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Law of Conservation of Mystery

October 5, 2013 Leave a comment

Law of Conservation of Mystery – Refers to the weird tendency for profound and fundamental issues to resist final resolution.  Under eigenmorphism, both the microcosmic and cosmic frames (the infinitesimal and the great) relate to the fusion of chance and choice. It is as if the personal, macrocosmic range of awareness might act as a lens, bending the impersonality of the universe into a personal bubble, and in another sense, the personal bubble may project an illusion of impersonality outwardly. Both of these can be thought of not as illusions or distortions, but of mutual relation between foreground and background which constitutes a tessellated synergy.

Both the sub-personal quirkiness of QM and the super-personal spookiness of divination (such as the I Ching or Tarot cards) exemplify that the perception of spiritual or mechanical absolutes is elusive and bound to the choice between belief and belief in disbelief. In both quantum mechanics and divination, the human participant is responsible for the interpretation – the individual is the prism which splits the beam of their interpretation between chance and choice…or the individual is responsible for remaining skeptical and resisting pseudoscientific claims. If we choose to allow choice on the cosmological level, even there, the continuum between luck which is intentionally or unintentionally fateful and karma which is divinely mechanistic reflects a difference in degree of universal approbation. The Law of Conservation of Mystery is particularly applicable to paranormal phenomena. Everything from UFOs to NDEs have passionately devoted supporters who are either seen as deluded fools stuck in a prescientific past or prophets of enlightenment ahead of their time. What preserves that bifocal antagonism is technically eigenmorphism – it’s how different perceptual inertial frames maintain their character, but this special case of perceptual relativity is on us. It keeps us guessing and pushing further, but it also keeps us blind and stuck in our assumptions.

Superposition of the Absolute – The concept of superposition has enjoyed wide acceptance on the microcosmic level of quantum physics, but the idea of the Totality of the universe having a kind of multistable nature has not yet been widely considered as far as I know. The superposition of a wavefunction is tolerated because it helps us justify what we have measured, but any escalation of this kind of merged possibility to the macrocosm is strictly forbidden. Under PIP, the entire cosmos can be understood to be perpetually in superposition, or perhaps meta-superposition. Any event can be meaningful or meaningless according to one’s interpretation, but some events are more insistent upon meaningful interpretations than others.

Coincidence and pattern invariably count as evidence of the Absolute, whether the Absolute is regarded as mechanical law, divine will, or existential indifference. In this way, the insistence or existence of pattern can be understood as the wavefunction collapse of eternity. This is hard to grasp since eternity is the opposite of instantaneous, so that the ‘collapse’ is occurring in some sense across all time, weaving through it as a mysterious thread that pulls every participant forward into their own knowledge and delusion. On the Absolute scale, every lifetime is a single moment that echoes forever, and the echo of the forever-now into nested subroutines of smaller and smaller ‘nows’.

On the super-personal level (super-private/transpersonal/collective), when coincidence seems to become something more (synchronicity, precognition, or destiny), the collapse can be understood as a collapse on multiple nested frames at once. “Then it all made sense”, Eureka!, I hit bottom. etc. The multiplicity of conflicting possibilities can, for a moment, pop into a single focus that will resonate for a lifetime.

On the quantum level, probability is used in a particular way to explain behaviors of phenomena to which we attribute no intentional choice. Einstein’s famous objection ‘God does not play dice’ perhaps echoes a deep intuition that people have always had about the way that nature reflects a partially hidden order. This expectation is perhaps the common thread of all three epistemological branches – the theological, the philosophical, and the scientific. The value of prediction is particularly powerful for both scientific and theocratic authority as evidence of positive connection with either natural law or divine will. Science demands theories predict successfully, while religion demands prophetic promise. Under the Superposition of the Absolute, the ultimate natural law can be seen to become more flexible and porous, and the localization of divine will can be seen to have limitations and natural constraints. If PIP is to make a prediction itself, it would be to suggest that all wavefunctions share the identical, nested, non-well-founded superposition, one which can be understood as sense or perceptual relativity itself.

Mechanemorphism

July 7, 2013 1 comment

(*update to The Competition page)

Antrhopmorphism and Mechanemorphism

1. What is meant by mechanemorphism?

Anthropomorphize = To attribute human form or personality to things not human
Mechanemorphize = To attribute machine form or impersonality to things not mechanical.

The Multisense Realism perspective is grounded in a philosophy of science which seeks to be more objective about objectivity itself. In Western models of consciousness, experience is generated by the objective mechanism, the forms and functions of the brain.  As a result, the subjective experience itself, which does not seem mechanically necessary, becomes orphaned. I have heard it referred to as an illusion, an emergent property, epiphenomena, or even a spandrel (evolutionary side effect which plays no role in further developments). These kinds of terms are necessary to overlook the dualism which mechanemoprhism creates. It is a way of silencing or explaining away the very phenomenon which give rise to the inquiry into consciousness in the first place. This phenomenon of human inquiry is very much the opposite of mechanism. It is a personal participation which arises from meaning and motive rather than blind energy. It is a ‘Why?’ as well as a ‘How’.

When we, as upstanding citizens of the Western scientific consensus, mechanemorphize ourselves it is because we are considering only the public facing aspects of {the total phenomenon that we are} and finding them mechanistic. The conjecture of MSR is that because consciousness is more likely to use mechanism for differentiation and extension than machines are to use consciousness for anything (why would they?), we should not assume the public presentation of our own mechanism is the fundamental phenomenon. MSR suggests that perceptual relativity itself, the sense of the contrast between private qualia and public quanta, is in fact the most likely universal primitive. While human perception may be local to this planet during a relatively short era, perceptual relativity as a phenomenon is larger, older, and more universal than physics. Mechanism must be learned. Feeling and being is innate.

If we examine the nature of mechanism carefully, we should see that the essence of mechanism is unconsciousness. What is an automaton? What does it mean to automate a process? It means that we squeeze out all requirements for our own participation. It is a function which happens without us.

Why is that important? Because a machine will serve whatever master that it is constructed to serve. It will do the same thing over and over until it breaks, because it can’t tell the difference and it can’t care. The machine itself {the totality of the phenomenon that is the machine} has no presence as a genuine whole which is independent of our expectations of it. Outside of our uses of it, it is only an assembly of unrelated parts.

Natural phenomena are not assembled unconsciously, they are spun off and broken out from larger wholes. They are conceived through fusion and fission of their own sense and motive. As a result, the awareness of something like a human being, which is self-elaborated to an almost perverse degree, has a footprint in many different levels of awareness and interaction. While the public effect of what we are seems mechanistic to us, the private affect of who we are does not seem that way. If we were to recreate the universe and we wanted to recreate it faithfully, we would have to include this non-mechanistic experience, as it is the primary experience of the universe for ourselves, and perhaps for all participants in the universe as well.

To say that someone is ‘robotic’, or ‘acting like a machine’ is to say that they are impersonal, cold, relentless, unfeeling. These meanings are not there by accident, they are universal intuitions. As impartial scientists, we should recognize that it is no more scientific to presume that the universe is fundamentally mechanistic than it would be to presume that it is fundamentally anthropomorphic. We have many indications in non-ordinary consciousness, the placebo effect, quantum mechanics, synchronicity, and the anthropopological universality of spiritual concepts that objectivity is not a matter of what “simply is” but may in fact be, on a more primitive level, the complex interplay of “what seems to be the case”. There is no evidence that this ‘seeming’ can be taken for granted in a physical or mathematical system. There is no argument that I know of which should persuade a neutral party why mechanemorphism deserves more consideration than anthropomorphism as a default ontological assumption. Instead, MSR argues that this contrast of extremes known as anthropomorphism and mechanemorphism are a clue as to the template of the underlying nature of nature – that it is in fact an aesthetic agenda from which human subjectivity is directly descended.

Book Discussion: Aping Mankind (part two)

July 7, 2012 1 comment

As promised, here is part two of my discussion on Raymond Tallis’ Aping Mankind. In part one, I went over how impressed I was with the fact that his reasons for rejecting evolutionary and neuroscientific explanations of consciousness (without involving religious ideas) are the same as my own. I have never read another author who has so closely expressed my views in one place – the underlying weakness of “information” as an objectively real system and the unscientific assumptions that arise from the retrospective (reverse engineered) view of consciousness.

I can’t fault the author for leaving off where he does, sort of painted into a corner where all scientific and spiritual explanations are unworkable. I feel like he spent so much intellectual energy mounting a strong critique of the status quo that he has not had the time or wherewithal to develop a path forward – a path, which I think I have been on.

Midway through the book, Tallis’ views take a turn toward human exceptionalism which leaves little room for relating the human experience to the universe in general – something which to me is the most important part of understanding consciousness. He rightfully defends the humanities against the encroachment of the various neuro-prefixed replacements, pointing out the essential gulf between things like art, literature, religion, law, and what can possibly be modeled from neuroscience or evolutionary biology. He talks about how even if we started out with a world that could be generated by a brain, we have long since transcended that with a whole semiosphere of accumulated inter-brain constructs that can no longer be considered neurological or biological.

The book does a good job, at least for me, of pointing out the fallacy that all of these new sciences make in ‘sawing off the limb that they sit on’ – how science itself can only be a meaningless flood of neurotransmitters evolved into yet another ‘hard wired’ plumage of peacock feathers to attract mates. The author correctly says that talent is not always positively linked to show-off behaviors, and that often times genius goes unappreciated while lesser lights attain celebrity due to their extroversion and marketing efforts.

I agree. If we were to take the “Neuromaniac-Darwinitic” view of humanity seriously, then “truth” itself could only be certain neurotransmitters or truth-correlate signals in a particular area of the brain. In that case, we should no longer require that we do experiments with our flawed perception of a simulated universe, but instead simply dump a few thousand micrograms of some isomer here or there, tweak a bit of brain matter with the right combination of electromagnetic stimulation, and voila – truth must appear, just as the delusion of God appears when we stimulate the “God spot” of the brain.

However, I think that Professor Tallis misses the opportunity to get on the right side of history in recognizing the sentience of other organisms, though they are different and arguably less significant kinds of awareness in comparison to our own. We know about bacteria and plants communicating. We know about the strange properties of entanglement and uncertainty. These understandings I think are not compatible with an isolationist view of psyche. Human psyche, sure, but it’s still on the same continent as other animals. Dolphins understand zero, ants ranch aphids, etc. We also know that the brain isn’t the same thing as a foot. fMRIs don’t predict the existence of consciousness, but once we know what we are looking for, I don’t agree that they will continue to be the blunt instruments that they are now. We won’t be able to live in a hard drive, but we may live to see the day when we computers will help us blur the boundary between our inner and outer worlds – living other lives as other people, producing our own full sensory movies, etc. That’s not the same thing as making a computer that cares or leaving our brain behind to live in a computer program.

The door that I think Tallis has missed – or maybe he tried the doorknob too few times, is panpsychism (or panexperientialism). While he understands perfectly Searle’s Chinese Room and why a computer can never feel like a person feels, he doesn’t look carefully enough at our own blindness to different kinds of consciousness. I talk a lot about how poor the record is of human beings recognizing consciousness even within our own species through history, but even within our own families our prejudice against the consciousness of children is substantial. When we think of human exceptionalism, we really mean adult normative human exceptionalism.

As adults, we routinely dismiss the significance of childhood awareness, seeing it only as a functionally important but materially trivial developmental stage, valid only in relation to the development of productive skills as an adult. As we grow up, we often subject younger people, siblings, classmates, etc to derision – accusing them of immaturity, being a baby, etc. Like a dream or drug experience, we grow to see our childhood hopes and dreams as lacking realism, while our current hopes and dreams are elevated to a more worthwhile status. Of course, children see through adults more than we think. They, more than even adults do, sense just how tremendously boring, hypocritical, and full of crap grown ups really are. They have good memories and are more observant of us than we are of them.

My view is that this is more than a social custom. I think it reveals a structural feature of consciousness itself – not only human consciousness but the scientific nature of what awareness literally is. Awareness is how whole entities care more about the things that are important to them or define them and less about other things. This can’t happen just by giving us an electric shock until we ‘care’ about something. Instead it happens by qualitatively foregrounding channels of experiential content and backgrounding others. This isn’t a process of invention where clever ways of multiplexing data must be developed out of whole cloth in each species or individual. I think that it is a case of attaining larger ‘chips off the old block’; recovering more of the sense of the totality through the juxtaposition of multiple channels of sense. Our presentation of the world is presented to us as a unified experience worth caring about, propped up by tent poles of super-signifying semantic motives. These are not literal props, but narrative devices. Characters, scenes, plot elements.

I think this kind of panpsychism is not at all unlikely. Just as we cannot see microwaves with our eyes, we cannot participate in parts of the universe with which we share no common spatiotemporal scope. We can’t fit the human big-top circus into the flea circus. We can look at an anthill and reluctantly admit that they are doing something intelligent, but I do not think that we should insist, as Tallis does, that ants have nothing more than dovetailed automaticity to explain their behavior. That’s what it looks like to us, and they are likely to be objectively more automatic than we are, but they probably still participate in an ant universe as individual ants. I agree with Tallis that human civilization represents a quantum leap, maybe the final leap in animal evolution, but I don’t think that there is anything objectively improbable about that, given the improbability of life and awareness itself. Tallis makes a lot of presumptuous dismissals of the possibility of animal intelligence which I think are overstated and will not age well as more ecological science comes to pass.

The question for me is not whether human exceptionalism is justified or not but to what degree our feeling of exceptionalism is anthropic (the inevitable feeling that we would wind up having because we are humans and humans are so great) or…’soliopic’ (the experience that every participant in the universe must have as an inevitable consequence of subjectivity and therefore casts their own species-centric universe with inferior seeming characters).

The way human consciousness has proved to be biased in favor of the self and others who in some way seem likeable to us, and with the microcosmic universes opened to us through scientific instruments, I have no trouble understanding how we might be blind to some level of awareness in every piece of the material universe. Speed up a galaxy a million times and it’s like a whirlpool or sparkler in a cosmic fireworks show. Slow down a human voice and it sounds like a whale. It’s all related.

I don’t think that this contradicts human exceptionalism though, it just places it in a context of exponential sensorimotive development – we host a Cambrian Explosion of perceptual depths…condensed histories experienced from a single vantage point – an “I myself”. This exponential explosion is qualitative, not merely quantitative, so that it is like having more spectra of primary colors, not just more black and white pixels. In this sense, we are unique in the universe.

Each person exists on the same level of unrepeatable idiopathy that water or the color read exist on. Original, genuine, root level. More than the sum of our cells and experiences, not just in an emergent way like dry metal bearings would have, in a group, an slippery quality, but in a novel, unprecedented way like blue is to yellow. My conjecture is that these are not emergent properties, but recovered properties – like leveling up in a game.

This is why the internet isn’t going to suddenly become self aware like Skynet. It can’t level up for the same reason that silicon has never leveled up to a single celled organism. It’s either not possible or it hasn’t happened yet. Either way, in the mean time, our Cambrian Explosion of human interiority has subdivided time exponentially into intervals so brief that the evolution of Silicon has seemed to stop in its tracks by comparison (or maybe literally stopped it by being first…there’s that cosmic anthropic principle again). It’s the ‘by comparison’ part that is key. I don’t think we can tell exactly how biased we are as to what constitutes life or awareness but I suspect that the bias is very great and perhaps absolute – i.e. our view of silicon may ultimately be nothing more than that, a view, a character in our story.

Tallis view of panpsychism then, I think is a naive one. He hasn’t really committed to the premise for long enough to find what is behind the front door. He, like most people, are thinking that the idea of panpsychism has to mean that every atom would have to be like an independent living being, instead of a micropsychic experience that might be as foreign to us as a bolt of lightning is compared to our own body. Once we entertain the idea that the symmetry of mind and matter is significant, we can see how interior evolution is much different and more private than anything we could conceive of as a three dimensional material phenomenon. We have to really get down on the floor of existence here and see how the inside of our mind is truly and utterly unlike anything that is outside of the mind. Then we can imagine that our entire interior is but one ‘temporal apartment’ in a universe of interior-temporal solar systems and galaxies. Not talking about literal planets and apartments, but just how your self seems to you now, an ‘apart’-ment. This is what time and space are really made of.

The simple formula of matter-energy-space versus sense-motive-time should give us an idea of how the idea of panpsychism is just the beginning, just the tip of an infinity of icebergs with qualitative experiences more diverse than all of the forms of matter that we can imagine put together. Eternity exists for these subjects to multiply and discover their universe and each other through their experientially acumulated filters.

I think that this is the path forward the author is looking for. A way to honor the depth and realism of human consciousness without falling back on pre-scientific assumptions. We don’t need to go ‘back to the drawing board’ as he suggests – neuroscience and evolutionary biology are not as entirely malignant as he fears, but we do need to recontextualize them in a much, much larger physical universe built on symmetry and sense. Not on matter or information, but on that which is informed and matters. At the same time, we need a much smaller universe which is not built on anything in particular except everythingness and the fragmentation-reconnection-respiration thereof.

Book Discussion: Aping Mankind (part one)

July 6, 2012 2 comments

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I have been reading Raymond Tallis’ Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis, and The Misrepresentation of Humanity. I have not quite finished it yet but I wanted to post this while it is still fresh.

His critique of contemporary models of consciousness so exactly aligned with my own that I am glad that I did not read the book until now because I would have thought that I had lifted my entire opinion from his. Tallis sees with the same crystal clarity how neurology and evolution fail completely to address the fact of conscious experience itself. He uses some of the same terms I do, pointing out as I often do that a “re-presentation” can only exist as a way of transferring or transmitting a presentation and cannot itself replace the presentation.

The first half of the book makes the same case that I do for consideration of human experience as a completely different phenomenon from either Darwinian evolution (which he and I both respect completely in its original sense as pertaining to natural selection for species development, and the extension into heredity by genetic probability), neuroscientific materialism, or information-theoretic idealism.

Yes – I agree that consciousness is neither information, function, nor matter.
Yes – I agree the human consciousness may be fundamentally different from other species.
Yes – I agree that the compulsive overconfidence in evolution and neuroscience to explain human consciousness is misguided and ultimately pathological if taken literally (as he says, ‘Darwinitis’ and ‘Neuromania’)

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Yes – I strongly agree with his characterization of exactly how the resultant philosophy of this amounts to closing the door on the validity of experience. The similarity between his “disappearance of appearance” (p. 140-145) to my “De-presentation” convinces me that we both see the Emperor’s New Clothes aspect of all of this in the same glaringly-obvious way. We both understand that despite the dismissive assurances, there is an unbridgeable chasm between what neural activity actually is and what it is supposed to produce (qualia, intention).

With the author’s medical background, I appreciate his critique of neuroscientific epistemology. While I’m not qualified to give an opinion on that, I do see his point that the success of neurological mapping of consciousness may be closer to a modern descendant of phrenology than we are led to believe.

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It does seem hard to justify the redundancy and ambiguity of neurotransmitter roles in the presumed functioning of consciousness. If I asked what neurotransmitter is most responsible for generating the feeling of reward, there doesn’t seem to be any that do not qualify. Arousal and reward applies equally to the Noradrenaline, Dopamine, and Cholinergic systems, with the Serotonin system’s correlation to “mood” easily applicable. If neuroscientific correlations with conscious experience were put up against pseudoscientific correlations I wonder how they would fare? How many scientists would submit to a reality show exhibition of medical vs astrological predictions like “Are You Smarter Than A Telephone Psychic?”

Not to diminish the medical application of neuroscience, but when it comes to stepping up to a theory of emotion and sensation, isn’t it a case of the pot calling the kettle unfalsifiable? Are we using fMRI’s and EEGs as a kind of occidental neuromancy – oracles of disorientation? Is the foundation of the neuron doctrine a placebo for scientists? I submit that any given group of ordinary people interpreting a canned astrological reading (or I Ching, numerology, etc), would have a similar level of consensus in a blind test against a group of neuroscientists trying to extrapolate character and destiny information from neurophysiological reports. Medical conditions, sure, but I would bet that when stacked up against Myers-Briggs or any kind of intuitive reading, the neuroscience is measurably more blind for predicting ordinary human personality characteristics.

When it comes to evolutionary genesis of consciousness, Tallis and I are also on the same page.

Think, after all, what unconscious mechanisms have actually achieved: the evolution of the material universe; the processes that are supposed to have created life and conscious organisms; the growth, development and most of the running of even highly conscious organisms such as ourselves. If you had to undertake something really difficult, for example growing in utero a brain with all its connections in place – consciousness is the last thing you would want to oversee the task. p. 176

In this light, we can see that consciousness is actually a disability that could only dilute the speed and efficiency of an automatic mental mechanism. In our weakness and prevarication, we waste precious time in making up our minds when a pure computation would simply yield the most probable success outcome and execute behavior accordingly.

He sees, as I do, that until there is awareness, what is the point of valuing ‘survival’? Without something to tell the difference between one species and another, what does it matter which invisible forms replace each other at any particular unexperienced time?

Tallis talks about the importance of seeing consciousness from the prospective view rather than the retrospective. Not taking consciousness for granted is the most critical aspect of approaching consciousness – to find consciousness from preconsciousness rather than taking the elements of consciousness for granted in justifying their own appearance. I have been calling this “The Elephant In Every Room” problem, and see it is the most significant hurdle that we face in building a 21st century understanding of consciousness.

I think that rigorously applying the prospect view of consciousness from preconsciousness is the only hope we have of not begging the question of the origin of awareness. Of course we can make a wireframe model of agents and actors operating in a world of interactive shadows (data), but why does this data need “us”? If you have actual information already, why invent some phenomenological layer of illusion and an illusory audience to imagine that it is not a simulation? (at least, until the illusory audience evolves to the point that it can teach itself to think that it is questioning the validity of the simulation…which somehow gives us the power to access another, unsimulated ‘reality’).

In his chapter “Bewitched by Language”, professor Tallis exposes the sentimental bias and wishful thinking behind computational models of intelligence. He gets the Symbol Grounding problem, as did Leibniz in his Windmill Argument and Searle’s Chinese Room thought experiment. (Personally I like my example of the polite trash can that waves ‘THANK YOU’ every time you use it). He sees that information is only real in the context of conscious entities using communication devices, and not a primitive substance of pseudo-substance that haunts the universe from the outside.

While Darwinitis requires its believers only to impute human characteristics to animals (and vice versa), Neuromania demands of its adepts that they should ascribe human characteristics to physical processes taking place in the brain. – p.183

…when you personify the brain and bits of brain, then it is easy to “brainify” the person. – p. 187

The author gives us the best and least understood arguments for the failure of contemporary science to grasp the explanatory gap and hard problem of consciousness. It is interesting then, that out of this perfect and wholehearted agreement, I come to diametrically opposite conclusions than he seems to be coming to – which I will get into in the next post.

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