Sisyphean consequences of a cyclic model of the universe

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Sisyphean consequences of a cyclic model of the universe

#1  Postby M319 » Sep 27, 2011 8:00 pm

I'll warn anyone before they read on, reading the following post may result in you crossing a nihilistic event horizon. You have been warned ;)

[Reveal] Spoiler: "Fridge Horror"
I appreciate that this is a long post but I ask that you patiently read it all before jumping to any conclusions.

I'd like to share the following thought experiment with you all, which occurred to me as a sort of revelation:

In any cyclic model of the universe (where the universe has no true end or beginning, such as the CCC ) the probability of a cosmos coming about identical to this one, with an absolutely identical history, is 1 - certain - at some point in the future or in the past. Since there will be and has been an infinite amount of time for different cosmoses to occur. Not only would this be but there would be an infinite number of nth cosmoses identical to this one.

Now an interesting consequence of this is that there would be another You that has been and will already have been at some point before now. An infinite number in fact, which would live out identical or extremely similar lives to yours. The question is, and this depends on the fundamental nature of consciousness, would it be YOU or just equivalent to a clone?

I would contend that it would actually be YOU - not a clone. Some people may jump on this as metaphysical but I would argue that the opposite idea is more metaphysical since it demands that there is some special status about the current YOU and that your consciousness is somehow unique and could only in the entire history of forever, only ever occur ONCE. This seems like some kind of misplaced narcissism to me :D

I would say that consciousness is more generic than this and that so long as the correct parameters are met YOU could 'happen again' after all, in a materialist worldview consciousness can surely be nothing more than the result of physical interactions of some kind. And if identical interactions occurred would you not get the same consciousness? i.e. What is perceived as YOU.

A similar thought experiment is put forward by Penrose in The Emperor’s New Mind to do with what it would mean to be teleported. (I <3 referencing Penrose) See ENM pg 31 Chapter 1

Now I’m going to attempt to cull what could be potential arguments to this:

One could be that since one of these previous/future identical ‘yous’, was not constructed of the same matter as before and so this is what gave each consciousness its own ‘identity’ and wasn’t actually you. (A sort of Ship of Theses argument) However this is not a tenable idea because, as Penrose points out in the ENM, since particles do not have ‘identities’, it would make NO DIFFERENCE if all of the electrons in your body were replaced with ones from electrons from a brick wall. On top of this, thanks to cells division, every seven years, your body is composed of entirely different cells than it was before AND YET we feel no change and we retain our identity.

Another possible objection could be that since these other ‘yous’ had different experiences, even if the differences were hardly noticeable, it therefore would not actually be your consciousness and would be the same as a clone. However this is also not a tenable view because it suggests that the factor separating one consciousness from the next is simply the memories of the person but of course, what about people who slowly lose their memories, such as Alzheimer’s patients, is there consciousness being ‘replaced’ by some other – slightly different – one, and, actually it is not the same person as the original. Of course this is nonsense.
Someone positing this idea could contend that something like ‘a sufficient amount’ of memories would have to be changed. But this is just as absurd because they would then be pushed into a Sorites Paradox of where one draws the line.

Another objection could be that my reasoning permits the possibility that there is a probability of two identical consciousnesses occurring at the same time in one cosmos. (Say if it was large enough) And if they are both are the same person as I would suggest and that one is not just a clone, would they be in two places at once?
Well yes my reasoning does permit that. And that on its own does not mean I must therefore be wrong – that would simply be a fallacious appeal to ridicule argument.
However it could be argued that I must be wrong because ‘how could a person experience being two places at once if the two bodies were spatially separated. I concede that this does seem like a dilemma. But it is just the same as the EPR effects of Quantum Mechanics and since that has been proved to be possible in our reality; my argument does not fall down simply on this ‘spatially separated problem.’ Of course there could be other factors involved anyway, such as the probability of two of the same consciousness occurring at once is so astronomically small, that the time and vastness the cosmos would have to be allowed to reach to permit this probability is not allowed by cosmology. i.e the current cosmos reaches its end before it can happen. Or it could be that, as with quantum states, the original is annihilated if there is a copy.

Yet another objection could be that my reasoning would allow the consciousnesses even of certain animals (such as dogs or other kinds of apes) to ‘occur again.’ Well yes it would and that does not mean my argument must therefore be wrong (once again that would be an appeal to ridicule) and such a view would apparently be assigning some special status to humans, that if it was true it must only be allowed for people – which is a nonsensical metaphysical suggestion.

Another possible objection could be that my argument rests on the premise of a cyclic model. But when one considers it, some kind of cyclic model seems surely inevitable. Otherwise you are left with creation ex nihlo which is impossible. (Of course you could say god was a possibility but when it comes down to it, even he is just another cyclic model).

Yet another objection could be that by allowing a consciousness to occur more than once (i.e YOU) some principle of law is being violated. I would ask such people which principle or law exactly is this? I think this objection probably stems from the notion that consciousness is some kind of “stuff” swirling around somewhere in your head – instead of being just the result of interactions. Well it is obvious that this can’t be the case because, ultimately, whatever consciousness is it will be because of interactions of some kind (computation or quantum events etc) Otherwise you would have to defend some mystical explanation like a soul.
I would compare the situation to the idea about “Luminiferous aether” where it was thought there had to be some medium to explain the propagation of light. But as we now know, it is explained by General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.
I think it will be the same with consciousness: It is often seems to be thought that there must be some “consciousness stuff” inside the brain but in reality it will be adequately explained without having to call on mystical mediums.

I’ll also burn some strawmen before they have time to sprout:

One possible straw man against my argument might be that the existence of twins debunks everything I am saying since they are not ‘one person in two places at once’. However, I would point out that twins are only identical at a stage where they are just cells and not conscious, by the time they are conscious they will not be identical anymore because of things like epigenetic differences.

Another might be that my argument relies on predetermination of events, but this is a strawman. I am saying that the probability of an identical cosmos occurring is certain in a cyclic model, given enough time. I would compare this to the thought experiment about monkeys and typewriters, that given enough time, the works of Shakespeare would be reproduced.

Another might be that my argument leaves no room for free will but this is not the case. I would ask people that if they were found themselves in the same situation armed with only the same knowledge as before, would they decide differently? I doubt it. I think free will will be something akin to the chaos theory model Matt Ridley suggests in the final chapter of Genome where slight differences could drastically affect our choices.

Yet another could be that: If I have existed before (infinitely many times) why don’t I remember it? Well the answer here is of course that while the consciousness is the same (the same interactions of whatever kind) the brain does not have the old memories since it is a ‘new brain.’ I am not saying that the consciousness is somehow held in stasis waiting for another cosmos, I am saying that identical interactions would result in an identical consciousness – YOU.

One final objection someone might make is citing the old dogma :D “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” well I would simply respond: ‘Why is it extraordinary?” (The next point applies to that ‘dogma’ in general in any context) Whether or not something is extraordinary is completely subjective, and if it is supposed to be extraordinary, you’ll need to give some seriously good reasons why I should also accept that it is really ‘extraordinary.’ Unless you want to argue that there is such a thing as ‘objective extraordinariness’ in which case you’d end up like poor William Lane Craig attempting to argue for objective morality. After all isn’t the notion of ‘objective extraordinariness’ itself an extraordinary claim? Now we have something Russell’s Paradox-esque.

What would the philosophical ramifications of what I am arguing?

Well one way of thinking about the whole idea is this:

Suppose that the interactions that are Bob’s consciousness can be expressed by the code: 010100AA
This code is Bob – since Bob is really just his consciousness. What separates him from Alice, so that they are two different consciousnesses instead of just one? Well it would be that Alice’s consciousness is very slightly different to Bob’s and we could say that it could be expressed as: 010100AB.
I am saying that if the code 010100AA ‘comes up’ again…Bob is back! Because Bob of course is the code. And in a cyclic model of the universe the probability that 010100AA will ‘come up again’ eventually is 1.
The philosophical question here is: Why is it that 010100AA is Bob? The answer is obviously that it turns out that, what we all understand to be Bob, and Bob understands to be Bob, happens to be 010100AA.
We could speculate that this means, like many mathematical concepts, 010100AA (or Bob) has an eternal, abstract Platonic existence. But this kind of extension is not mandatory, that would just depend on your personal view of whether or not Platonic existence is something ‘real.’

Some people may think that this is all terrific because it means that they get to live forever! (Even if they can’t remember previous existences) Although I have found that the more I have thought about this the more horrifying and nihilistic it becomes – a fate much worse than death:
That I am just the ‘nth me’ in an infinite chain; each time believing I am the ‘real one’ - where I will have to exist again and again, having to do and learn, and realise everything all over again only to die and do it all over again – forever. And that inevitably I would have to live out horrible life times e.g. spending my life as a Christian blissfully unaware that trillions of years before I had lived as an atheist in a different cosmos just because it so happened that I hadn’t come to any atheistic revelation, and that instead I would ignorantly indoctrinate my own children and grow old and die in ignorance. Yes in a later cosmos I might be an atheist again, but I would still have to relive that identical Christian lifetime and infinite number of times just like any other.

You might however feel that there is a sense of ‘meta-identity’ where, even though you will go on in this cycle forever, the ‘you’ now is individual to the ‘others’ but this is a matter of personal taste, I suppose.

“To be wrong is nothing unless you continue to remember it” Confucius

“Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.” John Kenneth Galbraith

:rofl: Confucius was a political theorist!

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Re: Sisyphean consequences of a cyclic model of the universe

#2  Postby Vaizard » Sep 27, 2011 11:36 pm

It's the eternal recurrence. Nietzsche wrote a similar thought experiment:

"What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine."

The idea of a cyclical universe is also pretty common in Eastern religions. However, this is the physics section and how much empirical evidence there is for this actually manifesting itself remains to be seen. Thought experiments such as these are probably better suited for philosophy.
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Re: Sisyphean consequences of a cyclic model of the universe

#3  Postby Bribase » Sep 28, 2011 12:04 am

I honestly don't understand what the fuss is with the supposed transporter problem or with M319's story here. If transported or pan universal doppelganger me and I met, both of us would claim to be the real Bribase, both would be convinced of it and both would be correct. I simply don't have a problem with the idea of my consciousness being in two bodies at the same time.

I already accept as self evident the existence of conscious entities other than myself, believing their sense of consciousness just as apparent to them as my own. Why should it be an issue for me if two entities exist, are exactly alike and happen to both be me?

I honestly think this notion that the self is indivisible is illusory.
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Re: Sisyphean consequences of a cyclic model of the universe

#4  Postby M319 » Oct 30, 2011 1:40 pm

Vaizard wrote:However, this is the physics section and how much empirical evidence there is for this actually manifesting itself remains to be seen. Thought experiments such as these are probably better suited for philosophy.

Well String Theory has yet to be supported by empirical evidence and that is not generally treated as philosophy. I posted this in the science section because this is goes from a scientific, ground up approach to the concept of a cyclic model. All of the premises for the argument are based in science.

(Also I was hoping to avoid responses from the likes of UndercoverElephant and SafeAsMilk :lol: )
“To be wrong is nothing unless you continue to remember it” Confucius

“Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.” John Kenneth Galbraith

:rofl: Confucius was a political theorist!

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Re: Sisyphean consequences of a cyclic model of the universe

#5  Postby susu.exp » Nov 07, 2011 5:53 am

I stopped reading at the point where the probability was discussed. The CCC proposes countably infinite iterations. This implies that the uncountable number of possible universes will never all be realized and that the probability of recurrence is actually 0.
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Re: Sisyphean consequences of a cyclic model of the universe

#6  Postby Lion IRC » Nov 07, 2011 6:13 am

...furthermore, every other being (which you mistakenly think is a separate entity) is just another version of you.

They are what you would be if your matter/energy randomly found its way into their space/time.

Reality - no unique identity. No original thought. Cela m'est ègal

Just one great big homogenous blur of repetition. Sisyphus x 10 to the power of 500
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Re: Sisyphean consequences of a cyclic model of the universe

#7  Postby Clive Durdle » Nov 07, 2011 11:51 am

String Theory has yet to be supported by empirical evidence

Is that correct? I thought string theory predicted gravity - isn't that empirical?
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Re: Sisyphean consequences of a cyclic model of the universe

#8  Postby RationalVegan » Nov 11, 2011 7:08 pm

I am confident that another "me" would not be me.
The physical object which represents my conciousness is my brain. It controls and utilizes my body and mind and this makes it belong to the whole, which then becomes the "Self". If an exact copy of me would appear right next to me in my room, I could not control its body and mind, and that is why we would be two different persons.
It is also not quite clear what really causes this "feeling of conciousness". The possibility exists, that self-awareness is just an illusion with the purpose to enable humans to be "individuals", causing us to be able to form complex societies and raise our potential survivability, which would also make sense in the evolutionary process.
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