Nettime: The Philosophy, Science, and Culture of Networked Temporality (Extended Version)
(This post was originally written in two installments, Section 1 first, then Sections 2 and 3.)
1. What is Time?
What is time? Surely time can be simple, as measured by clocks of various sorts. Distinct rhythms of a pendulum, or changes in number on a digital clock. The predictable movement of something that goes back and forth, an oscillator which covers a repeatable distance of space each time. But if we define time this way, we use notions like “repeat” in our very definition, presupposing that which we are attempting to define. Or perhaps, as suggested by famed theorist of time Henri Bergson, we are simply spatializing time by definining it this way. Clocks, after all, change physicially, and this isn’t time, it’s space. To imagine time as the movement from one moment to another, like “beads on a string,” is a spatial model.
Nevertheless, space and time are inestricably linked. It always takes time to cover an expanse of space, at least in the everyday world, and whatever takes up time seems to also occupy space. Whatever time is, it seems bound to a notion of space, even if the relation between these is anything but simple. Speed is simply the rate at which we cover space in time, converting one into the other. It can take me three hours to walk across town, or ten minutes by car. Inversely, endurance is simply the manner in which space is occupied by the same thing over time, and this indicates for us that, in relation to other endurances, something has “occupied” space. A stone occupies space, for me, at least, when it appears the same in relation to what’s around it for a period of time. This appearance continues, “repeats” itself, even when I close and open my eyes, or try to mash another stone into it, and realize, they won’t blend, even as coffee and milk seem perfectly happy to cohabitate in space, even if they displace each other a bit, but different colors of light seem to be able to overlay and blend and share space with hardly a problem. The displacement or occupation of space is always relative, and not only to the maps of occupations and displacements which are a spatial layout, but also in regard to time, for occupation and displacement, of objects or appearances, always happens in relation to time.
Models of Time: Philosophy, Science, Mathematics, Literature, Film, and Everyday Life
In the history of philosophy, definitions of time abound, and with this, it becomes possible to list off differing notions of time, the Augustinian philosophy of time, the Hegelian model, the Bergsonian model, the Deleuzian model. Within the history of science, there are also named models of time, such as Newtonian time, Minkoswki time, Einsteinian spacetime, Quantum spacetime. The time of Newton is similar to that of “beads on a string,” and yet, because it involves calculus, with its capacity for infinite division, the beads can be of any size, surely like physical beads on a physical string in physical space. With Minkowski, the time of physics began to compress and stretch, and with Einstien, time began to warp in relation to gravity, the famed “theory of relativity,” which introduced such new notions of “curved spacetime,” perhaps better visualized as “scrunched” or “expanded” spacetime, into physics.
Mathematicians, of course, had already begun to imagine such notions, and these seemingly unreal formulations were influential on the physicists who found more concrete applications for them. Riemann’s notions of quilting spaces of various types of scrunched or expanded spaces together to produce a monstrous “Franken”-space, a patchwork of geometries, each, of which would experience time differently in relation to these spaces, paved the way for Einstein. As did the work of Felix Klein, who famously realized that just as painters had been converting four-dimensional space and time into flat two-dimensional depictions for centuries, so there were ways to convert forms of space into each other by transforming and warping them, turning a sphere into a circle and an ellipse or back, simply in regard to the perspective one took on them. In fact, we often transform spaces and their shapes into one another simply by walking around them. All of this happens in and through time, space is never devoid of time, and vice-versa, and Einstein built upon this, giving rise to the stretching and bending spacetime spoken of by relativity theory. Quantum physicists, building upon this further stilll, describe a world in which spacetime is even stranger, permeated by jumps and fuzzinesses of various sorts, in which it is possible to either go back or forward in time, or act in ways which are fundamentally indistinguishable from this.
Beyond philosophy and science, there is also the time of other disciplines, the time as described by historians, ethnographers, sociologists. There is also the time described by literature, so many types of narrative time. And narratives aren’t only present in fiction, but also arguments (“if A and B, then C”), jokes, political narratives (“this war is different from the last one”), economic narratives (“this crisis was caused by this or that”), therapeautic narratives (“my parents help explain why I’m this way”), or the various other types of narrative structures we use to help us structure our lives. Or consume for pleasure in so many works of art. Language is itself fundamentally temporal, verbs producing transits between nouns, in regard to so many qualities and connectors, all produced by grids of symbols of various sorts that we arrange and rearrange in space and time like so many bits of a hypercomplex game whose stakes are often the very stuff of reality.
Beyond language, however, there are many ways in which we can bring the time within us into resonance with various aspects of the world around us. The time it takes to walk through a building, for example, in which one can walk faster or slower, loop back to where one started. Or subway time, whereby slices of an urban landscape are sutured by voyages of varying speed and directness within looping underground passageways which seem like so many virtual voyages into other dimensions. Or the time travels of filmic narratives, which by means of narrative conventions such as time-travel, can loop and bend.
If the time outside us seems relatively stable in relation to a variety of spatial layouts, however, our lived, “internal” time often seems the strangest of all. Memory flashes us backwards in time and permeates our present in varying degrees, even as anticipation, the futureshock of our past projected into our future, really, permeates our past and digs within it for useful memories which it them throws in front of us, permeating our present from the other side. Our future and present are saturated with the memories we use to frame and imagine them, just as our past is always organized and sifted through by means of the fantasies we have about future and present which help us organize our imagined future actions, hopes, and dreams. Separating past, present, and future in lived time, the time inside of us, often seems a paradoxical enterprise at best. Philosophers and mystics have long wondered whether or not the past really exists, or the future for that matter, as we never seem to “really” get to either, we live in what seems like an eternal present. And yet, this present is so full of past and future, memories and anticipations, hopes and fears based on those experienced previously, do we ever get the pure present? It vanishes, much like the past and future do. All seem unreal when you focus on them, as if time was only ever where you weren’t looking. And yet, mystics through the ages have countered that it is possible to expand time by meditating on this eternal present to expand it beyond time and space, to reach eternity within each and every moment and fragment of matter or space.
Taken to its extreme, inner, lived time begins to sound almost as strange as that of the physicists or mathematicians, microcosm refracting macrocosm or vice-versa. Then again, the physical world seems pretty stable unless we stray far from the “normal” conditions of the everyday, while lived internal time seems normaly only when we pay attention to how strange what seems “normal” to us actually is. Either way, the notion of time is used to describe these both, as aspects of the same thing.
Is Time a Word? The Linguistic Argument, and Beyond
Perhaps then the issue is with language, perhaps the most complex creation of humanity. Some philosophers have gone in this direction. Our language reifies, which is to say, “thing-ifies” whatever it describes. Words fix the flux of the world into static snapshots which don’t actually correspond to the much more labile conditions of the world beyond it. The useful fiction of words perhaps distorts or even creates what we experience as time. Nouns are perhaps the worst culprits, at least verbs are somewhat more honest, and adjectives allow us to imagine aspects things share despite space and time, while connecting words just do the dirty work of bringing these all together and putting them in motion. And it is in the motion that we rediscover the time killed by nouns and other less guilty words, the motion of producing and consuming sentences, and getting around the deceptive periods which separate sentences like so many false idols of space within time. Books spatialize time, then, perhaps as much as clocks, or films. Or bodies, which localize time within these lumps of moving flesh, and curl it up within these meat-computers we call brains, who then produce things like words which segment the world into words and then reassemble them to produce a parodic representation of the world beyond it.
But language certainly can’t be the only culprit. Films are also guilty, they slice the world up into snapshot images which are reassembled into moving images which are warped reassemblages which resonate with the time of the world, yet are fundamentally distinct temporal creations. Our everyday lives as then equally as suspect, as wel slice the world into bits, like so many moving cameras we move our perspectives around, dicing up the world from our own points of view, and then reassemble them in the fuzzily warped and edited storehouse we call memory. And if, as scientists argue, our present and future are threaded through with this highly suspect memory archive, then our present should hardly be trusted, it is ultimately a personal language of sorts, whose letters and words are the memories we use to help us recognize, describe, and re-present the present experiences we filter and categorize before we even realize we have done so. Perhaps the very notion of an ego is simply the deepest such memory-word we know, the “I” around which our language of experiences congeal.
Maybe this all because we have bodies which warp our experiences, turning moving light particles into sight, moving air particles into sound, translating our sense-data into memory-recognitions, and all in relation to our evolutionary heritage which biases us to look for certain experiences over others. Whatever time or space we ever experience is ultimately the result of the way in which our biological evolution evolved us to experience it, in ways which it felt were most likely to help us survive. And if our culture, our films and our words and so much else, were created from this foundation, might they not be simply more complex warpages of the world, inheritors of the biology which evolved us with its own agendas? Of course, biological evolution is only one level of complexity, the physical world had to “evolve” up to the point at which it could “evolve” organisms, and the difference between complex physical systems and living ones seems ultimately only a matter of degree. A whirlpool seems to have a “life of its own,” and to “want” to continue whirling the way it does. To say this isn’t proto-life is like saying that organisms aren’t hyper-matter. It’s all a matter of degree, or perspective.
Either way, if time is ultimately a word, and words are biased distortions of the world beyond us, this should hardly be reason to stop there and call it a day. There are so many levels of distortion, why fetishize language? Our bodies distort, our brains distort, our sense organs distort, our evolution distorts. It’s all distortion, all the way down. Or translation and creation, depending on how you see it. Matter distorts, and perhaps is this very distortion of some primordial energy, or something deeper still, as scientists believe that matter and energy are simply differing sides of the same. Perhaps space and time simply are distortions then too. Space, time, matter, energy, all distortions of some deeper matrix.
But matrix of what? Space, time, matter, and energy, these are abstractions of our experience, which seems only ever filtered by our bodies, brains, psychological biases, cultural biases, the list goes on and on. Perhaps the universe is little more than a set of translations of experiences into each other, and matter, energy, space, and time are simply the terms we use to organize the most stable of these, at least, as the world appears to us.
Is Time Real? Fantasies of Idealist and Materialist Notions of Time
Perhaps, as some have argued, it’s all a simulation, like we see in films such as The Matrix (1999). Perhaps studying film, or virtual reality, isn’t such a strange place to go to study time. Whatever time is, its as much there as it is in matter or energy. For even our most indubitable experiences, whether personal or shared with others, are only ever known as our experiences. Even if I perform a science experiment, and a community of scientists verifies it, it could be a dream, or I could be one of the famed “brains in a vat” which philosophers sometimes imagine. It could all be a simulation. And there is ultimately no way of knowing if when I see a bunch of scientists verify my experiment, that they aren’t all part of a dream or simulation. Perhaps there are glitches that might give it away, but even these could be parts of a larger simulation or dream still. This is why some scientists have argued that our universe could be one enormous simulation, a holographic projection, and they have even tried to develop experiments that could test if this were the case. But what then would be the difference between virtual and physical reality? Should we care?
Likewise with the physical world. Even if I only ever experience it through my own experience, the aspects of my experience that seem shared with others, which is to say, the so-called “physical” world, even if it’s not really there, even if other people are simply figments of my imagination, they seem so stable and follow such predictable rules, that they can treated as if they were “real.” In fact, even if they are an illusion, what difference would this make, so long as my whole life were this illusion? Of course, even if we were to learn that the whole world of our experience were a simulation, then we could start to wonder if the machine producing the simulation weren’t also a simulation of some deeper simulation.
Such an infinite regress occurs as well when it is not idealism taken to its extreme, but also materialism. If all is matter, then some of this matter give rise to illusions, images, like our sense experience and dreams. But perhaps this is just how matter feels other matter. Our brains experience our sense organs, which experience the matter of the world, it’s all matter all the way down. And thoughts then are just how our brains, which are matter, experience each other. Perhaps then experience, including that of sensation, thought, and feeling, is simply how matter reacts with other matter, and how this is experienced from the inside. Perhaps then all matter, including molecules, feel each other in some very simple, primordial way, and when matter gets more complex, it feels more complexly, and human thought is simply this.
Idealism has difficulty accounting for the physical world, and yet, taken to its extreme, idealism deconstructs itself back into the physical world, or cuts the cord to reality entirely, an impossible situation and/or infinite regress. Likewise, materialism has difficulty accounting for the inner worlds we experience, and seems on the verge of arguing that inner experience is impossible, or it pushes it into ever smaller and more distant realms of matter (ie: the body, the brain, the prefrontal cortex) in what is ultimately an infinite regress verging on the soul. No wonder so many of the most materialist scientists find that there’s a need for a ghost in the machine. For taken to its extreme, materialism ultimately deconstructs, hits paradox or infinite regress, or turns into its opposite, namely, a world in which all matter must have something like experience, even in simplest form.
And yet, even though materialism and idealism both deconstruct, perhaps this isn’t the worst place to be, for since experience is all we have really ever known, perhaps matter and appearance are sides of each other, which is to say, of experience, which is all we ever, well, experience. Space, time, matter, and energy, these all seem aspects of experience then as well. The experience we share is called the physical world, that which we don’t is our “inner” world, but it’s all appearances of varying degrees of stability. Those appearances which appear the most stable we call “real,” and those which are less stable are “merely” appearances, but since it seems there’s no firm way to draw a line between these, these are perhaps differences of degree.
A Matrix of Experience Beyond Binarity
Perhaps we can start from here, from experience, which is all we have ever known. Any experience we have ever had of a world beyond us, or of other experiencing consciousness, is only ever aspects of our experience, which isn’t merely our experience, but also the world. These are two sides of each other, like two sides of a sheet of paper, inseparable. We can’t imagine the world but through ourselves, and vice-versa, and each, like materialism and idealism, ultimately deconstruct each other, or giving rise to paradox, infinite regress, or some sort of fuzzy or oscillating mixture of these. One can either try to ignore this, and cling to ultimately relative notions like “self” or “world,” or embrace this, and realize that self and world are interdependent notions, aspects of each other, and of the more encompassing situation of which they are aspects, and which is all we have ever experienced.
Let’s call this grounding situation “experience.” From such a perspective, “my experience” would be that most fundamental aspect which seems unique to me, and those aspects which seem, from within “my experience” to exceed it somehow, to be that of “the world,” of which the experience of “others” is a part. For there do seem to be experiences beyond mine, as attestted to by the reports of other experiencers, even if I only ever access those through my experience. “Experience” as such, then, would be the term used to describe the seemingly larger whole of experience of which mine is an aspect. My experience would then be an opening onto experience as such, included and including it, as paradoxical as this might seem to more traditional forms of logic. Whatever logic there is in the world, it seems to derive from this, so if we want to call it paradoxical, so be it, the foundation from which logic emerges is paradox, such that paradox would ultimately, then, be the foundation of logic, and not vice-versa.
Space then could be seen as the most stable general network of shared experiences among experiencers. For example, if I move an object, and my friend sees this, we both see the object moving, but also the world of experience around this staying stable in relation to the moving object. The greatest stability within this seems to be what we call space, the invariant network which underlies and organizes that which is common to the experiences which experience within experience. While this may warp and bend according to gravity, and ultimately, acceleration, as the experiments used to ground relativity theory seem to show, then perhaps I would have differing experiences than another experiencer. And yet, a third party would be unable to tell which of us is having the “correct” experience of space. Space then would be that within experience which seems to give rise to all these experiences of space by various experiencers.
All of which shows why it makes sense to argue that there needs to be something producing all our particular experiences within experience, and why experience is still ultimately only ever the experience of experiencers, such that perhaps experience as such is an abstraction from the experience of experiencers, a projection of these, an ideal assemblage of all the experiences of all experiencers. This helps explain why the term experience is worth retaining, because there has to be something which relativizes these experiences, in regard to which they are “only” experiences, which is to say, if there were nothing underlying or producing these experiences, it would be redundant to call them “mere” experiences. But this is hardly the case, because experiencers don’t always have the same “external” experiences, and while these issues can usually be resolved by a third party, this isn’t always the case. But if we examine further the distinction between “internal” and “external” experience, this issue gets fuzzier still, for these are also merely aspects of the same, a question of degree. Is the experience of “my” eye the same as “my” experence? What about that of “my” brain? Is the world “mine”? Or my “ego”? Like “self” and “world,” these notions too will deconstruct.
Likewise with that between a particular experience and experience as such, or between experience and that which produces it. But the slippage can be at least partially stabilized by allowing all these notions to be relative to the context which produces these, such that they cease being reified notions, and work more as positions within networks of aspects of a whole which always exceeds the sum of its aspects.
From such a perspective, it’s possible to speak of experience as the ideal extrapolation of all the particular experiences of experiencers. Each experiencer has a “world” of experience, and the sum total of these, greater than the sum of its aspects, is “the” world, the ground of experience as such. The world would then be within all words, but yet always in excess of any, aggregate, and all, for it seems this world is always changing, surprising us, and hardly capturable by all worlds, even in the aggregate, similarly to experiences and experience as such.
In fact, it seems that any particular aspects of the world, or series of these, is always exceeded by the world. This seems to be the fundamental quality of the world of experience itself. Let’s call this “matrix” or “oneand.” It is matrix because it gives rise to the world and experience, and is present in any and all aspects thereof. And it is “oneand” because it is always in excess of any attempt to reduce it to any reified unity. Matrix, or oneand, would then be the very stuff of the world of experience itself. Any and all aspects of this would be only aspects thereof. Any segment, discrimination, unity, binary, quality, motion, concept, term, self, world, or anything else, would only ever be an aspect of matrix, or oneand, which is grasped in each and all experiences, and is that of which experienced, experiencer, experiencing, and experience are composed as so many of its aspects. Matrix, or oneand, is beyond whole and part, container and contained, or any other binary distinction, as well as beyond any unitary description, such as experience or appearance, or even attempts to be described by notions such as matrix and oneand. These two names, placeholders and useful representations at best, are simply two aspects of this fundamental stuff.
Martrix, or oneand, is that which is beyond and and all attempts to grasp it, even if present in aspect within all of these. To use the language of many Asian philosophies, it is nondual. That is, in regard to any “a” and/or “b” which could be said about it, or any other set of statements or chainging or nesting thereof, it would be neither a nor b, both a and b, neither “neither a nor b” nor “both a and b,” and both “neither a nor b” and “both a and b.”
All of which may seem nonsensical, or useless, irrational, illogical, or paradoxical, or whatever terms one might want to apply to this sort of thinking. Perhaps quasi-religious, or mystical, or deluded. But the logic behind the argument which brought us to this place is hopefully apparent. Logic and argument ultimately find their foundation in something ultimate and paradoxical like this, or are limited fictions. The irrational, paradoxical, useless, nonsensical, these are part of our world too, only aspects of the whole of which its parts are only ever that.
What’s more, science and mathematics are increasingly tending in such a direction. Early in the twentieth century, both physics and mathematics had a “foundations crisis” in which they began to question their most basic presupositions, and the results unsettled the seeming foundations of both. In phsycis, relativity theory and quantum physics demonstrated that any attempt to “reify” any aspect of our world gives rise to what, to ordinary thinking, would be paradoxes, such as incommensurable relative experiences, or uncertainties so uncertain that it’s ultimately impossible to determine if it is the subject performing the experiment, or the very substance of the world, which is uncertain, such that the very distinction between these seems to begin to break down. Physicists are still attempting to deal with the fallout from the “uncertainty” at the heart of relativity and quantum physics. Whether their interpretations of the data take a subject-oriented, epistemological tilt (ie: the Copenhagen Interpretation), or a more substance-oriented view whereby it is the world which has this uncertainty within it (ie: Bohmian interpretation), or rather opt for infinite regress (ie: Many Worlds interpretations), these are ultimately aspects of the same, which is to say, the manner in which, for whatever reason, its seems that the experience of the world, when pushed to its extremes, will deconstruct, turn into its opposite, produce infinite regresses, or otherwise resist extreme reification, and the concomitant binarization of inside and outside of a reification which always comes with this.
In mathematics, the situation is hardly different. Around the turn of the century, mathematicians attempted to see if math could be used to “prove” its own assumptions. And this lead to paradox, infinite regress, or aspects of each, depending on how you interpret this. The issue was, in short, whether or not the “set of all sets” could be considered a set. That is, whether or not the most ecompassing way of talking about the world, the “set of all sets,” could itself be considered an aspect of the world or not. If yes, then there must be something which could emcompass this set, a yet more encompassing entity, for any set could always be a member of another set, thereby leading to infinite regress. But if it wasn’t, then the “set of all sets” was incoherent, a set that wasn’t a set, or a new type of set, one which fundamentally recast what it meant to be a set, for it paradoxically had a sort of infinite regress as part of its very definition, that which, according to what it means to be a set, would make it not a set. Contradiction, inconsistency, or incoherence, these were the options. And this led Kurt Godel in 1929 to prove, using the tools of the mathematics of set theory, that set theory was at its base one of these three, depending on how you wanted to frame the issue, and that there was no way to get around this and still be doing mathematics of set theory. And the results were generalizable from set theory to the rest of mathematics, at least to an extent that the results of Godel’s proofs destroyed any attempt to search for the foundations of mathematics in anything resembling this way. From here, the search for the foundations was in something, well, more slippery, paradoxical, and relative, in ways which uncannily parallel that in physics.
All of which is to say that the notion of matrix, or oneand, in the manner described briefly in the preceding sections, as the all of which any is composed, which is beyond reification, whole and parts, self and world, and yet that of which these are aspects, is resonant with the findings of math and science. That is, no matter how one interprets the data of relativity and quantum physics, data which have been reproduced and checked to such a degree as to be accepted unquestionably by the scientific community, the fundamental stuff of our world functions something like what I’m describing as matrix or oneand. Likewise, the foundations of mathematics requires something like a “set of all sets” or “number larger/smaller than others,” of which all others are aspects. If science is a form of materialism, and mathematics a form of idealism, they deconstruct their own foundations similar to their philosophical cousins, and are faced with paradox, fuzziness, or infinite regress. To use the language of mathematics, the options are incoherence, inconsistency, or incompletion, while to use the language of physics, the various attempts to explain away uncertainty (such as ontological Bohmian approaches, epistemological Cophenhagen approaches, or Many Worlds approaches). Ultimately, each of the three options in a given field are aspects of each other, and between and amongst these disciplinary views on the world, so many lenses on experience, these are aspects of each other. In fact, the foundations of any lens on the world seem to run into versions of this trio in one form or another, whether these lenses focus on inner experience or the physical world, or any other way of slicing up experience.
Matrix resists being ever turned into a one, and so, is oneand, and any attempt to reify or reduce it to a one will result in these limit effects, the ways in which the oneand will always manifest within ones, but never be reducible thereto. In fact, if there seems to be anything which limits matrix, it is only its ability to be any and all ones which are not exclusive and try to reduce any aspect of oneand or oneand itself to a one, even if this oneand is the all. As such, matrix is necessarily beyond one and many, part and whole, a and b, but that from which all these notions, and in fact, all experiences and worlds, derive, of which all are aspects, and each aspect is the all whole, if in its own way, for aspect and all are simply aspects of the oneand which is beyond such a distinction.
Some Precursors: Hegel and Schelling
These ideas, while resonant with the forefront of physics and mathematics, are hardly new, even if they haven’t previously been described in this form. The notion that any aspect of our world must be an aspect of that which is within any and all aspects, a sort of “set of all sets,” was described by German philosophers, often called Idealists, in the early nineteenth century. F.W.J. Schelling spoke of an Unconditioned, or ulimited, that which was a ground of any and all conditioned, which is to say, limited, entities. G.W.F. Hegel built upon this further, saying that this Absolute was that of which any aspect of the world was a part, including concepts, things, persons, experiences, history, and the world itself. The basic thought here is actually quite simple. Any part of the world has to be a part of the whole of the world, which is always more than the sum of these parts, even if present in some way within all, and never reducible to any of these parts, because it it what is beyond them and gives rise to them. Without such a notion of the whole beyond any whole, paradoxes emerge. For example, what was before our universe, or where did our universe come from? Such questions lead to infinite regress, or paradox, or inconsitency.
And so, one can ignore the paradoxes, or see them as part of one’s description of the world, and in fact, as the fundamental ground of any and all descriptions of the world. Any descriptions which don’t admit, include, or somehow take this into account are dishonest partial descriptions, and those which do are fuller or more open descriptions. But all are limited descriptions, because these paradoxes seem unavoidable, fundamental, and don’t seem to go away. Whether we ignore them or not, they seem to be part of the fabric of the world. Might as well try to work with them, rather than continually be surprised when they frustrate our attempts to control and manage the world in various ways.
Hegel and Schelling were hardly the first to have these ideas, however. Both argued, each in their own ways, that “the Absolute” was fundamentally non-dual, which, to use the language of Hegel, means it is “speculative,” beyond the limits of “picture-thinking,” the term he used for thought which attempts to reduce things to fixed representations. The Absolute is beyond the limitations of language to describe it, and any notion of concept we use to grasp it has to be beyond the simplistic notions of logic we use to grasp less complex aspects of our world. And so, for Hegel, “the Concept,” which can be translated perhaps most accurately as “the Grasping,” takes the shape of the Absolute, not the other way around. Any simpler ways of grasping aspects of the world are then only limited aspects of our grasp of conceptuality, which, in its fullest form, is fundametnally non-dual.
Similar notions, namely, that binary, dualistic thinking are simplifications of the more fundamentally non-dual, non-binary thinking which is needed to understand more fundamental aspects of the cosmos, are much older than the nineteenth century. Hegel, for example, was influenced by the mystic Jakob Boehme, amongst others. In his later years, Schelling increasingly looked for the origins of his notion of the Ungrounded in various world religions. And there is much in common between notions of God as present in many theologies and this notion of the Absolute or Ungrounded. Isn’t God, whatever this term might mean, at least, in theory, supposed to be outside of time, space, world, subject, object, experience, language, and thought, and yet be present in any and all of these, as that which is always beyond any and all, yet cause and even ultimate purpose of all of these?
Of Physics and Mathematics: The Time of Singularity
While it may seem that this is simply the pathway towards irrational mysticism, it is important to note that a similar notion, without the theological trappings, has been a part of mainstream science and mathematics since the early twentieth centuries, about the time of the foundations crises. One could even see this notion as a result of these, what these crises produced. This notion is that of “singularity.”
In physics, “the singularity” is the term most commonly used to describe that which gave rise to “the Big Bang” which began our universe. The notion of the singularity is itself paradoxical. Physicists know that as any entity approaches the speed of light, its space and time condense, and that is also what happens as any entity approaches a “Black Hole.” A black hole is an entity whose gravity and density is so great, that it compresses space and time, and matter and energy with it, to something like infinity. The reason we don’t know if it truly ever reaches infinity is because it seems impossible to “reach” infinity (is it a place or time that is reachable?), but also, because any method we have to investigate black holes can only proceed so far until the very forces of the black hole itself would either destroy the observation device, or severly warp any signs it could send us, as even light cannot elude the grip of a black hole once it gets close enough to it.
What’s more, the mathematical formulas which scientists use to model the behavior of black holes, the same mathematical formulas used to describe the behavior of the rest of the physical universe, which normally produce excellent predictions of phenomenon, cease to be of much use the close one gets to a black hole. The tend to go infinite, either towards infinity or zero, and ultimately, these are in many situations sides of the same. If there measurements of time or space, matter or energy, go infinite or to zero, these are ultimately simply differing ways of looking at the same. Infinite energy would destroy anything not it, but since it was infinite, unless this infinity came in several degrees (and would it then still be infinity?), it would be uniform, and hence, in relation to various aspects within it, having zero difference from itself. And since energy is always a relative measurement (ie: something has energy if it can do more work than something else, no difference means no “useful” energy), infinite energy would be ultimately the same as no energy.
When mathematical equations bottom out like this, particularly in situations that oherwise provide coherent answers, but which when taken to an extreme, reach such intensity that the physical quantities cease to make sense, this is what mathematicians refer to as a “singularity.” A simple case can be found if you try to divide any number by zero. Since any number can be put in as a possible answer, and any number times zero is zero, when you subract that from zero to see if there is any remainder, the quotient and remainder will always be zero. And so, divide any number by zero, and any number can function as a quotient, and equally get you nowhere, with no remainder. And so, any number isn’t quite wrong, because any number is as equally wrong or right as any other. Which is to say, math ceases, in this case, to function as math. This is why mathematicians refer to the answer to this question, and those like it, as “undefined.” This is different from when you subtract five from five, which will give you zero. When physical equations give you zero or one in a situation in which these answers make no sense, give you infinity, or go undefined, this is what is meant by a “singularity.”
In the history of math, these sorts of results were often treated as quirks which simply had to be worked around. But as the various branches of mathematics, such as algebra and number theory, began to link ever more closely with parallel aspects of geometry, it became clear that these strange results in equations lined up with the strange parts of the figures and shapes they could be used to describe. The center of a sphere, since it is not included in the sphere yet is in a sense present in all its aspects, if indirectly, is sometimes described as being a part of the sphere “at infinity.” Likewise, when a line intersects itself, it gives rise to contradictory results in the equations which describe the line, points which aren’t merely undefined, but rather, singular within the shapes and figures those equations describe. These points are indeterminate, within more than one space, time, equation, or attempt to grasp it in one way or another, at the same time. They are one, yet more, which is to say, oneand.
Singular points in equations line up with those in figures, and those in figures with those in the world they are used to describe. And so, many of the equations of relativity theory break down at black holes. Likewise with quantum physics. In fact, the very notion of a “particle” in quantum physics is a fiction. A complex process of mathematical juggling is necessary to make the results of the equations and experiments become “particle-like.” This process, known as “renormalization,” essentially reifies the result, makes them “normal” enough for scientists to work it. All of which is to say that, at least according to the findings of contemporary physics, the closer we get to trying to reify the ultimate fabric of reality, the more it seems to “resist.” For this reason, many physicists don’t even believe it is possible to have “nothing,” for even the void of space seems to contain “vacuum energy” and swarms of “virtual particles” within “quantum foam.” And no-one knows what happens in a true singularity, like those present within black holes.
Some physicists feel that what appears as a black hole to us is the the singularity which, on the “other side” of a black hole, can or does give rise to another universe. Perhaps singularities are like pumps, inflating one universe with matter and energy from another, and the universe beyond the universe, the “multiverse,” is actually a “Swiss-cheese” like affair of universes laced into each other by these points of singularity, not unlike that of geometric shapes, lines, or equations which intersect each other in geometry and algebra.
And if space and time seem to condense and scrunch infinitely as one approaches a black hole, if we run the equations which describe the universe as we know it backwards from the earliest evidence we have of the Big Bang, which scientists call the CMBE, or Cosmic Microwave Background Energy, we hit a singularity, which is why scientists and mathematicians, as well as theoretical cosmologists, refer to this point which gave rise to the Big Bang as “the singularity.” This entity would be that which gave rise to matter, energy, space, and time as so many aspects. This is why it makes no sense to speak of time or space before the Big Bang, unless in a fundamentally differenet sense. For in some senses, if time and space “unfolded” from the singularity, can we even say that the singularity “exists”? The very word “existence” implies that something has an independent reality. “Ex” is the prefix for “out” in Latin, seen in English words like “exit” or “exterior.” That which humans, including scientists, refer to as existing is something which is the way it is independent of our desires, dreams, hopes, fears, and wishes, and in a manner consistent across space and time.
If there is no space and time “in” the singularity, or rather, all space and time are always already included within this inclusion which is beyond exclusion, can we really speak of it existing? Or rather, can we speak of ourselves as existing? For in a sense, it is only the singularity which exists, and our existence is but a fiction, as fictional, ephemeral, and “unreal” as dreams of hallucinations. Then again, none of us have ever actually experienced the singularity, and because of the laws of physics, we never could, we’d be obliterrated if we even tried to approach it. So perhaps it is the dream or fiction. Either way, it seems to be the fiction and the foundation of contemporary math and science, that which provides the bases for the very equations of physics which describe the most real things we have ever experienced.
All of this is more reason to feel that the fundamental stuff of our universe is fundamentally nondual. Existence and non-existence hardly apply to the singularity or its products, for these are ultimately only aspects of it which are only ever partially and relatively applicable. Sense and reality as we know them break down at the singularity, and yet, it is the foundation of all we have ever experienced, including notions like reason or logic. And so, the foundation of sense is nonsense, the foundation of logic is paradox, the foundation of reality is fantasy, and yet, we can only ever know this by means of using the tools provided by sense, logic, and reality. The very argument deconstructs itself, such that it is possible to say that all we experience is neither nor yet both fantasy and reality, logical and paradoxical, existent and non-existent, sense and nonsense. The structure repeats with uncanny regularity. And this only indicates more powerfully why the notion of matrix, or the oneand, can be seen as that of which these are all aspects, so long as we keep in mind that the very naming and conceptualization of this notion is itself only an aspect thereof.
Whether or not we call this notion “the singularity” or “God” or “matrix” or “oneand” is perhaps irrelevant, what matter is how this notion changes our thinking and how we act, speak, and relate to the world around us. As Gregory Bateson famously argued, an information is only a difference that makes a diference. And if this notion doesn’t somehow make a difference to and for us, then perhaps it is no notion at all.
Is This Theology? Ethics, Science, Philosophy?
The similarities between this notion and that of “God” as described in many devotional traditions, philosophies, and other worldviews is perhaps not coincidental, and needs to be taken seriously. The fact that the at times most fervently atheistic mathematicians and scientists have found that their equations rely on an attempt to grasp something like “God” at their foundation should not be seen as an endorsement of any religion or belief system, and more than of atheism. “God” is a word, a human idea created by our culture, a projection of our greatest hopes, dreams, idealizations, desires, and perhaps fears. World religions are an attempt to domesticate, institutionalize, and instrumentalize and control the fundamentally destabilizing power and insight which is being described here, an insight so fundamentally destabilizing that it has shaken the entire Western scientific enterprese to its foundation, such that many try to work around and/or ignore it. But few who encounter it on a regular basis can deny that it is the foundation of what they do. This isn’t faith, it’s simply reason taken to its own logical breaking points and foundations, by its own means. Reason cannot found itself, for like everything else in the world, it deconstructs, and this ends in paradox, inconsistency, incoherence, or some mixture of these. Or the argument being presented here.
Any attempt to describe the notion being described here as “matrix” is necessarily partial. And the more it attempts to completely reify this notion, the further out of sync it will be with it, even if some degree of reification is necessary to even approach it at all. Between reification and pure openness, matrix is neither nor as well as both and. There is in fact here the core of an ethics, middle path between pure reification and pure dissolution, an ethics of development and growth of manifestation of matrix in all its fullness and potential.
And even science and mathematics, which often claim to be beyond ethics, are always already shot through with biases which imply various ethical ways of relating to the world. Why do we value doing science, or value doing mathematics? Why discover more about the way the world works, or try to control and harness the powers of nature? It is because we value things, like human life, or life in general, or pleasure which control over various aspects of nature brings, or even the pleasure of discovering the deeper secrets of the world. The motivationis always something we value. And whatever we value or devalue, even if it is passionately dispassionate activity, matrix must be at the core of this as well.
For in fact, matrix must be the foundation of all values, the source of all value and valuation, that which is valued in any valuation, as well as that which is beyond all value even as it is always an aspect of any and all values and valuations. When we begin to question which values we value valuing, the very notion of value will deconstruct like any others, and matrix will be staring us back in the face.
If it is possible that matrix is at the foundation of physics and mathematics, as well as that which all ethical and religious systems attempt to describe, and in fact, is that of which any aspect of the world is an attempt at representation in it s own way, then matrix is that which is refracted in any and all, even as some aspects of the world are more intensely matrixal, which is to say, they have more of the potential of matrix within them. The singularity, of course, but the singularity also destroys, which is to say, deconstructs, whatever it absorbs, and as such, it is neither life nor death to the cosmos, but also both of these and the other, beyond these and the foundations from which they derive.
The Question of Value
But the human mind, the inner experience of the world, now that is something which is able to bring the whole world of experience together within it, and reimagine the world in ever more powerful ways, then bring these dreams into the world, and unleash ever more potentials of the world. This mind, however, is a product of the deep creativity of the world itself, of the evolution of life and the cosmos. The human mind is perhaps the most fully realized representation of the singularity yet developed, even if a poor one at that.
And yet, the mind seems only the way in which our physical body feels itself from the inside, with thought as how the brain feels itself, feeling how the brain feels the body, and sensation how the brain feels the body feeling the world beyond. We are the sense organs of matrix, the way in which it comes to feel its world from outside its own insides. We are its dreams, thoughts within its giant brain, body, and world, which is to say, the cosmos, which is both inside and outside of us, as we are all inside and outside of matrix. Have we ever left the singularity? Is the Big Bang just a dream, as much as our cosmos, as much as our own experience, and our dreams of dreaming? The argument is little different than that which questions if we are living in a simulation. What matters, ultimately, is the difference this all makes.
And it seems that if matrix values anything, it is the further development of matrix. Which is to say, the robust emergence of more emergence. For what matrix does is emerge, it is emergence, and when it is more intensely emergent, it emerges not only in the present but future, it gives rise to time from the process of its emergence from itself. Spacetime results from emergence emerging from itself, as that which is opened within matrix so that it can emerge as emergence, which is what it is. Emergence is simply another name for matrix and oneand, for it is that of which these are, essence and existence being oneand, even if more intensely so in some aspects of the world than others. Dormant emergence is emergence turned against itself by extreme reification, while emergent emergence is emergence in the process of existing as its essence, which is to say, to emerge, and to do so in a way which feeds into future emergence, avoiding extreme reification as much as dissolution, while making use of both towards the end of greater emergence beyond past, present, and future, yet within all of these.
And so, if we are to develop an ethics from this, values to guide our projects, then we need to find those aspects of the world which are most intensely and sustainably emergent, and model our behavior on these, learn from them. And since matrix is fundamentally non-dual, is should come as little surprise that those aspects of our world which are most intensely emergent, which is to say, which complexify the most intensely and sustainably, are those which do so by intertwining with others, by emerging in relation with them, intertwining their own projects with those of others. No aspect of the world can emerge by reifiying itself, or turning other aspects of the world into reified mirror aspects of itself. No, the world resists this. All aspects of the world which thrive are other-centered and directed, because this is the core way in which one can be self-centered and directed.
But there is a middle zone. Towards one extreme in our world is the matrix which pursues the pathway of maximally robust self-centeredness, and those who tend to the other extreme, which is maximally other-centeredness. Those which follow the first path, which can be thought of as paranoid, tend to thrive in the short run, but undermine their own success in the long run, producing continual crises and potential crashes as they destroy the very aspects of their world which sustain them. Those aspects of matrix which are other-centered tend to proceed at a much slower yet more distributed way, and in the long term, this is more productive, stable, rich, and in sync with the deep patterns of matrix itself. Those which are purely other-centered or purely self-centered, however, will ultimately deconstruct themselves, but those who pursue the middle path will find a degree of resonance with that of the world around it as it tries to emerge more robustly as well. The distinction between self and world, in fact, begins to deconstruct, and what remains is the emergence of emergence. This is a non-dual ethics and way of life. Such an approach to the world, however, is ultimately relative to one’s surroundings, for the middle pathway is only ever the middle between reification and dissolution in relation to the world in which it finds itself.
Matrix desire to liberate matrix from its fetters, which is to say, from limitations, to develop itself and emerge in the most profound yet sustainable way possible. At least, this is what the history of the cosmos seems to show. All that we value is based upon life and life more abundantaly, and this is the result of the manner in which matrix valued and hence worked to give rise to something like matter and life which could value something like life and life more abundantly in the process. The paradox, the non-dual irony, perhaps, is that the more we value the quality of life of others is the greater degree to which ours increases.
And this seemingly opposite, dialectical logic is the way the world seems to work. Take any particular aspect of the world to its extreme, and it will deconstruct its own foundations, yet intertwine it with others towards non-dual ends, and new emergences will come to be which will give rise to new dualities which can give rise to yet more intense emergences, in and beyond duality and non-duality. Dialectics and deconstruction seem to be a part of this process.
In the process of emergence, matrix gives rise to a world fuller and deeper than it was in the singularity, a world with us in it. The sigularity has given us the world, and we can give it back, and in the process, gain it ourselves, in, through, and beyond ourselves. We do this by desiring liberation via the middle path, between reification and dissolution, for any and all, and working to make this possible. Within the zone of robust emergence, it means pushing things away from reification and mirroring of the same, and towards the refraction of difference, towards curiosity, desire, change, multiplicity. Politically speaking, this is radical socialist democracy, not chaos, but the world described by post-anarchist thinkers. Certainly, it is different from the evil world of today, ruled by megacorporations which run countries to divide and conquer the world via racisms, borders, queer-phobias, mysogyny, and general impoverishment of “others,” as well as the incarceration or bombing of others, always imagined as well valuable than ourselves, thereby producing a world always on the verge of its own deconstruction. Slower yet more distributed development is the only ethical way, investing in others until all are ready for the next step, and distributing control of the process, economically and politically, to the maximum degree that is sustainable. That is a robust world, a world that is maximally emergent.
While nature did not emerge that way, for it emerged from scarcity, in a world of animal eats animal, biological evolution hit an inflection point with humanity, it evolved altruism and cooperation, as well as recursive thought, and these gave us the ability to take evolution to the stars. They also gave us the ability to destroy and be cruel to ourselves, as well as the ability to extinguish all life on our planet. Unless we learn to conquer our inner worlds, we will destroy our outer ones. The fiction that science and mathematics are beyond values fails to take into account the fact that as science is on the verge of deconstructing the human to give rise to the post-human, via technologies such as artificial intelligence and nano-bio-tech, we need to deconstruct our values to emerge from these as well. Emergence, and the pathway provided by the middle path of robust emergence, which models its behavior on the most robustly emergent aspects of the world around it, is a way to deconstruct the dualities which have reified our world into its currently dangerous and painful state.
There are philosophies of the past which have argued many of these notions, if without making use of the logics of mathematics and physics. The philosophy of the West, particularly that which comes from the pathbreaking work of Gilles Deleuze, is currently tending in this way, and the Deleuzian notion of the virtual is a definite influence on what I am calling matrix, the oneand, and emergence. The major influences on Deleuze, such as Henri Bergson, Gilbert Simond, A.N. Whitehead, C.S. Peirce, or Baruch Spinoza also indicate similar pathways. Relational emergentism has always been a minority position within Western philosophy, an underground current that was always overshadowed by the thinkers of reification, such as Rene Descartes or Immanuel Kant. Despite Deleuze’s antipathy to Hegel, as well as many of Hegel’s own later writings, Hegel’s more truly dialectical works, such as the Phenomenology and the Logic, are also crucial precursors to this mode of thinking, even if this is often obscured by interpretations of Hegel, including those of the late Hegel himself, and to a lesser extent, Marx.
But even before these, there are precursors in the Classic Arabic and Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist philosophical traditions which provide incredible resources for imagining non-dual philosophies of relational emergence today. That said, many of the forms of non-dual insight present within these traditions retains, like most Western philosophy, aspects which keep the powerful non-duality of some of its most crucial insights in fetters. Classical Arabic and Buddhist countries through the ages are not necessarily the zones of the greatest robust emergence. For even if they liberate the mind, they do not necessarily liberate society, just as Western societies tend to liberate the physical world for a few but not the many. A truly robustely emergent, non-dual worldview would have to deconstruct aspects of all of these precursors to imagine something new and different in sync with the particular needs of the middle path of the worlds in which we find ourselves. Any robustely emergent worldview will always selectively employ dual and non-dual elements in order to deconstruct local roadblocks to liberation to maximally sustainable robust emergence, and to help solidify and temporarilly reify those which are needed to allow for greater emergence in the future. A truly complete non-dual philosophy would deconstruct itself. All emergence is local, and hence, all strategies to further emergence, which is to say, worldviews, ultimately are as well, including this one.
Beyond Reified Chronotopics
We live in an age of networks, and I have written extensively elsewhere about what a philosophy of networks, based in emergent relationalism, as its local manifestation, might look like. Such a worldview would have to deconstruct the traditional reifications between philosophy and politics, science and fantasy, ethics and knowledge, in order to produce something which emerges from these contemporary cultural stases. And if we live in networked times, it is from networks we must emerge, and through which we can, for networks are ultimately ways of thinking of how emergence occurs. Composed of nodes, links, grounds, and levels of processes, all these can be seen as aspects of the ways in which emergence comes to be, between the extreme reification which nodes often give rise to, and the dissolution of processes. Between these, networks come to be, and from these, the potential for liberating our world to more robustely emergent ways of being.
This essay began with an investigation of time. From a networkological perspective, any aspect of the world can only ever be understood in relation to the whole, for if all is matrix, part and whole always exceed each other, for both are oneand. And so, any term needs to be deconstructed and reconstructed in regard to how it relates to the local attempt to give rise to even greater robust emergence in any and all. Matrix is fractal and holographic, and so must its method of analysis and synthesis, deconstruction and reconstruction.
From a networkological perspective, time is an aspect of emergence. Emergence is most reified, in the temporal sense, when reduced to space, which is what was described at the start of this essay as spatalized time, which is to say, the time of clocks. Clock-time, or less extreme reifications of time, such as moments or memories, can then be linked together to form networks. These include the linear flattenings of time and its moments into the image of beads on a string, or a set of events placed one after another in a repetition of the progression of homogenous moments. But such a network is one in which the pure linearity implies a point at a distance, a virtual point, the image of a moment as monad which extends itself in one-dimension forward, and the network formed between the points of the line and this virtual center, one which flattents the time of a circle into a straight line yet is as controlling as the center is to its circumference, is always present in its absence within each moment and all, regulating their form and linkage, their slicing from their surroundings and their reconection into linearity. Events with completely homogenous form, forced into homogeneous order. Such is what the attempt to reify time at the level of the link looks like, even as the reified instant of the clock, or the moment, is this at the level of the node. When this occurs, all time at the level of the ground, which is to say, as change, that which is both within and without moments and their progression, is concieved in relation thereto. As a result, the process of emergence itself is radically foreclosed, and all change seems simply the repetition of the same.
There is another way, in which the “–and” of the oneand peers out from within the one of any node, link, ground, and process, as well the processes of noding, linking, grounding, and emergence which give rise to these. At the level of the node, time is much more than clock time, nor any idealized or homogenous moment. Time is fundamentally multiplicitous, never the same, and any reification of it, any grasping, can keep grasp in a manner which reveals this openness as much as conceals some of it to make this grasping possible in the first place. Likewise, at the level of linking, moments, episodes, actions, these don’t need to be linked in a straight line, nor made part of a grid pattern like space (ie: a “database” approach to time). There are as many ways to link moments as there are ways of creating networks. Each of these maps of time, or chronotopes, has its particular flavor, and may be applicable in various ways to particular situations. Some are more decentralized than others. A line is the most centralized and controlled way of turning change into a perfectly regimented series of monadic nodes. And yet, the more loops and short-circuits within this, the more the line folds back upon itself, and produces networks which subvert linearlity from within it, liberating it from the iron yoke of progression. Memory, anticipation, the more these enter into time, the less time is just a focus on the actual and now right in front of us, the more free it is. Of course, if the moment can also be liberated, expanded to include the whole world, full ot past and future, exploding the node from within. Whether exploding the node or link, relative dereification, at least in a world like ours, allows more emergence to bloom between the cracks of paranoid control.
If networks are made of nodes and links, they always define themselves against backgrounds which ground them, and these grounds are neither fully within nor fully outside of these networks. If moments and their modes of linkage are the basic ways of conceiving of time, and this is seen against the background of physical change in space, then to liberate this is to see the emergence underneath this, the ways in which change is so much more than physical. Physical change and mental change are aspects of each other, we only ever apprehend the physical world through our filters. Even what seems like simply physical change can be interpreted in so many different ways, and this occurs by means of its intertwining with memory and fantasy, of the futurepast which is the ground of the now and vice-versa, of the neither/nor at the heart of change. And here we see how we verge on that which is neither/nor or yet also both and, which is to say, emergence. When emergence is reduced to processes nested within each other, to the quantitative emergences, simply one layered on top of the next, which gives rise to spatial, physical change, and none of the qualitative emergences which produce truly emergent newness, deconstructing and reconstructing nodes, links, grounds, and levels, all towards giving rise to more robust emergences in the process, then nodes, links, grounds, and levels of processes producing networks and their aspects are so many distinct reified aspects.
When these are all seen as aspects of emergence, however, everything shifts. Emergence gives rise to processes which intertwine, and these give rise to stable environments with stable structures which produce entities which can then link with each other, and as each continues to emerge in relation to each other, the parts and whole emerge at ever greater levels of emergence. Node, link, ground, and process are so many levels within the networks of emergence, each nodes which link together against the ground of the world of emergence itself.
Time is only ever an aspect of emergence, just as space is the background of invariance against which change occurs. Time is closer to emergence, and space to reification, and yet, both are aspects of the manner in which emergence differs from itself to give rise to a world whereby it can emerge more profoundly from itself. Space is congealed time made static in matter which displaces other matter, and time is how this is reunified in a matter which experiences the displacements of others. Experiencers can notice change because they compare change to sameness, time to space, and in the process, can even come to realize that they are experiencing. This is what humans do. Time displaces itself within itself as internal emergence and flow, and space in regard to what is outside of itself, as physical change. Inside and outside, space and time, both deconstruct, and are aspects of emergence, which is beyond all of these, even if each is a reification of emergence which has the potential to emerge more robustly, in regard to itself and world, if it loosens the hold of reification upon itself and world. Networks are simply one way to conceptualize this. But they are a model in sync with out increasingly networked times.
Neurotime: The Temporality Structure of the Brain
If clock time is the simplest time, then what is the most complex we know? Ultimately, the most profoundly emergent temporal phenomenon we know is the human brain. A brain is a network of intertwined pulsing fibers. These fibers pulse faster when stimulated by the pulses of others, and when this happens, they secrete a material that strengthens their connection backwards with whatever stimulated it. Intersecting and looping back into each other, the fibers feedback and forward into each other. Their intersections are so many nodes, linked together, giving rise to modules and nodes which are so many wholes which ground them, and a processes which emerge from these. While some of the modules are relativiely fixed in form, the brain is constructed for maximum sustainable flexibility, which is to say, fibers have links to diverse parts of the brain, and the firing of one inhibits or promotes a wide variety of others. As a result, the brain is continually voting on what it percieves from the outside world, and each part of the brain continually voting to produce guesses for what it believes other parts of the brain and outside world will do next, based on its memories of what these were in the past. When parts of the brain agree, they fire in sync, their pulsing producing a rhythm, and as various other parts of the brain vote, the sync flows up and down the levels of the brain, from sensory nerves to emotional and cognitive centers, untill there is, with any luck, some agreement, and when this happens, so long as some other part of the brain with veto power doesn’t intervene, sensation gives rise to action. The patterns of sync are ideas, and the largest pattern of sync in the brain at any given time, its “dynamic core,” is consciousness.
The brain is a time machine, a fundamentally distributed network, and it produces the most fundamentally complex form of time we know. It stores its memories distributively, and makes its decisions by debating which memories to choose to interpret the present and imagine about the future. All of this is done by means of the networking of matter, and our world is simply what this feels like, in relation to what’s around it, from the inside.
The distributed nature of the storage of memory in the brain is oddly resonant with one other model for the most complex phenomenon we know, which is to say, quantum phenomenon. It would be wrong to say that quantum “particles” are complex, for in fact, there seems no way to tell one electron or proton from another. But while they are simple from the outside, the fact that they are particles at all are, as mentioned earlier, fictions. Rather, they are ways in which quantum field processes reifiy each other in particular ways, giving rise to the spacetime between them in the process. The particles are hardly separate from the fields, and seem, if nothing else, simply the manner in which these fields emerge from themselves by intersecting themselves in relation to each other, and in ways which confound traditional notions of space and time. Anyone working high energy physics as much as any basic science textbook today will attest to the fact that quantum phenomenon defy everyday, normal human notions of space and time.
The manner in which they do resembles the structure of the human brain to an uncanny degree. Quantum “particles” can in fact even be thought of “smearing” spacetime. That is, they seem to be in many places and times at once. And just as they “smear” themselves over spacetime, so it can be said that “spacetime” is smeared in them, for ultimately these are two ways of saying the same thing. From such a perspective, what are distinct moments and positions in space and time for everyday humans are positions which can be thought of as existining intensively, which is to say, within, a quantum particle, as much as they would normally be extensively without it. The famed probabilities of quantum mechanics can then be thought of as the degree of intensity whereby each “external” location in spacetime beyond it is present “internally, within” a given “particle.”
From such a perspective, there are networks of space and time, of varying intensities, within quantum phenomenon which are only ever somewhat separated from the world of which they are a refraction, and which smears into them and them into it. What’s more, these probabilities, when viewed in a non-reified manner, can be seen as the distant influences upon the “particle” by those aspects of its environment which are non-local to it. In relation to its environment, a particle decides which of the micro-influences get the most votes and follows it, harmonizing its inner structure (evident only at even higher energies), and its outer structure. This only appears random when reified from the larger ground of emergence of which it is only ever an aspect.
The similarities to human lived time are incredible. Human brains have external positions from the outside world present in them as so many intensities of pulsing within its internal networks. Its decisions are made by harmonizing sync between inner and external influences. And as a result, there is a sense of space and time “within” our experience, if of a different nature than in the external world. The difference, it would seem, is that the inner structure of the human brain is radically different from that of quantum particles. Quantum particles differ in what is around them, but their inner structure, when “magnified” at higher energy levels, seems to be identical, if fractal. Human brains are anything but. The reason is we don’t store information outside of us, as the physical world does, but also inside of us, storing memories in the internal environment of our brain. Each one evolves uniquely. As pulses ride around our brain, each with its own experience more linear time, the networks of these give rise to the distributed experience of time we call lived human temporal experience.
Little wonder our time feels distributed, as if it can expand or contract at will, and is shot through with memory and anticipation. The physical structure of our brain is like this, and wherever the pulses increase in intensity and come into sync, there some aspect of us is, smeared out like a quantum particle in spacetime. Our experiential spacetime is little more than what this feels like from within. We can be in many times and spaces at once, separate, flowing, layered, and to varying degrees of intertwining, blending, and refraction. The reason for this is that this is how this very complex organ feels as it activates varying networked patterns of activation within its more fixed yet still ultimately rewireable hardware of wires.
The structure described here is mirrored by one other phenemenon reworking our world today, namely, the internet. A webpage on our screen can the be the product of sync between vast amounts of data from a wide variety of computers across the globe. The physical architecture of the internet changes over the time, as does the software it runs upon it, and any of these may change what we see on our screen, though depending on how they are organized, they may not, even as distinct happenings in our world, or activation of similar circuits in different parts of the brain, may give rise to experiences we may read as the same.
The internet is making our world more brainlike, more non-linear, and with it, we are beginning to experience forms of memory and anticipation which are more human, and less like the spatialized linear time of clocks, within the physical world around us, even if by means of virtual avatars. The internet is an enormous brain of brains, yet outside of human brains, and interaction between the internet and our brains is changing how we think of time. We feel less need to reify time, and our films and popular culture evidence this in a wide variety of ways, even by means of philosophies that attempt to think in more networked ways.
In the process, we are starting to see time in more networked ways, more quantum, brain-like ways, and the potential is radically liberatory. Then again, humans have almost always found ways to turn new liberations into new forms of enslavement, and to complexify in the least robust ways which are sustainable. But each transformation employs deconstruction and reconstructio, and hence, the chance to truly change things. To imagine the world in a more liberatory way. And this means getting in touch with the core of emergence, that destabilizing, dereifying core which has the potential to bring us from the path of maximum sustainable pain and destruction to that of the middle path of maximum sustainable robustness.
As our models of time become less linear, let us try to keep the potential for liberation in mind, and question the value of the values which guide our transformations, and the potential for a deeper relation to the nondual core, the potential for radical creativity, which is within any and all, yet which can only ever be released by means of networking, by reaching beyond oneself, unravelling to some extent one’s reifications, and enclosing one’s openings, going beyond the binaries to find a nondual core, potential, and pathway, an ethics, politics, and worldview, which is less destructive, at least, one hopes, for any, each, and all.
2. The Brain and the Quantum
All of which is to say that time is, perhaps primordially, non-linear, both in humans and the physical world. And that makes sense, for the structure of the human brain is ultimately a resonant echo of the world which produced it. The most complex actual entity the world has yet known, namely, the human brain, is a refraction of the most complex potentiality the world has yet known, namely, the singularity of all singularities, ‘the’ singularity, which began the largest context we can imagine, that of which all space and time are extractions and reifications. From these twin poles, the brain and singularity, it becomes possible to extrapolate a time beyond the more traditional and limited human notions thereof, and then reconstruct these, and potential pathways beyond these, in relation to a sense of time of which these are only ever partial graspings.
In the section which follows, I’ll explore some of the ways in which the experiments in cutting edge artificial intelligence and neuroscience, when coupled with the science of quantum physics and cosmology, when extrapolated to their speculative limits, can be used to help devise a theory to account for some of the uncanny similarites and crucial differences between the structure of the brain and the singularity. Without these forays into science, and then beyond, in the following second section, the theses advanced in the third section, with so much in common with the world’s mystical and purely speculative philosohpical traditions, would seem merely that. The third seciton can be read on its own for those less interested in the rather convoluted scientific issues involved, but for those wanting to know why these ideas aren’t quite as mystical as they might first sound, the second section is provided.
The time of the human brain, our lived experience of time, is simply what our brain feels like to us, yet from the inside. Time diffuses and spreads out, dilates and contracts, loops back and forth into future and past, changes attentional scale and flits between ideas, being in more than one “mental” and “physical” place at once in our awareness.
While our films and digital networked media are approaching these levels of complexity, the neurological networks present in even one human brain still far outstrip even the connectivities of the Internet as a whole, and are part of the extended networks of feelers in our bodies, sense organs, and world, in continual loops of feedback with those already present in our brains. And ultimately, even if the Internet is almost like a sentient being at this point, in that it evolves and mutates, processes and makes decisions, this is because, like human languages or nets of ideas, commodities, or other cultural phenomenon, these forms of “quasi-life” draw their life-like aspects from us. Without us, the internet would cease to evolve, and the same with our language and culture. Though our media are becoming evermore networked, and beginning to approximate the structure of the human brain, they are still fundamentally based on serial modes of computation, which prioritize linearity in their software and circuit design, and limit feedback and intermodulation.
The fundamentally networked structure of organisms and their brains are constructed differently, they are non-linear, distributed, refractive in structure. They are complex, self-organizing, emergent phenomenon, with incessant loops of feedback between elements and aspects of the environment. Cutting edge artificial intelligence, by means of “artificial neural networks,” which make use of software neurons, have only begun to simulate the architecture of the brain. These networks of simulated neurons are able to do things that more traditional computers simply can’t, which is to say, guess or forget, learn from mistakes and develop creative solutions. The downside, however, is that these computers only have networked software, their hardware is still linear and “serial” rather than distributed and “parallel.” And so, advances in this realm are ultimately limited until we can develop computer chips which evolve themselves like living organisms, and build themselves from the ground up, by means of the sort of feedback networks we see within living organisms and in the ways they relate to their environments. While we have software which does this, called “genetic/evolutionary algorithms” which form “multi-agent systems” which give rise to “distributed computation,” these once again are simulations produced on serial hardware.
What’s more, true artificial intelligence would have to be linked into its body in wide nets of feedback. Multiple forms of scientific evidence point to the fact that without emotions, humans make terrible decisions, because they can’t access core values to ground their deliberative processes. A computer with no sense of why it should protect its body, or analogically those of others like it, will make decisions based on sorts of rationality which are ultimately destructive to itself and what’s around it. Emotional computers would need feedback loops throughout their bodies, such that it could “feel” if its fans were properly regulating its temperature, similar to the ways in which humans “feel” hungry, and this then feeds back into our specific and also global neural processing. Many doing research on human emotions are increasingly convinced without feedback loops with our body, we would hardly have emotions as “brains in a vat.” That is, we cry and then feel the sadness, we laugh and then feel the happiness, our body is an extension of our brains.
Embodied cognition theorists even argue that the very structure of our limbs are forms of computation, and this is why it takes massive amounts of computation power to teach a robot to walk up stairs if you give it mechanical legs, but install rubber-bands on these legs that function in a manner similar to human tendons, and the computation power required drops enormously. Evolution long ago performed the computation necessary to design animal bodies, by means of continual feedback with relatively stable environments, and as a result, we get so much of our computation, to use a term employed by robotics and embodied cognition theorists, for “free.”
All of which is to say, no living body, and no feedback loops throughout it, and human-style artificial intelligence will likely be impossible. Artificial organisms and chips, however, change the equation. And so, until we develop something like nanotech which gives rise to articial life, true artificial intelligence will only ever be small scale, because it will only ever be simulated. And this is perhaps just as well, because until our species learns to be a little less destructive to ourselves and others, perhaps this technology would be too dangerous for us anyway.
Until then, however, even if the Internet does at some point rival the complexity of the human brain, it will only ever be quasi-life, derivative of us for its true creativity. And so, until artificial life and computers approach the true complexity of the human brain, computers, no matter how fast, will only ever be complicated, not complex, which is to say, they will have speed, but not creativity. Creativity requires networks of feedback within and outside the system in question, so that it can dissassemble and reconstruct aspects of itself and how it reads and acts in relation to the world so as to be able to adapt to it. Traditional computers have speed, but they can’t guess or learn, only memorize and project. These are fundamentally different, because one is completely hierarchical, while the other is distributive and refractive. Until computers can reprogram themselves in regard to their environment, and learn like humans do, they will only ever be machines.
Between brain and singularity, then, we have the two most complex forms of time yet known. The singularity gives us an image of time as pure potential, while the human brain, and and all of them, the most complex actual form of time we have yet to experience. From these, we can extrapolate idealities, and these can help us reimagine the ways our reified limiting concepts of time have constricted our views of what time can mean.
The human brain can be at multiple space and times at once within itself. It folds the world into itself in memory and selectively unfolding memories which it shatters and then reweaves to interpret the present and imagine the future. And it stores its memories, according to neuroscientists, in a fundamentally distributed and superpositioned manner. Which is to say, memories don’t exist in any one location in the brain. Rather, our brains map various aspects of our world, such as all the shades of color, all the types of shapes with hard edges, all the varieties of smells, and then produces maps of ways to link these in order to give rise to specific memories of events. This is why neuroscientists argue that any “recall” memory is always a recreation. And our perception of the present makes use of memory to recognize anything we experience, to such an extent that the present is, in many senses, mostly memory (the famous case of “filling in” in regard to the blind-spot in the eye being a prime example of this).
The similarity to quantum particles is astounding. Just as human memory be in multiple locations in space and time at once, and layer these in varying intensities to produce tension between various inner states, so quantum particles can “smear” themselves out in multiple spacetimes. Looked at inversely, this is ultimately the same as saying that multiple locations in spacetime are smeared “within” a particle as so many intensities. There are networks of spacetime folded into these particles which are extended, or unfolded, across locations in spacetime. What’s more, we know that as we approach a singularity, of shrinking a domain of spacetime into the space of a quantum particle by means of strong acceleration or gravity, that spacetime contracts, as if folding into the particle in question. Whether extending a single particle across an area of spacetime, or folding an area of spacetime into a super-dense particle (ie: a blackhole), the result looks similar, which is to say, spacetime is distributed as networks of intensities within a particle.
There are, however, crucial differences between the way brains intensively store spacetimes within them in the form of memory, and the way particles, as singularities or otherwise, do this. Quantum particles only ever mirror the structure of the spacetime they fold within them, if in relation to the particular type of particle they are. And as mentioned earlier, all quantum particles of a type have an identical inner strucutre, while each human brain has a similar structure to others in terms of large-scale architecture, but on the micro-level, is full of radically different structures, which give rise to the distinct memories and personalities of each person.
What’s more, quantum particles, when on their own, collapse when disturbed by others. That is, if two “smeared” particles end up in the zone of each other’s influence, they will ultimately disturb each other, and pull each other out of a “smeared” state, so that each particle has to “choose” a specific spacetime location with the other, giving rise to an event, a “particle collision,” when often transforms them and sends them flying off in new directions. While human brains may loose their focus on a given memory, if you hit a person’s body, the whole body or thought doesn’t “collpase” in the manner of a particle’s “smeared” or “cloud-like” state. This is because the matter of the universe which is above the quantum-scale, which appears “stable” and doesn’t flicker into and out of localized spacetime like quantum phenomenon do, occurs when quantum particles form relatively stable networks that dance together in relatively stable patterns, like organisms whose cells all work together in a semi-stable balance. While the particles still “flicker” in and out of existence, they largely do so in place, because they keep each other in check, and this is what is meant by atoms and molecules.
What quantum particles clearly can’t do, however, is shift their focus, or “explore” their interntal structure the way humans do. While they do fold the area of spacetime through which they are “smeared” into them, if in regard to their own internal structure, this intertwining enfolding only changes in regard to changes in their internal and external structure. Since it seems the internal structure of these particles are all identical, essentially, additional layers of internally folded spacetime which “unfolds” at higher energy levels (ie: the quark jets which are revealed to exist within protons), then the folding of a segment of external spacetime within a quantum particle is like a refractive mirror. In fact, it is uncannily similar to the description of the inner world of monads as described by Leibniz in his famous work of philosophy, The Monadology.
Human brains, however, have dynamic inner structures which are highly individualized, and so, they each refract the outer world they “smear” inside them differently. And as we know from experience, we also slice and dice our experience, refract that on bits of spacetime enfolded long ago, yet also rearranged in memory maps and meta-maps, and then project back imaginary reconstructions of what could happen, and after comparing many of these, choose one set to become our “actions.” None of this seems to occur with quantum particles, which seem to refract the world around them in one set of intensities, and while these impact the actions they make, these seem determined by the way dynamic forces interact with internal elements which seem dynamically frozen into stable patterns which give rise to stable probabilities.
And yet, quantum particles are one of the very few aspects of the physical world which, like the brains of organisms, do not behave in completely predictable ways. Quantum particles appear to “choose” some paths over others, and in relation to micro-influences from beyond their immediate environment (a more relational, Bohmian inspired interpretation) or due to a predictable degree of randomness (a more reifying, Cophenhagen-style interpretation of events, which is opposed to a Many-Worlds interpretation which refracts this these issues to “other universes/dimensions” beyond our knowledge). While brute physical matter, like stones or molecules of water, largely do whatever the sum of the forces of the environment around them, only quantum particles and animal brains seem to have something like the “freedom” to decide in relation to their environments. The fact that they are both able to “smear” or “fold” spacetime into themselves is likely not to be accidental in this.
An examination of the Bohmian interpretation of quantum interactions can help to explain why. In books such as Wholeness and the Implicate Order, or Undivided Universe, Bohm produces a highly influential reading of the data of quantum physics which, while a minority opinnion in the scientific community, is no more disprovable than the majority “Cophenhagen” position, nor the other minority opinion, or “Many Worlds” position. All of these work from the same data, they simply shift the base level assumptions about the deeper structures of reality which underlie them. And since we would have to develop experiments which are able to “look under the hood” of the current laws of physics (ie: it isn’t possible to go beyond the speed of light), it seems like it may not be possible to find out whether or not one of these interpretations are more or less correct than others. Perhaps this is yet one more way in which the world seems, in some senses, to resist ultimate reification.
For Bohm, the seeming “randomness” of the “decisions” of quantum particles can actually be made sense of if we assume the universe to be ultimately relational and non-local. That is, quantum particles can be thought of like nerve cells in the brain. That is, they would exist in continuous chains of feedback with others, and this distributed feedback would help it to make its decisions. Micro-influences, summed up and averaged out, from both within and without the now relationally imagined network commonly called a “particle,” would then arrive at the decision in the manner of a brain, which is to say, distributively and dynamically. Just like a community of nerve cells, decisions would be made by consensus.
The catch, however, is that as with the brain, some of these influences would be non-local. In the brain, this occurs because while nerve cells are almost always linked to their immediate neighbors, they are also selectively linked to nerve cells and communities of these in distant parts of the brain. It’s the selectivity of the wiring of these channels of amplification and inhibition which give rise to the distinct patterns of flows which make brains work the way they do, and each uniquely. For quantum particles, these long-distince linkages would be to everything around it, non-selectively, getting weaker the further away things are, and in regard to the types of influences in question. But these connections are ultimately to every other aspect of spacetime, if ever weaker in regard to distance. These are considered “non-local” in the quantum sense once they become “spacelike,” which is a term scientists use for when it would require going above the speed of light to cover a given distance in the time allotted. Since above the quantum level can go faster than the speed of light, this notion is often dismissed by scientists. That said, quantum particles often act in ways which can be interpreted as either random, producing other inaccessible dimensions, or exceeding the speed of light. The Bohmian approach reads things according to the last option.
By making this choice, Bohm avoids the extreme of reifying particles, as in the Copenhagen approach, or reifying objective contexts, as in the “many worlds” approach, which assumes that the universe produces divergent copies each time a quantum particle makes a decision, even though these copies don’t interact after this. The Bohmian interpretation, on the contrary, opts for a solution which rejects either extreme. It argues for a worldview in which everything is connected. Similar to the way in which the movement of air molecules on one side of the planet impacts, if in highly indirect, mediated, and weak fashion, those on the other side, so it is, for Bohm, with quantum phenomenon. The difference is that he believes that particles don’t need to be physically touching, but rather, that just as smeared particles can influence each other by overlapping, that the entire universe presents smearings within smearings within smearings, all of differing densities, with “particle collisions” as simply the points at which these networks hit a certain level of intensity as the clouds of fields y shift in relation to each other.
While Bohm’s ideas are a minority opinion amongst scientists, they are all agreed that it is as provable, or unprovable, as the majority or other minority opinions, for they all interpret the same data, yet the paradigms they use to do this require assumptions about aspects of the universe that are not only as of yet beyond the realm of investigation, but may remain that way. Bohm’s approach, however, has the advantage of neither splitting the universe into zillions of inaccessible copies, nor reifying particles and requiring “funny” math to do so. Rather, he argues that particles may be able to influence each other in ways which are not only spacelike, but “timelike” as well.
Which brings up the question as to why scientists refer to travelling faster than the speed of light as “timelike.” Since light is the fastest known entity, it functions as a cosmic yardstick for time as well as space. And so, for example, large expanses of spacetime is measured, for example, by “lightyears.” The reason for this is that it takes light one year to cover a lightyear, and yet, it takes slower entities, which are any which are not light, more time. This is because they weigh more by having mass, while photons don’t seem to have mass, at least, not rest mass. Since mass and energy are ultimately the same for physicists, in that one can convert to another, a photon’s only mass is its energy, which is not the case for any other known particle. These particles would have to shed their mass to travel at the speed of light, and it is their mass which prevents them from ever being light enough to do so.
In this sense, these slower, heavier particles trade off speed for mass, and hence, they will always cover less space in a given amount of time than light. In this sense, the speed of light can be used to measure not only space, but time, for it represents the fastest it is possible to cover space in a given time, which is to say, convert one into the other. It’s almost like currency conversion. Light gets the best exchange rate when they convert their energy into travel in space or time, while heavier particles have to pay a tax which is exponentially higher the faster you approach maximum speed, which is to say, the speed of light. In this way, a light year measures not only distance, but the minimum amount of time that it can take to travel that distance. It is ultimately a measure of spacetime, and can be divided or unfolded into differing expanses of space and time, depending on the matter and energy at work in a given situation. Matter, energy, space, and time are ultimately four sides of the same, even if they unfold this same, which I’ve called matrix, differently.
In this sense, light is the yardstick for the measure of both time and space. It also helps explain why looking into deep space is not only looking into space, but also time. The light we see with the naked eye, or a telescope, took time to get here. Light from the sun is eight minutes old, and so, really, we are seeing the way the sun looked eight minutes in the past. We are seeing not only what is far away in space, as we do when we see things in the distance on Earth, where the impact of the speed of light is negligible enough to be ignored. Since the sun is far enough away, it is distant not only in space, but also time. When this happens, scientists call the distance “timelike.” We see the sun at a distance of not only space, but also back in time. Or, when we see distant supernovas explode, we can say what happened in these distant locations in the past, but not what is happening now. What appears as the present at a great distance is ultimately looking backwards in time as well.
Time dilates over great distances, slowing down, in a sense. The inverse happens when you speed up. As your speed increases, whatever travels with you, in your “frame of reference,” remains the same, but, according to relativity, the way your surroundings appear warps, even if to those in these surroundings, it is you that warp. And so, a spaceship approaching the speed of light appears to scrunch in space in the direction of its speed, just as, when it returns to us after its voyage, time for the voyager went slower than it did for us. Space and time compressed as the ship approached light speed. But for the person in such a ship, the opposite would be happening, in that the space of its surrounding would seem to elongate in the direction of its motion, and the time of its surrounding would seem to speed up, even as its clocks seemed to move at the same rate.
As one approached the speed of light, then, the spacetime around one would seem to be extending in space until it dilated to zero, just as time would increase around one until it moved infinitely. Infinite movement in infinite space is no movement in no space and no time, or vice-versa. Space, time, speed, movement, all these would become meaningless. Likewise, since one would need zero matter to be able to do this, one would either need to shed all one’s weight and convert it to energy, like a light particle, or have so much matter that your gravity creates massive amounts of energy by dragging spacetime into you, like in a black hole. In this sense, at the speed of light, there is neither time, space, nor matter, perhaps only energy, if it even makes sense to speak of this at this point.
Complicating issues a bit more, there are quantum particles that seem to be able to go backwards in time. That is, these particles and their anti-particles are only different in the direction they spin. When they collide, they cancel each other out, and yet, in our world, we see both in various places. And yet, if we were somehow able to travel backwards in time, we’d see the same particles, moving backwards like all the others, yet also moving in opposite directions of spin. This is why scientists have argued that there is ultimately no difference between these particles and their antiparticles, other than direction in time. That is, there is only one particle, when it spins one way it is moving forwards in time, and when the other way, backwards in time. Two particles or one, two directions of time or one, either approach can make sense of the same data, and since quantum particles seem to smear spacetime in some of their interactions, who’s to say they can’t do this as well? Whether we say there is one particle travelling forwards and backwards in time, or two different ones travelling forwards in time, the data is ultimately identical. Which is to say, we are able to get an idea of what travelling backwards in time might look like, just by looking at travelling forwards with a different spin.
There is another relevant complication, namely, that when quantum particles interact, they don’t actually do so in reified “collisions,” but more accurately, in networks. And depending on which point of reference one uses to divide up these networks, one ends up with a wide variety of collisions, some of which have particles transforming into others. On the quantum level, a particle aborbs energy when it absorbs a moving particle in it, but since it has nowhere to “put” it, it either speeds up and lets the particle go on its way, or simple jumps into the type of particle that includes both of the original ones. And vice-versa with decomposition. Particles fold and unfold into each other in this way all the time, and are only truly “final” if one reifies collisions into pairs that only preserve particles structure. While this is a completely acceptable way to divide things up, it is only one way of interpreting the data. And so, whether or not particles are “ultimate” or continually morphing into one another depends on one’s perspective.
And so, some scientists, often those who like to speak of particles travelling backwards in time, have also hypothesized that perhaps there are many fewer particles than there seems to be. If all particles of a given type, such as light or electrons, are indistinguishable from each other, how do we know they aren’t all just refractions of the same? This is why some have said that perhaps the universe is a hall of mirrors of sorts, or a giant crystalline image. Light particles are quite unique in this respect, for they the only particles that are their own antiparticle. This means that whether or not one goes forwards or backwards in time, light looks the same, and is the only particle to do so. And so, as John Bell famously hypothesized, perhaps there is only one light particle in the cosmos, reflecting off matter, bouncing backwards and forwards in time, like so many images between a set of parallel mirrors facing each other. What’s more, perhaps all the other particles are simply versions of these reflections that slowed down, gained mass, by interfering with each other. We know quantum particles interfere with each other and sometimes even themselves, so why not?
From such a perspective, it becomes possible to wonder if we’ve ever actually left the singularity. Perhaps the universe isn’t an unfolded expansion of the singularity, but rather, a form of internal involution, and space, time, and matter and energy with it, are virtual. Would there even be a difference?
Perhaps the difference between a particle going the speed of light, and a singularity, ultimately, two sides of a very differing same. The first has zero weight, the space around it fully dilates and its time speeds up, while the time “within” the light particle, to an outsider, slows to zero and its space shrinks to the size of a point. What about as one approaches a black hole, which is to say, a singularity? Well, scientists believe it would be the exact opposite. Again, one’s own spacetime would be identical, for one’s inertial frame stays the same. That said, one would have to be able to resist the incredible power of infinite gravity, which become exponentially difficult the closer one gets to the black hole. And so, ultimately, one’s space and time would ultimately compress, but this would only be noticeable from the outside, because the change would be uniform from within. However, things outside of one would seem strange. In the direction of the black hole, space would seem to be warping into a point, with clocks getting faster the closer they get to that point. From the outside, however, you would seem to simply get dimmer and dimmer, with your clocks getting slower, at least from outside, while you got fatter and fatter, flattened against the outside of a seemingly vast yet curved expanse of blackness with no starts behind it.
This is hardly what you’d see, however, rather the inverse. Of course, it’s all speculation, because it’s not possible to deal with that sort of gravity without being compressed and torn and rearranged so violently that a spaceship with even the strongest walls would be ripped to shreds as different parts of it compressed ever more violently at differing degrees depending on infinitessimally smaller distances to the center of the singularity at the center of the hole. But hypothetically, as one approached the hole, the closer one gets, the more the space in front of one would seem to be scrunching into a point with its center at the center of the singularity, with clocks slowing down the closer they got to the center. Behind one, however, space would seem to be expanding from a point at the exact opposite of the center of the hole, directly behind one, with clocks speeding up in that direction. What’s more, the dark hole in front of one would seem to keep getting smaller yet darker, and the world behind you would seem to keep getting brighter, and it would keep expanding, even as the world in front of you kept shrinking, until the space behind you started to fold over and begin to “enclose” you, until it fully wrapped around itself and started to seem to get sucked ever closer, but from all sides, towards the hole in front of you.
This is why some scientists have speculated that perhaps there are “white holes” which are what are on the opposite side of black holes, and just as black holes “eat” aspects of universes, so “white holes” spit them out. Perhaps the singularity which starts off a universe is a black hole which stored up enough material, and then, when something set it off, decided to explode and start its own universe in its own dimension, which, in a sense, is the infinity within itself, within another universe. There is then perhaps a multiverse of universes, all connected by means of these swisscheese holes, black on one side and white on the other, pumping univereses into each other, if in ways which violate the normal rules of space and time within any one of them.
And so, as one would approach a black hole, eventually, one would see, at least speculatively, only pure white, as the world behind you wrapped around the front until the black hole vanished. Enucleated in a node of pure whiteness, until, perhaps, you exploded, and a universe of black space began to appear in the very pores of this whiteness. The inverse would likely happen were you able to go the speed of light, as the whole world around you would turn to pure white in front of you, yet getting ever smaller, and the world behind you turning ever blacker, until the black reached over and completed itself as you hit the speed of light, enucleated in pure blackness. Light particles, in a sense, can be thought of all all exterior, with no interior, while singularities like those inside of black holes, as all interior.
And just as we speak of human brains as having “interior” experience, so it seems happens inside black holes. Space and time, matter and energy, are smeared on its exterior from without, yet from inside, are smeared within. Singularities are infinite interiority, with matter, energy, space, and time, at least in theory, smeared within them, just like they are inside quantum particles. The difference, however, is that quantum particles smear spacetime within them by smearing themselves out in spacetime. Singularities, however, compress space and time within them. And if the relation is mutual, it is only in the manner of some sort of inner spacetime which, to outsiders, is virtual. Perhaps our universe is precisely this, a virtual world within an blackhole, just as other universes are the same within our black holes.
Let’s return to the notion that the singularity is the most complex potential we know, and the brain the most complex actuality. What is the difference, in this sense, between actuality and potential? In terms of human experience, we say that an action is potential if we are considering it, yet haven’t yet actualized it. Often we imagine several possible experiences, and choose on over others, and these actions are spoken of as potential. Objects have potential energy if it is stored within them, and can then be unleashed according to one or more possible actions. While humans can imagine these actions as possibilities, objects, lacking complex brains, seem unable to do so.
Our entire universe existed as potential within the singularity which began our universe, and time and space within it. This means that the future that we experience unfolding before us is always already contained within the singularity. In order to get a sense of what this might mean, we can examine how quantum particles “contain” aspects of the future within their smeared spacetime state. The way this is experienced by those performing experiments on these particles is that they seem to “know” what is going to happen in regard to very particular situations in the future. For example, there are certain things that particles aren’t able to do, like interact with another particle, in “unsmeared” particle form, in two places at once. Once another particle interferes enough with another, they are likely to zap into one location in the overlap and scatter each other as a “collision.”
Scientists have developed experiments, however, that try to trick particles into doing things like this that they aren’t “supposed” to do. This is done in order to see what the rules are. And in experiments, such as the famous “quantum eraser” experiments, it seems that quantum particles act so they are consistent in spacetime. That is, they never do something which in the future could cause a contradiction with its past actions. That is, they avoid the sort of paradoxes we see in time travel movies, such as when a person kills their own grandparents. Quantum particles seem able to only act in the present in a way which later will end up having, retroactively, been consistent with its past actions. This structure, described by philosophers as future anteriority, or the “back to the future” effect, makes it seem as if quantum particles “knew” what was going to happen to them in the future, and took this into account in the past. Of course, quantum particles don’t know anything. But another way of looking at this, one which gets rid of the notion of particles which “act as if they know what’s going to happen,” is to say that the particles are in multiple times at once. This might sound crazy, but what it means in practice is that if you do something to the particle in the future, this immediately impacts the past so that the past is consistent with it. This is what it would look like from an “outside” observer, at least. But if one were near the particle, going forward in time, one would simply do what one was planning to do to the particle at one moment, and then, no matter what one did going forwards, it would be as if the particle could anticipate those actions, even if you couldn’t.
Quantum eraser experiments were in fact designed to test these very notions, and, without getting into the complexities of these experiments, it’s safe to say that they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that either quantum particles somehow can anticipate what you’re going to do ahead of time, or they are in multiple spacetimes at once such that what one does in one immediately impacts the other, or there are multiple dimensions involved. Once again, the three primary ways of interpreting quantum phenomenon. As with previous examples, my approach will be to do with the one that reifies neither the particle nor universe, and hence, which opts to smear the particle in spacetime.
This has ramifications for how one conceptualizes the diffference between actual and potential. If quantum particles exist in many spacetimes at once, they can be thought of, at least from our perspective, to be only potentially existent until a solid interaction occurs which makes them actual. That is, during a collision, there is a single particle, fixed in one spacetime location. Between such collision events, however, it is virtual, smeared in spacetime, in many spaces and times at once. That said, it is in some more than others. While Cophenhagen interpretations of quantum physics argue that these are probabilities which measure the degree of randomness involved, and the many worlds interpretations ultimately say the same, even if their interpretation reads the meaning of this in a reversed manner, the Bohmian approach is different from both these mirror images. The Cophenhagen approach puts the indeterminacy of the situation within the observer, reifying the subjective aspects of the situation, and the Many Worlds approach does the reverse. But the Bohmian approach aruges that the indeterminacy is in the relation between the matter and energy of the particle with the space and time over which they are extended as so many potentials.
Instead of probabilities, then, there are intensities of matter/energy at a given location in spacetime. Some of these intensities are zero, which would be calculated by the other approaches as zero probability. Likewise, the intensity approaches full intensity, what the others would call a probability of one, even though it never reaches either of these states until it actualizes in a collision. Ultimately, intensity and probability depend upon one’s frame of reference.
Taking the Bohmian approach, however, one could say that the degrees of intensity represent the extent to which the particle actualized its virtual potential to manifest in a given spot, and that these virtualities contracted into a full actuality when one of these virtuals actualized in one particular spacetime location. This is what others have described as “smearing” of the particle across spacetime. Nevertheless, some of the locations have a zero intensity, and these are those which are proscribed, because they produce inconsistencies in time.
For Bohm, the very stuff of the world continually shifts between virtual and actual and states in between. This is why Bohm refers to his theory as “ontological,” because for him, the fundamental stuff of the world “is” this way. This he opposes to the “epistemological” approach of the Cophenhagen school, which puts describes these issues as degrees of indeterminacy in what can be known by a subject. The many worlds interpretation, then, simply shifts the issues off stage, not placing them within the subject, but beyond the subject. While I don’t agree that “ontological” is a good way of describing what Bohm is doing, because ultimately, the notions of virtual and actual he employs deconstruct the boundaries between epistemology and ontology, subject and object, at least in any traditional sense.
Nevertheless, if quantum particles spread themselves to varying degrees of virtual intensity, which are the degrees of probability they will actualize somewhere in relation to what’s around them, then this can also be seen as space and time networking virtually within the particle as so many intensities of space and time within the particle. When particles interfere and interact, they smear themselves and their respective spactimes within each other as so many intensities, until they actualize. Actualities always imply one location in spacetime, with deterimed degress of matter and energy. While some particles can be infinitely layered onto each other and simply increase in intensity, such as electrons, others “exclude” each other (as described by the famed Pauli exclusion principle), such as protons, which push each other out of the way like most matter. Those which exclude each other like actualize in such an exclusive manner.
All of which is to say that within a singularity, an entire universe is condensed, with its space, time, matter, and energy all virtualized within it. Until, from a speculative exterior perspective, it “decides” to expand and give rise to a Big Bang and create a universe, all that it gives rise to, and ever could, exists virtually, as potential, infinitely condensed within it. Like memories stored in a human brain, all these potentials are infinitely expanded throughout it equally in its internal spacetime, which is virtual, because it is infinitely compressed. Were these potentials actualized, they would unfold potentials into possibilities, virtuals into actuals. But in the cosmic bookkeeping, there are things which are excluded, which would create contradictions. There are branches within the pathways of potential, and branches which cancel each other out if selected, as pathways interfere with each other, just as quantum particles interfere with each other and sometimes with themselves, which is to say, their non-local environment if one is a Bohmian, in the world beyond singularities.
What is being described here is not far from the God of Leibniz, as described in his Monadology, a work mentioned earlier in this text. According to Leibniz, God is the being that has all possible universes in his mind, as so many virtual pathways, and as the world actualizes, God is the giant computer programmer that makes sure that the best possible world ultimately comes to be, considering the current state of things and the virtual possibilities. That is, if a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world will make the butterfly gain a mouthful of food, but be the event which leads to the proverbial chain of events which causes a hurricane elsewhere, all things being equal, God will make sure the butterfly goes for the morsel of food that avoids the hurricane, so long as it doesn’t ultimately lead to something worse. God needs infinite foresight, to check the future possibilities. Which means, then, that God needs to “smear” its consciousness in multiple locations in spacetime, and in regard to our universe, smear it through all spacetimes, just like a quantum particle smears itself through spacetime.
This is similar to what many mystical traditions have aimed at in meditation, namely, the ability to concentrate on many different things at the same time, and many different times in the same space. The smearing of the mind through spacetime, and the smearing of spacetime in the mind. Returning to Leibniz’s notion of God, however, if smearing quantum particles in spacetime is the same, ultimately, as saying that spacetime is smeared within these particles, so it is with this description of God. That is, if God’s mind is smeared across all the spacetimes, it is also possible to say all the spacetimes are smeared within God, and all at differing intensities. From such a perspective, every possiblility in space and time can be seen as virtually present in the mind of God, with differing intensity to the degree to which it is compatible with the overall actualization to its “best,” fullest development in relation to the rest. And God would be present in everything, if moreso in things which promote the development of the best within the world around them.
There seems, however, to be no guarantee in the world of science that things always turn out for the best, nor that there is an omniscient God making sure things work out well. But writing at nearly the same time as Leibniz was Barch Spinoza, and his model of the world, and God, while not able to account for virtuality and actuality like this, can complement Leibniz’s notion of God in some fascinating and helpful ways.
Leibniz’s God is one which describes a world unfolding in time, selecting pathways through the virtual worlds of possibility, and bringing the best to actuality. Spinoza’s world is one in which truth is beyond time, and God, which is the principle of truth, fundamentally non-dual. That is, God is both within time and space and outside of it. God is reason, and reason, for Spinoza, is that which cannot contradict itself, which is to say, God is, at least in this respect, similar to that described by Leibniz, a principle of consistency. For example, if a triangle is something with three sides, and this is the essence of a triangle, that which is impossible to doubt if one knows the concepts intended by these words, then this essence of triangleness, the truth it represents, is a part of God. God is simply the ultimate rational pattern which contains all the others which make sense of the world as we know it.
What this means, however, is tricky to say. For Spinoza, we can deduce certain truths from others which are more fundamental. And so, while we find the definition of a triangle fundamental once we know what its components mean, we can then deduce things from this, such as, for example, the notion that it is impossible to have two sides not add up to more than the third. While we may deduce this, and this may take time, and require several steps in an argument, these are all present simultaneously with the notion of a triangle in the mind of God. God is beyond space and time, and is the necessary truths of the world, in and beyond space and time. But God is also the cause of them, because God not only a cosmic bookkeeper of logician, but also the most real and most powerful entity in the world. God is the power which gave rise to the universe, and the standard of all values. That which happens, for Spinzoa, is the best that could be, considering all that could happen, simply because it is the only standard against which we could make such a judgment. There is no perfect world outside of this one in regard to which we could judge this one, unless we want to judge an imaginary world better than a real one. All we have ever known, and the standard for any good we have ever valued, is the world in front of us. The best within it, and the most reasonable, is what is most Godly. Likewise, that which is the most powerful. This doesn’t mean Spinoza valorizes evildoers, but rather, he believes that those who are cruel and terrible to others may have short-sighted benefits, but ultimately dig their own graves and cause their own troubles. For Spinoza, nature and politics bear this out. Utlimately, however, his concern is ultimate, not with human action. The universe is the most powerful thing we have ever known, and is the only standard against which power can be understood, the same with value and reason.
The inheritor to such an approach to the world, and God, is the German Idealists, Schelling, and then Hegel. God is the unconditioned, the Absolute, the invariant within all experience. As the invariant, God is the standard against which any determination of reason, value, power, ethics, or anything else can be judged. Space and time are simply the unfolding of the absolute in itself. The absolute unfolds from virtual to actual. And it does so, for Hegel, to move from abstract absolute to concrete absolute. A concrete absolute is one which is determinate, and negates itself and its world by holding its particular, determinate aspects apart from each other and the world in and within itself in relation to the world. For example, a real tree holds its leaves apart from each other, keeps its green pigments separate from its brown ones, and is distinct from the idea I may have of this in my head. The tree also holds apart, in a sense, the various moments of time in which it exists. But when I imagine a tree in my head, all trees in the world and all times I’ve ever seen a tree in get collapses, and all the parts, colors, and other aspects of a tree become a fuzzy mess. Indistinct and abstract, the parts aren’t determinate, nor fully distinct from what’s around them, nor do they mutually negate either other, either logically or in space or time. They are, in Hegelian terms, abstract, not concrete.
From this foray into philosophy, we can then postulate what it might be like to exist within a singularity. All that has ever existed exists within the singularity as virtual pathways within virtual spacetime. Similar to the branching pathways in a human brain, with so many feedback channels, the singularity would then be a giant virtual brain whose thoughts are so many virtual scenes of events and pathways through it, all interfereing with each other to give rise to so many varied intensities whereby various pathways intensify or inhibit others. What is more, it seems that every quantum entity may also have such a temporal structure, even if this seems to decohere at macro/non-quantum sizes, only to reappear in reworked form in the interiority of the lived experience of time in terms of memory and anticipation, with all the quantum-like aspects this seems to reveal. All of which is to say that this structure may not only apply to the singularity, but to lesser degrees, all aspects of the universe which arose therefrom, with some more reified and actual and less virtual than others, and yet, still networks within networks of such a mode of polydimensional, virtual-actual networked temporal branching.
All of which is fundamentally different from what we experience in the everyday external spacetime of physical objects, in which entities are actual, which is to say, determined, and extended so their aspects are distinctly unfolded and exclude and displace each other in space and time, and some events give rise to others. Time unfolds in space, and vice-versa, causes leading to effects, but never the reverse, due to the single direction of the flow of energy from the Big-Bang and its way of pushing along the non-quantum aspects of the universe in one direction alone. This can be seen as simply a collapsed, reified version of the more complex forms of quantum time and neural experienced time.
That said, ultimately, we have no way of knowing, of course, if what seems so solid is here as it appears to be. That is, perhaps we have never left the singularity, such that all of us, the objects of the world, and all our worlds of experience are simply virtual projections within the singularity itself. Of course, saying we have never left the singularity is the same, ultimately, as saying that the singularity has never left us. From such a perspective, we are smeared in it, and it in us.
If this is the case, and we have no way ultimately of knowing it is not, then then universe could be viewed in two very different ways. In the first, we never have never left the singularity, but the intensity of the pathways through it change in intensity relative to each other, causing all we experience. There would then be no movement forward in time for the singularity as a whole, but only changes in the intensity of its pathways in space, as some vanish, and others increase to full intensity, while others increase or decrease in intensity relative to the main branch pursued from the center to periphery, which are ultimately simply aspects of each other, because this space is virtual anyway. But we could, at least virtually, figure the center as the now, the branching pathways to the periphery as the virtual futures, and the actual past as that which has gone through the center, and is written on the exterior, extended in virtual space, with the most recent events as the largest, and those in the distant past as the smallest. Of course, for this to be more accurate, the branching virtual pathways would have to be three dimensional, as would the writings on the sphere itself, and the interior of the sphere in virtual space, and the circumference of the sphere in the actual. And then we would have an image of our own universe as it unfolds in spacetime, and perhaps of time itself, fractally proliferating to quantum, collapsed objective, and neural forms.
From such a perspective, then, there is no difference, ultimately, in saying that we are all still within the singularity, and it is within us, for every aspect of the universe can ultimately be seen as little more than the holographic and fractal refracton of the singularity, each more intense the more as it actualizes the full scope of the virtual potentials of the singularity within it. Of all the aspects of the world, the human brain is able to bring into the actual world the virtual potetial of the singularity to the greatest degree. This detour through neurocience and artificial intelligence, quantum physics and cosmology, physical and speculative, has brought us back, now, to where this began.
3. God and the Mind
The preceding discussions of aspects of neuroscience, artificial intelligence, quantum physics, and cosmology, the latter two extrapolated speculatively beyond the limits of experience, provide a basis for the more directly philosophical model to follow, rejoining the discussion of the first part of this essay.
We have no way of knowing if we have ever left the singularity, and ultimately, whether we are all virtual presences within the singularity whose intensity increases as we actualize more of those potentials, or the singularity is present within us more intensly as we actualize its virtual potentials, is ultimately two ways of saying the same thing.
What’s more, there is no reason not to think of the singularity as what the philosophers have often called the Absolute, the Unconditioned, or the mystics and theologians have called God, at least, if by God we mean the ultimate horizon of all experience, that from which all space and time, matter and energy, came to be, is a part, and likely will return or continue to mutate infinitely, which may ultimately be two ways of saying the same.
From such a perspective, God, or the singularity, or in the terms described above, matrix or the oneand, gave rise to matter and energy, space and time, by differentiating itself, by emerging from indeterminate virtuality into determinate actuality, from potential to actual. As it differentiated, it rewove with itself, and gave rise to more complex actualities, aspects of itself that didn’t layer differences and samenesses in space and time, matter and energy, intensively onto each other, but rather, extensively, with each excluding the other to varying degrees, with space, time, matter, and energy as the result. The world moves forward in time and explores itself in space, yet within the singularity, these are all stored, virtually layered on top of each other in the same infinitely compressed yet infinitely extended spacetime. From the center, infinite pathways extend, with each possible scenario in the universe, and yet, there are feedback channels between these, threading the threads. The center is the now, and the branches move closer towards it feeding back more into each other and becoming more definite from the virtual haze surrounding them as they near actualization. Interfereing like so many branches of lightening, the pathways and scenarios increase in intensity as they approach the center, which is always the most intense, for it is the peak of actualization.
This node of actualization, burning white hot in intensity, sucks the pathways into it, like so much matter and energy in a black hole, and what it sucks into it are virtual pathways, like so many networks in a brain. What emerges out the other side of this hole, however, is the universe as we know it, actual, and extended in spacetime, in which time flows linearly forwards, yet differentiated in spacetime, just as in the singularity, it is the reverse. And yet, on the other side of the core of actualization is also another virtual pathway, the periphery of this infinitely extended virtual universe, a spherical enclosure, whose exterior flattens upon it the space we experience, holographically, compacting dimensions, with the more recent events larger, and the more distant ones smaller. Infinite in expanse, this sphere is infinitely small, for it contains all the virtual worlds we could be inside of it, and our actual world outside yet receding into it from all sides. Like a black hole, but turned inside out, like the famed “white holes” described by physicists. Simply inflate this image from three dimensions to four, and you get a description of our actual universe.
From such a perspective, we have never left the singularity even as we are always leaving it, for it is virtually smeared through the whole universe, and the whole universe is virtually smeared in it. It is the potential which the whole universe actualizes, the essence of God in any and all, which is to say, the core of emergence within any and all aspects of the universe. It is physical energy, as well as all the virtual possibilities which this makes truly possible as potential in any given actual situation. Energy is the name of this essence in the abstract, but because energy is always bound up in matter to unfold in particular ways, this reification of one aspect of potential is a highly reduced notion of this seed of emergence, of all the virtual potentials present, within each and any and all, such that each and any aspect of the cosmos is a refraction of the singularity, of God, of the matrix or oneand, each in its own way.
And each in differing degrees of intensity. Those which bring the virtual freedom to be any and everything, like the quantum particle, of which the singularity is the most virtually free, into the world of the actual, is the most Godllke. The human brain, then, as the most complex and free actuality, is the most intensely Godlike aspect of the world we know, just as the singularity is the most virtually Godlike. All value, from which all ethics derives, exists on a continuum of degrees of intensity of potential to make actual the virtual potential present in the seed of emergence present in any and all in relation to that in and of any and all.
All time and space is within us, if virtually, for the history of the entire universe would ultimately be needed to fully explain each and any of its most minute aspects. How to explain why you are thinking what you are now if you hadn’t been born in a particular place, in a particular society, in this particular species, on this particular planet, in this particular solar system, in this universe given rise to by a this singularity? Each and any aspect of the world can trace itself back to the singularity this way, just as any and all aspects of the world are pathways to the singularity within it, even as we are within it, each the essence and core of the other, virtual and real, potential and actual.
For the singularity, time is fuzzy, indeterminate, enfolded, vague, full of options and pathways. From the pure light of indeterminacy, the universe is like a the brain of infants, born with far too many nerve connections, which slowly prunes itself as some connections grow stronger than others with time, and those which aren’t used die. The singularity is high on possibility, until it begis to actualize, and determinate shapes come to be, and it begins to grope to grasp some of those with others, define aspects of itself, and eventually, by giving rise to consciousness and self-consciousness, to come to know itself. Just like our thoughts arise and fall away, yet leave traces in the physical structure of our brain which impacts pathways for future thoughts, organisms are like thoughts in the brains of the world, objects are like nerve-cells, and yet, it all pulses with life and, even if at simpler degrees, something like awareness. And though organsism rise and fall, we leave traces in the fabric of the brain of which we are aspects. We are how the singularity comes to feel and think itself.
Just as thought is how humans feel their brains from the inside, feelings how we feel our brains feel out bodies, and sensations how our brain feels our body feeling our world, so it is with us. We are the way the singularity comes to feel itself, and as we develop, so its ability to feel itself becomes more defined, more complex.
And we, and all other matter, are how the singularity comes to move from the fuzziness of potential to the definition of actuality. Quantum phenomenon actualize within webs of virtual potentials. If one starts from the perspective of a given quantum particle-event, it is as if it sends out virtual ‘feelers’ to imagine future possibilities, and then ‘chooses’ one to act on, similar to the way in which humans imagine possibilities, then actualize choices. Nevertheless, the notion that quantum-particle events are ever truly distinct is a useful fiction, for in fact, these are reifications of the shimmering networks of events, the networks of virtual possibilities and actualized events described by the famous diagrams of physicist Richard Feynman. Quantum particle-events are simply nodes in these vast networks of flickering virtual potential and actual events, wrapping in and out of each other. And just as quantum event-particles seem to smear spacetime within them, so it is with the singularity, it has all of spacetime smeared within it, along with all its vitual and actual potentials. It changes within itself, slowly shifting from mostly virtual to mostly actual, and this is what we experience as movement in spacetime.
Perhaps, however, it is more apt to describe it as a shifting from unfocused to focused, from undefined to defined, from fuzzy to concrete. While there is a loss of pure potentiality, there is a gain in specificity, concretion, definition. Things become, to use a more commonplace term, more intensely real, and hence, less nebulous and indistinct. And this is another form of freedom, the freedom from the indefinite. If the singularity looses the pure abstract freedom of possibility to concretion, it gains it back as this concretion increases in complexity. Human brains are clearly evidence of this.
What we give to the singularity is definite, actual, concrete, and determined existence in delimited space and time. Only by means of such a loss of freedom, of reification and enclosure, can any aspect of the pure potential of the singularity distinguish itself enough from what is around it to then be able to intertwine with others equally differentiated to give rise to greater intensity of differentiated intertwining, which is to say, complex networking. This is emergence. This is the standard of all value, that which potentiates itself the more intensely it complexifies.
We are all of God, as is every aspect of the world, and yet, to differing degrees, to the extent to which we have the potential to actualize the potential of any and all by means of our own. This is a non-dual ethics and practics, one which only grows as a self by growing others, and vice-versa. A network ethics of robust complexification of self and world, of coming into sync with the manner in which the world develops in and through you. To come into sync with emergence is to have it emerge in and through you, it is action as inaction, the maximal freedom, power, and pleasure possible from one’s particular location within it. Ultimately selfish in its unselfishness, it is the distribution of control and potential, the fostering of difference to the maximum sustainable to degree. For so long as difference and change do not overwhlem the ability to give rise to yet more, they feed emergence. Versus paranoid control, centralization, hierarhiczation, this is potential set free, to the verge of chaos. Our world is far, far from chaos due to proliferating difference, and in fact, only ever seems on the verge of chaos from the crises which massive overcontrol bring about, and claim to be caused by the reverse. Decentralization, diversification, proliferation, investment in any and all, rather than for the few, to the verge of chaos, this is the pathway towards robustness for our world.
As the singularity wrested itself into actuality, giving rise to life, then self-consciouness, then language and culture, it has always balanced reification with distributedness. And yet, the evolution of nature is radically brutal and cruel, each species taking the next for fuel and raw materials. Carnage and brutality. Humans have inherited this terrible lineage, and we have never ceased to be brutal to each other. And yet, our minds only developed this way because we learned to cooperate, we are social animals, and this is the only way to move forward, to unlearn the brutality of evolution in the harsh environments of our past. We now have the technology to eliminate any suffering, we have tamed nature, and yet, since it forged us, we now need to brutality that the millenia have etched in our souls. This inflection point in human evolution, and of life and nature, is humanity’s mission, to redeem the suffering that was needed to give rise to it, but now taking over the path of evolution, and evolving ourselves, and with us, the world. Before our own technology destroys us. We are on the verge of revolutions in biotech and nanotech, unknown vistas of potential, but peril as well. If we don’t learn the lessons of evolution before it is too late, we will be yet one more evolutionary dead end.
If individual humans live in a time state which is fundamentally networked, ever more like the singularity, able to imagine possible futures and consider the best, if we don’t do this now as a species, by means of our massively networked communications networks, we will be doomed by the work of our own hands. So far we have been able to avoid nuclear destruction, but can we survive the technologies on the horizon if we don’t finally come to self-consciousness, as one enormously distribued human brain, and begin to stop destroying and oppressing ourselves and world?
Humanity has always been approaching the stage of being one massively intertwined organism, a giant brain for processing its own development in relation to the world around it. And yet, while this giant brain of our collective consciousness is consciousness, it is hardly self-conscious. We are beginning, only now, to become aware of ourselves as a species, a collective mind composed of collective minds, as the internet weaves us together into transpersonal communications networks. Like an infant slowly coming to realize that its disparate sensations are aspects of itself, and some are under its control, ultimately nucleating an ego out of partial nodes of awareness of its body, to finally grasp itself as a self, so it is with our collective coming to self-consciousness as a species. We think of our individual selves as so many monads, or as monadically isolated cultures, and yet, these are only ever virtual networks within the world, which is the ultimate horizon against which this is all possible. Protecting what is ours alone, we chase egoic dreams, and the result is destruction. Those like me, those near me, those part of my country, community, this is the path to decomplexification. Growth becomes paradoxical as it approaches its limits, for overemphasis upon the reified requires the reverse to bring about growth, and vice-versa.
From such a perspective, time is many, many things. It is the time of the singularity, pure virtual enfolding of any and all potentials that could be, compressed infinitely in spacetime within the singularity, and actualizing itself in refracted form in any and all aspects of the world we have come to know. It is the networks of branching virtual pathways within the singularity, and the progressive now lacing various virtual strands together into one thread of actuality in the extended domain of each actual in spacetime. It is the layering of the traces of these threads wtihin the impacts these actualizations of events leave in the stuff of matter as so many layers of memory. It is the extension of memory into the future by the habits of living organisms, and the increasing complexification of pathways of moving matter as it intertwines in organisms in patterns which perpetuate themselves. It is the layerings of these patterns as the amplify and inhibit each other in the nervous systems of organisms, and ever moreso through brains. It is the branching pathways, dilations, and layerings, and networks of realities and fantasies of the ways organisms experience the more costrained networks of displacement in physical spacetime of matter. And it is the virtual brains of human culture, the Internet, and the new artificial bio and nanotech brains we will likely give rise to which can, if we survive, bring actuality closer to the freedom of the virtual, if at higher levels of complexity, intertwining virtual and actual to ever more complex degrees.