Caleb Scharf, an astrophysicist at Columbia University, recently published an article that posits alien life may be so far advanced that we cannot tell it apart from the laws of physics. Is it possible that the universe is potentially teeming with intelligence, it’s just so far ahead of us that it has literally become part of the fabric of space and time?
Scharf provides a few ideas on how this might be the case, so let’s unpack this whopper of a speculative hypothesis. He begins with a logical first step, the machine singularity.
Assuming a civilisation survives long enough, the ability to bridge the gap between a biological brain and an artificial machine brain may be possible. Once an intelligence becomes one with a computer, and the computational power of the brain exponentially increases, the brain/computer could reach a ‘singularity’, a point at which the entire understanding of the universe becomes child’s play.
While this is purely speculative, Scharf points out that some machinations of the universe are so strange that the singularity hypothesis might fit the bill. For example, only 5% of the universe’s mass-energy consists of matter; a larger chunk, about 27%, is spooky dark matter that exists only in models and math, and is yet imperceptible to us. According to Scharf,
What better way to escape the nasty vagaries of supernova and gamma-ray bursts than to adopt a form that is immune to electromagnetic radiation? Upload your world to the huge amount of real estate on the dark side and be done with it…All you need to do is build a normal-matter-to-dark-matter data-transfer system: a dark-matter 3D printer.
Scharf takes the whole idea a step further by suggesting that dark matter may not even exist at all. What if the strange cosmic gravitational oddities that the dark matter theory tries to account for are caused by an alien intelligence? Scharf considers,
We have neither identified the dark-matter particles nor come up with a compelling alternative to our laws of physics that would account for the behaviour of galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Would an explanation in terms of life be any less plausible than a failure of established laws?
Perhaps the fabric of the universe itself is intelligent, a living thing, that creates the ebb and flow of space and time. Scharf brings up the rate at which the universe expands, which seems to have suddenly sped up about 5 billion years ago; perhaps an intelligence made it so? On the quantum level, perhaps an intelligence has reduced itself to function within photons. What better way to ensure survival, by leaving a physical local system, and moving to exist within light itself, and to be everywhere in the universe at any given moment.
Perhaps hyper-advanced life…is already all around…embedded in what we perceive to be physics itself, from the root behaviour of particles and fields to the phenomena of complexity and emergence. In other words, life might not just be in the equations. It might be the equations.
Is the universe alive, brimming with intelligence, that is simply too complex for us to realize? Maybe you are chalk full of other intelligent beings who simply dwell within the empty spaces of your subatomic particles.