Metaphysics


Reality, free will or the speed of light? One’s got to give, because quantum mechanics says you can’t have them all. Yet the theorems are true.

ERWIN SCHRÖDINGER called entanglement the “defining trait” of quantum theory but Einstein could not bring himself to believe in it at all, thinking it proof that quantum theory was seriously buggy. The idea that particles can be linked in such a way that changing the quantum state of one instantaneously affects the other, even if they are light years apart, is what Einstein referred to as the “spooky action at a distance.”   From New Scientist  “The idea  was a serious blow to our conception of how the world works. In 1964, physicist John Bell of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, showed just how serious. He calculated a mathematical inequality that encapsulated the maximum correlation between the states of remote particles in experiments in which three “reasonable” conditions hold.” Complicated stuff.

If I’m Schrodinger’s Cat, according to Quantum Theory,  I am 1) alive  and 2) dead and decaying, yet if a person were to open the box I will be one or the other, dead or alive but not both. Fritz Perls was “ahead of his time” when he wrote that in dreams we are every aspect of the dream; we are the person driving the car, we are the road, we are the car going down the road, we are the tree that the car runs into. Complicated stuff. Yet oddly true in many dreams.  If it’s true in quantum, and true in dreams, is it true in our awake life?

Franz Kafka grasped this concept, evidenced by his often quoted phrase:  “I am a memory come alive.”  Memory is something that happens in the past and is brought forward only as a thought,  yet he places it in the presence and gives it life and all the  meaning of a real existence, that is to say, it is his being and identity. Like the paradox of Schrodinger’s cat he is both alive and dead and decaying, and knew it.

Of  “Reality, free will or the speed of light? One’s got to give, because quantum mechanics says you can’t have them all,” Kafka writes of this in the aphorism: “Before the Law.” Before the Law is quantum theory: That the door is always open for example, that man does have  free will in reality, and  in conjunction with the speed of light (timelessness) where there is no free will, (because timelessness has no time, there is no will. ) In his final and unfinished book, The Castle, K lives with free will even while he remains connected to the Castle (speed of light);  tenuous at times, but always connected one way or the other. What the castle did effected K, what K did seemed  to have an effect on  the Castle which is  consistent with the theory of entanglement.  K had  free will,  but for the Castle to express free will  that was possible only through an emissary when he traveled to the village.


The Castle is his unfinished but elegant road map that charts out man’s free will, and his connection to a greater being.  It was his explanation and perception of a kabballah  that he saw around himself.  To make the narrative even more interesting, in reference to Kafka and quantum,  if we take Carl Jung’s  theory that a house is a metaphor for ourselves, our depth and personality that means the castle, in the book is a metaphor for Kafka, his life, his depth, and in quantum speak, it’s a metaphor for his timelessness self.  Kafka in all his entirety was the surveyor who wandered around the village, he was the the village, the inn and the castle, and each aspect was a different aspect of his quantum authenticity.

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According to Sheldrake, author of numerous scientific books and articles, memory does not reside in any geographic region of the cerebrum, but instead in a kind of field surrounding and permeating the brain. Meanwhile, the brain itself acts as a “decoder” for the flux of information produced by the interaction of each person with their environment.

In his paper “Mind, Memory, and Archetype Morphic Resonance and the Collective Unconscious” published in the journal Psychological Perspectives, Sheldrake likens the brain to a TV set—drawing an analogy to explain how the mind and brain interact.

“If I damaged your TV set so that you were unable to receive certain channels, or if I made the TV set aphasic by destroying the part of it concerned with the production of sound so that you could still get the pictures but could not get the sound, this would not prove that the sound or the pictures were stored inside the TV set. However, neurologists have discovered that the brain is not a static entity, but a dynamic synaptic mass in constant flux— all of the chemical and cellular substances interact and change position in a constant way. Unlike a computer disc which has a regular, unchanging format that will predictably pull up the same information recorded even years before, it is difficult to maintain that a memory could be housed and retrieved in the constantly changing cerebrum…..”

I usually open my lectures with the premise that the brain is very similar to other electronic devises such as a television, radio and a computer. And then we discuss how the brain is different from those devices. Sheldrake’s theory is interesting and brings up a premise I had not before considered, and should have.  The computer does everything the same every time like clockwork, but the human brain retrieves differently at different times, places, situations and context.

I hadn’t thought of this as one of the key differences between computers and people but it is indeed one of the variables that makes people “human” and why researchers and engineers in their attempt to make a robot, or a computer chip more human, will find that the variable of emotion and context is not something that can be programmed, at least not authentically. Responding to a surrounding, for a human, is always in the context of individuation- which is vast and not all that predictable as much as behavioral scientists would like it to be.

But conditioned as we are to believe that thinking is contained within our heads, the idea that memory could be influenced or exist outside our brains  or links to a greater collective appears at first to be somewhat confusing; but in the same manner that a photo or a series of words travel from one cell phone to another along an EM wave, and could be lost, or dropped or diverted or spied on,  so too do our thoughts travel and then it doesn’t seem unreasonable at all that our thinking might be  somewhere out there traveling too.

Artificial Intelligence or Transmigration of Thought, Mind and Soul?

The movie, Avatar to some students, is a boring movie with blue smurfs cast in a repetitive theme reminiscent of  Pocahontas. Childish. Inconsequential.  In other words, both thumbs down. To them I say, when you’re a little older- watch it again. And then again.

I agree with them that elements of the movie are taken from Indian culture- the naturalists’ idea of love the earth that feeds you and provides for you,  the inter-dependence  that exists between nature, man and beast.  Beyond the American Indian theme, it reminds me of the Buddhist dogma of “do no wrong”  as well. I  love the movie. Two thumbs up. -And not because of the all too obvious jab at capitalist lust and greed for limited resources, and thus the creation of perpetual war -I’m not that snarkey or pessimistic-or political, but because it’s a story of the struggle for courage and morality achieved through the unlikely means of transmigration- from one state of mind and existence to the other, from one reality to another.

In a very subtle but artistic manner, Avatar introduces to a young audience the big ideas that have been debated for centuries. When we dream do we escape the reality of our very ordinary life, travel to distant lands and return to ourselves, and maybe as a better person?  Or are dreams just memories and a reprocessing of the days events; are they a creative means of escape that is otherwise not possible?

In a bed with who-know-what wired to his brain, Sully falls to some kind of sleep or coma condition and his mind connects to its avatar. Is he  dreaming a dream and in a dream state, or is he alive and awake and actually in an avatar body and enjoying all the freedoms and sensations the same as his human body? Philosophically,  this is a good example of Descartes’ Cartesian dualism, and being captain of the ship, but separate from the ship body.  Which life is real? The one in the bed, or the avatar?  Is he human or is he machine? Scientifically, when I ask the class if they think this transmigration of sorts is possible, the majority answer, yes. Indeed.

I attended the MIT symposia, Minds, Brains and Machines hoping to learn new ideas and data about how the brain works. Instead I learned more details about the direction for AI. Artificial Intelligence had been on my mind but usually in reference to robotics. I think robots will settle the moon for example, not humans.  But there was little talk of robots and what their function will be throughout society. Not putting intelligence and programming into robots, the future seems to be the opposite- putting intelligence and programming into us. We are moving toward an AI integration, not sooner or later, but sooner. To that point, is science and research merely following Hollywood scripts?  Will we be Sully someday, in two places at the same time , enjoying life and all its freedoms, living two different experiences? It appears that we are  moving toward that frontier.  As super-humans we’ll be machinated and immortal, but will  we forget we once thought without programming? Machines, robots and AI  have a place in an industrialized economic society, but we are humans, not machines.  We are a unique species and we should embrace our mortality and all our imperfections and leave it to the machines to be machines.

Does the dream end?

If a dream inside a dream is a dream,   does the capability of the lucidity of existing in three places and three realities at the same time end when the dreamer wakes from the dream?

Is life an illusion we create for the sake of reality?

These questions  have simple answers, but they’re fun to debate because we all know that whatever we give as an answer is theoretical and therefore open to argument.  Each generation questions its place in society – from the individuated perspective and from the perspective of the greater collective, and each generation changes the answer in some way from the generation before them.  Nothing is carved in stone- nothing! I think our  eagerness to argue and redefine what has already been defined is because we don’t want to be our parents;  we don’t want to be those who were before us. We want to be ourselves, – so we seek ways to create that distinction.  However slight the separation between the past and the present  perspectives and theories may be, they do act as a reflection of who we are and  the culture in which we live.  Like the rings of a tree trunk tell the story of the tree’s existence, the ever-modifying answers to existential questions are a reflection of the times,  and society’s perspective of how we perceive knowledge.

However, it is also true that the majority consensus  says one thing, while an individual silently believes another. – It is that individual, in the circle of change who will forge the path for future generations to follow.

Am I dreaming, or is this reality?

Nihilism.  Is life a nothingness where we don’t exist, there is no spoon and humanity is just imaginary?

Or, are we a play with actors and puppets and those who pull the strings?

Or, is The Matrix synchronicity? Are we an  awareness,- the quantum theory that we exist in many places and many times at the same?

We are the spoon, we are the man, we are the matrix.

 

Hawking is quoted as saying: “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” Hmmm. That’s odd. I’ve recycled various components of one computer into another. In fact, I think the laptop on which I’m typing has the memory and data files from three previous computers. In class, when we talk about the difference or the similarities between computers and humans, all students agree that memory is transferred from an old computer to the new one; and this makes them think about whether or not the same is true of the human species. Why Hawking doesn’t consider the same is that perhaps he’s run down from a life of focused  thinking, and the students are still free to roam.

Publisher Comments:

I have only one request,” Kafka wrote to his publisher Kurt Wolff in 1913. “‘The Stoker,’ ‘The Metamorphosis,’ and ‘The Judgment’ belong together, both inwardly and outwardly. There is an obvious      connection among the three, and, even more important, a secret one, for which reason I would be reluctant to forego the chance of having them published together in a book, which might be called The Sons.”Seventy-five years later, Kafka’s request is-granted, in a volume including these three classic stories of filial revolt as well as his own poignant “Letter to His Father,” another “son story” located between fiction and autobiography. A devastating indictment of the modern family, The Sons represents Kafka’s most concentrated literary achievement as well as the story of his own domestic tragedy.Grouped together under this new title and in newly revised translations, these texts — the like of which Kafka had never written before and (as he claimed at the end of his life) would never again equal — take on fresh, compelling meaning.

The Stoker, Metamorphosis, The Judgment: The past, the present, the future- albeit out of order?

I’ve had interesting dreams about his sons, three if I include the legacy dream; as to whether or not the dreams are about these three sons, I don’t know.   I never gave them a name or was told a name, but one is young, not matured and is sad because he can’t find his mother, while the other two are mature, confident and happy. Someday to publish and laugh about the dreams; but I have to admit, I do not know, at least consciously, why whatever it is that they have in common would fall in the category of a secret, or what the secret actually is. At least I don’t think I know!

What do I know?
I have to answer everything, potentially: to say otherwise would not be true. And so the process begins: unless it’s something I accidentally fall into- like when I accidentally became obsessed with studying the kaballah- I never seem to have the confidence or strong enough will to just go do something: I have to chart it and plan it and make lists. Laying out and analyzing all my dreams will be like that, including the dreams about his legacy and sons.  >As for the secret that so pleased the author and was withheld from his publisher,  I can say and with absolute certainty, that I am the young man in The Stoker,  and  I can also say that that isn’t the secret because in 1913 he had not yet thought of transforming fiction into reality, I being the reality. That would come later… (And that’s another conversation entirely.) … But there is wisdom to be found, and a triage: The first son living under an arrogant and rude father suffers humiliation and commits suicide;  the second son, Gregor,  also lives under the influence of an arrogant and course father, suffers humiliation, and instead of instantly killing himself,  he suffers alienation, slow starvation, and a long drawn out agonizing death; the third son, however,  is spared, sent to America and saved from a future humiliation.  I don’t know why Kafka would have thought that this triage was a secret, except he perhaps did not want to hope in the event the hope could not bear witness.

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