RE: Objective versus subjective reality: which is primary?

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Tue Jul 19 2005 - 23:15:53 MDT


Regarding the possible derivation of the details laws of objective reality
from principles regarding subjective reality, in fact I do have something
specific in mind here, but it's a line of research that I developed only to
the level of whacky speculation, and then dropped off (in the mid-1990's) in
order to focus on AGI development.

The basic idea is to derive physical laws from general principles of pattern
theory. For instance, there is a big push in fundamental physics today to
derive physical laws from abstract-algebraic structures. So, my focus with
this work was to figure out how to derive the algebraic structures
underlying physics from abstract pattern-theoretic principles (which are
more redolent of philosophy of mind than of physics).

The details get technical. As a starting point, I wanted to prove that the
octonion algebra (which underlies a lot of physics, e.g. the Standard Model
and also some varieties of quantum gravity) is in a sense the optimal
algebra of agent interaction (meaning the optimal algebra involving the use
of a * operator along a standard + operator, where * is taken to denote the
action of one agent on another to produce a third agent). "Optimal" means
"has the most emergent algebraic structure as a ratio of the algorithmic
information of its rule table).

This sort of argument may potentially allow one to derive physical law from
general principles like "the universe starts out as a soup of patterns, and
then tries to find the most intense patterns possible". I.e., general
patterns that can be posited in a purely subjectivist, existentialist way,
without assuming the existence of any kind of objective matter...

For some old, rough speculative writing fleshing out these ideas, see

(leading up to the section entitled "Mental-Physical Optimality Principle")
and also ee section 5 of this essay

Please note that I don't necessarily agree with the details that I wrote
back then, anymore. But I still think that train of thought may have some
merit -- though to turn it anything really powerful and scientific would
require years of hard work, and I have other priorities right now.

-- Ben

  -----Original Message-----
  From: []On Behalf Of Chris Capel
  Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2005 2:09 PM
  Subject: Re: Objective versus subjective reality: which is primary?

    And this point gives rise to an interesting asymmetry. While it's easier
to explain the existence of objective reality based on subjective reality
than vice versa, it seems like it's probably easier to explain the details
of subjective reality based on objective reality than vice versa. Of course,
this is largely speculative, since right now we don't know how to do
either -- we can't explain particle physics based on subjectivist
developmental psychology, but nor can we explain the nature of conscious
experience based on brain function. However, my intuition is that the latter
is an easier task, and will be achieved sooner.

  How is the former possible at all? Or, alternatively, haven't we already
done it? All that's necessary to explain particle physics starting with
subjective reality is to formulate a theory of objective reality from
subjective experience and go from there. Or did you have something
fundamentally different in mind? I have a hard time visualizing what it
would be.

  Chris Capel
  "What is it like to be a bat? What is it like to bat a bee? What is it
like to be a bee being batted? What is it like to be a batted bee?"
  -- The Mind's I (Hofstadter, Dennet)

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