Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The fatalism of entropy. The dynamism of spontaneous order.

THE SECOND COMING
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...
- W.B. Yeats

People often talk as if the Law of Entropy somehow restricts human activity, or is a restraint on human free will. The idea, for example, that "even if human ingenuity is infinite, entropy may eventually put an absolute limit on the amount of wealth that can be created." Things fall apart, you see, the centre cannot hold, and there's not a blind thing we can do about it.

This is both an error of scale -- with entropy happening on a universal rather than a human scale -- and a mis-application. It ignores the very nature of human activity and human free will, and ignores too the very simple observation that confirms there is order all around us. As the author of the book Sync : The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order says:
Scientists have often been baffled by the existence of spontaneous order in the universe. The laws of thermodynamics seem to dictate the opposite, that nature should inexorably degenerate toward a state of greater disorder, greater entropy. Yet all around us we see magnificent structures—galaxies, cells, ecosystems, human beings—that have all somehow managed to assemble themselves.
The phenomenon of spontaneous order is often cited as one of the two or three most non-intuitive notion of economics -- see if you can guess the others -- but the free application of human ingenuity in a division of labour system is one such example of spontaneous order in action. Tim Harford describes it succinctly in The Undercover Economist as an order that "emerges out of the behavior of individuals even though it is not anyone's intention to promote the overall order."

Why am I telling you this? Because the chaps over at Cafe Hayek have spotted a beautiful example of spontaneous order in full and graphic action: a visual representation of air traffic in the United States over the course of the day. Watch as mainland USA and Hawaii are slowly 'painted in' by the 'spontaneous' travels of individual flights. Click here to go see the Quick Time movie. As they say at Cafe Hayek, what looks random slowly emerges as a most developed kind of 'un-planned' order -- unplanned that is by any central planning. "The flights around the country aren't random. They spring out of population density and the routes people want to travel. These are the source of the order and its visual representation."

Spontaneous order. It's a wonderful thing, and perhaps the best answer to both mis-applying 'entropists' and would-be central planners.

LINKS: The recent revival of spontaneous order - Economics Library
Flight Patterns - Aaron Koblin at UCLA
The nature of the order - Cafe Hayek
Sync : The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order - Stephen Strogatz, Amazon. Com
The Undercover Economist - Tim Harford, Amazon.Com

RELATED: Economics, Ethics, Philosophy, Science

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68 Comments:

Blogger P-Style said...

The simplest way of expressing the major thesis of the theory of spontaneous order is to say that it is concerned with those regularities in society, or orders of events, which are neither (1) the product of deliberate human contrivance

In light of this i'm not sure how the air-transport pattern is a very good example of 'spontaneous order'. All who are invovled in the aviation industry are very familiar with the fact that central planning and 'human contrivance' have resulted in massive design and structuring of airspace. What we are looking at in the animation is an exaple of regulation and the marketplace in action.

11/14/2006 02:54:00 pm  
Anonymous Hamish said...

Hehe, you watched Cube (and Cube^2 and Cube 2000)? While it is completely B-rate, it is the only movie I know of that has something to say about this phenominum.

"...simple observation that confirms there is order all around us"

That it is a huge error in understanding the Law. Humans are highly organised pieces of equipment, but to merely maintain that level of organisation requires an enourmous amount of energy to be consumed. Note that: 'maintaining' order gives you no extra points in the entropy stakes, but every time you break down oxygen to use as fuel you add a little bit more disorder. Yes, we are ordered, but the SUM entropy (and that is all that matters) is still getting worse.

This applies to every kind of order that you so simply observe. All of it required a much greater amount of disorder to become ordered.

By the way, that relatively simple pattern in the video is caused by the input and direction of thousands of people following complex rules. It only appears spontaneous because the rules of the game are too complex to comprehend. Contrast that to, for example, a galaxy, where one very simply rule acts on particles to form an ordered mass - a result that is far more surprising - but no more spontaneous.

"even if human ingenuity is infinite, entropy may eventually put an absolute limit on the amount of wealth that can be created." Things fall apart, you see, the centre cannot hold, and there's not a blind thing we can do about it.

Absolutely, I cannot see where you refuted the claim. There are absolute limits to efficiency, there are limited resources. Hence, limited wealth. Care to expand?

11/14/2006 03:11:00 pm  
Anonymous Hamish said...

The more I think about it, the more I realise that you've murdered the physics behind all this. :) (I might spout on about philosophy, or throw my 2c in about economics, but I have a physics major to back me up on this one)

11/14/2006 03:25:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

"The more I think about it, the more I realise that you've murdered the physics behind all this."

But the point is that it is a mistake to apply the physics of entropy to spontaneously organised human activities such as those described -- a misapplication. This -- "Humans are highly organised pieces of equipment" -- suggests you're throwing stones at the wrong tree.

"In light of this i'm not sure how the air-transport pattern is a very good example of 'spontaneous order'."

Read the Cafe Hayek post. They specifically answer this. "I didn't mean that any one flight is spontaneous. And of course, the overall pattern of commercial air traffic is managed rather than spontaneous. The orderly part comes from the visual image that emerges and the implications of that images..." Read on at the link in the post above.

11/14/2006 03:40:00 pm  
Blogger P-Style said...

PC,

I still disagree that this is a good example of spontaneous order. A very good example is the classic one that is demonstrated by a school of fish, all looking out for their personal best interest, while giving the appearance of being an organised body.

The air transport example falls down because aircraft simply do not conform to the same (or arguable similar) set of rules that fish conform to. A more accurate example might be demonstrated by Helicopter Flight patterns. Helicopters are not (in the USA) restricted by regulation in nearly the same way as fixed wing aircraft, and their flight patterns (individually speaking) are much more chaotic. However, I suspect that patterns might become very obvious if their flight paths were mapped, suggesting a better example of spontaneous order.

Now whether or not this demonstration means that we should organise our economies based on self-interest is a whole other debate!

- tezwp

11/14/2006 04:51:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

I've just noted that the author of the book 'Sync : The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order' , Professor Steven. H. Strogatz, is a leading scientists in the field of 'Non-linear Dynamical Systems'. I have a copy of his popular book with title: "Non-linear Dynamics & Chaos" , which was published prior to his latest one , 'Sync : The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order'.

Prof. Strogatz's "Non-linear Dynamics & Chaos" is an excellent book for scientists, economists, physicists, software developers, engineers, climate scientists, and anyone who is interested in the science of 'non-linear dyanamics'. This book covers examples from different diciplines such as, 'stability of semiconductor laser emission' where laser power emission is known to be chaotic at certain operating conditions, there is an example in the property market , where evidence indicated that it exhibits chaotic behavior, an example of certain parameters in large scale industrial control systems also exhibit chaos, particularly in telecommunication network optical switching devices, an example in atmospheric turbulent in climate dynamics exhibiting chaotic behavior, an example regarding the chaotic brain signal generation in certain parts of the brain, and many more.

"Steven H. Strogatz"
http://tam.cornell.edu/Strogatz.html

11/14/2006 04:52:00 pm  
Blogger Chefen said...

The Earth is a wide open thermodynamic system. There is a massive fireball pumping in energy on one side and freezing space absorbing radiated energy on the other. You can't seriously worry about entropy in our tiny corner of the universe increasing until you lose the sun. I don't know many economists factoring in an event a few billion years in the future.

Even then it isn't clear what happens at the end of the universe. An entropic heat death isn't inevitable. Read David Deutsch's ideas about what could be possible.

11/14/2006 11:16:00 pm  
Blogger HORansome said...

Alright, I will bite.

Why are you referring to entropy and free will? What, exactly, does free will have to do with entropy?

11/15/2006 12:12:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

"What, exactly, does free will have to do with entropy?"

That's the point, or one of the points. "People often talk as if the Law of Entropy somehow restricts human activity, or is a restraint on human free will." It doesn't.

It's an error of scale on the one hand -- as Chefen says, "the Earth is a wide open thermodynamic system. There is a massive fireball pumping in energy on one side and freezing space absorbing radiated energy on the other" -- and on the other hand a complete misapplication.

11/15/2006 12:23:00 am  
Blogger HORansome said...

Perhaps I wasn't clear; I can't see how the notion of free will (a contentious proposition) has anything to do with entropy. It seems you are conflating the idea of humanity activity with the notion of free agency (which is a fairly common mistake) when, especially in respect to your example, you actually don't need to.

Philosophical Libertarianism (the belief in the existence of Free Will; not related to Political Libertarianism) is a fraught subject, mostly because we have no proof for the existence of Free Will and because many of the features of Free Will we desire actually turn out to be explicable in terms of agency (which can be construed in entirely compatibilist or determinist ways). The example you are using, of air traffic creating patterns, is probably better off as an example of agency.

You also seem to be conflating two other issues (or you might be accusing others of conflating the issues; it isn't particularly clear), that of the entropic limits on agency/free will and that of entropic limits on human activity. Whilst it is true that agency (or even Free Will) isn't really constrained by entropy the actions of human beings will be (i.e. agency/free will is said to be in some way causal of human actions and human actions can be constrained by entropy.

11/15/2006 09:29:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

horansome - If we don't have free will, then it sure *seems* like we do. How do you explain that?

11/15/2006 11:15:00 am  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

PC,

I've got a book by leading scientist in the field of 'Theory of Cellular Automata' (see link below), a Physicist named Steven Wolfram (founder of Wolfram Software), with title:

"A New kind of Science"
http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Kind-Science-Stephen-Wolfram/dp/1579550088

It is a very long book, which I have only read the first few chapters. It is interesting of how he managed to explain the theory of complexity in terms of computation which seems to be that everything has order after all. Chapter 10 touches on free-will.

"Cellular Automata"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellular_automaton

The book is for general readers and there is no equations involved. If you're keen to take a look, then ask Carol to pick it up on her way back from school.

11/15/2006 02:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Hamish said...

Cheers PC - I suspect my background in the soulless sciences means I'm not understanding the application on humans fully :D - but I like the idea.

This is all very similar to emergent behaviour - and maybe more applicable?

11/15/2006 02:56:00 pm  
Anonymous indolence said...

Personally, I find PC's argument to be a little ridiculous, but there are two comments I'd like to address:

"There are absolute limits to efficiency, there are limited resources. Hence, limited wealth. Care to expand?" -- hamish

Yes. Your sense of scale.

Mankind is on a single ball of rock that has about 10^-28 of the observeable universe's mass. Considering that no producer is seriously contemplating breaking down the earth for resources, we're not struggling yet.

* * *

"Steven Wolfram"[sic] -- falafulu fisi

His mathematics aside, the cellular automata work is on the fringe. Which is not necessarily a slam, as there is other fringe work (like Ray Kurzweil's _The Singularity Is Near_) that is similarly interesting.

Just keep in mind that, for laymen, mainstream science should be the focus.

11/15/2006 03:13:00 pm  
Blogger HORansome said...

Appearances can be deceiving.

Depending on what you read there actually a whole host of answers to this. Some neurophysiologists suggest that the process of deliberation (the sensation of choosing an action) occurs after the action has occurred (a sort of justification mechanism; 'Why did I just do x? I did x because of y.'). There was a whole host of papers on this about three years, which I seem to have deleted all my local copies of, but it is based upon work Ben Libet undertook that seems to indicate that volition in human agency is actually fairly limited.

Also, the evidence for Free Will isn't particularly good anyway. We have a sensation that we could have choosen differently but that sensation doesn't really mean anything. We have a lot of sensations and gut instincts that turn out to be bad; we run upstairs in cases of fire, we intutively think that (without the benefit of higher education) that the kind of Physics Aristotle wrote on is an accurate description of processes in the world, et al. Just because we think something seems to be true doesn't make it so.

11/15/2006 06:37:00 pm  
Anonymous michael fasher said...

the best definition of high entropy i can give with respect of heat is a uniform bland distribution of heat say heat death of the universe.the best definition i can give of low entropy is where there are exeptional variations from the average temperature.a good example is the univedrse today,the average temperature is just above absolute zero (about minus 272 degrees celcius)but there are localities such as supurnovas that are billions of degrees therefor being exceptional relative to the average temperature.
the principle applied to economics,investment and technology would suggest that capatalism is vastly superior at combating rises in entropy than socailism since individuals ar rewarded according to their exeptional ability to reduce entropy(productionand smart investment) over less capable individuals.egalatarianism on the other hand increaqses economic technological and investment entropy by redistribution and poor investment(just read atlas shrugged!)by leveling the exceptional individuals who have the talent and ambition to make the greatest products businesses and investments therefore reducing entropy by the greatest margin.
whether there is a upper limit to wealth is a moot point since regulation and taxes are definitely not going to allow that limit to be reached

11/15/2006 09:49:00 pm  
Blogger Brian S said...

HORansome -

Appearances can be deceiving, yes, but that doesn't mean that they necessarily are. Sometimes things are just as they appear to be. For example, if it *seems* like you are conscious, then you really are conscious. Similarly, if it seems like you have free will, then you really do have free will. To say consciousness and free will are illusions is contradictory in my opinion. BTW, quantum mechanics predicts that you do choose differently in another universe, so it is not nonsensical to say "you could have done otherwise".

- Brian

11/16/2006 06:47:00 am  
Blogger HORansome said...

Quantum Mechanics has absolutely nothing to say for itself on mental states, Brian. That was either a very cheap shot or you don't really know much about quanta (for one thing, brains exist as chemical structures on the macroscopic side whilst sub-atomic particles, that make up the constituents of those chemical complexes of the brain, exist on the microscopic side and the indeterminism of the microscopic is then translated to the determinism of the macroscopic). Quantum Mechanics was hoped to be the great hope for Free Will but no experiments thus far have shown any quantum-level effects bleeding into our mental states.

Also, consciousness and free will are not so linked that the denial of one is the denial of the other. Free Will is a theory of choice or choices, whilst consciousness is an activity of the mental that allows an agent to reflect upon what they are doing/ have done and (possibly) will do. Thus there is no contradiction between an agent being entirely non-free and conscious. It might look strange but its logically possible, especially if you take fictionalism into account (fictionalism is the theory that, broadly, its useful for us to believe that we have free will when we don't because it serves some other useful function such as allowing us to assert even more moral responsibility, et al).

Anyway, I ask you, how does it seem like you have Free Will? It may seem that you could have chosen otherwise but that doesn't tell you much at all (that could be all post hoc justification for bad decisions, et al). What do you think constitutes proof of the possibility of Free Will? Gut feeling need not apply.

11/16/2006 08:53:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

HORansome,

Just so you know were I'm coming from, I subscribe to the multiple worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics, particularly as espoused by the physicist (and libertarian) David Deutsch. Basically, the MWI predicts the existence of an infinite number of parallel universes. These universes, including the one you observe right now, are, to a very good approximation, just like classical universes. Universes constantly differentiate, so when you are faced with decision alternatives A and B there are a proportion (or measure) of universes where you choose A and another measure of universes where you choose B. So you really do choose A and B! You only ever observe one outcome however, and the MWI explains in a mathematically precise way why this is so (how's that for an "illusion"!).

This, then, is why quantum mechanics is relevant: it predicts that counterfactuals happen (but in other universes), so, as I said before, it is not nonsensical - in the sense of being physically impossible - to say you could have done otherwise. You really could have, and some measure of you did!

Toss a fair coin. In 50% of universes it will land heads (and you observe heads) and in 50% of universes it will land tails (and you observe tails). Human beings are not like that. When faced with decision alternatives A and B, if our theories and values lead us to prefer A then in the largest measure of universes will we choose A (and observe that we chose A) and only in some relatively small measure will we choose B (and observe that we chose B). So, human agency is reflected in measure and the very real existence of those counterfactuals means that the sense that I could have done differently is justified.

11/16/2006 09:51:00 am  
Blogger HORansome said...

The problem with any possible world scenario (you should read Auckland's own Rod Girle on Possible Worlds (book of the same name); he argues that there is no good logical ground to postulate them and they don't even do the job people think they do) is that it suggests volitional agency but doesn't actually entail it. Sure, if there is bifurcation occuring all the time that doesn't mean squat for your agency because your identity doesn't span worlds. As far as this world is concerned you could only choose the way you did (indeed, if identity did span worlds then you would have to refine the notion of identity to relate you to increasely diverging versions of you, as the person who chooses A rather than B in the possible world will then be a person who chooses B rather than A at the next juncture, but as they diverged from you at the previous juncture they have now diverged again...). If this is what you mean by Free Will (which is not the usual notion of free agency that people subscribe to) then I have no issue with it, but only because it isn't free will at all but determinism with a strange notion of the subjunctive conditional thrown in for good measure (indeed, this is entirely compatible with my fictionalism in re Free Will, although my views on the macro/micro separation requires that these 'other worlds' must, by necessity, be different in some significantly physical way to explain macro level processes obtaining different outcomes).

11/16/2006 10:39:00 am  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Indolence said...
[His mathematics aside, the cellular automata work is on the fringe.]

Really? Thanks for the tip. As far as I know, that all mainstream theoretical models in Physics of today started as WHAT? Fringe. That is how all theories started. They started in a sequence similar to the one below:

#1) Absurd or Unconvincing
#2) Fringe (no contradictions of current established laws, but nice theoretical models)
#3) Established (Consistent with most observations to date)

Both pillars of Physics, Quantum Mechanics & Relativitiy started out in a similar manner as depicted by the sequences above.

11/16/2006 11:27:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

HORansome,

Note that I wrote "predict" in my posts above, not "postulate". Multiple universes are a *prediction* of the MWI, not a postulate. Indeed, the postulates of the MWI are just the normal postulates of quantum mechanics shorn of the collapse assumption. The latter assumption can be discarded because the MWI explains why the wave-function appears to collapse when in fact it does not.

Another thing to note in my posts above is that I wrote that each version of yourself exists in some measure. That is, each version of yourself exists in an infinite number of identical universes. On differentiation, you will now have two sets of identical universes: an infinite set of identical universes where you chose A, and an infinite set where you chose B. But you cannot single out which of your identical versions will choose A and which B. In MWI parlance, you are all your fungible versions and you cannot label one version and say that is the real you. They are all you, and some will go on to choose differently to others. In this sense, your identity does span universes - you are where all you fungible versions are. (Some would argue that you should also consider youself to be all your differentiated versions. Indeed they all constitute the multiversal "You", it's just that information can no longer pass between the orthogonal components so each differentiated version of you is not aware of the other versions.)

My point here, in case it has been lost, is that the notion of fungibility means that "you can only choose the way you did" is nonsense. You did choose the way you did, and you also choose differently.

11/16/2006 12:08:00 pm  
Blogger HORansome said...

But conversely Falafulu Fisi, lots of fringe ideas in the Sciences end up staying as fringe ideas. It's not even as if Wolfram's automata idea is particularly new; it has been posited before (The Skeptic ran a very interesting review of the book a few years ago).

11/16/2006 12:09:00 pm  
Blogger HORansome said...

Ah, but the MWI is a postulation; it is not entailed but merely suggested by our current understanding of physics (and it's not exactly a non-contentious interpretation of quantum indeterminism). Whilst you may subscribe to that interpretation is neither here nor there.

Also, your notion of identity is a non-standard one and certainly not the kind of standard identity notion used by the laity to describe what they think free will is (the ability to have chosen otherwise in this world).

11/16/2006 12:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Indolence said...
[Just keep in mind that, for laymen, mainstream science should be the focus.]

And exactly, what are the branches of mainstream science? Quantum Mechanics? Thermodynamics? Fluid Dynamics? Electron-magenetisms? Nope! These are mainstream science but they are'nt for the laymen.

11/16/2006 12:45:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

"What do you think constitutes proof of the possibility of Free Will?"

It is not proof but validation you need, since free will lies at the very foundation of the notion of proof (if we had no free will, you see, we would have no choice between error or its alternative).

And the primary validation of free will is not quantum mechanics but introspection -- looking at what we do when we choose to think, and it is here that free will begins.

Free will, at root, is the choice to think or not to think, to identify the facts or top evade them. Specifically, it is the choice to focus, the 'turning on' (or not) of the brain and focusing it on a particular task.

As I say, the validation for this can be done by introspection. As philosopher Leonard Peikoff explains: You the reader can perceive every potentiality I have been discussing simply by observing your own consciousness. The extent of your knowledge or intelligence is not relevant here, because the issue is whether you use whatever knowledge and intelligence you do possess. At this moment, for example, you can decide to read attentively and struggle to understand, judge, apply the material — or you can let your attention wander and the words wash over you, half-getting some points, then coming to for a few sentences, then lapsing again into partial focus. If something you read makes you feel fearful or uneasy, you can decide to follow the point anyway and consider it on its merits — or you can brush it aside by an act of evasion, while mumbling some rationalization to still any pangs of guilt. At each moment, you are deciding to think or not to think. The fact that you regularly make these kinds of choices is directly accessible to you, as it is to any volitional consciousness.

The principle of volition is a philosophic axiom, with all the features this involves. It is a primary — a starting point of conceptual cognition and of the subject of epistemology; to direct one's consciousness, one must be free and one must know, at least implicitly, that one is. It is a fundamental: every item of conceptual knowledge requires some form of validation, the need of which rests on the fact of volition. It is self-evident. And it is inescapable. Even its enemies have to accept and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it.


Of course, you might wish to reflect that if we had no free will, there would be no point in debating the point, since we would have no choice about accepting the point.

11/16/2006 01:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

horansome said...
[But conversely Falafulu Fisi, lots of fringe ideas in the Sciences end up staying as fringe ideas.]

I agree with you on that, but regardless of how long a theoretical model stays as a fringe one, they shouldn't be dismissed because they haven't moved from being a fringe to being an established one.

My other point that I made, is that if a theoretical model of reality is proposed, where it does not violate other already established known models, then don't shut the door on it, just because there is no direct observation or confirmation to prove it.

The longest fringe theoretical model in Physics that I am aware of , is BEC (Bose-Einstein-Condensation) which was proposed by Einstein in a paper he published in 1924 (see link). BEC didn't violate any known established laws at the time it was first published, although it was an extension of the work of Bose, where he applied it to photons. Since photons does have integral spin (or integer spin) of zero, Einstein theoretically figured out that all 'integral spin' particles, must behave in a similar manner. So, all particles with spin +- 0, 1, 2, 3, ..., must exhibit this phenomenon that Bose already established. So, this was a blind deductive reasoning based on some already established facts. Such integral spin particles are now known as 'bosons'.

BEC was first produced by Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman in 1995 at the University of Colorado at Boulder NIST- JILA lab, using a gas of rubidium atoms cooled to 170 nanokelvin (nK). Rubidium have integral spin , therefore it is a boson particle obeying the BEC. Cornell and Wieman shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics for their effort in bringing BEC from FRINGE into MAIN-STREAM.

This is a very interesting theoretical physics with potential for manufacturing high-speed semiconducting electronic IC's (Integrated Circuits). I happened to attend Prof. Carl Wieman for his free public Sir Douglas Robb Lectures at The University of Auckland last year (2005).

BEC is one of the hottest topic in Physics research at the moment, because of its huge potential in electronics applications plus other high tech stuff.

"Bose Einstein Condensation"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bose-Einstein_condensate

Therefore BEC stayed fringe for 71 years, until Carl Wieman & colleagues elevated it into mainstream science in 1995. The longest fringe science that ever existed. It looks like perhaps, that graviton research can beat this 71 years gap, if scientists don't get any closer to finding or detecting it.

11/16/2006 02:39:00 pm  
Blogger HORansome said...

PC. I'm sorry to say that the introspection argument is not going to do you any good. Introspection as a phenomena is consistent with the existence of Free Will and the non-existence of Free Will (i.e. we could have a sensation of feeling like we have made a choice even if it turned out that we were incapable of choosing otherwise as consciousness might be post hoc, might be ephiphenomenal, et al). As such introspection is only good as a argument (offering some degree of suggestion to the conclusion 'Free Will exists') if it is a supporting argument to some other claim about the existence of free will.

As for the idea that only free will makes sense of its proof... Well, that seems to make a whole host of assumptions about a) how the machinery of the universe might work (it is possible that as deterministic agents we are fundamentally on the wrong track to getting to the ontology of the Universe but then again, we might not be) and b) that we should be able to debate such things. Actually, it seems to entail all sorts of other strange and probably unintended assumptions.

I find the free will debate exhilarating because I find it fascinating that people are so attracted to this notion despite the fact that most of the features we value about so-called free will are expressible in the determinist/compatibilist interpretations which are, at least, consistent with what we know of scientific materialism.

11/16/2006 05:37:00 pm  
Anonymous indolence said...

"I agree with you on that, but regardless of how long a theoretical model stays as a fringe one, they shouldn't be dismissed because they haven't moved from being a fringe to being an established one." -- Falafulu Fisi

>> "the cellular automata work is on the fringe. Which is not necessarily a slam," -- indolence; mood: weeping

"And exactly, what are the branches of mainstream science? Quantum Mechanics? Thermodynamics? Fluid Dynamics? Electron-magenetisms? Nope! These are mainstream science but they are'nt for the laymen." -- Falafulu Fisi

Who's this 'laymen', man?

11/16/2006 05:44:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

HOR, you said, "Introspection as a phenomena is consistent with the existence of Free Will and the non-existence of Free Will (i.e. we could have a sensation of feeling like we have made a choice even if it turned out that we were incapable of choosing otherwise."

I have to say, as I indicated above, that you need to get below "making a choice" in general to the basis on which choice is made. In other words, to focus quite specifically on focus, and the choice to do so or not to do so.

It is here, specifically on the choice to either focus or not to focus, that the phenomenon of free will begins, and on that we certainly can introspect, as the examples Leonard Peikoff adduces attest.

For example: "At this moment, for example, you can decide to read attentively and struggle to understand, judge, apply the material — or you can let your attention wander and the words wash over you, half-getting some points, then coming to for a few sentences, then lapsing again into partial focus."

HOR, you also say, "As for the idea that only free will makes sense of its proof... No, I'm suggesting that it is free will that underscores the very concept of 'proof.'

11/16/2006 06:20:00 pm  
Blogger HORansome said...

PC. Your examples (or Peikoff's examples) are common fare and not exactly weighty. For example:

"...you can decide to read attentively and struggle to understand, judge, apply the material — or you can let your attention wander and the words wash over you, half-getting some points, then coming to for a few sentences, then lapsing again into partial focus."

This means what, exactly? The sensation of comprehension needs no notion of Free Will. That I am sitting here reading Huw Price's article on T-asymmetry and feeling drowsy and unable to concentrate tells me nothing of Free Will. Even if I were alert and filled with vigor and found myself drifting off this would tell me nothing about whether I was choosing to pay attention. In a deterministic setting I could still have all of these sensations and still think that they were the result of volition when they were not.

These are mere sensations and could be generated by free will or could be consistent with determinism or even compatibilism. As we cannot decide which they were generated by we must use such introspection only as support for some other argument for or against the existence of free will, and that is where the debate currently exists in the literature. Introspection, as I said, is no defense for Free Will. Not by itself, anyway.

As for this idea of 'focus.' What is focus? Is it a special category of mental activity? How is it any more above or below from other conscious activity? You appear to be placing weight on a category of mental activity and then using this to justify that mental activity; circular argumentation.

As for Free Will underscores the concept of 'proof...' Leaving aside the notion of proofs in a technical sense (like, say, Math) which you can't be referring to I assume you mean that Free Will exists as some 'fact checking' mechanism for proofs, that Free Will allows us to ascertain whether a proof is 'good' or not. If this is case (and I'm not sure what else you might be referring to) then I'm not sure what to say. Surely the notion of what makes a proof good is its consistency or applicability to situations/versimilitude, neither of which needs an agent to verify (although we can appreciate them).

11/16/2006 06:34:00 pm  
Blogger Brian S said...

HORansome,

The MWI is the only tenable interpretation of quantum physics and, to paraphrase David Deutsch, those who refuse to accept this are living in a state of denial. It is now also quite a mature theory (calling it an "interpretation" is a misnomer). For example, it explains in precise detail why the world we observe around us appears classical when in fact it is quantum mechanical. And it also explains you to explain why quantum computers work withou

The notion of identity that arises out of the MWI won't seem so strange once it becomes possible to create virtual copies of ourselves. Suppose you have been scanned and that scan is transmitted to New York and to Paris, where virtual copies are then instantiated.

Where do you experience yourself to be?

Well, obviously the version in New York experiences New York, and the version in Paris experiences Paris, and the version at home (the original you) experiences home. From a first person point of view you can't be in three places at once, however. You either experience New York, or you experience Paris, or you experience home. What happens, then, after the copies are sent is that there is some probability that your next experience will be in New York, some probability that it will be in Paris, and some probability that it will be at home. This is analogous to what happens when universes differentiate. (note that the virtual versions could later merge memories so that you remember being in two or more places at once!)

The upshot of all this is that the universe - or rather the multiverse - is deterministic from a third version point of view, but indeterminate from a first person point of view.

11/17/2006 01:53:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

"And it also explains you to explain why quantum computers work withou"

hey...that's not what I typed :) Should read:

"And it (the MWI) explains why quantum computers work and it does so without resorting to hand-waving and logical positivism."

11/17/2006 02:31:00 am  
Blogger HORansome said...

The indeterministic explanation as to how QCs work is perfectly fine. Disturbing, but fine. It's just the way the micro works.

We'll have to disagree on the MWI; it may look like a tenable interpretation (and it is still an interpretation as it is competing with the other interpretations, which are also mature) if you buy into some of its assumptions (I don't have an opinion on whether the microscopic should be deterministic or indeterministic; I'm really only interested in macroscopic phenomena). I probably don't share your assumptions on this matter (and vice versa).

I still don't think your holding to the MWI solves the Free Will issue. Well, maybe it solves the Free Will issue but it does it at the cost of Personal Identity. The fungible identity you are espousing seems to lack persistence conditions. I know a fair bit about bilocality (multiple instantiations of the same identity). Bilocality in one world is difficult enough to maintain; if I end up in London and New York then, plausibly, to claim that I am at A and at B I need to be experiencing A and B at the same time (possibly through some kind of link between bodies (the question of how fat the pipe is actually isn't too big a deal since we aren't perfect recorders). Otherwise I can claim that the version of me that is in New York and the version of me in London will end up diverging and becoming two separate identities (and which one was the original is a good question here) because we're taking in different input and that will effect the psychological make-up of the individual (there's a really good research programme here, I suspect, to do with how much difference would need to be accounted for before we could say 'Yes, definitely a separate individual'). That's pretty much the standard account. You seem to have identity flitting between the bodies (we don't need multiple worlds just yet; we can do this part in the one world); is this flitting simultaneous or is it that you have one 'experience' and then 'another experience?' If it is the former then it's just like the standard account of bilocality. If it is the latter then it's some new form of identity but it's compatible with bilocality.

Except that what you are suggesting isn't actually bilocality or multiple instantiation. In the MWI you are moving from decision point to decision point where each decision that might be determined by quanta moves you from one possible world to the next. Thus you aren't multiply instantiated by the classical story; instead you are an identity worm across possible worlds (A bit like how we are space-time worms in Minkowski Spacetime).

But here's the crux. For this to be applicable to the notion of your identity expressing free will you would need to show that there are quantum level events in the brain (unless you think the mental/identity resides elsewhere) that affect its macroscopic functioning (human beings are macro level entities, after all). As far as I know (and the literature is fairly good on this) there is no evidence for quantum level events having effect on brain function.

MWI does tell us something; if it is true then, yes, we exist as individuals across worlds, but this isn't meaningful to the notion of free will because it will turn out that the events that make us diverge from one world to the next are not mental events but run of the mill physical events. Nuclear reactors, under the MWI, have far ore interesting instantiations than human beings do, because they have far more quantum level events effecting them.

Some other points: there also seem to be so many versions of you; for the you that chooses A at t there will be a you that chooses B at t, as well as possible-diverged versions of you that chose A at t but then chose D rather than C at t', and so forth.

Even if the MWI is right in regard to free will then, in the best case scenario I can think of, your view has the interesting effect of giving you, the observer, free will (in a fairly strange sense of traversing worlds) whilst leaving the rest of us as deterministic agents (for everytime you act consistently with a world (i.e. don't transverse worlds when making a choice) you are interacting with deterministic agents who persist as such (even though they, too, will be vessels to the free agent).

11/17/2006 09:46:00 am  
Blogger HORansome said...

Sorry, I didn't explain the whole 'persistence condition' thing. We tend to have persistence conditions to notions of identity because we need to be able to track mere changes from sudden changes in identity, such as moving through time and space (a mere change) to state changes like death (a sudden change that we do think affects identity from that point onwards). Tracking persistence of multiply instantiated persons is difficult across one world but across multiple worlds... Well, you would need some kind of explanation as to how identity crosses worlds and why it isn't simply the case under the MWI that there are diverged versions of you (with non-exact identity) in other possible worlds who acted differently. They wouldn't be you, but a possible you.

11/17/2006 11:00:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

HORansome,

I think you starting to cotton on to what I am trying to say, but let's clear up some things.

You are correct that the versions of you that are in London and New York will diverge after instantiation: they become two separate identities. But right at the moment of instantiation, they are identical - or fungible - with each other and with the version of you back home when the scan took place.

This fungibility - and the subsequent differentiation - means that you might experience being at home and then being in New York at the next moment, or you might experience being at home then being in London at the next moment, or you might continue to experience being at home. You, of course, cannot experience all three things simultaneously. If you do find yourself in New York, then your history has now started to diverge and you will continue being that identity. But from a third person perspective, you are indeed in three places at once (and the other two versions of you really do have equally real first person experiences of the world). This much I think you understand.

When you go from, say, experiencing being at home to experiencing New York there is no flitting between bodies, as you put it - there is no instantaneous transfer of "essense". Fungibility simply means that you are where all your identical copies are and that you cannot single out any one of those copies and say it is the real you. It makes no difference whether those fungible copies are in one universe or many. Once those copies begin to differentiate, then - as you correctly conclude - you get separate identities. Observe that you do not feel the differentiation itself (though if you suddenly found yourself in New York you might conclude that you had been copied and had now differentiated from the original). Likewise you do not feel the differentiation of the multiverse. I should point out that in discussing fungibility we need not be concerned about exact fungibility - it probably makes no difference to your identity whether an electron in your left little toe is in state X or state Y.

If you think quantum phenomena apply only on the micro scale, then your theory of the world has to explain how we get a classical single universe from the quantum micro world. Where is the cut-off between quantum micro and classical macro? No-one has observed such a cut-off and there is no theory that predicts it. According to the MWI, quantum phenomena apply at all scales. And the MWI neatly explains why we do not in everyday life see macro-level quantum phenomena. (I just read that an experiment is about to be performed that will demonstrate quantum phenomena on a macro-level object. If this experiment returns a positive result, then it becomes really difficult to hide from the MWI.)

Yes, not only do you choose A and B, but versions of you do everything else that is physically possible besides! They do these things in different measure, however. Presumably you want choose in such a way that the measure of future versions of yourself living good lives far outweighs the measure living bad lives. Nuclear reactors cannot do this.

Anyway, time for this local part of the transuniversal structure that is me to get some sleep!

11/17/2006 12:28:00 pm  
Blogger HORansome said...

It seems, Brian S. that our notion of what constitutes Identity (and thus how Free Will can be construed) are very different. I don't see how, under your notion of fungible identity, that you actually have Free Will at all (your transworld existence expresses all available options but your existence, the person in the world we are in right now, is deterministic).

A word about the distinction between the micro and the macro; I'm a translation bridge fan myself. There is some translation between the indeterminism of the micro to the determinism of the macro, possibly predicated on what can be called a 'third language' (the other two languages are the languages of description/prescription of the micro and the macro respectively).

11/17/2006 02:44:00 pm  
Blogger HORansome said...

One other thing; even if quantum level effects can be felt in the macroscopic you would still need to show that they have effect on mental states before the MWI could be used as a justification of the existence of Free Will.

11/17/2006 03:24:00 pm  
Blogger Brian S said...

HORansome, you said:

"your transworld existence expresses all available options but your existence, the person in the world we are in right now, is deterministic"

But the whole point of my discussion on fungibility was that you can't single out yourself like this - as a person in a *particular* world. In the MWI, there are multiple (hah! an infinite number of!) identical and nearly identical versions of yourself. These versions have identical (or as close as dammit, identical) life histories and are experiencing exactly the same thing.

You can't point to a particular universe and say this is the real me. You are simultaneously all of them.

This fact, coupled with the fact that your identical versions differentiate to become separate identities, means that your future - as you experience it from a first person perspective - is truly indeterminate. When we consider all your differentiating versions from a third person perspective, yes, we can say you - as a multiversal whole - are deterministic and governed by the laws of physics. But nobody has access to this perspective - to exist in the multiverse is to have a point of view. And this means indeterminism from a first person perspective.

Note that the indeterminism is not a result of physics, but a result of the logic of the situation. We get the same indeterminism when we consider computer generated virtual copies of ourselves - as I've pointed out.

I think we are starting to go around in circles. PC must be rolling his eyes by now, especially as he is not really a many-worlder!

Try going to the Fabric or Reality list if you still have questions. David Deutsch often drops by to participate in discussions.

11/18/2006 02:33:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

Oh, here's the experiment:

http://www.newscientist.com/channel/fundamentals/quantum-world/mg19225764.400-the-quantum-world-is-about-to-get-bigger.html

11/18/2006 03:59:00 am  
Blogger HORansome said...

As I have implied, we are suffering here from a lack of common language; my notion of Identity and your notion of Identity are not compatible. You can talk about transworld identity to your heart's content but I'm not convinced by it at all, and even if it were true it doesn't actually effect free will in the classical sense.

11/18/2006 08:33:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

"You can talk about transworld identity to your heart's content but I'm not convinced by it at all, and even if it were true it doesn't actually effect free will in the classical sense."

And here I'm in agreement with HO Ransome. Whatever you might think of the particular brand of quantum physics espoused (and frankly the whole notion idea of MWI is absurd), the idea that you need quantum physics to support free will is in my submission another example of the misapplication of physics to philosophy.

{BTW, I believe I've made that point before, in an article called 'The Quantum Aristotle.' :-) ]

11/18/2006 11:23:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

1. FOCUS

HO Ransome, you suggest that "comprehension needs no notion of Free Will," but can I suggest that you still miss the point of the examples, which is to focus specifically on what free will actually consists of, what is at the very root of the faculty of free will.

As I've pointed, free will, at its base, is centred on this specific choice: To focus, or not to focus. That is the question. Whether to centre your attention on something you need to know, or to take wing upon a sea of evasions.

Whether to apply your mind to the facts in front of you, or to let your mind drift.

Whether to turn your mind on at all, or let it remain inactive.

THAT is the point of the examples, and it's where we can apply introspection.

Observe yourself for example in the mornings when your alarm clock goes off, right from the first time you identify the ringing of the clock, through the various stages of identification and the choice to turn your brain on (or not) in order to identify what's going on, and what to do about it.

That, right there, is the very basis of free will and choice: in the choice to focus, or nto to focus. Everything else in volition come from that choice.

2. PROOF

HOR, you also say, "As for Free Will underscores the concept of 'proof...' ... I assume you mean that Free Will exists as some 'fact checking' mechanism for proofs..."

No, that's not what I mean.

'Proof' is necessary to us as a concept since we human beings are not omnniscient (well, not ALL of is anyway. :-) ). Since error is possible, we need to ensure that as far as possible we have some way of ensuring we haven't made one.

'Proof' is our test against error.

What has this got to do with volition? Let me explain:
The two basic alternatives are that we either have volition or that we don't. If we don't, then that means either our thoughts or our actions (or both) are determined for us in some way; that is to say, we literally have no choice about what we do, or what we think. (And here we mean "no choice" in the fundamental philosophical sense that existence by its very nature is set up in such a fashion that it allows us no choice at all; it does not mean that the choices offered to us are between a "no-brainer" and something more subtle.)

But, and here's the key, if we fundamentally have no choice about what we do or what we think, then there is nothing we can do about our choices of what we do or what we know. In this 'deterministic' sense, choice would be literally impossible to us. But if choice is impossible, then what does that say about our possibility of error?

Making an error in either our actions of our thinking is either impossible, or it's inescapable. (You see?)

If error is impossible, then no standard of proof is necessary since we'll do a the right thing and know the true thing without ever needing to have a 'proof.'

And if error is inescapable, then no standard of proof is possible, since we'll always be wrong anyhow.

Proof and volition are fundamentally linked. In fact, volition underscores the very notion of proof. It is the possibility of error that makes the notion of proof necessary, and it is volition that makes error possible.

So that's what I mean when I say that volition underscores the philosophical concept of 'proof.'

11/18/2006 11:48:00 am  
Blogger HORansome said...

PC. No, I don't see it all. You are espousing some Descartian line from the looks of it, and the Cogito argument has been effectively debunked a while back.

As for the proof stuff; you're making some basic errors. Volition isn't the same thing as Free Will (its confusing because some of the literature does treat them as interchangeable terms). Still, that's a minor point and doesn't really effect your argument. No, the issue I have comes from the false dilemna you set up between volition and no volition.

Depending on how you characterise volition you could have a middle ground. For example, Determinism isn't required to deny volition in agents; when I choose to reply to your comment there is a long cause-and-effect chain I can cite as the reasons why I did A rather than B (it just turns out that I was never going to choose B). On a basic level philosophical libertarians (I wish you political libertarians had chosen a different name for your brand of politics) and determinists (and compatibilists) agree on the theory of choice (all choices made by an agent are restricted by physical limits and previous mental states); we only disagree on the ability to describe a situation where an agent might have chosen differently).

Error Theory (in re what we are thinking about) is quite sophisticated now. As a deterministic agent I can make erroneous judgements because I make choices. My choices, it turns out, couldn't have been otherwise, because my choices are the result of my external environment and previous mental states. Still, these previous states explain my tendency to make erroneous judgements in the same way that they explain why libertarian agents make errors (unless you believe that people make errors for some non-natural reason). It also explains how I can improve my judgement process because I can engage in further education.

11/18/2006 01:38:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Horansome said...
[Quantum Mechanics was hoped to be the great hope for Free Will but no experiments thus far have shown any quantum-level effects bleeding into our mental states.]

I completely agree here. There is nothing (experiments or theoretical framework devised) at present to suggest that Quantum Mechanics can prove free will.

11/18/2006 02:04:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

"There is nothing (experiments or theoretical framework devised) at present to suggest that Quantum Mechanics can prove free will."

And neither does there need to be. :-)

11/18/2006 02:10:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

"No, I don't see it all. You are espousing some Descartian line from the looks of it..."

No, not at all. I'm simply suggesting that introspection is as evidential as any other form of evidence-gathering.

11/18/2006 02:11:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

HOR, nothing of what you say about error contradicts the fact that it is the possibility of error that makes the concept of proof necessary, and it the possibility of error that is once of the consequences of our faculty of volition.

(And yes, I do use the terms volition and free will interchangeably since they do mean the same thing.)

11/18/2006 02:15:00 pm  
Blogger HORansome said...

Yes, but evidence gathering by human agents is notoriously unreliable, introspection moreso as it occurs to the agent and the agent alone.

11/18/2006 02:18:00 pm  
Blogger HORansome said...

eThe problem is that I don't understand what you mean by 'the possibility of error that makes the concept of proof necessary, and it the possibility of error that is once of the consequences of our faculty of volition.' It's either out-moded, complete nonsense or you are using such non-standard terminology that you're going to have to supply me with whatever dictionary you are using. My initial reaction is 'So what?' If determinism means I can't 'prove' then I can't 'prove.'

See, you say things like:

'But if choice is impossible, then what does that say about our possibility of error?'

to which the right answer is 'Nothing.' But you claim the answer is:

'Making an error in either our actions of our thinking is either impossible, or it's inescapable.'

But that's not true (well, it will be if you are a dualist and you posit that at least some physical mental states are somehow caused by a non-material mental agency, like the soul, but I'm assuming that your atheistic bent precludes such thoughts). Determinist agents can make errors. Seeing that we are deterministic agents I can point out a whole host of errors I have made. That's why we have things like Decision Theory, and a growing literature on heuristics. Errors in judgement are not caused by free will, they are caused by mental states and mental states might be causative in a libertarian or deterministic (or compatibilist) way.

Then you say:

'If error is impossible, then no standard of proof is necessary since we'll do a the right thing and know the true thing without ever needing to have a 'proof.'

'And if error is inescapable, then no standard of proof is possible, since we'll always be wrong anyhow.'

Which is a false dilemna to start with (and thus fallacious). For one, if error is impossible you still can't be guaranteed that you will do the right thing. That presupposes that there is a right thing to do, or that their is a right/wrong dichotomy (and to justify that you need a theory of action that refers to the different kinds of activity humans engage in). If error is inescapable that doesn't entail that we will always be wrong. It might suggest that the level of being wrong will be high, but there's no entailment. Also, you could still have a standard of proof; it would just be that no beliefs would be able to fit its criteria.

Then you say:

'It is the possibility of error that makes the notion of proof necessary, and it is volition that makes error possible.'

What utter nonsense. The 'possibility of error that makes the notion of proof necessary'? Proof is an abstract thing. The more I parse that sentence the less coherent it becomes.

The cruncher is, of course, saying:

'So that's what I mean when I say that volition underscores the philosophical concept of 'proof.''

You're not discussing Philosophy. What do you think the philosophical concept of 'proof' is? It's not what you think.

I suspect that your epistemology is internalist (I'm an externalist with tendencies towards mixed epistemology of the naturalised kind). However you've got a lot of baggage, some of which looks Kantian, some Descartian and a lot Aristotelian. The debate about Free Will and the value of introspection has moved on considerably from the anthropocentric views of those writers. Human mental experiences are by no means a priviliged form of information. I suspect that you need to do some reading here outside whatever literature you have previously experienced (from my contact with students I get the impression that Objectivists tend to rely on older sources and on Rand (and, as you probably know, Rand is not well respected in academic philosophy)).

As for thinking that volition and free will are one and the same. That's very nice. Good for you. They are different, however, as is evidenced by the term's use in the deterministic moral responsibility literature.

11/18/2006 03:14:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

"Rand is not well respected in academic philosophy..."

And vice versa. :-) And for good reason... ;^P

I'm unlikely to reply substantially to your comments today, but let me just say that you've still not got to grips with what I'm saying. Let me just address three points:

1. HOR, you say: "You're not discussing Philosophy."

Oh, but we are. We're just not discussing it in the terms that academic philosophers use, because in my view most academic philosophers use those terms to obfuscate rather than to clarify.

If we were to concretise the concept of proof, that is, to reduce the concept to its constituents, then what I mean by proof is this (from Leonard Peikoff's "Introduction to Logic," Lecture 1): "Proof," in the full sense, is the process of deriving a conclusion step by step from the evidence of the senses, each step being taken in accordance with the laws of logic.

To expand the context, as Rand did: "...proof presupposes existence, consciousness, and a complex chain of knowledge: the existence of something to know, of a consciousness able to know it, and of a knowledge that has learned to distinguish between such concepts as the proved and the unproved."

The distinction, by the way, is only necessary if we can be wrong in our identification of the evidence provided by our senses.

As I've suggested above, 'proof' is a different concept to 'validation.' As Peikoff explains in 'Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand': "Validation" in the broad sense includes any process of relating mental contents to the facts of reality. Direct perception [which includes introspection], the method of validating axioms, is one such process. "Proof" designates an other type of validation. Proof is the process of deriving a conclusion logically from antecedent knowledge.

2. HOR, you say: "...but evidence gathering by human agents is notoriously unreliable, introspection moreso as it occurs to the agent and the agent alone."

That doesn't negate it as evidence, or as 'proof,' it simply makes it evidence of a specific nature, one requiring honest effort to validate.

3. HOR, you say: "The problem is that I don't understand what you mean by '[it is] the possibility of error that makes the concept of proof necessary..."

No. That much is clear. Let me put it slightly differently: If we were always infallible, then the concept of proof would not be necessary since we'd always be right. Since we are fallible however, we need the concept of proof in order to determine whether or not we are in error.

11/18/2006 04:05:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Brian S said…
[I subscribe to the multiple worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics, particularly as espoused by the physicist (and libertarian) David Deutsch. Basically, the MWI predicts the existence of an infinite number of parallel universes.]

Brian , MWI is a nice theory on paper and has shown to be mathematically consistent, BUT it does have philosophical difficulties & also difficulties in interpretations of physical reality.

MWI, has to be dismissed based on the followings:

#1) based on current experimental evidence (double-delay experiment) , non-local universe has to be accepted and MWI has to be dumped (see links at the end).

#2) MWI is unprovable. There is no way to devise an experiment to prove it. MWI was proposed by Hugh Everret in the 1950s to solve the paradoxes in Quantum Mechanics, such as ‘wave-function-collapse’ , meaning that things (object) exist in both particle & wave simultaneously, until the observer take a look (perform experiment) , where only one possibility materialises but not both at one time:

“MWI”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation

The reason why MWI is unprovable, because Everret proposed exactly that in his paper, that whenever the former Universe is split into 2 parts, that is when the observer is consciously deciding to choose path ‘A’ instead of path ‘B’, the former Universe will forever cut off from its new sibling Universe and there is no way Physically that they can communicate with each other by any means.

This is synonymous for someone trying to perform an experiment to prove that there is a GOD. The notion of GOD is physically unprovable. There is no way that one could come up with a physical theory to devise an experiment to prove the existence of GOD, because GOD (like the MWI) has forever cut-off him/her/it self from any physical communication with the Physical Universe. There is no radio-waves, gravitons, photons (physical objects) or anything material could be used to beam out and then bounce-back some messages (interference) from GOD or other Universes (MWI), so that it could be detectable.

#3) MWI suffers, the ‘explosion number of Universes’, whenever an observer is making a conscious decision, therefore continue splitting the current Universe(s), thus leading to infinite number of Universes. Every second/minute or so, someone in this Universe is making a conscious decision and that means the Universe is keep on splitting all the time, non-stop. This leads to explosion amount of matter created out from finite masses in the current Universe. This violates the principal of conservations in Physics.

Non-local Universe was confirmed again at the Physics Department at University of Innsbruck, Austria in the late 1990s (around 1997 or 1998), by devising a modern version of the Alain Aspect experiment, which showed that correlated quantum particles (quantum entanglement), do communicate instantaneously with no time delay at all, meaning that the Universe is non-local rather than local. This double-delay experiment confirmed the violation of the “Bell’s Theorem”. The violation of Bell’s Inequality indicated non-locality. I haven’t got a link to the original paper from the Innsbruck team although it is available in print copy of “Physics Review Letters” journal, but from the following links, you can find papers which describe the replication of the Innsbruck experiment by Department of Physics University of Geneva, Switzerland.

With non-local universe shifting to be a well-established, it means that MWI is not needed to explain any paradoxes at all, which has to be ditched all together and go with non-locality “at the moment”. I do emphasize the phrase “AT THE MOMENT”.

"Non-local two-photon correlations using interferometers physically separated by 35 meters"
http://www.gap-optique.unige.ch/Publications/Pdf/9703023.pdf

"Violation of Bell inequalities by photons more than 10 km apart"
http://www.gap-optique.unige.ch/Publications/Pdf/PRL03563.pdf

"Experimental demonstration of quantum correlations over more than 10 km"
http://www.gap-optique.unige.ch/Publications/Pdf/PRA03229.pdf

11/18/2006 04:15:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Wouldn't you just dismiss MWI on the basis of Ockham's razor? That is, making too much stew from too few onions.

As a mathematical tool it's invaluable, for sure (just like imaginary numbers) but just like imaginary numbers the idea is useful rather than real.

11/18/2006 05:05:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

BTW HOR, I've just noticed you're a fan of big band swing. Snap! We should get together for an evening of music and philosophic discussion sometime. :-)

11/18/2006 05:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

PC said...
[We should get together for an evening of music and philosophic discussion sometime.]

Perhaps, Horansome can join the group to complete discussion series on "Phillosophical Corruptions of Physics" tapes.

PC, what tape number did we last listen to?

11/18/2006 05:14:00 pm  
Blogger Brian S said...

PC, you wrote:

"Wouldn't you just dismiss MWI on the basis of Ockham's razor? That is, making too much stew from too few onions."

Quite the reverse. I accept MWI on the basis of Occam's razor. As I pointed out above, multiple universes are a *prediction* of the MWI, not a postulate. The postulates of the MWI are just the normal postulates of quantum mechanics without the collapse postulate. The MWI in fact has the fewest number of postulates of any interpretation of quantum mechanics. So, by Occam's razor, it is to be preferred. Hugh Everett III was the genius that first realized that quantum mechanics predicts the existence of parallel universes. Do you ignore the prediction of one of our best physical theories of reality just because you think the prediction is absurd? Physics is based on mathematics, but it is about real things (and you know that!).

Falafulu Fisi - You understanding of the MWI is several decades behind :) Plus there are a number of holes in your conception of it.

First, physicists no longer speak of universes splitting. As you wrote, this implies matter creation. Rather physicists now speak of previously identical universes differentiating. In the modern MWI there are an infinity of universes, but universes are neither created nor destroyed and there is no explosion of universes. Plus all conservation laws are obeyed. Yes, there are an infinity of universes, but so what? We are talking about the whole of physical reality here - did you think somehow that physical reality is finite!

Second, nearby universes interfere with each other, and we can detect this interference experimentally using the standard double slit experiment. So the multiverse is not simply a stack of non-interacting parallel classical universes.

Like PC, you might say that invoking parallel universes to explain the double-slit experiment is "making too much stew from too few onions". But consider this. Quantum computers use the same interference phenomena seen in the double-slit experiment. In his book "The Fabric of Reality", David Deutsch points out that a quantum computer can factorize a 250 digit number in only a few thousand arithmetical operations and this can be done in a matter of moments. Now, do you know what it takes to factorize a 250 digit number using a classical computer like the one on your desk? It is for all practical purposes impossible. It would require more computational resources than are present in this universe. The quantum computer manages the task by partitioning out the computation to 10^500 interfering parallel universes. In other words it uses 10^500 times the resources that are seen to be present. So, what is you explanation for how the quantum computer performs the task?

You might say this goes to show that quantum computers are impossible. But there is no known theoretical reason why one cannot be built and David Deutsch thinks we are only years away from a full scale quantum computer.

Third, aside from the double-slit experiment and quantum computers (which really do demonstrate the existence of other universes), there have been a number of proposals put forward for falsifying the MWI. David Deutsch himself proposed one such, but as it involves a quantum computer and an artificial intelligence, it is currently beyond our technology.

Fourth, experiments like the one you refer to do not demonstrate non-locality. These results can be explained in terms of the MWI. If you're up to it, try this for size:

http://uk.arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9906007

Non-locality is a load of nonsense because it conflicts with another of our best theories: the theory of relativity. So if you can explain an experiment without postulating non-locality, then this explanation is to be preferred. As you know, the MWI is both local and deterministic.

On a more esoteric topic, the MWI makes sense of past-directed time-travel, which, apparently is not forbidden by the laws of physics. Try explaining time-travel in a single universe context!

Most critics of the MWI don't realize how the theory has developed in the last decade. It has rapidly become mainstream - ask anybody working in the field of quantum computation what interpretation they prefer! - and some important roadblocks such as the basis problem have been overcome. The objections you guys raise have been dealt with many times before - you're going to have to do a lot better!

......

PC - I agree with your reasoning about free-will, but I think that the MWI plugs a couple of important gaps in the substantive argument - namely the problem of counterfactuals and the problem of determinism versus indeterminism.

11/19/2006 02:20:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Brian S said...
[Like PC, you might say that invoking parallel universes to explain the double-slit experiment is "making too much stew from too few onions".]

Brian , I think that you have been living in fantasy land. Point me out to a paper (or papers) where it showed that experiment had been performed to confirm the existence of other universes? There is a difference between predicting & experimenting to prove something.

Brian S said...
[Quantum computers use the same interference phenomena seen in the double-slit experiment.]

Quantum computing is explained by Non-local Universe interpretation; this is why Einstein & colleagues put forward the EPR (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen) paradox to show that ‘instantaneous-spooky-action-at-a-distance’ is impossible, therefore making Quantum Mechanics an incomplete theory. They proposed, that there must be ‘hidden-variables’ in Quantum Mechanics. The violation of Bell’s theorem, showed in the double-delayed experiment (this has been replicated many times) has put the final nail in the coffin for the likes of Einstein’s ‘hidden-variables’ or MWI.

Brian S said...
[In his book "The Fabric of Reality", David Deutsch points out that a quantum computer can factorise a 250-digit number in only a few thousand arithmetical operations and this can be done in a matter of moments.]

I suspect that your fascination with MWI stems from its potential application in computing. I will re-state again. Quantum computing is explaineby Non-locality, which is physically provable. MWI as you said can also explain Quantum Computing BUT it is not physically provable. So, if you have 2 versions of a physical theory that explain the same thing (ie, Quantum Computing), I ask you , which one that you would like to take your bet on? Realists will take Non-locality and fantasists would take MWI.


Brian S said...
[Now, do you know what it takes to factorise a 250 digit number using a classical computer like the one on your desk? It is for all practical purposes impossible. It would require more computational resources than are present in this universe. The quantum computer manages the task by partitioning out the computation to 10^500 interfering parallel universes. In other words it uses 10^500 times the resources that are seen to be present.]

My suspicious of your fascination with MWI, is correct. It is based on its huge application to computing. Look Brian, I studied Quantum Mechanics at University of Auckland about a decade ago. I also conduct Nuclear Physics experiments (Proton Scattering) at AURA 2 (former nuclear accelerator) and I have followed Quantum Computing with interest since I left varsity. I believe that you are new to the subject as by your fascination with it. I know the quantum algorithm that does this fast factorisation of the 250 digit you’re talking about. It is called “SHOR” algorithm, named after Dr. Peter Shor who invented it in 1994, when he was at AT & T.

“Shor Algorithm”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shor's_algorithm

I have had some email exchanges with Dr. SHOR in the past when I was writing an article for an online magazine a few years ago on the subject of “Soft-Computing” which is a branch Artificial Intelligence. The limitations of AI today are caused by slow computation of machines, and not the learning algorithm. Learning algorithms that are available today are so advanced; it is just that their learning takes longer, because of machine speed. In the emergence of Quantum Computers in the future, this would make AI very scary, since fast computation means fast ‘deductive & inductive’ automated reasoning for computers.

There are many more quantum algorithms been developed since the SHOR algorithm from 1994, which are also available in different Physics literatures? If you’re in to this sort of stuff, then a very good book to start with is “Quantum Computing” by Jozef Gruska, published by Mc Graw Hill; you can order a copy from Amazon. I do have a copy of this book for about 5 years. You need a background in Quantum Mechanics to be able to understand the algorithms described in the book.

Brian S said…
[So, what is you explanation for how the quantum computer performs the task?]

That is exactly explainable in Non-locality, by Quantum Entanglement.

Brian S said…
[You might say this goes to show that quantum computers are impossible.]

Where have I said that Quantum Computer is impossible? Of course it is possible, with Non-locality (Quantum Entanglement) and not with MWI, which is unprovable.

Brian S said…
[But there is no known theoretical reason why one cannot be built]

Of course it can be built, the first one I am aware of was built by US government scientists at Los Alamos, in the late 1990s (1998 or 1999). It was a proto-type that was not very successful.

Brian said…
[Non-locality is a load of nonsense because it conflicts with another of our best theories: the theory of relativity.]

Brian, I am not sure whether you have a background in Physics to make ridiculous assertions as this. How does Non-locality violate relativity? I know the answer, but I wait your explanation, as it seems that you read a lot of websites, and some books written for the general public and make expert comments?

Now, if you’re in Auckland, then pop-in and visit anyone of the staffs from the Quantum Optics research group at the Physics Department, Auckland University and talk about the subject of Quantum Computing because that is what they do there. They will tell you that MWI is non-sense. A former lecturer of mine from that group is Associate Professor Mathew Collett. He is a leading researcher in ‘Quantum Squeezing States’ , which have applications in de-noising transmitting lasers in optical communications systems. Either Prof. Collett or Dr. Scott Parkins could give you a brief on the latest in Quantum Computers. They are friendly academic staffs though. I frequently pop in to the Department once and a while and have coffee with some former lecturers at the 7th floor and have chat.

“Quantum Optics”
http://www.qo.phy.auckland.ac.nz/

11/19/2006 09:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Brian, you might be interested in the tutorial for a new theory of Quantum Mechanics, which was proposed by Dr. Lewis Little about a decade ago, which is more like the MWI, to debunk the absurdity of paradoxes in Quantum Mechanics. Nice theory though, in which it restores some common sense to the absurdity of Quantum Mechanics.

"THE THEORY OF ELEMENTARY WAVES"
http://www.speicher.com/tew.html

One of the problem with TEW (THEORY of ELEMENTARY WAVES), is that it cannot explain the 'Aspect' double-delay experiment which was first confirmed by the Innsbruck team in the late 1990s.

The major problem with TEW is also, it hasn't made any predictions plus, there isn't any proposal yet on how to devise an experiment to detect this so called reverse-wave. Some hurdles still face TEW before it can elevate itself into the 'fringe' stage.

Now the paper you quoted for :

"Information Flow in Entangled
Quantum Systems" by David Deutsch and Patrick Hayden, was published in 1999. This is around the same period where the Inssbruck team published their work on the non-local universe and the violation of the Bell's theorem, which means that Deutsch would have probably submitted his paper for publication. That is he would not have had a chance to revise his paper according to facts which was observed by the Innsbruck team.

11/19/2006 11:53:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Brian,

Here is the original Innsbruck paper. Only the abstract is available, but the print version can be found at your nearest University Library. I know that Auckland University does subscribe to "Physics Review Letters" , which this paper was published in. You have to take into account that FACTS are FACTS and Innsbruck result were FACTS not FANTASY. I mean , you can have a theory like TEW or MWI that predicts this or that, but the crunch comes only from OBSERVABLE FACTS and not theoretical FACTS.

"Violation of Bell's Inequality under Strict Einstein Locality Conditions"
http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v81/i23/p5039_1

Dr. Lewis Litte, the developer of TEW did criticize those who cling to MWI in his lecture at CalTech (California Institute of Technology) in 2000, when asked by a member of the audience during question time. PC has got a video of this lecture if you want to borrow perhaps if you're curious about TEW.

you also said...
[but universes are neither created nor destroyed and there is no explosion of universes.]

Are you saying that General Relativity is BULLSHIT? Universe was not created from the Big Bang but it has always existed which had no beginning and will never have any ending?


you also said...
[We are talking about the whole of physical reality here - did you think somehow that physical reality is finite!]

What makes you think that it is infinite? You have to overthrow General Relativity to established that the Universe is infinite. Can you show me, where does it prove (perhaps some papers somewhere) that the Universe is infinite.

you also said...
[Second, nearby universes interfere with each other, and we can detect this interference experimentally using the standard double slit experiment.]

Brian, have you seen a set-up of the double slit experiment using a tunable laser? I get the idea that you haven't seen one, nor experiment with one , to be able to understand the implication of Quantum Mechanics relating to the double-slit. Do you understand the setup?

you also said...
[the MWI makes sense of past-directed time-travel, which, apparently is not forbidden by the laws of physics. Try explaining time-travel in a single universe context!]

Are you familiar with Feynman diagram? I think that you've been reading too many science fiction books. Feynman diagram can explain the time-revsersal problems in sub-atomic particles, but you not gonna get zap back & forth in time as a macro-object.

11/20/2006 12:58:00 am  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Here is a free downloadable PDF format of the Innsbruck paper:

"Violation of Bell's inequality under strict Einstein locality conditions"
http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9810080

11/20/2006 01:44:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

"Point me out to a paper (or papers) where it showed that experiment had been performed to confirm the existence of other universes?"

We infer the existence of multiple universes *indirectly* from experiments, just as we infer the existence of electrons indirectly. But I cannot *confirm* the existence of multiple universes, no more than I can confirm the existence of electrons. I believe in electrons because they provide the best explanation for a whole range of observable outcomes.

"There is a difference between predicting & experimenting to prove something."

Experiments in themselves do not prove a theory, they can only rule out alternative theories. The results of any experiment are consistent with an infinite number of theories. Which of *those* theories we prefer has to be decided by argument. How well do the theories explain the phenomena in question? How many postulates are required? Are the theories consistent with what else we know about reality? etc.

Your real problem, I guess, is this that you think the MWI cannot be distinguished from alternative interpretations. As a pointed out, experiments have been proposed to do just that. Here's another one:

http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9510007

People who say that the MWI is untestable are just suffering from a failure of imagination (and Everett certainly did not think that his relative state formalism was untestable).

The universe you subscribe to is one in which one object can causally affect another object instantaneously with nothing evidently passing through the intervening space. Every point in space is somehow magically wired up to every other point. Note that this implies that the universe has an incredibly complicated structure: each spatial location maps to the whole universe and it maps in such a way that causal effects travel instantaneously and undetectably. Really, can you envisage such a structure? How is this structure simpler than the multiverse, particularly all casual effects are local in the MWI?

The universe you subscribe to is also one that is fundamentally and inexplicably stochastic. In the MWI, we can explain the appearance of indeterminism even though the multiverse is deterministic.

Locality and determinism are at the heart of all physical theories, and the MWI shows that quantum mechanics is no exception.

I know for sure that the Deutsch and Hayden are well aware of the Innsbruck experiment and that nothing about the experiment has changed their minds. If it had, Deutsch would not have written this important paper:

http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0104033

BTW, I'll leave you to infer my background, as my arguments should stand on their own stead :) Can you confirm my existence? Or do you merely infer it from observable outcomes such as the conservation we are having.

11/20/2006 03:50:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

Falafulu Fisi, you wrote:

"[but universes are neither created nor destroyed and there is no explosion of universes.]

Are you saying that General Relativity is BULLSHIT? Universe was not created from the Big Bang but it has always existed which had no beginning and will never have any ending?"

The block universe of general relativity is timeless. Space-time exists as a continuum and it is partitioned into moments according to our point of view. Similarly the multiverse exists as a continuum and it is partitioned into universes according to our point of view. Moments are not created and destroyed. Similarly universes are not created and destroyed. Time is an emergent concept that in relativity arises within a universe and that in the MWI arises within the multiverse. There is no such thing as time outside the uni(multi)verse. In GR, moments are timeless and exist forever, just as they do in the MWI.

You may be interested in these lectures by David Deutsch:

http://www.qubit.org/people/david/index.php?path=Video

BTW, I'm interested in why you seem to place more weight on some University of Auckland researchers than you on David Deutsch, the man who really got the field of quantum computation off the ground. If you think your objections hold up, why don't you go to the Fabric of Reality list and ask the man himself? Nothing you have said hasn't already being countered there ad-nasuem.

11/20/2006 04:42:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

Falafulu,

While we're throwing papers and lectures at each other, this is what Frank Tipler has to say about experiments of the type you cited:

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/quant-ph/pdf/0003/0003146.pdf

Abstract:
Quantum nonlocality may be an artifact of the assumption that observers obey the laws of classical mechanics, while observed systems obey quantum mechanics. I show that, at least in the case of Bell’s Theorem, locality is restored if observed and observer are both assumed to obey quantum mechanics, as in the Many-Worlds Interpretation. Using the MWI, I shall show that the apparently “non-local” expectation value for the product of the spins of two widely separated particles — the “quantum” part of Bell’s Theorem — is really due to a series of three purely local measurements. Thus, experiments confirming “nonlocality” are actually confirming the MWI.

11/20/2006 08:33:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

PC, you wrote:

"And here I'm in agreement with HO Ransome. Whatever you might think of the particular brand of quantum physics espoused (and frankly the whole notion idea of MWI is absurd), the idea that you need quantum physics to support free will is in my submission another example of the misapplication of physics to philosophy."

And here you would be precisely wrong. The MWI intrudes into a whole range of philosophical problems, one of which is the problem of free will. Philosophers have long been concerned with the problem of what exists. The Greek philospher Parmenides was the first I believe to argue that everything that is possible actually exists. This was to get around the problem of the apparent meaningless of "if" statements. In a classical single universe, statements of the form "if Hitler had won the second world war, then X and Y would have happened" are meaningless because the counterfactual statement is about something that was physically impossible.

This I believe is at the root of HORansome's problem with free will. Under the MWI, counterfactuals are not meaningless - they physically exist (though in various measure, some of which are effectively zero). Moreover, under the MWI this very real existence of choice implies first person indeterminism while retaining third person determinism. So here we have an explanation of why even if the universe is deterministic we can never know the future. Note that this explanation has nothing to do with magical quantum events in the brain or whatever. Quantum events probably have no role in brain computation and you are mistaken if you think I am implying that they do.

11/20/2006 11:36:00 am  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Brian,

I want you to follow carefully about my argument.

As I have stated in a previous post, that both Non-locality & MWI arrived at the same formulations of Quantum Mechanics. I will also include TEW (Theory of Elementary Waves) to the other 2 mentioned above, but the only hiccup for TEW is that it cannot account for the double-delay-choice experiment of the type that Innsbruck team conducted. But hey, TEW is only about 10 years old, where as Non-locality is about 80 years old & MWI is about 50 years.

So, these 3 paradigms, do explain exactly the same quantum phenomena, such as quantum computing, quantum teleportation, etc...

Here are the main points that I want to emphasize on:

#1) TEW is nice. Mathematics is consistent, and arrived at the same equations as standard quantum mechanics. TEW proposed that the waves travel backward rather than forward. In TEW, it is deterministic, and there is no such thing as wave-function collapse. It does avoid the known paradoxes of standard quantum mechanics. The problem with TEW is that it does not predict anything new or it has proposed a way to TEST the existence of the reverse wave, which is supposed to be omnipotent (everywhere). Although, it has these drawbacks, TEW can be testable, because it proposed an entity that is physical which is present everywhere in our Universe (Dr. Little said, our ONLY universe and no other parallel universe). To test TEW, it is just a matter of time before technology catches up to built equipments that are able to detect the reverse waves. This is one of the reasons that gravitons have not been observed directly, because the technology is not there yet to do it.

#2) MWI is also nice. Mathematics is also consistent as in TEW, and the derivation does arrive at the same equations as standard quantum mechanics. It is also a deterministic theory, where it avoids the wave-function collapse and other paradoxes of standard quantum mechanics. The biggest problem with MWI is that there is NO theoretical basis yet formulated to devise a framework where the OTHER Universes could be tested to establish their physical existence. There is none at all. There is no framework to determine what kind of 'laws of physics' in those universes. This theory is UNTESTABLE, however it does have nice mathematical formulations. The existence of GOD is another physically UNTESTABLE idea. As far as I know, MWI has not made one single prediction at all, except that does predict the existence of parallel other universes. So, MWI is similar to TEW, and that is they have not made one single prediction, but they do explain the existing observations & predictions of standard quantum mechanics.

#3) Copenhagen Interpretation (CI), where non-locality is a consequence, does have paradoxes. Mathematics is consistent, and the theoretical framework is very solid. It does make predictions far into the future, before those predictions are being observed. Some examples are the predictions of the existence of quarks, by about 20 years before some indirect observational evidence that quarks do indeed exist. The existence of lasing (laser) phenomena by about 40 years before it was confirmed that indeed such process (inversion population or lasing) is allowable by nature, and many many more predictions, which there is no space here to list them all. Predictions of standard Quantum mechanics based on Copenhagen Interpretation school of thought are physically TESTABLE.


Now, pick your choice of a reliable physical theory. Which of those 3 as a rational human being would you accept (perhaps not 100% whole heartedly).

For me, I would throw out the UNTESTABLE theory first and that is the MWI. Second , I will also throw out the one that does not make predictions and that is TEW. I am only left with the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (Standard). This is what most Physicists actually do accept. They try to take a realistic view of any physical theory no matter how sophisticated its mathematics is.

In the NZ Herald lately, there was an article on ‘String Theory’ where Physicists criticized that it has not make any single prediction yet, since its first emerged around 30 years ago. It does not mean that it might be a dead-end, but MWI suffers exactly the same thing as “String Theory”, and that is they have nice mathematical formulations are very consistent BUT produced NO single PREDICTION at all so it could be tested. However, they both accounted for what is already known NO what is UNKNOWN. The standard quantum mechanics does foretell things (make predictions) that are still UNKNOWN, where it turned out that those unknowns actually do indeed exist.

In my personal view, I still have difficulty accepting the non-local universe because of the paradoxes, but hey, humans do live like this everyday. You do follow what are facts (non-local is established by experiments) turned away from what are just nice explanations but no facts, such as TEW or MWI.

11/20/2006 09:17:00 pm  
Blogger Brian S said...

Falafulu,

Your presentation of the MWI in (2) betrays your misunderstanding of it.

For example, you wrote: "There is no framework to determine what kind of 'laws of physics' in those universes."

The laws of physics in other universes are the same as in this universe - they are all obey the laws of quantum mechanics, general relativity etc. Universes differ not in the laws of physics but in the way things turn out. If you understood the mathematics of the MWI you would know this. MWI does not predict the existence of other universes with different laws of physics.

You also keep maintaining this:

"The biggest problem with MWI is that there is NO theoretical basis yet formulated to devise a framework where the OTHER Universes could be tested to establish their physical existence."

Read Chapter 2 of The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch. We infer the existence of other universes both from what our theories are telling us and from experiment. Furthermore MWI is falsified if QM is falsified and there are - as I keep saying - experiments that have been proposed to differentiate the MWI from other interpretations (it isn't hard to find references other than those I cited by googling).

"There is none at all."

Repeating it does not make it so.

"There is no framework to determine what kind of 'laws of physics' in those universes."

The framework is quantum mechanics. The laws of physics are no different.

"This theory is UNTESTABLE, however it does have nice mathematical formulations."

In other words "shut up and calculate".

"The existence of GOD is another physically UNTESTABLE idea.".

The MWI would be untestable if universes were truly parallel and did not affect each other. Neighbouring universes do affect each other and we can see the results in the lab. Furthermore the MWI does make different predictions to other interpretations and that is why it can be distinguished from them.

"As far as I know, MWI has not made one single prediction at all, except that does predict the existence of parallel other universes."

So it doesn't make any predictions, but it does make a prediction?

"So, MWI is similar to TEW, and that is they have not made one single prediction, "

Well, you just said it does.

"but they do explain the existing observations & predictions of standard quantum mechanics."

Yes, it does *explain*. Do you not value explanation? Within the framework of the MWI I can explain how a quantum computer can do a calculation with 10^500 times the resources that are seen to be available (and moreover I can explain it in such a way that a ten year old would understand). I challenge you to give me an explanation in terms of non-locality or the TEW (particularly in a way that a ten year old would grasp).


"In my personal view, I still have difficulty accepting the non-local universe because of the paradoxes, but hey, humans do live like this everyday"

So, you have something that you admit is an explanation (the MWI), but you still prefer to live with the paradox?

11/20/2006 10:19:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

You said…
[You also keep maintaining this:
"The biggest problem with MWI is that there is NO theoretical basis yet formulated to devise a framework where the OTHER Universes could be tested to establish their physical existence."]
Read Chapter 2 of The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch. We infer the existence of other universes both from what our theories are telling us and from experiment.]

Ok, you must be joking. Is that your best shot? We just infer that other universes exist based on what the theories & experiment are telling us. C’mon Brian, you’ve got to do better than that. Inference does not mean existence. If inference means existence, then it means that it is possible to DETECT & COMMUNICATE with those parallel universes? What is your answer, YES or NO? If you say YES, based on what you read so far on MWI, then it is POSSIBLE that human can travel to ONE of those UNIVERSES in the future? If you say NO, then you must throw MWI right out the window NOW.


You said…
[Experiments that have been proposed to differentiate the MWI from other interpretations (it isn't hard to find references other than those I cited by googling)].

NO, the references you already cited NEVER mentioned any proposal for such experiments.

you said…
[Repeating it does not make it so.]

I repeat it because, you haven’t come up with one yet NOR the proponents of MWI have derived any predictions to date. Now, stop trying to obfuscate. Name one single prediction made by MWI?

You said…
[The framework is quantum mechanics. The laws of physics are no different.]

You’re trying to piggyback on quantum mechanics and say, that it is MWI formulation. Quantum mechanics had a framework, where all its postulates were based on.

You said..
["This theory is UNTESTABLE, however it does have nice mathematical formulations."
In other words "shut up and calculate". ]

No, that’s just mean, that none of the MWI propositions deducible from the axioms contradict one another. That is mathematical consistency.

You said…
[The MWI would be untestable if universes were truly parallel and did not affect each other.]

What is it Brian, are the other universes all parallel or not? I thought that MWI is clear on this, or perhaps if it is not clear on that, how about tossing a coin to determine if it is parallel or not. If they are parallel, what is the meaning of parallel in terms of physical meanings? Does parallel means that from our universe, there is no way to detect them, but at the same time objects from their universes can pop-in to our universe to affect our experiments in the lab as you claimed. Very funny , eh? Parallel universes in MWI means that our universe is at threat all the time from objects of other universes which could invade ours whenever we perform experiments, but at the same time there is no way for us to see, measure or detect those Ghost universes. Don’t you see that this is stretching our mind into the territory of fantasy?

You said…
[Neighbouring universes do affect each other and we can see the results in the lab.]

In what ways do they affect each other? Do they send rugby teams to play against each other or what? Also, what we see in the lab is inference, which does not indicate MWI in a clear cut manner, that it is the effect of other universes except that MWI model assume so.

You said…
[Furthermore the MWI does make different predictions to other interpretations and that is why it can be distinguished from them.]

No, you’ve failed to mention that prediction. You have mentioned of how MWI explained the known quantum phenomenon. What are those different predictions?

You said…
["As far as I know, MWI has not made one single prediction at all, except that does predict the existence of parallel other universes."
So it doesn't make any predictions, but it does make a prediction? ]

I made an error in that comment. MWI has no prediction at all.

You said…
[Do you not value explanation?]

I made an error in my comment. I mean that MWI ONLY gives explanations after the facts (principles which are already known) but do not give predictions, so that predicted facts could be searched for.

You said…
[Within the framework of the MWI I can explain how a quantum computer can do a calculation with 10^500 times the resources that are seen to be available (and moreover I can explain it in such a way that a ten year old would understand). I challenge you to give me an explanation in terms of non-locality or the TEW (particularly in a way that a ten year old would grasp).]

What is your point here? Quantum Entanglement (QE) is non-locality, where there are tons of materials on QE & Quantum computing on the internet. What are you trying to prove?

”you said…”
[So, you have something that you admit is an explanation (the MWI), but you still prefer to live with the paradox?]

Yes, I prefer to live with paradox, which is supported by observational facts, then one with no paradox that is supported by no facts at all, except it is supported by mathematical fantasy only. My view is irrelevant. The view of the majority of Physicists around the world are those that matters. The verdict on MWI from the Physics community is less favourable.

Here are some criticisms of MWI :

“The Many-Worlds Interpretation of QM”
http://www.mth.kcl.ac.uk/~streater/lostcauses.html

“The Basis Problems in many phases theories”
http://www-physics.lbl.gov/~stapp/bp.PDF

“Against Many-Worlds Interpretations”
http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/9703089

11/21/2006 02:46:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

Falafulu,

I posted this link above:

This is a proposal to distinguish the MWI from the other interpretations.

Here is David Deutsch's original proposal that I mentioned above (also available for free on DD's website, except that the link seems broken at the moment)

And here is another one.

And another one.

Do you still maintain that the MWI is untestable (i.e., can't be distinguished from other alternatives).

"Name one single prediction made by MWI?"

The MWI predicts all the quantum phenomena we observe in the lab (including the results of EPR-type experiments - see the Tipler link I gave above) without assuming spooky action at a distance, without assuming that God plays dice, and without assuming any special role for observers. It predicts the existence of other universes and it predicts that quantum mechanics applies at all scales, including to observers such as ourselves (and here is an experiment to test that prediction).

"If inference means existence, then it means that it is possible to DETECT & COMMUNICATE with those parallel universes? What is your answer, YES or NO?"

Closely similar universes affect each other (and that is the whole basis for quantum phenomena and quantum computers). So YES, we can detect them. Can we communicate with them? The problem is decoherence. Closely similar universes extremely rapidly decohere from each other and we need a way of controlling the environment to avoid decoherence (this is the whole difficulty with building quantum computers). Communication between observers requires an astronomical number of state differences between the brain of an observer in one universe and the brain of an observer in another universe while maintaining coherence. It may be impossible.

In General Relativity parts of this universe are walled off forever from us but I presume you still maintain they exist even though you can't go there to confirm it?

Another prediction of the MWI is that past-directed time-travel is theoretically possible and non-contradictory (David Deutsch himself has done a lot of work on this). So although communication between universes that have decohered from each other is impossible, it may be possible to send messages back in time (this requires a time-machine at the sending and receiving end, so you can't send a message to before the receiving machine was constructed). We then can communicate indirectly with a universe that has branched off from ours by sending a message to a point in time when that universe was identical with ours.

PC, Falafulu - In the spirit of the architecture debate, why don't we have a quantum mechanics debate? Each of us post on PC's blog a defence of our favoured interpretation of quantum mechanics and why the other guys are wrong. The only restrictions are that we should use plain English (no technical jargon) and try not to look too much like geeks!

I put it to you that each of you has gaps in your understanding of the MWI and I would be grateful to clear those up!

What say you guys - are you up to it?

11/21/2006 07:20:00 am  

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