Is our future coming alive?

In our present state, we‘re probably too dim-witted and divided to have a future. To survive environmental collapse and our other existential challenges, we may need to come alive and come together as never before, and soon…. But how?

Astronauts in the film “Overview.” Source: Planetary Collective

A transformation in global consciousness is badly needed and may be required to turn things around. Only a quantum leap has the power to move us away from planetary brownout due to self-centered outlooks, and toward global greening thanks to feelings of togetherness.

View of universe from Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Photo by Logan Lambert on Unsplash.

That change of mind, on a global scale, may be underway — led by scientists and other objective observers.

Those who study matter and also study consciousness (quantum physicists, biologists, neuroscientists, parapsychologists, and mind explorers such as meditators) are asking a basic, age-old question, largely neglected until recently:

Is matter primary and is the brain the source of consciousness; or is consciousness top dog, the activator of all we see, feel, and measure?

The final answer isn’t anywhere in sight, but the prevailing materialistic assumption is giving way to healthy doubt. Scientists, philosophers, medical professionals and others are opening their minds to alternative research and hypotheses.

The healthy doubt may be trickling down to “the rest of us.” Between now and 2030 or 2050, we may gain increasing license to feel and act in less materialistic ways. Harsh or unfeeling behaviors stemming from materialistic certainty may be softened, permitting kinder, less selfish outlooks and actions.

Consider the downsides of materialistic certainty, and the upside of a more balanced, open view:

  • MATERIALISTIC ASSUMPTION: Life ends when the brain dies, and since we’re physically separate, we’re also separate as conscious beings…. Therefore violence, conflict, and environmental exploitation may make sense — to protect ourselves from the hostile “other” and a premature end of it all.
  • BALANCED ASSUMPTION: We just don’t know the answers yet, but if consciousness is primary, it may transcend life on earth and may continue indefinitely. We may all be connected and eternal, or maybe not. In either case, we’re on the way to finding out. We can relax a bit. Our continued existence may or may not be assured, but we’re all on the same path of discovery and development. Cooperation, conservation, and sustainability make sense because we’re “all in this together.”

Of course, in the name of religion, non-spiritual people have instigated some of our worst violence: the Inquisition, witch trials, and today’s terrorist attacks and mass shootings. Their behavior does not stem from either the spiritual assumption or the balanced assumption, but from the same self-centered place as the materialistic assumption.

Qualification: Surely there are forms of “certainty” (materialistic as well as religious) that are wholesome and inclusive. They’re positively emotional, however, rather than selfishly, negatively logical and factual. They’re vital and to be sought, but the evolved human does not dwell in them exclusively, but shifts easily between the emotional and logical states. That’s important for our more balanced future.

A more balanced view (neither religiously nor materialistically dogmatic) may be coming just in the nick of time.

At times of global crisis or celebration, do our minds somehow merge in a detectable way, like the lights in this image? ESA/NASA

Like the spiritual assumption, the materialistic assumption may be a prime source of our problems today. Concluding that matter is the source of mind may have been modern society’s biggest blunder. It’s not supported by the scientific method, which cautions against premature conclusions. There’s no proof that elementary building blocks (atoms, etc.) create everything including the mind. That’s an unfounded conclusion that is now being questioned in the new research.

There is growing scientific evidence that mind may affect or trigger the existence of material reality (matter and energy). Following a long line of quantum physicists, researchers at the Noetic Institute in California have found new evidence of a correlation between conscious attention and the “collapse” of light waves into discrete photons or light particles.

Researchers at Princeton University have found a correlation between human consciousness and spikes in the output of electronic random number generators (RNG’s). Strong, focused attention appears to make the number generation less random to a high degree of statistical certainty.

See the following two articles for details. The first offers the latest evidence that the act of observation somehow “collapses” waves (which are sets of possibilities) into definite entities — photons, electrons, or atoms. This begs the question, is consciousness somehow necessary for matter to materialize?

This research is led by Dean Radin, chief scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). Learn more about his work and books here.

The second article reports on the ongoing Global Consciousness Project (GCP), which got its start at Princeton University in 1998. Run by Roger Nelson, Director, the GCP is a worldwide network of random number generators (RNGs) based on quantum tunneling. Up to 70 are active at any one time. Each RNG outputs a continuous stream of completely unpredictable zeroes and ones. When the aggregate output of the RNGs deviates significantly from 50–50 odds, the scientists look for correlations with world events observed by millions of people at once.

To a high degree of statistical certainty, many “spikes” away from randomness, toward order, have been found for events like 9/11, natural disasters, religious holidays, acts of terror, peace vigils, and political events such as Obama winning the presidency in 2008.

Output of Global Consciousness Project computers on 9/11/2001 Image source: Global Consciousness Project

This begs the question, is consciousness somehow global, not just individual? Are we in fact all connected?

For more on the Global Consciousness Project and the potential it may unlock, see Roger Nelson’s book, Connected: The Emergence of Global Consciousness.

Research like this challenges the materialistic assumption, and a more balanced view (open mindedness) may be gaining sway. Researchers want to find out what’s going on with the brain, the mind, and the universe that embraces both. But they are driven by more than curiosity. There are economic drivers too.

Brain-mind research is proliferating thanks to new funding and the need for knowledge in two fields: AI and basic physics. Its hard to make electronic systems intelligent (like us) unless we know how human intelligence works. And it’s hard to fathom the secrets of electrons, quarks, and probability waves unless we dive deeper into the reality void — where mind and matter meet. So mainstream scientists are looking where only a few maverick scientists looked before.

Thanks to this new research, now in its infancy, healthy uncertainty may flourish; spiritual vistas may broaden; and the social consequences may be profound.

Science and religion, the twin foundations of human culture, may both blossom as never before; and they might even marry. Reflect that science and religion both thrive on perception and experience, and both get into trouble when they doggedly focus on beliefs or premature conclusions (that tend to become beliefs). Both stay on solid ground when they focus on their practices — the activities that bring insights and growth.

For science, the key practice is the scientific method: observing the natural world objectively. For religion, the key practice is similar but focused inward instead of outward. It includes activities that range from meditation and prayer to consciousness-changing music and good works — all focused on reality, but the flip side of material reality, experiential reality.

The emerging shift is something many can feel. A visceral change in human consciousness is bubbling into existence here and there. In one manifestation, it’s an unexpected byproduct of the space program, the “overview effect,” in which astronauts report expanded awareness and feelings of awe.

See this article for details:

Other instances of positive shared consciousness range from religious ceremonies and Indian prayer circles to rock concerts and events such as Woodstock and Burning Man.

December, 2016, prayer vigil in North Dakota, led by members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Tens of thousands worldwide joined them remotely, organized by UNIFY.

On a global scale, when the materialistic, self-centered mindset is transcended by a broader mindset, who knows what millions might feel and how they might interact?

NOTE: The mind-matter issue is controversial. It may be ignored and smart green thinking can still work, though not as well.

My opinion:

Reality is not a quantity: Numbers can never explain colors, love, pain, joy or even scientific insight based on numbers.

Smart tech (AI) is really important too

AI is valuable not because it can replace us, but because it can transform us (or help us transform ourselves).

Civilization began about 6,000 years ago, and industrialization, about 200 years ago. The Information Age got going only about 40 years ago, in the 1970’s. Now it looks like we’re at the start of a new age. What will that age be? It’s up for grabs and up to us.

We seem to have three broad options:

  • The age of collapse, civilization’s end,
  • The apocalyptic AI age, in which artificial systems take over and run everything, including people, and
  • The global consciousness age, something like Teilhard deChardin’s noosphere, in which people come into their own at a higher level (aided by technology).

The first option isn’t, of course, what anyone would pick (unless they’re suicidal), but it’s our current course unless we change our tack.

The apocalyptic AI age would benefit a privileged minority, but not for long. Eventually the whole human race would likely go extinct except for, maybe, a few zoo specimens. That might be OK if the bots actually came alive — developed self-awareness, sensation (hearing sounds, seeing colors, feeling objects), goodness, and joyful aliveness — not just rational intelligence. But artificial aliveness is not on developers’ to-do lists, only “lifeless” analogs to informational reasoning and control.

Some AI experts assert that conscious aliveness will automatically materialize when their creations get complex enough. That’s a rash assumption since science has yet to learn what consciousness is or where it comes from.

The global consciousness age may be our safest, best choice. It keeps aliveness alive. It keeps goodness and joy and love in charge. It lets human possibility flower into its full glory.

We probably can’t achieve it without an AI assist, however. Not enough time. Thousands of years of religion, law, and custom have failed to shape people up. We still act stupidly, especially in groups and factions.

AI may be up to the task. It’s our latest tool, and our tools are the extensions of us that have always multiplied our power and moved us ahead. Fortunately, smart computer technology is growing exponentially. Within our time limit (10 to 20 years), it’s on track to become thousands of times more powerful; and all that power can be at our disposal.

Chart from Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering focused on machine learning and language processing.

According to a projection by Google’s Ray Kurzweil, AI capability will exceed that of the human brain well before 2030. Reason: progress is following an exponential curve — accelerating, not just progressing.

At the same time, thanks to electronic technology, many other industries are growing exponentially too. Consider the growth of solar and wind energy, on track to exceed demand in a handful of years.

Estimate and chart from Stuart Staniford, Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University.

Think of the possibilities for medicine and human enhancement. People could be moving toward healthier, more productive versions of themselves, turning the healthcare and aging lemons into lemonade. For millions of us, years of disability could be converted into years of productivity thanks to lengthening “healthspans.”

The article below documents the economic potential of the longevity economy — large but eclipsed by the positive impact on society of millions of healthier older contributors.

The most crucial geometric curve may be that of human mental performance. Intelligence needs to rule if we’re to survive, but we see stupidity everywhere. Humanity has to get a lot smarter, overnight. For that to happen, what, exactly, is required?

Ordinary people, not just scientists, need to start following the scientific method versus just making up facts or going with the crowd. There’s a paper-thin but real chance this might happen, thanks to process-guidance training and new electronic aids. But following the scientific method is not enough.

The scientific method covers just one subsystem of conscious behavior: observation and discovery. Other key subsystems, also needing guidance, include innovation and creativity, decision making, planning, communication and persuasion, emotional adjustment, inspiration, and alternate-reality control.

Ordinary people also need to get better at the spiritual analog to the scientific method, though practices such as meditation and mindful action.

Fortunately, help in all these areas exists and may be proliferating.

Organizations such as Kepner-Tregoe in Princeton are already training corporate managers and government administrators how to use scientific discovery instead of “shoot from the hip,” how to make better decisions, and how to foresee potential problems.

Training in meditation and mindfulness is already widespread, promoted by doctors as well as gurus. We need much more honing of our consciousness in all its dimensions, including the role of our symbol systems, language and mathematics, in shaping what we see and do.

We also need a parallel proliferation in AI development, but should proceed with caution. Electronic analogs of all the above sub-systems should be considered, but very carefully. Priority should be given to AI advances that boost human intelligence rather than trying to replace it.

Positive geometric curves in many other areas, from food production to 3-D printing, are also forming. Their revolutionary opportunities are not to be missed.

Negative geometric curves are forming also, requiring quick action before they get out of hand. For example, spontaneous acts of terror may be only in their infancy. Ditto for cyber-crime, forest burning, pharmaceutical mayhem, and plastic pollution.

The bottom line

The world we end up with hinges on the trends we promote, and the most important trend is us. Nurturing our conscious evolution is job one. Our future is “coming alive.”

Children in the Infant Learning Lab in the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Inquiries welcome: dicksamson @

The author, Dick Samson, is director of EraNova Institute, which finds and promotes double-green, double-smart enterprises, groups, services, innovations, and trends. He has served as consultant to IBM, AT&T, and other leading organizations over decades. A futurist focused on human potential, his books include The Mind Builder, Creative Analysis, The Language Ladder, and Mind Over Technology.

This article will be part of a forthcoming book, Smart Green World (working title), with action guide.

For information about the role of consciousness in a smart green future, see this article:

>> Register for Smart Green Alerts and a forthcoming book

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