A Simultaneous Solution to the Strong Anthropic Principle
And the Fermi Paradox
Thomas Trumpinski (work in progress)
Both modern Cosmology and Philosophy have been puzzling for the last half-decade over two observational facts—that even a small deviation from the present values of the Universal Constants would make it impossible for intelligent life to exist in the observable universe. As a matter of fact, even a tiny deviation in some of the constants would result in there not being stars, let alone life.
At the same time, every observational method used, whether it is the search for extra-Terrestrial artifacts, SETI, or the collection of cometary dust, has come up with a null result for intelligent life within an ever-increasing radius of Sol.
The fine-tuning of physical constants is so precise that there is the opposite situation to those who posit Intelligent Design—life is so likely to occur that it should be everywhere in the Milky Way outside of the high-energy center. Observations of stars within hundreds of light years show that solar systems have planets as a rule, rather than as an exception. Space probes in our own system show that three worlds (Mars, Enceladus, and Europa) besides Earth could have life at present and one (Titan) will have temperatures and chemistry that would promote life as the Sun turns into a Red Giant.
Fermi calculated that using Von Neumann machines operating at slower-than-light speeds, it would take an intelligent race less than one hundred million years to settle every habitable planet within a galaxy. No calculation since then has reduced that number. So, sixty years later, we again ask the question, “Where are the aliens?”
The fine tuning is very unlikely. The absence of visible life is even more unlikely. The odds of them both occurring in a universe are vanishingly small, yet we are constrained by the Copernican Principle to be living in a universe that has a probability in the “damn likely” range. How can all of these things be reconciled in an observationally testable manner?
What follows is a hypothesis in the form of a gedanken-experiment. I make no claim of originality, although to my knowledge, no one has yet applied this to the Fermi Paradox. Vox Day has been talking about the MMO aspects of the universe for a couple of years. The uber-computer and one way of powering it was first described by Dr. Frank Tipler in The Physics of Immortality back in 1995. The Easter Egg concept was mentioned at the end of Carl Sagan’s Contact, which was published in 1985.
Let us assume a group of game designers outside of our light cone yet within the larger universe. (The current Big Bang Theory incorporates a period of inflation which would make the totality of the Universe much larger than what is within our light cone, so there is enough space for such designers to live in, as well as enough potential energy to power their machine.) We also assume that these designers are in possession of an uber-computer that has the capability of registering and manipulating the bits of information within what we observe as our light cone. There is coarseness, though, within that computer which is the equivalent of pixel-size on our display monitors. We observe that as the quantum-level phenomena where what smoothly-flowing function suddenly becomes a quantized step-function. Such coarseness reduces the amount of computing power needed at small levels by several orders of magnitude.
These designers are experimenting with simulations of intelligent living things and have created a software universe fine-tuned to maximize the potential of the life that they will be creating. To prevent the interference of one type of life with another, they have limited the starting positions of their created life-forms to a small number per galaxy or galaxy group. This will enable the life-forms to expand virtually indefinitely once they leave their point of origin.
There are several models that they could use for their simulation. One would be the Spore-type, where different modes of physicality could be made and examined to answer questions like “How do physical means of reproduction affect the likelihood of survival?” A second would be the 4C model, as in Civilization IV, where life-forms with minor differences begin in isolation and then find other, competing groups once they have a chance at surviving the contact.
The model that interests me the most, however, is the MMO model, because it fits with the traditions and philosophies of the human race as well as answers the “big questions” that humanity has been asking itself since it became sentient: “Why is there evil in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? What happens when we die?”
Massively Multiplayer Online games have been played over the Internet since Ultima Online debuted in 1997. They differ in detail, but all have one methodology: The players explore their universe and experience events that the designers have included within the framework of the game. By doing certain, predetermined things, they gain experience points (XP) that, when they have gathered enough, enable them to “level-up”, gaining new powers and abilities that they can then use in harder areas of the game universe.
If our observable universe is an MMO, with mortals as players, the answers to the large philosophic questions are immediately apparent. “Why is there evil in the world?” To give players something to strive against that will gain them XP. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It doesn’t matter whether they’re good or not—everyone has established, random challenges, each challenge worth a pre-determined number of points. “What happens when we die?” If you’ve gained enough XP to level up, you gain new powers and abilities and start over in a new instance with greater challenges that are worthy of you. If you haven’t, your character is deleted and a new one created. This model even explains Great Evil—Hitler and Stalin, for example, would be “Raid Bosses” that take a huge number of players to co-operate in order to bring down.
This model also answers the theoretical problem of “free will” in the same way that it is done in-game. A player is free to explore every area, fight evil or not, even to just spend the entire time crafting items and exchanging them for gold. Only doing certain things, though, determined by the game designers, would serve to give characters the XP to reach the next level. Within the interior of the game, such things might seem nonsensical, even trivial, but these things would be as well-determined as the laws of gravity and the fine-structure constant. The XP-quests would reflect the entire reason for the existence of the simulation in the first place—answering the questions for which the game was designed.
Unlike many of humanity’s MMOs, though, there have been no formal rulebooks discovered. All that exist are the Players’ Handbooks written by experienced players and handed down from generation to generation. Some may have been enhanced by a /tell from a designer or two to a particularly friendly and co-operative player, most probably not. Of all of the ones developed since writing was invented, there are only a dozen or so left and some of the information may be as wrong as what’s in DDO’s forums—it’s mostly intuitive player-input, after all.
Any scientific hypothesis has to fulfill two requirements—it must explain all of the observed phenomena and it has to be disprovable.
This model explains the coarseness of quantum phenomena, the Fermi Paradox, the Strong Anthropic Principle, Free Will, and the Big Philosophical Questions of Humanity. (Suggestions would be welcomed for example of observed phenomena which would not be explained by this hypothesis.)
It would be immediately disprovable by the discovery of intelligent life close enough to interact with humanity. It would also be disprovable by proof of continued existence after death of an individual’s consciousness within our local area. (Again, other methods of disproof would be welcomed.)
To conclude, here’s a suggested observational method for compiling proof of the hypothesis. Human game designers love to include in their universes Easter Eggs—little jokes, tricks, and special items that only the determined or curious would find. It is likely, in my opinion, that the game designers are similar enough to us in nature to make such Eggs findable. The best places to look would be in the realms of the very large (chains of galaxies forming sentences in English, for example), the very small (the folding patterns of proteins making the shape of the animals that they’re taken from) or pure mathematics (the two-millionth to three-millionth decimal place of pi in base-12 being all zeros and ones and, when placed in a 1000x1000 grid, creating a picture of Alfred E. Newman.)
Any of the above Easter Eggs would go a long way toward proving the existence of the game designers and give important clues to the nature of the simulation that we are within.