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Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1991-97); and Writer (Part Five)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2014/11/08


Part five of eleven, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: mathematics and physics, logic and metaphysics, mutual interrelationships, digital physics and “informational cosmology,” consciousness grounded in informational cosmological definitions of “self-consistency” and “information processing,” identification of minds within universe with consciousness, interrelation between minds and universe, subcategorizations of self-consistency and information processing based on interpretations and definitions, Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor, logic,Law ofIdentity, Lawof Non-Contradiction,Law of the Excluded Middle, Plato,Theaetetus,The Republic, Aristotle,Metaphysics, “laws of thought,” Wilhelm Gottfried von Leibniz,Leibniz’ Law,Law of Reflexivity, Law of SymmetryLaw of Transitivity, set theory, Kurt FriedrichGödel, Saint Anselm of Canterbury, On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems (1931),incompleteness theoremsBoolean Algebra (foundational for digital electronics), George Boole, “Boolean Heresies,” An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), physics, Novikov Self-Consistency Principle, time-travel, computer science, database management systems, Jim Gray (1981), ACID or ‘Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability’, “self-consistent” or “self-consistency” as “system without self-contradiction,” information theory, Claude Elwood Shannon, A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948), Warren Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of Communication, examples of information processing, application of information theory to information cosmology, reflection of the deep equivalences, clarification of armature of universe and universe, and the rich refinement of digital physics into informational cosmology; definition of universe as the entirety of matter and space; definition of the interrelation of mind and universe based on a personal query from 1981, each mind having structure and rules akin to universe, different manifestations of the same structure at vastly different scales for universe, and the non-mystical/technical nature of the definition; informational cosmogony, cosmology, and eschatology apply to origins up to the present until the resolution of universe, construction of a metric for individual local and global consciousness, mathematical operation of universe with a quote from Eugene Wigner, armature of universe, speculation on descriptors of armature for universe, a response to Wigner quote with Einstein, and speculation on external universes and respective armatures from our universe; thoughts on the disparaging nature of the commentary on consciousness; survival advantages of consciousness, commentary on evolution and consciousness, and the possible role for consciousness in evolution; statistical likelihood of localized consciousness within universe and globalized consciousness of universe, and the ‘Statistical Argument for Existence’, and further commentary on it; thoughts on reactions to grand claims made about the structure of thought and universe, and brief comments; Aristotelian foundational empiricism, natural philosophy, methodological naturalism, rationalism, empiricism, inductivism, Ockham’s Razor, consilience, falsificationism, verificationism, hypothetico-deductivism, Bayesianism, and epistemological anarchism; reflections on religious/irreligious conceptions of an afterlife such as reincarnation (with/without karma), heaven and hell, oblivion, nirvana, union with the divine, and the whole suite of possibilities for an afterlife, and in particular their truth value; and general thoughts on religion.

Keywords: armature, computer science, consciousness, evolution, faith, falsificationism, Giga Society, heaven, hell, information processing, informational cosmogony, informational cosmology, informational eschatology, irreligious, karma, law of non-contradiction, logic, mathematical, Mega Society, metaphysics, nirvana, Novikov Self-Consistency Principle, physics, predictions, probabilities, religion, Rick G. Rosner, science, self-consistency, universe.

45. We discussed mathematics and physics, logic and metaphysics, consciousness and its subcategories, and these conceptualizations’ mutual interrelationships. In particular, refinement of digital physics into “informational cosmology.” 

Furthermore, in informational cosmological nomenclature, your definition of consciousness divides into and emerges from two broad ideas: self-consistency and information processing.  In brief review, we have identification of minds within universe with consciousness, universe with consciousness, and the interrelation of mind and universe based on isomorphic function and characteristics.  What beyond this introductory realization of the equivalence?  I observe multiple arenas of common discourse – let me explain.

From an informational cosmological foundation, the hyphenated term “self-consistency” and phrase “information processing” divide into further subcategorizations.  These subcategories have constraints from definitions.  “Self-consistency” and “information processing” contain various definitions because of differing interpretations, but technical and concrete definitions hold most import here.  

As a general primer to “self-consistency” – which might have less decipherability than “information processing,” we can begin with this informational cosmology expression “self-consistency.” German mathematician and founder of set theory (fundamental theory for mathematics),Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor, defined self-consistency as the inability to derive both the statement and negation of the statement at the same time.  Cantor argued, if deriving the statement and its negation, the derivation would self-contradict. (One can transform this into more formal set theoretic language about elements contained in sets – or the language of mathematics, self-consistency holds great weight for mathematicians, and logic, see Law of Non-Contradiction below.)

Self-consistency does have other theoretical universes of discourse in addition to multiple practical and applied venues of human venture: logic, set theory, mathematics, physics, computer science, and many others.  

In logic, the Law of Identity (A equals A), Law of Non-Contradiction (A cannot equal not-A), and Law of the Excluded Middle (For all A: either A or not-A)all introduced – informally & implicitly by Plato inTheaetetus &The Republicand formally & explicitly by Aristotle inMetaphysics– in ancient Greece. Sometimes called “laws of thought.”  These delineate facets of self-consistency expressed in the formalisms and vernacular of logic. For one similar vein, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz derived Leibniz’ Law,‘x = y’:if, and only if, x contains every property of y, and vice versa.  Moreover, he derived sublaws from Leibniz’ Lawsuch as the Law of Reflexivity, Law of Symmetry, and Law of Transitivity.For one example,Law of Reflexivity,‘x = x’:everything is equal to itself.  This mirrors the Law of Identity of Athenian philosophers – Plato and Aristotle.  Patterns – Platonic Forms and Ideas even – of concepts arise in repeated episodes of the historical timeline – groping towards some unitary definition.

In set theory, Austrian-born American logician, mathematician, and philosopher, Kurt Friedrich Gödel, had additional fame for formalization of St. Anselm’s Ontological Proof for the existence of God.  In addition to this, Gödel publishedÜber formal unentscheidbare Sätze der Principia Mathematica und verwandter Systeme or On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems (1931). Tersely, an axiomatic system capable of describing natural numbers (e.g., 1, 2, 3…) held within it: 1) cannot be both consistent and complete, and 2) if consistent, the consistency of the axioms cannot be proven within the system. He, and modern specialists, call these two incompleteness theorems.

In mathematics, English logician, mathematician, philosopher, and founder ofBoolean Algebra(foundational for digital electronics), George Boole, continued the ancient Grecians work in a facsimile of the earlier laws of thought with some extensions in mathematical language. I call them “Boolean Heresies” for fun. Boole laid these out inAn Investigation of the Laws of Thought(1854). The primary extension from Aristotle became the extension of the three classical laws of thought into mathematical symbolisms, formalisms, and terminology. For one example, the ‘=’ or ‘equals sign’ signals synonymous meaning with theLaw of Identityor theLaw of Reflexivitybetween things.  Things labelled ‘A’ in theLaw of Identityand ‘x’ in theLaw of Reflexivitydiscussed earlier. 

In physics, applied to time travel – the Novikov Self-Consistency Principle, ‘laws’ of physics must remain self-consistent at a global level in the real universe to prohibit any paradoxes with respect to time travel.  In this application, time-travel scenarios must disallow violation of universe’s global laws. 

In computer science, at least in database management systems, the acronym ACID equates to principles for operation of database transactions.  “ACID,” from Jim Gray (1981), means ‘Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability’ with the importance of ‘consistency’ meaning “the transaction must obey legal laws.” 

In broad definitions provided by Gray (1981) about the “general model of transactions,” he states, “Transactions preserve the system consistency constraints — they obey the laws by transforming consistent states into new consistent states.” As noted, Boolean Algebraic (Boole) systems operable in computer science too. 

One can see the pattern in numerous fields.  Therefore, “self-consistent” or “self-consistency” within informational cosmology means “system without self-contradiction.” 

“Information processing” will have an easier time of comprehension because of living in the computer age, digital age, or information age. American mathematician and cryptographer Claude Elwood Shannon’s article,A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948), represented information theory connected to communication. A short paper, experts consider this article foundational to the field of information theory, which allowed many of them to decree Shannon the father of the information age.  

American scientist and mathematician, Warren Weaver, republishedA Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948) and expanded on Shannon’s work in a coauthored – with Weaver – book entitled The Mathematical Theory of Communication (1949).  Specialists remember Weaver for pioneering work in machine translation.  Shannon and Weaver laid the framework for information and communication theory up to the present day.

In it, if we take a human interpretive view of the work, he showed the degree of “noise” – entropy/disorder introduced into the message – entering between the “information source” (brain1/mind1) & “transmitter” (voice/speech) and the “receiver” (ears) & “destination” (brain2/mind2). Noise enters between the transmitter and receiver to decrease the quality of the message from the information source to the destination.

For an everyday example, if you whisper from a mile away, your friend will have trouble understanding you – too much “noise” preventing clear receiving and interpretation of the message; if you whisper next to your friend’s ear, the message will more likely have appropriate receiving, decoding, and arrival at the destination for your friend’s comprehension. 

Not clear enough – think of a computer, how does it process information? It processes information according to input, process, and output. You type a symbol on the keyboard – input, the machine runs internal mechanics – process, and produces the appropriate (if functional) symbol on the monitor – output. Hence, the foundation of information theory in informational cosmology.

Input becomes any decipherable piece of data to the system. Process becomes the algorithm for managing the information. Output becomes the final product of input and process. Likewise, this applies to everything in informational cosmology at local and global scales.

In current vernacular, we ask, “What if the contents of the universe equals input, process equals laws plus time, and output equals transformations of the contents (e.g., particles, fields, forces, and so on) of the universe?” 

In informational cosmological parlance, we ask, “What if bit units of universe equal input, process equals principles of existence plus time, and output equals transformations of bit units of universe?” 

These reflect deep equivalences. As noted by 21 year old Rick, all theories of grandeur and great import start with big equivalences. You shifted the perspective. Subsequent information processing equates to observed universe. Simply put, we need an armature by necessity, but do not observe the armature based on externality to universe.

Armature of universe equates to material framework or processor; universe equates to information processing or processing. We observe the information processing. We call this universe. We do not observe the material framework, but by necessity require processor based on isomorphic geometry between universe and individual localized minds.  

Individual localized minds operate from brains, and therefore universe must have an equivalent of a “brain” – aforementioned armature. This deals with information and universe at the largest scales. In this, we have the rich derivation, i.e. refinement, of digital physics into informational cosmology. 

Since universe does have some characterization in relation to subsystems within itself based on isomorphic properties, what would count among other subcategorizations? In other words, what other manifestations exemplify the definition of self-consistency or information processing? How do you define these ideas in more colloquial terms?

Consciousness is the vivid, emotionally charged, moment-to-moment sharing of processed sensory input, memories, and simulated/imagined self-generated content among brain systems which receive a wide-angle flow of information. By wide-angle, I mean not a linear relaying of signals from A to B to C but instead, sharing of information with many other brain systems, so that each system knows what’s going on in the rest of the brain (within the limitations of its specialty). Systems can pop into and drop out of consciousness, depending on the brain’s moment-to-moment processing needs.

Each pertinent subsystem adds its angle on what’s currently under consideration in the mind, possibly triggering further associations. Memories are pretty much locked until they’re unlocked by being pulled into the conscious arena. Most people have memories which they’ve remembered so many times that the original memory has been all messed around by being rewritten over and over in the conscious arena. (Do we need to fully light up a memory to remember/mess with it?)

The entire mind needs to speak the same language of representation, so there’s probably a lot of recursion, where subsystems of the brain have to be able to identify stuff that’s not their specialties. Some systems can be less clued-in than others. Our sense of smell seems to be kind of distant from other systems. You smell something, it’s familiar, it’s on the tip of your brain, but you can’t quite pull up the specifics of when you’ve smelled that smell before. (If you were a dog, you could pull up everything about that smell. When humans and dogs teamed up, humans took over strategic thinking, and dogs took charge of smelling.) Language probably makes pulling up associations easier and more efficient. Hanging a word on something is a kind of shorthand (that maybe takes up less space than a full description and makes it more retrievable).

Anyhow, the same way every part of your brain knows what’s going on in every other part via the conscious mind, every part of the universe is clued in to every other part (via long-distance particles – mainly photons in the active center and neutrinos traveling to the deeper structure on the outskirts). The conservation laws – momentum, energy – and the relative constancy across space and time of physical constants help the universe maintain informational consistency.

I also think that much of our understanding is virtual, where, in any given moment, our awareness doesn’t contain much, but by shifting attention around, we build a virtually complete picture of the world. It’s similar to how our eyesight functions – we have precise vision for only about 15 degrees out of a total visual field of 200 degrees. We can’t precisely see an entire painting or TV image all at once. Our eyes wander around the image, and we build a more-or-less complete picture in our mind. Our awareness probably works the same way. Our brains can only process so much in any given moment. Whatever’s under consideration gets analyzed in some ways and then in others, but not in all possible ways at once. We never see or comprehend anything completely in an instant but through sequential processing build up (over a short period of time) what acts like fairly complete understanding.

It’s like trying to look at Macy’s 50-by-100-foot American flag in a storage closet. You can only spread out 20 square feet of it at a time, but eventually, by looking at different parts of it, you can develop a picture of the whole flag.

So a thought isn’t just some parts of the brain lighting up all at once – it’s a whole chain of parts of the brain lighting up until you eventually (but in a short period of time – fractions of a second) have the semblance of a complete thought. The universe probably works the same way – galaxies keep lighting up while other galaxies are fading away. A thought isn’t just the 10^11 galaxies lit at any one time – it’s a whole chain of lit galaxies, like an animated, moving display of Christmas lights. Thoughts – things under consideration – fade into each other. We have a more thorough understanding of things than what we understand at any instant. And the universe is more precisely defined than just by the relationships among matter in the active center.

In both the mind and the universe, you need consistency. Galaxies don’t wink in and out of existence just because you’ve shifted your point of view. A galaxy exists no matter where it’s viewed from (though if you go far enough away from it, it’ll look Hubble/relativistically/informationally redshifted). Same thing in your mind. If an event definitely made itself known to some part of your conscious mind – red traffic light – that light isn’t red according to some parts of your mind and green according to others. You can have ambiguous events where you’re not sure what happened, but if you have deep disagreements about established facts between different parts of the brain, that’s trouble.

46. All representation of the information sharing of the material framework of universe equates to universe in informational cosmogony, cosmology, and eschatology. More elements have inclusion here. How do you define universe?

The universe is the entirety of matter and space – everything that has interacted with or could interact with us. It’s an information space – an arena for the sharing, processing and storing of information (for the universe, not directly for us), with the scale and curvature of space determined by the rules of information and its distribution and correlations. (That is, the distribution of matter.) The location (and velocity) of matter has almost everything to say about its correlations as information.

47. Insofar as mind and universe have propinquity – kinship in nature; a structural relation between individual localized consciousness within universe and globalized consciousness of universe. How do you define their interrelation?

Back in 1981, I asked myself, “What if the geometry of information within consciousness is the same as the geometry of the universe? (And how can it not be?)” The optimal structure/map of the information within each individual mind has the same general structure and rules as the universe and its physics. It has 4D space-time, atoms, the whole deal (with allowances for the universe having about 10^80 particles and our brains having 10^11 neurons, which, though I don’t know how many particles in a mind-space this might translate into, can’t be many more than 10^16). The mind and the universe are different manifestations (at vastly different scales) of the same information structure. We see the universe from the inside – as part of it – so we don’t see it as information (except that quantum mechanics is the rules of behavior for matter about which there is incomplete information – we can see that matter is information by catching it behaving as incomplete information, as in the double-slit experiment). And we each embody our own mind, so we see only its information and not the mechanics of it.

People suspect that you might be a wacko when you try to assign consciousness to anything but people and higher animals, as if you’re talking about a fancy, mysterious transcendent realm of rocks and trees and butterflies sending thinky vibes to each other. But no – consciousness is a technical thing, not a mystical thing, associated with broadband sharing of real-time information among brain subsystems plus emotionally linked value determinations. (Emotions and values amplify the personal importance of what’s happening in your life. We have evolved to care about our lives. Apathy and absence of judgment aren’t the best survival characteristics – if you can’t be compelled to care about yourself and choose favourable courses of action, you’re in trouble.) When a bunch of specialized systems in your brain are exchanging information including emotions in real time – when every part of your brain knows what’s going on, more or less, in every other part of your brain, and you have feelings about it, that’s consciousness – a technical property associated with global, pervasive information-sharing. (The subsystems need to understand the information they’re getting hit with. Most parts of your brain understand fire or the color fuchsia or birds (in ways pertinent to each brain system’s function, with some parts understanding some things better than others, consistent with their specialties).) It’s not mystical – not connected to some divine or exalted domain.

48. Informational cosmology describes the self-consistency and information processing of universe.  We might construct a metric for individual local and global consciousness.  Universe operates under mathematical principles of existence (laws).  Eugene Wigner’s stock quote about the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” seems apropos to me – not in presumption about either side of the ledger.  Universe’s armature might operate within other principles of existence. 

By an informational cosmological definition, anything internal to universe operates according to mathematical principles of existence (mathematical laws).  Anything external to universe operates in mathematics containing universe’s mathematics, or in some novel considerations about the nature of mathematics.  Universe’s armature exists external to universe.  Therefore, universe’s armature must operate in mathematics containing universe’s mathematics, or in some novel considerations about the nature of mathematics. Any speculation about this?  What does this imply?

You talk about constructing “a metric for individual local and global consciousness.” I think that, in terms of increasing brain complexity, consciousness becomes well-rounded – feeling like a fully-rendered experience of the world – pretty fast. It’s not clear how deeply insects feel, but fish and reptiles feel and think, though they can be pretty boring as companions. I had a genius goldfish that figured out how to call me to feed it by noisily blowing bubbles at the top of the tank. Even with their tiny little heads, birds feel and think (and can be kind of dickish – read about Alex the parrot). And of course mammals think and feel. Darwin, who was above all an excellent observer, knew that animals feel, writing the book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

I think of subjective degrees of consciousness like the number of sides in a polygon. With increasing numbers, they become close to perfectly round pretty fast. A tire shaped like a regular triangle or square would give you a very bumpy ride, but this quickly gives way to the near-circles of 12-, 15- and 24-sided regular polygons. Tires in the shape of 24-sided polygons would give you a pretty smooth ride. Fifty- or 100-sided polygons are barely distinguishable from circles.

Consider a dog’s consciousness as a 15-sided polygon – reasonably close to circular. Doesn’t have all our bells & whistles – language, ability to rotate objects in our mind. (On the other hand, we don’t have the world of smells dogs have.) And consider our consciousness as a 100-sided polygon. Lots of ways to analyze and mentally manipulate things – when we look at something, we feel as if we’re really seeing it. Our lives feel deeply substantial and authentic to us, but they probably don’t feel a whole lot less real and immediate to dogs. If we suddenly had the awareness of a frog or alligator or lizard, we might think, “Wow – this is kind of a half-assed representation of the world.” (Or maybe not – alligators must have some precise sensory systems.) Seeing the world with a bug’s awareness might be like being in a 1980s video game – rough, not detailed, not very fleshed-out, not a lot of analytic tools.

As long as we’re messing around in this direction, let’s guess at the size of a thought, in terms of the total number of events in mind-space that might make up that thought. (A mind-space event might be the equivalent of the exchange of a photon or the fusion of a pair of protons with the emission of a neutrino plus a photon.) We have about 86 billion neurons and up to a quadrillion synapses. Assume, just to make sure we’re not underestimating, that 10,000 mind-space events contribute to the firing of a neuron. Figure a neuron might fire up to eight times during a thought. So a thought might consist of nearly 10^16 mind-space events, but it’s probably a lot less, because not every neuron’s firing like crazy, and there probably aren’t 10,000 discernable mind-space events that led up to a neuron firing. (But a neuron firing may not be a single event – it may light up a lot of stuff. Or it may not be an event at all. The formation and breaking of dendritic connections might be events. The network of connections – the associative landscape – might be a framework that tacitly informs the processing of information. The layout of the landscape might provide a virtual context for the information being actively processed, the way collapsed matter might provide context for active matter. Could be like compressed digital information – to send a compressed video, you only specify the pixels that change – you get a series of complete pictures without sending complete pictures. Similarly, the active center of the universe may be only part of the picture the universe is painting for itself. For the (long) moment, it’s the only part that’s in play, but it’s not the whole picture.)

So let’s take a look at the universe, which I theorize is a mind-space thinking a 20- or 30-billion-year thought or part of a thought (in a long-ass string of thoughts). The active center has about 10^80 particles, mostly in stars. Each particle has maybe 10^11 interactions a second times about 3 x 10^7 seconds a year for maybe 3 x 10^10 years. So a thought by the universe might consist of around 10^109 events. That is, of course, enormous – you couldn’t count that high in a year. Or in the apparent lifetime of the universe. Or in a billion apparent lifetimes of the universe for each particle in the universe. So don’t even try.

Why such a big number? Well, if every size of universe less than infinity is allowed, then there’s no limit on size – bigness comes cheap. Normally, I don’t like the anthropic principle, which says the universe is the way it is because we’re in it, but we do need a universe that’s big enough, detailed enough, old enough for us to come to exist in it.

And you asked about Wigner’s “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” quote, which asks why math is so good at describing the universe. I’d counter that with the well-known Einstein quote, “God is subtle, but he’s not malicious.” I think another way of saying that is “The universe is only as complicated as it needs to be.” I’d argue that numbers are about the simplest non-contradictory system (that’s unlimited in size). (Godel proved that numbers might contain hidden contradictions, but we haven’t found any yet, and even if we did, they wouldn’t be serious enough to stop us from using numbers.)

The universe is only as complicated as it needs to be to exist. (There’s probably an argument to be made that more-complicated-than-necessary forms of existence, unless artificially supported, are unstable (or improbable) and break down into simplest-possible forms.) A simplest-possible universe will include simplest-possible components and structures, which can be characterized by numbers, which are themselves part of a simplest-possible system.

You asked about a universe external to ours that contains the universe’s armature. I think that universe can be characterized by the same mathematics that characterizes our universe. The principles of existence keep a fairly tight leash on the forms that universes can take, which includes number of dimensions, types of physical forces, and being characterizable by math. Of course we have no evidence of a universe external to ours.

49. You made disparaging and denigrating statements about consciousness.  Your thumbnail sketch and corporeal definition of self-consistency and information processing does not by necessity implicate such negative commentary. Why the occasional harsh tone on consciousness?  Any positive statement about consciousness while on the topic?

Consciousness is more helpful when you have time to think. Obviously, you come closer to having free will when you have time to consider a situation and can weigh everything you know, including, perhaps, knowledge of your own biases. You can run a thought a few times and see what associations your brain pulls up. Consciousness is helpful in new or complicated situations – it can help recognize patterns and put together essential details, finding exploitable regularities in your environment.

Consciousness lets you talk to yourself. Assigning words to things is powerful when trying to retrieve information from your own memory or from outside sources. (Key words are useful even in your head.) Consciousness lets you run simulations – what would happen if I did this? In the future, advanced versions of us might constantly be running very detailed projections of a range of near-futures – what might happen in the next few seconds or minutes – so we can choose the best course of action. We’d be living in our own near-futures and choosing among them. This might be the closest we come to side-stepping the one-dimensional flow of time.

Consciousness is necessary for interacting with other people. It takes many integrated brain systems to engage in effective human interaction. When the requisite systems don’t function together smoothly, you can end up with autism spectrum challenges.

Sometimes, consciousness seems like more trouble than it’s worth – as when you’re aware of how miserable you are. (Of course evolution only cares about our happiness to the extent that it helps us produce and raise offspring that are themselves good at reproducing. Too much misery would make us ineffective, but so would being happy all the time.) But it’s like me nagging my wife to always keep two hands on the steering wheel in case of sudden and unpredictable danger. Maybe we don’t need consciousness during every waking moment, but it needs to be running for those unpredictable moments when we really need it – when it’s better that we’re not just a bunch of reflexes.

One more thing – say your life really does pass in front of your eyes during moments of extreme danger. Maybe this is a survival mechanism, or is at least an indicator of a survival mechanism. Maybe stress triggers thinking, so stressed organisms think more, and think more fluidly, than non-stressed organisms. We seem to know that extreme stress – danger – triggers a temporary increase in the brain’s ability to take in sensory information – time slows down, and we’re hyperaware of our surroundings. Perhaps really big danger triggers a really big thought reaction – your brain tries to make you think everything all at once.

50. Consciousness can offer survival advantages. Can it play a role in evolution? How might this play out?

This is a recent excerpt from a book by evolutionary biologist Professor Andreas Wagner on

“Selection did not—cannot—create all this variation. A few decades after Darwin, Hugo de Vries expressed it best when he said that “natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest.” And if we do not know what explains its arrival, then we do not understand the very origins of life’s diversity.”

That is, we know how changes in and variations among animals may allow some animals to produce more descendants, but we don’t know enough about how such changes originate and become enduring details in evolutionary history. Not enough consideration has been given to consciousness as an evolution booster. (Obviously, at some point in the development of a civilized species, random evolution is mostly replaced by intentional change. Humans are at this point.) I think that consciousness facilitates evolution in a variety of ways. One possible way – the stress of being ill-adapted triggers increased mental flexibility. Say a nerdy organism has a gimpy leg or something. Maybe there’s a mechanism where that organism has a little meltdown, with normally crystallized patterns of behavior becoming subject to conscious consideration, possibly resulting in innovation. (Hey, it happened to me, maybe it can happen to an iguana.) Only to the extent, of course, that the organism has a mental arena – gimpy amoebas won’t be doing any thinking. (Though similar-to-conscious mechanisms might still occur in non-conscious beings. A changing environment may prompt inadvertent innovation among amoebas, even though it’s happening through chemistry, not consciousness.) Once a successful innovation arises, there’s a new niche offering an advantage to organisms that are relatively better at the innovation (assuming that the innovation can be disseminated and perpetuated).

Another way consciousness can increase the likelihood or frequency of evolutionary change might be through a generalization of the “Nerds are compelled to think” principle discussed above. What if every member of a species has some conscious awareness? Every behavior or combination of behaviors in an organism’s conscious arena (entirely or in part), is subject to conscious variation. That is, the organism understands the behavior to some little extent and can put its spin on it. The behavior isn’t entirely unconscious and hard-wired. Conscious variation makes possible a bunch of small potential advantages – on a short-term basis for individual animals, on a medium-term basis from physiological variation that already exists within a species, and on a long-term basis from mutation. Behavioral change can lead to genetic change, not in a Lamarckian sense, but by giving an advantage to those organisms which can best perform the changed behavior. Animals can’t choose their mutations and variations, but, if capable of any thought, are better able to take advantage of them.

Animal thought can make evolutionary transitions more likely and mutations more likely to be exploited (among both thinking animals and the organisms they interact with – cows and corn aren’t great thinkers, but they’ve gained a reproductive advantage via human thought). Genetic changes can be abrupt – there’s punctuated equilibrium, where the fossil record shows relatively fast transitions between long periods of unchanging form; thought can ease such transitions. I dunno – maybe biologists adequately factor animals’ ability to think into evolution, but I kind of doubt it. I guess a test of this would to see if the pace of evolution has accelerated along with complexity of thought (other things being equal). We had 2.5 billion years of bacteria, a few hundred million years of cell colonies, then – boom – a panoply of life in relatively quick succession – worms, fish, amphibians, bugs, reptiles, birds, lemurs. Flexible behavior facilitates evolution.

The stories of individual organisms must sometimes be crucial to evolutionary history. Gimpy Carla the Crustacean has a weird claw; she figures out she can use it to really get at snails – good eatin’! Her friends learn the same trick – maybe not as expertly as Carla, but enough for snail scooping to become part of Carla’s species’ behavioural repertoire. Skilled snail-scooping turns into an evolutionary advantage, with members of the species that have genes which help make them better scoopers having more reproductive success. Or maybe Gimpy Carla doesn’t find a use for her weird claw; maybe she figures out something else altogether. Or perhaps there’s nothing particularly wrong with Carla’s claws, and she figures out a new behaviour anyway. Maybe she sees an octopus flipping over rocks to get what’s underneath, and Carla’s like, “Hey – I can flip rocks, too.”

51. Furthermore, you have spoken on the probability for the existence of both globalized consciousness of universe and individual localized consciousness within universe.  We can name these ‘Statistical Arguments for Consciousness’: consciousness of universe (and consciousness of minds within it) cannot not exist. 

Indeed, the simple existence of universe could be called ‘Statistical Argument for Universe’: universe cannot not exist.  Some state this as a blunt, dull, and passive query, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” What best represents these idea?  How can you state this in formal terms?

You can view Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” as a statistical argument. Given the apparently highly organized and consistent information within a human’s consciousness, the odds that the existence it reflects isn’t real and is instead caused by happenstance is nearly zero.

To put it in a mathematical framework, there must be some measure of the complexity/amount of information within an individual awareness and within the universe. And there’s some calculation you could do which represents the odds that such complexity could arise as a momentary random blip that doesn’t reflect actual existence. The odds are infinitesimal.

(When saying that the universe “can’t not exist,” I mean something else – that there’s a statistical bias towards existence. Non-existence entails as special a set of circumstances as existence – it’s not the default state of things. And given that there’s a very small set of non-existent states and a very large set of possible states of existence, there’s a probabilistic argument to be made in favor of existence. There might be only one state of perfect non-existence. If there were different null states, then there’d be something to differentiate them. And that something is something that exists, so at least one of those things isn’t the null state. (Can’t imagine nullity coming in a bunch of flavors.) The more particles you have, the greater the number of possible interrelationships they can have, with that number growing at least exponentially. (Look at video games now compared to video games in the 80s. Complexity allows variety.) Also, if the principles of existence permit existence, there has to be existence – not all possible states all the time, but permitted states (one at a time) operating under (possibly self-arising) rules.

52. You’re making enormous claims about the structure and function of both mind and universe. Even in general terms connected to their relationship, these arguments might create grounds for individual or collective bafflement, confusion, glazed reading, instinctive ire, reactive dismissal, mockery, scolding, scoffing, offense, prods and epithets about intelligence, furrowed brows, pleas for clarification, misunderstandings tied to wrongful extensions and conclusions of the theory, straw-manned misinterpretations, questioning of sanity, non-sequitur statements, appeals to emotion or authority for disproof, personal attacks at various facets of your personal life – including shallow attacks at family, and awe at ground breaking ideas – let alone thoughts about the interviewer.  

Most reactions and feedback welcome. Preference for constructive feedback. However, these have zero connection to the truth or falsity of the theory. We need rigorous scientific methodological constraints. Obviously, and an extraordinarily important note, this journal is not peer-reviewed.  Any reflections?

I’ve been interviewed before, though never at this length, and am familiar with the kind of comments this could generate. Pretty comfortable being an eccentric clown – it’s often helped me avoid being fired. “He’s crazy, but he’s harmless – just leave him be.” Have done a lot of ridiculous stuff, in part because I’ve thought as long as I’m doing physics in my head, whatever else I do doesn’t matter so much. By talking about this theory in depth, I’m hoping for pretty much the first time to eventually be taken seriously.

Even if I didn’t have a history of being a goofball, this would be tough. A bunch of people have radical theories of the universe. Many are at least a little crazy; most are wrong. There’s a fun test by John Baez called “The Crackpot Index,” which gives a craziness score for your theory and yourself. I score about 20 out of a possible 641, putting me on the low end of crazy. But I write jokes for TV, have been a stripper, don’t have a PhD or have ever worked in academia, my theory isn’t peer-reviewed, it has very few equations. Making it legit will be a long haul.

I’ve postulated a lot of stuff here; some of it will turn out to be true or closer to true than currently accepted theories. It feels consistent with what we know and has a kind of poetic rightness. But that’s just how I feel. Could get some credit, or could be like Fritz Hasenohrl, who, a year before Einstein, came up w/ E = 3/4 MC^2. So close.

Gonna use social and other media to try to get my stuff out there, hoping that the current culture of foolishness finds me foolish enough to embrace and that the attention prompts legit people to ponder my BS.

53. Modern science developed many explicit and tacit boundaries along the trajectory of development. From an ahistorical and more conceptual consideration while acknowledging the rough-and-tumble development of modern science, some bounds include Aristotelian foundational empiricism, natural philosophy, methodological naturalism, rationalism, empiricism, inductivism, Ockham’s Razor, consilience, falsificationism, verificationism, hypothetico-deductivism, Bayesianism, and epistemological anarchism.

Undoubtedly, quarrels exist around the appropriate weight and inclusion of these – and unstated others. I state the description of them in the upcoming format for sake of concision. Far too much to cover here. Many, many books written at length on the subjects alone and together.  I will cover each in their presented order. 

Originating from a single mine of human endeavour, science forged from the base metals of Aristotelian thought. Aristotle, the smithy, even invented the – still used – biological taxonomical distinctions ofanimaliaandplantaein the 4thcentury BCE. Aristotle shifted the dominant philosophy from the Platonic to the empirical – suiting for a strong student of Plato inThe Academy

English alchemist, biblical scholar,mathematician, occultist, and philosopher, Sir Isaac Newton, from The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687) becomes the transition between the era of natural philosophy and natural science.  In fact, some would consider the simple definition of studying natural causes by natural means sufficient to explain a foundational principle of science: methodological naturalism.

Rationalism and empiricism tend to oppose one another. Pure rationalism defines knowledge from the human mind alone (a priori); pure empiricism defines knowledge from experience alone (a posteriori). Pythagoras, Parmenides, and Zeno of Elea represent early rationalism culminating in Plato with the candle kept alight byRené Descartes, Benedict (Baruch in Hebrew) de Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, Francis Herbert Bradley, Bernard Bosanquet,Josiah Royce, Noam Chomsky, and other ancient and modern exemplars.

Sophists represent early empiricism coming afire with Aristotle with the torch taken by the Stoics and Epicureans, followed by Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, William of Ockham, Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume, Voltaire, John Stuart Mill, William Kingdon Clifford, Karl Pearson, Bertrand Russell, Sir Alfred Jules Ayer, and other ancient and modern exemplars. For some preliminary reading,René Descartes defends rationalism in Discourse on the Method (1637); John Locke defends empiricism in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689).

1stViscount St. Alban, English jurist, philosopher, and statesmen, Francis Bacon, founded the Baconian Method inNovum Organum Scientiarum or New Instrument of Science (1620), synonymous with inductivism.  Where Aristotle represents the major transition from dominant rationalism to some form of empiricism, Bacon represents the metamorphosing of empiricism into more modern empiricism. 

Science does not give proofs. Mathematics produces proofs.  As founded by Francis Bacon under the appellation empiricism and enunciated by Scottish economist, empiricist, historian, and philosopher, David Hume, science amasses evidence for probabilities of theories. Weight towards theories and arguments based on quantity and quality of evidence. Sometimes echoed in the oft-said – to the point of boredom – phrase of Carl Sagan, adapted from Marcello Truzzi, for extreme cases, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

English Franciscan friar, and scholastic philosopher and theologian, William of Ockham, proposedOckham’s Razor, or the principle of parsimony, meaning do not multiply assumptions/premises (“entities”) past the point of necessity. In other words, among competing hypotheses choose the one with the least assumptions.

English polymath, historian of science, Anglican priest, and theologian, William Whewell, brought “consilience” into consideration with The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded Upon Their History(1840). Of great importance, Whewell – in addition to other work by John Herschel – formalized the modern methodology of science with History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) and The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded Upon Their History (1840).  Whewell’s efforts with the term consilience faded in philosophy of science until revival in the late 1990s. His lasting mark continues with the modern methodology and refinement of the title “natural philosophy” to “science” and “natural philosopher” to “scientist.” 

With great acumen for synthesis (and conceptual resurrection), American biologist, naturalist, and sociobiologist, Edward Osborne Wilson reawakened the philosophy of science term “consilience” withConsilience: The Unity of Knowledge(1998). However, Wilson attempted to bridge the division between the humanities and sciences adumbrated by Barron Charles Percy Snow fromThe Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution(1959). We can leave considerations of humanist convictions possibly driving the thrust of Wilson’s efforts while sustaining the content of the text, argument, and term from philosophy of science. “Consilience” means convergence of evidence from multiple disciplines; a confluence of evidence from multiple fields, subfields, researchers, and laboratories. 

Insofar as methodological science concerns itself with absolutes, Austrian-born British Philosopher, Sir Karl Raimund Popper thought science falsifies. Some call this criterion falsificationism.  Popper meant this to solve problems of induction and demarcation. Of course, this proposed solution/answer to two problems/questions (induction and demarcation) non-arbitrarily excludes certain disciplines from scientific analysis. 

Problem of Inductionasks, “Does inductive reasoning lead to knowledge?” “Inductive reasoning” means evidence for support of premises without aim of absolute proof (particular to general); as opposed to deductive reasoning meaning premises logically imply conclusion of the argument (general to particular). 

Problem of Demarcationasks, “What distinguishes science from non-science?” According to Popper, with respect to one instance with theProblem of Demarcation, non-science fails at adherence tofalsificationismFor example, astrology, Freudian psychoanalysis, and metaphysics seen through the lens of falsificationism – and skepticism – become non-science, and therefore equate to pseudoscience within this single constraint. 

Although, not set firm, Popperian discussions continue, e.g. some might argue for verifiability over falsifiability. “Verifiability over falsifiability” meaning the theory must have verification rather than the possibility of falsification.

Dutch physicist, mathematician, and astronomer, Christiaan Huygens, built the original scaffolding for the hypothetico-deductive methodology.   A procedure for building a scientific theory accounting for results of observation, experimentation, and inference with the possibility of further effects being verified/not verified. For a concrete example, hypothetico-deductivism might use Bayesian analysis based onBayes’ Theorem/Bayes’ Law/Bayes’ Rule

Reverend Thomas Bayes died and one friend, Richard Price, edited and publishedAn Essay towards solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances (1763), which contained the theorem. In briefBayes’ Theoremdeals with the mathematics of conditional probabilities. Some applications and utility in calculations for real-world scenarios in drug testing.  Bayesianism took the throne of inductivism (which Popper rejected) or became the adapted equivalent of inductivism in the modern day, especially with the utility in the ascendance of modern medical testing. 

Austrian philosopher of science, Paul Feyerabend, proposed epistemological anarchism.  Epistemology means the study of the nature and scope of knowledge.  In this sense, within the confines of scientific discourse, epistemological anarchism means science’s attempts for fixed boundaries appears too optimistic and eventually detrimental to science itself, and therefore the search for universal boundaries of operation becomes an impossible ideal. 

History presents one tangled, messy narrative filled with disagreement, dialogue, and debate, even petty feuds.  At bottom, we need predictions and tests.  What does your theory predict?  How could we test the predictions of informational cosmogony, informational cosmology, and informational eschatology?

Some possibly testable questions:

Can my theorizing reasonably be made to agree with well-established observational evidence? For instance, I say there’s a bunch of blackish collapsed (but non-exotic) matter, located mostly in what appears to be the early universe and probably around the outskirts of galaxies (as well as at the center of galaxies, but that’s been established). Can this work in terms of galactic dynamics? The greatest observed Hubble galactic redshift is about 12; I say there’s a bunch of blackish stuff with redshifts of 1,000 or more. Very convenient – all the stuff that makes the universe work is nearly invisible.

For my theory to work, black holes have to be more accessible and reversible than they’re currently thought of as being. This can work if the matter in collapsing bodies creates additional space for itself by shrinking. (A house or a collapsing star is a lot more spacious if you’re only two feet tall.) This makes sense informationally. Not only is the matter in a collapsing body defined by its interaction (gun-fighting) with the rest of the universe, it’s additionally defined by all the additional gun-fighting going on within the body. With so much matter clustered so close together, the particles can zip bullets back and forth among themselves at a much faster rate than in non-collapsed matter, defining themselves in space much more precisely. You still have tremendous forces, but they’re not enough to inexorably crush matter beyond the resistance of any other force. (You can still lose information in a blackish hole to noise/heat, if the ability of the universe to store information isn’t perfect.)

Blackish holes which have less crushing power than they’re traditionally understood to have should be able to coexist with non-collapsed matter without relentlessly consuming it. If galaxies cycle over and over, there’s gonna be some collapsed matter left around. Maybe new stars sometimes coalesce around collapsed bodies. Maybe some collapsed bodies can open back up from the heat generated near the center of new stars. In general, gentler new-school blackish holes create less havoc than unstoppable old-school black holes. We should be able to mathematically model galaxies that contain a bunch of collapsed non-exotic matter (including modeling various ways old galaxies get lit back up). There’s a study released just a few hours ago which suggests that up to half the stars in the universe might be found outside of galaxies. This seems possibly consistent with a very old universe with parts of space that repeatedly puff up and shrink down, do-si-doing into and back out of the active center. Stuff’s gonna get tossed around.

Can information-based cosmology fit in with well-established laws of physics? When I edited Noesis, I received articles from people claiming to have disproved Einstein. Disproving Einstein is a major indication your thinking is likely flawed. Einstein’s theories show that space and time and matter are up for grabs, lacking Newtonian solidity, which brings out the theorizing in some people. Einstein didn’t disprove Newton. He put Newton in a larger context. I don’t want to disprove well-established physics – I want to put some of it in a new information-based context.

Can this be mathematicized? Seems like it – it has some math in it already. It sounds a little like what legit guys like John Wheeler and Ed Fredkin sound like when they talk about a universe that’s built from first principles. Scientists who come up with biggish theories often talk about looking for elegance or simplicity or divine symmetry – indications that the deep rules governing the universe are particularly nice – non-arbitrary, explaining a lot with a little, having a pleasant orderliness without being a complete buzzkill. Do my principles and the big equivalence between mind-space and physical space have the right poetry, the right irony, the right we-should’ve-known? Do they give us and the universe a destiny that makes sense?

Is what I’m claiming consistent with what we know of the mind and brain, of the phenomenology of thought?

Do the general principles mesh with the specifics – have I come to the right conclusions in going from an information-based universe to the five persistent particles being the major players in it?

Do the two structures – mind and universe – inform each other in what seems like a reasonable way? Do memories in our heads really pop into our awareness like galaxies lighting up? Can blackish holes be seen as storing information for later retrieval? Can efficient, three-dimensional information spaces be constructed? Does it make sense that a nexus of information would coalesce like a galaxy? Are words and concepts and people and things represented in our mental maps by things that look like stars and galaxies? (Hey, how else would they look? – not like frickin’ file cabinets.) Can we eventually find connections between brain activity and structure and mind-space activity and structure? Are stars and galaxies the best way to cluster related information? How does gravitation decide what information clusters into stars and galaxies, forming concepts and representations? Why does a concept end up in one galaxy rather than another? (Though everything’s related to everything else, choices still have to be made about which things are clustered with each other – you can’t have just one big cluster.) What do orbits and angular momentum mean in terms of information?

By the way – I love Bayesian analysis. When working as an ID-checker in bars, I created a Bayesian system which assigned points for everything not quite right about a potential customer’s ID and presentation. At its most refined, the system and I could catch 99% of fake IDs with only one or two false catches a year. (This was back when going to bars, not going online, was probably the number-one way to try to hook up. Having a fake ID was a big deal back then.)

54. With regards to traditional religious/irreligious conceptions of an afterlife such as reincarnation (with/without karma), heaven and hell, oblivion, nirvana, union with the divine, and the whole suite of possibilities, do you consider any of them to have any truth value? If so, which one(s)? 

I think in the not-too-distant future, we’ll have technical resurrection – technologically created conscious entities which can be seen as approximating the continuation of specific humans’ awarenesses. Eventually, we’ll understand and synthesize consciousness. (Some disappointment may accompany the understanding of consciousness – once dissected, it may not hold all the wonder it currently does.)

As to whether the universe has non-human means for continuing or resuming human consciousness – could be. If there are high degrees of infinity of worlds that can and do exist at some point, then finite beings such as ourselves (or close approximations of ourselves) could pop up. But this pop-up existence seems unlikely out-of-context.

By out-of-context, I mean that we are born into a world which seems to operate via natural processes. For us to pop up, out-of-context, in a constructed world, there would need to be a constructor. I don’t see a lot of evidence for some outside constructor preparing a world for us beyond our natural existence. I think we humans will have to help ourselves (and any possible Creator) by building our own afterlives.

55. Based on the last response, any thoughts on religion?

Religion remains a matter of faith. Science continues to turn up more evidence for scientific explanations of the world. There’s room for God in this, but a God who’s deeply in the background, intertwined with the beautiful symmetries of the universe, not an actively intervening God. The world’s religions have a pretty consistent view of what they’d like God to do – provide fairness, abundance, an afterlife. In the absence of definitive evidence that God provides these things, it’s not unreasonable, nor should it be against God’s wishes, to help Him out. Isaac Newton and many other scientists have thought and continue to think that figuring out the universe is doing God’s work.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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