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Mouthwash
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Modern physics shows solipsism to be true?

12 Oct 2019 09:18

I recently encountered an article by the science writer Amanda Gefter which claims that recent discoveries in physics point towards a solipsistic view of the universe:

"ever since Einstein, theoretical physics has been one long death march for invariants. With his infamous discovery that black holes radiate, Stephen Hawking declared particles observer-dependent (along with fields and the quantum vacuum to boot). String theory did away with the invariance of dimensions and M-theory did away with the invariance of strings. By studying what happens when stuff falls into a black hole, Leonard Susskind discovered that the unified spacetime Einstein had left unscathed is itself observer-dependent. As for nature’s four fundamental forces, Einstein did away with gravity (“We are able to ‘produce’ a gravitational field merely by changing the system of coordinates,” he wrote) while the development of gauge theory took care of the other three. Every last one of the so-called fundamental ingredients of nature has turned out to be a shadow...

...quantum mechanics, relativity, black hole physics, cosmology and string theory all point to the same radical, paradigm-shifting conclusion: every observer’s reference frame defines its own universe, singular and complete, and even though any reference frame is as good as any other, we can only speak about one at a time."

I will freely admit that I don't know much about quantum mechanics or physics in general, but it sounds like this assumes RQM to be true? She elaborates more on her view in this paper, and I'm also posting a review of her book Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn that summarizes the argument:

"Gefter’s conclusions are based on two recent discoveries of modern physics: dark energy and the holographic principle. Her conclusions arise naturally (and are unavoidable) when these two discoveries are integrated into the framework of theoretical physics in a logically consistent way (and in a way that incorporates the unification of relativity theory with quantum theory).

The basic argument is as follows: Whenever dark energy is expended (the exponential expansion of space that always expands relative to the central point of view of an observer), a cosmic horizon always arises that limits the observer’s observations of things in space. If the holographic principle is invoked (as happens naturally with non-commutative geometry), the observer’s horizon acts as a holographic screen that encodes all the bits of information for everything the observer can possibly observe within that horizon-limited space. In effect, the observer’s horizon defines every observable thing in its world (in the sense of a Hilbert space), which Gefter refers to as the one-world-per-observer paradigm. Gefter points out that a consensual reality (shared by many observers) can arise when different cosmic horizons overlap (in the sense of a Venn diagram) and share information (much like the kind of information sharing that occurs in an interactive computer network of overlapping screens).

Gefter discusses the role Consciousness plays in the creation of a holographic universe that arises with the expenditure of dark energy. Gefter explains that with the expenditure of dark energy a cosmic horizon arises (surrounding the observer at the central point of view). The observer's horizon acts as a holographic screen (that encodes all the bits of information for and projects all the images of everything in the observer's world), while the observer itself can only be identified as a focal point of consciousness (the singularity) at the center of the horizon.

Gefter points out that the observer is only a focal point of consciousness (the singularity) that arises at the central point of view in relation to a holographic screen (the observer’s horizon). In this sense, the observer is only a reference frame. The observer’s horizon only arises because the observer is in an accelerated frame of reference (due to the expenditure of dark energy).

This is what Gefter says about the reality of the observer and its world:

“The message was clear: having a finite frame of reference creates the illusion of a world, but even the reference frame itself is an illusion.”

Gefter points out that the observer’s holographic screen (that defines everything in its world) and the observer’s focal point of consciousness (the singularity at the center of that world) must both arise in an empty space of potentiality that Gefter calls the primordial nothingness (the void). She correctly identifies the void as the ultimate nature of reality. The nothingness of the void is what’s left when everything in the observer’s world disappears from existence. Since the observer’s world can only appear in an accelerated frame of reference (with the expenditure of dark energy that gives rise to the observer’s horizon), everything in the observer’s world, including that world itself, is ultimately an illusion (since it can all disappear if dark energy is no longer expressed). Even the observer itself (the central focal point of consciousness that arises in the accelerated frame of reference) is an illusion that disappears when dark energy is no longer expressed.

The missing link in this argument (that neither Gefter nor theoretical physicists seem to be willing to make) is the identification of the void as undifferentiated (non-dual) consciousness, while the observer is always differentiated (individual) consciousness (a focal point of consciousness that arises in relation to the observer’s holographic screen). The key aspect of this argument (that Gefter only hints about) is that both the observer's focal point of consciousness and the observer's holographic screen must arise in an empty space of potentiality (the void), which naturally happens with the expenditure of dark energy. In this sense, the expenditure of dark energy (which is nothing more than the exponential expansion of space that always expands relative to the central point of view of an observer) is the fundamental potentiality of the void to express itself and create a world for itself (a world that it always perceives from the central point of view of that world). To read about this part of the argument it's necessary to leave theoretical physics behind. See for example Jed McKenna's Theory of Everything for a logical discussion of why the void must be the nature of undifferentiated (non-dual) consciousness."

It would probably be better to ask an actual philosopher of physics (as this is something of a metaphysical claim), but it's not as if they're found on every street corner. And with r/Physics being useless, the SE community looked like the best option. So what are your thoughts on this?
 
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Watsisname
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Modern physics shows solipsism to be true?

12 Oct 2019 16:13

It is indeed a metaphysical claim.  No experiment in physics can provide insight into this question because it does not make falsifiable predictions.  I cannot prove that all of reality is not a hallucination or that you are not a brain in a vat.

There are also some problems and confusions in the arguments presented.  For example, dark energy is not "expended".  Dark energy's density is constant as the universe expands.  The existence of a cosmological horizon doesn't require dark energy anyway!  It arises simply because both the age of the universe and the speed of light are finite.
 
A-L-E-X
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Modern physics shows solipsism to be true?

13 Oct 2019 02:08

Watsisname wrote:
It is indeed a metaphysical claim.  No experiment in physics can provide insight into this question because it does not make falsifiable predictions.  I cannot prove that all of reality is not a hallucination or that you are not a brain in a vat.

There are also some problems and confusions in the arguments presented.  For example, dark energy is not "expended".  Dark energy's density is constant as the universe expands.  The existence of a cosmological horizon doesn't require dark energy anyway!  It arises simply because both the age of the universe and the speed of light are finite.

Is that an argument for a Matrix-like reality? If so, I pondered over that too, but wasn't there research done a few years ago showing this to be unlikely?  Something about not finding something that needed to be found at a very fundamental level for this idea to be true.  I think that was the basis of an experiment called GE-200 or GE-400 or something like that!
 
Mouthwash
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Modern physics shows solipsism to be true?

14 Oct 2019 00:02

A-L-E-X wrote:
Watsisname wrote:
It is indeed a metaphysical claim.  No experiment in physics can provide insight into this question because it does not make falsifiable predictions.  I cannot prove that all of reality is not a hallucination or that you are not a brain in a vat.

There are also some problems and confusions in the arguments presented.  For example, dark energy is not "expended".  Dark energy's density is constant as the universe expands.  The existence of a cosmological horizon doesn't require dark energy anyway!  It arises simply because both the age of the universe and the speed of light are finite.

Is that an argument for a Matrix-like reality? If so, I pondered over that too, but wasn't there research done a few years ago showing this to be unlikely?  Something about not finding something that needed to be found at a very fundamental level for this idea to be true.  I think that was the basis of an experiment called GE-200 or GE-400 or something like that!

No, it is an argument for something called 'ontic structural realism', the view that physical reality is fundamentally relational rather than objective. After reading this, I'm more convinced that Gefter's claim does require RQM to be true as other interpretations maintain an objective, multiple-observer reality (different branches in the case of MWI, but same reality).

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