Just want to say I have a quibble with the first quote. I find that one of the most useful things in the world is to find someone or something that agrees with you on 90% of your beliefs and disagrees on the other 10%. I find that this makes it very difficult to dismiss them as idiots (after all, they share the vast majority of my beliefs) and makes me really examine that last 10% to see if I'm perhaps wrong on some of them.
I can't afford the Summit itself, but I'd love to attend the Meetup. I work on Thursday and Friday and it would take me at least an hour to commute to San Jose.
So, my only request is that if its on a weekday, that arriving at 7:00 or 7:30 pm wouldn't make the trip futile. (ie, doesn't pack up by 8:00 pm, or feature a 6:00 pm supper...)
I have to agree completely with the contents of this post. I've spent years trying to explain to people how terribly unlikely DNA is to be the genetic material of an alien life from, but with little success. Heck, even carbon isn't essential (although I would expect it to be a common case).
I find it interesting that I found many of the posts leading up to this one intensely hard to follow as they seemed to be arguing against worldviews that I had little or no comprehension of.
So, I must say that I am very relieved to see that your take on what morality is, is what I've been assuming it is, all along: just a fascinating piece of our internal planning software.
The contents of these blog posts may never make it into a paper book, but I'd love to someday be able to download a .pdf (or other format file) of them so that I could carry them around on an ebook reader, for when I need to explain to someone something that was explained well here.
@Eliezer: You say If you took one world and extrapolated backward, you'd get many pasts. If you take the many worlds and extrapolate backward, all but one of the resulting pasts will cancel out!
If this is true, then why do we calculate forward based only on our current configuration? If we took all the many worlds in our possible pasts and extrapolated forward, would they cancel out all but a single future?
The thing about the concept of a block universe that bothers me is the question of the reversibility of the Schrödinger equations. I have been told that they are so, but I have to take it on faith that they are completely time-symmetric since they are just beyond where I am comfortable in Mathematics.
So, if one looks at the current configuration space for a point of 'now', and works the equations backwards, does one get only one possible past, or an large number of possible pasts? If its the former, how can one claim that the equations are time symmetric? If its the latter, why don't we remember all of those quantum possibilities?
I only discovered Julian Barbour's work a few weeks ago, in my ongoing reading, so I'm extremely pleased to be seeing your take on his stuff.
This gives me a second perspective to check my understanding against.
I must admit that I'm only managing to follow about 75% of your arguments. Still, I'm slowly building up a mental model of what entanglement is really all about that's substantially different than what I had before.
I know that this model is superior because, for the first time, the concept of entangled photon holes doesn't appear to be meaningless nonsense.
Ever since I read QED a few years ago, I've wanted to write a Quantum Ray-Tracing package that would use a discrete version of this summation over arrows to render scenes composed of a 3D grid of particles. It would have the advantage that certain classical ray-tracing problems having to do with questions of what, exactly, is a surface and its normal would go away. It would also correctly render diffraction gratings, butterfly wings and oil slicks, just given their physical arrangements.
On the negative side, it would require some serious R&D into rendering algorithms to get the computation times down to acceptable levels. Alas, I've never had the leisure to spend that kind of time on the problem.