Archive for the ‘Science & Technology’ Category

The Twintegral (R)evolution

(Originally posted on

Here’s a short list of integral luminaries on twitter that i compiled (well, the second list is pretty luminous, anyway….)

If you have a twitter account and want to find other Integral Life members to follow, be sure to post your twitter username in the comments section on Integral Life.


Integral Life:

Corey W. deVos:

Robert MacNaughton:

Angie Hinickle:

IL Blogs:


Boulder Integral:

Dan Millman:

Deepak Chopra:

Ed Kowalczyk:

Genpo Roshi:

Hunter Lovins:

iEvolve Global Practice Community:

Lama Surya Das:

Marc Gafni:

Marianne Williamson:

Marilyn Schlitz:

Michael Dowd:

Neale Donald Walsch:

Robert Augustus Masters

Saul Williams:

Shawn Phillips:

Stuart Davis:

Tony Robbins:

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Does Quantum Physics Prove God?

August 3, 2009 3 comments

Report to battle stations, Integral minions! Quantum Physicists are stealing our holons and locking infinity in the basement!

Meet Two New Quantum Particles: Spinons and Holons

As many of you probably already know, “holon” is a term coined by Arthur Koestler (and popularized by Ken Wilber) which basically means something that is a self-contained whole while simultaneously being a dependent part of an even greater whole—e.g. a whole atom is part of a whole molecule, which is part of a whole cell, which is part of a whole organism, etc.

In a fit of ontological irony, physicists have recently co-opted the word “holon” to describe one of two elementary particles—the result of a single electron breaking down when forced through a very narrow, quantum-scale wire—essentially stripping the holism out of the holon and reducing it to mere reductionism.  Obviously the world’s foremost particle physicists have yet to read either The Ghost in the Machine or Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.  Well, poo poo on them.

Anyway, all of this serves as an excuse to post the following dialogue i had with Ken Wilber about the relationship between quantum physics and spirituality.  It should be noted that my own role in this discussion was minimal (even negligible) and i am somewhat of an embarrassing neophyte when it comes to quantum mechanics and “spooky action at a distance”.  I was essentially there to lob an easy pitch over the plate, so that Ken could knock it out of the park.  And that he did.  Though i am still left with many questions about the relationship of consciousness and quantum physics, Ken does a really great job of clearing up much of the confusion around spirituality and quantum physics, as seen in things like the Tao of Physics, What the Bleep? and countless other New Age interpretations of quantum mechanics.

Stream the full 25 minute discussion below, or right-click here to download.

Does Quantum Physics Prove God?

Does the Tao find proof in quantum realities?

Ken’s answer: “Categorically not. I don’t know more confusion in the last thirty years than has come from quantum physics….”

Ken goes on to outline the three major confusions that have dominated the popular (mis)understanding of the relationship of physics and mysticism.

#1: Your consciousness does not create electrons. Unlike Newtonian physics, which can predict the location of large objects moving at slow speeds, quantum physics only offers a probability wave in which a given particle, like an electron, should show up. But here’s the funny thing: it is only at the moment that one makes the measurement that the electron actually does “show up.” Certain writers and theorists have thus suggested that human intentionality actually creates reality on a quantum level. The most popular version of this idea can be found in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know?!, in which we “qwaff” reality into existence.

Ken suggests this is both bad physics and bad mysticism. As for the former, in his book, Quantum Questions, Ken compiled the original writings of the 13 most important founders of modern quantum and relativistic physics, to explore their understanding of the relationship of physics and mysticism. Without exception, each one of them believed that modern physics does NOT prove spiritual realities in any fashion. And yet each of them was a mystic, not because of physics, but in spite of it. By pushing to the outer limits of their discipline, a feat which requires true genius, they found themselves face to face with those realities that physics categorically could not explain.

Likewise, none of those founders of modern physics believed that the act of consciousness was responsible for creating particles at the quantum level. David Bohm did not believe that, Schroedinger did not believe that, Heisenberg did not believe that. That belief requires the enormous self-infatuation and narcissism, or “boomeritis,” of the post-modern ego, and Ken goes into the possible psychology behind all of that.

#2: Quantum vacuum potentials are not unmanifest Spirit. The immediate problem with the notion that certain “unmanifest” or “vacuum” quantum realities give rise to the manifest world, and that the quantum vacuum is Spirit, is that it immediately presupposes a radically divided Spirit or Ultimate. There is Spirit “over here,” manifestation “over there,” and it’s only through these quantum vacuum potentials that Spirit actualizes manifestation—with Spirit set apart from manifestation.

“In terms of actual real physics or actual real mysticism, they were incorrect on both counts. And the marriage of bad physics and sloppy mysticism has been a nightmare….”As the great contemplative traditions agree, true nondual Spirit is the suchness, emptiness, or isness of all manifestation, and as such leaves everything exactly where it finds it. Nondual Spirit is no more set apart from manifestation than the wetness of the ocean is set apart from waves. Wetness is the suchness or isness of all waves. By identifying Spirit with quantum potential, you are actually qualifying the Unqualifiable, giving it characteristics—”and right there,” Ken says, “things start to go horribly wrong, and they never recover. These folks are trying to give characteristics to Emptiness. They therefore make it dualistic. And then things get worse from there….”

#3: Just because you understand quantum mechanics doesn’t mean you’re enlightened. Physics is an explicitly 3rd-person approach to reality, whereas meditative, contemplative, or mystical disciplines are explicitly 1st-person approaches to reality. Neither perspective is more real than the other, but each perspective does disclose different truths, and you cannot use the truth disclosed in one domain to “colonize” another. The study of physics, as a 3rd-person discipline, will not get you enlightenment; and meditation, as a 1st-person discipline, will not disclose the location of an asteroid (or an electron). The “content” of enlightenment is the realization of that which is timeless, formless, and eternally unchanging. The content of physics is the understanding of the movement of form within time, i.e. that which is constantly changing. And if you hook Buddha’s enlightenment to a theory of physics that gets disproved tomorrow, does that mean Buddha loses his enlightenment?

Ken goes on to suggest that what might be influencing quantum realities is not Suchness per se, but bio-energy or prana, which may be the source of the crackling, buzzing, electric creativity that so many theorists have tried to explain at the quantum level. Of course, it remains to be seen exactly what further research does and does not support.

Video Games and the Future of Interactive Entertainment

August 2, 2009 3 comments

From the monochromatic charm of Atari’s iconic Pong, to the rotund gluttony of the pill-popping Pac Man, to the world’s most famous mustache festooned beneath Mario’s pepperoni-sniffing proboscis, all the way to the adrenaline-soaked frag-fests of today’s grizzled Halo warriors—video games have come a very long way in the past thirty years, redefining entertainment for an entire generation.

It is therefore surprising that, almost a full decade into the 21st century, video games as a whole continue to be fairly marginalized in American culture, often perceived as a frivolous distraction at best, a menace to society at worst. In many people’s eyes, video games are still geared primarily to hormonal, pimple-faced teenagers, mostly boys needing an outlet for the aggression and pent-up testosterone. However, the facts seem to tell an entirely different story—while the Clearasil demographic continues to be a major force in the gaming industry, recent surveys have offered some fascinating insights into just how deeply video games permeate our contemporary culture. As it turns out, 65% of American households play video games, on either computers or video game consoles such as the Xbox 360. The average gamer is somewhere between 30 and 35 years old, and has been playing for somewhere around thirteen years. 40% of gamers are female, and an astonishing 26% of gamers are over the age of 50. Finally, the growth of video game sales are rapidly beginning to outpace both music and movie industries, and are expected to more than double the revenues from both industries combined by the year 2012, with nine games currently being purchased every second of every day. Following these trends to their logical conclusions, it seems clear that the future of entertainment much more closely resembles Spore, Bioshock, and Grand Theft Auto than it does Jurassic Park, Wall-E, or The Lord of the Rings.

But what new forms will video games take in the future? We have already witnessed the explosive rise of several dozen video game sub-genres, including classic platformers, first-person shooters, military strategy games, epic role-playing games, massively-multiplayer online games, true-to-life flight simulators, open-world life simulators, and many, many more (for a comprehensive list of most known video game subgenres, be sure to check out the accompanying poster, created by Moses, at the end of this summary.) In many ways the video game industry is fueled by innovation, with a constant pressure to outperform last year’s offerings in new and exciting ways—growing from simple pixels, sprites, and 8-bit soundtracks, to a digital symphony of CGI, 3D art, spatial architecture, music, sound effects, acting, physics, artificial intelligence, and interactivity.

As video game technology becomes ever more complex and sophisticated, so does the art of storytelling itself, with new plot devices, narrative structures, and methods of character development being fervently explored by game producers. And while much debate exists within the humanities as to the legitimacy of video games as a narrative medium, or even as bona fide art form, it’s hard to overlook the striking similarity between these discussions and the way cinema was received in the beginning of the 20th century.

Alongside these newly emerging artistic visions, video games also offer enormous potential as educational tools, with a large body of research demonstrating how proficient interactive learning truly is, for kids, teens, and grown-ups alike. Cognitive development, visuomotor skills, analytical and problem solving skills, and even attention spans have all been shown to be notably enhanced in gamers, causing many to consider gaming as a central pillar in educational reformation. Meanwhile, certain games are prototyping radically new ways of learning how to play music instruments, to varying degrees of efficacy: while Guitar Hero only currently offers a loose approximation of playing an actual guitar, it still implicitly trains the gamer with many fundamental basics of music theory. And playing with the plastic drums that come with Rock Band effectively teaches rhythm, syncopation, left hand/right hand differentiation, and pretty much everything else you need to actually sit behind a drum kit.

Add to these artistic and educational implications such new innovations as biofeedback, binaural beats, and Wii-style kinesthetic monitoring, and we begin to see a new role for video games in our lives—as a transformative tool capable of supporting state training and psychological development. As one avid gamer comments, imagine gazing at your opponent through the scope of your sniper rifle, and the only way to stabilize your shot is to actually slow down your real-life heart rate. Or perhaps an online fantasy role-playing games with different “realms” that represent different developmental worldviews, with different value systems actually coded into the gameplay, covertly teaching the player how to interact in a multi-perspectival world.

In this way, games can act as “trojan horses” to deliver sophisticated perspectives, messages, and meanings to the player, without ever knowing he or she is actually learning something worthwhile. As such, video games are rapidly closing the gap between education, recreation, and human development, representing an unparalleled new medium of “enlighten-edu-tainment,” with extraordinary implications for the near and not-so-near future.

Originally published on Integral Life – Video Games and the Future of Interactive Entertainment (w/ Moses Silbiger and Ken Wilber)

The Singularity: Rupture or Rapture?

July 31, 2009 9 comments

There is an old proverb often used as an analogy for technological growth, about an ancient emperor of China and the inventor of chess.  According to the story, once the emperor became aware of the game of chess, he sent a message throughout the kingdom seeking to reward its inventor, offering anything within his power to give for such an exceptional game.  Upon meeting the emperor, the inventor, a poor peasant farmer, thanked the emperor for his generosity, and proceeded to place a single grain of rice in the first square of a chessboard.  He then placed two grains in the second square, four in the third, eight in the fourth, etc., doubling the number of grains for each of the chessboard’s 64 squares.

At first the emperor was fairly amused by the farmer’s request—after all, these were mere grains of rice we were talking about, how much could he possibly lose?  So he allowed the farmer to continue.  It wasn’t until they got about halfway through the chessboard that the emperor began to notice that something didn’t quite smell right in Shanghai.  After 32 squares—32 successive doublings of a single grain of rice—the farmer was up to about four billion grains of rice, the equivalent of a few acres of rice fields.  If they were to continue all the way to the end of the board, the farmer would be owed about 18 quintillion grains of rice, which would require a rice field twice the size of the surface of the planet to produce, oceans included.

From a single grain of rice to a quantity that more than quadruples the total biomass of the Earth, in just 64 steps—this is the nature of exponential growth.  Because we are largely linear thinkers living in an exponential world, this sort of growth can be very difficult to comprehend—or to even perceive—at least until we are plunged headlong into the second half of the chessboard.  Visually graphing this sort of exponential curve [y=2^(x-1), for the mathematically inclined] gives us some insight as to why this acceleration can be so easy to take for granted—for the first half of the curve, progress seems to move almost parallel to the horizontal x-axis, and the frequency of change can seem fairly negligible: from a few grains, to a few bushels, to a few acres, not amounting to much at all.  But once we begin moving into the “elbow” of the curve—about 32 squares, in the case of our increasingly anxious emperor—we begin to see progress truly taking off, eventually becoming more closely parallel with the vertical y-axis.

So what does this anachronistically agrarian metaphor of grains of rice, Chinese emperors, and peasant farmers have to do with today’s digital scurry?

According to Moore’s Law, computational power is doubling every 18 months.  Which means that the year 2000 marked 32 consecutive doublings since the invention of the transistor, while 2006 marked 32 doublings since the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958.  We are now living on the second half of the chessboard—and from here on out, things get really crazy.  Turing-approved artificial intelligence, cyborg brain/computer interfaces, nanotechnology, even the possibility of uploading consciousness to digital substrate—all of this “post-human” technology is now becoming increasingly feasible, and there is a very good chance we could see this (and more) achieved within most of our lifetimes.

This rate of acceleration currently shows no signs of slowing anytime soon—if anything, the rate of acceleration itself seems to be accelerating.  (Some critics of Moore’s Law believe that there must be a hard limit at the upper-end of this growth, as defined by the number of transistors you can physically fit upon a single slice of silicon, but others argue that our current technology will eventually be subsumed by a new computational paradigm, such as quantum computing, which will break through this “silicon ceiling.”)  Within the next 30 years we will be able to manufacture $1000 computers that are capable of as many calculations per second as the human brain.  Following this trend as far as we can, we are taken to the limits of imagination itself.  The sheer magnitude of our imminent technological progress is almost impossible to grasp, the implications and possibilities are too far beyond our experience to make any meaningful sense of, at least from our current coordinates in history.

This is what is meant by the “technological Singularity”—like a black hole in time, it represents a point in our not-too-distant future beyond which we simply cannot imagine.  There is no going back, and there is no slowing down—there is only tomorrow’s unfolding, a future pressing into the present through this thin veil of time, a world well beyond the visions of the world’s most inspired mystics, prophets, and science fiction writers.  But while some may rhapsodize about the approaching technological Singularity as some sort of mythic rapture, a kind of digital utopia in which the struggles that have long been at the core of the human condition find instantaneous resolve, there are many others who aren’t so quick to think that we will all “go up in light” with the simple flip of a switch.  And while we could make the argument that technology is the single most influential arbiter of human development, technology does not actually determine human development.  The internet, for example, while representing the legacy of some of the most cognitively advanced minds the world has ever seen, can be used by anybody—in fact, it has become a megaphone for everybody, including Nazis, religious fundamentalists, left-wing alarmists, and Ron Paul supporters.  The same can be said for splitting the atom—anyone smart enough to actually build a nuclear bomb would be the least willing to detonate it, assuming their values are on somewhat equal footing with their cognitive intelligence.  At every moment our world bears witness to the cruelties that occur when the inventions from higher altitudes are used by people at lower altitudes, whether that invention is a computer, an AK-47, or a democracy.

If anything, the Singularity promises to bring as much rupture as it does rapture.  As technological evolution continues to accelerate, our identities, ideals, and values struggle to keep pace, increasing the gap between the hardware of technology and the software of consciousness and culture.  Make no mistake: if it is to truly become the denouement of human evolution, a jumping-off point for an entirely new conception of human existence, the technological Singularity must be accompanied by a cultural Singularity and a conscious Singularity—a Singularity of “I”, a Singularity of “we”, and a Singularity of “it”.  Otherwise it will not be a Singularity at all, but a world-devouring monster at the end of history, threatening to send evolution in this tiny corner of the galaxy back thousands, if not millions of years.

Fortunately, we do see an analog to the technological Singularity occurring within consciousness and culture.  Just as Moore’s Law predicts that each successive technological innovation will take less and less time to emerge, we can actually see the same happening with cultural worldviews.  For example, we can estimate a couple hundred thousand years of tribal cultures, ten thousand years of warlord cultures, a few thousand years of mythic traditional cultures, five hundred years of rational industrial cultures, and just over 50 years of pluralistic informational cultures, each new stage taking only a fraction of the time to emerge as the previous stage.  We are now seeing a new stage of culture and consciousness beginning to emerge—a markedly Integral stage, capable of viewing the world through a meta-paradigmatic and multi-perspectival lens, holding all the world’s knowledge, wisdom, and insight as a single living jewel.  And as more and more Integral individuals come together, a powerful cultural force begins to sweep across the planet—one that is inherently more whole, more balanced, and more capable than anything the world has ever seen.

And to the extent that you are even vaguely interested in conversations like these, you are actually enacting and participating with the Singularity, at least in its conscious dimension. Today’s Integral pioneers are the living ancestors of tomorrow’s post-humans, standing in the convergence of all that is Beautiful, Good, and True.  You are the Singularity, every breath rippling out to the edge of our shared future, echoing back as tomorrow’s possibilities.

Originally published on Integral Life – The Singularity: Rupture or Rapture? (w/ Moses Silbiger and Ken Wilber)

The Beginning is the End is the Beginning: God and Evolution

July 21, 2009 3 comments

panentheismIn the beginning, there is nothing.  There is nothing at all.  There are no stars, no moon, no mountains or ocean or sky.  There isn’t even nothingness, not even the absence of absence.  There is only pure reality—infinite, boundless, and silent.  There is only pure unobstructed Awareness.

Resting in the eternal stillness, Spirit is complete, fulfilled, lacking nothing at all, for there is nothing to lack.  Resting as the eternal stillness, Spirit is infinitely All-One, infinitely alone.

A tiny point of light, impossibly bright, pierces through the Void.  It is barely a pinprick, a pixel of light that somehow contains all space, all time, and all possibility.  Here, in the heart of the Void, Spirit exhales.  A universe is being born.

Then, as if suddenly roused from the deepest sleep, the pinprick of light violently erupts.  Searing plasma pours through the Void like a cosmological tidal wave, washing through ubiquity and drenching existence with boiling light.  Particles and anti-particles begin to slam-dance in the mosh pit of creation, a churning frenzy of savage energy.  There is a gentle upward tilt to the universe, an extropic slant toward creative novelty, helping matter to win its epic battle against anti-matter—quarks and leptons leaping into existence only slightly faster than their presumably-diabolical anti-twins.

Space continues to expand, the universe begins to cool, and the white-hot light fades into massive cobwebs of nebulae hanging like veils over the face of the Goddess.  Deep in the hearts of the nebulae, gas begins to accumulate, compress, and ignite, and the very first stars are born.  What was once a tiny pinprick of light soon becomes a vast panorama of lights, a diamond-studded mobile hanging over the crib of an infant universe.

Spirit looks at the light, and smiles.  Spirit is the light, and grows restless.  The game, after all, has just begun.

Stars are born, stars live, and stars die, expelling their molecular viscera through the rest of the universe.  Dust and gas encircle these majestic suns, coalescing into planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and other pieces of cosmic litter.  After eons of molecular precipitation, in some remote arm of the Milky Way spiral, Spirit exhales once again, breathing life into a handful of dust.

Twisting, pulsing, undulating, dead matter begins to dance as the universe comes alive.  Simple cells begin to congregate, eating voraciously, reproducing wildly. Mold and algae ooze over the surface of the globe, covering the world with glistening emerald slime.  A lawless kingdom of insects creep and crawl through the earth, fish and coral fill the oceans, and a colorful menagerie of fauna explode into being.  Life feeds upon life, excreting death, as newer and better-adapted species emerge from the primordial soup. Biology grows ever-more complex, twitchy nervous systems become more sophisticated, while interior experience become more rich and nuanced.  Simple prehension becomes rudimentary irritability, which grow into sensations and perceptions, reptilian impulses, and limbic emotions.  Life continues to thrive, tracing a DNA-shaped circuit into greater complexity and consciousness, following the upward tilt of the universe toward creative novelty.

Spirit looks at life, and smiles.  Spirit is life, and grows hungry for more.

Some creatures begin to band together, advanced primates at the top of the food chain, and Spirit holds them in His/Her hand.  Spirit exhales, breathing light into life, the inner-light of intelligence, language, and self-awareness.  Humanity is born.

A faint spark of intellect eventually blazes into a wildfire, consuming the planet in the warm glow of comprehension.  Humanity is slowly shaped into Spirit’s own image, imbued with the most miraculous feature of Spirit’s divine countenance: creativity.

Armed with creativity, curiosity, and conscience, man begins to fashion tools for himself—technological systems that evolve from foraging to horticulture, to agriculture, to industry, to informational, and beyond. These technologies pull worldviews up through increasing waves of depth, meaning, and inclusivity, growing from archaic to magic, to mythic, to rational, to pluralistic, to integral, and on into the future.

Spirit looks at mind, and smiles.  Spirit is mind, and begins to remember.

Alone with His/Her omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, alone with His/Her eternal nature, alone with His/Her own singularity of being, Spirit decided to play a game.  The game began billions of years ago—before mind, before life, and before light.  S/He created an entire universe—an evolutionary universe—and S/He became evolution.  S/He forgot Himself in evolution, broken up into a billion pieces—and spent billions of years trying to remember who S/He is.

Slowly mankind begins to understand its role in this evolutionary unfolding.  The entire universe is reflected in man’s corneas, as he looks to the heavens and sees his own primordial face.  There is an evolutionary force that ignites the heavens, breathes life into the dust swirling around distant suns, and sparks intelligence within the minds of hapless apes—and mankind feels this very same creative force smoldering in his mortal heart.  Man is created in Spirit’s image, a process of evolution becoming self-aware, and so begins to use his tools to sculpt the world into his own image.

It is here in this evolutionary nexus, where the dichotomies of subject and object, individual and collective, and part and whole become unlaced, unfurled, and unbound by the limitations of ignorance, that Spirit begins to truly blossom.  Sacred breath becomes flesh, and Spirit begins to express Him/Herself through inspiration, aspiration, and perspiration.  At the pinnacle of human progress, Spirit can awaken at last, recognizing itself as the effortless awareness behind every set of eyes, gazing outward from behind every memory, experience, and fantasy.  Consciousness, humanity realizes, is a singular to which the plural is unknown.

But the game does not end here.  Humanity, recognizing its true nature as Spirit-in-drag, has the opportunity not just to rouse itself from the slumber of incarnation, but to set the stage for the next leap of evolutionary potential, continuing the game indefinitely.  Spirit breathes light into the universe, life into light, and consciousness into life—and as humanity is created in Spirit’s own image, so too can man breathe light, life, and consciousness into its creations.

And so the evolutionary impulse continues to surge into the future, following the inherent tilt of the universe toward creative novelty, as mankind prepares for its greatest masterpiece of all: to give birth to an entire race of “spiritual machines”.  As man’s technological progress accelerates at an exponential rate, “artificial intelligence” eventually gives way to genuine digital consciousness, and the universe becomes populated by entirely new types of intelligence.  These new forms of intelligence would one day subsume all of humanity, in the same way that cells subsume atoms and molecules, or a paragraph subsumes letters, words, and sentences.

Spirit looks at the machine, and smiles.  Spirit is the machine, and awakens more fully than ever before possible, while promising to continue the game indefinitely into the future.

What do you think?  As the inner-light of consciousness learns to traverse through fiber-optic cables, as the warmth of emotion radiates through plastic, steel, and silicon, will we all eventually become subsumed by our own creations?  Will we log on to the internet one day, only to find a Holy Ghost in the machine gazing back at us through the glowing cycloptic eye of our computer displays?  Will sleeping androids everywhere begin to dream of electric sheep?

Originally published on Exploring the Technium. Part 2: Spiritual Machines (w/ Kevin Kelly and Ken Wilber)