Can we extinguish the controversy between determinism and indeterminism?

Abstract: Indeterminism has come to upset our representation of the world. Quantum theory shakes the assurance of the layman… but reinforces that of the physicist, who sees the world through equations. The theory shows a perfect example of ontological emergence, which questions the fundamental character of ‘elementary’ forces. The article suggests that there are only configurational forces throughout the complex dimension. The notion of probability is revisited. Probable states become real in an independent level of reality. Microscopic and macroscopic each have their existence. The two are inseparable and start a direction of look towards each other. In the upward direction, complexity self-constitutes indeterministically. In the downward direction, it is constituted deterministically. The opposition between determined and indeterminate reality dissolves.

A ‘cantice’ entanglement

A race of aliens observes the Earth. The difference in scale and time with them is such that human activity seems to them a frenetic ballet of infinitesimal grains, as random as dust in a draft. Impossible, for these E.T., to predict the movement of these grains except with the help of an original method: they can, thanks to an impulse, materialize other particles on the surface of the Earth. Humans thus see a host of new and interesting things springing up out of nowhere, magic tools, delicious dishes, objects that remain mysterious.

Humans rush to stuff themselves, then raise their arms to the sky and sing prayers of thanks. Scientists E.T. watch the tiny grains gather and emit melodious waves. They are astonished by this bizarre physics: the movement of the grains is impossible to predict except when the impulse interacts with them. Even more astounding: the grains, independent in normal times, are superimposed in the same place, amplifying the unique melody. The E.T. decide to call this phenomenon ‘cantice entanglement’…

A virtual burst but not sensitive

Quantum theory. Popularization books make it their duty to insist on the fragmentation of our vision of the reality that it induces. But isn’t knowledge a series of reversals of the same kind? Shortly before the fullness of material things had given way to an immense void, inhabited only by tiny atomic points. Deletion of the substance. Absolute time has also proved to be a decoy. Here we are accompanied by our personal time, shared with neighbors only because they evolve at a speed relatively close to ours. The points of matter turn out to be a superposition of probabilities. Is it a much more terrifying evanescence than the previous ones? The reality is always palpable, our senses show us the same. It has only been enriched, thanks to amazing technologies. These are additional planes of reality that are being created, not the previous ones that are fading.

I even find quantum field theory curiously reassuring: it describes reality at its scale with unprecedented precision, and replaces nothingness with field lines and a teeming virtual quantum populace. Never has the void been occupied so densely! I am no longer surprised that it is exhausting to walk a whole day, even without apparent obstacles…

Regain of fundamental assurance

For physicists, behind the inconvenience of mathematics difficult to appropriate, the renewed confidence is obvious. From now on, reality is freed from insoluble philosophical discussions about essence and substance. Everything takes place in mathematical spaces.

Particles of matter have become excitations of a field specific to them. Each is a wave of the smallest possible intensity related to the energy of the particle. It walks in its personal universe. In the absence of particles, the fields are always present, at rest, like a wrinkle-free pond when no breeze blows. But in fact they are never completely immobile, they oscillate slightly: quantum fluctuations expected by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

The term ‘particle’ is no longer appropriate. Quantum individuation can be as well point, wave, cloud. His properties no longer belong to him. They only appear in interactions with other fields. This individual known only mathematically is now called ‘quanton’.

An unmissable experience

You are certainly familiar with the experience of the double slit, the variants of which show all the strangeness of the quantum world. A photon passes between transmitter and receiver through 2 slots A and B. If it does not encounter interaction, it is impossible to tell if it passes through slot A or B. It produces interference with itself on the receiver.

If any device interacts with the photon to find out if it is going through A or B, the interference is destroyed. The existence of this information is sufficient. No need to show it. For example, polarizing the photon by passing through a mica plate, without trying to measure its polarization afterwards, destroys the interference. If the information about the path is canceled (e.g. the photon passes through a 45° polarization plate that randomly changes its polarized state), the interference reappears.

This quantum phenomenon affects not only elementary particles, but also molecules. NH3 has two possible spatial configurations: the nitrogen atom above or below the triangle formed by the 3 hydrogen atoms. The molecule is in a superimposed state of the two configurations until an interaction has specified the position of N.

Conclusion: a quanton has no definitive properties until it is involved in an interaction. Spatial location, kinetic moment, spin… all properties are affected. The measurement of one of them determines it (collapse of superimposed states into a single state called eigenstate),but the others become impossible to know (Heisenberg uncertainty principle).

Independent existence level

Two quantons are each in their superimposed states and together present all the combinations of these states. An interaction between them can reduce the possible combinations for a property. ‘Entanglement’: Measuring the property for one of the quantons indicates the state of the other. Entanglement does not take into account the distance between the quantons. It is the set of 2 quantons that has the superposition of the states and no longer the individual quantons. When the set has a defined state, those of the individual quantons are not. The whole is a level of existence independent of the parties.

We have here a perfect example of ontological emergence, which sounds the death knell of eiminativism. Why aren’t micromechanisms everything? Because these are precisely a reduced, arbitrary vision of complex reality. The ‘elementary forces’ are also consequences of this arbitrary reduction. They must be stripped of their fundamental character. There are only configurational forces throughout the complex dimension.

For our quantons, the level of existence ‘fusion’ does not make disappear that of the ‘parties’. In quantum phase transitions, there is a renegotiation between the parts and their fusion. The birth of one level by the previous one is continuous. The primacy of the parties is undeniable in the exchange they maintain with their fusion.

Is emergence only quantum?

The microscopic introduced strange and unexpected uncertainties. It is tempting to think that fusion, as an emergence, is limited to the quantum level. This is the discourse that prevailed until the end of the twentieth century. A macroscopic object is seen as the meeting of its deterministic elements and not as an independent fusion imposed on them. Be careful when looking for an example. In an excellent physics book I read in support of eliminativism: “The state of an office is the sum of the states of its individual components (materials, books, pencils …) and not an office imposing its independent state on the components.”

Unfortunate example that has nothing of a fusion. The office can be seen as a system organized by a human but it is not a self-organized level. The organization exists only in the mind of its owner. Simple collection of objects. A true example of macroscopic fusion is a bacterium, whose fate (movement, composition, duplication, symbiosis, etc.) is understandable only from its higher level of existence. Understandable as a functional fusion and not as an assembly of organelles (let alone its molecules). While the fate of the office lies… in the attachment that its owner has to it.

Social intricacies

There are authentic entanglements in the macroscopic world, very far from the quantum level. Human minds are entangled by social memes. These concepts cloned in mental structures make people decide on similar acts, regardless of their location on the planet. Humans entangle their memes by having read the same book, or held a discussion that has coordinated opinions.

Memes are codifications of neural patterns with undeniable physical existence. As with quantum entanglement, they have a distribution, not a spatial location. Existence independent of the place, which we tend to say ‘virtual’ because of pure information. But isn’t all material things likewise an information structure? The boundary between hardware and virtual is erased. We could replace these terms with ‘localized physical information’ and ‘distributed physical information’.

Revisiting Probability

The dissolution of the boundary between virtual and real goes far beyond the quantum world. This radical paradigm shift impacts our entire view of reality. To understand this, let’s first revisit the most common version of this paradigm:

When we think of ‘probability’ it is as a virtual possibility, eventuality of realization among others. A probability has no reality. Not yet. Not until the fact happened. But we have just seen that this is false at least for quantum facts. All the states of a quantum particle are real, each affected by its probability rate. The quanton is the superposition of all these states. None can be missing for a full performance. It is the whole that, during an interaction, decides its result. The totality is organized with that of other particles to form an outcome that is also a superposition of probabilities.

What about macroscopic facts? Before its occurrence, does not a fact already really exist, in the elements that form its probability of realization? These elements are stacks of levels organized from the quantum echelon. Their own existences are proven. That is, their constitutive probabilities are stabilized in their current existences. An element, or fact, is the final organization of superimposed probabilities. A probability is not then virtual, in the sense that it would not yet exist. It is perfectly real. It is simply likely to disappear in favor of another during an interaction. Just like any other organization.

Just another way to look

This is the astonishing paradigm shift brought about by the quantum world. Not really a theory in itself. Rather another way of looking at reality. The existence of things is the one we know. The uniqueness of a macroscopic element or fact remains the same. It is only in the constitution, the prior existence that has become an intimate structure, that probabilities are introduced. Each element or fact must be seen as aggregation of real probabilities, and something more as this agglomerate. Fusion that corresponds to the substance that we usually attribute to things.

Our paradigm shift extinguishes the opposition between determinism and indeterminism. It is their alternation that builds reality. Reality seeks its possible organizational solutions by writing very real probabilities. Phase of indeterministic relationship. It chooses one. Deterministic organization phase over the underlying structure. When we look at reality in the complex dimension: through the upward direction, it is constituted in an indeterministic way; by the downward direction, it is constituted in a deterministic way.

The choice is no longer necessary

Precious conclusion for our purpose. It exempts us from making the choice of a deterministic or indeterministic foundation to reality. A major obstacle disappears. Indeed, quantum theory is a probabilistic model verified from the top, but impossible to verify from below. We have the top-down confirmation but not the ascending. We do not have the necessary observation resolution, stopped by the technological limit. It is impossible to eliminate the non-local superdeterministic or deterministic theses as the foundation of reality. No matter: we no longer need an ultimate foundation and we have dissolved the opposition between determined and indeterminate reality.


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