Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Smythies's material dualism, a mathematical framework, and consistency with Vedanta

It is interesting that Vedanta has many concepts in common with the Material Dualism of Smythies. For example, Vedanta rejects the identity of mind and brain. The subtlest aspects of the mind, the accumulated latent impressions of all past experiences and desires called vasanas or samskaras are said to survive the death of the physical body and carried by jiva (the soul) who also survives  death (because of being a spark of the immortal Consciousness) and enters them into another physical body for fulfillment of desires.  The new life gives vasanas another chance for expression. To use the computer analogy, this principle of reincarnation is analogous to the following scenario: when the hardware of a computer is broken, the computer operator can load the same software that was in the broken computer into another computer and can run it again if the software was copied and stored on a storage device.  (No copying is necessary in the case of vasanas because they have independent existence from the moment they are created unlike the computer software which is a mapping of some "real information" which exists in the programmer's head to the hardware elements of the computer memory.)  Anyway, the point is that according to Vedanta, the contents of the mind (in other words, phenomenal information (PI)) are subtle and consist of a different kind of matter other than ordinary matter and they interact with the neural matter in the brain during life. Smythies does not go as far as reincarnation but he has suggested many times the possibility of a substance dualism in which  phenomenal information (a person’s ‘consciousness module’) and its brain are two ontologically independent parts of a human organism located in different but related spaces (in two of the parallel universes of brane theory), and connected by causal relations (mechanism). In fact, Smythies suggested the following in Cosmology 2014; 18: 110-118:  "physical space-time (4D) and phenomenal space (3 spatial dimensions) plus 1 dimension of real time—t2, are cross-sections of a common higher dimensional space that are in relative motion in t2 along the time axis of the block universe. This movement generates the ‘now’ and the passage of the time that we experience. The contents of phenomenal space are our sensations, images and thoughts all causally related to (but not identical with) particular brain events. "  This proposal can be regarded as being consistent with Vedanta in view of the following theoretical developments.
In Indian philosophical literature thought is often described as being very fast and one that never comes to stop. Properties of thought described in this literature are very similar to those of faster-than-light objects, known as tachyons in modern physics. It will be possible to describe mental processes and interaction of mind with ordinary matter, in the terminology of mathematics and physics and quantum mechanics in particular,  if one assumes that PI consists of superluminal matter. 
Interestingly, it can be shown that in the Beck and Eccles (1992) quantum mechanical model of exocytosis, a zero energy tachyon (ZET) can precisely do the task of an Eccles’s psychon, that is, interact with boutons and increase the probability of the exocytosis in all the boutons of a whole dendron simultaneously thus coupling a large number of quantum amplitudes to produce coherent action but without violating energy conservation (Hari 2008).  
Again, assuming mind-brain interaction as tachyon interaction with a nonrelativistic quantum brain, it can be shown that subjective experience is created in the form of tachyons if the mind consisting of tachyons pays attention to the brain (Hari 2014).  
Libet’s delay-and-antedating temporal anomaly can be explained using  the tachyon-matter interaction model of mind-brain interaction. Using the same model, it can be explained why an unconscious development of ‘readiness potential’ (RP) occurs prior to the awareness of the intention to act a freely voluntary act, and why on the other hand, one can consciously veto the act until actually beginning to do it even after being aware of one’s own intention to act (Hari 2014).
Coming back to Smythies proposal:  During the 1970’s and later, tachyon physicists discussed six-dimensional special relativity (6D-SR) with equal number of space and time dimensions, as they found it more suitable for the description of tachyons than the conventional 4D-SR.  In 6D-SR, events accessible (by exchange of energy, momentum etc.) to a subluminal object and those accessible to a superluminal object are located on two different 4D-Minkowski-spacetimes in the 6D-spacetime (Pavsic 1981). If one assumes that the PI module of a sentient observer consists of tachyons then the observer’s brain and mind play the roles respectively of a subluminal and a superluminal agent, whenever he/she observes an external material object or an internal thought, emotion, etc. The 6D-SR then implies that the spacetime of the physical world and the spacetime of PI of the individual are located on different 4D-Minkowski sheets embedded in the 6D-spacetime.   
The tachyon theory of mind (TOM) explains the ‘now’ of an observation as follows: Consider an event BP in the brain S of observer O corresponding to a ‘conscious’ event P. BP is the event of a collapse of the wavefunction of S if we assume S to be a quantum system. According to TOM, awareness occurs because BP produces ZETs that describe the collapse. In the frame F in which S is at rest the coordinates of BP can be written in the form:  BP(F) : (tb, 0, 0, x1, x2, x3), where the first three are the time coordinates and the last three are the space coordinates. The latter can be taken to be (0,0,0) because when one monitors the formation of a neural map, the completed neural map occupies the same place as where there is no such map earlier. The time tb is the time taken to build the map as measured by the monitoring neuroscientist. In the superluminal frame F’ in which the ZETs (in the mind S’ of O) are at rest, coordinates of BP are given by a coordinate transformation K called the transcendent superluminal transformation which switches space coordinates to time coordinates and vice versa. Hence in the frame F', the coordinates of BP are: K(BP) = BP(F') : (t'~(0, 0, 0), x'= (tb, 0, 0)). Thus, observer O reports the event as happening at time t'~ (0, 0, 0), i.e., as happening ‘now’.  This conclusion therefore agrees with Smythies's view that the experienced ‘now’ of time in a block Universe is where consciousness, or the experiencing subject is, not where his or her physical body and brain are.
Obviously, the 6D-SR of TOM differs from the Smythies proposal by having one more time dimension in the higher dimensional space.  I am not sure at this point whether just two time dimensions are enough to describe the physical and phenomenal worlds.  For example, it is not possible to associate space and time in the block universe, to our dreams some of which we may be able to report to others  because an event in a dream or any other event of pure imagination may not have happened and may never happen in the physical world.  When we are aware of them, something happens 'now' in the second time dimension; when they are in the memory, it is not clear what time we can ascribe to them.
Hari S D. Eccles’s Psychons could be zero-energy tachyons. NeuroQuantology 2008; 6 (2):152.
Hari S D. Mind and Tachyons: Quantum interactive dualism - Libet’s causal anomalies. NeuroQuantology 2014; 12(2): 247.
Pavšič M. Towards Understanding Quantum Mechanics, General Relativity and the Tachyonic Causality Paradoxes. Lettere al nuovo cimento 1981; 30(4): 111-115.
Pavšič. Unified kinematics of bradyons and tachyons in six-dimensional space-time. J Phys A: Math Gen 1981; 14: 3217-3228.
Smythies J. Many Mansions: Special Relativity, Higher-Dimensional Space, Neuroscience, Consciousness and Time Cosmology 2014; 18: 110-118

Friday, November 27, 2015


In the last post we asked “If the mind is not conscious, how is it that we have conscious experiences in our lives?” The answer is that “appearance of consciousness” (called Chidabhasa in Sanskrit) happens because of the underlying Consciousness which produces a reflection in the mind, the memory of the living being. 

Vedanta explains “appearance of consciousness” by means of the following analogy: When sun light falls in a pot containing water, the light is reflected by the water creating an image of the sun. The image has some brightness but its origin is in the sun light and not in the pot nor in the water. If the pot is broken, water is scattered, the reflection is gone but the sun and his rays are all still there. In this analogy, a living being is a body with a mind and similar to a pot containing water; the mind is like water and the body is like the pot. The consciousness appearing in a living being is like the image of the sun in water. If there is more than one pot with water, images of the sun appear in all the different pots.The Supreme knower, Consciousness, who manifests Himself as consciousness of each individual living being is like the sun light; there are no distinctions in sun light, it is all one but the reflections are many and distinct. The quality of reflection varies with the quality of water, for example, if the water moves the reflection shakes; if the water is muddy then the reflection is not as bright. Just as there is no reflection in an empty pot, there is no appearance of consciousness in lifeless matter but only in living beings because they have minds. Again, just as the water needs a pot to hold it, and the reflection is gone if the pot is broken, the mind cannot exhibit the apparently conscious behavior after the death of the physical body.

Chidabhasa -appearance of consciousness (in living beings because they have both body and mind unlike lifeless matter where there is no interaction of the body with a mind)


We will add some more detail to how Vedanta answers the "hard problem of consciousness" in later posts.  For example, we will talk about how PI (although not conscious by itself) is created by the brain.

A very brief summary of Vedanta

Happy Thanksgiving weekend every one! I want to thank Bill Rosar for giving me opportunity to participate in the discussions on this blog.  I found references to Hindu philosophy and computers (in particular to chess playing programs and calculators) in some posts in this blog and found that interesting because in my articles which propose that the "phenomenal information" (PI) in our brains consists of superluminal matter, I use ideas from Vedanta and arguments why and how chess playing programs and calculators are "fundamentally" different from living beings. 

To introduce myself briefly, I am a consciousness researcher with background in mathematical physics and computer science.  As we all know, after having developed various artificial intelligent programs and superfast computers which perform many intelligent tasks better and faster than human beings and perhaps some of which humans are not even able to do, some computer scientists started claiming that they are very close to building a conscious computer.  Being born as a Hindu, I could not believe that. My philosophy tells me that not only matter is not conscious but PI is also not conscious; while matter is perceivable by the physical senses, PI is not directly accessible to senses and physical measuring devices. The latter statement agrees with our experience as well as science; how PI is created in the brain became the "hard problem" of Chalmers because of the inaccessibility. 

Brief summary of Vedanta’s characterization of Consciousness, mind, body, and their relations:
There exists Universal Consciousness (briefly called Consciousness with Big C in front hereafter), which is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.
  • Every living being is associated with its own soul (Jiva) which is a bit of that infinite Consciousness, who draws to itself the senses and the mind that are part of Nature (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 15, verse 7). Being part of the eternal Consciousness, the soul is eternal also and survives the death of the physical body. 
  • Nature (called Prakriti in Sanskrit) is dumb. Although it seems to carry on many processes all by itself, it does not "know" what it is doing and needs initiation.  Consciousness gives that initiation of its own will; it is free will. It can look into one subject or two subjects or more subjects at the same time or look into none; It can initiate Prakriti to do things or not initiate. Nobody can tell Consciousness to do anything. It is above all rules and logic. 
  • The Self (Atma) is Consciousness seated in the hearts of all beings (Bhagavad Gita chapter 10, verse 20).  Kenopanishad (Swami, 1920) says that the mind and senses are able to perform their respective functions willed and initiated by Consciousness and without It, the senses and the mind cannot function.  
  • The mind is an accumulation of thoughts or information. It consists of a memory of experiences, desires, aversion, emotions, etc. (chitta), ability to think (manas), intellect (buddhi) which includes the ability to make decisions based on memory, and the sense of ‘I’ or ego (ahankara). The mind is subtle unlike the body but it is also part of Nature, in other words, it is not conscious but as dumb as lifeless matter. 
  • The five elements are the earth, water, fire, air and the space. The five senses are hearing, touching, seeing, tasting and smelling; objects of the senses are sound, touch, form and colour, taste and smell.
  • Bhagavadgita describes the distinctions between the body mind complex and the one who ‘knows’ them (shetrajna).  The Field (shetra) consists of the body, the senses and sense objects, the body's environment (Nature), and the mind.
  • All contents of the Field, namely, the body, its environment, and the mind are part of Nature and therefore inert (Bhagavad Gita, 7:4).
  • The knower of the Field (shetrajna) is Consciousness Himself and His infinitesimal projection, jiva who assumed this function within this body.
As to the interaction of the body and the mind, in the chapter called Karma Yoga, Gita says that the senses influence the body, and manas and chitta influence the senses; buddhi influences the manas and chitta, and jiva influences buddhi, which is in its turn, influenced by  jiva.
All schools of Indian philosophy emphasize the distinction between what we usually perceive in living beings and call consciousness, and Consciousness itself. The difference is that the former is fragmented. An individual’s consciousness exists only in wakeful and dreaming sleep states and knows only one thing at a time, and in general one individual does not know the conscious experience of another whereas Consciousness knows everything everywhere all the time.

Vedanta and computer analogy
The above descriptions of Consciousness, mind, and body, suggest the following analogy:
  • A living being is similar to a computer whose hardware is the physical body. The body is made up of matter. The living being has an accumulation of experiences, desires, etc. i.e., an accumulation of information in a memory which we call the mind in this paper. The mind is like a computer memory containing data and programs.
  • Just like a computer's hardware and software do not know what they are doing, their own existence, and the meaning of their memory contents, both the body and the mind of a living being also do not “really know” anything but there is a certain Consciousness (apart from the mind mentioned above) that "knows". Consciousness is like the computer operator, as it were, and the one who "really knows" everything that is going on in the living being’s life.

Similar to the computer software, the mind being an instrument, cannot act as an agent all by itself and needs initiation from an external agent, which is often, a desire/purpose (thoughts), or sensory inputs; the soul being a part of the omnipotent Consciousness can also intervene just like a computer operator can intervene in the operations of the computer.  Mind and body act on each other according to Vedanta.

One may ask, “If the mind is not conscious, how is it that we have conscious experiences in our lives?” The answer is that “appearance of consciousness” (called Chidabhasa in Sanskrit) happens because of the underlying Consciousness which produces a reflection in the mind, the memory of the living being.  The next post illustrates the answer.