An Analysis of Consciousness and Knowing

7/17/15

We are about to explode the notion of consciousness into a number of components. But before we do, let me give you a high-level view of our project of coming up with a theory of reality. I don't mean a 15,000 foot view as we made of the forest earlier; instead I mean a view from at least 16 or 20 billion light years. We want a vantage point from which we can see the entire progression of the Big Bang, from its inception to its "current" state. Of course I am kidding; such a view is not available. But what I want our theory to explain is not only everything that exists (cosmology) but how it came to be in the first place (cosmogony).

Full disclosure: I have some notions already formed that I expect that our theory of reality will neatly explain, so I'll give you a glimpse into those notions now so that my choices, in wielding Phaedrus' Knife (see Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Persig) to carve up the idea of consciousness into its components, will make some sense to you.

As you already know, I am convinced that terrestrial life, the visible galaxies, and possibly many other complex systems produced by the Big Bang, were consciously designed and built, and I identify that designer/builder (or those designer/builders) as Beon(s). This, of course, invites several immediate objections. Let me address them now in the order from most likely to least likely to be made:

1. OK, then how come life, galaxies, etc. are not perfect? Answer: Beon is not perfect.
2. OK, then Beon needs to be "designed" so you have infinite regression. Answer: Yes, there is regression but, no, it is not infinite. It's like a set of Matryoshka Dolls; there is a last one.
3. What about the mind/body problem? Answer: We have already explained that.
4. It's too complex. It violates Occam. Answer. We dealt with that earlier.
5. There is no evidence. Answer: That's the nature of embedded manifolds. We need to get used to it.
6. Science has already explained everything satisfactorily. Answer: Wrong! They have not explained the conscious experience of qualia for example.
7. ...And so on.

I list these just to give you a rough idea of the outline of our theory. Unlike the Big Bang scenario of current science and unlike all religious "Genesis" stories, Beon theory posits an extremely simple beginning.

Religions claim that in the beginning there existed an Almighty God with extreme powers and capability. Of course, for such power, anything is possible. But that complex of a starting point seems implausible.

Current scientific cosmogony is no better. Far from a simple starting point, the micro-pea, or whatever it was that exploded at the beginning of the Big Bang contained within it all the information necessary for all future processes and structures in the visible universe to play out. Or, in terms of thermodynamics, it had to have had implausibly low, maybe even zero, entropy. (My thanks to Sir Roger Penrose for explaining this to me in his book The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe, p. 777: "...[T]he cosmological problem that, in my opinion, overshadows all others, namely the extraordinarily 'special' Big Bang to at least the degree of a part in 10^10^123 which underlies the Second Law.")

So, giving due respect to Occam, and striving for plausibility, we posit that at the very beginning of reality something had to exist. Something exists now, so if nothing existed at the very beginning, then we'll simply define our starting point to be when the first extant thing appeared. The other alternative is that there is something like past "eternity" and that something existed for all time "then".

In any case, that starting point must have been ultimately simple. Nothing anywhere near "Almighty"; nothing very complex or unlikely; nothing even close to being conscious.

Greylorn Ell, in his Beon Theory, has suggested a starting point that makes enough sense to me to the point that I have accepted it. He suggests the eternal and prior existence of two "things". One still exists largely intact today and its effects are detectable. He called it Raw Energy, but when Science announced the discovery of what they call Dark Energy, it became clear that they were talking about exactly the same thing.

The second component of the starting point of Beon Theory Cosmogony is more elusive. Greylorn has dubbed it Aeon for his own reasons and has ascribed it with no specific characteristics or features. He simply posits that it takes two things to get any action started, so some sort of collision or other interaction between Aeon and Dark Energy was responsible for kicking off the myriad processes leading to the reality we experience now.

In the interest of simplicity, I imagine that the four dimensions of space-time in which we live, and the higher dimensions of space and time that I am convinced also exist, were not yet constructed, or extant, at the time of the Aeon/Energy collision. Instead I favor a reality of fewer dimensions at that time, followed by a series of evolutionary expansions leading to successively more dimensions, until the present time, when the actual number of space-time dimensions is somewhere near 11 with our 4D manifold embedded in that hyperspace.

That is a description of one of the objectives of developing this theory. It is nowhere near worked out yet, but I think that the general outlines make some sense. The progression would involve the appearance of conscious beings (Beons) beginning with minimal proto-conscious capabilities and gradually gaining on some scale of conscious capability.

At key stages, additional dimensions of both time and space would be added to the cosmos. That could plausibly be done by constructing fractal structures in the existing space. We know, for example, how to deform a line (1D) into a space-filling fractal shape that approximates a 2D surface. That principle could apply to spaces of any dimensionality.

At other key stages, possibly coincidental with the dimensional extensions, what I have called "Transfer of Omniscience" in some of my earlier writing might take place. This is roughly an extension of the solution to the mind/body problem of our 3D spatial world.

As you recall, the solution to that problem is that the mind is in a higher dimensional space and is connected remotely to the body in the lower dimensional space. I expect that this same solution will work for higher dimensions yet, up to the current size, say 11 dimensions (as Plato and modern String Theorists suggest) and it might have worked for lower dimensions to get us from that primordial Aeon/Energy collision to our 3D space.

The idea of Transfer of Omniscience is that Beons would construct ever increasingly complex "vehicles" that they would operate remotely effectively imbuing them with "consciousness". These vehicles would take on a life themselves, accumulate information about their environment, and surpass their Beon creators in many of the aspects of capability of consciousness.

By way of our familiar analogy, we humans have designed and created Mars Rovers. Imagining the development of future, more capable rovers, it is clear that in some respects, the on-board computers in the rovers would surpass that of the JPL scientists who made them. In fact in the speed and capacity of acquiring and storing data they already do surpass the builders. With more sophisticated AI in the computers, they might even surpass the JPL scientists in intelligence, as some people already worry about.

In the Transfer of Omniscience scenario, the creatures (those created and built by Beons at a higher level) become Beons themselves (by proxy of course because they are remotely controlled by higher level Beons). When they reach a critical level of knowledge of their "world", they are in a position to construct a more complex and sophisticated one at a higher level of dimensionality. As I mentioned earlier, the extra spatial dimension could be gained by constructing a fractal space from the world they inhabit that has the extra dimension. Then they could construct vehicles in that new space, connect them up with brain(equivalent)/Beon communication links, and begin the process again at a higher level.

My choice of the term 'Transfer of Omniscience' may be a bad one. First of all, it uses the term Omniscience to mean "All that is known" instead of the customary meaning of "Knowing everything." Secondly, it suggests that the original knowledge held by the builders of the vehicles might have been lost, i.e. transferred from the creators to the creatures. That is not necessary and it is premature to declare it now. But the rough idea is that creators (Beons) construct remote-controlled vehicles that in turn create a new and more complex world in which the vehicles (creatures) gain in conscious capability sufficient to surpass their own builders and start a new cycle by constructing their own creatures. Just an idea I toss into the mix to give us something to think about.

Again, there is an overwhelming amount of detail required to flesh this out enough so that we can affirm or deny any part of it. That is the project ahead of us. My plan is to work with Greylorn to try to merge our two views of how the theory should be developed so that we can arrive at an acceptable theory. Any readers of this work, or of any of our work, are welcome to contribute if you like. As you might sense, I feel that we can fend off any logical challenges so I welcome any challenge you think we can't handle. We would also welcome any positive contributions to help us with the technical details of theory-making.

Anyway, with what I have just said, it is clear that we have a conundrum. If there is a progression from the simple, non-conscious starting point of reality to today's reality, with some six billion seemingly conscious human beings, then it seems that conscious capability has been increasing over time. But, if conscious Beons were responsible for the design and construction of galaxies and life billions of years ago, then they were obviously far superior in at least some conscious capabilities than we are today on Earth.

So which is it? Is conscious capability increasing or decreasing over the long haul? It is precisely in order to answer this question that I want to carefully analyze conscious capability into its component parts. My suspicion is that some of these components are increasing in power and others are decreasing in power so that we can explain both the amount of consciousness extant today and still have a non-conscious beginning to the cosmos.

So, before I run out of time, let's start, or rather continue, analyzing consciousness. We have zeroed in on the ability of Beon to know as one of the fundamental capabilities of consciousness. Let's expand on that. In what ways can we know?

As a starting point let's take the advice given to neophyte journalists. They are told to find out What, Where, When, Who, and maybe How, and Why. The objective is that after reading one of their articles, the reader may know what happened, where it happened, and so forth. These represent different kinds of knowledge so let's examine each of them.

In attempting to sort them out, consider the development of an infant, who presumably knows nothing or at least very little at birth. So I'll list these capabilities roughly as they appear in a person's development.

Knowing that there are stimuli, e.g. a cold blast of air, later voices, warm blankets, loving arms.

Knowing how to breathe and cry, then to suck and swallow, then to move limbs and open eyes.

Knowing who is nearby making sounds, moving things, etc.

Knowing where, maybe not the incubator or the crib, but later the bedroom, the house, the town, the country, the galaxy, etc.

Knowing when, if not when to come in for dinner at least when to get to class without being late.

Knowing why by accepting some of the answers given in response to the endless "Why?" questions of a 5-year-old.

Knowing how things work. This allows for gainful employment and is different from the how to listed above.

Now let's consult Definition 11 and identify the new information acquired by Beon in each of these cases of knowing. What we find is that the data which becomes information is smeared across body, brain, and Beon. Some of the data comes into the body from the outside world via the senses, it enters the brain and shows up as structural changes in the brain, and some of it is transmitted across the brain/Beon interface and ends up as knowledge by being acquired by Beon. As it happens, much of the data stays in the brain and without any involvement from Beon can participate in the regulation of bodily functions.

So when a newborn infant is first exposed to the air, the blast of cold air stimulates receptors on the skin which send signals to the central nervous system triggering a gasping response resulting in the infant taking a first breath and soon thereafter beginning to cry out. This is likely done strictly by the brain/body with no involvement or knowledge by Beon. That comes later.

At this point, continuing to tick through my list in this way just seems too tedious for my mood right now. I am tired and ready for lunch so I will break it off here. More to follow.

My thanks to you for staying with me and reading this far.



Prev | Next
Musings | Ideas Home Page
Go To Home Page

©2015 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.