As renowned cosmologist George Ellis states, the current worldview in modern physics "... does not represent a realistic view of the real universe” (2006, p. 25). Thus, as a full explanation of the nature of reality, phyiscs as it stands is incomplete. The reason is quite simple; as he explains, an extra dimensionality is required. And as he states: "This may be difficult to implement in physical theory, but it is actually the way things work; present theoretical physics understanding simply does not adequately represent it." (2008, p. 6).
Implementing it is in fact equally simple, but utterly surreal. Consciousness has to be included in the explanation. Consciousness, however, is not what we thought it to be. As Professor Chalmers of Australian National University has discovered, consciousness is a property of the universe as a whole. Here I will do my best to explain exactly what all this means.
As is well-known, we live in a four-dimensional space-time universe. This is one of the central features of relativity. It is a less well-known consequence of relativity that the whole of this universe exists 'already'. The past, and even the future, exist in the same way as the North and the South; for this reason it is often referred to as a block universe. As the famous Professor Deutsch states: “Spacetime is sometimes referred to as the 'block universe', because within it the whole of physical reality – past present and future – is laid out once and for all, frozen in a single four-dimensional block.” (1997, 268). This means that the passage of time is a great mystery, because nothing can pass from moment to moment; everything is part of one specific moment, permanently. As Deutsch says: “Nothing can move from one moment to another. To exist at all at a particular moment means to exist there for ever.” (1997, 263; emphasis in original). This is a longstanding paradox, because it is perfectly obvious that time is passing, but this phenomenon has no physical reality. As Professor Davies states: “... it appears that the flow of time is subjective, not objective.” (2002).
There is no question that the physical objects of the universe cannot pass from moment to moment. And since we are physical objects, that includes us. As Sir Roger Penrose, … states, in the universe described by special relativity: “... particles do not even move, being represented by “static” curves drawn in space–time." (1994, p. 389). As Dr Smythies continues: "Thus what we perceive as moving 3D objects are really successive cross-sections of immobile 4D objects past which our field of observation is sweeping." (2003). We are made of particles, so this applies to us. But inherent in his statement is a resolution of the whole problem. If one's field of observation is sweeping through the 4D space-time, the whole thing is explained. But this does mean that the field of observation cannot be a physical phenomenon. Within the context of physics as it is currently defined, this is a profound paradox. In a worldview where the only phenomena are physical phenomena, this makes no sense at all. But is exactly this paradox which is resolved by Chalmers' work. There is a phenomenon at work which is not a physical phenomenon.
Herman Weyl, a close associate of Einstein's, encapsulated both the problem and the solution in a very simple statement back in 1949: “The world simply is, it does not happen. Only to the gaze of my consciousness, crawling up the life-line of my body, does the world fleetingly come to life.” (1949, 116). At first brush, this seems to make no sense, because the natural assumption is that consciousness is a property of the body-mind. Since the body-mind is a physical object, made of physical particles, it is stuck in time, along with its consciousness. However, despite prolonged and intense efforts to explain consciousness in terms of the physical body-mind, this has been unsuccessful. No mechanism has been discovered whereby the body-mind produces the experiencing consciousness. Because of the all-pervasive and all-embracing assumption that the only real phenomena are physical phenomena, it has been nonetheless assumed that consciousness has a physical explanation, just one which we have not been able to comprehend as yet. As a result, consciousness is generally assumed to be an emergent property of the body-mind system. An emergent property is a property of a system that is not present in any of its component parts or aspects. It is the way in which the whole of something is greater than the sum of its parts. For instance, transport is an emergent property of a working vehicle.
Professor Chalmers has carried out a rigorous analysis of the nature of the experiencing consciousness. He has determined that it cannot have a physical origin. It is an emergent property, not of the body-mind, but of the universe itself. As he states: “I suggest that a theory of consciousness should take experience as fundamental. ... we will take experience itself as a fundamental feature of the world, alongside mass, charge, and space-time.” (1995, 216). Several prominent physicists have essentially said the same thing. As the brilliant David Mermin, Professor of Physics at Cornell University, states: “Quantum mechanics offers an insufficient basis for a theory of everything if everything is to include consciousness.” (1998, 7). Max Planck, the founder of quantum theory, stated that: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” (1931). While this is a new concept to modern thinking, it has been known about in spiritual traditions for a very long time. This is unitary consciousness.
That which is experienced is personal and mundane. That which is doing the experiencing is universal. In modern language, it is a system property. It is to reality, and the individual in it, the way a computer system is to a number on which a computation is being performed. They are utterly different in 'logical type'. (This distinction is explained in detail in Logical Types in Quantum Mechanics.) The experiencing is a universal, generic property. It is an emergent property of the totality of existence. Given this, Weyl's statement is very obviously correct. Given that the whole universe is static, this is the only way in which the field of observation can possibly sweep through space-time, as Penrose describes. What we have discovered, but not recognised, is that the field of observation is the field of observation of unitary consciousness.
Although this solution is clearly elegant, it is so unexpected, and so at odds with common sense, that one could well be forgiven for thinking that the problem must surely have a more straightforward solution than this far-fetched notion. And it is certainly true that the peculiar paradox of the passage of time has not received a great deal of attention in the world of physics. However, there is another problem which is to this day seen as both central and incomprehensible, and this too is resolved naturally and elegantly by the same concept. This is the problem of the 'collapse dynamics' in quantum mechanics. Quantum theory shows very clearly that physical reality potentially contains all possibilities, and all possible worlds. Taking our discoveries literally, it seems as if all possible versions of reality must be going on, all at the same time. But of course, we only ever experience one specific version of reality. As has been reluctantly admitted, physics can find no proper explanation of this fact.
Quantum mechanics defines two very different dynamics. In principle, the primary dynamics, the 'linear' dynamics, gives rise to all possibilities. This is not in question. However, since one only ever encounters one specific version of reality, it is clear that the vast plethora of possibilities somehow collapses to a single actuality. This is the second dynamics, the 'collapse' dynamics. No one can explain how it works. Jeffrey Barrett, Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of California, Irvine, has specialised in this subject. As he concludes in his book The Quantum Mechanics of Minds and Worlds (), although generations of physicists have had their say, no generally agreed consensus has been reached; all of the interpretations, explanations of what quantum theory really means about the nature of reality, are flawed in some way. This is the great paradox at the centre of quantum theory. As far as we know, physical reality itself is the superimposed sum of all possibilities. (It is a popular myth that 'decoherence' solves this problem, but without question it does not.)
The problem is in fact a missing dimension. A book called Flatland described a world of only two dimensions, which we will use to illustrate the problem. The inhabitants are of course two-dimensional. And they are ignorant of the fact that there is a third dimension, until they are visited by a three dimensional being who suddenly appears in the middle of their world, by moving in the third dimension. It has recently become increasingly evident that for all the success and sophistication of our modern science, we are in a somewhat similar situation.
We know the universe is a 4D block universe. But it is in the context of this universe that all the problems arise. As Ellis states: “... the unchanging block universe view of spacetime is best replaced by an evolving block universe which extends as time evolves, with the potential of the future continually becoming the certainty of the past; spacetime itself evolves, as do the entities within it.” (2006, 1). However, as he explains in a later paper, it lies outside the current conceptual framework, the 4D block universe, but is in fact the way reality operates: “This may be difficult to implement in physical theory, but it is actually the way things work; present theoretical physics understanding simply does not adequately represent it.” (2008, 6). In other words, this concept is required to make sense of the new physics. This is how reality operates: there is a sequence of definitions of a block universe. This is what happens as the quantum mechanical definition of the 4D physical universe collapses. There is a new definition of the 4D block universe. This is literally what it means for the collapse dynamics to operate. As Ellis points out, our current worldview does not adequately represent this phenomenon. Indeed, it does not really address it at all.
What is really being stated here is that there is a dimensionality missing from our current worldview. There is some kind of extra dimension in which there is the change of the definition of the 4D block universe. It is the lack of this dimensionality which gives rise to the great paradox at the centre of quantum theory. Ellis states that the present theoretical physics understanding simply does not adequately represent the changing of the 4D world. This is correct, if one takes only the objective point of view. But in fact, Hugh Everett's famous many-worlds theory does provide exactly such an evolving block universe. But the problem is that his concept only addresses the subjective viewpoint. He explains exactly how there comes to be an evolving block universe, but only in experience. There is only the appearance of an evolving block universe. There is only the appearance of collapse. Which is exactly what he says: “It will thus appear to the observer, as described by a typical element of the superposition, that each initial observation on a system caused the system to "jump" into an eigenstate in a random fashion” (1957, p. 459). Each jump is the transition from one 4D block universe to the next. And this can only be the transition of the field of observation.
Seeing the situation in terms of Flatland, the resolution is straightforward. Moving in the third dimension, the three-dimensional visitor passes from one two-dimensional plane to another. One of these planes is the Flatland of the story. In a similar sort of way, though not moving in any kind of space-time dimension, the field of observation can move from one block universe to another, and another, in endless sequence. This is the appearance of the evolving block universe, the appearance of the collapse dynamics in action.
Just as the entire world of Flatland is seen by the visitor for what it is, a single plane in his three-dimensional world, so too to unitary consciousness, the 4D world of relativity is just one momentary version of the definition of the real physical world. Just as the visitor can pass from one plane to another, unitary consciousness passes from one version of the physical universe to another. It is already part of the concept of quantum theory that all possible versions of the universe exist. Given unitary consciousness, the appearance of collapse is simply explained.
What we have discovered, but failed to recognise, is the operational nature of the universe as a whole. This is strange enough, but it is the consciousness one experiences in operation all day every day which is at the centre of this intellectual revolution. And the impact is highly personal, and very useful indeed. One is immortal, because this kind of experiencing is unending. Although this sounds bizarre, it is simply a realistic form of 'quantum immortality, a concept that has been known about and acknowledged for some time. This is not the only major change. As described in detail elsewhere (Multisolipsism) this set of ideas directly implies that we live in personal, physical, parallel realities. Again, this is not just an intellectually fascinating new viewpoint. It is of key central importance to the life of every individual, and the race of human beings as a whole, because one is constantly interacting with the destiny of ones personal reality. It makes quite a difference to know about it.
As Professor Tegmark of MIT mentions: “It is often said that important scientific discoveries go though three phases: first they are completely ignored, then they are violently attacked, and finally they are brushed aside as well known.” (2007). The lack of a key dimensionality in the current worldview is currently at the first stage. No one is taking a great deal of notice. Meanwhile, Chalmers' discovery solves the problem, but no one is taking very much notice of that either. It solves a problem which has not been acknowledged as a real problem. A huge upheaval is in the wings. Usually, such scientific revolutions unwind over years and decades. As Professor Greene of of Columbia University states: “Such changes are not made lightly. They are closely examined by the community of scientists, and they are often sharply resisted; only when the evidence reaches a critical abundance is the new view embraced. Which is just as it should be. There is no need to rush to judgement. Reality will wait.” (2011, 308). Reality will indeed wait, but the burgeoning human crises will not. We are facing the constraints of limits to growth. We are, like the bacteria on the Petri dish, about to run out of vital resources in the very near future. The new ideas I have presented here are not just fancy ideas, they have vital, practical and immediate implications.
In this kind of reality, one one does, and even what one intends, has a direct and immediate impact on the version of reality one is likely to experience with respect to every aspect of reality, globally. Yes, this sounds nuts, but it goes with the territory. It follows directly from the logical form of the discoveries we have made. It means that a great deal of our effort is headed in the wrong direction, and likely to bring about the opposite of what we are aiming for. This is described in detail in my book Human Being 2.0 and will also be explained at Avant Garde Science shortly.
The resolution to our global crises are inherent in the new worldview, but we need to act now. We need to reassess our worldview, and this is an urgent matter. If any of this resonates with you, I invite you to investigate further, by reading up on the science and the implications.
Chalmers, D.: 1995, “Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness”, Journal of Consciousness Studies 2(3):200-19
Davies, P.: 2002, “That Mysterious Flow”, Scientific American Magazine, September, available online at http://urgrue.org/lib/mysterious-flow.html
Deutsch, D.: 1997, The Fabric of Reality, Allen Lane The Penguin Press, London
Ellis, G.: 2006, “Physics in the Real Universe: Time and Spacetime”, available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0605049v5
Ellis, G.: 2008, “On the Flow of Time”, available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/0812.0240v1
Greene, B.: 2011, The Hidden Reality, Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, London
Smythies, J.: 2003, “Space, Time and Consciousness”, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10, No. 3 (2003) pp. 47–56
Tegmark, M.: 2007, “Many Lives in Many Worlds”, Nature, 448, 23, July 2007, available online at http://arXiv.org/abs/0707.2593v1
Weyl, H.: 1949, Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science, Princeton University Press, Princeton