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January 27th, 2010 by Edward Miller

Who Am I? | paurian
Who Am I? | paurian
Pretty early on in my philosophical journey I decided that I was a pantheist, of the naturalist sort. Pantheism is all about the one-ness and unity of everything… and I do mean everything.

Considering this mindset, it should be no wonder why I recently came to the conclusion that we might all be manifestations of a single consciousness.  I was recently alerted that the philosopher Daniel Kolak wrote a book on this very concept called I Am You. This idea may not sound intuitive to most people, especially the rugged individualists of the West, but it is arguably just as valid as our usual working assumption that we are all separate entities.

Consciousness is sort of like a black hole, and we really have no idea what it is. Some speculate that black holes are really worm holes connecting two different points, and perhaps even other universes. If that is the case, we have no way of knowing that with our current evidence. However, let us assume we somehow found out that they were worm holes. We still wouldn’t know if they were all connecting to the same place or different places, since we cannot travel inside.

That is a good analogy, in my opinion, to this argument. By positing the I Am You argument, I am not necessarily saying this is True, but that it is equally valid (or equally invalid) as the hypothesis that there are separate consciousnesses, since we cannot penetrate the minds of others.

Considering the impenetrability of other minds, for all I know, everyone could be a p-zombie.  Likewise, considering our necessity to rely on sensory information to gain any knowledge about the physical world, it is possible that the universe is just a figment of my imagination.  I can’t say precisely how unlikely these possibilities are. Yet, I intuit that it is quite unlikely considering the apparent difficulty and irrationality in simulating an entire universe in fine detail simply for the purpose of tricking me. Thus, in all likelihood other beings exist and are indeed conscious, but whether they all share one consciousness or separate consciousnesses is equally unknowable.

Techies might like this analogy. If you are looking at two computers sitting side by side, without looking at the code there is no way to know if the applications running on them are locally hosted or are cloud applications. They could still be accessing the same cloud app even if the screens look different, because of customization.

Doug Hofstadter’s argument that we are all strange loops is a potential candidate for that low-level pattern which we all share. Recursion is a pretty simple concept. I could see the recursive pattern manifesting itself with varying degrees of intensity or even in crazy ways or non-human ways… but that recursivity is still there. If recursion creates this thing (consciousness) that is greater than the sum of its parts, it seems silly to claim that the consciousness exists only at a particular location in space. Since we can hardly even place a locality on it, why must we assume everyone’s consciousness is different?

Physics is strange with quantum particles being able to influence each other from across the universe through a process called Quantum Entanglement. Furthermore all matter exerts a gravitational pull on all other matter no matter far away it is. Why must we assume that this very mysterious thing, consciousness, must have a precise location in space? Quantum mechanics seems to indicate that what we think we know about space and time is not really accurate. Considering this, I can easily imagine us all being intimately connected, just as the stars, qubits, and all the matter are connected.

Here is a thought experiment. If the universe/multiverse is infinite and there is another organization of atoms somewhere out in the universe that is in the exact same organization as the atoms in your brain, then unless you reject the possibility of continuous consciousness, your consciousness could exist simultaneously in multiple places without being aware of one another… just as they could in the I Am You hypothesis.

Kolak gives another example that came up in a discussion with Derek Parfit. There are “split-brain” people who have a malfunctioning corpus callosum and thus have two streams of consciousness that are unaware of each other. Are they really two separate people if all that separates their awareness of one another is a malfunctioning corpus callosum? Perhaps all of us are in a similar predicament and we are all really the same person, we just don’t know it.

I had previously speculated that forming some sort of global brain would be the ultimate expression of the will to Embrace Unity, but if we are indeed all a single consciousness, then we are already a global brain, we just don’t know it. How then could we go about repairing our collective corpus callosum? I think the Unity of Consciousness argument has a beautiful aesthetic quality to it, and could have positive implications for bridging the egoist-utilitarian divide. If I Am You, then even the most selfish person would logically have to become a utilitarian.

Its conceptual beauty doesn’t make it true, clearly. But, at minimum, it casts some light on the unfounded nature of even our most basic assumptions by which we operate. Be it Time, Space, Free Will, Identity, we really haven’t a clue. To hedge your bets… be more compassionate.

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32 Responses to “I am You, and You are Me… Maybe”

  1. I can’t identify the argument which is apparently supposed to establish the claim “we might all be manifestations of a single consciousness” is “equally valid” as other views, i.e. our consciousnesses are discrete.

    You correctly say little is known about consciousness and the mind. You then proceed to give a number of examples dealing with phenomena which are similarly poorly understood.

    However, I don’t find the argumentation which connects the dots and establishes the relevance of the your examples to your claim, e.g. black holes in relation to a single consciousness, and their relevance of the context in which you present them, e.g. our brain states and mental states involve recursion.

    This is particularly baffling because what little is known about the mind, brain, and consciousness indicates that mental states are causally connected to brain states — Hofstadter’s account is an example. This basic knowledge would seem to invalidate your view: The connection between brain and mental states entails that if the brain states of individuals are discrete, i.e. the neurons involved in my brain state are not physically connected to the neurons involved with your brain state, then so too are the mental states of individuals; in the absence of a connection of the brain states between individuals there is no reason to believe a singular consciousness exists — just the opposite.

    Logically put: the fact that little is known about the mind and brain does not warrant dismissing what is known.

    I look forward to your clarification with the suggestion you focus your argument on the basic facts which are understood, as outlined above, and how they are either wrong or, alternatively, do not actually prohibit the existence of a single consciousness as it seems they do.

    Good lookin’

  2. Even in standard neurobiology, there is the example of the split-brain. If this brain is simply lacking a functional corpus callosum to link the left and right hemispheres, then why must we assume there is anything fundamentally different about the low-level qualia of the left and right hemispheres. Perhaps they are just as unified as if there were a functional corpus callosum, and they simply aren’t aware of it.

    Likewise, two separate people in two separate bodies could be similarly unified without realizing it. It seems just as likely as the contrary hypothesis. Given that we have no evidence whatsoever to add probability to either position, even ardent egoists should probably hedge their bets.

  3. that wasn’t a response.

    in cases of “split brain” there is still a causal connection between the brain states and physical states, no such connection exists between the brain states of individuals; without unity of brain states there can be no unity of mental states. Again: either address why this is wrong, which would entail rejecting beliefs on the mind-body problem going back at least to Descartes, or why the implications of the relationship between mental states and brain states is not what it appears and, somehow, there can be a shared mental state without a shared brain state.

    Also, your charge of a lack of evidence is astounding. There is a tremendous amount of evidence to support a causal connection between brain states and mental states, if you think there is no good evidence, a position you are entitled to, then there is a way to proceed: offer peer reviewed evidence which rejects this basic principle of neuroscience and philosophy of mind or take it upon yourself to detail the shortcomings of these positions and evidence. Simply denying the evidence exists does no good and dismisses the onus your argument places on you.

  4. The qualia of everyone besides what you are experiencing at the moment is completely unknowable to you. It is irrelevant to this argument that one can see a causal connection between the brain states of others and their behavior, because you cannot see their qualia. Their experience of experience. We can only guess that this qualia exists in others by induction.

    That being the case, we have absolutely no way of knowing if there is only one consciousness or whether everyone has their own.

  5. your first paragraph addresses positions I have not taken. Neither addresses any points I have made.

    As for “knowing if there is only one qualia or everyone has their own” – yes, we do know the answer to that and I will repeat it for the third time despite your unwillingness to address the issue: mental states are produced by brain states; therefore, the mental states of every individual are particular to him and are connected to no unity other than the unity of his own brain states, i.e. his brain. It follow that there is no reason to believe there is a unity of consciousness, in fact there is a very good reason to believe there is not: we do not share the same brain. (does this really have to be repeated or even stated in the first place?)

  6. The fact that people do not share the same brain and thus have different consciousnesses is consistent with the classical materialist conception of the universe. However, quantum mechanics has shown us that the classical paradigm is incomplete. Similarly, our current conceptions of time and space are also incomplete.

    It doesn’t really make sense to think of a human consciousness as a collection of atoms, but rather a pattern of matter (and perhaps subatomic particles). Your atoms are shifting around in your brain all the time, and if it is the particular atoms that give rise to consciousness then you are in trouble because those atoms are constantly being swapped out. There is no continuity of consciousness in this case, which is a very real possibility.

    I am confident that it is the pattern that is valuable, rather than the particular atoms. Of course the pattern of your brain changes over time too. So what I speculate is that there is a low-level pattern that underlies all the superficial ones like temperament which gives rise to consciousness.

    What happens if there is an identical pattern of somewhere else out there in the infinity of space? Is it not possible that both patterns are indeed the same? If those can be the same, but if there is actually some shared low-level pattern which causes them to be the same, then indeed all the consciousnesses that we know about could in fact just be manifestations of the same experience-stuff without knowing that they are.

  7. the conclusion of this talk on Mirror Neurons is relevant here…

    http://www.ted.com/talks/vs_ramachandran_the_neurons_that_shaped_civilization.html

  8. I was searching info about the Kolak’s book, and I found your post. I am italian and have read just the Google book’s preview of “I am You”, but I too had the same idea about 4 years ago… maybe the idea is “on the air” and ready to be accepted worldwide! I hope because it will help to improve the condition of our diseased world…

    I prepared some pages in my web site and recently I have made them translated in english by a professional translator at

    http://www.iacopovettori.it/laterzaipotesi/eng/Default.aspx

    In the main page there’s a link to a PDF file to print the site content as a little book of 35 pages. Recently I add a new page with “Open consideration” where is possible to send comment, where I copied some posts I have sent at The Brights Forum on Science & Philosophy

    http://www.the-brights.net/forums/forum/index.php?showforum=95

    I warmly invite you and everyone interested to read these pages to evaluate the quality of the arguments that I propose. From what I can understand by the preview pages of Kolak’s book, I followed a different path to reach the same conclusions.

  9. Fantastic work, Iacopo! My (our?) thoughts exactly! 😉

    I do think that this view is becoming more common now, though I am not sure why. I notice all sorts of feedback loops and memes that spread rapidly in society, and perhaps this could be such a meme.

    Unfortunately, the New Age crowd are the only ones to have truly embraced it, despite the potential for increased compassion with this view. However, considering how biologically determined our empathy capacities are, the effect of such an idea can never match a scientific understanding of empathy and empathy deficits.

    By the way, I too have only read what was available through Google Books… the price of kolak’s book is rather shameful (not that he necessarily had anything to do with that price)

  10. Thank you Edward for your appreciation of my (our?) work… I glad to see that this meme is going to be spread rapidly, and I hope that my papers can help in that direction, being a sort of “shortcut” of the 600 pages book of Kolak (and I hope to add some original considerations).

    I am aware of the importance to mantain the discussion at a non-mystical level, because it has nothing of magical or fatalistic, but it’s easy to add these characteristics that I retain unnecessary and also potentially damaging, classifying it as just another religious cult. I rather classify it as a ideal completition of “orthodox atheism”, even if convincing atheists of this can be more difficult than religious people… this is why I am posting some articles at the-brights.net.

    I’ll keep on trying to spread this idea, so let us keep in touch if we find other interesting informations or interested people. When I first found someone that have the same thinking, I was feeling better seeing that I’m not alone, as now my relif rises seeing that the view is becoming more common… I would say that it’s an indication that is true, but this would be too “mystical”…:-) but it can reasonably be an indication that this view can be useful to resolve our poor Earth severe problems!

  11. ed, I’m afraid your last post (in response to me) doesn’t help the issue much (not to mention a number of severe mischaracterizations, e.g. that I somehow argued that consciousness was a collection of atoms, which would be to confuse brain states with mental states)

    Assume your claims about brain states and consciousness are true: there is an underlying, low level pattern of matter, or even pattern of mental state, which defines the possibility of consciousness.

    Fine. Well and good. Yet, consciousness emerges from that pattern, i.e. within the brain matter, at whatever level or pattern, in question. Thus, your move gets you no traction on the notion that we can have a shared consciousness: as it is the particular matter of the particular brain in question. (This move is more or less repeating your earlier assertions with more degrees of complexity).

    The same goes for your counter example of identical brain or matter patterns: each system of consciousness is discrete because it consists in different matter, i.e. different brains (again, does this really have to be repeated or stated in the first instance?)

    Further, the implications of quantum mechanics has to classical conceptions of time and space is irrelevant because its implications do not bear on the point at hand: superpositions, wave functions, and so on do no dispute the fact that matter exists in different locations in space and time. In other words, this move does not satisfy a valid way of denying the mind-body connection or the discreteness of bodies between individuals. (again, does this really have to be stated etc.)

    bill

  12. I just thought of another good analogy. You may have heard about cloud computing. The idea is that there is a central remote server (or cluster of servers) that a lot of computers can interact with simultaneously. Such interaction could be at the level of a website, an application, or an entire operating system.

    Yet, cloud computing is a new phenomenon. If you watched the screen of someone using a cloud operating system, there would be no way to know if that operating system was a normal locally-hosted operating system or a cloud operating system.

    If you saw two computers side by side, even if both were relatively “customized” for the particular user, there would be absolutely no way of knowing just by looking at them if they are sharing the same cloud operating system, using different clouds, or both locally hosted. Someone who wasn’t familiar with a cloud operating system would understandably assume each operating system was discrete.

    Similarly, just by looking at a person you cannot tell if their mind is discrete. Looking at their brain “hardware” wouldn’t give you any extra information on the question. Since we have a fundamental problem in that we cannot access the source code (subjective experience) of other people’s minds, we cannot say.

    In order for this to be possible, we would need something analogous to an internet of consciousness. Since clearly atoms do not work like bits in a computer, this cannot be an aspect of classical physics. Quantum mechanics shows that there is more to reality. Quantum particles act more like bits in that they seem to be able to be transmitted instantaneously. Quantum mechanics may or may not be the level at which this mind connectivity occurs, but certainly the I Am You hypothesis has yet to be disproven. I don’t even know if it can be disproven, but it has an equal disprovability or lack thereof as the classical discrete mind hypothesis.

  13. My opinion is that to believe that “a new mind” is created each time by merging from a complex structure as a brain is (and my own mind incidentally happens to be one of them), is far more “incredible” that to believe that “the mind” is always the same, and just their manifestations are discrete (so no surprise if “even I” exist). Both are undemostrable, but the second can explain my own existence without other assumptions.

    There’s no really need of any quantum mechanic amazing phenomena to prove it, just the aknowledgement that the concept of “absolute time” is unsustainable after the physical discoveries of the last century. So there’s no more real physical obstacle to imagine that the unique phenomenon of “being a mind” can be subjectively interpreted as “I am you and every other living being” (giving for sure that no kind of information can “transmigrate” from a life to another using this way).

    Otherwise, you must face forever with enigma: “wow, it happens that I am one of the possible existing minds… what a luckiness!” …nothing can justify the fact that precisely your own mind had to merge from the physical structure that represented your own person at the moment of your current life beginning. There’s a lot of person that are “not you”… do you never think that one more “not of you” have could replace “you” without anyone notice?

  14. No, cloud computing is a terrible analogy, for the same basic reason now repeated a number of times without being addressed (except for a misappropriation of quantum mechanics): cloud computing, or any computer network, works on the basis of physical interconnection; no such interconnection exists between brains.

    To attempt, yet again, to crystallize the basic point at issue, you say:

    “Similarly, just by looking at a person you cannot tell if their mind is discrete. Looking at their brain “hardware” wouldn’t give you any extra information on the question. Since we have a fundamental problem in that we cannot access the source code (subjective experience) of other people’s minds, we cannot say.”

    again, the issue is the relation between mental states and brain states; there is every reason to believe mental states depend upon brain states – this is why consciousness responds to activity in the brain. Given this basic fact, apprehending the nature of others’ mental states, “subjective experience,” is irrelevent — what is relevant is that experience depends upon underlying brain states.

    FROM THIS IS SIMPLY FOLLOWS: without interconnection of brain states or the brains of individuals, there can be no interconnection of consciousness or mental states of individuals; i.e. IF brains are discrete physical systems, therefore minds are discrete phenomenal systems.

    again, you must address this simple problem which is the basis of the mind-body problem and philosophy of mind and neuroscience.

    Importantly, your last paragraph presents a number of serious methodological errors. You write, “but certainly the I Am You hypothesis has yet to be disproven. I don’t even know if it can be disproven, but it has an equal disprovability or lack thereof as the classical discrete mind hypothesis.”

    ignoring the fact that the above comments do disprove your hypothesis, the onus is on you to either verify your hypothesis (which you have not attempted to do) or to falsify it — in which case your statement “I don’t even know if it can be disproven” in effect self-refutes the validity of the hypothesis, i.e. it has no conditions of falsifiability.

    Finally, your statement that your hypothesis “has an equal dis provability or lack thereof as the classical discrete mind hypothesis” is incorrect, for reasons stated above – e.g. damaging the brain produces corresponding results in mental states and so on.

  15. First of all, you may NOT want to read this post. If you feel happy in your current state of understanding reality and personal identity then consider not reading this. Consider reading this post like taking the Red Pill or a permanent dose of DMT. I’m serious. A drug affects your neurons’ firing. So does information encoded in photons after they stimulate the nerves in your eyes. Reading this may ultimately kill your ego.

    ——–

    I just finished reading the discussion and I can see that you (William) feel very confident about your present view and way of thinking. This isn’t bad since the Open Individualism view can be attained through entirely rational means but actually understanding it relies on a severe paradigm shift to occur inside one’s mind, which can only happen if one consciously identifies the incoherences in the Closed (and Empty) Individualism view. I think the simplest thing for me to do would be to write down the exact reasoning sequence that led me to understand this. It would take some effort since I suck at expressing my thoughts in language but I think it may be time I tried. Before I knew about Kolak I felt like writing a book about this myself and maybe I still should, since Kolak’s explanation is too complex for many people to comprehend (you don’t belong in that group though, William). In any case, it would be best if you read Kolak’s paper or book since he explains it much better than I could at this moment ( http://ifile.it/ftjzpdl and http://tiny.cc/mhckU )

    But maybe you should ask yourself whether you would even want to know this because one thing is certain, if a critical amount of people realize this, it will fundamentally change the way we experience reality. Personally, I’m still freaking out about it and I’ve held this view for 7 years now. But that could just have to do with my particular emotional wiring. Still, it is obvious to me that many people will experience a lot of suffering if they realize this. And this is not taking into account the accelerating technological development. I guess the trip is about to get weirder.

    I don’t even know whether I should try to actively convey this view to others. But I guess we don’t have much choice anymore since our ability to transfer information has irreversibly broken out of the control of a handful of individuals for the first time ever in the history of this planet. 2000 years ago, when Jesus realized this they killed him but it still led to the creation of a massive religion. Now the genie is truly out of the bottle. I think what is basically occurring is that we are on the verge of experiencing a quantum entanglement between all our minds. It is ‘us’ who will experience becoming the global consciousness, if that is what we allow ourselves to become.

    For the sake of variety, I think we should all have the option to lock ourselves in our own private universes and decide ‘who’ to interact with if we so wish but it is yet to be seen what the evolutionary process has in store for us. Someone should make Kurzweil aware about Kolak, unless he already knows about this. It may be that some of us are trying to orchestrate the development of things but I doubt any individual node will be able to retain control for much longer. If my intuitions are right, we will experience a conscious/spiritual singularity before we get assimilated by an AGI. We are in the process of merging. Maybe I’m crazy and maybe I’ve smoked too much weed during the last couple of years (I came to understand this before I got into weed). I don’t know anymore. The whole thing is just insane.

    Maybe we should make people think seriously about radical life extension and more short term implications of emergent technologies before we try to disprove their egos. Sorry if my way of writing appears weird, here you can observe what this view can do to someone who used to be a materialist atheist. Oh God, knowing that we are immortal and the same person makes life so painfully real and unreal at the same time. I seriously need to meditate more.

    Ah, now I just remembered that I actually wrote the following right after I realized this in 2003. That was way before I knew anything about accelerating change or eastern philosophy:

    http://www.physicsbanter.com/physics-general-discussion/3960-howto-about-mind-consciousness-self.html

    Those questions are pretty much what led me to identify the incoherence in the Closed view but it wasn’t until I found Mike Wilber’s site (by typing split brain paradox in Google) that I got the paradigm shifting a-ha experience that solved all the incoherences and made me one of the first people to understand this (I hope I get a medal for that, ideally made of chocolate), forcing me to question my own sanity for the years to come, up until I discovered that the world is apparently just as insane as me, since it is all true after all . So yeah, I’m living proof that this view is independent from faith and religion. Now that I think about it, it’s all Google’s fault 😛

    So my present conclusion is that I do not intend to try write my own full explanation (in the sense of having this particular brain write a sequence of symbols that you would perceive to be a full explanation originating from what you consider to be ‘me’) unless specifically asked. I guess I feel adamant to being perceived as an authority on this topic right now. Furthermore, all past attempts at doing that have been extremely frustrating and have led nowhere. This is not an easy thing to wrap one’s mind around and should therefore be approached and considered very seriously before dismissed. For that, Kolak is presently the best source.

    Peace and Love

  16. Now I just remembered that I also wrote this once while stoned. I guess this is the closest I’ve gotten to trying to explain this so far. Iacopo has done a much better and more elegant job.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/26431397/Reality-and-Meaning-of-Life-15082008

  17. I’m writing because I personally know alexxarian and he asked my to give some feedback to his comments.

    Here are my opinions.
    1. Anybody who is reading this kind of material is probably fascinated by the subject and probably doesn’t mind ego death.
    2. Please stick to the topic without telling us your entire life. Few words for the wise.
    3. Regarding the content itself, and I’ve already told you this, I want proof. I would tend to agree with William that the onus of proof is on those claiming that we are all the same consciousness. Hunches, intuitions and inferred conclusions are all good and well, but you can’t expect me to change my world-view on your hunch.

    The cloud computing analogy used by Miller is seductive but, like William pointed out, ultimately useless. It is relatively easy to explain to someone how cloud computing works, by showing them the wires, hardware and software. Miller, alexxarian and co. might be right about us all being one, but if that is so I want the proof.

    Ultimately though, does it really matter if we are all the same consciousness or not? I think this issue should be explored and hopefully resolved, but it is too optimistic to think that if we all believed that we are the same consciousness that we would somehow be kinder to one another. I have known alexxarian for a long time, and I’m afraid to say that since his enlightenment 7 years ago I haven’t seen much change in his behavior. He’s a kind person with a sensitive personality, but he doesn’t DO much to help anyone. If a “paradigm shifting a-ha experience” doesn’t change you alexxarian, what will? For better or worse we are stuck in these bodies, without being able to feel what others feel, and so the ego will always be predominant. Especially if we feel pain, hunger or fear. It is easy to be kind in a society with a high material standard of living (Norway in the case of alexxarian). But would you allow yourself to be raped, tortured and killed in an African war-zone simply because we are all the same consciousness?

    I’m in favor of this blog’s title “EmbraceUnity-Maintain a global identity” even without believing that we are all the same consciousness. But you must remember that there are powerful religious/political/economic forces out there that want to divide and conquer. Overcoming these without physical power will require solid, simple proof that everyone can understand (intellectual power). Not to mention that most people are too busy surviving to be able to consider the finer issues of reality. If you really want to help alexxarian, apply your impressive IQ to solving problems related to energy, disease and hunger. If you did, you would probably find that you have given your beliefs a bigger boost, by way of example, than anything you could ever say.

    Proof and Action

  18. Marcel,

    I largely agree with the spirit of your points, though I would quarrel with your African war-zone hypothetical.

    Philosophy is often rather indulgent, especially for people who already know the basics on how to be good.

    Specifically, once a person gets to the point where they can say something such as “If you really want to help … apply your impressive IQ to solving problems related to energy, disease and hunger”

    That is key, since scarcity is at the heart of so many of our most urgent social problems.

    That said, the point of this post was not just to reinforce compassion on the part of the already compassionate, but to plant the seed of compassion in egoists by causing them to doubt the utility of selfishness.

    I doubt I succeeded in this goal or even that a single egoist will actually read this, but maybe somewhere down the line if this idea becomes prominent it could have a marginally positive effect.

    That said, you are right that this discussion is a suboptimal use of time from a utilitarian standpoint.

  19. Ed — do you have any posts talking systematically about scarcity? If not, I think it might be a good topic for you to engage with thoroughly. (My suggestion is motivated by a desire to hear arguments which are close to your central beliefs about society, of which I know scarcity is one, and a suspicion that ‘scarcity’ likely does not have the role in our society which you accord to it.

    good discussion, always cool to talk (and I’m glad other chimed in with very useful comments as well).

    ps dude come and chill with me in hyde park

  20. Bill,

    I don’t have any posts that go in depth on the concept of scarcity, but I will take your suggestion.

    By the way, I sent you an email with your user name so that you can contribute articles more freely

    We’ll definitely hang out

  21. Ed, count me in!
    Basically, I live my life as if I’m in my own lucid dream. So I consider everything I experience as a part of my consciousness like you. Not because I know it’s true. But because it’s a *very* empowering view that can’t be logically discarded. Of course it could be false.

    I realize a lot of people consider this “quack”. But many people in history and modern time have made this point. Google “Max Tegmark’s Everything Theory”, or “Boltzmann brain” and “quantum immortality”. They all echo my viewpoint. If you more of a technical type, there are much more extensive reasons I believe what I do.

    BTW Ed, Eliezer Yudkowsky put a bullet in the head of the p-zombie argument. (I never believed in a p-zombies view anyway)

  22. Hey Jack,

    If I understood you correctly, you may be a solipsist. Solipsism is not disprovable, though it seems unlikely from my vantage point… though if I am just an NPC in your lucid dream, then that would explain my inability to see this.

  23. I doubt solipsism too. But my thing is different.

    To put it another way, I believe there are individual “universes” in a “multiverse”. Each contain just one conscious being.

    So all other entities in my reality are just parts of my consciousness. I’m one in an infinitude of conscious beings subjectively experiencing themselves in their own reality. From my vantage point, if I’m actually in a reality with multiple observers, I couldn’t tell the difference! 🙂

  24. I find your idea plausible and actually speculated on that exact possibility in the facebook group that was derived from this post.

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=299406397622&ref=ts

    Though my conception, which is scarier, is that you play every role in that universe simultaneously.

  25. “I dreamt you into existence, where you then proceeded to dream me into existence causing an infinite regression. You made me and I made you, forever backwards in a trans-oneiric loop…”

    My dear old boxer dog Max, now long gone from this world, used to charge at mirrors upon seeing his reflection, thinking it was another dog to play with. After colliding head-on with the mirror, he simply got back up rather woozily and trotted off. I have often used this scenario as an analogy to our own situation, to the possibility that everyone is everyone else despite our natural inclination to think that who we see in front of us are completely separate people, like dogs and mirrors. This mindset has played a part during my more solipsistic moments, where I thought to myself that instead of a mirror, I, perhaps the only person in existence, am just reflecting and reverberating back off the limits of my self-contained existence, echoes that manifest themselves as other things and other people. But this developed into thinking, what if this is true for everyone and everything? Am I the echo of another who was an echo of me? This would cause never-ending feedback like that in my opening text, but does that necessarily mean it’s not true? We would do well to think like that; it s one step up from “treat others as you wish to be treated yourself”. It is a great incentive for compassion. On the other hand, compassion should first and foremost be given because it is good and nice, not just because we may be one another in my opinion.

    “An impossible echo chamber, full of sounds reflecting off the walls. There was never a sound source, there has always been reverberations. Each echo will always be the sound source for the next reflection, and it has always been that way.”

  26. Given the interconnectedness of everything to everything else, true islands are impossible in this universe. Nothing in our existence can be one hundred per cent isolated from another…and so to try and think of something that is is an extremely psychedelic thought experiment. Synthesising this with Hofstadter’s strange loops, I have been asking myself…what is a strange line then? A strange line: a series of infinitely short instances that have absolutely no causal effect on one another but are infinitely unrelated. Where every spontaneous occurrence is infinitely isolated and different to the others in literally every way; where they truly are their own islands. This challenges the definition of “line” then.

    An infinitely thin, infinitely long straight line in this universe is a strange loop; it is a series of strange loops within strange loops, forever. No matter how far you travel along it for however long, you will always arrive at a point identical to where you left because it is totally uniform. This is partly true for everything we do in our macro world; our destinations (whether they are spacial, temporal, ideological) always have a connection to our departations because they happen, for example, in the same universe, in the same timeline, in the same existence to the same person et cetera. The strange line thought experiment idea is the antithesis to that.

  27. Adam,

    My friends and I have read your comments with interest. I especially loved the metaphor of a dog crashing into its own reflection.

    Be sure to join the facebook group that I made, following this post:

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=299406397622

  28. Thank you! Ah yes, I joined yesterday…and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I’m already connected with Daniel Kolak! My friend CJ Carr is also quite into the I Am You ideology; I’ll have to direct him to this and to Mr Kolak 🙂

  29. Expanding on the “echo chamber” piece (but not digressing too much, hopefully ;] ), I’ve become very interested in the thought experiment of something artificial being infinitely old and thus having no creators (a building that has always been a building, but was never actually built) whilst still being artificial. Or, alternatively, something artificial being infinitely old, whereby the time it was built is an infinity ago longer than the infinity of it standing as a complete structure, like aleph one to null. I’m not sure which version I find more psychedelic…perhaps the first one.

  30. “Waves are particles.”
    “Particles are waves.”
    “Everything is a wave.”
    “Everything is a particle.”

    Or rather:

    Everything is everything else.

  31. I realize this debate is over a year old; but for anyone stumbling on it like I did, I would like to add some responses to the discussion above.

    First of all, much is made of the fact that brain states produce mental states; thus, states produced by different brains are discretely different. However, this is not at all a limiting factor to viewing all minds as one. The primary reason is that there are a multitude of hidden dualist assmptions in the argument. Dualism haunts philosophy of mind like a specter; it’s seductive to talk about “our minds” or “mental states” (that the brain somehow manages to produce), but all of these conceptions, if seriously questioned, become suspect for the same reasons that Descartes “res cogitans” did. Look, for instance, in the physical description of sight, and you will find no place in the recount of the electrochemical reactions between the optic nerve and the brain where “seeing” can be slipped in. So whose “mind” are we talking about? How much sense does it make to assign an enduring core essence, or mysterious inner-stage of experience, to what science tells us are merely reproducing machines in the natural world; the physical Universe, which has no inside or outside?

    It might sound like I’m arguing against the existence of mental states, or qualia. In one way, I am — I don’t think that qualia, phenomenal properties, or mental states should have any place in scientific descriptions of the brain, and serve absolutely no causal role. But if we are going to make an ontological claim, such as that the physical world is all that exists, then we have to ask “what is the physical world, and why do we believe in it?”

    Berkeley made powerful arguments for the idea that what we call “matter” reduces entirely to our experience of it; if there were some extra-sensory reality, no knowledge could be had of it in principle. Even things such as dark matter, or subatomic particles (which we normally consider beyond the bounds of our sensory experience) have been detected only using instruments which are basically custom-designed sense organs. It’s all well and good to state that the Universe “would be there even if no one was looking,” but this idea is unfalsifiable and so cannot be considered scientifically viable.

    This is the most radical form of empiricism — not admitting the existence of that which is not directly experienced. But, in the end, science doesn’t need anything more than radical empiricism; all scientific advances are built upon hypothesis and experimentation, which, again, amounts to experience (designing experiments, reading and analyzing results, etc). At no point has anything extra-sensory come into the picture… ever. The best we can say is that the Universe looks as if it has been around for 16 billion years before the first conscious observer; however, it only looks that way from the perspective of the observer who is undeniably here reading this in the present moment.

    Matter is a way of abstracting and talking about experience; of predicting what experiences we will have in the future (what results will be read in future experiments, etc) and of placing what happened in the past in that context.

    So we end up realizing that a monistic view such as physicalism doesn’t destroy consciousness, or deny it — it simply equates what we call “consciousness” with the world. What you choose to call the substance of the world (whether it be mind, matter, god, or even flamingos) is arbitrary, because as Wittgenstein so aptly pointed out, words are only useful insofar as they exclude a possible alternative. There is no possible alternative to the substance that makes up everything, so it doesn’t make sense to use discriminatory language (“mind” as opposed to “matter,” or vice-versa) because there is nothing else to compare it with.

    If what we call “consciousness” is no-thing, but is equated with the world in this way, it makes as little sense to say that a brain (and hence its states) “belongs” to any one person as it would to say any one drop of water “belongs” to one ocean, rather than another.

    So physicalism, stripped of implicit dualism that has the tendency to sneak in from time to time, actually supports the idea that divisions of personal identity (“you” as opposed to “me”) are arbitrary. The existence of other minds is an illusion, not terribly unlike Kant’s transcendental illusion (or the geocentric illusion). There are many other arguments which could be made; this just a very brief sketch. Read Iacopo’s papers, or Kolak’s book, for some fascinating, in-depth analysis of the idea.

  32. At whatever level you choose to call it, we are all, ultimately, one. Even as a simple collective of individuals. Like sharing a house with people, if we all work together and are considerate of each other, the house will work better in greater peace and harmony.

    However, I believe we are all connected at a much deeper level than this. It is very possible to “feel” another’s pain as well as their joy. I think there are a lot of people out there who put up an emotive barrier, possibly as children, to protect themselves from feeling hurt by emotional pain.

    Some people turn to science as a way of escaping religion and superstition, without realising that the scientific world is just as religious and superstitious as everyone else (if not more so!).

    Scientists are not open to new possibilities, that is how it is when you are a kid, and you follow science with the same mentality that had you believing a fat, hairy dude in a red suit flew around the world every year to bring you the latest games console.

    Instead, the way the science community works, they choose a “belief” or “assumption” that best suits them in the world they have grown up to believe is real. Then they follow that path, almost entirely without divergence, in hope of progressing that scientific theory a bit further (or at least die trying). All the while immersing themselves with information which supports their chosen field, and discarding anything that opposes or detracts from it.

    At the end of the day, life is what you make of it, literally! So make the best of it you can. And, help a total stranger (without reward) if the opportunity presents itself. If only just to see the way it affects them, it will completely change your perspective on life, and provide you with an unforgettable moment of experience.

    “Begin from within, and you won’t go without” – #MooseLogic

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