QR2.1.3 Can We Reload Reality?

The previous section clarifies why a physical world can’t be its own processing output – it would require a context specified in advance based on physical output that is not yet produced. As McCabe says:

“All our digital simulations need an interpretive context to define what represents what. All these contexts derive from the physical world. Hence the physical world cannot also be the output of such a simulation.” (McCabe, 2005).

A physical world that is all there is can’t be both processor and output, but can one part save and reload another? Those unfamiliar with information theory argue that since we save and reload information, we could do the same for physical reality. If one can save a game scenario, why not a scenario from our world? Yet as any programmer will tell you, a game save requires a predefined data structure, hence if a game update changes the data structure, old saves don’t work anymore and you have to start the game over. So even if our universe was a set of static physical states, which I argue it isn’t, one needs an “agreed” data structure to save and reload it. Else the reload would give nonsense, just as old WordPerfect files reload into Word as gibberish because Word doesn’t recognize WordPerfect’s data structures.

Does physical reality have a unique data structure? Imagine our universe frozen in a static state at a moment in time, who could “read” it? Not us, as we would be frozen too! A frozen world without an observer would be as empty of information as this page is without a reader. To save and reload a universe one must not only know its data structure but also exist outside it!

Yet don’t we store movies and replay them later? Yes we do given an agreed format like mp3, but what is stored is just a sequence of static images. To see the movie again requires a projector or laptop with the power to dynamically play them in sequence. Without a projector to play it, there is no movie. Equally we can store a program in static form but to run it requires a computer plugged into a power source. So even if one could save the universe as static data, what “projector” using what power source could rerun it?

Trans-humanists suggest that one could live forever by uploading their mind and downloading it to a new body, but this confuses the static and dynamic aspects of information. Even if we could perfectly copy a brain’s physical state at a moment, which I argue we can’t, that would be no more than taking a photo of a movie, which is not a basis to reload the movie. Even many photos taken and replayed in sequence would not “resurrect” the person, any more than playing a movie of a person who is dead resurrects them. One could record a physical scenario and replay it as a realistic hologram to emulate say a dead relative but that wouldn’t recreate them. The viewing experience would be real but the “person” being viewed would not experience life as an observer. Even in a multi-player online game, the other people playing aren’t “in” the game, so saving the game doesn’t save them. Chapter 6 returns to this question in more detail.

Since genes are information, why not clone genes to create a biological copy of ourselves? We can, but nature already does it, as identical twins are clones from the same original cell. Yet they are two different people not the same person. A physical copy of a brain like mine doesn’t make another me but another person.

One can’t escape that dynamic events stored as static physical states need a dynamic system to “reload” into. In a nutshell, to save processing is another process, just as to reload it is. A physical copy of me isn’t me because it is another life event. Even if that copy of “me” has experiences, it still isn’t me if I don’t experience them. Something is missing in the reloading reality idea and it is the quantum reality behind physical events.