Our Algorithmic Reality
Our reality is a program simulation. Or, more accurately, computer programs mimic our reality. Consequently, all technological models seem to mimic nature in one way or another. I took a somewhat elementary programming college class this quarter and I believe I can attribute much of my current understanding of reality to various programming theorems in general. I can look at nature's occurrences algorithmically now, and although I'm admittedly far from being mathematically inclined, from studying programming alone I've retained a good sense of pattern recognition.
Our reality operates using patterns, or algorithms; and this, most of us probably already know, but the true purpose of this post is more or less for my own personal evaluation in regards to how I've even arrived at such a conclusion in the first place. I've posted this publicly in hopes that some may either question or add to my reasoning.
Programming has inevitably intertwined with my current understandings in other scientific fields that include Biology, Cosmology, Neuroscience/Psychology and Sociology. I'll begin materializing my thoughts using bottom-up design, meaning that I'll explain the overall construct of this program we call reality starting with the smallest sub-parts and gradually working my way up (just visualize an upside-down triangle).
Within the confines of Biology, I believe that the most obvious evidence of reality's algorithmic nature lies in Chaos Theory and Evolution, which in a broad sense can be correlated. The main principles behind Chaos Theory are that complexity arises from simplicity; order arises from chaos. With this in mind I began looking into the overall process of biological evolution. We currently understand that the root of the entire phenomenon exists in the microscopic world of DNA. DNA, in this case, is the algorithm which drives the simulation program that we call life on Earth. DNA is the source code that initiated the entire evolutionary process, and this single code continues to execute itself to this day. In this sense, evolution is a recursive program. It continually self-replicates through organic reproduction, in which the code is then recycled in the sense that the offspring reacquire the source code from the initial code executer (parents) and in return become the progam executors themselves. Chaos Theory becomes an evident factor here as we begin to witness variety and complexity which in turn generates the "illusion" of individualism. Couldn't variety such that we see in the world today be a result of an extremely long thread of genetic adaptations, or, the convergence of certain lines of code that interact and create genotypes and phenotypes of their own? Perhaps adaptation is the product of a conditional structure known in programming terminology as an "If/Else statement." An If/Else statement tells the program that IF this condition is true (meaning, if it complies with the current laws of the program), then execute the code like so. But if the conditions are false, do this instead, hence the "else" of the conditional structure. How does this fit into reality? Well, think of an organism's outside environment as a program that is shaped by conditions that are present at that exact moment. Also, DNA must in itself possess an If/Else statement. So, if the organism is faced with normal conditions, then carry on the organism's life as usual, but if conditions change, then the organism's code execution must change. Thus, the organism adapts to new conditions. This may seem oversimplified, but it makes sense to me, and that's all that really matters, right?
And what about awareness and intelligence, how do we go about explaining why we can effectively observe and understand the state of the universe in the first place? Here's where the algorithmic model can be applied to Neuroscience and Psychology. Biological evolution is evidently the program parameter that made us the way we are today. Can intelligence then be seen as a manifestation of various convergences in the code of our DNA? As I ask this question, I imagine consciousness as a sphere. Every possible point on the inside surface of the sphere can create a diagonal line, and the point where all diagonals meet represent my visualization of consciousness. In my algorithmic model, the diagonals of my consciousness sphere become representations of the lines of code of a program parameter, a parameter that in itself is a result of our senses. Likewise, our senses can be seen as a result of a variety of separate convergences that created the sense organ associated with a specific sense. All of these, in turn, are products of the initial DNA source code (the source of the evolutionary process) with its embedded If/Else statements.
There is also the presence of algorithms in the macrocosm, that is, on the scale of the very large. The macrocosm is analogous to the program as a whole. The same programming rules apply to Cosmology as they do with Biology, in my opinion. The principles behind Chaos Theory still seem to fit, as well as the conditional rules of If/Else statements that I've previously explained. Biological evolution and its byproduct known as humanity are extremely tiny parameters nested within a much larger parameter known as Cosmological Evolution. Of course, Cosmological Evolution can be further broken down into even smaller process known as Galactic Evolution and Stellar Evolution, which are a result of EVEN smaller processes existing in the quantum universe. I suppose it would've been practical to begin my explanation of the algorithmic model with quantum physics, because the quantum universe is comprised of the fundamental building blocks of our reality. Unfortunately, the nature of subatomic particles is bizarre, and our overall understanding of particles is relatively obscured, and therefore my own personal understanding of particle physics is even more vague. To save myself from humiliation, I've chosen to temporarily omit quantum physics from my algorithmic understanding of reality :)
I also understand that I'm most definitely not the first to conceive such a conceptual model of reality. The Wachowski Brothers, creators of The Matrix Trilogy movies, have already externalized their ideas concerning the algorithmic nature of our universe. In their rendition, they've very eloquently acknowledged Plato's Allegory of the Cave suggesting that reality is not what it seems on the surface. In The Matrix Trilogy we are told that reality is nothing more than a program simulation (called the Matrix) of a previous reality that humanity once inhabited before they were enslaved by machines. The algorithmic model is quite literally "written" all over the main storyline of the movies. For instance, in the movie humans, animals and the forces of nature are all really program parameters existing in a universe sized simulation. Also, the main character, Neo, acquires the ability to see reality in its "code form," which is represented by the familiar green symbols usually portrayed falling downwards. There are also trained specifics that can read the code of the matrix using computers existing "outside" of the matrix. Additionally, The Matrix Trilogy also features a key entity to the matrix program known as The Architect. This entity's name alone should supply a good hint as to his role in the storyline. In the movie, The Architect is recognized as the causal agent to the creation of the Matrix simulation.
As we all know, in our world, there exists tremendous tension between Creationism, The Big Bang theory, and everything in between. The algorithmic model of the universe that I'm currently entertaining in my mind does, in no way at all, help to explain such mysteries. When I put in reverse the execution of code in a program, it's easy to see that there was obviously some sort of beginning, or origin to my program. The same can be said with our reality, after all, that's what scientists in almost all fields seek to do, trace back to origins. The biggest issue that I'm seeing in my algorithmic understanding of the universe is the same problem that is causing global disagreements and turmoil in the world today. The problem comes from the source code, and the creator of the source code, and the causal agent that would be needed to implement the source code. I personally maintain strong resolve towards agnosticism, so with my lack of knowledge, I refuse an attempt to address such an issue in any model.
Seeing as I'm lazy, slightly A.D.D., and moderately hungry, I've lost interest in extending this post.
Disclaimer time: What is the point to all of these ponderings? Well, there really isn't a point. Writing is my way of organizing my thoughts, and in this case I decided to extrapolate my thoughts in the context of computer programming. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I've decided to submit this specific piece publicly in order to obtain feedback for testing the validity, value, and overall sanity of my ideas. Thank you for reading, that is all :)
I'm reading a book right now by Richard Dawkins called, "The Greatest Show On Earth" where, in one of the earlier chapters, he makes reference to a few programs he designed that effectively simulate how evolution can give rise to diverse organisms. It's an overall great read too. Also, Abhominal posted a great BBC episode elaborating on Chaos Theory. I suggest at least watching The Matrix, if for some reason you haven't already. Embedded in that movie is a great portrayal of Plato's Allegory of the Cave. The Wachowski Brothers also borrowed ideas from Neuromancer by William Gibson, one of the first to conceive a matrix-like reality. Lastly, The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot is a treat for the mind.