Lee Corbin writes:
> Perhaps you could address the biggest stumbling block that perhaps
> I still have: continuity.
> I'll even go out on a limb and suggest that *continuity* is really
> what bothers a lot of people. A lot of us (e.g. Jesse Mazer) are
> quite okay with, say, a program that uses the rules of Life to
> give rise to a conscious entity.  But we get really squeamish when
> someone talks about just using the static, instant descriptions---
> the generations of Life as depicted on, say, 2D grids. Even if you
> have big a pile of such descriptions---trillions and trillions of
> them---we point out that these snapshots are only frozen instants,
> where the real "meat" was the continuous process (that so happened
> to use the Rules).

One point of my example was that if you think of the Life universe as
existing in and of itself, as a Platonic entity, pure information, there
is really no difference between these views.

This thread talks about "time deniers" and I might be one, but from my
perspective it seems that many people are "time mystics".  They see a
special role for time that goes beyond its mere presence as part of the
laws of physics of a universe.

I imagine that multiple universes could exist, a la Schmidhuber's ensemble
or Tegmark's level 4 multiverse.  Time does not play a special role in
the descriptions of these universes.  Some universes will have properties
that are similar to what we think of as the passage of time; others will
have nothing that would be recognizably like time; and yet others will
have some aspects that are similar to time passing but not quite the same.

Does a pure Life universe have a time coordinate?  In a way, it does.
Or you can just as easily see it as a stack of grids.  Is there really
a difference, if the laws of physics are the same in both cases?

Alternative sets of Life rules will cause every grid in that stack to
be the same, or equivalently, will cause each successive instant to have
the same state.  Does that universe have time?

Even in the case of Life, there are other ways to create the stack of
grids (or equivalently, succession of states) than to start with some
initial conditions and evolve forwards.  You could start with some final
conditions and work your way backwards.  Or you could start in the middle
and work outwards.  Wolfram considers computational systems (in my view,
simple universes) which get defined via successive approximations in much
this way.  Do such universes have time?  There is no unambiguous answer.

Tegmark in one of his papers considers universes with two or more
time dimensions.  Can you wrap your mind around that?  Doesn't the
potential existence of such universes suggest that the notion of process
vs static-state is too simple?  What would a 2D-time process be like, vs
a 1D-time process like what we are used to?  Could we imagine universes
with fractal time dimensions, like the fractal space dimensions which
are sometimes explored?

These considerations lead me to the view that there is nothing special
about time, that it is merely a useful way of looking at some universes.
Probably the fraction of universes (or more generally, information
objects) that have a notion of time that is very similar to our own
is small.

Now, certainly it seems that consciousnesses like ours, anything that
we would recognize as a conscious entity, will involve a notion of
time similar to what we use.  We are bound up with the idea of time
and so if we see a consciousness in a Life universe, whether we think
of it as a stack of cells or as a succession of states, it will seem
to that consciousness that time is passing.  But this is largely
a selection effect of our own anthropomorphic biases.  We only see
consciousnesses that perceive time passing because those are the only
kinds of informational entities that we can think of as conscious.

> P.S. I thought UD was "Universal Dovetailer", but now you mean
> "Universal Description". We've got to get cautious using the
> acronyms, or be sure, as you did here, to say what you mean in
> a post.

Actually it is "Universal Distribution" but I didn't want to write that
out in detail every time I used it.  Maybe I will write UDist in the
future to help remind people that no doves were harmed in creating
this concept.

> P.P.S. Stephen Paul King was one of those who kept bringing up
> the distinction between a *description* of something and the
> thing itself. With what I have written above, I see a connection
> now.

For an informational object, a sufficiently precise description is
equivalent to the object itself, in my view.  And I am considering an
ontology where everything is an informational object.

Hal Finney

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