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.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A Vedic interpretation of the Bliss and Curse of physical Technology

Not many people will disagree, if you state that modern technology has brought many benefits. We live longer, have eradicated many diseases, we can do everything faster: commute, communicate, conduct a business, we can generate more food in a shorter period, we can keep our food fresh for a longer time, we have more choice in amusement, we can spend more of our time for leisure activities, it has generated wealth and globally reduced poverty.
But has it increased our happiness? Has it improved the depth of our social interactions? Have we become more responsible, more involved and more caring towards each other? Has it paved the way for us to open ourselves to self-realisation?
Or are we are drowning in an excess of choice, an excess of ennui? Are we drowning in pollution of air, water and land? Are we suffering from noise, electromagnetic and visual pollution? Are we suffering from the massive scale of everything? Have we entered the proverbial multiplicity of Hell?
Think of it. The air has become polluted with exhaust gases from vehicles and manufacturing plants, the content of CO2  has also risen due to these factors, plus due to the gases produced by humans and animals, in particular by industrial farming. In cities as Beijing and New Delhi, the air is frequently unbreathable due to the smog. The resulting climate change will have dramatic effects changing ecosystems, flooding and provoking extreme weather conditions. 
Water and soil have become massively polluted due to plastics and metal littering and dumping. Especially the single use non-degradable plastics are responsible for this. Chemical waste, pesticides, fertilizers, oil spills, heavy metals, toxins and nuclear waste already render the conditions for life more precarious than ever before. Deforestation, loss of biodiversity and poisoning the food chain do not promise an auspicious future for our posterity.
We may have eradicated certain diseases; with our current lifestyle we're introducing many new ones. Microorganisms becoming resistant to antibiotics, cancer on the rise due to the dumping of toxic waste on the farmlands (.e.g. by the Mafia in Italy; due to solar cell! production in China) or due to the accumulation of toxic heavy metals in the food chain, especially in fish.
Bon appetit!
We can travel faster to any place of the world... at the cost of causing air and noise pollution on a massive scale. We can spend less time on cleaning our house or preparing our meals. To have more time for our self-development? No. In general people just spend more time being numbed down looking at a screen.
Children suffer from attention deficit disorders on a large scale due to computer gaming or other activities on their computers, tablets or mobile phones. Family members do not connect on a deep emotional level anymore; there's hardly any communication left. All family members autistically absorbed on their own computer device, chatting with unknown people they have never met, seen, touched or smelt. People are flooded with information and drown due to the overflow of choice. 
The world doesn't become a safer place either. Drugs and criminality flourish, like bacteria on a rich broth.
Has technology brought happiness? Perhaps initially in the 20th century, yes. But it seems it has gone over the top. We've entered the phase of diminishing returns. What we add doesn't become better. At present it only seems to worsen the state of life on Earth.
Is it intrinsic to technology that it brings all these devastating side effects? Or is this a consequence of the corrupted short term profit based thinking without regard for our posterity that has put us in this predicament?
Let's test our technologies in the light of the moral prescriptions from the yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Yamas or "Don'ts".
Ahimsa means non-violence. Certainly our industrial farming technology is purely based on violence and cruelty. There are many more ways to rear livestock and to carry out the slaughtering in a more respectful way than the brutal approach of the farming industry. But if you ask people why they still buy the industrially farmed kilo package deal at the supermarket instead of the organic product at the specialist shop, they will tell you they can't afford it; that it's up to the government to take care of this.
Well, you can also simply leave it. You won't die from becoming a vegetarian.
Our plastic and metal waste pollution is not only an aggressive act towards our posterity, it is also directly in the here and now an act of violence against all the animals that get stuck in this waste or become poisoned by it. The same can be said about our short term benefit attitude towards the climate; but we're already ourselves undergoing the damaging effects thereof.
Yet there are alternatives possible. Technology has progressed so far that biodegradable plastics have become available. Moreover, we can responsibly refuse to buy any item which contains single use plastic. It is here that the manufacturers have a huge responsibility. The number of unnecessarily products packaged in plastic is appalling. Say no to these plastics!
Indifference is the mental disease of this generation populating the Earth; the attitude of "after me the deluge". It is not cool to be indifferent. You may become a victim of your inactivity one day. It is time to take responsibility and become like caring parents to our planet. This is the Amrit or nectar of Karma yoga.
The second of the Yamas is Satya; the guideline of truthful intent. If the preservation of life and consciousness is the truth, than it does not take much intelligence to realise that our corrupted technologies are a big metaphorical lie towards life. Our ways are a lie towards later generations and towards plant and animal life.
The third of the Yamas is Asteya: the Guideline of not appropriating what isn't yours a.k.a. refraining from stealing. Our corrupted ways stela from the future generations by exhausting the planet. What will be left of Earth's resources in five more decades if we continue to produce at this pace?
The fourth of the Yamas is Brahmaccharya. If you see the concept of "energy containment" in a broader sense than only sexually (as is usually the interpretation), you will see, we are not respectfully dealing with the energy management of our planet.
Still here again there are plenty of renewable energy resources that could solve our dependency on fossil fuels. Clean technology does exist. Geothermal, wind, hydroelectric, and tidal energy sources are just some examples. Our technology has advanced far enough to become completely independent of fossil fuels. What lacks is the political and economic willingness to do so. Our short term objectives outweighing the long term sustainability.
Finally there is Aparigraha, or refraining from greed. What else then our greed is the source of our predicament? Our striving for short term pleasure, wealth, possessions, money, a reputation?

Has Gautama Buddha not taught us that true happiness is not to be found in feverishly striving after our pleasures but rather in equanimity? Has he not taught us that this peace of mind, which the Greek called Ataraxia, can only be achieved by living a simple life? Is not Seva, service to others a hallmark of Hinduism? Why then this hunger for more material possessions and success? Is it going to bring us any nearer to the purpose of life, which is Self-Realisation?
When Arjuna had to choose between Krishna and his armies, he decisively chose the first. Krishna stands for Oneness, Consciousness and Quality. The armies stand for plurality, matter and quantity. The world of material phenomena is just a temporal appearance, only Consciousness is eternal. Similarly in the Western tradition, Spirit stand for Oneness, Unity and peace; the Hell is represented by the many. Excess in everything, excess in choice, we are flooded by the effects of the corrupted ways we have implemented our technology. More is not always better. Certainly not here. 

Technology, to be of benefit to us, must be high quality, recyclable or biodegradable. Technology must be true, kind and necessary.
Until we change our corrupted ways, we must try to minimise our dependence on technology that does not fulfil these criteria. 
This is the teaching of Technovedanta.

You can find my books on Amazon in paperback or ebook format (in India only 50Rs.)
Transcendental Metaphysics
Is Reality a Simulation? An Anthology  (https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B07D7JX4RS)

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

"Is Reality a Simulation? An Anthology" has been published

Dear Friends, Readers,
I proudly announce the publication of "Is Reality a Simulation? An Anthology", which I edited and co-authored.
Did your dark night of the soul ever make you doubt the reality of your existence? Do you wonder whether you are living in a dream or computer simulation? Are you haunted by the perspective that you're already dead and wander through the infinite dimensions of Hell or the Cyberbardo? Does it really matter at all if one of these questions is answered affirmatively?
Then you're in good company. Join us on a psychedelic rollercoaster through the rabbit hole. Fasten your seatbelts. Your belief systems are about to be questioned, challenged and perhaps overthrown. This Anthology with contributions from Technoshamans, Physicalist scientists, Pantheists, Pandeists and Panpsychists will rock your mental foundations, haunt your convictions and put you through the epistemological wringer.
This choicest selection will sharpen your mind to find truths hidden in the plain sight of a tower of turtles, patterns in a grid of chaos and clarity in a forest of apparent randomness. From Gross' Ouroboric Simulism to the Other of Swayne; Dive into Rosati's lucubration from Deli's Fractal of Consciousness to Mapson's Pandeistic Analogue Simulation; from the Vikoulovian Apotheosis via Byrne's Panpsychic Musings to the Tuynman Omega Constant. Escape with Bruere's scenario's from King's Parasitism and Perceptual valuation.
Welcome to a dazzling orgy of the post-singularity conceptualization of Simulation Theory. Welcome to the kaleidoscopic variegation of the perplexing pictorial perspectives that dwarf Bostrom's argument into oblivion.   Is reality a Simulation? is an unorthodox challenging anthology on Bostrom's Simulation Hypothesis. With contributions from scientists, philosophers, technoshamans and mystics it shows a broad variety of perspectives from both supporters and opponents of the argument.   
The book "Is Reality a Simulation? An Anthology", which I, Antonin Tuynman (a.k.a. Technovedanta) edited and co-authored is now available as Kindle ebook. But you can get a free pdf, if you promise me to write a review and post it on Amazon, Goodreads and Lulu. For a free pdf send an email to iconomenatgmaildotcom.
I wrote this book together with a number of excellent thinkers, such as Dirk Bruere, Sean Byrne, Matt Swayne, Donald King, Eva Deli, Knuje Mapson, Dante Rosati, Alex Vikoulov and Tim Gross.  
By Antonin Tuynman a.k.a. Technovedanta

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Are we living in a Simulation? A historical overview

It is hard, if not impossible to determine how deep the roots of belief in the tree of virtuality reach back in the history of the human race. Certainly we did not need our Oculus Rift VR headset to come up with this idea. When did man first started to doubt the reality of the solid world around him? When did we first start to think we might be living in an illusion? 


The first written tradition is perhaps the allegory of the cave by Plato [1]  in his treaty "The Republic" written around 380 B.C. 
In this allegory prisoners are chained in a cave in such a way that they can only look at a wall in front of them. Behind them is a fire burning and between the fire and the prisoners is a low wall, behind which other people walk carrying objects or puppets "of men and other living things". These objects cast shadows on the wall in front of the prisoners. The sounds made by the walking people also echo from this wall, so that it seems that the shadows are making these noises. For the prisoners, who never experienced anything else these shadows are the only reality there is. In the story one man escapes. At first according to Plato he would not understand that what the prisoners see and hear are mere shadows and echoes.  Only once the escaped prisoner would find out about sunlight outside the cave and get accustomed to it, he'd be able to learn about shadows. Thus he'd start to understand the real source of the images and sounds. Thereafter he'd consider this new reality superior and "he would bless himself for the change, and pity [the other prisoners]" and would want to bring his fellow cave dwellers out of the cave and into the sunlight". Unfortunately back in the cave his eyes would need to get accustomed to the dark again. His fellow prisoners would think he'd gone blind and conclude it's dangerous outside of the cave. They would not be willing to leave.
As the freed prisoner in this allegory represents the person who sees the world for the illusion it is, this is one of the first written proofs that humans were conscious of the possibility that our reality might not be the ultimate reality.

The Greek sophist, Gorgias (c. 483–375 BC) [2] is reputed as the father of Solipsism, the notion that we can only be sure of our mind to exist. Moreover he's quoted  to have stated: 
1. Nothing exists.
2. Even if something exists, nothing can be known about it.
3. Even if something could be known about it, knowledge about it can't be communicated to others.
With this reasoning the Sophists tried to show that "objective" knowledge was a literal impossibility. An extreme interpretation of Solipsism is to assume that only I exist and that everything else is a concoction of my mind. Or a simulation if you wish.

Another early text on this topic is from the Zhuangzi [3] by the eponymous author who lived between 369 and 286 B.C:
"Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things."
Dreaming in fact is our most direct springboard to question whether our reality is an illusion.
Both Vedic and Buddhist traditions have spoken of the world as Maya, a magic or illusory veil. Maya has been said to be the reflection of something very real in a spiritual world. The powerful and colorful paintings the Tantric and Tibetan Buddhists have used were intended to help them visualise alternate realities. The so-called Avatamsaka Sutra from about 100 B.C. speaks of "infinite realities". In images we find an enlightened deity sitting calmly on a lotus flower often in the middle of raging fires. Worlds within creatures and worlds within circles representing the karmic cycle show how we are caught in the web of dependent arising. Fortunately, there seems to be a way out of this Maya. A little rainbow colored path leads the enlightened ones to the realms of the deities. 
Even today certain schools of thought in Buddhism teach perceived reality literally as unreal. Chögyal Namkai Norbu[4]  considers all our sensory perceptions as a big dream. 
From a neuroscience perspective he is actually right in a certain way: When you think you see the outside world, actually what you are experiencing is an image concocted by your brain. We constantly internally hallucinate a "supposed world out there". We strongly filter the overflow of data entering our senses and create a coherent picture therefrom, which may or may not have a certain degree of isomorphism to the ontic reality. This is especially evident when we are asked to focus on a particular activity. If you are asked to count the number of times on people throw a ball to each other, like most people you will totally miss the man in a Gorilla suit walking among the players, because this irrelevant information is filtered out by your brain. In other words, from the sensory data we receive our brains concoct a simulation which is as meaningful as possible under the given circumstances. In that sense our epistemic reality is almost certainly a simulation.

Similarly in Hinduism  we find the notion that Vishnu[5], the all-pervading one, lies in a dream state on the serpent Adisehsa Ananta. Ananta is time and floats for eternity on the ocean of Cosmic Consciousness. Brahma is born out of the navel of Vishnu and begins the process of creation. Vishnu expands into everything thereby becoming everything. By the act of watching his dream, including the creation of the universe by Brahma, Vishnu sustains the Universe. Only when Vishnu wakes from his dream, the cycle of creation ends.

In the Hellenic world[6] we find the notion of Hermes Trismegistos, the thrice great one. This Godhead seems to be a merger of the Greek God Hermes and the Egyptian God Thoth. The earliest texts mentioning this God go back as far as 172 B.C. Hermes Trismegistos is reputed to have written the so-called Tabula Smaragdina  (which may have an origin much later. It's earliest written version is an 8th century Arabic text). This Tabula Smaragdina mentions the concept "As above, so below", which seems to be considered as an absolute truth among esoterically oriented people today.
"That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing." 
The concept "As above, So below" implies that our physical world is a reflection of a spiritual world. That the microcosm (oneself) is similar in structure to the macrocosm (the universe).
Interested in reading more of this subject? It will be published in my upcoming anthology on the question whether reality is a simulation. I will announce this on Steemit, once the book is published.
By Antonin Tuynman, author of the books "Is Intelligence an Algorithm?", "Transcendental Metaphysics" and "Technovedanta". 


 [1] Plato, The Republic, Penguin Classics, 2007. 
[2] Bruce McComiskey, Gorgias on Non-Existence, Philosophy and Rhetoric, Vol.30. No.1, pp. 45-49, 1997. 
[3] Watson, B. The Complete Works of Zhuangzi, Columbia University Press, 2013.