Process Physics: An organismic neo-Whiteheadian physics (International Whitehead Conference 2017) | Jeroen van Dijk

Presentations

Process Physics: An organismic neo-Whiteheadian physics

Jul 19, 2020

This is a 2020 update of a 2017 talk about Process Physics, given at the 11th International Whitehead Conference in Ponta Delgada, The Azores.

Introductory abstract:

Process Physics is a new way of doing physics that has been developed by Australian professor of physics Reg Cahill and his co-workers. It very much agrees with Lee Smolin’s line of reasoning (2019) that our modeling of nature should be a relational monadology, just as envisioned by Newton’s main opponent Gottfried Leibniz. Smolin holds that a lot of our problems in contemporary physics come from our Newtonian way of ‘doing physics in a box’. This is a way of doing physics which isolates our target of observation from the rest of the universe (including the observer) and then problematically extrapolates its findings to nature-as-a-whole.

In contrast, Process Physics can be characterized as a neo-Whiteheadian, habit-centered, biocentric way of doing physics without a box. It starts out with an initially undifferentiated homogeneity of noisy, self-organizing background processuality which gradually turns out to give rise to an ever-more complex network of dynamically evolving relationships. It does so by setting up a stochastic, self-reference-based modeling of nature in which all self-referential and initially noisy activity patterns are ‘mutually in-formative’ in the sense that they are actively making a meaningful difference to each other (i.e. ‘in-forming’ or ‘actively giving shape to each other’). In this way, the system evolves from its initial featurelessness to then ‘branch out’ to higher and higher levels of complexity – all this according to roughly the same basic principles as naturally developing neural networks or slime mold foraging patterns (Burchett et al. 2020).

Because of this self-organizing and noise-driven branching behaviour, the thus emerging relational network can be thought of as habit-bound with a potential for creative novelty and open-ended evolution. Furthermore, three-dimensionality, (quasi-)classical behaviour, and gravitational, relativistic and inertial effects are spontaneously emergent features within this evolving web of interrelations. Also, the network’s constantly renewing activity patterns bring along an inherent present moment effect, thereby reintroducing time as the system’s ‘becomingness’.

As a final point, subjectivity – in the form of ‘mutual informativeness’ (which is also used in Gerald Edelman’s and Giulio Tononi’s extended theory of neuronal group selection to explain how higher-order consciousness can emerge) – is a naturally evolving, innate feature, not a coincidental, later-arriving side-effect or epiphenomenon.

Some helpful references:

  • Joseph N. Burchett et al. “Revealing the dark threads of the cosmic web.” The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Vol. 891, March 10, 2020, p. L35. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/ab700c.
  • Lee Smolin, Time Reborn: From the Crisis of Physics to the Future of the Universe. London: Allen Lane, 2013.
  • _________. Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum. New York: Penguin Press, 2019.
  • Reginald T. Cahill and Christopher M. Klinger. “Pregeometric Modelling of the Spacetime Phenomenology.” Physics Letters A., 223.5 (1996): 313-319.
  • _________. “Self-Referential Noise and the Synthesis of Three-Dimensional Space.” General Relativity and Gravitation 32.3 (2000): 529-540.
  • _________. “Self-Referential Noise as a Fundamental Aspect of Reality.” Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Unsolved Problems of Noise and Fluctuations. New York: American Institute of Physics, 2000.
  • _________. “Bootstrap Universe from Self-Referential Noise.” Progress in Physics 2 (2005): 108-112.
  • Reginald T. Cahill, Christopher M. Klinger, and Kirsty Kitto. “Process Physics: Modelling Reality as Self-Organising Information.” The Physicist 37.6 (2000): 191-195.
  • Ulanowicz, Robert. The Ascendent Perspective. New York: Columbia UP, 1997.
  • _________. The Third Window: Natural Life Beyond Newton and Darwin. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2009.

Process Physics: A biocentric physics – Whitehead Psychology Nexus – spring meeting 2017

May 10, 2017

By doing physics, we inevitably have to make sense of the same system that we are ourselves inseparably part of. So, when trying to grasp our universe in its full entirety, we should not only take into account how nature works, but also how our experience of nature works.

However, contemporary mainstream physics typically likes to treat subjective experience as inferior – namely, as being reducible to purely physical brain activity, or even as being entirely illusory. Another problem is the external perspective that mainstream physics has to take in order to observe its target systems of interest. After all, this can simply not be maintained when trying to deal with nature as a whole (cf. Smolin 2013, xxiii and 40) since this would require the observer to reside outside the universe, which is impossible.

Fortunately, though, when embracing Reg Cahill’s Process Physics and its biocentric method of doing physics, we can overcome the inherent limitations and simplifying presumptions of our current way of ‘doing physics in a box’ (cf. Smolin 2013, 37-45). In stark contrast with our conventional physics, Process Physics is not law-governed and environment-neglecting, but rather routine-driven and “ecology-minded”. As such, it can be characterized as a habit-establishing, biocentric method of ‘doing physics without a box’.

In this presentation it will be shown how the early universe, early life, and early consciousness could have come into actuality in a similar way, namely from an initially largely undifferentiated background of low-grade processuality. Accordingly, it is argued that the early universe has emerged from a giant ocean of potential that can be interpreted as a ‘primordial vacuum’, or a ‘plenary void’; next to that, early life is seen to appear though autocatalysis from a primordial, prebiotic soup; and early higher-order consciousness gets to be sculpted from an initially amorphous blooming, buzzing confusion — as the integrated whole of organism and world goes through its well-embedded perception-action cycles.

Main references:

  1. Cahill, Reginald T. “Process Physics: From Information Theory to Quantum Space and Matter.” Process Studies Supplement. Issue 5, 2003.
  2. Gibson, James J. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.
  3. Smolin, Lee. Time Reborn: From the Crisis of Physics to the Future of the Universe. London: Allen Lane, 2013.

Process Physics, Time and Consciousness – Presentation Whitehead Psychology Nexus 2015

Sep 30, 2015

Conference presentation of “Process Physics, Time and Consciousness: Nature as an internally meaningful, habit-establishing process.” As presented at the Whitehead Psychology Nexus Workshop Conference held in Fontareches, France, March 27-30th, 2015 (with some minor adjustments). For full published paper, see: https://tinyurl.com/yc9r6kys (date of publication: October 18, 2017).

Abstract:

Process Physics, Time and Consciousness: Nature as an internally meaningful, habit-establishing process.

Author: Jeroen B. J. van Dijk, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Ever since Einstein’s arrival at the forefront of science, mainstream physics likes to think of nature as a giant 4-dimensional spacetime continuum in which all of eternity exists all at once – in one timeless block universe. Accordingly, much to the dismay of more process-minded researchers, the experience of an ongoing present moment is typically branded as illusory.

Mainstream physics is having a hard time, though, to provide a well-founded defense for this illusoriness of time. This is because physics, as an empirical science, is itself utterly dependent on experience to begin with. Moreover, if nature were indeed purely physical – as contemporary mainstream physics wants us to believe – it’s quite difficult to see how it could ever be able to give rise to something so explicitly non-physical like conscious experience. On top of this, the argument of time’s illusoriness becomes even more doubtful in view of the extra-ordinary level of sophistication that would be required for our conscious experience to achieve such an utterly convincing, but – physically speaking – pointless illusion. It’s because of problems like these that process thought has persistently objected against this ‘eternalism’ of mainstream physics. Just recently, physicist Lee Smolin even brought up some other major arguments against this timeless picture in his controversial 2013 book ‘Time Reborn’. And although he passionately argues that physics should take an entirely different direction, he admits that he has no readily available roadmap to success.

Fortunately, however, over the last 15 years or so, a neo-Whiteheadian, ‘neurobiologically inspired’ way of doing foundational physics, namely Reg Cahill’s Process Physics, has been making its appearance on the scene. Process Physics aims to model the universe as an initially orderless and uniform process plenum by setting up a stochastic, self-referential modeling of nature. In Process Physics, all self-referential and initially noisy activity patterns are “mutually in-formative” as they are actively making a meaningful difference to (i.e. “in-forming”) each other. Due to this mutual in-formativeness, the stochastic activity patterns will act as “start-up seeds” that become engaged in self-renewing update iterations. In this way, the system starts to evolve from its initial featurelessness to then “branch out” to higher and higher levels of complexity – all this according to the same basic principles as a naturally evolving neural network.

Because of this “neuromorphic” behaviour, the process system can be thought of as habit-bound with a potential for creative novelty and open-ended evolution. Furthermore, threedimensionality, gravitational and relativistic effects, nonlocality, and classical behaviour are spontaneously emergent within the system. Also, the system’s constantly renewing activity patterns bring along an inherent present moment effect, thereby reintroducing time as the system’s ongoing change. As a final point, subjectivity – in the form of mutual informativeness – is a naturally evolving, innate feature, not a coincidental, later-arriving side-effect.

Main references:

  • Reginald T. Cahill, Christopher M. Klinger, and Kirsty Kitto. “Process Physics: Modelling Reality as Self-Organising Information.” The Physicist 37(6), (2000): 191-195. arXiv:gr-qc/0009023
  • Reginald T. Cahill and Christopher M. Klinger. “Self-Referential Noise and the Synthesis of Three-Dimensional Space.” Gen. Rel. and Grav. 32(3), (2000): 529-540. arXiv:gr-qc/9812083v2
  • Reginald T. Cahill and Christopher M. Klinger. “Bootstrap Universe from Self-Referential Noise.” Progress in Physics, 2, (2005): 108-112. arXiv:gr-qc/9708013v1
  • Gerald M. Edelman and Giulio Tononi, Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination, London: Allen Lane, 2000.
  • David R. Griffin (Ed.), Physics and the Ultimate Significance of Time: Bohm, Prigogine and Process Philosophy, Albany: SUNY Press, 1986.
  • Smolin, Lee. Time Reborn: From the Crisis of Physics to the Future of the Universe. London: Allen Lane, 2013.

The Anticipatory Remembered Present

Nov 17, 2014

A presentation on the conception of the present moment in physics and cognitive neuroscience (presented at the 3rd European Summer School in Process Thought in Düsseldorf, Germany, 25-29 September 2014).


Articles

Process Physics: An organismic neo-Whiteheadian physics

January 2021

In book: Process Cosmology: Toward a Wider Science and a Deeper Philosophy
Publisher: Palgrave MacMillan

Abstract

From Galileo onwards, our physics has been applying the basic format of splitting nature into target and subject world and then paying attention only to what happens on the target side. This way of doing physics has made it possible for us to formulate our celebrated “laws of nature” in the form of regularity-encoding physical equations. However, despite the fact that they have indeed been tremendously successful, there is a not-to-be-underestimated problem with these laws: Although they are meant to provide us with a proper origination story for our natural universe, their own origination necessarily has to be taken for granted. It is because of problems like these that the call for an alternative way of doing physics has recently become louder and louder. Arguably, we now have a mature, process-oriented alternative for our familiar way of “doing physics in a box” — as Lee Smolin likes to call it. In line with Smolin’s hunches, Reg Cahill’s Process Physics sets up a modeling of nature that can be placed under the banners of “doing physics without a box” and “neo-Leibnizian monadology”. As such, it is not based on “laws of nature” and “initial conditions,” but rather on “routine of nature” and “initial randomness” (cf. “primordial chaos / primordial vacuum”). Accordingly, Process Physics can be characterized as a habit-establishing, organismic physics which models nature as an undivided, self-organizing whole of mutually informative fore- and background patterns. These initially noisy activity patterns are ‘mutually in-formative’ in the sense that they are actively making a meaningful difference to each other from within the process, rather than being engaged in purely externalistic mechanical interactions. In this way, the relational Process Physics model will start to evolve from its initial featurelessness to then ‘branch out’ to higher and higher levels of complexity – all this according to roughly the same basic principles as a naturally developing neural network. For good measure, Cahill’s process physics is here compared with Erik Verlinde’s emergent gravity physics. It is argued that Cahill’s way of doing physics offers some important advantages over Verlinde’s approach.

Reproduced from: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jeroen_Van_Dijk4/publication/348351913_Process_Physics_Toward_an_Organismic_Neo-Whiteheadian_Physics/links/5ff999c1a6fdccdcb83f5dcf/Process-Physics-Toward-an-Organismic-Neo-Whiteheadian-Physics.pdf

PP-towardanorganismicneo-Whiteheadianphysics-JBJVanDijk-Ch.221405-editedbijJvD-20210107

Process Physics, time, and consciousness: Nature as an internally meaningful, habit-establishing process

Van Dijk, J. B. (2017). Process Physics, time, and consciousness. Process Studies Supplement(24), 1-216.

Abstract:

Ever since Einstein’s arrival at the forefront of science, mainstream physicists have tended to think of nature as a giant 4-dimensional spacetime continuum in which all of eternity exists all at once in one timeless block universe. Accordingly, much to the dismay of more process-minded researchers, the experience of an ongoing present moment is typically branded as illusory. Mainstream physics is having a hard time, however, providing a well-founded defense of this alleged illusoriness of time. This is because physics, as an empirical science, is itself utterly dependent on experience to begin with. Moreover, if nature were indeed purely physical – as contemporary mainstream physics wants us to believe – it is quite difficult to see how it could ever be able to give rise to something so explicitly non-physical like conscious experience. On top of this, the argument of times illusoriness becomes even more doubtful in view of the extraordinary level of sophistication that would be required for our conscious experience to achieve such an utterly convincing, but – physically speaking – pointless illusion. It is because of problems like these that process thought has persistently objected to the “eternalism” of mainstream physics. Recently physicist Lee Smolin has brought up some other major arguments against this timeless picture in his controversial 2013 book Time Reborn. Although he passionately argues that physics should take an entirely different direction, he admits that he has no readily available roadmap to success. Fortunately, however, over the last 15 years or so, a neo-Whiteheadian, biocentric way of doing foundational physics, namely Reg Cahill’s process physics, has made its appearance. According to process physics, nature is a routine-driven or habit-based process, rather than a changeless world whose observable phenomena are governed by eternally fixed and highly deterministic physical laws. Although, in the currently prevailing view, the universe is seen as a law-abiding natural world whose entire history-past, present, and future-must have been “called forth by law” in one go at the big bang, process physics suggests that the universe has come into actuality from an initially undifferentiated, orderless background of dispositional activity patterns which was driven by a habit-establishing, iterative update routine. In the process physics model, all such habit-establishing activity patterns are “mutually informative” as they are actively making a meaningful difference to (i.e., in-forming) each other. This mutual informativeness among activity patterns will thus actively give shape to ongoing structure formation within nature as a whole, thereby renewing it through stochastic (hence, novelty-infusing) update iterations. In this way, the process of nature starts to evolve from its initial featurelessness to then branch out to higher and higher levels of complexity, thus eventually even leading to neural network-like structure formation on the universes supra galactic level of organization. Because of this noise-driven branching behavior, the natural universe can be thought of as habit-bound with a potential for creative novelty and open-ended evolution. Furthermore, three-dimensionality, gravitational and relativistic effects, nonlocality, and near-classical behavior are spontaneously emergent within the process physics model. Also, the models constantly renewing activity patterns bring along an inherent present moment effect, thereby reintroducing time in terms of the system’s ongoing change as it goes through its cyclic iterations. As a final point, subjectivity – in the form of mutual ieformativeness – is a naturally evolving, innate feature, not a coincidental, later-arriving side-effect.

Reproduced from: https://tinyurl.com/yc9r6kys

PSS_24 (2017)

 

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