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08/14/2014

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Marcus,

If the cosmological horizon contains the information that’s causing the hologram, are you thinking that said information is changing continuously, thereby resulting in the motion we perceive of, or are you thinking that all of the information is pre-recorded in some manner, and the “player” is simply reading a large database using some kind of serial process?

That leads to the following two questions; 1. If the information is changing continuously (thereby causing motion within the hologram), what entity is controlling those changes and wouldn’t that entity effectively be determining our conscious experience, thereby precluding the existence of free will in the “ultimate/ambitious/strong” sense? 2. If the information is pre-recorded instead, don’t we face the same FW issue stated above (i.e., ultimate FW doesn’t exist)?

Hi James: Thanks for your comment!

It's the latter. The holographic plate does not change. It is static, just *there*. (The idea that time doesn't really exist in the physical world is increasingly popular. See the latter half of this article for more on this: http://nautil.us/issue/16/nothingness/the-bridge-from-nowhere ).

Perceived motion emerges comes from consciousness, an outside processing mechanism reading the information. (Note: I explicitly endorse a dualistic theory of time in "A New Theory of Free Will", holding eternalism to be true as a correct account of physical time, and presentism true as a theory of subjective conscious time -- a moving-spotlight view).

So, in terms of your two questions, my answers are:

(1) The information isn't changing continuously.
(2) Although the information is pre-recorded, our "moves" as conscious agents are not.

Again, consider the videogame analogy. Every possible move in an online videogame is encoded on the game disc. But the game disc is not the whole story. Our *inputs* from the outside control which parts of the disc are read by our game console. Nothing in the disc determines which choices we make. *We* determine our choices from the outside.

Finally, on my model, the "we" in our case (the mechanisms processing the holographic information) are brute, primitive, consciousnesses/libertarian free wills. Reality is fundamentally dualistic. There is, on the one hand, the unchanging holographic information. Then, on the other hand, there is *us* -- brute, nonphysical, conscious "windows" unto the world. To take a Biblical analogy, we are, as it were, the "light" when God said "Let there be light." We are brute, observation mechanisms *illuminate* static holographic information, creating the 3D holograms we experience, making libertarian-free choices about which part of the holographic information we experience next.

Marcus,

Based upon your description, it sounds like the overall hologram projection (i.e., the big-picture perception that humans have of reality) exists as a composite, wherein each soul/player (1 ea. soul/player exists per discrete consciousness) reads the informational database (which exists at the cosmological horizon) and each soul/player chooses freely from all of the available “moves” defined in the informational database, thereby deciding what to project into the composite hologram. Does that sound right so far?

Okay, that leads to my question… All of us (i.e., human souls/players) experience interaction between one another (as well as between ourselves and non-human objects) located inside the composite hologram. How does that interaction work? Inside a video game, the software effectively models forces of interaction between entities (i.e., characters and other objects). Inside a hologram, my understanding is that there’s only a projection, there isn’t any software running at the hologram level and there isn’t any interaction between the projected entities existing *inside* the hologram. So to summarize my question: how does the interaction occur (within your hologram model) between the projection that one human freely chooses and the projection that another human freely chooses? (If you’re going to tell me that the projections interact with one another inside the hologram, perhaps you could explain how that works.)

Thanks for asking that James; my followup post on the previous one by Marcus was a different way of asking your question, and so I'm anxious to see what Marcus has to say!

Hi James (and V. Alan): Thanks for your comments, and for the great questions!

James writes: "Based upon your description, it sounds like the overall hologram projection (i.e., the big-picture perception that humans have of reality) exists as a composite, wherein each soul/player (1 ea. soul/player exists per discrete consciousness) reads the informational database (which exists at the cosmological horizon) and each soul/player chooses freely from all of the available “moves” defined in the informational database, thereby deciding what to project into the composite hologram. Does that sound right so far?"

Mostly right, but see below. I think there has to be (P2P!) software running at the higher level to mediate the player interactions, but that this software is encoded on the disc along with the holographic-environment information--just as in actual P2P videogames. More on this below.

Next, James writes: "Okay, that leads to my question… All of us (i.e., human souls/players) experience interaction between one another (as well as between ourselves and non-human objects) located inside the composite hologram. How does that interaction work? Inside a video game, the software effectively models forces of interaction between entities (i.e., characters and other objects). Inside a hologram, my understanding is that there’s only a projection, there isn’t any software running at the hologram level and there isn’t any interaction between the projected entities existing *inside* the hologram. So to summarize my question: how does the interaction occur (within your hologram model) between the projection that one human freely chooses and the projection that another human freely chooses?"

Given that I'm arguing that reality is functionally identical to a P2P videogame, my answer to your main question is: the coordination must work precisely how it works with actual videogames.

P2P videogames not only have features of the environment (e.g. simulated rocks, bullets, etc.) encoded on the game disc. They also have "net code" encoded on the disc as well (and some games have far better net code than others). The game console (hardware) then processes both elements of this software -- (1) the holographic information and (2) the netcode coordinating interactions with other consoles on the network (both of which, again, are encoded on the disc).

Since, on my model, our reality is functionally identical to a P2P model, this is how I think the coordination works !

A critical final note: although the netcode part of a game disc -- mediating the simulation -- is there on the disc, it *cannot* be observed by anyone within the game (since it is not part of the hologram participants in the game perceive). The existence of the netcode can only be extrapolated from features of their world that *emerge* from the netcode. And what features are those? The very quantum features I point to!

Superposition, indeterminacy, wave-particle duality, etc.: these, on my account, are *all* indirect indications of P2P netcode on the cosmological horizon (and again, such indirect indications are all we can get, since the netcode isn't apart of the hologram comprising objects, other physical laws, etc.).

Marcus,

Per your explanation, it sounds like each individual soul/consciousness has its own associated software module that’s running discretely (i.e., a “console”) thereby serving as an interface for that soul to project an image into the composite hologram, and said software module exists as a subset of all the software that’s preprogrammed into the information located at the cosmological horizon. In addition to the “console” software modules that are running one per soul, there’s another level of code that’s simultaneously executing (the “netcode”) which coordinates the inputs and outputs between all of the different “console” modules, thereby effectively allowing interaction between the forces exerted by different souls.

At this point, I’m wondering what the purpose of the hologram is in the model. If there’s no interaction within the hologram (i.e., all interaction happens via the consoles and netcode), and if there’s no hologram associated with a P2P videogame, then why are you thinking there’s some kind of hologram that ends up getting projected into the realm experienced by humans? Perhaps the netcode feeds information back to your soul through your console, and the truth is there is no hologram. In other words, the reality that you perceive of all around you is simply a result of the netcode executing.

On that note, what if we simplify the model by eliminating the idea of a hologram and the idea of an informational database existing at the cosmological horizon, and we simply believe that a soul (i.e., a life) selects his actions freely from ideas which emerge from his own human brain? In addition, we could believe that our thoughts exert forces which transcend different force fields thereby interacting with the four fundamental forces of physics, instead of thinking that “console” and “netcode” software is required for the forces exerted by a soul to net sum. In summary, what does a hologram and an informational database existing at the cosmological horizon provide that can’t be covered by a more simple model?

Hi James: Thanks for your reply, and for the great questions!

Let me begin by clarifying the model, as I believe this will help in addressing your questions.

P2P videogames consist of multiple computer consoles linked together, each of which reads its own game DVD. Each game DVD in turn encodes two complementary types of information.

One part of each game DVD encodes the in-game environment (e.g. rocks, trees, etc., as well as basic laws, e.g. gravity). Other parts of the DVD, however, contain the net-code governing how the consoles on the network interact.

The game DVD needs to have both parts in order to realize an intersubjective 3D environment. You can't get a simulated world just with the netcode. There also has to be information encoding the "physical" environment (rocks, trees, physical laws, etc.).

So, to summarize: a P2P simulation just is (1) 2D/holographic material ("the physical environment"), and (2) netcode, both of which are read simultaneously by (3) external observation mechanisms, (4) system-linked together.

My argument in "A New Theory of Free Will" and "A Unified Explanation of Quantum Phenomena?...", is then that this entire model -- all four parts of it together -- are the best explanation of a wide variety of phenomena we observe.

Your suggested alternative -- souls interacting with the four fundamental forces of physics -- is indeed simpler, but it does not explain the same phenomena (at least not without collapsing into the P2P Model - more on this shortly).

The four forces of physics -- gravity, strong force, weak force, and electromagnetism -- do not explain quantum phenomena (superposition, indeterminacy, wave-particle duality, Plank length, etc.). Indeed, nothing we currently know of in physics currently explains these things. Modern physics takes quantum phenomena as basic -- as mysteries for which we currently have no good explanation.

So, "souls interacting with physical laws" (your proposal) can't explain what needs explaining (quantum phenomena)...well, unless we understand "souls" as (1) measurement devices, (2) system-linked together, and "physical laws" as comprised (3) 2D information and (4) netcode. But in that case your alternative proposal isn't really an alternative proposal: it's just the P2P Model!

So, to address your final question directly ("In summary, what does a hologram and an informational database existing at the cosmological horizon provide that can’t be covered by a more simple model?"), the answer is: I don't think any simpler model provides a unified explanation of what needs explaining. All four parts of the P2P Hypothesis -- (1) 2D holographic information encoding objects and physical forces, (2) netcode, and (3) distinct observation media, (4) system-linked together -- are necessary to explain all of the quantum phenomena we need to explain.

I hope this answers your questions. If not (if I'm missing something), I'm happy to keep working through it together! :)

Marcus,

Thanks for patiently explaining your P2P theory. Exploring new ideas helps us move closer toward the truth!

I might be getting lost in the analogy, but doesn't your final claim amount to the necessary condition for a ('model') 3D world is a ('real') 3D world? A computer or other external observation mechanism is already 3-dimensional. But then I am not sure what this could mean on the cosmological level, where the whole universe is 'really' two-dimensional.

I can see an argument for it being holograms all the way down and up (now on analogy with redstone circuits in Minecraft, perhaps), but what does this say about your defense of dualism? Maybe there is only firmware and software (a property dualism of degrees), without a fundamentally different kind of entity (hardware).

I'm not sure the holographic principle can actually do the work that you would like it to in this context.

From an amusing comment at

http://holometer.fnal.gov/faq.html:


Q: How can you seriously claim that we're all just living in a simulation? How can you seriously claim that the third dimension doesn't exist? Have you gone off the deep end? Don't you have anything better to do?

A: Simply put, the Holometer is testing none of these claims. We can address some of the misconceptions about the Holometer by clarifying several misleading terms.

First, when physicists say the universe is "really" two-dimensional, they don't mean the third dimension doesn't exist. Rather they mean it's an emergent rather than fundamental property of spacetime. If you zoom in far enough, a solid doesn't look very solid at all, but this doesn't make "solid" any less real or valid a category for describing our day-to-day experience. Similarly, the claim is that at some scale, spacetime can be described mathematically using two dimensions instead of three, and as you approach the scale of everyday life, it begins to look increasingly three-dimensional.

Second, the term "holographic" unfortunately calls to mind words like "illusion" and "simulation" which really have nothing to do with the Holometer or any aspect of the Holographic Principle. The notion that our familiar three-dimensional universe is somehow encoded in two dimensions at the most fundamental level does not imply that there is anybody or anything "outside" the two-dimensional representation, "projecting" the illusion or "running" the simulation. The Holometer may or may not find evidence of holographic noise. But it's a pretty safe bet that it will not call into question the reality or meaning of your life.

Hi Daniel: Thanks for your comment, and provocative questions!

You write: "Doesn't your final claim amount to the necessary condition for a ('model') 3D world is a ('real') 3D world? A computer or other external observation mechanism is already 3-dimensional."

I think the mistake here is assuming that computers are really 3-dimensional. They *appear* three-dimensional, but on the holographic principle, they're really 2-dimensional information.

"But now", you might say, "doesn't that undermine your point about dualism? If computer consoles and the game DVDs they read -- giving rise to the experience of a 3D world -- are both 2D information included on the cosmological horizon, then doesn't that show that the P2P Simulation Model in turn reduces to 2D information (i.e. monism, not dualism)?"

This seems to be what you have in mind when you write: "Maybe there is only firmware and software (a property dualism of degrees), without a fundamentally different kind of entity (hardware)."

This is a point very well-taken, and I'll need to think about it more. Offhand, I think it may be right -- and so the Holographic Principle alone might only get a *kind* of "dualism."

Here's a way to thin about it, using the analogy as I develop it in "A New Theory of Free Will." Suppose characters in an online videogame wondered what their reality was made of. They would find something peculiar about their own subjective perspective: namely, that it wouldn't seem to be fully explainable in terms of the physics of their world. And they would be right! Their subjective perspective is constituted by a game console interacting with a game DVD that they cannot access from their simulated-world reference frame. But now wait: that game DVD and console exists in our world, and *we* wonder the same questions they do. And so, by extension, if I'm right, *our* subjective is constituted by something akin to a game DVD and console in an as-yet higher reference frame. And either that reference frame is fundamental, or there are just simulations within simulations, ad infinitum.

Now that you've challenged me on this, I do think there might be a way of construing this in a way that is ultimately "substance monist" (or whatever) -- everything is 2D information -- but "property dualist" (and in a way that can help us perhaps understand this strange notion better, as I for one have never been able to parse what could be meant by "property dualism").

If every aspect of any simulation -- game DVDs (environmental information) and game consoles (observation devices) -- are both 2D information, then if reality is simulations nested in simulations, etc., then what we really have are regions of 2D information that read other regions of 2D information, which in turn read other regions of 2D information, ad infintum. And if that's the case, then you're right: everything is 2D. We have a kind of monism (everything is 2D), but a kind of property dualism (firmware and software) emerging from how two different types of 2D information interact.

This kind of property dualism is still super-interesting, though, I think! It would still be the case that entire 3D worlds (i.e. our world) would be constituted by 2D information *outside* of the 2D information we experience as our 3D world reading that 2D information -- information that we could not possibly have access to from our reference-frame here -- and which would comprise our experience of a 3D reality.

So good, I think this has been really helpful! If what I (and you) have said is right, the most we can get out of the Holographic Principle alone is a kind of property dualism, not substance dualism. But again, I think, that kind of property dualism is really cool and interesting!

Now, at the end of the day, I'm still not happy with this, as I think other good arguments for substance dualism still exist (phenomenal consciousness is qualitative in ways that I don't think can possibly emerge from quantitative information). But these other arguments are, of course, philosophical arguments, not physical ones -- so it's still probably the case that we can't get an argument for substance dualism from physics.

Anyway, thanks again for your questions! They've been really helpful. Does what I've said in response sound right?

Hi David: Thanks for your comment. You may be right, which is why I've qualified this blog post using the word "might." :) But let me try to work though things a bit.

To begin, I think we should be very careful taking physicists at their word on the philosophical implications of their theories.

Physicists don't, after all, always a great track record of properly construing the philosophical implications of their theories. Consider, for instance, Lawrence Krauss' and Stephen Hawking' claims that physics has resolved the age-old philosophical question of "how something came from nothing." Their basic story here is that "a Big Bang from nothing" is predicted by the laws of quantum mechanics (very roughly, a quantum vacuum will give rise to fluctuations that...bang!).

Now, of course, in one sense they're right. The laws of quantum physics do imply this. But, in another obvious sense, they are plainly wrong. The proper philosophical reply is: "Yes, but the laws of quantum mechanics are *something*, not nothing!" Basically, Krauss and Hawking help themselves to something (the laws of QM) in order to explain how "something comes from nothing" -- which is really just a contradiction (the laws of QM are not nothing!).

I think something similar is going on in the first part of the passage you quote: "First, when physicists say the universe is "really" two-dimensional, they don't mean the third dimension doesn't exist. Rather they mean it's an emergent rather than fundamental property of spacetime. If you zoom in far enough, a solid doesn't look very solid at all, but this doesn't make "solid" any less real or valid a category for describing our day-to-day experience. Similarly, the claim is that at some scale, spacetime can be described mathematically using two dimensions instead of three, and as you approach the scale of everyday life, it begins to look increasingly three-dimensional."

Let's think about this carefully. How can three dimensions "emerge" from two dimensions? Suppose we are doing geometry on a piece of paper. I write down an X-axis, Y-axis, and Z-axis, plotting points along each axis. I have here *represented* three dimensional space. That being said, the diagram itself is ultimately 2-dimensional. I've represented three dimensions on what is, ultimately, a 2-dimensional medium.

I think this is the proper way to understand the Holographic Principle. Three-dimensions do indeed "emerge" from the holographic information. Still, when all is said an done, the Holographic Principle states that our universe is *ultimately* 2D information written on the cosmological horizon, and that the 3D world we experience emerges from that in the same way that 3 dimensions "emerge" when we plot three intersecting axes on a piece of paper. (Are there "really" three dimensions in the paper? Answer: yes and no. The plots on the paper *represent* three dimensions, but the paper itself is ultimately two dimensional).

Second, although the people at the Holometer institute don't think the Holographic Principle has the kinds of implications I'm suggesting it does, other physicists do. See, for example, the SCIAM article I linked to (which was written by several serious physicists). These authors explicitly invoke the Plato Cave metaphor, and suggest that the holographic idea entails a 4-dimensional block universe, where we cannot perceive the 4th dimension.

My above response to Daniel Brunson suggests a new way to understand this (the "4-dimensional block universe") -- namely, as 2D information in one region (i.e. the laws and objects of our "3D" reality) being read by 2D information in another region (i.e. "outside" of our "3D" reality). Now, as I noted in response to Daniel, this may ultimately be a kind of monism (everything is 2D information, all the way down, though there are nested areas of 2D reading other areas), but still, it seems to me (at least) a robust kind of property dualism.

With these points in mind, let me consider the final part of the passage you quote: "The term "holographic" unfortunately calls to mind words like "illusion" and "simulation" which really have nothing to do with the Holometer or any aspect of the Holographic Principle. The notion that our familiar three-dimensional universe is somehow encoded in two dimensions at the most fundamental level does not imply that there is anybody or anything "outside" the two-dimensional representation, "projecting" the illusion or "running" the simulation. The Holometer may or may not find evidence of holographic noise. But it's a pretty safe bet that it will not call into question the reality or meaning of your life."

I don't think it is a safe bet, nor, for that matter, does Stephen Hawking (to take just one rather well-respected cosmologist, and there are others too). In his own discussion of the holographic principle and holography in Chapter 7 of "The Universe in a Nutshell", Hawking writes that, "maybe we think we live in a four-dimensional world because we are shadows cast on the brane by what is happening on the interior of [the cosmological] bubble" -- where branes are either 1-dimensional (as in string theory) or 2-dimensional, etc. Notice that Hawking is explicitly referring here to phenomena of projection -- so he, at least, thinks such an interpretation of the HP is worth taking seriously (if not unambiguously the right way to understand it!).

To be clear, these are not simple issues. There's a lot of debate about precisely what the Holographic Principle implies, and a lot of it turns on matters of physics not yet settled (are universes branes bouncing off one another? Are there bubble universes? Etc.). My aim in this was to speculate on the implications of one way of understanding the Holographic Principle. It may or may not be the right way, but I think it still remains to be seen!

In any case, thanks again for your comment. These are speculative, unsettled areas to be sure, and it is good to draw attention to that. I would also not be terribly disappointed if I were interpreting the Holographic Principle incorrectly. Ultimately, the P2P Simulation Model of reality I defend only takes the Holgraphic Principle as one of its constituent hypotheses, and the interpretation I give of it in this post is not a necessary component of the P2P Model as I develop it.

Marcus,

Your excellent response get to the heart of my concerns, and I need to think about it some more. However, here are some more thoughts, or another version of my earlier thoughts. Again, I was struck by the disanalogy within your P2P model:

minds (nonphysical) : bodies (physical) :: hardware (P) : software (NP)

And yet, with the Holographic Principle information is what is physical, and so in the 'real' world both hardware and software are 'really' physical information. So, either the identification of minds with hardware needs to address the intuitive contrast in physicality, or the collapse of such a contrast between hardware and software due to the Holographic Principle suggests a similar collapse between minds and bodies.

Going back to dimensionality, I don't know what to make of the original implication that physical things are 2D information, while minds (observation mechanisms) are nonphysical yet 3D - why would something non-physical have this sort of dimensionality, and why 3D instead of 4 (especially with the subjective experience of temporal change)?

Finally, regarding the role of phenomenal experience: my computer's processor has no phenomenal experience to speak of (unless all holographic projections of 3D information do). Instead, in the P2P gaming analogy what best matches a phenomenal sensorium is the monitor. However, the monitor merely expresses the results of hardware processing, and does not (directly) affect processing at all. In other words, the pixels on my monitor are an epiphenomenon, and so perhaps is any qualitative consciousness on your model.

Anyway, a fascinating project, and also thank you for the depth of your considerations to my comments and those of others.

Hi Daniel: Thanks for your reply!

You write:

"Again, I was struck by the disanalogy within your P2P model: minds (nonphysical) : bodies (physical) :: hardware (P) : software (NP).

With the Holographic Principle information is what is physical, and so in the 'real' world both hardware and software are 'really' physical information. So, either the identification of minds with hardware needs to address the intuitive contrast in physicality, or the collapse of such a contrast between hardware and software due to the Holographic Principle suggests a similar collapse between minds and bodies."

Okay, good. There are two separate points here, one that reaffirms your earlier point about the Holographic Principle (that it by *itself* at most implies a kind of property dualism, not substance dualism), and a second point about the relationship between between the full P2P Model and the hardware-software analogy.

Your first point is that if we take the Holographic Principle alone, we don't get the *kind* of full-blooded (substance) dualism I want to defend (for again, as you note, if the Holographic Principle is *all* we have, then software and hardware both collapse into 2D information).

That, again, is a point very well-taken.

But, of course, the P2P Model as I defend it in "A New Theory of Free Will" is *not* based only on the Holographic Principle. I think there are independent reasons to think that a far more robust, fundamental duality exists between minds (qualitative experience) and physical information encoded on the cosmological horizon (viz. the Holographic Principle), and I give some of these reasons in the paper. So, whether the arguments from the Holographic Principle to dualism I give in this particular post are sound (or get us the *kind* of dualism I want) is sort of beside the point.

The second question you raise is whether, on the P2P Model as I defend it, there is a disanalogy between (1) minds (non-physical) and bodies (physical), and (2) hardware and software.

The answer, I think, is plainly *yes*. The analogy is only intended as a rough one. In our reality, P2P simulations (and hardware/software distinctions) are embedded in a single substance/medium (i.e. physical information).

My point in "A New Theory of Free Will" (and my work on this stuff more generally) is that there is something sort of like a hardware/software distinction at the ultimate level of reality, but that the hardware/software distinction here is quite *different*: namely, (1) physical information being quantitative/relational, and (2) non-physical minds being *qualitative*/perfectly intrinsic.

So, to clarify, *within* our reality, ordinary hardware and software are both quantitative relational. I am suggesting that ultimate reality is *similar*, but with a single fundamental difference: the "ultimate hardware" of the world is qualitative/intrinsic, and so fundamentally different than the *kind* of (purely functionalist) hardware we encounter *within* our world.

In short, I'm right with you. There is a disanalogy between ordinary hardware/software, and the way I'm construing this distinction at the ultimate, ground-floor level of reality. But, although there is this fundamental difference, there are also a lot of *similarities*, and because of those similarities, I think it can be helpful to use the analogy as a kind of heuristic (though, as this exchange indicates, it's really important to be clear on the respect in which I am *not* claiming the analogy to be perfect!).

Does this make sense?

Hi again Marcus,

With some of the talk here going back to monism and property dualism, I thought I'd expand a little more on what we discussed previously, in case there's anything useful to you.

You previously wrote: "Like all monists, I think you have to take quantum phenomena as basic and unexplained, which I think is a problem" and "You have to take the Plank length as brute/fundamental"

What I'm thinking of as a monist "higher frame" would be described by a mathematical theory of quantum gravity that is background independent (i.e nonspaciotemporal), much like LQG or (notably for this discussion) string theory with the holographic principle. Physicists motivation for a background independent theory is that general relativity is itself background independent, but of course, QG also has to have quantum mechanics fall out of it's math.

It's these idea that motivate me to identify the nonspaciotemporal mathematical model of QG with the source of abstract ideas (qualia), along with it being the source of the physical (GR & QM) already as its raison d'être. For me this potentially provides a monist setting that does explain quantum phenomena mathematically. The Planck length would remain what it is now, the boundary between the spacetime that emerges from quantum gravity, and the abstract mathematics of the theory itself.

As I understand it (and I could be mistaken!) the above is mainstream speculative physics, but from here on in I'm metaphysically speculating on a whole new level of course!

By situating the phenomenological simples of imagination in the higher frame (as you have too), we can suggest that a) they fit naturally there, being nonspaciotemporal in nature, and b) their configuration might provide the relations needed to give a nonspaciotemporal mathematical model the flesh and bones its needs to form relations in the first place. So an ontology of abstract imaginings, related in a way that form the basis of QG mathematics, and the lower frame GR/QM emerging from that.

There's more to say here regarding the higher frame as the source of counterfactuals and conscious agents. Maybe we'll go there later.

Of course, the emergence of something physical from something abstract seems odd to say the least. All I can say here is that as I understand it, this is what the maths suggests in these models. Below is a link to where I first read about the idea, although Lee Smolin also writes about it.

http://arxiv.org/abs/1302.2849

Lastly, in reply to your worries about "proto-experiential properties", I have this too, but without it I think the higher frame becomes purely idealistic, and we start to wonder who's doing the thinking. By having the higher frame as non-experiential (not relying on conscious agents for emergence to the lower frame to happen), we avoid that and can cater for a non-conscious higher frame, and a lower frame before consciousness came on the scene. Another way out might be panpsychism I think, if the higher frame only houses experiences rather than any consciousness, and the lower frame bears consciousness throughout. However, I prefer the former idea because it leaves room for some aspects of consciousness (the imagination at least) in the higher frame, possibly providing an opening for free will.

Sorry to get back into my own idea, but I'm hoping their alignment with some of yours and their similar goals may lead you to indulge further speculation on my part...

Cheers,

Matt

Hi Matt: Thanks for the follow-up!

Perhaps I'm missing something (I'm not an expert on loop quantum gravity), but I'm not sure that it can do the work you want it to do. All LPG does is merge standard quantum mechanics with relativity. Perhaps LPG can provide some explanation of the Planck length, how does it promise to explain the various phenomena that the P2P Hypothesis does (superposition, wave-particle duality, entanglement, etc.)? If it can, I'd love to hear how! On the other hand, if it can't -- if it's really your second part of the model (consiousness/qualia) that do all of the work -- I begin to wonder if you're attributing all of the magic of quantum mechanics to one, inexplicable thing (whereas the P2P model provides a simple, well-understood mechanism through which all such phenomena emerge).

It seems to me from the following part of your comment that you're drawn to this second option (consciousness does all the important work): "By situating the phenomenological simples of imagination in the higher frame (as you have too), we can suggest that a) they fit naturally there, being nonspaciotemporal in nature, and b) their configuration might provide the relations needed to give a nonspaciotemporal mathematical model the flesh and bones its needs to form relations in the first place. So an ontology of abstract imaginings, related in a way that form the basis of QG mathematics, and the lower frame GR/QM emerging from that."

Again, if your claim is that that configurations of consciousness give the "flesh and bones" to LQG to begin with, then I say you're invoking far, far more magic than the P2P Hypothesis does (as the P2P Hypothesis gives a simple mechanism -- peer-to-peer network communication -- to explain things that you seem to want to attribute to consciousness alone).

Next, you write: "Of course, the emergence of something physical from something abstract seems odd to say the least. All I can say here is that as I understand it, this is what the maths suggests in these models. Below is a link to where I first read about the idea, although Lee Smolin also writes about it."

Yes, I think the emergence of something physical from the abstract *is* odd, to say the least. And while I have to thank you for the link to Smolin's article, I do have to say that I'm not (at all) a big fan of Smolin's philosophy of science. I'm reading his newest book ("Time Reborn") now, but while he's (apparently) a very good physicist, his philosophy of science is full of "howlers" (clear, outright confusions). Essentially, the aim of his book is to show that while traditional approaches to physics eliminate "time" from reality, his new approach reintroduces it in a way that solves lots of problems. But what he's doing in the book is in *no* way reintroduces time to reality (all it does it argue that the spatio-temporal manifold -- something all mainstream physical theories affirm the existence of -- is infinite, and that universes rebirth new universes in a process of cosmological natural selection). That being said, I'll give his arxiv paper a read. :)

Finally, you write: "in reply to your worries about "proto-experiential properties", I have this too, but without it I think the higher frame becomes purely idealistic, and we start to wonder who's doing the thinking."

I think that if you want to preserve the reality of consciousness (as nonphysical), there's no way around this. You *have* to adopt either panpsychism or idealism. You can't get consciousness out of something non-conscious ("proto-consciousness"). Either the stuff is conscious at bottom (in which case you have panpsychism or idealism), or it's not (in which case you have functionalism or something -- consciousness from non-consciousness -- that is incoherent).

Anyway, thanks again for your reply! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Thanks for the reply Marcus.

You write: "...I'm not sure [LQG]... can do the work you want it to do. All LPG does is merge standard quantum mechanics with relativity. Perhaps LPG can provide some explanation of the Planck length, how does it promise to explain the various phenomena that the P2P Hypothesis does (superposition, wave-particle duality, entanglement, etc.)?"

As I understand it, the maths of LQG 'feature' those phenomena in the same way that QM itself does, but admittedly, like QM, it doesn't tell us how those match up with what we'd consider 'physical reality'. However, compared to QM, LQG (and all QG theories) take the story one step back, so entanglement for example is a central feature in the mathematical base (spin networks, CDT or whetever) from which the further mathematics of an emergent spacetime and QM are derived. However, I think your point here is that P2P gives a 'physical reality' story, in that it posits a mechanism of interaction between an external conscious agent and a reading-off of data on the higher frame. This then lets us see why these features are present in the first place. If I have you right there, the point is taken. All I would say in defense is that you're still left with the question of what explains the existence of the higher frame itself, the external conscious agents, and their mechanism of interaction (I think you acknowledged this previously). But this regress is unavoidable isn't it?

You write: "...if your claim is that that configurations of consciousness give the "flesh and bones" to LQG to begin with, then I say you're invoking far, far more magic than the P2P Hypothesis does (as the P2P Hypothesis gives a simple mechanism -- peer-to-peer network communication -- to explain things that you seem to want to attribute to consciousness alone)."

That's not quite my view, as it's not consciousness giving the flesh and bones, but rather experiential properties or qualia. As an analogy we might thin of the higher frame as the water beneath a frozen sea. Each water molecule represents the simples of the higher frame: free floating experiential properties. The relations between these simples represent the mathematics of a QG theory from which spacetime can emerge. Emergent spacetime then is water molecules in a certain configuration that forms ice at the surface of the sea, and the ice is the lower frame, with its new set of traditionally-physical simples and properties.

I can't see any reason why I couldn't replace my [LQG --> emergent space --> lower frame] with your [String theory --> holographic principle --> lower frame], and in fact I think these may be equivalent, with the latter being the view from the lower frame (as strings are above the Planck scale) and the former the view from the higher frame (as LQG has no scale being nonspaciotemporal). Again, Smolin has suggested that the two theories may be equivalent in that sense (but we'll come to him later!).

I think our main difference is that I want to then place conscious observers *within* the higher frame, whereas you place them outside. In my frozen sea analogy, I have conscious agents as an emergent feature of the higher frame, but not the same emergent feature that causes spacetime emergence. This feature remains embedded in the higher frame, but causes the experiential properties to become trapped in some way and reflect back on themselves. We might think of bubbles forming under the frozen sea. However, the whole picture does get murky here admittedly, and perhaps what you've termed "magic" is needed to get any such picture running. Again, point taken.

"...I do have to say that I'm not (at all) a big fan of Smolin's philosophy of science...."

I'll have to defer to your judgement on the philosophy, but I do think Smolin has some interesting ways of looking at things. I prefer that to physicists who just take mainstream physicalist view without question and present it as fact. i have the book you mention but haven't fully read it. I think I'm right in saying that it deals with topics that go beyond what we're discussing here. The link I gave last time isn't actually a Smolin paper, but have you read "Three Roads to Quantum Gravity"? It's in there (and as suggested by the article below) that I think many of his ideas I refer to here are presented.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Smolin#The_Trouble_with_Physics

You write: "I think that if you want to preserve the reality of consciousness (as nonphysical), there's no way around this. You *have* to adopt either panpsychism or idealism. You can't get consciousness out of something non-conscious ("proto-consciousness"). Either the stuff is conscious at bottom (in which case you have panpsychism or idealism), or it's not (in which case you have functionalism or something -- consciousness from non-consciousness -- that is incoherent)."

Is it incoherent to suggest that you could build an experiencer (the bubbles) out of non-experienced proto-experiences (the molecules in the sea)? I'm unsure. I won't offer any refutation of that as I don't have the wherewithal to try, but perhaps it's something I need to think- and read-on more!

Anyway, I mocked-up a quick diagram that may help make sense of (or clarify the lack of sense in!) what I'm suggesting.

http://i.imgur.com/gaqP2gD.png

Thanks for the indulgence, and I'm looking forward to reading your latest post later...

Cheers

Matt

Hi Matt: Thanks, as always, for your reply.

You write: As I understand it, the maths of LQG 'feature' those phenomena in the same way that QM itself does, but admittedly, like QM, it doesn't tell us how those match up with what we'd consider 'physical reality'. However, compared to QM, LQG (and all QG theories) take the story one step back, so entanglement for example is a central feature in the mathematical base (spin networks, CDT or whetever) from which the further mathematics of an emergent spacetime and QM are derived. However, I think your point here is that P2P gives a 'physical reality' story, in that it posits a mechanism of interaction between an external conscious agent and a reading-off of data on the higher frame. This then lets us see why these features are present in the first place. If I have you right there, the point is taken."

Yes, you have me right. LQG may take the story back one step, but my point is that it's a pretty darn small step -- one that merely introduces new equations to explain how gravity/relativity can be merged with QM. This is by no means a negligible step -- but in my view it's sort of akin to the step taken by Ptolematic theory in introducing epicycles (you now have new equations to explain how things work, but no deeper explanation of why those equations work).

I think the P2P Hypothesis promises a unified, mechanical explanation of why quantum phenomena exist at all -- and this is, as you note, something that neither LQG nor any other physical theory presently has to offer.

Your next point is: "All I would say in defense is that you're still left with the question of what explains the existence of the higher frame itself, the external conscious agents, and their mechanism of interaction (I think you acknowledged this previously). But this regress is unavoidable isn't it?"

Yes, of course. As I've noted previously, any physical/metaphysical has to take something or other as basic and unexplainable. I don't think there's any way around this. What a good theory does, however, is substantially explain more things that we could explain before, right? So, for instance, we still don't know how life emerged from non-life -- but we know how life works (in terms of cells, DNA, etc.)! Yes, theories of organic chemistry, etc., on pose further questions (e.g. why is there organic matter at all?), but at least the explanations we have of life now explain things we couldn't explain before (i.e. when "life" was taken to come from some magical elan vital, or life-force).

My suggestion is not that the P2P Model explains everything (something which, again, I don't think can ever be done!). The claim is that it promises to explain more about phenomena -- and in a unified manner -- than any existing model of QM does.

We don't think Copernican astronomy is false because it leaves further unanswered questions -- but we do think it is the best theory of planetary orbits because it is the best unified explanation of *that*. My suggestion is simply that the P2P Hypothesis may be the explanation of quantum stuff that we can't otherwise explain (and which LQG, etc., don't explain so much as describe).

Your next point (in answer to one of my questions) was: "That's not quite my view, as it's not consciousness giving the flesh and bones, but rather experiential properties or qualia."

I have to confess that I don't understand this. What are experiential properties or qualia if not consciousness? The "what it's likeness" of experience/qualia are standardly taken to be what phenomenal consciousness is. As such, my worry applies: either (1) you're talking about consciousness, in which consciousness + LQG is doing all the "magic", or else (2) you're not talking about consciousness, in which I don't think you can ever get consciousness out of the theory (as consciousness is fundamentally non-functionally explicable).

Finally, since I assume you're not attracted to option (2), you're driven to option (1): consciousness + LQG explains all (spacetime, etc.). But in that case, I say, the P2P Model is better. Why? Well, for the reasons given above. Since I don't think LQG explains very much (it simply describes one way to unify gravity/relativity with standard QM), almost *all* of the explanatory power of your model comes from consciousness. It is "doing most of the magic." Notice that this isn't true on the P2P Model. On the P2P Model, consciousness plays one very specific role (introducing libertarian free will into certain parts of the world), and the rest of the P2P Model (the peer-to-peer network) explains quantum phenomena...the very things that the LQG part of your model can't explain, and which you must then explain in terms of "consciousness magic".

In other words, I still think the P2P Hypothesis explains more than the alternative you're suggesting, while reducing "consciousness magic" -- in a way similar to how organic chemistry doesn't eliminate all "magic" from the world, but lots more of it than rival theories.

Does this make sense?

Your next thought is: "I'll have to defer to your judgement on the philosophy, but I do think Smolin has some interesting ways of looking at things."

I very much like Smolin's work on LQG, but aside from that and the book of his I'm currently reading, I've read nothing by him. I will say this, and without any hesitation: I think his philosophy of science in his book is profoundly confused -- and in pretty elementary ways -- at very many points. Just take his grand claim to have "reintroduced time" into physics (and metaphysics). He spends the first part of his book explaining why traditional physics has "excised time." First, I don't think this is right. There's a plain sense in which every standard physical theory includes time. All physical theories are dynamical theories which explain what will happen at time Tn if such-and-such obtains at time T. What physics doesn't have a good account of is time's *passage*. But then, in the second part of his book, Smolin claims to "reintroduce time" into physics by positing an infinite series of cosmological universe-selection, where new universes with new laws of nature are continually born by black holes. Okay, but notice...this has nothing to do with the sense in which physics has traditionally "excised" time. All it is does is posit dynamical processes -- which all physical theories already do! What it doesn't do (at all) is explain the problematic aspect of time that doesn't fit well into physics (i.e. time's passage, the "now").

So, I say, the basic thrust of Smolin's book is confused at Step 1 -- and I think there's a lot of other confusions too.

Your final thoughts are: "Is it incoherent to suggest that you could build an experiencer (the bubbles) out of non-experienced proto-experiences (the molecules in the sea)? I'm unsure. I won't offer any refutation of that as I don't have the wherewithal to try, but perhaps it's something I need to think- and read-on more!"

Again, it depends on how you're understanding the bubbles and molecules. Here, you have two options:

(1) The molecules are non-conscious, and explain the consciousness of the bubbles.
(2) The molecules are conscious to be begin with, and the bubbles inherit their consciousness from the consciousness of the molecules.

(1) is a non-starter. You can't get consciousness (qualitative experience) from non-consciousness (quantitative relations).

(2), however, is non-explanatory. It affirms consciousness as basic.

So there, I think, is your refutation! :) I think the thing you are struggling with is that you want to pry apart "consciousness" from "protoconsciousness" -- but again, I don't think this is coherent. Phenomenal consciousness is defined as qualitative experience. If protoconsciousness is qualitative experience, it's just consciousness! On the other hand, if it's not qualitative (i.e. consciousness) but rather quantitative, then, well, you can never get anything qualitative out of it!

Thanks again for your comment. This has been a very illuminating exchange!

Thank you, this has given me lots to think about!

Matt

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