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Big Basin, Universal Automatism, Nick Herbert

Monday I went to meet my friends Scott Aaronson and Chris Pollett, who were at the IEEE conference on Computational Complexity at a hotel in San Jose.

Gosh I miss academia — not.

Wednesday I went for a six hour walk in Big Basin park in the Santa Cruz mountains near Boulder Creek. Along the trails were tiny guardian bees.

They hang motionless in the air, each of them defending a few cubic meters of space, and now and then they charge at each other. They’d even charge me, which was cute.

My goal was the Timkins Creek Trail, which is relatively deserted and runs along a nice stream. I found a little stone waterfall and hung out there for an hour.

I love getting my natural-complexity fix. Talk about immersion, there was a newt walking along on the bottom of the stream. That guy’s got it together.

And I love the waterstriders whose hairy feet allow them to skate on the surface. The dimples they make in the surface shed lovely lensed shadows.

Today’s lesson on universal automatism is a 25 Meg movie with my thoughts on the concept, “I seem to be a fluttering leaf.” Click here to view movie. Consider this my off-site presentation for the IEEE Computational Complexity conference 🙂 !

Here’s a particularly nice flow chevron; I have a little 3 Meg movie of this as well(lecture-free). Click here to view movie.

After the woods, I went to visit Nick Herbert. Nick started as a physicist designing hard drives, but these days is more likely to be found holding forth on consciousness. He’s been a big influence on me; he introduced me to Esalen when I first came to California; inspired a character in my short-story about the Mandelbrot Set “As Above, So Below”; inspired the character Frank Shook in my novel Saucer Wisdom; and taught me a lot about quantum mechanics and consciousness. Here’s a picture of Nick and me at an April Fool’s parade in Boulder Creek while I was working on the Lifebox book, like in 2002.

And here’s a quote from a thought-provoking article by Nick called “Quantum Tantra”

“By the high standards of explanation we have come to demand in physics and other sciences, we do not even possess a bad theory of consciousness, let alone a good one.

“Speculations concerning the origin of inner experience in humans and other beings have been few, vague and superficial. They include the notion that mind is an ‘emergent property’ of active neuronal nets, or that mind is the ‘software’ that manages the brain’s unconscious ‘hardware’…

“Half-baked attempts to explain consciousness, such as mind-as-software or mind-as-emergent-property do not take themselves seriously enough to confront the experimental facts, our most intimate data base, namely how mind itself feels from the inside. “

I have a section on this idea in The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul. Quoting from that: Nick proposes that we think of the human mind as a quantum system. Recall that quantum systems are said to change in two ways: when left alone, they undergo a continuous, deterministic transformation though a series of superposed states, but when observed, they undergo abrupt probabilistic transitions into pure, classical states. Nick suggests that we can notice these two kinds of processes in our own minds.

(Coherent) The continuous evolution of quantum superpositions corresponds to the transcendent sensation of being merged with the world, or, putting it less portentously, to the everyday activity of being alert without consciously thinking much of anything. In this mode you aren’t deliberately watching or evaluating your thoughts.

(Decoherent) The abrupt transition from mixed state to pure state can be seen as the act of adopting a specific opinion or plan. Each type of question or measurement of mental state enforces a choice among the question’s own implicit set of possible answers. Even beginning to consider a question initiates a delimiting process.

I got a nice picture of Nick yesterday. The wise old hermit. Note the ladder in the background.

2 Responses to “Big Basin, Universal Automatism, Nick Herbert”

  1. Narrenschiff Says:

    I adore the newt! I own an axolotl, who is currently regrowing one of his limbs.

  2. Mac Says:

    Posthuman Blues
    Thanks for putting that link to “Quantum Tantra” in there! Fascinating.


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