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Reality is Uncertain

Saying that reality is ‘uncertain’ makes it sound (to the everyday mind) as if we’re claiming there to be a lack or deficiency in our knowledge, a lack or deficiency in our understanding. That’s the way we automatically take it. We cannot imagine that this lack’, this ‘deficiency’ actually exists in reality itself.  That doesn’t make any sense at all to the thinking mind. We’re perfectly prepared to accept that there may be uncertainty in the mix at the moment, but we’re also convinced that once we get ‘the complete picture’ (if we’re ever able to get the complete picture, that is) then all this uncertainty will finally be gone. From the rational point of view, this will be a good thing. There will be celebrations in the streets! Having zero uncertainty equals having accurate and reliable knowledge, and so of course this is a good thing…

 

 

‘Getting the complete picture’ and ‘being certain’ seem, from the POV of the rational mind, to be one and the same thing. This would seem to be ‘a given’ – not something that anyone could ever quibble over. That the ultimate nature of everything must be certain is an inevitable conclusion, given the nature of the thinking process. The rational mind is bound to jump to this conclusion since it deals exclusively in certainties and doesn’t recognize anything else. This is its mechanism – it has definite slots in it, like a cogwheel has slots, and for this reason it has to engage with an equally definite reality if it is to operate. A cogwheel can only deal with another cogwheel, and not just any cogwheel either – it has to be a matching cogwheel. Mechanical cogs can only mesh with their own reflection in fact and this is also the case for the thinking mind. The thinking mind is based on hard-and-fast rules and so it can only interact with a reality that is based on the same rules that it already uses. It can only deal with ‘a reflection of itself’.

 

 

So for us to assert (as we just have done) that ‘reality is uncertain’ (i.e. that it isn’t something that is based on rules) sounds absurd to us. It is quite literally unthinkable that reality should be inherently uncertain, that reality should not be founded upon rock-solid rules. Surely – we might argue – the whole point about the advance of science is that it shows conclusively that the universe runs on the basis of discoverable and verifiable rules? This however is simply not the case – science has moved on from a ‘strictly mechanical’ view of things with the advent of quantum theory over 100 years ago. Quantum mechanics put paid to that idea, and then after another sixty years or so chaos theory and complexity theory came long just to finish the job – the mechanistic paradigm has now ceased to be an explanation for everything, and it now only an explanation for ‘certain cases’. We know that Newtonian mechanics holds good for a certain range of phenomena and we also know that it isn’t the full story – we know that mechanics has very important limitations…

 

 

A good way of understanding this is in terms of information, W versus entropy, S. This gets us out of the bind that we’re in as regards the vexatious question of how the universe could possibly run without rules to guide it, and how it actually may be said to have nothing to do with rules, nothing to do with the rock-solid ‘certainty’ that rules provide us with. We can get a handle on what is meant by this dichotomy of ‘information versus entropy’ by using the analogy of a perfectly flat surface, a surface like the velvet top of a high quality pool table. The key thing about the top of a pool table is of course that it is flat, that it doesn’t have any bumps or ridges or furrows or wrinkles or hollows or anything like that in it. Or if we could put this another way, the key thing about the flat surface which is the top of the pool table is that there are no rules saying what direction the balls should roll in. The key stipulation is that, with regard to the two dimensions making up the flat surface of the pool table, the balls can roll anywhere they want! We can say therefore that the perfectly flat surface that we are talking about here has no rules in it with respect to the direction that a ball may take as it rolls about on it. It rolls perfectly freely because the surface is perfectly flat. A ‘perfectly flat surface’ equals freedom, in other words…

 

 

We could introduce rules into the picture if we wanted to and the way we would do this would be by doing something like scoring grooves or furrows in the surface of the table. A groove equals ‘a rule’, which is to say, it equals a lack of freedom that the ball now has with respect to what might direction it is able to go. We ought to qualify this a bit of course since we are talking about a flat surface and say that the ball has lost freedom with regard to the two dimensions within which previously it had the perfect freedom to roll any way it ‘wanted’. That particular ‘realm of indeterminacy’ has now been curtailed, brought to an end, and instead of indeterminacy we have a determinate situation – with regard to movement everything is ‘already decided in advance’ because of the groove that we have seen fit to cut into the table-top. The groves are ‘biases’ that we have introduced into an unbiased situation!

 

 

Scoring groves or furrows in the top of the pool table ruins the table of course because we can only play when there is this all-important freedom, when there is a lack of bias. A rule means that there is only the one prescribed way to do things and so as a result of having the rule we know that there isn’t going to be an uncertainty with regard to outcomes, with regard to ‘what is going to happen next’. That ‘rules equal zero freedom’ is of course so very obvious that it may seem hardly worth bothering to say it, but say it we will say it all the same – it’s a point we don’t want to overlook! The fact that uncertainty (i.e. the lack of predetermination) is valuable comes across nicely from the example of the pool table – we all know very well that without the ball being played having perfect freedom to move in any direction (on a flat plane) using the pool table would be an impossibility. Trying to play pool on a table with rules built into it as to where the balls can or cannot go wouldn’t work – the proceedings would be a complete farce…

 

 

We could of course take issue with this example and point out that a flat plane surface is only uncertain (or ‘free’) in two dimensions and that this is in itself a major restriction that we haven’t so far paid any heed to. We are ‘free’ only in a very limited domain. This ‘restrictedness’ is easily removed however – all we need to do is to switch from two dimensions to three and then we have perfect freedom in three dimensions instead of just two! We could – conceivably – play at type of ‘3D pool’ in zero gravity space, perhaps in a space-station (although it is of course still hard to imagine how this might work in actual practice). But this is still a limited form of freedom however – we can apply the very same argument that we did to the restrictedness of the flat pool table and say that 3D space is only uncertain in ‘a very qualified kind of a way’. It is still only uncertain in relation to the X, Y and Z axes of the all-determining static framework. The remedy to the restriction remains the same too however – we just keep on adding new dimensions, each one at right angles to all of the others that we already have.

 

 

Eventually – this way – we arrive at the situation where there are an unbounded or unlimited number of dimensions at play, which means that we have arrived at the situation in which there is ‘unqualified freedom’ rather than ‘qualified freedom’, rather than ‘freedom-within-certain-parameters’. There are no qualifications at all with regard to ‘what direction the ball may go’ (if we can ignore for the sake of the example the fact that the ball is itself only made up of the three standard dimensions of length, breadth and height). This completely open situation is the state of maximum uncertainty or maximum freedom, which is another way of saying that it is the state of ‘Zero Entropy’. Zero entropy describes the state of the universe before anything started, before space and time appeared, before the process of cosmogenesis got under way. In the language of quantum mechanics, zero entropy is the situation that prevailed before the state vector gets collapsed. We could also say that it is the state of Original Symmetry – the situation in which there is no ‘up’ and no ‘down’, no ‘left’ and no ‘right’, no ‘in’ and no ‘out’, no ‘before’ and no after’…

 

 

This kind of situation sounds very impractical indeed (to put it mildly) from the POV of the thinking mind, but we shouldn’t let this put us off.  The everyday thinking mind is necessarily predicated upon the absolute unquestionable existence of a fixed framework, so how can it understand the absence of any frameworks?  It can’t function without parameters. If rationality is predicated upon lack of freedom not freedom then how can it possibly appreciate the state of maximum uncertainty, which is the state of pure freedom? Naturally it can’t. How can thought appreciate the profound value of irresolvable uncertainty, when all it can recognize are certainties of one sort or another? This is the same as asking how a measuring stick could possibly appreciate the immeasurable’. Essentially, the question is – how can the thinking mind (which is based upon rules) possibly be expected to understand the state of Unbroken Symmetry, which is ‘the state of having no rules’?  Very clearly, it just simply CAN’T!

 

 

So the thinking mind can’t be expected to understand the state of pure freedom, or even understand that there could be the purely hypothetical or theoretical possibility of such a thing. And yet what we’re on about here – when we talk about this ‘hypothetical’ state of Zero Entropy (or Infinite Information, which is the same thing) is reality itself, i.e. reality as it actually is in itself before we start thinking about it.

 

 

What we’re talking about – as we’ve already said – is the state of Original Symmetry, which is reality before it gets infinitely degraded, reality without any entropy in it! If we were to continue with the analogy that we started off with then we could say that the state of Original Symmetry is ‘like’ a perfectly flat surface in an infinite number of dimensions, which is naturally inconceivable to us. If even a common-or-garden ‘n-dimensional hypercube’ is inconceivable to us, then how much more so the state of Original Symmetry, The Pleroma, the boundless state from which all forms have been abstracted?

 

 

Everything that we’ve been talking about here comes down to ‘Open versus Closed’. If the universe is open then clearly there can be no descriptions of it, no definitions or theories of it. Descriptions and definitions and theories are by their very nature closed, and closed cannot do justice to open!  Who ever heard of ‘an open-ended definition’, or ‘a theory that doesn’t contain any core assumptions’? If on the other hand the universe were closed in its ultimate nature then it would just be a matter of coming up with the right description, the right definition, the right theory. We would then have the TOE – the fabled ‘Theory of Everything’….

 

 

So which is it? Is the universe open or closed in its nature? If it’s closed then this means that it is static, permanently unchanging, predetermined from the very beginning. If the universe is closed then nothing can ever happen in it because for something to genuinely happen there has to be the freedom for it to happen and ‘freedom’ is the one thing you won’t find in a closed universe!

 

 

If, however, the universe is open then that is another story! All bets are off in this case….

 

 

 

 

 

 



Author: Nick Williams

Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.

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