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.
Blurb:
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? 

Antiquity

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". 

References:

 [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.

Truth-hidden-in-plain-sight clues for Reality as a Simulation


Imagine I were to show you, that completely unrelated physical quantities show the same value over and over again in our universe. You will probably consider that I have discovered some kind of new universal physical constant. 
But then I tell you that the fact that we see the same value occur repeatedly is highly unlikely, because the units in which these quantities are measured do not have a link to each other, and most of them were quite arbitrarily chosen. After all, why would there not be an alternative way to measure distance, time, temperature etc. Over the ages humans have used various units, like miles, yards, meters etc. many of which were based on lengths of human body parts; seconds were based on the sexagesimal system of the Babylonians; Temperature relies on base 10, with regard to the number of degrees between the melting and boiling of water.
So it seems that it would be quite a coincidence if with such unrelated quantities, we see the same number appear very often - yes, unlikely often- isn't it?
Let me take you on a journey into perplexity. You won't believe your eyes. For me, the coincidences I am going to show you are so unlikely, that I have wondered, whether they are a pointer to a form of "intelligent design". Not in the sense of "intelligent design of life forms" as opposed to "evolution", but in the sense of intelligent design using highly complicated and sophisticated mathematical calculations to come up with a set of physical parameters, which seem to create a self-sustaining numerical set. And as a bonus, the rabbit out of the hat, the units to get these numerical values have mysteriously found their way to our minds.

273, The Tuynman Omega constant

(What follows hereafter, I partly published in a previous Steemit article, but adapted, enriched and updated)
Let me start with numbers which show the ciphers 2, 7 and 3 in this sequence:
1. The diameters of the Earth and Moon (7920 miles and 2160 miles, which is 11x6! and 3x6! miles, respectively) are in the ratio of 11 to 3, 11 ÷ 3= 3.7 (to be precise: 3.66), while 3 ÷ 11 = 0.273. There are almost 366 days in a year, which is the rotation time of the Earth around the Sun. In fact there are 366 so-called "sidereal days" in a year.
2. The 3:11 ratio is also invoked by Venus and Mars, as the ratio of the closest to farthest distance. The ratio that each experiences of the other is 3:11. As we know, the fraction 3/11 rounds to 27.3%.
3. 27.3 is also the number of days it takes for the Moon to orbit the Earth.
4. 27.3 days is even the average rotation period of a sunspot.
5. The acceleration ratio of the Moon in its path around the Earth is measured as 0.273 × cm/s2. In fact, the acceleration of the Earth and the Moon behave reciprocally as the squares of the radii of the orbits of the Earth and the Moon.
6. Moreover, 273 m/s2 is the acceleration of the Sun!
7. The Moon controls the movement of water around the Earth, ebb and flow. When water is set as the standard for measuring temperature, the Absolute Zero or the temperature at which all atomic movement comes to an absolute halt is -273.2° C.
8. According to the experiments of Gay-Lussac, when a gas is either heated or cooled by 1 degree Centigrade, it expands or contracts respectively by 1/273.2 of its previous volume.
9. The triple point of water is defined to take place at 273.16 K.
10. The Cosmic Background Radiation is 2.73 K.
11. All medical students are required to memorize that a pregnancy (read: life developing in water) is calculated on the basis of a 10-sidereal month period of 273 days from conception to birth, which is 9 “regular” months. 27 divided by 3 gives 9.
12. A woman’s menstrual cycle is on average 27.3 days.
13. If a circle is drawn with a radius from the centre of the Earth through the centre of the Moon, the perimeter of the square around the Earth and this circle are one and the same! It also reveals how the Moon and the Earth have resolved the puzzle of the squaring of the circle. In other words, if the Moon could roll around the Earth, the circle made by its centre has a circumference precisely equal to the perimeter of a square around the Earth (when Pi is approximated by its ancient, traditional ratio of 22/7 = 3.14). Comparing a square’s perimeter to a circle having an equal circumference, the circle’s diameter is 27.3% longer than the edge of the square. Inscribe a circle inside a square.
14. The four corners make up 27.32% of the total area.
15. There are 273 days from the summer solstice to the vernal equinox.
16. Furthermore, 2,730,000 is the circumference of the Sun in miles.
17. About 108 diameters of the Earth fit across the diameter of the Sun.
18. About 108 Sun diameters fit in between Earth and Sun.
19. About 108 Moon diameters fit between Earth and Moon.
(In fact the number in items 17-19 is 109.2, which in fact is precisely 4x27,3, the "intelligence signature number" we saw before).
...
Interested in reading more of this chapter? The book “Is Reality a Simulation? An Anthology”, which I, Antonin Tuynman (a.k.a. Technovedanta) edited and co-authored is now available as Hardcopy and 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 iconomen at gmail dot com.
 By Antonin Tuynman, author of the books "Is Intelligence an Algorithm?", "Transcendental Metaphysics" and "Technovedanta".

Monday, 19 March 2018

Reality, the Mystical Self-Referential Descent into Imagination


In his article "The Self-Referential Aspect of Consciousness" Cosmin Visan [1] explains in great detail how Self-Reference (SR) brings Consciousness into existence. He also describes how consciousness is structured on a hierarchy of phenomenological levels as manifestations of self-reference, which he names Self, Vividness, Diversity, Memory and Time. However, he describes a remaining problem as regards how self-reference picks up essences, give us exactly the qualia domains we have and not others.
Although I will certainly not claim to have solved this problem I would like to take you on a mystical journey into additional possible levels of phenomenology as an alternative non-scientific representation (I don't dare to call it an explanation) of a great deal of phenomena. Additional levels are frequency, music and recursive self-modification, respectively, giving rise to electromagnetic radiation, gravity and material reality ontogenesis.
I will also draw an analogy between Visan's phenomenological levels of SR and Peircean, Palmerian and Goertzelian metaphysics.

Moreover, I will present this as a spiritual process of the art of the descent of the Self into matter.

It is certainly no claim of me or of this essay that anything described herein is the way that things happen in reality. Rather it is an artistic and aesthetic proposal, building on philosophical and mythological ideas. A mythopoetic mythopoetic proposal, which suggests how from consciousness a material world can have arisen. Any assertion in this article should not be considered a fact but a hypothesis.

Introduction

Because the explanation of the Self-Referential Aspect of Consciousness is indispensable to my theory, I'd like to encourage you to read this paper [1]  before going further. But in case you don't have time for that I will try to summarise its teachings briefly, knowing that this is bound to give an incomplete understanding.

Visan describes how self-reference has the property of looking back at itself. The Self, the ontological entity at the heart of consciousness is hereinafter referred to as "I" (although not referring to the Ego). Imagine an empty universe where there is only "I". "I" sends an "am" arrow like reference into the unknown, which only hits something by returning to itself, thereby acknowledging its own existence and thus establishing the "I am" knowledge of itself. This level of Being Visan calls the phenomenological level of "Self", which can be compared to Peirce's firstness or raw being. Kether of the Kabbalah.

Now the Self can identify with this new "I am" concept which appeared, leading to an I am "I am" state. This is the second level, Visan calls "Vividness". I compare it to a kind of reaction or polarisation or dualisation into two states, comparable with Peirce's secondness. It also brings a first possibility of creating distance to itself. To see oneself as an object.

This process can be repeated to give higher levels such as I am "I am "I am"". This generates "Diversity" according to Visan as the self can identify with multiple states, namely with both "I am" and with the "I am "I am". Therefore Visan calls this state I am "I am" & I am. In Peircean metaphysics the third level is about relation between the two poles, which is in fact expressed in the ampersand symbol of the above-mentioned state. It brings a further possibility of creating distance to itself. To see oneself as an object and to see the content of one's contemplation.

The fourth level introduces Memory. Memory stores what has been, which is its own quale and which is the collection of all its previous levels: Diversity & Vividness & Self equals the state [I am "I am" & I am] & [I am "I am"] & [I am].
The emergent level is more than the levels from which it emerges and cannot be reduced thereto, but does include those levels, which are also still operating independently. Each level is a form of consciousness and each qualitative essence requires a complete emergent structure to arise.

Visan defines an essence as that what makes an entity to be what it is and also equates this to a quale and a concept. An existence he defines as an actual instantiation of an essence. By introducing a third degree of distance, we have now created our familiar three dimensional space. But that also means that memory is a kind of spherical cell, as there is no mechanism by which extension would be more prominent along one of the axes. In analogy to the terminology in Steven Kaufman's URT [2], we could call this memory cell a "reality cell".
As each entity can look back at itself, it is fact a kind of "Self" itself. Which means that self-reference is a means to generate a plurality of "selves", so that it includes and transcends itself. It  bootstraps consciousness into existence, the actual only thing that really exists.
In Goertzelian metaphysics (which continues where Peirce and Palmer stopped) four is the level of emergence of the first stable form. A memory is also a stable form in that it can be remembered and thus perpetuated over time. Thus Self has created the first structurally existing object, which is also a subject as it is a self with the ability to look back at itself. This looking back at itself of a memory cell creates a kind of pulsation: the "memory" sends "am" radial like reference arrows into the unknown, which only hits something by returning to itself. This can be called the breathing of a reality cell and is in fact the generation of periodicity of time.

Visan distinguishes between recursivity and self-reference. A fractal, which is recursive takes its output and uses this as an input in an iterative manner. Looking-back-at-itself however, is not iterative but is by its very nature Visan argues. The "self-reference" is always itself; it does not need to do anything. The "process" of levels described above, may look iterative, but in fact it is just the continuous action of looking back, which does not stop but is always there in a timeless manner and is not really a process.

How do "doing" and time then arise?

...

Interested in reading more of this chapter? The book “Is Reality a Simulation? An Anthology”, which I, Antonin Tuynman (a.k.a. Technovedanta) edited and co-authored is now available as Hardcopy and 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 iconomen at gmail dot com.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

"When the map becomes the territory". Recursive Self Modification: A Universal language of Reality Ontogenesis?

If I were to tell you that reality is a kind of book that is writing itself, you'd probably declare me bonkers. If I were to tell you that there are even scientists, who seriously contemplate this surreal idea in the form of a self-processing sentient language that creates reality by modifying itself, you'd probably get the hell out of my vicinity as fast as you could. The fact that I even dare to mention these unicorn fables, will probably make you put away this article at this very moment.
If you still continue reading, you might have a sense of humour or curiosity to see how people end up contemplating such rubbish. After all, language is a high-level phenomenon. Surely these people mistake the map and the territory. Or maybe you find it fascinating that someone came up with the bizarre and unrealistic idea to unify the ontic and the epistemic under one banner.
But if I tell you there are certain subtypes of a molecule called ribonucleic acid (RNA), which almost hit all the marks to qualify as real life representatives of this concept, you might be willing to lend me a listening ear. After all such a concept might have technological applications in biotech or in artificial intelligence in the form of an algorithm that can create complexity by recursive self-modification to generate a more dynamic version of the computer program called "game of life".
RNA is the nucleic acid molecule that preceded the better known nucleic acid carrier of inheritable traits called DNA in evolution. Certain viruses, proto-life forms, do not have a DNA but an RNA molecule instead. RNA is also present as an essential constituent in the cells of every life form. Nucleic acids are like a code with four symbols, which are present in the form of two pairs of complementary molecular motifs called nucleotides. They encode proteins. The code can be read by other nucleic acids that dock to the code if they have the complementary code. This can then trigger the assembly of proteins from amino acids. It can also result in the further assembly of a complementary nucleic acid strand, which is a form of copying the code. So basically nucleic acids function as a kind of cellular computer, which takes other nucleic acid molecules as input and provides proteins or nucleic acids as output.
Certain types of RNA can fold back on themselves and have stretches of their nucleotides pair, so that you get a kind of lariat form. Where did I see this before? It reminds me of the alchemical symbol of the Ouroboros, the snake that bites its own tail and thereby gets to know itself. An ancient symbol of the self-reflective nature of consciousness.
 
Image of Ouroboros
Source: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/71/Serpiente_alquimica.jpg
Now certain RNA molecules can process i.e. modify themselves when they interact with themselves. Often this results in cutting of a part of itself (self-splicing), but it can also result in extending itself. 
Image of self-splicing RNA
Source: dm5migu4zj3pb.cloudfront.net/manuscripts/19000/19386/medium/JCI0319386.f1.jpg
In other words, these RNA molecules constitute a kind of code or language, if you wish, that recognises and reads itself and modifies itself as a consequence thereof. 
The only aspect which a priori appears to be missing from the earlier mentioned concept of a self-processing sentient language that creates reality by modifying itself, is the "sentience" aspect. You could argue that the molecular interactions that lead to the mutual recognition of the motifs are sensed in a certain way; it is not merely the fitting of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle: electronic charges attract and repel each other and hydrogen bonds are formed. If we accept this as a form of primitive sentience, this molecule hits all the marks to qualify as an instance of the previously defined concept. When it comes to RNA maps can be territories simultaneously. So a self-processing sentient language that creates reality by modifying itself might after all not be such a surreal concept.
In the last decades some idealist-type ideas have been suggested by outsiders with respect to philosophy, who suggest that virtually everything in reality is the result of such a "Recursive Self-Modification" of a code. In view of the RNA example, perhaps they do merit our consideration, if not for philosophical reasons then at least for the potential technological relevance or as an aesthetic enrichment of the human epistome (i.e. the complete collection of all that is known in imitation of terminologies such as genome and proteome).
Many of these ideas find their origin in a branch of physics called digital physics. Not energy, but information is considered to be at the root of reality. But this introduces a problem, because information implies meaning conveyed by symbolism and requires a mind or at least consciousness to recognise or make sense of the meaning. And this brings us back to the age-old problem of the Cartesian Mind-Body dualism. So if information is at the root of the manifested reality, consciousness must somehow be present at a deeper non-manifested level.
In this essay I will show you how a number different scientists and garden-variety philosophers have come up with a suggested solution to this problem, the common denominator of which is the notion of Recursive Self-Modification. I will give an overview of a number of such contemporary "mind=reality theories", which consider reality as the product of a cognitive self-processing language. I will discuss a number of similarities between Langan’s Cognitive Theoretic Model of the Universe (CTMU), Irwin’s Code Theoretic Axiom (CTA), Kaufman’s Unified Reality Theory (URT), Tsang’s Brain Fractal Theory (BFT) and Deli’s Science of Consciousness (SoC). I will also discuss the idiosyncrasies which makes each of these theories unique. Aspects as neural networks, fractals, category theory and the Yoneda Lemma and their implication for sentience, self-reference and self-processing will be discussed. Finally, I’ll try to suggest how these different complementary frameworks can be integrated in order to evolve towards a Theory of Everything, with the ultimate aim of providing a sound metaphysical basis for physics without the usual paradoxes that arise from the underlying self-reference.
Although I do not take most of these theories seriously over their whole scope, it is neither my intent to use this essay to systematically undermine each of these theories, nor is it my intent to defend them against criticism. Rather, I'd like to review them in order to distil useful notions worthy of further exploration.
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Interested in reading more of this chapter? The book “Is Reality a Simulation? An Anthology”, which I, Antonin Tuynman (a.k.a. Technovedanta) edited and co-authored is now available as Hardcopy and 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 iconomen at gmail dot com.