Panpsychic Pancomputationalism As Framework to Build a TOE
In contemporary physics the last years a new field has been developing under the name “digital physics”. The premise at the base of this theoretical perspective is that the universe is computable and a manifestation of information. Deep in the equations of supersymmetry of string theory, the physicist James Gates found what is essentially “computer code”. The concept of entropic gravity by the physicist Erik Verlinde and the holographic principle of the physicist van ‘t Hooft both concur with the notion that the physical universe is made of information, of which energy and matter are merely manifestations. Perhaps the most famous article in this theoretical field is the “It from Bit” article by the physicist J.A. Wheeler.
As an extrapolation from these theories has come the suspicion that the universe might actually itself be a computer and that we might in fact live in a computer simulation. The vast majority of proponents of this theoretical perspective think that ultimately existence is fully deterministic.
Yet a convincing Theory of Everything based on digital physics, which would also be able to account to the presence of consciousness in this universe has not seen the daylight yet. In fact the very understanding of consciousness remains an elusive topic and is often called the “hard problem”. Within the materialistic paradigm which is predominant among scientists, including most digital physicists, the problem of explaining consciousness is usually dismissed as non-existent, consciousness being considered as a mere emergent effect that arises if the system reaches sufficient complexity.
In addition to consciousness as a phenomenon without explanation in the digital physics framework, in physics at the quantum level we encounter indeterminacy, nonlocality, entanglement and the wave-particle duality. With regard to computation we encounter incomputability of certain phenomena and we are stuck with Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. Moreover physics has not been able to bring quantum physics and relativity theory under a common denominator. These phenomena and notions do not a priori seem to fit within the framework of a deterministic digital physics based pancomputational universe.
This has led to the hypothesis of certain other physicists and philosophers that consciousness may in fact lie at the base of existence. The philosopher Peter Russell proposes a paradigm shift under the name “The Primacy of Consciousness”, in which information, matter and energy are mere manifestations of consciousness. This leads to a panpsychic or hylozoic perspective on reality.
Interestingly, the URT (Unified Reality Theory) of Steven Kaufman and the CTMU (Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe) by Chris Langan bring digital physics and panpsychism together in a surprising manner. Whereas these theories do not deny but rather suppose that indeed physical reality is information based and even digital, in their versions, the digital physical manifestation of relative existence is in fact embedded in a deeper fundamental level of infinite absolute existence or absolute consciousness (Kaufman) or “Unbound Telesis” (Langan). Kaufman’s and Langan’s concepts are strikingly similar but use a quite a different language making it prima facie difficult to see the resemblances.
In my quest for an all-encompassing “Theory of Everything” that includes consciousness, I have not been convinced by the materialistic scientific paradigm, but the alternative in the form of religion or esotericism has not been very appealing either. The more refreshing to me has been perspective that Langan and Kaufman offer, which unifies physics and metaphysics, quantum physics and relativity theory, determinism and indeterminacy, gravity and electromagnetism and information, mass and energy. In order to also fully unify panpsychism and pancomputationalism, I have further enriched my own interpretation of their work with some additional concepts, which will become evident in the course of this essay. This leads to a hypothetical framework of understanding, which -it is true- is still speculative, but which allows me to have a hunch how existence could possibly function without having to resort to absurd, esoteric, spooky, magical explanations or many-worlds interpretations.
In order to demonstrate how this is achieved, I will have to elaborate a bit more on Kaufman’s URT. I choose not to dive into the work of Langan, because despite its conceptual merits, it is bursting with prima facie incomprehensible neologisms.
Both the work of Kaufman and Langan are based on the notion that everything is reductively the same, namely primordial consciousness.
The absolute existence or primordial consciousness, in attempt to come to knowledge and cognition of itself, forms a first relation with itself, i.e. from the absolute medium arises a pair of mutual coexistent and co-dependent reality cells, which are each other’s opposite and relational pole.
Like a cell dividing, these two reality cells split into numerous reality cells upon successive dualisations or polarisations, which results in a relational matrix of reality cells, a bit like clump of cells in embryogenesis, like a morula.
The boundaries of these reality cells are not material and rigid but rather energetic and flexible. Reality cells can expand and shrink (a kind of breathing), penetrate into each other’s original area when adjacent and form a kind of foam of closely packed spheres. In their most ideal conformation, they are geometrically arranged in the most ideal cubic close packing, which leads to a repetitive core unit, which Buckminster Fuller called the isotropic vector equilibrium and from which an isotropic vector matrix is built.
The reality cell matrix is in fact what establishes space (I do not say space-time, because I will introduce time at a later point of this essay, for the sake of the argument) It is the equivalent of the long forgotten “Ether” or “Akasha”. But it is different from the traditionally supposed ether, in that it is not a kind of gas or fluid of the smallest particles possible. As already said, it is more like a foam. The boundaries form a kind of skeleton of space, which is interconnected throughout the whole matrix so that in the absence of distortions, locally started triggers can be sensed globally. This half-flexible, half-rigid structure also resolves the problem of the observed absence of “etheric winds” in the Michelson-Morley experiment, which dismissed the ether to the realm of fantasy. In fact this matrix structure in a certain way unifies the aspects of solids, fluids and gases and is the ultimate relative medium to build all other relative structures.
Whereas this space keeps growing reality cells and expands into the undifferentiated absolute existence/absolute consciousness, in its turn absolute consciousness penetrates into the reality cells giving them a “content”, which can be considered a distortion as regards to the still undifferentiated surrounding reality cells of the matrix. When such a distortion propagates linearly through the matrix as it is passed on from one reality cell to its neighbour, it constitutes what we usually know as “Energy” and depending on the degree of its energy content this can e.g. be light or a photon.
The energetic distortions trace a wake of fading distortions extending radially (or sideways) as regards their linear progression, as they progress through the matrix. When two energetic distortions encounter each other, this wake of less intensive distortions creates a field of increasing distortion content. As an energetic distortion always follows the law that it must propagate in the direction where the distortion is maximal, the energetic distortions will start orbiting each other creating what Kaufman calls a “compound process”. This constitutes what we know as a material particle or briefly matter. In fact electromagnetism is related to the linear propagation of the energetic distortions, and gravity to the radially extending wake.
When moving freely through the matrix (i.e. not encountering other energetic distortions), energetic distortions propagate at the maximum speed which is determined by their rate of penetration constant and their volumetric existence. The product of these two parameters always yields the speed of light in Kaufman’s model.
Thus Kaufman has shown the way in which matter is built from energy and hence that they are ultimately reductively the same. Now as the reality cells can either have energetic content resulting from a distortion energy propagating through the relational matrix or not, the combination of reality cells and distortive energies essentially constitutes a system of memory cells which can be either on or off. In this way the relational matrix and the energy distortions build a natural digital computer, in which every flux of energetic distortions is a kind of transmission of information. Thus Kaufman also shows the way in which energy and information are ultimately reductively the same.
If there is a flux of binary information in a memory matrix, it can be concluded that this is a form of computation. The rules from this computation are defined by the linear and radial propagation rules explained earlier.
In line with Langan, the proximity co-occurrence of energy distortions makes that particles are formed, or in other words makes that a wave collapses to a particle by starting to orbit another one. Interestingly, in latent semantic analysis, meaning is established by the proximity co-occurrence of terminologies. If two terms occur within a certain limited distance from each other frequently, this means that they have a specific meaning. They form what is called a “didensity”. Context is provided by repeated proximity co-occurrence. In a similar way, for an a physical event to be meaningful it must manifest, which can only occur if it interacts with another entity within sufficient proximity. In that way too physical formation is in-formation.
If information is transmitted, there needs to be a receiver of the information. There needs to be an observation.
In Kaufman’s model everything is sensory. The reality cells can sense each other, energetic distortions sense maximal distortion, and multiple energetic distortions sense each other. In fact reality cells and energetic distortions can be considered as types of conscious entities although the amount of consciousness they have is extremely minute. Primordial consciousness is essentially the ability to sense, to react, and that quality cannot be denied for the reality cells or the energetic distortions.
Thus URT is a model which is both panpsychic AND pancomputational.
The advantage of this model over the traditional digital physics paradigm and the simulist argument are the following:
The memory cells are not rigid elements that can only take on the value of 1 and 0. Rather they have a certain, albeit limited, degree of dynamicity. They can pass on content to neighbours and thereby establish measurable energy and local information. But their interconnectedness also allows them to instantly reverberate a different type information globally, which Kaufmann shows to explain the quantum effect of “spooky-action at distance” or entanglement: If the spin of a particle is changed here, the spin of its entangled partner is immediately changed as well without there being an apparent transfer of information. This is because the entangled partners are connected to each other via the reality cell matrix. Metaphorically spoken, this is like turning a broom: if you turn one end, the other end will turn as well.
Furthermore, the inherent ability to sense of the most basic constituents obviates the need for consciousness to emerge. The sensory ability is already there at the most primitive level possible and is not the consequence of anything but rather the cause of everything.
That such a primitive consciousness might even have a rudimentary form of free will can perhaps be inferred from the fact that when fired at a double silt individually, photons choose one of the slits to go through. I’ll expand more on the double slit experiment in a later section of this essay.
Consciousness and free will as inherent aspects of reality constituents makes it possible to give the observed indeterminacy, incomputability or randomness of certain phenomena and quantum weirdness etc. a rationale.
It obviates the difficulty of the simulist argument that for every quantum entity a pseudo random number based algorithm would need to be associated therewith. Alternatively, if the what we observe is a mere holographic projection, and the quantum level is merely revealed (or rendered) whenever we look, the simulator would need have programmed a kind of spying protocol, an algorithm that shows us quantum effects whenever we look at that level. It seems very farfetched and requires an almost endless amount of programming by the simulator as well as foreknowledge about all things we could possibly conceive. It does not make sense. Although the present model does not necessarily exclude the possibility that this level of reality we experience is a simulation, it also does not necessarily require it. In fact it is pancomputationalism at the most basic level, wherein the computation is autopoietic, self-generated and self-enabling.
Thus the need for an omniscient and omnipotent God-with beard-on-a-cloud-simulator is obviated. If there is anything spiritual about the present model, is that every autonomous level entity is in fact a spirit, which is an embedded relative part and tentacle of a greater all-encompassing absolute consciousness, which is probing itself in order to know itself. “Probing itself to know itself” is nothing less than an autopoietic feedback loop a.k.a consciousness. If you are comfortable in calling this all-encompassing absolute consciousness “God”, be my guest, but don’t expect the system to bestow you with a set of commandments or rules of morality. In fact, everything that happens in this system is part of this “God”, including what you may consider the most reprehensible events. If it is a God, it is a God beyond your traditional sense of morality.
That said, it cannot be denied that the total system of existence strives towards order and complexity despite its natural entropic decay force. Langan calls this process “Telesis”, which strives towards a maximisation of generalised utility. In a sense that could be called “natural morality”, but it is far from the imposed concepts of humanoid social collectivisation.
As a bonus result Kaufman’s theory replaces Einstein’s space-curvature with a functionally equivalent gradient of radial distortion, which has the same effect but allows gravity to be quantized as a radial component of a distortive energy quantum. Gravity is not quantized as an individual particle like the never observed graviton but rather as the radial component of the distortive energy and works in an additive manner yielding a classical field.
Thus Kaufman’s URT eliminates the need to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity, by obviating the need to warp space-time and yet yield a mathematical sound equivalent.
The only weird quantum effect that Kaufman has not described in URT is the double slit experiment. In the double slit experiment when individual photons or electrons are sequentially fired at a wall with a double slit, the positions where they arrive at on a screen behind the wall with slits, are those of an interference pattern, which is normally only seen for waves and not for particles. But when a detector is placed at the slits to see through which slit the particle passed, a pattern of two lines corresponding to the two slits is observed on the screen, which is what you would expect when you bombard a double slit system with particulate entities. This is commonly known as the “wave-particle duality” and still puzzles physicists.
Yet Kaufman’s teachings implicitly point towards a plausible explanation for this phenomenon: the direction of propagation of an energetic distortion is toward the next adjacent reality cell that first reaches the level of maximum distortion. This means that there is a distortive effect projected from the cell with maximum distortion into a cell that lies ahead of it. This distortive effect in the cell ahead can be considered as a pilot wave front that precedes the actual distortion. In other words a wave-shaped distortion precedes the particle-shape distortion as a consequence of this particle propagating through the reality matrix. Although in analogy with the radial “lesser distortions” Kaufman could have illustrated this “pilot”-cell with a distortive content in his book, he did not. I add it here as an implicit complement, with a slight modification. It is noteworthy that David Bohm and De Broglie already suggested “pilot waves” as an explanation for the weird quantum effects of the double-slit experiment, but they did not know what was “waving”.
By combining the notion of pilot-waves as a distortive effect with the reality cell matrix, we get something which becomes a plausible explanation: I propose that the distortive effect in the pilot-cell is can either be one of distortive content having penetrated into that cell or alternatively in the form of the earlier mentioned quasi instant reverberation of the foam type skeleton of borders of the reality cell matrix. If this reverberation proceeds through the slits it creates an interference pattern ahead of the distortive content, which changes the reality cell pattern between the slit-wall and the screen. Once the full energy distortion has proceeded through one of the slits, it is guided by the pilot-wave interference pattern that preceded it. This effect has been successfully demonstrated in fluid dynamics by the physicists Yves Couder and Emmanuel Fort, who used bouncing silicon droplets in a vibrating oil bath: The pilot wave generated by the bounce of the droplet on the surface guides the movement droplets and is capable of accurately reproducing the results of the double slit experiment (without detectors at the slits) in a classical system.
If this is a plausible explanation, what happens then when there are detectors at the slits? The solution to this dilemma is as follows: The detectors must emit some kind of energy to be able to detect the passing energy. When the emitted energy and the passing energy meet each other, they create a “compound-process”. As the energies orbiting each other proceed behind the slit due to their orbiting movement, when one particle goes left upon encountering a trough in the interference pattern, the other must go right. This results in a straight movement around aligned troughs making the particle land right behind the slit on the screen.
Another advantage of this analogy with the bouncing droplet is that it helps to understand tunnelling: when distortive energy proceeds through the inside of a reality cell there is an infinitesimal small moment wherein it cannot be observed, like the moment the droplet is hovering over the surface and does not make the contact to bounce. When a particle encounters an energy barrier that it can normally not penetrate, it can slip through the barrier if at the moment of impact with the barrier it is exactly at that phase wherein the distortive energy is not effecting the outside of the reality cells. It does require however that the reality cells where the energy barrier is manifested is not homogenously maximally distorted.
Time finds its introduction in URT only when matter is established. Whereas purely energetic distortions have an invariant dynamicity, compound processes have varying dynamic and varying periodicity depending on the accumulation of matter. Time is nothing more than a measure of the intrinsic periodicity of the dynamic structure of matter, the heavier, the faster time goes. A compound process depicted in a 4D can be represented as a helix. The less the mass or inertia of the compounded particle, the greater the “wavelength” of the “helix”. In such a representation light proceeds completely linearly through the reality cell matrix. In other words the distortive energies constituting the compound process in an absolute sense are still moving at the speed of light, but have to traverse the longer helical trajectory compared to the unhampered photon. Although this theory is perfectly in line with special relativity, wherein time slows down as an object approaches the speed of light, it obviates the strange concept of a curved space-time, and this is why at the beginning of this essay I explicitly refrained from using the terminology space-time.
I hope you have enjoyed this attempt to combine the teachings of Kaufman (mostly) and Langan with digital physics in order to generate a. conceptual framework, which I hope may one day become a true T.O.E. A T.O.E uniting Pancomputationalism with Panpsychism and which allows for plausible explanations of quantum weirdness avoiding unnecessary multiple world suppositions, a T.O.E where sense is primary and structure and only secondary.