Friday, December 7, 2007

Boredom and Consciousness Part One

A link to this video can be found at

A link to this video can be found at

At the tenth dimension forum, one of the subjects that comes up from time to time is synchronicity: the feeling many of us have experienced that information is coming at us from unconnected sources, yet it all seems to fit together somehow. Since our brains are all about finding and decoding patterns, there are no doubt going to be times when that information really is unconnected, and it is purely our brains that are building those connections. But these days, in a world of increasingly accelerated information input, there are also more and more times when those connections are real, and what we are viewing is really a map of the rapidly rising and falling memes that make up our combined consciousness.

Talking to the general public about consciousness in terms of the nature of reality is something that appears to make quantum physicists uncomfortable, particularly those who like their science to be completely separate from anything more than a purely atheistic viewpoint. With this project, which joyfully embraces such a multitude of ways of imagining reality, including ones which mainstream science doesn't endorse, we are part of a growing community of people around the world who think that there is a major shift of global consciousness approaching. And for those who say this is more "What the Bleep" nonsense, I would like to quote from a book I've talked about in this blog before. Written by two respected physicists from the University of California, Santa Cruz (Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner), the book is called "Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness":
" dealing with the mysteries of quantum mechanics, we walk the edge of a slippery slope.
A recent movie...informally called What the Bleep Do We Know?...provides a good illustration of the problem. ...The movie uses special effects to display quantum phenomena with macroscopic objects--for example, exaggerating the uncertainty of the position of a basketball. That's legitimate and is understood as hyperbole. The movie's allusion to mysteries in quantum mechanics being connected to the realm of consciousness is also valid. But then the movie blends over to "spiritual revelations" and to the implication of a quantum connection with the channeling of a 35,000-year-old Atlantis god named Ramtha and other such nonsense."

That slippery slope, then, is what I'm referring to when I say that consciousness and quantum physics are intimately tied together, and just where on that slope a particular physicist is willing to place themselves has a lot do with whether they believe there is any spiritual aspect to our reality or not. But even at the most atheistic viewpoint, we are still left with the mysteries of how matter can remain in indeterminate states until it is observed, and that is a very big mystery indeed.

A few weeks ago I published a blog entry suggesting one of those strange connections - that the accelerating expansion of our universe might be tied to the accelerating expansion of our consciousness, and that the first witnessing of dark energy and the launch of google, both in 1998, might be connected to the beginnings of a change. As crazy as that idea sounds to some, it appears I didn't go far enough: a few weeks later an article was published in New Scientist magazine which starts with these astonishing paragraphs:

Has observing the universe hastened its end?
- by Marcus Chown

Have we hastened the demise of the universe by looking at it? That's the startling question posed by a pair of physicists, who suggest that we may have accidentally nudged the universe closer to its death by observing dark energy, which is thought to be speeding up cosmic expansion.

Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and colleague James Dent suggest that by making this observation in 1998 we may have caused the universe to revert to a state similar to early in its history, when it was more likely to end. "Incredible as it seems, our detection of the dark energy may have reduced the life-expectancy of the universe," says Krauss.
This reminds me of a simple cartoon drawn by famed quantum cosmologist John Wheeler, which shows a U-shape with an eyeball at one tip, which is looking at the other tip as a representation of the big bang (Rudy Rucker discusses the cartoon in this blog entry): the question Dr. Wheeler is asking with this cartoon is "Does looking back "now" give reality to what happened "then"? This relates to discussions we've had here: the startling implication of all this is that not only are there many branching possibilities from the "now" forward in time, but there are also many branching possibilities back to the beginning of time as we experience it. While in my book I ask the reader to only acknowledge that these branches exist both forward and back, and that the simple "line of time" we look back upon is only one of many that could have got us here, the implications from these quantum physicists is even stranger: they are indeed saying that not just the present, not just the future branches, but the past as well can be changed by observation!
This cartoon is also discussed in Quantum Enigma:

The provocative sketch has not lost impact. At the recent conference honoring Wheeler on his 90th birthday, a keynote speaker introduced his talk with Wheeler's sketch.
The anthropic implications of his diagram must have been a lot even for Wheeler to buy. After asking the above question, he immediately added the comment: 'The eye could as well be a piece of mica. It need not be part of an intelligent being.' "
My song The Unseen Eye talks about these same ideas:

And of course, my song The Anthropic Viewpoint talks about those implications contained within this sketch as well: to again quote from Quantum Enigma, "...the strong anthropic principle asserts the universe is hospitable to us because we could not create a universe in which we could not exist." Or as I put it in the tongue-in-cheek chorus to my song, "The reason we're here is because we're here":

Which leads back to the idea that memes rise and fall, and that synchronicity may or may not be the universe communicating memes to us, but in either case the connections that our wonderful pattern-oriented brains make are very real, because that's what brains are designed to do. Next blog entry I am going to talk about two magazines that arrived in my mailbox yesterday (another bit of synchronicity), and the connections that I see in those magazines and this project to the idea of "Boredom and Consciousness". My song "Automatic", which is about Julian Jaynes' theories of the bicameral mind, is also going to figure prominently into where we go with this discussion:

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

Click here to continue on to Boredom and Consciousness Part Two

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