Home > consciousness, cosmogony, cosmology, metaphysics, Perception, phenomenology, philosophy, physics, spacetime > Michael Shermer with Dr. Donald Hoffman — The Case Against Reality (SCIENCE SALON # 78)

Michael Shermer with Dr. Donald Hoffman — The Case Against Reality (SCIENCE SALON # 78)

September 8, 2019 Leave a comment Go to comments

Let me begin by saying that in my view Donald Hoffman’s model is the best that there is in the field at this time. I agree with Hoffman’s view that our sense of realism is an evolved Homo sapien UI, and I suggest that part of the evolutionary sculpting of this UI (and probably for all species of animal consciousness), tangibility as a sense modality is over-emphasized and taken ultra-literally.  I propose this because I reason that there would be a strong evolutionary advantage to being ultra-serious about tangible renderings of public-facing events for an animal that has self-locomotion to be able to navigate its movements. Once we correct for that over-literal weighting, tangibility can be understood as just another modality of sense experience, not necessarily as the primary modality of the universe. In other words, our experience has a body experience but there may be many experiences that do not. This opens the door to disembodied contexts of consciousness and perhaps even conscious experiences which do not include a robust sense of agent-hood.

Around 1:20:00 he talks about the human UI as a portal to another’s consciousness, i.e., even though a smile doesn’t resemble happiness, when we see another person smile, we can infer an experience of happiness because we also have one. He goes on to say how it makes sense that our portal/interface is optimized for other humans and it gives up more and more as you get further from human to human interaction (human-cat is worse, human-ant is even worse, by the time we get to protons and electrons, our interface has completely given up.) Michael Shermer mentions an associated concept of ‘Middling’ from Richard Dawkins. I have proposed a more elaborate hypothesis of this same idea and call it eigenmorphism.

There are a few assumptions in Hoffman’s thinking that I question:

  1. The UI is ‘created on the fly’ rather than accessed on the fly.I am not convinced that our UI experience is spontaneously confabulated, so much as it is bent and refracted in different ways. Where Hoffman assumes objective reality, I propose a reality which is objective of any particular UI scope, but not objective of the Grand Interface, within which even ‘Users’ or agents are icons of a deeper, trans-agent reality. Our dream is not reality, but that doesn’t mean that reality is anything other than the absolute total of all dreaming.
  2. That anything can ‘exist’ without a receptive capability.In my understanding, one of the deepest flaws of the Western scientific worldview stems from the disqualification and disparagement of ‘feminine’ capacities for sensitivity and receptivity. Under the ‘masculine’-dominant paradigm of our scientific legacy, ‘existence’ is reduced to an ontological state of ‘being’ rather than one of ‘feeling’. I think this is a grave mistake, and that all forms of being are necessarily some experiential context in which foregrounded and backgrounded qualities form dynamic partnerships. This mutual arising of definitions is what I think is glimpsed in both Relativity and Quantum theory. The only “is” is experience itself, all other experiences are relativistic instances of “which is”.
  3. That evolution of the UI justifies evolutionary creation of a UI in the first place.I agree that evolutionary mechanisms shape aspects of the UI, however, that does not explain why the UI is felt, seen, heard, tasted, etc. We still have to have a universe made of true, direct aesthetic phenomena before those phenomena can diverge and be compared as more or less ‘real’ than each other.

I propose then that we take Hoffman’s proposal as true (excepting my three proposed corrections above) for the purpose of taking it even further. In a sense, I am proposing that even though the User Interface model is the best I’ve seen, it is still missing half of the big picture. To get that other half, let us begin by assuming that his view of the UI as selecting against genuine truths about reality, but then consider that these divergences from exterior reality also converge to a set of genuine truths about the other side of reality. In the center of this ‘other side’ of reality is a perpendicular truth attractor (call it Sense or pansensitivity) which is not evolved but accumulated outside of spacetime as a common, transpersonal, nonlocal pool of all experiences.

I suggest that we may understand some of the nature of this attractor to some extent by simply applying our imagination to inverting the qualities of our public-facing experience such that are diametrically opposite. If the unexperienced reality beyond our public facing human UI is generic, mechanical, game-theoretic, and spaced-timed, a-signifying, interchangeable, recursive, teleonomic-stochastic, then the unexperienced reality beyond our private facing UI is proprietary, animistic, spontaneously vital, creative and rule-averse,  authentic…intimate, aesthetically saturated, proprietary, teleological, super-signifying, radically unique, etc.

Our UI doesn’t tell us the truth of the universe, but its very fabric may be a tool kit that leads back to truth of the universe in a round-about way.  I propose that universe itself may be a self-nesting, self-bootstrapping aesthetic-participatory phenomenon which not only builds labyrinths of anesthetic-automatic appearances to trap itself in temporarily but also gives itself the keys to find its way back out. The universe is a significance building dream factory that inflates and reduces parts of itself in increasingly complex ways – sort of an inhaling of negentropic limitations and exhaling of evanescing entropies.

Let’s talk about what I think the real fabric of nature is; nested sensory-motive presentation.

To begin with, a simple proposal: As mass is to energy, space is to time, and sense is to motive.

The Mass/Space/Motive end is projective. Consciousness ‘inhaling’ extends ‘out’ into quantized graphed ‘particle’ appearances (Nod to Descartes Res Extensa). The opposite, Energy/Time/Sense end is receptive (Consciousness exhales and returns into newly re-qualified, de-graphed ‘holos’ or gestalt appearances).

I would suggest letting all of that sink in before bothering to go further into my elaborations and speculations. For those who do want to go down the full Multisense Realism rabbit hole, my conjecture is that this sensory exhale, motive inhale dynamic is repeated across many parallel levels and cycles of cycles. Our human experience is obscenely well developed on both the inhale and exhale ends, such that we have a signifying interiority of multiplexed sensory nestings (sensations<perceptions<figurations<emotion<awareness>self awareness>thought>intuition>”consciousness”) that interfaces with an a-signifying exteriority of motive scales (physical ( chemical (organic (biological (zoological (anthropological) ) ) ) ) ).

Here then is my arcane formula for the totality of consciousness and nature:

ॐ ⊇ ש {((-ℵ↔Ω)↓ºt)⊥(ωª↑(H←d))}

The explanation on that link is probably hard to follow, so I’ll take a shot at a more concise explanation:

There is an Absolute foundation to all of nature, which I call Pansensitivity or the Aesthetic Holos . It is the superset of its diffracted or graphed parts ש. These parts are unified along two perpendicular axes. {(( the horizontal continuum extends between two extremes of consciousness.  The first extreme is rendered in our UI as the absolute transpersonal significance of selfhood in a theological/spiritual/artistic sense. I use the symbol -ℵ as a way to suggest a boundaryless infinity of superlative aesthetic qualities and capacities, i.e. Godlike omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence. There is a subtle reference here to the Aleph numbers and infinite cardinality, such that by using ‘negative Aleph’ I am suggesting an infinite creativity which transcends unity and multiplicity…a super-everythingness from which all thingness arises. This -ℵ point of maximally expanded Self consciousness also includes dimetric opposite but equally florid qualities of identification with abject terror or super-personalization of omni-malignant Chthonic deities. -ℵ is a Heaven & Hell super-saturation of aesthetic qualities where relief and suffering extend beyond all limits of imagination.

The opposite end of the -ℵ  continuum is rendered in our UI as the absolute impersonal insignificance of selfhood in the atheistic/objectifying/scientistic sense. I use the symbol Ω for various reasons, but suffice it to say this Omega point is the sense of profound insignificance of the self. This is Carl Sagan’s ‘billions and billions’ sense of the vastness of the public-facing, spaced-timed universe, with its fantastic formulas that reveal quantifiable simplicities within all appearances of complexity.

This (-ℵ↔Ω) ‘horizontal’ continuum is further conjectured to be organized in hierarchical scales of time such that the longer periods of time that are available, the richer and broader the extension of the spectrum becomes. This saturation of awareness and intelligence is characterized in the term (↓ºt). For example, the longer human history lasts, the more geniuses contribute to a greater and greater pool of art and science, which then potentially becomes more and more integrated and distributed to all members of the community or network. Each person can become more and more like all of the great geniuses of history who have come before them and have an increasingly profound worldview because of it.

Perpendicular ⊥ to this Easternizing/Subjectifying-Westernizing/Objectifying spectrum (-ℵ↔Ω) of enrichment of significance (↓ºt) is the contra spectrum of contraction and entropy that is denoted as (ωª↑(H←d)). If the former spectrum describes an inhaling of more and more inner and outer significance from the top down (), this second spectrum describes an exhaling into an increasing pool of bottom-up entropy and negentropy. Instead of an intentional striving for more and more aesthetically saturated and profound experiences, this continuum is about the dissipation of aesthetic significance and sensitivity into automatism. The ω variable denotes the minimum fragment of experience – sort of the ‘spiritless spirit of points in a void’ – a quantum-Brownian static-dynamism of absolute entropy-negentropy. Recursiveness and replication. Randomness and accident. The addition of the feminine ordinal superscript ωª is supposed to connote an opposite sense of hierarchy from the masculine ºt of the primary continuum. In the primary continuum, causality flows downward ↓ from Holos to spacetime (graphos) in a successive watering down from the kind of profound ‘Golden Age’ omniscient surrealism to an ‘Iron Age’, prosaic realism. In this secondary continuum, computable complexity builds from the bottom up . If the –ℵ↔Ω continuum expands significance by breaking gestalt, multivalent, metaphorically layered concepts into mytho-poetic utterances, the ωª↑ continuum builds alphabets and dictionaries out of nearly meaningless semaphores. The language is the servant of the speaker-thinker, but the language can draw out potentials from the speaker-thinker as well.

The final (H←d) element of the formula describes the relation between entropy and distance. This describes what Hoffman was getting at with the breakdown of the UI as it is pushed beyond its intended specs. As a human, the more distant in scale and familiarity from the human world, the less empathy and relation we can have with what is ‘behind the face’ of the icon that our UI presents. The ant’s experience is insignificant relative to our own, so the ant is rendered as a small, generic insect. We don’t much care to know what it is like to be an ant because it is not an evolutionary advantage to do so. I used the rather than the symbol in the secondary continuum to suggest an existential gravity, what our UI presents as the second law of thermodynamics and the promise of cosmological heat death. In the primary continuum, by contrast, the ‘now’ moment accumulates more and more significance into each ‘lifetime’ experience that it is represented in our UI as the idea of the Singularity or eternal, transcendental now in which all of space and time can be accessed simultaneously.

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