Saturday, August 14, 2004

Stat-meta chat on plastic with Marduk-kur.

For the first entry on statistical metaphysics, here's a conversation I had with Marduk-kur over on plastic:

Hey, Marduk, why don't you try and take my testable theory on? It's approximately infinitely more interesting than these old debates. I'm calling it Statistical Metaphysics right now, although I'm having second thoughts on the about using the word metaphysics — as an atheist physicist I think it has a clear connotation of the mathematical foundations of physics (and thus reality), but the more I read about it on the web, the more I see it associated with all sorts of supernatural flimflam. Anyways, not important. Here's a new rough draft of the paper I'm working on, and I'm also presenting it this Saturday the 7th at Transvision 2004 in Toronto. Here's a quick review of the theory:

First, it is possible to create a complete mathematical model of the universe (perhaps something like string theory...). Then, since we observers are just permutations of atoms within our universe and give it no special status, one argues that all mathematical structures exist — call this collection the ensemble. This then helps to explain the apparent 'fine tuning' of our universe as to allow for life — i.e. it isn't tuned and there probably isn't any life in much of the rest of the ensemble. Still this begs the (non-intuitive and nonobvious) question of why we find ourselves to be observers at all. This question is put in sharper contrast when we ask what it is to be a conscious being. To point, all of one's conscious experiences are the patterns of firing neurons within the brain, i.e. essentially a giant, abstract connected graph (or an abstract structure of objects and their relationships -ASORs- as I like to call them). Indeed everything else in the ensemble can also be placed in this connected graph/ASOR representation. So why is it that we find ourselves to be in the 'evolving-observer' subset of ASORs within the ensemble? Inspired by the success of statistical mechanics in explaining which types of macroscopic structures exist within the universal wave function (i.e. all permutations of atoms exist, but some classes of permutations are extremely more common than others, like those that follow the 2nd law...), I argue simply that observers form the largest subset in the ensemble — there are fundamentally more permutations of observers than any other type of information. For this to be true it requires that observers can grow to be infinitely complex in the limit of infinite time, which in turn requires that there is no absolute finite upper limit to the power of computers that we can build, which itself requires that there is no final theory of physics (instead each physical theory turns out to be only a local approximation of a more complex theory...). If this is true, then observers essentially become the power set of the ensemble, extracting up to an infinite number of unique pieces of information from their environments. This in turn means that the infinite number of permutations of these infinitely complex observers is of a higher cardinality than the number of permutations of all other ASORs in the ensemble, which is why what it is to exist is to be one of these observers evolving in time.

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