Artist's Statement relating to the Vermillion Gallery Exhibit

A note about my art: In the simulations or videos you might see (if visible), I do not include random numbers but generate my own mostly by cycle interactions on primes. Most animated patterns were generated in Python with less than 20 lines of code, and some of the most complex in appearance are 1-2 lines of code. There are very few that use anything other than integer math and none use calculus or standard finite difference methods, and most are not based on a cellular automata model. Nevertheless they generate some astoundingly complex emergent phenomena. I do this on purpose to help me understand the outcomes.

What is the artwork about?

This statement is not intended as an elevator pitch but as a communication to interested parties. I neither need nor want to soundbite this content.

Due to a long period of illness and frustration watching my own field of expertise blossom into big business without me, I decided to hole up at home and focus my entire attention on fundamental physics, information theory, and quantum gravity. I produced artwork for relaxation and I didn't read any news, surf Facebook, or watch any TV for almost a year. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, or how strongly people would react to it.

My approach was based on the very strict foundational philosophy of considering what a universe must have to be at the most fundamental level, with minimal assumptions, while keeping actual physics in the back of my mind; and I aimed, like Descartes, to examine everything and place together only the consistent.

I decided to set up a limited scope of investigation based on finitism and information theory, and to consider it as axiomatic that the universe is bounded and finite, not infinite, but constructed solely from some large number of basic information units, which are connected or distant in the sense of graph theory. [1] This seemed like a frugal starting point without loading in too many assumptions: it's just a lot of one kind of thing (TBD) connected in different ways. But for certain, this is not conventional "bits", "entropy", or even the "Bloch sphere" of quantum computing, although there are similarities. Also "changes" are not time, but change relates to "permutations", like shuffling a deck of cards. Large obvious dimensions of space, and the experience of time I required be emergent phenomena, whereby some internal organizational symmetry of the fundamental units facilitated certain patterns of connections, more like growing a crystal. Certainly large dimension should not be assumed a-prior like coordinate frames taken on faith.

I also decided to include the axiom that observers can only observe things in relation to each other and to themselves. It requires at least a three way local comparison with the observer themselves as a baseline, and probably more in practice. So every observer has their own reference frame, and knows things only by very local comparisons and through the window of their own nature as embodied composite structures. There is no action at a distance except indirectly by the outcome of "conjugating permutations", which is like physicists' momentum and position space. [2]

I also reject all coordinate systems extended beyond an observer as arbitrary projections of an observer's belief state about other observers, the universe, and their own state of existence.

In the final part of my approach, I demanded that information units are units of spatial curvature and structure and that all information units are also observers - there is nothing observable that is not also an observer and hence "alive" in the sense of being capable of responding (possibly unpredictably) to observation.

So my universe consists of observers which might be huge systems or tiny particles and only relations count, which means going way beyond relativity, not just special relativity, but requiring in addition relativity of spatial scale, curvature, and most likely also temperature.

This is because there can be no observable effects from absolute coordinates which are universal; and when it seem like there is, it is because they are expectations or spatial curvature frames imposed by a dominant observer such as the Earth, Sun, Jupiter, the corporate CEO, or your mom, or the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. All these observers have a dominance which sets the level playing field and frame of reference for other observers they attract. This is in the same way that teenagers orbit the latest pop idol, or electrons orbit the proton, and moons orbit Jupiter or Saturn because those huge planets dominate the local gravitational frame by concentration of information which in this example is tied up in their mass; and therefore staying in orbit demands being in the right relative orbital relationship with Jupiter and that's a lot to do with the timing of cycles.

But moving on, I also state the following: This theory is completely incorrect. It's almost without doubt fundamentally flawed and nonsense. My aim is not to convince anyone this is truth about the Universe, because I don't consider any human animal made of spin-half particles that mostly passively receives information from photon interactions and observes things from one point of view to be capable of making a theory that is representative of the entirety of reality.

So my intent has been to create a theory that should be judged only on "utility", which means that it has a short information length description, is simple to understand, has no free parameters or "one-size-fits-all" stretchiness; and centrally that it predicts all experimental results accurately, and that it models also to arbitrary degree its expected error distribution over observations.

In short optimizing for "utility" means that a theory is just "better for humans to use" than the physics that we have now. The current physics, which even while so many great minds have worked for decades to create, is still mired in anthropocentric views and in tradition and assumed beliefs, without tolerance for more than incremental questioning, and dominated by specialists who optimize local things; but the community hardly has anyone who is to be respected because their role is to be a generalist and to look carefully to see if the whole system really is consistent.

But later I added another goal to my list: If there's doubt and the choice is free, then assume the most human-friendly optimistic view of reality. Don't assume without enough evidence that it's a cynic's universe.

Regarding this, I found that knowing things is very hard. So my own physics requires that while I assume (near) determinism to make theoretical progress, at the same time I can show with quite strong arguments that it is fundamentally undecidable whether the universe is deterministic or not. Even building a largish computer model running your own code will rapidly lead you away from determinism and into the land of probabilities over its results, because computers are embodied entities subject to many environmental fluctuations, not abstract Turing machines, and it's impossible to check whether 100 billion calculations gave the right answer by hand, even if you know exactly what the "right answer" is actually supposed to be. This was not intended but actually does leave room for religious faith and mystical interpretations, but the role of physics is to work out the subset of events that have strongly verifiable correlations over time that scientists can agree on and leverage for technology.

I found that taking on finitism is awesome, and totally liberating. There is no infinity and there are no infinitesimals; no continuum, no difficult topological arguments, and what remains are things like finite set theory, permutations on groups, discrete signal theory in sample spaces of numbers.

Calculus is also gone, and so is Lie algebra and continuous rotation groups; pi and e which are infinite become simply mental ideals, but in reality these numbers which relate to curvature are slightly different in every location in your living room, probably only consistent to a few decimal places at the limit of your own native unaided observation capacity.

Perfect Euclidean planes are gone too as "ideals", and also infinite sets, and it turns out that numerical simulations are actually true representations of finite physics and they're no longer discretized approximations to continuous systems. I take the holographic entropy bound and very local conformal maps seriously. Most of the physics in my finite system can in fact be boiled down to operations on binary strings, and ultimately all relations are actually relationships between numbers (such as being relatively prime) and actually end up being intuitive in many ways, because to first order, collections of molecules follow gas laws, and also crowds of people behave predictably and individual differences get washed out at scale.

In my physics, scale and recursion, and the running of couplings, and perturbative corrections always end, and the universe can hold itself together by a nice trick which is somewhat like the following: as long as no subset of share-holders can take over enough shares of a company to get full control of voting rights on the board, then stability of the self-ownership is ensured. In the universe, if there's no force strong enough and no point of leverage stable enough to break some fundamental units, then they cannot be broken by observers. Information units might be composite but it takes information units to break things, and just as long as no observer can gather enough information units to split one, they are indestructible and therefore fundamental. This cannot be done in an infinite universe, and it's one of the ways I avoid dualism, vacuuous recursion and allow scale cycles instead of 'smaller and smaller' or 'bigger and bigger' forever.

I found the central most important thing to study in all of this is the stability of systems: What makes things work and stick around, what are threats, and what causes instability in any composite structure? This is about the life and death of unstable isotopes, unstable governments; time to decay; and life and death itself. But digging deep is hard and in doing this, I already had to go through way too many existential crises.

I spin out my artwork from all these ideas to help in seeking my own homeostasis, which is exactly what all observers are trying to do. But everyone's homeostasis is different and the "normal" environment of a deep ocean fish would not facilitate human life. So understanding how another person is seeking homeostasis and what informs their goals takes more than following the law of least action.

While I respect all the effort of human intellect, and I'm not trying to scrap all of physics as we know it, my central observation about the problems in physics and human perception is the phenomenon I call "frame aliasing".

This is like the "moiré" effect which confuses the patterns that are seen. One observer views another observer both through the filtering of their own "gravitational distortion field" of expectations about the other person, and also through the distortion field of the second person about how to filter their own personality to project themselves in the best way to achieve their own goals. This is true for all systems which interact because information is spatial curvature and introduces uncertain challes of communication.

The effect also creates numerous "information event horizons". A physical example would be not being able to see around a corner except by using a lot of equipment and math to piece together all the scattered light that reaches you in a certain way to make a derived image. However that would require a whole ton of fragile assumptions about how light scatters in one environment and what's actually in the intervening spaces, and what is actually in the other room that might contradict your assumptions.

Put another way: Frame aliasing is when an observer thinks they are looking at something from vantage point A, when in fact they are at B, but all the measurements line up well enough except for a few possibly large anomalies which are ignorable as statistical outliers, and so until something huge that's clearly inconsistent lands right in the middle, it's very very easy to be at cross purposes with reality. It's not knowing where you are on a map in a self-similar landscape.

If something inconsistent lands square in one person's life, then they're clearly just crazy. That's the automatic communication breakdown event horizon that protects homeostasis of mankind in general from information shock, because everyone has a maximum tolerable rate of change of belief state.

This is because information is not just power it's also pain, and one person's life can hang in the balance on a yes/no decision, and civilizations can rise and fall depending on the behaviors of kids in Eastern Europe writing fake news. That's why all beings spend their entire time learning to predict what comes next, and that's what physics is about.

Just remember this whole theory is just one person's crazy ideas. You don't have to believe any of it. I'm not upsetting the apple cart because I'm not saying all of physics is wrong and I'm not imposing my theories or claiming a line to God; make up your own mind what to think.


[1] This does not actually imply non-continuous functions but only that it is finite in information content and consistent with a sampled system which could be interpolated by some choice of continuous basis set, but the laws of nature are laws dependent on the information samples alone, and therefore that choice is arbitrary.

[2] As though the universe interleaves space with its Fourier transform and the observer must choose what balance of these to attend to at any instant.