Tuesday, 2 July 2019

More Than An Algorithm

Since the late 1990s, when the internet moved from government laboratories into homes and offices around the world, people began to believe that algorithms are all-powerful, the source of intelligence. After all, algorithms made billions of dollars for companies and helped create entire new industries. That idea is even more prevalent today with artificial intelligent algorithms powering devices that we can talk to, like Siri and Alexa, and even drive cars, like Tesla. There are those who suggest that you and I are nothing more than a lump of algorithm-driven meat. But, not so fast. In More Than An Algorithm, Antonin Tuynman takes the reader on a mind-spinning, often contrarian trip into the heart of the argument that algorithms are the sole — or soul — source of intelligence. Tuynman is unafraid of taking on the heavyweights of science — like quantum physicist David Deutsch — to put forth his own ontology that mixes modern technology with ancient spiritual wisdom. This is a must-read, must-ponder books as our society finds itself making a monumental shift into the future that even the most fertile imaginations will struggle to comprehend. Tuynman makes a worthy guide for this trip into the future.” -Matt Swayne, Science Writer
Recently my book “More than An Algorithm” was published by Ecstadelic Media. This book is the sequel to my previous book “Is Intelligence an Algorithm?
In this article I will share with you my blurb and the foreword written by Alex M. Vikoulov, author of “The Syntellect Hypothesis”.

Blurb

Do we have a free will or do all our actions routinely unwind as a chemical watch? Are we merely fooled by the jester of our consciousness to believe that we are in charge? How do we reschedule and repurpose when Fortuna’s unforeseen circumstances present themselves? Is everything mere computation or do even computers fail to compute? If you wish to dive deeper into these questions left open by my previous volume “Is Intelligence an Algorithm?”, then this is the book for you.
Let me invite you to the musings of master algorithms, brain fractals and Chinese rooms. Allow me to make you question the validity of the multiple worlds interpretation, allow me to seduce you with Eris’ apple of the paradoxical idealistic panpsychism and allow me to show you the parallels between the codes of evolution and the routines of the human mind. Let’s dive in the intuitive dimensions of Archimedes’ Eureka! Let’s descend into the rigid mechanics of the mental Tartaros, calcinate our prejudices and rise from the ashes of our Chrysopoeia as a Phoenix enlightened with the knowledge that we can be more than an Algorithm.

Foreword by A.M.Vikoulov

As a little kid I remember hearing from my father all kinds of stories sort of like this one: A father wanted to test the intelligence of his two sons. He assigned to each of them the task of looking after a cherry tree, and promised to reward the boy whose tree would yield the best berry when harvested.
​One of the boys saw that the leaves were withering off and flowers were coming out at the end of the branches. So, he decided to carefully water every leaf and every flower. The tree withered still more and eventually died.

The smarter boy, on the other hand, went on watering the root; the tree stayed green and healthy and yielded an abundant harvest of delicious cherries.

My father who was very good at teaching (no wonder, he was an instructor at a technology college early in his career) taught me to always look beyond the apparent, to always try to start with the bigger picture and work out the details as you go along, locate the source or reason of any challenging situation or find some other invisible root cause in order to better comprehend a task at hand. “We learn throughout our lives, son,” my dad used to say, “the faster you learn, the better.”
​The essence of intelligence is learning and applying the acquired knowledge to achieve complex goals. The age of intelligence augmentation is upon us, which makes the present book even more compelling to obtain and study, especially for experts working in the field of cognitive science, neuroengineering, and artificial intelligence.
This short book can be read not only as a supplement to the previously published volume “Is Intelligence an Algorithm?”, but also as an academic treatise or a long essay in its own right perhaps with an alternative title: Is Intelligence More Than An Algorithm?: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Tackle The Paradoxes of Learning and Intelligence.
Throughout human history we’ve seen a gradual appreciation of the premium for intelligence up to a point sometime perhaps in our own future where most, if not all, physical attributes might simply fade away in comparison.
One of the earliest furors on the premium for intelligence well may be an ancient Indian chess folk tale. The tradition of serving Paal Paysam made of rice to visiting pilgrims started after one legendary game of chess. The story goes somewhat like this: The local king was a well-known chess enthusiast, and welcomed anyone who could be a worthy opponent. So, one day a travelling sage appeared on the doorsteps of his palace and challenged him to play the game of chess.
The king offered any reward that the sage could name. Humbly, the sage asked for a single grain of rice to put on the first chess square and double it on every consequent one, if he wins. King agreed to this and the game began. Having lost the game and being a man of his word the king ordered a bag of rice to be brought to the chess board.
The king started placing the grains according the reward arrangement quickly realizing that he would be unable to fulfill his promise because on the nineteenth square he would have had to come up with 1,000,000 grains of rice. And, finally on the sixty fourth square the king would have had to put more than 18x10¹⁶ grains of rice which equates to untold trillions of tons of rice!
It was at that point that the sage revealed himself as Krishna and told him that he doesn’t have to pay the debt right away but can do that over time. That is why to this day visiting pilgrims are still feasting on Paal Paysam and the king’s debt to Krishna is still being repaid.
This parable demonstrates an immense power of exponential growth present in our today’s information technologies but as intended here — the premium for intelligence — it seems that the King of Ambalapuzzha will never be able to pay off his debt in full to Krishna.
So, how can we define intelligence? And why is it more than an algorithm? I don’t mean to oversimplify what Dr. Tuynman has to say in the present book and I can’t agree with him more — intelligence is more than an algorithm — it is a meta-algorithm, more specifically meta-algorithmic information processing with certain emergent properties like network effects and conscious awareness in us human beings.
When we think of algorithms, step-by-step information processing, we think of machines and mechanisms. When we think of meta-algorithms, layered feedback-driven complexity and metabolic activity, we think of organisms. In this treatise, Dr. Tuynman seems to counter the Computational Hypothesis (at least the most straightforward version of it) according to which organic algorithms are our neural codes, i.e. “software of the mind.” But what if we can expand the Computational Hypothesis in order to reverse engineer our human intelligence and self-awareness?

In this sense, a claim that I submit to you in my recent book The Syntellect Hypothesis, organismic intelligence, this meta-algorithmic information processing, is what can be rightly viewed as consciousness, i.e. our conscious awareness. Viewed in this way, consciousness turns out what information processing feels like to a conscious “computing” mind.

Dr. Tuynman in “More than an Algorithm” puts it slightly in different words but essentially he means the same: Finding the right algorithms and subroutines to follow, applying optimization, performing analysis, executing [careful] pruning, and finally synthesis constitutes a holistic, streamlined process to us as intelligent agents. But the devil is in the details, they say, so I can attest to you that you’ll find plenty of insights and surprises as you read along this extraordinary volume.

Dedicating an entire chapter to it, Dr. Tuynman seems to be enamored with Tsang’s “The Fractal Brain Theory”(and so am I) which posits, as its name implies, that the brain has a fractal structure on many genetic and abstract cognitive levels. It employs a combination of forward chaining and backward chaining, just like certain types of heuristics in artificial intelligence. The author makes a special emphasis on mapping as the unifying process underlying all natural processes and recursive self-modification.

Dr. Tuynman warns us that human intelligence cannot be simply reduced to underlying algorithms since consciousness itself is what should be considered a truly “ontological primitive” with qubits/bits of information as reality’s building blocks. Attributes of intelligence of a human species should include but be not limited to: higher-order abstract thinking, intuition, imagination, creativity, and finally wisdom, even though they haven’t been formally recognized as types of intelligence. Intuition may be one of the highest forms of intelligence, according to some psychologists. To others, imagination.

Tuynman shows to us that Nature’s fluidity of intelligence is due to its syntactical underpinnings: Nature is neither fully deterministic nor fully random. Rather, Nature uses her own language based on various codes from clearly defined genetic codes to immaterial neural codes to less obvious societal ones. Intelligence evolves and its evolution appears to be linguistic, or a code-theoretic teleological process. The philosopher gives us his definition of this Telos (in Greek, “purpose”): Nature purposefully organizes itself, so clearly it is not random.

Demystifying a curious and ever-present phenomenon of emergence to the best of our current understanding, Dr. Tuynman shows that both Nature and Mind interact as many experiencers to become one again, at a higher meta-system level. Or, as I put it, alternating from pluralities to singularities, and from singularities back to pluralities, creative singular consciousness expressing itself throughout the [virtual] multiverse.

God becomes intelligible through this Nature’s phenomenon of emergence: Universal consciousness is said to emerge somewhere ahead of us in space-time, however, IT transcends our conventional dimensionality and is already here within each of us. This also implies that all information is integrated at one level; all our individuated experiences are simultaneously observed from a higher level and integrated in a single experiential self — the Overmind — there’s really One Mind, the one we all share, a philosophical worldview known as ‘Idealism’.

Is reality entirely mechanistical, as proponents of determinism would claim? Or, is it teleological? Just by looking at accelerating complexification of the Universe of which we are an integral part, we can conclude that we are not subjected to a random walk of evolution, nor are we subjected to a deterministic script of Nature, the truth lies somewhere in between — we are part of teleological evolution.

In the book you’ll encounter some hefty dose of healthy criticism of quantum computing pioneer David Deutsch’s ideas on quantum determinism stemming from Many-Worlds Interpretation. And I wholeheartedly support that criticism.

In the chapter on free will, we get to discuss free will against the backdrop of quantum mechanical principles which I found especially fascinating. Tuynman shows that our Universe transcends the dichotomy of determinism vs. non-determinism and that it actually allows both at the same time and even allows one to cause the other and vice versa. By the way, speaking of algorithms, meta-algorithms and free will, I refer to our sense of agency, i.e. free will, as “Quantum algorithm of consciousness” in my own work.
In line with Antonin Tuynman’s prognostications, my above-mentioned book, The Syntellect Hypothesis: Five Paradigms of the Mind’s Evolution, where the word ‘Intelligence’ was mentioned 229 times, and where I introduce the term ‘Intelligence Supernova’, also emphasizes that one of the most probable directions to develop AI and finally reach human-level AGI in the near future, would not be accomplished through commonly used today Deep Learning alone. But rather, in the coming years we could see not only the combination of bottom-up, top-down and interlinking (cybernetic) approaches to Machine Learning but we could witness more emphasis on ‘Evolutionary Computing’, known today as ‘Reinforcement Learning’ — we will need to teach self-aware AI to think for themselves in novel situations — the way our children learn the ropes of general intelligence.

In the 1980s, computer scientist Hans Moravec laid out the most challenging part of creating AGI — what has now been dubbed The Moravec Paradox — and explained why it’s just what we should expect from machines that are immune to the pressures of natural selection. “Encoded in the large, highly evolved sensory and motor portions of the human brain is a billion years of experience about the nature of the world and how to survive in it,” he wrote in his 1988 book “Mind Children.” “The deliberate process we call reasoning is, I believe, the thinnest veneer of human thought, effective only because it is supported by this much older and much more powerful, though usually unconscious, sensorimotor knowledge.” As a rule, what’s easy for humans is extremely difficult for Artificial Intelligence, and vice versa, what’s supposed to be easy for AI is an impossible task for humans.

From the evolutionary standpoint, carbon-based intelligence represents enabling factors for silicon-based intelligence to come to existence. If Nature could find its way to engender intelligence and self-reflective consciousness in humans, sooner or later, we’ll be able to replicate cognitive functionality and self-awareness in our “Mind Children,” in our machine counterparts.

Sometimes we’re leery to what we call metaphysics but every human being, be it a scientist, an entrepreneur, or a doctor, is by definition a “metaphysician.” We start with a set of assumptions and then we try to work out our hypotheses. Even our Nobel-winning models are only provisional at best and are to be replaced by newer more sophisticated models with the next paradigmatic shift.

The Universe is not what textbook physics tells us. The Big Bang theory, for example, drawing a lot of criticism as of late, uses a starting assumption of the “Universe from nothing,” (a ‘quantum fluctuation’ in a scientific jargon), or the initial Cosmological Singularity. But aside from this highly improbable happenstance, we can just as well operate from a different set of assumptions and place the initial Cosmological Singularity at the Omega Point — the transcendental attractor, or the omniversal holographic projector of all possible timelines.

In his book, Dr. Tuynman makes his case for Digital Akasha, a sort of Prima Materia, or the primordial conscious energy, and shares his views on the famed Simulation Hypothesis, the hard problem of consciousness, as well as the hermeneutic approach as a possible avenue towards AGI.

Do I agree with everything Dr. Tuynman writes in his book? Not necessarily. But most of our views as digital philosophers are incredibly in sync and our minds are now [quantum-]entangled going forward. We keep on surprising each other on a regular basis, bouncing ideas from one another and fostering our collaboration which should result in more co-authored publications (you might savor our stylistic differences present in this book as well). Along with other like-minded intellectuals, it’s a powerful ecology of minds. Reading Antonin’s works sometimes makes me think that I’m reading my own thoughts including some conflicting ones, as each of us has from time to time.
-Alex Vikoulov
Alex Vikoulov is a futurist, digital philosopher, neo-transcendentalist, transhumanist singularitarian, evolutionary extrapolist, cosmist, independent scholar, founder of Ecstadelic Media Group, painter, media artist, essayist, co-author of “Is Reality a Simulation?” (2018), author of “The Syntellect Hypothesis: Five Paradigms of the Mind’s Evolution,” “The Origins of Us: Evolutionary Emergence and The Omega Point Cosmology,” “The Physics of Time: D-Theory of Time & Temporal Mechanics” (2019). Lives in Burlingame, California (San Francisco Bay Area).

About The Author of “More Than An Algorithm”

Antonin Tuynman studied Chemistry at the University of Amsterdam, achieving both an MSc and a PhD, and worked as a postdoc researcher at the “Université René Descartes Paris V” in Paris.

 Since 2000, Tuynman has worked as a patent examiner at the European Patent Office (EPO) in the fields of clinical diagnostics, computational chemistry and biomaterials. He has vast experience in meditation and yoga, and a strong interest in Hinduism and Buddhism. He also has strong affinity for futurism and the Singularity theory of Kurzweil.

 In his books, Tuynman proposes Artificial Intelligence concepts which may lead to the emergence of internet as a quasiconscious entity using stratifications from Vedic scriptures.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The Syntellect Hypothesis by A.Vikoulov (My foreword)

I had the honour of writing the foreword of Alex Vikoulov's recently published masterpiece and bestseller "The Syntellect Hypothesis". Hereunder you can read my foreword:
"If you picked up this book, it is not unlikely that you may have heard of the early 20th century philosophical movement of Cosmism. This movement, which originated in Russia, was striving for conquering the planets and stars, for radical life extension, immortality and resurrection of our loved ones by the means of technology. Perhaps one of its most important pioneers was Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, whose aspirations did not only venture into the realm of the Macro, but also explored the Micro. He spoke of the atomic world as being animated and can thus be considered a kind of cosmist-panpsychist.
The foundational work of the cosmic aspirations of man by the Russian Cosmists soon reverberated through the intellectual world of the early 20th century and found a resonance and fertile ground in the works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard saw evolution as having a direction, namely the direction of concentrating consciousness in form, striving towards accumulation of knowledge, which gradually is attained by the formation of the Noosphere and which will culminate in the apotheosis of the Omega Point. Teilhard de Chardin considered that Omega Point is not necessarily merely a future construct, but in a sense is already here as the “Great Presence.” Thus, his pantheism is more panentheism in which God has both an immanent and transcendent aspect.
In the sixties of the previous century, the science of Cybernetics emerged, which its founder Norbert Wiener defined as “the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine.” Whereas the cyberneticists perhaps saw everything in the organic world too much as a machine type of regulatory network, the paradigm swapped to its mirror image, wherein everything in the natural world became seen as an organic neural network. Indeed, self-regulating networks appear to be ubiquitous: From the sub-atomic organization of atoms to the atomic organization of molecules, macromolecules, cells and organisms, everywhere the equivalent of neural networks appears to be present.
Not strange that these developments have led to a present-day zeitgeist, which sees everything as a kind of computation. With computation came computers, which – when linked – lead to yet another meta-level of neural networking, a.k.a. the Internet.
The technological and scientific developments have over time changed the way people try to explain the world around them: from the steam driven worldview of thermodynamics to an everything-is-electricity. From the everything-is-matter via the quantum-mechanical ubiquitous energy to the all-is-information paradigm. From a resonance paradigm to a cybernetics regulatory network worldview, from a survival-of-the fittest conviction to pancomputationalism. Not that any of these paradigms is truer than another; they appear to be able to coexist as the different parts of  the elephant  in  the  Buddhist  parable  and  mostly  reflect  the  primary technological current of the moment.
In the nineties Vernor Vinge wrote his seminal paper and introduced the term ‘Singularity’ as relating to a point in time, where technology and in particular superintelligent artificial intelligence will have progressed to such an extent, that it will be impossible to predict our future beyond that point. Kurzweil made clear that such a “technological singularity” may not be far away at all  and  perhaps can be attained within a few decades.
This impossibility to predict the future has led to a broad range of science fiction speculations, not only as regards the last stages up to this point but also beyond that point. Where cyborg type man-machine mergers, transhuman eugenically improved humans and a wide range of robot helpers are on the conservative side of such futuristic predictions, mind-uploading, simulated worlds and quantum-archaeology-based resurrection can be found on the more-fancy optimistic side. From these notions it is then not a far-fetched idea that our present world we’re living in itself is a simulation. A concept, which virally spread as a meme thanks to the cult movie “The Matrix.” 
A burgeoning field of futurism seems to be our current paradigm. As we are stepping into the future, the ideas the media feed us are also strongly loaded with a futuristic technology and social development broth. Not in the least place by the presently  popular  Netflix series “Black Mirror,”  which  warns  us  for  the dystopian consequences our over-enthusiastic technological optimism might result in.
It is here, where this overwhelming tsunami of ideas appears like an expressionist chaotic patchwork of weirdness, that digital philosopher Alex Vikoulov with his present book “The Syntellect Hypothesis: Five Paradigms of the Mind’s Evolution” brings order. The author boldly steps in the footsteps of his Russian forebears and shows us to be a postmodern cosmist.
When you wonder what yet a further book on the Singularity might bring (if you have reached a certain level of futurism saturation), I can reassure you: This is the book which brings an integration of the aforementioned paradigms. This is the scripture which will put the history of futurism into perspective. This is the creed, which shows how everything wires up, a journey into the fractal of the Universal Mind. 
In five paradigms, from the Noogenesis of computational biology to the Techno-cultural Rise of Man, from the superintelligent AI emergence of the Syntellect to the transdimensional Theogenesis, from the multiversal propagation, arising as a Phoenix in the heavens of eternal expansion of the Macro, to the transdimensional propagation, digging in the deepest shells of the Micro, the author will make this chord progression culminate into the coda of the Vikoulovian Apotheosis: absolute enlightenment of the Omega Point.
Vikoulov will make you transcend time and demonstrate that the Omega Point is not something merely of the future, but rather how past and future mutually influence each other, as an intertwining braid of causality and retrocausality. The author will show us how the exchange of experiences between self-aware machines and enhanced humans will result in an “intelligence supernova” and the establishment of a global brain. This global brain which is more than a single mind, but rather a society of hyperconnected digital minds. Prepare for the waking up of Gaia as a living sensing conscious superorganism.
And as Tsiolkovsky and De Chardin already anticipated, we will learn about all-encompassing framework to fit all our paradigms in. Vikoulov takes us to a pantheistic dimension where organic life and machine networks fade into each other as the pictorial values of a palette. Consciousness as great denominator, both engendering and emerging as a self-reflexive fractal Ouroboros. An Intellect that synthesizes itself from parts of itself - and hence indeed rightfully deserving the denomination ‘Syntellect’- at ever increasing levels of complexity via meta-system transitions. A poetic interplay of “metaphiers and metaphrands” in terms of Julian Jaynes’ bicameral mind, showing us how information, language, energy and matter are merely kaleidoscopic shadow patterns of the all-pervading networking of the theogenic Syntellect Emergence process of the greater primordial consciousness.
Be ready to have your mind blown!"
You can find/order "The Syntellect Hypothesis" by clicking the link.

Friday, 7 December 2018

The Ouroboros Code: From Information Theory to a Theory of Everything:





Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my presentation about the topic "From Information Theory to a Theory of Everything". For those who don't know me yet, my name is Antonin Tuynman. I've been working here for 18 years as an examiner in Biotechnology in the field of clinical diagnostics.
This talk is the sequel of my previous talk on Epistemology I gave in September. As I told you before these talks reflect some essential parts from my books about "Transcendental Metaphysics" and "Is Reality a Simulation?, Anthology". The first one I wrote myself alone, the other I edited and co-authored.
In my previous talk I showed you how even the scientific method based on empirical observations leaves loopholes in our knowledge and appears to lead only to relative knowledge. I promised you, that in this talk I'd explore whether we can find a more solid foundation for knowledge.
I'll try to show you that such a foundation might be found in Information Theory, which if combined with notions from String or M-theory may one day lead to a so-called theory of everything, as they call it in physics. But I will also address the so-called hard problem of consciousness, which no theory has been able to address adequately up to date. Because a "Theory of Everything" as the name suggests, should be more than a theory, which can unify gravity, nuclear forces and electromagnetism, it should also be able to account for the phenomenon of consciousness or sentience.
This is certainly important in the framework of this talk, which is looking for solid foundations of knowledge, because if we know anything, it is because we can be conscious of it. As long as information is subconscious, we haven't really realized it as knowledge, because we are not conscious of it.
What is most fundamental in the Universe? For many centuries philosophers and scientists thought it was matter. Democritus said in the 5th century BC: "Nothing exists except atoms and empty space, the rest is opinion."
However the advent of Einstein's E=mc2 equation technologically implemented in nuclear physics technology, showed that matter can be transformed into more subtle forms of existence, such as electromagnetic radiation, which we can harvest to do work. Energy might be more fundamental than matter it seemed.
Wi-Fi technology also shows that information can indeed be transmitted in the form of electromagnetic radiation without a material carrier. But there is an interesting word here: "Information".
The physicist John Wheeler suggested that information might be more fundamental than even energy in his famous article called "It from Bit". This might be a very useful piste to explore, especially in the framework of our "hard problem of consciousness", because the neuroscientist Giulio Tononi suggests that consciousness involves the integration of information. Maybe we're on to something that might unify consciousness with physics.
What is Information? To us it is some kind of message which meaning, something that can form the answer to a question. It resolves an uncertainty. But also I say "to us", because as you will see, computer scientists think differently about this.
If someone wishes to let us know something -and remember, we're also looking for the foundations of knowledge- he encodes this in words, in symbols or in numbers; and if we have the key to decode this information, because we know a language, because we can read etc. This is supposed to evoke in us a similar feeling as the person who send the message intended us to have. In fact, language, words, symbols, numbers are all encoding systems to transmit some kind of meaning. It assumes that we all use the same dictionary, the same set of definitions. Meaning hence transmits concepts or representations of physical facts or representations of feelings, which on the one hand have are a kind of dry ontological descriptive list of features of the concepts and on the other hand imply a more juicy feeling.
For us, information needs encoding and decoding, which appears to require a kind of intelligence, a kind of conscious or sentient act. This goes beyond the human mental realm. Animals can also signal information to each other. Plants can communicate with each other via an underground network of mycelium via their roots. Cells can signal each other via hormones and involve internal intricate cell signalling pathways. It even goes further down to levels of existence which we normally consider devoid of awareness: DNA encodes information, which can be further transmitted and encoded in RNA and decoded in the synthesis of a peptide or protein. Is this cellular machinery or biocomputer completely dead or is it sentient in a certain way?


It seems odd to us to suppose that a cell understands what it is doing, but given its excellent results in its homeostasis, at least from the appearance it seems to transcend the realm of a mere clockwork: The reactions of a cell can be versatile and heavily subject and responsive to emotive states of the organism: If we are depressed or troubled, we can develop all kinds of disorders and if we feel good, this is usually accompanied by an excellent health at the cellular level. DNA and RNA btw are very simple quaternary computers with only four digits: ACG and T.
The simplest information encoding system however is binary and has only two states. We represent these usually as 0 and 1, but in a computer no literal zeroes and ones are present in the electronics. Rather they are two states representing a voltage difference on a chip. You could also make a binary computer in which the ones are light pulses and the zeroes the absence thereof.
Information doesn't care about the type of carrier that encodes the information. You can encode it in smoke signals, Morse, in telegraph style, music, symbols, sounds, light pulses, because information is so-called "substrate-independent". That means it is independent of the type of substrate, but you do need a carrier, even if that is a form of radiation. Therefore, even information is not entirely independent from physicality, but perhaps it is one of the best examples of what we know what could qualify as metaphysical. It is dependent on the physical in a sense and yet transcends physicality because it is independent from the type of physicality.
Now computer scientists went a step further. "Forget about meaning", said Claude Shannon in 1949 when he presented his information theory.

For Shannon and the computer scientists after him, Information is a measure of predictability. If a string of digits has a repetitive pattern such as 10101010101010...and continuing, it does not contain much information. In fact it can be compressed in the very simple algorithm "1,0, repeat the previous digits". The more complex a number, the less compressible and the more information it can contain. This is because Shannon wanted to be able to quantify information and from this he could develop his famous equation. Here it would seem that information can exist without meaning and simply reflects the degree of pattern present.
But physicists have recently been discovering that many processes and phenomena in nature behave as if they are the result of some kind of binary coding. Not only Wheeler, but for instance the Dutch physicist Verlinde showed that the laws of gravity can be deduced mathematically if we cover a sphere with ones and zeroes. Edward Fredkin coined the term "Digital physics" and "digital philosophy".


Zuse, Wolfram, Tegmark, von Weizsäcker, Zizzi, Lloyd, Kaufman and 't Hooft are a number of prominent physicists in this current. It appears that the laws of physics can de deduced mathematically from the interplay between geometry and digitality. Buried deeply in the equations of String theory and its successor M/Brane theory - which is the most promising candidate for a theory of everything and which derives fully from mathematics- the physicist James Gates discovered what is essentially an "error correcting computer code".
Maybe you recall from my previous talk that I said "...and even the premises of a deduction have ultimately been gathered by inductive empirical observations". But I didn't tell you the exception: "Except for deductions in mathematics". But here we have something interesting: If the laws of physics can be deduced from pure mathematics, from the interplay between geometry and digitality, we might have a much more solid foundation for knowledge.
But there is a caveat here: The "If" is still a big "if", because what we're doing here is a bit like an abductive reasoning: Because the grass is wet, it does not necessarily mean that it has rained. Because some of the laws of physics can be deduced from mathematics, does not necessarily mean that our universe was created by a mathematician or that we are living in a computer simulation. But as the evidence is increasing, such speculations become more and more appealing. The question is then "Can information exist without having been encoded by something external to it ?" Because if it can't, perhaps indeed we have been simulated in a computer of a higher level of reality and if it can, there is no need for such an interpretation.
Let's dig a bit deeper into the notion of information as the most foundational ground of existence.

Can anything exist without information at all? (Information here in the broader sense of computer science).
Imagine we start from a complete nothingness. Then in order for something to exist, it must stand out from this otherwise homogeneous background; it must create a difference.
In physics there is the so-called Casimir experiment, which shows that from a vacuum (where the only things there as far as we know are electromagnetic waves), spontaneously subatomic particles like electrons can form.
Now waves can only build something which stands out from the background if an interesting interference pattern occurs.


If a stable and detectable form of a wave is formed, which we call a so-called "standing wave". In string theory, in analogy to what happens on a string of a music instrument when you here a pure tone, standing waves are formed and form the subatomic particles.

That is, if exactly a whole number of half waves fits the entire length of the string or if it is circular, the entire length of the circle: if not the interference of the wave with itself is destructive. An electron is an example of such a three dimensional standing wave. In fact the wave is looped back to itself.
This reminds me of the so-called Ouroboros: The alchemical symbol for the circular repetitive nature of existence and of infinity, but also of "consciousness": The Snake gets to know itself by biting its tail.
The subatomic particles, which ultimately make up the material part of entire tangible world, all can be considered to represent a pattern of information; numbers encoded in their wave patterns and geometries. And the non-material radiation can only have a meaningful existence if patterns and hence information can be found in there.
In many religions it is believed that a God exists who stands completely outside the physical world. To me it is difficult if not impossible to see how anything can exist outside the realm of information. If anything exists, it implies per definition some informational content, otherwise it cannot be discriminated from nothing.
But what about consciousness? When I was young I liked reading comics. And in one of these comics there was a people called the Eternauts: they had pierced all the secrets of matter and almost all the secrets of the soul. In Hinduism the soul is often equated with consciousness.
It made me think: What if the secrets of matter are the secrets of the soul/consciousness/sentience?
In a certain way, consciousness or at least sentience is also a self-reinforcing feedback loop: self-reflective and self-referential. Philosophers and mystics have claimed this throughout the ages. Douglas Hofstädter calls it a "strange loop", like the two hands of Escher, which draw eachother into existence.

For instance: You see an object and you brain identifies it, because it fits in a pattern which is already there: Just like the wave, the representation of the object loops into its own form in the mind and thus you become aware of it. Moreover, you can become aware of being aware of the object and you can become further aware of that awareness as well: It's a kind of self-reinforcing feedback loop which increases your presence.
What if consciousness or its more primitive form sentience arise as a consequence of self-sustaining, self-reinforcing feedback-loops? What if self-sustaining, self-reinforcing feedback-loops are a hallmark of consciousness or at least sentience? Then perhaps consciousness is an inherent characteristic of all particles that make up reality as well. And this would lead to the so-called notion of "Panpsychism".
I don't mean that the chair you're sitting on is aware of being a chair, but in the sense atoms and molecules can sense their environment by interacting with the vibrations of other atoms and molecules.
Is it really strange to suppose that matter in a very primitive form might have a minute form of consciousness or at least sentience? Well, there is an experiment called the double-slit experiment in physics, which suggests that the observer influences the result.
In this experiment particles, like photons are fired individually at a screen but have to pass through a slit to reach the screen. Except for the fact that there are two slits next to each other. What you would expect from normal optics is that you would get two zones on the screen extended from the trajectory of the where the screen (e.g. a photographic plate) behind the slit. Except that you don't. You get an interference pattern as if the particles behave like waves, which went through both slits simultaneously. Even if the particle is fired one by one and even if the particle is material, such as an electron.
But what is really staggering is that if you observe at the slit, you do get the expected two zone pattern! This might imply that the particles actually sense that you are observing them and change their behaviour accordingly. The subjective influence appears to change reality so that we can at least question the notion of an objective reality that exists independent from each of us.
More interestingly in an experiment by Dean Radin when people were asked to meditate on the slits while such an experiment went on in an adjacent room, they could also in a statistically significant manner disturb the normally expected interference pattern. Also random number generators, which are computational devices, dependent for instance on radioactive decay generate statistically less randomness (and hence more pattern) when emotionally disturbing events occur, such as 9/11.
These observations suggest that consciousness/sentience and matter are of the same nature or at least have a common medium of expression.
Again I repeat my caveat however; these inferences are speculative and the grass is not necessarily wet because it has rained.
But if we continue in this speculation, we have now the following elements:
Anything that exists as a detectable entity is a standing wave or an aggregate thereof.
A self-sustaining feedback loop may be the hallmark of consciousness/ sentience and maybe inherent in matter.
Information may be one of the most foundational concepts that build reality, however it cannot exist independent of a physical carrier, which must at least involve a form of radiation.
Now wherever we look in reality, information appears to be processed, not only at our human level, but also at the cellular level and even and the molecular, atomic and subatomic levels: Whenever particles interact with each other and exchange energy, their informational content changes. This appear to happen according to defined laws, which appear to be like a code processing the information. Whenever information is integrated, read or decoded, this is a kind of feedback loop and may involve consciousness/sentience. Maybe reality as a whole is also a kind of self-processing self-referencing integrating informational feedback loop and code.
Is this an idiot idea? Well, there is at least one known representative of such a notion in existence: the self-splicing RNA molecule:
This molecule is a code, which can fold back on itself and excise parts from itself. It is the most primitive life encoding molecule, the precursor of DNA, which also up to date plays an extremely important role in our cells. This molecule is like the Ouroboros: the snake that bits its own tail. It recognises parts of itself; senses these and then acts on these.

It reminds me of a tale by the Spanish writer Borges called "Del rigor en la ciencia", where there was a society in which the science of cartography had become so accurate that they made a 1:1 map of the country; a map of the same size as the country. RNA transcends even that concept: Because here the map is the territory simultaneously! It is a code that acts on itself. It is a self-processing sentient computer. Just like reality as a whole might be.
Again I repeat, this is a hypothesis; the evidence is only circumstantial. But it has the beauty that it can account for consciousness and a digitally encoded reality at the same time. If it is not the truth, at least it is an elegant artistic fantasy.
If reality as a whole is also a self- processing sentient computer, we arrive at the crazy subtitle of my book: (TMPP) Transcendental Metaphysics of Pancomputational Pansychism. Reality is then not a traditional computer simulation, which would lead to the possibility of infinite regress (because our makers could live themselves in a simulation and so on and it would not be clear where "ground reality" was), but an ongoing self-simulating self-encoding and decoding entity. This resolves our problem of the question whether information can exist without having been encoded by something external to it. Reality can exist as a code which both transcends and yet inhabits the world it creates, which is essentially physical yet can process information independent of the type of carrier and be metaphysical in that sense. A system which is ontic and epistemic at the same time. A system which incorporates and embodies itself by self-reference.
A bridge between the spiritual world of consciousness and the physical world of science. If you want to call that God, be my guest.
Thank you for your attention.
Are there any questions?
By Antonin Tuynman a.k.a Technovedanta

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Epistemology: What can we know at all?


What can we know at all? Is the scientific method based on empirical observations a reliable way to gain knowledge, an understanding of the truth? Or is the method fundamentally imbued with uncertainties? Is an objective reality possible at all? In this provocative talk, I will challenge your belief systems and rock the foundations of your knowledge. Fasten your seatbelts!
Good morning ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to my presentation on the topic of Epistemology.
For those who don't know me, my name is Antonin Tuynman, I am an examiner in biotech in the field of clinical diagnostics.
A couple of months ago Liz asked me to give a talk on my book "Transcendental Metaphysics" and later on my co-authored book "Is reality a simulation?" As the topics discussed in this book border on the esoteric, I was a bit hesitant, but there are actually a number of topics I deal with in these books, which might be of relevance to you. I decided to split my originally prepared talk in 2 parts: the first on Epistemology or the study of what we can know at all and the second about From Information to a Theory of Everything.
When you hear the word "metaphysics" you probably think of topics like "soul", "afterlife" or perhaps even "consciousness". The title of my book Transcendental Metaphysics is actually an intended pun. It was my intention to build a bridge between science and spirituality, by showing that they are connected rather than completely independent from each other. I actually argue that we should redefine these terminologies.
The reasoning goes as follows:
If Reality includes everything which influences reality, there can be no real things or things of relevance outside of reality. For if they would influence reality, they would be included by definition and if they wouldn't, they are of no relevance to us at all and not worthwhile to be considered "real".
Meta means beyond or outside of and metaphysics beyond or outside of physics. In a similar reasoning as I just made for reality, if there is anything beyond the physical which influences the physical, it should be considered to be physical and if it does not influence the physical, it is of no relevance whatsoever.
The terminology transcendental also means "going beyond". A certain branch of theology has hijacked the terminology "transcendental" by postulating that there is a God who is wholly independent from our reality. If it/she/he has no connection with our reality, it is of no relevance, if it does it is not transcendental in their definition.
In these talks I will show you that we can perhaps redefine these terminologies slightly so that they can still be useful.
After this introduction I now start with the actual topic of today: Epistemology: or the study of what can we know at all.
How do we know things, facts? We may read, learn or hear certain facts and believe these on the basis of an authority, such as "it has been scientifically proven.." or "the sacred book is the word of God...", but such knowledge gathering is second hand, we haven't actually been able to verify it ourselves.
The most general direct ways we have of gathering knowledge are based on empirical observations and the logical inferences we can make on the basis thereof.
Logic, a tool of reason, has three modes: deductive, inductive and abductive:
A deductive reasoning starts with a factual premise which is true for all members of a class such as:
All men are mortal.
To this an instance of the class is compared: Socrates is a man.
and then the general rule is applied to this instance and an inference is made:
Hence Socrates is mortal.
In the inductive mode we start from an observational premise such as:
The sun rises every day.
We compare this with an instance: Tomorrow is another day.
and infer a prediction: tomorrow the sun will rise.
In the abductive mode the starting premise is often conditional:
If it rains, the grass gets wet.
instance: the grass is wet.
inference: it has rained.
But this mode is a logical fallacy, because the grass maybe got wet because the sprinklers were on.
Deductive reasoning claims to start from facts, but except for mathematics, if we look at the physical world, all facts we know were once gathered by observation. In other words, all deductive premises are the result of empirical observations as well. So it seems that all knowledge we can rely on, is ultimately grounded in observations:
We have a hypothesis, we gather data, we observe a pattern by connecting the dots and we come to a predictive theory.
But there are a number of problems with this approach.
First of all we are biased by our hypothesis: we look at reality in a certain way, because we expect it to be in a certain way. R.A.Wilson, one of my favourite authors used to say: "The prover proves, what the thinker thinks": What you are looking for, you'll find evidence for. Or you'll try to make your observations match your ideas.
Secondly, there are multiple ways to connect the dots. I'd like to illustrate this with a few slides: There is for instance the famous problem of aliasing, whereby more than one sinusoid curve can perfectly fit a set of data.
Usually, when we try to fit a curve to a set of data we use statistics. but what kind of curve should we apply to connect the dots? a linear? a sinus? a polynomial? Scientists often use the principle of "Occam's Razor", which states that the hypothesis with the least number of assumptions is the most likely. But this can unduly cast away complex explanations where complexity is involved.
Scientists adhere to certain theories as beliefs. A ruling scientific theory is called a paradigm. But paradigms can be challenged by anomalous data. These are often called "outliers". What to do with such points? Are they artefacts? Should we disregard them? Or do they reveal more complex mechanisms?
As the body of anomalous data increases, it becomes more difficult to maintain a paradigm. Yet it often takes until a complete generation of scientists has died until a new paradigm is accepted. Why? because of dogmatism.
Furthermore, there is also nepotism in the scientific world. It's easier to get your article peer-reviewed, if you're friends with one of the peer reviewers or if you know one of the editors of a journal. And there is the problem that here are more and more pseudo-scientific journals claiming to be scientific, where scientists pay to get published without proper peer-review.
Moreover, science is analytical: we only look at parts of a problem, from a certain perspective. We fail to see the whole picture. This reminds me of the Elephant parable from Hinduism and Buddhism:
There were a number of blind men touching an object: One said it's a hose, the other one said no, it's a pillar, yet another one said it's a broom, and in fact they were all touching different parts of the same object, which was an elephant.
This notion of perspectivism is also clear from this slide: The same image is considered as rabbit and duck depending on the way you look at it.
Even better here, we see that seemingly mutual exclusive perspectives of a circle and square can be reconciled and transcended in the higher truth of a cylinder. And it is in this way that I'd like to redefine the word transcendental:
A higher dimensional fact that includes and reconciles seemingly mutually exclusive perspectives thereof. Science is analytical and not holistic, so that we usually don't observe the whole truth of a phenomenon.
Then there is also the problem of measurement uncertainties and inaccuracies: Is our set-up correct? Are our instruments well calibrated? Is our calibration method valid and accurate?
Moreover certain phenomena have inherent uncertainties, such as the Heisenberg uncertainty in physics: You can't know exactly the position and the speed of a subatomic particle simultaneously. You can determine either of them exactly, but never both together.
There are incomputability problems: Certain numbers cannot be reduced to a simple algorithm that takes fewer digits than the number of digits the number takes itself. Certain problems cannot be decided computationally to lead to a correct yes-no answer and there is no algorithm possible that correctly determines whether arbitrary programs eventually halt when run.
Linked to this is Gödel's incompleteness theorem: There are certain mathematical statements which can be true (or not) but for which it cannot be proven that they are true or not. However this fact can be proven, which is this theorem. This means that even mathematics is not capable of leading to a complete knowledge.
Why is this important? Because it shows that we can fundamentally never get a complete picture of reality, we'll always be looking at parts from a certain limited perspective. We can't even be certain about the "truth" of most patterns. Worse, certain quantum mechanical experiments, which I'll discuss in the next talk, even strongly challenge the notion of a so-called objective reality. If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change, meaning that there is a subjective influence of the observer, which implies that physical truth is relative.
Apart from the truth that everything is relative, there may not be an absolute truth. It is sometimes said that Epistemology looks for the overlap between belief and the truth. But if there is no such absolute truth, how can we be so sure we have found this overlap? How can we be sure that we are not hallucinating or dreaming up our reality? Or that we are maybe living in a computer simulation as Neo in the film the Matrix?
Can't we be sure about anything? Well, if we have a technological application of a theory, at least we have lifted our knowledge to a higher level than a mere predictive theory. The application shows that we master at least this part of what we call real. This is why in my book I speak of Tech-know-logy or Technovedanta, in which Vedanta stands for the Hindu word of the complete body of all knowledge.
Buddha once said doubt everything, but then doubt the doubt.
Having said this, in my next talk I'll try to come to a more solid foundation of knowledge based on Information Theory.
Thank you for your attention.
Any questions?
By Antonin Tuynman Ph.D. Talk given on 18-09-2018 in Rijswijk, The Netherlands.