Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Three Shtetl-Optimized posts for livening the mind

I really need to study, so I'm noting these for future reading.

These are a set of Aaronson posts, found by tracing back from the latests, that taken together are very good reading in physics and philosophy:
All the essays touch, more or less directly, on the question of whether "free will" (as Scott rigorously defines it) is possible. Note this is distinct from the concept of responsibility -- every reasonable thinker over the past few centuries has understood that "responsibility" is a social construction with no intellectual integrity.

By way of background scientists philosophers have gone back and forth on this since science was more or less born with Francis Bacon. Things looked particularly bad in the 20th century; in the absence of quantum mechanics general relativity seemed to predict a universe frozen in space-time, in which every moment occurred at once and invariably. Maybe this is where Vonnegut's Tralfamadorean determinism came from.

QM seemed to restore free will, but it introduced some disturbing predictions of its own. Physicists attempted to restore the concept of an observer-independent reality through the transactional interpretation, but that did in free will

More recently reality (or realism) seems to be out favor, so maybe free will is back.

Now you're prepped to read Aaronson.

PS. See also - Sean Carroll's favorite posts.

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