In this two-part post, I am going to outline why I think there is a dramatic shift in human consciousness coming, and how this will provide great opportunities for those courageous enough to invest time and commitment into this field knowledge. There is a phrase I would like to introduce for this: “The Other Singularity.” This is a term first put forward by Benjamin Butler at the Emerging Future Institute.
I also bill myself as a futurist. I have published and presented around forty papers and book chapters in Futures Studies journals and in several Futures-related books. I have also been a member of the World Futures Studies Federation, and have spoken regularly AT WFSF conferences. So I feel I’m perfectly entitled to call myself a futurist. The domain of Futures Studies in which I work is often called Critical Futures Studies. This branch of Futures is not so much concerned about prediction, but with analysing images of the future, looking to see who controls the power, and in particular asking “What is missing?” from ideas and visions of tomorrow. Futurist Richard Slaughter introduced the term “Postconventional Futures Studies”, to accommodate critical futurists like me who like to think well outside the box; in particular exploring other ways of knowing (OWOK) and the spiritual and mystical dimensions of human experience. Those OWOK include the intuitive and spiritual cognitive processes that conventional science and education has tended to ignore.
Despite the fact that these domains of Futures Studies are not focused on prediction, one of the first questions I typically get asked when I tell people I am a futurist is “So, what is going to happen in the future?” I normally just explain what critical futures studies is, and don’t give a solid answer. After all, predicting the future is considered to be a fool’s game by many.
But sometimes I do like to prognosticate.
You might be aware of the idea of the singularity, put forward by futurist ray Kurzweil. The singularity relates to the precise moment when computers will become smarter than people. After that point, human civlisation will never be the same. Computers will only continue to get smarter, while we flesh and blood humans will stay the same dumb “meat machines,” as Elon Musk describes us.
I’m skeptical of Kurzweil’s idea because I think that he and his followers fail to address vital aspects of consciousness and intelligence. To put this in simple terms, I believe that consciousness contains non-local properties. It is not purely localised in space and time, and very likely cannot be reduced to the functioning of micro-components – neurons. I outline this in more detail in my TEDx Hong Kong talk “Mind, Cosmos and our Brilliant Futures.” The key point here is that if I am right about this, then human beings may be far more “conscious” and far smarter than we generally think. I like to speak of a fully-actualised human mind as having integrated intelligence. This means that the individual has a highly developed intuitive capacity which transcends “rationality” as we typically define it. They are not delimited by the sensory organs, nor time and space as we typically understand them.
In short, merely replicating certain information processes via machines is unlikely to grant those machines anything close to human-like integrated intelligence, let alone consciousness (but in all fairness, Kurzweil does touch on the distinction between “human-like” and machine intelligence. But he does not take the idea of integrated intelligence seriously).
What I and futurists such as Benjamin Butler do believe is that there is another Singularity which is fast approaching. That Other Singularity refers to the precise moment when our science, education and social structures finally accept the reality of the non-local mind.
The Other Singularity, and two predications about consciousness and the future
I typically make five predictions about the futures of mind. I present two of them here on the very slides I used in my TEDx talk. The other three I will describe in my following blog post, one week from today.
This is not exactly a brave prediction, is it? If there is one thing that the history of science and philosophy shows us, it is that knowledge expands from one era to another in ways that can barely be imagined by those in the era preceding such shifts. Being knowledgeable is of little assistance here. In 1900, Lord Kelvin, who was one of the most knowledgeable and highly informed men of his day, famously stated that “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.” Just five years later Einstein published his seminal paper on relativity theory, and by the late 1920s the quantum field theory was initiated by Paul Dirac, throwing a huge spanner into the works of the mechanical universe. If a highly learned man like Lord Kelvin can be so wrong, it is logical to assume that you and I are also capable of such poor foresight.
By definition, we can’t know what we don’t know we don’t know (that’s not a typo – think about it!). We tend to see knowledge as expanding in a linear fashion. To borrow from Foucault, modernity always sees knowledge as progressing from a primitive past to the inevitable outcome that is the advanced and superior present. In 1900 the known universe was precisely one galaxy big. Now we know of an estimated 100 billion galaxies. And this is not even taking into consideration that dark energy and dark matter may comprise 95 per cent of the universe. Lord Kelvin could only go on what was known then.
What big shift is going to happen next? “Oh, the internet will expand to become incredibly powerful!” many would say. But no, that would not be a paradigm shift in my meaning of the term. The idea of a super-internet is an extrapolation based on the most obvious recent historical game-breaker. It is an observable trend. On the other hand, paradigm shifts involve sudden changes in the very way we view knowledge itself. The publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859) and the theory of natural selection is a classic example. The idea of “evolution” is common-place today and used in multiple contexts, but before Darwin’s time the word – and the concept – was rarely used.
I believe that we are in the midst of another paradigm shift at this moment in history. And rather than a single thinker being behind it, the power of the internet is driving it.
This leads me onto my second prediction, which is really the one that is the real game-changer today, and the foundation of the Other Singularity.
Once the extended mind is acknowledged, it will radically shift the way humanity sees itself, including its place in the cosmos. The implications for science, philosophy and society will be enormous. The extended mind is the idea that consciousness extends beyond the confines of the brain and skull, and is in relationship with the environment – including other people, places, times and spiritual dimensions (Integrated intelligence), and describes the way that the conscious application of the extended mind can make us smarter and help solve problems. Most significantly, the expansion of Integrated Intelligence creates an inevitable shift in worldview, because one can no longer operate under the delusion that self and world are totally separate.
Why I believe the Other Singularity will occur
You might ask why I am so confident that the Other Singularity is coming?
The first reason is that the scientific evidence for the extended mind is strong, and it will only get stronger. The field that scientifically investigates concepts related to the extended mind is typically called parapsychology. As just one reference, Dean Radin is perhaps the foremost scientist doing such work. His meta-analysis of ganzfeld experiments – which test whether human beings can sense the contents of another’s mind at a distance – has produced the most impressive results. 0ver 122 experiments conducted in 20 labs and with 4674 sessions have yielded results of 300 trillion quadrillion to one (the latest results were published in Psychological Bulletin in 2010). Radin summarised these experimental procedures and the data gleaned from them in a talk he gave at the Electric Universe conference. The two videos are available on YouTube, and well worth watching for those who wish to familiarise themselves with the research done in this field.
It has to be admitted that the amount of money spent on this kind of research is miniscule, and the volume is insignificant compared to that spent on such fields as medicine and neuroscience. Further, there are various ways the research can be criticised (I will not detail those here, but parapsychologists have done a good job in countering those criticisms to date). Still, there is enough evidence here to make the claim that there is something very important worth investigating here. This is the only “rational” take on the research, in my opinion.
The second reason why I feel that an expanded conception of consciousness is inevitable is that there is just so much anecdotal evidence, with countless tens of thousands of reported cases. People throughout history and across all civilisations have reported experiences which can only be explained by the extended mind hypothesis. These experiences include crisis visions, near death experiences, premonitory visions and dreams, out of body experiences, ESP, remote viewing and so on. While skeptics complain that “the plural of anecdote is not data”, only the most stubborn materialist could dismiss all these reports without at least some consideration of the possibility that many of these cases are genuine. Many defy any materialist explanation.
My third and final reason for optimism in the coming mind shift is by far the strongest for me. For over twenty years I have been exploring consciousness through meditative and visionary experience and have seen that the extended mind is a perfectly normal domain of human consciousness. After a period of committed scepticism in my early twenties I began meditating at the age of 26. I immediately discovered the world of psychic experience. I could not dismiss the many visions and experiences of connection with other minds and spirits that came to me. Five years later I began a systematic period of exploration of my emotional body, where I managed to dredge up unimaginable pain and hurt from within my psyche. This was not because I am masochist by nature, but because I sought healing of that pain. Although I barely read a book or watched any media, the knowledge that this six year period bought forth for me was profound, and helped me to understand in far greater depth the psychic experiences I’d had in the first phase of my spiritual development. But there then came a third phase of insight where I lessened my focus upon psychic and emotional experience, and began to allow longer periods of simple mindfulness. In bringing the mind into deep, silent presence, I came to understand at even greater depth the knowledge that I had received during the previous two phases of my spiritual development.
If I can summarise what I learned from all this exploration, it is that the human mind is embedded within a vast sea of consciousness, and that the way we experience “self” in modern society is but the surface level of the mind in its entirety. Twenty-first century life and education conditions us into a very constricted experience of consciousness, cutting us off from our essence. My inner journey helped me to see clearly that modern science and education have led us to a dead end. Scientific materialism has hit a wall that it cannot cross – at least not without a great shift in its core processes and in cooperation with those who have explored the human psyche in depth.
Science brought humanity out of mediaeval ignorance, but as currently practiced it is a hindrance to the advancement of human knowledge in the domain of consciousness, and to understanding our place in the cosmos. Humanity has gone as far as it can go in the delusion of separation. As Huston Smith so elegantly put it, the twentieth century was the century of disconnection, the century where humanity lost touch with its spiritual essence. That previous century was the age of the talking head, where our elders and truth-tellers became detached from both the body and the human spirit. It was a century of spiritual trauma. It is time for the healing to begin.
And this is what I will explore in greater detail in part two of this topic. Join me in my next post as I suggest in greater detail what this means for us in our everyday lives, and how the coming mind shift can be a tremendous opportunity for those of us who are willing to pioneer the way forward.
Marcus T Anthony