Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Matrix Has You...

A while back, I read David Deutsch’s book The Fabric of Reality. Continuing with my clogging: As one of the Amazon reviewer’s comments, “Deutsch's presentation is fascinating, mind-expanding, challenging, provocative, and--at times--riveting. It is also infuriating, perplexing, reductive, and--at times--vague. (Please note: I am not convinced that the multiverse as Deutsch describes it exists, nor am I threatened by the possibility that it might. As a result, I do not mean to quarrel with--or support--the idea itself. Instead, I am reviewing Deutsch's book from the point of view of a lay reader.)”

The first two sentences are right on, although, I would also have included “dense reading.”

And, I have to say that although Deutsch’s “proof” for his version of multiverse theory is pretty thin, once presented, the theory is intuitively obvious, and makes perfect sense of all of the classic paradoxes in quantum theory. So much sense that they no longer seem like paradoxes; they just seem like the logical outcome of the multiverse. ...I’d love to see a truly (complete) scientific investigation of the
multiverse theory. [Additional detail about the Many-Worlds Interpretation or MWI.]

However, what I enjoyed more about the book, and my original motivation for buying it, came from the proposition that the synthesis of the theories of evolution, computation, and knowledge with quantum physics could completely describe the physical world. As each of these is largely orthogonal to the others, and encompass pretty much everything there is, I tend to agree... as far as the argument goes.

In 1999, with a crowd of fellow
Legend developers, I watched The Matrix in awe; the best science fiction movie since Star Wars, and in some ways, perhaps, the best sci-fi movie, ever. At the time, I took it to be a fascinating instantiation of the classic question “When you wake up from a dream, how do you really know that you’re not in another dream?” But, then, I didn’t realize how real the model was....

In the years that followed, I read various books by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Although it all seemed pretty abstract, the notion that the reality that we westerners think of as “real” may not be as real as we think, came through loud and clear. And, for me, the metaphor of The Matrix snapped into a new focus.

The Disappearance of the Universe provides yet another perspective -- one that may seem insane, and yet, for me, made sense of a whole range of questions that I’ve never seen answered particularly well anywhere else.

Now, reading
The Universe in a Single Atom, I’ve come across a number of quotes that I love. There are too many to share them all here, but here’s one that resonated particularly well with debates I’ve had with various folks over the past twenty-some years:

“I have noticed that many people hold an assumption that the scientific view of the world should be the basis for all knowledge and all that is knowable. This is scientific materialism. Although I am not aware of a school of thought that explicitly propounds this notion, it seems to be a common unexamined presupposition. This view upholds a belief in an objective world, independent of the contingency of its observers. It assumes that the data being analyzed within an experiment are independent of the preconceptions, perceptions, and experience of the scientist analyzing them.”

“Underlying this view is the assumption that, in the final analysis, matter [and energy]; as it can be described by physics and as it is governed by the laws of physics, is all there is. Accordingly, this view would uphold that psychology can be reduced to biology, biology to chemistry, and chemistry to physics. My concern here is not so much to argue against this reductionist position (although I myself do not share it) but to draw attention to a vitally important point: that these ideas do not constitute scientific knowledge; rather they represent a philosophical, in fact a metaphysical, position. The view that all aspects of reality can be reduced to matter and its various particles is, to my mind, as much a metaphysical position as the view that an organizing intelligence created and controls reality.”

And, another that resonates marvelously with Disappearance:

“According to the early scriptures, the Buddha himself never directly answered questions put to him about the origin of the universe. ...Interpretations of the meaning of Buddha’s refusal to answer these questions directly vary. One view is that the Buddha refused to answer because these metaphysical questions do not directly pertain to liberation. Another view, primarily argued by Nagarjuna, is that insofar as the questions were framed on the presupposition of the intrinsic reality of things, and not on dependent origination, responding would have led to a deeper entrenchment in the belief in solid, inherent existence.”


It’s time to ask yourself ‘what do you believe?’ Dr. Jones...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating comments.

I recently saw this bollywood movie called Banaras, a mystic love story. Grab it if you can find it.

You may also visit the writer's blog.