Tautologically Totalitarian Totality And Why We Do Not Accept It
    By Sascha Vongehr | March 3rd 2012 02:43 AM | 17 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    Quantum physics is close to the ultimate foundation of everything, but not because it is about little things. Quantum physics is not about little things; a radio-wave photon can be hundreds of meters long (in terms of wave length as well as coherence length). Physics is fundamentally the question of what is possible at all. With quantum mechanics, physics arrived at a point where we either face up to uncomfortable facts or refuse to follow science any further. Quantum physics is not important to consciousness because of some quantum magic in the brain that switches the light on, but because physics is fundamentally about all that is possibly possible for consciousness to be conscious about – a consistent description of all phenomena, telling us what is possible.

    Quantum physics is our starting to find the mathematical description that does not neglect any possibilities. At first we thought this encompasses only the alive and dead Schrödinger cats in our particular universe, but this immediately includes all the ways a universe may be described to unfold internally as its own Schrödinger box, so it contains anyway all possible universes; everything possibly phenomenal is included in the ultimate description, else it is not the ultimate description by definition. Nota bene: The core insight is not quantum (!); already with classical determinism would an ultimate description contain all possible worlds (including all possible initial conditions and time-like loops). "Many worlds" are tautologically true, already classically. However, quantum interference (entanglement) between alternatives makes not caring about alternatives a lot more difficult.

    Quantum physics therefore starts re-describing something that has been understood again and again throughout the ages, an insight that is trivially true but nevertheless only fully admitted by the pathologically rational: The tautologically totalitarian nature of totality. Totality is all that is possible. All possible is possible, that is all. Asking whether alternatives actually also “exist” (absolute rather than relative actualization) makes fundamentally no sense. Via quantum physics, we arrive at a more precise description of what wise people probably knew for thousands of years: Totality is totality is totality. There is nothing that any of your decisions add or subtract. All that is possible is possible; none of the impossible will be made possible. Fundamentally, you cannot ever remove the slightest bit of suffering; you can do nothing that would add a quantum of happiness.

    This total determinism* is more scary and unpalatable than the anti-realism that comes with quantum mechanics (which is the uncomfortable result people refuse to face which I usually write about, a quite different topic.)


    Why we find totality unpalatable

    Evolved reproducers that are conscious and have beginnings of rationality have evolved to rationalize their world in terms of purpose and agency, simply because this out-competes alternatives, thus humans fear such tautological truths, and they are unconsciously driven to fight them with all their powers of rationalization, as contemporary academic philosophy still clearly evidences. This rather more than mathematical difficulties, simply this fear of powerlessness slowed the progress of modern physics especially during the last hundred years and it is the source of the circular regress arguments that are the biggest problem in fundamental science and philosophy. Even most of those who work on relativity or quantum physics refuse the core of these modern forms of physics, which is a form of modal realism – the tautological triviality of that in a fundamental description, all equivalent alternatives (for example other points in time) are equivalent.

    There is nothing that your decisions add to totality. None of the possible can be made impossible. Of course, such insights are suppressed by evolved systems, everything else would be inconsistent. We would not be here otherwise, certainly not anywhere near the shape we are in. Your own existence and that of society ensures that such interpretations are taboo. This holds in precisely the same way as that you can only find yourself in a universe in which life can find itself. Such 'relativism' has been likened to a mortal disease, and that analogy is quite correct in a profound sense, however, I will refrain from touching that topic today. 

    Evolution is a selection process along an apparent time dimension, an emergent causal description. Fundamentally, nothing is selected, totality stays totality. Ultimately, evolution is one aspect of a self-consistent description. Self-consistency ensures that we defend your agency and ridicule modal realism as preposterous nonsense.

    My writing happens, my moral outrage is a rhetorical exercise that I find myself doing at times. The desire for a future state that is comfortable with answers and also remembers having been me has dwindled. The mere joy in or better obsession with ruminating remains: What is possible? If quantum physics as we know it today has no corrections from phenomenal consistency, if “terribly inconsistent states” are possible, is there no more to be said than that their low expectation value (~ probability) makes us label those states as madness? Is the answer to these questions to be found via more fundamental physics, via the derivation of Born probabilities from relational quantum mechanics, or is this all no more than resolving the details of Higgs mechanisms and string mathematics, basically a more sophisticated form of chemistry, until one fine day perhaps pure logic grasps the phenomenal redness of red?


    *I plan to explain the difference between classical determinism and quantum determinism allowing for apparent in-determinism, since many confuse quantum-in-determinism to mean that quantum physics is somehow not deterministic. Much like with a similar misrepresentation of chaos theory, which is also deterministic, such are misconceptions.


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    "The desire for a future state that is comfortable with answers and also remembers having been me has dwindled."

    Oh no! Don't let go. That state is possible, in fact, it's happening right now. Not in some other future possible state, but in the one you now remember. At least for me. I know that dwindling desire, and it's you I turn to to find solace in my suffering. You are my most reliable source. I find your honesty, scientific method, and passion to be totally trustworthy.

    The subject of this post is no exception. It is my understanding that those who are uncomfortable with answers are an unsurprising possible phenomenon. And not only possible but a fact, as your experience with this phenomenon shows. I take all such phenomenon as proof of your assertion, as is the phenomenon of your moral outrage.

    Yet in these "terribly inconsistent states" "the mere joy in or better obsession with ruminating remains". I am comfortable and I thank you.

    I know that dwindling desire, and it's you I turn to to find solace in my suffering. You are my most reliable source. I find your honesty, scientific method, and passion to be totally trustworthy. The subject of this post is no exception.
    ??? You got to be bait-trolling me or is it possible to get such a positive comment still today on the internet without some sort of hidden agenda or nuttiness?

    Anyway, desiring the state merely equals suffering unfulfilled desire without changing the possibility of the desired state. Especially: What is added by the state remembering having been me? That is surely nothing but my narcissistic vanity.

    (To be clear: The state may be "more consistent" if it recalls a strong longing for the answer, but this may also be wrong (desire itself blinds us) and moreover, my feeling to have decided for or against desire now does not change the possibility of the desired state)
    Bait-trolling you?? - No (no further discussion intended)

    "is it possible to get such a positive comment still today on the internet"? - "None of the possible can be made impossible."

    "some sort of hidden agenda"? - My only intention is to credit you for your contribution to my understanding.

    "or nuttiness" - Well maybe some would end saying so. The "low expectation value (~ probability) makes us label those states as madness".

    "Anyway..." - I understand. I was just concerned that your comfort with answers had dwindled.

    Well, then thank you very much for the encouraging comment. Internet is just so full of crazy s***, as you surely well know, if something positive comes along one can hardly believe it.
    tautological triviality of that in a fundamental description, all equivalent alternatives (for example other points in time) are equivalent
    Ah, well here we have a problem. You will of course recall my Bruce Almighty comment which St Gerhard mistook for a religious apologetic. It was mostly about this very issue. The most fundamental description places no restrictions on anything at all, it is a blank sheet of paper without the paper.
    Now to those readers who are wondering whether the sudden ringing in their ears means they have achieved Zen enlightenment, sorry to disappoint you, but you have not. Removing all metaphysics from science means not mentioning existence, reality or truth. Philosophy discovered that a few decades back, pretty recently as things go. Piddling about with consciousness and phenomenology just leads you up the same garden path (with no dharma-body of the buddha at the end of it for those who still think Zen allusions are helpful, you poor deluded loons).  In the end, you'll have to decide to get rid of consciousness too, leaving just a list of consistent descriptions (hey, why stick to consistent ones?), or else to put it on some kind of pedastal: "Consciousness Rules Reality okay?".
    Of course the real problem is not the list of totally sterile postulates but the fact that somewhere you have to sneak some metaphysics back - preferably under the radar so you get a reputation for being profound until someone calls your bluff. Not like poor old St Anselm who was totally in-your-face about it and argued that to exist was better than not to exist and therefore the best sort of God must be one that does exist. Wasn't it Kant who retorted "existence is not a predicate"? Here then is the crux of the matter. Without an overlay of metaphysics, science becomes vacuous day dreaming. Find a minimal set of operations and set your Turing machine to print out every possible world. If you can't afford a computer, use monkeys and typewriters. Or the bloggers on science20, it's all the same thing, though the signal-to-noise ratio declines catastrophically in the latter case.
    Thor Russell
    I always find it more than a little bit ironic as a scientist that the thing we attach the most importance to i.e. conscious experience makes the least scientific sense out of any phenomena I know of.
    Thor Russell
    The most fundamental description ... is a blank sheet of paper without the paper.
    Sorry, but no, we better stop right there; I distance myself from philosophy being vacuous sophistry. If I write "description", I mean a consistent terminology that scientists and philosophers agree on describes phenomena in a satisfying way. That may turn out impossible, but it certainly is not "a blank sheet of paper without the paper".
    Thor Russell
    I think you should write your own blog posts explaining philosophy, starting from some kind of basics so that readers can actually follow and learn rather than seeing an argument that few of us understand.
    Thor Russell

    Pure and uncomplicated quantum mechanics is linear from top to bottom ... and back to the top. It brings with it a minimum number of assumptions. The unitary ideal minimizes the number of needed postulates and gives (virtually) everything an equal and democratic footing. By being impartial and excluding nothing, it achieves the most with the least amount of equations. It gives us the best of all possible ways of solving the problem of existence.

    It is a theory of everything with the least number of equations. It is less constraining than classical physics or any theology known to man because it has the least number of equations to cover the unknowns. It knows when it is best to keep one's mouth shut. It has no artificial additives. It is a classic case of less is more and small is beautiful. I submit that Leibniz was close to the truth when he foreshadowed that our world (governed in its small way by quantum mechanics) is the best of all possible worlds/solutions.

    A first order deviation from the solution of existence that is our world, produces at most, a second order change in its appearances. That is how its linearity, stability and ground state is manifested.

    Much of the same you could write for special relativity (before the non-linear generalization in form of general relativity came along). A theory being still in its easy first baby steps does not imply that there are no non-linear complications in a more mature theory. The number of assumptions may be somehow minimal, but they have not been put into a self-evident form yet.
    John Hasenkam
    "this fear of powerlessness slowed the progress of modern physics especially"

    Same thing happened in theology with the Arminian-Calvinist debates about Free Will. Then there is the RC Church stand on pelagianism, all three variants basically an affirmation has to how much control we have over  our eternal fate. The debates continues everywhere, I don't know why. There was even the deep seated fear that the more extreme versions of Calvinism based on such texts as in Eph 1: x you were elected before the beginning of time, would lead to anti-nomianism and hence social chaos. Of course such things don't happen, just as atheists don't become murderous sociopaths, the causes of our behavior, as the neuroscientist Gazzaniga so wonderfully pointed out long ago, are often just so stories. We're not just deluded about ultimate reality but about the reality about ourselves. It works. 

    So what's the problem? Is it just because our culture has perpetually and perennially being sending us the message we are in control of our fate, that we can "know thyself", is that why we are so reluctant to let the myth go? Does it even matter that we cannot find concordance with the reality portrayed by QM and our everyday experience? Maybe it takes time for a whole culture to get used to that. How long did it take us to get used to idea that it is a lie to see the sun rise? Should an ultimate explanation be concordant with our everyday experience when that ultimate explanation dictates our everyday experience is incredibly constrained? 

    Well said, Sir.  I feared that Sascha was going to take me to task on the business of comparing the number of equations with the number of unknowns. I can only pretend to understand what Sascha is excited about, since for me, nothing much has changed since Bohr, except a closing in on just how robust is the unitary foundation for quantum gravity, thanks to work of John Preskill and others almost a decade ago.

    Yes, we pretend that there is no quantum gravity theory, yet that isn't going to take away the Wolf Prize from Bekenstein for work done 40 years ago. Long before Verlinde reminded us a few years ago how compelling the simple additive counting of microstates can be for deriving forces from gravity to elasticity, Hawking was counting the number of ways a black hole can form to have the same observable quantities of Mass, Spin and Charge. A black hole is in a sense just a very big elementary particle with just three parameters, albeit, they can change incrementally. Studies like these indicate that quantum mechanics needs no non-linear correction, even in the most extreme astrophysical conditions.

    A non-linear correction at our terrestrial scales would show up as a correction to fundamental probabilities …. as if prayer, for example, could change the outcome of 1000 Bernoulli Trials. I'm not betting on it.

    I am betting, however, that Sascha's next blog will be about in-determinism ….. and I'm pretty sure that I will not understand it because he will not explain anything as we were taught in first year algebra. Back then, if we were given three independent equations with three unknowns, we expected the unknowns to be determinable, unless there was a hidden trick. If we had three equations and just two unknowns, something could be overly determined and possibly inconsistent. That is how we learned the meaning of consistency versus inconsistency. If there were fewer equations than unknowns, then there was a looseness and indeterminacy in the system.

    Concerning particle physics, again, we have learned to not expect any single algebraic structure, not even E8 to rule them all. There are always pesky exceptions, CP violations and what-nots breaking the mold. So again, more unknowns than equations. Nature cannot be bridled … Here we are at the frontiers trying to wrap our minds and instruments around a Higgs particle that is supposed to explain how fermions can have mass. If this Higgs is simply a SCALAR, then that would again be a sign that fundamental physics is linear and additive. What could be simpler than having the Higgs particle be a scalar … with no spin, no charge and no color? The Byzantines will never accept it.

    pretend that there is no quantum gravity theory ... Bekenstein for work done 40 years ago. Long before Verlinde ... Studies like these indicate that quantum mechanics needs no non-linear correction, even in the most extreme astrophysical conditions.
    Oh the kitty messes it all up again. What you are talking about is on one hand semi-classical calculations that are obviously not the correct picture (we merely know in what circumstances their results are still trustworthy), and on the other hand stuff like Verlinde's that isn't even fully consistent with for example stringtheory black holes (which may or may not be close to real black holes internally), and then you use this to tell us that we already know there won't be any non-linearities because we have the final theory already (we obviously do not). Again - you could similarly argue drawing on different works about special relativity. That does not make general relativity wrong.

    It comes down to your use of “close” in your opening line “Quantum physics is close to the ultimate foundation of everything.” 

    If a significant non-linear correction is needed, then we are generations away from being close. 

    IF unitarity is going to carry the day for a long time, then we are close (for all the reasons already given by you and more). 

    I'm guessing it is one of those stories where people walk into paradise (California, Colombia, you name it) and don't accept it as such … and revert back to their usual miserableness.

    … or they fall back into the phenomenology of Husserl as partly demonstrated below.

    Civilization's normalized arguments are circular regress arguments= duality arguments. It is symptomatic of existential pathology. It is pathological.
    Remember that consciousness is newly emergent in the human animal species. Tautological totalitarian totality is not existentially pathological. It is pathological only in the words of duality. Rationality is absolutely rational and coherent. Existence WITH consciousness by definition collapses if we do not reason in terms of totality, part of which is not to merely observe what we observe only as approaching totality ("our thinking is incomplete") AND/OR only as what we observe ("consciousness is everything"), but as reverberation of totality, itself part of the music, specifically its harmonics.
    Practicing science, including physics, simply does not stand outside. It is dualistic to think that individual thinking or any thinking can be harmlessly "conducted" from outside.
    Physics simply is not and cannot be about knowing what can possibly exist. It can only be (sustainably) about knowing what can possibly be thought coherently as distant reverberation of what locally (on earth) exists. It can only be about what is phenomenologically possible without its existential music being destructively incoherent. In other words, it is about understanding what kind of knowing does not stand in reverberation of the destruction of the fabric of existence, and what kind of knowing stands in reverberation of its sustained existential integrity. It is about identifying good and bad knowing, instead of identifying good and bad people, as now happens (with the implosively infinite regress of dualism).
    It is about setting ideas free from the protective domestication, the abject fictional dualism of jealous individual opinion to the open wilderness of tautological totalitarian totality.
    ... and that allegorical. We cannot set ideas free. They will be free in a world in which consciousness is finally coherent.

    Sascha, what is your thoughts on the matter of overlap vs non-overlap in the branching of MWI?

    Proponents of the non-overlapping view often cite David Lewis on overlap issues in modal realism, so I figured you shoulld have a opinion on this

    If your not familiar with the distinction, here is some introduction to it:

    What is the difference that makes a difference between branching and diverging? If there is none, it is pure sophistry. It is either missing insight or forced upon him via the constraints of the publishing game, whatever it may be, but that approach is fundamentally flawed by yet again trying to write about the world as if it is directly real. I know of no useful definition of "exist" that would render totality existing. There is no MWI tree with fractal branches floating out there while god counts branches to establish Born probabilities. So, as much as I like some of the Saunders/Wallace stuff, Wilson does not say anything - at least I do not see it.