This draft-state article explores the implications of pilot-wave theory (see) on the "big questions" in life, assuming that pilot-wave theory is indeed adequate and that the universe is deterministic on a physical level.

Pilot-wave theory is simply chaos theory taking to the particle level: the deterministic laws of nature are not out of force, but "everything interacts with everything else", so we can't see them in action because it's all a mess …

Note that pilot-wave theory requires a universe with infinite resolution for the amplitude of the pilot wave function, and potentially also infinite resolution on the time scale, as else all the observed "randomness" cannot be explained.

It might be a good imagery to thing of the universe as a three-dimensional pulsating field of energy, with mass particles being nothing but reasonably stable artifacts of energy, like the droplets in those pilot-wave droplet experiments. In the end, mass is just energy, and can be converted back to energy (even elementary particles, by combining with their antimatter particles). That energy then leads to higher local pulsing of the energy field, creating "splashes" that then again become reasonably stable artifacts of energy (particles). Not all energy is bound in particles though (see "dark energy").

Maybe Planck's constant h can be interpreted as the basic "frequency" that is applied to the energy of the universe, in analogy to the frequency to apply to the silicone oil bath in pilot-wave droplet experiments to enable stable droplets? Because h indeed influences the masses of all elementary particles that can exist. But if that's the case, who applies or applied this frequency to the universe's energy? God?

Also, if the universe is deterministic, there cannot have been a "Big Bang" causes by a random quantum fluctuation of nothing. There has to be a reason for the universe instead. That's why putting the pilot-wave theory to the test and finding out if it is true is so important.

Another interesting implication of pilot-waave theory is that the universe is deterministic, but non-predictable at the same time. Assuming that the energy field (or whatever carries the wave function of the universe) is objective reality that exists independently from God, and that God "only" implemented matter in a certain configuration with this energy on creation, it would imply that not even God can predict the course of the universe. This (somewhat silly) nothing would follow form the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: "The positions and momenta of the particles are considered to be the hidden variables. However, the observer not only doesn't know the precise value of these variables, but more importantly, cannot know them precisely because any measurement disturbs them – as stipulated by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle." [source].

Assuming pilot-wave theory, the whole course of actions in the universe would be determined by the initial positions and momenta of particles. Or rather, of wave functions, as there can be empty wave functions [source]. The initial phase space of the wave functions would encode the whole history of the universe, then including the abiogenesis of life. In total, the initial states in the phase space could be randomly distributed, according to the quantum equilibrium hypothesis [source]. What is relevant is not  the distribution of phase states, but instead each individual phase state at each individual point of space. These, taken together, would be the variables that deterministically define the whole history of the universe at particle level. Or taken the other way round, by choosing a proper configuration of these (if you were God you could), you could choose any (or at least one of many different) history of the world that is possible within the laws of nature. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle would not be a limiting factor, as it just prohibits you from measuring the phase space values in action, not from setting them in the first place. But, such a clockwork universe would be a boring one … now free will!

Both pilot-wave theory and orthodox Copenhagen interpretation quantum theory are interpretations for the exact same experiment measurements. So for predicting results and for engineering, both are just as good, and preference would be a matter of style. The real difference is however the question if the universe is deterministic, or not. But even that has not too huge metaphysical interpretations, as we show below that free will is initially incompatible with both interpretations.

Can there be "free will" in a deterministic universe?

The naive notion of free will is of no use, and makes no sense. It assumes a monadic, atomic source of high-level decisions / goals, coming out of that source "out of free will" (which for an observer is equivalent to saying "for no reason", "guided by pure randomness"). Such a source, if existing, would be no useful notion of free will at all, as (1) randomness or unreasonableness that the "self" cannot influence cannot be a justification to judge the self for ethical / unethical behavior and more importantly (2) decisions are always complex results of complex processes, so you need a system to make them, not a transcendent atomic "source" that can, if anything, output a binary value.

However, there is room for a meaningful notion of "free will" even in a deterministic universe. As follows:

  • Like atoms etc. are reasonable stable energy wave patterns in the pilot wave world, memes (thought systems, visions etc.) are reasonably stable artifacts of brains. This is esp. true for "conscience", the emergent condition of "knowing, processing and understanding" enough about the world as to be able to be aware of ones own existence as part of the world, ones own options to interact with the world, and their potential outcomes.
  • Given conscience, ethical behavior is possible and can be expected as an emergence of conscience (namely as "feedfront": anticipated learning by feedback). But unethical behavior is also possible.
  • Now what causes the difference between ethical and unethical behavior in people, and is it justified to judge them / punish them based on this difference?
  • The hypothesis is here: choosing between ethical and unethical behavior is guided by "identity", a concept encompassing everything a person is. So it can be influenced by everything, including (occasionally) variations in bain chemistry that are caused by energy wave events outside of the person. However, the component that is justified to judge is the part of a person's identity that is in "thoughtspace". Namely, values, their vision of the world how they want it to be etc.. These "thoughtspace artifacts" develop slowly, over time: they are reasonably stable, isolating them from being destroyed by small external events. The hypothesis here is that "thoughtspace" is non-deterministic, because it consists of reasonably stable artifacts (thoughts etc.) that interact with other rules than the deterministic matter with which they are implemented. Means: they interact with the rules of information, which are "spiritual".
  • This above hypothesis that people "choose" to be good or bad over time is of course refuted by history: everyone chooses to be bad, to some degree. From a Christian viewpoint, people can only choose / accept to be redeemed, not to be good. But that would again be an act of "free will": the outcome depends on the person (their aggregate identity), not on any single cause that can be determined, and not based on rules that can be determined. There are patterns, but we can't explain all the variations of why this or that individual person has decided this or that way. This is largely because every case is unique, and there is no way to "repeat a life", or to simulate it so that all conditions that make it unique are incorporated. So in the end, nobody knows (also not God) how a person will decide, as there is no calculation capacity (no "parallel universe") to simulate the pilot wave conditions in for predicting the outcome. All of the universe is needed to calculate it, there's no space capacity.
  • Or even simpler: There is free will because there is conscience. Conscience implies that a person understands the world she is in, and the potential consequences of her actions, and hen acts a certain way. So to the degree that a person knew the consequences before, and could process the outcome, judging the behavior afterwards is justified. However, perfectly knowing the consequences and being able to process options perfectly would always result in perfect behavior (right?), which means that there is no justification for judging non-perfect behavior. But that logic might exactly be the logic of grace: God does not want to judge anyone for being and acting bad, as all the people were missing the light to be better … . So if God does in the end still judge people, it must mean that these people had the option to decide better (the only instance being, to accept Christ as savior). But then, how could they decide better, in a deterministic universe? Only if in "thoughtspace", there is an entity ("spirit", "heart", "moral conscience" etc.) which is self-referential and able to choose and thereby influence its own moral quality. Means, people who are evil (esp. by not accepting Christ against better knowledge) are so knowingly, and continuously, while still being able to be different.
  • The hypothesis that thoughtspace artifacts can enable non-deterministic behavior in a deterministic world can be tested by trying to create a software implementation of a conscience and trying to observe non-deterministic behavior even though letting the software start from completely identical input and adding no extra input over time and also not giving the software access to randomness. If multiple runs of that sofware lead to different results (like in reasoning, developing a vision for the world etc.), then thoughtspace is non-deterministic. It requires however (maybe) a level of intelligence on par with humans, including extensive training to understand the world. However, without random influence it is logically impossible that runs from the same starting conditions on a deterministic machine lead to non-deterministic results. So we need randomness. If both instances receive the same input as randomness, they would again lead to the same results. Which means, now results depend on the random input, not on the algorithm. And randomness cannot be called "free will". So even if quantum theory is correct and the world is fuzzy and random, there could still be no free will??
  • However, then again "being creative" is clearly an effect of free will. From that we see that, if free will should be a reasonable concept at all, it has to include both aspects of randomness (the input and inspirations that creatives seek) and reasoning (the thoughtspace activity that creates something meaningful out of the random input). This is however only the perspective of the individual: if there is no real randomness (as in pilot wave theory), then the behavior is still predetermined.
  • It seems necessary to understand the role that information plays for agency ("free will"). Human beings cannot emerge by chance, they have been created. That act of creating them changed the world. The big question is, did it change the world in a deterministic or non-deterministic manner?
  • Another approach: The question if there is free will is not relevant because God and also we ourselves would not stop judging and punishing actions even if that would not be justified. We would do it because we don't like these action and don't want them to spread. Like putting sexual offenders in jail. Or like a holy God not wanting to have community with sinners. It's against his character. Thus ultimately, judging behavior is an expression of a conflict, and does not need free will or agency. Like we pull up weeds: not because they have free will and deserve to be judged for wrongdoing, but because we don't want them to grow where they grow. From this obviously follows that there would not be any active punishment ("torture") of sinners for their wrongdoing, just being removed from God's presence. And to be fair, it would have to be annihilation, or at least a bearabe mixture of good and bad as on earth. Also, this approach makes the ultimate question not about free will, but about why the world did not stay holy as God wanted it to be. The question is about the origin of evil then! (And really, who needs "real" free will, if we can be creative and have fun doing so.) Without free will, the world could indeed be seen as a war of evil against good, each side having seemly limited (or self-limited?) options in that war, and trying to win it. Both good and evil would be "contagious".
  • So, what about the origin of evil? The Bible does not really give an answer, since the story of the Fall of Satan is very figurative and could mean something else (it talks about a certain historic king in the first place, anyway). Potentially, Satan ("evil") is eternal just as God ("good") is. Or potentially, the origin of evil is the only non-deterministic event that ever happened, and is a mystery even to God …
  • But anyway, interpreting judging and punishment as war (without free will) rather than moral act (for an act of free will) does not help either, as war in a deterministic (rather: materialistic) world is not a meaningful concept: there would not be a will to war, just the ticking of a clockwork …
  • Another way of introducing free will into the Copenhagen interpretation quantum theory is (perhaps) to claim that the mind acts like
  • Of course, materialists will always argue that there is still no free will because its thought processes are implemented deterministically, or with randomness elements at best. Perhaps this is true in the sense that it allows to refute the idea that the free will we observe in ourself could ever have appeared via evolution: there has to be free will at the start to continue having free will. (But if so, how do we explain that newly conceived human beings obviously acquire their free will at some point?)
  • So the big question is, after all: does matter drive the mind, or does mind drive matter? From neurological studies (effects of drugs etc.) it is apparent that matter drives the mind at least in part. But also on the overall, highest level of "consciousness"? Because apparently, I can move a finger when I want it … means, mind drive matter, right? To reconcile this intuitive notion of free will with physics (in whatever interpretation of quantum theory) it could be argued that the mind becomes gradually independent from matter, and being able to drive matter rather than the other way round, by learning more about matter. That is, by understanding the world around you. With an operationally complete understanding of the world, the word has a full (or sufficiently full) representation in the mind, which allows detailed simulations in thoughtspace (though processes, decision making etc.) before then implementing them in the real world. This capacity to reason about the world, including both creativity and repeated self-feedback of results, would be the way how "free will" is implemented. It can be considered free even if individual thought processes are deterministic, since humans tend to think something over multiple times, each time starting from a slightly different starting point (even if the variation is just more or less hunger etc.) and to come up with different results accordingly. And then, to valuate these results, and that is where the freedom comes in. Because the decision for one of the alternative options is not based on randomness or simple determinism, but on an understanding of the different options. Understanding is a spiritual activity, in thoughtspace, even though implemented in matter. The algorithm for it is non-deterministical as it includes feedback: "try to understand until you understand".
  • Possibly, relativistic effects (what is considered instantaneous from which point of view) introduce non-determinism without randomness, and thus the opportunity for free will, into a pilot-wave theory universe?

In the end, it is obvious that we don't know anything …

The most interesting idea from this discourse is the brazen (because logically impossible) hypothesis that conscious information systems (human brains) could derive non-deterministic results from deterministic input and with deterministic means. If we can prove that experimentally, it is for certain that history even in a deterministic pilot-theory universe is not boring at all 🙂 Because people could enact these non-deterministic results of their thoughspace processes, introducing non-determinism into the physical space. However, this question if deterministic brains can produce non-deterministic results is well-known in philosoph aready, and still debated [source].

The other interesting finding here is that both orthodox quantum theory (with real randomness) and pilot-theory (with full determinism) have no obvious or non-obvious but proven space for free will. If you want to uphold free will (or the idea of spirit, relationships, contact to God etc.) you have to dive into physics and find the blind spot.

One thought on “Pilot-wave theory implications on the Big Questions

  1. The problem I have is this. Roger Shawyer’s work is to me consistent with Pilot Wave theory. Yet I cannot reconcile that with the current view of space-time as a pseudo riemannian manifold. I tend to support Garret Lisi’s view, but there are problems there too. To say it’s a hard problem is an understatement.

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