If the universe is really similar to a machine learning system, as they suggest, then, no question, it was designed. All machine learning systems are designed. Are the physicists prepared to unpack that?
As far as I can tell, Smolin sees this as a Darwinian solution to The Multiverse Problem. I think I’d call it “The Multiphysics Solution”. I suppose this falls under the dictum, “Fight fire with fire.” My own estimation is “garbage in, garbage out.”