The completion of the physics revolution Pagels describes, quoted above, engages a profound transformation in human nature. This new worldview naturally resolves many of the intractable problems facing our human race. The beauty is that anyone who participates benefits tremendously. Scientific enlightenment spells power and freedom.
What is reality? Who am I really? We are more likely to wonder what is the meaning of life? What happens after I die? Throughout the ages attempts to answer such questions have spawned philosophies and religions, and at their best these provided both individual solace and a basis for social order. But now that we have developed the marvel of modern rational science, this new body of knowledge has provided austere straightforward answers. Reality is the physical world, plain and simple, and we are just really clever naked apes. Death is the end. The meaning is what you make of it. Spiritual principles seem to be discredited, leaving the world a less enchanted place. But the full meaning of the new physics is only just beginning to dawn. It is truly transformative. It is also very weird.
What is not in doubt is that our old ideas do not fit. The ordinary world we are familiar with is the world of classical ‘Newtonian mechanics’. This defines formal rules for how the ordinary world works, how fast an apple falls and how to make steam engines. These are the rules of the everyday reality on which our intuitive sense of how the world works is based. But the new physics of Einstein’s relativity and quantum theory shows us that these rules are not fundamental. Beyond the bounds of scale of everyday experience, utterly different types of phenomena rule. And the world these new rules define is so weird that even the greatest scientists have not been able to comprehend it. As physicist Nick Herbert wrote in Quantum Reality:
Wrenched out of centuries-old thought patterns, physicists of a century ago found themselves compelled to embrace a new metaphysics. The distress which this reorientation caused continues to the present day. Basically physicists have suffered a severe loss: their hold on reality. (1985, 15)
In other words, the new physics tells us things so strange that nobody has been able to grasp it despite a century of expert investigation.
In fact, however, the physicists have not only discovered the nature of the reality defined by the new physics but described it in detail, but there has been no framework in which to understand what it really means. This is the ‘holographic universe’. The problem is it makes no sense. As physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf describes:
What’s happening in space is, in some sense, all described in terms of a screen outside here. The ultimate description of reality resides on this screen. (2019)
This is the holographic principle of physicist Gerard t’Hooft, discovered in 1993. As physicist Lee Smolin writes, this is for sure:
… an idea which at first seems too crazy to be true, but which survives all our attempts to disprove it. (2000, 178)
The resolution is simple, but a major leap. This is not a fiendishly counter-intuitive redefinition of the ordinary world, yet to be comprehended, but a completely different type of world. This is what makes sense of the physics and explains the major paradoxes. Physical reality itself is the ordinary world, as we naturally assume. Modern physics describes the nature of this world precisely. But the resulting physical reality in which one actually lives is a holographic universe.
The idea that reality is very different to the standard concept of the world has been put forward again and again over the years. The first major interpretation of quantum theory, the ‘Copenhagen interpretation’ of the 1920s, held that the world is only ‘determinate’, meaning physically real, where it is observed. The latest interpretation, ‘Quantum Bayesianism’, demonstrates this principle with a mind-bending twist. The world is only determinate where it is personally observed by you. And as the authors state, this means we live in personal, parallel realities. Bizarre though it sounds, this has now been demonstrated in a recent leading-edge physics experiment. This confirms the principle of ‘Wigner’s Friend’ discovered in 1961, which means exactly this. We live in different versions of physical reality. This is the direct implication of taking the experimental evidence at face value.
What seems to have passed unnoticed is that this means each physical reality is only determinate on the observed surface. In other words, this is the holographic universe. The ‘screen outside’ is the outer limit of each individual’s perception, which is what defines this reality.
So this was discovered some time ago but it made no sense. Analysing it all, I stumbled on the answer. The missing explanatory principle is ‘logical type’ as described in Part 2. It means that the holographic universe you live in is lots of ordinary worlds all at once, a ‘quantum superposition’; and by definition this is only determinate where you have observed it. Of course it seems crazy but this is what we should be expecting. As physicist Steven Hawking said in The Grand Design, many notions in today’s science seem to violate common sense:
But common sense is based on everyday experience, not upon the universe as it is revealed by the marvels of technologies such as those that allow us to gaze deep into the atom or back to the early universe. (2010, 15)
What nobody seems to have anticipated is that the implications are of tremendous significance in our daily lives. The new woldview is greatly empowering. The nature of the holographic universe means that one is closely connected with one’s world, and this reveals why creative visualisation works unreasonably well. Certain great myths describe genuine attributes of how this kind of reality actually operates. Spirit is who we really are, and the great spiritual principles are fundamental to our humanity. This is what separates us from being just biological machines, both with regard to morality and immortality. These intuitions that our ancestors enshrined in spiritual practice are genuine principles in operation in the real world.
The principles that emerge are vital knowledge for humanity because these have the power to resolve our self-induced global catastrophic risks. As environmental advocate Gus Speth famously said:
I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that. (2013)
In the light of the concepts presented here we actually do. This is exactly the effect of the new understanding of reality. In the personal world defined by the new physics, and now confirmed in experiment, your world is yourself in another form. It means enlightened self-interest is a fundamental requirement for true success. Logically, the new woldview must surely seed a beneficial cultural revolution.
Why me? Why would the solution be discovered by a retired systems analyst rather than the experts in physics? This is explained by the concept of ‘scientific revolution’, described in Appendix I. Essentially it means it takes an outsider to see it. I humbly apologise if my tone is dogmatic but from an operational point of view I see the logic as just so obvious. I am some way from neurotypical and I hope you will forgive my awkwardness. Given the very real threats it seems to me we can no longer dilly-dally about the meaning of the superb science while our denial of the logical implications prevents us from saving our global ecology from ruin, and our human race from self-annihilation through a dozen causes. The new woldview shows us we are empowered and we are responsible. The game of life is much greater in scope and vastly more involved than we have conceived. Now it is time to play with a full deck.