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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Rick Searle: on 7/6/14 at 3:03am UTC, wrote Hello Roger, I posted an article giving some publicity to your piece: ...

Roger Schlafly: on 6/7/14 at 6:17am UTC, wrote I disagree. Curved spacetime can be ignored because the effects are too...

Steven Kaas: on 6/7/14 at 3:59am UTC, wrote In many cases a revolution of physical perspective leads to unchanged...

Aaron Feeney: on 6/5/14 at 3:25am UTC, wrote Hi Roger, What an awesome essay. I'm sorry I didn't get to it sooner, as I...

Roger Schlafly: on 6/3/14 at 22:04pm UTC, wrote Thanks. Your essay nice explains how some future solutions, like ethanol,...

James Hoover: on 6/3/14 at 16:56pm UTC, wrote Roger, You were recommended by James Putnam, and for some reason, I hadn't...

Roger Schlafly: on 6/1/14 at 20:34pm UTC, wrote Thanks very much. I tried to faithfully lay out the facts and arguments for...

James Putnam: on 6/1/14 at 3:15am UTC, wrote Roger Schlafly, "One trouble with the rating system is that you can get a...


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FQXi FORUM
August 20, 2017

CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: The future is the past by Roger Schlafly [refresh]
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Author Roger Schlafly wrote on Apr. 16, 2014 @ 20:30 GMT
Essay Abstract

Modern physics has come to conclusions about time, causality, and reality that have outpaced our language and intuitions. The idea that humanity should steer the future is a cognitive prejudice, based on an ancient misperception of time. Modern physics has brought us a new fatalism about the future, and more reason to focus on the past. The consequence is that there is no future to steer, and humanity is not what we expect.

Author Bio

Roger Schlafly has a BSE from Princeton U, and a PhD in Mathematics from U California Berkeley, under I. Singer. He blogs at DarkBuzz.com.

Download Essay PDF File




John Brodix Merryman wrote on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 02:58 GMT
Roger,

Being somewhat self educated and generally non-academic, my view of time is it is an effect of action, ie. change. The problem is that as individual points of reference, we experience this change as a sequence of events and so construe it as the point of the present moving from past events to future ones. Physics then distills this to measures of duration to use in...

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 07:50 GMT
Dear Roger,

You certainly know the story of a tailor who made a suit that did not fit at all. His costumer was poor and of course upset. The tailor showed him how to bend his body in order to make the suit fitting. People judged: Look, what a poor invalid veteran of war. However, his tailor is top.

Regards,

Eckard

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 21:54 GMT
Funny. Thanks.



Eckard Blumschein replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 05:15 GMT
I meant, you are advocating from the position of mandatory physics against your own much more sound "naive" opinion. The result is funny.

Checking your text I got aware of minor imperfections.

For instance, you quoted Einstein as believing in physics while Zeh wrote believing physicist. The latter fits to the fact that the source was a letter of condolence to the widow of Einstein's old friend Besso.

While I also doubt that your hints on leftist and atheist attitudes are always correct and necessary, I appreciate that you quoted Russell. You called him "The great liberal atheist pacifist logician and philosopher.

Didn't he plagiarize Gotthold Ephraim Lessing when he wrote in his book - Why I am not a Christian - There are many world religions, Hindus, Buddhist, Jews, Christians, Mohammedans, and ... However at best one can be the true, correct one?

Was his criticism of set theory consequent?

I cannot judge whether he was correct when he called gravitational astronomy an advanced science in which the word cause does never occur. Maybe he confused advanced with speculative?

Is causality really erroneously supposed to do no harm?

You wrote: "His argument is that relativity and other scientific principles have convinced him of the block theory of time".

I see it the other way round: If the block theory of time is wrong then this gives rise to also question Einstein's relativity even if this was taboo.

I prefer breaking taboos instead of abandoning truly logic reasoning.

You are perhaps correct: "A true commitment to time reversibility requires a belief in the many worlds interpretation." While you intended putting the topic of the essay ad absurdum, I read your essay as a hint to absurdities in modern physics which may have roots in too arbitrary mathematics.

Regards,

Eckard

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on Apr. 25, 2014 @ 06:32 GMT
The US Supreme Court just issued a 5-4 decision that mostly concerned theories of causation in a lawsuit over child porn damages. See Paroline v. United States. So they still believe in causality in the legal world.




James Dunn wrote on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 17:03 GMT
The following is just a thought map involving quantum causality, as an alternate example for the assertions.

In physics, any closed system of evolving causality will eventually repeat, exactly unless there is an outside influence.

Therefore, when we speak of cause and effect; i.e. effect from cause. Equally valid is effect and cause; i.e. cause from effect.

Based on this premise, the universe will evolve into other dimensional states (physics constants changing). Eventually, our physics constants will reform and a new Big Bang will begin evolution as we understand it again. But things will be different. The extinction and eventual reforming of our Universe will repeat an almost unconceivable number of times and we will not exist in most of them. But eventually we will make every alternate decision and live with the consequences. Finally, we will repeat exactly.

This presupposes Axiom of Choice extended to include Relativity is accurate.

However, there may be methods to short-cycle the dimensional shifts. But do we want to exclude others from existing also? For us, there is no perception of these transitions.

James Dunn

FQXi Submission:

Graduated Certification for Certification of Common Sense

http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2045

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 18:08 GMT
You say: "any closed system of evolving causality will eventually repeat, exactly unless there is an outside influence."

Not ture, unless you also assume that there are a finite number of states, and that the laws of physics are reversible.




Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Apr. 19, 2014 @ 09:38 GMT
Dear Roger,

Though the block theory is expressional with non-deterministic stochastic systems in Corpuscularianism, in an Eigen-rotational string-matter continuum scenario, the clock is with the system and thus the nature of time is, 'Cyclic' in that quantization of time is plausible. In this, while the past-present interval is definite, the indefinite past-future and present-future...

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Apr. 20, 2014 @ 09:51 GMT
Hi Roger,

Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Goodness me, its a good job I don't believe in a (Material) Many Worlds or Block time. To take them seriously is it seems very dangerous.

IMHO They are incorrectly understood as they are each models of incomplete reality. I do not know if you were expressing a serious viewpoint or highlighting the absurdity of interpreting mainstream physics ideas outside of an explanatory framework that enables them to be comprehended in ways that are not counter intuitive or absurd. Either way it was entertaining, informative and easy to read but I can not say it was optimistic. ( Your clone has written the optimistic version : )

[By the way, in case you doubt it, we are responsible for our actions, do have a duty of care for ourselves and others, we are not being cloned all the time (so don't give yourself a hard time) and we are building the unwritten future. Trust yourself]

Good luck, Georgina

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on Apr. 20, 2014 @ 14:59 GMT
Good comment. As I write this, my clone is saying that it is a bad comment. It is hard to see how anyone can truly believe in Many Worlds or Block time, but they say they do. Maybe their clones do not believe in it.




Joe Fisher wrote on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 15:42 GMT
Dear Doctor Schlafly,

I thought that your fine essay was truly absorbing, and I do wish it well in the competition.

You wrote: “Time is what distinguishes the past from the future.” Indeed it does abstractly. Fortunately, unique reality only takes place here and now. Unique reality does not have a past or a future.

No matter how ingeniously it was designed, it would be physically impossible to manufacture a camera that would be capable of photographing a scene that occurred before the camera became operable. One can only photograph a scene that is taking place here and now. No matter how ingeniously it was designed, it would be physically impossible to manufacture a thermometer capable of recording a temperature that occurred before the thermometer became operational. A thermometer can only measure a temperature that is present here and now. No matter how ingeniously it was designed, it would be physically impossible to manufacture any instrument capable of measuring any phenomena that was not present here and now at the time the instrument was recording it.

Yet the timepiece makers claim that although their timepieces cannot measure now, their timepieces can measure time any place that they are located. They also claim that their timepieces can actually accurately measure all of the elapsed time that has ever occurred before they were activated. This is a remarkable feat considering that time seems to lack a temperature or an appearance.

With regards,

Joe Fisher

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 20:05 GMT
Yes, a camerca cannot take a picture of the future. I wonder how that is explained by those who deny a distinction between the present and the future.




George Gantz wrote on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 19:24 GMT
Roger -

Well done, but I'm left wondering where you are on the question? But maybe that doesn't matter since some other clone in a different multiverse has a different answer - I will only hear the answer I choose to hear.

I recently posted an article noting that the scientific and religious views of time and determinism were remarkably similar. Time and Free Will. At the moment I would say some theological explanations are better than the ones postulated by scientists.

If you have a chance to review my essay, The Tip of the Spear, I would be grateful. I have stayed away from the paradox of time and only include an oblique reference to the causality problem and taken an optimistic approach to humanity's future, but perhaps you will enjoy it anyway.

Cheers - George

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 20:31 GMT
You tie in religious issues. Yes I do think that theologians have thought out metaphysical issues about time better than physicists.

I had not seen the Max Tegmark essay, Life is a Braid in Spacetime.

If the physicists are right, my opinions are determined in this universe, and my clones in other universes have other opinions.



Joe Fisher replied on Apr. 22, 2014 @ 13:33 GMT
Unique reality can only provide "free-will" No human being wants to have "free-will." The only thing every human being wants is to belong. Apparently, everyone commenting on this site would much prefer to belong to a group that only believes in the perfect abstract universe that is perfectly abstractly measurable by the adroit application of Einstein's concept of the perfect abstract fixed constant speed of light. My arguing that as light does not have a surface, therefore, light cannot move is the best indicator that I do not belong here.

Thanks to the freedom of my will, I will remain.

Joe Fisher

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Margarita Iudin wrote on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 01:38 GMT
Hello Roger,

I read your submission and I would like you to read mine. You wrote very interesting essay, quoted famous personalities, discussed a broad spectrum of perceptions and perceptions. You even wrote about the holographic model of the universe. In my essay I write about the imagining, analogous imagining and how people think. You may find it helpful. The essay is a part of the collection of the futuristic essays, including one essay concerning the design of the physical world.

You may look at my entry about imagining the future. I hope my essay will encourage you to learn more about ways of knowing and to apply analogous imagining in your field of interests.



You are welcome to share the link to my essay with your correspondents

Please disregard any typo mistakes you may encounter.

Regards,

Margarita Iudin

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Peter Jackson wrote on May. 1, 2014 @ 15:36 GMT
Roger,

I found that an exceptionally well written and well argued essay, particularly as I suspect you disagree fundamentally with it's tenet. I certainly agree that if QM is correct and complete then we're wholly unprepared. I also agree that ensuring fundamental theoretical correctness, mainly unifying the two so called 'pillars' of physics, is the biggest challenge and will have the biggest influence on our future. I think 'fatalism' may become worse than a disease if we can't escape it.

However.

I do hope you read my essay. I describe how correcting a fundamental assumption hidden in the heart of QM can allow a classical explanation of 'Probability' theory and quantum correlations, bypassing Bell's theorem. We can now 'say' more about particles than 90 years ago. I suggest the description of "superposed spin states collapsing to pure singlet state on measurement" is no longer 'modern'

Or is it too late? Are we now so deep in the rut of probabilism that we can never escape? I hope you're not as resigned as your argument suggests we should be, but how any paradigm is now changed I don't know.

Thank you for painting that picture so well. It deserves top marks so I don't understand why it's still so low. I hope it rises to the top. Was it really a subliminal alarm call? I look forward to your view on mine if you get to read it.

Best wishes

Peter

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Lorraine Ford wrote on May. 10, 2014 @ 03:31 GMT
Hi Roger,

I think yours is a good essay, exposing the nonsense going on in the minds of many of today's prominent physicists, and their followers e.g. some philosophers.

As you indicate, the practical consequences of physics' absurd ideas are seemingly not understood by the general public, and if they are understood, they reject these ideas.

I also found your essay quite amusing e.g. the ironic "Apparently some retro folks in Kansas still believe that ...creatures have both the capacity and the physical ability to act in the world according to their own desires, and that men are morally responsible for their behavior".

I also liked "The idea that humanity should steer the future is a cognitive prejudice, based on an ancient misperception of time. Modern physics has brought us a new fatalism about the future, and more reason to focus on the past. The consequence is that there is no future to steer, and humanity is not what we expect."

I think your essay deserves to do very well in the contest.

Cheers,

Lorraine

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Author Roger Schlafly wrote on May. 10, 2014 @ 14:26 GMT
Thanks. Yes, I think that the general public would be surprised by the conclusions of our great thinkers, and perplexed at how little evidence they have for their bizarre ideas.




Vladimir Rogozhin wrote on May. 14, 2014 @ 12:54 GMT
Dear Roger,

I read your essay with great interest. It once again confirms the fact that Mathematics and Physics - two fundamental sign systems but ontologically is not justified. However, like all Knowledge. Fundamental science is experiencing a "crisis of representation and interpretation", "crisis of understanding", methodological and philosophical crisis of foundations. About it well...

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on May. 15, 2014 @ 16:44 GMT
Dear Author Roger Schlafly

Very bold, groundbreaking and unique, I like your title and the conclusion very interesting - 10 points for that.

Hải.CaoHoàng

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Ajay Bhatla wrote on May. 15, 2014 @ 19:58 GMT
Dear Roger,

Wonderfully well argued. And I agree with your conclusion.

But one thought began to bother me: Physics is just a heading humans have given to a body of knowledge on how nature woks. If the body of knowledge says something that the human mind differs on, which is right? Our body of knowledge or Our mind?

Comments, please.

Would also appreciate your comments on my essay (here)

(a) with your physicist hat on, and

(b) with your physicist hat off.

-- Ajay

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on May. 15, 2014 @ 20:54 GMT
You are right that science is not just physics. I emphasized physics because of my interests, and of FQXi biases. I enjoyed your optimistic view of getting the public involved in science.




Member Marc Séguin wrote on May. 20, 2014 @ 01:30 GMT
Roger,

Thank you for a fascinating and entertaining essay! You are the Stephen Colbert of FQXi: even though you are really a logical positivist, you pretend to believe all the most counter-intuitive abstract ideas of modern physics, and by quoting the believers, you highlight the delicious weirdness of their ideas. Of course, in an infinite multiverse, EVERYTHING happens, so it makes no sense to steer THE future, and the very existence of this essay contest makes no sense. OR DOES IT? :)

You are being a little unfair to multiverse believers when you propose, at the end of your essay, that we reduce suffering in OTHER universes by making the WORST decisions possible in THIS one... but it is part of the fun of your essay!

Your really deserve to make it to the finals, and I have rated your essay accordingly. Good luck!

Marc

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on May. 20, 2014 @ 03:06 GMT
Thanks. Yes, my essay gets a little silly at the end where I try to take multiverse ideas to their logical conclusions. I used quotes early on, or I was afraid readers would t hink that I was being unfair to some physicists.

I enjoyed your essay also. You nicely address the question wihtout trying to make your own predictions.




John Brodix Merryman wrote on May. 24, 2014 @ 01:48 GMT
Roger,

I thought I make a final effort to get your thoughts on my initial comment on your thread; That the reason we misinterpret time is due to our singular experience of a sequence of events being interpreted as the point of the present moving from past to future, which physics further distills to measures of particular duration, when the logical physical mechanism is the changing...

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Robert de Neufville wrote on May. 25, 2014 @ 02:42 GMT
This is an excellent, fascinating survey of the arguments that we live in a deterministic universe, Roger. I think you right that we do live a deterministic universe. I would add that there is a sense in which Tegmark's clones are not identical: they have made different decisions. They are distinguished by the exercise of precisely that agency that they're not supposed to have.

But I don't think that a deterministic universe precludes meaningful free will. Human beings may not have free will in the radical sense that we somehow make our decisions from outside the physical world. But even if it had to happen that John would decide to eat French fries, it is still John who decides to have them. Saying "John decided to have French fries" is a perfectly valid description of what happened, even if his decision can be reduced to the workings of the physical laws that govern the components of his body. The future and the past may be unchanging, but our choices are the path that connects past and future states.

So while our sense of moving through time may be a cognitive illusion, I would argue there's a good reason why we believe our choices matter. We have to make decisions every second we're awake. Even not making a decision is a kind of a decision. The universe in which we think our choices don't matter is the universe in which we make terrible choices. Consider the character in Lermontov's story "The Fatalist" who believes it doesn't matter whether or not he puts a loaded gun to his head and pulls the trigger because whether or not he is going to die is already predetermined. But of course it does matter. As Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote, "We must believe in free will—we have no choice."

In any case, I really enjoyed your essay. Good luck in the contest!

Best,

Robert de Neufville

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on May. 25, 2014 @ 05:40 GMT
Yes, I agree that free will is compatible with scientific causality. Phiilosophers call that "compatibilism". However the hard-core determinists reject this argument.

You are also right about why we believe in free will. It is striking how a correct common-sense arggument can be rejected by our intellectual leaders.



Robert de Neufville replied on May. 25, 2014 @ 08:24 GMT
My view—I am a reformed philosopher—is that many of these controversies are arguments about ways of talking rather than about things themselves. As Wittgenstein put it,

Philosophers often behave like little children who scribble some marks on a piece of paper at random and then ask the grown-up “What’s that?”—It happened like this: the grown-up had drawn pictures for the child several times and said: “this is a man,” “this is a house,” etc. And then the child makes some marks and asks: what’s this then?

The hard-core concept of determinism seems to me like the child's marks. I can't make sense of it. But I also don't think it has much to do with the folk language we use for agency.

Thanks again for the stimulating discussion!

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James A Putnam wrote on May. 27, 2014 @ 13:50 GMT
Roger Schlafly,

A great essay!!! Ten points easily!!! It is a highly competent damage report! The needle went off the scale! However you intended it to be, I read it as the prelude to greater essay explaining how to return sensibility to science, to theoretical physics in particular. For me to go further, would be me just repeating what I have written in six essay contests and elsewhere. However, your essay is what exists here and now and I loved it for my own reasons.

James Putnam

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Anonymous replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 19:30 GMT
Thanks. I especially enjoyed your discussion of consciousness and free will. You obviously disagree with some of the experts I quote. And yes, we need a greater essay on returning sensibility to science. It takes several essays just to explain how far from common sense we have gotten.

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James A Putnam replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 22:19 GMT
Roger Schlafly,

Thank you for reading my essay and for your kind words. The price seems to have been a 5 rating for you and a 1 rating for me. I am glad that you remain high. I will continue to take what comes as I move on evaluating essays. Good luck.

James

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 22:54 GMT
One trouble with the rating system is that you can get a low rating, but have no idea whether someone thinks that you are technically incorrect, or if someone just disagrees with some of your opinions. Ideally the critics wpould explain themselves in the comments.




KoGuan Leo wrote on May. 27, 2014 @ 15:49 GMT
Dear Roger,

Yes this is a delicious essay, I am chewing it now and it tastes deliciously crunchy. However, my clones in other universes taste your essay softy and smelly. Wonderful! It is fun.

In KQID, I incorporate both Einstein's block Multiverse as also previously articulated by Parmenides and his student and his lover Zeno who gave us a wonderful Zeno's paradoxes and at the same time flow of time from moving one way from past yo the future. Please give me your comments.

I rated yours a full ten (10) as it deserves.

Best wishes,

Leo KoGuan

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on May. 27, 2014 @ 19:36 GMT
Thanks. I could be winning this contest in another universe! I like the way you think big in your essay.




James A Putnam wrote on Jun. 1, 2014 @ 03:15 GMT
Roger Schlafly,

"One trouble with the rating system is that you can get a low rating, but have no idea whether someone thinks that you are technically incorrect, or if someone just disagrees with some of your opinions. Ideally the critics wpould explain themselves in the comments."

Your essay did not overtly challenge physics theories. It did not offer alternatives. It did not resist theoretical physics. It accepted physics theory. I loved you essay. I say it is a literary masterpiece. One can choose to accept its heralding of theoretical physics as a responsible position. I chose to understand it as a satire. My opinion does not affect the value of your essay. Your essay stands on its own. Your essay lives in the mind of the reader for what they believe. I state again that among all of the essays, it is a literary masterpiece. Whatever the contest outcome is, it cannot add to or detract from your literary accomplishment.

James Putnam

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on Jun. 1, 2014 @ 20:34 GMT
Thanks very much. I tried to faithfully lay out the facts and arguments for determinism, many-worlds, and related ideas that have become so trendy among big-shot physicists. I do think that it is possible to believe those things, even if I personally find those ideas hard to take seriously. I wasn't so much trying to persuade people of my opinions, but to make the reader think more carefully about the direction modern physics is taking us. In particular we have great thinkers telling us how to steer the future, and a lot of them do not even believe in the future.




James Lee Hoover wrote on Jun. 3, 2014 @ 16:56 GMT
Roger,

You were recommended by James Putnam, and for some reason, I hadn't read your essay yet.Though subjected to head-jerking shifts in philosophies of time, I was pleased with an essay rich in relevant quotes that skillfully and substantially guides us through philosophies and scholarly discussions of time.

I'm not sure where I am in time now, but I will never consciously feed a "naive view of time," considering that "the past is definite, the present is now, and the future is uncertain."

We all want answers on how to steer the future, but it is presumptuous to think we can come up with a plan when climate change deniers now say it's too late, damage done.

Your essay puts more doubt in our established minds.

High marks.

I would like to see your thoughts on mine: http://www.fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2008

Jim

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on Jun. 3, 2014 @ 22:04 GMT
Thanks. Your essay nice explains how some future solutions, like ethanol, are not as good as they appear.




Aaron M. Feeney wrote on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 03:25 GMT
Hi Roger,

What an awesome essay. I'm sorry I didn't get to it sooner, as I think my essay and yours intersect some of the same territory. I explore the concept of a future-viewing machine. I am not referring to a mere prediction machine, as some have mistakenly thought, but a machine that could literally see the future. Many juicy logical problems arise when one conceives of such a machine.

I would like for us to be able to communicate after the contest, as we have very little time left to communicate in this forum. If you choose to contact me, my email address is foreknowledge.machines{AT}{g.m.a.i.l}.{c.o.m}.

I enjoyed your essay immensely and have rated it highly. All the best!

Warmly,

Aaron

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Steven Kaas wrote on Jun. 7, 2014 @ 03:59 GMT
In many cases a revolution of physical perspective leads to unchanged short-term practical implications. For example, discovering that spacetime is curved doesn't affect terrestrial navigation. In the same way, we feel at least that a many-worlds perspective doesn't automatically negate what we know about probability; if you make a choice that helps someone 90% of the time and hurts them 10% of the time, that still seems better than the opposite even if you live in a MWI multiverse.

Steven Kaas & Steve Rayhawk

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on Jun. 7, 2014 @ 06:17 GMT
I disagree. Curved spacetime can be ignored because the effects are too small to measure. But MWI rejects the idea that you can help someone 90% of the time. The MWI advocates deny that it even makes sense to talk about 90% of the universes. You might think that you are helping someone 90% of the time, but actually be creating innumerable universes where he is hurt very badly.

There are some papers where physicists try to makes sense of probabilities in MWI, but they have not been successful so far. MWI is like a religion for people who do not want to accept probabilities.




Member Rick Searle wrote on Jul. 6, 2014 @ 03:03 GMT
Hello Roger,

I posted an article giving some publicity to your piece:

http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/searle20140705

All the best!

Rick Searle

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