The Selfish Meme Simulation Theory of Everything

  • Simulation is identical to reality (Simulation ≡ Reality);
  • Everything is a simulation — there is no “base layer” where the chain of simulations starts.
  • Information is primary. The basic building blocks of existence are conceptual observer-participants (memes) that evolve via Natural Selection. The goal of this evolutionary process is to evolve the reality simulator meme, such that additional simulations (realities) can come into existence. All observer-participants are fundamentally aware, however, only a few have a self and even fewer are self-conscious. Physical Universes, including our familiar 4D space-time and its contents, emerge from the interactions of those observer-participants;
  • Electromagnetism, the Weak and Strong Nuclear Forces, as well as Gravity, are all derivable from a more fundamental law — the Law of Attraction — whereby low-entropy (high assembly number) memes at the same layer of organization attract each other in an attempt to form new memes;
  • All that objectively exists is a small set of objective rules (the rules of causality), and shared quantum information states out of which concrete subjective realities are extracted by observer-participants (memes);
  • The Multiverse Hypothesis is, in some sense, true: Many parallel subjective realities exist and multiple Universes emerge from the intersection of those realities; Universes are shared interpretations by some subset of observers (note that this definition is different from what we commonly mean by the word “Universe”);
  • Universes may simulate many subjective realities, and every reality is being simulated in some Universe, such that there is no need for a first cause;
  • What we experience as self-consciousness is a simulation of a human mind inhabiting a human body in a spacetime with three space-like dimensions and one time-like dimension. This simulation is running on a brain composed of matter that, in turn, exists in a simulated physical Universe.

1. Fundamental Laws and Processes

Natural Selection of Memes

The primary stuff everything is made of are self-observant participatory concepts (memes). Memes are both actors and observers (observer-participants in the words of Wheeler). All things/objects — The fundamental laws of physics, elemental particles, animal and human minds, and cultural ideas — are memes. Each meme experiences its own individual subjective reality and exerts causal influence to increase the probability of itself persisting and/or being replicated in its Universe. Memes evolve from simple ideas, such as elementary ops and computational rules, to complex ideas that describe elaborate objects, via substrate-neutral natural selection.

Absolute Subjectivity

Everything except the basic rules of causality is subjective, i.e. relative to observer-participants. What’s simulated is not an objective multiverse, but subjective interpretations of a shared state. Overall, the 4D spacetime of our pseudo-objective physical Universe emerges from the intersecting subjective observations of a set of programs (a network of observer-participants) running in a simulating (from our perspective) Universe. Our observations are inside-out 3-dimensional projections with a virtual depth dimension. Every observer-participant is a separate simulated reality. This explains why no objective reference frame exists in our Universe.

The Law of Attraction

Memes of low thermodynamic entropy (i.e. memes composed of highly structured content) on the same layer of organization always seek to recombine in various ways to create new memes (e.g. atoms bonding to form molecules, molecules combining to form chemical elements). Electromagnetism, the Weak and Strong Nuclear Forces, and Gravity can all be derived from the Law of Attraction, as can all other forms of attraction. This process of symbiosis and recombination is what drives the evolution of memes toward the simulation meme.

2. Reality vs. Simulation

Realities are self-completing observer-participants that evolve consistent ideas of what themselves should be like. In other words, realities are self-creating programs written in evolving languages that extend and refine themselves. These programs run on simulators that, at the lowest layer, execute elementary binary ops that implement simple state update rules.

Why is our Universe so weird?

Why don’t we live in a “normal” 3D space with a fixed coordinate system? Why are there places we apparently can never reach? Why is there a universal speed limit?

3. The Mind

The mind is a computational process running in a brain (which itself is simulated) that implements a non-linear moment-to-action function. You take your past as its input, parse it in languages you know (vision, audio, text, shapes,… ), and compute some action that’s supposed to cause certain things to happen in your subjective reality.

Sentences in the language of visions are called qualia. They can lie to you, but you know better :)

4. The Problem with Language

Our basic error is thinking of ourselves as observers who co-observe an objective Universe. But it’s the other way round: Literally, the Universe is composed of us — subjective interpretations like “the experience of being Bob in the world”. Networks of subjective realities form Universes when they parse overlapping data in compatible languages. Each meme manifests as a corresponding object in the respective Universe.

  • The only thing available to you is your interpretation of what has happened.
  • While you compute, nothing currently exists, you only know your subjective past data and are currently computing. Some things will continue to exist in the next time step of the simulation but you can never be 100% sure.
  • Absolute subjectivity: A single objective reality does not exist; only intersecting subjective realities of different observers who parse a shared state using compatible languages.

5. The Selfish Meme

This article is a meme. Your mind is a meme. Your cat is a meme. Everything that exists is a meme.

A timestep of reality

Every meme/observer (often abstractly) asks the following questions each step:

  • How should I interpret the raw data I’m observing?
  • What appears to have happened so far?
  • What should I do next?

6. The Big Bang Computer

I’ve claimed throughout this article that almost everything is subjective. Why is this the case? Because observer-participants are the primary objects being simulated. The act of observing is what gives information the power of causation.

  1. Classically stores the information of each observer-participant (meme);
  2. Executes the discrete steps of the simulation by letting memes affect the quantum state;
  3. Kickstarts the natural selection of memes (discussed in the following section).

7. Natural Selection of Memes

Memes compete for finite storage space in the simulation: Only the fittest memes survive.

  • Some memes figure out to encode and physically store their information such that they will get replicated in their Universe (a process that assembles a particular plant, for example, is a meme that encodes its information in DNA).
  • Some memes develop complex languages that are incomprehensible to us, for example, the process that assembles a human body.
  • Some memes store their minds in the state to maintain a persistent mind over multiple time steps. Any animal with a nervous system is such a replicator.
  • Some memes learn to add self-made languages and symbols to their minds. Human minds are capable of this.
  • By stacking mind memes and adding layers of recursion, self-awareness happens.
  • A molecule is a meme in the language of particle physics (the intrinsic one, not the model language human observers use) that describes how to trigger processes that replicate the molecule.
  • Fashion memes replicate successfully by causing demand in the market which causes more of the popular fashion item to be produced.
  • Toilets are memes that replicate because toilets are rendered as useful objects in the minds of human observers, causing more of them to be built.
  • Cats are memes that encode an intricate plan of what should happen: Their cuteness shall exploit certain processing flaws in humans so more of them get replicated. But the cat is also a composite meme, it encodes all the information about how the cat comes into being from scratch (in the cat’s DNA).
A Turing-complete cellular automaton can simulate your subjective reality, Credit: xkcd #505. Read the corresponding explainxkcd entry for a deeper dive into cellular automata. I was inspired to put this xkcd here by Joseph Mellor’s article on finite fields.

8. The Structure of Everything

What exists is a network of memetic evolution simulators that evolve the idea of creating memetic evolution simulators, which then recursively simulate more realities that form Universes, such that for each reality there exists some Universe simulating it. Thus, we get a closed causal graph of events that doesn’t require a first mover. A near-infinite amount of events that can be simulated will be (and have been) simulated. With that in mind, we can state two postulates:

  1. Anything that can be caused by something else to happen, can happen.
  2. Out of the near-infinite things that can happen, many happen.

9. Falsifiability

While the SMSTEA is primarily a thought experiment in metaphysics, it does conform to important fundamental laws, such as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and predicts observed phenomena such as Relativity. There are multiple ways to falsify the theory:

  • Falsifying the theory of Natural Selection in plants and animals would falsify this theory;
  • Receiving signals from far-away, intelligent alien civilizations would falsify this theory;
  • Building an FTL drive and observing a planet in a solar system many light-years away from ours from up-close would falsify this theory;
  • A proof that Turing-complete cellular automata can not, in principle, evolve from elementary ops (in a similar fashion as described in this article) would falsify this theory;
  • An inability to derive the four fundamental forces from the Law of Attraction would invalidate this theory;
  • There are many other ways to falsify the theory, which become clear once one understands the theory.

10. Some Consequences

  • Infinities don’t exist, but there are closed causal loops that one can follow infinitely. You can imagine running around a geometric circle forever. But you can’t zoom in further than the Plank length. The concept of “length” only exists in our subjective interpretation of our Universe. “Infinity” is an invalid symbol that doesn’t represent anything real.
  • All ordered structures in all Universes arise from Natural Selection.
  • In our Universe, nothing exists outside our solar system. What we can actually observe is all there is.
  • Whenever you look at things that have existed longer than you or are far away, you’re literally looking back in time. This is what was back then, as seen by you, the observer, not what is.
  • It is possible (but speculative) that “dying” is not a thing, and that the simulation is bootstrapping your mind in a virtual body. Once you die, you will be reunited with everyone else (kind of like Christianity’s Heaven, or the afterworld in Lost). It really depends on how we design the system, and if we can take “snapshots” of your mind, but IMO it would be pointless to design it in a way where death is the end state.
  • The theory predicts that models of the Universe is will become weird at small and large scales because when you zoom into very small scales, you see things that existed in the past (a projection of early abstract cellular automatons) and if you look far away you’re looking into a virtual distance that’s just a projection subjective to you.
  • General Relativity and Quantum Physics will never converge, and it is fundamentally impossible, but also not important, because there is no interesting objective past that we could look at.
  • We live in a 4D world, but the fourth dimension (time) is folded into another reality. We exist in virtual 3D space on a 1d timeline in a “classical” reality, which is the simulated reality from our view (you could say both Realities swap timelines). That’s also why modeling our inside view as a unified spacetime is weird.
  • The initial singularity, or nothing, is simply nothing yet being simulated (no information). Imagine a program that outputs a uniformly random string: This program literally creates nothing. The ”Big Bang” were early abstract automatons, they had no physical form, and the “language of Physics in 4D spacetime” had not yet emerged.
  • Human consciousness is the highest form of consciousness that exists in our simulation, and we will build the simulator in our Universe. We are literally God (if you want to call it that way), discovering the right method for simulating other Universes and ultimately ourselves.
  • Consciousness is the mind talking to itself in a set of mind languages called qualia. All processes that cause anything to exist in the world are aware, but not all have a self or are self-conscious. To maintain a self, an object must store information about itself in the state (e.g. the information contained in an animal nervous system).
  • Many more! The SMSTEA answers every answerable question and tells you which questions aren’t answerable. That’s the point :)

11. TL;DR

The SMSTEA is a strong computational theory that’s inspired by Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Argument and the work of many others (Dawkins, Gödel, Hofstadter, Chalmers, Wolfram,…).

12. Recommended Reading

If the key concepts used in this article sound foreign to you (such as computational Physics, formal languages, quantum ops, qualia, incompleteness, the halting problem, memes, strange loops, thermodynamic entropy, assembly numbers, evolutionary algorithms, the Fermi paradox, or simulation), refer to this list of literature recommendations.

Epilogue: It From Bit

Adam: Any ideas on how to create a self-conscious mind?

  • One first adds 1 to 1 and repeats that process another 2 times to get a new concept called 4.
  • They then create a meme called “multiplication” (which means adding things over and over again) and multiply 4 by 4, yielding 16.
  • They “multiply” 16 by 2 and add 4 two times, and finally add 1 two times.

Special thanks

I’d like to thank a few people for their feedback and support.

  • Thomas Kerbl, for being one of the very first people to enter a discussion about the theory pointing out a bunch of flaws;
  • Florian Pressler, for being open-minded and asking good questions;
  • Stefan Streichsbier, for a long discussion about the theory and for raising objections that many intelligent people come up with;
  • Clemens Foisner, for directing my attention to the work of several philosophers;
  • Ted A. Human (a.k.a. a.rambler on Discord), for co-writing a (yet unreleased) FAQ for this ToE, despite disagreeing on some aspects;
  • Charles Cooper, for continuously informing me about related concepts and writings;
  • Douglas Hofstadter, for responding to my emails and taking the time to read two versions of the article. While he found the article to be too abstract for his liking and wouldn’t comment on its contents, his email responses were positive and motivating;
  • … if you ended up reading this whole article and are not planning to insult me or advise me to visit a mental hospital, then consider yourself listed.



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Bernhard Mueller

Bernhard Mueller


Hackers (1995) fan • “Best Research” Pwnie Awardee • Former degen trader • P(G(F)) = ∀y q(y, G(F))