Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Postulocalypse: a short story submission

When what used to be known as reality began to crumple and crack apart, I happened to be taking a post-doctoral class in the brand-new field of Anthropic Cosmonomics at Oceanic University. I was helping to write the course as it was being delivered.
For a while, that made me the best informed person in the world, so the government began asking me for advice when the changes became noticeable.
At each higher level, I was asked to further simplify my explanation.
Now I would tell everything to the President's new science advisor through Skype.

"It's very simple," I began. "We should all be dead already."
"Even the tiniest error in the fabric of reality should destroy our universe. The simplest proof involves a time-reversed photon. Imagine a model universe inside a perfectly sealed box. A VERY big box. A lot of particles are bouncing around and forming complex structures in there. There are even planets, stars, people in the box."

"Now imagine reversing the speed and direction of every particle at once. That would have the effect of time suddenly running backwards. From our perspective, if we could look inside the box without affecting it, previously lost and destroyed structures would be restored and come back to life. However, the people living inside the box wouldn't notice they're moving and thinking backwards."

I paused to gather my thoughts, aware that every second was costing the world a million dollars.
I thought I heard distant thunder, but there was no rain yet.

"Now imagine introducing just one extra particle in the box that wasn't there when time was moving forward. A single photon, the tiniest flash of light.
That single inconsistency would ruin everything and rapidly destroy the model universe.
Tiny at first, the changes would multiply exponentially, randomizing the model universe the further back in time you look.
The world becomes an absurd storm of particles - yet no one notices as people and situations emerge from the chaos and assemble themselves toward a normal future with consistent memories."

"This implies our own past could be a lie, the result of absurd structures randomly assembling themselves into sentient patterns. The easiest way minds might emerge from a chaotic universe. However, this is almost certainly not the case, because of quantum mechanics."

"In our time-reversed disintegrating model universe, there is another possibility: a self-stabilizing reversed timeline could emerge out of the chaos. While the stars are still absorbing light instead of emitting it, reverse-time people could become aware they are living backwards, and struggle to take control of their fates. They won't be blind. Matter will start emitting time-reversed light as the disruption affects them."

"Something like that - only two levels more complicated - is what's happening to us right now.
Reality breakdown is subtle at first. Only the smallest effects are expected. We should barely notice a thing."

"But our world is not a time-reversed model universe in a box. In fact, we are the result of a computer simulation, ones and zeroes inside an unimaginably powerful computer core. This device exist in our own future - or a semi-possible future at least.
This future computer is maximally efficient: as powerful as it is small. It turns out universe simulators create rather more universes than expected."

Wide-eyed and sweating slightly, the science advisor puffed on an inhaler. I hoped he didn't have a breakdown.

"The simulation process has a physical effect on the matter around the computer core. Its operations change its environment.
The precise pattern of the simulation generated inside the computer core will create similar but weaker 'echo patterns' in the matter around it.
You could describe it as a flow of waste heat representing ones and zeroes, the simulated description of our world.
This pattern doesn't only exist in the hypercomputer core, but in the altered chaos of the real universe around it. So the simulation can be said to escape the computer.
However, this echo pattern becomes more imperfect farther from the computer core."

"In theory the echo should continue forever. We shouldn't be able to tell as it fades endlessly.
But at some point, this waste heat-derived awareness begins to diverge from the simulation in the computer core. We are already diverging in strange ways.
I don't know who created our simulated computer universe, but they anticipated the thermal errors that are now destabilizing our reality.
Their simulation has built in error correcting codes. The big idea is anthropic capture."

I saw the President was listening in now. I had no idea if he understood anything at all. "Use simple words," the advisor had actually instructed me.

"We are epiphenomena," I said.
"That means we're a side-effect. Just mathematical patterns inside a more real universe."

"What interprets this pattern to make them real?" the President asked confidently.

"The same thing that interprets the laws of physics Sir."

"Could God somehow be involved?"

"We prefer to call it the Countable frame, as opposed to the Ordinal and Transjective frames Sir."
Now came the complicated part:

"So far, our working group has identified three types of minds that may be found throughout reality: we call them Boltzmann, Egg, and Egghead minds.
A small percentage of mind copies are Boltzmann minds: randomly combining arrangements of particles that form chaotic and temporary brain-like structures. Most are barely big enough for one thought."

"Far more minds are embedded inside self-sustaining Egg Universes. These minds are part of larger systems that efficiently generate complex structures.
That's how we started, and what we thought we still were. But we can't return to our former stability."

"But we think there is a third kind of minds that inhabit Egghead universes. That's where we are now.
Our fading echo universe is beginning to evolve new laws of physics. In fact it will have to become mind-like itself.
The Simulators intended this echo effect to spread far and wide, to affect as much of reality as possible.
It's their teleological solution to everything. I call it the Salvation Equation."

"How will this affect our Nation?" the President asked.

"Our patterns are beginning to be disturbed by the surrounding chaos. Normally, it all cancels out. But the original simulation was designed so that its echoes would interact with weaker and more improbable structures in the random environment.
You would expect everything to be destroyed. But with higher-level physics, more things can happen at once without interfering.
We are no longer as limited by nature.
That explains the weird occurrences of the past few days. More things are possible than in a boring consistent Egg universe."

While I was talking, more strange things had to have happened around the world:
In the past week, dozens of blatant multi-level marketing and day trading schemes had sucked in tens of billions of dollars.
A few rich gamblers had broken the bank in most online casinos.
What should have been overpriced quack medical cures (magnetic water, ozone crystals) had strangely been endorsed by top celebrities.
A shady image consulting firm had signed up the dictators of six countries as clients.
In an emergency overnight parliament session, the Netherlands had outlawed all recreational drugs from weed on up.
China had suddenly announced it was reforming its entire educational system to adopt a new type of "studying technology".

I finished my talk:

"Human thoughts have become a decisive component of reality. The normal laws of statistics can be modified and wishes can now come true, a few at least.
This is an ordered, rational, almost democratic process. We don't know how yet; some sort of group control effort.
By pure chance, it turns out there already is a group that has been thinking along these lines for many years.
Until last month, they were completely wrong."

"Why did it have to be Scientology," the President sighed.

What would it take for Scientology to be true?

No one has given this question the attention it deserves.
What seems impossible may only be supremely unlikely - but in physics, that which is not forbidden is said to be mandatory . . .

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