connections that will contribute to all concerned. And obviously, you’re allowed to limit this so you’re not exposed to all the grasping tendrils in the entire world on every one of your vulnerabilities or aspirations.
But in the other model, this is like a software product that you have on – I don’t want to call it a computer anymore–your personal high-tech communicator. It’s much more selective, in the sense that you’re not in the public commons and it’s only in touch with those parties or information sources that you privately and specifically designated. But it’s the same basic technology. You can see that a lot has happened since I started blabbing about this back in 1980, and much of this has become pretty mainstream, You have these so-called personal communicators, digital assistants, organizers, which are kind of a hodgepodge of badly fitting parts right now. They don’t put the most obvious things in these, such as a telephone interface. So right now it’s driven by some very conflicting market pressures, and hopefully the Angel will be available about the time that the hardware to run it on is mature.
David The idea behind Angel is basically about automating activities and functions. I’m curious about whether you think it’s possible to create,through a computer network, an entity composed of synthetic consciousness, or a personality with an artificial mind?
Francis: I just jotted down a remark on this. I said, “We should not look for consciousness or awareness in an individual computer or program, but in a network including participants.”
David Wait a minute! That’s a way of skirting around the question! (laughter)
Francis: Well, no, it’s not, not, not. No it’s not. No it’s not. Remember what I said about Patanjali’s words, way back 2,500 years ago. He said artificial minds have this universal tendency to individuate, to create individual coherent centers of awareness. Contemporary scientific interest in this–the binding problem, “What makes a perception hang together? What makes it whole”–is very close to asking who or what is having that experience. This is really the basic issue in psychology, but it has been ducked for a long time because of a lack of boldness or techniques or theoretical tools, as well as this huge prejudice from nineteenth-century materialism that still hangs around. Behaviorism is a dead-end thing that doesn’t get you anywhere scientifically, but it’s been proven to be very useful for exploitation, whether you’re training dolphins to do things for the Navy, or you’re trying to train people by repetition to smoke Brand X cigarettes.
David Do you think that this tendency toward individuation is going to lead to silicon chips having coherent centers of awareness that can interact with us?
Francis: I don’t know that they’ d necessarily be silicon chips. See, again, there are two extreme poles to this. One of them is you say, “Well, this mind, this consciousness, is not really an individual property that is localized in a particular brain in a particular body. It’s just somehow that it’s concentrated there–it has something to do with it. Your consciousness is no more tied to your brain and body than the conversation is tied to the computer terminal, telephone, or fax machine it goes through. There’s some association, but it’s not dependent on a particular terminal device.” So then I say, “Well, you should not look for consciousness in an individual computer program, no matter how it’s constructed, no matter how clever the software. We should look for it in this network of relationships between communicational participants.”
This ties in with your other question about this theory I published in 1986 that said essentially that, at a psychological or spiritual level, we are not separate entities with boundaries that collide; rather, we are entities with boundaries that overlap. And once you recognize that you’re an entity with a boundary that overlaps, the first thing you realize is that you’re both the inside and the outside of the boundary. The thing that distinguishes you is maybe the shape of the boundary, or something like that, but it’s not even a question of inside versus outside. Second, when the boundaries of these different entities–which are not defined by physical-world logic but by this higher-dimensional logic–overlap, then the relationship is not so much a question of how much one of them encroaches into the other, because both of them own the inside and the outside.
Get yourself a couple loops of string, a red one and a blue one, and see what sort of interactive relationships you can work out with them by twisting them around on top of a white sheet of paper, and you’ll get some idea what I’m talking about. But it’s not so much how one encroaches on the other, because that is meaningless by this logic. Each boundary owns both its inside and it’s outside. It’s more a question of how those boundaries themselves interact, how they lie together or interrelate. Those might be relationships of common perception, common idea, which is the basis of communication. Then you ask, “Well the information itself seems to be drawing distinctions–yes, no, this, that, and so forth–so that in the information sphere, the boundaries that define your mind are all those binary kind of boundaries, where you are always on both sides of them. Wittgenstein demonstrated in the 1920s that logic is totally trivial, Godel that the mind is other than logical processes, and G. Spencer Brown that all the mindless consequences of mathematics can be defined by an extremely minimal system of symbols. But the mind is in the background of all this.
David Okay, so what you’re describing is the process of thought, info
rmation transfer, and perception integration.
Francis: Yes. Now you want to get down to the psychophysical interface. See, that’s the other pole of this. You’re asking now, “What is it about the brain and the whole works such that you get consciousness and self consciousness, a sense of self, a sense of purpose, an extension in time and space beyond where you actually are, and apparently psychic communications with similarly constructed brains and minds?
David Right, that really odd sense of awareness that you’re in the center of this immensely important drama.
Francis: Yeah, where does all that come from? There are some Gedenken [German, “to think with”] experiments, as the physicists used to call them, little scientific fantasies you could run and play with, which help you dissect this problem. One of my favorites is the theme of “Beam me up, Scotty,” the Star Trek teleportation paradigm. That one actually goes back quite a ways. There are ancient spiritual ideas that relate to this, but if you stick to technology and science fiction, the first I pick up is in about 1948, in A. E. van Vogt’s The World of Null A, which incidentally has a lot to do with the rejection of Aristotelian logic, the logic of the physical world, which my model is an alternative to. What he posits there is a character who has many bodies somehow. This person was originally some real person who had been cloned, or was maybe a total fabrication by someone else. There are many physical copies of him, and they’re in chronic storage somewhere in orbit around another planet. So this person finds himself one day thinking he’s going about his daily activities, and then some strange events intrude. He finds out that nobody else remembers him. Although he thinks he’s going about his daily activities, before that day he didn’t really exist, because all the people around him don’t know who he is, and his story doesn’t check out. He starts finding himself in a lot of trouble, and eventually he gets blown away. He’s killed, and as soon as that happens, his consciousness transfers to another clone of himself, which is instantaneously activated and carries on with the story somewhere else.
The protagonist is left realizing he really doesn’t know who he is or where he came from. Even though he has detailed memories going back to childhood, he realizes that they don’t agree with anybody else’s memories, and as far as he knows, they’re completely some kind of fabrication that
was implanted in him. The next step is Star Trek, where you have this teleportation beam. Well, what’s the premise of the teleportation idea in which you’re being beamed up or down? In one location there’s this device that is basically disintegrating and destroying your body.
David Breaking it into basic components, but keeping the original pattern somewhere.
Francis: Keeping the pattern, because it’s not transporting the material. The material is being recycled, thrown out or we don’t know what happens to the material. But all the information that is your body at that instant when you say, “Beam me up” is being recorded and transmitted like a television signal. So it’s like a television or a fax machine except that it’s in three dimensions and all very high resolution–it’s operating at 10 -33 centimeters resolution. So the next thing you know, you’re in the teleporter room of the starship Enterprise, and there you are in one piece again. It reconstitutes your body, getting the material from wherever in its storage, and it puts you back together. You have perhaps just a fleeting, or maybe not even any, break of awareness or consciousness
Various physicists have thought about this at the level of quantum theory and so on. They ask, “What would be an interface? What would be entailed?” and based on quantum theory, they usually conclude that you actually would have to destroy the original in order to make the copy exactly like it. In other