In this short article, cognitive scientist and author Donald Hoffman reminds us that right now physicists are questioning the very existence of our fundamental subjective experiences of space and time.
The big question is: What lies beyond?
Hoffman argues that the problem in answering this question lies in the fact that we have evolved to possess senses (sight, hearing, smelling etc) that are adapted only to maximise fitness payoffs. By fitness payoffs, he means useful strategies to survive, thrive and reproduce.
The perception of our world is filtered to do these things, not see reality as it actually is.
Our reality is:
An adaptive fiction. A helpful metaphor is virtual reality. Suppose you’re playing Grand Theft Auto in VR. Seated in your ride, you see a dashboard, steering wheel, and the road ahead. You turn your headset to the right and see a red Ferrari. To the left you see a green Porsche. In reality, as you play the game you’re toggling millions of voltages each second in an unseen supercomputer. There is no green Porsche in that computer. The Porsche, your dashboard, and all that you see, is a fiction that helps you to play GTA.Donald Hoffman
And that’s what evolution did for us. Spacetime and physical objects are just our VR headset. They let us play the game of life, blissfully ignorant of the nitty-gritty of a reality beyond.
So evolution agrees with physics that spacetime is not fundamental. But evolution offers a metaphor: Spacetime is a just a headset by which we interact with an unseen reality. Science, until now, has only studied the contents and format of our headset. It’s time for science to remove the headset and venture beyond.
In 2005, physicists (using the Large Hadron Collider) began to realise there may be structures that exist beyond space and time (referred to as one word: spacetime). And in 2013 an object was identified called the “amplituhedron”, a geometric object that, unlike the 4 dimensions of our spacetime, can have trillions of dimensions.
The rest of the article digs down into the technicalities and mind-bending properties of the amplituhedron. I got lost pretty quickly TBH1.
One thing I can appreciate, though, is that the cutting edge of science is beginning to loosen its materialistic, reductionist grasp of the universe.
Researchers are exploring some pretty radical ideas and suggesting this is what is really going on.
Science seems to be at a tipping point. Leaning, albeit tentatively, into realms usually associated with philosophy, religion and contemplative practice (although most physicists would undoubtedly be aghast to think of such a convergence).
Seems to me…things are getting weird. Reassuringly weird.
Full article: Spacetime is not fundamental
- To Be Honest. ↩