Thursday, November 22, 2012

Draped Across the Fifth

One of the common arguments used in the last few years to disprove the existence of free will is the evidence that the conscious awareness of making a decision to take an action is preceded by a number of seconds of neurochemical activity which is occurring without us being aware of it happening. Amazingly, this means scientists can have a subject hooked up to monitoring equipment, and be able to tell what response the subject is going to give to a simple test well before the subject is aware of having made their decision to respond.

Here's a video some of you will already have seen. It shows Marcus Du Sautoy (Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and current Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science) participating in an experiment conducted by John-Dylan Haynes (Professor at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin). This particular experiment shows that Du Sautoy's mind is made up about six seconds before he himself is aware of having made a decision!

A direct link to the above video can be found at

After the demonstration, Professor Haynes sums up the conclusion that I hear from critics of my project all the time: "It seems that what our experiments reveal is that it's like there's a mechanism unfolding, a deterministic mechanism that leads up to your decision at a later point in time, and that it was inevitable, it could only go one way."

My response to this has been to say that rather than disproving free will, this proves that our consciousness is better thought of as being "smeared" across more than the tiny spacetime window that we observe from instant to instant. This is another way of describing our fifth-dimensional selves. Now, here's a fascinating news story about what I would say is the same concept viewed from the opposite perspective: it talks about new scientific evidence that subjects are able to predict what question is going to be asked in controlled experiments where even the scientists running the experiment don't know what the question is about to be.

What I've been trying to get people to visualize then, is that while our awareness is necessarily centered on the physical "here and now" of our flipbook universe, the space-time frames occurring one planck unit after another that give us the illusion of a continuous reality, our minds are also constantly engaged at lesser or greater degrees with something larger, something that is outside that fourth dimensional "now" our physical bodies are moving within.

In other words, you and I are not just a moving point following the "arrow of time" in the fourth dimension: we are draped across the fifth.

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