Universe as Virtual Reality; Lee Interview
Thompson considers “virtual reality” military flight simulation software with radio show host, to help illustrate the mind-brain paradox. He proposes that the experience of a user interacting with this type of program not only offers parallels to Puranic accounts of the material world as a manifestation of the illusory energy, but also for considering an array of paranormal phenomena.
TRANSCRIPT: Universe as Virtual Reality; Lee Interview: Laura Lee Show – July 11, 2003 / (304)
Laura Lee: Welcome to "Conversation for Exploration." Hi, I'm your host, Laura Lee. You've heard the saying that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. I think of it as our souls just coming down to earth and putting on an earth suit, a physical body, for the journey. And Richard Thompson has been thinking of that as well. He's written Maya: The World as Virtual Reality. He's a long time devotee of the Vedas, and the Vedas, of course, have a lot to say about matter as illusion, maya, and consciousness being the only true reality.
Richard says that virtual reality provides a handy metaphor here. And he likens the Universe on a vastly great scale of virtual reality, like a computer simulation interfacing with us conscious observer participants. He says that this allows for some interesting implications: that paranormal phenomenon can now be reconciled in a natural way with the laws of physics, also paradoxes of time, and life beyond the body. So he'll describe all this today for us.
And before we begin, a bit about Richard's background because it's surprising. You may know him from previous interviews on this show where he talked about his previous books, Forbidden Archeology and Hidden History of the Human Race, and Alien Identities – looking for clues of aliens in some of the ancient literature; also, the Mysteries of the Sacred Universe. But he's a mathematician by profession. He received his PhD in probability theory and statistical mechanics from Cornell back in the 70’s. He's written a number of scientific works on this, Computer Simulations of Self-organization in Biological Systems and Mechanistic and Non-mechanistic Science, for a few examples; and lots and lots of papers. So he brings an interesting background to this both from mathematics and from his long time study of the wisdom of the Vedas. And Richard joins us from Florida.
Thank you so much Richard for being here. Good to have you here.
Richard L. Thompson: Well thank you.
LL: So The World as Virtual Reality – so many of us have been saying that for a long, long time. I'm glad you've finally put a body of science to argue the case. Why write this book?
RLT: Well, I was intrigued by the whole idea of virtual reality. Actually I first heard about it, that concept, a number of years ago. It actually started, pretty much, with military flight simulators in which you intercept the person’s senses so that the person sees through TV screens that project a computer generated world – in this case, the world as seen from the cockpit of an airplane. And also, when the person moves his hands, that in effect moves objects within the computer generated world, for example the controls of the plane.
LL: You know, so once again, military applications have really pushed through a whole new science that's been very useful in the civil world, isn't it?
RLT: Well yeah. The whole idea of the flight simulator gave rise to the idea that: Well you could simulate an entire world. And if you projected the senses of the individual into that world, the person would actually be perceiving within that world.
LL: Lo and behold! Maybe how the world works in the first place.
RLT: Well of course that's the thought that then occurred. What if we're already in a simulation? So...
LL: And that's why the movie, The Matrix, I think, took us all by storm. At last, let's play on this idea. It doesn't have to be that the artificial machines captured us to make energy with. Maybe it's the whole world's just designed like that from the get go.
RLT: Yeah right. So yeah, The Matrix of course uses this idea. But there's further possibilities there.
LL: And we're gonna explore those with you. So here's this idea of virtual reality. And then what do you do with it to try and really get underneath it, to put it not in a context of mere technology, but in terms of a cosmic reality?
RLT: Well the concept of virtual reality basically can be looked at from the standpoint of artificial intelligence and computers. People have been trying to figure out how to put consciousness and intelligence into a computer, and they think that has to be built into the computer by making it suitably complex and powerful. However there's another way to put consciousness into a computer and that is to take an existing consciousness and, as I say, by diverting the senses into a set of computer generated senses, that consciousness actually experiences things within the computer. So that's another solution to the question of how to put consciousness into a computer.
So basically you've got 3 elements: one is consciousness, which you're taking as something already existing; then there's the computer itself, likewise something already existing, but we of course understand better how computers work; and then there's an interface between the two that links consciousness to the computer. So that's the basic concept of a virtual reality.
Now if you look at The Matrix, you see sort of the obvious way of going about this in which you assume, well consciousness resides in brains, so we have to hook somebody's brain up with the master computer. And so in you have the bodies in vats with wires going into them, plugging them into the computer system. So that of course is a somewhat awkward way to do it. And it's messy mainly because of the physical aspect of the brain, and we're doing that because we simply assume that consciousness is there in the brain. But if you drop that assumption and streamline the model, you don't have to posit a... the situation with wires going in to the person's body and so forth. You can imagine consciousness, whatever that is, linking up to some kind of interface with a computer simulation. And then you can explore that idea.
LL: Do you think that the Stuart Hameroff idea of the microtubules is still resting on the notion of wires? You know, like they could be long but infinitely small. But they're still kind of wires. Do you think that is necessary as an interface between the physical hardware, the body, the brain, the grey matter, and then consciousness? Or are you way beyond that, into some other model of what the connection point between the two could be?
RLT: Well, the idea is that there's an interface between consciousness and the virtual reality. Now I say virtual reality, just to give some background on that: Physics as we understand it today is saying that everything is mathematical. Basically the laws of physics are mathematical.
LL: Or that everything can be reduced to mathematical formulae.
RLT: Right. Everything can be completely described in terms of mathematics. That's basically the conclusion that has been arrived at in the science of physics. And it's rather a remarkable conclusion.
RLT: Because if you go back a little bit in the history of physics you'll see that mathematics is used to describe physical reality but one can assume that it's just a description. The physical reality is really quite different from the mathematics used to describe it.
LL: So you think this is a case of mistaking the map for the territory, as they say.
RLT: Well in the earlier stages of physics one tended to think: Well the map is different from the territory. For example, if you use classical physics to describe a simple pendulum: Well the pendulum is really a very complex thing with millions and billions of molecules making it up. But the description of the pendulum just uses a few variables. It's a very much simplified description.
LL: Well they also have the idea that all of matter is really just a vibration. And that vibration has a frequency. And that frequency is a number. Isn't that another way to get from matter to numbers?
RLT: Well yeah. That of course refers back to the idea of the Pythagoreans many, many centuries ago. That everything reduces to numbers and this has something to do with frequencies. But the point I'm getting at here is that as physics has advanced, mathematics has penetrated more and more deeply into the understanding of nature.
So now basically physicists do not propose any properties of nature or of matter which cannot be mathematically described. There's so to speak, a complete correspondence between the mathematics and the thing that is being described.
LL: And so far as they say that as long as the math works in the equation, and not really caring if their basic assumptions are all that correct or complete, they're willing to say there's, you know, 21 dimensions to the Universe and this... They can all spell it out mathematically as long as their equations work. Right?
RLT: Yeah. There's... so there's this idea of the Universe as mathematical. Now this opens up the door to a virtual reality description. Now let me refer back to the thing you mentioned about the microtubules. Generally people have explored the idea that there is some kind of interface between consciousness and matter, and that particular elements of matter, for example microtubules in the brain, may have something to do with this interface. What the virtual reality model does is it gives you a more general framework for analyzing those kinds of ideas.
Basically the idea is that a virtual reality... Let's say you give a person a virtual body. So the body they are walking around in, in the virtual reality, is also part of that virtual reality. Within that virtual body there would also be a virtual brain and perhaps also virtual microtubules and so forth. But because that whole thing is running in terms of software, it is possible to send information into it from outside the computer and also get information from it and send that information outside the computer. So if we assume that the consciousness is outside, we can imagine a stream of information coming from consciousness into the virtual system and from the virtual system back out to consciousness. And on the side of the virtual system we can model that using the computer. So that's sort of the practical usefulness of the idea here of virtual reality.
LL: And isn't it interesting that we would invent a virtual reality just at the time when everything seems to be confirming that very ancient wisdom? And that we can start to rethink our whole concept of reality?
RLT: Well let me draw the parallel which exists here between this virtual reality model and the Vedic idea of maya.
LL: Oh please, yeah.
RLT: Because basically what I was saying thus far is basically an introduction to how one could think about consciousness versus the physical body in terms of a virtual reality model.
LL: It's really a very old idea too.
RLT: Yeah. Well the... now there's a parallel to that. In the concept of the material Universe in basically Hindu tradition or Vedic tradition, there's the idea that the world of matter as we perceive it is not the ultimate level of reality. Now in the modern day and age, we’ve pretty much tended to assume that it is the ultimate level of reality. In other words, the ultimate units or elements that physics is talking about, we tend to take as ultimate. So if physics is presenting, say, electrons and quarks and so forth as ultimate, then that's the rock bottom of reality as seen in modern science. That's the tendency.
LL: And that's what's getting us into so much trouble, I think. But go ahead.
RLT: Yeah. So then the tendency is to think that. But is it... is that necessarily true? Well in the Vedic concept, the idea is that the world as we see it is not the ultimate level of reality. In fact, the world as we see it is an illusion which is being created by a deeper level of reality. This concept of maya has to be properly understood. Often it's presented simply as the idea of illusion, that things aren't real – they're just an illusion. But behind an illusion there has to be a reality that creates that illusion.
LL: Good point.
RLT: In fact, another meaning of maya in the Sanskrit language is magic – the kind of magic produced by, say, a magician on a stage.
LL: The sleight of hand, the trickery. Yeah.
RLT: Yeah. Sleight of hand or maybe something really impressive like making a piano and a piano player float through the air. So let's say the magician waves his hands and the grand piano and the person playing it float up into the air. And then the magician takes a big hoop and moves it over both of them to show you that there are no wires connected to them to hold them up. You know, something like that. So how is that done? Well of course we don't know exactly how it's done but it's done with some kind of apparatus that is set up by the magician. And it requires a great deal of work and preparation in order to create such an illusion.
So similarly the idea is that maya is an illusion that is created by a deeper level of reality. And this deeper level of reality is very powerful, basically. It is capable of generating this very elaborate illusion. Now it's interesting. If you draw the analogy to computers again... nowadays we see so many movies with computer graphics. And people are even hoping to be able to make movies with digital actors in which there's no human actor in the movie.
LL: Cuts a lot of salaries up, doesn't it?
RLT: Ah yes. It's probably quite a challenge. Of course it depends on how much effort is needed actually to make the digital actor realistic.
LL: Yeah you got to put all that money into special effects. But go ahead.
RLT: Yeah. Well at the present stage, people haven't been able to do it. Basically it's too difficult. For example, that movie, Final Fantasy.
LL: I saw that. That was pretty amazing.
RLT: Yeah. But still, not convincing.
LL: You weren't fooled, no.
RLT: Yeah. You weren't fooled. You could see you were looking at a computer generated entity. So a lot more work needs to be done. And that is exactly the point that I was getting at, namely that to make a really good illusion you have to do a lot of work. So a really effective illusion requires an illusion generating system that is quite sophisticated. So the idea is that maya is like that. So the traditional concept in the Vedic literature is that maya ultimately is a potency of the Supreme Being. And maya is generating the illusion of this world.
LL: And it's a testament, then, to the potency of the Supreme Being?
RLT: Yes. So in fact, it's interesting going back and forth between this virtual reality idea and the concept of maya; they sort of compliment one another. For example, looking at the virtual reality model, you could actually give a quantitative estimate of how powerful the computer would have to be to simulate the world as we know it. And that gives you an idea of how powerful maya has to be.
LL: Off the scale! Yeah.
RLT: So of course I should emphasize that in comparing the world with a virtual reality, it's really a metaphor in the sense that I'm not saying that you can show that the world is literally based on a computer as we know computers.
LL: It's just a handy simile.
RLT: Pardon me?
LL: It's just a handy simile.
RLT: Yeah. It's a handy simile or metaphor to illustrate the idea. Interestingly enough, there's a scientist named Frank Tipler who wrote about a computer that would be powerful enough to simulate the entire Universe. And he actually calculated how powerful the computer would have to be. And he came to some... I think the figure was something in the order of 10 to the 10th power bytes. You know the power of memory in computers is measured, let's say, in gigabytes nowadays. A byte is 8 bits of 1s and 0s. So that's a measure of amount of information. So one gigabyte would be 1 billion of those chunks of information. And that seems like quite a lot.
LL: I think the Universe is far more vast than that Richard, but...
RLT: Right. Well, 1 billion you see is 10 to the 9th power. But now Tipler's estimate of what you would need would be something in the order of 10 to the 10 to the 50th power.
LL: Oh okay.
RLT: So you can see how big that is. Basically 10 to the 50th power would be 1 followed by fifty 0’s. That's actually 10,000,000,000 multiplied together 5 times. And now you're taking 1 followed by that many 0s, because 10 to the 10 to the 50th is 1 followed by 10 to the 50th 0’s.
LL: I kind of prefer the Vedic description of the immensity of the Universe where, you know, all of this is just one sigh of Brahman. And it's just everything that we can imagine in terms of time and space, just one little sigh.
RLT: Well, the, yeah... well the concept there is the breathing of Maha Vishnu. We... it's sort of useful sometimes to look at these numbers because in descriptions involving theological concepts, frequently you hear the term ‘unlimited'. And it's sort of easy to say ‘unlimited.’
LL: But try to put some numbers to it and then you really stretch your mind even a little further in your imagination..., your point is.
RLT: Right. Yes. If you try and put some numbers to it, you see how big ‘unlimited’ must be. Because of course 10 to the 10 to the 50th power is nothing compared to something that is unlimited.
LL: So it's a very old idea that... and I... do you think that the ancient Vedic sages would look at virtual reality and go: Yeah, that's what we were talking about! That's a good metaphor.
RLT: Well perhaps so. One useful aspect of this whole idea is that it enables you to understand the interface between consciousness and matter in more detail. At least it provides a framework for looking at it. So the basic idea is that at one end you have consciousness which we don't understand very well. Ultimately to understand consciousness, the only way to do it would be to come to a higher platform of consciousness.
LL: Oh I see. That makes sense.
RLT: But on the other hand you have the physical phenomena, the world of matter. And you have a greater hope of understanding that. But what goes in between the two? That's this interface. And what I talked about a lot in the book is the idea that one can explain a lot of features of this interface in terms of the virtual reality model. At least it provides a basic framework for looking at these things. So that's where the whole question of the paranormal phenomena come in.
LL: Okay. How does this kind of framework then... or this model, begin to explain the paranormal?
RLT: Well, one thing that you find is that some of the things that you have to add to the virtual reality model to make it realistic, at the same time, enable you to explain some of the paranormal phenomena.
LL: Because you're adding other layers to the natural laws of the Universe, of physics?
RLT: Yes. You have to add some additional features. The first one that I looked at has to do with the whole question of how you could make a virtual event that obeys the laws of physics. And basically, to give some background on that: One of the problems with explaining paranormal phenomena is that they don't seem to agree with the laws of physics.
LL: Quantum physics, yes. But not the laws of Newtonian physics.
RLT: Not even quantum physics.
LL: Oh okay.
RLT: At least it tends to appear that way.
LL: I really thought that on the surface of it, and you've dug a lot deeper than I have on this, but on the surface: Non-locality and being in two places at the same time, and going beyond the constructs of time and space; that's described in quantum physics and that's what we experience in paranormal phenomenon, at least in big brush strokes.
RLT: Yeah, but the problem there is the whole question of exertion of will. To give the background for this, we could go back, take a look at, you know, Rene Descartes. There's something called Cartesian dualism which was introduced by Rene Descartes to explain the relation between the mind and the body. And his idea is: Well there's mind which really corresponds pretty much to what we’re saying when we speak of consciousness. He called it res cogitans which means the thinking substance. And then there's matter which he called res extensa which means the extended substance that has shape and form.
Now he proposed that these two are quite different. And in fact you can see they tend to be different because matter has shape. It has qualities like mass or electric charge and so on. Whereas consciousness: there are features such as awareness, feeling, emotion, and things of that nature. So how do you connect the two? Well Rene Descartes said that: Well the res cogitans influences the behavior of matter. And the behavior of matter, in turn, exerts an influence on the res cogitans. So there's a back and forth communication between the two.
LL: A symbiotic relationship. Okay.
RLT: Yeah. And so the idea is that the effect of matter on the thinking substance accounts for perception. You're able to see what matter is doing because matter is exerting an influence on the thinking substance which is what you are. And then the influence of the thinking substance on matter corresponds to will. So if you will to move your hand, then it moves. So the idea is: Well the will originates on the thinking side of things and the influence is exerted then ultimately on the body. And in fact, Rene Descartes had the idea that the pineal gland in the brain is the center where this interaction takes place.
RLT: So the problem is that that idea has been pretty much rejected by scientists because there's no way that they know of, that the physical behavior of matter could be influenced by this proposed thinking substance.
LL: Right. But it's interesting he chose the pineal gland which is, in esoteric circles, a very important gland that we have in the center of the soul. And also, modern science has demonstrated that our intent can have an influence on matter with all of the demonstrations of the efficacy of prayer, and also those random particle generators and all that, that seem to respond to human thought. So science may be changing its tune there.
We're talking with Richard Thompson and his new book Maya: the World as Virtual Reality. It is as Berthold Schwarz says, "A wake up call for all who are curious about where they come from..." Well we're all curious about that. Richard will continue giving us some background to marry the ancient wisdom of the Vedas with what modern science can say about this. And looking at the implications of an expanded view of the laws of physics and natural and paranormal phenomenon. The role of consciousness when we return just after this. I'm Laura Lee.
LL: Let's continue our conversation with Richard Thompson's newest book Maya: The World as Virtual Reality. So Richard, it's very interesting to get the history of these various ideas that have come together to create our current worldview isn't it? So... and then to see the progression of where we're gonna go next with all of this.
RLT: Well the next step... basically what I was doing was pointing out the... what happened with Rene Descartes' idea of interaction between mind and matter. And pretty much the problem was that people couldn't see how the interaction would work. And so in scientific circles, pretty much, Descartes was rejected. But it turns out that modern developments in physics do allow a way for things to work and one can use this virtual reality model as a way of, basically, laying this out systematically.
And the key to it has to do with the fact that the laws of physics, it would appear, allow for the course of events that occur... that is, the course of events unfolding according to the laws of physics, to take different courses. And this shows up in classical physics in terms of something called ‘deterministic chaos’ where basically the idea is that a very tiny change in the initial conditions can give rise to a variety of different events.
RLT: And it also shows up in the whole field of quantum mechanics, in which one way of looking at the theory says that the world is constantly bifurcating into alternate branches representing different possible things that could occur.
RLT: So this is... this latter theory in the field of quantum mechanics has been called the multiple Universe theory.
RLT: And actually for many years it was rather strongly rejected by many scientists, many physicists, because it just seemed too fantastic. The idea that the Universe is continually splitting into different branches...
LL: And therefore getting more complex the more forward in time that we go, the more infinite the possibilities.
RLT: Yeah. Basically every second you'd be getting billions of branches. And every second, each one of those would be dividing in to billions of additional branches.
LL: It's very fractal isn't it? Yeah.
RLT: You can just imagine what a picture that is. So that seems pretty fantastic. But the truth is that quietly many prominent physicists have been accepting that view.
LL: Why? What's turning them around on that?
RLT: Well what has been turning them around basically is...
LL: The math right?
RLT: ... the need for explaining the whole Universe. Because the other interpretations of quantum mechanics, which didn't involve this splitting into many branches, were basically limited to dealing with laboratory experiments or a limited framework. And that's okay because obviously most of the work that was done with quantum mechanics was in the context of laboratory experiments. But when people began to get seriously interested in cosmology, they found that the only approach that really works is this idea of the Universe continually splitting into different branches.
LL: You mean to explain it's vastness or...?
RLT: Excuse me?
LL: To explain the vastness of the Universe or...?
RLT: Well basically in order to not have it split, you have to come to the end of your experiment. But of course the Universe is not an experiment that's nicely boxed off like that.
LL: Right. You can't put it in a little closed container. Okay.
RLT: Right. You can't put it in a little closed container and say: Well okay, here is where the experiment begins...
LL: And ends.
RLT: And here's where it ends and we analyze our results.
LL: Oh I see, okay.
RLT: Looking at the Universe: The whole thing has to be going on without any limitation or restriction. And it turned out that that multiple splitting Universe idea is really the most elegant way to cope with that kind of situation. So for example, Stephen Hawking has accepted that. He made the comment at one point that there are other Universes in which different people are ... were top of the pops and somebody else won the war.
LL: Is there a... ?
RLT: Those were comments that he made.
LL: Yeah. Is there a correlate in the Vedas?
RLT: Well the correlate I think comes when you look now at the paranormal phenomena. But let me just.. that's jumping maybe ahead.
LL: Alright. Let's back up.
RLT: You see, you can make a model of how mind could control matter by taking advantage of this idea of the Universe splitting. And basically in that idea, imagine that you have a very powerful computer.
RLT: And that it can calculate what is going to happen along the different splits...,
RLT: ... different forks of the Universe.
LL: This is a busy computer. Okay.
RLT: Yeah, very busy computer. Well the amount of computation would be incredible. But then, it's no more incredible than thinking that the Universe really is breaking in to all these different bifurcating branches. So imagine this computer that can calculate ahead all the different possibilities. Well we... you could make an analogy, say, to a computer that plays chess and it's calculating the moves ahead, so many moves in advance. So now the idea is, if you've calculated the different alternatives ahead of time and you want to go in a certain direction, you can say: Okay, this is the alternative that I want. So you can drop all the others from your computations...
LL: And say...
RLT: ...and follow that one.
LL: ...that branch leads me there.
RLT: Pardon me
LL: You can say which branch leads me there.
RLT: Yeah. Once you have a glimpse of the future by calculating these different branches and you see the one that you want to take, then you take that one and you ignore all the others.
LL: So your intent and your will, at least for your own experience, puts you on one path or the other. And if we're gonna have future cognition or all the time bending that paranormal experiences afford us, then this must be some way in which the Universe works in order for us to know our future, to know ahead?
RLT: Well basically the idea is that the concept of picking the branches that you're computing ahead of time explains the mind-body problem. In other words; provides a solution, because that is how the will could then exert itself on the developing course of events in nature and it wouldn't be violating the laws of physics.
RLT: Because the laws of physics are giving you all these branches, and you're just choosing the one you want to follow. But now as soon as you introduce that, you immediately have an explanation for quite a number of these paranormal phenomena. For example, many of them seem to involve systems which have this tendency to bifurcate in different directions. One example would be these random number experiments. I don't know, maybe you've discussed these before in different... ?
LL: Yes, but I'd like to hear your full explanation of them.
RLT: Yeah. Well in a way, the one that is clearest from a conceptual standpoint is... there's something called the Random Mechanical Cascade which you'll find at Princeton University in the Engineering Department there. There's a group of scientists there who have made studies of paranormal phenomena headed by Robert Jahn, who was the head of the Department of Engineering at Princeton for some time.
But anyway, this Random Mechanical Cascade consists of an arrangement of pegs and bins. And the idea is that a lot of little plastic balls fall through a slot in the top, bounce against the pegs, and fall into the bins. And they would tend to form what is called a normal distribution or a bell shaped curve just by randomly sorting themselves out as they fall into the different bins. So the interesting thing about it is that if a person watches this and wills the balls to fall a bit more to the left, let's say, then it is found statistically that there is a measurable effect. In other words, the person seems to be able to influence the balls so that they fall more towards the left.
LL: A tiny bit. But still it's a measurable tiny bit, isn't it?
RLT: Yes it's tiny, but measurable. And that's one example. They've done many experiments with electronic Random Event Generators which are based on sophisticated electronic circuitry. But it's a similar phenomenon, namely that a very tiny signal gets amplified. In the case of the balls bouncing on the pins, you can show that each time a ball bounces on a pin, that would amplify any slight deviation in the motion of that ball.
So let's say you get about ten bounces on the way down, you get ten amplifications of any slight change. So this is a situation in which the history of the bouncing balls would be diverting into many different paths according either to the many worlds theory... or let's just leave it at that for simplicity. And if the person's will was somehow able to pick out paths in accordance to their intention, then that would account for the phenomenon. So you have quite a large number of different experiments of this kind in which basically a random phenomenon occurs and people seem to be able to exert a very small influence over it.
LL: Oh, so you're saying that rather than make it happen, their influence is choosing the one possibility out of the many that it does happen. Or the one pathway or branch, you could put it, that it does happen.
RLT: Yes. The basic proposal here...
LL: It already exists. It's just a matter of choice as opposed to creating all the way.
RLT: Yeah. The idea is that the different alternatives are there. And the will is able to make a choice.
LL: That also explains... Some people explain a non-local influence or an influence at a distance that way, that the Matrix already connects these two disparate events. And the influence at a distance just allows it to communicate instantly because the connection already exists there. It's kind of similar I guess.
RLT: Well the... I'm not quite sure how that one works.
LL: Why don't we skip that and go on. You have a lot to say here. Go ahead.
RLT: Yeah. Well yeah... so the... there's this idea, then, that it's possible to pick out these alternatives as they're being generated. Now there's the question, though, of why the paranormal effects are so small. It looks almost as though a kind of leakage is occurring...
RLT: ...in the sense that...
LL: It's oomph dissipated. Okay.
RLT: Pardon me?
LL: Most of the oomph gets dissipated somewhere.
RLT: Yeah. Well the concept that I would sort of propose here is: We have this interface between consciousness and the material system, and this method of picking the alternatives as they're being generated is the means by which one makes choices guiding the action of the body, let's say. So that when you choose to move your arm, basically this is the kind of thing that is happening. It is a matter of amplification of very small changes involving bifurcating systems.
RLT: But the idea is then that normally this would not presumably have an effect on things outside your body. It would be set up in such a way just to control the bodily mechanisms. But if it does exert some influence outside, that's a sort of leakage of the effect outside so that it can also influence cascading balls hitting pins or the action of the Random Event Generators and so forth.
LL: Like a river flowing into many tributaries or something.
RLT: Yeah. Sort of the main flow of the river would be involved with the normal action of the body according to individual will. But you might have some little side branches which would correspond to the... these different paranormal phenomena
LL: Hmm. Okay.
RLT: Interestingly enough there are further phenomena that also tie in with this. For example, there's the whole topic of precognition.
RLT: This has come up, for example, in.... with remote viewing experiments. In a typical experiment there, what happens is that you have two people, a target person and a perceiver. And the idea is that the perceiver stays back in a room; the target person is sent out to some randomly chosen location to look at what is there; and the person back in the room is supposed to describe what the target person is seeing. That's the usual set up. And it's found that the person in the room can very often do that with remarkable accuracy. So let's say the target person goes out to a place where there's a radio telescope. This was one example.
LL: I like that one in your book. It's just you would never expect that. I mean you'd have to... This is not a guess, this one.
RLT: Yeah. Yeah the person... the target person went to where a radio telescope was being inaugurated, actually. And the person in the room said: “Well, I see the person standing next to a big bowl.”
LL: Or inside a big bowl.
RLT: Inside a big bowl, and some comment like: “If it were soup with dumplings, he'd be the size of a dumpling.” Something like that.
LL: Good description. Yeah.
RLT: But in fact the person was standing next to a bowl. It wasn't... he wasn't in it. It was up overhead. But still it was a very large bowl and he was about that relative size compared with the bowl, which was of course the radio antenna. So there are a lot of examples like this. This is another area where a lot of studies have been made.
LL: What about life beyond the body? How does this metaphor lend itself to life beyond the body or adding this expanded understanding of the natural laws of physics?
RLT: Well it does. That's getting a little bit ahead. Let's say I get to that in a moment.
RLT: I'll just finish the point here concerning the remote sensing, namely that it didn't matter whether the target person went there before the person back in the room was asked to describe what was happening, or after.
LL: Right! They focus on it and the timing doesn't make that much difference.
RLT: Yeah. In other words...
LL: In terms of where they are on the timeline.
RLT: In other words, the person in the room could see events that hadn't happened yet.
RLT: And this in fact is just a general example of this phenomenon of precognition which is a little bit [break] ...explain in terms of ordinary physics. But if you look at it from the point of view of these different alternatives being generated, you can see that if you were given a glimpse of some of the alternatives further down into the future, that could explain what was happening. In other words, how can you possibly influence the past? I mean, one way...
LL: Because time's flowing both ways. It's not just one direction. Yeah.
RLT: Yeah. One way to look at this would be that: Well if the person at the site has an influence so that the person doing the observation sees what is happening before this happened, then it's as though the person at the site is influencing something in the past, namely the perceiver in the room.
LL: I see.
RLT: But... and that seems very paradoxical. But it's fairly easy to understand if you look at the possibility that all these alternative futures are being calculated. So that's part of the whole story. But there is more to it. You mentioned that... the whole question of life after death and so on. One... this concept of the interface could be leaky to some extent is, I think, interesting in that connection. And that is shown, for example, by some of the accounts of the near-death experiences.
LL: Or also that the soul in some conditions can exist outside the body or can inhabit a different kind of body, an etheric body or whatever else all the meta-physicians call it. Something less dense. So...
RLT: Yes. Well that is of course a basic assumption of the model, because the idea is that consciousness is linked to the virtual body by some kind of interface. Now if that is the case, then the interface could be shifted and connected, let's say, to a different virtual body.
LL: Or that the same consciousness could be tethered to many different bodies and layers like those nesting egg shells.
RLT: That's also possible. There are lots of possibilities there. Of course the concept that the conscious entity could ultimately become completely free from the virtual reality is also something that could be considered, because the whole idea there is that… just like if a person is linked up to a virtual reality, you could come out of it, take off the interface equipment, and then you would be outside that virtual reality altogether; or the possibility that he could become connected to a different virtual world within the virtual reality.
RLT: The idea of different parallel worlds of different kinds is also a possibility there.
LL: Right – wear an earth suit for earth and wear a different suit for a different planet or a different dimension. Yeah. Boy! So this is fun stuff and I'm sure the science fiction stories of the future will take all of this into account. Like [unclear] ...of the timeline that we've seen of late in those stories. So you've gone very quiet Richard!
RLT: Yeah. Well...
LL: I'm trying to follow your lead. Go ahead.
RLT: Okay. Well I was going to mention this... the whole question of, for example, the near-death experiences. Basically there, what you find is that the person's normal senses shut down due to some, say, medical crisis, for example a heart attack, which would cause a lack of oxygen to the brain. So... and people report having different kinds of experiences including being able to observe, for example, what is happening when the doctors are resuscitating them and so forth.
So basically if you have this interface connecting consciousness with the physical body, there could be various levels or stages in the processing or transmission of information through that interface. So if you shut it down at the level of the physical body, the possibility is there that you could still be processing information on other levels within the interface. So the person could still be seeing and perceiving things even though the gross physical body was shut down. So the whole idea of this interface then fits in with the kinds... the description with the near-death experiences.
LL: So... Good one. You know, we're about to come to the end of our hour, so... we haven't even talked about cosmic or terrestrial evolution which you cover so nicely in your book. We'll have to leave that for another time. So wrapping this all up, we can say what about maya, this wonderful world, this cosmic dimension in which we live?
RLT: Well I think the basic conclusion that you can come to from this kind of study is that the concept of virtual reality provides a framework in which many different phenomena that people have discussed and wrestled with for many years can be fit together in a systematic way. And this is helpful for clarifying our understanding of these things.
LL: Now do you think that science will ever fully embrace the idea of consciousness, that it's just inevitable? And these same sorts of experiments, as the machinery gets more and more subtle, we'll be able to detect it? And finally they'll put consciousness in its rightful place as not just, you know: This is what happens when the brain gets complex enough or artificial intelligence gets complex enough, but really it's the basis of reality?
RLT: Well you see, people have given a lot of thought to consciousness. And one can sort of see certain limitations to what physical science can do.
LL: You can't see the soul squirming under the microscope.
RLT: Yeah. There... within the framework of physical science, there's only so much that can be done.
LL: Or measured or tested.
RLT: Basically the... as I mentioned, if you go back to this question of Descartes: The difference between the qualities of consciousness and the characteristics of material systems as understood, say, in physics are so great that even the best of philosophers haven't seen anyway of bridging that gap. So that's why I would suggest that one could just take consciousness as a given and then ask how consciousness could be interfaced with the physical systems.
LL: You know, it hasn't slowed down the mystics throughout the Ages, this problem. You know, I mean Western man always has to have... know why and see in infinite detail, whereas so much of the rest of society or various cultures say: Okay, here's the way that our Creator made it. Let's go from here and don't worry about it.
RLT: Yes. Well basically science as we know it today has raised quite a number of issues which people weren't so concerned with before. I mean the whole question of a mind-body problem didn't exist in earlier centuries because people weren't... had not gone into such detail in describing matter as they have now. So because they hadn't looked at matter in such detail, there wasn't really a problem of how to fit consciousness into the picture.
LL: Oh okay.
RLT: They just could assume that it's there. But now, since physics and so on has developed to such a very large extent, it becomes a real problem of how do you fit consciousness into the picture.
LL: Where does it fit into the equation?
RLT: And some people try to say: Well let's leave it out of the picture.
LL: Right. So do you think about this whole assumption that: Gosh! There's a danger like The Matrix – let’s play on this one – there's a danger of creating machines that are so intelligent that they may just take over and make human beings superfluous? Because I don't think consciousness... I think it... consciousness is very good at inhabiting biological mechanisms such as bodies, but is it that interested in inhabiting, you know, machinery? Or where do you stand on that whole issue?
RLT: Well it seems a little bit, let's say... extrapolating things too quickly to say that we'll be so... able to so easily create intelligent computers. I know...
LL: Because consciousness is a whole different ball game than...
RLT: Well consciousness... You see the basic model that I'm proposing is that consciousness is interfacing with matter. Now if consciousness can interface with a biological brain, then presumably it could also interface with some mechanical system. However I think we have a long way to go to create a mechanical system that would be adequate for this purpose.
LL: I do too.
RLT: In fact, I mean, if you stop and think about it, some people have actually talked about gaining immortality by downloading themselves into computers.
LL: I know. It's so fun. And absurd.
RLT: But if you stop and think about it, computers are extremely... Well let's say they break very easily.
RLT: In other words, it used to be, if you had a book, that book could sit around for years and you could... it could be inherited by your children. Right?
LL: It's a solid state machine, right. It functions without a lot of intricate parts. Yeah.
RLT: The book is pretty solid. You might worry that in maybe 100 years it will begin to break down. But some good really solid books last for many centuries. But now look at computers. Typically a computer lasts maybe 2 or 3 years at most and then you have to replace the hard drive and replace the motherboard. And the only way you can keep a given computer going is by continually making major replacements.
LL: And upgrades as well. Well, I also think that those are the ultimate materialists, people who are so concerned about gaining immortality in a mechanistic way, or freezing themselves when science can revive them. You know, I think that God already has... our Creator already has that under control. You do have an eternal soul. You are going to live forever. You just want to change different bodies for different purposes. So it's kind of redundant there. Anyway...
RLT: Yeah. Well if consciousness is outside the system then ultimately whatever happens to your body, your consciousness, which is you, is still the same.
LL: Yeah. If consciousness just walks in to various bodies for various lengths of time.
RLT: So there's no need to preserve one body, which is completely broken down, because...
LL: You'd want a new model anyway.
RLT: ...you can also get another one.
LL: Yeah, just like cars. You'd want a new one anyway, the latest. Richard, thank you so much for this hour and all of the fascinating work that you do. I hope that you can come back and talk with us about your other extended work on evolution from earth-based to a more cosmic perspective on that.
LL: ...because there's a lot to say there about intelligence, evolution and spiritual evolution, and where that's all directed. So I just want to say once again, that was Richard Thompson. His newest book, Maya: The World as Virtual Reality, will give you a lot to chew on. And thank you so much Richard, and thank you for listening. I'm Laura Lee.