Theory of Everything
My answer to the Quora “What is your Theory of Everything?”
Explain your own Theory of Everything or mention your favorite Theory of Everything and JUSTIFY it if you can?
I call my Theory of Everything Multisense Realism. The name is intended to convey the idea that the whole of what we call reality is sourced entirely to a single unifying principle, which is the multiplicity of sense. Matter is that which feels like matter, which is seen to act like matter, and which seems to imply certain sensibilities. All phenomena are similarly known to us through chains of nested experiences which all ultimately begin and end in expectations which seem self-evident. Blue simply looks blue, and pain simply feels painful, regardless of any mechanical processes associated with them. It is not necessary to learn how to feel pain, nor could any such learning help us discover pain if we could not feel it to begin with. No equation resolves to equal the feeling of pain.
Since sense is both the capacity to discern difference from indifference as well as to discern unity across multiplicity, the term multisense refers to the nesting of sense within multiple levels of itself. It is important to understand that by discernment, what is meant is a participatory experience in which the fact of difference or unity is not only detected, but appreciated as an aesthetic quality. Even without the appearance of Homo sapiens or blue green algae on planet Earth, the universe would still be made entirely of aesthetic conditions of some kind or another. It’s not necessary to speculate on non-human awareness, but suffice it to say that our own consciousness can only realistically be composed of letters from an alphabet of possible experiential qualities which is older than the stars. While our particular sense of a physical event is a human version of that event, there can be no doubt that the sense we make of a star overlaps in some important ways with the sense that the star makes without us looking at it. The universe must, it seems, make sense before we can make sense of it.
However abstract or sentimental, concrete or direct, the one thing that all phenomena have in common is that they can be detected through sense or inferred through ‘sense-making’. By the same token, nothing can be real if it can never be detected or inferred in any way by anything. That which cannot be sensed by anything in any way or make sense any way cannot be considered to ‘exist’ or to have any connection to anything that does exist. Sense cannot arise from non-nonsense, just as order cannot arise from dis-chaos. Being that we are made out of sense experience that makes sense, it is not natural for us to see sense itself as the foreground. What we see in the foreground as human beings is opportunities for sense. We are often preoccupied with battling against the reverse side of sense – entropy, disorder, stagnation.
Where MSR excels is to identify the difference between the local realism which frames our human experience and an understanding the absolute frame of all experience. In the former, we experience being a person in a physical world, both of which appear bound by nothingness. In the latter, nothingness is not an option, since nothingness can only be an expectation of something about the hypothetical absence of everything. Time and space too are dissolved without a particular locus of participation and perception. Scale and duration are meaningless without being anchored in a comparison to some particular scope of ‘here’ and ‘now’. From the absolute perspective then, we must begin with the assumption not of a universe from the augmentation of nothingness, but a universe of everythingness diffracted. While this idea was not consciously modeled after any religion or philosophy, it does coincide with several traditional conceptualizations of the ultimate. Singularity producing multiplicity as the color white produces the spectrum – not as a mechanical process, but as an aesthetic revelation of unity deferred. Rather than the creation myth inspired by the Big Bang in which an explosive device appears in null-spacetime to detonate spacetime using mass as an accelerant, MSR begins from the absolute frame of reference. From this vantage point, with no relativistic measure to make the first instants of the Big Bang seem any longer or shorter than all of the rest of history put together, the Big Bang is reoriented within matter and eternity rather than an event within spacetime. The Big Bang becomes the Big Diffraction, an experiential masking and dividing of the Absolute. This is, again, a familiar theme in Eastern philosophy and Western mysticism. The difference is that MSR has rehabilitated this notion, grounding it in basic principles of modern physics and information theory.
The result has been a prodigious amount of writing over the past few years, connecting the dots between matter-energy, space-time and sense-motive (affect-effect), entropy-significance. It has provided what I think are radical insights into the nature of information, mathematics and energy as well as resolving the most stubborn mysteries of philosophy relating to consciousness, meaning, morality, and free will. Each of these requires a lot of explanation even to impart the glimpse that my TOE can offer, but for the purposes of this Quora, I’ll offer these teasers.
1. The nature of information: Not, as Bateson famously said ‘a difference that makes a difference’ but ‘a perception of a perception’. This clarifies the status of information as entirely dependent upon sense and sense-making, not as an independent entity which spawns realism in a vacuum (memes, simulations, computations, etc).
2. The nature of mathematics and AI: Mathematics refers to the common sense which relates to two distinctly different (opposite) things:
- A private experience of imagined sensory symbol-figures which accompany a motive of quantitative reasoning.
- A collection of public objects interacting in a logical, causal way, without any private representations, as a consequence of the shapes of multiple rigid bodies.
Because mathematics bridges the gap between 1 and 2 (private and public) it is considered profound and absolute – and it is, but only in a one dimensional sense. Mathematics represents relations but cannot appreciate them or initiate them. Math doesn’t think or feel, math is an internal appreciation of the sense of the external. Because mathematics is grounded in the abstraction of generality rather than the concrete and proprietary uniqueness of undiffracted sense, it is a rootless imposter – the antithesis of authenticity and feeling. The realization of the absolute difference between genuine participation as a being in the ongoing story of the universe and the imitation of being by a set of a-signifying programmatic functions helps substantiate human intuitions about the emptiness of machine intelligence. While many strong AI enthusiasts will react with hostility to this idea, I think that rather than just suggesting that there will never be a conscious computer, it opens the door to a future of services which extend our intelligence and serve our interests. The MSR view frees us from any ethical concern for laboratory abuses of accidentally sentient programs, as well as insures that no technology will ever learn how to want to take over the world.
3. The nature of energy. In perhaps my most crackpot conjecture, I have proposed that with sense as the universal primitive, quirky effects which have been attributed to photons and other subatomic particles may suggest that our assumption of energy as something which is independent of matter is false. Photons, like ‘profits’ do not literally exist. Through MSR, “energy” is interpreted as simply motives which are not our own. We have private feelings which inspire us to act publicly, and so does everything else. Because of the kind of perceptual relativity that I propose, the more that the feelings and motives of other participants in the universe differ from our own in terms of scale and history, the more those dispositions seem impersonal and involuntary to us. MSR suggests that voluntary and involuntary are relativistic terms – two sides to the same coin which flips between private and public perspectives. Energy is conceived of not a pseudosubstance propagating literally across a vacuum of space as wave-particles but as felt expressions which define power relations of public interaction. What light does in the microcosm does is the same kind of thing that it does for us – it illuminates public experiences – it is ‘the news’. Space is fundamentally a pantomime projected as perceptual gaps between public facing surfaces of matter. Those gaps, while real in the local frame, are absent on the absolute frame of sense. From the perspective of the Absolute and of light, space has not yet been invented. It is the oscillation and modulation of feeling which gives rise to the second order fabric of public spacetime.
4. The Hard Problem of Consciousness: Is understood as part of the larger Presentation Problem, which includes –
- Hard Problem = Why is X presented as an experience? (X = “information”, logical or physical functions, calcium waves, action potentials, Bayesian integrations, etc.)
- Explanatory Gap = How and where is presentation accomplished with respect to X?
- Binding Problem = How are presented experiences segregated and combined with each other? How do presentations cohere?
- Symbol Grounding = How are experiences associated with each other on multiple levels of presentation? How do presentations adhere?
- Mind Body Problem = Why do public facing presences and private facing presences seem ontologically exclusive and aesthetically opposite to each other?
MSR solves the Presentation Problem by recognizing the connection between aesthetic participation, significance, authenticity, and the justaposition of spatial extension, temporal attenuation, and insignificance. In short, the universe in which any sense can possibly exist can only originate in sense itself. The appearance of aesthetic qualities can only arise from a universe which is grounded in an aesthetic agenda, even though those agendas are necessarily masked and combined semi-indifferently on any particular local level. Is there meaning in the universe? Yes, there is nothing but meaning, but meaning in one local context cannot have exactly the same meaning outside of its context.
5. Free Will: As with the existence of aesthetic presentation, the presence of free will, even as an “illusion” is impossible under strict determinism. The whole point of determinism is to ground all phenomena in a firmament of strict parsimony. The idea is that things just don’t happen willy-nilly, they are the consequences of physical or mathematical laws. Such a universe has no room for machines with parts which present themselves to other parts as an illusion of effectiveness. Certainly in the real world, our personal estimation of the effectiveness of our will and of our opportunities to exercise its freedom may not be all they are cracked up to be, however, the very consideration of whether or not to ‘believe in free will’ is predicated on the implicit expectation that in fact our belief supervenes upon our voluntary participation in some materially important way. All arguments against free will are ultimately arguments against the possibility of participating in any kind of argumentation in the first place.
All of these facets of the theory stem from reversing the core assumption of the Western worldview, that consciousness is a product of an animal’s brain rather than that the entire universe is a staggeringly elaborate nesting of participatory sense experiences. This is not an anthropomorphic concept, as it does not elevate human experience, biological experience, or even the sense of a self as being fundamental. Instead, sense itself is seen as the producer of its own augmentation, via spacetime diffraction, which yields private significance and public entropy.