Monday, February 5, 2007

Hard Determinism

There are a lot of philosophical discussions that arise from this way of imagining the ten dimensions. One thing that has surprised me about the tenth dimension forum is that there are more people out there than I realized who support the idea that our free will is an illusion, and that every action each of us is carrying out is part of an inevitable, inexorable march from the big bang to entropy: this position is called Hard Determinism.

Some have even suggested I should be completely comfortable with this fatalistic view of life: since I am insisting that time is an illusion, and that the events which are about to occur for each of us already exist in the higher dimensions, then aren’t I really arguing the same viewpoint?

This, I believe, is another one of those conceptual framing questions: there are levels at which each viewpoint is correct. Chapter seven of my book is called “The Paradoxes of Time Travel”: here are a couple of paragraphs:

“Discussions of free will crop up again and again as we imagine travelling in time. One theory that attempts to deal with this issue is known as the Novikov Self-Consistency Principle, which was developed by Igor Novikov of the University of Copenhagen. This theory starts with the commonly held assumption that there is only one reality, and only one real time-line for the universe. Assuming that time travel becomes a possibility for us at some point, persons travelling in time to their own past would find it impossible to do anything that would create a paradox: in other words, even if they were to point a gun at their own grandfather, something would always happen to prevent the gun from firing, or the bullet would always miss. The most one could do would be to wound their own grandfather, so long as the wound did not prevent good ol’ grampa from then having the child that becomes the time traveler’s mother or father.

“The mysterious force that would prevent the paradox of killing your grandfather from occurring would appear to be removing free will from the equation. Proponents of this theory point out that this is not that unusual: for instance, no matter how much we attempt to exercise our free will there are certain natural forces in our world, like gravity or the apparent solidity of a wall, that we are simply not able to overcome. In the scenario we’re examining then, attempting to kill your grandfather would be like attempting to levitate or to walk through a wall: no matter how much you try, you are simply unable to do so.”

Likewise, if we are imagining a set of time lines that were selected at the initial conditions of our big bang, then there are basic laws and forces that were chosen at that time which will remain consistent from the beginning to the end of our universe, and no amount of free will be able to change them. If you are thinking of this beginning-to-the-end as a fourth dimensional joining of two points (analogous to a one dimensional line), then, you should also be able to imagine that line as having a “thickness” in the sixth dimension, and that thickness would encompass every possible timeline from the defined beginning and targeted ending of our universe. Fifth-dimensional cross sections of that rope would represent the different “planes” that make up the sixth dimension, just as we can imagine different two-dimensional planes that could occupy parts of third-dimensional space. Ultimately, that sixth-dimensional “rope” that we have imagined would be thinnest at either end, and thickest at the points where the most possible diversity of possible timelines could occur.

Suppose I do figure out a way to go back in time and kill good ol’ grampa. Is that going to change the end of the universe? Suppose I do something that causes planet Earth to disintegrate into atoms. Is that going to change the end of the universe? While it's possible to imagine some chain reaction science fiction experiment gone awry that destroys the entire universe one minute from now, that would only be one thread out of the rope we have just imagined – the other threads where that event didn’t occur would still continue to weave together on their path to one of the possible ends for our universe.

Like the conceptual framing that allows us to imagine ten dimensions by taking it one layer at a time, this is another frame – there are the possibilities and potentials for future timelines that free will, chance, and the actions of others are moving us through from instant to instant. On some of those threads Elvis is still alive (and this would be part of a fifth-dimensional plane defined by all the possible “Elvis is still alive” spacetimes): but on the threads we happen to be on he didn’t make it.

To the extent that any of us can change our position in that rope of consensual reality, created from the threads that exist from the past to the future, I would say that our free will is absolutely part of that equation. My free will can’t allow me to walk through a wall, but there are still a great many things that I do have control over. Still, in the biggest picture of all the hard determinists may also have it right: and that is because all of those possible timelines my free will is allowed to select from are already defined by the point in the seventh dimension that our particular universe is confined within.

Now, what if our universe were to move slightly in the seventh dimension? That may have already happened, but that is a discussion for a future blog entry.

Enjoy the journey,



Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts regarding broad acceptance of a theory which advocates the non existance of free will?

I would expect believers of Hard Determinism to throw 'brotherly love' out the window in the name of personal gain and immediate comfort since there is nothing they can do to effect change in the future. However, I suppose Hard Determinism and belief in an afterlife are not mutually exclusive.

Sorry for the tangent but I often consider these thoughts.


strandcos said...

Determinism looks at the issue from the wrong end of the barrel. I make my decisions based on my genetic predisposition as augmented by experience. (e.g. I am genetically curious, but because of experience, I no longer put my hand in flames.)
Now, with what other criteria do you want our decisions to be made? I want my decisions based on these criteria. I do not want God or the devil overruling my decisions with some kind of "free will", which basically imposes some other criterion on my decisions. So, yes, actions are governed by hard determinism - and I am glad it is.

However, although grossly predictable, like it can be predicted I will pull my hand from a fire, fine decisions, like the weather, are not predictable. Neither I nor anyone else can say what I will order for diner next Tuesday and what wine I will have with it. Nor can it be determined. Because of ciaos theory we know minute causes can have large effects and there is not enough computing power in the universe to analyze all the causes which will determine ones decision making process in a given case.

So, while our conduct is determined by who and what you are, it is not finely predictable -- even by you.

Interestingly, the ancients knew this: Domocrates said the world was determined by atoms falling, but that they made random deviations sometimes (Ciaos therory?). Lucretus said that you have am much chance of changing your destiny as a leaf floating down the Tiber has of changing its.

Unknown said...

"Interestingly, the ancients knew this...."
--I agree with Ivan
There is a old saying in Hindi(Indian language)...

light a joss-sticks and you can smell the fragnance only in the four directions...but fragnance of good work is felt in all the "ten" directions...

Anonymous said...

This in itself is surely a Paradox.
The Paradox -
Assumption: Infinity means true infinity - all possibilities exist.

If the 7th dimension has infinite possibilities, and dimension 5 & 6 exist, all must be possible.

If all is possible then for me to not be able to kill my grandfather means that NOT everything is possible.

Therefore, the 7th dimension cannot be infinite. This means that infinity must mean an unconceivable amount of realities or planes. This then questions travel across 5 & 6 because the point at which the realities are created is the big bang, the chance of earth, humans and even to the point of ourselves, seems inconceivably impossible; or unlikely.

True infinity or inconceivably large number?

Anonymous said...

Predisposition does not control our behavior or choices. It's merely an influence from our past. A person may fall victim to this influence automatically in certain situations or through some experiences, but the ability to interpret, analyze, and choose many of our actions in ways other than building simple ideas to form complex ideas undoubtedly exists. The beginning and the end are the only things that are determined. Everything in between is chaos. There are infinite pathways from here to the end, but the result is the same. A superior power such as "God" can instill "free will" and always be in control of the beginning and end points. So,determinism in the sense of start and finish points being determined exists, but everything in between is still manipulated by "free will".

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