Q and A with Tam Hunt about His New Book on Panpsychism

Better book imagesA previous post, Where is Mind in Nature, mentioned panpsychism as the philosophical view that, perhaps, is most consistent with the deluge of current scientific data about mind in nature. Searching for the Mind has described cognitive processes in cells, microbes, viruses and even jumping genes and molecules. Panpsychism is far superior to materialist theories in explaining these phenomena, as well as, neuroplasticity and intelligence in animals and plants.

Tam Hunt’s new book, Eco, Ego, Eros: Essays in Philosophy, Science and Spirituality is a great resource for understanding this important view. It is one of the clearest books available on the philosophy of mind.

Tam Hunt is a philosopher with a strong interest in science, particularly neuroscience. Mr. Hunt has interviewed many of the current leading scientists in a variety of fields and presents their views in the book, along with a history of well-known philosophers that support panpsychism. For me, it is one of the best philosophical texts on the mind and the place of panpsychism in the history of philosophy. It is extremely useful when considering the scientific material presented in Searching for the Mind.

Christof Koch, one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, writes the foreward of the book. Dr. Koch is the rare well-known scientist today, who has not succumbed to the prominent simplistic materialist explanations that are viewed by many as dogma. But, rather, in major science journals, Dr. Koch attempts to describe the truth about what science actually knows and doesn’t know about the brain.

The following is a Q and A with Tam Hunt about his new book on panpsychism. 

Question: Searching for the Mind has described panpsychism as, perhaps, the best approach to understanding mind in the current deluge of new scientific data. Can you describe panpsychism and why you think it matters?

Answer

Panpsychism is the view that all matter has some mind and some subjectivity associated with it. So, where there is matter there is mind and where there is mind there is matter. As matter complexifies, so mind complexifies – generally, but not always. This solution to the mind-body problem is both simple and in keeping Jon Lieffwith truths gained from evolutionary biology and many other fields. 

I think this kind of discussion is important (I wrote an entire book that revolves around the idea, after all) because, in today’s world, we are sadly lacking a scientifically-sound approach to spirituality. Panpsychism offers both a philosophical and a spiritual solution. Panpsychism is more scientific than today’s prevailing materialist approach to the great mysteries of the universe, because it allows a more seamless and unified, as well as parsimonious, way of thinking about these great mysteries. As a large added bonus, panpsychism is also a bridge between the traditionally conflicting realms of science and spirit because it opens up the possibility of a unified approach to knowledge gained both from the external world – the realm of science – and knowledge gained from the internal world – the realm of spirituality.

Question: You’re a lawyer. Why are you writing about philosophy and spirituality? 

Answer

I’ve been reading in philosophy pretty vigorously since I was in my late teens. I began publishing in this field only in the last few years, when my reading and questioning reached the point that I felt I had some ideas worth sharing. My brain kind of caught on fire when I read David Ray Griffin’s excellent book, Unsnarling the World-Knot, a solution to the mind-body problem that is heavily influenced by the “process philosophy” school of panpsychism developed by Alfred North Whitehead, Charles Hartshorne, John Cobb, Jr. and Griffin himself.

Heraclitus sculptureThe basic idea of process philosophy is Heraclitus’ insight over 2,500 years ago: “all things flow.” That is, all things are perpetually changing. We can imagine snapshots of frozen bits of the universe, and this may be helpful in various fields for simplifying reality on the path to deeper understanding. But, process philosophy holds, we should never forget that this freezing of time is a trick, and that the real universe is always proceeding forward in time, always changing and flowing.

Whitehead was a towering figure in mathematics, logic, physics and philosophy. He’s not very well known today, unfortunately, largely because his views were very complex and he didn’t make much of an effort to make them digestible to non-specialists. Griffin and many others are in the process of making Whitehead’s work more digestible and I count this objective as one of the many in writing my book.

Question: Why do materialist explanations of mind and consciousness fail, in your view? 

Answer  

The prevailing materialist approach to the mind-body problem is generally described as “emergentism” and the idea is that mind/subjectivity springs forth from wholly mindless matter at a particular point when the requisite complexity is reached. Life developed on this planet some billions of years ago and, so the materialist view holds, mind developed at an unspecified point after life came along. Where the line falls between creatures with minds and creatures without minds is a matter of some debate. This is a problem because it seems to me that there is no good reason to suppose that something as profound as subjectivity itself sprang forth at a particular point of complexity – rather than a moment before or after. Moreover, this emergence must take place in each creature that develops consciousness as it develops from an embryo into an adult.

It makes a lot more sense to me, as an alterative to this view, to suggest that there is at least some type of mind present in all matter, so it’s not a matter (pardon the pun) of mind emerging at a bigstock virus Bacterio phage T-infecting-som-41493352particular moment, but rather the ongoing complexification of mind in each conglomeration of matter. It’s also about different levels of mind. We can speak legitimately of cellular minds, of molecular minds, etc. – but these are just really simple types of minds. The key problem that remains in both materialist and panpsychist approaches to the mind-body problem is how these various lower level minds combine to form higher level minds like our own. I’ve suggested my own solution in my book and more technically in a previous paper.

Biological life is characterized by a high degree of active equilibrium, due to the various feedback loops and energy flows that exist in all living things. These characteristics of life are what allow highly complex minds like ours to exist. But it’s not an all or nothing kind of thing – it’s a spectrum of consciousness from the simplest of little humming minds in electrons and atoms up to humans and perhaps beyond.

Question: Searching for the Mind only describes current scientific data, not religion, in attempting to find out what mind and consciousness is and where it might be in the universe. What do you mean by “God” and is this necessary for your view of panpsychism?

Answer  

I do discuss God a little in my book. This is a major reversal for me since I was for much of my life an atheist. My current vision of God is far different than that of traditional religions. I talk about God as Source and God as Summit. God as Source is the ground of being, the soil from which reality grows. It has numerous names: apeiron, the One, the Godhead, unus mundus, ether, ein sof, and many others. This God is not conscious. Rather, God as Source is more of a metaphysical principle of creativity.

I feel that we can infer the existence of God as Source simply from the reality of the universe around us. God as Source Man with conceptual spiritual body artis the brute explanatory fact in our philosophical system below which we cannot go. Once we accept God as Source as a real entity we can, and should, ask what are its features? I’m currently delving into this inquiry in my next book, Cosmic Ecology: God’s Evolving Dream.

God as Summit is less certain to me. God as Summit is, if it exists, a conscious being, though surely nothing like the angry and vengeful God of the Old or New Testament. I haven’t personally felt the present of God as Summit in my life so I remain agnostic as to its reality. The reason I remain open is because the explanation for the existence of minds like our own – which I’ve sketched above – leads naturally to the idea that far larger minds may exist. Just as cells cooperate to form our body, so subordinate minds may form larger minds beyond the level of our current understanding.

If I had to place a bet on the existence of God as Summit I’d say it’s not here yet and, in fact, a romantic but entirely defensible purpose for our lives is to bring God as Summit into existence through the literal co-creation of God. This is a vision heavily influenced by the well-known French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, as he described in his book, The Human Phenomenon, published in English in 1955. This co-creation could be a very long process over the coming eons – but that’s a conversation for a different book.

Question: You also write a number of chapters on modern physics. Again, you’re a lawyer – so why are you writing about physics? 

Answer  

Well, I’ve also been reading vigorously in physics for two and a half decades now. I’m no physicist but I do feel qualified to comment on the philosophy of cute cartoon illustration of a scientistphysics in certain areas, including relativity theory. Where I criticize relativity theory I generally rely on other physicists’ own critiques, including, for example, Lee Smolin, whose new book, Time Reborn, includes many issues with today’s relativity theory. I also rely on Nobel Prize winner, Ilya Prigogine’s, work, as well as David Bohm, John Bell, and others.

Question: You seem to have an ax to grind when it comes to Einstein and relativity theory. Why is that? 

Answer  

A number of years ago I read Einstein’s own little book on relativity theory, Relativity: The General and Special Theories. It’s a great introduction to relativity theory and Einstein revised it numerous times, so it remained an accurate description of his views until his death. There’s a very telling passage in Einstein’s description of his development of special relativity, in which he describes his preferred definitions of time and simultaneity, where he states his stipulation of simultaneity as resting on the constancy of the speed of light no matter the speed of the observer.

Black Hole in isometric viewEinstein also states that he has a right to stipulate whatever he wishes. On this, I agree entirely. Science is about making hypotheses and seeing where those hypotheses take us. We can and should consider what flows from the stipulation that the speed of light is constant for all observers. However, we must recognize, also, that this is a very strange stipulation because nothing else in our universe behaves this way. Rather, all other things change speed as the observer changes speed (or, rather, their apparent speed changes). Einstein suggested that the speed of light was instead absolute and independent of the speed of the observer. This one stipulation leads to all the craziness regarding time dilation and contraction of matter as it approaches the speed of light.

It also leads to Einstein’s well-known view that free will is an illusion because the past, present and future are all determined. There is no room for free will in Einstein’s universe and I find this highly disturbing. This is the basis for my critiques of Einsteinian relativity theory. Thankfully, there are alternatives to relativity theory and I describe some of these alternatives in my book.

Question: Can you describe your criticism of Darwinian evolution? 

Answer  

My undergraduate work was in evolutionary biology so this is another area that I’ve been noodling for quite some time. I’d always had the feeling that Darwinian evolution was at best incomplete and I figured out in the last few years what my intuition was about.

The basic problem (of a few) is that much of modern evolutionary theory rests on circular or tautological definitions. For example, natural selection is described in terms of fitness, which is defined generally in terms of adaptations, which is defined in terms of spermnatural selection – and so the circle goes round and round. My long paper on this issue is here and I suggest that we can remedy this major problem with today’s evolutionary theory by looking to a panpsychist approach to biology, which takes seriously the notion that most creatures are active agents in their own evolution, in tandem with the random elements highlighted by Darwinian theory. Darwin himself might actually agree with my critiques because I expand his ideas on sexual selection (fleshed out in The Descent of Man) into a “generalized sexual selection” theory that may act as a more general theory than today’s natural selection theory, which was the focus of Darwin’s first major book, On the Origin of Species.

Question: The last chapter is a long interview with Giulio Tononi. Can you summarize what is important about his contribution?

Answer

Giulio is at the forefront of the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. He is a psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and he splits his time between the scientific study of sleep and the scientific study of consciousness. He has developed over the last thirty years what is now known as the Integrated Information Theory of consciousness. I attended the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness’s (ASSC) annual meeting in San Diego last July and Giulio’s ideas were prominently featured. I had the feeling at the conference that we’re in the midst of a paradigm shift away from purely materialist views of mind toward some variety of panpsychism.

Computer Circuit Board BackgroundGiulio’s theory suggests that consciousness is literally integrated information. Integrated information comes about when information-processing units, of whatever sort, are interconnected such that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. So the integrated information is the extra something that is formed by the collection of connections between entities – like that which exists in human brains, comprised of numerous neurons and neuronal connections.

Giulio himself shies away from the panpsychist label and argues that his theory is not panpsychist. I take issue with his caution on this matter because it seems to me that his theory is undeniably panpsychist. Regardless, I think his ideas have a lot of merit and I look forward to the debate unfolding in future years. Many scientists and philosophers have been attracted to Giulio’s approach because of its quantification framework and also its ability to qualitatively describe in various ways the nature of consciousness.

Question: Last, what is evolutionary philosophy and why does it matter? 

Answer  

Evolutionary philosophy is a fairly new field that takes the insights about evolutionary biology and applies them more broadly to life, the universe and everything. Science is really the study of change because all things are changing, so to understand the world around us we must understand change. Evolutionary theory and philosophy are all about change. This approach takes time seriously – time is not an illusion. We are in fact maths signwitnessing new things, new ideas, new creatures, coming into being all the time. We exist in an ever-flowing river.

Evolutionary philosophy asks where is this process going? Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is arguably the patron saint of evolutionary philosophy due to his grand vision of humanity and the universe evolving to an Omega Point at which time the maximum level of complexity and of consciousness is reached in the universe. I don’t actually buy the details of Teilhard’s Omega Point ideas (in particular, I don’t agree that anything is pulling the universe toward greater complexity; rather, I believe that each creature, no matter how large or small, is pushing the universe toward greater complexity), but I do buy the idea that we are all co-evolving The Thinker Silhouette Concepttoward higher levels of complexity and of consciousness.

Evolutionary philosophy thus provides a life-affirming vision for our future and role in co-creating that future. It’s up to each of us to carve out our own personal vision and to creatively execute that vision in the years we are gifted here on this planet. 

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  • Rob Cristoph

    So “Giulio’s theory “suggests” that consciousness comes about when information-processing units, of whatever sort, are interconnected such that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Come on please, that´s such a vacuous statement! That´s similar to a child telling another child that a computer chip is able to process information when lots of transistors are connected in whatever way together… Maybe a lawyer and a psychiatrist should keep within their area of knowledge, and not publish anything so airy fairy until, at least, they have some new evidence.

    • Lyn Peel

      Taken out of context it does sound silly … perhaps it was written for those people with a non science background?

      • Rob Cristoph

        I´m just tired of so much nonsense in the press/web, especially from lawyers who I view as a great plague of “modern” society. This blog has jumped from cutting-edge molecular-biology review to vacuous airy-fairy pop-science/mysticism, and I find that a surprise. Yesterday we all read or heard about the discovery of the primeval waves from the expansion of the universe, this tells us that this universe was created “out” of nothing, that is nothing within this universe. It supports the multi-universe theory, in which case God/God-head etc., could be absolutely damn anything and far beyond our ability to determine. The last thing I need is more lawyers talking rubbish. I have more respect for a good carpenter any day!

    • Tam Hunt

      Rob, I always appreciate feedback, positive or negative, but I can tell you haven’t read anything beyond my interview responses. Why don’t you read my book or my peer-reviewed papers and then judge?

      • Rob Cristoph

        I’m not encouraged to read more at all following those first snippets, but if there is something you think conveys the essence of the matter I would take another look. Will you send me a web link?

        • Tam Hunt

          Rob, you can download the first few essays for free as a Kindle sample at Amazon.com. In terms of God as Source, check out http://www.independent.com/news/2011/aug/27/source/. And keep in mind that what I mean by God as Source is an impersonal ontological substrate to reality. Terminology aside, it’s hard to disagree with the existence of this component of reality.

          • Rob Cristoph

            Thanks Tam, I read the independent review, but I think that, although interesting, there are other explanations. For example, from the available data there is very probably not just this one universe, which in itself we recently saw proof had expanded from virtually nothing to huge scale in a fraction of time. Given this, the rules of the matter in this universe, of the atoms that are in fact virtually empty force field generators probably with their own rule-base, may vary or be completely different in other universes. The “seething mass of quanta” you mention, may be nothing more than our inability to “see” anything at that level/dimension. The effect at a distance of entwined particles may be caused because the control source for those same particles has one root in a dimension that we cannot yet view. Mind needs matter, but that does not mean that matter means mind anymore than a computer processor means transistors, but transistor do not have to mean a processor chip. Take the ribosome, the factory of every cell of every living thing since life began. That super complex machine, the ribosome, has never evolved, and without it not a single cell could have formed. The hex genes that specify the body layout in an object-oriented manner of every living creature, that suddenly appeared 340 million years ago or so, has not variants, like the ribosome, they are like a “life-platform” on which “God” wrote the music of life. The question is why did that platform exist in such a perfect state before that life music was turned into perfect DNA code? Possibly this universe was created from a blueprint that pre-existed, perhaps we are but a bubble within many bubbles, intelligences within many intelligences, but at this point in our time, we can only say that evolution of matter or life, is not as Darwin had thought, and that evolution is not caused by random changes to the letters of our DNA but by large and perfect edits. We cannot explain this because we have very limited sight, so I would say that the precepts you are promoting, interesting as they are, cannot be connected to the available data. its fun to imagine though, and we have to keep truing to connect the dots.. the few that we have. 🙂

          • Tam Hunt

            Rob, whether we live in a multiverse or “just” a universe, or whether there is a quantum foam at the ontological base of our reality, is irrelevant to my point. My point is that we have “stuff,” an entire universe (or multiverse) of stuff and this prompts the question: what produces this stuff in each moment? The process philosophy view is that reality consists of a series of snapshots, with each moment of reality being a re-creation of the universe, informed by the previous snapshot. Whether we view time in this manner or in the block universe manner popular with some physicists, we are still left with the question of where it all comes from. This is God as Source, or the ground of being, or akasha, apeiron, Ein Sof, ether, etc. The names don’t really matter, but the idea that there is something at the base of our reality that produces the stuff we see around us is pretty hard to deny.

          • Rob Cristoph

            So the bottom line is where did this universe come from? Well, without inter-dimensional, or perhaps extra-dimensional technologies, we can only guess. The key question, if you like, is why are we unable to accept that there was no beginning, which has to be the case. No beginning not to this one universe, but to everything far and beyond this one perhaps tiny universe (size is relative). Perhaps one day we will pass from the childish arrogance that we are the most intelligent beings in a universe that could not possibly have been created by something with intention. Not a God, just “others” with a different history. It doesn´t really matter where this universe came from, what matters is how we develop. Following a recent study, the West is heading for the perfect storm of a crisis in just 15-years, a crisis that will make this fun theorising irrelevant. Take a look and let me know what you think:- http://www.sesync.org/sites/default/files/resources/motesharrei-rivas-kalnay.pdf

          • Tam Hunt

            Rob, I agree that the universe/multiverse is probably eternal in some manner. There has always been something. But it still leaves unanswered where that something comes from in each moment. Again, under the process philosophy view the world of matter/energy/mind is re-created anew in each snapshot. I won’t go into the details here of the logic behind this view, but I find the logic compelling. As such, where does “stuff” come from? The answer I find most compelling is that there is a ground of being that we can think of as pure potentiality. In each moment, this ground of potentiality produces all actuality, based on each previous moment of actuality. This is what I mean by God as Source. Again, terminology doesn’t matter as much as the conceptual structure that successfully explains the available evidence without contradiction.

          • Rob Cristoph

            Mystery is always compelling, as it was for those first African tribes who saw the Portuguese “gods” in glimmering helmets and large galleons passing by their coasts. The God-source of this universe is imperfect, there are errors, limitations and down write hacks in our genetic material, as much as in the physical structures of this universe. So at the end of the line… there may be just no mystery at all. Just the hope that we can make a good journey.

          • Tam Hunt

            Well, I’ve said nothing about Source as perfection. Perfection is a very human construct. God as Source is simply pure creativity/potentiality. And mind is the impetus behind the actuality that springs from this potentiality. Source is not conscious and the universe relies on mind to imbue potentiality with form, function and meaning.

          • Rob Cristoph

            Aren´t you hyping it up though? Making it all sound so wonderful, that we are wonderful creatures in a wonderful universe? That sells better than we are part of a bio-system where life, including ourselves, is produced to be as recyclable as paper cups? We are not built to last, we are built to recycle, programmed to shutdown after a limited number of cell divisions, with bacteria and fungus, flies and worms waiting to recycle us back into the chain. That our brains are those of evolved mice, that our emotional systems are so primitive there is little difference between most of us and canines or apes. Women still look for successful mates, men look for young attractive healthy mates… primitive creatures we are. Our brains can´t easily handle complex multidimensional math, or even complex design without tools we create at great cost. We are so limited in so many ways, and only a very few people are able to do anything really creative. But your book makes it all sound so wonderful. It can be wonderful, but you need to paint both side of the picture otherwise your just pitching to sell IMHO. Anyway, good luck with it… 😉

          • Tam Hunt

            Rob, in life we often have a choice as to whether to frame matters in a positive or a negative manner since many situations are highly interpretable. I certainly have dark moments where I wonder if things are really that wonderful. We can look around and see numerous examples of crappy, mean and downright cruel behavior, in the human and animal realms. Life isn’t always very pretty. And yet when we look to the bigger picture and to the trajectory we’re on as a species and as a universe, we can validly paint a very positive view of our universe and our place in it. It’s a choice we all make in each moment.

          • Rob Cristoph

            You must believe in divine intervention, or have a very n2^n positive view of our place in the universe! The trajectory, and its a good word, that our planet and solar system has is to be recycled, us all along with it, that is if we somehow manage to avoid a massive impact with a meteorite, etc. Considering that our “advanced” nations can´t agree on something as simple as greenhouse gas emissions, and that our physicists are still very largely stuck in 1927, and considering this universe may be such that interstellar travel will be impractical, and remain so, it is 99% probable that the human race will cease to exist. Get real I say, we are one earth-type planet of some 8 billion in this galaxy, amongst 400 billion galaxies, in a multiverse probably even larger. Humanity in reality is a very throw-away commodity, along with our entire solar system. Leave it 20-years Tam and get back to me, if I´m still here, and lets see how you´re feeling! Good luck!

          • Tam Hunt

            Rob, the trajectory of life on our planet is very likely to colonize not only our solar system (inevitable) but to also colonize nearby star systems and eventually the entire galaxy. We will at that point have long ago transcended biological form and we will have become immortal beings capable of eventually traveling to other galaxies and colonizing those galaxies also. This process can be seen as a process of “en-lifing” the universe and also of spiritualizing the universe as we take inert matter (imbued with very low-level mentality; essentially just a humming of pure being) and incorporate it into our technological systems that will before too long become our own bodies. This en-lifing and spiritualizing of the universe is, for those who choose that path, a pretty long-term project and this is what I’m referring to when I talk about seeing the positive trajectories we’re on. This of course quickly elides into science fiction since we can’t possibly know the future beyond a very short time horizon. But we can speculate and I’ll wager a good sum that if both you and I are around in a few hundred years that my vision will have been borne out. If you’re curious about more of my long-term vision email me at tam dot hunt at gmail and I’ll send you some of my fiction that probes these ideas. My book in progress, Cosmic Ecology, includes short fiction alternating with non-fiction discussion, and my story, Galaxies Apart, addresses the vision I’ve just outlined above.

          • Rob Cristoph

            Tam, wow, I´m a star trek fan too, but come on! Look, Space Odyssey 2010 had intelligent talking computers (HAL), we´re at 2014 and we are NO WHERE near that level! Our scientists can´t even explain how a light harvesting molecule works, let alone build a warp drive! We have no accurate model for the atom, what we have is based on stuff done in the 20´s with some added math. We can´t really explain even electromagnetism, just some of its properties, and to think that we´re anywhere near colonizing star systems let alone even mars is really a wild dream! We have no idea how a neuron works, we can´t model it, we can hardly repair nerves, yet you talk of us being able to engineer ourselves into new bodies! Maybe in 80-years we´ll have some true AI, maybe, given an exponential increase in our understanding of how the brain works. Who knows, maybe in 100 to 500 years we´ll be able to improve our own brains, develop warp drive… but then in that time in just takes one large asteroid to remove finish humanity. Fingers crossed it won´t happen. But you have a problem, our brains aren´t designed for immortality, we are emotionally driven animals, emotion aimed at just keeping us moving and breeding. What´s reason is there to live forever? With all those superpowers you imagine, you´ll get bored real quick, within say 140 years you´d be pulling the plug on yourself! I think we will have to agree to disagree!! 😉

          • Tam Hunt

            I didn’t put a timeframe on my predictions – intentionally. But I feel pretty confident we’ll be colonizing Mars by 2030 and other planets/moons by 2050. And other star systems by 2100 or so. As for immortality, Kurzweil may be a bit optimistic but I tend to find his arguments pretty convincing, even if he’s off by a decade or two. He has us being able to transcend biology by 2100 or so. These predictions of course assume nothing catastrophic happens to humanity in the meantime.

          • Rob Cristoph

            You know that a recently published report funded by nasa predicts global economic meltdown by 2030? They say that population pressures combined with climate change crop failures will produce the perfect storm. Nasa maybe be more focused on earth than mars at that time.

          • Tam Hunt

            Do you have the link? I think what you’re referring to is an annual document that looks at various scenarios, not predictions.

          • Rob Cristoph

            Its a new mathematical model that shows why civilisation old and new fail. I’ll post it tomorrow.

          • Tam Hunt

            Rob, I’m an environmental lawyer in my day job so I’m well versed on the various environmental issues facing us. I’ve written extensively on the “twin crises” of climate change and peak oil (resource depletion) and I do worry about those issues. There are many other issues facing us too that could derail civilization as we know it. I don’t, however, feel that population is one of those issues since it seems that most countries today are facing a population decline issue rather than population growth issues. Only a few developing countries are still growing but we’ll see population level off and decline in the next couple of decades. When it comes to big environmental issues like climate change my feeling is that we’ll be significantly challenged but that we’ll muddle through. Such issues may set back the timelines I outlined by a decade or two, but time will tell. Either way, I feel pretty confident that we’ll get off planet in a significant way in the next few decades and even if we screw up this planet beyond recognition we will have by that time made the leap off planet, thus ensuring our civilization’s survival. But I could be wrong. And if I am I am even more confident that some other civilization in some other star system will achieve the “en-lifing” that I spoke of a few posts ago.

          • Rob Cristoph

            Muddle through… yes that sounds probable. As to reaching other E-type planets, twin problems of no light-drive insight, and long-term radiation exposure. Suspended animation/hibernation, vast costs of long-term sustainable flights lasting decades or centuries….and our own civilization suffering a resource-share squabble, yet you’re so confident? What do you know that I don’t?

          • Tam Hunt

            Rob, I interview David Brin in my book, author of the new novel Existence. His central premise is that colonization of other star systems will be largely virtual, achieved with small technological “seeds” that encapsulate the consciousness(es) of other beings. I think it’s likely that our own colonization of other planetary systems (at least beyond our immediate neighborhood of stars) will take the same form and if Kurzweil is right that we will have learned to transcend biology and take whatever substrate we like by 2100 or so, this capability bodes well for escaping our solar system also. Personally, I like my biological substrate as long as it works well. I’m not particularly enjoying aging, but I like being embodied. I’m looking forward to having the choice to continue in a healthy body far longer than has been possible historically, but I fully respect those who choose to accept nature’s normal lifespan. Even if we don’t become virtual beings, which sounds entirely sci fi to most of us here in 2014, by 2100 or so I’m pretty confident that technologies will be developed that allow us to withstand radiation and other interstellar perils even if we remain entirely biological beings as we venture out into the stars.

          • Rob Cristoph

            NASA funded mathematical model predicts severe global crisis within 15 years:

            “Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies – by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance – have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a ‘perfect storm’ within about fifteen years. But these ‘business as usual’ forecasts could be very conservative.”

            NASA funded report: http://www.sesync.org/sites/default/files/resources/motesharrei-rivas-kalnay.pdf

  • Rob Cristoph

    “I feel that we can infer the existence of God as Source simply from the reality of the universe around us.” – why does that seem such utter nonsense? I don´t think we can infer the existence of any type of universal God. We need hard facts, not guess work.

  • Rob Cristoph

    The more I read the more I think less of lawyers… especially out of their field!

    • Lyn Peel

      and you just felt the need to be insulting? bad day eh!

  • Jeff Graubart

    While I’m no fan of the functionalism of Tononi or Koch, that is certainly not the thrust of Tam Hunt’s panpsychism. As for God as Source, I’ll withhold judgment until I read the essay. I just began the book today, but so far find Tam’s writing clear and concise. He supports his thesis with sound logic that is easy to follow. I’ll post a more thorough review of the book on Amazon in a few days. While none of us can be expected to agree 100% of the time, nor is that desirable, I consider both Tam Hunt and Jon Lieff to be leaders in the philosophy of panpsychism and the unification of mind and matter and was very happy to see this interview between two heroes of mine.

    • Rob Cristoph

      It may be “well written” in the form of a novel for the non-scientifically minded, but statements such as saying that consciousness occurs when a certain number of processing nodes of any kind are connected is absolutely vacuous, especially when stated by someone who clearly is not a computer scientist.

      • Jeff Graubart

        You are focusing on the Tononi and Koch thesis. On that I completely agree with you and I wish Tam wasn’t so diplomatic as to give these guys air time, Actually, Koch is somewhat of a computer scientist which is doubly egregious. Unfortunately, IITC is gaining in popularity and it is easy to see how those who are not computer scientists can be taken in. I consider it a very dangerous turn of events. I am at 22% in my reading, but I read the interviews with Koch and Tononi originally and if that is the extent of Tam’s support for IITC, it is reasonable within the context of a book that is somewhat explorational.

        • Tam Hunt

          Jeff, you’ll be glad to know that I am in dialogue with Tononi and Koch on possible ways to “Whitehead” IIT a bit more, particularly as it concerns the combination problem.

          • Jeff Graubart

            Press them on the role of intention in causality. If they deny intention they are epiphenomenalists and all the “Whiteheading” in the world won’t help. You might also press them on the reality of time. Intention and the reality of time are critical to the panpsychism that you, I, and if I could be so bold as to presume, Jon Lieff support.