This week’s speaker – Lee Smolin

Please join us (online) on Wednesday February 24th, for a talk by Lee Smolin, titled “Temporal naturalism”. The abstract is below, we start at 10am ET, and full details including registration are at

Abstract: I discuss the progress of a research program called temporal naturalism, whose aim is to reframe naturalism and relationalism based on the hypotheses that time is fundamental, while space is emergent.   By the fundamentality of time we mean that all that is real are causal processes that continually make definite facts out of previously  indefinites possibilities, thereby producing novel events out of predecessor events.   
Good beables to construct such a theory from are the views of events, which describe what properties an event was endowed with from its predecessor events, such as energy and momentum.  Thus there is a single universe made up of partial views of itself.

In a relational setting and with no distance, coordinates, fields, trajectories to draw from, the dynamics must be formulated in terms of views, and in particular in terms of differences amongst views.   The change between the view of an event and its immediate predecessors provides a notion of kinetic energy while potential energy is related to the variety, which is the total diversity of present causally unrelated views.  This is enough to derive a version of many body quantum theory; which lives in a space that we show emerges from the solutions of the theory. Thus the program shows promise of reconciling both the problems of quantum foundations and quantum gravity, within a single completion.   

The part of the program just described has been developed under the names of energetic causal sets and the causal theory of views.  Another key aspect is the view that the laws of physics cannot be fixed, but must evolve, in a way as to explain howthe choices the universe has made of the fundamental forces and particles have come about through an evolutionary, dynamical process.   If there is time I will discuss three realizations of this idea: cosmological natural selection, the principle of precedence and the hypothesis that the vacua of quantum fields can learn to navigate a landscape of possible laws, usingthe same mechanisms that allow a deep neural network to learn.

This work has appeared in six books and a number of papers; key collaborators have included Julian Barbour,Fotini Markopoulou, Stuart Kauffman, Joao Magueijo, Stephon Alexander, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Jaron Lanier, Marina Cortes, Andrew Liddle and Clelia Verde.


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