Why is there something rather than nothing? In this video I take this question very seriously and approach it with optimism. I say (a) this is a meaningful and valid question, and (b) it has a real and satisfying answer. The overall explanation space I explore is that of David Pearce’s Zero Ontology, which postulates that the multiverse is implied by the preservation of “zero information”.
In order to understand Zero Ontology we need to do some conceptual groundwork. So I walk the listener (you, were you to accept this journey) through several concepts that make the question go from “impossible to answer” or even “meaningless” to something that at least conceivably seems possible to solve.
First, we need to sidesteps the common tropes of our habitual modes of thinking, such as expecting answers to come in the form of “causal explanations”. No matter how you look at it, whether the universe extends back forever or not, a causal explanation for the origin of the universe is logically impossible to derive. Instead, we have to think in a radically different way, which is by way of frameworks for *implication* rather than *causation*. This opens us up to the possibility that exotic modes of thinking capable of representing what is entailed by “nothing” will show in turn that “something” follows from it. This helps us make sense of Pearce’s argument: the “nothing” we are looking for is not the “common sense” view of the term, but rather a more refined post-theoretical concept that is ill-fitted to the human mind for the time being.
In particular, Pearce focuses on how “no information” may be “what nothing is”. Thus, Zero Ontology attempts to formalize the “fact of inexistence” by reconceptualizing information as “ruling out possibilities”. Based on this alternate concept we see that math, physics, and phenomenology share the common thread of being possible to “construct out of nothing”. In math, the empty set can be used to derive all of arithmetic. In physics the Standard Model is a surprisingly simple theory that can be derived from first principles by imposing the “need for symmetry”. The total energy, charge, momentum, etc. of the universe is zero! And in phenomenology, we encounter a lot of cases where apparently all of the possible flavors of a qualia variety seem to “cancel out” into “pure being” or “raw awareness”. The simplest example is how experiencing “all phenomenal colors at once” (a kind of rainbow effect, but including magenta) seems to be interchangeable with “colorless phenomenal light”.
I tie all of this together and talk about how Zero Ontology allows us to reconceptualize “God/Being” as “unconstrained reality” or “boundarylessness”. I discuss how we could perhaps even probe Zero Ontology empirically in a direct way if we were to train enough physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, computer scientists, etc. to go into high Jhana or 5-MeO-DMT states and then quantify the properties of the fundamental fields implementing these experiences.
I conclude with an analogy to Borges’ Library of Babel (or a quantum version thereof) and why we may be in it. In fact, “be it”.
David Pearce: “A theory that explains everything explains nothing”, protests the critic of Everettian QM. To which we may reply, rather tentatively: yes, precisely.
Topics Covered: The Concept of Nothing, Three Characteristics, Illusion, Limitations of the Medium of Thought, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Redefining Information, Empty Set Arithmetic, Preserved Quantities of Physics, Symmetry and Noether’s Theorem, QFT, Path Integrals, Jhanas, 5-MeO-DMT, Symmetries in Qualia, Quantum Library of Babel, Black Hole Information Paradox.
Why does anything exist? (short version) – https://qualiacomputing.com/2015/11/18/why-does-anything-exist/
The Zero Ontology – David Pearce – https://www.hedweb.com/witherall/zero.htm
Why Does Anything Exist? (David Pearce’s Zero Ontology) – https://www.hedweb.com/nihilism/nihilfil.htm
Ways of Thinking (Richard Feynman) – https://qualiacomputing.com/2021/01/24/ways-of-thinking/
Quantum Field Theory visualized – https://youtu.be/MmG2ah5Df4g
On the Medium of Thought – https://qualiacomputing.com/2020/12/12/on-the-medium-of-thought/
The Symmetry Theory of Valence: 2020 Presentation – https://qualiacomputing.com/2020/12/17/the-symmetry-theory-of-valence-2020-presentation/
QED: Photons-Corpuscles of Light (Richard Feynman 1/ 4) – https://youtu.be/P9nPMFBhzsI
CURIOSITY – Featuring Richard Feynman – https://youtu.be/UjEngEpiJKo
Nothing happens in the Universe of the Everett Interpretation (Jan-Markus Schwindt; I made the mistake of saying this was from Tegmark in the video, apologies) – https://arxiv.org/abs/1210.8447
Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? (Leo Gura) – https://youtu.be/DhMroy-fP00
A Universe from Nothing – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Universe_from_Nothing