Perception is everything

I've always had this idea that physics was the purest subject to pursue because of how fundamental it is. All other disciplines of study can be derived by physics. After all if I knew the position and momentum of every particle and a good enough computer I could predict accurately how history would progress or every biological process or how the economy would function. Just run the calculation. But there is another way of looking at this where physics isn't the most fundamental.

Our perception could influence the way that we model the world so much that even our most accurate theories of physics are not true, but a close to true way of viewing things that is a product of how we evolved to survive in our environment. Concepts like space and time could just be practical ways of seeing things, so we can stay alive in whatever universe we actually live in. Why does time have to move forward and space be a medium that we exist in? Just like the prisoners in Plato's cave coming up with models of how shadows move and interact not knowing of the vast world outside their cave, we silly beings discuss particles and gravity while there is some inconceivably complex mechanism to the universe that we are just grasping slices of. Our environment on this planet could be a major influence of all of our models of physics. Imagine that space is just useful concept that we developed because it is convenient to a being of our size, while if you were living on the order of plank meters you would have a completely different concept of how objects move. The short story by Ted Chiang that inspired the movie Arrival discuses aliens that don't move through time and understand everything in terms of path integrals and the principal of least action. They had a concept for time, but they didn't think it flowed forward. But everything had already happened for them, happened didn't mean anything to them. They just perceived the universe much differently. This is why I think biology could be the most "fundamental" discipline. Maybe all of modern physics can be derived from some biological axioms about our environment and some basic principles of evolutionary theories.

Let's give a concrete example of how perception could yield different laws of physics. One example how for the longest time in history we thought that the earth was centered in the middle of the universe and everything revolved around us. You might hear this and laugh at how stupid humans from the past were, but there is more credence to this then one might believe. Looking at the data it is easy to derive equations that model the motion of stars and planets fairly accurately while the earth remains stationary. You shift your perceptive to make the earths frame of motion stationary and the equations are shifted too. Eventually we found out our frame of reference was not stationary but was in fact orbiting around the sun. But this explains how the same data (the motion of the stars) can be interpreted in multiple way.

Now in that past example, the idea that the earth is in the center was wrong. But let's look at an example where you can have two different models both of which are right. If you have ever studied circuits you know that there are two different "models" of looking at electron flow in a wire. If there is a wire with electrons flowing to the right, it could be modeled as a negative charge moving to the right or a positive charge moving to the left. Both are accurate and valid, just different models of the same phenomenon. You shift you perceptive to change the model, but both perspectives are showing the same underlying data.

In the same way, imagine a much deeper shift in perspective. There is an alien being looking observing a partial moving and trying to explain it to us, they might not be looking at what we call a partial but some different organization of the universe where partials are strange concepts to them that make sense but are pointless to how they explain things. Or another example from Ted Chiang's short story is how the aliens and humans discuss velocity. The aliens in that story see the principal of least action as the most fundamental concept, where to us that is a contrived equation that involves integrals over time but to them is it simple and concepts like velocity and acceleration make little sense to them. The natural question then is what determines how you model the universe? It must come down to your perception of it, your biological organization.

Now this is basically the same argument as Plato's cave, which was formulated thousands of years ago, just taking it to a different level. His cave the prisoners are looking at a way which has shadow projections of the real world. They come up with different laws of physics that determine how the shadows move to great accuracy, but they are coming up with models that fit the data in their particular situation, their perception. Are they wrong? It is hard to argue that they are wrong because you can never know if your theories are right or if you are looking at a projection of some higher universe, all you can say is that based on your perception, your models of physics predict useful things.

This all suggests that perception of the universe actually influences physics, not the other way around. Our biology could be the most fundamental discipline and from it, you can derive how we would formulate physics.