Friday, February 04, 2022

Life is but a dream?

 I read an opinion piece in Scientific American today: "Does Quantum Mechanics Reveal That Life Is But a Dream?" by John Horgan, Director of the Center for Science Writings at Stevens Institute of Technology. In the article, Horgan talks about the challenges of understanding and coming to terms with the lack of commen sense in quantum physics, and "QBism’s premise that there is no absolute objectivity; there are only subjective, first-person viewpoints."

As a statistician (especially as a subjective probability statistician), I don't view anything through the dichotomous lens of two-state logic, where there is just "true" or "false". Instead, I view everything as having a probability of being true or false. Nothing is absolutely true or false, not even this statement! In my world, I work hard to move from my personal, subjective reality, by consulting with other sources. The sources may be other human beings, or other objects/observations/experiments that help me test and improve my subjective reality. And by improve, I don't mean that my subjective reality is bad, but only that I might be better served by acknowledging that my perspective, my personal, subjective reality, might be expanded to my own benefit, if I see things from another point of view.

Surely, there is a more nuanced understanding of subjective reality, a more continuous, rather than dichotomous, interpretation. Something more like:

$$Reality(obs) = SubjectiveReality_{obs}$$

Where \(obs\) is some measure of the observers/observations.

In the special case of \(obs=1\), we get an individual's reality. And as \(obs\) increases towards infinity:

$$\lim_{obs \to \infty} Reality(obs) = ObjectiveReality$$

In this way, objective reality is a funtion of the observations and observers. [Note: I am not going to talk about the challenges of weighting observations or observers. This is the domain of the scientific method. But suffice it to say that observation in science is NOT a democracy! ☺ ]

Horgan suggests that, perhaps like T.S. Elliot's poem, The Waste Land, "Its meaning is that there is no meaning, no master narrative. Life is a joke, and the joke is on you if you believe otherwise."

I would suggest that it is my responsibility, as a conscious, sentient, self-aware being, to understand my own limitations, my own subjective reality, and to endeavour to move closer to some objective reality, at least within epsilon, where epsilon is small enough that any further attempts to aproach objective reality are beyond my abilities and/or lifetime.

Perhaps the only difference between physicists, who are admonished to "Shut up and calculate!", and "friends majoring in philosophy", who one might advise to “Shut up and procreate!", is the size of their "epsilon".

To Horgan I would suggest, get a smaller epsilon!