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.
The Perceiving Subject
As physicist David Mermin (2014) explains, the central problem with the physics is not something undiscovered, but something that has been very specifically omitted. The great paradoxes in both pillars of the new physics come about because the perceiving subject has been excluded from the science, and all are resolved by including it:
In Nature and the Greeks, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger traced the removal of the subject from science back more than two millennia. Alongside the spectacular success of physical science, this exclusion of personal experience has given rise to some vexing and persistent puzzles and paradoxes.
Two such unrelated long-standing problems are both resolved by recognizing that the perceiving subject has as important a role to play in understanding the nature of physical science as does the perceived object.
The first problem is the notorious disagreement, confusion and murkiness that for almost a century has plagued the foundations of quantum mechanics, in spite of the theory’s extraordinary usefulness and power. The second, less famous, problem has been with us at least as long: there seems to be nothing in physics that singles out ‘the present moment’. Albert Einstein called this the problem of ‘the Now’. Both problems are symptoms of the exclusion from physical science of the perceiving subject, and are solved by restoring what the ancient Greeks removed. (2014)
As he describes, these problems do not exist in the frame of reference of the perceiving subject. This page is all about this greatly overlooked frame of reference.
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 SAS [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 Quantum Theory. Nonetheless, the tremendous significance has not been fully recognised.
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 World of the Inside View
It seems obvious that the inside view is just the inside view of the outside view world. Which of course is perfectly correct, but in the many-worlds universe this is not the whole story. In the domain of all possible worlds, there are a great number in which there is an identical copy of you. And in the quantum universe, they are all here and now, like the worlds in The Long Earth. All standard physics so far, but there is a potential implication of all this which has not been aired before. As the individual you know yourself to be, you exist in all these worlds, simultaneously. And this in turn means that your physical reality is the superimposed sum of all these words, a ‘superworld’. This is described in The Superworld.
And this kind of world operates precisely as described in QBism. It is indeterminate except where you have observed it. It is the nature of this world, the reality 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 The 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 superworld, 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.
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. By definition the superworld looks exactly like an ordinary world. And 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. This is because all the worlds give identically the same result, so the superposed sum gives that result. So it even seems to operate just like an ordinary world. It is only when we do quantum physics experiments that we see that the underlying physical reality is a superposition of worlds. This is the meaning of Schrödinger’s cat as described in The Measurement Problem. Two incompatible versions of physical reality are true at the same time. In fact this is simple a perfect illustration that the physical reality on which we are experimenting is a superworld.