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ollypenrice

The reality of time, Lee Smolin lecture.

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1 hour ago, vlaiv said:

Yes, it would take a bit of explaining if we were to do it "step by step", on the other hand, this explains it completely (and much more):

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I am not sure how many would recognise this as a universal Turing Machine and if they did how many would accept it explained how Grand Theft Auto emerged from it. 

The difficulty would be in defining the agent who programed the initial tape.

Regards Andrew

PS I am giving a talk on cosmology tonight so need to finish preparing so I am be offline for a while.

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18 minutes ago, andrew s said:

You would have to provide a definition of what you mean to be conscious for we to differentiate sleep from unconsciousness. ?

Medically they are different.  It has to do with brainwave activity.  I did a sleep study and the man in the booth knew immediately when I was asleep or not.  the unconscious brain (knocked out, drunk, coma, etc) behaves very differently than a sleeping brain. 

Rodd

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Ok Rodd but I also rebooted from a general anesethetic which was the key point I was trying to make.

Regards Andrew 

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10 minutes ago, andrew s said:

Ok Rodd but I also rebooted from a general anesethetic which was the key point I was trying to make.

Regards Andrew 

Well--the anesthetic wore off and you awoke.....or, the levels of the anesthetic declined in your system until the point where your consciousness was "there" allowing you to reboot.  In either case, while the anesthitic was working as designed....you were unconscious and your brain avtivity was different then sleep.  While anesthetized you did not have REM sleep., 

Rodd

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20 minutes ago, andrew s said:

I am not sure how many would recognise this as a universal Turing Machine and if they did how many would accept it explained how Grand Theft Auto emerged from it. 

The difficulty would be in defining the agent who programed the initial tape.

Regards Andrew

PS I am giving a talk on cosmology tonight so need to finish preparing so I am be offline for a while.

Don't think that we need an agent to produce sequence of instructions. I toyed with idea of evolutionary approach to building code.

It is fairly simple idea - start with random miniature code sequences and apply basic ingredients of evolutionary approach - reproduction + code exchange, fitness function and mutation. 

Reproduction would be along meaningful code boundaries, and fitness function can be general one (or more specific, depending on problem we are trying to solve) - basic one would be that code completes (completeness in certain amount of time for example) and pointer does not offset to unoccupied sequence position. Mutation is self explanatory.

In principle GTA can emerge in such process in finite amount of time.

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33 minutes ago, vlaiv said:

Don't think that we need an agent to produce sequence of instructions. I toyed with idea of evolutionary approach to building code.

It is fairly simple idea - start with random miniature code sequences and apply basic ingredients of evolutionary approach - reproduction + code exchange, fitness function and mutation. 

Reproduction would be along meaningful code boundaries, and fitness function can be general one (or more specific, depending on problem we are trying to solve) - basic one would be that code completes (completeness in certain amount of time for example) and pointer does not offset to unoccupied sequence position. Mutation is self explanatory.

In principle GTA can emerge in such process in finite amount of time.

Then you get a random mutation caused by a passing cosmic wave and you get...........

Rodd

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4 minutes ago, Rodd said:

Then you get a random mutation caused by a passing cosmic wave and you get...........

Rodd

It's fairly easy to get RNG - simple ccd / cmos sensor and light source can be used for example, or maybe small amount of radioactive element with detector ...

Any non functional mutation would be "killed off" by fitness function as in real life, but mutation part is very important as it expands state space

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4 minutes ago, vlaiv said:

Any non functional mutation would be "killed off" by fitness function as in real life

But what about a functional mutation.  In a living system, this can be adapted into teh system if it provides a benefit that increases fitness.  But how about AI?  Could a system evolve?

Rodd

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1 minute ago, Rodd said:

But what about a functional mutation.  In a living system, this can be adapted into teh system if it provides a benefit that increases fitness.  But how about AI?  Could a system evolve?

Rodd

There is no such thing as functional mutation on its own. It is the fitness function that determines if mutation is functional or not.

So any mutation can be both functional or non functional based on certain fitness function. If you have those three elements - reproduction (exchange of code), fitness function (what ever complexity, it can be simple and static, or very complex and dynamic) and mutation you will have evolution.

It does not have to be living thing, it does not have to be "synthetic" in terms of computer code. You can do it with paper clips for example:

Reproduction step would be: take two chains of paper clips - split each one randomly and exchange "bottom" chains.

Mutation can be defined as: throw dice and on odd number add one paper clip to chain, and on even number remove one paper clip from chain

Fitness function can be: Take number of clips in chain and roll a random number - if random number is larger than number of paper clips in chain - kill that chain. (a bit harsh fitness function it will kill off plenty of chains, but you can put a certain bias in probability distribution to make it more suitable).

Above will evolve chains to be ever longer after each generation.

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5 minutes ago, vlaiv said:

There is no such thing as functional mutation on its own. It is the fitness function that determines if mutation is functional or not.

So any mutation can be both functional or non functional based on certain fitness function. If you have those three elements - reproduction (exchange of code), fitness function (what ever complexity, it can be simple and static, or very complex and dynamic) and mutation you will have evolution.

It does not have to be living thing, it does not have to be "synthetic" in terms of computer code. You can do it with paper clips for example:

Reproduction step would be: take two chains of paper clips - split each one randomly and exchange "bottom" chains.

Mutation can be defined as: throw dice and on odd number add one paper clip to chain, and on even number remove one paper clip from chain

Fitness function can be: Take number of clips in chain and roll a random number - if random number is larger than number of paper clips in chain - kill that chain. (a bit harsh fitness function it will kill off plenty of chains, but you can put a certain bias in probability distribution to make it more suitable).

Above will evolve chains to be ever longer after each generation.

No....the evolution of the paper clips in this case requires outside influence...us.  true evolution is a living action--it only applies to living systems.  The fitness function has to allow the organism a benefit that increases its survival potential.   

Rodd

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35 minutes ago, Rodd said:

No....the evolution of the paper clips in this case requires outside influence...us.  true evolution is a living action--it only applies to living systems.  The fitness function has to allow the organism a benefit that increases its survival potential.   

Rodd

Evolution is a principle that consists of the three mentioned things and their interaction - reproduction (with mixing of code, or partial trait transfer), mutation (random change of traits without prejudice if good or bad in character) and fitness function - capability of further reproduction (it does not say anything about why particular entity stopped reproducing - maybe it died, maybe it was taken of the board, maybe it was eaten by a monster, maybe it's unable to reproduce). It can apply to other things besides living things as shown in above paper clip game, or extensively used via genetic algorithms - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_algorithm

Btw, fitness function does not affect survival potential - it only increases reproduction potential (many examples in wild show this - like spider female eating male after they exchange genetic material, many insects dying after laying eggs). It only appears that it increases survival potential because you need to be alive to get to reproduction stage, and in that sense it does increase survival potential (but up to a point, it's subdued to reproduction rather than living).

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21 minutes ago, vlaiv said:

Evolution is a principle that consists of the three mentioned things and their interaction - reproduction (with mixing of code, or partial trait transfer), mutation (random change of traits without prejudice if good or bad in character) and fitness function - capability of further reproduction (it does not say anything about why particular entity stopped reproducing - maybe it died, maybe it was taken of the board, maybe it was eaten by a monster, maybe it's unable to reproduce). It can apply to other things besides living things as shown in above paper clip game, or extensively used via genetic algorithms - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_algorithm

Btw, fitness function does not affect survival potential - it only increases reproduction potential (many examples in wild show this - like spider female eating male after they exchange genetic material, many insects dying after laying eggs). It only appears that it increases survival potential because you need to be alive to get to reproduction stage, and in that sense it does increase survival potential (but up to a point, it's subdued to reproduction rather than living).

To evolve, a thing must do it on its own.  You adding a paper clip does not constitute evolution (not to be confused with the term evolve, which means to progess such as a game of cards).  If a change in an organism requires a third party involvement--that is not evolution, for that third party could evoke any capricious desire or decision.  

Survival is paramount to reproduction.  If an organism does not live to re-produce, then evolution stops.  That is why the term "survival of the fitest" was coined.  You are correct in the mechanism that carries, or drives evolution--but the core principle is one of survival.   from first principles...survival, then reproduction.

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31 minutes ago, Rodd said:

  If a change in an organism requires a third party involvement--that is not evolution, for that third party could evoke any capricious desire or decision.

But applying fitness function, or using your hands to cut and mix clip chains is not a third party involvement - no more than sun shining on earth is third party. It is just a way of creating environment. Same way as biochemistry and physics work to split and merge genes and DNA proteins - its a mechanism, or something that happens.

Btw, there is nothing in definition of fitness function and environment that forbids capricious or ill intent, it will still be acting the same, and there is again example in real life - different breeds of dogs (well, not ill intent, but intent none the less - thru the course of time, human decision to allow or disallow breeding led to such fitness function as to "evolve" different dog breeds and their traits - and again, note breeding as being reproduction and not survival as main criteria).

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55 minutes ago, vlaiv said:

different breeds of dogs (well, not ill intent, but intent none the less

This is akin to genetical engineering.  Dogs have been "made" by us.  But we digress.  You adding a paper clip is definitely 3rd party action.  You roll a dice, get a 5 and based on some predetermined rule you determine that a paper clip should be added.  This is not natural selection.  Evolution requires reproduction--reproduction that carries the change that is of consideration.  Computers can't replicate themselves.....yet.  And another reason that survival is critical to the theory is that without termination (death), all traits, good or ill, would be passed on and there would never be extinction, hence nothing would ever evolve.  Evolution (biological) works because beneficial traits are passed on and non beneficial trait are not passed on...why?  because the organism that has the non beneficial trait dies before propagation.   Therein lies the problem...I am talking about evolution by natural selection.  There may be other forms of evolution.  I am speaking of Darwinian evolution.  The only way this could be applicable, in a positive way, to computers or AI is if a random surge, or radiation strike, or thermal shock, etc. ..caused the motherboard (or silicon matrix, or whatever the system is devised of) to  function "better" and then that trait is passed on through replication or (heaven forbid) propagation.   I just do not see it.  Of course it can happen in a bad way...a random radiation strike fries a resistor and the computer does not work...i suppose that is a form of evolution.

Rodd

1 hour ago, vlaiv said:

ut applying fitness function, or using your hands to cut and mix clip chains is not a third party involvement - no more than sun shining on earth is third party.

One has intent (you adding a clip) and one is by accident, by random chance.  Evolution is an accidental (probablistic) action.  There is no intent.  In the paper clip example, I would say that you evolved the system, not that the system evolved.

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4 minutes ago, Rodd said:

This is akin to genetical engineering.  Dogs have been "made" by us.  But we digress.  You adding a paper clip is definitely 3rd party action.  You roll a dice, get a 5 and based on some predetermined rule you determine that a paper clip should be added.  This is not natural selection.  Evolution requires reproduction--reproduction that carries the change that is of consideration.  Computers can't replicate themselves.....yet.  And another reason that survival is critical to the theory is that without termination (death), all traits, good or ill, would be passed on and there would never be extinction, hence nothing would ever evolve.  Evolution (biological) works because beneficial traits are passed on and non beneficial trait are not passed on...why?  because the organism that has the non beneficial trait dies before propagation.   Therein lies the problem...I am talking about evolution by natural selection.  There may be other forms of evolution.  I am speaking of Darwinian evolution.  The only way this could be applicable, in a positive way, to computers or AI is if a random surge, or radiation strike, or thermal shock, etc. ..caused the motherboard (or silicon matrix, or whatever the system is devised of) to  function "better" and then that trait is passed on through replication or (heaven forbid) propagation.   I just do not see it.  Of course it can happen in a bad way...a random radiation strike fries a resistor and the computer does not work...i suppose that is a form of evolution.

Rodd

One has intent (you adding a clip) and one is by accident, by random chance.  Evolution is an accidental (probablistic) action.  There is no intent.  In the paper clip example, I would say that you evolved the system, not that the system evolved.

Ok, I see what's causing misunderstanding. When we speak about computers - it is not computers that mutate. For exact Darwinian evolution to work, even on abstract things - like sequence of letters, those stated rules should apply.

Things don't need to be of physical nature for us to apply the rules, or shell I put it like this: for rules to apply - there is no third party nor intent involved. Let me try to explain it on example of paper clips - using hand and splitting paper clip chain in response to roll of dice is not intent, it is mechanism in same sense that electrical charge acting on molecules is causing DNA to split. There are some rules (physic laws) and there is certain probability/randomness (inherent in QM for example).

Our hands take place of physics laws or rules, and dice place of probability / randomness. Intent is not the part of the equation.

It will still work the same - result will be the same even if there are no physical objects involved - on abstract level if we represent everything with information and states (and state transition functions). It is the same to have state transition function as is the rule "role the dice, and based on result split chain". It is "instruction" or "rule" in the same way that "I'm an electron and I'll attract negative electric charge with force being equal to ....". Does electron display intent or just follows the nature rules and laws? If we always follow the rule of the game, are we applying intent?

Would you still think of intent if it were a little robot who did splitting, roll of dice and all other actions? (And please don't say someone programmed that robot, because I can argue that there is chance, however small that such exact robot was produced as a result of supernova going off ... - let's consider that case :D ).

And on topic of reproduction vs living (or staying alive) - why didn't we evolve immunity to cancer for example? It happens in nature, there are organisms that evolved in such way as not to be affected by it. Well, you can observe interesting thing - there is higher probability to get cancer as you are older, after age of sexual maturity. Evolution simply does not care what happens to us after we are done with reproduction. Whatever trait expresses itself as positive after we are done with reproduction - it will simply be excluded out of evolution. Whichever trait shows itself as negative after we are done with reproduction will simply be passed on (it has already been passed on to new generation by that time) and we will not "evolve past it".

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43 minutes ago, vlaiv said:

let's consider that case :D ).

I am at work at present and can not partake in this discussion.  I wanted to let you know so that you didn't think I abandoned it.  later, when I have more time, I will return and respond to your response.

Rodd

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6 hours ago, vlaiv said:

And on topic of reproduction vs living (or staying alive) - why didn't we evolve immunity to cancer for example? It happens in nature, there are organisms that evolved in such way as not to be affected by it. Well, you can observe interesting thing - there is higher probability to get cancer as you are older, after age of sexual maturity. Evolution simply does not care what happens to us after we are done with reproduction. Whatever trait expresses itself as positive after we are done with reproduction - it will simply be excluded out of evolution. Whichever trait shows itself as negative after we are done with reproduction will simply be passed on (it has already been passed on to new generation by that time) and we will not "evolve past it".

My point was we need to be alive to reproduce.  Advantages that are passed onto progeny typically provide an advantage  for living.  Traits are past on because they provide an advantage for living to the age of reproduction.  A "good" trait will allow an individual to out survive one without that trait.  Evolution is carried out through reproduction which is ensured by longer life (Humans have almost stopped evolution due to our keeping everyone alive through medicine).  So I am talking about things like molluscs and birds--etc.

7 hours ago, vlaiv said:

Things don't need to be of physical nature for us to apply the rules, or shell I put it like this: for rules to apply - there is no third party nor intent involved. Let me try to explain it on example of paper clips - using hand and splitting paper clip chain in response to roll of dice is not intent, it is mechanism in same sense that electrical charge acting on molecules is causing DNA to split. There are some rules (physic laws) and there is certain probability/randomness (inherent in QM for example).

Our hands take place of physics laws or rules, and dice place of probability / randomness. Intent is not the part of the equation.

What you are talking about is random mutation...perhaps it works like that, but most mutations are benign, neither good or bad.  Your game requires that they always be good or bad.  Most evolution does not take place do to this type of mutation.  Most evolutionary change comes about by existing genetic phylogeny being selected because it gives an advantage.  Organisms can remain the same for long periods of time until a slight difference in ontogeny provides an advantage .  Your paper clip game is just to simplified.  

And I still say that it is third party involvement--without the game there would be no change.  To evolve an organism must evolve by itself .  How can a computer or software evolve by itself, without any command provided by us.  

 

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Don't forget that the evolutionary driver does not have to be at the level of the animal. According to Dawkins it's at the level of the gene, the animal being no more than its medium. I find him very convincing on this.

Back on consciousness, I remain open to the idea the observer may play a role. I wonder if reality might not be like an Ishihara colour test. The circle of dots is real enough and we can agree on that, but is there a in it? This depends on the observer. It would, in principle, be possible to write an entire novel in Ishihara colour tests. Not only that, but it would be possible in principle to embed a second and entirely different novel in it, the novel the individual perceived being dependent on the nature of their colour vision.

This may only be tenuously related to consciousness, but the history of science has taught us the Copenican principle. This warns us to be wary of missing some property of our local environment which influences our perception of what lies outside it. Personally I think that our perception of time may well be, in ways we don't realize, leading us into an impasse.* Or perhaps that, riding on the arrow of time, we are making some fundamental error of perception.

Olly

* I do find it rather exasperating that, in popular culture, Galileo is remembered for his spat with the church when what he should really be remembered for was the construction of a physics which identified and explained those properties of our local environment which were preventing us from accepting the reality of what lay beyond it. 

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48 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

but the history of science has taught us the Copenican principle.

Interesting - I took the principle to be don't put humans at the center of things ! In insisting on a roll for consciousness are we not reinstating our human centric view with a bang?

I am sure you are right that our perceptions of reality is based of our capabilities both in the range of sensors we have built in and our processing of these inputs. However, if we are wrong about the nature of time then what ever replaces it had better be able to reconstruct the diverse and compelling range of agreement between theory and experiment that supports QM, GR and more generally Chemistry, Physics and ... 

Unfortunately, proponents of different views never seem to address what is covered by current theories only what is missing. Clearly GR and QM can't ultimately (one or both) be right as they are incompatible but the do have a vast range of applicability.

48 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

According to Dawkins it's at the level of the gene, the animal being no more than its medium. I find him very convincing on this.

As do I.  I would also add that accumulated mutations may be neutral in an existing environment but beneficial or harming when the environment changes. 

An example is when the Spanish Flu killed more people with healthy immune systems than those with poor as it was the overreaction of the immune system that ultimately killed them.

Regards Andrew

 

Edited by andrew s

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@Rodd

I must admit that I'm too stubborn to let go of my abstract way of thinking, and for me, organisms (or other things) don't evolve by them selves, but rather by mechanisms described. We can never say that particular bird has evolved, we can say that "class" of birds has evolved - a lineage of very similar individuals each changing by some amount that we can classify as being same "bird" in sense that all chairs are chairs (by form and function). If we observe single bird we can never say that that particular specimen has evolved (on it's own - we must put it in context of mentioned lineage) - it is without evolutionary change from birth to death. Only thing that can happen to individual specimen is mutation that can be possibly passed on to next generation if it happens before reproduction cycle, and that it ends up in gene exchange.

Saying that without game there would be no change is equivalent to saying without life in environment there would be no change of birds - quite true, but still does not imply that there is third party involvement in either.

Back on main topic, I did some thinking about it, and here is what came out of it :D

Because Now is important in this discussion, it came to me that we should somehow define now before we start reasoning its place / involvement in the whole thing - and I ran into trouble right off the bat.

How can we describe local now? We generally take that it is a point on time axis - a single value in our equations. Problem is that single point in time is meaningless - it cannot be measured. Only thing that we can measure is interval of time.

Clock that sits at 12 o'clock does not measure anything, we can't tell how long has it been sitting in that position - it needs to tick at least once before we can say that there is measurement (to compare if it was shorter or longer to another tick of something else - by comparison of precedence).

This means that now has no physical meaning if we try to describe it by single value - it can be "tool" but without physical meaning. On the other hand if we define now to be interval - a smallest interval that can be measured, then there is another sort of trouble. If we imagine "smooth" universe where each change happens along mathematically smooth function - then there is no smallest interval where change happens. It is infinitesimally small. For each interval we can choose mid point and in that mid point smooth universe will be at a different state than on end points - so any interval consists out of two smaller intervals where there is change in system and time "flowed".

In above case we can say that now is mathematical limit where change interval tends to 0 and that now is effectively single point - but I'm feeling that this approach is robbing us of objective now and puts it back into abstract / tool category.

There is other case that may be: there is fundamentally smallest change in system, or system states are discrete in nature. There is sequence of jumps in everything - position, energy, all physical processes happen as if on a movie - succession of frames. This does not mean that space is quantized, although we need to think about that one give space-time relationship given thru relativity. It just means that time is quantized - and now is current frame.

Not trying force false dichotomy - there might be a third option that I have not considered.

On the other hand, there is whole different line of reasoning - what if now is consequence of consciousness? It's a "feeling" that we have, like love, pride, jealousy. In this scenario - it's all time all the time and passing of time is just a "glitch" of consciousness - it is not time that "flows" it is our perception of time dimension as if it flows. I know this is highly abstract, and I'm not sure it is falsifiable at all - but still food for thought I would say.

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1 hour ago, andrew s said:

Interesting - I took the principle to be don't put humans at the center of things ! In insisting on a roll for consciousness are we not reinstating our human centric view with a bang?

I am sure you are right that our perceptions of reality is based of our capabilities both in the range of sensors we have built in and our processing of these inputs. However, if we are wrong about the nature of time then what ever replaces it had better be able to reconstruct the diverse and compelling range of agreement between theory and experiment that supports QM, GR and more generally Chemistry, Physics and ... 

Unfortunately, proponents of different views never seem to address what is covered by current theories only what is missing. Clearly GR and QM can't ultimately (one or both) be right as they are incompatible but the do have a vast range of applicability.

As do I.  I would also add that accumulated mutations may be neutral in an existing environment but beneficial or harming when the environment changes. 

An example is when the Spanish Flu killed more people with healthy immune systems than those with poor as it was the overreaction of the immune system that ultimately killed them.

Regards Andrew

 

I wouldn't expect a new theory of time to do more than generalize our present theories, so what we already explain would be retained. Of course I don't 'expect' a new theory of time to emerge but I do feel it might.

I didn't know about the Spanish Flu, though there are species which reproduce without the normal level of mutation arising from the usual sexual means. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/science/meet-the-all-female-fish-wowing-the-world-of-science-1.3391737

Olly

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52 minutes ago, vlaiv said:

How can we describe local now?

I have been trying to understand time since the 1970s. I have read numerous books taking a philosophical, scientific and biological approaches and am yet to find consensus across them.

In modern physical theory time is a parameter on a continuous curve defined on the space-time manifold. In QM and SR this is flat Minkowski space-time and in GR curved Riemannian/Einsteinian space-time which in small enough regions conforms to flat space-time. " Now for an event" is well defined as the point at which the event occurs (space and time) as viewed in a particular co-ordinate system. What is invariant between frames it that they agree on the past and future light cones of the event.

The idea of time came about as we observed things changed and our own perceptions of that change. Our physiological sense of time and now is just that and is far removed from the abstraction of time and now in the description I gave above. I doubt we will be able to reconcile them here as they are fundamentally different perspectives. They are the same words having very different meaning in the two contexts - not uncommon with technical language v everyday usage.

Regards Andrew

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55 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

I didn't know about the Spanish Flu, though there are species which reproduce without the normal level of mutation arising from the usual sexual means. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/science/meet-the-all-female-fish-wowing-the-world-of-science-1.3391737

This is quite interesting. Evolution in this case can still happen, but at a much much slower rate and only with branching. There is no mixing of traits here. Each offspring is clone of original, and only mechanism of evolving is in random mutations. So it is not mix of traits that can "boost" fitness function, but rather only beneficial mutations - and it will always lead to branching of new "species", since such mutation cannot find its way into original gene pool.

If there is uniformity in gene pool of such species - this means that most mutations were not passed on - either by being harmful in context of evolution, or by pure chance - individual with said mutation was eaten ... :D

It can also be sign that mutation rate is rather slow - text indicates that species can be traced only 100000-200000 years back - and that is almost "now" in evolutionary terms :D

 

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4 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

Don't forget that the evolutionary driver does not have to be at the level of the animal. According to Dawkins it's at the level of the gene, the animal being no more than its medium. I find him very convincing on this.

Back on consciousness, I remain open to the idea the observer may play a role. I wonder if reality might not be like an Ishihara colour test. The circle of dots is real enough and we can agree on that, but is there a in it? This depends on the observer. It would, in principle, be possible to write an entire novel in Ishihara colour tests. Not only that, but it would be possible in principle to embed a second and entirely different novel in it, the novel the individual perceived being dependent on the nature of their colour vision.

This may only be tenuously related to consciousness, but the history of science has taught us the Copenican principle. This warns us to be wary of missing some property of our local environment which influences our perception of what lies outside it. Personally I think that our perception of time may well be, in ways we don't realize, leading us into an impasse.* Or perhaps that, riding on the arrow of time, we are making some fundamental error of perception.

Olly

* I do find it rather exasperating that, in popular culture, Galileo is remembered for his spat with the church when what he should really be remembered for was the construction of a physics which identified and explained those properties of our local environment which were preventing us from accepting the reality of what lay beyond it. 

 

I agree.  Not only does it happen at the gene level, but the clade and species level as well (drift).

With respect to understanding, we do not see the entire picture, and we do not understand what we do see.  Add a little piece, and everything changes.  

Rodd

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3 hours ago, andrew s said:

As do I.  I would also add that accumulated mutations may be neutral in an existing environment but beneficial or harming when the environment changes. 

An example is when the Spanish Flu killed more people with healthy immune systems than those with poor as it was the overreaction of the immune system that ultimately killed them.

Regards Andrew

No question a mutation, or existing ontogeny, can lay dormant as far as utility or non-utility, for long periods of time.  An example would be a mutation that allows an organism to survive on less H2O.  In a wet environment, this would go unnoticed until the climate changed.

Rodd

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