My self-awareness is a trick of the shape of the universe I occupy.

So, I am just trying to construct a narrative here based on what I have access to; bear with me.

The whole of the universe (the World), “past”, “present”, and “future”, always exist so long as the universe exists.

I am not attempting, here, to prove that, but rather present it as a given.

To find yourself convinced of this, should you wish to be, I suggest starting with Charlotte Higgins’ excellent article There is no such thing as past or future’: physicist Carlo Rovelli on changing how we think about time.

Stretching the premise: much as a Video has the entirety of the Video contained in a file that, when played, shows a viewer the Video, so the universe is a thing that contains info about the state of the universe.

Given that time is not real, but it sure feels like it is, and I find myself alive and wishing to stay that way, I am just trying to construct a narrative here based on what information I have access to.

Why am I doing that?

Why am I doing?

Why am I?


Too hard, let’s go for something easier for the moment.

Let’s start with what I am and try to get to why later, perhaps.

What am I?

“I” am just a node of some part of the universe that seems to have self-aware capabilities.

Where these self-aware capabilities come from is anybody’s guess.

We truly do not know.

Nobody knows.

It is unknown.

One idea that I am particularly fond of holds that consciousness emerges from the interactions of…something or other, maybe.

But, whatever, consciousness does emerge.

Mine does anyway — and although I can not prove it to you (whatever you are) I am confident that my experience of consciousness is not an illusion, even if whatever mechanisms that lead to it are unknown, or even unknowable.

Anyway, there are sub-parts of me which do not seem to have self-aware capabilities, at least not to me, and are “only” there to support the sub-parts of me that are self-aware. That is my “body”, and, my body contains my brain.

Now, my brain is what seems to be self-aware, while the rest of my body is there to supply my brain with what it needs to keep going.

And my brain is there to keep my body out of the way of oncoming trains.

And so forth.

My body is a bunch of particles, most of it completely unaware that there is an “I” to me.

But some part of me is aware of itself.

Some part of the thing that is me is only able to be me because some part of me thinks of itself and the way it thinks of itself is “I”.

“I” have a body, and my body has a brain, but neither my brain nor my body is precisely equal to me. This is called the “illusion of the self”, and is discoverable merely by going and looking for it. Go for it now, if you wish. You will not find it. The whole nature of the illusory self is far outside of the scope of this writing, but, also is a given.

At the very edges of my body, I have special structures of particles that interact with the particles of whatever it is that surrounds ”me”.

It is those sub-atomic-level interactions that I use to sense, and make sense of, the World around me.

My vision and hearing are two obvious examples.

But so are my memories, which contain data about past inputs, and the sense I made of them then.

My notion that “it is bad to push someone over as they pass by me on a bicycle” is formed from all this sense making I do based on all of my inputs, and my memories are simply one of my inputs.

My memories contain information about the culture I live in, what riding a bicycle feels like, what falling over is, what it is like to experience pain, and so forth. All of this information has lead me to successfully never once even consider pushing a cyclist over as they ride past me.

Well, I mean, until this evening while writing this.

I am confident, dear reader, that I will do exactly zero cyclist pushing in the future.

Perhaps if it seems to me that doing so would save the cyclists life, by stopping them from interacting unfavorably with, say, a train?

On not being killed by a train

The only way I can know “a train is coming” in such a way that will compel me sufficiently forcefully enough that I purposfully avoid the train‘s path is by having built a narrative of things such as “I”, “The World”, “Trains”, “Paths”, “Pain”, “Loss”, “MOVE” and so forth.

I see, hear, feel (!) the train coming and, hopefully, react by moving my body, which contains my brain — the structure of which is capable of passing information around via particle interactions that make up sub-structures within itself, and, notices patterns (that is: has memories) …and… has it a “self” idea, and a “trains” idea, and… and all of this stuff called “I” can piece all of this information input together in such a way that what emerges is a something like I need to get out of the way of that train or I am going to die.

My self is aware of myself being aware of myself.

This process allows these brain structures that pass information around to begin to use some of those other structures to store information about myself and what has happened to my body along the way, and, even though the entirety (in every direction, x, y, z, t) of the physical World within which I live exists (like the movie file above, all of the universe, all of it, exists all at the same time), I only have one-way access to the memories formed in the structures of my brain because of the one-way information-destroying flow of heat.

I can only remember the “past” because in that ”direction” the heat exchange allowed me to keep the information about the state of the ”previous slice of consciousness” I am able to access from ”here”.

My self-awareness is a trick of the shape of the universe I occupy.

So, I am just trying to construct a narrative here based on what I have access to; bear with me.

When the soft-matter “bits of stuff” that formed as a consequence of an XY sperm joining with an XX egg, the DNA coded into that soft-matter bits of stuff informed the those bits of matter on how to go about the business of growing and morphing.

The environment that the soft chunk of matter was stored in did too (womb, food, warmth, sooooooooo many factors).

And that soft chunk of matter did, in fact, start growing according how the DNA informed the cells, and, the environment gave feedback of so very many kinds until the bit of matter informed by DNA and formed by other bits of matter formed the neurons that start to do the information passing, all “simply” via interactions between discreet bits of matter according to whatever rules the various discreet bits of matter obey, and, it all managed to stay out of the way of oncoming trains long enough to start to notice relationships with all the stuff around it, including the fact that it could, vaguely, anyway, compare the current information being passed around with the closest version it has available, each a version of it that it is stored, frozen, in the interactions with the next two adjacent versions of the world.

The past and the future.

Remember, here, there is no past and and there is no future.

There is the World, and, the World has a shape, and, the shape of the World has within it emergent phenomena.

In fact, it has many many emergent phenomena.

It has one very specific phenomenon that emerges, somehow, from the interactions of all the particles in a very specific part of the World.

The phenomenon is a localized consciousness that can interact with the World, via its inputs.

The localized consciousness phenomenon calls itself “Chris Corwin”.

One of the localized consciousness’s inputs is the stuff located immediately next to it in the matter World, that is, the stuff that is not Chris Corwin.

I have skin that has an outer layer that touches stuff I do not think of as “part of myself”, right? Through my skin I get information that I experience as the feeling of “cold” or “hot”. Through my eyes I receive information that I experience as “eyesight”.

The localized consciousness that calls itself “Chris Corwin” (me) also has inputs from stuff “right next” to it in the non-matter World: other phenomenon emerging from of all of the interactions of the matter that the World’s component parts, following the rules of such interactions. These are things like “entropy” and ”light” and ”gravity”.

SooooooooOOOOoooooooo many tiny little discreet particles interacting, causing phenomena to ripple around. Interactions interacting with interactions, with the results of the interactions informing all of the other interactions, a great fury of ripples, all of it weaving a tapestry of interactions.

Somewhere in all of this Weave of Interactions of the particles that make up the shape of the non-matter World are all of the localized consciousnesses that also call themselves “Chris Corwin” extending in both available directions: that is the “past”, and, the “future”.

There are “past” and “future” me out there, each one of them thinking of themselves as me.

There are some that are close enough to each other that their bodies interact with each other through a direct cause-and-effect relationship: during the time between when I start to press down on the “X” key and when I reach the bottom and begin to pull my finger back up, causing the letter to appear on the screen in front of me… all of that movement of my finger actually happened to thousands of versions of me, nearly indistinguishable, with every “step” along the way having been caused by the step before it, in terms of basic particle interactions.

Other past and future me, however, are remote enough from each other that they may only interact through memory.

Chris Corwin at T+-0 does not have immediate access to the results of interactions with Chris Corwin at T-2 (”past”), but does have immediate access to the results of interactions with Chris Corwin at T-1 because Chris Corwin at T-2 is only available via memory handed off from Chris Corwin at T-1.

Chris Corwin at T+-0 would seem to have immediate access to the results of interactions with Chris Corwin at T-1 (”past”) and to Chris Corwin at T+1 (“future”) through the Weave of Interactions.

However, because of the one-way flow of heat exchange the result of such interactions are only available from the direction we think of as “past”.

Put another way: all of the interactions between the basic particles that make up Chris Corwin at T-1 and Chris Corwin at T+-0 lead to heat being exchanged, and, information transfers as a result, and, it happens that Chris Corwin at T-1 yields information to Chris Corwin at T+-0, while Chris Corwin at T+1 yields no information whatever to Chris Corwin at T+-0.

The result from those interactions are how Chris Corwin at T+1 gets information from Chris Corwin at T+-0.

The future only gets information from the past, it does not give it.

I just exist, building a narrative from the data structures which correspond to a state of the world as a “snapshot” from all the inputs available to me, including the current input, which includes sensory input as well as access to the snapshots in the directions of T-∞ , what I concluded about snapshots in the direction of T-∞, what I predict about snapshots in the direction of T+∞ and and … it is here that I find I can not know the future.

The future is the direction from which the Weave of Interaction yields zero information.

Knowing the future is in the same realm of knowledge as is knowing the location, volocity, and, spin of a particle right now, all at the same time.

That, we have proven, can not be done.

That it can not be done is a feature of the World that we find ourselves in.

There is no is “right now” that one can nail down and define all of the attributes that a particle might have, because it is only through the interactions of particles that anything can be known about them at all, and the interactions are things that do not take place at a given time: they simply take place.

There is no “right now”.

There is only the great Weave of Interaction of Particles, and the information that is yielded from it.

The exchange of heat is the result of the interaction of two particles and this interaction itself yields information, that is, the bits that encode the information, the bits that are remembered, the memories that are available to the localized emergent consciousness phenomenons like Chris Corwin at T+-∞.

So the information about “the future” is simply not accessible on “this” side of the exchanges with “the future”.

The future is simply the half of the Weave of Interactions that, when queried, yield zero results.

And the nature of the phenomenons of emergent consciousness like Chris Corwin is to be forming a narrative explaining to itself what in the actual fuck is going on right now, and, that narrative goes only in one direction, and, as long as the phenomenons of emergent consciousness like Chris Corwin have access to the structures of matter and phenomenons that result in the forming of the very memories that get passed along the Weave of Interactions to other phenomenons of emergent consciousness like Chris Corwin, that narrative is, in fact, passed along through the Weave, and the narrative continues.

I need to get out of the way of that train or I am going to die.

The phenomenons of emergent consciousness like Chris Corwin (plural) must stay in a state that enables them to continue to be able to maintain their awareness of, their sense of “self”.

We call that state “being alive”.

If a consciousness that emerges as a localized phenomenon of the Weave of Interactions of Particles is rocked too far, if it is pushed into a place where it loses the thread, loses the narrative, it splits/forks and something/someone else emerges, informed by whatever it has access to which may or may not include the previous connections to the structures storing the memories.

When it does not have full access to the memories it had before the event, we call that “Amnesia”.

It may lose any sense of consciousness at all for a while, say, in a coma, or as a result of being under general anesthesia, but, if it’s body is maintained in a healthy enough state so that by some happenstance the self-awareness is able to bootstrap itself back up, it may be able to re-establish connections to those memories and what emerges thinks of itself as… well, still itself.

If the body is physically damaged enough that it can no longer supply the brain everything that it needs to maintain the state of information-passing we call being alive, the brain dies and, thus, the consciousness it protected and enabled (or at least seemed to be correlative with) stops interacting, the one-way exchange of information stops and the whole thing goes offline.



But are they gone?

The whole of the the universe, “past”, “present”, and “future”, always exist so long as the universe exists.

The whole of the World still exists.

All of those memories are still there, frozen, just as always, available to localized emergent consciousness phenomenons like Chris Corwin.

The past and the present and the future are constructs of the consciousness.

They are merely different states of the world that we have immediate, pretty good, dim, flawed, or no access to, but are wholly real nonetheless.

Is there a Chris Corwin at T+-∞ ?

I am just trying to construct a narrative here based on what I have access to, so that I can avoid being hit by a train.

Possibly Related

1 thought on “My self-awareness is a trick of the shape of the universe I occupy.

Comments are closed.