There was news late this week about some archeologists who had allegedly found a 25,000 year old pendant in a cave in Siberia that belonged to a woman. It was even purported that DNA testing taught us a lot about that mysterious woman. Unfortunately, not much of the news piece is actually true, which we dig into in some depth below.
I must admit that when I first saw this headline I was a bit peeved. Not even confused — though granted if taken at face value the headline would be confusing if someone didn’t know much about the science and actually believed it… but really it was just downright annoying and anger inducing if you’re a lifetime subscriber to these subjects.
And I’ll tell you why. We, modern humans of the homo sapien variety, that is, don’t find “jewelry” or anything as ornate or complex or artistic from the peoples who existed 25,000 years ago. We find stone tools, in reality mostly bone tools, spear heads or arrow heads or hand axes, but that’s it. A pendant?!?! Not a chance.
Well as it turns out the article IS misleading, and thus that’s where the confusion comes in to any reader who has a full or even healthy grasp of this field.
Firstly, they didn’t find a pendant. They found a deer tooth that has a tiny hole poked through it. they’re guessing that it may have been worn as some kind of jewelry, like a pendant or bracelet or any number of other things — since all they found was a deer tooth. The picture that accompanies the article is also completely misleading. It’s not a photograph of what they found. It’s a drawing by a modern artist of what a necklace made of metal (that’s still 20,000 years away…) with a pendant dangling from it made out of a rather fancy deer bone. Having nothing to with anything remotely realistic or possible 25,000 years ago
They were able to find traces of human DNA on the tooth they say, and from that they are concluding that one of the people who wore it may have been female. Because of this, they assume it may have been used as a pendant.
This is THE aspect of these sciences that bothers me the most. Let me make it clear, as any longterm readers already know, that out of all the myriad sciences human beings have created over the last 10,000 years, anthropology, archeology and paleontology are right up there with cosmology, ontology, astrophysics and quantum mechanics as my favorite. I am thoroughly obsessed with them and spend far too many hours per week studying and keeping up with these particular subjects — for someone who doesn’t actually work in any of those fields that is.
The biggest drag about the three aforementioned “earth sciences” is that unlike the others, they incorporate a LOT of guessing and assumption in their work. If you started studying any of them, you’d be immediately taken with, and perhaps slightly pissed off by, just how much guessing is involved in coming up with certain ideas that we were taught were truths when we were kids — and yet at least 40-50% of the ideas are formed around guesswork and assumption and not truths or facts at all.
That’s an important point. Something real and solid that everyone should know and can use as a stable reference point. My personal feeling is that they should stop with all the ventures into imagination mode and just stick with science the way the other human sciences do.
To make it clear and hammer this important distinction home, look at the headline of the article. But it should read:”DNA from a 25,000 year old deer tooth perhaps reveals a woman who possibly may have worn it in some manner, or not.” Now that would be accurate. And truthful.
Now we’re all familiar with the Denisovan caves of Siberia. It’s the home to one of the five different human species who all walked the earth at the same time. Most people don’t know this fact. But indeed FIVE different human species existed, all at the same time, and walked the earth together. Only one survived to modern day, Homo sapien sapiens. That’s us. But there were also the Neanderthals, the Tomai Man, Homo Florenciensus, and The Denisovans.
Imagine an earth for a moment when all five different humans were roaming around, hunting gathering protecting procreating all at the same time. That reality boggles the mind no matter how many times one ponders it.
Because this deer tooth is so new, or recent, it’s too new to belong to the Denisovans, who lived in earlier times. So they claim ownership belongs to a group they call the Eurasians, a group of Homo sapiens who would have been in that area approximately 18,000 to 25,000 years ago. BUT they were living in what was once home to a different human species, the Denisovans.
This deer tooth is still an incredible find. And the DNA testing showing extracts from a female who may have worn it is intriguing, because it is one of the only times we’ve been able to extract any human DNA from a stone or bone artifact from the prehistoric age. But other than that, the actual facts underlying the article wipe away all the glitter and glamour the headline portends.
One of the prevailing themes of life on planet earth over the last few years has been the idea of information overload. That’s the general consensus of what word combination might work best to describe this ever-growing and disturbing trend. There was a time when watching the nightly news and reading a daily newspaper kept one in the know, at least about the most important topics. But that’s all changed. The hard cold truth is there is no way now to “be in the know”. 15 years ago, in the book We Are the Revolution — Welcome to the Personal Expression Age, I predicted one of the primary Signatures of this coming new age would be “Information Overload”. And so too did a lot of other people. It was obvious, seeing it coming. It’s boiled over now. With no apparent end in sight.
Now that we’re neck deep in the middle of it with no visible signs it will ever change in the future, the real questions are, what are the implications of this trend? What will be the ramifications? And what can we do about it?
If the biggest challenge or most frustrating obstacle to information overload is not being able to keep up with what’s happening in the world, or not being able to learn and know everything one wants to or believes they should…. We can see at least two different methods one might employ to handle it.
One method would be to go small. Or go specific. Focus on your own personal community geographically, demographically, financially, spiritually, socially, etc. and then take it even further — choose a handful of subjects topics issues and industries one is most interested in and then using apps and other forms of media, design a personal information delivering system around this community and these issues, deliberately leaving out a large majority of information one is either not interested in or that doesn’t affect one’s personal or professional life directly.
This is what most people are already doing now…. Using their phone, computer, apps, various media, YouTube, etc. Go small. Go specific. Be deliberate about it. And you may have a chance of not feeling left out all the time. Because at the very least you’ll know about the most important things happening in the world that YOU primarily exist in.
And remember, this is a challenge we are all facing at this time. Every human being on planet earth and elsewhere is suffering from an inability to hear about and know a majority of what’s happening in the world on a day to day basis. There’s just too much happening now.
Another method to deal with this challenge would be to go big. Go really big. Instead of trying to design a personal information delivery system based on your own community and preferences and stuff as much information into your mind on a daily basis as possible, head in the opposite direction. Take a big step back and recognize that life is short, and compared to being dead, it’s a gift, at least while you’re here… there are no real rules to it (despite what everyone around you claims) especially once you discover the secret of all secrets: the goal of our short lives here in human form is to be as happy and enjoy ourselves as much as humanly possible.
From this perspective, one would be hard pressed to want to stuff their mind on a daily basis with every little or even big thing happening in the world around them — even if that world was just their own small community based world filled with their own personal preferences.
This would be akin to tuning in and dropping out in a way. Focusing more on the ontological and cosmological, attempting to connect with the forces at play in and of the universe as much as possible, communing more with one’s own idea of The Divine… on personal well being, on feeling good, on consciousness expansion, on enlightenment. On acknowledging, appreciating and enjoying the gift of life.
From this perspective, from this point of view, the idea of “not keeping up enough with what’s going on in the world” would seem rather shallow and petty.
Regardless of how we eventually come to deal with the challenge of information overload, a prime example of it in today’s world right this very minute: we’ve had three major regional banks in the United States collapse in the last three months, UFOs begin to be openly discussed by the American government and a newly energized China, along with a seemingly ever growing collection of other countries, begin openly challenging the United States as the world’s superpower, and yet we barely speak about these things as a national community.
We do of course… a little. But we’re also engaged in conversation about a hundred other things at the same time. So no one subject no matter how important it might be to us now or in the future gets it’s fair share of coverage or thought.
We’ve also seen the official introduction of long awaited Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the mainstream world of the masses, that alone being a “something” that ten years ago would have had the whole world talking about nothing else for months — the Singularity is actually here now, 25 years earlier than Kurzweil predicted, and now the invention of a mind reading machine that converts human thoughts into text.
Our human society is now moving at a breakneck speed in so many different sectors industries and arenas and in so many different geographical locations around the world that it has become impossible to keep up with everything going on in the minds and workshops of our billions of other human brethren. By the time we’re just beginning to touch the surface of exploring the uses and implications of a mind reading machine, there will be tens of other inventions or world events that will be announced that will require but not receive our full attention.
That’s a symptom or side effect of the kind of freedom and security we now enjoy as a species. And truth be told we are capable of infinitely more. Just watch. Will it reach a point where the freedom for this kind of rampant ingenuity will become dangerous with the potential for self harm or mass self destruction? One might say that just the rapid introduction of artificial intelligence into the hands of hundreds of millions of people overnight already hints at this. And a mind reading machine..?
See below for a copy and paste of the full article by the good folks at 1440. It will take all of us some time to digest and contemplate this latest event…. Of a machine and a set of hardware and software that can read the mind’s thoughts and convert them to text… even at this rudimentary level, it may be the most impactful invention of all time. And the most dangerous.
From a few minutes of contemplation, if we continue to head in this direction, if more and more universities and communities, public and governmental organizations, private corporations, all join the fray and begin investing in, exploring and building out this technology, what comes to mind…
First and foremost it’s the end of privacy as we ever knew it. “Privacy as we know it” ended 20 years ago. Just as we all said it would. With the so-called war on terror, and the ensuing advent of CCTVs on every street corner in the name of safety and security, plus the recent addition of spy-drones buzzing about everywhere we will ever go geographically, physical privacy is gone. For good. And it doesn’t matter where we are, what country we’re in, whether we’re in the mountains or the desert, at this point it’s safe to assume we’re being watched and recorded at all times.
(Do you remember when this was an actual issue people cared about? Privacy? The anger and furor over “being watched all the time”? It is amazing to look back and see how quickly people gave up that fight. If you’re younger and living in the world today where everything you do and everywhere you go is being monitored 24 hours a day, you’d have no idea that this was an actual major issue of the day that people used to fight over. It was. But the people caved. And quickly.)
The kind of privacy we’re talking about here is far more precious and valuable than protecting where our physical body happened to be one shady drunken Friday night. We’re now talking about our MIND. Our thoughts. Even our dreams and our imagination.
We knew it was coming. All dolled up in 1984 cosplay attire. We just didn’t know it would be here so fast. For the defense industry it will be the biggest thing since splitting the atom. Every country in the world will want a hundred of these devices. And they won’t care how much they cost.
The whole world of spy craft will break apart and transform into something entirely different. It won’t matter how you coded the information or the message or who you gave it to or where you hid it or how you delivered it. The fact of the matter is the information will still be in your mind. And sometime very soon, based on the speed at which human technology advances and evolves, it won’t be that difficult to access anything in the mind or in our thoughts.
The idea of civil rights will be rewritten, because they won’t exist in the manner we are accustomed to anymore. We will be told that nothing has changed, that we still have the same right to civil rights that we’ve always had, but just as with privacy over the last 20 years, they will slowly erode in the name of peace, safety and national security.
Our most basic civil right — what we now consider it at least, that of agency over our physical body, will seem quaint compared to having no agency or control over our thoughts. Imagine a time not too long from now when wishing our human body would or could be violated as a trade if it meant protecting the content of our thoughts or mind. Dire and dramatic I know. But now an actual possibility.
Of course there a variety of positive and helpful ramifications that may spring from a mind reading machine. For creatives such as myself I’ve been dreaming of a miraculous technology such as this for decades. A way to tap into what’s in my mind, convert it to text or even pictures and be able to read it and more importantly save it…! There is simply no way that I or anyone else, not even a team of people, can keep up with how fast a creative’s brain works and how fast it creates new information and ideas.
Two primary limits. Typing while I think here. Which I often do. Precisely because of the phenom we’re discussing. After having lived with or inside my mind for the last few decades I can observe that one giant limitation is that my mind processes organizes and sorts current data and then creates new data and new ideas at such a hyper speed that there’s simply no way for me or even a team of people to get it down. Even if we invented a way to give other people access to my mind. Which is another entirely different challenge. Right now I’m the only person who has access to my mind. So when it’s just me trying to dictate and record as many new ideas as I can that are coming out of my mind, I’m only able to get about 10% of them out, typed up or written down or recorded into something. Imagine having a team of five to ten folks all doing it at once. We would definitely be able to get more of it out HERE, out of my mind and into the world. Now imagine if we had a computer doing it. A machine that could process those new ideas as fast as my mind could produce them. It sounds fantastical frankly. Impossible. But we’ve learned that with computers there really are no limits. So yes, just thinking about this and typing it up here excited the hell out of me. Because I’ve been living with this limit for decades. Literally.
Example. Right now I am limited as I compose this essay by nothing else than my fingers and my energy level. My mind has already composed this essay. Hours ago. Finished it. Completely. This essay was done in my mind approximately ten minutes after I first got the idea for it. But here I am three hours into it still typing. And yes I’ve tried dictating audio. And that does work a little bit faster. But then I’m stuck going back and having to edit the whole thing manually due to the technological limitations of dictation software.
With a computer hooked up to my mind spitting out my thoughts as fast as I was thinking them, with no human physical limitations impinging on our ability to produce, we could easily see me writing a few hundred pages a day. More really when you think about it. It would be a dream. A true miracle.
The same applies to writing new songs. At present I am limited to writing approximately 1-2 songs a day. IF I do absolutely nothing else but sit in the same place and work on writing those two new songs. In reality my mind has already finished the songs a few minutes after hearing them in my head and getting the idea for them. But the songs’ completion is always limited by my own physical body limitations. How fast I can play, how fast I can write, how much time patience and energy I hVe in me to sit there hour after hour to do just that one thing.
If instead we had a computer hooked up to my mind reading my thoughts and spitting them out as fast as I was thinking them, we could get that number up to 5-6 new songs per day. Or probably more. 9-10. Simply because we wouldn’t be physically limited by my humanity. The mind has already done all the work. I take a lot of steps on a daily basis to slow it down enough for me to be able to dictate it and get it out of my mind and into the world. Imagine if that were no longer an issue. Again, a marvel. A true miracle.
Obviously this is just the beginning…. The machine and the software is in its infancy stages. The thoughts and ideas that it inspires are infinite. But this is a good start. More later. Article below….
ARTICLE :: Researchers have revealed a new artificial intelligence system capable of translating a person’s brain activity into a continuous stream of text in a noninvasive way for the first time. New research from the University of Texas at Austin shows the brain-computer interface can generate word sequences that recover the meaning of perceived speech, imagined speech, and brain responses while watching silent videos.
Unlike previous language-decoding systems, the new decoder doesn’t rely on surgical implants. The study focused on three participants whose brain activity was measured using an fMRI scanner, which utilizes changes in blood flow to produce brain scans, as they listened to podcasts, thought about stories, and watched short silent films.
A large language model (see 101), similar to OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Google’s Bard, then matched patterns in the participants’ brains to words and phrases they heard and translated the brain’s response to hearing new words into corresponding text. The decoded text is not a word-for-word transcript but rather a gist of a person’s thoughts.
This is an article I came upon recently that I found absolutely fascinating. One, because it’s about a subject I write a lot about in the Transcendence Diaries, knowing full well that it may be the most unpopular and non-topical subject in the society we currently live in — [I am working on a piece presently related to just this, called The Death Of the Intellectual In the Modern Age], and two, because the author, Hoffman, attempts to explore consciousness from a scientific approach, resisting the popular trend of relegating the study of consciousness to the fields of philosophy or metaphysics. There’s hardcore science here. It may not be an easy read in some places; but it’s thoroughly refreshing to follow along the thoughts and thinking process of someone so ravenously intellectually curious and well thought out. A rare occurrence in our time. The piece was originally published in Edge on January 27, 2020. I am re-posting it here in the Diaries for informational purposes and as reference material. I believe it’s a must read for anyone interested in Ontology or Consciousness Studies. – Ed Hale
A Conversation with Donald D. Hoffman [1.27.20]
. . . I want to propose that realism is false, and what we’re seeing is more like a user interface or a virtual reality headset. Think about a virtual reality game of tennis. You’re playing VR tennis with a friend, you both have your headset and body suits on, you see your friend’s avatar on a tennis court and you start playing. Your friend hits the tennis ball to you, and you hit the same tennis ball back to your friend, but is your friend seeing exactly the same tennis ball that you’re seeing? Well, of course not. There’s no public tennis ball. You have some photons being sprayed to your eye by your headset, and those photons are causing your visual system to create your own perception of what you would call a green tennis ball. Your friend has a headset on, which is spraying photons to his eye, and his visual system is creating his own green tennis ball perception.
It turns out that both of those perceptions are coordinated by something else, namely a supercomputer that’s sending the photons to both headsets, causing both headsets to work in coordination. . . .
All the things that we would do to say that objects really exist even when they’re not perceived hold here in virtual reality. . . . That doesn’t mean that the tennis ball exists and has any physical properties when it’s not perceived; it just means that there is some objective reality.
DONALD D. HOFFMAN is a full professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author, most recently, of The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes. Donald D. Hoffman’s Edge Bio Page
REALISM IS FALSE
Some of the questions I’m asking myself are about the relationship between consciousness and the physical world. I’m trying to understand the classic mind-body problem—how consciousness is related to the physical brain or to physical systems more generally, perhaps computing systems. That’s been a conundrum for centuries. Gottfried Leibniz understood it, Thomas Huxley understood it, Francis Crick understood it and said we should really study it. So, I’ve been studying it.
What’s bothering me and many people in our field is that we have so far failed to get a scientific physicalist theory of consciousness that starts with neural activity, or starts with computer programs or some kind of abstract functional architecture and, without any further magic, gives us specific conscious experiences, like the taste of chocolate or the smell of garlic, arising in very specific mathematically precise ways from those physical or functional systems.
Right now, I’m trying to start with a theory of consciousness in which consciousness itself is fundamental. So again, it’s a mathematically precise theory. When we try to come up with a mathematically precise new theory, one of the things we have to do is think about the basic assumptions that we’re going to build into the theory. Every scientific theory starts with certain assumptions, certain axioms if you will, and then tries to build up an explanation of the other things. No theory in science can explain everything. We always have a few things that we assume, and then we try to explain everything else in terms of those few things.
In physical theory, for example, we’ve assumed space, time, matter, or quantum fields are fundamental, and then we can explain chemistry and biology. We’ve tried to use that kind of framework so that with those assumptions, we can try to boot up a theory of consciousness that explains exactly what physical systems or computational systems must be the taste of chocolate and could not be the taste of vanilla. There’s not a single theory that’s been proposed that can explain even one specific conscious experience.
So, what are the basic assumptions that we would need to build into a theory of consciousness? We don’t want to put too many assumptions on the table. We want the minimal number of assumptions that will give the maximum explanation. I’ve been playing with the idea of what I call a conscious agent, which has a set of conscious experiences and can act on those experiences. I have a mathematical formalism for it. Briefly, it’s measurable spaces of conscious experiences and Markovian kernels for decisions and actions based on those experiences.
One thing that comes out of this formalism is that it’s computationally universal. Anything about learning, memory, problem solving, intelligence, self, any of those things that we would think should ultimately be part of a theory of consciousness are not part of my assumptions; those are things that I will try to build out of networks of these conscious agents. The idea is that we’ll have these interacting social networks of conscious agents and, by the dynamics of the networks of conscious agents, we’ll build up theories of learning, memory, problem solving, intelligence, and the notion of a self.
I have a wonderful team of collaborators including Chetan Prakash, Manish Singh, Chris Fields, Robert Prentner, Federico Faggin, and Mauro D’Ariano working with me on the mathematics and the network dynamics and so forth. Ultimately, to solve the mind-body problem—how consciousness is related to the physical world—we’re going to have to start with this theory of consciousness and show how the physical world arises. We’re assuming consciousness is fundamental, not space, time, and matter. We’re going to have to get space, time, matter, and all of modern physics coming out from this network of conscious agents. The question is how to do that. Is that something that is at all compatible with some of the best views in modern physics?
Our team has been looking at some of the recent developments in physics, in particular the work of Nima Arkani-Hamed and his collaborators, in which they’re saying that spacetime has been the foundational idea in physics. In some sense, physics has been about what happens inside space and time for centuries. Spacetime has had a good run; it’s been a foundational assumption in physics. But there are lots of indications, especially from quantum theory and general relativity, that spacetime cannot be fundamental. As some of the physicists are putting it: spacetime is doomed. That’s not my quote, it’s theirs. There’s got to be something deeper that’s fundamental, outside of space and time, that gives rise to space and time. We’re not saying quantum mechanics is wrong or general relativity is wrong. They’re beautiful and powerful theories, but at some point, there are questions they can’t answer and problems that cannot be explained.
For example, spacetime itself. If you try to observe it at finer and finer scales with a bigger and bigger microscope, one problem is eventually the energies that are required to look at finer and finer resolution of spacetime, when you get down to the Planck scale, the energies create a black hole and you destroy the very thing that you’re trying to look at. And if you add more energy, the black hole just gets bigger. Physicists will say that if spacetime is not something we can measure with absolute precision, then it’s not a fundamental concept. We need something more fundamental.
Another idea they have is that in quantum theory you have an observer and a system, and the observer itself needs to be infinite to have infinite resolution in the measurements that it makes of a system. If you have a room in which you’re trying to do a measurement, to get more precise measurements, the observer has to be bigger with more mass. At some point, the observer itself collapses the room into a black hole. As they say, there are no local observables in quantum theory.
The question that I’m dealing with now is, how can I connect this idea of conscious agents and some of the new theories that physicists are coming up with that try to go beyond space and time?
There’s something called scattering amplitudes, the scattering behavior of particles in the Large Hadron Collider. So you smash protons together at near the speed of light. In many cases, you’ll have quarks and gluons hit each other and spray out, so you might have two gluons coming in and four gluons spraying out. You see these things in the detectors, and you can talk about the probabilities or what they call the amplitudes for these various scattering events. They’ve discovered that if you do the computations of the scattering amplitudes in space and time using Feynman diagrams, you get hundreds of pages of math. It’s ugly and you can’t do it in real time because you’re doing a billion of these collisions per second, roughly. They found that they could collapse these expressions to simple expressions, from hundreds of pages down to two or three terms, if they don’t do the computation in space and time.
One of the things they deal with is something called the amplituhedron. It’s a geometric object outside of space and time, and the volumes of various parts of the amplituhedron correspond to the probabilities of these scattering events. This amplituhedron has symmetries that cannot be expressed in space and time. The physicists are discovering that there’s this new realm behind space and time. They don’t know what it’s about. Right now, they’re following the math, which is telling us that there is this structure outside of space and time and it makes the computation simpler, gives us insight into symmetries that you can’t see in space and time.
Maybe this dynamic of conscious agents that we’re thinking about could be the realm behind space and time. My big project over the next couple of years, with the physicists on my team, is to try to understand how the dynamics of conscious agents might give rise to this amplituhedron.
One of the ideas I’m looking at has to do with the dynamics of conscious agents, the so-called Markovian dynamics. That just means that what you’re going to do at this moment depends pretty much on your current state. So, whatever your current state is, it governs all the probabilities of what you’re going to do at the next decision point. You have only a finite memory of what you’ve done in the past, and it’s only a finite memory of what you’ve done in the past that influences your future behavior.
When you look at these kinds of Markovian dynamics, you can look at their long-term behavior. We have a step-by-step behavior of what conscious agents are doing at each step of their interaction. Think of their interactions like a vast social network, like the Twitterverse. There’s a bunch of conscious agents, like a bunch of Twitter users, and they’re all interacting with each other. But what they’re doing is passing experiences back and forth between each other.
We can look at the dynamics of what’s happening at each step of this social network in this interaction, or we can look asymptotically. As the number of interactions goes to infinity, what kinds of patterns do you see there? That’s where I’m thinking we might get the connection to physics and the amplituhedron, not at the step-by-step dynamics of conscious agents. That’s too fine a grain. If we look at the infinite long-term asymptotic behavior of these social networks of conscious agents, that asymptotic behavior erases a lot of the detailed information about the social network and how it works. On the other hand, it’s capturing the long-term patterns. That’s going to be one of those central proposals. What physics has been doing is capturing just the long-term asymptotic behavior of these networks of conscious agents. That’s why it hasn’t looked conscious at all.
For example, if you’re looking at the freeways in Southern California from an airplane, you just see a bunch of little dots moving around. There’s not much evidence of any consciousness or intelligence. You’re looking at it from a high level and you’re erasing a lot of information. You don’t see all the conscious individuals inside the cars. You just see this pattern of flow, of little dots on streets. That’s what physics has been seeing. It’s not seeing the step-by-step dynamics of the conscious agents. It’s only seeing a top-level asymptotic description of the long-term behavior of these social networks of conscious agents. That’s why we haven’t seen things that look like they’re conscious, because we’re only seeing the long-term behavior.
Of course, there’s a lot of specific mathematical steps that we’ll have to take to prove that the asymptotic dynamics of these social networks precisely fits into the structure of the amplituhedron, which they have shown can give rise to the interesting features of quantum theory and relativity theory combined.
That’s one thing I’m trying to work on—flesh out this model of conscious agent networks, look at the asymptotic behavior of these dynamics, and then plug that into the amplituhedron. That whole process will help me with another big problem we’ve got, which is if consciousness is fundamental, there’s this social network of conscious agents out there and they’re interacting—why? The right answer is, I don’t know. I’m trying to first come up with some principled ideas that are at least plausible for what the dynamics of consciousness is fundamentally about.
One idea my team and I are playing with is Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. Gödel showed that if you have any sufficiently complex mathematical system, and that system has a set of axioms, there will be truths that are consistent with those axioms, but they cannot be proved from that set of axioms. There are unprovable truths. And if you add those new truths (that you couldn’t prove before) as axioms to a bigger system, then Gödel’s theorem says there will be yet new truths that can’t be proven within your bigger system of axioms.
Effectively, this means that the exploration of mathematical structure is, in principle, endless. There will be no end to the exploration of what we can do in mathematics. Why is that interesting in the context of a theory of consciousness and conscious agents? Well, it turns out that consciousness and mathematics are intimately linked.
There’s a field called psychophysics that has studied conscious experiences since 1860. One thing that we’ve discovered in our psychophysical studies in the lab and with the mathematical models is that conscious experiences are highly structured. We can write down mathematical models that predict not only judgments of similarity between various like colors, but also predict precisely what three-dimensional structures you will see and when you will see them. It’s mathematics through and through. I’m not saying that consciousness just is mathematics; it’s more like consciousness and mathematics are like a living organism and the bones. The bones are the mathematics and consciousness is the living organism. That’s one reason why we can hope to build a mathematical model of consciousness and conscious agents. The mathematics is a genuine insight into the structural aspects of consciousness, but of course there’s more to consciousness than just the mathematics.
This is where Gödel’s theorem comes in. It says the structures that consciousness can take and that these conscious agents can explore are endless. One idea is that the goal of consciousness and of these conscious agents is endless exploration of all the possible varieties of conscious experiences and their structures. It may or may not be true, but at least it seems deep enough that it’s a plausible candidate to answer the question of what the dynamics of consciousness is all about.
Suppose we hit a dead end there and that idea turns out to be wrong, that Gödel’s theorem, as interesting as it is, turns out not to be an adequate foundation for our dynamics of conscious agents. If we can take our theory of conscious agents, show how it plugs into, say, the amplituhedron, and then eventually into quantum field theory and general relativity, then what we may be able to do is reverse engineer things. Once we know how to map from conscious agent dynamics into modern physics, can we reverse that map? Can we take what we know about modern physics and its dynamics, pull it back into the realm of conscious agents, and say what kinds of dynamics would get pulled back? That may then focus our attention on certain kinds of conscious agent dynamics that may then help us to grope toward the answer to the question of what consciousness is all about.
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I got my BA in quantitative psychology from UCLA. While I was there, I took some classes on artificial intelligence and neuroscience of vision that caught my interest. One class pulled those together, a graduate class that I took in which we looked at the work of David Marr. He was bringing artificial intelligence ideas together with neuroscience ideas to study human vision. His idea was to be mathematically precise, to come up with mathematical theories that you could implement in a computer for things like seeing in 3D, object perception, and object recognition. As an undergraduate, I thought this was wonderful. This was someone who was using mathematics, computers, and artificial intelligence to solve problems in human vision, and eventually to build robotic vision systems.
I was very interested in the relationship of computing to humans. I was interested in questions like, are humans just computers or are we more than computers? And, what’s the relationship between human cognition and computation? David Marr was at MIT in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and what’s now the Brain and Cognitive Science Department, so I went there, and he and Whitman Richards became my co-advisors.
I worked with Marr for only about fourteen months because he died young, at age thirty-five of leukemia, unfortunately. It was a great loss personally and to the field. But I did have that chance to work with him and the wonderful team that he’d assembled around him. I got to jump in and see what artificial intelligence can do, how far it can go in understanding human vision.
I completed my PhD there, working on human vision. Then I went to UC Irvine as a professor of cognitive sciences in 1983, and I’ve been there ever since. Now my own research is focused on specific problems in human vision, because it’s good to take on specific problems if you’re trying to understand how human nature is related to computation. It’s good to jump in and try to build computational devices that model human nature and see how far you can go. It turns out you can go quite far. In fact, there’s almost no area of cognitive science—learning, memory, problem solving, sensory perception, language development—that isn’t beautifully treated by these functionalist computer kinds of models. There’s only one area that has been a problem, and that is conscious experience.
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There’s an attitude toward things that accepts the possibility that everything I believe is false. But if I’m right about anything, I’m right that I have experiences—that I’m having a headache right now, or that I’m experiencing a chair in front of me, or a table. As philosophers say, I’m having an experience “as of” a table, or an experience as of a chair, or as of a spoon. So, if I look ahead of myself and I see a table, I’m having an experience as of a table. If I close my eyes, then my experience changes and I no longer have an experience as of a table. Then when I open my eyes, I have once again an experience as of a table.
My physicalist colleagues will say that the table is what’s real; it’s there all the time. Even when my eyes are closed, there is a table that exists even if no perceiver were to look at it. The table not only exists, but it has roughly the shape, texture, color, and other properties that I see. That’s a pretty strong claim.
The physicalist is making the stronger and more tendentious claim, that physical objects have definite values of physical properties, like position, momentum, spin, even if no creature observes it. That’s a strong claim, and it might even sound like a non-scientific claim. That’s more than I’m claiming if I just take conscious experiences as fundamental. All I’m claiming is that when I open my eyes, I have an experience as of a table, and when I close my eyes, who knows what’s happening in objective reality. Of course, you could turn it around and say I’m claiming that if consciousness is fundamental and the physical world isn’t fundamental, there is no table when I don’t observe, no object with a definite position, momentum, and spin. That also seems to be a non-scientific claim. How can you claim something about a physical object and its properties when nothing is observing it? How can you possibly have an experiment to test that?
This kind of debate about whether physical objects exist and have definite properties when they’re not observed is one that Einstein was pushing back in the 1920s and 1930s. It seemed to Einstein that quantum mechanics was saying the moon doesn’t exist when no one observes it, at least in the interpretation of quantum mechanics that Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, the Copenhagen interpretation, had.
Wolfgang Pauli was quite impatient with Einstein. He said the kinds of questions that Einstein was asking were like asking how many angels dance on the head of a pin. Who cares? This was a metaphysical thing that couldn’t be answered with experiment anyway, so why bother with it? That was Pauli’s attitude. Pauli was a towering genius, one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century. It turns out though that he was wrong—this is a question that we can ask and answer experimentally.
A physicist named John Bell, in 1963, found a series of experiments that could test whether something like an atom has a definite value of position, or momentum, or spin even when it’s not observed. It sounds impossible. How could you have a series of experiments that definitely tell you an answer to the question of whether something exists with definite values of properties even when you don’t look at it? Bell discovered that you could test something called local realism, to which there’s two parts.
Realism is the claim that physical objects have definite values of position, momentum, and spin when they’re not observed—that’s realism. Locality is the additional assumption that those definite values of the physical properties have influences that propagate no faster than the speed of light through space. Bell proposed this set of experiments, something called Bell’s inequalities—a beautiful theorem that he came up with. It took a couple of decades, but we got the technology roughly in the 1980s and then started doing the experiments. The experiment has been done many times.
People were blown away by the answer, which is that local realism is false. That has been established by experiment repeatedly. Local realism is absolutely false, but there’s two aspects to it. It could be that either realism is false—particles or objects don’t have definite values of their properties when they’re not observed—or it could be that locality is false—influences can propagate faster than the speed of light. Or it could be that both locality and realism are false.
Then there was another theorem in 1963 and 1964 that Bell and two physicists named Simon Kochen and Ernst Specker proved. It’s about realism and what they called “non-contextuality.” It’s not about local realism, it’s about non-contextual realism. The question here is, is non-contextual realism true? Non-contextual realism is the claim that physical objects, like an atom, have a definite position, or spin, or momentum when they’re not observed. Second, these definite values, their prior nature does not depend on how you choose to measure. The kind of measurement you make does not in any way alter these preexisting values. That’s non-contextual realism.
It turns out that our best theory, quantum theory, predicts quite clearly that non-contextual realism is false. Local realism is false, non-contextual realism is false, and that leaves it quite open that realism itself is false. If realism is false, that raises a couple of questions. Is that true only for microscopic objects—electrons, protons, neutrons, and photons—and not more macroscopic objects?
It’s turning out that this border between the microscopic and the macroscopic, first, is very suspicious. No one has ever been able to make a principled size or scale distinction. What size is microscopic and what scale is macroscopic? Recent experiments have been showing that we can put bigger and bigger systems of atoms—some getting pretty big now, thousands of atoms—and put them in quantum superpositions so that the quantum effects that the Kochen-Specker-Bell inequalities are true of these systems that involve thousands of atoms. These are huge molecules with thousands of atoms—getting close to the size of a virus. We suspect that as we continue to develop technology, we’ll find that this boundary between the microscopic and the macroscopic is not nearly so firm as you might think.
The bottom line is local realism is false and non-contextual realism is false. So, what does that mean about the notion of public physical objects? What do we mean in science by third-person science and public physical objects? Intuitively, what we talk about is the way science works and the way it’s in some sense objective. I can watch a ball rolling down an inclined plane, I can measure its acceleration, and I can compute the effects of gravity on it. Then you can look at that very same ball and make your own independent measurements of that public physical ball. If your measurements and my measurements agree, then we can start to have objective science.
There’s this notion of public physical objects and third-person science in the sense that independent observers can do scientific experiments on the same object and come to some kind of agreement. Sometimes the agreement isn’t absolute, like if we’re measuring the length of a meter stick. It turns out if you’re moving fast relative to me, you will get a different length for the meter stick than I will. There’s something called the Lorentz contraction that happens. We can take those kinds of things into account and have a dictionary between the distance you measure and the distance I measure. If they’re the same up to the Lorentz contraction, then we would still say that we agree. And even in special relativity, the spacetime interval is something that we would all agree with on the exact number. That’s the general notion that we have of public physical objects and third-person science.
The idea that local realism and non-contextual realism are false leads me to argue that in fact realism is false. I want to propose that realism is false, and what we’re seeing is more like a user interface or a virtual reality headset. Think about a virtual reality game of tennis. You’re playing VR tennis with a friend, you both have your headset and body suits on, you see your friend’s avatar on a tennis court and you start playing. Your friend hits the tennis ball to you, and you hit the same tennis ball back to your friend, but is your friend seeing exactly the same tennis ball that you’re seeing? Well, of course not. There’s no public tennis ball. You have some photons being sprayed to your eye by your headset, and those photons are causing your visual system to create your own perception of what you would call a green tennis ball. Your friend has a headset on, which is spraying photons to his eye, and his visual system is creating his own green tennis ball perception.
It turns out that both of those perceptions are coordinated by something else, namely a supercomputer that’s sending the photons to both headsets, causing both headsets to work in coordination. Notice in this example that it looks like there’s a public object, namely a green tennis ball, but there isn’t. There is your tennis ball that you perceive and that disappears when you close your eyes, and your friend’s tennis ball that he perceives and disappears when he closes his eyes. There’s no public tennis ball in this example.
All the things that we would do to say that objects really exist even when they’re not perceived hold here in virtual reality. We might say, I know that this table exists because I closed my eyes and my friend Joe can see the table even when I don’t look. Or I can close my eyes and touch the table and can feel it even when I’m not seeing it. Or I can take this spoon and close my eyes, drop it, and know exactly where to look when I open my eyes. You can do all those things in virtual reality. I can take my green tennis ball in virtual reality, close my eyes, drop the tennis ball and know where I’m going to see it. That doesn’t mean that the tennis ball exists and has any physical properties when it’s not perceived; it just means that there is some objective reality.
I’m not denying that there is an objective reality. There is some objective reality that exists independent of whether or not I perceive it, but that objective reality is not space and time or anything inside space and time. Those are just human forms of perception. That’s what quantum theory is telling us. It’s telling us local realism is false, non-contextual realism is false, and realism is false, at least what we call realism of objects in space and time. They don’t exist, except when they’re perceived. They don’t have their properties, except when they’re perceived because spacetime is not fundamental. That’s what the physicists are now telling us, like Nima Arkani-Hamed. Spacetime is doomed. There is an objective reality, but it’s not space and time. It’s a deeper reality outside of space and time. Spacetime is emergent and is not fundamental.
Here’s a cognitive neuroscientist talking about consciousness being fundamental reality, not space and time, and that’s surely treading on the turf of physics. So, what do physicists think about this? Do they just dismiss this out of hand? There’s an interesting history of physicists and their ideas about consciousness. Some of the early quantum physicists were very interested in consciousness. Erwin Schrödinger was interested in it, so were Eugene Wigner and John von Neumann. Wigner thought that consciousness was fundamental, and von Neumann said that as well. There are various interpretations as to whether he was serious about it or not, but he did talk about consciousness being fundamental.
There were a number of physicists who have said that, but among modern physicists, I would say that most simply do not take the idea that consciousness could be fundamental seriously. They would be dismissed pretty much out of hand. The idea that spacetime is doomed, that there’s something beyond space and time, doesn’t entail that that something is consciousness.
Some physicists are proposing that consciousness might be a state of matter. Max Tegmark, for example, has the notion of perceptronium, where certain states of matter could give rise to conscious experience. That idea is very different from the kind of idea that I’m proposing. I’m not proposing that consciousness is a special state of matter. I’m saying that consciousness is fundamental outside of space and time. Space and time itself, and what we call physical objects and their matter inside space and time, are interface descriptions of what’s going on in the dynamics of conscious agents.
Other physicists are proposing other models of what’s behind space and time; again, not consciousness, maybe quantum information—quantum bits and quantum gates. I certainly understand why a physicist would not feel inclined to jump all the way in and say consciousness is fundamental. The proof will be in what we can do. If we can get a mathematically precise theory of conscious agents and the network dynamics of those conscious agents, and we can show that it plugs in, say, to the amplituhedron that Nima Arkani-Hamed has been looking at, and it gives us new predictions, then and only then would I expect that physicists take this stuff seriously. I certainly understand them not taking it seriously until I make some new concrete prediction that affects physics.
I heard a talk recently by Nima Arkani-Hamed in which he said something he advised was just speculative on his part. He said that maybe one of the problems that they’re having in trying to get a deeper understanding of physics that resolves some of the paradoxes between quantum theory and gravity is the division between the subject and the object, between the observer and the observed. Somehow that division, which is required by quantum mechanics, is a real source of problems because the observer has to effectively be infinite if you’re going to have any precise measurements in quantum theory. That has to do with the idea that there are all these quantum fluctuations, and if you’re trying to measure something to infinite precision and you have a finite measuring device, then the quantum fluctuations will perturb the measuring device and give you the wrong answers by the time you get to the fiftieth decimal point, or the hundredth decimal point, or ten to the hundredth decimal point. He was saying maybe we’re going to have to figure out a way to either get rid of that division or multiple ways of doing that division. There’s something about the division between the observer and the observed that will have to be changed.
What’s interesting to me is that in this theory of conscious agents, that’s precisely what I do. The observer and the observed distinction goes away. All are the same mathematical structure, and all are conscious agents. In this dynamical theory, when agents interact, they form new agents. You can have simple agents with few conscious experiences, maybe only two. We might call that a one-bit agent; it only has two experiences, but they can interact to create two-bit agents and four-bit agents, all the way up to however big you want. What agents are really observing are other agents. So, the division between subject and object is not this fundamental distinction. The observer-observed are all the same kind of thing. The boundary between them is completely fluid.
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I’m collaborating with several mathematical physicists right now, working to get some predictions that will grab the interest of this community. One of the biggest influences on me, the person who got me into cognitive neuroscience was David Marr. His writing was powerful, his ideas were brilliant, and he grabbed my attention when I was in my early twenties. It was a great privilege to work with David Marr and then with Whitman Richards, who was my co-advisor while Marr was alive. After Marr died, Whitman Richards was my sole advisor. He was just a wonderful adviser. He gave me the freedom to pursue what I wanted to. He gave me feedback, treated me as an equal, and treated my ideas with respect. We were friends for decades afterwards until his death just a couple of years ago. Whitman had a long-term impact.
Another impact on me was a mathematician named Bruce Bennett, who was a professor of algebra and geometry here at UC Irvine. He took me under his wing when I first came here to UCI, and he and I collaborated for fifteen or twenty years. I’m not a mathematician, so he was very patient and taught me a lot of mathematics. Chetan Prakash, who is a mathematical physicist, also has had a big influence on me and has continued to collaborate with me.
More recently, Federico Faggin has been a big influence. Faggin is probably a name that most people haven’t heard but should know. He was the young genius at Intel who invented the microprocessor. He helped perfect the silicon gate technology. He went on to invent the Z80 and the 8080. He was the CEO of Zilog, also the CEO of Synaptics, where they developed the touch pad. Federico is a genius. He’s also very interested in consciousness.
He heard me give a talk six or seven years ago on my mathematical model of consciousness, struck up a conversation with me, and we’ve been friends ever since. We collaborate closely. His ideas are similar to mine. We’re on the same page, but different enough that it’s interesting. We have strong debates on the details, which is very good. Federico has helped to assemble a team that he’s funding. It would be difficult to get the National Science Foundation or the NIH to fund my research because it’s so far out there, but Federico Faggin is funding it from his own foundation, the Faggin Foundation, for which I’m exceedingly grateful. It’s not the funding that’s the primary thing, although it’s very helpful, but Federico’s ideas are extremely influential and helpful to me.
In terms of some other peers in philosophy of mind, I’m quite impressed with the work of Dave Chalmers. I like his thorough analysis, his mathematical sophistication, his philosophical sophistication, and his non-doctrinaire approach. I like how he surveys the various possibilities and looks at the pros and cons of the various possibilities. I never see him getting dragged into ad hominem debates. He always keeps it where it should be, which is not in personal attacks, but just focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of various ideas. I’ve been heavily influenced by Dave Chalmers and his writing.
There are definitely people who would disagree with me, as I believe Dan Dennett does. He is into conscious illusionism. I talk about conscious realism. I think conscious experiences are real and maybe the foundational reality. Dan Dennett says that space, time, and matter are fundamental. What we call consciousness, in particular, phenomenal conscious experiences—the “what is it like” aspect of consciousness—is merely an illusion that comes about when certain processes in our brain are monitoring the activity of other processes in our brain. The way they monitor and the language in which they couch what they’re monitoring is what leads to the illusion of consciousness. Keith Frankish, Dan Dennett, and others are spearheading this illusionism approach.
It’s not my approach and I disagree with it, but I’m glad they’re mapping out that part of the conceptual space. It’s important to have different points of views. Thinking about their ideas forces me to rethink certain aspects of my own approach. Yeah, we disagree, but it’s a profitable and useful kind of disagreement.
One other person that I should mention that was a big influence was Francis Crick. He was the one who gave permission for scientists to jump in and study consciousness. When I was a graduate student at MIT, I was interested in consciousness, but it wasn’t considered a proper subject of science. It was a little bit too woo woo. I studied it, but I didn’t call it that. I published a book with my collaborators, Bruce Bennett and Chetan Prakash called Observer Mechanics (1989). It’s effectively a mathematical model of dynamics of consciousness, but we just called it observer mechanics and left the consciousness out. Within a few years it was perfectly fine to talk about consciousness and that was largely due to the influence of Francis Crick.
Francis also was the intellectual leader of a group in Southern California that I was lucky to participate in called the Helmholtz club. The Helmholtz club brought together thinkers and professors from various universities in Southern California. We all met at the university club at UC Irvine for nearly twenty years on a roughly monthly basis, with some breaks. A group of a dozen or fifteen of us were the core group, and we would bring in guests and outside speakers. We were after understanding this hard problem of consciousness. Francis was looking at it from a hard-nosed neurobiological point of view—the neurocircuits and the activities that cause conscious experiences. He was hoping to demystify consciousness just like he’d demystified life when he and Watson discovered the structure of DNA. He was looking for the double helix of neuroscience that would demystify consciousness. It was a great pleasure to watch him at work, to see him grappling with the neuroscience data, questioning researchers about their latest findings, and then trying to come up with a model of how neuroactivity could create conscious experience.
I’m not going to be here forever. I need to help the next generation understand the ideas and carry on when I’m no longer able to do it. There is a balance that we all have to strike up between how much time we spend communicating the ideas and how much time we spend having fun exploring the ideas. That’s what it’s like climbing a mountain. You climb it because it’s there. We’re exploring these ideas because it’s incredibly fun to explore them, but then it’s time to stop having that fun. I do enjoy the communication process, but it’s different than the exploration of the ideas.
I try in my public communication, in podcasts and so forth, to communicate to a broad, intelligent but non-specialist audience. I would hope that intelligent, lower division undergraduates could understand what I’m saying. That’s my goal, because that’s often my audience. On the other hand, I’m hoping to catch the brilliant minds who know high-level physics or mathematics and could push this thing to heights that I can’t push it. I try to make it interesting to a broad audience, but also have enough beef that it is not dismissed by people who are talented and could find a real project in this.
I’m planning to officially retire from the UC Irvine this July. I’ll still be on the faculty, but I’ll be emeritus. I still plan to bring in grant money and do the research. As anybody who is a professor knows, you spend a lot of time teaching, and doing committee work, writing grants and reviewing grants, so all of the extraneous duties disappear. That’s one reason why I’m retiring. I’ll have more extended time to sink deeply into the ideas, especially when I’m trying to make this connection, which is my goal between the long-term behavior of conscious agent networks and perhaps the amplituhedron, or these interesting structures that physicists are finding that seem to be prior to spacetime and may give rise to spacetime.
My goal is to work with my team to get a mathematically rigorous theory over the next four or five years, and to get this far enough along that even if we don’t have the whole thing worked out, the ideas are promising enough that it’s worth writing a book that focuses on the idea that consciousness is fundamental. Even if I can’t bring that all the way home, I would like to bring it part of the way and then entice a new generation that’s mathematically sophisticated and sophisticated in physics to then bring it all the way home, and do it quickly enough that I can read it. I want to know the answer. That’s my real motivation. I want to know the answer to the hard problem of consciousness. Does the idea that consciousness is fundamental and could give rise to physics pan out? I am exceedingly interested in that. If I don’t get it, I need to get a book out there to have brighter people work on it so I can read their papers. That’s my goal
Most of us can quickly and easily reflect on and recall the various different physical or mental traits (good or bad) or anomalies that we’ve genetically inherited. Primarily because 1, they stick out, i.e. they aren’t “the norm” for our background, race, age, species, and yet there they are… flat feet, asthma, back problems or weak discs, being great at sports or music, poor eyesight, high blood pressure, etc etc.
We recognized for thousand of years there was some kind of mysterious magical system at play beneath the surface that predisposed people to these things if someone in their family was also predisposed to it or possessed it, long before we even knew about genes… So, we knew there’s “something” going on.. long before we discovered the genetic code.
We also made inbreeding within the same family against the law pretty early on in our evolution simply because we noticed the results of it often had a “bad” outcome, physical deformities or mental disabilities, etc. Again recognizing that there was something going on beneath the surface that we just hadn’t yet discovered.
We’ve been breeding dogs to our preference for a hundred years, knowing that if we did X to Y we’d end up with an XY eventually, again knowing there was something powerful and mysterious going on that we could harness beneath the surface… and again we didn’t know what it was, had no physical proof we could point to.
But alas now we do. I remember when we / they first cracked the human genome… how historic it seemed. Not that long ago. And now we’ve got tens of thousand of companies both private and public working 24/7 on very specific tasks and ventures, dreams and goals, in order to invent and create and discreate a literally infinite variety of different genetic potentialities in humans, animals, insects, fruits and vegetables.
It’s become as common as any other scientific field, maybe the most expansive scientific field of them all. Because the proof is right there, both on the screen (under the microscope projected onto the computer imaging monitor) AND in the physical manifestation of whatever actions we take in the microscopic genetic world, i.e. the result of our tinkering.
I personally started becoming interested in and then an obsessed student and knowledge hoarder in genetics because it very quickly overtook several other sciences I was already well versed in like civilization history, anthropology, archeology, etc. Before the discovery of genetics, they all suffered from the lack of proof problem, always theoretical. Post genetics, we can easily proof them out. No more need of the theoretical.
One of the most profound aspects of our discovering genetics is it’s reliability factor. Anyone who’s taken a genetic test and seen the results of it is aware of this. And of just how transformative the whole field has become in how we view the world and our species. Now we refer to ourselves in terms of which “generic tribe(s)” someone is of/from — because we knew everybody, every human on earth, at some point stated off being part of some “tribe”, and we’ve used that term for thousands of years.
But as we migrated around the earth for longer and longer periods of time, inter-breeding with people from other tribes, it became more challenging to determine just who someone was or where they fit in. We started using terms like nationality or race or country of birth or religion to categorize ourselves.
But none of those labels made any sense, because they were too surface and didn’t capture who a person really was. Now of course we can just take a test and see exactly which genetic tribe or genotype someone is originally of/from. And it’s usually a healthy dose of several. Those terms now supersede the old terms we used to use like nationality or even race. Being able to pinpoint exactly where and when on the planet a person’s lineage began…. It’s a mind blowing transformation of how we view and understand ourselves and the world.
Of course what fascinates us is the fact that despite how concrete genetics seem to be, there are often certain anomalies where a person doesn’t manifest or exhibit the exact result we predict based on their genetics, certain traits or diseases or skills or tendencies that “should” show up or be there but aren’t. And it boggles the mind still of our best and brightest. The old question returned “how is this possible?” How can X and X not predictably result in XX if everything we know about the genetic code is concrete and true? and once again we are thrown back into the world of having to use language like “prone to” “potential for” “tendency to” instead of “most definitely will”.
Is there just more to the science that we haven’t yet discovered? Or is there something more transpiring that transcends the science? Something like Consciousness…? The smart money would say it’s a little bit of both. Just how much can consciousness affect genetics and genetic outcomes…? That’s the question. Can consciousness completely supersede and unravel reliable predictable genetic outcomes? Can consciousness completely transcend something so seemingly concrete and solid like genetics?
Let me just pull out the rabbit and show it to you without all the drama and theatrics. We currently label the study of consciousness Ontology. It’s a field of study one can major in and become an “expert” in if they want to, though at present it’s as mysterious and theoretical as philosophy or psychology, filled with “maybes” and “what ifs” and “potential to”…. It’s fuzzy math at best. Without the reliability or predictability of math. It’s almost as damn near theoretical as the field we loosely label “Metaphysics”, which at best could be described as “the study of ideas and theories with no scientific foundation”. Harsh, but at present a realistic summation.
In a very short period of time though, in our lifetime, the study of consciousness will be moved to the field of particle physics. Because that’s where it actually belongs. Once we begin to see and study and explore consciousness through the lens of particle physics, we will break open the mysteries of it and the theoretical nature of it will start to fall away and lead us into more predictable and reliable outcomes that can be tested and proved.
When combined with various tests and studies in other areas of particle physics and in genetics…. Well, that’s going to be the golden ticket. That new field that gets created will be as powerful and profound as the discovery of genetics itself has been
The field of anthropology continues to get upended over the last 20 years. There are two most interesting developments, from my viewpoint and personal studies. One was the discovery that there was a time in relatively recent history — 50,000+ years ago — when FIVE different species of human beings roamed the earth at the same time. All different species, but all human. Yes Neanderthal was one of them. And so too were Homo sapien sapiens. That’s us. Three others also lived on earth simultaneously with us and Neanderthal. [will come back to list their exact species name].
The other development of course was the cracking of the genome or genetic code of the most modern, or better put the last surviving human being, Homo sapien sapiens. This remarkable scientific achievement changed anthropology forever. We no longer classify humans from a nationality perspective, but from a tribal i.e. genetic perspective.
From a species perspective almost all human beings are genetically 80-95% Homo sapiens, with anywhere between 5-20% Neanderthal. In other words, no one is strictly a Homo sapien as their species.
From a racial perspective, we’ve brought it down to 4 different races, sub Saharan African, Caucasian, south eastern Asian, and north eastern Asian. In my opinion this is a deeply flawed and soon to change conclusion, because what race are norther Africans a part of? They aren’t Caucasian nor are they south or north eastern Asian.
From there we go what genetic TRIBE(s) everyone is from. And this is done through genetic testing now, NOT from where people live or where they used to live or where their ancestors lived. A person may live in America, their ancestors lived all over Europe, but genetically they are Russian and Scandinavian, since Scandinavians originally populated Russia. Someone like me for instance who is half italian half English is genetically a small part italian a small part english a larger part German and and an even larger part Scandinavian. And for obvious reasons. Since the Vikings (modern day Scandinavian) were the first people to populate Germany, and then both the regions of England and Italy; the Germans came soon after to those regions. So our family may be “from” Italy and England. But genetically we’re primarily Scandinavian and German for a much longer time period.
Another fascinating aspect of the genetic testing revolution of anthropology is how it dissolves the idea people have that being Jewish is a religious demarcation, not a nationality. They’re right about that. It’s not a nationality. But it is it’s own unique and singular genetic tribe, different from every other human tribe on earth.
The primary change — and this is still a fast moving evolution in the science — is that #1 we no longer categorize humans by nationality (from an anthropological sense); we classify human beings according to what tribe they are of based on their genetic markers, and there are a LOT more unique genetic tribes of human being than we originally theorized; and where a person or their ancestors lived for the last few hundred years doesn’t matter half as much as we used to give credit for.
In any case, the blow article presents a recent dig that blows the entire dating system of human beings off by a good million years, making us much older than we originally presumed. More later.
Listening to the sermon yesterday, even in the half awake state I was In for most of it, I could not help be reminded (remembering that you had indeed shared this with me 18 years ago when I first stumbled in) that we both not only “heard a voice” but heard the same words. “This is your home. You are home.” I also Remember quite clearly you telling me that plenty of others before and after you over the years had similar experiences….
The implications, if we expand beyond the confines of the everyday and view it from a more empirical study perspective, seem to me to be enormous, deep, profound. I.E. what in the heck is going on there? If one leaves “religion” outside the door a few minutes to explore these supernatural events, looking for a solution, are we talking angels? Spirits? A Divine Force? The building is haunted? Something in the air that alters and confounds the participants’ mind? Some sort of psychoactive chemical…?
I probably lost you there. But listening to you so passionately relaying that story yesterday and hearing you speak of the exact same experience I had With the exact same words…. Boy has it had me contemplating…. From a more objective and scientific viewpoint.
Of course I’m also fine just chalking it up to “there’s a divine force dwelling inside that space and if you listen carefully and your heart is open, you can hear it.”
Precisely Because it wasn’t just “the voice” that so captivated me that first day. It actually had more to do with the giant all encompassing feeling of love that swept over my physical body — I now describe it as similar to if i had taken 4-5 hits of Ecstasy (but I had Not) — accompanied by a flurry of voices whispering in both of my ears “this is God’s love. God loves you so much…” for a good 5 minutes. THAT was actually the first experience that i describe as “supernatural”. On a weekday no less. Alone in this giant though eerily quiet building.
It would be hard to not return to the place for a service after experiencing something like that. Even if just out of scientific curiosity.
I am Working on an idea. I find it hard now, after hearing you share yesterday, to keep this private and just between us. We’re not just talking about “good vibes”. Nor are we speaking of any kind of standard religious dogma or indoctrination. It’s something altogether different.
And I’ll tell you this: if that can happen to someone like me, so thoroughly committed to intellectual purity, logic and reason and entirely not-religious, then there are many others who deserve the same experience and benefits.
For the last 18 years I have Kept all of this very private due to how strongly people in arts letters academia and entertainment judge such things. But I’m done doing that. Hearing you relay yesterday the exact same experience that I had changed something in me. At once I suddenly Felt selfish for not speaking about it more often.
Me doing that, withholding like that… often talking about Enlightenment and Consciousness Expansion in the public but never discussing “religious experiences”…. well it’s pretense. Out of resistance. It’s not AS genuine as one could be. I see that now.
It’s out of integrity in a way…. Being gifted with the knowledge of a specific power and withholding it from others out of resistance to being judged. It’s self concern with no concern for the health and well-being of others.
That’s all I wanted to initially get across to you.
So how would i attempt to describe it? That’s the question…. If I were to attempt to communicate it to more logical rational people who normally don’t pay attention to such things….
Something like “there appears to be another force in the universe in addition to gravity and electromagnetism and the nuclear forces. But this fifth force appears to have both consciousness and awareness, and an ability to communicate with other forms of consciousness, or at the very least with human consciousness. It can speak. And additionally it has the uncanny ability to alter consciousness through apparently subtle vibrational shifts….
“Though we cannot be sure if this force is limited to just the earthly plane or if it does in fact permeate the entire universe like the other forces.
“For the sake of simplicity one could label it “the divine force” or “a divine force” since its primary function seems to be spiritual enlightenment of consciousness. Is it capable of other things? We don’t yet know. Can it be harnessed or put to use? Still unknown.
“But it is becoming extremely difficult to deny the existence of this force in the face of such blatant real world experiences of it.
“We need to be objectively studying this force in more Socratic and scientific methods on a more consistent and constant basis. The same way we studied gravity and the other forces.
“There is absolutely no reason for us to remain in the dark about this fifth force, blindly dismiss it as “beyond our grasp of understanding” and thus relegate it to the murky world of the supernatural or religious. That is a mistake in reason we are making.
“The sooner we recognize that the divine force can be studied scientifically just as any other force, the sooner we will have a better understanding of it and it’s possible benefits to humankind.
“An analogous subject would be the way astrology with all its myths and legends, false assumptions and fairy tales, slowly evolved into the more rational scientific study of astronomy. We find ourselves in a similar situation with this divine force. It is time to set the myths legends and religious ideologies aside for a more nobler pursuit of a scientific understanding of the divine.
“Obviously the biggest obstacles to this goal have been created by how misused and abused the words “god” and “gods” have been over the last 7,000 years. So step one would be to just stop using those words in the scientific study of the divine force. All they do is confuse and muddy the subject being studied, bringing up peoples’ worst memories and fears about indoctrination and control.
“There is also a possibility that this fifth force may also be the grease that got the universe moving to begin with…. The awareness of awareness of all that is created matter and movement, just as awareness still does. Create both movement and matter that is.
“Now we’re in the domain of a priori…. But it is still a valid point all these centuries later. Awareness becomes aware of itself, becomes consciousness, and consciousness as it is always want to do begins to expand and create. First matter. Then movement. Shifting back and forth between consciousness and awareness…. It is not entirely out of realm of possibility. And in fact it’s easier to believe than the current scientific theory that “non-conscious matter just exploded out of nothing in a Big Bang and self created”. That seems a highly unlikely theory. We need both awareness and consciousness to create. We know this now.”
PLEASE SHARE. (Prelude: I literally just woke up. (Late night.) So pardon the potential rough grammatical edges of this post, but if I keep my eyes closed after awakening from dreams I can still see and recall them vividly. So I’m deliberately staying half asleep at the moment.) Let me give you slight context and then ask you all for your experiences.
As loyal readers will know, I started dreaming of being able to fly in 2004. Though it started out as me taking running starts and then doing super long leaps thru the air, 200-500 yards at a time. It continued to evolve, in dreams, over the last 15 years. And now I easily float/fly around rooms, or through the air outside.
I just awoke from a dream where we are all at a big avatar course and I needed to get my books from the room so I just floated thru the room to go get them and not disturb anyone.
A FEW NOTES: yes it’s me, my physical body. I’m not ethereal or astral. I’m physically flying. People see me. I’m flat and parallel to the ground, about 5-10 feet in the air depending on what my goal is, with my arms outstretched. No it’s not “easy”, I still have to work at it in the dream, talk myself through it each time in terms of how to move and shift my weight to stay afloat and aim and get to where I want to go etc. It’s a method that I’ve evolved over the last 15 years. Maybe a few hundred dreams now. But only in dreams (I guess?). I can get afloat and parallel to the ground easily now. Ascend to whatever heights I want to. I usually get nervous or scared when I go too high in the air. So I tend to stay at about 5-15 feet. I can turn easily. I can descend and land easily.
When I began waking up this morning, it was the last thing I was doing in the dream, so it was still so fresh and real that I asked Princess Little Tree if I often flew in real life, or was it just in my dreams. She assured me I have not yet managed to do it in real life, but i dream and talk and write about it a lot. I tried anyway, not quite believing her, but alas i could not float up. F*^king gravity. Very frustrating.
Here’s where YOU come in: I am curious about others who frequently dream of being able to float through the air or fly or even leap long distances. Anything that defies gravity. I am more curious about you doing it physically i.e. with your body, not astrally (astrally we do it all the time in dreams. So it’s not… you know.) How do you do it? Are you parallel to the ground? How do you propel yourself? How do you ascend? How do you turn? How high can you go? Anything in this realm re flying or floating please feel free to share.
CONTEMPLATION: I’d like to first discuss the physical mechanics of the phenomenon, permitting I’m not crazy and the only one here, and then separately discuss the metaphorical ramifications. I’m more interested in the physical aspects of the paradigm, of your paradigm if you’ve experienced this… as i believe it is leading to our eventually being able to do this in real life. I’ve become quite convinced of it over the last 25 years. I’ve tinkered with designs for various body packs to machines that suck gravity out of large spaces, you name it. But to be honest i am now leaning toward thinking that we will do it using our minds. SO I’m curious what others have come up with.
Again, the metaphorical ramifications of these kind of dreams… we’ve covered that a lot… My wife, God bless her, has taken too many pages of notes on that subject thru the years while I lie there pondering it aloud while half-in-dream. My excitement is about YOUR physical mechanical experiences and what you’ve discovered. Feel free to share ANYthing you remember or that comes to mind.
At some point in 2006, the author of the Transcendence Diaries — sometimes known as Fishy or Tobias Guess — disappeared, or better put, stopped posting here in the Diaries. It wasn’t immediately clear why. In the meantime, singer-songwriter Ed Hale, being caught up in the filming of the new TV show Transcendent Television, began to get obsessed with YouTube, specifically using it as a new vehicle for blogging on his Transcendent Television YouTube channel. In 2011, the proverbial cat escaped from the bag and it was formally revealed that Ed Hale was indeed the author of the Transcendence Diaries. And hence the strange extended absence of newly written Diaries posts in the years 2006 to 2007 herein was explained. Hale went on YouTube as Ed Hale the recording artist and was excited about the new medium. But he did not want to reveal that he was the author of the Transcendence Diaries. So the two were completely separate entities and not connected in any way. Until now. Ed Hale recorded and uploaded nearly 100 video blogs to YouTube during that one year period. Along with an additional 100 new songs he was writing. So We’ve created a playlist that features all of the video uploads that could logically be said to be “blogs”, because in reality they really do belong here, and always did.
Caution might be noted here: though Ed Hale never held back from saying whatever he thought or felt when he was writing in the Diaries, and still doesn’t, which for some may be one of the more appealing aspects of the project, that same ideology and approach has a different tone and vibration when it is translated to video and the audible spoken word. It may be prudent to advise that some of the material could for some be easily offensive. Or not. But it’s been said at least. Bare in mind two things, number one, some of these entries go back a good fifteen years, before the world had become so politically correct, and two, The Ambassador is often joking around, except when he’s not (that distinction should be obvious), experimenting with a new medium and its potentialities, 99% of the time he’s riffing in real time with no script, just as he does in the Transcendence Diaries. If something seems offensive or politically incorrect or just too damn long, skip it.
Transcendent Television starring Ed Hale
5, 10 and 15 minute trailers for the TV show Transcendent Television starring Ed Hale, lead singer of the rock band Transcendence. A look at the world through the eyes and perspective of generation X exploring current events, modern culture, religion, spirituality, politics, science, environmentalism, activism, and much more.
Produced by Polar Productions in association with Transcendent Media Group LLC.
Edited by Charlotte Rademakers of Spinning Films Inc
Well we finally finished filming for the time being, and the initial editing stage. Definitely a lot more work than I realized going into it. I’m not sure what I expected going into this thing. As with most art for art’s sake I don’t know if I was doing too much thinking at all per se. There was just a lot to capture lately it seems — times are crazy; a lot to study and explore, and it seemed a good idea at the time to film it all. After that documentary that they filmed of the Nothing is Cohesive album and tour — that being the recently televised Everything is Cohesive (which can be seen here), I started to get used to the idea of filming everything. And if I was already constantly studying and researching various topics and travelling around to explore everything I found interesting or intriguing, why not film it all and turn it into some kind of film…. It makes sense.
Eventually the idea for Transcendent Television arose. From there it seemed easy. Just film everything. I honestly thought that doing something in TV or in documentary film would be easier than the music business, as difficult as the music business is. It sounds naïve now. The truth is that people who work in film and TV have just as much of a challenge, just as many obstacles and hurdles to jump over as we do in the music business. More really. And it’s a lot more expensive. (Okay that’s a maybe actually… making a new album from start to finish, and launching a tour, are both very expensive endeavors.) But there are definitely a lot more people needed in order to create visual art, or video content. Originally I was just live-filming everywhere I went and everything I did if it was cool or interesting, engaging or educational. Hell, sometimes even when it wasn’t cool or interesting to be fair. But that real time documentation of even the mundane seemed at the very least to be an intriguing concept for an art-film project.
Reality TV is in full bloom now and is taking over everywhere. It’s only a matter of time before technology catches up with us and enables us to be able to upload and host video content to the internet as well as TV. Hell, YouTube already enables it to a certain extent. It’ll take time for the tech to get there of course. Speed and bandwidth is slow and clunky now. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see live streaming of video content online at some point in the future, where everyone in the world has their own personal TV channel and is constantly broadcasting the day to day goings on of their life. It’ll happen. It’s the future.
I’m working on a book now, maybe a book, maybe a white paper, not sure yet, to express this thesis that we are entering this new age I just described above. I call it The Personal Expression Age. There’s a lot to it. I’ve observed collected and catalogued over 20 different Signatures that signal this new era and make it completely unique compared to any other time in human history. Just getting started on that though.
But that’s a different story. That’s where I started. Film everything. Break through the fourth wall a lot. Don’t worry about quality as much as content. Go for what’s real and genuine. But once the formal meetings with Peter and Kevin and the production staff started in New York, and they informed me just how complex and intricate the whole process was, it suddenly occurred to me that this wasn’t as easy and simple as I originally assumed. In reality you need 2 to 3 cameramen, a director, a boom mic operator, and sound team, production staff, logistics team… and that’s just to film content. Little did I know that once you were finished filming that you’d still need a whole team of editors to digitize all the footage and scroll through it and then piece it together in order to try creating something even semi-cohesive. From the moment we formally stopped filming (I never stopped myself… I’m still grabbing cameramen from Craigs List all the time and running out to shoot something no matter where I happen to be in the world…) and started the editing process, It took almost a full year for them to create episodes using the footage we had collected. Not a fast or easy process. But worth it.