Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Wordsworth Conjecture

Despite the quibblings of philosophers, it's a good bet that other humans possess minds like your own. And it's also highly probable that animals (like these 5 hummingbirds feeding from the hand of Abagail Alfano of Pine, LA) also enjoy some sort of inner experience--as in William Blake's memorable lines:

Who knows but every bird 
that cuts the airy way is
an immense world of delight 
closed to our senses five?

But how far down the scale of life do we have to go before there is no inner experience and we are dealing with a mere machine? Are plants conscious? What about bacteria, algae or viruses? What about the parts of me? Is my hand or my heart or my stomach conscious? Are the mitachondia or ribosomes inside my cells enjoying an inner experience "closed to my senses five"? One of the greatest unknowns of our present science is our ignorance concerning the existence and the extent of other minds. 

One of the major mistakes of medieval thinkers was their gross underestimation of the size and variety of the physical world. This cozy Earth, the seven celestial spheres above, plus Dante's circles of Hell beneath our feet: that was the full extent of the universe in the medieval imagination. In 1600 the Church burnt Bruno at the stake for preaching a plurality of worlds. Now we take for granted the real existence of billions upon billions of worlds scattered through a universe of almost inconceivably large dimensions.

Might there exist inconceivably large numbers of mental worlds all around us hidden from human view by our lack of a science of mind to mind communication? In his famous lyric "Intimations of Immortality", Romantic poet William Wordsworth expressed this very notion of the existence of many invisible minds:

And never for each other shall we feel
As we may feel, till we have sympathy
With nature in her forms inanimate,
with objects such as have no power to hold
Articulate language.
In all forms of things there is a mind.

One aim of quantum tantra is to take seriously this "Wordsworth conjecture" and to look for ways to verify it by devising a "Wordsworth machine" based on quantum theory which would permit direct connection between your own mind and the mind of another. My intent is to make Star Trek's "Vulcan Mind Meld" real and to use this mind-merge machine to explore the invisible universe of other minds just as our advanced telescopes and accelerators are exploring the hidden wonders of the purely physical realm. 

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