When speaking about other universes people usually consider altered physical laws, while leaving logic and other basic things unchanged.

What if to consider other universes based not on different physics? Particularly, define a universe as a flow of qualia, thus considering universes with different flows of qualia? I think this expands the range of possible universes a lot.

Example: when you are sleeping you feel like living in a different universe, but that universe has no physical laws and totally different logic. Yet it generates a flow of qualia so can be considered quite an example of a universe (if it were not followed with awakening).

Other examples:

  • Universe where everything the observer believes true is true.

  • Universe where everything the observer wants happens.

  • Universe where everything the observer fears happens (consider here Warhammer universe with its Chaos zone).

  • Universe where everything the observer imagines happens (quite close to the world described in "The Chronicles of Amber" by Roger Zelazny)

  • Universe where there are only different smells and no space, form or geometry.


I think the sleeping dream universe is quite a strong case because it changes not only perceptive qualia but also reasoning qualia, altering the whole process of thinking.

Of course, if we define universe as a flow of qualia, the observer is necessary in every universe and he is unique in each universe.

What can be other possible universes based on qualia-based definition?

I also wonder whether the above examples are uncontroversial. Can a universe where everything the observer wants or believes exist? Can it lead to paradoxes?

  • $\begingroup$ I can't formulate any useful commentary right now, but I feel like Observer Mechanics (ToC here: cogsci.uci.edu/%7Eddhoff/ompref.pdf ) is a tome that would interest you. $\endgroup$ – SudoSedWinifred Sep 16 '16 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ Won't this question develop towards solipsism? $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Sep 16 '16 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ This is really, really, really broad. (Though a very interesting question and a great candidate for Universe Factory <- The Blog) $\endgroup$ – James Sep 16 '16 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ "Can a universe where everything the observer wants or believes exist? Can it lead to paradoxes?" -- What if the observer wants there to be no universes? Reminds me of the Grandfather paradox. $\endgroup$ – NuWin Sep 16 '16 at 18:12

You are attempting to answer the thought experiment, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Wikipedia, as linked, has a pretty in-depth view of the philosophical takes on the matter.

Important to your question is the concept of 'unperceived existence'. While I can't speak for you, my life has certainly taught me that my perception of things is not the same as the truth. I am wrong all the time, and I can't understand why, because I could swear that I experienced something a certain way but it turns out something else actually happened. In the universe you are proposing, your personal experience is an equally valid reality to what actually happened in the 'real' world..if it even happened since you need someone to experience it for it to become part of a universe.

This leads to another concept: how can your reality be 'real' if there is no way to share it? If each person's qualia are their own universe, and nothing is real unless experienced, then since your qualia can't be identical to someone else's you can't exist in the same universe as them.

What I argue for, in this case, is that qualia cannot define its own separate universe, because it cannot be communicated to anyone else in its entirety. Even the very mode of communication (writing, speech, ESP) will alter the experience of the second-hand receiver of experiences. If there is no way to pass on information about this universe, because the act of passing this information creates another universe, then the original universe isn't a useful concept. There has to be a shared 'tether', a shared set of facts that everyone can agree on that people can use to communicate to each other, something like a language, shared experience (not personal experience, like qualia), or something.

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In this explanation every person inhabits his or her own universe distinct from all others. What's more, each person experiences multiple universes and they change all the time. When they're sleeping, drunk, traveling, changing careers or friend groups.

This is interesting to think about up to a point, but what of reality? That thing which still exists when you stop paying attention to it? Everything else is hallucination, imagination or dreaming.

The question is: are any of these hypothetical universes actually real. Meaning, can multiple people experience them, can independent experiences of the universe be lined up and compared to find common ground? Can a new person show up and experience a similar thing?

If one of your odd universes was actually real and other people could reliably (or even unreliably) share it, that could be very interesting.

Philip K Dick explores these questions at great detail. In fact that might be what he was all about. Eye In The Sky explores the universe of desires. Several novels posit alternate shared realities accessible through hallucinogenic drugs. Several other novels posit that it's possible to experience a life skipping between universes. He once said "Please take my word on it that I am not joking; this is very serious... often people claim to remember past lives; I claim to remember a different, very different, present life."

What other universes are possible? All of them. Everything anyone can imagine and then some.

More importantly though, which of these possible universes can be shared? I'm not sure, but please think deeply on this and then write about it and maybe in a small way I can share something of the universe you create.

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  • $\begingroup$ No, the question is not whether they are real, but whether they are conceivable. $\endgroup$ – Anixx Sep 16 '16 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, then yes. They are conceivable. As long as they don't have to be shared it's quite easy. Imagine yourself blind and deaf. You're half way to conceiving of a universe consisting only of smells. It's private though and I don't find it interesting enough to take the next step. $\endgroup$ – jorfus Sep 16 '16 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ what about a universe where everything you believe is true? $\endgroup$ – Anixx Sep 16 '16 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ Certainly possible Eye in the Sky explores the idea of reality based on an individual's wishes. The puritanical prude imagines a world where there's a literal eye in the sky watching everyone's actions and everyone's genital area is smooth like a plastic doll. The other characters revolt and then control shifts to the next person. Rinse and repeat. Each successive reality is broken in some way based on the limits of imagination of the person in control. What if our reality is like that? What if we're all living in someone else's dream? What if this is the wish world but you're not the wisher? $\endgroup$ – jorfus Sep 16 '16 at 17:25

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