Paradigm Shift

Paradigm Shift

Each of us forms a concept of the world, an understanding of the way things are, a map of the world. Not just a literal map in the sense of where things are in the world, but also an understanding of how things work, and what things are likely to happen and what are not. This is one’s worldview. When it changes the effect can be shattering. But this is the effect of a scientific revolution, a revision of the conceptual map of the nature of reality.

Thomas Kuhn coined the phrase scientific revolution, and also the term paradigm shift. His remarkable work addresses the difficulties of updating the scientific conceptual map, the paradigm, even when it is clear that this is inadequate or even wrong. The current paradigm is the well-established and generally-accepted scientific worldview.

In his early work he noted the way a new breakthrough concept is not recognized as such because it is effectively invisible. If new research indicates there is a fault in the deeply-established worldview of the paradigm, this is not seen as refuting the worldview, but as a mistake by the researcher. In his later work he explains the root of this seemingly unscientific behaviour. He came to see the whole issue of the regeneration of the scientific paradigm, the scientific revolution, as a linguistic problem. The new perspective demands a new language, a restructured or quite different lexicon. Here it is proposed that ‘logical type’ is the key missing terminology that has been waiting in the wings ever since the two strands of the new physics were discovered.

Special Case

The new physics expands the conceptual map of Newtonian mechanics, showing that the ordinary world of the current paradigm is a special case of the operation of physical reality. At ordinary speeds and distances, quantum theory and relativity give the same results as Newtonian mechanics. The latter is also known as classical mechanics, the mechanics that defines what we now think of as the ordinary world, the classical view. This held sway for three centuries before being enlarged upon, and shown to be a special-case set of rules, by the new physics, the physics of quantum theory and relativity.

This shows that classical mechanics is a kind of emergent property. Quantum mechanics averages out to ordinary world phenomena at ordinary everyday levels of scale, but at the submicroscopic level, physical reality is literally fuzzy. Relativity only differs from the ordinary world at great speeds or near huge masses, but in these domains the ordinary rules of classic mechanics are bent out of shape completely, and eventually eliminated in infinities.

Now there is a new conceptual revolution in progress. We have not only discovered the new physics but built a new kind of human world with it. The technological advances of the last fifty years have produced a connected human race among other miracles. But we have not been able to see the full meaning of the discovery. It is too alien. So the current paradigm remains essentially classical, Newtonian. As Kuhn describes, the rejection of the new idea is not a deliberate or even conscious process. If new research indicates there is a fault in the deeply-established worldview of the paradigm, this is not seen as refuting the worldview, but as a mistake by the researcher.

As he goes on to explain in his later work, the deep problem is that the new concept requires new terms, and these do not make sense in the existing framework because they are not couched in the terms of current paradigm. The new concept has to be phrased in terms of the existing framework, the ‘conceptual lexicon’, in order to be understood. Here it is proposed that ‘logical type’ is the key missing terminology.

The deep challenge is that the old and the new seem incommensurable – they cannot be true at the same time. It seems as one must contradict the other because the current paradigm is a world with everyone in it, and the new paradigm is a world with only one person in it, others being represented by icons, avatars, defining as determinate that much of the person as has been observed. But they are both right. the new paradigm is the world resulting from a superposition of worlds. They exists at different levels of logical type. That is the resolution of the measurement problem, as described in Measurement Problem.

The Conceptual Revolution

The current paradigm is a special case of the next, more complex and complete paradigm. By adding one new concept, it completes the worldview, explaining paradoxes and puzzles inherent in the current worldview. It explains the current paradigm as one view of the universe, showing that the paradoxical phenomena are simply the dynamics of a different but equally real view.

The current paradigm is the result of investigation of the real world with great thoroughness. It is because of the comprehension of the matter and energy at a fundamental level that we have been able to build such a powerful and comprehensive technology. As always, the new paradigm moves on in a different direction, one hitherto invisible. In the existing ontology of the physical matter and energy of the world there is just the one fundamental ontology – the four-dimensional, space-time, matter-and-energy universe. In the new conceptual map, existence is laid out in a hierarchy of three levels of logical type, of which this is just one.

This changes everything. And the shift is clarified as it shows where all the paradoxes have been coming from. The paradoxes arise because we observe phenomena of the second and third levels of logical type, and these cannot be explained in terms of the first, primitive level of logical type, the matter and energy of physical existence. The definition of the determinacy of the world on the subjective view is a second-logical-type phenomenon. The passage of time, and the Now, are third-logical-type phenomena.


In academic terms, there is a missing taxonomy. As presented in Avant Garde Science, there are three levels of logical type, and all three are required for a complete ontology. This kind of massive mental shifting of gears required to understand the new physics is exactly what Kuhn is describing. As he explains, such scientific revolutions are huge cultural upheavals because they not only affect the scientific worldview, the paradigm, but this in turn also changes what about the world itself is studied. Different areas of investigation are pursued.

With so much at stake the whole debate can degenerate into a struggle between the old and the new. But the prize is enormous. What changes each time is that the conceptual map is expanded. We know more, understand more, and technology is renewed, updated and empowered to make the next great leap. Kuhn defined a distinction between ‘normal science’ and ‘revolutionary science’, and he came to see this as the difference between activities that do not require changes in the lexicon and those that do. Clearly the latter is the case with the meaning of the new physics. The mathematical/semantic rules of logical type become fundamental explanatory principles.

Logical type is the key. We do live in an ordinary physical world. And in this world, things are what they seem to be, solid, determinate reality in all directions. But one lives in a great number of such worlds simultaneously, a world superposition; and in this kind of reality the physical world is determinate solely where observed. This is the reality of QBsim, the reality of a set of worlds. It is an emergent, second-logical-type phenomenon. It is the four-dimensional space-time matter-and-energy universe movie of life. And the movie runs because consciousness, the third-logical-type phenomenon, effectively crawls up the lifetime of the body, at light speed.

The tremendous conceptual revolution is that there are three fundamental categories, three utterly different kinds of phenomena. The world-view of modern science addresses only one, considering this, perfectly naturally, to be the only valid framework. In physics there is only what exists as matter and energy, and this is the fundamental category out of which all is built, and from which all properties of the real physical world are derived. But in order to make sense of the reality that is actually encountered, all three fundamental categories have to be included. This is the technical structure of the new paradigm. It is subtly but powerfully different to the science of the ordinary physical world of matter and energy. The paradoxes are resolved.