We are alone. Life as we know it will end. There is no god. There is certainly no pre-established meaning of life. Then again the previous statements could be wrong.
So what do we have left? Ourselves. Our “meaning of life” is created by our existence. We create meaning by existing. This is innate in the fact that our minds subjective reality is our reality as in our beliefs about reality directly affect how we live. We alone have the power to manipulate the universe with intent. Life as we KNOW it is guaranteed to end. This does not mean life has to end completely. We will evolve past our human stage, whether it is by perfecting our G-NOME, melding ourselves with machines or bringing ourselves to the state of pure consciousness. Our planet, solar system, galaxy and inevitably, our universe will come to an end, however we may have the ability to get around this fact and survive until our universe re-spores, in an off-shoot universe, or in a higher dimension in which case we could exist in all time.
The only way to even survive our own planet is through science, let alone any of these loftier survival goals. There is no god to save us, there is just us. The more we understand how our universe works the greater our chance of survival. The longer we linger without further technology than we currently posses at any given time, the greater the odds of us becoming extinct. We are the only chance that earth-born life has of survival. We must learn to accept change, and adapt rather than perpetually trying to maintain the status-quo. Failure to accept change and adapt will mean an inevitable death. We can no longer rely on nature for our adaptation, we have the ability to respond immediately to new threats and adapt ourselves. We have moved beyond nature as our protector. We are on our own now.
We must not only protect ourselves from the indifferent objective realm that constantly threatens our existence we must now learn to protect ourselves from the subjective realm of ideas. We now must explore the subjective realm and understand its relation the objective realm of reality.
This concept, should it spread will become a meme in and of itself. It is a meme that defines what a meme is and declares that a meme is valid only when it reflects objective reality. The meme also recognizes that it also is a meme. It has therefore become a self aware meme in the same sense that humans are self aware.
A meme is only valid in terms of how effective it is when applied to the objective reality. If it does not suit the current environment or does not reflect objective reality it is not valid and we must act to destroy it before it makes us destroy ourselves.
I did not start out this work with the intent of creating a self aware meme however that is now my intent as I am trying now to make this idea a meme and if it progresses to a meme then it will be a self aware meme. I have of course not created anything new… I don’t think anything is new as in created in a vacuum however I am attempting to define what a meme is in terms of a workable philosophy and thereby it is aware of itself for what it is.
As a child I was fascinated by the idea of things changing with time, I observed, for example, conversations changing over time. In these observations came what I take as evidence for evolution in general. These were further built upon as I became an artist, watching as my paintings took shape in front of me, evolving in relation to themselves seemingly with only nudging from myself. These same principles of unconscious evolution have carried over into my current work, and I have seen the same principles apply since I have begun this undertaking in both the text and in my own philosophies and beliefs.
Since the subjective reality arises due to consciousness we must attempt to understand what consciousness is and just as important what is consciousness’ relation to the objective reality as it is a product of the objective reality and therefore the link between the subjective and objective realms of human experience.
The term “consciousness” has always had a vaguely spiritual connotation due to a lack of any specific definition. The question would always arise, “why are we conscious?”. It seemed to imply humans had been imbued with consciousness which of course leads to the question, by what the answer would seem to imply “god”. But then of course it ends in paradox… then where did god’s consciousness arise from? Again if god’s consciousness always existed why couldn’t human consciousness just have occurred spontaneously. The attempts to answer this seemingly key question simply left me lost at a dead end. But I was asking the wrong question. The question that I needed to be asked is “What is consciousness?”
This is a question that has been asked throughout human philosophy and more recently by evolutionary biologists and artificial intelligence researchers. It is a very important question. For my purposes it is why the subjective reality is able to “exist”.
As humans only vantage point is ourselves we always take an egocentric view of reality naturally. To begin by asking, “what is this consciousness that humans possess” is not accurate. It assumes that only humans are conscious. But then what about apes, or what about our house pets? Is then what seems to be animal consciousness merely an illusion created only by preprogrammed response misinterpreted by “higher minds”? If so then what we call consciousness arose spontaneously and by default must have had some catalyst. What we have generally been using as the term consciousness for is in fact the “soul”. We have been asking a question about something that is based in the objective realm in a subjective quasi-religious mindset seemingly by default.
The approach I am taking is one that even many skeptics and scientists seem to be revolted by. We have been attempting to impose some sort of spiritual human-centric ideology onto science and psychology and philosophy by putting the human mind on some sort of pedestal that is unchallenged by any other intrusion into this dimension. I respectfully am now saying that this is hypocritical self delusion. Science and understanding the nature of reality has never been for the faint of heart.
One hypothesis is that consciousness is can only be obtained by the conscious act of communication.
“Helen Keller knew the importance of learning to describe oneself when she wrote: “Before my teacher came to me, I did not know that I am. I lived in a world that was no world. I cannot hope to describe adequately that unconscious, yet conscious time of nothingness … Since I had no power of thought, I did not compare one mental state with another.”16 Keller seems to have understood implicitly what behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner stated explicitly: Being conscious is reacting to one’s own behavior verbally, and is, thus, ironically a social product taught to us by others.17
So, to philosopher Thomas Nagels’ famous question about qualia — “What is it like to be a bat?”18 — I answer: nothing. There is no conscious experience; there are no qualia. For the bat there will never be any qualia because there is no language to describe experience. For obvious reasons there are also no qualia for the human newborn, although as I describe later, after exposure to an environment in which the child learns to describe her private events, that is, report subjective experience (qualia), we say that she is conscious.”
There are several problems with these assumptions. First Helen Keller is a somewhat unique subject so it is hardly scientific to draw conclusions from this. Helen was blind as well as deaf so she had no understanding of the outside world and had no reference to self. Her mind was isolated completely until she was able to draw meaning from communication. First of all her description does not necessarily mean she was not self aware, this may have been metaphorical, we have no way of knowing. She also could have meant relative to her level of consciousness after she could communicate. Furthermore, neither deaf nor blind individuals who have the other major sensory capacities describe this non-experience. Are we to say that cats and dogs, the animals we are most familiar with, are not aware? This is patently false from all superficial evidence. Cats and dogs have awareness, and so don’t bats, just because they don’t experience the world in the same way we do does not mean they do not possess consciousness.
Are we to say infants who have yet to experience language are not conscious? They certainly respond to stimuli. What the researcher fails to account for is that without aural or visual senses we have no evolved method of understanding the world around us or discerning objective and subjective plains. If Helen Keller were truly unaware how could she state her experience of consciousness later? More importantly how did she learn to communicate? There would be no way she could discern between objects, feelings or vibrations and interpret them. She must have understood the difference between herself and the objective world to have the ability to communicate about it otherwise with no basis everything would have been amorphous. She learned to communicate using what she knew to be the difference between her and the external world. That she could ever discern at all the difference lends credence to the idea that she was conscious before she could communicate not the reverse. She was innately aware of the self. Communication is not essential to consciousness, just consciousness as we know it. Then again each mind is set up to communicate amongst itself from neuron to neuron and in touching there is information passed and therefore some form of communication. In order to pursue the concept of communication we would have to go down the same path as with the term consciousness.
What this implies is that there is something about certain forms of life that consciousness is innate and that communication does have a direct link to consciousness. It also means linguistics specifically is not a precondition of consciousness. This leaves open both the point at which life becomes conscious and the nature of consciousness. It also means that consciousness is a quality of human life. Whether or not the reptilian brain qualifies consciousness is very debatable, but the mammalian brain is conscious. I might argue that not only is the reptilian brain conscious, but that possibly even plants hold some form of consciousness, not as we know it, but in that they react to external stimuli such as the direction of the sun however minutely.
The difference is the level of consciousness. Plants and basic life react to external stimuli and then react to it automatically or instinctually. Reptilian animals interact with the objective world to a higher degree and have more control over their fate. Many if not all mammals and birds are able to learn. Humans are unique in the amount that evolution has freed us from our instincts. We truly possess the ability to control ourselves and the world around us by conscious intent.
But again, what is consciousness? The word consciousness seems to have to vague a meaning to be useful in this sense so either we need to use a different word or (re)define the word to something that is more precise.
When we speak of human consciousness we mean something specific. We are specifically referring to our self-awareness and our ability for reasoning. But the word consciousness still lingers as a significant term. So are we talking about specifically self-awareness or intelligence? It doesn’t seem to be. When we ask what consciousness is we are talking about the source of self-awareness and intelligence not those aspects themselves.
I am not attempting suggest some new properties of consciousness to anything beyond humans, extending the application to raise non-human entities to a higher level. What I suggesting is that we should not apply this term to a narrow and arbitrary definition, but to change what we think of when we say consciousness to something broader and more easily defined in definite terms. It just so happens that to do this I must look at everything as a continuum and say this continuum represents levels of consciousness.
If that is the case then we can declare that the source, what causes or allows this thing we call consciousness, is a system of reactions. We could even then say that this level consciousness does require communication and is in fact the same thing as communication at the most base level. Consciousness is communication between multiple separate entities of matter or energy. With this relation we now can begin to bridge the gap. The subjective realm exists because it is a product of the objective realm, the responsive systems of atoms, molecules, suns, planets. In these terms then any responsive system is conscious. This does not mean they think or imbue any new principles to any of this matter or particles but it does mean that the processes that we call intelligence and self-awareness are the same that any reactive system encounters just far more complex.
From there we can say, arbitrarily, that 99.9 percent of the universe is merely conscious, it interacts with other things in the universe in time-space. So far as we know Earth is the only place where anything goes beyond this level of consciousness. The next level would be something like protozoa or bacteria where they have some awareness of their environment and can adapt and react by mechanisms developed through evolution. After that it is not until significantly larger animals that we see self-awareness in that they are aware of their own existence in some fashion. I would say that anything that possesses emotion would be self-aware. And finally we have Intelligence. These are all levels of consciousness, humans possessing all stated levels.
We can learn to a degree no other animal has the ability to. We start with very little and are taught how to interact by humans who have lived before us. We have less need for instincts because we have long term memories unequaled in the rest of the animal kingdom. We learn from our elders how to react to our world. We trust in the authorities and information that has been passed down since we were human and work from there to fine tune our conscious relations.
Human knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation since humans began learning how to manipulate their environment, we have been building on this knowledge ever since. This is the collective conscious. Human knowledge as almost anything can be described as a continuum. This idea illustrates humanity’s interconnectedness both throughout time and as simultaneous entities. All knowledge has a common base. This is the subjective plain of existence that humans experience. The knowledge we have passed down orally, supplemented by external information storage in the form of written language and now sound, image and digital recording, is all that we have to keep society working. It is difficult for us to break from the practices and traditions passed down for survival.
The only way we change social patterns or beliefs are when something outside our society changes to a degree incompatible with the traditional life style. New things are scary because we do not know what the outcome will be. We as humans do not come preprogrammed with many instincts. This is because we learn from our elders how to react to the outside world. The “masses” are inclined to continue interacting with the world in the ways they have been taught, not to do new things especially when our situation is perceived as precarious. But we are also very good at learning new things by trial and error during good times. We do come up with new ways of dealing with both the external and internal worlds. This process is usually carried out by individuals that must then convince the masses that the new way is better. Changing habitual tradition we have been taught is a slow process but the more information we have access to and the more easily that information can be transferred the more this process of development speeds up.
In the information age we can see and understand more as well as see why things work, not just that they do work in terms of traditions. In this way we can discern what parts of what we do are effective and what parts are appendage tradition and superstition.
When we extract the useful ingredients the other ingredients can be disposed of. These other ingredients can be inactive, counterproductive or eventually damaging. These traditions can become the equivalent of an inflamed appendix. These appendages must be removed.
Appendages such as oppressive, totalitarian world view’s must be removed. While such memes remain popular moral relativism is just as harmful to humanity. There are necessary constraints and there are right and wrong. That being said, the majority of human life leaves us in gray areas between the continuum between right and wrong. Within the framework of base right and wrong there is much room for maneuverability. Unlike belief systems, where everything is binary right or wrong, we have a gradient. Life is fluid; it requires not rigid rule sets but fluid situational interpretation. Almost everything in life can be applied to this theory.
Humans attempt to categorize everything drawing solid lines of differentiation where there are none. Everything has positives and negatives, change means destruction of old; preservation means extreme expenditures of energy. This is the second law of thermodynamics which states that entropy or chaos (also read complexity), on average, increases over time. In order to even keep the world unchanged we must fight the natural change inflicted upon the universe by time which increases entropy, on average, in the same proportion as doing nothing letting the universe take its course unheeded by us or utilizing this process to develop more and more efficient and complex systems that will increase our survival by human’s answer to adaptation. Since we are constrained within the river of time and our existence requires interaction with the objective world we are subject to this fundamental principle.
What this means for us is that all our decisions effect the objective world and we must decide what the best way to expend the inevitable flow of energy is. Not all decisions are good ones. Some ideas’ out comes have a much higher margin of positive change. Likewise many ideas have a higher margin of negative damage as a result of their implementation. This is where situational ethics departs from relativistic ethics.
Life as we know it is fundamentally possible by retaining some very fundamental properties of our physical universe. Our existence is possible by an extraordinarily precise balance between the fundamental properties of our Universe. Gravity, the strong and weak nuclear energies and the electro-magnetic force are all tuned together in this universe just right for energy to bond together in equilibrium to create matter. If gravity were less powerful planets and stars would never have formed, if it were more powerful stars would burn out much more rapidly and collapse into themselves. If the strong nuclear force were more powerful particles would collapse; too weak and they would not form due to the repulsion of the interaction with electrons by the electro-magnetic force. The masses of the constituent particles are just finely tuned so that their own stability is maintained and we have just the right amount of all possible incarnations. p 12, 13The Elegant Universe Brian Greene Vintage Books, 1999,2003 a division of Random House, New York Another factor that is in exquisite proportion is the relation between us and entropy, as in the balance between the increasing complexity of the high entropy required for human intelligence to evolve from the initial uniform singularity, or state of the universe, while still possessing enough order to form human intelligence. And that is a principle that life takes full advantage of.
The collusion of all these factors is what makes us possible. While the sheer enormity of this apparent coincidence has put the fear of god into some physicists, there is no reason to flock to the shepherd of blindness just yet. There are potential explanations of this. One of these that comes from quantum and super string theories is the many worlds theory where there are an infinite number of universes based on all possible outcomes of our universe throughout all time. This would allow that our existence is made possible by the law of odds. Since this is an untested theory based on untested theories I am highly skeptical of this one.
Another, which I am not sure I have read but that these theories allow for is that all possibilities of properties took place in the moments after the big bang and all particles that were unstable annihilated themselves there by leaving the only stable ones that are represented by our current universe. This seems to be more in tune with what we know about our universe as it is also akin to how human life emerged which is natural selection therefore has more evidence backing it than the many worlds theory. I again feel the simpler answer is probably the true answer. These are untested theories as of yet and right now science can’t explain the current state of our universe in that sense. But that’s the thing; science allows that we do not know everything. If we did we wouldn’t need physicists. Fortunately, their jobs are looking pretty stable. There are always explanations to be found, and so far, that explanation has not been a higher power.
At any rate, I don’t think it would be a good decision on our part to attempt to universally change any of these properties. So fundamentally there are ideas that benefit us more than others. There are memes that should be attacked and there are some that should have their lives forfeit. There are many ideas that were beneficial for the time, but are no longer healthy to hold.