The Nightshirt Sightings, Portents, Forebodings, Suspicions

The Wyrd of the Early Earth: Cellular Pre-sense in the Primordial Soup

Don Dixon - Cool Early Earth

Stand brave, life-liver, bleeding out your days in the river of time.
Stand brave: Time moves both ways …
—Joanna Newsom, “Time, as a Symptom”

The philosopher Alfred Korzybski, who influenced Phil Dick, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, and other science-fictional minds of the mid-20th Century, named “time binding” as a characteristic human activity. He was referring to humans’ ability to plan and pursue goals, including ones of long duration, even transcending the span of an individual’s lifetime. Time binding was implicitly higher than space binding, the activity of animals who live in an eternal present and are dominated by the imperative to forage and hunt for food in their environment, and energy binding, the activity of plants that convert energy from the sun.

The emergence of cells able to bind time would have been a decisive threshold or horizon for the universe. Post-selection created a protective Calvinistic crust on the open-endedness of molecular destiny.

Korzybski was not thinking in terms of precognition, but essentially the argument I have been making in this blog is that we literally bind time through our engagement with the future. Peering into my future-scope, I see post-selection, more than any other new concept, as revolutionizing how we think about time, time-binding, and causality in coming years. Post-selection is the quantum-computing parameter that allows backward-flowing influence from the future to assume a semblance of meaning in the present, but at a cost: a partial but not total “hardening” of causality around pre-sensed events, a narrowing of outcomes available to be exploited precisely in situations where it would improve the organism’s outcomes by some tiny margin. Previously I’ve explored how this affects prophecy and prescience in a human context. I don’t see an expansion of prescience as the next phase in human evolution (Frederic Myers’ “imaginal”); rather, it may have been one of the early thresholds in the evolution of life on earth and throughout the universe.

Physicist Paul Davies speculates that post selection, applied to the vast quantum computer that is the universe, could explain the arising of life:

Perhaps living systems have the property of being post-selective, and thus greatly enhance the probability of the system “discovering” the living state? Indeed, this might even form the basis of a definition of the living state, and would inject an element of “teleology without teleology” into the description of living systems.

I think Davies probably has hit on the correct alternative to more Platonic theories like Rupert Sheldrake’s “morphic resonance” and even syntropy theories that posit future “attractors”—or at least, post-selection is a more productive idiom for describing the in-forming pull of the future. Yakir Aharonov’s work, which provides the quantum-mechanical justification for post-selection, strongly suggests that the entire “randomness” aspect of quantum physics is actually an illusion, that we simply cannot know, except in special circumstances, the future entanglements that dictate a particle’s present behavior.

This is where the distinction between information and meaning becomes crucial: In particles’ present behavior there is information about the future, but we are mostly hamstrung trying to interpret it, that is, make it meaningful. Giving it meaning takes specific experimental setups or entanglement shenanigans in quantum computer circuits such as described by Seth Lloyd, or what is probably going on in the brain. The ability of a molecular quantum computer, such as a microtubule, to “tunnel” through time and thus be, in effect, a little precognitive circuit, could be the key to this. Microtubules do appear to have quantum computing properties; recent findings lend support to this argument originally made in the 1980s by Stuart Hameroff. They could serve as the nervous sytems, sense organs, and brains of cells. Hameroff and Roger Penrose think that quantum coherent behavior centered on microtubules is the basis of consciousness.

lakethetisstromatolitesAll complex cells, not just neurons, contain microtubules. Lynn Margulis argued that eukaryotes (complex single-celled organisms) formed when simpler prokaryotes (like bacteria) engulfed each other: Mitochondria, etc., were originally independent-living organisms; she argued that microtubules were originally spirochete bacteria that were likewise absorbed. There is some dispute about the latter idea; but regardless of their origin, if microtubules, through quantum entanglement a la Seth Lloyd’s time-travel theory, endow cells with a sensitivity to their future in addition to their present environment, then time-binding might be nearly as basic an activity of complex life as space- and energy binding. Microtubules might have given some cells a decisive edge, enabling them to “preact” in their own interest, conferring a crucial selective advantage.

What arose at some point in the early Earth, then, was life that both time-binds and space-binds. A eukaryote is a daisy chain of presponsiveness and preactivity to its own near-future. There is now even evidence for microtubule-like structures in earlier prokaryotes as well, meaning that quantum computing might even have been a basic, very early activity of our archaean ancestors. Earth’s primordial soup, in other words, was possibly a precognitive soup.

Simple molecular quantum computers that presponded to the near future (even on the order of microseconds) would be favored in the pre-life margin of organic chemistry. Could tubulin itself, a protein and not anything living as such, be the missing link between (dead) chemistry and biology? Is life, at bottom, a molecular quantum computer’s way of making more molecular quantum computers?

The Bargain

The emergence of cells able to bind time would have been a decisive threshold or horizon for the universe. Prescience—or on the cellular level, “pre-sense”—effectively creates a thin margin of less-alterable future or “predestination” around living things. Because of post-selection, early eukaryotes could have effectively enfolded or nestled themselves in a protective temporal horizon, like a thin causal shell. You might say post-selection effectively created a protective Calvinistic crust on the open-endedness of molecular destiny.

The more an organism feeds its past with useful information, the more constrained its “free will” is. But that sacrifice gives it a marginal survival advantage.

Post-selection is a really good term, because it reminds us of Darwin. An event “survives” when some agent’s prior foreknowledge has not resulted in a deliberate or inadvertent action that forecloses it. In other words, an outcome survives if it does not allow itself to be prevented; it only survives if it is cloaked from past perception or if potentially preventing agents’ perception of it is sufficiently dim and oblique. It calls to mind the idea of ghost universes or bubble realities that have fallen by the wayside, “extinctions” as a result of paradox, incapable of affecting the course of history.

An enhanced ability to see and orient toward certain acceptable outcomes (basically, the outcome of survival, surviving to send information to itself in the past) entails the narrowing of freedom around those outcomes, a diminished ability to defy our fate, our Wyrd. Another way of saying it is that precognition requires traction in the future. Here is an analogy: If an ice-dwelling organism evolved wheels for locomotion, it would have to simultaneously evolve a nozzle on its head that shoots salt out ahead of it so it could move forward; that’s kind of what I mean, but applied to time. Wyrd is the narrowing of our options corresponding to the stretching of the temporal frame of our prescience. The magic frog that lives in my coat and advises me on quantum matters tells me that the trade-off I am describing would correspond to “weak measurement,” the method devised by Aharonov and his collaborators to test his theories about retrocausality.

Even at this early stage, prescience—or pre-sense—needed to orient “positively,” toward reward and “the good.” The actions of these cells oriented toward their own (surviving) future; orienting toward threats would cancel them, and cancel any such precognitive function. This is the implicit Darwinian meaning in post-selection after all: What prevails is what has lived to prevail. We still live with the shadow of this: Prescience is positive, yes-saying, and reward-oriented. It serves as an alarm for threats because some basic cognitive or pre-cognitive function pairs pleasure with destruction and trauma—Freud’s “death drive,” Lacan’s “jouissance,” or Eugene Wegner’s “ironic process.” This is where the ironic Tricksterish aspect of Wyrd comes in: Foresight is purchased at the expense of degrees of freedom.

Or think of it another way: The future, older, bearded you who has survived gives the younger you some information that will only be usable in helping younger you get eventually to where older you is. It doesn’t determine everything about younger you’s actions, and in fact it is so open to multiple and incorrect interpretations that it almost guarantees younger you can’t act differently than to become older you. Younger you will arrive where older you is with a sense of surprise. (Practically everything Slavoj Žižek has ever said about neurosis in relation to the psychoanalytic cure as a “time loop” is contained in that idea.)

alexisrockmanbiospherehydrographerscanyonPrecognitive beings are in this bind when it comes to free will and predestination. Insofar as their prescience navigates the landscape of time, it is at the expense of a kind of binding to fate, a kind of straightjacketing of Wyrd: Its degrees of freedom are narrowed in order to correctly interpret and utilize—which means, not foreclose—a future situation. The more an organism feeds its past with useful information, the more constrained its “free will” (in the past) is. But that sacrifice gives it a marginal survival advantage over an organism that lacks any preactive capacity, because the sacrifice is not total. (Also the pre-sense of one individual may benefit its kin or community and thus also contribute to its fitness indirectly.)

Put yourself in the shoes of a slime mold or bacterium. Would you rather have a future version of yourself leaving a breadcrumb trail toward the exact future it inhabits, even if it isn’t the best future and forecloses possibly better other options? Or would you rather gamble that there’s a future at all (i.e., you could be killed at any moment and thus not survive to become older you). Maybe to you, a human being, it sounds like an iffy proposition, since you probably figure your chances of arriving at some future unaided by psi are pretty decent (because even if you believe in psi you still probably think of it, erroneously, as a “significant but small effect”); but it might be a different story if you were a simpler being. That slightly constrained free will is to that organism’s existence in time what its enclosing membrane is to its existence in space: both a container and armor.

The Jouissance of Constraint

In other words, simple life made a deal with its future, that it would accept certain constraints and non-optimal outcomes in order to secure for itself a promise of survival long enough to reach that outcome. We are talking microseconds and milliseconds here, a thin veneer on life’s temporal envelope. But as life complexified, it found ways of prying open or widening this margin by small increments, turning it into more of a shell. Complex cellular assemblages of microtubules (neurons) and nervous systems made of them were a decisive step, enabling those precog circuits to recruit classical-causal interactions in the meat-sphere to “hold” precognitive information associatively for longer and longer periods.

The arising of sentience in a post-selected universe may have introduced a radically different causal regime from what prevailed in the first several billion years post-Big Bang.

A brain such as ours, with trillions of microtubules organized in 86 billion neurons with trillions of synaptic connections, can create the necessary noise of a system within which post-selection and something like “weak measurement” can operate on a much bigger scale. An accurate precognitive signal is a “majority report” within a relatively noisy chatter of relatively inaccurate assessments of the future. It may be this ability to preserve future information in highly oblique, associative form that enables future information to be contained and preserved for a long time—over months and years in some cases—in our “premory.” An unconscious—a tendency to compute across long timespans or even the whole life of the brain—is a necessary entailment of this.

So is jouissance, which looks out for our survival by binding pleasure to constraint as well as to threat. The best painter of this aspect of jouissance was H.R. Giger, whose “Space Jockey” in Alien is the most perfect icon of endosymbiosis.* When future humans are nothing more than endosymbiotes in machines we created, it may be precisely our precognitive ability, our ability to enter the dreamworld, that makes us indispensable to our engulfing machine progeny. The ability to dream may give the organic brain vast natural advantages over technological precognitive circuits.

One wonders whether prescience and its necessary tradeoffs could have shaped our regular physical senses as well. There is an old, mostly forgotten theory that vision, for instance, is actually limited by the eye rather than enabled by it—the “clairvoyant theory of perception.” I’m skeptical of clairvoyance as such—I think it is one of the many masks of prescience—but it seems like there could be a grain of truth in this theory anyway: What if the senses emerged in such a way as to constrain or create the needed blind spots to enable prescience (or in the dim oceanic past, our primordial pre-sense) to operate? What if a tradeoff with prescience exerted pressures constraining our ability to navigate space, limiting our degrees of perceptual freedom, just as brains became structures to elaborately limit our cognitive freedom while reaching into the future?

Causal Sclerosis

On the surface, post-selection seems to imply some version of eternalism, the Minkowski glass-block universe I discussed some time ago in the context of Alan Moore’s forthcoming novel Jerusalem, a universe in which the future always already exists, which seems deterministic and claustrophobic—a hoarder’s cosmology (sorry, Alan Moore, you’re a hoarder). Determinism can make deliberate action seem pointless and life bleak. But causality, as I’ve argued (a propos of Moore and Phil Dick) may have a variable viscosity, open/loose/indeterminate in large swathes but given structure by islands of relative inevitability. It could be the case that the only history relatively “locked in stone” (or glass) and thus less subject to alteration by our free will, is precisely those events that are precognized by a sentient agent.

To some higher-dimensional walker on the cosmic beaches, these closed timelike curves created by our quantum brains may be like seashells, discarded remnants of intelligence persisting after their soft fleshy creators are long dead.

It could be that life itself actually injects a kind of novel calcification, stalagmites of determinism, Parmenidean inevitabilities, into the more free-flowing contours of causation, because of this precognitive functioning that dates back to our eukaryote ancestors. The arising of sentience in a post-selected universe may have introduced a radically different causal regime from what prevailed in the first several billion years post-Big Bang. Life opened a window onto its future only by placing itself in a bit of a straightjacket. Viewed four-dimensionally, those time-binding organisms are creating a kind of causal viscosity or solidity around them and in front of them, an ability to “preact” but at the expense of a certain boundedness or limitation on their freedom. That would be paradoxical if it were an all-or-nothing, black-and-white thing, but it isn’t.

We always think clumsily about fate and foresight, in terms of chickens versus eggs. The point is, the chicken and egg arise together, there is no precedence. Thus we cannot say that because we foresee something, causality police will arrive to see that it happens, or that a future becomes locked in and then we can see it, er, beforehand. It is all of a piece, a landscape feature in the four-dimensional topography of spacetime. (In this sense, it is probably ultimately wrong to think about precognition or prescience or pre-sense at all without also accounting for PK phenomena or some kind of gaming of future probabilities. I precognize that PK will be a recurring theme in my speculations during the upcoming year.)

johngreenwoodpandorasboxBeings with precognitive organelles, especially when organized into big brains, actually are shaping the contours of causality and the universe’s unfolding in radically more profound ways, by creating novel acausal formations: those ‘acausal’ (but really, dual causal/retrocausal) feedback loops, which amount to an actual calcification or fossilization of history. (For hermeticists: I wonder whether this Wyrd, this selective hardening of causality around prescient beings, is not precisely the calcification or “styptic” function Rene Schwaller referred to as the function of alchemical salt; it’s just the salt we shoot from our heads to give our psi-wheels traction on the icy mountain road of Time.)

To some higher-dimensional walker on the cosmic beaches, these formations, closed timelike curves created by our quantum brains, may be like seashells, the discarded remnants of intelligence persisting after their soft fleshy creators are long dead.

Postscript: Dark Materialism

When all the metaphysical and theological systems have come and gone there remains this inexplicable surd: a flurry of breath in the weeds in the back alley—a hint of motion and color. Nameless, defying analysis or systematizing: it is here and now, lowly, at the rim of perception and being. Who is it? What is it? I don’t know. — Phil Dick, Exegesis

The future intrudes on the present as a void or absence that nevertheless shapes our thought and behavior in subtle ways. Meaning always awaits us in the future, forever deferred and postponed, as French poststructuralists like Lacan and Derrida always insisted. Thus when I argued a few posts back that there is no matrix of meaning giving some kind of secure sense-structure to the universe, I should have been more precise: the universe has no meaning in the present; meaning is always in the future.

Dark matter may be the “missing meaning” of the classical-causal universe, the unconscious of spacetime.

The closest thing to meaning in the present is that perturbation and deflection we feel subtly in our lives. It is Lacan’s Real and Phil Dick’s “surd,” and really, I think, we can place the whole Freudian “unconscious” (and the Buddhist “substrate consciousness”) in the Not Yet as well: It is the place where unthought thoughts are thought. The Not Yet also takes the form of elusive flickering anomalies, maybe even all of the almost-but-not-quite meaningful phenomena that button-down minds dump into the wastebin labeled “the paranormal.” As I suggested in the last post, PK phenomena could even be manifestations of causality’s immune system against paradox. The noönic envelope of the earth, the interpenetration of the future with the present, creates deviations, causal perversions, and anomalies that are both manifestations of “hardened” fate (or Wyrd) and debris of a powerfully time-binding biosphere. It sounds awfully lot like a control system. Are UFOs themselves part of the “long Earth’s” causal immune system?

Unlike many of my friends and fellow anomalists, I’m obviously not done with materialism. Opening physics and psychology up to retrocausality has much more traction as an explanation for psi and other paranormal phenomena (and chaos magic) than waving our hands about consciousness fields and matrices of meaning; it also (to me at least) satisfies the need to restore an excitingly science-fictional richness and surreality to the world made bleak by the dull-minded Dawkinses and other unimaginative science-stops-here skeptics. “Materialism” isn’t the equivalent of that sclerotic, skeptical point of view. It doesn’t mean there’s nothing but matter; for a century, nobody (at least in the hardest of the hard sciences) has believed that. It just means being mentally rigorous, critically minded, and not giving free passes from causality; but it is necessary to radically enlarge our picture of causality, and thus we need a more “elaborative” kind of materialism to replace the reductive one that currently dominates. Mainstream science will get there sooner or later; for now, we anomalists are doing advance scouting of the terrain.

The mystery of dark matter is emblematic of that need to enlarge our picture of matter rather than replace it with some simplistic idealism. A few years ago I speculated that dark matter might be made of knowledge. I was corrected by some readers more knowledgeable in information theory and computing that even very massive ET data collection would not be “big” in mass, because information storage ever tends toward the minute in scale. ET big data would be enfolded in the fabric of space or stored in black holes; it wouldn’t take the form of big Toshiba or Seagate hard drives floating around in space and perturbing the rotation of galaxies. But that throwaway idea was not valueless, because it led me to a better hypothesis, and this one is not idle: Dark matter could really be the perturbing effect of the future, or the Not Yet, at the galactic and intergalactic scale.

In other words, the large-scale perturbation or deviation from our gravitational predictions, which looks (to cosmologists who cannot countenance any future influence) like extra matter shaping the behavior of galaxies, could really be a nonrandom tendency in matter as a result of the causal “pull” of the future. Dark matter might, in other words, be the “missing meaning” of the classical-causal universe, the unconscious of spacetime, and not missing mass as it is presumed to be.

Readers, thoughts?


* Yes, please pretend the dumb prequel, with its moronic reimagining of Space Jockeys as steroid-pumped Woody Harrelson lookalikes, does not exist.



I am a science writer and armchair Fortean based in Washington, DC. Write to me at eric.wargo [at]

22 Responses to “The Wyrd of the Early Earth: Cellular Pre-sense in the Primordial Soup”

  • This is fascinating and resonates in a number of ways with materials I’ve been wrestling with for a book my husband and I are doing. I’ve shared it on Facebook along with some comments about how it relates to my own interests.

  • Thanks, Cory. Your project sounds fascinating. Have you taken a look at Gordon White’s new book Star.Ships? It’s a somewhat similar project, although he’s not focused on the deepest prehistory. I’ve only just started it, but it’s excellent so far (and as an anthropologist, I was skeptical going in, since there’s so much bad/bogus alt-archaeology out there).


  • I’ve been thinking about the idea of microtubules as computation devices since I first heard of Penrose’s & Hameroff’s work. For me the question is… where does the conclusion of the computation step out of the quantum system and into the cell? The proteins that dot the microtubules– some of them are perhaps sensors that relay decisions into the cellular circuitry. Or, and harder to measure, minor perturbations in metabolites or even water states could change the direction/functions of proteins in some manner that distills UP towards a decision in a cell that leads to a decision in the “brain” of an organism.

    I’ve been thinking about what kind of mutational genetics, or perturbations, one can do to test these ideas. The problem I always run into is just because a mutation causes a cell to make bad decisions, it’s hard to conclude it is a loss of precognitive interpretation or whether one just broke a conventional protein machine in the cell. Uncertainty principle.

    One can do the genetics in the lab, but designing the right experiment that concludes a genetics of precognition is difficult.

  • This may be above your pay grade, but what is your sense of recent developments in physics and a general attitude toward the possibility of something like post-selection? Are theories being discarded because they happen to involve what some or many might call ‘logical absurdities’? For instance, there’s Yourgrau’s book ‘A World Without Time,’ which I haven’t read and probably won’t, but which appears to make the case that such possibilities are routinely ignored, in this case for decades.

    And color me (highly) skeptical these days, but I also wonder about the utility of speculating about things like dark matter, which seems to be little more than a placeholder in a set of incomplete observations. Anomalists often take aim at the debunking breed of skeptics, yet are happy to appropriate dubious concepts provided they have been dreamed up by a physicist somewhere. (See e.g. John Horgan’s ‘Dear “Skeptics,” Bash Homeopathy and Bigfoot Less, Mammograms and War More’ for a manifesto of ‘deep skepticism.’)

    And, for a postscript concerning decades of rejected evidence, I’d like to share this thought from Vallee (in Confrontations) ‘In 1985 private researcher Kenneth Behrendt published a study entitled “Understanding Metal-Ejecting UFOs,” in which he made the assumption that such devices could fly by generating an “anti-mass field.” He speculated ingeniously that the intense magnetic field required for this operation could be produced in a “large toroidal electromagnet with hollow tubular windings that are made from a heat-proof ceramic material.’ Vallee seems to be discussing the ‘Podkletnov effect’ 10 years before that controversy reached the public.

  • Hi Garry. Yes, I’m not able to say how microtubule computation would work or how it would interface with the cell. I’m trusting Hameroff on this, although he’s not the only one focusing on microtubules as the likeliest cellular “nervous system.” It only makes sense — how else would single-celled organisms show directed behavior?

    But yes, we’re a long way from having any definite answers.

  • Hi MD, I can’t answer your first question: Since I’m just little people when it comes to QM I have to trust what I get from the handful of authors who know how to make this stuff moderately accessible. I don’t know how mainstream post-selection is within the physics community currently, but I have a strong hunch it will become a term we start to hear more and more, partly because whiffs of retrocausation are everywhere suddenly. I think the mental blockade against all forms of time travel is eroding. In fact I just found out James Gleick has a book on this subject coming out in September — I’ll be very curious what his angle is.

    Re: your comment about dark matter. This is precisely my feeling as well — that it’s a placeholder for something wrong in our assumptions. I really think it’s going to turn out to have to do with, again, retrocausation. There’s an article about dark energy being linked to the arrow of time that just appeared on the Web yesterday, for instance (I should have included dark energy in my discussion).

    I agree with you about rejected evidence. This is always the way it is with new paradigms — the troubling new evidence suddenly makes sense of a bunch of old dismissed evidence in people’s file drawers.


  • Very well constructed. I think exploring the idea of ‘prescience’ all the way down to single-cell organisms fits very well with the recent trend of some thinkers to re-focus the idea of “consciousness” as applying to any organism which makes ‘decisions’ to take one of a variety of possible actions in a given circumstance.

    Also, thanks for summarizing Zizek. Now I don’t have to do all that work! 😛

  • Well, Eric, you are a lover of paradoxes! 😉 Didn’t you claimed that meaning is humane creation, produced by and with our semiotics, culture and history, why Universe as such is meaningless? And you seemingly imply that the world is permeated with meaning after all, and this meaning is accessed – or created? – even by microorganisms…

    BTW, speaking about the paradoxes… In one of our earlier conversations on your blog, your mentioned a kind of spiritual experience of yours, which let you perceive yourself as just a material being among other material beings, and feel yourself deeply ecstatic about it. Yet isn’t it paradoxial that the apparent “revelation” of your own objective materiality was “revealed” to you in a mental, spiritual, subjective experience? But how could the a subjective inspiration point to the objectivity? It’s much more common (and much more logical) for a people who lived through such experiences to percieve themselves as immaterial souls who are beyond mere physicality, and for you the effect was the opposite. Weird, that. 🙂

  • Hi Vortex. It’s only weird or paradoxical if you assume subjectivity, experience, mind, spirit etc. aren’t material, and thus you are a secret dualist. 🙂 Consciousness could be simply the experience of being matter, “the universe knowing itself” as Sagan liked to phrase it — why not? An experience of being immaterial and beyond matter is an experience of another matter, another substance, so it’s just complexifying the issue because you don’t happen to like existing materialist vocabulary; it represents (I suspect) an inability to describe the experience in existing causal terms, so we imagine it as supernatural or transcendent. But that leads to the bad kind of dualism that everybody wants to get away from, doesn’t it?

    The humanistic discourses of meaning (religion, etc.) don’t supplement the scientific discourses of cause; they are complimentary discursive apparatuses for describing phenomena, and their admixture tends to lead to error and sloppy reasoning.

    The parallactic dualism I preach isn’t a metaphysics; it just says don’t bother trying to merge materialism and idealism (or objective and subjective, causality and meaning) — these are noncollapsible discursive frameworks, two ways of describing phenomena, each with their necessary role and uses; there’s no basis from which to privilege one over the other. If you think you’re privileging one, the other comes back and bites you in the ass, inevitably. 🙂

    As for cells, I wouldn’t say they “access” meaning; but you could could say “meaning” lies in how they respond to information received from the future. In other words, one possible definition of meaning is as performativity: what (inherently meaningless) information causes a person or a cell or an object to do, or the “answer” of information. It is in this sense that poststructuralists always talk of meaning as perpetually displaced or deferred to the future — Derrida’s “differance” or Lacan’s endless signifying chain, etc. It is in this sense that I say “missing meaning” is really the way future information perturbs the present behavior of galaxies. We might not ever find “missing matter” (or dark energy) because “it” is always in the future — and not as some “other” to matter; just the same matter, but in the future. By the same token, the full spacetime configuration of matter and energy in the present IS the “dark matter/energy” of the past — nothing occult or hidden or off-stage.

    (It’s only a hypothesis, of course — I’d love a cosmologist to weigh in.)

  • Clark Ashton Smith called it Ubbo-Sathla.

  • Eric, have you been reading any of Donald Hoffman’s stuff about “reality” not actually being “real”?

  • Hi Ahck, no I don’t know his work. If not “real” then what?

  • As I understand it, “perception.” I sent you a link. Seems to me that his thoughts pertain to your project.

  • If indeed prescience is a genuine phenomenon, it would seem to make sense that the future that is preminisced is to an extent ‘fixed’ as you’ve been arguing, as are its co-conspirators, the past and present, all of which are jostling for position synchronously, as it were. If a seed falls from a tree and grows into a new tree, is this new tree partially responsible for its own birth? Or are we talking about seeds that fall among thorns? About information alone? The kind of information about a future event that simply cannot alter that event, or ‘bad information’ (haha).

    In the last year or so there was a stir created by the apparent prescience of scenes in the Back to the Future series regarding 9/11. A lot of people out there are researching and writing feverishly about these things, and about prescience in general, such as yourself for example. So, we can’t really argue that prescience has no forward effect. It may not effect the event that was directly anticipated, but it does effect the STC elsewhere.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it can only be the case that either the Universe in its entirety, what we call past, present and future, came into existence all at once, (or it always was and is and will be), or there had to be an order of occurrence, whether that ‘began’ at some original moment in the past and the rest is gradually filled in (or has already been filled in), future included, with the help of these dark matter-tunnelling tubules. In the former case there seems to be little sense in chatting about what caused what. So that leaves us with the latter option – the gradual filling in from some former time that overlaps the present (and has perhaps already been completed). I prefer this option, because it leaves room for prescience to have a forward effect in the timeline from our point of view. Indeed it would seem to be necessary in the information age that broad swathes of the present moment have nothing necessary in their immediate futures at least. A great many people share their strange experiences and even shape their lives by those they deem significant. Perhaps one could speculate that entire religions have been born and novels written, and not to mention ‘world-changing’ lives lived based on foresight.

    So even though there is some comfort in this wiggle room, this room to play proffered to us by the unfolding Universe, it remains possible that the Universe has unfolded in its entirety, or that significant events have unfolded well in advance of our power to stop them (Back to the Future preceded 9/11 by sixteen years). If that is so, we would expect there to be some kind of natural limit on the development of prescience as a phenomenon, and we may be able to see that limit expressing itself in a more concrete manner once interest in prescience (and synchronicity) really starts to take hold. I wonder what that limit might look like?

  • Thanks, Si — We can wrap our heads in knots trying to figure out what this all means for predestination, free will, etc. In the end, it doesn’t help. As Jule Eisenbud put it, precognitive experiences kind of offer both possibilities — we’re slaves to fate, and we can change it, and for some neurotics, that wishy-washiness or evasion of questions of responsibility is precisely what they are looking for. 🙂


  • Eric, I just have a thought – isn’t your “parallactic dualism”, ontologically, a form of a Bertrand-Russel-style neutral monism (or “neutralism”, as one might call it)? Like Russel, you seem to imply that we have a single existential reality, yet two descriptive systems to explain it – “mental” and “physical”. So, the world itself is, fundamentally, neither “material” nor “mental”, but between (and, probably, beyond?) this duality, which exists on an intellectual level only, and have some pragatic usage and justification on this level. Or is your views not “neutralistic”?

  • Vortex, I would go farther than Russell and say that there is no neutral reality “behind” or “beyond” our engagement with it. Our subjectivity comes into being along with the world, via practices and discourses that simultaneously “interpellate” both phenomena and their “knower.” But any given discursive practice (to use an annoying poststructuralist term, but one that is kind of useful) is like a diffraction grating that can only reveal/realize/interpellate certain kinds of phenomena at the expense of others. The materialist/physicalist/reductive discursive practices of science reveal important realities but only at the expense of “meaning” in the sense of the “something more” that makes life livable; on the other hand, the humanistic and mythological discourses focused on meaning gain their power to do so at the expense of causally explanatory traction, testability, replicability. They ultimately are rooted in the subjective. We absolutely need both perspectives, and we perpetually oscillate between them. But within either of these frameworks, there is no real way to support the claim “but that other thing also exists.” They do not fit together or add up.

    So, in short, I think monism (or what I guess you are calling “neutralism”?) is overrated. In its most cautious formulations of a “metaphyics,” Zen preaches a Void (no-self), not a Oneness, and this corresponds to the kensho experience. But Void doesn’t mean nothingness or some kind of bleak nihilism, just means a kind of painful-pleasurable indeterminacy and openness (from which new and unexpected meanings are free to, and do, arise). I think people who desperately want to say that we live in an intrinsically meaningful universe forget how unpleasant it is to live within a framework of meaning somebody else has imposed on you, constraining your thoughts and self. The scientific revolution came as a huge liberation for freethinkers who had lived under the stultifying mental yoke of the Church for over a millennium.

  • “But within either of these frameworks, there is no real way to support the claim “but that other thing also exists.” They do not fit together or add up.”

    The problem for your idea of impassable abyss between scientific and humanistic discourses is the whole corpus of widely accepted disciplines – *social* sciences – that were created exactly as a mean to cross the chasm between sciences and humanities. Such “binding” and “mediating” position is a source of both pride and pain for social scientists: they have to work on a boundary between scientific “objectivity” and humanistic “subjectivity”, combining both in their models.

    Such “bifurcated” status of psychology, sociology and other “soft sciences” earned them not just critics, but outright enemies – the two of the latter are the New Left guru, situationist Guy Debord, and a right-libertarian legend, arch-enemy of psychiary Thomas Szasz. Despite the diametrically opposite political position, both these thinkers was (in)famous for their furious, uncomromising denunciation of any “human” (psychical, social, political, economic etc.) sciences. Both considered these disciplines to be “not really scientific” and described them as a lethal danger both for “true” (this is, natural) sciences and “true” (read: canonic) humanities, and a symptom signalling “the fall of rationality” in a modern world.

    Well, Debord and Szasz are now dead and largely forgotten by most, while social sciences are still alive and thriving; but where are still people who exress doubts about their scientific status. And, I tend to think, these doubters are *partially* right: social sciences are indeed half-sciences – and half-humanities. They are a form of connective discourse, which builds a bridge between “purely” scientific and “purely” humanistic spheres.

  • Of course. The fact that the two kinds of discourses don’t really mesh when you zoom in doesn’t prevent everyone from trying. But it’s symptomatic of their underlying incommensurability that the social sciences are always pulled apart in two directions. When I was in grad school, anthropology was being torn asunder — the materialists versus hermeneutic approaches. Psychology, same thing — the scientific, experimental folks don’t like to have anything to do with the mushy psychoanalytic and otherwise non-evidence-based therapists. And so on.

    A great concrete example of the underlying impossibility is going back and looking at Jung’s work with Pauli, and his mental contortions to come up with the theory of synchronicity. It was a total failure, but a fascinating exercise to observe in hindsight. The temptation is almost universal among “big thinkers”: to somehow reconcile meaning and causality into a single unified scheme that doesn’t privilege one over the other, rather than doing the easy thing, which is to reduce one to the other.

  • There is even bigger problem with scientific and humanistic discourses. Maybe we indeed cannot ultimately unify them in a monistic fashion, creating a singular all-encompassing discourse… But, at the same time, it seems that we cannot separate the scientific and the humanistic views totally and unequivocally – no matter how we try, there is always some “subjectivity” left within our “objectivity” (and vice versa).

    Apparently “objective” experimental psychology is using “subjective” criteria like “adjustment” and “maladjustment”, treating these moral(istic) categories as some kind of objective facts. “Subjective” psycho-treatments are increasingly fond of psychosomatics, combining veridical bodily reactions with intrasubjective insight. And so on.

    And this is not limited to social sciences – after all, all theory of natural sciences are based on some kind of (speculative and intuitive) philosophical background, and experiments are performed by living people, which makes some level of “experimenter effect” simply unavoidable. And there are social pressures of academic community as well… No way to achieve the ideal of “pure inhuman objectivity”.

    From another side, humanities are not as totally “subjective” as they may seem: humanitarian scholarship requires careful handling of historical evidence and cultural observation; its interpretative models are not voluntaristically materialised out of thin air, but are (to some degree) dependent on an intellectual legacy of previous discourses; it, like scientific research, requires maintaining a personal and professional integrity in spite of communal influence and personal biases.

    So, the fact of human situation – at least, in the past and present – is painful ambivalence between subjective and objective, in which both individuals and organisations (including the academia) have to live: while we are unable to combine “subjectivity” and “objectivity” harmonically, we cannot also divorce them puritanically: we do not possess pure “objectivity” and “subjectivity”, but we simultaneously fail to produce a singular position which allow both of them at the same time…

  • Well, things are messy. To separate was is married just causes trouble. One could really piss off the timelike and the spacelike. Reductive reasoning cannot understand the nature of entanglement. See dot meets line.

    If not for the kindness of strangers, and a reasonably static warp field, these games would not be the faults of the children.

    Attempts to locate a physical structure would reverse if the nonlocal was abstract.

    Of course, that would look like little glowing dots and invisible lines of force. Not really force, more like a conversation.

    Oh, and inhuman used to be something better than money.
    No one much does that these days. Bad for business.

  • Vortex, “painful ambivalence” is a great way to put it. Yes, despite our efforts, our accounts of reality will always be a mixture of subjective and objective. Those accounts work provisionally, but whenever you zoom in, you find nothing there — the Lacanian Real. This is all I’m saying. It’s why I think trying to assert some kind of extreme monist position, such as is vogue among the new anti-materialists, is naive.