In Michael Talbot's Book 'Holographic Universe' he comes up with some very interesting concepts regarding the nature of the universe (although much of the book is half-esoteric nonsense).

Especially the relationship between humans as what can basically be described as a shard of the whole (the universe) had me thinking for quite some time. In the later chapters Talbot proposes the possibility of actively changing the universe as an individual, as the individual is essentially the whole (by being part of it. This is owed to the nature of hologram-shards containing all the information of the whole).
I've also encountered similar ideas in eastern theology and philosophy, but couldn't really find anything concrete on this school of thought.

So my question is, is there a school of philosophy that further discusses these ideas and their implications? Can you recommend any books on this topic?

  • The Black Hole War by Lenny Susskind would be a good place to start.
    – David H
    Jun 12, 2013 at 11:43
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    Do keep in mind that these ideas are wrong, so while it may be fun to think about the implications, one should do so primarily for entertainment value.
    – Rex Kerr
    Jun 15, 2013 at 11:46
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    @RexKerr: That's a reckless thing to say. 'Generally considered wrong' maybe, but simply 'wrong'? I don't know, who says that, what evidence is there? Don't get me wrong, If you can point me to irrefutable proof of its wrongness I'd be happy to dismiss this principle. Jun 18, 2013 at 7:37
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    @RexKerr - I see where you're coming from and I can appreciate that. But I'd just rather form my own opinion, than take someones word for it. So let me phrase my request differently: Can you point me to publications exploring the flaws of the holographic principle? Jun 19, 2013 at 8:40
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    @bumbumfish - My criticism of the overall concept is more muted. I find it somewhat counterintuitive and woefully lacking in evidence, but there are also plenty of cases where conserved quantities are perfectly well-described by surface integrals instead of volume integrals. So I don't think it's blatantly wrong, but I await clear demonstration that it is a superior way (or even a correct way) to think about the problem. It's easy to transform your models using mathematics into something weird; the hard part is showing that this form is natural in some sense and not just, well, weird.
    – Rex Kerr
    Nov 14, 2013 at 3:05

2 Answers 2


Not as far as I know. The most successful illustration is the AdS/CFT duality which basically says two theories are dual to each other, that is they can be transformed into each other and therefore describe the same phenomena. One theory uses the data in the world-volume, and the other data on the world-boundary.

A primitive correlate of this idea is one that usually appears in intoductory calculus courses, that is, consider a sphere with a permeable boundary in a river; now the change of volume in a sphere can be reconstucted from how much water is coming into or leaving the boundary of the sphere.

What is important is what physical insights one can get from the holographic principle; this is different from reality as such. Physics is not reality - unless of course you subscribe to some form of physicalism, but even then a positivist attitude will insist on measurable effects - and there has been so far, no indications of additional dimensions.

That one can tie two different kinds of theories together like this is already interesting. The best-known example ties a string theory (a generalisation of gravitation) in the volume and a Yangs-Mills theory (a generalisation of electro-magnetism) on the boundary.

Talbot books mixes esoteric traditions and physics together - which is probably a good thing in some ways - and a bad thing in others.

One shouldn't construe by this that I'm saying that esoteric traditions are a bad thing - they're not - but they are part of a tradition & a truth which in many ways is at a distinct distance from physics; but as Talbot has spotted they have somethin in common.

One might suppose this is the same kind of insight that Pythagoras had when he said that the world was number.

By mixing traditions, one can do a dis-service to both. Rather like fusion cusine.


It's worth pointing out that holography, in the real world, actually already requires a third dimension for it to work. For example, when you have an actual hologram printed on, say a card, then this obviously occupies a 2d, surface; the hologram that we then see, is then a 3d image; but notice that the hologram didn't actually construct the actual 3d space; that already pre-exists! So a hologram, at least here, constructs a 3d image in a pre-existing 3d space from an existing 2d surface. Which is wonderful and marvellous, when you first see it, but not at all an earth-shattering phenomenon ...


Do we live in a simulation? Is the world just a hologram? I see threads about simulation that do not mention holograms. Am I correct that this is the same question? …

  • Welcome to Philosophy SE, John. It is encouraged that questions like these are put in comments rather than answers; you probably don't have access to comments yet but when you do I'd encourage you to delete this answer and ask this as a comment instead so as to avoid possible downvoting.
    – Tim B II
    Feb 4, 2018 at 22:00

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