Saturday, February 28, 2009

Anything Goes, A Simple Thought Experiment

About a decade ago, I posed myself a theoretical question. My thought experiment, which at the time I called Anything Goes, was simple. It went like this: Imagine if anything was possible.

Here is a more recently written outline of the initial answer I came up with at the time:

In effect, if anything goes, it would mean there's a 50/50 chance that something would happen, which is equivalent to complete uncertainty. But it also means that, since there's a possibility anything might happen, there's a chance that the odds of some particular phenomenon occurring might increase or decrease. At the outset, there's even a 50/50 chance that nothing will ever come into being! Which is a tad of a paradox since presumably anything is possible. But, remember, even time and the consistency of logic does not yet exist at that first moment of endless possibilities. Now, if it's true that anything was possible in this, I don't know what to call it, meta state of pure potentials, then I know for sure something did in fact happen (obviously, otherwise, I wouldn't be writing this sentence). And since it is a tad paradoxical that nothing would have happened given the premise of the question, we sort of have to bracket out that possibility and compromise our "anything" a bit.

All the unviable forms of existence will eventually have amounted to naught, particularly those without awareness. They may "exist" in some sense unknown to the rational mind and open only to higher intuition. But rationally apprehending them is like trying to quench my thirst with a glass of water enclosed in a case of steel. Evolution is nothing but a simple statement about natural selection and random variation. What works will in fact work. And what doesn't work won't work! If I except that randomness exists as a fundamental phenomenon (a state of being that has no cause, or so called spontaneous being), then I must accept that evolution, and thereby the eventual dissipation of randomness, will take place. A perfect "golden age" (as it is called in the context of the anthropic principle) is inevitable.

If I don't accept the existence of real randomness, I must reject evolution as well which necessitates random variation. But, again, evolution compromises the randomess which makes it possible. In rejecting randomness, I also have to rejected my own free will. Free will is in fact a form of randomness, the capacity to "err" despite the necessity of what aught to logically follow. There must exist some balance point, which seems to be the reality in which we live.

I think it's important to realize that without awareness, which is predicated on the ability to move ones mind freely (i.e. a certain degree of randomness), existence is hollow! It's all those worlds no one was around to experience. That is, without awareness there is no existence per se, only what which might have been (i.e. potentials). And without potentials and randomness, there would have been no awareness.

As I see it, awareness is the act of making that which is possible real. Awareness does not necessarily mean "our awareness", just any old observer that can render potential phenomena into into sensory phenomena. Such observers have probably been around since, well, anything went. They must be an integral part of reality. Since anything was possible at some point, their existence is not so mysterious. In fact, they are an aspect of the residual randomness itself!

Note: The type of randomness I'm talking about is not to be confused with Kolmogorov's (and Chaitin's)concept of irreducibility. It's really a fundamental version of Russian roulette. In fact, based on the premise of the question, our observable universe could suddenly be slurped up, digested a bit and then regurgitated by a 5 headed anorexic monster. But don't worry. Thanks to evolution, it's highly unlikely...

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