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What Can We Really Know About The External World?

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This is the third in an occasional series on “deep science,” a rational way of reconciling scientific method with the human need to find meaning and purpose. See the entire series HERE.

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Science has been a very powerful tool for our collective co-creation of the external world. There is, however, obviously no complete consensus on the nature of the external world and our relationship to it as human beings, and we can rest assured that there never will be. That’s a good thing. Science isn’t about absolute truth, and nor is the “deep science” I’m fleshing out in this series of essays.

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Rather, science (deep or conventional) is an asymptotic process of discovery that hopefully gets ever closer to truth over time. That process is surely not linear, however, and we’ve seen with the history of science many mis-steps and culdesacs.

We’ll never actually know how close we are to truth because we’ll never know the extent of what we don’t know, the extent to which we are on a local peak when there is in fact a much larger peak off in the distance that we can’t even see from our local peak. This gives me comfort because I like the promise of eternal mystery, of eternal discovery and eternal creation of new solutions for old conundrums.

In addition to the tools of modern science, spiritual techniques can be helpful tools in plumbing the depths of our single domain of experience. Spiritual pursuits, under this formulation, constitute those activities that examine the parts of our single domain of experience that we spatialize as being “in here” (that is, in our heads) as opposed to “out there” in the external world. (See Part II for more on the “single domain of experience” that is all each of us knows about the world directly). As we saw in Part II, however, there is no firm line between “in here” and “out there” because all of our experience is given to us in the same field of experience and we add spatial coordinates after the fact.

Space Is Inferred From Our Experience

Continuing our examination of what we know and how we know it, let’s look deeper into how we turn the raw data of our senses into an entire world. This is part of my attempt to build a firm foundation for individual and collective knowledge in the spirit of Descartes, Kant, Buddha and many other philosophers.

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When we think about it, we realize that there is no space inherent in our domain of experience. Space is inferred. What I mean by this is that our mapping of the contents of our experience is itself a process of inferring space, based on the simple fact that all contents of our experience are innately not close or far, they simply arise in our experience without any built-in spatial coordinates. Experience itself is inherently dimensionless: it’s just there all at once.

tambookMy experience of what I generally think of as, let’s say, pain from a headache, which seems very much “in here,” is no closer spatially in my field of experience, than my sensory experience of my computer screen in front of me, or of my experience of the moon or stars on a starry night. All of these experiences seem to be presented to me, the center of experience, as a unified set of experiences in each moment. This set of experiences changes in each moment, and this constitutes the stream of consciousness. But there is no innate spatial difference between my experience of my headache and my experience of a starry night. Space is inferred through our ongoing process of creating a model of the world in our own heads in each moment.

Just as the external world is inferred from our sensory experience, so is the reality of our bodies inferred. I don’t disagree with common sense that we very likely do have bodies. But this likelihood is entirely inferred. Again, the only thing we know with certainty is the existence of our own experience in each moment to moment to moment. We could be brains in a vat, connected to sophisticated virtual reality displays. Are we really brains in a vat? This is unlikely, but we can’t rule it out as a possibility. And deep science is all about being careful and methodical in what we think we know about ourselves and the world.

I do not agree, however, with the Idealist (Western or Eastern) suggestion that “reality is all in our heads.” All we know of reality is, by definition, in our heads (or at least localized in our heads), but reality itself is very likely not all in our heads. Science is all about using the evidence of our senses, and the enhanced evidence made possible by various scientific instruments, to probe the details of the inferred world outside of each of us as individuals.

My reason for stressing this point is that we need, in crafting a robust deep science, to be extremely careful in our approach to knowledge. We need to follow Descartes’ lead on this key point but be even more careful than he was. Only through such careful construction of the foundations of our knowledge can we have confidence in our inferred conclusions. Figure 1 attempts to illustrate some of my points here visually.

Figure 1. The single domain of experience and various sub-aspects of experience.

Single domain of experience diagram

We may revise this diagram to show the more conventional view of reality as proceeding from our mental realm out beyond the confines of our body into the universe more broadly, with space inferred from our direct sensory experience.

Figure 2. Space is inferred as our experience is arranged into a three-dimensional world.

Space is inferred

Figure 1 attempts to show how different experiences arise in the single domain of experience: they just pop up here and there and we have no idea why or how. Figure 2 shows how our minds organize the various experiences that arise into a world divided, most fundamentally, into the world “out there” and the world “in here” (that is, in our heads). This division has a lot to commend it because it sure seems like there is an important boundary between our heads and various senses and the world that seems to exist inside those windows to the world. However, the careful first-person approach I’ve outlined here shows that there is no innate division between our individual experiences, in terms of outside and inside. It’s all “inside” in terms of the fundamental experience that makes up our consciousness. Our experiences, once they arise, are then automatically assigned the spatial coordinates of either “in here” or “out there” by the evolved ability of our mind to create a model of the world that has helped us to survive over the eons of our species’ evolution. This spatialization is largely a subconscious process.

“Substantially-overlapping Magisteria”

We’re now back full circle to the idea that a Deep Science can provide an integration of the traditional concerns of science and religion. So rather than ceding to science everything that was traditionally covered by religion and spirituality, and then denying the validity of those very topics essential to religion and spirituality – an approach that constitutes the materialist’s preferred “integration” of science and spirit – the Deep Scientist recognizes the validity of the traditional inquiries native to religion and the importance of spiritual inquiries into the nature of our own minds. The answers to the various spiritual and religious inquires will be different than traditional religions provide, to be sure, but the inquiries themselves remain valid under this new framing.

The Deep Scientist recognizes the need for, and the validity of, asking ultimate questions about meaning. The Deep Scientist also recognizes the need to be rigorous and she agrees with a preference for falsifiability, the traditional modern criterion of gold standard science. The Deep Scientist thus recognizes that religion, science and philosophy are “substantially overlapping magisteria” that can fairly be thought of as different framings of a single underlying line of questions: who are we, what is the nature of the external world, and how do we fit within it?  Gould’s NOMA (discussed in my last column) becomes SOMA: Substantially-Overlapping Magisteria.

What About Alexander’s Visions Of Heaven?

In closing, let’s look back at Eben Alexander’s relaxation of the truth with respect to his coma and his experiences of a heaven-like reality, raised in my last column. Deep Science and today’s science agree with the need to corroborate his claims with evidence such as, for example, the testimony of his doctor who kept him in a medically-induced coma. Where Deep Science differs is that it won’t automatically dismiss the kinds of claims that Alexander makes, as many scientific types would today. There could be a heaven and there could be souls – even if both claims seem to be highly unlikely given what we know about the physical world and our own minds. As with all claims, however, the Deep Scientist will take the appropriate evidence in hand in order to assess such claims, viewing the reported experiences as an unusual but interesting part of the single domain of experience for one person. Deep Science will consider this first-person evidence in the context of everything else that we know about the universe, including other first-person testimony and our current understanding of the laws of nature (better described as “habits of nature,” but that’s a topic for a future essay).

The Deep Scientist truly interested in the validity of near-death experiences will interview and catalog these experiences where they are claimed and will, using the hard-nose of empirical inquiry, attempt to come to conclusions about what is really going on. “What is really going on” could, conceivably, be actual near-death experiences. We can be open to these possibilities without being so open that our brains fall out of our heads.  The key is to remain open to new evidence and new interpretations while still being rigorous in our reasoning.

Summing up, we’ve made some headway in developing a first-person science by stressing the need for corroboration of extraordinary claims, but not automatically dismissing first-person evidence. By conceptualizing reality for each of us as a single domain of experience, the deep science approach I’ve fleshed out here allows us to plumb the nature of our own minds and the nature of the external world with the same set of tools. And by getting our toolbox in order we can get to some pretty interesting insights, which we’ll explore in future installments.

______________________

Tam Hunt is a philosopher and lawyer based in Santa Barbara, CA, and Hilo, HI, and a visiting scholar at UC Santa Barbara.

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Scientists Propose That We Can Travel Faster Than The Speed of Light

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new paper suggest travel faster than the speed of light might be possible given the creation of a new way of looking at propelling a vehicle.

  • Reflect On:

    When considering the advancement of life changing technology, does our current economic model speed up or suppress the collaboration, creation and advancement of ideas?

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In Star Trek Gene Roddenberry imagined it possible to set a ship into ‘warp drive’ and travel at speeds 6000+ times the speed of light, moving from one galaxy to a distant one very quickly. Imagine having that type of technology here on earth?! It has been said before that if we can think it, we can create it. Well, maybe that’s sometimes true.

What Happened:

The question of whether travel faster than the speed of light is possible was again approached in a new research paper written by an American physicist Erik Lentz. In the paper Lentz proposed a new theory for how faster-than-light travel could be possible. Given their models, Lentz and his team feel that travel to distant stars and planets could be possible in the near future, perhaps with proper research and development they could have something working in as little as 10 years.

The question of whether this is possible does not challenge our current understanding of physics that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity sets forth that it is not possible to travel faster than light.

Instead of focusing on our current understanding of matter, Lentz’s new paper puts greater importance on a possible engineering solution as opposed to the theoretical physics. The new paper was published in Classical and Quantum Gravity.

The paper proposes a plan to travel faster than light by creating a series of ‘solitons’ to provide the basis for propulsion. A soliton is a compact wave that keeps its speed and shape while moving with little loss of energy.

Interestingly, this technology would allow travel at ANY speed. This brings me back to an article I wrote yesterday discussing the incoming reality within collective consciousness that UFOs and Extraterrestrials are real. In that article I state that the question of ‘how are they getting here’ is of importance as it could give humanity access to technology that would completely change the way we live on this planet.

 [The method] “uses the very structure of space and time arranged in a soliton to provide a solution to faster-than-light travel,” From the press release.

Imagine this, the nearest star beyond our solar system is called Proxima Centauri. We know it to be about 4.25 light years away. (A light year is the distance it takes light to travel in one year.)

Lentz stated that using our current rocket fuel methods fo travel, it would take about 50,000 to 70,000 years to reach Proxima Centauri. If we were to upgrade to nuclear propulsion technology, it would take about 100 years. But if we employed a light speed warp drive, it would take only four years and three months.

This would mean that the average person would be able to travel to distant interstellar planets and complete the trip in a current human lifetime. Think of the vacations!

According to Lentz there are some barriers to making this all work, but they aren’t impossible to surpass. For the tech to work, it would require lowering the energy needed down to the level of modern nuclear power reactors. That is if we don’t take into consideration energy technologies that are currently suppressed. Lentz also stated that what would be needed is a  way to develop and speed up the solitons (waves.)

“This work has moved the problem of faster-than-light travel one step away from theoretical research in fundamental physics and closer to engineering,”

Why Its Matters:

Humans are curious beings who seem to gain a great deal from expanding our curiosity beyond everyday plights of a system and way of life that doesn’t necessarily inspire the deepest use of our creativity. Perhaps a knowing that we can indeed go elsewhere without primitive technology would shift the way we see our role on this earth and how we choose to fight over what we believe are limited resources.

Then again, perhaps if humans carry their current story of separation and competition to other worlds, we’ll produce the same mess there. I guess the question is, would the possibility of being able to leave this earth and go almost anywhere change the underlying nature of how we choose to set up our cultural beliefs and narratives of what it means to be human?

It’s my feeling that humanity does not lack the solutions to live in a thriving world, we lack the worldview and state of being. Both of which we could change with a little effort.

The Takeaway:

When I hear research like this I am fascinated. Then again I also sometimes wonder if all scientists around the world saw the technology I have seen first hand, that completely changes the way we perceive energy generation today, would the way we look at creating technology that requires energy change entirely? Yes, of course it would.

In my mind and heart I see a world of true collaboration and curiosity. One where we aren’t competing to see who’s the greatest scientist with the best copy written tech, but a world where we transparently share what is out there to advance the entire human race. No powerful interests suppressing technology because it’s too threatening to an economy, but instead true open advancement where we can solve problems incredibly fast.

Can you imagine this world?

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What Causes Déjà Vu? The Neuroscience Behind The Memory Illusion

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Current explanations from the field of neuroscience suggest that déjà vu occurs when the brain is slightly fatigued and working to 'fact check' a memory. We experience this as being odd because we become aware of the process.

  • Reflect On:

    Might we explore a different explanation for déjà vu if we were looking at it from the standpoint of time being non linear and perhaps opening up to the idea of a collective consciousness?

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They say about 60% of people experience déjà vu during their life, right off the bat that hit me as something I didn’t expect as I feel like almost everyone I know has had it at one time or another. Déjà vu, (‘already seen’ to the French) is the feeling that you are re-living something that has happened before. In the movie The Matrix, where déjà vu is perhaps most thought of in pop culture, Neo experiences a cat going by a doorway twice in a matter of seconds. Same cat, same moves, same everything.

In the film, this moment is presented as a ‘glitch in the matrix,’ however, in real life, déjà vu doesn’t often happen like what is seen in The Matrix, it instead feels as though you can’t recall when the ‘other memory’ happened, more so that what you are experiencing right now has already happened at some time.

Let’s dive into what some believe neuroscience is offering as an explanation.

What Happened:

According to experts like Dr Akira O’Connor, who is a senior psychology lecturer at the University of St Andrews, déjà vu is not only a feeling of familiarity, but also the metacognitive recognition that these feelings are misplaced. In simple terms:

“Déjà vu is basically a conflict between the sensation of familiarity and the awareness that the familiarity is incorrect. And it’s the awareness that you’re being tricked that makes déjà vu so unique compared to other memory events.”

Neuroscientists have determined that this memory illusion occurs when the frontal regions of the brain are attempting to correct an inaccurate memory.

“For the vast majority of people, experiencing déjà vu is probably a good thing. It’s a sign that the fact-checking brain regions are working well, preventing you from misremembering events. In a healthy person, such misremembering is going to happen every day. This is to be expected because your memory involves millions and billions of neurones. It’s very messy.”

While there isn’t a completely agreed upon explanation for what happens in the brain when déjà vu occurs, most models suggest that déjà vu occurs when areas of the brain (such as the temporal lobe) feed the mind’s frontal regions signals that a past experience is repeating itself. The frontal decision making parts of the brain then checks to see if the memory is actually true or possible, perhaps saying something to the effect “have I been here before?”

“If you have actually been in that place before, you may try harder to retrieve more memories. If not, a déjà vu realization can occur.”

It’s typically believed that we are more susceptible to déjà vu when the mind is a bit more fatigued and not as quick to discern that validity of our current moment.

Why It Matters:

What fascinated me about this in particular is two things: I’ve long felt that it’s quite possible that memories may actually be non local, i.e. they exist outside the brain not in the brain, and that perhaps the brain tunes into those memories that are somewhere around us. Or maybe we could say that some memory may exist in the brain, while others are part of some sort of collective field.

The second fascinating part for me is that I wonder if déjà vu has something to do with emerging science that tells us time is not linear. Perhaps when we take a classic scientific model that states all time is linear and all experience is linear, we limit our explanation of what déjà vu might be to something that fits that paradigm. What if the brain is tuning into something relating to quantum potentials that always exist, and that perhaps something different is happening with déjà vu? I’m not sure yet, however this is where déjà vu intrigues me the most.

Of course, the end result of exploring a question like this invites us to shift our worldview around the nature of reality, time and experience. Something that might be uncomfortable for some but I feel post material science is inviting us to do.

The Takeaway:

As with anything that is happening in our lives right now it seems, we are culturally in a time where a long avoided shift in our scientific paradigm is creating a lack of meaningful explanations for many things that happen in life. Is déjà vu one of those things that doesn’t have a good explanation in our current scientific paradigm? The jury might still be out on that, but for me, the current explanation presented in this piece did not quite ‘do it for me’ and my inquisitive mind and gut feeling pushes me to explore these questions through the emerging paradigm of non material science.

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These Anti-Solar Panels Don’t Require Daylight To Generate Power

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CE Staff Writer 7 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new approach to solar panels attempts to generate energy during the night, when there is no sunlight to turn into energy. This new invention could make solar a more efficient and reliable option for energy generation.

  • Reflect On:

    Are we being made aware of all energy technologies that truly exist out there? Are our ideas of what energy technologies we could create and bring to market limited on the belief that they must fit inside our existing economic structures?

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Energy is one of the most important elements to any functioning society, and since our modern era of living uses so much power, the industry is always looking to evolve towards newer and more efficient solutions. Furthermore, given the environmental damage that often comes with many of our modern energy generation practices, people have been thinking outside the box to come up with ideas that are harmonious with mother nature.

Solar panel technology has been around for decades, but there are a few main issues with it. First off, you often need sunlight for it to produce enough on demand and stored energy for daily life. There are many areas in the world where that can be an issue in certain seasons. Secondly, during the night energy can’t be gathered so you’re always dealing with a limited time period where you can generate power for the moment or future use. This prompted inventors to imagine a new “anti-solar panel” that is designed to work both during the day and at night.

Typical solar panels work by gathering visible light from the sun and converting it to usable electricity. This energy can be used as it’s created, or it can be stored into battery cells to be used at a later time. That is to say, it might be a sunny day, you and your family are at work so little power is needed at home. When you return home and you need power,  batteries hooked up to your solar panel had been storing the energy collected from the sun during the day, so it’s ready for you to use once you need it even if the sun isn’t out.

No sun for a couple days while your family is at home for the weekend? Well, you can start to see the issues with solar, you might run out of power if you aren’t connected to a standard city power grid as backup.

But now a team at UC Davis is hoping to develop a new strategy relying on having panels that can also generate electricity at night from heat emitted by a device in the infrared spectrum that is used to generate power.

Jeremy Munday, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and who leads the research team:

“In order to produce electrical power after the sun has set, we consider an alternative photovoltaic concept that uses the earth as a heat source and the night sky as a heat sink, resulting in a “nighttime photovoltaic cell” that employs thermoradiative photovoltaics and concepts from the advancing field of radiative cooling.”

They also explain in another report:

We were thinking, what if we took one of these (thermoradiative) devices and put it in a warm area and pointed it at the sky? A regular solar cell generates power by absorbing sunlight, which causes a voltage to appear across the device and for current to flow, (but) in these new devices, light is instead emitted and the current and voltage go in the opposite direction, but you still generate power. You have to use different materials, but the physics is the same.”

It’s not yet known how much power this technology might produce, but at this time the UC Davis team estimates perhaps as much as 50W during the night. This is about one quarter of the amount a typical solar panel might produce during the day. While this isn’t a huge amount, one could argue it’s worth it.

But what happens if we think outside the box a little further?

Breakthrough Energy

At Collective Evolution we have been exploring new energy technologies for many years, and have had a few close relationships with several investors who have truly been thinking outside the box. This has provided us with an inside look at what technologies are out there beyond what most people commonly speak about in the realm of renewables.

I’m talking about technologies that would deeply disrupt our current energy economy and that could provide energy to anyone, at anytime and in a completely clean manner.

Many believe these types of “breakthrough” technologies are nothing more than unicorns – they aren’t real. They believe them to be elaborate hoaxes that only show up online and in YouTube videos. And this is fair to say. There have been may hoaxes, including inventors who didn’t quite have what they had claimed, however, some of these technologies are real and work exactly as claimed.

“I started to examine the breakthrough solutions, and much to my surprise, these concepts have been proven in hundreds of laboratories throughout the world, and yet they have not really seen the light of day. If the new energy technologies were to be set free worldwide, the change be profound, it would affect everybody, it would be applicable everywhere. These technologies are absolutely the most important thing that’s happened in the history of the world.”  – Dr Brian O’Leary, Former NASA Astronaut and Princeton Physics Professor

In our research we came across a device local to us here in Toronto and had the opportunity to see it functioning first hand. We were there alongside a group of third party investors and engineers who were eager to see the technology in action and understand how it functions. Unfortunately for this piece, the NDA we had signed stops me from saying too much more about the specifics, however you can decide whether or not you believe my word that, yes, this technology was very real, worked to produce multiple kilowatts of power, and had the potential to change the way you view energy generation entirely.

We have also explored technologies our friends and colleagues have vetted as well. One of our latest ones from a man in Zimbabwe who invented a power generation system that charges itself via radio frequencies around the device. A truly remarkable idea, one you have to see to believe.

Another friend and colleague of ours, Susan Manewich, has been working to bring these technologies to market for years. Her and her team have travelled around the world vetting various technologies and working with inventors to find viable ways of making their technologies available for mass use. In her travels she has seen that only a small percentage of claims and devices are real and viable, perhaps only 5%. As low at that sounds, it still shows us that there are in fact devices that would completely revolutionize the way we produce and use energy today and yet these devices are not known about and in many cases hidden purposefully from the public.

We talk about this with Susan in great detail during an interview with we did with her as she shares her insight and experience having worked in the ‘new energy’ industry for many years. Dive into this important conversation on CETV here.

The Takeaway

Imagine what a society would look like if we had ‘freed’ up the secrecy behind the existence of these breakthrough energy technologies. Do you see humanity thriving? Do you see energy being free of charge for people? If not, do you feel humanity’s existing worldview i.e. competition, separation, etc, might be a barrier to these technologies being used to liberate the way we live?

Finally, if it is humanity’s worldview and belief that we must all compete with one another that gets in the way, does it suggest we might need to go about re-examining our worldview’s in order to live in a more peaceful and harmonious society? It appears as though the solutions are already all here, but the way we think of ourselves and one another deeply holds back a thriving world.

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