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Quantum consciousness

Consciousness Through the Prism of the Simulation Argument

There’s a cool article at Vice at the moment titled “Whoa, Dude, Are We Inside a Computer Right Now?“, which discusses the idea that we are living inside a computer simulation. This isn’t something new to us here at the Grail – we’ve covered Nick Bostrom’s thoughts on the topic previously (e.g. “The Matrix in the Mainstream“). The Vice piece though talks to Rich Terrile, a planetary scientist with NASA, who is also exploring the concept that our universe – and the conscious beings within it – is one great simulation (possibly within another simulation, and so on…turtles all the way down!).

One of the points Terrile makes is something I’ve pondered myself previously. When playing a game, in order to make most efficient use of processing power and memory, the computer will only ‘construct’ the part of the world that you need to see/interact with at any one time, rather than the entire ‘world’ that you are playing in. This brought to mind the concept and controversy in quantum physics of an observer-created world (eg. does the Moon exist if we’re not looking at it?). Terrile has considered the same thing:

The other interesting thing is that the natural world behaves exactly the same way as the environment of Grand Theft Auto IV. In the game, you can explore Liberty City seamlessly in phenomenal detail. I made a calculation of how big that city is, and it turns out it’s a million times larger than my PlayStation 3. You see exactly what you need to see of Liberty City when you need to see it, abbreviating the entire game universe into the console. The universe behaves in the exact same way. In quantum mechanics, particles do not have a definite state unless they’re being observed. Many theorists have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how you explain this. One explanation is that we’re living within a simulation, seeing what we need to see when we need to see it.

Regardless of whether the theory is correct, I find it an interesting – almost necessary – thought experiment, for trying to understand how the cosmos may differ from what we think is obvious. In the case of the observation above, suddenly the idea “we’re not the centre of the universe” becomes completely wrong again – indeed, ‘the universe’ only exists at any one time in limited space around our centre of being. Could we explain this new way of looking at the universe to someone from the 19th century, without the examples of computer games and quantum physics to draw on? If not, by extension, what different perspectives and insights into the nature of existence will the people of the 31st century have, as compared to us?

And Terrile himself seems to suffer from our vulnerability to being trapped within the dominant paradigm, even while contemplating the simulation argument:

Unless you believe there’s something magical about consciousness — and I don’t, I believe it’s the product of a very sophisticated architecture within the human brain — then you have to assume that at some point it can be simulated by a computer, or in other words, replicated.

That’s right, the man who is proposing that our consciousness may be resulting from an algorithm courtesy of an external creator, or being ‘inserted’ into a simulation from some other place, doesn’t believe there is something “magical” about consciousness. And yet these sorts of ideas have been discussed for many a year in regards to psi and life-after-death arguments (for example, see Michael Grosso’s thoughts on ‘transmission theory‘).

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  1. At the level of the quanta
    At the level of the quanta that underpins our known reality how could it be anything other than a “simulation.” The ancient idea that God is just trying to experience beingness in as many ways as possible implies that there is a simulation fundamental to it all. God mind would then be trying out as many “simulations” as possible. Dragging computers into this subject hardly alters this ancient idea. “Algorithms” already describes how physics works essentially.

  2. My favorite topic – mind &
    My favorite topic – mind & reality. What is more relevant to being human, to finding the meaning of it all? Since all reality is a construct of mind, i.e. we can never experience the outside world beyond our projection of it within our own minds, it does beg the question how much of reality independently exists versus how much do we manufacture. And like the Matrix, is even our physical bodies a construct of our mind.

    I was thinking on this subject last night, having listened to Bernardo Kastrup on Coast to Coast during my nightly workout, in which he discussed the relationship between waking reality and dreams. Since mind is the final arbiter of our reality – as Oliver Sacks illustrates in his studies of brain disorders and their affects on our ability to perceive the outside world, then I see a parallel between Mind being God. In traditional religions God created humans imbuing them with a soul – a small piece of God that animates us – wouldn’t mind be analogous to soul and the grand universal mind being God. Following this concept we all exist and the universe exist within and as a construct of this great mind. And just as our personal physical realities are a construct of our personal minds, then we are part of Jung’s universal consciousness – i.e. the great Mind, i.e. God. This is no anthropomorphized God from the Bible or Koran or…rather God is the insufficient label we in our limited intellect applied to that which is beyond our understanding.

    The universality of us being segments of a segmented grand Mind would explain the universality of experience yet anomalies that crop up. And circling back to the simulation argument, isn’t the Mind simulating reality from the supposed external input same as dreams are simulated reality…Hence colorblind people experience their simulation of the external world differently then regular vision or blind people do, presuming we can even define regular vision, or that other people even exist outside our individual minds and each of us are not creating our own simulation of the universe within our own mind – which by definition we actually are…

    Boggles the mind.

      1. Thanks Emlong – appreciated.
        Thanks Emlong – appreciated. Taking the idea further similar to the Matrix I’ve experienced synchronicities and sudden “winning” streaks that are otherwise inexplicable according to normal rules of randomness yet in the context of quantum theory of mind interacting with matter or the simulation idea they can be explained.

        One example mentioned in a previous comment is when on an extended 2 month vacation, in the middle of the vacation when at the height of relaxation and freed from all normal worldly concerns and stresses: bills, responsibilities, etc… basically completely immersed in the moment in a state of nirvana that lasted a week or so I was playing rummy with my then GF – now wife. Suddenly I began winning every hand, and not after many draws, but I was repeatedly dealt perfect hands no matter who dealt or how much or what manner the cards were shuffled. This did not just last a few minutes but persisted over almost a week and dozens of hands. Even when I discarded a needed card trying to lose, my next draw would again complete my hand. The turning point came as we left the island of Santorini and boarded a train beginning the long return to work and responsibilities and life’s stresses. As if a switch flipped inside me, I felt the nirvana leave me and instantly as usual I had to struggle at cards, winning only occasionally after many turns. My “streak” was over.

        What caused the streak? Was it random chance as fix-minded scientists would conclude? Was it a shift in my consciousness interacting with an external quantum physical reality shaping it to my will locally on a tiny scale? Or was it a shift in my mind’s simulation of reality according to my shift of consciousness being at peace and harmony instead of the normal chaos of stresses?

        Incidents like these are what lead me in my quest for understanding of Mind and Reality as I call it.

  3. Some ‘Splaining to do!

    Could we explain this new way of looking at the universe to someone from the 19th century, without the examples of computer games and quantum physics to draw on? If not, by extension, what different perspectives and insights into the nature of existence will the people of the 31st century have, as compared to us?

    This is how you explain it to someone in the 15th century:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9pR0gfil_0&feature=player_detailpage#t=510s

    1. The clue to your winning
      The clue to your winning streak was that you were completely relaxed. I am coming to think that total and utter relaxation is the next stage of evolution for humans. There are so many instances of relaxation yielding access to a higher reality. The perfectly relaxed body is more of a conduit – for what exactly or why I don’t know – but total freedom is a higher reality. In keeping with the ideas of information theory expounded by Vallee above it may also be the case that a relaxed body processes information more efficiently and with less “noise.”

  4. Another way of looking at it
    I propose that a better model of the universe and consciousness can be explored if we turn the contemporary assumptions of Quantum Mechanics as it pertains to realism upside down. Disclaimer: Physicists and mathematicians who continue to read this are likely to become agitated and angry. I offer my model as a conjecture, claiming not authority or expertise in the matter, except for possibly a sharp eye for naked Emperors. For those who do continue on and are compelled to shout me down, I understand completely and I sympathize. I used to be as certain as you are in your view as you are now, and I would not have tolerated some internet bozo flaunting their ignorance and daring to question the most brilliant and up to date understandings that we have of the universe.

    If anyone still wants to debate with me, I welcome the opportunity to do that, but please be warned, I have almost unquestionably heard every argument that you are going to bring up many many times, and argued with very intelligent experts for hundreds of hours. My ideas of course be wrong, but I have not heard any reason to believe that is the case at this point. If you want tell me that I am wrong without bringing up something other than personal opinions and conventional wisdom, then you will be wasting your time. If you are interested in my ideas, I will answer any questions you have. If you want me to be interested in your ideas, you will have to prove to me first that you have any. Otherwise I’m not interested.

    The hypothesis:

    If we are made of the same thing that the rest of the universe is made of, and we are subject to naive realism and illusion, then there is no reason to presume that the precise consistency of QM observations is an indication of anything more substantial than our own supposedly illusory correspondences. The Matrix makes just as much sense in the subatomic microcosm where we have only inanimate instruments to rely on to infer a distant and nonsensical kind of mechanism.

    We have given this microcosm carte blanche immunity to any kind of skeptical realism, gleefully turning over the kingdom to any wild interpretation that won’t contradict what we think we have detected. When the equations don’t match reality, we change reality. We add in Dark Matter and Energy, vacuum flux, metaphysical strings in compactified dimension, multiple universes growing out of every decision made by everything…it’s the Wild West for brilliant ideas on how to make nonsense of everything that human beings have ever experienced by forcing mathematical abstractions into a real-world sense that they cannot possibly make.

    If quantum physics is really more like ‘The Matrix’ than our own reality, then there is no reason to take the word of non-human objects for a reliable description of human reality. To my mind, this error of looking to the outermost fringe of our detection capacity to find reality is the flip side of the error we are making with neuroscience and evolutionary biology. In that instance, we give the benefit of the doubt to classical mechanics – biology, chemistry, genetics, evolution, ie bodies and forms, while on the microcosmic end we give the benefit of the doubt to ambiguous metaphysical concepts like superposition and decoherence.

    The combination of projecting transcendental realism beneath the atom and denying transcendental idealism of the human experience I think is an understandable outcome of five hundred years of the success of functionalism, materialism, and instrumentalism in producing knowledge and control over our environment. I suspect that the crisis of modernity which we face now coincides with the far extent of the occidental pendulum swing.

    This is not to say that I think we should return to pre-scientific approaches, but rather that civilization cannot progress meaningfully until science expands to embrace the denied unrealism of the microcosm and the direct realism of consciousness. Of course, our consciousness is very complex and multi-layered, and some degree of conflict is inevitable. We do have delusions sometimes, and other times we correct delusions. This does not mean that anything that we experience is anything other than the most real and genuine participation in the cosmos that is possible or could ever be possible for anything – including a photomultiplier, bubble chamber, or supercollider.

    To paraphrase Robert Anton Wilson paraphrasing Buddhist philosophy “Everything is true in some sense, false in some sense, true and false in some sense, neither true nor false in some sense”. What the world needs now is less ‘experience must be false because mechanism must be true’ and more ‘mechanism is what experience imagines itself to be when it doesn’t recognize its own upside-down reflection’.

    (My more formal theory of this is at multisenserealism.com)

  5. Emlong wrote:
    “The clue to

    Emlong wrote:
    “The clue to your winning streak was that you were completely relaxed. I am coming to think that total and utter relaxation is the next stage of evolution for humans. There are so many instances of relaxation yielding access to a higher reality. The perfectly relaxed body is more of a conduit – for what exactly or why I don’t know – but total freedom is a higher reality. In keeping with the ideas of information theory expounded by Vallee above it may also be the case that a relaxed body processes information more efficiently and with less “noise.”

    I agree completely. Guess I should go climb a mountain and meditate for 30 years…

    1. I have only been truly
      I have only been truly relaxed a few times in my life. The story about the vacation interlude when a state of grace descended on you really struck a bell with me. I can distinctly remember those times in my own life, and they had a magical flavor about them. Perhaps yoga practitioners feel that way all of the time, but for me it was more a psychological and emotional state in which I had for awhile been able to shed the slight twinges of guilt and regret that are part and parcel of most human beings who have had to coexist with other human beings while “getting ahead” in life.
      When I was 13 years old one summer I had spent 5 consecutive summers beginning at age 8 trying to win a very coveted award from a summer camp I attended, and it took every bit of all 5 years to repeatedly take a run at it until it was finally conquered that 5th year. It was a phsyicaly and mentally challenging series of athletic tests and times as well as a lot of nature craft and knowledge. As a reward the handful of campers who won it that years took an elite feeling river trip all by themselves on the Current River in southern Missouri. I was so intensely relieved that I started to emit this amazing and probably vaguely frightening belly laugh – very Buddhic – and I think more than a little disturbing to my fellow river floaters. I still remember what an enormous laugh it was. It was my whole being erupting out of my mouth and echoing off the limestone bluffs along the river, and it was the freest moment of my young life.

      1. Emlong wrote, “…I was so
        Emlong wrote, “…I was so intensely relieved that I started to emit this amazing and probably vaguely frightening belly laugh – very Buddhic – and I think more than a little disturbing to my fellow river floaters. I still remember what an enormous laugh it was. It was my whole being erupting out of my mouth and echoing off the limestone bluffs along the river, and it was the freest moment of my young life.”

        Very eloquently said. Reading it was almost like being on the river witnessing it. Your friends were likely a little surprised I imagine…:)

        I do believe relaxation of the mind is key. Based on the totality of my experiences, my present interpretation of the phenomena is that when we are able to quiet the noise of our mind as in meditation, the static interference clears and we are able to harmonize or attune to the quantum world around us. When this occurs I believe our energy of thought and intent naturally synchronize with the local energy of probability waves resulting in concurrent actions or outcomes, i.e. winning streaks, achievements, luck, etc… It’s not that we consciously manipulate matter like a psychic in the movies (though I’m not against the possibility with enough mental discipline), but rather that our goal or purpose attunes with the local probability waves in harmonic resonance like two tuning forks thereby defining the probability waves into the intended common outcome.

        If winning at cards is the purpose of playing, then the intent resonates with the probability waves – which continually manifest as physical reality of the cards being dealt as perfect hands with no conscious awareness of how this is occurring. This would apply equally to an athletic challenge, anything where the intent resonates with probability waves – free of the noise/static of chaotic thoughts and emotions. Athletes speak of this, getting in the zone and becoming one with the ball, or bat, or… We interpret this as their skill, but likewise the momentary perfection could equally be an example of silencing the noise so their intent resonates with matter at the quantum level, resulting in the ideal manifestation of reality.

        Whether this is Mind influencing an independent external universe, or in keeping with the theme of this post the simulated reality conforming to the mind’s desired outcome according to the focused intent of the relaxed mind – either could be correct. The conclusion I’ve come to at least at present since I’m still on a journey, is that external reality is not quite so fixed or real or independent as traditional science would have us believe. I believe it is malleable and fluid under the right conditions whatever the final explanation of reality proves to be.

        1. There is a general theory of
          There is a general theory of conspiracy that the forces currently engaged in trying keep everyone in fear are themselves fearful of a humanity that becomes self possessed enough to relax into their higher selves and start tasting the powers of that which would be inimical to maintaining a large slave class. I am coming around to that idea myself.

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