Archive for the ‘biology’ Category

Us, the Virus, and Multisense Metaphysics

April 3, 2020 Leave a comment

In my view, there are three distinct, contrasting layers of causality:

1. Subpersonal (mechanical, generic, repetitive, statistical, meaningless)

2. Personal (dualistic, intentional, autobiographical, semi-meaningful)

3. Transpersonal (transcendental, synchronistic, archetypal, super-meaningful)

For most individuals, I suspect that we are here primarily to participate in a personal experience.  This consists of a human lifetime which combines both elements that are tailor-made for us as conscious subjects, and elements that are arbitrary from a subjective perspective and are instead brought about statistically by relatively objective and inevitable conditions. We are the union of the intentional and the unintentional. One of the consequences of that union is that our ability to participate consciously tilts the balance toward the intentional, even if only in the fact that intention is conceivable. I think that playing this role of person necessarily requires us to act as a gatekeeper between the levels above and below our own personal range of experience. The person is like a transistor, modulating the flow of cause and effect between the subpersonal (bottom-up, unintentional) and transpersonal (top-down, super-intentional), as well as initiating their own unique causes on a personal and interpersonal level. We are choosing, little by little, whether to support broadly inclusive, sensible qualities of experience (what I call Significance) or to support less-significant, ‘lower’ agendas that are purely selfish and insignificant. We have the privilege to decide whether to emphasize the ‘better angels of our nature’, or to indulge in ego glorification, or to descend further into dehumanization (the subpersonal/impersonal).

In the context of my Multisense Realism metaphysics, I use the term significance in a formal, and somewhat neologistic way. The idea is that since the universe is made of conscious aesthetic (feelings, sensations, qualities) experiences rather than something like information or physical mechanisms (anesthetic forms, functions, numbers), there are some interpretations of physical law that need to be updated. If my view is on the right track, then what we understand through the Second Law of Thermodynamics is only addressing the lowest, subpersonal/impersonal layer of nature. When we run scientifically controlled experiments using tangible objects as instruments to exert and record tangible influences over other tangibly measurable phenomena, then by design we are going to exclude the personal and transpersonal layers of causality to a large extent. The very methods we are using to inspect nature are specifically suppressing the influence of higher consciousness in the service of science, however, without higher consciousness, what remains of science is, like the phenomena that are being studied, ultimately entropic and meaningless. The point of science is to assist higher consciousness, and where it fails to do that, it is a net loss for civilization. Optimizing financial profit is not a feature of higher consciousness, it is an agenda within personal and interpersonal consciousness.

With Multisense Realism I have attempted (in a somewhat lazy and half-assed way) to propose ideas for rehabilitating our worldview on a philosophical level with a model of nature in which mechanism, personal participation, and transpersonal phenomena are integrated as parts of a single ‘aesthetic’ spectrum. It now appears to be time to take a shot at applying this philosophical project more to real life, and perhaps specifically toward strategies related to coping with the ‘long emergency’ that humanity is currently entering.

What then might the MSR philosophy suggest that we can do personally during this time?

1. Be a good gatekeeper. It is our personal responsibility to negotiate between our body and emotional needs (subpersonal and intrapersonal levels of experience) and our higher guidance of interpersonal and transpersonal awareness (thinking, informing ourselves, intuition, empathy, inspiration, divinity). Being a good gatekeeper means being a good leader to your body and a good citizen to society and the cosmos. It means asserting the significance of higher agendas over lower ones, however, there is also a danger in allowing raw transpersonal impulses to fill us with false hopes, superstitions, myth and drama. Sanity is the mid-range between the overly autistic and overly artistic. The place in between is the best place for most of us to build our psychological house-of-bricks. The key to being a good gatekeeper, IMO is to get into the habit of addressing sensations and impulses, emotions and thoughts in an intelligent way: To sort out which experiences are caused by automatic mechanisms that can be ignored or adjusted, and which rise to the attention of our personal and participation. We should ask ourselves, how does sanity work? This becomes more important in a time of mass crisis and prolonged isolation.

2. I think that we are here because there are some things that can only be experienced directly from the perspective of being a particular, unique person. It is important that to ‘be yourself’ to a greater extent during these times and resist the pressure to degenerate into stereotypical roles and behaviors that fill the vacuum during a low-level crisis such as a war or pandemic. The virus event is forcing us to choose, with our actions, whether to dehumanize or rehumanize.

3. Understand and practice self-healing. This gets into some potentially dangerous speculation. I am not a qualified expert by any means, and I would never suggest that anyone ignore medical realities. What I offer here is an interpretation of the placebo effect which gives us mental license to intervene on our own behalf and potentially on behalf of others. I think that the ‘placebo’ interpretation of medically inert intervention is based on the mechanistic, sub-personal worldview described in the first paragraph. If my view is on the right track, this is a biased misinterpretation that effectively cuts off our access to half of the available resources for wellness and healing. Without getting too far into the weeds, I will just say that while we must collectively focus on mechanical, functional solutions to public health and social crises, we can also personally stretch our sensitivity into the transpersonal levels of intuition and synchronicity to discover new paths of healing and support. Again, ungated access to the transpersonal can and will by default lead us into magical thinking and superstition, so it’s important not to abandon our post with uncritical thinking. What I am suggesting is that what we think and feel are powerful, reality-altering influences, which we can also have power over to some degree.

Ok, now I’ll get into the weeds. Feel free to ignore the rest of this.

A more technical justification for how personal consciousness can alter subpersonal realities comes from the idea that ’emergent properties’ are a negentropic influence on physical phenomena. That is, conscious perception and attention have the effect of simplifying complex physical phenomena and consolidating fine-grained details. Even from a materialistic perspective, that is the function of consciousness – to winnow ‘sense data’ down into a manageable stream.

My thinking is that because the details being eliminated and summarized by perception are microphysical, they are skewed toward disorderly, entropic tendencies. The second law of thermodynamics applies to physics, but not to perception, and not to physics that is under the influence of intention.

When we look at a video screen, for example, we don’t see an ocean of photoelectric and biochemical effects, we see an orderly visible image, with legible words and sentences. We are using the sub-personal ocean of meaningless-but-tangible events as a medium through which higher level, less tangible perceptions and understandings can take place. Our participation is having an effect on the balance of entropy and negentropy as well as in the selection of which negentropic resolutions are emphasized. When we look at an optical illusion such as the duck-rabbit ambiguous image, we can, through our attention, choose whether to see the duck, the rabbit, or neither. (Negentropic resolution 1, Negentropic resolution 2, or unresolved Entropic state). We may be able to even create novel, proprietary perceptual gestalts (Negentropic resolution X).

What I am suggesting is that part of what is going on in the placebo effect is that when we participate in an intervention from higher levels of consciousness onto lower levels, we are changing the momentum of entropy and negentropy in our own experience, which includes our body. Just as the Safety Match meme illustrates how social distancing can interrupt the domino effect of the exponential spread of disease, so too can our conscious interventions interrupt or accelerate automatic body processes.

(image by Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre)

We can see more and do more with our body than our body can without us. As spectacular and complex as the human body is, it is by itself, just programmed to grow, reproduce, and die. It is our personal consciousness, and its power to channel transpersonal genius into the world which makes the difference. All that we have to do is to channel wisely. We have to choose when and how to choose.

Continuum of Perceptual Access

April 7, 2018 1 comment

This post is intended to bring more clarity to the philosophical view that I have named Multisense Realism. I have criticized popular contemporary views such as computationalism and physicalism because of their dependence on a primitive of information or matter that is independent of all experience. In both physicalism and computationalism, we are called upon to accept the premise that the universe is composed solely of concrete, tangible structures and/or abstract, intangible computations. Phenomena such as flavors and feelings, which are presented as neither completely tangible nor completely intangible are dismissed as illusions or emergent properties of the more fundamental dual principles. The tangible/intangible duality, while suffering precisely from the same interaction problems as substance dualism, adds the insult of preferring a relatively new and hypothetical kind of intangibility which enjoys all of our mental capacities of logic and symbolism, but which exists independently of all mental experience. When we try to pin down our notions of what information really is, the result is inevitably a circular definition which assumes phenomena can be ‘sent’ and ‘received’ from physics alone, despite the dependence of such phenomena on a preferred frame of reference and perception. When one looks at a system of mechanical operations that are deemed to cause information processing, we might ask the question “What is it that is being informed?” Is it an entity? Is there an experience or not? Are information and matter the same thing, and if so, which of them make the other appear opposite to the other? Which one makes anything ‘appear’ at all?

The answers I’ve heard and imagined seem to necessarily imply some sort info-homunculus that we call ‘the program’ or ‘the system’ to which mental experience can either be denied or assumed in an arbitrary way. This should be a warning to us that by using such an ambiguously conscious agent to explain how and why experience exists, we are committing a grave logical fallacy. To begin with, a principle that can be considered experiential or non-experiential to explain experience is like beginning with ‘moisture’ to explain the existence of water. Information theory is certainly useful to us as members of a modern civilization, however, that utility does not help us with our questions about whether experience can be generated by information or information is a quality of some categories of experience. It does not help us with the question of how the tangible and intangible interact. In our human experience, programs and systems are terms arising within the world of our thinking and understanding. In the absence of such a mental experience context, it is not clear what these terms truly refer to. Without that clarity, information processing agents are allowed them to exist in an unscientific fog as entities composed of an intangible pseudo-substance, but also with an unspecified capacity to control the behavior of tangible substances. The example often given to support this view is our everyday understanding of the difference between hardware and software. This distinction does not survive the test of anthropocentrism. Hardware is a concrete structure. Its behavior is defined in physical terms such as motion, location, and shape, or tendencies to change those properties. Software is an idea of how to design and manipulate those physical behaviors, and how the manipulation will result in our ability to perceive and interpret them as we intend. There is no physical manifestation of software, and indeed, no physical device that we use for computation has any logical entailment to experience anything remotely computational about its activities, as they are presumed to be driven by force rather than meaning. Again, we are left with an implausible dualism where the tangible and intangible are bound together by vague assumptions of unconscious intelligibility rather than by scientific explanation.

Panpsychism offers a possible a path to redemption for this crypto-dualistic worldview. It proposes that some degree of consciousness is pervasive in some or all things, however, the Combination Problem challenges us to explain how exactly micro-experiences on the molecular level build up to full-blown human consciousness. Constitutive panpsychism is the view that:

“facts about human and animal consciousness are not fundamental, but are grounded in/realized by/constituted of facts about more fundamental kinds of consciousness, e.g., facts about micro-level consciousness.”

Exactly how micro-phenomenal experiences are bound or fused together to form a larger, presumably richer macro-experience is a question that has been addressed by Hedda Hassel Mørch, who proposes that:

“mental combination can be construed as kind causal process culminating in a fusion, and show how this avoids the main difficulties with accounting for mental combination.”

In her presentation at the 2018 Science of Consciousness conference, Mørch described how Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT) might shed some light on why this fusion occurs. IIT offers the value Φ to quantify the degree of integration of information in a physical system such as a brain. IIT is a panpsychist model that predicts that any sufficiently integrated information system can or will attain consciousness. The advantage of IIT is that consciousness is allowed to develop regardless of any particular substrate it is instantiated through, but we should not overlook the fact that the physical states seem to be at least as important. We can’t build machines out of uncontained gas. There would need to be some sort of solidity property to persist in a way that could be written to, read from, and addressed reliably. In IIT, digital computers or other inorganic machines are thought to be incapable of hosting fully conscious experience, although some minimal awareness may be present.

The theory vindicates some panpsychist intuitions – consciousness is an intrinsic, fundamental property, is graded, is common among biological organisms, and even some very simple systems have some. However, unlike panpsychism, IIT implies that not everything is conscious, for example group of individuals or feed forward networks. In sharp contrast with widespread functionalist beliefs, IIT implies that digital computers, even if their behavior were to be functionally equivalent to ours, and even if they were to run faithful simulations of the human brain, would experience next to nothing.” – Consciousness: Here, There but Not Everywhere

As I understand Mørch’s thesis, fusion occurs in a biological context when the number of causal relationships in the parts of a system that relate to the whole exceed the number of causal relationships which relate to the disconnected parts.

I think that this approach is an appropriate next step for philosophy of mind and may be useful in developing technology for AI. Information integration may be an ideal way to quantify degrees of consciousness for medical and legal purposes. It may give us ethical guidance in how synthetic and natural organisms should be treated, although I agree with some critics of IIT that the Φ value itself may be flawed. It is possible that IIT is on the right track in this instrumental sense, but that a better quantitative variable can be discovered. It is also possible that none of these approaches will help us understand what consciousness truly is, and will only confuse us further about the nature of the relation between the tangible, the intangible, and what I call the trans-tangible realm of direct perception.

What I propose here is that rather than considering a constitutive fusion of microphenomenal units into a macrophenomenal unit in which local causes and effects are consolidated into a larger locality, we should try viewing these micro and macro appearances as different orders of magnitude along a continuum of “causal lensing” or “access lensing“. Rather than physical causes of phenomenal effects, the lensing view begins with phenomenal properties as identical to existence itself.  Perceptions are more like apertures which modulate access and unity between phenomenal contexts rather than mathematical processes where perceptions are manufactured by merging their isolation. To shift from a natural world of mechanical forms and forces to one of perceptual access is a serious undertaking, with far-ranging consequences that require committed attention for an extended time. Personally, it took me several years of intensive consideration and debate to complete the transition. It is a metaphysical upheaval that requires a much more objective view of both objectivity and subjectivity.  Following this re-orientation, the terms ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ themselves are suggested to be left behind, adopting instead the simpler, clearer terms such as tangible, intangible, and trans-tangible. Using this platform of phenomenal universality as the sole universal primitive, I suggest a spectrum-like continuum where ranges of phenomenal magnitude map to physical scale, qualitative intensity, and to the degree of permeability between them.

For example, on the micro/bottom scale, we would place the briefest, most disconnected sensations and impulses which can be felt, and marry them to the smallest and largest structures available in the physical universe. This connection between subatomic and cosmological scales may seem counterintuitive to our physics-bound framework, but here we can notice the aesthetic similarities between particles in a void and stars in a void. The idea here is not to suggest that the astrophysical and microphysical are identical, but that the similarity of their appearances reflects our common perceptual limitation to those largest and smallest scales of experience.  These appearances may reflect a perception of objective facts, or they may be defined to some degree by particular perceptual envelope propagates reports about its own limits within itself. In the case of a star or an atom, we are looking at a report about the relationship between our own anthropocentric envelope of experience and the most distant scales of experience and finding that the overlap is similarly simple. What we see as a star or an atom may be our way of illustrating that our interaction is limited to very simple sensory-motor qualities such as ‘hold-release’ which corresponds to electromagnetic and gravitational properties of ‘push-pull’. If this view were correct, we should expect that to the extent that human lifetimes have an appearance from the astro or micro perspective, that appearance would be similarly limited to a simple, ‘points in a void’ kind of description. This is not to say that stars or atoms see us as stars or atoms, but that we should expect some analogous minimization of access across any sufficiently distant frame of perception.

Toward the middle of the spectrum, where medium-sized things like vertebrate bodies exist, I would expect that this similarity is gradually replaced by an increasing dimorphism. The difference between structures and feelings reaches its apex in the center of the spectrum for any given frame of perception. In that center, I suspect that sense presentations are maximally polarized, achieving the familiar Cartesian dualism of waking consciousness as is has been conditioned by Western society. In our case, the middle/macro level presentation is typically of an ‘interior’ which is intangible interacting with a tangible ‘exterior’ world, governed by linear causality. There are many people throughout history, however, who have reported other experiences in which time, space and subjectivity are considerably altered.

While the Western view dismisses non-ordinary states of consciousness as fraud or failures of human consciousness to report reality, I suggest that the entire category of transpersonal psychology can be understood as a logical expectation for the access continuum as it approaches the top end of the spectrum. Rather than reflecting a disabled capacity to distinguish fact from fiction, I propose that fact and fiction are, in some sense, objectively inseparable. As human beings, our body’s survival is very important to us, so such that phenomena relating to it directly would naturally occupy an important place in our personal experience. This should not be presumed to be the case for nature as a whole. Transpersonal experience may reflect a fairly accurate rendering of any given perceptual frame of reference which attains a sufficiently high level of sensitivity. With an access continuum model, high sensitivity corresponds to dilated apertures of perception (a la Huxley), and consequently allows more permeability across perceptual contexts, as well as permitting access to more distant scales of perceptual phenomena.

The Jungian concept of archetypes and collective unconscious should be considered useful intuitions here, as the recurring, cross-cultural nature of myth and dreams suggest access to phenomena which seem to blur or reveal common themes across many separate times and places. If our personal experience is dominated by a time-bound subject in a space-bound world, transpersonal experience seems to play with those boundaries in surreal ways. If personal experiences of time are measured with a clock, transpersonal time might be symbolized by Dali’s melting clocks. If our ordinary personal experience of strictly segregated facts and fictions occupies the robust center of the perceptual continuum, the higher degrees of access corresponds to a dissolving of those separations and the introduction of more animated and spontaneous appearances. As the mid-spectrum ‘proximate’ range gives way to an increasingly ‘ultimate’ top range, the experience of merging of times, places, subjects, objects, facts, and fiction may not so much be a hallucination as a profound insight into the limits of any given frame of perception. To perceive in the transpersonal band is to experience the bending and breaking of the personal envelope of perception so that its own limits are revealed. Where the West sees psychological confusion, the East sees cosmic fusion. In the access continuum view, both Eastern and Western view refer to the same thing. The transpersonal opportunity is identical to the personal crisis.

This may sound like “word salad” to some, or God to others, but what I am trying to describe is a departure from both Western and Eastern metaphysical models. It seems necessary to introduce new terms to define these new concepts. To describe how causality itself changes under different scales or magnitudes of perception, I use the term causal lensing. By this I mean to say that the way things happen in nature changes according to the magnitude of “perceptual access”. With the term ‘perceptual access’, I hope to break from the Western view of phenomenal experience as illusory or emergent, as well as breaking from the Eastern view of physical realism as illusory. Both the tangible and the intangible phenomena of nature are defined here as appearances within the larger continuum of perceptual access…a continuum in which all qualitative extremes are united and divided.

In order to unite and transcend both the bottom-up and top-down causality frameworks, I draw on some concepts from special relativity. The first idea that I borrow is the notion of an absolute maximum velocity, which I suggest is a sign that light’s constancy of speed is only one symptom of the deeper role of c.  Understanding ‘light speed’ as an oversimplification of how perception across multiple scales of access works, c becomes a perceptual constant instead of just a velocity. When we measure the speed of light, we may be measuring not only the distance traveled by a particle while a clock ticks, but also the latency associated with translating one scale of perception into another.

The second idea borrowed from relativity is the Lorentz transformation. In the same way that the special relativity links acceleration to time dilation and length contraction, the proposed causal lensing schema transforms along causality itself along a continuum. This continuum ranges from what I want to call ultimate causes (with highest saturation of phenomenal intensity and access), to proximate causes (something like the macrophenomenal units), to ‘approximate causes’. When we perceive in terms of proximate causality, space and time are graphed as perpendicular axes and c is the massless constant linking the space axis to the time axis. When we look for light in distant frames of perception, I suggest that times and spaces break down (√c ) or fuse together ().  In this way, access to realism and richness of experience can be calibrated as degrees of access rather than particles or waves in spacetime. What we have called particles on the microphysical scale should not be conceived necessarily as microphenomenal units, but more like phenomenal fragments or disunities that anticipate integration from a higher level of perception. In other words, the ‘quantum world’ has no existence of its own, but rather supplies ingredients for a higher level, macrophenomenal sense experience. The bottom level of any given frame of perception would be characterized by these properties of anticipatory disunity or macrophenomenal pre-coherence. The middle level of perception features whole, coherent Units of experience. The top or meta level of perception features Super-Unifying themes and synchronistic, poetic causality.

To be clear, what I propose here is that perceptual access is existence. This is an updated form of Berkeley’s “Esse est percipi” doctrine, where “to be is to be perceived” which does not presume perception to be a verb. In the access continuum view, aesthetic phenomena precede all distinctions and boundaries, so that even the assumption of a perceiving subject is discarded. Instead of requiring a divine perceiver, a super-subject becomes an appearance arising from the relation between ultimate and proximate ranges of perception. Subjectivity and objectivity are conceived of as mutually arising qualities within the highly dimorphic mid-range of the perceptual spectrum. This spectrum model, while honoring the intuitions of Idealists such as Berkeley, is intended to provide the beginnings of a plausible perception-based cosmology, with natural support from both Western Science and Eastern Philosophy.

Some examples of the perceptual spectrum:

In the case of vision, whether we lack visual acuity or sufficient light, the experience of not being able to see well can be characterized as a presentation of disconnected features. The all-but-blind seer is forced to approximate a larger, more meaningful percept from bits and pieces, so that a proximate percept (stuff happening here and now that a living organism cares about) can be substituted. Someone who is completely blind may use a cane to touch and feel objects in their path. This does not yield a visible image but it does fill in some gaps between the approximate level of perceptual access to the proximate level. This process, I suggest, is roughly what we are seeing in the crossing over from quantum mechanics to classical mechanics. Beneath the classical limit there is approximating causality based on probabilistic computation. Beyond the classical limit causality takes on deterministic causality appearances in the ‘Morphic‘ externalization and will-centered causality appearances in the ‘Phoric‘ interiorization.


In other words, I am suggesting a reinterpretation of quantum mechanics so that it is understood to be an appearance which reflects the way that a limited part of nature guesses about the nature of its own limitation.

In this least-accessible (Sempahoric, approximate) range of consciousness, awareness is so impoverished that even a single experience is fragmented into ephemeral signals which require additional perception to fully ‘exist’. What we see as the confounding nature of QM may be an accurate presentation of the conditions of mystery which are required to manifest multiple meaningful experiences in many different frames of perception. Further, this different interpretation of QM re-assigns the world of particle physics so that it no longer is presumed to be the fabric of the universe, but is instead seen as equivalent to the ‘infra-red’ end of a universal perceptual spectrum, no more or less real than waking life or a mystical vision. Beginning with a perceptual spectrum as our metaphysical and physical absolute, light becomes inseparable from sight, and invisible ranges of electromagnetism are perceptual modes which human beings have no direct access to. If this view is on the right track, seeing light as literally composed of photons would be category error that mistakes an appearance of approximation and disunity for ‘proximated’ or formal units. It seems possible that this mistake is to blame for contradictory entities in quantum theory such as ‘particle-waves’. I am suggesting that the reality of illumination is closer to what an artist does in a painting to suggest light – that is, using lighter colors of paint to show a brightening of a part of the visual field. The expectation of photons composing beams of light in space is, on this view, a useful but misguided confusion. There may be no free-standing stream of pseudo-particles in space, but instead, there is an intrinsically perceptual relation which is defined by the modality and magnitude of its access. I suggest that the photon, as well as the electromagnetic field, are more inventions than discoveries, and may ultimately be replaced with an access modulation theory. Special relativity was on the right track, but it didn’t go far enough as to identify light as an example of how perception defines the the proximate layer of the universe through optical-visibile spatiotemporalization.

Again, I understand the danger here of ‘word salad’ accusations and the over-use of neologisms, but please bear in mind that my intention here is to push the envelope of understanding to the limit, not to assert an academic certainty. This is not a theory or hypothesis, this is an informal conjecture which seems promising to me as a path for others to explore and discover. With that, let us return to the example of poor sight to illustrate the “approximate”, bottom range of the perceptual continuum. In visual terms, disconnected features such as brightness, contrast, color, and saturation should be understood to be of a wholly different order than a fully realized image. There is no ’emergence’ in the access continuum model. Looking at this screen, we are not seeing a fusion of color pixels, but rater we are seeing through the pixel level.  The fully realized visual experience (proximate level) does not reduce to fragments but has images as its irreducible units. Like the blind person using a cane, an algorithm can match invisible statistical clues about the images we see to names that have been provided, but there is no spontaneous visual experience being generated. Access to images through pixels is only possible from the higher magnitude of visual perception. From the higher level, the criticality between the low level visible pixels and images is perhaps driven by a bottom-up (Mørchian) fusion, but only because there are also top-down, center-out, and periphery-in modes of access available. Without those non-local contexts and information sources, there is no fusion. Rather than images emerging from information, they are made available through a removal of resistance to their access. There may be a hint of this in the fact that when we open our eyes in the light, one type of neurochemical activity known as ‘dark current’ ceases. In effect, sight begins with unseeing darkness.


Part 2: The Proximate Range of the Access Continuum

At the risk of injecting even more abstruse content (why stop now?), I want to discuss the tripartite spectrum model (approximate, proximate, and ultimate) and the operators √c, c, and c²*. In those previous articles, I offered a way of thinking about causality in which binary themes such as position|momentum, and contextuality|entanglement on the quantum level may be symptoms of perceptual limitation rather than legitimate features of a microphysical world. The first part of this article introduces √c as the perceptual constant on the approximate (low level) of the spectrum. I suggest that while photons, which would be the √c level fragments of universal visibility, require additional information to provide image-like pattern recognition, the actual perception of the image gestalt seems to be an irreducibly c (proximate, mid-level) phenomenon. By this, I mean that judging from the disparity between natural image perception and artificial image recognition, as revealed by adversarial images that are nearly imperceptible to humans, we cannot assume a parsimonious emergence of images from computed statistics. There seems to be no mechanical entailment for the information relating bits of information to one another that would level up to an aesthetically unified visible image. This is part of what I try to point out in my TSC 2018 presentation, The Hard Problem of Signaling.

Becuase different ranges of the perceptual spectrum are levels of access rather than states of a constitutive panpsychism, there is no reason to be afraid of Dualism as a legitimate underlying theme for the middle range. With the understanding that the middle range is only the most robust type of perceptual access and not an assertion of naive realism, we are free to redeem some aspects of the Cartesian intuition. The duality seen by Descartes, Galileo, and Locke, should not be dismissed as naive misunderstandings from a pre-scientific era, but as the literal ‘common-sense’ scope of our anthropic frame of perception. This naive scope, while unfashionable after the 19th century, is no less real than the competing ranges of sense. Just because we are no longer impressed by the appearance of res cogitans and res extensa does not mean that they are not impressive. Thinking about a cogitans-like and extensa-like duality as diametrically filtered versions of a ‘res aesthetica’ continuum works for me. The fact that we can detect phenomena that defy this duality does not make the duality false, it only means that duality isn’t the whole story. Because mid-level perception has a sample rate that is slower than the bottom range, we have been seduced into privileging that bottom range as more real. This to me is not a scientific conclusion, but a sentimental fascination with transcending the limits of our direct experience. It is exciting to think that the universe we see is ‘really’ composed of exotic Planck scale phenomena, but it makes more sense in my view to see the different scales of perception as parallel modes of access. Because time itself is being created and lensed within every scale of perception, it would be more scientific avoid assigning preference frame to the bottom scale. The Access Continuum model restores some features Dualism to what seems to me to be its proper place: as a simple and sensible map of the typical waking experience. A sober, sane, adult human being in the Western conditioned mindset experiences nature as a set of immaterial thoughts and feelings inside a world of bodies in motion. When we say that appearances of Dualism are illusion, we impose an unscientific prejudice against our own native epistemology. We are so anxious to leave the pre-scientific world behind that we would cheat at our own game. To chase the dream of perfect control and knowledge, we have relegated ourselves to a causally irrelevant epiphenomenon.

To sum up, so far in this view, I have proposed

  1. a universe of intrinsically perceptual phenomena in which some frames of perception are more localized, that is, more spatially, temporally, and perceptually impermeable, than others.
  2. Those frames of perception which are more isolated are more aesthetically impoverished so that in the most impermeable modes, realism itself is cleaved into unreal conjugate pairs.
  3. This unreality of disunited probabilities is what we see in poor perceptual conditions and in quantum theory. I call these pairs semaphores, and the degree of perceptual magnitude they embody I call the semaphoric or approximate range of the spectrum.
  4. The distance between semaphores is proposed to be characterized by uncertainty and incompleteness. In a semaphoric frame of visible perception, possibilities of pixels and possible connections between them do not appear as images, but to a seer of images, they hint at the location of an image which can be accessed.
  5. This idea of sensitivity and presentation as doors of experience rather sense data to be fused into a phenomenal illusion is the most important piece of the whole model. I think that it provides a much-needed bridge between relativity, quantum mechanics, and the entire canon of Western and Eastern philosophy.
  6. The distinction between reality and illusion, or sanity and insanity is itself only relevant and available within a particular (proximate) range of awareness. In the approximate and ultimate frames of perception, such distinctions may not be appropriate. Reality is not subjective or relative, but it is limited to the mid-range scope of the total continuum of access. All perceptions are ultimately ‘real’ in the top level, trans-local sense and ‘illusion’ in the approximate, pre-local sense.
  7. It is in the proximate, middle range of perception where the vertical continuum of access stretches out horizontally so that perception is lensed into a duality between mechanical-tangible-object realism and phenomenal-intangible-subject realism. It is through the lensing that the extreme vantage points perceive each other as unreal, naive, or insane. Whether we are born to personally identify with the realism of the tangible or intangible seems to also hang in the balance between pre-determined fate and voluntary participation. Choosing our existential anchoring is like confronting the ‘blue dress’ or ‘duck-rabbit’ ambiguous image. Once we attach to the sense of a particular orientation, the competing orientation becomes nonsense.

Part 3: The Ultimate Range of the Access Continuum

Once the reader feels that they have a good grasp of the above ideas of quantum and classical mechanics as approximate and proximate ranges of a universal perceptual continuum, this next section can be a guide to the other half of the conjecture. I say it can be a guide because I suspect that it is up to the reader to collaborate directly with the process. Unlike a mathematical proof, understanding of the upper half of the continuum is not confined to the intellect. For those who are anchored strongly in our inherited worldviews, the ideas presented here will be received as an attack on science or religion. In my view, I am not here to convince anyone or prove anything, I am here to share a ‘big picture’ understanding that may only be possible to glimpse for some people at some times. For those who cannot or will not be able to access to this understanding at this time, I apologize sincerely. As someone who grew up with the consensus scientific view as a given fact, I understand that this writing and the writer appear either ridiculously ignorant or insane. I would try to explain that this appearance too is actually supportive of the perceptual lensing model that I’m laying out, but this would only add to feelings of distrust and anger. For those who have the patience and the interest, we can proceed to the final part of the access continuum conjecture.

I have so far described the bottom end of the access continuum as being characterized by disconnected fragments and probabilistic guessing, and the middle range as a dualistic juxtaposition of morphic forms and ‘phoric’ experiences. In the higher range of the continuum perceptual apertures are opened to the presence of supersaturated aesthetics which transcend and transform the ordinary. Phenomena in this range seem to freely pass across the subject-object barrier. If c is the perceptual constant in which public space and private time are diametrically opposed, then the transpersonal constant which corresponds to the fusion of multiple places and times can be thought of as . We can construct physical clocks out of objects, but these actually only give us samples of how objects change in public space. The sense of time must be inferred by our reasoning so that a dimension of linear time is imagined as connecting those public changes. This may seem solipsistic – that I am suggesting that time isn’t objectively real. This would be true if we assumed, as Berkeley did, that perception necessarily implies a perceiver. Because the view I’m proposing assumes that perception is absolute, the association of time with privacy and space with publicity does not threaten realism. Think of it like depth perception. In one sense we see a fusion of two separate two-dimensional images. In another sense, we use a single binocular set of optical sensors to give us access to three-dimensional vision. Applied to time, we perceive an exteriorized world in which is relatively static and we perceive an interiorized world-less-ness in which all remembered experiences are collected. It is by attaching our personal sense of narrative causality to the snapshots of experience that we can access publicly that a sense of public time is accessed. In the high level range of the continuum, time can progress in circular or ambiguous ways against a backdrop of eternity rather than the recent past. In this super-proximate apprehension of nature, archetypal themes from the ancient past or alien future can coexist.  Either of these can take on extraordinarily benevolent or terrifying qualities.

Like it or not, no description of the universe can possibly be considered complete if it denies the appearance of surrealities. Whether it is chemically induced or natural, the human experience has always included features which we call mystical, psychotic, paranormal, or religious. While we dream, we typically do not suspect that we are in a dreamed world until we awake into another experience which may or may not also be a dream. It is a difficult task to fairly consider these types of phenomena as they are politically charged in a way which is both powerful and invisible to us. Like the fish who spends its life swimming in a nameless plenum, it is only those who jump or are thrown out of it who can perceive the thing we call water. Sanity cannot be understood without having access to an extra-normal perspective where its surfaces are exposed. If a lack of information is the bridge between the approximate and the proximate ranges of the access continuum, then transcendental experience is the bridge between the proximate and the ultimate range of the continuum. The highest magnitudes of perception break the fourth wall, and in an involuted/Ouroboran way, provide access to the surfaces of our own access capacities.

Going back to the previous example of vision, the ultimate range of perception can be added to the list:

  • √c  – Feeling your way around in a dark room where a few features are visible.
  •  Seeing three-dimensional forms in a well lit, real world.
  • – Intuiting that rays, reflections, and rainbows reveal unseen facts about light.

It is important to get that the “²” symbolizes a meta- relation rather than a quantity (although the quantitative value may be useful as well). The idea is that seeing a rainbow is “visibility squared” because it is a visible presence which gives access to deeper levels of appreciating and understanding visibility. Seeing light as spectral, translucent images, bright reflections, shining or glowing radiance, is a category of sight that gives insight into sight. That self-transcending recursiveness is what is meant by : In the case of seeing, visible access to the nature of visibility. If we look carefully, every channel of perception includes its own self-transcendent clues. Where the camera betrays itself as a lens flare, the cable television broadcast shows its underpinnings as freezing and pixellating. Our altered states of consciousness similarly tell us personally about what it is like for consciousness to transcend personhood. This is how nature bootstraps itself, encoding keys to decode itself in every appearance.

Other sense modalities follow the same pattern as sight. The more extreme our experiences of hearing, the more we can understand about how sound and ears work. It is a curious evolutionary maladaptation that rather than having the sense organ protect itself from excessive sensation, it remains vulnerable to permanent damage. It would be strange to have a computer that would run a program to simulates something so intensely that it permanently damages its own capacity to simulate. What would be the evolutionary advantage of a map which causes deafness and blindness? This question is another example of why it makes sense to understand perception as a direct method of access rather than a side effect of information processing. We are not a program, we are an i/o port. What we call consciousness is a collection of perceptions under an umbrella of perception that is all-but imperceptible to us normally. Seeing our conscious experience from the access continuum perspective means defining ourselves on three different levels at once – as a  partition of experience within an eternal and absolute experience, as a c level ghost in a biochemical machine, and as a √c level emergence from subconscious computation:

  • √c (Semaphoric-Approximate)  – Probabilistic Pre-causality
  •  (Phoric|Morphic-Proximate) – Dualistic Free Will and Classical Causality
  • (Metaphoric-Ultimate) – Idealistic or Theistic Post-Causality

Notice that the approximate range and ultimate ranges both share a sense of uncertainty, however, where low level awareness seeks information about the immediate environment to piece together, high level awareness allows itself to be informed by that what is beyond its directly experienced environments. Between the pre-causal level of recombinatory randomness and the supernatural level of synchronistic post-causality is the dualistic level, where personal will struggles against impersonal and social forces.  From this Phoric perspective, the metaphoric super-will seems superstitious and the semaphoric un-will seems recklessly apathetic. This is another example of how perceptual lensing defines nature. From a more objective and scientific perspective, all of these appearances are equally real in their own frame of reference and equally unreal from outside of that context.

Just as high volume of sound reveals the limits of the ear, and the brightness of light exposes the limits of the eye, the limits of the human psyche at any given phase of development are discovered through psychologically intense experiences. A level of stimulation that is safe for an adult may not be tolerable for a child or baby. Alternatively, it could be true that some experiences which we could access in the early stages of our life would be too disruptive to integrate into our worldview as adults. Perhaps as we mature collectively as a species, we are acquiring more tolerance and sensitivity to the increased level of access that is becoming available to us. We should understand the dangers as well as the benefits that come with an increasingly porous frame of perception, both from access to the “supernatural” metaphoric and “unnatural”, semaphoric ranges of the continuum. Increased tolerance means that fearful reactions to both can be softened so that what was supernatural can become merely surreal and what was unnatural can be accepted as non-repulsively uncanny. Whether it is a super-mind without a physical body or a super-machine with a simulated mind, we can begin to see both as points along the universal perceptual continuum.

Craig Weinberg, Tucson 4/7/2018

Latest revision 4/18/2018

*Special Diffractivity: c², c, and √c, Multisense Diagram w/ CausalityMSR Schema 3.3Three-Phase Model of Will
















Information does not physically exist​

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment

mapterrAlfred Korzybski famously said “the map is not the territory”. To the extent that this is true, it should be understood to reveal that “information is not physics”. If there is a mapping function, there is no reason to consider it part of physics, and in fact that convention comes from an assumption of physicalism rather than a discovery of physical maps. There is no valid hypothesis of a physical mechanism for one elemental phenomenon or event to begin to signify another as a “map”.​ Physical phenomena include ‘formations’ but there is nothing physical which could or should transform them ‘in’ to anything other than different formations.

A bit or elementary unit of information has been defined as ‘a difference that makes a difference’. While physical phenomena seem *to us* to make a difference, it would be anthropomorphizing to presume that they are different or make a difference to each other. ​Difference and making a difference seem to depend on some capacity for detection, discernment, comparison, and evaluation. These seem to be features of conscious sense and sense making rather than physical cause and effect.​ The more complete context of the quote about a difference which makes a difference has to do with neural pathways and an implicit readiness to be triggered.

In Bateson’s paper, he says “In fact, what we mean by information—the elementary unit of information—is a difference which makes a difference, and it is able to make a difference because the neural pathways along which it travels and is continually transformed are themselves provided with energy. The pathways are ready to be triggered. We may even say that the question is already implicit in them.”​ In my view this ‘readiness’ is a projection of non-physical properties of sense and sense making onto physical structures and functions. If there are implicit ‘questions’ on the neural level, I suggest that they cannot be ‘in them’ physically, and the ‘interiority’ of the nervous system or other information processors is figurative rather than literal.​

My working hypothesis is that information is produced by sense-making, which in turn is dependent upon more elemental capacities for sense experience.​ Our human experience is a complex hybrid of sensations which seem to us to be embodied through biochemistry and sense-making experiences which seem to map intangible perceptions outside of those tangible biochemical mechanisms. The gap between the biochemical sensor territories and the intangible maps we call sensations are a miniaturized view of the same gap that exists at the body-mind level.

Tangibility itself may not be an ontological fact, but rather a property that emerges from the nesting of sense experience. There may be no physical territory or abstract maps, only sense-making experiences of sense experiences. There may be a common factor which links concrete territories and abstract maps, however.​ The common factor cannot be limited to the concrete/abstract dichotomy, but it must be able to generate those qualities which appear dichotomous in that way.​ To make this common factor universal rather than personal, qualia or sense experience could be considered an absolute ground of being. George Berkeley said “Esse est percipi (To be is to be perceived)”, implying that perception is the fundamental fabric of existence. Berkeley’s idealism conceived of God as the ultimate perceiver whose perceptions comprise all being, however it may be that the perceiver-perceived dichotomy is itself a qualitative distinction which relies on an absolute foundation of ‘sense’ that can be called ‘pansense’ or ‘universal qualia’.​

In personal experience, the appearance of qualities is known by the philosophical term ‘qualia’ but can also be understood as received sensations, perceptions, feelings, thoughts, awareness and consciousness. Consciousness can be understood as ‘the awareness of awareness’, while awareness can be ‘the perception of perception’.​Typically we experience the perceiver-perceived dichotomy, however practitioners of advanced meditation techniques and experiencers of mystical states of consciousness report a quality of perceiverlessness which defies our expectation of perceiver-hood as a defining or even necessary element of perception. This could be a clue that transpersonal awareness transcends distinction itself, providing a universality which is both unifying, diversifying, and re-unifying.​ Under the idea of pansense, God could either exist or not exist, or both, but God’s existence would either have to be identical with or subordinate to pensense. God cannot be unconscious and even God cannot create his own consciousness.

It could be thought that making the category of perception absolute makes it just as meaningless as calling it physical, however the term ‘perception’ has a meaning even in an absolute sense in that it positively asserts the presence of experience, whereas the term ‘physical’ is more generic and meaningless.​ Physical could be rehabilitated as a term which refers to tangible geometric structures encountered directly or indirectly during waking consciousness. Intangible forces and fields should be understood to be abstract maps of metaphysical influences on physical appearances. What we see as biology, chemistry, and physics may in fact be part of a map in which a psychological sense experience makes sense of other sense experiences by progressively truncating their associated microphenomenal content.

Information is associated with Entropy, but entropy ultimately isn’t purely physical either.​ The association between information and entropy is metaphorical rather than literal.​ The term ‘entropy’ is used in many different contexts with varying degrees of rigor. The connection between information entropy and thermodynamic entropy comes from statistical mechanics. Similar statistical mechanical formulas can be applied to both the probability of physical microstates (Boltzmann, Gibbs) and the probability of ‘messages’ (Shannon), however probability derives from our conscious desire to count and predict, not from that which is being counted and predicted.

“Gain in entropy always means loss of information, and nothing more”. To be more concrete, in the discrete case using base two logarithms, the reduced Gibbs entropy is equal to the minimum number of yes–no questions needed to be answered in order to fully specify the microstate, given that we know the macrostate.” ​- Wikipedia

Information can be considered negentropy also:

“Shannon considers the uncertainty in the message at its source, whereas Brillouin considers it at the destination” –

Information is surprise

Thermodynamic entropy can be surprising in the sense that it becomes more difficult to predict the microstate of any individual particle, but unsurprising in the sense that the overall appearance of equilibrium is both a predictable, unsurprising conclusion and it is an appearance which implies the loss of potential to generate novelty or surprise.​ Also, surprise is not a physical condition.​

Heat death is a cosmological end game scenario which is maximally entropic in thermodynamic terms but lacks any potential for novelty or surprise. If information is surprise, then high information would correlate to high thermodynamic negentropy.​ The Big Bang is a cosmological creation scenario which follows from a state of minimal entropy in which novelty and surprise are also lacking until the Big Bang occurs. If information is surprise, then low information would correlate to high thermodynamic negentropy.​

The qualification of ‘physical’ has evolved and perhaps dissolved to a point where it threatens to lose all meaning.​ In the absence of a positive assertion of tangible ‘stuff’ which does not take tangibility itself for granted, the modern sense of physical has largely blurred the difference between the abstract and concrete, mathematical theory and phenomenal effects, and overlooks the significance of that blurring. Considering physical a category of perceptions gives meaning to both categories in that nature is conceived as being intrinsically experiential with physical experiences being those in which the participatory element is masked or alienated by a qualitative perceiver-subject/perceived-object sense of distinction. The physical is perceived by the subject which perceives itself to possess a participatory subjectivity that the object lacks.

Information depends on a capacity to create (write) and detect (read) contrasts between higher and lower entropy. In that sense it is meta-entropic and either the high or low entropy state can be foregrounded as signal or backgrounded as noise. The absence of both signal and noise on one level can also be information, and thus a signal, on another level.​ What constitutes a signal at in the most direct frame of reference is defined by the meta-signifying capacity of “sense” to deliver sense-experience. If there is no sense experience, there is nothing to signify or make-sense-of. If there is no sense-making experience, then there is nothing to do with the sense of contrasting qualities to make them informative.

The principle of causal closure in physics, would, if true, prevent any sort of ‘input’ or receptivity. Physical activity reduces to chains of causality which are defined by spatiotemporal succession. A physical effect differs from a physical cause only in that the cause precedes the effect. Physical causality therefore is a succession of effects or outputs acting on each other, so that any sense of inputs or affect on to physics would be an anthropomorphic projection.​

The lack of acknowlegement of input/affect as a fundamental requirement for natural phenomena is an oversight that may arise from a consensus of psychological bias toward stereotypically ‘masculine’ modes of analysis and away from ‘feminine’ modes of empathy. Ideas such as Imprinted Brain Theory, Autistic-Psychotic spectrum, and Empathizing-Systemizing theory provide a starting point for inquiries into the role that overrepresentation of masculine perspectives in math, physics, and engineering play in the development of formal theory and informal political influence in the academic adoption of theories.

Criticisms? Support? Join the debate on Kialo.


October 18, 2017 Leave a comment

When we say ‘life’ we conflate two different phenomena. The meaningful phenomenon is the experience of mortality – feeling contrasting qualities of experience such as thriving and struggling, desperation and mastery related to being invested in a physical form that grows, reproduces, and dies.

The other phenomenon is biology, which is simply the tendency for material substances to accumulate in ways which metabolize as growing, reproducing objects (molecules, cells, bodies).

The first phenomenon is an elaboration of consciousness. Mortality enriches the qualities of experience tremendously, allowing for much more intensity of sensation and immersion. When you think that any moment could be your last, you are very motivated to pay attention.

In my view, the second phenomenon is basically a reflection of pre-biotic (immortal) consciousness which has been truncated into tactile-visible object sensations for the purpose of creating a stage upon which the drama of mortality can be acted out. Matter is life before biology, operating at perceptual sampling rates much faster and much slower than animal consciousness.

What’s the Biological Use of Consciousness?

June 25, 2016 4 comments

My answer to a Quora question.

This question sounds reasonable only when we have first assumed that consciousness evolved from biology. I would argue that while it certainly seems that consciousness has become richer and more complex through biological forms and functions, there can be no biological use for consciousness itself.

Consider the practical function of the human body. What does it need to do that other bodies don’t? Everything from a mosquito to a mountain lion has similar biological imperatives and evolutionary pressures to contend with. For that matter, every one celled organism or even DNA molecule functions in the same way – it survives and reproduces. Whether these structures feel like they are trying to survive and reproduce is irrelevant. I’ll say that again, because it is that important:

It cannot matter biologically whether a given structure feels, thinks, senses, or has any experience at all, and to assume it does would be a logical fallacy:

petitio principii, which actually translates as ‘assuming the initial point’”.

The initial point here is the existence of consciousness itself. When we assume that it exists, we are compelled to fill in our explanation with a “Just-so story”; an ad hoc, unfalsifiable hypothesis which will give rationalize a connection between our initial assumptions of biology without consciousness and consciousness arising out of utility to biology.

We might speculate that consciousness was bestowed upon Homo sapiens (gradually of course) as a cause or effect of the success of the species in adapting to more ecological niches than others. We might say that there was a feedback loop between consciousness, self-awareness, intelligence and the accumulation of knowledge and technology to better ensure survival in almost any climate and against almost any predator. This is a good story, and it makes sense if we make the mistake of equating intelligence with consciousness. It is easy to make that mistake, since we are conscious and find it difficult to separate our experience of knowing and surviving from the actual behaviors which our body is performing to accomplish that.

This logical error was articulated very nicely by Dr. Raymond Tallis, in his book Aping Mankind. He talks about the difference between the ‘retrospective’ view of consciousness, which I was just describing, where we assume that consciousness exists and then try to justify its origin in pre-conscious phenomena and the correct ‘prospective’ view of consciousness which requires us to adhere to our hypothesis of pre-consciousness from the start. Without the appearances that we are accustomed from our own consciousness, we find the universe which physics and biology give to us is devoid of any appearance at all. Blind mechanisms are literally that – chain reactions of cause and effect which occur by physical law and statistical probability: Nothing more.

From here, we are compelled to negate our previous story which links intelligence with consciousness and see that the whole notion of ‘intelligence’ is a conceit of consciousness, and that any intelligence which hypothetically developed in the absence of consciousness would be just another sophisticated-looking chain reaction of nature. The appearance of sophistication is, again, purely subjective and dependent upon some conscious framing of the appearance. To us, a large organic molecule seems impressive, but since physics can have no preferred frame of reference, there is no appearance of a molecule, only one generic atom and then another one, and another. Each one unaware of anything, and nothing aware of an overall ‘grouping’ of atoms.

As long as we begin from any structure which functions in the total absence of sensory experience, there can be no logical justification for the possibility of sensory experience as a physical function. If a human zygote can already build a living brain, not to mention an immune system, digestive system, circulatory system, etc, all without any conscious experience at all, then what sense does it make to expect that ordinary tasks of animal survival and reproduction should benefit functionally from the addition of some kind of unexplainable metaphysical hallucination?

This is not an argument for Creationism*. Far from it. To me the idea of a single conscious creator has the same problem that Materialism has, only seen from the other way around. God has to be conscious, and God cannot create his own consciousness, so unless consciousness automatically comes with the sense of self, it seems more plausible to me that God, gods, people, and things are all dependent on a phenomenal substrate which transcends all others – beyond space and time, beyond order and entropy, beyond probability or improbability there must be sense experience…a phenomenon in which all phenomena perceive and participate directly.

It may not seem that way to us, from our limited scope of human consciousness, because our lifetimes are so short and our instants of perception are so long relative to biology and physics, but I think that it is the case that on some frame of reference, all phenomena is purely experiential. Consciousness is using biology, not the other way around. Biology is like physics squared, with each living organism its own recapitulation of the big bang, standing in absolute contrast to its inorganic origins, connected to the totality of experience by food, water, light, and each other. This is not to say that “a rock is conscious” but rather that we perceive a rock from a biased set of reports from our human body. We are seeing a fragment of mineral residue from what would be, on a geological or astrophysical scale of time and space, a musical fireworks show of stellar-planetary animation. It’s all about frames of reference, but taken in a new way which sees reference and relativity not as framed by mathematical relations, but of perceptual gymnastics on a scale which extends well beyond biology or even ‘reality’.

*If people do prefer to think of Consciousness as intrinsically God-like, I can’t rule it out. Maybe consciousness-with-self-hood simply is the empirical fact, like the color red, without precedent or logic. That could just be the way that it is in all possible universes, that consciousness is personality who thinks and acts.

Relying on logic instead, my conclusion would be that while God or gods could be real to human experience (by way of higher consciousness that is more deeply connected with the cosmological scales of time, using metaphor to communicate with its time-spliced version of itself), they are more likely to have evolved as a reflection of zoology. In a universe made of conscious experience, the experience of the organism which moves itself around the world of other organisms and non-organisms would have a good reason to conceive of itself as a self, and of its deepest connection to eternal experience as a super-self, hero, polytheistic god or monotheistic God.

For those who prefer to think of nature as Godless, the sense-first view can be understood to introduce a third cosmological form of expression, a fundamental one from which the other two cosmological platforms of physical forms and logical functions diverge as experienced time, rather than emerge in a pre-existing context of space-time. It’s a flipping over of the foundations of our cosmology, so that quantum theory and relativity, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology all represent incomplete views of nature that we have developed out of fragmentation of our understanding into extremely specialized sciences.

The one common denominator of all of our modern approaches is that they share the same blind spot for our own native human frame of awareness. We have stenciled an outline of our own image out of the conspicuous absence of it in the stars, the neurons, and the laws of information and physics. In my view, the way forward is to perform a Copernican inversion on our worldview…not returning to a pre-scientific anthropomorphism, but to explain both anthropomorphism and its now dominant opposite (I call it mechanemorphism) in a deeper context of sense and sense-making. Once we engage in this symmetry objectively, i.e., to see the intrinsic subjectivity in objectivity and objectivity in subjectivity, then a lot of things fall into place, including this perilously transformative time in human history.

Consciousness and Evolution

December 1, 2014 Leave a comment

My answer to Quora question

While human consciousness has certainly been shaped by evolution, that does not mean that consciousness itself could have evolved from non-consciousness. Whether we are talking about other species of animals or cells or organic molecules, the same issues which we run into in explaining human consciousness are still present at any scale. The issues of the hard problem of consciousness, explanatory gap, binding problem, and symbol grounding problem make the mind-body split just as relevant wither the ‘body’ is a brain, neuron, or subatomic particle. No matter what, you have to explain how an ‘interior world’ can ‘exist’ in a physical structure whose behavior is causally closed.

Whatever way you slice it, if we accept that T-cells can be effective in detecting and neutralizing threats on a cellular level without having consciousness, or that DNA can create cellular machines which build a brain without consciousness, then we are admitting that consciousness doesn’t make sense as a functional adaptation. The rest of the universe already works too well without it. There is nothing especially interesting about a hominid’s need for food and shelter which would demand rich awareness to develop out of blind reflex. Single celled organisms chase food, avoid danger, etc also.

We are then left with considering that either consciousness could somehow be an accident of evolution, or that consciousness may be intrinsic to all physical phenomena in some sense (panpsychism, panexperientialism) or even that consciousness is the universal substrate upon which all phenomena depends (idealism, idealist monism).

If consciousness is a mutation that has no functional role (a spandrel), we have to ask why it would even be a possibility. Remember that if consciousness is a mutation, we are assuming that there is a whole universe already in place which is overflowing with processes, biological and otherwise, which are perfectly capable of directing themselves effectively while being unconscious. It’s actually a radically anthropocentric cosmology since we are privileging our tiny piece of history in the universe as the only piece which is not devoid of experience. We are saying that everything that existed before humans was unconscious, therefore an invisible, intangible, silent void with no memory etc. If we are not intending that, and prefer to think that the universe looked, sounded, felt, and tasted just like it does for Homo sapiens since the dawn of time, then we would have to ask exactly what we think consciousness is adding to that kind of eternal-universal ‘unconsciousness’.

If consciousness is intrinsic to physical phenomena (as in Penrose-Hameroff’s microtubule-based Quantum Consciousness) or is intrinsic to information integration (as in Tononi-Koch’s IIT), we still have the same kind of mind-body problem. A ‘body’ which is a statistical function rather than a literal form in space is still falls short of explaining why and how there is any such thing as consciousness. In my view, only the idealist monist view, or what I call pansensitivity makes sense ultimately as the parent of both physics and information. Just as we learn to count on our fingers, all forms of information are representations of experiences which have an aesthetic foundation – a seeing, feeling, touching, thinking, etc. Without that sensory-motive context from the start, there would nothing to evolve; only abstractions in the dark (or not even dark). Once we can get over ourselves as a species and recognize that consciousness doesn’t begin and end with us, I think that awareness will be seen as the container of relativity itself, with quantum mechanics and evolutionary biology as a consequence of deeper stories rather than their originator.

Is the brain the receiver of mind and consciousness, or their generator?

June 8, 2014 1 comment

My answer on Quora

The receiver model of consciousness need not be taken so literally as to presume that mind is exactly like an electromagnetic broadcast. Arguing for a receiver-like role for the brain does not require that we have a good theory of what is being received and how, only that there are other possibilities for the origin of consciousness besides being somehow generated within the tissue of the brain itself.

In a way, philosophy and science can be understood as the academic extensions of mind and body, respectively. Because this concept directly addresses some of the deepest mysteries in both philosophy and science, we should begin, in my view, from a position of Cartesian skepticism…assume nothing except what we cannot doubt, and proceed from there.

What do we really know about the brain? I think that we should all be able to agree that the brain is something which we see and touch with our body, and with technological extensions of our body. Why make a big deal out of that? Because although we can imagine many things in our mind that are true, the details of our own brain is not one of them. Everyone can see a brain with their eyes, but nobody can correctly imagine precise details of their own neurochemical functioning. By the same token, no brain imaging technology can show things like flavors, emotions, and colors being generated in the brain.

If we take our body’s word for what consciousness is, all that we can see is that the brain is the organ which can cause changes to behavior. If we image our own brain, we can learn that it is the organ through which we cause changes in our body.  It is through the activity of the brain that the mind can cause changes in the world. It should be noted that this world is the world that we ordinarily perceive to be outside of our mind, however even the advance of science has not prevented significant portions of the population from continuing to report various sorts of out of body experiences and experiences in which the world is not separated from the self.

In light of these conditions of uncertainty about mind and body, it may be premature to pronounce that 1) it is the body alone which produces mind and 2) the body is produced by something which is not like consciousness. If we dig down into the latter, I think that we find the most important possibility. When we think about the vast undertaking that is entailed in the division of a single zygote into a living human body, complete with central nervous system, brain, immune system, etc, the complexity is arguably far greater than what has been technologically achieved in human history thus far. Within the body, for example, there are countless critical processes which are maintained under dynamically changing conditions. It begs the question – if this fantastic orchestration of physiology can take place without minds or some kind of awareness, then why would the humble hominid develop this elaborate, metaphysical quality of ‘conscious’ experience just to keep up with the daily demands of food foraging and mate selection? What is it that would be so special about a human life that it would be the sole being which is capable of experiencing the universe?

Surely we don’t mean to say that no other animal experiences the universe, and as time goes on, we are finding fewer and fewer ways that human beings are different from other species in an unqualified way. It seems that at best, Homo sapiens recapitulates the features of a lot of different species, and has developed some of those feature to an elaborate degree. If what we see of other creatures is so limited by our own perception, so too might our scientific instruments amplify our limitations as well as our understanding. The more that we study our body, the less we remember that the body is only the exterior of our mind. The more we study other bodies in the world, the more that we define them by their behaviors. Cells and especially molecules and atoms are seen increasingly as mechanistic puppets, behaving according to principles which are also mechanical. What we have failed to see is the role that perceptual relativity plays in how our world is portrayed. We have learned to disregard our own direct view of the universe, trusting instead the view of the universe which is given to us when we look through microscopes and telescopes. The problem with that is that we define the significance of our own subjectivity from a perspective which has been filtered by our subjectivity to negate itself. When we construct this relatively objective worldview, subjectivity is zeroed out by necessity. Our enlightenment has literally blinded us to the ontologically ‘nocturnal’ phenomena in the universe.

In Steve Harris‘ answer, he says ‘You can’t damage a mere receiver to a normal intelligent mind in a way that mimics all common symptoms of dementia.’

A very good point. I agree that the brain is not like a receiver in the sense of being passive. To the contrary, the brain is more like a transceiver, and in my view, it is made of cellular transceivers, and molecular transceivers.
The internet is not contained in my computer, but if my local computer is damaged, I might not be able to get into certain websites. That, in turn, might affect my ability to effectively use other online services, and that in turn might affect my desire to continue using the internet at all (and then its lights out).

I propose that actually what we see as molecules, cells, and bodies are more like obstructions or standing waves within a primordial context of perception and participation that is very different from our own. Matter is not a separate substance, but rather a phenomenal presence which is encountered from a particular sensory perspective. Just as we can see different reflections with polarized filters, or a rainbow appears from one vantage point but not another, matter, cells, brains, and bodies are a way of looking at the collective history of our history as an organism from an ‘edge-on’ view, as it were. All that we are and all that we are not are distorted as through a fisheye lens before our eyes and behind them.

Philosophy and science, like mind and brain offer us two perspectives, each of which is unique in some sense and which together make a deeper kind of sense. Both philosophy and science formalize methods of inquiry into nature, but whereas science emerged as a kind of ‘performance enhancing’ philosophy specializing in nature, philosophy itself extends into metaphysics, ethics, politics, mathematics, etc. Following science back to philosophy is like following the brain back to the mind, and the mind itself as the accumulation of discipline and learning on an even more primordial animism of emotion and sensation.

I no longer see any reason to be afraid of a model of the universe in which brains and not minds physically exist, or in which science and not philosophy is allowed to contribute to the progress of human civilization. In light especially of the revelations of people like Einstein, Godel, and Heisenberg, we no longer need to think of the fabric of the universe as body-like. From pioneers like Jung and Leary and Ken Wilber, we no longer need to see the nature of consciousness as only mind-like. The inner universe and the outer universe seem to overlap, to share, and to diverge wildly, however ultimately, to me, it is brain-like structures which seem more plausible to ‘materialize’ within a sensory context than the other way around. There is no likelihood, as far as I can imagine, of unconscious matter to build bodies and brains, but then for brains to suddenly develop a need for something that is not physics to explain itself to itself.

Modality Independence

March 20, 2014 7 comments

A striking feature of language is that it is modality-independent. Should an impaired child be prevented from hearing or producing sound, its innate capacity to master a language may equally find expression in signing […]

This feature is extraordinary. Animal communication systems routinely combine visible with audible properties and effects, but not one is modality independent. No vocally impaired whale, dolphin or songbird, for example, could express its song repertoire equally in visual display. “

This would be hard to explain if consciousness were due to information processing, as we would expect all communication to share a common logical basis. The fact that only human language is modality invariant suggests that communication, as an expression of consciousness is local to aesthetic textures rather than information-theoretic configurations.

Since only humans have evolved to create an abstraction layer that cuts across aesthetic modalities, it would appear that between aesthetic modality and information content, aesthetic modality is the more fundamental and natural phenomenon. Information is derived from conscious presentation, not the other way around.

MSR Schema

February 13, 2014 Leave a comment


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.

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