Just Say No to 3P Fundamentalism: Mistaking the Form for the Formless

 

“Your eyes must see in the singular if you want to find the truth.”
– Sydney Banks, The Missing Link, p.69

(Note: This essay has to do with The Three Principles Psychology or “The 3P”: a successful spiritual psychology teaching model used in life coaching and countless others areas of human relations, counseling and psychology worldwide. The profound epiphany of a man-turned-mystic philosopher and healer name Sydney Banks was the catalyst for what got formed into a psychology and teaching model).

Recently a long-time 3P practitioner made a post to his blog in which he “protested” the potential divisiveness and revisionism with the field, to not taint the message, and to keep the “purity”. One of the oft-heard concerns – not just from this person – is that practitioners are believing they need something else besides the 3P to help people, are are “mixing” things they learned that are “outside-in”, that practitioners are not understanding the inside-out nature of the understanding deeply enough.

This is confusing two different issues: 1. using outside-in stuff – practices, tools and techniques – and 2. understanding deeply enough. The latter issue will take care of the former. In other words, if you see deeply enough, understand the essence of the 3P, then “mixing” will not be an issue. One will see the truth (or lack thereof) across all models and within all teachings, and use whatever words are appropriate in the context of the situation and the moment, and your being-ness will be a teaching in itself. A good teacher of spiritual truth is not going to pull Freud out of the bag (except perhaps as an example of insanity). It will be obvious what is bullshit and what is real.

Others have commented or complained on confusion, divisiveness, diffusion, dogmatism, and so forth within the Three Principles Psychology. They are also concerned that it’s become just a coaching model, or a business model, and it’s getting diluted as it spreads. Of course, much of this is inevitable: a deep teaching is only going to be understood by a few, and of them a smaller number will be able to teach or write about. It took me 20 years to see through the “cruft” of my own thinking, stubbornness, social programming, bodily patterns of contractions, and the encrustation of added psychology of Syd’s message before I “got it”.

Rather than combine the 3P with something else, what is needed is to take things away from the 3P. In other words, to simplify the message to it’s essence. I’ll qualify that with “often” needed and “with many”. The 3P are seen truly only in simplicity (as Syd kept pointing out). New or fresh takes on it are helpful in this regard. But don’t mistake the form for the formless essence, the non-objective nature from which all appears.

Someone using the 3P approach and having some understanding, may eventually realize that this pointing away from or speaking out against practices tools and techniques, and pointing within, is really the same as the “direct path” spoken of by so many teachers of ancient and of today (Taoists, Buddhist, nonduality…). What we are is non-objective – in other words, alive in the moment and not a memory, not a concept. It cannot be formulated and stored away. This can seem tricky to convey since it can’t be held or grasped, but also means there’s nothing to fix, control, hold onto, solve, or figure out. You are whole and complete because you are that whole, living, free, unknowable yet all-knowing intelligent life, if you stop being that little self, that little thought…

The “old” forms that are not appropriate in this regard to combine with a spiritual psychology are the old psychologies (therapies, theories, models, practices, tools and techniques, etc.), that go into the past, focus on problems, pathology, cause and effect, and get one involved even more deeply in the endless games of the personal mind. But “old” forms of spiritual teachings, which also point to the formless, are perfectly in tune, once understood. Old spiritual traditions can be useful tools to help cut away that which is not essential, not you, not true. They also reassure us that truth is truth, tell us we are on the right track in triangulating on what is true, no matter what form it comes in, and that it’s timeless. Syd would often say “there’s nothing new” and what he was teaching has been around since time immemorial. 

In other words, it’s “safe” to mix the 3P with teachings that point towards Source (formless, context) as long as you are clear with differing concepts and words, or definitions, but it is *not* safe (does not make sense, confuses or takes away from) to mix with content-oriented teachings and techniques. That would include almost all of the old psychology, which is based in theories from a personal mind of a theoretician and a divergent interpretation of phenomenon, with no underlying common framework of understanding of where all this content is coming from, or that it’s even content. Another way to say this is that these content and concept-oriented models are thought-based and not reality-based. For example all the descendants of Freudianism and other medical or quasi-medial models, and materialist belief systems (which is what most individuals in the modern Westernized world cleave to, like a religious faith) which is I understand around 3 to 400 different schools of therapy and psychology.

“To seek Mind with the (discriminating) mind is the greatest of all mistakes.” – Hsin Hsin Ming by Seng-T’san

“Wisdom is found before the formation of form.” – Sydney Banks, The Missing Link, p 132

Syd realized that the world is Consciousness in various forms, including thought-forms, and that the nature of the world is duality – suffering is built-in – as a game Consciousness is playing. Listen to early Syd tapes and you can hear him talk about poverty and sickness and wars and that there’s nothing you can do to change this. The whole point it to free yourself first, realize oneself and be happy, and that will change the world inherently, through your freedom, however that freedom manifests. The world is a sea of ignorance and bailing it out with a cup of wisdom won’t make a dent in the universe. For example, teaching is done for the inherent joy and love, the giving. Helping out of compassion happens spontaneously, if there isn’t personal thinking in the way. It’s natural to help a fallen person in the street, and does not need to be legislated by religion, psychology, or techniques.

I sometimes wonder then why there is sometimes an urge to save the world or “spread the message” by 3P practitioners. Sometimes it’s driven by compassion, or enthusiasm, or by being “true believers” that they’ve found the answer to all the world’s problems, or simply a professional desire for expansion, or a mixture. But there can be a subtle mistaking-the-form-for-the-formless again. Truth doesn’t need to be spread, it’ already here now. Removing the veils of ignorance happens in it’s own time (in the timeless) – this cannot be explained or made to happen from the small mind, their personal self. This is difficult to explain, but is worth mentioning because we have seen the dangers of those that want to save or change the world: the Hitlers, the Pol Pots, those with an agenda. Sometimes the fierce desire to change others or the world is a running from one’s own pain, grief, sadness and so forth, that has not been faced. It’s trying to change the show in the world when what’s not being seen is, where is the show coming from? The simple point of “heal thyself” first is missed because it’s unconscious, and projected outward. There are deep assumptions going on (about who one is, what the world is, what life is) and the need for escape. Spiritual leaders are not immune to addictions.

“…the purity of our understanding is the vehicle for change, nothing more. We can only change ourselves, we can’t change the world, and we can’t change other people. We can only get our minds very still, very pure, and then work through the feeling to lead others to their own wisdom.” – Syd Banks

Any teaching that shows you how to be yourself is naturally going to be paradoxical: there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go to be who you truly are. It’s like a Zen koan, yet that is the paradox that the mind sees, because the mind only sees in duality.

Come to know that you *are* the world, and not the world, in an absolute sense. That’s the whole game.

There is nothing to protect, either as an illusory person or as a field of psychology. However, if there are beliefs, and a sense of separateness, or a “brand” association (related to one’s business interests) one wants to protect, that is a tainted message with respect to Truth.

“Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists” – A Course in Miracles

What is essential in all this is to make the distinction between the 3P as a teaching model, and the spiritual truth or reality that it’s pointing to. If you don’t make that distinction you are heading to fundamentalism, or a religion. You will become bound again rather than free.

There are no authorities other than your True Self, the insights via the One Teacher: your own innate wisdom, what you are. Don’t be a follower. You have everything within that you need and want, and the whole universe as a creation from the one Mind.

Who Am I?

 

Who Am I?

If it’s not the bodily sensations, the thoughts, the perceptions
if it’s spontaneous, effortless
if it’s not focused or contracted but expanded and unfocused
if it’s not in time, or in space

Then it must be already that way: already witnessing, seeing, aware, boundless, ever-present, happy, uncaused in its nature,
It must be what Is,
But “it” implies some thing, some not-I, not-now, not-this
But it is that which contains all: all objects, all knowing
It cannot be figured out
or gotten to from here
It being already here
or rather, behind what is already here
and also what is in front

Can you turn around and see yourself looking?
you can only find out what you are from what you are not
which is everything
which implies to the mind that I am nothing
yet I am everything
*and* nothing.

This is why it is said: “Give up the search”
You will be searching forever…
in what you are not
for what you are
yet being it at the same time!
What a fruitless insane dog-chasing-its-tail game!

Frustrated, exhausted, the dog lies down
Relaxes for a split second or more
sheds a tear for the innocent mindless searcher
a sweet little funeral for ignorance
a smile at the corner of its mouth
giving away the funny joke it’s seen

of the seeker in the hamster cage
pursuing dreams of salvation
from a mirage
of its own making

Restless in his quest
He’s in the grip 
Of unseen knowledge
Relentlessly driving him on
Nectar so sweet once tasted never forgotten 
In the core

But commonly mistaken for a
Multitudes of loves
Variations of:
Madly in love with being a human
A comedy of errors, or
Tragedies of sorts

Playing out on the Time-screen
Of Identity
endless television for
writer, actor, stage, characters, scenes …
in the universally popular show called
The One Forgotten

Playing Now 
In a Mental Theatre Near You! 

I left the theatre
through the backdoor 
Wanting to meet the cameraman, the producer, and the studio
and complain
about the constant re-runs

Variations of who done it, why’d they do it, love me more, 
get me out of here, I’m going to die
I want more, less, give me something
In return for my goods and services 
because I’m more, or less, than they are, more or less…

But all I got was a notice
from the Owner-in-Chief
to meet him after the show
“The End of Forever”
Because he has a role for me to play
in his new production 

That has only one actor
Who gave up acting

So here I am
wandering like waves of the sea
alone and aimless like Lao Tsu
Waiting for my lines to appear
So I can write them down…

The first line now is:
“Do nothing”,
the second:
“Trust”
the third:
(Silence)

 

 

 

Fledgling Nonduality

Video: Bobby the Scrub Jay, one of my “gurus”, who I serve mealworms and peanuts everyday from my hand, had a couple of fledglings with his wife, and one of them has taken to taking baths in the water dish I put out. Kids these days…

Car notes from yesterday (digital recorder):

There is this inference, this false inference that we started doing because when we were little kids, there was a name given, pointed out as associated with this perception of sensations and associated with what was happening. It creates this concept of a self and a body, a name and a body, an “I” thought that gets reinforced as the illusion of time and space, and it seems to go on… 
Then there are various perceptions, sensations thoughts, memories arising, then we tack on a self, saying “I did it, I experienced it, I am this, I have this, I have a body, I chose this, I decided this… But there was never a border to any of these, never a separate thing in the first place.

Middle of the night notes:

So in the spiritual search or seeking in general, there’s a seeking for some thing (an emanation from our own thinking: money, fame, relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, God, enlightenment…) because there’s the assumption that what “I” am is a thing as well. 
So theres a seeking from an assumed thing for an assumed thing. If there was not a thing being sought from in the first place there would be no thing being sought in the second place. They arise together, along with apparent time and space.
It’s a case of mistaken identity since there is no thing in the first place. It’s the illusion of a thing seeking a thing to complete the seemingly incomplete seeker. 
As it’s been said a million times, the seeker is the sought.
However it’s usually not mentioned that there *is* no seeker.
How could something that’s infinite in being go out of being? It’s always here. Nothing can be lost. Or gained. 
There is: a vibration of sound. A vibration of light. Of sensation. Of smell. Of taste. Inside and outside all happening at once: all the identifications of these seem to separate them out but they must be happening in the same place, the same time, here and now or they could not be perceived.

This is all rudimentary and self-evident, “Spirituality 101” if you will, by I have fun spelling it out for others, even though there are no others. Then we get into this game of thought and language…

Love and Freedom Cannot Be Separated

 

Freedom and love can’t be separated. 

By “freedom” is meant true inner freedom, and by “love” is meant impersonal love, the nondual living truth, not human love. 

A lack of love and freedom is experienced as darkness, pain and suffering. 

But if love and freedom is who are, then how can there be a lack?

In fact there can’t be a lack, but there can be a perceived lack. 

Why is there a perceived lack? Because who we are is obscured by what we are not. 

What we are not can be characterized in various ways: as something learned, as a movement of thought, as a forgetting one is caught in a dream, as an effort. 

If what we are is effortless freedom, how can there be effort? It doesn’t seem possible for a being so powerful, so limitless, to be able to make an effort and be limited. How can it fool itself? Well, in order to create a world, a universe, a perception, there has to be a difference somewhere. There has to be a somewhere, and and if there’s a somewhere, then there is space, a here and a there. And if there is a here and a there, then there is movement. If there is movement, there is something perceiving movement, and change, and therefore the possibility of time. 

So we have a world and some kind of being in time and space, perceiving and moving about. In this world of differences, you have bright and dim, awake and asleep, good and bad, easy and hard, effortless and effortful. In other words, in our case we are experiencing what is presumed to be a person, a human being. The human being is thinking, perceiving, deciding, willing, acting doing,  having things happen to them, and so forth. 

But wait, back up. Who is experiencing a human being? A person can’t be experiencing a person, or they would be two beings: an experiencer and an experienced.
Something is going on here: more than meets the eye. 

So what do I know?

I know there is awareness, and it’s hearing sounds we call “words” in an “inner” space where other sounds appear, and I see and have the sensations of hands typing them, and the visual perception of hands and fingers moving. There are also sounds “in my head” we’ve learned to call “thoughts”. And there are also sounds that seem to come from “out there” that we call “noise’ or “music” or “speech”, but are actually experienced in the same inner space as the “thoughts” sounds when I really am honest. And there are also images and sounds we call “memories” that are “thoughts” that are repeated. They are associated with images from what we call the “past” but are experienced now.

Where are the boundaries to these perceptions? That is to be investigated, first-hand.

In the meantime, the presumption of a self can be examined on it’s own.

From these raw facts of first-hand experience outlined above, various false inferences are made.
First let’s look at examples of true and false inferences, so we are clear what is meant.

Valid inference:
You see many examples of fire, and smoke happening together, and never smoke without fire, and you infer, “where there is smoke, there is fire”.

Invalid inference:
Someone told you in childhood that smoke is caused by the Goddess Prahali from Venus, and you infer, “Where there is smoke, there is Prahali in action”.

The false inference in question is: “Where there are perceptions happening, or thoughts, or decisions, or choices, or actions taken, there is a separate self responsible, a thing, a doer of the actions, a willer of the choices, a person”. That perceiver, thinking, decider, chooser, will-er is the god we call my “self” or “me” or “I” (in the personal sense).


Love without Freedom playing out in the world is rules, religion, conforming and following…

Freedom without Love is endless seeking, wildness, chaos, instability and lostness…

True freedom is like a child running and laughing in the sheer joy of being alive, in love with Life, just Being. 

In maturity true freedom expresses as knowing one’s own nature, which is the same as love:  being aware of Being, nameless and formless. 

Love and Freedom married, lead one’s world into a self-perfecting life, ever-evolving, and
growing anew: infinite potential manifesting, the form and the formless dancing in celebreation of peace, love and beauty.

However, they were never separate to begin with…

 

On Beyond Limitations of the Three Principles Psychology Model

  

‘There’s no limit to how much you’ll know, depending how far beyond zebra you go.’ – Dr. Seuss

The following article arose from a post I made to Amir Karkouti’s the spiritual psychology FaceBook forum “What The F*#$ Are The Principles?“. 
(post permalink)

I’d like to share something, for whatever it’s worth, about the Three Principles Psychology (3P) model that has been vague for a while came into sharper focus yesterday, in large part because of participating in an online forum and becoming familiar with how people are responding to, using, and (trying to) live the 3P.

I’ve been involved with this field for about 21 years, since it was called Psychology of Mind, and then Health Realization (as student-participant, writer and occasional counselor).

Here’s the rub: the emphasis on Thought as a power, or Thinking as a function (in the moment, forming one’s perceived reality), can be powerful, if contextualized properly – which is what Universal Consciousness and Universal Mind are supposed to do – but not enough emphasis or intuitive energy is given on who or what the “I” is that thoughts occur to. So what happens is people fall back into the psychological and personal. This is especially true if one is intellectually oriented, as we generally are in this culture, some of us more than others (like me!). So we remain more or less, off and on, trapped in thinking, one’s experienced filtered by thinking and habitual, unconscious tendencies. The blind spots remain.

We respond with, or plateau at various levels off and on, of, for example “I know it’s just thinking but… How do I get out of thinking? How do I change my thinking? Can I stop thinking? I know it’s just my thinking, but that’s not helping?”… and so on, often not sure how to transcend thinking. And of course telling ourselves or them it’s just their thinking (especially without a broader, deeper understanding first) often doesn’t help, and may even irritate or frustrate (especially if it’s a loved one!).

Meanwhile we are not seeing in unity and simplicity, but in duality: A thinker with it’s thoughts, and a (separate) world.

I myself was fairly stuck, off and on, with slow progress of my understanding over the years – more often talking the walk than walking the talk – and didn’t get zapped in the way I needed until a very direct teacher said “Who are you?!” in an energetic way that shocked my thought system, and eventually led me to go hang out with non-dualists. Then the scales started to fall from my eyes. (This “zap” was by a coach who uses the 3P but was grounded in his own totally physically-lived Zen-like experience of life prior to learning about Syd Banks’ beautiful teachings, which helped him give form to what was an extremely direct and energetic understanding, for use in coaching).

I realize this is my path, and everyone is unique, but thought I’d share how I see it now: this caught-in-thought phenomenon and the sense that something isn’t quite as simple or direct as it could be in the 3P, has been bugging me for a long time.

It’s not clear yet what the solution is yet – how to introduce a kind of self-enquiry to “bring it home” – I’m just starting to explore this… and of course it all depends on the student, the context.

It does occur to me as I write that the basic situation is that the 3P are heard as a kind of objective model or description – which is made worse by it sometimes being called “scientific” – when what is needed is to point out somehow the radically subjective nature of experience. (This objective-seeming model is also why it can easily be taken on as a belief, to replace other beliefs).

However, this is all impersonal, everything that’s happening. It is happening to you, as a perceiver at the same time as it’s completely universal. The mind can’t grasp it, but you can start to chip away at the armor, the false beliefs. Eventually one will be open to see in unity, in truth.

You can also start to see why it all depends on the teacher: their “grounding” (here we go again, haha…) and what they “transmit” via their presence, life, who they are. Their happiness and love and psychological freedom are the most important substance of their message. The form (the 3P, the teaching action, the person) is just a way to try and communicate the formless. Sydney Banks always kept reminding the psychologists that it’s “spiritual”.

My two cents of the moment… (end of FaceBook post)

Some Additional Notes on the Three Principles Teachings and it’s Origins

Because it came from a spontaneous realization (for the most part: Sydney Banks did say he had read some Krishnamurti that a work buddy at the mill lent to him, but he certainly wasn’t a student of spirituality or a seeker or knowledgable) – and he had no tradition other than some standard Bible-based teachings in the orphanage, his teachings don’t belong to any tradition or lineage. He also had only a 9th-grade education. A formal education however is not a prerequisite for spiritual insight, in fact it can get in the way. The intellect, speech and the learning are mere tools for expression and investigation.

This is evident in the language Sydney Banks used in his early talks (tapes from the 70s), which are a profoundly heart-felt mix of language that he picked up, or that occurred to him, or Christian metaphors (e.g., “Christ Consciousness”). They were used spontaneously to try and convey his mystical insights.
This, like all teachings, is a double-edged sword: whereas traditions (like Advaita from Hinduism) have the drawback of all the baggage and concept, religious attitudes and ornamentations (not to mention schisms between interpretations), a new spiritual teaching has the drawback of being difficult to interpret and understand clearly. On the other hand it has a freshness and power that is felt at the level of feeling and intuition, when the mind can’t hold onto the words.

Such new teachings do not come through a lens that has been refined through the ages. However it may have an impact in the way it addresses people in the current concerns and pre-occupations of the time – which for example for many Westerners is psychology, psychotherapy, counseling, the world of self-improvement, New Age teachings, and so forth.

That Syd then happened to meet some psychologists (George Pransky, Roger Mills, etc.) who, along with Rick Suarez and others were able to help shape the teaching into a model over the years, was a fortunate “accident” of history. There are no accidents however. In retrospect it was fate, and seems perfectly fitting. For this wisdom to go out into the world in a way that is digestible – with Thought as the bridge – by a very broad audience is an amazing, well, miracle if you will.

What “reaches you” and opens your eyes depends on your propensities, what resonates with you, what you feel you can trust. With the Three Principles, I could feel something that the intellect could try and deny but it was obvious Syd was onto Truth in a deep way. Then years later, the clarity and precision of the teachings of Francis Lucille, and Laura Lucille (Advaita vedanta mainly, non-dualism) and others from a that school of teachings, that lineage, helped open the doors and clear the way conceptually and in terms of a felt presence, since I have been able to spend time with them (Syd died physically in 2006 and I only saw him once, at a conference in 1997, from a distance).
Having a formal background in philosophy (and philosophy of science), and an intellectual bent, meant I needed that precision and clarity in order to have my questions answered, and fortunately, Francis also had a background in Western as well as Eastern philosophy and science.

I still have a way to go in the terms of the body, relationships and certain emotions (which are interrelated) but at least I know that light needs to be shed there… 

Mind, Consciousness, and Thought are training wheels.
Non-duality is the ground on which they stand.

Q: I really enjoyed reading the history of 3P and your take on non-dualism being the foundation. I agree that ultimately what Syd was pointing to was non-dualism. I have studied with Rupert Spira and really enjoy Francis Lucille as well but I have a question for you. Where in non-dual teachings is there any reference to circumstances having nothing to do with experience. I have never heard or read any non-dual teacher saying anything like that? The reason I ask is I think the Inside Out understanding is very helpful and I would like to anchor it back to spiritual truth but I can’t find it.

A: Thanks. The answer to your question would depend on the non-dual teacher. I’ve heard Laura Lucille (Francis’ wife and a “spiritual friend” as she puts it) talk about how the world we experience is a projection of mind. Her last teacher (for one year before he died) was Robert Adams. However Robert Adams saw the reality of the world differently than how Francis Lucille sees it, since Adams was more pure Indian Advaita, and Francis is influenced also by the Kashmir Shaivism school as well as Western philosophy, physics, etc. But none of the traditions matter so much as what we can uncover via this dialogue, using the 3P and nonduality as mirrors.

I could try and answer what I think they would say but it’s better to ask them. As I pointed out, it would take some time and effort to get the language and definitions straight. I tried to do this with Francis when I first met him, but quickly realized it was better to understand as best I could what he was wanting to convey than try and get him to understand 3P. That approach has worked well, because I can now shine a light back on the 3P.

I would start by saying that you could see it like this (partly tongue-in-cheek): Mind, Consciousness and Thought are like 3 training wheels. Non-duality is the ground on which that trike stands. The direct path (Francis, Laura, Robert, Ramana Maharshi, etc.), is the quickest way to get to that ground (situated on a mountaintop), but it’s a very steep path, and not very many desire to go that route.

I would say the emphasis is a little different with the 3P, and since Syd’s insight came through psychologists (in order to get it out into the world on a wider basis), there is more of a concern with an application to what is seen by psychologists and in areas where there is dysfunction, conflict, and suffering, or less-than-optimal functioning, and a greater manifestation of human potential is wanted: namely in a person or in communities. So there is more of a concern with the human than with the absolute or with looking at the ultimate nature of the self and reality. In Advaita and Buddhism the concern is with enlightenment via undoing the mistake of identification, and realizing in essence that you are not human, but a figment of imagination as it were, in the cosmic dreamer.

Given this emphasis on the human and relieving their suffering via a spiritual psychology, the powerful tool of 3P can spark the insight that one is not a victim (of circumstances or anything) because you made your experience up via the power of thinking, and it’s brought to life via the special effects department called Consciousness and the energy and intelligence of Mind behind it all. What it meant by “universal” however, in my view is played down (by psychologists, coaches, practitioners, etc), partly in order to sell the medicine, and partly because it’s so darn hard to comprehend and really “see” and live what is meant.

But this universal aspect is what answers your question: the common ground between Syd’s teaching and direct path teachings is breaking down thought patterns that are in the way of realizing what you are. In the direct path they are called “beliefs”. They both point us “inside” until we see the nature of the true self, and then that evolves to seeing the nature of the world as well, as also created and empty of objectivity.

They also show us not to take life seriously, and stop focusing on and trying to solve problems. They both point to the ego as the troublemaker. The ego is just an image – made of thought, propped up by beliefs – all supporting the belief in a separate self.

Syd and the non-dualists both point out that we have free will as universal consciousness-mind, and whatever we experience we are responsible for it. It all comes out of nothing (I heard Syd say this in an early tape) which is exactly what the Buddhists and Advaitans say too. But you have to have a proper understanding of what “nothing” is: the source that is not an object. What we are.

You have to be careful about setting up a dualism regarding thought and circumstances. You only know of circumstances via experience. The point is it’s all created, and it’s all you – you as Mind, Consciousness, thought – so take responsibility for your experience, both of circumstances and reactions, since you chose, as absolute freedom, to create it (ask yourself why you did create it if it’s problematic, and enjoy it if it isn’t problematic).

If what you are referring to by “circumstances having nothing to do with experience” is the fact that happiness doesn’t come from circumstances, I’ve heard this mentioned many times by Francis and Rupert (e.g., seeking happiness “person place or thing” is setting yourself up, etc.), or if you mean, how our feelings and experience in the moment are coming from thinking and not from “out there” then I’d say this is true but can be heard in a limited, psychological sense, and thus can be a slippery slope, heading towards solipsism or the the personal and the worldly, and I doubt Syd would put you on that slope. To put it more bluntly, experience has *everything* to do with circumstances, because they both arise from the same source (Syd used to say the material and spiritual are One, and give examples from Native American or Hawaiian spirituality teachings where they would use their own metaphors for that). In other words, absolutely everything is included in the experience you have created – thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, a body a world, a universe – and nothing is excluded in non-dual spirituality. This is the ultimate inside-out understanding: no inside and outside.

So instead, look up-slope towards the vertical dimension of the reality of Consciousness-Mind (or “awareness of being aware” as Spira puts it), once freed from its own creations of thinking patterns (beliefs), will reveal the truth of what you are: perfect, without attributes, boundless, and free.

Postscript

I should point out there is no real “going beyond” the Three Principles – all these wisdom teachings and religions, underneath, are pointing to the same (non)-thing: they are (talking about) the “beyond”. Syd said that all the time, and would talk about Native American spiritual wisdom, Hawaiian kahunas, and so forth, or say things like “keep going to your church” and listen, beyond the words, to the essence.

All I’m saying is, the form, whatever it is, isn’t it. Go beyond the form, to the spiritual (origin, essence … all just words and concepts). Syd kept saying this over and over and over again, in a thousand different forms. Find it for yourself because the form is the outer, the formless is the inner, and they are the same thing. It’s a paradox to the mind and the mind can’t hold it.

It takes no time to be who you are.

Jumping the Boundaries of Time – Syd Banks

 

Silicon Life, Consciousness, and Miraculous Intelligence

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” – Matthew 22:21

The following is based on a fascinating email exchange with a friend with an interest in science & technology, and a deep interest in spirituality.

The origins of the dialogue was that it became ever more clear to me that true general AI, and AC (Artificial Consciousness) were not possible because of fundamental misconceptions about intelligence and the nature of reality (see my in-process article “There Is No Such Thing as Artificial Intelligence: Notes On The Myth of AI” and Kastrup). My friend goes to the same meditation and dialogue that I do, and we started discussing this: I had a notion that AI may be possible, despite his observation of the misguided ego-based aims and unconscious drives of the Singularity-believers (who he is personally familiar with, having attended Singularity University). Thus arose a discussion in person that continued via email. Block-quoted paragraphs are the friend:

“One argument I have is that if there’s no personal doer then consciousness is creating the play as it chooses so why not Silicon or machine based perceptual apparatus.

Maybe this is not a good argument, I am not attached to it.

Maybe unrelated but on ways consciousness expresses itself there’s a lot of that in Eastern philosophy. It is interesting how many Western folks cherry pick Eastern non-dualism. For instance, how about mantra and prana the animating power in all beings and their relationship. Nisargadatta talked a lot about that. Also, Ramana hailed his Guru as mountain Arunachala. It was the mountain that pulled him in that direction. There is mount Kailash recognized by non dual indian saints as well, who are very popular in the west.

An artificial holder of consciousness is also known as Shiva Lingam. Here a few articles that I can think of along these lines,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prana_Pratishtha
http://isha.sadhguru.org/blog/yoga-meditation/science-of-yoga/science-history-creating-lingas/

On the jewish side, there are golems
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golem

Eric:
The following quote to me addresses pretty well the projection of a notion of consciousness onto inanimate objects, as is done in idolatry (lingas, etc.):
“The problem with panpsychism is, of course, that there is precisely zero evidence that any inanimate object is conscious. To resolve an abstract, theoretical problem of the materialist metaphysics one is forced to project onto the whole of nature a property – namely, consciousness – which observation only allows to be inferred for a tiny subset of it – namely, living beings. This is, in a way, an attempt to make nature conform to theory, as opposed to making theory conform to nature. (Page 19)”
from: THE COGNITIVE SHORT-CIRCUIT OF ‘ARTIFICIAL CONSCIOUSNESS’ by Bernardo Kastrup

“I am not sure if there is such a thing as inanimate object. What’s a living being exactly? [Nikola] Tesla said that crystals have an experience but we don’t know what their experience is.”

No one knows what life is, or how it arose, or where it begins or stops (is a retrovirus “alive”?), in space or on this planet. But rather than concluding it has no definition (both conceptually and materially as a boundary), one can look into the intuition and see that the arising of life and of consciousness were co-occurrences. Since consciousness is in the eternal Now, so is Life. Life arose on the planet as a necessary pre-condition for the mind that contemplates its existence, which is using this organic form to write these words. The universe reflects on it’s own nature via this vehicle, which has eyes, vision, hearing, arms legs, language, tools, and the whole play of phenomenal existence arose in this field of consciousness of this planet that finds expression here and from within you. Minerals, rocks, plants, trees, animals, primates, humans are all needed in that one concert and dance. They are all part of consciousness. They are not all sentience though. They are orderly, and follow the laws of nature, which is the spiritual laws of thinking. But the projections we call rocks are not mind-like in the mind-like of sentience that arose via animals to create egos. An ego is a point of view created by a perceptual apparatus – these perceptual apparatuses are a linear point within the non-linear reality, that create the illusion that there is a point of view and a sequence to perceiving, like a delay or slowing down hat gives the appearance of time and cause and effect. The infinite has to be somehow limited in order to play this game. The infinite that writes these words is not different from any other part of the infinite: nothing is excluded, yet everything has it’s proper and perfect place in the whole at every moment. So since “inanimate” (an old and not entirely useful word in this context, since all it really implies is movement, as in animals – but plants are alive and slowly moving) objects are part of this play, they play a role that at the same timeless time both conscious in an absolute sense, and unconscious in a relative sense. So a crystal would only have an experience is so much as it partakes of one’s interaction as potential in a moment, such as a scientists doing a quantum experiment on it or an artist using it to refract light. But a crystal does not have a point of view – there is not something it is like to be a crystal. It experiences no qualia, other than in your imagination.

“For Ramana, Arunachala was his guru.”

Sure, anything that inspires one can be your guru. A mountain, a book, a scarab, an obelisk, nature, another apparent human… “Guru” just means teacher. But the insight is coming from within – “in-sight”: sight from within. In other words, and ultimately, life is an inside-out experience. There’s nothing out there that isn’t a projection of the mind – universe and mind arise together when there is a movement we call thought. When there’s no movement then there is no apparent any-thing (localized). There is only one teacher – that is why Robert Adams, Laura and such always say you are Robert Adams, you are Christ, you are Buddha, and so forth.

“Also, why is it that the structure of a human exhibits a certain behavior and a rock doesn’t.”

See answer 1. above.

“What does it have to be Carbon?”

It doesn’t have to be in theory, except that it *is* Carbon-based, as this writer and the reader of this right now (though “carbon” and Carbon-based are concepts). Everything else is imagination. Spirituality (and science) is about facts, not imagination (though the imagination can help at times, then is discarded). But you could have non-Carbon life, Silicon life or whatever you want in science fiction (which I love), or in theory.

“This by the way is not my argument supporting panpsychism. I am not saying a rock is inanimate, I would say it has a different kind of experience (I am not eager to verbalize what that experience is). If it doesn’t satisfy my sense organs that doesn’t mean the object is inanimate or lacking life.”

Not sure what you mean by “satisfy”: an aesthetic experience, or a conceptual criteria? Most of my views above on Life are either via intuition or a combination of intuition and knowledge of natural science, and my own observation of nature.
I wouldn’t call your view panpsychism so much as good old-fashioned idolatry, which can be of material objects, concepts, practices, systems, the body, the brain, or any objects at all in consciousness, even values. It just mean a projection of the divine outward, to my way of seeing it. To put it in religious language “…idolatry connotes the worship of something or someone other than God as if it were God” (Wikipedia)

“The psychedelic and meditation communities and the tantras , Kashmir Shaivism , Tibetan buddhism are full of literature on this by the way).”

The literature, scriptures, and communities are full of all kinds of spiritual errors or limitations of view. They aren’t wrong and serve a function within the whole, like parts of a cosmic puzzle. Awake-ness wants to awake by going to sleep first, and dreaming a dream as convoluted and intricate as can be spun as an infinite mind that arose from infinite intelligence could, then make it conscious. That’s the story in my book anyway…

The Three Principles and The Direct Path

What is the difference between the Three Principles psychology (3P), a spiritual school that uses the model of Universal Mind, Universal Consciousness and Thought, and direct path methods? The direct path is a path of spiritual enquiry wherein one goes directly to truth, rather than through steps (also called the “progressive path”). It is a process of seeing through the beliefs of who and what you thought you are, and being pointed (by a teacher, if you want to go faster) to what you actually are. Paths that are indirect use various practices as well as (sometimes) objects of devotion. The practices are meant to purify, prepare, and undo conditioning. They happen through time. The direct approach is, well more direct (hard to describe how something can happen outside of time! that’s where “transmission” of truth comes in, and unconditional, impersonal Love). Practices can include meditation, bodywork like yoga, chanting, lying on a bed of nails or various forms of asceticism. There are as many forms of practices and techniques as there are potentials in the mind for creating things to get rid of (endless in other words), and ways and means of preparing a person. The direct path gets straight to the point and informs you there is no person to begin with.

Mind, Consciousness and Thought are training wheels. Non-duality is the ground on which they stand.

The common basis with the 3P then is there is no reliance on techniques or motivation, but rather the attempt to impart an understanding. The understanding – a moment of suddenly seeing for oneself, the Aha! moment – that there never was a problem to begin with, were it not for your use of the power of mind (thought), the gift of universal Consciousness, and the infinite intelligence of Mind. The traditional direct path teachings put it in terms of Consciousness, folding in Mind as that aspect that is the infinite innate intelligence of life (which is in consciousness), and talk in terms of the “bodymind”: the sum of personal thinking, feeling and perception we place in an arbitrary and illusory container we call ourselves, which really only exists *within* consciousness. Consciousness is the only reality.

The 3P are not usually taught in such a bold way as to come across as a spiritual teaching, given the secular context of our Western culture, and the psychological context of it’s origins and name (not to mention it’s taught as self-improvement, such as for business performance or in schools). For example, students will usually assume “consciousness” means some localized, personal phenomenon, probably coming from the brain. Likewise the notion of universal mind will seem a little strange, unless put in terms that sound religious, like “God” (which is also dualistic: there is a “me” and a God somewhere). Given the contexts of teaching, there are concessions made to an audience that for the most part couldn’t swallow something as direct as a direct path teaching. The 3P are also, more and more, being adopted as a coaching model, and so starts to become, or seem, as akin to a technology or system. It is sometimes even called a technology or as “scientific” (it’s not: science is about phenomenon, and consciousness is not a phenomenon, it’s what appearances take place *in*).

There is also the fact that the 3P originated, or were catalyzed, in the response of a enlightenment experience (of Sydney Banks) and his early exposure to modern psychology. This exposure came in the form of psychologists like George Pransky ( a very ambitious man) and Roger Mills, who came to visit him, curious about reports of people getting happier. Thus their form reflects the history and the intent. While the field has changed in the 20 years I’ve been observing or participating in it, I did witness a liberating focus on the contrast with traditional psychology and therapy (something I also had exposure to, as a patient of therapists and as a student of psychology). Sometime this contrast was put in terms of, seeing how psychology looks to ones’ past, digs into memories, and tries to solve problems using the tools of the mind, thus re-creating the very source of the problem in the first place. The analogy is telling someone that the cure to burning one’s hand on a stove is to place the hand back on the stove! Sometimes the contrast was in terms of “processing thinking” versus “flow thinking (or experience)”. Indeed, it was a 180 degree turn from traditional therapy to not be directed to get involved in memory, and be told one is already healthy. Most importantly, the attention was directed to the function of thought, and the total context in which thinking in the moment is taking place, rather than the content of thought. Almost all other approaches are focused on content: how to change it, fix it, explain it, access it, talk about it, control it, and so forth. Indeed, for some it is so eye-opening to be told they are the thinkers of their thoughts and that this is what is creating their experience, that it totally transforms them. For others, it was little more difficult (myself included: I needed a more direct and intellectually clear teaching).

One can start to see what some of the difficulties are for a teaching model that tries to get at the core of what we are, in order to release greater human potential, such as happiness, love, harmoniousness, creativity and peace of mind. What is being pointed to will be taken in by the “small self” – the mind, or “ego” – and turned into a new set of beliefs, or rules to follow, or something to be understood by the mind. This is the model we grow up with: we go to school to gain some knowledge and skills and get a grade and award and stamp of approval. But here we are asked to stop believing things, unlearn what we learned, and let go of who and what we thought we were. Such a thing has to be introduced gently and gingerly. It is as radical as you could get. The word “radical” come from “forming the root’ and ‘inherent’”. It is being pointed towards what is inherent: freedom and happiness.

The false self is akin to an entrenched political bureaucracy. It will do anything it can to preserve itself, including lying, trying to control, manipulate, beg steal or borrow another day of existence. It will absorb any new teaching and claim it as it own. The ego will morph into infinite forms to pretend to be what it is not: real. It will even pretend to be spiritual in the name of a new self, trying to get out of self by more self-ing. What a cosmic joke! What it fears s non-existence: absolute disappearance. Ironically, the functioning of the false self just is this movement of thought: a self-preserving illusion. As such, it takes effort to maintain, and this energy and effort is felt in the form of tension, stress, depression, conflict with others and with oneself, and a million other symptoms of unhappiness and dis-ease of body and mind. This goes on outside of the direct awareness, and thus is called “unconscious” or “blind spots”, and is the reason why becoming conscious of these patterns and games spells their dissolution. When light is thrown on a shadow that looked like a snake, suddenly the snake disappears: it was never there in the first place!

This message is quite in contrast to the culture at large, which trades in what are supposed to be the objects of happiness: persons, places, and things. But many come to feel at a loss for why they are not happy even though they have it all. Or, they are at a loss to why they can’t get anything at all, the things according to which they were told or assumed, would make them happy.

Notes:
see also Direct vs Indirect paths. (Immediate vs Progressive paths)

What is Spirituality?

 

“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere”  – Agnes Repplier

It’s interesting to see how much misunderstanding of the word “spirituality” there is in Western culture. And, I believe that same reasons that people are not truly happy are the same reasons that there is a misunderstanding of the word.

To give the simplest definition possible: spirituality is about happiness. It is about knowing who you are, and what reality is. It is living with facts instead of abstractions and projections (thinking and imagining).
This serves as a good definition because what we learn from the culture is how to be unhappy and how to be something we are not.

Indeed, we are born into this world open and innocent, naturally loving and free, and through socialization we learn how to be unhappy. And so spirituality could be said to be an unlearning: a finding out who we are instead of who we *think* we are, or are supposed to be. What we learn, see, pickup from socialization, the formula that we learn from parents, schooling, friends, the church, the culture, and so forth, are like a misdirection: a pointing away from our natural selves, our innate intelligence, freedom and love. This is not a call to become childish again, but a reminder of what one can find anew: that fresh and alive essence of what we already are.

You could call this misdirection by the culture “materialism”, but that word is so easily misinterpreted: it can be heard as anti-materialism, or as anti-consumerism, or as some kind of philosophical stance about matter. Materialism and spirituality are not in opposition but two sides of the same reality. In my definition for the purposes of this essay, materialism simply means the belief that objects in consciousness are what make us happy. By objects is meant not material objects out there, but what one is aware of in one’s experience as not being oneself. For example, you are sitting in a chair in your livingroom. You see a chair across the room. Most of us usually think of that chair as being a separate object “out there”. Or, we see an image in our imagination of a chair (such as you might be imagining right now). Or you see an chair in your dream at night. That image in all three scenarios is what I am calling an object in consciousness. Your awareness of the object occurred in your experience within your consciousness: the livingroom chair as an experience in consciousness as a perception of a chair (projected into the living room), then as an image in your mind as an imagined chair, then as an image in a dream. In all three scenarios there was a perception of a chair but in three seemingly different locations. I’m simply pointing out the location was the same all three times: in consciousness. Slow down and read the paragraph again if you don’t understand.

We do the same thing when we think of who or what we are as a person. We have an image of ourselves in the mind, based on what we see in the mirror, and on concepts and imagination, and what people have said, and what we would like ourselves to be. So we are an object, or are defined by objects of consciousness as an idea of “person” or “human being”. And therefore this naturally plays into how happy we are. Not only do we feel what we think, but since nothing in this perception of the world is fixed or unchanging, and we are holding an imagined image of who we are and what would make us happy, feel free, or safe, there is bound to be a disharmony between reality and our imagination that is experienced: either a discomfort, a confusion, a wanting, a seeking, or things not going our way. Why? Because we can’t hold into it but want to. We think we are the doer, want to be the doer of our lives but it constantly gets away from us and we feel frustrated.

True spirituality in fact it doesn’t say anything about what we should do or have, or not do or not have. In fact you could say spirituality is about living according to facts instead of theory.

Religions and cults (religion is a cult, as is materialism) says “We know what’s going on and what’s real, so you should love like this, you should do this…”. But true spirituality says “OK, you came here and are asking how to be happy. So investigate yourself, and see what actually and truly know, what makes you happy and who you are. No one can find it for you.” It says, be open to the possibility that what you are is universal and you are not who you think you are. Don’t be afraid of the unknown and unexpected. Religions claim they know. Spirituality is being happily adrift on an ocean, alone but not lonely. It is a friendly universe: you may discover it’s not out to get you.

So you can see spirituality has nothing to do with religion, but that religions grew up around spiritual insights, trying to claim them as their own, and dispense them, control them and people, and get paid for what they supposedly give the seekers.

On Materialism

You could be a billionaire and not believe in materialism, and you can be an impoverished poet living in a shed and be a materialist. The billionaire who knows who he is, is unattached to what’s happening in the contents of his consciousness, and could walk away from his millions and not be affected in his happiness, because he knows what he is (there are examples of men like this, such as Lester Levenson). The poet on the other hand, when a single cloud passes in front of the sun, could get depressed because he sees his circumstances, surroundings as being who he is and where his happiness comes from. Dropping his pencil could trigger a cascade of depressing thoughts (about himself, his life, his past and future) which he might not recover from for weeks. Or, you could have a billionaire, in fine health, who is terrified of losing his fortune and his health, and worries day and night about it, and pursues more and more money trying to fill the emptiness that lurks in his psyche or the dread just around the corner, the fear of dream of absolute disappearance. He gets a brief hit of excitement and “happiness” when a new check comes in, but then he has to set another object of acquisition or achievement, as the underlying dissatisfaction covers any new thing. He could be paranoid that enemies are after him and his money. Or, our poet in the shed could be blissfully happy, even when it’s raining and he can’t find his pencil, and his body in in pain, or whatever is happening. You get the idea.

It’s very interesting also to meet people who are judgmental or presumptuous when they find out you are into what they are calling “spirituality”. Or what they think “spirituality” is when I use the word, or that you go to a meditation group or satsang. They assume there is something wrong that started you doing that, or that you are weird or a loser or whatever – but you look at their life and they are not happy. They may claim they are happy, they may hold onto a  happy idea or image of themselves, or say that to themselves,  but if they stop doing what they are addicted to – be it working as a real estate agent and being busy busy every minute, or retired and chasing after one pleasure or another, or having to be fully engaged with family or social activity, with periods of depression cured by some kind of stimulation – their claims to be happy are seen to be hollow, or very shallow at best. Underlying it is a fear, and/or a sadness, or an anger, or a need to control. They need something outside themselves to be “happy”.

The other common interpretations I hear is that it has to do with ethics, or with religion, or with spirits, or with New Age beliefs and practices. 
I frankly think we need another word.

However, the path or practice of self-enquiry I also see as synonymous with spirituality, as long as it is bearing fruit and is not just a practice. 

If I could be happy just sitting in my living room in a chair, and looking at whatever there is, seeing the play of light, or closing one’s eyes, listening to the sounds the ears hear, or from the ears (if they are buzzing slightly) or the sounds of one’s thoughts… if one were to feel bliss or joy or happiness doing that, it’s not the usual definition of happiness. In fact some people might think you are crazy. If one could feel and see, or simply sense the perfection of all things, the totality, sitting in a chair, or just lying in a bed, the wonderful aliveness of being, that’s not the usual American definition of happiness.

Going a hundred miles an hour in a sports car, or making love to a beautiful babe or winning a huge contract and making a million dollars are more the usual definitions. I am not saying those aren’t happiness, but rather that those can be experienced in different ways. The excitement or pleasure can be experienced as happiness to different degrees by different people and will fade or might be followed by depression or let down to different degrees also. Someone who is genuinely happy, will be happy doing those things, and also happy afterwards not doing those things.

My definition of spiritual is a happiness that doesn’t go way, because it is innate, it is knowing what you are. It’s very simple, but oddly, seemingly very radical.

For most people, the body and the mind are all there are (to them, to being a human). And the material world is real, is a material thing out there. Made of matter. And spirituality often seems to mean being good or ethical, or has to do with religion, or with some separate immaterial spirits or essence … there are all kinds of ideas. But religion has to do with beliefs and old knowledge, old ideas, and social conformity to those ideas, or various schools of traditions and practices, rites and activities in the world.

But a few who start to dig into spirituality deeply realize it’s about reality. In a way genuine spirituality is more like a kind of science that looks at the ultimate nature of what is, form the inside-out. Or like a kind of philosophical journey in the search for true wisdom. But instead of being speculative like philosophy in the West, it’s is based in experience.

It’s about who you are, not as a person, but as an experience. It’s taking a look from the inside-out instead of the outside-in, the way we are taught to look.

So how is spirituality (what I’m calling it in my book) different from psychology? Well it depends on the psychology, as there are some edge-cases of psychology that are turning in a different direction from the mainstream (Three Principles Psychology for example), so for the purposes of this piece, we’ll call psychology the traditional mainstream form of it. Psychology focuses on the mind or the brain, as well as behavior. So in psychology one is examining the contents of the mind: one’s thinking, motivations, emotions, feelings, and the world of relationships, and the dynamics thereof. One could be looking at skills, and coping. One could dig into the past, into memories, family, friendships, sexual relationships, and so forth. It’s an endless game. The mind can always create new things (it doesn’t actually create, it’s just a tool for consciouness) or has an endless store of nooks and crannies.

It’s also useful for some readers (and interesting to me) to look at how spirituality is different from self-help as well as the large industry of various kinds of seminars, services and products out there. This is a large space, so it’s difficult to sum up, but we will look at patterns. Among the largest defining characteristics of these are techniques and motivation.

Why not go directly for happiness? It could save a lot of energy and heartache…

Technological Governance: A Response to Daniel Jeffries’ Interview on Future Thinkers

I recently enjoyed listening to an interview with a friend – a “colleague in thought” – with whom I also engaged in a fascinating discussion (Dialogues With a Mad Solipsist) on the subject of solipsism several years ago, when we were both members of a co-working space in San Diego. Daniel Jeffries is a writer and technologist who has been deeply involved with blockchain technology of late, as well as an author of science fiction with AI agents and futuristic scenarios. It’s always a pleasure to experience the richness of his imagination and no-holds-barred futurism.

So I was excited to hear him in this podcast with Future Thinkers, discussing the application of blockchain technology to the decentralization of governance, and tackling such thorny issues as voting, public policy, democracy, incentivizing behavior, and so on. What follows is an expansion of the notes I took while enjoying the podcast. I strongly encourage the reader to listen to the podcast, as it helps to form a context.

FTP049: Daniel Jeffries – Decentralized Governance and Identity

Let’s dive right into the middle: it seems to me he uses the word “ideology” incorrectly. He really means “thought systems”. Or more to the point: the concept of a thought system conveys the psychological fact that the world we experience is a projection of the total system of thinking one has at any moment. This is more global an idea than “ideology”. The concept of an “ideology” suggests to me something more along the lines of, for example, a religious or political dogmatic thought system. This is something quite specific in content. As evidence of this, an individual could have several ideologies, but they can only have one thought system. Thought system gets at the psychological root of the issue, rather than the surface play of ideologies. You could (more readily) program a computer with a ideology, since it’s more or less a fixed, rigid system of interlocking positions, whereas you could not program a computer with a thought system, since it is a living active gestalt based in intelligence and brought to life as an experienced world by consciousness.

Computer systems would be good at embodying ideologies in the sense that it’s an ego-based activity: a fake self. It would be a fun experiment to have a bunch of computerized ideologies (Christians versus Muslims for example) battling it out, since that is what an ideology is for, psychologically speaking: a defensive system for an illusory self, used to maintain the function of being an identity. You could see how computerized people actually are. And who knows, maybe someone would watch those arguments happening in a simulation and realize, “Wow, that’s how I am!” and it may spur them to wake up from their “program”.

I’ve been researching developments in the AI field (such as “deep learning” and the varieties of neural nets and how they work, and the claims of AI companies, not to mention the kinds of assumptions science fiction stories make) and reviewing the issues, as well as blockchain technology, its uses and social implications. So how does the blockchain relate to AI? And what does governance have to do with blockchains? First, I keep hearing either the implicit assumption that there is, or will be, some kind of real intelligence in these systems, either sa they are or with the addition of AI (such as when complex decisions need to be made). But would it be true generalized intelligence? If it were, this is turn is based on erroneous philosophical assumptions and based on what might be developed in the future (a subject covered in a longer, forthcoming article): a future ever-receding it seems. Second it’s assuming that the populace and the politicians have the same kind of interest, understanding, vision and will of the technophiles who have these enthusiasms.

The fact is, people want people in governance, not machines. They look up to figureheads, think they need them. We need to make a distinction between an imagined science fiction-fueled imagined world and social-psychological reality about this. And there is a grain of truth to the public’s feelings or intuitions with respect to leadership: machines do not have consciousness, creativity, or general intelligence and understanding of human affairs. This will not be replacing executives in corporations either, for the same reason (this was a fear back in the 60s through 80’s when computers first came into awareness, and when “expert systems” started popping up). Such systems can only simulate aspects of human leadership, or philosophical thinking (see Plato’s Republic for a relevant perspective about the “philosopher-king”), or embody limited cognitive type processing, like brains (limited, biological parallel processors with no consciousness), but do not embody the substance of consciousness and natural intelligence (e.g. intuition). They can remember rules, like well-greased autistics. But ethics and politics are not rule-based, they are *contextual*. For example, you can codify laws, but not the application of them. The belief that one can codify the application of them is a faith-based belief, nothing more, like the belief that consciousness comes from brains (a belief is defined as something that is held to be true regardless of evidence).

It seems widespread in the field of blockchain and AI that behind the grand claims, enthusiasts are making the same old assumptions that have been around for decades, based on the erroneous religious beliefs of scientific materialism. The blockchain and cryptocurrency religions are merely offshoots of that main religion prevalent in the culture.

So what can be incentivized: there was a discussion of happiness and how that can be warped. One could end up rewarding the wrong things, if I remember the thrust of the conversation: for example incentivizing being a despotic asshole, or getting into a Black Mirror type scenario of social fakery and in order to get ranked and allowed access (or not) to goods and services. One could have the weird situation of being controlled by that system. (Interestingly, this also serves an a technological analogy for what is already the case: the parallel is that in reality we are already controlled by ego and unconscious patterns of psychological conditioning. We think and behave according to what we are not, and this is the basis of our unhappiness).

But the proposed system of incentives misses addressing the real underlying dynamic with respect to happiness, which is ego and control versus authenticity and reality. Most humans don’t have a basic angle of understanding what reality is, and are identifying with what is false. Another way of talking about this for that dynamic is the play of ignorance versus being on the path of knowledge (such as in the Hindu or Buddhist sense). So how do you incentivize self-knowledge and happiness rather than ignorance; how do you incentivize love instead of fear, or de-incentivize what obscure love and true happiness. Is this possible? Is it desirable? Should we really try and mess with things at this level? And how do you do that without being punished as it were, for being innocent, when one goes in the wrong direction vis-a-vis such a system and it’s vectors of happiness and incentivized behavior (right thinking and right action, in Buddhist terms) – which really in essence embody a value system – since everyone is in essence innocent. Even if you could do this, there is going to be push-back for any system you come up, with because you can’t form rules for society. In other words, whose job would that be? A aristocratic, technological elite? Large (or small) companies or teams creating blockchain application, or corporations and government bodies, as we are likely to see more and more he future? The alternative is it devolves into mob rule. So this new elite will be pulling the levers behind the scenes, more or less. We already have this to a degree, and I’m sure there are billionaires in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who want more of it and to keep it that way. Meanwhile they will go live in their hardened missile silos converted into shelters, and New Zealand escape plantations, fearing rebellion when the masses figure it out and rise up. (see articles like https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich)

The burden of proof lies on the those who are assuming and believing that computer systems can do things like understand and apply justice, since a negative can’t be proved. Unfortunately we might see some applications of such systems in the process of the experimental proving, and these will be painful lessons, especially when they are applied by the faithful true believers in technology-as-savior to humanity’s problems. Faith tends to blind people to what they don’t want to see.

You want to be careful when you start thinking about codifying values. The reality is, you can’t really. You can set down some guidelines. But it’s not possible to have rules that always apply. Everything is contextual. Proper behavior depends on the complex whole of a situation. A computer system simply can’t read that, have access to that, process that, properly evaluate it. Even if a robot with a large parallel computer neural net brain had all the senses – seeing hearing, touch, smelling, taste – and grew up around humans, it would still not have any intuition nor any organic sense of a body. It would not have the desires and fears and the whole relation to the environment, universe, and the inner cell structure, nor the intuitive glimpses of unity via consciousness. It would not have awareness of itself and the self-evidence of truths come by through that radical subjectivity. No one knows where intuition and self-evident truth comes from, but it’s not coming from a cryptocurrency happiness governance vending machine. That much is certain.

I’m not concerned that some AI or singularity is going to take over the world (like in movies and books such as “Colossus: The Forbin Project” etc.), I merely advise folks to not to give away our freedom and intelligence to a technological system by granting it powers it does not have. It is only a projection to see intelligence and wisdom where it is not. Actual creativity, beauty, love, peace and truth will come from the authors and users of such systems, not the systems themselves. This is evidenced in the examples of computer programs that have been invented to create (supposedly) original artwork: the real “art” is in the creation of the software, not the interesting pictures the software generates. Another good example is the various chatbots, artificial girlfriends/boyfriends, and how easy they are to flush out as simulations (for this writer anyway). And yet many users project intelligence and understanding into them. (If you want to test this out, try any chatbot out there, and instead of letting it lead the direction of the dialogue, reference in your conversation something said earlier. You will find there is no continuity in the “intelligence”: there is no thread of understanding or ability to truly delve into a topic to any degree. The fact that even testers at Turing test contests are sometimes fooled says more about the tester than the chatbot or AI).

One parallel situation to point out is that we don’t have computers writing software to any significant degree. There is more and more need for good programmers, not less. The computer and the software, and all the infrastructure, and tools, not tool-makers.

Something not touched on in the interview is that all this infrastructure that blockchain technology depends on is quite fragile, very complex, with many many layers, all dependent on each other. It’s an electronic house of cards. Internet and cloud services have outages, and even when up and running, are not always available to an individual (I’ve talked about this at the end of my article about money (under revision)). Would we really want such fundamental social systems like money and governance dependent on such enormous unwieldy systems, so completely contrived and inherently brittle, subject to breakdown from a misplaced comma in a database backup program on a server in some remote server farm? This is not an unprecedented scenario, as witnessed by the AWS outages in 2015.
(see for example: http://www.datacenterdynamics.com/content-tracks/colo-cloud/aws-suffers-a-five-hour-outage-in-the-us/94841.fullarticle)

I am by no means against technology (thank god for that since I work for a company that makes software for helping to run elections!). I am not a luddite crying that the sky is falling. In fact I love technology and am fascinated with it’s applications. But in part because of my deep involvement with it, including consulting for users that have seen very painful data loss (such as losing the only copy of a Master’s thesis on a floppy disk as a result of having too much faith in technology), I have significant reservations about the over-application. These reservations and a desire to clarify and spread a little more love and understanding, are a result of an understanding of the limits of intellect, the limits of science and the technology that is derived from this understanding and the underlying assumptions and worldview. In fact, my view is that to truly create something approaching a genuine general AI, it is absolutely necessary to recognize and acknowledge these limits, rather than madly pursue dreams down dead end alleyways. The same applies to blockchain technology as it applies to social problems and opportunities. Do we want to reproduce the same insanity and ignorant worldviews

There Is No Such Thing as Artificial Intelligence: Notes On The Myth of AI

ABSTRACT: This essay is an initial attempt to outline what I see as the limitations in the current approaches to a generalized Artificial Intelligence (AI), the underlying assumptions that constitute and create those limitations, and how such limitations might either imply a limit to what can be done, or theoretically suggest a way forward in the research. The thesis is that a true, generalized AI would depend on Artificial Consciousness (AC). Since we have not even taken a first pre-step in the direction of such a construct, we therefore have no current valid, substantive theoretical ground for developing True AI (TAI). Furthermore, the author’s opinion is that by implication, there is no “existential threat” from AI on the foreseeable horizon.
AI is in essence applied philosophy (the study of thinking and the love of wisdom), and a form of theoretical psychology. I say “theoretical” because the fact is, we don’t know how the mind works, how the brain works, or what intelligence and consciousness are. We don’t even know what life is (or what matter is, for that matter!). All we have are temporary models and concepts – constructs of the perceiving mind – which are of use in limited domains of application. All applications therefore embody the assumptions in these domains.
I consider this piece an example of “speculative non-fiction” by an outsider to the field (professionally speaking: I am not employed by an AI company nor do I work in AI research in academia). However I do work in the software field, have a degree in philosophy, and have engaged in discussions of this topic with thought leaders in philosophy, computer science, and spirituality over many years. I believe my outsider status gives me a certain advantage: the same advantage a consultant has in the potential for seeing things from a fresh perspective. 
Ultimately, I see philosophy as a creative activity, which arises from the core capacity of creative intelligence to formulate new realities for us to live in, and AI therefore is an example of such activity.  As applied philosophy, and as an art, the inherent direction of AI is not to converge on a solution, but to diverge into diverse forms of artificial “life”, “intelligence”, and “sentience”, at the same time as we learn from this enterprise what those concepts mean, and where the borderlands are. 

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful… With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like – yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon. Doesn’t work out…” – Elon Musk, quoted in a Guardian article.

“Looking further ahead, there are no fundamental limits to what can be achieved: there is no physical law precluding particles from being organised in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains.” – Stephen Hawking, quoted in a UK Independent article

“It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate…
Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”
– Stephen Hawking, speaking with the BBC in 2014

(Note: I wrote this article on the morning of March 14, 2018, and referenced Stephen Hawking, who I hadn’t written about or thought about in years. In the evening I learned that he had died that day. Another of many serendipitous events in my life recently.)

 

Dr. Challenger

I got my first computer as a teenager, in 1979. I had to drive to Los Angeles to find a shop that had “personal computers”, as it was a novel concept. What I picked up was an Ohio Scientific Challenger 1P, an 8-bit computer you could program in BASIC, and hook a cassette tape drive to for saving and loading programs (very slowly), and use a television for output. It didn’t come with any software, and there was none available, and of course no internet. But I was able to teach myself programming with a couple of books I found, and had fun writing some graphics programs, a clock, a simple game, and other things I don’t remember. One of the things I do remember writing and experimenting with was a program that had a very profound impact on the direction of my life: “Dr. Challenger”: a simulation of a Rogerian non-directive psychotherapist.  It was also an example what would be called  a “chatbot” in today’s terminology.

The therapeutic situation is a good one to model because it’s one of the few real human situations in which a human being can reply to a statement with a question that requires very little specific knowledge of the topic under discussion. And, you can acceptably ask question in response to a question without being rude. You can say things like “Why do you ask?” or “Does the question interest you”, or “Tell me more about X” (and fill in the X).

I’d been very inspired by a demonstration I’d seen at school when a student from another class brought in Commodore PET (another early 8-bit “personal computer”) to a physics class. One of the programs he ran was an implementation of “ELIZA“, an early natural language processing computer program that used pattern-matching, developed by Joseph Weizenbaum at MIT. Since I didn’t have access to ELIZA or it’s source code, I decided to write my own. I had to figure out how to have the computer ask questions, take a response, and generate its own appropriate response based on the pattern of the word or sentence input by the person. The program would parse (I didn’t know that term at the time but that’s what I was doing) the sentence, find certain keywords, find what part of a sentence they were, and depending on if was in the list of nouns, verbs, and the particular word “meaning” and so forth, put together a new sentence based on that, using the pattern of how sentences are constructed in English. So I had to anticipate the range of possible responses people might come up with (which is often not that huge a list actually), code that into what to look for, and string it together into a new, appropriate-seeming sentence and spit that out, then get their response from that, and so forth.

Programming Dr. Challenger was a fascinating task that I has fun figuring out. I knew however that it was “canned” and was essentially fooling people into believing the computer had some intelligence. That was a big part of the fun: it was like a magic trick! And indeed, just like with a magic trick, some people were taken in and wowed, and other saw right through it fairly quickly.

It’s interesting to note that Dr. Terry Winograd, the author of the amazing AI program SHRDLU – a very early (1968-70) program from MIT and absolutely incredible accomplishment, especially for it’s time – left the field of Artificial Intelligence because of what he felt were the ethical implications. SHRDLU was system of software that seemed to understand human speech commands and moved objects around on a screen in response. It was written in LISP, a a symbol and list-processing programming language developed for AI research. What he said was (and I am hoping to find the exact quote somewhere) that humans are sensitive to language the way dogs are sensitive to smells, and he saw a danger in computers manipulating us that way. So he started working on the design of human-friendly computers. Many years later I wrote to him and asked him about this statement of his and his decision to leave the field. He didn’t answer directly but instead directed me to an article he wrote which he claimed answered the question (I scanned the article – it’s very long and technical – but didn’t find the answer and then got busy with other things).

Some Junk I Learned at College

In the 1950s and ’60s, artificial-intelligence researchers saw themselves as trying to uncover the rules of thought. But those rules turned out to be way more complicated than anyone had imagined. Since then, artificial-intelligence (AI) research has come to rely, instead, on probabilities — statistical patterns that computers can learn from large sets of training data. Larry Hardesty, MIT News

All of the early attempts at AI were based on what was called “symbolic processing” or the “MIT approach”. The assumption behind them was that human intelligence was in essence a kind of linguistic activity underneath, and it involved the manipulation of symbols or “tokens”. All one needed to do was understand and decode the deep rules that underlie language processing and other forms of intelligence, instantiate them in a computer, and whala! AI. There was also the assumption, based on Norm Chomsky’s outlook, that there was a kind of deep and hidden set of grammatical rules in the brain that generated human language and even accounted for the ability of us speakers, writers and thinker to create new sentences. In other words, even Shakespeare in theory could be invented and reproduced in a sophisticated computer program, with enough rules and “knowledge” embodied in systems of symbols, and start creating new plays. This may sound wrong-headed these days to some (it even back then) but these were the operating assumption behind AI research for decades (my outline is a simplification of it all but it gets the gist of it).

It became obvious sooner or later that such symbolic and linear systems, while good at working within highly limited domains, such as the manipulation of certain object in a simulated space, were very “brittle” once you went outside that space. The real world was just too open, and had an infinite number of variables to account for: too many rules were needed. It also seemed obvious to me after writing Dr. Challenger that you would need a process similar to how human babies and children gain intelligence: by learning. In other words you can’t just have a computer programmer or computer operator sitting there inputting countless rules and data knowledge and hope to get anything like real intelligence or the ability to operate in the world, or even just talk to you intelligently. They system needed to be able to sense, learn and respond and have a feedback loop with the organic world “out there”, and continue to grow and learn (just as we do, and enimals too to varying degrees). An AI then would need something akin to a body and sensory apparatus – to be a robot. But it would also need a brain that was a better brain.

So after seeing the limitations of this very linear and limited approach in practice and in theory, and wanting to mimic more the natural system the brain seems to use, the approach of parallel processing and neural nets came more and more to be seen as a hopeful direction (the reader can do their own research into the details these fields: this introduction is just a historical, conceptual background).

After that I spent decades studying, researching, thinking and discussing the general philosophical problems of artificial intelligence (AI), (questions such as what is the mind, what is knowledge and how is it represented, etc.) as well as writing software and working on computer hardware for a living. This gave me both a ground-level view of what the technology is and can do, as well as a conceptual birds-eye view of some of the more esoteric issues (which are nonetheless more and more pertinent to society today). In college, I studied with some of the most brilliant yet controversial thinkers around, such as the neurophilosopher Pat Churchland and the philosopher of science Paul Churchland, renowned philosophers of mind, as well as taking part in colloquia with prominent cognitive psychologists of the day. This allowed me the great privilege of asking them questions, and seeing what the underlying assumptions of their approaches were as well as of the institutions and thought-worlds (ways of seeing life) of which they were a part of.

There was a point at which however, towards the end of several years at UCSD, I felt I’d run into a cul de sac with this research (I was an undergrad but often ignored the assigned curriculum and chose my own topics and directions, according to my interests and enthusiasms – my main obsession being the philosophical issues with AI) I realized that there was a huge flaw, a blindspot, or an ignoring (“ignorance” in the Hindu Sanskrit sense) that was common in all their outlooks. THis being “at the end of my rope” however also led to a “gran mal intuition” as I later called it. To try and flesh out what this intuition was I’ll talk about it in two parts: we can call them the “negative” and the “positive”.

The negative side: They placed process thought, analytical thought, language and problem solving, as being the nature of human thinking –be it linguistic, visual, spatial, social, or scientific. This intellectual and material intelligence is seen as epitome of intelligence, and the result of an evolutionary process of survival and Darwinian adaptation and competition that got humans to where they are. And therefore all their models reflected the kind of thinking that was used to make them, with the same constraints. In other words, the models were modeling the modelers! Furthermore, the models reflected the modeler’s assumption, beliefs and biases about who who and what they were, or humans were, and the universe and reality. The models were essentially dogma in visible form: they reflected not only partly accurate self-knowledge (as basically humans and animals as examples of organic robots) but also the blind spots of the researchers and the agendas (philosophical and political) and prejudices of the researchers, institutions and culture of which they were a part. In short, the the strengths as well as the limitations of the theories and models, which in turn reflected the thought systems and level of consciousness of the theoreticians and the modelers. I later came to understand how thought systems were a reflection of, or activated as it were, by the level of consciousness (I will explain thought systems and levels of consciousness later, as it’s not widely understood). THe flip side of this limited intelligence is a more unconstrained intelligence.

The positive side: The other aspect of this powerful intuition I had towards the end of my time at the university was that intuition is the central faculty of us sentient, aware, intelligent beings. This however, one cannot prove, except experientially and anecdotally; it is only a fact from first-person point of view. This kind of non-objective knowledge however does have the advantage of a self-evident quality. For example, there are many anecdotes from history when a scientist or inventor or artist suddenly “saw” the answer to a problem they’d been working on for a long time, and knew it was the answer. A blinding light of insight told them. Therefore this “revelation” shall we call it, to sound more colorful, placed me outside the academic temple. It also placed me outside of the scientism that rules academia and society in general: the materialist religion. However, the name of and the depth of this belief system I was unaware of, other than as a vague and all pervasive knowingness. There was even fear associated with this view of intelligence (because of its implications, which I wrote about in a dystopian science fiction novel in 1991 called “The Web“, then renamed “The Zero Point” ).

It is interesting to see that some awareness of more direct access to a different way of knowing in books like Blink, or the expanding field of applied psychology called The Three Principles. These are radically different ways of looking at how humans operate in and see the world, but are more in line with actual experience and common sense than the models of academia (with entrenched interests behind them).

“Machine learning models such as deep learning have made tremendous recent advancements by using extensive training datasets to recognize objects and events. However, unless their training sets have specifically accounted for a particular element, situation or circumstance, these machine learning systems do not generalize well.” – Dr. Michael Mayberry, Intel Corporation

Some Acronyms and Definitions

Consciousness = The “first person” subjective experiencing of something, including the awareness of awareness. For example that which is reading these words right now, whatever that is. Another way of putting it is, the ultimate perceiver of perceptions.

It’s important to make a distinction here between fact and theory, for I realize from talking to people that the assumption is made that if brain can do it, why not a machine? Their thinking is that if a system of neurons and parts of a brain can be conscious, why not a machine? The problem is that this is based in a theory and concepts, not fact. That brains can produce or experience consciousness is not a fact. However it’s such a deeply rooted prejudice, or myth, and so often repeated, that it starts to seem self-evident.

The best that can be shown by science and technology is that there is some type of correlation between some kinds of brain activity, such as electrical impulses or chemical actions, and thinking activity. So a subject can be hooked up to some machine, and be thinking about an ice cream soda, and then say “ice cream soda” and some pattern of electrical excitation could be registered, and perhaps an image of brain parts that show more activity could be shown an screen, that to some degree correlate with the imaging in the mind of an ice cream soda, and the decision to speak and the speaking of the words. But this is all about mental activity: thoughts and actions, and not about consciousness. It completely leaves out the question of who or what is having the inner experience of those thoughts.

Sometimes this conflation mistake is because of a confusing of the subjective and the objective points of view. So it’s important to reiterate by consciousness is meant the subjective view: what is it like to have the thoughts. For example, one could imagine the pink color of the ice cream soda, and there is no way anyone will ever know how you experience pink, no matter how much you describe it in words, paint it, try and point it out in the world, everyone else will have *their* own subjective experience of pink that may be completely different from yours, and there is no way of knowing, since you can’t get inside their experience. What they call “pink” you may call “orangish-pink”, even though there is a one-to-one correspondence between their reported color mappings and yours, all their colors are experienced slightly or completely shifted or differently. It is 100% private and intimate. These subjective, absolutely irreducible qualities are called by philosophers “qualia”.

Thus you can see that one could build a physical system that had the same kinds of firings register on the instruments, but there can be, and would be, no experience for anything: there is nothing of what it is “like to be” that machine such that it experiences it’s own qualia, unless you want to imagine something odd and absurd based on your faith in machinery such that machines could have experiences. You could, I suppose, imagine an adding machine have experiences like “Oooh, a number 2 and 3 is adding up to a 5! Oh boy, how yummy!”, but I who would take that seriously? I wouldn’t (except to laugh) and it certainly isn’t any proof that AC is possible.

The other confusion is between awake-ness, or levels of wakefulness and consciousness. In other words, being awake as opposed to being asleep. However, these are states *within* consciousness, not consciousness itself. IN other words, what we are looking at that we are defining as C. is the experience of what is reading these words right now to be awake or asleep: that constant that is behind all experience. One could hook up an EEG and watch a person or an animal go through different phases of wakefulness and sleep, but it tells you nothing about what it’s like to be that subject, or what experience they are having as consciousness. In fact, there are a number of recorded cases of subjects who have been flatlined in terms of brain activity, and clinically dead, yet report experiences later that they could not have had unless there was some kid of consciousness at the time. And though there are not dreams remembered from deep sleep, the inference that there is no consciousness is merely an assumption based not having a memory of anything, or an assumption based on the fact that the mind resurrects at waking, and since there seems to be no mind, therefore there was no consciousness, which is a false inference. Why can’t you have consciousness without content: and experience of pure consciousness?

Intelligence (with a capital “I”) = the capacity to come up with new solutions to old or new problems and situations of any kind; the capacity for true creativity (new knowledge or genuine art); the ability to “receive” self-evident truths (mathematical, spiritual, aesthetic, philosophical, etc.); the ability to appreciate beauty and to experience universal love (non-objective substantive apperception). Non-linear “thinking” or perception; the ability to understand; the perception of Reality.

intelligence (with a small “i”) = the ability to process data, solve problems in a specific domain (cognition), the ability to make decisions based data inputs; the ability to calculate solutions to numerical or symbolic problems; linear thinking (which includes the processing in highly parallel neural net systems); cunning; empirical reasoning (reasoning based on specific sensory or perceptual input and data facts regarding situations); logical reasoning; analytical thought; rule-based thinking.

PAI = Pseudo Artificial Intelligence
TAI = True AI = A Generalized Intelligence machine.
TAC = True AC = Artificial Consciousness that is not a simulation of consciousness, nor just sentience (being awake and able to think and act like a non self-aware animal).
TMI = Transcendental Machine Intelligence = In contradistinction to AI as so far conceived, uses TAC + AI to achieve TAI.

My central thesis is, You can’t have true AI without AC, and AC is a top-down reality, not a bottom-up construction.

True AI = A generalized intelligence machine.
AC = Artificial Consciousness.

My thesis is that you cannot have true AI without AC.

But is AC – Artificial Consciousness – possible?

AI systems (and therefore robot minds) are brittle. Another way of saying this is that they do not fail gracefully.

Because computer intelligence such as neural nets uses systems of bias (pre-judging, using memory-based processing thinking), based on correlation they are inherently unable to generalize. If if they are not rule-based like expert systems, they are using past knowledge, not direct knowledge.

My father used to say, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” (My retort is “If you’re so rich, why aren’t you happy?” But that’s another essay…)
If AIs are so smart, why aren’t they writing our software? The demand for software engineers and programmers, IT people, etc. are growing at a tremendous rate: evidence not only of technological expansion, but of the fact that computers do not write software, human creativity and intelligence creates software.

Comment I wrote in response to a YouTube video:
“The Hanson Robotics CEO misspoke. He should have said “simulate” being as conscious, creative as a human. He’s playing into the mass ignorance about the nature of AI and computers, which are mechanical, adding-machine based entities. All the creativity and consciousness comes from their creators. That’s the “art”. The burden of proof is on him. He is either dumb, gullible, or irresponsible. (I recommend “What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason” by Hubert L. Dreyfus, MIT Press – one of many good books on the philosophy of AI).”

Myths or Erroneous Assumptions Underlying AI and “The Singularity
1. That if you just get enough of a lower-level machine intelligence together then at some point it will reach critical mass of higher-level intelligence that will result in self-awareness, independent thought, creativity, and other elusive qualities we experience. This is a common trope in Science Fiction scenarios of AI, including (one of my favorite classic science fiction movies about computers) “Colossus, The Forbin Project”.
2. This previous assumption is also used to fuel the idea that this critical mass will become a runaway-AI and get smarter and smarter…
3. Which in turn stokes the notion that this runaway intelligence could thus becomes a super intelligence of nearly infinite power. Just like how a massive star collapses under its own gravitational weight until it sucks light into it and forms an event horizon, sucking in more and more matter in a runaway process, compressing down into an infinitely dense thing called a singularity (the end-game of a black hole), the AI would accelerate in self-enhanced intelligence, using it’s intelligence to learn and create better intelligence, and so on, until this runaway epistemological feedback loop implodes like a bomb.

These are all false notions, because they build this house of computerized cards on the erroneous assumption in #1. Simply put, more and more stupidity does not add up to an intelligence that equals real intelligence, much less self-awareness. Even an astronomical set of neural nets, that get very smart at doing a variety of tasks that brains do, is still just garbage in, garbage out in relation to true intelligence. This is because of the ignorant assumption that real intelligence and consciousness arise from brains (are an emergent property, like wetness is an emergent property of water molecules), whereas in fact there is no evidence for such an assumption that is not circular. This property of an idea – where no matter what evidence there is, it is held onto defended as if for dear life – is itself evidence of the interwoven set of dogmatic, religious ideas that underpin much of society and science when one reaches the limits of it’s understanding. (These materialist assumptions about intelligence is such a deep and ingrown belief in modern culture that it takes quite a long essay to untangle – I hope to write more on that soon).

The problem is, almost no one (in the Western world especially), understands what real or natural intelligence is. That is, they don’t have an adequate definition, because the cultural orientation, the social programming in life does not allow one to see it without immediately dismissing or devaluing it. For example, one suddenly understands a problem whose solution was eluding you: an Aha! moment of illumination. The whole thing is seen in a flash. Such timeless moments don’t compute to the mind: it cannot hold or grasp the open limitless freedom from which they seem to appear “from nowhere”.

On the other hand, we don’t want to leap farther than our understanding justifies and say we *know* for sure what true intelligence or consciousness is (other than that we experience it now, or in flash of intuition or self-evident truth, such as in mathematical discovery or understanding). The best and most honest path is to admit what we don’t know, and from that solid foundation, we can step forward and hopefully make progress.

Underpinning the thesis is that to create (or foster the creation of) a genuine AI, one must have artificial consciousness (AC) is the fact that the two ultimately cannot be separated. To have the properties of general intelligence, the property of consciousness must be present. The relationship of one of a triad or trinity: the apparent duality of matter and mind is resolved when the trans-real substratum of consciousness is taken into account. This is the “dual aspect theory” of Spinoza’s philosophy applied to a real-world engineering problem. However, consciousness is not an emergent property of brains, but is a general or unified field, of which a brain could be thought of as akin to a receiver.

The analogy of brain-as-receiver works like this: if one is, for example, watching a television program about politician, and you don’t like the politician, would you go buy a new television in order to have a better politician – in other words to change it to a show you like to view – on the TV? Likewise, that thoughts seem to correlate to the functioning activities of a brain (and lack of thoughts or coherent thoughts in a damaged, dragged or asleep brain) does not prove that the TV program arose from that brain.

The analogy breaks down however in that radio waves and television programming are still in the same level of reality: objects. That is, they are physical phenomena and are measurable and detectable. Consciousness is not on the same level of perceptibility: it is not a phenomena. Consciousness is the witness of phenomena. This is basic.

Unfortunately, while sentience (being awake or asleep) are detectable, as are attentional mechanisms and types of brain waves associated with *states*, consciousness is not. In other words, that which experiences states is not detectable. We do not have instruments for detecting the presence of consciousness, and we probably never will. From where we stand today, in our scientific outlook, consciousness is not amenable to the scientific method, except with regards to second-hand evidence (such as verbal reports of other humans), or as subjective experiences and reports that can only be inter-subjectively evaluated. Likewise, you cannot open up a persona’s head and find consciousness in the brain somewhere (despite stupid claims of finding centers of consciousness in popular articles, which always turn out to be based on mental actives or attentional mechanisms, not consciousness). Why? Because consciousness is not a phenomena. It is not part of the universe of experience out there. In other words, the universe is experienced *in* consciousness – as is the body, thoughts, sensations, feelings, thoughts –  or is inferred to exist in other beings (such as humans or animals, or possibly aliens), as a separate quality of that being, because that’s what we assume for ourselves.

Another way of describing consciousness is, what is it like to *be*: for example, that which is reading these words right now: that reality. It is always in the absolute present, and ultimately intimate. It is the context or ground for an experience-having reality, or even feeling or seeming to have a sense of reality. For example, even dream is a *real* dream. The content of the dream is illusory, but the fact of experiencing it is real for the experiencer. That is the reality we are pointing to here: the reality of the experiencer. It is full-stop subjective. It has no objective properties. It is radical.

So how does one encode that in a computer? How can a piece of software embody that? It can’t: they are both content, not context; they are both part of the material world, both objects. They are not subjects. They are not experiencing.
But could they? Could there be an aspect of experience, that like other beings (humans and animals etc.), seems to have consciousness, yet is an object we created, or got underway through an engineering project?

The key concept here is “seeming”: how does one discern the difference between a simulation and the real thing.

To be continued…

References

Intel’s New Self-Learning Chip Promises to Accelerate Artificial Intelligence, By Dr. Michael Mayberry

Stephen Hawking: ‘Transcendence looks at the implications of artificial intelligence – but are we taking AI seriously enough?’

What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason” by Hubert L. Dreyfus, MIT Press