Years ago, Albert Einstein made a typical human kind of error in trying to understand quantum mechanics. Einstein famously said “common sense is nothing but a collection of prejudices acquired before the age of (16).” But he himself fell victim to the same kind of thing. When his own mathematics showed us the symmetry of the universe in time and in space, and in forwards time versus backwards time… he did not assimilate the implications in his gut. He proposed an experiment, the famous Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen experiment (later refined into the “Bell’s Theorem” experiments), which would disagree with quantum mechanics, ONLY on the assumption that physical effects can only march forwards in time, never backwards. His common sense was proven wrong… but his mathematics still works, as I have shown (see www.werbos.com/quantum.htm).
But last year I made the same kind of mistake myself. I too failed to fully appreciate how rich the phenomena can be which emerge in a universe with just three dimensions of space and one of time. I even felt there seemed to be a big contradiction between my direct experience of life and what would be possible under that kind of theory of physics.
Now I know better. There is a certain term, Z, which appears BOTH in the Feynman path version of quantum mechanics and in my new stochastic path version. The math of these versions is similar on the surface, but they lead to different predictions (and different options for technology). Still, both have this term Z. In “common sense” (a different kind of common sense, which I should perhaps call “inner subjective understanding), Z is a destiny term. Understanding Z, in your gut, is like understanding destiny and what it really means.
The new story about Z reminds me a lot of the story of another simple-looking mathematical function, J, which I learned about as an undergraduate at Harvard, in the 1960’s. Feynman’s Z is known to lots of people now, just as J was well known in the world of optimization and optimal control back then. Engineers would say “Oh, J is just a minor technical term we use in solving inventory control problems. It’s basically just ‘cost to go.” But in trying to understand how intelligence works in the brain, I was the first to realize that J, or approximate J, is actually the mathematical basis of what we call hopes and fears, and “secondary reinforcement.” Hopes and fears are absolutely central to the human mind. It’s a lot more than inventory control. (For more of that story, see the Handbook of Reinforcement Learning and Approximate Dynamic Programming, edited by Lewis and Liu, from IEEE/Wiley. Or just look at www.werbos.com/mind.htm.) Understanding hopes and fears and how they work is really essential to understanding any kind of mind or brain. Now – it turns out that Z is just as important, and more than I appreciated before this past month.
Is it possible to “change the past” in a really significant way? I basically assumed it could not be possible, in a 3+1-D universe. Like Einstein… I misunderstood my own math. I thought that the science fiction novel Chronoliths gave a good picture of what that math tells us. I thought that that my 3+1-D math fit what Connie Willis called “the Oxford standard model of time travel” in her two-volume novel Blackout/AllClear. But now I know better, simply because I worked out an example. Of course, I am only just BEGINNING to know better, and I don’t claim to have the new deal totally mastered! Lots more to learn better!
In a way… I owe thanks to Bernard Widrow, Marlan Scully and Chris Altman for jogging me in ways that helped me understand better. (If you google on either of the first two names, you will see I have reasons to be very grateful for the gentle guidance I received from them.)
Widrow and Scully both gently suggested a general approach to coming down to earth from the worlds of mathematical abstraction which were the main foundations of my intellectual life. Scully’s encouragement got me to work out the concrete examples of a new formulation of physics which I have written this past year (as well as publish more details of a new type of P formalism beyond the scope of this simple blog post). Following that track, I forced myself to do the mundane job of working out the continuous time equations for what happens to a photon going through a polaroid type polarizer – a rather mundane thing, but someone had to do it, and I was unable to get anyone else to do it (though I tried). The equations which I came up with are explained in some detail in a paper posted at vixra.org, and in a more complete paper forthcoming in the International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos, March 2015.
As I worked out those equations… I could not help empathizing a bit with that poor little photon going through a polarizer. After all, Washington D.C. is also a very polarizing environment. That’s not a joke. It’s very serious.
To make it work, I had to be very clear that the photon essentially had three possible actions it could take, aside from doing nothing, at every instant of its life in that polarizer. It could spin itself around to perfectly match the spin that the polarizer wanted of it. Or it could go 90 degrees against the prevailing direction, and get totally eaten up. Or it could “scream” that “I don’t want to be in this situation”, and change the destiny term Z such that this whole scenario would be much less likely to arise in the first place. In a sense, it could change the past (with some probability) to prevent the situation altogether.
I did not take this serious at the time, but it seemed like a wonderful joke. New forces have appeared in the executive branch of the US government this past year, which are very much like that polarizer. What to do, when facing a choice between totally aligning with the spin of the new order, or being eaten altogether? Certainly the option of screaming inside myself was part of the game. (But actually one must be very careful about doing that, “even just” within one’s own mind.)
But now, as I reflect on other situations… I realize… why should human minds, in their fullest capability, be less capable than photons? Even if we give up “multiverse” theories of physics, which assume that parallel time tracks really do exist… the mathematics of multiple scenarios competing for probability (either in my stochastic path physics or in the more classical Feynman path physics) can have a similar effect, to minds embedded in such a universe. The weird thing is that this is true even if the stochastic path effects result from “deterministic” models like the mathematics of Einstein! If you ever feel a bit nervous looking at Einstein-type nonlinear field equations, and you worry that you might be missing something… please remember that even Einstein himself did not fully understand all the implications of equations which he himself formulated!
And now… as I have other things to do this New Year’s day, let me just repost an email I sent a day or two ago to Yeshua Ben David:
Good morning, Yeshua!
Today, in the time when I still have energy to think out of the box, my priority is to rewrite that cosmology paper on consciousness and the physics of time, to try to improve the impact somewhat. But before I do... it is interesting to think a bit more about the larger picture.
I am very grateful for a tolerant ear, of someone who will be willing to put up with someone who does not see reality in the same way as many others.
Centuries ago, if a person rejected every part of life that he could not yet understand in a fully mathematical way, he would not be listened to much. he would be lucky to survive at all. Yet, as our mathematical knowledge has grown... a good thing... there has been a bad side effect of people rejecting and forcibly ignoring all else. I often think about George Valliant's discussion of the various types of defense mec hanisms which pervade our culture. I see such bad tendencies in myself too... but, being aware of them, I at least try to keep them under control while so many others fall gleefully into things which may destroy them... and the rest of us as well.
But... beyond what I understand mathematically... well, there is also a zone of things I can understand but not discuss.
Sometimes I feel so frustrated with the DOZENS of levels of compartmentalization which seem necessary in today's world here -- some due to differences in disciplines, some cultures, some matters of safety.
Yet... many years ago, I was an active member of the Rosicrucian order, and read through a lot of their old stuff, which includes stuff going back millennia. I remember one viewpoint... that the lowest level stuff is open, and ALSO the highest stuff, because it gives positive benefit for those who can truly understand it and not so much harm to those who don't. "The middle stuff is the problem," they said.
Our mathematical understanding of intelligent systems in general -- brains and minds and what we could build -- is one of the most important threads for the destiny of the human species. Yet, in the larger space, I do not really know where we are going with that thread.
Back in 1991 (I think, after IJCNN Seattle), I listened to advice from Boeing, and saw Terminator II. I am glad I did, even though I did not enjoy the movie. I have a post on that on my obscure personal blog. Since then, I have been fully aware of a need to walk a tightrope... to try to develop the kind of mathematical understanding which would be crucial to full human potential and spiritual existence, while avoiding the dangers of losing the human species. Thus I put major effort into promoting the COPN topic at NSF, focused on developing that understanding. (see www.nsf.gov.)
When the attack of 7/14/14 hit me, in this place... well... I have not yet fully absorbed all the many-level implications of that huge shock. I certainly do think of it as a multi-level situation, where it would be misleading to think only of one level.
On a deep level... the attack did occur just hours after my return to NSF from WCCI, and a major implication will be to terminate not only intelligent systems technology but also central elements of hope to understand the brain better. (Of course, many will still wave the flag of these things, as well as the flags of openness and transparency and accountability and the future of humans in space and so on... but accomplishing things in reality requires a wee bit more than PR.) I have wondered very intensely: should I take this as a signal that I was walking a bit too close to one side of the tightrope, risking negative misuse of knowledge? Several lines of evidence supported that. Though I have also wondered: why then, would reality tolerate the intense efforts, just as dangerous, to develop "Star Wars clone army" brain helmets?
In the meantime... I understand time a little better this week than I did two weeks ago. Perhaps I ought to put in a paragraph or two in the revised paper to give some hint of that better understanding.
At www.werbos.com/quantum.htm, I give the link to the directory where the slides and audio of my Australia talk are located. But I also have some level of draft of my work on CMRFp, the new continuous time model of polaroid type polarizers, which is also posted at vixra and in press at IJBC. In the past two weeks, I have had a chance to digest more fully the meaning of the new math.
In the past, I have wondered at times: is it possible to change the past or not? Of course, we have not seen anything at all like that in the physics lab. Following the constraints explained by Thomas Kuhn, for third person science, we basically cannot even discuss that subject in normal scientific venues.
Yet on a first person level... I have a list of about eight personal experiences which seem to say that maybe we can. That is one of the main reasons why I report the feeling (in my time/consciousness paper) that there is only a 10% chance that the cosmos is only 3+1-D.
Yet now, for the past two weeks... I now realize that the emergent phenomena possible is a large, complex 3+1-D space are much richer than I had assumed... even though I was aware of more richness than most people already. I am reminded of the time when I was very young, when I saw the theorem that the even numbers are a subset of all integers... AND VICE-VERSA... by the curious was that holomorphism can work with infinite systems.
In "reality", in a 3+1-D universe, only one scenario becomes real... yet the set of scenarios... well, all the scenarios are "partially real" in the sense that they interact, as per the "destiny term" Z. For intelligence embedded within that kind of universe, it can OPERATIONALLY be like a type of many-worlds situation.
I was more right than I realized at first, in empathizing with that little photon with the power to just dial down the entire scenario. Z is "just a scalar" -- but so is J in dynamic programming. Scalar functions can contain a lot of information, though I suppose I still have a lot to learn about that. Just as DHP goes 'way beyond HDP and TD and Q, perhaps a gradient form of Z could be of use in better understanding destiny effects and interfacing with intelligence.
But I digress.
I stopped to get a decaf coffee... and received an email from IEEE about some kind of message from Elon Musk. Back to Terminators...
When I saw Terminator II,. it was a high-impact experience for me, because so many of the details exactly matched what I was actually starting up at that time. Even the evil nanorobot looked like an exact morph between me and the guy from Cyberdyne I was funding to develop a new robot arm . I tried to calm myself down... and recalled that the movie must have been filmed before all these new things had happened... and then, the final scary thing for me was to see the final emphasis, that the information was being sent back through time in order to help people prepare. (later, when I met Luda, she reminded me at times of Sara... but that was later.) I knew enough about the physics of time to take that a bit more seriously than most people would.
At some level, my sense for several years was that it was a near thing, in actuality, and that we actually narrowly avoided something which "actually happened" at some level, like a living scenario.
This past year... I began to downplay that idea... since I have learned some crucial tricks which I didn't know back then, important to really fully doing the scariest stuff. (Yet even what I knew then could be very scary even now in the wrong places and the wrong hands).
And then, last Saturday, the final event for us in a long family Christmas sequence (unless we will get a visit from others in College Park).
My eldest son drove me and Chris to a 3D IMAX showing of the Hobbit, the final episode. Mostly just relaxing fun, typical stuff... though I could draw a crude analogy to the dwarf place under the mountain and the place where I am sitting now, and my hope to get out before the various armies start killing each other. But ...before that... multiple 3D IMAX trailers for things to come.
One -- a major new remake of the Terminator II kind of story. This time, the evil robot is Asian. This reminds me... the events of 7/14/14 will thoroughly expunge the relevant technology in the US, but China is moving ahead faster than ever, now WITHOUT whatever steering influence I might have had, and Xi Jinping is clearly having some difficulties in coping with the tightropes he needs to walk. It is more than a balancing act really, as there is also a need for synergy between things being balanced; a fuzzy middle is not the highest form of harmony. They have not been able to think out of the box more effectively in learning lessons form Hong Kong (which SHOULD be less painful for them than 7./14/14 was for me... but it takes special discipline to be truly constructive in the face of such pains.)
OK, that was a zinger.
well... there are levels and levels in the noosphere, even of this narcissistic silly little blue marble. And thoughts from other levels, however compartmentalized, do tend to have reflections at times, to leak out. I THINK I saw a trailer... about a new movie from The Matrix guy... about discussions beyond this marble of "the harvest." Interesting. I wonder.
But now... back to the task of the morning.
P.S. The afternoon will be more technical things... from computers to packing up to nanofabrication. This email is my new "NSF alter ego," though maybe my access to it at NSF will be compromised if I install Thunderbird as my client for it at home; NSF permissions will not let me use Thunderbird here. So many levels of compartmentalization!
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