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Nick Herbert

busy signal, that kind of thing. The ultimate busy signal.

In any case, it convinced me that the universe has a sense of humor. It’s really about the funniest thing that could have been said in a few words. But nothing else seemed to occur that particular day. We had pounds of stuff to go through. Actually, this page was lost. Afterwards, we’d all saw it, but people had taken some of the pages for souvenirs, and I guess somebody got that one, and we never found out where that page ended up. So it’s another one of those experiments that doesn’t have any data. We don’t have that sheet anymore. So it depends on the memory of all of us. Thomas Edison apparently worked on experiments to contact the dead, and there is a videotape about some of his exploits. I guess someone had a movie camera around, and had caught this for posterity. There’s a videotape, it’s something about collected weirdness, and it’s just full of like Mondo Cane, or something like that. One of the scenes in this videotape, which I read about, was Edison, and his early model of something to talk to the dead with. But it never worked, he never got it to the point where it actually worked.

DJB: Edison would be a good person to try to contact probably, because he had an interest in it.

NICK: Well, there actually were some people who tried that. Yeah, Gilbert Wright, the inventor of Silly Putty, and some friends of his tried to build a machine to contact Edison. They claimed to get Edison through mediums, and Edison actually, through these trance mediums, gave them instructions for building a machine, through which he would try and talk. It involved batteries and radio-like devices, but Edison wasn’t able to use that machine. It didn’t work.

DJB: Could you tell us about any projects that you’re presently working on?

NICK: Well, my next project is going to be a book on the mind called Elemental Mind. It’s a book on a long-shot model of mind. All the smart money these days, for a model of consciousness, seems to be put on either of two models–a computer or a biological model. The computer model assumes that the mind is some kind of software in the hardware of the brain, some kind of exquisite software that involves a self-image–it’s a self-image program, a little “I.” I was talking to a friend of mine–his slogan is “We’re the guys that put the I in IBM.” You could have conscious computers that would have these little software programs, with self-awareness built into them.

RMN: Little egos.

NICK: Little egos, yes. That’s one guess, that the mind is the software in the hardware of the brain. The other guess is that mind is somehow an emergent feature of certain complex biological systems–that it will arise whenever the biology gets complicated enough. Self-awareness is just an unsuspected evolutionary possibility of living meat. Elemental Mind explores the hypothesis that none of that is true. It’s a long-shot–that mind is as fundamental to nature as light or electricity. It’s all around in one form or another, and our minds are just specific examples of it, specific ways that the Universal Mind has manifested. So I’m looking for evidence for this sort of thing, and ways of making Elemental Mind more plausible. By the way, I tried to think of a word for the other kind of mind, and the best I could come up with is molecular mind. Molecular mind versus elemental mind. Molecular mind is where you put stuff together and make a mind, and elemental mind is where mind is already fundamental. So you don’t have to make it, it’s already there. All you have to do is have systems that will manifest it. So my latest project is to work on that, and make that make sense.

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