Re: Quantum accident survivor

From: Stephen Paul King <>
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2003 23:38:15 -0500

Dear Hal,


----- Original Message -----
From: "Hal Finney" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, November 03, 2003 9:10 PM
Subject: Re: Quantum accident survivor

> Stephen Paul King, <>, writes:
> > My problem is that COMP requires the existence of an infinite
> > computational system that is immune from the laws of thermodynamics.
> > makes it HIGHLY suspect in my book.
> [HF]
> First, I'm not sure that Bruno's COMP hypothesis (which is basically
> that minds can't tell what is computing them) does require this, but
> arguably the hypothesis that our entire universe is a computer program,
> and that all such programs and all such universes exist, requires some
> such assumption. But is this any more problematic than the conventional
> view that there exists an infinitely reliable set of mathematical
> equations that specify the "laws of nature"?


    Is it that there is a requirement of an "infinitely reliable set of
mathematics" or, as I would put it, an infallible representation, or is it
like I have asked previously: What if we consider that the "best possible"
simulation of some object
is indistinguishable from a "actual object"?
    It has often been stated that there is more that one curve that connects
together the same set of points in the same order. We also have reasons to
appeal to Occam's razor to help us find the "best theory". But are we sure
that our "specifications" of the "laws of physics" are something that is
unproblematic? I often wonder if we are just communicating within the
commonalities of our individual existences and not some "pre-specifiable
laws of physics"!
    Have you read J. Wheeler's essay "Law without law"?

 Wheeler, J. A. (1983), "Law Without Law." In Quantum Theory and
Measurement, ed. J. Wheeler and W. Zurek. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton Univ.

> [SPK]
> > Even if we make the "leap of faith" and
> > assume that all that exists is numbers and the relations among them, how
> > we explain the reason that the "illusion" of a "flow of time" occurs?
> [HF]
> That's a good question, and I would suggest two answers. The first is
> that when we apply the anthropic principle and look for universes that
> contain observers, we are implicitly assuming that observers require a
> flow of time. It is almost impossible to conceive of an observer that
> would be timeless, and if such a thing existed, we would not recognize
> it as an observer. But if we do accept that in some sense timeless
> observers could exist, then no doubt they do exist, in universes that
> may not have anything like a flow of time.


    Sure, but you are explicitly only considering entities like you and I as
prototypical. This reminds me of the way that people tend to define life and
involves things like DNA and carbon.
    But it is that this line of thought seems to allow a kind of
teleological thinking that has no place in philosophy of science. While it
is a probability of 1 that an observer will find itself in a universe that
is consistent with the existence of that observer, this tells us nothing at
all whether or not such an observer is a priori possible. The latter
requires us to postulate such things as Plenitudes, Platonias and Kripkean
and Leibnizian analogs of possible worlds.
    The problem that I see is that these collections of "all possible" do
not include some necessity of the experience of "time" and its included
distingtions between "past" and "future". We can recall the debate that
Boltzman had with his critics regarding the "H-theorem" as an illustration.
It is one thing to see the necessity of all possibilities, it is something
else entirely to necesitate my own experience of a flow of time. Something
is "happening" and it isn't "just a static set of relations".

> The second answer is that it may be that the simplest set of laws
> that allows for observers like ourselves to exist inherently requires
> something like time to exist as well. We are complex, and we know that
> in our universe, we were the result of the process of evolution starting
> with simple chemistry and building up complex biology. To get our level
> of complexity you either need a complex universe, which implies a large
> and improbable program, or you need a simple universe with a flow of
> time sufficient to let something like evolution operate. Therefore it
> is more likely that systems complex enough to be called observers will
> exist in universes where there is causality, consistency and evolution.


    That I can go along with. I only ask for some reasoning as to how it is
that we have an "arrow of time". My suggestion is that we consider that
there is "process" both implicit in and necessary for computation. ;-)

Kindest regards,

Received on Mon Nov 03 2003 - 23:27:51 PST

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