Universe ↔ soloverse

Here’s a thought experiment.

Okay, ready? Imagine the entire universe.

The large-scale structure of galaxies and galaxy clusters in the universe.

Try and imagine all 100+ billion galaxies, in as much rich detail as you can.

Our Milky Way galaxy with its 100,000,000,000 stars and solar systems. All the planets and moons in those solar systems, especially in our solar system, and of course our sun. Sun spots and solar flares. All of the oceans, mountains, and continents on Earth. All of the countries, all of the people in those countries, all of nature, animals, plants, bugs. Every ant, every atom. Now imagine all of history, from the Big Bang to primordial soup to dinosaurs to now, and (why not) forward to the end of time, the last flicker before heat death, then the heat death of the universe itself. Every detail you can fit in, every flourish.

Got it?

Call this object of your imagination, in your head, your “soloverse” — your internal model/map/simulation of the universe. The universe is *out there* (points in all directions). The soloverse is *in here* (taps on your head).

The universe is the territory. The soloverse is the map of that territory.

When you were born, your soloverse was just buzzing swirling static, which slowly settled into warm and cold, light and dark, good and bad. Your soloverse imported standard abstractions from your subconscious (inherited through the ages). Safety. Fear. Love. Trust. Betrayal.

There are also archetypes: Mom, Dad, friend, enemy, boss, crush, stranger, authority figure, teacher, grand parent, etc that people slot easily into as if their characters had been written and actors were playing their well-established roles.

The soloverse grows as you experience more of the world. When you went to the park down the street, your soloverse gained a representation of a park down the street. When you heard someone you trust say something that didn’t come true you gained the concept of a fallible narrator, and of stories. When something important happened to you and nobody else seemed to get it, you gained a sense of self in your soloverse. When Galileo proved that the Earth went around the Sun, he required everyone to make a significant edit to their soloverse, causing some people significant grief.

These models in your soloverse are alive, in their own quirky way. You set them up into a series of potential scenarios watch what happens to them. It’s like playing house, but with the whole universe. You can set up a mental scenario with your simulated father where, say, you dented the simulated car, and you could play out a conversation that might happen. Information about that conversation will spring from the interplay of the autonomous models in your soloverse, with details and outcomes that you could not have arrived at in any other way. You can also set up a mental scenario filled with dinosaurs, asteroids, and (why not) aliens and walk through a narrative without much trouble.

We use this simulation feature of our soloverses constantly. For questions as simple as “What do you want to have for lunch?” or “Which movie should we see?” we will play out different possibilities until the simulated versions of ourselves and other participants collectively enjoys their meal/movie/etc. We use the same method to answer more complicated questions like “Should I get married?” and “Should I work here?”, as well as questions about the past like “Do I think Person A is responsible for Event B?” Because we have limited information about the universe, all we have to go on is our models in our soloverse. By simulating events to the best of our ability, pretty much any question that involves making a guess about the past or future can be played out and “understood” in a limited way.

Watching a movie or reading a book or listening to a friend recount his/her day are all basically guided simulations.

Of course, our ability to understand the universe by running simulations in our soloverse has limitations.

If this thought experiment is at all accurate (run it through some simulations to determine your own opinion on the matter), there is one implication that I think is worth pointing out.

We should pay more attention to the health of our soloverse. Because the soloverse is the foundation upon which we build our sense of self, our sense of others, and our sense of the character and purpose of the universe, it seems to me that we should tend to it in a more deliberate manner.


Still thinking about it, and might write another post about it. In the meantime, open to ideas, thoughts, comments.



Principal Product Mgr: @Medium. Author: “Why Are We Yelling? The Art of Productive Disagreement”. Notetaker: busterbenson.com. Builder: new.750words.com.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Buster Benson

Principal Product Mgr: @Medium. Author: “Why Are We Yelling? The Art of Productive Disagreement”. Notetaker: busterbenson.com. Builder: new.750words.com.