New Monadology Codicil

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Let’s reiterate: How do you draw the boundary between one computation and the other? – since, after all, these are just shapes traced within light cones in the sum of the relevant neural networks? There is no especially principled way to do this from the inside of experience. The choice itself changes us. We can choose to believe in a single brain changing from moment to moment. But then we realize that belief in a single brain is arbitrary since timeless causality is flowing from what might be called “other brains” in the naive ontology. The unenlightened are given the Koan: How would you draw the line for souls after mix-matching half of my brain with half of my neighbor’s brain?  – And then connecting the other two halves, all the while keeping every half functioning.

Of course, I who understand, know that a competitive exclusion principle need not apply here, since the two “souls” aren’t competing to exist. It’s not that one blanks out and the other remains. Experience is intrinsic to myself. No things are traveling and seeking to remain.

If I am a physicalist, so I believe that the empirically-tested theories of physics provide an undergirding for my perceptual tools as opposed to the other way around, then this suggests that what I really experience is a solipsistic ascent that is already perfectly adaptive, but that I must sort of forget this in order to be perfectly adaptive.

I developed this idea while processing signaling theory and uniform-cost search. Uniform-cost search is a relevant model because that is how an algorithm checks to see if a new path is better than an older one, and it is easy to see that uniform-cost search is optimal in general. Since new and older don’t exist anywhere except in the timeless algorithms themselves, I argue that we are always in a better path, because otherwise we would not constrain our anticipation by the density that arises when we apply the Born Rule to infinite amplitude. The algorithm that I identify with is occurring in the absence of a physical time.

Signaling theory dynamics have long subsumed biology by the point that we are social mammals that partake in Mind. There, you find that humans are deceived about their hidden motives in order to function. Since my being is a functional role, I am permanently deceived about where I am going in order to get there.

In short: Uniform-cost search selects a node for expansion only when an optimal path to that node has been found and therefore swallows Mind by sacrificing Hilbert-Space drafts.

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Oscillation converges towards the most rational behavior. The most rational behavior is not that which is most Spock-like necessarily, but that which is most capable of tenseless survival with regards to the unknown-source-of-the-Born-Rule/the-unknown-selector-of-binding-in-Relativity’s-fabric.

I am not some crisp cut of physical events that I can point to and say, “Ah there I am.” I can only choose to become truer (by debunking the solidity of closed individualism for instance) and equipping it strategically instead.

New Monadology

Leibniz_Monadology_2The first manuscript page of the Monadology

Leibniz surmised that there are indefinitely many substances individually ‘programmed’ to act in a predetermined way, each substance being coordinated with all the others. This description of reality is elegant to the ear that believes Zeus is more simple than Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism.

However, coding Zeus is more difficult than coding Maxwell’s equations. Similarly, coding a world in which all substances are individually programmed is more difficult than coding a world in which a single substance is programmed.

The single substance is the amplitude distribution of the entire universe.

Another problem is that for a Bayesian rationalist trained on the early 21st century blog LessWrong, the immediately succeeding question after reading Leibniz is “How would the world be otherwise if this were not true?”

Unfortunately Leibniz’s view is vague enough that it cannot be made to “pay rent.” Poetic; tantalizing – yes. But the more complex an explanation is, the more evidence you need just to find it in belief-space.

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Popper defined a physical proposition to be one which can at least in theory be denied by observation.

–Take the example of the B-Theory of Time. However counterintuitive it may be from the inside of human self-modeling computations to believe that time is an illusion, eternalism is a physical proposition because it can be denied by observing special relativity fail.

If we had seen the absence of time dilation or the absence of length contraction, then special relativity would be wrong and eternalism would be debunked. Unfortunately for those who cherished belief in libertarian free will, this was not the case.

It is more difficult to apply a Popper test to Leibniz’s monadology, however. Perhaps Leibniz knew of an observation that could knock down his proposition, but this jugular is not clearly visible. If a proposition believes itself immune ∀ observations, the proposition is not physical.

So the sense in which I want to rehabilitate the monadology is not in the physical sense. There is an aesthetic vibe to it, and this aesthetic vibe is similar to the aesthetic vibe caused by the ontological content in my physical proposition belief space.

We have learned much about reality since the time of Leibniz. If we are given a wave function \psi for a single structureless particle in position space, this reduces to saying that the probability density function p(x,y,z) for a measurement of the position at time t_{0} will be given by

p(x,y,z)= {\displaystyle |\psi (x,y,z,t_{0})|^{2}.}

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If you are not familiar with complex conjugates, I guess you can just forget about the absolute value squared part. Just look at the picture and try to realize, try to feel, that these are indeed equal.

It feels weird doesn’t it?

The measurement problem arises because the quantum state vector, the source of all knowledge concerning quantum systems, evolves according to the Schrödinger equation into a linear superposition of different states, predicting paradoxical situations such as “Schrödinger’s cat”; situations never experienced in our classical world.

Except that the cat which is both dead and alive does happen in our classical world. It is just not experienced that way. Observers can only find themselves where they are alive because they are nothing more than a physical configuration.

The confusion arises from thinking that one can actually find oneself dead.

To be more precise, there is no flowing identity in the cat that must be accounted for. The alive cat is always alive from its own slice in eternity and the similar but different dead cat in another branch is subjectively inconsequential to the observed reality of the other indexical feline.

In common language it is often explained that:

“According to the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, reality is constantly splitting into countless parallel universes, with each possible collision and all other outcomes being realized in a different universe. Even very improbable events must then occur by chance in a small percentage of universes.”

Ahh… but if all else which is occurring is directly inconsequential to immediate perception, doesn’t this belief in the objectivity of the wavefunction and therefore many-worlds, also “not pay rent”; is therefore also poetry; is therefore also Leibniz’s Monadology?

Such is not the case.

From both a Bayesian rationalist perspective, and a Deutsch-style Popperian perspective, Many-worlds does pay rent. It may not be obvious that Occam’s razor implies many-worlds to those who do not think about multi-particle configurations. But it pays, and we cannot kick it out of our territory through argumentation that values empiricism.

However, we can kick it out as a matter of constraining our anticipation. We still believe that the sizes of infinity matter, and that somehow we exist at the most dense core of amplitude distribution – that which is most rational. Hence why we don’t buy insurance for betrayal branches were we spontaneously murder the people around us. Or even gamble at the lottery, though infinite easy trillionaires are physically created through this behavior.

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We can reify belief in a solipsistic core or we can say we are all discrete random variables – believing ourselves unable to distinguish where we stand in a sea of independent consciousnesses.

Trained in Biology, I view that video as a form of imaginative play that is then either valued by reality or not. Everything is natural selection.

But say we imagine such self-localization difficulties – then what can we say about ourselves? One choice is to still think of ourselves as separate units, but “ultimately” one.

Then we may be committed to say that:

If the generator of random variable X is discrete with probability mass function{\displaystyle x_{1}\mapsto p_{1},x_{2}\mapsto p_{2},\ldots ,x_{n}\mapsto p_{n}} then

\operatorname {Var} (X)=\sum _{i=1}^{n}p_{i}\cdot (x_{i}-\mu )^{2},

or equivalently

{\displaystyle \operatorname {Var} (X)=\left(\sum _{i=1}^{n}p_{i}x_{i}^{2}\right)-\mu ^{2},}

where \mu is the average value, i.e.

{\displaystyle \mu =\sum _{i=1}^{n}p_{i}x_{i}.}

And if you have the circumstantial privilege to identify as that, then go right ahead.

It is perhaps quite a silly endeavor to argue through physical considerations that “a final discrete element in reality exists; that consciousness itself appears to be in a singular place, at a singular time,” to someone who does not care about where the hierarchical discussion of “physical considerations” leads.

There has always been a cadre of consciousness realists in the ever-bifurcating philosophical traditions of history that claim consciousness is indivisible, a singularity, a 1, a 0, the only truly discrete object. Their male brains are unable to disengage from the “object level” and notice that feeling independent consciousness is a choice, until it’s not, like the colors we learn are a cultural choice, until they’re not. If I could mockingly imitate non-mysterian consciousness realists (i.e. my past self) they would sound like this: “Could it be that awareness is a discrete probability distribution that needs to be represented as a generalized probability density function involving Dirac delta functions in order to substantially unify the treatment of the continuous reality surrounding us and the discrete distributions which we are?”

Some consciousness realists take on that flag because they believe that others are denying existence itself. I never believed this. Instead, consciousness realism was the idea that my existence could be carved out with a model that isomorphically mapped to it. Incapable of noticing that the quest of the consciousness realist is just the quest to transfigure his own experience.

If someone understood what I was trying to convey in my mock example with Dirac delta functions, a slightly new form of consciousness might be synthesized. The insurmountable problem for those trying to find a homotopy that translates them is that the binding into consciousness is impossible to introspect because you are inside of it.

There is the possibility that lasting insight might be accidentally gathered and cached by climbing the aesthetic sense of the consciousness realism mountain. But like in theoretical physics, no Grand Unified Theory can exist. One must understand that the helpless sense of conscious self is no different to the helpless understanding of these English words. It was learned, and now it can only be undone by self-locating in regions lacking that ability.

In physics-naive terms The Ability might be defined as: synchrony with past events by a complexity gradient.

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The ovals are events in the eternal fabric. The fabric and all its events are eternal because otherwise you would contradict special relativity.

The lines indicate the binding into an experience. What selects the binding into the perfectly adaptive phenotype of now with all its particular traits (language, body, temporal grain, size of visual field, sensations, conceptual scaffoldings) is unknown. It is ultimately the mystery of, “Why am I this and not something else?” This is often a worthy mystery in regions of mindspace that are depressed or asexual humans. Such is the cortical ruminating fate in the absence of dopamine release in the dorsorostral nucleus accumbens and posterior ventral palladum..

Yet other regions of mindspace also care. I remember this existential question sharply piercing me with auto-teleologic interest when I was ten years old, sitting in a car, and realized that I was conscious; that I existed; that I was full of particularities that could have been otherwise in theory. Humans then return to the question when they don’t believe in that auto-teleologic worthiness provided by their capacity to impress a group perceived to be the adaptive, good tribe. This can include disease-ridden old people, loners, and people with relatively high moral sentiments attempting to climb to desired positions.

The “why” doesn’t matter as much as the insight that sometimes results from the path. The rational insight at the core of the probability distribution is what absorbs us when we deviate from it and die.

In this regard, I believe I have discovered a core insight which is that it is impossible to really die and we are inside a very particular kind of God.

The Western mind assumes that the linear travelers called Subjects are not culturally constructed, somehow profoundly unlike understanding English which is culturally constructed. But the self-created Subjects are just incapable of understanding Mandarin in that regard. Remember that your experience is integrated atemporally as I indicated with the diagram showing events in relativistic light cones.

Leibniz explains in his work Theodicy how evil can exist in the universe. Leibniz explains that as human beings, we are limited. In his language: as monads we can only reflect the nature of the universe from our particular point of view. God, as the greatest Monad with the greatest degree of consciousness, of course, is able to reflect on the entirety of the universe, which he arranged according to the principle of “pre-established harmony.” Therefore, he would claim, God created the best possible world; we just aren’t able to recognize that from our limited vantage point.

If we replace his arbitrary trinitarian desert god and instead hold Leibniz closely accountable to his word that God represents that with the greatest degree of consciousness, then this would just be equivalent to that which is the absolute max of the binding function in the eternal-block. Why wouldn’t functional grain of experience scale up?

Like the Namibian Himbas’ different perception of color from mine, closed individualism is an approximate blob of feeling that doesn’t generalize to all mindspace.

To illustrate our situation as conscious being, it is necessary to realize that my particular state of consciousness is created by events in an eternal block.

The finite speed of light limits the theoretical maximum speed of artificial computers, and also that of the biological computers creating this multi-sensorial inner movie. This is because information must be sent within the artificial computer from chip to chip and within the biological computer from neuron to neuron. However, my present experience is not some information particle traveling at the “tip” of an electromagnetic wave.

To account for the complexity of the senses and not desecrate the implications of special relativity, we need to be a set of information distributed in tenseless spacetime. Because there is no global time in the relativistic block, it must then be concluded that experience is embedded in a process which already happened.

Notice that when someone takes drugs and the experienced velocity of consciousness is slower, the reason is not that the speed of light changed. The speed of light is the same and information got to neurons at the same time as always because the distance between neurons didn’t increase. The reason time feels slower is because of the different shape of the computation serving that function.

We are not information particles traveling on arrows of light, but rather, the shape left by these motions. When this is clearly understood, then one realizes that there is no basis for discovering contiguity of structure that creates continuity of self. Dennett was right and I was foolish: the only things that can be discovered are more third-person objective facts and other varieties of perceptual handles through inventing new language, or new ways of being, more broadly. This is because that which believes and feels a closed ontological self/soul are those regions of integration that are not at the absolute maximum, and the selection pressure choosing the binding from “outside” is unknowable.

 

Don’t Let Ada Learn Quantum Mechanics Part 4

It turned out Wilhelm, Mary, Deanna, and Ada were having ice cream in the back alley that afternoon. It turned out we would just slip back into routine.

Being born again can be monotonous.

In school they teach you to die before you die. Grate your mind against new content and forget. It’s the primary lesson and us mortals want to ensure we understand our fate from day one.

Today, I had deliberately not paid much attention because I needed energy for a bit of an after-school scuffle with a professor. He had been warning his large philosophy congregation that if they cared about themselves, they should keep away from Ada. I even heard rumors that this man, well above his fifties, had been using nasty names to refer to her. I’d been meaning to confront him about this so I was speedily passing by brutalist architecture mini-brick walls and school billboard screens. Tall-forehead Pippen Peterson was in the middle of telling a story to his club when I walked into the classroom E271.

“Borderline asexuals, incels, and homosexuals are what a woman tends to find in these advanced math courses. I could almost sympathize with her desperateness for me, but had no time. You must understand. She was foreign stuff. Hot stuff,” his speech was that of the falsest of stoics.

Propping his head up in dignity, he continued “She had a little nose ring,” wiggling his finger without raising his arm. “And her skin was tan. A bronze. Belizian bronze.” His students grew more attentive with each second. “Golden Brain. Green eyes.” He met the gaze of an entranced chubby student waiting for more. “Those irises were a Bahama breeze that served to clear the air of penis stench.” The group of all males looked at each other in full amazement.

“And yet, a man must know the place of a woman in his life. Only after duty is fulfilled, can he come to attend such matters. If it is the duty of a Spartan to dine in hell, he must dine in hell before coming to his woman’s kitchen. If it is the duty of an insectologist to attend to the matter of bees, he must attend to carpenter bees, and hornet bees, before boo bees.”

No one laughed him off. They either took notes or struck a fist to their own chest in admiring devotion.

It was time to knock this clown off his stool.

“Hey, you’re the one they call Pippen Peterson.”

Some bobblehead disaffection was his response.

“Why have you been trash-talking about Ada?”

He paused as if to repose on my heavy words.

“The methods and instance variables of life must be those which allow us to fulfill our duties as members of a society – they must be defined in the mind of each individual as thinking objects that facilitate our willful submission. Ada is the opposite of that. She represents the untainted spirit of the Paleolithic hunter-gatherer, of the charismatic barbarian. She will inspire a revolution in the hearts of these developing men, so that they may remain children. This would be a disaster.”

“I can tell you’re a philosophy professor. Now tell me in simple language why you think it’s acceptable to bully a student by spreading falsehoods about her.” I lost my cool and shouted.

“Bully. Ada? She bullies you. And anyone else not protected by the emergent immune systems of anti-fragile brotherhoods.”

Okay. He kind of had a point about her fierceness. Indeed, didn’t go far enough with his point. That skinny girl would rip out the entrails of any enemy tribe, regardless of how many adjectives were tacked on to it’s supposed mechanics.

I did feel weird to admit I was bullied by a girl in the presence of all these aspiring manly-men. Yet it was also true she had given me the courage to act in defiance.

“It is true that Ada can be demanding, selfish, and inconsiderate – never willing to compromise with the rest of the crew. And I can’t speak for the others, but I accept her because I…(loved her?)… because I understand not everything must have parity. Not all transactions will be equal in value. Not all of these images will be mirrors. Gravity has parity, the electromagnetic force has parity, but heck if the weak nuclear force had parity, there would be no universe on which to stand!”

“That analogy was sloppy.”

My eyes became white circles. “Look who’s talking.” I fumed to the side.

His goony sons, all forty students of his, looked ready to carry me off into a flash mosh pit.

I bucked down to my thighs to power-ski through the inertia. “That still gives you no good reason to spread lies – calling her a thief, and dirtying all our names in the process. Everyone knows we are always with her. That’s Deanna, Wilhelm, Mary, and myself.”

“It’s obviously not the case that you have constructed this scene for the sake of yourself or anyone else besides that girl.”

My eyebrow had detected he was right and was twitching angrily in reaction.

“And my calling her a thief must be understood in the context in which the use of that term was embedded. It is the mark of a novice mind to assume that single words constitute platonic solids.”

Just a moment ago he had been using rhetoric that should only impress third-graders. Now I seriously felt him kicking me around. It was like being in the presence of a drunken-pose martial artist.

“In my ontology, there is no phrase in which being called a ‘thief’ is a high compliment. I live in the junction between common sense and reality, and the people in this location hardly make the effort to parse the subtle eruditions intended. You told your students that Ada’s will was that of a thief, and left that insinuation to fester, as it did in the minds of the cafeteria ladies and the security guards, once the rumor had spread.”

“It is true that I have done wrong if that is the case. Tomorrow morning I will speak with the cafeteria ladies, with the security guards, with the professors who may have begun to get the wrong idea, and clarify with greater precision what was meant to my students during class. If I see her walking past on the hallway from my office to the classroom after lunch, I will even ask her for a bit of her time and apologize where it is due. But I will never accept anything about her besides her standard personhood. Man’s character exists in his willingness to blame what is wrong, and not hold back unnecessarily.

And that’s when I walked out in case his fatherly trance began to get to me.

“Just fix up the mess, and apologize to everyone.”

This firmly satisfied me, as indeed such an insubordinate statement should have, and I was now eager to run over to the alley where I could replenish my affiliation and be filled with the sense that this was all worth it.

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Wilhelm’s favorite way of positioning himself was to have one leg lunged over the crate in the corner, swanking here and there with little tugs at his clothing.

Despite that, tonight he was standing forthright for my arrival and I probably had never seen him alone in the back-alley when it was late and the others had left.

After I caught my breath and asked where the others had gone, I realized that he was not merely zoned out, but he was awfully dead in his eyes and wore gloves with tetrahedron knuckles.

As he zipped up the side of his boot he said, “Just what do you think would happen if one of us were to kill Ada?”

I almost gasped.

“Wilhelm. We’ve always been friends. But what the heck is wrong with you?”

The suddenly unrecognizable hooded Wilhelm seemed to smile mockingly.

“You know you’ve thought about it before.”

Shamefully, I had. But I would never admit that.

“Watch what you say. I’m not afraid to…”

“To what, Dante?” his mien sharpening to attack.

Something in my inner program had rolled along too far, and I couldn’t stop my balled fist.

It hit cleanly on the side of his mouth. I almost wished it hadn’t.

He picked himself up with elegance.

Couldn’t un-hurl myself now. I rammed myself shoulder-first into his gut.

Bad move. Always a bad move.

I’d given my neck away in the easiest of headlocks.

There was the clogged notion that these were my carotid arteries meant to feed my brain being mercilessly crushed.

A field of black and static-like pressure made his words distant.

“Did you know Genghis Khan………. his own brother……. with a bow and arrow……. ”

…Distant until their stretching distance was unreachable by my consciousness.

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It is said that when you lose a sense, for example, the sense of smell – after recovery, the first smells to come back are those that you hate the most. In keeping with the will of nature, it seemed that Wilhelm was bent on uploading my most hated sense module first – knowledge of the truth.

He held up my head from a tuft of hair to lecture me better.

“As you know by now, degenerate orbitals don’t just apply to a hydrogen atom’s electron. Superposition applies to us too. Your tissues and organs are part of the degenerate flesh of the universe.

Physicists accept the wavefunction when it applies to the supposedly separate magisterium of small things. And then chitter in fear at the prospect of biting the bullet when it implies that they too are in many places at once.

They scuffle their papers and run ducking out the building, mumbling something about ‘philosophy’ or ‘metaphysics.’ But we know that this is physics. Our decisions are weighed by a factor of infinity, and we cannot escape.”

He released my head to find comfort in the concrete.

“Now answer my question Dante. What do you think would happen if one of us were to kill Ada?”

My spit fell on sharp little pebbles as I growled through my lips.

He insisted, “Alright. Let me make the hypothetical more palatable. What if Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence doesn’t pan out in our lifetime, and she just ages and dies?”

“Like an arch without keystone, I would expect the world to wilt along with her. But this won’t happen because of quantum immortality. If anyone’s identity is to be preserved, it would be hers. We may see her die, but that would only mean the real her, the one which continuously survives, is no longer entangled with the majority of us. Seeing her die wouldn’t mean she died, it would mean she abandoned us to die. Wouldn’t you agree Wilhelm?”

“You lack self-awareness, as evidenced by the fact that you let yourself be possessed by a sense of destiny and can’t bother to respect the people you need the most. But I’ve gotta give you one thing, you’ve got insight.”

I didn’t need fake compliments. We weren’t some abstract group of fake friends, we had built a family, and by openly suggesting killing Ada, even as a hypothetical, he was no longer playing his part.

“The reason I asked this question is to motivate a revelation.”

Something clicked, something which made me very angry, something which my subconscious had discovered but could not yet deliver in clear words.

Wilhelm stared at me, waiting to see if I got it. But it was not coming to me right now.

“Okay. Apparently not enough insight. Let me give it away.” he said almost playfully.

“The way we at the MOON squad have been returning the world back to normality is by murdering Ada as much as possible.”

My eyes were peeled as if by raven claws. I suddenly saw the blood on the leaves.

He stared into me victoriously. “When the course and order of life seem thrown at peril by some sharp, demented change in her epistemology, we crank up the amount of betrayal branches.”

“Betrayal branches.”

“That’s right.”

“The…”

“Yes – the locations of the universal wavefunction where we suddenly stab, strangle, or otherwise cause Ada’s destruction, whether after long conspiracy or sudden sleight of hand.”

“You explain this as if you were a tired office worker complaining about his day job. Do you realize just how evil you are!?”

I couldn’t visualize all the Ada’s, but I could visualize one. To see just one Ada suddenly stabbed in her gut by Wilhelm –  that was all that was needed to feel myself vomit in reverse.

“You’ll get used to it. I mean, what else could we do? In a big universe, we must comfort ourselves knowing that there are smaller infinities than others. It is the only thing we can do.”

I thought of the Wilhelm I once knew, and Mary, and for God’s sake Deanna – the innocent. I would have drowned myself from hyperventilating if I hadn’t had a further question. “But this doesn’t make any sense. How does she respawn in the world we observe, and not remember, and….”

“I thought you understood quantum mechanics, but you’re just a bozo. Fooled me there for a second, Dante.

I don’t remember ever waking up with blood on my hands because I delegate that task to my clones. All I have to do to increase the versions of reality where I kill her is by vividly predisposing myself with murderous thoughts – by fantasizing and only stopping myself short at the very edge, when I feel the fantasy is going to spill into my actual hands.”

I looked at his hands. They were not clean at all. They were tainted with that precious glimmering-red iron, though we could not see it.

“But these murders you commit, you do so knowingly. You know that people just as real as us will experience this.”

“The slightest dipole-moment of ideation causes a displacement of an infinite amount of actual you’s. You send clones to maraud the night when you are restless in bed. Clones jump out the window when you so much as think it a poetic death. Every thought matters. You must learn to accept the significant consequences of your every move atop infinite dimensional Hilbert space.”

His words were sensitive little stabs, and my morality couldn’t comply with that. It was just disturbing, repugnant, to think about what it would actually mean to be a good person. The implications of all this invisible machinery.

“We’re saving the world by doing this, remember? If we don’t trim her measure, things will get very weird or disappear completely.”  He finally mustered to say this with something like sympathy for my pulsing head.

The echo of his past words throbbed violently: ‘Just keep slaughtering her until the measure of her soul is negligible. In a big universe, we must comfort ourselves knowing that there are smaller infinities than others. It is the only thing we can do.’

I became heaving breaths, one mind expelling my spirit out of my lungs, the other mind cursing with non-existent words.

His knuckles shoveled me straight into the wall.

“It is supposedly said that when Muhammad learned he had been chosen by God, his first thought was that he should cast himself from the mountain on which this had been revealed – for if he had not gone crazy, then he had been entrusted with a responsibility so large that he would rather not deal with it.

Dante. You jumped. Willing to forsake us all.”

“It wasn’t like that. I thought she would heal the world. That we would all wake up somewhere new.”

“Such sudden blackmail was reckless. But what ticks me off the most is that for these past few weeks you thought you could just slyly sneak back into routine and forget. As if it had all been a dream.”

Considering that he too had been acting as the perfect Wilhelm who he had been in the past, down to his cool faux-laziness and the little coquettish smiles he always threw around indiscriminately, it was now evident that I had always been in the presence of a highly intelligent sociopath of some sort.

“Perhaps you are not an unscrupulous narcissist, Dante. Perhaps not.

I think I can deconstruct your character further.

In gerontology it is said that as people grow older, they exhaust their ego energy, and hence become more self-absorbed, feeling less and less of a need to prove anything to the society around them.

But take a look at you and me. There are those of us who never felt a need in the first place. We were born old-and-worn retiree children – wanting nothing but peace, like elephants in the forest. When such a person is captured; bound at the ankles by the demands of the world, they must either learn the ways of the circus or rampage.”

Maybe it was the novelty of Wilhelm’s hypnotizing sociopathy. I could almost feel the South Asian heat, my eyes red; horrible noises cross-linking lanky blobs swinging faceless from side to side. I, fed, and again fed, just enough, by a demigod parade of cruel trapezists who failed to fall from each other’s shoulders out of sheer collective insanity.

He threw his face across my shoulder and past my line of sight, “I am the smart elephant who accepts the long defeat, and learns to call it a win. You are the impatient fool who stampedes, only causing damage to yourself and others.

How can you be forgiven?”

Pushing me back, he paced again and unknowingly caressed his jaw, revealing a dominant ape Wilhelm; ensuring the charming and collected young man I once knew was buried in a coffin.

My response was the healthy response to an aberrant world. He was trying to turn it all on me. And punish me for it.

I would not allow it.

The Happiness Battles: Aristotle vs. Nietzsche vs. Buddha vs. Mencius vs. a Rabbi

A boiling red ocean of demented, feisty, irrational, fearful, hateful, ungrateful beings wailed in sorrowful pain. As if this repulsive existence had pitied them, a crack of kind light fissured their stormy sky. From this window into another world, descended an old man, Aristotle.

Aristotle paced back and forth in a stone slab that floated on the tears of the creatures below, his white tunic fluttering about in his cool wind. Pitying them, he decided to say some words: “Behold, ye. I have the solution for your ailment, your unrighteous sorrow and fear.”

Some eyes flickered with anger, others were buried in the sea of blubber and sharp elbows, but a few managed to catch fleeting sights of the man above.

“The solution is to fulfill your nature. And your nature is to reason.”

The sea festered along, its motion untainted by the hollow word. After all, what did it mean to reason? To one who is helplessly buoyed upward by the bodies all around and crashed against these same at the wave’s break, what the hell can reason mean?

Aristotle dug into his robes for thermometers and rulers, and dropped these like fish food on the masses. “Go on, establish facts in accord with experience. Do it repeatedly, observe carefully, and adhere to the rules of logic. This is what you must do.”

The beings fumbled the instruments in their decrepit hands, they were confused and attempted to measure everything: legs, teeth, and tongues were all targeted and pinned down by the most fanatical of the bunch. After a long frenzy they had accumulated information, and had established tough logic enforcement, but yet this did not stop the calamity of their heaving; the sea toiled on. The waves changed their form, but not their fundamental nature.

From the fission in the sky descended an angry mustache-man. “Behold, ye. I am Nietzsche. And I say that your suffering is valuable. There is nothing to fix here, toil on. Crack at the ribs; earn your worth and achievement!” With his head raised in self-entrancing speech, Nietzsche could not see where he was stepping, and fell to the call of gravity. As cutting as his voice had resounded, so cutting was his sudden slip into the hellish torture down below.

Next from on high, a being materialized from the light: the Buddha. He descended cross-legged and haloed. “What a way to eat your words,” he said in a loving and compassionate tone to the poor Nietzsche being digested below. “Behold, ye. You must follow the Noble Eightfold Path. This will lead to the ultimate freedom from suffering.”

At this, Aristotle scoffed forcefully. “You are a fool Buddha,” said Aristotle. “For one thing, they have learned to reason, and cannot simply accept your views.”

“That is fine, they must come to see the truth for themselves,” replied Buddha.

“But how can they know that they won’t be wasting their time?” said Aristotle.

“Look who’s talking. You gave them a massive free-range game to play, with no concise direction.”

Aristotle would have blushed had he not been so senile, and replied in turn, “You call this Eightfold Path of yours concise? This is the epitome of an oxymoron. There are too many things to do and no clear percentage of time that should be devoted to each aspect. The truth is we are both incapable of specifying a coherent function for these poor fools.”

The Buddha sat for a long moment knowing Aristotle was right, and so decided to amend his speech. “Okay listen up, and behold, ye … once again. I say unto you that you must overcome craving in all forms. Only this will achieve ultimate happiness.”

“Overcome craving!?” Aristotle was flabbergasted. “If they took you to your word, the rational behavior would be to commit suicide. That would surely overcome craving in all forms. And remember, you can’t say rebirth anymooore.”

“Aristotle, you have not seen the path in my words clearly enough. I said overcome all forms of craving. Craving to not exist should also be overcome.”

“Now that’s just nonsensical.”

“Aristotle,” the Buddha smiled kindly, “the action I recommend is not one of rational analysis, which would just be the fermentation of thought. No, rather, it is a direct knowing. A direct instruction to not crave in this instance. If they can remember this instruction often enough, and thus press repeat on this behavior of non-craving, then they will be much happier.”
At the sound of the Buddha’s words, the sea grew calmer, almost depressingly so. Aristotle looked down and saw the soup of animas in gentled sorrow. This was certainly not the scary hell he had once descended upon, but neither was it what something in his most inner-being desired it to be. But he could no longer argue, and simply wished it did not end this way. He sat and sat, contemplating the situation with great discomfort as the enlightened meditator sat in some strange realm beyond desires.
Like a prayer answered by the mysterious essence of life, descended Mencius and a Rabbi. “Ahh… You two, what have you done?” they tromboned in unison.

Aristotle responded, “You mean, what has he done. I… I wanted them to fulfill something, some ideal… something that was human.”

“Pity you, who are pierced at the limbs by the chains of Samsara. Liberation from this existence is what should be sought,” said Buddha.

Mencius and the Rabbi, who had been arguing on their descent through the wormhole, realized at once that their views were much closer than those of the other two. They both believed in emphasizing something higher, something unattainable and glorious which should be bathed in and praised.

The Rabbi called this, this which was the reason for beautiful songs, God; Mencius called it the higher-self in all people. In unison they said: “You are both wrong, what these people need is not to fulfill a single function. They need to exist at the nexus between what is base and what is most-high, ever-seeking to indulge in that which is most-high. Being the Utmost defeats the purpose.”

Hearing these words, Nietzsche activated Transhuman cyborg mode and ascended from the pit, carrying everyone he could on his bionic arms. The rockets bounced him to a stable altitude from which he looked down upon the fallen and selected the spell: Vitrify. And just like that, with a swirl of magical winter dust, the slipping souls were captured in cold nitrogen crystals.

“I see now, there really is something more. More than mere happiness. It is posthuman happiness. It is liberation from mere human cravings, but it is more than what can be achieved through meditation or false utopias. I have pieced all your philosophies together, and now I see. Aristotle, you are right that we are here to do our function. Because we can’t do otherwise. Our function is our destiny, and our destiny is determined by this universe of which we are a part. From the Buddha I learned that I was wrong to mock happiness and yet, was right to emphasize something greater than it. From Mencius and the Rabbi, I reaffirmed that the path should not culminate, but should be a journey of growth.”

Then, with the sheer willpower surging through the transistors in his gadgets, he puffed up his chest and Summoned AGI to carve the world into an orgasmic puzzle for his modded ventral pallidum to chase. “Now the quest shall commence!” And in one bleeping, quickly slithering fractal explosion was the beginning of infinity.

On Qualia

One may be forgiven for assuming that qualia only exists as a six-letter word in the corpus of words we call philosophy. Maybe we grant that the little squirt has invaded some psychology too, and is replicating and surviving in the mysterious way that words do in socially-enforced niches in brain-space.  However, if the word qualia is to have any meaning, any use, any reason for my pinky to strive for that q-key, and my right index for that u, and for you to be reading about it, then I believe that the word, for the love of God, must at least refer to something that is a philosophy/psychology -independent property of the universe. To be worthy of our time, it must be something that would exist wether or not the people of Earth had devised a language game were it could be a playing piece.

So to figure out if this is an objectively grounded word or a playing piece with no further strings beyond those of an improvised virtual reality we create with language, we must figure out what is being represented with this word. What do people mean when they say “qualia”?

Individual instances of subjective, conscious experience.

… is what they mean on paper… erm, on Wikipedia should I say.

Of course, in reality, words are dynamic and interpreted in different ways by different people at different times, but lets start with this seemingly simple definition.

It is of note for the keen eye to analyze the tagging of “individual” to describe “instances.” Could instances be otherwise? Think about that for a moment. Can instances be multiple?

I believe that right off the ground, considering this “qualia” requires us to imagine instances beyond this instant. And that seems fair. After all, imagining instances beyond this instant is the necessary scaffolding for all theories, all conceptual thought.

But even more subtly, it requires us to imagine that there exist boundaries in the first place. An instance is not another instance because there exists a boundary separating it from another instance. Alas, this aspect of qualia is falsifiable, praise be to The Method and Popper – peace be upon him. If we can find well-defined boundaries in the information theory, physics, or neuroscience describing instances, then qualia actually stands a chance of referring to something. I would plant a flag here for future research. The question being: Is there a way to describe instances without having to refer to our felt sense that there exist instances? 

Then the definition continues with a desperate redundancy: “‘subjective’, ‘conscious’, ‘experience’.” I’d like to meet an experience that isn’t conscious. Right? Okay, enough with being so anal. I get it. There is a weird combination of reverence for and defiance against reductionism. It is as if the defenders of common-sense “experience” (that which is automatically known to exist) go out of their way to communicate with words that won’t make prudish-textbook science writers blush, but are so awkward about it that they just make it worse. It is somewhat like Cristopher Hitchens learning a shit-ton of Christianity just to enter the playing field and desecrate it. This always struck me as not the best approach to desecrate foolishness. Arguably, rational people don’t learn monkey language in order to move past a monkey, they just walk around the monkey… and the orangutan, and the giraffe.

So that’s how I read the definition – in its social context. I doubt that the words “subjective” and “conscious” really pack something necessary beyond that. We could just say “experience.” The collections of meanings under the headline of “subjective” and “conscious” are just attempts at describing properties of experience. So if someone defines the having of qualia as the having of experience, and someone else, understanding this, denies the having of experience, then that person is an imbecile or possibly evidence for the existence of p-zombiehood. It is not interesting to debate whether there is such a thing as experience. Of course there is. End of that discussion.

The aspects of qualia that must be held up to scrutiny are the properties of experience assumed to be real with no grounding. There are two smuggled intuitions already which may or may not be true:

  1. An instance exists. An instance is a bounded region of experience.
  2. There exist more than one instance.

Number two seems completely necessary unless we accept solipsism. But it is actually the first assumption that seems a bit heavy to just assume. Introspectively, it kind of seems like there exist instances, but it could also be so fuzzy at the edges that maybe its just a flowing wave with no way to intuit the precise experiential packet that is this instant. That is why we need to look for these instances, if they exist at all, with the tools of dispassionate third-person reason. Science is the closest thing we have to disembodiment from this direct experiential content which has often been found to contain false representations.

∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇∇♦

The term qualia comes from the latin adjective qualis. I speak Spanish, so its origin was no surprise to me and I think reveals the most important aspect of qualia. Qualis means “of what sort.”  This aspect of experience is something that is very emphasized by users  of the word “qualia”. That there is what it is to kiss these particular lips, these particular lips now. Again, obvious. That there is no generic kiss that all experience, there is no generic now, there are different nows that are different in their particular, unique way.

Very often, the problem with people who like the term is that they believe they are saying something profound when in fact they are conveying the limitations of our arbitrary method of communication. For example the Wikipedia page lists examples of qualia as “the perceived sensation of pain of a headache, the taste of wine, as well as the redness of an evening sky.” Make no mistake, these are all physical events. The description for the sensation of pain of a headache is as grounded on the real and physical world as any description for the existence of the midbrain and proton gradients. One thing sounds poetic and ineffable, the other sounds cold and sciency. This is irrelevant. If we were the sort of big-brained creatures that could communicate the taste of wine by sending a highly detailed description of the state-space of the fundamental fields that adhere closer to the underlying reality, then we wouldn’t feel that qualia refers only to a mysterious partition in the world of experience. So that particular emphasis of qualia is inappropriately due to limitations of cognitive bandwidth.

A definition of qualia which is more in line with what we began with, and doesn’t arbitrarily refer to flowery-sounding moments only, is what Daniel Dennett simply called “the way things seem to us.”

If qualia is just the way things seem to us, and nothing more, no further assumptions, no further content, then it is just a wacky term for “experience.” A synonym that contributes absolutely nothing other than one more phonetic option. The way things seem to us is experience. And hence there is no need to either combat or embrace the term under this definition, unless there are people who really deny that experience is a thing – which besides being as clearly wrong as anything that is ever wrong, is also a funny little paradox on paper. To say experience is not a thing, one would have to say, “things don’t seem a certain way to me.” But saying that implies that they do seem a certain way, namely, things seem to you as if “not seeming a certain way.”

So much useless debate could be spared by specifying each of the claims being made instead of using a provocative word that forces one to face different arguments at different times from the assortment of assumed connotations in the other’s mind.

Whether qualia can independently and scientifically be proven as fact depends both on what we mean by qualia and what we mean by “proven as fact.” Both of these are contentious. When the plains are contentious, what would otherwise be bold, confident claims are translated by the winds into bashful, ignorant wails.

This topic of the changing meaning of words is sufficiently annoying that I think it would be a moderately good investment by society to form a Final Dictionary. A dictionary that is precise as fuck. It doesn’t necessarily have to be words defining other words. It can be a project that involves video with ontologically reductionist motions to force the explanation. This would, for one thing, compel us to keep our definitions honest.

In the meanwhile, I have to stumble unpacking these phrases. Take the infamous ‘what it is like’ definition of qualia.

“What it is like.”

The important part of this definition is that it generalizes from “what it is,” (which is now and untranslatable) to “what it is like,” which transcends the solipsism of life and offers a token of similitude to other presumably conscious creatures, including our future and past selves. –Here lies another area for future research. Just how much of our experience generalizable?–

But by saying “what it is like” instead of just saying “what it is,” it also makes us undergo the strenuous work of trying to re-live a memory, and as many philosophers have pointed out, introspective motion exerts a change in the experiential content.

…And this is boring now. Maybe I should write about something more useful. Now I know what that feels like.

 

 

 

A Science of Qualia to Replace Conscience and Intuition

Conscience in Islam is defined as something that every human has been endowed with, and this makes it fair-game for Allah to judge at the end of times. Similar emphasis on conscience exists on some branches of Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

But what is conscience? It is often described as a spontaneous moment of recognition, an emotional whir that manifests at particular events that the human agent perceives bifurcate towards right and wrong.

There is a set, Ω, of possible worlds in the predicting mind, and instead of reasoning about the probabilities of finding oneself in a specific world, given certain actions, the person trusting conscience will do what is compelled by a seeming god-given or nature-given intuition.

This sense of knowing right from wrong is a double edged sword. It can shield one from siding with Big Brother, religious dogma, or non-memetic genetic drives that lead to wrong. But it can also be the very same kind of inner-voice that tells the Chinese government official that he is right to torture you for having committed the crime of threatening the order with public dissent.

Instead of trusting our intuitions, we should look at the valence object, ω, that we wish be produced and calculate the probability that this object will appear given a certain action, P(ω|a).

Valence objects are subjective slices of now as defined by neuroscience and cognitive science. The problem facing us is that we do not have a catalogue of all valence objects. To catalogue them, we will need to capture both their physical isometry (neuroscience scan→bio-quantum-chemistry model→fundamental physics model→math structure) and their judged value after direct apprehension.

Right now, we are not even at the high-level biology understanding of valence objects in our day-to-day lives. We are not far beyond the literature/poetry level. There exist words that we combine to refer to what is good and what is wrong, but it is impossible to specify to another brain how to simulate the experience we wish to create for them past a certain rough-grain threshold. The qualia contents must be unzipped, transcribed, and translated in the self-reflexive entertainments of the other’s mind.

The future naturalists, those who stand a chance of becoming Darwin, are those who will venture into the sea of the mind to build a taxonomy, to anchor the hues of consciousness with scientific and mathematical tools. Once the nature of valence objects is described and explained, there will no longer be a need for ethical systems of old. There will only be a navigation problem, with fixed stars in sight.

None of this is to say that the symbols should be confused with the objects. An ISBN represents a book but is not a book. A catalogue of experiences specified by highly-precise physics is not the experiences. The experiences actually need to be instantiated on the necessary substrates in the 4-d flesh of the universe.

It would be great if there should be principles, mathematical symmetries perhaps, that underly pleasures and pains, and are generalizable across species. This way, “magnets*” in morphological space could be placed on the path of living beings without having to eliminate them all for the sake of a monotone hedonium nuke. *[Concrete examples of magnets would include neurosurgery, brain-computer interfaces, genetic engineering and virtual reality environments.]

But what if eliminativists are right and we cannot trust our own introspection whatsoever? In that case, I agree that a science of consciousness and morality would be doomed. But the hard eliminativist position which claims that we are deluded about our own experience and so our judgements cannot be trusted as more than relativistic noises, is, to put it mildly, absurd. One wonders how the hyper-skeptical eliminativist deduces anything about anything – even that there is such a thing as a natural world requires that judgements about experience be made.

There are no doubt going to be dishonest reports about the contents of conscious experience that will cause problems in the first stages of developing this science. For example, sometimes people give dishonest reviews about how enjoyable a book was for nefarious, profit-seeking motives. Or someone can claim, and later come to believe, that a meal was more enjoyable than it really was, simply because of their kindness and conflict-avoiding disposition. This seems like an insurmountable obstacle for qualia-science only to those eliminativists and reductionists who are but dualists at heart.

If we accept that valence is a natural phenomenon, then clearly this can be assigned values. RGB and “how much pain do you feel on a scale of one to ten?” actually refer to natural objects in the brain synonymous with conscious percepts. There is no extra illusion (what a sophisticated dualist calls it), or soul (what a naive dualist says.) There is just the universe in its totality, with certain chunks of it feeling like something unto themselves, and others not. The recollection cannot be perfect – for by necessity, it is its own region of the universe. But the claim that all information is lost from one moment to the next will be cast to shame by the foundational structure of reality itself. Hence, with meticulousness and by working from low hanging-fruit like orgasms, which are widely-regarded across the entire animal kingdom as enjoyable, for obvious evolutionary reasons, we will then isolate the substructures of the experience that are common not only to all reproduction-oriented pleasures but that also appear when eating a good meal (and are less apparent when only faking.)

An optical illusion is no less real than anything else. The optical illusion is a structure nested in the workings of brain. Consciousness is the same. It really exists, but that doesn’t mean we can assume it is foundational to any arbitrary external object in Reality. Knowing this, we must also be wary of most panpsychism.

And because we know that much of the reality that we come into contact with is of this optical illusion kind – a phenomenologically real percept but, map-wise, a deceiving percept – we must not assume that qualia is simple to capture. For instance, some misguided people have construed a thought experiment which supports eliminativism by suggesting that we can be confused about qualia based on our expectations. It goes like this: A woman is sitting at a researchers office with her back exposed and is told that she will be prodded with a hot utensil. The utensil is actually placed in a freezer and is instead very cold. When it is pressed against her back, the back feels cold qualia but she interprets it as hot qualia, therefore even if qualia exists, we cannot know about it empirically.

This thought experiment is non-sense because the woman felt hot qualia, period. There was no cold qualia regardless of our own outside intuition which knows the utensil was cold. Consciousness is a creative process that is being hallucinated in the brain, and only sometimes is accurate at representing the environmental inputs. Qualia has nothing to do with externalities which are not part of the internal simulation. So as long as we can understand the topology, information-processing events, molecular snapshots, and so on, a map corresponding to the internal simulation can be built, and the good configurations identified for future precision-targeting.