The first manuscript page of the Monadology
Leibniz surmised that there are indefinitely many substances individually ‘programmed’ to act in a predetermined way, each substance being coordinated with all the others. This description of reality is elegant to the ear that believes Zeus is more simple than Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism.
However, coding Zeus is more difficult than coding Maxwell’s equations. Similarly, coding a world in which all substances are individually programmed is more difficult than coding a world in which a single substance is programmed.
The single substance is the amplitude distribution of the entire universe.
Another problem is that for a Bayesian rationalist trained on the early 21st century blog LessWrong, the immediately succeeding question after reading Leibniz is “How would the world be otherwise if this were not true?”
Unfortunately Leibniz’s view is vague enough that it cannot be made to “pay rent.” Poetic; tantalizing – yes. But the more complex an explanation is, the more evidence you need just to find it in belief-space.
Popper defined a physical proposition to be one which can at least in theory be denied by observation.
–Take the example of the B-Theory of Time. However counterintuitive it may be from the inside of human self-modeling computations to believe that time is an illusion, eternalism is a physical proposition because it can be denied by observing special relativity fail.
If we had seen the absence of time dilation or the absence of length contraction, then special relativity would be wrong and eternalism would be debunked. Unfortunately for those who cherished belief in libertarian free will, this was not the case.
It is more difficult to apply a Popper test to Leibniz’s monadology, however. Perhaps Leibniz knew of an observation that could knock down his proposition, but this jugular is not clearly visible. If a proposition believes itself immune ∀ observations, the proposition is not physical.
So the sense in which I want to rehabilitate the monadology is not in the physical sense. There is an aesthetic vibe to it, and this aesthetic vibe is similar to the aesthetic vibe caused by the ontological content in my physical proposition belief space.
We have learned much about reality since the time of Leibniz. If we are given a wave function for a single structureless particle in position space, this reduces to saying that the probability density function for a measurement of the position at time will be given by
If you are not familiar with complex conjugates, I guess you can just forget about the absolute value squared part. Just look at the picture and try to realize, try to feel, that these are indeed equal.
It feels weird doesn’t it?
The measurement problem arises because the quantum state vector, the source of all knowledge concerning quantum systems, evolves according to the Schrödinger equation into a linear superposition of different states, predicting paradoxical situations such as “Schrödinger’s cat”; situations never experienced in our classical world.
Except that the cat which is both dead and alive does happen in our classical world. It is just not experienced that way. Observers can only find themselves where they are alive because they are nothing more than a physical configuration.
The confusion arises from thinking that one can actually find oneself dead.
To be more precise, there is no flowing identity in the cat that must be accounted for. The alive cat is always alive from its own slice in eternity and the similar but different dead cat in another branch is subjectively inconsequential to the observed reality of the other indexical feline.
In common language it is often explained that:
“According to the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, reality is constantly splitting into countless parallel universes, with each possible collision and all other outcomes being realized in a different universe. Even very improbable events must then occur by chance in a small percentage of universes.”
Ahh… but if all else which is occurring is directly inconsequential to immediate perception, doesn’t this belief in the objectivity of the wavefunction and therefore many-worlds, also “not pay rent”; is therefore also poetry; is therefore also Leibniz’s Monadology?
Such is not the case.
From both a Bayesian rationalist perspective, and a Deutsch-style Popperian perspective, Many-worlds does pay rent. It may not be obvious that Occam’s razor implies many-worlds to those who do not think about multi-particle configurations. But it pays, and we cannot kick it out of our territory through argumentation that values empiricism.
However, we can kick it out as a matter of constraining our anticipation. We still believe that the sizes of infinity matter, and that somehow we exist at the most dense core of amplitude distribution – that which is most rational. Hence why we don’t buy insurance for betrayal branches were we spontaneously murder the people around us. Or even gamble at the lottery, though infinite easy trillionaires are physically created through this behavior.
We can reify belief in a solipsistic core or we can say we are all discrete random variables – believing ourselves unable to distinguish where we stand in a sea of independent consciousnesses.
Trained in Biology, I view that video as a form of imaginative play that is then either valued by reality or not. Everything is natural selection.
But say we imagine such self-localization difficulties – then what can we say about ourselves? One choice is to still think of ourselves as separate units, but “ultimately” one.
Then we may be committed to say that:
If the generator of random variable is discrete with probability mass function then
where is the average value, i.e.
And if you have the circumstantial privilege to identify as that, then go right ahead.
It is perhaps quite a silly endeavor to argue through physical considerations that “a final discrete element in reality exists; that consciousness itself appears to be in a singular place, at a singular time,” to someone who does not care about where the hierarchical discussion of “physical considerations” leads.
There has always been a cadre of consciousness realists in the ever-bifurcating philosophical traditions of history that claim consciousness is indivisible, a singularity, a 1, a 0, the only truly discrete object. Their male brains are unable to disengage from the “object level” and notice that feeling independent consciousness is a choice, until it’s not, like the colors we learn are a cultural choice, until they’re not. If I could mockingly imitate non-mysterian consciousness realists (i.e. my past self) they would sound like this: “Could it be that awareness is a discrete probability distribution that needs to be represented as a generalized probability density function involving Dirac delta functions in order to substantially unify the treatment of the continuous reality surrounding us and the discrete distributions which we are?”
Some consciousness realists take on that flag because they believe that others are denying existence itself. I never believed this. Instead, consciousness realism was the idea that my existence could be carved out with a model that isomorphically mapped to it. Incapable of noticing that the quest of the consciousness realist is just the quest to transfigure his own experience.
If someone understood what I was trying to convey in my mock example with Dirac delta functions, a slightly new form of consciousness might be synthesized. The insurmountable problem for those trying to find a homotopy that translates them is that the binding into consciousness is impossible to introspect because you are inside of it.
There is the possibility that lasting insight might be accidentally gathered and cached by climbing the aesthetic sense of the consciousness realism mountain. But like in theoretical physics, no Grand Unified Theory can exist. One must understand that the helpless sense of conscious self is no different to the helpless understanding of these English words. It was learned, and now it can only be undone by self-locating in regions lacking that ability.
In physics-naive terms The Ability might be defined as: synchrony with past events by a complexity gradient.
The ovals are events in the eternal fabric. The fabric and all its events are eternal because otherwise you would contradict special relativity.
The lines indicate the binding into an experience. What selects the binding into the perfectly adaptive phenotype of now with all its particular traits (language, body, temporal grain, size of visual field, sensations, conceptual scaffoldings) is unknown. It is ultimately the mystery of, “Why am I this and not something else?” This is often a worthy mystery in regions of mindspace that are depressed or asexual humans. Such is the cortical ruminating fate in the absence of dopamine release in the dorsorostral nucleus accumbens and posterior ventral palladum..
Yet other regions of mindspace also care. I remember this existential question sharply piercing me with auto-teleologic interest when I was ten years old, sitting in a car, and realized that I was conscious; that I existed; that I was full of particularities that could have been otherwise in theory. Humans then return to the question when they don’t believe in that auto-teleologic worthiness provided by their capacity to impress a group perceived to be the adaptive, good tribe. This can include disease-ridden old people, loners, and people with relatively high moral sentiments attempting to climb to desired positions.
The “why” doesn’t matter as much as the insight that sometimes results from the path. The rational insight at the core of the probability distribution is what absorbs us when we deviate from it and die.
In this regard, I believe I have discovered a core insight which is that it is impossible to really die and we are inside a very particular kind of God.
The Western mind assumes that the linear travelers called Subjects are not culturally constructed, somehow profoundly unlike understanding English which is culturally constructed. But the self-created Subjects are just incapable of understanding Mandarin in that regard. Remember that your experience is integrated atemporally as I indicated with the diagram showing events in relativistic light cones.
Leibniz explains in his work Theodicy how evil can exist in the universe. Leibniz explains that as human beings, we are limited. In his language: as monads we can only reflect the nature of the universe from our particular point of view. God, as the greatest Monad with the greatest degree of consciousness, of course, is able to reflect on the entirety of the universe, which he arranged according to the principle of “pre-established harmony.” Therefore, he would claim, God created the best possible world; we just aren’t able to recognize that from our limited vantage point.
If we replace his arbitrary trinitarian desert god and instead hold Leibniz closely accountable to his word that God represents that with the greatest degree of consciousness, then this would just be equivalent to that which is the absolute max of the binding function in the eternal-block. Why wouldn’t functional grain of experience scale up?
Like the Namibian Himbas’ different perception of color from mine, closed individualism is an approximate blob of feeling that doesn’t generalize to all mindspace.
To illustrate our situation as conscious being, it is necessary to realize that my particular state of consciousness is created by events in an eternal block.
The finite speed of light limits the theoretical maximum speed of artificial computers, and also that of the biological computers creating this multi-sensorial inner movie. This is because information must be sent within the artificial computer from chip to chip and within the biological computer from neuron to neuron. However, my present experience is not some information particle traveling at the “tip” of an electromagnetic wave.
To account for the complexity of the senses and not desecrate the implications of special relativity, we need to be a set of information distributed in tenseless spacetime. Because there is no global time in the relativistic block, it must then be concluded that experience is embedded in a process which already happened.
Notice that when someone takes drugs and the experienced velocity of consciousness is slower, the reason is not that the speed of light changed. The speed of light is the same and information got to neurons at the same time as always because the distance between neurons didn’t increase. The reason time feels slower is because of the different shape of the computation serving that function.
We are not information particles traveling on arrows of light, but rather, the shape left by these motions. When this is clearly understood, then one realizes that there is no basis for discovering contiguity of structure that creates continuity of self. Dennett was right and I was foolish: the only things that can be discovered are more third-person objective facts and other varieties of perceptual handles through inventing new language, or new ways of being, more broadly. This is because that which believes and feels a closed ontological self/soul are those regions of integration that are not at the absolute maximum, and the selection pressure choosing the binding from “outside” is unknowable.