Archive for August, 2011

Photographs of Self Autopsy video installation

Posted in Uncategorized on August 23, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

Developments in artificial consciousness

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

IBM has developed a microprocessor which it claims comes closer than ever to replicating the human brain. The system is capable of “rewiring” its connections as it encounters new information, similar to the way biological synapses work. Researchers believe that by replicating that feature, the technology could start to learn. Cognitive computers may eventually be used for understanding human behaviour as well as environmental monitoring.

Dharmendra Modha, IBM’s project leader, explained that they were trying to recreate aspects of the mind such as emotion, perception, sensation and cognition by “reverse engineering the brain.” The SyNAPSE system uses two prototype “neurosynaptic computing chips”. Both have 256 computational cores, which the scientists described as the electronic equivalent of neurons. One chip has 262,144 programmable synapses, while the other contains 65,536 learning synapses.

Man machine

In humans and animals, synaptic connections between brain cells physically connect themselves depending on our experience of the world. The process of learning is essentially the forming and strengthening of connections. A machine cannot solder and de-solder its electrical tracks. However, it can simulate such a system by “turning up the volume” on important input signals, and paying less attention to others.

IBM has not released exact details of how its SyNAPSE processor works, but Dr Richard Cooper, a reader in cognitive science at Birkbeck, University of London said that it likely replicated physical connections using a “virtual machine”. Instead of stronger and weaker links, such a system would simply remember how much “attention” to pay to each signal and alter that depending on new experiences.

“Part of the trick is the learning algorithm – how should you turn those volumes up and down,” said Dr Cooper.

“There’s a a whole bunch of tasks that can be done just with a relatively simple system like that such as associative memory. When we see a cat we might think of a mouse.”

Some future-gazers in the cognitive computing world have speculated that the technology will reach a tipping point where machine consciousness is possible. However, Dr Mark Bishop, professor of cognitive computing at Goldsmiths, was more cautious.

“[I] understand cognition to be something over and above a process simulated by the execution of mere computations, [and] see such claims as verging on the magical,” he said.

IBM’s work on the SyNAPSE project continues and the company, along with its academic partners, has just been awarded $21m (£12.7m) by the US Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Information found at: accessed on 19/08/11.

The Brain “Receiver of Reality”

Posted in Uncategorized on August 8, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

Most of us, including the most hard-nosed neuroscientists and non-materialistic mystics, accept that the brain is a machine, the instrument of consciousness. It is a bodily organ made up of cells and tissues, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It processes raw sensory data delivered by the sense organs using electricity and chemicals.

If we accept the “receiver of reality” model for brain function, let’s compare it to another receiver with which we’re all familiar: the television. By making the analogy of the brain to the TV, it’s possible to think of how altered states of consciousness, including psychedelic ones brought about by DMT, relate to the brain as a sophisticated receiver…

What happens when the spirit molecule pulls and pushes us beyond the physical and emotional levels of awareness? We enter into invisible realms, ones we cannot normally sense and whose presence we can scarcely imagine…let’s consider the proposal that when our volunteers journeyed to the furthest bounds of DMT’s reach, when they felt as if they were somewhere else, they were indeed perceiving different levels of reality. The alternative levels are just as real as this one. It’s just that we cannot perceive them most of the time…

Returning to the TV analogy, these cases suggest that, rather than merely adjusting the brightness, contrast, and colour of the previous program, we have changed the channel…DMT provides regular, repeated, and reliable access to “other” channels. The other planes of existence are always there. In fact, they are right here, transmitting all the time! But we cannot perceive them because we are not designed to do so; our hard-wiring keeps us tuned in to Channel Normal. It takes only a second or two – the few heartbeats the spirit molecule requires to make its way to the brain – to change the channel, to open our mind to these other planes of existence…

Perhaps just the right amount of DMT is involved in the brain’s maintenance of the correct receiving properties…Too much and all manner of unusual and unexpected programs appear on the mind’s screen. Too little, and our view of the world dims and flattens…Perhaps we see and feel what we do on this level of existence because of just the right amount of endogenous DMT. It is an essential component maintaining our brain’s awareness of everyday reality. In a way, we might consider DMT to be a “reality thermostat” keeping
us in a narrow band of awareness so as to ensure our survival. (pp 311-327)

DMT elicited ideas, feelings, thoughts, and images our volunteers said they could never have imagined. Psychedelics stimulate the imagination, and thus they are logical tools to enhance creativity. The problems facing our society and planet require the use of novel ideas as much as new and more powerful technology. It’s impossible to overstate the urgent need to improve our imaginative abilities. Psychedelics may provide a powerful tool for doing so.

I’ve mentioned previously Harman’s and Fadiman’s 1960’s studies of psychedelics’ positive effects on problem solving. Research subjects, all professionals in their fields, found that many of these psychedelically enhanced solutions were quite effective. There currently are many well-characterized ways of measuring creativity, including artistic,
scientific, psychological, spiritual, and emotional. It would be relatively straightforward to renew research into psychedelics’ effects on this crucial human quality.

Many definitions of imagination refer to the divine nature of this attribute. To conceive of and produce something new allows us to share in some of God’s creative power. Our imagination extends us by thought into places where nothing previously existed. (p 341)

Strassmann. R (2001) DMT: The Spirit Molecule. Vermont. Park Street Press.


Posted in Uncategorized on August 8, 2011 by pauljohnwhite


Mystical experience – White Cube experience

Posted in Uncategorized on August 8, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

The three pillars of self, time and space all undergo profound transfiguration in a mystical experience.

There no longer is any separation between the self and what is not the self. Personal identity and all of existence become one and the same. In fact, there is no “personal identity” because we understand at the most basic level the underlying unity and interdependence of all existence.

Past, present and future merge together into a timeless moment, the now of eternity. Time stops, inasmuch as it no longer “passes.” There is existence, but it is not dependent upon time. Now and then, before and after, all combine into this exact point. On this relative level, short periods
of time encompass enormous amounts of experience.

As our self and time lose their boundaries, space becomes vast. Like time, space is no longer here or there but everywhere, limitless, without edges. Here and there are the same.

In this infinitely vast time and space with no limited self, we hold up to examination all contradictions and paradoxes and see they no longer conflict…We are now certain that consciousness continues after the body dies, and that it existed long before this particular form…Extraordinarily powerful feelings surge through our consciousness. We are ecstatic, and the intensity of this joy is such that our body cannot contain it – it seems to need a temporarily disembodied state… There is a searing sense of the sacred and holy. We contact an unchanging, unborn, undying, and uncreated reality…Our eyes now, finally are truly open, and we see things clearly in a “new light.” (Strassmann 2001: pp234-235)

This description of a mystical experience can be compared to the experience of contemplating art in the white cube. The sense of detachment from the body as the eye is welcome but our bodies feel awkward and out of sync with the environment which is detached from the influence of time and events beyond its walls. Artworks are presented as sacred items, a means to access the divine and reveal profound truths, and are designed to be contemplated in a reverential manner. The mystical experience accessed through chemical ingestion, Shamanic ritual or meditation, similar to the experience of art in the white cube can be seen to facilitate a sense of detachment between the mind (or eye in the white cube) and the body, but also between the body and the reality of time and place of the real world.

Plan for Self Autopsy performance

Posted in Uncategorized on August 8, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

Voluntary traumatic experience

Posted in Uncategorized on August 6, 2011 by pauljohnwhite

DMT affects the mind and body in potentially useful ways through creating a controlled and supported traumatic experience. Trauma derives from a Greek word meaning “wound.” My dictionary defines trauma as “a severe emotional shock having a deep, often lasting effect upon the personality.”

Traumatic experiences usually are out of our control. For example, we do not choose our abusive childhoods, exposure to natural or man-made disasters, or real threats to our life. Once we have experienced such events, the minds natural tedency is to wall off the feelings of fear, helplessness, and anxiety that threatened to overwhelm us at the time.

Nevertheless, unprocessed trauma seeps out into our lives. We may find ourselves in situations that produce ghosts or shadows of those trauma-based feelings over and over again…If we are to move past the consequences of trauma, it is necessary to confront them head on. Usually this requires a voluntary reexperiencing of the feelings caused by the trauma in a safe and supportive environment…I am certain that many of our volunteers were at some level attracted to the DMT project because it promised an overwhelming but structured voluntary trumatic experience. By experiencing absolute loss of control in a safe and supportive situation, it might be possible to more fully contact, and thereby let go of, certain powerful emotions.

Strassman. R (2001) DMT: The Spirit Molecule. Vermont. Park Street Press