The Bottom Layer

The Premise

    In the first part of the twentieth century, physicists made a remarkable discovery: the world operates according to mathematical principles more than it does according to physical principles. Mathematics had been an important part of physics since at least the time of Sir Isaac Newton, but Newton had assumed he was describing something with his equations. It now appears that equations are more accurate than any concept of "somethings." At the time of this discovery (c. 1927), there was no model of a world consisting of equations, and so there was puzzlement.

     In the last part of the twentieth century, we humans began to create worlds out of equations. We did so by building on simple blocks of logic that can be configured over and over again into a complex description of experience. The systems which perform these operations are called computers because they take mathematical equations and compute them endlessly, according to the symbolic rules of the programming language, to a final result that might be anything the programmer wishes it to be.

    At the end of the century, we had built computers capable of projecting a visual experience that looks (and sometimes feels) almost real. This is called "virtual reality," which is to say a seemingly real experience that is not of first-order reality but instead is created to simulate experiences for the benefit of the computer's users. Reputable scientists with a bit of imagination are able to look forward to a time when we will be able to simulate the entire range of our experience -- visual, tactile, olfactory, auditory, and gustatory -- by programming computers that will interact with humans. Artists now have created fictional scenarios whereby humans lie down in a tank or on a table (or in a holodeck) and are fed data, creating the mental impression of a complete world in which they can romp and play and kill and be killed.

    As we have advanced in physics and computer science, we have been slow to realize that what we humans can accomplish in the language of COBOL or LISP or FORTRAN or C++ might have been more perfectly accomplished before. In particular, we have been slow to consider that the physicist's puzzlement over a world corresponding to mathematical formalism might be answered by analogy to our own efforts in creating worlds through the mathematical formalism of our programming languages. The world itself might have been created by the Word.

    These essays explore the hypothesis that our world is, in fact, a computer simulation.  We try very hard to just stick to the facts, because the facts are quite impressive.  We hope you take away some food for thought.



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Comments are invited. E-mail to Ross Rhodes, at
Fredkin ForestBackground music is "Fredkin Forest" by John Elliot. The piece is created by a cellular automata program based on the Fredkin parity rule. The graphic at the left, also by John Elliott, illustrates the CA's progress. Visit Isle Ex: Transmusic.  

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