Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Showing posts with label Rene Descartes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rene Descartes. Show all posts

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Photo of the Day: Bathroom Subjectivity

Photo "found inside a stall at a gas station in Virginia." Image Source: Facebook.

You can read Bertrand Russell, Problems of Philosophy (1912), chapter two, for free online here. According to Russell, the original problem from Decartes' "I think, therefore I am" confronts the distinction between subjective and objective, rather fitting for a bathroom wall in Virginia, or anywhere else for that matter:
"'I think, therefore I am,' he said (Cogito, ergo sum); and on the basis of this certainty he set to work to build up again the world of knowledge which his doubt had laid in ruins. By inventing the method of doubt, and by showing that subjective things are the most certain, Descartes performed a great service to philosophy, and one which makes him still useful to all students of the subject.

But some care is needed in using Descartes' argument. 'I think, therefore I am' says rather more than is strictly certain. It might seem as though we were quite sure of being the same person to-day as we were yesterday, and this is no doubt true in some sense. But the real Self is as hard to arrive at as the real table, and does not seem to have that absolute, convincing certainty that belongs to particular experiences. When I look at my table and see a certain brown colour, what is quite certain at once is not 'I am seeing a brown colour', but rather, 'a brown colour is being seen'. This of course involves something (or somebody) which (or who) sees the brown colour; but it does not of itself involve that more or less permanent person whom we call 'I'. So far as immediate certainty goes, it might be that the something which sees the brown colour is quite momentary, and not the same as the something which has some different experience the next moment.

Thus it is our particular thoughts and feelings that have primitive certainty. And this applies to dreams and hallucinations as well as to normal perceptions: when we dream or see a ghost, we certainly do have the sensations we think we have, but for various reasons it is held that no physical object corresponds to these sensations. Thus the certainty of our knowledge of our own experiences does not have to be limited in any way to allow for exceptional cases. Here, therefore, we have, for what it is worth, a solid basis from which to begin our pursuit of knowledge. The problem we have to consider is this: Granted that we are certain of our own sense-data, have we any reason for regarding them as signs of the existence of something else, which we can call the physical object?"
Philosophical discussions on how to verify truth and reality have never been more relevant than they are now, with malleable truth dominating the Internet and a growing confusion about the distinction between virtual reality and everyday 'real' reality.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

History in the Echo Chamber

Erasures from history are hallmarks of dictatorships. Image Source: Business Insider.

History is up for grabs. In the malleable global media, parts of history are being denied, erased or changed beyond recognition to suit new agendas. What is being changed, by whom, and where it is happening, all foreshadow coming trends in politics and daily life.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Princeton Professor Cracks Human Consciousness

Image Source: The Witness Within.

Yesterday, Vice published an interview with Princeton neuroscientist Professor Michael Graziano, who has explained the evolutionary reason why and how we are aware of ourselves and the larger world. The report begins with reference to a way you can test your brain's limited capacity for understanding the world beyond itself; it is called the Pinocchio Illusion:
There’s a goofy neurological trick you can play on your brain that makes you feel like you have a super long nose. It’s called the Pinocchio Illusion and all you need to make it happen is a vibrator and a friend.
Here’s how it works. Person A closes her eyes and places the tip of her finger on her nose. Person B applies a buzzing vibrator to the tendon that connects the bicep to the inner side of the elbow of the arm that’s touching the nose. The vibration on the tendon stimulates the muscle fibers in such a way that tricks Person A’s brain into thinking that her arm is extending, but since Person A’s index finger tells her brain that it’s still connected to the tip of her nose, the brain does a quick and dirty calculation (in the absence of visual data) and concludes that her nose must be growing super long. It’s fucking crazy. Try it.
According to Princeton University neuroscientist Michael Graziano, this phenomenon is indicative of the key aspect of the human mind. Our brains create models of the world around us, including our bodies, in order to be attentive to the various signals we get from our senses. So in the Pinocchio Illusion, your brain creates a model of what your body looks like and the model falls apart due to the conflicting stimuli. Our brains might be exceptionally good at making models, but they’re never perfect replicas of what’s happening in the world, just fast and loose sketches to make sense of things.
There’s a funny consequence to our brains’ proficiency in model-making, Professor Michael Graziano argues in his book Consciousness and the Social Brain, which came out this month. That consequence is what we call consciousness, the ineffable ungraspable “I,” the magic sauce of Being that defines our essential humanness. From Descartes’s “Cogito ergo sum,” to Kant’s theory of a priori forms, to Taoist, nondualist Vedantic whatever, the origin of consciousness has been, you know, a real head-scratcher. And Professor Graziano’s theory proposes an exceptionally clear explanation of what’s going on in our domes’ pieces every day of our short little lives.
So to the question: Are we ordained by our divine creator or are we just delusional lumps of carbon and guts? Professor Graziano concludes something closer to latter. But it’s not delusion that makes our brains aware. It’s a highly functional adaptive strategy. What we think of as sentience can be explained by what he calls the Attention Schema Theory, and I talked to him on the phone this week to understand what his theory of a neurological basis for our consciousness means today and what it could mean in the future.
VICE: Can you describe what exactly your investigation into consciousness is?
Professor Michael Graziano: Here’s a quick background. I can be conscious that I am me and I am human. Whatever that consciousness is, is an experience. What I am asking is what set of information is that consciousness. What does it mean to have an actual subjective experience of something?
What’s unique about your method of inquiry? This question sounds like something a lot of people have tried to figure out.
To start off, many scientists are asking the wrong question. They’re asking, “What does it mean to have the magical inner feeling?” You start with the assumption that there’s magic and then you start experimenting. The better question is how and for what adaptive advantage do brains attribute that property to themselves? And right away that puts it into the domain of information processing, something that can, in principle, be understood.
How is it that the cognitive machinery in our brains accesses internal data and arrives at a conclusion and can sometimes report, “I have experienced, I am aware of something.” Not just “that is blue,” but “I am aware that that is blue.”
OK, so how do brains do that?
Brains construct models, informational models of all kinds of things, in fact it’s one of the things brains do best, make models of the external world and models of things going on inside your body.
The theory at heart, the reason why brains attribute the property of awareness to itself, is because the brain is essentially constructing a model to monitor the fact that it is paying attention to that object. So attention is a physically real data-handling method and awareness is the brain’s cartoon sketch that’s used to keep track of what it’s doing. That it can use to keep track of what it’s doing.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Prehistory's Mysteries: Middle Earth Meditation

White Ships from Valinor, by Ted Nasmith. Image Source: Nasmith via The One Ring.

What will they think of next? How about a fantasy ticket to time travel into the antediluvian prehistoric consciousness? This latest New Age cross-pollination in the media sees Youtube hosting meditations with a pop culture theme taken from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle Earth.

Monday, May 21, 2012

History of Forbidden Colours

Click on the image to enlarge. Cover one segment, and stare intently at the division within the red-green or the blue-yellow segment until the boundary between the two colours disappears. Image Source: Life's Little Mysteries.

I have some posts pointing to online histories of different colours (see here for Haint Blue, and here for Red). Life's Little Mysteries has recently discussed the history of two colours outside the range of human vision. In the 1983, Hewitt Crane and Thomas Piantanida published a paper in Science, entitled, "On Seeing Reddish Green and Yellowish Blue."  They argued that an optical illusion allows us to perceive colours that exist beyond the physical capabilities of our retinas (Hat tip: Free Will Astrology).

The two colours are red-green (not a brown mixture, but a colour that is both red and green at the same time) and yellow-blue (again, a colour that is both yellow and blue simultaneously). These colours do not have names because they are not usually perceived. Having successfully seen the red-green colour in the chart above, the word I would use to describe it is 'Apple.' The blue-yellow was more difficult, but I caught sight of something I would call, a 'Sunlit Sky.'

Chromoscape 116-Yellow Blue Sky © by Beki Borman.

Shutterstock Stock Photo, Yellow Meadow under a Blue Sky with Clouds © Andrey Tiyk.

Seeing these colours is somewhat analagous to one focus of this blog, namely, how the invisible intangibilities of virtual reality are brought to bear on real life. By means of a simple illusion, one's mind allows one to see what one normally cannot physically see. We do something beyond ourselves; it is a little act, which pushes back the boundaries of perception and ability. The photos above show approximations of these colours, and let us know that they do indeed exist. But until this test was devised, their true tones existed outside our ken.

The results of this experiment reflect a 'third-eye' problem common with many Millennial ideas, mysteries and riddles, especially in the west. At the turn of the Millennium, there are all sorts of attempts, conscious or not, to overcome Cartesian dualism. Whether through technical ghost-hunting, or through particle collider searches for the God Particle or Dark Matter there is a strange Millennial literal-mindedness to these experiments. While the Postmodernism of the 20th century assumed that the third configuration was undefinable and unattainable, Millennial Post-Postmodernism adamantly and yet casually insists that we can and will get there. Life's Little Mysteries:
[E]ven though th[e]se colors exist, you've probably never seen them. Red-green and yellow-blue are the so-called "forbidden colors." Composed of pairs of hues whose light frequencies automatically cancel each other out in the human eye, they're supposed to be impossible to see simultaneously.

The limitation results from the way we perceive color in the first place. Cells in the retina called "opponent neurons" fire when stimulated by incoming red light, and this flurry of activity tells the brain we're looking at something red. Those same opponent neurons are inhibited by green light, and the absence of activity tells the brain we're seeing green. Similarly, yellow light excites another set of opponent neurons, but blue light damps them. While most colors induce a mixture of effects in both sets of neurons, which our brains can decode to identify the component parts, red light exactly cancels the effect of green light (and yellow exactly cancels blue), so we can never perceive those colors coming from the same place. ...  
The color revolution started in 1983, when a startling paper by Hewitt Crane, a leading visual scientist, and his colleague Thomas Piantanida appeared in the journal Science. Titled "On Seeing Reddish Green and Yellowish Blue," it argued that forbidden colors can be perceived. The researchers had created images in which red and green stripes (and, in separate images, blue and yellow stripes) ran adjacent to each other. They showed the images to dozens of volunteers, using an eye tracker to hold the images fixed relative to the viewers' eyes. This ensured that light from each color stripe always entered the same retinal cells; for example, some cells always received yellow light, while other cells simultaneously received only blue light. ...  
The observers of this unusual visual stimulus reported seeing the borders between the stripes gradually disappear, and the colors seem to flood into each other. Amazingly, the image seemed to override their eyes' opponency mechanism, and they said they perceived colors they'd never seen before.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Problem with Memory 5: Future Memory

Mnemosyne, Titan Goddess of Memory. Greco-Roman mosaic from Antioch. 2nd century CE. Antakya Museum. Image: Theoi.com.

Remember this post, in which I described the Web Bot that predicts the future, based on linguistic patterns monitored by algorithms on the Internet? It looks like Social Psychologists may substantiate some Computer Scientists' wild theories about precognition. On Twitter, Kate Sherrod commented: "Intriguing. Conducting reversed versions of standard memory tests may have uncovered a form of 'future memory.'"

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Configurations of a Third: The Multiverse

From the Internet emerging from binary code, to the extratemporal dimension between the virtual and the real, to Dark Matter generated between the Matter and Antimatter of the Big Bang, to a bizarre cosmic consciousness arising out of gravity's mesh with space-time - the Millennial idea that our dualist Cartesian reality, split between mind and matter, can form a third, post-Cartesian reality is everywhere. See below the jump for Brian Greene's recent discussion on Nova's The Fabric of the Cosmos: Universe or Multiverse.  While the Multiverse is not yet generally accepted among physicists, since 2010, the idea that there were and are many Big Bangs, generating many universes, has been gaining ground among quantum physicists, string theorists, and theoretical physicists studying cosmic inflation. Their critics argue vehemently that accepting an unprovable theory like this could undermine the very foundations of science.  What is perhaps more important than the challenging theory is the overall pattern - a fundamental sea-change in outlook - these Millennial Configurations of a Third, everywhere we look (see my earlier post on tripartite aspects of Millennial thought, here and here).

In the American TV show, Fringe, there are prime and parallel universes. The parallel universe Manhattan is spelt with one 't.' Image Source: Fox via Wiki.

If the Multiverse is our reality and we don't know it, what would it be like to live there if we did know it? According to Signs of the Times: "The trouble is that in an infinite multiverse, everything that can happen will happen - an infinite number of times. In such a set-up, probability loses all meaning. 'How do you compare infinities?' asks Andrei Linde of Stanford University in California." Multiverses have been consistently popular fictional narrative devices that address Linde's question. Multiverses are constants in fantasy and sci-fi works, most recently in the American FOX television show, Fringe, and of course, Scenes from a Multiverse.  But the only place where the cultural and social implications of a real Multiverse have been systematically and continually explored is in comic books.  Since the early 1960s, Marvel has produced stories about a bunch of alternate realities, pocket universes and multiple dimensions. Marvel tends to have a single narrative represent a single reality: their main narrative continuity is Earth-616. Their Ultimate imprint has presented popular alternate universe stories since the year 2000. TVTropes sees Marvel's Multiverse affected by a hierarchy of positive and negative realities: English writer "Warren Ellis' run on X-Man utilized another conception of the multiverse, where in addition to Parallel Universes, there's a 'spiral of realities' stretching above and below, with the universes 'downspiral' being significantly more chaotic and difficult for li[f]e to develop/survive in than the the relatively advanced and idyllic universes located 'upspiral.'" Marvel also has an omniverse, a collection of all possible universes and realities, inhabited by characters from other fictions and pulp houses, including its rival, DC.

Infinite Crisis #5 (April 2006).

DC Comics' assessment is even more complex, with frayed narratives and equally divided fictional realities; its Multiverses collide and break apart, causing total chaos, infinite crises, and a constant reevaluation of its characters and degrees of heroism. Since Wonder Woman #59 (1953), writers at DC have symbolically considered what living in a real, tangible Multiverse would do to our mentalities, lives and consciousness.  Since 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths, when DC attempted to crunch the whole Multiverse into one single fictional universe, America's oldest comics publisher has allowed events on the Multiversal level to dominate its main narrative storyline with increasing frequency and intensity. DC soon uncrunched their single universe and brought the Multiverse back. DC's writers have reevaluated our understanding of death, of time, of narrative sequence and continuity, and of morality (see also: here); and all of this arises when the unseeable and unmeasurable beyond our perception collides theoretically with tangible reality and coughs up a third synthetic unknown.

nU Alec Holland meets nU Abby Arcane. DCnU Swamp Thing #3 (January 2012).

In short, alternate realities and parallel dimensions have of course appeared in many modern works of literature and drama, some great, some popular; but only DC has been consistently speculating on what a collective Multiversal reality would be like, month in, month out, over almost sixty years. DC's Multiverse has evolved over that time, with its most radical stories ever published this fall.  The editors and writers at DC are saying the fabric of time and space could tear, turn itself inside out, and we could all find ourselves, the same but different, living in new realities, haunted by memories of our other existences.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Answers in the Chaos

Fox Mulder's office poster.

The exponential momentum of the technological revolution is radically transforming social values and behaviour in ways we can’t understand. An avalanche of data is now generating chaos through its speed, sheer quantity and wild variations of quality. So much for the idealistic Web anarchists who hoped that natural order would emerge on the Net spontaneously. This was the sort of breathless prediction made by Wired in the early 1990s! The darkest corners of the internet are now as barbaric as anything on a clichéed medieval battlefield. But what’s even more scary are the sites that propose to offer ‘answers’ in the chaos.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Quantum Physics, Quantum Biology, Quantum Computers, Quantum Consciousness ... Are We There Yet?

Large Hadron Collider.

On June 5, Deepak Chopra tweeted about meeting Stuart Hameroff in Vancouver:
“Stuart Hameroff came to my talk in Vancouver. He says that quantum possibilities, cosmic consciousness, non locality, are the same phenomena. Planck scale geometry is what the universe is made of, 25 times of the order of magnitude smaller than the atom. Platonic values - truth, goodness, beauty, evolution, are embedded in Planck scale spin networks.”
What? Chopra’s Ayurveda medical traditions mingled with Buddhism somehow match Hameroff’s theories of consciousness, which depend upon non-algorithmic processes that can be understood through Quantum Physics, creating a field Hameroff calls ‘Quantum Consciousness.’ Some of Hameroff’s ideas are based on a controversial 1989 book by Sir Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and The Laws of Physics. Penrose’s argument that Artificial Intelligence could therefore not be built with computers that depended upon algorithmic computations did not take into account the later development of – yes – Quantum Computers.

Friday, June 4, 2010

From Here to Eternity? Biosemiotic Cosmology Alert

Electron micrograph of bacteriophage virus.

Among weird academic announcements, this blurb came up at the H-Net, "From Here to Eternity: Can Mind Evolve to the Cosmos?" The author, Judy Kay King of North Central Michigan College, is interested in the field of Biosemiotics, the next level of information science. Biosemiotics combines social scientific methodology with Postmodern theory and applies them to biological science, especially reproductive technology. A semiotician searches beyond the mind-matter divide postulated by Cartesian dualism. This is an effort to 'think outside the box,' beyond causal associations between the mental and the physical, between inner and outer meaning.

Biosemioticians apply the intepretive rules of semiotics to biological processes. For example, they suggest that we are mortal because we procreate vertically through sexual intercourse. However, viruses replicate horizontally and that is a key to immortality. How do viruses reproduce and carry DNA messages? In biosemiotics, to turn a phrase, the DNA message is the medium. Do the symbolic configurations that viruses take to replicate horizontally cryptically reappear in ancient religions? Do ancient religions therefore show us the roadmap to immortality? That gets King to replication of life beyond death, to timelessness, gods, and the mind as map for the universe. No wonder her end results point to mythology, mysticism, occult, religion and alien speculation.
"Some scientists believe that viral DNA dispatched from an alien cosmic civilization has been transferred into the DNA of earth’s organisms. In relation to this idea of ancient viral DNA, but not in support of its alien dispatch, a published paper presented at the 34th Annual Meeting (October, 2009) of The Semiotic Society of America (SSA), an interdisciplinary professional organization grounded in the logic of American philosopher and scientist Charles Sanders Peirce, is now available online at no charge at www.isisthesis.com.

In line with the conference theme of the Semiotics of Time, the paper is entitled “Evolution Backward in Time: Crystals, Polyhedra and Observer-Participancy in the Cosmological Models of Peirce, Ancient Egypt and Early China” by SSA member Judy Kay King. The paper supports two major points. First, ancient Egyptian and early Chinese cosmological models lawfully sustain Charles Peirce’s idea on the continuity of mind. Second, the Peircean theme of crystallized mind, the Egyptian transformation of the dead King into a hybrid pyramidal form of millions, and the four-faced ancestral transformation of the early Chinese Yellow Emperor may point to the polyhedral form of an ancient lambdoid virus, suggesting the possibility of afterlife horizontal gene transfer and viral lytic replication (cloning) from here to eternity. The semiotic approach also explores the backward-in-time aspect of quantum observations, as well as the ascent/fall ontological structure of consciousness as framed by Swiss psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger in relation to Heidegger’s thought. Put simply, mind may act as a cosmic unifying force."
How many clones of ancient pre-Christian deities who are infected with alien DNA viruses can you fit on the head of a pin? See more at King's site, The Isis Thesis.

The perspective driving a line of inquiry predetermines its outcome. A biosemiotician preoccupation with the meaning of time sees it as a timeless association of related archetypes, governed by semiotic rules of association, with no apparent reference to the passage of time as part of the equation. No doubt semoiticians see vertical concepts of evolution and history as mechanistic, defined by perception limited by our mortality. If we want to think like gods, if we want to conquer time, we have to act like viruses and think of time horizontally.