The existence of divergent measurements is interesting. In an internally-extensible logical system, such as culture or information and communications systems, the self-inflating (and accelerating) potential is a function of the extent of internal connectivity and cross-reference; globally – of self-reference. More recent entities, references, processes are bound to be perceived or measured as moving faster as their motion and momentum is directly-related to their interdependencies with the rest of the informational and energetic system and its entities, references, etc. Holistic analyses introduce specific classes of logical opportunities for terrestrial information and energy systems to self-propagate themselves. Either way, there is something very likely at an axiomatic level which requires reconsideration here. At a Cosmological level, this is perhaps best fought-out by theorists with theorems at 12, 13, 14, (…) paces.
On the self-gravitating mass of political, cultural and sociological or information and communications contexts: it is more than a metaphor. There are elementary information and communications-system (logical, topological, relational and perhaps analytically-inevitable) dynamics which approximate to recursive self-gravitation and the literal reflexive warping of technological, economic, political, cultural and semantic spaces back upon, into and through themselves. There are aspects of holistic or global-systems analysis in which not only are informal approximations to self-gravitation of uniquely-compelling impact, but in which such internal, logical hyper-inflation almost inevitably ends up assuming this kind of shape and self-reflexive dynamical symmetry.
It is salient to acknowledge that there may be many such abstractions (or projections) of gravitational centre in integrated and self-inflating logically-incomplete information and communications systems. What in any one context of interpretation or dimensional “slice” of the possibility-space appears as a centre is just as easily rendered under alternative perspectives or under divergent recombinatory axioms as the periphery of another similarly abstract gravitational mass.
In some perhaps necessarily indistinct sense these are communications systems undergoing semantic and contextual frame-dragging, acceleration, compression and emergent-systems self-propagation. Stepping off from a clockwork world of linear dynamics and a simple algebra of actors, effects and geopolitical stages into a new conceptual vocabulary of complex and multidimensional, plastic spaces and warping logical dimensions of political, economic, social and cultural analysis; ditching an analytical steam engine for an explanatory tesseract.
Context: The Multiverse As Muse
I once backpacked around the world alone but for my scant belongings and two books: Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Human, all too Human” and (philosopher) John Leslies’ Cosmological survey “Universes” (Routledge, 1989). Both fascinating reads and each in their own way. From memory, John Leslie made in this book some strong assertions in regards to multiverses, cosmological fine-tuning and the Anthropic Principle.
However, in a multiverse cosmos there does not necessarily need to be anything particularly special about that particular constellation, configuration or possibility-space of constants and fundamental forces within which one finds themselves any more than that on a random walk through a large forest you will always find yourself to be precisely in whatever location you happen to find yourself located. It is simply tautological to assert that there is something special about the fact that you should just happen to find yourself in a Universe finely-tuned for the possibility of your own existence.
Some additional background: on the Anthropic Principle(s) –
A wander through: the implicit tautologies of the Anthropic Principle, clear-thinking logic, physics, and a Principle of Chocolate Necessity with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Captain
Jack Sparrow Physicist of the Caribbean –
Peripherally related: On the topic of Free Will and the multiverse, one random walk and relatively brief free-falling flight-of-fancy –
It is quite possible that multiple Universes, in fact – a countless panoply of such branching worlds, do actually exist. If you are interested in why this is considered plausible, try searching for “Many Worlds Interpretation” or try this as a staging point into the peculiarities of it all:
Having graduated from Wikipedia, try some post-wiki study at the excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
When asked which interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (QM) he favoured, physicist Richard Feynman once (apocryphally) replied “Shut up and calculate.” You can make your own determinations as to how to proceed. If you are fortunate enough to possess sufficient mathematical training, go get some QM. For the rest of us, left wondering what exactly it means (for instance) that some subatomic particles rotate 720° through their own abstract mathematical world to instantiate a rotation of 360° in the world of our own (primary, empirical, derived-from-our-senses) experience, the mind is but left to boggle in wonder.
Multiverses are fascinating things. Difficult to capture cognitively, comprehend or articulate and communicate to such relatively simple and linear-narrative-or-time-constrained beings such as ourselves; beyond the mathematical intricacies of contemporary physics it is perhaps best left to the poets, (the other) writers and the artists to visualise and communicate the strange worlds of possibility, interpretation and hypothesis which percolate out of the labs, notebooks and the offices of theoretical physicists.
An interesting read on the topic of science, literature and the multiverse concept; sampled in part below. Visit the article for the full text, it is not particularly long or challenging but of authentic interest to anyone interested to trace the etymology and semantics underlying the concept of a “Multiverse”.
Historically, the multiverse was a religious concept, not a physical one—a way to prove God’s existence and benevolence, culminating in the work of the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. That sentiment is also clear in the portrayal of the multiverse in earlier literature: The many worlds and branching stories of William Blake’s The Four Zoas, written in the late 1700s and early 1800s, for instance, form a multiverse of sorts—but the context is also spiritual in nature.
The multiverse is a natural outcome of modern philosophy, fiction, and physics. Traces of the idea are already visible in the work of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who turns Leibniz’s argument for “the best of all possible worlds” on its head by proposing that we instead live in “the worst of all possible worlds.” “For possible means not what we may picture in our imagination, but what can actually exist and last,” Schopenhauer wrote. “Now this world is arranged as it had to be if it were to be capable of continuing with great difficulty to exist; if it were even a little worse, it would be no longer capable of continuing to exist.”
Schopenhauer’s words contain the seed of the anthropic principle, which states that physical properties of the universe—values such as the cosmological constant or the force of gravity, which seem “finely tuned” to meet the needs required for life—must be compatible with the existence of observers who study those properties.
I imagine that part of the beauty of an equation in physics lies in the sense in which it serves as an algorithmic information compression of the phenomena, system or relationship it describes; that the real world can then in some sense be extracted, extrapolated or successfully modelled from the equation. It seems that this relative simplicity is deceptive and possesses an implicit semantic network-reference or foundational information-system inversion. The extensive education, comprehension, intelligence and knowledge-acquisition required to understand these weighty hieroglyphics indicates an interesting feature of semantic compression as a more broadly-considered component of intelligence, information and communication: that the string/symbols of an equation compresses the material description of reality in what is proportional to the extent of a logical or referential inflation of the significance and contextual, relational system within which these symbols are considered meaningful.
I am no physicist, nor mathematician, but I would be interested in hearing feedback from those quite literally “in the know” on how they would characterise this relationship between message, equation or theory compression and the extensive intellectual and contextual-knowledge requirements necessary to be able to comprehend those theories. While the short-form description of a material system contained within an equation can be decompressed into effective modelling and predictive descriptions of physical reality, at an information and communications level it seems as though the compression to a narrow set of symbols and mathematical relationships occurs synchronously with the displacement of a proportional, equivalent quantity of required knowledge and expertise external to the equation.
In language: where a complex word or compound phrase most effectively captures or articulates a specific question, solution or description of an actual state of affairs in the world, its effective use in message transmission is dependent upon a variety of factors. The intelligence and vocabulary of the intended receiver of the message generally has to be assumed or taken for granted, albeit true that writing to a more general audience usually implies the use of simple words and many more sentences to convey the same message that complex words and clever idioms or motifs might achieve in less overall message information-complexity and string-length.
The use of specialist vocabularies and contextual knowledge allows for message compression, but at the apparently mandatory cost of displacing the complexity elsewhere: into assumed knowledge, specialist technical skills, cultural contexts or extensive experience and (again) into an implicit, certain assumed level of intelligence in the message recipient or target audience.
Consider by way of analogy the Minimalist movement in (predominantly American) art of the 1960’s and 1970’s. While the visual aesthetic encoded for the most part significantly less information, there was (simultaneous to this information compression in the artefact) a broad and distributed decompression of complexity and semantics or cultural and specialist vocabularies into the various manifestos and media buzz generated around the art movement. The information was still there, even when attempts were made for diverse reasons of political, ideological or spiritual motivation to simplify and compress the objects, paintings, sculptures and architecture down to their simplest and most reductive forms. Isolating centralised semantic components in this sense required a concomitant specialist vocabulary and cultural context to “unpack”. In a broader cultural context this decompression also produced Minimalism-lite filtered through the art establishment and market as rendered in media and literature for an art-consuming public; generating in this way a self-propagating second-order commercial network of semantics and attributed commercial value. (Popular-science literature serves a similar function in regards to the equations, conceptual vocabularies and theoretical education of a broader-public, although aesthetic equivalency between equations and art-objects is perhaps a unique request of any imagination).
It seems to the mathematically unitiated that advanced physical equations are a little like this minimalist enigma. That the reduction to short strings of symbols and mathematical relationships inversely displaces vast swathes of assumed or required knowledge elsewhere such that, while I acknowledge and deeply respect the beauty, depth and explanatory power of mathematics in physical theory, the view from here is that the relative simplicity of an equation is always implicitly dependent upon a complex network of assumed or implied information and knowledge external to it, a theoretical context perhaps but not necessarily limited to this as full comprehension clearly requires more than mere generalised insights or intuitions. Information and model or equation compression in this sense is always multiplex and synchronous with decompression and displacement into wider contexts and knowledge systems.
Equations are epistemologically consistent or sensible within theoretical systems and these systems of explanation are probably the location of the first-order context, semantics and vocabulary decompression of those equations. At higher-degrees of comprehension of the complexity and abstraction underlying those equations – the relative simplicity (i.e. string/symbol-compression) of the equation is perhaps always at this implicit cost of complexity displaced elsewhere into knowledge and cultural or technical-semantic contexts.
Art by Piet Mondrian.
“No matter how far mathematics progresses and no matter how many problems are solved, there will always be, thanks to Gödel, fresh questions to ask and fresh ideas to discover. It is my hope that we may be able to prove the world of physics as inexhaustible as the world of mathematics… If it should turn out that the whole of physical reality can be described by a finite set of equations, I would feel disappointed.”
– F. J. Dyson. Infinite in all Directions. London: Penguin Books, 1990, p. 53.
The idea that Gödel’s logical insights might reflect deeply upon physics is fascinating. I am still working hard to wrap my cortex fully around the logic and the theorems but, as I understand it, applied in this context of physical laws this suggests that there would always be further and deeper iterations and recombinatory organisational constellations of physical models and theory. This strikes me as absolutely and utterly beautiful.
“Big History is an emerging academic discipline which examines history from the Big Bang to the present. It examines long time frames using a multidisciplinary approach based on combining numerous disciplines from science and the humanities, and explores human existence in the context of this bigger picture.” Wikipedia.
When seen through the framework of Big History we can define our various domains of study as Thresholds. We can consider that in some measure each Threshold requires “Goldilocks” conditions where the context and constituents of an environment are “just right” for the spontaneous emergence of fundamentally new and novel forms of self-organising complexity.
If we look back at the conditions which generate the emergence of any specific Threshold we may interpret those Goldilocks conditions as predetermining the conditions which allow for a new form of complexity which emerges at that historical moment. Looking back retrospectively to claim that the emergent properties of a specific system at a specific time are an inevitability is a little like looking back at a map that we have been drawing as we are travelling through unknown terrain — of course any significant geographical features will appear in retrospect to have been inevitable as, having now been recorded in the map, they clearly come into (intelligible) existence at the moment of being recorded.
Looking back at the history of the Universe in this way and from the privileged viewpoint we possess (i.e. we exist and have the technical and intellectual capacity required to know the conditions required for us to do so), we might presume that our own arrival on the cosmic stage is a self-evident inevitability. The belief that our own existence in the Universe is in some sense probable or even inevitable is known as the Anthropic Principle. The Anthropic Principle comes in two flavours: weak and strong.
Definition of Anthropic Principle
a) : conditions that are observed in the universe must allow the observer to exist — called also weak anthropic principle
b) : the universe must have properties that make inevitable the existence of intelligent life — called also strong anthropic principle
In the context of Big History, we are examining a historical thread-of-pearls measured by a sequence of Thresholds which culminate in the arrival of sentient creatures who develop the scientific wherewithal to look back into the conditions of their origins. The very specific series of events, coincidences, emergent properties, parameters of natural laws and any number of contributing factors seem to form a vast tapestry of directed probability towards our existence.
The weak anthropic principle is a reflection on the fact that if things were otherwise than they are or if the multitudinous coincidences had followed anything but the specific causal path that they have, we would not be here to observe it — that the “(…) observed values of all physical and cosmological quantities are not equally probable but they take on values restricted by the requirement that there exist sites where (…) life can evolve and by the requirement that the Universe be old enough for it to have already done so.” [Source.] Otherwise said: the Universe has conditions that allow you to exist and this is why you do exist.
The strong anthropic principle is much more ambitious: “The Universe must have those properties which allow life to develop within it at some stage in its history.” [Source.] This is to say that the parameters and tendencies written into matter and energy and expressed through the laws of physics must inevitably result in the existence of life and this is why you exist.
In regards to the Thresholds of Big History, the weak anthropic principle characterises our existence as being a kind of “happy coincidence” and convergence of probabilities over vast time scales. The strong anthropic principle states that our existence (or something or someone similar to us) is an inevitability. There are different interpretations of the strong anthropic principle, see this link.
If Goldilocks conditions are required for a Threshold or a causal sequence of Thresholds to occur, I think that we are more likely experiencing a weak anthropic principle — that we are the results of a fortunate sequence of random accidents that have blindly led to our existence. That the parameters of physical reality are apparently finely-tuned [see recommended text “Universes”, below] to what is necessary (i.e. Goldilocks conditions) for any number of Thresholds to have just randomly fallen out of history is a fact which we can never be in a position to affirm as a process that has been in any sense directed or inevitable. From within the system of the Universe we can probably never successfully prove any statements which require a “meta-” or external, Archimedean viewpoint to justify.
In the light of the pure naked fact of our existence in the Universe, it may not ultimately matter which anthropic principle we choose to believe in. The consequences lie in the reflection that a weak anthropic principle supports more of a daisy-chain of entirely random and coincidental events which allow for the arrival of fertile Goldilocks conditions and their subsequent (and retrospectively fortuitous) Thresholds. The strong anthropic principle states that the arrival of sentience is inevitable. Probable or inevitable, which bowl of porridge do you choose ?
The Cosmological Anthropic Principle, John D. Barrow, Frank J. Tipler, John A. Wheeler, Oxford University Press, 1988 – link.
Universes, John Leslie, Routledge, 1989 – link.
The Existential Pivot
A philosophical problem is: for all of the beauty and explanatory power of the block-time model and the plane-of-simultaneity-pivot of General Relativity, what is it that existentially, experientially privileges the current moment ? The existential experience of “Now” may be relative, as an experience it may be spectacularly insignificant on a cosmological spatial or temporal scale, but it does appear to be moving forward in a unified sense that we can all agree on any specific consensus experience as in some sense “moving” from past into future. I am impressed by physics and relativity (both Special and General) but I feel that for it’s profound predictive and theoretical implications, it still fails to account for the lived, conscious experience of the moving now.
Block spacetime appears to invalidate the privileged observer and yet the human experience does appear to be as of an indefinitely (procedurally) collapsing wave function, of a rolling phase transition, or of some other distinctive “difference” represented by the current, experienced moment or Now. A problem with the all-at-once existence of time in the spacetime model is that there is no privileged place, no specification of a rolling node or nexus of now.
If “Now” is only a local concept which is defined by human-scale living beings which are dependent on very specific energy and information flows, causality and thermodynamics for their material existence and thought processes, what is it that privileges the current (moving) moment and experience of Now ?
I began writing this around 09:21 on the 17 December 2017, the Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066, the formation of planet Earth occurred some 4.6 billion years ago, and these are all events occurring on a spacetime continuum of sequential and logical causality. Any individual event in the continuum happens at its own Now which is not in any sense privileged other than its appearance in a specific place in the past or future of other Nows in the temporal “stack”. My great-grandfather was born, lived and died and during his life experienced the Now, the rolling moment of existential awareness that precisely is time on a human scale. I am similarly experiencing this Now but the moment is a different one to the one my great-grandfather experienced. I am curious as to why any specific moment appears to possess an identity, a more or less “concrete” reality – what is it that defines or distinguishes the current, lived moment from all the other moments and Nows in the stack ?
If there is no privileged temporal location in a four-dimensional spacetime continuum, why can we all agree that there is a (or some) process going on here and that we are moving forward in (what is at least, cosmologically-speaking, locally) a logically sensible progression through time ?
Is the experience of time merely a biological curiosity or psychological artefact, a happy accident of life as an aggregate of structural coincidences at a particular nexus and scale of physics and chemistry ? Event then – the mystery of the apparent current moment, inexorably rolling forwards as it at least appears to; this remains a deep enigma.