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Jochen Szangolies: on 3/27/18 at 10:40am UTC, wrote Dear Sylvia, sorry for taking so long to reply to your comment---it's only...

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FQXi FORUM
July 20, 2018

CATEGORY: FQXi Essay Contest - Spring, 2017 [back]
TOPIC: Four Verses from the Dàodéjīng by Jochen Szangolies [refresh]
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Author Jochen Szangolies wrote on Jan. 9, 2018 @ 21:06 GMT
Essay Abstract

We engage the world via models. However, every model is necessarily incomplete: the faculty by which modeling works cannot itself be modeled, and thus, remains opaque to understanding. We thus apprehend the world with tools intrinsically incapable of encompassing it as a whole. I propose that several challenging philosophical problems are in fact expressions of this limitation. Among them is the problem of fundamentals: since every model of the world reduces to some set of fundamental facts, we expect the same thing to hold of the world as a whole. This, however, ultimately confuses the map with the territory.

Author Bio

Jochen Szangolies acquired a PhD in quantum information theory at the Heinrich-Heine-University in Düsseldorf. He has worked on quantum contextuality, quantum correlations and their detection, as well as the foundations of quantum mechanics. He is the author of "Testing Quantum Contextuality: The Problem of Compatibility".

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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Jan. 10, 2018 @ 04:59 GMT
Hi Jochen, you took a rather constructive approach (not to say radically constructive) to tackle the essay contest’s question and you provide some interesting arguments.

Let me therefore make some probably helpfull, but also critical comments.

I conclude from your two propositions, when considered as true, that nature cannot possibly be exclusively only a deterministic system –...

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 10, 2018 @ 06:02 GMT
Hi Stefan,

thank you for your comments. Unfortunately, I don't have time to reply to them in full right now, but I think there's a potential misunderstanding here that I wanted to try and head off.

In a nutshell, my proposal is that the world, as such, is non-computational---indeed, I view computation ultimately as a subjective notion: a system computes only if it is interpreted as computing something. This isn't really different from other symbols (since ultimately, the states of a computing system are just symbols). A set of cracks in a rock made by natural processes a billion years ago, before any humans were around, has no meaning, even if it happens to spell out something (indeed, I remember the case of an alleged runestone turning out to be just such a natural phenomenon; nevertheless, a 'translation' of it had earlier been proposed).

However, our minds use symbols, and---if my two propositions are right---perform computations. For this to be possible, this computation must be underwritten by a process that is not itself computational---otherwise, we'd end up in an infinite regress. The hypothesis that it's qualia that underlie this mental computation then serves to ground it, and also explains why qualia are such a challenging concept---because we can't make computational sense of them. (Note that it doesn't mean qualia are all there is to consciousness.)

So, in brief, we use computational reason, modeling, to try and explain a noncomputational world---which is only ever possible partially. This is not such a radical proposition, really: it's the situation we've been in with respect to mathematics ever since the Gödelian incompleteness theorems. There, things are often phrased as if they're a problem for mathematics---'mathematics is incomplete', or something of that sort. But really, they're just a problem for mathematicians: because human mathematicians are limited to effective, formalizable means, no axiomatization we could come up with can encompass 'all of mathematics'.

If I'm not completely off-base, then the same thing holds of the physical world: no model ever encompasses it completely. Consequently, holding any particular model's base facts as 'fundamental' is just as misguided as thinking of any particular set of axioms (that are accessible to human mathematicians) as 'the axioms of mathematics'.

As for determinism, that's actually an interesting question I didn't have the space to engage in the essay. Basically, you can represent every noncomputable function as a computation augmented with a string of random numbers (see, e.g., here). Consequently, a computational reason, faced with a noncomputational world, could at best understand it as some deterministic evolution with interspersed random events---which is of course exactly what we actually have in quantum mechanics. So here, too, the hypothesis that we're trying to apprehend a noncomputational world with computational means seems to hold some intriguing explanatory potential.

To me, this seems then a fairly simple idea, with precedent in pure mathematics, that serves to elucidate many otherwise puzzling features of the world.

I'll try and get back to some of your more in-depth remarks and questions when I have more time.

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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Jan. 10, 2018 @ 08:07 GMT
Hi Jochen, thanks for the almost immediate reply, which clarifies a lot for me about your approach.

It seemed to me by reading your essay that there is a huge contradiction in assuming that the ‘mysterious’ interface between Qualia and the external reality should not be computationally describable in principle, but nonetheless should work via a deterministically acting (turing-complete) mechanism.

This arose to me as a mystery par excellence, since it then would transform the mystery of Qualia itself into the mystery of how one can justify to having the cake (a turing-complete interface) and at the same time eat it (having Qualia and consciousness defined as being completely equivalent to to a turing-like computation).

Therefore I wrote that maybe it perhaps is the other way round ---- and asked myself why nobody can see the possibility that it is no wonder that Qualia isn’t computationally definable ----- because it may turn out that computations, at least deterministical ones, are not the only things that reasonably can exist.

You wrote that

“But really, they're just a problem for mathematicians: because human mathematicians are limited to effective, formalizable means, no axiomatization we could come up with can encompass 'all of mathematics'.”

Yes, I fully agree; and I would add that it is only a problem if one has a platonic view of mathematics and its axiomatization as an eternally fixed (infinite) set of (infinitely) complex relationships.

It would be interesting to me whether you define the process that underlies our mind’s capabilities to perform computations as ‘computations’ in the sense that they are augmented partially with a string of random numbers – for example for human decision processess.

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 10, 2018 @ 17:40 GMT
Hi Stefan, glad I could help some. You're right to say that it would be mysterious to first characterize qualia as noncomputational, and then turn around on a dime to claim a computational mind after all (if I understand you correctly and that is what you're saying), but that's not my intention---rather, it seems in some agreement with you, I think that qualia are noncomputational phenomena, and...

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Stefan Weckbach replied on Jan. 11, 2018 @ 08:57 GMT
Hi Jochen, thanks for your comments. Yes, that was my problem. As I understand it now, you define the underlying process of connecting the stuff in the world with our mental constructs as Qualia, the latter fundamentally irreducible by any analytical means. Is this the correct version of what you are proposing? Since the problem of infinite regress and Gödel’s incompleteness theorems can be regarded as two sides of the same coin (regarding self-reference), does your approach at present also involve the notion of mathematical infinities, the latter having anything to do with the fact that Qualia are at all possible to exist (as they obviously do) in the framework of your approach?

Meanwhile I have written a reply to your comment on my essay page. I have clarified some points you may have misunderstood about my own approach and gave a rather extensive story of why I concluded in my essay what I concluded and made some more statements on how to give it a precise meaning. As always, any questions about what I’ve written are welcome.

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 11, 2018 @ 18:08 GMT
Hi Stefan, yes, I think you've got the gist of my idea there. Qualia are mysterious, because they're not amenable to model-based reasoning; and they're not amenable to that because otherwise, we would end up in an infinite regress.

Regarding infinity, well, I'm skeptical of the physical implementability of anything actually infinite---after all, I consider something being only possible by traversing an infinite regress to be something that's actually impossible. Otherwise, I could just hold that well, you need an infinite number of computations to subserve modeling, so what?

But I think that doesn't mean that the notion of infinity doesn't have any value in thinking about the world. For one, there might be open-ended processes, which, while not infinite at any instant, nevertheless also can't be called finite. Furthermore, there are possibly things in the natural world that must seem infinitary to a computational reason. True randomness, for instance, cannot be produced by any finite computer program. But an infinite program could, in principle, produce a random real number (by the trivial method of storing infinitely many digits, for instance). So if the universe is an open-ended process, and quantum mechanics is truly random, then there is no finitary concept that suffices to capture it.

Regarding your reply on your essay page (which is almost another essay in itself), I probably won't get around to replying to that before the weekend, so I'm gonna have to ask for a little patience here...

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Philip Gibbs wrote on Jan. 10, 2018 @ 17:29 GMT
Jochen, anthropologists are always trying to identify some "unique capacity" of humans that separate us from less evolved creatures, but the zoologists always spoil the idea. For example someone once claimed that humanity is an ability to make and use tools, but even animals such as birds and fish have been observed to use and even make simple forms of tools. I fear that our capacity for "constructing internal models of the world" may go the same way. Luckily this is a side issue that I think does not affect your main thesis.

Your essay has some ideas very much in tune with my own, but it also has some opposites which are possibly more interesting. You share a similar view to mine on the relation between nothing and everything in the context of information theory. Your response “Why this?” in answer to any proposal for fundamental theory also resonates well with me. Because of this I push back fundamentalism to a deep level using emergence, but whereas I still hold out hope for a system of mathematical meta-laws, you seem to go further and argue that there is no fundamental theory.

Your theory of models also seems to be opposite to mine. If we equate models with stories in my essay, then I argue that the real universe is the same as a model, whereas you argue that a model can never be the same as reality.

Do you see more similarities or differences? Whatever the answer, your essay is well argued and gives me a useful way to question my own view. I am glad you have been able to bring it under discussion with plenty of time left.

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 10, 2018 @ 17:59 GMT
You're completely right to question any claims of human uniqueness---and I don't want to claim that model-building is some uniquely human capacity (in fact, earlier versions of the essay contained many caveats regarding when in the evolutionary history of humankind this capacity first came up, but that ultimately didn't add much, as nothing really rides on the precise location of that point)....

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Philip Gibbs replied on Jan. 10, 2018 @ 21:22 GMT
Yes that does make sense. I also do get the point about our ability to reflect on ourselves. Even if I am skeptical about the phase transition and see it as a more gradual fuzzy change, the relevant part of the point is still valid. It is also meaningful in the context of my own essay.

Yes, our view of mathematics is incomplete because of undecidability and the formal systems we are limited to studying. There are models of mathematical logic which may be analogous to models of reality too. Somehow the universe must avoid the incompleteness that this potentially implies if physics is based on mathematics. You have a radical solution to problems like this through the noncomputability idea. The problem I see with this is that it seems to be saying something about what reality isn't, but it does not answer what it is. Are you saying that there is no answer to that?

I see things differently through a hypothetical principle of universality, but if that idea does not work I have to fall back on something like what you are saying. I'll say a little more about my view on my essay forum.

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 11, 2018 @ 06:06 GMT
You're right that my conclusion is essentially a negative one---again, this is like with Gödel's theorems: we won't find a single axiomatization of all of mathematics, it's simply too rich for that. Likewise, we can't tell a single story covering all of physics---reality is too multifaceted for that.

But that doesn't mean the end of science anymore than Gödel's results meant the end of...

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Jan. 10, 2018 @ 17:52 GMT
Hi Jochen, lots of interesting argument in your essay. I like your "Models are at the heart of our engagement with the world. When we think about a tree, there is no tree present in our thoughts; rather, we use a mental model in order to draw valid conclusions about the actual physical system." Though the conclusions are not always valid, they can be in error. Though sufficiently accurate, enough...

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 11, 2018 @ 17:58 GMT
Hi Georgina, thanks for your kind comments, I'm glad there was something for you in my essay.

Regarding the mirror test, I actually mostly tend to agree with you: it's certainly not necessary to be able to pass that test in order to have a sense of self, but I'm merely taking it the other way around---that having some idea of what 'you' are is necessary to pass the mirror test. Because by passing that test, a child, or ape, or bird essentially says 'that's me'; so there needs to be an idea of 'me' beforehand. I agree, though, that this isn't really clear from the way I put it in the essay.

So I think it's very well possible to have an internal experience of an 'I' without being able to pass the mirror test. Another example of such a situation might be with animals whose primary sense modality isn't vision. For instance, for a dog, vision just might not play enough of a role to take it into consideration enough to do all the data processing necessary to correlate the image in the mirror with itself; but a smell-o-vision version might be no problem (not that I know how that might look, exactly), while I could easily imagine humans failing such a test without our self-hood thereby being called into question.

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Georgina Woodward replied on Jan. 11, 2018 @ 22:43 GMT
Thanks for your reply. Really good point about the different priority given to different kinds of sensory input by different species. I think it might be confusing for a dog to smell'itself' somewhere else, that it hasn't been and left its smell. I don't think I would recognize my own smell in isolation but imagine I would be able to eliminate not my smell of other people. And you are right we would not have the same kind of relation to the smell information as a dog. We would not identify that external stimulus with internal sense of self -causing the dog scientists to question our self awareness : )

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Brajesh Mishra wrote on Jan. 12, 2018 @ 15:55 GMT
Dear Jochen, I am impressed by your very methodical way of presentation and building of arguments / conclusions.

I cannot do but agree -->

The question “What is fundamental?” is already misguided: our instinct for searching for the fundamental is simply due to our model-based reasoning.

Best Wishes

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 14, 2018 @ 10:38 GMT
Dear Brajesh,

thank you for your kind comments. I'm very happy you found something that speaks to you in my essay!

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austin fearnley wrote on Jan. 12, 2018 @ 21:46 GMT
I have written up my memories of thoughts as a two month old baby. See here in (2008) https://ben6993.wordpress.com/2008/09/13/early-memories-as-a
-baby/#comment-83

I wrote that "there must have been a change of phase at two months" so I agree with you about early phase changes.

I wrote my childhood essay as no one believes my memories are credible. One friend has childhood amnesia and cannot remember much under ten years old. Remembering under two years old is often deemed not credible.

I also wrote that "a fractal analogy is interesting. In fractals, a similar pattern is found on different scales. ... I was remembering different occasions of being awake (small scale – one day to the next – awake/asleep/awake/asleep etc.), but it seemed like different occurrences of life (large scale – one life to the next). Before the change of phase, prior awakenings seemed like prior lives as there was so little of ‘me’ to remember in them. And as soon as I was old enough to know that I was a continuing ‘me’, ie in the new phase, it was too late… as I had been deceived by the change of phase into remembering it as a prior “life” rather than just a re-awakening."

And maybe this sort of phase transition underlies [mistakenly ;) ] belief in reincarnation.

Despite all that striving to find my identity at two months, I would no doubt have failed the mirror test until much older than that.

The change of phase has nothing to do with my own contest essay, but my contest essay does look at fundamentality wrt quasi-fractal ideas so maybe my baby experiences pre-conditioned me to think quasi-fractals are generally relevant.

Best wishes

Austin

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 14, 2018 @ 10:48 GMT
Hi Austin,

thanks for your comments. Regarding the mirror test, as I said to Georgina above, I don't consider passing it necessary to establish the existence of a sense of self---it's the other way around, passing the mirror test necessitates having some idea that there is an object in the world that is picked out by the indexical 'I'.

But it's certainly plausible (indeed, likely) that such an 'I' might exist without an ability to pass the mirror test. For instance, I can easily imagine a person that has never encountered the idea of a mirror, or reflection in general, having problems recognizing themselves as their reflection. That doesn't mean they have no concept of themselves.

I agree, though, that my phrasing in the essay was ambiguous at best.

In regard to fractals, I discussed them in passing in an earlier version of my essay, which however had to get cut due to length constraints---basically, the idea was that one can think about fractal structures that contain the full information about themselves within a proper part, so that the part may 'know' the whole. But it ultimately became too lengthy a distraction.

As for early-life memories, I can't really speak to that---I don't have any, and I know virtually nothing about the neurophysiology etc. involved. Georgina above, however, reports being self-aware at birth---maybe you two could exchange early-life experiences!

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austin fearnley replied on Jan. 14, 2018 @ 22:41 GMT
Hi Jochen

Thank you for your reply.

You remark connecting fractals with having the full picture in a small part was interesting as was your trimming down on fractals in your essay to meet the essay length restriction. I had to trim but kept quasi-fractals as central. I cut down on quantum spin though and that was a useful enforcement as I think there is a big mystery in tieing spin into the geometry of spacetime and I did not want to get bogged down in that mystery.

I noticed you commented on Indra's Net by Stoica. I may comment there when I am clearer, but to be honest I had not made the connection between quasi-fractals and bohmist ideas before now (so thank you as it has made me think differently!). Bohmism and the Indra's Net (may) imply a continuing spatial connection over time whereas I had been thinking only of an initial symmetry across space which breaks down via symmetry breaking because the initial symmetry is not maintained over time and space. On the other hand my model has 'universes' embedded in particles so maybe it is not surprising that particles have connections across the whole. That sounds unusual but it is simply calling the manifolds (at the heart of particles) 'universes' rather than folded dimensions.

Thanks again.

Austin

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Alan M. Kadin wrote on Jan. 15, 2018 @ 14:11 GMT
Dear Dr. Szangolies,

I read your interesting essay on modeling the universe. But I think you left out an important requirement. Fundamental models must be simple and unified, as recognized by Occam’s razor. Unfortunately, too many would-be fundamental models are anything but simple and unified.

In my own essay, “Fundamental Waves and the Reunification of Physics”, I argue that unity and simplicity are most fundamental, although the unity of physics was broken in the early decades of the 20th century. I review the historical basis for this rupture, and go on to present the outlines of a neoclassical synthesis that should restore this unity.

Briefly, quantization of spin in real quantum waves such as the electron (there are no point particles) provides the scale of discreteness in what is otherwise a universe of classical continuous fields. There is no need for Hilbert space, indeterminacy, or entanglement. The same waves provide a real embodiment of time, space, and relativity; there is no need for an abstract spacetime.

Furthermore, the advent of quantum computing takes this beyond obscure philosophy into the technological realm. Without entanglement, quantum computing will not work. There are billions of dollars being invested in this, and I expect an answer within 5 years. But when I have tried to discuss this with active participants in the field, they react as if I am killing the goose that is laying the golden eggs. No one wants to hear such a negative story, including funding agents. My prediction is that the failure of quantum computing will lead to a reassessment of the entire foundations of quantum mechanics.

Best Wishes,

Alan Kadin

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 17, 2018 @ 18:06 GMT
Dear Alan,

thank you for reading my essay and commenting. Occam's razor is certainly an important methodological guideline in scientific model building, but one should not overextend its reach---otherwise, one risks it loosing its edge. Ultimately, the what the razor really does is guarantee predictivity: without it, we would be free to choose whatever ad-hoc hypotheses make the 'prediction' we want to have, and science becomes arbitrary.

In other, less empirical domains, however, Occam's razor becomes mostly a question of aesthetics.

Regardless, I'll have a look at your essay---however, a point in advance is that it's by no means certain that entanglement is really necessary for quantum computing: DQC1, for instance, is a proposal for quantum computing that does not rely on entanglement to achieve a speedup over what's classically possible.

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Jan. 18, 2018 @ 09:11 GMT
Dear Jochen Szangolies,

While you are in Düsseldorf and not in Vienna, I guess you are equally competent in quantum theory as is Quantinger. Therefore I guess that your utterance

"is that it's by no means certain that entanglement is really necessary for quantum computing: DQC1, for instance, is a proposal for quantum computing that does not rely on entanglement to achieve a speedup over what's classically possible"

relates to several essays of this context.

Could you please explain how DQC1 is proposed to work? I guess, QC stands for Quantum Computer. If I recall correctly, at least two decades ago, first systems including quantum computing parts were claimed having already achieved a considerable speedup.

Curious,

Eckard

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Jan. 24, 2018 @ 08:22 GMT
Quantinger and Mr. Beam are nicknames of Anton Zeilinger.

Kadin might also be courious concerning the DQC1. Are all details secret?

Eckard

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Jan. 15, 2018 @ 20:18 GMT
Dear Jochen,

I enjoyed reading your essay. I like some ideas like the infinite regress in the relation between an object and its model, I thing you made a good point. Also the way you reported them to the four verses by Lao Zi, and the interpretations. As one major point of your argument, I understand that you connect the impossibility to give an accurate description of reality to another major problem, the hard problem. That's an interesting approach to this, and the indeed "bold hypothesis that these connections are given by our phenomenal experience, the qualia: our mental models are connected to objects in the world via our phenomenal experience of them" is quite intriguing!

I may come back with some questions, but until then, good luck!

Best wishes,

Cristi

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 17, 2018 @ 18:12 GMT
Dear Cristi,

thanks for your comment! You're right that the infinite regress is a core element of my essay; ultimately, I fell that much gets explained once one stipulates (or buys my regress argument) that the world isn't computable. And in the end, we never had any good reason to believe it is, anyway.

This leads to the idea that modeling itself is something not amenable to modeling---ultimately, because computation must be grounded in something non-computational, or face infinite regress. I thought it intriguing how these ideas reflect certain tenets of Daoism and Buddhism---in particular in the way they lead to the stipulation that ultimately, the world does not have a 'fundamental nature'---it is 'empty', as the Buddhists would say.

But again, there's a lot of interpretive license here. The Buddhists didn't really think in terms of algorithmic information content anymore than Democritus thought about quantum mechanics when talking about atoms and the void.

I'd be glad to answer (or try to, or at least, be hopefully entertainingly stumped by) any questions you have!

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Jan. 17, 2018 @ 04:40 GMT
Dear Jochen Szangolies,

I enjoyed your essay on modeling and generally agree with your statements therein. I too have long thought that an appropriate metaphor is

"The nameless is beginning of heaven and earth,

the named is the mother of 10,000 things
."

and I fully agree with your final sentence:

"… Some of the most difficult philosophical problems might call not so much for their solution, as for their dissolution."

"When the one mind is not disturbed,

The ten thousand things offer no offense
."

One nagging philosophical problem arose from Einstein's contention concerning "the relativity of simultaneity". My essay examines the historical evolution of his view. I hope you will find interesting enough to comment on.

Congratulations on a pleasing and well-written essay.

Best regards,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 17, 2018 @ 18:20 GMT
Dear Edwin,

I'm happy you see some value in my appropriation of Laozi. I think that there's a set of similar ideas that you can see popping up throughout history, in really disparate places, that formulate in different frameworks similar core insights---and that, once recognized, those ideas can serve to correct what I see as some fateful and potentially misleading ideas in traditional Western philosophy. Most notably, a core strain in the latter is that everything starts with substance, something that, in some way, is capable of standing on its own, of yielding a foundation not itself upheld by anything else. Eastern metaphysics, with its emphasis on relationalism or denial of such things as fundamental substances, natures or characters, may help overcome some long-ingrained prejudice here.

That's not to say that those wise ancients got everything right. Nobody did, and likely, nobody will for the foreseeable future; but we need to survey all the options on the table, pick what works and discard what doesn't, even if it hurts sometimes, if we ever want to get down to business.

Anyway, thank you for your comment. Your essay is on my reading list, although I may be slow to comment due to some work related issues; I remember finding your last one very intriguing.

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Aditya Dwarkesh wrote on Jan. 17, 2018 @ 10:57 GMT
Dear Jochen,

You have constructed, in my opinion, a remarkably accurate analysis of the question at hand. Your essay is certainly one of the standouts in this contest, as far as I am concerned. You will find me to be in agreement with all of the proposals you have put forth, bar none.

Would you happen to have read the works of Ludwig Wittgenstein? I see heavy shades of his own thought in your essay, and Wittgenstein is always welcome company in such meditations.

I have just one query, however: You speak of the minimum amount of information required to uniquely specify a system. Do you have any suggestion for a criterion using which one may pick out this set of information?

My own thoughts (which you will find in my now uploaded essay) are, it seems to me, quite similar to yours (in form than in substance)- I felt like I was rating my own essay when I rated yours!

Regards,

Aditya

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 17, 2018 @ 18:27 GMT
Dear Aditya,

thanks for your kind words! And you're right to spot the influence of Wittgenstein on my thinking (although more the Tractatus, early-period Wittgenstein). As I said above, I think there's a cluster of ideas related to the unutterable, to what cannot be grasped with the concepts we have at our command, that surfaces in different formulations and with different thinkers.

As for the minimum of information, I'm leaning on a concept from algorithmic information theory here: Kolmogorov complexity, which roughly relates to the shortest program (on any kind of computer---in fact, it turns out to be irrelevant which computer you use) that suffices to reproduce a given object. So for a piece of text, or a picture, or whatever, there are generally many possible programs that produce it as output; you take the shortest, measure its length in bits, and get a unique measure of the amount of information needed to specify that system.

It comes with a catch, though: due to issues related to the halting problem, it's in general impossible to compute the precise minimum value. (However, certain approximations exist.)

I'll certainly have a look at your 'linguistic turn' on the contest's question!

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Joe Fisher replied on Jan. 18, 2018 @ 15:36 GMT
Dear Jochen Szangolies

In qualifying the aim of the ‘What is Fundamental?’ essay contest, Dr. Brendan Foster, the FQXi.org Science Projects Consultant wrote: “We invite interesting and compelling explorations, from detailed worked examples through thoughtful rumination, of the different levels at which nature can be described, and the relations between them.

Real Nature has never had any finite levels.

I have concluded from my deep research that Nature must have devised the only permanent real structure of the Universe obtainable for the real Universe existed for millions of years before man and his finite complex informational systems ever appeared on earth. The real physical Universe consists only of one single unified VISIBLE infinite surface occurring eternally in one single infinite dimension that am always illuminated mostly by finite non-surface light.

Joe Fisher, ORCID ID 0000-0003-3988-8687. Unaffiliated

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Peter Jackson wrote on Jan. 20, 2018 @ 22:07 GMT
Dear Jochen,

I enjoyed reading your interesting essay, a little surprising considering your QM background but a good analysis. I found similarities with my last yrs essay though I identified a model and cognitive neural mechanism for greater self-understanding than most seem to think possible and you suggest. It used multiple layered feedback loops with some similarity to latest AI. Please do falsify it if you have time. prev fqXi essay

I'm certainly one for mental models and did Architecture training to hone visualization skills. Adding dynamics was then a small step, hlped by yacht racing and processing a number of inertial frames. It was nice to read your rationalisation of that.

Good score coming, but most importantly I do hope you'll read my essay where with different more coherent starting assumptions I appear now to have derived complementarity classically along with QM's predictions & CHSH>2. It needs your skills. See also the matching code in Declan Trails.

Many thanks. Look forward to chatting, & best of luck.

Peter

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 27, 2018 @ 11:48 GMT
Dear Peter,

thanks for your kind comments. I'm not sure why you think that my QM background is at odds with the themes of my essay---quite to the contrary, I think it is my background there that opened up the possibility of viewing the world rather as covered by perhaps even superficially inconsistent pictures, rather than as being wholly cut from the same marble (because of the notion of complementarity).

I will try and have a look at your essay---although one cautionary note upfront is that I think it's generally not a good idea to try and produce a classical explanation for CHSH > 2, since that's easily done via data-rejection, timing issues, or similar such tricks. In my opinion, you should instead focus your efforts on inequalities that take only actually observed events into consideration, such as the Clauser-Horne one. But more on that probably later.

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Peter Jackson replied on Jan. 27, 2018 @ 15:00 GMT
Jochen,

"covered by perhaps even superficially inconsistent pictures" Yes, right on.

also "inequalities that take only actually observed events into consideration" agree entirely, you'll see that's what I've done. (But of course it must still give CHSH>2).

I actually model the interaction events physically at a larger scale and reveal a classical natural 'complementarity' hidden within 'OAM' itself, so QM's starting assumptions need a slight change (to match Maxwell's inclusion of 'curl'). All experimental outcomes then follow classically. Yes I know that sound ridiculous after 100 years but it's none the less true. The full ontology and (slightly complex in 3D) process and protocol are given, with a short video to assist.

I'd greatly value you studying the model carefully and analysing/discussing. It seems few really understand QM and most that do are sold on nature being weird. Are you familiar with John Bells rather ignored views & comments that a classical description must exist? (around p172-5 I recall - quote on request)

Very best

Peter

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Francesco D'Isa wrote on Jan. 23, 2018 @ 21:46 GMT
Dear Jochen,

I really enjoyed your essay, your parallels with the Dàodéjīng (but also with the "emptiness of emptiness" of the buddhist conclusion) are very well implemented. My essays about absolute relativism has many points in common with yours and I'm particulary intrigued by some of your statement. You worth a good vote and I wish you luck!

I've a question. You write that "Consider the world as a set of objects. Call that set ‘everything’. Then, ‘everything’ has no information content at all, since it must have the same information as its complement, i.e. ‘nothing’.", but I've not understood fully what's your definition of "information".

Bests,

Francesco D'Isa

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 27, 2018 @ 11:59 GMT
Dear Francesco,

thanks for your comment! I'll have a look at your essay, 'absolute relativism' is a nice turn of phrase and indicates that you're already aware of the main problems relativist approaches face---as phrased by Connor Oberst, "if you swear that there's/ no truth, and who cares/ how come you say it,/ like you're right". (But that just as a diversion.)

Regarding my definition of information, I essentially appeal to algorithmic information theory---there, the information content of an object is defined by the shortest program necessary in order to make a computer output that object (or a description of it). So a string like 'aaaaaaa....a' can be reduced to 'na', where n is an integer, while a jumble of random characters in generally can't be reduced much.

This captures the intuition that information content ought to have something to do with the redundancy in some object: what is highly redundant can't tell you anything new, and thus, contains little information; if there is little redundancy, however, there's new information at each step. In other words, low-information objects can be highly compressed, high-information objects have little room for compression.

Does that help clear things up?

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Francesco D'Isa replied on Jan. 27, 2018 @ 12:33 GMT
Dear Jochen,

thank you very much, you was very clear. I found your essay very interesting and I wish you luck!

(Yes, my text is an attempt to handle that paradox, I hope it will interest you).

All the best,

Francesco

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Jan. 25, 2018 @ 21:01 GMT
Hi Jochen Szangolies

You said nicely ‘Among them is the problem of fundamentals: since every model of the world reduces to some set of fundamental facts, we expect the same thing to hold of the world as a whole. This, however, ultimately confuses the map with the territory.’ And about the Mirror test…” it's certainly not necessary to be able to pass that test in order to have a...

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 27, 2018 @ 11:51 GMT
Hi Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta,

thanks for your comment and your appreciation. I'll try to have a look at your essay, but I can't promise I'll find something interesting to say. I will have a look, though.

(Sorry for just copy-pasting your name, I was unsure which address to use.)

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Author Jochen Szangolies wrote on Jan. 27, 2018 @ 12:40 GMT
@All, I'm sorry if I'm a bit tardy in my replies---work has been keeping me a little busy lately. This should clear up in February, though, so I hope to be quicker with my answers then.

In the meantime, why don't you have a look at the discussion of my essay over at the fantastic blog on all things consciousness, Conscious Entities where Peter Hankins provides his insightful commentary on the issues I discuss in the essay!

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Member Marc Séguin replied on Feb. 15, 2018 @ 19:20 GMT
Jochen,

When I click the direct link to "Conscious Entities", it does not work, because there is no ":" after https! Just to let you know... You may want to correct the link, so more people can access the interesting conversation over there!

Marc

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 16, 2018 @ 18:01 GMT
Thanks, Marc, for pointing this out! Although I'm not sure how this happened, since I just copied and pasted the link... Anyway, for anybody interested, with any luck clicking here should get you to Peter's discussion of my essay.

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Luca Valeri wrote on Jan. 28, 2018 @ 00:26 GMT
Hi Jochen,

I liked your essay very much. And I love the Tao Te Ching. It helps to widen our imagination of the world.

So allow me to make one sceptical remark: Do you really belief the various incompleteness theorems are an indication (or prove?) for the existence of something beyond our modelling capacity? Sometimes I hope so. And sometimes I'm sceptical. Let me try to formulate my scepticism:

Your model in figure 1 seem to me to assume a realistic world view in the sense, that the object is independent of the model. This makes the entities (object, model) together build a new object, that can be modelled, and that is bigger, than the original object. This is analog to Thomas Breuer's "The impossibility of accurate state self-measurements". A system wants to measure an object with n properties. Let us say, that the the measurement system needs n properties itself to distinguish these n properties. So together system and object have n^2 possible properties (possible states). More than the system can measure. So a system within the total can never have the full information. Is this at the root quantum complementarity?

Not so sure. In classical systems with symmetries for instance only the relative distance is measurable. So if the object has a location x (like a property) and the measurement system has location y. Only the distance (x-y) has a physical significance. The domain of the distances is of the same range as the properties of the measurement system. So classical systems seems to work very well although it seemed we had some incompleteness here. And no wonder classical physics worked so well for many years.

Finally let me say that your argument with the Mary case is beautiful.

Regards,

Luca

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 28, 2018 @ 10:34 GMT
Hi Luca,

thanks for your nice comments (in particular in regard to the Mary's room argument)! As for your skepticism, I think there's many different ways of approaching this question. One, for instance, is that I think Gödel's two incompleteness theorems establish a limitation of the human capacity to formalize mathematics, not a limitation on mathematics itself, as it's usually...

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Member Tejinder Pal Singh wrote on Feb. 1, 2018 @ 18:20 GMT
Dear Jochen,

Your essay is very beautiful! My compliments.

My starting point in my essay is somewhat similar to yours - emergence of self-awareness as crossing of a critical threshold during evolution. But then I drifted off in a different direction :-)

My best wishes for your success in this contest.

Tejinder

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 4, 2018 @ 12:21 GMT
Dear Tejinder,

thanks for your kind words! I'll have a look at what you're doing with the 'phase transition'-imagery. In some ways, I wonder if one couldn't develop that metaphor in a more rigorous way---Tegmark, of course, has already proclaimed consciousness to be a 'state of matter'. So perhaps we're just one early pocket of self-awareness percolating in a universe about to transform. Ah well, that might make a good plot for a science fiction story, at least...

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Heinrich Päs wrote on Feb. 2, 2018 @ 12:45 GMT
Dear Jochen - fantastic essay! Beautifully written and very interesting!

It also seems to me we have a large overlap in our ideas: What you call "a world without models" is pretty similar to what I call "a fundamental Universe".

There are two important differences, though:

1) It seems to me that for you the different "models" (what I call "realities") are equally fundamental. This would allow for strong emergence, though, which I believe can be no part of any sensible, scientific world view. What is your stance on this issue?

2) I'm more optimistic about the limitations of science. So I would not a priori agree that no model can reflect the world as it is. Wouldn't you agree that by the fact you are able to speculate about the "world without models" you are already creating an (albeit very imperfect, of course) model of this fundamental reality? It depends on what you mean by "reflect", I guess.

(You might be in line here with philosopher Markus Gabriel who claims that the world does not exist, though).

Apart from that, while I agree that consciousness, memory and "conceiving of oneself as separated from the world" are closely related (my last year's entry in collaboration with psychologist Marc Wittmann discussed exactly this issue - they are not the same. For example, the problem of the sphex wasp seems to be mainly due to a limited memory and not so much due to a lack of consciousness or a lack of concept of being separated from the world. As I'm very interested in these topics, can you elaborate a little more or hint me towards some literature here?

Btw, I noticed you got your PhD from Düsseldorf. Are you still based in Germany?

Best regards from Dortmund! Heinrich

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 4, 2018 @ 12:56 GMT
Dear Heinrich,

thanks for your interesting comments! I'll have to have a look at your 'fundamental universe'. And you're right, I did read Gabriel's "Warum es die Welt nicht gibt" exactly because I also perceived some kinship in his ideas, but found it ultimately rather disappointing.

Regarding models and strong emergence, well, it depends what stance you take. The traditional view...

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Narendra Nath wrote on Feb. 3, 2018 @ 10:05 GMT
I enjoyed going through with some ease with your contribution. Classical analogs are what makes the predictons of Quantum Mechanics relate we humans with our daily life experiences. To me QM is struggling to evolve still as it is attempting to tackle Gravity! It is called the weak force but it is the force that keeps our Universe together, not that much the other three force fields that deal better with microscopic world mainly.When we were being taught this subject over 60 years back at Delhi University, our good teacher used to cite hermits and their humble abode. He got his doctorate in Germany. I too have visited your country mainly as a tourist and found how much you love beer and food that accompanies the drinks.

May i request you to clarify if we can treat QM as a full fledged theory like the classical Physics. To me, QM has been truly a life of an hermit who lives in a humble home nearer a forest rather than a city or township! It has not satisfied Albert Einstein though he was one of the founder. He was reluctant to begin with and then continued to keep that spirit till his end!

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 4, 2018 @ 13:01 GMT
Dear Narendra,

thanks for your comment. My essay isn't really all that concerned with quantum mechanics, but regarding your question, well, it depends. QM is certainly a different kind of theory than classical mechanics---after all, it generally can only give probabilistic predictions, while classical mechanics comes with a (to some) reassuring certainty (at least in principle).

But that doesn't mean it's not a full fledged theory. If by this you mean a mathematical apparatus, and a way to connect the mathematics with observation (sometimes called the 'minimal interpretation' that makes the difference between physical theories and purely mathematical frameworks), then QM is just as reputable a theory as classical mechanics.

If you want further to know 'what it all means', however, quantum mechanics seems much less amenable to intuition. But is that the fault of the theory, or of the human mind that isn't used to it? I don't have an answer.

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Terry Bollinger wrote on Feb. 5, 2018 @ 01:37 GMT
Dr Szangolies,

While I admit that your title scared the bejeebers out of me, I really liked your essay! Then I noticed that you are information theorist, which likely helps explain why I so many of your points resonated well with me.[1]

Your points about the unavoidable incompleteness of our models is dead on, and also the tip of a fascinating and huge iceberg of related points. Life...

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 15, 2018 @ 11:39 GMT
Dear Terry,

I have to admit that I chose the title in order to add a little shock value---so I'm at least somewhat glad to see it worked in your case! You seem to have recovered OK, though. ;)

Thank you for persisting through the shock, and your comments on my essay. I agree that what I'm hinting at is just the tip of the iceberg, and I'd give several non-essential organs in order to take a look at the whole edifice.

Using compressibility/Kolmogorov complexity in order to qualify more 'fundamental' levels of description is a worthwhile project, I think. I wonder, are you familiar with the story of Leibniz and the inkblots? Chaitin likes to tell it. Basically, Leibniz noted that if one randomly splatters ink on a page, then there won't be any description of the pattern they make that's much shorter than just noting every individual stain; but if there is a law behind their distribution, then that law will make for a much more concise description. It's almost all in there, nearly 300 years ago!

Anyway, sorry for taking so long to reply; I'll have a look at your essay, maybe I'll find the time to comment there, too.

Cheers,

Jochen

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Avtar Singh wrote on Feb. 12, 2018 @ 17:35 GMT
Hi Jochen:

You mention - " Among them is the problem of fundamentals: since every model of the world reduces to some set of fundamental facts, we expect the same thing to hold of the world as a whole. This, however, ultimately confuses the map with the territory."

I agree with you except that the relative fundamentals can be bridged with an ultimate absolute fundamental as depicted in my paper - “What is Fundamental – Is C the Speed of Light”. that describes the fundamental physics of antigravity missing from the widely-accepted mainstream physics and cosmology theories resolving their current inconsistencies and paradoxes. The missing physics depicts a spontaneous relativistic mass creation/dilation photon model that explains the yet unknown dark energy, inner workings of quantum mechanics, and bridges the gaps among relativity and Maxwell’s theories. The model also provides field equations governing the spontaneous wave-particle complimentarity or mass-energy equivalence. The key significance or contribution of the proposed work is to enhance fundamental understanding of C, commonly known as the speed of light, and Cosmological Constant, commonly known as the dark energy.

The paper not only provides comparisons against existing empirical observations but also forwards testable predictions for future falsification of the proposed model.

I would like to invite you to read my paper and appreciate any feedback comments.

Best Regards

Avtar Singh

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 16, 2018 @ 18:03 GMT
Dear Avtar,

thank you for your comment! I'm glad you found something you agree with in my essay. I'll have a look at yours---maybe I'll find something to agree with, too!

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Member Marc Séguin wrote on Feb. 18, 2018 @ 08:15 GMT
Dear Jochen,

It is fun to be able once again to ponder the really big questions of existence with you in this contest! As I mentioned in my answer to your post on my essay’s thread, I read your essay with great interest when it came out (I even referred to it in my essay’s bibliography), but I have since been caught up in a several last-minute “emergencies” at work and it is only...

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Stefan Weckbach replied on Feb. 18, 2018 @ 11:14 GMT
Dear Jochen and Marc,

in fact this essay contest was a real pleasure for me, since I learned a lot about different viewpoints on the issue of fundamentalism and its possible consequences.

I can only agree with Marc on his list of favorite quotes.

I also share the view that “true fundamentality should not be “in any way accidental or arbitrary”. This seem to conflict with...

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 18, 2018 @ 15:37 GMT
Dear Marc,

wow, thanks for the in-depth discussion of my essay! This is, really, what I've hoped these contests to provide: some well thought-out feedback that challenges my ideas, opening opportunities to both clarify and revise them. Thanks for that!

I'm very happy to see we're in agreement on lots of topics---it always makes me feel a little less crazy to find that other people...

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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Feb. 18, 2018 @ 17:05 GMT
Dear Jochen,

as always, I follow with interest your comments and reflect on them, especially your comment on Marc’s thread.

I like to write down some thoughts (if I may) that went through my mind by considering the hardness of coming to a definite answer about these issues.

In some sense, according to what you wrote with

“Essentially, the von Neumann replication...

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 18:42 GMT
Dear Stefan,

sorry for being so slow to respond. I'm unfortunately a bit short on time, and your posts warrant some close examination that I wouldn't want to rush.

I think part of what you're talking about above is related to what's called 'the frame problem' in AI: old-style AIs, such as expert systems that basically boil down to long chains of 'if...then...else'-instructions, do...

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Stefan Weckbach replied on Feb. 23, 2018 @ 06:52 GMT
Dear Jochen,

no problem, I myself am totally busy with many important, rather non-daily like demands that came upon me after having recovered from an influenza a couple of weeks ago.

“But the world is not such a setting (so very, very much not!);”

I totally agree. I must re-read your essay from last year, but need at least a couple of days to do so to recall what your...

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corciovei silviu wrote on Feb. 21, 2018 @ 19:01 GMT
Mr. Szangolies,

I read and rated your work and as far as I can tell it's one of the most elegant responses of the question "what is fundamental?"

If you do have some time and pleasure to read one (more) related essay, here you have one.

Respectfully,

silviu

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 18:12 GMT
Dear Corciovei Silviu,

thanks for reading, and for your kind comments! I'll have a look at your essay; maybe I'll find something useful to say about it.

Cheers,

Jochen

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 01:56 GMT
Jochen,

Soundly, convincingly, and cogently argued. At the point at which the drift of narrative approaches pessimism, you say, “this might at first seem to be a pessimistic conclusion.” And you mention there is no single, unified picture. The partial picture can make a complete one. Though you contend, “I will argue that the only way we ever interact with the world is through such models—that our perception of the world is ultimately of the models we construct.” You give a reprieve of ultimately assembling studies and discoveries. I would also say, “It is true that we interact with the world through models but it is not entirely the only way, and we do try to compensate for a limited view of what we study with physical arrays and arrays of theories, concepts and thoughts – as you suggest too. The Very Large Array (VLA) can cover an area 22 miles in diameter with radio telescopes, acting like a single telescope called an interferometer. It’s made up of 27 telescopes, each 82 feet across. They might study solar flares or gas between stars. Arrays of LIGO can work the same way for gravity waves. These are things I mention in my essay as well. Your essay contributes a lot to our assemblage of ideas which in turn perhaps contribute an array. High marks for your ideas, Jochen.

Jim Hoover

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 18:24 GMT
Dear James,

thanks for your comment! Regarding the claim that we interact with the world only through models, I think you have a point---I have formulated that bit a little too strongly. In fact, my own proposal doesn't really support it: phenomenal experience, which after all puts us 'in contact' with the world out there, is not due to modeling, but rather, subvenes it.

Modeling has more to do with what Ned Block calls 'access consciousness'---that is, as what or under what aspect we engage with the world. Think about how you can listen to either what a speaker is saying, or how it is being said---under this last point of view, all the uhms and ahs and ohs we normally ignore come to attention. But your phenomenal experience in both cases is the same---the same sound reaches your ears. So in a way, our models are build using that phenomenal experience in different ways.

Also, I'm sympathetic to your view of out picture of the world as a kind of quilt of many different models---as I wrote, I think quantum mechanics already points into such a direction. In a way, there is no unified 'view from nowhere' onto the world; there are just many different points of view that together form a tapestry too rich to be completely unified into a single picture. But I don't think this should worry us: after all, mathematics has lived with such a picture for decades now, and it still seems to be going strong.

Cheers,

Jochen

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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Feb. 23, 2018 @ 00:42 GMT
Jochen,

So, there is no understanding without the model, and no model is complete. A nutshell view of quantum mechanics, as you suggest. Jim Cowan, a committed Buddhist, wrote a short story titled "The Spade of Reason" in which the protagonist on his last day as a mental patient, muses " ... some minds create weird models and those minds may be mad. I don't know about that. But I do know that one kind of madness is not knowing that the model is all we will ever know."

While I thoroughly agree, I have to think that the set of knowledge includes that which we don't know.

I loved the essay.

Best,

Tom

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 26, 2018 @ 17:28 GMT
Dear Thomas,

thank you for your warm words! The line you quote about madness is quite intriguing. I think there is certainly a spectrum of views on the world, not all of which necessarily align, or can be brought into agreement.

Of course, I suppose for a Buddhist, being convinced that the world is only a model, and nothing is real (a sort of constructivist position) would also be a kind of madness.

I'll read the story before bedtime, it looks very intriguing; thanks for pointing it out to me.

Cheers,

Jochen

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Feb. 24, 2018 @ 16:42 GMT
Jochen,

As the deadline approaches, I tend to revisit those I have read to see if I have rated them. Your excellent essay was rated on 2/22/18. Hope you get a chance to evaluate mine before the end of the contest since we have a number of ideas in common.

Jim Hoover

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 26, 2018 @ 17:29 GMT
Dear James,

thanks for reading and rating! It seems a lot of people have saved their votes for the final day---things have moved around quite a bit today. I'll try and have a look at your essay before voting is through!

Cheers,

Jochen

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Member Noson S. Yanofsky wrote on Feb. 26, 2018 @ 04:02 GMT
Dear Jochan,

Thank you for a wonderful essay! Thank you also for commenting on my essay.

I do not have any criticisms or corrections about your essay. It stands on its own. But I do have some comments.

You are accepting strong AI. i.e. you accept that the mind is a physical machine and nothing more. I probably would agree with you on that. But I think many people would disagree. (There is a lot of criticism of reductionism in these essays.)

Reading your essay I was reminded of Richard Rorty's "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature". His book is *the* criticism of using models to represent reality. There is a quote said to occur in the section on map reading in the Norwegian Boy Scout Handbook: “If the terrain differs from the map, believe the terrain.”

What about non-computable. While the halting problem tells us that no computer can tell if a program is in an infinite loop, we humans have a deep hunch about some programs. I am not saying that a human can solve the halting problem. I am saying for particular programs, we do have a feeling that a program is in an infinite loop.

You talk about Godel's incompleteness theorem and the inherent incompleteness of certain models. What about Godel's completeness theorem? Are there certain (very simple) models where we do know everything about that model?

Again, thank you for a very interesting essay. I hope you win!

All the best,

Noson

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 26, 2018 @ 17:59 GMT
Dear Noson,

I'm very happy you found the time to have a look at my essay, and even more happy you found something to like about it!

As for strong AI, it depends how you understand the thesis. I do believe that conscious machines are possible---and that, indeed, we are just such machines. The notion of dualism is superficially attractive, but so far, I simply have never found a good...

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Don Limuti wrote on Feb. 26, 2018 @ 05:56 GMT
Hello Jochen,

I admire your essay that got as close to "What is fundamental" as is possible.

The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. (The Old Master was a Cosmologist). The named is the mother of ten thousand things. (The Old Master was also a Particle Physicist).

In my essay I mate cosmology to particle physics. Do take a look.

How should I say: You nailed it! Thanks,

Don Limuti

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Feb. 26, 2018 @ 18:07 GMT
Hello Don,

thanks for your kind words! I think it was in the discussion thread of Dean Rickles' essay that I stumbled upon a similar connection to cosmology versus particle physics as you point out, however, with ancient Greeks instead---the atomists favoring the bottom-up, particle physics style of explanation, and the Eleates considering everything to descend down from Oneness, Being, or what have you.

Neither may be any more right than the other: like with the initial values of differential equations, which you can specify at the beginning, the end, or every Cauchy surface in between, maybe one can in fact smoothly interpolate between 'levels' of fundamentality. Maybe that would have been a nice idea for this contest, too!

I'll try to sneak a brief look at your essay before voting closes.

Cheers,

Jochen

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Member Sylvia Wenmackers wrote on Mar. 12, 2018 @ 20:27 GMT
Dear Jochen,

I fully agree with your support of Whitehead's warning against "the fallacy of misplaced concreteness". Regarding this aspect, I did recommend your essay to Sebastian De Haro. On the other hand, I would like to point you to another essay, too: that of Karen Crowther, because she manages skilfully to navigate around your Kantian worry that "we are never in contact with the world as it is".

While I don't agree that "the only way we interact with the world is through such models" (what about breathing and many other parts of living?), it does sound more plausible for perception (as your text continues), although that too has a strongly embodied-in-the-world perspective. So, some attention to concreteness does not seem misplaced here.

While I find many of your observations interesting, I'm not convinced by your central propositions. Moreover, while reading I had the impression that your suggestion that "modeling that can be modeled is not true modeling" actually goes against Proposition 1, but on rereading my notes I must admit that it's hard to spell out that tension. Which brings me to a side note: I was wondering whether your first proposition was intentionally hinting at Wittgenstein's sentence from the preface to his Tractatus ("what can be said at all can be said clearly")?

Some of the other associations and shortcuts in your essay don't seem ultimately convincing either. Two examples. (1) The way you bring up the hard problem: while I might see some analogy between modelling and experiencing, I don't think it is correct to present the latter problem as a consequence of the former. (2) And as to your observation that the largest set (in a given context) has the same information content as the empty set: that seems unproblematic, unless you assume the latter has zero information content (as you do), which is not as obvious as it seems.

Despite these reservations, your essay has certainly given me food for thought.

Best wishes,

Sylvia - Seek Fundamentality, and Distrust It

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Member Sylvia Wenmackers replied on Mar. 16, 2018 @ 10:21 GMT
PS: For fairness, I would like to add that Sebastian De Haro has replied to my comment: his essay does containment an explanation of how his proposal avoids "misplaced concreteness".

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Author Jochen Szangolies replied on Mar. 27, 2018 @ 10:40 GMT
Dear Sylvia,

sorry for taking so long to reply to your comment---it's only now that I've got some free time on my hands again.

Anyway, I think you've given my essay a fair reading, and your criticism is reasonable---I've already conceded above that I put things too strongly in claiming that we interact with the world only via models.

I should have included a more careful...

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