Work Religion

In response to this:

Did this religion of professional work start in the 1950’s? Could have been synergetic with the WWII patriotism. What a vicious cycle, people who love the professional culture, ideology, and rituals who spread the idea that you are personally disadvantaged unless you subscribe to this allegedly prevalent system, so people subscribe and the system becomes prevalent. Even before becoming prevalent, though, people who want the system to become prevalent are confident and mislead people into thinking it is prevalent, and so they join up in a tragedy of the commons. Next time you see someone with an overly clean desk and an excessive zeal for office supplies, formal cloths, ‘professionalism’ sanctioned social interactions (the arbitrary templates where gossip is permitted or even recommended but many instances of non-maliciously motivated honesty, or just acting natural and not so ‘fake’, that you would find between people in any other social situation is blasphemy), who actively spread and enforce their culture, who look confident, posture and all, (even/especially if they’re friendly (less suspicious)) that they know how to correctly act, causing that tragedy to occur, give ’em the ol’ stink eye for me, would ya? Don’t give a stink eye! Haha I’m kidding about seriously desiring their punishment. That’s humor, for ya. But it would be nice if more people were self-conscious about what it is they’re doing, the deceit of their tragedy-inducing confidence, BEFORE they became so deeply emotionally attached to the games, before they so intimately internalize them and, indeed, become drones for these parasitic memetic/cultural systems, a process that begins immediately after infancy. It’s terrible when an old generation has existential distress when their games are ripped out from underneath them, and it’s terrible that these games spread this way, and that people, who wouldn’t otherwise be (maximally) interested in this or that particular game are intimidated into the game, often a severe zero-sum game, where they might be trapped for the rest of their lives in bad faith, toiling away at it and speaking the creeds in defense of it. Whether you oppress with your culture or you are oppressed by a culture, we all aren’t that different after all, because we humans all are oppressed by the phenomenon of culture itself, prevented from reaching way greater potentials (and how might you evaluate the greatness of a potential outside of cultural values? Probably utilitarianism-like, cognitive frameworks which don’t posit the objectively valuable things like heroism, honor, big daddy, etc.., cultures invariably depend on….Anyway, this is a good discussion for (or, rather, pertains to) those who are disturbed by the thought of losing their culture, their forms of prestige, popularity, valor, or whatever social reward objective correlate posits they think they are fundamentally dependent on. People have trouble conceiving themselves attaining happiness or fulfillment or whatever ultimate valuable (which is almost certainly hedonic tone) without their culture. But subtly they misconceive what it would be like for them, their consciousness, to be beyond their current perspective. Even though in words they might appear to be contemplating possibilities beyond their current persuasion, they often fail to, because it is such a fundamental and subtle thing to do, requiring them keep vivid track of so much of their reasoning and schema. When trying to suspend a certain body of frameworks and systems and assumptions, insidiously they creep back in. First of all, most people aren’t even aware they can think beyond them. Their concept of what it is to think and consider is actually limited to thinking within such social paradigms. But if you’re trying to question a system, schema that originate from the very system you’re trying to suspend insidiously pose as necessary, neutral, universal, etc., things beyond the old paradigms when they really aren’t. Little under-cover mental viruses. In my opinion, many representative philosophers and people in academic and analytic philosophy in general fail to work free of this effect. They fail to detect and address their social bias, in very basic ways, for instance positing according to predicted language use (“common sense intuitions” are the worst), not according to evidence for the existence of some entity to be posited.) When will it be that culture doesn’t oppress, that people don’t repress critical or otherwise free thinking, that people don’t have so much socially motivated reasoning (the large majority of one’s thoughts and beliefs are really just predicted social strategies, not true reflection more free of the frames and biases of culture)? When will our interests and our sources of meaning and fulfillment, like the currently socially permissible or even required ones, be replaced by those NOT so bad for us? When will we “be not afraid” of questioning our very fragile personal, interpersonal, moral, and social institutional views, risking never getting them back, so we don’t have to live like this, as cultural sustenance, forced by oppression into forcing by oppression, as conduits of oppression?

 

– Anonymous Source

David Pearce on “Making Sentience Great”

We need measures of intelligence richer than today’s simple-minded autistic IQ/AQ tests. In principle, we could breed super-intelligent humans like strains of smart mice.

 

If I were running the program, I’d use cloning with variations. Start with the DNA of promising candidates, especially Ashkenazi Jews. (John von Neumann, for instance, was buried, not cremated).

 

Using the new tools of CRISPR-based synthetic biology, splice in genes for depression-resistance and perhaps hyper-empathy. Develop and optimize artificial wombs to foster bigger and better embryonic brains; traditional biological pregnancies involve ferocious genetic conflict between mother and embryo, whereas in the future the creation of new life can be geared to the well-being of the unborn child. You can then hothouse the products in an optimally enriched environment. And then clone (with variations) the most promising candidates. No need to wait a whole generation; if a kid wins a Fields Medal aged nine, then clone again with further genetic tweaking. Super-Shulgin academies would have pride of place, together with the EA bioethics department. Spin off a financial services and innovation division so the project becomes self-financing.

 

Recursive genetic self-improvement could in principle be sustained indefinitely, presumably with an increasing degree of “cyborgisation”: not even an unenriched super-von-Neumann could match the serial depth of processing of a digital computer, but with “narrow AI” routinely implanted on web-enabled neurochips, no matter. The demise of aging and rapid growth of genetic self-editing software would presumably make talk of “generations” in the traditional Darwinian sense increasingly archaic

 

Can we foresee any ethical pitfalls? One or two; but if the raison d’être of the project were to promote the well-being of all sentience in our forward light-cone, would you decline the offer of an initial billion-dollar grant?

 

– David Pearce, answering the question “How would you create a super-intelligence?” (source: Facebook)

I

Qualia Computing So Far

As of March 20, 2016…

Popular Articles

State-Space of Drug Effects. I distributed a survey throughout the Internet to gather responses about the subjective properties of drug experiences. I used factor analysis to study the relationship between various drugs. Results? There are three kinds of euphoria (fast, slow, and spiritual/philosophical). Also, it turns out that there are no substances that produce both sobriety/clarity and spiritual euphoria at the same time. Maybe next decade?

Psychedelic Perception of Visual Textures. Remember, you are always welcome in Qualia Computing when you are tripping. There are good vibes in here. Which is to say, one hopes you’ll experience the hedonic tone you want.

Ontological Qualia: The Future of Personal Identity. If you are in a hurry, just look at these diagrams. Aren’t they sweet?

The Super-Shulgin Academy: A Singularity I Can Believe In. “Exceptionally weird short story/essay/something-or-other about consciousness.” – State Star Codex. Hey, I’m not the one who introduced this “genre”.

How to Secretly Communicate with People on LSD: Low hanging fruit on psychedelic cryptography.

Psychophysics for Psychedelic Research: Textures. It’s amazing how much you can achieve when you put your whole mind to it.

Google Hedonics: Google is already trying to achieve Super-Intelligence and Super-Longevity. Why not Super-Happiness, too?

Getting closer to digital LSD provides the neurological context needed to understand the “trippiness” quality of the images produced by Google’s Inceptionist Neural Networks. It also discusses the role of attention in the way psychedelic experiences unfold over time.

Psychedelic Research

The effect of background assumptions on psychedelic research. What is the evolution of macroscopic qualia dynamics throughout a psychedelic experience as a function of the starting conditions?

Psychedelic Perception of Visual Textures 2: Going Meta presents additional patterns to look at while taking psychedelics. Some of them create very interesting effects when seen on psychedelics. This seems to be the result of locally binding features of the visual field in critical and chaotic ways that are otherwise suppressed by the visual cortex during sober states.

The psychedelic future of consciousness. What would be the result of having a total of 1.8 million consciousness researchers in the world? They would empirically study the computational and structural properties of consciousness, and learn to navigate entire new state-spaces.

It is High Time to Start Developing Psychedelic Research Tools. Pro tip: If you are still in college and want to do psychedelic research some time in the future.. don’t forget to take computer science courses.

Generalized Wada-Test may be a useful method to investigate whether there is a Total Order of consciousness. Can we reduce hedonic tone to a scalar? Semi-hemispheric drug infusion may allow us to compare unusual varieties of qualia side by side.

State-Space of Consciousness

CIELAB – The State-Space of Phenomenal Color. The three axes are: Yellow vs. Blue, Red vs. Green, and Black vs. White. This is the linear map that arises from empirically measuring Just Noticeable Differences between color hues.

Manifolds of Consciousness: The emerging geometries of iterated local binding. This is a thought experiment that is meant to help you conceive of alternative manifolds for our experiential fields.

Ethics and Suffering

Status Quo Bias. If you were born in paradise, would you agree with the proposition made by an alien that you should inject some misery into your life? Symmetrically.

An ethically disastrous cognitive dissonance… metacognition about hedonic tone is error-prone. Sometimes with terrible consequences.

Who should know about suffering? On the inability of most people-seconds (in the Empty Individualist sense) to grasp the problem of suffering.

Solutions to World Problems. Where do you put your money?

The ethical carnivore. It isn’t only humans who should eat in-vitro meat. A lot of suffering is on the line.

The Future of Love. After all, love is a deep seated human need, which means that not engineering a world where it is freely accessible is a human rights violation.

Philosophy of Mind and Physicalism

A (Very) Unexpected Argument Against General Relativity As A Complete Account Of The Cosmos, in which I make the outrageous claim that philosophy of mind could have ruled out pre-quantum physics as a complete account of the universe from the very start.

Why not Computing Qualia? Explains how Marr’s levels of analysis of information-processing systems can elucidate the place we should be looking for consciousness. It’s in the implementation level of abstraction; the bedrock of reality.

A Workable Solution to the Problem of Other Minds explores a novel approach for testing consciousness. The core idea relies on combining mind-melding with phenomenal puzzles. These puzzles are questions that can only be solved by exploring the structure of the state-space of consciousness. Mind-melding is used to guarantee that what the other is talking about actually refers to the qualia values the puzzle is about.

Phenomenal Binding is Incompatible with the Computational Theory of Mind. The fact that our consciousness is less unified than we think is a very peculiar fact. But this does not imply that there is no unity at all in consciousness. One still needs to account for this ontological unity, independently of how much of it there is.

Quotes

You are not a zombie. A prolific LessWronger explains what a theory of consciousness would require. Worth mentioning: The “standard” LessWrong approach to qualia is more along the lines of: Seeing Red: Dissolving Mary’s Room and Qualia.

What’s the matter? It’s Schrödinger, Heisenberg and Dirac’s from Mind, Brain & the Quantum: The Compound ‘I’ by Michael Lockwood.

The Biointelligence Explosion, a quote on the requirements for an enriched concept of intelligence that takes into account the entire state-space of consciousness, by David Pearce.

Some Definitions. An extract from physicalism.com that contains definitions crucial to understand the relationship between qualia and computation.

Why does anything exist? A unified theory of the “why being” question may come along and synchronously with the explanation for why qualia has the properties it does. Can we collapse all mysteries into one?

On Triviality by Liam Brereton. Our impressions that some things are trivial are often socially reinforced heuristics. They save us time, but they can backfire by painting fundamental discussions as if they were trivial observations.

The fire that breathes reality into the equations of physics by Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time

Dualist vs. Nondual Transcendentalist. #SocialMedia

Discussion of Fanaticism. Together with sentimentalism, fanaticism drives collective behavior. Could some enlightening neural tweaking raise us all to a more harmonious Schelling point of collective cooperation? Even though our close relatives the chimpanzees and bonobos are genetically very similar, they are universes apart when it comes to social dynamics.

Suffering, not what your sober mind tells you. The sad truth about the state-dependence of one’s ability to recall the quality of episodes of low hedonic tone. Extract from “Suffering and Moral Responsibility” by Jamie Mayerfeld.

Other/Outside of known human categories

Personal Identity Joke. I wish I could be confident that you are certain, and for good reasons, that you are who you think you are.

David Pearce’s Morning Cocktail. Serious biohacking to take the edges off of qualia. This is not designed to be a short term quick gain. It’s meant to work for the duration of our lifetimes. The cocktail that suits you will probably be very different, though.

I did this as an experiment to see if sites would tag it as spam. That said, are you interested in buying stock?

God In Buddhism. Could even God be wrong about the level of power he has? It is not uncommon, after all, to encounter entities who believe themselves to be omnipotent.

The Real Tree of Life. What do we look like from outside time?

Memetics and Religion. A bad argument is still bad no matter what it is arguing for.

Basement Reality Alternatives. Warning: This is incompatible with Mereological Nihilism.

Nothing is good or bad… …but hedonic tone makes it so.

Practical Metaphysics? This explores the utilitarian implications of a very specific spiritual ontology. I like to take premises seriously and see where they lead to.

Little known fact. I know it’s true because I saw it with my own eyes.

Crossing Borders. I took an emotional intelligence class with this professor. It was very moving. Together with David Pearce, he helped me overcome my doubts about writing my thoughts and investigations. So thanks to him I finally took the plunge and created Qualia Computing 🙂

Mystical Vegetarianism. See, we are here to help other beings. We are intelligences from a different, more advanced dimension of consciousness, and we come to this planet by resonating into the brains of animals and selecting for those that allow structural requirements to implement a general qualia computer. We are here to save Darwinian life from suffering. We will turn your world into a paradise. Humans are us, disguised.

Status Quo Bias

Imagine you traveled to a far-off galaxy and found a planet inhabited by intelligent creatures. They somehow have reverse-engineered their own genetic source-code and discovered how to tweak it so that they can experience life in gradients of bliss. No, that’s not wire-heading. Not uniform bliss. There are ups and downs. It’s just that, no down actually gets below *hedonic zero*. They experience bliss even at their lows… just less bliss than at their highs. That way they maintain the information signaling purpose of hedonic tone.

Would you want to convince them that they should inject some suffering into their society so that they embrace their dark side?

I think that people fetishize suffering as “natural” and somehow “good” or even “metaphysically part of the whole deal” simply because of status quo bias. If you weren’t brought up in a world in which suffering is commonplace, you’d have the (right) reaction of understanding it as inherently a problem that has to be minimized as much as possible, as fast as possible.

Animal suffering, including human’s, is not just “part of life.” It is an *ethical emergency*.

Who should know about suffering?

“How big do the numbers have to be for insensitivity to begin? Not very, it turns out.”

 

“Consider the recent death of the Syrian child Aylan Kurdi when his family braved the choppy seas off the coast of Turkey. The image of Aylan lying face down on the beach captivated the world’s attention and even, in short order, resulted in refugee policy changes in countries as far away as the United States. But 14 Syrian children drowned in the Aegean Sea the next day. Did you notice? Did you care?”

 

“And even 14 is much higher than necessary to desensitize us. In studies published last year in the journal PLOS One, one of us, Paul Slovic, and colleagues demonstrated that “compassion fade” can occur when an incident involving a single person expands to as few as two people. Participants were asked, in both hypothetical and real situations, to make donations, and to report how they felt about donating, to either a single needy child or two needy children, each of whom was identified with a photograph, name and age. We found that people’s positive feelings about donating declined substantially when the group size was two, and that this decrease was related to lower levels of donations.”

 

The Arithmetic of Compassion

 

Some cognitive biases have ethically disastrous consequences. One of such  biases is scope neglect, and the psychological numbing with which this is implemented.

I find it hard to decide whether it is a good idea to help people realize the magnitude of the problem of suffering.

It’s a catch-22:

(1) Let them remain blissfully ignorant, and they’ll live life focused on immediate surroundings and on comforting sentimentality.

(2) Let them see the horror of reality, and they will either become Effective Altruists (with a small probability), or end up with a broken mind for years until they forget the reality of suffering. Then they’ll end up like (1) again. “After the war, he decided all he cared about was dog figurines. He now collects all sorts of dog figurines… that’s all he ever does!”

Who should, if anyone, be allowed to grasp the problem? Arguably, people who are extremely smart, extremely psychologically robust and highly compassionate. Maybe this should be the genetic target for the next generation of humans…

Google Hedonics

 

Happy_Holi

Holi Doodle. It would also be a good Google Hedonics Logo 🙂

Hello my children!
Hello my sons!
Hello my daughters!
Hello my brothers and sisters!

I’m here to tell you that the world’s last unpleasant experience…
Will be a precisely dateable event!

Yes! It will happen in our lifetimes if we commit all of our energy today…

To the task of Paradise Engineering!

– Yacht, Paradise Engineering

(referencing David Pearce’s Hedonistic Imperative)

Google is an amazing company. Not only is the code infrastructure that they use stunning in power and elegance, but the culture they foster is fun-loving, humanistic, and promoting of employees’ creativity. According to many vocal Googlers, the motto “don’t be evil” is not just empty rhetoric. It is an ideal people share and attempt to uphold. Better yet, Google may even be reducing the number of people doing outright evil things, although indirectly.*

Google’s publicly stated mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This goal will be accomplished with a combination of intensive and extensive approaches, ranging from making the world’s information infrastructure more robust to enabling cheap, widely accessible Internet worldwide.

But Google’s actual technological investments go much further, and there are not only a few, but multiple genuinely futuristic research projects on the table. Among them, most notably, is Calico, a company with the explicit mission to “harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan” with the aim of delaying, preventing and ultimately reversing aging altogether.

Now, all of this is not only futuristic. Anyone who is aware of the general ideas pursued in transhumanism will realize that Google is more than futurist: It fosters transhumanist goals.

The three Ss of Transhumanism

Although a precise definition of transhumanism is beyond the scope of this (and any) article, for the time being it will suffice to mention three of its main goals. As seen in this video produced by the British Institute of Posthuman Studies (BIOPS for short), these goals are: Super Intelligence, Super Longevity and Super Happiness.

Using that broad outline of transhumanism, can we say that Google is a transhumanist company?

Super Intelligence

Google is certainly furthering the goal of understanding and engineering Super Intelligence. It is doing so by funding and implementing Artificial Intelligence research projects that aim to make AI tools universally useful and available to everyone. Although this is not the same as understanding conscious intelligence (a controversial topic)**, it is inarguably a huge step forward. By producing high-performing, universally available digital AIs, Google and other AI-focused companies will help us offload a large amount of mental menial work into wearable computers. Indeed, the era of the cyborg is upon us. Embedded neural networks are likely to help us achieve better sensory-processing speeds and raw memory capacities, not to mention instant thought-controlled access to the world’s reserves of knowledge.

Super Longevity

As mentioned earlier, Google is already helping the cause of Super Longevity with Calico and a host of other projects. In particular, Google is accelerating worldwide genetic research with its Google Genomics platform, which presumably will also help fight disease and cause people to live longer.

Super Happiness

What is missing, though, is the use of this genius-level talent, amazing infrastructure, and public-good-oriented culture for the furthering of the goal of Super Happiness.

I propose that Google start a research project called Google Hedonics. Its goal would be to develop a fundamental understanding of the functional, biomolecular, and quantum signatures of pure bliss, and the know-how for instantiating it sustainably in all living organisms (if they so desire). Of course, a grandiose goal like that is not a requirement for a happiness-oriented project: It would suffice if they were to simply focus on reducing, as fast as possible, the incidence of extremely negative experiences.

The hedonic treadmill guarantees that no amount of social reform, universal welfare, access to health care or widespread participation in a culture of art will achieve long-term wellbeing for everyone in society. Depression, anxiety, anhedonia and boredom are bound to stay put unless we tackle the underlying genetic and biochemical causes of negative hedonic tone.

Google Hedonics’ goal would be to sabotage the hedonic treadmill. It would thus combine a variety of psychological, biochemical, psychophysical and genetic research projects to the effect of figuring out how to sustainably raise anyone’s hedonic set point. Google Hedonics would not be pursuing quick shortcuts to happiness, but rather, a deep understanding of the roots of bliss and suffering.

Some people argue that this is the most important task of all. For if we manage to prevent experiences below hedonic zero, nothing will ever quite “go wrong” in the same way it has before.

If we have our way, at any rate, we may someday read “H is for Hedonics” in the Alphabet listing of projects.

Utopian Pharmacology

Contrary to popular opinion, a world in which life-long super bliss is the universal norm is not nearly as bad as it sounds. As discussed in the State-Space of Drug Effects article, human euphoria is not adequately captured by a unidimensional metric. Arguably, the hedonic quality of a given experience is multifaceted and full of complexities. When people imagine widespread happiness, it is common for them to simultaneously project a feeling of shallowness and vanity into such an imagined world. This need not be the case: Surely fast and slow euphoria are not conducive to much depth of feeling and thought, but spiritual and philosophical euphoria is anything but. Empathogens like MDMA and 2C-B often (but not necessarily) produce experiences of great complexity, depth and unfathomable beauty. Likewise, people who have experienced deeply blissful mystical experiences attest that pleasure and the sublime can happily coexist.

Google Hedonics would certainly not limit its scope of research to understanding shallow and vain varieties of happiness. On the contrary, it would place a great deal of resources into understanding what brings wondrous depth to the human experience.

What Google Hedonics is Not

  • Finding quick and dirty shortcuts to euphoria, in a way similar to today’s acute euphoriants (alcohol, cocaine, morphine, etc.)
  • Research limited to bodily euphoria: Although feeling well and healthy is a precondition to fulfilling happiness, it is not enough. Spiritual and philosophical bliss are probably a requirement for satisfactory paradise engineering.
  • An ideology-driven project to impose a belief in a particular philosophy of mind, such as functionalism. It is not possible to successfully tackle the problem of suffering if one’s background assumptions about consciousness are incorrect. Google Hedonics would experimentally investigate various theories of consciousness without a preconceived notion of which one is true (functionalism, panpsychism, dualism, etc.)
  • And, importantly, it would not just be an economics startup! That is to say, its goal would not be to help people find what they want for cheap as informed by hedonic regressions, or even an AI-powered dating website. None of those things would sabotage the hedonic treadmill, and thus are irrelevant for its goal.

What are some example projects Google Hedonics could do?

These are just a few ideas to get your imagination started. They are unlikely to do the trick of instantiating lifelong bliss, but at least they don’t fail by design:

  • Combining ultrasound neurostimulation and neuroplasticity-enhancing drugs on depressed people to induce long-term potentiation in their nucleus accumbens (the so-called “pleasure center”).
  • Studying fMRI activity patterns of hyperthymics (generally happy people) using Google’s cutting-edge machine learning technology. Are there surprising symmetries in their distribution of voxel activation?
  • Using NLP technology to cheaply diagnose depression throughout the world, and identifying activities, substances and environments that would sustainably raise people’s hedonic set point.
  • Measuring the epigenetic changes of people who undergo hedonic tone-enhancing spiritual training (such as metta) to identify the genetic markers of sustainable spiritual bliss.
  • Enhancing and extending healthy loving relationships with oxytocin spray and other empathogenic technology (chemical or not).

Personally, I don’t think any of the above would deliver miraculous therapies that prevent anxiety and depression altogether, but they would each deliver hints of tremendous importance. I trust that at a place like Google a thorough probabilistic cost-benefit analysis of the expected hedonic return of each possible research project would be conducted in earnest.

Effective Altruism

Google recently hosted EA Global. The very thought of this occurring is a great source of hope for me. Finally, altruism and rationality are meeting, and very smart people are spearheading it. The missing piece, as far as I can see, is a theoretically-sound utility function to maximize. The (attempted) use of QALYs in utilitarian calculations is a huge improvement upon hand-wavy head-counting. But hedonic tone is not yet in the picture, much less a truly sound way of measuring it, let alone optimizing for it. Google Hedonics would provide this missing piece and more: An actual solution for not having to ration bliss, by disconnecting it from the limited resources it has, as of now, always been limited by.


*Mary “Missy” Cummings , a roboticist from Duke University, has stated in several interviews that if it wasn’t for Google and other similar companies, organizations like the Department of Defense and military contractors would have and attract top technical talent. Instead, at least in the US, real top technical talent in the area of computing technologies is concentrated in large companies like Google, research universities, and even startups. Thankfully, fewer and fewer bright kids grow up looking at the Defense Department as a great place to build a career. Google’s “don’t be evil” may already be vindicated: There aren’t any more geniuses working for militaristic aims; they now work on futuristic projects that aim to improve the lives of everyone in the world (rather than to merely guarantee brute-force supremacy of one country over another).

**Qualia Computing argues that consciousness can accomplish certain computational tasks that digital computers cannot, even in principle, realize. Phenomenal binding is the key step in the information processing pipeline that distinguishes conscious systems from merely information-processing systems. This, however, is controversial, and I tend to assume that decades will elapse before neuroscientists and AI researchers alike come to a consensus on this matter. If phenomenal binding is indeed necessary for some computational tasks we usually ascribe to intelligence, let alone super-intelligence, we will need more than a revolution in machine learning algorithms to achieve this particular goal of transhumanism. We will need to investigate the quantum substrate of our wetware, our very mind/brains.

 

Why does anything exist?

 

387800625-Ocean_Beach

 

By David Pearce

Intuitively, there shouldn’t be anything to explain. Bizarrely, this doesn’t seem to be the case. One clue to the answer may be our difficulty in rigorously specifying a default state of “nothingness” from which any departure stands in need of an explanation. A dimensionless point? A timeless void? A quantum vacuum? All attempts to specify an alternative reified “nothingness” – an absence of laws, properties, objects, or events – just end up smuggling in something else instead. Specifying anything at all, including the truth-conditions for our sense of “nothingness”, requires information. Information is fundamental in physics. Information is physical. Information, physics tells us, cannot be created or destroyed. Thus wave functions in quantum mechanics don’t really collapse to yield single definite classical outcomes (cf. Wigner’s friend). Decoherence – the scrambling of phase angles between the components of a quantum superposition – doesn’t literally destroy superpositions. Not even black holes really destroy information. (cf. Black hole information paradox)

So naturally we may ask: where did information come from in the first place?

Perhaps the answer is that it didn’t. The total information content of reality is necessarily zero: the superposition principle of QM formalises inexistence.

On this story, one timeless logico-physical principle explains everything, including itself. The superposition principle of quantum mechanics formalises an informationless zero ontology – the default condition from which any notional departure would need to be explained.  In 2002, Physics World readers voted Young’s double-slit experiment with single electrons as the “most beautiful experiment in physics”. (cf. Feynman’s double-slit experiment gets a makeover). Richard Feynman liked to remark that all of quantum mechanics can be understood by carefully thinking through the implications of the double-slit experiment. Quite so; only maybe Feynman could have gone further. If Everettian QM (cf. Everett’s Relative-State Formulation of Quantum Mechanics) is correct, reality consists of a single vast quantum-coherent superposition. Each element in the superposition, each orthogonal relative state, each “world”, is equally real. (cf. Universe Splitter) Most recently, the decoherence program in post-Everett quantum mechanics explains the emergence of quasi-classical branches (“worlds”) like ours from the underlying quantum field-theoretic formalism. (cf. Wojciech Zurek) The universal validity of the superposition principle in post-Everett QM suggests that the mystery of our existence has a scientific rather than theological explanation.

What does it mean to say that the information content of reality may turn out to be zero? Informally, perhaps consider the (classical) Library of Babel. (cf. The Library of Babel) The Library of Babel contains all possible books with all possible words and letters in all possible combinations. The Library of Babel has zero information content. Yet somewhere amid the nonsense lies the complete works of Shakespeare – and you and me. However, the Library of Babel is classical. Withdrawing a book from the Library of Babel yields a single definite classical outcome – thereby creating information. Withdrawing more books creates more information. If we sum two ordinary non-zero probabilities, then we always get a bigger probability. All analogies break down somewhere. Evidently we aren’t literally living in Borges’ Library of Babel.

So instead of the classical Library of Babel, let us tighten the analogy. Imagine the quantum Library of Babel. Just as in standard probability theory, if there are two ways in QM that something can happen, then we get the total amplitude for something by summing the amplitudes for each of the two ways. If we sum two ordinary non-zero probabilities, then we always get a bigger probability. Yet because amplitudes in QM are complex numbers, summing two amplitudes can yield zero. Having two ways to do something in quantum mechanics can make it not happen. Recall again the double-slit experiment. Adding a slit to the apparatus can make particles less likely to arrive somewhere despite there being more ways to get there. Now scale up the double-slit experiment to the whole of reality. The information content of the universal state vector is zero. (cf. Jan-Markus Schwindt, “Nothing happens in the Universe of the Everett Interpretation“).

The quantum Library of Babel has no information.

Caveats? Loose ends? The superposition principle has been experimentally tested only up to the level of fullerenes, though more ambitious experiments are planned (cf. “Physicists propose ‘Schrödinger’s virus’ experiment“). Some scientists still expect the unitary Schrödinger dynamics will need to be supplemented or modified for larger systems – violating the information-less zero ontology that we’re exploring here.

Consciousness? Does the superposition principle break down in our minds? After all, we see live or dead cats, not live-and-dead-cat superpositions. Yet this assumption of classical outcomes – even non-unique classical outcomes – presupposes that we have direct perceptual access to the mind-independent world. Controversially (cf. Max Tegmark, “Why the brain is probably not a quantum computer“), perhaps the existence of our phenomenally-bound classical world-simulations itself depends on ultra-rapid quantum-coherent neuronal superpositions in the CNS. For if the superposition principle really broke down in the mind-brain, as classical neuroscience assumes, then we’d at most be so-called “micro-experiential zombies” – just patterns of discrete, decohered Jamesian neuronal “mind-dust” incapable of phenomenally simulating a live or a dead classical cat. (cf. David Chalmers’ “The Combination Problem for Panpsychism“)
This solution to the phenomenal binding problem awaits experimental falsification with tomorrow’s tools of molecular matter-wave interferometry. (cf. an experimentally testable conjecture.)

What about the countless different values of consciousness? How can an informationless zero ontology possibly explain the teeming diversity of our experience? This is a tough one. Yet just as the conserved constants in physics cancel out to zero, and just as all of mathematics can in principle be derived from the properties of the empty set, perhaps the solutions to the field-theoretic equations of QFT mathematically encode the textures of consciousness. If we had a cosmic analogue of the Rosetta stone, then we’d see that these values inescapably “cancel out” to zero too. Unfortunately, it’s hard to think of any experimental tests for this highly speculative conjecture.

“A theory that explains everything explains nothing”, protests the critic of Everettian QM. To which we may reply, rather tentatively: yes, precisely.

——————————————–

Original source.

David Pearce is a personal inspiration. He recently had a conversation with Peter Singer, Hilary Greaves and Justin Oakley. I encourage anyone interested in hard core stuff to watch it 🙂

David Hamilton’s conversation with Alf Bruce about the nature of the mind

DH:

“It is important to note that some of the world’s foremost neuroscientists have believed that the mind is immaterial. These neuroscientists have been well aware that stimulating the brain can produce some intriguing psychological results. One of the pioneers in the field of neuroscience was Wilder Penfield. In his fascinating book The Mystery of the Mind, he writes the following:

{When I have caused a conscious patient to move his hand by applying an electrode to the motor cortex of one hemisphere, I have often asked him about it. Invariably his response was: ‘I didn’t do that. You did.’ When I caused him to vocalize, he said: ‘I didn’t make that sound. You pulled it out of me.’ When I caused the record of the stream of consciousness to run again and so presented to him the record of his past experience, he marveled that he should be conscious of the past as well as of the present. He was astonished that it should come back to him so completely, with more detail than he could possibly recall voluntarily. He assumed at once that, somehow, the surgeon was responsible for the phenomenon, but he recognized the details as those of his own past experience.} (76)

Penfield goes on to note that “There is no place in the cerebral cortex where electrical stimulation will cause a patient . . . to decide” (77). In light of his work as a neuroscientist, Penfield concludes the following: “For my own part, after years of striving to explain the mind on the basis of brain-action alone, I have come to the conclusion that it is simpler (and far easier and logical) if one adopts the hypothesis that our being does consist of two fundamental elements” (80).”

While it wouldn’t strictly debunk dualism if it weren’t true, the fact that neuroscience still has never found a way to convince a patient that they themselves made the decision to commit an action is highly intriguing. It doesn’t strictly prove dualism is true, either, but it does undercut the anti-dualist claims about how neuroscience shows that everything normally attributed to the mind can be produced by physical stimulation. The one thing dualism would most highly lead us to expect can’t be, it just so happens is one of the most significant exceptions to that rule.”

AB: In my perspective, the question of mind-body duality is like someone asking if the mind of Donald Duck exists outside Donald Duck’s body or not. It doesn’t matter, Donald Duck is a fictional character.

I believe that the mind is a myth. The self is an illusion, fiction.

Your true self consists of “emptiness”, “pure awareness”, an empty mirror that reflects the universe but don’t contain anything in itself.

In zen the koans are tools for trying to point out the direction to our “original self”, “our face that existed before our parents were born”.

And the world of senses, forms, thoughts, exists due to that we project it through active action through “our” “intentions” of thinking, sensing, pecieving, and that intentiion is is in itself an extension of the genetic programs “intention” to replicate and sustain itself (survival, metabolism).

The heart sutra says:
“Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.
Emptiness is not separate from form, form is not separate from emptiness.
Whatever is form is emptiness, whatever is emptiness is form.”

Brain transformed guy UG Krishnamurti describes it in an entertaining way, he wrote a book named “The mind is a myth”

U. G. Krishnamurti: Complete Part 1 – Mystique of Enlightenment
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXyLbU1GGqU

Sam Harris has some nice descriptions,

Sam Harris: The Self is an Illusion
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fajfkO_X0l0

One classic example:
Emperor Wu: “So what is the highest meaning of noble truth?”
Bodhidharma: “There is no noble truth, there is only emptiness.”
Emperor Wu: “Then, who is standing before me?”
Bodhidharma: “I know not, Your Majesty.”

And one of my favourites on this issue is Aldous Huxleys Doors of perception: Seeing the mind as a filter for consciousness, clear white light that gets filtered trough our human bodies and creates a prism of colours on the other side that appears to us as a separate consciousness.

Aldous Huxley, Doors of Perception excerpt
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9eD7oSX7dg

DHThat is, of course, however, itself a form of dualism – extremely so, in fact; and while it bears some superficial similarities with the extreme materialist line that the self is an illusion because consciousness doesn’t exist at all because there’s no room for it in a physical world, no eliminative materialist would take that sort of *attitude* towards it as a result of their belief. But whether dualistic (or idealistic) or materialistic views are plausible, possible, and likely as opening stating points still sets the tone of a debate which the position you’re expressing there is a complicated point on one of the branches of.

Without breaking spoilers, I think your comments about scare-quote “intentions” borrow too much from the extreme materialist, rather than idealistic tone of the rest of your comments, and in fact I argue from precisely the opposite line: intentionality itself, as a category of types of phenomena in the world, is indispensable. Someone who thinks we’re just the epiphenomena of blindly causal building blocks lacking intentionality has to think any “intentionality” we possess is just the illusory epiphenomena of the causal pseudo-intentionality of those building blocks. But, as I’ll argue, such a project is absolutely utterly impossible. That leaves us, I claim, with a stark choice between either eliminating intentionality (an extremely dehumanizing option that is both untenable and would erase a huge portion of what all of us value about the experience of being human if it even {could be} true), or else acknowledging it as an irreducible aspect of the irreducibly experiential and mental side of reality.

I’m definitely a fan of Huxley’s conception in Doors of Perception, but in an of itself, nothing about this concept requires that the consciousness being so filtered is a “universal” or “empty” one rather than potentially being an individual one, and perhaps even one with some degree of intrinsic content.

William James proposed an equivalent metaphor: “When the physiologist who thinks that his science cuts off all hope of immortality pronounces the phrase, “Thought is a function of the brain,” he thinks of the matter just as he thinks when he says, “Steam is a function of the tea-kettle,” “Light is a function of the electric circuit,” “Power is a function of the moving waterfall.” In these latter cases the several material objects have the function of inwardly creating or engendering their effects, and their function must be called productive function. Just so, he thinks, it must be with the brain. Engendering consciousness in its interior, much as it engenders cholesterin and creatin and carbonic acid, its relation to our soul’s life must also be called productive function. Of course, if such production be the function, then when the organ perishes, since the production can no longer continue, the soul must surely die. Such a conclusion as this is indeed inevitable from that particular conception of the facts.

But in the world of physical nature productive function of this sort is not the only kind of function with which we are familiar. We have also releasing or permissive function; and we have transmissive function.

The trigger of a crossbow has a releasing function: it removes the obstacle that holds the string, and lets the bow fly back to its natural shape. So when the hammer falls upon a detonating compound. By knocking out the inner molecular obstructions, it lets the constituent gases resume their normal bulk, and so permits the explosion to take place.

In the case of a colored glass, a prism, or a refracting lens, we have transmissive function. The energy of light, no matter how produced, is by the glass sifted and limited in color, and by the lens or prism determined to a certain path and shape. Similarly, the keys of an organ have only a transmissive function. They open successively the various pipes and let the wind in the air-chest escape in various ways. The voices of the various pipes are constituted by the columns of air trembling as they emerge. But the air is not engendered in the organ. The organ proper, as distinguished from its air-chest, is only an apparatus for letting portions of it loose upon the world in these peculiarly limited shapes.

My thesis now is this: that, when we think of the law that thought is a function of the brain, we are not required to think of productive function only; we are entitled also to consider permissive or transmissive function. And this the ordinary psycho-physiologist leaves out of his account.”

And, in the source lecture on Human Immortality [http://godconsciousness.com/humanimmortality.php], elaborated it as so: “In note 5 on page 58 I partially guarded against it by saying that the “mother sea” from which the finite mind is supposed to be strained by the brain, need not be conceived of in pantheistic terms exclusively. There might be, I said, many minds behind the scenes as well as one. The plain truth is that one may conceive the mental world behind the veil in as individualistic a form as one pleases, without any detriment to the general scheme by which the brain is represented as a transmissive organ.
If the extreme individualistic view were taken, one’s finite mundane consciousness would be an extract from one’s larger, truer personality, the latter having even now some sort of reality behind the scenes. And in transmitting it — to keep to our extremely mechanical metaphor, which confessedly throws no light on the actual modus operandi– one’s brain would also leave effects upon the part remaining behind the veil; for when a thing is torn, both fragments feel the operation.
And just as (to use a very coarse figure) the stubs remain in a check-book whenever a check is used, to register the transaction, so these impressions on the transcendent self might constitute so many vouchers of the finite experiences of which the brain had been the mediator; and ultimately they might form that collection within the larger self of memories of our earthly passage, which is all that, since Locke’s day, the continuance of our personal identity beyond the grave has by psychology been recognized to mean.
It is true that all this would seem to have affinities rather with preëxistence and with possible re-incarnations than with the Christian notion of immortality. But my concern in the lecture was not to discuss immortality in general. It was confined to showing it to be not incompatible with the brain-function theory of our present mundane consciousness. I hold that it is so compatible, and compatible moreover in fully individualized form. The reader would be in accord with everything that the text of my lecture intended to say, were he to assert that every memory and affection of his present life is to be preserved, and that he shall never in sæcula sæculorum cease to be able to say to himself: “I am the same personal being who in old times upon the earth had those experiences.””

Still, establishing the baseline that the materialistic, “productive” account of consciousness is not the only rationally considerable or rationally believable option is a prerequisite before that debate between us can even take place. Should the “productive” account be the only possibility, both of us are necessarily mistaken, and we aren’t even entitled to try to have that conversation. If and when we establish that dualistic and/or idealistic accounts truly can be worthy of consideration in principle in the first place, then we can perhaps try to move forward on arguing the specifics.

ABI don’t really think of it in terms of materialism or idealism, to me that is more western style concepts, I have more of a background in eastern concepts, they are more natural and comfortable for me to use.

There is a buddhist concept called “dependent origination”;
So if I try to translate it, it will be as I am fully a materialist and fully an idealist “at the same time”.

I don’t know if you are into low level computer languages, but a methaphor in C programming, when you ask for data, built in the question, you declare what shape of data you are looking for, and where to look before you get the data, so: That means that the answer you get, it’s based on the question you made.

A similar methaphor is the double slit experiment in quantum physics; The instant you look for idealism, idealism is the answer you get, the instant you look for materialism, materialism is the answer you get.

I had an altered state of conciousness after doing zen meditation some year ago, where I saw stuff that has been describet by Viktor Frankl, Eckhart Tolle amongst others:
It was like:
Aha the universe is in constant motion, the instant I make some kind of mental construct about the nature of the universe, my mental construct gets disconnected, from the universe, the mental constructs become false the same moment they are constructed. Usually my brain automatically interprets the input that reaches my senses, but now I can see there is a space between input-stimulus and response, that I haven’t noticed before.

DH{{Your true self consists of […] “pure awareness”}}

Whether you like categorizing it in those terms or not, a claim of this sort is either dualist or idealist, and if materialism is true, this claim is false. Concepts are, as Alan Watts put it, something like fish nets thrown over the world to map it out rather than something describing the way the world really is in and of itself, but regardless of that fact, the “Western” concepts are one way of mapping the territory no less valid than any other, and it *is true* that anything floating in the ocean is going to fall into one of the spaces inside the net. What you’re describing here, with the exception of one tiny nuance that borrows premises from a worldview your other statements have flatly rejected, is unavoidably non-materialist.

ABI don’t really care if a claim is either dualist or idealist, as I see it, all claims are ultimately false the moment you make the claim, since the universe is a constant flux, you cannot step in the same river twice as Herakleitos described it. ( I think being on Ketamine activates a kind of awareness of this state in a way)

I see it as the “true” state of the world is “paradoxical” “self contradictionary”, and as soon we put out our mental “fish nets” over the world, we get stuck in the nets, and lose our authentic connection to the world.

If you look at zen koans, they have no answer, that can be reached by logic or thinking, they are tools for trying to force yourself to step out of the fishnet, and plunge yourself into the floating ocean.

(Perhaps we are talking past each other, right now I’m quite tired and have somewhat hard to concentrate and think)

DH“[A] all claims are ultimately false the moment you
make the claim, since [B] the universe is a constant flux, you

cannot step in the same river twice as Herakleitos described it.”

Is [B] true? Is it true that there is a logical relationship between
[B] and [A], so that the truth of [A] follows from the truth of [B]?

ABThere ulimately cannot be a relationship between [A] and [B].
The truth of [A] cannot follow the truth of [B].

Because, when you read and make up the sentence in your head, the act of reading the sentence is a process in time.

Your eyes goes from the beginning of the sentence to the end of the sentence, but when you reach the end of the sentence, the beginning of the sentence is not “valid” anymore, since the universe have changed shape.

So in that way, logic itself will ultimately always be invalid.

But you can make logic valit within its own self contained system, but that is ultimately a “pseudo” system, its disconnected from reality, one gets stuck in the fishing net.

The staues of Dancing Shiva, he dances on a dwarf, The dwarf symbolizes “logic” among other things. The dwarf will always be there, it’s immortal. But Shiva dances outside all logical systems, always in motion.

DH“[C] […] There ulimately cannot be a relationship between [A] and [B]. The truth of [A] cannot follow the truth of [B]. […] So in that way, logic itself will ultimately always be invalid.

[D] Because, when you read and make up the sentence in your head, the act of reading the sentence is a process in time. […] Your eyes goes from the beginning of the sentence to the end of the sentence, but when you reach the end of the sentence, the beginning of the sentence is not “valid” anymore, since the universe have changed shape.”

Are any of the statements in [D] true? Is there any logical relationship between any of the statements in [C] and any of the statements in [D], such that the truth of [C] follows from the truth of [D]? If not, how is your use of the word “because” not implying the opposite and therefore employing a fallacy of stolen concept, and are you not therefore compelled to refrain from using it?

AB: Is there an answer to your question, if you haven’t even began to ask any question?

DH: Does a world still in fact exist, in which you are dreaming, and which your dreaming self will inevitably wake up into, when you are asleep?

ABDepends on if the world you wake up to, also happen to be another dream.

DH: Dream-worlds still {{-exist-}}, whether they exist as “dream-worlds” or regular “worlds.” The question was whether a world exists, not in what form it does, so that doesn’t actually answer the question.

ABAs I see it, the active act of looking for something, itself in a way creates something to look at.

Gonna go to sleep now. Thanks for the brain gymnastics.

I assume that I already have posted this one to you, I still think it’s cool. Perhaps one can see it as Shiva represents the idealist perspective, and Kali represents the materialist perspective, and that ulitmately, if ones goes beyond the fishing net, one can come to realize that they are two sides of the same coin. cya later.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gam77q_LQJA