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May 11, 2023Liked by John Carter

One of your best to date and given the tremendous quality of your work that's saying something.

I subscribed for a long time to the emissions theory of consciousness though I didn't call it that. I was going off the premise that one of the meanings of the 33 in occultism was regarding the vertebrae of the spine, the head being the 'receiver.' I had assumed I was weird because I walk with an extreme slouch and so the signal was coming in slightly off-kilter lmao

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Yes, I found McGilchrist's taxonomy to be very useful, and his suggestion of a permission model - which was entirely novel to me when I came across it - to be very interesting. Emission theories are of course quite well known, they're more or less the default, with transmission theories being the usual alternative offered by the woo side. A third position that in a sense reconciles the two was fascinating to me, which is why I thought it might be worth sharing.

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I have grappled with this issue myself for most of my 'concious' adult life. I have banged my head against Penrose for years now trying to get a glimpse of rationality from an entirely subjective study.

This taxonomy is remarkable in that it is a synthesis of my own wide ranging ponderings, from the mechanistic to the mystical. Of late I have come to settle on the Transmission aspect, fostered mainly by a sympathy to the psi effects you introduce herein, and a totally subjective feeling derived from pyschedelia and zen practice of Oneness with a greater source; the Permission aspect ties it all together, as I have found myself drawn irreducibly to the River metaphor. Vasu Deva, anyone?

Thank you for a great and insightful article, I see a paid subscription in my poverty-stricken near future! Cheers, John!

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That was exactly how I reacted when I came across the permission model. Like it all fell into place. So often, the answer to a seemingly insoluble dilemma between two unsatisfying alternatives, is to transcend them by synthesizing them at a higher level.

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May 11, 2023·edited May 11, 2023Liked by John Carter

While the idea that we don't possess free will at all might be dumb, judging by the number of times I have to go to the dictionary when reading your stuff as well as this essay, et.al., I'm guessing you know more about the subject than I do, but I'll state my case anyway. It certainly *seems* absurd when I'm clearly choosing to reply here.

I'm met with a lot of resistance for this, especially (but not uniquely) by those who believe free will is the divine gift that separates us from beasts, but much if not all of who we "are" is derived from things we have never chosen.

We do not choose our likes, tastes, families, birthplace, or even our beliefs and morals.

No one chooses to have a favorite song. We just like it. Sure, you might give reasons why: you like the beat, the melody, etc...but it's obviously not that simple or I'd have a hit single by now.

We wouldn't need to taste food before we eat it; heartbreak would not exist; I could simply choose to believe that Jesus is my savior*; any number of decisions would be made much easier if we didn't have to worry about morality.

(*Christians say this is as easy as abc-123, but it's as absurd an idea as I could fathom. I could no sooner choose to do this than I could stop loving my perfect in every way 6 year old daughter. The knots people will tie themselves in and special pleadings they'll use to argue that absolute free will is absolute eg. "yes, I could stop loving my child" have astounded me.)

What are the philosophical implications of so much of us being already installed in some way prior to delivery?

I am if the opinion that there is no pizza but Neapolitan; that Jim Henson was the greatest genius of our time. I chose to major in psychology because I was interested by it. I chose to move to France because I was so intrigued by a friend I hadn't seen in years who had become bilingual by moving there.

All of these tastes and choices were only made because of scenarios and situations I found myself in having never made any choice to be in. My father was in the military and we lived in Italy in the late 70s, a country I have a deep love for in every aspect, some of which may be attributed to the fact that it is the last place my family lived before the now easily recognizable traumatic divorce.

I was plopped in front of sesame street as a child and they spoke to me in a way no one else had our has and I can still watch and it is a source of unending joy to watch my daughter laugh at the same things I do.

The childhood trauma led me on a Harry Angel-like journey to find out what made me tick and psychology led me down and dark and then lighted path.

My friend and I had crossed paths for just over a week in a restaurant working together, he on the way in and me on the way West.

Without these characteristics of Doug Glaass, none of which were purely born from acts of free will but in fact the opposite. I don't meet my wife (well not under the same circumstances) whom of course I didn't choose to like or love and I don't have this beautiful daughter.

I'm almost certainly not writing this, and I haven't chosen so much as I have been compelled to write it anyway. Much the same reason for picking up a guitar 30 years ago.

Where does the software that comes with the operating system stop and do our choices begin?

I'd argue that the idea we have no free will at all isn't quite as dumb as it seems if you eliminate the trivial choices we make like going left or right when we're lost. Almost all of our choices are rooted in our innate desires and distastes, so whence free will?

1-if I misused any words, attempted imitation is the highest form of flattery

2-Deimos is nigh.

great stuff John

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Well, first, I certainly don't agree with those who hold that free will is a human capacity not available to other life forms. In my ontology free will, like consciousness, goes all the way down.

Second, I think there's a widespread misunderstanding of what free will is. It is certainly not the ability to choose the past. That is, all the things that have shaped us, all that happened before we were born, including our biology and such, as well as everything that happened to you before this exact moment, are fixed. Likewise it is not the ability to choose what happens to you - one cannot control the rest of the cosmos. All of this forms the constraint set. But within that constraint set one always has the ability to choose what one will do.

To be even more abstract, consider a point in a web, connected to many other points. All of those other points exert an influence on our central perspective point, and it can certainly seem like the behavior of that point is fully determined by external inputs. However, those influences do not arrive instantaneously, they take time to propagate through the web (speed of light is finite). Therefore at any given moment, our perspective point cannot exert an instantaneous influence on any other point. But now shift perspective to another point - the same will be true there. So all points are a) influenced by the past behavior of other points but b) unable to influence the present behavior of any other point. Free will is, I think, related to this.

To be less abstract, frankly, it is simply better, healthier, psychologically, to experience an internal locus of control - in other words, to behave as though one has free will.

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If you understood that I believe free will includes an ability to change the past, I don't and am not sure where I might have implied that.

More simply that so much of the the choices we make are heavily influenced by innate characteristics that we have not chosen, and choices we are presented with are largely placed there by events that have nothing to do with any choices we've made.

I do agree that even if free will is illusory, it is better to behave as though it's not. I certainly believe we have free will and the idea that we travel down an inexorable path is completely incomprehensible to me.

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Well, you sort of did imply that, in the sense that if free will demands the ability to not have one's condition affected by the constraints that form you - in other words, the past - then you're right, there's no free will. My point is that free will is what operates in the spaces between those constraints.

Put another way, there's the flood of events that you ride, and there's what you do in every moment to surf that wave. The wave is not in your power to control. Only what you do with it is.

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I guess what I really believe and I'm coming to realize this through discussing it with you is not so much that free will doesn't exist, but that there are things that we do that are not choices but compulsions, there is output that is not completely deliberate.

I referenced playing music earlier. I've "written" somewhere between 50-100 songs with the vast majority coming from the ether and only recently because of a project I'm working on have i deliberately written words on a subject. I started playing guitar because I was compelled to and certainly chose to go to the music store that day in 1989.

I have to imagine you have a similar relationship to writing.

We make choices all of the time, but the path we are on is also partly due to choices we only think we made.

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Yes, I think this is in essence very close to what I also believe, or better, what I *experience*, belief per se is not so relevant in the end. The flow state of creativity, when one is possessed by the spirit of genius as the Romans understood it ... I think this is crucial to understanding the phenomenon. Yes, there are innumerable constraints, these serve as channels into which that spirit pours, and one does not exactly control that spirit either, it does what it will do ... that I think is the essence of it.

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I imagine having been on Kevin Barrett's show you're familiar with Josh Mittledorf but his most recent touches on this discussion a bit.

One of the smartest most humble writers on Substack.

https://mitteldorf.substack.com/p/its-about-time?utm_source=profile&utm_medium=reader2

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I'd argue that the idea we have no free will at all isn't quite as dumb as it seems if you eliminate the trivial choices we make like going left or right when we're lost.

What choice is a trivial choice? Your entire comment documents how you interpreted and acted upon all these seemingly random circumstances and how these decisions influenced who you are today.

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May 11, 2023Liked by John Carter

Hardly feet-deep into what's transpiring to be a dazzling piece (don't paint me surprised), my memory got triggered and wouldn't let go, threw a tantrum and demanded loud the spoils be put on page 😊

▶️

Life isn’t just feeding from the universe. It’s learning from it.

Or, looked at from another direction, Universe is teaching itself to life.

Universe is writing itself into the surface of the planet, leaving more and more of traces of itself behind as time goes on. You might think of life as a sort of symbolic representation of the cosmos ... a library, a tapestry, a symphony, that grows in majesty and subtlety as Universe impregnates ever more of itself into its artistic handiwork. The remarkable thing about this artistic project, however, isn’t just that it’s a profoundly beautiful act of creation; it’s that it’s an artwork which is itself capable of creation.

And that is what Life is for.

⏹️

barsoom.substack.com/p/cosmic-information-transducers

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I need to get back to the threads in that piece, I've been thinking about the information issue ... I wasn't quite satisfied with a simple information description, it seems to leave out something crucial....

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May 11, 2023·edited May 11, 2023Liked by John Carter

Thank you very much for this post.

Here is a 2 minute video on how to cook brains in butter and lemon and parsley, like a boss:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZJUN4vLS9M

Simplicity.

Although in French language.

The brains come from a lamb, by the way.

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You are what you eat.

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I am too stupid to know anything about brain’s relationship to consciousness so I am not even going to try to read this haha

I'll read your next one :P

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May 11, 2023Liked by John Carter

What is this 'I' knowing to do unconditional surrender forthwith? Why would 'you' take sheheit (for want of better pronoun) on faith? 😉

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May 13, 2023Liked by John Carter

An artist’s impression of a proton after spending too much time talking to the nerds at CERN.

That was excellent.

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I'm glad someone appreciated that.

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May 11, 2023·edited May 11, 2023Liked by John Carter

St Thomas Aquinas argues that thought is too universal and abstract to be carried out through the brain. That's where the soul comes in. This would support the theory of the brain as an organ that limits consciousness, rather than originating it. Unfortunately for us it also supports the conclusion that artificial substrates would be able to act as prisms for consciousness of other types than human souls, and the more highly functional the substrates get, the more strongly those consciousnesses would come through.

*Edited to remove reference to specific AI project.

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Yes, exactly, that is the point I was trying to make here.

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May 11, 2023Liked by John Carter

💬 You decide to look at something, for example.

I must say it’s a stellar decision of mine to look at this particular smth titled The Permittivity of Free Thought! 🤸

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Hopefully it was a good decision to write it 😅

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One of the fundamental problems I have with AI, in its current iteration and future potentials, is - how will any of this make my life better?

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It may be one of the central mistakes of the myth of Progress that anyone's life is improved by technology. Or by anything else, for that matter. If by 'improved' one means 'happier', that is ... Our happiness is more less fixed, largely independent of circumstances.

What technology does do is introduce novelty into the world. It makes our lives more interesting, at least in the short term.

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I guess it remains to be seen if the novelty of AI will outweigh its harms. Something tells me it will not.

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In a sense it doesn't matter. Once a technology exists it cannot be uninvented.

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In a sense all technology is destructive. This is the history of the human race.

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And yet, the human race was technological before it was even human. Stone tools and fire both pre-exist our species, by a lot. Moreover they affected our very biology.

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Yes The Stoneage is the only truly sustainable era.

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May 19, 2023·edited May 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

I think one of the master keys is the issue of time.

As mobile organisms, this sentient interface our body has with its situation functions as a sequence of perceptions, in order to navigate. So our experience of time is as the present moving past to future. Physics codifies it as measures of duration and correlates them with measures of distance.

The reality is that activity and the resulting change is turning future to past. Tomorrow becomes yesterday, because the earth turns. Duration is the present, as the events form and dissolve.

There is no "dimension" of time, because the past is consumed by the present, to inform and drive it. Causality and conservation of energy. Cause becomes effect.

The energy is "conserved," because it manifests this presence, creating time, temperature, pressure, color, sound. Frequencies and amplitudes, rates and degrees.

So the energy goes past to future, because the patterns generated come and go, future to past. Energy drives the wave, the fluctuations rise and fall. No tiny strings necessary.

Consciousness also goes past to future, while the perceptions, emotions and thoughts giving it form and structure go future to past. Though it's the digestive system processing the energy, feeding the flame, while the nervous system sorts the information and the circulation system is feedback loops in the middle.

Consequently an intellectual focus on the patterns over the process. Math over the physics.

Galaxies are also energy radiating out, as structure coalesces in, which raises some basic conceptual issues.

Consider that three dimensions are really just a mapping device, like longitude, latitude and altitude. If all physical characteristics are removed, the two remaining qualities of space are infinity and equilibrium. Which is implicit in the fact the frame with the longest ruler and fastest clock is closest to the equilibrium of the vacuum. The unmoving void of absolute zero.

Obviously energy radiates out entropically, so why does structure coalesce in? My suspicion is synchronization. One big wave is more efficient than many small waves. And takes up less space.

Consider that what does actually fall into the black holes in the center of galaxies is shot out the poles as quasars. Which are basically giant lasers and lasers are synchronized light waves.

Apparently one of the big question in cosmology is the missing mass, to explain the overall centripetal effect assigned to gravity, but what if it's the other way around and mass is a stable, intermediate effect of this centripetal dynamic, not the cause of it?

Given that by radiating out across the universe, the energy effectively harmonizes it, in overall equilibrium, the result is this binary relationship between synchronization and harmonization. Nodes and networks. Organisms and ecosystems. Particles and fields.

So the ground state is energy and consciousness manifests as energy.......

One quality of energy is magnetism. Attraction/repulsion. When you use the deep mind, this oceanic swirl of consciousness pushing and pulling becomes overwhelming. Floaters on steroids.

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May 14, 2023·edited May 14, 2023Liked by John Carter

I like your theory because it has some testable predictions. One of the branches of AI research is reverse engineering of how exactly trained, as opposed to explicitly coded AI, does what it does. If you are right, we should hit a point where it's proven that it's impossible to explain why GPT-X or what have you does what it does through commonly accepted straightforward materialism. Dark matter of consciousness of sorts. I'm not sure how much sense any of this makes, but I sure don't like emission, so I guess I'm on your team.

.

small error: "with one another across a scale that is currently well beyond current capabilities"

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It may also have implications for how AIs should be programmed, most obviously by adding inhibitory layers. I should have said something about that but the concept is too vague as of yet.

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Thanks for this.

FYI, (in the event you haven't yet come across it) you have independently discovered (and well examined) the first Hermetic principle of The Kybalion:

I. THE PRINCIPLE OF MENTALISM.

"THE ALL is MIND; The Universe is Mental."

http://www.kybalion.org/kybalion.php?chapter=II

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I certainly didn't discover it ... That is a very old principle, present in many traditions, a core element in perennial philosophy. And very obviously true.

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May 13, 2023·edited May 13, 2023Liked by John Carter

I've always held the brain is a transceiver (forget where I read that). Consciousness (mind) interfaces with the brain, the brain then feeds that into our physical reality, which then feeds back into mind, etc. etc. ad infinitum (and occasionally ad absurdium).

Edit: I also hold that everything is conscious, even down to (and below) subatomic particles. They just don't have much of it beyond "I AM QUARK" (e.g.).

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Yes, that's close to how I see it, although, I think that since the matter the brain is made from is conscious, it is not so much consciousness interfacing with matter as consciousness transforming itself through various configurations.

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Made it all the way to the promo at the bottom -- sorry John, I’ve got no money, but the essay is excellent. Not many writers could tackle a topic so complex and make it interpretable by a consciousness filtered through my brain at two in the morning.

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I'm impressed you read it at 2 am. My brain shuts down and refuses new information much earlier than that.

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Every time I think I have reached 'peak John Carter', he puts on his crampons and scales ever greater heights. Thank you so much for this. I have been very interested in the consciousness question for quite a few years but, being a bear of little brain, and having no scientific or medical background, I find myself struggling to keep up with the more abstruse and technical neurological debates.

I need to read this again and I will and then maybe comment further, if I feel I have something useful to add.

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The core to the whole question, in my opinion at least, is not neurological so much as metaphysical. Not that this necessarily makes the subject much easier. Although given that humans have been wrestling with this for our entire history, with the philosophical debates largely going in circles and the arrival of the scientific worldview largely serving to complicate rather than clarify the discourse, I suspect it may well be irresolvable.

McGilchrist has an interesting insight here, arising from his hemisphere hypothesis. The two basic worldviews (consciousness and free will are real vs only matter is real) map very neatly onto how the two hemispheres see the world, as revealed by eg split brain studies. So it could be as simple as our brains flipping back and forth between the perspective of one or the other hemisphere.

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May 11, 2023Liked by John Carter

"Enter transmission. Transmission is the idea, advanced by heterodox scientists such as Rupert Sheldrake, that the brain is more analogous to an antenna than a computer."

I'm currently reading Searle's book. I'm also sort of interested in the problem of consciousness. I don't really understand the motivation for some of the alternative models.

The transmission model: Wherever our consciouscness is being generated, and however it is being generated, it seems necessary that it is being generated somehow somewhere. Consciousness isn't irreducibly simple, there is a lot of detail in its state and operation.

If "materialism" is objectionable, "transmission" doesn't solve the problem, since you just have materialism somewhere else. If you were consistent, every objection you have to some causal system here, you would have to a causal system "there", wherever there is.

(Also, if you want to take the metaphor all the way: it would imply we could build a "faraday cage for brains", or something - a room where it would be impossible to maintain consciousness. Consciousness-detectors to root out wherever your "real-mind" is actually hiding. 1/r^(N-1) attenuation with "mind-distance". (N being number of dimensions in whatever space.) You'd get dumber the further you astrally project or something.)

* * *

I'm about 90% of the way to materialsim. (The last step between qualia and the state of matter in the world still needing some attention.) One issue I have is that the causality appears to be pretty tight and bidirectional. When things happen to my brain (mind-melting migraines for the most part), my cognition sensibly changes. When I do things chemically to my brain (migraine medicine), I change my qualia. It isn't just watching other people affecting qualia on stimuli - I suppose solipsism could be an out in that case if you really want it. It's my own experience of my own mind changing when I poke my nervous system. It'd be really nice to know where the off switch is for the damn receiver when my brain decides to glitch out.

I have a sort of odd idea about the soul that I don't think conflicts with materialism. (A sort of mathematical-space Platonic idea - any given triangle in the world has properties of some generalized abstract triangle. There is the me that is made of atoms/fields/whatever in my present circumstances, and then there is the abstract "what-it-means-to-be-me-11May23fromEarthgivenmylifehistory", which possibly other things in other circumstances could also be faithful (if very improbable" representations of.)) The problem of consciousness may have something to do with that.

But it's still fucking miserable when my brain glitches.

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May 11, 2023Liked by John Carter

BTW - I'm still reading your article. (Not directly responding to it yet, if my reply seems off.) , more to other discussions/things I've been reading recently.

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Yes, keep reading ... I think some of this is addressed.

The "90% of the way there" ... Indeed but this is the problem with a fully materialist interpretation. It's a promissory note: "we'll get there some day!" Meaning it isn't actually an explanation. Further, there are good reasons to argue that the jump from object to subject cannot, even in principle, be made, i.e. that subjectivity must be present from the beginning. NB that doesn't imply at the level of human consciousness.

As regards transmission - indeed this doesn't *explain* consciousness either. Nor does permission for that matter. The point is rather that in absence of an explanation (which may be impossible), these alternatives are equally consistent with the evidence for an emission model, while also having the advantage of explaining additional phenomena which are inexplicable in a materialist reductionist model.

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May 11, 2023Liked by John Carter

Great piece John, love this topic. I think the permission model also explains why we feel we are ‘on the same wavelength’ as other people at times and feelings of deja vu.

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Yes, it absolutely does - as does the transmission model. The beauty of it is that it accommodates the explanatory power of both the transmission and emission models.

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