In his brilliant introduction to artificial intelligence, Max Tegmark describes our existence as the universe waking up from a zombie slumber. As I’ve struggled to understand what I believe about God and the universe around me, I’ve found myself finding wonder and hope in the material universe itself.
As I meditate upon the universe, I come to the stunning conclusion that I am the universe: a tiny piece of walking, talking, thinking cosmos. I am a finite point of consciousness within the universe, and I represent hope that the universe itself may be more grand, more mysterious than I ever previously imagined it to be.
Max Tegmark writes,
Thirteen point eight billion years after its birth, our Universe has awoken and become aware of itself. From a small blue planet, tiny conscious parts of our Universe have begun gazing out into the cosmos with telescopes, repeatedly discovering that everything they thought existed is merely a small part of something grander: a solar system, a galaxy and a universe with over a hundred billion other galaxies arranged into an elaborate pattern of groups, clusters and superclusters. Although these self-aware stargazers disagree on many things, they tend to agree that these galaxies are beautiful and awe-inspiring.
“But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not in the laws of physics, so before our Universe awoke, there was no beauty. This makes our cosmic awakening all the more wonderful and worthy of celebrating: it transformed our Universe from a mindless zombie with no self-awareness into a living ecosystem harboring self-reflection, beauty and hope—and the pursuit of goals, meaning and purpose. Had our Universe never awoken, then, as far as I’m concerned, it would have been completely pointless—merely a gigantic waste of space. Should our Universe permanently go back to sleep due to some cosmic calamity or self-inflicted mishap, it will, alas, become meaningless.
Was there no meaning in the universe, as Tegmark asserts, before consciousness evolved? I don’t know. But I find solace in being a thinking part of the universe, and that revelation gives me sense of religious awe that, in the aftermath of my deconstruction, I deeply yearn for.