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Peter Jackson: on 3/22/17 at 22:11pm UTC, wrote Marc, Those are brilliant comments and I really thank you for delving so...

Richard Benish: on 3/22/17 at 20:06pm UTC, wrote Dr Seguin, Your comments indicate that you have not read my essay, but...

Marc Séguin: on 3/21/17 at 5:19am UTC, wrote Dear Peter, Thank you for reading and commenting on my essay. It is true I...

Peter Jackson: on 3/20/17 at 20:23pm UTC, wrote Marc, A high quality essay, giving me at least a fresh view on how we're...

Michael Tyree: on 3/20/17 at 6:48am UTC, wrote Dear Marc . . . Thank you for your reply to my comment. I read your essay...

Marc Séguin: on 3/20/17 at 4:39am UTC, wrote Dear Laurence, Thank you for your encouraging comments on my essay! I read...

Marc Séguin: on 3/20/17 at 4:05am UTC, wrote Dear William, Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my...

Marc Séguin: on 3/20/17 at 3:21am UTC, wrote Dear snp. gupta, Thank you for taking a look at my essay and taking the...


leonae gonzales: "This seems to be very interesting site. Professionally i am a writer at the..." in Quantum Replicants:...

James Putnam: "Quoting Gary D. Simpson: "If you disapprove of one-bombing and wish to..." in FQXi Essay Contest 2016:...

Steven Andresen: "It might be that I have come to know where the hidden variable is, to..." in 80 Years of EPR —...

Lawrence Crowell: "The choice for anonymous commenting is a good idea. A person scoring less..." in FQXi Essay Contest 2016:...

dieu le: "The Creation of Momentum From the gigantic Milky Way Galaxy to the..." in Alternative Models of...

dieu le: "What causes Things Move in Universe? Things move when encountering a..." in Alternative Models of...

leonae gonzales: "I would like to prepare a review of this topic with the help of research..." in Quantum Replicants:...

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A "retrocausal" rewrite of physics, in which influences from the future can affect the past, could solve some quantum quandaries—saving Einstein's view of reality along the way.

March 23, 2017

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: Wandering Towards Physics: Participatory Realism and the Co-Emergence of Lawfulness by Marc Séguin [refresh]
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This essay's rating: Community = 4.8; Public = 2.5

Author Marc Séguin wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 22:45 GMT
Essay Abstract

Q-Bism’s champion Christopher Fuchs recently wrote: “Since the advent of quantum theory, (…) there has always been a nagging pressure to insert a first-person perspective into the heart of physics.” As a tribute to the “participatory universe” idea put forward in the late 1970’s by John Archibald Wheeler, he proposes to call “participatory realism” this general way of dealing with the thorny issues of the interpretation of quantum mechanics. This article presents an approach I call “co-emergentism”, which combines participatory realism and the hypothesis that abstract structures constitute the fundamental level of reality. In every day life, we experience the first-person perspective of being a conscious agent (with intentions, goals and at least apparent free will) in a community of conscious agents, embedded in a physical world that obeys strict (yet probabilistic) laws with implacable regularity. Co-emergentism proposes that, within the infinite, mostly chaotic and lawless “Maxiverse” of all abstract possibilities, abstract structures that correspond to conscious agents “resonate” with each other, and with abstract structures that correspond to stable, regular physical environments. This process delineates coherent domains within the space of all possibilities, and insures that most conscious observers that are sophisticated enough to run essay contests about the fundamental nature of reality find themselves in worlds that are surprisingly large, long-lived and extremely regular.

Author Bio

Marc Séguin holds two master's degrees from Harvard University: one in Astronomy (under the supervision of David Layzer) and another in History of Science (under the supervision of Gerald Holton). He teaches physics and astrophysics at Collège de Maisonneuve, in Montréal, and is the author of several college-level textbooks in physics and astrophysics. YouTube channel:

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Héctor Daniel Gianni wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 20:09 GMT
Dear Marc Séguin

I invite you and every physicist to read my work “TIME ORIGIN,DEFINITION AND EMPIRICAL MEANING FOR PHYSICISTS, Héctor Daniel Gianni ,I’m not a physicist.

How people interested in “Time” could feel about related things to the subject.

1) Intellectuals interested in Time issues usually have a nice and creative wander for the unknown.

2) They...

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 19:45 GMT
Dear Hector,

What can I say? On the discussion thread of your essay, you acknowledge that your essay has nothing to do with the essay contest and that you don't care about the contest. If you have any comments about my essay, I will bother to comment on yours. Sincerely,


David Brown wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 21:18 GMT
"... As for the laws of physics as we know them today, they are clearly not truly fundamental (they are not even mutually compatible), although we can hope that a simpler unified law will eventually be discovered. Even then, this law would have some arbitrary characteristics, unless somehow it turns out to be the only logically possible physical law, which is an outcome that almost no one still...

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 19:48 GMT
Dear David,

Being a cosmologist by training, I am well aware of the MOND hypothesis, but, like most other cosmologists, I am not convinced. To get back to the topic of this year's essay, if you have any real comments about my essay, I will comment on yours.


Richard J Benish wrote on Mar. 15, 2017 @ 20:23 GMT
Dr. Seguin,

Your essay captures not only the flavor of many modern attempts to understand existence and humanity's role therein; it also admirably admits potential inadequacies of the endeavor as it presently stands:

"Could the dead-ends we have been encountering over the past decades in fundamental physics (the failure to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity, the...

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 20:52 GMT
Dear Richard,

You claim that if your "Rotonian" physics is true, the problem of consciousness will actually turn out to be irrelevant. I have read your essay, and I do not see much relevance between your alternative reformulation of physics and consciousness -- which is perhaps to be expected, since in the beginning of your essay you state that you find analysis of "information, emergence, or teleology" quite "tedious". By the way, I appreciate the importance of testing general relativity in the widest possible regimes, but I have to admit that I do not understand at all how your Rotonian physics predicts that an object falling into a well going to the antipodes of the Earth would stop at the center of the Earth (your figure 3). For such behavior to occur, you need gravitational potential energy to pass through a minimum halfway to the center of the Earth (when the slope of your R vs t, hence the speed, is greatest) and to go UP again as you near the center of the Earth. Why this completely unphysical behavior (no matter if your physics is "standard" or "rotonian")? Surely there is inertia and conservation of energy in your model? Another thing that puzzles me is that you seem to claim that it is because of the change in clock rates predicted by general relativity that an object would oscillate in figure 3... but the prediction of the oscillation can be done purely within newtonian physics, where there is no slowing down of clocks...



Richard J Benish replied on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 20:06 GMT
Dr Seguin,

Your comments indicate that you have not read my essay, but have only extracted brief passages that you then misrepresent.

I never said "the problem of consciousness will actually turn out to be irrelevant." Nor did I say that I find "analysis of 'information, emergence, or teleology' quite 'tedious'" (even if it often is!).

Why do you put words in my mouth and twist what I say to suit your own agenda?

As for the Rotonian conception of gravity, the whole point is that this hypothetical civilization sees fit to QUESTION the "Earthian" concept of potential. They emphasize the fact that, with regard to gravity-induced motion through the CENTERS of gravitating bodies, this concept has never been TESTED.

Instead of rolling with the Rotonians' inquisitive, playful spirit, your remarks seem to reflect a closed-minded smugness in the ASSUMED correctness of standard ideas about gravity even in the unexplored, yet accessible regime right under our noses where these ideas have not yet been TESTED.

Surely the spirit of Galileo would have us conduct the experiment before pretending to know its result. Surely Galileo would have at least had a sense of humor about exploring the nature of gravity.

Richard Benish

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Joe Fisher wrote on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 15:57 GMT
Dear Marc Séguin,

Please excuse me for I have no intention of disparaging in any way any part of your essay.

I merely wish to point out that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) Physicist & Nobel Laureate.

Only nature could produce a reality so simple, a single cell amoeba could deal with it.

The real...

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 20:57 GMT
Hi again Joe!

We had a long conversation during the previous essay contest, and I completely failed to understand your theory then. My conclusion was (and still is) that you use words like "surface" and "light" in a purely personal, non-standard and baffling way, and this is why, contest after contest, no one seems to understand what your model means.



Michael Zane Tyree wrote on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 08:30 GMT
Marc . . .

Thank you for a very excellent and easy-to-read essay. Your explanations were clear and reasonable. I have been thinking along very similar lines.

I especially like your ISAAC (Infinite Set of All Abstract Computations), although I would leave out the Computations and see it as IDAA, the Infinite Domain of All Abstractions. This is because I don’t see why everything has to be a computation. (Not as keen an acronym I will admit. I’m a fan of Asimov!)

I do believe that mathematical structures can form the physical universe, but there is no need to try and force intentionality out of computations. Mathematical structures are a subset of a greater abstract entity, one which includes all other non-computational structures. This abstract entity I would call the Ideaverse, which is the infinite domain of all Ideas, or Abstractions. Human qualities such as awareness, intentionality and other attributes of a mind, such as desire, imagination, curiosity, goal-seeking and love, that seem to be difficult to obtain from mathematical laws are still ideas, just as mathematical structures are. So just as mathematical ideas are the physical universe, abstract ideas like intentionality are intentionality.

You brought up the HPL, Hard Problem of Lawfulness. “If every possibility exists within the Maxiverse, irregular and chaotic worlds should greatly outnumber regular and predictable worlds like ours.” One explanation is that the “Maxiverse” (or Ideaverse, as I called it) is an abstract reality. It does not have existence in the sense of being perceivable, so those chaotic worlds remain only abstractions.

But within the Ideaverse is the idea of Mind, which is the idea of an activating agent of ideas. Mind is that which activates ideas, including mathematical ideas, and makes them existent and perceptible. This is equivalent to the opposite of abstract, that is to say, “concrete.” So the mind is what activates ideas that are reasonable and at least somewhat stable. This includes the ideas of a physical spacetime universe, intentionality and goals.

You say, “In the same way, could the dead-ends we have been encountering over the past decades in fundamental physics (the failure to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity, the proliferation of solutions in the landscape of M-theory) be interpreted as signs that we are nearing the edge of our patch of lawfulness in the space of all possibilities?“

Interesting, as this is the interpretation I made in my essay. Not all ideas the mind activates will mesh with other ideas that it’s already accepted.

Thank you for the great references you gave, which will serve me well in my further study and contemplation.

Michael Z. Tyree

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 03:08 GMT
Dear Michael,

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my essay. I've read your essay and found it VERY interesting... I will post my comments on your essay's thread soon.

IDAA makes a less interesting acronym than ISAAC, but I agree with you it's a better term. I like "domain", it's better than "set", that has a particular limited meaning in mathematics. And "computation" might be too restrictive. "Abstraction", as a generic term, is probably the best --- better than mathematics, better than computation, and I think better than "idea"... The term "idea", although it was used by Plato in a very abstract way, has the downside of being too tied, for most people, to a pre-existing mind that has an idea, while in your essay, minds are a particular type of ideas... The words we use are quite a challenge when we want to talk about philosophical/metaphysical issues that transcend our everyday experience, and it's probably why most people have a hard time understanding each other when dealing with these issues...

I also agree with you that completely chaotic areas within the Maxiverse of all abstractions are not perceivable and therefore do not have a meaningful existence. What I worry about when I think about the Hard Problem of Lawfulness are the PARTIALLY chaotic areas that could still contain minds, and in which those minds would experience partially chaotic dream-like shifting realities. For each mind that "activates" ideas that correspond to "reasonable and stable" worlds, there should be many more that activate ideas that correspond to partially reasonable and stable worlds. Why then is our (waking) experience so implacably ordered, why is the world so "robust"? I am looking towards some kind of "co-emergence" of physics and observers, but these are only rudimentary ideas, I still don't have a good answer to the Hard Problem of Lawfulness!

You mention that ideas that Mind/minds activate must "mesh" with other ideas, which is pretty much what co-emergence is all about. We certainly share very similar questionings and very similar tentative answers, and that's why I found your essay so interesting and thought-provoking. More to come (probably tomorrow) on your essay's thread!


Michael Zane Tyree replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 06:48 GMT
Dear Marc . . .

Thank you for your reply to my comment. I read your essay again to try and understand your idea of co-emergentism better. I also studied again your table of the problems that arise in thinking about these things, and the different approaches that answer them. The Co-emergentism column is similar to my approach and other ideas are similar. This line from your essay in particular is how I have felt for most of my life:

". . . an extreme rationalist should believe in the existence of all possible worlds, because in this case the whole of reality is less arbitrary than if only some worlds exist and others don’t."

And in reading many books, articles and essays that address this question of the ultimate reality, I have to say I do get a sense of arbitrariness in most of them. That is why this line in your essay caught my eye:

". . . the fact that abstractions are the most fundamental thing you can possibly imagine, and that the ensemble of all of them contains no information, makes them the ideal foundation for a theory of the Universe."

I completely agree with the thought that abstractions are the most fundamental thing there is. So any hypothesis that depends upon many specifics seems to be arbitrary, or the opposite of abstract. It also must explain where those specifics came from.

I am not familiar with information theory, so I am not sure how the ensemble of all abstractions contains no information. I wonder if you might clarify that for me?

Thanks again and good fortune with the contest!


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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 11:33 GMT
Nice essay Seguin,

Your ideas and knowledge are excellent about history of Physics, for eg…

Consciousness, with its power of agency and volition, emerges out of a physical level of description where interactions take place according to “mindless” laws, while the rigid laws that obey the physical interactions are, in some real sense, an emerging consequence of the existence of a...

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 03:21 GMT
Dear snp. gupta,

Thank you for taking a look at my essay and taking the time to highlight one of its sentences. I took a look at your essay, scanned for some key words, but didn't see anything that looked even remotely related to the topic of this year's essay contest. I respectfully suggest, as indicated in the sidebar of the FQXi Forum page, that you post your novel physics theory to the "Alternative Models of Reality" thread, or to the "Alternative Models of Cosmology" thread, so that it can be discussed in an appropriate fashion with other FQXi members.



Kigen William Ekeson wrote on Mar. 18, 2017 @ 12:53 GMT
Dear Marc,

Thanks for the insightful and well written essay. It helped be understand the Q-bist approach a bit better and I'm interpreting your essay as a way to build upon that approach. It seems to me that Q-bism is essentially a double-down on the many-worlds approach. That is, not only are alternative universes created from each quantum level collapse, they are also produced at the macro-level...including collapses brought about through measurement/observation. Are you are suggesting that our physical reality somehow arises as a kind of a shared "structure" created through the Q-bist-like collapse between over-lapping fields of interaction? That is, as we are collapsing all possibilities into particular events, we are co-collapsing all manner of other things along with it, and the totality of that co-collapse is the universe we experience at each moment together with all the stuff that has co-collapsed with us. Is that sort-of correct? If not, can you summarize in a few sentences what you mean?

Also, if you find time, i'd love your thoughts on my own essay.

Good luck in the competition!



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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 04:05 GMT
Dear William,

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my essay. The way you describe the main argument of my essay (the working hypothesis of co-emergentism) is essentially correct! I will take a look at your essay and post my comments on your essay's thread.


Laurence Hitterdale wrote on Mar. 19, 2017 @ 22:51 GMT
Dear Marc,

It is good to see your entry in this contest. I learned from, and enjoyed, your essay last year. I think I like this one better, although perhaps part of the reason for this is that I am now somewhat more familiar with some of the relevant ideas.

However that may be, I find Table 1 especially helpful. It systematizes and co-ordinates topics in a way that I have not seen before.

Obviously, because we are discussing ontology of the most fundamental and comprehensive sort, there are many things to say. I will suggest only that you might want to add both a column and a row to your table. The column should be for “Values first.” This would accommodate John Leslie’s proposal that ethical requiredness is the basis for existence. An important ancestor of Leslie’s theory is Plato’s system in which the Form of the Good is both the highest form and the organizing principle for the realm of forms. The forms, in turn, are the basis of order in the temporal world. I believe that Leslie cites Plato on this point. Some other thinkers who might be categorized as holding theories of the other kinds (God first, Mind first, Physics first, and so on) to some extent also advocate Values first, because these thinkers contend that their first principle is good.

The row I would suggest would be for “Evil.” Even without adding the column for values, I think this row should be seriously considered. Evil, like delusion and solipsism, is a problem that any ontological theory needs to address. Indeed, a “Values first” ontology will have more difficulty than the other kinds of theories with explaining the facts of evil. Thus, I suggest adding a column for a type of ontology and a row for the chief difficulty with theories of that type.

Thanks for a stimulating and challenging essay. I look forward to discussing these ideas further, here in the FQXi contest pages and perhaps in other ways after the conclusion of the contest.

Laurence Hitterdale

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 04:39 GMT
Dear Laurence,

Thank you for your encouraging comments on my essay! I read yours on February 25th, shortly after it was posted. I had been waiting for all essays to be posted to start commenting and rating them, and I will be doing so this week. Expect comments soon on your essay's thread.

I am familiar with John Leslie's ideas, having read several chapters of his books. Your suggestion of adding a "Values first" column to the table in my essay is interesting: it would have some similarities with the "God first" column, since the "form of Good" could be seen as a high-level concept of God, but it would also have some specific attributes. In fact, it's probably my column "God first" which should be split, because different religions have quite different concepts of God -- the traditional Christian "personal" conception of God is far from the only one.

I agree with you that the Problem of Evil would certainly deserve a row of its own: it is certainly one of the major philosophical/metaphysical problems. In the original version of my paper (before I edited it to fit within the 25 000 characters limit), I didn't have a "Problem of evil" row, but I had two more rows, the "Problem of measure" (statistics in an infinite reality) and the "Hard Problem of Consciousness" of David Chalmers. If I ever write an expanded presentation of the co-emergence hypothesis, I will certainly take your suggestions into consideration!

Already in the last contest, it was clear that our personal approaches to the foundational questions of physics are related to each other, and it will certainly be interesting to continue this discussion beyond the conclusion of the contest.


Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 20:23 GMT

A high quality essay, giving me at least a fresh view on how we're 'wandering around' a fundamental solution. On the question 'Do I agree with 'co-emergence'? I like QBism so half agree, but 'unreal' abstract structure I reject outright. I was disappointed that as a top 3 neighbour you didn't comment on my last essay on that subject. To save an essay here you'll find an alternative...

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Author Marc Séguin wrote on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 05:19 GMT
Dear Peter,

Thank you for reading and commenting on my essay. It is true I didn’t comment on your “Red/Green socks” essay last time, but it’s not for lack of trying. I did read your essay back then, I even had gone back to read your previous FQXi essays, as well as your 2011 “Subjugation of Scepticism in Science” essay. I REALLY tried to find an angle of approach between your...

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Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 22:11 GMT

Those are brilliant comments and I really thank you for delving so deeply. What you haven't seen is my cosmological paper presenting comprehensive predictions of the model, answering your questions above and coherently resolving a tranche of unknowns and anomalous findings, i.e. It causally shows precisely how complex galaxy bars can be produced, which emerges from the first actual...

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