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Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1990-96); and Writer (Part Six)

Mr. Rick G. Rosner


Part six of seven, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: organizations devoted to the moderately gifted ability sectors of the general population, few with provisions for the high, profound, exceptional, or ‘unmeasurable ability’ sectors, the possibility of proactive work by individuals and organizations, comparison with his own childhood to his daughter’s childhood, and extensive discussion on giftedness, giftedness in Los Angeles, and social guidance for the highly gifted; methods for the adult and senior gifted set to inculcate prosocial values in the young, commentary of Capitalism and failure of communism, and technological booms on the horizon with examples of 3D printing and biotechnology; increased awareness and commentary on bullying; message for kids undergoing bullying and general reflections on personal experiences and considerations of adaptive active approaches to the problem of bullying; active approaches with respect to parents, teachers, administrators, authority figures, and the wider community for support and encouragement; possible passive approaches and consolation; assisting others in their struggle with bullying; extreme cases of abuse for girls and boys, young men and women, and words for those feeling driven to extremes; commentary on the possibility of mean people becoming kind people, First Amendment, and Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE); possibilities of remaking the educational systems of the world; thoughts on global problems in the United States of America and some possible ways to solve them; interacting political, economic, religious, corporate, educational, and other systems in societies with reflections on the future; associations of the highest levels of ability with world-changing things; and responsibilities of the gifted population towards society and culture.

Keywords: administrators, bullies, bullying, corporate, economic, educational, First Amendment, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, gifted, Giga Society, Los Angeles, Mega Society, parents, political, religious, Rick G. Rosner, teachers, unfolding, United States of America, universe, writer.

56. Many organizations provide for the needs of the moderately gifted ability sectors of the general population, most often adults and sometimes children.  However, few provide for the needs of children (and adults) in the high, profound, exceptional, or ‘unmeasurable ability’ sectors of the general population.  Not to argue for the necessary disadvantage of the gifted population based on abilities and talents.  A definite benefit over others in life.  Even so, some organizations and societies provide forums, retreats, journals, intelligence tests, literature, or outlets for the highest ability sub-populations.  No need to bore with a list best left to an internet search engine query.  What can individuals, organizations, and societies do to provide for the gifted population?  What argument most convinces you of the need to provide for this sector of society? In short, how can parents, mentors, educators, and policymakers assist the gifted population towards the appropriate resources?

Based on my childhood compared to my daughter’s childhood, I think that things are much better for the highly gifted than when I was a kid. Plenty of parents are on the lookout for giftedness in their children, and organizations will help them nurture it. This doesn’t mean that every super-high-IQ kid will be found or well-served. Affluent, well-informed, non-chaotic parents are more likely to notice and encourage giftedness, which still leaves a lot of smart kids who may need to be spotted by other people in their lives.

A nice thing about our current internet-centric culture is that a smart kid can find smart, entertaining things to do without too much effort. All of human knowledge is available via any keyboard (though so is all of human foolishness – the smarter we get, the more sophisticated our time-wasting diversions become).

In the 60s and 70s, it felt like there was frickin’ nothing. I should’ve taken more of the initiative in finding learning opportunities instead of watching endless crappy sitcom reruns, but I shared a certain laziness and complacency with the era. At the time, most people assumed just about everyone would turn out okay, educationally, with regular schooling. Back then, everyone I knew went to public school, and there didn’t seem to be pervasive concern over public education. Could be America, exhausted by Vietnam and Watergate and crappy cars and ugly color schemes (orange, brown and turquoise) and the first OPEC crisis, didn’t want to look for trouble where there didn’t seem to be any.

Today, with schools seeming much more broke and broken, skepticism about whether a kid is being adequately served comes more easily. It helps any kid to have an involved parent. On behalf of my daughter, my wife spent hundreds of hours researching and pursuing the enriched educational opportunities available through the Los Angeles public schools. LA public schools have great gifted programs, but because the school system is financially strapped, they can serve only a very limited number of students. Basically, you accumulate gifted program lottery tickets and hope your name is drawn for a program. We were lucky. Or your kid can get in by scoring 145 or higher on a group-administered IQ test, which is an iffy proposition for a first- or second-grader, no matter how gifted.

To serve very-high-IQ kids, first someone has to notice that a kid is smart. This generally happens when a kid shows extreme precocity or is disruptive in the classroom out of boredom, which makes me wonder if quiet, well-behaved prodigies are sometimes overlooked. (Luckily for me, I was a bored and obnoxious kid. If there had been specialized educational resources to give me, I would’ve gotten them.) At the very least, teachers and administrators should get a heads-up at some point in their training to be on the lookout for a once-in-a-decade kid. For parents who are wondering if their kid is super-smart, Googling “Is my child gifted?” returns a blizzard of information. A good book for figuring out what’s up with your possibly gifted kid is 5 Levels of Gifted, by Deborah Ruf. But ideally, every kid should be noticed, should have people and systems that understand his or her abilities and interests. Via digital devices, kids do more of their own educating than ever before. An up-to-date educational system, which should include lots of tech-heavy teaching resources, would build upon kids’ digital lives and individualize instruction. It’s counterproductive that the hours spent in school are the least tech-rich part of students’ day.

I know of a couple organizations which provide considerable support for gifted kids. The Institute for Educational Advancement has a variety of programs, including the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship, which covers the costs of four years of school at any high school in the nation. They’ve just doubled the number of scholarships available, to 30 new recipients each year. You take the SAT and apply during middle school, so it takes some foresight, but it’s well worth it. The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has a bunch of programs and a directory of gifted resources throughout the country. Parents who think their kid is gifted should network online like crazy. So should teachers who suspect they have a gifted student who’s being overlooked.

In a way, we’re all highly gifted children who need guidance. Tech is giving us capabilities unheard of up to now – the instantaneous retrieval of detailed though not necessarily accurate information on any subject, constant communication with a wide circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, access to vast selections of entertainment. I mentioned the Flynn effect, but there’s also what could be called the Watson effect. Like Watson the Jeopardy! computer, we have access to all the knowledge in the world but need to develop the research skills and discernment to use it well. Compared to a smart person without access to the internet, a person with a smart phone could potentially have an effective IQ of 400. (Imagine Lewis Terman in 1921, testing the IQ of a time-traveling kid from 2032 who has a smart phone built into his head (with an internet connection that works across time). That kid would crush the test.) Of course, people with smart phones don’t have effective IQs of 400, because they’re tweeting clapping-hands emojis while almost getting clipped by an Audi in a crosswalk. Our entire civilization needs to adjust and embrace its genius, which we will, frustratingly slowly (along with a flood of high-tech foolishness – the greater the tech, the greater the sophisticated, time-wasting frivolity).

Besides intellectual and educational guidance, an ultra-smart kid might need social guidance. Growing up, I desperately could’ve used an older sibling to clue me in, socially. This is another thing the internet has made better, but there’s still no substitute for an older sister saying, “You’re wearing that? Ewww.” (Until high school, my mom helped me shop for clothes. In the Brady Bunch polyester 70s, this delivered mixed results. I eventually learned to avoid the wrong pants, at least, by wearing Levi’s to school every day, though I did commit a terrible mistake by making my jean cutoffs too long. Back then, they were supposed to cut off within about an inch and a half of your balls. Even the gym teacher made fun of me.)

57. From the vantage of the adult and senior gifted set, how might we inculcate prosocial values most net beneficial to both the gifted individual and society?

I believe that advantaged people should look for ways to increase equality of opportunity for everyone. We would never strive to completely flatten the playing field at the expense of every other cultural and economic consideration, but there’s a level of opportunity that helps entire nations flourish. Many economists say the current level of economic inequality in America is bad for the country, but we seem years away from any effective remedies. Our infrastructure and schools are dilapidated, and anti-science yahoos – social Darwinists who don’t believe in evolution – hold many of the reins of power.

We’re all a little (or a lot) boggled by tech, and this is only going to increase. We can hope that smart people will come up with smart ways to use tech or at least figure out ways to reduce stupid and dangerous uses.

Capitalism is a pretty good framework for maximizing the benefit of smart people to society. When smart people invent good things, they’re more often thinking, “Will people want this?” than “Will this help society?” The near future will be shaped by capitalism. Science fiction of the 1950s and 60s didn’t include much economics. Enormous spacecraft traveled the galaxy without discussion of who was financing the spacecraft. In modern SF, market forces pop up frequently. (Of course, right now in this country, a lot of powerful douchebags are putting a terrible face on capitalism – dicks who argue that taxes and regulations amount to tyranny and who often espouse anti-scientific views which can reduce the U.S.’s chances to continue to be a tech leader. I hope that a wave of tech growth sweeps away much of the current political stupidity. Politics that’s specifically designed for and targeted at dumb people is creepy and cynical.)

Regardless of politics, capitalism and investing will have increasing difficulty keeping up with the accelerating pace of change. It’ll be tough to invest in market sectors in which companies have life cycles of less than a year. Tech might eventually make some types of consumer goods so inexpensive, they’re virtually free. Tech will also reduce the amount of work available for people to do. So the consumer economy will get weird, and money may not have the same motivating force it does today. We won’t be living in Idiocracy, but neither will we be ruled by the Gordon Gekkos and Donald Trumps of the world.

Right now, Americans are in no mood to share. For 30 or 40 years, conservative think tanks have been studying how to hammer home the message of rugged individualism and entrepreneurial spirit. Some politicians have been successfully following the strategy of making people think that government doesn’t work by making sure that government doesn’t work.

The 20th century demonstrated the failure of communism. (Might it work if it weren’t in the hands of murderous dictators? Who cares – we’re not gonna do it.) So far, this century in America has demonstrated the danger of capitalism when moneyed interests get too much leverage over democracy. (Used to wonder if people voted against their own interests because they thought they were just a reality show away from being millionaires.) But democracy is resilient – we made it through other periods of political rancour and should make it through the current dysfunction, perhaps with the help of a rising tech economy. (Don’t even know why I’m going on about this; I have no particular political insight.)

I hope prosperity from tech makes people richer, smarter, more generous in spirit, and less able to be manipulated by the politics of dumbness. Under Clinton, we had a tech boom – we all thought we’d become millionaires via a website or an IPO – and things were good, but not because of politicians. Then the boom turned out to be a bubble. But we have tech booms on the near horizon – more digital stuff, biotech, 3D printing – and we can hope that the vitality they’ll pump into our economy will overwhelm stupid politics. Tech will give Americans increased wealth and autonomy if we can keep America educated and prosperous long enough for that to happen.

58. Most children have negative experiences.  Not to argue for life in shelter from the world – grit counts.  Even taking this into account, some experiences should seem across the board uncivil and fought against according to the context.  Indeed, some experiences might devastate a child, even though some become more resilient.  Bullying does have increased awareness.  Individuals, families, authority figures, communities, and organizations work to solve the social issue more than earlier times. Do you have any general reflections on personal experiences with bullies?

Looking back on the bullying I received, I have two thoughts. One, it wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t that much of a wuss, my school wasn’t that bad, and I used my smartness to avoid some potential teasing and bullying by letting cool kids copy off of me. And two, I should’ve punched more people. The summer before ninth grade, I suffered some bullying at Jewish summer camp. Eventually, I realized that these bullies weren’t the cool kids at their school – they were just anonymous assholes. I was really offended – I wanted to be bullied by the best bullies, not a bunch of losers. So I decided to start punching anyone who dissed me – crunch! right in the cheek. I punched about half a dozen jerkwad kids. It was very satisfying.

59. What message do you have for kids suffering from bullying?  What would you recommend for them on an interpersonal level to do for themselves?  In short, what count among adaptive active approaches to the problem?

My advice to kids who are being bullied is several-fold.

Punch bullies, especially if you’re young enough – say, under 14 – to not suffer serious consequences for assault. Practice some punching at home, learn the most painful places to hit people, and then fly at ‘em. Go crazy – make them fear you. And don’t fear their punches unless they’re full-grown thugs. Kids who are afraid of fighting don’t realize that it doesn’t hurt that much to get punched by a 12-year-old. And even if it hurts, don’t stop to consider the pain – just keep punching and kicking. And fight dirty – bend a kid’s pinky back until it almost breaks. But only for the kids who really deserve it – the ones who shove your hard in the back or elbow you in the face – not the cute girl who gives you an “Ewww” look or the boy who calls you a spaz.

Look for books, movies and TV shows about abuse and bullying (not necessarily books that are complete downers, like Lord of the Flies). (Googling “bullying movies” returns a bunch of lists. A quick look at the movies on these lists reveals that most of them suck. The documentary Bully is supposed to be pretty good – haven’t seen it.) In many of these, the abuser continues to get away with it as long as the victim is completely intimidated. You can read and watch these things to see how the victim eventually quits being a victim or you can figure out what you’d do if you were in the victim’s place. Movies won’t offer a quick fix – they just get you thinking. The kid in Let the Right One In is bullied, and he makes friends with a vampire. That’s not really gonna work for you. (Great movie, though.)

Acquire some social skills – learn to co-exist with stupid dickheads. I had to learn social skills, Temple Grandin had to learn social skills, even people who aren’t bullied have to learn how to interact with other people. Depending on your situation, you can try some stuff such as not flinching, staring the bully down, taunting the bully – “Hey, Snagglepuss – still wetting the bed?” (Careful with this – you’re gonna get punched. But if you’re gonna get punched anyway, might be worth a shot – but only in front of an audience – you want people talking about how you made the bully look bad.) At the very least, make the small, easy moves to reduce your chances of being the target of bullies. Are you the only one walking around your middle school with a 50-pound book-stuffed backpack? Are you still wearing your glasses from second grade that are now too small for your face? Take a look at yourself and fix the easy stuff. I wish I’d had an older sibling to tell me how to be less of a geek. (I had some horribly geeky years in junior high – didn’t call it middle school back then – and this was before being geeky was somewhat accepted.)

Become badass. If you’re recalibrating yourself to make your social interactions less painful, there’s no reason you have to stop at just fading into the background. You can eventually become someone who’s intimidating and/or respected. Again, use your smarts and research skills to figure out the angles. As a smart kid, I tended to turn things into big projects. If that’s your proclivity, consider making a project out of turning yourself into a non-bullied person with some possible swagger.

Be aware of your surroundings and situations. Lots of bullying and rape involve hooking up and/or alcohol. Be prudent – be familiar with your hookups. Is he a rapey douche? Does he have a terrible girlfriend or ex-girlfriend who, along with her scummy friends, will go after you? Watch out for the kings and queens of the school – kids who, because of being rich or star athletes or super-popular, get a free pass to screw over other people. This kind of thinking is currently controversial, with people saying, “We shouldn’t be teaching people how not to be bullied or raped – we should be teaching people to not be bullies or rapists.” This is valid. At the same time, it’s dumb to put yourself at risk to make the point that in a perfect world, you should be free to casually do whatever you want. It’s not a perfect world.

Own yourself. Figure out what you like about yourself and embrace it. Doesn’t have to be much – could be that someday you’ll grow up and will be able to escape all the dickheads in your life. (There may always be dickheads, but at least you’ll be able to ditch these dickheads. Maybe what you like about yourself is also getting you bullied. You don’t have to change this stuff. You can decide how in-your-face you want to be, or you don’t even have to do that. You can simply be aware that you’re gonna be who you’re gonna be, and the bullies are headed for SadLifesville. You might be aware of It Gets Better, which tells LGBT teens that their lives won’t always suck because of the jerkfaces around them. This is true for LGBT people, but it’s also true for lots of other people. There are entire industries where the majority of people in these industries got a bunch of shit when they were kids – TV, movies, Broadway, fashion, design, video games. These are also industries where people get to have really cool lives.

Call bullies out. Don’t keep bullying secret. You shouldn’t be embarrassed – the bullies should. Some ongoing abuse depends on the victim keeping his or her mouth shut. Announce to your class what the bully did to you or sent to you. In front of other people, ask the bully why. “Is it because I’m effeminate / nerdy / fat / skinny?” (This is a tricky move. It can backfire.)

60. What about active approaches with respect to parents, teachers, administrators, authority figures, and the wider community for support and encouragement?

Document the abuse and what was done about it. If you get bruised or bloodied, take pictures. Keep a journal of what’s happened to you, along with a record of adults you talked to and what they did about it. If this becomes a “them versus you” thing, you want to be able to prove your case that they’re the abusers. Keep a record of online bullying – make a doc with all the terrible stuff in it, take screenshots. If other people, especially teachers or administrators, see you getting messed with, discreetly ask, “You saw that, right?” Clearly tell them what happened and keep a record.

Tattle, if it will get the bullies in trouble and not increase the bullying. If you’re in a position to screw over bullies by telling on them, do it! They probably won’t learn a lesson, but any punishment they get may make them feel bad for awhile.

Contact local news media. They love a good bullying story.

Sue people. Asshole kids often have asshole parents – make them feel some consequences. And go after lazy, incompetent, know-nothing administrators. There are great teachers and administrators, and there are lazy dumbshits. (One reason is, teaching doesn’t pay very well, so some teachers are very skilled and dedicated, with their love of helping kids overcoming the crap pay, while others are too incompetent and sluggardly to do anything else.) Also, this whole bullying thing is new territory for administrators who haven’t been paying attention. Often their natural reaction to a problem is to downplay or ignore it. As a group, teachers have about the lowest standardized test scores among all the professions. If you reach out to school administrators about bullying, odds are good that you’ll be dealing with at least one idiot. This shouldn’t stop you. Idiots can be brought around, and you’re helping the idiot do a better job on behalf of the next bullied kid.

Do research. With the internet, bullying is different now – some of the worst bullying is online. I want to tell you to use your smarts to destroy people online – to tell mean girls their futures with horrific specificity, the way the Albert Brooks character cursed bullies with a prediction of their futures in Broadcast News. But that’s probably not a good move. It leaves a record, and you could be outmaneuvered and made to look like you’re the bully or at least an evenly matched opponent. Instead, use the internet to research what other people have found to be effective against bullies. And go online to reach out to other bullying victims and anti-bullying organizations.

Play the victim. Can you make a reasonable case that what’s been happening to you has affected you emotionally? Play that card if you think it’ll help – people are ready to listen. Visit your school counselor. Ask to see a therapist. Maybe get a diagnosis – PTSD, being on the autism spectrum. (I don’t know the politics of this. Seems like a diagnosis of mild autism might help make the bullies look extra bad for picking on someone who’s officially handicapped, but I don’t know.

Team up. If you’re not the only one who’s getting messed with, get the testimony of other victims. You might have to build a case to present to ass-covering, confused, overworked, often not-smart administrators. Officials have an amazing ability to not see what’s right in their face if it’s inconvenient. The more people you can put in their face, the more likely they are to take you seriously. Other people may be reluctant to come forward. Doesn’t mean you can’t mention them to the administrator, along with the phrase, “class-action lawsuit.”

With bullying, there’s a lot of stuff you can try, but most of it isn’t easy. There are conditions in place which help bullies get away with it. But you’re smart – you can examine the situation to see what can be changed and what resources can be applied to make it less easy for the bully.

61. What about adaptive passive approaches and consolation over time?

Be happy that you’re not the bullies. They’re probably going to be miserable, dickish people for the rest of their lives. Sometimes the best revenge is not being the people you hate.

Sometimes little dipshits grow up to be fine people. Trying to figure out who truly sucks and will suck forever is tricky, but that’s part of what school is for. American schools were designed to be abridged versions of adult life. You don’t go to school just to learn academic subjects – you go to learn how to deal with people.

Give it time and put it in perspective. Sometimes what nerds perceive as bullying is perceived by bullies as harmless goofing around, and sometimes the truth is somewhere in the middle. Analyze your bullies – are they truly malevolent, or do they just have a stupid idea of fun? Are they focusing on you in an evil way, or are they just generally causing trouble? Is there a way for you to join in the stupidity instead of making enemies out of them? I’m not saying to go along with evil, but if it’s just messing around, you might be able to work with it. On the other hand, truly evil little assholes are good at disguising their evil as harmless fooling around.

62. How about helping others undergoing it?

Stand up for other people. Bullies know that giving people shit is fun. If you see someone being a bully, you can give them shit – it’s like a free pass to mess with someone. (This is an advanced move. There could be some unpleasant consequences.)

63. What about the extreme cases of abuse for girls and boys, young men and women, what do you recommend for them? Any words for people who feel driven to extremes?

Don’t go overboard (and don’t decide to hate everyone). No one ever thinks a kid who strikes back with extreme violence is a hero. They’re always thought of as psycho losers, probably even to themselves. People who go on a spree of destruction find no good fame – they’re monsters and creeps for as long as they’re remembered (which isn’t that long, because yuck). There’s no joy in over-the-top vengeance – you’ve let the bullies win by driving you to brutality. You can play the game better than that.

Start over somewhere else, if that’s an option. Are you completely screwed in your current situation? Will you never be able to overcome a loser-ish reputation or the enmity of jerks at your current school? Then switch schools before it’s too late. (Or you can do home schooling for awhile. It may not stop all bullying, but it’ll at least reduce the face-to-face bullying, unless the bullying is happening at home.) I was too chicken to move when I should’ve, right at the beginning of high school. (Because of my parents’ divorce, I had families in two different towns – it wouldn’t have been that tough for me to relocate.) Kept thinking I could improve my standing among the kids I’d grown up with. It wasn’t horrible for me, but I wanted a girlfriend, and there was little chance, given how nerdy I’d been and how Ryan Gosling I still wasn’t. It gets better, but it sucks wasting years in a situation that’s not gonna get much better.

64. What about in defense of, and reflections on, those capable of changing their socially maladaptive, and abusive, behaviors? In other words, your thoughts on the chances for change.  The opportunity in life of the mean becoming kind people.  Sometimes definitions of ‘bully’ and ‘bullying’ can seem too elastic in which any behavior of dislike by a purported recipient becomes grounds for claims of bullying. 

In particular, many university environments stating the first amendment within your own country seem to fail to live to some of these standards.  The First Amendment to the American Constitution seems most relevant, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” [Emphasis added] Some organizations, e.g. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) under the Presidency of Greg Lukianoff, assist those in need of advisement.  This assists prosecutors and defendants, i.e. those without experience in the litigation process of arraignments, trial proceedings, and verdicts. 

An issue clichéd into the initialism ‘PC’ (Politically Correct) becomes the basis for some of these organizations and universities in coarse analysis.  Even extreme restrictions, increasingly common, the creation of ‘free speech zones’ on campus for students to speak without restraint or the phenomenon of ‘speech codes’ – sometimes limits in zone area and stipulations on speech to such an extent as to merit laughter, let alone the sheer existence of them.

Forms of ‘benign bullying’ – for want of a better phrase – or norm-keeping can work to build community, sustain professional standards, prevent unwanted advances of sexual harassers and aggressors (men and women), and provide consistent norms along the spectrum of appropriate-inappropriate social behavior.  In short, assertive standard setting based on context without violating US citizens’ privileges.  Of course, in an academic environment, ideological and intellectual norms need questioning for a vibrant, i.e. meaningful, university education.  Likewise and further, this moves into the broader societal milieu.

I was bullied sometimes as a kid. In college, an aggressive girlfriend came close to being a bully, and for years, I was the adult recipient from a bully of abuse in the workplace. (It was disheartening to be bullied even though I used to be able to (sloppily) bench press 300 pounds, but of course bullying doesn’t have to be based on physical dominance. Sometimes it comes from a simple willingness to be a dick, especially if dickish behaviour gets you what you want.)

Some bullying I was able to stop, and some I had to live with (at least that’s what I told myself). No matter how long ago the bullying happened, it still makes me mad. (I want to time-travel back to 1973 and body-slam the gym teacher who lined up everybody in class and went down the line slapping us, just for fun. But anger can be positively motivating – I’ve been lifting weights for nearly 40 years.) On the other hand, I’ve been in situations in which everyone gave everyone else (well-intentioned) shit, and it was great – fun and actually helpful, spotlighting areas in which I could do better.

As with a lot of characteristics, people come in a range of niceness, with most people being averagely nice, and a few people being saints or complete monsters. Similarly, the amount of change people can undergo covers a range from no change to radical change. Part of growing up is realizing there’s a chance that any given person could be (or could turn into) a despicable shit or worse, and defending against that possibility.

After high school, most people eventually put themselves in situations that confirm their worldviews and that don’t often challenge them. This lets people think of themselves in positive terms – as smart and good and competent, even brave. People who are in favour of pretty rotten things like tearing down the social safety net in support of Ayn Randian social Darwinism build information bubbles which allow them to think of themselves as rugged iconoclasts making hard but necessary choices. (BTW – don’t confuse social Darwinism – every man for himself, devil take the hindmost – with Charles Darwin. Social Darwinism is a facile and self-serving bastardization of his thinking.)

I returned to high school as a student a few times after graduation, and among the reasons were that I think people in high school are generally nice. Yeah, we think of high school as a place of vicious social struggle, but that’s more often middle school. In high school, students mostly don’t have to support themselves, so there’s often less economic desperation than in adult life. (Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of students who are fully aware of their family’s desperate circumstances.) And students haven’t yet settled into their adult lives and personas and like to think of themselves as good people. Later, adulthood starts kicking their asses. Is it possible for people to become nicer as adults? Sure. But the general trend is to become more politically conservative with age. (When you’re young, it’s not your money, so yeah – spread it around. When you’re older, you turn to Fox News.)

You can look for positive change among people who were part of an aggressive pack – mean girls, jocks – but are now free of the pack. Sometimes the pack contains members who aren’t naturally vicious but are just going along. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every single pack member – some might be dicks for life.

65. If you could, how would you change the educational systems of the world? In particular, how would you change the educational system to provide for the needs of the gifted population?

Education needs to become more individualized by using more tech. Hours spent in school shouldn’t be the least information-rich hours of the day. Great teachers are still needed, but not all teachers are great, and a lot of school systems are underfunded. (In California, where I live, Proposition 13 limiting property taxes has left public schools strapped for money since 1978. Affluent parents send their kids to private schools or use elaborate strategies to get their kids into limited spots in good public school programs.) Internet-based aids to instruction could be an inexpensive way to help make up for less-than-great teaching.

In middle school, my daughter took an online math course, which kind of sucked. But online courses don’t have to suck. Online courses need to look more like what people do online for entertainment. That doesn’t mean adding some half-assed animated, talking algebra symbols. I hope that market forces eventually bring good people and good tech to education.

To help gifted kids, we need educational tools that help everyone. Now more than ever, a wide range of people have the potential to be gifted. A kid doesn’t need a 160 IQ. She needs some combination of curiosity, motivation, and ability to find information and other resources. Among the next generations of gifted, successful people will be those who are able to amplify their natural abilities with smart use of tech. Our brains and bodies will become more intimately linked with more and more powerful technology. (People wear fitness bracelets now. In the future, people will wear bracelets which tell them what nutrients to ingest and which will eventually administer drugs as needed. I imagine that a wearable drug-administration system which strictly regulates blood sugar and other factors might slow aging by 30 percent. Google Glass may never take off, but people will eventually have some form of wearable brain butlers to constantly augment their reality with helpful information (and distracting fun stuff).)

Perhaps schools will eventually have navigators who would be like a combination of counselor and teacher, to help guide students through our new world of tech and information. Students are already skilled at social media, typically better than adults. (My wife tells me it doesn’t go by “social media” anymore – now it’s just “social.”) Among other things, navigators could help students adapt their social media skills for learning, researching, and professional networking. (I can see the school navigator being hopelessly behind the times – a walking dial-up modem. But it wouldn’t have to be that way.)

How about this? – a tax deduction for online mentoring. Experts in all fields (and some non-fields) make themselves available for online consultation with qualified students and get to deduct $25 an hour from their tax bill for each hour of mentoring up to a total of 8 or 10 hours a year.

One way to help millions of talented kids would be to build an online college admissions concierge. So many things go into college admissions – grades, test scores and test prep, high school course selection, activities, essays, selecting colleges to apply to, financial aid and scholarships, college tours…. Information about all this stuff often has to be gathered from a bunch of different sources, and often this information is incomplete or comes too late. It helps to have involved, knowledgeable parents and attend a private school with a quality college admissions department. Most kids don’t have this.

It wouldn’t be fantastically tough to build an online portal (obsolete term) to everything about prepping for college. Kids set up an account towards the end of middle school, entering grades and interests and test scores, and get personalized advice that carries them through high school. Every kid would get basic automated services. More deluxe services could be provided for a fee. Right now, kids obsessed with getting into college (and their parents) share information on, but it’s hit-and-miss and not easy to navigate.  There should be something more organized. Rich families often pay an admissions specialist the equivalent of a year or more of college tuition to help their kid through the process. (There’s a guy who charges $600,000 and more to get your kid into a top Ivy League school. If your kid doesn’t get in, you get $200,000 back.)

All talented kids, not just rich ones, deserve some guidance towards college – it’s consistent with the idea of America being a meritocracy.

66. What global problems do you consider most important at the moment? What about problems in the United States of America? How would you solve them?

A major problem will be how well we can build a workable society around the huge and accelerating changes in tech. There are some signs we haven’t been doing so well – our use of devices in dangerous and inappropriate places makes us look like idiots. Via the internet, millions of willfully ignorant people reinforce each other’s stupid beliefs and are manipulated by clever, horrible people. But there are other signs that we’re adapting to tech and living more intelligently in a smarter, better-informed world. (Just guessing – not sure I see those signs.)

Politically, the U.S. is in bad shape. But our system of government is resilient. A period of tech-driven growth would go a long way towards showing Americans that things don’t have to suck and that you don’t have to base your politics on accusing the other side of making things suck. It would help if the government would support research and innovation instead of denying evolution and global warming.

At the University of Colorado, I heard Professor Al Bartlett’s lecture on the danger of exponential population growth more than once. I agree that many of the world’s problems are associated with or made worse by our increasing population. But I don’t think this will crash civilization.

It’s easy to imagine an impending apocalypse, in part because they’re easy to imagine. So many lazy TV shows and movies are set in a future post-apocalyptic world. Post-apocalyptic landscapes are cheap and don’t require much imagination. It’s much harder to try to picture a non-apocalyptic future in all its aspects. Only a few authors are any good at it – Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow.

The world isn’t getting worse. It’s easy to imagine current problems exploding into disaster, and there will be localized disasters and worldwide challenges that verge on catastrophe. But standards of living are rising, and our understanding of the world and our tools for dealing with it are getting better. Social media makes it harder for criminal regimes to hide their crimes and easier to organize in opposition. Wider access to information and communication is a powerful force against ignorance and for helping people decide that they have a stake in the modern world.

The rate of population growth needs to decrease, which it’s been doing, going from more than two percent per year in the 1960s to just over one percent today to a projected half-percent a year by 2050.

I’m hopeful that, by the end of the century, the world will transform into if not a technological wonderland, then at least a more livable place for most people, rather than the squalid dystopias of Blade Runner also hopeful that economics and tech will be the agents of positive change, rather than having to rely on people not to behave selfishly and stupidly.

With that in mind, it would be great for the U.S. to be a more tech-friendly place. I’m hopeful that Americans are largely tech-friendly, and anti-science dolts are getting disproportionate media coverage.

Over the next century, I suppose our most urgent task is not to let people stay stupid. (This includes learning to manage the rising flood of information and nonsense bombarding us.) There are more than 40 million adult Americans who are in the bottom 20% in intelligence, and some very creepy people have spent a lot of time and money learning how to manipulate them.

Right now in America, gerrymandering is a huge problem, making for some of the worst politics and politicians since the Civil War. (And it doesn’t help that two Supreme Court justices are crazy dickheads with an apparent vendetta against regular Americans.) We can hope that demographics and sheer revulsion at the current political situation will gradually fix this. And government will gradually become less important as tech increases individual autonomy. But we have 320 million people in this country, and we need some government. We deserve roads that don’t destroy our cars and schools to which we’re willing to send our kids. Not suggesting any radical new form of government – just saying it would be nice to have the government work the way it did before it was broken.

67. Generally, many interacting systems operate in societies: political, economic, religious, corporate, educational, and so on. If you could build and run a society, how would you do it?

I’m not cut out to tell people how to run the world. (About 2,500,000 internet trolls are eager to provide advice.) But I will suggest that we look for ways to minimize the turmoil of rapid technological change. That includes making it unattractive to join tech-phobic reactionary forces that would rather tear down the world than embrace change. The benefits of technology need to be convincingly presented to people in all societies, along with the message that they can share in its benefits rather than be screwed over and exploited by it.

My general, not-well-thought-out feeling is that if we can keep the world from getting too pissed-off, economically and politically, for the next 50 to 80 years, advancing technology and increasing standards of living will make life better for just about everyone. (Food, clothing and other necessities and non-necessities should continue to get cheaper – 1901: food and clothing use up 60% of US consumers’ income; 2002: 17%.) Poor countries have to feel they’re participating in tech-driven economic boom. Which means, among other things, we have to avoid undue influence by short-sighted, psychopathic pricks who think that any money not going to them is theft from them – the everyone for himself, except for tax breaks and subsidies for me, Ayn Randians.

People aren’t good at thinking about the future, which made sense back when the world didn’t change very much. Your parents were farmers, you’re a farmer, your kids and their kids will be farmers. Not anymore. (1790: farmers are 90% of US labor force, 1860: 58%, 1900: 38%, 1940: 18%, 2000: 1.9%) Now vast changes take place within single lifetimes and even within half-decades; in 2009, only teen girls were texting obsessively. Movies and TV shows consistently get the future wrong. The movie Her (the one where Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with Scarlett Johansson the cell phone) seems to present a pretty reasonable future, mostly because it kept its scale and the time-jump small.

We should be doing a lot more thinking about the next 50 to 100 years. Many of us will still be alive a century from now, due to new tech (and if we’re not, it might also be due to new tech). Our entertainment should strive to present less lazy, more thought-out versions of the near future, not just robot cops.

68. Individuals might associate the highest levels of ability with certain specialized activities. For examples, construction of a grand theory of everything (e.g., Albert Einstein, General & Special Relativity, Sir Isaac Newton, The Universal Law of Gravitation), a great discovery in genetic science (e.g., Francis Crick and James Watson, Double-Helix Structure of DNA), the solution of a major mathematical problem (e.g., Andrew Wiles, Fermat’s Last Theorem Solution, or Grigori Perelman, Poincaré Conjecture), musical compositions (Johann Sebastian Bach, Goldberg Variations, Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony 6, 7, and 9Hammerklavier SonataMissa Solemnis, Richard Strauss, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks and Burleske), creation of a new field of research (John Von Neumann & Oskar Morgenstern, Game Theory), a revolution in medical science (Edward Jenner, Vaccinations), foundational scientific theories in biology (Charles Darwin, Origin of Species), comprehensive works of philosophy (Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, and coauthored with Alfred North Whitehead, Principia Mathematica), foundational research in linguistics (Noam Chomsky, Syntactic-Structures), revolutionary production on philosophy of language (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus), mastery of performance arts (Richard Pryor, Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1979), Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip, and Richard Pryor: Here and Now, Leonard Alfred Schneider AKA Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, FM & AM, Jammin’ in New York, and Life is Worth Losing), work in cryptography and computer science (Alan Turing), work in espionage (Mata Hari AKA Eye of the Day), virtuosity with classical European musical instruments (e.g., Yehudi Menuhi with Violin, Glenn Gould, Martha Argerich, and Evgeny Kissin with Piano, Russell Oberlin with voice, Mstlislav Rostropovich with Cello), great lyrical productions (Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Shawn Corey Carter AKA Jay-Z, Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, or The Black Album, Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones AKA Nas, Illmatic, and Eric Barrier & William Michael Griffith Jr. AKA Eric B. & Rakim Allah, Paid in Full), theological productions (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, and Saint Augustine of Hippo, The City of God), or foundational theological arguments (Saint Anselm of Canterbury/Aosta, Ontological Argument), the creation of a massive social movement (Mahatma Ghandi, Revolution Devoted to Non-Violence), an obsession in a single intellectual sport (Bobby Fischer, Chess), a major work of literature (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust), major works in ethical, political and social philosophy (Plato, The Republic, and John Stuart Mill, On the Subjection of Women and Utilitarianism), a great work of art (Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, Pablo Picasso, Guernica, Michelangelo, Pieta and Sistine Chapel, Vincent Van Gogh, Cafe Terrace at Night, Jan Vermeer, The Girl with a Pearl Earring, Caravaggio, Inspiration of St Matthew, and Claude Monet, Water Lilies), earning tremendous amounts of wealth (Bill Gates, Microsoft, or Warren Buffet), adumbrated work in media theory (Herbert Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, The Medium is the Message: An Inventory of Effects, and The Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the 21st Century), revolutionary psychiatric work (Timothy Leary, LSD in Psychiatry experiments and Concord Prison Experiment), engineered inventions (Bucky Fuller, Geodesic Dome, Dymaxion Map and Car, and Synergetics), calculation and extrapolation of technological trends (Raymond Kurzweil, The Law of Accelerating Returns), dual Nobel Prizes (Marie Skłodowska-Curie, John Bardeen, Linus Pauling, or Frederick Sanger), or some other revolutionizing idea/production/practice.  Provided these and many other unstated examples, do you consider the association accurate?  What about the tendency of underachievement or underutilization of abilities in the gifted community?  What can people do to alleviate this?

Smart people want to do world-changing things. Many get side-tracked. It’s like sports – not everyone who wants to play in the NBA gets to.

Starting early in life, people do a lot of self-selection based on perceived skills. With nerdy people, sometimes there’s a nice agreement between geniusy interests and skills, almost as if in compensation for social awkwardness. (Not telling you anything new; everybody’s familiar with the awkward, brainy nerd type.)

The sidetracking of smart people into intellectual enclaves might serve to make society more stable. What if every supergenius suddenly decided to go into real estate? It’s likely normal real estate practices would be highly disrupted, and non-supergenius Realtors might have a hard time keeping up.

A combination of factors nudges nerdy people towards mentally demanding activities – having appropriate the skill set, the pleasure of being good at something, other people’s expectations (“You’re so tall – do you play basketball?), the desire for recognition, curiosity, a tendency towards mental flexibility and introspection prompted by not being perfectly at home in the world. Who’s gonna be more creative – the perfectly adjusted straight jock, or the gay guy who had to strategically think his way through every day of the mine field of middle school? (This isn’t entirely fair – there are plenty of wildly creative straight jocks – Matthew Barney and Jeff Koons come to mind – but still….)

Social skills are kind of the icing on the cake of mental development. If everything goes well, you end up with a kid who can fairly easily learn the demanding task of social interaction. But if any of a hundred things goes wrong with brain development, various mental subsystems aren’t adequately integrated, and you don’t get easy social understanding. Come to think of it, this suggests that consciousness – thorough mental integration – is especially important in interpersonal interaction. This doesn’t mean that people on the autism spectrum aren’t conscious. But it may suggest that the components of their consciousness are weighted differently from Frat Boy Joe’s.

Having smooth social skills might be at the expense of profound gifts. There are many well-known examples of people with social challenges who have astonishing eidetic memories or math skills or sculptural ability.

Everyone’s familiar with stereotypical Asperger’s behavior. I think the entertainment industry in which I work is packed with people who have reverse Asperger’s. They have highly developed social skills, which can exact a price. When you can always make friends or hook up or get what you want with charisma, you might not value relationships and may leave a trail of burned bridges. Because social success comes so easily to people with reverse Asperger’s, they may have never learned to do hard things – telling people “No,” for instance. (People in entertainment are notorious for not saying no straight out – it’s painful to disappoint someone. Instead, it’s a “Yes, maybe,” followed by a declining rate of returned phone calls.)

Now, about underachievement or under-utilization of abilities in the gifted community – humans’ evolutionary niche is to spot exploitable regularities in the world. (It’s every animal’s niche, but we really specialize in it.) Some humans are better at spotting patterns than others. Some are more obsessed with and sidetracked by pattern-spotting, sometimes at the expense of real-world skills such as career and relationship success.

Plus, the unsuccessful smart person is a media trope. “Hey – look at the genius who lives in weird squalor.” Schadenfreude. Success isn’t perfectly correlated with intelligence. There are plenty of not-traditionally-successful people at all levels of intelligence. It’s just more exciting to see the smart ones.

What can we do to help make gifted people more successful? Show them the landscape, and let them make informed choices about whom they might like to try to be. We’ve talked about informed will being more important than free will – gifted people should know their options. Growing up, I desperately needed an older sibling (which I didn’t have) to tell me what’s what in junior high and high school. My stepdad tried, but I didn’t respect him until much later, and he didn’t help me understand the social benefits of doing normal guy things.

Back when I was pitching TV shows in the 90s, one of my ideas was a makeover show for nerds. In each episode, an expert panel would help a nerd to examine his life and decide what he wants to keep and what he wants to get rid of in the interest of social success. Keep the room full of pristine Star Wars action figures, but maybe drop 50 pounds and get some new clothes. But it’s not 1998 anymore, and it’s much more acceptable to be a nerd. Nerds and nerdettes are hooking up all over the place without being made over. It’s a little frustrating – I could’ve used some nerd acceptance back in 1974.

69. In turn, what responsibilities do the gifted population have towards society and culture? Why do you think this?

I don’t think gifted people spend much time thinking about what they can give to society (and may not even think of themselves as gifted or at least pretend they don’t). Many highly gifted people are compelled to single-mindedly pursue their visions and objectives at the expense of almost everything else. I don’t know about telling art to behave for society’s sake – don’t think it works like that.

However, I do think that gifted people don’t get a pass to act like dicks just because of their giftedness. Many gifted people have terrible behavior, but so do many non-gifted people. Often, the fame associated with their gifts gives them increased opportunity to engage in bad behavior. And sometimes their gifts have made them a little nuts.

But it’s really stupid to act out sexually in an era with virtually unlimited internet pornography. Having affairs, especially with terrible people – and affair-having is correlated with being terrible – generally doesn’t turn out well. Sending pictures of your penis to women never works out, unless your objective is to be ridiculed and punished and have your life reduced to a shambles. Messing around extracurricularly with people in the flesh just seems so old-school, so 68-year-old Senator dumping his second wife.

What I’m saying is, if you’re in a marriage or long-term relationship that doesn’t have major problems, make do with the images you can find online. Don’t scuttle everything for a half-dozen intimate encounters with some asshole. And don’t tell yourself that being true to your gift doesn’t leave you with sufficient control over the rest of your behavior to avoid trouble. But this is coming from a guy who’s always had such lousy game with women that such opportunities never come up.

**********************Bibliography at end of part seven***********************


In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1990-96); and Writer (Part Five)

Mr. Rick G. Rosner


Part five of seven, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: mathematics and physics, logic and metaphysics, mutual interrelationships, digital physics and “informational cosmology,” consciousness grounded in informational cosmological definitions of “self-consistency” and “information processing,” identification of minds within universe with consciousness, interrelation between minds and universe, subcategorizations of self-consistency and information processing based on interpretations and definitions, Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor, logic, Law of Identity, Law of Non-Contradiction, Law of the Excluded Middle, Plato, Theaetetus, The Republic, Aristotle, Metaphysics, “laws of thought,” Wilhelm Gottfried von Leibniz, Leibniz’ Law, Law of Reflexivity, Law of SymmetryLaw of Transitivity, set theory, Kurt Friedrich Gödel, Saint Anselm of Canterbury, On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems (1931), incompleteness theoremsBoolean Algebra (foundational for digital electronics), George Boole, “Boolean Heresies,” An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), physics, Novikov Self-Consistency Principle, time-travel, computer science, database management systems, Jim Gray (1981), ACID or ‘Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability’, “self-consistent” or “self-consistency” as “system without self-contradiction,” information theory, Claude Elwood Shannon, A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948), Warren Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of Communication, examples of information processing, application of information theory to information cosmology, reflection of the deep equivalences, clarification of armature of universe and universe, and the rich refinement of digital physics into informational cosmology; definition of universe as the entirety of matter and space; definition of the interrelation of mind and universe based on a personal query from 1981, each mind having structure and rules akin to universe, different manifestations of the same structure at vastly different scales for universe, and the non-mystical/technical nature of the definition; informational cosmogony, cosmology, and eschatology apply to origins up to the present until the resolution of universe, construction of a metric for individual local and global consciousness, mathematical operation of universe with a quote from Eugene Wigner, armature of universe, speculation on descriptors of armature for universe, a response to Wigner quote with Einstein, and speculation on external universes and respective armatures from our universe; thoughts on the disparaging nature of the commentary on consciousness; survival advantages of consciousness, commentary on evolution and consciousness, and the possible role for consciousness in evolution; statistical likelihood of localized consciousness within universe and globalized consciousness of universe, and the ‘Statistical Argument for Existence’, and further commentary on it; thoughts on reactions to grand claims made about the structure of thought and universe, and brief comments; Aristotelian foundational empiricism, natural philosophy, methodological naturalism, rationalism, empiricism, inductivism, Ockham’s Razor, consilience, falsificationism, verificationism, hypothetico-deductivism, Bayesianism, and epistemological anarchism; reflections on religious/irreligious conceptions of an afterlife such as reincarnation (with/without karma), heaven and hell, oblivion, nirvana, union with the divine, and the whole suite of possibilities for an afterlife, and in particular their truth value; and general thoughts on religion.

Keywords: armature, computer science, consciousness, evolution, faith, falsificationism, Giga Society, heaven, hell, information processing, informational cosmogony, informational cosmology, informational eschatology, irreligious, karma, law of non-contradiction, logic, mathematical, Mega Society, metaphysics, nirvana, Novikov Self-Consistency Principle, physics, predictions, probabilities, religion, Rick G. Rosner, science, self-consistency, universe.

45. We discussed mathematics and physics, logic and metaphysics, consciousness and its subcategories, and these conceptualizations’ mutual interrelationships. In particular, refinement of digital physics into “informational cosmology.” 

Furthermore, in informational cosmological nomenclature, your definition of consciousness divides into and emerges from two broad ideas: self-consistency and information processing.  In brief review, we have identification of minds within universe with consciousness, universe with consciousness, and the interrelation of mind and universe based on isomorphic function and characteristics.  What beyond this introductory realization of the equivalence?  I observe multiple arenas of common discourse – let me explain.

From an informational cosmological foundation, the hyphenated term “self-consistency” and phrase “information processing” divide into further subcategorizations.  These subcategories have constraints from definitions.  “Self-consistency” and “information processing” contain various definitions because of differing interpretations, but technical and concrete definitions hold most import here.  

As a general primer to “self-consistency” – which might have less decipherability than “information processing,” we can begin with this informational cosmology expression “self-consistency.” German mathematician and founder of set theory (fundamental theory for mathematics), Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor, defined self-consistency as the inability to derive both the statement and negation of the statement at the same time.  Cantor argued, if deriving the statement and its negation, the derivation would self-contradict. (One can transform this into more formal set theoretic language about elements contained in sets – or the language of mathematics, self-consistency holds great weight for mathematicians, and logic, see Law of Non-Contradiction below.)

Self-consistency does have other theoretical universes of discourse in addition to multiple practical and applied venues of human venture: logic, set theory, mathematics, physics, computer science, and many others.  

In logic, the Law of Identity (A equals A), Law of Non-Contradiction (A cannot equal not-A), and Law of the Excluded Middle (For all A: either A or not-A) all introduced – informally & implicitly by Plato in Theaetetus &The Republic and formally & explicitly by Aristotle in Metaphysics - in ancient Greece. Sometimes called “laws of thought.”  These delineate facets of self-consistency expressed in the formalisms and vernacular of logic.  For one similar vein, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz derived Leibniz’ Law, ‘x = y’: if, and only if, x contains every property of y, and vice versa.  Moreover, he derived sublaws from Leibniz’ Law such as the Law of Reflexivity, Law of Symmetry, and Law of Transitivity.  For one example, Law of Reflexivity, ‘x = x’: everything is equal to itself.  This mirrors the Law of Identity of Athenian philosophers – Plato and Aristotle.  Patterns – Platonic Forms and Ideas even – of concepts arise in repeated episodes of the historical timeline – groping towards some unitary definition.

In set theory, Austrian-born American logician, mathematician, and philosopher, Kurt Friedrich Gödel, had additional fame for formalization of St. Anselm’s Ontological Proof for the existence of God.  In addition to this, Gödel published Über formal unentscheidbare Sätze der Principia Mathematica und verwandter Systeme or On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems (1931).  Tersely, an axiomatic system capable of describing natural numbers (e.g., 1, 2, 3…) held within it: 1) cannot be both consistent and complete, and 2) if consistent, the consistency of the axioms cannot be proven within the system.  He, and modern specialists, call these two incompleteness theorems.

In mathematics, English logician, mathematician, philosopher, and founder of Boolean Algebra (foundational for digital electronics), George Boole, continued the ancient Grecians work in a facsimile of the earlier laws of thought with some extensions in mathematical language.  I call them “Boolean Heresies” for fun.  Boole laid these out in An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854). The primary extension from Aristotle became the extension of the three classical laws of thought into mathematical symbolisms, formalisms, and terminology.  For one example, the ‘=’ or ‘equals sign’ signals synonymous meaning with the Law of Identity or the Law of Reflexivity between things.  Things labelled ‘A’ in the Law of Identity and ‘x’ in the Law of Reflexivity discussed earlier. 

In physics, applied to time travel – the Novikov Self-Consistency Principle, ‘laws’ of physics must remain self-consistent at a global level in the real universe to prohibit any paradoxes with respect to time travel.  In this application, time-travel scenarios must disallow violation of universe’s global laws. 

In computer science, at least in database management systems, the acronym ACID equates to principles for operation of database transactions.  “ACID,” from Jim Gray (1981), means ‘Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability’ with the importance of ‘consistency’ meaning “the transaction must obey legal laws.” 

In broad definitions provided by Gray (1981) about the “general model of transactions,” he states, “Transactions preserve the system consistency constraints — they obey the laws by transforming consistent states into new consistent states.” As noted, Boolean Algebraic (Boole) systems operable in computer science too. 

One can see the pattern in numerous fields.  Therefore, “self-consistent” or “self-consistency” within informational cosmology means “system without self-contradiction.” 

“Information processing” will have an easier time of comprehension because of living in the computer age, digital age, or information age.  American mathematician and cryptographer Claude Elwood Shannon’s article, A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948), represented information theory connected to communication. A short paper, experts consider this article foundational to the field of information theory, which allowed many of them to decree Shannon the father of the information age.  

American scientist and mathematician, Warren Weaver, republished A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948) and expanded on Shannon’s work in a coauthored – with Weaver – book entitled The Mathematical Theory of Communication (1949).  Specialists remember Weaver for pioneering work in machine translation.  Shannon and Weaver laid the framework for information and communication theory up to the present day.

In it, if we take a human interpretive view of the work, he showed the degree of “noise” – entropy/disorder introduced into the message – entering between the “information source” (brain1/mind1) & “transmitter” (voice/speech) and the “receiver” (ears) & “destination” (brain2/mind2).  Noise enters between the transmitter and receiver to decrease the quality of the message from the information source to the destination.

For an everyday example, if you whisper from a mile away, your friend will have trouble understanding you – too much “noise” preventing clear receiving and interpretation of the message; if you whisper next to your friend’s ear, the message will more likely have appropriate receiving, decoding, and arrival at the destination for your friend’s comprehension. 

Not clear enough – think of a computer, how does it process information?  It processes information according to input, process, and output.  You type a symbol on the keyboard – input, the machine runs internal mechanics – process, and produces the appropriate (if functional) symbol on the monitor – output.  Hence, the foundation of information theory in informational cosmology.

Input becomes any decipherable piece of data to the system. Process becomes the algorithm for managing the information.  Output becomes the final product of input and process. Likewise, this applies to everything in informational cosmology at local and global scales.

In current vernacular, we ask, “What if the contents of the universe equals input, process equals laws plus time, and output equals transformations of the contents (e.g., particles, fields, forces, and so on) of the universe?” 

In informational cosmological parlance, we ask, “What if bit units of universe equal input, process equals principles of existence plus time, and output equals transformations of bit units of universe?”  

These reflect deep equivalences.  As noted by 21 year old Rick, all theories of grandeur and great import start with big equivalences.  You shifted the perspective. Subsequent information processing equates to observed universe.  Simply put, we need an armature by necessity, but do not observe the armature based on externality to universe.

Armature of universe equates to material framework or processor; universe equates to information processing or processing.  We observe the information processing.  We call this universe.  We do not observe the material framework, but by necessity require processor based on isomorphic geometry between universe and individual localized minds.  

Individual localized minds operate from brains, and therefore universe must have an equivalent of a “brain” – aforementioned armature.  This deals with information and universe at the largest scales. In this, we have the rich derivation, i.e. refinement, of digital physics into informational cosmology. 

Since universe does have some characterization in relation to subsystems within itself based on isomorphic properties, what would count among other subcategorizations? In other words, what other manifestations exemplify the definition of self-consistency or information processing?  How do you define these ideas in more colloquial terms?

Consciousness is the vivid, emotionally charged, moment-to-moment sharing of processed sensory input, memories, and simulated/imagined self-generated content among brain systems which receive a wide-angle flow of information. By wide-angle, I mean not a linear relaying of signals from A to B to C but instead, sharing of information with many other brain systems, so that each system knows what’s going on in the rest of the brain (within the limitations of its specialty). Systems can pop into and drop out of consciousness, depending on the brain’s moment-to-moment processing needs.

Each pertinent subsystem adds its angle on what’s currently under consideration in the mind, possibly triggering further associations. Memories are pretty much locked until they’re unlocked by being pulled into the conscious arena. Most people have memories which they’ve remembered so many times that the original memory has been all messed around by being rewritten over and over in the conscious arena. (Do we need to fully light up a memory to remember/mess with it?)

The entire mind needs to speak the same language of representation, so there’s probably a lot of recursion, where subsystems of the brain have to be able to identify stuff that’s not their specialties. Some systems can be less clued-in than others. Our sense of smell seems to be kind of distant from other systems. You smell something, it’s familiar, it’s on the tip of your brain, but you can’t quite pull up the specifics of when you’ve smelled that smell before. (If you were a dog, you could pull up everything about that smell. When humans and dogs teamed up, humans took over strategic thinking, and dogs took charge of smelling.) Language probably makes pulling up associations easier and more efficient. Hanging a word on something is a kind of shorthand (that maybe takes up less space than a full description and makes it more retrievable).

Anyhow, the same way every part of your brain knows what’s going on in every other part via the conscious mind, every part of the universe is clued in to every other part (via long-distance particles – mainly photons in the active center and neutrinos traveling to the deeper structure on the outskirts). The conservation laws – momentum, energy – and the relative constancy across space and time of physical constants help the universe maintain informational consistency.

I also think that much of our understanding is virtual, where, in any given moment, our awareness doesn’t contain much, but by shifting attention around, we build a virtually complete picture of the world. It’s similar to how our eyesight functions – we have precise vision for only about 15 degrees out of a total visual field of 200 degrees. We can’t precisely see an entire painting or TV image all at once. Our eyes wander around the image, and we build a more-or-less complete picture in our mind. Our awareness probably works the same way. Our brains can only process so much in any given moment. Whatever’s under consideration gets analyzed in some ways and then in others, but not in all possible ways at once. We never see or comprehend anything completely in an instant but through sequential processing build up (over a short period of time) what acts like fairly complete understanding.

It’s like trying to look at Macy’s 50-by-100-foot American flag in a storage closet. You can only spread out 20 square feet of it at a time, but eventually, by looking at different parts of it, you can develop a picture of the whole flag.

So a thought isn’t just some parts of the brain lighting up all at once – it’s a whole chain of parts of the brain lighting up until you eventually (but in a short period of time – fractions of a second) have the semblance of a complete thought. The universe probably works the same way – galaxies keep lighting up while other galaxies are fading away. A thought isn’t just the 10^11 galaxies lit at any one time – it’s a whole chain of lit galaxies, like an animated, moving display of Christmas lights. Thoughts – things under consideration – fade into each other. We have a more thorough understanding of things than what we understand at any instant. And the universe is more precisely defined than just by the relationships among matter in the active center.

In both the mind and the universe, you need consistency. Galaxies don’t wink in and out of existence just because you’ve shifted your point of view. A galaxy exists no matter where it’s viewed from (though if you go far enough away from it, it’ll look Hubble/relativistically/informationally redshifted). Same thing in your mind. If an event definitely made itself known to some part of your conscious mind – red traffic light – that light isn’t red according to some parts of your mind and green according to others. You can have ambiguous events where you’re not sure what happened, but if you have deep disagreements about established facts between different parts of the brain, that’s trouble.

46. All representation of the information sharing of the material framework of universe equates to universe in informational cosmogony, cosmology, and eschatology. More elements have inclusion here. How do you define universe?

The universe is the entirety of matter and space – everything that has interacted with or could interact with us. It’s an information space – an arena for the sharing, processing and storing of information (for the universe, not directly for us), with the scale and curvature of space determined by the rules of information and its distribution and correlations. (That is, the distribution of matter.) The location (and velocity) of matter has almost everything to say about its correlations as information.

47. Insofar as mind and universe have propinquity – kinship in nature; a structural relation between individual localized consciousness within universe and globalized consciousness of universe. How do you define their interrelation?

Back in 1981, I asked myself, “What if the geometry of information within consciousness is the same as the geometry of the universe? (And how can it not be?)” The optimal structure/map of the information within each individual mind has the same general structure and rules as the universe and its physics. It has 4D space-time, atoms, the whole deal (with allowances for the universe having about 10^80 particles and our brains having 10^11 neurons, which, though I don’t know how many particles in a mind-space this might translate into, can’t be many more than 10^16). The mind and the universe are different manifestations (at vastly different scales) of the same information structure. We see the universe from the inside – as part of it – so we don’t see it as information (except that quantum mechanics is the rules of behavior for matter about which there is incomplete information – we can see that matter is information by catching it behaving as incomplete information, as in the double-slit experiment). And we each embody our own mind, so we see only its information and not the mechanics of it.

People suspect that you might be a wacko when you try to assign consciousness to anything but people and higher animals, as if you’re talking about a fancy, mysterious transcendent realm of rocks and trees and butterflies sending thinky vibes to each other. But no – consciousness is a technical thing, not a mystical thing, associated with broadband sharing of real-time information among brain subsystems plus emotionally linked value determinations. (Emotions and values amplify the personal importance of what’s happening in your life. We have evolved to care about our lives. Apathy and absence of judgment aren’t the best survival characteristics – if you can’t be compelled to care about yourself and choose favourable courses of action, you’re in trouble.) When a bunch of specialized systems in your brain are exchanging information including emotions in real time – when every part of your brain knows what’s going on, more or less, in every other part of your brain, and you have feelings about it, that’s consciousness – a technical property associated with global, pervasive information-sharing. (The subsystems need to understand the information they’re getting hit with. Most parts of your brain understand fire or the color fuchsia or birds (in ways pertinent to each brain system’s function, with some parts understanding some things better than others, consistent with their specialties).) It’s not mystical – not connected to some divine or exalted domain.

48. Informational cosmology describes the self-consistency and information processing of universe.  We might construct a metric for individual local and global consciousness.  Universe operates under mathematical principles of existence (laws).  Eugene Wigner’s stock quote about the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” seems apropos to me – not in presumption about either side of the ledger.  Universe’s armature might operate within other principles of existence. 

By an informational cosmological definition, anything internal to universe operates according to mathematical principles of existence (mathematical laws).  Anything external to universe operates in mathematics containing universe’s mathematics, or in some novel considerations about the nature of mathematics.  Universe’s armature exists external to universe.  Therefore, universe’s armature must operate in mathematics containing universe’s mathematics, or in some novel considerations about the nature of mathematics. Any speculation about this?  What does this imply?

You talk about constructing “a metric for individual local and global consciousness.” I think that, in terms of increasing brain complexity, consciousness becomes well-rounded – feeling like a fully-rendered experience of the world – pretty fast. It’s not clear how deeply insects feel, but fish and reptiles feel and think, though they can be pretty boring as companions. I had a genius goldfish that figured out how to call me to feed it by noisily blowing bubbles at the top of the tank. Even with their tiny little heads, birds feel and think (and can be kind of dickish – read about Alex the parrot). And of course mammals think and feel. Darwin, who was above all an excellent observer, knew that animals feel, writing the book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

I think of subjective degrees of consciousness like the number of sides in a polygon. With increasing numbers, they become close to perfectly round pretty fast. A tire shaped like a regular triangle or square would give you a very bumpy ride, but this quickly gives way to the near-circles of 12-, 15- and 24-sided regular polygons. Tires in the shape of 24-sided polygons would give you a pretty smooth ride. Fifty- or 100-sided polygons are barely distinguishable from circles.

Consider a dog’s consciousness as a 15-sided polygon – reasonably close to circular. Doesn’t have all our bells & whistles – language, ability to rotate objects in our mind. (On the other hand, we don’t have the world of smells dogs have.) And consider our consciousness as a 100-sided polygon. Lots of ways to analyze and mentally manipulate things – when we look at something, we feel as if we’re really seeing it. Our lives feel deeply substantial and authentic to us, but they probably don’t feel a whole lot less real and immediate to dogs. If we suddenly had the awareness of a frog or alligator or lizard, we might think, “Wow – this is kind of a half-assed representation of the world.” (Or maybe not – alligators must have some precise sensory systems.) Seeing the world with a bug’s awareness might be like being in a 1980s video game – rough, not detailed, not very fleshed-out, not a lot of analytic tools.

As long as we’re messing around in this direction, let’s guess at the size of a thought, in terms of the total number of events in mind-space that might make up that thought. (A mind-space event might be the equivalent of the exchange of a photon or the fusion of a pair of protons with the emission of a neutrino plus a photon.) We have about 86 billion neurons and up to a quadrillion synapses. Assume, just to make sure we’re not underestimating, that 10,000 mind-space events contribute to the firing of a neuron. Figure a neuron might fire up to eight times during a thought. So a thought might consist of nearly 10^16 mind-space events, but it’s probably a lot less, because not every neuron’s firing like crazy, and there probably aren’t 10,000 discernable mind-space events that led up to a neuron firing. (But a neuron firing may not be a single event – it may light up a lot of stuff. Or it may not be an event at all. The formation and breaking of dendritic connections might be events. The network of connections – the associative landscape – might be a framework that tacitly informs the processing of information. The layout of the landscape might provide a virtual context for the information being actively processed, the way collapsed matter might provide context for active matter. Could be like compressed digital information – to send a compressed video, you only specify the pixels that change – you get a series of complete pictures without sending complete pictures. Similarly, the active center of the universe may be only part of the picture the universe is painting for itself. For the (long) moment, it’s the only part that’s in play, but it’s not the whole picture.)

So let’s take a look at the universe, which I theorize is a mind-space thinking a 20- or 30-billion-year thought or part of a thought (in a long-ass string of thoughts). The active center has about 10^80 particles, mostly in stars. Each particle has maybe 10^11 interactions a second times about 3 x 10^7 seconds a year for maybe 3 x 10^10 years. So a thought by the universe might consist of around 10^109 events. That is, of course, enormous – you couldn’t count that high in a year. Or in the apparent lifetime of the universe. Or in a billion apparent lifetimes of the universe for each particle in the universe. So don’t even try.

Why such a big number? Well, if every size of universe less than infinity is allowed, then there’s no limit on size – bigness comes cheap. Normally, I don’t like the anthropic principle, which says the universe is the way it is because we’re in it, but we do need a universe that’s big enough, detailed enough, old enough for us to come to exist in it.

And you asked about Wigner’s “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” quote, which asks why math is so good at describing the universe. I’d counter that with the well-known Einstein quote, “God is subtle, but he’s not malicious.” I think another way of saying that is “The universe is only as complicated as it needs to be.” I’d argue that numbers are about the simplest non-contradictory system (that’s unlimited in size). (Godel proved that numbers might contain hidden contradictions, but we haven’t found any yet, and even if we did, they wouldn’t be serious enough to stop us from using numbers.)

The universe is only as complicated as it needs to be to exist. (There’s probably an argument to be made that more-complicated-than-necessary forms of existence, unless artificially supported, are unstable (or improbable) and break down into simplest-possible forms.) A simplest-possible universe will include simplest-possible components and structures, which can be characterized by numbers, which are themselves part of a simplest-possible system.

You asked about a universe external to ours that contains the universe’s armature. I think that universe can be characterized by the same mathematics that characterizes our universe. The principles of existence keep a fairly tight leash on the forms that universes can take, which includes number of dimensions, types of physical forces, and being characterizable by math. Of course we have no evidence of a universe external to ours.

49. You made disparaging and denigrating statements about consciousness.  Your thumbnail sketch and corporeal definition of self-consistency and information processing does not by necessity implicate such negative commentary. Why the occasional harsh tone on consciousness?  Any positive statement about consciousness while on the topic?

Consciousness is more helpful when you have time to think. Obviously, you come closer to having free will when you have time to consider a situation and can weigh everything you know, including, perhaps, knowledge of your own biases. You can run a thought a few times and see what associations your brain pulls up. Consciousness is helpful in new or complicated situations – it can help recognize patterns and put together essential details, finding exploitable regularities in your environment.

Consciousness lets you talk to yourself. Assigning words to things is powerful when trying to retrieve information from your own memory or from outside sources. (Key words are useful even in your head.) Consciousness lets you run simulations – what would happen if I did this? In the future, advanced versions of us might constantly be running very detailed projections of a range of near-futures – what might happen in the next few seconds or minutes – so we can choose the best course of action. We’d be living in our own near-futures and choosing among them. This might be the closest we come to side-stepping the one-dimensional flow of time.

Consciousness is necessary for interacting with other people. It takes many integrated brain systems to engage in effective human interaction. When the requisite systems don’t function together smoothly, you can end up with autism spectrum challenges.

Sometimes, consciousness seems like more trouble than it’s worth – as when you’re aware of how miserable you are. (Of course evolution only cares about our happiness to the extent that it helps us produce and raise offspring that are themselves good at reproducing. Too much misery would make us ineffective, but so would being happy all the time.) But it’s like me nagging my wife to always keep two hands on the steering wheel in case of sudden and unpredictable danger. Maybe we don’t need consciousness during every waking moment, but it needs to be running for those unpredictable moments when we really need it – when it’s better that we’re not just a bunch of reflexes.

One more thing – say your life really does pass in front of your eyes during moments of extreme danger. Maybe this is a survival mechanism, or is at least an indicator of a survival mechanism. Maybe stress triggers thinking, so stressed organisms think more, and think more fluidly, than non-stressed organisms. We seem to know that extreme stress – danger – triggers a temporary increase in the brain’s ability to take in sensory information – time slows down, and we’re hyperaware of our surroundings. Perhaps really big danger triggers a really big thought reaction – your brain tries to make you think everything all at once.

50. Consciousness can offer survival advantages. Can it play a role in evolution? How might this play out?

This is a recent excerpt from a book by evolutionary biologist Professor Andreas Wagner on

“Selection did not—cannot—create all this variation. A few decades after Darwin, Hugo de Vries expressed it best when he said that “natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest.” And if we do not know what explains its arrival, then we do not understand the very origins of life’s diversity.”

That is, we know how changes in and variations among animals may allow some animals to produce more descendants, but we don’t know enough about how such changes originate and become enduring details in evolutionary history. Not enough consideration has been given to consciousness as an evolution booster. (Obviously, at some point in the development of a civilized species, random evolution is mostly replaced by intentional change. Humans are at this point.) I think that consciousness facilitates evolution in a variety of ways. One possible way – the stress of being ill-adapted triggers increased mental flexibility. Say a nerdy organism has a gimpy leg or something. Maybe there’s a mechanism where that organism has a little meltdown, with normally crystallized patterns of behavior becoming subject to conscious consideration, possibly resulting in innovation. (Hey, it happened to me, maybe it can happen to an iguana.) Only to the extent, of course, that the organism has a mental arena – gimpy amoebas won’t be doing any thinking. (Though similar-to-conscious mechanisms might still occur in non-conscious beings. A changing environment may prompt inadvertent innovation among amoebas, even though it’s happening through chemistry, not consciousness.) Once a successful innovation arises, there’s a new niche offering an advantage to organisms that are relatively better at the innovation (assuming that the innovation can be disseminated and perpetuated).

Another way consciousness can increase the likelihood or frequency of evolutionary change might be through a generalization of the “Nerds are compelled to think” principle discussed above. What if every member of a species has some conscious awareness? Every behavior or combination of behaviors in an organism’s conscious arena (entirely or in part), is subject to conscious variation. That is, the organism understands the behavior to some little extent and can put its spin on it. The behavior isn’t entirely unconscious and hard-wired. Conscious variation makes possible a bunch of small potential advantages – on a short-term basis for individual animals, on a medium-term basis from physiological variation that already exists within a species, and on a long-term basis from mutation. Behavioral change can lead to genetic change, not in a Lamarckian sense, but by giving an advantage to those organisms which can best perform the changed behavior. Animals can’t choose their mutations and variations, but, if capable of any thought, are better able to take advantage of them.

Animal thought can make evolutionary transitions more likely and mutations more likely to be exploited (among both thinking animals and the organisms they interact with – cows and corn aren’t great thinkers, but they’ve gained a reproductive advantage via human thought). Genetic changes can be abrupt – there’s punctuated equilibrium, where the fossil record shows relatively fast transitions between long periods of unchanging form; thought can ease such transitions. I dunno – maybe biologists adequately factor animals’ ability to think into evolution, but I kind of doubt it. I guess a test of this would to see if the pace of evolution has accelerated along with complexity of thought (other things being equal). We had 2.5 billion years of bacteria, a few hundred million years of cell colonies, then – boom – a panoply of life in relatively quick succession – worms, fish, amphibians, bugs, reptiles, birds, lemurs. Flexible behavior facilitates evolution.

The stories of individual organisms must sometimes be crucial to evolutionary history. Gimpy Carla the Crustacean has a weird claw; she figures out she can use it to really get at snails – good eatin’! Her friends learn the same trick – maybe not as expertly as Carla, but enough for snail scooping to become part of Carla’s species’ behavioural repertoire. Skilled snail-scooping turns into an evolutionary advantage, with members of the species that have genes which help make them better scoopers having more reproductive success. Or maybe Gimpy Carla doesn’t find a use for her weird claw; maybe she figures out something else altogether. Or perhaps there’s nothing particularly wrong with Carla’s claws, and she figures out a new behaviour anyway. Maybe she sees an octopus flipping over rocks to get what’s underneath, and Carla’s like, “Hey – I can flip rocks, too.”

51. Furthermore, you have spoken on the probability for the existence of both globalized consciousness of universe and individual localized consciousness within universe.  We can name these ‘Statistical Arguments for Consciousness’: consciousness of universe (and consciousness of minds within it) cannot not exist. 

Indeed, the simple existence of universe could be called ‘Statistical Argument for Universe’: universe cannot not exist.  Some state this as a blunt, dull, and passive query, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”  What best represents these idea?  How can you state this in formal terms?

You can view Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” as a statistical argument. Given the apparently highly organized and consistent information within a human’s consciousness, the odds that the existence it reflects isn’t real and is instead caused by happenstance is nearly zero.

To put it in a mathematical framework, there must be some measure of the complexity/amount of information within an individual awareness and within the universe. And there’s some calculation you could do which represents the odds that such complexity could arise as a momentary random blip that doesn’t reflect actual existence. The odds are infinitesimal.

(When saying that the universe “can’t not exist,” I mean something else – that there’s a statistical bias towards existence. Non-existence entails as special a set of circumstances as existence – it’s not the default state of things. And given that there’s a very small set of non-existent states and a very large set of possible states of existence, there’s a probabilistic argument to be made in favor of existence. There might be only one state of perfect non-existence. If there were different null states, then there’d be something to differentiate them. And that something is something that exists, so at least one of those things isn’t the null state. (Can’t imagine nullity coming in a bunch of flavors.) The more particles you have, the greater the number of possible interrelationships they can have, with that number growing at least exponentially. (Look at video games now compared to video games in the 80s. Complexity allows variety.) Also, if the principles of existence permit existence, there has to be existence – not all possible states all the time, but permitted states (one at a time) operating under (possibly self-arising) rules.

52. You’re making enormous claims about the structure and function of both mind and universe. Even in general terms connected to their relationship, these arguments might create grounds for individual or collective bafflement, confusion, glazed reading, instinctive ire, reactive dismissal, mockery, scolding, scoffing, offense, prods and epithets about intelligence, furrowed brows, pleas for clarification, misunderstandings tied to wrongful extensions and conclusions of the theory, straw-manned misinterpretations, questioning of sanity, non-sequitur statements, appeals to emotion or authority for disproof, personal attacks at various facets of your personal life – including shallow attacks at family, and awe at ground breaking ideas – let alone thoughts about the interviewer.  

Most reactions and feedback welcome.  Preference for constructive feedback.  However, these have zero connection to the truth or falsity of the theory.  We need rigorous scientific methodological constraints. Obviously, and an extraordinarily important note, this journal is not peer-reviewed.  Any reflections?

I’ve been interviewed before, though never at this length, and am familiar with the kind of comments this could generate. Pretty comfortable being an eccentric clown – it’s often helped me avoid being fired. “He’s crazy, but he’s harmless – just leave him be.” Have done a lot of ridiculous stuff, in part because I’ve thought as long as I’m doing physics in my head, whatever else I do doesn’t matter so much. By talking about this theory in depth, I’m hoping for pretty much the first time to eventually be taken seriously.

Even if I didn’t have a history of being a goofball, this would be tough. A bunch of people have radical theories of the universe. Many are at least a little crazy; most are wrong. There’s a fun test by John Baez called “The Crackpot Index,” which gives a craziness score for your theory and yourself. I score about 20 out of a possible 641, putting me on the low end of crazy. But I write jokes for TV, have been a stripper, don’t have a PhD or have ever worked in academia, my theory isn’t peer-reviewed, it has very few equations. Making it legit will be a long haul.

I’ve postulated a lot of stuff here; some of it will turn out to be true or closer to true than currently accepted theories. It feels consistent with what we know and has a kind of poetic rightness. But that’s just how I feel. Could get some credit, or could be like Fritz Hasenohrl, who, a year before Einstein, came up w/ E = 3/4 MC^2. So close.

Gonna use social and other media to try to get my stuff out there, hoping that the current culture of foolishness finds me foolish enough to embrace and that the attention prompts legit people to ponder my BS.

53. Modern science developed many explicit and tacit boundaries along the trajectory of development. From an ahistorical and more conceptual consideration while acknowledging the rough-and-tumble development of modern science, some bounds include Aristotelian foundational empiricism, natural philosophy, methodological naturalism, rationalism, empiricism, inductivism, Ockham’s Razor, consilience, falsificationism, verificationism, hypothetico-deductivism, Bayesianism, and epistemological anarchism.

Undoubtedly, quarrels exist around the appropriate weight and inclusion of these – and unstated others.  I state the description of them in the upcoming format for sake of concision. Far too much to cover here.  Many, many books written at length on the subjects alone and together.  I will cover each in their presented order. 

Originating from a single mine of human endeavour, science forged from the base metals of Aristotelian thought.  Aristotle, the smithy, even invented the – still used – biological taxonomical distinctions of animalia and plantae in the 4th century BCE.  Aristotle shifted the dominant philosophy from the Platonic to the empirical – suiting for a strong student of Plato in The Academy

English alchemist, biblical scholar, mathematician, occultist, and philosopher, Sir Isaac Newton, from The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687) becomes the transition between the era of natural philosophy and natural science.  In fact, some would consider the simple definition of studying natural causes by natural means sufficient to explain a foundational principle of science: methodological naturalism.

Rationalism and empiricism tend to oppose one another.  Pure rationalism defines knowledge from the human mind alone (a priori); pure empiricism defines knowledge from experience alone (a posteriori). Pythagoras, Parmenides, and Zeno of Elea represent early rationalism culminating in Plato with the candle kept alight by René Descartes, Benedict (Baruch in Hebrew) de Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, Francis Herbert Bradley, Bernard Bosanquet, Josiah Royce, Noam Chomsky, and other ancient and modern exemplars.

Sophists represent early empiricism coming afire with Aristotle with the torch taken by the Stoics and Epicureans, followed by Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, William of Ockham, Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume, Voltaire, John Stuart Mill, William Kingdon Clifford, Karl Pearson, Bertrand Russell, Sir Alfred Jules Ayer, and other ancient and modern exemplars.  For some preliminary reading, René Descartes defends rationalism in Discourse on the Method (1637); John Locke defends empiricism in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689).

1st Viscount St. Alban, English jurist, philosopher, and statesmen, Francis Bacon, founded the Baconian Method in Novum Organum Scientiarum or New Instrument of Science (1620), synonymous with inductivism Where Aristotle represents the major transition from dominant rationalism to some form of empiricism, Bacon represents the metamorphosing of empiricism into more modern empiricism. 

Science does not give proofs.  Mathematics produces proofs.  As founded by Francis Bacon under the appellation empiricism and enunciated by Scottish economist, empiricist, historian, and philosopher, David Hume, science amasses evidence for probabilities of theories. Weight towards theories and arguments based on quantity and quality of evidence.  Sometimes echoed in the oft-said – to the point of boredom – phrase of Carl Sagan, adapted from Marcello Truzzi, for extreme cases, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”  

English Franciscan friar, and scholastic philosopher and theologian, William of Ockham, proposed Ockham’s Razor, or the principle of parsimony, meaning do not multiply assumptions/premises (“entities”) past the point of necessity.  In other words, among competing hypotheses choose the one with the least assumptions.

English polymath, historian of science, Anglican priest, and theologian, William Whewell, brought “consilience” into consideration with The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded Upon Their History (1840). Of great importance, Whewell – in addition to other work by John Herschel – formalized the modern methodology of science with History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) and The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded Upon Their History (1840).  Whewell’s efforts with the term consilience faded in philosophy of science until revival in the late 1990s.  His lasting mark continues with the modern methodology and refinement of the title “natural philosophy” to “science” and “natural philosopher” to “scientist.”    

With great acumen for synthesis (and conceptual resurrection), American biologist, naturalist, and sociobiologist, Edward Osborne Wilson reawakened the philosophy of science term “consilience” with Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998). However, Wilson attempted to bridge the division between the humanities and sciences adumbrated by Barron Charles Percy Snow from The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (1959).  We can leave considerations of humanist convictions possibly driving the thrust of Wilson’s efforts while sustaining the content of the text, argument, and term from philosophy of science.  “Consilience” means convergence of evidence from multiple disciplines; a confluence of evidence from multiple fields, subfields, researchers, and laboratories. 

Insofar as methodological science concerns itself with absolutes, Austrian-born British Philosopher, Sir Karl Raimund Popper thought science falsifies. Some call this criterion falsificationism.  Popper meant this to solve problems of induction and demarcation.  Of course, this proposed solution/answer to two problems/questions (induction and demarcation) non-arbitrarily excludes certain disciplines from scientific analysis. 

Problem of Induction asks, “Does inductive reasoning lead to knowledge?” “Inductive reasoning” means evidence for support of premises without aim of absolute proof (particular to general); as opposed to deductive reasoning meaning premises logically imply conclusion of the argument (general to particular). 

Problem of Demarcation asks, “What distinguishes science from non-science?”  According to Popper, with respect to one instance with the Problem of Demarcation, non-science fails at adherence to falsificationism For example, astrology, Freudian psychoanalysis, and metaphysics seen through the lens of falsificationism – and skepticism – become non-science, and therefore equate to pseudoscience within this single constraint. 

Although, not set firm, Popperian discussions continue, e.g. some might argue for verifiability over falsifiability.  “Verifiability over falsifiability” meaning the theory must have verification rather than the possibility of falsification.

Dutch physicist, mathematician, and astronomer, Christiaan Huygens, built the original scaffolding for the hypothetico-deductive methodology.   A procedure for building a scientific theory accounting for results of observation, experimentation, and inference with the possibility of further effects being verified/not verified. For a concrete example, hypothetico-deductivism might use Bayesian analysis based on Bayes’ Theorem/Bayes’ Law/Bayes’ Rule 

Reverend Thomas Bayes died and one friend, Richard Price, edited and published An Essay towards solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances (1763), which contained the theorem. In briefBayes’ Theorem deals with the mathematics of conditional probabilities.  Some applications and utility in calculations for real-world scenarios in drug testing.  Bayesianism took the throne of inductivism (which Popper rejected) or became the adapted equivalent of inductivism in the modern day, especially with the utility in the ascendance of modern medical testing. 

Austrian philosopher of science, Paul Feyerabend, proposed epistemological anarchism.  Epistemology means the study of the nature and scope of knowledge.  In this sense, within the confines of scientific discourse, epistemological anarchism means science’s attempts for fixed boundaries appears too optimistic and eventually detrimental to science itself, and therefore the search for universal boundaries of operation becomes an impossible ideal. 

History presents one tangled, messy narrative filled with disagreement, dialogue, and debate, even petty feuds.   At bottom, we need predictions and tests.  What does your theory predict?  How could we test the predictions of informational cosmogony, informational cosmology, and informational eschatology?

Some possibly testable questions:

Can my theorizing reasonably be made to agree with well-established observational evidence? For instance, I say there’s a bunch of blackish collapsed (but non-exotic) matter, located mostly in what appears to be the early universe and probably around the outskirts of galaxies (as well as at the center of galaxies, but that’s been established). Can this work in terms of galactic dynamics? The greatest observed Hubble galactic redshift is about 12; I say there’s a bunch of blackish stuff with redshifts of 1,000 or more. Very convenient – all the stuff that makes the universe work is nearly invisible.

For my theory to work, black holes have to be more accessible and reversible than they’re currently thought of as being. This can work if the matter in collapsing bodies creates additional space for itself by shrinking. (A house or a collapsing star is a lot more spacious if you’re only two feet tall.) This makes sense informationally. Not only is the matter in a collapsing body defined by its interaction (gun-fighting) with the rest of the universe, it’s additionally defined by all the additional gun-fighting going on within the body. With so much matter clustered so close together, the particles can zip bullets back and forth among themselves at a much faster rate than in non-collapsed matter, defining themselves in space much more precisely. You still have tremendous forces, but they’re not enough to inexorably crush matter beyond the resistance of any other force. (You can still lose information in a blackish hole to noise/heat, if the ability of the universe to store information isn’t perfect.)

Blackish holes which have less crushing power than they’re traditionally understood to have should be able to coexist with non-collapsed matter without relentlessly consuming it. If galaxies cycle over and over, there’s gonna be some collapsed matter left around. Maybe new stars sometimes coalesce around collapsed bodies. Maybe some collapsed bodies can open back up from the heat generated near the center of new stars. In general, gentler new-school blackish holes create less havoc than unstoppable old-school black holes. We should be able to mathematically model galaxies that contain a bunch of collapsed non-exotic matter (including modeling various ways old galaxies get lit back up). There’s a study released just a few hours ago which suggests that up to half the stars in the universe might be found outside of galaxies. This seems possibly consistent with a very old universe with parts of space that repeatedly puff up and shrink down, do-si-doing into and back out of the active center. Stuff’s gonna get tossed around.

Can information-based cosmology fit in with well-established laws of physics? When I edited Noesis, I received articles from people claiming to have disproved Einstein. Disproving Einstein is a major indication your thinking is likely flawed. Einstein’s theories show that space and time and matter are up for grabs, lacking Newtonian solidity, which brings out the theorizing in some people. Einstein didn’t disprove Newton. He put Newton in a larger context. I don’t want to disprove well-established physics – I want to put some of it in a new information-based context.

Can this be mathematicized? Seems like it – it has some math in it already. It sounds a little like what legit guys like John Wheeler and Ed Fredkin sound like when they talk about a universe that’s built from first principles. Scientists who come up with biggish theories often talk about looking for elegance or simplicity or divine symmetry – indications that the deep rules governing the universe are particularly nice – non-arbitrary, explaining a lot with a little, having a pleasant orderliness without being a complete buzzkill. Do my principles and the big equivalence between mind-space and physical space have the right poetry, the right irony, the right we-should’ve-known? Do they give us and the universe a destiny that makes sense?

Is what I’m claiming consistent with what we know of the mind and brain, of the phenomenology of thought?

Do the general principles mesh with the specifics – have I come to the right conclusions in going from an information-based universe to the five persistent particles being the major players in it?

Do the two structures – mind and universe – inform each other in what seems like a reasonable way? Do memories in our heads really pop into our awareness like galaxies lighting up? Can blackish holes be seen as storing information for later retrieval? Can efficient, three-dimensional information spaces be constructed? Does it make sense that a nexus of information would coalesce like a galaxy? Are words and concepts and people and things represented in our mental maps by things that look like stars and galaxies? (Hey, how else would they look? – not like frickin’ file cabinets.) Can we eventually find connections between brain activity and structure and mind-space activity and structure? Are stars and galaxies the best way to cluster related information? How does gravitation decide what information clusters into stars and galaxies, forming concepts and representations? Why does a concept end up in one galaxy rather than another? (Though everything’s related to everything else, choices still have to be made about which things are clustered with each other – you can’t have just one big cluster.) What do orbits and angular momentum mean in terms of information?

By the way – I love Bayesian analysis. When working as an ID-checker in bars, I created a Bayesian system which assigned points for everything not quite right about a potential customer’s ID and presentation. At its most refined, the system and I could catch 99% of fake IDs with only one or two false catches a year. (This was back when going to bars, not going online, was probably the number-one way to try to hook up. Having a fake ID was a big deal back then.)

54. With regards to traditional religious/irreligious conceptions of an afterlife such as reincarnation (with/without karma), heaven and hell, oblivion, nirvana, union with the divine, and the whole suite of possibilities, do you consider any of them to have any truth value? If so, which one(s)? 

I think in the not-too-distant future, we’ll have technical resurrection – technologically created conscious entities which can be seen as approximating the continuation of specific humans’ awarenesses. Eventually, we’ll understand and synthesize consciousness. (Some disappointment may accompany the understanding of consciousness – once dissected, it may not hold all the wonder it currently does.)

As to whether the universe has non-human means for continuing or resuming human consciousness – could be. If there are high degrees of infinity of worlds that can and do exist at some point, then finite beings such as ourselves (or close approximations of ourselves) could pop up. But this pop-up existence seems unlikely out-of-context.

By out-of-context, I mean that we are born into a world which seems to operate via natural processes. For us to pop up, out-of-context, in a constructed world, there would need to be a constructor. I don’t see a lot of evidence for some outside constructor preparing a world for us beyond our natural existence. I think we humans will have to help ourselves (and any possible Creator) by building our own afterlives.

55. Based on the last response, any thoughts on religion?

Religion remains a matter of faith. Science continues to turn up more evidence for scientific explanations of the world. There’s room for God in this, but a God who’s deeply in the background, intertwined with the beautiful symmetries of the universe, not an actively intervening God. The world’s religions have a pretty consistent view of what they’d like God to do – provide fairness, abundance, an afterlife. In the absence of definitive evidence that God provides these things, it’s not unreasonable, nor should it be against God’s wishes, to help Him out. Isaac Newton and many other scientists have thought and continue to think that figuring out the universe is doing God’s work.

**********************Bibliography at end of part seven***********************


In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1990-96); and Writer (Part Four)

Mr. Rick G. Rosner


Part four of seven, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: information processing as the basic operation of universe, ‘transactional information processing’, isomorphic operation and traits of humans and universe, operation through time, self-consistency and information processing as the traits, creation of a new field of endeavor called ‘informational cosmology’, and implications of informational cosmology; scientific study of the linkage with established scientific techniques, applying physics to thought and understanding of the mind to universe, mathematicising consciousness as a step to digitizing consciousness, implications of storable and transferable consciousness, the destiny of civilizations to make this linkage, and human civilization being one of them; calculated information-in-common/information-not-in-common based on various velocities (.15v and .3v), gravitational lensing across ultra-deep cosmic time, self-consistent and information processing areas of universe equating to subsystems and therefore consciousness, black holes not existing, “blackish holes” existing, considerations on consciousness of largely independently processing blackish holes, and complexity of the universe possibly taking the form of advanced civilizations; current theory of universe composed of ~4.6% baryonic matter, ~24% non-baryonic/exotic ‘dark’ matter, and ~71.4% non-baryonic/exotic ‘dark’ energy, argumentum ad verucundiam, theories with correct or incorrect nature based on the reasoning and agreement with the evidence; allowance for recycling of galaxies, young galaxies populating the expansive center of the universe (older galaxies on the outskirts), old galaxies as neutron heavy (“cooked”), and recalling of old galaxies to the center of the universe; élan vital, possible analogous ideas such as dark matter and dark energy, dark energy as a tweak on the inverse-square law of gravitation, steady scale of universe over billions and billions of years, “self-observing, self-defining universe” having flatness and in-built constant size, self-definition of universe maintaining a constancy of size, one cross-section of time or one moment and associated probabilities of history and possible futures; considerations on gravity; thoughts on the necessity or non-necessity for gravitons to have gravity; preliminary review of informational cosmology and interrelated concepts, commentary, calculations, and arguments for the field; discussion on informational cosmology and entropy; discussion on informational cosmology and subatomic particles; further extrapolations about black holes; linking the variegated concepts and arguments of the theory; the essential meaning of these linkages; discussion on informational cosmology and space & time; discussion on informational cosmology and the principles of existence (‘laws’); concrete calculation about the age of the universe relative to the accepted canon age of the universe at ~13.77 billion years old, calculations based on estimations of human thought, unfolding of galaxies, structure for the universe, multibillion-year unfoldings of universe, and the derivations up to concluding of the universe not being only ~14 billion years old; and the extension of informational cosmology to two new complementary fields called ‘informational cosmogony’ and ‘informational ‘eschatology’, information internal to universe arising external to it, and thoughts on such an armature external to universe. 

Keywords: billion, consciousness, correlation, cosmic time, cosmogony, cosmology, dark energy, dark matter, élan vital, electrons, eschatology, galaxy, Giga Society, gravitational lensing, information, information processing, informational cosmogony, informational cosmology, informational eschatology, isomorphism, isomorphic, Liebnizian monads, Mega Society, protons, Rick G. Rosner, self-consistency, self-self-observing, tautological, transactional information processing, unfolding, universe, writer.

28. You describe information processing for universe’s substrate of operation. This implies transactions.  For precision, this means ‘transactional information processing’.  I would like to plumb the well of reasoning.  For example, ubiquitous information processing within and by universe. Consciousness emerges from self-consistency and information processing.  Humans have self-consistency and information processing, and thus have consciousness.  Therefore, we can extrapolate to universe based on isomorphism in operation and traits. Operation through time.  Traits of self-consistency and information processing.  An isomorphic geometry of universe and minds in universe.  By extension, universe possesses localized and globalized consciousness.  In addition to this, if we could provide an absolute measure of the degree of 1) self-consistency and 2) information processing capabilities of individual localized consciousness, then we could provide an absolute measure of global 1) self-consistency and 2) information processing capabilities of universe.  Precision of this metric limited by information quality, computational capacity, and efficacy of calculation methodology. Therefore, we might both 1) consider universe reposed with consciousness at the fundaments and 2) provide a metric of universe’s degree of consciousness.  You call this “informational cosmology.”  In a way, mind/brain sciences become physics/cosmology, and vice versa. A metric for the mind/brain could extrapolate – within reasonable consideration – into a metric of universe.  Only differences in magnitude.  Where else does “informational cosmology” lead us?

Informational cosmology smashes together two big areas of study – the mind/brain and the universe – in a way they’ve never productively been smashed together before – they’re the chocolate & peanut butter, the Han Solo & Chewbacca, the mac & cheese, the Lennon & McCartney, the Key & Peele, the Beavis & Butt-head, the Spock & Kirk, the Mulder & Scully, the Felix & Oscar, the Holmes & Watson, the Thelma & Louise, the Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum of tough things to think about. Three hundred years ago, Bishop George Berkeley said something like, “The universe is an idea in the mind of God,” but this didn’t lead to anything. There wasn’t yet enough scientific knowledge to work from.

But that was then. Now, linking information maps and thinking and the universe allows you to apply established scientific techniques across the linkage. We can apply physics to thought and information in the mind. We can apply understanding about the purpose and mechanisms of thought to the universe. We will soon be able to give mushy, loosely defined terms such as consciousness a solid mathematical basis.

And mathematicizing consciousness (developing a mathematical model of information processed in awareness) is the first step to digitizing consciousness (translating moments of consciousness into numbers) – to making it recordable, preservable, and transferable. That is a huge step – maybe the hugest step – towards saving our species and the planet. Storable, transferable consciousness eventually – within 100 or 150 years – frees us from the confines of our biological form. This is a big deal, if earth isn’t going to become a giant dump suffering from the effects of a 23-billion-person population. Science fiction writer Charles Stross imagines a future where, among many other things, most people/semi-people/robots are only three feet tall. Half-height people use less than half the resources – maybe less than a quarter of the resources – of full-size people. You can cram a lot more of them on the planet, if that’s what you want to do.

But that won’t be all that we might want to do. Like-minded people might meld or marry minds and literally live as one. Many people will want to live almost exclusively in cyberspace, renting bodies when they need to go out into the real world. Population growth will slow. Maybe your rich grandma in a failing body offers you $50 million to let her consciousness ride piggyback on yours. (Steve Martin made a movie about something like this 30 years ago – All of Me.) These are pretty unsurprising ideas in science fiction – people who think about this kind of stuff are expecting things to get weird. Even if my attempt to join thought and the universe doesn’t gain traction – even if it takes someone else theorizing similarly, years from now, it’s still coming – it’s pretty much our destiny. It’s the destiny of civilizations to make this connection and figure out the universe. (Just about every civilization figures out that its planet orbits its sun, that it’s part of a galaxy, that there are other galaxies, that life evolved, etc. Figuring out that massively shared information-processing is essentially thought is another one of those things.)

There will still be plenty of normal human life. We’ll still have the same drives (for sex, food, status, slightly taboo information), until we start messing with them. And then we’ll have slightly more efficient and exalted drives, but nothing too terrible – ethical values will survive. People who want to live old-school will still be able to do it. But the drift will be towards control of our destinies via understanding ourselves and the universe – we’ll improve consciousness, making it (and us) more informed and more complete, with fewer hidden biases. It’ll be weird but also mostly great, and it’s where we’ve been heading without knowing it since apes started using twigs to fish ants out of anthills.

29. You calculated the information-in-common/information-not-in-common based on various velocities (.15v and .3v). We can symbolize them: Ic/I~c. Gravitational lensing across ultra-deep cosmic time could form pockets beyond expected, i.e. calculated, arithmetic mean of derived spheres from Ic/I~c at .15v, .3v, .45v, and so on.   Insofar as calculated Ic/I~c spheres with extensive radii in excess of .3v, multiple dispersions of information might converge on pockets of uneven areas of universe (and sufficiently large to make the empirical point) for statistically significant outliers of calculated information with expansive distances from one another.  In an information theoretic framework, areas of self-consistency in an information processing universe might count among other subsystems.  Units of sufficient individuation with self-consistency and information processing.   Indeed, you have mentioned black holes, but “blackish holes.” You have said this for over 30 years.  Moreover, you consider blackish holes universe’s memory.  If we fuse these arguments, we have outlier subsystems with capabilities for self-consistency and information processing called ‘black holes’ at present. Self-consistent and information processing subsystem equates to consciousness.  Therefore, we have the possibility for sound consideration of consciousness emergent from blackish holes in universe.

If blackish holes are (largely) independently processing information, then there’s the strong possibility that conscious entities are doing at least some of the processing. Perhaps a place for civilizations or advanced beings to survive galactic cycling would be in the massive million-solar-mass blackish holes at the centers of galaxies. The universe is huge, ancient, and unavoidably complex (in part because every star with orbiting planets is an open system that can shed excess energy, which works against entropy and disorder). Some of that complexity probably takes the form of long-lived structures and entities and civilizations (or whatever civilizations tend to turn into).

30. In the current theory of universe composed of ~4.6% baryonic matter, ~24% non-baryonic/exotic ‘dark’ matter, and ~71.4% non-baryonic/exotic ‘dark’ energy, your theory would shirk the current weight of astrophysical consensus. Although, we cannot disprove or by necessity deny the validity of the theory based on argumentum ad verucundiam, even authoritative authority.  In addition to this, we cannot agree or disagree with the theory based on various high intelligence test scores, or credentials or lack thereof.  Either correct or incorrect based on the reasoning and agreement with evidence.  With these in mind, what do you make of dark matter and dark energy? Do they exist? How would your theory supersede present explanations? 

I think the universe isn’t inherently unstable in size, with overall stability being a characteristic of an information-based universe. That is, though parts of it can expand and contract, the universe isn’t going to keep flying apart to some cold, thin oblivion or collapse into an infernal dot. (At least without some outside agency acting upon it. The loss or degradation of the physical structure which supports the universe would result in the loss of the information within the universe. As the universe loses information, it would become less well-defined, which might look like a collapse and heating up of the universe – a big bang in reverse.) The scale and size of the universe should be roughly proportional to the amount of information it contains (with local scale and size depending on the information/matter distribution as viewed from each particular neighborhood).

Are dark matter and dark energy needed to help with the gravitational bookkeeping of an inherently flat universe? I don’t know. I’m more inclined to believe in dark matter than dark energy, with the dark matter made of non-exotic stuff – mostly old, burned-out, collapsed stars, many of which, I guess, would be orbiting on the fringes of galaxies, largely invisible except for their effect on the galactic rotation curve.

(Burned-out stars closer to the centers of galaxies could orbit the galactic center, largely undetected, or might collide with other stars (possible falling towards the massive black hole-like object at the galactic center), or during early-galaxy star formation might accrete enough hydrogen to light up again for awhile. I don’t know how old stars mixed into a young galaxy would mess with the dynamics of galactic formation. Wikipedia says there might be 10^8 neutron stars in the Milky Way, compared to 10^11 regular stars. Red dwarfs, which have extremely long lifespans and are hard to detect, might make up three quarters of the stars in the Milky Way.)

What I’m saying is, if you allow for galaxies to recycle – to go through star formation, light up and burn out, over and over again – there’s room and reason for there to be lots of non-exotic, hard-to-see dark and dark-ish matter in and around galaxies.

31. How would a burned-out galaxy be recycled?

Young, active galaxies occupy the expansive center of the universe. Old, burned-out galaxies find themselves in more collapsed neighborhoods on the outskirts of the universe, due to subsequent expansions (in which they don’t participate). Old galaxies are neutron-heavy – they’re cooked – they’re done.

But conditions on the outskirts cause some old galaxies to become proton-rich again. Maybe an old galaxy gets flooded with neutrinos, which will be found in more profusion on the collapsed outskirts of the universe and which convert neutrons into protons. Maybe the hotter, denser outskirts have more free-floating hydrogen to accrete. Maybe the increased curvature of space in the collapsed outskirts reduces the depth of the gravitational wells which keep neutron stars under pressure, allowing the surface layers of these stars to decay back into protons. Maybe collapsed structures can reignite themselves, based on their own information and processes or when detecting information that they specialize in (that may not be visible to the rest of the universe – collapsed galaxy as smoke detector).

The outskirts of the universe are hotter, denser, more spatially curved, more bombarded with neutrinos streaming from the active center. Here, it’s harder for neutrons to remain neutrons. Here, I’m guessing that the crusty, neutron-heavy surfaces of the stars in an old galaxy can be eroded into protons, like a Lifesaver in your mouth. A galaxy that gets hit with enough proton-producing forces is rejuvenated and can become part of an active, expansive galactic center. Perhaps most of the collapsed matter on the outskirts exists in a hair-trigger state, ready to light up again on a moment’s notice (with that moment being billions of years long).

An information-processing universe can reactivate old, settled galaxies, recalling them to the center, where they participate in new processing. The processing in the center helps but doesn’t exclusively determine which galaxies will be next to be recalled. (The galaxies in the active center co-evolve over a rolling cycle. They form a bubble that might merge with other bubbles. The active center is probably more balloon than neck. That is, most galaxies would experience themselves to be roughly at the center of the universe, the way every galaxy is central in a Big Bang universe.)

32. Science history presents examples of widely accepted substances. For a trite example, élan vital to explain the knotty operations of life.  Time proved their possible veracity more or less false. Do you think dark matter and dark energy have analogous existence to older ideas like élan vital?

Some of the finer points of dark energy will go away – for instance, I doubt the universe is undergoing accelerating expansion.

Dark energy can be seen as a tweak to the inverse-square law of gravitation (or at least there are theories which account for large-scale phenomena by tweaking the inverse-square law). I believe that over a sufficiently long time scale, the universe as a whole experiences very little net expansion – that the size of the universe is proportional to the amount of information it contains, and on the timescale of a few 14-billion-year cosmic blinks, the universe doesn’t gain or lose that much information. I suppose the active center of the universe can vary in size quite a bit, but I doubt this is accomplished via dark energy.

Given that the overall scale of the universe should remain steady, the inverse-square law has to be violated – there’s no stable solution to general relativity without throwing in a cosmological constant. According to GR, the universe can’t just hang in mid-air (or mid-space-time continuum).

But in a self-observing, self-defining universe, flatness and constancy of size are built in. I believe that the universe observes and defines itself quantum mechanically. It’s as if the universe is an enormous gunfight – every particle in the universe helps figure out where every other particle is by all the particles shooting particles at each other.

Imagine a uniform universe consisting of regularly spaced particles (all shooting at each other). Over time, the wave functions of the particles spread out, as the universe itself spreads out (because the specifications of space itself are uncertain). There’s not enough information from the gunfighting particles to keep them absolutely pinned down in space – they’re fuzzy, and they get fuzzier. BUT the rate at which the particles get fuzzier is proportional to the rate at which the universe spreads out, so the scale of the universe – the ratio of the particles’ fuzziness to the size of the universe stays constant. There’s your stable universe, hanging in mid-air.

The universe defines itself, and, by defining itself with a constant amount of information (proportional to the number of particles in the shoot-out and the complexity of their relationships), the size of the universe remains constant (or grows or shrinks gradually as it gains or loses information).

(What collapses the wave function (if that’s the way you want to talk about it)? Probability. Wave functions are either collapsed by observation or not. (I guess – it’d be nice if I’d studied advanced QM, but oh well.) Observation is done by the matter within the universe. (Sometimes people make the observations, but we’re not particularly special in that capacity – we’re part of the universe.) At each moment (as experienced locally, so you don’t have simultaneity problems) particles are all in their various states, with their probabilities of interacting with each other or decaying or whatever else particles do. Subsequent moments reflect the playing out of these probabilities.

To be clear-ish: you have a moment, with its probabilities. This moment implies a set of possible subsequent moments, consistent with the information contained in the moment. Each subsequent moment (that is, an actual moment, not just a possible many-worlds moment) reflects the probabilities in the history that led up to it. But each moment is random and arbitrary to the extent that the universe has finite determinative information – a limited capacity to define the future. Every moment predicts the future, but not all the way. Each new moment has information that is filled in, not from out of nowhere, but from outside of the universe’s determinative information. Like this – an hour before the end of a football game, your personal information space determines that the game will almost certainly have a final score. But your information space – your mind – can’t determine that score. It can assign probabilities, but the moment that contains the final score includes information that was previously unavailable to your information space and had to be filled in from outside.)

33. What about gravity?

In our evenly spaced universe, there’s no experience of gravity – everything’s hanging in mid-air. But move a couple of objects closer together. You’ve raised the mass density in their region above the universal average. (Been thinking about gravity a lot and have managed to confuse myself a little bit, but…) By being closer together, they’re not seeing as much of the energy flux that holds space open (or something). The space between them will expand considerably less than between the evenly spaced objects, and hey! – you’ve got gravity (when the overall expansion due to uncertainty (and photon flux?) is cancelled out). (Given that the average mass density of the universe is about one proton per cubic meter, two protons separated by a meter (in our hanging-in-mid-air universe) should experience no net gravitational attraction. Good luck testing that – the force or lack of force is more than 10^40 times smaller than the smallest force ever measured.)

34. Do we need gravitons to have gravity?

There are arguments from quantum field theory in favor of gravitons, but if gravitation is an effect of the scale of the universe being information-based, gravitation might be entirely mediated by other forces and particles. Gravitation might be bookkeeping – other forces conduct their business, with the scale and shape of space (which includes gravitation) being a collective net result of this business. What I’m asking is – does the shaping of space require special space-shaping particles, or does the shape of space result from all other physics business? I guess this is the same thing as asking, “Does all the other business transmit all the information without the help of gravitation?”

This leads back to your question about dark energy. Dark energy seems like a spring-loading of empty space to make the universe conform to observation. I doubt that dark energy is a thing beyond that everything comes from the scaling of space based on information. In most of our observations, we see this as an inverse-square effect of gravity. But this doesn’t make inverse-square the law – it’s just the most observable effect. Overall, the universe probably stays roughly the same size over shortish periods of time (billions of years), which it couldn’t under universal inverse-square gravity. Effectively, there’s a cosmological constant. And there are probably a bunch of other tweaks to inverse-square gravity. But inverse-square and its tweaks all come from the same thing – the shape and scale of space being defined by the information it embodies. So, instead of a computationally very simple inverse-square law as a foundation, you have this principle that information shapes space which is probably computationally a pain in some of its aspects. In everyday situations, you can simplify it to inverse-square. In other situations, maybe it’s helpful to do the math as if there is dark energy or a cosmological constant. Does that mean that dark energy actually exists? Could be that it doesn’t – could be just a mathematical convenience.

35. Let’s go through a few questions that have been prompted by your answers to previous questions. What would you call a field which links the structure of thought with the structure of the universe?

The idea that the universe is describable by information (is a humongous information processor) is called digital physics. I like “informational cosmology” better. (But suggesting a discipline be renamed is kind of a douche move.)

36. What about entropy?

In the words of a tweet from Christopher D. Long, “People shouldn’t expect phenomena at scales and energies far outside normal experiences to be analogous to those experiences.” We don’t have an understanding of how entropy might work for the universe as a whole. I think that the universe has ways to dump or hide or attenuate energy-depleted, high-entropy volumes. As a formerly active part of the universe burns out, it collapses and gets pushed to the side as other parts of the universe light up and expand. The effect is no overall increase in entropy. (The pushing to the side is a relativistic rotation out of the active center. I like thinking of relativistic shifts as rotational. Objects with a high velocity relative to you aren’t fully participating in your space-time frame, according to the equations of special relativity, which are trigonometric.)

Relativity, both special and general, has to do with information. Matter that (as information) has reduced relevance (that is, I guess, reduced information in common) with the matter observing it is relativistically rotated – shortened, time-dilated, red-shifted. The Hubble redshift acts like a correlation quilt across the universe. Neighborhoods that are highly correlated with each other are close to each other, with low relative redshifts.

Which kind of leads to inertia. Mach’s Principle says that inertia is due to the stellar background. (That is, movement relative to all the galaxies in the universe – at the time Mach was writing, the existence of galaxies beyond ours wasn’t well-established. And way before Mach, someone else who kind of thought this was Bishop Berkeley, the “Universe is an idea in the mind of God” fella. That guy was good.) What if inertia is due to gravitational attraction being relativistically attenuated, so that an object in motion is less attracted to the matter in its immediate neighborhood and more attracted to the neighborhood whose apparent velocity matches its own? (A friend of mine asked Feynman about something like this, and Feynman said it didn’t work – the calculation ended up with a sign-reversal – a plus where a minus should be, or something.)

37. What about subatomic particles?

Of the dozens of subatomic particles, only five – the electron, proton, neutron, neutrino, and photon – can last for a long time and travel across large distances. I consider these the workhorses of the universe and all the other particles their helpers. Protons and neutrons encode information and shape space, with protons opening up space and neutrons collapsing it.

Not all information in the universe can be in play at the same time. The universe doesn’t have enough processing capacity, and most parts of the universe are highly uncorrelated with each other – they’re in neighborhoods that are vastly separated (in distance and Hubble redshift). But even when not in play, information in collapsed neighborhoods may help define the universe, perhaps with their gravitational vectors acting as 4D tent pegs, helping hold the whole universe open.

If you examine the contents of your awareness from moment to moment, you don’t know that much stuff at any given instant (the moment you wake up, for instance), but you don’t panic, because you feel that you can recall just about anything you need to know almost immediately (and because it wouldn’t make sense to be in a constant panic – you’re used to always almost knowing things). There’s all this knowledge on the tip of your brain – it’s imminent – ready to go and perhaps providing structure without being fully in your awareness.

The universe could be set up the same way, with shadow information – collapsed neighborhoods on the outskirts – providing structural support and helping define space and the matter it contains. Maybe in a very low-information universe – young, hot, fuzzy – the ratio of the proton mass to the electron mass is closer to one-to-one rather than our 1,836-to-one.

Could be that neutrons, acting as closed-off variables, serve to increase the precision with which matter is defined. Protons are free to act on other matter via electric charge – they’re active. Neutrons are decided – they’re locked into fixed correlations in a nucleus or in gravitationally collapsed matter. They can’t interact with the universe via charge. But by being fixed (generally for the many-billion-year time being) they can provide a stable background – a framework of frozen, decided (for the long now) issues – against which the active center of the universe can work out the issues in play. The frozen background is the framework of assumptions that more precisely define the terms in play. The terms in play are the protons in the active center, made heavy, small and precise (because the heavier the particle, the smaller the DeBroglie wavelength) by all the collapsed matter in the background. The proton-electron mass ratio is proportional to the amount of collapsed, neutron-rich matter on the outskirts of the universe compared to the amount of proton-rich matter in the active center. It’s an old universe, with a lot of collapsed matter.

The frozen framework can be brought back into play, but only a small fraction of it can be in play at any one time. It sits, waiting, an array of imminent knowledge – things resolved and removed from active consideration until needed. (Your mind pings against its frozen background, warming it up just enough to give you the feeling of being at home in yourself.)

38. What about black holes?

Black holes. I don’t believe in black holes as objects that must necessarily crush themselves into singularities. Instead, matter moving towards black hole status is a ball of information/matter which, as the matter collapses, increasingly correlating with the matter within its own sphere, shares less and less information with the outside universe. But the information it contains doesn’t have to be crushed out of existence. Circumstances can vary, and a blackish hole’s information should usually be retrievable.

The information within collapsed matter has to generally be repeatedly retrievable as parts of the universe cycle from active to burned-out/collapsed and back to active. The crushing forces of gravitational collapse might be countered by a shrinkage of the scale of space within a sphere of collapsing matter, with the matter growing heavier and smaller until stasis is achieved, with shrinkage of space equaling energy gravitational gained, so that matter and the scale of space largely define themselves through interactions among the collapsed matter. The interior of blackish holes could be organized, which we couldn’t see much of from the outside, or information could be lost, as the matter falls back into primordial chaos. (Wouldn’t want too much of that. The universe would be losing its memory/framework.)

39. How does this come together?

Non-velocital redshift is an indicator of information not-in-common (I~c) with the observer.

(On my birthday in May, 1981, when I first got the idea of mental information maps (in the Libby Hall dorm cafeteria at the University of Colorado (may have been eating cubes of red Jell-O – I liked my Jell-O), I imagined that the ease with which something can be recalled depended on the geometry of the information to be remembered. Are there a bunch of angles from which it can be accessed, or is there just one angle – only one set of associations which can be combined to get to it (which means you can’t get to it at all if you can’t come up with those associations)? Then I realized that an optimal mental information map might look like the universe itself.

And then I imagined a mental map of what you know about how you and other beings go to the bathroom. (It’s just where my brain takes me – sorry!) You know a lot about how you go to the bathroom – that’s at the center of your map. Close to the center, you may know (too much, even) about how family and friends go to the bathroom. Further out, you have generalized knowledge and assumptions about how Americans and Canadians go to the bathroom. Way further out (and redshifted), is how they go to the bathroom on other continents, such as China and Japan. You’ve heard about holes and places to put your feet – you don’t really want to know any more than that. And then way, way out in zero-knowledge land is how they go to the bathroom on other planets. I suppose a more mature person would’ve simply pictured the classic March 29, 1976 New Yorker cover, which is kind of a Manhattanite’s mental map of the world.)

Go ahead and figure information in-common (Ic) equals the square root of (1 – v^2), where v is the apparent recessional velocity over the speed of light. (It’s a term from special relativity.) Everything in the universe is a mixture of information Ic and I~c with us. The farther a galaxy is from us, the greater its apparent recession, the less information it has Ic and more I~c with us. I think the proton-electron mass ratio is proportional to the I~c-Ic mass ratio. In a young, small, nearly information-less universe, the proton-electron would be a lot smaller – possibly not one-to-one – a proton is much more complicated than an electron – it’s a knot in space, while an electron is a twist in space. But the ratio would be much closer to one-to-one.

Information I~c is stored information – it’s memory, not retrieved in the present moment. The universe has limited information-processing capacity – it can’t know everything it knows all at once. (You don’t know everything you know all at once.) Every galaxy, active or collapsed, in the universe has a combination of information Ic and I~c with us.

The cosmic microwave background radiation – the oldest, farthest-traveling radiation in the universe – has a z, a redshift, of nearly 1,100. A galaxy’s redshift z is proportional to its I~c-Ic ratio. This is ballpark for a I~c-Ic-dependent proton-electron mass ratio of about 1,836. The picture is like this: near T = 0, you have a bunch of collapsed galaxies that aren’t sharing much information with the active center of the universe. These blackish galaxies have I~c-Ic ratios of 1,000 and higher, and there are enough of them to raise the I~c-Iratio for the entire universe, as seen by us in the active center, to 1,000 or more, bumping up the proton-electron mass ratio.

To go into a little more detail – imagine a grid of galaxies with an apparent velocity of half the speed of light between adjacent galaxies.

(I first imagined this while posing for an art class in 1988 – gave me something to do while sitting naked, trying not to move. Instead of galaxies, I imagined spaceships piloted by the Brady Bunch. Greg pilots a ship going .5C away from earth. Marsha’s ship goes away from Greg at .5C. Bobby’s ship travels away from Marsha at .5C, and so on. I told my boss, Mike Armstrong, at Remote Control, the quiz show I wrote for, about it (because I’m weird). He said, “That’s a whole new type of question!” and Brady Physics was born. We asked contestants to tell us the result of dangerous hypothetical experiments performed on the Bradys.)

When you add the velocities of a series of objects moving at half the speed of light relative to each other, you never reach the speed of light relative to the stationary observer (to any observer). The observer on earth sees ships moving at higher and higher fractions of the speed of light – ½, 4/5, 13/14, 40/41, 121/122, 364/365, 1093/1094…. To get a I~c-Ic ratio of more than 1,000, you need an apparent velocity within one two-millionth of the speed of light, which takes a string of 14 spaceships. (You run through all the Brady kids and parents, Alice, Tiger, Sam the Butcher….)

So you have a grid of galaxies, with the most distant nearly redshifted into invisibility, but still providing scale and structure, in part by making protons fairly massive. Remember how the universe is in a big gunfight with itself? Well, all the particles accumulated mass from all the bullets shot at each other over an incredible amount of time.

Now, all those collapsed galaxies with the huge redshifts should be black holes, according to current understanding. But I don’t think so. I think they’re blackish, not black, in that they still exchange some information with the rest of the universe. They also have inner structure, hidden from us. A blackish galaxy has cooked down, blasting away extraneous matter/information, until it’s a largely self-informing, nearly closed-off system. If it’s on the outskirts, it’s not currently relevant and is nearly frozen in time – it’s memory or an app that’s not currently needed. If it’s closer to the center, it might be a specialized system that’s currently relevant but can largely do business independently – behind a blackish curtain. Seems as if most galaxies have million-star-sized black(ish) holes at their center. These might be specialized systems or recalled memories, with galaxies’ 10^22 shining stars being the visible broadcasters – the active center’s universe-spanning mega-processor.

But there’s another step. In the active center, space is expanded – particles are very small in relation to the scale of space. Something must be precisely defining matter within space, and that something is photons. As long as protons are cooking down into neutrons and releasing fusion energy, space is expanded. When protons run out, the flux of photons that fills space peters out (over billions of years – it takes photons awhile to cross the universe), and space deflates gravitationally (up to a point – objects might still have some leftover orbital energy, there’s still redshift segregation, and scale invariance kicks in before particles can crush themselves out of existence).

Photons are fighting gravity – they specify space, making it fluffy. Without this specification, space contracts. Fluffy, expanded space facilitates large-scale information-sharing among active galaxies. Collapsed space tends to be opaque, making it tough to share information. (It’s not like the universe was intentionally designed to have a transparent active center. Lucky accident? Seems doubtful.)

What would happen if all the galaxies burned out, and there were no active center? You’d have no widespread information-sharing/processing – no large-scale cogitating – and the universe would effectively be asleep. (Or at least something like this happens during certain stages of our sleep. And to a lesser extent when certain drugs are taken. LSD, for instance, seems to interfere with the normal functioning of systems that help interpret the world. For example, our software that processes faces is hampered, and you see half-processed lizard faces or semi-wire-frame polygon faces. Very annoying, not fun.

(Kids, don’t do drugs, particularly LSD. It lasts for like 15 hours, and only the first hour or two is at all fun or interesting. You’ve broken your brain for an entire day, and you can’t even sleep it off, especially if the LSD has been cut with something. If you absolutely want to slightly break your brain to see how it works, a light dose of shrooms is much better. Lasts like a third as long, isn’t as debilitating, doesn’t make you worry as much that your brain is gonna stay like this. Make sure you have babysitters to keep you calm and to make sure you don’t do anything stupid. But just don’t do drugs in the first place. Better to observe your thoughts using your intact, non-broken brain.)

Anyhow, the universe is asleep (that is, it could be at some point). Little or no active center, not overly conscious. So what happens? It can wake up, just like we do. Something wakes it – could be external, could be internal – the effect is the same – galaxies are turned on, space expands around them, they form an active center.

Which brings up another thing – it takes hundreds of millions of years for clouds of hydrogen to coalesce into stars and light up. With not necessarily any stars lighting up the just turned-on galaxies, where’s the energy flux that expands space? The thing is, you can get energy from both neutrons decaying into protons and protons fusing into neutrons. Hose down some burned-out galaxies with neutrinos, turning neutrons into protons, you’re gonna release a bunch of energy. Half a billion years later, when some of those protons, now in stars, start fusing back into neutrons, they’re gonna spit out more energy. Shweet!

40. What does this mean in a nutshell?

Collapsed galaxies on the outskirts of the universe (and, to a smaller extent, collapsed matter in the centers and on the outskirts of active galaxies) give scale and structure to the universe by adding mass to protons and neutrons.

Collapsed galaxies are the universe’s memory and currently unneeded apps, able to recalled when relevant.

Energy from protons fusing into neutrons expands space in the universe’s active center (making space transparent and widespread information-sharing possible).

41. What about space and time?

Space and time are self-assembling according to some minimizing and maximizing principles. Space seems to be arranged to minimize the aggregate distance traveled by photons. Things that are going to interact a lot should be close to each other – space shouldn’t be any bigger than it has to be. Minimizing distance maximizes the rate of interactions; time is as full of events as it can be. (Of course, events don’t happen in time, as if time is this independently existing thing to be filled – the sequence of events is time. But still…) this probably means that information is maximized over time and that information is the engine of time.

(Here’s where I further confuse myself.) The present moment is when information is gained through events which resolve probabilistic situations. (Time is a news-gatherer.) Time maximizes causality and the predictive power of correlations among matter.

42. Why these principles of existence (‘laws’)?

There’s a tautological aspect to the principles of existence. (Why principles and not laws? Because laws seem like rules delivered from on-high, while principles can be emergent – nebulous until made tight and precise by the statistical behaviour of large amounts of organized matter.) Things that exist have to exist – they can’t both exist and not exist (except when their existence or not is incompletely specified quantum mechanically). Right there, you have a principle, but not a very useful one until you draw some conclusions from it. A conclusion might be that existence includes duration – that for every existent moment, there’s at least one related existent moment which can be seen as a subsequent moment.

Somehow out of this, you get the fairly tautological principle that persistent structures or processes are persistent – that they create a bias towards their own continued existence.

You get things which work like Liebnizian monads – little correlation engines whose main job is to be correlated with other engines at various times. These correlations pull the universe tight, giving it structure in space and time. I believe that protons (and the electrons which go with them) are the correlation engines. They’re each like a little spatial axis – a dimension – and the variable that lies somewhere along that dimension, all in one. But the dimension doesn’t extend to infinity – it fades – it only extends as far as it needs to for the correlations it’s involved with, like a street. Streets only exist for their own limited length.

Protons are knots in our locally three-dimensional space. The knot in space is rectified by the point-wise inversion in space (kind of a cross-cap) which is the electron. Without an electron for every proton (but without electrons being assigned to specific protons), space doesn’t work topologically.

Neutrons are locked-down dimensions. Proximity is like correlation – two protons coming close enough that they turn into a proton-neutron pair means that they’re so correlated that two dimensions (or variables) can function as a single dimension (or variable). The universe prioritizes compactness – it stores dimensions/variables it doesn’t need within neutrons.

Over billions of years, a star boils down a big ball of hydrogen – a stew of protons and electrons – into a bunch of neutron-heavy elements. It’s a correlation machine – it links protons together, locking them down into closed-off neutrons. And the fusion energy it emits helps define and expand space in the active center as light streams across the universe.

43. Let’s make a concrete calculation along the dimension of time, your novel framework for the structure of universe may gain clarity from such calculations. Using the accepted canon age of cosmos at ~13.77 billion years old as the referent, by your own theorizing and within your framework, how might we calculate universe’s age? What age would the calculation produce?

If you didn’t know how brains worked, and you saw a half-second PET scan of a thought unfolding across a brain, how would you estimate the age of the brain? It would be really tough. You might be able to assume that this processing of a thought isn’t a one-time thing – assume that this is a function of the brain and, as such, happens again and again. But it would take a lot more knowledge to have any idea how many times it happens. (How many times does it happen? Estimate three thoughts a second. (How long does it take for your attention to shift and a thought to form? At least a tenth of a second and not more than two-thirds of a second. Observe your thoughts – see what you think.) Three thoughts a second is about 10,000 thoughts an hour times 16 waking hours a day times 80 years comes out to a human brain having about 5 billion thoughts in a lifetime.)

What if the universe is an apparatus that does what it does again and again – unfolding over and over, sending stars and galaxies through their life cycles, with those galaxies burning out and being squeezed to the outskirts by new unfoldings, where they wait to be part of a subsequent expansion?

If the universe is an information-processing entity (It is!), from within the universe, we’re seeing only the information, we’re not seeing the structure that supports the information-processing. Analogously, the mind is the moment-to-moment unfolding of information within consciousness, while the brain is the physical structure which supports this interplay of information. When we look at the universe, we see the interplay of information; we don’t see the physical structure which supports it. This makes it even harder to guess the age or lifespan of the universe.

We don’t know the purpose of the universe. (We’re so far from knowing that even asking seems a little preposterous.) We can’t decode the information in the universe. (We’re made out of it, but we can’t read it. As we make our way onward, maybe we’ll pick up some clues, perhaps from civilizations that have been around longer.) As we learn more, perhaps we get to participate in the business of the universe. The universe processes and stores information at all levels of complexity. Civilizations would be part of this). We don’t know anything about the physical structure that might support it. So it’s hard to guess how old it is.

(Imagine that in the future, we find out with reasonable certainty that the universe has a purpose – to process information to help the universe’s supporting structure or entity achieve its objectives in its external world (the world perceived and modeled by the universe). One way of dealing with this discovery would be to get with the project – to figure that we’re all in this together – that if the universe prospers, we prosper. I’d guess that many entities within the universe are part of the program. Maybe the really advanced ones run galaxy-sized neutrino hoses that can reactivate dormant parts of the universe. (I know that seems goofy, but we don’t know anything yet.) Maybe there are nihilistic or hedonistic civilizations that figure, “Everything’s so big and old and, in a way, virtual, it doesn’t really matter what we do.”)

There might be some clues to the universe being older than its apparent age. If the universe undergoes repeated multi-billion-year unfoldings, there should be lots of stuff that’s older than the apparent 14-billion-year age of the universe. That stuff won’t necessarily be in our immediate neighborhood – we’re new – we came into being as part of the current unfolding.

Via repeated cycles (not cycles of the entire universe expanding and contracting – not an oscillating universe – more like a rolling boil) of galaxies lighting up and burning out, the dark matter we’re looking for (to explain gravitational anomalies such as the outer rims of galaxies rotating faster than accounted for by the distribution of visible stars) might be a bunch of neutron stars and near-black holes. If anything could survive repeated cycles without being completely ablated away, it would be near-black holes. (Don’t really believe in fully black holes.) A universe which has gone through a zillion cycles might have generated a bunch of burned-out junk (or, in an informational sense, massive settled or solved (for the moment) equations or clumps of correlations or memories or independent processors whose operations the wider universe doesn’t much participate in/isn’t very conscious of) hanging around on the outskirts of galaxies.

A brand-new universe – one that’s unfolded after a single big bang – doesn’t have much opportunity to form a bunch of collapsed matter. But a universe at a rolling boil – that is, a “continuing series of little bangs” universe – would generate lots of junk. It’s that house with all the trashed cars and plumbing fixtures scattered across the front yard.

Just for fun, we could multiply the 14-billion-year apparent age of the universe by the 5 billion lifetime cycles of the human brain. There’s no reason to assume that the universe goes through 500,000 or 5 googol rolling cycles. But anyhow, 5 billion times the apparent age of the universe gives you 70,000,000,000,000,000,000 years. That’s based on not much. What if the expected duration of a self-contained system of information (in terms of rolling cycles) is proportional to the complexity of the system? What if the complexity, like the average distance from the origin of a random walk, is proportional to duration squared? The universe could be really old.

No way the universe unfolds just once. No way it’s only 14 billion years old.

44. If I may extend the implications of informational cosmology, the discipline implies two complementary fields: informational cosmogony and informational eschatology. In your worldview of the universe’s life cycle, how would the universe – if indeed the world corresponds to such a model – begin (Cosmogony), develop (Cosmology), and end (Eschatology)? 

In my view, the information space that is the universe arose through processes external to the universe. There’s a material framework – an armature – which provides the structure that allows the information-processing to take place. If the universe is the mind, then this armature is the brain.  Our brains/minds exist within the context of the outside world. We can speculate or even assume that the universe similarly exists because of and within an outside context. Of course, we know nothing about any armature for the universe, but if it exists, its fate determines the fate of the universe.

We’re used to our brains being able to store a steady stream of information over many years. An information-space model of this would look like a universe becoming more complicated, perhaps expanding like a Big Bang universe (but over a long series of rolling cycles, not just a single original push plus various inflational add-ons) with more and more matter gradually falling into visibility from the farthest reaches – the outskirts close to T = 0, the apparent beginning of time. But as we age, we can lose information. Instead of our information space becoming bigger and more complex, with the primordial background radiation spreading out and getting cooler and cooler, the information space would heat up, becoming smaller, hotter, and less complex. Information melts away, lost in background noise. As information drops to zero, we have an information space that’s hot and fuzzy, with a short horizon.

An information space is dependent on the integrity of its armature. There are statistical arguments to be made on the future size of the information space, based on its current size, but that math doesn’t exist yet. And that math is just a statistical bet about conditions in a world external to the universe that we, as yet, know nothing about. (How might we learn about this external world? Perhaps by making contact with older civilizations which have had more time to suss out what the universe is up to. Scary. I suspect that old entities who know what’s up might be found at the galactic center. Eventually, our strategy might be to tiptoe towards the galactic center to take a look, but very stealthily, so as not to get our asses kicked. But really – how would we outsmart entities that might be billions of years old? Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum with a computer virus won’t do it.)

**********************Bibliography at end of part seven***********************


In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1990-96); and Writer (Part Three)

Mr. Rick G. Rosner


Part three of seven, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: arguing for reinstatement of metaphysics into physics, their present estranged relationship, necessary relationship between logic and metaphysics, formal argument for the derivations from logic to physics and connection to metaphysics, unsuccessful attempts at metaphysical thinking, ancient Greece’s lack of experimental science, the opposite trend today with much experimental science, the depth of understanding the business transactions of the universe on a macro scale, possible purposes for these transactions for the universe, brief overview of the universe’s development, related objectives of organisms, purpose of laughter illuminated by George Saunders, and effective economy of thought for a possible grounding for the universe; methodology of science, derived facts from the methodology, and constructed systems of knowledge, a determined universe, free will as an internal sense of willing something, compatibilist and non-compatibilist free will, quantum mechanics, moral axiologists, free will and ethics implying moral accountability, considerations of this with an increased understanding of the world through science, framing the appropriate question for an accurate answer to the free will question, some peoples’ arguments for the ability of free will based on quantum indeterminacy, impetus behind free will appearing to be not wanting restrictions “by genes, by creeds or institutions, by mental limitations,” a better question for understanding the free will issue, evolved creatures not necessarily constructing the most accurate views of reality, evolutionary examples of hijacked thought, Plato’s Cave, the ‘freakout’ over determinism based on Newtonian mechanics, technical rather than transcendent aspect of thinking, and lack of determinacy of the universe based on quantum mechanics; free will intrinsic to an individual consciousness, free will for the penultimate armature of the universe, derived-from-armature free will for an individual consciousness (or set of them), the more important angle of informed will, and targeted thinking; and set of mainstream physicists considering the universe to exist in 11-dimensional hyperspace in string theory, constraints of the universe’s structure based on the specification of dimensions, implied limitations of a three dimensional universe, analogy of Donald Rumsfeld and Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known, origin of the phrase with John Wesley Powell, John Keats and Robert Browning mentioning the phrase too, the universe as an optimized information map, commonalities of the universe exist close to one another while those far apart have less in common, 30% of the speed of light (.3c) of objects moving away from us equating to ~4 billion light years away, forming a sphere of that radius about twice the radius of everything moving away at 15% the speed of light (.15c) away from us with four times the area, further considerations and calculations with the reciprocal Lorentz factor from special relativity, redshift and information in common, Big Bang universe, size proportional to age of universe (look farther away, the universe appears smaller because younger, or larger because older), Hubble redshift, a non-Big Bang universe having lack of uniformity with an active and burned-out center with collapsed outskirts clustered to T = 0 (Time equates to zero or absolute beginning of the cosmos), inverse-square law, and an economy of dimensions likely defeating an 11-dimensional universe posited out of string theoretic constructions.

Keywords: Apple, armature, Big Bang universe, Dave Damashek, determinism, Donald Rumsfeld, Donald Trump, Dyson spheres, Errol Morris, economy of dimensions, ethics, evolution, experimental science, fields, fixed orbits, free will, galaxies, George Saunders, Giga Society, gravitational wells, Greece, Hubble redshift, hypersphere, indeterminate, infinity, informed will, inverse-square law, John Keats, John Wesley Powell, laughter, life, logic, long-distance particles, Lorentz factor, mathematics, Mega Society, metaphysics, Michael Scott, Microwave background radiation, moral axiologists, morality, neutrinos, particle physics, photons, physics, Plato’s Cave, principles of existence, quantum mechanics, Rick G. Rosner, Robert Browning, science, ‘The Unknown Known’, thought, toxoplasmosis, unconscious biases, universe, unpredictable, writer.

24. You think metaphysics needs to be reinstated into physics. Yet, they have an estrangement.  You mean physics and metaphysics together.  Indeed, I would reason much further than this.  Metaphysics needs logic; logic needs metaphysics.  Furthermore, mathematics derives from logic, physics derives from mathematics, and hence – for a more comprehensive framework – physics needs metaphysics and vice versa.  At root, we have a deep relation between physics and metaphysics.  This estrangement seemed temporary before someone directed appropriate attention to the need for conscious reunification of the two.

Compared to science, metaphysics has been very unsuccessful, to the extent that few people, scientists included, do much metaphysical thinking. Science has helped us build the modern world. Metaphysics can’t even definitively answer its own questions. Pondering “What is being?” doesn’t bring us Apple products. Our era is kind of the reverse of ancient Greece, which was all “Why is everything the way it is?” and not much for doing experimental science. The Greeks should’ve performed some experiments. It’s hard to do effective metaphysics if you don’t have sufficient information about how the universe works. It’s like solving a crime without evidence.

But perhaps by now, we have almost enough information, via physics, to come up with a system which has some “whys” as well as “hows.” We’ve learned a lot of “hows” about the universe: how it transacts much of its business – on a macro scale, via fields and long-distance particles such as photons and neutrinos. We should be able to use our knowledge of these transactions to propose theories of how the universe might benefit from these transactions, asking “Why? – What does the universe gain?”

Via these processes, the universe becomes simpler in some ways – over billions of years, stars boil down – and more complex in others – across billions of years, life arises. The universe becomes more stable in some ways – matter accretes into galaxies and stars which are cradled in fixed orbits and gravitational wells and the universe clusters on a range of scales, adding to stability and informational compactness. As my friend Dave Dameshek likes to ask, “To what end? To what end?!”

Take a look at a business model for a system with “whys” – with goals we kind of understand – thought.

Thought has several related objectives – manage an organism’s normal activities, look for exploitable regularities, and avoid error, all within the context of constructing a model of reality. The brain has a finite capacity, so it wants to compress information to reduce the chance for error and make room for more information. The brain likes finding analogies and shortcuts - they help compactify information.

Thought involves risk. If the brain can figure out how to make knowing fewer things as helpful as knowing more things, it can know those few things with greater certainty and less distraction and chance of confusion. Think of it in terms of sending a message – if you have a 15-word message but can compress it to 5 words, better to send the shorter message 3 times to increase the likelihood the message gets through.

I view laughter as delight at finding a shortcut and as a signal to other people that a shortcut has been found. George Saunders has the same theory. “Humor is what happens when we’re told the truth quicker and more directly than we’re used to.” ― George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone

So we have a rough idea of the brain’s informational priorities and procedures. Similarly, we can speculate about what the universe is up to with regard to information.

The universe does what it does, which I believe is information processing – thinking, even – within some context. It’s grappling with – thinking about – some world beyond itself – a world that includes the physical structure that makes the universe’s information-processing possible. We can assume that the universe has objectives in that world. We can assume that the universe has an economy of thought – that its thinking is effective because some rules of information are in place. We can try to figure out those rules, dagnabbit.

25. You think that people may be better able to answer philosophical questions today than in the past because of more accurate depictions of reality through the methodology of science, derived facts from the methodology, and constructed systems of knowledge: quantum mechanics, particle physics, chemical sciences, biological sciences, psychological sciences, and economic sciences onward with inclusion of every relevant discipline and subdiscipline.  Of note, traditional ‘great’ questions can have placement in complementary scientific frameworks.  For instance, in a determined universe, freedom of the will, ‘free will’, does not exist because determinacy reigns supreme.  Either branch of determinism, compatibilist or non-compatibilist, bears little or no proper fruits.  Why? Quantum mechanics shows either deterministic branch of the tree to be barren. Therefore, zero factual streams to hydrate and nourish the roots.  Unless individuals defy the larger systemic laws (they would not) behind the hypothetical determinate universe.  Furthermore, in an indeterminate universe, free will does not exist due to 1) no genuine point of contact for free will and 2) any utility of free will dissipates into meaningless randomness and noise.  Peoples’ ability to freely will represents the fulcrum for each stream of reasoning, which makes intuitive and immediate experiential sense. Our universal, internal sense of willing something, of choosing one thought or act over another.  Moreover, free will implicates ethics, morals, and legal systems, which binds upon bearers with the ability to freely choose right over wrong.  Moral axiologists connect “right over wrong” to value systems.  Value systems found in theological and non-theological contexts.  Therefore, an important question for most people to consider with due ratiocination. In short, free will and ethics implies moral accountability. With increased understanding of the world through science, what do you think of this issue? What evidence and argument most convinces you of this answer/these answers?

We can use physics to start to address whether we’ve even been asking the right metaphysical questions, such as, “Is there free will?” Free from what, exactly? From being trapped in determinism? Thanks to quantum mechanics, we know that the world isn’t pre-determined. (However, it’s easy to imagine that, even with quantum indeterminacy, our thoughts in any given situation could pretty much be pre-determined (unless we explicitly build in randomness just to be contrary). I don’t think that quantum indeterminacy has much to do with whether we think one thought or another. Other people disagree.)

“Free will” can mean “thought that is independent from material constraints.” Under this definition, if thought takes place in the material world, then it’s materially constrained. Material constraint doesn’t bother me. I believe a more important question is, “Can we make decisions free of unconscious biases?” Are our conscious minds running the show, or are we puppets of our selfish genes? And can we overcome this puppetry?

In the past, some people thought there was ordinary matter, the tangible stuff that comprises the world and there was mind-stuff – special, as-yet-undetected twinkly stuff that does your thinking. (But even with two forms of stuff, there’s still the question, is this mind-stuff free of material constraints? Are we free to think what we want to think without the material world constraining our mind-stuff?)

I think today, the situation is clearer. Our thinking consists of the information in our awareness and how we manipulate it with our hardware – our brains. We are our information. There’s no mind-stuff that freely thinks independent of information.

When you ask the question, “Why am I me?” the answer turns out to be, “Because all of your information pertains to you.” All your information came into your head, was processed by you, and pertains to you (if only because you perceived and processed it.) You can imagine jumping into someone else’s head, Quantum Leap style, but in that case, you’re taking your information and your mental history and the ways you process information into somebody else’s situation. You’re not taking some abstract mind-stuff that’s free from information with you – you are your information and your mental tendencies.

So there’s not free will (as I understand the question – there are other interpretations of free will) because there’s no mind-stuff judging from afar, independent of information. To be clear, information is not matter, but neither is it independent, free-floating, twinkly mind-stuff. Information in this context is representations of things presented in such a way that we can think about them – they’re part of thought – they’re mentally manipulable in our mind-space. This space isn’t made of or facilitated by a special form of matter. Information is tightly coupled to and facilitated by our brains, which are concrete and material.

I’m vastly oversimplifying, but the impetus behind the interest throughout history in free will seems to be concern about whether thought is to some extent a sham – whether we have exalted powers to stand apart and above from the grubby, clockwork stuff of the world, and beyond that, whether can we avoid having our thoughts controlled – by genes, by creeds or institutions, by mental limitations.

We would want free will because that would mean we’re not the beyotches of the pedestrian, earth-bound material world.

But the better question is, “Can we be in charge of our thinking?” That is, can we think without bias? Consciousness is always playing tricks on us, because consciousness is a product of evolution, not a pure product of a desire to give us the most complete and accurate view of the world. (But we don’t need to be products of evolution for our brains and biology and consciousness to have hidden agendas. The biases are there, regardless of what put them there. Just ask any grad student in psychology about what must be thousands of experiments which show that consciousness gives us a highly filtered and biased and monkeyed-with view of the world. Each of us is our own Fox News.)

There are a bunch of parasites that transact business by messing with the brains of their victims – parasites that make mice attracted to cats (toxoplasmosis) or bugs attracted to light – so they get eaten and pass on the parasite to the next host in their life cycle.  The hosts’ brains have been hijacked. To some extent, everyone’s brain is hijacked by what our genes want us to do. Reproducing often runs counter to the well-being and continued existence of individual organisms, but the process that made us is based on reproduction, and it tends not to be denied. We are greatly manipulated by our sexual thoughts and drives. It’s so crazy how fascinated we are with boobs and butts and symmetrical, easy-to-read faces, but all those things carry information about reproductive fitness that we’re hardwired to scrutinize.

We can make and are making progress in understanding our thought processes. Figuring out the limitations and biases of our thoughts and perceptions and how to overcome them are how we slowly extricate ourselves from Plato’s Cave.  We can never get all the way out of the cave – never see and understand existence exactly as it is – but we can make unlimited progress, stacking up level upon level of scientific, philosophical, aesthetic and moral understanding. (If thinking entities are common throughout the universe, then not only scientific understanding is necessary. Thinking entities have narratives and morality.)

People freaked out over the idea of determinism which got a big push from Newtonian mechanics. They didn’t like the idea of being locked into a perfectly predictable machine universe which seems to make consciousness unnecessary. How can we really be thinking and why do we need to think if our brains are just molecules bouncing off of each other in a completely predictable way? But thinking shouldn’t have to be and isn’t transcendent – it’s a technical process involving considerable amounts of information simultaneously shared among a bunch of specialized subsystems. Doesn’t matter if it’s just electricity and bouncing molecules – the mental chatter is an unavoidable aspect of the processing. While not transcending mechanics, thinking, as an inescapable aspect of high-level information processing, may be the frame for all of physics (since the universe engages in high-level information processing), which makes thinking kind of transcendent, after all.

The universe turns out not to be deterministic – quantum events are, within their probability functions, perfectly unpredictable. (Future quantum events (which includes everything, really) precisely follow probability functions. We don’t know the outcome of a quantum event. But we do know the probability curve that decides the outcome. That is, once we’ve narrowed down the possible outcomes as much as possible, what’s left – the unpredictable, indeterminate part – is completely, inherently unpredictable except in terms of precisely defined probabilities.)

But this isn’t good news for free will, because quantum unpredictability doesn’t liberate thought from being a mechanistic process.

Consciousness is a technical thing, not a mystical in the realm of angels thing – it’s a property of high-level information-sharing via bouncing molecules, etc. – not necessarily in a completely predictable way, but also not in a way that thought can bend or defy physics through thought itself.

Consciousness creates an information space (or mind-space) that owes itself to the physics of the brain but isn’t comprised of the atoms of the brain. (It’s as if your brain is running a video game environment which contains representations that come from (processed) sensory information and from imagination (generally not the Willy Wonka kind). It hasn’t built a physical world – a scale model of the outside world like a model train set – but rather a system that allows the mind to envision and manipulate mental representations. As we think, we don’t see neurons firing – we see what is represented by patterns of neurons firing.)

But hey – if you have your mind-space – an abstract arena for the information in your awareness – why so serious about the physical foundation of the space? Your brain is made of stuff – get over it. Legitimate concerns related to free will include not being in charge of what gets to enter your mind-space, how information has been sharpened, simplified, amplified or otherwise tweaked on the way in, and unconscious glitches in your information-processing.

There’s the ass-covering, bogus storytelling nature of consciousness. Your unconscious or some specialized subsystem pulls the trigger on a decision, followed by your consciousness telling itself a story after the fact about why it made the decision. Happens all the time. Your consciousness is always telling you, “It’s cool – got it – I’m the boss.” Sure you are, consciousness – you’re the boss like Donald Trump or Michael Scott is the boss – you can be a blowhard with an exaggerated sense of your own skills.

If you observe carefully, you can spot some of the mechanics of consciousness and watch your thoughts being assembled. One small example – when there’s a name on the tip of your brain, sometimes you get clues – it’s five letters, it starts with a B or an M. You can glimpse some of the mental landscape where the little ball of inquiry is rolling around, trying to drop into the pit that’s the answer. But now you’ve thought about it too much – you’ve scrambled the landscape – you have to forget your inquiry and let it settle. Come back to it a little later, and often, the answer is right there for you.

In addition to constraints on thought, there are constraints on existence itself. Our thoughts are fairly tightly bound to reality, and reality seems bound to some pretty inflexible principles of existence. Creatures that are the result of evolution in a natural (un-engineered) cosmos probably all live in three spatial dimensions with linear time and rules of physics which are fairly consistent among all the different possible universes. (I don’t believe that the universe can take on any crazy dang form, with physical constants and number of dimensions at the mercy of 12-sided dice, and not just because the special effects department only has the budget to cover a couple of extras in blue body paint. There are reasons for gravity and 4D space-time, etc.) Whether advanced civilizations can circumvent these somewhat uniform conditions and construct truly weird universes remains to be seen.

Evolved creatures are persistent creatures – they’ve evolved to persist by propagating offspring across time. If the general scheme of the universe is decipherable – if we can decode its physics and metaphysics – then advanced civilizations (at least those which retain the will to persist that they evolved with) will figure out the universe and be forced to address it on its terms (which we have to anyway, even without understanding it). Every civilization cooks from the same Mystery Basket – the universe.

So civilizations are locked into a template – they react to the conditions of existence, constrained by their persistent characteristics and by physics, resulting in a limited range of possible paths for civilizations. You hear people say, “There are only seven basic plots for movies.” Well maybe there are a limited number of basic plots for civilizations. Some might be empire-builders. Though maybe not – in the words of Enrico Fermi, “Where are they?” It might be more efficient to stay close to home and exploit local resources for computing power – turning nearby planets into Dyson spheres and the like. Some might fall into decadence. Some might devote themselves to figuring out what the universe means and wants. Some might become artists, engaging in grand feats of beautiful, frivolous engineering. Maybe your standard advanced civilization is a mix of all the major reactions to existence, kind of like a TV lineup – comedy, drama, glitzy excess, hedonism….

The rules of existence will turn out to be fairly mathematical – not ordained from above, with God saying, “This is the precise and perfect Number One. It’s the basis of counting,” but hemmed in by slippery, iron-clad but fuzzy and evanescent tautological necessities such as non-contradiction – something can’t both exist and not exist (except when it can because of quantum uncertainty) – with existence entailing space and time and matter and their delineation via interactions – a big, messy ball of bootstrapped logic. (Numbers seem inherently exact, but that’s how we define and use them. We’re really borrowing an infinity of information (about the relationships among numbers) to do so. Numbers are as bootstrapped as everything else, but they’re amenable to procedures which hide that.)

Given that we’re constrained by math-like rules, it’s not unreasonable to think that we’re math-like entities, with our existences boxed and bound and constrained by having to belong to the set of all possible things.

Imagine, for example, the mind-space of a sponge, which has no neurons but which can respond to stimuli. (A sponge can sneeze when it gets filled up with schmutz.) It has a tiny-to-the-point-of-nonexistent, fuzzy mind-space – a pretty close to minimum-possible mind-space – which could probably be replicated with a simple mathematical model. Then there are roundworms with 302 neurons. It would take a much more complicated model, but you could still build one, once the math of mental spaces is understood, which would encompass all possible roundworm mental states. Which means that the mind of a roundworm is a mathematical entity.

Now imagine the brain of a chicken. The (always reliable) internet suggests it might have 100 million neurons. Hard to imagine precisely and accurately modeling a chicken’s mental space. But on the other hand, it’s a chicken. We’ll eventually be able to do this. We could build Chicken (and Pig and Cow) Heaven. Sorry we keep killing and eating you, chickens, but we’ve replicated all possible chicken mind-spaces in this computer. You’re in there somewhere, having what passes for a great time for a chicken.

There’s no way we won’t, in the next 50 years, try to build the mind-spaces of Abe Lincoln and Jane Austen and Shakespeare. “Have you read Joy and Jealousy by Jane Austen 3.3? Way too much sex.” Yes, Star Trek Holodeck, I can see you. You can put your hand down. Characters in video games will have their own mind-spaces. People who freeze their heads might find themselves brought back to fight World War Two over and over in Shell Shock 4 for the Goopple PlayVerse.

But we’re saved from our constraints by infinity. Assuming (which we may never be able to prove) that possible universes can be of any finite size, and that the number of universes of any given size is proportional to the size raised to some exponential power, there’s an infinity of possible worlds and destinies.

26. Free will might operate beyond present explanatory powers. It may exist intrinsic to an individual consciousness, or set of POVs, in the universe overriding/incorporating quantum indeterminacy or exist based on an intrinsic characteristic in a larger system.  For instance, an armature of the cosmos beyond present explanatory powers.  What of this armature for the universe?  What if free will for the universe inheres in this armature? Intrinsic freedom of the cosmos.  In other words, what if conscious creatures relate to such an armature and have derived (intrinsic to them or derived from armature) freedom of the will?

[Asked in a Seinfeld voice] What’s the big deal about free will? I’m not overly concerned about free will; I care about informed will. Consciousness can function to somewhat optimize mental resources, with the objective being, the better the model you have of the world, the better your understanding of that model and the more angles and tactics you can deploy based on that understanding, the better your chances are of achieving your goals.

This is not free thinking. This is targeted thinking, based on where and what we are in the world. We’re not free – we’re part of the world, and we have to think about it. We can think freely about philosophical issues – about whatever we have the mental chops to think about – but even this kind of thinking is some kind of strategic reaction to the world. I would rather think well than think free. Freedom comes from knowing what’s up and being able to react effectively to it. But you’re still anchored to what’s up.

And about the universe’s armature – I think the universe is thinking about the world that the armature is part of – the outside world that contains the mind or mind-like thing that is our universe. The universe’s information processing or thoughts pertain to – are anchored to – its outside world. Everything that thinks is thinking about a world – it’s thinking in an anchored context.

27. Out of another set of mainstream physicists, even while some claim lacking direct observational evidence, arises the possibility of additional dimensions as postulated in, for example, string theory with everything in existence operating inside of 11 dimensional hyperspace.  How do these conceptual and mathematical frameworks hold in your view?

It takes information to build and specify dimensions. Where does the information contained in 11-dimensional hyperspace come from? Does the universe contain enough information to have all these extra dimensions? Maybe so, if the dimensions are small enough to not contain much information at all. But on a macro scale, the universe barely has enough information (from observing itself) to hold open three spatial dimensions.

I don’t love string theory. Maybe if I knew enough math and physics to work with it, I’d like it better. But in my current ignorant state, it seems unnecessarily complicated. I hope there’s a simpler explanation for the way the universe works, with string theory being one of a variety of helpful ways to conceptualize physics. I’m hoping we develop a toolkit consisting of a number of different but consistent angles on physics and the universe, each being handy for certain operations, and acting as cross-checks and sources of insight for each other. It would kind of suck for string theory to turn out to be the simplest way to understand the world.

Why does the universe have three dimensions? I think we live in a Rumsfeld universe. Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “…there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” (Errol Morris, who made a great-as-usual documentary interview with Rumsfeld called The Unknown Known, traced the idea of unknown knowns and known unknowns back to the explorer John Wesley Powell. He also notes that John Keats and Robert Browning also mention the “known unknown.”)

Suppose that the universe is an optimized information map (of itself, the same way we could imagine an information map of the mind, which when optimized would be a map of itself), with the distance between objects roughly based on how much information they have in common. Parts of the universe with almost everything in common will be very close to each other. (By “in common,” I mean shared information – they’ve been exposed to largely the same history – belonging to the same group of active galaxies – as the universe unfolds.) Parts of the universe with very little in common will be distant from each other (and red-shifted and time-dilated). (Dormant galaxies which are distant from and mostly uncorrelated with each other can be hauled into stronger correlation with each other by bringing them into the active center (kind of like popping open windows on a giant glass touch-screen on a cheesy CSI-type show).)

In an information-map universe, it takes information to hold space open. The number of dimensions depends on the amount of information available to specify the relationships among objects in these dimensions.

Every part of the universe at the same distance from us has about the same amount of information in common with our neighborhood. Say, for example, that we’re looking at parts of the universe that appear to be moving away from us at 30% the speed of light; they’re about 4 billion light years away. Everything that’s four billion light years away from us forms a sphere of that radius, about twice the radius of everything that appears to be moving away at 15% the speed of light, with four times the area.

Just for fun, say that the amount of information in common with us is approximately (at low v) the reciprocal Lorentz factor from special relativity: the square root of (1 – v^2), where v is the redshift velocity (how fast that part of the universe seems to be moving away from us). For v = .15, information would be about 98.9% in common, or 1.1% not in common. For v = .3, information would be about 95.6% in common, or 4.4% not in common. For low redshift velocities, information not in common is proportional to the ratio of velocities squared.

This sets up a locally three-dimensional universe. At each redshift radius v, information not in common with our neighborhood takes up a region proportional to v squared, or the surface of a sphere of radius v. (Each redshift velocity corresponds to a (Hubble relation) distance from our galaxy.)

I’ve left out multiplying the information not in common by the information in common. The less information in common, the less you can distinguish the spatial relationships among distant objects, and space at that distance as we see it shrinks proportionately.

So here’s a Rumsfeld way of thinking about the dimensionality of space. Distances from us are the known known – we know how much information we have in common with other neighborhoods and objects in space. Spatial relationships among other objects shade from the known unknown to, at higher redshifts, the unknown unknown. We know a lot about neighborhoods with almost all information in common with us, but, having almost all information in common, they don’t spread out across a lot of space. The less information neighborhoods have in common with us, the more information space they could occupy, but the less we know about them, the less we know about their spatial interrelationships and the less we can see those relationships, and space at large cosmological distances is effectively shrunken (and smeared out as we look at it).

In a Big Bang universe, we can see across nearly 14 billion light years. (Microwave background radiation has spent nearly the apparent lifetime of the universe reaching us.) But we’re not looking at a sphere 14 billion light years in radius, because the background radiation comes from a very small, young, recently exploded universe. (There’s a maximum radius we can see as we look across greater distances and farther into the past. Beyond that radius, we’re seeing increasingly smeared-out images of our universe when it was younger and smaller. Of course, every image we see is of a younger universe, but it’s usually only younger by a few billionths of a second – the time light takes to cross a room.)

If we could see to infinity, we wouldn’t see Big Bang space as completely filling three-dimensional space. Looking farther and farther, we’d see the universe getting smaller and smaller (because younger and younger), until it’s a point at T = 0. But that’s just because we’re looking back in time. Though we can’t see it because of the finite speed of light, a Big Bang universe can be a fully three-dimensional surface of a hypersphere.

But I don’t think we live in a Big Bang universe. Due to the nature of an information-space universe, it looks quite a bit like a Big Bang universe, and that it started with a Big Bang is a natural first conclusion to reach, based on general relativity and the Hubble redshift. Note that the idea of the Big Bang – space exploding from an initial point – while seeming indisputably established, is less than 100 years old, and has been the predominant theory of universal structure for less than 50 years.

A Big Bang universe is nearly the same everywhere – the result of a uniform outward expansion. But a universe that doesn’t blow up all at once isn’t the same everywhere. It has an active center and burned-out and collapsed outskirts clustered close to what looks like T = 0. This universe may not be perfectly three-dimensional – space is highly curved and riddled with collapsed stuff near the apparent origin, which may mean that space is effectively less than three-dimensional at great distances.

If space doesn’t extend outward from any given point – if, on the outskirts, it tucks into itself – maybe it’s lacking dimensionality. (Or maybe the scale of space is (relativistically) collapsed, allowing for space to be squeezed into less space. On the outskirts, you might be able to have an unlimited number of neighborhoods separated by high apparent relative velocities, because you can add relativistic velocities forever without reaching the speed of light – stuff just gets more contracted.) If the outskirts are less than three-dimensional, this might explain large-scale gravity not falling off according to the inverse-square law.

(If there’s an actual collapsed outskirts not just a visual ghost of the early universe, can you build a rocket and travel close to T = 0? Probably not. For one thing, it’s a many-billion-year trip, even at the speed of light. For another thing, space filled with collapsed stuff may have a smaller scale and contain even more distance than we can see from here. And there would be heavy radiation including lots of neutrinos.)

To get back to your original question about string theory and 11 dimensions – I think there’s an economy of dimensions. Self-defining systems of information don’t have enough information to hold open a space greater than three dimensions (not counting gravitational wells) (and maybe not even three dimensions over great distances).

**********************Bibliography at end of part seven***********************


In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1990-96); and Writer (Part Two)

Mr. Rick G. Rosner


Part two of seven, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: health advice, longevity, mortality, Pythagoreans, Transhumanists, future scenarios of downloadable consciousness, aims for immortality, rewriting genetic code, partial/full mergers with biology, technological and medical futurists, United Nations on lifespans, Dr. Aubrey de Grey divided subproblems for solving aging, figuring out the mind as the ultimate longevity solution, consciousness and evolution, discounting of some animal consciousness by people, and the possibility of the same consideration for human consciousness; personal vitamin and nutraceutical consumption, considerations of efforts for longevity, aspirin and statins, and Life Extension magazine; possible negative interactions of nutritional supplements, circumin, vitamin d, Metformin, Type 2 Diabetes, resveratrol, methylene blue, Fen-Phen, and flossing and inflammation; possible negative interactions with ingested nutritional supplements taken alone or together with another nutritional supplement, and the reasons for considering his current set of nutritional supplements safe; obscure and mainstream thinkers on the progression of technology, some thoughts to do with the Law of Accelerating Returns, Dr. Ray Kurzweil, extrapolations of current technological trends from the past and the trends’ influence on us in the future, and relevant extrapolations beyond this century; entrance into the world of trivia,Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, first and second times on the show, and Noesis issue 150’s articlesThree Letters of Protest Regarding “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and Request for Assistance from Mega Society Members; rectifying the situation; mastering multiple intellectual fields, 12 years of university credit in one year at Excelsior College,  and reason for pursuing this method of education accreditation; moving beyond academics into acting and physique building (bodybuilding), films with J.D. Mata, and reason for entering into this kind of work; and nude modeling, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and time spent at the gym.

Keywords: animal, aspirin, consciousness, curcumin, consciousness, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Dr. Peter Diamandis, Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Dr. Terry Grossman, Excelsior College, evolution, Fen-Phen, future, Giga Society, God, gods, immortality, inflammation, J.D. Mata, Law of Acclerating Returns, Life Extension Foundation, longevity, Mega Society, Metformin, methylene blue, Michael Bay, mind, mortality, nutraceutical, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Pythagoreans, Resveratrol, Rick G. Rosner, Saul Kent, statins, supplements, Transhumanists, Type 2 Diabetes, United Nations, vitamin d.

15. Furthermore, many people in history followed health advice.  Some provided it.  Today this persists.  Primarily for well-being with a secondary benefit of longevity.  Although, most people in recorded history accepted mortality of the body as fact, but in most cases attended to ritual, scripture, incantation, sacrifice, prayer, meditative practices, and propitiation to a god, the gods, or God to attain immortality as a spirit, a disembodied awareness, an existence in another realm, or through continuous re-incarnation as a mortal creature in this world.  These tendencies of thought wax and wane.  For instance, Pythagoreans searched for immortality.  Even today, an emergent sub-group of a modern school of thought, Transhumanism, aims for immortality through hypothetical future scenarios of downloading their minds onto computers, re-writing of genetic code for extended life, and partial/full mergers of biology with machines for bodies and minds immune to the present higher levels of degradation based on the degrading effects of time on our bodies. Some people come to mind such as Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Dr. Terry Grossman, M.D, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Dr. Peter Diamandis, M.D., Saul Kent of the Life Extension Foundation, and others.  What do you think of the many ideas and arguments behind these various groups for longevity – even outright ‘immortality’?  What makes their arguments and our situation different, and better, enough to have such possibilities arise in practicality?

It sucks to be among the last generations of humans who don’t have a choice about dying. Medicine will advance tremendously in the next century, and so will life spans. Even the U.N., which isn’t a hotbed of science fiction-ish speculation, says that living to 100 will become common.

Transhumanists like to argue that to be effectively immortal, you don’t have to live until immortality is possible. You only have to live until medical science can extend your life at a rate of one year per year.

Researchers such as Dr. Aubrey de Grey say that aging will be conquered by breaking it down into a set of sub-problems and solving each of them. While not part of de Grey’s sub-problems, figuring out the mind and consciousness can be seen as the ultimate longevity solution. If you can make the contents and actions of the brain transferable, then keeping your body going may become just one of a variety of longevity strategies.

But figuring out consciousness may be a good news-bad news thing. Consciousness constantly acts as an advertisement for itself, telling you that your life and thoughts and experiences are interesting. Evolutionarily, it has to do that. If you quit paying attention to your life, you make more errors, which might kill you. We come from millions of generations of ancestors who paid attention.

For instance, deciding when to cross at a traffic light. (Traffic lights seem to pop up in discussions of consciousness.) For you not to be killed crossing at a light, your lifetime error rate of observing and stopping for red lights has to be reasonably close to zero. If you weren’t sufficiently interested in not being killed, your error rate would rise dangerously. Of course we see this with digital devices being so interesting that people become insufficiently interested in clear, real-life risks (texting while walking or driving a car or even a train being the sadly typical example).

Once we figure out consciousness, it may turn out to not be so awesome. Consciousness may be seen to incorporate a bunch of sensationalistic tricks to keep your attention, like a Michael Bay movie, and there may be a letdown – we’re the saps who bought tickets to the movie.

We have little problem discounting consciousness in other creatures – the billions of chickens Americans eat each year, for instance, cows, pigs, octopi. The chickens live their short lives, they’re killed, no big deal. A minority of people say it’s the ultimate deal – that every creature’s experience is important. But what happens if our understanding of consciousness leads us to believe that human consciousness just isn’t that big a deal – not much more important than other animals’? That could be a bummer. (But this bummer might partially be addressed via biotech brain helper add-ons that make our moment-to-moment awareness more super-duper.)

We’re gonna live longer, we’re gonna get weirder, gradually turning into the augmented but still very human beings that will come after humans.

16. Granted, death stands atop the mount of costly adventures.   You take high-level double digit numbers of vitamins and nutraceuticals every day. Even so, these measures for slowing, potentially halting or reversing, aging seem excessive and even dangerous.  For instance, do they all have FDA approval?  Where do you base your efforts for longevity?  What research and evidence?

Mostly, I take vitamins and nutraceuticals, which may not do much – one way or the other. And most of the other stuff is apparently very safe and widely tested – aspirin and a half-dose of statins, for instance.

I research supplements and nutritional strategies on the internet, trying to separate the BS from the crumbs of actual information. Life Extension magazine is pretty good, even though it’s trying to sell fancy vitamins. At least the claims in the magazine are backed up by some studies.

The purpose of the pills, of course, is to put off dying as long as possible. Will exercise, a semi-careful diet and mostly mainstream supplements increase my mortality? I hope not, and most statistics are on my side.

17. For instance, which ones of these nutritional supplements have sufficient clinical testing in favour of their individual use?  What about potential negative interactions of an individual supplement or drug?  What of negative interactions between two or more of them? 

I mostly take nutritional supplements. Their effects are probably not as helpful or as potentially harmful as pharmaceuticals, though they haven’t usually been through the same clinical trials as prescription drugs. (Some vitamins, however, have had more than a century of testing, and clinical testing is not a 100% guarantee.)

I take a big but not crazy dose of vitamin D and a lot of curcumin, both of which are currently very well-regarded. They’re being studied extensively, and the studies are returning encouraging results. As with anything, future research may debunk them, but I don’t think they’re hurting me. People in India have been using curcumin for centuries, and this seems to be correlated with lower rates for some inflammation-based disease.

Some of what I take may be considered a little wacky. For instance, I take Metformin, a drug for Type 2 diabetes, even though I don’t have diabetes. Among other effects, Metformin helps your body use insulin more efficiently. Along with resveratrol, it’s one of only two drugs I know of which trigger some of the positive effects of calorie restriction (without the misery of calorie restriction). And Metformin is a more effective calorie restriction mimetic than resveratrol, because orally administered resveratrol gets knocked out by your liver.

Metformin is the most widely prescribed anti-diabetes drug in the world, with 48 million annual prescriptions in the U.S. alone. It’s been used in the UK since 1958 and the U.S. since 1995. Negative side effects are rare. There is some evidence that Metformin may reduce the incidence of cancer. I like the stuff.

I sometimes take methylene blue, which may act as a detergent to loosen amyloid plaque in the brain. (Amyloid is sticky gunk thrown up by damaged brain cells.) MB is currently in Phase III trial for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (It turns urine a bright emerald green!) If I were in the NFL and taking a bunch of shots to the head, I’d use methylene blue like Splenda.

Most of what I take doesn’t negatively interact. A couple of minor vitamin depletions are covered by a good multi-vitamin. (For instance, Metformin may reduce absorption of B12.)

You don’t often hear about people dying early from vitamins. Occasionally, there’s a study which might say something like, “People who take vitamin E might have slightly elevated mortality.” Then you look at the study, and it’s hard to apply to your specific situation, but you cut back on vitamin E. In the 70s, people went on the liquid protein diet. But it depleted potassium and caused heart attacks. A couple of people died – it was big news. In the 90s, Fen-Phen, a combination of diet drugs, killed people. Again, big news. If vitamins were knocking people off like crazy, we’d hear about it. So I take my chances.

Hey – here are two very safe things you should do to add years to your life – take half an aspirin or a baby aspirin each day, and floss your teeth. Unflossed teeth spread inflammation throughout your body.

18. In some sectors of the population, some obscure, and other more – as of recent – mainstream thinkers have extrapolations based on many highly complex technological innovations in society regarding the progression of technology. Some will use general hunches, e.g. things seem more complicated and, therefore, will become more complex.  Others will use mathematical modelling through extensions of such things as Moore’s Law, e.g. the Law of Accelerating Returns a la Ray Kurzweil.  How do you see these technological trends and changes influencing us in the far and recent past?  What extrapolations do you consider most likely for this century and past it?

Many of the developments predicted by science fiction eventually happen, though often not as soon as science fiction predicts (the iPad, the atomic bomb, the internet and computer viruses, to name a few).

I think that will be the case with many aspects of the Singularity. (The Singularity is when, according to believers in the Singularity, artificial intelligence will be able to answer any question and solve any problem, and all our wishes will come true, sometime around the year 2040.) Humanity or some version of humans plus technology will get smarter and smarter, but it won’t all happen at once or as soon as 2040.

But things will get weird. Good manners and considerate behavior will have an increasingly difficult time keeping up with changes in tech. It would be nice if people would stop being annoying or dangerous with their devices, but I can’t see how manners will ever catch up with the accelerating development of technology. Tech will keep making people smarter but appearing to be stupider.

I don’t think the future will be humans fighting robots. I think we’ll become our own half-robots. We’ll keep augmenting ourselves, adding devices around and to ourselves until our artificial systems do more information-processing than our natural systems. (We’ll build expert devices of increasing sophistication, but for the near future, the most expert systems will be human brains plus tech. We already are expert systems – right now it’s most effective to add onto us.)

Some people argue that the brain has hidden, possibly quantum, information-processing capacity and that we won’t be able to emulate the brain. Obviously, the more complicated our brains turn out to be, the harder it will be to emulate them and interface with them. But we’ll still keep going in that direction. We’re already pretty good at piping information into our heads nonstop via our current devices.

One big though gradual change is we’ll be able to change our drives, motivations, judgments and values. Much of what drives us is pretty thoroughly wired into our brains via evolution – sexual attraction, tastes in food, aesthetic preferences, to name some big ones.

Sex makes just about everyone crazy at one time or another, demonstrating that, to some extent, we’re pawns of the need to reproduce. It’s just weird that one of the primary engines of human progress is a compulsion for males to insert fleshy tubes into females’ fleshy pockets. The entire history of the 21st century hinges on a few instances of oral sex, like this – Al Gore gets mad at Clinton for sullying the Presidency with Oval Office BJs. Gore underutilizes the still very popular Clinton in his Presidential campaign and narrowly loses some important states. And there you have it – President George W. Bush and the 21st century.

The fascination with and rituals around eating get pretty weird, too. And look at magazine covers – all the time faces – just pretty faces.

As we better understand our brains, we’ll be able to change our drives and desires. Suppose your spouse has put on 160 pounds. Is it better to be resentful of your spouse or to rejigger your sexual tastes to fit your super-sized spouse?

I think by the end of the century, consciousness will begin to be transferable and average life spans will increase by at least 40 years. We can hope this will lead to a reduction in the rate of population growth. People who can look forward to very long lives should on average have fewer kids and have them later, if at all.

There will be glitches, of course. Nanotech will have to be watched. The benefits of increasing technology will have to be made available worldwide in such a way that it’s more attractive to join the modern world than to try to take down the modern world.

I doubt that we can count on non-selfish behaviour to turn around the degradation of our planet. A conscientious Prius-driving, recycling American still generates a lot of waste. (On a related note, smug Prius drivers are almost as bad as Audi drivers. “Ooh, I’m making less pollution, so I can drive however I want.”) And the world population will keep growing until living indefinitely (and, later, consciousness becoming digitizable and transferable) reduces the production of offspring.

Eventually, high-tech measures will have to be deployed to fix the worst messes we’ve made – wide-spread extinction, global warming and the acidification of the oceans, and the like. (This will be followed by more tech to correct the negative effects of previous high-tech fixes). Large swaths of the globe will be Disneyfied – artificially restored and made pretty and sweet – like what New York did with Times Square, but on a global scale.

19. At some point, you entered the world of trivia. In particular, professional competition of trivia via the game show ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’.  You did not have a good experience with them on your first, or second, time qualifying to compete on the show, which you recount, somewhat, in Noesis issue 150’s articles Three Letters of Protest Regarding “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and Request for Assistance from Mega Society Members.  What happened, Rick? 

Every quiz show has occasional glitches in which factual errors survive the fact-checking process. (It should work like this: a writer writes a question and cites a source. The question goes to a fact-checker who finds additional legit sources to confirm what should be the facts behind the question Fact-checkers, writers, and producers eliminate ambiguity and make sure the answer is “pinned.” I did an interview about the process.

On most quiz shows, most glitches don’t affect the outcome of the game. On Jeopardy! for instance, a glitchy question might come up, and no one answers it. The game goes on. Or someone gives an unexpected acceptable response. Judges check the answer during a commercial and perhaps award more points.

On Millionaire, however, since a player had to answer every question (at the time I was on the show) or withdraw from the game, a factually flawed question often knocked the player who received it out of the Hot Seat. It was Millionaire’s policy to rectify factually flawed questions, but they were getting sick of it – they’d had to do it many times. During our briefing, a contestant asked the executive producer what to do if we thought we got a bad question. A contestant had, very shortly before, gotten a bad question. The EP said, “Don’t worry about bad questions. Just play the game. If a question is wrong, we’ll look into it and make it right.”

In my case, they thought they could weasel out of it by claiming a non-straightforward and non-traditional interpretation of the question. The flawed multiple-choice question was:

“What capital city is located at the highest altitude above sea level?”

with the possible answer choices of Mexico City, Quito, Bogota, and Kathmandu. Because of faulty writing and fact-checking, Millionaire failed to include the actual correct answer of La Paz, Bolivia. (For people who’d like to quibble, Bolivia has two national capitals, and La Paz is one of them. It’s about four kilometers – two-and-a-half miles – above sea level.)

Millionaire tried to avoid responsibility for their error by arguing that they meant “Which of these four cities we gave you is the highest?” This interpretation goes against common sense and standard practice. I looked at 110,000 questions from productions of Millionaire in the U.S. and throughout the world, and their standard practice, as well as any other reasonable quiz show’s standard practice, is, if you mean “Which of these?” you write “Which of these?”

Since 1987, I’ve worked on a bunch of quiz shows, writing more than 10,000 questions. I co-created a quiz show which ran for a season on VH1, was co-head writer of the show, edited all its questions, and acted as a judge. Quiz show questions are my business. (Additionally, I’ve tutored the SAT and related multiple-choice tests since I was a teenager and have looked at more than 40,000 SAT-type questions. Multiple-choice questions are also my business.) I’m probably the person most likely and qualified to take a dim view of Millionaire’s ad hoc, disingenuous, self-serving, lazy and dishonest interpretation.

I concur with standard practice and common sense. No writer or producer would reasonably expect a contestant to know the relative altitudes of four arbitrarily chosen capital cities. It would be more reasonable to imagine that a contestant might have heard of the world’s highest capital city, but that city was absent from the answer choices.

The writer of the question (who’d never before written for a quiz show and who didn’t last very long) built the question from a list of altitudes of 30 random world cities in the World Almanac, apparently failing to realize that the omission of 96% of the world’s cities from the list might be a problem.

During legal proceedings, I saw Millionaire’s fact-checking notes on the question, which indicate that they wanted the highest capital, didn’t realize they didn’t have it, and fact-checked only the altitudes of the cities they did have. Someone noted that he or she thought that Ecuador might have two capitals (that would be Bolivia), but this wasn’t further pursued. Not knowing about La Paz, they had no knowledge of any quibbles about La Paz being a de facto capital – their research wasn’t anywhere near that thorough. (Currently, a Google search for the phrase “La Paz is the world’s “highest capital city” returns 97,800 results, while “Quito is the world’s highest capital city” returns just 7 results, a ratio of 13,970 to one. Of course, back in 2000 when Millionaire was fact-checking the question, Google wasn’t the go-to research tool.)

(And another thing – world cities have no official point from which altitude is measured. Quito’s city limits extend down into river gorges and up the side of a volcano. Altitudes found within its city limits vary by a couple miles. Miles! From Today in Ecuador: “The Metropolitan District of Quito (DMQ) covers an area of 422,802 hectares (almost 1,050,000 acres), with altitudinal ranges from 500 to 4.800 meters above sea level.”

Quito has a single altitude like Olympic athletes have a single height. The facts behind the altitude question are messy and ambiguous at best. Had Millionaire done a better job researching the question, they would’ve been forced to throw it out before it ever got to a contestant.)

If Millionaire’s writers and researchers, with all their resources and unlimited time to check their work, can’t come up with the correct answer, then they shouldn’t expect some schmuck alone in the Hot Seat to be able to come up with the answer. That schmuck should be invited back (and many contestants were invited back, until I came along).

Eventually, I sued them, but no one has ever won a lawsuit against a quiz show. After I sued, Millionaire changed the official rules so that they’re no longer obligated to come up with the correct answer. Contestants must choose the best answer from those offered, even if the correct answer isn’t among them. Nice!

Discussing soccer, the executive producer of Millionaire said that people need to accept bad calls from judges and referees, in soccer and on game shows. This is a lousy parallel to draw. A call in a World Cup match would need to be reviewed immediately (with just a few angles captured on video). Changing a call after a game could affect the rest of the tournament, not just the teams but also billions of fans, so it’s impossible to undo a call hours or days later. But a bad call on Millionaire affects just one person in the Hot Seat and his family. And researching a faulty question isn’t like reviewing a soccer call – you’re not looking at video in the middle of a soccer game – you can take time to do adequate research. It doesn’t change anything for anyone else to rectify a bad quiz show call for one person. You don’t even have to televise it.

20. What would rectify the situation to you?

This happened more than 14 years ago. The past 14 years haven’t been the greatest for the world. Next to it all, the Millionaire thing is nothing. I can continue to be annoyed by it, but I would be a big baby to still be crusading for rectification.

21. You have mastered multiple intellectual fields, especially with respect to having earned 12 years of university credit in one year at Excelsior College. In fact, you did this through a little-known system of taking tests, which continues your long-experience with the obsession of IQ tests into the domain of tests of general and specific knowledge.  How did you discover this method of earning credit?  Why did you pursue this means of earning tertiary educational credit rather than traditional classroom-based forms of education?

In high school, I wanted to go to Harvard. (I almost certainly would’ve gotten in. My SATs were in the top 1% of Harvard applicants, grades were excellent (until my senior year meltdown), was student body co-president, came from a geographically underrepresented part of the country, and back then, Harvard admitted about 18% of applicants, compared to about 6% today.) Then I freaked out, scuttled my application, and ended up attending my hometown school, the University of Colorado, which I didn’t take very seriously. Did well in classes I liked, blew off classes I didn’t, so lots of As and Fs. Didn’t graduate.

Years later, I’m underemployed in LA. My wife is working at a fancy company in Santa Monica. She comes home and talks about the flashy clothes and jewelry worn by the other women who work there. Can’t afford to buy her jewelry from a store but I do some research and find out that jewelry is marked-up like crazy – sometimes 500 or 1,000 percent. Start making jewelry for my wife – the individual components are affordable. But I need access to equipment. Turns out CSUN, a local university, offers a jewelry-making class. I go back to college to make jewelry.

At CSUN, I think, “I’m in my 30s and more mature and would probably be a better student this time around.” So I decide to sign up for real classes – astronomy, advanced stats, econ, group theory – and get my degree. Turns out I still hate sitting in a classroom, plus CSUN has a bunch of general education requirements I don’t want to deal with.

About this time, someone in the Mega Society tells me about schools that let you test out of subjects, which leads me to Regents College of the University of the State of New York (now called Excelsior University), an accredited school that awards credit in a subject if you get a high enough score on the GRE test for that subject. (The GRE is the SAT for grad school.) The GRE comes from ETS, the same company that does the SAT, and I’ve always done well on their tests.

So I go on a rampage. There’s an ETS testing center in Pasadena that offers GRE subject tests once a month. For a year, I take a test a month, studying for each test while working as a doorman at a bar called Mom’s Saloon in Brentwood. (The loud music doesn’t bother me – I used to study for Jeopardy! while bouncing.) I get good scores, earning a year’s worth of college credit in each of 12 subjects and fulfilling the requirements to graduate with eight majors.

22. Not limited to the academic domain, you have entered, somewhat haphazardly, into other domains of inquiry and human endeavor such as acting and physique building. In particular, you have some short films featuring you, directed by J.D. Mata.  What compelled entering into yet another domain of work?

I’ve always been a pretty decent actor but just didn’t have the fortitude to go through all the rejection that usually accompanies trying to be a professional actor. (One key to acting is not going overboard with emotional intensity. Most moments aren’t moments of extreme emotion.) Plus, I’m not overly photogenic. I act on the infrequent occasions when someone offers me the chance. (I’ve always hoped to sneak into acting by becoming famous enough to be cast in cameos as a curiosity or inside joke.)

23. Furthermore, based on your work in nude modeling, and so on, you have years of experience with bodybuilding and sculpting. However, this seems to have come attached to a downside of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  How many times do you go to the gym every week and month?  How much circa 10 years ago?

Currently go to five gyms a day. They’re in a circuit, with a mile or two between each gym. Luckily for me, L.A. has a lot of gyms, and I have cheap membership deals. Takes about two hours to do the circuit, which includes 80 to 100 sets. At my most OCDish, I was averaging nearly eight workouts a day, with a long streak of working out at least 50 times a week. At earlier, less-obsessed times, I averaged about ten workouts a week.

**********************Bibliography at end of part seven***********************


In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1990-96); and Writer (Part One)

Mr. Rick G. Rosner


Part one of seven, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: geography, culture, and linguistic background, and attenuated Jewish cultural influence during upbringing; Noesis issue 57 article entitled When Good IQs Happen to Bad People, and early signs of being a child prodigy; experiences in grade school, junior high, high school, and college; long history of forging identities beginning in entering high school another time, and many more, motivations for the behavior, outcomes for him, and tease for upcoming book entitled Dumbass Genius; ideas on cosmology and physics beginning at age 10, coming to a realization at age 21, Noesis 58 comments on the equivalence, and subsequent development of the equivalence to the present day; discussion on a mathematical model to represent the equivalence and a layman analogy for this equivalence; coined phrase of “lazy voodoo physics,” definition of it, and relation of this to considerations about 20th and 21st century cosmology and physics; entrance into the ultra-high IQ community, the Mega Society, forging another identity, pseudonym of Richard Sterman, Noesis, and eventual amends for forgery; three trends in Noesis of high-level material across arts and sciences, mix of scatological material (circa 1990-96), and his time as an editor from 1990-1996, earning position of editor, and thoughts on fulfilling the purpose of the journal’s constitution; My Problem With Black People (1992), argument at the time for equivalent intelligence of the races, differing views of other Mega Society members, and current stance on the issue; current membership in societies and personal use through membership; Intelligence Quotient (IQ) pervading American culture, Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM) and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), some independent researchers’ work and test constructors’ productions for those achieving maximum or near-maximum scores on mainstream tests, and this setting the groundwork for his obsession of IQ tests; Titan Test perfect score, and range, mean, and median for best high-range IQ test scores; criticism of some intelligence tests and solution through non-verbal/‘culture-fair’ tests, and recommendations for identifying giftedness; and interest in health from a young age and the reason for it.

Keywords: arts, child prodigy, college, cosmology, equivalence, Genius, giftedness, Giga Society, Intelligence, IQ, Jewish, mathematical, Mega Society, Mega Test, Noesis, physics, Rick G. Rosner, Richard Sterman, Raven’s Progressive Matrices, sciences, Titan Test, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.

1. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside?  How do you find this influencing your development? 

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, with my mom, stepdad and brother, and spent a month each summer with my dad and stepmom and their kids in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My ancestors came from Eastern Europe and the Baltics by way of Cincinnati and Shreveport. I’m Jewish, but out west, Jewish cultural influence is somewhat attenuated.

2. In Noesis issue 57’s article When Good IQs Happen to Bad People, you describe some of your experience as a kid.  Could you elaborate on some of the history before entering grade school?

I showed some signs of being a child prodigy – by the age of about 18 months, I’d learned the alphabet, and by age 3 ¾, I’d taught myself to read at a near-adult level, which was unusual for the era. I was good with puzzles and math – but this wasn’t encouraged. My parents thought I’d do better growing up as a normal kid, which did not go smoothly.

Some non-prodigy stuff – the theme music to Perry Mason scared me – I’d have to go hide behind the couch. My first crush was on Patty Duke on The Patty Duke Show, who I somehow conflated with my dad’s sister, Aunt Janice, whom I saw during summer visitation with my dad in Los Angeles. My first memory is of the Raggedy Ann & Andy curtains and bedspread in my room. We had a very nice cocker spaniel named Tinkerbell, who died when I was four. (This is before cockers became overbred and high-strung.)

I was terrified of swimming, which was part of my generally being a wuss – had to be peeled off the side of the pool by the swim teacher.

3. What about your time in grade school, junior high, high school, and college?  In particular, what do you consider pivotal moments in each of these cross-sections of latter portions of your early life?

I grew up nerdy and interested in science, deciding at a young age to make it my job to figure out the universe. At age six, I was left with a scary babysitter, which led me to start spinning clockwise, chanting to God, and to be sent to my first shrink.

I was uncoordinated. Each year, I’d enter the 50-yard-dash on track & field day, and each year, would come in last. (Maybe the other not-so-fast kids knew not to enter the race and avoid the embarrassment.) Even as a kid, I had gross caveman feet with weirdly long second toes. I used to take off my shoe to make girls scream and run away – I liked the attention.

In the 1970s, there was no such thing as nerd chic. If you were nerdy, you were probably lonely. But, like many misguided nerds, I thought my intelligence and niceness would inspire a girl to look past my nerdiness. I spent the second semester of ninth grade building a Three-Dimensional Gaussian Distribution Generator to demonstrate to my honors math class. The machine dropped a thousand BBs through a pyramidal tower of overlapping half-inch grids into a 24-by-12 array of columns. It was a supercharged Plinko machine with an added spatial dimension, forming a half-bell of BBs, thanks to the laws of probability. During its construction, I thought, “A girl will see this elegant experimental apparatus, think I’m brilliant, and become my girlfriend.” I completed the BB Machine in time to demonstrate it to the class on the last day of school. No one cared. Of course they didn’t – it was the last day of junior high, and a dweeb was pouring BBs into a plastic pyramid.

Realizing that my nerdiness was standing in the way of ever having a girlfriend, I began changing myself – lifting weights and wearing contact lenses.

Towards the end of high school, I saw my IQ test scores, which maxed out at about 150. I decided that a 150 IQ wasn’t high enough for me to become the world-changing physicist I wanted to be, so I decided to become kind of a meathead – a stripper and a bar bouncer. At about the same time I was beginning my meathead career, I started to take high-end IQ tests, scoring in the 170s, 180s, and eventually 190s. I also found out that among the reasons I’d never scored much above 150 on school-administered IQ tests is that the tests themselves don’t go much above 150. (This makes sense – if you’re a teacher or administrator trying to figure out whether a kid needs educational enrichment, it doesn’t matter much whether a kid’s IQ is 150 or 165. With either IQ, that kid will go stir-crazy in a regular classroom.)

I’d never quit thinking about physics, but my new, high scores gave me more confidence that I might eventually be able to theorize productively. Of course, a few points should probably be subtracted from my IQ for basing my life on IQ scores.

4. You have a long history with forging identities beginning with entering high school another time, and many more.  What motivated this behavior?  How long did you pursue this ‘calling’ of entering high school?  In particular, how did each experience turn out?  How many times did you do this?

Though I had started trying to de-nerdify myself as early as ninth grade, it wasn’t effective. In my small town, my classmates were well aware of my nerdiness – there was no erasing that. After years of trying to be cool and failing, I was very frustrated and had something like a freak-out. I decided that I would not leave high school a virgin. So after graduating high school with the class of 1978, using forged transcripts, I went back to high school for a second senior year (class of ’79) with my other family in Albuquerque. I only lasted ten weeks and didn’t come close to even making out with a girl.

A note on inappropriateness: I think standards have changed since I did this. The creepiness factor has increased. But since I was just 18 – still roughly high school age – and barely talked to any girls much less date them when I returned to high school, it was pretty harmless.

1980: Went on a double-date to a high school prom because my girlfriend (who, like me, was in college) had a best friend who was still in high school and thought we should all go to her prom.

Also 1980: I went to L.A. to try to sell my back-to-high-school story to a Hollywood producer. Thought it would help sell the story if I were back in high school at the time. Tried to talk my way into a couple of L.A. schools without any transcripts, just a class of ’81 letterman’s jacket.

I eventually spent several more semesters in high school, but rather than tell about them here, I’ll just tease my forthcoming book, Dumbass Genius, which will detail my more than ten years as a sometime high school student.

5. In terms of your ideas related to cosmology and physics, at 10, you began thinking about the universe.  The reason for existence.  At 21, you came to a realization.  You note, “All the big theories are built around big equivalences.”  Namely, your realization of an equivalence between the operation of information in an individual consciousness and the operation of space & matter in the universe.  Both have self-consistency.  In addition to this, and later in response to a similar topic in Noesis 58, you state, “I believe in matter and space as information held in some vast awareness…” What do you mean by these?  In particular, the idea of a great equivalence.  How have you developed the idea from the original equivalence to the present day? 

I’ve continued to think about this stuff and think I have a pretty good theoretical framework, though it needs more math.

I believe that it’s almost impossible to have a large, self-consistent system of information without that system having some degree of consciousness – probably a high degree. Consciousness can be characterized as every part of a system knowing what’s going on, more or less, with every other part of the system, within a framework that assigns (emotional) values to events perceived by the system. (Of course there are processes which are peripheral to consciousness – most of the time, we’re not aware of the finer points of breathing or walking or why we like looking at cat videos and butts.)

Plenty of people think that the universe is a massive processor of information. Quantum mechanics mathematicizes the limitations of the universe’s information-processing ability. Being finite, the universe cannot observe itself with infinite precision.

6. Provided the nature of these particular equivalences, especially related to the universe, do you have a mathematical model to represent this equivalence?  Furthermore, do you have a layman analogy for this equivalence?

I think the most efficient model of the information contained in a complex, self-contained and self-consistent system of information looks like the universe – locally three-dimensional (spatially) with linear time and particles and forces that transact business more or less the way they do in the universe itself.

I don’t believe in the big bang – instead, I believe that what looks like a big bang is kind of a trick of perspective, based on the universe being made of information. Parts of the universe which have less information in common with us are more distant and red-shifted. The apparent age of the universe is a measure of the amount of information it contains (or has in play). Somewhat similarly, train tracks don’t really touch at the horizon.

Kind of picture the universe as being at a slow boil. Some parts are energy-rich and expanding, while other parts are burned out and pushed to the outskirts by the expanding regions, waiting for their chance to expand again.

7. You have coined the phrase “lazy voodoo physics”. How do you define “lazy voodoo physics”? Why resort to this form of considering major interests such as the structure and fate our universe, or existence of other universes, and other concepts arising from 20th and 21st century cosmology and physics?

Lazy voodoo physics is my term for crappy metaphysical theorizing (which I’ve done some of, particularly as a little kid). I prefer to think that my current metaphysical theorizing is less crappy.

It is possible to think about the universe without a full mathematical arsenal. George Gamow, who came up with the big bang, was notoriously unschooled in math. Immanuel Kant was among the first people to endorse the idea of galaxies, and Edgar Allen Poe offered a reasonable solution to Olbers’ Paradox. Einstein himself had to be pointed towards the mathematical framework for general relativity by his friends. Trying to imagine the processes of the universe with the math to come later is not voodoo physics. Metaphysics doesn’t have to be voodoo physics, either.

8. When did you enter into the world of the ultra-high IQ community?  In particular, the Mega Society.  In it, once more, you forged an identity.  What motivated this resurgence of forging an identity?  For instance, the use of the pseudonym Richard Sterman within the publications of the Mega Society journal, Noesis.   To make amends, and needing stating, you did apologize to members and readers of the journal for the false identity portrayal. 

When I first qualified for the Mega Society in late 1985, I was depressed from a bad breakup and would try to make myself less depressed by doing stupid stuff. After receiving a score on the Mega Test that qualified me for the Mega Society, I wrote to Marilyn Savant (who must’ve been in charge of membership at the time) and asked, “Hey, can I join your club…and want to go on a date? I’m a stripper.” Marilyn wrote back and said my score didn’t qualify me for Mega. She had no response to the personal invitation. (Later, my score did turn out qualify me for Mega. My score’s IQ equivalent jumped around as more scores came in and the test was repeatedly recalibrated.)

On the Mega Test, I had tied for the second-highest score in the country. The CBS Morning News called to invite me to be on the show. I asked the producer if I should wear my tux or my loincloth. She immediately cancelled me for being a crazy person. In my defense, I worked in bars until two in the morning and didn’t wake up in time to see what morning news shows were like. I thought, stupidly, that the CBS Morning News would want somebody really fun. (Fun = loincloth.)

The other people with high scores were two Los Angeles math professors, Solomon Golomb and Herbert Taylor, and the Governor of New Hampshire. People seemed really annoyed that I, a roller skating waiter, stripper, bar bouncer, and amateur undercover high school student, was in their company.

In 1990, when the Titan Test came out, I remembered how appalled at me people were after the Mega. So I decided to take the test using my girlfriend’s last name instead of my own, figuring that if I did well on the Titan, I could get a fresh start at talking to reporters without being tainted by being the person who shocked people the first time around. If this sounds dumb, it’s because it was. My Twitter handle is @dumbassgenius because I tend to do a mix of smart and dumb stuff (not usually on purpose). I wasn’t trying to fool anyone for test purposes, I was just trying to sidestep my stupid past.

I did really well on the Titan, finally joining the Mega Society and becoming editor of the Mega Society journal. After a few months, I told everyone, “Hey, I’m the same guy who did well on the Mega Test.” I don’t think anyone was outraged. (I also took the Mega Test for a second time as Richard Sterman. But I soon came clean.)

9. In reading through the available literature of Noesis, i.e. available online, three trends persist to me.  One, the range of high-level and engaging material across the arts and science, e.g. the lucid description of relativity by Chris Cole at the end of issue 69 entitled Relativity – A Primer.  Two, the mix of the occasional scatological material in the writing, mostly c. 1990-1996.  Three, the length of your time as the main editor from 1990-1996.  How did you come into the world of the Mega Society?  How did you earn the position of editor for six years?  Do you think the journal fulfilled part of the purpose stated in the constitution to “facilitate interaction among its members and to assist them in gaining access to resources to accomplish their individual purposes”?

When the editorship was offered to me, I was underemployed. I’d written for some TV quiz shows and thought that work would continue but didn’t know how to get that work. The publisher of Noesis said I could have the subscription money if I’d edit it. It wasn’t much, but everything helps when you’re a bouncer and nude model who’s trying to cover a mortgage and pay for hair transplants. I edited Noesis for six years because no one else was clamoring to do it. Towards the end, I started getting TV work again, and became even less reliable about getting issues out on time. Other members volunteered to take over.

As editor, I didn’t do too much editing. Most material submitted to me went straight into Noesis. I may have left out some crackpot submissions claiming to have disproved Einstein and perhaps some angry letters from people who thought they deserved to be admitted to Mega though they didn’t meet the entrance requirements.

Some of the writing you term scatological may have been my writing about myself. While most of the material submitted to Noesis is at a high intellectual level or at least reflects striving in that direction, I was trying to be entertaining and tell the embarrassing and I hope funny truth about myself. I eventually became a professional comedy writer, and, without looking back on my writing for Noesis, I’m sure much of it was goofier and more obnoxious (and perhaps more entertaining) than the average article.

I’m fairly pessimistic about the effectiveness of most high-IQ journals, though I’ve seen some good ones. My editorship was at the very beginning of the internet era, so most communication was by snail mail. Now, of course, high-IQ organizations are online, which speeds up discourse. The Mega Society online journal has some good material and discussions.

10. Amidst the busywork of editorials and organization of the material, upon reading Noesis, one article struck me regarding the title and content entitled My Problem With Black People.  At the time, August 1992, other members of the Mega Society argued for the possibility of intellectual inferiority of blacks.  You argued otherwise.  In that, by your estimate, all races have about equal intelligence.  Although in defense of all parties involved in the discussion of issue 72, the articles were written in 1992.  Much work written in public discourse has progressed on the issue of intelligence and race: ‘does race count as an appropriate scientific category?’, ‘do IQ tests measure intelligence?’ and so forth.  Where do you stand on this issue now?

I don’t have a problem with black people – in my juvenile manner, just wanted an attention-grabbing title. I believe that most work which tries to or claims to establish a relationship between intelligence and race has elements of creepy bullshit. Little good and lots and lots of bad has been done by people who claim that certain races or nationalities are mentally inferior to others.

Intelligence has a fluid relationship with environment, and all sorts of things can happen during an individual’s lifetime which may or may not bring his or her intelligence to fruition. Sometimes, being imperfectly adapted to an environment may elicit the expression of intelligence – think of perfectly adapted jocks who never had to learn to think versus awkward nerds who, because of physical imperfection, have to follow the riskier strategy of original thought. So, people who want to eliminate or reduce the reproductive opportunities of groups that may be considered inferior (according to crappy, wobbly, arbitrary, prejudiced and culturally loaded standards) may actually be trying to eliminate one of the triggers for intelligence – being at odds with one’s circumstances. More great art has been made by people who are ill-at-ease with their world than by people who are perfectly at home in it.

Furthermore, this is a particularly dumb time for arguments about racial differences in intelligence, as more and more of our effective intelligence comes from our interaction with technology. Tech is turning us all into geniuses, though it doesn’t seem like it when you see so many people behaving stupidly with their devices. Since World War Two, the average IQ of all of humanity has gone up by 15 points – the Flynn Effect. One of the main suspects in this upslope is the pervasiveness of complicated modern culture. Culture and tech will keep getting more complicated, and humans in conjunction with our devices will keep getting smarter. Tech that’s built into our bodies isn’t too far in the future. More than one percent of the population already has built-in computers – pacemakers, cochlear implants, etc. So who cares about some hard-to-measure few-IQ-point alleged difference among groups when we’re all going to end up being increasingly augmented geniuses?

People who insist on racial inferiority are creeps. We can discuss cultural differences – for instance, there seem to be cultural differences in causes of passenger jet pilot error – but the idea that some races need to be babysat by other races is gross. We’re all going to need to figure out how to work with each (augmented) other as tech reshapes the world.

11. How many societies do you have membership inside of now?  What use do you get from these societies? 

Don’t know how many societies I belong to. People ask me to click on things on Facebook, and sometimes clicking means that I’ve joined something. Could be 8 societies, could be 15. I’m not very good at Facebook and don’t live on it, as does your Aunt Angie, with her constant posting of cat and casserole pictures. Currently living on Twitter.

12. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) pervades American culture more than most, based on my reading of the culture, with a litany of reactions ranging from reverence to laughter to skepticism – and serious scholarship.  Many neuropsychological tests developed by those with appropriate qualifications have developed some of the most well-used and researched tests such as the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM) and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS).  However, mainstream standardized intelligence tests tend to have maximum scores at 4-sigma above the norm (160/164/196; SD-15/16/24, respectively).  In the development of this work, some independent researchers and test constructors began to make tests for those earning maximum, or near-maximum, scores on mainstream tests.  In the process, tests and societies developed for the high-ability population.  This environment set the stage for the flourishing of your obsession: IQ tests.  For example, on a high-ability test called the Titan Test – one of the most difficult, you set a record score.  In fact, you earned a perfect score.  You have taken many more.  What are some of the other tests?  In particular, where does your range, mean, and median lie for the set of high-range IQ tests taken?

It’s hard to pin down what my actual score might be. It’s silly to even think that people have one set IQ and that it’s precisely measurable. My lowest scores probably reflect less than my maximum effort, and my highest scores probably grant me some extra points due to crazily high levels of diligence plus vast experience with these tests. It doesn’t really matter unless we want to turn IQ testing into a reality show sport. And we should – why do we have a bunch of competition shows about people cooking from Mystery Baskets and none with IQ showdowns?

13. In the testing of intelligence, much criticism exists towards the potential for bias inherent in the tests themselves.  For example, the use of an examinee’s non-native language in intelligence tests.  If an individual speaks a different native language than the test provides, they may score low in the verbal section, which may decrease the composite score.  To solve this problem, non-verbal/’culture fair’ tests exist.  However, many of these culture fair tests have lower ceilings.  What do you see in the future for high-range non-verbal tests?  How will this change general intelligence testing and the identification of gifted individuals?

Intelligence testing has always been kind of a mess, often arbitrary and unfair. I think the best, easiest thing to do is test kids repeatedly, using a variety of tests. There are plenty of good, long-established tests. Trouble is, school districts are broke and don’t have the resources for repeated testing.

We can hope that tech will make schools more responsive to individual needs. Schools can be a little behind the curve. A century ago, school was the most interesting part of a kid’s day – it’s where the information was. Now, with the rest of our lives being so information- and entertainment-rich, school can be relatively uninteresting, which isn’t helped by politicians and people who don’t like paying property tax starving schools of resources.

School needs somewhat of a makeover – increasing automation and personalization, which the ongoing tech wave should help make possible. Don’t know if a push for better giftedness-finder diagnostics needs a special push. Would guess that this won’t be overlooked as part of high-tech changes to education.

Currently a crazy thing is the pressure on a few tens of thousands of high-end students, with endless AP courses and brutal study loads, for a seven percent chance of getting into an Ivy. When I was in school, the average AP kid took 1.3 AP courses; now it’s more than 7. I assume our weird college admissions system will get somewhat straightened out by technological advances in education, or will become weird in exciting new ways.

14. You have great interest in health.  In fact, you had interest in health since a young age.  Why the deep interest in the health from a young age?

At first, I wanted to build muscles to impress girls. (This sort of worked, but it took many years of de-nerdification.) People were fit in the 70s – clothes were tight and high-waisted. The Arnold Schwarzenegger documentary, Pumping Iron, which came out in 1976, introduced many people to serious muscle-building. Weight training incidentally introduced me to some healthy eating habits, plus I’ve always been a little fat-phobic and perhaps over-disciplined.

Only much later did I read Kurzweil’s book, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, and go from a few vitamins a day to a zillion. I don’t buy Kurzweil’s entire argument – that the Singularity will happen around 2040, and anyone who can live until then can live forever – but I do think there will be many biotech breakthroughs in the coming decades which may offer extra years of life. I want to stick around – the future is where you can find a lot of cool stuff.

**********************Bibliography at end of part seven***********************


In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Reverend Ivan Stang: Co-Founder & Author, Church of the SubGenius

 Reverend Ivan Stang


Interview with co-founder of and author for the Church of the SubGenius, Reverend Ivan Stang, discussing the following subject-matter: geographic, cultural, and linguistic heritage for family background, and their concomitant influence on his development; youth and coming to this point including grades, young sexual frustration, and general anger toward the world at a young age; design, development, and foundation of the Church of the SubGenius, and key components to the foundation of a religion; pivotal transition to the design, development, and foundation of the Church of the SubGenius; three key things to know about J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs; definitions of ‘Bob’, ‘The Conspiracy’, and ‘Slack’; the way in which The Church of the SubGenius differs from mainstream religions; the way in which the Church of the SubGenius differs from fringe religions; controversial nature related to the Church of the SubGenius; infinite funding for an organization; unpopular reactions to the church; Church of the SubGenius and other groups going in the near, and far, future, and work on a screenplay or radio play; recommendation of The Onion; and fear, worry, or concern for the Church of the SubGenius in the future.

Keywords: Association for Consciousness Exploration, Chas Smith, Christian, Church of the SubGenius, Dallas, Dr. Hal Robins, Dr. Philo Drummond, Federico Fellini, Fleischer, Fort Worth, Frank Zappa, G. Gordon Gordon, Harvard, H.P. Lovecraft, Hunter Thompson, Jay Kinney, Jimi Hendrix, John Birch Society, MAD Magazine, McGraw-Hill, Monty Python, Orson Welles, Paul Mavrides, R. Crumb, Ray Harryhausen, Reverend Ivan Stang, Rip Off Press, Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Shea, Robert Williams, Seculars, Simon & Schuster, South Carolina, Steve Wilcox, The Firesign Theatre, The Merry Pranksters, The Onion, The Three Stooges, Tim McGinnis, Tom Wolfe, Warner Brothers, WASP, Zap Comics.

1. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside? How do you find this influencing your development?

Long story short: we were seculars surrounded by the religious. I am technically a standard WASP, but “mixed race” — half Yankee, half Southerner. My father is from a small town in South Carolina but is a Harvard-educated lawyer and retired Navy captain. My mom was raised in Connecticut by a Bronx Irish mother and an award winning writer/architect father (with the worst stutter I have ever heard, to this day). While my father is an expert on the Bible and even teaches somewhat subversive Bible studies at the local Methodist church, he is nonetheless what ignorant people would call an atheist. I was raised on science and science fiction. “Pappy” tried to get me interested in hunting and horseback riding, but that didn’t take. I’m more a wildlife photographer and amateur zoologist than a hunter. I hike in the woods and hunt in video games.

I grew up in Fort Worth and Dallas — most of my family now lives on a big ranch outside the Metroplex — so culturally I was surrounded by Southern Baptist kids. I had to pretend to be a Christian; I suppose one might say I got just a wee bit tired of that.

I knew I was an outsider during my first weeks of Kindergarten. At age 5 I was interested in sex (although I didn’t know what it was) and I was NOT interested in baseball. I knew every dinosaur’s name — which was easy in 1958 — but I couldn’t tell a hot rod from a Volkswagen.

I was a nerd before it was cool, in other words.

2. How was your youth? How did you come to this point?

I did fine in school until we moved to Dallas and my parents put me in a private school for males only, St. Mark’s School of Texas. We were not rich and once again I didn’t fit in. I went from straight As and foiled interest in girls to struggling for Cs and NO GIRLS AROUND AT ALL. I had to hang with the theater club because that was the only part of school that involved girls, imported from other schools. My love life was adversely affected at this critical age, which helped make me angry at the entire world, and it also led to my foolishly getting married at age 20 to the first young lady who would give me much more than the time of day. Luckily she was a very nice person and the perfect mother.

Did I mention anger? I was a very angry and lonesome young man. At that time my parents were fighting continuously and drugs/alcohol were a problem across the board; of course, for this was the early 1970s, post-hippie, pre-punk, but all drugs.

I had lots of interesting friends at that private school, though, and was voted Weirdest in the Class of 1971. I campaigned hard for that post; I earned it. I had been doing weird art projects, mostly monster/sf oriented but later more consciously surreal, since the age of 10, when I bought my first 8mm movie camera with money earned by cleaning dog kennels.

By age 15 I had won grand prize in the Kodak Teenage Movie Awards for a stop-motion short I’d done in “claymation.” This led to international film festival awards and a big head. By college I thought I was the next Orson Welles, and produced an ambitious 45-minute 16mm underground film called LET’S VISIT THE WORLD OF THE FUTURE. This was heavily influenced by a lucky early exposure to “underground comix” — the work of R. Crumb, Robert Williams, etc. in things like Zap Comics — and by The Firesign Theater, a pre-Monty Python American comedy group that remains way ahead of its time. The weird art that I was discovering helped keep me from suicide — because I felt that maybe this was something I could do right. Weird movies, weird art. But mostly movies, then.

Instead of finishing college I got married and took a documentary film job on the Rosebud Lakota Indian Reservation in South Dakota. For two years I had an often adventurous and educational time in this bizarre “prairie ghetto.” It was there that I learned that when everybody else is seeing a UFO, I CAN’T!

When we returned to Dallas, my sister in law introduced me to an interesting fellow, Steve Wilcox, aka Dr. Philo Drummond. He was the first person I had ever met who was into comic books and Captain Beefheart and everything else weird and kooky. This describes half the people I know now, but then, it was a first! We compared our collections of fringe publications, UFO paperbacks, kook pamphlets, etc., and at one point thought, “Hey, we could make a fake brochure just like this little John Birch Society pamphlet, and leave it in Laundromats to freak people out!” That notion became SubGenius Pamphlet #1, which we printed on Jan. 2, 1980.

3. Before moving into the core discussion on the design, development, and foundation of the Church of the SubGenius, you have discussed the core elements of any religion, what three things does any religion need to have to flourish?

A religion really needs only one thing: to make believers feel like they’re better than everyone else. A perceived oppressor and a perceived savior are helpful, but the main thing is telling people what they most want to hear.

I have observed seemingly educated people falling for the most blatantly ludicrous notions simply because it was what they most wanted to believe. As my Pappy said recently, “I believe what I need to believe.” To me that sadly sums up the human condition. I have seen some extreme and depressing examples of this, resulting in my having to personally deprogram the gullible from my own fake cult! In some notable cases, I failed.

4. What do you consider a pivotal moment in the transition to the design, development, and foundation of the Church of the SubGenius?

The primary thing was my friendship with Philo Drummond. All of the basics of the Church came from our verbal “jam sessions” in 1978 and 1979. There was a third main contributor very early on, “Dr. X,” the late Monte Dhooge, but he died young. Another pivotal event was probably when the late Tim McGinnis, a young book editor in New York, found SubG Pamphlet #1 in the back seat of my sister in law’s car on a picnic in 1982, flipped out, and offered us a book deal — which in turn allowed us to score a literary agent, the late Jane Browne of Chicago.

Prior to Tim’s offer, we had sent Pamphlet #1 as a possible book project outline to every publisher I could find in Writer’s Digest. We got 150 rejection slips, including ones from McGraw-Hill, Rip Off Press, and Simon & Schuster, all of whom later made decent money off our books and comics.

In the trashcans of Rip Off Press and Last Gasp Comics, two artists, Paul Mavrides and Jay Kinney respectively, found that Pamphlet, and they were the ones who helped us put it in the hands of other artists and also reviewers — that was our big leg up in the early 1980s.

Yet another pivotal moment was in 1990, when I was invited to speak at a pagan festival called Starwood, run by some folks in Cleveland, the Association for Consciousness Exploration or A.C.E. That in turn introduced me to a lot of people in Ohio who ended up being huge contributors, not least of all “Princess Wei R. Doe,” my wife. Cleveland, perhaps ironically considering its rep as a rust-belt dump, turned out to be much friendlier ground for me than Dallas had been. I changed into a happy man after that move. I got Slack.

5. As you have stated many times in public forums, and maybe private ones too, for those unaware of J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs, i.e. ‘the unsaved’, what three things do they need to know?

If they don’t instantly see what’s funny about it, they should probably avoid it. 2. If they can’t read between the lines, they should probably stop reading. 3. If they often confuse MAD Magazine, or Saturday Night Live, with the news, they should RUN FOR DEAR LIFE.

Beyond that, the key points are “Bob,” Slack, and The Conspiracy.

6. Regarding ‘Bob’, ‘The Conspiracy’, and ‘Slack’, how do you define each term? Why did these become a foundation within the creation of the Church of the SubGenius?

Slack = the goal, what we all want (although it’s different or each person). The Conspiracy (of the Normals) = what hinders Slack. “Bob” = the magic formula which facilitates Slack. But a major aspect of “Bob” Dobbs is the graphic portrait of “Bob.” That single image, inexplicable as it is, somehow ties all of it together. The moment that Philo showed me his book of clip art and we both simultaneously saw that damn halftone face was when we both knew we had something. We still do not know what.

7. How does the Church of the SubGenius differ from most mainstream religions, e.g. Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism), Islam (Shia, Sunni, Sufi, and Kharijite), Hinduism, Chinese Traditional Religions, Buddhism, various Ethnic Religions, African Traditional religions, Sikhism, and so on? 

I suppose the biggest difference is that we admit we are bullshitting you. In that respect it is a remarkably honest religion. Also, we don’t define Slack; it’s different for each person, so there are no absolute values — except maybe for the tricky part about not robbing others of their Slack. Most religions become ever more specific about “right” and “wrong” and are essentially formulas. We do not provide any stable formula; in fact we illustrate that trying to fit human behavior into codified formulas is folly.

Also, we pay taxes.

One of my favorite lines is, “We’re like any other religion. It’s not that we love “Bob” all that much, it’s that we love the idea of everybody else going to Hell.”

I hope it goes without saying that most SubGeniuses don’t even believe in “Bob,” much less Hell.

8. Furthermore, how does it differ from other fringe religions, e.g. Christianity (Restorianism, Chinese Originated Churches, Church of the East, and Unitarian Universalism), Juche, Spiritism, Judaism, Bahá’í, Jainism, Shinto, Cao Dai, Zoroastrianism, Tenrikyo, Neo-Paganism, Rastafarianism, Scientology, Pastafarianism, Mormonism, Arceusology, Discordianism, Paganism, Crowleyites, and so on?

We’re much, much funnier than any of them, even Scientology.

9. What do you consider the most controversial part of your church compared to the mainline religions? In addition, what do you consider the most controversial compared to the other fringe religions? How do you examine the issue?

Some people become sincerely upset that we portray the God of the Bible as a monster from outer space. No punishments are threatened for sins like gluttony, adultery, addiction, etc. I guess the main point of contention is that we are making cruel fun of literally everybody’s most cherished beliefs, often simply because they are cherished. We are the Balloon Poppers, the Antidote to All Placebos.

10. If you had infinite funding, what organization would you found? What question would you research for an answer?

The world doesn’t need another organization, but if I had infinite funding I have a very expensive movie screenplay I’d love to see produced (with my son, an actual Hollywood director, directing), and a video game idea that would cost more to produce than Grand Theft Auto 5. If it was TRULY INFINITE funding, I suppose establishing a Fun Police would be good. We’d force everyone to have his or her idea of fun. That would not be cheap, due to all the special cases. Also we would start the Mind Your Own Business Police.

11. Did you ever have unpopular reactions to your church? Can you provide an example? 

We get more butthurt grief and criticism from stodgy New Agers of various stripes than from, say, Christians. It’s not on the average person’s radar, but attracts attention from people who are already fanatics about something. It’s Kook Flypaper. We get hate mail from pseudo-intellectuals for not being serious enough, and for being grossly ambiguous (one of our specialties that I’m most proud of). I used to get death threats from white supremacist groups because of my unkind reviews of their literature, to the extent that I’ve had to call the FBI a couple of times. On the other hand, we got investigated as a hate group by the Secret Service and the FBI, but they must have found us relatively boring.

The worst thing that ever happened to us on a personal level was a child custody case in which a simpleton New York state family court judge denied custody to a very worthy mother because of her involvement with the Church of the SubGenius. (Google “Bevilacqua SubGenius Child Custody Case.”) She regained custody when the father proved himself to be a complete and utter scoundrel, but for 3 years a sane, hard-working, educated mother was denied access to her child mainly because she had taken part in our “cult,” and Judge Punch didn’t have what most people would call common sense.

12. Who most influenced you? Can you recommend any seminal books/articles by them?

I read a lot and seek out unusual movies, so my list would be practically endless. As far as really deep influences, I’d have to say, in this order: my parents (both had sick senses of humor), the Warner Brothers cartoons, The Three Stooges, Popeye cartoons (the Fleischer ones), monster movies in general but especially those by Ray Harryhausen, underground comics in general, The Firesign Theater, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, H.P. Lovecraft, the writer Colin Wilson, Robert Anton Wilson/ Robert Shea for their novel ILLUMINATUS, Federico Fellini, Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe, The Merry Pranksters, and many friends including Philo Drummond, G. Gordon Gordon, Puzzling Evidence, Paul Mavrides, a bunch of guys in Little Rock once called Doktorz 4 “Bob,” the late Chas Smith, Lonesome Cowboy Dave, Dr. Hal Robins, “Nenslo,” Rev. Susie the Floozie, Dr. K’taden Legume — that list could go on and on too.

13. Where do you see the Church of the SubGenius and other groups going in the near, and far, future?  Do you have a precise itinerary?

The world ends at 7 a.m. on July 5, 1998, and that’s honestly all we know regarding the future. I’m slowly fiddling with a screenplay and/or radio play.

14. Besides your own organization, what others can you recommend?

The Onion.

15. What major fear, worry, or concern do you have about the Church of the SubGenius in the future?

My biggest worry is that after Philo and I are dead, some asshole will be able to convince gullible chumps that it was all REAL — that is, supernatural. I have gone to great lengths to insure that hard physical proof exists in many places of exactly how this whole nutty mess developed. It was the work of many wiseacres, just having fun.


  1. [General Public] (2012, April 10). Ivan Stang at Baltimore SubGenius Devival 2007. Retrieved from
  2. [Ivan Stang] (2011, April 26). Let’s Visit the World of the Future. Retrieved from
  3. [Ivan Stang] (2006, November 3). SubGenius Commercial. Retrieved from
  4. [Ivan Stang] (2011, April 26). The Making of MTV-SubGenius. Retrieved from
  5. [niza310] (2007, December 9). Robert Anton Wilson Discusses Discordianism, “Bob” & Freemasons With Rev. Ivan Stang. Retrieved from
  6. [PuzzlingEvidenceTV] (2011, May 17). SubGenius at Burning Man 2000. Retrieved from
  7. [PuzzlingEvidenceTV] (2012, May 30). SubGenius Panel: Future of “Bob” Nov 1981. Retrieved from
  8. [PuzzlingEvidenceTV] (2010, September 10). The Rant of Ivan Stang Nov 9 1985. Retrieved from
  9. [Scott Beale] (2007, December 9). Ivan Stang Explains The Church of the SubGenius. Retrieved from
  10. [The New World Manifesto Project] (2012, August 26). Episode 6: Reverend Ivan Stang & the Church of the Sub Genius. Retrieved from
  11. Stang, I. (n.d.). The Office Pulpit of Rev. Ivan Stang. Retrieved from
  12. Twitter (n.d.). Ivan Stang: @IvanStang. Retrieved from


In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.


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