QR1.2.4. The Reality Options

We can reduce the reality options to three:

1. Physical realism. That only the physical world exists and it does so by by itself alone.

2. Dualism. That the physical world exists but there is also a higher reality beyond it.

3. Virtualism. That the physical world is a construct created by something outside itself.

In physical realism, a self-existent physical world observes itself just as it is. In such a world, random events like radioactivity that by definition aren’t predicted by prior physical events shouldn’t happen.

In dualism, a real physical world exists but another reality beyond it also observes, giving a heaven, hell or spirit world. This results in a God of the gaps, as the other reality only explains what is left after science advances, which every day gets smaller.

In virtualism, another reality generates the physical world we see like images on a screen, so the latter doesn’t really exist at all but only appears to. Opinion is now divided on what this “other” is:

1. Physical. In The Matrix movie, a virtual reality looked real to its inhabitants because they only knew it as information, just as we know ours. When the hero disconnects from the matrix he falls back into another world, to see post-nuclear machines feeding people virtual input while farming them in vats for energy. The physical world he previously knew was a construct created by programs in another physical world. In theory, this is possible as by the Church-Turing thesis a finite program can simulate any specifiable output (Tegmark, 2007) but in practice, trying to simulate even a few hundred atoms with a conventional computer:

“… would need more memory space that there are atoms in the universe as a whole, and would take more time to complete the task than the current age of the universe.(Lloyd, 2006) p53.

Since even a computer as big as our universe couldn’t remotely do the job, this option is unlikely.

2. Mental. In this view, the physical world is a dream of the mind, e.g. in solipsism a self-existing observer dreams a world that isn’t there at all. The esse est percipi thesis that the mind creates reality is shown by optical illusions but that doesn’t mean there’s no reality out there. As Einstein said, surely the moon exists when no-one watches it? Solipsism doesn’t generalize well because if I’m dreaming you, you’re just my pixels. It solves the quantum observer effect by making everything an observer effect, but if no tree falls in a forest when no-one watches how does history arise? Do we fabricate the millions of years of dinosaurs before we came along? And if I am dreaming, why can’t I dream the body I want? For these and other reasons this option is unlikely.

3. Quantum. In this view, quantum processing creates physical events that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Physics currently rejects this option because it gives:

“…no means of understanding the hardware upon which that software is running. So we have no way of understanding the real physics of reality.(Deutsch, 1997)

That only the physical is real and so what isn’t physical can’t be real is the sort of circular logic that science warns us against. To assume an answer then prove it using that assumption is illogical. We know that quantum entities aren’t physical because they appear and disappear in physically impossible ways, tunnel through physically impassable barriers, ignore the speed of light limit on physical interactions and superpose in physically impossible ways, e.g. quantum theory describes currents going both ways round a circuit at once, which never happens in the physical world. But that quantum waves aren’t physical doesn’t mean they don’t exist nor does that we can’t see something mean we can’t study it, e.g. we study gravity but we can’t see it. To expect the quantum “hardware” that creates physical reality to follow the rules of what it creates makes no sense. The qubit of quantum processing is not the bit of physical processing for this reason.