Posts Tagged ‘time’

Is Time an Infinite Set of Moments?

November 9, 2015 2 comments

…or is the whole notion of an infinite set a paradox?

Since a set is by definition a defining of a boundary, whenever we talk about sets which are infinite we are talking about a boundary containing unbounded contents. Such a boundary makes it necessary that boundary-making itself is presumed to be outside of things being bound, i.e. it is taken as axiomatic that boundary making is part of a theory which does not change anything except our own understanding.

Things get murky however, when we consider time an infinite set. In Zeno’s Paradox of the Tortoise and Achilles, for example, the idea of an infinite set is used to trick us into thinking that motion is impossible. The logic is that for something to move one unit of distance, it must first move an infinite number of smaller distances. We can reverse this logic, however, and say that to divide one distance into an infinite number of smaller distances in the first place would take an infinitely long time if we had to actually make those measurements in some way, provided each measurement takes a non-zero amount of time.

Here is the difference between the map and the territory. Actually moving across a distance is a ‘territory’; a concrete reality. The idea that there is some number of points in which could be measured along that distance is a theoretical abstraction. When we apply the abstraction of infinity to the reality of concrete phenomena, we get paradox. The tortoise’s lead appears to always be getting smaller and smaller, but is still a nonzero fraction of the total distance ahead of Achilles, no matter how much faster Achilles is. What distracts us is that we are taking our own measurement for granted. Yes, it’s true that each measurement at time t will find the tortoise ahead of Achilles if we keep giving the tortoise a fraction of his original head start after calculating Achilles position, but infinity doesn’t end at that measurement. Infinity means not only that there will always be a measurement where the tortoise is ahead, it also means that there will always be an interval after the measurement where Achilles overtakes the velocity challenged reptile. In short, an infinite set means that the set always will extend beyond itself.

The physical allegory of the infinite set is a universe of stars and galaxies which expands into an infinity of empty space.  But can emptiness really envelope things or is it the expansion of things which exists on its own without any envelope? Is the assumption of empty space really a projection of our own intellectual expectations of set-making? I think that it is important to see that Einsteinian spacetime calculations would work the same either way. Spacetime need not be a literal container of mass-energy, if mass-energy is already entangled at superliminal rates. It makes it easy to think of General Relativity as referring to a spatiotemporal entity (a ‘reference mollusk’ as Einstein called it, or a Minkowski space), but the reality may be that spacetime is nothing more than the influence that the entangled consensus of mass-energetic relations has on itself. This way, no envelope of infinite emptiness is required around the Big Bang, and the vacuum can leave its quantum contents behind to revert to a true void. The vacuum energy gets turned inside out…it’s not inside of spacetime, it’s inside of relativity, i.e. universal perceptual entanglement.

Eastern and Western Eternity

If the Western view of time is an unlimited set of (limited) moments, then eternity is purely conceptual – the perpetually incomplete ‘set-hood’ of that set. The Western sense of eternity is also of perpetually filling itself with more and more clock ticks. Eastern mystics have promised instead that the fundamental truth of nature is the antithesis of that: A timeless connectedness of all things, or a universal connectability (The Force, Field, Love*, God) from which all ‘things’ are seemingly detached. Such a detachment is described as an illusion or temporary masking of underlying unity which remains eternal and pervasive. From the Eastern view, it is not space and time which contain all phenomena, but rather times and spaces are emergent dissociations within the grand phenomenality.

With the advent of General Relativity, the pendulum of Western thought began unknowingly to swing Eastward. Eternity came to be seen as a universal 4D manifold which distorts rates and lengths of physical processes. The distortions are understood to be relative to frames of reference; they are the ‘appearances’ of each frame to any other rather than a fixed physical property common to all frames. Frames themselves are, like the tortoise, given an unfair advantage of inheriting our ignorance of the nature of perception. Physics has attributed a frame-making capacity from a purely theoretical warrant, a warrant which magically acquires real powers of perceptual transformation (Lorentz contraction/dilation) which define the universe.

Some will complain that inertial or Galilean frames have nothing to do with perception, that they are tied only to linear velocity, however this takes velocity relations for granted in the same way that infinite sets take sets for granted. Here is where Relativity and QM completely agree. They both hinge on the concrete physical fact of measurement as the relation between properties such as space, time, position, and momentum. The measurement is a thing that separates the uncollapsed theoretical wave from the concrete wave-effects which are common to matter.

I submit that measurement itself is only the superficial way of understanding what is going on behind SR, GR, and QM. What makes measurement possible – all measurement – is an intrinsic relatability or sense which pervades all of physics. It is only parsimonious to assume at this point that this relatability is identical to the awareness which underlies our own conscious experience.

As it stands now, theoretical physics must resort to a kind of dualism where the idea of an ‘observer’ is somehow presumed separate from conscious observation. Any deviation from this premise is taboo and treated with antipathy. The Western imagination has been captured by positivism, so that all legitimate phenomena begin with an assumption of being separable from phenomenology. This unfortunately leaves phenomenology itself orphaned from physics, and the purest contents of conscious experience orphaned from legitimacy. We turn to the idea of “emergence” to reclaim some semblance of coherence, but emergence itself is no more physical or derivable from logic than consciousness itself.

Relativity applies to instantaneity as well as simultaneity.

To further bridge the Einsteinian notion of eternity with the Eastern one, I suggest a relativity of instantaneity. We can see from time lapse photography, for example, that different rates of exposure present nature at speeds of time. If we had nanobots we could surely step down our own body motions so that we could interact remotely with nanoscale objects at scales and speeds which would not be possible to us on the macro scale.

We can also see how the ocean appears to slow to a crawl when seen from the air. Interestingly, the trails that boats make in their wake appear to flow against a solid background of standing ocean waves.


In this photo you can’t see it, but next time you are flying over the water, notice how the narrow wake tracks which cross-cross the static ocean shimmer with movement. I’m curious about the physics of this – is it the distance of the plane or the speed which averages out the speed of water, and then the motion of the boat which makes some of the speed visible? Some kind of phase-cancellation?

It is this kind of transformation which I’m referring to as the relativity of instantaneity. The scope of the instant depends on perspective, and physics, having no preferred perspective, can have no way to define any separation between instants or any set which unites them. In this way, emergent properties themselves emerge from perception.

East vs West

I suspect that both views of time are reflections of the perspective from which they emerge. Eastern or Empathizing psychologies focus on the unity of categories in the category-making mind itself while Western, Systemizing modes focus on impersonal categories, the origin of which is seen as irrelevant. As the two modes have grown apart, they are no longer able to locate each other without distorting them into a straw man. The Western mind sees the Eastern view as an overestimation of our own presence (including the present moment) while the Eastern mind sees the fatal flaw of the Western effort to deflate the presence of the now and its presenter. Interestingly, the antipathy flips in the assignment of blame, with the Western skeptic taking personal umbrage at the individuals who they see as peddlers of ‘woo-woo’ superstition and postmodern ‘word salad’. By contrast, the Eastern mystic sees the Western resistance as a function of impersonal forces of spiritual immaturity. This dynamic of projection and inversion is a good place to study the lensing of consciousness. The model which I propose suggests that studying how people argue will show that fundamentalist positions on either side will have more in common with each other neurologically than there will be differences. From there we can begin to map the blind spot of the Western approach as it cascades down through academic policies, experiment design, and finally economics, and politics.

The Western approach is intrinsically bottom up in that it begins with a collection of external particulars and then extrapolates generalities and universal laws. Scientific thought is an analytic introspection which is intended to generate a synthetic ‘extraspection’. Our naive, introspective sense of the present time is as Edwin Schrodinger and Ken Wilber point out is “the only thing that has no end”. Meaning that we literally cannot locate within the present any beginning or ending. Only memories within the present which seem to explain things outside of the present can be found:

We dissipate our energies in fantasy mists of memories and expectations, and thus deprive the living present of its fundamental reality and reduce it to a “specious present”, a slender present that endures a mere one or two seconds, a pale shadow of the eternal Present.
-Ken Wilber, No Boundary

It seems clear to me that the Western view is dominated by the specific function of the intellect, which is to isolate problems and analyze them sequentially. Using the intellect to analyze itself, we conflate mental kinds of functions with nature in general and have learned to mistake this map of our own map-making for the territory. Because the Western mind identifies with itself rather than with the consciousness behind thought, it inverts our own existence into a ‘specious presence’. First an orphaned soul in an Enlightened machine, then a self-modeling semantic mechanism, the personal presence has now been so aggressively deflated that many insist that it has no existence at all.

If the Western view overlooks the magnitude of significance of the present in its modeling of time, the Eastern view overlooks the overwhelming influence of non-human scales of the present in the universe. The human scale of ‘now’ is overly preferred, so that the Western half of the universe, with its bottom up chains of causality, can be discounted irrationally (hence the woo-woo). This means that the vital and important contributions of science and technology can be dismissed by the Eastern approach, thus losing all credibility with Western thinkers. The sentiment that thoughts create reality is straw-manned to imply that human thoughts create all reality, when the truth is that human influence may be both more powerful and less powerful than we imagine.

Coming Together Over Time

I propose that the way to transcend the problematic notions of time in both the Western and Eastern modes is to see time as the “most common sense” through which eternity ‘pretends’ to be each moment, and how the eternal moment pretends to its own eachness. Time is what limits the unlimited and opens the limited to the possibility of the infinite.

Because the Western view of time has resulted in an all-but-insignificant present, it has contrived an all-but insignificant subjective conscious presence to act as an almost-disposable timekeeper. The ‘observer’ in physics is naught but a convergence of particular coordinates…coordinates which themselves are only defined by there own axiomatic coordination. The cosmos appears as an unorchestrated orchestration…an autoverse rather than universe.

The Eastern view inflates the present and the subjective presence to the absolute extreme, so that the cosmos appears as an unfalsifiably teleological monolith. This infuriates the Western mind, hearing soft-headed homilies of ‘There are no coincidences’ and ‘Everything happens for a reason’ to justify pre-scientific superstition. This would be a solipseverse rather than a universe – a universe which fits into single self. Monotheism splits the difference, with a Unisolipse – a single God self who is not us, but who is like us and can help us and care about us.

What I propose is that each of these models fall out naturally as reflections from a sense-based foundation. The true universe is an orchestration of (orchestration-unorchestration) of perceived qualities and conditions. A paratheistic or ambitheistic society of self-elaborating experiences.

*Love to me seems more human-centric or mammal-centric to me, but I think that Love could be better understood in this context as the most recent form of empathy or sense. Sense allows wholes and parts to partially disconnect and reconnect with the whole.

Speculating on Time as Nested Experience

June 27, 2014 Leave a comment

If we compare two sense modalities, such as seeing vs hearing, we can get a hint of what it might mean for spacetime to be orthogonal to experiential time. Think of the primordial nature of time not as a coherent parameter to be measured, but instead we can see the possibility of time as emerging from experience. A temporal sense which is driven by tempo. Fugues of dream-like, non-orientable perceptual gestalts, with sequential qualities emerging from semantic intensities. If this kind of time were a tent, the tent poles would be significant moments – aesthetically saturated occurrences which resonate into re-occurrence through their cosmological nobility.

For human beings, with a relatively huge psychological bandwidth, we we would experience this prototype to spatialized-time as chronologically ambiguous. Call it a mytho-poetic Dreamtime, collective unconscious, or primordial qualia; a condition where characters and their stories are fused together. The hero makes the journey, and the journey makes the hero. Splitting this atavistic tempo into space and time is the mirroring of unseen perspectives. The hero and journey are polarized into subjects and objects. I would imagine on a pre-biological level, this would be more like position and momentum – less metaphor and more semaphore.

Once the primitive experience takes on a divided perspective there would be opportunities for a sense of hierarchy. Simpler, semaphoric ‘times’ and more developed, metaphorical times are residuated within a densely realized middle ‘place’ as repeating cliches or themes. To broker between these experiential threads, an intermediary sense is used to define boundaries and relations in simple, literal terms. Spacetime, or spatialized time serves to reign in a worldly epoch, and segregate it from the quasi-timeless and quasi-spaceless epoch. The division of fact from fantasy recapitulates the division of space and time, object and subject, body and mind. The reality of space, body and mind is, in the absolute sense, the child of pansensitivity or transrealism. In the local sense, that relation is flipped, and the body is presented as the parent of the subjective mind.

With spacetime, the tent of pansensitive experience is normalized on one end, so that even though the ‘tent poles’ of significance and memory remain as defining the contours of the tent on top, all are now evened out on the bottom. The more primitive, ‘physical’ types of experience have lower amplitudes of significance compared to our experiences, so their variations are collapsed into mere statistical anomalies from our perspective. Our view of their physical time is a mechanical average, generic and lacking any tent-pole significance. Reducing experience to a single quantitative dimension of repetition and duration is the ultimate spatialization of time. With all privacy flattened to be available for public inspection, subjectivity is disenchanted and nomenalized. The figurative and the literal switch roles and the heroes journey is reduced to mere coordinates in a phase space.

The mistake we make is to import this bottom-level generic time into our own high-level proprietary frame. In the most ‘objective’, absolute sense, time radiates from experiential significance as memory and foreshadowing. Time circulates within experience like rhyme does through a poem. Substituting that raw animation for the expectation of rigorous clock-time is not a neutral act. It is an assumption about the universe which cascades through the psyche and civilization, improving and automating our exteriors while our interiority languishes in perpetual angst. Liberation from spacetime literalism might help us find a new way of tapping into larger, more intuitive senses of place and time.

Time is What a Clock Measures

March 14, 2014 Leave a comment

What is Time?

March 5, 2014 17 comments

How would you define it?

I propose a new way of describing time, which I find clearer and more explanatory than others.

Time is an abstraction which refers to a general property of experiences which are remembered or recorded as having occurred in a either an irreversible linear sequence, or a repeating sequence (cycle). In my view, time is inherently phenomenal (private, experiential) rather than physical (public, structural), not just because of time dilation under Relativity, but for the more axiomatic reason that time requires memory. Without memory, there can logically be only one eternal moment. It could be repeating forever or be following a pattern or have no pattern and nothing could tell the difference. Time…is experience, or a quality of experience through which private memory can map to public structure. I suggest that time can be understood as taking on three different modal scopes:

I. Micro-phenomenal: This is clock time. Physics. Looking at the development of time keeping, we can see that early devices exploited natural processes which were either continuous and invariant, such as the flow of water or sand into a container, or which cycled reliably, such as a shadow on a sundial. Mechanical clocks offered a marriage of the two, whereby an underlying linear or oscillating effect such as an unwinding spring’s tension or a pendulum’s swing would advance the teeth of a system of gears, one by one.

Each tick/tock is an precisely measured event which is, as much as possible, uniform and generic. As technology has improved, we have refined the clock to a pinnacle of pure abstraction. Both the indivisible and divisible power of nature has been abstracted electronically. A perpetual electrical current drives generic switches to compute a digitally coded readout. Satellite networks deliver synchronized atomic time. Each microsecond like the last, and even though global adjustments to clock or calendar can be made arbitrarily by central authorities, we feel that this kind of time is the ‘real time’.

II. Phenomenal Time: This is natural time. Idioms like ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ or ‘it was the longest night of my life’ reflect that our ordinary sense of time also dilates and contracts through emotional states. Significant events and experiences seem to stand out in our autobiographical memory as not only more timely, but more timeless as well. We claim them, intentionally or unintentionally, as our own. This kind of time is narrative. “I woke up, I ate breakfast, I went to the store”, etc.. There is a story which has a shape – beginnings, middles and ends. It is not just generic oscillation or monotonous duration or arrow of increasing entropy, but a proprietary sequence of participation. This is the kind of time that we might say ‘seems like’ it is real.

If you think of how a story works, the more of the story is told, the more the information entropy decreases. By the middle of the story, we know the characters, the setting, the plot, etc. The number of possible ways the story can continue is relatively limited (even if it is still potentially unlimited in an absolute sense). The significance, however, of the remaining bit of the story is increasingly augmented. If the story is good, you want to hear the end of it, even if you are pretty sure that you know how it will turn out.

After the story ends, it would seem that there is no entropy left. The story has been told in its entirety. In reality, however, the meta-story has just begun. The memory of it survives, creating new opportunities to be applied figuratively in one’s life, as well as sharing it socially and seeing it retold, dramatized, and celebrated in culture as myth.

III. Metaphenomenal Time: Carl Jung famously wrote about the Collective Unconscious, and synchronicity. Experiences which some consider delusional or paranormal. Meaningful coincidences, prophetic dreams, a symbolic language of recurring characters and sagas called archetypes. This is eternal time. Time wound around itself in such a way that some essential, iconic reduction of all that has happened or might happen is in some sense ‘always still here’ and in another sense ‘never really anywhere’.

This is not mystical babbling to me, it is literally the physical reality of what the universe is and what (or who) it does. We have no trouble thinking of eternity in the Platonic sense, as ideal geometric forms or mathematical relations, but because we ourselves are immersed in human phenomena we do not see ourselves as being composed of similarly eternal recurrences.

Because there is no hard line between I, II, and III, all time is actually nested within all three contexts. This can help explain how intuition could work to allow people to sometimes pick up on feelings from a larger scope of time. Events that have great significance especially could theoretically cast a shadow from the III range to the II, so that from the II perspective, it is precognitive.

Time for Nested Causality

March 5, 2014 Leave a comment

chronos2What do you about the simultaneity of cause and effect?

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

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

Pushing the Envelope

March 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Consider that even the most primitive physical functions rely on detection to define themselves and each other. In a universe where biology has yet to evolve, it may be that those functions which we understand as elemental particles and forces were once more like we are, but through the progress of physics and sense, they became automated in comparison.

Imagine that the degree to which an experience is mechanical is a relative value – like a knob that can be turned toward more or less awareness. Substituting the word sense for God, I would re-interpret this Arthur Young quote to read

Sense sleeps in the minerals, awakens in plants, walks in animals, and thinks in man.’

That’s the way it seems to us, now. At one time, when there were no plants or animals or humans, the speed of geology had no faster frame of reference to make it seem slow. Thousands of years could pass in minutes, and the whirling, gyroscopic Matroyshka shells of mantle, core, and molten rock could have been nodes of vast interstellar awareness – maybe at once more fantastic and more simplistic than we can imagine. Maybe they still are, but the gap between our scale of awareness and that scale turns up the automation knob so that we are kept in our own perceptual-ontological envelopes.

When we look at our body and its world, we find a living museum that stretches back billions of our years. We would not suspect that these forms and patterns are in a sense ghosts. It is not controversial anymore to say that we live in an inner world rather than reality, or that everything we experience is delayed to a greater and greater extent as we measure further and further out from our bodies and our planet. Is it too far to suggest that consciousness is embedded in its own past in this more concrete way, so that the event horizon of progressing consciousness leaves in its wake a fading image – a kind of statistically averaged likeness of a now distant version of itself.

When we think of time nested in this way, the story of the universe becomes one of multiple simultaneous layers of varying temporal resolution. Each layer is increasingly polarazied, or meta-polarized, so that the middle of the envelope is one of ‘this or that’ reality becoming irreversible, but the trailing edge is frozen in recursive displays of computation. The leading edge of the envelope is what we are perpetually pushing into – a superposition of ‘this and that’. Unlike the mechanical semaphores inside the nest, the outside of the nest is mythic metaphors of fictional maybes. Sense thinks in man, but it dreams in gods and monsters.

Diogenes Revenge: Cynicism, Semiotics, and the Evaporating Standard

September 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Diogenes was called Kynos — Greek for dog — for his lifestyle and contrariness. It was from this word for dog that we get the word Cynic.

Diogenes is also said to have worked minting coins with his father until he was 60, but was then exiled for debasing the coinage. – source

In comparing the semiotics of CS Pierce and Jean Baudrillard, two related themes emerge concerning the nature of signs. Pierce famously used trichotomy arrangements to describe the relations, while Baudrillard talked about four stages of simulation, each more removed from authenticity. In Pierce’s formulation, Index, Icon, and Symbol work as separate strategies for encoding meaning. An index is a direct consequence or indication of some reality. An icon is a likeness of some reality. A symbol is a code which has its meaning assigned intentionally.

Baudrillard saw sign as a succession of adulterations – first in which an original reality is copied, then when the copy masks the original in some way, third, as a denatured copy in which the debasement has been masked, and fourth as a pure simulacra; a copy with no original, composed only of signs reflecting each other.

Whether we use three categories or four stages, or some other number of partitions along a continuum, an overall pattern can be arranged which suggests a logarithmic evaporation, an evolution from the authentic and local to the generic and universal. Korzybski’s map and territory distinction fits in here too, as human efforts to automate nature result in maps, maps of maps, and maps of all possible mapping.

The history of human timekeeping reveals the earthy roots of time as a social construct based on physical norms. Timekeeping was, from the beginning linked with government and control of resources.

According to Callisthenes, the Persians were using water clocks in 328 BC to ensure a just and exact distribution of water from qanats to their shareholders for agricultural irrigation. The use of water clocks in Iran, especially in Zeebad, dates back to 500BC. Later they were also used to determine the exact holy days of pre-Islamic religions, such as the Nowruz, Chelah, or Yalda- – the shortest, longest, and equal-length days and nights of the years. The water clocks used in Iran were one of the most practical ancient tools for timing the yearly calendar.  source

Anything which burns or flows at a steady rate can be used as a clock. Oil lamps, candles, can incense have been used as clocks, as well as the more familiar sand hourglass, shadow clocks, and clepsydrae (water clocks). During the day, a simple stick in the ground can provide an index of the sun’s position. These kinds of clocks, in which the nature of physics is accessed directly would correspond to Baudrillard’s first level of simulation – they are faithful copies of the sun’s movement, or of the depletion of some material condition.

Staying within this same agricultural era of civilization, we can understand the birth of currency in the same way. Trading of everyday commodities could be indexed with concentrated physical commodities like livestock, and also other objects like shells which had intrinsic value for being attractive and uncommon, as well as secondary value for being durable and portable objects to trade. In the same way that coins came to replace shells, mechanical clocks and watches came to replace physical index clocks. The notions of time and money, while different in that time refers to a commodity beyond the scope of human control and money referring specifically to human control, both serve as regulatory standards for civilization, as well as equivalents for each other in many instances (‘man hours’, productivity).

In the next phase of simulation, coins combined the intrinsic and secondary values of things like shells with a mint mark to ensure transactional viability on the token. The icon of money, as Diogenes discovered, can be extended much further than the index, as anything that bears the official seal will be taken as money, regardless of the actual metal content of the coin. The idea of bank notes was as a promise to pay the bearer a sum of coins. In the world of time measurement, the production of clocks, clocktowers, and watches spread the clock face icon around the world, each one synchronized to a local, and eventually a coordinated universal time. Industrial workers were divided into shifts, with each crew punching a timeclock to verify their hours at work and breaks. While the nature of time makes counterfeiting a different kind of prospect, the practice of having others clock out for you or having a cab driver take the long way around to run the meter longer are ways that the iconic nature of the mechanical clock can be exploited. Being one step removed from the physical reality, iconic technologies provide an early opportunity for ‘hacking’.

physical territory > index local map > icon symbol > universal map
water clock, sand clock sundial/clock face digital timecode
trade > shells coins > check > paper plastic > digital > virtual
production > organization bonds > stock futures > derivatives
real estate mortgage, rent speculation > derivatives
genuine aesthetic imitation synthetic artificial emulation
non-verbal communication language data

The last three decades have been marked by the rise of the digital economy. Paper money and coins have largely been replaced by plastic cards connected to electronic accounts, which have in turn entered the final stage of simulacra – a pure digital encoding. The promissory note iconography and the physical indexicality of wealth have been stripped away, leaving behind a residue of immediate abstraction. The transaction is not a promise, it is instantaneous. It is not wealth, it is only a license to obtain wealth from the coordinated universal system.

Time has entered it’s symbolic phase as well. The first exposure to computers that consumers had in the 1970s was in the form of digital watches and calculators. Time and money. First LED, and then LCD displays became available, both in expensive and inexpensive versions. For a whole generation of kids, their first electronic devices were digital calculators and watches. There had been digital clocks before, based on turning wheels or flipping tiles, but the difference here was that the electronic numbers did not look like regular numbers. Nobody had ever seen numbers rendered as these kind of generic combinatorial figures before. Every kid quickly learned how to spell out words by turning the numbers upside down (you couldn’t make much.. 710 77345 spells ShELL OIL)…sort of like emoticons.

Beneath the surface however, something had changed. The digital readout was not even real numbers, they were icons of numbers, and icons which exposed the mechanics of their iconography. Each number was only a combinatorial pattern of binary segments – a specific fraction of the full pattern. You could even see the faint outlines of the complete pattern of 8’s if you looked closely, both in LED and LCD. The semiotic process had moved one step closer to the technological and away from the consumer. Making sense of these patterns as numbers was now part of your job, and the language of Arabic numerals became data to be processed.

Since that time, the digital revolution has shaped the making and breaking of world markets. Each financial bubble spread out, Diogenes style, through the banking and finance industry behind a tide of abstraction. Ultra-fast trading which leverages meaningless shifts in transaction patterns has become the new standard, replacing traditional market analysis. From leveraged buyouts in the 1980s to junk bonds, tech IPOs, Credit Default Swaps, and the rest, the world economy is no longer an index or icon of wealth, it is a symbol which refers only to itself.

The advent of 3D printing marks the opposite trend. Where conventional computer printing to allow consumers to generate their own 2D icons from machines running on symbols, the new wave of micro-fabrication technology extend that beyond the icon and the index level. Parts, devices, food, even living tissue can be extruded from symbol directly into material reality. Perhaps this is a fifth level of simulation – the copy with no original which replaces the need for the original…a trophy in Diogenes’ honor.

Three Dimensions of Time?

February 11, 2013 1 comment

Another way of thinking about subjectivity (as I have modeled it with the multisense continuum as sub-personal, personal, and super-personal ranges of awareness) is that time has three dimensions.

Unlike the three dimensions of space, where the dimensions are presented as converged and simultaneous, the three dimensions of time are more like parallel gears or lenses which are relativistic to the scope of the participant’s awareness rather than to the position of their body.  In short, as the structure of space resembles space itself, this new model proposes that the structure of time should be understood in a progressive way, as a multi-stage evolution of structure which is smeared across the totality of interior perception.

If that were true, then my candidates would be as follows, and you can think of them as three levels of description of a clock, oscillation, progression, and orientation.

1. Oscillation. On the lowest level of accurate clocks, there is a recursive sensory-motor engine. Be it a bobbing float, a swaying pendulum, a spring, or a piezo-electric material being stimulated to vibrate, the source of momentum for a clock is the tension between release and restraint, resolved as oscillation. We don’t know that an electric current on a quartz crystal generates an experience of release and restraint, but I suspect that on it’s own molecular scale, there is such an experience, 32,768 times per (human scaled) second.

A very simple water clock could consist of just a leaky measuring cup. In that case, there would not be an oscillation, but a smooth flow. If you watch flowing water, however, it is your awareness which tends to oscillate, tracking between the recursive rushing of the flow through a fixed position and the fluidity of the total motion downstream. In a water clock, the amount of water which leaks out is abstracted quantitatively. When we say, for instance, that there are X number of gallons in a pool, we don’t mean that there are literally gallon-sized units which water comes in that are all squeezed into the pool. We mean there is enough water in the pool to fill X number of gallon jugs if we wanted to. This is a bit of a detour, but it is important because we seem to have forgotten this in physics and now routinely mistake our quantum measurements for the underlying phenomenon which drives that which we believe we are measuring as well as the measuring device itself.

The more relevant point here, is that while the lowest level of time can be either the smooth fluidity of force* or the oscillating dissipation of that force. With the oscillation we get a better sense of the recursive quality of the sub-personal experience. The sub-personal is characterized by its intolerable recursiveness. So generic and monotonous is the stream of identical passing moments of the oscillator that our attention cannot face it for long. We need hands or digits or hash marks on a ruler to help us keep track of their progress indirectly. To a human mind, the experience of the trillions of micro-organic presences which make up our body at any given moment, is recursive madness. The experiential qualities of molecular and quantum levels beneath that, can only be more insanely generic, vast, and uniformly repetitive.

3. Progression. In the middle, personal range of chonometric experience, the hands of a clock are used to denote the wheel of the sun’s progress across sky. Because of the pervasiveness of the sun’s presence, it is only necessary to capture twelve hours at a time, since it should be obvious whether an hour is am or pm by countless perceptual cues internally and externally. The sundial or mechanical clock with round face emphasize the cyclical nature of the progress of time, really a helical sense of second, minute, hour, progressive cycles and day/night oscillating cycles.

In modern time, the worldliness of the solar clock has been shattered in favor of digital time. In digital time, cycle and oscillation are pushed into the sub-personal range of awareness to yield a pure coordinate space. Time no longer passes, rather it is set and synchronized to a satellite signal.

The implications of this psychologically are a double edged sword. Digital time is precise, accurate, and uniform, but its granular nature has replaced the flow of time with dehydrated instants. The meaning of time is purely relative now, an enumerated code tied to geography and policy. Time doesn’t so much ‘march on’ anymore as it does march in place on multiple levels. Time is now an infinite commodity of finite moments, meaningless, disconnected, and interchangeable. We have, in a sense, stopped time while in another sense, we have made time more inescapable and relentless. We are pushing the personal sense of active progress and flow into an impersonal sense of fixed point geosynchronous addressing.

Fortunately we still feel our own lives personally as progress and growth. Our cycles are longer and more spacious than they were a century ago, causing strange red shifting and blue shifting in the extension of childhood, adolescence, and old age but contracting adulthood. Stripping away the superstition of the past has reduced the human life from a pageant of astrological or religious significance ordered by time to its bare bio-genetic mechanisms. Aging is nothing more than a set of symptoms to be banished through medication and cosmetics, diet, and exercise. Otherwise, one year is much the same as the next. Our window of progress has been contracted to match our pay cycle or school schedule. Groundhog Week is always beginning, ending, flying by, or dragging.

Progress is about passing significant milestones. We talk about dates A.D. or B.C. (formerly Before Christ, not secularized as Before Common Era), or characterize them in Ages, Bronze, Iron, Industrial, etc. In our own lives too we think in terms of relationships, residence changes, jobs, or other shifts in the content of our life story – a matrix of befores and afters. These markings in our personal progress are totally unlike the impersonal measures of oscillation and cycle, which are fixed recursively. The chronometry of our lived experience is not so much marked as it is ritually scarred. From the inside, the clockwork thematic and plastic. It retains the irreversible arrow of time, but hyper-extended into aching nostalgic ruins and amputated in chronic disillusion. The retelling of stories and reimprinting of memories smooths out the rough edges, compensates for the incompensible and runs out the clock on personal ages we can’t bear to revisit in their full glory. Memory is a mindfuck. Part propaganda, part revelation…which leads me to.

3. Orientation. Clocks and calendars provide us with a birds-eye view of time. Beyond flow, oscillation, and progress, the wheel or grid of time gives us a presentation of time as universal collection. A science fiction zodiac of possible futures. If oscillation begins with outward flow, then it ends with containment within. Flux and flow persist as perturbations of currency, ripples on the surface of an Akashic plenum of eternity. Finding our way to and from this ocean is perhaps the greatest mystery – one which we have tried to solve with intuition and divination. This is the scientifically despised layer of time which can be described as super-personal, or super-signifying.

Jung talked about the collective unconscious, echoing what every mystic tradition has said about a world beyond time itself – a nexus of hyper-convergence where meaning originates or terminates. Archetypes, symbols from dreams, alchemical models, all point to a kind of absent presence of a divine Totality. Campbell’s ‘hero with a thousand faces’. A bottomless well of teleology and significance – images, encounters, mythic adventures.

Perhaps as the thin trickle of water clock drips out of its vessel, so too does the trickle of possibility drip into our imagination. Unlike the despised drip-drip-dripping of the Sub-Personal level Chinese water torture, the Super-Personal drip into our Personal ‘now’ is generally welcome, if not desperately so.  Novelty and variety are precious and we are fiercely proprietary about them. We want to be the first to know, to see, to feel the future for ourselves. ‘What’s next’ is the hope for release from cycles and oscillation – for transcendence and cessation. “Tis a consumation devoutly to be wish’d”.

*flowing from private sensory potentials to public motor presentations (aka thermodynamic entropy, or the arrow of  time…a continuous public declaration of pure irreversibility, which is the source of all motive, all expansion, or fractal self-diffraction of the cosmos).

Everythingness Perturbed: Function, Experience, and Context

February 19, 2012 1 comment

Since every organism produces itself from a single dividing cell, it can be said that there is a single history which unites that body back to the cellular level. Atoms do not literally reproduce by themselves so that a machine that is assembled has a no single history to unite it.

This becomes more relevant if we suppose that experience arises as a collected and collective unity of sequence, a many-to-one of integrated participation which is not literal and quantitative, but figurative, qualitative, and iconic. It is meaning and world.

A machine is an abstraction which takes physical history for granted. When executed in a material assembly, there is no literal reproduction, only separate parts brought together unintentionally (from the point of view of the parts) to imitate the function of a specialized organic form.

I think that where comp/functionalist assumptions fail is in the misunderstanding of meaning and world as discrete analytic behaviors rather than continuous synthetic wholes. We can see them as wholes because we are unified beings who can see even cartoon characters and puppets as wholes, but that does not mean that there is any continuous awareness that unifies the parts of the machine. To compensate for this, we generally have to build in a monotonously recursive device, like a clock, pump, or wheel to provide an imitation of continuous flow. This should not be confused with the continuous flow which arises organically in a living body. An organic flow is not a clock to which separate parts are mechanically attached, but a collective rhythm which is synchronized from within the shared motive of the reproduced cell. This is can be seen clearly in the behavior of heart cells as they congregate physically and experientially. Look at what it is:

See the difference?

The cells are pushing a private negentropic agenda, while the clock has no agenda at all. You can see it. It is one dimensional tension in a material like metal or winding down one tick at a time, or an electronic response from a semiconductor material. Neither materials have any native motivation or momentum, they must be wound up or plugged in, wired or bolted together. It is a back door imitation of an organism, artificially integrated to use borrowed power to generate the effect of continuous running.

Consciousness has mechanical aspects as well, and indeed the content of our minds can be said to be running as well, but the difference is that the mind runs on it’s own momentum. More importantly the mind can be quieted so that deeper, unconscious experiences can rise to conscious awareness. These experiences do not seem to arise out of the rapidity of mental syntax as functionalism assumes, but out of deep metaphorical interiority which presents spontaneously and unbidden with insight and prescience rather than deterministically or randomly.

This can be explained by understanding the continuity of psychological experience as the entirety of time being scratched or perturbed by the collective experience of a subset of time. The entity is made of time (really meanings, characters, and worlds…stories. Time is an analytical abstraction that has to do more with objects, space, and density). This may seem mystical or esoteric at first, but I think that is because profound truth about subjectivity must by definition evoke the charms of self fetish. Oriental floridity. Super-signifying Hermeticism. Pageantry. It is who we are and why we are, as distinguished from what and how we are (bodies, cells, cities, planets…Occidental austerity. A-signifying quanta. Physical engineering).

Experienced history then, under multisense realism, is crucial. We are the polar opposite of a tabula rasa. The interiority of the stem cell is not a blank coin to be struck with a cellular role, but a ‘Once upon a time’ from which a spectrum of cellular characters and capacities can be diffracted. This is meaning. This is learning, understanding, loving, and growing (also hating, killing, forgetting and half remembering, making things up, creating etc.)

If experience were mechanical, then a clone could be conditioned with the identical experiences and an identical person would be created. If since strong computationalism is does not ground identity in material at all, we would have to say that a cloned body (machine + program) with cloned experience (runtime) would actually be the same person.

If instead we see experience as a unique and idiosyncratic subset of the totality of experience, there can be no Boys from Brazil strategy – no designer identities. Besides nature, nurture, and random variation, there may be a semantic momentum which opens up a flow of identity like a pinata of experienced history being hit with a series of blows: conception, birth, childhood, etc. It is not a process through which an identity is mechanically assembled or fabricated, but one in which identity is revealed and developed from within the self and within experience.

What does ‘within experience’ mean? It means meaning. Significance. The qualitative feeling or message ‘within’ experience. The moral to the story, the lesson learned, the point to be made, etc. Unlike a sequence of instructions or registers in memory, there is no a-signifying transfer of digitally encoded histories. Instead it is a recapitulation of signifying analog wholes. They are not assembled together like a device or dataset, but live with the subject as subjects, growing, changing, and revealing themselves in endlessly new ways through experience and also from within the subject – ripening and flowering, bearing fruit, etc.

Experience is not mere decision trees. Even though the visible shape of a living tree can be modeled in simple mathematical functions, there is no tree experience there. There is no journey from acorn to oak, only from vector to vector or pixel to pixel. There is form but no content. What is so hard to communicate is that the reason for this is counter-counter-intuitive. We expect the truth of subjectivity to be in a counter-intuitive hidden form. That there is some fantastic organization of the brain which gives us human experience. The idea that human experience is literally what it seems to be – a story of human life, grounded in the totality of the cosmic story is anathema to contemporary science. We are looking for the back door, the trick to the illusion, but the trick is that tricks and illusions are the exceptions to the rule. We can only know illusion because we have the sense to know that individual channels of sense can be fooled. That is no trick and no illusion. That is sanity, awareness, and consciousness.

A machine has no such sense. To a Turing machine, all binary feeds are equal. I have no problem at all asserting that there is no meaning and no world experiencing capacity associated with a binary feed. Imitation perception makes up for it’s qualitative superficiality with high speed execution, giving us the illusion of intelligence, but intelligence without meaning or world experience is a different kind of intelligence – one of pure syntax and no semantic kernel to grow and change through experience. There is trivial learning and adaptation, but it is a shadow play through which our own powers of interpretation can fill in the blanks. A humanoid decision tree, constantly running, with no creative iconic depths of its own.

Identical twins have many similarities, but even brain conjoined twins are different individuals. Their histories fundamentally diverge after conception and further diverge with each experience. Their perspectives are different. A machine is just the opposite. An old Macintosh Plus computer could be manufactured today, using the same materials, different materials, or even by virtually emulated on another computer entirely and be exactly the same as any Mac Plus that was ever manufactured. There is no retained history and no world awareness, no difference in perspective. Unlike conjoined twins, networked computers don’t fight with each other. They don’t differentiate themselves. Why? Because there is no self there to differentiate, only a perpetual centralized spinning. This is using space and motion to create the illusion of time – animation.

What we are is neither space, nor motion, nor time, nor information, but informed, moving, waving firmament. Not the wave but that infinitely anchored silent stillness of everythingness itself which is being perturbed in a wavelike manner and making shows within shows which we call time and experience, or, if you like, energy. Energy is a concept of the experience of one show being indirectly experienced in the context of another show. It’s anomalous but sensible. Like the end of Wizard of Oz where the three super-signifying (floridly fictional) characters are re-contextualized as ordinary (naturalistic fictional) farmhand characters in the desaturated aftermath of the dream

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