The Infinite Substrate (Fundamental Reality)

The Infinite Substrate is the causal ocean that underlies all mind and matter.

Each world branch and space-time manifold is a surface of the n-dimensional polytope.

The processing power of the substrate is infinite and an infinity of time can pass on the substrate between events on an any individual surface.



Excerpt from a longer essay I published on Medium:

…All things are made of stuff. This is one of the first facts a newly spawned human extracts from the world. Even before we grasp that the world is full of people like us, our hands learn about the material nature of things.

Our minds are created by our brains, which are made of stuff.

The solidity of the world is, therefore, a very deep conviction; primal even, but it is also an illusion. The universe turns out to be mostly made of barely understood strangeness. Only 5% is what we might understand as basic stuff. Of that 90% is Hydrogen, the most insubstantial of gasses. Now I am not trying to be evasive here, materialism does of course not only refer to solid matter. Atoms, photons, neutrinos and even the mysterious characters Dark Matter and Dark Energy can all be valid participants in a materialistic description.

However, science contains elements less real even than the ephemeral Dark Energy.

What about quantum operations? Is a superposition just the combination of two material entities existing simultaneously, or does the operation of superposition itself count as a valid component in a materialistic description?

Or what about numbers? Not as adjectives used to describe something real — like seven electrons, or three kings — but the number itself; number used as a noun. Would such a thing be considered a materialistic entity? Intuitively not, a number cannot exist on its own, its symbol needs a mind, or some other computational substrate, to inhabit. Therefore, the causal power can be shifted to the substrate, i.e. to the atoms in the computer or the nerves firing in a mind.

Three fingers wiggle because of a pattern firing in the brain, not because of any causal power of the number three itself.

But numbers are information, and the more we understand, the more tangible information seems to become. We now suspect it is a conserved quantity, like energy. Newton’s laws can be reformulated in its terms, making it as real as energy, which, as Einstein has already taught us, equals matter.

As we learn more about the universe by venturing further away from the dry land — which represents the self-evident truths we learn through perception and common sense— we begin to lose touch with the bottom…

Only after tens of thousands of years of counting did our species discover the concept of Zero. Five thousand years later we discovered (or possibly invented) negative numbers; two thousand years after that, the complex numbers. Each of these steps forward permitted solutions to acute problems which had perplexed the brightest human minds for thousands of years.

Even negative numbers are unintuitive. Although we accept them, we will never find one lying around in nature.

Two Apples minus One Apple gives One Apple.
But if I have Two Apples and I take Three away, how many Apples do I have? You could say I owe you an Apple, but that is quite different from the concept of a negative apple…

The shallow end of the Reality Pond.

These examples are from ancient history, but Math and Physics today are taking us ever further away from the shore. Some recent mind benders may imply that at fundamental levels reality is radically different from the limited picture we perceive at human scales:

– Information cannot be exchanged faster than the speed of light, but in the background, the mechanism of Entanglement seems able to send signals instantaneously between entangled particles.

– Quantum computers can calculate solutions which require more processing power than available to even a supercomputer built from every particle of matter in the universe.

– Even Space and Time are increasingly seen as emergent properties that arise from more fundamental primitives. In some formulations, what we experience as reality is merely a hologram and the concept of distance becomes a high-level simplification representing the degree of entanglement between pixels of realityarranged on the surface of a two-dimensional shape.

These developments in Physics and Cosmology seem to imply there is a deeper level of reality, and here I don’t just mean another tier of particles smaller than Quarks and Leptons, but rather another set of more fundamental laws taking place on a board with different rules.

An analogy would be the zeros and ones moving through a microchip’s gates, creating the realistic environment of a 3D game. This more fundamental substrate does not need to obey the same rules as the higher-level systems it underlies. In the analogy of the computer game, the programmer may have set a maximum rate at which player effects can propagate, e.g. the fastest speed for a projectile in the game, but the program might ‘cheat’ to optimise the performance for the many players across the internet. To save the bandwidth overhead from arrows that will never hit an enemy, the game might not bother to send them in the first place.

From the point of view of a group of scientists who have spent their entire lives trapped within the game—and who are unaware that they are taped into VR masks controlling player avatars—the question will be: “why do arrows only get sent if they hit their targets? How can reality know in advance?” These unfortunate scientists will not be able to explain the results of the experiments with the in-game laws of physics they have access to. To the programmer writing the game, such game restrictions are irrelevant.

Based upon the computational power of quantum computers and the instantaneous signal propagation exhibited by entangled particles, perhaps we are already glimpsing some of the ‘magical powers’ of this hypothetical underlying layer.

The early clues seem to suggest that this layer has some deep connection to information, perhaps its atoms are classical bits (zeros and ones), or they may be the Qubits which are the fundamental unit of quantum computation.

Consciousness does not arise from Matter

If we continue on this track, let us postulate a substrate capable of instantaneous transmission of information and non-Turing computation. 

Reality is calculated into existence by a more fundamental level of reality.

The familiar limited reality we observe is continually computed by this substrate but we have no idea what the substrate’s native capabilities and limitations might actually be.

It may, for example, be capable of executing an infinite number of operations in a finite amount of time, after all why not? If time itself is an emergent property of our universe, endless eternities can be layered between each tick of our reality’s clock…

The hidden capabilities of this substrate would be what gives Quantum Computers their power. By encoding questions into carefully arranged quantum superpositions, Quantum Computers force the substrate to calculate the answers they are looking for as a by-product of computing the reduction of Quantum possibility to concrete ‘classical’ states.

Rather than trying to solve the Hard Problem with the limited tools we find available in the Material Universe, can we instead invoke the potentially unbounded capabilities of this underlying layer of reality?

I think it would be worth a try; an unlimited realm of pure information should at least be a good place to begin searching for the mechanisms of consciousness. I am an author, not a scientist, so I will allow myself some fun and call this deeper layer of reality the Infinite Substrate.

The Universe and our conscious subjective minds are peers.
They are both higher level phenomenon supervening upon an Infinite Substrate.


The Infinite Substrate

In the formulation I have described above, Classical Reality is computed from all the possible quantum alternatives that coexist on the underlying Infinite Substrate. But there are different magnitudes of infinity and even an Infinite Substrate will need to take care that it does not run out of computational resources. For example, it must keep track of the potentially unlimited number of branching versions of reality, pruning off and merging branches, collapsing the superposition of possibilities into a local canonical material state.

I don’t claim to have any knowledge of how the putative Infinite Substrateoperates, but I picture it annealing the fragments of reality which it congeals from quantum possibility. It makes its own life simpler by computing locally when possible, but ensuring causally contiguous shards match up to maintain integrity globally. The uncertainty of the quantum world provides a noise floor below which potential mismatches are obscured and the Heisenberg fuzziness provides the wiggle room needed to jimmy the shards together top down when required.

Independent shards can be left vague and inchoate unless they are causal dependencies for other pieces of the universe, in which case they must be resolved and annealed into a whole which is simultaneously fraying at the edges as its classical fabric denatures into unraveling threads of possibility…


View full essay on Medium

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