QR1.2.3. Virtualism

Figure 1.1. The Ancient of Days calculates the universe

As science and religion fight their age-old ideological battle, another monism stands on the sidelines ignored by all, namely virtualism (Raspanti, 2000), that physical world is an output created by some “other”. The idea seems new but actually traces back to Plato’s idealism, that the physical world reflects another reality. Pythagoras saw numbers as the non-material essence of the world, Plato felt that God geometrizes and Gauss believed that God computes (Svozil, 2005), as Blake’s Ancient of Days measures the world with his compass (Figure 1.1).

Computers today create virtual worlds but that the physical world is virtual is usually a topic of fiction not physics. That physical reality is a processing output leads to ideas like that space calculates (Zuse, 1969) and that reality computes (Fredkin, 1990), (Schmidhuber, 1997), (Rhodes, 2001), (Wolfram, 2002), (Lloyd, 2006), (Tegmark, 2007). Plato’s view is still radical today.

In physical realism only the physical world exists, in dualism a higher reality also exists and in virtualism physical reality is an output of some “other”. The latter denies the presumed “prime axiom” of physics that:

There is nothing outside the physical universe (Smolin, 2001).

Proposing instead its antithesis that:

Nothing in the physical universe exists objectively, i.e. of or by itself.

Virtualism gives the virtual reality conjecture that:

The physical world is a set of events output by some other, without which it would not exist at all.

Physical realism in contrast proposes that the physical world is an objective reality that exists in and of itself, that needs nothing other than itself to exist.

These are mutually exclusive statements. An objective world that is inherently real can’t be a virtual world and vice-versa. One can’t logically prove reality statements (Esfeld, 2004) so that the world is virtual isn’t provable but by the same logic, one can’t prove that the physical world is an objective reality either. It follows that to demand of a new theory what the old one can’t deliver either is bias. The scientific approach is to consider the balance of evidence for both views, which we now do.