REALITY IS AN ILLUSION: How To Design Your Dream Life & EXIT THE MATRIX | Donald Hoffman | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "REALITY IS AN ILLUSION: How To Design Your Dream Life & EXIT THE MATRIX | Donald Hoffman".
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- Tom O'Huffman, welcome back to the show. - Thanks a lot, Tom, it's great to be here. - Dude, excited to have you back. So I'm obsessed with the Matrix and the idea that we're living in a false reality. Now I know you don't believe that we are actually in a simulation, but do we recognize the truth of reality? - Well, our best science tells us that space time is not fundamental. This is the conclusion of both physics and evolution by natural selection. So the physicists tell us that space time is doomed. It's not fundamental. And they're finding new structures beyond space time, like the amplitude hedon, that actually make the math easier in space time for the things they need to do. And then evolution by natural selection also agrees with the physicists that space time is not fundamental. - Let's explain that. So when you say that space time isn't fundamental, what do we mean exactly? In like the simplest, or we'll get into the geeky, like deep stuff in a second, but for the audience that hasn't heard you talk before, what does that mean? - Well, we tend to think of space and time as the basic level of reality. Everything that could possibly be is inside space and has some time. The big bang was the start of it all. And who knows what the end will be, maybe a big crunch or just peetering out in low entropy and low temperature, we don't know yet. But that we think or we thought is the basis of all reality.
Exploring Perception And Reality
Is Reality Real? (01:26)
So space and time are the basic stage on which all of reality plays out. And-- - How can it not be though? - That's the weird thing. Does that mean that whatever is real, and we should probably give people your headset, metaverse explanation, which speaks dear to my heart, but before we do that, does that mean that whatever is real is non-physical? - Well, so the word real is a little slippery. So in some sense, my headache is real, right? Because it's a real experience. But it real in the sense that the physicists are talking about it when they thought that space and time are fundamental. They were thinking that this was the fundamental ground of all possible realities. Like in a Newtonian universe and even in Einstein's point of view, Einstein thought that space and time was the grounding reality for everything. And now we realize that the four dimensions of space time, or even 10 dimensions of string theory or something like that, is not going deep enough. There are structures entirely beyond space time and entirely beyond quantum theory. So these new structures are not like little structures sitting inside it that small scales are space time. - I don't think it's structures yet. People are gonna be super lost. So the idea of the headset, I think, is a really core concept. So somebody asks you once, like in the future, we're gonna start using different metaphors. What metaphors do you think we're gonna use? And you said the metaverse. Has somebody trying to contribute to the metaverse? My ears perked up on that one. Why will that become such a useful metaphor for this moment and how we perceive things? - Right. - And just the way that evolution speaks on this is it says that our perceptions of objects in space and time is really just like a virtual reality headset. It's there to help you play the game of life without knowing what's on the other side of the headset, what's on the other side, what's the hardware and software that's running the game? You don't have to know that to play the game. And in fact, if you were trying to play a game of like Grand Theft Auto and virtual reality, and you had to toggle millions of voltages per second to drive your car, you would lose. When you were competing with someone who could just turn a nice little simple steering wheel and press on an artificial gas pedal. So evolution gave us senses that allow us to survive by hiding the truth and just telling us how to act. So as the evolutionary theorist would say, our senses guide adaptive behavior. Why does natural selection as a theory predict that? 'Cause I understand the theory, I guess, well enough at a high level, but I never would have guessed that it actually says that it makes a prediction anyway that you, whatever is real, the only thing I can tell you that evolution is selected for is not that. So where like would, is this something that Darwin himself saw in his theory or would he be surprised? I think Darwin would be surprised. And in fact, many evolutionary theorists today are surprised. And so how do we know this isn't just a kooky interpretation of natural selection by Donald Hoffman? Exactly. So the way we pursue this is it turns out that Darwin's theory has been turned into a mathematically precise theory. It's called evolutionary game theory. So John Maynard Smith started that in the 1970s. And so we now have, instead of, you know, Darwin's theory, which is, you know, it's imprecise in the sense that it's not a mathematical model. Evolutionary game theory, evolutionary graph theory are mathematically precise. So we can now prove theorems and we can ask technical questions. So what is the probability that natural selection would shape any sensory system of any organism to reveal any true structures of objective reality? That's a clean technical question. And it turns out that evolutionary game theory is precise enough to address that question. Okay, so I know I've gotten hung up on that a lot. And I think for people of my cognitive ability, we will have to accept that as the miracle of this conversation, otherwise we'll derail on that. 'Cause I don't understand how his theory can be turned into a math equation. And I worry that for you to explain it to me would take an entire semester and it caused me to tear my hair out.
Every Species Has Its Own Realm (06:09)
But so if we can accept, unless you're thinking, it looks like you may have a way to explain it. I can give a little hint. It's when we say evolutionary game theory, it really, think about game theory. How do you play Monopoly and Win? How do you play various game? So it turns out you can look at different strategies that someone might have. You know, I'm gonna go for part play. So I'm gonna go for Boardwalk. I'm gonna try to, there's all different strategies. And you can then write down mathematically, okay, if you take this strategy, what is the probability that you will do well against someone who's taking this other strategy? It's all about most offspring. And so the strategies are ways to survive long enough to reproduce. And so you can look at different strategies for playing the game of life. So for example, some organisms will have millions or thousands of offspring. But they don't care about the offspring. Most of them will die. But if 1% of them make it, you're good. Humans tend to have just a couple, a handful of offspring, and we put a lot of effort into them. So those are different strategies. And so as you look, so some strategies, for example, in perception. Humans really have focused in our evolution on vision and hearing and less on smell and taste and so forth. Other organisms focus on things that we don't even have, like echolocation and bass. So different organisms will take different strategies. The game of life is, how do I live long enough to reproduce? And how do I raise my offspring to maturity? No, do I just make lots of them and let them fend for themselves? And most of them die, but the fraction will make it. Or do I make just a few of them and really help them for 20 or 30 years until they can go on their own? - Or more of those days. - Or more of those days. - So from evolutionary game theory's perspective, what is the most successful creature on planet Earth? - Well, probably bacteria. - Interesting. - Right, there's a lot more bacteria than ours. - A good answer. - Than us, and maybe viruses if there are more. So from that point of view, right, the winner is the one who survives long enough to reproduce and reproduces for a long period of time. And you know, cyanobacteria have been around for billions of years. So, you know, there are certainly candidates. I'm not saying that they're the final answer, but that kind of thing would be, humans are, you know, relative newcomers. And I actually really like the theory that humans are bacteria's way of moving around, which is pretty interesting. When you think that we're outnumbered by the bacteria in our guts, on our skin, and all of that stuff, it's pretty interesting. I should have guessed that answer, but that makes a lot of sense. - Right, right. - So this gives you the idea of, when you're playing a game, there's lots of strategies, especially in a complicated game, there's lots of strategies. And it's not that there's gonna be one best strategy. It's rather that if Tom is using this strategy, what should, what strategies should I use to counter Tom's strategy? And so forth, same thing in business, right? It depends on who your competition is, what strategies you're going to take, and what is the governing system and so forth, like with the laws and so forth, that will all determine your strategy. So you can use game theory, and turn it into a tool for studying evolution as a game, where your bacteria are trying to play the game of life one way, humans are playing the game of life another way, every different organism, every different plant, is playing the game of life with a different kind of strategy. - That's really interesting, it's funny. - This is the third time I've interviewed you, and I've never pushed on this, 'cause there was something about, I couldn't wrap my brain around it, so I'm glad you took the time. - Yeah. - What's fascinating to me is every species has its own oomveld, which is a really fascinating concept. So I looked this up once, and every time I say this stat, I think I must be wrong, 'cause it just seems way too far off, but humans are able to perceive 0.0035% of the electromagnetic spectrum. And I was like, how does that pop up? That's so, like everything that we see and think of as the known world is 0.0035%. That is like vanishingly small, exactly right. So our window on the world is trivial, compared to what could in principle be available. And so the question that you can then ask in a technical fashion is, what is the probability that a strategy of seeing truth, true structures about objective reality, would that strategy help you to survive long enough to raise kids? And so we can ask that as a technical question. Evolution has the tools to do that. And the key concept is something called a fitness payoff. So it's, fitness payoff is like, if you're playing a game, there's a certain way that you get points in the game. If you're playing a video game, right, you have to shoot things down or avoid getting hit and to get points. And if you get enough points, you get to the next level of the game. Well, fitness payoffs, if you get enough fitness payoffs, what that corresponds to is you're surviving long enough to reproduce and you don't go to the next level of the game, but you're offspring and your DNA in your offspring, go to the next level of the game. So here's the big idea. We can ask these fitness payoff functions that govern our evolution. They do depend on whatever the world is and the world structure. So they do depend on the world. They depend on the organism. What's fit for me is not fit for a benthic fish. Being 5,000 meters under the water would kill me. It's just what the benthic fish wants. So the fitness payoffs depend on the true structure of the world. It depends on the organism, Hoffman versus a fish and the action, feeding, fighting, fleeing and mating and so forth.
Evolution Payoffs Are What Pick Our Information (12:17)
And you can then ask, what is the probability? Now, this is the key technical question. What is the probability that a randomly chosen fitness payoff function that's governing my evolution has information about the true structure of the world? Because evolution tells us those fitness payoffs are what determine how your senses are going to evolve. They're going-- What's the base assumption there that reality is so complex? In fact, I want to press-- I want to take a second to really elucidate the example you have about grand theft auto, which I think is so brilliant. What's actually happening in grand theft auto is electrical currents are toggling on and off gates on the computer. And that somehow makes things happen on your screen that you can interact with and score points and all that. But if you look at a chip, it is so complicated that trying to zap electrodes in the right order-- literally impossible. And so everything that we as the average non-computer programmer think of as a computer is really just the gooey. It's the interface. And so you're there at a really abstracted level. It is so abstract is to be nonsensical compared to what's actually happening at the electrical communication level with the machinery itself sending signals to your TV. Exactly. And if real life has that same level of complexity, then I get why it would need to be so abstracted that as to be just nonsensical compared to what reality really is, something I think breaks in people's intuition. It certainly breaks in my intuition when I think, though, that there has to be some sort of mapping. So the example that you've said many times, which I think is really on point, is people are going to make fun of you. What they will say is, oh, you don't think any of this is real, go ahead and step in front of that train and see if it kills you. And of course, it's going to. So the representation of the train is pointing at something that will change your state from alive to dead. Now, whether all of that is so, again, abstracted from what's actually happening at a electrical level-- I don't even know what to liken it to-- but nonetheless, stepping in front of a train will flip you from alive to dead, whatever that means in the underlying reality. So do you think at all about, do you care what it's mapping to? Or are you just like, eh, it doesn't matter. It's too complicated. We're not there yet. Well, I do care. And that's why I'm interested in this particular theorem, because my interest is I'm seeing a world of space and time and objects with colors and shapes and motions. Is that the true world? Is that the true structure of objective reality? Or is this as divorced from reality? Is what we're seeing is divorced from the fundamental reality as my Grand Theft Auto VR headset is from the voltages inside the supercomputer that's running it? That's the simple question. So when I talk about things outside of space time, it's just like, suppose someone had played Grand Theft Auto since they were one day old, and their parents had left them in a headset their whole life. And when they're 25, the parents say, guess what? You've been in a headset your whole life. And that person probably can't even-- what could possibly be outside of my headset? I've lived my whole life inside this headset. And you pull it off, and you realize, oh, wow, there's a whole world that's entirely outside of what you're in. That's the question we're asking. Has evolution shaped us with just a little headset, a VR headset, that guides adaptive behavior, but shows us none of objective reality? That's the technical question. And the answer is very, very clear. The probability is one that we don't see the truth at all, meaning 100%. 100%. OK, so if the probability is 100% that you are seeing a very false version, the thing that that seems to predict to me is that the underlying reality is so complicated that at least in this form-- I don't know how else to refer to that-- in this form, it would, with our oomveld, our ability to process data, whatever, it would not make sense to try to deal with the reality. It's far more efficient to create an abstraction layer. But if underlying reality is dead simple, that doesn't seem like it would hold true. So do we just presume that there is extreme complexity? Well, it turns out that the extreme complexity isn't necessary for this theorem to be true. Interesting. Why would you need such an elaborate abstraction if it isn't complicated? Well, so it turns out when you actually just look at the math-- so suppose the world has some number of states, a billion states, or 100 states, whatever it might say. So there's some number of states in the world. And you have some number of states of perception. I can see green, red, there's lots of things I can see. When you just do a simple count, look at all the possible functions from the states of the world to the states of my perception. Just count them. So the world doesn't have to be complicated. You'd have just 100 points or 1,000 points. When you count all the functions that are the fitness functions and ask how many of those functions actually contain information about the structures in the world, it turns out that very quickly the proportion goes to zero. So even if the structure isn't that complicated, maybe there's only one structure in the world. That's all it has, like a total order. Something you know, one is less than two is less than three. It's like, what is the probability that that total order? So the world could be very simple. It only has one simple structure, total order. And the world only has maybe a million states. So it's not a very complicated world, a million states. What is the probability that the fitness payoff functions that govern my evolution would preserve the total order information? Would actually be able to tell me about the total order. And the math is quite simple. And the answer is zero. But that has to predict something. So when I make the base assumption that it's because it is too complex. So to give people, I want to start putting definitions of some of these words. So we're going to say state, let's say lights on, lights off. So we all live where Earth has two states. The sun is up, the sun is down. That's one. Temperature would be another state. Could be hot, could be cold. Barometric pressure, could be high, could be low, could be wet, could be dry. So there's a lot of different things. And so to your point about the fish, they're dealing with massive pressures. If they were to come up with there's no pressure, they would disintegrate or not be able to move or whatever, just like we crushed down to the-- like a tiny can. So they would explode and we would crush. Right, exactly right. So OK, when you say states, that's one example. I don't understand how if everything were static, it were one state that we would need an abstraction layer to navigate it more effectively than somebody that sees objective reality. So now I'm going to use an example to further illustrate what I mean. I'm going to use an example. You gave me the first one. You cannot imagine how many times I've quoted you on this. You said, Tom, you have to understand that objective reality isn't like, oh, here's a table and it's got this nice swirly grain pattern. It's the number of photons reflecting off of that desk and the amount of reflectivity and all that.
Your Existence Is Shaped by Your Goal (20:05)
Now irony of ironies, as I have started working in the metaverse, you realize how complicated the visual world is. The 0.0035% of the visual spectrum that we actually see is insanely complicated to replicate. Right, right. Donald, it's the hardest thing I've done in my life. It's crazy. And I don't even have to fully understand it. I just have to guide the team that understands it. Anyway, when you said that, I was like, whoa, what reality is very different than how I experience it. So cool, complex. So now I get why the math works out. But if it isn't complex, so you don't seem to be struggling with this. What is it that you understand that I don't? Or what is your base assumption that's given the mind that makes it-- makes sense to you that to achieve maximum fitness payoff, you would 100% not retain elements of reality. So first, I don't deny that I suspect that reality is very complicated.
Is Objective Reality Simple or Complex (21:01)
But that isn't necessary. That's not necessary for this. That's right. It's just simply accounting things. So if you look at all the functions from one set to another set, like-- so I have functions-- say, I have numbers 1 through 10. And that's my base set. And I'm going to map them into numbers 1 through 10. So I can map 1 to 3 and 2 to 5 and so forth. So if you just do-- if you think about that problem, I could probably figure, OK, how many different functions are there, right? So you can write down all-- now you can say, OK, how many of those functions have the property that they preserve, that 1 is less than 2 is less than 3 and less than 4? How many of them scramble that order? How many preserve that order? How many scramble? How many contain information about the 1 less than 2 less than 3 less than 4? So this is called combinatorics. It's a branch of mathematics. 92% of people that set a New Year's goal fail to achieve it, which is why I've created a 90-day challenge designed specifically to ensure that you hit your goals. You really can radically transform yourself. Just click the link below to join me and the entire Impact Theory University community to kick off 2023 right with the Impact 90 challenge. All right, guys, now back to the episode. Oh, I'm unfortunately all too aware of it because of NFTs. Yes. Which require you to understand this because you're making you have, to your point-- and maybe this is what you're saying. And so maybe I actually now am understanding it. Let me walk you through what we had to discover in NFTs.
OK, so you create all these traits, all these categories, I should say. And then within each category, you have maybe 10 possible eyebrows that it could be, eyeball types, hairstyles, facial hair, so on and so forth. That outputs, let's say, 2 billion potential permutations. Exactly right. But you want to maintain a distribution in the 10,000 that you're actually going to show. So we were all trying to do the math. We're working it out. And I'm like, there's no way it's a symbol. There's some problem. And then we showed it to physicists, and they fell out laughing, and they're like, yeah, it's not that simple. And so they're like, for you to maintain the percentage, likelihood to get gold eyes, let's say, out of your 2 billion combinations, they're like, you have to force it down into this thing, which they call the combinatorial or whatever. And so I was like, OK. And so that really is the point here, that even though I agree with you that the universe is probably the real universe, whatever it is, is very complicated. I believe that. Combinatorics blow up so quickly. Got it. By the time you just get to a few hundred elements, as you found, the explosion of possibilities is so great that when you ask how many of those possible fitness functions would actually be so special that they contain information about the structure of where they came from. Out of all of the possible fitness functions that were-- So it's not an overly complicated world. It's just the number of potential mapping points and combinations. Exactly right. Very interesting. Because evolutionary theory puts no restriction on the fitness payoff functions.
Evolutionary Theory (24:30)
Any possible-- I mean, there could be as many as you can imagine. And there's no restrictions. There's no restrictions as they have to show you the truth. That's not part of the theory. Right. And by the way, no one knows how to put that into the theory. So to say that it requires that only the fitness functions that preserve the truth would be a major revision to evolutionary theory. It would be unrecognizable. So when you look then and say, OK, every fitness payoff function is equal likely as any other fitness payoff function. They're all in equal footing. And then you count the ones that actually have information about the truth. They go to zero probability in fast order. Now there is one I should bring out. There's a group at Yale that has recently published a paper that's trying to push back on this. And what they say is if you have, say, a bunch of thousands of fitness payoff functions, they're all radically different. Then they say that you'll be forced to go to the truth. And the argument that they make is that if our high level cognitions, our beliefs, our goals, and so forth, are not going to interfere with our perceptions, they claim that then our perceptions have to map-- have a single mapping from the state of the world into the state of our senses. It has to be a single mapping. You can't have-- because one thing I could do with a lot of fitness functions is to say, well, this fitness function is different from that one. So I will do this kind of mapping from the world into my senses with this fitness payoff function. Then I'll do another mapping with this fitness payoff function. And they say, if you're going to have what we call cognitive and penetrability, so what you believe cognitively cannot affect what you see. That's the argument. Then you must have only one mapping. So that's their assumption. So hold on. Let me make sure I understand that. So they're saying that basically so that your delusions don't create the exterior world or at least your perception of it, you have to have this mapping so that you're actually detecting and seeing what is real. They're saying that if what you believe doesn't affect your senses in a fundamental way, then they claim that that entails that you can only have one mapping from the world, the fitness-- the mapping of your senses from whatever the world is into what you're seeing, the colors and the shapes and so forth. There can only be one map that holds, regardless of what the fitness payoff functions, that was their claim. And the only reason I bring this up is because this is a recently published paper. The claim is false. It's trivial to show counter examples. They're fundamental claim is false. Please do as a way just to make sure that I actually understand what they're saying.
Cognitive Independence/penetration (27:31)
Because this sounds like what they're trying to protect against is hallucinations basically becoming subjectively real. So I actually think that it's true, probably, to a large extent that what we believe does not really affect fundamentally what we see. So technical term we use, the geek term is cognitive and penetrability of perception. That's what the philosophers of science will talk about in cognitive scientists. And you can think about-- scientists might like this because they'll say, look, we want to use our senses in our experiments. I want to-- my theory makes a prediction. I have to go look and see if the prediction is true. Well, if my theory that I'm holding would change what I see, then science isn't going to really be objective. I mean, if I believe this theory and it changes how I see the data, then I might just see the data that confirms the theory and I can't escape. So that's why philosophy of science has been very interested in this question. Are high level theoretical beliefs and just our beliefs as everyday people, do they get in there and somehow fundamentally affect how we see the world? And there is a sort of a way to say the way I believe things does change my world. But they don't change the color I see or the three dimensional structure of the cube here that I'm seeing. I mean, they might change it in some way, but not fundamentally like that. So that's the question. And so it's trivial. So when the group at Yale makes this point that if you have lots of different fitness payoff functions and you don't have your high level beliefs interfering with the process of perception, then you can only have one map from the world into your senses. And of course, they don't prove that. They just state it without proof. And so it's trivially false. We have made counter examples. It's very, very easy to make counter examples. I can design a system in which I have, say, two fitness payoff functions. And I use one fitness payoff function to make one map from the world into my perceptions, use the other fitness function to make another map. And if I have a system that has no high level beliefs, then the high level beliefs aren't interfering with it. There's a counter example right there. No cognitive penetration of perception, multiple maps. But then I can add beliefs and say, I know I can have beliefs there as long as they don't interfere with this mapping here, I could have two maps. Why not? So the guys that the group at Yale are brilliant experimentalists. And one of them is a really good friend of one of my collaborators. They were postdocs at MIT, together, and so forth. So they're brilliant experimentalists, but the fundamental assumption that they're making is just trivially false. And so then how do we see this in our perceptions? The way we see it in our perceptions is we have probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions of fitness payoff functions, that are governing our behavior. So what do we do with all that complexity? What we do is we group the fitness payoff functions into groups that are similar. And we make simple little data structures out of them. And those data structures are what we call objects. So this object is good for drinking. Can you, what is a data structure? When you say that it's an object, meaning my mind groups it so that I can differentiate the cup from the coaster, from the desk, what I'm saying is we're making all this stuff up as a simple way to represent the fitness payoffs and how to get them. So for example, when you're playing Grand Theft Auto, you're playing a game. If you looked inside the supercomputer, there is no red Porsche, there is no steering wheel, there is no gas pedal. In some sense, those are what I call simple data structures. They're coding for the gas pedal and pushing on the gas pedal is coding for who knows countless millions of voltage changes happening in exactly the right sequence in the computer. I have this trivial data structure, gas pedal, push on it, that triggers this whole other thing that I don't want to know about. It's really too complicated. So that's what I mean by these simplifying data structures. My steering wheel is this simple data structure that I can use to interact with who knows how many billions or trillions of voltages and make them do exactly the right sequence in the right order. Could I say representation instead of data structure? Absolutely. Data structure is a computer science term. So computer scientists would be very happy with that. But representation is perfectly good. And so the idea then is what evolution is done from an evolutionary point of view is it takes all these fitness payoff functions that govern us, that govern our survival, and that we need to respect in order to play the game of life. And we organize them.
So an apple is an object. It's a representation of a bunch of fitness payoffs. For example, the apple, if I'm interested in mating, apple's no good. If I'm interested in eating, great. If I'm interested in a weapon, so so. I mean, I could throw it to someone's head, but it's not going to do much damage. If I'm-- but if I have a sword, a sword-- well, for mating, no good, for eating-- not really, I could use it to cut a coconut in half. But I can't eat the sword. For fighting, great, but not if you're fighting against a gun, and things like that. So every object-- and we can recognize, I would say, on the order of 30,000 or 40,000 different objects, basic kinds of objects. So what that indicates is that evolution has taken all these hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of fitness payoff functions. And it's not making one map from the world into our senses. It's making a bunch of different maps, and those different maps are what we call objects. And our high-level cognition, all it does is I'm hungry. OK. Well, I won't be looking for tables. I won't be looking for the moon. I'll be looking for apples and bananas and things like that. Those data structures, those representations, that have high fitness payoffs for the action of eating. And so visual attention, paying attention to different objects is our way of switching from this representation of fitness payoffs to this representation of fitness payoffs, as I need to be able to do to survive long enough to reproduce. And so that's sort of technical. But the reason I bring it out is because this is brand new. It's gotten a lot of attention from Yale. And so it's an important thing from the scientific side to really late arrest that there's not one mapping that's required from the world into our senses by evolution, even if we assume that our beliefs don't interfere with our cognition. Our cognitions don't interfere with our perceptions. That doesn't entail that we have to have one mapping. It's just a false assumption. Once you let go of that false assumption, then you are opened up to realize that objects, every object, use just a data structure coding for a whole group of fitness payoffs. And that's how evolution deals with this. OK, so the reason that I find this so endlessly fascinating is I-- the whole reason I stepped in front of the camera in the first place was I made a very profound change in my life. And I thought, hey, anybody can do this.
Rewrite Your World (35:07)
But it really is about reframing the world. So recoding, recomming up with new references, or seeing the cup in a different light, whatever. So it's interesting. So the idea of our beliefs don't influence our cognition or influence the mapping to the real world, it's probably only at the margins. It's pretty minor, as you said. But I think that there is a lot of difference in outcome in the game of life as we think about it in a modern context, depending on how you code things. But I've struggled with this. So at one point, I was going to write a book. And I was working with a ghostwriter. And I was saying, it doesn't matter what's true. All that matters is that it's effective. And that the way that you view the world is moving you towards your goals. And this was at the height of Trump. And the ghostwriter was like, yo, I'm not writing that. And she was like, you need to tell me that you don't believe in a post-truth world. And I was like, that's interesting. Because no, I don't mean just lie and make things up. But what is guiding my decision-making isn't a quest for what's true. It's a quest for what works. And so as I think about fitness payoffs, I get that. I'm going to put a pin in the following-- when I hear you talk, it feels like you think the level of abstraction is like being in a game headset versus what the game machine is doing itself. That is so different. And so we'll get to that in a minute, because that's what we're talking about. But even at the layer of, OK, I've got my headset on. I'm locked in. Even there, how you can influence things by how you perceive them is interesting. And we're living in a moment where saying post-truth triggers a lot of things. I want to strip all that away. But get people to focus on-- because really, really, truly in life, what you're talking about with fitness payoffs is how people should look at their own belief system of like, OK, the way that I tell people to judge what is true is what is the thing that allows you to better predict the outcome of your actions. And so if I believe in gravity, that allows me to better predict how to handle this cup, right? Because if I hold it over here and let go and expect it to stay there, I'm going to be very disappointed when it crashes to the floor. And so believing in gravity, even if it's fake, is very useful. Stepping on the gas pedal, even if there really is no Porsche, even if there is no gas pedal, if I'm in the game, just assuming that that's how it works, even though it isn't true, it's a total abstraction, it's going to help you get towards your goal if you're going to win that game. So all of that is very interesting.
I do think that we can even take something like synesthesia. And would you say that that's they're intentionally using cognition? No. But their perception is like, I don't know if you know who Dave Grohl is, but drummer for Nirvana lead singer Foo Fighters. And he is a synesteed of his own claim, own admission. And he said that I forget if he sees or shapes, I think there might be shapes, and for him. And he said that's why it's so easy for him to remember songs because they have these literal shapes. And so he just has to remember the sequence of the shapes and he can play the song. And that really has an impact. He's able to remember things that I wouldn't be able to remember, for instance, because his perception is being influenced by the way that his brain processes data. So for whatever reason, two areas of his brain trigger when he hears something, whereas in mine, only one triggers. And so that to me, when I, again, going back to why I find this so interesting, that to me says, hey, I don't know how much of what you're perceiving is real, but I know that there are consequences to how you categorize-- so your idea of data structures-- is going to matter a lot. And so if you can categorize something as shapes and sound, it's going to be easier to remember.
Categorical Perception (39:24)
If you categorize, like, for instance, the thing I'm always trying to get people to understand is if you have what I call the only belief that matters, that you can-- if you put time and energy into getting better at something, you actually will get better. If you believe that, then you'll pursue improvement. If you don't believe that, then you won't, because it wouldn't make any sense. So you miss out on fitness payoffs based on your cognitive assessment of how the world works. So all of that's fascinating. OK. And important to understand. Where my brain breaks with your thesis is how different what you perceive is and what the world is like. And I know-- and this is where it gets hard, because I think you would say, we don't know what's under spacetime. But what's your best guess? Like, as we strip away this layer-- and this might be the time to talk about consciousness, but I don't want to lead the witness-- if it isn't spacetime, stab in the dark for me. What the hell is it? Well, I'll tell you what the physicists are doing on this, because the physicists are the ones who are saying spacetime is not fundamental. So it's there. It's a pointer. It's a representation. It's a data structure. It's a data structure to something deeper. That's right. It happens to be the human brain, which is already a data structure. You're already making that up. Exactly right. But that data structure represents things through spacetime. Exactly right. That's our headset. Spacetime is just our headset. And it only goes down to the-- is that the plank length? I always hear you quote a size plank length. There's 10 to the minus 33 centimeters. So that is where you're quoting. That's the smallest thing that we can measure. Yeah, that's the smallest thing. That's the smallest scale at which spacetime has any operational meaning. If you try to go smaller, spacetime ceases to make any operational sense at all. Because gravity insists that below that things have condensed to two fine of a point, it becomes a black hole. Exactly right. You create a black hole. OK. So if you think about it-- And we know that isn't true. Like, why can't they just be true? Smaller than that is a black hole. Yay. Well, we know that at the plank scale, you spacetime stops and you get black holes. So what's the problem? Well, black holes are singularity. It means we don't know what's happening. So you get infinities popping up. But black holes are real, right? As a data structure, they're real stopping points in our understanding. But they're in the universe. Well, there-- I know this is complicated because the universe is a representation. Oh, yeah. So I want to start hitting myself. Penrose and others have been studying the properties of black holes, right? Penrose won the Nobel Prize very recently for his wonderful work on black holes. And so there's a lot of work that's being done to understand the properties of black holes. For example, the amount of information you can store in a black hole doesn't depend on its volume, only the surface area. I don't understand that. Right. Right. This is very, very strange. But that turns out to be true in everyday space. The amount of information that you can store in this volume here is not dependent on the volume. It depends on the surface area. That's the universe we live on. So that's led people to this holographic kind of idea. Oh, every word out of your mouth, I'm like, we actually are in a simulation. We haven't even talked about the non-local-- things are not locally real. What get to that? Because that's the new Nobel Prize this year, which is insane and literally just says you're in a simulation and it's the same as rendering. And when you look at something, it renders. When you look away, it doesn't. And we can prove it mathematically. Yeah. That's right. Way too fascinating. We'll get to that. But first, I want to understand, black holes-- the word real gets very slippery in this conversation.
Assessing Space-Time, Particle Interactions And Geometric Objects
Black holes, space-time, a game of GTA, an amplitude hedrons. (43:31)
But black holes are observable. Yes, we talk about the picture. So the same is consistent. So the idea is that the notion of space time-- instead of 10 to the minus 33 centimeters, say 10 to the minus 40 centimeters, what would that mean? It has no meaning. There's nothing you can do with it. So black holes are fine. There are objects there that are at the endpoint of what space time can do. But we say, but I thought space time was fundamental. That means I should be able to talk about what's happening at 10 to the minus 50 centimeters. And you just cannot. There is no operational meaning. And in that sense-- so you're saying whatever is fundamental will be able to tell you exactly what's happening inside of a black hole. Well, or you will tell you that this whole framework in which black holes appear is the wrong framework. And thusly, black holes are just a data structure for something else that is describable once you get outside-- Once you get out of space time. And it's hard for us to think outside of space time. Can we beat this point to death for a second? Because this one was a breakthrough for me. When I realized I always thought of the plank-plunk length as so infotestimally small that we should all be in awe. And you're like, that space time breaks down that early is just ridiculous. And I was like, OK, that's a different frame of reference. Yeah, it's a very shallow data structure. If it was 10 to the minus 33 trillion centimeters that it broke down, I'd be impressed. 10 to the minus 33, we got cheated. This is a really shallow data structure. It's only four dimensions. I can't even imagine something in five dimensions. I can't even imagine a new color that I'd ever seen before. So we've been given this really-- We think that we're in many cases, we think we're the epitome of intelligence and the smartest thing in the universe. My feeling is we've been shortchanged. Really shallow data structure, only three dimensions of space, one dimension of time. We've got a cheap headset. And so when-- That's a fun way to say it.
When space-time breaks apart, Ray's favorite pointer. (45:30)
When data breaks down like that, what-- So I always forget the guy's name, so I wrote it down. But Nima Arkani Hammed. So I've heard you talk about him a lot, so I started doing some research on him. And if I'm understanding what he's saying correctly is basically when you have a data structure that falls apart that early, which was, again, a total reframe for me, because I thought of that as like, oh my god. But apparently, when you understand this better, you realize that's a pretty early tap out. So when a data structure falls apart that early, that tells you that it's proximal, which I'm interpreting as a-- It's the finger pointing at the moon. It is not the moon itself. Exactly. And so now you know you're looking at a pointer. And so that seems to be the thing that his whole case rests on for space time being doomed. That if your data structure falls apart that early, you know. There's no way this is the fundamental thing. That's one of the big pointers. The other big pointer, a couple other big pointers he gives, is that when you let go of space time, and you start computing particle interactions, like two gluons hit each other and four gluons go spreading out, the kind of thing that happens at the large Hadron collider all the time. If you compute it inside of space time, that one I mentioned, two gluons in, four gluons out, hundreds of pages of algebra for one interaction. Why is it so complicated? Because it's the wrong data structure. It's an ugly, nasty data structure. And the thing that you're doing the algebra on is in what way they scatter inside space time. You have to do to make all the math work out. You have to have these Feynman diagrams with virtual particles. People are trying to say, OK, a theory of everything, which you are saying does not exist and will never exist. We'll get to that later. So if there were a theory of everything, though, we should be able to know everything so finally that I can tell you, oh, if they collide at this energy with this directionality, it will scatter exactly like this with these probabilities. You have probabilities of their scattering. OK. And so they're just like, oh my god, it's a dizzying amount of math. That's right. If you do it until you let go of space time. And then that one that I mentioned, two gluons in, four gluons out, it's one term. You can compute it by hand. It's like when they hit, there'll be a diamond. Yeah, well-- Because you need to start talking in shapes, right? Well, yeah. So it's a shape beyond space time whose volumes-- Oh, yeah. It's a shape outside of space time, outside of our headset. And the volumes of this shape actually tell you the probabilities of the various kinds of particle interactions. OK. And so it turns billions of terms into a handful of terms. And it shows you new symmetries. That's what the physicists really love. It's simpler math, which is great. And then all of a sudden, you see new symmetries that you can't see in space time. OK. I'm going to try to draw an analogy, which is already going to break things. But let me see how close I get. You're in Grand Theft Auto. You step on the gas, and you go forward. And we're just like, oh, my-- the math to predict in what way the car is going to move when you step on the gas pedal is ridiculous. But if we were to be actually looking at the electrical pattern that's stepping on the gas, which would be pressing buttons on your controller in a certain context, if we understood that there's a pattern outside of the headset-- so in the PlayStation or the Xbox-- there's an electrical pattern inside of that that looks so if you know chess, and I don't. But I'm familiar with the idea of chunking. So apparently what chess masters do is they're not looking at the individual pieces on the board. They just know the patterns. So they're like, oh, that image of where the pieces are in this order, that's this setup. So they've chunked the whole board into like, oh, I know where we're at in the game, and I know what the right next move is. So basically what you're saying is you step on the gas, and it gives you an image of a shape of electrical patterns outside of the headset. If that's what you're saying, I at least understand. I could not give you the math or any of that. But I get this representation, this data structure, which you think of as being real, stepping on the gas and the red portion goes, is actually this chunk of electrical impulses if we think of it as a shape or a pattern or a rhythm or however we're going to think of it. Is that what we're saying?
Unified geometric object the Rubiks Cube (50:07)
That could be a helpful metaphor. And I've got another metaphor that may also try to help people because that's an important point that you're raising. So here's another way to think about this. Suppose that I'm looking at a video and seeing all these pixels. And the pixels are moving in really complicated ways. There's the red pixels and green pixels and light pixels and dark. And I know that there's something interesting going on. And so I write down all these equations for the motions of these pixels. But someone says, you know what? There is just this-- I've got this little Rubik's cube. And all I'm doing is rotating a Rubik's cube. But you're only seeing the pixel projection of it. If you just could see this 3D object, you would realize how simple it is. But when you only see the pixels and see all the-- then it's all, man, I've got to model all the pixels moving in my screen. How do I do that? Well, if you can just let go of the screen behind it, there's this unified geometric object, the Rubik's cube. And if you just see-- oh, it just rotates rigidly. And that rigid rotation is the only motion I need. It's a rotation. Here, I have to look at all the pixels. This pixel is moving this way. So I'm paying attention to the dots rather than the shape. Space times-- That's way better than the dots. So in space time, we're stuck on the video screen.
Elementary rotation symmetric action equations of a collection of spots matching dots (51:35)
And we're trying to model all the pixels moving around the video screen. And what the physicists have said, if you let go of the video screen, take it off. You see that these geometric objects like that Rubik's cube are outside of it. And their structure is much simpler. Now, I'm not saying simple, but much simpler. But when it projects into this, really-- see, you lost information in the projection, right? That's why you have all these little pixels. You have a 3D object here, a two-dimensional screen. So now it looks really complicated.
Particle interactions (52:10)
So what's happening then when these things collide? They're making a new Rubik's cube? So-- Or they're just rotating a shape that's already there. This is where I have no way to anchor myself. Well, so particles are things inside space time, right? Yes. So when we look at particle interactions at the Large Hadron Collider, we're looking at the pixels, the motions of the pixels inside space time. The amplitude heatrun and other structures that they're finding-- OK, amplitude heatrun is something you say so fast. I've heard you say this a good zillion times, but I had to look it up. So an amplitude heatrun is a shape-- Yes. Geometric shape in how many dimensions? They can be in small numbers dimensions, but they can go to infinity. So there's different kinds of-- different size of amplitude to heat or depending on how many particles you want to interact with. And that's our Rubik's cube.
Amplitude hedrons (53:08)
That would be the Rubik's cube beyond the headset. And by the way, this is brand new. This was published in 2013. This is not even 10 years old. So this is all new stuff, this amplitude heatrun. So it's no surprise that people haven't heard of it, and many physicists haven't heard of it. Truly remarkable. The quantum theorists, in fact, I-- And so how-- what makes people think the amplitude heatrun is actually real, that we have detected the shape outside of the headset? Well, I think that the really brilliant physicists would not say we're done. They would say we've taken a first step outside of the headset of spacetime. And one of the first structures we found is the amplitude heatrun. That doesn't mean it's going to be the final answer. They're looking at other structures, something called the cosmological polytope. And surface heatrun. And how for? Cosmological polytope. Polytope. Polytope. Polytope. What is that? That is something-- That is another geometric shape. It's another geometric shape that Neema or Connie Hamed, Juan Maldessina and others. A lot of the work's been done at the Institute for Advanced Study and collaborators with the people there. And this is trying-- see, the amplitude heatrun is primarily for flat spacetime, my understanding. So without gravity. But when you deal with gravity-- and Einstein told us that sort of curves spacetime-- then things get a little more complicated. And in that case, I think they're looking at the cosmological polytope for more like cosmological kinds of predictions. So the amplitude heatrun-- and I'm sure that they're saying that they're not saying that cosmological polytope is the final word. What's really interesting is they've already taken a step beyond the amplitude heatrun.
Mathematical Shapes And Patterns In Cosmology
Cosmological polytopes (54:48)
So there's something called-- meaning even that, they don't think it's fundamental, or just that it's part of the fundamental. They think it's an important step outside of spacetime.
Decorated permutations (55:07)
But what surprises the physicists is that the heart of the amplitude heatrun is something called a permutation, a kind of permutation called a decorated permutation. It's like shuffling cards, you're permuting cards. So it's a surprise that if you let go of spacetime, things become simple. You get this amplitude heatrun, the math becomes simple. And then when you look at the amplitude heatrun and ask about its essential character, you find out that behind the amplitude heatrun is just permutations, decorated permutations, shuffling cards kind of thing. And so we're at this position. So this is only in the last couple of decades, right? But this has happened. The amplitude heatrun is 2013, so it's only nine years old. So here we're at this really interesting position in science, in physics. I like to think of it like the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey.
Remember the scene? It was a great movie, yeah? And there's a scene where there's the monolith. It's just sitting there, pregnant with meaning. And the apes are looking at it. They're afraid of it. They're beating on it. They don't know what to do with it. You get the sense that they know it's important, but they haven't occlued what it's pointing to. That's where we are. The amplitude heatrun and the decorated permutations are these monoliths outside of spacetime. There's no dynamics. Who ordered this monolith, the amplitude heatrun, just sitting outside of spacetime? It captures all these amplitudes, all the particle amplitude. It captures the structure of spacetime. Einstein's special relativity quantum theory and his so-called unitarity of quantum theory. So this is deeper. This thing is deeper than spacetime. It's deeper than quantum theory. Quantum theory itself is not deep enough. This structure, the amplitude heatrun, this monolith is beyond quantum theory, but it codes for quantum theory as projection in spacetime. So who ordered this? Just in 2001 to space-hautos, you can imagine, what is this? Where did it come from?
Shuffling codes for shapes (57:12)
Why? What's it going on? I can imagine me asking that. Yeah. Well, everybody's asking it right now. Who is just a static structure? Physicists like dynamics. We want something, we want to have equations of motion. We don't have that. We just have, here's the geometry, and here's behind it this permutation. They're just sitting there. Who ordered that and why? But the attitude is not one of despair. This is really for the young geniuses who are doing this stuff. This is fabulous, right? We're the first generation, not me, but the young physicist, the first generation that really gets to step outside of the headset of spacetime. They've already found these monoliths, the amplitude heatrun, decorated permutations. And just to really make that simplistic. Shapes? Shapes. Shuffling of the shapes. That's right, some shuffling that codes for the shapes. There's a shuffling that codes for the shapes. What does that mean? It captures their essential structure. In some sense, even the geometry, the volumes and so forth are redundant. There's this even simpler, more compressed description. Right now, the decorated permutation is the most compressed description that doesn't have any extra bells and whistles. The amplitude heatrun, in some sense, the positive gross money that they use to build it and so forth. They have extra bells and whistles, in some sense, the amplitude heatrun boils it down to its essence. But so it's shuffles, permutations. And the big question is, why? Why this? I mean, in the beginning, God said, why would God say that? What is the-- Let there be shapes. Let there be the amplitude heatrun, let there be shuffles.
Who ordered this? (59:08)
That doesn't seem quite deep enough. It seems like there's got to be something beyond that. Some something dynamical. And there's no clue right now in the physics about a dynamical thing behind the decorated permutations or the amplitude heatrun. Well, we just lost me. So I'm guessing that we lost a lot of people. So this is outside of the headset. So we're beginning to get to what we think may be these foundational pillars. But it's so early that nobody really knows what these are yet. Let's go back to the quantum realm for a second. So this is one of my pet peeves that people in the mindset space tend towards magical thinking. And there's something about quantum entanglement, the quantum tubules in the brain or whatever it is that they think about collapsing and all that. One, is there anything even inside the headset? Is there anything to be learned from the quantum realm? Does the quantum realm point to anything outside of the headset? And where are we-- how do people not drift into meaninglessness as they begin to pursue this? Because I'm so focused on usefulness, I get very agitated. Might be the right word. When people are like, oh, we're a quantum entangled, then that's what the soul is. And I want to tear my hair out. Right. So it's one thing just to say those words.
Mathematical model (01:00:48)
It's another thing to have a mathematical model. A mathematical model that actually predicts precise outcomes of precise experiments. And so that's the difference. When physicists talk about quantum entanglement, they're talking serious math and serious experiments that just a week ago, the Nobel Prize was awarded to three of the pioneers in testing one of the key predictions of entanglement, which is that the real world isn't real. So yeah, it's called local realism. The belief that we tend to have of local realism-- so objects like an electron has a property, like its position or its spin, whether or not you observe it, it's got a value of that, because it's real. And we assume-- we've assumed that. Right. That's the reality. Whether you see it or not, it is spinning up or spinning down. It's right. It's like saying the train is there, and it's going to hit you even if you don't see it. You close your eyes. It's not going to stop the train from hitting you. So the electron really has its position and really has its spin when it's not observed. And the other assumption is locality. It's Einstein's assumption that nothing no effects travel faster than the speed of light through space, through spacetime. And so that-- the two together called local realism.
Debating Theories: Einstein, Bostrom, And G?Del
Einstein's assumption (01:02:09)
So it's possible that when we say local realism is false, that it's either the realism that's wrong or the locality. So you could say, OK, local realism is false, because there really are properties that exist. But their influences go faster than the speed of light. Or you can say, nothing travels faster than the speed of light. But so the realism is false. I believe Einstein, but the realism is false. My attitude is both are false. Local and realism are both false. And that comes out of just the idea that spacetime itself is not fundamental. So let me say it real simply for people like me. Things only exist when you look at them. Right. You create them when you see them. Like in Grand Theft Auto, I have a VR headset on. I look over there and I see a red Camaro. Is there a red Camaro on the supercomputer? No. The average person is going to reject this out of hand. So one, we're going to have to walk through the Nobel Prize. So thankfully, you had linked to an article. So I read about it. It melted my brain about an hour before you and I sat down together. And I was just like, how the hell is this real? Or true, I guess, because it's not real. And then-- so we'll walk through that. But to give people the analogy to anchor them, I think you and I disagree about this. And I've always told people largely because I don't want to argue about it. And I don't really know that I don't think we live in a simulation. The more times I interview you, the more I'm like, maybe we do. Or maybe the way our fitness payoffs get mapped, it is so effectively like a simulation, as you might as well think of it as living in a simulation. So I've written this story with my team. I don't want to overly take credit. But we've created this thing called Project Kaizen. And in Project Kaizen, they're in this thing that we call the array. The array is basically quantum foam. And the idea is that it's information theory. So that you information can travel faster than the speed of light. And that ultimately, the thing that drives people mad in our world is to ask the question, where is the array? Because they're thinking of it as a quantum supercomputer or something. But in the lore where we play with that question, I don't want to give away what we think is the right answer. But we play with that question a lot. And so one of the characters in the story is literally driving himself mad by asking the question, where is the array? I know if I can generate enough energy, I can rip this veil. And I can see through beyond the headset into like, is this sitting on a desk somewhere? And like, can we actually discover where that is? And OK, so working with that idea, at first I thought, nah, I mean, this is all just a story. But the more that I look at this, this is in real life. Put that in air quotes. "In real life, you only render things when the player is looking at it. It's the only way to not melt the computer." So as they move their characters' eyes around, and they see different parts of the world, it literally comes into existence. It gets rendered when they look at it. And it ceases to be rendered when they look away. So they feel like they're in the seamless 3D environment. But in reality, it's a trick. And so it's only rendering right up to the edge of your field of view. And then outside of that, it's gone. Exactly. As you describe the math, that is what's really happening. That-- I mean, it's kind of fun and cool and interesting. OK, so with that analogy, people understand that one-- I agree. If you try to replicate-- so going back to what I was saying about it, if I try to replicate this table, make it look photo realistic, it is unbelievably difficult. And there are so many elements of like, reflectivity and depth of how far the light penetrates. And-- Absolutely. Oh my god. And it-- on and on and on. Right, absolutely. The truth is, hitting your career goals is not easy. You have to be willing to go the extra mile to stand out and do hard things better than anybody else. But there are 10 steps I want to take you through that will 100x your efficiency so you can crush your goals and get back more time into your day. You'll not only get control of your time, you'll learn how to use that momentum to take on your next big goal. To help you do this, I've created a list of the 10 most impactful things that any high achiever needs to dominate. And you can download it for free by clicking the link in today's description. All right, my friend, back to today's episode. So we know that there are all these things that you can do to recreate reality. One of the things is you build reality in a virtual environment is you have to deal with rendering only that which you're pointed at, what you measure. Exactly right.
The Nobel Prize (01:07:02)
As we look at the quantum world, that holds true in a way that is so weird, I don't know whether to laugh or be creeped out or whatever, but it's utterly fascinating. OK, so now to the Nobel Prize. So we know that that's how you would have to do it if you want to recreate reality. And the Nobel Prize was one for showing that the idea of local realism, that things exist and have definite values of their properties and with influences that go no faster than speed of light, that's false. That assumption of local realism is false. And there are even really interesting quantum setups where you can prove that when I make this particular set of measurements, I know with probability one what I will get on my eighth measurement. I know with probability one what the value will be-- Again, probability one means 100%. 100%. That's right. 100% what I'm going to measure. And yet I also can prove that that value, let's say, of the position or the spin, cannot possibly exist until the moment I make the measurement. OK, so let's walk people through that. So Einstein and two other people basically said, huh, the math predicts that what you just said is true, that I can have two-- we end up calling them quantumly entangled particles. But I have two particles, I forget which type, racing away from each other to the opposite ends of the solar system, very, very, very far apart. And one of them we know they have to have opposite spin. So one of them is going to be spinning up, one of them is going to be spinning down. And they said, they're like socks. So one of them could be the right sock and one of them is the left sock. So once you measure that, oh, this is the right one, then you know automatically that the other person has the left one. And the Nobel Prize was one for proving that they're not like socks. It's not even that you don't know which is which. It's that whichever one you look at first, if that spins up, then you know instantaneously the other one is spinning down. But causally, because this one is spinning up, that one must be spinning down. Right. OK, so now the part I don't understand, which by the way means that these things will react effectively to each other because you measured it instantaneously across the entire solar system in this example, which is way faster than light. My question is, when you measure it, if it wasn't already spinning up or down, what makes it spin up or down? Is it just probability? Yeah, that's all that physics can tell us right now are the probabilities for this. And probability is where explanation stops. When you put a probability measure in your theory, you're saying, my understanding stops right here. So I need a probability measure. Because if I could tell you how it worked, then I would tell you how it worked. Right now I can just say, here's the probabilities. And so that's what we get in quantum theory is-- and so that's why Einstein said, God doesn't play dice. He didn't like the idea that God didn't know all the way down, what was going on, that there would be these random probabilities.
The Simulation Theory of Nick Bostrom (01:10:16)
But yeah, when you do the experiments, it turns out entanglement is real. And that then leads to the conclusion ultimately that local realism is false. And it's truly stunning. But if you think about it in terms of a headset, as you said, I render, like in the virtual reality, Grand Theft Auto, I render the Camaro when I look, and I garbage collect it when I look away. I just bleed it. I render particles. I render space time itself. Space time itself doesn't exist, except as a data structure that we use. And so now in terms of a simulation, I should make a distinction between what we're saying here and a different kind of notion of simulation that Nick Bostrom has. So there's a simulation theory of Nick Bostrom and others where they say, look, this isn't real. It could be just some computer geek that did a program. And we're just creatures in the simulated world in this program. And it turns out that that computer Greek herself is just a program from someone else at a lower level. And there's this whole hierarchy all the way down until you get to some base programmer. But they assume that the base level is a space time world. So they're still stuck on the headset. That kind of simulation theory isn't thinking big enough. You have to let the-- and they're also assuming that programs can create consciousness, which is another story. No one's been able to show how that's even possible. So they're just not thinking big enough. You've got to let go of space time at the base of the entire hierarchy of simulations to really get where the physicists have gotten. Space time itself is merely a headset. So the standard simulation theory isn't thinking big enough. It's still stuck in the headset. As we strip away the headset, is local realism going to remain false? Or will there be something-- a better way to ask it. When we strip away the headset, is God still playing dice? I'll put it this way. As scientists making theories, we will always come up short. We will always have a place where we say in our theory, this is where our knowledge stops. And that's what we call the assumptions of our theory. So every scientific theory says, if you grant me these assumptions, I'll explain all this wonderful stuff. But you have to grant me those assumptions. And I can't explain those assumptions. Like even Einstein, he said, let me grant me that the speed of light is constant for all observers and grant me that the laws of physics are the same for all people moving in uniform motion. To grant me those two things, then I can do all this wonderful stuff. And that's why all scientific theories work. Grant me this assumption, these miracles-- Because we don't yet understand these things. Well, and it's also, I think, intrinsic to what it means to be a scientific theory. So there's no escaping this. A scientific theory, there is no theory of everything. That's a flat out statement. There can never be a scientific theory of everything. Because of Gertel's incompleteness theorem. Gertel's incompleteness theorem. But even just before Gertel's incompleteness theorem, every theory says, grant me these assumptions, please. You have to make certain assumptions to even-- to boot up a-- But isn't that just our ignorance?
G?del's Incompleteness Theorem (01:13:42)
Probably so, but our ignorance is unlimited. It's interesting. So I heard you and-- Yoshabak? Yeah, it was not. Discussing. And he said something that rings intuitively true to me, which is that we always want to say, I will never understand that. But we just don't understand it right now. And just like Newton and his whole thing at the end of his life, where he was like, the right way to think of me is as a child on the shore playing with the seashell in front of the entire Vassie of undiscovered truth. And his students so didn't believe that. Now, maybe out of arrogance, maybe they just sat so icky with them to think that they were so ignorant to so many things. But also, to be generous to them, maybe because they believed on a long enough timeline, we really would figure things out. Or even if you'll grant me my miracle of, as we begin to merge with machines, will we be able to process data in such a more vast way that we're able to see what is true. All of the missmapping of the-- or all of the combinatorial combinations become manageable just because we can crunch so much data. And so, oh, you might as well look at what is exactly real. So with that set up, I finally just went and looked up Girdle's incompleteness theorem because I've tried to hang with you every episode around this. And looking at it, it's basically that there are-- and this will be the world's most simplistic interpretation. But there are-- you can create an equation that you know to be true, but you can't prove it. And it's beyond me to be able to explain how that's true. But when you read about it, it's like, whoa, OK. So you can really create-- it's kind of like the mathematical version of a linguistic trap where it's like the statement on this side of the card-- or the statement on the other side of the card is false. You turn it over and it says what? The statement on the other side of the card is true. And so now you're trapped because they can't both be right or wrong. So I can't explain it better than that. But without that, if there isn't things that are-- if he's right and there are things that are true but that cannot be proven, I get why you say that we'll never have a theory of everything. But if we just don't understand enough yet, then it feels like we will eventually. No, Gertel's incompleteness theorem is definitive. It says that no matter how complicated your mathematical or scientific theory is, you can always produce a new statement that's true and is not provable within the theory that you got. So that means it escaped your current theory. Your theory was not a theory of everything because it wasn't a theory of this. It didn't capture this truth. So you didn't have a theory of everything. So you say, OK, well, I'll just put it in my theory. So now I've got-- then Gertel says, well, sorry. Now with your new augmented system, here's this new-- I'll use it to show that there's this new thing that's true but can't be proven. So you don't have a theory of everything. And you add that. And what that means is that there is this unlimited realm. Of truth. That's forever beyond our notion of proof. Of scientific theory. It's unlimited. So there's this-- I think of it as like unlimited intelligence and that is out there. And our scientific theories will get huge and far more interesting and far more complex and covered lots and lots. They'll cover-- will be blown away. We'll make lots and lots of progress. And what Gertel's incompleteness theorem says, but you will have not even begun to scratch the surface of the unlimited intelligence that's out there. So I'm not-- by the way, some people say, well, Hoffman, you've walked away from modernism and the desire for logic and truth and rationality. You've gone into postmodernism and-- and, you know, and my attitude is no, no, no. Reason is telling us its limits. Reason is saying that logic itself cannot get to all truths. So I'm paying due respect to reason, because reason itself is saying its own limits. And in fact, that gives me even more respect for reason, because reason is smart enough to tell us where it gets off. So it's not abandoning reason. It's not going into, you know, some postmodernism kind of thing where anything goes. No, not anything goes. Reason is saying, yeah, use your logical systems, but your logical systems must, of course, be internally consistent. So Gertel's theorem is not Gertel's inconsistency theorem.
It's Gertel's incompleteness theorem. Our logic can be consistent. If it is consistent, then it's necessarily incomplete. If it were inconsistent, then it's mostly useless, right? It'd be mostly useless. So what Gertel really showed is our theories are either inconsistent or incomplete. But we call it Gertel's incompleteness theorem, because we don't think about inconsistency. It's really the incompleteness. And so it's truly respecting reason to recognize that reason itself says where it gets off. And it points to, as Newton pointed, to this unbounded intelligence that reason can always happily explore fully knowing it will always be a trivial foray into the unknown, a trivial foray into the unknown. And yet, somehow, it's important for us to do that foray. So as a scientist, this is not just abstract stuff for me. I take reason very seriously. It says, I have limits. And there are unbounded truths beyond reason. So I take time to just sit in complete silence and let go of reason and see what happens. Maybe I can touch that unlimited intelligence. Maybe I am that unlimited intelligence under a headset. That's an interesting possibility, which many spiritual traditions have pointed to, that we are that unlimited intelligence, so that we then have this interesting back and forth between rigorous logic. Not anything goes, rigorous logic on the one hand, and then complete letting go of all concepts going into complete silence, where there's this incredible intelligence that's literally infinitely greater than our scientific intelligence. And having them go back and forth, I think the best science in the future will be from those who can do that. Be absolutely hard-nosed in your math and your experiments are absolutely hard-nosed. It's not everything goes. It's rigor. And then go into complete interior silence to get the true tap-in to this unlimited wisdom, unlimited intelligence, and go back and forth. Somehow, my feeling is that's what all this is pointing to, that we should have our feet in both realms. And for some reason, having feet in both realms is really what we're up to, what this is all about. - Okay, so let's push into that a little bit. So this takes us into consciousness. Never been enamored with the consciousness debate, but the way that you propose some interesting ways of looking at it, I do find intriguing. So you've got this idea that Girdle's incompleteness theorem says it's this infinite thing, and that there's always gonna be more to explore, that you will never be able to have a theory of everything. And when you ask yourself, why would this be the case, or how does that tie into consciousness? And maybe I'm getting a slightly wrong, but my interpretation of what you said is that it's possible that given that consciousness is basically exploring itself, and we are all of the permutations that it must run through to basically have the negative take. I know that not to be me, and that helps me understand who I am. How close am I getting? That's, I think, a very, very good first approximation with the proviso that we understand now, based on what we've talked about in Girdle's incompleteness theorem, that everything that we are saying now are just words, and they're only pointers into a realm that's unlimited, and infinitely beyond anything that even our words can point to. So even when I was, so I talk about consciousness as being more fundamental than space time. But even then, if I step back and go, okay, to be really consistent, I have to admit that even a theory of consciousness is not a theory of everything, and it may not even be the right language. It's just the next baby step in our scientific course. - How can consciousness be more fundamental than space time? Wouldn't the thing that the guy's the local realism, which requires you to look at something, state that if consciousness were more fundamental than space time, it would already be observing itself? So the way to think about it is, maybe an analogy is you're wearing a headset, and you're playing Grand Theft Auto again. But there is no real car out there. The steering wheel is just in your head. It's all in your perceptions. All of that is in your, so the entire physical world, quote unquote, of Grand Theft Auto is made up in your mind, made up in your consciousness. - So my consciousness or whatever consciousness is, is creating the virtual world. - That's right. The way I think about it, and again, words have limitations, but the math model we're working on consciousness indicates that there is one unlimited consciousness that cannot be modeled, and we can talk about projections of it. That one big consciousness can have projections, and we're having a projection into a 40 space time format, and there's a Tom projection and a non-projection, but we're just projections of this one unlimited consciousness that's utterly outside of space and time, and this is probably not particularly sophisticated projection, as I was saying, 40 space time only goes to 10 to the minus 33 centimeters, pretty trivial. So this is, we're probably, this is consciousness not being too serious.
Is Consciousness Beyond the Math? (01:25:07)
This is like a trivial projection, but it's just doing whatever it needs to do. We're doing some science, we're talking, we're learning to love each other, which maybe, who knows, that might be the big thing. Maybe it's learning to know yourself beyond any concepts and to know that everybody else is really you under a different avatar and to learn to love. I don't know what the final answer is, but this is the kind of question that comes up and the kind of answer that comes up. - That feels a little bit, wishful thinking isn't the right way, but that feels like a very specific to you prognostication. - Absolutely. - It's beyond the math. - Yeah, when I hear you describing that, I think of war games and Jacob learning, like, oh, there's no way to win at thermonuclear war. The only way to win is to not play, great ending to a movie, but when I think about, okay, wait, why would consciousness, this grand consciousness that the math seems to point to, why would it need to understand itself? Why would it need to discover love? It's like, and I think about this a lot, and we talked about this in the last time we were together, I was saying, when you've got a machine and you're trying to get AI to do something, you have to give it directives. You have to tell it to do something, but somebody had to tell it to do that thing. So who is telling consciousness, oh, you should care about love? - Well, and I completely agree with you, Tom. I think that the things I just threw out should probably be thrown out. Right, but the idea is, we don't have good ideas in this space. So the reason I'm, so when I put these ideas out, I'm not wedded to them in the least, but I'm saying better to have something on the table that we can say, ah, that's not it, then to have nothing on the table, because at least we can say, okay, that's not it, but so why isn't that it? What's wrong with that? And then we can try to play with and say, well, how can we get something better? So I put some bad pieces on the table because I don't have anything better so it's poverty-wide imagination, but I'm hoping by putting bad pieces on the table and having people go, no, that's not it. I would go, yeah, that's not it. So what is it? What is a better idea? But of course, that's a never-ending process. Girdle tells us that in some sense will always be putting bad pieces on the table. And that's, so we have to learn to live with that. We have to learn to say, I'm not gonna get the final theory of everything, no matter, even if you're in Einstein, which you put down on the table, we're eventually gonna say, here's the limits of that. And that's gonna be always the case with scientific theories. It's just that in the things I just throw on the table, the limits are so obvious and so clear that you can just sort of say right away that that doesn't seem right. And I had a nice lunch a few days ago with Anika Harris and when I was putting these ideas and she had the exactly the same attitude, which is, she said, it sounds too romantic, Don, and I agree. But it's better to put something on the table and get a negative reaction so that we start to say, okay, well, what are better places to go in this? But always realize that Girdle is telling us this very humbling thing. You'll never get a theory of everything. And that means there'll always be the feeling of, yeah, but there's more, yeah, but there's more. Even if you're Einstein, yeah, but there's more.
Questions Of Time, Space And Consciousness
How is Consciousness More Fundamental Than Spacetime? (01:28:54)
So consciousness, one, I wanna understand, as we look at that recent Nobel Prize winning for realizing that local reality is in the thing, if there is this uber consciousness, how would it not cause the constant collapsing if consciousness is more fundamental than space time? How is it not causing this constant collapse down to being observed? Because if consciousness is the thing that gives rise to that, it would by nature be aware. Right. So to really give a technical answer to that, what we're gonna have to have is a mathematical theory of consciousness. First, right? So what do we mean by consciousness? And write down equations for how it is dynamics. And then we're gonna have to say, where is consciousness? Is it inside space time? See most of my colleagues who are studying consciousness, my cognitive neuroscience, these are brilliant researchers and friends. But they're thinking of consciousness as inside space time, is being made by the brain or being made by an AI computer that's complicated enough. Or made by integrated information or microtubule quantum collapses, or global workspace kind of architectures in the right broadcast architecture there. So there's something inside space time that's generating consciousness. So that's the, I would say 99% of my colleagues and friends, and by the way, they're brilliant, but they're thinking inside space time. That's almost all the work is inside space time and consciousness is stuck inside space time. I'm saying we need a theory of consciousness outside space time because our best science tells us that space time is a trivial data structure. It's a shallow trivial data structure. Why should we try to shoehorn consciousness to be something inside space time? Why not think about, again, the VR case with my headset? All that I'm perceiving is actually not really there. It's actually in my consciousness. Let's turn things around. Space time and particles in the physical world is just a little tiny data structure inside consciousness. So to have that kind of model. So consciousness is fundamental. Consciousness then uses tiny little headsets in its interactions with itself. And space time is just one trivial little headset that conscious agents use to interact with. And probably has far more interesting ones than space time. So to answer your question, we then really have to see our mathematical model of consciousness and how does that precisely project into our little space time headset and give us the laws of quantum field theory, the laws of general relativity, evolution by natural selection. We have to get, so all the stuff that we've done inside the headset. Science has been inside the headset until the last couple of decades. All of our science has been studying the pixels in our headset and the structure of our pixels. With the amplitude hedon, science is taking a step outside the headset and saying what is beyond space and time. So it's really incredible. So, and then they say the deepest thing we found are these decorated permutations. That's the deepest thing we found so far. It doesn't mean it's the final answer. It's just as far as we've gotten. So what we need to do is take a theory of consciousness. We call it conscious agents in my case. We're conscious units. Anika likes me to use conscious units instead of conscious agents 'cause agency involves maybe the notion of a self. And it doesn't have to be a notion of a, you know, like the human kind of self in these agents. They could be selfless in some sense, but conscious. - How? - Well, so myself, I mean, don't most people define consciousness as it is like something to be you? Right, the self though is like, I'm Don Hoffman, I was born in such such a year. My parents were such and such, I got educated. It's a story. But in some sense, if I just let go of the story, if I forgot my story, I would still be conscious. If I forget who I, if I forget everything that I've done, give me a little drug and I just, - It's an experience machine. - I'm still, I'm still conscious. And so the self in terms of a little story. And what's interesting is we put so much emphasis in the story and me versus you and I've got more than you or smarter than you or I'm faster than you, even little kids, my car is faster, my daddy's can beat up your, that kind of thing. So we're always comparing our stories. So there's no self in these conscious agents in the sense of this little image of myself that I'm defending and showing that it's better than yours, daddy or your car, whatever it might be. So I call them conscious agents, but we could call them conscious units. But the key thing is that has to be mathematically precise, even though we understand that our mathematics will always be just our current baby step, but nevertheless, you need to be mathematically precise. And we have to show precisely a mapping into space time. Then we can start to answer your question about how is this local realism thing related to properties of consciousness? - Now the reason we have to map in space time is because we know that space time, even if it's just a sort of cheap simulation, it does come from whatever is more foundational than that. - And that's where all our data is. The only place our headset lets us look is inside the headset. So we have to, I mean, if we're gonna do experiments to test our theories, we're stuck with this little tiny trivial data structure called space time, and all of our experiments have to be done in space time, we have to measure them in space time. So that's why we have to take our theory of consciousness and project it into space time. Now, what's interesting is that the physicists have gone beyond space time and found these monoliths, as we talked about, the monolith, the sitting there, the math, the twohedrin, and so forth, and then the decorated permutation monolith, but no dynamics. So the physicists are going to eventually want a dynamics, right? Why?
Why move if there's no space? (01:35:03)
If you have no space and time, why would something need to move? Now physicists, like NEMA, I'll put it on, if I were the physicists and said, you know what? Here's the final answer. It's the amplitudehedrin and a decorated permutation. Live with it. That's all there is. And some 20-year-old kid taking a graduate class will go, give me a break. You want me to just live with that? I'm going to look deeper. I'm going to probe deeper. I'm going to find something behind that. And that's what science always does. So none of the physicists, I mean, of course, we have a big party and are really happy about the amplitudehedrin and the decorated, it's an incredible accomplishment. But the attitude is going to be what's next. And in principle, they're going to want a dynamics, not a time. So you can have dynamics without what we call time as in spacetime. So the notion of dynamics or sequence is a far more general notion than just the notion of time as we see it in terms of spacetime. So we want a dynamics in that more general sense of something where there are sequences, where there are-- it's not just a static object.
Why do we still believe there is time? (01:36:03)
Because there are things that we see in our headset of spacetime that leads us to believe that sequencing is must be a part of whatever is fundamental. Well, possibly yes that.
Dynamics of a formation (01:36:30)
And possibly because we, I think, would be impatient or unhappy with a theory that just says, God said this object, and that's it. There is this object. Live with it. That's the final answer. No scientist would be happy with that. Why did God say that? Why couldn't God said something else? And why did it have to be static? Why couldn't there be some dynamics, not a spacetime dynamics, but some kind of something happening? Why can't? So now the answer may be that the geometry is all there is and there is no dynamics. But we're not going to just accept that at face value. We're going to have to be taken there, kicking and screaming. And made to believe that because nothing else works. But so that's why I think that the physicists themselves are going to look for dynamics behind the decorated permutations. So what a theory of consciousness has to do then, if it wants to connect with spacetime, is it has to show how it maps on to decorated permutations. You need a dynamical theory of consciousness and you must show how it maps into decorated permutations. Then the physicists say, if you give me the decorated permutations, I can take you all the way into spacetime and you can predict scattering at the Large Hadron Collider and so forth. And so that's what our team has just done in the last 10 weeks. We discovered a new bit of mathematics that the dynamics of conscious agents is so-called Markov chains, Markovian dynamics. A very, very simple kind of probabilistic dynamics. And so a few weeks ago, a couple months ago, we decided to look, OK, how do you map Markov chains into decorated permutations? So we could put a dynamics behind the amplitude heater. And as far as we could tell, there's nothing published. In terms of a general theory, there are special little cases where they've looked at something. But a general theory, take any Markov chain, map it into decorated permutations. Markov chain is just the long-tailed knock-on-effect of things bumping into each other, essentially. Right. Just probabilistic. This happens with that probability. This happens with that probability. All the probabilities have to sum to one. What are the probability of when the cue ball hits the balls on the pool table that they will end up in this configuration? That's right. In the case of conscious agents, I should be explicit. It's a social network. This is now conscious. So it's a network of agents. In some sense, the probabilities are, what's the probability that this guy is going to talk to that guy, or these three guys, or those five guys? And so it's sort of like network linkage. Google has a lot of links, a lot more than Hoffman. So Google has a lot of things that are talking to Google. Hoffman has a very few things. Apple has a lot of things talking to them. So those probabilities are sort of saying, it's network probabilities. What's the probability that sometimes it's your influence and, too, as well? Google has huge influence because of all the networks. All the connections has got much more than someone who only has five followers. Google has millions or hundreds of millions. So if you think about it, someone tweets. And then that gets picked up. And who picks it up and who retweets it and who likes it? And so forth. So you see all these-- it's all probabilities. Someone does something and it ripples through the whole network probabilistically. You can't know exactly. Even though Tom is a follower of somebody else, it doesn't mean that Tom's going to tweet everything. What does Tom like? Or maybe Tom just missed that. He even had something else that day. So it's all probabilistic. And so you see these evolving probabilities on this network. And that's what Markov chains are really good at. They're looking at literally-- so the theory of constellations-- think social networks, like Twitter-overs and so forth. And how influences propagate in the Twitter-verse. And then-- so what we found about 10 weeks ago was we invented-- apparently, as far as we can tell, new math-- a precise way to take any Markovian dynamics and map it into decorated permutations. So that we now have a map from the dynamics of conscious agents into decorated permutations. The physicists then-- And decorated permutations for people that don't know is the-- Shuffling. But it's shuffling that can go either direction. So I have the good fortune that you were explaining this to me before we started rolling. And I want people to think that I'm more clever than I am. But decorated permutations, you said, OK, when people think about shuffling a deck, they think about card one going into the third position. They don't think about card one going-- if there's five cards going the other way. So instead of going one, two, and ending up at three, it goes five, four, and ending up at three. So same number of moves, but you've gone in a different direction. And-- am I explaining that right? Yeah, the idea of the two different directions is important. But it's slightly-- just a slight difference. So suppose I have five cards, just one, two, three, four, five. And they're in order. And now I'm going to shuffle them. And I say, OK, one went to position three now. But five went to position two. So one going to three is sort of shuffling forward. You're going to a bigger number. Five going to two, you're going to a smaller number. You're going backward. So in normal permutation, that's fine. That's what normal permutation is. The decorated permutation says, you only shuffle to a bigger number. So if you want five to go to two, what you're going to do is you're going to have five go to seven, because seven minus five-- five is the biggest number. Seven minus five is two. OK? But if five had gone to one, then we'd actually go five goes to six, because six minus five is one. So it's a wrap around. So if one is going to three, then you just do the normal thing. One goes to three. But if some permutation is going to a smaller number, like three goes to one, then you actually have to say three goes to six, because a total of five and five plus one is six. So that's called a decorated permutation. So it's just a permutation with this extra little twist. It's not a big deal, frankly.
Discovering new mathematics (01:42:54)
It just turned out that you needed that extra twist to fully capture the particle physics, scattering of particles. So when you do that, what's stunning is for some cases. So in the approximation in which all particles are supersymmetric and massless-- so they're all traveling in the speed of light. They're massless, so they travel in the speed of light. In that simple case, the decorated permutation is everything. That's it. And when you let go of supersymmetry and you have massive particles, then all you have to do is you have the decorated permutation, plus you need to add information about the mass and the spin. But the decorated permutation is really doing the heavy lifting. So that's the stunning thing, is to the physicists, which is-- and you see it in their writings. When you read like Neemar Connie Hamett has the book, Grassmanian Geometry of Scattering Amplitudes. When they talk about the decorated permutations, you can see in the way they write, they're like, who ordered this? You would never have guessed that it would be something like that. But here's an interesting thing. It turns out that decorated permutations are the most compact way to capture a Markovian dynamics. It's an incredibly compact way of capturing the dynamics. It basically is telling you what decorated permutations in the dynamical system are telling you is your social network. Who are you connected to? Who are you interacting with? Only shuffling in one direction. You better capture that. If you want to go into the details.
Why permutations are key (01:44:37)
It's so foreign to me. I don't know how much the details. But that's really strange. So that's where we get into the math fair enough. I'll accept it as true. We could do the math if you want. But the last time that we did the math had actually ended up being really fascinating. So let's try it. Let's see how far we get before my brain snaps in half. OK. So the key thing about these decorated permutations that gives them this extra power is that there's two ways to map to yourself. So if you shuffle the cards, but card number one stays number one, then one goes to one. But with the decorated permutation, you could say, well, if there were say five cards, then you could say, well, one goes to one, but also one goes to six is another way of saying that you stayed yourself. Because six mod five is one. Six minus five is one. Yep. So there are so-called- Two. What happens if I want to move five to position four? That's really nine. And you said that seven was the max. So what about- Oh, no. So the max would be 10. OK. Right. Got it. Got it. So if you have five cards, the max number would be 10. For n cards, it's two n. Right. Understood. So for five, so if there are five cards, five could either map to itself five to five, or five goes to 10. Yep. Because that would be- So the one is called the first decoration of the identity. Because it's the identity move, five went to five. And the other is called the second decoration of the identity. And there's another branch of mathematics where they're called loops and co loops. But anyway, so the way it matters in terms of the physics, now in physics, when you have the first decoration of the identity, it corresponds to what they call a zero-dimensional space. So in some sense, the thing doesn't exist. It's a zero-dimensional. And when it maps to itself in the second kind of identity, then it's its own one-dimensional space, a separate one-dimensional space. So the reason for the decorate permutations is to capture that distinction between something that is alone in the sense that it's essentially empty versus alone in the sense that it's just a one-dimensional space, a line versus just a zero-dimensional point. You needed to capture those two things. And so it does. But for the Markov dynamics, it captures something about social networks that's interesting. Either I'm alone, I'm the identity, I'm alone because I'm talking to myself. And so I'm only talking to myself. Or I'm alone because I'm not even talking to myself. And so the case in which I'm not even talking to myself is the first declaration of the identity. And the one in which I'm only talking to myself and nobody else, that's the second. And as soon as I'm talking to anybody else, then I get a non-trivial permutation. And that then, what you do is you assign-- if I'm in the social network and I'm number two. And suppose that my decorated permutation assigns me to five. There's only five members. That means that my social network, everybody in my social network, is captured between two and five total. So for example, number one is not in my social network. Yep. So what the decorated permutation for a dynamical system is doing is it's capturing-- now it could be that, for example, when I go two to five, maybe four isn't in my network. But I'm not going to worry about that. I'm just going to say, everybody that's in my network is captured between two and five, inclusive of two and five. And when you look at the whole decorated permutation, you'll figure out that four wasn't in the social network of two. You can figure it out from the decorated permutation.
Complex Concepts: Predicting Outcomes And Unpacking Consciousness
The MOST compact way to represent anything (01:48:28)
So that's why it's such that it's that you really compact representation of everything. So eventually, we may actually use this in social network theory. Our new mathematics of decorated permutations for dynamics may actually end up being a very compact representation of social networks. I haven't even thought about that yet. Because you were explaining it, I was like, are they going to run this math for predictive models for social networking? Well, right now, the most compact mathematics that we can use to describe social networks and the dynamics of social networks, basically, the dynamics of who are you actually interacting with. So this is a brand new tool that has never been-- as far as I know-- used. We invented it. So we have a paper that we're about to submit for publication in two or three weeks where we present this. And I did give a professional talk at Stanford a month or two ago where I presented the math.
A story about predicting atomic explosions (01:49:15)
I know how people put this together. This is so abstract for me. I am clinging on by my fingernails. And I would not want to have to explain decorated permutations to anybody. But that's really interesting that-- I mean, so we're caught in between two things. One, talking about the things that we can predict and how utterly fascinating it is when you can actually map out. This is what happens. And then talking about how, oh, yeah, everything that you're mapping is totally fake, it's really interesting. But that's one of the things that I've always-- I cognitively-- I don't have that ability. It doesn't come naturally to me. Neither. Like, I have to loop around the stuff so many times just to get the real basics. But the idea of being able to understand a system so well that you can predict-- this goes back to what I was saying. My whole thing in life is when you can accurately predict the outcome of your actions, things get very interesting. And so anything I mean that gets-- as of right now, I can't digest that enough to make it usable in my life. But it hints at this idea of you really can map out if I do this, this, and this. Even as it gets more and more complicated, you really can predict what the outcome is going to be. And the closer that you can get to that, the more effective you will be in your life, especially because so much of what one does in business, it's all human psychology. And so if you have a way-- I mean, and this really gets into right now, impact theory is investing hugely into AI. AI in what we're doing in terms of our funnels, AI in terms of what we're doing in the gaming side, and acknowledging that even though you have a wall of data that as a person, you can't work your way through. There really is-- there are patterns in that data-- Oh, yes. --that are highly leverageable. And in fact, one of the things, as you're talking-- and I don't think you share my obsession with this, but you might-- my obsession with physics is getting people to understand that when Einstein wrote down his general relativity and special relativity, it gave us the modern world in ways that I don't think people fully understand. From being able to Zoom to GPS to atomic energy, I mean, it's really spectacular. Once you're able to better understand the nature of reality, you can do things with that, because it makes predictions. I can't remember if we were talking about that before after we started rolling. But that ability to, oh, that theory makes this prediction, and you can begin to think in novel ways. And so for a while, I was teaching, of course, what I call business decision making. It's the worst fucking title ever. Nobody knows what that means. But it actually is the only thing in business that matters. You have to be able to go, should I do this? Should I not do this? What will happen if I interpret the world this way versus that way? And people that succeed in business, they get very good at knowing how to think through the problem. And to think through the problem, you have to understand the nature of things. And so my whole thing was, hey, are you doing social media? You better understand the nature of social media. What's the nature of social media? It's human psychology plus the algorithm. And so if you master both, now you can really do something. The problem is that both of those data sets are so massive that you're really taking your best swag. And getting into this stuff is, for me, if we really can peel through the headset and start getting into-- no, no, no, all these things, it's a really low fidelity thing. And this will scare people. But if you're the first person to poke through that, oh my god. You have-- I mean, not to take the dark example, but we ended World War II by being the first to understand the atomic energy and how to split the atom. They're way more uplifting and positive examples, but that's just the one that will stick out in everybody's consciousness. But being able to-- in fact, this is something that I don't know if you know Eric Weinstein. But talking to him, he's looking at, OK, what's that next breakthrough?
How big are the possibilities? (01:53:49)
And what's it going to let us predict? And so that's his whole obsession is, we've got people playing at very high levels. And if he's right and he understands something that other people don't understand, it's going to make predictions. And we don't know where those predictions go. They could be good. They could be terrifying. Could be life-changing in a good way and a bad way. But getting people to understand, like, you need to be obsessed at least at the headset level. You have to be obsessed with better predicting what all this means. So anyways, you're talking about decorated permutations and stuff. It just gets me thinking about large data sets, how we simplify that, what that's going to mean in my world in terms of business intelligence, identifying an audience, understanding what will convert. It really matters. Like, it plays out in a really real way. It does. And I think a metaphor here might illustrate how big the potential is. Science of space time has been all in the headset. And we've become wizards of the headset, just like someone in Grand Theft Auto has become a wizard at using the steering wheel and the gas to go through the space time of the Grand Theft Auto virtual world. But suppose that you learned to think outside the headset, you actually understand the software in the supercomputer that's running it. Then you can take the gas out of the tank of the wizard. You can give him flat tires or her flat tires. You can change the geometry of the roads. In other words, the wizard is trivial compared to what you can do once you have learned how the headset works. So science has just taken its first baby sips outside of the headset just in the last 20 years. We're taking our first baby set. Once we start to understand the first level of software that's available to us, I'm saying we're going to get the whole thing. Girls in completeness term says the software is endless. But the way things seem to work is you do get to see layer by layer by layer. So as we go to the first layer of the software, the wizardry inside space time is going to look trivial compared to-- so right now, for example, something like 97% of the galaxies that we can see, we could never go to. They're moving away from us faster than the speed of light. Not because they're moving through space faster than the speed of light. They're not. But space itself is expanding so quickly that if we move through space to try to get to them, the space would be expanding so fast that we couldn't get to them at the speed of light. And so 97% of the real estate in our universe is waving at us saying, hi, you can never come see me. That's fascinating, especially because if space can expand faster than the speed of light, this is more, at least in my limited mind, pointing at something deeper. Yeah, there's something else going on. But what if we didn't have to go through space to get to Alpha Centauri? Yeah, this is the intro. Every time you say this, it turns me on. This is so-- That's exciting. This is where I'm really-- This is one reason why I'd like to understand our theory of conscious agents outside-- I'm not saying the theory of conscious agents is right. But it's the first baby step that I've seen where it's a dynamical system where you can actually talk about quote-unquote software that you could tinker with. You could actually do something with it that would allow us perhaps new technologies where we don't go through space to the Andromeda galaxy. That would take us 2.4 million years. Good luck. Even your great-great-grandkids wouldn't be alive. But what if we could go around space? Because our headset is just a headset. You can just change the software. Oh, you want to be at Alpha Centauri? Or Andromeda? Just change the software. Now you're there. Because you realize that space time isn't the reality. It's just a data structure. You can play with the data structure. As soon as we-- the next generation, my generation won't get it. The next generation that really gets it is going to unleash miracles. Because we will then start to really get the software behind space time. We will begin to tinker with it. And it's going to be possibilities are endless. I can't even imagine.
Seeing your own death (01:58:27)
Speaking of imagining, ground me back in how you think about this in your real life. So I know that you got clobbered by COVID. You wrote a goodbye text to your wife, I'm assuming, because it was COVID. And she couldn't come in the room. This was really early, right? How did that influence that moment for you? Well, like were you just like, oh, it's all I had said. Who cares? Bye, babe. Yeah, I wish I could say, you know, I'm this really enlightened guy in the science and spirituality. And so I was just really calm. And I wish I could say that. But I was in tremendous pain. My heart had been pounding. They rythmed me up, a hearted 90 beats per minute, 180 beats per minute for 36 hours. I knew that my heart couldn't do that much longer. And they hadn't been able to figure out a way to stop it. And so like 4 o'clock in the morning, my wife was asleep. But I didn't know that I would make it until she was awake. So I texted her. I knew I wouldn't wake her up. She has her thing on mute. But I at least wanted to give her a goodbye text. Because I figured by the time she was up, I wouldn't be alive. And after I did the text, within an hour after that, so they found a drug that calmed my heart down and was able to keep my heart calm long enough so I could eventually get a surgery, which then cured the problem. So once you put it in the text, you don't have to give me verbatim, obviously. It's super private. But what was the gist? Well, when you're feeling that bad, I didn't have to wear with all the same much. It just said, sweetheart, I don't think I'm going to make it. I love you. And that was it. That was all I had. So I can imagine someone who is really spiritually adept and advanced might sit there and very calmly-- that wasn't me. I was completely shattered. I'd been awake for 48 hours with a heart beating at 180 beats per minute for 36 hours. I was done. And I was scared. And I was lonely. And I was afraid. And I missed my wife and my daughter and my grandkids. And it was-- so I have no illusions about being some kind of spiritual master who is above it all. I'm just another human being with the same problems with everybody else. These are really good ideas that I think are helping me to get a bigger picture. But when it comes right down to it, when push comes to shove, there's something inside me that believes the space time is fundamental. It believes that when the body dies, that's it. So it's really interesting. I'm not coherent. There's-- well, put it this way. Maybe intellectually, I'm coherent about this. But there's an emotional side of me that hasn't come along. Now, I am meditating. And I think that slowly the emotional side of me is unraveling. That tight, scared little child that's inside of me, that thinks this is all of it and is afraid of dying and so forth, it's slowly unraveling. I don't know if it'll ever completely unravel. I hear people that I have no reason to disbelieve who say that they've completely unraveled it and they're completely unafraid of death. I believe that that's possible. But I'm not enlightened. So that was my experience. It was sobering. One thing that comes out of it is I want to stop and reflect. I'm grateful for each day because I didn't expect to have any of these days. I didn't mean we discovered this stuff about decorated permutations since then. I'm so grateful to be alive. For the fun of seeing this decorated-- and of course, things have happened with my grandkids that are fun. And so everything is a delight and I don't take it for granted. And if I were to face death in the same way, again, I'd probably feel afraid and scared and so forth. What do you think happens when we die?
Awareness versus Consciousness? (02:02:52)
My best guess is we just take a headset off that that implies keeping of the personality. No, it doesn't. To me, it suggests that the whole story-- I was born in such and such a year at such and such a city and such and such a hospital. My parents did this. I did that. I had that whole story, maybe something that you say goodbye to. So cognition itself is headset. That's right. Or awareness. Pure awareness. So awareness and consciousness are different. Yeah, so well, there's a distinction to me, but I'm not going to be sort of hard-nosed about particular words. But you could have a specific conscious experience, like the experience of green. And that would be a conscious experience. That would be a kind of a consciousness. But you could also talk about awareness without any content at all. I'm just aware of awareness. But even that's saying too much. I'm just aware. So I'm not aware of Don. I'm not aware of where I live. I'm not aware. I'm just aware. And when people meditate and they go into very, very deep levels of meditation where they really let go of all thoughts, then in some sense, yourself dies. Well, is that? I mean, there is no Don. There is no-- I did this degree. There is no I have these-- that's gone. And yet, in some sense, nothing essential is gone. Nothing essential left. That's just a story. The essential thing is the awareness. And the real joy of being is the awareness itself. The story is a nice add-on. It's icing on the cake, but it's not essential. The real deep joy comes from the pure awareness with no content whatsoever. And so in that sense, I think of-- but see, there's part of me that is tied to the story. So that was the part that was scared to death in the hospital. There's another part of me that believes and knows that everything's fine. I'm aware of this without content. That's what I really am at my deepest level. But as long as I'm still clinging to the story of Don, then that is going to die when I die. If I don't choose to die to it while I can choose to die to it, I will be forced to die to it when my body dies. And so there are some spiritual teachers, like Eckhart Tolle, who says, I'm already dead. The only thing left is the body. So I'm not there. But I don't disbelieve-- I mean, I disbelieve most of them, but I don't disbelieve some of them. I think that it is possible. In the case, for example, of Eckhart Tolle, I think it's highly probable that he's right. He really has let go, and he's utterly fearless about death. And I'm not. But I understand in principle why that could be. If I really am not the story, and I've really let go of the story of Don, and I'm no longer identified-- so here's how to know if you've really let go of the story. Am I competing with anybody? Is it important to me to be better than someone, to be better known, to have a better whatever, be smarter, have a better degree, whatever it might be, as long as I'm comparing myself with anybody else, or saying I'm worse, I feel inferior. As long as that's going on to me, then I'm tied to my story, and I'll be afraid of death. It's only when I don't care about comparisons anymore that I really, truly let go. So if someone cuts me off on the road when I'm driving, if I'm upset about that, I'm tied to my story. That means I'm not ready to die. So when you look at the thing, whatever disturbs you, that's the hint. You're still tied to the apron strings, the baby story. I'm Don, I was born here. I'm struggling to be important, because I've such a small-- I mean, I'm such this small little thing. I'm a little guy inside space-time. I believe that the avatar of me in this headset is everything that I am. I'm clinging to my avatar. And as long as I'm clinging to it, the possibility of losing that avatar is terrifying. So I'm there. I'm not enlightened. I understand this intellectually. There's something emotional that has to be brought along. It has to be healed or something like that. It's got to be brought along. But it's all a good intellectual story for me, and I'm meditating to have it become a true personal story. But what it ends up being is that even-- you think about it, even your body is just an icon. It's not who you are. What we're saying is right. Space-time is doomed. If the physicists are right, space-time is doomed, evolution is right, this is just a headset, this is just an avatar, then I don't even have brains right now. If you look, you'll render brains. But right now, I have no brains because they're not being rendered. So neural activity causes none of my behavior. Brains cause none of our behavior. And yet, we need to study neuroscience. We need more money for neuroscience, because that's the part of our interface that is most informative about the software behind space-time. So if we want to understand the software behind space-time, we're going to have to study the complex thing that we call the brain, which is just the projection of this deeper software. That is the best projection that we've got. So neuroscience is far more complicated than we're thinking right now. We see neurons, we think there are neurons. No, no, no, no. We see neurons that's a pointer to a realm far more complicated, probably infinitely more complicated, but fortunately, we can look at it in steps. So we need more for neurons. So I don't have any brains, but we need to study brains, because when we render brains in our headset, that's the most information we're going to have in our headset about the software behind space-time. But still, emotionally, we're tied to it. I'm tied to it. And we're wired up to this way. So Piaget, a very famous child psychologist, had talked about what he called object permanence. He said that we're wired to, at a certain stage of our life, believe that this object exists and will continue to exist, even if no one looks, object permanence. And he had the example of a 17-month-old baby. You take a doll, put it behind a pillow, and the baby acts as though the doll no longer exists. But at a certain age, you put the doll behind the pillow, now the baby will crawl over and try to get it. So now it's got object permanence. So later studies showed that it came much earlier than Piaget thought, maybe even three or four months. So why is it that I have a hard time thinking of my body as an avatar, as opposed to a real object that exists? Why am I having a heart? Well, it's because I didn't choose to believe that. I was wired up to believe that before I even had reason. So when we believe very, very strongly that these things exist, it's not because we came to a rational conclusion about that. Oh, yeah, I thought it through. And I know-- no, no, no. You believe that when you were a four-month-old. That's why you believe it. And it's no deeper than that. We've just never challenged it. That's the glory of science. It goes back. It can challenge things that we believe since we were three months old. And it can show us that we were wrong. That's the power of science. And then the power of science is also to tell us the limits of science. Because what science tells us with Girdles and Completeness Theorem is there is no theory of everything. But that doesn't mean that we should just do whatever we wish and think what random thoughts we want.
G?del's Incompleteness Theorem and Theory of Everything (02:11:24)
No, there is-- we're rewarded by thinking precisely and also humbly, precisely to get as far as our current framework will go, and then humbly to realize that it's just a framework. And there's a new one beyond. But that will also be rigorous. And that will also be rigorous. So it's really it's not going into just whatever you want. It's not like a postmodernist kind of-- and again, I don't want to give a wrong impression. I think there's a lot of interesting people that have done really brilliant work in postmodernism. But I'll put it this way. The gist of it that some people get, that do whatever you want doesn't matter, logic doesn't really require-- I think that that's just plain wrong. I really like reason because it tells the limits of itself. I love that. Where can people follow you? I have a Twitter, Donald D. Hoffman. So D-O-N-A-L-D-H-O-F-F-M-A-N. That's my Twitter handle. And I usually every time I have a talk, I'll post a link to it in a new paper. I'll post a link or a new article that I think is really interesting on this stuff.
Where to Find Dr. Hoffman (02:12:42)
I'll post a link. It's a great feed. I've definitely enjoyed it. Oh, you have a great-- For sure. And speaking of things you guys will enjoy. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe. And until next time, my friends, be legendary. Take care. And peace. If you want a 10x your productivity, click right here to learn how to have near infinite energy. I am here with Todd Herman. Tom, it's the Todd-- What's so good? It's the Tom and Todd show today. It is indeed. It is indeed welcome, man. Yeah. Great to be here, finally. I'm just super excited to have you.