Yesterday, we looked at “Untitled Earth Sim 64,” a science fiction comedy based on the idea that Earth is a messed up simulation — created by entities that are in themselves simulations. And maybe their simulators were in turn simulated… And so forth. The problem is, where’s the original? Surprisingly, perhaps, there is a physics theory that offers an answer: The universe simulated itself:

A new hypothesis says the universe self-simulates itself in a “strange loop”. A paper from the Quantum Gravity Research institute proposes there is an underlying panconsciousness. The work looks to unify insight from quantum mechanics with a non-materialistic perspective.

How real are you? What if everything you are, everything you know, all the people in your life as well as all the events were not physically there but just a very elaborate simulation? Philosopher Nick Bostrom famously considered this in his seminal paper “Are you living in a computer simulation?,” where he proposed that all of our existence may be just a product of very sophisticated computer simulations ran by advanced beings whose real nature we may never be able to know. Now a new theory has come along that takes it a step further – what if there are no advanced beings either and everything in “reality” is a self-simulation that generates itself from pure thought?

Paul Ratner, “New hypothesis argues the universe simulates itself into existence” at Big Think (April 26, 2020) (A podcast is available.)

The paper, which appeared in Entropy in 2020, is open access.

The most significant element of this new theory is surely that it is explicitly a theory of “panconsciousness” and non-materialism.

Thus it bears comparison with newer theories of consciousness, which are explicitly panpsychist.

Remarkably, the science world is growing comfortable with non-materialist theories of consciousness. Is that because materialist theories of consciousness are not providing much insight and end in absurdities or for other reasons? It would be hard to say at present.

It will be most interesting to see what sort of reception this self-simulation approach gets. Formulated as a model of quantum gravity, it riffs Nick Bostrom’s simulation approach, with this explicit difference:

One important aspect that differentiates this view relates to the fact that Bostrom’s original hypothesis is materialistic, seeing the universe as inherently physical … Their…