MDA: I have a great attraction to theories like Sheldrake's morphic resonance - I read an interview with him, when he was talking about how there is no proof that memory is actually held in the brain. He posited a view that the brain is more like a radio tuner than a video recorder, receiving thoughts, memories - both those of the self and the collective - from localised morphic fields. These ideas are very attractive because they posit an alternative to straightforward mortality - you read it and feel that leap within, 'perhaps there might be more to life than just death'. You have to be suspicious of your own motivations for seizing at these ideas - like a dying man reaching for miracle cures.
AM: Sheldrake's idea of the brain as a radio receiver - I feel something quite similar. But I'm still thinking it through, so this is a thought in progress. It strikes me that self, not just my self, but all self, the phenomenon of self, is perhaps one field, one consciousness - perhaps there is only one 'I', perhaps our brains, our selves, our entire identity is little more than a label on a waveband. We are only us when we are here. At this particular moment in space and time, this particular locus, the overall awareness of the entire continuum happens to believe it is Alan Moore. Over there - (he points to another table in the pizza restaurant) - it happens to believe it is something else.
I get the sense that if you can pull back from this particular locus, this web-site if you like, then you could be the whole net. All of us could be. That there is only one awareness here, that is trying out different patterns. We are going to have to come to some resolution about a lot of things in the next twenty years time, our notions of time, space, identity. The flowerings of seemingly outlandish concepts like Sheldrake's are what you would expect. At the scientific end of the spectrum - and I am a regular New Scientist reader - I like to balance the mad howling diabolism with a dose of scientific reality - I have noticed that the crossover is getting a bit extreme. The people at the cutting-edge of quantum physics and cosmology are trying to come up with a practical, workable model for the original expansion of the universe, and what is happening now at a quantum level. They were saying that they are having to turn to these archaic belief structures, like Sufi beliefs, or the Qabbalah. They were talking about how this idea of expansion from a single point is the core of the Qabbalah - and the most accurate description of the Big Bang, knowing what we know now, would be (Hockma Bine - er). So I was reading this in the New Scientist and I was thinking, well surely this is the sort of idea I would expect from Robert Anton Wilson. All of us collectively are fumbling towards an apprehension of something that feels like a kind of group awareness - we are trying to feel the shape of it, it's not here yet, and a lot of us are probably saying a lot of silly things. That's understandable. There is something strange looming on the human horizon. If you draw a graph of all our consciousness, there is a point we seem to be heading towards. Our physics, our philosophy, our art, our literature - there is a kind of coherence there, it may look disorganised at first glance, but there is a fumbling towards a new way of apprehending of certain basic fundamentals. In post-modern literature you can see similar things happening to what is happening, at the same time, in science with the quantum theory advances. They are trying to come up with non-linear ways of viewing things, trying to think our way outside of our own perceptions to find a new perception. Some people mistake this approaching new perception as the approach to Armageddon. In a certain sense, they might be right. There is a sense that we are reaching a critical point in the expansion of our inner worlds. For better or worse - I mean, I have no dreamy New Age notions of this - whatever awaits us up the road might not be all sunshine and smiles, pretty flowers everywhere. That all sounds a bit Yellow Submarine to me. But it will certainly be different. To me, when we talk about the world, we are talking about our ideas of the world. Our ideas of organisation, our different religions, our different economic systems, our ideas about it are the world. We are heading for a radical revision where you could say we are heading towards the end of the world, but more in the R.E.M sense than the Revelation sense. That is what apocalypse means - revelation. I could square that with the end of the world, a revelation, a new way of looking at things, something that completely radicalises our notions of the where we were, when we were, what we were, something like that would constitute an end to the world in the kind of abstract - yet very real sense - that I am talking about. A change in the language, a change in the thinking, a change in the music. It wouldn't take much - one big scientific idea, or artistic idea, one good book, one good painting - who knows - we are at a critical point where the ideas are coming thicker and faster and stranger and stranger than they ever were before. They are realised at a greater speed, everything has become very fluid. I like to imagine setting a camera up in a field in the Bronze Age, taking a frame a week, - I worked out the maths of this in a sad moment if I can just remember it - over the intervening two thousand years, you would have a two hour film there, it would be very boring and slow for an hour and half, the buildings that were appearing very slowly, staying there for a long while, and then decaying very slowly. For the last half hour, buildings would be boiling. Going up and down in seconds. Some of the more alarming possibilities for nanotechnology that people are talking about, you get that as a literal reality without needing a speeded up film. You would be able to assemble and disassemble matter at the speed of thought. As far as I know, that is the definition of fluidity. We are approaching a more fluid state. I have talked about cultural boiling. The idea of the phase-transition period which, in fractal mathematics, is the chaotic flux between one state and another. Cold water is one state, you heat it up till boiling point, then it reaches a phase-transition where there is this immense chaos - that mathematically, we still don't know what is going on, when a kettle boils, in the boiling - and what comes out is steam. Which is nothing like hot water at all. An alien could not predict steam from water, anymore than he could predict water from ice. They are three different things, each with a phase-transition dividing them. Culturally, and as a species, we are approaching a phase-transition. I don't know quite what that means, on a human level. A bronze age hunter is analogous to cold water. We, with our very different lifestyle, are analogous to very hot water. But we are still both water. There is less difference between us and the bronze age hunter than what is twenty years down the line.
MDA: The steam.
AM: The steam. Whatever that means. I can't conceive of vapour culture. I might not survive it. But that is where we are heading. I don't know quite what I mean by my own metaphor, but I have feeling, it may bring in an even greater, faster space of fluid transmission, where no structures, as we used to understand structure, will sustain itself - we will have to come up with new notions of structure where things can change by the moment. I'm talking about physical structures, political structures, I can't see coherent political structures in the traditional sense lasting beyond the next twenty years, I don't think that would be possible.
SOC is a dynamic first studied in regard to digitally simulated sand piles. It is a dynamic that causes the systems in which it operates to spontaneously move towards a fractal description, i.e. that is, a scale-invariant description at which all scales of events are permissible. For example, in the case of the sand pile being formed by the steady dropping of sand grains, the pile eventually assumes, after experiencing avalanches of increasing size as the slope of the sand pile increases, what is termed a critical slope at which avalanches of all sizes are experienced as well as long periods of static behavior or stasis. Such scale invariance of avalanches, it should be noted, implies that the grains of sand are effectively behaving in a "cooperative" manner: a single grain may suffice to "persuade" others to cooperate. Generalizing, we can say that "in the critical self-organized state, two events are equally likely to act together, whether or not they occur close to each other in space and irrespective of how much time has elapsed between their individual occurrence."
Brain as radio-like receiver
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