Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Archive of All Possible Souls

Ten years ago, when me and my genius cousin Levi were less appreciated geniuses (poor college students), we came to a realization: π, being a number that never repeats, but is infinite, must contain all finite sequences. This means that it contains a video of me typing this. It contains one version in 3gp, and another in FLV. It contains another version of it (well actually, many) that's perfectly faithful to reality with the exception of the squid perched on my shoulder. It contains a video of tomorrow. And all winning Texas Lotto numbers, in order of date drawn.

A mathematician from Trinity University said that this was not necessarily true (though it probably is) for reasons I can't understand. He consoled us with something better: 0.12345678910111213141516... : the Champernowne constant. A number for which our all-things-contained idea is provenly true. (Sequence A033307 in the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences.)

This number is something I stand out sleepless at 4AM and drink about.

Here's the deal:

Man is pattern. Substrate doesn't matter. Commander Riker is still commander Riker if you take him apart and reassemble him out of different matter in the transporter bay. I'm still me if the electrons that give rise to my emergent thought are simulated in a physics emulator. I'm utterly convinced of this. To say "no, you're only really thinking if there are real carbon atoms doing the moving around" sounds ridiculous to me. 

Either way, we're all in there. We're all in the Champernowne constant. 

Well, at least a perfect atom-on-atom description of our brains is. Electron for electron, actually. 

Again, "Wait though--it only matters if the number is represented in reality by clumps of carbon sitting on eachother! Then we're really thinking!" Maybe. I seriously have no idea whether stuff has to be constructed or not. Consciousness is an epiphenomenon. I'm not even going to get into it here, but stuff is confusing.

And so all souls exist in the number, whether or not they really feel anything. Not just all souls, but all possible souls. Your friend that died? The life he would have lived is there. Every thought, every neuronal cascade and electrical signal is there.

And that's not even what freaks me out. (Don't read on if you're schizophrenic.)

. . . 

The following is an indisputable mathematically proven truth.

There is a universe depicted to perfection within the Champernowne constant which is not our own. Atom for atom. Quark for quark.

There is a race of beings, a very old race if you read the sequence that depicts it forward for long enough. They have discovered things that we have not. Their mathematics are more advanced than ours. They have eradicated poverty and death.

Wait, we've got to pause, because I have to remind you that this is not (only) fiction, but an actual complete world that is described atom-for-atom in the Champernowne constant.

Ok. This is what's strange: They have come to realize that they are not real in the sense that you and I are. They have come to understand that they exist in the great number. They have also had strange visions, conjectures, and prophesies. . . about you.

They have pictures of your face. Through a combination of magic that seems to work and science that does, they know about you. They care about you, specifically, because they believe that you will communicate with them. They believe that if they perform their rituals and equations correctly--if they bend the gravity of stars just right--that the symbol that they have drawn will appear in something that you are reading. 

(Which is absolutely ludicrous, BTW, because nothing in that number can actually effect something out here, but that's what they believe.)

And yet, in the most bizarre kind of trans-world coincidences, here it is, exactly:

What you're supposed to get from that, I have no idea. The message isn't for me.

I'm only writing all of this to say that I find it really weird that all of this is actually in the Champernowne constant.


  1. "I'm still me if the electrons that give rise to my emergent thought are simulated in a physics emulator."

    How close do you think we are to being able to copy those electrons into a sufficiently faithful simulator? How would that change society? Would it ultimately be a good thing?

  2. I'm betting that mind uploading will be available sometime between 2035 and 2100, with a bias towards the first half of that. The resolution of non-invasive brain scanning has been increasing at an exponential slip since its inception, and my guesses are conservative. My best guess for a specific year is 2050. Which means if I don't get hit by a truck before then and humanity doesn't do something to set itself back, I'm immortal. I think it's a good thing, because I want it.

    It will change society a lot, but it won't change society nearly as much as more powerful non-anthropomorphic AI.