Monday, September 2, 2019


Two-Slit Experiment Light by inductiveload. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

- Yes, yes, it's not your area but I'd like to hear your answer to my question.
- The simple answer is: some parts of Einstein's relativity theories are real, others are matters of appearance, are observational illusions, are not experienced.
- Give me an example of an illusion.
- Different perspectives on a movement, one stationary, the other sharing the same movement, can show it taking differing amounts of time (because of the fixed speed of light).
- And an example of something real?
- A clock placed higher or lower than another will click at a different rate (because of differing pull of gravity).*
- So really it's right in the nature of things that people, including Einstein who inaugurated the study by demonstrating the particle form of light, ask the same question about quantum mechanics: Is what we are looking at real or illusion?
- Yes.
- So which is it?
- You're asking me?
- Is there anyone else here?
- Then we'll give ourselves some distance and take a few steps back. At the beginnings of Western philosophy attempts were made to describe how things can change and still be what they are. If we couldn't get them together, if they were irreconcilable opposites, was change an illusion, a mistake, or was the mistake permanence? Should we try to see our lives only in one of them? Or did we live in a cycle alternating between illusion and reality, change and rest? Plato followed Parmenides' plan of cycling between the illusory world of change to the permanent world of truth, accomplishing this transition applying the tool of knowledge; in his dialogs he developed a technology of observed life, experimenting in words, searching for knowledge of how life should be lived that could survive the test of debate. Alright?
- Yes.
- Now, long before Plato, a social technology was practiced that obstructed change. Everyone was locked in roles ranked in a hierarchy, the actions pertaining to each role specified by law. We'll be coming back to this. Following Plato, Aristotle provided a way to allow real things and illusory change to occur not in sequence but at every moment together: things had a capacity which circumstances activate, make come into being: capacity reflected change, characteristic activity reflected stability, provided a definition of what the thing was.
- An account of growth, development.
- A study of how our past experience develops our capacity to act. Do you see where I'm going with this?
- Not really.
- What would be required to adapt Plato's experimental science of mental life into an experimental science of the material world? I'll answer for you: the social roles and laws of the ancient empires. Social roles replaced by things in the world, laws of the pharaoh replaced by measured movement of things showing them in accord with natural laws. Keep in mind this distinction: the pharaoh's fixed laws and roles, Plato's self in the movement of acquiring knowledge. For Plato any social life of fixed roles and rules was lived in a world of illusion: succeeding there in the application of a technology of knowledge one gained access and rest in the true unchanging world.
- Could we say that our world of change and illusion had the capacity to lead us to experience of a real, unchanging world?
- We could. Aristotle was replaced by a social technology of material laws, losing by this Aristotle's solution to the problem of describing how a thing can remain itself and also change, the individual's capacity for change actualized in the present. Forces acted to change the position of things no one knew how or seemed to care, at least not until out of nowhere a joke was played on our scientists: experiments showed that the behavior of photons was predictable only with probability, that they acted sometimes like waves and sometimes like particles, and that they seemed to remain in connection with each other across large distances. A catastrophe for science: no fixed laws, no fixed things. In the double slit experiment waves of light pass through two slits in a wall, creating two new waves, which produce a characteristic interference patter of a series of bars and gaps on a second wall. When instead of a continuous beam of light, individual photons are shot towards the slits, when both slits remain open, the same interference pattern is made on the second wall by the accumulating dots made by the individual photons, but when one of the slits was covered, a single bar of light results, no interference pattern. Scientists generally have treated this as a problem of space, a mystery about the location of things defined as remaining the same. But isn't the problem better seen as a mystery of time, of things being in two times at once, as something very like consciousness where the influence of the past is felt on the present, where the wave-borne memory of past underpins the present appearance of particles?
- Like you say the clocks show different times after individually experiencing a history of different physical conditions.
- Yes. With a little attention on their part the scientists saw that the joke played on them was doubled: just when they had convinced themselves that consciousness was an illusion, that the material world was all there was, consciousness was back staring them in face at the most fundamental level of physical reality. Shakespeare, we've talked about this before, developed Plato's social technology of knowledge into a social technology of role play.** We can imagine that when we deliberately, self-aware take on a role in society we are manifesting ourselves, ironically as it were, from the individual personal history of the wave into the thing-like permanence of the rule-following particle.
- In the reconciling of change and rest, the particle takes the part of rest, the field the part of change. But this all is taking place in the world of illusion?
- Yes, in the world of change, allowing for a temporary stability. But if from the abandonment of Aristotle at the beginning of the scientific revolution scientists haven't seemed to care about the newly returned problem of rest and movement, our social world is increasing arranged on the same technical model as the material world, and people do notice, feel strongly the lack of relation between their social role and individuality.
- You've got me confused. You believe in both: first the means Aristotle invented of securing rest and change together, his capacity and activity model of every thing at every moment; and second, you believe in the Platonic passage through the world of change toward the world of rest where there is no change and no parts?
- Yes. Both. Maintain your individuality against society's roles and rules, then decide what best to do with your individuality. The material technology of things and laws of science, like Shakespeare's social technology of role, should be practiced for the sake of getting out of the world of illusion, and to do that requires an understanding of individual life in which rest and change are reconciled. Quantum physics can do us the service of warning us of the danger of submitting to the rules of social role, losing individuality; danger of a return to the pharaoh's social technology that locked everyone in roles ranked in a hierarchy, the actions pertaining to each role specified by law, each individual like an unchanging particle in unclear but fixed, probabilistic relation to each other.
- Quantum mechanics interpreted so is an illusion. The problem of change and rest is obscured under claims of non-locality and probability.
- Yes. Quantum mechanics alternatively can be seen in the capacity/activity interpretation, taking account of actual individual histories, and making as good as sense as we have ever made of the problem of things and change, and offering reassurance that consciousness is real.


- I'm surprised at you.
- What have I done?
- You're making speeches. Jumping from subject to another. Nothing is developed, everything is confused: capacity and activity, consciousness, quantum mechanics, social technology, material technology.
- And the truth has escaped us?
- I think so.
- Would you like to make your own speech then?
- I think I would.
- Go ahead.
- My thesis is....
- Here we go....
- My thesis is that quantum mechanics is in fact somehow related to consciousness, but only one kind.
- What kind?
- A bad kind. False consciousness. What you in your system call passion and vanity, passionate action in which self is forgotten, and vain reflection in which the world is forgotten. The transition from action to rest occurs while the self is forgotten, with the result that movement is unaccounted for.
- When a field resolves itself to a particle, that is like passionate fear and hate bringing us to a place of security when ritualistically performed in a group?
- For example. The alternative your system proposes....
- I don't have a system.
- Has you theory been tested in any way? Can it be tested? The alternative your system proposes is creative action leading to ethical thought, action taken in awareness of self ends in rest forgetting self in contemplation of the world. Because action is taken in awareness of self a history of the movement from action to rest is possible, therefore there's continuity. Is such a model applicable to quantum mechanics?
- Continue with your speech.
- It is not. We have no idea how a field resolves itself into a particle. I conclude with this: as our material technology was prepared for by a prior social technology, our new physics has been prepared for by a prior psychological technology.


- Are you finished? I won't make a speech. I want to ask you a question.
- Ok.
- What does it mean that the material world is subsequent to, and is the worse version of, personal technology, social and psychological?
- What a question! I don't know. Do you?
- I can make a guess. We have in language (1) words reflecting things (2) things acting in lawful relation to each other. A structure in the technology of language - things in lawful action - formally the same as involved in material technologies.
- But we can use language creatively. Why is it that the material world, even at the level of particles, is only of the destructive form?
- Can we ever expect to reach a level of physical reality that reflects our creative personal technology?
- Yes. What do you think?
- I think, reasoning only from what little experience we have, that if we could establish regular forms of good consciousness and good society, acquire a technology, a tool that worked all the time, it might follow that we discover an equivalent material technology. Language supplies the model of technology. Practice of social and psychological technology allows material technology to be discovered. Practice of good social and psychological technology would allow, perhaps, a good material technology to be discovered.
- Wild. Do you see any signs of that happening?
- Maybe. You know here in L.A. we have a sort of open air zoo where human beings are the, to pick up on your word, wild life. I mean the hundred thousand people with no place to sleep, who are fed and watered by various charities and the government, and then thrown back to the public, functioning as a warning of the consequences of failure to conform. Strange masks are put on by the zoo animals, strange effects are produced among them. Earlier, sitting over there in the corner booth, was a little old lady, a highly talented consumer of free services. Before she began sleeping in the park she was a worker in the offices of UCLA's neuroscientists. Foreign scientists, she was telling me, brought with them research on fetal brains and half-brain lobotomies for patients with severe epilepsy.
- Where's the strange effect?
- That is now brought in by me, who among the zoo animals is taken to be one of their own. I relished the opportunity to inform the little old lady that I was in correspondence this very day with a professor at the University of California studying consciousness.
- Is that true?
- Yes. The effect builds. Also here this afternoon was the statuesk Romanian courtesan with her newest adventures. She's always being exploited and thrown out by her landlords and landladies: from a room in a Beverly Hills apartment, $1000 a month, she must leave early in the morning and return to only late at night, to a balcony to sleep on in the same apartment for the same $1000 when she'd gone to a new city and wanted to come back, to a room in what she described as a palace, a three floor French farmhouse behind the Beverly Hills hotel, supposedly the second house built in the city, in exchange for washing the dishes, which being called on to do several times a day because of frequent guests, was a bit too much, despite the $300 a week salary with room and board, so she got angry and was given a ten day notice with a cash payoff of $500, and now what should she do? Should she go to another city? She suddenly drops the pretense she's kept up for years that the $100 here and $1000 there men give her who she meets at the bars of expensive hotels didn't require anything in return. But it's so hard, she exclaims. What she gets barely covers her rent. She can't get out of her head, every time she sees me, to ask these same questions of me: What should she do? Where should she go? Me, who is in correspondence with philosophers of consciousness and is in a direct connection to British royalty.
- Since when?
- I'm getting to it. The Romanian courtesan departs, and a few minutes later another woman arrives. She four or five decades ago was in my high school class, and now is some kind of Jew for Jesus. I asked her to confirm what she'd told me earlier: that the newest British princess was the daughter of a member of our high school class. This princess, following in the footsteps of her mother, who after high school went on to become a revolutionary member of the Black Panther Party, had recently snubbed our country's chief executive by refusing to meet him when he visited the U.K. With a prince of that country not our princess' husband, our chief executive, as you must know, is involved in the large scale scandal of Jeffrey Epstein, organizer of a island club where the rich and powerful could enjoy teenaged prostitution.
- Your point being that the rich and powerful are in their own open air zoo.
- If you like. I see masking and unmasking, and strange shifting relations, both personal and social, as opposed to clearly defined things in lawful relation.
- And, as we've said, such masking and unmasking and shifting relations are the material for personal and social creativity.***

Tsze-lu said, “The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?”
The Master replied, “What is necessary is to rectify names.”
 “So! Indeed!” said Tsze-lu. “You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?”
The Master replied, “How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.” (Confucius 1901, chap. 16)

- I've looked up that cognitive psychologist you're in correspondence with.
- And?
- He's also a professor of philosophy and computer science. I wonder you're not embarrassed to be making up theories of consciousness off the top of your head when there are people like him, people who have similar ideas but unlike you are trying to make rigorous mathematical models of consciousness testable by computer simulations and programming games to reveal evolutionary fitness.
- I admire his ambition. The professor argues for consciousness creating all our perceptions and that our perceptions, self-created, are illusions.**** I'd say instead that consciousness doesn't create, but arises out of the process of perception.
- What difference does it make? You have your view, he has his, but he in addition has game theory and computer modelling as supports.
- What good is it to use computers to make models and test evolutionary fitness if what you are modelling and testing is not right?
- Not a correct picture of consciousness?
- Yes.
- Obviously it would be no use at all. But if you are claiming to have a better picture, shouldn't you make a testable model like the professor is doing?
- He has a whole team working with him.
- And you're just a talker.
- Coming up with a good model to test needs a lot of talk. I told you about the Romanian courtesan, physically imposing, otherwise rather ugly. She's in love with beauty: with her own, with the beauty of her clothes, jewelry, hair, skin She's so in love with beauty, anyone who is attracted to her is loved for participating in her love of beauty. Are we, with the professor, to say her beauty is an illusion? He tells the story of a male beetle that tries to mate with a certain beer bottle having a pebbly surface it takes for a female beetle. Are we to conclude, with the professor, that what we take as reality is a convenient illusion that makes decisions more efficient but which is not an accurate model of the world? What if consciousness arises out of repeated experiences with things in the world remaining available to awareness, and therefore the attractiveness of the Romanian is not meaningfully to be called a mistake or illusion? Men seem to be mistaking her ugliness for beauty, deceived by an illusion created by certain sizes and shapes of certain parts of her. But what if, like with the actress Marilyn Monroe, her inclusion of viewers in her history-bearing consciousness of her own beauty allows them the thrill of reacting to her body as if it were real life pornography, pornography which excites even though it is not doubted for a second that it is an illusion?
- In short, consciousness is not deceived.
- In a game testing evolutionary fitness the professor carried out, seeing the color red representing both too much or too little oxygen, and the color blue the right amount, was more fit than seeing red half-way to the maximum oxygen experienced and blue the rest of the way, even though one color representing both too much and too little oxygen doesn't represent any state of the world. That's a problem if consciousness is thought to produce its own perceptions, but not a problem if consciousness arises out of a history of interactions with the world.
- The professor says the world is an illusion, our consciousness has an active role in creating perceptions which evolution selects for fitness. Our perceptions are like the icons on our computer desktops: not similar in form to the world modeled - pushing on a two dimensional square box on a screen is not similar to the electrical changes on a silicon chip - yet there exists a practical relation between the two that can be tested in game play for evolutionary fitness. You say our relation to the world is real, though sometimes what we are used to seeing connected to what we see betrays expectation. Your ideas would hold their own, you predict, tested in evolutionary game play. That seems plausible. What then? Can you model the consciousness that arises out of perception in a way that can be computer simulated?
- The professor suggests that consciousness produces space and time in perception of the world, doing that production presumably outside of time and space: if it's already there why produce it? Where then is the agent of consciousness itself that is making space and time if it is not in space and time?
- I don't know. In the quantum world?
- All alone there? Consciousness arises, I suggest, when awareness of present time looks back on the awareness of a past time, with what is perceiving in the different times, divided by time, taking on definition as different objects. We know what and where consciousness is - it's in all this detail. Wouldn't that make consciousness easier to model?
- I'm no more a computer scientist than you are.
- As an independent agent producing perception, his consciousness is a quantum world all to itself. After elbowing consciousness aside he doesn't have more than the beginnings of a model. But maybe we do, with the quantum world involved in, arising out of every perception. The professor is working within the world of bad human technology and the bad science of things and laws that developed out of it. In a good human technology we - 'we' referring to consciousness intimately connected with, having a history in the world - seek exits from the world of time and space by experimentally trying on one role after another: both space/time and evolution are in the same model and clearly related.

Further Reading:
The Technology of Good
How Do You Make A Computer Not Want To Be A Computer?
Authoritarian and Democratic Technics, Lewis Mumford
Studies In Relativity
Atomic Clocks Reveal Einstein's Relativity
** The Technology Of Magic
*** Noam Chomsky & Mental Things
**** "Our perceptual capacities are products of evolution and have been shaped by natural selection. It is often assumed that natural selection favors veridical perceptions, namely, perceptions that accurately describe those aspects of the environment that are crucial to survival and reproductive fitness. However, analysis of perceptual evolution using evolutionary game theory reveals that veridical perceptions are generically driven to extinction by equally complex nonveridical perceptions that are tuned to the relevant fitness functions. Veridical perceptions are not, in general, favored by natural selection. This result requires a comprehensive reframing of perceptual theory, including new accounts of illusions and hallucinations. This is the intent of the interface theory of perception, which proposes that our perceptions have been shaped by natural selection to hide objective reality and instead to give us species‐specific symbols that guide adaptive behavior in our niche." - The Interface Theory of Perception, Donald Hoffman, 2018