Showing posts with label consciousness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label consciousness. Show all posts

Monday, August 03, 2009

The semantic apocalypse

Welcome to the Semantic Apocalypse

What if our memories, experience, thoughts and worldview are all just a side effect of our brain's evolution? What if human consciousness as we know it is something we'll eventually evolve out of? What if we are essentially just a strange dream cooked up by a piece of meat that drives our bodies on a genetic mission to reproduce?

The day that scientific knowledge blots out human meaning -- that's the semantic apocalypse.

Image by Chris Butler.

Could sentience be a passing evolutionary phase? If so, what comes next? Elsewhere, I've wondered if the strange behavior exhibited by UFO occupants might reflect a post-sentient mode of being:

If we're dealing with aliens -- regardless whether or not they originate in space or on Earth -- maybe their clumsy, oblique interactions with us can be explained if they're endowed with intelligence but devoid of sentience. They could have taken an evolutionary route that bypassed awareness entirely, or they could have achieved a form of sentience only to lose it, perhaps by recklessly merging with their machines.

In hindsight, I suppose I shouldn't have used the word "recklessly." After all, we're conditioned to accept self-awareness as an advantage because it's a fundamental aspect our our existence; just because it seems "natural" or consoling now doesn't mean it will last. If the future survival of life on Earth entails ultimately jettisoning consciousness, perhaps we should welcome the prospect -- regardless how "cold" or alien it might seem from our slender perspective as social primates.

Once again I'm drawn to the prospect that the "Grays" function as posthuman metaphors summoned forth from the collective unconscious, their clinical disposition underscoring our own postbiological trajectory.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Today's message is brought to you by Terence McKenna.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Alan Watts on dissolution

(Thanks to Wild Rote.)

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Organic quantum computation

First Evidence of Entanglement in Photosynthesis

Physicists are fascinated with entanglement, the strange quantum phenomenon in which distinct objects share the same existence, regardless of the distance between them. But in their quest to study and exploit entanglement for information processing, physicists have found it fragile and easily destroyed. This fragility seems to severely limits how entanglement might ever be used.

But a new, more robust face of entanglement is beginning to emerge from other types of experiment. For example, physicists have recently found the signature of entanglement in the thermal states of bulk materials at low temperatures. This has huge implications for biological systems: if entanglement is more robust than we thought, what role might it play in living things?

Now we're beginning to find out. poses a fascinating question:

Does this support the Hameroff/Penrose idea of quantum computation in brain microtubules as a model of consciousness?

In short, do our brains utilize Einstein's "spooky action at a distance"? If so, what might this mean for contemporary definitions of consciousness?

Author/mathematician Rudy Rucker addresses some of the implications here.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

The future of the Net

From a provocative piece at New Scientist:

Heylighen speculates that it might turn the internet into a self-aware network that constantly strives to become better at what it does, reorganising itself and filling gaps in its own knowledge and abilities.

If it is not already semiconscious, we could do various things to help wake it up, such as requiring the net to monitor its own knowledge gaps and do something about them. It shouldn't be something to fear, says Goertzel: "The outlook for humanity is probably better in the case that an emergent, coherent and purposeful internet mind develops."

On a darker note:

Beware surfers: cyberspace is filling up

Experts predict that consumer demand, already growing at 60 per cent a year, will start to exceed supply from as early as next year because of more people working online and the soaring popularity of bandwidth-hungry websites such as YouTube and services such as the BBC's iPlayer.

It will initially lead to computers being disrupted and going offline for several minutes at a time. From 2012, however, PCs and laptops are likely to operate at a much reduced speed, rendering the internet an "unreliable toy".

Thursday, April 02, 2009

"If you can't get away with it it ain't real."

A few moments with Robert Anton Wilson:

(Thanks: Dedroidify.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

And don't you forget it.

Quantum weirdness: What we call 'reality' is just a state of mind

What quantum mechanics tells us, I believe, is surprising to say the least. It tells us that the basic components of objects -- the particles, electrons, quarks etc. -- cannot be thought of as "self-existent". The reality that they, and hence all objects, are components of is merely "empirical reality".

This reality is something that, while not a purely mind-made construct as radical idealism would have it, can be but the picture our mind forces us to form of . . . Of what? The only answer I am able to provide is that underlying this empirical reality is a mysterious, non-conceptualisable "ultimate reality", not embedded in space and (presumably) not in time either.

(Via DIP's Dispatches from the Imagination Age.)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Spooky action at a distance

Human eye could detect spooky action at a distance

It's almost a year since Nicolas Gisin and colleagues at the University of Geneva announced that they had calculated that a human eye ought to be able to detect entangled photons. "Entanglement in principle could be seen," they concluded.

That's extraordinary because it would mean that the humans involved in such an experiment would become entangled themselves, if only for an instant.

Scientists Model Words as Entangled Quantum States in our Minds

Research has shown that words are stored in our memories not as isolated entities but as part of a network of related words. This explains why seeing or hearing a word activates words related to it through prior experiences. In trying to understand these connections, scientists visualize a map of links among words called the mental lexicon that shows how words in a vocabulary are interconnected through other words.

However, it's not clear just how this word association network works. For instance, does word association spread like a wave through a fixed network, weakening with conceptual distance, as suggested by the "Spreading Activation" model? Or does a word activate every other associated word simultaneously, as suggested in a model called "Spooky Activation at a Distance"?

Friday, February 27, 2009

More than the sum of our parts

Zen Biology Lesson for Enlightenment from Jarett on Vimeo.

I struggle ceaselessly with the aspect of myself that clings to the fragile comfort of words and sentences. Our familiar Western mode of thinking -- purged of intuition and leery of experiences not reproducible in written form -- is like a clear membrane stretched taut around our senses, but no less insidious in its seeming transparency.

Lately, especially, it seems as if my real life unfolds in the narcotic oblivion of sleep; my dream-world, for all of its ominous vistas and intimations of cataclysm, exerts an inexplicably nostalgic allure. For whatever reason, I feel oddly welcome strolling the ruined hotels and depopulated suburbs that have come to dominate my sleep. There appears to be coherent, if tenuous, logic to this silent and jaundiced realm -- arguably more so than what greets me while awake and rational.

I've come to tentatively identify with the role of the shaman. Upon waking, my mind feels ponderous with ideas seeking escape; a portal has been opened, but a portal to where, exactly? And what, if anything, should I do with this freight of unsolicited weirdness?

My dream-world grows less diffuse -- more palpable -- with every visit, recalling the idea that powerfully envisioned thought-forms can assume fleeting physical existence. If such an alchemical process is indeed at work, the repercussions for my "real" existence are troubling. Maybe the only way to break the feedback cycle -- to decisively sever the ouroboros that my psyche's inexorably becoming -- is to opt out of the wide-awake domain of language, syntax and the necessarily diminishing fiction of "either/or."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama and "global consciousness"

Collective consciousness and the inauguration (Dean Radin)

This is an exploratory analysis, so it shouldn't be regarded as persuasive as a preplanned analysis would be. But still, the coincidence in time between what was arguably the single most anticipated moment by hundreds of millions of viewers during the inauguration, and the spike in odds at the same time, is quite striking.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cliff Pickover:

I tend to be skeptical about the paranormal. However, I do feel that there are facets of the universe we can never understand, just as a monkey can never understand calculus, black holes, symbolic logic, and poetry. There are thoughts we can never think, visions we can only glimpse. It is at this filmy, veiled interface between human reality and a reality beyond that we may find the numinous, which some may liken to God.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Our Unconscious Brain Makes The Best Decisions Possible

Contrary to Kahnneman and Tversky's research, Alex Pouget, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, has shown that people do indeed make optimal decisions -- but only when their unconscious brain makes the choice.

"A lot of the early work in this field was on conscious decision making, but most of the decisions you make aren't based on conscious reasoning," says Pouget. "You don't consciously decide to stop at a red light or steer around an obstacle in the road. Once we started looking at the decisions our brains make without our knowledge, we found that they almost always reach the right decision, given the information they had to work with."

See also:

Blind Man Sees With Subconscious Eye

TN has what is known as blind sight, according to de Gelder. Even though the primary part of his brain that processes visual information is destroyed, he still has more primitive parts of his brain intact, and these are capable of doing some visual processing. After all, one of the most basic functions of the visual system is to help an animal avoid obstacles or predators. TN still has some visual abilities -- he's just not aware he has them.

Oh, by the way, there's this book you should read . . .

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Blind, Yet Seeing: The Brain's Subconscious Visual Sense

Scientists have previously reported cases of blindsight in people with partial damage to their visual lobes. The new report is the first to show it in a person whose visual lobes -- one in each hemisphere, under the skull at the back of the head -- were completely destroyed. The finding suggests that people with similar injuries may be able to recover some crude visual sense with practice.

I rather suspect Peter Watts will weigh in on this shortly.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An uncommonly thoughtful article on Near-Death Experiences:

The living dead

On top of that, quantum non-locality could mean the mind is capable of being non-local to the brain, of floating to the ceiling of the room. It can become, as Stapp puts it, "unglued". His words "certain choices not specified by the physical dynamics" are world-changing. This idea would, if widely accepted, end the reign of scientific materialism, replacing it with a new dualism. It would mean the universe is not a "causally closed" system, locked down since the big bang, as mainstream science has always insisted it is, but open to freedom of choice by the autonomous, floating, matter-altering mind. We would have regained our souls.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Two words: "lucid decapitation."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Terence McKenna on individuality and democracy's inherent tendency to atomize, cheapen and reject the human experience: "We have been infantilized by our cultural institutions to accept the notion of ourselves as citizens consuming these regurgitated scientific models which are then hashed through by Madison Avenue and then handed down to us by the organs of mass culture and this is supposed to be what we anchor our lives on."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm a Michio Kaku fan. Here's why.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Does Memory Reside Outside the Brain?

Most people assume that our memories must exist somewhere inside our heads. But try as they might, medical investigators have been unable to determine which cerebral region actually stores what we remember. Could it be that our memories actually dwell in a space outside our physical structure?

(Via Reality Carnival.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Science Non-Fiction for the Star Wars Fan

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Turn your computer monitor into a dream machine.