I describe recent progress on a program of research aimed at finding a simultaneous completion of quantum mechanics and general relativity, while also addressing the question of how the universe chose its effective laws out of a vast landscape of possible laws.    This is based on a few principles:   time in the sense of causation is fundamental, as are events, and the views  of events (their backward celestial spheres.) Further the view of every event must be distinct from that of every other.  This is enforced by a choice for potential energy that maximizes the diversity of views of events, called the variety.    Given these postulates, everything else emerges dynamically, including space, spacetime, and quantum dynamics; as the variety turns out to reduce appropriately to Bohm’s quantum potential, which in turn is responsible for quantum non-locality, entanglement etc.  

A consequence of these ideas is that the effective low energy laws, including the values of the dimensionless constants of the standard model,  should evolve dynamically.    I present three realizations of this idea: cosmological natural selection (1992), the principle of precedence (2005), and the hypothesis that the universe may learn how to choose its vacuum out of a landscape of possible vacua through a process formally analogous to machine learning (2021).   I discuss the prospects for observational tests of these ideas.

At the technical level,  some of these ideas are related through the use of matrix modes whose actions are cubic in the matrices, which are tied to topological and gravitational theories.  At a methodological level, issues involving an interplay of reductionist and functionalist reasoning may be discussed.  

Collaborators on recent work include Stephon Alexander, Marina Cortes, William Cunningham,  Stuart Kauffman, Jaron Lanier,  Andrew Liddle,  Joao Magueijo,   Stefan Stanojevic,  Michael W. Toomey, Clelia Verde and Dave Wecker.


Talk Number PIRSA:21030005
Speaker Profile Lee Smolin
Collection Colloquium