Archive for the ‘anthropology’ Category

Time for Nested Causality

March 5, 2014 Leave a comment

chronos2What do you about the simultaneity of cause and effect?

“The greater part of operating causes in nature are simultaneous with their effects, and the succession in time of the latter is produced only because the cause cannot achieve the total of its effect in one moment. But at the moment when the effect first arises, it is always simultaneous with the causality of its cause, because, if the cause had but a moment before ceased to be, the effect could not have arisen…. The time between the causality of the cause and its immediate effect may entirely vanish, and the cause and effect be thus simultaneous, but the relation of the one to the other remains always determinable according to time.” (Kant, 1787, The Critique of Pure Reason)

 I suggest that time has a linear quality within the center of any given reference frame, but that every reference frame bleeds into nested frames of larger and smaller scales of ‘now’. What is separated for us by days or hours is simultaneous in another sense. The smaller nows nested beneath our reference frame increasingly lose their proprietary, narrative quality and are reduced to the appearance of generic perpetual oscillations of the ‘same’ moment (tick tock). Time, therefore, has three different aesthetic/ontological gears – two types of eternity (an elemental, vibrational one at the bottom, an eternal, synchronistic one at the top) and a range of unfolding semi-causality sandwiched in between.
As the crickets’ soft autumn hum
is to us
so are we to the trees
as are they
to the rocks and the hills.
   – Gary Snyder

Metaphysical vs Metaphenomenal

February 13, 2014 Leave a comment

One of the most contentious areas in philosophy revolves around what I consider to be a misconception about the relation between the physical and phenomenal. In particular, the term ‘metaphysical’ forces supernatural connotations onto what would otherwise be non-ordinary but natural experiences and states of mind. I think that the problem is in failing to recognize the physical and phenomenal as each having their own ranges which both overlap and oppose each other. What I mean is, synchronicity and precognition are not metaphysical, they are metaphenomenal. The surprising part is that this means that the ordering of events in which we participate is actually a subjective experience nested within many other subjective and perhaps trans-subjective subjective experiences on different scales. Einstein talked about the relativity of simultaneity, and the metaphenomenal (aka collective unconscious) works in a similar way.

When we make time physical without acknowledging the role that phenomenology has in producing both the form and content of “time”, we introduce a false universal voyeur which effectively flattens all aesthetic qualities and participation into a one dimensional vector in one direction. By taking the term metaphysical, we unintentionally validate this flattened view of the universe in which physics is nature, and phenomenology, particularly deep or non-ordinary phenomenology, can only be non- or meta- physical and therefore supernatural, aka superstitious, aka illusory. If we look at how physics treats its own non-ordinary phenomena, such as quantum entanglement, quasars, and dark energy, we do not see the term ‘illusion’ or ‘folk astronomy’ being thrown around. Their strangeness is acknowledged in a way which invites curiosity rather than fear. The mystery is safely projected into the impersonal realm of physics and the super-impersonal realm of theoretical physics. By contrast, the metaphenomenal range is super-personal or transpersonal, containing experiences which challenge our conventional expectations about the realism of physical bodies, locality, and time.

It is not incorrect to say that for these reasons the metaphenomenal can be considered metaphysical, however I think that is where we are placing the emphasis on the wrong set of properties. Instead of using experiences such as intuition, synchronicity, and even divination as scientific clues to a super-personal range of awareness, we are distracted by the apparent contradiction to physics (as if ordinary awareness did not contradict physics already). To rehabilitate our perspective, I suggest considering the relation between the different ranges of physical (ontic) and phenomenal (telic) phenomena in this way:

The term ‘paranormal’ is, like supernatural and metaphysical, the same kind of misnomer. If we see physics as a product of more primitive phenomenal sense, then it is consciousness itself which is doing the normalizing, so that it cannot be considered ‘normal’ itself. In another sense, since it is our consciousness which is defining normalcy, it does indeed identify its own regularity and meta-regularities and challenges those definitions as well. The metaphenomenal serves not only as an extension of the personal psyche into the collective unconscious, but also as a line in the sand beyond which sanity is not guaranteed.

Microphysical and Microphenomenal

The same thing occurs in another way, in an opposite way, on the bottom end of my chart. The sub-personal roots of microphenomenology and the sub-impersonal seeds of microphysics are the bottom up layers of causality and are more directly related than the top layers. The sub-personal (sub-conscious, id) urges and the microphysical (binary, semaphore-digital) are low level signs which are used to literally motivate and control. It is a common language of pushing things around.

To be able to exercise control it is necessary first to be able to see that which is to be controlled as separate in some sense from that which controls. There must be a way to sense them as ‘things’ or as a kind of inertial field which resists your intentions to cause a sensible effect. This experience of ‘things outside the self’ is the beginning of motivation, desire, intelligence, etc. In this way, motive and mechanism are born. The teeth in your mouth and the teeth of a gear exploit the same mechanical power to physically endure and prevail.

In the schema I propose, the fabric of the universe is tessellated or braided into these levels of nested counterpoint. The higher level objectifies the lower level into things because the higher level enjoys a more complete, but distanced panoramic view. The predator’s perspective engulfs the prey’s perspective. Biological organisms also objectify other living things and their own living body as higher than non-living things. Organisms with nervous systems take it one step beyond, seeing their own lives as a kind of meta-thing to direct as separate from the body. The human brain corresponds to a further, and perhaps ultimate mutation on the theme of self-reflection. There are physical implications for all of this but they have to do with time more than materials and structure. The expansion of time gives us more raw experiential material, more moments and more awareness of past and future within each moment. Technology and leisure make a virtuous cycle, bringing innovations which give us more things to do with our minds and bodies, and with the world.

Robert Anton Wilson wrote about the Jumping Jesus phenomenon – that it took X number of years for the first person to be born who had the impact of a Jesus or a Buddha, and how we now have several of them living at any particular moment. Buckminster Fuller and Terrence McKenna are among those who had this hyper-enthusiasm for the future which underlies today’s Singularity ethos. The ever ‘tightening gyre’, the transcendental object at the end of history, etc. It would seem, however, that at the same time, this enthusiasm is somehow perpetually deluded, and forever producing time wasting, leisure robbing coercions as well. As the acceleration increases, so does the mass, and a kind of stalemate plus or minus is maintained.


By shifting from the ad hoc, monolithic model of phenomenology as a kind of malfunctioning folk physics, or as physics belonging to an illusion that must be overcome spiritually, I propose a sense-based, multivalent view in which the metaphenomenal is understood to be both less than and more than physically real with high orthogonality, and the microphysical is understood to be less than and more than cosmologically meaningful with high isomrophism. The (one) mistake that David Chalmers made, in my opinion, is in accidentally introducing the idea of a zombie rather than a doll to the discussion of AI. Similar to error of the terms metaphysical and supernatural, the zombie specifies an expectation of personal level consciousness which is absent, rather than sub-personal level consciousness which is present on the microphysical levels. We can understand more clearly that a doll is not conscious on a personal level, no matter how many things it can say, or how many ways its limbs can be articulated. On the micro-physical level however, the material which makes up the doll expresses some sensory experience. It can be melted or frozen, broken or burned, etc. The material knows how to react to its environment sensibly and appropriately, and this is how material is in fact defined – by its sensible relations to material conditions. Just as we can assemble a 3D image on a 2D screen out of dumb pixels, so too can be automate a 5D human impostor on a 4D behavior stream of a doll.

By properly locating the micro-level physics beneath the personal-level phenomenology, we can see that beneath the micro-level physics there can be an even more primitive micro-phenomenology. On the top end as well, beyond the ontological truths of mathematics and logic, there are teleological apprehensions of aesthetics and meaning – without necessarily invoking a God personality (although that can work too, I just don’t see it as making as much sense as transpersonal Absolute).

*the super-impersonal is similar to the metaphenomenal in that it is difficult and esoteric, but opposite in that it is extrinsic rather than intrinsic. Where the metaphenomenal uses symbols as archetypes, loaded with metaphor and occult mystery, the superimpersonal (which would be more correct to call metaphysical) uses arcane mathematical and logical expressions. These are a kind of anti-metaphor as they relate to precisely defined, universally understood public information. The whole point is to expose the theory and completely, so that anyone is welcome to try to learn how to understand and use them, without any initiation rituals or strange pictures.

Looking Glass

January 29, 2014 Leave a comment


Annotated Tree

January 19, 2014 Leave a comment


Chess, Media, and Art

January 15, 2014 Leave a comment

I was listening to Brian Regan’s comedy bit about chess, and how a checkmate is such an unsatisfying ending compared to other games and sports. This is interesting from the standpoint of the insufficiency of information to account for all of reality. Because chess is a game that is entirely defined by logical rules, the ending is a mathematical certainty, given a certain number of moves. That number of moves depends on the computational resources which can be brought to bear on the game, so that a sufficiently powerful calculator will always beat a human player, since human computation is slower and buggier than semiconductors. The large-but-finite number of moves and games* will be parsed much more rapidly and thoroughly by a computer than a person could.

This deterministic structure is very different (as Brian Regan points out) from something like football, where the satisfaction of game play is derived explicitly from the consummation of the play. It is not enough to be able to claim that statistically an opponent’s win is impossible, because in reality statistics are only theoretical. A game played in reality rather than in theory depends on things like the weather and can require a referee. Computers are great at games which depend only on information, but have no sense of satisfaction in aesthetic realism.

In contrast to mechanical determinism, the appearance of clichés presents a softer kind of determinism. Even though there are countless ways that a fictional story could end, the tropes of storytelling provide a feedback loop between audiences and authors which can be as deterministic -in theory- as the literal determinism of chess. By switching the orientation from digital/binary rules to metaphorical/ideal themes, it is the determinism itself which becomes probabilistic. The penalty of making a movie which deviates too far from the expectations of the audience is that it will not be well received by enough people to make it worth producing. Indeed, most of what is produced in film, TV, and even gaming is little more than a skeleton of clichés dressed up in more clichés.

The pull of the cliché is a kind of moral gravity – a social conditioning in which normative thoughts and feelings are reinforced and rewarded. Art and life do not reflect each other so much as they reflect a common sense of shared reassurance in the face of uncertainty. Fine art plays with breaking boundaries, but playfully – it pretends to confront the status quo, but it does so within a culturally sanctioned space. I think that satire is tolerated in Western-objective society because of its departure from the subjective (“Eastern”) worldview, in which meaning and matter are not clearly divided. Satire is seen as both not as threatening to the material-commercial machine, which does not depend on human sentiments to run, and also the controversy that satire produces can be used to drive consumer demands. Something like The Simpsons can be both a genuinely subversive comedy, as well as a fully merchandized, commercial meme-generating partner of FOX.

What lies between the literally closed world of logical rules and the figuratively open world of surreal ideals is what I would call reality. The games that are played in fact rather than just in theory, which share timeless themes but also embody a specific theme of their own are the true source of physical sustenance. Reality emerges from the center out, and from the peripheries in.

*“A guesstimate is that the maximum logical possible positions are somewhere in the region of +-140,100,033, including trans-positional positions, giving the approximation of 4,670,033 maximum logical possible games”

MSR: Perceptual Inertial Frames

January 3, 2014 Leave a comment


Colorball Diagram Explained

December 30, 2013 Leave a comment

420anorexorcist said: Can you please explain that?

Sure, thanks for asking!

The diagram is based on ideas from my reality theory, Multisense Realism. I have found that many of these ideas coincide with previous concepts in philosophy, but if I’m on the right track, then MSR offers a new and more complete integration of scientific observations and subjective reports.

To make it clearer, I have added a numbering scheme, with negative numbers on the Left or West side, and positive numbers on the East side or Orient. In addition to the version of the colorball diagram that has been posted, there will be another version in a future post which has the same schema but introduces some new terms which qualify the frame set by degree of aesthetic depth rather than kind.

Key I

Teleological-Absolute (+∞) :: Universal-Axiomatic (-∞)
Mytho-Poetic (+3) ::  Geometric-Algebraic (-3)
Mental-Emotional (+2) :: Scientific-Mechanical (-2)
Sensory-Motive/Perceptual (+1) ::  Electro-Magnetic/Relativistic (-1)
Proto-Aesthetic (+0) :: Quantum-Digital (-0)

Key II
Absolute (+∞) :: Anesthetic (-∞)
Entelethetic (+3) ::  Hypothetic (-3)
Aesthetic (+2) :: Exthetic (-2)

Immediate (+1) ::  Etheric (-1)

Protosthetic (+0) :: Pseudethetic (-0)

There are a lot of other diagrams that I have done as collages or graphs, but what I was trying to do here is to give a sense of these ranges of aesthetic (sensed, felt, appreciated) qualities as a spherical-banded on one side and flat-concentric on the other. The idea of making the experiential side spherical is that it represents that given the assumption of Pansensitivity that MSR makes, the totality of experience is the largest possibility. The total of all experiences throughout eternity (assuming nested relativistic time frequencies) dwarfs all possible sets of phenomena or structures within that possibility.

It’s a big idea that gets discussed on the website in more detail. Suffice to say, the universe of conscious experience is being compared to a big colorful ball, but has only its surface to express some view of eternity. Thinking of the numbers of the Keys above, the higher the positive integer, the more translucent the surface becomes and the more of what might be called the genius of eternity (the most illuminated views of the past and all future potentials) is illuminated at once. The lower the number, the more opaque and reflective the surface becomes, so that individual sensations ground awareness in the immediacy of the moment.

The negative numbers can be thought of as ignoring the depth and surface of the sphere completely, but adding structure and realism by cutting across the interior. Unlike direct awareness, the power of math and science to help us infer what we cannot see for ourselves is timeless in an entirely different way. The universe of science is the orthogonal cross section of the universe of feeling and experience, so that its formula and theorems emerge from reading between the cracks of experience. The scientific mind tries to subtract themselves out of the picture, to create a perfect experimental vacuum for impartial, unbiased truth. What the Western side lacks in vitality and wisdom, it makes up for with knowledge and intelligence. The concentric circles also represent the way that the most extreme physical conditions (quantum, astrophysics) share the same forces but differ from the kinds of phenomena found in mid-sized, macroscopic scales (medicine, agriculture).


On the East side of the colorball, the prismatic banding emphasizes a loose hierarchy of what could be called aesthetic prestige. Besides just modulating how much of the eternal experience can come to the surface of awareness, there nature of privacy is such that there is a hierarchy significance. Even if we wanted to, it would be hard to take the life of a flea or dandelion to be as interesting or important as a person. Each band signifies a ‘leveling up’ or ascending within the totality of awareness. There is a ton of legitimate and flaky stuff out there about this kind of thing of course (Ken Wilber’s work has extensive correlations of these kinds of systems) so I try not to dwell on what its about, but generally, my system tries to simplify and science-ify the whole thing, so that it does seem as likely to relate only to the experiences of human beings.

Roughly mapping to the Chakra system and other monochord designs, the journey of improving sense can be compared to language. The basic unit would be phenomena in the orange Sensory-Motive (+1) range and can be compared to [letters or syllables] in a word. These would be raw sensations and sensory qualities, aka the root nature of qualia.

Going up the ranks, the yellow Mental-Emotional (+2) range would be like [words and paragraphs] to the +1 [letters and syllables]. This level is the garden variety waking state of mind for most people. Getting things done, thinking, and being a person. It’s the range we could call Natural and Aesthetic.

When consciousness becomes so elevated that realism begins to become transparent, past and future mingle and the ordinary becomes extraordinary. The Mytho-Poetic (+3) band corresponds to ideas like the collective unconscious and archetypes, but also just regular old imagination and fictional stories. This level would correspond to [paragraphs and stories], and it is super-personal in the sense of it reaches for the heroic and divine. It is also cultural and prophetic, psychedelic, delusional. etc. As the integer increases and the surface becomes more illuminated, the interconnectedness of things is revealed as metaphor and coincidence.

The monochord can be thought of as a logarithmic scale of relative time as well. The ‘now’ of a sensation can be less than a second, but to think and feel like a person in the world requires a larger ‘now’, of hours. The Mytho-Poetic seems supernatural to us because I think that it represents our sensitivity into the larger now of weeks, years, and lifetimes. Under heightened conditions of consciousness, it is common to experience the feeling that time has stopped, whereas under sedative or narcotic masking of consciousness, time can seem to be lost or forgotten. Because higher consciousness dilates experienced time, high states can be visionary and far-sighted, or just ‘far-out’. The Mytho-Poetic level is notoriously ambiguous and deceptive, possibly because because we are glimpsing experiences which are, from our local perspective, still half-baked.

The Teleological-Absolute (+∞) can be God, if we prefer a Western metaphor. In that case it would correspond to the [author or artist] writing the stories, that are made of words, that are made of letters.Teleological = Top Down, like I am writing this from a single intention which cascades down through my wording mind, through the finger-tapping keys and the bit-byte-ing computer hardware that we share.

If, like me, you don’t resonate so much with an anthropomorphic God, the Totality can be the Absolute inertial frame instead, and the authors and artists are themselves written by the art – by sense itself. It sounds crazy, but it makes sense to me as a next step after ‘We are spiritual beings having a human experience’ to just say, ‘we are a human experience’. I call this Primordial Identity Pansensitivity.There are many concepts within Eastern philosophy and Western mysticism which reflect this kind of non-deity generator of everythingness, but I think that it is important that we understand this as physics – the physics of privacy.

If the East side is about time and experience, the West side is about scales of space and experiences in which we deduce and infer hidden patterns which explain our experience. This is Science rather than Art, and Science begins in the opposite way as the Teleological Absolute – it begins with a blank slate…or does it? The universe of space is based on laws which are taken to be axiomatic. The Universal-Axiomatic (-∞) means that when we want to get real and we have to stop looking for metaphysical truths, and instead accept that ‘stuff exists’, including laws which guide and propagate changes in the cosmos.

The Geometric-Algebraic (-3) range is the most ancient range of the Western thesis. Classical mathematics and philosophy are inseparable, and like the +3 Mytho-Poetic, range that it opposes, it has to do with perfection. Where the +3 phenomena are perfectly actualized expressions of timeless themes and characters, the -3 phenomena are elegant in their purity. This is not sense for the sake of sensation, but sense-making for the sake of permanence. +3 has its dragons and goddesses, but -3 has Pi, and Euler’s Identity, hypoteneuse, etc.

As Geometry and Algebra become more sophisticated, Trigonometry and Calculus ushered in the Enlightenment Era and modernism in science. The Scientific-Mechanical (-2) level splits Science from Philosophy, with Descartes, Copernicus, Leibniz and Newton, among others building on Renaissance advances since Galileo. The Reformation echoes the philosophical break, with top-heavy Roman Catholicism and angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin Scholasticism yielding to the rise of classical mechanics, empiricism and the industrial revolution.

From the work of scientists like James Clerk Maxwell and Marie Curie, the nature of Electro-Magnetic/Relativistic (-1) phenomena was brought to light. The electric era, followed by the radio, atomic, and electronic era tap into an invisible, etheric layer of structure. Unlike any of the previous conceptual models based on forms and volumes, the pervasiveness of vibrations and waves constructed only of frequencies and wavelengths is, in my opinion, the correlate to +1 Sensory-Motor/Perceptual phenomena, and I think that there is a lot of indication that this could be true, given the utility that neuroscience has found in electromagnetic access to the brain.

Finally, the Quantum-Digital (-0) level, picking up where Einstein left off, is giving us a taste of an information-theoretic universe. The heroes of Quantum Theory include Planck, Bohr, Heisenberg, Feynman, etc as well as Turing, Shannon, Bateson, and many others for introducing a probabilistic Wonderland in which reality can only be calculated, but not understood. Each of these levels deserves a dissertation, and then another set of dissertations about how they all relate. Hopefully that is enough to give anyone who has stuck with it this far a taste of that this is all about.

*+0 is rounded off, but it would really be +0.00…1, since absolute zero is impossible under MSR. Same with -0.00…1; rounded off here to -0.

Why Likeness is Not, Like, the Same as Sameness

December 26, 2013 2 comments


Why do we like to like the same things, until the thing we liked becomes the same old thing?

Why is there “Good as New” and “Like New”, but not “Same as New”?

I think that the difference between like and same are especially related to consciousness and support the idea of awareness (and therefore attention) as more ‘like’ novelty and ‘like-ness’ than it is ‘the same as’ the integration or processing of information.

Machines are characterized by their ability to do the same thing, over and over. The idea behind digital technology is really to be able to do the exact same thing, over and over and over, forever. Does this kind of behavior wake us up or does it lull us into a stupor? What kinds of things put us to sleep and what kinds of experiences wake us up?

Waking up is not an abstract theory. Waking up instantiates us into the directly and concretely sensed now, into public time. The now and the new are unrepeatable and unique, thus there can be nothing which is ‘the same as’ new without actually being new. When we say that something is ‘the same’ as something else, we are often speaking metaphorically. What we mean is that the difference is not important, and that one thing is functionally equivalent to another.


Within the world of mathematics, ‘the same’ or “=” is a metaphor for that which is literally identical or interchangeable in all circumstances. Unlike physical reality, the whole of mathematics is a symbolic abstraction – a metaphor for anti-metaphor:

Where metaphors are ‘like’ conceptual rhymes or semantic likeness which cut across the whole of human intuition poetically and aesthetically, mathematical metaphors are aiming for the opposite effect in which meaning is frozen into position, clear, defined, and unambiguous. This is meaning which has been reflected in the looking glass of thermodynamic irreversibility. It is the privatized essence of publicity.

When we look out of ourselves, we see only that which can be decomposed and measured. Feeling is presented as figures, and figuring them out literally gives us a feeling of transcending the ambiguity, fluidity, and obscurity our own subjective awareness.

I see the opportunity that lies before us is to recover the authenticity of awareness without sacrificing the reliability of its substitute. The worldview that is driven by quantitative formula alone cannot locate the now, other than as a promise that it will eventually be found – under a heap of accidents. Accidents and probability are the inverted image of intention and likeness. They are what you get when sameness is assumed to be primitive. The universe is failed sameness and broken symmetry – serial mutation.

To overcome the prejudices inherent in this worldview, an important step is to understand the irony that the intention behind measurement leads to its own perfect illogical fallacy. To count and codify is to try to escape from personal bias and fuzzy ‘likeness’ which is not the ‘exact same thing’ as truth, but what we have found increasingly, is that we cannot be immune from an equally toxic bias toward the impersonal. As much as we want to be ‘certainly in the right’, and to put ‘everything under the sun’ in tune, the enlightenment of the Western mind is eclipsed by its own insensitivity and denial. The more that we seek out the next product or service to make us feel ‘like new’, the faster it becomes the same old crap.

Residential Proprietors and Commercial Pirates

December 21, 2013 Leave a comment

Another metaphor to add to the list of private vs public, experience vs structure, etc. It’s a stretch, but has interesting implications as far as the Westernization of society. Referring generally to categories of real estate, residential and commercial also reflect a broad dialectic of civilization. Early cities were often walled, but even after walls became obsolete, the social context of insiders and outsiders continues under the cosmopolitan aesthetic vs rural aesthetic. Rural inhabitants have long been considered inferior by urbanites. With the exception of projection of their own lost innocence into a noble savage/salt of the Earth archetype, people who live outside of cities or inside of nature are considered rubes and recluses by those who live inside of cities and outside of ‘nature’.

It’s notable that to live or work ‘inside’ of a city is to be immersed in a world of commercial exteriors. The word commerce denotes a coming together (com-) to trade; market; merchant; merchandise. Commerce is inter-national and inter-cultural. To conduct trade is to travel to a location which is well regulated and protected, yet free from undue political influence. The neutrality and publicity of the milieu makes it a kind of anti-residence. The towering structures which define the skylines of modern cities are largely devoid of personal contents. Even during the hours which they are occupied, the residing (etymologically re-siding is like re-sedentary, a reference to sitting-again (and again)) in an office building is by contract. Sitting around when you are contracted to work standing, or standing around when you are contracted to work sitting, is not permitted. By and large, what happens in an office building is comings and goings. The office building itself is a structure, a monument to the generic and unnatural state of the industry that it unintentionally represents.

The word industry contains the same root as structure, which ties back to the realization of public-facing private agendas rather than private or experiential values. Similarly, the word enterprise contains the prefix enter for within or between, and prise is about taking and reaching (prehensile, apprehend, comprehend). Industry, commerce, and trade are all active motivations. The word trade shares etymology with tread, as in to tread a path. They are literally outgoing and extroverted. It is unsurprising then, that the conquest of the New World and rise of mercantilism are tied together with the dawn of the Enlightenment Era and explosive progress in physics and the physical sciences.

What has happened since the latter half of the 20th century, is that the wheel of progress has turned so as to eclipse the residential values entirely with the commercial. In the last 30 years in particular, we have seen a trend away from public spaces which are hospitable to individual people and toward public facing real estate as a hardened asset. Office ‘parks’ leverage landscaping and architectural techniques to minimize loitering or curious visitors. Pleasant looking bushes and flowers are manicured to disguise as well as subtly amplify the artless emptiness of the place. James Howard Kuntsler has called them ‘nature band-aids‘:

the little juniper shrubs in the universal bark-mulch bed deployed in front of a building so depressing and inept that it would dismay even the criminal class of great-granddads’ day. I call these little landscape fantasias nature band-aids.

Everywhere that we look, change seems to come in the form of increasing inconvenience. Packaging that requires special tools to open. Homes built with features that require industrial equipment to perform basic maintenance. Technology which has no user serviceable parts. Where the 19th and 20th century oversaw the obsolescence of hand made and hand repairable objects, the 21st century has brought a level of commercialization which is mandatory and impenetrable. The future of social interaction suggests a menu-driven, pre-fabricated extension of commercial enterprise into the private ‘space’. Ontologically, it is privacy itself which is been spatialized, auctioned off like the broadband spectrum and privatized like the DNA of designer organisms.

The choices being offered thus far have been to either join in a futile resistance, or to embrace the Borg of commercial domination. Some try to effect a Bartleby-like passive protest, hoping that perhaps their preferences in consuming or slacking will contribute to a wave of imitation. It’s probably not going to be that easy. Unlike the revolutionary crucibles of the past, the Western colonization of mind is so thorough that people no longer recognize their own significance. We have accepted the evidence of our own irrelevance, and of the cheap currency of our lives in exchange for the magic beans of structured realism. Any call to progress beyond commercialism are rejected out of hand as both politically naive and unscientific.

While religious fundamentalism thrives, perhaps the popularity of Pope Francis signals the possibility of a future cavalry to the rescue in the form of rehabilitated spiritual traditions? If the Western Imperial drive can yang so far that it has eaten the yin, maybe the yin can flow into the public mind through the back door? Sit-ins and occupations were one way of reclaiming the Residential, but with a deeper understanding of the physics of privacy, it may be that a revolution of enlightened non-doing is already underway within us.

Free Will and the Unconscious

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment

The key oversight, in my opinion, in the approach taken by neuroscientific research into free will (Libet et al) is in the presumption that all that is not available to us personally is ‘unconscious’ rather than conscious sub-personally. When we read these words, we are not conscious of their translation from pixels to patches of contrasting optical conditions, to loops and lines, to letters and words. From the perspective of our personal awareness, the words are presented as a priori readable and meaningful. We are not reminded of learning to read in kindergarten and have no feeling for what the gibberish that we are decoding would look like to someone who could not read English. The presentation of our world is materially altered at the sub-personal, but not ‘unconscious’ level. If it were unconscious, then we would be shocked to find that words were made of lines and loops or pixels.

In the same way, a robotic task is quickly anticipated, even 10 seconds ahead of time, without our personality getting involved. This does not mean that it is not ‘us’ making the choice, only that there is no need for such an easy and insignificant choice to be recognized by another layer of ‘us’, and reported by a third layer of ‘us’ to the personal layer of us.

When we work on the sub-personal level of neurons, we are addressing a layer of reality in which we, as persons, do not exist. Because we have not yet factored in perceptual relativity as a defining existential influence, we are making the mistake of treating a human being as if they were made of generic Legos instead of a single unique and unrepeatable living cell which has intentionally reproduced itself a trillion times over – each carrying the potential for intention and self-modifying teleology.

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