One of the games that God and I play is to try to imagine what the universe would be like without her. Since the universe is what we perceive we’d have to come up with something that would be consistent with what we perceive but which doesn’t require God to be behind everything. Now science is already doing a pretty good job of explaining the universe without having to resort to miracles, magic or messiahs, but we wanted to come up with ideas that offer a more expansive reality than what science shows. I mean, after all, what good is an alternate view of the universe if it doesn’t offer more than science?
So far we’ve come up with two interesting “explanations.”
The first and least is the metaphor that the universe is a giant bit of computer memory with all the bits set to one and variation only provided by our inability to accurately read out those ones.
This one can be really hard to get across to non-computer people and, amusingly, is just as hard to get across to computer people but for completely different reasons.
You probably know that everything inside of computers is represented by ones and zeroes. Technically we’re talking about “digital computers.” There are other types of computers, but that’s another discussion. Anyway, using these binary representations you can describe, if not everything, damned near everything. Those ones and zeroes, when properly organized and when interpreted through the right software, which is itself a collection of ones and zeroes, can be used to produce this blog post, the carefully crafted world of a Pixar movie, or the haphazard collective reality of Second Life. Much like quantum foam can be seen as the core variability that leads to all the diversity of the universe, the simple difference between one and zero leads to all the variation of what we see on our computer screens. At the base level, those ones are considered “on” and those zeroes are considered “off.” Now imagine that the multiverse is described in a giant computer. Imagine that every bit in that computer is actually set to “on.” Everything is true and everything exists simultaneously. We, however, are imperfect readers of that memory. We read that memory and we see it as a series not of infinite “ones” but as a series of ones and zeroes. Because we’re all humans, which is to say we’re all the same kind of peripheral, we mostly malfunction in the same way, which is to say that we pretty much all misread the same bits as being zero and the same bits as being one, so that the reality we experience is pretty much the same from one person to the next. But everyone has their own slight differences, so everyone experiences the universe just a little different from everyone else. Each of us has some unique zeroes of our own.
That’s our first “theory.” We don’t have a name for it yet.
I’m going to wait until next week to tell you the other theory, that’ll give you a little time to look at the world as a series of ones and blind spots. Maybe it’ll open up some possibilities for you.