Why Reality, Space & Time Is An ILLUSION! - Evidence We're Living In A SIMULATION | Donald Hoffman | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Why Reality, Space & Time Is An ILLUSION! - Evidence We're Living In A SIMULATION | Donald Hoffman".
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Let me just ask one question. Is cause and effect real outside of the headset? I think inside the head, inside the headset. No. So we have a useful fiction inside the head. So you don't think there's cause and effect? Right. Well, we have the appearance of cause and effect, right? So if I hit the the cue ball and hits the eight ball into the corner pocket, it looks like the cue ball caused the eight ball to cream into the corner pocket. Yes. And that all works, but it's a fiction of causality in the old video game of Pong. You have these little paddles and these ball and you hit and it looks like the paddle is causing the ball and the fiction of causality is good enough that you can play a game. You can actually figure out how to put maybe a little spin on it and so forth or in you know, more, more advanced games like, you know, virtual reality or games or, you know, like Grand Theft Auto, you have a nice fiction of causality. I turn the wheel to the left. My car goes to the left, turn the wheel to the right, but it's all a fiction. The wheel has no causal powers. The gas pedal has no causal powers, but it's a useful fiction. Evolution. I don't know that that's true. So think about a system was created. Let's, let's take the analogy of Grand Theft Auto. So a system is created such that it awaits input from your, your control pad, whatever that control pad may be. Now admittedly, my control pad, I press it. An electrical signal is sent to something that turns on or off or opens or closes or whatever, and then a whole cascade of things happens, but it is, I mean, you could even trace back the causality to I ate something that gave me the ability to create ATP, which gave me the ability to generate electricity, which gave me the ability to fire a muscle, which gave me the ability to press a button, which triggered this electrical chain reaction that caused something to happen on the screen, but it, it, there is a chain of causality in the headset. There is a chain of causality in the headset.
Understanding Consciousness And Near-Death Experiences
Like even, even though it is the perception is that, you know, I'm turning and the act of actually just moving that thing and makes it turn. So I get that that isn't happening, but it does create this chain reaction that can be in the headset understood. And so there I disagree. So if you look, for example, in a VR version of it, where you see your virtual hands holding a virtual steering wheel, there's no feedback from the screen to the computer. But there is feedback like if you think about VR. So, but so there is a, there is a real cause and effect. Yeah. But it's not what we see in the headset. We, on the headset, it looks like the wheel that I'm seeing in the headset in the VR headset is what's causing the car. Yes. But I am typically in VR, I would be mapping my real hands either by holding a controller or by having cameras. Well, absolutely. So I'm mapping my hands. My hands do a movement. And this program is programmed to wait for the input from the movement of my hands to then trigger that sequence that I just listed before. So there is a cause and effect. Yep. But, but notice it's not from the things that you're literally seeing in the headset. I agree with that, but I'm saying, but there, there still is a chain of cause and effect. Absolutely. Because when you say that it is an illusion of the eight ball hitting the things, I, well, that didn't seem true. Well, within the construct of the headset, I'm saying. Right. Well, so maybe another example might help on this. So when you like drag your icon, you've written a email and this icon is blue in the middle of your screen, you drag it to the trash can. Yep. You are using say a mouse or a touchpad. And then, and in, so in this analogy, that would be like the real cause and effect. But if you said, but it's really the motion of the icon on the screen to the trash can that's causing the file to be deleted. That's just an illusion of causality, right? There's no feedback from the pixels of the screen into the computer. And that's what I mean. Everything inside space and time is like seeing the icons on your desktop. Things move around on your desktop, but it's due to something like your, you know, joystick or something else. But the headset, since the headset is all of space and time, what that means is that I'm saying that everything inside space time is part of that fictional causality. Okay. So in the, in the headset, that perception is illusion and I was dragging a sort of back and forth between. But it's good. I mean, that's very, very good. Now take me outside. Does cause and effect exist if time doesn't exist? So two answers and I'll get to the death question. I think in the realm of conscious agents, there is a notion of cause and effect, but it boils down to a notion of free will. That seems to be one of the key notions of cause in, in, in this. In quantum mechanics, by the way, I should point out that they, when you do quantum computations, normally in normal computations, there's a causal order. If you do this multiply and then an ad, that order is important. If you do the ad and then the multiply, you get a different answer, right? The order, the causal orders, but it turns out in quantum mechanics, you can do a, you can get rid of causal order when you do your computation. You can have a superposition of, you know, multiply followed by add with add followed by multiply, both orders. So you have a superposition of the causal order and it's a theorem that in general, you'll be faster. You'll be more efficient if you let go of causality and space time. And it turns out that it's actually been done when you build these things and let go of causality and space time, you tap, you tap into a greater efficiency. So when you let go of space time, you're also letting go when what space time is doomed means also that everything that we believed to be causality in space time was just a very useful fiction in our headset, just like the fictions in various VR games that we play. It's a useful fiction. Let's just play the game. There is an underlying causal order and we're arbitrarily ignorant about what that causal order is. Now about death. I don't know. But here's an interesting idea. Suppose you go to a VR arcade with some friends to play virtual volleyball and you put on your headset and body suit and you're on a like a beach volleyball scene, palm trees and sand and the net.
Phineas Gage (06:12)
And you're playing VR volleyball for a while and then one of your friends says on Thursday I need a drink. He takes off his headset and bodies to go get a drink. His avatar sits lifeless on the sand. It collapses on the sand. It looks within the VR headset within the game as though he's dead. But his consciousness is not ceased. He's merely stepped out of that interface. All right. Now we're in what I'll call the Phineas gauge problem. So Phineas gauge for those who don't know is railroad worker one of the most famous examples in neuroscience. He's hitting a tamping rod. It's like a three foot rod thicker than your thumb and it shoots up through his jaw and out the top of his head taking. If I remember right, a T cups worth of brain matter, which seems impossible, but never loses consciousness. But they say he's forever different, different.
Gage is forever different, Clearsman says. He used to be super sweet and one of the best workers. After the accident, he becomes a belligerent asshole who cant keep a job. (07:09)
And he used to be like super sweet and he was one of the best workers and then he becomes this belligerent asshole and he can't hold a job. So I will say that's that is the so using this notion of the headset or the oomveld. It's like once you alter the way that his brain works and I'm fully willing to accept that this is a problem only inside of the headset. But once you alter that function within the headset, he's fundamentally different. Now if the headset is is what I'll call the oomveld. It's our interpretation of the stimuli. Once he goes takes the headset off the inter now we're into transistors, diodes, electrical gravity or god, I may have tripped a sub of gravity, but everything shy of that one. Now you have the experience of that person would be fundamentally different. I would be fundamentally different because I'm no longer experiencing things through the lens of my brain essentially. So while it would seem to me that there is no way around the fact that in the game, homey is dead and so or lifeless to use your example. So since that's the only thing that I want to relate to that person through my headset. That's what I'm used to. That's where the emotion lies. And then now once I step outside, even emotion would be called in the question almost certainly in fact, definitively in your explanation, the way that I process emotions, it would just be unrecognizable outside because I no longer have the brain. I no longer have all of those things. Interesting. You said quite possibly. So there is a possibility to you that outside the headset, it's close to what we experience inside. So for me, it's going to be a matter of following the math on this. So the theory of conscious agents itself doesn't require an agent to have a self. So meaning it can shatter into a bunch of little pieces? Well, a self is something that a network of conscious agents has to construct. So are we the Borg? It would be like an interface representation. So what I call myself is on this kind of view, no less a construction than space and time. And so it's not clear to me how much of that construction will survive death. Meaning taking off the headset. Oh, that's two possibly very different things. Well it looks for people who still had the headset on. It would be interesting. It looks to them like death. But for the person who's actually having the headset taken off, maybe it looks like what some people describe with psychedelic experiences or near death experiences and so forth.
Near-Death Experience (NDE) (09:53)
Or really extreme 5 DMT, MEO DMT experiences and so forth. These are things I want to explore. So at this point I'll have to say, you know, not only, you know, I'm likely to be wrong, I'm still trying to figure out what the ideas are that I would want to problem the tables that are wrong. So the theory of consciousness that I have right now doesn't require conscious agents to have a self, to have memories, to have the ability to learn or anything like that. So networks of conscious agents construct selves, they construct memories, they construct patterns and logics of emotions and so forth. It's going to be very interesting to ask the question about how much, you know, my parents died recently, right? So, you know, it's very, very difficult. And so we all would like to think that there is some way to have contact with a person anyway.
Reductionist Brain Theory (Consciousness Ends At Death) (10:56)
If you're a physicalist, of course, that's out of the question, right? If your consciousness is nothing above and beyond brain activity, then when brain activity ceases, there's no consciousness and a story. It's very, very clear. In the theory of conscious agents, it's quite possible that that yourself dissolves. But the conscious agents, it seems to me, will still be conscious agents. They've just maybe dissolved this particular data structure that they created, the space time data structure with a particular personality and memories and so forth. So basically you're saying, if I can just put different words around that to make sure that I understand the conscious agents coming together to form a person or a data structure. Well, they form the person as a data structure. So everything that I believe about me is very different than what I believe when I was five. And I didn't believe anything when I was maybe one. And so I've over the years of the decades of my life, I've put together this story of I'm myself. This is sort of an idea that some of my physicalist colleagues have said, like Dan Dennett, a self is a story that we weave. It's a narrative that we give. Maybe there's something to that, whereas where I wouldn't go with Dan, you know, and he's a wonderful guy, he's brilliant, but you know, we are, it's okay to disagree.
Dont Replicate Consciousness (12:12)
He would say that, you know, there's nothing but the brain activity and the narratives that it creates. And I'm saying, well, I like the idea of the narratives, but the consciousness is the fundamental reality. I have to let go of physicalism because of evolutionary natural selection. And so maybe consciousnesses won't keep the narratives. Maybe they will. I have some of my colleagues who are working with me who think, you know, that we will keep the narratives that we will keep that sense of self. But my colleague who thinks that doesn't have any mathematics to support it. And so for me, on the one hand, of course, I'm really open to all the different ideas. But as a scientist, if I can't put it precisely in math, I don't know what I'm talking about yet. I mean, you, and that's what you find is unless you can make it absolutely precise, most of the time we think we know what we're talking about, and when we make it precisely, we realize, oh, okay, no, I was maybe in the neighborhood, but I didn't really know what I was talking about. That's what mathematics really comes back and teaches you. And that's the thing about a really good scientific theory. Once you write it down, you become a student of your theory. Like so Einstein, when he wrote down the equation of general relativity, he had the big idea. If you were writing an elevator, you would feel weightless.
Big, Big Idea (13:28)
Big, big idea if it was free-fallen elevator. And he took him eight years to take that idea and what you call the equivalence principle, and turned it into the equation of general relativity. He wrote it down, took him eight years.
The Equivalence Principle (13:43)
Hard, hard work to take your intuition and go, oh, no, my intuition. What do I really mean by that? It took him eight years, and he was Einstein. Right, right? For the rest of us, I mean, if Einstein's ideas aren't that quite precise, it'd take him eight years to get it so precise that he knows exactly what he meant. That's what I'm talking about. So he writes down the equation. A year later, a guy named Schwarzschild, who's in the front lines in World War I, is solving Einstein's equations on the front lines. And he solves equations and he discovers black holes. And he writes back to Einstein and says, your theory says there are black holes. Einstein didn't know that. He didn't believe it. He spent decades disbelieving it. His equations were right. Einstein was wrong. The equations become smarter than the genius who wrote them down. And that's another reason why we do these mathematical models of science. We take our intuitions. It might take us a decade to take our intuitions and actually figure out what we really were thinking and get them so precise that we say, oh, that's the only logically consistent way of stating what I thought I was trying to think. And once you've put it down there, then all of a sudden you become a student. That thing that you've written down is going to teach you. And that's what I have with this theory of conscious agents. When I wrote it down, I had no idea about a number of things. I didn't know that agents could combine. It was a friend of mine who pointed that out to me so agents can combine. And also that a weird thing that it predicts is that our free choices are not part of our conscious experiences.
You Cant Experience What You Choose (15:25)
You can't directly experience your own free choices. You can experience that you chose, but you can never actually experience yourself choosing. Why? Well, it's really quite interesting. You can experience like if I go, you know, here's, there's chocolate and vanilla. I'm going to choose between chocolate and vanilla. Well, I just chose chocolate. But how did I do that? Well, I had some deliberation process. But when I finally, I can, all I can do is see myself reaching for the chocolate or the vanilla. And I can see my cogitation processes, but, but the, But isn't that all in the headset? All that I'm seeing is in the headset. That's right. So I'm seeing. So by the way, I only know my actions through my headset. I actually don't know what I'm doing. When I reach out and grab something, I don't know what I'm doing in objective reality in the realm of conscious agents. How does all of this play out in your real life? And I've heard you talk about that there are moments where you have, I'm sort of putting words in your mouth, but almost a meditative experience where you transcend the notion of self.
A Lot of People Tobacco Shows on Uses (16:25)
How so, how do you stay so enthusiastic about this for so long when it seems like, I mean, really, really at a deep fucking level, man, as a human experience, this just all feels so real. Right, right. Well, I wouldn't say that I transcend the self, but I, what I do get it once in a while is a glimpse that, oh, this is just a headset. I actually feel it that I'm just rendering this. Most of us feel like space just exists. I'm stuck inside space. There's this big stage on the stage. It's very different. I think by the way, the next generation will probably get this much easier. Those who have just been raised, spending a lot of time in VRs that are as compelling and as immersive as everyday life, it's going to be just sort of obvious. You take your headset off and go, it's a no brainer to think, well, this is just a headset too, and to just sort of be there. So I think that it'll be, for the next generation, the fact that I'm having a hard time about it, thinking about it this way and imagining it experientially, will just be sort of an artifact of the technology I grew up with. If I grew up with VRs that were really good as opposed to the stuff that we grew up with, which is not that good, then it would just be sort of obvious. You do it when you're young enough. It's just this obvious that, yeah, I'm just seeing a VR headset too, because by the way, here's one way to think about it. If you close your eyes, you just see sort of gray, right? Model gray in front of you. So it looks, it doesn't look like nothing. It looks like model gray. But what is it like backwards, back through your head when you close your eyes? Well, it's not model gray, it's nothing. And it's really, the first time you really, if you close your eyes and experience that, yeah, what is it like in front of me? Yeah, it's just gray, sort of model gray. What is it like behind me? Absolutely nothing. That's the headset. You only have a headset of space time in front. There is no headset behind. Now you have a, not a visual headset. Now you have this, yeah, I can put my hands back there and do stuff.
Why i Currently Believe (18:41)
So I have this, but it's all a creation. So I do get glimpses of that once in a while, but there were no, now put on the natural selection language, right? So I have to pick the language of the science that I want to use, you know, because I don't have a better language in some sense for discussing this. Evolution, there were no selection pressures for us to see the truth. And so there were no selection pressures for us to not take space time as the truth. And so we do. Piaget tells us, you know, when we begin to take objects as real, as we have the, we, you know, these aren't just like little data structures that you create that they really exist all the time. He called it object permanence. And Piaget said that, you know, when a kid is about 17 months, 16 or 17 months of age, they don't have object permanence, permanence. You take a little baby doll, put in front of a child, they play with it. You put, put it behind the pillow. If they're 16 months old, they just doesn't exist. Doesn't exist. Piaget said. And then, but at 18 months, now they go and crawl around and try to get the object, the baby doll out of the behind the pillow. Later experiments showed maybe down to three or four months.
Hard Problem of Consciousness (19:51)
But the point is these experiments show that we're programmed. Now I'm using the evolution language. We're programmed by natural selection to buy into the illusion that objects exist, even when they're not perceived. Object permanence. When we're three or four months old, we're not rational. It's being done to us without our permission. And so by the time we come to the age of reason, it's the water that we don't know that we're wet. It's the water we've been swimming in all over our life. We just have been programmed to take this as the reality. I took it for the reality. It was only because I couldn't solve certain problems, like the problem of consciousness. And it was only because when I looked at evolution, it began to tell me, space time is not the reality. It cannot be the wrong language. It must be only like a headset that I was going, "Holy s--" I mean, I still remember the first time I realized this must be just a headset. I had to sit down. It was such-- I mean, I was a grown adult. I was like, I was around 30 years old or something like that.
Perception And Experience
Programmed to Take This (20:52)
The first time I realized this, it was such a shock I had to sit down. Everything that I believed all of a sudden disappeared. But of course, the next moment, I was, again, visually believing I'm in reality. I'm seeing the truth. So the programming was there, but ever since that moment when the math-- it was the math that did it to me. So do you think created math? Very interesting question. My own thinking, in terms of this idea that consciousness is fundamental and conscious agents are fundamental. When we actually study consciousness-- and there's been a scientific study of consciousness since 1860, it's called the Field of Psychophysics. There was a guy named Gustav Fekner who started the whole field. And a lot of my research has been in psychophysics where we literally get mathematical models of conscious experiences and we test people very, very carefully in the lab. We find that mathematical experience-- that conscious experiences are mathematically structured.
The Relationship to Skulls (21:48)
By experience of this water bottle, the mathematics is unbelievable. There are-- you can write down differential geometry, you reflectance functions. I mean, the mathematics is incredible. It's true of all of our conscious experience of everywhere we look. Conscious experience-- it seems so squishy, it goes through your fingers. How can you-- there's mathematics. So the way I think about math and experience is that mathematics is like the bones of the living conscious experience. They're not-- they can't be divorced from each other. There's more to experience than just math, but there's not less than math. There's math and more. And so that mathematics and conscious experiences have a deep intimate relationship that I'm still trying to understand.
By Experience of This Water (22:41)
But the empirical evidence is quite strong. I mean, all the psychophysics that people have done, we just find mathematical structure everywhere. And that's why I came back to this Girdle's incompleteness theorem, where that theorem is just saying, no matter how many mathematical structures you discover, you haven't started. There will be endless more structure. Where did that come from? Girdle figured out how to do this. So it came from-- And can-- let me-- Let me-- but now I'm understanding it. So we once thought the atom was the smallest structure. And then we discovered there's something below that and something below that and something below that. Are you saying outside of the headset, there's just no end to this, something below that? That's right. Interesting. That's right. And this is what Girdle's result is that there is no end to the mathematical structure that you've ever-- The completeness theorem that you will never be able to complete it. You'll never be able to get to sort of bay-- oh, god, I'm going to put words in your mouth. Base reality. I don't know another way to say it. That's right. That's what that Girdle's theorem seems to be telling us is that no matter how complicated the mathematics is that you know, effectively you haven't even begun yet. And when you say theorem, I assume that means that this is a math equation that Girdle put forward and not-- it's not Girdle's theory.
Going to Put Words in Your Mouth (24:01)
It's Girdle's theorem. It's a theorem.
Gribbles 30-Year-Old (24:10)
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Exploring The Universe: From The Double-Slit Experiment To Alien Intelligence
Self-Referential Statements (It’s Math All The Way Down) (24:50)
All right, my friend, back to today's episode. I don't understand math well enough to even know what to ask beyond that. So to me, where my ignorance makes this a miracle, I'm willing to accept it just to not be abusive to me. Well, I'll just give you a clue about the kind of thing that he does. In the math? In the math. There are these things called self referential statements that cause problems. Okay. So if I say this statement is false. Now it was that statement true or false? Well, let's look. If the statement is the statement is false. Well, if it's false, then it's true. Right. But what then is true, then it's false. That's right. Yeah. So you get these when you have self reference, you get these problems that pop up. You know, so the barber of Seville cuts all and only the hair of those who don't cut their own hair. Who cuts the hair of the barber of Seville? Right. All these kinds of things. So Girdle was able to take this kind of thing and make mathematical statements self-referential. And he was able to create a sentence that said that statement in mathematics, it says, this sentence is true within the system, but can't be proved. So he was able to construct that. So he actually has a theorem. He proves. And then he shows that no matter. So even if you had that sentence in, there'll be a new sentence that self-referential that. And so what he shows by this kind of structure, of course, the true theorem and the true proof is incredible. There's Girdle numbers. You have to be not just a mathematician, you have to be a brilliant mathematician, a logician to even understand it. So it's very, very few people who actually understand it. But every time you quote unquote solve it, it's self-referential again. That's right. It's the self-reference. That's the key. So just so that there's not complete magic, I wanted to let you know that based on this notion of a self-referential statement. But the bottom line is it shows that there's an endless, in principle, endless possibility of exploration of mathematical structure. And since I've just mentioned that. Just to almost give it a silly answer, the mathematical equation is what's below math and the answer is math. It's structured all the way down forever, forever, forever. But if consciousness is fundamental, that means that there's endless conscious structure. And this consciousness. You feel like that's just something that says we don't fucking understand. Like that to me quite frankly is as sort of, I just have to accept it as turtles all the way down. And all the way down, our consciousness all the way down is the same as saying turtles all the way down.
A Theory of Everything Has Miracles of Assumptions (27:27)
There's just literally no difference in my limited mind. Right. So this is where we're going to have to come with every scientific theory, right? Every scientific theory will have some set of miracles. And that bothers me as much as it bothers you. Yeah. I don't like it. But I, so when I bump up against that, I take a pretty, and I don't know, maybe this is stupid, enlighten me. But here's where I come up. So I will routinely be asked if I believe in God. And the answer is no, I don't believe in God in any of the ways that people mean when they say God. But there is so obviously something that I don't understand that it is just self evident to me, you would use the language and maybe rightly so that it is a headset. And so you have an intuitive sense that there is something beyond the headset and you have no idea what it is. And therefore you just say, there is something I don't understand. Right. So even here's the thing that used to fuck with me as a little kid. The universe is expanding, expanding into what? When you build a house, you build it on land, right? So the land is there, the land is on the planet. So it's like there's this sense of, for it to expand, it has to expand into something therefore something had to exist. So it was very easy for me to just go, yep, there's something here I don't understand. The fact that general relativity and quantum mechanics don't play well together, yep, there's something I don't understand. Like I am very okay with just going and there's something I don't understand. It's the part that gets hard for me is the it's math all the way down where it's no longer an acknowledgement of this is something we just don't understand. And it's saying and now believe that it's math all the way down. And I don't know that it really matters to be honest, but that's where I always bump and go, well, yeah, there are two big camps on this. One is that we invent math and the other is we discover it. So when a new theorem is published, did the person discover it or did they invent it? That's one of the big questions. Isn't it self-evident that it has to be discovered? But if it is discovered, then girdle's incompleteness theorem says it is math all the way down. So that's the thing. But if it's discovered, I'm sorry, if it's invented, then that points at us and says, who is this discoverer? Who is this inventor that's doing all this? So being so and it's really important for everybody to understand that every scientific theory as we said earlier stops, explanation stops. There's going to be some place where we say, grant me this, please. And if you grant me this, then I will explain everything else. Like Einstein says grant me space and time. If you grant me space and time, I will write down these mathematics and then it turns out there's black holes and all interesting stuff. We can do GPS because of Einstein's theory of special relativity. It gives you all this, but we are granting space and time. Now someone else like there is a guy named Seth Lloyd who says, okay, I'm not going to grant you space time. I'll start with quantum bits and quantum gates outside of space and time. It's just abstract quantum computational stuff. And I can show you how to boot up space time, general relativity from quantum bits and quantum gates. The curvature of general relativistic space time has to do with the action of the gates and so forth. So he's no longer assuming space time. He's explaining it. But now he's asking for a different miracle. Please grant me quantum bits and quantum gates. Now you can imagine someone going, well, now I'm going to do better than Seth Lloyd. I'm going to explain to do something deeper than quantum bits and quantum gates. But perhaps what Enidimar Akani Ahmed is doing at Princeton. So maybe he'll get quantum mechanics emerging from something deeper. But he will then say, grant me what he's asking for is the amplitude hedon and some other structures like that. So if you grant me this amplitude hedon, I can give you space time and quantum mechanics and so forth. So that's the nature of explanation. And I'm still having to come to terms with that. I would like to have a theory of everything and I only have a theory of everything except these assumptions for my theory. And those assumptions are my miracles. And so at the foundation of every scientific theory, there's this moment of humility. Explanation stops here. It also stops one other remarkable place. However in our theory, we have a probability that can't be reduced by greater knowledge. So in a Newtonian world, if I flip a coin in principle, if I knew in detail the mass of the coin and its distribution and exactly how I flipped it, I could tell you heads or tails with probability one. But I don't know the initial conditions well enough and so I have to give you a probability of about half. That's a subjective probability, epistemic probability. But suppose there's a probability that no matter how much I know, the probability can't completely go away. Then that's no longer epistemic. There's something more interesting going on. This was the debate between Bohr and Einstein about quantum mechanics. There are probabilities that come up there. Einstein was saying those probabilities are just our lack of knowledge. There's no, God doesn't really play dice. There's no fundamental probability going on there. Bohr said, no, no, no, you don't tell God what to do. These are not epistemic probabilities. These probabilities cannot be reduced. Period. There are probabilities for everyone, including God. I'm going to put a book on.
The double-slit experiment (33:13)
One thing I wanted to ask you that came to me when I was reading is the double slit experiment is one of the weirdest things in physics for me. It really messes with me. For people not familiar with the double slit experiment, you take a single photon, you shoot it through a slit and if you're not measuring it as it happens on the sort of back wall, you would see like a bullet mark. Right? You fire a single bullet, it goes through the slit and it hits the wall. If you, sorry, that's if you watch it. If you don't measure it, then it goes through like a wave and you get an interference pattern on the back. You can put another slit and if you're watching it, it goes through one slit. If you're not watching it, then it goes through both slits like a wave. That always just seems so weird. But if we, well in fact, I'll ask, does your hypothesis about consciousness address the issue of the double slit experiment? Yes. So it will come out, I believe. But those experiments are showing us is that if we assume that everything is happening in space and time and that space time is the fundamental reality, then we're going to be confused. What we're seeing is space time is just a visualization tool we're using for things that are happening outside of space and time. So they're not constrained to travel through space and time. Absolutely not constrained. We're constrained to see them as though they're traveling through space and time. That's why quantum mechanics look so weird. Why does observing or not observing change at state? Because we're creating reality as we render it. That's why I was wondering if this is the look at the moon, not look at the moon. Exactly right. The moon does, in fact Einstein asked one of his colleagues when they were walking, said, do you really believe the moon doesn't exist or only exist when someone looks, doesn't exist otherwise? He was talking about quantum mechanics. And my interpretation of quantum mechanics is exactly that. That space time itself doesn't exist when it's not observed. And therefore the particles inside space time don't exist. I don't know how you talk about the double slit experiment. Doesn't that so? It potentially, let me ask, is that potentially like a proof of your theory? Well, unfortunately there are no proofs in science. There, every theory has lots of hypotheses and auxiliary facts and assumptions and so forth. And if your theory doesn't come out quite right, you don't know what wrong in it. And also even if every experiment that you've done is compatible with your theory, maybe you just haven't been smart enough to think of the experiment that will take it down. So no real serious scientist would say that any scientific theory has been proved. Does it point in the right direction though? Like you bring up a lot of examples, but that's not one. Is there a reason? Is there a hole in that one already that you see? Because to me that is some compelling shit. Like hey, you want to wonder or you want to know if the moon exists when you look at it or if it's garbage binned, keep forgetting your language collected, garbage collected. When you look away, boom, double slit experiment. Well, so the double slit experiment is completely compatible with what I'm saying. The reason I don't take it as a proof is because there are some physicalists who have the multiverse or many world's interpretations, many world's interpretations. So Hugh Everett, for example. So what these guys will say is that to really understand superposition and all these weird quantum things, you have to realize that whenever you make a measurement, whole new universes spin off and all possible states that are allowed by the quantum state function, the wave function, are true in some universe. And so many serious physicists believe in the many world's interpretation and related but distinct thing of the multiverse, which is a different thing, they think that there are multiverses. And so what is true is that local realism is false. So local realism is the claim that objects in space time, like say a proton, have definite values of their properties like position, momentum, and spin. And there are two parts, that's the first part, and that they have influences that propagate no faster than the speed of light. We have very, very good evidence to say if we know anything, we know that local realism is false. But that leaves open, whether it's the locality that's false, things you could imagine things having influences faster than the speed of light. So a guy named David Baum has a theory in which things have influences faster than the speed of light. Or whether it's realism that's false, which is what I'm claiming, that realism is false, that a particle doesn't have a position or momentum or spin when it's not observed because you create it as a headset element when you observe. So I say that we know that local realism is false, I claim that it's the realism that's false, but there are some who can claim it's the locality. Right, yeah, I would agree, I would say that there's a point in which a new portal in our intrapases is opened up into consciousness. So for example, I have a portal into Tom's consciousness. It's not perfect, it's fallible, but it's real. I can guess if you're interested, I can guess if you're hurting, or I can guess. But it's a genuine portal into your consciousness. But of course, my experience is not your consciousness, your consciousness is separate. And so our interface does give us genuine portals into the consciousness of others. My cat, I have less access, my mouse even less, my probe, my interface is given up. My portal has become really dumb. It's not because there's no consciousness out there, it's that my portal has got too much noise or it was just not opened up to it. So yes, when we have babies, we are in a way that we don't understand opening new portals into the realm of consciousness. So I want to understand that. It's very much like if someone is building something in Minecraft and they put things together, but if you're really inquisitive, you'd like to know what was really going on inside the computer that looks like me building this thing that I see in my Minecraft world. And that's what I want to do. So in Minecraft, there are different things that are in some sense portals to a whole bunch of code that's going on in the computer that's allowing me to build this stuff. Okay, let me start making some guesses here on where you're going. So I'm assuming that you're chasing this problem because ultimately you want to be able to figure out, hey guys, guess what? It's based on this fundamentally the wrong way to look at it. And if we get the right way to look at it, we will have all just an avalanche of insights maybe usable in the way that quantum discoveries have given birth to modern life. Most people don't put two and two together. They just think, you know, maybe the atomic bomb or something like that, but that there's real your cell phones GPS like all of it has to do with physics. So if we can get to the underlying physics of whatever gives birth to the simulation, now we could have a whole new avalanche of insights that allow us greater manipulation of the world or whatever it is precisely that's driving you, which brings me back to the collider. You're paying attention to that because you, if I understand how these things explode, then I can backtrack it and understand how they came together in the first place, which in your prediction is going to take us outside of the simulation into the world of consciousness, which do you imagine that world has physics and desires like does the consciousness must have something propelling it to do things? Right. The only idea I've got there is this idea for girdle of just infinite exploration. And that is the, okay, so this is going to bring us to God here because I feel like you've already said this is a magic moment or a miracle moment. So something has given the spark of desire to consciousness to explore girdles infinite, like look at all the different manifestations that consciousness can take. And so we are all but one sort of pop up of a very specific kind of consciousness and who knows, there could be a Brazilian of these things all over the known and unknown universe. Right. So as we're doing that, it begs the question of in your mind, is there such a thing as God? Well, this gives us possibly a chance to have a language which for the first time ever, we might be able to formulate a precise hypothesis about what we mean by the word God and start to do science. So for example, you have a hypothesis around that? Well, yes, so I have a precise definition of a conscious agent. And one definition I could give for God would be the agent, which is the combination of all the conscious agents, the single. So suppose it turns out that mathematically, when I look at the mathematics of conscious agents and how they combine to form new agents, suppose that the mathematics tells me there is in some sense always one largest agent that's being formed. I don't know if that will be the case. I don't know. But suppose, then I could say that that's God. Suppose it turns out that no, what's going on is that there are many, many quote unquote maximal agents, but there's no single maximal agent and they're not identical. Then there might be a polytheism.
Is there such a thing as God? (43:28)
But the nice thing about this is we could see the word God has been used in contradictory ways for thousands of years by various traditions and we fight to the death over a term, literally, that's not well defined because your God is not the same as my God. And it's a tragedy of human history that hundreds of millions of people have died because of differences over what we mean by the word God. And what I would like to see is sort of a humble approach to that term saying, my tradition has its ideas, your tradition has its ideas, clearly since we all disagree, at most one of us is right and possibly all of us are wrong. So why don't we come together, take all of our best ideas and then try to sift through and here's where science can help, where we take the ideas and try to make them precise, mathematically precise, because that's when you find out if things gel, if they're consistent or if they actually, you're talking nonsense, right? If you say A is true and not A is true, what you're talking nonsense, right? So can we do something like that and evolve ideas about the notion of God and have a scientific spirituality where God becomes something that we don't assume that we know, we're not dogmatic, I know what God is, we're humble, we say these are the best ideas we've got so far, let's try to make them precise so we can figure out precisely where we're wrong and then evolve it. So I see this direction going forward, the possibility of a scientific spirituality, where we take a lot of the spiritual insights that the spiritual traditions, the mystical traditions have had for thousands of years and we take the tools that science has learned by studying our headset and we use those tools to take the first step outside the headset that the spiritual traditions have been telling us, look, you guys are stuck in the headset, you're stuck in the headset, well, they're right, but by studying the headset we got the tools that we needed to actually step outside the headset in a way that can be precise and we can figure out what we're doing and make precise theories. And so I see science and spiritual, we're at this really interesting convergence point in human history where there's been a war between science and spirituality, in effect, they've been at odds. These are non-physicalists over here, the spiritual side, these are physicalists over here, the scientists, scientists have all the hard-nosed tools, it's all woolly and imprecise over here on the spiritual side and so they've been at odds at each other, right?
Networking best insights (not sides) (46:06)
But now let's take the best insights, I'm not saying that anybody's right or wrong, I'm just saying, let's take the best insights from the spiritual traditions and be willing to call nonsense, nonsense and take the best tools from science and also call theories, nonsense that are nonsense and try together to make precise theories about the spiritual realm and our position, what are we here for? What is life about? These deep questions that are all important to us and see where it goes. And you're right, I think that as we do this, we're going to understand if this idea that there's a network of conscious agents outside of space-time and we begin to really understand how in part it works and how it relates to space-time. The technologies that we're going to get are stunning. The analogy I would think of is like this. Again going back to Grand Theft Auto, you can imagine being someone who's a wizard at Grand Theft Auto, we all just look in awe at what this wizard can do. And that's truly impressive, but now the software engineer comes along who actually knows the software of the game and he can take the gasoline out of the tank or let the tire out of the air of the wizard's car. So now the wizard is nothing compared to someone who knows how the software works outside of Grand Theft Auto. Once we get outside of space-time and we understand how this network of conscious agent works and how space-time is just a visualization tool, we will be in the position of that software engineer that can actually just give the Grand Theft Auto a wizard a flat tire. He could change the road, he could change the dimensions of the road, he could make buildings disappear, he could make space and time shift in any way he wants. That's the kind of Pandora's box potentially that we're going to open up here. It's both as a scientist and a human being, it's exhilarating and scary as I'll get out. That in the wrong hands is incredible power. Yes, there's so many layers of guesses between us and there but if people have the ability to essentially edit the matrix and anybody can do it then that's going to certainly go into some pretty interesting places. Before we ponder that though I want to ask you, what do you think of Einstein's statement that I want to know God's thoughts, everything else is just details?
Einstein's Statement""" (48:45)
Well, there's a sense in which I very much on board with Einstein. In some sense the attitude is who cares that there are so many kinds of quarks and who cares that there are so many kinds of blue ones and that the mass of the electron is such and such and I mean that's not what it's really about. We need to understand those things but not for their own sake. What Einstein and theoretical physicists are really after is they're trying, as Einstein said, I want to understand the mind of God. I want to understand what are the big deep principles that would lead to the laws that have as their consequences there are these kinds of quarks and these kinds of blue ones and so forth. So it's the deep, deep insights, the same kind of thing that you and I are chasing here when we are talking about ideas like Girdle's incompleteness theorem and Girdle's candy store like these, even if that's not the right idea, it gives you a flavor for the deep kind of idea that we're after that we think of this could be a deep enough idea that it could be a guiding principle for a lot of the details that we see. So it's in that sense that I would agree completely with Einstein on that. I think Einstein was very much attached to space and time. He seems fair. Yeah, he was perhaps the person with the most profound original insights ever about space and time. I don't know if he ever let go of space and maybe in his later years maybe he did, I don't know. But most of us it's really hard, the avant-garde of physics right now are letting go of space time. If you just Google, "Space time is doomed," Google that phrase, you can find videos by Niba Arkani Ahmed for example and he can tell you exactly why state of the art physicists today are saying space time is doomed. So the mind of God, whatever it is, is not space time itself. It's something deeper. But they don't know what that something deeper is, what the physicists are doing because they don't have any idea what's beyond space and time, what they're doing which is really brilliant. They're saying let's take the mathematics of the models that we do have in space time. Quantum field theory, gravity. Let's look at that mathematics and see that mathematics is like a light into the dark beyond space time.
Asymptotic behavior of conscious agents (51:36)
And they're flashing that light into the dark as far as they can let that light go. So they're trying to see what the structure of our current theories might tell us to guide us in our ideas beyond space time. But ultimately we're going to need to make a creative leap. We're going to have to just, and this is the fun of science, you make a creative guess, you make it mathematically precise and then go back and say, "Okay, here's my guess about what's behind space time," then you have to project it back into space time where you can test it. And so the physicists are doing, right when I'm reading their work very, very carefully because I need to build on their work. I'm trying to plug my theory of conscious agents. I want to show that the long-term behavior of conscious agents, so-called asymptotic behavior. So this is a dynamic on graphs, some more cognitive dynamics, and it has an asymptotic behavior. Turns out, I believe I can show that that asymptotic behavior plugs into structures that the physicists are finding called cosmological polytopes, amplitudehedra, sociohedra, and so forth, that have the same kind of permutation properties that the asymptotic behavior of consciousness does. So the asymptotic behavior of consciousness leads to certain permutations to classify it. Permutations turn out to be these fundamental thing that the physicists have found beyond space time. That's as deep as they've gotten. These things called permutations beyond space time that lead to what they call on-shell processes, which they can then lead to predicting the scattering amplitudes. So that's the threat I want to pull. Start with a theory of consciousness, whereas a vast social network of consciousnesses, its asymptotic behavior is what the flashlight of physics has seen, the permutations. That's as far as they can go. Asymptotic mean. Long-term behavior. So I'll be very, very concrete with an example. Suppose that you're in your car on the freeway and you're driving and there's hundreds of people on the road with you. Everybody, it's a conscious person turning the steering wheel, pushing on the gas, hitting the brake, and so forth. Now imagine you're up in a helicopter half a mile up and you're looking down. You're the channel seven news. What you see is a bunch of little specks, little dots moving on the freeway. You don't see any consciousnesses. You could think of it as particle flow, a bunch of particles flowing. Well, the particles were all stopped here. There's a traffic jam and now they're fluid is flowing. You could use fluid dynamics, the kind of math that physicists use to describe that because that's the long-term behavior. You're looking at it from far, far away. You don't see the consciousness. So you're looking at long-term behavior, not the little turn of the wheel, the stepping on the brake of each person. You're looking from very far away. That's asymptotics. You're looking at the long-term from a far away distance. So that's why physics has never seen consciousness. First they're studying our headset, not consciousness. And second, the headset itself has only been designed to show us the asymptotic behavior of consciousness because that's how we data compress. This is data compression. I can't see all the Twitter users and what they're tweeting. I see trends. Things are the asymptotics. So it turns out when you look at the trend behavior of consciousness, you get these things that we mathematicians call permutations. So that's what I'm coming from my side. Consciousness, asymptotics, leads to permutations. The physicists pointing from the headset of space-time into the dark, their flashlight gets to permutations. So we're meeting in the middle. So that's what I'm trying to do is to bridge that gap. It'll take a couple of years. I'm not a physicist, so I'm just learning as much as I can. And I'm working with physicists, but there's a lot of conceptual work to do there. But then this will get back to the question you raised earlier about artificial intelligence. Because once we understand how this whole thread gets pulled that I just described from consciousness through asymptotics into space-time, we can reverse engineer space-time. And we can open new portals in the interface into conscious agents. The conscious agents are there. We'll be able to re-jig our interface to open new portals and see new aspects of the social network of conscious agents that we've never seen before. And maybe some of the technology that we use to do that will look like circuits and software. I don't know. We'll see. And if it does, it would be then in some sense, we might say, "Show. Sure, AI with circuits and software has opened. We now have consciousness in that AI." But it will be different. It will be not that the circuits and software in silicon was the founding thing and it created the consciousness as an emergent property. Instead, we just, circuits and software are the language of the interface that we use to describe this much deeper thing we did that opened up a whole, opened up a portal in the interface that looks like circuits and software in our interface. But that's not the truth. That's just what it looks like in our interface. The deeper thing is something with conscious agents and how they operate that we'll learn. So let me make sure I understand that. So are you saying that there is, we can create entities that meet some sort of requirement as to open a portal to conscious beings? That's what the one that we know how to do now is sexual reproduction and I guess asexual reproduction depending on where you draw the line of consciousness. But we can make puppies, we can make humans. And those, the act of that somehow, someway, meets some criteria that then- Exactly. Okay. And that there is some configuration that we could do with robotics or AI or a combination thereof that would open a similar portal. You got it exactly right, Tom. We have, as you just pointed out, we have proof that our interface does have the technology to open new portals. It's pretty low tech. Where do we have that proof? When you have a kid. Okay. It's a low tech, right? It's low tech.
Alien intelligence. (58:01)
But we know it happens. We enjoy the process, but we have technology, in other words, our interface has proven that it's got the technology to open new portals. Well said. So if we can understand what's really going on there, we should be able to do it and it may look like AI. And this may also be an answer to a very, very deep question about alien intelligences. Where are they? Well, we're looking at our headset. Of course we can't see them. That's interesting. They're out there. That's really interesting. That's really interesting. We may, I'm not saying we won't find some of them out there. Our headset may give us access to certain alien intelligences on planets around Alpha Centaurian, so forth. But it's going to be trivial compared to all the consciousnesses that are out there. That's what a headset is for. It's there to hide all of the consciousnesses because it would be overwhelming to interact with them. So that's where they are. They're all around us. We're like ants that don't see the guy with the raid can coming at them. They just can't see it, right? So they're all around us, but we are stuck on our headset. And we think that we're the epitome of advancement and knowledge and so forth. It would be funny, and it may be the case, that every, that that's a rookie mistake that every consciousness goes through in its simulator. That it thinks that because its headset is only going to give it the best access to itself and others like it and less access to others. And so in its own eyes, it will always be the wisest in its environment. And so it may be a rookie mistake that every simulator that the consciousness creates has. That we all have to go through this phase of going, "Oh, we're the best, we're the greatest, we're the epitome of evolution." And then we slowly realize, "Oh, no, no, no, no. I'm in a simulator." And there's this infinite range of other possibilities of consciousness. So profound that if I could see them, I would be inclined to fall down and worship them. Who knows? But it's a really humbling position. So we go from being the top of creation, the smarter the brain is the most incredibly complicated thing we've ever found in the entire universe, that point of view, to, "Oh, wow." We've made a rookie mistake here. There are consciousnesses out there that are far more mind-blowing than anything I could even concretely imagine. So it's a very, very different kind of thing. And this also, by the way, puts a different spin on the question of life, living versus non-living. How so?
Living vs non-living. (01:00:46)
I struggled with this. The first time I heard you bring it up. Dead still feels dead to me. How does it... Right. Because you're saying the very thing that I perceive as them is the consciousness coming through the portal. And if I could retract down that bit of consciousness, it would be just like dealing with Timmy. Well, in that direction. So that's the right direction. And by the way, I don't know the answer. So you might be closer than me. So when I say the right direction, close to what I'm thinking, and maybe you're right and better than mine. An analogy I think that's useful here is, again, of virtual reality. And I like, say, you go with a bunch of buddies to a virtual reality arcade and put on headset and body suit and to play virtual volleyball. And so you find yourself immersed in a beach scene with the beach volleyball court and so forth. And you start playing beach volleyball for a little while. And then your friend Joe says, "Tude me for a minute. I'm thirsty. I'll get a drink." So he takes off his headset and body suit to get a drink. And his avatar collapses motionless on the sand. From the point of view of the VR game, he's effectively dead. He's unplugged. But he's just unplugged from the headset. He's not dead. And so if space time isn't fundamental, death may be nothing more. What we call death is just unplugging from the headset. Now what the consequences of that are for consciousness, for example, maybe consciousness survives what we call death. But maybe the notion of a self, of me, maybe that doesn't survive. I don't know. This is going to be, I don't want to be doctrine air about this. I want to be open to first having bold ideas. You have to be crazy. You have to drink beer. Have some ideas. And then when you're sober, you go back and you start to know, okay, that looked really great when I went, you know, when I gin and tonic, but now it doesn't look so great when I'm sober. Right? You have to do, you know, explore, but then go back. So we want our mathematical model of consciousness to give us insights. What is a self? What is this thing that I call a self? Will that survive detachment from an interface? Or is that itself somehow wedded to the interface? What is the relationship between my interface, my space time interface and my notion of self? I'm really attached to this body, but this body is just a symbol. You know, I am not this body. I want to get into something really fast. So one thing that I find very confusing, not confusing, I understand it and there's some part of my brain is rejecting it. So what I like about the reductionist model of quantum mechanics and all of that is that there is something beyond what I'll shorthand to personality. So a glue on is a glue on is a glue on, right?
Reimagining the Mind, Brain Connection (01:03:45)
It's just a particle and it acts in a certain way according to certain laws. And I can get that things acting in a certain way according to certain laws as they group up into more and more complex things was more and more complex things are now the amalgamation of all these different laws. And they look like humans. Oh my gosh, look at that. But as I break them down, they die. The immune system stops fighting off bugs. They return to a different anatomical state. Let's call it dirt. And now they're reacting in a different way. But then those could be consumed by something that ends up becoming a piece of, you know, the egg and then the egg is referred to lies and now you actually become something again. And so we're just, we're these set number of particles that sort of take different forms, break apart, take a different form again. And it makes sense to me largely because there are things beyond personality. Personality is only associated with things that take a very particular form, the sort of living biological things as we would call it. And there are the individual pieces exist outside of that. And that's reflected back to me because if I go and give somebody brain damage, they will act fundamentally different, right? Deny somebody oxygen for a certain period of time, but then don't let them die. And they will be fundamentally different. And so it's like everything in the simulation, I fully understand that, but having lived in the simulation, all of that makes a lot of sense. Now when I try to imagine come up with a metaphor, whatever, where consciousness is primary, and this may just be a failing of my brain is so primed to think of consciousness as being an element of personality that it just falls apart as I tried to imagine, okay, wait, while this consciousness is in this body, it has personality and I can fuck up its personality and make it act fundamentally different. But hey, when you come back out, one of two things has to be true. Either its fundamental nature was different than its manifestation as Timmy. And so it was like, hey, you were Timmy for a while. Oh, you got damaged, but you're still you. And Timmy's messed up now, but I can pull you out and you'd be just like you were before. But if I as little Tommy come and reengage with the consciousness that was part of Timmy, I wouldn't recognize this person at all. So even if they're in Timmy normal, they come out of Timmy Timmy still normal, I still wouldn't get this person with the consciousness because, and this is where again, my brain just immediately starts grabbing a hold of metaphor. So my brain goes, okay, cool, I get this, the consciousness is like a puppet master and the very act of taking on the body, right? So pregnancy cool, you got a baby at some point, the puppet master brings consciousness to that puppet. And now that that consciousness gets to experience the girdle's infinite candy store range of states of consciousness of qualia and goes, Oh, wow, cool. What a neat ride as I experience this. Oh, this gets damaged. It just changes my experience of what this look. This is what Sally was like before the brain damage. This is what grapes taste like to her. Now that she's had catastrophic brain injury, how interesting. And like that's where I'm like, one of those two interpretations is way off because I can't reconcile them both. Now, because I've lived my entire life in the headset, it just makes so much more sense to me that individual parts act one way when they come together, they act another way. I mean, it's just that's the human body, right? If you're just looking at bacteria, it feels very different. If you're just looking at mitochondria, it's very different. If you're looking at me without bacteria different, me without mitochondria, I'm dead, first of all. And it's only as you bring all these together that I actually act the way that I act. So I understand how I am this, I am a totality. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it's very poetic and super interesting. A small g-god, right? Something that is like the accumulation of trillions of things that have come together in this pretty amazing form, right? That is delicate and precious and would never want anything to happen to it, but obviously does not rule the universe and just trying to get through the day. But you know, very interesting is you, if you define God as a collection, little g-god, as a collection of these individual consciousnesses that have come together to create this sort of symphony that we recognize as a cheetah or a person or a gorilla or whatever, that I get. That to me is very interesting. When I start thinking as consciousness as fundamental, I start, I make the mistake that I read that as personality as fundamental. The first interpretation is the one that I agree with you about, that the consciousnesses come together to create new varieties of consciousnesses. And it's a very novel and creative process. And all I mean when I say consciousness is fundamental is that it's not space and time and physical stuff, that's the fundamental thing. It's that these kinds of consciousnesses that can combine to create new forms of consciousness, that's the direction that science needs to go to try to understand what's really the fundamental dynamics of what's going on. How is it that two consciousnesses when they interact create a new consciousness? And there, by the way, we can get some information like from the split brain patients that we talked about last time, right? There are people that have the, the, the corpus close, the corpus close and was cut. And in one case, the left hemisphere believed in God and the right hemisphere was an atheist. Right hemisphere wanted to be a draftsman. Right hemisphere wanted to be a race car driver. Completely different personalities. So what consciousness is doing in that case is what happens when I put an atheist together with a believer in God and make the believer in God also want to be a draftsman and the atheist also want to be a race car driver. What kind of new consciousness do I get when I put those two together and put a corpus close in between them and force them to live together in a lifetime? What new, how do they, so the adjudication of that and then we all sort of sometimes will feel like, you know, it's Friday night. Part of me wants to do this. I'd like to, you know, kick up my heels and have some fun. Part of me wants to be a geek and study some more physics, whatever it might be.
A Scientist's Breakthroughs (01:10:25)
Maybe those are really two separate consciousnesses, two separate conscious agents that are negotiating and in the process and new consciousness exists. This is where I come back to. I'm so into that idea from Einstein and this may not be what he meant and maybe I'm just doing a poetic interpretation, but I want to know God's thoughts or the mind of God, everything else is just details is like, I want to know what imbued these conscious entities with any propellant, like what makes them step through the portal? Are there times where they're like, fuck it. No, I don't want to step through the portal. I just want to do my version of a Friday night chilling over here, you know, because when you think about two conscious entities coming together, one, it is they are, you get very distinct and predictable types of consciousness, depending on whether it's right hemisphere or left hemisphere. So it is obviously not, you can very quickly oversimplify, but they're different, right? One side is going to be prone to religiosity and the other side would be prone to not, like that's predictable. You wouldn't get, I forget which is right or left, but like whichever has the propensity for religiosity, you're never going to get it that the other side has the propensity. Like if I told you, hey, VS Romachandran, who studied the hell out of this, like, hey, one of the sides is religious. He's not going to be like, oh my God, I have no idea. It's 50/50. He's going to be like, oh, that's the left or the right, whichever it is. So now it's like, this shit is so tied to the physicality that exists in my headset that it's like teasing out what is the thought of God? What is the thing? What's the game being played here? Why is there a puppet master? You know what I mean? It's so interesting. Absolutely, Tom. And that's the spirit in which scientists are, and I'm approaching this, right? We're saying, we try to reverse engineer exactly these kinds of things. What do we find from the neuroscience, the split-brained patients? What clues can we get to what's really going on outside the headset? But the first thing you have to do is realize, I have to think outside the headset. So I have to go with the reductionist view and say, how are neurons doing this? And saying, instead, let's talk about consciousness on its own terms. What's consciousness doing? And the neural structures that I'm seeing, I have to think about them, okay, this is just my virtual reality interface. How can I reinterpret all these neural networks and what they're doing in terms of what networks of conscious agents are really doing? In other words, it's much harder work. You must spend a lot of time thinking about this. Do you have a method for getting breakthroughs? Is it really a gin and tonic and then go organize your ideas? Is it go jogging? Like how do you do this? Well, I have several things I do on a daily basis and I'm grateful to my wife for giving me some space to do it. I meditate for several hours. Okay. Three hours a day typically. Whoa! And you are pursuing the lack of thought or you're pursuing to let your mind chase a thought? Entire silence. Nothing but silence. And watching what happens there. The idea from my geeky point of view about it is if I'm going to go beyond the interface, then I've got to let go of the interface entirely. Any concept, any thought that I have is by definition still in the language and the interface that I've got. So going into utter and total silence is not easy and it's both exhilarating and terrifying because there are no security blankets when you let go of all thoughts. And if you... So one thing I do is I watch myself. As you say, when I look at the moon and then I look away that I... You haven't said this in this interview, but I've heard you say it many times. You trash bin it or something like that. You're no longer rendering it. Garbage collecting. Garbage collecting. Would another way to say that the moon doesn't exist, quote unquote, if there were no species to perceive it. It's really that the moon wouldn't be created essentially. It's like it is requiring an oomveld of a particular species to create that shorthand over evolution to say whatever that thing is that the moon is meant to represent. It has been created by humans as a moon, maybe bats eat entirely differently and fish don't have any sense that it's real at all. Who knows? It's really that we evolution maybe is a better way to say it, that evolution has created this virtual reality and therefore if that species cease to exist, its version of virtual reality would obviously cease to exist because it's being created.
Will You Ever Get To The Moon? (01:15:15)
Exactly. I'm going to say it's being created by the brain. You're going to say the brain is not real. Is that true? Okay, this is where the shit gets so complicated. Okay, so I'm going to shut up now. Back to your theory of consciousness. Right, so I'll just point your VR thing is I think a good example for anybody who's spent time in VR, what I'm saying will be obvious, right? If you're playing a VR game of like race cars, you see a red Corvette when you turn your heads up that way, you know that you're only seeing a Corvette that you're creating when you turn your head that way. You turn your head to the other side, now you're seeing a blue Mustang. The red Corvette is gone. It doesn't exist. You're seeing a red Corvette in the computer that's running the game. The red Corvette is only in your mind when you look over there. Now you're seeing a blue Mustang because you're making that. And so you're rendering these things and then destroying them. There is a reality, but it's not Corvettes and it's not Mustangs. It's the supercomputer that's running the game. And that's what I'm all I'm saying is evolution gave us this headset and it's no surprise. I see the moon, I render a moon. I turn away, I don't render a moon so the moon doesn't exist.
Reality And Existence In A Virtual World
There is something. (01:16:23)
There is something but it's just not like it's not the moon, it's nothing like the moon. It's like there's something, there's a supercomputer in the VR analogy. But in the supercomputer, if you look, you'll never find any green Mustangs or red Corvettes. You give an example in your book that is so powerful. If you would take a second, you describe what's happening in your eye when you look at a scene that includes a red apple and the way you describe it at the photoreceptor level. I was like, oh my God. It gave me such an understanding of how terrifyingly complicated things actually are. Do you remember the part that I'm talking about? So this is now just normal physiology. And so for the moment I'll be talking as though I believe in brain science and neurofib. And we have to do that right. So we have to bracket everything's within the framework of a theory. So I'm now using neurophysiology and physics right now for this to describe this. So when you look at a red apple, and suppose there really is a red apple just for sake of this argument, it's got a real shape and light rays hit it and they have certain frequencies and they pass through the lens of your eye, which focuses it on the back of your eye, just like a camera would. And on the back of your eye, you've got a piece of brain called the retina. It's a nervous tissue. So it's a piece of nervous tissue. It's a 120 million photoreceptors. It's like a 120 megapixel camera. And each photoreceptor is just reporting how many quanta of light, how many photons it catches. So I caught three, I caught 10, I caught 50. That's why you've got a bunch of numbers. So you have 120 million numbers. There are no colors. There are no shapes.
There are no colors. (01:18:04)
There are no motions. There's just 120 million colors, not even colors. It's like if you look at the digital output from a video camera, you'll just see a stream of numbers. If you look at stream of numbers, you'll see the problem that vision has. You can't tell from the stream of numbers what's going on. You have to create three-dimensional objects and shapes and colors and so forth from all those numbers. And so that's the problem that we have in vision. You have all these photon counts, 120 million photon counts in each eye. And from that, you have to then create objects, see that it's a boy on a bicycle eating a hot dog, you know. All of that is you. That comes, that's not just theory, it becomes really an important problem when you're trying to build computer vision systems. You're trying to build a self-driving car, say with passive vision systems. Well, so the vision systems are cameras, video cameras say they're taking in video. Maybe they have a few million pixels that they come in that each, maybe 70 times a second or something like that. Well, those pixels are just numbers. You've got millions and millions of numbers coming in every second. There's nothing in there that says that's a boy, that's a car, don't know, that's a stop sign. There's nothing in there that says that you have to have megabytes of software that's really intelligent that takes all those numbers and starts computing with them to figure out three-dimensional shapes, to figure out what the objects are, to, and to figure out, oh, I'm about to hit a boy, I need to hit the brakes and so forth. So this is not just abstract. Self-driving cars have to solve the problem of starting with numbers that are unintelligent in some sense, just a bunch of numbers and giving you an intelligent assay of what's happening in the world. And so that's why a third of the brain, literally a third of the cerebral cortex, the higher part of our brain, is involved just in visual perception. When you add the other senses, it's more like half the brain, is involved in sensory perception because the senses are doing an incredibly complicated job. But from my point of view, what they're doing is they're building a VR world and it takes a lot of processing power. You need supercomputers, you know, what would have been considered supercomputers to do VR in real time. And that's what we're doing. We open our eyes and it looks like we're just seeing a 3D world with objects and shapes and colors. It seems so real and so just we're seeing the truth, but because you have billions of neurons, trillions of synapses that are doing it all within about 100 milliseconds and so you're so fast at it that you just think you're opening your eyes and seeing the truth.
Seeing the truth in a VR world. (01:20:21)
You're seeing a VR world that you're projecting out there in real time. Of course, now I'm going to re-sin the brain part, right? So the brain itself is part of the space-time interface. So the brain itself is just our VR symbol for something deeper that's doing the real work. And so the question will be, what deeper theory can we come up with? Right? It's going to be a theory outside of space and time. But this gets back to what we have to do in science all the time. We push our current theories to the limits till they break. And then we have to actually take a creative leap. We can't necessarily just use the language of our theories that we just broke. We have to come up with a deeper language and that is a leap. When Einstein went past Newton, he took a deep leap. And when quantum mechanics went past Einstein and Newton, it took an even deeper leap. And the language was entirely different. But you can show, for example, that if you start with Einstein, you get back Newton roughly as the speed of light goes to infinity. The way Newton talks about space and time and matter, mass, those terms actually mean something different than what they mean in Einstein. And Newton, mass is mass and you have the same mass period. In Einstein, your mass depends on your velocity. Your length depends on your velocity. Distances depend on your velocity. None of that space and time and mass don't behave that way at all in Newton. We use the same words, but they mean something very radically different in Einstein. And in quantum mechanics, it's even a deeper leap. With quantum mechanics, you get back Newton as something called Planck's constant goes to zero. Again, roughly. It means it's just for first approximation.
Evolution by natural selection. (01:22:29)
So the leap I need to make here now is evolution by natural selection is telling us that the language of space and time and then objects in space and time is the wrong language to describe objectorality. So the leap I need to make is to say, is there a deeper theoretical framework that I can come up with? Such that when I look at the dynamics of that deeper framework and project it back into our VR interface, which is space and time. So I've got this VR headset of space and time. That's what evolution is told. This thing is just a headset. You've got a guess. Right. I'm not telling you what's outside the headset. I just told you all I can tell you. It's a headset. Now it's up to you to take a stab at what's behind the headset. So that's what I'm up to. So I'm probably wrong. I mean, we weren't evolved. Evolution by itself doesn't say anything that makes me think I'm evolved to see the truth. But it at least is telling me that whatever the truth is out there, you're only seeing a headset. It's good enough to tell us that, but it's not good enough to tell us what's outside. That takes you leap outside of the theory of evolution. But the constraint on that theory is we need to show how our deeper theory could lead to me having a headset. And in that headset, it looks like things are evolving according to evolution by natural selection. In other words, my deeper theory has a strong constraint on it. It better look like Einstein's theory of space time. It better look like quantum field theory. And it better look like evolution by natural selection, the three big pillars of modern science. If I can't do that, then I know I'm wrong. So even though all of those things exist in the headset, that's right. Okay, this is fascinating. So now, do you have that idea? I have a proposal. Let's hear it. I'm probably wrong. Okay. Before you give us your proposal, I have, I want to acknowledge you dude. The way that you talk like that, I love so much. I can't remember if it was Plank or Bored that said, um, any, this is a terrible paraphrase. Basically that thinks that science advances because objective truth is presented is absolutely wrong. Science advances because the old guard dies and the new people grow up just believing it to be self-evident. I fucking hate that so much. The fact that people are not willing to be wrong drives me crazy makes me want to choke half the world out. So the fact that you talk from the perspective of, Hey, look, I've got a theory. It's probably wrong. Like, Oh, dude, I love that so much. I wish more people were as hardcore as you to present you. Oh God, you call it bold and precise. I, I present a theory hypothesis that's both bold and precise. Right. Love that and that you're willing to be wrong. So anyway, I just had to take a say every time I hear you say that, I want to stand up and clap because so few people are willing to own that they're probably wrong, but they're not afraid to make a bold and precise prediction. So right. And the thing about that is I just want to understand. And so if I'm stuck in my ideas and won't let go of them, then if I'm wrong, I'm going to not understand. So it's really stupid to think that you're, you have to have enough hope that your ideas have some promise that you pursue them, but not be dogmatic about them. That's, it's a fine balance. Very much so.
The Concept of Cosious Agents (01:25:49)
All right. So now our bold and precise claim is so I'm proposing, I'll say what I'm proposing and then I'll say why I went that direction. So I'm proposing that reality is a vast social network of interacting conscious agents so that consciousness is fundamental and think of it like the Twitterverse, right? There's tens of millions of Twitter users, billions of tweets, lots of stuff trending. It's a Twitter users are tweeting and following and so it's all a big social interaction, right? So I'm proposing and this is a mathematically precise proposal that there are things called conscious agents. So conscious experiences like the taste of chocolate, the smell of garlic are fundamental and limited choices based on those experiences. That's part of the whole structure. So experiences that inform choices, that's going to be the fundamental idea in a vast social network. And the idea then about our headset is, is this follows? If you are a Twitter user and you want to understand deeply what's going on in the Twitterverse, well, you can't engage with all 10 million users and the billion tweets. It's just overwhelming. You would die before you could even read all this stuff. So what do you do? Well, whenever we have big social media data, we have to have visualization tools. Those tools will necessarily ignore most of the data and the part that they don't ignore, they're going to compress it down. They're going to digest it and compress it into some eye candy that we can understand. Some objects and three dimensions that have nice colors and move in certain ways and using that visualization tool, I can maybe see what's trending in New York, what's happening in all, so the big scale of Europe was happening in little scale and Irvine and so forth. So I'll have a tool that lets me zoom in and out and it'll be ignoring most of the stuff. And that's what I'm claiming space time is and physical objects. It's our headset. It's a visualization tool that certain conscious agents use to interact with this vast social network that would otherwise be completely overwhelming. And so we've made the rookie mistake. Finish that. The rookie mistake. Rookie mistake of taking our headset for the final reality. Okay. We have a tool and we thought it was the thing we were visualizing. Amazing. Very clear. Now, let's back up and break these down part by part because conscious agent, I'm familiar enough with your work that I kind of know what you mean, but I don't think people understand that like how small you take that down because you're not talking that they're, oh, hey, this is all a bunch of people, which is probably what somebody hearing this for the first time thinks that you think they're invisible people that make up this social network. How far, like, so turtles all the way down, boys and girls. So we're talking about consciousness all the way down. How like are neutrinos, like, are they conscious? Right. So no. So this is very different from because it's in the headset. That's right. So neutrinos are particles inside space time. Okay. Sorry. So damn it. Nothing inside space time is. I felt for it. Rookie mistake. Okay. So outside it. So do you delineate between advanced cognition and consciousness? Not in principle. No. Interesting. Right. So do you, I'm really trying to get you to use other words. So define agent. Right. So this is a collection of conscious agents having a social, did you say social media specifically? No, you do that social network. Social network. They're like a vast social network. Got it? Okay. So give me what a conscious agent is. The simplest example, the most trivial agent that the mathematics allows is an agent that has only maybe two experiences, maybe like red and green. Okay. That's all experiences. Why does that have to be two? Well, it could be even just none. You could have an agent that has none or one, but I tend to think about what I call a one bit agent, a sort of fundamental, but I could have an agent that has only one experience, like nothing or red. Has an experience makes me feel like I'm not, I'm not interpreting what you say in the same way that you mean it. So you, you said something and it went by so fast, which was the taste of garlic and chocolate are fundamental. If I remember correctly. Conscious experiences. So literally the taste of garlic is a conscious agent. No, it's an experience. Okay. So that thing, it's not like, Hey, Bob, you're the taste of garlic. No, no, no. Okay. So sorry to use overly crass language, but that sort of, that was my initial interpretation of what you said. Okay. So that makes sense. So I will then push and say, if that's the case, is this not, would not garlic and chocolate be tied to the, the, of the species? Absolutely. So certain agents will have, But does that mean it's in the headset then? Well, those experiences. So the headset is created out of your experiences. Uh huh. So what an agent does is use some of its experiences as a format for a headset. But I, okay. So what I'm trying to get to, and I think this is what you're proposing is, Hey, we take the headset off and we see. Oh. And do we see, and I get that we have the problem of perception and that's, ah, the, that's all back to the Uneveld stuff. So C is a stand in for, obviously, I don't know how we would be interpreting this world in the movie, the Matrix. It is green code, right? So when he explodes the agents, they explode into code. So code is their fundamental element. Um, what is your fundamental element consciousness? I get that. So I'm trying to understand like how if it's consciousness all the way down, what is consciousness? Like, is it a physical substrate or is it not? And we have to let go of the very notion of physicality. Yeah. We're, I'm letting go of physicality in the sense I'm completely letting go of space and time and particles, electrons, protons and neutrons. Those are only headset entities. But is it fair to say that you have no idea then exactly what consciousness is? Well, so, so what we do, so here's, this gets at the fundamental way we build scientific theories. And this is what we talked about a little bit earlier, which is about every theory has miracles, right? So every scientific theory has certain assumptions that it makes that we just have to grant you. We just have to grant. No, there's no theory of everything. We hear about a theory of everything. There is none. So your miracle is consciousness. That's right. Okay. So they're, so I'm saying that there are entities that all call conscious agents. These agents themselves are not conscious experiences. Why do they have to be networked? Well, it, it, it turns out that when agents interact, they form new agents. So when I didn't know this one, I wrote down the math. I was just writing down what, what could I possibly mean by consciousness being fundamental? I wrote down the minimal structure I could think of that could have some set of experiences. So there's some set of experiences that this creature, this entity could have and a small set of actions that it could take. And that was all I wanted to write down. But then when I had them interact with other agents, right, because the actions are to affect the experiences of other agents, it turned out the interactions satisfy the definition of a conscious agent. So agents interact, they form new agents. Let me ask a question that I think is going to, um, explode this apart and help us all understand what you mean. Do I exist?
Do I exist? (01:33:29)
Um, yes. In what way? So you, your conscious experiences exist. So all I can see is your skin, hair and eyes. Yep. I see, but that's just my interface symbol. If you look at yourself in the mirror, all you see in the mirror is skin, hair and eyes, but you know firsthand that what you don't see in the mirror, your hopes, your dreams, your aspirations, your headache, all the rich world of your conscious experiences, that is not visible in the headset. So my conscious experience is both in the headset and outside of the headset. That's right. That's right. In fact, this is where the shit starts to get real weird. Pretty interesting because all I can see of you are the experiences in my own headset. And so my headset is made up of my own experiences that I've put in a particular format of space and time and so, so it's just a format. Like in a VR, for example, you have a certain format in which the VR is presented. That 3D VR format has nothing to do with the shape of the supercomputer. It's just the format of, of, of that. And so this, what I see of Tom right here is just what my headset allows me. But I believe, and you know firsthand that what I can't see in my headset is this rich world of your conscious experiences. When I look at my cat, my headset only shows me fur and something really cute. And I believe that behind that cute little icon in my, my interface, my headset, there is a real consciousness, but I have less insight into the consciousness than I have into a human with a mouse, even less, with an ant, even less. And then when I get to things that I call rocks and, you know, protons and neutrons, I have no insight at all. No surprise, the whole point of a headset is to simplify things.
Consciousness, Dualism And The Split Brain Phenomenon
Conscious beings need to eat (01:35:15)
Does this conscious entity need to eat? Very interesting because that gets to what. So this is now outside of space and time is not evolution is not food and so forth. So the question is, what are these agents up to? What are they doing? What's the, why are they having any kind of actions at all? And the answer is I don't know yet. I've got a bath, a mathematical definition of conscious agent. We're starting to play with dynamical systems of them. And as to the question of why they would have any dynamic, why would consciousness do something as opposed to nothing? What kind of answer could be deep enough or at least what kind of proposal could be deep enough? And I've only had one idea ever that I've heard that seems deep enough to at least be on the table. And that's consciousness all the way down? Well, no, I'm saying if we assume it's consciousness all the way down, what are all those consciousness is up to? What is the social network doing and why? Okay. So the idea is the social network? What's the one idea? So the one idea is that Girdle is in completeness theorem. Right. So if consciousness is all there is, conscious agents are all there is, then mathematical structure is only about consciousness and conscious agents because that's all there is. And that means Girdle telling us that there's endless exploration of mathematical structure means there's endless exploration of the possible kinds and varieties of consciousness and conscious agents. And what consciousness is up to is what I call the kid in the candy store theory. Girdle tells us there's an infinite candy store of exploration of possible consciousness. And the candy is all the variations of consciousness. Consciousness and consciousness experiences. That's right.
Proposition of the Kid in the Candy Store (01:37:08)
And that's, I'm not saying it's right, but at least it's deep enough that it could be, you know, it's on the table. Okay. So here's the good news. I am the guy that's dumb enough to like need everything explained and hopefully that will be useful to the audience. Okay. So I've got this infinite candy store of consciousness. The thing I cannot get past is there's some, there is utility in creating the headset. Otherwise, why the fuck would it exist? So if there is utility in the creation of the headset, first of all, I get it probably begs questions that you don't know and it's beyond the scope and you've already asked me to just accept that the miracle is consciousness and you're not going to tell me anything beyond that because nobody has a theory of everything. Respect. Get that. But I want to poke in the spirit of fun partly and then just to see like where the sort of edge cases are. Sure. All right. So we don't know if conscious entities need to eat. And the reason that I asked that question was because all of this starts with you looking at fitness. And so if there is fitness into taking multiple bites of the apple, therefore logic is going to be born out of that so that I know to keep eating the apple. But then it begs a question of, well, what am I underneath the visor underneath the headset just to keep our nomenclature consistent?
Proposition of fitness (01:38:32)
What am I beneath the headset and why does it matter that I have a representation that is based in the idea of fitness of eating an apple? Right. So that's where I'm like, what is that a representation of why does this representation need to exist? Like, have you, I'm sure you've daydreamed about this. Okay, let's hear it. Those are the fun questions, right? That's what we're really interested in is answering those questions. And so we're going at it in two different directions. One is, you know, sitting back in our armchairs and trying to think like girdles in completeness theorem and so forth and saying, could this be and what we repeat what girdles in completeness theorem is? It's the one part of this I'm nodding and smiling, but I'm like, the fuck is he talking about? So it goes something like this and you will tell me where I'm wrong. So in fact, God, can I even articulate what I think? I'm going to fumble through this. I don't even I feel like I understand a middle piece of it. I don't know where it begins or where it ends, but that we have some sort of mathematical equation that says you're never going to find the limit to which you can explore one thing. But I don't get why that thing is girdles in completeness theorem has nothing to do specifically with consciousness, right? No, no, no. Somebody leveraging that to explain why is it then that consciousness is the only thing that you've seen put on the table that ties into that? Oh, well, so, okay, the reason I went after consciousness was I've been trying to solve what's called the hard problem of consciousness.
Hard problem of consciousness (01:40:05)
How is consciousness related to brain activity? Yes. And so people have been trying to show how consciousness can be booted up from brain activity. And we've utterly failed to do that. Or how the illusion of consciousness could be booted up from brain activity. And there are no mathematics absolutely no mathematically precise theories after decades of effort that could explain even one specific conscious experience or one specific illusion of conscious experience like the taste of vanilla or why we why this kind of brain activity must be the illusion of the taste of vanilla. Why it could not be the illusion of the taste of chocolate. There's nothing on the table. I mean, there's no science that can predict even one specific conscious experience or one specific illusion of conscious experience. And so the reason I went after consciousness being fundamental, the reason I went after that that's different from Girdle's incompleteness there was that I didn't want to be a dualist. Right. So when a scientist, we try to create a theory based on as few assumptions as possible. And we only want one kind of assumption. We don't want to have like, I want this physical stuff and I want this consciousness stuff. You have to choose pick either physical stuff that's unconscious or pick consciousness stuff that's not physical, but don't don't do both. If you do both, that's dualism and and this not is not as clean. Maybe we'll have to, but we don't want to go there.
Physicalism vs Dualism (01:41:30)
So, so maybe dualism will end up being where we have to go. But I'm not going to start there. I'm going to start with physicalism doesn't seem to be working out. It seems to be principled. And it's that you can stack enough neurons together that they suddenly become conscious. That's right. And space and time are fundamental. And that's where this what evolution is basically saying, physicalism is false. That's why I went after evolution. Natural selection says the language of space and time is not the language of object to reality. That means physicalism as we currently conceive of it is false. We can't boot up consciousness from neural activity because neural activity is just a data structure in your headset. Neurons do not exist when they're not perceived. They couldn't possibly create consciousness. They're not even there. Consciousness I'm proposing creates neurons when we look inside skulls, but neurons could not possibly create consciousness. And I was forced to that by looking at natural selection. So I'm proposing that if I believe that I really do have headaches and I really do taste chocolate and I really do have conscious experience. And again, I could be wrong about that. It could be an illusion. And just to be clear, in fact, we never finished this because I'm still I'm just paralyzed by girdles and completeness theorem, but we're going to move on from that to not browbeat the poor audience. So going back to this network of conscious agents, you're saying and this gets into the part about the brain I want to talk about so split brain patients can have an experience of being literally two separate people.
Split Brain Patients (01:42:49)
So you go in, you cut the corpus close on them. So everybody to your point for a minute, I'm going to assume that the brain actually exists. So you go in, you cut the corpus close on which allows for communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. And suddenly you realize that two personalities will emerge within the same head. They don't both have internal dialogue. Do they? They have different likes and dislikes. But do they have internal because one side handles language. So they both do have language. Perfect. So the right hemisphere is very adept at language. Fascinating. So they both have language. One could be an atheist, the other devout, which is so crazy. And that's a real example, right? From the literature. Yeah, my friend, VS Ramakandran has a video online of you. So you can you Google that and say, you know, split brain patient, Ramakandran, this patient has, you know, believe, atheist and a believer in one, you know, I think in his case, the right hemisphere didn't believe in the left hemisphere was a believer. It's crazy. I'm never seen the video, but that's right about it. Oh, it's great. One case, the right hemisphere wanted to be a race car driver. The left hemisphere wants to be a draftsman. They have just completely different personalities. They can play 20 questions with each other. You can give a word to the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere will sometimes fail. In 20 questions, I can't figure out what's in the right hemisphere's head. Whoa. So there, so there are separate contents of consciousness so separate that you can lose at the game of 20 questions with your other hemisphere. You can reboot your life, your health, even your career, anything you want. All you need is discipline. I can teach you the tactics that I learned while growing a billion dollar business that will allow you to see your goals through. Whether you want better health, stronger relationships, a more successful career, any of that is possible with the mindset and business programs and impact theory university. Join the thousands of students who have already accomplished amazing things. Tap now for a free trial and get started today. That would be a very sort of simplistic example of two different conscious agents that have come together. That's right. And that's the idea. So you are one conscious agent. I, well, the way that I perceive myself is as one conscious agent, but weren't secretly I just a whole bunch of conscious agents. Well, that's the thing. It's both or true. You are one conscious agent, but you're also two and you're also probably a huge lattice of interacting conscious agents. You know the microbiome, yeah?
Theories On Consciousness And The Unknown
Bacteria and Gut-Brain Microbiome (01:45:27)
A little bit. Yeah. Okay. So in your gut, you have like trillions of bacteria. It's crazy. You have more foreign cells in your body than you have your own cells. Would they be conscious agents? Nothing in space time, strictly speaking, is a conscious agent. But do they not represent something? That's another thing. Okay. I'm sure. Because I think I know how you will answer it. The very like no one knew the microbiome existed. So if this is all in my headset, how is something so detailed that once somebody looks, it's like, Oh my God, it's proliferating. There's all this stuff. How can we discover something new if it's literally just made up like the first time that somebody cracked open a skull? Why did everyone look at it and see the same brain? The first time we looked into the microbiome, why do we all see the same thing? Even a novel thing that evolution did not prepare us to see and understand. Like how do we all see the same thing? Now I think I actually know how you're going to answer it. Because once you have a good visualization tool, it depends on where you take it. So I could take my visualization tool for the Twitterverse, right? And I can zoom in on Irvine to look very, very close and I can zoom back and look at the whole United States and see what that looks like. So a good visualization tool for a social network, let's you zoom in and out and see new stuff. But doesn't that assume that everything, Oh God, let's see if I can articulate this. Even that assume that tweets are a substrate that is universal. So that the first image that came to mind was why the hell the first time somebody got their head bashed open, did everyone see brain the same way? And I thought, okay, well, he's going to say that the reason they did is because you have a facsimile in the headset for tissue that's made from atoms. And so like that visual structure. It doesn't care like what it is, it's photoreceptors taking in. I see this much light on this receptor, this on all that. So it's like, Hey, I have a system for dealing with visuals. And therefore, when photons bounce off of this thing, it's going to construct something. And I understand things about 3D and mushiness and texture and all that. And so my brain is programmed for that. So no matter what you put in front of it, it's going to see that. I assume that is correct. And roughly, but this is the it's more like if you are trying to look at the Twitterverse and you have a if you design a really good tool and it lets you zoom in to what's happening just in your block versus in your city versus in your county versus in your state versus your country versus the whole world versus Europe and so forth. If the tool is really good, it's going to let you you will see different kinds of structures as you move in. Maybe it's very, very all the same in my block where we all have similar ideas and we do the same thing or in my county, but it'll be very different. And so the reason we see when you look inside of a brain, you are not just and you see all these neurons and so forth. You're not just one agent, you're two, you're a whole lattice of conscious agents. What we're doing is using our visualization tool to look at the whole list of conscious agents that are together forming you. So we're using that visualization tool to look in finer, finer detail at agents that perhaps are having smaller and smaller sets of conscious, conscious experiences. But we don't really know that it's a one to one relationship between a cell or whatever and what else you must have. Yeah, it's going to be many to one. That's right. So for example, I see someone I call Tom in front of me, but that's I see one Tom, but my theory is proposing that there are countless conscious agents that I'm interacting with. There's one highest level conscious agent, but immediately below it there too, though I associate with what I call the left and right hemisphere. And then below each of those, there's countless more. And there's more than one personality in Tom, the right and left hemisphere agents probably have very, very different personalities. It seems to be a general trend, but they're very, very different. And who knows what goes among all those agents all the way down. So my visualization tool, of course, all I see right now is skin, hair and eyes. But it's pretty simple compared to what I'm claiming you are. But you're really good looking skin. Very, very good. And it's a really complicated and intelligent network of conscious agents, but I see just very, very little. But when I look, when someone looks inside and sees a brain, the 86 billion neurons they're seeing there is my visualization tool telling me there is a lot of conscious agents in a really complex social network going on here. That's what I'm seeing is 86 billion neurons. Then when we get down to chemistry, which is, you know, explode, that's even more and more complicated, now, you know, saying, well, my interface is starting to give up because you're not seeing much about consciousness with, with neurons, you might be getting some notion of networking and exchanging information. Maybe it's a, you know, biochemistry, you're not seeing that quite as well. And when you get down to, you know, quarks and gluons, you may be giving up, but there's tons and tons of quarks and gluons. And that's my interface telling me, look, I can, I'm showing you a lot about Tom. I'm not showing you too much about his two hemispheres, you know, the two agents. I'm showing you very, very little, but, you know, I'll show it to you what you call, you know, 86 billion neurons. And then, and eventually my interface is going to have to just give up because, I mean, the whole point of the interface is the network of conscious agents is too complicated for you to grok. You can't grok it. So we, I'll give it to you one agent at a time. Here's Tom. Not even Tom's left and right hemisphere. It's Tom. And then all the agents, if you want to, you know, you can get out, you know, if Tom will let you, he can, we can go in there and look in his brain and we can. Tom will not let you. Yeah, I don't think he will. That's right. That's right. So that's why the tool is showing us more complexity all the way down. It's, it's a vast social network. And each agent isn't just a standalone. We're, we're a combination of many, many other agents. And that's going to be one part of the theory that's really interesting is mathematically precisely looking at all the ways that agents can combine. But agents do combine. We'll be going to some new mathematics. I think something called infinite categories in Topoy. We're infinite categories. What infinite category theory and it's called infinity categories and also Topoy theory. Some, some topoy T O P O I right. It's some fairly abstract mathematics that allows you to economically start to describe countless other ways of interaction. And so what I want to, I mean, I have a few ways that my current mathematical model would just use this thing called Markovian kernels and measurable spaces.
Infinity Categories in Topoi Theory (01:51:48)
Obviously. Plotting for what I mean, most mathematicians would, would say it's fairly plotting, but, but it's, it's, it works and it's, it's real math. You can start with that and then go to these, you know, category theories and so forth to actually get the full richness of all the kinds of ways that they could, could connect and interact. And so I want to go after that. But the, the, the one question you asked earlier was why does it look like we have to eat and do the conscious agents themselves have to eat and what are they up to and how can we know? And here's, here's my answer to that. I don't know the answer. So, so here's how I'm going to go after it. First, I am thinking like Girdle's incomplete and certain we can come back to it. That might be a deep motivation for the whole dynamics, but suppose I'm, that's wrong and I realize it's wrong and I realize I'm just not smart enough. And my team is just not smart enough to figure out what conscious agents are up to and why they're doing it and so forth. What that? Here's what we're going to have to do. We're going to have to propose a mathematical projection from the dynamic of conscious agents into space and time and propose how that dynamics gets represented in terms of, for example, quarks and gluons interacting. Right now I'm studying scattering amplitudes at the large Hadidron Collider. I want to show how I can predict scattering amplitudes when two gluons hit, four gluons go spraying out from the dynamics of consciousness. The reason for doing that is that if I'm not, well, a couple reasons, but one is if I'm not smart enough to figure out what consciousness is about, well, I'll then do it. Say, here's a mapping that gives me back space time. Now, now that I know what's happening in space time, I'm going to pull it backwards and say, what does that tell me about the dynamics of consciousness? And I'll go, oh, I never thought about that. So conscious agents have to be interacting this way for it to look like this in my headset. So if I'm too stupid to figure it out and it's very, very likely, I will have to take my theory of conscious agents, project it into my headset and say, what would it look like? Oh, I'm getting the wrong answer. Okay. So I need to change my dynamics of consciousness this way. So it really looks like the scattering amplitudes of quarks and gluons in the large Hadidron Collider. And when I get that match, then I'll go, okay, this is at least one dynamics of consciousness that gives me the right answer in my headset. Now, what is it telling me about what consciousness is up to? So if I'm not, if we're not smart enough to do it from first principles, and I want to do it from first principles, but if I can't, I'll try to reverse engineer relativity theory, evolution by natural selection, quantum mechanics, reverse engineer, all of those pull them back to the realm of conscious agents, look what they're saying about the social dynamics, and then try to get a clue about what that's about and answer questions like, am I forced to think that they need to eat? Or is there some deeper principle is it, for example, that I can only send an experience to another agent if an agent sends an experience to me? Is there, is there that kind of dynamics that, and is it going to be like the small world networks we see, for example, in the internet where you get big hubs like Google and Apple, which get lots of hits and then tiny little guys like Hoffman who gets almost no hits and then a few in between, but you get this and there's in some sense, the number of social connections you have is some sense your notion of fitness. The creators of Google are billionaires, Hoffman's not a billionaire, there's a correlation between the number of hits that Google had gets, the number of hits Hoffman gets and the difference in richness. Now is that a deep property of these conscious agent networks or not? These are the, and this is what was fun about science. I don't know the answer. Evolution of natural selection has told me it's not in space and time. It's saying it's not, this is all a headset. You're going to have to think as a scientist out of the headset, but I can't tell you what's outside the headset. So we have to be very imaginative and we have to choose what we're going to go after because, of course, we're probably going to be wrong. So you need to choose what you think is going to be interesting. I'm going after consciousness because I'm trying to solve this hard problem of how it's consciousness related to our brain activity. And the mathematics is forcing me to see this vast social network. If I bring it to consciousness, there's this whole network, but I don't know what's about all the science that we've ever done, all the science that's ever been done so far has only been in our headset. Quantum field theory assumes space time. The fields were defined over space time. The is space time. And evolution by natural selection has been about what evolves in space time. All of our science, which is very, very good science, has been in our headset. We've never really stepped out of our headset, but science has the tools. There is some initial work. There's a guy named Nema Arkani Hamed at Princeton Institute for Advanced Study Princeton, who I think is taking some really important steps beyond the headset, but he's already realized space time has doomed. And so he is already being very adventurous and stepping outside of space time and looking for mathematical structures in which space and time and quantum mechanics do not appear. Okay, this is where things start to break a little for me.
Is consciousness evolving? (01:57:22)
So I'm going to articulate what I think you have said about, because all of this was born for you. You basically said you have two choices. You can either keep space time and get rid of evolution, or you can keep evolution and get rid of space time. And your argument goes like this, and obviously stop me where I go wrong. That all evolution cares about is fitness payoffs. There are certain behaviors that must be taken in order for you to have children and to have children. And there's so much data coming in that, like looking at a desk or a table or something would simply be a string of numbers that dictate the number of photons reflecting off that coming back. And you could interpret that as different colors and brightness and all that. But in reality, it is just the math of that situation. And what you see around you is something to simplify that. So that you only have to render what you're looking at when you look away at CCS to exist. It's just the overwhelming complexity. It would paralyze any animal. So the evolutionary strategy that was chosen is this crazy simplification that we exist in, which is very convincing, but it's ultimately a convincing lie and isn't real. So I'm like, okay, cool. I can actually get behind that where it breaks down for me is what's actually evolving? Like something needed this simplification. What does that something? Right. So there's got to be a deeper dynamics, right? There's some deeper dynamics that in space time looks like evolution, but natural selection. That's what it looks like inside of our headset. But there has to be some deeper dynamics. And I've only had one idea that I've run across that seems deep enough. I'm not saying it's right, but it's there's at least, but this idea will tell you how deep we have to go to at least get a contender. So if consciousness is doing something, if it's quote unquote evolving, but not from a natural selection point of view, just saw by evolving, I just mean it has some kind of dynamics. And the question is why? What is it up to you? What is consciousness up to? Right? Because now that the typical stuff of trying to get food and procreation, that doesn't apply outside of space in time, presumably, it might not apply. So what's the deeper thing? The only idea that I've seen that's deep enough comes from something called Girdle's Incompleteness Theorem. Yeah, I struggled with this in the last interview. Now I think I have it mastered. Okay. Well, then you're better than me because Girdle's theorem is unbelievable to me. But basically what Girdle said without going into the details is there is no end in principle, no end to the exploration of novel mathematical structure. Even quote unquote, God could never know at all. There's always going to be an unbounded inquiry ahead. No matter how much you know, there's unbounded structure left to explore. And if we make the assumption, and now I'm just speaking as a scientist, like saying, look, I don't know what the truth is, we put some ideas on the table and see where they go. Right? That's how you do science. I'm saying is wrong, but I'm trying to be precise so we can figure out where it's wrong. So if we assume that consciousness is really the fundamental reality, a bunch of these conscious agents, this social network, and if that's all that there really is, then the only thing that mathematical structure can be about is consciousness. That's all it's about because that's all there is. So Girdle's theorem then would say, because there's an unbounded and never ending possibility for exploration of mathematical structure, that means there's a never ending an unbounded possibility for the exploration of varieties of conscious experience. In other words, consciousness is like a kid in a candy store. But it's an infinite candy store. I call it Girdle's candy store. It's a never ending exploration that is in principle never ending. It's not like you can ever come to the end of it. And so that is deep. I'm not saying it's right, but it's deep enough to be a real contender. Why should consciousness be doing anything at all? Well, here's one reason, because no matter how much consciousness explores its possibilities, it could never come to the end of its own possibilities. And so it's in a never ending self exploration. And what we call Tom and Don are just parts of this overall exploration of consciousness and all of its possibilities. And our little bit that we're exploring right now, as rich as it seems to us, is trivial. Literally trivial compared to all the possibilities that Girdle says are out there. We get some feeling of the triviality, but I can imagine a square. I can imagine a cube. Now go up one more dimension. Imagine a cube in four dimensions. My brain halts and my mind catches on fire. Nothing happens. That's only four dimensions. I can't even go to four dimensions. I mean, how that's terrible is it's just an incredible limitation. I can only see three dimensions of color, red, sort of red, green dimension, blue, yellow, and so forth, light and dark. We have three cone systems and so forth. There are some pigeons that have four color receptors. Presumably they're in an extra dimension of color that I can't even imagine what it's like. Can you imagine a specific color you've never seen before? Try to imagine one specific color you've never seen. So as rich as our world seem, we know that there's a rich possibility of conscious experiences that we can't even concretely imagine. But consciousness itself, on this theory, is exploring all these possibilities. Right now we're sort of stuck on this little headset. Three dimensions, small amount of color that we can see, and so forth. We thought it was the whole world. You know, it's a little headset, it's a prism. For me, I realized, I'm sort of stuck. I mean, my imagination is stuck in only three dimensions. My colors are stuck in a certain range. Consciousness itself is exploring the vast possibilities that's going on. So that, now here's the challenge.
The dark side of going into the unknown (02:03:59)
Suppose we chase that down, we say, "Okay, there's going to be this ongoing dynamics of consciousness constantly going beyond what it knows, exploring the candy store further and further." Well, there's several things to say about that. One is, the candy store makes it sound like all fun in games. Oh, but there's going to be a dark side to it because going into the unknown means letting go of what you know. That can be terrifying. So this suggests that consciousness is going to have this thing going on all the time of the exhilaration and the terror of going literally into the unknown where literally you don't have concepts. All of your current concepts are inadequate. This is what Girdle is saying. These are going to be new structures that transcend. So for those who meditate, when you go into silence, it's both healing and terrifying. If you really let go of all thoughts and go into the void, it can be scary. You want to go back and you grab back onto your life jacket. You grab onto your teddy bear, your thoughts. So there's going to be this to really go into new conceptual frontiers, you have to let go of old concepts. So there's going to be that aspect to it, which is sort of a spiritual side. There's going to be that aspect to making progress. I think so. I think that... What's the central question for you? And I'll prime you by telling you my central question. The central question in all of this that I find interesting is what is the correlate? So I'm in this VR experience to the advantage of something. And I want to know what that something is. It isn't me as I perceive me, but it's something. Right. So what's your central question? The answer is I don't know. But... There's no specific thing that you're chasing. Well, what I'm chasing is the idea that we're chasing, that the consciousness itself is only about exploring new possibilities of experience. Okay.
Intrinsic motivation (02:06:27)
So I'm going to push on that. Let's go into the way that AI researchers think and work. And I know that was your degree. So this ought to be... I'm taking it right home. You have to imbue the robot with directives, desires. Right? So to put it in human terms, it's like there are certain things that humans want to do. We're an active species, so we tend to go and explore. We try to take control of our environment. We certainly eat, procreate, like all those. We have the drive to quench thirst, hunger, sex, so on and so forth. So like those things are pushing us to go do things. Even if we don't want to, we find ourselves compelled to seek pleasure to move away from pain. All right. By default, AI wouldn't have those. So now you've got to give those those things. And I love that concept of minus a desire, any entity just sits or is blown around by physics, right? So obviously we're in the headset now, but like you've got wind and so okay, something lighter than the wind is going to move. But otherwise, everything just sits. So what is it? Like what, how has this conscious entity in that question that you just posed been given some sort of impetus to explore the infinite candies in the infinite candy shop? Well, by the way, I'm on board with what you're saying. I think that that's really a good way of thinking about this and that you could think about our, your life and my life right now is we're in a simulator, a space time simulator, and we've been given like an AI system. We've been given certain intrinsic desires that we then find. And so, so my wife is an artist. That's how she's exploring. I am still stuck at third grade stick figures. So that's not how I'm exploring. I'm exploring in a different way. So there's billions of humans and there are billions of different ways that we explore in music, in art, in literature, in science, various kinds of science, meditation. So we're, it sports. There are all sorts of ways that consciousness is exploring through us. And there is not like one is the best or the chair makes consciousness want to go to all the aspect to create this VR experience to run. Each of us is sort of an individual experience in consciousness. The idea would be that that is what consciousness is about is the exploration of all of its possibilities. So is that just the miracle? Like I've now hit the part where you're like, I don't fucking know. This is the miracle. Well, well, yeah. And when we say that, that's something that we have to say is true of any explanation, right? And so, the explanation at some point, we say, if you grab me these assumptions, then with those assumptions, I can explain everything else. Well, so, and I totally buy into that here, here is the basis assumption I've always made about the miracle that the whole point is to say, Hey, everybody, I've got this theory. Here's my miracle. Check it out. Theory works, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Wow. This is better than everything. Okay. The only reason I've told you about this thing is so you can tell me how to move the miracle back even farther. Or are you just like, cool, I'm good with that miracle. And now I just want to explore within that where that miracle is or? Well, so I want to do both. So, so this, this miracle is so new that I, you know, I need to just explore a little bit, right? So I want to push on this one, but the miracles I'm proposing are consciousness is fundamental. So experiences themselves don't come from physics. They are fundamental. So that's a miracle. Second, this other miracle that that Girdle proved where he proved it, but it's still a miracle, right? The incompleteness of mathematics that you can, that there's endless exploration. That's just a fact, which is a remarkable fact. We proved it, but it's nevertheless this, why should the universe be that way? Why should logic demand that that's so that's, but it's a satisfying kind of endpoint where we say that's the way the world is. Here's the theorem that says that's the way the universe is. And that, that one theorem tells us why if you're up to exploration, then have fun because you will always, there's no getting there. That's the key.
Godel's Incompleteness Theorem (02:10:57)
There's no arriving. Can I say Girdle's, Girdle's incompleteness theorem in a real world example, because this one, anybody that watches the first episode, I must ask you 75 questions about this theorem. I just could not get my head around it. And now the punchline is, as far as I can tell, it's turtles all the way down. So Girdle's incompleteness theorem, as I understand it says, no matter how much you use math to try to find base reality, you will never find it. There is no end. There will always be another layer to discover on and on and on and on and on, literally for infinity. Right. So I can say a little bit more about what, what Girdle was up to you on that and how it relates. Girdle was, the question they were asking, it was a mathematical question. That is, if you write down a bunch of axioms, right? Some, like, these things are true. These things are, give me two points, define a line, two lines intersect, give me a few things like that. And then you ask, what are all the theorems that you could prove from those assumptions? And so, you know, we did all this in high school algebra and so forth, we would prove different things. And Girdle, the big question that mathematicians had, David Hilbert really put this out there was, can we, with just grinding through these theorems and proofs, get all mathematical truth? Is that, if there's some finite number, there's maybe a 6.7 million, but we can do it. Even if it's infinite, in principle, if we could just grind forever, would we get all the truths? And that was, so, Hilbert asked that question and Girdle showed that the answer is no, that no matter how big your axiom system is, how many axioms you've got, he found a way to show here's something that's true, but you can't prove it within your axioms. So now, so you can take that new truth, stick it as one of your axioms, and then he showed, well, there'll be another truth that now pops up. And so this never ends. And so, no matter how, so you can't just mechanically grind through and get all the truths. And the key thing about this, which is really interesting for consciousness now, is Girdle used self-reference. It's when you get a mathematical system to talk about itself, that the problems start to arise. That's really interesting because what I'm suggesting here is that consciousness is trying to understand itself and all of its possibilities. And because of that self-reference, it's a never ending enterprise. And you seem to sort of quietly draw a parallel between math and consciousness.
Simulations, Theories Of Everything And The Universe
Does conscious experience have a relationship with mathematics? (02:13:52)
Are they separable or inseparable entities? That's a really deep and important question. I don't know. Here's just my thoughts. I study psychophysics, which is a branch of science which we experimentally and mathematically study conscious experiences, your perceptions of shape and color and so forth. We write down math models and we test people in the lab. Every conscious experience has structure. And we can write down mathematical structure. I've never seen a conscious experience that doesn't have mathematical structure. And the structure is derived from what neurons are firing and things like that? Well, it sometimes has nothing to do with neurons at all. For example, in color space, you can talk about it seems like red and orange are closer to each other than red and green. That's a structural notion. And we can write down what we call color spaces. And they turn out to be these non-Euclidean color spaces, tarot window and others who did the mathematics on this, come up with these really interesting, complicated mathematical spaces which model all the relationships of colors to each other. So we have color experience and their structure. When you see a shape like a ball, we can write down equations that model of a 3D shape that you're experiencing. So there's an intimate connection that's been studied scientifically between conscious experience and mathematics. The way I think of it is that consciousness is to mathematics like the living organism is to its bones. For if you're a vertebrate, you need the bones, but you're more than the bones. And so that's the way I think about consciousness can't be reduced to mathematics, I don't think. There are others like Tegmark who would say that everything can be reduced to mathematics. He may be right, but that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that mathematics is the structural aspect of conscious experience, but there's more to the conscious experience than just the structure. In part because so far as we know, different kinds of conscious experiences can be structurally identical. So if that's the case, something with the same structure could have different qualia, it feels basically right. So is that context dependent? How? See, well, that's now where I'm getting to the edge of my understanding here. I did actually prove a theorem that's called the Scrambling theorem. I published it in 2006 where I proved that your colors could be scrambled with respect to mine, but we would be functionally identical in every single experiment we could do. So there was no structural thing that I could do to show that your color experiences were different from my color experiences. So your experiences aren't devoid of mathematical structure, but the mathematical structure isn't the whole story about your conscious experiences. That's the best I can say right now. I agree with you, if that feels like we need to press further on that, I couldn't agree more. We do need to press further on that. And I look forward to, because I think there some profound insights are yet to be revealed. So where this all to me, I'm so curious, like I'm always trying to find how is something usable, right? How does this come back? So if it reveals something about myself and how I can move through the world in a way that's more interesting, more fulfilling, more whatever, if it actually the big thing between last one and this one was the idea that space time is as malleable as video game code and that we really could, even though it would only be an experience in the headset, that suddenly things within the headset like faster than light travel suddenly become very real. So figure out what the real substance of the headset code is so that we can get in there and begin to make changes.
Is our brain just a way to experience the game of life? (02:18:00)
But that to me forces the question of the me that I perceive as me is inherently an object of the headset. So there is no me outside of the headset, but there is something outside of the headset. And I don't know if our minds maybe just work so fundamentally differently, but as we talk about this is what I start imagining. Oh, okay. Hey, Tom, this is a collection of different conscious beings and consciousness is the, you know, the driving force and it's running through all these experimentations and so I'm like, okay, cool. There's this thing underneath the 3D and it's, you know, essentially popping up all these different. Well, let me see what the color blue would be like for a kid that grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and went to Harvard Elementary, you know what I mean? And I, oh, that's interesting. And then, but like needed my entire sort of life and universe to go for it to truly be an infinite exploration of what these different things. So there's a me that they spun up just to know the color blue at the age of 44, you know what I mean? Have with this exact history. And then there's, oh, over here, I'm going to do that same test, but I want to know what salmon tastes like when you had the early bad experience with salmon as a kid, but later you fall in love with this girl who's really into salmon. What does salmon taste like then? And so that's like where my mind goes, right? And so now I'm imagining like this consciousness of some kind, maybe it too is the Borg and, you know, maybe the Borg is what's feeding its drivers and all of that. But I'm still trying to imagine like my brain immediately goes to there's a thing. And that thing in my mind is basically the most classic looking alien ever, but they have like these long fingers that like each finger is an entity that becomes this conscious entity living in the headset just to go, oh, cool. That's what that experience is like. Do you have any sort of analogy metaphor that you think about this stuff in or is this just because I have a limited brain? I'm not sure. No, I love your metaphor and I don't have a better one. And I, you know, there's a couple of things to say about that metaphor though, which is one, in some sense, you know, a lot of spiritual teachers tell us to relax and enjoy the ride. Right? Don't get all anxious. Don't get all bent out of shape and so forth. Richard Paul, whatever you might be, enjoy the ride. And in some sense, when you do that, it feels right. I mean, it feels like, I mean, of course I'm exploring. I'm not being lazy. But there's something about, hey, smell the roses. Enjoy this thing. You don't want to come to the end of your life and not have really enjoyed the ride. And so the idea that it's about not arriving anywhere but the joy of exploring for its own sake, that's one thing that's on the table here. Is that what it's about? Now, there's another thing I've put on the table though, which is, of course, we should be very modest about all of our claims here. I'm probably wrong about all of this, right? And, but as a scientist, what I want to do then is to say, well, how can we go about trying to figure out where we're wrong as fast as possible? And for me, what I'm doing, I mean, while I'm exploring these ideas that we're talking about, I'm also trying to say, how would the consciousness precisely, this, this vast social network, project mathematically into space time? Clearly, there's a projection. I'm interacting with Tom's consciousness. I'm not seeing that consciousness. I'm seeing skin, hair and eyes. I'm seeing a space time projection. I'm not actually seeing your emotions. I'm not seeing your mood. But I am genuinely interacting with your experiences. It's a genuine interaction. And so there is a projection from this conscious realm into space time. I want to get a mathematically precise model of that projection. The thing about gluons and this large head-run collider predicting that is just, not because I'm so interested in gluons, is just to make sure that I'm not BSing myself. Did I get the mapping right? If I can't predict gluon interactions, then I still have my homework to do.
Real-Time Simulation Theory Real Testable Data is Coming from the Headset (02:22:38)
But now, once I get that, here's the kicker. We can take what we understand in the headset and pull it backwards. If we can project from consciousness to the headset, then we can try at least to go from the headset and pull backwards. It's a fallible enterprise. But it may help us to open our minds to the possibilities for deeper theories of what's going on outside the headset. The reason I'm doing this is because I can't even imagine a specific color that I've never seen before. I can't imagine in four dimensions. In other words, I take it as a given that I'm deeply, deeply limited in my imagination. And I need all the tools I can get to help me step outside of my headset and try to guess the unfathomable outside of there. So that's why we want to get this mathematically precise mapping into space time and then pull it back to give us a guide that can help us to not just be wildly speculating about what's going on in the realm of consciousness, but to have more tailored ideas that we can test in a loop. I get ideas in my headset. I pull them back to what they might mean outside the headset. Take those ideas, play with them, project them back into the headset to get new predictions. So in other words, if we don't want to be us ourselves, we have to figure out a way to make this an experimental scientific enterprise. And that's the loop. But this is a bigger scientific loop. It goes outside the space time headset to a theory of what's going on in consciousness, projecting back into space time, which is the only place where we know how to do experiments and going through that loop. So science is up to the task.
The Loophole to a TOE (Theory of Everything) & Gdel's Incompleteness Theorem (02:24:25)
But here's the kicker for me as a scientist. This approach says there will be no theory of everything. Why not? Because Gurgle's theorem says, there's too much you can't bring it all together. Any theorists can have a finite set of assumptions. And the implications of that will be finite. That will be a deep theory of so many things that there's always a new theorem to discover. But does that in any way shape or form break? Because here's my understanding of why people are searching for a theory of everything. You've got Einstein, Newton dealing with the macro world, and then you've got the quantum dealing with the microscopic world. And for whatever reason, all of your predictive models when things are big, they work just fine. All of your modeling when it's small works just fine. But when you try to make either one of them work together, then it falls apart. But we are, I could see sort of closing the loop on that. That becomes and everything, right? Even though it's actually just a very small subset. It's the headset, and so it's not the true theory of everything. But if it allows you to unify sort of the known universe, that seems like it would be incredibly useful. And I'm assuming there is something for us to understand like that loop you were talking about that goes and takes in consciousness, comes back into the headset that we could create a loop. So I'll make this more concrete again, thinking maybe more as a writer than as a physicist for sure.
Do Universe(s) Exist in a Sea of Universes (a Foam of Realities)? (02:26:05)
But so when I was thinking about, okay, the big bang and things expand, what are they expanding into? And the idea that a universe could sort of pop in and out of exists like how is all this possible? And one idea that's put forth is that basically the everything, so I'll hesitate to call it the universe, but the everything, whatever that is, is like a foam. And every bubble is a universe. And the bubbles sort of come and go and you're in the bubble, all you see is the bubble, the bubble to you seems like everything. But if you were to actually puncture through that bubble out, now I'm in the bigger matrix of stuff. And so you begin to understand how you get a temporary limitation, but actually then once you see what's beyond you like, oh, I get it. And then Girdle's incompleteness theorem answers the question of, okay, but what's that goop sitting in? It goes on and on forever. But you would, like at some point, being able to predict seven bubbles on, it's like, do I really need to go to the infinite? There's just as long as if you poke through one bubble and all of a sudden all physics are backwards and it doesn't make sense. Okay, that would be problematic. But assuming you're just puncturing through to the next thing, that's exactly like where you currently are seems like you could come up with something unifying-ish. Right. So instead of turtles all the way down, it's Girdle's all the way down, right? It's just endless exploration. And Girdle's theorem could be like the deep meta theory. It's not the theory of everything. It's sort of a meta theory that tells us why we will constantly be exploring for new theory. If you were looking for the deepest theory, from this point of view, maybe, I think about it, but maybe Girdle's theorem would be this meta theory that explains why all the concrete theories will never be the final theory of everything. And so in that sense, maybe with Girdle we have a candidate for this meta theory of everything, which explains why the joy of exploration will never cease, which is an interesting thing. But I agree, this is a really interesting thing to try to understand as scientists.
Does OpenAI Know Before Its Exploratory AIs? (02:28:38)
And we can use some of the tools that we've been learning from deep learning, so deep neural networks and so forth, where we get the agent-based models of interaction for exploration and learning. So those tools that like DeepMind at Google has some papers recently where they've come to the same conclusion that my team has come from evolution, they found that instead of giving deep neural networks a strict model of the world that they want them to make reasons in or to make guesses in or to live in, they just give them, as you were saying, some payoffs, some positive and negative rewards for their behaviors, and they don't tell them about the world. But the Deep Neural Network explore and they build their own worlds, and it turns out they don't build worlds which mimic the truth. They build virtual realities which are a dumb down user interface that let them get the most rewards and they don't see the truth. So there's some papers I can give you a link to, some papers from DeepMind in the last couple years where they've stumbled onto the same thing that evolution has stumbled onto that the exploration never leads to the truth, that leads to the easy interface which sort of doesn't maximize but which satisfies it, it gives you what you need in terms of the rewards. I would like to say one thing that an objection that people will have at this point. Some people will go, "This is crazy." Of course we see the truth. I know enough truth not to get hit by that car, and we know enough truth to build computers and to send rockets to the moon. So this is completely nuts to say that we don't know the truth. From what we've said now, people might be able to understand what I'm about to say or guess what I'm about to say. It's sort of like if you're in one of the really neat little programs right now where you can build stuff, so they're building games like Roblox or Trove or Fortnite or Minecraft. And you can become a master in one of those worlds. So you might say, "You can imagine a person saying, "Well, what do you mean I'm not in reality? I can build these wonderful worlds, I can build all these tools, I can do all this great stuff in Minecraft or in these various worlds." Yeah, within that quote unquote reality of Minecraft, yes, you're seeing that reality and you're building things and that reality and it requires intelligence and so forth. But you're not seeing, again, the circuits and the software and the voltages that the real reality outside your Minecraft world. And so that's the answer to someone who says, "Well, I know enough about reality not to get hit by a car and to build a computer and to send rockets to the moon." Yes, well, you're in your Minecraft world and we've become very, very good at that Minecraft world.
Evolution, Game Theory And Mathematics
Waking Up to a New Understanding of Reality, The Red Pill (02:31:46)
I'm obsessed with the movie The Matrix and in your dedication, I forget the names of the three people but you said I offer you the Red Pill, which I thought was pretty interesting. So what in your world what is the Red Pill? What is the Red Pill waking us up to? Right. Most of us believe that we see reality as it is. When we look up and see the moon, it's because there really is a moon and it would exist even if there were no observers to see the moon, it would still exist. And we don't believe that we see all of reality. No one thinks that we see everything that there is to see. But we do believe that we've been shaped by natural selection to see those aspects of the truth that we need to see to stay alive. And so that our perceptions of space and time are giving us a genuine insight into a real space and time that would be there even if there were no observers to perceive it. And also our perception of objects like tables and chairs, the moon, quarks and leptons and so forth, that these things would also exist and have roughly the properties that we see even if there were no creatures, no observers to see them at all. And the Red Pill that I'm offering is to say that if you believe evolution by natural selection, then the mathematics of natural selection makes it very, very clear that the probability is zero, that any of the language that we use in our perceptions, the language of space and time, the language of shapes and objects and position and momentum and colors and so forth, is the wrong language to describe objective reality, whatever that reality might be. It's not that we're getting the shape of this table a little bit wrong or the colors a little bit off, it's that no description in the language of space and time and objects and colors could ever be true. Reality whatever it is can't be described in that language if we buy evolution by natural selection. So we have a choice between taking one of our best confirmed scientific theories, seriously, namely evolution by natural selection, or taking our intuitions that space time is fundamental and objects are fundamental, taking that intuition seriously. But I decided to side with this science on this one.
Natural Selection: Mathematical model by John Smith (02:34:04)
All right, so a lot of this stuff is going to be really difficult to tease out, but I think we have to sort of break it into points. I don't want to spend our whole time describing the theory, we may get lost for a fair amount of time in that, but I what I hope we can do is sort of lay out the thinking and then get into some of the implications, why it matters and all that good stuff. So if I guess let's back up, so tell me how natural selection gives us the mathematical model that invalidates all that is probably the right place to start. Right, most of us think of natural selection and evolution as a biological theory that's sort of intuitive, right? If you are better adapted to the environment, you're more likely to pass on your genes and so forth. But it turns out that in the 1970s, a brilliant guy named John Maynard Smith was able to use the ideas of evolution of natural selection and the tools of mathematics in particular game theory to create a new field evolutionary game theory.
How game theory explains evolution (02:34:57)
Can you explain game theory? So when I was diving into your world when I was reading the book, when you talk about miracles and I don't want to do this out of order, but you talk about like every theory has sort of a base assumption. It's like we can't explain that one so just please accept that this is the miracle as you call it and then from here the rest of my argument is going to make sense because I don't understand the math well enough. Every time you mention this and nobody pushes you on it, I don't understand the math well enough. It feels like the miracle to me but it isn't to you. So what actually, what is the math, if we can sort of say it at a lay person's level, what is the math, how does it show that there's a zero probability that we're describing reality as it actually exists? Right. So the intuition behind using game theory for evolution is very much like if you play a video game, right? If you're playing a video game, you have to focus on getting points as fast as you can. If you get enough in a short enough time, you get to the next level. Otherwise you die. And an evolution is very much like that. There's points, they're called fitness payoffs and you have to gather them as quickly as you can and if you get enough roughly and it's short enough period of time, you don't go to the next level but your genes in your children go to the next level. And so that's roughly why we want to think about game theoretic kinds of things but of course it's more detailed than what it is. And game theory is literally that, what survives to the next round? Yeah, so game theory is literally a mathematical theory of strategies in games and how different strategies may be better or worse in certain circumstances. So for example, if one game that our species plays is a social cooperation game and we were hunter-gatherers, if we all went out and cooperated, I went out and hunted wildebeasts and you went out and hunted wildebeasts and others gathered berries and so forth, we all worked hard and came back at the end of the day. If I didn't get enough and you got more, then you might share with me and tomorrow I might share with you so that's cooperation. And so that works very, very well. And strategy that works very well. How would we define this game? So I was tempted to say okay, so it's about the people who have the strategy to win this game called life but I'm not sure that's actually how you define it. Would it be the game called procreation? Right. Okay. So an evolution, fitness is all about procreation. In fact, basically that's how it's defined. It almost sounds like it's a tautology that fitness being more fit means that you're having more offspring. Whatever you do that lets you have more offspring is by definition giving you greater fitness. And so in the case of cooperation, that's not the only strategy by which a species could be successful at having offspring in the next generation but for homo sapiens, that was a strategy that we did use and in many social species do that, ants and bees and so forth. But as soon as you have that strategy of cooperation, then it turns out there's another strategy that could be very fit and that's cheating.
Frequency dependent selection. (02:38:03)
So I could pretend I'm a loafer now. I don't want to go out there and put my life on the line in front of a wildebeest. And so I just go down to the river, I hide out and relax and take it easy and come back and go, oh, I worked really hard today. I couldn't find anything. I share some of yours. Well and so it turns out that that strategy is very, very fit in the sense that I didn't put my life on the line. If you're willing to share with me, I'm going to survive. So that strategy will actually proliferate. Y'all have kids. I'll have more loafers. And so, but it turns out if you have too many loafers, too many cheaters, then no one's bringing home the bacon and the whole thing collapses. And so you get the idea that the fitness of a strategy depends on the other strategies that are around. If everybody else is cooperating, then being a cheater is very, very effective. It's a fit strategy. If everybody's a cheater, then it's not fit to be a cheater because everybody's going to die. And so that's what we call frequency dependent selection. That the frequency of a different of a strategy will affect its fitness. And so that makes it more complicated. And that's why we have to do mathematics. You can actually with mathematical precision predict exactly what proportion of the population will be cheaters and what proportion will be cooperators once you know certain things about the strategies and their payoffs. And so that's why we use evolutionary game three.
Why use math over intuition? (02:39:27)
It allows us to go away from just intuitive notions of evolution and selection and so forth to precise definitions of strategies of their fitness, how they interact when three or four, five or end strategies interact, what happens like it's very, very complicated. Then our intuitions just give up, but the math can still carry on where our intuitions give up. Okay. So you partner with a mathematician and did you have a theory that you wanted to see if he could write the sort of algorithm for or how did that work? How did we end up focusing on math? So in about 2008, I decided I really wanted to go after this because I had a suspicion that evolution would not favor creatures that see reality as it is. I figured that it would be too complicated and take too much time. And it turns out that was correct, but it was more interesting. So I got a couple of my graduate students working on this. I worked with them. We learned evolutionary game theory and we started, they wrote simulations. And so we just simulated creatures with different strategies and we let them see all of the reality or none of the reality. We let them just see fitness payoffs. Give me some of the data points. So one of them is going to be fitness payoffs. Right.
Variables in the math you use (02:40:53)
When you're writing a math, like are you making this from a human perspective or you taking this from an answer perspective? I've got to imagine the math looks differently depending on the species strategy that's already evolved over evolutionary time. So God, I can only imagine how complicated this is. But give me a couple of the variables so that this stops being one of the miracles for me and I can really start to understand. Sure. So one kind of game that we had them play was a foraging game. So you could think of a big checkerboard or a big chessboard. When you had them play, what do you mean them? So my graduate students then had these simulated creatures and we just plopped them down at random in this big huge checkerboard. And we had also planted resources around on the checkerboard. And did you have to give them incentives? Well, in some cases we would either allow them to evolve incentives. So that was what we called a genetic algorithm. So we started off and they were all stupid. They all had random genes for how they moved and how they would try to feed and how they would perceive. There had to be some sense of score, right? So if we're using game theory, there has to be some sense of you have an objective. That objective is to gobble the resources or whatever. Yeah. So certain resources that were just randomly distributed on the checkerboard gave you high fitness payoffs. Some gave you a little fitness payoffs and so forth. We just played those. So it's just defined as fitness payoff without anything beyond that. Exactly. So they had a driver, if you will, to put it in human terms. They had a drive to acquire fitness payoffs. Right. So at least when we programmed them, now when we just had the genetic algorithm, there was no drive at all. They just- What would make them move? So they had to do something, but the genes were random. So they would do stupid stuff. Like they would stay in one spot and try to eat and they would get nothing and they'd just keep trying to eat there the whole time until that whole session. And they would just dial. So in the first generation, right, did they have the desire to eat and procreate? Were they looking to mate? Or how did you- Well, the only desire was we told them they had to do something every step of the game. That's all- And was there a list of items for them to choose from? Eat, move. Yeah. Yeah, that's right. Eat and move and that was pretty much it. And step. Eat and move. Right. And then you had something on the back end that said if they scored this many number of points, then they essentially procreate and they move on to the next generation if they don't, they're dead. That's exactly right. Okay. Got it? And then we told them just acted very stupidly. They didn't get any fitness points or very, very few. Some bumped against walls and just kept bumping into the walls. And so we would just breed the ones that were a little bit less stupid than the rest and then make a new generation of them. And we did that for four or 500 generations. And then by the time we'd done that 500 generations, we had creatures that looked very purposeful. They were foraging in an almost optimal pattern. They weren't wasting any time when they were getting high fitness payoffs. We could look at their perceptions and we found that they evolved perceptions that didn't show them the truth. It showed them only fitness payoffs, which was no surprise to me, but what was a surprise was the reason why. It wasn't just that it was too expensive to see the truth. It was that seeing the truth and seeing what you need to survive are very, very different things. And so I went to a mathematician's. Once I had the simulations and I realized that this looked like it was a real result. And I got some new ideas about what was really going on. So the simulations really taught me. It wasn't just that it was too time and resource expensive to see the truth. It was that in some sense, the truth is completely irrelevant. And also that the fitness payoffs themselves don't tell you anything about the truth. They're just independent. So I went and worked with a mathematician named Cheton Prakash.
Evolutionary Truths And Human Perception
Organisms optimized for reality (02:44:52)
And we've worked together. He's the mathematician. I'm not. And we have, and I've gotten some other collaborators as well, some very, very good collaborators. And we have a couple of papers that we've now written where with two different angles on the theorem. And the bottom line is this. It's straightforward to prove that, well, straightforward if you have a mathematician working with you. But to prove that an organism that sees reality as it is in whole or in part is never more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality, whose senses actually don't have the right language to see reality, and is just instead tuned to the fitness payoffs. OK. So this is sort of the first thing that I trip over.
Fitness payoffs and obscured reality (02:45:41)
So I get where I could see that it is more advantageous to be optimized for fitness payoffs than it is for reality. And this might be a good time to give people your sort of VR explanation so that we can bring this into something they can visualize. But first let me finish what I'm bumping on. So I get how, if you're optimized for fitness payoffs, that makes more sense. And being optimized for reality, reality could have too much just complexity. The processing power that it would take to understand is crazy, which is exactly why I think your desktop analogy is probably the better one to hit right now. But what I don't understand is why it is necessarily true that you need to hide reality. Like why that would be part of it. That seems sort of a bridge too far for my simplistic mind. So that is a bit technical, but the top level idea is that fitness payoffs depend on the state of the world, right? So to be concrete. And the organism. Right. They depend on the world and the organism and the state of the organism and the action. So I mean one example is if I have a T-bone stake. And the fitness payoff of that T-bone stake for a hungry lion is pretty high. But for the same lion that wants to mate, it's very very low. And for a cow in any state and for any action the T-bone stake offers no fitness payoffs. And another example is if I'm 5,000 meters underwater, that's pretty bad for me. For a bentic fish, that's perfect for a bentic fish, right? So evolution by natural selection has this idea that there is an objective reality and fitness payoffs do depend on that reality. But the payoff for the same state of reality could be very very different for a bentic fish than for me. For a bentic fish, 5,000 meters underwater is the same state of reality as it would be for me, but the payoff is very very different for the bentic fish. Okay. So it would kill me.
Evolution fixed us to not see the truth (02:47:35)
This may not be the thing to dive into, but I'm going to push on this a little bit and see if we get some roofful. What where I sort of come to in your theory is that they're lurking under this. It is a reality, right? The moon is there to describe something. It's my shorthand. It's not it is not a meaningless shorthand. It is a shorthand to help me get my fitness payoff fair, but it represents something. Right. So if that is true, understanding that I am 5,000 feet underwater still seems relevant, even though it's not it doesn't have a fitness payoff. So obscuring that or obfuscating that for me so that I can't understand that I'm 5,000 feet underwater is not helpful. Okay. I can tell that if we chase that we won't get where we want to go. But if you give us the desktop analogy, because this I think will give us the anchor that we need to keep exploring. Right. So if evolution didn't shape us to see the truth, what did it shape us to see? And the I think the good analogy is that it gave us like a desktop interface. So if you're writing an email and the icon for the email, you're writing is blue and rectangular in middle of your screen. Does that mean the email in your computer is blue, rectangular, middle of the screen? Now middle of the computer, of course not that. I mean anybody who thought that misunderstands the point of the interface is there not to show you the truth, which in this metaphor would be the circuits and software, the dials and resistors, magnetic fields. You don't want to deal with that. If you had to deal with magnetic fields to write an email, good luck. You would never know what would hear from you. And so that's what evolution did for us. It gave us a desktop interface that's there to hide the truth. The desktop interface on your computer is there explicitly to hide the circuits and software. You don't want to see that stuff. Seeing the truth would get in the way. But isn't evolution somewhat of a blind watchmaker? I'm going to just steal from my man, Mr. Dawkins. So if it is blind, it's not hiding anything. So it's just it's optimizing you for something. So that's where I get into the punchline of your theory, not to get too far ahead, but for people to understand why I'm stopping you. So the punchline of the theory is we are so far. So far off from what is real as to like not even be able to to conceive of what our world really is. And we will definitely get into space time is doomed. It's one of the most fascinating things to come out of your theory. But it's like, it doesn't feel like a blind watchmaker is going to hide something from me. It just it has no sense of it. It's just here is the shortest path across the checkerboard to get to this thing. It's not trying to trick me into thinking that there is no checkerboard. It's just like it take this path, go that way. It's the shortest path. I'm essentially lazy, right? If you think about caloric realities, right?
The physics of being human (02:50:34)
So the way that I look at a human, I want to write a book called the physics of being human. And to do that, I would really it's the like you write the book that you need. So to understand in myself why I am both driven and lazy is so fucking weird. So I both have these huge ambitions. I want to do this crazy shit, but I also want to sit on the couch and eat chips. So it's like and they're both real men. I am not like when people think that I'm being humbled or whatever. No, no, no, I really have like a hardcore drive to sit around and do nothing. But I have this like sort of weird balancing thing. So for me to understand it from a caloric utilization standpoint, as humans, we have these massive brains that are calorically just ravenous. And so for me not to have to forage all the time, I take a strategy where I'm conserving calories. Again, blind watchmaker, not not somebody going, Hey, you know, it'd be really smart. It just realized the ones that didn't conserve calories, fucking died. And, you know, they didn't survive a famine or whatever. And the ones that sort of balance this, like I'm going to go down and I'm going to face the will to beast and I'm not going to hide all the time. You know, I'm going to put myself at risk and all that stuff. The ones that found that balance, they were the ones that procreate and they pass on their genes. Okay. So part of the physics of being human is to both be adventurous and lazy at the same time where where I'm trying to like figure all this out then is, okay, I have this layer. I have my interface, but it doesn't feel like it's that like radically far from the truth. So I'll give you my example. So all right, it's mapping this room. You're going to tell me, fuck, dude, you don't even understand. Like space time isn't real. None of this shit is real. I look away. The moon doesn't even exist. That seems like it would be more problematic for me to navigate the world if all of that were true. So what I want to understand is how much of what you say about the computer interface is really that divorced from reality. Oh man, stick with me.
Evolution doesn't prove anything. (02:52:33)
I'm going to see if I can actually articulate this. So the computer analogy is super profound. It's easy for me to understand. I don't want to have to deal with electrical fields and all the other things. The diodes or whatever, all that stuff. But when I think about whacking into a rock, that seems like a way closer thing to my reality. I've mapped something over that. Same with the moon. I've mapped something over it. It isn't actually that thing, but it feels like it would be mapping over some gravitational object that rotates around the earth. But I think you're going to say that's not true. Right. So what analogy? Our intuitions rebel at the idea that we're not seeing the truth because what we're doing here works so well. And I'm open to that. We're not seeing the truth where I get lost is how fucking divorced can it really be and still be useful. Right. Well, so there's two aspects to that. One is just that the mathematics of evolution is quite clear. Meaning the probability that you see the truth is zero. That's right. And that we have a paper that we just submitted on Monday where we show that the fitness payoffs erase all evidence of world structure almost surely with what the fuck does that mean? That means a world structure. What do you mean? So the world presumably there is some world, some reality. Yes. Like atoms? Well, you don't need to postulate exactly what that world is. I need to know what you mean by the word structure. So it could be and what we show is it doesn't matter what the structure is pretty much the result holds. So it could be, for example, a structure like a distance relationship, a metric we'll be calling metric or a topology or a measurable structure or a total order. Like one is smaller than two is smaller than three. That's a total order. So whatever the so what you can show is that no matter what structure you might think the world has, you can prove that the fitness payoff functions that govern our evolution. So you're right, there's no, of course, goal. It's not a goal directed kind of thing. The evolution is not trying to do anything. But the point is that the fitness payoffs which govern evolution, the probability that they will actually preserve the structure in the world so that by being tuned to the fitness, you're tuned to the structure in the world. That probability is precisely zero. That's what we prove. So the only thing that we know is what you think is real is the only thing we know is not real. Is that accurate? Well, I would say according to theory of evolution, now we can step back and ask ourselves what the theory of what we think about the three of our evolution, right? Before we get to that because you do you have a pretty death challenge to how because my first literally the first note I took about you was my whole problem is you're laying out, hey, evolution mathematically proves that essentially evolution isn't true. So I was like, if everything I think evolution is true, how can it also be true that everything I know and think is false, right? Which is essentially what I just heard you say. So mathematically, I can prove this, the quote unquote structure of everything I think is absolutely not true. And yet I'm using evolution to base that math on, walk people through how that is in a contradiction. Right, so it's what we show is that the fitness payoff functions erase any information about the structure of the world so that the structure of our perceptions is just unrelated to the structure in the objective world. But the argument that I just gave does not apply to our math and logic. So just perception. Just perceptions. So yet we very, very, we have to look at all of our cognitive capacities. Is this whole thing an oomvel problem? Well, what it's saying is that your oomvel is like your user interface. That every creature, you know, Homo sapiens has one oomvel, one user interface, we have the apple interface and someone else, you know, some other creatures have the Mac or the PC interface or whatever. Yeah. And there's going to be a wide variety of interfaces that evolution evolves. Every species has its own class of interfaces. And in each case, the interface never shows any species the truth at all, according to evolution. But there are selection, the selection pressures that erase information about the structure of the world in perception do not also apply to math and logic. The reason is that we do have to have some elementary ability to reason about fitness payoffs. Two bites of an apple give me roughly twice the fitness payoff. So one. Not reasoning about objective reality, just reasoning about fitness payoffs and the logic of fitness payoffs, right? So that's why there's no selection pressures necessarily to be genius is a math and logic. But at least the selection pressures are not uniformly against any capacity in math and logic. Whereas in the case of perception, it's one can show the unit, the pressures are uniformly against any access to the structure of the world. In terms of the structure of what we perceive in our senses. So that's why we have to be very, very careful. Certain, for example, Christian philosophers, Alvin Plantinga, for example, has argued from not mathematically, but informally from evolution, saying that it would make all of our cognitive capacities unreliable and therefore evolution by itself was unreliable theory and therefore we should not believe it. And I'm not saying anything like that at all. I'm saying that the theory of evolution has a core that John Maynard Smith found evolutionary game theory. When we look at that core, we find that there are certain peripheral assumptions like DNA exists whether or not it's perceived. Space and time exist. Those peripheral assumptions turn out to contradict the mathematical core of the theory. And one can prove that. But math and logic, our ability with math and logic does not contradict the evolutionary, the core of evolutionary theory. So we have to be very, very careful. That's why when you do this, it's not just hand-weave anymore. You really have to look at the replicator equation. You really have to look at the fitness payoff functions and do combinatorial analyses and so forth. This is very, very careful work. But that's what we do with our best scientific theories. We take them very, very seriously. We look at their equations and say, okay, the equation entails the probability zero that we see reality as it is, then we've got a choice. We can agree that we don't see reality as it is, or we can say we need to revise the theory. Now, we don't have an alternative to evolution one after selection. So if someone wants to propose one, they've got a lot of work to do because evolution one after selection is an incredibly successful theory. So it's a space time though, and you're ready to ditch that one. Sure. Okay, so I'm getting, I think, what you're saying about our oombele, because we haven't defined that, I'll define that. So oombele is your senses taking the world in a certain way, and we have different senses in a bat. So a bat can do echolocation. We cannot, and therefore the way that a bat interprets the world is very different than the way that we interpret the world. And every sort of species has a different oombele. You can even have humans that have a slightly different oombele, one that's colorblind. There's a million other examples, but you get these variations that are massive between species. You get like a dog, the amount that they can smell is crazy. They can smell a seizure coming, which is absolutely bananas, where, of course, you're not going to get a human that does that because of the number of scent receptors in the nasal canal. And so cool. All right, that's an oombele. So I get perception. I get that this is a problem of perception.
What is logic? (03:00:30)
I think I understand the math part, because I'm going to, I am making a layman's assumption that math is a universal language. I've heard that repeated a million times. I am so bad at math. I don't even understand that, but I accept it out of ignorance. The logic part, let me define logic based on what I think you're saying. And you tell me if I'm getting it correct. So logic, the way that I understand it from the way that you just use it, because I would have said it's human reasoning. So I would have gotten tripped up on like natural selection or, oh God, the one you just use it as an example. And you said that that we think space time, a great example, right? We have in my layman's view, we have logic our way to space time, but that's failed me. So tying it back to fitness payoffs, I think is your definition of logic that we have to be able to reason that one bite of an apple is not as good as two bites of an apple. Is it really that basic? That's it is entirely tied to fitness payoffs. That's well from an up from the evolutionary arguments that I'm giving, right? So the arguments that but do you think that logic reaches deeper than that when you say that it's untouched by this false interpretation? Oh God, right. Well, right. So, so that gets to the bigger picture of what I'm up to here, right? So, and this is how science progresses. What we do is we take our current best theories and we try to push them to their limits and find out where they break, where they fall apart. And when we do that, that's when we break out the champagne because the whole point in science is to push our best theories to the limit to find out where they break down and then get some clue about a deeper theoretical framework. And the constraint on that deeper theoretical framework is it better agree with our current theory where our current theory is right. But only if you're saying that that theory is logic. This is another one of those times where I bumped against what you're saying. So, and this may be that simple. Is that what you mean that like where we are using true logic as you define it, tied to fitness payoffs, I think, then it must agree. Because you've said if you work backwards, I'm not trying to get rid of evolution. I'm not trying to get rid of the things that we know. Like we can launch a satellite into space and geo target you, but that requires relativity. So, whatever we get to, whatever answer we come to, better be backwards compatible with the ideas that essentially work. Can you give me a definition of work and is it tied to logic as you define it and thus leave fitness payoffs?
Reality, Consciousness And The Role Of Mathematics
Importance of Logics, Reason & Mathematics (03:03:03)
Right. So, so the idea would be that scientists are doing reasoning, right? Science is about reasoning. Is reasoning a synonym for logic to you? Pretty much. That's right. If we can't, logic is in some sense non-negotiable in the sense that if I let go of reason and logic, then there's nothing left, right? Is that true? Because all we can do is if we're having a conversation, we can talk informally, but we can't make very good progress unless we are absolutely precise in what we say. I'm not even glad. But let me tell you how that struck me. So, does somebody who skits a phrenic, do they have reason and logic? Well, in the sense that if we're trying to understand our situation in the universe, humans will make stories. Yes. If the stories are internally self-contradicting, you can be pretty sure you're going to be in trouble, right? So any internal contradictions are going to destroy your theory. So the first thing you have to do is make sure that what you're saying doesn't contradict what you're saying. If you, because that just means you're saying nonsense. So one, one reason we use math and logic is to make sure that what we're saying isn't just flat out nonsense. But once we're past that criterion, and much of what we've said is nonsense, but once we get past that criterion, then it turns out we may have been using our terms very imprecisely. We might use the word space, we might use the word time, and we think we know what we're talking about, but when you actually push, you find out, oh no, I would say this in this situation, that and that situation, oh, and they contradict. I've contradicted myself again. So once again, we find that if we're, we just use intuitive concepts, we get trapped in self contradiction, namely nonsense. So the whole point of being mathematically precise, one point is to make sure that we're not doing nonsense. The second is to take our ideas and force us to put our ideas very, very precisely so we know exactly what we're saying. I get the math part though, the part that I'm really trying to wrap my head around and maybe we should just move the fuck off this, but I'll take one more swing at it. Math I get, if math truly is a universal language that just sort of gets at the substrate of what this, whatever this is, it actually gets to that, cool. I can see how the fact that we, that chasing fitness payoffs manipulates our oomveld, I get that it doesn't touch math, cool. Now what I'm trying to understand is you said specifically math and logic. Now if you just said math, we'd be done and we'd move on. But you say math and logic. So then I immediately go to schizophrenics, think they're being logical. What on earth makes us think that we are not just the way that our reality is essentially this total abstraction, right, in your own theory. And I would agree, man, I routinely think in myself and express other people, your brain is creating a virtual reality. Now I never, ever, ever conceived of it as sort of radically different as you, but I get that we're in sort of this huge abstraction. But what makes us think that are the way that we reason, the way that we logic, outside of math, the way that we reason and logic outside of math isn't the same as a schizophrenic where it is so delusional. Is it just the internal consistency or, and couldn't that itself be a delusion that our fear of internal contradiction is problematic, is actually a delusion in and of itself? Oh, very, very good. So I see your question now. Yes, there are deep issues here in terms of logic. And there is something called Girdle's incompleteness theorem that basically- You've been to me. You've never that? No, not at all. So, so Girdle is probably arguably one of the most profound results ever in human thought. Girdle proved, it's called Girdle's incompleteness theorem, and he proved that any axiomatic, logical or mathematical system that's rich enough to do arithmetic, there will be statements that are true, but can't be proven within that system. Unprovable truths. The notion of truth goes deeper than the notion of proof in that system. You must say, "Well, I'll take that truth and put it into my axioms." Then he said, "Well, but then there'll be new truths that you can't prove." And this goes on forever. What he showed was that the exploration of mathematical structure is in principle endless. It's unbounded. And in fact, if we get to it later on, my theory of consciousness, I'll argue that that's what consciousness is up to, this unbounded exploration of all the possibilities of consciousness that comes from Girdle's theorem. But you're absolutely right. We can choose to do Girdle's theorem one more time. Right. Right. As simply as you can. The simple bottom line is there is no end to the exploration of mathematical structure.
Brain Is Creating a Virtual Reality (03:08:24)
For us to be able to dive into that though, give people the like three minute primer on why your take is so different than everybody else who takes a really sort of physicality-based approach to consciousness. Right. So, most people who are looking at how consciousness is related to the physical world like our brain are assuming that somehow the physical world is primary is the source of all cause and effect in reality. And therefore, consciousness is an effect of physical causes. Presumably, neural activity in the brain, for example. But maybe also computer activity in a artificial intelligence that's sufficiently complicated. And my take is that our best science today, quantum field theory, Einstein's theory of gravity, and evolution by natural selection, all three of our best scientific theories today are telling us that space time is not fundamental and that physical objects in space time are not fundamental reality. And science is good enough, our best scientific theories are good enough to tell us where they stop. But they're not good enough, of course, to tell us what's beyond. That's up to us as creative scientists to try to guess what is a deeper theory of reality that goes beyond space and time. But when we projected back into space and time, that deeper reality needs to look like gravity and quantum field theory and evolution by natural selection. And so basically what I'm saying is that my brilliant colleagues, and these are my friends, they're brilliant, I'm not putting them down anyway, but when they assume that physical objects like neurons or computing systems cause consciousness, I think that they're running against what our best scientific theories are telling us. They're telling us space time is doomed, we need a deeper notion of reality. And for most sciences, no problem to work in space time, but when we're dealing with consciousness, the fiction that physical objects have genuine causal powers, which is a useful fiction most of the time. For everyday neuroscience, it's a very useful fiction. I use it myself. For consciousness, that's when the fiction comes back to bite you. And just a quick idea. If you're playing a virtual reality game like Grand Theft Auto, but in a VR souped up multiplayer version, it's a perfectly useful fiction to think that the steering wheel causes the car to move around to the left or to the right and so forth. Perfectly harmless fiction. But if you're a software engineer looking to upgrade the actual software that runs the program, that fiction, if you were stuck in that fiction, you would not be equipped to do the upgrade that you needed. In other words, if you're trying to look at the reality outside the headset, you can't just live with the notion of cause and effect inside the headset. You actually have to expand your horizons to understand a deeper notion of cause and effect. And that's what I claim we have to do with consciousness. It's useful most of the time to talk about physical objects as though they have causal powers, perfectly harmless. But when it comes to consciousness, it's the single big obstacle that's stopping progress in its tracks. Okay. Who you did it perfectly. Now I want to really drill into that quickly so that people understand where we're going to be going from here. So we spent almost two and a half hours together last time with me doing with my P brain doing my best to grapple with these topics. And finally, I was able to understand a couple of things that I'm going to lay out now that open up what this interview is going to be about and it's going to be very interesting. We're going to cover things like an AI and whether that becomes conscious, faster than light travel, which I think your theory predicts, all kinds of very interesting things. So to say that analogy in my own words, maybe from a lay perspective, so people get what you're saying about Grand Theft Auto because this is the key to understanding the consequences of your theory. So when you think about what's really going on as a computer programmer is trying to make this game called Grand Theft Auto, you're dealing with algorithms and mathematics and moving electrical currents around a Xbox or whatever. And so ultimately your goal is to move electrons and things like that around this machine that then creates this supposed experience on a TV that I can interact with. Okay, when you understand that the difference between the reality that that programmer has to deal with, which looks nothing like, it's literally numbers. It's all code, all math, math designed to move electrons around. Okay, that's not exactly right, but that's close enough. And that reality versus what you see, which is that, oh, look, I'm driving with the steering wheel. What you're saying is what you see when you walk around the room and interact with stuff and you think about space time and Einstein and relativity is as divorced from reality as the computer programmer is from the gamer who plays this game.
Space Time is a Shader (03:13:30)
Now it took me a very long time to understand that's what you're trying to get people to understand. And then it was one thing that was like a real key in the lock for me was somebody asked you a question. It was so great. And they said, Donald, this was wonderful. I love it. But now predict we have the same conversation in 10,000 years. What are we going to know then? And you said, oh, that space time isn't real. And so we can create space time ourselves because space time is space time is the grand theft auto game. It's not the code underneath. So once you understand Einstein just figured out a way to describe grand theft auto. He did not figure out a way to describe the actual underlying code. And so if the space time is just grand theft auto and we know we can manipulate grand theft auto, we can now manipulate space time. And you said, we'll have this conversation from Alpha Centauri. And I was like, oh my God, even if you just get excited about the chills, even if you just get excited about our ability to manipulate what's in the headset, right, manipulating space time, traveling faster than light, changing fundamental physics, things like that, then even that would be interesting. Let alone the other part that you're saying, which is, oh, you might actually be able to figure out what the underlying code is. That's exactly right. And so one way to think about it is science for all of its incredible breakthroughs and wonderful theories has only been studying our headset. Science has not yet been studying objective reality outside of our space time virtual reality that from an evolutionary point of view was just evolved as a way for us to play the game of life and stay alive long enough to reproduce, not to show us the truth. So we have really in the last four or five centuries really gotten to be wizards of our headset, wizards of the Grand Theft Auto game. But just because you're a wizard of Grand Theft Auto does not mean that you know anything about the circuits and software that are running the game. And for someone who thinks that they know everything when all they know is Grand Theft Auto means they're still stuck in the headset. Science I want to claim has the tools. We have learned the right tools as we've studied our headset.
Theory of Reality (03:16:11)
We are ready to use those same tools to venture outside the headset, outside of space and time. So science has the right tools. We just have to open up, you know, open our minds to the fact that we're just playing a game inside space time. It's just a virtual reality. There's an entire world out. Now the best physicists are already there like Nima Arkani-Hamed and many of his collaborators who are saying space time is doomed. We're looking for the reality that's beyond space time and which in fact the very language of quantum theory and relativity theory don't hold. There are no what they call Hilbert spaces. So there's no Hilbert space there in what they're finding. There's no quantum theory. Need Hilbert space. What is Hilbert space? I've never heard of that. It's a mathematical structure that is used to describe quantum states and their evolution that's called Hilbert space. And so what they're looking for- What do you say they don't exist? That's right. So these physicists are saying, look, we're finding structures beyond space time and these structures don't care about Hilbert space and they don't care about locality and space and time. They don't care about so-called unitarity, which is important for quantum theory. These are deeper structures. They project into space time and give us unitarity and locality in space time. In other words, they project to the right things in our headset but they're deeper and they have symmetries that you cannot see in space time. And when physicists find symmetries that are in the data but can't be captured in space time, they're very, very interested. So the best and brightest physicists are boldly stepping outside of the headset but the question is, where do you look? What kinds of ideas? I mean, if it's not space and time, how do you come up with an idea about what reality is? So we just have to try ideas, make them rigorous, make them precise, and then project them back into our headset. That's the key. We know how to test things within the headset. So we're going to make theories of reality outside of space and time with mathematically precise models of how they map into space and time and then we can test. So this is not just waving your hands and blowing steam. This is not that. This is, we want rigorous theories outside of space time that have mathematical projections in the space time that lead to testable predictions. I right now am studying the physics of scattering amplitudes for the like colliders. They smash protons together and they have gluons smashing to each other and gluons go flying out and you can predict the probability of these particle events. So my goal is to start with a theory of consciousness outside of space time, mathematically precise, show exactly how it maps into space time and then hopefully predict those scattering amplitudes to ten decimal predictions, to ten decimal places of accuracy. Then it doesn't mean I'm right, but at least now I'm doing the right thing to be testable.
Why Care (03:19:19)
Okay. I want to ground everybody in why I've gotten so hyped on this. So do you read science fiction much? A little bit. I'm mostly just very sad about that. I'm very sad to hear that. So one of the things that I find so enjoyable about science fiction is they really play with big ideas. I'm reading a book, it's a second book in the Three Body Problem Series and in that they're basically alien invasion is happening and they're trying to figure out what they do. And the way that the aliens stop them from making progress, spoiler alert for anybody who plans to read the series, is that they send these photons that can basically interrupt the large colliders to give them impossible to interpret data. And so they shoot these things to the colliders and they just give them completely nonsensical data. And the reason they said that is they're like, if you can't make the breakthroughs at the fundamental layers of science, you can't progress. So for anybody who is feeling like, okay, these guys are drifting off into the ether, why is this interesting? How does it relate to my life? This is why I'll say that you're a cognitive scientist, that is your background. So this starts with, hey, I'm trying to understand consciousness and the hard problem with consciousness and it's leading me to this place, the challenge is the very substance of reality. And that matters because by the way, we might be able to manipulate more of this stuff than we think, but we're still in this presentation layer, the headset. So now, as I begin to unwind some of this stuff, it's when we think about the fact that, okay, I'm guessing the scientists, the quantum scientists, the reason that they're now looking elsewhere is they cannot make what they see mathematically make sense with the models that they have of space time. And for them to make that leap outside is going to be brutally difficult in terms of science doesn't progress as the truth is revealed, science progress. I think it was Neil's board. We talked about this last summer plank that said, basically the old people have to die because they just, they can't update their model of the world. And then the next generation grows up just believing it to be true. So how are we holding out hope for people to step outside of that and what methods are they using to discover this stuff? Is it going to be in the collider? Because that's all headset. Right. So I can tell you what the physicists are up to a little bit on this and why I'm interested. As you said, I'm not interested in particle physics for its own sake. I'm a cognitive scientist. I'm looking for the simplest thing that I could possibly do to test a theory of consciousness in which consciousness is fundamental and space time is just a headset. And I think you have to explain that. We talked about it in the last one, but it's where that when you say that consciousness is fundamental, what do you mean? All right. So, so by consciousness, I just mean simple things like having a headache or smelling garlic or hearing the sound of a trumpet or having an itch or feeling a mood like, you know, love or hate or something like that. So simple feelings or sensory experiences that I could imagine even a mouse might have, like a mouse might smell cheese and it might enjoy the taste of cheese. I think everybody can get behind that though, but aren't you taking it way farther down to like there is an entity. I don't know what word to put around it. Its entire experience is either green or nothing. Right. So, so I actually then when I try to get a model of consciousness on its own terms as a scientist, I have to write down a mathematical description of what I mean by having conscious experiences and acting on them and entertain the possibility of very simple consciousnesses that might have, as you say, just one or two conscious experiences like green or nothing or something like that and look at how these kinds of consciousnesses might interact and so forth. And so I've been with my colleagues, Chaiton for caution and Chris Fields and Manish Singh and others working on mathematical models of a dynamics of consciousness. It's much like a vast social network like the Twitterverse where you have lots of social entities that are interacting, tweeting and following and so forth. It would be like that. There's not just one consciousness. There are many what I call conscious agents that are interacting and there's so many of them that it's overwhelming. It's too much for any one conscious agent to talk to all or interact with all the other conscious agents and just like with social data, with the Twitterverse, if you're trying to understand what's happening there, well there's tens of millions of users, literally billions of tweets. You can't read the tweet all the tweets or interact with all the users. If you want to understand what's going on, you need a visualization tool, maybe a VR headset where you can sort of see what's trending in the United States and then zoom in to what's happening in Moscow and then zoom out to what's happening over in China and then zoom down to a particular street. What you want is simple graphics, simple eye candy, little objects that are colored that are doing different things that somehow lets you grasp what the billions of tweets and tens of millions of Twitter users are doing but in a way that you can un… so it's got to dumb things down, put it in a colorful simple eye candy format that you can understand. That's the big idea. I'm claiming that that's what space time is. Space time, the sun and the moon, physical objects, everything that we see inside of space and time is just our visualization tool. The reality we're interacting with is nothing like the visualization tool, there's nothing like space and time.
Conscious entities (03:25:21)
It's a whole network of interacting conscious agents outside of space time, a vast social network and we've made the rookie mistake of assuming that our headset, VR, our visualization tool is the final reality. It's just a rookie mistake. It's like someone who's played Grand Theft Auto so long they have no idea there's a reality besides Grand Theft Auto. We're like that right now. So let's go back to this idea of conscious entities which I find interesting. It took me a while to grasp this one. So the easiest one is inside the human brain right now, there are two hemispheres. If you split the corpus close and we discussed this last time, you get two different personalities. You've also got the microbiome which conceivably all the microbes are conscious. So when you inside of all of our cells there's hundreds or even thousands of mitochondria which are living organisms inside of our cells. So it is very objectively true to look at a human and say you're not a single entity. You are a collection of trillions of entities that we just sum up as like that's Donald. But in reality it's not and if I go in a mess with the consciousness like if I go in a mess with your microbiome it'll change your personality which is crazy and I can't believe it's true. But nonetheless is true I can affect your energy output by going and messing with your mitochondria which again have their own DNA. It's not like it's just a cell in your body. This is its own entity that happens to be inside of your cells. And as we begin to recognize that humans already are just a collection of these much smaller consciousness but they come together, I get where you're going. Now I don't yet know the implications of that or what we're going to take away from it.
Virtual Reality And Quantum Mechanics
Our relationship with VR (03:27:25)
But my relationship with you has been like hey this crazy statement that I can't fathom is true I really want to write you off as a nut job but I can't because like all of these things like do make sense it's just I so can't imagine what life outside the headset is. But the more time I have spent with the ideas the more it's like okay these are starting to coalesce for me. So cool I just wanted people to understand that consciousness thing. I certainly don't understand it yet how it exists outside of the headset but I can't deny that already even in the headset were a collection of smaller consciousnesses. Right maybe one help for thinking about your consciousness outside the headset. I might have mentioned this last time if you just look at your face in the mirror. If you look what you see directly is just skin hair and eyes. That's all you see. And if you looked inside if someone opened your skull up and you just see neurons and so forth. But what you know first hand that you cannot see is your hopes, your dreams, your aspirations, your love of music, your mood, all the rich world of your conscious experiences compared to that rich world this face is unbelievably simple and nothing like the world of your experiences. And you smile or you smile I can guess that you're feeling joy but a smile in no way resembles joy a smile is a twitch of a face. A joy is that that's where it's like the things we see happening in the quantum realm that make no sense that to you is the thing that tells you your brain the physical tissues all of that they are entirely in the VR experience. It's all in the VR experience. That's right. So strictly speaking no physical object including my body is conscious. Strictly speaking my brain is unconscious because my brain in fact doesn't even exist unless I render it. If you're playing Grand Theft Auto I'm playing with VR version. I got the steering wheel in front of me. I'm holding the steering wheel. If I look to the side I no longer render the steering wheel and there is no steering wheel. When I look here I render it and now there is a steering wheel. The same thing is true strictly speaking of neurons and brains. They're there when you render them. They're not there when you don't. It's a VR system that you render objects in space and time as you need them because they're part of your visualization tool and then you garbage collect them you delete them when you don't need them. So strictly speaking no physical object is conscious. So human bodies aren't conscious. Rocks aren't conscious. So I'm not a panpsychist. A panpsychist is someone who, at least one version of panpsychism is that there are physical objects that obey the laws of physics and the laws of physics are in some sense fundamental but consciousness is the reality that's inside the laws. I'm saying something entirely different. I'm saying that the very laws of physics themselves are really no restraint to consciousness whatsoever. They're just a visualization tool that certain consciousness has happened to use but they're no restriction on the nature of consciousness itself at all. Okay so before we move off that I know you don't know but I want you you must have flashes of images or favorite metaphors or whatever. So if I buy that this really is a simulation true true true like as simulated as it's going to get down to the fact that space time is just a part of that simulation and it is consciousness that is fundamental meaning that the complexity of my brain will never give birth to consciousness. My consciousness which is outside of the the headset it's outside the VR world it's outside the Grand Theft Auto game. That thing has a need to from a evolutionary standpoint based on the gains it gets from certain behaviors it needed to create a virtual reality so that it wasn't overwhelmed with data. So what is that conscious being that was evolving as it sits outside of this where can I scrape through and find the conscious thing. So well the consciousness won't be inside space and time. Instead space and time is inside consciousness. Yep. But I'm still imagining a little person outside of the VR is that just fundamentally broken. No I would say that that's probably given the current state of human imagination including mine that's probably the best thing that we can do is to think about these entities and of course as soon as we think about entities we place them in space and time that's how we think. So it's harmless to do that as long as you realize that the space that you're thinking about isn't they're not embedded in space they're the creators of space that's that's the interesting thing. So it's hard for outside space and time I am eating things right. So inside space and so I don't know what we're doing outside of space and time that's part of what I want to understand is what are we actually doing. We don't see I don't know what I'm actually doing I know what I'm doing under a description like I'm moving my hand right now and if I grab a steering wheel in my car I know what I'm doing under a space time description but I don't know in ultimate reality what I'm really doing. It's just like the VR player when they turn the steering wheel in Grand Theft Auto they know what they're doing in the language of the game I'm turning a steering wheel but what they're really doing in terms of the supercomputer which in that metaphor would be the deeper reality they're toggling voltages and magnetic fields and circuits that they have no idea there's probably trillions of voltage toggling going on for one turn of the wheel all they see is a turn of the wheel that's their notion of cause and effect it's trivial the real cause and effect is trillions of voltages getting toggled in some infractions of a second it's much much more complicated so from an evolutionary so when we talk about evolution as you did we have to be from this point of view it's very very important to be careful because now we have to talk about what part of the framework we're talking about so when I talk evolution I'm only going to be talking about assuming the headset and I'm within the framework of the headset because evolutionary theory is only a headset theory it's not a theory of consciousness beyond space and time. I'm going to ask you a super random question because I'm so curious you have a wedding ring so I'm assuming you're married to I'm assuming you love somebody. Yes that's such a headset experience. How often are you sort of in sort of a this really is real and I'm going to treat it as such and like does your wife think this is all like does she find this decidedly unromantic? My wife is an artist she's a very talented artist her name was Jerrolyn her color Jerry and she's you know she's not a scientist and she appreciates my science and even though she can't really understand any of the math and I appreciate her art even though I'm a monkey looking at Mozart right you know because I'm no artist and so we have mutual respect for the talents the complementary talents and we sort of complement each other and do you just have to turn that part of your brain off that's like a lot of time with her well with her yes because she's happy for me to talk with her about it up to a point and then we need to do something different right and that's healthy for me but yeah do you want to so one thing that I find interesting is people that believe that this is all a simulation and that if we just find the right equation we could essentially exit the simulation and that's always struck me as intuitively false that there would be no way to exit the simulation again this goes back to what I was saying earlier about the person who takes
Exiting this simulation (03:35:26)
our heads out off there but it would just be so fundamentally different the way that you do processing data there's no sort of core you I think like I can't conceptualize it feels to me unless the I mean god is this what you're saying in fact let me out is this what you're saying that there is this this conscious agent that I in the headset I in fact no there's a conscious agent that is me and the way that I present to you right now is me with the headset on but the conscious agent could actually possibly remain intact when it pulls off the headset you address this a little bit earlier but it's it's now becoming more concrete in my mind right it seems to me quite possible that conscious agents will continue to exist even when they step out of so I can take the headset off effectively exit the simulation be like what the fuck is right all this around me but still have yeah a sense of emotion and attachment and love and what do I say vision quite possibly in the sense that that this isn't the only headset so maybe by taking this is that would essentially be my brain right so I'd be I'd be out of this headset and what I necessarily be putting on another heads up your brain remember the headset isn't your brain the brain is just one of the symbols in your headset for what I'm using for all the agents for all the agents that are combining to form you so I imagine that it's possible for an agent to go to a different headset could they go to no headset or would they be then existing in realm of pure math well and that that I don't know so in the in the following sense so so it's it so the part that I think I'm confident about but again we'll see agents could get new headsets and a wide variety of them so we could really explore and we could and it could be very dead said we can shorthand to unveil that that's right a different way of perceiving and a Jaina bat had said I can jump in a dolphin headset and maybe let go of space and time and do something different than space and time my notion of self may migrate in the process right why make you some of my motions maybe not others who who knows do you think I'm taking the headset off as is an event horizon beyond which we just cannot possibly even guess the the mathematics that I got says that a conscious agent always can have awareness without experience there is the awareness without experience that's right the math is very clear about that so when I write down the set the space of possible conscious experiences of conversation after I down it was called a probability space which is a set of possible conscious experiences with I think of awareness as I exist now it's no but no I there's just awareness without an eye so this would so and by the way I make no claim to be you know expert in any like mystical spiritual tradition like Buddhism or Hinduism or so forth but I've been told that they do have this notion and so I'm not speaking as expert but I've heard that they have this notion of awareness without content and that certain meditators claim to to be there and you know I meditate a little bit and I might get little glimpses of of a notion of awareness without a self without any particular content that's the closest I can get conceptually to thinking about a conscious agent without a headset it's a field of pure awareness but it transcends than any emotion any notion of self any specific conscious experience but you've never done psychedelics because the number one punchline that people say is you know you have no sense of self like you dissolve into oneness right yeah I know I I why don't you I haven't I may at some point you know where it's legal and so forth so far well what's taught me so far is well I'll put this
Dissolving into oneness. (03:39:27)
way I've been reading the experiences of people so I'm benefiting from their experiences I talk with with people extensively actually some very extensively about their experiences and so I've studied them there is a price to pay I but only in the head side but only in the headset well well and while I'm in the headset so I really I'm so eager to pursue these ideas I think I've gotten I know people say well you if you don't do it for yourself you can't know what it's really like to be without a self well but I can look at the math and the math actually says yeah I'm seeing that in my mouth so I've gotten the insight that I need there did you listen maybe I will do at some point you know did you listen to Sam Harris's podcast about taking five grams of psilocybin I think I haven't heard him do this very interesting because I know you know Sam you must listen to that podcast okay it is fucking fascinating and he was talking about the fact that and I haven't done it either by the way so and I have a very clear I am a physicalist so because of that I'm like I am not fucking with my brain like I'm super paranoid I do part of me wants to do it so if you cut my corpus callosum one hemisphere wants to do psychedelics really badly and the other side is like get the fuck out of here we're not doing psychedelics is a very bad idea absolutely so I'm I'm sort of stuck in this like go no go scenario anyway Sam I agree that's when I said there's a price to pay that's exactly what I was that's that's the I am super paranoid right so Sam said in in the experience he had a moment where he he forgot that he did drugs like he had no sense of oh I have taken a drug to be in the state and I'm simply in the state I'm going to be in the state forever and this is what life is and he was like it is a type of hell where it is just it's now I'm putting words in his mouth but the feeling I got and he may have actually said this was that it was like a form of just never ending terror right and so you sort of pass through that he was like there are other moments where it's it's never ending bliss and you're like it's going to be blissful forever right and it was just who the thought of where you have no concept I have done something to myself where I have taken a drug and this is a consequence of that and it will ultimately wear off that it's interesting it is interesting man and I get how that can really shape people's perception of what is real and like really shake you loose because as I read this stuff and for anybody that's made it this far first of all congratulations this shoot is so deep and so heady but the more time that I've spent with your ideas the more I actually I feel like someone is sort of filing off a callus on the bottom of my foot and it's like whoa we're getting to like a different sensation here I never realized that I had a perception in you know when you've got the calluses that are like half an inch thick it's like you just forget that that can actually feel something so the more time I've spent with your ideas the more I'm like man there really is something here and so I the first note I took on you was so arrogant and so aggressive and I was like dude does this guy not realize that he invalidates his own theory by saying like this is about natural selection because I didn't understand your whole thing about math and reason right so but then you like you start spending more time with me like fuck I can't just discredit this then you start exploring it like I definitely before I started thinking about your stuff die hard physicalist I will probably regression of the mean right so I'm gonna slide back to that and I really spend time on this because it is such a compelling illusion but it does I can feel things pushing me at my back to experiment with psychedelics for reasons like this where I yes I could meditate for the next 40 years and maybe get to the point where I could have one of those experiences of what it means to be aware without a sense of I I literally can't imagine what that is right now I can imagine blanking out I can't imagine having a sense that there is awareness without me being inserted somehow into that that's right so it would be really fascinating to very quickly be ejected out of you know my normal state of consciousness and into this and part of part of what I promise myself I would do in this interview is to really figure out like why the fuck does this all matter like you and that's why I'm like I'm dancing on this idea of like you love your wife like there is a realm in which you're like the headset is pretty rad and it's given me amazing shit and I'm really having a hard time like actually stepping outside of the headset and so so much of my life is predicated on the headset it may not even be possible to retain myself which I value I'm assuming right so I value myself I value this experience I fucking value my wife right that's the one that really scares me right right I get so much out of my wife like I've imagined my wife and I actually have this conversation one time like hey a magic genie shows up what do you wish for and she was like please don't wish for super intelligence and I was like why like that's such a rad option right to be
Value of your current experience. (03:44:37)
the smartest human that ever existed she said if you did that you'd no longer be in love with me and I was like fuck you're actually right because if you're you wouldn't love any human anymore like I love my dogs but not like I love my wife because there's such a gap in in how we can relate to each other right so when I think about like stepping outside of the headset man you're giving up everything you value and that's like really really trippy now I admit if you told me hey Tom here's like a pill you can take and it's going to give you a little peek outside the headset I'd be like right I'd have to do it I'd have to take a peek I'd have to see like what it was because I don't believe that drugs are necessarily punching through to some truth right I don't find myself like super compelled to do it but the idea of looking beyond is both exhilarating and terrifying because of that loss of the things that I I am so invested in yes I like I'm on the same page with you and and it's you know interaction with my wife is one of the greatest pleasures is you know makes life meaningful and my my daughter and I've got three grandkids and you know my son-in-law was and my students son-law made the list not bad yeah absolutely yeah yeah Jay is a great guy and and in this case I'm interacting with other conscious agents and I'm benefiting so I'm now going into my theory this is now seems impersonal but I put on going back to the theory it within the framework of the theory there's a dynamic subconscious agents as as conscious agents interact that they they learn they get new comprehension and they create new agents so what we're doing in this headset in terms like we're interacting there's something new this we're both growing we're both learning from this experience we're we come away from it different and that seems to be part of it if this kid in the candy store theory of consciousness is on the right track then we're experiencing it right now we're kids in candy stores we're exploring and we're wondering what's on the what's what's on the next shelf of candy right that's what we're saying here when we say well I'd love to see if I take five or what happened what's going on there so that may be you know what it's really about is that it's exploration and maybe you know in meditation one thing that does happen is that you get less and less grasping of things that used to be grasping about and I find that I'm able to to let go of things that fears for example but pictures of myself it's it's it's really in some sense of dismantling that the best metaphor I can come up with is I read some time that when a caterpillar goes through metamorphosis right goes into a cocoon the this the immune cells of
Sams understanding of meditation (03:47:47)
the caterpillar try to kill and they do kill the cells that are trying to begin the process of transformation into a butterfly and for a while the immune cells of the caterpillar and they're it's a battle and but eventually the immune cells of the caterpillar get overwhelmed and then much of the caterpillar liquefies now that can't be fun right me mean liquefaction I mean that it all the structures that were everything that you knew as a caterpillar are turning into goo and no fun your immune system is fighting that tooth and nail until your immune system gets overwhelmed but finally the immune system gets overwhelmed most of this structure the caterpillar turns into goo and then the transformation happens that's what meditation feels like to me which means it's it's a double edge kind of thing it's it's both extremely painful because everything that I know and have been connected to and addicted to is dissolving but on the other hand I'm realizing wait wait well that wasn't absolutely that essential I thought it was essential but it's not and there's a new kind of structure that's being built that I have no idea a caterpillar can't figure out what the butterfly is going to be presumably and so maybe that's what it's like to be starting to change headsets maybe that's maybe meditation is a way of letting go of some of the restrictive trappings of one headset and upgrading right you're getting the 3.0 now you just had the 2.0 now it's 3.0 I don't know but but these are the kinds of things I do want to explore within the mathematics and that's why I'm sort of it all fits it doesn't mean it's right but it all fits the kid in the candy store my own kid anticipation of seeing what's next it does fit maybe that's why I like the kid in the candy store theory just that's just me and you know for other people that's that's not what it's about but I think all of us do wonder about what's next and why are we here and what is it about that's why I mean that's one reason I do this is it life is very very short I want to explore and things that most of what I've believed very deeply has been very deeply wrong most of what humanity has believed very deeply has been very deeply
Space time and quantum mechanics (03:49:44)
wrong we have a very good we're almost about 100% consistent in being deeply wrong we've believed that space-time is fundamental almost everybody believes that space-time is fundamental we all believe the earth is flat now a few very advanced physicists at Whitten has said space-time is doomed David Gross has said is in doom Neemar Kani Hamad is saying space-time is doomed and these guys especially Neemah are now really being adventurous very very brave and saying let's go outside of space and time into a world where we can't think just imagine what they're trying to do we're trying to think entirely outside space-time like as you said as a kid you're going what could possibly be on the other side of space-time these guys are saying not only is there something on the side I need to think deeply about it and here's a mathematical structure in which space and time quantum mechanics and unitarity don't even appear in the language and then I'll show you how our headset they don't call it headset that's not me ad-living for them so how space and time which I'm calling headset how space-time and quantum mechanics and general relativity appear from these deeper structures in which there's no space and no time so that fits perfectly with what what I'm saying now they have no idea what this deeper structure is about and what I'm up to is I'm actually Neemah gave a class at Harvard last fall more than 20 lectures on for graduate students on these deeper structures outside of space and time I am taking this class online there's all on YouTube so I'm just studying it I'm transcribing his lectures studying them because I believe that I can show with my team my mathematicians so they'll show that the long-term behavior of this dynamic subconsciousness that we're working on what we
Spacetime Structures And Theories
Nima Arkani-Hamed & spacetime structures (03:51:39)
call the asymptotic behavior will give rise to the structures he's seeing like his amplitude hedon and so the reason why and then the amplitude hedon he already shows how to build up space-time from that that way I'll be able to go all the way from conscious agents through the long-term behavior of conscious agents through the amplitude hedon to space-time I can show you how the headset is built that's my goal and so I'm really quite excited once I get you know I know enough to be worth this time I may talk with him but but I'm not going to waste his time until I know enough so I'm trying to figure out how the headset is built once we if we succeed we'll be able to reverse engineer that headset and the technologies we'll be able to play with parameters of space-time so it's like suppose you're you know a wizard at Grand Theft Auto and you can play within the game do all sorts of things that people find amazing that's great but imagine someone who actually knows the source code they can take the wizard and they can give him a flat tire they can take all the gas out of his tank they can make the road infinitely long they can do whatever they want to they can play with the very parameters this so the wizard is nothing all of our science right now is made us wizards we're eventually going to get the source code of the game you know my belief is is that we all have to recognize that the pure states are to be avoided or rather that you have to embrace multiple pure states because purity of one particular kind or another is where madness comes from we have to not we have to welcome the infection