Peter Bentley

Digital Biology

Headline Book Publishing 2001

KEYWORDS: universes: made from laws - universe of ideas - memetic universes

pg 10


The concept of a universe is broader than you might think. There are frames of existence other than the physical universes we experience every day. There are many universes that coexist with our own. The universe of sound is one, as is the universes of ideas. The digital universe of the computer is another.

We are looking at universes because they help us to understand the full potential of computers. This book is not about the simulation of nature or the creation of virtual or artificial nature. This book is about the use of concepts from nature in a different universe - the digital universe. Only by regarding the computer program as a universe in its own right can we take seriously the things that develope and grow within it.

pg 15

A universe cannot exist without laws. Laws define the fundamental properties of the universes, including its existence. Universes are made from laws.

The laws of physics that define our universe can be expressed as rules: if something then outcome. The rule tells us that every outcome depends on something. Every outcome is caused by something. If our universe is defined by rules, it follows that each of those rules operates on something to cause an outcome. If I push something, then it will move. If there is a large mass, it will distort space and time. If energy exists it can never be lost, only transformed. These are some of the rules of our universe.

We can also learn more about the rules that define universes by thinking about how they are created. If we tried to define an ultimate cause for our universe then clearly we're going to need a rule that says: if there's nothing at all - no space, no time, no energy and no other universes - then create a superdence point of energy and a set of other rules to go with it. Unfortunately this does not make sense. If there is nothing at all, then waited that rule come from? What created it - another rule? And what created that? A universe does not make any sense.

To help understand this, let me show your universe that does make sense. Here it is. It is a null universe. The laws of the null universe are simple - there are none. It has no space-time scaffolding, no energy, nothing, with no behaviour. It is universe without a box and without any contents. It is nothing.

No matter how and insisting the null universe is to us dwellers in the physical universe, it does at least make sense. The null universe does explain its own existence. The reason there is nothing there is that there are no rules to allow the creation of anything. The reason there is no behaviour is that there are no rules to give any behaviour. The reason there are no rules is that there was nothing there to create, derive or produce the effect of rules. Unlike our own universe, the null universe can explain its own (non-)existence in terms of itself.

We simply cannot explain the existence of our own universe without some external something triggering it into being. As soon as there is anything - be it a rule or energy or behaviour or matter - we must ask "why?" Even if the rule is the only conceivable rules, the only possible rule that can define a universe, the only way to know why the rule is there at all, and indeed what is making the rule actually do anything, is to define the universe with respect to something else. In the same way that your cannot tell if a new colour works without first having a colour scheme, a new universe cannot work without first having an existing scheme.

It seems to this feature is common to all universes except the null universe. All other universes have laws. In some cases they define space time and energy and distortion. In other cases they define other things. We will always need an ultimate law or rule to explain what caused those universes. And that rule must always explain the causation in terms of something external to the universe it is explaining. It is not good enough to answer the question "Why does something exist?" with "Because it has always existed." The answer does not explain the cause. It does not explain why the null universe is not here and we are. Here are some examples of answers that do explain the cause of our universe:

A chaotic universe prior to ours had ruled that resulted in the creation of a universe.

A parallel universe donated a piece of itself, which became our universes.

God decreed that we should exist.

A dragon sneezed and we all came into being.

All these answers, however believable, rely on an external universe of some kind or another. Every other answer will also do so, or it will not be able to explain why we are here and the null universe is not.

So it may be that, except for a null universe skulking in the corner, it is not possible to explain or even define a universe in terms of itself. Universes are simply not self-contained. They rely on other universes to cause them and make them what they are.

This complete our search for a definition of a universe: A universe is made from a set of rules that define outcomes. At least one of the rules must be defined in terms of another universe. This two-part definition acts as a key that opens the door to other universes. Now that we know what a universe really is, we can explore some of the larger number of universes that coexist with ours.

pg 19

The universe of ideas, or memes, is quite different from ours. The memetic universe has very different scaffolding from ours. Objects (memes) in the memetic universes have no positional size - there are no spatial dimensions. There is a dimension of time, however. So memes can exist at certain times, but not at certain locations. Because of this, there can be no movement, no speed, no acceleration, no collisions. But there are some exotic rules that define when memes are created. It seems that as a travel forward along the time axis of this universe we see more and more memes in existence. Perhaps then one rule of this universes is that the number of memes increases as time passes. Other rules also seem to affect this universe. New memes are always very similar to existing memes except for slight variations. Some memes seem to persist for long periods; others come and go quickly. At times a specific property of a meeting will cause many memes to be created soon after, like the population explosion.

Because the memetic universes are different from ours, it is very hard to imagine that it might really exist. If it does, it will be because the theories of memetics are somehow shown to be true. This viewpoint suggests that ideas, concepts and even catchy tunes exist like parasites in our minds. We call them memes, and the ones that we favour become more numerous, while memes we dislike slowly fade away. This is a revolutionary process: the evolution of memes within our combined brains, books and other media. Memetics requires us in our physical world to copy, alter and select memes. At the memes themselves exist in the memetic universe (sometimes called the meme pool ), with its unfamiliar rules that our defined in terms of our own universe.


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