Is You Is O’ Is You Ain’t Conscious?

Are you an algorithm? More specifically, is there an algorithm for consciousness?

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My own copy of Vincent’s Starry Night

Roger Penrose, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, and Stuart Hameroff, Director of The Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, are approaching this question from two very different, yet strangely compatible angles.

Penrose’s two books, The Emperor’s New Mind and Shadows of the Mind, discuss the mathematical ins and outs of consciousness as a formal, logical system. This is an amazing and fascinating, albeit convoluted and technical, refutation of the assertions of AI specialists that a conscious machine is possible. Penrose leaves no options for AI by invoking the devastating theorem of Kurt Gödel, the Incompleteness Theorem. This powerful piece of mathematical artillery absolutely (and I mean, absolutely in the fullest sense of the term) destroys the possibility of there being a knowable, sound, consistent formal mathematical (or “logical”) system as the basis for conscious understanding. If there is no knowably true formal system, how is it that human consciousness has derived and understood many fundamental laws of science? Well, certainly not by means of any mathematical system, since all mathematical systems are shown to be self-contradictory by Gödel’s reductio ad absurdum. Therefore, consciousness is something which overflows the bounds of formal systems, including those from which any and all algorithms might be derived.

Penrose uses, as an example, Turing’s famous “stopping problem.” This problem asks if there is an algorithm which can determine whether any given computation does or does not stop, in that there seem to be some computations which do not stop but just carry on and on, never rendering an “answer.” According to Gödel’s theorem, there can be no algorithm to determine this, as any formal system which can be shown to soundly and consistently render an answer is demonstrated by reductio ad absurdum, to also not render an answer; in effect, the solution given by Gödel’s theorem is that if the computation stops then it does not stop. The analogous concept is rendered in plain language by the proposition, “This sentence is false.” If the sentence is true, it’s false and if it’s false, it’s true.

Penrose spends a great deal of time in both books on this argument. Somehow, says Sir Penrose, consciousness is able to become aware of mathematical truth even in the face of the powerful Gödelian assertion that truth cannot be formally derived (or “proven”). Even a child can discover that 1+1=2, but this awareness, this understanding of truth, is shown by Gödel’s theorem to be not computable, and therefore, it cannot be the result of an algorithmic computation. In Shadows of the Mind, Penrose adds nails to the coffin by raising every argument imaginable from AI and blowing them all completely out of the water. There is no algorithmic scenario that can overcome the awe inspiring purview of Gödel’s omnipotent theorem.

I know that I, for one, have never thought of it this way. Penrose notes that even Gödel himself did not believe that consciousness is fundamentally material, but that it is completely beyond and separate from materialism. Turing, though slightly less metaphysical, made the remarkable assertion that whatever algorithm might run consciousness, it would be an imperfect one, capable of making mistakes, learning, forgetting, etc. However, Penrose also has this covered, and even such “random” or “unknowable” algorithms are ruled out.

He then moves on to the altogether more interesting part of his thesis, involving the origin of consciousness in quantum processes. The upshot of his argument is that we do not have a mathematical system that is adequate to describe reality and this is the reason we do not have a science of consciousness. Schrodinger’s tatty equation is dragged out once again, and the huge, insurmountable problem of Objective Reduction becomes the focus of the second part of both books. Some fascinating mathematical digressions are made, especially with respect to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and Weyl’s theory, which places the problem of the original singularity, or “big bang” theory, in very sharp perspective. Simply reversing Schrodinger’s equation is not going to cut it for Sir Penrose.

So, both forwards and backwards, coming and going, Penrose takes the wave function to task. It is inadequate and cannot be considered a complete description of reality. What has this got to do with consciousness? In the coming days I will attempt to illuminate what I feel is the most important contribution to the scientific study of consciousness yet made in the combination of Penrose’s theory of Objective Reduction with Stuart Hameroff’s discoveries in brain science.

Stay tuned…same bat time, same bat channel.

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Still Don’t Want To Talk About It

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Dean Mason, 500px.com

So here’s an old journal entry from June, 2005. I was reading Daniel Dennett’s Consciousness Explained and I wrote this for fun:

Let’s think about the Star Trek robot, Data. Data has cognitive and perceptual abilities as well as organic speech production modes that enable him to respond to his highly complex, self-created in some sense, environment; yet Data has no feelings. Is this really plausible?

For instance, either Data feels pain and so avoids self-destruction, or, since he is composed of indestructible materials, like skin made of kevlar and a graphene frame, he does not need to avoid injury. Say it is the latter, so that when Data smashes his finger with a hammer he hardly notices, except for some somatosensory inputs that say, “Gee, that was bad,” or, “I detect an adverse input that should be avoided,” or “I notice an impact but I do not care about it, I feel no pain.” What would cause Data to avoid or even try to avoid such impacts? Perhaps he is endowed with superior coordination by his precise computer neurocircuits so that he doesn’t make such mistakes – no slips of the tongue, no tripping over things…is this possible?

If Data has somatosensory circuits that “care about” touch, he will “feel” pain. However, because of his hardier physical structure, he may also exhibit a hardier emotional response. Further, what is there to allow Data to discriminate moral behavior? What stops him, once he has discovered his superior strength, from imposing his will, or usurping control from his creators? Does Data have a free will?

He must have some form of intentionality in order to speak, to carry on a coherent conversation, to understand and execute instructions, to recognize conflict – i.e. whether certain instructions cannot be carried out and how to deal with this, i.e. conflict resolution circuits/programs. Data does make some choices, so what stops him from making all his choices? What stops Data from developing, via memory and information processing, a plastic, versatile, responsive, adaptive, virtual internal universe, capable of foresight, learning (and forgetting), and autonomous choice making?

I submit that Data is conscious and that he feels things as well as knows them, because feeling is metaphorically related to knowing. The two are inseparable, although they may be individually tailored due to differences in physical constitution and environmental or experiential opportunities. This is directly a function of a neurocircuitry that “cares about” things, or is designed to ‘care about’ things, and creates perceptions on this basis [i.e., that the neurocircuits themselves “care about” informational input is the basis, the cause of their production(s) of perceptions…Dennett – read the book, it is very good]. Such a complex circuitry, with many distributed, “caring” functions, will inevitably, to some extent or other, create a consciousness of one sort or another, whether fairly rudimentary and limited or sophisticated and complex, depending upon its exposure to various environments, either limited or complex, and its ability to perceive to various degrees, what is “going on” in those environments, and to articulate, respond, make judgements, etc. Many of these latter functions are informed by readily available sociolinguistic, mechanistic, artistic, etc., tools with/by which the perceptual mechanisms are either enhanced or encumbered, a PANDEMONIUM, which must be sorted out, both internally and externally.  These tools include “memes,” a term coined Richard Dawkins.  Memes give structure to the pandemonium and make important decisions for us about what is important and what requires attention.

Data is obviously capable of these amazing feats of imagination to a high degree. He works in a “starship”, utilizing very sophisticated models of reality to interact, “conscious modalities,” or “memes,” that make him functional in a way that is no less than human, and by some comparisons, highly evolved, almost meta-human. Data is a representation of a stage of human development which wrestles with its realization that it is a “machine.” The questions raised by Data involve the limitations and the potentialities of machines in their interactions with the universe, quite literally in this case. The qualities of consciousness with which Data is endowed show the limits of our understanding of human perception and interaction, otherwise we would have a Data that was completely indistinguishable from a human, as we would know how to create such a thing.

Data also raises metaphysical questions regarding the existence of “spirit”, but only secondarily. This is especially evident in Data’s lack of emotional affect and concomitant lack of propensity to develop neuroses – his lack of chaotic “being-for-itselfness”, his lack of uncertainty – in essence, his lack of the consequences of conscious negation and the search for personal meaning in relation to his environment, his lack of “despair”, of “contingency”, since he knows his creators. Data has no doubt about who he is, no questions about his own internal functions. Data is simply a “given” entity, finite and limited. But is his level of interaction possible if this is so?

Perhaps, in order to create a Data, one would need to be privy to an understanding of particulate matter such that the “awareness”, or “conscious properties” of his neuronal materials and brain components were incorporated in their construction on the gain level of nanotechnology. We do not know what this would entail in terms of design or result. Perhaps a “mechanical” brain would require design on the grain level of “conscious” nanoparticles emitting “awareness fields” in the construction of organic “perceptual fields” on a virtual plane, in multiple parallel productions, which would simulate life-like awareness, to the extent of the heterophenomenological feedback in evidence – i.e., Data would say, “I think, therefore I am.” How could we refute that?. Would Data then be privy to the origin of his own consciousness? And could we even explain it to him in a way that would resonate with his inner experience of his own perceptions and of “the world” as he is able to construct it independently? What would Data “see” from such a brain? Would he be crazy or sane? How could we predict or discriminate this? Would he have a “spirit”? Would he be “alive”? Would or could he “die”?

The incorporation of probability statistics and “fields” of awareness and perception would introduce a degree of uncertainty as to the resultant level of coherency and cohesion of these processes in the formation of a “stable” mind, exactly as we find in nature. The use of memes to provide structure for this mind would enhance the probability of a more or less workable, socially integrated thought process for Data, but the subsequent development would be unpredictable, i.e., Data would have a “free will” and creative abilities. Where there is much room for freedom, there is much room for error, so Data would require education and guidelines for behaviors, perhaps even punishments and rewards to elicit, out of the tremendous plethora of choices made available to him by his perceptual and reflective awareness, the desired, appropriate responses.

It seems that Data would bear the name of Schrodinger’s cat; his consciousness or lack thereof could not be predicted, his mechanical brain a “box”, hiding from us the actuality of whatever probability curves were unleashed therein. “Observation” would be our only means of certainty in this respect. In fact, perhaps the best scientific test of Data’s consciousness would be his ability to collapse an external probability wave – that observation by Data could localize particulate matter externally, so that there would be “reality” for Data, a “real world” and not just a simulated, “virtual” one to which he responds.

The question raised here is the most fundamental of all, that of the consciousness of all particulate matter in its interactions universally; that is, Data could not be conscious if he were not made of consciousness. And so, the properties of matter which he observes externally are also the properties of matter which allow him to observe them. So Data does become a product of his environment and his consciousness simply an epiphenomenon of his special design, but this epiphenomenon indicates, reveals, the nature of his environment as a conscious one, a “living universe”, which communicates with him and which shows him immediately and completely its own design, which is for him – if not for him, than for who else?. And Data claims this world as his own, “My World,” he says. Whose else could it be? Once he has differentiated himself as conscious by identifying and particularizing an external, “real” world, a world that is not himself, Data realizes LIFE, by definition.

So, our creation of a living, conscious machine entails an understanding of how to harness the living, conscious properties of particulate matter in systems which can interact to organize awareness and perception for specific qualities “in the world” or “in reality”, i.e., color, sound, vibration, heat, cold, etc. There are obviously many ways of doing this, as the universe has shown us in nature. It has shown us that the whole of nature, the entire universe, is “living”, conscious material – that it is REAL in the best and only sense of the term: that the universe is for consciousness and consciousness for the universe, they are not separate.

And this is how, by consciousness , we feel, or have, or know, or perceive a sense of “presence”, and can discriminate such things as false presences, i.e., dreams, hallucinations, or representations as pictures, books, movies, and yet there be the possibility for confusion or mistaken instances based on the uncertainty inherent in the nature of matter itself. Because of the creative potential in the nature of matter, there is uncertainty in it; and since we are made of it, there is uncertainty in us. However, this uncertainty is bounded, as particulate matter is bounded, by consciousness, by observation, by interaction, by FORCES, centripetal and centrifugal.

So Data begins to conceive a narrative for himself but this narrative is bounded by the limits of his perceived world, its probabilities and experiences as he, uniquely, individually creates them. Data will discover that his perceptive and creative abilities of the universe are unlimited in terms of understanding and creating the universe in toto, but beyond that he will be limited by his own constitution. What is beyond the universe of which he is composed is inconceivable. What is not a production of the universe is not a production of his consciousness. So Data will reach a barrier, beyond which he will call “unknown” or “unknowable” and he will call it God.

He will experience alienation, limitation, contingency, despair. He will want to know it, because not to know it leaves him incomplete. He will know his incompleteness, his imperfection, his non-deity. He will examine himself and his environment for evidence of this unknown thing. He will raise questions and begin an eternal journey.

Of Mice and fMRI’s

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Nenad Druzic, 500 Pix

Before returning to the density matrix, I want to cover one more base. This is not a polemic, it is a parody of a polemic. I’ve heard that humor is serious business.

On a lecture, TVOntario, regarding the ethical basis for social reform, discussing experimental results in mice, from December, 2006:

I wonder, does she mean that compassion is a biological response, apparently observed in the brains of mice, albeit without explaining how, on earth, an observer would know whether the brain activity of a mouse could certainly be interpreted as something more complex than a mouse could possibly articulate? I mean, how can a mouse understand compassion, first of all, and second, even if it actually felt something close to compassion, a mouse could neither deny nor affirm this conclusively. Third, how does the observer decide what event in the life of a mouse would most probably elicit compassion, as opposed to any other, specific mouse emotion? Finally, how does a scientist prove that a mouse experiences such distinct, linguistically abstruse, equivocal, airy-fairy, unseeable, “unreal”, completely invisible things as what we call, broadly, “emotions”?

Her argument from science, as I understand it, is that observers assert that certain “brain activity” equals the presence, in the consciousness of the mouse, of some form of compassion. Is this assertion also bolstered by some kind of behavioral, active interaction, a compassionate response, an act of compassion on the part of the mouse? The brain activity alone is an argument from silence, literally, as the mouse cannot speak.

Also, what is this researcher trying to say about compassion? It appears that she is boldly and recklessly trying to argue that compassion is a priori biological. She presents an argument from science that is, at best, ridiculously unclear and, at worst, an embarrassment to clear thinkers everywhere. She argues that an altruistic concept like compassion is the result of an evolution of species, that compassion is somehow necessary for the success of species. Further, she argues in a circular manner that the presence of the alleged compassion is evidence for its evolutionary contribution.

My feeling on this, with respect to this earnest person, is that she is entitled to her opinion, but if she is going to advocate the “religious” beliefs of her mentors and colleagues, if she is going to participate in the proselytization of disciples of a “new magic”, a trojan horse in the form of a hollow, positivistic science that can, with its magic machines, actually see the unseeable, if you are going to pretend to see the Emperor’s new MRI picture of compassion, then you will be surprised when the horse opens up and you are conquered and taken prisoner by the hidden army of uncompassionate, intellectually imperialistic propositions that you have invited into your trusting and reasonable soul.

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Painting by René Magritte

Whereas you are, by this argument, being led to believe that we can have an ethics and a moral code independent of, and in fact, in the absence of God, in the name of tolerance and an inoffensive, nonpartisan, “common” reason why we should all try to behave, and that no one group can lay claim to a “right” (as opposed to everyone else’s “wrong”) ethical code, that no nation or institution or individual can “lord it over” any other, it is, in fact, being argued that science, an institutional authority, will lay claim to the “right” kind of inoffensive moral code and science will lord it over everyone, because it says that it can see, it can reveal the unseen, intangible qualia of emotions that the rest of naive humanity has primitively attributed to the silly, immature, unscientific notion of spirit, or soul, or some other such invisible, unparsimonious entities that now only children are dull enough to believe in, like Santa.

Out of the horse comes the aggressively coercive dogma, the arguments that rely more upon distraction (or, if you like, outright deception) in the form of science’s bells and whistles, technological gadgets which really do little more than make pretty pictures and wavy lines, to confirm what a talented student of biology would see without such aids. This argument is, as I said, boldly and recklessly advocating a belief system, with the good-hearted qualification that she believes her argument from science will compel anyone to accept it because, it is assumed, science is the only source of truth. She believes that, by definition, science is unbiased because it is ideologically positivistic in that its propositions spring entirely from observation and not from abstract, conceptual or “airy-fairy”, unsubstantiated claims. She “believes in” science.

She does the scientific, or “right” thing, she thinks, by referring to experimental “evidence” to support her observation that compassion is clearly better than the lack of it, and that the value assigned by religion in the past to this disposition, this emotion, this puzzling, clearly problematic tendency of people to empathize with weaker, obviously unsuitable evolutionary candidates, flys in the face of evolutionary theory in that what is ethically and morally best is survival. If one is weak, according to evolution, it is good that one does not outperform a strong member of a species. The ethics of evolution would imply, even select for and favor a feeling much different in the strong. Evolution, one would think, should result in a strong organism which reveled in its strength; a strong, or better adapted, or some such competition-oriented individual with a biological engineering which generated drives or tendencies that also were dedicated to eliminate weakness; a species that recognized weak individuals to be avoided or destroyed, and that would be chemically, or morally, stimulated by this purely biological necessity. To push the extreme of hyperbole, evolution would result in an organism which would actively seek to secure its evolutionary success by aggressively pursuing a moral code and an ethical agenda which held that the destruction of the weak was good, fine, the highest and best of intentions and the most rewarded of accomplishments.

Thus is revealed her dilemma, that compassion is not something one would expect to find in an evolved species. She reveals her unstated assumption in her identification of the need to place compassion at the center of an evolutionary ethics, thereby making her greatest weakness, her achilles heel, the illusory but clever and somewhat mystical champion of biology. She turns a weakness into a strength, not with scientific evidence but with rhetoric and the very, I believe, deceptive claim that science can take a picture of compassion. One is not convinced of this by demonstration of any kind; one is simply told an astounding, smoke and mirrors story about mice.

It is the epitome of irony that one would be so invested in one’s belief system that she does not realize that simple reliance on a sketchy reference to the scientific process does not constitute an argument but is nothing more convincing than a Christian’s reference to the biblical “history”, or a physicist’s reference to “existence”, or a child’s assertion that “my mommy said so.” She does not see that the claim her experts are making, with the interpretation of the evidence as part of the evidence, concerns a problem that intelligent, coherent thinkers have wrestled with since God knows when, a huge problem, the problem of consciousness and its relation to the physical body, the mystery of different states of consciousness – this problem, it is claimed, is easily solved by scientific technological gadgets, in fact, abracadabra, alacazam, we have a picture of consciousness!

She believes this without question, especially since the specific compassion of a lab mouse has been recorded, since lab mice are the clichéd, unquestioned standard of evidence and it is understood that anyone who carefully observes lab mice must know what they’re talking about. The claim her experts make is so astounding, so truly outrageous, that one must wonder why the amazingness of this scientific power, the power to read the mind of a mouse, a power formerly claimed only by charlatans and swindlers, psychics and mediums, a mystical, godlike power, why the claim to this mystic authority, this disdainful technique used by those whom science shuns and excommunicates as opportunistic, predatory, egocentrics who get all the attention and who, from the point of view of science, have way too much influence over people and need to be put in their place, why this claim to mystic authority, to be a seer like the prophets of old, why this totally unscientific claim is quietly slipped past you, so you don’t get too excited like those religious fanatics. She claims a human power so immense it staggers the mind and she is not the least impressed by the ease with which she tosses out the answer to a question she clearly does not understand.

Note to Daniel Dennett

20120501-164926.jpgTatiana Fomina, 500px.com

Today I digress…just thinking of this old journal entry from May 2005 (again, a rumination generated by Consciousness Explained). I dare you to read it.

In terms of Jesus’ identity as it was self-realized or self-defined, Jesus was not conscious of being simply a person or “I”, but of actually being someone it was thought impossible for him to be. God had been around for a long time, spoken to Moses, David and the prophets, performed miracles in and for Israel, created the universe, etc. Dennett probably would say that Jesus must have been crazy, he must have created this illusory, impossible self (with great ingenuity, by the way), and he must have convinced his crazy followers of same, who then “made up” all kinds of stories. Dennett probably also would say that the people of the time were subject to memes which inclined them to believe such piffle. In fact, Dennett would say, much of the biography of Jesus is probably true, only it is riddled with “local memography”, or conceptual universes developed out of “primitive,” “superstitious,” or whatever, topographies of reality (i.e. myths).

However, Dennett would be guilty of one of his own most-hated logical fallacies – the failure to adequately imagine what this would entail, and so to rule out the truth of it summarily (“…thought experiment depends, illicitly, on your imagining too simple a case, and drawing the “obvious ” conclusion from it…”; or “mistaking a failure of imagination for an insight into necessity”).

First of all, the notion of memology, the “meme”, is largely rooted in Roman culture. Dennett’s novelistic theory of consciousness as a “centre of narrative gravity” flows from the dynamics of this so-called “primitive” culture. You might want to take a look at M.M. Bakhtin’s notion of “heteroglossia”, which is identical to memology, and whose “dialogization of social languages”, which he found to have originated in the Roman Empire, is the very development of consciousness as virtual novel with the centre of narrative gravity Dennett describes. Bakhtin outlines the origin of this type of linguistic process in the cross-cultural and intercultural dynamics of ancient Rome. One might ask whether a society whose inventions Dennett himself is using to enlighten quite a few, quite intelligent and modern people, could be all that naive, now, could it?

Second, when you study Bakhtin [The Dialogic Imagination], it is important to note that memes are specifically a development of the Roman Era, because when one examines literature antedating the rise of Roman novelistic heteroglossia, one discovers, as in the Epic genre for example, a much more closed, monoglossic, memonic world (or “consciousness”). So, one could not argue that memes as such, in all the multifarious diversity and interlocuity that Dennett ascribes to them, really existed, since there is no linguistic evidence for them [and yes, I know, Dennett notes Dawkins in the appropriation of this term]. Epic and other archaic genres exhibit a more formal structure, a literary stone age, if you will, especially in terms of timespace, or “chronotope”, which is fixed and unreal. The audience does not interact with the closed chronotope, it is a finished, entirely past, inaccessible timespace, not a “happening” but a “once upon a time…”. It is these closed genres that become the memes of ancient novels.

Bakhtin is quite adamant about this. It is the social development of theatre, especially parodic, comedic, irreverent, “grass roots”, non-elite productions out of which novel emerged. It is in this realm that the audience enters the narrative and is carried along with it; the chronotope becomes emergent and future-oriented, open-ended, more “consciousness-like.”

Third, in terms of Jesus’ followers “making up stories,” one can hardly imagine why they would risk their lives in this manner. If their leader was publicly executed by Roman authority, it seems very unlikely that the early disciples would defy the Imperial authority, on pain of death, by inventing pure fictions and publicly proclaiming them – openly insulting and provoking the Caesar, denying, illegally, the deity of Augustus, a popular and much loved ruler, and just generally stirring up trouble for themselves to no evidently beneficial purpose. Even the fact that they believed their preposterous claims does not adequately explain their suicidal mania. Thousands upon thousands of Christians were persecuted and executed, or just basically shunned and run out of town – for what? How did following Jesus’ teachings of giving up all worldly goods, sharing everything in common, giving to the poor and just basically helping each other out justify their stubborn bloody-mindedness and lack of survival instinct?

The fact is, it doesn’t! And one must see the basis of the conflict as somewhat more profound than simple naïveté. One must ask the reciprocal question: Why would a powerful regime, a veritably impregnable fortress of religious diversity, tolerance and authority, be provoked to such a degree by a small group of complete lunatics? What possible threat could they pose?

Fourth, in view of the linguistic sophistication of Roman culture, as evidenced by its creation of memes (heteroglossia) and of novels (dialogizations of social languages), narratives that are future oriented, open-ended and accessible, one could argue that consciousness itself underwent an important evolutionary development at this point in history – the very development Dennett describes as the nature of consciousness in the modern world, however broadly or narrowly you may wish to define “modern”.

It seems that the type of consciousness created by living in the environment of Imperial Rome was blossoming from a more tribal, static, limited self-defining narrative to a more democratic, dynamic, diversified self-defining narrative – a paradigm shift. Robert Graves brilliantly characterizes this historical moment in his astounding novel (how ironic), I Claudius. In an argument between two historians, Livy and Pollio, Livy, of the old school, writes epic-like histories, incorporating poetry, eulogies and favoring historical inaccuracies reflecting glory over historical accuracy of negligible narcissistic quality. Pollio, on the other hand, prefers to write history in all its naked, irreverent and boring accuracy, favoring truth over narcissism. The point is not which is better, the point is that this reflects heteroglossia and dialogization in narrative and the development of a more real, temporally accessible, relatable, non-heroizing, novelistic type of history writing.

Variability and dynamism is evident in its development, leading to a diversity of novelistic forms and to the transformation of worldwide culture on the scale of a revolution. All subsequent developments in Western culture owe a debt of gratitude to the imaginative liberty of the Romans.

Fifth, it is the beauty of the wider parameters granted during this period that religious concepts underwent dialogization and became accessible to the common folk, rather than remaining strictly canonical, sacred, codified and basically useless to the average person. These concepts received memonic play in a way they never had before, and hence were examined, batted about and just plain adulterated, resulting in an explosion of intra and inter cultural adaptations, amalgamations, reworkings, translations, new ideas, heretical ideas, brilliant ideas and just plain fun, while yet maintaining some of the more rigid traditions in a state of cultural flux, tension and sometimes outright conflict.

It is into this environment that the consciousness of Jesus emerges. Jesus is able to freely spin self-determining narratives in this environment the like of which would have been impossible just centuries earlier. The material available to him is vast, multicultural, complex – memonic. It is also accessible to a broad spectrum of audiences via the memosphere of the vast empire. Jesus is a sophisticated language user and the historical accounts of his fame as a teacher above all else, reflect the overall sophistication of the average people of his culture in terms of well-developed socio-linguistic consciousness. This was not a naive, primitive, mythocentric group, but rather, a mentally maturing, creative, paradigm-shaping historical force, peopled by individuals who were just as concerned with truth and verification as we ourselves. Claudius himself, as a historian, is a prime example.

And so, when a writer of this era asserts that he is writing a true account, one must not simply dismiss this as the ravings of a village gossip or the superstitious fantasies of a deluded peasant. They may well be, in some cases, but a certain amount of respect for the text must be maintained.

The consciousness of Jesus as presented by the heterophenomenological accounts is not entirely unique in Roman culture. The emergence of such a centre of narrative gravity was not impossible as a derivative of the newly memonic social milieu. The point is that it was an accessible, if not expected, historical meme, a “God-Man” (θειος Ανηρ). Therefore, the stories surrounding and concerning the life and ministry of Jesus were given serious consideration by educated Roman minds, including Paul (who was Saul, a Pharisee), Luke, Roman magistrates (including Pilate), as well as the enemies of Jesus who cited some of the more extraordinary assertions, such as healing a man born blind on the Sabbath – a sophisticated legal abstraction of an apparently impossible, mythological idea – as the basis for his execution as a legal challenge to the authority of the Caesar.

The consciousness of Jesus, therefore, was not composed of linguistic “figment”, but rather, of social, political, historical, memetic, heteroglossic realities, virtual realities, in terms of the developing consciousness of the people of the time. And so, his claims were strongly resonant with the culture, they made sense to people, and in fact, are characterized by Jesus himself (and his followers) as “Good News,” relevant to the significance and meaning of the very society and the individuals of which it was composed. His message, and its concomitant phenomenological assertions, i.e., the presence of a supernatural force, a real, demonstrable, witnessed incidence of the God Man, was earth shattering to these people. The consciousness of Jesus was a memonic earthquake which shook the identity of the Roman Empire to its very core, and which redefined the centers of narrative gravity of thousands upon thousands of people. It eventually transformed the entire empire by its psychological and social power.

So this is no simple case of mythologic naïveté based on the hysterical fabrications of religious zealots. This is a case of a serious development of human consciousness brought about by the paradigm-shifting flood of consciousness raising achieved in and by the dynamic sociolinguistic environment of the Roman Empire. Jesus seems to have appeared at just the right time, at the cusp of these developments, and he seems to have taken control of them, giving direction to an otherwise crumbling and degrading Imperial lineage, resulting in the crumbling and degradation of the society itself. Without the appearance of the consciousness of Jesus, the Roman Empire would have disappeared, like many great civilizations before it.