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Current Essay Contest


Contest Partners: Fetzer Franklin Fund, and The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation

Previous Contests

Undecidability, Uncomputability, and Unpredictability Essay Contest
December 24, 2019 - April 24, 2020
Contest Partners: Fetzer Franklin Fund, and The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation
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What Is “Fundamental”
October 28, 2017 to January 22, 2018
Sponsored by the Fetzer Franklin Fund and The Peter & Patricia Gruber Foundation
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Wandering Towards a Goal
How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?
December 2, 2016 to March 3, 2017
Contest Partner: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Fund.
read/discusswinners

Trick or Truth: The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics
Contest Partners: Nanotronics Imaging, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and The John Templeton Foundation
Media Partner: Scientific American

read/discusswinners

How Should Humanity Steer the Future?
January 9, 2014 - August 31, 2014
Contest Partners: Jaan Tallinn, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American
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It From Bit or Bit From It
March 25 - June 28, 2013
Contest Partners: The Gruber Foundation, J. Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American
read/discusswinners

Questioning the Foundations
Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?
May 24 - August 31, 2012
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, SubMeta, and Scientific American
read/discusswinners

Is Reality Digital or Analog?
November 2010 - February 2011
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation and Scientific American
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What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
May - October 2009
Contest Partners: Astrid and Bruce McWilliams
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The Nature of Time
August - December 2008
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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Vladimir Fedorov: on 5/18/20 at 13:57pm UTC, wrote Dear Yehonatan, I greatly appreciated your work and discussion. I am very...

Yehonatan Knoll: on 5/14/20 at 16:14pm UTC, wrote Markus, When a mentalist predicts your imagined scene using priming...

Markus Mueller: on 5/14/20 at 15:12pm UTC, wrote Dear Yehonatan, thank you for your interesting essay. Let me ask you a...

Luca Valeri: on 5/13/20 at 23:13pm UTC, wrote Hi Yehonatan Fascinating essay. The title of course is paradoxical (and...

Michael muteru: on 4/30/20 at 12:35pm UTC, wrote Dear yehonatan I like your expose on the creativity of we humans,that we...

Yehonatan Knoll: on 3/9/20 at 9:08am UTC, wrote Thanks Noson, As I note in the essay, standard QM formalism prohibits...

Noson Yanofsky: on 3/8/20 at 16:51pm UTC, wrote Dear Yehonatan, Thank you for a very interesting essay. I am wondering if...

Dan Bruiger: on 3/6/20 at 16:34pm UTC, wrote Hi, Yehonaton Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Essentially, I think we...


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FQXi FORUM
September 19, 2021

CATEGORY: Undecidability, Uncomputability, and Unpredictability Essay Contest (2019-2020) [back]
TOPIC: Remembering the Future by Yehonatan Knoll [refresh]
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Author Yehonatan Knoll wrote on Feb. 17, 2020 @ 17:59 GMT
Essay Abstract

We humans are natural-born engineers. As such, we model after machines not only isolated, naturally occurring systems, but also the basic laws of physics, sharing with machines a local-evolution-of-state `mechanism' (aka Newtonian Schema). It therefore came as a surprise when Bell showed that any ontology behind quantum phenomena cannot be mechanistic. However, already classical electrodynamics---so it turns out after more than a century of attempts to cure its pathologies---appears not to be mechanistic either, making it a possible (indeed plausible, as recently shown by the author) such ontology. It is therefore possible that machines, which we are so good at making, are the exception, and that quantum phenomena barely scratches the surface of a non mechanistic reality. In particular, we argue in this essay, while some machines may predict the future via their clever design, non-machines could `remember' it, including its unpredictable aspects.

Author Bio

MSc in theoretical physics and (unfinished) PhD in cognition modeling (sort of), both from the Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot Israel). My research had been supported in the past by the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology (Haifa Israel). Currently inventing machines - what else - for a living.

Download Essay PDF File

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Feb. 18, 2020 @ 01:10 GMT
An interesting idea. Well presented and argued.Of particular interest to me as I have a long standing interest in time. Regards Georgina

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David Brown wrote on Feb. 20, 2020 @ 09:48 GMT
From "No need for dark-matter, dark-energy or inflation, once ordinary matter is properly represented?" by Knoll, arXiv 2020 (page 4): "... the problem with ... a paradigm shift ... One's proposal could elegantly solve a conundrum in one domain, but clash with observations in another, or even lack extensions thereto.. MOND being such an example ...". Consider 3 hypotheses: (1) Milgrom is the Kepler of contemporary cosmology — on the basis of overwhelming empirical evidence. (2) String theory with the infinite nature hypothesis implies supersymmetry is correct and MOND is wrong. (3) String theory with the finite nature hypothesis implies supersymmetry is wrong and MOND is correct. Is the following a good idea? Form a MOND-string study group? Google "witten milgrom".

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Author Yehonatan Knoll replied on Feb. 20, 2020 @ 10:27 GMT
David,

If you read a little more in that paper of mine, you find an extensive discussion of MOND - why it sometimes works so well and why it often doesn't. And I'm not using anything but (well-defined) classical electrodynamics! Occam's razor...

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David Brown replied on Feb. 21, 2020 @ 11:33 GMT
Please consider 3 questions:

(1) Does your theory predict that gravitons are spin-2 bosons?

(2) Do you think that the Koide formula is a meaningless coincidence?

Koide formula, Wikipedia

(3) Do you think that my explanation of the proton charge radius puzzle is wrong? Please see the 1st comment in the comments section of the following:

"Is Milgrom's MOdified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) fundamental for philosophy, science, and the physical interpretation of string theory?", FQXI Essay Contest, 2017

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Feb. 22, 2020 @ 19:13 GMT
It would be helpful to have a list of abbreviations like CE, ECD, BU, IVP, RBG ...

io §

The hint to arXiv:1201.5281 is va key a crucial inconsistency in Einstein’s adaptation which could be the root causefor all the major problems in astronomy,".

The BU goes back not just to Riemann but already to Ben Akiba.

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Feb. 23, 2020 @ 06:25 GMT
Corrections:

--- io § The hint to arXiv:1201.5281 is va key a crucial inconsistency in Einstein’s adaptation which could be the root causefor all the major problems in astronomy,".--- should read:

The hint to arXiv:1201.5281 is a key to "a crucial inconsistency in Einstein’s adaptation which could be the root cause for all the major problems in astronomy".

Sorry for the typos.

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Author Yehonatan Knoll replied on Feb. 23, 2020 @ 15:59 GMT
Thanks for the advice Eckard.

Regarding Ben Akiba (perhaps the Hebrew surname "Ben-akiva"?). Do you have any ref. ?

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Feb. 25, 2020 @ 16:15 GMT
"All has occurred before“, to quote rabbi Ben Akiba in Karl Gutzkow's Uriel Acosta (1846)."

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Author Yehonatan Knoll wrote on Feb. 27, 2020 @ 09:47 GMT
A note regarding the relevance of my essay to the title of the contest.

The title obviously suggests that the limitations of machines may be relevant to foundational questions in physics. My essay argues that they aren't, since most physical systems are not machines. But they are irrelevant in a much more prosaic way. Turing's theorem, for example, proves that no single finite machine can handle an infinite set of tasks, namely, decide whether machine M halts on input I, for any pair (M,I). It doesn't prove, nor is there any reason to suspect, that there exists some (M*,I*) for which there does not exist a finite machine, deciding whether M* halts on input I*.

It is this latter, apparently false conjecture, which could have some relevance to physics, as it implies that no matter how we program our computer, it will fail at at a task relevant to physics - say - predict the outcome of an experiment, modeled by (M*,I*).

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Michael Smith wrote on Mar. 2, 2020 @ 21:16 GMT
Excellent article, well written and logically argued.

I completely agree with your premise that living organisms, unlike machines, possess genuine creativity and that a physics theory needs to accommodate that. I particularly resonate with your description of phenomena such as premonitions, synchronicity and intuitive hunches being the very opposite of the mechanistic "engineer's narrative"...

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Author Yehonatan Knoll replied on Mar. 4, 2020 @ 10:00 GMT
Thanks for kind words Michael.

Regrettably, I don't share with you the optimism that the `big picture of life' would ever emerge from manipulations of symbols. Just trying to imagine what any conceivable physical theory would tell you about your personal experience of dying, drops you into a bottomless rabbit hole. And If one doesn't understand death (or birth) one doesn't understand life.

I also think one should be very careful in using words such as "consciousness" in a non poetic context. Words were first used when two anthropoids realized that by inventing "banana" and "my" they can spare themselves a fight. We are now at a point where abstract words resonate so differently in individual skulls, that they start fights instead. Stick to "bananas".

Best,

Yehonatan

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Dan J. Bruiger wrote on Mar. 5, 2020 @ 17:27 GMT
Dear Yahonaton,

I find your paper very interesting and stimulating. Bravo! Yet, I would like to explain why I cannot agree with its conclusion and offer the following constructive comments.

Essentially: I do not believe in the block universe (BU) or in determinism. As you admit, the BU is a human contrivance; from my point of view it is an attempt to trump the fundamental and...

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Author Yehonatan Knoll replied on Mar. 5, 2020 @ 19:53 GMT
Hello Dan,

The block-universe is not a philosophical stance. It is part of a highly successful physical model which, by its nature, must distance itself from solipsism, implicit in your attitude (personal experience being central). Physics is not only about observing some pointer in my lab point to "4.7". It is first and foremost about reproducing the results of other physicists, who lived in the past and at different places, and about communicating my results to others. The BU trivially provides the required platform for that, as other physicists are represented in it in exactly the same way as experimental settings are.

I used to be much more philosophically inclined in my youth. But then I realized that, insofar as it is philosophy, it must be expressible in words, and if it can be expressed in words, it cannot touch the truly deep issues of life (see my comment to Michael above). So my essay is just a modest conjecture in physics - nothing too deep. Its main novel points are:

1) Some systems do remember the future, in a measurable sense (most discussions about the arrow-of-time take for granted that it's impossible).

2) There is nothing strange about it. One only needs to adopt a language which is compatible with empirical observations - which is not the Newtonian language (and then QM is likewise equally natural).

Thanks for your comments!

Yehonatan

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Dan J. Bruiger wrote on Mar. 6, 2020 @ 16:34 GMT
Hi, Yehonaton

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Essentially, I think we will have to agree to differ. But I do want to clarify that my position is not solipsism, which implies no real external world, or a refusal to focus on it. Rather, I hold that all experience (including scientific observation) is a product of subject and object interacting. Solipsism suggests all subject and no object. The BU is the opposite: all object and no subject.

Thanks again and all best wishes,

Dan

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Member Noson S. Yanofsky wrote on Mar. 8, 2020 @ 16:51 GMT
Dear Yehonatan,

Thank you for a very interesting essay. I am wondering if you have thought of your knowing the future with delayed choice quantum eraser experiments. In those, results of experiments depend on future activities. There is also a strange phenomenon called entangled in time (as opposed to space. Have you heard of these concepts?

While reading your essay, I also kept on thinking of the 2016 movie Arrival. There are a lot of similar themes.

Thank you!

All the best,

Noson

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Author Yehonatan Knoll replied on Mar. 9, 2020 @ 09:08 GMT
Thanks Noson,

As I note in the essay, standard QM formalism prohibits measuring a future perturbation to a quantum system (weak measurements possibly excluded) and Quantum Eraser experiments don't seem to be an exception; it's not that playing with the idler photon's detectors affects the signal in a (statistically) meaningful way (note that according to ECD, `photons' are not particles, on equal footings with electrons. Instead, a `photon' is detected when advanced EM waves converge on a particle, jolting it as a result of energy-momentum conservation). Nonetheless, according to my interpretation of QM, standard QM formalism becomes rapidly irrelevant with increasing system's complexity (hence that quantum computers are probably doomed) so I won't be too surprised if future memory is exhibited by certain microscopic systems.

"Entanglement in time" - I'll have to read about it.

Never heard of "Arrival", but perhaps, once I see it, its future memory will resonate in my essay :)

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Michael muteru wrote on Apr. 30, 2020 @ 12:35 GMT
Dear yehonatan I like your expose on the creativity of we humans,that we create machines,through our minds. nice. Do these machines mirror at least in part, or wholly their creators? I propose how maybe our cognitive abilities breed our view of the universe from micro to microscales here -https://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/3525.i outline from a simple foundational level How all is biased by our human nature.kindly read/review it, all comments will be welcomed. Good work,All the best. regards.

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Luca Valeri wrote on May. 13, 2020 @ 23:13 GMT
Hi Yehonatan

Fascinating essay. The title of course is paradoxical (and that's why it is inspiring?). Phenomenologically arrow of time is given by having memories of the past and none of the future. Having now memories of the future suggest that there exist an arrow of time that is independent of this phenomenology. But how would such an arrow of time then show up?

And yet: you were able to design an experiment on how one could measure, if there is a memory of the future. Bravo! I didn't grasp how this was possible.

I do not anything about these non IVP theories. Sounds really interesting.

From the point of view of the second law of thermodynamics and reversibility of underlying processes, I don't understand why we do not have memories of the future: the future is totally known. Either the law is reversible. Then we know what will be. Or it is reversible, then also we will know what will be: the coffee will be cold. But we do not know how warm it was before.

My take on the arrow of time in my essay is completely different. I describe the evolution from simple structures (high entropy) structure to complex ones (with low entropy). I say that the complex structures have a greater conceptual capacity. So simply stated, we do not have a memory of the future, because we lack the language to describe the future. Not so for the past.

Interestingly if there would be a prophecy (memory) of the future it would sound really fuzzy, because it would describe things that cannot be imagined yet.

Good luck in the contest

Luca

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Member Markus P Mueller wrote on May. 14, 2020 @ 15:12 GMT
Dear Yehonatan,

thank you for your interesting essay.

Let me ask you a clarification question. In your approach, how do you distinguish correlation from causation?

For example, I am sure that the sun will rise tomorrow (in fact, I can vividly depict it in my imagination). Does this mean that I remember the future? If not, why not?

Best,

Markus

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Author Yehonatan Knoll replied on May. 14, 2020 @ 16:14 GMT
Markus,

When a mentalist predicts your imagined scene using priming techniques, you can regard the primer as the cause of the imagination which, in turn, can be regarded as a memory of the primer. Similarly, a future `primer' (perturbation in the essay) can be regarded as a (retro-) cause of your imagination which, in turn, can be regarded as the (future-) memory of the primer, if the imagination can be used to predict the `primer'.

As you can tell, my idea rhymes with the notion of "retrocausality". However, retrocausality alone is inconsistent with `future memory' phenomena; The underlying ontology must also be non-mechanistic/non-IVP - as I explain in the essay.

Best,

Yehonatan

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Vladimir Nikolaevich Fedorov wrote on May. 18, 2020 @ 13:57 GMT
Dear Yehonatan,

I greatly appreciated your work and discussion. I am very glad that you are not thinking in abstract patterns.

"Physical modeling of cognitive functions requires, first, that physics be put on firm conceptual ground, which is not its present status".

While the discussion lasted, I wrote an article: “Practical guidance on calculating resonant frequencies at four levels of diagnosis and inactivation of COVID-19 coronavirus”, due to the high relevance of this topic. The work is based on the practical solution of problems in quantum mechanics, presented in the essay FQXi 2019-2020 “Universal quantum laws of the universe to solve the problems of unsolvability, computability and unpredictability”.

I hope that my modest results of work will provide you with information for thought.

Warm Regards, `

Vladimir

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