Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reading Notes – Holographic Paradigm

This post is renewing with presenting my reading notes about books or articles that might be useful to the advancement of the parasociological hypothesis. These reading notes are, once again, about an older book but still part of many contemporary debates: the holographic “revolution”. The book is an edited collection that re-groups the key texts (mostly from the philosophy journal ReVision) from the early discussions about the holographic universe.

In the 1970s, two scientists developed separately the idea that the universe might be a hologram. The first one is the neurologist Karl Pribram, who discovered that the brain is organized in a non-linear way when it comes to storing information. His research, in many ways, fuelled the idea of virtual database that is now a current way of storing information in computer programming. What it means is that brain cells are not only carrying information, but also contain information about how information storing is actually structured. To take a simple example, if one finds a datum he/she may also find elements or traces of its “address”, and thus it gives him/her an idea about the size and how many dimension the entire information has. For instance, “x4x, xxx, 9x9” does not tell us where the datum fits exactly, but it can tell us that it is a three-dimension construct and each dimension has up to one thousand possible spots. Holograms that we can see in movie theatres are constructed that way. Not only there are elements of images, but each element has a “tag” so that the full image can be re-constructed to become meaningful. Hence, the “tag” itself carries also precious information about information structuring.

The second scientist is David Bohm, a theoretical physicist, who explained the paradoxes of non-locality in quantum physics by showing mathematically the possibility of a 5th dimension. This additional dimension is more than just one more layer to the matrix of reality. Like in the case of the brain, objects and other realities of our ordinary 4 dimensional world also carry information about how information is structured in the higher degree matrix with 5 dimensions. In both cases, by sampling enough brain cells or objects, one can gather some useful information about how these fit in the greater scheme of thing. This is the holographic paradigm: any reality is contingent to a higher degree of information organization. This notion, without surprise, has also attracted the attention of those mystically minded, as it implies that there is a higher realm of reality “managing” reality at a lower level. The full notice is:

Wilber, Ken (Ed.). (1985). The Holographic Paradigm: Exploring the leading edge of science. Boston: Shambala.

The Holographic Paradigm and social sciences

The book provides input from various people (including one social scientist) but without making any references to the knowledge produced by the social sciences. Once more we have a “leading edge science” book where psychology, physics and philosophy are used to support the argument for a new look at the world, but without using sociology and its sister sciences. It is very regrettable because the holographic paradigm has been part of the social sciences since day one, although described under a different vocabulary. People are not just people. They belong to higher orders of information structuring by their gender, ethnic origin, language, social class, level of education, etc. This is so obvious to any social scientist that one is wondering where the big fuss is.

For instance, qualitative social scientists, and for that matter any good management consultant, know that you do not need to interview everyone in a community or an organization to get a good understanding of what is going on. Only a few well selected people usually will do. Why? Because people also carry information about how life is structured in a community or organization (who is the boss, who holds the power, the key histories or narratives one needs to know to be part of the group, what’s in and what’s out, etc, etc , etc). Human communities are holographic. Sociologists know quite well that the social realm is a higher degree of structuring information that can be accessed by sampling enough individual about it. The Holographic Paradigm is actually old news for the social scientists. Maybe that’s why they were ignored, as they would remove the “edge” to the news. To be fair, however, there was a “fad” in the 1980s and 1990s in the social sciences about studying the social realm through the vocabulary of the holographic paradigm. For what I can assess, this has not gain much traction, probably because, in the end, it is old wine in a new bottle.

The Holographic Paradigm and parapsychology

In the book, there is, unfortunately, only one and very short text from Stanley Krippner dealing directly with the impact of the Holographic Paradigm on parapsychology. It would have been good to get a more extensive reaction from Krippner and the parapsychological community. In any event, the notion that the universe is holographic is certainly a useful one for parapsychologists. This notion is very much in tune with the Jungian concept of “Absolute Knowledge” and the Laszlo’s notion of Akashic field, speculating that knowledge exists in other forms, free of time and physical constraints, which can be access through ESP. Similarly, the introduction of a notion of higher order of information structuring can help to explain various time paradoxes found in parapsychological experiments, especially for retro-psychokinesis. But as parapsychology depends very much on positivist recognition from the institutional scientific community, the holographic paradigm remains very difficult to verify empirically. If it is possible to make a sound argument about the holographic nature of the brain, quantum physics, and the social realm that does not mean that the rest of the universe is holographic. That is where parapsychology stands on this issue for the time being; an interesting but hard to test idea.

The Holographic Paradigm and parasociology

Parasociology, as an attempt to fuse parapsychology and sociology together, is in mixed position with regards to the Holographic Paradigm. Societies can be easily described as hologram, as discussed above, but to really use the holographic approach to its fullest extent, one has to stipulate some sort of meta-social hologram. According to the theory, this meta-social hologram would be one degree (or dimension) higher in terms of abstraction, away from the empirically observable social realm, that describes another level of information structuring. To me, this sounds very much as a re-description of the notion of social unconscious. The main difference, however, would be that by borrowing from parapsychology the social unconscious would become information also freed (or at least partially freed) from time and geographical constraints. This is an interesting idea, but yet again this not that new. The parasociological notion of social unconscious is partly built on Jung’s concept of collective unconscious, which is explicitly described by Jung as timeless and unconcerned with geography. All in all, it is still old wine in a new bottle. Furthermore, the possibility of empirical verification is not improved by using the holographic approach. Ultimately, the holographic paradigm adds weight to the possibility that such an approach may explain many aspects of reality because it is found in different realms (biology, physics, social sciences), but it is still quite far from becoming a theory of everything.

Concluding remarks

Brain cells, and photons going through a splitter, are relatively simple carriers of information, and using a holographic approach to reconstruct how they fit in a larger scheme is certainly an effective approach. But what about complex datum, like a single human being, who has so many possible “tags” to so many possible larger psycho-social constructs? This is simply not very effective, and ultimately (strangely) it is a very reductionist approach – something the Holographic Paradigm claims to steer away from.

From a parasociological perspective, UFO events are like any other human events: they are composite events. The symbolic, psychical, emotional, social and physical forces at play to create such events are difficult to distinguish from each other. Furthermore, it may not be useful to distinguish them in a detailed way because we may loose from sight the “tag” that links qualitatively different realities together (e.g., the social unconscious and balls of light). Holographic thinking, in the end, is very much an expression of mathematical thinking where everything can be reduced to numbers (qualitative unification). Unfortunately, reality cannot be unified this way as qualitatively different realities cannot be subsumed into each other. All those who tried such qualitative unification have failed, and the Holographic Paradigm is very likely to face the same end if it does not steer away from mathematical thinking.

Eric Ouellet © 2010

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