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A Theory of Aesthetic Diffraction

November 22, 2015 Leave a comment

aesthetic_diffraction

“If we split the atom cloud into two parts and recombine them after some time, a wave pattern forms” – source article

Yesterday I was looking at the sun on the water and thinking about how it is an analogy for consciousness and the brain and quantum entanglement. Each point of light reflects an image of the same sun, even though it appears disconnected and changing chaotically on the surface waves. At the same time, we can see a larger group coherence and intermediate scale, waves-of-waves coherence.

In the top image we understand that the coherence reflects a single light source onto a changing surface, in the brain we speculate on biochemical mechanisms within the surfaces which are connecting to each other. In the bottom image, we conflate the wave pattern with the surface itself, but then eliminate the surface altogether. What is being reflected or experienced is obscured altogether in the bottom up QM model.

By thinking of the sunlight as a metaphor for the mind-body problem, we can see how the explanatory gap can be closed. Using physics to look for consciousness is the same as looking at the surface of the water to look for the sun. In this case, the ‘sun’ isn’t a distant star, but the immediately present aesthetic experience of conscious.

Ready for some neologisms? Okay, this gets ugly.

A Theory of Aesthetic Diffraction

In my Multisense Realism project, I have tried to piece together some ideas about consciousness and physics. These include:

  • Light as sight. Photons are reflected incidents of ‘seeing’ or some other aesthetic acquaintance on the micro-level.
  • Aesthetic participation or sense as the root of consciousness, rather than an evolution of survival based intellect, information integration, or biophysics.
  • Local aesthetic phenomena (sense modalities as well as sense content) are like puzzle pieces of universal Pansense or Multisense Continuum which includes physics.
  • Sense as the absolute frame of reference or ‘Sole Entropy Well’.*
  • Space time are the mulitplication/diffraction of sense.
  • Sense is aesthetic content, like universal qualia, rather than a subject-object relation.
  • Significance is the saturation of sense, and its teleological function.

To these I would now add:

The brain is a Polysynchronizing Aesthetic Diffraction Engine.

(Composed of smaller, neuronal PADEs, which are in turn composed of smaller molecular PADEs.)

If we really wanted to see if this is true, I think that there might be a way to begin to find out. A couple of clues:

On the physics side, try turning Permittivity (ε) and Permeability (μ) ‘inside out’, so that we are thinking in terms of electromagnetic effects as reflections of sensory-motive affects rather than causal “fields”. The affect is not itself a field but a spatio-temporal or quantized diffraction…a temporalized, and then spatially dislocated disentanglement from the otherwise boundaryless, absolute context of Pansense.

Looking at the etymology of permit and permeate, we can get another clue in the original sense of the Latin root mittere ‘to send, let go.’ By contrast, permeate is to ‘go through’, from the root meare ‘pass, go’. The expectation of electric and magnetic fields is that they are different ways of looking at the same thing, but the difference is hard to define other than mathematically. I think that as long as we are take the concepts of force and field literally, we will be missing a critical opportunity for understanding nature.

When we turn permittivity and permeability inside out, we go from a Western concept of isolated material objects separated by a vacuum, to an Eastern-like concept of trans-material experiences which are temporarily fragmented from the totality of experience. This fragmentation or diffraction looks like distance or scale and the disappearance of the past, when viewed through the brain.

The Western model conceives of matter as complex nested fields which permit and are permeated by radiant forces. Inverting that takes us from a world of external waves oscillating meaninglessly to a world of felt affects and semi-intentional effects. Behind electromagnetic effects observed within local body frames of reference are phenomenal experiences of ‘going’ and ‘letting go’** in relation to the eternal and trans-local.

The per-mitting of ‘electricity’ translates to the fracturing or branching (think of lightning or a spark) of chaotic motive impulses to release across external frames of reference. The per-meating of ‘magnetism’ translates to a re-cycling or reabsorbing of motive impulses into what Leibniz might have called pre-established harmonies and Sheldrake might call morphic resonance. The difference in what I’m talking about is that what is resonating is not a vacuum or an aether – not a physicalized medium, but ordinary feelings, sensations, and experiences. In this way, relativistic models can be reconciled with quantum models through aesthetic participation as the final transceiving/transducting hyposurface†. This is literally ‘emergence’…the inflection point between these two extremes:

1. The information-based electrodynamic microcosm, which is reflected back to sense as its shadow. The shadow appears to its originator as polarized in terms of automaticity vs chaos-probability. The appearance of the originator can be inferred by inverting the qualities of the shadow, so that rather than crests and troughs of determinism, we can understand ourselves as that which appreciates and creatively determines the shadow.

2. The anchoring frame-based (gravitostatic?) astrocosm derived from the constancy of light speed and gravity. This is the sense of holarchy of scale as well as a hierarchy of importance. Physics can have no preferred frame of reference, so the preferring has to come from:

3. The participation-based mesocosm. Between the two extremes of mindless subatomic computation and mindless block space-time geometry is perception itself. An angle or ray of participation, illuminating and isolating ‘attentions’ while presenting the opportunity to create ‘intentions’.

For us, the mesocosm is reflected back to itself as an elaborate organic chemical hypersurface, nested within another zoological hypersurface. I think that the appearance of neurochemistry as we encounter it objectively is only a single surface or layer of aesthetic presentation which anchors the representation of the larger history of our particular experience as it grew from the physical to the chemical, genetic, biological, zoological, and anthropological frames.

On the perception side, I think that there are clues to be found in researching cross-modal perception and what I might call trans-modal perception. Cross-modal perception is an innate sense of isomorphism across sense modalities such as visual to verbal (Kiki-Bobo effect), onomatopoeia (phonetic to verbal). Trans-modal perception is a term that I propose could be used to talk about such phenomena as sounds which can be felt tangibly (i.e. high pitch sounds are highly localized and penetrating to the ear, while low, booming sounds envelope the entire room, drawing attention to the micro-personal or the oceanic shared transpersonal respectively.)

Conditions such as tinnitis, vertigo, epileptic halos, and synesthesia also seem to promise deeper understanding of sense as they point to the possibility of sense modalities as divergent categories of pansense rather than emergent properties of the functioning of sense organs. Just as physics requires instruments to push the limits of speed and detection into super-human ranges, a true study of consciousness requires examples or methods which transcend normal ranges of human experience. Autistic and psychotic spectrum conditions are especially important as a guide for the underlying axis of human sense-making, and I suspect that they can be meaningfully defined in terms of high and low permeability/permittivity (branching out of electricalimpulses, and recycling back to magnetic ground-state).

*This could be thought of as the sole/absolute ‘surface’ of aesthetic diffraction.

**This maps back to a language theme that I come back to frequently from the PIE root words ‘wag’ and ‘wegh’, like yin and yang…a universal oscillation or tessellation between push-pull (electric or sense-mitting phase) and relax-reflect (magnetic or sense-mearing phase) qualities of experience. Magnetic effects can be thought of as in between electric flux and gravitational grounding. Gravity shows us the orientation of mass toward massive frames of reference, while magnetism shows how local disorientation of mass can be accomplished through electric fluctuation (effort or kinetic energy).

† I say hyposurface to say that sense is both the larger context which contains all levels or planes of description as well as transcendent to the idea of planes and surfaces themselves. Sense is trans-spatiotemporal. Space, time, planes, frames, etc are carved out of the totality as a diffraction rather than as an emanation from fore-fields in a vacuum.

Should Quantum and Consciousness be Connected?

October 13, 2015 1 comment

Quora question:

Are there any reasonable reasons to believe that there is a connection between quantum physics and consciousness?

 

I don’t think that we need to believe in such a connection, but there are certainly reasonable justifications for seeking it out.

From the consciousness side, the issue is that sooner or later we have to get around to asking exactly how experiential qualities like flavors and images come into being. There has to be an inflection point or event horizon…some process through which psychological phenomena are transduced or emerge from actual physical substances. For example, we can see exactly where a computer displays graphic phenomena, but that display is

1) not part of any computational process
2) not comparable to any part of the brain
3) dependant on the visual experience of a conscious user to interpret

This would seem to put our direct, ordinary experience outside of a detectable physical location. Since quantum phenomena violate our classical expectations of physical location, it might be a good place to start. Futher, we know that electromagnetic activity in the brain correlates to conscious experience, and that electromagnetism is reducible to QED.

From the quantum side, there are a few different issues. One is that it isn’t classical. It’s not merely the fact that QM is ‘weird’, but that the particular ways in which it is weird suggests more thought-like properties than stuff-like properties. If we are willing to surrender classical realism for an abstract, counter-intuitive universe, then why rule out that this universe is in fact the same as the one in which our interior experience resides?

Another issue that I think qualifies as a reasonable consideration is that we are finding more and more examples of quantum effects which are macroscopic and organic. Rather than quantum theory settling down into a more unified interpretation, it continues to spawn more possibilities and more strangeness. When we consider what is really meant by photons entangled through time rather than space (Weird! Quantum Entanglement Can Reach into the Past) are we really that far from a universal sense of memory?

The idea that consciousness is related to quantum need not be a reason for us to place ourselves, as Homo sapiens, into the fundamental fabric of existence. Instead, it may be that our human awareness and quantum share a common ancestor. Several of the founding fathers of Quantum Physics emphatically supported the idea that QM is grounded in participation and process rather than objective ‘things’.

I have proposed that QM and Relativity share a connection to rudimentary awareness: Frames of reference, worldlines, multiple worlds, holographic simulation, etc all speak to an influence which bridges a gap between a cosmos with no possibility of preference to one which is dominated by localized perspectives and irreversible change. To me, there is an obvious conceptual intersection between quantum uncertainty and special relativity, and that intersection is in the sharability of sensory experience. This seems to be the inflection point. Both spacetime and causality can be seen to be emergent from a foundation which is perceptual-participatory rather than information-theoretic, spatio-temporal, or mass-energetic. It’s a matter of flipping our expectation of inputs and outputs serving to distribute objective “information” units, to seeing information as the the appreciation of common throughput qualities.

The human qualities of consciousness may not have as direct an effect as some supporters of New Age metaphysics may like*, but it may very well have an effect on which aspects of physics we think we can explore and which aspects we are afraid of. Just as particles have biases in terms of spin and charge, human psychology tends to become polarized. We are only beginning to understand the connection between genes, gender, and what has been termed the empathizing-systemizing spectrum. Autism and psychosis have been linked to the extremes of the E-S spectrum, along with ties to gender influence in gene expression.

If we have built a science which concentrates an overwhelmingly ‘S‘ or genetically ‘male’ perspective, and then use academic processes which only serve to amplify that bias, then it should not be a surprise when the great missing links in our cosmology come to us as shadow projections: Despised foes from across a gap of prejudice. If your psychology is highly biased toward the Systemizing side of consciousness, then you will know it because reading these words will cause you unusually vivid anger and outrage. Rather than a calm consideration of these ideas, it seems (and this is borne out in brain lateralization studies also) that your certainty only grows more fanatical and rigid. It’s not your fault. Ironically the mind is controlled by chemical influences and evolutionary defense mechanisms which deny themselves in our awareness.

If your psychology is overwhelmingly ‘E‘, then I would expect that you might feel more hurt and confused when reading this. The feeling is that this information isn’t really ‘for you’, or that I haven’t developed my own consciousness enough to really understand spirituality. Where the S-minded scientist shouts ‘Woo-woo!’ and demands evidence, the E-minded mystic retires to aloofness. One demands submission to the truth, while the other resigns such demands with transcendence and pluralism. Both views dismiss the authority of subjectivity, but in opposite ways.

To resolve this tendency toward psychic extremism, we may need to go much further in our efforts to seek objectivity than we have imagined. We may need to update our understanding of subjectivity to make it more objective, and our understanding of objectivity to make it more subjective. QM makes this especially true, as objectivity itself has proved to be fundamentally elusive.

This is where Gödel comes in. Formal systems may not only not be enough, they may prevent us from grasping the most essential truths of nature…that we are not observers of an illusory world, but participants in a spectrum of world-like experiences ranging from the very real to the very surreal.

*or at least, not in every state of consciousness or in states of consciousness that are accessible to everybody.

I Think Therefore I Am?

September 22, 2015 6 comments

The only thing that can be verified 100% to exist is your own consciousness (“I think, therefore I am”) does this effect/change your own beliefs in any way and how so?

In a way it is true that our consciousness is the only thing that we can verify 100%, however, that way of looking at it may itself not be 100% verifiable. Since cognition is only one aspect of our consciousness, we don’t know if the way that ‘our’ consciousness seems to that part of ‘us’ is truly limited to personal experience or whether it is only the tip of the iceberg of consciousness.

The nature of consciousness may be such that it supplies a sense of limitation and personhood which is itself permeable under different states of consciousness. We may be able to use our consciousness to verify conditions beyond its own self-represented limits, and to do so without knowing how we are able to do it. If we imagine that our consciousness when we are awake is like one finger on a hand, there may be other ‘fingers’ parallel to our own which we might call our intuition or subconscious mind. All of the fingers could have different ways of relating to each other as separate pieces while at the same time all being part of the same ‘hand’ (or hand > arm >body).

With this in mind,  Descartes’ cogito “I think therefore I am” could be re-phrased in the negative to some extent. The thought that it is only “I” who is thinking may not be quite true, and all of our thoughts may be pieces to a larger puzzle which the “I” cannot recognize ordinarily. It still cannot be denied that there is a thought, or an experience of thinking, but it is not as undeniable that we are the “I” that “we” think we are.

The modern world view is, in many ways, the legacy of Cartesian doubt. Descartes has gotten a bad rap, ironically due in part to the success of his opening the door to purely materialistic science. Now, after 400 years of transforming the world with technology, it seems prehistoric to many to think in terms of a separate realm of thoughts which is not physical. Descartes does not have the opportunity to defend himself, so his view is an easy target – a straw man even. When we update the information that Descartes had, however, we might see that Cartesian skepticism can still be effective.

Some things which Descartes didn’t have to draw upon in constructing his view include:

1) Quantum Mechanics – QM shifted microphysics from a corpuscular model of atoms to one of quantitative abstractions. Philosophically, quantum theory is ambiguous in both its realism/anti-realism and nominalism/anti-nominalism. Realism starts from the assumption that there are things which exist independently of our awareness of them, while nominalism considers abstract entities to be unreal.

  • Because quantum theory is the base of our physics, and physics precedes our biology, quantum mechanics can be thought of as a realist view. Nature existed long before human consciousness did, and nature is composed of quantum functions. Quantum goes on within us and without us.
  • Because quantum has been interpreted as being at least partially dependent on acts of detection (e.g. “Experiment confirms quantum theory weirdness”), it can be considered an anti-realist view. Unlike classical objects, quantum phenomena are subject to states like entanglement and superposition, making them more like sensory events than projectiles. Many physicists have emphatically stated that the fabric of the universe is intrinsically participatory rather than strictly ‘real’.
  • Quantum theory is nominalist in the sense that it removes the expectation of purpose or meaning in arithmetic. “Shut up and calculate.” is a phrase* which illustrates the nominalist aspects of QM to me; the view is that it doesn’t matter whether these abstract entities are real or not, just so long as they work.
  • Quantum theory is anti-nominalist because it shares the Platonic view of a world which is made up of perfect essences – phenomena which are ideal rather than grossly material. The quantum realm is one which can be considered closer to Kant’s ‘noumena’ – the unexperienced truth behind all phenomenal experience. The twist in our modern view is that our fundamental abstractions have become anti-teleogical. Because quantum theory relies on probability to make up the world, instead of a soul as a ghost in the material machine, we have a machine of ghostly appearances without any ghost.

To some, these characteristics when taken together seem contradictory or incomprehensible…mindless mind-stuff or matterless matter. To others, the philosophical content of QM is irrelevant or merely counter-intuitive. What matters is that it makes accurate predictions, which makes makes it a pragmatic, empirical view of nature.

2) Information Theory and Computers

The advent of information processing would have given Descartes something to think about. Being neither mind nor matter, or both, the concept of ‘information’ is often considered a third substance or ‘neutral monism’. Is information real though, or is it the mind treating itself like matter?

Hardware/software relation
This metaphor gets used so often that it is now a cliche, but the underlying analogy has some truth. Hardware exists independently of all software, but the same software can be used to manipulate many different kinds of hardware. We could say that software is merely our use of hardware functions, or we could say that hardware is just nature’s software. Either way there is still no connection to sensory participation. Neither hardware nor software has any plausible support for qualia.

Absent qualia
Information, by virtue of its universality, has no sensory qualities or conscious intentions. It makes no difference whether a program is executed on an electronic computer or a mechanical computer of gears and springs, or a room full of people doing math with pencil and paper. Information reduces all descriptions of forms and functions to interchangeable bits, so the same information processes would have to be the same regardless of whether there were any emergent qualities associated with them. There is no place in math for emergent properties which are not mathematical. Instead of a ‘res cogitans’ grounded in mental experience, information theory amounts to a ‘res machina’…a realm of abstract causes and effects which is both unextended and uninhabited.

The receding horizon of strong AI
If Descartes were around today, he might notice that computer systems which have been developed to work like minds lack the aesthetic qualities of natural people. They make bizarre mistakes in communication which remind us that there is nobody there to understand or care about what is being communicated. Even though there have been improvements in the sophistication of ‘intelligent’ programs, we still seem to be no closer to producing a program which feels anything. To the contrary, when we engage with AI systems or even CGI games, there is an uncanny quality which indicates a sterile and unnatural emptiness.

Incompleteness, fractals, and entropy
Gödel’s incompleteness theorem formalized a paradox which underlies all formal systems – that there are always true statements which cannot be proved within that system. This introduces a kind of nominalism into logic – a reason to doubt that logical propositions can be complete and whole entities. Douglas Hofstadter wrote about strange loops as a possible source of consciousness, citing complexity of self-reference as a key to the self. Fractal mathematics were used to graphically illustrate some aspects of self-similarity or self-reference and some, like Wai H Tsang have proposed that the brain is a fractal.

The work of Turing, Boltzmann, and Shannon treat information in an anti-nominalist way. Abstract data units are considered to be real, with potentially measurable effects in physics via statistical mechanics and through the concept of entropy. The ‘It from Bit’ view described by Wheeler is an immaterialist view that might be summed up as “It computes, therefore it is.”

3) Simulation Triumphalism

Disneyland
When Walt Disney produced full length animated features, he employed the techniques of fine art realism to bring completely simulated worlds to life in movie theaters. For the first time, audiences experienced immersive fantasy which featured no ‘real’ actors or sets. Disney later extended his imaginary worlds across the Cartesian divide to become “real” places, physical parks which are constructed around imaginary themes, turning the tables on realism. In Disneyland, nature is made artificial and artifice is made natural. Audioanimatronic robots populate indoor ‘dark rides’ where time can seem to stop at midnight even in the middle of a Summer day.

Video games
The next step in the development of simulacra culture took us beyond Hollywood theatrics and naturalistic fantasy. Arcade games featured simulated environments which were graphically minimalist. The simulation was freed from having to be grounded in the real world at all and players could identify with avatars that were little more than a group of pixels.

Video, holographic, and VR technologies have set the stage for acceptance of two previously far-fetched possibilities.  The first possibility is that of building artificial worlds which are constructed of nothing but electronically rendered data. The second possibility is that the natural world is itself such an illusion or simulation. This echoes Eastern philosophical views of the world as illusion (maya) as well as being a self-reflexive pattern (Jeweled Net of Indra). Both of these are suggested by the title of the movie The Matrix, which asks whether being able to control someone’s experience of the world means that they can be controlled completely.

The Eastern and Western religious concepts overlap in their view of the world as a Matrix-like deception against a backdrop of eternal life. The Eastern view identifies self-awareness as the way to control our experience and transcend illusion, while the Abrahamic religions promise that remaining devoted to the principles laid down by God will reveal the true kingdom in the afterlife. The ancients saw the world as unreal because the true reality can only be God or universal consciousness. In modern simulation theories, everything is unreal except for the logic of the programs which are running to generate it all.

4) Relativity

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity went a long way toward mending the Cartesian split by showing how the description of the world changes depending upon the frame of reference. Previously fixed notions of space, time, mass, and energy were replaced by dynamic interactions between perspectives. The straight, uniform axes of x,y,z, and t  were traded for a ‘reference-mollusk’ with new constants, such as the spacetime interval and the speed of light (c). The familiar constants of Newtonian mechanics, and Cartesian coordinates were warped and animated against a tenseless, Non-Euclidean space with no preferred frame of reference.

Even before quantum mechanics introduced a universe built on participation, Relativity had punched a hole in the ”view from nowhere’ sense of objectivity which had been at the heart of the scientific method since the 17th century. Now the universe required us to pick a point within spacetime and a context of physical states to determine the appearance of ‘objective’ conditions. Descartes extended substance had become transparent in some sense, mimicking the plasticity and multiplicity of the subjective ‘thinking substance’.

5) Neuroscience

Descartes would have been interested to know that his hypothesis of the seat of consciousness being the pineal gland had been disproved. People have had their pineal glands surgically removed without losing consciousness or becoming zombies. The advent of MRI technology and other imaging also has given us a view of the brain as having no central place which acts as a miniature version of ourselves. There’s no homunculus in a theater looking out on a complete image stored within the brain. There is also no hint of dualism in the brain as far as a separation between how and where fantasy is processed. To the contrary, all of our waking experiences seamlessly fuse internal expectations with external stimuli.

Neuroscience has conclusively shattered our naive realism about how much control we have over our own mind. Benjamin Libet’s showed that by the time we think that we are making a decision, prior brain activity could be used to predict what the decision would be. With perceptual tests we have shown that our experience of the real world not only contains glaring blind spots and distortions but that those distortions are masked from our direct inspection. Perception is incomplete, however that is no reason to conclude that it is an illusion. We still cannot doubt the fact of perception, only that in a complex kind of perception that a human being has, there are opportunities for conflicts between levels.

Neuroscientific knowledge has also opened up new appreciation for the mystery of consciousness. Some doctors have studied Near Death Experiences and Reincarnation reports. Others have talked about their own experiences in terms which suggest a more mystical presence of universal consciousness than we have imagined. Slowly the old certainties about consciousness in medicine are being challenged.

6) Psychology

Psychology has developed a model of mental illness which is natural rather than supernatural. Conditions such as schizophrenia and even depression are diagnosed and treated as neurological disorders. The use of brain-change drugs, both medically and recreationally has given us new insights into the specificity of brain function. Modern psychology has questioned earlier ideas such as Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego, and the monolithic “I” before that so that there are many neurochemical roles and systems which contribute to making “us”.

To Decartes’ Cogito, the contemporary psychologist might ask whether the I refers to the sense of an inner voice who is verbalizing the statement, or to the sense of identification with the meaning of the concept behind the words, etc.

In all of the excitement of mapping mental symptoms to brain states, some of the most interesting work in psychology have languished. William James, Carl Jung, Piaget, and others presented models of the psyche which were more sympathetic to views of consciousness as a continuum or spectrum of conscious states. By shifting the focus away from first hand accounts and toward medical observation, some have criticized the neuroscientific influence on psychology as a pseudoscience like phrenology. The most important part of the psyche is overlooked, and patients are reduced to sets of correctable symptoms.

7) Semiotics

Perhaps the most underappreciated contribution on this list is that of semioticians such as C.S. Peirce and de Saussure. Before electronic computing was even imagined, they had begun to formalize ideas about the relation between signs and what is signified. Instead of a substance dualism of mind and matter, semiotic theories introduced triadic formulations such as between signs, objects, and concepts.


Baudrillard wrote about levels of simulation or simulacra, in which a basic reality is first altered or degraded, then that alteration is masked, then finally separated from any reality whatsoever. Together, these notions of semiotic triads and levels of simulation can help guide us away from the insolubility of substance dualism. Reality can be understood as a signifying medium which spans mind-like media and matter-like media. Sense and sense-making can be reconciled without inverting it as disconnected ‘information’.

8) Positivism & Post-Modernism

The certainty which Descartes expressed as a thinker of thoughts can be seen to dissolve when considered in the light of 20th century critics. Heavily criticized by some, philosophers such as Wittgenstein, Derrida, and Rorty continue to be relevant to undermining the incorrigibility of consciousness. The Cogito can be deconstructed linguistically until it is meaningless or nothing but the product of the bias of language or culture. Under Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, the Cogito can be seen as a failure of philosophy’s purpose in clarifying facts, thereby deflating it to an empty affirmation of the unknowable. Since, in his words “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” we may be compelled to eliminate it altogether.

What logical positivism and deconstructivism does with language to our idea of consciousness is like what neuroscience does through medicine; it demands that we question even the most basic identities and undermines our confidence in the impartiality of our thoughts. In a sense, it is an invitation for a cross-examination of ourselves as our own prosecution witness.

Wilfrid Sellars attack on the Myth of the Given sees statements such as the Cogito as forcing us to accept a contradiction where sense-datum (such as “I think”) are accepted as a priori facts, but justified beliefs (“therefore I am”) have to be acquired. How can consciousness be ‘given’ if understanding is not? This would seem to point to consciousness as a process rather than a state or property. This however, fails to account for lower levels of consciousness which might be responsible for even the micro level processing.

In my view , logic and language based arguments against the incorrigibility fail because they overlook their own false ‘given’, which is that symbols can literally signify reality. In fact, symbols have no authority or power to provide meaning, but instead act as a record for those who intend to preserve or communicate meaning.

An updated Cogito

“I think, therefore I am at least what a thinker thinks is a thinker.”

Rather than seeing Cartesian doubt as only a primitive beginning to science, I think it makes sense to try to pick up where he left off. By adding the puzzle pieces which have been acquired since then, we might find new respect for the approach. Relativism itself may be relative, so that we need not be compelled to deconstruct everything. We can consider that our sense of deconstruction and solipsism as absurd may be well founded, and that just because our personal intuition is often flawed does not mean that kneejerk counter-intuition is any better.

With that in mind, is the existence of the “I” really any more dubious than a quark or a rainbow? Does it serve us to insist upon rigid designations of ‘real’ vs ‘illusion’ in a universe which has demonstrated that its reality is more like illusion? At the same time, does it serve us to deny that all experiences are in some sense ‘real’, regardless of their being ineffable to us now?

*attributed to David Mermin, Richard Feynman, or Paul Dirac (depending on who you ask)

Nesting Spinor

July 5, 2015 Leave a comment

msr_spinor

“A spinor visualized as a vector pointing along the Möbius band, exhibiting a sign inversion when the circle (the “physical system”) is rotated through a full turn of 360°” – Wiki

Here is an adaptation of a spinor topology to show the relations within aesthetic phenomena that give rise to realism. Note the adjacent red and blue arrows in opposite directions make an ideal place for the sensory-motive locus, where input/output is experienced directly. The opposite side of the band is the ‘object’ side, where inertia and determinism present a united front against the subjective perspective.

If we set consciousness aside for a moment, this view of the spinor can be used to conceptualize electromagnetism as the source of spacetime rather than an effect occurring within spacetime:

EM-spinor

The conventional understanding frequency and wavelength are here inverted, so that we are thinking about them from the inside rather than as objects of study. A wave is an outsider’s view of an occurrence which is only metaphorically wave-like: a surge of changing phenomenal quality.

Dreams, Reality, and the True North of Consciousness

June 24, 2015 Leave a comment
In the perpetual feud between materialists and idealists, there is one issue which seems to be under-represented in the debate but is at its very core: Dreams.

For the materialist, dreams are nonsense. While the body rests, the brain performs housekeeping tasks which have the side effect of giving us hallucinations, and that’s it. If we want to know about consciousness, the materialist will say, we should study biology and evolution, not dreams.matter_v_ideal

The materialist’s view of consciousness is that is a marvelously complex way for an animal’s body to adapt its behavior and control its environment. Consciousness is about what we do to the world and what it does to us. Things like optical illusions and the placebo effect tell us that the brain’s mental products are flawed since they fail to render reality as it is, but often wished or feared to be. To understand anything about nature as it really is, we can only use empirical, formal, consensus-building methods to tease out golden flecks of truth from the raw ore of our personal guesses and opinions.

For the idealist* consciousness need not inhere to a context of physical survival. Consciousness is not only about what we’re trying to do in the world, but is instead the very fabric of all possible worlds. I personally suspect that this means that consciousness of all sorts is not only pervasive in the universe, but that the universe is actually nothing but the collection of all conscious experiences. If there is anything beyond all forms of conscious experience, it is by definition, indistinguishable from nothing at all (since awareness of some kind is required to make and appreciate distinctions).

In this view, consciousness is not only about the survival of certain special animals, but is the necessary feature of nature to present itself and to participate in that presentation. Just as we do not expect a dead body to have experiences, neither should we expect physics to be able to define itself or function in the absence of all experience.

In idealism, dreams present at least the possibility of a purer sample of human awareness than waking consciousness. Because the psyche is free from contamination of the outside world, dreams would be a kind of control for our thought experiments about consciousness. For the idealist, dreaming should be the true North of consciousness. As Freud and then Jung found, dreams are overflowing with deep symbols and information which transcend personal experience.

In practice, dreams may have contamination of their own, and materialists may be appalled at the idea of treating consciousness most useless and bizarre extremities as the foundation for understanding, but the idealist understands that facts are facts, and the fact is that when we close our eyes and relax, consciousness reveals itself as a spontaneous world-maker, and that is an important fact to begin with. When we withdraw from the physical world, the psyche does not just disappear, it also creates new worlds, and it seems to create them on the fly, instantaneously, without optical illusions or placebo effects.

From here, in the dreamworld, we can see that color need not be wavelengths, and images need not be representations of something physical in the world. In the context of the dream, idealism is the physical reality. Qualia is matter. Any argument about this is a misunderstanding about what the word qualia means (which is common for materialists who may not be able to conceive of images and sounds independently of neurology and physics). If you never wake up from the dream, you will never encounter any part of your own brain or body as it exists in physical reality.

Once we accept that, as Bernardo Kastrup has said, “Materialism is baloney.”, we can move on to the deeper questions of what the universe of qualia is really all about, and whether our own place in it as humans is central or not. This is actually the more interesting level of metaphysics than the perennial argument at the gate between materialists and idealists. I’m using the terms subjective idealist and transcendental idealist here, but there may already be philosophical terms that are used academically.

s_ideal_v_t_ideal

As a transcendental idealist (aka multisense realist), I’m pretty much on my own. The materialists hate my view because they see it as vile woo, and the traditional idealists think I’m confused because I don’t accept the primacy of subjectivity in generating qualia as a necessary truth (although it may be an empirical fact). The picture that I’m looking at is a scientific one, but larger than science. It is a quasi-theistic or ambi-theistic one, but larger than theism. I do not see this as strictly philosophy, but a potentially actionable view of nature, complete with applications for the future of technology and for the rehabilitation of (what remains of) society.

*and here I’m presenting my own view as the example, not necessarily the most common views…likewise, the materialism column applies to non-material reductionism like computational mind theories.

Hyper-Mentalism and Supernatural Belief

May 24, 2015 2 comments

This article from Psychology Today, Hyper-Mentalism, Hyper-Empathizing, and Supernatural Belief, talks about the diametric model’s explanation of the psychotic end of the autistic-psychotic spectrum.

“To use an analogy, the diametric model implies that we live in parallel mentalistic and mechanistic universes, with mental causality ruling the first and physical causality the second. Religious, superstitious, and magical thinking clearly represent an encroachment of the mental world on the real one in the form of belief in divine creation, miracles, the power of prayers and spells, and so on. Indeed, as I pointed out in an earlier post, you could see traditional religion and superstition as the result of a primeval mentalistic inflation which hyper-mentalized the real world, in part because mechanistic understanding of it in the form of modern science, medicine, and technology had not had time to develop. Furthermore, you could also see this as the paradigmatic historical case of a “combination of strong mentalizing coupled with poor understanding of the physical world.”

In my view, this is very close to the hypothesis that has been developed under the Multisense Continuum or ACME/OMMM model.

The diametric model deserves more attention, in my view, however I think that the assumptions behind the model are themselves biased toward the systemizing/mechanistic end of the spectrum. Note the language in the quote above: “Religious, superstitious, and magical thinking clearly represent an encroachment of the mental world on the real one“. Highly subjective states are identified as being intrinsically unreal rather than being an extension of nature and reality. The end of that quote shows another good example of the mechanistic worldview, associating superstition with “poor understanding of the physical world.” I would not deny that there are many people who do suffer from a poor understanding of the physical world and compensate for that to some extent with magical thinking, however, that correlation does not always hold true. Many people, such as myself, embrace the physical world and have an excellent understanding of it, yet see that behind and beyond mechanistic appearances are also more subtle natural phenomena. It is not that the psychotic is poorly equipped for reality, it is more like reality poorly equipped to contain psychotic hyper-sensitivities. This is not to say that paranoid schizophrenics are right about the content of their delusions, only that the form of paranoid delusions reflect (in a distorted way) the transpersonal territory of the psyche.

In the short article linked above, the author makes the distinction between his diametric model and “Simon Baron-Cohen’s rival scheme, which has systemizing versus empathizing instead of the diametric model’s mechanistic versus mentalistic cognitive dualism”. Here again, the distinction between empathizing and mentalistic is itself a mechanizing/systemizing distinction. Both the diametric model and empathizing-systemizing model label the ‘feminine’ side in terms of a personal function. The former sees empathy as a cognitive skill, while the latter seems to suggest that it is overdeveloped empathy which interferes with the correct application of cognitive skills. In both cases, the bias of contemporary academic science shows through: Extraordinary awareness which conflicts with consensus reality is a defect.

This bias is not surprising, nor is it even a negative if we are trying to get a handle on human psychology for purposes of treatment. The problem that I see, is that it closes the door on the deeper dimensions of psyche and fails to take seriously the implications of consciousness transcending classical physics. Once we do take a scientifically objective look at these implications, I think that we wind up with a theory of order and participation in the universe which is not limited to human psychology but extends beyond physics, information science, philosophy, and religion: A new scientific cosmology based on sense phenomena.

multisense-diametric

Light Speed, Space and Time

April 11, 2015 Leave a comment

I think that the speed of light is constant not because that is the nature of light, but because that is the nature of velocity itself. Velocity isn’t a simple, open ended quantity, it is a range between stillness and c…between absolute spacetime locality and absolute non-locality.

Light is nowhere and everywhere until it hits something…wavefunctions are in non-local ‘superposition’ until they ‘collapse’.

My view is that this is almost true, but inside out. Light is within awareness which reflects awareness. Light is the event horizon between the public and the private aesthetics. Light is only ‘here’ and ‘there’, never in between…never moving in space.

We don’t know anything about space, because we can’t use space to measure itself. All measurements are done with instruments made of matter. All measurements occur within conscious awareness, and all measurements of space occur by the extension of conscious awareness through matter. Space is the absence of matter(as detected by consciousness of matter). The math doesn’t change, only the interpretation gets post-Copernicanized.

“The body is to space what consciousness is to time. The world is to the body what the unconscious is to consciousness.“ – JS

Space = geometry, time = algebra…but then space/geometry is to time/algebra what measurement (quanta) is to the trans-measurable (qualia).

 

About Naive Realism and the Limitation of Models

April 7, 2015 Leave a comment

Nature is not what it naively seems to us to be only to the extent that we are a limited part of nature. Nature as a whole is exactly what it seems, and also, in its most essential sense, nature is seeming, or sense itself.

In the process of enlightening civilization, the scientific worldview has had some casualties, one of which is the authority of our naive sense of reality. Many people feel entirely justified in thinking that all human intuition and instinct is grounded only in evolved fictions that must be overcome in order to understand the truth of anything. This now extends to understanding phenomena such as consciousness and free will, so that even the Cartesian cogito is to be taken with a grain of salt. “I think therefore I am.” no longer is persuasive to the modern cybernetic intellect, which might instead say “You’re programmed to think that you think and that you are, but really there is only organic chemistry playing itself out in your brain.”

Part of what Multisense Realism is about is to reclaim the validity of introspection and understanding, so as to avoid the extremism of either the pre-scientific worldview of anthropomorphic solipsism, or the current reductionist worldview of mechanemorphic nilipsism*. The MSR view is that our naive perspective is not an illusion, it is that our variation on reality exists within a much larger context of interacting variations on reality. The weight of the aggregate of all of these other perspectives are honored within our own sanity as a sense of realism. The depth of scientific knowledge serves to disillusion our naive worldview, but what I propose is that this disillusionment is not an indication of an objective reality of nature, only a hint that the expectation of objectivity is quality of relationship within subjectivity. Realism is a kind of perceptual gravity, anchoring and orienting as well as crushing possibilities into dust. It is a filter on consciousness, and the more public or universal an experience is to be, the more constrained it is to the accumulated history of public facing experience.

Altered states of consciousness can show us that like Neanderthals and other extinct branches of our evolutionary tree, our contemporary state of mind is only one of many which have achieved some stability over time. Ken Wilber’s spectrum of consciousness gets into the different modes of human awareness, linking individual development stages to the stages of anthropological development. Leary’s 8-Circuit Model and the many models of Eastern mysticism echo this idea of stable chakras or umwelt levels within an accelerating gyre of consciousness improving itself. We may be able to achieve spectacular results individually or in small groups, but find that the resistance of the outside world is overwhelming. In the cold light of day, the most moving insights flatten out into goofy platitudes.

Speaking of flattening things out, it is interesting to note that when we try to flatten a sphere, such as when we want a map the Earth onto a page, we have to use projections that approximate the relations on the sphere. There are clever ways of doing it which minimize the distortion, but it occurs to me that traveling around the surface of the world in a complete circle remains the best way I can think of retaining both the flatness and the roundness of the world. Our first person perspective remains the most elegant way of harmonizing opposing perspectives. Flying or sailing around the world gives us an apprehension of that harmony that doesn’t carry over to a model. The scale of the Earth, likewise, is presented in a more impressive, realistic way than any model could also.

The physical model which we have inherited contributes to the nilipsistic worldview mentioned above. If I’m being uncharitable, I might characterize this contemporary phase of cosmology as ‘vacuum worship’. I’m referring to quantum mechanical models through which we infer “A Universe From Nothing”, where “nothing” is a superposition of quantum wavefunctions…statistical tendencies to oscillate into existence for longer than no time at all. Here I suggest a cure for this useful, but fundamentally inverted worldview: Put the vacuum into the vacuum. Get rid of the idea of ‘nothing’ altogether.

Instead of a universe of particles or potential particles in a void, I propose turning it inside out, so that spacetime is an illusion of separation. Quantum events are not grounded in non-locality so much as they are semaphores – signs which define the sense of locality itself. Entanglement should be thought of as ‘pinging locality’ rather than a non-local connection between two real ‘particles’.

*neologisms

Introducing the Aumwelt

March 22, 2015 2 comments

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/david_eagleman_can_we_create_new_senses_for_humans.html

This is worth the 20 minutes IMO, as Eagleman lays out the contemporary view of sense. Where he leaves off is exactly where I want to pick up, and then to run in the opposite direction.

He begins by talking about the limitations of each species and how, for example, a tick lives in a world of temperature and butyric acid…a bat lives in a reality constructed out of air compression waves. This ‘slice of their ecosystem that they can pick up on’ is know as the umwelt.

Umwelt

The German word Umwelt means “environment” or “surroundings”. Lacan contrasts the term with Innenwelt– the inner world–to emphasize the interaction between the imaginary interior space that the “I” occupies and the physical world in which the living human subject is situated. The connection between Innenwelt and Umwelt is, for Lacan, always dialectical; in the mirror stage, the “I” only comes into being through an association with an image that is outside of and other than the infant.

So far so good. He then gets into the exciting directions that his research is going in, technologies to extend our sensory capabilities beyond the human umwelt, etc.

That’s great, and I have been looking forward to technologies like that all of my life. To be able to not only see in the infra-red range, but to be able to model information from any source – an Excel spreadsheet even, in a tangible, tactile way, is amazing.

What I suggest, however, is that the entire model of the umwelt being a slice of an ecosystem (the ecosystem being ‘real world’ or ‘welt’), while empirically sound *within a given umwelt* is actually reversible. The further we get from our own umwelt (which is only ever our umwelt’s view of other umwelts) the more it curls back in on itself.

It’s more like this:

The idea of a concrete reality which is completely outside of all experience is an unfalsifiable mirage generated by the umwelt as a boundary condition to the umwelt. What is beyond our experience is not the anti-experience of math and physics – not Platonic ‘information’ forms floating in a void, but simply more and more inclusive experience. Not a ‘welt’ but an Aumwelt:

In this view, the umwelt appears as a hazy cataract which masks the totality. The totality of all sense experience and capacity (which I see as ultimately the same thing) is what I am calling the Aumwelt. The haze is something like {the difference between the Innenwelt and (the difference between the Innenwelt and the Aumwelt)}. Each umwelt is not assembled autistically, but filtered or carved out of totality of sense (’artistically’ or aesthetically).  In this way, the aesthetic foundation (aumwelt) is divided into smaller dreams (innenwelt) with the remainder of that division serving as both diaphanous partition and reflective lens to the totality. The umwelt is like a semiconductor, half-silvered mirror or semi-permeable membrane; alternating between inner and outer, outer and absolute, and absolute and inner. This is what consciousness is about – not merely adapting to a body’s survival needs more effectively.

Why complicate things? Because if sensation were truly nothing other than “electrochemical signals coursing around in your brain”, then sensory substitution would not be necessary. Regardless of what frequencies and patterns occurred, they would all be formatted as those patterns – not as some fancy ‘feeling’ or ‘color’. Something like colorized film shows that computation is sufficient for deriving color information without seeing color. There is no computational reason to have to invent color simply to signal information about a wavelength of retinal activity or its isomorphism to exterior conditions. Occam’s razor does not allow us to take the leap from information to sensation. We can, however, use information to enhance and extend sensation.

Zooming in on Reductionism and Extremely Gendered Brains

August 30, 2014 3 comments

texas

istock_connecting-the-dots functional_view

One of the greatest obstacles to understanding the hard problem of consciousness and the explanatory gap between function and qualia is that we are psychologically conditioned to overlook the destructive compression of reductionism.

Only a person who is familiar with the shape of the State of Texas can fully understand the connect the dots image shown above. I have included an intermediate image between ‘potential Texas’ and the Functional View to show how even a shift in perspective can make identification impossible. In the end, no identification at all is necessary fro a machine to logically connect one dot to the next in an n+1 sequence. No matter how many dots are connected, it is just the same mechanical action. No geometry or memory is required, just a machine that logically associate one point of data with the next.

When we build computations out of that, we can step back and look at all of the dots and say “yes, the computer is drawing Texas, therefore it might know what Texas is.” or “surely the more complex the arrangement of dots, the more likely it is that a computer could develop geometry and visual experiences of shape”, but there is no logical support for that. Each process of the machine can continue on as it has, completing one mindless task after another, including mindless meta-tasks of associating many groups of data points with many other.

When we reduce the reds, blues, and yellows of light to ‘simply’ electromagnetic wavelengths, we are suggesting that some agent is converting a set of colorless data points into a a color. This is the explanatory gap. A surprisingly high percentage of the population has no trouble with outright denying that there is a gap at all, and will insist that color simply “is” the brain’s reaction to processing data about light. They do not see that processing of data need only be an invisible, functional interpretation of logical points, compressible to any kind of labeling scheme we like.

A brain could easily use biochemical, epigenetic, or quantum computation to label its vast oceans of data at high speed without having to invent flavors, colors, or feelings. Colors are not even the best example because visual qualia maps relatively isomorphically to optical measurements. The same is not true for flavors and emotions, which bear almost no resemblance to physics. If we allowed the brain to produce a single dimension of sense, there is no plausible reason to have to produce a second, any more than there would be a reason for a car’s dashboard to make a musical playlist to accompany itself. If for some reason a computer needed to see its own data, and it could somehow magically conjure that into existence out of its ‘complexity’, seeing would be more than enough to fulfill all data compression needs forever.

An interesting explanation for the inability of so many people to recognize the gap between function and qualia may be hinted at in Simon Baron-Cohen’s Empathizing–Systemizing (E-S) theory of brain types, and Crespi and Badcock’s paper Psychosis and autism as diametrical disorders of the social brain. I have already caught shit for proposing this, as it may sound like I am saying that autism is bad, or that people who favor functionalism are autistic, but that is actually the almost the opposite of what I am saying. What I think the truth is, or might be, is that everyone carries these diametrical potentials (which map to my ACME-OMMM dichotomy, btw) to some extent, and they reflect the continuum of human consciousness, philosophy of mind, and nature itself. This article had this to say about it:

In their forthcoming article in the premier journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Crespi and Badcock present a very convincing case for paranoid schizophrenia as an extreme female brain. Now the whole picture appears to be complete. When your brain is “too male,” too systemizing, too mechanistic, you become autistic. When your brain is “too female,” too empathizing, too mentalistic, you become paranoid schizophrenic. If the extreme male brain of an autistic is “mindblind,” then you might suggest that the extreme female brain of a paranoid schizophrenia is “logicblind.”

Again, to be clear, I am not advocating a clinical reductionism in psychology. I’m not advocating the labeling of autism this or male-female that. This is not about neuroscience or biology for me*, it is about metaphysics and ontology. The difference between representation and presentation, and how they are flipped again and again within nature, and how they are both lenses which define each other.

Part II of this post here.

*I don’t blame people for having a negative reaction to this kind of science, as far as using terms like ‘extreme male brain’ in itself sounds like the product of ‘extreme male’ thinking. It seems crass and inaccurate to go down that road of categorizing people and pathologizing psychological differences as disorders, but I will take what I can get. I think that this research is on to something, regardless of how it may sound.

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