Wolfram, in his book "a new kind of science" (poorly written, full of himself, but FASCINATING DATA) shows how scores of different kinds of the complex cellular automata (one example here) can simulate each other, and in a sense, ANY cellular automata (or mathematical system, or machine) which is reasonably complex enough can do ANYTHING that we consider interesting. This leads me to the following kinds of questions:
is the kind of biological life we have (and brains and behavior and minds and experiences) a consequence of the particular kind of chemistry this universe gives us, or would ANY remotely interesting chemistry be able to produce critters like us? Wolfram's results HINT at a yes for the latter possibility.
This is interesting because we can extend it to the following dilemma:
There is a concept called the cosmological anthropic principle. (look it up) In it SOME physicists say that if the physical constants to the universe as we understand them now, where just .00000001% different, suns would not form, atoms would not be created in them, and no chemistry even would result, let alone life. These people and some christians too, use this argument to say that the universe was fine tuned to create us, and that means either a god who loves us created it, or the universe itself is some kind of god who loves us.
Their argument is faulty however! Yes, we can tell that if the universe where .0000001% different our kind of chemistry and suns and planets and life wouldn't exist, BUT we are NO WHERE near capable as physicists and mathematicians to predict what ELSE might happen. (We had quantum chemistry for 60 years or so and never even figured out Bucky Balls from scratch!) Things on space and time scales that we couldn't imagine might become interesting instead, and this might be interesting enough in the sense of Wolfram's results, to create systems that could create TOTALLY different critters, who can nevertheless become richly interesting, come to explore and 'know' the universe and be 'worthy of a god's love'.
So where does that leave us?
If in a 1000 more years of math and science we COULD show that this universe is the only kind that can produce interesting beings, well, that would be interesting. can't imagine how we could do that, but there are some mathematical results that might point the way.
the other result? say we can map out ALL possible physicses.. (ok, maybe 10,000 years from now...) and show that 99% of them end up with something interesting (this is like exploring the phase space of the parameters of a dynamical system...) THAT would be interesting too.