My friend Ben Goertzel has written an awesome must-read post titled “Paranormal Phenomena, Nonlocal Mind and Reincarnation Machines.” As usual, I agree with all that Ben says. Read his post now, then my comments below.
Ben, a card-carrying transhumanist and a renowned expert in Artificial Intelligence and other futuristic, scifi-like technologies, often throws stones at the sacred cows venerated by the dull, ultra-rationalist bureaucrats of science and philosophy. In this post, he admits that he is at least open-minded about a certain class of paranormal phenomena that seem related to religious notions of “survival after death.” He says a lot of forbidden, totally unkosher words like psi, paranormal, spirit, soul, reincarnation, afterlife, and even dares to mention the theories of, God forbid, Rupert Sheldrake. I am sure that Ben’s post will be savagely criticized by the dull bureaucrats, but Ben doesn’t give a damn: “Peer pressure doesn’t really work on me.” I most certainly don’t give a damn either.
Ben imagines some kind of Pattern Space, which may exist outside our spacetime continuum and include our spacetime continuum as a special set of patterns, strongly interacting with each other. To refute Bishop Berkeley ideas, Dr. Johnson kicked a stone – but by doing so he didn’t refute the possibility of parallel Johnson and stone patterns outside the special set. Ben says:
“The whole spacetime universe that defines our everyday being, is just one particular pattern of organization, which in some sense exists within a much larger space of patterns. When a pattern like a human mind emerges within our spacetime continuum, it also exists in the broader pattern space. But what is meant by a pattern being “within our spacetime continuum”? I haven’t thought about this deeply before. Basically, I suggest, what it means that this pattern is heavily interlinked with other patterns that are “within our spacetime continuum,” and not so heavily interlinked with other patterns that are not “within our spacetime continuum.” That is: the spacetime continuum may be thought of as a special sort of cluster of interlinked patterns.”
According to Ben, individual human minds have “nonlocal” aspects, related to the yet unknown physics underlying the psi phenomena described in “Evidence for Psi, a book Ben co-edited with Damien Broderick (see also Ben’s psi page). Ben is hardly the first to talk about psi and nonlocal aspects of consciousness – these ideas are commonplace in Eastern spirituality and Western New Age thinking – but he has a scientific approach: if paranormal phenomena are real, they can be studied by science and will be understood by future science. I totally agree (with a subtle caveat outlined here).
So how can physics explain psi? Nobody knows, not even Ben, but he proposes that, just like you and I, perhaps the universe finds it easier to work with established patterns. Just like a computer program – and perhaps this is more than an analogy – the universe accesses the non-local Pattern Space to store and retrieve useful patterns. The casual thought that just popped up in your mind could be a faint echo of others’ thoughts, retrieved from reality’s extra-dimensional pattern store. Akashic records anyone? If Akashic records exist, I am sure that future science will find them and learn how to read them. This, together with other “magic” technologies that we will develop, will permit bringing back to life all persons and all sentient beings who ever lived.
The short paragraph above is mine, and I must take the blame if I didn’t understand what Ben means. For a longer and better explanation, read Ben’s blog posts:
Speculations Toward a Precise Model of Morphic Fields,
Physicists Rediscover Sheldrake’s Morphic Fields … and my Morphic Pilot Wave …,
and the article Morphic Pilot Theory: Toward an Extension of Quantum Physics that Better Explains Psi Phenomena.
Ben and Damien are writing a sequel to “Evidence for Psi” titled “The Physics of Psi,” where hopefully they will say much more.