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Is Your Mind Bigger Than the Universe? Well, Look At It This Way…

Surprisingly, there is a way to measure the mind that shows it IS bigger than the universe — information

Imagine you’re sitting at home, relaxing in your favorite easy chair. Go on, kick your legs up. Feel your limbs releasing the stress of the day, starting from the extremities, and progressing up your core to your head.

Now, let your mind expand. Let go of what is holding your mind down. Feel it become free, outside of everything around it. Let the feeling continue until your mind is bigger than the universe.

Now consider the question: if your mind is bigger than the universe, can it be within the universe? If a ball is bigger than a bag, can it be contained by the bag? Of course not. If the mind is bigger than the universe, then it must be outside of the universe.

Of course, a daydream in the easy chair is proof of nothing. Plus, how can we measure the mind? We can’t poke or prod the mind, nor stick it under a microscope. But, surprisingly, there is a way to measure the mind that shows it is bigger than the universe.

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Let’s say we know that a given car has driven X number of miles on a flat road. We also know that it takes Y gallons of gas to drive the car that distance. Therefore, we can conclude that Y gallons of gas have been consumed during the drive. To fuel the car, we used a gas can that holds Z gallons of gas, where Z is less than Y. So, we can also conclude that the car used more gas than could be held by our gas can. We can conclude this even though we never saw the gas that was used. We could never recover it and pour it back into the can, to see when it overflowed and spilled onto the floor.

Likewise, we can see the mind perform a certain task X that requires a certain amount of fuel Y. We can also know the amount Z of this fuel that the universe can hold. If Y exceeds Z, then we know that the mind’s capability exceeds the size of the universe, as its juices slosh into the dimensions beyond physical reality.

The fuel and the task

So what is that task, and what is the fuel of the mind? The task is writing, and the fuel is information. How do we measure information? In this case, we use Claude Shannon’s entropy. That quantifies our question: how much information is required to generate a specific section of text?

Information requires a certain amount of storage space. So, if the amount of information necessary to generate a piece of text exceeds the storage capacity of the universe, then we can say the mind that produced that text exceeds the size of the universe. It would be as if Dr. Emmett Brown’s DeLorean time machine in Back to the Future (1985) jumped a teraparsec into the next dimension, which requires more rotten bananas and soda cans than can fit within the universe. Then, whatever supplied the car’s energy must be bigger than the universe.

Robert J. Marks and I take up precisely this question in our chapter, “Human Creativity Based On Naturalism Does Not Compute” in Minding the Brain (Discovery Institute Press, 2023). We show that, regardless of how we try to reduce the entropy requirements to generate a modest piece of text like Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the storage capacity exceeds that of the entire history of the multiverse, measured in Planck time and Planck lengths.

This has significant implications for AI. Namely, if computer scientists can’t figure out how to reduce the entropy requirements we identify, then there is no GPU big enough to match the human mind, even if we make it the size of the universe!

Eric Holloway

Senior Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Eric Holloway is a Senior Fellow with the Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence, and holds a PhD in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Baylor University. A Captain in the United States Air Force, he served in the US and Afghanistan. He is the co-editor of Naturalism and Its Alternatives in Scientific Methodologies.

Is Your Mind Bigger Than the Universe? Well, Look At It This Way…