Comments on the Possibilist Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, aka Models vs. Reality

Reality is what it is. Everything else is just a model.

From Plato to Einstein to random humans like myself, we are all trying to figure out what makes this world tick. Sometimes I think I get it pretty well, but I know that I am still a product of my times, and therefore my view of reality is seen through the lens of today’s technology and state of scientific advancement. As such, I would be a fool to think that I have it all figured out. As should everyone else.

At one point in our recent past, human scientific endeavor wasn’t so humble. Just a couple hundred years ago, we thought that atoms were the ultimate building blocks of reality and everything could be ultimately described by equations of mechanics. How naïve that was, as 20th century physics made abundantly clear. But even then, the atom-centric view of physics was not reality. It was simply a model. So is every single theory and equation that we use today, regardless of whether it is called a theory or a law: Relativistic motion, Schrodinger’s equation, String Theory, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – all models of some aspect of reality.

We seek to understand our world and derive experiments that push forward that knowledge. As a result of the experiments, we define models to best fit the data.

One of the latest comes from quantum physicist Ruth Kastner in the form of a model that better explains the anomalies of quantum mechanics. She calls the model the Possibilist Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (PTI), an updated version of John Cramer’s Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (TIQM, or TI for short) proposed in 1986. The transactional nature of the theory comes from the idea that the wavefunction collapse behaves like a transaction in that there is an “offer” from an “emitter” and a “confirmation” from an “absorber.” In the PTI enhancement, the offers and confirmations are considered to be outside of normal spacetime and therefore the wavefunction collapse creates spacetime rather than occurs within it. Apparently, this helps to explain some existing anomalies, like uncertainty and entanglement.

This is all cool and seems to serve to enhance our understanding of how QM works. However, it is STILL just a model, and a fairly high level one at that. And all models are approximations, approximating a description of reality that most closely matches experimental evidence.

Underneath all models exist deeper models (e.g. string theory), many as yet to be supported by real evidence. Underneath those models may exist even deeper models. Consider this layering…

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 8.18.55 PM

Every layer contains models that may be considered to be progressively closer to reality. Each layer can explain the layer above it. But it isn’t until you get to the bottom layer that you can say you’ve hit reality. I’ve identified that layer as “digital consciousness”, the working title for my next book. It may also turn out to be a model, but it feels like it is distinctly different from the other layers in that, by itself, it is no longer an approximation of reality, but rather a complete and comprehensive yet elegantly simple framework that can be used to describe every single aspect of reality.

For example, in Digital Consciousness, everything is information. The “offer” is then “the need to collapse the wave function based on the logic that there is now an existing conscious observer who depends on it.” The “confirmation” is the collapse – the decision made from probability space that defines positions, spins, etc. This could also be seen as the next state of the state machine that defines such behavior. The emitter and absorber are both parts of the “system”, the global consciousness that is “all that there is.” So, if experimental evidence ultimately demonstrates that PTI is a more accurate interpretation of QM, it will nonetheless still be a model and an approximation. The bottom layer is where the truth is.

Elvidge’s Postulate of Countable Interpretations of QM…

The number of intepretations of Quantum Mechanics always exceeds the number of physicists.

Let’s count the various “interpretations” of quantum mechanics:

  • Bohm (aka Causal, or Pilot-wave)
  • Copenhagen
  • Cosmological
  • Ensemble
  • Ghirardi-Rimini-Weber
  • Hidden measurements
  • Many-minds
  • Many-worlds (aka Everett)
  • Penrose
  • Possibilist Transactional (PTI)
  • Relational (RQM)
  • Stochastic
  • Transactional (TIQM)
  • Von Neumann-Wigner
  • Digital Consciousness (DCI, aka Elvidge)

Unfortunately you won’t find the last one in Wikipedia. Give it about 30 years.


Plato’s Cave, Flatlanders, and Us

The Allegory of the Cave was an allegorical scenario and dialog described by Plato in his work “The Republic.”  In it, a number of prisoners occupy a cave and are forced to only look in the direction of a wall.  Behind them is a huge fire.  Between the prisoners and the fire, people walk along a walkway, their shadows being cast upon the wall and echoes of the sounds of their footsteps reflecting off the wall.  Given that the prisoners have been in that position for their entire lives, this is their entire reality.  They have built a reality around the shadows and sounds emanating from the wall.  Their “futurists” are the ones who can best predict the next shadow.  Plato then imagines what might happen if a prisoner were released and free to discover the truth about the world; what created the shadows, and what lies beyond the cave.  If he attempted to explain the truth behind the “shadow reality” to his former fellow prisoners, he would likely be shunned as they would fear and ridicule his outlandish perspective.


In 1884, Edwin Abbott Abbott wrote a novella called “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” in which the characters lived in a two-dimensional world.  Originally intended to be a social satire about Victorian culture, it is now often referenced by scientists and mathematicians who imagine the possibilities of higher dimensions.  In Flatland, the Flatlanders can’t conceive of a reality with three dimensions.  When a sphere visits their world, all they can perceive is a 2D slice of the sphere and so they remain unconvinced that higher dimensions could exist.  Interestingly, even the sphere denies the possibility of spatial dimensions higher than three, despite his conviction in his argument with the flatlanders that there is a spatial dimension higher than their two.  It seems that everyone is stuck in their physical reality, with little imagination nor open-mindedness to the possibilities of a greater reality.


We are amused as we read these stories.  But are we any different?  Have we become any more enlightened as to other possibilities since Plato’s time?  In some contexts, perhaps.  Believers in some new age philosophies, followers of some ancient eastern or shamanic traditions, certain practitioners of the use of entheogenic plants, and even fundamentalists in western monotheistic religions will acknowledge that our reality is but a subset of a much greater one.  But that is the spiritual side of the great divide.  From a scientific perspective, there are very few who appear to be willing to think outside the physical reality box.

Physicist Thomas Campbell, in his “My Big TOE”, and Steven Kaufman, in his “Unified Reality Theory” have developed comprehensive theories based on experience and rigorous logic which demonstrate that our physical experience is but a tiny subset of a much larger and more complex reality.  But how many scientists and rational thinkers buy into the idea?  Not many.  They are too busy living in Flatland.  Or Plato’s Cave.


There is no “Now.” But there will be.

One of our long time Forum Members posted an excellent question: “Is there really a ‘now'”?  The mystics tell us that there is only NOW.  But I suspect they are referring to a state of reality or a state of consciousness that one only reaches when they die or if they sit on top of a mountain contemplating their naval for a dozen or so years and get really lucky.

Back in the reality that we all know and love, I got to thinking about the reality that we all know and love.  And came to the conclusion that there is no NOW.  Here’s why:

Our interpretation of the present is really based on our short term memory, which lasts some 30 seconds or so. If we had no short term memory, we would not be able to think, plan, procreate, remember to eat, etc. In short, we would perish.

However, what is in short term memory is not NOW, it is the past. Now can only be defined as an instant. Or, in mathematical terms, it is t=0, or the limit as “delta t” approaches zero at t=0. As an absolute, or an infinite concept, it could only exist in an infinite universe, which also must be continuous. As I “tend” to believe that our universe is not infinite and is bound by the attributes of the Program (see “The Universe – Solved!”), the smallest unit of time around the concept of NOW would be a clock cycle of the Program. If it is the Planck time, then it is 10E-43 seconds (although it could be other resolutions). In any case, it has a duration, so it can’t be instantaneous or absolute. Therefore, there is no NOW, only our PERCEPTION of now, which is our very short term memory.

That said, in the other realm, where consciousness “probably” goes after death, everything is NOW, as the mystics say. That is because there is no physical stuff, no brain, no short term memory, and therefore no need for time as a dimension. Hence, everything could only be NOW.

If so, no need to even fear the “five-point-palm-exploding-heart technique.”


Roger Penrose Agrees with Me: 2+2 may not = 4!

One of the sections of “The Universe – Solved!” that generated a bit of controversy was my assertion that there is really nothing that we can know with conviction to be true.  An exerpt:

“2+2=4?  Not in Base 3, where 2+2=11.  In Base 10 (or any base >4), 2+2=4 by convention, but only in an abstract way, and not necessarily always true in the real world.  If you add 2 puddles of water to 2 puddles of water, you still have 2 (albeit larger) puddles of water.  For a more conventional example, a 2-mile straight line laid end-to-end with another 2-mile straight line will not add up to exactly 4 miles in length due to relativity and the curvature of space-time in all locales.  Therefore, 2+2=4 can not be universally true.”

In addition, You have no way of knowing whether the convention that 2+2=4 is only true in the false reality that we think we are in, but not in the real one.  Again, from the book: “So, maybe all we can know for sure is what is happening to us at this exact instant.  Then again, how do we know that we aren’t in a dream right now???  So, the set of things that are 100% true is simply the null set!”

Some readers have argued with these assertions.

So, imagine my pleasure when I read the following quote in the July 26 – August 1 issue of New Scientist magazine by esteemed mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose: “”Do we know for certain that 2 plus 2 equals 4?  Of course we don’t.  Maybe every time everybody in the whole world has ever done that calculation and reasoned it through, they’ve made a mistake.  Maybe it isn’t 4, it’s really 5.  There is a very, very small chance that this has happened.”  His argument is based on the logic of reason, which was different than my argument, but the result was the same nonetheless.

Thank you, Roger, for your enlightened point of view.  I would gladly send you a free autographed book.  Please send me your address.  Smile

Roger Penrose Penrose Tiles