[ExI] What's wrong with Wolfram?

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Mon Apr 17 03:24:16 UTC 2023

On Sun, Apr 16, 2023 at 1:29 AM Rafal Smigrodzki via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> On Tue, May 3, 2022 at 1:21 PM Jason Resch <jasonresch at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Tue, May 3, 2022 at 5:59 AM Rafal Smigrodzki via extropy-chat <
>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>> ### Indeed. Are you familiar with Wolfram's Physics Project? I feel his
>>> approach may help us eventually put metaphysics on a firmer ground and
>>> maybe connect physics to the theory of consciousness in a more rigorous way.
>> His project to frame physics in terms of cellular automata?
>> I think his project is, due to a subtle argument, shown to be impossible.
>> A result by Bruno Marchal implies that if digital Mechanism (in philosophy
>> of mind) is true, then digital physics cannot be true. And because digital
>> physics implies digital mechanism, the idea of digital physics leads to
>> contradiction and so must be false.
> ### Can you elaborate on this?
> BTW, Wolfram's Physics Project is not based on cellular automata but
> rather graphs, which is an extension of his previous efforts from "A new
> kind of science"

Sure, it is a bit long and technical, but feel free to ask any follow up
questions or for clarifications if anything below does not make sense.

I can't say definitively whether or not Wolfram's current ontology is
inconsistent in the following way or not, as it depends to some extent what
Wolfram is considering as physics. My latest reading of his theories
concerning the ruliad and consciousness lead me to believe he and Bruno
might now be closer in their thinking, but I am not sure whether Wolfram
has understood the implications for digital physics. Wolfram in 2021 writes:

"One’s first impression might be that the ruliad effectively contains many
possible “parallel universes”, and that we have selected ourselves into one
of these, perhaps as a result of our particular characteristics. But in
fact the ruliad isn’t about “parallel universes”, it’s about universes that
are entangled at the finest possible level. And an important consequence of
this is that it means we’re not “stuck in a particular parallel universe”.
Instead, we can expect that by somehow “changing our point of view”, we can
effectively find ourselves in a “different universe”."
-- Stephen Wolfram in “The Concept of the Ruliad

This way of thinking makes consciousness in a sense, more fundamental than
physics, as the laws of the universe one will experience depend largely on
the kind of mind having the experience. For example:

"To derive the effective laws of physics, one needs to do statistics over
the ensemble of identical observers. This involves performing summations
over the multiverse, but these summations are with a constraint that says
that some given observer is present."
-- Saibal Mitra in discussion list

This is the case for most "everything exists/ultimate ensemble" ontologies.
Each observer mind state occurs infinitely throughout that reality, and for
computationally-defined observers, the laws of physics are the consistent
extensions of all the programs which instantiate that observer:

"Arithmetic contains or executes all computations. Your first person is
distributed on all computations going through your current first person
state. To make any prediction on the future of your possible inputs, you
need to take all the computations into account, and the laws of physics is
what is invariant in all consistent extensions."
-- Bruno Marchal in discussion list

"It is impossible for any observer to deduce with certainty on the basis of
her observations and memory which world she is a part of. That is, there
are always many different worlds for which being contained in them is
compatible with everything she knows, but which imply different predictions
for future observations."
-- Markus Müller in “Could the physical world be emergent instead of
fundamental, and why should we ask? <https://arxiv.org/pdf/1712.01826v1.pdf>”

This background should help illustrate the incompatibility between the
theory of mind* and *digital physics*. Digital physics is the hypothesis
that the physical universe, and its laws, matter, space, time, etc., are
simulable by a digital computer. This requires that everything be discrete,
and that there are no continua or infinities. Note that digital physics
implies the computational theory of mind (absent some kind of dualism),
because if the brain is a physical object, and the physics of the universe
are Turing emulable, then the brain is Turing emulable. But, here is the
contradiction: the computational theory of mind implies "¬ (not) digital
physics". Therefore digital physics is inconsistent as it implies its own
contradiction: digital physics ⇒ computational theory of mind ⇒ ¬ digital

Why does the computational theory of mind imply digital physics is false?
Because the infinity of mind states within the infinite computations within
arithmetic imply the existence of contina and infinites in the physics that
any mind will observe. Note, that these infinities have revealed themselves
within our physics, as some have noted:

"It always bothers me that, according to the laws as we understand them
today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical
operations to figure out what goes on in no matter how tiny a region of
space, and no matter how tiny a region of time. How can all that be going
on in that tiny space? Why should it take an infinite amount of logic to
figure out what one tiny piece of space/time is going to do?"
-- Richard Feynman in “The Character of Physical Law

"In short, within each universe all observable quantities are discrete, but
the multiverse as a whole is a continuum. When the equations of quantum
theory describe a continuous but not-directly-observable transition between
two values of a discrete quantity, what they are telling us is that the
transition does not take place entirely within one universe. So perhaps the
price of continuous motion is not an infinity of consecutive actions, but
an infinity of concurrent actions taking place across the multiverse."
-- David Deutsch in “The Discrete and the Continuous

"Matter is only what seems to emerge at infinity from a first person plural
point of view (defined by sharing the computations which are infinitely
multiplied in the [Universal Dovetailer’s] work) when persons look at
themselves and their environment below their substitution level. The
non-cloning results from the fact that such a matter emerges only from an
infinity of distinct computations."
-- Bruno Marchal in “The computationalist reformulation of the mind-body

Given that each individual's experience is based on infinite numbers of
parallel computations, we experience time and space as continua, and matter
(or rather the apparent behavior of matter as seen by any observer)
requires an infinite amount of computation to capture, hence the physical
universe is not Turing emulable, as they involve continua and infinities of

Had our universe had laws that were Turing emulable (if we lived in a
digital physics universe) that would be a disproof of the computational
theory of mind.

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