Block universe

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Block universe

Postby davidm on September 23rd, 2018, 3:38 pm 

In another thread or maybe two, Brent696 invoked the concept of the block universe and used it to cudgel … evolution, for some reason. Or maybe I know the reason.

I’m particularly interested in the science of the block, but in its philosophical implications, too. That’s why I’m dropping this thread here, mainly for the science, but if BiV thinks philosophy is a better fit, go for it. But here, I think, as is so often the case, science and philosophy necessarily overlap.

Perhaps the biggest exponent of the block is Vesselin Petkov at the Minkowski Institute. He maintains that the empirical findings of special and general relativity would be impossible unless Minkowski spacetime were more than some mathematical bookkeeping or a map of the territory. He maintains that it is impossible that we fail to live in a 4D block universe, and that Minkowski proved this, and that more, Minkowski’s findings have been ignored by science. Here is a representative sampling of his work.

Is Petkov right? If so, implications: Past, present and future all exist, timelessly. Eternalism is the correct interpretation of time, and presentism is false. All people (and everything else) exist, as it were, timelessly, as world tubes with their boundary conditions as birth and death. Passing time, change, and even motion itself, are illusions. Light, as Petkov maintains, does not move at c. It does not move at all.

Philosophical implications:

No free will (says Petkov): The future “already” exists, and no one can do anything about it.

Consciousness: The illusion of change, motion, and passing time is generated by, as Weyl put it: "The objective world merely exists, it does not happen; as a whole it has no history. Only before the eye of the consciousness climbing up in the world line of my body, a section of this world ‘comes to life’ and moves past it as a spatial image engaged in temporal transformation."

Eternal recurrence? I have not seen this discussed anywhere, but it seems to me that if we exist eternally between the boundary conditions of birth and death, we should expect that Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence is literally true and that when we die, we should expect to experience our life again from the start. This recurrence will go on without end. If consciousness moves along an eternalist world line, then it seems it ought to be the case that when it hits the end (death) it will simply pick up again at the start (birth), much like a video game on a screen, in which an object moves from the left edge of the screen to the right, and then remerges again on the left and retraces the same path.

My thoughts: the block world is probably correct. I think Petkov is persuasive in showing that in the absence of a block world, relativity theory would be false. However, there are many provisos to this.

I don’t agree that block world rules out free will.

Most problematically, Weyl’s idea of consciousness is incoherent. In a block world in which nothing changes and everything is static, how can consciousness move up a world line? What makes consciousness special in that it moves, when nothing else does? This could tie in, though, with Chalmer’s Hard Problem.

Petkov himself puts it this way: “…the physical world is a four-dimensional block Universe and it is the consciousness which moves along the worldtube of our body (reading the information stored in our brain at different moments of time) and creates the illusion that there is an objective distinction between past, present and future (i.e., that time really flows).”

Again, same problem as with Weyl’s take: how does consciousness “move” or change in a static universe in which nothing ever changes? Moreover, both Weyl’s and Petkov’s take on consciousness posit a special NOW, or preferred frame, in which this mysterious and undefined consciousness somehow “lights up,” so to speak, awareness from moment to moment. It seems this is in direct contradiction to the view of the static universe that they present, unless consciousness is somehow outside of space and time — a notion that smacks of supernaturalism, and a notion for which there is not a trace of evidence. Unless consciousness can be made to fit into the block without contradiction, and in a scientific way, the block picture, even if likely true, must either be actually false, or incomplete.

Thoughts?

Petkov on free will
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Re: Block universe

Postby Braininvat on September 23rd, 2018, 5:52 pm 

Looks like a thread with serious homework. I read Julian Barbour a few years ago, whose view of a static universe is even more extreme than Petkov's (and inspired by McTaggart, iirc).

From Barbour's wiki...

His 1999 book The End of Time advances timeless physics: the controversial view that time, as we perceive it, does not exist as anything other than an illusion, and that a number of problems in physical theory arise from assuming that it does exist. He argues that we have no evidence of the past other than our memory of it, and no evidence of the future other than our belief in it. "Change merely creates an illusion of time, with each individual moment existing in its own right, complete and whole." He calls these moments "Nows". It is all an illusion: there is no motion and no change. He argues that the illusion of time is what we interpret through what he calls "time capsules", which are "any fixed pattern that creates or encodes the appearance of motion, change or history".

Barbour's theory goes further in scepticism than the block universe theory, since it denies not only the passage of time, but the existence of an external dimension of time. Physics orders "Nows" by their inherent similarity to each other. That ordering is what we conventionally call a time ordering, but does not come about from "Nows" occurring at specific times, since they do not occur, nor does it come about from their existing unchangingly along the time axis of a block universe, but it is rather derived from their actual content.

The philosopher J. M. E. McTaggart reached a similar conclusion in his 1908 "The Unreality of Time."


JB may have a similar problem to Petkov's, in accounting for the way consciousness seems to have a dynamic and undergoes changes that allow a timelike ordering of Now slices. What exactly drives our movement across Barbour's frozen timescape? He tackles that in the book, but I can't recall anything too persuasive.
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Re: Block universe

Postby DragonFly on September 23rd, 2018, 8:39 pm 

1. Is the Block Universe ever made?

If so, then it seems that it had to done in the 5th dimension, which appears to have to have a further infinite regress of more dimensions, or it is just arbitrary based on the initial conditions but somehow became complete all at once.

2. If the Block Universe was not made, then how is it that it is specifically what it is and no other way?

3. There is also a problem of the Block Universe being infinite in the future direction.

4. Why would we have brains if their operation was redundant to what goes on? I suppose the Block makes our brains accordingly.

5. There seems to be a special 'now' in that qualia are always about 'now', or at least the most recent past after light's time and the brain analysis time.

6. If the Block is truly very frozen, what foresaw the particular structure of it? We can't even solve the three-body problem.

7. Look at people, including ourselves; they have a lot of consistency. That we are all different helps to conceal roboticness.

I am not denying the Block, but trying to understand it better.

Presentism would also seem to disallow free will. In either case, indeterminism doesn't help free will, but harms it, albeit perhaps causing some minor deviances but still leaving an adequate determinism.
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Re: Block universe

Postby hyksos on September 24th, 2018, 12:38 am 

how can consciousness move up a world line? What makes consciousness special in that it moves, when nothing else does?

Good questions. There certainly won't be any "climbing up a world line" unless there is a passage of time. Maybe Hermann Weyl had not thought this through.
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Re: Block universe

Postby Serpent on September 24th, 2018, 10:53 am 

If there is no time - or no passage of time - and no events, where does the "illusion" of those things come from?
All the illusions with which I am familiar are some permutation, or thought-manipulation of reality as perceived by external sensory organs and interpreted by the mind, using its existing tools of memory, reason and desire.
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Re: Block universe

Postby Dave_Oblad on September 24th, 2018, 11:56 pm 

Hi davidm and Everyone else.

I've not frequented this site very often this last year.. enjoying my retirement.

Anyway.. I've long been a supporter of the Block Model. Here is a link to one of my posts regarding the block model put up about 4 years ago:
http://sciencechatforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=39&t=27847#p269150

I'll drop by again in a few days to see if this comment has gained any responses.

Best wishes,
Dave :^)

Note: In case you are not aware.. Near our picture/avatar (upper right corner of each post) is (View Blog) stored on this site. Might be some good stuff posted by members under these clickable links (hint-hint).
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Re: Block universe

Postby davidm on September 25th, 2018, 10:32 am 

Braininvat » September 23rd, 2018, 3:52 pm wrote:Looks like a thread with serious homework. I read Julian Barbour a few years ago, whose view of a static universe is even more extreme than Petkov's (and inspired by McTaggart, iirc).

From Barbour's wiki...

His 1999 book The End of Time advances timeless physics: the controversial view that time, as we perceive it, does not exist as anything other than an illusion, and that a number of problems in physical theory arise from assuming that it does exist. He argues that we have no evidence of the past other than our memory of it, and no evidence of the future other than our belief in it. "Change merely creates an illusion of time, with each individual moment existing in its own right, complete and whole." He calls these moments "Nows". It is all an illusion: there is no motion and no change. He argues that the illusion of time is what we interpret through what he calls "time capsules", which are "any fixed pattern that creates or encodes the appearance of motion, change or history".

Barbour's theory goes further in scepticism than the block universe theory, since it denies not only the passage of time, but the existence of an external dimension of time. Physics orders "Nows" by their inherent similarity to each other. That ordering is what we conventionally call a time ordering, but does not come about from "Nows" occurring at specific times, since they do not occur, nor does it come about from their existing unchangingly along the time axis of a block universe, but it is rather derived from their actual content.

The philosopher J. M. E. McTaggart reached a similar conclusion in his 1908 "The Unreality of Time."


JB may have a similar problem to Petkov's, in accounting for the way consciousness seems to have a dynamic and undergoes changes that allow a timelike ordering of Now slices. What exactly drives our movement across Barbour's frozen timescape? He tackles that in the book, but I can't recall anything too persuasive.



I don’t think Barbour has the same problem in explaining the perceived passage of time that the block universalist does, but he has a different problem. The exponent of the block maintains that past, present and future are literally real, and everything in it is fixed, unchanging, timeless. So what causes the illusion of passing time? This is where we get the incoherencies of consciousness somehow “moving up” a world line or tube, in a world where supposedly nothing moves or changes. So how fast does consciousness move in this otherwise static world? One second per second? That makes no sense.

As I understand Barbour, he is proposing something radically different. He is saying there is no past or future at all, that there is literally no time dimension. Nor is this the same thing as presentism, which holds that the past used to exist, but no longer does; and that the future does not yet exist, but will.

Barbour, as I understand him, is saying that the past never existed, and that the future will never exist. There are only Nows called time capsules.

The inference to be drawn from this — I can’t remember how explicitly Barbour states this in his book — is that the subjective sense of passing time comes from having a set of memories to which we can compare the present, but none of the memories are true. I don’t really have a personal past, just a brain state that tells me that I do. The Civil War never really happened. The earth has no past or future. Etc. So Barbour doesn’t have to worry about consciousness somehow “moving” in his model.

But where do our false memories come from, then? Maybe Barbour could explain? Perhaps someone could email him and invite him to participate in this thread? I’ve had success with that in the past, drawing by email invitation alone a professor of philosophy to a now defunct, alas, board, where I was once an admin, and also a mathematician to the same board.
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Re: Block universe

Postby davidm on September 26th, 2018, 2:07 pm 

Whether the block is true or not, I concur with this:

They even have a name for it: "Fatalism". This is because the Model indicates the Future is written in stone (determinism) and can't be changed, thus being in conflict with "Free Will" concepts.

Obviously, the philosophers chose the most negative term (Fatalism) they could think of.. to define PreDeterminism. No bias there of course...lol. The Compatibilism View undermines Fatalism, by the obvious fact that we get to play a role in writing our futures, thus preserving "Will". The Term "Free" as in "Free Will" is just baggage. We can use our WILL to make our futures to be what we want. Wiki has a good presentation of Compatibilism here.


The key point is that whether the block is true or not, it's not possible to "change" the future, any more than one can change the present or the past. But this fact doesn't debar free will.

However, the blockist owes a coherent explanation of how the illusion of change and passing time comes about in a block. Just saying that consciousness somehow "crawls up" the world line strikes me as gobbledygook. Maybe Dave_Oblad would like to have a go at it.
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Re: Block universe

Postby Serpent on September 26th, 2018, 2:37 pm 

My main concern was where illusion comes from. Below that is: Where does the consciousness that creates the illusion come from? and above it is "Why the illusion of time in a timeless universe?"

But now, there is a second nagging question: What prompted this theory?
I mean, what is its reason for being? What relevant question does it answer to which no previous theory provided as good an answer?
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Re: Block universe

Postby phyti on September 28th, 2018, 1:46 pm 

The stuff I'm reading here sounds like something from the dark ages. I didn't see any mention of the elephant supporting the 'block universe'.

One problem originates with the idea of objectifying time, when in reality it's an accounting methodology. An ordering of events for human activity. Contrary to the popular 'it's a function of time', time doesn't cause anything. The time of an event is assigned AFTER the awareness of an event, with delays from a nanosec. to a millions of yrs.
Human perception aided by memory can produce a sense of 'time flowing', similar to the mind melding a sequence of still images into a 'motion' picture.
Special Relativity predicts the time of an event depends on observer motion, another perception connection. Can the bu explain: there is one event, but multiple perceptions?
The awareness of an event expands in space at light speed. A detects event t now, B will detect t later, i.e. in B's future. Because observers are distributed in space, they experience different pasts, nows, and futures. There is no one size fits all.
One important fact, the universe changes, as verified by daily observation.
Abstraction can be an advantage for simplification purposes, but a disadvantage in removing the identity of elements, reducing them to a common form.
The generalization of SR by Minkowski to a 4D theory is one case. Many believe/accept that the 'lines on paper' theory IS the reality!
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Re: Block universe

Postby davidm on September 28th, 2018, 1:59 pm 

phyti » September 28th, 2018, 11:46 am wrote:Can the bu explain: there is one event, but multiple perceptions?


That's exactly what the BU does explain. It's an ontological explanation of the relativity of simultaneity, which is totally absent in presentism.
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Re: Block universe

Postby phyti on September 30th, 2018, 2:16 pm 

Perhaps the biggest exponent of the block is at the He maintains that the empirical findings of special and general relativity would be impossible unless Minkowski spacetime were more than some mathematical bookkeeping or a map of the territory. He maintains that it is impossible that we fail to live in a 4D block universe, and that Minkowski proved this, and that more, Minkowski’s findings have been ignored by science.


To his credit, Minkowski generalized SR to a mathematical 'lines on paper' theory, with time treated AS IF a 4th dimension. The issue of the nature of time vs the nature of space, was removed with time explicitly expressed as distance, which also provided a practical scale for meaningful graphs. If one is only concerned with measurement, then all lines are the same. A Minkowski spacetime graphic becomes an excellent tool to illustrate the effects of motion on measurement and perception. At this point, a cautionary note. The lines on paper do not represent real physical things, but a relationship of those things. Primarily a history of positions. No one sees a trajectory, an orbit, or a 4-vector, etc, since these are mental constructs. Text describing an object or an image of an object is not the object.

To his credit, Einstein developed the coordinate transformations using 3D and time, and they worked very well, before Minkowski modified SR. In some cases there are multiple approaches with varying efficiency, for the same problem.

There are forums that promote the same 4D reality as Petkov, but no problem.

"Truth will never be determined by an opinion poll". A question for Petkov,

Should we deny Abraham Lincoln existed, but keep his biography?

Is Petkov right? If so, implications: Past, present and future all exist, timelessly. Eternalism is the correct interpretation of time, and presentism is false. All people (and everything else) exist, as it were, timelessly, as world tubes with their boundary conditions as birth and death. Passing time, change, and even motion itself, are illusions. Light, as Petkov maintains, does not move at c. It does not move at all.


Time, as human society conceives and applies it, is a human convention, so it needs no mystical, magical interpretation. The case of A having seen a nova and recording it, B more distant than A, observing the nova, and C more distant than B watching the night sky, are examples of past, present, and future, but not simultaneously for the same observer. The tenses are not universal but local. Earth has a global climate, but the weather is local.

No free will (says Petkov): The future “already” exists, and no one can do anything about it.


Fatalism. Then there is no need of a judicial system since no one can be held accountable. Sounds like 'son of Satan'.

All those commendations for acts of bravery, motivated by compassion, and free will to
risk their life for others, and a value for life,...? Sounds more like son of Satan'.
What next, we all drink poisoned lemonade?

Consciousness: The illusion of change, motion, and passing time is generated by, as Weyl put it: "The objective world merely exists, it does not happen; as a whole it has no history. Only before the eye of the consciousness climbing up in the world line of my body, a section of this world ‘comes to life’ and moves past it as a spatial image engaged in temporal transformation."


Then Weyl doesn't accept SR which is based on 'events', i.e. a dynamic world that is all history for any observer.

All this hocus-pocus reminds me of the idiot who loses his case in court, and when asked for an explanation says "it is what it is".

Which leads into that Peggy Lee song, "Is that all there is?"
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Re: Block universe

Postby davidm on September 30th, 2018, 2:46 pm 

phyti » September 30th, 2018, 12:16 pm wrote:Fatalism. Then there is no need of a judicial system since no one can be held accountable. Sounds like 'son of Satan'.


Here, I am summarizing Petkov’s argument against free will in a block universe, not mine. In the extant free will thread, I hoped to have been plain that in my view, a fixed future does not imply fatalism or rule out free will, for the same reason that a fixed past does not do so.

The error in Petkov’s reasoning is to assume that for free will to exist, we must be able to change the future (or past or present). We can’t do that, whether BU exists or not. What we can do is by free choices, make the past, present and future be what it was, is, and will be. The notion of “changing” anything completely drops out of this formulation.

Then Weyl doesn't accept SR which is based on 'events', i.e. a dynamic world that is all history for any observer. "


Weyl is not denying SR or GR, but extrapolating from them. My beef with him, and with Petkov, who endorses Weyl’s argument, is that it makes no sense to talk about consciousness crawling up a worldline or worldtube, in a block world where they both say nothing ever moves or changes. How does consciousness move in a world where nothing moves? Their claim is self-refuting.

But we can see how the BU fairly derives just from SR alone. Three different observers in relative motion will disagree on the time ordering of events. For one observer, A, B, and C are simultaneous. For a second observer, the events are sequential, with the following time order: A-B-C. For a third observer, the events are sequential with the following time order: C-B-A.

According to BU, the three different planes of simultaneity are different cross sections of an extant 4D block world. This is also known as eternalism, and its competing philosophical stance on time, presentism, which holds that only the present is real, has no way to explain the relativity of simultaneity. Many have tried, but all have failed, so far as I can tell. As Petkov notes, if presentism were true, simultaneity would of necessity be absolute and not relative.
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Re: Block universe

Postby GrayGhost on October 1st, 2018, 1:40 am 

davidm » September 30th, 2018, 1:46 pm wrote:
phyti » September 30th, 2018, 12:16 pm wrote:
Fatalism. Then there is no need of a judicial system since no one can be held accountable. Sounds like 'son of Satan'.


Here, I am summarizing Petkov’s argument against free will in a block universe, not mine. In the extant free will thread, I hoped to have been plain that in my view, a fixed future does not imply fatalism or rule out free will, for the same reason that a fixed past does not do so.

The error in Petkov’s reasoning is to assume that for free will to exist, we must be able to change the future (or past or present). We can’t do that, whether BU exists or not. What we can do is by free choices, make the past, present and future be what it was, is, and will be. The notion of “changing” anything completely drops out of this formulation.


I'd agree in that a block universe does not have to preclude free will. Simply because your entire life is laid out from birth to death in a static 4d continuum, does not lead that we do not freely make decisions and choices as we exist in differing moments of time. This is only to say that (1) your static 4d worldtube may be (in part) the sum product of all the free will decisions you have ever made, and will ever make. And we are free here to assume that the Many Worlds Theory does not apply. However ...

On the other hand, people tend to argue that (2) free will is precluded since you can make no choice in your lifetime that would cause your own static worldtube to change in the 4 dimensional continuum. However, it should also be pointed out that one could never know how to make a choice that would cause their own worldtube to change in 4-space. And if they could change it, that would require the Many Worlds theory to apply.

Both arguments have their merit, however our own experience seems to tell us "that time passes us by" and that "we can make our choices freely". So I lean with option 1 above. I see no problem with the notion that all our free will choices were defined at the big bang event, since the 4-space is assumed to have come into existence instantly in its entirtey. Although, I am not even sure that the word "instantly" can apply ... similarly, as trying to use words of tense to define a preBang realm.

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Re: Block universe

Postby GrayGhost on October 1st, 2018, 3:15 am 

davidm » September 30th, 2018, 1:46 pm wrote:
Weyl is not denying SR or GR, but extrapolating from them. My beef with him, and with Petkov, who endorses Weyl’s argument, is that it makes no sense to talk about consciousness crawling up a worldline or worldtube, in a block world where they both say nothing ever moves or changes. How does consciousness move in a world where nothing moves? Their claim is self-refuting.


davidm,

I find this thread very interesting. To suggest that consciousness traverses a worldtube while nothing else does, seems rather unbelievable IMO. It cannot be something mystical, but rather must be defined by physics, even if theoretical until proven accepted.

Dragonfly had mentioned something about the possibility of a 5th dimension, or "other additional dimensions". I lean that way myself. The worldtube is static in 4-space, because the all of 4-space is static. Yet, we certainly experience a passage of time, or a passage thru time, in an everchanging now. So I would suggest something like this, for which a model might be theorized ...

Say, there exists an activity in inperceptible dimemsions (eg the extra 7-space of M-theory), and whereby a mapping exists between perceptible and inperceptible spaces. This activity (likely a speed c activity) travels in (say) inperceptible 7-space, but always also corresponds to specific corresponding locations in perceptible 4-space. In a loose analogy, imagine waves on the ocean surface traveling toward the beach (the future), each equally seperated. Imagine each individual wave (or maybe wave-peak) produces a manifestation of your (conscious) NOW, and the wave carries it in a direction (call it from past to future). No change in static 4-space required, as the activity producing consciousness would exist in only the other 7-space, however it always maps to a corresponding location in 4-space. Here, that which we perceive as the flow of time is also ascribed a mechanism. In this hypothesis, you would not be born, then sequentially live, then die, then start over again at birth (as you mentioned prior). Rather, you would exist at every (quantum) moment, each moving forward in time in unison, each forever unaware of the others.

I cannot fathom, personally, how our consciousness (NOW) can experience a sequential passing of time in a static 4d continuum, unless something changes "somewhere else" that drives it. Both our consciousness and the perceived passing of time need accounted for, per some underlying mechanism. M-theory has 11 dimensions, the 7 inperceptible dimensions being required primarily to produce the required space to produce all the known particles in the Standard Model. When one considers entanglement, and the double slit experiment, it stands to reason that hidden dimensions exist. Anyway, this has been my line of reasoning for many years now, and you had asked for "thoughts".

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Postby Faradave on October 1st, 2018, 12:31 pm 

Re: Going Around the Block (This post is an aside. Ignore at will.)

It would seem a mistake to neglect the possibility of (even, necessity for) hyper-motion, i.e. travel within a spatial simultaneity (defined as ∆t = 0 in a given rest frame, an "instant"). As this amounts to infinite speed, it is overlooked as a preposterous violation of universal speed limit c. Yet, there is a class of faster-than-light (FTL) phenomena, which includes the progress of a projection. As no mass-energy (nor the information it manifests) is transmitted by these, limit c is not violated.

For point particles, a worldline is just that, a line in 4D where speed is given by slope.

Larger bodies (particle aggregates), such as you and I, have an associated "world braid" or "world tube". The former applies when individual particles are distinguished (e.g. an isolated electron). "World tube" applies to a continuous, non-zero volume, when they aren't (e.g. an electron orbital).

Conventionally, a photon's worldline* is the path it takes from its emitter. It is quite literally a lightlike projection in 4D, typically defined with slope = 1 in natural units. As noted above, movement of a such a projection is unrestricted by limit c (though its lightlike slope is maintained). The set of all possible paths for this light quantum is generated by rotating the projection around time, an essentially instantaneous hyper-motion. This "chronaxial spin" describes an instance of an electric field.

Image

Since the particular path a light quantum will follow is indeterminate, a field instance is the probabilistic expression of all potential paths. Thus, chronaxial spin is necessary and sufficient to explain quantum indeterminism, even in a seemingly fixed block universe.

*Elsewhere, I argue that photons don't exist because their lightlike worldlines are defined to have magnitude zero. No worldline, no particle! However, that's all the more reason to be unrestricted by speed limit c.

Related videos (avg.< 5 min.): Field Goal, Massive Undertaking, Instant Energy.
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Re: Block universe

Postby hyksos on October 1st, 2018, 11:47 pm 

davidm » September 30th, 2018, 10:46 pm wrote:According to BU, the three different planes of simultaneity are different cross sections of an extant 4D block world. This is also known as eternalism, and its competing philosophical stance on time, presentism, which holds that only the present is real, has no way to explain the relativity of simultaneity. Many have tried, but all have failed, so far as I can tell.

I found Petkov's paper on Relativity of Simultaneity. It is very long, but there are 3 key take-aways.

(1) Dimensionality versus Block.

Petkov eschews the phrase "Block Universe" and "Block Model" and instead reduces the question to the dimensionality of spacetime. In other words : "Block Universe or not?" is rephrased: "3 dimensions or 4 dimensions?" Petkov claims that Lorentz and Einstein had a 3-dimensional formulation of S-R in 1905. Three years later, Minkowski gave the 4-dimensional version of the theory. (Einstein possibly rejected it at first).

(2) Hypersurfaces of the present.

Petkov provides several ad-hoc proofs that there is no preferred collection of events outside any observer's present and past lightcones. In other words, we are free ( by convention) of selecting any hypersurface we like and refer to as "the instantaneous now". While I agree with the dispute in English, I would have like to have seen the mathematics behind this. I'm somewhat surprised no one has yet form a theory of this free conventionality of the extra-lightconal region.

(3) Things exist outside the the lightcone

petkov_cutoff_accelerated.png

The curved heavy bar is an accelerated reference frame. The region marked with {?} is a collection of spacetime events that will never be observed by the accelerated observer. If we associated "cannot measure" as equivalent with "does not exist", then the {?} does not exist. This leads to a contradiction, since we can uniquely identify another observer's reference frame who does perceive the events in {?}.

http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/3184/1/petkov07.pdf
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Re: Block universe

Postby hyksos on October 3rd, 2018, 12:41 am 

Serpent » September 26th, 2018, 10:37 pm wrote: But now, there is a second nagging question: What prompted this theory?
I mean, what is its reason for being? What relevant question does it answer to which no previous theory provided as good an answer?

Hey Serpent. I was out in cold rain today under an umbrella and I had some kind of epiphany. I thought of your post here from a great distance. I have been so deep into Ohanian and Petkov's writings that I see the Block Universe as being a kind of self-evident starting point.

At this stage, I cannot even clearly perceive what the alternative to the Block Universe is. As Petkov defends the "Block Model" , then what the is competing viewpoint even called?
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Re: Block universe

Postby phyti on October 3rd, 2018, 11:06 am 

davidm:
I would ask the same questions you have asked. My disagreement and annoyance is with those who promote the idea of a block universe based on such flimsy reasoning.
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In the drawing observer U is in his (pseudo) rest frame. His perception of the world is a continuous sequence of incoming spheres of light. For simplicity, the spheres are replaced with 2-dimensional circles of simultaneity, forming a cone with a ct 'time' axis. Based on the lack of experimental verification of an absolute rest frame, the U-clock direction of motion represents one spatial dimension. An object e moves on a linear path at constant speed in the x-p plane, past U, offset a distance d. Its path traces a hyperbola on the light cone of U. Since the accepted convention is to consider a distant object in the past, eg, a star is 4 ly distant, object e moves in the -x direction from the past, to its closest approach d, then into the past. If perception/awareness of an event is always after the event, the object is always in the past, to varying degrees. This choice is consistent with a reversal of direction for e. There is no 'future' light cone in the drawing since the light path is discontinuous at U, which is part of the perception process. There is no awareness of events that haven't occurred, so to change them is illogical.


1. The error in Petkov’s reasoning is to assume that for free will to exist, we must be able to change the future (or past or present). We can’t do that, whether BU exists or not.
2. What we can do is by free choices, make the past, present and future be what it was, is, and will be.

I totally agree with the part 1. The remainder is questionable.
When a person makes a choice, there are typically multiple possible outcomes (not worlds), each with a degree of uncertainty. You buy a lottery ticket at 10:00 and win, or, you buy a lottery ticket at 11:00 and lose (some one else bought the winning ticket. Only the time made a difference. The time delay could have been: having a chance encounter including a conversation, missing a bus, etc., i.e. random events.
A current problem in society with respect to the judicial system. A mass shooting occurs. Are the gun sellers responsible in part for the event? How about the gun manufacturers? How about the educational system for not detecting anti-social behavior?....How about his parents for his birth?
The point is, there is no continuous chain of events, an initial cause leading to an inevitable result. That would be fatalism, predestination, your choice, etc. Life is more like a tree, with discrete events and associated branches. The choice of the shooter is the immediate cause of the effects.
If you could alter one non trivial event in the past, the current outcome could be far worse than it is. (be careful what you wish for)
A 'many worlds' isn't needed when we understand reality.

Universal simultaneity died when light was discovered to propagate at a finite independent speed. SR produced the revelation that motion altered perception and measurement.
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Re: Block universe

Postby Brent696 on October 3rd, 2018, 12:08 pm 

Philosophical implications:

No free will (says Petkov): The future “already” exists, and no one can do anything about it.

Consciousness: The illusion of change, motion, and passing time is generated by, as Weyl put it: "The objective world merely exists, it does not happen; as a whole it has no history. Only before the eye of the consciousness climbing up in the world line of my body, a section of this world ‘comes to life’ and moves past it as a spatial image engaged in temporal transformation."


Yes, the Block Universe begins in science, and it's ramification extend farther out.

We begin with the block, the universe is all there, past, present, future, and yet we have this experience of Time. And so we realize, like Schrodinger, that the idea of a completely objective observer is an illusion. With a block universe, consciousness must come into to play as our understanding of the universe cannot be independent of our station as an observer.

And so now we have to discern something of this "consciousness" through which we actually observe the universe. FIRST, by the very fact that we have come to realize our experience of Time as been illusionary, we cannot rule out the fact other aspects of our experience suffer from the same influence. On the road to understanding the ramifications as regards "freewill", we must parse through the possible nature of consciousness or experience itself.

And so I propose, in much the same way that by a lack of expansive considerations about consciousness, we tend to make the same mistake as some in the middle ages who, relying upon their intuitive experience, thought the Earth to be the center of the cosmos.

So it is, as we experience consciousness, we are body or self centered. Our experience, would tend to suggest that consciousness is something born in me, born of me, as if the consciousness I possess is actually created from a chemical matrix my body as produced, such is the Intuitive experience of consciousness but is this also illusionary.

To offer another view, just as consciousness, by the block universe, be seen as a fundamental or foundational function of the universe, let me connect this "consciousness" with "Life", all life that has ever been of will be. Consider a Model, where as part of the universe, just as time adds a dimension to the universe, so there is, for lack of a better description, a dimension of Life, a vibrational wave reverberating across the block, and those particles, cells, organisms, we see as living, are merely able to tap in to this vibration.

Another analogy of the past suggests life/consciousness, is like the sun, and the ego within man is more of a shadow upon the wall, one "wave" of consciousness, but each body, by its chemical matrix lets suppose, can tap into that wave and share in its dimension of consciousness. The "shadow" analogy is one, perhaps we can think in terms of ourselves as cookie cutout, different from from one sheet of dough.

Can we see how this might differ from the body centric idea of consciousness that might be pictured as a tube climbing up the body, as if my experience of time, is actually driving the universe in some way. Life and consciousness can rather be seen as something more as a new dimension, one into which we plug into at some point, and later are unplugged from, just as it might be said we plug into the whole of the universe with our birth, and unplug with our death.

"Free will" might be seen as an attempt to own consciousness, to own the shadow of the self through which we observe the universe. To crystalize our "selves" rather than see that we are merely, as it were, dropped into the river of life/consciousness, only to be carried along for a while. But my overall point, is that according to a block universe, where consciousness becomes a foundational ingredient in the structuring of it, so consciousness cannot be said to be produces from the organisms that utilize it.

When we turn on a flashlight to see/observe, we do not Create the photons, rather we focus them.
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Re: Block universe

Postby Braininvat on October 3rd, 2018, 12:15 pm 

https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-debate ... -20160719/

A good overview of some of the block and "growing block" U theories, and alternatives. For me, it's helpful to really get a grasp on the arrow of time, from Boltzman onward, and what may be the possible mechanisms (e.g. gravitation) on the macro scale. George Ellis's Evolving Block theory is worth looking at, as a more dynamic interpretation of the BU model. And then there's Causal Set theory....

Another approach that aims to reconcile the apparent passage of time with the block universe goes by the name of causal set theory. First developed in the 1980s as an approach to quantum gravity by the physicist Rafael Sorkin — who was also at the conference — the theory is based on the idea that space-time is discrete rather than continuous. In this view, although the universe appears continuous at the macroscopic level, if we could peer down to the so-called Planck scale (distances of about 10–35 meters) we’d discover that the universe is made up of elementary units or “atoms” of space-time. The atoms form what mathematicians call a “partially ordered set” — an array in which each element is linked to an adjacent element in a particular sequence. The number of these atoms (estimated to be a whopping 10240 in the visible universe) gives rise to the volume of space-time, while their sequence gives rise to time. According to the theory, new space-time atoms are continuously coming into existence. Fay Dowker, a physicist at Imperial College London, referred to this at the conference as “accretive time.” She invited everyone to think of space-time as accreting new space-time atoms in way roughly analogous to a seabed depositing new layers of sediment over time. General relativity yields only a block, but causal sets seem to allow a “becoming,” she said. “The block universe is a static thing — a static picture of the world — whereas this process of becoming is dynamical.” In this view, the passage of time is a fundamental rather than an emergent feature of the cosmos. (Causal set theory has made at least one successful prediction about the universe, Dowker pointed out, having been used to estimate the value of the cosmological constant based only on the space-time volume of the universe.)
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Re: Block universe

Postby hyksos on October 3rd, 2018, 4:44 pm 

Brent696 » October 3rd, 2018, 8:08 pm wrote:

We begin with the block, the universe is all there, past, present, future, and yet we have this experience of Time. And so we realize, like Schrodinger, that the idea of a completely objective observer is an illusion. With a block universe, consciousness must come into to play as our understanding of the universe cannot be independent of our station as an observer.

And so now we have to discern something of this "consciousness" through which we actually observe the universe. FIRST, by the very fact that we have come to realize our experience of Time as been illusionary, we cannot rule out the fact other aspects of our experience suffer from the same influence. On the road to understanding the ramifications as regards "freewill", we must parse through the possible nature of consciousness or experience itself.

And so I propose, in much the same way that by a lack of expansive considerations about consciousness, we tend to make the same mistake as some in the middle ages who, relying upon their intuitive experience, thought the Earth to be the center of the cosmos.

So it is, as we experience consciousness, we are body or self centered. Our experience, would tend to suggest that consciousness is something born in me, born of me, as if the consciousness I possess is actually created from a chemical matrix my body as produced, such is the Intuitive experience of consciousness but is this also illusionary.

To offer another view, just as consciousness, by the block universe, be seen as a fundamental or foundational function of the universe, let me connect this "consciousness" with "Life"

When the grad students perform measurement on a physical system in a lab , that measurement "does something" to the system that otherwise would not have happened. This story is completely consistent with data measured in controlled conditions.

Further there is not a single equation, law, or formula of physics that contradicts that story. It is variously called CCC ("consciousness causes collapse"). On most days I would deem CCC to be non-academic, and I have even been guilty of not including it in lists of Interpretations-of-QM.

The only item that contradicts CCC (that I am aware of) is a metaphysical prejudice that human beings are simply another configuration of matter. Not fundamentally different from a rock, a star, or any other "configuration". In that context, a cheap polaroid camera would do just as well for collapsing a quantum state than a full living human would. Do I know that this prejudice must be true? Really I don't.

I am guilty of committing a sort of intellectual crime. When I promote my own pet interpretations , I include the stipulation of "Does not contain observers" as an attribute that allegedly strengthens and reinforces the interpretation.

(I do not mean to imply that wikipedia is authoritative by any stretch, so I will mention this only as a curious anecdote.) The wikipedians traditionally called CCC "Consciousness Causes Collapse". They have deferred this lingo and replaced it with a much more austere phrase. They now call it the Von Neumann–Wigner interpretation.

We can take the example of Max Tegmark. Tegmark is a strong many-worlder along with David Deutsch. Tegmark speaks with confidence and authoritativeness when he promotes MWI in public. Nevertheless, despite his confidence and authoritative demeanor, he still asks rooms of people at symposiums this question:
Does anyone believe that some new physics will be discovered that will rule out the possibility of Quantum Computers?

The fact that he asks this question (at all) indicates some crack in the foundations of this topic. First , it indicates that they are not completely sure that quantum computers are possible. Second, they are not certain about which Interpretation of QM is really the right one. Third, it indicates a profound lack of consensus on the nature of causation.

I have myself been standing on desks with a blowhorn and a loudspeaker, telling everyone that modern physics shows us that the universe is quote, "not a big machine with gears turning gears!!". (c.r. Laplace's Demon) I found myself saying that we will "never recover that version of reality." In a recent thread I said quote, "we will never close Pandora's quantum box."

BiV has just brought up this topic called Causal Sets. I believe we could replace the question of the flow-of-time with the more important question of causality. Whatever anyone's take on this , we have no clear idea from modern physics what "causality" is exactly. So these issues of Free Will as they are normally framed are framed badly or wrongly. A person (like Petkov) is going to adopt a stance where he pretends to have solved and resolved causality, then from that (fallacious) backdrop, declare Free Will impossible.

so there is, for lack of a better description, a dimension of Life, a vibrational wave reverberating across the block, and those particles, cells, organisms, we see as living, are merely able to tap in to this vibration.
This sounds as reasonable as anything else. (it comes across as more reasonable than MWI, IMHO). I would cross-reference Orchestrated O.R. by Penrose and Hammeroff.
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Re: Block universe

Postby hyksos on October 3rd, 2018, 5:28 pm 

Braininvat » October 3rd, 2018, 8:15 pm wrote:A good overview of some of the block and "growing block" U theories, and alternatives. For me, it's helpful to really get a grasp on the arrow of time, from Boltzman onward, and what may be the possible mechanisms (e.g. gravitation) on the macro scale. George Ellis's Evolving Block theory is worth looking at, as a more dynamic interpretation of the BU model. And then there's Causal Set theory....

It is possible that all the drama, the blood, and sweat expended on this forum about Special Relativity -- perpetuated by a triumvirate of regulars (ralfcis, Faradave, et al) that all this noise and drama is really just a repeated discussion about the nature of the Electromagnetic Field. That these discussions of Minkowski space and differently aging people, and lightcones and etc was never about "the nature of reality" , but only ever about the nature of the EM field. Perhaps at base, Special Relativity was only ever created in a context to explain Electromagnetism, and that it should never have been hijacked and become so overblown.

We can imagine a doppleganger universe where this same forum has different people on it, but with the same thirst for debate and self-promotion. But instead of harping on the EM field, they were expending 18-page threads on the topic of the Higgs field. We would have long discussions about "Mexican Hat Potentials" and quantum fields at their "vacuum state" and exchanges with "Scalar Fields" and on and on. Maybe that doppleganger forum would be much more interesting than the one we have.

Imagine an 10-page thread on this forum where someone was arguing about the causes of vacuum fluctuations on philosophical grounds. I would practically pay money to participate in such a forum.

Another approach that aims to reconcile the apparent passage of time with the block universe goes by the name of causal set theory. First developed in the 1980s as an approach to quantum gravity by the physicist Rafael Sorkin — who was also at the conference — the theory is based on the idea that space-time is discrete rather than continuous. In this view, although the universe appears continuous at the macroscopic level, if we could peer down to the so-called Planc
.
.
.

It didn't take very long for me to drill down into the topic of Causal Sets before the story went haywire. Causal Sets principle, central, claim comes down to explaining causality as an ordered set among "event atoms" (I made that phrase up just now). But this process of the creation of "child events" from precursor events is inherently local. In other words, it is too strongly couched in Special Relativity to take into account a number of physical phenomena that have been concretely observed -- among these being (1) Entanglement (2) Non-local effects in QFT.



Counterfactual
A counterfactual is a physical event that could have happened, but did not happen. The central crux of QFT is that it suggests that all counterfactuals do actually happen in some strange "virtual" way alongside the factual event observed. For example, you will hear the stuffy grad students talk whimsically of "virtual photons". These are photons spitting out of an electron as an electron goes from point A to point B. As long as these virtual photons get re-absorbed fast enough to hide underneath Heisenberg's radar, they actually happen. You cannot ignore these "virtual" interactions, or you will never be able to calculate the rest mass of an electron. This is described in explicit detail in Feynman's book QED (chapter and page number furnished upon request.)

Long story short : Causal Sets is inconsistent with Quantum Field Theory. The reason for this inconsistency should be clear now.

Causal Sets puts its foot down hard on this metaphysical stance : Counterfactuals do not happen. The present is determined by the immediate past.

QFT puts its foot down hard on this metaphysical stance : The counterfactuals actually happen. The present is determined by a weird conflagration of all possibilities that could happen.

This thread, having broached Fatalism and Free Will several times now, presumes some sort of backdrop of some communal consensus on the nature of causality. That consensus does not even exist, even in the ivory towers of academic physics departments. The assumption of such a consensus is an error which even Vesselin Petkov has made. Given that this consensus is wobbly in the ivy-covered cloisters, it would be even weaker on a forum like this one.
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Re: Block universe

Postby davidm on October 3rd, 2018, 6:08 pm 

hyksos » October 3rd, 2018, 3:28 pm wrote: You cannot ignore these "virtual" interactions, or you will never be able to calculate the rest mass of an electron. This is described in explicit detail in Feynman's book QED (chapter and page number furnished upon request.)


The whole easy-to-follow books is here.
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Re: Block universe

Postby Brent696 on October 3rd, 2018, 6:46 pm 

(Brent) so there is, for lack of a better description, a dimension of Life, a vibrational wave reverberating across the block, and those particles, cells, organisms, we see as living, are merely able to tap in to this vibration.


(Hyksos) This sounds as reasonable as anything else. (it comes across as more reasonable than MWI, IMHO). I would cross-reference Orchestrated O.R. by Penrose and Hammeroff.


The "Intuitive experience" is that which impacts our perceptions and our thinking from the moment of birth. When I consider theories such as the expanding block, and perhaps set theory which I am not all that familiar with, I often notice a tendency in others in trying, sometimes desperately even as the expanding block takes us farther afield from GR, to maintain some aspect of our intuitive experience.

"Free will" can also be placed in this category as our intuitive experience supports this just as I had the free will to write this post. Yet I do not write free will totally off.

My T.O.E. as it were, begins with a two dimensional layer, or a flat universe. Upon that layer, like the surface of a fluid, 4 vibrations are set forth, Time, or more appropriately the speed of light as I believe the two are related, might be seen as a vibrational wave across it. "Wave" of course more like a geometric pattern. Interposed upon that pattern is another that produces what we would think of as Space. Still another pattern of waves produces what we know of as Gravity. And still another forms the dimensional aspect we call life of consciousness.

There is a video on the E8 lattice as regards emergence theory. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa4JkgKDaR0&t=38s)

(Even if you know the theory the girl is pretty hot) Anyway, she does a demonstration holding the lattice up to the light and different patterns are seen on the ground below. Consider reversing this and these wave patterns on the flat universe could be seen producing the 3d world, or more appropriately the 4d world we experience. But as I speak of 4d I notice a problem so let me backtrack through the dimensions.

1d) Time as the dimension of continuance.
2d) Space as the 3d breadth
3d) Gravity as it allows a condensation of matter from energy
4d) Life/consciousness as it interacts as a depth of awareness, a dimension as it were of it's own.

I point this out as the word "dimension" can be used in different contexts. So looking at a depiction of the block universe, we can discern its breadth and imagine the length as a continuance of time, what is hard to draw in such a diagram is our own awareness as we perceive this picture. And yet I am trying to paint a picture with words so others might be able to understand how I see consciousness as a building block, a necessary dimension, for the universe.

Our physical bodies might have developed a neuro/chemical ability to tap into this dimension of consciousness, but they do not necessary produce it. My understanding to me seems to coincide with most of the accepted physics, although consciousness is hard to quantify, then it is from this view that I assess ramifications such as free will. Yet Fatalism and such might be hard to crystallize since Consciousness maintains a fluid quality, so I would pose a type of limited free will, even as psychology/philosophy speaks of what determines what thoughts arise within our minds and from where do such thoughts come. Obviously, we cannot choose a thought we have not had.
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Re: Block universe

Postby davidm on October 4th, 2018, 10:37 am 

A theoretical physicist rebuts Petkov

Interestingly, she thinks the block universe is true, just that Petkov is wrong in saying SR entails it.
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Re: Block universe

Postby davidm on October 4th, 2018, 11:21 am 

In this blog post, the above-linked physicist, Sabine Hossenfelder, explains how she thinks consciousness and the perceived passage time works in a block world. I find her explanation quite plausible, and with no need to invoke a mysterious “crawling up the world line,” or any quantum mechanics, extra dimensions, or anything else.

But then she hits the wall of philosophy and crashes her car. :-( She writes in the comment section of her blog post:


I am not sure if they actually realize that it [block universe] implies you can't change the future anymore than you can change the past, meaning there also is no such thing as free will.


As I’ve argued, it’s true you can’t change the future any more than you can change the past, in a block world. She’s right about that, but wrong about this fact ruling out free will. And what is especially ironic is that in making this claim, she apparently doesn’t realize that she is undercutting her primary thesis: that there is nothing special about any “now” perceived in the past, present or future.

If past, present and future are all equivalent, as she claims, it then follows that if free will requires that we be able to change the future, it must also require that we be able to change the past. But no one thinks we can change the past — and I don’t think anyone supposes that because we can’t change the past, we have no free will. The future is no different in this regard. I can’t change the future, but I can help make it be, what it will be — just as I helped make the past be, what it was.

It should also be noted that this inability to change the future holds even if the block model is wrong, and the future is “open.” Even under presentism, I still can’t change the future, any more than the past.
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Re: Block universe

Postby Braininvat on October 4th, 2018, 12:15 pm 

I like Bee (the late physics/cosmology moderator here, Marshall, was a fan of hers) but never taken her seriously as a philosopher. Many theoretical physicists are good at refining the deeper questions of physics, but then they go and grab philosophy terms off the popular shelf without sufficiently breaking down their meanings. There's also a problem, as Bee recognizes, in trying to map physics concepts onto cognitive science. A brain is not just a group of physical events, it's also a creator of narratives ABOUT events.

Many thinkers, including good old Aristotle, have recognized that time as a flow is insupportable. Time is an abstract rendering of motion and change (and all change, if you drop to the right scale level, is motion). If all motion and change stopped, there would not be time. Sorry, Ike Newton, you blew it. Time is what brains do that can store changes. For some reason, relating to thermodynamics, our brains only store changes in the past. Our entire narrative about Time exists in the past lightcone, because no information is reaching us about the future lightcone. Our compatibilist notions of free will seem to me to be critically dependent on our inability to store changes in the future. If we accessed those changes and formed records of them, our sense of acting freely would collapse. Bee is essentially rejecting compatbilism on the intuitive psychological grounds that most people do - if you could know all the changes, past and future, then they are stored in your brain and are then "carved in stone." It goes back to the old joke about "you're free to choose any candidate, just so long as it's [name of dictator]." Compatibilism depends on a state of storage-ignorance.

To get back to his thread topic, it doesn't matter if you believe in a traditional BU, or a growing BU, or Causal Sets (which, IIRC, is not as trapped in locality as Hyksos suggests, but I would have to take that up later) or whatever. Physics remains resolutely deterministic and human events play out classically and, unless you're a Penrosian, counterfactuals don't exist in any way that our brains can make use of, being "hot, wet, and noisy."
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Re: Block universe

Postby davidm on October 4th, 2018, 12:29 pm 

I just discovered Bee; I'm really liking her stuff :-) though as you say her philosophy gets a bit dodgy.
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Re: Random Thoughts

Postby Faradave on October 4th, 2018, 12:51 pm 

A series of random numbers, written down (i.e. "now" defined as "historical") is still random in that they had no predictable pattern. What made the number choice "free" (even within prescribed bounds, e.g. 0 < integers < 100) is the absence of any way to name them in advance, even after the fact, by someone unfamiliar with them.

Freedom and randomness retain a forward-looking connotation, historically or otherwise. Freedom, like randomness is a pattern that within bounds is indeterminate. The ultimate randomness is observed as quantum indeterminism.
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