Getting Over Dust Theory

It has been well over a year since I first read Per­mu­ta­tion City and re­lat­ing writ­ings on the in­ter­net on Greg Egan’s dust the­ory. It still haunts me. The the­ory has been dis­cussed tan­gen­tially in this com­mu­nity, but I haven’t found an ar­ti­cle that di­rectly ad­dresses the ra­tio­nal­ity of Egan’s own dis­mis­sal of the the­ory.

In the FAQ, Egan says things like:

I wrote the end­ing as a way of drama­tis­ing[sic] a dis­satis­fac­tion I had with the “pure” Dust The­ory that I never could (and still haven’t) made pre­cise (see Q5): the uni­verse we live in is more co­her­ent than the Dust The­ory de­mands, so there must be some­thing else go­ing on.


I have yet to hear a con­vinc­ing re­fu­ta­tion of it on purely log­i­cal grounds...

How­ever, I think the uni­verse we live in pro­vides strong em­piri­cal ev­i­dence against the “pure” Dust The­ory, be­cause it is far too or­derly and obeys far sim­pler and more ho­mo­ge­neous phys­i­cal laws than it would need to, merely in or­der to con­tain ob­servers with an en­dur­ing sense of their own ex­is­tence. If ev­ery ar­range­ment of the dust that con­tained such ob­servers was re­al­ised, then there would be billions of times more ar­range­ments in which the ob­servers were sur­rounded by chaotic events, than ar­range­ments in which there were uniform phys­i­cal laws.

Isn’t this, along with so many other prob­lems, a can­di­date for our some­time friend the an­thropic prin­ci­ple? That is: only in a con­scious con­figu­ra­tion field which has mem­o­ries of per­cep­tions of an or­derly uni­verse is the dust the­ory con­tro­ver­sial or doubted? In the vastly more nu­mer­ous con­scious con­figu­ra­tion fields with mem­o­ries of per­cep­tions of a chaotic and di­s­or­derly uni­verse lack­ing a ra­tio­nal way to sup­port the ob­server the dust the­ory could be ac­cepted a pri­ori or at least be a fa­vored the­ory.

It is fine to dis­miss dust the­ory be­cause it sim­ply isn’t very helpful and be­cause it has no pre­dic­tions, testable or oth­er­wise. I sup­pose it is also fine never to ques­tion the na­ture of con­scious­ness as the an­swers don’t seem to lead any­where helpful ei­ther; though the ques­tion of it will con­tinue to vex some in­stances of these con­figu­ra­tion states.