This video is wild. What exactly is Andrés talking about? Let’s get into it a bit. This write-up is meant mostly for my own purposes to try to tack down some of the interesting bits I came across while watching the video. I’ll put some of my meta level thoughts at the end too.
Normally in physics or in daily reality when we think of waves, we think of linear waves. Waves such as sound or ocean waves which can progress through a medium and can overlap additively or subtractively. Linear waves don’t really interact other than this kind of simple constructive/destructive interference. This property is called the superposition principle, which means we can account for all the interactions of the waves in a system by treating them as independent waves which can ‘go through each other’. Fourier transforms operate on linear waves.
In the context of consciousness research, non-linear wave computing falls under the umbrella of qualia computing (i.e. using qualia for information processing). The core idea is that our nervous system uses mediums with specialized wave-propagation dynamics in order to instantiate self-organizing principles that will “solve the problem on their own” in a massively parallel and holistic fashion. In this talk I delve deeply into the way non-linear waves seem to appear in a wide range of phenomenological domains and thus provide a lot of explanatory power.
Lots of waves in nature are nonlinear which means rather than going through each other, the waves interact and can ‘bounce off each other’ or lead to more complex interference patterns. Examples of nonlinear waves include beach waves (which often ‘bounce off’ each-other, solitons, phase conjugate mirrors, and optical self-focusing effects. Mathematical approaches for decomposing and analyzing nonlinear waves are discussed here.
One interesting thing he touched on is that waves with energy characteristics well within the bounds of a given ‘energy regime’ operate as linear waves but as we push the waves to higher and higher energy levels they start to behave nonlinearly towards the edges of the regime. This paper at least also discusses linearity and nonlinearity in wave propagation and uses the term energy regime to express boundary conditions for a given linear process.
An example of a linear wave giving rise to nonlinearities are the experiments with sand being vibrated by a speaker. In these Chladni patterns, the sound waves are linear but give rise to nonlinear sand patterns.
Our experience is made of these waves coming into our sensory organs and being compressed filtered and interpreted by our brains. The simplest example is listening to music, literally linear waves entering the eardrum. The attack/decay/sustain/release properties of these waves manifest as different phenomenological forms and have different moods or feelings attached with them. The fact that the ADSR happens over time indicates that our mental representation in our auditory cortex integrates the incoming wave over time, storing and operating on this incorporated representation.
Emilsson uses the term ‘nonlinearities’ to refer to really any kind of phenomenological form, each has a certain vibe signature: a way in which it appears to you and how it makes you feel.
Emilsson calls all of this experience of linear and nonlinear waves ‘vibes’
The thesis of this video is that our world-simulation is constructed with vibes interacting with one another forming gestalts, which in turn form large-scale enduring self-reinforcing attractors aka. “realms”. With an analogy to the construction of a building: vibes are tools, gestalts are raw materials, and realms are the complete resulting buildings.
Vibes have precise valence characteristics (ADSR envelop, dissonance, etc.) – for instance, metta has a soft attack. When vibes are above a certain level of energy they become non-linear and thus they “bounce off each other” to form gestalt (which are the energy minima of vibes interacting with one another). These gestalts function as non-linearities that our brain stores as building blocks, which are then stacked with each other to form complex scenes, and ultimately entire realms of experience.
Importantly, the valence characteristics of vibes and those of the gestalts they give rise to are mutually reinforcing. The valence of our inner representations are thus the CDNS (consonance, dissonance, noise signature) of the vibes making up the gestalts. This allows us to understand how moods work. For example, adrenergic vibes are harsh and thus over time they anneal into gestalts that have unpleasant valence characteristics – the realms embody the vibes of the gestalts that constructed them. So… be wise about your vibes!
Gestalts are integrated collections of sensory waves and nonlinearities, all of which fit to form a mood or a full picture of a scene. Stories are made of series of gestalts strung together like a movie. When crafted skillfully, these gestalts weave together and interact to create nonlinearities across the story as a whole. The story or movie makes sense as a whole. When we imagine a gestalt it’s usually not ‘a subject’ but ‘a subject doing some action’ or interacting in some way.
Realms are anti-fragile attractors in gestalt space. These are stories woven together which defend themselves and create a lens or worldview from which to make sense of our perceptions. People occupy one or many realms, and we often move between realms in our lives. The core of a realm is how you conceptualize your sense of self and how you interpret reality within the structures constituting that realm.
Emilsson expresses several different realms of perception
- Hell realm – self-worsening loops of feeling like “it’s all my fault” or “it’s the world’s fault”, or that the world is terrible. If you approach the world with this kind of vibe you self-reinforce that paradigm and can enter deeper into and continue to create a hell world for yourself. When doing any intervention we should always consider that for a given nervous system it can be 10 or 100 or 1000 times worse than it currently is. With a hell realm things can seem all-consuming and often an individual needs a little respite or getting to step back from the realm in order to nucleate and build a sense of identity outside the hell realm. Having a spark of loving kindness in a tiny part of your body… don’t focus on the things that are tense, focus on the things that are calm and relaxed and allow that feeling to expand larger and larger.
- Titan realm, or the world of the asuras. Feeling like everything is an attack. Very kinetic. Vibes are very sharp, short attack (in the ADSR sense). Trying to strike representations with these attacks. When you’re inside the titan realm, the core or your experience of self is that of being in a weapons depot. All around are tools and arguments and weapons at your disposal to try to destroy or dispel some enemy idea or concept. All are nonlinear gestalts that are powerful that you can point at things to emit a harsh vibe in that direction. There’s some degree of controllability of these tools, but the controllability is driven by these emotions that are themselves hard to control.
- Animal realm – ignorance, vegging out, being cosy, simple pleasures and immediate gratification. Has a sticky slidey quality to it. You want to just find a cozy comfy part of your existence and just veg out in it. It’s low energy, kinda sleepy, dumb, soporiforous. Lacks the activation energy to get out of it. Core in this realm is a collection of petty likes and dislikes. I like this, i don’t like that… probably similar to the experience of simple animals.
- Human realm – realm with very complex representations and high resolution accurate information tracking. Kind of like using / conjuring various gestalts and then stacking them together in order to form computing apparatuses or rube-goldberg style causal machines. Generally these structures are largely anhedonic. Internal core attitude is something more calculating and tends towards complexity.
- God realm – soft and pleasure boosting. Just like in the hell realm the harsh negative vibes stack together and become worse and worse, in the god realm the soothing smooth vibes stack and form increasingly pleasant and pleasure enhancing constructs
- Equanimity – Perhaps the goal of buddhism or of self-formation is to increase equanimity, to be able to remain unswayed by anything happening around you. Obviously this is not a way to cure all the external problems in the world, but seems critical for having a positive experience in the world despite all its problems. Equanimous vibes are destructive in the sense that they can erase any harsh incoming vibes, and allow you to not be swept up in the negative emotion being thrown at you.
- Defabrication. Seems to be a kind of unclenching of association between the world and any kind of ownership relation between the point of experience and the world. Buddhism has language about breaking the cycle of re-incarnation. Another way of framing this might be that we can unclench our emotional cognitive bundles and allow them to dissipate rather than try to hold themselves together. An enlightened buddha will be fully equanimous and can defabricate and leave the world peacefully at the end of their life. Boddhisatvas kind of have a foot in both the defabricated realm and other normal realms, allowing themselves a kind of homeostatic vibe controlled environment so they can both participate in the world and also remain unswayed by the vibes or gestalt being given.
- Dark night of the soul. This is something interesting that I didn’t fully understand from the video but seems to refer to serious existential crises within the self and in the perception of the realms one occupies. Perhaps accompanied by a sense of despair, lack of sense-making, and a feeling of backsliding into an infinitely dark abyss.
Realms in this context might be called ‘narratives’. Memetic tribes might be meta-entities existing as nonlinear interactions across multiple realms. For example, a given political ideology has both titan-realm-style attack/defense weaponry, as well as ideal state empathetic conditions which the proponents of the ideology admire and want to drive towards.
This video was fun to watch and to allow myself to get swept along with. A lot of the phraseology Andrés uses, and my resulting interest in phenomenology is that it invokes the kind of vague profound insights one gets on psychedelics or in moments of deep contemplation. It feels like ‘figuring things out’. I’ve had friends who poo-poo the sense of figuring things out which comes with these kinds of altered states, and for good reason. The difficulty of finding the right words for a given insight allows the insight to roam free and large in one’s mind within the moment, seemingly affecting everything and yielding huge ultimate world-shifting truth, but then just as quickly collapsing into vague nonverbal nothingness. Overpromising and underdelivering.
But if we consider specifically the space of phenomenology, and given the language Andrés and others are developing, we’re starting to get somewhere. There is a kind of phenomenological truth within these kinds of insights, and that the nonverbality is while not quite an anti-feature, at least a well-known property of transcendent insights. At any rate it’s nice to get some words for what’s going on, right?
Phenomenology seems to train one in how to verbalize one’s experience as it appears, and treating that experience as real and expressable rather than needing to prove consensus before expressing one’s perceptions.