Superdeterminism Sucks

Fascinating Aeon article from 2016 by Huw Price (someone I really ought to read more) and Ken Wharton. (Hat tip to Judy Stout for re-sharing and editor Corey Powell.)

I’ve probably read and been influenced by this piece before, but it’s fairly long (5300 words) and I did a thorough read through this morning.

First off, before we get to the point of the piece, the first half is an excellent, readable summary of the whole quantum vs relativity story, from all the usual new physics suspects at Solvay conferences, via Copenhagen and Bell’s inequality to the present. The story I tend to summarise as:

“Einstein was right
when he thought he’d been wrong.
But he failed to convince
enough of his colleagues
in the remainder of his life.”

[Post Note: Something Lee Smolin calls “Einstein’s Unfinished Project” – the title of his latest book, which I acquired since this post and will review shortly. Meantime I think Sabine Hossenfelder has already reviewed?]

And we’ve never really recovered from mathematical conventions that work at the human scale, but cannot possibly bear much relation to reality at any fundamental level. (Collapsing wave functions, entanglement, the shut-up-and-calculate Copenhagen meme, the lot.)

The main thesis is that all these fudges miss what is blindingly obvious, that there is retro-causation – a kinda reverse causation. Really. I say kinda (sorta, after Dennett) because it sounds bonkers with a too physicalist view of the fundamental reality of action-at-a-distance coupled with the undoubtedly psychological construct we call time. Information precedes all else and what is known in advance affects what happens in future.

Lots of confirmation bias in my agreeing with that, given my informational metaphysics. Doubly so in the fact that this piece also de-constructs superdeterminism – the prevalent scientistic idea that determinism is so physically embedded that our free-will is also pre-determined or epiphenomenal – hence bogging us down in observer and decidability effects (*1).

“Three decades of worrying about free will
turn out to have been a complete red herring”.


[Post Notes:

(*1) Knowledge doesn’t come from observation. Information processing is creative, everything comes from processing information, including the stuff we eventually observe. (Science itself is merely 20:20 hindsight – Pirsig.)

Great little video from Carlos de la Guardia reading Hofstadter’s seminal “Gödel, Escher, Bach” in an Artificial General Intelligence context where it is often presumed that new knowledge comes from algorithmic empirical feedback (*2).

Counterfactuals – alternative future possibilities – are created not observed. Put me instantly in mind of Hofstadter’s conceptual slipping, much documented in his Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies particularly Chapters 8 & 9.

Much referenced elsewhere in this blog – here specifically on this topic. And of course Hofstadter was famously critical of AGI hype when many of its prime movers, including Kurzweil, were present.]

[(*2) of course it does come from real algorithmic processing of empirical feedback – but many many layers of algorithms, continuously recycled over evolutionary time. There’s as much psychological feed-forward as physical feed-back (hence “kinda” retro-causality). The evolved intelligent mind involves creative slipping beyond blind causal processing – that’s THE point.]

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