Posts Tagged ‘time’

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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