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It From Bit or Bit From It
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January 23, 2018

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: To what extent can we influence our future? by David C Cosgrove [refresh]
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Author David C Cosgrove wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 20:21 GMT
Essay Abstract

Mathematical laws can be powerful tools for explaining past regularities we have discovered about our universe—but timeless, deterministic laws are not compatible with the sort of personal free will I believe in. I contend that for beings like us—continually forming intentions, and seemingly with the capability of choosing between different future paths in pursuit of those aims—to arise requires a reality not bound by immutable ‘laws of nature’. Furthermore, I assert that a way forward (for the progression of research and understanding in cosmology and fundamental physics) can be provided by recognising that the passage of time is real, and change (unpredictable and irreducible) forms a fundamental part of nature. Corollaries include that: the future is not fully determined; quantum mechanics has to be reformulated to include objective wave-function collapse (e.g. allowing for maximal information densities to not be exceeded); space is emergent from a discrete, largely stochastic pre-space; mathematics is not able to fully capture the contingent nature of reality; and that the universe is best viewed as the product of a lengthy historical process, probably shaped by Darwinian-like evolution. This evolution, by cumulative selection on distinct universe spaces, involving the gradual emergence of complexity, has allowed the eventual production of algorithms able to scan the various possibilities of an uncertain future and choose a preferred path to follow.

Author Bio

David C. Cosgrove, Principal Research Scientist at an Australian federal research bureau, is a physicist whose career has focussed on mathematical models of transport activities and their impacts on society and the environment. Published works summary: Some of his other areas of interest include: fundamental physics and the philosophy of science (such as interpretations of quantum theory); the study of evolutionary principles or systems; the engineering principles of renewable energy technologies; ethics and social cohesion.

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Andrew R. Scott wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 21:27 GMT
Re: "...with the sort of personal free will I believe in"

A scientific analysis should surely be based on evidence, not belief. With everything else we observe beings based on either determinism, perhaps chance (if it exists) or some mixture of these, where do you see any evidence to support a belief in personal free will, with no mechanism for it apparent in our understanding of physics?

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Author David C Cosgrove replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 07:43 GMT
Andrew, thanks for commenting – and I take your point, since the extent to which we actually have ‘free’ will is a very contestable part of my thesis.

Though I note this is not a ‘belief’ in the sense of having faith in something unobservable or going against existing observations. I am just taking the evidence we observe every day – of seemingly having the ability to...

view entire post

Kigen William Ekeson wrote on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 09:07 GMT
Dear Mr. Cosgrove,

Thanks for the well written and insightful essay. I am not a scientist but was well able to follow your train of thought. Thanks for making the effort to keep it accessible to folks like me.

I found your ideas about our universe being characterized by "constant change" to be sympathetic to my own.

You write;

"Simple structures (strings of such basic information) randomly arise, with most extinguished quickly by the tides of change; but in time more stable structures emerge (compound messages either encoded on or transmitted between the pre-space loci)8, perhaps utilising algorithms that have evolved to partially shield their configuration from the underlying chaos."

Is this not just a way to state that 'complexity happens'? However, I would suggest that evolving stable structures don't utilize algorithms that have "evolved", rather, that they necessarily build upon a fundamental algorithm that includes both randomness and complexity. This algorithm describes the nature of 'change' itself and might/should be identifiable within all expressions of change.

In any event, i would appreciate your thoughts on my own essay as I've only received two comments of the 'cookie-cutter-spammer' type that some individuals here seem to be generously doling out.

Thanks again for an enjoyable essay.


William Ekeson

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Author David C Cosgrove replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 12:00 GMT
Thanks William – glad you enjoyed the essay. I had aimed, at least, to try telling an interesting story

(of the possible path of universal evolution) while keeping the content generally accessible.

In that paragraph you quote, dealing with structure preservation, I was not just getting at the eventual emergence of any complexity – but chiefly the need for some basic way of early structures (however they should occur, even if randomly) to be protected from the tumult of change, if the underlying change/randomness is as ceaseless and turbulent as I have presumed…

Perhaps this is not that dissimilar from your conception of a “fundamental algorithm that… describes the nature of 'change' itself” ? Though I have yet to decide if such an algorithm would have to be an integral part of reality (all the way ‘down’, so to speak) or whether it could possibly arise at some later, intermediate stage (more like a required heuristic rule, that would be necessary before any higher order structure could then follow?)

I look forward to having a read of your essay soon.


David C.

Attay Kremer wrote on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 13:44 GMT
Dear Mr. Cosgrove,

Thank you for the insightful and nonconventional ideas that you put forth in your essay.

In your abstract, you state "I contend that for beings like us—continually forming intentions, and seemingly with the

capability of choosing between different future paths in pursuit of those aims—to arise requires a

reality not bound by immutable ‘laws of nature’"
. I whole heartedly agree with you to that extent that purpose cannot arise from these so-called "immutable 'laws of nature'".

However, I do not agree that any formalism of mathematical physics is to blame; I hold that when one formulates using mathematics, he is choosing to describe things "immutably", even if he uses stochastic processes, and thus can never describe purpose.

I explore this idea further in my essay , I hope that you might be interested in reading it, and that we could continue a discussion on this important and interesting topic.


Attay Kremer.

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Author David C Cosgrove replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 05:34 GMT

Thanks for your kind expressions of interest, and your perceptive remarks.

And I think we are actually more fully in agreement over the topic you raise – i.e. not only am I sure that immutable (fixed or deterministic) mathematical ‘laws of nature' are incompatible with the existence of actual purpose, but have also become more convinced that no mathematical expression/description can adequately give rise to intentionality (and the freedom to act on those intentions in time).

Having been a mathematical physicist most of my life, that could be considered a bit of a setback, I suppose! But the more I think about the issue, I do not see how truly purposeful behaviour (and the ability to make choices) can manage to develop from lower level forms unless some element of intentionality is also intrinsic to those more fundamental levels (just as I fail to credit arguments that attempt to explain the emergence of entities with free will from fully deterministic physical substrates).

You say in your essay, “A world ruled by a mechanism is, by its very definition, a world in which purpose is only an evolutionary illusion” – and in my essay I discuss how an evolutionary perspective can help explain why the universe might be expected to have some of the features it does, but I also concur that this alone is incapable of explaining (non-illusory) purpose; and something else is required for understanding it (or what brings about some underlying spark of intentionality, and the breath that flares it to life…)


David C.

Attay Kremer replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 10:07 GMT
Dear David,

I seem to be quite bit more pessimistic than you, as I believe that the project of understanding purpose is bound to fail, while you - if I understand your argument properly - believe that something might arise that could provide an explanation of purpose.

I certainly agree that evolution can forge an understanding of particular features of the universe, and in fact, I believe these features to be many; however, I cannot see how purpose could one of them.

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Attay Kremer replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 10:27 GMT


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Ajay Pokhrel wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 16:22 GMT
Hello David,

I read your essay and enjoyed it as well as you have written we should not be bounded by 'laws of Nature' for intentions. And the best part I liked was:

"a crucial aspect is change" and yes it is absolutely correct.

But here I could not understand this completely "In the beginning there was nothing

and no change was possible." If no change was possible from the beginning or absolute nothing then how did the existence of universe continue? Or how did the universe formed out of nothing?

But anyway the essay was very interesting, also when you gave light(1) and dark(0).

Also, checkout my essay on "Our Numerical Universe" where I have compared universe with numerical patterns and mathematics.

Best Regards from Himalayas


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Author David C Cosgrove replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 08:37 GMT

Thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you found the essay of interest.

Note that the paragraph you mention, talking about how we really do not know much about the origin of the universe, was actually saying that "In the beginning there was nothing and no change was possible" is an impossible option, since otherwise we would not be here to talk about it…

I look forward to reading your essay.


David C.

Gavin William Rowland wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 07:15 GMT
Dear Mr Cosgrove

Thank you for this excellent essay. I find our perspectives to be quite similar in several areas.

I wholeheartedly agree with your assertions that

- we need to seek some kind of unifying complexification scheme - probably encompassing consciousness, and that mathematics is of limited utility in this area.

- that we should entertain models that are not entirely deterministic, leaving room for free will.

- and that the universe in some way "strives" to exist, (from nothing perhaps).

the essay question is difficult and I enjoyed your cautious yet open-minded approach. If you have time, please have a look at my essay "From nothingness to value ethics" - somewhat similar yet different...

Best regards

Gavin Rowland

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Author David C Cosgrove replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 11:00 GMT

Thanks for your thoughtful and considerate comments.

I will definitely have a look at your essay, and see how complementary our perspectives are!


David C

Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 13:47 GMT
Hi David –

I find your essay on cosmological evolution very interesting, though I don’t agree with the proposition you use to tie this into the theme of the contest – that “timeless, deterministic laws of nature are not compatible with individual aims and the free will to independently pursue those aims.” On the contrary, it seems to me that if the indeterminacy of quantum...

view entire post

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Author David C Cosgrove replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 00:03 GMT
Hi Conrad,

I was very pleased to read your generous and considered comments – and really appreciated you having taken the time to suitably deliberate on my essay’s line of reasoning.

I have started reading your insightful essay – and I feel our respective world-views probably have a reasonable amount of correspondence (or at least resonance).

I will respond more fully when I have had the time to mull over some of the connections between our discussions of universal mysteries…


David C.

Joe Fisher replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 17:22 GMT
Dear Dr. David C Cosgrove,

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 Universe must consist only of one unified visible infinite physical surface occurring in one infinite dimension, that am always illuminated by infinite non-surface light.

A more detailed explanation of natural reality can be found in my essay, SCORE ONE FOR SIMPLICITY. I do hope that you will read my essay and perhaps comment on its merit.

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 09:54 GMT
Nice essay Cosgrove,

Your ideas and thinking are excellent, some good quotes are…

1. In the abstract….. “I assert that a way forward (for the progression of research and understanding in cosmology and fundamental physics) can be provided by recognising that the passage of time is real, and change (unpredictable and irreducible) forms a fundamental part of nature. Corollaries...

view entire post

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David Brown wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 10:07 GMT
"With only limited data supporting even the tenuous possibility of multiverse existence, all such 'multiple worlds' reasoning thus remains highly speculative."

Consider 3 questions: Is Professor Milgrom of the Weizmann Institute the Kepler of contemporary cosmology? What is relativistic MOND? What is the meaning of MOND in terms of the foundations of physics? For my speculations on the 3 preceding questions, google "milgrom effect david brown".

Khoury and Weltman suggested the existence of chameleon particles that have variable effective mass depending upon the energy-density which is nearby the chameleon particles. Gooogle "chameleon cosmology khoury weltman". There might be MOND-chameleon particles that have variable effective mass depending upon the gravitational acceleration which is nearby the MOND-chameleon particles. There might be several plausible explanations for the empirical successes of MOND, but some kind of multiverse explanation is worth considering as part of the explanation for these empirical successes of MOND. Google "kroupa milgrom".

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Héctor Daniel Gianni wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 23:34 GMT
Dear David Cosgrove

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 usually enjoy this wander of their searches around it.

3) For millenniums this wander has been shared by a lot of creative people around the world.

4) What if suddenly, something considered quasi impossible to be found or discovered such as “Time” definition and experimental meaning confronts them?

5) Their reaction would be like, something unbelievable,… a kind of disappointment, probably interpreted as a loss of wander…..

6) ….worst than that, if we say that what was found or discovered wasn’t a viable theory, but a proved fact.

7) Then it would become offensive to be part of the millenary problem solution, instead of being a reason for happiness and satisfaction.

8) The reader approach to the news would be paradoxically adverse.

9) Instead, I think it should be a nice welcome to discovery, to be received with opened arms and considered to be read with full attention.

11)Time “existence” is exclusive as a “measuring system”, its physical existence can’t be proved by science, as the “time system” is. Experimentally “time” is “movement”, we can prove that, showing that with clocks we measure “constant and uniform” movement and not “the so called Time”.

12)The original “time manuscript” has 23 pages, my manuscript in this contest has only 9 pages.

I share this brief with people interested in “time” and with physicists who have been in sore need of this issue for the last 50 or 60 years.


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Peter Jackson wrote on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 19:22 GMT

Wow! Sorry I didn't read your essay earlier. Excellent writing style and I agreed with just about all! And just in time. Nice big score coming!

I really hope you'll rush over to mine which I'm sure you'll like. It leads up to a shockingly simple(ish!) physical mechanism producing a Classical QM derivation. (most physicist will run screaming from the very concept!) It does exactly what you suggested, re-formulates (though Diracs equation holds!) to explain the reality of objective 'wave function collapse', which results from 'requantization' on interactions. There's also a video;Classic QM on Vimeo.

Do throw all you can at it, though it only finishes the well tested model in last years essay which was scored top.

As an aside; (look afterwards) the same fundamentals have already predicted coherent compatible SR and pre 'BigBang'(NOT!) conditions in a fractal 'recycling' cosmology.

DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4540.5603.

I hope you get to read/comment/score mine before the time limit.

Many thanks for the great read.

Very best


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Author David C Cosgrove replied on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 01:45 GMT
Thanks Peter,

Am delighted to hear that you enjoyed the essay.

Having heard about this essay competition quite late, I had been rather rushed in its preparation, and ideally would have liked to have spent a bit more time tightening up the prose and/or content!

But even given that relative shortage of available preparation time, I thought I should get an entry in – since I feel that competitions like these can be such an important vehicle for researchers and thinkers, especially independent ones, to circulate some ideas/conjectures and discuss them more widely. So I am very glad that you found the essay so readable.

I have had a quick look at some of your work, and find it very interesting – I think we probably have many compatible views on a variety of fundamental topics!

I will now pop over and read your essay before the voting time limit ticks over…

I must admit that I had originally intended to play a more interactive part in this (voting) phase of the competition – but probably got a bit discouraged by so many low scores being passed out, seemingly by many who had not even taken the time to read the essay?


David C.

James Lee Hoover wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 05:38 GMT

Interesting concept of the universe viewed as the product of a lengthy historical process shaped by Darwinian-like evolution. This doesn't sound based on the Steinhardt Endless Universe with endlessly repeating cycles of evolution, each accompanied by the creation of new matter, but it has been a few years since I checked out this theory. I believe each cycle was a few trillion years.

A pre-space far beneath our observed world enhanced by neighboring loci, evolving information and algorithms evolving into complexities like our origins. With the full detail of development, it could probably make as much sense as the big bang.

Your roiling sea of potentiality reminds me of the dynamic conditions I speculate might cause dark matter as the product of EM, strong, weak, and graviton forces in a galaxy.

In the short time that remains, I hope you get a chance to check out my essay.

Jim Hoover

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Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 09:15 GMT
Dear Sirs!

Physics of Descartes, which existed prior to the physics of Newton returned as the New Cartesian Physic and promises to be a theory of everything. To tell you this good news I use «spam».

New Cartesian Physic based on the identity of space and matter. It showed that the formula of mass-energy equivalence comes from the pressure of the Universe, the flow of force which on the corpuscle is equal to the product of Planck's constant to the speed of light.

New Cartesian Physic has great potential for understanding the world. To show it, I ventured to give "materialistic explanations of the paranormal and supernatural" is the title of my essay.

Visit my essay, you will find there the New Cartesian Physic and make a short entry: "I believe that space is a matter" I will answer you in return. Can put me 1.


Dizhechko Boris

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