Computer Metaphors
and Terminology

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My Big TOE is full of metaphors. It describes the universe as a virtual reality, life as a video game, and consciousness growth as entropy reduction. Some people find this language awkwardly technical for discussing profoundly human matters such as love, compassion and the meaning of life. However, there are good reasons why My Big TOE uses this specific terminology.

Metaphors are powerful tools. They help us to understand by analogy what is outside of our habitual knowledge and experience base. We need metaphors and models to describe things that lie beyond our direct sense perception. A subatomic particle such as a quark, for example, is but a model that logically explains data gathered with highly sophisticated machines. Nobody has ever seen a quark – its properties can only be inferred from the data that were measured. 

Consciousness, too, is outside of our direct sense perception: you cannot see it, hear it, smell it, taste it or feel it, and it has no size or weight. Consciousness is non-physical – it lies beyond, and is bigger than, our physical reality. My Big TOE provides, for the first time, a rational, scientific explanation of our place and purpose within the Big Picture, the larger non-physical reality that is consciousness. That’s why compelling metaphors are essential to understanding My Big TOE.

What Makes a Good Metaphor

 The usefulness of a metaphor depends on two factors. A good metaphor must:

  • be an excellent fit for the concepts and the data it is meant to explain, and
  • resonate with the intended target audience.

As a Big Theory of Everything, My Big TOE potentially has the largest target audience imaginable, comprising seekers of all kinds: scientists and researchers trying to unlock the mechanics and mysteries of nature; materialists, meditators, atheists and theists; those who seek an explanation for paranormal experiences and others who wish to learn how to have them; those who want to grow the quality of their being and become a better person; and basically anyone who tries to find meaning in a world that seems so full of dysfunction. Obviously, some compromise is required.

The spiritual-minded and personal-growth-oriented already have access to a vast body of literature on consciousness exploration, built up over millennia by sages, mystics and spiritual traditions around the world. They can choose the metaphors and models they like best.

In contrast, those who assume that conscious experience is merely the product of complex chemical processes in the brain are likely to believe that a Big Picture does not even exist. My Big TOE seeks to give them a logical and scientific on-ramp to the larger reality in contemporary language, to help them reexamine their assumptions about the relationship between matter and mind. This is the first – and for many the most difficult – step in understanding who we are and how reality works.

IT Metaphors Used in My Big TOE

An often-stated criticism of the virtual reality model is that it’s simply fashionable among scientists and philosophers these days to speculate whether the universe is one big computation. MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark argues that the ultimate nature of reality is mathematics. Seth Lloyd, also at MIT, compares the universe to a gigantic quantum computer.

The most widely discussed computation model is the simulation hypothesis put forward by Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom. It differs however in important ways from the My Big TOE scientific model. It has also led many people to falsely conclude that consciousness itself may be simulated, that we will never be able to find out what is outside of the simulation, and that this doesn’t matter anyway since the simulation has no deeper purpose. All such conclusions are based on the belief that reality must at the root be material.

However, the virtual reality model used in My Big TOE seeks to demonstrate the exact opposite – how consciousness (the Larger Consciousness System) creates our physical universe and relates to it:

  • Virtual realities are defined as computed realities (such as video games) that only exist in the minds of the players. Each player receives a data stream from the game server which they interpret to be the virtual reality.
  • Modern physics suggests that our universe is indeed information-based, which means it is computed and thus a virtual reality.
  • The players and the server of a virtual reality must "based" in a reality frame that is more fundamental than the virtual reality itself – this is how all virtual realities work. My Big TOE claims that it’s the same thing with consciousness: consciousness is non-physical and more fundamental than our physical reality frame, and thus the source of our physical universe.
  • The players operate in both the virtual reality and the fundamental reality at once. This is why we humans can find out through personal introspective investigation that our consciousness, and not the physical universe, is the fundamental reality.

The video game metaphor is a particularly powerful application of the virtual reality model. In a video game, the players constantly request new data from the game server as they move through the game environment. This is a highly plausible analogy for the way quantum mechanics works: when an observer requests information on a particle’s path or position, mother nature is forced to make a random draw from the probabilities of where it might be found (the wave function "collapses"). Modern computer games, in a similar fashion, render the game environment on the fly depending on what the player is looking at on the screen.

What’s more, the video game metaphor helps us to make unfamiliar metaphysical concepts more accessible, and to see life as part of a longer-term quest. Anyone who has played a video or computer game knows you can have many lives, you can try as often as you want, and you can play different characters with different skill-sets. And unless you take the game too seriously, it’s really not a problem if your game character dies.

Finally, the video game metaphor also explains the way many paranormal phenomena work: by pulling data out of the database in which our reality is stored.

Once you have gained a good grasp of the My Big TOE model you might agree that the video game metaphor virtually imposes itself.

And yet, the video game and virtual reality metaphors are certainly not the ultimate answer. Many metaphors have a limited shelf life and it’s perfectly fine to replace them once a better one comes along. As science and technology advance further, we’ll always have the possibility to express our understanding of reality in more and more compelling terms – it’s happened before.

Earlier Metaphors for the Universe

After physicist Isaac Newton discovered many regularities in the way nature behaves, philosophers in 18th-century Europe spoke of the clockwork universe. They saw it as a machine that, once set in motion, would keep on running with clockwork precision. Clocks were among the foremost technical innovations of the day, so it seemed like a perfect metaphor. Today, following the discovery of probabilistic quantum effects and the relativity of space and time, most physicists see the universe differently.

Even further back in time, more than 2,500 years ago, the Buddha called this world an illusion, as did Hindu philosophers before him. That was probably the best analogy available at the time to say that reality is at the root non-material. Other sages and mystics have likened reality to a dream – something that only exists in our minds. Both are great metaphors, although they fail to explain why we all seem to be sharing a similar dream or illusion.

The virtual reality model holds the combined explanatory power of the dream, illusion and clockwork metaphors, and more. It can be understood by most members of modern society. Even so, it won’t appeal to everybody, but that is true for all metaphors. It is also true for other parts of My Big TOE terminology.

If reality is like a dream, then the virtual reality model explains
why we´re all part of the same dream.

Metaphysical Terminology Used in My Big TOE

As any newcomer soon discovers, My Big TOE uses some highly idiosyncratic terminology related to the larger reality, especially when describing the various functions of consciousness (Free Will Awareness Units, Individuated Units of Consciousness, the Larger Consciousness System).

These terms, again, are based on information technology, but not only because that fits the virtual reality model. The idea is to avoid any metaphysical terms used by religious traditions because they are laden with all sorts of emotional baggage and counterproductive beliefs.

Few things are more unhelpful for understanding the larger reality than preconceived notions and beliefs, whether they’re about karma and reincarnation or about God, Heaven and the soul. All beliefs – religious, scientific, cultural or personal – limit our ability to be open to new experiences and fresh interpretations of what seems familiar. Beliefs are always a problem.

So, even if you do find My Big TOE a highly useful model of reality, you should not believe that there actually is such a thing as a Free Will Awareness Unit – this really is just a metaphor! Consciousness is non-physical. All we can do when talking about consciousness is to describe its functions or compare one type of conscious experience to another. Both inevitably require a certain level of abstraction.

The last thing MBT intends to do is start a new religion, with its own terminology and scripture to believe in. On the contrary, we need to go through life with open-minded skepticism. Believe nothing, consider everything a possibility, and always apply sensibility and reason when trying to assess the probabilities of what may or may not be true.

Which brings us to one final point about metaphors.

The Limitations of Metaphors

Every metaphor has its limitations, and it’s easy to stretch a metaphor beyond its usefulness. If you tell your loved one that her eyes are blue as the ocean, you obviously don’t mean to discuss whether they are azure, indigo or navy blue, or whether they resemble the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean.

We usually know intuitively when a metaphor reaches its breaking point. We can also see the problems created when organized religions ask their faithful to take literally metaphors that may have worked in a particular context two thousand years ago but are now well past their sell-by date. All metaphors and models must be regularly checked for updates.

My Big TOE is a scientific model of reality. It’s important not to fall into the trap of confusing the model of reality with reality itself. A model is a tool meant to be used, not to be believed in. It has often been said that a map is not the same as the territory – it’s just a tool to help us navigate unfamiliar ground. In the same vein, My Big TOE and all its metaphors are just tools to help us understand, make sense of, and talk about, the larger reality and our place in it.

So don’t get hung up on the metaphors used in My Big TOE. If you want, make up your own! In fact, you are strongly encouraged to create your own Big TOE rather than to blindly adopt someone else’s model.

But don’t be too quick in discarding the My Big TOE metaphors, either. Give them a fair chance and try to see their value in explaining your own life experience.

A map may use fonts and colors you don’t like, and yet it will still get you safely to your destination.

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