A Thinking Universe

A Thinking Universe – Dec 2005

Look Up. You’ll see a universe that never ends – no matter how far you cast your thoughts, you still face a never ending void.

Look Down. There’s the possibility of infinitely small; the molecule, the atom, the proton, the quark, the lepton, the strange, and whatever else there is when you smash those to parts to pieces.

But you’ll see what may be the strangest of all when you look inside your own mind and see a boundless realm; an infinite possibility of thought.

There’s infinity all around us. We call it ‘the universe.’ And I’m convinced that it’s thinking.

I’ve always been fascinated with systems.

It probably began with my first ant farm. Do you know that an ant colony is intelligent? It reacts to its surroundings. It buries its dead in a graveyard, has a complex social structure. The ants themselves aren’t intelligent — they’re more like little genetically hardwired machines. Individually, they do communicate, but they don’t think. Alone, they’re nothing, but as a system, they are capable of intelligent action.

In the same way, our own thoughts are created by little clumps of cells called neurons, firing little bolts of energy at one another — communicating with one another. The neurons don’t think, but in their connection to other neurons, they make up an intelligent system.

We can see this clearly with computers. The basic part of a computer is the dumbest thing of all – a switch. How much intelligence is there in a light switch? But the fact is, connect a lot of those switches together and, although you don’t have thinking as we define it, you certainly have a system that can do amazing things. And the more computers you connect together, the closer you come to something that appears to be thinking.

If computers were alive you’d call it ‘thinking’ wouldn’t you?

Look around. You’ll see that whenever complex systems communicate – send bolts of energy to one another, thought, or something like it happens.

And here’s my point – the stars themselves are a part of very complex systems. They send out light, gravity waves, pulses, and other forms of radiation to other stars all around them. Stars are connected to one another in the same way that ants, neurons, and computers are connected. That means that thought, or something like it is happening.

I moment ago, I said “If it were alive you’d call it ‘thinking’ wouldn’t you?” I think you’ll agree. So here’s where ‘the thinking universe’ gets really amazing… It’s coming alive!

This isn’t mysticism or some new age spiritualism. I’m not going to ask you to believe anything and accept the unacceptable. I’m just going to point out a few simple facts.

First: We are made of star stuff. We know this. The same atoms that were once inside stars make up the rocks, the trees, the grass, our fingernails, and out brains.

Second: There is a certain amount of matter in the universe. There is a total mass, in tons, of matter that exists. It’s far too big a number to talk about. But there is such a number.

Third: Intelligent, conscious life is expanding. Once there were only a million people on this planet. That’s about a hundred thousand tons of living, thinking star stuff. Now there are six billion people. That’s 600 million tons of star stuff that has come alive… and every day there’s more. The same could be happening elsewhere in the universe as well.

Someday, we’ll leave this planet and our numbers will spread – we’ll have to or we’ll become extinct and another life form will take our place. Perhaps the dinosaurs wouldn’t be extinct today if they had a space program. Some day the universe will be teeming with conscious life and some fraction of a percent of all the matter in matter in the universe will be alive. Stars are turning into people.

For each new person that winks into existence, there’s 200 pounds of star stuff that has woken up and become conscious.

The universe is alive, and it’s thinking. What do you imagine it’s thinking about?

(c) Mark C. Robinson, All Rights Reserved