A recurring theme in natural philosophy is the tension between the God's-eye view of reality comprehended as a whole and the ant's-eye view of human consciousness, which senses a succession of events in time. Since the days of Isaac Newton, the ant's-eye view has dominated fundamental physics. We divide our description of the world into dynamical laws that, paradoxically, exist outside of time according to some, and initial conditions on which those laws act. The dynamical laws do not determine which initial conditions describe reality. That division has been enormously useful and successful pragmatically, but it leaves us far short of a full scientific account of the world as we know it. The account it gives – things are what they are because they were what they were – raises the question, Why were things that way and not any other? The God’s-eye view seems, in the light of relativity theory, to be far more natural. Relativity teaches us to consider spacetime as an organic whole whose different aspects are related by symmetries that are awkward to express if we insist on carving experience into time slices. Hermann Weyl expressed the organic view memorably in his 1949 book Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science (Princeton University Press, page 116):
"The objective world simply is, it does not happen. Only to the gaze of my consciousness, crawling upward along the life line of my body, does a section of this world come to life as a fleeting image in space which continuously changes in time."
To me, ascending from the ant’s-eye view to the God’s-eye view of physical reality is the most profound challenge for fundamental physics in the next 100 years.
Frank Wilczek: Physics in 100 Years. Physics Today 69(4), 32-39 (2016).
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Micheal David Silberstein