Monday, December 29, 2003
Impossible God Computer
That last post reminded me of this discussion I had with some friends a few years ago. We were debating the concept of free-will vs. Determinism. In the course of the discussion one of them brought up the idea of a computer programmed with all the laws of the universe, seeded with the current state of everything, being capable of predicting everything and anything. I, being the ever diligent devil's advocate, chose to crush his thought experiment not by pointing out the infinities involved, but rather by showing that the computer cannot be a part of the system that it models, otherwise it would have to contain a complete model of itself. Recursive stack overflow! Either we have the God computer separate from the universe and its laws or we have none at all. I didn't think at the time how we have within us the aspiration to be that impossible God computer. Trying to understand the whole universe when it is obviously impossible for us to fully understand ourselves. There is a third option: that the universe is the computer (sounds like a clever marketing campaign). It models itself simply by being itself. Maybe I should do the same.