Saturday, May 27, 2006

Why things exist.

One of the more straightforward tests of self-awareness (that the majority of net-denizens constantly fails) is the question "why things exist" or "why is there something instead of nothing".

Every self-aware being knows exactly why things exist, but in the absence of self-awareness this question has been elevated to the status of some kind of "great mystery" by generations
of self-proclaimed "philosophers".

It really isn't terribly difficult.

Let's start by talking about potential universes: Imagine a universe. Any universe. Not a real one, mind you, not one that really exists -- just a "possible" universe. A potential universe. Something that could exist, but we make no claim that it really does.

Think weird; It doesn't matter. Since we're only talking about "potential" universes, not about anything real, we can make up pretty much any physical laws that we want, any content, any processes. How about a universe in which the speed of light is infinite? Or one in which it is very low? Or a universe in which there's no light at all? Or the speed of light is different dependent on the direction? Or it is variable in time?

Obviously, there's million parameters we can tweak: how about a universe that has only two spatial dimension, but also two dimensions of time. Can one even imagine such a thing? Four dimensions of time and none of space? Lots of spatial dimension but no time at all? Neither space nor time but something yet entirely different?

A universe filled with water? Or with gold? A universe that contains absolutely nothing? Or would that even be a universe? A universe that is exactly identical to ours, except that a particular radioactive atom in a galaxy a billion lightyears away happened to decay there five minutes ago, while in our universe it will decay five minutes from now?

Think weird: a universe the size and shape of a peanut. And it contains exactly one peanut. A universe in which atoms have finite lifetime and every time life develops anywhere, it immediately decays again. A universe in which cats are the dominant species and they
populate and secretly control all planets. No, wait, that's our universe.

Obviously, we can make up any property at all and assign it to our made-up potential universes. The property to expand and the property to contract and the property to just sit there. The property to function seamlessly and the property of changing its mode of function every 7 seconds. Some of these potential universes will exist eternally, others only for a short time.

Some of these universes have the particularly peculiar property that they have a certain non-zero chance of popping into existence all by themselves. Since we can make up any property we can imagine as long as we're only talking about potential universes, there's no reason why
we shouldn't think of a universe that can become real all by itself for no particular reason at all. Some of these universes have the property that this chance is equal to 1.00, i.e. that they will come into existence with certainty.

Therefore: Given that the existence of a universe is possible at all, i.e. that there are potential universes ... then there must be one. We know that we live in one, i.e. that it is at least possible that there's a universe -- and thus we know that it must exist and we know why it must exist.

q.e.d.

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