EAI OnDeterminism

As far as we can observe the universe, there will always be both deterministic and non-deterministic explanations of it, that are logically equivalent to each other, so we may at our convenience consider the universe as deterministic or non-deterministic. Indeed, no amount of behavioral observation can distinguish a non-deterministic choice from revelation of a hidden deterministic variable. More generally, it is an intrinsic property of our being inside the universe that prevents us from knowing anything about its "nature" relatively to an outside "metauniverse". Perhaps some "god" inhabiting that meta-universe would know the "truth" about determinism or lack thereof, but such is a completely untestable statement to us, hence not a statement subject to objective knowledge. And even an "answer" to such a question would only push back the original problem without solving it: will that metauniverse itself be deterministic or not? A rational mind, interested only in questions leading to observable predictions (and hence possible refutations), may not waste time in such questions without hope of possible answer: since we don't get to know the answer, we shouldn't get to care about the question; it is utterly irrelevant, meaningless, and so is any line of reasoning based on it.

Again, the important thing to remember is that there is no objectively meaningful "absolute" truth or determinism, but only truth relative to a given model, or determinism relative to a given knowledge base. Hence, the interesting question is about what we may know, and whether our actual or potential knowledge will or would suffice to determine the past or future behavior of such or such phenomenon; such determination would then constitute an additional knowledge we could add to our base and that we may use to enhance our behavior with respect to our goals. Now, there are indeed bounds on our knowledge, due to our being ourselves parts of this universe: we only have access to the reflective knowledge of the universe, the part of information that parts of the universe may acquire about the universe by observing it from the inside! Thus, we may conclude that our knowledge will never be enough to faithfully determine any remotely complete behavior of any part of the universe with more than very limited reliability. Even worse, all the "laws of nature" that we may hypothetize may only be based on concepts limited by our knowledge. It might even be possible to interpret the intrinsic non-determinism of quantum physics as paradigmatic of internal models of a world that only has access to a limited reflective knowledge of itself (but then, it would require someone with a deeper combined understanding of logics and physics than I have to say if such an approach leads to anything interesting, or if I'm just delusioning myself).

This page is linked from: Ethics and Information