Reflections on Rapture, Ecstasy, and Technology
BY JASON SILVA
“All things physical are information-theoretic in origin, and this is a participatory universe.”. – John Archibald Wheeler
Sober, immersive reading is the acquisition of raw material that can later be conjured up in a swirling vortex of original thought; the synthesis of an original idea arises in the ecstatic state whereby the recombination of previously acquired information and the pattern-seeking abilities of the brain converge, leading to a form of intellectual neurogenesis, the spitting forth of AHA!, an orgasm in the head that gives birth to new insight.
This type of Eureka derived from ecstasy is the best. Lets call it Revelatory ecstasy.
On the Euphoric state:
Ecstatic rapture is usually reserved for certain socially acceptable environments.
We pay a ticket stub, sit comfortably and on schedule and have our way with god. We dance with the divine but only when we’ve got permission. The rest of our lives is spent in a quotidian, baseline state. People hardly ever experience spontaneous ecstasy in public. In fact, if one were having ecstasy on the sidewalk, one might be seen as mad. And yet we long for the ecstatic state: Alan Harrington wrote in The Immortalist that we smash our sense of separateness in temples of fragmentation, the nightclub with its throbbing base beats offering a form of electronic Buddhism. We go to museums, or as writer Alain de Botton refers to them, secular churches. We watch films, take drugs, meditate and more.
Here is my account of what ecstatic rapture and Awe feels like:
All at once I become aware of the purpose of art–, the relevance of aesthetic, the urgent revelations of science, the weight of philosophic wonder, the ecstasy of truth.
I turn to words: an articulation of the possible, rhetorical reality builders, an open template with which to utter– to verbalize– the songs that orchestrate the universe.
In Tron, the main character longs for a reality of his own construction:
“The Grid. A digital frontier: I tried to picture clusters of information as they flowed through the computer.. what did they look like? Chips, motorcycles? Were the circuits like freeways? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see.. And then… One day… I got IN.
I feel these words:
“A universe of possibility.
Grey infused by color.
The invisible revealed.
The mundane blown away
I think these thoughts:
We are a species that often looks at itself. Our self-referenciality runs deep. Hofstadter has written that our mirror neurons reflect the world of which they themselves are a part of and in this Godelian strange feedback loop a vortex of self-mirroring starts oscillating in exponential acceleration, ultimately catching us in self-awareness, a self-engulfing infinity, like when a camera is plugged into a TV and then aimed at that TV, it sees itself seeing itself and so on and so forth… A sudden, sequential, temporal dimension unfolds before us: we come to see ourselves as flowing in time. An awareness of awareness is born. Our story begins here.
It is said that art is the lie that reveals the truth: but what exactly does this mean? Art is a construct, a deliberate creation: it is something “made up”, an interpreted reality, a form of fiction, and yet through its membrane permeates the truth. Art is the mirror we hold up to ourselves, its distortions the instigators of contemplative introspection.
This reminds me of Werner Herzog, the unorthodox filmmaker, who says he’s not interested in factual truth, but rather in ecstatic truth… Purely factual truth, he says, is about as interesting as a phone book, and he doesn’t care for it.
So here is the obvious paradox: how do we merge art and science if art is concerned with ecstatic truth and science is defined by empirical facts?
The answer, perhaps, lies in understanding the itch they are both trying to scratch, the question they’re both trying to answer: what does it all mean, after all? What is the message embedded in the pattern? What makes the circle come full circle?
Some say technology is the physical embodiment of how we come to expand our sphere of possibility, it is the distinctly human substrate, it carries on its shoulders a new holy grail: the hope that Douglas Rushkoff introduces in Cyberia: “that reality itself is up for grabs… It can be dreamt up”
Cicero said, “by use of our hands, we bring into being within Nature, a second Nature for ourselves” – there’s nothing unnatural about extending and re-making nature, because that comes from us, and we are of nature.
Paola Antonelli has written about ExistenzMaximum, what she refers to as the time-space transcending qualities inherent in portable inmersive technologies like iphones.. Just listening to music with these mobile devices renders our environment a customized one, a magic carpet ride of our own construction.
Amber Case speaks of Techno-social wormholes, the time and space compressing phenomenon created every time we make a telephone call, allowing us to communicate in real time across vast distances.
The things we take for granted today run counter-intuitive to what seems possible. Our engineering miracles transcend the very boundaries of what seemed impossible only a short time ago…
James Gleick suggests in his book “The Information,” that scientists have come to understand that information is more fundamental than matter itself. They suggest that the “bit” is “the irreducible kernel” of reality and that information forms the very core of existence.
“John Archibald Wheeler, the last surviving collaborator of both Einstein and Bohr, said this: “it from Bit”. Information gives rise to “every it–every particle, every field of force, even the spacetime continuum itself.”.
“What we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions”. He added: “All things physical are information-theoretic in origin, and this is a participatory universe.”. The whole universe is thus seen as a computer– a cosmic information-processing machine.
James Gleick continues:
“When photos and electrons and other particles interact, what are they really doing? Exchanging bits, transmitting quantum states, processing information. The laws of physics are the algorithms. Every burning star, every silent nebula, every particle leaving its ghostly trace in a cloud chamber is an information processor. The universe computes its own destiny.”
Jason Silva is a media personality, Singularity enthusiast and Fellow at the Hybrid Reality Institute.