Ask A Genius 373 – Up, Up, and Away, and Away
September 5, 2018
[Beginning of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is the upper limit to the size of possible universes?
Rick Rosner: If there is a set of all possible universes, which is an iffy proposition considering the profusion of possible universes there may be, it boggles. It is the set of everything, basically. Who knows if the set of everything can even be a set? There are some questions raised.
For instance, there is a thing called the Anthropic Principle in physics, which some people find to be a useful tool. The idea is that you can draw certain conclusions in physics from our existence.
That the universe has to follow certain rules in order to permit evolution – for there to be planets to exist long enough for us to evolve on those planets, for us to evolve to be able to think about the universe on a planet.
Some people like to extend the Anthropic Principle in certain directions such that every possible universe should, maybe, permit the existence of things that can observe that universe.
That seems to me to be too strong a thing. You can imagine a universe that comes into and winks out of existence prior to any conscious observers evolves. You can use a similar anthropic reasoning to draw conclusions about the possible size of the universe that could contain species like us.
You couldn’t have a universe that only contains ten atoms. That universe, only as long as it had 10 atoms, couldn’t evolve observers like us, have people evolve on a planet like us. It couldn’t contain Earth.
We know the planet Earth is roughly 5 billion-years-old and the universe existed roughly 9 billion years before Earth congealed into existence. You can imagine a universe that contained things like us, people like us, or conscious observers like us.
That is only 2 billion years old, where a planet congeals into existence. It only takes it a billion years. Once the planet exists, evolution reaches a point of having conscious beings, where evolution moves fast. It is only another billion years for that to happen.
That would be a lower time limit. You couldn’t have us show up much faster than that in a naturally evolving universe. And you may be able to make anthropic arguments about the upper limit on the size of a universe that contains organisms like us, at least, maybe, we’re only seeing the parts of the universe that are apparently 14 billion years old.
But, maybe, that is only a bud within a larger universe that grew independently, budded off. That larger universe is vastly older and, maybe, you only find creatures of our level of sophistication within the more limited universe that are on the scales of being only 10 or 20 billion years old.
You tend to find more complicated creatures proliferating through larger universes and not creatures like us. Where, we are limited to a smaller universe – the 13 billion-year-old apparent age variety. That is a possible set of principles to look at.
There is this other thing that shows up, which is a possible ladder of existence. Which, I find problematic because it contains infinities. To get to that idea, every normal human has a brain, which processes information.
But we each also have a mind, which is the information-space that we’re conscious of. We are not conscious of the space itself. But we are conscious of the awareness of what we are aware of, what we’re thinking about from moment to moment.
We are conscious of a set of information. Because that is the information we’re working from, at any given moment. We are aware of certain things. You are aware of where you are. Maybe, it is on the computer. Maybe, it is on a bench having lunch. Maybe, it is the afternoon and 2pm. Maybe, you are pissed off and in traffic.
Your mind, at any given moment, is the information that you’re aware of at any given moment. That mind, that information that you’re of; you’re aware independently of it. You do not feel you’re aware.
You are not aware of your brain clickity-clacking like a giant computer, or of neurons sending electrical signals to one another all over the place – and dopamine and serotonin being emitted and absorbed. All of that.
You are aware of the contents of your mind from moment to moment. It may be possible to mathematicize the information you’re or everybody is aware of. It may be possible to develop a physical model of that information that you’re aware of at any given moment with a set of principles and a geometry.
If somebody said, “A penny for your thoughts,” in the year 2052, you could send them a mental map of exactly what your thoughts are. It is a little mind-map. A little universe of that, that you could zap to them the structure of what is in your brain moment-to-moment.
You have your brain doing brain stuff moment-to-moment. Then you have your mind, which may very likely exist in its own information-space. Then to take it one step further, which is what IC does; that if our mind is an information-space. Then, perhaps, the universe is similarly an information space, where the information it contains has its own geometry and physics which we live in.
If any of this is reasonably close to true, then the information-space that we live in, which is the universe; outside of it and beyond it in an entirely different space, there is the brain – organic, mechanical, or whatever – that supports the information being processed in the information-space that is our universe.
It may be possible that every information-space requires some kind of other space. Some kind of another world that is the physical support for this information. To imagine that, if somebody obliterated your brain, a piano fell on your skull and squashed your brain.
Most people would assume that your mental space would cease to exist. That you cannot have the mental space, your mind, without the brain, the physical hardware that supports your mind.
So, it is a two-part deal. If that applies to the universe, the two-part deal is that we live in this physical space and the physical space implies the support space, the hardware, that allows the universe to exist. That it can’t just support itself.
If so, that implies a ladder of existence. If our physical world is a physical information space support by a physical world outside of it, then that implies the physical world outside of it is itself an information-space that is supported by a physical world outside of it, and so on out to infinity, which is problematic.
Because it is this huge-ass ladder to infinity. But to really have our dinky world of 10^85th protons, we really need an infinity of containing worlds? That seems problematic. It may be legitimately problematic.
In that, it may not accurately reflect what is going on in our universe with any supporting structures, which may or may not be necessary. Or it may be something problematic. That as we learn more about the universe or the principles of existence.
Maybe, a thing that we will have to get used to or think more about, or something. But one way of thinking about it rather than thinking about it as this infinite ladder towards infinity of information-spaces being supported by further information-spaces.
You can think of it as pairs of information spaces.
If the universe is a big mind-space or information-space with a support structure to contain it because our minds are a certain size with a certain amount of information. It is a 2 or pound thing in a universe with 10^85 protons.
Our universe around our brain is a vast support system. But it is still just a system between our mind and this vast support structure. If you imagine the universe needing its own vastly larger support structure, then that is fine too if they are no upper limits on the size of universes.
You have our mind within the big ass universe. Our universe supported by an outside vastly bigger ass universe. That is fine. That is a pairing between a big ass world and a bigger ass world.
Maybe, that is the deal. That every world that can possibly exist has an implied much bigger supporting world. That is alright. Because, even though you have big and way bigger, everything is still finite.
It is the principle of no biggest possible universe. If it is a real principle, then is no problem. Because you have got all the way up to but not including infinity. You can have all these pairs of universes. The big ass and big triple ass universe, and big octuple ass universe and so on.
Then it is a relationship between the structure and its container and so on. A Big Bang universe has T=0 but does not have a matter zero. A Big Bang universe pretty much always has the matter that it started with when everything started.
It was all packed together into this one infinitesimal point. The amount of matter was a point and then blew up, but the amount of information was always the same. An information universe, which you and I like to think about, is much more likely to have a T=0 but also an I=0. It is information zero. It is a mass-energy and space zero.
If we live in an information universe, that has big bangy aspects but is really built on information. Then it is reasonable to think that that universe has an implied beginning with a null universe out of which it coalesced as it generated and absorbed more and more information, as it was able to contain more and more information.
A metaphor for that might be a babies mind. Let’s say it almost contains nothing at birth, but as it arranges itself and gets more sensory input, as the dendrites get paired away and so on, the baby’s mind takes shape and contains more and more information.
Until, by age 5, a five-year-olds consciousness is not much different from an adult’s mind in terms of the information it contains on a moment-to-moment basis. But it started from an almost null information state, whether before or after birth…
Anyway, it is easy to imagine a baby’s mind started with zero information. It is easy to imagine that any kind of information-based universe implies a past that contains a point of zero or null information. No space, no matter yet, stuff coalesces into existence.
[End of recorded material]
American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
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