APPENDIX 3

Consciousness



"...the human soul is so alienated from us in our present culture that we treat it as an extraterrestrial. To us the most alien thing in the cosmos is the human soul. "

- Terence McKenna

On the Technology of the Soul page, I define the soul as "a consciousness principle, separate from the body but inhabiting the body during life", and I also mention that the science myth (The SCAM54) does not say anything about souls. However, that statement contains a contradiction, since scientific disciplines very definitely do attempt to explain consciousness as something arising within their domain. A recent web search generated 5,740,000 references to the term. A quick survey of the top-ranked references revealed entries from the fields of cognitive science, neuroscience, philosophy, religion, metaphysics, and others.

This represents a broad range of perspectives on the subject. Which of them, if any, do you suppose might be of value to SETI, and which to Open SETI?

SETI's interest in "consciousness", even the possibility of a technology of consciousness, is based on the following factors:

  1. The technology of artificial intelligence (AI) has many proponents and some predict that AI will soon surpass human intelligence.42
  2. SETI asserts that interstellar space travel by living beings is impossible. However, AI, or robotic systems, should be better able to survive long space voyages than humans would be.
  3. According to the unacknowledged but universally-employed principle of SETI incrementalism, ETI societies will employ robotic probes to explore I-S space and find us.
  4. Consciousness is nothing more than a high order of intelligence. Advanced robotic systems will be conscious.73 Thus we need to get ready to meet our new friends, the robots.
These factors give rise to a natural affinity of SETI to cognitive science and neuroscience. For a rich experience of the paradigm, click here.

Open SETI approaches the subject of consciousness from a very different perspective, based on the following factors:

  1. Virtually all of Earth's cultures have had experience of a soul, designated by a variety of names, which is a conscious principle capable of operating with or without connection to a living body. Our own culture has this as well, but relegates the experience to the domain of "religions" or folk myth. This is in keeping with a peculiar insularity of "science", which has not been able to interface with the soul (i.e., verify its existence with instruments). Nor has (mainstream) science been able to come up with any theoretical basis for the existence of the soul.
  2. Since all persons -- scientists included -- experience consciousness or (synonymously) awareness, science does not deny the existence or reality of consciousness. However, science has difficulty in explaining consciousness, or even defining it. It is not sufficient to experience consciousness in the most intimate way (as the principle that has experience); it must have a theoretical basis and be measurable. This leads science to believe that consciousness is a property of systems that it recognizes: living systems and, sometime in the future, artificial intelligent systems.
  3. The problem with such conceptions of consciousness is that the systems supposed to support it do not have the facilities for supporting some of the known and observed features of consciousness -- paranormal experiences, for example, including the out-of-body experience (OOBE) and near death experience (NDE).
  4. OOBEs and NDEs, as well as other paranormal experiences provide contact with realms unknown to science, as well as inhabitants of those realms. Although this distresses scientists, it is manna to Open SETI, because any such entities encountered might qualify as ETI, at least in the sense of being not quite human, or decidedly nonhuman, and apparently not from our local coordinates.
  5. There are entities - psychopomps - who seem to have mastered some sort of technology of the soul. They are interacting with and/or controlling humans in various ways.
Consciousness itself might be our best instrument for exploring these realms. We have in our modern culture a technique that could be employed. The discipline of remote viewing has been successfully used by military and intelligence services to gather a wide range of information. In fact, the lore of remote viewing indicates that ETI has been encountered through that means. This is of interest to Open SETI.43

But do we truly have no theoretical basis for consciousness? We might indeed, through the study of quantum mechanics. The following is a possible justification for that statement.

Our culture generally believes that the physical objects of our world are built of hierarchies of particles that have properties and behaviors that actually make no sense to us. That is, the particles that make up our everyday world obey laws that are different from those that the discernible objects of our world obey. And yet the objects of our world consist entirely of those particles. Let's take a closer look at this odd situation.

Down at the levels of the particles we're discussing, physics is described by the Schrödinger Equation, written in various forms on this helpful page.

The symbol Ψ refers to a quantum mechanical state vector that fully describes the physical state of some system. The Hamiltonian operator H sums up all the physical laws of cause and effect operating within the system. On the helpful page, you will see various differential equations that show how Ψ varies over space and time. The solutions to those differential equations are in the form of waves of probability with which specific instances of Ψ occur. In other words, many different instances could occur, with varying probability. In fact, the double-slit experiment and many others demonstrate that they do all occur, simultaneously, and can even interact, the various probability waves forming interference patterns.

However, when the system is observed, either by some instrument or directly by a living observer, it is seen that only one particular outcome has occurred, and it is not understood why that particular one is the one observed. In fact it is not understood why the observing instrument should be so special as to select a single outcome. In what way is it different from the quantum mechanical system it is observing?

The reduction of all the possibilities (and they are infinite in number) to the one observed is called collapsing the state vector. Why does an observing instrument or an observing consciousness collapse the state vector? Could it be that the inanimate instrument does not do so, but that the collapse occurs only when the conscious being reads the instrument?

observations/universes

In our ongoing experience of life and the world, this mysterious collapsing of the state vector goes on all the time, but we somehow miss the complexity of the process; we experience a smooth, orderly world.

I'm sure I have grossly oversimplified the situation, but this little discussion is intended to suggest that consciousness, far from being merely a property of complex systems as Kurzweil et. al. would have you believe, actually has something to do with the processes of quantum mechanics. That something has been the work of several individuals.

For example, Evan Harris Walker (1998) proposes that consciousness is linked to the brain via quantum tunneling events that occur every time vessicles operating in the synaptic cleft transfer charges between neurons. Here, consciousness is not a property of the brain at all. Artificial intelligence systems would not present the same possibility for consciousness linking... unless they were constructed with suitable neurons and vessicles etc. The technology for accomplishing that would likely be genetic in nature. Would you have a robot at that point, or something quite else?

I suggest that you would have a genetically-engineered being with the ability to make a home for some kind of consciousness. Does this sound at all familiar? On another page I wrote:

MYTH: Groups of advanced beings came here and found the planet inhabited by proto-humans, which they then genetically upgraded to the modern human form. Suitably advanced souls (that's us) were brought in and allowed themselves to be attached to this new human evolution. At that point, the arts of civilization could be taught to these hybrid creations.46

But let's return to our subject. We have, in our culture, a very great shaman. Terence McKenna, like anthropologist Jeremy Narby, fearlessly traveled some inner psychic space and encountered beings there who merit being taken very seriously. McKenna's books and recordings articulately document his experiences and his interpretations of their meaning for us. His essay, Tryptamine Hallucinogens & Consciousness, felicitously for our present subject, couches his ideas in terms of our search for ETI:
"...there was a declension of gnosis that proved to me in a moment that right here and now, one quanta away, there is raging a universe of active intelligence that is transhuman, hyperdimensional, and extremely alien. i call it the logos, and i make no judgements about it. i constantly engage it in dialogue, saying, "well, what are you? are you some kind of diffuse consciousness that is in the ecosystem of the earth? are you a god or an extraterrestrial? show me what you know."
Matti Pitkänen's theory of Topological Geometrodynamics is an attempt to "unify fundamental interactions by assuming that physical space-times can be regarded as submanifolds of certain 8-dimensional space, which is product of Minkowski space future light cone and 4-dimensional complex projective space CP_2."

In his TGD-inspired theory of consciousness, "states of supercanonical representations" are natural correlates of brain consciousness.

Pitkänen's website contains numerous papers on these topics and descriptions of his books. There are also articles summarizing the recent status of the TGD-inspired theory of consciousness in Lian Sidorov's Journal of Non-Locality and Remote Mental Interactions.

Open SETI, cognizant of the existence of quantum theories of consciousness and higher dimensionality, and aware of experiential reports that seem to correspond to these theories, allows for the possibility that the ETI for whom we search has long since mastered these suggested realms. An extension of these ideas considers that through genetic engineering, ETI may have played a role in our own evolution and may now have a one-way connection with us. These are far from certainties, but it helps to keep them in mind when planning SETI programs.


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