Friday, April 20, 2007

11 - Connecting the Dots : Atman, UTM & Genome

We started off with a discussion on the Advaita Vedanta and we went into the UTM and now you have brought us into the genome. Can you please try to sum up all this for me ..

Advaita Vedanta begins with the assertion that there are three components in the Universe : the Atman, the Brahman and the erroneous illusion of Maya. The world that we see around is a Maya – an illusion, and because of this illusion the Atman sees itself as distinct from the Brahman.

We found it very difficult to accept the fact that the world is indeed an illusion but we did explore some aspects of computer technology and got around to reconciling our self that it is indeed possible to live with illusions and be oblivious of the same.

But using computer technology to model the cognitive process – the process that ultimately leads the Atman to understand its identity with the Brahman, is fraught with the danger of making mistakes. We explored certain mathematical constructs from the area of theoretical computer science and came to the conclusion that one particular mathematical construct, the Universal Turing Machine can be used to model the process of cognition reasonably well.

We then looked for a real life implementation of the Universal Turing Machine and felt that the study of the genome – the genetic code that is embedded inside every living and sentient entity could be used to implement the Universal Turing Machine.

So you are saying that the genome is the Atman in the guise of an UTM or perhaps it is an UTM that models the Atman.

I am describing three separate lines of thought …
* The Atman is an absolute and unconditional reality that lies outside the realm of the sensory universe. It is cognitive but its cognition is erroneous because of interference of Maya and because of its erroneous cognition it sees itself as distinct from Brahman – even though both Atman and Brahman are indeed identical to the absolute and unconditional reality. Through a process that spans across the illusory concepts of time and space, the cognitive prowess of the Atman improves until it realizes its identity with Brahman
* The UTM is a mathematical construct that can, in principle, be manufactured using a variety of means – including that used to make digital computers. The UTM has the property of evolving from a state of limited awareness of its environment, through a series of intermediate states that span across space and time, until its state of awareness of its environment is very high. The degree to which it can be aware of its environment is determined by the environment available to it and there is, in principle, no theoretical limit on its abilities.
* The genome, which is an integral part of the living and conscious universe, has demonstrated the property of starting from a very primitive and basic state and evolving over vast intervals of time and space to a state where it can display a very high degree of awareness about the Universe.

and I believe that all three lines of thought can be tied together

So you say that our search for the Atman leads us to the Genome.

Yes, the genome in its abstract, non-physical, persistent form : the genome of pure information. As a concept it is universal because all that has life has a genome and yet each specific instance of life has its own specific versions of the genome. If we use the term genome of a species to indicate the common parts of the genome of each member of a species, then different species have genomes that differ from each other to the extent that that they are different from each other on the tree of Darwinian evolution.

Darwinian evolution leads to diversity as species and their genomes diverge away from each other. On the other hand, our search is for convergence towards a singularity. Is your model not at odds with your goal ?

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that entropy always increases and the world will become more and more chaotic. Physics on the other hand allows us to create technology that reduces the entropy in one localized region ( though it does increase across the universe ) and use this localized region of low entropy to generate energy for human growth. Similarly, the Darwinian process leads us to a diversity of the genome, but that does not rule out the possibility of individual genomes or groups of genomes Atmans to evolve and converge towards a singularity of Brahman.

Linking the genome to the UTM and, even if implicitly, stating that a “better” or more evolved UTM – that is one that is closer to the Brahman – is a result of a more evolved genome can raise some disturbing questions. Are you not being racist by trying to establish a correlation between the genome and the ability experience the ultimate Truth ?

If I had a desire to be politically correct I would have strongly refuted your allegation but at the bottom of my heart I know that there is an element of truth in what you are saying ..

That your theory is indeed racist.

The American civil rights movement has given a certain negative overtone to that much abused word but the fact remains that most ancient civilizations have features that do not allow conversions into the fold. While the younger religions like Christianity, Islam and Buddhism are very enthusiastic about conversion into the religion you cannot do the same in the case of Zoroastrianism, Zionism or any of the castes in India.

You can always become a Hindu though. The Arya Samaj has been doing this for ages.

But you cannot become a Brahmin or a Kayastha unless you are born as one. So there could be something significant about your birth …. And that significance can only be your genome. After all, it is said that you require multiple births or reincarnations to reach a state from where the knowledge of the divine is accessible to you !

Are you stating that only higher castes can achieve the goal ? But then how do you account for people like Narendranath Dutta or Aurobindo Ghosh who were not Brahmins but had access to the highest knowledge ?

I never said that only Brahmins can succeed. All that I said was that the probability of success has a high correlation to the level of evolution of the genome. That may or may not mean that Brahmins as a caste are closer to Brahman, even though the two are nearly homophonic, though traditionalists might argue that they indeed are. To me however, that debate is of very little significance.

So what is important to you ?

The high level of overlap between the Atman of Vedanta and the UTM and genome of modern science. That is what I am trying to establish here and if in the process I seem to politically incorrect, then so be it. I am not trying to win elections here !

You refer to the high level of overlap … does that imply that there are parts of this idea that do not overlap ?

Of course. I have mapped the Atman to the UTM and then the UTM to the genome .. but whereas the Atman could be mapped almost entirely to the UTM, the same cannot be said about the mapping of the UTM to the genome.

Is that one more of your favourite googlies ?

No. All that I am saying is that the genome plays a very important role in the implementation of the UTM but is not the only component of the UTM .. perhaps it is the core around which the UTM is implemented.

So what is the rest ?

As I said, the UTM is a pattern of information and this pattern lies in the genome and ALSO in the apparent patterns of the physical world ( or should I say the patterns of the apparent physical world ?)

Explain, explain, explain …

If you recollect our discussion of the original Turing Machine you would see that I had said that
* The physical environment, consisting of every atom, molecule and higher level object together with the various patterns they form among themselves represent (a) a vast pool of data equivalent to the input of an UTM and (b) this data pool is the repository of all knowledge and information available in the universe at a point in time. This data flows into the UTM or the conscious mind that it models, over the normal physical channels of the five senses. There is no need to postulate any extrasensory communication mechanism.

What this means is that in addition to the patterns in the genome, the patterns of information that an individual creates in its vicinity – both physical as well intellectual, emotional and otherwise – all add up to the UTM. When we refer to the evolution of the UTM, it refers to the evolution of this entirety.

I can understand or appreciate persistence at the genome level but what about persistence of thoughts and ideas ? Can the current instance of your UTM remember what the UTM was like eons ago ?

Generally not, but there have been sages and mystics who can remember what is called their past lives .. though there have been fraudulent claims in this regard.

So are you trying to say that you can explain reincarnation through this mechanism ?

Let me be very clear : my goal is the Singularity of Sankara and my hypothesis of the genome / UTM is to rationalize the Atman. However in the process, I have a by-product called reincarnation which I am happy to pick up …

So do you believe in reincarnation ?

I would guess is that in certain cases, the UTM is in a position or state to process certain patterns and when that happens we say that it remembers the past. Even otherwise, the UTM has a past but more often than not, it is unable to handle it or ‘remember’ it.


All this may sound very logical but is there any proof ? is there any empirical evidence of what you are saying ?

Unfortunately not .. this is my hypothesis and this hypothesis is based on the concept of patterns – of convergent patterns.

Can you restate your hypothesis once again ?

We begin with a basic Duality : the duality of a pattern that represents the Brahman that is somewhere “out” there and that of another pattern that represents the Atman that is somewhere “in” here.

What are these patterns ?

The pattern of the Atman is based on the genome and on layers that are built on ‘top’ of the genome – which is the heart, the core of the UTM. The rest of the UTM is assembled as other patterns and these other patterns are composed of either internal components like knowledge and wisdom or external components that it influences, alters, changes through the process of Karma.

And when the pattern is complex – or as we would say ‘evolved’ or ‘competent’ or ‘adept’ enough it SIMULTAENOUSLY achieves identity with the pattern of the Brahman AND realizes that it has done so – that is Nirvana or Samadhi.

Is that why Zen Buddhists say that only the Buddha knows the difference between the Buddha and an ordinary person ?

That is indeed a rather picturesque way of putting it ! but there are some interesting facts that may help strengthen our confidence in this model based on patterns

Like what ?

For example self similar fractals and concept of the five koshas or sheaths.

What are these ?

Fractals are patterns generated through some basic mathematical processes – and I do not want to go into the details here, but one interesting feature about a fractal is that if you take one part of the pattern and expand it … the resultant pattern is very often very close, if not identical to the original pattern.

So a small part of the pattern is indeed an exact replica of the larger pattern of which it is a part.

Just as the pattern of the Atman – which could be thought of as a small part of the Brahman – is indeed similar if not actually congruent to the pattern of the Brahman.

Actually the idea of the Atman being similar to the Brahman is not that alien because if you think about it, we from time immemorial have modeled our Gods and Goddesses in our own image – the principle of anthromorphism.

But sometimes the model is flawed … the Bohr model of the atom, somewhat like a miniature solar system, was wrong … even though there was an element of self similarity in it .. with the microscopic world looking like the macroscopic – or telescopic – universe.

That is true, self similarity in patterns is no guarantee of correctness but there is another aspect of patterns that is very interesting.

Is that the five koshas that you referred to earlier ?

Vedanta speaks of five layers that shield the Atman from the Brahman.

And you think that they are related to the patterns.

They could if you consider the following
* First, the physical layer of the gross body – the pattern of protons, neutrons, electron and other sub atomic particles constitute matter
* Second, the Prana or Life layer – the pattern of bodily organs in any living organism that cause metabolism, the act of living.
* Third, the Mental layer, the mind – the pattern of neuronal interconnects in one specific organ, the brain and the nervous system, that allows one to think
* Fourth, the Wisdom layer, the so called subtle body – which I think maps rather neatly to the pattern of the genetic information on the genome

You said that there were five layers ..

The fifth layer is the layer of bliss or ecstasy, the Ananda layer – but unfortunately I do not have a ready explanation for that as yet.

I suppose you would have to achieve Ecstasy, experience the Bliss of Nirvana to articulate that.

I suppose so, but there is one thing that still troubles me.

What ?

Your analysis is far too simple. Sages and seers have from time immemorial have written tomes on this topic but you have not referred to any of these scriptures. What gives you the confidence that your simple correlation is correct.

First, please do not confuse the simple with the trivial. If my analysis has been trivial then I should be apologetic about it but since I am not, I do believe that it is non-trivial. If you, or anyone else who reads this feels that it is indeed trivial, he or she has every right to criticize it. On the other hand, if you are hesitant to believe me only because what I have said is simple, then let me tell you that simplicity is the hallmark of many great ideas.

I know, I have read about the principle of Occam’s Razor that is often paraphrased as : All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be best one.

Thanks for bringing out this important principle because by referring to this 14th century English logician, you have led me to my next point …

What is that ?

That we in India are unduly obsequious and subservient of our superiors, elders and predecessors. It is as if only the past has a monopoly on the truth. Just because someone has not said something in the past, just because we cannot find a quote from some ancient sage to support an idea, we tend to devalue it. It is as if that the generation of all knowledge has stopped with the creation of Vedas and Upanishads. All that we can do is to interpret it. It is fine to be respectful of our seniors and sit at their feet and learn from them, but that should not stop us from standing on their shoulders and see what lies beyond their horizons.

I admire your lack of modesty but are you claiming that your insights are as important or significant as that of the great Rishis who visualized the truth and codified them in the scriptures.

What I claim may be right or wrong – that is for other students and scholars to decide. What is indisputable and not negotiable is my fundamental right to explore new vistas of knowledge and create new patterns of interpretation. In fact with the increase of scientific knowledge, the evolution of the genome and the ascent of man, the probability of being closer to the truth is higher for a person who has been born later in history. This gives me the confidence about my analysis.

I suppose so .. but would you would ever be able to prove any of this ?

I don’t think so and I do not intend to …

Does it not disappoint you, not to have a proof of all this ..

Not at all because I have the proof of something else ..

And what is that ?

The proof of Gödel’s Theorem of Incompleteness.

Who is Gödel ? and what is this Theorem of Incompleteness ?

Gödel is a contemporary and colleague of Einstein at Princeton and one of the finest mathematical minds of the last century and what he did was something amazing ..

What is that ?

He proved that if you were to assemble a set of statements that are all logically correct, and consistent with each other, then there will be at least ONE that is TRUE but NOT PROVABLE.

Surely you must be joking ? How can a scientist make such a statement ?

It is a fact that he did indeed make this statement – in his famous Theorem of Incompleteness, and a generation of mathematicians since then have failed to prove him wrong. It is an amazing fact.

Can you prove this ?

I cannot. You will have to read about it in textbooks of very advanced mathematics, but believe me .. it is true … you will be wasting your time if you were trying to disprove it.

What if I define this unprovable statement as an axiom, the one that does not need any proof ?

You will be surprised to know that as soon as you do this, there will appear ONE more statement that has this property – of being true but not provable. There is no escape from Gödel.

But does this not apply to number theory only ?[1]

True but you must appreciate that if this is true in something as structured and formal as number theory, how much more it must be true in the case of unstructured information that we are dealing with here.

But can you elaborate on what it means ? Can this be used to prove the existence of God ?

Gödel was a mathematician and he did not care about existence or non-existence of what the Judeo Christian tradition refers to as God nor did he have any known interest in Advaita. All that he worked with was logic, the most abstract and difficult part of mathematics … and all that he said was very simple – A system of axioms can never be based on itself. A statement from OUTSIDE the system must be used to prove the consistency of the system. Provability is a weaker notion than truth.

So what is that is needed to establish that all that you have said is correct and consistent ?

We need a different kind of GOD – the Grace of the Divine !!


[1] Informally, Gödel's incompleteness theorem states that all consistent axiomatic formulations of number theory include undecidable propositions (Hofstadter 1989). This is sometimes called Gödel's first incompleteness theorem, and answers in the negative Hilbert's problem asking whether mathematics is "complete" (in the sense that every statement in the language of number theory can be either proved or disproved). -- Weisstein, Eric W. "Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource.


jody said...

Advaita Vedanta begins with the assertion that there are three components in the Universe : the Atman, the Brahman and the erroneous illusion of Maya.

No. There is no separation between Atman and Brahman, and Brahman and Maya. They are not components, they were the arrived at dissection of something which has no possible explanation.

Vedanta is not a schema, it's an artifact created by jnanis across time. There is no Vedanta without jnana. The result of Vedanta without jnana are towering works like this which will always be ultimately meaningless, I'm afraid.

beena said...

God is the sole creator ,scientists only discover the creations of God in different forms.