Abstract Details

Is Consciousness or Time Real? "It's About Time" - We were careful what we reify.  Stephen Deiss (Institute for Neural Computation, UC San Diego - INC/ISNL, La Jolla, CA )   C7

Newton thought time was like a flowing river with the same universal current speed everywhere. Eddington promoted the now standard view that time is the result of all things in closed systems that have no incoming energy source (such as the whole universe, in contrast to the earth and its sun) thus tending naturally toward higher entropy or disorder. Einstein concluded that time is a dimension like space but with unique qualities as found in the space-time interval equation, and the warping of these relations by gravitational fields. More recently, Rovelli has argued that time has no proper place in the fundamental equations of physics while Smolen argues that time is what drives the universe 'forward' making it a huge dynamical system, a true function of time. So who is right? I propose that time is falsely reified being little more than the result of integrating over many recorded systematic changes. Change is recorded in the state changes of systems we observe in things like clocks, but also including changes in the observer memories. Systems change when they interact with other systems via the forces that we infer drive the causal changes, be they force carrying particles or field potentials. These changes of state are forms of memory whose most elaborate known earthly form is that found in brain networks that guide mammalian/cephalopod cognition and behavior. Clearly, if nothing changes, nothing makes any difference to anything else. If nothing makes a difference, there can be no information flow, and without information flow there is nothing to sense nor worth experiencing or remembering. Consciousness is in my definition a process of interpretation of sensations by producing behaviors and memories as state changes. It is enabled by sensed changes that recursively build larger and larger system reorganizations. The changes are driven by energetic forces. The system hierarchies we see in nature from gluons to galaxies are all, at every level, interpreting interactions with the events sensed in the environment by proxy. They interpret by acting out and changing internally. This broad definition of consciousness is process oriented and illustrates a fundamental panpsychism in nature. It is not that consciousness emerges from nature at high levels of complexity in brains. Rather, consciousness is the process that builds ever higher forms of structural memory as found in brains on the way up to entire ecosystems of planets and galaxies. The next great paradigm shift in science is underway as we learn to understand how mind is not a thing, but rather it is an activity. It is not something limited to the space between human ears, nor is it only in the interactions between humans and their environment. It is happening within and between particles and atoms. It is happening within and between galaxies and their clusters. It is everywhere with no privileged observers. When this new paradigm is complete, we might learn how to better relate to the natural resources and life around us.