Sunday, May 4, 2014

how does time connect with consciousness? -- new connections

Deepak Chopra and Menas Kafatos are working together to put together a new special issue of the journal Cosmology,
called "the Time Machine of Consciousness." From quantum physics, we know that time does not work the way people
used to think it does -- but how does that affect US? Do our minds depend on nonclassical aspects of time, or can they give us an opening into new aspects of time? They are collecting a variety of serious viewpoints, on this question, including mine.

I haven't yet written the paper... but here is a concise summary of my position, form my email reply to the invitation. (If you have questions...
I can try to make sure they are explained in the full paper, within reason.)

These are uncensored personal views, and I suppose I will tone it down for the journal paper. 


I feel a responsibility to do justice to this challenging invitation,
and I intend to do my best, probably just barely on time for the
deadline. I have so many urgent deadlines right now,
I should perhaps not spare even a thought for this AT THIS TIME... but
I actually tried to start writing this weekend at home, and realized
it will take some iteration to try to figure out how to write about
such a complex and entangled subject in a way which your audience and
others would appreciate.

To begin with, the task is made especially challenging for me because
I have been leading "separate lives" in parallel, pushing the envelope
on the physics of time, and on the mathematics of intelligent systems,
and on direct practical dealing as best I can with the "noosphere"
itself. So please forgive me,  but it may help if I think of how in
the world  to try to explain how I see these issues  to real people
like you.

To begin with, let me assure you I am not being schizophrenic here. I
really have figured out how to integrate these different aspects, and
to pay serious attention to the "paranormal" or "spiritual" side of
life, whatever we call it, viewed from multiple perspectives at once.

Next -- it does seem clear to me that "backwards causality" is a fact
of physics as we see it in the laboratory; I am hoping that THIS WEEK
I will be able to secure funding for a university researcher capable
of doing an experiment as decisive as Michelson-Morley, which should
put an end to some of the speculation. As a matter of social
convention and civility, I am taking a stance of "we will see" on the
outcome of this experiment
(though I am more sure about the outcome than about willingness of the
management chain to let it go through -- probably it will, but there
are times one must "run scared' and work to avoid roiling the waters).
But... I have three recent papers in quant-ph at, including
two which describe the triphoton experiment and what it tells us.
It seems likely to get rid of the last dying vestiges of the
"metaphysical observer" concept, but the MRF or stochastic path
replacement solidly violates the specific axiom of (time-forwards)
causality in the original Bell's Theorem (of Clauser, Horne, Shimony
and Holt, CHSH).

But what does this tell us about consciousness?

In my feeble inadequate partial draft from the weekend, I do at least
talk about the central importance of LEVELS OF CONSCIOUSNESS. Having
studied neural networks, brains and consciousness for a long time, I
do think I see the basic picture there. In fact, in the machine
learning (CS) part of arxiv,org, I posted another new paper, to be
presented at
the World Conference on Computational Intelligence this summer (for
which I need to reserve my flight and hotel and so on), which cites
some of that.

In essence, I have my own version of a "standard model" for
intelligence and for physics,
which I DO NOT ADHERE TO religiously. I view that standard model as a
step 'way beyond where most of the world is today, and as something
which MIGHT be the whole truth -- but probably it is just a
steppingstone to the whole truth. For example, in my 'standard model,"
I view the cosmos as totally four-dimensional (as in Einstein's
I have no real respect at all for the usual superstring or brane
models, and believe they have very little probability of being the
whole truth - yet I still tend to feel intuitively, that the cosmos is
most likely to have 8 or 11 dimensions or something like that. I
resolve this paradox by saying we need to understand four dimensions
much better, and push the empirical limits, before we can begin to get
the empirical data which we would need to get any serious handle on
how 8-dimensional reality is different from the best of four.

I do believe that almost all of the paranormal or spiritual phenomena
we have ever seen and validated COULD be understand within the limits
of the "standard model" -- yea even until 3+1D nonlinear PDE
(Lagrangian field theory), precisely or approximately.
(I even have a candidate Lagrangian, in a paper joint with my wife
Luda, which I promised not to publish until a really proper journal
option for that subject opens up.)

In that view, all intelligence or mind is an emergent property or form
within a cosmos which obeys mathematical "laws of physics," except
perhaps the universe itself which may or may not be viewed as a kind
of mind in itself (depending how one feels about that mathematics). I
see no reason at present to give up on the Pythagorean program of
trying to understand the laws of nature more precisely.

I see us being called to lead that least "three lives" in parallel. On
a scientific level, for the next century, we are called to try to
develop a really solid mathematical understanding of that LEVEL of
intelligence/consciousness/mind which exists even in the isolated
brain of the smallest mouse or "soulless rat" (a term suggested by
Cytowic). This has a lot to tell us about higher levels, because in
many ways the higher levels are built on top of the lower levels, and
the old adage "as above, so below" (or vice-versa) is relevant. Again,
at, I talk about that challenge, for which I have worked out
quite a bit of the mathematics (much of it validated in engineering

On the "normal level" (as in my 2012 Neural Networks journal article
cited in the arxiv paper), we are called to make better use of the
several levels of "mirror neurons" which humans possess but mice do
not, which give us some ability to LEARN to use symbolic reasoning in
a rational way, and to achieve a state I usually call "sanity" (which
confucians call zheng qi or integrity). Basically, sanity includes
learning to use the scientific method in coping with the large
database of first-person experience and feeling, which goes beyond the
more constrained shared database of replicable science, as discussed
by Kuhn. In essence, Kuhnian socialized science is to first person
what poetry is to prose -- an art which imposes severe disciplines and
constraints, but which derives great value as ONE DISTINCT PART of our
endeavors in life.

But the 'third life" is essentially paranormal or spiritual.  Nothing
in the first or second life really requires concepts of time beyond
classical time-forwards "causality -- but in my view, if people are
truly sane and truly open to all the human experience around them,
the pressure of first person experience will drive people to this. I
often cite the classic article "Are we a nation of Mystics" by
Greeley, on how large the base is of people who have been driven to
add a "third life" quietly. His paper is actually a lead-ion to
important issues beyond the scope of this email.

In my view, it is not possible to explain the full variety of
well-tested paranormal phenomena with "quick fixes" like the idea of
the pineal gland or the chakras as some kind of "third eye." We have
to "pay a big price" in complexity of what we assume (just as the
Bayesians say); thus it takes a major empirical stimulus to jump over
the cliff and be truly open to paranormal phenomena. Once we do... the
lowest cost model, in my view, is to assume we humans are a symbiotic
life form. Like lichen -- we are a symbiosis of TWO physical
biological organisms (a more or less many-one symbiosis), one which we
see easily in our microscopes, one involving fields or particles which
we do not yet understand in physics.  The "noosphere" is the "nervous
system" of the "invisible entity" we are all part of.

Nonclassical causality is not needed to understand consciousness at
the level of the first life or even the second life... but what of the
third life?

In my view, the noosphere is "two levels" of consciousness beyond the
level of sanity which human brains are evolving towards but have not
yet reached. The most important qualitative advance in the level of
consciousness is due to a special kind of "multimodular architecture,"
which implements the basic principle of exploiting symmetry in
learning beyond the level we see in the sane brain. The old Upanishads
idea of the Self seeing through many pairs of eyes at the same time
begins to capture this. Much of what we see as precognition may
actually be a matter of ideas in the noosphere which may seem
prophetic, but have yet to be really decided upon.  However, since the
time-symmetry is there in the physics, and we assume the noosphere is
the product of a greater field of natural selection than the brain, it
would be surprising if the additional capabilities of quantum
information were not present as well.

The curious thing is that there is no reason why we could not build
new types of computer which also embody higher-level multimodular
architecture and quantum principles -- more "conscious" than the naked
human brain. One of the greatest challenges to humanity is to find
ways to get human beings to make more use of their
inner higher level of consciousness, as may be required to cope with
the near-hopeless-looking challenges we are facing today.


Beyond that....

This "standard model" would come out with a picture of time
communication and paradoxes somewhat similar to the picture given in
the science fiction novels Chronoliths
and Blackout/AllClear (Willis). I could elaborate -- as you might
expect, since I have mathematics to refer to.

But is the picture true?

Willis' novel spends a lot of time questioning "the standard (future)
Oxford model
of time-travel.' If you follow it closely, it seems that one must
probably actually start building time travel -- or at least
communication -- systems in order to begin to develop the empirical
tests needed to seriously and usefully challenge the standard model.
That requires developing some new technologies first -- and then still
poses some open questions in experimental design.

In the world of esoteric experience, I do see some VERY elusive yet
significant suggestions that it just might be possible to change the
past after all (implying more than four dimensions in the overall
cosmos). But what does that really tell us?
In any case, I would feel somewhat uncomfortable getting too deep into
the specifics, except perhaps for an example or two which is not from
the set which strikes me as most veridical -- and may not be
appropriate in a journal paper anyway.
I also think sometimes about some of the better science fiction
novels, which hint at possible well-posed models different from the
"standard model' I usually fall back on.


Thanks very much for your patience, if you got this far.

Best regards,


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