Zero-point existence

Recently I’ve been reading a combination of Undulating ungulate‘s book draft which discusses science, mysticism, and reality.

I’ve also been reading up some about quantum physics, and the idea of the evolution of physical properties of the universe. I’d like to read more about the ideas and work of John Wheeler and David Finkelstein (both being suggested researchers to investigate when I asked Ben Goertzel about a starting point on evolving physical laws).

This, combined with working on stuff for OpenCog, has led to several immensely surreal moments. Mostly while lying in bed about to drift of to sleep, when all reality and time collapses into a single point. Well perhaps not all reality, but at least my life and memories. Possibly this is a cognitive effect of memories being more easily retrievable in the state just before sleep? At any rate, given that: I think free will is just an immensely useful illusion of consciousness, and that physics tells us that the fabric of reality is space-time instead of two perpendicular concepts. It’s not infeasible to believe that seeing the future is possible. In fact, that’s exactly what intelligence does. We make predictions about the future. The question is, can we make predictions on things that, based on our limited of knowledge about the universe, are essentially random or make predictions that are more probabilistically accurate than our past experience allows?

I’ve also bought Outside the gates of science by Damien Broderick, which should be an interesting read. The book addresses some of the paranormal effects in experiments that have been deemed statistically significant but as of yet cannot be rationally explained (actually I bought this last year, I just have lots of reading queued up).


#1   Trond Nilsen on 05.17.09 at 10:34 am

I’d also recommend Kip S Thorne as someone to read – he was one of Wheeler’s students, has written prolifically, and was the brains behind the theory of wormholes. I got my first intro to the ideas of quantum physics way back from his ‘Black Holes & Time Warps’.

That Broderick book looks real interesting, though..

#2   Joel on 05.19.09 at 8:25 am

Nice, thanks.

I’ve added that one to the list too. 🙂

#3   Linas on 08.30.09 at 2:43 pm

BTW, when physicists claim that there’s “no free will, its all pre-determined”, that’s just plain hogwash. It’s based on faulty interpretations of the time evolution of dynamical systems equations. Now, physicists tend to be quite good at differential eqns, but honestly, I think that there are a bunch of finer details to ergodic/hyperbolic systems and the transition to chaos that most physicists have not studied. I.E. I am trying to say that I believe that some deep math provides an escape hatch. Now, this is just my belief, and I can at best hand-wave a giant pile of details about it, but my hand-waving is no worse than the typical physics “its all pre-determined” hand-waving. Basically, no one knows, no one can prove it either way, and anyone who makes such bold claims is either self-deluded or a liar.

BTW, even if you buy into Nick Bostrom’s simulation argument, and believe that you live in a simulated universe, you can still have free will. My hand-waving argument there goes like this: String theorists are enamored of a certain class of theories that involve a lot of algebraic geometry. (I understand thier love — Wilson loops and hyperbolic surfaces and knot theory and HOMFLY and Kac-Moody and Chern-Simmons and quantum groups and Yang-Baxter and E8 and all of the connections between above and plain-old number-theory via elliptic curves — its all quite mind-boggling and beautiful) Anyway …

Algebraic geometry provides the infrastructure on which string theory is built … but it also shows up in the theory of Topos, originally developed by Grothendieck as a special case of Cartesian closed categories, and believed by many to offer a foundation for *all* of math. Now Grothendieck was pondering sheaves of schemes (a scheme is a certain “generalization” of an algebraic variety). Oddly enough the ideas of behind schemes, varieties and ideals & etc. have been extended to rather generic term-rewriting systems — and term-re-writing is sort of a traditional comp-sci topic, having to do with computation strategies and computational complexity. It should also be observed that the (untyped) lambda calculus is the algebra generated by Cartesian closed categories. (And of course, lambda calculus is in a certain sense equivalent to Turing machines and computation — but this is exactly why Topos’s provide a foundation for math: theorems are provable, and thus are computable) So here we have this thing — algebraic geometry, and it sits in the middle between the latest theories of physics, and the latest theories of computation. Hmmmmmm. Is that just an accident? Ya suppose? Or perhaps some superintelligence, when faced with the problem of coming up with an efficient computing platform for simulating universes, came up with quantum mechanics as the answer? Which is not to say the universe is a Turing machine or that the universe is being simulated on a Turing machine — quite the opposite — I am trying to imply that the universe is being simulated on a compute infrastructure that is more subtle than Turing machines, and that, in particular, this compute infrastructure allows free will. So there! There is more to computation than meets the eye.

#4   Linas on 08.30.09 at 3:28 pm

Sorry, I was drinking a beer just now; topos are sheaves of sets, not schemes. Anyway, another striking set of “near-coincidences” is the occurrence of arrows in “quivers”, which are used to study Lie algebras important in physics, and arrows in Category theory, and arrows in reduction systems, and arrows in Petri nets, and arrows in monoidal categories. The “petri net” language is preferred and commonly used by comp sci types. Its not commonly known, but petri nets are essentially equivalent to monoidal cats (see for example trace theory and the “history monoid” as an example of parallel processing). But arrows are also used in reduction systems (e.g. beta-reduction in lambda calculus). And um… even in opencog, hypergraphs with truth values look more or less like quiver algebras .. and not by accident. So why should a device useful in the study of physics also “by accident” resemble a device used in computation? Can we classify opencog hypergraphs into An Dn E6 E7 E8? OK, so maybe this ah-ha-hallucination is just the beer is talking and not me … but hey … ya gotta wonder …

#5   Joel on 08.31.09 at 10:22 am

@Linas Y’know, I’d really like to share a couple of beers with you if we ever meet in person. You’ve got a wealth of knowledge about the lower/higher level stuff that I’m intensely curious about, but it takes a long time to get caught up on mathematics/physics without a deep background in it.

I’ve never had problems learning maths, but without knowing the ideas behind the various theories you mention it’s hard to make insightful comments on your post – I’ll catch up eventually I hope 😉

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