Monday, October 16, 2017

Can a Computer (or Robot) Have a Soul?

Can a Computer (or Robot) Have a Soul?

This question is becoming ever more serious and important, as the Internet of Things (IOT) and many types of robot expand so quickly, perhaps to take over the entire world.  Many people have made lots of money writing about this subject, making up things which are easy to understand, unconstrained by any real technical knowledge either of computers or of souls. But how can address this question in a more serious way, and still be understandable?

Since the human brain itself was evolved to tell stories and understand them (serious neuroscience here!), long before we had any concept of “logic,” let me use a few stories to get into the question step-by-step.

1.      Our local Quaker meeting yesterday was very quiet. There are very strict rules that people should not speak unless it meets several tests, one of them being that there was a “message” from beyond just the person speaking. No one spoke yesterday, and then the “riser” (chair for the day) said: “Now it is time for afterthoughts. Does anyone have something important to say, which did not quite rise to the tests..?” He looked all around, no one rose for a few seconds, and then suddenly a very loud string of squeaks came from a laptop in the back (a laptop owned by a friend working with things like IOT). There was silence after the laughter died down, and people wondered. (That’s part of why I post today!)

2.      A few months ago, I was one of the first three non-Intel people invited to a high-level annual meeting to discuss the future of that company. I still remember an extremely sharp woman there, who at one point said: “We also need to work harder on educating the public. You would not believe all the people who come to tell me their computers did something which we all know is impossible. We really need to educate them, to learn that these things they report to us could not be possible.” (I did not comment, because so many other things were on the table. But I can say that the folks who talk to this woman are not low-level cranks from off the street, nor even just a narrow sample.)

3.       When I was still working at NSF, and was vice-president for policy of the National Space Society, a powerful person pressed me:”Why do you folks insist on pushing for humans in space? Or on earth for that matter. Who needs humans? Stop being such a human racist. Why?” “Well,” I answered, “Being a carbon-based life form myself, it is only natural that those of us who are should be true to ourselves by expressing real, fundamental, primary concern for other carbon-based life forms.” He smiled a huge grin, and said,”Oh, OK. We can take care of that. Those silicon folks are a bit backwards anyway. What if we just use graphene-based systems to run everything?” (And NO, that was not anyone at Intel!)

4.      Taoist mystic spoke at a meeting: “You should not assume that humans are the only ones with souls on earth. The great spirit penetrates the whole earth, not just humans, but animals, plants, even the rocks, all have soul.” My response: ”If so, then why not ore, wires and computers themselves? “

5.      I have heard ever so many narcissistic Believers in mysticism and religion who are just so overwhelmed about how magical, universal and perfect their Consciousness can be at times, who explain how the very design of the entire cosmos must of course be just a shadow of that. And as they relive to themselves how wonderful they are, they think of strong powerful emotions they have had.  George Bernard Shaw wrote a wonderful play, Back to Methusaleh, in which some key characters were very proud members of the British aristocracy, with exactly those same kinds of pride and feelings. Two more characters, called “Romeo and Juliet”, were “the ultimate AI,” computers which could exhibit exactly the same kinds of pride, intensity and hormones (rather trivial things to program), and had no soul. In his long Preface to that play, Shaw described the play as his real religion, and explained…

6.      In 2010, when I gave a plenary talk on neural networks at the international IEEE conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics.. . I owe great thanks to the Chair, Professor Okyay Kaynak, for giving me a copy of the official handbook of the Mevlevi order of Sufis, and of course for many discussions of basic issues in cybernetics. From their long experience, they note what others have said… that some people do seem to inherit more natural connection to spirit or paranormal, or whatever you call it, than others. That seems to be a crucial fact of life in reality which we need to adjust to, somehow or other.

In 2010, thinking about that book, I realized: sure, I know how to build intelligent systems far more brain-like and truly intelligent than the Oprah style showmen of old style AI. (Go to google scholar or www.werbos.com/Mind.htm for a few links.) Sure I know how to rise it even to use quantum technology, as exhibited by the Shrike character in Simmon’s great sci fi series Hyperion. (See my paper with Luda at QIP, reposted at www.werbos.,com/triphoton.pdf.) But that is not the same as soul. That is not the same as the incredibly information-rich level which, in my view, humans can connect to involving the “noosphere” and even beyond. (See my previous blog posts for why I no longer doubt that.) How in the world could I, or anyone else, create that kind of connection?

So, yes, the noosphere does have a certain LEVEL of connection with every blob of condensed matter on earth, but of course it is weaker in some people than in others, and much weaker in inert, random solid matter.  The DNA of animals of earth has evolved over a good solid billion years, with “tweaking” (tweaking like the special incentive payments for hybrid cars which Congress once used to change the car market) by the noosphere all through that time, a kind of instinctive tweaking – instinctive but no less powerful than the instinctive alignment of cells in a developing fetus. None of the bodies of the animals of earth are RANDOM; all are emergent outcomes of a kind of double process of natural selection.

With computers… we simply don’t KNOW how nature and the noosphere did that. In fact, only a few of us even know the basics of how BRAINS do what they do, despite years of really incredibly voluminous data and experiment. So yes, the cosmos can work through computers with Jungian synchronicity, as it can through all forms of inert matter (maybe a bit more, insofar as small levels of energy can produce more results in a computer than in a rock)…  but there is still excellent reason to expect that us animals… have orders of magnitude more connection to soul than any computer we are ever likely to be able to build.



Of course, there are many other important issues connected to all this.

For example, I strongly support the Rosicrucian ideal of trying to work for maximum development of the full potential of ALL humans, not just those who find it easy. It is grossly implausible that less than .1% of humanity, a small fraction scattered all over the earth, should have real spiritual connection, and the others none, though some have concluded that based on their limited experience. I see a strong analogy to the ability to learn calculus or music, which may not manifest in all adults in our difficult world, but is present. I was happy to see that the Mevlevi Order, for example, still put a high priority on developing EVERYONE’S potential.

The Simmons Hyperion trilogy basically portrays a struggle all across space-time between three possible futures (which might actually ALL exist in some sense?), a kind of Terminator future, a kind of Matrix future, and a kind of human potential future. With “God’s help,” maybe we could achieve the third, even if it’s hard to see the pathway now. Not to exclude computers, of course. It is sad how the billionaire supporters of sharia and other forms of fundamentalism and top-down rule by computers (like Erdogan and Mercer) are ACTUALLY working to get to the terminator future, even if they don’t know it; that is what happens if the mass of the direct connection between humans and spirit (as promoted by Sufis, by yoga, by Jesus and others) is broken and disempowered, very much following the kind of twisting story of the birth of the Daleks in Dr. Who.

I recently read (and reviewed on Amazon) an entertaining novel by Connie Willis, Crosstalk, which also raises important questions about these things. But of course, such abilities are not restricted to the Irish. Almost every nation on earth has people who think it is all just about them. Certainly there are many Japanese who think: “We are truly weird, but they are truly empty robots, zombies.” There is a great research paper by Greeley and McReady (“Are We a Nation of Mystics,?” reprinted in Goleman’s book Consciousness, which I recommend everyone buy) which gives serious survey data on the important things people experience… and run away from, like certain characters in Willis’s book. On the one hand, people do need to “withdraw and return” from time to time, to assimilate their experience and learn to handle more, lest they become overloaded. But in the end, we cannot afford to commit ourselves to withdraw forever. If we don’t move ahead as best we can… terrible fates could take us over.

Willi’s novel actually mentions a specific gene, which I looked up. As I read her book, I thought “Aha! It sounds so much like my mother’s Irish family, connecting with deep real emotion and spirit to the virgin Mary and family members, talking to plants, hearing what the plants want and growing them to phenomenal heights by listening..” And Willis, like Luda and me, is such a high-bandwidth person, able to assimilate a great firehose of information..  though Luda and I are much more “yang” people (like heavy math and science and action planning) while Willis’s group sounded much more “yin”…

But then I checked that gene she mentioned, R1b-. just a rather ordinary local gene. Luda laughed.  A specific local maternal haplotype. I went back to 23andme.  My Irish maternal haplotype was radically different: ancient Scythia, like the land of the Amazon women. Were the women in our own Irish family such wimps as the ones in Willis’s story? Ooips. My mother was in many ways as meek as some true oriental yin women I have known..,., but she was also an orphan, which can do things to someone’s social style. She was raised by her Aunt Mary… who was about as nonmeek as you can get, a very serious political organizer, who was one of the key organizers of Franklin Roosevelt’s campaigns. (Jim Farley gave her his diamond stickpin in recognition of that, and she passed it on to me… but sadly it was stolen.)
In fact, when I looked at that, I turned to Luda: “Hey, maybe one of the things which attracted to me was the resonance between my maternal haplotype and you and your people…” There was that flight of the nobles from Ireland in the 1600s, which our family was part of, yea unto ships we donated to start the US navy. (Documentation still in my possession.)

But then there was that scarier paternal haplotype, straight Doggerland.

As for Luda and her people from Scythia … which we visited together early in our relation… a place where the seven trials of Hercules are more than just a myth… I did finally persuade her to watch the new Wonder Woman movie. “Come on, please. They show such respect for your people, you owe them that attention.”  But her reaction; “No, it is SO insulting. OK, she learned a little as she grew up,  but it is insulting to imagine our people could be SUCH incompetent wimps, no real sense of how to fight a battle, how to use physical force and other capabilities… such silly people… no real energy..” But the maternal haplotype was really just Romanoff.


Oh, well. Enough fun and games for a day; back to a little IT, and some real math. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

questions needing addressing as the IOT takes over the world

We have had lots of discussion about what happens to jobs and to people as automation (not just AI) takes over more and more, and perhaps everything. There has been a lot of discussion about the need for a human-centric internet, which is great, but do we really know how to build such a thing, and if we don't , will a very different kind of internet of things (IOT) actually take over the world? I have been tempted at times to say more on this list about just how much this technology will be able to do in the future, since I was doing, advancing and funding deep learning decades before the official gurus of computer science could even imagine what it has already done in recent years. But  now, as the world changes, we are all at risk of missing the forest for the trees -- and picking the wrong forest. 

In fact, I am reminded of the new word of Brain-Computer Interface (BCI), actually becoming part of the internet of things, where there have been pious talk about bioethics and oversight, all vacuous in the end as big money pushed products out the door already... which deserve another post. The point is that pious talk and political blessings may simply not be enough to save us. Elon Musk is right in broad terms that we are in a scary situation, but the usual types of responses simply will not be enough to save us.

Just a few months back, some leaders in the IT industry asked me to summarize the big picture -- the forest -- as I see it. There are six slides at www.werbos.com/IT_big_picture.pdf which did that, but I know a bit more today. The next to last slide portrays the need to build a new IT platform which COMBINES at least 4 kinds of principles. (Someday I will post a slight update adding a fifth, but I need to update the ftp program I use here first.)

It was really scary for me a few days back to hear Oracle announce a new data platform which, said Bloomberg, "will be ultrasecure because it will use machine learning and deep AI to guarantee security." To me, that sounds like saying "That guy will never catch a virus because he has a great brain." Brains are important,  but it is really scary to depend completely on them alone, when you also need a certain kind of immune system and some other such things. Scary as in an urgent matter of life or death. But it was calming to hear that the US actually was able to withstand an all-out cyberattack on our power system from King Kim III; we still have time to develop an integrated secure viable platform before the instabilities and vulnerabilities bring down the whole US to a state lower than Puerto Rico today without assistance.

The new IBM plan, announced by the president of IBM in great, deep interviews easily found on u-tube, seems to be moving us towards the "Stafford Beer" kind of world.
(I owe you a link. Why not try https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgc4aJ-JMJg .
At youtube, searching on IBM president IOT AI brings up a huge amount of informaton, really important to these issues, though it may require some background to figure out how it all fits together.) We seem to be moving towards a world where SOMETHING or SOMEONE at the top (a product not only of market but of political forces, more likely Mercer than Sanders) defines a global utility function, and every valve, factory, vehicle and drone on earth is mobilized to intelligently maximize that utility function inexorably, more and more, over all future time. Concern for the less powerful will be even more secondary than it is in recent outcomes in Congress. 

An alternative possible pathway would in some ways grow out of what has been developed in the electric power sector in recent years, in the ISO/RTO (Independent System Operator System), and maybe some ebay type experiments. The idea would be to develop an Integrated Market Platform (IMP), which would embody strong unbreakable operating system security and new levels of communication security (and authentication?) , and use a narrow agile variation of distributed ledger technology for additional security of some core currencies (Blockchain 3.0) . 

Is there a hope that someone creative enough could save the world by making money developing a new system? I hope so. It's extremely important that someone should try. But no one knows enough yet to just go ahead and start coding. 

This morning, as I think over the unsolved design issues, four questions come to the very top of the list:

(1) How does one map CONTROL to OWNERSHIP in a new IT platform? (Again, verbal principles or laws are not enough. "Map" must be like a computer program here.) 

A quick naive response would be "That's easy. Ownership for all things, including all devices controlled within the IOT, goes to registered entities which may be humans or may be corporations. Each entity gets to own and run its own instance of the universal IOT platform, which may even have reduced versions available, all subject to strict standards as rigid as any IEEE standards but themselves subject to full open-source automated validation of compliance."  But how could many INSTANCES like that all add up, globally, to at least a halfway efficient system? How do they talk to each other? For that, I am reminded of the distributed optimization work pioneered by Marija Ilic (former CMU) and Jean Watson (Sandia) to satisfy the growing need for distributed optimization in the electric power grid, and mathematical extensions worked on by folks like Harley, Venayagamoorthy and myself. A certain kind of automated price system can work, going beyond the usual comparative statics of static market equilibrium and of today's stochastic general equilibrium economics, to something more general. 

My wife adds: "Hey, who owns the internet TODAY?" That certainly is something to consider in this design process, the role of standards and how standards affect laws ala net neutrality. The ideas in Tabscott's book on blockchain are relevant, but again, how to make it REAL at the universal platform level? 

(2) How does one prevent capture of the system by a ruthless cold minority, creating a kind of value system which grinds down and destroys the very soul of humanity (and its physical existence over time, not forseen by the cabal?). In a world where more and more such cabals are becoming a real problem... I would say we again need open source tools (as we need already for improved security), and market design somehow biased towards full development of all human potential, but realistic about the need to stop exponential population growth and the reality that this need in itself will cause a certain degree of discontent and competition  inevitably over time under ANY system. Nice words, no specs? True, and that's why this is a QUESTION, "how to DO this in an IT platform?", and not an answer. 

(3) How to make full use of human minds in improving the quality of optimization? For example, is the foresight function performed by RLADP programs (which learn to assess value to the future of commodities or actions in the present) or by human futures trading, or by a mix of the two? WHAT MIX? Mercer has found so far that computers do better than humans in predicting future value, but the underlying mathematics strongly suggests that this is because today's organizations simply don't make full use of what humans can actually do. But unfortunately, that includes a whole lot of lying and gamesmanship and conflict of interest effects which make design of collaborative systems a much deeper problem than IBM's coders seem to understand. (But maybe it's not just them; maybe we need to WORK on that understanding.)
In a brain-like AI system, using RLADP math (see the IEEE book edited by Lewis and Liu) , one can simply set up independent value and prediction networks, using different "currencies" 
(derivative signals) to tune themselves, but how could humans feed into it without breaking it?

Actually, as I type this, I have expanded the details so that these three are enough to think about for now. Microeconomics never found an optimal design for an economy of INFORMATION, or for "CONTENT," let alone a reliable, nonscalar system of trust factors to support collaboration. Could the new RLADP math help us with that somehow? Maybe that's a fourth question.

It is truly to have just questions, not answers, when the need for answers and for code which embodies them is so urgent. Every day which passes is bringing us closer to a different, less human-centric world. But posing questions and refusing to forget them has always been the crucial first step in "doing the impossible" (as a few of us have done a few times).

Best of luck,

   Paul
==================

This builds on some earlier thinking at
http://drpauljohn.blogspot.com/2017/09/can-natural-markets-solve-our-problems.html

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Is Donald Trump the Beloved Great Pig Foretold in Journey to The West?

Yes, this is a story from the watch.  Two days ago, I ordered myself to redirect attention to China (which I visited many times through 2014), and – no surprise – relevant improbable things started to happen. At least one improbable thing.

It’s not so coherent as I would like – but entertaining syncretic stories fit the Chinese theme well enough. Some folks would say that China (like Ireland?) is one of the most “yin” nations on earth – high tolerance of cognitive dissonance.  I certainly met sincere Catholic druids on the Irish half of my family, talking to plants, hearing what they say, and connecting to the Virgin Mary with love.  Taoist Confucians and Buddhist Marxists also play important roles in China. 

But of all the weird things I have seen, criss-crossing the earth both in body and in spirit – today’s tale is in SOME ways the weirdest.

Weirdest of all, perhaps: how many of you could imagine someone NOW truly loving Donald Trump, with sincere glowing love (and not just a few POSSIBLE members of his family or a few remnants of the crowd lusting for his cash)? Certainly Donald Trump is one of those people who really needs love, as psychologists have been saying all over all the networks lately -- and he hasn’t been getting much of it in his job.  Yes, he has lots of strong supporters, whom I see very often… but when they express support for Trump, they usually do it with an echoing growl, not a smile of love, and, like Bannon, they may be happy to bite almost anyone as their form of support.

But … this week… it is odd. And it involves China.

The picture above (actually, a 2D shadow puppet held in a frame) depicts the Great Pig of the Chinese classic Journey to the West.

Don’t know China? OK, I really should explain, because China is important, and so is this pig.

When strict Moslems are in a decent state, they often say “Moslems, Christians and Jews really are brothers in a way, all respected in the Koran. We are all people of the book.  One book, three books, whatever – Torah, New Testament, Koran.” (And I hear “Book of Mormon too!” ) Well, Chinese people may have been more literate historically than other countries were, and THEY had sacred books too, books really central to Chinese civilization, to Chinese ability to rise above warlords and entropy (still present!) and the famines they caused. In my view, the two most important books which made China a powerful civilization were Journey to the West and the Analects of Confucius. Very different books, both universally prominent in their own way, and I will not take time to try to compare them here. This blog will focus on Journey to the West, where the Great Pig is one of the four central characters.

Of course, the pig of Journey to the West is not the only pig in Chinese literature. Look at recent newspapers, and you will see lots of reference to Chinese families trying to have a child born at exactly the right time which by Chinese astrology makes them a “Golden Pig.” Come to think of it, I actually am one of those myself, and since I am now the same age as Trump, maybe he really is a Golden Pig, by the Chinese astrology. I’d say he fits that role  much better than I do!

Long before I traveled to China, I learned how the cartoon monkey is much beloved by Chinese children, as beloved as Mickey mouse is here (and there too?). (Don’t underestimate the mouse… but not for this blog.) We even found some children stories of “the story of monkey.” But traveling in China, I learned that this popular cartoon monkey is just a popularization of the “Monkey King,” the central character in the book of a hundred chapters, Journey to the West. I brought back a serious copy of Journey to the West, with English and Chinese versions side by side and illustrations, from the big bookstore in Beijing, not far from Tian An Men square.
I would read a chapter every night to young Chris, as a kind of bedtime story – and it was clear that the book was intended to be read that way. This book was one of the Four Great Official books of Chinese Literature, a great focus of diligent Confucian students who dominated China for at least a thousand years up to Mao (who himself was a student at the Thousand Year Academy we visited in Changsha).

One of the four, but by far the most influential. (Perhaps I will comment on the other three, but perhaps not.)

From 2005 to 2014, I visited China every year, mostly with Luda and Chris. Several times we visited the Summer Palace in Beijing, where we walked under long open corridors whose ceilings were covered with intense colorful pictures of scenes from Journey to the West, one after another. Clearly those Emperors has their story…

Journey to the West is formally the story of a group of characters (four most memorable ones) commissioned (by the emperor?) to go to Tibet, to try to bring back the scrolls of a new and more powerful form of Buddhism, powerful enough to strengthen the people and the country to be able to better resist the forces of entropy which have always been a huge problem for China. (Even under Mao, Mao had huge cultural power, but in political control of provinces and villages he was much more of a fictitious paper tiger than Americans understood.) It is one of those classic Chinese style pieces written with intention of being read at many different levels, from small child to enlightened sage.

Some of you may remember English classes, where some critic tries to infer the true meaning hidden in some novel. English speaking novelists would usually object, and say truthfully that they tried to say what they meant to everyone.  But China has often been different, perhaps in part because a lot of Chinese letters were written by people paying more attention to the difference between their intended readers, their family watching them, and the officials watching them. But for different reasons, journey to the West clearly is a multi-level construction, intended as such.
In our travels form 2005 to 2014, we were amazed at how many of the unlikely places described in the book actually were based on real places, scattered all over China.

I was of course most interested in the cave where Monkey is said to have studied under a Taoist Immortal. It seems there may have been MANY such! In Qing Chen Shan (one of the sacred Daoist mountains, in Sichuan province) we hiked on a trail to the most likely candidate, only to see a sign: “Sorry, this school was moved for its protection,” signed Chou En-Lai. I wanted to enter the cave of the Yellow Immortal, but it was blocked by a sign saying “closed at 4:30. Come back tomorrow.” (Well, I could at least feel into that one.) And another cave I really could enter, but that was an old dragon cave from further east, one of the Three Kingdoms places (Wu, I think).

The monkeys do still eat flowers and fruit, I saw…

There IS a tilting tiger tail temple…

The great cudgel in Xinjiang was made up later by fans of the book, but it IS located in the real  burning hot pink desert described in the book.  And so so.

Most important, in Xian – the great main capital from the Han and Tang dynasties, arguably the greatest ever in Chinese history – we visited the actual many-story pagoda where the actual scrolls actually were brought back by the actual monk.
(What was that name? Tanzang? The actual name and the name in the book were similar, as I recall.)

As we travelled through China, we joked to ourselves (ever less of a joke) that Luda was playing the role of the monk in that story, the actual leader, trying to teach the law and seek. Chris, a child at that time, was playing the role of Monkey, very powerful but in need of instruction and guidance. And I was clearly the horse. It kept fitting. It was especially embarrassing when hordes of young children (mostly girls) would crowd around Chris, giggling, most very friendly, and we encouraged him to learn to respect and accept it. (I suspect there is also ying yang thing – especially today, when DNA reports support the theory that Chris is the most purely perfectly yang among all of us, which says a lot in the Russian-German household we have here.)

But… in any case… that was long past. Until Luda, in her local wanderings here in Arlington, runs across an old woman who says: “This is for you. It was given to me, to pass onto you, the worthy recipient. You only had the four characters in the party as you travelled, and you need to have the fourth. Here he is. The beloved pig, who was such a problem in the beginning, bit grew to be a worthy and beloved member of the party, as he sincerely tried to learn and overcome his failings and join in the fight against the hordes and hordes of terrible demons.”

Was that book actually trying to foretell the future? Read it, and you will get your own impression. I do not remember the pig part, so I just end it here, incomplete.
Could it be that this is like a personal Book of Revelations for Donald Trump??

Except.  Except for two add-ons, one on a movie, and one on immortality.


The movie:

Thanks to Alex for his great recommendation to see the NETFLIX movie Journey to the West, VERY loosely based on the book, by the same folks who gave us Shao Lin Soccer, another wonderful movie I am glad I saw.

Since that movie was more recent, and vivid, I remember it better than the book, maybe, in some ways. (I remember more things form the book, but there was more to remember.) The movie was not as nice to monkey – but that’s not a story for this blog post. The only pig part I remember was the vivid horror at all the people who want to EAT pig. (First course, they serve him new health care and tax plans. Next course they serve HIM.) I wonder what Trump would make of THAT? Certainly there are folks who smile and invite him to dinner with the intention of eating him.

=================================

Immortality, another ancient and complex theme in China.

In truth, I have at different times in past years felt real personal love for more than one Chinese woman. I remember a surge of feeling for an incredibly beautiful woman, the sister of my cousin’s wife, whom I met only briefly (sigh) in the restaurant of the Jade Palace Hotel (now demolished, sigh) in Beijing, who gave me two scrolls as a present, one a big character hanging painting with the character “longevity” in the center,  and some serious words of explanation on it.

And so I was a bit startled, after my decision to think about China a bit, that I received an email totally out of the blue passed on from a woman of piercing intelligent from the new Western immortality/longevity movement, asking whether I would want to be interviewed on that subject. Why me? Why then?

It is true that two days ago, I did observe a livestream event with just a few sentences form Jose Cordeiro, a leader of the Transhumanists, saying he will be working with Charles Gray, a leader of the new (medical?) immortality movement, and saying that he personally intends to live forever.  But I was just watching remotely, and said nothing about this. I have VERY scrupulously refrained from telling people that I actually did study that literature, found fatal flaws (in some cases truly fatal, as in Emperor Qin kind of fatal), and found a way to make it work but ONLY with understanding and use of a level of mathematics which I doubt any of them even begin to understand.

No, not immortality, not for human bodies. The design is not so suitable for that. All I could figure out was longevity, about 1000 years I would guess.

I remember the day when I made that breakthrough, and was so excited. I started to feel: it is dangerous, but maybe not SO dangerous. (Of course, I was biased by the shadow of my own personal death, current actuarial statistics expect 20 years but anywhere from 0 to 30.) That day, however, Senator Mark Warner came to talk to us (a totally unique event), and gave a talk explaining how even another 10 or 20 years more would wreak total havoc in the poor confused world we live in now. Ok. End of that.

So why the call? Is it the recent work on  the arrow of time, which I discussed just this morning in an email to a guy I once met at Tsinghua?

Who knows. Probably just coincidence. Probably just a synchronicity kind of coincidence.

A final point on this: a Berkeley professor asked us a few days ago: WHAT kinds of physics would allow WHAT kinds of paranormal or spiritual phenomena?
Heavy paranormal stuff, I said, would require a new deeper theory, deeper than my new Modified Quantum Electrodynamics (MQED), the only theory of physics (aside from general relativity) which I really trust in full detail for what it predicts. MQED would not allow explanation of the heavy weird stuff, but MIGHT allow for maybe a little “prescience” (sbort-term anticipation) and WOULD allow for a whole lot of weird Jungian synchronicity.  So Carl Jung is as serious as it gets.

Best of luck,   Paul


Sunday, October 8, 2017

From the watch: sea of glass in Korea, Turkey, Catalonia

For about three months, I have refrained from posting much from "the watch," a rather specialized thing... for many reasons. It would be grossly irrational to entangle the watch with other threads I have been pursuing; perhaps I should even set up a separate blog just for the watch, to avoid false linkages.

But: my silence has not been based on a lack of inputs. Quite the opposite. Rather, the inputs have been so complex and so tricky I have worried about creating more heat than light. Also, my recent adventures in Nepal brought home my need to rely more on "going through channels" and to work harder to avoid causing unjustified disruptions through any kind of direct action. I will say more about that, what the hell. But the spirit of truth (as well as advanced age) impel me to "let it all hang out" to a greater degree than I would in the past.

Sea of glass... this morning I woke up with a sense a bit like a headache. Certainly a kind of pulsing feeling, but bigger than my head or even my body. A headache about Korea.

A few weeks ago, my sense of responsibility said: "Paul, this quantum stuff is fun, and you ARE justified in transferring what you already know, but it's time to shift your probing from what's fun and basic to what immediately threatens the human species, the urgent developments in the Informatoin Technology (IT) space, where your design insights are needed." OK. Important stuff first, even if the problems right now SEEM unsolvable and frustrating. Figuring out how brains and quantum mechanics work ALSO seemed impossible and frustrating, until, after the right kind of effort, they could be solved.

But this morning... what's about to happen in Korea pushes this logic beyond the reasonable point. For many people, it actually IS reasonable to say "It's too hard for me; let God take care of it." But.. the watch changes a few things.

Part of "the watch" is simply opening one's eyes, starting with the mundane eyes.

I was really amazed at how oblivious the CNN reporters seemed a few days ago, reporting on Trump's recent activities. He said "This is just the calm before the storm." (People wondered: is he expressing his deep compassion for the people of Louisiana? This illustrates the difference between dreams and eyes.) He said he is putting great pressure on his military to give him the options for action he wants now. He says diplomacy has totally failed. The military have started to grumble and hint that they might dissociate themselves from what may happen soon. They all agree that silence is a necessary part of military operations. So why would people be so convinced that they are sure that the military operations have not ALREADY STARTED?

(CNN this evening says "Doesn't he know these kinds of vague threats are not likely to work in diplomacy?" Duh. he said he has pretty much given up on diplomacy. )

But then, beyond mundane eyes?

A few months back, I posted here some details of "assumption dreams" where I do believe I got to experience life as Trump was experiencing it. There was veridical content to support it, such as his views of some people working for him. But watching Trump by night most nights, and by day on CNN, got to feel a bit confining, and even uninspiring. After the truly awful healthcare proposals, I was tempted to post a joke:

"God appointed a guardian angel to look out for Trump, but after a few months, the angel pleaded for a transfer, and the position is now vacant."

I really enjoyed a couple of months in Europe, and ten days in Nepal and Qatar  -- not to mention France24 and Bloomberg TV as alternatives to CNN, at least to fill in when CNN gets repetitive, most of the time. But there are certain invisible connections which persist and cannot be just repressed. (In this period, I also got to see the series Touch on Netflix, which has a mix of typical TV stuff and very serious observations on things like connections, which I actually could describe in mathematical terms...) This morning's headache was based in part on resonance with what Trump is undoubtedly feeling right now about North Korea.

Imagine a voice wailing in pain: "Do I really HAVE to do it? Please, God, SOMEONE, can't you offer me a better way... or at least some reassurance that things will not go totally to hell?"

And as for me... well, it is certainly not MY right to try to intervene in any active way. (This blog does not count as an action.) Yet it is also my duty, on the watch, to notice. If I could be creative and come up with a better path, not just for two weeks but for twenty years, I would certainly have a strong duty to at least spell out what it is, as a possibility. Perhaps the Chinese or Russians have a path even now to make things better (NOT JUST for two weeks but for 20 years at least)... but not me. Lots of BS about "calm down little child" sure would not fix the problem, or even slow the military operations. Trump really cannot ignore the prospect of a man promising that he WILL send the US back to the stone age (with lots of mass death on the way) about to obtain the means to fulfill his promise. For decades, people have laughed at Kim's plans and promises, but clearly  that is not a rational way. So what can I say? My job, as I see it, is to pass the buck, report back, and move on to other things. (There are more details, but not for here and now.)

---------------

It is curious that potentially fatal problems are ALSO surfacing in Turkey and in Catalonia at the same time. It is sad how oblivious so many people in the US are about those developments.

Erdogan, the strongest visible manifestation of the Moslem Brotherhood Third Caliphate movement in the world today (would-be first Caliph of that caliphate, victim of typical human ego narcissism but with more foresight than Trump seems to exhibit) has just made a deal with ISIS, to allow them to stay in operation and coordinate their joint actions against their joint foes. His deals with Qatar are also part of the recent history. I am ever so glad that the rulers of Saudi Arabia have become more aware of attempts to subvert and take over their nation, but they are not totally out of the woods yet. I am ever so depressed that even Donald Trump and his security advisors do not appreciate the power of the Third Caliphate pawns in the US, who have pushed for the US to side with Qatar!! (Of course, a really effective rapprochement with Qatar, on lines informed by tough realists in Saudi Arabia, could be great; it is the advocates of appeasement ghat should be watched. US intelligence agencies should be looking THERE, not so much at Russia, which has done far less to corrupt and suborn actual powerful political structures in the US.) It was interesting in Qatar to see how Qatar became a strong ally of the Second Caliphate, a vassal of the Caliph in Turkey, as a way of counterbalancing the bedouin tribes of their day -- but respect for the old Qatary way of life does not require sharia!

Why would Russia associate with such a thing, such a setback in the war against ISIS?
"Don't worry. The new alignment makes it easier to just find them all and kill them all, and it will help the US to wake up and realize that this is what it has to do, and ally with us on."

OK, Catalonia?

Luda is bemused by the phrase "Cat-exit." Images of cats whining at the door, finally being let back in, tail held proudly high in the air, pretending it had nothing to do with it.

We had some very serious experiences in Catalonia (really just Monserrat and Barcelona) again two months ago or so. We understand both pros and cons, and have deep feelings for what the Catalonians want. There DO exist constructive ways to restructure things... as there were for Scotland and northern Ireland, even maybe linked a bit. But will humans EVER be intelligent and calm and creative enough to find those constructive ways? The EU has ever so many positive ways forward (unlike poor Trump facing Korea)... but they have also shown ever so many ways to go to extremes which get them in trouble lately. I have at times wished my old PhD advisor Karl Deutsch were still alive and active, in a way which would let us talk through some of this and him to insert key ideas where they would really help. (Really. He did a lot, quietly, to make the EU stronger in olden times.)

But even so, I can't help remembering what happened on our first day on this trip to Barcelona, when Luda and I both showed up by accident in shorts in front of the main Cathedral. Since spiritual connection is at or tied for the top of my list in all of our travels, and since Luda has her own sensibilities, we decided to try to walk in anyway. The guards at the door looked at her shorts and said firmly "NO," would not let her in.

Me, in shorts.. well, neither of us is twenty hears old any more, but me he just waved in.  Inside, I went to a side enclave marked at "for prayer and meditation only." In Rome, I had had great experiences meditating in exactly that kind of room, so I went in. But just a few minutes later,
as I sat quietly meditating. a Catalan guy in the back stood up, aggressively approached me, shouted at me in Catalan loudly and threateningly and would not stop threatening physically until I got up and left. Of course I know some Spanish, and can even make sense of a little Catalan written down, but I have no idea what he was saying -- only that this holy man was wholly... to put it gently, auditioning for the book of Esdras. Yet expressing a major part of the thoughts floating around in the local lobe of the noosphere. How could Spain be much more truly constructive, respecting the best on Monserrat, while being realistic about the horrid scum which has also been growing on the ponds in that area?
not my job; I just do due diligence, report, and move on.

By the way, when I tried to move on, I learned that things were Very Well Organized there at that time. (It reminded me of Moltrasio in Italy, a little town where bus tickets can only be bought in ice creams shops and folks who don't just know that face "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." A town ruled by joint venture of Christian Democrats (a meeting of women in the local church) and the Communist Party (a meeting of men in the bar next door), who jointly develop ever so many rules. I remember the janitor who told me about the ice cream shop and explained "We have so many rules here. We here are ever so much better organized than those sloppy Swiss just over the hill, who don't even know what rules are about. Someday they will learn what it takes to  make a modern well-organized economy... ) By the rules, I was required NOT to return to my wife, but to travel thorough a long path to another street in a city strange to me, and find her again maybe an hour later.
(As a half-naked woman posed for cameras just at the front of the Cathedral...)

=================================
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More? Why not. What the hell.

Long long ago, when I was first getting to know Luda, a time came when I owed her some confession in confidence, so she would know what she is getting into. "You know my feelings, and you know me as a person in normal life and in scientific activities. But before going further, you need to know just how crazy I really am. I have heard your attitude towards parapsychologists and towards the orthodox church, and I know of your two PhDs in hard science and former high jobs in the USSR, so you really need to be fully warned..." I was ever so happy when she replied: "Oh, don't worry. I have contempt for people who make strong statements about things they have no understanding of. But no, I am not out of touch with Reality. Since you have confided in me, let me say something about my own family.

"It is well known, when people shake hands with a real member of our family, as matter of honor, registered as a matter of honor, and they later break that... first to go ate their pets, then their elderly relatives, then closer relatives, and if they don't get the message... But no, we don't use nay kind of direct action or violence. When they violate an agreement of honor, we just look closely, fully register what is happening, and pass it on up. That's all. We do not even indulge in hate, let alone violence." (No hate, but I have seen a few smiles of contempt at times. But I have also seen Azderbaijanis show sheer terror at mention of the name.)

A few weeks ago, in Nepal, on the entry path to the  Pashupatinath temple, a British woman (Joan Walton) and I were confronted with deeply malicious soldiers pointing automatic weapons right at us at a checkpoint, yelling "No Westerners." The Hindu monks kindly leading our group tried to explain that they had had troubles with jihadi terrorists there recently, so we should understand it that way, but it was obvious that the word was "Westerner" and they they were discriminating against light eyes not beards. (We knew these were probably a legacy of Maoist guerillas, and that Maoists still control the government, folks much more Communist than anyone with real power in China.) To make things worse, just before that event, I had tried to reach out and open up some connection with the Shiva Temple visible past the checkpoint down a long alley -- something which raises energy. Within a minute after that violent shock, one of the monks pulled out his phone and told me that the hotel where I had a reservation had decided suddenly to cancel it and throw me out; he explained that he was working to convince them not to just throw away all my things in the hotel room. And suddenly my wife's google cell phone (which I had been using the take photos) went dead.

OF COURSE, I did not initiate any escalatory behavior. That would be ultradumb. Though I did mention to the monks that the hotel was violating an agreement not only of law but of honor.
I suddenly realized that it would be a major challenge for me to keep my own qi from becoming a threat to myself and others. yet there is also a rule NOT TO JUST repress one's reaction to wrong things. My first response -- remembering what Luda had said, which was not my normal total modus operandi -- was to stand not far from those soldiers, and focus very hard to register the full four-dimensional realities as precisely as possible, from guns to qi to connections and so on. To try to take a kind of precise 4D photo in my mind. as I stood there, one kind and sensitive guy in our group, from India, appraoched Joan and me gently, and suggested we move out of sight of the soldiers, clearly hoping to just stop all this. I was calm but did not move, until the picture was clear enough and well enough registered at the right level.

Sometime then, Joan mentioned "If anyone tried to pull that kind of discrimination in the UK, they would be sent to jail instantly."

But then we walked just a few meters more, where I sat down on a low stone wall, and explained that I really needed a bit of time to restructure and stabilize my emotional reactions, and properly register everything, to calm down the right way. The Indian guy was delighted he could then focus on Joan, to describe his ideas for a new education initiative he wanted Joan and me to work with, as I tried to work on a meditative level. I felt really overwhelmed with feelings and energy and thoughts. As I groped for a constructive stability, I included in my groping both reaching out to "pater galacticus"
(more or less my view/synonym to Jesus's old buddy) and to the Vishnu archetype, suitable for someone desperate for a bit of constructive order confronted with incredible shivaite violence.
"Hey folks, any hints would be appreciated." But of course, I tried to focus my own mind VERY hard...

As I sat there.. trying to center... suddenly a kid of about ten or twelve sat down next to me on the stone wall, and asked questions like "what is the name YOU used for God?" He WAS a child, and Joan was almost freaked out at how he spoke in child-like words, yet he did seem to have been speaking to a fairly enlightened teacher, and his many odd questions were helpful as I worked on focusing my own quite turbulent mind. I replied "pater galacticus", but felt some hesitation in doing so, because of all the complex unvoiced caveats and explanations' I was later thinking that I should at least have added the word "cosmos." In any case, things worked well, and the experience helped me be clearer about the depth and complexity of "connection" (important a few days later when I passed through Qatar).

As the boy and I calmed down, and perhaps he even left, the Indian guy tapped me on the shoulder and said, "By the way Paul, you have been just looking back, where the boy was along the wall, where we came here. Look across the 'street' and see what you see." What I saw, starting just a few feet in front of me but continuing far beyond, was the most extreme physical devastation I have ever seen with my mundane eyes in this life. A clash of extreme earth energies, focused right there, echoing from a few years ago... perhaps when Maoist guards were first posted there? Who knows? But wild energies can cross space and time....

I certainly did absolutely nothing, and struggled hard to do nothing. (Struggled not to repeat a few accidental experiments done farther away from people in the past.) I only REGISTERED... Just due diligence.

But it is sad how much due diligence is now called for in so many places, over the whole world, from DC to Turkey to even a bit of Tsinghua University itself. What will happen? We will see, and we will register.

I am also very grateful to the kind Bhakti guy who led us to the sleeping Vishnu shrine, next stop for our tour after that Shiva place (and lunch? I forget. Notes are on my tab, but I won't read them now).
Calm and improved reconnection were a good idea. So many reconnections are needed all over the earth... and our survival as a species is ever so much at risk from every so many directions.

Best of luck....

Friday, September 29, 2017

The physics of who we are, like Plato, Zelazny, Willis

After a technical discussion of collapse of the wave function, new experiments, and what it all means for the question of "who are WE?", someone asked me:


On the other hand, were Zelazny's Amber works not fiction?

====================

My views have changed again today, to a new tentative position which i find somewhat startling but hard to escape, based on the best mathematics now available: 

=====================================

Thank you very much, and thanks also to others who asked this pointed questions yesterday, for getting me to revisit the question:
IF the math of Einsteinian realism fully works out, and if it will eventually be logically justified as a deeper replacement in principle of MQED (the version of "quantum mechanics" I advocate)... what does it tell us about time and parallel selves?

I now think that what I wrote in a groping way yesterday was correct, but I felt some uncertainty as it emerged late in the day. Now I have had time to meditate on it.
Sometimes I wish I could afford to wait a day like that, and meditate at a higher level, before responding to ANYTHING by email. The differences in levels of intelligence are an important story in itself, and maybe I will even say just a little more about that too if there is time this morning.

ARE WE (like I as I write this) a configuration/pattern/form of the one true 3+1-D reality or not, if Einsteinian realism is the deeper reality and truer physics, and MQED just an approximation?

I remember the exact moment when I "realized that we are just shadows," IN THE MQED framework. Our mundane level of existence, the "half" of us which is body and brain but not soul, only connected to soul... is governed by MQED, almost exclusively. There are nuclear forces holding together the nuclei of the atoms of our body, but all we really see in the material properties of atoms and their interactions, and their interactions with electromagnetism, are nuclei as point ions, charges particles with mass,
connected and vibrating together  quantum mechanical way -- but those quantum mechanical vibrations are all within the realm of MQED. All knowledge which actually gets imprinted in or remembered in the brain is fully within the realm of MQED, whenever it is expressed in the brain. 

I remember focusing VERY hard on the issue of "what does a photon experience and do, from femtosecond to femtosecond, as it passes through a polaroid type polarizer (like simple quality sunglasses!)?" This focused thought resulted in a new continuous-time mathematical model of that phenomenon, which worked, which fit the Bell experiments, and which I posted at arxiv.org. (Actually, two such models, a traditional KQED kind of model, and an MQED kind of model.) In this model, the wave function does not collapse instantaneously, but step by step, fitting what we know about polarizers as real physical objects, not just metaphysical observers. 

We too, like those polarizers, change in a relatively incremental way, but at times we (and they) change so fast it APPEARS like an instantaneous jump on a normal time scale. (Cavdat: I resist saying more about the deeper time scales of the mundane brain. Not for now. This story is complicated enough, and does not need that digression/footnote.) At one point, as I thought about that little photon passing through sunglasses, I had a very sudden change of perspective on who were are.. but it was not TOTALLY instant; it was like a fast dawning realization.

There is some VERY viscious polarization right now in the US government. I was thinking about that photon, in 2014, still working for the National Science Foundation (NSF), at a time when the viscious conflicts were especially painful for me. I was thinking: "That photon has its own orientation, an angle theta. The sunglasses want it to conform to ITS angle , theta-a. At any moment there is some probability that the photon WILL jump to that angle, conform, and then be totally absorbed, and virtually nonexistent from the viewpoint of the macroscopic experimenter. There is some probability that it will jump to the 'opposite' angle, 90 degrees away from theta-a, which will make it absolutely independent and able to pass through unchanged after that (though it still loss its original self.). That reminds me of the horrible situation I face right now! But that photon has a third possibility, crucial to the physics, without which the model cannot work in making correct predictions (within the constraints which yield MQED): it can simply object to being in that situation, and  create pressure to the cosmos to rewrite the past so that it won't be in that situation in the first place." (I was reminded of an insightful wry British comedy movie, maybe something about deadly sins, where a  :guy makes a deal with the devil, who says he can just stick his tongue out to remake any situation he chooses to reject -- just seven times. The photon has the power to stick out its tongue in the same way.) It took a bit of time to nail that down, and express it as a very clean differential equation, which anyone can see on the web at arxiv.org. But the fast realization began with the question: "If a little photon can do that in ITS polarizer, how is it that I, a full human being, do not have the power to do the same in the polarizing place I am in right now?" And then very quickly, after I posed that question I realized: "oops, maybe I can."

After that, I quickly inserted a new paragraph or so into www.werbos.com/Mind_in_Time.pdf, a paper which had been accepted for publication in an obscure Russian journal, subject to some minor revisions; I just added this new insight to the revisions. (It was an invited paper, the kind of thing I can afford to publish much more than things which take more time, particularly when I get involved in many different areas.) Some key points: since we live our mundane lives AT THE LEVEL of MQED, the full mathematics of MQED DO actually describe our lives. That includes the "many worlds" KQED claim that we ourselves DO live in mixed states," ALL THE TIME. No, there are no metaphysical observers, but YES, we are "Schrodinger cats" OURSELVES. MQED is not the deepest reality, in my view, but it IS what governs our mundane experience of life directly. 

This was a really huge shift in my views. It is curious that I am now started reading a new novel by Connie Willis, Crosstalk, who has also written very important novels about the nature of time, perhaps the most valuable and relevant science fiction on that topic as such ever by anyone.  Before the new shift, my views about time and retrocausality were generally similar to what was expressed in her earlier novels (and in a simpler novel Chronoliths). I have never made any claims about actual TRAVEL into the past (as in these  novels), but even so, I could clearly see that physics MUST allow backwards communication of information in order to explain certain paradoxes from experiment. In her novels, Willis talked about an "Oxford standard model of time" in which there is only ONE actual state of the space-time continuum, in which somehow despite the backwards time effects we cannot splinter the cosmos into different possibilities or outcomes.

Following that view, before my shift, I naturally asked: "IF we can design backwards time communication devices, HOW do we avoid the old 'grandfather paradox' of time travel stories? For example, if we use the device on the stock market (as we might well do, by the way!).. what happens to disturbance of the market in the past due to the change in trades?" Looking at the Einstein/Lagrange mathematics as best I could at that time, I concluded: "A system which threatens to change the past can not ACTUALLY
change the true past, since there is only one true past, but it can have an impact within the constraints of what we KNOW about the past, in a way which is ultimately the same as our limited impacts on the future. If people build powerful enough systems which 'threaten' to change the ;past, these systems will end up being 'weirdness generators.' Folks who try to make trades which change the past will be stopped by unexpected weird coincidences, like taxis stalling as they ride to the stock exchange, somehow screwing things up regularly and reliably in a way which SEEMS to be surprising coincidence." No folks, this didn't come form imagination, it came form understanding what Lagrange style maximization actually implies when translated to our realm. And no, it wasn't quantum mechanics, but good old fashioned Einstein/Lagrange math. 

As I live in the DC area, my instant emotional response to this realization (long before the shift in 2014) was: "Hey, has someone ALREADY built one of those weirdness generators? It sure feels like it in this neighborhood." But in fact, such capabilities do exist in the noosphere,and that is part of what creates patterns in human life. 

Not long before my shift , I read Connie Willis' two-volume novel, Blackout and And Clear, where she begins asking whether she really believes that old "Oxford standard theory of time travel." COULD we change the past after all, even beyond what seems hard and fast? If WE are forms of the one true reality of 3+1-D spacetime, no, we can't. 
BUT in my shift in 2014, I realized: WE are not the one and only reality. For all practical purposes (the MQED level of life), we are just ONE of many copies of ourselves, like the shadows in Plato's cave (or yes, like the story in Zelazny's Amber series, roughly). That new viewpoint is also expressed in the paper I wrote last year for a NATO workshop  on predetection of terrorism, published in a volume in the NATO book series, and posted at www.werbos.com/NATO_terrorism.pdf.
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But, Whit and others ... just yesterday you got me to reconsider: was I right AFTER that shift?

If the true(r) reality is still Einstein underneath, and not MQED, is there or is there not just one true reality, and are we or are we not part of it?
How do I deal with the paradox of two viewpoints SEEMING to make very different predictions for this one point?

Logic immediately said to me even yesterday (when I was at a lower level of intelligence than this morning) that any weirdness contained in MQED must be present in the deeper reality, PLUS more, if MQED is ultimately just a fuzzy approximation to that reality. So all the weird new stuff about ACTUALLY changing the past still holds, somehow. (To be honest, that is also a bit more consistent with my first person experience.) But how?

Even as I never forgot that part of the logic, I found myself wondering for a moment yesterday: IF MQED works NORMALLY, but Einstein/Lagrange wins in any direct confrontation, COULD some of the new time technologies I have in mind (for detailed discussion only AFTER key experiments are done) end up letting us build ACTUAL weirdness generators which give us the power to defeat MQED in ways which no classical or simple experiments could? Certainly I have been thinking about new computing architectures which really would test the ability of our cosmos to implement astronomical numbers of "parallel universes,"  and bring out any granularity or discreteness in the underlying force fields if such is there. BUT: ordinary Deutsch style quantum computing ALREADY tests that kind of thing, and no anomalies of that kind have been found. We should have our eyes open, for many reasons, but the logic does still hold.

But how COULD it still hold, if the Einstein/Lagrange view is totally correct? Where are we in the one true reality, if there is really only one at bottom?

Well.. do we even exist or not? Or are we like "the dreams of the sleeping vishnu?" Logic seems to suggest more firmly to me this morning that this is the most credible picture of who we are after all. (But still with caveats and uncertainty both.) 

There is a strong analogy to another situation very familiar in science fiction. Most of you have read some story about people who create really detailed computer simulations of an imaginary world, so detailed that the characters in the simulation are just as complex as people with brains in our world. Their simulated brains have ALL the properties and dynamics of mundane brains in our world. If asked whether they are conscious, they will of course say that they are, and they will pass every version of the Turing test.
THEY have no way of knowing they are "just a computer simulation," unless we tell them. Stephen Baxter has some novels like that, asking the questions of ethics about how we deal with such creatures. Are our ethical duties towards a fully intelligent simulated humans more or less than our duties, say, to a mouse? There is also a really great collection called Far Futures, where lead science fiction authors were asked to write realistic scenarios about the human future -- the best story of which described the life of computer simulated humans on earth. I have heard that Elon Musk now believes that WE are computer simulations ourselves. By the way, in 1962 or such I wrote one of those types of stories for the school literary magazine in high school, based on stories I told myself many years before that as a child going to bed. (Still there, scanned into my files.)

And so, if the cosmos is LIKE a grand computer or mind of sorts, solving an extremely complex and tricky optimization problem, are WE basically just part of the simulations it uses in order to solve that optimization problems? 

Even as I type this, a shiver runs up my back as I see/remember a connection to something I saw years ago which I could not quite make sense of. 

Yes, like the MQED picture, but weirder still. Just as "Gaia" is a distorted but mostly reasonable reflection or shadow of something real, the noosphere of our solar system, it seems most logical that the dreaming Vishnu is also a kind of reflection or shadow of something real. That we are those dreams or simulations, when we get deeper than MQED down to the Einstein/Lagrange level.

Of course, I will now resolve to be even more vigilant to look for any REAL signs of a level deeper still, but I still see no real basis at all in logic for expecting it. Life really IS weird, after all, at least from a lowly human viewpoint. 

======

And I should say a few words about Connie Willis, who in SOME ways reminds me of my wife and of levels of intelligence. In the first few pages of her new novel, Crosstalk, 
I remembered what Woody Allen said in one of his movies: "I would never stoop to join a club so crude and insensitive that it would accept ME as a member." (My wife says he stole that from Groucho Marx. Well, she notices lots of stuff I don't. Like Willis.) My instant response at that time: "I really would have wanted to marry this woman, but she would not have given me a second look. But then again, Luda is just as intense, much more suitable for me because of her much deeper understanding of heavy science and such, and definitely beautiful... who knows about that other one?"  But that was just the start; the book goes on to address issues of the Internet of Things, which is now remaking the entire world and which I have not at all come to full terms with yet, and seems to be located where my younger daughter is (though her employer is much stronger). At the end of the day, my wife, Willis and I are all very intensely "high bandwidth people." She clearly experiences life with more high resolution than any other science fiction writer I have ever read. And she clearly experiences the other dimensions of life which are unfamiliar to those who embrace the worst form of Cartesian dualism, where all they live is life in black and white without seeing any of the colors which come from spirit. It is intensely REAL... like my wife.. though perhaps I am a bit more astral. What other authors can I think of with such intensity and bandwidth? maybe Dickinson is closest in Science fiction? Or Dickens in the larger world? 
And all three of us do ask questions intensely and always, asking what we know and what we don't... which of course always makes one aware of important things we DON;T know... 


Best of luck,