Thoughts on Consciousness and Reality

Here are some of my thoughts on the relationship between consciousness and reality as of 9/6/04:

1. Reality consists of more than 3 space and 1 time dimension.

2. It is reasonable to expect that we have no access to anything outside of our 4D space-time manifold. Thus, traditional experimentation is powerless to directly confirm or deny the existence of additional dimensions.

3.We can mathematically deduce many of the properties of hyper-space-time. By figuring out how hypothetical hyperspatial events might interact with our 4D manifold, we might be able to indirectly confirm or deny the real existence of those hypothetical events.

4. Considering an electrically charged point moving rectilinearly in our 4D manifold, we in a sense "use up" one spatial dimension and the temporal dimension. That is, we can establish the direction of motion of the point as one spatial axis, and, since the point is moving, we need the temporal dimension to contain or describe this motion. In addition, the right-hand rule of EE tells us that associated with that moving charge, there is an electric field perpendicular to the direction of travel of the charge, and a magnetic field perpendicular to both the electric field and the direction of travel. These two mutually perpendicular directions in a sense "use up" the remaining two spatial dimensions. It is remarkable that two seemingly different forces (electric and magnetic) can be unified as a single force by combining the effects in mutually perpendicular directions, i.e. in two different dimensions.

5. Unifying the other three known forces (strong, weak, and gravity) has not been as easy. It seems to me that it might be fruitful to approach the problem, as Kaluza suggested long ago, by considering that the other forces manifest themselves in hyper-space and that those manifestations interact with our 4D manifold to yield what we observe.

6. The admission of extra dimensions opens up the possibility for vastly greater complexity and variety in structures and configurations of "things" than is possible in our 4D manifold. This runs afoul of Occam because even though extra dimensions might be "simple" in concept, it would be like opening Pandora's box unleashing a wide range of new complexities. But, science has routinely done that in expanding our notion of the cosmos from the relatively small celestial spheres of the ancients to the mind-boggling expanse of space as science now describes it. The same is true for the new complexities of the quantum world as we describe ever smaller systems and their behavior.

7. Consciousness is the most baffling remaining mystery of our experience. Science - in particular Physics - has virtually nothing to say on the subject. The best we have done is to classify and name some phenomena and properties associated with consciousness. We have no idea about what it is or how or why it seems to appear in the presence of live brains. Current brain research is analogous to a study of a working cell phone in isolation. If you didn't have knowledge of, or access to, any of the other parts of the cell phone system, including EM radiation and including the person talking on the other end - i.e. you had access only to the one instrument you are studying - you would be completely baffled at the apparent conscious entity inside that phone that you could talk to. (Imagine Isaac Newton being presented with this problem knowing only what he knew when he was alive.) You could attach all the instruments you wanted to the cell phone, or use any amount of MRI scanning while you were talking on that phone, or you could understand in detail the flow of each and every electron in the circuits of the cell phone, and you would still have no clue to the existence of the things that make a cell phone work. I happen to think that the brain is a cell-phone-type-device which communicates with a vastly more complex system that is resident in hyperspace-time outside of our 4D manifold.

8. Time is mysterious. A significant aspect of time that, IMHO, doesn't get enough press is the different roles it plays in Physics and in consciousness. In Physics, time appears as a variable in virtually all equations describing dynamic phenomena. Most of these equations work just as well with time running forward or backward. In none of these equations is there any notion of "now" or the present moment. In fact relativity says that you can't even define the notion of "now" in any consistent way. Time also appears in consciousness. It appears as inexorably flowing. But by contrast to Physics, time always flows forward in consciousness. And in complete contradistinction to Physics, there is a very certain unavoidable "now" in consciousness. In fact, it is only in the present moment that consciousness exists. It does not exist in the past or the future. From the conscious viewpoint, time is clearly divided into the past, present, and future - concepts which don't appear anywhere in Physics.

9. The metric in our 4D space-time is not symmetric wrt time and space dimensions. The spatial metric, i.e. the formula giving distance in terms of spatial coordinates, is the Euclidean metric. That is, distance is the square root of the sum of the squares of the component distances. But when you introduce the time dimension, the square of the time component is multiplied by the imaginary number -i. (Or something like that. Someone please correct me if I am wrong.)

10. The metric in our 4D space-time gives distances (more correctly the separation of events) as we measure them here in our 4D manifold. There might be a different metric measuring the separation of events in hyperspace. (E.g. consider two points on a sheet of paper. The Euclidean metric is the familiar Pythagorean Theorem giving the length of the diagonal. Now, roll the paper in the shape of a tube and imagine a string inside the tube stretched tightly between those two points. This could be considered a "more true" measure of the separation of those points. Physicists who consider wormholes in space are tacitly admitting the reality of the picture I am trying to present.)

11. Considering the possibility of a different metric over our manifold from the perspective of hyperspace, one possibility is that our time dimension becomes another spatial dimension. In order to maintain the possibility of dynamism, an additional time dimension would be necessary. This would mean that our world lines would become spatial lines in 4D space (different from 4D space-time). It would also mean that if there were a consciousness resident in hyperspace (the guy who was on the other cell phone), that consciousness could, in the new dimension of time, attend to one of our world lines by following it wherever it goes over its 4D spatial path. If you think about this, it would be tantamount to that consciousness living and experiencing exactly what we seem to experience as we live our lives.

12. This picture presents what seems to be an even more complex problem in explaining consciousness. It would require vastly more complex "brains" and "organisms" (i.e. 4D instead of 3D as ours are), at least if we try to stay within the paradigm we are familiar with for the manifestation of consciousness in our world.

13. Rather than jump to the conclusion that this sort of explanation leads to "infinite" regress, consider the possibility that consciousness itself is the fundamental constituent of reality, as Berkeley suggested, and that what we perceive as physical reality is nothing more than thoughts of that consciousness (Wheeler's "It from bit"). Consciousness alone is capable of conceiving of mathematics. Mathematics is nothing more than consistent patterns of thought. Physicists are beginning to conclude that physical reality is nothing more than sets of properties (quantum numbers) associated with coordinates in some geometrical system (points in space-time) evolving over time according to some (sort of) mathematical rules. In this view, the number of dimensions could be limited to (or at least currently fixed at) some small number, like 11.

14. I said the rules are only "sort of" because they have an inherent level of uncertainty and can at best describe the probability of a particular outcome of an interaction. This, IMHO, allows consciousness to deliberately influence the outcome of certain interactions as long as it fell within the bounds of the uncertainty. This opens up myriad possibilities for the explanation of mysterious behavior of the type Rupert Sheldrake has been investigating.