Tuesday, 11 March 2014

What is consciousness? And how does inanimate matter, gives rise to consciousness?

Of course we don’t know the answer to this. But can we say anything about it? I think how consciousness arise, must be very similar to how any complex structure or system arise in nature. Consciousness must follow the natural laws applicable to other natural phenomenon.

Broadly speaking, it is contextual similarly to asking “ how order arise out of chaos” or simply put does how does “complexity arise out simplicity”?

All of nature works/creates with very simple rules. Like

A. Self Organization- is a process where some form of global order or coordination arises out of the local interactions between the components of an initially disordered system.
Ability of a system to spontaneously arrange its components or elements in a purposeful (non-random) manner, under appropriate conditions but without the help of an external agency.

B. Self Similarity- is just self similar, replicating. This is how river tributaries form or how a tree branches.

C. Evolution (feed back loops)

These are very simple but very powerful tools, and are responsible for the complex world we live. They can explain everything in nature, and I think these simple laws can also help explain the problem of consciousness.

Consciousness is very mysterious to us, I suspect this might be because its so deceptively simple. We experiential and naturally know it, but its impossible to describe. Consciousness is also a very common phenomenon, everything from bacteria to humans have it.  Meaning its very easy to create for nature, and its critical for life.

I think of consciousness as inter-relation between sets of complex information, self-organizing it self to an optimal condition. Much like an operating system running on a computer. "An operating system (OS) is a collection of software that manages computer hardware resources and provides common services for computer programs." So in this view, we have individual softwares like a software to interpret visual sensory information coming from eyes, and software for interpreting auditory sensory information from ears, these are hardwired in the brain. The interplay/inter-relations between two or more softwares , into a singular platform where it can be experienced. In this view our consciousness would be like an OS, thats connecting/managing all the individual softwares into a singular experience. A conscious experience. Strings of these conscious experiences happening very moment, is what we collective understand as consciousness.

A highly evolved management system/OS, perfected by nature(evolution/feedback) over billions of years. Running in everything, from the most common microbes to us. Build upon a hard ware designed by self-organisation, self-similarity and evolution.

Consciousness being like an OS, would also imply that consciousness would be very hard to pin down in the brain. And would exist as a diffused coherent network of inter-relations between data sets of memory and other softwares (sensory information processing softwares). That consciousness is not a “physical thing”, something very subtle, immaterial like information.

I’ve had this thought haunting me for many years, I am not proposing any theories or saying this is what is happening. Just sharing my explanation to the problem of consciousness and consciousness it self. And would love to hear, what people think of this idea/thought..

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Free Will

                                                   Free Will or Not So Free Will !!!

From a scientific point of view, I am not sure whether free will exists or not. I'm divided over it. From a spiritual point of view, I know there is no free will, what so ever, considering there is no “me” to have free will in the first place. But from the scientific view, there is no way of being certain about it. Having thought and read about it, I must admit I believe there isn't any free will. It is definitely not "free", seems like it is under the influence of many things. 

From subjective experience, I can say for certain that I don't really have a choice in believing there is no free will, it’s how I feel given the information I have. Just as I have no control over whom I fall in love with, whom I hate, which car I like, what color I like, my favorite movie or even who I am.. It just happens to be so; I didn't really pick one thing over another. There was no conscious decision, that I made/was aware of making, to like or not like a certain thing. It appears to be "my will", yet "I didn't will it so". I am not in control of the thoughts I have; they latch on from one thing to another. I see apples and think it so red, from red comes a thought about the color of my current car, to thinking I need a new car, from that comes thought of money, which leads to thought of my rich relative, whom I think my grandpa doesn't like, which leads to thinking of my grandpa and calling him. Where is my control in all this? From apples to car to calling grandpa… It flows from one thing to another. Science tells me it is due to how information in my brain is structured, but once again I am not in control of structuring the information in a certain way. In my brain, the neuro-net is wired up in a certain way, where neurons encoded with memories of apples are connected closely to neurons encoded with red, which in turn is connected to my car and eventually leading to my neurons encoded with grandpa. The entire brain is inter-connected, lets say 1 neuron has 10 or 15 connections, with 100 billion neurons, putting the total number of connections at a mind boggling 10^15(or 10000000000000000 or in words 10 with 15 zeros behind it, that's a monstrously large number). I have no choice in how all those neurons are inter-connected. Thankfully it is not in my control. Or I would make a bloody mess, I suppose that's why I don't have "free will" when it comes to the important things, can you imagine consciously willing to take each breath, we would suffocate ourselves every time we go to sleep or get distracted. It is for good reason that sub-conscious is in control of all the above. 

But is there anything beyond the control of the sub-conscious? What is in my conscious control? When in comes to Doer-ship, it seems I have free will. I can choose to run, jump, smile or write this article. I might not have the free will of liking chocolate, but I seem to have control over whether I put it in my mouth or not. Surely, this is some sort of free will; once again it turns out, it is not really "free".

Science has been very concerned and focused on this sort of free will; It is testable and has been tested. First explored by Libbet in 1991, his experiment has been re-created and confirmed hundreds of times. There was a new similar study, using much better technology; it has shed much more light on the topic and also re-confirmed Libbet's findings.

Libbet’s experiment, in which he asked each subject to choose a random moment to flick their wrist while he measured the associated activity in their brain (in particular, the build-up of electrical signal called the readiness potential). Although it was well known that the readiness potential preceded the physical action Libbet asked how the readiness potential corresponded to the felt intention to move. To determine when the subjects felt the intention to move, he asked them to watch the second hand of a clock and report its position when they had felt the conscious will to move. Libbet's findings suggest that decisions made by a subject are first being made on a subconscious level and only afterwards being translated into a "conscious decision", and that the subject's belief that it occurred at the behest of his will was only due to his retrospective perspective on the event.

2008 Study by Masao Matsuhashi and Mark Hallett
"Scientists in 2008 were able to predict with 60% accuracy whether subjects would press a button with their left or right hand up to 10 seconds before the subject became aware of having made that choice. These and other findings have led some scientists, like Patrick Haggard, to reject some forms of "free will"."

Both these studies suggest that the sub-conscious brain, is responsible for making decisions, and then these decisions are translated to "conscious awareness" which creates the appearance of it being a conscious decision. So this form of free will is an illusion. 

There are 2 major criticism of these studies : One suggests that rather than sub-conscious brain making the decision, the decision is made spontaneously prior to conscious awareness, and then is picked up by conscious brain. Even if this is to be believed, it doesn't prove free will, but rather just removes the sub-conscious from the decision-making. The other criticism argues that both these studies were done using finger movements, and may not necessarily generalize to other actions such as thinking, or even other motor actions in different situations. Once again even if this is to be believed, it doesn't prove that free will exist, only that the results might not apply to other activities.

Testing free will when it comes to thinking is tricky and not really testable. It comes down to subjective experience. 
Personally I think the case for free will for thinking is even weaker, than for actions such as finger movement. As discussed above I have no control over what thoughts come to me, I can think of specific things (or so it appears; maybe it’s the subconscious commanding to have that thought), but how I think depends on how the information is structured in my neuro-net, which is definitely out of my control. 

My preferences are not free willed either, as discussed above I have no control over what I like or love or hate, it seems these decision are already made without my conscious involvement.  

So my actions, thinking, preferences aren't really in my control, the case for free will is quite weak. I hope I have some free will, but the evidence and experience points otherwise. 

The only kind of free will that does exist is what scientist call "free won't/veto".
Which means that unconscious impulses to perform a volitional act (like walking or moving fingers) are open to being vetoed by the conscious mind.  I might not have the free will to move my finger, but I have the veto power to not go through with it. Which isn't really free will, because I don't have control over doing something, but rather have control over not doing something.

Sunday, 29 September 2013


These articles are intended to be an introduction to the current paradigm in science and spirituality. Touching lightly on the important facts, required for a basic Non- Dualistic understanding. This is a stepping-stone, the background information needed for the understanding to develop on.

Paradigms- "Universally recognized scientific achievements that, for a time, provide model problems and solutions for a community of researchers”- Thomas Kuhn

Paradigms in plain language – Are ever evolving concepts, formed from the best knowledge of the time. What we think the world/universe is, its laws, the nature of its existence, where we fit in, and most importantly our own concepts and understanding of our self.

One only has to peek into history, to sample all sorts of paradigms that have existed. In a way paradigms are a window into understanding of all the ages and civilizations that have existed. They are results of man’s attempt to the answer the fundamental question, about ourselves and the universe we live in.

From the caveman to present day, our explanations grew ever more complex, yet one thing remained the same. No matter what the paradigms was, it was thought true and complete in it’s own time.

Here are some paradigms from the past

 It may sound absurd for us, in this day and age, that once the belief was of a giant holding up the sky or that the earth is flat and the center of the universe. Yet at a time it was held to be true, people went on living with the, assumptions, and their world functioned as it does today for us, in our “current paradigms”.  I say paradigms and not paradigm, because we have not one, but many competing answers to the fundamental questions. The answers are always relative. And here we are 2013, just “lucky”(*sarcasm) to be alive, after hundreds of thousands swore the world would end on the stroke 21/12/12. Yup, sorry didn’t happen, yet another paradigm bites the dirt.

Paradigm shifts are slow, often stretching over generations, people always try and resist change, especially when they are heavily invested in the older belief systems. Until a generation with no vested interest, challenges the status quo and brings about a change.  

The most famous example of this is the heliocentric model (Sun being the center around which planets revolve), first proposed by Aristarchus of Samos in the 300 BC, then again by Aryabhata in 400 AD, by Copernicus in 1540s, supported by Kepler in 1605, proved by Galileo in 1610 through observation, for which he was arrested and finally the idea was accepted after Newton’s work in 1687.

From conception to acceptance it took nearly 2000 years, for heliocentric model to prevail against the archaic belief systems of the dark ages, Giving birth to Newtonian Era, which we take for granted today.

The tables have turned today on the Newtonian era, as masses of data are piled on by the new scientific model. We are in the transitional period.  If there is any lesson to be learnt for the ever shifting of paradigms is that, Truth can’t be hidden for too long. Paradigms are not set in stone and shifts must take place to accommodate the newer discoveries.

A Paradigm shift is upon us today, brewing in our midst. Once accepted it will open doors to an entirely different understanding of the most fundamental issues. Every year more and more people are weighing in. From neurologists, physicists, psychedelics, spiritual gurus, to even common people like myself.  

This blog/group is about where we stand today. What picture does the facts and truths of today paint? I am not talking pop culture, politics, economic environment or any of that.

 I’m here to talk about “The Nature of Reality”, Consciousness, Ego, Modern Physics (Quantum Mechanics). Why and how they relate to our everyday life. And the impending implications on our fragile world.

While science has grown by leaps and bounds, and propelled us from bull cart to mars in under a 100 years. Although we all use smart phones and tablets, the newest and coolest apps, and would like to think we are quite modern and up to date. But we are not. Because we aren’t up to date with facts.

It would do more harm than good to suddenly drop, the truth bomb on you. So here are few facts from the New Paradigm Shift. Hopefully not enough to scare you away, and enough to keep you interested in what is to come.

1.   Matter is not solid, that an illusion. Its 99.99999 empty space. Which means your body, and our planet is 99.9999 percent empty space.  Whatever matter is, it is not made of matter”. —Prof. Hans-Peter
2.   The world we see when we open our eyes, doesn’t exist. It the brain trying to fool us. The image you see and assume is the outside world, is inside our mind.


Part 1 of 3. That Which Appears To Be Vs. That Which Is.

The problem with Newtonian era science is that it put the entire world into nice little labeled compartments as observed. And dismissed anything that didn’t fit into those compartments as being an isolated anomaly caused by something external; however with the advancements in science and technology. Led to emergence of Quantum physics, through which we now see Nature of Reality, in a different light. Where anomalies aren’t dismissed, and the universe is looked upon as one complex system.

If Quantum Physics is to be believed, which it must be. Taking into consideration the thousands of experiments conducted over the last 70 years that validated it. The picture it paints is a very weird one, something that seems to make no sense and is counter-intuitive.

While we see the world as being logical; seamless; solid; based on action and reaction, Nature of Reality is anything but!

Our senses are very useful, they help us to navigate and interact with the world. We humans perceive the world through our senses, these senses have been the only way we could ever experience the world. However useful our senses fail completely, when we start asking the fundamental questions regarding the nature of reality.

We have no notion of anything else existing, especially since we have never been told not to trust our senses. Why wouldn’t we trust our senses? It’s the only way we can perceive.  

The world as it appears to be through our senses Vs. The world as it is.

The world we see, feel, hear, touch, smell is a figment of our imagination. The real world doesn’t look or behave in the way; we experience it through our senses.

It is very important to note that our brains are incredibly powerful, and can create things that don’t really exist.

An example would be a person with a psychological disorder that has an illusionary friend. He can talk to, hear and touch his friend like he can with any other normal person. How can this be? How can an illusion be touched? Well if you realize that it’s the mind that touches and not the hand. It can be!

Psychology, Neurology and philosophy have known about this for a very long time, that it is the brain that sees and not the eyes. What this means is the fact that all our experiences—all our perceptions, sensations, dreams, thoughts and feelings—are forms appearing in consciousness (our mind). When we dream, we can see things, but our eyes are closed. It’s the mind that sees.

When I see a tree it seems as if I am seeing the tree directly, but science tells us something completely different is happening. Light entering the eye triggers chemical reactions in the retina; this produces electro-chemical impulses, which travel along the optical nerve to the brain. The brain analyses the data it receives, and then creates its own picture of what it thinks is out there. I then have the experience of seeing a tree. It is very important to note that, what I am actually experiencing is not the tree itself, only the image that appears in the mind, as I perceive it to be. We have no idea what the tree in reality looks like.

It also interesting to note, that it takes the brain about 1/10 of second to process this data. Meaning instead of seeing a live feed, what I am really seeing is a recorded video, playing in my mind. This is true of everything I experience. Everything we know and perceive. Every color, sound, sensation, every thought and every feeling, is a form appearing in the mind (consciousness).

Neurons are nerve cells. Each of our brains has billions of neurons, which are inter-connected with each other, to form a Neuro-net. Its how all the information in our brains is connected and structured. This is what it would look like magnified.

As powerful as our brains are there is a limit, to how information we can process in each second. To overcome this limitation, an editing center was required, so that the important information can be filtered out. Over millions of years of evolution; our brains have come up with an editing center called Reticular Activating System (RAS). Where our sub-conscious mind edits all incoming sensory information (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell) according to what it perceives to be important and noteworthy. Whatever sensory information it believes to be important, is passed to the conscious mind. What ever it believes to be not important is edited and not experienced consciously. On an average a human takes in 2 billion bits of information, but can only process 2,000 bits. That’s means we are only aware .0000001 percent of all the incoming data. Reticular Activating System (RAS) of the brain is responsible for what is included in this .0000001. Just imagine what we are missing out on, due to this processing limit and filtering process.

This is why our senses can’t be relied upon to accurately understand the world, which the entire 100 percent.

For example you are driving and see 200 people standing at a bus stop, among them is beautiful woman, your brain quickly scans this data, the beautiful woman is flagged and experienced by our conscious mind. At the end of day you’ll remember is the beautiful woman, while the199 people will be filtered. The good news is that RAS is reprogrammable, through neural plasticity.

Also known as neuroplasticity, is the changing of the structure, function and organization of neurons, or nerve cells, in response to new experiences. It specifically refers to strengthening or weakening nerve connections or adding new nerve cells based on outside stimuli. It is responsible for all learning.

 The golden rule by which Neuro-plasticity works is neurons that fire together wire together. More they fire together, stronger the connections get.  
While Neuro-nets that don’t fire eventual grow weaker and die.

An example of neuroplasticity, let say you love your neighbors’ dog (tommy). Which would mean that in your brain, “neurons encoded with love” would have a direct connection to “neurons encoded with memories of tommy”. If one day you saw you’re friend being savagely attacked by tommy. You suddenly experience tremendous fear and hate towards tommy. Neuroplasticity would get to work, and create connections between “Neurons encoded with fear and hate” and neuron encoded with tommy”. Every time you see tommy now, you fear going close to it. The connection between tommy neuron and love neuron wouldn’t fire together anymore, hence degraded and eventually die. While connection with hate, fear and tommy fire together and would grow stronger.

Neuro-plasticity is at work every second, with each thought, our brains are rewiring and creating new pathways. What ever we pay attention to, whatever we want/desire, think about gets programmed into the RAS, through neuro-plasticity.

Once we are aware of neuro-plasticity, we can employ it. By controlling our emotions and thoughts we can re-wire our brains completely. The brain doesn’t differentiate between good or bad. What ever you do, it will re-wire to get better at. And change who we are. The more you do it, the better you get!

So pay attention to what goes on inside our head. Just imagine what we can achieve when we think the right thoughts based on the right understanding. Sky is the limit!

Next we must realize that our eyes can only see what we call the visible spectrum of light, which is tiny portion of the entire spectrum of light. We see the world full of colors, but in reality colors don’t exist. What we see as colors, are different wavelengths of visible light. When light of certain wavelength hits the retina in our eyes, cells that are sensitive to that specific wavelength send a message to the brain. The brain then interprets these different wavelengths as different colors.

If we could see the rest of the spectrum, the world would look completely different than it looks in visible light! Even just adding either x-ray or ultraviolent spectrum would completely alter our view. Our bodies and things that we think as solids would become see through.

We cannot only see light, but also can feel light. When we step into the sun, we can instantly feel the heat of sunlight. What we experience and think of as heat, is infrared light/thermal radiation. Similarly when we touch another person, and feel their warmth what we experience as warmth, is the thermal radiation being emitted from their body. Yes, all matter can emit and absorb light. Including us humans, we are emitting light just like the sun/ light bulb. Here is what I look like when viewed from a thermal/infrared camera. 

Blue means cool, green cooler, red is warm/ hot. As you can see the world and people would look completely different, if we could view in infrared spectrum.

Interestingly there are been number of well-documented cases of blind people, that can see. They don’t see the same picture as us, but can visually spot movement.  You can search “Dr. V.S. Ramachandran and Blindness” to know more about these cases.


Similarly the ears can only hear, 20 Hz and 20 kHz, hence most of the sounds that go into our ears, aren’t even registered. Next time you hear nothing and your dog goes crazy it could be due to the ultrasonic waves that we are unable to hear. If we could hear the subsonic frequency, we could hear the earth constantly humming at 7.83 Hz. It is estimated that about 2 percent of the population can hear this hum, due to defects in ears, especially in old age.

How earth sounds from the space- NASA Voyager.

Sound of the sun

Sonic frequencies are infinite.

Touch and what we touch: Matter

While you are sitting and reading this, you can feel the chair/bed/ground. It appears to be solid to us. But is it?                             
The solidity of matter is an illusion; there is nothing solid about it. In fact it has been proven that physical matter is 99.999999% empty space!
I know what you guys are thinking, how can this be? “I can feel the chair I’m sitting on and the ground beneath my feet.” “I can touch and feel the textures.” I don’t doubt that you can’t feel it, I feel it too. I doubt what is it “that” we are actually feeling.
Here is thought experiment to better illustrate what I mean.
“Imagine a visit to a science city. One of the rooms there has powerful magnets all over the floor, with south pole (or negative charge) facing up. There are also special boots with magnetic soles that have South Pole facing down.
Now a volunteer is first blind folded and then asked to put on the special magnetic boots. He is then send on a walk in the room, as he walks into the room the south pole of the shoes and south pole of the floor start repelling each other. To everyone looking through the window this person would appear to be walk on thin air. But the blindfolded person with the magnetic boots, when asked would say that he has been walking on either a normal floor or feels a cushiony carpet floor.”
What this person is feeling beneath his feet is the magnetic repulsion, and experiences this repulsion as a solid.
 Anyone who has ever played with magnets is aware of this force.
Believe it or not but this actually what is happening when we are walking around. 

So how & why do we get the experience of touching a solid object - when there is nothing solid about matter itself?
The whole experience of the solidity of matter arises from the mutual repulsion of negatively charged electron fields.” 

What this means is that, nothing ever touches anything, right now while you’re sitting in your chair/bed, you are actually hovering over it. Just as in the thought experiment. The electrons (negatively charged particles) in your body and the electrons in your bed are both pushing away/repelling against each other. This repulsive electron field is what gives us the experience/sensation of touch a solid. 
What we are feeling/touching/rubbing against isn’t really what we think it is. We can never really touch anything, just glide over other matter. If this repulsive electron field was some how removed we would just fall through the entire planet and drift into space.

When we add all of these facts up, we realize what we believe to be reality is just a delusion. An incomplete picture! There much more going on than what “appears to be” through our sense.

You may question why should you care and how does this apply/relate to you. What was the point of you knowing all of this?

What is more important that which appear to be or that which is?

The mistake we make is to assume that what we see/experience is real. We suffer a delusion when we believe the images in our minds are the external world. We deceive ourselves when we think that the tree we see is the tree itself. The tree itself is a physical object, made of physical matter—molecules, atoms, sub-atomic particles. But from what is the image in the mind constructed? Clearly it is not constructed from matter. A perceptual image is made up of the same "stuff" as our dreams, thoughts, and feelings; it is made up of consciousness!
I can go on and on about this, and dismiss each of our sense. However I am sure you get the idea.

If you want to learn more about “what is”, as oppose to “what appears to be”. You need to rely on unbiased data from science, and its implication. Introspect within your self. There is much to learn from science and spirituality, it will shock and amaze you. Science and spirituality are both saying the same thing, in their own unique ways. 

At the end of this journey, a new understanding will dawn upon you. That will change you and your world forever.