Deterministic World

Front Matter


Determinism is the idea that an initial state of a system suffices to determine all subsequent states. Solving the equation of motion of a ball in a gravitational field in high school physics demonstrates this idea: given the ball's height and velocity at time 0, we can find its height and velocity at any other time. The solution fully defines the ball's motion, there is no possible variation, the motion is forever fixed. We can look forward and backward in time and space, in any way we wish. One might say there is no 'free will', but it would be too early to use such complex notions now. Why would I think of a 'deterministic world'? Why would I title this book that way? I think the turning point in my search for answers about the world came when I accepted that physics conclusively shows that actions have their effects, and that specific actions always lead to the same specific effects. It was an acceptance of the perfect exactness of the laws of physics, and thus of the world itself, which if it follows those laws must also be deterministic. That means even this book was 'destined' to be written, and you were 'destined' to read it, and this all could have been foreseen by a powerful enough supercomputer solving equations of motion much more complicated than high school physics. That also means none of this could have ever been otherwise, there is no possible variation. At any point I might have decided to quit working on this book, but the world would not let me. If it is 'meant' for me to publish this book, it doesn't really matter what I do or how much effort I put in, the final result will still occur. Yet I have no idea what I am 'meant' or 'fated' or 'destined' to do, and my best guesses are often wrong. Being in the midst of this world, and experiencing all its sensations and constant ability to choose my course of action (or an illusion of such), it was very difficult for me to come to terms with the notion of a deterministic world. I cannot hope to convey this notion to you in a few sentences, but chances are that the rest of the book will serve to, in some subtle ways; thus I feel 'deterministic world' is an appropriate title.

Looking over my past notes, I am able to separate them by themes: Physics, Society, and Self. They will be presented in this order, as that is largely how my analysis of the world progressed. Physics sounds complicated, but society is in reality more complex (being an emergent result of countless physical interactions), and understanding the self may even be outside of our ability (can a system ever 'understand' itself? facing these big questions one is left in awe at how we understand anything at all). The change from quantitative to more emotional and 'fuzzy' topics may stem from changes in my self - an emotional maturation, caused by biological and social factors at about the halfway point through writing the notes. As I will argue later, it is stifling to limit physics to only abstract numbers and equations, we are physical beings and we have emotions and feelings, so physics must also be the study of such 'human' phenomena. I will not propose any rigorous frameworks of physics, but rather describe ideas about how a framework could be made, which I refer to as 'theory'. These include information theory, symmetry theory, and exchange theory, further elaborated in the Physics section. From there, I introduce system theory which is useful for understanding many aspects of Society. Finally, I apply earlier physical and societal insights to improving our understanding of the Self, and try to approch the big questions of life and death.

The style and language of the chapters is kept as close as possible to the original notes, although I am writing the book now (three years since beginning the notes) and have changed my views on some of the topics. In such cases my updated views and elaborations are included as footnotes. The order of the chapters is altered to keep a thematic 'flow' in the book, so the chapters are not in strict chronological order - there will likely be instances where I write 'as discussed earlier' but the concept doesn't appear until later.

   Introduction   1. Models and Theories »»