Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The White Queen's Strange Memory

Have you ever read any Lewis Carroll? Well, you really should! He is and always will be known primarily for the twin works "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland," and "Through The Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There." I would like to call the reader's attention to the following passage, to be found within "Through The Looking-Glass..." Chapter V, entitled "Wool and Water ~40th page in. The White Queen (who is precisely one-hundred and one years, five months and one day old) explains to Alice that people that live there (on the other side of the mirror) live their lives backwards. They remember events on both sides of the time continuum as well as experiencing the present. Alice asks the Queen which events she remembers best, to which she replies, events that take place about a week and a half from now. Alice remarks that her memory only works in one direction, backwards into the past. The Queen finds this to be a curious malady, and tells Alice that her memory is certainly flawed!

I find this section of "Through The Looking-Glass" to be particularly telling. Carroll was clearly pointing to the limitations of mankind's most trusted mental resource, his memory. In order for one to remember the future one must first have the means to do so. Given the practical means to do so and the opportunity, one would "recall" events from one of their possible futures. The act of seeing initiates the shift into that set of future events. That previous passage (as well as the whole of the Alice-Looking-glass saga) has widely been judged to be deterministic. It's concept of free will being severely stunted and warped, gives it a dreamlike quality. Time is strangely reversed, at least in some ways. The events and outcomes (many times occurring prior to their own causes) are not really under personal control, so much as that they are being acted out as a preexisting "play." (Remember that "hard determinism" has close ties with the concept of "fate," as it connects every event with an unbroken chain of past events, reducing or eliminating the possibility of the emergence of free will.) I didn't take away this same reaction to the logic of the Wonderland saga, rather that certain chaotic logic "wonderland logic" as well as different initial conditions could be in play. It would be possible that the concept of free will dominates this kind of system, in as much as it appears in several instances that the actors are envisioning the events into reality. They appear to be manifesting their destiny, albeit from a rather detached or unconscious means. You may recall that metaphysics regards this phenomenon as natural and inherent in all complex living systems, like the one we live one. It would see this kind of action as being part of "The Law of Attraction." (This is an odd little Law which explains that all actions and conditions arise out of the innate functions of consciousness and conscious thought or movement.) Thus things, events and actions are attracted into being by the "thinker" who then experiences them as a reality. This theory would say that the act of prediction or forecasting is also the act of intentional manifesting.

So what would the act of remembering the future really entail? Would you be in the act of manifesting from an imagined future? Would you be realizing a predetermined path through a strictly deterministic system? If the latter and not the former were true, then the most logical conclusion as to why we do not remember the future would be that it would drive us all mad! If the future were "solid" and strictly deterministic in nature, one could argue that the system had (at least on some levels) already been "played out." To know what would happen, to play your part, and to not have any volition, no personal control of that system or your role in that play, would certainly prove to be unbareable! (Maybe thats why we cant remember our future - because we need to forget it, in order to function as we should, to play our part as we should, as we will.)

Of course MWI cosmology should not support the previous set of options. It should dictate that the knower of future events would simply be privy to the events within other universes (which held a time-positive value to that of their own) so that looking into them, would be very much like looking into the future of their own world. We can add in the concept of strict determinism if we like, achieving a set of universes each with its own unique "play script" and with its own predetermined outcomes. (We could call the outcomes of such a universe its empty set, as it describes the end state of equilibrium for that system.) We can also add in an element of the Law of Attraction by saying that in that universe's events would arise out of the act of viewing events of other universes and focusing on them, thus shifting into that new reality. The previous reality would really describe an entire reality system housed within a multiverse, and not one finite universe. It should also be held that a strictly deterministic system could not be compatible with one that is infused with The Law of Attraction.

Some questions to consider?

1.) Why do we not remember the future?

2.) Why do we remember the past?

3.) How do we remember the past, what functions allow us to store and access these events? (The same kind of automatic process should allow us to remember the future, should it not?)

Illustration by: John Tenniel (1863)
Literature by: CL Dodgeson, A.K.A. Lewis Carroll (1863)


The Martian Death Ray said...

Nice post. I found your post while doing some research for a blog I'm writing on a story by Henry Kuttner called "The Proud Robot" (1943). In it a scientist creates a robot who has a sense of humor. Its sense of humor is based on calculating the probabilities of a event occurring in the future from past and present events in order to have a laugh in the present. Gallegher (the scientist who invents the robot), chuckles and suggests that it's a lot like the White Queen's memories.

You might find it interesting.


Paul F. deLespinasse said...

It seems to me that it would be useful for some researchers to examine the possibility that the conventional assumptions are incorrect, and see what can be accomplished by postulating that the brain (a physical/material system operating in space and time) is an interface device connecting the physical/material body with a non-material, non-physical mind that is not located in space and is "outside of" time----"eternal" in the sense of beyond time rather than in the sense of infinite duration in time.

The left-brain, right-brain differences, seen from this point of view, might suggest that the left brain is the side of the interface device that connects to the time-bound body, and the right brain is the side of the device that connects to the "eternal" mind. I doubt if it is actually this simple, partly because the available evidence from imaging seems to show a lot more complexity in the distribution of functions, and partly because some functions such as vision and hearing draw on both hemispheres of the brain. But it might be possible to devise some experiments based on this general hypothesis that might not occur to scientists who take the current assumptions as proved facts.

A simple analogy that I have thought about that is suggestive of the problems of proving the correctness of current basic assumptions uses a "black box" model: Imagine a black box whose exterior we can see, with two pushbuttons on it. We push button one and speak to it, then push button two and hear the same words coming back out. Certainly one possibility is that there is some kind of tape recorder or memory chip inside which records sounds when button one is pressed, then plays them back when button two is pressed. But another possibility is that there is a transceiver in the black box, which transmits the sounds it picks up to a transceiver located somewhere else and which in turn is connected to a recorder. When you push button two on the known black box, it sends a signal to the second transceiver to play back the "tape" and send it back over to the black box which then duly emits it. (This is where the analogy, like all analogies, is inexact, since the second mechanism here, the transceiver-recorder, is itself a physical system, but it is being used to stand for the non-material mind in the hypothesis.)

Assume we are talking about memory, and are assuming that memories are stored in some fashion in the black box. Then assume that after speaking into the black box but before pushing button two we take a baseball bat and beat the heck out of the black box. Then we push button two, and nothing happens. Aha! we say. This proves that memories are stored in this box, and that we have damaged those memories.

Of course in the case of the black box it is obvious that we have proved no such thing.

Why should it prove anything in the case of a brain that has been damaged by disease or trauma?

It is well known that by poking an electrode into specific areas of someone's brain, certain memories can be evoked. According to my analogy, however, this is not proof that the evoked memory was "stored" in that area of the brain, or indeed stored in the brain at all. Given the unconventional hypothesis that the mind is "eternal" in the sense of not located in time or space, and that memory is the ability to recall some experience that happened at some other point in time, it would be quite possible that memory would a function of the mind and not of the brain. In this event, what would need explaining would not be why we remember things, but why we ever forget things, and also (wildly) why we don't remember what happened the day after tomorrow. ("It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards"-----Alice in Wonderland.)

Paul deLespinasse
Corvallis, Oregon