There is a human construct

Reality is a construct of consciousness

Simulation - Consciousness - Existence

The robot researcher Hans Moravec has already heralded a post-biological future when our Mind Children, equipped with a different body, soon overtake us with their intelligence, as he believes. In his essay written for Telepolis, he tries to justify with philosophical and physical arguments that there is not one reality, but an infinite number of worlds that depend on consciousness. Robots and virtual life may exist in completely different worlds that are closed to us. Science fiction or actually scientific speculation?

Hans Moravec is Director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory and Principal Research Scientis at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. In particular, his vision of downloading the ghost onto a different piece of hardware caused a sensation and sparked discussion. In another essay, he describes the evolution of post-biological evolution and speculates about the consequences this could have for humans - a scenario as futuristic as it is frightening.

The chaos researcher Otto E. Rössler is pursuing a similar approach to Moravec's endophysical theory. See the conversation with Rössler about endophysics

simulation

During the past few centuries physics has successfully answered many questions about the nature of things, and expanded our possibilities so enormously that some consider it to be the only legitimate contender for the title of true knowledge. Other belief systems may have a societal usefulness for groups to act upon, but ultimately they are just fabricated stories. I have a weakness for one myself physical fundamentalism.

Physical fundamentalists, however, must agree with René Descartes that the world we perceive through our senses could be a perfect hoax. In the 17th century Descartes had to postulate an improbable evil demon who creates this illusion by manipulating everything we see and hear (and feel, taste and touch). In the 21st century, physics itself with the technology of virtual reality will provide us with the means to do this.

Enthusiastic cybernauts are already putting on VR helmets and data suits for brief visits to invented worlds whose fundamental mechanisms are completely different from the quantum fields that underlie our knowledge of our world.

But today's virtual adventurers stay in contact with the real world: they bump into real objects and feel real pain. That connection will weaken if direct connections can be made with the nervous system, which could perhaps lead to the old science fiction idea of ​​a living brain in a tank. The brain would be kept physically alive by a machine and mentally supplied with a perfect simulation of not only a surrounding world but also a body in which it is through connections of all peripheral nerves. Brain tanks could serve as interim storage facilities for those injured in accidents with incurably damaged bodies until they are acquired, rearing, or producing a new body.

The virtual life of a brain in a tank can still be slightly disturbed by external physical, chemical or electrical effects when they act on the tank. Even these small connections with the material world would dissolve with improved methods that extend the body simulation to the brain. If damaged or endangered brain parts such as the body could be replaced by functionally equivalent simulations, some individuals could survive complete physical destruction and live as pure computer simulations in virtual worlds.

A simulated world inhabited by a simulated person can be a self-contained entity. It could exist as a program in a computer that silently processes data in a dark corner and gives no outward indication of the joys and pains, successes and frustrations of the person in it. Within the simulation, on the other hand, events take place according to the strict logic of the program that the physical laws defined by the simulation. The occupant could, through patient experimentation and induction, infer a representation of the simulation laws, but not the nature or even the existence of the simulating computer. The inner relationships of the simulation would remain the same if the program were installed on one of the infinitely different computers, if it ran slowly, quickly, with interruptions or even back and forth in time, if the data were loaded as loads on a chip, as Markings on tape or as pulses on a delay line would be if the numbers in the simulation were represented in binary, decimal or Roman numerals, if they were together or scattered across the machine.

Today's simulations, such as that of a flight in an airplane or that of the weather, are run to test reactions or images through additional programs that translate the internal representations into forms suitable for external human observers. There is a need to set limits on how radical the hardware and software representation of a simulation can be. If it becomes too different from the form of the reactions, the translation can become slow and expensive in ways that are no longer practicable. This practical limit may be of no consequence for simulations which, like the imagined medical rescue mentioned above, contain their own observers. Conscious residents of simulations experience their virtual life, regardless of whether outsiders can see them or not. These, too, can ultimately be built in in some way.

What does it mean for a process to include or code a simulation? Obviously, something is encoding if there is a way to decode or translate it in some recognizable form of simulation. The programs used to illustrate existing simulations are examples of such decodings, but they do not define the limits. A translation that cannot be practically carried out today may be possible tomorrow with more powerful computers, as yet undiscovered mathematical approaches or perhaps a different type of translation. Similar to people who do not pay any attention to linguistic utterances or signs in foreign languages ​​they do not know because they appear as meaningless ramblings, we would be quite astonished if we miss possible interpretations simply because we cannot perceive them at the moment. On the other hand, we could ask which mathematical decodings are possible, regardless of their present or future feasibility. That seems like a safe and open approach, I believe, but it leads into strange territory.

The interpretation of a simulation is just a mathematical conversion of the states of a simulation process into illustrations of the simulation that are meaningful to a particular observer. A small, fast program might be required to make this interpretation applicable, but mathematically this could also be done through a huge table containing an observer's point of view for each state. The only problem is that there is always a table which converts every situation, for example the empty time flow, into a desired simulation. Not just a hard-working computer, but anything in general can theoretically be viewed as a simulation of a possible world! We are unlikely to recognize more than a tiny fraction of the vastness of possible worlds, but the greater the computing capabilities, the more potentially recognizable they become. Regardless of which one we come into contact with, all these possible worlds are just as physically real for their conscious inhabitants as they are our world for us.

This chain of arguments, which arises from the premises and techniques of physics, leads to the unexpected consequence of assigning only a secondary role to physical existence. A possible world is only as real as conscious inhabitants inside or outside the world think it is!

Awareness

But what is consciousness? The pre-scientific belief that people owe their experience of their existence to spiritual mechanisms beyond the material world, although it had considerable social consequences, has failed as a scientific hypothesis. Physics has only recently begun to address this question with its terminology, taking into account research results in evolutionary biology, anthropology, psychology and neurobiology as well as with the help of many computer technologies.

Human consciousness is perhaps the by-product of a brain that has evolved in the context of social life. Memory capacities, predictive abilities, and communication mechanisms similar to but different from those needed to cognize material objects have evolved in order to classify and communicate the moods of and relationships with tribal members. For example, aggressive and submissive behaviors, as well as good and bad smells, were classified into categories associated not only with behavioral reactions but also with communication symbols. As the language developed it became possible to tell stories about physical and psychological events. At some point, perhaps early in evolution, the mechanism of narration turned back to the narrator and the story began to include commentary on the narrator's and others' states of mind.

Our consciousness can primarily be the continuous story we tell ourselves from moment to moment about what we did and why we did it. This is a thin, often imprecise and obscuring rationalization of what is largely going on unconsciously. Our history of consciousness is not only a faint reflection of the reality of the body and the brain, but it owes its own existence solely to a subjective ascription. From an external, physical perspective, history is just a pattern of electrochemical events that are likely to take place in our cortex. A complex psychological interpretation is necessary to translate these events into a meaningful story. From an internal, psychological perspective, the story is compelling because the psychological interpretation is an integral part of the story itself, the reference to other things (unconsciously) being supported by the cross-connections of the neural machinery of storytelling.

On the one hand, our consciousness may have arisen from an evolutionary coincidence and tells an implausible story by means of the far-fetched interpretation of a pattern consisting of thin, salty splashes of liquid. On the other hand, our consciousness is the only reason we think we exist (or that we think). Without it there would be no beliefs, no sensations, no perception of existence, no universe.

existence

And what is reality? The idea of ​​a simulated existence is the first step in a confusing chain of thought. Just as the literary description of a place can exist in different languages, forms of expression, print formats and material media, the simulation of a world can be implemented in radically different data structures, processing steps and types of hardware. If you interrupt a simulation that is running on a machine and translate its data and its program in such a way that it runs on a completely different computer, then the internal properties of the simulation, including the mental activity of its residents, continue to follow the simulated physical laws. Only observers who are outside the simulation can notice that the new machine is running faster, that its steps are jerky or that a more sophisticated interpretation is necessary to make its processing methods meaningful.

A simulation of the weather, for example, can be viewed as a series of numbers that are gradually transformed into other numbers. Most computer simulations have independent visualization programs that translate the internal numbers into an externally meaningful form, such as images of evolving cloud patterns. The simulation, however, runs with or without such an external interpretation. When the data representation of a simulation is transformed, it runs through a completely different sequence of numbers, although a correspondingly modified visualization program will generate the same images.

There is no objective limit to how big such a change can be. Any simulation can be represented by almost any sequence and still be recognizable with the right interpretation. A simple clock simulates the evolution of a complex world when interpreted by a world-describing script or a film sequence that is structured according to the ticking of a clock. Even the clock is superfluous, since an outside observer can read the book or watch the film with leisure. If the interpretation of a simulation is something external that can be dispensed with, while its central implementation can be changed down to the last detail, in what respect can one still speak of a simulated world at all?

Mathematical realism, a philosophical position adopted by Plato, solves this problem by introducing the incorporeal. Just as material objects are perceived by the senses, mathematical objects such as numbers or shapes can be grasped by abstract thinking, so that objectively verifiable features can be recognized. For Plato, mathematical concepts were as real as material objects. They are just as unrecognizable to the external senses as sounds cannot be perceived by the eyes.

Computer simulations give mathematical realism its full scope. Plato's mind could only handle simple mathematical objects without aids, leading to dichotomies like that between a perfect sphere and a speckled, scratched ball of marble held in one hand. Computer simulations, like a telescope for the eye of the mind, expand perception over the close range of simple objects to the details of far away worlds that are as complex as material reality and potentially filled with living beings, intelligences or the like. From this perspective, our own world is only one of these recognizable worlds that are determined by abstract relations that we call physical laws, just as every simulation is defined by its internal rules. The difference between material and mathematical reality is the illusion of a certain point of view: the material world is only that abstract world which happens to contain us.

The Platonic position with regard to simulations allows the invoked incorporeal to be comprehensible, without one interpretation only making sense in the context of another interpretation. It makes some of the problems with intelligent machinery go away. Some critics claim that a machine cannot contain a mind because the function of a machine depends entirely on external interpretation, while the human mind contains its own meaning. From the Platonic position the answer to this is that the relations that constitute the mind and its own self-interpretation exist independently of it, and that a robot, a simulator or a book describing the processes, just like a human brain, represent a way of them to recognize. Other critics suggest that future robots could act like intelligent, sensitive living beings without an internal sense of their existence, that they would be unconscious, mindless zombies. A Platonist will answer this: While there are indeed interpretations of every mechanism (including the human brain) that make it appear mindless, there are others through which it has a real, self-knowing mind. When a robot (or person) behaves as if he or she has beliefs and feelings, then our relationship with him or her is usually determined by choosing an interpretation has a mind facilitated.Of course, it may be better for a robotics engineer (or a brain surgeon) to deal with the internal structures, temporarily for interpretation mindless mechanism to pass over.

For Platonism, mechanical simulations that closely mimic every detail stand on the same foundations as rough approximations, kinematic reconstructions, literary descriptions, empty speculations, dreams or even accidental stammering: everything can be interpreted as a picture of realities. The more accurate representations only have a sharper focus and merge less alternative worlds. Yet there isn't a huge difference between an ordinary one live-Simulation of a world and a simulation that has been completely changed and a book or movie as Witnesses needed to relate to the unfolding events?

In both cases, meaningful interaction is only possible through an interpretation that connects the simulated world with the outside world. In an interactive simulation, the visualization mechanism is no longer passive and superfluous, but a bidirectional channel that guides information to and from the simulation. Such a channel can also exist in books or films that contain alternative scenarios for possible inputs. Texts for programmed learningas popularized in earlier decades, had such a form as: "When you answered A, go to page 56, when you answered B, go to page 79 ...". Some laser disk video games create an interactive simulation by playing video clips based on the player's actions. Mathematically, every interactive mechanism, be it a robot or a human, can be understood as a compact coding of a script with reactions to all kinds of recorded stories. Platonism asserts that the soul is represented not in the mechanics of coding, but in the abstract relations.

This position seems to have dire moral implications. If the simulation just opens windows into Platonic realities and robots and humans, just like books, films or computer models, are only images of these entities, then it should be no worse to abuse a human, an animal or a sentient robot than to abuse yourself Deciding on a gruesome act in a video game or interactive book - all you see is pre-existing realities. But decisions have consequences for those who meet them, thanks to the strange combination of physical law and the psychological interpretation that creates individual strands of consciousness with unforeseen futures and unalterable pasts. Through our decisions we find our way through the multitude of possible worlds, we pass equally real worlds with equally real versions of ourselves and others and decide on the world in which we have to live. So is there no difference between cruelty towards people in interactive books or video games and people you meet on the street?

Books and games affect the future of the reader or player only through the mind, and actions in them tend to be reversed when the experience is forgotten. In contrast, physical actions are more important because their consequences unfold irreversibly. If past material events could be changed as easily as in some tales of time travel, then would real life given the moral meaning of a video game. What is more confusing, however, is that any completed action whose effects are negligible can fall into the category of a video game.

The creators of hyper-realistic simulations - or even of safe material prisons - that contain individuals writhing in pain are no more evil than the writers of a fictional story about tormented people, or when I write this sentence that is written down in all vagueness this relates. The suffering already exists before in the underlying Platonic worlds and the authors only consider it. The importance of carrying out such simulations is limited to the effect on readers who may be influenced by the experience, and by the possibility of "escapes" - tormented spiritual beings who could in principle escape to the world in data networks or to haunt material bodies. Possible tormentors and annoying demons must certainly be considered a moral consequence. In this way, mistreating humans, intelligent robots, or individuals in high-resolution simulations has a greater moral significance than doing the same in low-resolution simulations or in fictional works - not because the suffering individuals are more real (they are not ), but because the likelihood of undesirable consequences is greater in our own future world.

The strangest implication of this chain of thought is that anything can be interpreted as having some abstract property. Given the right script, the thermal collision of atoms in a stone can be viewed as the action of a complex, self-conscious mind. That's pretty weird. We perceive ourselves as having a ghost, but we don't believe stones have one. But interpretations are often ambiguous. The incomprehensible tones and noises on one day can become meaningful thoughts on another if you have learned a foreign language in the meantime. Is the Mount Rushmore Monument a rock formation or does it represent the faces of four presidents? Is the figure of a ventriloquist a piece of wood, a human simulacrum, or a personality that participates in the body and mind of the ventriloquist? Is a video game a box of silicone pieces, an electronic circuit that operates its own flips, a computer that follows a long list of commands, or a large two-dimensional world inhabited by the Mario brothers and their mushroom opponents?

Sometimes we exploit distant interpretations: An encrypted message is meaningless gibberish unless it can be decoded by a deliberately incomprehensible decoding. Humans have always used a modest number of interpretations, but computers expand the horizons. The first electronic computer was built around by Alan Turing interesting Finding interpretations of war messages sent from Germany to his submarines. As our thoughts become more powerful, so does our repertoire of usable interpretations. We can discover levers and joints in animal limbs and beauty in the dawn: ours Mind Children are perhaps able to recognize perfectly functioning intelligent mechanisms in the complex chemical processes of plants, interstellar clouds or the tremors of cosmic rays. No particular interpretation is excluded, but the space of all interpretations is exponentially greater than the scope of individual interpretations - and we may never be able to capture more than an infinitely large fraction of it.

The spirit of the stones may always be lost for us in the vast sea of ​​chaotic stone interpretations. Yet the spirit of the stones is quite evident to them and we are lost to them in the meaningless chaos. Therefore, only a fraction of all possible interpretations is likely to be decisive for our existence.

Without selection there is no content and no meaning. The realm of all possible worlds is infinitely large from one perspective and empty from another. Imagine a book that contained the detailed history of a world similar to ours. The book is written as densely as possible: the execution of the details is left to the readers as housework. But even with maximum compression, it would be an astronomical volume, filled with novelty and exciting content - the entire library would be adequately defined by the short and boring sentence in italics. The library as a whole contains so little content that the effort to get a book out of it is the same as to write one. There could be stacks of books in the library with the inscription of A. to Z is enough, and a few more for a more precise subdivision, which branch into similarly labeled sub-stacks, which in turn branch into sub-stacks and so on endlessly. At each branch point there is a book, the content of which is the sequence of letters in the stacks you have chosen to get to it. Any book can be found in the library, but to do this the reader must first select a first letter, then a second, then a third, just as someone writes a book by adding a character to each key. The content of the book depends entirely on the choices made by the reader. The library does not contain any additional information.

Although the content is free everywhere, the library contains an infinite number of individual books with insanely interesting stories. Individuals in some of these books, isolated from the huge mess that make the library worthless from an outside perspective, may very well take pleasure in their own existence by perceiving and interpreting their own history in a consistent way that it reveals its own importance - a recipe that is probably the secret of life and existence, and the reason for finding ourselves in a large and orderly universe with consistent physical laws, one that has a direction of time and a long evolutionary history.

Universal recognition

If our world itself stands out from the vast (and inexplicable) plurality of possible worlds through the act of self-awareness and self-knowledge, then who is the perceiver and the knower? The human mind may be able to interpret its own actions as conscious and thus protect itself from a meaningless existence as a zombie, but we are few humans and other living beings - pinned to a spot in a dark corner and only occasionally and darkly aware of the most distinctive features of our immediate surroundings and direct past - unable to give meaning to the entire visible universe, which is full of unimaginable surprises, 10 to the power of 40 times larger and 10 to the power of 70 times more extensive and has existed 10 to the power of 10 times longer than we ourselves. Our current understanding seems more like a cartoon in the weekend newspaper.

In the book The Anthropological Cosmological Principle by the physicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler and in Tipler's latest publication The Physics of Immortality, the assertion is made that the decisive sections of history will only lie in our future when the universe is stronger than the arbitrary achievements of intelligence will be shaped by the simple and blind laws of physics. In their cosmology of the future, as in mine, intelligent beings made by humans will spread out in space until the whole reachable universe is inhabited by a coherent spirit, which influences the events from the microscopic dimension of the quanta to the macroscopic dimension of the universe also uses part of its energy to recall the past.

Tipler and Barrow predict that the universe is closed. It is large enough to accommodate its present expansion in a future one Big Bang to reverse again, perhaps by inscribing itself in the cosmic background radiation. As a result of the Big Bang, the temperature of the radiation rises and therefore its frequency as well as the speed of the mind, and there are more and more high-frequency waveforms to store information. Through careful control that Event horizons avoids causing its components to become detached from one another, and through the use of the Gravitational thrust From the asymmetries of the Big Bang, according to Tipler and Barrow, the cosmic spirit can gain greater computing power and greater memory capacity during each remaining half of time up to the final singularity than it did in the previous half and thus an infinity of time that never ends and experience of thinking.

When he thinks, effects from the past of the universe combine in him. There is enough information, time and thinking capacities to recreate, enjoy, judge and perfect every detail every moment. Tipler and Barrow claim that this final, subjectively eternal act of infinite self-interpretation actually creates our universe and sets it apart from others lost in the library of possibilities. We really exist because our actions end up in these Omega point (a term that comes from the Jesuit Teilhard de Jardin, a paleontologist and radical philosopher).

Tipler's new book presents the future cosmology of the omega point in detail and combines the transcendent conclusions from these strictly physical considerations with the central beliefs of the great world religions. It most likely indicates the beginning of the end of the centuries-long schism between those who explore the nature of things and those who seek meaning.

An unusual mind

Although our eyes and arms make it easy to foresee that rocks would lift up, work like a lever, or fly an arrow, the mechanics were a deep mystery to our overly thoughtful ancestors, who pondered how stones fall, how smoke rises, or the moon calmly pulls its tracks. Newton's mechanics revolutionized science through the precise formalization of eye and muscle intelligence and opened up a physically satisfactory intellectual access to the material world for the Victorian era. In the 20th century, this common sense approach was gradually expanded to include biology and psychology. Physics, however, has since gone beyond common sense. It had to be revised, as it turned out, because the light did not fit into the framework of Newtonian physics.

In one fell swoop, the intuitive understanding of space, time and reality was destroyed - first by the theory of relativity, in which time and space change depending on the perspective, and finally more seriously by quantum mechanics, in which events lose their objective existence. Although the new theories correctly described the everyday mechanics and the important properties of the world such as the stability of atoms and the finiteness of thermal radiation, they attacked common sense so strongly at the level of concepts and conclusions that they continue to be misunderstandings and relentless to this day Induce defense attempts. But the attack will get even more violent. General relativity, which is extremely accurate at large scales and masses, has not yet been brought into agreement with quantum mechanics, which is extremely accurate at small scales and huge concentrations of energy. Attempts to unite them into a single theory, which have not yet been completed, point to possibilities that even exceed their individual, strange-seeming properties.

The strangeness begins behind the edges of the everyday world. When objects move from one place to another, Common Sense believes that it is due to a single particular trajectory. But that's not the case, says quantum mechanics. In an unobserved flight, a particle takes every possible path at the same time until it is observed again. The indeterminacy of the trajectory is evident in the interference pattern created by waves that propagate and reconnect, superimpose where they meet, and cancel where they get out of step. A photon, neutron or even an entire atom sent to a series of detectors through a screen with two slits will always miss a certain number of detectors because the wave of its possible positions after it has flown through the two slits, pick up there.

Experimental results gradually imposed the worldview of quantum mechanics on reluctant physicists during the first quarter of the 20th century. This view is still incomplete. The theory can precisely describe the unobserved when a particle propagates like a wave, for example. But it fails because of the definition or because of the determination of the act of observation, if the Wave function collapses and the particle appears at exactly one of its possible locations with a probability that depends on the intensity of its wave there. This can happen when the detector responds, when the measuring instruments connected to the detector register this, when the experimenter notices the information from the measuring instruments or even when the world is notified of the result in the physics magazines!

In principle, if not in practice, the moment of collapse can be determined: before the collapse, possibilities such as waves interfere and create interference patterns; after the collapse, possibilities simply add up in the usual way. Very small objects like neutrons moving through slits create visible interference patterns. Unfortunately, however, large and heavy objects such as particle detectors or observing physicists would produce much smaller interference patterns than atoms, which would be indistinguishable from the probability distribution of common sense because they are so easily blurred by thermal fluctuations.

Since common sense is easier for humans than quantum theory, normal physicists believe that the breakdown will happen as soon as possible, for example when a particle hits the detector first. But this point of view is one thing early breakdown can have strange implications. It assumes that the wave function has repeatedly collapsed and not collapsed in well-conducted experiments that allow measurements to be reversed through an arbitrary cancellation at the discretion of the experimenter.

This yo-yo of the wave function is switched off if the collapse is assumed to occur further upstream, where it is impossible to undo the measurement, for example if the result has been impressed on the mind of an experimenter. This thought has motivated some philosophically minded physicists to claim that consciousness itself is the mysterious process of wave breakdown that quantum theory cannot identify.

Breakdown through consciousness means that the world behaves according to quantum mechanics until a person observes it. At that moment it becomes generally perceptible. This theory sets aside philosophical problems for experimental physicists, but it leads to problems for cosmologists whose field is the entire universe, for it assumes that the world around individual and conscious observers is riddled with collapsed wave functions. These breakdowns are not amenable to theory and cannot be quantified experimentally, which is why it would be impossible to form equations for the entire universe. But how can one universal wave function, in which every particle propagates like a wave for all times, can be brought into agreement with individual experiences for which particles are in certain positions?

Hugh Everett addressed this question in his doctoral thesis. If, he has shown, one starts from a universally evolving wave function, in which the configuration of a measuring device just like that of a particle propagates like a wave through its space of possibility, then the ubiquitous wave function has, if two instruments have measured the same event , its maximum size in situations where the records overlap, and is suspended where they do not coincide with each other. A height in the combined wave thus represents a possibility in which, for example, an instrument, the memory of an experimenter and the entries in a notebook agree that a particle might be - an outstanding common sense. But the whole wave function has many such heights, each representing a consensus on a different outcome.

Everett has shown that quantum mechanics, when freed from problematic collapsing wave functions, still allows predictions about common sense worlds - only it does so about very many worlds, all of which are slightly different. The no collapse-View was considered that many-worlds-Interpretation of quantum mechanics known. Its implication that every observation causes the world to branch out into about 10 to the power of 100 different experiences seemed to offend the common sense so extraordinarily that it was passionately rejected by many. Although cosmologists worked with the universal wave function, its connection with the everyday world was overlooked for another 20 years.

Refined experiments recently conducted, which confirmed most of the intellectually elusive predictions of quantum mechanics, increased the value of the many-worlds-Theory versus other interpretations that require other influences for skipping time and space to explain the correlations observed. The theoretical route that Everett first trod is being driven on and further expanded. Since the late 1980s, James Hartle and Murray Gell-Mann have explored their basic concepts of measurement and probability.

Everett had shown that the conventional rules for the collapse of the wave function in terms of the probabilities resulting from a measurement of outside of a system would be consistent with what a inner Observer in any version would report. As a result, the necessity of an outside or a collapse was no longer given and our consciousness became the basis of existence for many worlds. He never tried to show how these special rules of measurement first came about. Gell-Mann and Hartle ask this difficult question. They are still far from a final solution, but their work shows how special - or illusory - the world of common sense really is.

Hartle and Gell-Mann say that when we try to observe and remember events in their smallest possible detail, i.e. in the dimension of 10 to the power of 30 centimeters - which is far smaller than what has been achieved so far - the interference of all possible worlds becomes seething Chaos without permanent structures, without a quiet place to store memories, and without consistent time. On a rough visual scale of 10 to the 15 centimeters, which corresponds to the submicroscopic world that is reached today by high-energy physics, a large part of the chaos remains unobserved and many worlds merge. This nullifies the wildest possibilities and leaves those in which the particles have a consistent existence and movement, even if they continue to remain unpredictable in a vacuum, the one with a fleeting one virtual Energy surges in front of you.

Everyday objects show the clean and predictable trajectories of common sense only because our weak senses are even coarser and cannot perceive anything smaller than 10 to the power of 5 centimeters. At magnitudes that exceed the everyday (or the dissolution of Gell-Mann), the events of interest are merged in such a way that they become invisible. The universe is then boring and predictable. In the largest possible dimension, the matter of the universe is canceled out by the negative energy in its gravitational fields (which, when matter collapses, intensify while releasing energy) and there is nothing at all as a sum.

No complete theory can yet explain our existence and our experiences, but there are indications as to how this could be done. The tiny worlds simulated in our computers are often characterized by adjustable rules that control the interaction between neighboring regions. If the interactions are made quite weak, the simulations quickly freeze in a monotony; if they are very strong, the simulated space can simmer intensely in a chaotic boom. There is a narrow one between the extremes Edge of chaos with enough leeway to create interesting structures and enough calm to allow them to exist and interact with one another.

Such borderline universes can contain structures that use stored information to generate other things. This can include perfect or incomplete copies of these structures, allowing a Darwinian evolution of complexity. If physics itself shows a spectrum of degrees of interaction, then it is no surprise that we ourselves live on the fluid frontier of chaos, since we could neither live in frozen ice nor in formless fire, nor could we have evolved.

What is strange about the spectrum of Gell-Mann and Hartle is that it is not an external button that controls the degree of interaction, but rather changing interpretations of a single fundamental, observer-generated reality that is part of the interpretation. This is the same loop of self-interpretation that we encountered when looking at observers within simulations. We are in the world that we perceive who we are because we see ourselves that way. There are almost certainly other observers in exactly the same areas of the wave function who see everything completely differently and to whom we are simply meaningless noise.

The similarity between the many worlds Everetts and the Philosophical possible worlds but it may get bigger. In quantum mechanics the many worlds Physical constants have, among other things, certain values. Gravity on objects like black holes breaks the rules, and a complete quantum theory of gravity can perhaps predict possible worlds well beyond Everett's scale. And who knows what possible refinements are still waiting for us?

It might turn out that as we push through ever wider layers of interpretation, physics becomes less and less of a constraint on the nature of things. The regularities we observe are possibly only a consequence of self-reflection: We have to see the world as compatible with our existence - with a strong arrow of time, reliable probabilities through which complexity can develop and exist, experience accumulates in reliable memories and the Consequences of behavior become predictable. Our Mind Childrenthat can influence their own substance and structure down to the smallest details, are likely to far transcend our narrow understanding of what is.

Questioning reality

Like organisms that evolved in calm tidal puddles and then migrated to freezing seas or steaming jungles, inventing metabolisms, mechanisms, and behaviors suitable for these harsher and larger environments, our offspring may find ways to get far from the venturing out into the comfortable areas that we call reality and arbitrarily penetrating the strange volumes of the library, in which anything is possible. Their techniques will be as meaningless to us as bicycles are to fish, but perhaps we can develop our common sense bound and thus tied imagination far enough to look a little bit into this strange land.

Physical quantities such as the speed of light, the attraction of electrical charges and the strength of gravity are for us the unchangeable basis on which everything is built. But if we are the result of self-interpretation, then this stability could only reflect the specificity of our own construction - our biochemistry would not function properly if the physical constants changed and we would have to die. For the same reason, the rules had to be kept stable over a long period of time so that evolution could build our many intricate, interlocking internal mechanisms.

Our technically designed descendants are perhaps more flexible. Possibly there will be bodies which house a spirit and which can adapt to small changes, for example in the constant of the electrical attraction. An individual who adjusts his body to a slightly higher constant would then have to find himself in a correspondingly changed universe. That would be a one-way trip without returning. Knowledge of the previously formed bodies would be seen wither in the midst of fireworks flashing everywhere, just as stable atoms and compounds disintegrated before. Turning the switch back would not restore the lost continuity of life and substance. Returning to the old universe, everything would be normal, only the recognition would bear witness to a strange "switch suicide". Such irreversible divorces occur elsewhere in physics. The many-worlds-Interpretation requires them in a subtle way on every recorded observation. The general theory of relativity opens up dramatic Event horizons: an observer who falls into a black hole sees a previously inaccessible universe in front of him at the moment in which he loses the possibility of communicating something to friends who have stayed outside.

Visiting universes in which the reliable predictability of common sense no longer applies is probably too difficult with crude techniques such as those in the previous chapter. It is much more likely that mechanical fluctuations or other effects will interfere with attempts to readjust a body on an ongoing basis than that physical constants will actually change. But once our descendants have mastered vast areas of the universe in great detail, they will be able to make the fine adjustments needed to navigate arbitrarily between possibilities - perhaps down to difficult but powerful areas. which are characterized by more extensive interactions than those between matter, space and time. Time travel, a technology that is still a long way from us but is already faintly visible on the horizon, can discover traces of some of these topics.

Translated from English by Florian Rötzer (Hans Moravec)

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