Computational Paradigm

Related discussions:
Computational Processes: A mathematical and conceptual proof that reality can be thought of as a computational process.
Metaphysical Context
Related: metaphysical ideas in other people's work.
Also see SMN related discussions: describing a mathematical model of a general virtual-reality generative computational process.
In particular the SMN High Level Design which is the detailed software design for the SMN algorithm.

The Computational Paradigm is also known by the name Computational Metaphysics.

Computation is a fundamental principle, it is not simply a high level phenomenon that electronic computers engage in. Because information is discernible difference and the difference relies upon discernment to become information, the act of perception is inherently implied within the very concept of information. From out of a field of variation a perceptual system recognises certain variations, which become information that informs the system and the remainder becomes entropy, which still effects the system although in subtler ways such as noise or heat. Information is one of the most abstract and general substances that there is; but the concept of information is meaningless without the concept of perception (i.e. the receipt, interpretation, experience and assimilation of information). Perception is an inherently computational process so computation is itself fundamental. When perception creates information leading to experience and response, the information flows between systems and this creates dynamics; thus the system's causal information is computed. Thus computation, or consciousness as mystics say, is a fundamental conceptual foundation of existence.

The computational paradigm proposes that this physical universe may be usefully thought of as a simulation or a dynamical information space that is created by a simulation program that is operating within a transcendent computer. See this summary of some of the work of Ross Rhodes (especially "A Cybernetic Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics") for a detailed analysis of the validity of this concept. The analogy of virtual reality is applicable however the concept of artificial reality is more appropriate because the observer is not external but is embedded within the same space and composed of the same information processes. The computational paradigm proposes that “the universe IS virtual”; that it is an information process that impinges upon the senses. This hypothesis rests primarily upon the principle of causality, which implies that all phenomena are causally computed. This implies that there are no true paradoxes in empirical manifestation because everything arises from the one source via a causal and coherent computational process. Therefore something must be computable for it to exist and if you discover a paradox then check your premises and your inferences because at least one is wrong. For more information on the idea of reality as a computational process see these other related works.

Consider the example of a computer game that manifests a virtual space within which one may interact with objects and characters, move through virtual spaces and experience events. Inside this virtual space nothing exists simply because it has some undefined magical property called 'existence' and nothing just 'happens'. Behind everything that exists and happens there is some computational process; in this there is no room for superstition. There is some information somewhere in the computer program, which forms an implicit or explicit model of that game environment that defines every detail of everything that exists in that virtual world. Whenever an event occurs, this is because information flows through some part of the program causing the underlying model to change state in some way.

With software the cyberspace is the universe within which the systems are created, whereas with physical systems physical space is their universe. The physical universe is our cyberspace or computational system and we are like programs running within it. All systems exist in information spaces that provide low level information representation and distribution services to those systems, thereby providing them with a context within which to exist and interact. Hence simulation is far more profound than once thought; it is the computational creation of systems within information spaces and this is the foundation of existence.

In traditional VR, by managing the structure of the model and the flow of the information the computer program produces, through the screen and speakers, a flow of sensory stimuli that manifests within our minds the illusion of there being a world in there. There are things, people, places and events, and one can interact with these via an interface. Although we know that this is just a game and that it isn't real it can be compelling at times when one is engaged in a life and death battle with a formidable opponent or one has invested a great deal of effort building up an empire of riches only to lose it all. Through the suspension of disbelief we engage in that world, just like being 'carried away' by a movie and actually feeling worried for a character or feeling sad or excited when some event occurs within the story; but all the while we are staring at reflected light from a silver screen.

Most believe that these are just fantasies or tricks being played upon the mind and reality is quite different, however the computational paradigm says otherwise. It says that all 'phenomena' are computational processes, all 'existence' depends upon underlying representation or information and all events are the flow of information. This includes ourselves as well, so our senses and our minds are part of the computational process so when we perceive information it seems tangible or physical but in an important sense it is no different to the information flowing through a virtual world in a computer game. The computer game seems unreal to us because we inhabit a separate information space and view it from outside. A computer game bullet cannot really harm us, but for systems within that computer game world, a computer game bullet is lethal, just as for systems within our physical world a physical bullet is lethal.

If the world is composed of 'information' within a transcendent computational process one may ask, how does information apply 'force'? How does a computer game spaceship propel itself? Or how does one get blasted across the street in a combat computer game? The entire construct of reality is information, like the VR model underlying a computer game. Hence when information influences information within the transcendent programming, from within the game world this is experienced as energy. When the simulation information is interpreted as existential information then it is experienced as existential happening and change. In this manner information underlies all manifestation and all transformation.

The computational paradigm proposes that the reason why mathematics is so unreasonably good at representing physical systems in the sciences is that mathematics is the science of information; it studies patterns, symbols and relationships, and the physical universe is a virtual reality animated by information processes; it is composed of patterns, symbols and relationships; nothing in this physical (or empirical) universe is truly solid. Indeed, if one was to develop a detailed theory of the correspondences between the causal logic of physical systems and that of mathematics, this could itself provide a degree of 'proof' that the foundation of physicality is in fact information and computation. In Ross Rhodes' A Cybernetic Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics he says in regards to quantum wave phenomena, that "Max Born pointed out something quite astonishing: the simple interference of these quantum waves did not describe the observed behaviors; instead, the waves had to be interfered and the mathematical results of the interference had to be further manipulated (by "squaring" them, i.e., by multiplying the results by themselves) in order to achieve the final probability characteristic of all quantum events. It is a two-step process, the end result of which requires mathematical manipulation. The process can not be duplicated by waves alone, but only by calculations based on numbers which cycled in the manner of waves.

Further indications that the empirical world is a pattern of energy is seen from particle physics and the splitting of the nucleus. Whilst atoms are stable and enduring forms in the world, they contain within them vast energies that cycle and flow furiously, but are yet constrained within a stable pattern. So too thermodynamics shows us that any seemingly static lump of matter is not what it appears to be. Whilst it may seem static and rigid, at the molecular level it's component molecules are vibrating and moving about with great speed. Thus there are enormous energies everywhere and the stable static forms we are and we experience are like the "red spot" on Jupiter or a whirlpool in a turbulent stream, where there are vast swirling chaotic energies constantly flowing but amidst this there are stable persistent patterns that manifest and persist for a time.

There are countless indications of the information theoretic origin of the universe; communication between space-time points in general relativity is an information process with the speed of light being an indication of the maximum computational capacity of the transcendent computer. The impossibility of physical action at a distance arises because some physical information must flow through the world or else no physical influence or energy can propagate. However the collapse of the wave function in quantum physics is a low level computational phenomenon within the simulation program and it underlies the manifestation of the empirical context, therefore it is not bound by the relativistic constraints that apply only within the simulation universe. The quantum computation is transcendent whereas physical distance is empirical so in the case of EPR pairs there arise the phenomenon of quantum action at a distance. Furthermore, phenomena such as knowledge, perception, experience and response depend upon the flow of information which relies on the computational principle. We can only know something if information flows into our minds from somewhere and this flow is perception, which via interpretation results in experiences that are a product of our perceptual apparatus, and as the information flows out of us that is response. Information flows through all available channels at all system levels, not just our fives senses and physical actions but every cell and atom as well.

If every single interaction is conceived of as perception, interpretation and response then all causal dynamics are mediated by computation. If one looks into any system, what appears to be a single high level system is in fact produced by the interaction of sub systems, which interact via computation or communication and transformation of information thus implementing causal logic. Each of these systems are similarly 'composed' of interaction and so on, thus the whole of what we consider to be solid or physical systems are in fact composed of computation, just as seemingly solid atoms are virtually just empty space with energy mediating the internal interactions. At the bottom of this progression there are primitive systems that are then woven into higher levels of systems by the causal logic but these systems are more like the bits that underlie a computer simulation than the particles that underlie a traditional view of matter. As soon as one extends the situation to include the observer and the process of observation, then information becomes the principle quantity, it is what binds, constructs and animates the whole of the high level world that we experience.

From a traditional Western empiricist perspective one's biological senses and conscious rational mind are one's ultimate grasp on reality however from an Eastern perspective and also that of the computational paradigm what most people call reality is effectively a cognitive virtual reality constructed by the senses and mind. They are like a set of biological “VR goggles” that evolved for pragmatic survival purposes and that filters and presents the vast and deep complexities of the world to us in a simplified manner that optimises our survival within an earth bound evolutionary context. This has become entrenched throughout culture and reliance on these senses binds one into a “world illusion” that is a construct of one's senses. Although that world is based upon an underlying reality it is only a small portion of that reality and is not representative of the true nature of that reality. Thus in order to enquire into the true nature of reality we must overcome our biological and cultural programming; that is the purpose of many 'spiritual' activities such as meditation.

To imaginatively explore the computational hypothesis one could imagine being a physicist in a virtual world, say in a very sophisticated artificial reality that can manifest artificial intelligence and a metaphysically coherent world context. One may explore many aspects of ones world and create complex myths explaining why things happened and so on but as one explored deeper and deeper things would get stranger and stranger. No longer would one be talking about pulley systems or billiard balls or projectiles in space, not even about particles or anything that behaved like the objects that one was familiar with. As one approached the base level of reality one would start to be dealing with abstract information process within which one was embedded. One would start to see, at very high spatial magnifications or in very short time periods, that one's world was finite and discrete. One discovers that the planes of colour that one thought were smooth are actually pixelated and the moments in time don't flow smoothly but actually move in discrete steps. Indeed the discovery of Quantum Physics and the formulation of String Theory is us reaching the metaphysical bottom of our empirical world and encountering the unified vacuum or the inner face of the simulation program. Beyond this there are no more things as we know them (i.e. empirical objects within physical space). However there is a transcendent context (the computer) within which transcendent things exist, which can be thought of as analogous to data structures and simulation programs, or which have been referred to as spirits or angels or minor deities.

It is impossible to comprehend quantum physics from a perspective constrained solely to the empirical world, it defies all of the most fundamental requirements of that world, such as locality and distinct classical existence of things and processes. Some feel that this is proof that science has taken a wrong turn but quantum physics is empirical science's first real taste of deep metaphysical reality; it's first foray outside of the empirical world illusion. Personally I find quantum physics far more comprehensible than classical physics. In regards to classical physics my mind cannot comprehend where all these 'things' came from, where it is that they 'exist' and how it is that they 'interact', it sounds like a "magic trick" to me that is covering up a deep ignorance. However in quantum physics its based on information or observable quantum states and the 'things' arise out of our perception of that information. Once one includes the phenomenon of perception all 'solidity' and 'physicality' become a perceptual phenomenon and should not be enshrined in the foundation of our metaphysics; Occam's razor should cut these redundant lumps of solidity out of the theory.

As for where the information is flowing, it is flowing through a vast causal network or a cosmic computational process, which we cannot directly perceive because it implements the very process of perception, but we can observe its effects in the world. And what is the cosmic computational process itself? We can ascertain its inner qualities and that is what quantum physics is exploring. But in regards to its external qualities if it has any, it can be explained that there is no way of us directly ascertaining that, just as a computer program cannot directly ascertain the external location or conditions of its host computer; there is a separation of information spaces. So too we cannot know such things about our cosmic computational origins because we exist 'within' the simulation, we can only know such things if the transcendent process chooses to inform us (just like how many CPU's provide information about themselves so that programs can use that information). It is a natural end to our enquiry, rather than ending at a bunch of objects that exist in space and behave in certain ways, which still leaves so much unexplained.

The ultimate test of the computational paradigm would be to construct an Artificial Reality (AR) within a quantum computer and then to teleport the quantum information that comprises ourselves into the simulation and to then experience that AR as if it was real. Prior to that we could teleport simple quantum states into a small AR and allow them to evolve and then teleport them back out to test how they have changed. But prior to this we can also theoretically derive the properties of the underlying information process and then determine the effects that these have on the manifestation of the empirical world. These effects can be directly observed, such as quantum entanglement, relativistic phenomena, the Akashic field and its various associated phenomena and so on. In this way we can come to comprehend the properties and constraints of the transcendent realm and thereby the deepest origins of the empirical realm. It is this work that is begun in the documents associated with the scientific analysis on this website.

Throughout history the whole growth of human knowledge has gradually been bringing us toward a fuller understanding of the computational nature of reality, however it wasn't until recently that we had computers in the world to provide us with a perfect external example of the computational paradigm in action. Our own consciousness is the best example as has been known by mystics, but for many people who are outwardly focused, this is hard to approach coherently. But now we can to a limited degree use computers to create complex worlds within which to interact and we can weave whole new spaces around the globe in the form of the Internet. With the ubiquitous presence of computation in the world today and also the gradual percolation of quantum physics and other profound sciences into peoples minds the implications of the computational paradigm are beginning to be noticed by everyone in some way and this is leading to advances in the way we perceive the world around us and our place in it; for example, much of post modernism is an escape from simplistic symbolic 'word games' or grand narratives and a return to the low level information theoretic principles that underlie our reality and that implement our perception, experience and knowledge of the world. We have now left the Industrial Age and are firmly within the beginnings of the Information Age and it is within this period of history that the computational paradigm will come into view as a compelling metaphysics of reality.

Detailed Virtual Reality Analogy

Consider the scenario of a computer manifesting a virtual reality. The computational data is ultimately represented and transformed by the computer, which I refer to as the transcendent process (TP). It is the lowest level computational engine; the primal originating source of the simulation universe.

From within the simulation there is nothing that can be said regarding the outer nature of the TP (i.e. a computer game character cannot tell what colour the computer's box is). However we can comprehend its inner nature; it provides us with a computational information space that is finite, discrete and bound by certain constraints imposed upon it by the nature of the TP. This space I refer to as the transcendent context(TC).

It is within this space that ultimately, all information is written, if anything may be said to truly exist it is the TP and the TC. All other forms are patterns of information represented within the TC and computed by the TP. The TC is the lowest level computational space within which forms may be said to exist. It is the “mind of God”.

The computational potential of the computer is harnessed by a programming methodology or idiom that allows for the creation of various data structures and functions. This is also an aspect of the transcendent context. The computational engine and the idiom provide the potential for a simulator to arise.

The various high level systems in the TC integrate to form a simulation program. This is the Simulator. In the case of SMN based systems the Simulator, in its most general form, is a finite state automata consisting of a matrix, a state vector and a matrix multiplication operator.

The Simulator/EC Membrane is an interface between the Simulator and the Empirical Context (EC); this is known as the unified vacuum that underlies space, matter and all of the fields. From a transcendent perspective there is simply a program processing information but from an empirical perspective, within the simulation, a whole world has come into being. It is by an act of perception that one participates in the simulation or world illusion. If one perceives through one's empirical senses then boundaries resolve out of the intricate flux of patterns and there arises a metaphorical circle with a center and a circumference. Previously there was a transcendent field of patterns of information but it has now been divided in two, into an inner world and an outer world, and reality for the empirical being is determined by the flux of information across this circumference. The simulation program, as a system within the TC is the transcendent aspect or outer face of the Simulator/EC Membrane, whilst the vacuum is the inner face.

The vacuum provides a ceiling from which depends a virtual information space within which information flows so as to simulate empirical systems. These systems then exist and experience the simulation space. It is their world that is referred to as the empirical context (EC); it is a perceptual or experiential construct within the internal state spaces of empirical systems. This experiential form of the universe created via an act of empirical perception within the EC is the final result of all the transcendent computations and it is known to us as “the physical Universe”.

Therefore all empirical systems (i.e. systems within the physical universe) are information constructs within a dynamical information space created within the computational space of a simulation program. This program is itself composed of information constructs and it operates within the wider context of a transcendent computational process or cosmic computer. Indeed, reality is not as it seems to the senses, one must use ones mind to penetrate the outer form and peer into the underlying causal structure.

Computational Entropy

There are four principle levels to a VR each of which is either transcendent or empirical and a process or a space. The spaces are classical to allow distinct forms to arise and dissipate, whilst the processes are quantum so that they may compute the vast range of parallel probabilities. The top three levels are computationally non-entropic, i.e. they don't lose any program information, otherwise the simulated dynamics would wind-down or become corrupted. They can however be externally entropic, which is the case for a standard computer that generates heat but it is not the case for the deepest originating cosmic computer, which is most likely a closed system and is thus pure computation or consciousness without any external form or context. In the empirical context there is entropy but it is the virtual entropy of virtual computations.

I'll illustrate this with a simple example, say one has a computer (TP), a programming environment (TC), a program (Simulator) that performs the computation:
x = y + z ; y = 0 ; z = 0 and a simulation universe (EC) containing three primitive systems represented by {x, y, z} = {0, 3, 7}.

Running the program produces the result {x, y, z} = {10, 0, 0} . Within the TP, TC and Simulator there was no loss of data, no overflow error or invalid memory addresses so there was no computational entropy, however within the simulation space it might well be that a group of three objects has been combined with a group of seven objects and the partition information has been discarded so that the two groups cannot be recovered again, this would be perceived by occupants of that space as being entropy.

Thus there is external and internal entropy but zero computational entropy, so in regards to the metaphysical analysis the only realm in which there is entropy is within the virtual computational space that forms the empirical context, i.e. within the physical universe. Hence only virtual phenomena may arise and dissipate or be created and destroyed; everything that has any substance, which comprises the actual machinery of reality is totally non entropic. It may operate perpetually without wearing down, whilst the empirical model or simulation universe may undergo catastrophic changes, even a complete reset via a “big crunch” or some kind of “game over – start again” process. This description is analogous to a computer game console; the enabling infrastructure remains but the content comes and goes.

Related discussions:
Metaphysical Context
Related: metaphysical ideas in other people's work.