God is the machine

May 06, 2011

A great 2002 Wired piece by Kevin Kelly arguing that all matter is, at its essence, nothing more than binary information—a continuum of yes/no questions and answers.

Once science examined matter below the level of fleeting quarks and muons, it knew the world was incorporeal. What could be less substantial than a realm built out of waves of quantum probabilities? And what could be weirder? Digital physics is both. It suggests that those strange and insubstantial quantum wavicles, along with everything else in the universe, are themselves made of nothing but 1s and 0s. The physical world itself is digital. […]

Bits can be seen as a digital version of the "atoms" of classical Greece: the tiniest constituent of existence. But these new digital atoms are the basis not only of matter, as the Greeks thought, but of energy, motion, mind, and life. […]

Tommaso Toffoli, a quantum computer researcher, puts it best: "In a sense, nature has been continually computing the ‘next state' of the universe for billions of years; all we have to do -- and, actually, all we can do -- is ‘hitch a ride' on this huge, ongoing Great Computation."

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