A Broad Academic Overview of the Work
Overview of this work
Related: metaphysical ideas in other people's work.
Ideas regarding the nature of reality are the most subtle, profound and easily misunderstood ideas of all time and this work touches upon many areas of previous enquiry in which there has at times been a great deal of confusion, both extreme and subtle. Thus many of the basic terms that I use may share great similarities with prior definitions but also serious differences. This is because many of the prior definitions contain implicit assumptions and subtle confusions. Hence any purely knee-jerk interpretations of words or phrases based entirely on some particular definition without any consideration of the context in which it is used will likely lead to confusion.
Every expression of an idea rests upon an implicit metaphysics, and this world is dragging itself out of many layers of subtle "common-sense realism", which assumes that the nature of reality is much the same as how it appears to the senses. This assumption subtly permeates the whole of language, science and philosophy, thus nothing can be stated 'directly' and many words and phrases contain the very illusion that I am trying to tackle by using those words, hence great subtlety is required when interpreting things. I will endeavour to shed a little light on this knot of confusion, but the untying of the knot is a long and arduous process that cannot be accomplished here. Hence this is just a little guidance and ultimately one must rely on a subtle and perceptive reading of this work if one is not to become confused by such things.
I will begin by putting forward the central proposition in a brief statement. It is not a 'definition' and it does not express any of the details, subtleties or ramifications, it simply provides a starting point from which one may work toward a better understanding of the ideas.
The essential proposition is that what people refer to as the "physical universe" can be likened to a simulation or an abstract information space. Behind this phenomenon there is a simulator or a computational process that produces the simulation. That is the essence of the "computational paradigm".
For more information on the idea of reality as a computational process see System Theoretic Metaphysics, Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, Computational Paradigm, this summary of the work of Ross Rhodes or see other related works.
Firstly I refer to the simulation context as the "empirical world" or empirical context. I mean 'empirical' as in "derived from experience", particularly sensory experience via our five biological senses, but from this we have developed a belief in a world "out there" and thus empiricism also extends to all concepts of an "objective world" that is "out there". But there is a subtle assumption here that all experience arises from the senses, but that is not the case, the range of experience far exceeds the range of the senses, as anyone with experience in yoga and meditation can attest to. Or simply contemplate, how is it that one experiences a dream when it is not driven by external stimuli flowing through the senses? There is an internal experiential space and subtle non-sensory influences can effect that space. However that does not effect the essential use of the term for the simulation context although it can lead to subtle confusions in places. For instance, one cannot approach an understanding of the nature of the transcendent process by using ones senses, but one can experience it in the sense that the underlying transcendent computation is the innermost essence of experience itself. It cannot be experienced via the senses as an object "out there" but it can be experienced as ones innermost being, which is the purpose of meditation. Thus direct knowledge of the nature of reality cannot be attained in a direct and "common-sense" empiricist approach but in the subtler meaning of non-sensory experience it can be directly experienced and known - hence in that respect it is amenable to an empiricist approach. But in a semi-empiricist or indirect empiricist approach through hypothesis and experimental verification much can come to be known even though it cannot be directly experienced in a traditional sense.
Further light can be shed on the idea of the simulation context by considering that all phenomena within the simulation arise within that space. To use current computer science terminology, we are like "artificial intelligences" arising within a "virtual reality". It is the flux of information through the simulator that drives the dynamics of the simulation, hence energy. All 'forms' that we perceive arise through the flow of this energy and its interaction with our senses, thus 'objects' are not simply existing in some external context, they arise in our minds and we build up a mythology of a world "out there". The very idea of internal and external or subjective and objective are themselves part of an objective mythology. This mythology permeates the whole of language and all definitions of ideas, thus it is an extremely subtle process to question this unquestioned belief in the "world out there". I question the deeply held belief that there are 'things' in a 'world' that possess 'behaviour' and that this IS the foundation of reality and all else arises from this "simply existing" foundation, I question the common-sense belief in "the world".
Process philosophy also deeply questions this belief and is briefly described by these two quotes. Which are both expressed entirely in an empirical context but they do not take that context as "simply existing", they propose that the entire context is manifested and sustained by ongoing processes rather than resting upon an assumption of simply existent 'things'. However in these theories the processes themselves are generally considered to be simply existing. Whereas, in the "computational paradigm" I explicitly propose that behind the processes there is in fact a processor, which we can come to comprehend in many ways and that this knowledge is amenable to experimental verification.
The computational context is the realm of the processor and is referred to as the 'transcendent' context, as in:
Lying beyond the ordinary range of perception
Being above and independent of the material universe
(Free Online Dictionary: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/transcendent)
There are other meanings but these are STRICTLY not applicable here since they contain subtle assumptions and confusions.
My usage of the term "transcendent computational process" relates to the original meaning of transcendence, here is the wikipedia definition:
... that God [the underlying foundation of reality] is completely outside of and beyond the world [the simulation], as contrasted with the notion that God is manifested in the world. This meaning originates both in Aristotle's notion of God as the prime mover, a non-material self-consciousness that is outside of the world, and in the Jewish and Christian idea of God as a being outside of the world.
I do not mean transcendent as in beyond our grasp and therefore entirely unknowable and relying upon faith. There are subtleties here too, we can know the transcendent context from within but we cannot know it in its totality; it is both knowable and unknowable. From a perspective within the simulation we can only experience and observe the inner computational space of the transcendent computational process but just like in the case of a computer game, an entity within the game world cannot directly experience and know about a glass of water that has been placed on top of the computer box, there is a separation of information spaces. A program can only know things about the computer when it is explicitly informed of them, for example, many CPU's encode information about themselves that programs can access, or a CPU heat sensor may provide information to programs but the programs cannot acquire that information on their own. Hence the transcendent computational process is beyond and separate but we can know it from within, we can observe and experience the computational process because that is the foundation of our world. We can hypothesise and deduce the nature of the internal computational space based upon the requirements of information theory and the theory of general computation, and thereby determine what are the ramifications of that on the nature of the simulation and thereby we can test and observe these and thus scientifically build up concrete knowledge of the inner nature of the transcendent computational process. That is the essence of the scientific enquiry presented in this work.
Hence this work is both empiricist and transcendentalist in different ways. It proposes that there is in fact a transcendent origin that cannot be directly perceived but it also proposes that via indirect empiricist methods one can come to know aspects of it. There is much subtle confusion surrounding these terms that needs to be cleared up in this context. In regards to the wikipedia definition:
Empiricism is the philosophical doctrine that all human knowledge ultimately comes from the senses and from experience. Empiricism denies that humans have innate ideas or that anything is knowable a priori, i.e., without reference to experience.
It is generally regarded as being at the heart of the modern scientific method, that our theories should be based on our observations of the world rather than on intuition or faith; that is, empirical research and a posteriori inductive reasoning rather than purely deductive logic.
I do not dispute the overall meaning of that, however it contains many subtle assumptions that I do dispute, such as the assumption that experience arises only through the senses and the assumption regarding the nature of intuition as being unrelated to experience; it is in fact related to "non-sensory experience". Furthermore the entire idea arises from and is permeated by the "objective mythology". However in my use of the word transcendent and my comments regarding the limitations of the empiricist perspective I do not go against this basic definition. The issues are far subtler than that. In the context of the above definition I propose an empiricist science of the transcendent origins of reality. Here I mean "empiricist science" in the sense of this wikipedia comment:
Empirical is an adjective often used in conjunction with science, both the natural and social sciences, which means the use of working hypotheses which are capable of being disproved using observation or experiment (ie: ultimately through experience).
Thus nothing I say relies upon faith or belief (which are sometimes associated with the idea of the transcendent context) and ultimately it may all be verified by experiment. I propose that semi-empiricist methods can be used to comprehend aspects of reality that are beyond the empirical context and that underlie the very manifestation and sustained existence of the simulation itself. Here I use the term 'semi-empricist' in the sense of:
the term semi-empirical or semiempirical is used for qualifying theoretical methods which use in part basic axioms or postulated scientific laws and empirical (experimental) results. (wikipedia)
Process physics can be described by these few quotes. Process philosophy and process physics go one step further to explain that the 'world' and the 'things' arise from underlying processes, but the processes are treated as if they are simply existent. At least as far as I know that is the case, process physics implicitly relies on processes of a particular type that can be modeled using neural networks but there is no attempt to explain in detail how the processes themselves arise. But I have only recently discovered the existence of these fields, they are intimately related to my work and I will be exploring them deeply in future. It is likely that they are conceptually equivalent to my own work in their core aspects but so far academics have steered clear of any mention of a transcendent context due to the many knots of confusion that surround such subtle subjects or possibly they have not thought that far due to the empiricentric belief system that has been dominant throughout Western history.
In my own work the processes themselves are secondary and arise from the functioning of the transcendent computational process. Hence I propose that the processes arise from a processor and any questions of whether it is simply existent or whether it also exists in some context is inherently unknowable due to aspects of information theory, and hence no assumptions can arise around it, thus forming a natural foundation for metaphysics. The proposition of the transcendent processor is not for no reason or simply because I wish to some how squeeze God into the theory. In this way one can escape the last vestiges of common-sense realism and the belief in a 'world' as being the ultimate theatre of reality (whether founded upon things in space or on processes) and one can step entirely outside of "the world" and into the transcendent computational space. Instead of dealing with a mass of abstract processes that simply exist one is now dealing with a single simulator or simulation program. One can then use the theory of computation, information theory, software engineering and so on to explore the detailed properties of the simulator and to even build detailed mathematical models and software prototypes of the simulator itself. With these one can then reproduce the processes and explore how they give rise to the phenomenon of the "physical universe" simulation. Eventually we could even build an artificial universe within the computational space of a quantum computer.
But the fact that God has entered into the theory also has vast implications (other than causing countless closed minded individuals to choke on the theory), it brings the whole of the Eastern and Western perspectives into harmony, the whole of the empiricist and spiritualist paradigms into harmony and it allows one to draw from the experiences of countless millions of individuals and thousands of years of accumulated wisdom in regards to the nature of the holistic context. It also sheds light on the meanings of that ancient wisdom and allows one to draw deeply meaningful wisdom from them that can be applied in countless life situations for individuals, organisations, nations and humanity as a whole. Thus ones resources for understanding increase, instead of a few intellectual theories that arise from an ultimately untested academic methodology that has evolved within a purely materialistic context over the last couple of thousand years. One can also draw upon the whole field of human experience and the striving of countless deep, profound and subtle minds over many thousands of years. One has the benefit of intellectual methodology and also the benefit of countless "whole minds". One can unite and apply the complex and intricate science of yoga and other such participatory methodologies with the intellectual approach. The gains in clarity and insight are beyond comprehension from a purely agitated, ego driven intellectual perspective or from a purely mystical subjective anti-intellectual perspective. But these matters are extremely subtle and will be covered gradually within the discussions throughout this work.
Thus we have gone from the common sense realist view of objects in space that are simply existing, to empirical phenomena arising out of underlying processes, which are themselves simply existing and have arrived at a transcendent processor that 'computes' the processes in the manner of a simulation and thereby produces the context that, via immersion and interaction we come to experience as a world of objects in space. Nothing need be assumed to be "simply existing" because we know how and why it is that we cannot know about the 'outer' nature of the transcendent process (it dwells in a separate information space), thus we cannot make any assumptions about it because we cannot know such things. Whether it is simply existing or not is unknowable from our vantage point, it is a natural end to the enquiry or a natural foundation to our metaphysics that relies on no assumptions whatsoever. Furthermore we have the unification of countless seemingly incompatible perspectives, that gives rise to a vast potential for not only intellectual knowing and objective technological development but also for profound participation and deeply subjective immersion in the whole of reality.
Although we reach a point of unknowability, we can however come to know its inner nature and everything that arises therefrom, both through a combination of direct 'mystical' experience and intellectually through the use of hypothesis, the building of models, the determining of the ramifications that those models suggest on the nature of the eventual simulation context and then experimental observation of the physical universe and the gradual refinement and verification of the models. We cannot explore it 'directly' in an intellectual sense but by using these 'semi-empirical' methods we can eventually arrive at a detailed understanding of the inner nature of the transcendent process that gives rise to the physical universe. Thus we can come to intellectually comprehend and know the general nature of everything that is knowable.
These two aspects are the major components of this work; the intellectual component and the participatory component. The two can synergistically work together, the one to provide detailed intellectual understanding, motivation and explicit technologies, whilst the other to provide direct experience and immersion within the transcendent realm thus allowing one to dwell more fully in reality. The mathematical analysis in this work explores the detailed nature of the transcendent process and how it simulates the empirical context. It explores the nature of the inherent constraints on any computational process and what ramifications these constraints have on the nature of the resulting simulation. This gives indications regarding the nature of the resulting "physical universe". Whilst many of the other aspects of this work such as some of the essays and the poetry give the feel of the approach toward actually dwelling in reality as well as intellectually comprehending it. However I do not go into the methodology of attaining a participatory union with reality since that has been exhaustively covered throughout history and there are many ways of approaching it.
Overview of this work
Related: metaphysical ideas in other people's work.