But now let's turn to this other metaphor, which I want help from Marvin with. Now the monkeys are not typing into a typewriter, but into a computer keyboard. Let's suppose this computer is accepting what the monkeys are typing as instructions to perform computational tasks. This means that, for instance, because there are short programs for producing the digits of pi you don't need that many monkeys typing for that long until all of a sudden pi is being produced by the computer. If you got a monkey that's managed to produce a program to produce a dime, then all it has to do is hit return and it's got two dimes, right? Monkeys are probably pretty good at hitting return. There's a nice theory associated with this called algorithmic information theory, which says that if you've got monkeys typing into a computer the fact is that anything that can be realistically described by a mathematical equation, by a computer computing things, will at some point show up for these monkeys. In the monkey-typing-into-the-computer universe, all sorts of complex things arise naturally by the natural evolution of the universe.

I would suggest, merely as a metaphor here, but also as the basis for a scientific program to investigate the computational capacity of the universe, that this is also a reasonable explanation for why the universe is complex. It gets programmed by little random quantum fluctuations, like the same sorts of quantum fluctuations that mean that our galaxy is here rather than somewhere else. According to the standard model billions of years ago some little quantum fluctuation, perhaps a slightly lower density of matter, maybe right where we're sitting right now, caused our galaxy to start collapsing around here. It was just a little quantum fluctuation, but it programmed the universe and it's important for where we are, because I'm very glad to be here and not billions of miles away in outer space. Similarly, another famous little quantum fluctuation that programs you is the exact configuration of your DNA. The program takes strands of DNA from your mother and from your father, splits them up, and wires them together, recombines them. This is a process that has lots of randomness in it, as you know if you have siblings. If you trace that randomness down, you find that that randomness is actually arising from little quantum fluctuations, which masquerade as thermal and chemical fluctuations. Your genes got programmed by quantum fluctuation. There's nothing wrong with that, nothing to be ashamed of — that's just the way things are. Your genes are very important to you, and they themselves form a kind of program for your life, and how your body functions.

In this metaphor we actually have a picture of the computational universe, a metaphor which I hope to make scientifically precise as part of a research program. We have a picture for how complexity arises, because if the universe is computationally capable, maybe we shouldn't be so surprised that things are so entirely out of control.

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