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Friday, 13 September 2013

Dreaming And The Secret World



Here's an interesting problem sent from a subscriber, I thought I'd give it a bit of space to itself here.

This is an interesting one, because it speaks to a lot of core issues, a lot of core assumptions, about a lot of basic things we take for granted.  These basic things are things like time.  Thinking.  Stuff like that.

Of course, normally we very rarely question such things, because normally they seem totally solid.  The assumptions we have about the mind, about the basic nature of what it's doing, the basic nature of time, what time actually is - most of the time we just wouldn't even think about such things.  It would be like digging up the ground beneath your feet when you're trying to go for a walk... or so it would seem.

But every now and then, there's a glitch.  Something slips - and it can be something very small, and seemingly irrelevant.  Some tiny little contradiction that just niggles at you, almost, one might say, like a splinter in your mind.

The thing about reality is that reality is consistent.  It doesn't have glitches, it doesn't do contradiction.  So any glitch, any contradiction?  It has to be in our understanding.

As a philosopher, when you find a contradiction or an inconsistency, a good rule of thumb is to treat it like a massive glowing neon sign saying "DIG HERE".  You don't know how deep you're going to get with it - but it'll be deeper than you are right now, anyway, so there's that at least.

And on top of this - all roads lead to Rome.  After a while you start to see connections between the inconsistencies - and connections between where they lead.  And that's when you really do start getting a far clearer view of the secret world.

And on top even of that... well.  As any detective can tell you, the smallest inconsistencies can lead to vast breakthroughs.  Sometimes it's just a little thing, but more often than not, there's a king-sized iceberg under that tip.

Here's the question:

XXXXXXXXXXX

An expected surprise

Sometimes you are woken up from a dream by an interruption from the waking world, for example a knock at the door, the dream seems to somehow take this in its stride and incorporate it seemingly effortlessly into itself. 

The curious thing is that when you are woken up by the interruption, it seems to come at the end of, and as the conclusion to the dream. 

If you are like me you are initially left thinking – that’s odd! How did the dream know that was going to happen? Weird….

However, upon waking the dream as a sequence including the apparently conclusion-forming interruption is then (re)experienced within the waking state. 

Or the experience somehow drifts as on state arises and the other subsides.  

When we have properly woken up, in the waking  state we like to think, “ok the dream appears to have 4 dimensions, 3 of space which we know are not real (I was in bed not flying through the air!) and 1 of time - which is real (it definitely took time for the dream to progress)”. i.e. from the waking state perspective, we take dreams to be one-dimensional. 

However the above interruption-conclusion example might suggest that dreams are actually non-dimensional. i.e. The dream might apprehend all the ‘objects of the dream’ ‘concurrently’ or, more accurately, eternally (outside of time). 

Then somehow  a story or sequence of events is experienced by the waking state at the moment of waking or re-presented shortly afterwards. Without the existence of some kind of 'metaphysical swap space', we must be talking about the same consciousness here. What is going on?
XXXXXXXXXXX

Now, this is a little bit of what I call a 'high-order' problem.  It's quite abstract, and can be a little tricky to get your head around, but well worth doing if you can.

The issue is this - you have a dream, and a loud noise interrupts it.  Within the dream that noise becomes a key part of the narrative, the story of the dream.  Say, you were in a car, and the dream ends with the car crashing (which incorporates the noise of the slamming door).

You half-wake, and the dream is still there, still there as a fading experience.  As part of that experience, the car crash, complete with appropriated sound effects, is still quite a tangible thing.  And yet the noise, the slamming of the door, gets re-experienced as what it was, the slamming of a door.  

The two states 'slip by' each other, so to speak, the two narratives of the same sensation.  

Now here's the thing - if we experience things in linear time, and interpret them in linear time, how can these two things coexist, within one consciousness?  Is this consciousness like a kind of space in which experiences are exchanged - even linear narratives which occur at the same time?

How can one sensation (the slamming door) lead to two utterly divergent experiences that are complete as chains of cause and effect, when the sensation which they centre around occurred simultaneously?

Well, if you're a long-time reader to this blog (or if you just read the introduction to this article where I said this), you'll know that one of the central tenets of the new kind of philosophy that get done here is that reality does not contradict itself.

What that means in practice is that knots like this, strange weirdnesses and paradoxes and such - they are completely artificial, all of them.  This means that solving the problem is a waste of time.  There is no problem to solve.

This is true of all paradoxes.  The analysis of paradoxes is a big part of contemporary Western, and some strains of ancient Eastern thought - but in the way it is normally approached has literally no value of any kind.

What does have value is realising that all contradictions, inconsistencies and paradoxes are apparent contradictions, apparent inconsistencies and apparent paradoxes (for some reason I want to write paradoxii, but that's not right).  

Anyway, point is this.  There's a way to approach these kind of things that pays off, and a way that doesn't.  The way that doesn't is to delve into the complexities and try to make it all fit inside our current understanding of what all the elements in this are.  Narrative, linearity, mind, self, dreams, waking.  

That's what everyone does - it's not just a disease of modern philosophy, it's a human disease, it's just that modern philosophy is more elaborate about it and uses bigger words.  There's no fundamental difference in what's being done.

What is fundamentally different is this new way of doing philosophy, which is that we never try to solve paradoxes, because we know there aren't any.  Instead, we take apparent paradoxes for what they are - a demonstration that some or all of our basic assumptions are fundamentally wrong.

Once you start looking for the assumptions that give rise to the apparent paradox, you're doing something very different from any mainstream kind of philosophy.  

So.  Dreaming.  Narrative.  Metaphysical swap-space.  Re-experiencing.  What is going on?

The first big assumption that we can kick away right at the start is the idea that we are experiencing.  

This is, in fact, the total inverse of what is actually going on.  Experience is occurring - and the 'we', the 'I', the 'you' that is doing the experiencing is just a fiction.  A compelling fiction, yes, but a fiction nonetheless.  It's just not real.  

What you have is a flow of experience, and within that experience, things are happening.  One of those things is this constant projection of 'you' as the 'person' who is 'doing the experiencing'.

This isn't true.  It's just a projection, there is no you.  You could ask 'well, who is doing the experiencing then?' but then, I could just shoot back "who is necessary for experiencing to occur?"

This is something that, interestingly enough, is completely visible.  You can actually see it, so spare me the arguments, and take a look, there is literally no you, there's just the illusion of it.  And of course you can say "who does the seeing then?" to which I would respond "nobody is necessary for seeing to occur, no you has ever been necessary for anything in your life to occur, whatever it is, ever, because there is literally no you in real life."

Those of you brave enough to look will be in for something of a shock, but I'll leave that to the curious and the bold.

Ok, so that's assumption the first.  Where does this leave us?

Well, if there's no you experiencing anything, just experience, which includes thoughts and narratives and such, all of which claim to be experienced by you, then all of a sudden, this really isn't that big of problem at all.

Especially when you take a closer look at what's going on with this 'illusion of self'.

A big chunk of the article One Song was about this - the actual nature of the illusion, what it is, why it is, what it's doing and how it's doing it.

Let's just focus on the very last element of that for a second.  How it's doing it.

The pioneering recent work done by Iain McGilchrist on the nature of the brain hemispheres allowed me to put together a new kind of understanding, a new paradigm, if you will, about the nature of the brain, and what the human self fundamentally is.

Not just that it is an illusion, but what kind of illusion it is, how it works, what the elements of it are.  I don't want to repeat too much of that here, but a quick sketch of it would look like this.

The right hemisphere exists to authentically map contour and quality.  That's basically what it's doing - it includes things like emotional quality, but also all other kinds of quality, like colour, taste, that sort of thing.  The stuff that's not easy to describe in language, or concepts, but is very distinct and specific nonetheless.

The left hemisphere exists for one very strange and very interesting reason - to create and project an illusion of fictional narrative, fictional cause and effect... and a fictional mind that is experiencing all this.

The left hemisphere has the reins of power in the skull.  It rules the right, and so it can (and does) rope the faculties of the right hemisphere in to filling in the structure it projects.

The resulting experience is all linear narrative of all kinds, all 'rationality' - all filled in to one united experience, which we experience as being human.  

Of course, technically, we don't experience it at all - what's far closer to the truth is that the experience occurs.

Now, there's just not enough time in the day to dig in to the other big thing in One Song, which is a new paradigm concerning the nature of time, but suffice it just to say this regarding your question on sensory overlap in dreaming and wakefulness.

There is no contradiction, and we're not looking at a special case of the waking experience of the door slamming being 'backward rationalised' into a new narrative.

The waking experience of the door slamming is being 'backward rationalised' into a new narrative - but it's not special.

Backward rationalisation into superficially coherent narratives is what the brain does.  These rationalisations are often quite accurate - the noise happened because the door slammed - but only incidentally so.

Accuracy is only relevant inasmuch as it helps the core purpose of what the brain has evolved to do, which is to make and sustain a compelling narrative of you, your life, the world around you.

That narrative exists to provide a support structure and context for the illusion of self - and that illusion is the point of what the brain is doing.  It's why it's there, it's why it's so big, it's why it uses so much energy.

You can see this very clearly when you get blamed for something - especially something you actually did.  All of a sudden accuracy is thrown out the window, and you have a list of excuses as long as your arm, almost all of which have only slight and tenuous connections with what you're being blamed for.  We're human, we all do it - but that's the point.  We do all do it.

Accuracy is wholly expendable to the normal operation of the human brain.  It's useful for as long as it doesn't interrupt the vivid display of a moral self - but the second it does, it becomes punishingly clear where the brain's priority lies, which is why truth is rightly seen as the first casualty of war.

The brain backward rationalised the slamming door noise in the dream - as a car crash.  It discarded and reworked that interpretation when you fully woke, because of it's desire for continual coherence.

But - and pay attention here - the way in which it did this was in both cases to invent a linear narrative that moved from past to future.  

This narrative was experienced - but experienced how?  As the memory of having had a linear experience.

There was an experience, for sure - but the meaning of the various parts of it, the labeling of those parts in general - this kind of thing is fleshed out after the fact, but presents itself as if it were the true order of events.

This isn't a special case, it's just special insofar as it makes the true operation of the brain much more visible than it otherwise is.  The illusion of self, the illusion of story, the illusion of cause and effect, the illusion of linearity.  All of this is the brain just working normally - this is what it does, this is all it does.  It has one goal, one agenda, one task, just as the heart has one task, which is to beat.  The brain's task is to project backward rationalised narrative, as a foundation for, and as the body of, the illusion of self. 

This is obviously a radical new paradigm for understanding the workings of the brain.  That rational processing is in fact not real, that the brain is not doing this.  What it can do is use it's skill in pattern recognition and skill generation (which I talk about here) to mimic rational process.  But then, that's not really very surprising - it can mimic almost anything, develop almost any skill.  The ability to effectively mimic rational processing... even to the degree where dizzyingly advanced mathematics become possible... isn't that crazy.  

That mathematics has this kind of basis (making it far more like learning a musical instrument than pumping an innate rational faculty) is something that I think would be very fertile ground for further study, and is something that this new paradigm of mind could make very clear predictions about.

That's something I don't really have the resources for, but would love to take part in.  Either way, I think that effectively answers your question - or at least opens up the situation from a perspective where there is no contradiction to be seen, which, as discussed, is the new way of the philosophical future.

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Goose And The Golden Egg

Got a little email from a subscriber who hasn't been using their monthly questions, so I thought I'd do a bit of a piece on it.

Here's the email:

I've recently been applying great effort to learning things I've had difficulty learning in the past, fuelled by the 'music pattern discovery' which we discussed.

I seem to have a tapped a pool of enthusiasm for things which makes things I couldn't do previously (but attempted), suddenly become the most fun and engaging experiences I've ever had.

I didn't know PHP but I wanted to, so I sat down at my PC and decided I wasn't doing anything else until I'd made something in PHP.

18-hour days of continual coding, from waking until sleep followed, and 3 days later I completed something functional that people are using.

I was so engrossed that I had no desire to do anything else whilst coding it. It was neither stressful nor boring. It was certainly difficult, and challenging indeed. So... that sorta raises some points.

I honestly find applying myself to something that I really urge to do, far more enjoyable than procrastinating.

I'm not really sure what drives the urge, but I'm certain it's something that can be honed.

Most importantly though, I'm sensing an 'unspoken effortlessness' that underlies all the effort. It's sort of like...

When you first drive a car, it's mental. Pedals, gears, wheel, mirrors. All this stuff going on and so much concentration despite moving at 2mph. Beads of sweat as you stall and roll backwards down a hill.

5 years later, you just jump in and don't even think about any of it anymore. It just happens automatically. You're like 'okay let's drive to work' and 15 minutes later, there you are.

The same applies with lots of things I can think of. Drawing, music, reading, 3d modelling, photography, football, coding. All have relative initial degrees of perceived complexity...

And yet, the more time you spend doing any of them, the more undone they become, revealing the simplicity that lies underneath.

Correct me if I'm wrong but... it doesn't just seem like an 'accumulation of knowledge' that is responsible either. It almost seems like the opposite is taking place, like the tension that mentally says 'I don't know X' is falling away and being replaced.

Not being replaced by 'advanced knowledge' (like knowing every hotkey for instance), but by a... clearer understanding. One which doesn't need every hotkey, every guide, advanced features or even an explanation.


XXXXXXXXXX

Yes, this is a very interesting email, lots to talk about here.

Firstly, it's great to see you putting this stuff to use.  The ability of human beings to develop any skill of any kind to a very high degree really is the single most powerful faculty that humans have.

We're all taught that talent is what counts, but I can honestly say that it's so massively overblown.

It's almost as if (were I to be being ruthless about it, which of course I never do) we love to think in terms of talent.  That the idea that some people are just born naturally 'good' at this, or 'good' at that is a very seductive one - especially if we feel, as we often do, insecure about our own successes... or lack thereof.

It's a great excuse when we look at someone doing something amazing - that person is talented, and so I don't need to feel like I'm to blame because I can't do this or that as well as they can.

I sometimes wish I could just wave a magic wand and just say something like "now see how massive and vast and deep that attitude dominates all of the ideas about success and excellence that we experience in our whole lives" and you all would.

Of course, that's impossible - only those precious few (yes, I'm talking to you, don't be coy) who really do take the time to deeply consider things - to work that muscle, to build that skill - are even going to be capable of that.

The killer, of course, is that we like the idea of 'talent' as an explanation for human excellence because it means we never have to feel like it's our fault that we're not that good at things...

...but....

...and watch closely, this one has a ruthless edge to it you could cut diamonds with....

...accepting that excuse cuts us off from the actual ability to ever really get good at anything.

And it really does.  People - and not just some, but massively the majority of people - never get really good at anything.  It's like an uncharted realm to them, an undiscovered country.  Few know, and few will ever know, what it's actually like to be genuinely good at something.  Anything.  Anything at all.

But of course, it's not our fault... we just don't have the talent.

The only people who ever make a difference with their lives, ever, under any circumstances, are people who discard that lie for the ridiculous and facile excuse that it is.  And it is.

And those who don't?  Well, the ruthless train just keeps on chugging, because life is not a kind place for the powerless.  People are not kind to the weak.

We drift through oceans of storied morality, tales and vignettes about how kind we are, how good we are, how decent.  But if you scratch that surface you'll find something quite different beneath - that our stories of how moral we are almost always have an eerie parallel with the balance of power in any given situation.

Everyone looks kind, all the time.  Even when people are being cruel, they'll have their moral fig-leaves, they'll have their tales of compassion.  The reality is that those who treat those weaker than themselves with genuine consideration, when nobody else is looking and when they do not have to, is vanishingly rare to a degree that is genuinely shocking when you see it from below.

And yet, to spare our blushes, we leap to an excuse that cuts us off from the most potent resource that we, as humans, have.

And you could say that it's the faculty to generate skill.  And if you're a long time reader to this blog, you'll discover that it's also (if my strange, uncredentialed, widely derided and ignored philosophical skills are to be believed) the core process that underlies science itself.

But then, really?  We're not talking about science, and we're not talking about skill.  There's another word which underlies both, which makes both possible - finesse.

Skill is finesse in a task, science is finesse in understanding.

Finesse is the key - the ability to develop finesse.

Now here's the thing.  Just as people love to think of excellence in a task as being down to 'talent', because it takes the blame away from them, there's a parallel with understanding too.

I really think it's credible that one of the main reasons - and perhaps the main single reason - why the idea of 'accumulating knowledge' is such a persistent way of thinking about understanding.

It's not that it's absent, it's there, to a degree.  There are technical things to know about any task or any subject.

But what makes you a master of it is only incidentally connected with accumulating knowledge.  What makes you a master of it is finesse.

I noticed many years ago the incredible parallels  that exist between the ways in which anyone who has achieved mastery at anything talks about what they do.  Athletes, scientists, musicians, playwrites, novelists - perhaps, God forbid, even the occasional philosopher.

It's because they're all doing the same thing.  And the same very specific thing - it's not vague or woolly.  It's the same thing that works in the same way, and no matter how much it is buried beneath excuses of convenience, it will always rise again, as long as there is even just one human left who takes an interest in actually getting good at anything, whatsoever it may be.

Finesse is zen.  It's that simple.  The trying and failing, the stepping back, the seeing deeply, the diving in deeply.

Every time you fail, you break, you fall.   But what falls?

The ego, the self.  Literally, the self breaks when it fails at something.  That's why failure hurts, it's why we run from it.

But failure gives us something - it reveals.  Failure is never random, and if it is honest failure, the fact that it is not random means that we're discovering something we do not know, and that we could not have discovered any other way.

And what happens when we 'try again'?  It's a new 'ego', a new self.  It gets thrown up, but this time taking into account that new information from the last failure.

And this goes on and on, failure breeding more sophisticated projection, more sophisticated 'selfing', if you will.

And then, after a while (10000 hours, if you listen to Malcolm Gladwell, which I do), you've done this so much that you are totally in tune with what you are doing.

You have 'hit zen'.  Not zen as the wan, empty, serene peace of the sage, but zen as in the razor-edged cut of the samurai.

You can do it with anything, and it is genuinely incredible how good people - anyone, yes, you (don't be coy) get at doing anything.

But then....

....we don't have that many 10000 hours, do we?  That's a lot of time.  A lot of time to invest.

And so we have to, as men and women, ask ourselves, if we are to take a wider concern for this world and for the future (and I hope we sometimes do) what is the skill that the world needs most right now?

How can I get the most bang for my buck?  The buck is time - you don't have forever, just one human life.

To make the impact the world desperately needs, to move beyond what it has historically meant to be a human being, to step forward into a new kind of humanity, to step past the apathy and sneers of this most cynical of ages?

Well now.  PHP isn't going to hurt.  But is it a game changer?

If you can be world-class at anything, make a world-class decision of what specific skill to take to that level of zen.

And to the subscriber who wrote this, I don't think I need to say what I'm about to say, but for anyone fresh to my work, I certainly don't mean to in any way belittle what you've done.  It's an amazing achievement - but what's more important than the results, is the process you've now got a really good handle on.

The goose is more important than any individual golden egg.

Because guys, guys, guys.  Let's not get too excited by trinkets when we're sitting on the motherlode.

I'll leave you with that to consider, and also a video.  This was sent to me by someone I worked with in the past.  He mentioned that he'd found the stuff I'd written about skill to be helpful, and very accurate to his experience, and he sent me this, where he showcases a skill he himself has developed.

One last thing.

A skill taken to the level of zen is something that can never be taken away from you, like a normal possession.  It is always there, always incredible, and always wide open as a gateway to that place whenever you want to immerse yourself in the flow of the real.

There is a world of chaos and a species in torment, howling out it's misery and damage, wallowing in superficiality because it knows no other way.

Humanity can be more.  If, that is, you are prepared to be more.  To be something greater and more difficult than you have been.  And I hope you consider what I have said here, and I wish you all the very best.

And really - it's not just the fact that this stuff can change the world, or that it's an awesome, challenging and exhilirating way to live.

It also can, on occasion, look absolutely phenomenal.

Enjoy.


Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Buck

It's so easy for us to shrug our shoulders and play helpless.  It's not my fault, or it's not my problem.  Or even if it is my problem, I don't know how to deal with it.  I'm too small, it's too big.

And in that lies a choice, a choice that really will decide if you're one of the people who really might change the world.  And like a lot of real choices, it's not just something you say once, and it's done.  It's something you say in your heart, every day.

The buck stops with me.  I'm not just a consumer.  I'm a citizen.  A citizen of earth.  I take responsibility for this world, and I'll do what I can to make things better.  Whatever it takes.

And every day you make that choice you also choose to live an adventure far beyond the imagining of all the many cynics who would mock your passion and integrity.

I for one salute you for it.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Hiatus

Hey guys and girls,

Just taking a brief pause in the daily updates.  I need to get some research done for some bigger pieces/projects I'm working on, and something's got to give.

I'm still available to answer any subscriber comments, also if anyone wants to commission me to do a piece, or hire me for a consultancy, just get in touch.

Should be back on air soon, and if you want to make sure you don't miss the return, sign up for the email updates on the sidebar, and avail yourself of a free audio as well.

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Pit And The Jigsaw


When you're stuck in a pit, how many ropes do you really need to get out?

Say you're there, and a rope gets chucked down.  Then another, then another.

This rope looks shiny and pretty.  This other one looks glittery.  That one there looks like it's made of tinsel.  That one there looks pretty strong.  That other one looks quite modern, like a hi-tech rope.

Surely if you connect them together, you'll have a super rope.  And that's the point, right?  We just want the best possible rope, so it makes sense to just keep collecting them, keep trying to combine them all.

It is so easy to think in these terms, and almost everyone, myself included, does it sometimes.

Perhaps what might be of more use though, is if we start - just start - to approach this whole situation in a slightly different way.

If we start to think of ways we can question, just to ourselves, when we're alone and nobody's watching, whether 'getting the whole thing understood' is really a wise thing to have as the one single, central goal of what we're doing with all this.

To get the 'grand theory' that pulls it all together.  If we can just get that, then surely, we'll be fine, right?

It makes so much sense to think in these terms, but perhaps we should start thinking a little more about the pretty obvious fact that nobody who has ever thought in these terms has ever had a happy ending.

Because the fact is, we're not trying to solve a puzzle.  We're trying to escape a pit.

So instead of waiting for all the different pieces of rope to be brought together perfectly into one perfect rope that perfectly makes sense to you and everyone, and perfectly lifts us up with no slips, no setbacks, no falls, nothing, perhaps it might be wiser to grab a length, pull, and don't stop until you see daylight.

The point is not to get out in a perfect way.

The point is to get out.

So you get it wrong, fine - get it wrong.  Get it wrong and try again, try something new, try a new way of doing it.

So this bit makes sense but that bit doesn't?  Stop trying to make sense of it all, grab the bit that does make sense to you, use that.

And are we really being as clear with ourselves as we can possibly be about this?

Are we taking the time to see this in what we ourselves are doing?

And if the answer is anything less than 100% yes, you might do very well to think about how you can check yourself, and make sure you're not, even for a moment, slipping back into that autopilot response of being passive, and sitting there like a tame consumer, at the bottom of the pit, collecting all the answers you can, and waiting for the magic to happen.

Life is waiting at the top.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

It All Comes Round In The End....


It's seductive, isn't it?  The perfect analytic answer, the equation that makes sense of it all.

We reach for that, hunger for it.  In fact, we hunger for the analytic answer to a problem far more than we hunger for a solution that works.

Get a solution that works, and you've just got no more problem.

Get an answer, and you've got an answer.  Clean lines, straight edges.

The thing is though, if you just try and actually get real about whatever issue it is you're facing, and then the next, and then the next, after a while you find an incredible elegance that you would never have been able to work out just, kind of, is.  It's just there, through it all, an elegance and clarity.

It's only noise because we're only listening to part of it.  Everything makes sense on its own terms.

And the crazy thing is, if you're really good, you can start charting that elegance, that simplicity.

So it all comes round in the end.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Shhh....


You know, let me tell you something personal about me that I haven't told anyone.  And when I say anyone I mean literally, anyone else on Earth.  Just something I noticed about myself, and the way I operate.  Something that might give you a little bit of an insight into things, into how to turn a negative into a positive, so to speak, or a weirdness into an asset.

I never knew my father.  He was a drunk and violent man, and my mother had the great courage and foresight to leave him when I was still gestating merrily away in her womb.  I'm very grateful that she did, and God alone knows what kind of life I would have led if she hadn't.

That's not the thing I haven't told anyone by the way.  Lots of people know that.

The thing I've never told anyone is this though, which is something strange that I noticed about myself.

I never missed having a father - you don't miss what you've never had.  It never bothered me in any way - my mother was, and still is, a very strong woman, and she did a great job of being both parents.

But looking back (and this is the thing I've never told anyone) I can quite clearly see that I had this weird tendency.  It was a tendency to fixate on men as father figures.

I'd just kind of idolise them, and do what I could to learn from them.  Some of these men were people I knew - teachers, for instance.  One of them was my English teacher, a man called Alexander "Sandy" MacKinnon, who read an off-syllabus book once in a class I was taking, that completely changed my life.

That book was The Great Divorce by C. S. :Lewis, and if you haven't read it yet, buy it and read it.  It is a stunning and forensic piece that opens the core mechanisms of suffering and joy like a mechanic would pop the hood of a car.

Many people reject it out of hand, because it's written in Christian terms.  Many Christians completely miss the point of it, because they're so busy tripping over themselves to agree with what's being said, that they take no time to consider it.

I on the other hand, was listening to my Dad-of-the-week.  And so I listened.  I idolised him, and listened very carefully, and really got inside the ideas.  I didn't pick and preen, posture and niggle at the little bitty things that it's easy to criticise.  Of course not - would you?  Would you if your Dad was trying to really get something important across to you that meant a lot to him?

No, you'd listen, you'd get your head inside what he was saying - or at least you would if you were a young kid, which I was at the time.

And you know, he moved on, I left the school.  And then I found another author - Bryan Magee.  I did the same thing there too.  Just knuckled right down, got right inside what he was saying.

You know, it's a weird thing talking about humility, because we live in an incredibly arrogant world.  We're taught arrogance from a very young age, the importance of arrogance.

Shut up and listen.  That's not a virtue we like in ourselves, is it?  That we would just shut up about all the things we - personally us, personally you, personally me - that we believe, or think, or want to say.

That we would ever just shut the hell up.  Just put all of it aside, and open up the ears, and just get right inside what someone's saying, like it's coming from the mouth of the person you admire most on Earth.

That's when it's easiest to listen - when you admire.  And not having a father gave me, in retrospect, an incredible advantage which is instrumental to what I do and how I do it.

It is this.  I am very, very cheap with my admiration.  I admire hard and rapidly.  I admire to extremes.  I admire quickly, and genuinely.  If I recognise that someone has something of genuine value to say, I just stop.  I literally just shut the hell up.

This might seem to people to be weak - and a lot of people throughout my life have thought that of me.  That I bow too low, that I make a servant of myself too quickly.

And a lot of people think that being strong is the same as never showing to anyone that you don't know something.  That being strong is the same as having a strong opinion, regardless of what that is.

This is what people teach, what people tell each other, what people enforce as an idea of strength, because in the very short term, it does look stronger than the person sitting down, looking up, listening attentively, and doing what they're told.

That was me.  Over and over, time and again.  Only with people I respected - but once I respected someone, that's what happened.

And I found that in that position, sitting down, shutting up, being humble about my ideas, listening to others - I could rapidly, rapidly understand what that person was saying.  I could get right inside it, and not just understand the idea, but see the idea.  Move it around in my head, spin it this way, spin it that.

It gave me complete command of the ideas of the people I respected the most.  And then all of a sudden I could start seeing these connections, really clear connections, between this idea and that... and then all of a sudden I'm not just kneeling at the feet of these brilliant people.  I'm connecting and deepening their ideas in ways they never did.

But then of course, I had to look very subservient to do it... because I had to BE very subservient.

But it didn't give me cancer.  I didn't explode.  And because I was only being subservient to people who really had something interesting to say, I was able to get my head around some amazing stuff.

And then... I was able to notice what I was doing.  And then directly hone it like a skill.  To consciously do it, as a kind of acceleration pedal.  When you really have to get right inside what someone's saying.  There's some really good people out there.  I'd never be able to understand what they were all saying if I couldn't shut my goddamn mouth and open my goddamn ears when necessary.  There just wouldn't be enough time.

But there is enough time if I do.  Because this is rapid.

This is the power of humility, and it is a lost power to the world we live in.  We're never taught it.  We're taught to mock it, to attack it.  And sure as night follows day the one single consequence of this is that we fail to utilise anything like our actual capacity for insight and connection.

Nothing like it.

So there you go.  Something nobody knows about me - my fixation on father figures because of my lack of one led me to unlock a way of getting inside the deepest ideas of the best of humanity, rapidly, and connecting them up, rapidly.

And all it meant was a few raised eyebrows, a few snarky comments, and a few nasty names from some wonderful people did not understand what real strength was, just what fake strength looked like.

Might want to start looking for ways to ask yourself if you're one of those wonderful, wonderful people.  And I'm not being sarcastic - wonderful people.  Lovely, fun, cool, well liked - but severed from this quite phenomenal power.  And it is phenomenal, I owe so much to it, and it's key to so much of what I do.

But uh... yeah.  I never told anyone that, so, just...

Shhhh.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

And Amazing Things Get Done


Why are you so motivated, Ciaran?

I get this question sometimes.  I actually do get this actual question, I'm not just saying it.  People really do contact me with this.

But their assumption's right inside the sentence.  That I am so very motivated.  So motivated.  But that's not really true.  Something else is true that they don't want to hear about.

They want the juicy aphorism, the big slogan, the thing that will get them all fired up, like they imagine I must be, all the time.  What they don't want is the truth, which is sad, because the truth is a hell of a lot more powerful than that awesome sounding slogan that makes you feel awesome for the next 10 minutes, and then it goes away.

And it's sad, because I can tell you exactly what the secret is, if you can hear it, if you want to hear it.  I can describe it at length.

And perhaps it might be an idea to start looking at things from this point of view, because it is a different point of view.  Just to start considering something different.  Just to begin.  Just to begin to think about things in a different way.

Because the truth is that the thing I've found that gives me the most motivation, drive, motion, impetus, momentum - the thing that actually gives direction and motion to my life - isn't anything I've ever heard anyone else talk about.

A lot of people seem to think that motivation's this substance you want to get as much as possible of.  Just as much as possible.

But that's not how you get things done, that's not how you really achieve mastery at something, or really make an amazing impact.

There's something else, something smaller and subtler, but that has a much greater power, because it's power over time.  Anyone can get themselves pumped up about something in the short term, but a life isn't a short term thing.  If you want to live a life that you truly live, that is abundant and filled with living - then you need consistent motivation, not a massive blast of short-term stuff.

And besides - you don't need massive, massive levels of motivation.  That's just weird.  You don't need this huge burning reason to do something.

And please just pay attention, just please, right here, right what I'm about to say next, because it's so huge if you can just see this tiny little shift.

You just need more of a reason to do it than not.

Once more in bold, in case you missed it.

You just need more of a reason to do it than not.

The bar is pretty low.

And as long as there's more of a reason to do it than not, and that state of affairs continues, you'll continue to be motivated to do it, indefinitely.

And as you continue to get involved and do what you can, what you can do gets bigger, because you get better at it, and then maybe one day, it gets done.

And that's it's really.  No great conflict, no massive fight.  No burning need, no heroic identity, nothing like that.  Just 1% more reason to do it than there is not to do it.

And so really, when you really break it all down, it just comes down to sitting down and just starting - really, just beginning - to see if there is something real that actually does need doing.

And it has to be real, because if it's not then as soon as you've stopped

Do you want to be rich?  Really?  Honestly?  I don't.  I'm not criticising you if you do, I just don't.  I want to be stable, be able to provide for a family, that's really it.  Have enough money to go out with friends, help out my kids.

But becoming this super-rich money guy?  It just seems so contrived to me.  Just like a little... hollow.  And don't get me wrong, I don't hate money, it's just... no matter how much I build up my ideas about being rich, convince myself I want to, believe I want to, tell other people I want to....

That motivation will not last, because all our ideas and beliefs are like shadows, and they always slide out.  And what that means is that I'll never be able to focus with real consistency over time on getting rich.

It's the 'over time' bit that matters the most, and that's what doing something different can help.

Look for something real that needs doing, something big that needs someone's help.  A genuine thing.  Something that is of serious import, but in real life, and to the whole world.  Not just to people.  ANd it doesn't have to look good, and it doesn't have to look bad.  Just to start thinking along the lines of real.

Just to begin, to begin to think - ok, well, what kinds of things genuinely do need doing?  What can be done?  And just to start thinking down those lines, I'm not here to feed you an answer.  Just start thinking of how to get real.  Not some little vanity project, but something of actual substance.

And start being a bit ruthless with yourself about this.  Because perhaps it's your life that you're cutting off at the knees if you don't.  Nobody else is going to have to live a shallow life, just you, so maybe it's something you might want to start making your problem.

And find something genuine that actually needs support.  Something like that.  Something where today, you just have 1% more reason to do it than not to do it - and tomorrow it will be the same.  And it will always be like that, until the thing has actually been resolved.

And then you get to experience life, not just consumption.  Not just chasing the next product, the next phone, the next tablet, whatever.  But you actually get to live - which is a rare thing, and few people do.

But can you see what I'm getting at?  Thinking down these lines, just to begin with, just tugging yourself in this direction a little.

And so you can actually start to do something that is legitimately inspiring - and continue to do it.  And not just inspiring in general, or inspiring to others, but inspiring to you as well.  Living life, living well, being alive.

The flow of things, action, life, developing skill, being outside of your comfort zone, getting scared, feeling alive.  It's not a lesser form of being to live a life that includes the experience of 'being exhilarated', or being scared, or even being defeated, or knocked back.

What makes these things so damaging is when your motivation IS the belief and the feeling and the ideology that you've blasted up to massive volume.  And then when you get knocked back, your heart breaks and your world falls apart.

It doesn't have to be that way.  And the only reason it ever gets that way anyway is that you're NOT doing something real that genuinely does sing to you.  If you were, you wouldn't need all this howling, screaming, bellowing motivation.

If you're doing something that actually does need doing, something real of real scale that genuinely matters, it's always going to be there.  Not as a massive weight of super-motivation.  Just as a little tug at the sleeve.

And sometimes you have days where you plunge right in, and sometimes you have days where you plod along, and sometimes you have days where you back right off.

But you never lose it, never lose the direction that you can get from taking the time to find out what really needs to happen, what the world really needs, what really needs to get done.

And that's when you do amazing things, because you take the time, the focused time to genuinely become amazing at things, and amazing things get done.

And it might be an idea to start thinking of things like this.  Just as an experiment, see if you can do this, see if you can find a way to start.

Ah, I don't if any of this makes any sense.  Probably not.

Much love.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Just Raise It


Well, Ciaran, you write a lot of stuff that sounds really good and everything - but how do I get it to stick with me?

This sometimes comes up.

Or....

How do I get it to stick with others?  Whenever I try convincing people to read this stuff, and I can't do it, and the more I try, the weirder I sound and the more awkward it gets!  What do I do?

This sometimes comes up too.

You ever find yourself asking stuff like this?

Well, here's the thing.

Start small.  Stop trying to jump right to the end, you'll miss the whole process, and it will never happen.

So forget trying to get it to stick, with yourself or others.  Just raise it.

Just raise the issue.  Just raise it.  Raise it with yourself.  Raise it with other people.

If it doesn't seem to make sense, just start to see if you can find ways to make sense of it for you.

If it doesn't seem to make sense to the person you're raising it with, just start to see if you can find ways to make it make sense to them.

If you can't - it's fine.  It doesn't matter... because you raised it.

You raised it.  That's huge.

You raise it with yourself, that puts it on your brain's 'watch-list'.  It tunes you in - even when you're not thinking about anything to do with any of this - to notice when the patterns happen.

You raise it with other people?  Well - that puts it on their watch-list.  That there are deep and real, and stunningly simple patterns that underlie all human action, and new ways to undercut the phenomena of human suffering, delusion, misery, pain - whatever - at source?  Right in the bones?  Right at the heart?

Who knows about this?  And of course people will probably scoff when they hear about it, I know I would.  But then later, at a loose end.... I might well check it out for myself, if only out of curiosity.

And maybe they won't - but you raised it.  It's in their field of view now - and that is huge.  That's something that wasn't there before, something they had no way of getting to, no way of even knowing about.

And of course they can reject it - but even that is a massive step forward - rejecting it is at least some kind of engagement with it.  And rejections can change - but if someone doesn't even know something's possible, it just won't be part of their life.

And just as you raise it - not worrying about the outcome of getting you to do this, or other people to do that - you just kind of tune yourself in to it, and keep it there.  And for others as well, wherever you mention it.

And the thing is - and this is the crazy thing, and the awesome thing as well - there is no 'second step' after that where you 'flip it around' and start convincing yourself, or convincing other people.

Just raise it.  And then after a while you start to see elements of this truth playing out.  And others you're raising it in front of might see some of it too.

And the thing is - over a long enough period of time, if it is raised into view - you will see what you're trying to see, and the change you're looking for will happen.  And with others as well - they will see what you see, because it's the truth, it's just true for everyone.  And so at no point do you need to twist people's arms or... worse... start beating yourself up or twisting your own.

Just raise it.  If it's true, you don't need to do anything else.  And if it's true, anything else is just going to make things messier anyway.

Honestly, just raise it.  And keep raising it.  Don't worry about the outcome, just raise it.

And keep raising it.

Just raise it.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Delayed Choice Quantum Fudge


Well, this is fun.  Got a comment from someone who raised a serious issue about the experiments I proposed in One Song for the Edinburgh Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics that I put together there.  Here's the comment, and my response....

"you are wrong on Delayed Quantum Eraser. "Eraser" stands for device that makes it impossible to discern which patch photon took and not deleting some file. "Delayed" is about distance and light patch and "choice" about photon choosing to go through one path or the other, and not choice any conciseness make. Those effects show something about effects that happens on polarizers and beam splitters and are not about consciousness or viewing anything at all

and what is the real point of all of this quantum stuff anyway? is that really that important where mind is projected? we all see it is projected somewhere and it hurts and that is what matters. How to stop this suffering, that matters!

One Song is otherwise great and I thank you for it as it opened my otherwise closed eyes. But seriously: leave quantum stuff out of it. Never even mention it in the same article, book or YT video. It just scares people off and that is bad because rest is very good"

XXXXXX

Thank you so much.

When I say the file is deleted this is how I understood what was being done with that device that makes it impossible to discern the photon path.  This is just my understanding.

The point of that device is not that it shuts down the measurement - as I understand it - but that it renders the results of measurement (of the photon's path) permanently inaccessible.  To shut down measurement, you just need to turn the detector off, or just not have one in the first place.  My understanding of what DCQE does is have the measurement, but render the results permanently inaccessible.  And again - I may well be wrong in this, it's highly technical - but my understanding of how it does this is that it deletes the information permanently.

I phrased it by saying 'it deletes the file' because I figure that if the detector is storing information electronically, then we're talking about a file, or something very much like a file.  That is - straight up - just an assumption I made, if this is wrong (and absolutely it could be, 1000%) please, God, say.  Am I fudging this too much (I almost certainly am) - or worse - is it doing something totally different?

The issue of the delay.  Yeah, this is clearly very important.  I think the flaw you raise in my understanding arose from the human-scale interpretation of the collapse, whereas it should (of course) have been totally focused on the Quantum scale.

I'll read up more about this, but could you go into a little more detail?  You say it's 'about distance and light patch'.  It would help a lot if you could open this up a little further - what exactly seems to be being delayed by what, and how?

Now look - everything I know of QM I have had to teach myself in a total vacuum.  I would honestly be amazed if there weren't problems with my understanding of the technicalities - it's an extremely technical subject.

Because of that, I really appreciate any help, critique or input of any kind about this.  And you should see my browser - I've got 12 tabs open right now, and 2 books on download, about the Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser (DCQE) experiment, so I can get some real finesse on exactly how the DCQE works technically.

As such, I'll take the QM section out of One Song.  There you go, are you happy?  ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

*runs off crying*

It'll take me a few days to do it - it's not just a case of "select all/cut" - I need to put something in that weaves the first part into the last, which is what that section did, so give me few days on this before the hate mail commences.

There's a couple of other things - when you say

""Delayed" is about distance and light patch"

Do you mean path?  Or patch?  Are you talking about the path of the photon, or the patch (or patches) of light the interference pattern makes or doesn't make on the phosphorescent screen behind the slit?

The second thing is this.  You say that:

"the "choice" in the DCQE is about the photon choosing to go through one path or the other, and not a choice any consciousness makes."

Ok, I'm becoming more and more convinced that I need to do a dedicated QM piece, because a lot of people do seem to think I'm saying something like this.

I'm really not.  I promise, I tried to be very explicit about that, but clearly I'm not being explicit enough.

I'm not saying that consciousness is making a choice, or doing anything at all.

Now, I'm going to go 'capital letters' here - not shouting at you, but I really want what I'm about to say to be clearly seen.

I am DENYING THE EXISTENCE OF CONSCIOUSNESS.

Stay with that for a second.  Yeah?  Is this clear?  This is the centre of the Edinburgh Interpretation.

There is no observer effect.  There is no consciousness causing collapse of probability.  This is not what is happening.

Do you understand?  And the reason is that there is no observer, and there is no consciousness.

There is no observation, anywhere, at all.  What I am saying is that observation, quite simply, does not exist.  Ever.  In real life.

Is this clear?

I'm not asking you to agree with it - that would be silly - but can you see what I'm saying here?  Before we go on, is this clear?

Consciousness has no effect on the photon because there is no consciousness.  No human consciousness, no animal consciousness, no consciousness anywhere, ever, at all.

Ever, anywhere, in any way.

This is the centre of the new interpretation.

There is no consciousness to collapse the waveform, no consciousness to interfere, no consciousness to do anything, or choose anything, or collapse anything.

There is ONLY the collapse, which we CALL consciousness, because it is the place in which all things occur, including our experience of life.

What we are looking at is OCCURRENCE, not consciousness.  That is all, that is all that is happening, and from this perspective you can make sense of every strangeness of the Quantum world.

How?  Because all of a sudden the question of what is causing the apparent collapse of probability doesn't arise.  Probability collapses into utter coherence - that's what probability does, because that's how time works.  And it is how we experience time - and then all of a sudden you have a direct, immediate, fundamental aspect of human experience which dovetails perfectly with the Quantum predictions.

So you're able to unite the division between the subatomic and the large-scale.

On top of this, the Edinburgh Interpretation also makes perfect sense of the 'God does not play dice' problem of QM.  The way probability collapses into the real must be coherent with the rest of the real - and so probability collapse is in fact not random - although it may appear to be if such collapses are taken in isolation.  All probability falls perfectly into place in coherence with what has already fallen into place - this is the fundamental nature of being, of time.

This is what the Edinburgh Interpretation claims.

And other things as well - like, say, the 'signal problem' of entanglement.  How does one particle 'know' that another has collapsed in a certain way, so it can collapse in a corresponding way?

In the Edinburgh Interpretation there is no signal problem, because there is no signal.  The secondary particle does not collapse when the first one does.  What instead happens is that the collapse of the first particle into reality means that any particle that is synchronised with it must collapse - whenever it does, even if it's centuries from the collapse of the first - in a way that is coherent with it.

And so it seems as if they're communicating, whenever you test it, because whenever you look, the second particle does correspond with the first.  But that's not what's happening.  What's happening is that reality is being set by the collapse of the first particle, and the second, if and when it ever does collapse, cannot do so in any other way without violating the coherence of the real.

Think of the explanatory power of this perspective.  And also... think how specific these predictions are.  I'm not a technically trained physicist, and so yes - I absolutely will struggle to put experiments together that will flawlessly satisfy someone who is.  But this conjecture is obviously clear enough that it can make predictions of experiment.

And if that doesn't matter, if that's an irrelevance, if that's just a little philosophical nicety that doesn't really matter, should we start, perhaps - just perhaps - to ask ourselves if that is a healthy attitude for science to take?

It takes years to put together a conjecture of this clarity.  Or at least, it took me years.  And is it inappropriate to start thinking how to begin a conversation about the immediate rejection of such things?  Or of them being sidelined as "not that important?"  Is it fair of me to ask this?

I don't have all the answers, but I think we should start asking these kinds of questions.  Asking them of science.  Because it's not heresy to ask these questions, unless science has become nothing more than a set of unquestioned dogmas, and hierarchical titles.  I don't think it has - I really don't.  But we should always take the opportunity to be vigilant about this kind of thing, and ask these questions.

Now you say "what is the point of all this Quantum stuff anyway?"

I could answer what's the point of physics anyway?  What's the point of science?

Yes, resolving suffering is a far bigger deal as far as actual day-to-day human life is concerned.  But there's much more to life, and to the world, than just not suffering.

And on top of that, the implications of this hypothesis are not irrelevant to the experience of life, because it describes the experience of time, in which everything occurs.

There's other things, like the incredible elegance and beauty of the real, and this is a very elegant perspective from which to make sense of all the Quantum weirdness.

From this - and the new understanding of time that it puts forward - would it be possible to unite Quantum Mechanics and relativity?

Maybe, no.  But maybe yes.

And how?  Because of time, because it allows the QM equations to be understood as being fundamentally concerned with TIME.  And using that to connect the idea of spacetime from relativity?

I'd love to do something in this area, but as far as things stand, I know I would have to do it alone, and make it PERFECT.  Because if it's not perfect, then what do you think people will focus on?  The breakthroughs, or the imperfections?

And if it is the imperfections, is it fair that we take a step back from that, and ask ourselves why?  And not just why - but whether or not we should raise awareness of this, not of this theory, but of the incredibly hostile environment in which all theories and speculations must occur?

Take The Master And His Emissary by Iain McGilchrist.  That is a work that took 20 years to put together, and it shows.  Every single part is backed up like a phalanx, like only 20 years worth of research can do.  And it has to be, because if he just released the theory 20 years ago, he would have been butchered.  Is this healthy for science?

He raises the issue there - from his point of view (in Neuroscience) he says that his discipline has become focused on the amassing of data, and has - in his words, this man is a career neuroscientist - "largely abandoned any attempt to make sense of that data, once amassed, in a wider context."

Is this healthy?  Is it heresy to ask if the pure amassing of data can even really be described as science?  Should it be so controversial a thing to say?  Should it?

And yes of course, research is critical, robust criticism is critical.  But do we gauge how robust criticism is by how angry it is, how viciously it seizes on mistakes and leaps to ridicule?  Leaps to dismiss wholesale anything that is not immediately flawless?

Is this conducive to daring speculation?

These are just questions, but questions we might want to think about raising more than they are being raised right now.

Is this something that people talk about enough?  That people raise enough as an issue that is blocking the progress of science?  Is it?

And if the answer is anything less than "absolutely no, it is paramount that we respect, cherish and cultivate serious, daring and specific speculation" we might perhaps start asking some searching questions about why that is - and how we can change it.

I don't have all the answers, but I hope you can understand how it can seem very much like the culture in which we live is viciously hostile to speculation, no matter how detailed, or how clear.  And I hope you don't think I'm overstating the case when I say that this hurts science.  I think it does.  I really do.

This environment did not appear out of the ether.  This is human beings doing this, you, me, all of us.  And just as we're part of the environment, we can be part of changing the environment.  Even just to start thinking about this is a huge step forward, and even raising it with people is another huge step.

And there's another question we might want to ask ourselves - sure, yes, my theory might be total bunk.  But if we dismiss working on radical speculative theories in general, how is science ever to advance?

And again, I'm not putting these questions here to preach at you, because I don't have all the answers.  But maybe if we all start asking ourselves more questions like this, things might get a little less fraught than they are, because they don't need to be fraught.  I get attacked all the time for what I do with science by people who love science - I love science, I am one of those people.  And really, I'm big enough and ugly enough to take a few knocks - but when knocks are all that happens when scientific speculation is advanced, is there a bigger issue here than my hurt feelings?

I remember the first guy to point out the mistake I originally made in One Song, which was that I conflated the Copenhagen Interpretation and Von Neumann.  He was fuming.  Furious.  Absolutely irate, as if I'd physically punched him.  And then when I said - "Oh my God, yes, you're right - I've checked it out, and edited the piece, and put in these new bits - is this correct?", he was completely taken aback.

It seems like he was expecting nothing of me but just to throw it back in his face, and when I didn't, he was very apologetic, and didn't really know what to make of the situation.

Should rage be the response to an error like this?  I'm not the all-seeing eye, and I have no formal training in physics - is this a healthy response?  Is this a healthy culture to be part of, to perpetuate?  To leave unchallenged?

Is it truly so crazy to suggest we should start asking questions like this more than we do?  And perhaps start thinking of ways that we can put this to people, start thinking of ways that we can start opening things up a little?

Science isn't cynicism.  It's speculation and experiment.  Speculation is a critical part of it.  Critical.  And not just speculation, but daring speculation, clear speculation, refined speculation that is amenable to testing.

And at the absolute pinnacle of speculative excellence, you have a speculation that initiates a completely new paradigm of understanding.  That is the tip of this mountain, it is the absolute zenith of what speculation can be.  Relativity was such a speculation - and it still IS a speculation.  So was evolution.  So was Newton's laws of motion, or the work of Copernicus.

Speculation IS science - speculation leashed.  Leashed to experiment - not to cynicism.

Are we truly giving it the time it deserves?  The consideration?  Are we as people who love and respect science making a fertile environment for speculation, or a hostile one?

These are the questions we need to put to ourselves, and maybe start thinking how to put them to others as well.  Not to enforce a new ideology, or anything like that, just to raise the issue into view.  Just that alone would be huge.

To think about these things as a matter of some urgency, and as a counter to the reflex cynicism that shuts down the daring speculation - to use Einstein's words - that is necessary to advance our understanding of the world.

Now look - I'll tell you one way you could do something that would make a serious, serious difference.  Please give me your email.  My email is in the sidebar, just drop me an email, and leave it at that.

The more I read about the DCQE, the more I feel it is key to building a set of clear predictions directly from the Edinburgh Interpretation.  I am so thirsty for serious technical criticism - but I need clarity.  And now you've raised this issue about DCQE, I need to go back, do some more research... but I'll come up with something, and that may be wrong too.

But if can get clear criticism of it - even just a few lines - that would make my work 1000000% more straightforward.

And before you say - well, any physicist could do that - the blunt fact is that, and I wish this weren't true - in my experience I have found it very difficult to find one who will.  If you would be that one, that would be amazing.

But enough of this.  I'll cut the QM section from One Song, because an experiment is a technical thing, and if what I've suggested is based on a misunderstanding then it needs to change.

But I won't abandon the Edinburgh Interpretation.  It needs work - of course it does - and if it's at all possible, maybe a little bit of help.  I'll do all the heavy lifting, if you could just be there to read what I suggest and critique it - especially my work on the DCQE and any experiments I suggest, that would be amazing.

Is this cool?

Friday, 19 July 2013

You May Not Have Noticed....

But I'm doing something of a root-and-branch redesign of the site.  I thought I could do it quickly, but it turns out, amazingly, that computers hate me.

All the content's here, just a little facelift to make things a little less intense, I thought that would probably be a nice move for everyone.

Bear with me....

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Under Siege


Ok, this is a response to a subscriber's comment on One Song, which is the signature piece to this blog.

It's a piece that I spent 15 months researching, just that one piece alone, and is in many ways the coming together of many years of work.  It fuses a new, cutting edge breakthrough in neuroscience with a new interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, which itself took me many years to piece together.

Here's the comment:

Ciaran,

Have you considered excising the section on Quantum Mechanics into it's own thing separate from One Song? Without testing to back it up I feel it weakens the piece as a whole. At least that's what many seem to choke on when reading this for the first time.

"Deepak Chopra shit" is a phrase I've seen more than once.


XXXX

Ok, look.

I think that doing a special piece on Quantum Mechanics would be a great thing.  I've got a lot more on it, including some new potential experiments complete with clear predictions.

It's on the list, and I'm sure I'll get to it at some point.  The big reason I'm not rushing to it is that what I think I need right now is a trained physicist to work with.  I've taken the Edinburgh Interpretation so far I think that it's pretty clear there may be something to it, and if there is, it's easy enough to test for.

When that happens, great.  As for now?  I just don't think there's an audience for it, I don't think anyone particularly cares that much.

The Deepak Chopra thing however is a much bigger issue.  I run into it all the time - but not so far from trained physicists.  I've run this piece past a few physicists, including a friend of mine who is doing his PhD in a University here in Edinburgh.  What he said after reading One Song was - literally, these are his words - "This is nothing like Deepak Chopra", and he was very surprised that people would make that connection.  Initially, when I mentioned that people do make that connection, he didn't immediately believe me.

But they do.  They make it all the time.  And this is because what Deepak Chopra has done (and not just him, although he's the one who's made his name with this stuff) is to basically cobble ideas from Quantum Mechanics onto a very conventional Indian Mysticism framework.

I honestly don't know if he realises how damaging this is.  Just the title of a book called "Quantum Healing" is like, to anyone with a genuine respect for and interest in science, a red-hot needle to the eye.

It's strange, because what he's actually talking about are things like unity, peace, and coming together.  But his work is profoundly divisive.  I don't know if he intends it that way, I'd be surprised if he did - but it is as divisive as divisive gets.  Under the guise of bringing together Eastern philosophy and Western science, he has instead massively alienated vast numbers of people.  People who are involved in science, yes - but also the millions of people who respect it, and don't feel it should be used cheaply.

For anyone who respects the science, this is going to really rile them up, and this is why I feel his work is profoundly counterproductive.

All it does is build a siege mentality in the people who respect science to any kind of work that links the insights coming from the Quantum experiments with human life.

And worse still - it makes them feel that anyone who has any respect for Eastern thought is not to be trusted and must be opposed.

Quantum Mechanics, in physics, has quite a strong parallel to evolutionary theory in biology, in this sense.  In both cases, ideological, mystical theories abound, especially on the internet.

With Biology, magical, woolly thinking forms around evolutionary theory, and we call it Creationism.  This creates a kind of siege mentality among many people who do care about evolutionary science, and what science is, and anyone raising new ideas about evolution does often have to deal with huge amounts of flak because of this.

I wrote a piece a long time ago about a new process that accounts for non-linear evolutionary change, within what's called a fully microevolutionary framework.  This means that it accounts, fully, for the long-term stability of certain species, and the rapid changes undergone by others.  An organism that remains static for millions of years while it's habitat changes around it is a serious problem for classical evolutionary theory - and one that Creationists have been quick to seize upon.

I've found a potential solution for it - but can't get a biologist to look at the solution, let alone test it, because they seem (honestly, this is what it looks like from outside) so intent on defending evolutionary theory that they flinch at the idea of improving it.

Again, I'm not trying to pick a fight here.  And believe me, I understand - but that is what my experience has been.

And this isn't because they're bad people - but because there is a pervading sense of "reason under siege" - and the killer irony is that in this siege mentality, as in any siege mentality, reason is the first thing out the window.

The evolution piece I did may be wrong - but it is very clear.  It makes clear predictions of the fossil record - basically, if it's true there will be a certain pattern to all evolutionary change that can be statistically mapped.

And it's even better than that - it's not even a case of having to statistically map it (the fossil record's pretty sketchy in places).  To disprove my evolutionary theory (which I have given the catchy title of 'mutative feedback') all you need to do is find a single fossil, anywhere, in all of history, that falls outside that pattern.

That is extremely falsifiable, extremely easy to disprove.

And if it's right - pay attention here - if it's right, and any biologist or paleontologist takes a look and does some research for it, it will make their career, for life.

Honestly.  But again - pay attention - this isn't to say "kneel before Zod, this theory is amazing."

It's to say this if it is right, it is seismic.  And if it's not right, it will be very easy to disprove that.  Very easy. Literally, a trained paleontologist could probably disprove it in a day.

Here's a link to the evolution piece if anyone's interested - and if there are any biologists or paleontologists interested in taking a look, please take a look, tell me what you think, and if you're interested in working with me on a paper, I will make time for that as a matter of some urgency.

Now, just as there is a state of intellectual siege around evolution in biology, there is also a state of intellectual siege around Quantum Mechanics in physics.

It's slightly different because Creationists often just flat-out deny evolution, whereas Quantum Mechanics isn't so much denied as 'co-opted' into a syncretic hodge-podge of self-help and new-age thought.

But the effect is the same - the corruption of science.

And so because of this, people are on high alert, very high alert about anything to do with Quantum Mechanics that isn't written in equations and sanctioned by Harvard.

But the problem is that - as I see it - the main issues of Quantum Mechanics are philosophical, not mathematical.  Make sense of the reality of things, and the equations will follow.  Start trying to stitch together all the equations, and all you get is a godless mess of numbers that is so complex it can never be tested, and so is not scientific.  And that, basically, is string theory.

Now the failings of string theory is something we're not going to get into here - others have done massively, massively better work.  The luminary physicist Wolfgang Pauli had a brilliant saying about it that cuts right to the heart of problem - he said it was "not even wrong".

Just a mass of numbers, all just swimming around looking very elegant and pretty, attracting a lot of funding and producing a lot of PhDs.

This is not science.  It is daydreaming on a calculator.

So let's come back to One Song, and take a look at the conjecture I've put together there.

If we say that because certain authors have ignored the spirit of science, and strip-mined Quantum theory for marketing buzzwords to adorn their very conventional new age/self help schtick, then what are we to do in response?

Are we to say - well, let's just cede Quantum mechanics.  Let's just ignore the insights coming from those experiments because someone's being a charlatan.

And then shall we go on to write nasty websites about them?  To attack them?  To mock them?  To tell them to shut up?

Is that what we want?  To silence them?  Is that the best we can hope for?

There's a piece of American wisdom that I keep coming back to.

In freedom of speech, is silencing people the answer to bad speech?

No.  It's good speech.  Good speech is the answer to bad speech.

It's for someone to actually take up the challenge that the new age gurus never took up, and genuinely fuse insights from science, humanity, and all traditions of philosophy, not just Indian, into one coherent, smooth whole that can genuinely be tested?

That opens up a totally new paradigm for understanding Quantum Mechanics?

That opens up a totally new paradigm for understanding what the brain is fundamentally doing?

That opens up a totally new paradigm for understanding humanity itself?  And reality itself?

I mean, can you see what I'm getting at?  If someone wants to judge my work on the work of pseudo-scientific authors who's work I do not reference, do not respect, do not follow, and have no control over?

That's on them.  And I don't blame them for being jumpy around the issue, there's a lot of very sloppy work out there.

But to go from that to say that all philosophy that uses the insights into reality coming from the Quantum experiments to shed new light on what is going on with reality, life, human beings - to say that all this is automatically sloppy?

That's a stunning victory for the charlatans, and our skepticism has turned into cynicism, and lost the integrity and thirst for truth that made it a worthwhile thing in the first place.

It's a hard thing to say, but it is.  And it might seem incomprehensible to many that I would take this attitude - but I'm not here to apologise for someone else's mistakes.  I make enough of my own, apologising for them takes up enough of my time already.

Lots of very interesting work has been done on Quantum Mechanics - but nobody has ever proposed any interpretation of these experiments that

A) Makes perfect, non-contradictory sense of the Schrodinger's Cat problem (this is the main issue with Copenhagen).

B) Doesn't resort to any metaphysical element of any kind (this is the main problem with the Von Neumann interpretation).

C) Makes clear, testable predictions of all possible Quantum Experiments (this is the main problem with the 'Multiple Worlds' interpretation, which is genuinely untestable).

The Edinburgh Interpretation does all three.  Makes sense of the cat, no metaphysics, testable.

Now just a word about testing.  Someone might say "well, this doesn't have testing to back it up" - but that misses the point.  In fact, it misses the point of what science fundamentally is.

Science is conjecture, it is speculation.  It's not logic, it's not a chain of reasoning.  It's conjecture, all of it, the whole thing.  Every piece of science, every theory, every equation, everything.  Absolutely everything.

What makes science different from just normal conjecture is another element, which is testing.

But pay attention here, because it is vanishingly rare that people actually understand how testing works in science.

It's not a case of testing to prove the theory.  You can never prove a theory.  Ever.  That's not what theories are, that's not how theories work.  No theory, ever, can ever be proven.  I remember reading a book by Stephen Hawking where he makes this point - it's the building of models (which is a kind of speculation) that...

...and pay attention....

Don't get disproved no matter how much you test.

Do you understand?

This is the difference, and it eludes almost everyone, and that's why very few people truly understand what science really is.

It's not proving things through test.

It's speculating, and attempting to disprove that speculation through test.

And that means that the best speculations, the most scientific, are not the ones with the most equations, or that look the cleverest.

They're the ones that are easy to disprove.  The ones that make striking and clear predictions of what will happen in an experiment, or in a series of experiments.

Now, as far as that goes, I think the Quantum Mechanics section here is fine.  It's a clear speculation - like all scientific hypotheses - that makes very clear, extremely ambitious, highly risky and easily testable predictions of all possible Quantum experiments.

You tell me if Deepak Chopra has anything like that in his box of tricks.

Now look - I am happy, delighted and frankly, hungry, for genuine criticism from physicists who specialise in this area.  So far I've got a huge amount of criticism for the physics section of this piece - but nothing of any substance from ANYONE who specialises in physics.

None.  I've had physicists point out incidental issues where I didn't describe the Copenhagen interpretation with enough clarity.  It was quite a serious sourcing issue - I didn't have sufficient distinction between the Von Neumann and Copenhagen interpretations.  I resolved this immediately.  It's fine now.

But nothing, literally no problem, nothing in any way systemic, has ever been raised about the core idea, the actual Edinburgh Interpretation.

Now this isn't even to say that there aren't problems.  There may well be.

But I honestly haven't heard any yet, and try as I might (and I've tried very hard for a while now) I can't find any.  Literally none.

Now, finally - why is it here?  Why is it in this place?  Why not just sever it from the Neuroscience part if it's causing such a ruckus?

Well, because One Song isn't just about the illusion of self.  It's about reality as well.  Illusion and reality.  The two aspects - not just one.

The contour of the illusion is the first part.

The contour of reality is the second.

The way to resolve the agony and delusion of the human condition itself by bringing these elements together with a new clarity on the core mechanics of their relationship?

That's the third part.  You can't have the third part if you remove either one of the previous two.

Well, - ha!  I could... but then without explaining the reality of the united nature of being and occurrence, I'd have to talk... get this, this is funny - in metaphysical terms about the undivided nature of reality...

And then I actually would be committing the same errors that the new age thinkers are.

Between not offending people who aren't engaging with what's being said anyway because they're busy fighting a battle that I'm not involved in, or actually making the mistakes they're accusing me of, I'll let those who wish to take offence, take offence.  Perhaps one day they'll relax, and come back to it.  Probably not, but that's the best I can hope for, and the limit of what I can do.

It is a sad thing that I even need to write this.  I wish that it weren't necessary, but it is.

I hope that it goes at least some way toward getting at least some people to consider what I'm saying based on its own merits.

As I've said elsewhere, and I'll say all over again - if anyone reading this actually is a physicist who has training in Quantum Mechanics, hit me up.  Send me an email.  Don't just write something in a blog comment, give me a way to get back to you.

If anyone knows someone who is a physicist, get their opinion on One Song.  Actually put it in front of them, let them have a say.  And if there is some major problem with it, wonderful, let's find out what it is, find out how it's a problem, and leverage that to get deeper, and closer to the truth.

If this is wrong - this interpretation - then at least it might be interestingly wrong, and shed some new light on things.

But if it's right, this is a game-changer.  Honest to God.  If I've got this right, anyone working with me, as a physicist, to clarify this, set it up and publish a paper about it, would make their career, for life.

If it's right.  That's all I'm saying - if it's right.  And I think it is, and if it's not right, it's very easy to disprove.

And even then, it might not be worthless.  Because if it does get disproven, then we'll be able to see how it gets disproven, and see something new.

My door is so open to offers of collaboration that it is literally off the hinges and lying on the floor.

I don't know what else to say, but I hope this clears things up a little.

Thanks for the comment, and I hope I haven't bored you too much.

I hope you like the photoshop job I did at the top though.  Took me far longer than it should have.

Totally worth it.

Much love.