Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Past is Dependent on the Present

I've had some ideas bubbling away in my brain for a few years now, which I've been hoping to crystallise into something concrete. It's view which is inspired by the Buddhism and by the Anthropic Principle. It has many aspects and I hope to get some of the ideas down in this blog.

It's all about the relationship between subjective and objective aspects of reality, the nature of consciousness, space and time. All sounds very grand doesn't it? If only I could get it together to work through it.

According to the various versions of the Anthropic Principle the constants of the universe are not arbitrary (actually the possibility that they would lead to a universe which is capable of evolving intelligent life is remote in the extreme). Rather, every observed universe must (at least locally) be consistent with the emergence of sentient observers.

My modified version extended the principle to explain not only why humanity is here, but why 'I' am here and that probabalistic attempts to explain the unfolding of history are misguided because history is determined by the present in so far as it must be consistent with not only the evolution of sentient life, but with the conception of my parents and of me and every moment of history which enables this moment to happen. Thus, although the present is dependent upon the past, the past is also determined by the present. The unfolding of history isn't random or arbitrary - it has a sort of telos which makes *this* inevitable. And of course *this* is marked by consciousness.

The old view of history being dependent only on its own past is turned inside out. The past and the present are interdependent. 'Mind' in back in the centre of the picture. Subject and object are two sides of the same coin. And it all ties in closely with Buddhist notions of relativity, mind and that only the present is true reality.

It seems that Stephen Hawking's new theory is very closely related.

Exploring Stephen Hawking's Flexiverse

Well Professor Hawking if you want some more new ideas - watch this space.


  1. Hi, Justin - Somehow blinked and missed this in the last couple of days...

    Hawkings probably caught it, though.

    Looking forward to future installments!

  2. Here's an excerpt from the New Scientist article:

    Putting the You in Universe

    Hawking and Hertog's cosmology adds an interesting twist to the ongoing debate in physics about the existence of multiple universes. At issue is the feet that string theory, physicists' most popular candidate for a "theory of everything", describes not just one universe but a near infinity of them. Some physicists are willing to accept that these theoretical universes actually exist, both because string theory doesn't seem to favour any particular universe over all the others in the bunch, and because their existence could help explain the apparently fine-tuned features of our universe. Take, for example, the value of the cosmological constant, the force that appears to be causing the expansion of the universe to speed up. It is a very small force, and no one has yet explained why it should be so. The trouble is, its size happens to be a number that sits in a very narrow range of values that would allow life to exist. This coincidence has compelled some physicists to make the so-called anthropic argument: maybe there are multiple "pocket" universes that branch off from one another, and within each the constants take a different value. In that scenario, there is bound to be one universe with a cosmological constant like ours and we should not be surprised to find ourselves in the one universe hospitable to life.

    Many physicists argue that this is just giving up on the problem of explaining why our universe is the way it is - it is not, they say, science. Hawking and Hertog's new idea adds fuel to this fire. The picture of a never-ending string of pocket universes is only meaningful from the perspective of an observer outside any one universe, Hawking says - and that, by definition, is impossible. Parallel pocket universes can have no effect on a real observer inside a single pocket, so, according to Hawking, they are theoretical baggage that should be eliminated from cosmology.

    But Hawking has a replacement in mind - and it is just as mind-boggling. His view is that the string theory landscape is populated by the set of all possible histories. Rather than a branching set of individual universes, every possible version of a single universe exists simultaneously in a state of quantum superposition. When you choose to make a measurement, you select from this landscape a subset of histories that share the specific features measured. The history of the universe -for you the observer - is derived from that subset of histories. In other words, you choose your past.

  3. Hi, Justin - That's actually not an idea that originates with Hawkings. I'd have to do some research to determine exactly with whom it did originate, but the idea has been around since at least Niels Bohr's time, possibily before. It does call into question the 'arrow of time'.

    But ideas that call into question our understanding of 'time' have been around since the beginning of recorded history. It is part and parcel with the ability to be reflexive.

    What I find facinating about the current string theories (M-theory) is the underlying idea of energy as the 'base' of everything, and differing 'vibrations' providing the 'effects' we 'observe'. And, since we ourselves are mere 'vibrations', our observations are an 'effect' that changes the 'observed' properties of 'matter'.

    Differing 'patterns' of energy, superimposed, might mean that we ourselves as 'patterns' of energy 'produce' the effects that we percieve as 'change' and 'time'. In otherwords, our own 'orientation' shifts the superimpositions, like a moire pattern, which viewed from differing angles, seems to 'move' and 'change' due to difference in the reflection of light. But the 'vibrations' themselves may be 'static'.

    Order and chaos, superimposed. Entropy and negentropy, superimposed. Only our own 'shifts' in perspective 'produce' the 'observed effects'.

    In this manner, all we observe may truly be 'illusion'.

    Perhaps it takes great stillness of mind to 'correctly' percieve the stillness of the universe(s).

    Just an 'illusion' that's been floating around in my head for some 'time'.

    Highest regards.