Monday, May 07, 2007

A personal view ... infinite information and some other childish thoughts.

I'm not a philosopher nor a mathematician, but I do have some quite strong views on reality. Let me explain ...

Back in the mid 1980s, when I was a youthful lad and "Duran Duran" were still a hot band, I wrote down these ideas. It's something which helped me create a mental model of existence around me and upon which I built my view of reality. It was also part of my idea for a book which I never finished, it helped me understand my lucid dreaming and resolve the issue for me of "what is reality". Of course, it was undoubtedly wildly flawed - but I found it useful. This is more of a record for me than something which might be of use to you.

To explain it, you need to understand my confusion when I was younger. There were two types of reality for me - reality when I was awake, and reality when I was asleep. The main distinction for me between these "realities" was whether I was in control. In the "unreal" reality of when I was asleep, I had full control. In the real world, less so. This led to me the concept that reality was simply a mental model which after all it is, a perception of what is there. 

About that time, more sophisticated 3D ray drawing games like "elite" started to appear. It became clear, that computers with enough computing power could create ever more sophisticated virtual environments, even virtual worlds. Everything in these worlds would be nothing more than information, even the characters within it.

So how could I know that I wasn't living in some sort of "super computer" world already? Did it matter? 

Well, my first thoughts on this were, "How would you create an exact copy of this universe as a virtual world?". In order to do so you need to have all the information about this universe in the model. Wow, that would be cool. Such a model would know everything about our universe, it would act in the same ways. I'd know all the laws of science, all the causes and effects would be known ... excellent.

Slight problem.
If information was finite in this universe, then such a model containing all the information in the universe couldn't exist within this universe. Damn it, I can't therefore have a "perfect" model of the universe and therefore work out all the causes and effects and model all of science. I couldn't know the "truth" of this universe, as my model can only contain a lesser subset of information even if a way was found to get past the numerous information barriers that exist (e.g. Heisenberg uncertainty principle etc)

OK, what if information is infinite? Well then, this isn't such a problem because an infinite set can also contain an infinite number of infinite subsets of equivalent size. So I could have my model. Cool.

My model of the universe contains all the information in the universe at this single point. But my model is part of that universe. So in my model, there must be another model, and inside that another model and so on. Ah, an infinite number of models of my universe, identical to this one but none of them being "real". Though of course the characters in these "virtual" worlds wouldn't know that.

Big Problem.
Taking information as infinite in the "real" universe, then let's assume that there exists one civilisation of suitably advanced technology that it could create such models. Suppose it only created one such model, then there would be an infinite number of virtual worlds (models within models). Every-time anyone else created such a model, or made variations of such, or another civilisation developed such a technology, you would have an infinite number of infinite virtual worlds and permutations of such. So given that, what's the likelihood of this universe which I exist within being real?

Well I reckon it's ... Zero.

So, either information is finite, in which case we can never create our perfect model and therefore know with absolute certainty the cause and effects of things OR information is infinite in which case this world isn't "real" anyway. We cannot know the absolute truth of things. There must always exist something beyond that perceived truth in either case. Of course, we can't actually get to the truth of whether information is finite or infinite because of the uncertainty principles and even if we could we wouldn't be able to accurately model this because of  'Godel's' incompleteness theorem. We can't even answer the question of whether information is finite or not.

This I called an "infinite information paradox"

Hence I came to my view of things being more true (+truth) or less true (-truth) because absolutes were out of the question. My awake reality was simply more true (+truth) than my sleeping reality - from a personal perspective. But if I could only show that information was finite, then at least I'd know that one was real? 


Really Big Problem.
In my infinite information scenario, it was also possible to have infinite numbers of finite sets. So even if information was finite in this universe, the likelihood of it being real was also zero. Hence, I decided to take a definition of reality as a set which was unbounded by any limits. It was the absolutely infinite set at the top of this information tree. It could contain an infinite number of infinite sets and an infinite number of finite ones.

The empty set is such a set which is not bounded by limits, it just happens to not contain any other set. Hence I started with what I called my "primitive"....

0 = [] = A definition of reality.

... and allowed this initial condition to mutate to other set configurations, by the application of several simple rules.
  • Any set can mutate to any "equivalent" with the same or greater cardinality by the addition of an empty set.
  • Any value can mutate to any "equivalent" array or move in whole or part to any adjacent position.
  • The sum of this mutated primitive remains Zero.
Now by "equivalent", I mean it either enumerates to the same thing or sums to it. This processes allowed for ever more increasing permutations of values, hence I took that view that the capacity for information constantly increases. I used this system, to derive certain models where everything is derived from nothing - I occasionally still play around with it, a sort of Zero Board Hypothesis. But my general postulations are:
  • Some realities are more true (+truth) to an individual than others.
  • Science will only be ever able to provide useful models, not absolute truth.
  • Reality didn't come from anywhere, it still remains the same - nothing.
Though I find views on a personal belief valid to that individual and their perception of reality, I'm personally agnostic to such questions of "is this real?" and the supernatural. I'm also highly sceptical of anything describing itself as an absolute "truth". It's a personal view but one which enables me to quite comfortably understand reality and other questions like, "Where did we come from?". It's all just manifestations of nothing ... but it does sounds like doublethink.

Nothing is Everything.

As I said, I'm no philosopher or mathematician, and this stuff is undoubtedly as flawed now as it was then, just I still don't know better. Ignorance is bliss in my case.

--- 4th September 2014

I was reminded of this post by two recent events. First, my young lad's comments on his dreams. He seems to have very good recall and describes an ability to manipulate them. I was a bit taken aback when he turned to me and said "how do we know this is real?" [referring to the waking state].

The second was a reference to my views on Taoism. I personally find the work of Lao-tzu to be a useful philosophical interpretation of reality through the careful act of not actually trying to describe it. The work is more a continuous exercise in finding your own path, something which I find essential (for me, maybe not you but then your perception of reality is not necessarily mine). It's a bit difficult to describe other than to say - you'll have to find your own path to understanding your own perception.