Seven proofs that atoms are conscious

And that everything in the universe is happy. Except for us.

Proof 1: emergent properties are a myth. (Think what that implies!)

Science is not magic. Or put another way, the universe is ordered. If it was not ordered then there would be no point in doing or thinking anything: as everything would just reverse at any time for no reason. As long as there is a restriction to those reversals, there is order. But where causes that order?

If order "just exists" without any rules to cause it, then there is nothing to stop some completely different rules from taking over. Perhaps we will all turn into teapots. Perhaps unicorns will reverse gravity. Without guiding rules, we have no order. And those rules must be simpler than the thing they control, or else they are even more arbitrary and the universe has become more chaotic, not less.

So if order exists, if thought has any value, all things must be caused by simpler things. Following this logic, all guiding forces must be ultimately be contained within a single point in space (which itself must he implied by no assumptions at all.)

(objection: the myth of emergent properties)

Some people argue that the universe is magic. That is, that emergent properties can just magically appear, without existing in their component parts. Let us look at some examples to see why this makes no sense. All emergent properties are contained within the component parts. By "emergent property" we simply mean we choose one of the many possibilities that exist within the components. Here are some examples:

Proof 2: we are predictable plus random

Think of a decision. Any decision. Or any belief about the real world. In fact, anything that might exist in your mind. Could this decision (or belief) be predicted with one hundred percent accuracy, given all the evidence available to you? If a decision can be predicted, then it is like a clockwork mechanism: no special explanation is required. If any part of it cannot be predicted (no matter how much information we have), then (by definition) that decision must be random. Think what that means: the mind is just predictable stuff plus random stuff, just like every atom in the universe. There is no difference! No magic sauce! Atoms make decisions in the same way we do: either predictably or randomly.

(objection: the myth of free will)

Free will is "the ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded." (Wikipedia, citing Edward Heleger, 1910, and J. Omoregie, 2015.) If we let a machine make random decisions without stopping it, then by definition it has free will. Even if a machine is entirely predictable, it may have evolved to be a very efficient way to make decisions, so it should still be allowed to act unimpeded. Of course, the machine's environment guides the decisions it can make: the nearby walls, paths, fuels, etc. The same is true for humans.

Proof 3: consciousness is made of one dimension

We evolve to survive. So our minds only contain information that has survival value. Work, play, math and curiosity all improve our odds of survival. If an idea has zero potential survival value then it has no meaning to us. So every idea in our minds can be broken down into units of one dimension (survival). We experience it as happiness (or unhappiness). That is, we really just experience one thing: pulses of happiness (or unhappiness). So, human consciousness is so simple that it could be encoded in a single atom, or less.

(objection: the myth of a complex higher mind)

A mind may firmly believe that it sees a complex picture. But that is simply a belief, a yes/no state. A yes/no state can be encoded in a single atom or less. All we know for sure is that the mind can access individual parts. For example, look out of the window and you can see trees and houses. Look at the tree and you can see many leaves. Look at a leaf and you can see its many properties: its colour, shape, movement, etc. Yet each of these is a yes/no state: it either is or is not a certain shade of green, it either is or is not in a certain position, etc. When we look closely, everything becomes yes/no. But we see so many yes/no questions, dozens every second, that we simplify them into the yes/no state of "yes we see it all".

Proof 4: Occam's razor

Earlier we saw that all feelings are measures of survival. Or in other words, measures of existence. Does this measure need a measuring tape? Does it need a little homunculus to watch it? No, Occam's razor says the measure of existence is existence itself. So conscious feelings are simply existence. Consciousness equals existence. There is no difference.

Proof 5: our brains simplify thoughts as much as possible

Brains evolve in competition: you have to out think the brains of competitors, and of other people who might take your resources. So evolution favours faster brains, and taking short cuts wherever necessary. But you (your mind) works slowly. Because it needs to look around, think, pull up memories, look around again, guess possible futures, and so on. So as far as possible, decisions do not take place in the mind, but are automated as quick, mindless habits.

Experiments confirm that we do not see complex scenes, we only sample them. "Eye-tracking software can show us a page filled with Xs with one word positioned exactly where we are looking , and we have the experience of seeing a full page of text. We can't even see two or more colours at once but switch between one at a time. In general, our richness of experience seems to be a construct." (From the Guardian Review of Nick Chater's "The Mind of Flat")

We can try some of these experiments ourselves. E.g. read a book like "Where's Waldo?" Clearly you do not see the whole scene at once, you have to scan the details one at a time. Another experiment is to think of a word. Say it a hundred times: it ceases to have any meaning. Then try to reconstruct that meaning: what is a chair? What is "red"? It is merely a summary of other experiences. Try to trace those experiences: we can go back and back until we reach the bedrock: pleasure or pain. That is, survival or not. Existence or not. So everything is meaningless except as a reference to one dimensional existence.

Proof 6: one dimension to rule them all

If a mind is in control then it must be one dimensional. Because "no man can serve two masters". This is why. Our brain is an organisation of billions of neurons, all working together to make decisions for the single goal of survival. But sometimes they will send conflicting results. Like, a signal from your stomach says "drink", but you just saw a predator approaching the watering hole so another signal says "run". So you need a rule to make a decision. But sometimes rules disagree: after all, if you always run at every possible hint of danger, then you never drink, and so you die. So you need higher and higher level rules, about rules, about rules. Finally one rule combines every possible input and makes a final decision. Now, if this highest rule is multi-dimensional, comparing both "x"s and "y"s, then it might find that "x" say "drink" and "y"s say "run". So there must be an even higher rule to decide which matters the most. And so, no matter how many different ideas you think of at once, the highest point of control has to be a single one dimensional point.

(objection: the myth of the multidimensional mind)

We might say that the mind is multidimensional because it can think of many different things at once. But there is no need for this: a one dimensional mind could simply switch between topics many times per second. The fact that our minds can be distracted suggests that we do this: we only focus on one thing at a time. And as shown, if the mind does process ideas in parallel, then it cannot be in final control of the brain. You can either control decisions or you can process in parallel, you cannot do both.

Proof 7: anything humans can do, a subatomic particle can do better

let us finish by looking at a list of human behaviours and comparing what a subatomic particle can do. We will see that all a human simply multiplies what the particle can do, but loses abilities along the way.


In conclusion, happiness is existence. Everything else is illusion. Atoms are happy because their existence is very secure. Humans are often unhappy because our existence is very fragile and temporary. But once we cease being humans then our bodies decompose and our parts, including our minds, become much happier.

One side effect of decomposing is that we no longer need to worry about time. We can happily drift for a billion years just enjoying the universe like all our trillions of brothers and sisters. Another side effect is that we can be reborn, incorporated into some other poor living thing (hopefully not for too long), or be reborn in the heart of a star. If we are simple enough then we might even survive the end of the universe. We can do anything, go everywhere, and it is all wonderful! Unless you are human. But the human condition does not last very long.