A Matrioshka Brain; Are We Inside One?

Imagine, a supercomputer, the size of a solar system, or the universe. A technological miracle! It would be made of hypothesized material called ‘computronium’, a programmable material, i.e. we can program and control uniquely the same material for functioning as different electronics. A revolutionary material in nano-technology. A ‘matrioshka brain’ is a type of above mentioned supercomputer. It was first proposed by the nano-technician and physicist, Robert Bradbury. So here is a brief on this cosmic megastructure:

What is a Matrioshka Brain?

A Matrioshka Brain, is a very advanced supercomputer, that could harness the complete energy of a star, and is so powerful that it can hypothetically control its software, and create codes/programs as improvement as the time passes, and thus ‘grow and evolve with time’. Theoretically it size can vary from as ‘small’ as the Solar System to as large as the Universe. It gets its name, from the Russian ‘matryoshka dolls’, which resemble its nested dyson sphere structure.


A Matryoshka Doll

How can a Matrioshka Brain be built?

The most common idea of building one, is by using nested Dyson Spheres, or a Dyson Swarm, which are stellar engines of Class B. A stellar engine is basically a heat engine that can be used to harness the energy of a star, like our sun, completely. There are three classes of stellar engines:- Class A: These are giant parabolic mirrors(Shkadov Thrusters), which use the asymetrical scattering of the star’s radiation and thus radiation pressure, to generate a finite thrust, thus modifying the trajectory of the star, and hence the star system. Class B: These engines like use the energy of the star’s radiation to harness useful work and store it too. Dyson Spheres are basically a giant hollow sphere of nano-electronics, made most probably of the material computronium, that encloses the star, and the temperature difference inside the sphere due to star, and outside in the cold space, makes it a heat engine, that can absorb a part of the energy, convert it into useful work and radiate the rest. In a Matrioshka Brain, a nested system of such Dyson Spheres, uses the complete energy of the star, by absorbing a part of energy released by the preceding layer, and radiating the remaining to the next layer, and this continues until all of the energy is absorbed and converted into useful work. Class C: These are a hybrid of Class A and Class B engines and can be used for both, thrust generation and energy-work conversion.

When can we think of building one?

Not soon. According to the ‘Kardashev Scale’, three types of intelligent civilizations are possible, based on their energy consumption. Type I are capable of harnessing and storing and using all the energy available in the planet it is living in. A Type II civilization is advanced enough to harness all the energy of its host star. Type III civilization, the most advance of all, will be capable of controlling the whole Universe and also harness its energy. We are almost a Type I civilization, according to Sagan-Kardashev Scale, we are at a rating of 0.767, which is almost Type 1. To build dyson spheres, we need to be at least as advanced as a Type II civilization, and according to Dr. Michio Kaku it mihgt take us thousands of years to become a Type II civilization and around a million years for Type III. Kardashev believed it wasn’t possible to be more advanced than a Type III, which honestly sounds science fiction itself, but some scientists predict Type Iv and Type V(God Level) civilizations.


The types of civilizations possible, based on energy consumption. Type I:All energy on the planet, Type II: All Energy of the host star and Type III: Energy from all of the Universe

The Crazy Part!

Some people, including the entrepreneur and scientist, Elon Musk, believe that we might be living inside a Matrioshka Brain! Why? Well, a matrioshka brain will be so powerfull that it could create its own simulations, and programs, and evolve with time by changing and improving its software and codes and updating itself. It will be so advanced, that it is theorized that we could upload our memories, or ‘consciousness’, or simply all the data we gained and learn in our lifetimes on  a matrioshka brain, and it can thereafter create a working simulation based on these memories , which will be just like this universe. Why will we do this? Because a matrioshka brain is so power consuming and efficient that it will use up all the energy of its host star and so no life will be possible, and the only alternative way to ‘survive’ will be uploading your memories into it. Its programming will be so near-perfect that it will be next to impossible for its ‘simulated life’ to differentiate the a programmed universe from a real one, or to say discover that they are a part of a simulation. This is also beneficial in a way that, we will not face any energy crisis of fossil fuels and similar energy problems as a species because we are ‘just a program code’, and the energy we will be(or are) using in the program will be(or is) a simulation as well, whereas in the real Universe, only the machine is using the energy of its host star(s).

Why is there a crazy part?

The reason people like Elon Musk believe we can be living inside a matrioshka brain is that it answers one of the biggest paradoxes of all time, The Fermi Paradox. The paradox is that in such a large Universe, with so much probability for alien life, why have we not come across one. Which is a completely logical question. A matrioshka brain offers one of the solutions. Perhaps we, or some species, actually advanced to become a type II civilization, uploaded their consciousness and memories into a matrioshka brain, in order to escape the cycle of finding more and more energy resources for continuing a life-death cycle of its species, and also, in a way ‘become immortal’. Since now only their memories and data has been uploaded, all other alien life is absent from the machine’s memory unit and thus its programmed simulation, and so its simulated life won’t find any other life alongside them in the vast, unimaginably real, and also simulated universe.


Artisr’s representation of a dyson sphere

Still don’t face an existential crisis? What do you think? Are we in one, and if not, when can we build one, if we ever can? Well, it might also help me blame my poor marks on the simulation’s codes for me, but that will not help me sleep tonight. Happy reading!

-The Cosmogasmic Person


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