Lloyd v. Birnbaum

David Birnbaum Philosophy

August 22, 2014

focus: Potentialism Theory by David Birnbaum

Lloyd v. Birnbaum


The Universal Computer and the Cosmic Womb of Potential

Summa Metaphysica's unified Potentialism Theory
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Is Seth Lloyd's universal cosmic computer the same as David Birnbaum's Cosmic Womb?

In 2006, Lloyd, Professor of Quantum Mechanics at MIT, released his groundbreaking work, Programming the Universe. In his seminal book, Lloyd posits that the universe is one giant quantum computer. He states that, “the ordinary laws of physics tell us nothing about why the universe is so complex.” Lloyd believes that physicists are missing the bigger picture of the universe. Per Lloyd’s daring hypothesis, the universe itself is a sublime cosmic quantum computer, which self-iterates infinitely as it increases ‘the complexity’ of the universe.

In parallel – but eighteen years prior – David Birnbaum of Manhattan – private scholar and metaphysicist, unleashed his Summa Metaphysica I (launching what would be a 3-part treatise), in 1988 (see SummaMetaphysica.com). In Summa, Birnbaum presents his original and powerful cosmic theory of Potentialism. In Summa Metaphysica's Potentialism Theory, the universe itself is inherently driven towards ever-increasing ‘Complexification’ – ever-greater complexity/sophistication/richness/variety/wondrousness – seeking after its own Potential.

Note that Lloyd’s 2006 ‘complexity’ is included in Birnbaum’s wider-spectrum 1988 ‘Complexification’. But note that per Birnbaum the overarching drive is towards infinite Potential, with Complexification being but a subordinate mechanism towards that goal; per Lloyd the goal and the mechanism are the same – ‘plain vanilla’ complexity.

According to Summa Metaphysica's Potentialism Theory, Infinite Potential will unerringly drive the cosmos forward towards an ultimate end-goal Birnbaum calls Extraordinariation – a utopian state of super-Complexification in a wide-spectrum deployment. To Birnbaum this utopian state of perfect Potentialism is a horizon/goal to be approached – but never quite realized (see www.summametaphysica.com/extraordinariation/).

Per Summa Metaphysica's Potentialism Theory, this great journey of Complexification occurs within what Birnbaum calls the (metaphysical) Cosmic Womb of Potential. In perhaps over-simplified terms, the Cosmic Womb can be thought of as somewhat synonymous with the universe. But, whereas people usually speak of the physical universe when they talk about it – the Cosmic Womb is a closer representation of the entirety of the universe – from the physical thru the metaphysical thru the abstract – where ideas, ideals and concepts – and possibilities – all reside as well.

On the surface, Lloyd and Birnbaum seem to agree on a lot, and they do. Both play with complexity; both have an infinitely iterating universe; both have a fully integrated holistic universe; both have a self-contained-self-actualizing universe. The Birnbaum universe may be richer, more textured, and more multi-dimensional, but the two theorists have radically more in common than in which they differ.

Birnbaum and Lloyd conceptually part ways on two particular points: (a) the intentionality of the birth of the universe and (b) the role of the metaphysical/abstract, conceptual universe – that part of the Cosmic Womb which Lloyd fails to address. However, there is nothing in either metaphysics which so-to-speak contradicts the other.

Universal intentionality

Regarding intentionality, Lloyd thinks the current drive of the universe is real and with intention, but its beginnings were accidental. Lloyd believes at some point the universe, through its endless sharing of bits of information as expressed by particles and energy, eventually and accidentally gave rise to a cosmic program, which is guiding the universe.

Birnbaum himself would certainly be the first to articulate that the universe acts very much with intention. But where Lloyd believes the universe ‘accidentally stumbled’ into creation, Potentialism hypothesizes that the universe always had purpose – infinite Quest for Potential – and that has guided it from eternal origins’ (see www.Sequence1000.com).

Chicken & Egg paradox

Fundamentally, it is the chicken and egg paradox of what came first. Lloyd believes the universe came first, then intention (complexity); Birnbaum states that both are simultaneous; the universe (Quest for Potential in its myriad manifestations) and the intention (Quest for Potential) – are one-and-the-same and inextricably linked.

Cosmic iteration:  How prescient?

Birnbaum (1988) is indeed in-sync with Lloyd's later assertion (2006) that the universe can be seen as an iterative computational enterprise; but, per Birnbaum, the iterations are for wider-spectrum Complexification, not just for ‘plain vanilla’ complexity; furthermore, per Birnbaum,  all Complexification (Evolution included) factors-in ultimate Extraordinariation; the Lloyd schema does not give the entire process much prescience. The Lloyd schema is operating (exclusively) in the present, and not integrating into the process a future-goal of Extraordinariation, as per Birnbaum.

Master v. Slave

Conceptually, to Lloyd the universal computer is the ‘master; whereas, to Birnbaum Lloyd’s universal computer, to the extent which it exists, is the ‘slave’ to the true master – Quest for Potential∞. Birnbaum (who, by the way, has a BSc. in Computer Science) will yield extraordinary discretion to infinite divine potential; not to a computer of any sort.


Teleology is the classic physical/metaphysical question of whether the universe has an overarching goal. Aristotle had proposed back c. 350 BCE that the universe had a teleology – but he simply could not discern its parameters. To the pinnacle players in 20th century academe – typically associated with Randomness/Atheism – the universe has no teleology – no purpose, no direction, no design, no ‘arrow.’  Rather, it is aimless and ever decaying.

Potentialists (21st century) are rather horrified by Randomness/Atheists (20th century) – and vice versa.  The two groups are sort of like intellectual oil & water, with differing modalities of consciousness thrown into-the-mix.

Both Birnbaum and Lloyd stand together on opposite sides of the divide from the (British) Randomness/Atheists; the two Americans have related teleologies, both including ‘complexity’ as a key factor in-the-mix.

Birnbaum ‘wraps-around’ Lloyd

Both Birnbaum and Lloyd deploy ‘drive to more complexity’ in their teleologies. To Lloyd, ‘drive to more complexity’ is the basic teleology. To Birnbaum, the ‘drive to complexity’ is a component of Complexification, which in turn is subordinate to Infinite Quest for Potential’s march towards Extraordinariation. Thus, the Birnbaum teleology is de facto wrapping-around the Lloyd teleology, just as the Birnbaum conceptual structure (Cosmic Womb of Potential) wraps-around Lloyd’s universal computer (see ParadigmChallenge).

Conceptualization as a universal phenomena

And that brings us to the second issue Birnbaum parts ways with Lloyd on. Lloyd's cosmological model is essentially mechanistic.

Indeed, Lloyd describes himself as a Quantum Mechanic. Birnbaum describes himself as a Conceptual Theorist. So, their basic self-definitions set-the-stage for the divergence in their cosmologies:  Lloyd’s is radically more mechanistic; Birnbaum’s is radically more conceptual.

Lloyd only describes the physical universe. But the physical is not the total sum of the universe's parts. As mentioned in defining the Cosmic Womb, the universe must include every aspect of reality. Excluding, as Lloyd does, conceptualization, morality, emotion, beauty.... this is artificially viewing the universe that exists – as a world far less complex than it really is. It's also defining a cosmology based on incomplete information, which is readily and undeniably at hand.

To be clear, Lloyd's insights into the mechanistic part of the universe are insightful and key – and revolutionary. His theory speaks to his talent as a cutting-edge quantum mechanical engineer and his theory is a daring exposition. But viewing the universe in purely mechanical terms, instead of through the perspective of the Cosmic Womb is somewhat akin to touring a country by viewing black & white photographs;  a degree of ‘texture’ is lost.

An overarching metaphysics

That is where Birnbaum's metaphysical approach and the use of the Cosmic Womb come into play. It allows one to view the texture and panoply of the universe from not only the quantitative, analytical, mechanistic perspective, but also from the qualitative.

In short, the Cosmic Womb is not so much different from Lloyd's mechanistic interpretation as it is an overarching organic metaphysical edifice within which Lloyd's quantum mechanical enterprise operates. Lloyd provides perhaps a key piece of the great cosmic puzzle. Lloyd’s construct is key to understanding a key level of the mechanics of the universal workings; however, without the metaphysical big picture understanding – we would fall short of a full understanding of what is truly at work. Potentialism, by contrast, allows for a stepping back and viewing of the Cosmic Womb itself, allowing one to see the grand mosaic that the component puzzle pieces are filling-in.

Birnbaum’s “take” on Lloyd

Birnbaum himself embraces Lloyd; to Birnbaum, Lloyd provides a hard sciences mechanism to effectuate the goals of Birnbaum’s metaphysical Cosmic Womb; per Birnbaum, one might conceptualize the Cosmic Womb as a metaphysical “glove” fitting over Lloyd’s quantum computer “hand”.  The two become as one in advancing cosmic goals and driving the universe forward (see SummaCoverage.com).

focus: David Birnbaum's Potentialism Theory


The SuperLaw of Potentialism Theory in David Birnbaum's philosophy, cosmology, metaphysics:

Q4P > C+ > E+

See www.Glossary1000.com and www.SuperLaw1000.com.

For more focus in multiple languages on David Birnbaum's philosophy, cosmology and metaphysics, see www.PotentialismTheory.com

David Birnbaum Metaphysics

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