I’m in the process of writing about the metaphysics of “Arrival”. “In the process” means I’m 7000 words deep into it and only see a faint light at the end. Because Arrival is about determinism and free will (among other themes) it means I apply to it the tools I’ve developed in the past.
As I discuss sidetracks I keep trying to condense the theory to its core, the true intuition at its center. “Walling it up” so that discussing all the various branches and consequences don’t disperse the core idea (and my train of thoughts). Of course for it to be persuasive one has to go through all the motions. Here I only try to reach for the center in one stroke.
Determinism and free will, a compatibilist hypothesis.
There are computational limits to our universe. The computation required to “prove” the universe is deterministic is greater than the computation possible within the system. Or, more philosopically: Gödel’s incompleteness theorem establishes that a system can only be determined complete when you observe it from outside (Laplace’s demon).
You can correctly state, as a likely hypothesis, that the universe is deterministic and that you don’t have free will, but to do so you postulate a position theoretically projected outside the system, and then “receive” this information from that point. The moment you “bring in” that information inside the system, the information vanishes in your hands. Because of wicked Gödel again: the information is only valid as long it stays outside. It’s still a “truth”, but a truth that is not for your own use. It’s a truth lying “beyond”. A transcendental truth. A god-like revelation mistaken for science.
When I say “a position theoretically projected outside the system” I refer to something I call “a golem”. A golem, a man-made artifact that can talk back to you, but using your own voice, a trick. A mouthpiece bouncing back your own voice from a false perspective. You hear (imagine) the voice of a god. That’s the error that triggers the paradox. Gods (to you) do not exist. Gods cannot exist inside the system. They can exist outside, but that’s beyond the attainment of your life.
The proof that the information vanishes in your hands can be deduced by the fact that, in the postulate to the thesis, the determinism of a system is broken when “new” information is introduced. Because the system is a complex system (all parts are connected and indispensable, in a holistic way, a prerequisite of determinism), any new information will obligatory produce change in the system. The information that the system is deterministic, when “brought in”, is information that produces no change. It’s the ONLY type of information that produces no change. And it behaves like that because that information is invalid. It’s invalid because the position it comes from is invalid, impossible (comes from outside the system but is realized while inside).
Free will is a perspectivist truth. A truth relative to a system. If we proved, as we’ve proved, that no other state can be reached (the system is “domed”, occluded), then we we’ve proved the relative truth is absolute. That no other state is valid. The system is domed because the system is closed. As seen above, a system is deterministic when a complete description is possible. A complete description is possible when the system is closed and observed from outside. Hence, the system is closed, domed, as a prerequisite to determinism. Because it is closed, we cannot pass the barrier. Because we cannot pass the barrier, and because there are strict computational limits while within, the relative truth becomes absolute: no other truth is available.
Science and “progress”: we philosophically “bring in” more information. We become bigger, inflating our knowledge. Swallowing and absorbing more of that useful information. The more we know, the better we survive. The idea is: if we project this trajectory, this continues as long we fully understand our universe, the moment we “swallowed it all” (Omega Point). The problem is: science works as long it is about the “inside” of the system (observability). As long it is beyond us, but within reach. Swallow-able. A verifiable hypothesis. You make the hypothesis, then swallow it (proof). It’s like Pac-Man, there’s a pill over there in the corner and predators that swarm around you and want to eat you instead (survival), if you can get to the pill in time you acquire power. But knowledge of determinism is like a pill that sits outside the labyrinth. You can see it, but you cannot reach it and swallow it. You can keep pining, but it’s kind of silly: wasting time pining for that pill won’t help you while you’re busy surviving.
You might say that I’m wasting my time, then. Yes indeed. But I’ve noticed that every new player wastes at least a little time trying to reach that pill. It eventually happens to everyone. So I kind of sacrificed myself so that players beyond me will have better chances! I wrote a strategy and posted it on GameFAQs.