Saturday, December 29, 2007

Life in America

We can divide daily existence into three modes: 1. the time we spend directly and immediately immersed in the world in some specific activity such as working, fishing, driving, planting, reaping, rowing, watching TV, whatever; 2. the "personal" time we spend in reflection, self-observation, thought, or just plain mindlessness; 3. the time we spend with others, in social interaction of all sorts. Often we are in all three modes at once, like talking to a fellow worker while running the forklift or losing ourselves through hours of flipping through the TV stations with a friend.

Life in modern America provides a neutral context for our existence; neutral in the sense that the space exists for whatever we need or choose to do. The activities we pursue are constrained by what it is we physically do as work and to make our way through the day and by what is available to us. But our activities are slotted into our existence pretty much free of taboos, traditions, history and culture. The biggest determining factor here is our personal wealth (which offers lesser or greater variety of needful and possible activities) and the current technology. Our leisure time -- for example -- is now often watching TV. Before TV, we passed our mindless leisure time in other ways, though there was probably less of it because with increasing modernity, we have in general gained more leisure time, as well as more ways to use it. Indeed, what we DO is subject to constant change as a result of “progress.” We work with and entertain ourselves through an ever-expanding number of technologies and devices. Yet, and here finally is my point, while what we DO can look pretty "modern" -- because what we do it with is “cutting edge” -- the neutral context in which we live allows us to continue to live in a variety of traditional and self enclosed environments when we are in our personal and social modes. That is to say, we may drive cars, watch DVDs, and play video games but we still live within an assemblage of patterned existences that goes straight back to the medieval life of town and country. Many of us are still peasants.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


In the bare-bones of things there lay veins of truth, and the veins run together.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Reading Cosmology

I don't really understand the equations, but I think I get the gist. Einstein was one switched-on fellow. His insights go way beyond what he is famous for. Seems he also laid the groundwork for modern cosmology by postulating that the universe is homogenous and isotropic. That means that on a large enough scale, it has uniform density and no direction. If this is true, the universe is a bound but expanding surface. Like the surface of a balloon that expands as you blow it up but remains a sphere. Observations, by Hubble and others since, confirm that the universe is homogenous and isotropic. Einstein apparently reasoned that it would be absurd for the universe to -- in my words, not his -- be doing any "work," i.e. to have a non-uniform density (what would keep it or make it non-uniform but "work") or to be "going anywhere" (moving where?). Physics is confirming his cosmological constant and an accelerating expansion. He spent the last years of his life working on a unified theory that may be worth taking a closer look at.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Can stars think? They do shine.

What is consciousness’ role in quantum events? Is it creator or arbitrator of events which we know as quantum probability? What would it be like to be that bit of consciousness attached to a rock or a mountain, or a quantum particle? What is an experience of the interactions of such things over their “lifetime” if indeed consciousness adheres to such things? Does level of organization determine what consciousness adheres to or does everything have a bit of consciousness in it.

Interaction is the data of consciousness.

What sort of sensory interfaces might there be for stars? Magnetic fields?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

To Expand a Bit

One day wondering down Glover-Archibold trail, I took my musing on cosmology to the point of asking the most basic question: why is there something rather than nothing? After giving this some thought, I realized that nothing cannot give rise to something all by itself. The Big Bang by itself explains nothing. And to suppose something always existed doesn't answer the question of why it exists. Much more straightforward to suppose that someone existed. Nothing cannot bring into existence something, only someone can do that, can intend that. This train of thought follows on my earlier musings on consciousness, which obviously exists but also seems to lead back to a someone rather than something. The most straightforward story to tell is that either the universe -- cosmos -- of matter and consciousness simply always was or there was a consciousness that always was that at some point intended that there be matter. What would that consciousness or any consciousness be when conscious only of itself or of nothing?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Why is there air?

Nothing cannot bring forth something, only someone can do that. Nothing is complete unto itself. It would take a someone to desire a something.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Consciousness Riff

My starting point is the assumption that the physical laws of the universe do not explain consciousness. This is where I have come out on this: nothing in the physical makeup or evolution of the universe or of humans can explain how consciousness arises. It is possible to provide a physical explanation of how the mind works -- neural nets, neural maps, etc. -- but the additional aspect of consciousness remains unexplained. Consciousness must therefore be a fundamental property of the cosmos just as is space-time, the four basic forces and the elementary particles and the laws of physics. But while consciousness is not physical, it adheres to everything physical, crossing the physical at an oblique angle. Consciousness is the ability to receive information. Information is derived from processes of emission, transmission and exchange of particles, waves or whatever else it is that conveys change and effects in and on the physical things the universe is made from. Consciousness converts this potential information into actual information by being aware of the exchanges and processes. Consciousness makes the exchanges into information by perceiving them.

So: Take a rock. Is a rock conscious? What is a rock but a swarm of particles each in a certain quantum state and each bound through an exchange of other particles to everything else? There is lots of information in that rock about individual particles but nothing about the rock itself. Therefore, there is no state-of-being of the rock to be conscious of. The rock is not conscious. Okay, are the individual particles conscious? No, same argument, there is nothing it is like to be a particle. So what is conscious? Whatever it is that is the consciousness of all the particles and waves in the universe across time. What would you call that?

So how do we get to be conscious? At some point in animal evolution, the organism begins to gather and process information -- through nerves -- about itself. The human brain is the mightiest of such processors. Of course, that complex processor can operate without consciousness. You can imagine (lots of folks use this example) a zombie that looks and acts just like a human but is not conscious. So who adds consciousness and when? And maybe, no one adds it put it just coalesces around the information being handled by the brain?