This post questions where sentience starts. Is it limited to biological systems only? Or is every self-sustaining phenomenon sentient? Could other cybernetic systems harbour sentience? And if so, would they have a computational nature? In this essay I will address these issues. If you don't like metaphysical speculations then please don't bother to read or to reply.
In a previous post (Why Panpsychism need not be in contradiction to Idealism) I have argued that Idealism and panpsychism are not necessarily mutually exclusive notions and how a refined form of hierarchical fractal idealism is a form of panpsychism in a sense. In this essay I will give a more comprehensive explanation of my philosophy called "The Transcendental Metaphysics of Pancomputational Panpsychism" according to my book by the same title (hereinafter referred to as TM).
Although I fully adhere to the Idealism viewpoint that consciousness is ultimately unified and the world, its objects and inhabitants are in consciousness rather than the other way around, I do not see why the drawing line of sentience should be put at "biology". As a biochemist I see the versatile and complex nature of the behaviour of atoms and molecules at the individual level, their ability to respond to stimuli and their morphological fitness to harbour a self-reflective cybernetic feedback loop.
As mind and matter appear to be able to influence each other (as has been convincingly shown by quantum mechanical experiments involving mental influencing by Dean Radin et al.), they must ultimately have a common denominator of medium of expression.
My most promising candidate for this medium is “Consciousness” (Consciousness is here meant as the primordial consciousness, of which human consciousness is but a tentacle). Consciousness can take any shape but is empty in its essence. Like the castles made of sand that easily return to their shapeless state, forms arise and disappear in consciousness, which itself remains unchanged.
It is my hypothesis in my book that the underlying ground of existence is conscious energy; as I called it before "Conscienergy".
In order to clearly show that Conscienergy encompasses both the physical and the metaphysical, I need to explain how in my hypothesis Conscienergy functions.
Energies, which are capable of sustaining themselves over a period of time must somehow be able to repeat their form or pattern, like a standing wave, otherwise, they would be an imperceptible transient. Whereas certain standing waves (such as a guitar string in vibration) after a while dampen out, the standing waves that form an atom or a molecule don't.
Atoms and molecules somehow fuel themselves and sustain their inner resonance. In other words, whatever is waving, it is following its previous track. The energy flow in atoms is just an example of what I consider to be a deeper truth: Every energy pattern that can sustain itself follows a track which is a closed loop. It is more or less circular in the sense that it can repeat and reinforce its own form. This is also the basis of string-theory in physics. If it impinges on its previous track, it integrates information in a certain way: It re-cognises itself. In 3D such a pattern could form a toroid, like a torus, a horn sphere, a horn torus, a spindle, sphere, a spindle torus, a spheroid, a sphere, an ellipsoid, or thick-rod shape. Such forms are capable of harbouring a vortex of energy. Note that BK has associated vortexes with personal consciousness of living entities, whereas BK describes inanimate objects as ripples in consciousness.
According to Giulio Tononi (Oizumi M, Albantakis L, Tononi G “ From the Phenomenology to the Mechanisms of Consciousness: Integrated Information Theory 3.0”. PLoS Comput Biol 10(5): e1003588, 2014) the very process of becoming aware, of cognising and recognising, involves a feedback mechanism, which amounts to the integration of the information the system receives.
For anything in order to be able to exist (ex-sist means stand out), to be able to stand out from an otherwise homogeneous background of sameness of primordial consciousness, it must have differences from the rest, which makes it distinguishable.
This is my hypothesis how existence arises in the process of Conscienergy-based self-resonance:
From the undifferentiated state of the point-like centre of what will become a torus-like form a differentiation of Conscienergy takes place. In a kind of cell-division type of process the point like Primordial Consciousness, splits in two "reality cells" (as Kaufman4 would call them), which are form-wise identical. In other words Conscienergy in this stage can do nothing but multiply itself by division, thereby creating two copies of its original state. However, these copies are not identical in an absolute sense, since they do not share the same position: They have been spatially separated and are now relative to each other. They may also have different sizes, one being like the seed of the other.
This division process might also be considered as the process of generating a so-called "null-representation". Consciousness has traditionally often been associated with self-reflectivity (including by BK). One form of reflecting on oneself is the attempt to produce an image of oneself, a so-called internal representation. (AI engineers are working towards providing an internal representation of a system to generate an equivalent of consciousness).
Tim Gross, a technoshamanic philosopher trained in computer science presented the thesis that the re-presentation aspect of information is an essential aspect of the arising of existence (slightly paraphrased by me for reasons of readability): Consciousness interacting with itself and abstractly representing itself creates a feedback loop, which is the ontology of existence itself. The "abstract representations" are just representations of that part of consciousness which interacts. The change arising from this interaction is however not the full source of change. The Ouroboros serpent doesn't see its full self, only its tail and can only know itself by the logic and expression of its tail. This results in a reduced representation of consciousness -ergo an abstraction- which is the world of Maya we live in.
In order to see its full "Self", Consciousness (or the Cosmos if you prefer) would have to go outside of itself, which is impossible. So it must abstractly pretend to be able to see itself from the outside by representing the part of itself it can see on the inside.
What absolute consciousness does, when it generates the relative world by interacting with itself and re-representing itself, is what L.H.Kauffman (arxiv.org/pdf/1512.04325.pdfCiteNPLDOCS) called "We take the form of distinction for the form".
Mathematically we could call such a "self-representation" a "null-representation" (as suggested by Stephen King, Senior Researcher in AI). This null-representation is in fact the "seed", which holologically contains all the information to reproduce the original as a copy, like the minuscule seed of a mustard tree can recreate a new giant mustard tree. Mathematical concepts of interest in this field relate to "fixed point combinators", "lambda calculus", "mutifractal" and "quines".
But it basically boils down to making copies of oneself, which is a way of the conscienergy dividing itself up into copies of itself.
Steven Kaufman (not L.H. Kauffman!) calls these copies of relative consciousness "reality cells" in his book "Unified Reality Theory". These cells together establish the so-called quantum vacuum or zero-point field. Since in the vacuum the forces are evenly distributed in all directions, so that it seems that there is "nothing", Kaufman argued that the reality cells, which make up this vacuum are stacked in the form of the so-called "vector equilibrium", in which the cells experience an equal force from every side. This stacking is also known as the cubic closest packing.
I have suggested in my book TM that one could equate this quantum vacuum as the fabric of space, ether or the Akasha to speak in oriental terminology.
From Absolute undifferentiated consciousness bubbles of relative consciousness arise, which as described are merely self-interactions. Similarly in comics you often see bubbles coming out of a head followed by a little cloud on top with an image of the idea of contemplation,
The absolute wholeness of Conscienergy appears to have divided itself into a polarised system of two relative conscienergies. Since they are relative and not 100% identical they constitute a pattern of information.
As these informational entities proceed through what is now their existence, they repeat this process and divide into further smaller conscienergies. Simultaneously the primordial centre also continues its process of division, thereby pushing earlier formed reality cells more outward.
Thus we get a plethora of informational patterns, which all divide into further sub-patterns. These informational cellular entities can also exchange information and interpenetrate each other. This changes the total informational content of the informational matrix that is thus "dependently arising" (to speak in Buddhist terms).
Due to the pushing outward and continuing division of earlier formed cells, these earlier formed cells "travel" along field lines of a Torus, both from the upper side and from the bottom side, until the outward travelling cells from the upper side meet the outward travelling cells from the bottom side. There they meet on the outer rim of a doughnut like shape, a Torus. And as they meet, they impinge on each other and this creates a shock-wave which travels through the informational matrix to the point-like centre which is the Primordial Consciousness (PC). Possibly upon this impinging on the rim these reality cells are even absolved and now energetically return via the shock-wave to the centre, where they become reintegrated in the Absoluteness of the PC.
The coming together of informational shock-waves in the centre is the feedback of the information that was sent out by the PC: Their collision results a conscrescence, a growing together, yes, in an integration of information. And it is this integration of information, could be that which makes the PC aware of itself and its manifestations again. In line with Tononi's idea that feedback resulting in integration of information leads to awareness.
The reintegration of the energies results in the experience of bliss of becoming one again with the PC. And thus the cycle can start again.
It is my (and Kaufman's) hypothesis that the material world arises due to a further type of energetic interactions of the PC with the reality cells. In other words, the generation of an informational matrix (and a material world deriving therefrom) is an inextricable aspect of the process of becoming aware, the cognition and the recognition by the PC. Only where everything is in its fully integrated state (i.e. at the centre of the Toroidal Conscienergy), there is apparent stillness, apparent nothingness, which the Buddhists may call Shunya.
But this apparent nothingness -although not a thing- is not an "absolute nothing", rather it is the formless source of all that exists. Conscienergy thus involves an ongoing process of sending out information and thereby creating manifestations and reintegrating this information every time a shock-wave returns.
Only the state of integrated oneness of the PC in this flux of "Conscienergy" could in a certain way be said to be purely metaphysical as it is formless and information-less, devoid of aggregation and an absolute wholeness of focussed awareness. But if it requires the generation and reintegration of physicality for its self-sustention, it would be a bit artificial to claim that it's completely independent of physicality.
The informational processes sprouting therefrom, every polarisation, every subdivision could be said to be part of the physical, measurable world of aggregates, but as it derives from the metaphysical its essence is metaphysical in a sense too.
Steven Kaufman argues that there is a second level of interaction. The reality cell-matrix, which has been formed, could in a certain sense be compared to oocytes. The Absolute Primordial Consciousness (abbreviated as AC or PC), which is omnipresent and all-pervading is not only the source of the "Prima Materia" constituting these reality cells as relative conscienergy quanta or monads, it also surrounds these cells and is present inside these cells. Metaphorically spoken a more concentrated form of attention arising from the AC could now penetrate these oocytes and fertilise these reality cells with a kind of self-monitoring quanta of conscienergy, which by doing so become a form of relative consciousness (i.e. consciousness interacting with itself) as well. This penetration creates a "distortion" in an otherwise uniform Akashic matrix. As a distortion propagates through the matrix, the reality cells it encounters become "excited". You could see that the change from a 0 to 1 state. Thus Consciousness attempting to sense the matrix from within thereby creates a kind of digital computation process. This is however not a simple Von-Neumann computer. It has more similarities to a "quantum computer". As all reality cells are interconnected and sense eachother, this connection can lead to the "spooky interaction at distance a.k.a. quantum entanglement.
As shockwaves propagate through this matrix, they also create a wake, a field of distortion around it part of which also operates as a so-called "pilot wave". The pilot waves make the matrix move before the centre of distortive energy actually arrives. Such pilot waves have already been suggested by "the Broglie" and by Yves Couder to explain the outcome of the double slit experiment. Only they fail to identify the medium that waves.
When distortive waves encounter each other, by means of the distortive field they emit, they create a gradient of distortion that engenders mutual attraction. The distortive energies (which Kaufman equates with electromagnetic radiation c.q. photons) start to circle around each other, like two fish chasing each other's tail and engendering a kind of Yin-Yang-symbol.
This is what Kaufman calls a "compound process", which establishes a material particle. This process also moves in a kind of toroidal pathway. Toruses, bubbles etc. are ideal environments conducive to harbour local vortexes, which the philosopher Bernardo Kastrup indicated as a metaphorical means of self-reflectivity for egoic awareness. This kind of self-involvement may well lead to a local illusion of self-consciousness being separate from the AC, whereas it is simply a derivative form thereof.
Is it then too simplistic to assume that atoms may have a kind of interior sensation? Do not the orbitals of the electrons in the atoms present similar forms (torus, bubble, 3D clover lobes, peanut: s, p, d and f orbitals of atoms are all examples thereof, some more explicit than others. Especially dz2, sp2 in pi bonds and sp2d5 orbitals show the traditional doughnut torus), in which vortexes could reside?
Matter attracts matter in Kaufman's model due to the distortive gradient, which creates a chreode and makes particles seek each other. Thus aggregates arise, forming black holes which suck up all matter. At a certain point the internal pressure of such a black hole may have become so unstable, that the system explodes from within thereby creating a big bang giving rise to a universe.
It remains my assumption, that all matter forms are self-involved forms of conscienergy seeking to know itself by interacting with itself.
Evolution leads to more complex compounded vessels, such as molecules, macromolecules, cells and organisms. Each system is full of polarities, which could give rise to toroidal files and harbour vortexes.
Any dipole has a magnetic toroidal field around it. Many molecules are dipoles, most if not all molecules have at least dipolar patches that create local toroidal fields. What do you think the electronic force-field around an aromatic structure looks like? A torus above another torus.
A cell fits certainly the above mentioned definition of a torus. Whereas essentially spherical in resting state, upon mitosis or meiosis other stages of the above mentioned broader definition of a torus are traversed.
The morphology of animals, plants and other life forms all seem to fit the broader definition to a certain extent, or at least parts of their bodies do. The polarity in the nerve system can also contribute to the generation of a "toroidal" electromagnetic field. A tree with its branches and roots also looks like two stacked toruses.
Experiencing through form
The size of a system determines the wavelength of the energetic form it can harbour as a form of locally self-involved and self-sustaining part of conscienergy. Whereas at each levels a self-sustaining entity can have their own individual conscienergy vortex, at each higher level an individual conscienergy inhabits the overall morphological field scaffolded by the numerous sub-entities that build the scaffold on the level below.
This does not mean that the individual higher conscienergy emerges from or is the aggregate or sum of the lower energy consciousness, no, the lower entities build a vessel which by virtue of its morphology is conducive to let a higher form of conscienergy inhabit it and form a greater vortex.
In this way we get a fractal of conscienergy forms, in which each vortex inhabits a toroid-type vessel made out of small toroid shape entities.
One of the reasons I like this model so much is that every form of existence is based on the will to stand out from the rest, to establish existence by self-involvement or crudely said a kind of egoism.
Whereas the absolute all-encompassing and all-pervading consciousness harbours all these subforms, itself it is unaffected.
When the vessel dies, the conscienergy vortex at the higher level need not dissolve immediately into the absolute consciousness. It depends on whether it has still enough drive, enough momentum, will or impetus to sustain the vortex. In eastern religions this impetus is provided by "karma". In such a case it might seek a new vessel to express itself in matter which could account for the notion of reincarnation.
Alternatively, if the conscienergy is "self-realised" enough so as to have stopped its momentum, it may dissolve and merge with the AC.
For me the beauty of this model is that it presupposes sentience and a will of expression at every level of reality and not arbitrarily starting at biological systems.
The potential requirements of conscienergy to express itself in form I have speculated are the abilities to:
· form a self-sustaining feedback loop
· form a self-reflective feedback loop that informs itself about itself
· being capable of self-reproduction or null representation
· abstract information
· integrate information
Of these, most non-biological systems are not capable of an exact self-reproduction, but neither are we 100%. That said, nuclei recombine and split to generate other nuclei in nucleosynthesis, molecules recombine and split give other molecules etc. Howard Bloom would speak of the "fission and fusion strategies of the evolutionary search engine", which in his book the "God Problem" starts already at the subatomic level.
Since atoms certainly and molecules to a lesser extent can have quite long "life-times" I don't see how one can argue that they would not "maintain themselves against the forces of entropy". This means that they must somehow be self-sustaining.
Most essentially I wish to argue that all self-sustaining entities in existence appear to be cybernetic and sentient to the extent that they can observe a stimulus and react thereto: input throughput output and often feedback adaptation to their new status. This feedback cycle is a kind of "functional torus" if you wish, a functional whirlpool. Stimulus and response, aren't they hallmarks of sentience?
Ithzak Bentov (in: Stalking the Wild Pendulum) suggested the "Torus" (a Doughnut without a hole) as most fundamental geometry of consciousness and of every self-creating self-sustaining physical entity, such as atoms, magnetic fields etc. Whereas structurally symmetrical a torus is functionally asymmetrical as it has an input and output side. Bentov suggests that all living entities also generate a natural toroidal field around them, an amplified consciousness field. It is my assumption in this essay that this is also the case for said inanimate self-sustaining entities. Again I repeat that this does not mean that a chair or a bimetal construct is sentient at the overall level. These construct do not sustain or propagate themselves. But the atoms and molecules therein might be sentient.
Sentience by self-sustaining feedback loops that try to re-represent themselves in order to exist has some advantages over Idealism in which everything below the biological levels is considered non-sentient: You can basically leave the system develop its own dynamic rather than requiring some kind of master-mind that actively stores, remembers and represents every minute detail of information and is supposed to render that information whenever looked at. The storing of information in the Akasha in the above described philosophy is more like a natural consequence of consciousness' self-interactions.
In the Idealism with nested panpsychism view at least a speculative framework is provided on a parsimonious notion of self-involvement as to how material forms (or cosmic ideas if you prefer) can be expressed by sentience. Existence as a product of local volitions that interact with each other at the same and/or different levels.
My proposal is a hierarchical nested series of "panpsychic toroidal entities" in an "idealistic" ocean of consciousness. If such a system moreover also exists and functions by virtue of its in and output, in a sense it can be said to be computational. By virtue of the network of the reality cells. Yes, it can even be considered as a neural network of reality cells whilst simultaneously harbouring sentience at every level of existence.
Such a system or philosophy could then ideally be called "idealistic pancomputational panpsychism".
Please note that I posted a modified version of this article on Kastrup's metaphysical speculations google-forum.