“Autopoietic reality cell sensing with a digital output called existence” or “How consciousness autopoietically creates a digital reality”.
In contemporary physics the last years a new field has been developing under the name “digital physics”. The premise at the base of this theoretical perspective is that the universe is computable and a manifestation of information. Deep in the equations of supersymmetry of string theory, the physicist James Gates found what is essentially “computer code”. The concept of entropic gravity by the physicist Erik Verlinde and the holographic principle of the physicist van ‘t Hooft both concur with the notion that the physical universe is made of information, of which energy and matter are merely manifestations. Perhaps the most famous article in this theoretical field is the “It from Bit” article by the physicist J.A. Wheeler.
As an extrapolation from these theories has come the suspicion that the universe might actually itself be a computer and that we might in fact live in a computer simulation. The vast majority of proponents of this theoretical perspective think that ultimately existence is fully deterministic.
Yet a convincing Theory of Everything based on digital physics, which would also be able to account to the presence of consciousness in this universe has not seen the daylight yet. In fact the very understanding of consciousness remains an elusive topic and is often called the “hard problem”. Within the materialistic paradigm which is predominant among scientists, including most digital physicists, the problem of explaining consciousness is usually dismissed as non-existent, consciousness being considered as a mere emergent effect that arises if the system reaches sufficient complexity.
In addition to consciousness as a phenomenon without explanation in the digital physics framework, in physics at the quantum level we encounter indeterminacy, nonlocality, entanglement and the wave-particle duality. With regard to computation we encounter incomputability of certain phenomena and we are stuck with Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. Moreover physics has not been able to bring quantum physics and relativity theory under a common denominator. These phenomena and notions do not a priori seem to fit within the framework of a deterministic digital physics based pancomputational universe.
This has led to the hypothesis of certain other physicists and philosophers that consciousness may in fact lie at the base of existence. The philosopher Peter Russell proposes a paradigm shift under the name “The Primacy of Consciousness”, in which information, matter and energy are mere manifestations of consciousness. This leads to a panpsychic or hylozoic perspective on reality.
Interestingly, the URT (Unified Reality Theory) of Steven Kaufman and the CTMU (Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe) by Chris Langan bring digital physics and panpsychism together in a surprising manner. Whereas these theories do not deny but rather suppose that indeed physical reality is information based and even digital, in their versions, the digital physical manifestation of relative existence is in fact embedded in a deeper fundamental level of infinite absolute existence or absolute consciousness (Kaufman) or “Unbound Telesis” (Langan). Kaufman’s and Langan’s concepts are strikingly similar but use a quite a different language making it prima facie difficult to see the resemblances.
In my quest for an all-encompassing “Theory of Everything” that includes consciousness, I have not been convinced by the materialistic scientific paradigm, but the alternative in the form of religion or esotericism has not been very appealing either. The more refreshing to me has been perspective that Langan and Kaufman offer, which unifies physics and metaphysics, quantum physics and relativity theory, determinism and indeterminacy, gravity and electromagnetism and information, mass and energy. In order to also fully unify panpsychism and pancomputationalism, I have further enriched my own interpretation of their work with some additional concepts, which will become evident in the course of this essay. This leads to a hypothetical framework of understanding, which –it is true- is still speculative, but which allows me to have a hunch how existence could possibly function without having to resort to absurd, esoteric, spooky, magical explanations or many-worlds interpretations.
In order to demonstrate how this is achieved, I will have to elaborate a bit more on Kaufman’s URT. I choose not to dive into the work of Langan, because despite its conceptual merits, it is bursting with prima facie incomprehensible neologisms.
More of this chapter in my next book, which I have submitted for publication.