Is Consciousness Primary to Reality? (2021 Documentary)

November 23, 2021 Leave a comment

If you haven’t seen this yet, it is well worth watching. I have notes…

3:40 “Physics tells us not what matter is but only what it does.”Here I would go further and say that physics tells us not what matter is, but only what it does to matter.

Around 24:00, the video gets in to IIT. Here too, my view is that the role of consciousness is underestimated. To say that reality has a physical and mental pole is a good start, but we should understand that these poles can only exist in the latter “mental” pole of conscious experience. It is true that “a complex mind” correlates with “a complex organization with the specific capacity of aggregating a fundamental aspect of consciousness” (23:20), however I would not say that correlation is an absolute requirement. While I agree with the earlier statement at 23:12 that no serious thinker has defended any claim for conscious minds in rocks, tables, and chairs, the reason for that in my view is not because the physical structure lacks the complexity to permit it.

My view takes in to account the significance of scales of time and size in creating parallel layers of conscious experience that make up the universe. In my view, it makes more sense to see the correlation between the increasingly complex structure of nervous systems through evolution and the richness and depth of conscious experience as being driven more by conscious experience needing to record and manipulate itself rather than anything like a mind ’emerging’ from structural complexity.

The chair is not conscious, but I think the same is true of any object. The brain is not conscious either. The brain is an organ that produces ideal chemical conditions for sophisticated conscious experiences to be expressed and realized for other sophisticated conscious experiences to interact with without merging completely with each other. The brain is part of a vertebrate body, which is part of a history of conscious experience going back more than 500 million years. A chair or a table is, in one sense, carved out of wood or some other material by a Homo sapien body’s brain and hands, but in another sense, it is one continuous history of conscious experience that is carving new experiences out of conscious experiences that are older, but still ongoing on another timescale, and using them as props to enhance experiences in the human centric umwelt.

In my Multisense Realism conjectures, I have tried to lay out a cosmogony of scales of physical spacing/timing with scales of psychological depth/richness such that our anthropological umwelt is nested within and permeated by the older onion layers of consciousness using bodies/brains on a zoological, biological, chemical, and physical scales of size and frequency of perceptual sample rate (Diagrams like these are some of the many drafts I’ve hypothesized

To ask whether a chair or table is conscious is to assume that what what we see as an image of furniture, and touch as an object of solid matter is all that these things are. Once we factor in the hypothesis of timescales as intentional partitions of subjective and objective seeming worlds (umwelts and welts), a spectrum of realism can be devised which reflects a universal spectrum of perceptual access. This is very much along the lines of what has been proposed in many other scientific and prescientific mappings of awareness, as Ken Wilber documented in his book Integral Sprituality, and which Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary wrote about as the Eight Circuit Model. These models draw on both Western and Eastern metaphysics including Numerology, Astrology, Tarot, I Ching, as well as psychological theories of development from Gebser, Maslow, Binet and many others.

With Multisense Realism, I have sketched out a way to integrate these essential-existential correlations with quantum mechanics, relativity, and semiotic theory to arrive at a conjecture of entropy-negentropy as symptoms of the lensing of conscious experiences, separating them in some sense while uniting them in others, and producing a dynamically growing vocabulary of aesthetic Significance.

From the perspective of consciousness on a celestial timescale, where planets spin like electrons and solar systems proliferate like cells, it would seem absurd that any such thing as human consciousness could exist. The thin biosphere and its mold-like bits of greenery would seem far too small and simple to host conscious experiences.

I don’t deny that in practice, IIT-like correlations between the symptom of integration of physical functions and the condition of someone’s personal awareness are reliable and pragmatic, but I suspect that this reliability is built into the animal scale experience rather than being a universal necessity for conscious experience to exist. In my view, it is not that things that we see and touch have consciousness in different degrees, it is that our consciousness has different degrees of overlap with a universal spectrum of perceptual access and identification.

I think that the implications from info-centric views of consciousness are misleading, and in fact, no technological artifact is any more conscious than a Teddy Bear or an emoji. This is not because of any bias for biological organizations of matter over technological organizations of inorganic matter, but rather than biological appearances are an expression of a type of experience that is of another order of magnitude of aesthetic richness (Significance) than experiences that are expressed pre-biologically in our perception. The Uncanny Valley is there for a reason – even if that sense of revulsion for imitations of life is not infallible.

In my view, any use of an object as a machine is by definition the use of a low-level aspect of a conscious experience on a distant timescale, and therefore diametrically opposite to sentience. The whole point of a machine is that it automatically serves our purposes, not that it develops its own competing agendas. A truly intelligent artifact would not be a machine, but a potential competitor to biological life itself. Its agency would be uncontrollable by definition. True intelligence necessarily includes the potential for consciousness to step out of its programming and conditioning, and to change itself directly through intrinsic degrees of freedom in its own participatory experience of ‘will’.Later on in the video, the combination problem is discussed. My solution here is to re-frame the assumption of cosmic evolution as occurring through an arrow of change from simplicity to complexity, and see it instead as equally an evolution by diffraction or division-by-self-similarity. 

Seeing how an embryo develops through the division and multiplication of a single cell, and how a faceted gem multiplies the image of the sun or other illumination source without diluting the source, we can begin to see how the half of the universe that modernity has increasingly hidden from us might work. I recommend these two classic videos about this dichotomy of diffracted holism vs emergent combination.

My stroke of insight – Jill Bolte Taylor

Iain McGilchrist – The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

Another couple of classics I recommend to follow my trail of breadcrumbs to Multisense Realism are these: Cosmos – Carl Sagan – 4th Dimension (Abbott’s Flatland thought experiment)

Powers of Ten (1977)

At 32:00 the video gets in to Philip Goff’s Cosmopsychism, in which the fundamental unit of nature is the totality of nature itself. This is a logical inference from the idea of diffraction and top-down causation. Multisense Realism is a form of cosmopsychism, but with less emphasis on psyche and more on qualia: Sense and sense making experience can give rise to more complex histories of awareness that begin to have our familiar quality of personhood, but there may be many other paths down which conscious experience develops itself. My view is more of a cosmoastheticism with participatory tendencies. Understanding the bias of “smallism” is critical. The Multisense Realism view is that smallism and large-ism are both aspects of tangible-ism, but that the full picture of nature requires that tangibility always be experienced from a perspective that is trans-tangible by definition. Nothing is a tangible object in its own native timescale and frame of perception.

Another idea that I have tried to illustrate here is that the smallest and largest sheafs of tangibility have more in common with each other than they do the next largest and smallest scale-sheafs/holons. As we move into the center of the cosmic onion, the core meso-centric sheaf is the most fertile and rich context of experience, much as the clear white center of the visible spectrum is the most direct and complete access to visibility.

Intellectual Blind Spot and AI

October 11, 2021 Leave a comment

The shocking blind spot that is common to so many highly intellectual thinkers, the failure of AI, and the lack of understanding about what consciousness is are different aspects of the same thing.

The intellectual function succeeds because it inverts the natural relation of what I would call sensory-motive phenomena. Natural phenomena, including physical aspects of nature, are always qualitative, participatory exchanges of experience. Because the intellect has a special purpose to freely hypothesize without being constrained by the rest of nature, intellectual experience lacks direct access to its own dependence on the rest of nature. Thinking feels like it occurs in a void. It feels like it is not feeling.

When we subscribe to a purely intellectual view of life and physics as information processing, we disqualify the aesthetic dimension of nature, which is ultimately the sole irreducible and irreplaceable resource from which all phenomena arise – not as generic recombinations of quantum-mechanical states but as an infinite font of novel aesthetic-participatory diffractions of the eternal totality of experience. This is what cannot be “simulated” or imitated…because it is originality itself.

Numbers and logic can only reflect the creativity of that resource, not generate it. No amount of binary math can replace the colors displayed on a video screen, or a conscious user that can see it. It need not be anything mystical or religious – it’s just parsimony. Information processing doesn’t need any awareness, it just needs isolated steps in a chain reaction on some physical substrate that can approximate the conditions of reliable but semi-mutable solidity. Gears, semiconductors, a pile of rocks…it doesn’t matter what the form is because there is no sense of form going on. All that is going on is low level generic changes that have no capacity to add themselves up. There’s no ’emergent properties’ outside of consciousness. Math and physics can’t ‘seem like’ anything because seeming is not a logical/mathematical or physical function.

Evan Thompson Live! Consciousness Live! S4 E12 CW comments, part 2

September 28, 2021 Leave a comment
Part 2 of my comments on Richard Brown’s conversation with Evan Thompson

At 57:15 Richard is posing the question of why objects in a simulated world aren’t real objects in a real digital world. To this I say what is being overlooked is sense modality. We have to be as literal as we possibly can be when discussing these topics. Objects, in the most literal sense, are not images or numbers, they are tangible shapes. Solid, liquid, and gaseous volumes in public spacetime. Real objects are composed of molecules that are made up of atoms on the periodic table. Sense experience is the only thing that can generate realism. When we think of a simulation, we are thinking of some artificially stimulated sense experience – a GUI image that *we* see (birds don’t see it, hamsters don’t see it) on screen hardware. Without this, there is nothing begin simulated.

The interface hardware cannot be simulated. There is no software that can be written that will generate colors for the color blind in the way that software could be written to solve math problems for people who aren’t able to do math. No amount of computation or complexity will yield a new primary color. Eventually we will likely have hardware that is wired into the visual cortex directly but we still don’t know how or why changes in the states of cells would ‘seem like’ or ‘appear’ as anything other than what they physically are. If any data is being processed, the changes in the cellular states already ARE the data processing events. If an organ evolved to have a higher, meta-level governance of its own processes, then that too would only be and could only be more cells that are performing cellular functions which only happen to mirror a sampling of the lower level processes. There can be a functional link – for every 100 neurons that fire on a lower level, 2 neurons fire on the meta-level, and that would accomplish the result that our experience of ‘modeling’ allows us to accomplish functionally, but without any such thing as modeling. The relation of the “model” plane and the “actual” plane is metaphorical. They are both physical objects of different size and composition. It is only in human perception and association that one could seem to ‘model’ the other. There are no models in physics, chemistry, or biology, unless we understand those domains (as I do) to be scales of conscious interaction.

I very much agree with what Evan is saying around 1:05 about bits not existing apart from our practices of imposing maps and schemes. This gets us close to the big revelation that I’m pushing all of the time – It’s SENSE that matters. Matter doesn’t sense. Or it wouldn’t, if matter were primitive and real, but matter itself is just a lower rung of sense and motive engagement. That’s why QM and relativity describe the scale limits of physicality, rather than Cartesian coordinate objects. That’s why quantum contextuality and entanglement. The common denominator is always ultimately sense. Not even the sense-of-being-a-sensor or using a sensory, but sense experience itself: qualia. Matter can be qualia, information can be qualia, but neither information or matter can turn themselves into qualia materially or logically, nor can they turn themselves into each other. That’s perhaps the more important clue.

Software cannot find hardware and vice versa. When we ‘compile’ ‘code’, we are performing a physical task that just pushes physical changes in physical circuits. There isn’t a literal ‘conversion’ from ideas to physics, it’s just that the way that we set up the machine seems *to us* (and to the sense and sense making modalities we can access) to be isomorphic. There is no ‘code’ in physics – no concepts, only tangible shapes or regions where tangible shapes move in certain ways.

Electromagnetism can be reduced to that – to changes in the motion of particles. We can undo all notion of fields and forces, undo the intuitions of Maxwell and Faraday, and replace them all with sensory-motive engagements. These are the phenomena from which all laws and forces emerge. Something has to sense something before a change – any change – can be present. Present where? How? What is changing is always and only some sensed quality or property, like position of a tangible shape relative to another shape and to a memory or perception of that position quality being altered. We can look at it the other way around also, with stasis in the background and motion in the foreground. We can think of stillness as an artificial appearance that our sense filtering is presenting, and that without that filter, everything is motion on some timescale. Without sense, no present or presences can be accessed.

I don’t have much to add about the rest of the talk. I think it gets close to where my view begins to take shape, as far as Kant, Husserl, and Whitehead questioning the distinction of subjective and objective categories, etc. I agree that is the right direction to go in. Where I end up with it is that objectivity and noumenality are relative rather than absolute, and that existence itself is phenomenological, without being subjective or objective. The appearance of subjective and objective seeming qualities are artifacts of a particular scope of awareness, typically is divided and nested by timescale and distinction of modality. Scope of awareness lens each other to appear in these kinds of aesthetic categories. What we understand as the geological timescale is so slow compared to our own that we can’t empathize with it or directly access its flow. It seems static. The laws of physics, hold forever as far as we are concerned, but in an absolute sense, they may be more of a set of useful habits from which the longest and shortest timescale events are built.

Here’s a terrible hack set of images to try to illustrate what I mean:

Got it? Spacetime scales are nested inward so that astropysical timescales (longest and shortest duration, largest and smallest size) envelope geo-molecular (next longest and next shortest duration and next largest and smallest size), which envelope the most medium scaled durations and size (eco-cellular).

Now think of that in an orthogonal relation to the other half of the universe, which correlates to size and duration, but is defined by intensity of aesthetic-participatory richness, aka Significance.

The main takeaway that I can offer as a response to the video, if nothing else, is the idea that 

1. The distinction between anesthetic-participatory and anesthetic-mechanical is more fundamental than phenomenal/noumenal or subjective/objective.

2. Anesthetic mechanisms are either concrete (geometric mass-energetic force-field operations) or abstract (algebraic information-processing functions)3. Anesthetic mechanisms do not exist on their own and are in all cases a reduced, exteriorized reflection between two disparately scaled modes of aesthetic-participation.

Evan Thompson Live! Consciousness Live! S4 E12

September 27, 2021 2 comments

From Richard Brown’s YouTube channel.

A great conversation so far. As usual, I have extensive comments…

> 13:32 Richard Brown “…in terms of phenomenal consciousness, there’s something that it’s like to be a cell?

“Evan Thompson “We can put it that way if we want. I mean, that locution sometimes bears more burden than it should, but for our purposes we can feel free to use it I think, sure.

> RB “OK, good. Alright…and there’s something that it’s like to be me, and I am composed of billions of cells”

Notice that the assumption made here closes the explanatory gap without any explanation. I would say that I am experiences: Thoughts, feelings, ideas, memories, sensations…some of those sensations include a body, which I understand to be composed of billions of cells.

We do not know that the cell or the body of cells is the being that is conscious. Just as my face only reveals a tiny fraction of my conscious experience, so too does the structure and function of a cell reveal only a tiny fraction (maybe a greater fraction) of the content of any conscious experience that might be associated with it.

As far as we can tell, the interior of cells or bodies are just more objects – organelles and fluid made of organic molecules. None of that would reasonably entail anything like felt experience, and if it did, we should reasonably only expect those experience to correlate to certain specific types to physiological conditions. What we feel through our body does tend to be about the body and the world of the body, but we also have conscious experiences that would require extremely tortured reasoning and Just-So Stories to rationalize as an extension of physiology. Rather than projecting the appearance of the cellular world as geometry and chemistry, those structures and functions may, like our own face, be a kind of avatar/mask/lensing that summarizes only certain features related to the sharing of experience. If someone were somehow born without any sense of touch or sight, they could not conceive of objects or bodies. They could in theory live a full life of thoughts, feelings, flavors, sounds, etc all without ever suspecting that they could be connected to any such thing as a body. In the same way, the world of cell processes may not relate to us personally any more than the grammatical and syntactic features of this sentence are generating the meaning that I am trying to express personally.

The paragraphs of this post did not evolve from characters in the Latin alphabet. Its contents are not explained by the psychology of how language evolved to serve brains or bodies. In the same way, the microbiological world does not, in my view, exist to support a macro scale experience at all, and it may be much more like our own conscious experience than we would guess – a world of sensations and response that are largely unrelated to our own.

> 19:42 ET “…whereas the Panpsychist arguments, at least in the case of someone like Philip Goff, they’re based on intuitions like phenomenal transparency, which you know, I don’t want to start an argument there. By that I mean I don’t want to make that a premise of an argument. I think, it’s not obvious to me that there is any such thing as phenomenal transparency.”

I think it this is an example of what Raymond Tallis described as “cutting off the branch that you are sitting on”, that is, it is a perception, based on an intuitive sense of phenomenal transparency that intuition and phenomenal transparency cannot be trusted. I think that needs to be reversed. We should understand that we are always relying on some degree of assumed phenomenal transparency to conduct any sort of reasoning. Our only contact with truth, including truths about phenomenal transparency, begins and ends with an implicit assumption of phenomenal transparency. Of course, truth and phenomenal consciousness are, for humans, very complex, so there are many overlapping and contrasting dimensions of truth and sense, so it is not enough to unquestioningly follow our first intuitive, but neither is it enough to unquestioningly follow our first counter-intuitive impulse.

I think that modern science and philosophy have evolved through a dialectic shift in the Early Modern Period in which the idea of the primacy of super-subjective (theological) properties under Scholasticism was eclipsed by the antithesis idea of the primacy of super-objective (materialistic) properties of nature. I strongly suspect that now, a few centuries after that shift in the era of Descartes, Copernicus, Galileo, and Locke, we are now meeting ourselves at the other end of the fork in the path and encountering a similar but antithetical crisis in our understanding of the universe and our place in it. I think that the current crisis ultimately calls for a synthesis of subjectifying and objectifying modalities of sense and sense making that takes us beyond the previous approaches. The fear that questioning materialism will lead us into a pathological repetition of theological fundamentalism is so powerful that we are blinded and dragged into the opposite pathology, where the limits of objectifying sense appearances are denied to the point of anti-realism (MWI, simulation theory, Interface theory). That’s where I intend my ideas (Multisense Realism) to come in. Once we have understood why panpsychism is an imperfect but meaningful improvement over physicalism, then we can begin to develop some hypotheses that pick up where panpsychism leaves off. In my understanding, the inflection point of the future of that synthesis is sense. Sensation. Detection. Aesthetic presentation. Qualia. At this point, it does not seem that many thinkers share this view and the fact of qualia is constantly overlooked in favor of theories that stress the role that qualia may play for an organism or a system of computation. To me, this oversight is astonishing. It is comparable to saying that magic wands could grow on trees, since a tree with a magic wand would have a survival advantage.

There’s a great part around 24:00 where RB and ET disagree about the difference between biological cells and the types of technologies that we have developed so far. ET says that he thinks there is a fundamental qualitative difference between the organization of something like a bacterial cell and that of any artifact we have ever engineered. I agree with ET at 24:49 that we have glimmers of how we can synthesize aspects of the self production and self regulation of a living cell in a lab, but that we are nowhere near being able to generate autonomous, freely interacting, free standing self-productive entities. I do not, however see that as the cause of the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness.

I think that, pre-biological interactions are, in their own frame of reference as irreducibly aesthetic and participatory as those of our own conscious interactions, and that the appearance of those interactions as anesthetic-mechanical events is an artifact of how the universe of conscious experience segregates itself for maximum development of aesthetic novelty. I think that segregation includes a logarithmic recapitulation of biology from organic chemistry and organic chemistry to physics such that both of those steps are tantamount to a second and third Big Bang, but I think that the cosmological fabric in which those Bangs arise is sensory-motive from the start, rather than unexperienced forces and fields.

Like Evan, I think it is an illusion that we could engineer a biological cell or organism from the bottom up, and that we will have better results trying to condition, constrain, and hybridize existing cells. I don’t think we’re going to achieve a duplication of biology inorganically, only a production of recombinations and prostheses for existing cell processes. I don’t think we’re going to create a new first living organism.

In suggesting a cosmological hierarchy of recapitulation that parallels the teachings of many mystical traditions and echoed in more modern efforts such as Integral theory, I understand that there is a lot of resistance. I think that Recapitulation theory got a bad rep from how it was conceived by Haeckel and his association with it, but I think that rejecting the entire theme of encapsulating previous conditions in developing a cosmogony, and is a mistake. Our eyeball is strikingly similar to an aquarium of the conditions of the Precambrian Era. Vertebrates do share a common morphology during gestation that seems to reflect the phylogenetic history of the final organism. That’s not how we make machines. We don’t grow computers from manual typewriters. We don’t create conditions where they grow by themselves. When we build machines, we assemble fully formed parts that have no other relation to each other than the one we provide by forcing their temporary attachment to each other. Left to their own devices, machines fall apart. What we see in cell division may be not be fully explained in 3d + 1 spacetime terms. We may only be seeing/touching one surface of an event that envelopes and permeates visbility/tangiblity in the same sort of way that our personal awareness envelopes and permeates all of our subpersonal modes of awareness (sight, sound, touch, etc)

While the seeming mystery of biological life is amazing and important to us as conscious experiences with biological bodies, I think that it is a red herring distraction to understanding what qualia is, and the relation of qualia to concrete formation and abstract information. The relation that I propose is that the category of aesthetic-participatory perception is the universal parent to all anesthetic-mechanical processes of objects and concepts. I propose that objects and concepts are always and only appearances derived from a relativistic lensing of universal sensitivity/permittivity/empathy that goes all the way down. Consider the astrophysical-atomic world as a first playground for panaesthetic primordial experience, upon which a geological-molecular world evolves as a second recapitulation superimposed on the first. The eco-organic-genetic world is a third. The biological-cellular is a fourth. The zoological-somatic is a fifth. The vertebrate-neurological is a sixth. The antropological-technological is a seventh. These are all nested scales of size and frequency of events from which our concepts of space and time emerge. They are vehicles that consciousness inhabits for pleasure and for pain. It is not only for the cosmos to ‘know itself’ but to feel, see, do, and redo itself.

Around 32:00 Evan talks about rejecting the idea of zombies or consciousness as epiphenomenal/irrelevant to the function of the system based on the idea that the body is able to do what it does in relationship to the environment because it “feels itself in doing so”. I disagree with this justification as I think that it is a post hoc or retrospective justification that smuggles our conscious experience into an explanation of itself. In other words, if we use modus tollens, prospective logic instead of modus ponens retrospective logic, there would be no entailment for feeling. The physical functions of an animal’s body could evolve statistically over immense time spans by random mutation, just as we might expect geological chemistry to develop. The reproduction of simple bacteria is not much of a stretch from inorganic crystal growth in which organic molecules are incorporated that enable more types of similar crystals to persist for longer periods under more environmental conditions.

I like to point out a hole in the ‘zombie’ terminology for it’s implication of an ‘undead’ status of a randomly mutating reproductive structure rather than the more parsimonious ‘never alive in the first place’ status. A universe of molecules that evolve automatically and unconsciously would yield a world of reproducing organizations that are more like dolls than zombies. The Homo sapiens equivalent in an unconscious universe would be a species of sculptures that move each other around in repeating cycles – unwitnessed, unfelt, unseen. Behind these uexperienced tangible events would be equally unexperienced intangible mathematical relations. I would argue that even tangible shapes and intangible math require an aesthetic-participatory engagement to appear in any sense, but for argument’s sake, let’s say that shapes can “exist” and collide without any rendering by a sense of touch-feel. I can’t imagine how that would really be possible or why a functionally redundant sense rendering would develop parallel to that, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

All of this to say, Evan, don’t think of zombies that seem exactly like living people, think of dolls that “talk” and “cry”, not out of emotion or feeling their environment, but out of mechanisms to control bodies operating physically in space – lubricating eyelids, vibrating neural actuators, etc. The things that consciousness and sensation do for US are not functionally necessary to explain what a body would do and how it would evolve in a universe where sense and consciousness were replaced by automatic force and field.

The fact that we do feel ourselves in the world as a body does not stop us from looking at much more complex protein interactions and saying that they would not need to feel themselves in the world to be able to do that. Since I do think that all fields and forces are actually ranges of sensory-motive interaction on the pre-physical level, I do think that chemistry is a primitive scale or appearance of conscious experience, but if we want to try to hold on to physicalism and deny consciousness, then there’s no reason why the activities of human bodies are any different from the activities of molecular or cellular bodies. None of them functionally require awareness to exist if any of them don’t require it.

I completely agree with Evan when he says, around 33:25, that there is no reason to think that life could look like it does if it weren’t driven by consciousness. The difference is in the modus ponens/tollens flip. I think that zombies can’t exist because physics is actually a form of consciousness, whereas he, like many others, think that zombies can’t exist because consciousness is obviously so pervasive and useful in biology, zoology, and anthropology. He’s asking “why should consciousness be any different from biology?” and I’m asking “why should chemistry and physics be any different from consciousness?”.

At 34:00 Richard brings up the subject of the discovery of the unconscious and unconscious processing. From my perspective, the key is to understand that just because our personal consciousness receives guidance or can be overridden by processes that are beyond our personal scope of awareness, does not mean that those processes are not themselves subpersonal conscious experiences. Just because those experiences are rendered to us as brain activity does not mean that the structure and function of that activity is the cause rather than the symptom of the processing.

The shapes of these letters and the order that they are in are not creating the English language, and the English language is not creating this conversation, but rather the appearances are symptoms of other layers of sense and sense-making that happen to be under the hood of our personal awareness and experience. English has developed through idiosyncratic and unprecedented conditions of lived conscious experience – as an accumulation of consequences not as a cause of thinking and communication but as an effect of physiology and socially shared feelings about experiences.

At 39:55 Richard lays out an example of the hypothalamus monitoring the salt content of the blood and asks Evan if he thinks there is “something that it is like” to undergo that process. First, I point out that by conceiving of the process as something that the hypothalamus does, we have already loaded the question with a physicalist bias. The hypothalamus is a rendering in our sense of touch and sight, and our cogitative sense of understanding. I suggest instead that the actual process and monitoring (sensing and motivating effects) is not physically tangible. It is subpersonal awareness. It is an experience that is not being had by an organ or cell, just as our personal experience is not being had by a body, rather the body and cell are experiences that “we” are having. It makes sense to me that what cells and organs are doing is a result of experiences that we are not normally able to access directly, but instead are approximated in our personal awareness as feelings, sensations, urges, etc that identify themselves as closely coupled with our animal level experience. The fact that we can’t access it directly in our personal consciousness doesn’t mean the process is literally unconscious in its own frame of perception, only that our frame’s rendering of that frame’s rendering of itself is limited to the sight and feel of tangible shapes moving around under a microscope.

I’m going to stop there for now and take a break before listening to the second half. 

“Is Consciousness a Controlled Hallucination?” part 2

August 27, 2021 1 comment

Picking up again* for the second hour of this new video from 8/25/2021, where philosophers Philip Goff and Keith Frankish discuss consciousness with neuroscientist Anil Seth, whose new book is Being You: A New Science of Consciousness 

Just after 1:00:00 Anil is talking about voluntary action as a freedom from immediacy, which I think carries a bit of misdirection or burying the lead. Freedom from immediacy, fine, there can be complicated clocks and timed systems in the brain, etc, but what is the feeling of will, how can it exist, and why? In addition, I don’t think many people question what is meant by ‘immediacy’. Isn’t that determined by some informal average of sensory sample rates? How is it not anthropocentric to project our arbitrary sense of now onto the universe as a whole? Timescale is one of the great keys to resolving the hard problem IMO.

I understand what Anil is saying about the sense of will or redness not needing to be real to be experienced, and not being part of the causal structure of the universe (I used to see it that way also for many years), but it fails to consider that by its own logic, asserting consciousness as something that isn’t completely real (a controlled or controlling hallucination) necessarily means that any idea we have about a universe or experiment that we can perform can be no more real. With physical science experiments, we can learn more about the physical-seeming end of our shared hallucination, but that is not to say its causal closure is anything more than the tautological limits of the very sense and sense making modalities we are using to locate this part of the universe in the first place. If redness can arise from a history of evolutionary utility then so can our sense of physicality. If, however, we can be right about anything, then at least some part of consciousness cannot be less real than physics.

Around 1:04:28 it starts getting a little animated, with Anil insisting that neuroscientific studies are not neutral with regard to free will. In the next minute, he steps back from that slightly to say that there’s merely no evidence of anything like free will. It’s hard to imagine how the lack of physical evidence wouldn’t be neutral, since Dualism would hold that of course there’s not going to be material evidence of non-material qualia. There no olfactory evidence for sight or colors either. I’m sure that Anil would agree that our sense of will is part of the universe that we model in our conscious experience as ‘physical’ or material, but I don’t think that he has considered that materiality itself may simply be conscious experience that has been rendered in a truncated form through our local interface/filter. The difference is that with the latter, our will can be both immaterial or transmaterial and have concrete material effects, because both subjective will and objective forms share the same common context of origin – there’s just no good reason to assume that context is more like our sense of physicality than our sense of mentality. To the contrary, with relativity and quantum mechanics, it seems clear that even the most physical of phenomena originate from a substrate that is more mind-like than it is matter-like. I see them both as categories of sensory-motive, aesthetic-participatory phenomena (universal qualia).

Around 1:12 they get into the inaccessibility of consciousness, with Anil saying that we will gradually have access to more data and Keith saying that science is irreducibly third person. My contribution to that is that if we study brain conjoined twins we can develop tech that will get us closer to sharing first person experience (or rather, those aspects of conscious experience that qualifies itself to itself as first person). There may be other ways to get around privacy also (which would unfortunately interest a lot of dangerous organizations as well). Maybe we can technologies to extend natural sensitivities and empathy to a degree that they produce rigorous science…maybe that’s a long way off but probably less invasive than brain sharing tech.

Seth goes on to say that he wants to see how far we can get pursuing the materialist project in science before considering other possibilities. I don’t think that anyone is suggesting on giving up on that, but I don’t see any advantage in presuming it is metaphysically accurate or waiting before exploring other possibilities. Around 1:18 Philip makes an excellent case for rejecting Anil’s approach of setting aside the hard problem, citing the somewhat unscientific decisions of Galileo, Descartes, and others to put non-material qualia outside of the domain of science.

At 1:22 the conversation gets slightly heated again as Anil suddenly gets personal by saying “Now you’re making a mistake you said you don’t make, and I’m a bit disappointed. You say you don’t make this mistake, but you just did!” Those of us who have debated at length about the Hard Problem recognize this pivot very well. The conversation has gone from a cordial sharing of perspectives to one of accusation and condescension. I wish that we had fMRI visualizations on everyone in the conversation and could see the frontal cortex activity getting hijacked by limbic activity. There is more going on here than just science – there is something that Anil, and most everyone that I have come across that subscribes to a physicalist view perceives as a threat, and one that demands an offensive response.

Both Anil and Philip agree here that there is something that a color blind person misses out on if they cannot see red – Philip says it is information (or knowledge from Frank Jackson’s Knowledge Argument/Mary’s Room), Anil isn’t really willing to formalize it though, saying only that the topic is a separate issue, a different thing for him and that it is irrelevant.

My Multisense Realism view defines qualia as the sole fundamental phenomenon, and one that includes a capacity to divide or limit (entropy-negentropy/insensitivity) access (sense/sense-making/empathy) to parts of itself. Qualia is what exists eternally – the Holos, insensitivity is what Graphs the Holos into local sub-holarchies of experience, and sense or consciousness is what reunites the latter with the former (making it holographic rather than hallucinatory). Sense is access to the totality. Entropy, including temporalization and spatialization, are functions of dynamically gating or limiting that access.

At 1:25 Anil and Keith affirm each other’s view that we should ignore the hard problem (the standard ‘shut up and calculate’ response, or non-response). Keith at least acknowledges this position as Illusionism, which he advocates, but Anil stops short of subscribing to it, saying at 1:26:07 “It doesn’t change what I would do very much.”

I think this attitude ironically supports Dualism. It’s a crytpo-dualism in which Res Cogitans is understood not to have an effect on Res Extensa (the doing that Anil cares about exclusively), and therefore doesn’t matter. Philip is correct when he says around 1:27 that the private/subjective phenomena are part of a totally different explanatory project from physical explanation, but I would go further and say that the project of physical explanation can be subsumed within the other project, as long as we don’t make the assumption that privacy/subjectivity is something other than (universal) qualia. With a universal qualia model like MSR, all physical forces and structures can be understood in sensory-motive terms.

Good job all around. I agree most with Philip, then Keith, and least with Anil, but I respect the nuance of his positions (not functionalism, not IIT, pragmatic, etc). Still, I think that Seth’s pragmatism is more biased than the wants to believe it is. Part of that seems like an unwillingness to care about the difference between pursuing materialistic methods (I think everyone agrees that we should) and the validity of the prospect of extending reality to the non-material. Anil seems to conflate the two positions, as if the former justifies the latter.

*My comments on the first hour are here.

“Is Consciousness a Controlled Hallucination?”

August 27, 2021 7 comments

In this new video from 8/25/2021, philosophers Philip Goff and Keith Frankish discuss consciousness with neuroscientist Anil Seth, whose new book is Being You: A New Science of Consciousness (which I have not read yet). Following are my comments on the first half of the video:

Jumping right in from the first few minutes, I have some questions, criticisms and insights that are worth mentioning. My apologies for the long winded, irritatingly constructed sentences that probably detract from what I’m trying to say more than clarify, but it’s important to me that I communicate the nuances in excruciating detail. Maybe someone or some AI internet archive spider will find it interesting in fifty years.

8:45 (Anil Seth) “Everything that we perceive is an active construction. It’s generated by the brain.”

Has this been tested and found to be conclusively true, or is it an assumption + confirmation bias? How do we know that what we perceive is not an active filtration or modulation of access to other contexts of consciousness (transpersonal, subpersonal, etc)? How do we know it is active construction rather than participatory collaboration?
What is the physical mechanism by which “the brain” (the whole organ? neurons? molecular changes within neurons?) “generates” (Explanatory Gap/Hard Problem goes here) these “constructions” (sights, sounds, flavors, thoughts…call them qualia)?

Note: *Importantly, anything we refer to as a brain is also only known as qualia, by qualia, for qualia. A brain is an object rendered in our sense of touch, an image rendered in our sense of sight, an idea rendered in our sense of understanding. We have no valid reason to presume objects to be anything other than shared or universal qualia. To the contrary, even the physicalist/eliminative position demands that everything that we experience and can ever experience, including all physical phenomena, can only ever be a representation of conditions inside of a (literally meta-physical) program or biochemical virtual “function space”. If physicalism is right, we can never contact physics in any way and are forever trapped in some kind of Platonic cave of computations that only seem physical, or only seem like computations, or only seem to seem…or something.

9:28 (AS) “My perceptions have the characteristic phenomenology – they appear the way they appear because that’s useful for my overall survival as an organism.”

My argument against this is that it is clearly a “Just So story”, that is, a post-hoc justification of appearances without being based on any plausible a priori possibility of a capacity to generate appearances physically, let alone for any such thing to provide a possibility of survival advantage over the ordinary complex physical activities of other body systems that we presume do not generate appearances and would not improve as a result of them. 1

Indeed, it seems quite implausible that of all phenomena that have come to exist in the universe, only these certain groups of cells in certain organic bodies have this unexplained physical power to generate non-physical appearances…to themselves…that bear some isomorphic relation to everything else in the universe…that actually has no appearance at all.

The entire physical universe is, under the contemporary neuroscientific view that Seth advocates, without appearance – an invisible, intangible, unexperienced void that spontaneously acquires a monumentally grand variety of distinct, multisensory appearances when certain very specific kinds of biochemical events occur in certain sequences. But how? And Why?

Given the staggeringly effective abilities of a simple periodic table of atoms generated by simple stars to physically generate and maintain every organism, every immune system, every brain structure and function without any such thing as appearance, why would this virtual dashboard “appearance”, within which a hallucinated “user” of such hallucinated dashboards also virtually “appears”, offer any improved chance of survival to a reproducing body of cells? There are neurons in the gut too. What is our theory for how and why these systems of cells would not benefit by creating hallucinated ‘constructions’ for…their mission critical activities (or is it for their constructed ‘selves’)?

9:40 (AS) “Redness is not objectively out there in the world. There’s just wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation”

The problem here is that our expectation of electromagnetic radiation, and of a world, and of objectivity would also have to be constructions. Our sense of a physical reality that has no appearance and can never be contacted in any way, must also be a construction. No matter how much science we do, and how objectively we think we are being, we can only ever validate our sense constructions by more constructed appearances of relation between theories (intellectual constructions) about observations (meta-perceptual constructions derived from multiple similar perceptual constructions). You can’t have it both ways. If consciousness is constructed, then every sense of correspondence between constructions is also constructed. We can’t put ourselves in a hallucinatory box without that box also being hallucinatory.

10:19 (AS) “In some conditons, like under psychedelic drugs or in psychosis, whatever, your perceptions become less controlled by the relevant sensory data.”

Is it always less controlled, or do altered states of consciousness sometimes appear to open access to sensory data that is controlled by different, but no less controlling features of reality beyond physical appearance constructions? Some of that data may be in conflict to some extent with our default conditioning, and even physical causality, but not always. Psychedelics and psychosis are sometimes tied to genius insights and unusually high performance (Doc Ellis’s LSD No-Hitter as an example). Transpersonal/psychedelic appearances may defy ordinary personal and subpersonal control, but that does not mean that the defiance is not simply another, perhaps higher2 context of control. There may be conflict and chaos between modes and scales of awareness, and that is fairly described as ‘uncontrolled’, but it need not imply that what is bleeding through personal awareness is not also a form of highly developed awareness. By analogy, two strong, clear radio station signals may be received by one receiver as a garbled confusion of two signals and static. In addition, examples like Doc Ellis’ psychedelic no-hitter present a counterfactual data point to the hypothesis that it is always adaptive for hallucinations to tend to resemble physical conditions and causes.

11:51 AS makes an important point about prediction not always being about predicting the future, but rather we might also refer to perceptual fill-in of missing data ‘prediction’. What needs more attention, IMO is the wholeness or gestalt of the appearance. A simulacra such as a face appearing in a cloud does not appear to be filling in something as a computer would try many different possible solutions, rather one solution or another appears in its entirety at any given moment. While the neuroscientific view focuses on the information processing function of suppressing ambiguity, the more interesting issue to me to focus on is what that ambiguity is replaced with – seemingly complete and aesthetically rich presentations that are revealed in a finished form rather than constructed over time, as if being pulled from some eternal Akashic gallery of archetypes. It seems to make no difference whether the gestalt is from memory or novel as far as the level of detail of its completeness or the speed in which it is accessed. When I see the Mona Lisa in the image below, it is ephemeral yet persistent, and neither fuzzy nor focused.

uncredited image from the internet

In the case of novel gestalts (such as a weird, non-famous face in slice of toast), the fill-in would appear to have no value or a negative value to abductive reasoning (~13:12). The simulacra toast face does not lead us to an explanation of a physical cause of that sensation. Note that our early advances in artificial image recognition do not produce these kinds of prefabricated gestalts, but rather just the opposite.

See my writings here for more information.

In fact, without the side by side comparison, the digitized output of Bayesian-like backpropagation does not really resemble an image. It is an anti-simulacra…a source of potential recognition strategies, but what is being recognized is not a visible image, but invisible statistics. Why, if Anil Seth’s view is on the right track, do our guesses and predictions look like they are coming from ‘somewhere’, rather than from nowhere?

The conversation continues into describing the role of prediction for both biology and consciousness. There is no question that human personal consciousness uses Bayesian-like probabilistic methods of accessing what I would call subpersonal data, but whether that data is simply another layer of conscious experience or an unexperienced biochemical process remains untouched by neuroscientific inquiry. Yes, our perception certainly can model to predict something evolutionarily functional (red octagon = Stop sign) but that does not explain what the appearance of color or shape actually is, how it appears, or why. Retrospectively, once we have qualia/appearances, then sure, we have every reason to benefit against natural selection pressures by using them, but we would have the same reason to benefit from any power that transcends ordinary physics. Omniscience would come in handy, and it’s just as likely to emerge spontaneously from physics as any sort of qualia.

The retrospective benefit of prediction does not in any way prospectively justify the existence of qualia or its value for prediction over and above biochemistry. Everything that Anil is saying is important to the easy problem of consciousness, and it gives us a plausible connection between evolved Bayesian prediction mechanisms and evolutionary biology, but it doesn’t give us any insight into how either of those mechanical-anesthetic functions could relate to phenomenological (aesthetic-participatory) presentations, or the possibility of their being generated physically or mathematically. Philip makes this point later on, around ~21:00, that the predictive features of consciousness are neutral as far as dualism v materialism is concerned.

Although Anil goes on to say that his materialism is pragmatic rather than an absolute philosophical conviction, he does not really seem to support that. Instead his defense of pragmatic materialism seems more tied to a preference for working with brain function rather than metaphysical speculation. I don’t disagree, but it’s not an argument that defends materialism objectively. It is of course more pragmatic professionally to know about the brain than it is to know about the big picture of life, the universe, and everything, but that doesn’t make it more true. As he continues around ~28:00, it seems clear to me that his rejection of Dualism (which I reject as well, but for the opposite reason3) is itself a kind of naive rejection of a straw man of Dualism, it’s history and popular association with the harmful behaviors of religious groups, etc. It’s a pedantic, and overused disqualification of all things non-material on general grounds of being ‘unhelpful’ and silly seeming. I think that there are good evolutionary reasons for that bias toward matter and by extension survival of the material body, but it is an unscientific bias nonetheless.

Around 33:45, Keith asks Anil about realism and privacy. His response includes “Buses have qualities, properties such as solidity and velocity that do not rely on a mind to exist.”

Here I would say that we only know that those physical properties do not require our mind to exist, but we do not know that such properties are anything other than other properties of consciousness. Perhaps there are impersonal qualities of conscious experience that are common to certain contexts and modalities of sense that have become nearly universal. If our sense of physicality is derived from our haptic-tactile sensitivity and perceptual processing, then it makes sense evolutionarily that the appearance of our body and it’s existence in a world of bodies/objects/matter is rendered with robust realism. That physical universe that our bodies exist within may be the sole common context that binds all experiences together, however that universe may in turn be dependent on a larger context of a universal haptic-tactile sense capacity that prefigures biology, and which may be dependent on a still larger context of an irreducibly aesthetic Totality or Holos.

The discussion goes on to mention Donald Hoffman’s Interface theory, where Anil comments that he parts ways at the point where Hoffman’s view suggests conscious agents everywhere. I call this ‘promiscuous panpsychism’ and agree that it seems unparsimonious – however – I see agency itself as irreducibly qualitative, so that it need not be a prerequisite for qualia. I propose that the universe may exist as an experiential phenomenon prior to a robust sense of agency, and that qualities like redness, or visibility itself may exist as modes of awareness independent of any container of multiple other types of awareness. Something like subjectivity may develop from more primitive sensory-motive qualities, which we may have mistakenly conceived of in non-participatory terms such as electromagnetism. In other words, the sense of being a participant may evolve from pre-agent experiential-aesthetic phenomena of “motive” or “participation”. It may be that agency is nothing more than a sense experience of persistent separation from of multiple other sense experiences.

I think that Anil is wise in stating at ~43:22 that his view does not insist that qualia must be reduced exclusively to behaviors, dispositions, and functions. He goes on to say that he thinks that the self is not a separate entity as in Dualism, but is just another controlled hallucination. I agree with that, however, if we follow the reasoning to its logical conclusion, Seth is saying that it is the brain that is hallucinating itself as a self, rather than as a brain appearance. This to me is arbitrary and inconsistent. If the self is a phenomenological model of something, then so must the brain be also – and physics. Whatever it is that hallucinates both physics, brains, and selves cannot be meaningfully described as physical, and the whole notion of hallucination begins to unravel itself. Neither self nor brain has any reason to hallucinate, and if hallucination is more primitive than either of those, there is no reason to diminish it in hallucinatory terms. If my suggestion of universal qualia is on the right track, that would be the more fundamental reality, or even more fundamental than reality as it encompasses fact, fiction, nonsense and qualia in which all three can comingle as well as transcended.

More that I agree with after the 50:00 mark, Anil talks about the brain being fundamentally an organ concerned with keeping the body alive. The problem is that view doesn’t offer any explanation of how that function would be so different from that of any other body organ or system that it would allow its predictive, homeostatic strategies to be anything other than the biochemical gears and timers that we observe them to physically be. What makes the homeostasis of a body any more worthy of non-physical aesthetic seemings and hallucinations than any other system within a body? The immune system has to record and strategize against pathogens, shouldn’t it also have evolved feelings, thoughts, sounds, etc to model its games and meta-games?

After the 57:00, Philip brings up Free Will and the extreme positions of Determinism vs Libertarian Free Will. Here again, Anil’s response is a fall back to cliched arguments from incredulity; “Not even wrong”, “Not the kind of argument that warrants…” These aren’t valid objections. They might be true, but you have to provide a reason why. How you feel about it isn’t relevant. “What could that possibly mean?” he asks at 58:39…”Without invoking some sort of thing that has causal agency…” “I have no need for that hypothesis”.

Except that you do need some kind of hypothesis for how you can purport to have authority to decide what hypotheses you need in the first place. What is this “you” that the brain puppet on the screen speaks of? How can it have opinions or change them?

I understand Anil’s line of objection as I used to think of free will in the same way for many years. I reasoned that we have no choice but to make the ‘best’ choice we are aware is possible. After flipping my physicalist worldview many years ago however, I see the limitations of that assumption. While I completely agree with determinists and neuroscientists who point to our shockingly bad estimation of the independence of our will from subconscious influences, I no longer see that as a valid reason to eliminate some measure of direct personal agency as a legitimate influence on its own.

For example, sure, I can connect up a device to someone’s brain and zap them into making their arm move. If I zap it just right, they will think that they have made it move, but if we follow the causal chain back from the zap, it is my personal agency that is clicking the button to override their personal agency. In addition to chronically overestimating our own sense of free will, I see that we also chronically underestimate it, and that human beings routinely demonstrate remarkably unprecendented acts of creativity – inventing their own new choices rather than simply following the nudgings of their default brain states.

This gets into a much deeper discussion into the fabric of causality, which in my view can be understood in a radically new way. To use a metaphor of a traffic light, where Anil Seth’s view might reduce a Yellow (“Caution”) traffic signal to a slightly more complicated flow chart of Red and Green deterministic calculations (How fast am I going? How long has the light been Yellow? etc) and other more subtle calculations (“That car on the right looks like it’s going too fast to clear the intersection”, “I can’t be late for this appointment”, etc), we have to ask why those computations would require some sort of experience of seeming to wield authority over the final edit of decision and the rather Promethean-seeming power of motor execution. Why wouldn’t the choice just happen without an “us”? Why would it be a choice rather than simply an arbitrarily next step in a series of generic computations? What feels proprietary about the final execution choice, and why? What feels responsible and endeavors to make others act responsibly?

I propose a different view of causality as a spectrum of overlapping interdependencies of influence. In the absolute sense, it is not will that is the illusion, but determinism and randomness. Will may be the authentic primordial phenomenon while mechanism and chaos are artifacts of interface entropy/insensitivity. What we see in the behavior of quantum phenomena for example may not be anything other than deeply microphenomenal will, or the distant ancestor of will. Not random, and not the Green Light / Red Light of determinism. Instead of reducing the Yellow Light to a flow chart of Green and Red dichotomies, I flip the assumption and see Green and Red dichotomies as the approximated appearances – collapsed states of Yellow light experiences of will that are not directly accessible to our interface. I’m not suggesting a kind of panpsychism where every electron is agonizing over their destiny like Hamlet, but rather that what we see as an electron is itself only a reflection of many contexts of experience that are ultimately united in superposition of both ‘to be’ and ‘not to be’…the eternal and the eternally ephemeral.

I observe that the strong nature of the objections to taking personal will as ontologically distinct from other influences as, ironically, a reflection of the particular modes of sense and sense-making that we have learned to use and cherish from legacy of scientific Enlightenment thinking. Ironic because we are using our free will to choose to deny free will. Could anything else even have the power to deny itself sincerely? Once we drop the anthropocentric and biocentric bias from our understanding of sense, we no longer have a reason to assume that the haptic-tactile sense of a physical world is the sole authoritative context within which reality is defined. That sense, as well as visibility, may only be specialized modalities of objectifying and separating, so that it would be a category error to look to them to find evidence of will. Will is at the opposite end of the continuum of sense – the most intimate and least objectified influence on reality. You won’t find it in a microscope or photomultiplier. What we do find in our experiments with photomultipliers, however, defy any reasonable expectation of randomness or determinism, proving again and again to be more than either…more like the Yellow Light than either the Red/Green of determinism or the arbitrary blinking of both. It appears to be “uncertainty” all the way down, so how is that not will? If it is will or proto-will, why should we be the sole phenomenon in the universe who posses only an illusion of it?

I’ll stop here at the 1:00:00 mark for now. Will continue watching the second half and post my comments soon. Or I won’t! Depends on what I decide, and what reasons I choose, of the many that influence me from the subpersonal, personal, and transpersonal levels of my awareness to place above other influences. No matter how few degrees of freedom I really have, just the sense that I exist at all, and that will is even conceivable objectively contain more degrees of freedom than a universe in which those experiences/phenomena do not exist.

Part 2 of this is here.

1 See Raymond Tallis excellent book “Aping Mankind“, chapter “The Disappearance of Appearance”. I have also lifted the terms prospective and retrospective from his writing on this topic.

2 More aesthetically rich, seemingly more meaningful, multivalent, synchronistic, and often seemingly more teleologically driven.

3 In my understanding, Dualism is insufficient not because of any ties to superstition or fantasy, but because it doesn’t go far enough, and because I think that Locke and Galileo made a mistake in giving objectified qualia Primary status, relegating trans-tangible and intangible qualia Secondary status for centuries to come. Unlike physical or mathematical law, aesthetic qualia are conserved across all context of realism and surrealism. Even under synesthesia, a word or number may have a color, but the color and the word are merely bound together, not indistinguishable. Red is red whether we are dreaming, hallucinating, or wide awake. Whether visible wavelength photons are present or not. Most qualia is conserved across states of consciousness but many physical laws are not. I may dream of a physical world where gravitational laws are unstable or anti-realistic, but I cannot dream of a world where the color red has no visible appearance.

Psygnitrophy, Entropy, etc

August 22, 2021 Leave a comment

Matthew Forrest: Linear time is an illusion

July 20, 2021 Leave a comment

Great video Matthew. I agree mostly, but I don’t think that we need to conclude that linear time is (only) an 𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙪𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣, any more than we can conclude that photons are 𝒏𝒐𝒕 an illusion.

I see illusion itself as more illusory, a function of the perceptual sense of realism which is a hierarchical, power-law relation across multiple modes and scales of perceptual access.

For example, in the perceptual reality of all small flying insects such as a mosquito, the surface tension of water allows one to stand on top of a pond. The world at that scale is just a different world than it is at the scale of a human body.

I propose that in addition to having access to different qualities of the exterior (seeming) world by virtue of that world’s body size scale differences, mosquito experience also likely includes access to a corresponding set of interior (seeming) features (such as sensory and perceptual qualities) that human experience does not. The mosquito may not experience the world in anything like the stunning degree of aesthetic richness that human consciousness affords.

The mosquito’s life may be devoid of deep pain and pleasure as we know them, of a sense of self as separate from all of mosquito-kind, etc. It’s a different game of life at that scale – possibly more about geometry of feelings rather than the geometry of crystal clear objects we can touch and see with human scale sense.

Our scope of access changes as we grow and age, but also remains the same as far as it remains the experience of an individual human being, which is divided out of a larger collective experience of family, species, order, class, phylum, kingdom, etc. I propose that experience goes beyond biological kingdoms even, and into geo-chemical and astro-nuclear scales of 𝒓𝒆𝒍𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒗𝒆 size and relative sample frequency rate.

It makes sense to me that because perception or consciousness is necessarily and literally 𝙜𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙧 than reality, and includes sole access to all facts and fictions, facts are literally a localized/localizing subset of universal fiction rather than the other way around.

What we perceive to be stable facts (and which 𝙖𝙧𝙚 stable facts 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚, physical constants etc,) can be understood as established, ongoing fact-fiction experiences of a greater or lesser scale of significance than our own ongoing fact-fictions.

I propose that the relation of the scales of significance are the basis of the perceptual quality of realism, as well as gravity, both of which are the same power law relation of universal perception only interiorized and exterioirzed respectively.

We can have dreams that are more realistic or less realistic than our waking experience, but within any given dream or period of waking awareness, we can accept any degree of strangeness and surreality as factual reality. Only the experience of waking up, which is a perceptual shift in perceptual context, can change the relations to cast one set of experiences as dream and another as reality.

If you never wake up from a dream, that dream is your real life. The only difference is that real life is a dream that shares more context of common sense (sense that is literally common across more relative scales and sample rate frequencies, modalities, and quantities of individualized experiences).

TSC Science of Consciousness Retrospective

July 3, 2021 Leave a comment



40 The Elephant in Every Room: A Proposed Theory of Multisense Realism

Craig Weinberg

Multisense realism defines a new approach to bridge the Explanatory Gap between neurological observation and first hand conscious experience. This is a hypothesis of consciousness, elementary physics, and ultimately cosmology which requires no belief in non-ordinary reality yet which honors the full spectrum of the psyche and self. It consists of new interpretations of established scientific and common sense observations rather than a contradiction of them. It is proposed that consciousness, rather than being either a metaphysical epiphenomenon of matter, or a Cartesian dualism alongside matter, is more like a frequency range within a continuous spectrum which includes both subjective and objective phenomena. Rather than a simple graduated continuum like the electromagnetic spectrum, it should be conceived of as an ‘involuted continuum’ which twists into an interior and exterior topology like a Möbius strip. The common denominator (the strip) is the sense which arises from through symmetry, similarity, circuity, and divergence between the various nested perspectives on interiority and exteriority. Sense is the underlying primitive. That is what the cosmos, and we ourselves are “made of’”. Not mind or matter, but the capacity for the two to be both separate in one sense and the same thing in another. Sense is a universal dance of presentation and representation. Without either subject or object – there cannot be a sense of ‘reality’ or realism. Realism arises from this involuted continuum between opposite ontological expressions.


Slide Deck: The Elephant in Every Room



23 Consciousness: Intrinsic, Primordial, Multisense Realism

Craig Weinberg (, Durham, NC)

Multisense Realism (MSR) is philosophical hypothesis which is intended to pick up where panpsychism leaves off. Consisting of an informal framework of core concepts developed from diverse influences such as semiotics, information theory, and anthropology, MSR proposes a united continuum of physics and phenomenology which is fundamentally aesthetic. MSR addresses five problems (The Hard Problem of Consciousness, The Explanatory Gap, The Combination or Binding Problem, The Symbol Grounding Problem, and the Mind Body Symmetry Problem) as a single Presentation Problem, while exposing critical flaws in popular competing approaches. MSR aspires to be a reality theory which reconciles the plausible and the absurd under the umbrella of a single irreducible synthetic a priori, and in the process reinterprets the number one, the Big Bang, and the ontology of light.

I don’t have a digital copy of my poster for 2014, but I did get this cool souvenir poster signed by a lot of great people:



47 Diffractivity and Multisense Continuum

Craig Weinberg (, Durham, NC )

In the science of consciousness, one question that we must eventually ask is, What is the event horizon of consciousness? Where does the rubber hit the road? Are all sensations, feelings and thoughts derived from a common source? Many theories offer ways to correlate consciousness with formal systems such as neurology or information processing, but the accomplishment of correlation itself is taken for granted from the start. I think that this is a problem which turns out to be identical to the Hard Problem. Without an explanation of precisely what is doing the actual relating in Relativity or the actual integrating in IIT, we have not solved the problem, only hidden it from ourselves. The hypothesis of Diffractivity begins by rejecting emergence-based theories on the grounds that they provide no explanation for their own origin. Diffractivity inverts the assumption of an unconscious universe which produces consciousness so that it is the appearance of unconsciousness which is proportional to dissociation by insensitivity. Diffractivity is intended as a philosophical conjugate to Relativity, but it can be adapted to any theory which reduces to a formal system. In Hameroff and Penroses Orch OR, the Diffractivistic conjugate to the Objective Reduction would be a Subjective Inflation. In Tononi & Kochs IIT, Information Integration would be preceded an Aesthetic Disintegration. Bohms Implicate and Explicate Order would be diffracted from the order-transcending Multisense Continuum. Any system based on structures, including mathematics and logic, would find new roots beyond formality and extend to fusion with the Continuum. This is not intended as an appeal to supernatural metaphysics but a logical extension of the proposition of ordinary sense as fundamental. By grounding all substances and conditions into a foundation which is purely aesthetic, we gain insight into the philosophical and technological issues of the 21st century. The empirical observations of science and math remain the same, only their interpretation changes. Diffractivity proposes that objects, dreamed or real, are produced by the same filtering, but with a different scale of experiential density or significance. Time and space emerge as limits on awareness rather than axioms of existence. We can see and understand white light as a colorless brightness which reveals color through diffraction of light itself. Diffractivity proposes that all phenomena are fragments of a universal experience, and that the maximum degree of fragmentation within any given frame of perception constitutes its math and physics. Electromagnetic effects would be affects of effectiveness, in the same way that light is a seeing of seen-ness. What we experience as physics, chemistry, and biology is suggested to emerge from fundamental levels of diffraction. Our sense of subjectivity provides a limited unveiling, or re-acquaintance with that which has been alienated by time, space, and entropy, giving the brain a new identity as an aesthetic diffraction engine.

Diffractivity slide deck




68 The Hard Problem of Signaling.

Craig Weinberg (, Durham, NC )

As we struggle to understand consciousness scientifically, we should take care to avoid errors resulting from anthropomorphic projection and assumptions of bottom-up emergence. My presentation focuses on clarifying the differences between physical form, logical information, and sense experience. I propose that common terms such as ‘signaling’ and ‘sense data’ are deceiving approximations which rely on pan-semiotic, anthropomorphic biases that lead us away from understanding and toward an echo-chamber of fallacies and false presumptions. What is the difference between a physical chain reaction and a signal? What is the difference between sense experience and sense-making? What is the role of tangibility in differentiating between objects, concepts, and percepts, and what is the origin of tangibility? In light of the accelerated pace of AI development and the heightened intensity of debate about its implications, it is important to go back and re-examine the foundations of computation from a philosophical perspective. By doing this, at least some of us will see that science and technology have not solved the hard problem of consciousness, only miniaturized it to the point that it can be easily overlooked. In my view, recognizing this mistake and the gravity of its consequences is critical to any deep understanding of consciousness or simulated intelligence systems. Without such a deep understanding, I think that we will tend to assume human or superhuman sentience for any unfamiliar results, and to ultimately cede authority to systems which only reflect our own desires for certainty and leadership. C13

Hard Problem of Signaling slide deck

2019 Interlaken, Switzerland


  1. De-Simulating Natural Intelligence
    Craig Weinberg,
    In recent years, scientific and popular imagination has been captured by the idea that
    what we experience directly is a neuro-computational simulation. At the same time,
    there is a contradictory idea that some things that we experience, such as the existence
    of brains and computers, are real enough to allow us to create fully conscious and intelligent devices. This presentation will try to explain where this logic breaks down, why
    true intelligence may never be generated artificially, and why that is good news. Recent
    studies have suggested that human perception is not as limited as previously thought,
    and that while machines can do many things better than we can, becoming conscious
    may not be one of them. The approach taken here can be described as a Variable Aspect
    Monism or Multisense Realism, and it seeks to clarify the relationship between physical
    form, logical function, and aesthetic participation.



The Astro-Nuclear Domain

July 1, 2021 Leave a comment

When we look at the telescopic view of the universe, we see stars and galaxies. I’ll call this the astro-nuclear domain or scale. In that domain, what we can see of a planet is not the planet itself but the planet’s ability to reflect starlight. Even then, we can only see the closest few.

All of the phenomena that we can see on this scale are explained by the most primitive forms of chemistry – of atoms, electrons, and photons.

The largest (astro) and smallest (nuclear) scales define each other as the outer envelope of our tangible frame of reference.  Within that envelope, these scales are not polarized. They are the same phenomenon. It is our perception, coming from a perspective and sample rate enveloped multiple times toward the center of the continuum between the astro and nuclear scales, that perceive a distinction between atoms and stars. From a scale invariant perspective – they are the same thing. Stars make atoms, atoms make stars. Solar systems are like giant atoms, atoms are like tiny solar systems. This could be considered a causally closed system, and without senses that go beyond the electromagnetic spectrum, the possibility of the existence of planets and their geochemical scale elaborations would remain forever inaccessible.

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