e.g. with sphere packing.
You don’t have to use them to correct errors. But it’s definitely an
amusing thought that one could detect the Matrix by looking for
robustification features of code. Of course, today’s technology/code
rarely has these … because our computers are already incredibly
reliable (and probably getting more so)”
The work of Dr. Gates, is at the very least, an interesting new
development for this field. At best it might turn out to be a very
important clue about the nature of the universe, although it’s very
early and purely theoretical at this point. It will be interesting to
see how this develops.
However, I personally don’t believe the universe will turn out to be a
computer or a computation. Read the next article in this series to
find out why I think Consciousness is Not a Computation.
On Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 3:32 PM, alexalex <alexmka...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Hello ! HNY and sorry if this has been posted again!
> "Doubly-even self-dual linear binary error-correcting block code,"
> first invented by Claude Shannon in the 1940's, has been discovered
> embedded WITHIN the equations of superstring theory!
> What do you know about this? Even if supersimetry would turn out to be
> correct can you dig through the math and explain what this entails to
> a lay persons like me?
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