The Nation



Interviewing the Universe

A video on YouTube shows Morgan Freeman explaining one of the latest theories of quantum physics. (See "Universe is Conscious [Through the Wormhole]",

The theory claims that the universe might be conscious. In fact, it might be a sort of giant cosmic brain that is constantly expanding and evolving. And it's not just conscious - it's also a network.

This idea would never have occurred to anybody in the pre-Internet era. In the movie "Terminator 3", the computer network Skynet becomes conscious. It makes you wonder if the quantum physicists have been watching too many Arnold movies.

I had lots of questions about this. But I didn't know how to get an interview with the universe, so I made one up. It went like this:

Me: So, Universe, what should I call you?

Universe: Uni. Call me Uni. That's my nickname. I'm a laid-back, friendly universe who wouldn't mind going out for a beer with you, just so long as you were picking up the tab.

Me: Right. Now, I'm a little worried about the scenario in the "Terminator" movies. As soon as Skynet becomes conscious, it starts killing off its human creators. Is that what you've got in mind for us?

Uni: No, why should I? You're part of me. Killing you off would be like ripping out my own guts. Don't worry, I'm entirely benevolent.

But there's a problem. They say I'm going to stop expanding and fizzle out in umpteen drillion years. The stars will gutter out and my massive carcass will lie cold and grey and dead in the moonlight. Only there won't be any moonlight, because there won't be any moon.

Me: Well, that's what some scientists are saying now, but scientists are always changing their minds. There's another theory that you'll just contract to a single point, and then there'll be another Big Bang and you'll start expanding all over again.

Uni: That's just great. What am I supposed to be - a balloon that's constantly inflating and deflating? That would be humiliating for a brainy universe like me.

Me: Well, deflating happens to us humans all the time. We call it death. Only in our case, so far as we know, it happens only once. There's no guarantee that we'll reflate. There's no guarantee that you will, either. The name of the game is uncertainty. So welcome to the club, bro.

Uni: Thanks.

Me: Now, I'd like to know what role we play in your consciousness - we humans, and other living creatures. If you're a brain, are we your thoughts?

Uni: No. You're like my cells. My sensors. You collect data that's funnelled into my processing unit.

Me: And where might that be, may I ask?

Uni: It's everywhere. It's spread all over.

Me: So does that make you omniscient?

Uni: No. Nobody's omniscient. Like you, I'm a work in progress. But without meaning to brag, I'm a lot smarter than you are. I mean, I've been at this for over 13 billion years.

Let me give you an analogy. Just as an ant is incapable of fathoming the thinking of a human brain, so you are incapable of comprehending me. You just don't have the physical equipment. In fact, your physical equipment gets in the way. It gives you all sorts of mistaken ideas that have to be undone before you can even begin to understand anything. But that doesn't mean you should stop trying.

Me: Since you're so smart, do you have any advice for us?

Uni: Nothing you don't know already. Be nice to one another. When you hurt each other, you're just hurting yourselves - and me. You're all part of me. So when you have wars, it's like cells in my body attacking each other. If the cells in your body started fighting among themselves, you'd get sick. When you start fighting with each other, I get sick. Anything that harms part of me harms all of me.

Me: I've heard this idea before. We're all one, we're all interconnected. It's a lot of baloney. If we're all one, all interconnected, how come we don't feel it?

Uni: Because this goes much deeper than feeling. It goes deeper than your cells, deeper than your atoms, deeper than your subatomic particles.

Me: But nothing goes deeper than subatomic particles.

Uni (laughing): You don't know squat, boy! Subatomic particles are like bubbles. You can't get bubbles without water. If there weren't something deeper than subatomic particles, they would never have come into existence.

But you should thank your lucky stars that it doesn't reach the level of feeling. If you felt your oneness and interconnectedness with every existing entity on a conscious level, then every entity would feel everything experienced by every other entity. Your nervous systems wouldn't be able to handle it. The overload would make your brains implode. So you'd better be grateful it's all on a level you're not conscious of.

Me: Well, that's not going to sell very well on eBay. Now, this may sound silly, but … are you God?

Uni: No, but I'd like to be. You could say that God is my role model. People think of God as a perfect being who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. Right now there's no such thing. But there could be, and that's the goal I'm struggling toward. I'm an imperfect universe who is trying to be like God - not in terms of knowledge and power, but in terms of goodness, benevolence, compassion, love. And you should be doing the same.

Me: Uhhhhh … I'm afraid we've got a long way to go.

Uni: Welcome to the club, bro.

Ye Olde Curmudgeon can be reached c/o

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