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Ines Samengo: on 5/8/17 at 0:47am UTC, wrote ok, and now I reply to Conrad's comment (which I'll replicate in his forum,...

Ines Samengo: on 4/16/17 at 20:56pm UTC, wrote Dear Marc, I finally managed to come back to you. I also left (quite a...

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FQXi FORUM
September 25, 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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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: http://youtube.com/ThisIsPhysicsChannel

Download Essay PDF File




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,

Marc




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.

Marc




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,...

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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...

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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.

Sincerely,

Marc




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!

Marc



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!

Michael

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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...

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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.

http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2790

Good luck in the competition!

Cheers,

William

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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.

Marc




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.

Marc



Laurence Hitterdale replied on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 18:45 GMT
Dear Marc,

I think that in an expanded version of your essay both the “Problem of measure” and the “Hard problem of consciousness” should be included. Like the other problems that you list, they are both difficult and systematically important. You probably are aware that Max Tegmark in his book “Our Mathematical Universe” refers to the measure problem as “the greatest crisis in physics today.” And it’s not just a problem for physics, but for epistemology and ontology as well. I don’t know that it is the greatest problem, but it is surely no less a problem than the others.

As you point out, it is difficult to know how to organize and classify the basic positions (which appear in your columns). In my view, positions like the modal realism of David Lewis and the principle of fecundity discussed by Robert Nozick stand apart from the rest. According to these positions, all possibilities are actualized. All other systems try to establish some principle which differentiates actualities from unactualized mere possibilities. Ideally, this principle might in some way explain actuality, but it could at least delimit actuality. I think that even the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis and Computational Universe Hypothesis try to limit actuality in this way, because many possibilities are not computable and not even mathematical.

There certainly is a lot to discuss, and perhaps we will be able to continue the discussion.

Laurence Hitterdale

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

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 'real structure' described in mine this year, with real 'participatory realism! (Bohr and von Neuman ALSO stressed the meter/observer role). I'd greatly value your views. We do have language (history and cosmology) in common. On history; wasn't it 'Isaac' that means 'laugh', and him who moved to the Philistine lands? Is that a wise acronym?! - but he did last 180 years!

On 'strange loops' I agree that as a basis of 'quantum' intelligence if not QM. Does not the ability to set up neural 'feedback loops' surely define the 'consciousness' topics? One we can use information stored to 'imagine' scenario's and trigger biochemical release and motor neurone responses which then inform further scenario's, do learning and decisions on choices or 'aims' then not emerge of necessity? Is that not a better application of a loop than loopy 'backward causality'? answering; "The problem of free will and effective intention".?

I did like the; "infinite number of deluded observers, and an infinite number of non-deluded ones" similar to an earlier essay of mine, however I haven't yet located many of the latter so hope you may point me to some!?

Do you not think that the problem of a “rock-bottom” foundation is really that in our present evolutionary state we won't recognise it when we see it? In other words; we haven't recognised it in front of our eyes?

Finally, to pick just one (No4) from your chart; "How does the quantum wave-function “transition” to the observed classical world?" Is 'the wave-function' not just an unreal assumption? You wrote yourself it's an abstraction of reality. If we ask; "How does the observed classical world produce QM's predictions from exchanges of momentum on interactions" Might not the answer suddenly emerge from the mists were wandering in? Do you not think we may be fighting to get round the trees in the search for the wood?

Anyway. Great essay and food for thought on current doctrine(s) and 'reports from expeditions' into the dark (& misty!) Ly-a forest.

Very Best

Peter

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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
Marc,

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 temporal cycle of galaxy 'type' evolution, producing satellites 'dwarfs' etc, the halo 'counter rotations' still not otherwise explained, the role & mechanisms of AGNs', ALL the major asymmetries in the CMB found in WMAP and Planck, mass growth, even 'dark matter' (nothing exotic required), pre 'BigBang' condition, and a whole host of other things that all just 'appeared' like when a great jigsaw puzzle suddenly comes together. It's not something I've 'tried' to do, it just all started emerging on cracking SR and trying to falsify that solution. I've been desperately trying to falsify an ever bigger model ever since but it just keeps throwing solutions back at me!

Sure much of it demands fundamental re-thinking of some long held assumptions (though nothing that's proven) which is why it took me so long (40+ years!) and why so many in cosmology will struggle to penetrate it. It's a slightly 'different language'! It also seems to cover ALL physics

I now struggle to refer back to 'current beliefs' so desperately need help if it's to be presented and understood by those with old doctrine embedded. On QM, I have a good dialogue going with Stefan on my blog that better explains the detail, but perhaps you may look closer at the cosmology and destroy or help with that?

The main 'Cyclic Model' paper now needs some updating. Of course the MNRAS and AJ ran a mile but it's published in the HJ; DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4540.5603 or; Academia archive link

I have done a bit of 'drip feeding' DFM solutions in manageable morsels in many papers on arXiv, viXra and Academia. Pick your favourite anomaly and I'll tell you in my own words what the model has to say on it!

I see I hadn't applied a score to yours so have now done so as it seemed to be languishing far too low. Very many thanks yet again.

Peter

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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 02:08 GMT
Dear Marc

I rather enjoyed the first part of your essay where you present the hard problem of lawfulness, but I got lost in the second half with all the possibilities you presented as solutions. Too much philosophy based on physics I find fault with. Let me explain: in my intuitive naive way I have come to believe that an observer-based physics, although great for computing actual experimental results, prevents a fundamental understanding of our Universe and complicates physics as we know it today.

The issue is further complicated by quantum probability and the whole bizarre question of collapse of wave equation, leading as it does to multiverses etc. In order to clear the board a lot of Einstein's and QM premises have to be abandoned, and for reasons I give in my fqxi essay. I would be honored if you have a look.

In my Beautiful Universe Model I have outlined a physics based on an absolute universe made up of self-assembling nodes that need no observer whatsoever to do their thing and perhaps the HPL will be swept away of its own accord. Or perhaps that is my solipsist dream in my old age, driving by your green billboard!



With best wishes,

Vladimir

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 04:39 GMT
Dear Vladimir,

Thanks for reading and commenting on my essay. I am familiar with your work, having read your essay from the previous contest on math vs physics, and now I just read your new essay. Right off the bat, I must admit that I found your opening picture absolutely striking --- with the riverboat's doppelganger floating above the forest. I have no idea what it means, but its sheer...

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 11:02 GMT
Dear Marc

Thank you for your kind and measured response to what must have seemed to you an outrageous essay. The riverboat floating in the sky is a rather imaginative way to convey compression of space in a moving frame. Artistic license!

Everything you said is reasonable except your claim that I think everybody in the world is wrong. Not really, perhaps only the point-photon...

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Mar. 27, 2017 @ 18:46 GMT
Dear Marc,

Vey good essay! Perhaps I am biased by the fact that we share some common points of view, but I enjoyed it very much. Among the things I liked are: the creative reasoning along Wheeler's ideas and Tegmark's MUH, the emphasis of mathematics, of subjective experience associated to consciousness (in a way far from being understood yet), the "strange loop", the "hard problem of...

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 02:08 GMT
Dear Cristi,

Thank you for your encouraging comments on my essay. Thank you also for the link to your World Theory paper, that I didn't know about. I've skimmed through it, and it looks very interesting. I will take a deeper look when I finished reading as many essays as I can in this contest!

Sincerely,

Marc




Alexey/Lev Burov wrote on Mar. 27, 2017 @ 21:50 GMT
Dear Marc,

I think your essay contains a unique accomplishment, and not only in this contest. I mean your Table 1, which is definitely a seed of a great book! Its bird view on the hard problems of philosophy motivates to resolve them in a coherent way, implying also that this might be impossible. Of course, Lev and I have our favorite column, which is God or Absolute Mind. Following great philosophical traditions, we do not consider God complex as you are suggesting; on the contrary, He is the Unity, the One, where everything specific and complex is rooted. Emergence of good and beautiful things, by the creative power of mind, is mysterious, which is true both for its divine and human aspects. Creativity is inexplicable in principle; any theory attempting its explanation either explains nothing or leads to an inner contradiction. Co–emergentism is not an exception in this respect. In principle, co–emergentism, as we see it, is a variant of what we call chaosogenesis; it has all the drawbacks of the latter, and is refuted by the same arguments. One of these arguments you clearly expressed in your essay with the reference on our “Pythagorean Universe”; many thanks! Notwithstanding this disagreement and criticism, I am rating your composition high for its unique good points.

Good luck in the contest,

Alexey Burov.

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 02:13 GMT
Dear Alexey and Lev,

Thank you for your comments on my essay. "Chaosgenesis", as you call it, does have its issues --- but so does every other hypothesis for a "starting point", "ground of existence" or "first mover". Who knows... maybe, in the end, what you call "God" or "Absolute mind" can be understood as "emerging out" of chaos, so chaos would still be the ultimate ground level! ;)

Sincerely,

Marc



Alexey/Lev Burov replied on Apr. 1, 2017 @ 19:49 GMT
Dear Marc,

The idea of " "God or Absolute mind emerging out of chaos" is incompatible with the trust to God as a foundation of fundamental science as we tried to show quoting Descartes and Einstein.

All the best,

Alexey Burov.

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Jesse Liu wrote on Mar. 29, 2017 @ 20:16 GMT
Hello Marc,

Wow thank you for such a lively, insightful and interesting read - I really enjoyed it and learned a lot. Your essay touches the foundations of physics, which is always fun to read. Since I first heard about the mathematical universe hypothesis, I've been intrigued but hesitant (maybe by lack of understanding) by to what extent (mathematical) abstractions could be considered physical.

When preparing our essay with my coauthor, we were intrigued by Wheeler's participatory realism that you mention when trying to figure out why we don't say a particle flying from a collider that I study by day has any goals. The second component of what you call 'co-emergentism' touches on the reality of fundamental structures, which resonated with a question we mentioned (but sadly decided not to tackle) in ours about to what extent we consider (simplifying/emergent) abstractions we use as scientists such as atoms to trees to social classes as real. It was really interesting to read how you put those two ideas together that we mused on.

Our work stays relatively clear of addressing these foundational, even metaphysical questions, as we chose a different stance of the natural sciences. But as you have thought about this with great clarity, I wonder what your thoughts are as to why we usually say a living organism as a collection of particles is a physical 'real' entity, whereas a political factions as an abstraction of many individuals' thoughts might not be considered real in the same sense?

Best,

Jesse

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 02:20 GMT
Dear Jesse,

Thank you for reading and commenting on my essay. It is true I've taken a fundamental metaphysical approach to the question, tying it to the fundamental interrogation about the "ground of existence" or fundamental level of reality. You ask a question about reality --- what is the reality of a political faction compared to that of a physical thing, like a living organism. It all depends, of course, on what you mean by "real". If all that exists is real, then I would say that a political faction is a real thing. It is not, properly speaking, material --- it is, first and foremost, an abstract structure made of many individual's thoughts --- but I would say that EVERYTHING, deep down, is fundamentally a structure, so in this sense it is as real as a physical object.

I have read and quite enjoyed your essay, and I will leave comments on your essay's thread.

Good luck in the contest!

Marc



Jesse Liu replied on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 07:22 GMT
Dear Marc,

While I certainly have not nearly thought about these issues as much as you have, it is really interesting hearing your stance on the reality and physicality of structures, including what I may intuit as abstract such as political factions or the like.

Thank you for you very kind comments on our essay - my coauthor and I really appreciate it.

Best of luck to you too,

Jesse

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Gary D. Simpson wrote on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 06:58 GMT
Marc,

Thanks for an interesting read. QBism is new to me. It sounds like a form of art like Dadaism or something. The co-emergence stuff is interesting too. The figures you present are useful in getting across your meaning. They helped me at least. The table you present is a nice summary of the pros and cons of the major ideas ... or at least it gave me some thoughts I had not previously had.

So, if I understand you correctly, the physical universe did whatever it did to be like it is ... and we observers did whatever we did to get here. The only reason we are here and aware is because we can resonate with the universe as it presently is. The temporal paths taken by the physical universe and the observers within it could have been totally different. The universe might have even been waiting on us to catch up to it to observe it as it was. Or maybe the universe cannot advance until it is observed ....

BTW, have you read Dr. Klingman's essay:-)

The variation on 20 questions is clever ... it allows the solution to emerge as a result of the answers provided but not as a result of the questions asked. What would happen if someone misremembered what was previously stated or if one of the people answering the questions could not think of a word that satisfied the question history? It seems to me that this analogy requires an intelligence outside of the observer. Since you mention the number 42 in your essay, I will assume that you have read "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy". So you are familiar with the mice and the bias they put into experimental science. Damn clever those mice.

I will ask a couple of questions here ... is there any way to test such a hypothesis? Does this hypothesis make any predictions? If so, how do they compare to the predictions of other hypotheses? I'll bet that the hypothesis makes no predictions and is not falsifiable.

BTW, ISAAC is a clever acronym.

Solipsism gives me a headache. Besides ... I'm the only one in the universe.

Having read some of the comments above in your forum, would you care to revisit your observation regarding delusional physicists? If there are an infinite number of both delusional and non-delusional physicists, can you determine the ratio between them? If you don't have a falsifiable hypothesis, how can you tell the two groups apart?

Since you made a small reference to a work of literature, I will do so too ... "Check your premises Mr. Rearden." It is very possible that homo-sapiens does not have the necessary structure to comprehend the universe. We could simply be a failed experiment waiting for an extinction event. Or we might simply be waiting for the right mutation to give us that next little bit of structure so that we can more completely resonate with the universe.

I noticed your post in another forum regarding scoring ... You presently have a score of 4.7 with 14 votes. Frankly, from where I sit you don't have much to complain about. FYI, I have received 8 one-bombs and 3 two votes ... all as down votes with no comment. You have 14 votes total. I have almost that many (11) down votes. You are correct in a sense though, the one-bombs hit when you break the 5.0 mark.

Now we will conduct a little experiment. It is 1:58 AM 3/31/17 Houston time. I am about to score you with a 10. Let's see how long it takes for you to be one-bombed.

Best Regards and Good Luck,

Gary Simpson

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 16:25 GMT
Dear Gary,

Thank you for all these insightful comments! I will respond to them later today and will comment about your essay on its thread. But for now, let me just comment on your little upscore/downscore experiment. Last night, before going to bed, I noticed that your vote had bumped me to 5.1 (15 ratings)... and this morning, when I woke up, I was back at 4.9 (16 ratings). It worked! I was one-bombed (or maybe two-bombed) within hours of your scoring of my essay, and of course, without any new comment on my thread. And this is right after having had no new score for 4 days. The one-bomber theory is validated. Sad!

Marc



Author Marc Séguin replied on Apr. 1, 2017 @ 06:45 GMT
Dear Gary,

I will now comment on some of the comments you made on my essay.

>> If I understand you correctly (...) The temporal paths taken by the physical universe and the observers within it could have been totally different.

Yes. Within the ISAAC (infinite set of all abstract stuctures), all possible paths can be found.

>> The variation on 20 questions is clever ... it allows the solution to emerge as a result of the answers provided but not as a result of the questions asked. What would happen if someone misremembered what was previously stated or if one of the people answering the questions could not think of a word that satisfied the question history? It seems to me that this analogy requires an intelligence outside of the observer.

Good point. How to explain the coherence of our observed world (up to certain aspects of U.S. politics) is indeed, for me, THE most puzzling question... and it can certainly be solved by having a "central intelligence" be in charge of the coherence of our world. But perhaps, as I entertain in the hypothesis of co-emergence, the combined intelligence of all the INTERACTING agents-observers is enough...

>> I'll bet that the hypothesis makes no predictions and is not falsifiable.

You're right. In the current state of our knowledge of the Universe, my essay is metaphysics, not physics.

>> If there are an infinite number of both delusional and non-delusional physicists, can you determine the ratio between them? If you don't have a falsifiable hypothesis, how can you tell the two groups apart?

Wonderful! I think this would make an AMAZING topic for a future FQXi essay contest. Brendan, are you reading this? ;)

And yes, I did read the Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy. So long and thanks for the score! :)

Marc




Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 14:50 GMT
Hi Marc,

You’ve done a remarkable job here. The scope of the essay is amazing; you touch on every idea I’ve ever come across on cosmic foundations and give us an insightful assessment in each case, and it’s wonderfully readable. Unfortunately, the ideas you settle on are hard for me to appreciate philosophically.

First, the notion of a Maxiverse of all possible abstract structures doesn’t seem relevant to me, because our universe is the opposite of abstract. It evidently instantiates many different kinds of mathematical structures, at many levels. But as I wrote in a comment to Cristi Stoica’s fine essay, while mathematical abstraction lets us make explicit the general patterns in the way things operate, it’s the unique instances of these patterns that constitute our empirical universe.

In a previous FQXi essay, I tried to make clear that there’s even an essentially non-mathematical aspect in the language of physical equations. A quantity of energy is different from a quantity of momentum, or mass or electric charge. The fact that all the dozens of distinct observable parameters in physics can be represented by abstract symbols in equations doesn’t make physics equivalent to pure mathematics.

My own interpretation of the fine-tuning of our fundamental physics is that it serves specifically to support the possibility of measurement. Gravity and electromagnetism and nuclear physics all help make possible the existence of stable material structures, without which there would be no “clocks and measuring rods,” nor any way to measure any physical parameter. Without the finely-tuned cooperation of all these different mathematical structures, the universe would indeed be “nothing” – nothing observable or physically determinable.

In my current essay, I describe measurement as a form of random natural selection, creating new facts that help set up other situations in which new facts can become determinate. But my point here is that however the so-called “collapse” occurs, the particular result of a quantum measurement is not mathematically determined. To me, this seems to make the concrete facts established by accidental events more basic than the mathematical structures that arise from their statistics.

So that’s one issue I have with your argument. The other is that I don’t like treating “consciousness” in the old Cartesian fashion, imagining it as somehow emerging separately from the material universe... or even co-emerging with it. There is no doubt something that transcends materiality in human consciousness, but as my essay shows, I think it can be understood well enough through evolutionary processes. And again, I don’t think the concept of “abstract structure” captures what’s essential to the uniqueness of each person’s mind, any more than it does what’s essential to our unique universe.

But though I disagree with your philosophical preferences, I admit that the scheme of co-emergence is an ingenious and imaginative solution to a “hard” problem you’ve considered carefully from many angles – so it ranks high above the general trend of speculation in these contest essays.

I think you came closest to the truth at the beginning, with the idea of a “strange loop” approach to foundations, as an alternative to “straight chain” explanation. This captures the recursive character that I take as the key to foundational processes in physics, as well as in biology and the human mind… none of which seem to be built on a “self-evident, rock-bottom” kind of foundation.

Also at the end, you make a nice statement – “It is as if physics is trying to tell us that the world arises out of the point of view of single observers, even if they do in the end form a community that observes a single unified reality.” This also relates to my discussion of human consciousness. If I may quote myself: “Each human consciousness evolves its own universe… I emphasize this, because unless we recognize how isolated we are, in our own minds, we can’t appreciate what our communication software does, or how remarkably it works.”

Thanks for an excellent and well thought-out contribution –

Conrad

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 06:36 GMT
(Duplicate of a post I left on the thread of Conrad Dale Johnson's excellent essay, Three Technologies: On the Accidental Origins of Meaning )

Dear Conrad,

I'm really spending too much time this year exploring the ideas and the references I find in people's essays instead of responding and leaving comments! I started the evening intending to write up my comments on your essay, but as they relate to your previous work (that I am quite a fan of, having stumbled upon your "Physics Forum" and "The World from Inside" pieces while researching this year's essay), I started by re-looking at them. I also read the posts in your thread, got intrigued by the comment you left to Don Foster about electromagnetism as a "fossil", read your "It from Bit" FQXi essay... Wow! I'm really impressed... It is unfortunate that I had read all your previous FQXi essays EXCEPT this one: in my essay this year, I almost put some your work in my references, but if I had read this essay before, I would have done so for sure. As your comments on my essay make it clear, there are many apparent incompatibilities in our frameworks, but I think they are due in great part to the fact that we define "abstraction" and "mathematical" in different ways. I am also willing to admit that my usage of these terms is not optimal. I may "evolve" towards the use of "informational" and "relational" instead...

It's getting late, so I will be getting back to you with more detailed comments and questions about your essay. (There are a few other essays I must leave comments on before Friday, so it may take a few days.) In the meantime, I just scored your current essay (which I really liked, by the way), with the hope this will increase its "visibility" in the rankings and encourage more people to read it, comment on it and rate it.

Marc



Conrad Dale Johnson replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 14:31 GMT
Marc, thanks.

Despite my critical comments above, I very much hoped you would read my essay, and now I have more than I could have asked for. It means a lot, coming from someone who knows the whole range of "big picture" ideas and can think so clearly at that level.

Looking forward to your comments -- if not by Friday, my email address in in the essay.

Conrad

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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 18:13 GMT
Dear Marc,

i just read your essay and it is quite interesting, since you name the main problems when trying to identify the fundamental level of reality.

An additional problem is to explain where the necessity of logic does come from. Surely, in the MUH, it comes from maths – or the other way round i would say. Since logic’s main ingredient is consistence, the main relation between mathematical relationships being able to facilitate conscious observers and the ability of these observers to contemplate abstract concepts such as ‘consistency’ at all, should be again, consistence. Is this a strange loop or just a tautology? It seems to me that it could be both, if we only could identify which mathematical relationships that are consistent, must necessarily lead to conscious observers.

I liked your remark that all of maths has zero informational content. This surely must be understood as an epistemological statement, since conscious observers aren’t able to contemplate all of maths – they are finite entities. So it seems to me that the notion of zero informational content hinges on the use of infinities. Moreover, if physical worlds and conscious observers co-emerge, so has maths (towards infinity?). If maths is an atemporal realm of all abstractions, it leaves the question open of how its main ingredient, namely consistency can be defined globally as its main ingredient, but not only locally. Surely, not all of maths must necessarily be consistent, but if so, how can we call these inconsistent parts of ultimate reality furthermore ‘maths’?

“Could it be that, when we worry about the proliferation of deluded observers, we try to push our reasoning too far away from our observed reality, into a realm where it no longer applies? 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 point of view, one that i myself adopt in my essay. Furthermore in several comments of mine i emphasize that although we are nearing the edge of our patch of lawfullness, due to principal considerations on consistency, logic and the assumed rationality of nature we should not conclude that right beyond these edges the most fundamental level of reality is revealed. One has to ask further where chaos and randomness comes from. If it exists, did it spring into existence ‘randomly’ from nothing – thereby self-confirming itself as the ultimate reality? This can’t be the case, since this would presuppose logic and its main ingredient – namely consistency. So, if we assume randomness, coming from nothing, as the ultimate level of reality, we end up with the exact opposite, namely not randomness, but the necessity of consistence (and therefore logic). Furthermore, there has to be some law that determines what can be possible and not (to at all speak about the full space of possibilities).

I prefer a picture of ultimate reality where our known logic is just a subset of other meaning-producing realms. In plain text, one could describe the main realm there as God, equating him with zero information, since epistemologically *and* ontologically, there could well exist things about we even do not know that we do not know them.

I’ll give you a high rating for having mentioned several hard problems instead of ignoring them and instead just facilitating a consistent explanation scheme without the latter having the property of necessarily meeting reality.

Best wishes,

Stefan Weckbach

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 06:57 GMT
Dear Stefan,

Thank you for reading my essay and leaving such insightful comments. In the end, I do believe that the ultimate explanation must be in the form of a tautological strange loop... or it would not be an ultimate explanation!

>> If maths is an atemporal realm of all abstractions, it leaves the question open of how its main ingredient, namely consistency can be defined globally as its main ingredient, but not only locally. Surely, not all of maths must necessarily be consistent, but if so, how can we call these inconsistent parts of ultimate reality furthermore ‘maths’?

Indeed, is there such a thing as inconsistent math? Since I posted my essay, I have gradually come to the realization that "mathematical" or "computational" might not be the best way to qualify the fundamental level of reality. Even "abstract" may give the wrong impression. I just learned that there is such a thing as "neutral monism", where the basic level of reality is of one "unspecified" nature... If we need to be more specific, maybe "relational" could be an interesting way to qualify it: instead of the "Infinite Set of All Abstract Computations" (ISAAC), how about the "Universal Set of All Relations"? (although USAR is much less memorable as an acronym...)

You also make interesting comments about randomness, not-randomness and God... I will elaborate further when I comment your essay on your thread!

Marc




Anonymous wrote on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 20:32 GMT
Hi, Marc,

I have read your essay (twice by now) and feel truly grateful. I am not sure I see the connection with the topic of “goal oriented behavior”, other than conceiving intentionality as one out of many properties of conscious observers. But I got a wonderful ontological view of the world, that gives me a lot of substance to entertain my thoughts – which is even better! I have been cogitating about these ideas for a few days now. I would like to share my thoughts with you, so you can tell me whether I got something wrong.

1) I tend to think that our minds evolved in a world that obeys the laws of physics. The co-emergent hypothesis is compatible with such a picture in which minds and the laws of physics evolved together. It seems, however, that it does not require evolution, at least, not as an indispensable necessity. Out of all the possible ensembles of computations, co-emergence postulates that it is possible to cut out a system that can give rise to a compatible pair of observer(s)+physical laws. The existence of this pair, however, is not obliged to emerge through a gradual build-up process, like Darwinian evolution. In fact, Darwinian evolution postulates first the laws of physics (be them our laws, or different ones), and only after (if possible) the emergence of observers. I cannot help imagining, however, that within the co-emergent hypothesis almost all pairs of observer(s) + physical environment are closed loops with no build up history. They can well exist right from the start (with no evolution), as Escher’s mutually drawing hands. Does this make sense?

2) Let us assume that we (as we are) and our physical world (with the specific laws we are familiar with) co-emerged throughout evolution. The emergence process could well have happened at a given level, which is fairly macroscopic, and could be, up to a certain degree, independent of the details of what happens at truly microscopic levels. Could this be an explanation why quantum mechanics is so weird? Could one argue that it does not really matter how things behave down there, we can still emerge as observers, and our perceived world can still emerge as the observed reality? Under this premise, the blurryness of the quantum level would reflect the fact that our existence does not depend on decisions taken so far beneath us, so it is ok if just anything happens down there (within certain bounds, of course, because we need to ensure the emergence of the proper macroscopic level). This is probably the same thing you state at the end of page 7, I just rephrase it here… because I would like to know whether I got you right.

3) At a certain point you state “our world is just too regular” for the maxiverse. I also have the feeling that it is too regular for the co-emergence hypothesis. All these theories have one truly elegant aspect: they are founded in irrefutable truths. And they also have a disappointing aspect: they explain little of the characteristics of our world. The co-emergence may explain more than the maxiverse, but at least as I get from your essay, the properties of our world do not seem to be a necessary consequence of co-emergence. Our world seems to rather be only one out of many worlds compatible with co-emergence, and the size of the compatible set of worlds is unclear. I guess that in order to make progress we need to

a) make up our minds on what we expect of a theory. Indisputable grounds, and generic properties of the derived worlds? Or capricious grounds, and narrow properties of the derived worlds?

b) work out the requirements that observers have on their universes, and universes have on observers, to determine more narrowly the characteristics of the pairs observer(s) + physics that can co-emerge. It would be fantastic if only our universe were possible, leaving only room for arbitrary things to happen at truly tiny or truly huge scales – explaining our confusion at these levels!

Thanks for the good read!

inés.

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Ines Samengo replied on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 20:52 GMT
sorry, it was me up there (hopefully logged in this time). Inés Samengo.

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 07:33 GMT
Dear Inés,

In my opinion, your essay is one of the two or three best that I read in this year's contest, and I was planning to comment on it next when I got all these comments almost at the same time a few days ago. I am honored that you found my essay interesting and glad you got to me first!

You understood really well what I was aiming for, as your astute reformulations indicate. Since ISAAC simply is, in a timeless/atemporal way, the coherent worlds within it can have a structure that can be described as an evolutionary story within time, but of course they also simply exist "right from the start" as self-defined lawful observers/physical world systems.

You correctly interpreted the speculative idea I tried to convey at the bottom of page 7. Since our level of reality is "multiply realizable" at the reductionist levels below atoms, the "blurriness" of the quantum world could very well be what is to be expected! (This is not an airtight argument, but it's similar to the claim made by some that the fact the quantum world is quantized meshes well with the idea that the universe is a digital computation/simulation!)

I really like how you put the dilemma that we have as metaphysicists/physicists: do we want a theory with "indisputable" (I would say non-arbitrary) grounds, but only argue about generic properties of the derived worlds? Or do we accept "capricious" (arbitrary) grounds, but aim to explain the particular narrow properties of the derived worlds? Of course, we should do both: the foundational questions community has room for both metaphysicists and physicists! :)

You mention the eventuality of being able to show that only our universe is possible, leaving room for arbitrary things to happen at truly tiny or truly huge scales. This is of course what Einstein meant when he said that the thing that he most wanted to know, was if God had a choice when he made the Universe. I don't think that our Universe (or even our type of universe) exhausts all that can (and must, in my view) exist. I would be satisfied if we could just show that our type of universe can be shown to be "reasonably likely" within a system of explanations that does not take regular, pre-determined laws as a "brute fact" that cannot be explained.

I will elaborate further when I comment your essay on your essay's thread.

Thank you for such interesting questions and comments!

Marc



Conrad Dale Johnson replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 16:49 GMT
Hi -- May I add a comment on Inés' point (2) above? She wrote:

>> Could this be an explanation why quantum mechanics is so weird? Could one argue that it does not really matter how things behave down there, we can still emerge as observers, and our perceived world can still emerge as the observed reality? Under this premise, the blurryness of the quantum level would reflect the fact that our existence does not depend on decisions taken so far beneath us, so it is ok if just anything happens down there (within certain bounds, of course, because we need to ensure the emergence of the proper macroscopic level).

I think something like this is right. That is, at the quantum level it usually doesn’t matter to anything just what the position or momentum of some electron is, and in that case QM says these values are indeterminate. There get to be determinate values just insofar as there’s a context of interactions that measures them. Defining that context in physical terms is hard, though, for reasons I focus on in my essay. But I don’t think the answer is to jump up to the level of our perception.

The thing is, quantum indeterminacy is not just blurriness… there are many levels of structure in the statistical wave-function. All that a measurement adds is a random selection. That’s important, just as natural selection is important in biology. But random events are only "selection" if there's something useful to select. The “collapse” of the wave function can only support a macroscopic world because it’s selecting from a set of possibilities that are somehow highly structured – evolved? – to help other measurements happen, in the macroscopic environment.

In any case, the basic idea of “co-emergence” is certainly relevant. In biology, the organism co-evolves with its living environment, and as Inés’ essay points out, the line between the two disappears when we take an objective view. In physics, measuring any variable depends on other measurements of other variables. And I think simplest explanation for the Born rule – why probabilities are squared, in computing the outcome of a measurement – is that at bottom, every “collapse” is a mutual selection between a thing and its context, so the same outcome has to be randomly chosen from each side of the interaction.

Thanks to you both -- Conrad

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 21:52 GMT
Dear Marc,

Thanks for reading and responding as you did.

My approach is essentially based on my analysis of experience. I believe your approach is based on the movement of physics toward the abstract, largely driven by confusion about the wave function. As you note in table 1: "it's been almost a century and we still don't know!" As I indicated, I believe this is due to errors of interpretation, and I am working to elucidate some of these errors, leaving only the "good stuff".

I see some confusion about consciousness, probably starting with "mind/minds". You say "Mind" might be too complex to be the fundamental level, while I think the field is universal, physically real, and simple. I do not think mind as conscious awareness is amenable to mathematical (or any other) description, but I do believe it's interaction with the material world is mathematically defined. In my view it switches the meaning of words to go from mind as "universal consciousness field" (with affinity to panpsychism) to "sane mind" versus "insane mind". The little-m 'mind' is a locally stable (or 'resonant') field awareness of local physical brain/neural net. The awareness is of local brain structures, some of which may be physically (organic) diseased and some of which are 'psychologically' diseased (mistreatment or misinformation). Each is undoubtedly unique! This is a different meaning from the big-M 'Mind' as universal field. I find the treatment of this somewhat inconsistent in your essay.

You say "for all we know, free will and the ability to act intentionally towards goals might be basic attributes of consciousness", whereas I define consciousness as "awareness plus volition/free will". In my model 'goals' arise from 'intelligence", which is the local interaction of the field with physical brains/dynamic logical structure. Goals have nothing to do with the fundamental consciousness field, only with local "resonances" or local 'minds'. When you say "maybe we're all one mind anyway", the "we" includes the local brains, while the "one mind" is the universal consciousness field. It may not be a category error, but it needs explanation.

As you noted, we both agree that mind/consciousness has an essential role to play in any ultimate theory of the fundamental nature of reality! From your excellent essay I believe your instincts are right on. I hope you continue to evolve your table 1. I've seen suggestions on your comments page for additional rows or columns.

Thanks for interacting with me. I enjoyed your essay and believe it should rank higher. This troll business of '1's is depressing.

My very best regards,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Don Limuti wrote on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 22:16 GMT
Marc,

Quoting you out of context:

"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."

I would change this to:

"most conscious observers that are sophisticated enough to (COMPETE IN) essay contests about the fundamental nature of reality find themselves in worlds that are surprisingly large, long-lived and extremely regular."

You and I .... the most interesting construct :)

1. Your essay examined the universe of current physical theory and presented a compelling theory of emergence. And it was funnier than my essay Ha Ha. Amazing!

2. You categorized the most advanced and sometimes controversial thought and presented it so that it could be visualized. Putting Max in his place, so to speak :) You have my vote and more!

3. Thanks for visiting my essay and your encouraging remarks. (I ordered the book "How Physics Makes Us Free")

4. Changing the subject.... Judging from your background in astro-physics, I invite you to visit a calculation I made (straightforward math) that I should not have been able to make about Mercury's precession. If anyone can make sense of it I believe you can. http://prespacetime.com/index.php/pst/article/view/1188/1163


Appreciate your being a member of FQXi.org

Don Limuti

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Don Limuti replied on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 04:33 GMT
Correction: You presented a compelling theory of co-emergence (not emergence).....

I am delighted that many FQXi.org essayists discovered your diamond of an essay essay and lifted it out of the coal bin. ....About time!



Don Limuti

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Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 10:13 GMT
Dear Marc Séguin

I appreciate your essay. You spent a lot of effort to write it. If you believed in the principle of identity of space and matter of Descartes, then your essay would be even better. There is not movable a geometric space, and is movable physical space. These are different concepts.

I inform all the participants that use the online translator, therefore, my essay is...

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Jochen Szangolies wrote on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 14:09 GMT
Dear Marc,

thank you for an interesting essay! Although your approach differs from mine very much in scale, there's a similarity in method: we both look to avoid the paradox of 'turtles all the way down' by positing a kind of self-referential (what some call 'autopoietic') element.

I find your attempt at deriving the existence of a lawful world from Tegmark's mathematical universe intriguing---although I ultimately disagree with Tegmark's ideas, I decided to not let that influence my rating of your essay, instead concentrating on what you do with the idea, how well you argue your case, and so on.

Your figure 4 is a very impressive collection of (at first blush) disparate ideas that nevertheless seem to point towards a common trend; if you've read the essay of Philip Gibbs in this contest, you'll note that he pulls along similar lines. I think perhaps the oldest progenitor of this sort of 'relativized existence' thinking is in the Buddhist concept of 'dependent origination'---in particular in Nagarjuna's writings. Everything is ultimately 'empty', that is, has no intrinsic nature; instead, its nature derives only from mutual relationships, as in that between the observer and the world (this is superficial, but I think a more detailed reading supports a deeper relationship between such ideas and modern algorithmic descriptions).

However, grand metaphysical speculation that it is, I'm not really sure I understand how your essay actually approaches the contest's main theme---namely, how goal-directed behavior emerges. Apologies if I missed something crucial, but as far as I can see, you briefly raise the problem in your 'hard problems'-table, but seem unsure of the answer ('Might be...') yourself. I'd be very grateful for some elaboration on this point!

Anyway, I wish you all the best for the contest.

Cheers,

Jochen

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 22:52 GMT
Dear Jochen,

Thank you for reading my essay and commenting it. And thank you for pointing out to me Nagajuna's concept of "dependent origination". I have begun to read about this, and it is very interesting and relevant indeed!

You are right about the fact that my essay does not say much about the specifics of goal-directed behavior. I don't know if you read George Bizadellis' essay, where he presents the Buddhist concept of "Wu", which means to "reconsider the scope of the inquiry or [to] withdraw the question". My approach to this year's essay question was to "reconsider its scope" and address the general relationship between "mindless mathematical laws" and "agents with intention". In my view, all-that-exists is an infinite ensemble that contains zero information, and at this level there are no goals or intention. But within one of the "physical" worlds that make up all-that-exist, we can identify subsystems that exhibit goals --- by the way, Inés Samengo's essay deals with this question in a way I found particularly interesting.

I will soon comment your essay's on its thread.

Marc



Jochen Szangolies replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 07:42 GMT
Dear Marc,

glad you could make some use of my vague gesticulation in Nagarjuna's direction! I think it's truly not so far away from the general conception that seems to gain traction at the moment: everything is empty of 'ultimate' nature---deep down, the world contains exactly zero information. Definite structures only arise in mutual dependence---it's only if you 'cleave' the set (class, whatever) of 'everything' in two that any information emerges (along the crack, so to speak). So maybe you have to partition the infinite ensemble into observer and observed to have a 'world' as we conceive of it emerge, complete with goals, warts and all.

In a sense, it's a bit like a rainbow: the physical conditions---light hitting rain in the right way---don't fix the rainbow completely; rather, it's only once you introduce observers into the mix that any of the 'possible' rainbows becomes actual; and then, every observer sees their own rainbow.

Cheers,

Jochen

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George Gantz wrote on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 15:07 GMT
Marc -

This is by far the best essay I have yet read in this contest - a coherent and systematic effort that acknowledges the "hard problem of foundations" and the integral role of "strange loops."

An observation: Your table outlines how five different starting points answer six hard problems. The middle three (mind, physics and math) correspond to the Penrose three worlds. None of these can be comprehensive as they are (per Penrose) co-dependent. Only the far left and far right columns purport to offer a comprehensive response. Obviously, you are presenting the "co-emergentist" column in the most favorable light consistent with the thesis of your essay. I suggest that if you were to present the far left column in a similarly sympathetic and enthusiastic manner, we might find the two extremes to be equally effective in addressing the hard problems. These then might be seen as two related poles - linked in a strange loop. One drawing on nothing as its inspiration (the nothingness of "all-of-math"), the other drawing on everything (the infinity of a divine uncreated agent).

You have speculated, "one can argue that goals, intentions and free will, even if they are still globally meaningless, somehow acquire more significance." From the alternate pole, one could argue that the world is filled by goals, intention and free will - acting through a process that harnesses the mindlessness of mathematical laws.

As you have named your speculation "ISAAC", one might name the alternative "ISHMAEL" - Intentionally Specified Historical Meaningfulness Activated by Emergence from Love". Both are children of Abraham (which loosely means - the father is exalted). In my essay "The How and The Why of Emergence and Intention", I suggest that it is impossible rationally to determine which is the rightful heir to the truth.

I do, however, believe that one's choice of nothing or everything as a source of inspiration can have a radical influence on one's view of life. Over the past century, the "nothing" inspiration has been in the ascendent. A does of everything would be helpful, perhaps....

Sincere regards - George Gantz

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 04:19 GMT
Dear George,

In the previous contest, we had a very interesting discussion about our respective views of the world. It is good to interact with you again in this contest. Thank you for your enthusiastic comments about my essay!

Mind, physics and math are indeed three co-dependent poles in Penrose's triangle, but this is certainly not the only way to look at them. Personally, I would not so easily dismiss the three central columns of my table! After all, most of the essays in this contest take physics as the basis of the Universe, but a lot of them take mind, and only a few take the God option like you do. Ideas similar to my concept of co-emergence are also pretty rare, at least explicitly --- but many of the hypotheses I have come upon have some sort of strange loop/self-referentiality built in... or maybe I am just interpreting them that way.

ISHMAEL is a nice acronym. You choose to take intention and love as axioms, while I think these are too "high-level" concepts to serve as the basis of all-that-exists. So I will keep on trying to eat my something and have my nothigness too --- a real, tangible, self-meaningful pearl of a universe, nested in the purest of all oysters: the Oyster of Nothingness. Maybe it's the end of the voting period that is getting to my head, but I am certainly waxing lyrical tonight!

One last thing: one could think that if the universe, at the deepest level, emerges out of mathematical/computational structures/relations/abstractions, it is a sad, worthless illusion --- a dead universe, in the words Stefan Weckbach uses at the end of his essay. To the contrary, I would say it is the most alive of universes, because all-of-math is an infinite, limitless ensemble where even the most complex "god-like" minds can exist and play!

I will soon comment your essay's on its thread.

Marc




Author Marc Séguin wrote on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 20:52 GMT
Dear Conrad, Stefan, Inés, Jochen and George,

Thank you for all the insightful comments about my essay that you left in the posts above... all within the last 24 hours! Fortunately, I had already read and annotated each of your esssys, so I just need to put all this together in order to reciprocate on your essays' threads. I will also respond directly to the comments you made in the posts above... by tomorrow or the day after at most. My “problem” this year is that so many of the essays I read bring new ideas and references that are pertinent to my hypotheis of “co-emergentism”... I say to myself that I will start by exploring these ideas and references further before I comment on the essays I read, but time is running out and I now have to hurry to leave all the comments I want to make before the voting period ends...

Talk to you further soon!

Marc




Patrick Tonin wrote on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 08:33 GMT
Dear Marc,

I would just like to congratulate you for your very interesting essay. But I would also like to congratulate you on your approach to this contest. Indeed, I like the way you are genuinely involved in replying to other contestants in a sincere and direct way.

I thank you for your time and I wish you all the best.

Cheers,

Patrick

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 03:58 GMT
Thank you Patrick. I have just read the intriguing (and very short) essay you submitted, which dives straight in the most fundamental aspects of metaphysics, and I wish you good luck in the contest and in your ongoing research.

Marc




Lorraine Ford wrote on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 06:48 GMT
Marc,

Disappointed with your essay because I expected it to be more QBist. Page 1 and most of page 2 were OK. Sorry, but from then on, my opinion is that the essay descended into illogic e.g.:

Well, there might be a way to make “nothing” into a suitable foundation, by considering something that is equivalent to nothing: the infinite ensemble of all abstractions. An abstraction...

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Rajiv K Singh wrote on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 08:38 GMT
Dear Marc Seguin,

I must confess that your essay is one of the most provocative ones in this contest, there are a few others as well, one in particular by Weckbach. Your statements are in double quotes below.

I see infinity lingering in several expressions, such as: "the MUH implies an infinite multiverse that contains every possible physical reality and generates every possible conscious experience.", "Infinite Set of All Abstract Computation (ISAAC)" etc. Infinity as a concept helps in many awkward situations while constructing such theories as you attempt. But infinite number of any reality, or object, even infinite computations (running in parallel), that is expected to be realized or realizable, places the argument in serious jeopardy. And I am not talking only about lack of our mental abilities to conceive them. As we know, even values like sum of all integers, or even sum of infinite sequences of 1, and -1, can result in indeterminate territory, depending on how we arrange them. Constructing a mathematical argument leading to indeterminate contexts, and leaving at that does not pose a problem. But as I said, if that is expected to be realized in any manner, I do not know how one can get around such conceptual vacuity in reality. Moreover, the moment we allow indeterminism of any kind at any level, mathematics loses its absolute position to be the most fundamental cause of everything.

One may arrive at this conclusion in several other ways. In brief, an universe based entirely on absolute determinism of mathematics cannot come into existence, since a deterministic universe allows back tracing, and at no point of time an universe could emerge from null reality. On the other hand, if it always existed, then the definition of eternity demands that there could be nothing that has not happened in the past. Such an universe could only be cyclic or non-deterministic. The moment we accept indeterminacy in the consequence, mathematics gets displaced from being the ultimate cause of all reality.

A computation necessarily means processing of information. Information and even processing (computation) requires a physical basis. Information has not existence if not associated with physical states, such as bits, or neural states, or for that matter any state. Similarly, no processing can occur without interactions that result in change of states. A computation without such an association can only be imagined as a reference to the logical steps in mathematics. But then, there is no time element to control the steps, the steps can be thought of as having executed all at once. I am unable to fathom the statement, "Even though the ISAAC is atemporal, in the physical universes that exist within it, conscious observers perceive the flow of time: the concepts of causation and causality can be applied." On the other hand, if such a physical basis is provided for computation to take place, then the physical basis already exists, we do not have to create one. It must have a degree of determinacy to execute information.

Of course, one may allow mathematics to step down a bit from its high pedestal of absolute determinism / specificity / predictability, by allowing a limited indeterminism, then two points immediately emerge. First, mathematics does not remain the sole determinator, an element of some other reality must also be included at the root of all creation as you too have attempted to include. Second, we will have no forceful need for maxiverse, as an Universe is logically complete within its limits of indeterminism.

As I have attempted to work out the emergence of all elements related to perception and purposes from the fundamental reality of information that is a natural outcome of natural causation, the consciousness does not remain the most fundamental element of creation. But since natural causation, even with limited determinism, still remains a required element of the physical reality, we may only have to work out a possibility of emergence of causality. The process suggested by you, co-emergence of a cycle of A enforcing / supporting B, B supporting C, C supporting A, does resonate with me, but without consciousness being one of the elements. I suggest, evolving determinism from non-determinism should be used to the maximum, which has no problems with origin, time, and several other constraints. All one has to achieve is that unless sustainable level of determinism originates, it does not sustain by definition.

The title of Fig.4 is, "The co-emergence of co-emergentism". This is nice, even co-emergentism is not a fundamental requirement, it also emerges from something. But then, its emergence requires co-emergence. Fantastic ! In Indian mythology, at one point, one of the incarnations of ultimate lord Vishnu, Krishna, was confronted with an argument, that one could understand that all of the universe was created by You, but how did 'You' happen? And He says, "I am, that happened on its own". But it can also be interpreted as, "I am creation of my own self". Finished, no further argument is required. The likable point is that the thinker, philosopher, writer, Ved Vyas, who articulated this argument, must have been tormented by the question of origin of everything, and having found no escape, created this fantastic argument to achieve closure. So, co-emergentism creates itself, and then everything is taken care of. In this contest, people do not seem to appreciate humor, therefore, I am making it upfront clear that relating the story from Bhagvad Gita was in plain humor, no other motive.

"Emergence is usually understood in terms of properties of a system that exist at a higher level of description and have no equivalent at a lower level:". I have discussed in my essay the specific logical construction of the emergence from the elemental properties (semantics), where the emerged property is not a part of any of the elements.

"The hard problem of foundations is solved, but we now run into another one: the hard problem of lawfulness." Let me presuppose the meaning of the term 'lawfulness' -- is it requirement of a system or an object to fall under certain physical laws?

"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 community of conscious observers that share between themselves a coherent story about a lawful and stable world."

I cannot imagine easily a more fine / thin line of an articulation that brings in the conscious element to share, exchange, participate, and effect changes in the physical world, while leaving the power of agency with volition to emerge from the 'rigid mindless laws'. Either, it brings out that remarkable missing distinction which resolves the intertwined complexity into straight forward clarity of understanding, or it indicates a path that must be avoided in the trust that Nature may not be so intertwined and mixed up ! Given two factors, 1) lack of any reliable proposal for the existence so far, and 2) the author's choice of co-emergence, such a proposal can be accepted.

"The tension between an objective, third-person description of the world, and a subjective, first-person description, is of course at the heart of the difficulties physicists have been having, for almost a century now." Could I suggest that if we take the 'information', in place of consciousness, naturally associated with each description of states of physical entities, then we can make clear distinction between the first person and third person world view? Unfortunately, it is not fully discussed in my essay submitted here.

In Table.1, the author's attempt seems to be to show the ease and readiness with which Co-emergentism nearly resolves most hard problems, but except the first hard problem, the God First has turned out to offer most simple resolutions! So, after all, that may be the reason for its such attractiveness among general masses. May be, the 'desire of justice to the self' should have been also added into the list of problems to convincingly exhibit, how miserably the God First solution fails, and how equipotent the rest of the solutions are.

Rajiv

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 05:14 GMT
Dear Rajiv,

Thank you for this amazingly detailed analysis of my essay! I will address some of the issues you raise below, with >> indicating the excerpts from your post that I am responding to.

>> An infinite number of any reality, or object, even infinite computations, (…) places the argument in serious jeopardy.

I am well aware of the issues with infinity --- the infamous “measure problem” that plagues cosmology! I explicitly addressed these issues in my essay for the previous FQXi contest, “My God It’s Full of Clones”. But a finite reality would be even more problematic, in my opinion, because it would have a particular size, and that size would be a brute, arbitrary fact --- so metaphysicaly ugly, in my opinion!

>> Moreover, the moment we allow indeterminism of any kind at any level, mathematics loses its absolute position to be the most fundamental cause of everything.

In my view, indeterminism and mathematics are not incompatible: an indeterminist framework is still a structure, and there is no such thing as a non-mathematical structure, since mathematics is the general study of structures.

>> A universe based entirely on absolute determinism of mathematics cannot come into existence, since a deterministic universe allows back tracing, and at no point of time an universe could emerge from null reality. On the other hand, if it always existed, then the definition of eternity demands that there could be nothing that has not happened in the past. Such an universe could only be cyclic or non-deterministic.

I am beginning to suspect that we have divergent views about the fundamental nature of time, and that’s one of the reasons my argument sometimes seems so strange to you. In my view, the basic level of reality is not really eternal, it is more like timeless/atemporal. Cyclic universes do exist within the Maxiverse, as do non-cyclic ones. Within the infinite set of all abstract computations/structures/relations, you can have finite physical sub-domains, each with its own concept of time. It does not really make sense to ask how these different sub-domains are related in time or space.

>> Information has not existence if not associated with physical states, such as bits, or neural states, or for that matter any state.

In our world, information does require a physical basis, because at our level our world is physical. But at the most fundamental level of reality, I think it makes sense to talk about the information of abstract structures/relations. I think that a more serious issue about “disembodied information” is the fact that the information content of some structure really makes sense only relative to some point of view or observer… hence the need for some sort of co-emergence.

>> No processing can occur without interactions that result in change of states. A computation without such an association can only be imagined as a reference to the logical steps in mathematics. But then, [in ISAAC] there is no time element to control the steps, the steps can be thought of as having executed all at once.

Once again, I think this boils down to our different ideas about the fundamental nature of time. In my view, our physical time emerges when consciousness observes the steps of the computations. The computation exists atemporally, in a complete “static” form. The flow of time is part of our conscious experience of the computation, not something outside of it.

>> We will have no forceful need for maxiverse, as an Universe is logically complete within its limits of indeterminism.

Deterministic or not, if only one particular universe exists, it seems to me unbelievably arbitrary. The Maxiverse is an elegant solution and should be, in my opinion, the default ontological hypothesis. Now, if you want to argue against the Maxiverse, fine: just find an explanation as to why some perfectly possible universes are “forbidden”, and why only a few or only one is left in existence. By the way, I hold similar views concerning the interpretation of quantum mechanics: I think that the many-worlds view should be the default interpretation. If you want to argue for the “Disappearing World Hypothesis”, where only one outcome has “real reality”, the burden of the proof is on you! :-)

>> In Indian mythology, at one point, (…) In this contest, people do not seem to appreciate humor, therefore, I am making it upfront clear that relating the story from Bhagvad Gita was in plain humor, no other motive.

I appreciate humour… and Buddhism, so I appreciate the comparison you are making between co-emergentism and Ved Vyas’ argument!

>> I have discussed in my essay the specific logical construction of the emergence from the elemental properties (semantics), where the emerged property is not a part of any of the elements.

I am looking forward to the ideas about emergence that you present in your essay, and will comment soon on its thread.

Marc




Member Tommaso Bolognesi wrote on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 13:56 GMT
Dear Marc,

I am simply impressed. You wrote a superb essay! Precisely of the type I enjoy reading. I think the weakest component of your work is … the title! :-] All the rest flows magnificently, and achieves the highest levels in terms of contents, originality, presentation style, and even fun.

Both the opening quote by Wheeler, and the game of twenty questions by him, represent a perfect introduction and appetizer for what follows: very effective. The discussion about the hard problem of foundations (gods, mind, physical theories, up to … nothing) is brilliant and amusing. You have a remarkable talent for assembling and exposing ideas, new or already known, in a crystal clear way.

(About the a possible unifying fundamental law, you write that 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 believes possible.” I appreciate the ‘almost’. Let’s be open to the wildest conjectures.)

“For me, 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.”: great, when solid ideas are expressed as if they were jokes, without affecting solidity! Maybe this idea is already present in Tegmark’s work, but certainly not formulated with such an elegance!

Is then ‘Maxiverse’ a term you coined yourself? Cute!

Another aspect I appreciate much is the dense web of references that you deal with, and the effort you spent to relate your original construction to them. In particular, I am familiar with the work of Juergen Schmidhuber and Donald Hoffman, and I certainly see the links with your vision.

And so on…

I am left with a weak understanding of how you would define the relation between Mathematical and Computational Universe, but this is likely a weakness of my reading (that I could fix with a second reading), not of your writing.

Thank you and sincere congratulations!

Tommaso

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 15:39 GMT
Marc, well done again. This is another excellent contribution. If you take first prize I would find that completely satisfying.

The hardest problem in this area is how to explain a difficult point of view in a way that others will understand. You are excellent at doing that. For example, it is very hard to justify to some people that the ensemble of mathematical possibilities is not some realm whose existence still needs justification. I like your solution of thinking in terms of information. If someone asks me "tell em something about your experience of existence" and I rely "It belongs in the collection of all mathematical possibilities" then I have given them precisely zero information. It is a perfect tautology.

Your concept of co-emergence is another good idea. It is possible to describe emergence from logical possibilities as if it is a reductionist argument, starting from mathematics and ending with consciousness as a causal chain of explanations. However, there is a sense that consciousness itself is an alternative starting point which leads to possibilities. There is a "strange loop", or co-emergence. I talked about a bootstrap which is an analogy with two sides to it. On the one hand it describes a process by which a computer starts up by using a short piece of code to load in a longer bit of code, but it also conveys the idea of a system that pulls itself up by its own bootstraps.

At the end you express a hope that some way to calculate from these ideas will come about soon. I hope so too. It would be ideal if some analysis of the relationships between abstractions in terms of category theory could bring us to something like a physical master theory. If these ideas are right then such an analysis should be possible.

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