Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Cosmic background weirdness

I posted before about how it is hard to understand how if we each define the universe through private perception we have all ended up in the same shared universe. Why does this shared reality exist, if the basic characteristics of space and time are relative? Why do the laws of the universe seem immutable, if maths itself is provisional? I was talking about how various Sf books have adressed this question in different ways.

A couple of scientists called Jaron Lanier and Lee Smolin have suggested that as different perceptions of reality become entangled they form a real-seeming shared universe, somewhat as a city of rafts could grow up on a trackless ocean to form something like solid land. While underlying reality may be relativistic (with no absolute truth, like the shifting ocean) the city of rafts becomes so big that it starts to function like something permanent. You tie your raft to mine, and so on until we have a huge city of rafts.

In the beginning, there are very few rafts, and if you want to give someone directions to get to a particular raft, you might tell them to travel over a specific sequence of intermediate rafts that have names. That would be like specifying a path to a Web page; the rafts could be understood as a network. If the collection of rafts becomes very large, though—perhaps in the millions—the network model would no longer make sense. Instead, directions would start to sound like this: "Travel 20,000 raft-lengths toward that big mast that we use for a landmark and then turn right for 10,000 raft-lengths." Having all those rafts crammed together forces them into a persistent structure. Not only can you count on landmarks, but you can start to use geometry to describe where you are and where you want to go.

They also argue that the arrow of time - the way the past seems fixed, but the future uncertain - is because the maths itself is still being worked out. What we perceive as 'time' is the working out of the implications of a new shared maths which starts indeterminate, and becomes ever stranger as it grows.

Suppose the universe correlates with some patch of math. That patch cannot be complete and will inevitably bleed into additional math that is even stranger than the starting patch. If a correlation existed before, it ought to continue with new weird stuff. So, inherent in any reality correlated to math, there is an unstoppable passage into ever-increasing levels of weirdness.

Brilliant! Admittedly he is using 'weird' in a specialist sense, but who cares?
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