Aug 19, 2023

Process Physics, Time and Consciousness — Presentation Whitehead Psychology Nexus 2015

Posted by in categories: physics, robotics/AI, space

Conference presentation of “Process Physics, Time and Consciousness: Nature as an internally meaningful, habit-establishing process.” As presented at the Whitehead Psychology Nexus Workshop Conference held in Fontareches, France, March 27-30th, 2015 (with some minor adjustments). For full published paper, see: (date of publication: October 18, 2017).


Process Physics, Time and Consciousness: Nature as an internally meaningful, habit-establishing process.

Author: Jeroen B. J. van Dijk, Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

Ever since Einstein’s arrival at the forefront of science, mainstream physics likes to think of nature as a giant 4-dimensional spacetime continuum in which all of eternity exists all at once – in one timeless block universe. Accordingly, much to the dismay of more process-minded researchers, the experience of an ongoing present moment is typically branded as illusory.
Mainstream physics is having a hard time, though, to provide a well-founded defense for this illusoriness of time. This is because physics, as an empirical science, is itself utterly dependent on experience to begin with. Moreover, if nature were indeed purely physical – as contemporary mainstream physics wants us to believe – it’s quite difficult to see how it could ever be able to give rise to something so explicitly non-physical like conscious experience. On top of this, the argument of time’s illusoriness becomes even more doubtful in view of the extra-ordinary level of sophistication that would be required for our conscious experience to achieve such an utterly convincing, but – physically speaking – pointless illusion.
It’s because of problems like these that process thought has persistently objected against this ‘eternalism’ of mainstream physics. Just recently, physicist Lee Smolin even brought up some other major arguments against this timeless picture in his controversial 2013 book ‘Time Reborn’. And although he passionately argues that physics should take an entirely different direction, he admits that he has no readily available roadmap to success.
Fortunately, however, over the last 15 years or so, a neo-Whiteheadian, ‘neurobiologically inspired’ way of doing foundational physics, namely Reg Cahill’s Process Physics, has been making its appearance on the scene. Process Physics aims to model the universe as an initially orderless and uniform process plenum by setting up a stochastic, self-referential modeling of nature. In Process Physics, all self-referential and initially noisy activity patterns are “mutually in-formative” as they are actively making a meaningful difference to (i.e. “in-forming”) each other. Due to this mutual in-formativeness, the stochastic activity patterns will act as “start-up seeds” that become engaged in self-renewing update iterations. In this way, the system starts to evolve from its initial featurelessness to then “branch out” to higher and higher levels of complexity – all this according to the same basic principles as a naturally evolving neural network.
Because of this “neuromorphic” behaviour, the process system can be thought of as habit-bound with a potential for creative novelty and open-ended evolution. Furthermore, threedimensionality, gravitational and relativistic effects, nonlocality, and classical behaviour are spontaneously emergent within the system. Also, the system’s constantly renewing activity patterns bring along an inherent present moment effect, thereby reintroducing time as the system’s ongoing change. As a final point, subjectivity – in the form of mutual informativeness – is a naturally evolving, innate feature, not a coincidental, later-arriving side-effect.

Main references:

Leave a reply