Reflexive self-processing is literally infinitely simpler than a many world interpretation

post by mgin · 2015-11-13T14:46:32.346Z · score: -9 (10 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 16 comments

I recently stumbled upon the concept of "reflexive self-processing", which is Chris Langan's "Reality Theory".

I am not a physicist, so if I'm wrong or someone can better explain this, or if someone wants to break out the math here, that would be great.

The idea of reflexive self-processing is that in the double slit experiment for example, which path the photon takes is calculated by taking into account the entire state of the universe when it solves the wave function.

1. isn't this already implied by the math of how we know the wave function works? are there any alternate theories that are even consistent with the evidence?

2. don't we already know that the entire state of the universe is used to calculate the behavior of particles? for example, doesn't every body produce a gravitational field which acts, with some magntitude of force, at any distance, such that in order to calculate the trajectory of a particle to the nth decimal place, you would need to know about every other body in the universe?

This is, literally, infinitely more parsimonious than the many worlds theory, which posits that an infinite number of entire universes of complexity are created at the juncture of every little physical event where multiple paths are possible. Supporting MWI because of it's simplicity was always a really horrible argument for this reason, and it seems like we do have a sensible, consistent theory in this reflexive self-processing idea, which is infinitely simpler, and therefore should be infinitely preferred by a rationalist to MWI.

16 comments

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comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-11-13T15:40:05.987Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The paper speaks favorably of intelligent design and observer-causes-collapse, which are huge red flags. The author is very confused.

comment by query · 2015-11-13T15:28:45.136Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree with your conclusion. Specifically, I disagree that

This is, literally, infinitely more parsimonious than the many worlds theory

You're reasoning isn't tight enough to have confidence answering questions like these. Specifically,

  • What do you mean by "simpler"?
  • Specifically how does physics "take into account the entire state of the universe"?

In order to actually say anything like the second that's consistent with observations, I expect your physical laws become much less simple (re: Bell's theorem implying non-locality, maybe, see Scott Aaronson's blog.)

A basic error you're making is equating simplicity of physical laws with small ontology. For instance, Google just told me there's ~10^80 atoms in the observable universe (+- a few orders of magnitude), but this is no blow against the atomic theory of matter. You can formalize this interplay via "minimum message length" for a finite, fully described system; check Wikipedia for details.

Even though MWI implies a large ontology, it's just a certain naive interpretation of our current local description of quantum mechanics. It's hard to see how there could be a global description that is simpler, though I'd be interested to see one. (Here local/global mean "dependent on things nearby" vs "dependent on things far away", which of course is assuming that ontology.)

With all kindness, the strength of your conclusion is far out of scope with the argument you've made. The linked paper looks like nonsense to me. I would recommend studying some basic textbook math and physics if you're truly interested in this subject, although be prepared for a long and humbling journey.

comment by twanvl · 2015-11-13T15:26:18.046Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The link you provided contains absolutely no physics, as far as I can tell. Nor is there any math aside from some basic logic. So I am skeptical on whether this theory is correct (or even falsifiable).

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2015-11-14T15:41:14.176Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Chris Langan

Uh-oh.

The idea of reflexive self-processing is that in the double slit experiment for example, which path the photon takes is calculated by taking into account the entire state of the universe when it solves the wave function.

That's effectively an appeal to non-local hidden variables, which isn't ruled out by current experiments, isn't very popular, and isn't very new.

  1. don't we already know that the entire state of the universe is used to calculate the behavior of particles? for example, doesn't every body produce a gravitational field which acts, with some magntitude of force, at any distance, such that in order to calculate the trajectory of a particle to the nth decimal place, you would need to know about every other body in the universe?

No, relativity is local, which is one of the the reasons NLHVs are unpopular. Note that having forces with infinite range doesnt imply nonlocality.

comment by mgin · 2015-11-18T03:45:17.030Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

doesn't gravity act at a distance? how is that "non-locality"?

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2015-11-18T17:38:08.523Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Instantaneous action at a distance would be locality.

comment by Wes_W · 2015-11-19T04:40:09.071Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Non-locality, surely? Or "would violate locality"?

comment by mgin · 2015-11-14T18:42:25.856Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

having forces with infinite range doesnt imply nonlocality

isn't that what i'm saying? so why did you say no?

comment by Val · 2015-11-13T21:32:08.764Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This theory in the paper might be true, or it might be not true, but in either case it's not a physics article, it seems to be more like a philosophy article.

comment by mgin · 2015-11-14T18:46:29.038Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

it seems very philosophically appealing for many reasons, but I can't judge its merit as a theory of physics.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-11-13T16:36:17.881Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

don't we already know that the entire state of the universe is used to calculate the behavior of particles? for example, doesn't every body produce a gravitational field which acts, with some magntitude of force, at any distance, such that in order to calculate the trajectory of a particle to the nth decimal place, you would need to know about every other body in the universe?

The second version is much worse than the first. If you need to know the universe out a certain distance to calculate to the Nth place and a further distance to calculate to N+1-st place, that's not too bad. But if you need everything to calculate anything, that's terrible. I believe that the my version is true for GR (and some versions of quantum gravity), but the bad version is true for all other theories. People get around it by assumptions like constant density far away.

But the real way that they get away from it is by not thinking in terms of action at a distance from all the masses far away, but rather thinking in terms of gravitational potential field that exists and can be measured locally, but summarizes all information about far away objects.

comment by mgin · 2015-11-14T18:45:10.559Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

if you need everything to calculate anything, that's terrible

why?

comment by Wes_W · 2015-11-15T02:27:55.881Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Because we can't actually get infinite information, but we still want to calculate things.

And in practice, we can in fact calculate things to some level of precision, using a less-than-infinite amount of information.

comment by JohnGreer · 2015-11-15T00:17:03.707Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For anyone interested: the author is famous for his high IQ and was the subject of an episode of the filmmaker Errol Morris' TV series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggur-Ca2nzs

comment by entirelyuseless · 2015-11-13T15:29:42.577Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Since this is just speculation it might have been better to post it to the open thread. Conceivably there could be a discussion section for such things but in fact it is taken significantly more seriously.

comment by Thomas · 2015-11-14T08:35:20.577Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The idea, that both slits, the electrons, the detector and everything else near the experiment are influencing the outcome of the result - looks very good to me.