• #1
RUTA
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I have written many Insights (and coauthored an entire book) explaining how the puzzles, problems, and paradoxes of modern physics can be attributed to our dynamical bias and resolved by rising to Wilczek’s challenge [1]:
A recurring theme in natural philosophy is the tension between the God’s-eye [4D] view of reality comprehended as a whole and the ant’s-eye view of human consciousness, which senses a succession of events in time. Since the days of Isaac Newton, the ant’s-eye view has dominated fundamental physics. We divide our description of the world into dynamical laws that, paradoxically, exist outside of time according to some, and initial conditions on which those laws act. … The God’s-eye [4D] view seems, in the light of relativity theory, to be far more natural. Relativity teaches us to consider spacetime as an...
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  • #2
Stephen Tashi
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RUTA said:
Of course, the corollary to the fact that the laws of physics cannot negate the reality of our dynamical experience is that laws of physics cannot explain the reality of our dynamical experience either — again, because they are co-fundamental in this view. This has been acknowledged by Max Planck [10]:
As I understand the article, it asserts:

1) Because our consciousness and some of our perceptions are not illusions, it follows that no physical theory demonstrates that time is an illusion. (That is a concrete interpretation of "the laws of physics cannot negate the reality of our dynamical experience".)

and

2) Physics cannot explain "the reality" of our experience. From the reference to Planck, I gather this asserts that physics cannot the explain the experience of consciousness.

Assertion 1) is self evident if we assume our conscious experience is , on the whole, not an illusion. Assertion 2) is plausible, but unproven one way or the other.

Would neuroscientists agree with assertion 2)? They study brains, which are very specialized physical structures. They ask which substructures of the brain are required for consciousness. If physics cannot explain consciousness then why is consciousness a property of such a small subset of physical structures?

One abstract view is that maybe it isn't. Perhaps a city has consciousness that implemented by its networks of streets, cables, etc. Perhaps a galaxy or a coffee cup is also conscious. If we reject those possibilities then one way "physics cannot explain the reality of our dynamical experience" could work out is for any physical theory that explains the consciousness of brains to also imply the consciouness of objects we consider inanimate. (i.e. Perhaps no physical theory of consciousness can separate conscious physical structures from unconscious ones in a way that we find satisfactory.)


Returning to assertion 1), it's worth mentioning the alternative. The article refers to something (time) not being an illusion, so I'll permit myself to talk about illusion versus reality without delving into the metaphysical complexities of those concepts.

The obvious scenario: The thing that is me at time t= 0 and the thing that is me at time t = 1 are both real. The version of me at time t = 1 has the illusion that t = 1 is the only "now" and that the version of me at time t = 0 is no longer real. The version of me at time t = 0 has the illusion that t = 0 is the only "now" and the version of me at time t = 1 is not yet real.

(By the way, what exactly would it mean to say that time is an illusion? Is the above scenario an example of time being an illusion?)
 
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  • #3
RUTA
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The Insight shows that one can subscribe coherently to both the block universe model of physics and the reality of our dynamical experience of time. The ontology I shared (per neutral monism, see Ref 6) to make that point does entail that physics cannot account for subjective experience (such as the dynamical experience of time). That ontology is not necessitated by physics and I linked to the Smolin paper as an alternative :-)
 
  • #4
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Check out Existics by Gavin Wince.
 
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  • #5
RUTA
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Check out Existics by Gavin Wince.
According to this article, it’s nonsense: https://goodmath.scientopia.org/2013/03/21/genius-continuum-crackpottery/ . I hope you’re not comparing the published works I cited with this.

I want to point out again that the idea my colleagues and I are trying to sell the foundations community is that the physics we have now is actually right. I so often read that QM is “incomplete” or “wrong” or that QM is ”incompatible” with SR, etc. Our publications and book are attempts to show how physics is right and beautifully self-consistent, if you don’t insist that objective reality be fundamentally understood via causal mechanisms.

In general, I’m always suspicious of people who claim that established ideas are “wrong.”
 
  • #6
.Scott
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I do not view consciousness or the illusions as discussed here.
The illusions we have are instrumental in our survival as a social animal.

When I call something an illusion, I do not imply that it is false - only that it is apparent - and more importantly, pragmatic.

It may help you to know that I have been designing and coding software for half a century now - so how should I view the human nervous system as other than an information processing system.

Our first illusion is that we, personally, exist. Of course we do exist, but we generally view ourselves as a being in a body bounded mostly by our sensor-ladened skin acting as a unified self in a social environment. There are conditions where this illusion fails (ex, anosognosia or asomatognosia) but we can always expect that the rest of society will treat us as a single being. And as a matter of survival, when part of us fails, it threatens our whole being. So having a built-in model of ourselves as human with a single agency is very pragmatic.

Which brings us to the second illusion - that we can affect our condition and our surroundings. We have a built-in notion that we can make choices and act on them. This is not to say we can't affect things - but it is significant that we hold a view that we can. Your iRobot may plan out a strategy to clean your floors in a short time while keeping itself charged. But it has no sense that it can affect its environment.

Which brings us to time. Not only do we have a spacial (skin-bound) view of ourselves, we also have the notion that what we remember from the past represents a real human being - the same one that exists now - and that will continue into the future. And we are built to record to memory pleasant and unpleasant events - and to view those memories as clues to how to make our world "better" for us.

So Physics gives us a 4D world and we evolve a built-in story about how we work within that world. Our illusions are personally pragmatic models of the key concepts important for our survival.

Now let's talk about consciousness...
Everything I just described above could be programmed into a machine - resulting in a robot that in principle could operate within human society as a human. And it would not be conscious. If you think otherwise, you have to explain to me the fundamental difference between an abacus, Babbage's Analytic engine, and contemporary computers. And if you think its complexity, how large does a Rube Goldberg machine have to be before it becomes conscious? Computers are not conscious; large networks of computers are not conscious; and if all of a sudden something fundamentally changes when you interconnect processor number 1 billion, what you have is a network problem - not consciousness.

So why are we conscious? Apparently, there are basic information-processing components useful to our survival that are easier to implement in our biology in a fundamentally different manner than the way it is done in a digital computer. And it is this different component that caries with it the foundation of consciousness.

What is important for this discussion is that the illusion of time is simply a possible content of consciousness, not a direct consequence of it.
 
  • #7
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A problem with cellular automata models of the universe is how to explain the cell processor (unless we live in a simulation). The block universe model can solve this puzzle by stating that time "slices" are connected blocks of information. See https://zenodo.org/record/3818303#.X3ilCMJKiM9 for further details.
 
  • #9
Stephen Tashi
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The Insight shows that one can subscribe coherently to both the block universe model of physics and the reality of our dynamical experience of time.
I'm trying to understand whether the article has a deductive structure or whether it only intends to be persuasive in a subjective manner.

The ontology I shared (per neutral monism, see Ref 6) to make that point does entail that physics cannot account for subjective experience (such as the dynamical experience of time). That ontology is not necessitated by physics and I linked to the Smolin paper as an alternative :-)
After glancing at Ref 6) and the Smolin paper, the interpretation I get is summarized by:

Fact (or Assumption) 1: Current physics does not provide a way to distinguish conscious physical phenomena from phenomena that are not conscious. Furthermore, since current physics is based on concepts that do not entail consciousness, it will be unable to distinguish consciousness as an emergent phenomenon in a complicated physical model.

For example, Ref 6 says:
We agree with the panpsychists and the like that Galileo made an error and that one can’t subtract out conscious experience from what we call the “physical” universe.
and

Relatedly, there are various information theoretic models of conscious experience such as Integrated Information Theory (IIT) that purport to explain if not the very existence, at least the content, unity, degree, or types of conscious experience under certain conditions such as waking state, dreaming, psychedelics, anesthesia, etc. [4]. Pragmatically speaking, we do not doubt that there are many such valuable projects going forward, and we say let a thousand flowers bloom. However, suppose one hopes not to merely formally model conscious experience or seek the neural, dynamical, graphical, information-theoretic, or computational correlates of conscious experience. As Christof Koch puts it ([4], p. 71):
Once science sees the neural correlate of conscious experience face to face, what then? . . . But we would still not understand at a conceptual level why this mechanism but not that one
constitutes a particular experience. How can the mental be squeezed out of the physical?
Fact (or Assumption) 2: Our conscious experience defines what is real.

Conclusions:

1) To create a physics that describes consciousness requires starting with concepts that model conscious experience. Mathematical concepts such as space and time do not, in themselves, entail the presence of consciousness.

2)One may "coherently" agree with a physical model of the Block Universe (or presumably any other successful physical model) and also agree that time ( and presumably any other conscious experience) is real. Such coherence is possible because current physical models say nothing about consciousness versus unconsciousness.
 
  • #10
RUTA
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I'm trying to understand whether the article has a deductive structure or whether it only intends to be persuasive in a subjective manner.
The Insight provides a counterexample to the claim that block universe physics is incompatible with our dynamical experience of time. In that sense the counterclaim that block universe physics is not incompatible with our dynamical experience of time is deductively valid.

The statement “our dynamical experience of time is an illusion” probably has many meanings. I take it to be a derisive dismissal of our dynamical experience of time as unworth of explanation. For example, suppose you and a friend watch a magician put his assistant in a box and saw it in half. Your friend exclaims, “OMG, how can she still be alive after being sawed in half?!?” You would not feel compelled to explain why the assistant is alive after being sawed in half because in fact the assistant was not sawed in half. That perception is an illusion, it’s not true and therefore in no need of explanation.
 
  • #11
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I am kind of hoping that in the book you speculate on just what might cause such a difference of quality... why would flour and yeast molecules in a loaf of bread think they were in toast-slice movie? What could cause, for lack of a better description, such vertigo of perception - when the actors in that movie suddenly picture the loaf - which they hadn't pictured up until some specific flour and yeast actor/guy named Einstein came a long and said, "picture this".
 
  • #12
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This reminds me of that old chestnut (Douglas Adams was the person who introduced my to the idea btw) that we are part of some optimizer, 3D annealing to characterize the 4D object (which is maybe mysterious to some 11D perspective). It's mostly good for a laugh but then I'm like... it does look sorta like that.
 
  • #13
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Would neuroscientists agree with assertion 2)? They study brains, which are very specialized physical structures. They ask which substructures of the brain are required for consciousness. If physics cannot explain consciousness then why is consciousness a property of such a small subset of physical structures?
There are some tentative answers to this question, but they are still controversial. Based on some of your replies in this thread you may find the following theory interesting:

https://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003588
https://www.nature.com/articles/nrn-2016-44
http://var.scholarpedia.org/article/Information_Integration_Theory

And a rebuttal:
https://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004286

Assertion 1) is self evident if we assume our conscious experience is , on the whole, not an illusion.
Also controversial unfortunately https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/imp/jcs/2016/00000023/F0020011/art00002, https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1845409574/
 
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