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Levi Ong (M, 29)
Quezon City, PH
Immortal since Dec 25, 2007
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    From levi88
    Dealing with Paradoxes #1
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    Dealing with Paradoxes #1
    Dealing with Paradoxes #1

    A strange thought occurred to me during my chemical engineering class, and it has something to do with predicting - with certainty - one's own future, and solving the metaphorical Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle application problem.

    Suppose you have a hypothetical machine that predicts the future and conveys the information to a person. We do not bother ourselves with how this machine works; only that it does. The inherent problem - and this is a rather notorious problem - is that the person, affected by the knowledge of what lay in store for him, will behave differently than if he hadn't seen the future; this would in turn produce a completely different future, contradicting what was previously predicted.

    To illustrate, imagine a man who uses the Hypothetical Machine™. He sees that in the future he will be a poor man who didn't graduate college, who is jobless, who is miserable and a whole lot of other disagreeable circumstances. The knowledge of this leaves an impression[1] in his mind, altering his reactions to future stimuli. He would start studying more, be more hardworking, etc... And this would result in a future that contradicts the Hypothetical Machine™'s prediction.

    But supposing the man uses the machine again for another prediction, Just To Make Sure. He'll see that because of his fear due to watching the first prediction, he works hard, studies more, etc... And eventually gets a nice job after graduating summa cum laude, gets married, and lives happily ever after. This in turn will leave another impression on the person's consciousness. He will feel contented with his own future knowing that he'll eventually end up having a good life. He will end up lazy, unmotivated, and revert back to the first situation where he doesn't graduated college, becomes jobless, ends up poor and miserable, etc... of course, with some minor differences.

    So we reach an impasse. How do you make it so that one can predict with certainty the future of a man, with the man knowing about that prediction, and still end up with a reliable prediction[2]?

    But suppose you rerun that machine again and again, and suppose the rerunning doesn't affect the subject's psychological condition. (i.e. he doesn't get tired, frustrated, or crazed by watching different versions of his life again and again) As the number of reruns approaches infinity, there should be some sort of equilibrium achieved. That is, a future that, upon observation by the subject, perpetuates itself.

    You have a solution that resembles something like the Nash equilibrium. Everyone's happy. The person ends up observing a future that he is satisfied with, and at the same time, is brought about by that feeling of satisfaction and the mindset created by the act of observation.

    Of course, with infinity, the whole thing is a moot point, because with the intention of watching it an infinite times, it'll end up predicting that, by 20 or 30 years, the subject will still be watching reruns. So for the sake of practicality, we assume that watching the predictions take only a short amount of time, and that "infinity" isn't really infinity, but a number large enough to reach very near the equilibrium point, and predicting the future not with certainty, but rather, near-certainty.

    Or with a ±0.01 deviation or something.

    [1] I'm aware that people have different reactions to different stimuli, but for the sake of argument, shut up.

    [2] Something like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which says something like the act of observing the location or momentum of a particle... makes the location or momentum of the particle uncertain. (i.e. given that you use a photon to observe the location of the particle, it must follow that the photon used to observe collides with the particle, moving it away, which results in another uncertain location, as well as general frustration.)

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    meika     Fri, Jan 4, 2008  Permanent link
    He sees that in the future he will be a poor man who didn't graduate college, who is jobless, who is miserable and a whole lot of other disagreeable circumstances. The knowledge of this leaves an impression[1] in his mind, altering his reactions to future stimuli.

    The machine's report is actually one's parents or in-laws telling you to get of your lazy bottom (mine never did), the repetition of watching the machine's report is the unfolding of generations in some familial karmic eternal return.

    You see, your 'machine' is the universe itself. Forward time is actually backward time.

    also suggest an edit of your note [2] see:— observing the momentum or the location means that the location or momentum is then uncertain

    So if one know the momentum of one's inertia in life, then you won't know where you are, let alone know what you are.

    Alles Klar?
    cyb0     Fri, Jan 4, 2008  Permanent link
    I think about the same months ago and i think that the machine that predicts the future of one person, cannot exist. No because of the complication of solving and proceed all interaction of the one with society and etc, but because of our brain. Even if the person saw his future and then these memories are erased from his brain he will know what to do on a subconscious level. And because of that he will change his future. (i don't even want to talk about the space-time continuum and the disturbance that this machine will create)

    A friend of mine told me about a study, where group of people with anterograde amnesia was urge to solve a crossword where letters within particular cells are creating a word. Everyone of the tested subjects solve his crossword, see the word and leave. The next day the group was call back and was given to them a list with all the words which they saw on the crossword a day before. They don't even remember that they solve a crossword the day before, but every one of them put his word in the main position, completely subconscious.

    Maybe there is a solution... but there are a lots of "IF" statements which have to be solve.
    levi88     Fri, Jan 4, 2008  Permanent link
    @ Meika
    Hmm... I'm not sure where you're going with eternal returns, but the situation i posed isn't cyclic. I was thinking more of a dampened oscillation ( f(p) = a*sin(p) * 1/p + b or something like that), with the "equilibrium" being the flatline portion.

    Regarding note [2]: thanks! I changed it. :)

    Lastly, I'm not sure i understand what you mean by my "machine" being the universe itself. Or about the forward time = backward time thing. Please do expound :)

    I did mention that we aren't going to bother ourselves with how the hypothetical machine works, and only that we assume it does. But yes, what you say is true.
    meika     Sat, Jan 5, 2008  Permanent link
    feedback not cyclic? mmmh, next you'll be telling me rhythm ain't frequency.

    well, your machine moves information from the future into the present, creating feedback, I was making this the equivalent of one's parents informing us of their wisdom and experience, in fact your machine destroyes hindsight, guessing, and wisdom and ancestor worship in favour or some outcomes based oscillations.

    You'll make time run backwards. Each time we adjust a course of action, something untoward might happen instead and we'll be trying to inform the past more and more.

    Assuming there is more than one machine... and why not, the first thing we need to tell the past what to do is build one of these machines instead of those playstation life wasters...

    But I dunno, my jocular approach has sriously confused and I do not feel capable of expounding on this at all.
    Spaceweaver     Sun, Jan 6, 2008  Permanent link
    We do not bother ourselves with how this machine works;

    For the sake of your argument, you cannot not bother with how the machine works. To predict accurately the future, the machine must have, among other things, an embedded model of how that person's mind works, since he is part of the future to be predicted. Having such a model, or at least an approximated one, it will be able to compute in advance all the recursive interactions
    that person will have with the knowledge the machine outputs. From the perspective of that person, the predicted future he will see will be unavoidable.

    This becomes somewhat a bit tougher; The machine must also have a very good model of itself, being part of the universe it predicts. Here is the real paradox or impossibility, for it cannot have an accurate model of itself and still outrun its own computation.

    Bottom line, such hypothetical machine cannot really exist. Of course there can be a machine that approximately predicts the future, but then the uncertainty principle is still intact.
    levi88     Sun, Jan 6, 2008  Permanent link
    @Spaceweaver: Yes, finally someone whose comment i understand. >.< Very good point, and to that I concede.
    cyb0     Mon, Jan 7, 2008  Permanent link
    Do you remember Isaac Asimov Foundation ? :)
    3LSZVJA9     Mon, Jan 7, 2008  Permanent link
    It appears to me that a machine that predicts the future wouldn't be showing us a small movie of a single event (like in the movies).
    If the universe is not deterministic, many (or infinite) futures are possible at the same time and they are constantly changing, not only through our actions but through the actions of others. The hypothetical machine would have to show us a visualization of a huge number of timelines that spread from the present and keep spreading at many (or infinite) points.
    Also, the hypothetical machine, doesn't need to work as a snapshot of the future that gets obsolete at the very moment it was taken. For not being a completely childish and useless invention, It should work in real time, you would see the future changing as you watch its output.
    Past also changes.
    The machine cannot exist, and it never could, until somebody makes it, then it always could.
    Time is silly.