QR5.7.3 A Virtual Evolution

It is hard to review the order that has evolved in our universe since it began, including galaxies, star systems, planetary systems, life and us, without wondering if there is a purpose? If the physical universe is a virtual reality, the ongoing quantum commitment required to support its existence supports this view. So is the physical evolution we see all around us going somewhere?

Science currently understands evolution as a means whereby biological life forms create more complex ones over time, like an algorithm that explores the space of possible design forms to discover those fit to survive. Evolutionary algorithms are programs that generate a solution set, evaluate their “fitness”, then randomly tweak the best until a solution emerges. In computing, this iterative trial-and-error method can solve multi-dimensional problems not possible by direct calculation.

The current biology view is that evolution isn’t “going anywhere”, so it has no top or bottom. Gould makes a good case that to place humanity at the pinnacle of evolution is just ego. In this view, bacteria are just as “evolved” as people, indeed more so as they have been evolving far longer than us. Gould argues that if one reversed time to replay evolution, it would produce entirely different life, as all the chance factors would make the same history unlikely to recur (Gould, 1990).

Evolutionary algorithms contradict this view, as they tend to find the same solution if the design space is limited. Morris and others argue that evolution can repeatedly find the same solutions despite random events (Morris, 2003), e.g. birds, bats and even fish evolved flight using wings despite following different paths. Studies of evolutionary potential suggest that evolution does repeat. If the physical world is an evolutionary algorithm, then if possibilities exist, re-running the program will always find them. Hence quantum realism concludes that matter had to evolve, despite being a random event.

Yet it is indeed egotistical, as Gould says, to think that a system that has run for billions of years across billions of light years is running for our sake. The physical universe isn’t just a show just for us if it was running long before we arrived and will no doubt continue long after we are gone. So was our evolution inevitable? Life involves permutations and combinations so vast that one can’t conclude that a hairless ape had to become sentient. Maybe homo-sapiens was the lucky ape that won the evolution lottery but some species had to after four billion years, because it was possible. That evolution is random doesn’t make it uncertain, as life finds a way. The corollary is that if we prove unstable, something else will evolve to take our place.

It might seem premature to suggest that physical reality has a purpose but a virtual reality needs power to run. And if the power cuts off, even for a second, the virtual reality proposed here would have to restart from scratch, so it must have run for billions of years without losing even one quantum cycle. The quantum power invested to maintain a universe the size of ours over this period is vast. According to quantum realism, the original reality not only began our universe from “nothing” but is also sustaining it at this moment. If the universe is a joke, it is an expensive one, even in quantum processing terms.

One can create a thing and walk away but a virtual reality must be sustained every cycle. It beggar’s belief that the quantum power invested to sustain a virtual reality as big as our universe for billions of years was pointless. That our universe is an evolving virtual reality suggests it is running for some reason. Nothing in current science “proves” this isn’t so, nor is it denied that humanity is an evolutionary output. Evolving virtual realities aren’t run for no reason because some power is always needed to sustain them.

Quantum realism concludes that the physical world is a virtual reality on a scale we can barely imagine, for a purpose we have almost no awareness of, any more than the billions of animals that lived and died in biological history had any idea of the evolution they were part of. If the universe is some grand experiment, what is its purpose? In particular, is the sentient consciousness that we have an accidental or intended result? To explore this further, the next chapter addresses the one thing necessary for every virtual reality an observer.