The Inside View
It seems obvious that the perceptual reality, the mental model I make of the world, is just my personal view, and could not possibly have any bearing on the real world. But this is the opposite of the case. As physicist David Mermin (2014) explains, it is the exclusion of the subject from the new physics that has given rise to all the major paradoxes. This is described in The Perceiving Subject.
The terms objective and subjective are obvious in their meaning. Objective means what is so outside of any person’s opinions, biases, perceptual limitations and so on. Subjective means the opposite, a view or an idea particular to a person. Naturally, physics is the study of what is objectively true, what reality itself is made of and how it works. It seems obvious that the subjective view has no place here, but it is this assumption that has given rise to the great problems with quantum theory.
Science does of course address these two different ways of looking at things. They are different kinds of view, different types of frame of reference, and this difference comes into play in many areas of science. We would not expect this to be the case in the science of physics, but as cosmologist Max Tegmark explains, the development of the new physics has taught us that we must carefully distinguish between them. It makes a difference which view we take, even with regard to our central theory of physical existence and reality. His description, and the way he makes the distinction, is very helpful here. He calls them:
• The bird perspective or outside view, which is the way a mathematician views it.
• The frog perspective or inside view, which is the way it is perceived by a [self-aware substructure] in it. (1998, 23)
The outside view is the objective view. The inside view is the subjective view, the view experienced by a specific person in the world – the self-aware substructure in the technical terms of physics.
Tegmark uses the idea of the bird perspective to mean a point of view outside of the reality itself, like the bird looking down on the affairs of mice and men from high above. It is a view from outside reality. This objective view is also called the view from nowhere because it does not define a particular viewpoint. It is simply what physical reality must be like, given the equations of physics. So in one sense it is purely theoretical. But on the other hand it is the standard benchmark of science because this is taken to be the way physical reality actually is, independent of any particular way of looking at it. But in quantum physics it seems there are things that happen subjectively that do not happen objectively. Not only that but there is no possible explanation how they could happen.
The Record of Observations
As Tegmark also makes clear, the inside view has a very specific definition. This is the record of observations made by the observer. This sounds like just a bunch of information sitting in the memory of the observer, but in fact this is the perceptual reality of the observer. As described in The World Hologram, in human observers the record of observations forms a holographic field of information, and this is what you are actually experiencing right now. This is the inside view, the reality directly experienced by the person in reality.
This structure of information is hugely significant in quantum theory. This is the central feature of Everett’s famous many-worlds theory, as described in Many Worlds. Nonetheless, the tremendous significance has not been fully recognised. It seems possible this is because the idea of the world hologram has not been applied in physics. As Everett describes, a different kind of process applies to the record of observations than applies to the physical body of the observer. As this is incomprehensible in the science of physics, which mandates a physical explantation for all phenomena, it has remained a paradox. But once you understand the nature of the record of observations, as the world hologram, it is much easier to see where all the misunderstandings are coming from. On the inside view this is reality.
The key point is that this perceptual reality exists in a great many versions of the physical world, all at once. So if you do physics experiments on reality, you are doing them in this context. And this means you are doing experiments on the inside view of the world superposition, which is a completely different kind of thing to a specific ordinary world, the world of the regular objective viewpoint. The physics underlying the concept of world superposition is explained in the next page, The Indeterminate World.
The equations of physics describe the ordinary objective physical world, but this is something that cannot be directly experienced. What one always experiences is the inside view. And for the majority of our history it has made no difference. With respect to Newtonian physics and the classical view of the world, the inside view and the outside view are identical. If you go and drop objects off the leaning tower of Pisa to see how fast they fall, as Galileo supposedly did back in the 1500s, it makes no difference. Every world in the world superposition does exactly the same thing in this kind of experiment. But when you go to do quantum physics experiments, it makes a huge difference. When you go to measure the exact position of a quantum, it turns out to be in all possible positions. And this is because it is in different positions in the different worlds in the superposition. Exactly this phenomenon is described in detail by Deutsch in Chapter 2 of The Fabric of Reality (1997).
The World of the Inside View
With all this explanation in place, we are now in a position to see why the inside view – the world hologram – is so central to the dynamics of quantum theory. The inside view is the reality actually encountered. We make the assumption that the world is ordinary, that it is all ‘there’. And for any ordinary definition of the world this is as true as it is obvious. But on the inside view just the opposite is the case, and one lives and moves and has one’s being on the inside view. The physical world of the inside view is the world superposition, and it works exactly as described in QBism. It is determinate solely where you have personally observed it.
It seems obvious that the inside view is just the inside view of the outside view world. However, as described in the next page, The Indeterminate World, there is an identical copy of you in a great number of worlds. Obviously, therefore, your world hologram exists in all those worlds. But since all these worlds are coincident and superposed, this means that there is only one inside view in all of these worlds: when you superpose copies of a structure of information, you just get that structure of information. In other words, there is in fact only one world hologram, one structure of information, that happens to exist in all these worlds, all at the same time.
The net result is that to experience this inside view is to experience the superposition of all of these worlds. In other words, the physical reality of this inside view is all of these worlds, superimposed. Therefore, since this is the view of reality you are actually experiencing, you actually live in a world superposition. This means your world works exactly like QBism describes.
It is the nature of the individual on the inside view that resolves all the terrible paradoxes. The measurement problem is the great showstopper in quantum theory. As explained in Measurement Problem it seems that physical reality behaves in a manner incomprehensible when it is observed. The resolution is simple. It is the physical reality of the inside view that demonstrates this seemingly odd behaviour. In fact, the problem is that the wrong frame of reference is being addressed in the physics. The strange behaviour is what happens in the world superposition, the frame of reference of the inside view. This is the real world of each conscious individual. It is a completely different type of thing to a specific ordinary world. As described in Logical Types, it is a second-logical-type phenomenon. The apparently paradoxical phenomena occur only in the world superposition, the frame of reference of the conscious individual, a second-logical-type phenomenon that operates on different rules.