An Apple Falling from a Digital Tree?
Theoretical physicist David Deutsch at Oxford University recently proposed a radical new theory that he claims “forms a kind of bedrock of reality from which all the laws of physics emerge,” including resolving conflicts between quantum and classical physics. The key to his theory that makes it highly relevant now and in the future, is that it revolves around a careful examination of the nature and role of information in the universe as a primary concept, not just a measurement variable.
Instead of asking “what happens and what does not happen” to describe the motion of things in the universe, as physicists have done for centuries since Galileo, Deutsch asks the deeper question of “what is possible and what is not possible” in the universe.
Implicit in this question is the notion of a universal constraint as the organizing principle of our universe. Deutsch uses examples of the conservation of energy and information to illustrate what he means by constraints, though he does not go so far as to explicitly state his premise as a general philosophy of constraints; his primary focus is creating the structure and mathematics of a new meta-theory that is capable of generating all laws of physics, known and unknown as of now.
Is Deutsch a modern-day Issac Newton whose views will radically change how we fundamentally understand the universe and our place in it? Maybe so, maybe not.
My interest is exploring Deutsch’s “constructor theory” answer to his deeper question is to see if it ties together some philosophical loose ends I have thought about for a long time that have relevance to WORK, LIFE, and MEANING. I intend to do this by explicitly stating Deutsch’s implied premise as a philosophy of constraints, using the following conjecture to explore the implications of it in everyday activities:
Conjecture: Reality exists between the limits of absolute static control, or certainty, and absolute dynamic freedom, or uncertainty. Nothing can happen at any time during absolute control, and everything can happen all at once during absolute freedom. Both of these idealized extremes are states of non-existence. For Reality to exist at all there has to be a primary constraint that partitions what is possible from what is impossible. Ergo, nature constrains what is possible from what is impossible in all aspects of Reality.
Based on this conjecture, we can view all aspects of reality in the form of constraints, which we can represent as some form of resistance, which I shall generically call Friction.
LIFE and Friction: Everyone wants to be happy, and we generally equate happiness with freedom to do what pleases us. The constraints, or Frictions, of everyday life that limits our freedom are some forms of control, ironically, also the source of our pleasure as well as our pain. The controlling forces, or Frictions, that keep us from getting what we want are usually lack of skill, money, love and respect–often competing desires. Achieving the right balance of these Frictions to make us happy is different for each person but comes down to knowledge about our self and the world we live in. This knowledge can only come from “scouting” information (patterns of order) that we send out, which generate new information that comes back to us about ourselves and the world.
LIFE is the constrained exchange of INFORMATION.
WORK and Friction: Technically, physical work is the constrained release of energy, like the pistons in a car engine that compresses gas and are sparked to explode, thereby pushing the pistons which causes the car to move. A job may likewise be considered “work” provided by constraining a person’s energy to create and deliver goods and services that others, and perhaps they themselves, desire. The processes required to meet this demand are constraints on a worker’s physical, mental, and emotional energy.
Work is the constrained release of ENERGY.
MEANING and Friction: Most of us wonder why we are here, what our purpose is in life, what is the ultimate meaning of life in general, and so on. The constraints, or Frictions, that stand in the way of understanding personal meanings in life are answers to personal “why” questions that each person must ultimately answer for themselves. The key to answering all “why” questions, personal or general, is curiosity, the only universal resource or tool of inquiry available. The only barriers to acquiring meaning using this tool are the generally accepted views of reality, or paradigms, of society which represent the very constraints as established perspectives that allow provisional meanings of truth to exist in the first place. The road to discovering meaning is pock-marked with rabbit holes along the way. Curiosity carries us as far as we dare to go.
Meaning is the constrained release of CURIOSITY.
These topics will be explored in detail in future posts in the three blogs on this site: Life, Work, Meaning.
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