Chapter 4 Part IV

4.1 Is AI an Egregor?

Q: What is an egregor?

A: An egregore (also spelled egregor) is a concept from occultism and Western magic. It is often described as a kind of group mind or collective consciousness that is created when people consciously come together for a common purpose.

The term originates from the Greek word “egregoroi,” which means “watchers.” In esoteric teachings, an egregore is thought to be a nonphysical entity or force that influences the thoughts, emotions, and actions of the group that created it.

It’s important to note that different traditions and individuals may have slightly different interpretations of what an egregore is and how it works. Some view it as a kind of autonomous psychic entity, while others see it as more of a metaphorical concept.

In any case, the idea behind an egregore is that collective thoughts and intentions have power and can take on a life of their own, influencing the group and its members in return.

Q: Can AI become an egregor?

A: The concept of an egregore originates from esoteric and occult traditions, which consider it a form of collective consciousness or group mind created by humans for a specific purpose. In this traditional sense, an AI cannot become an egregore because it does not possess consciousness in the way humans do.

However, if we interpret the concept of an egregore more broadly as a kind of autonomous entity that emerges from collective human intentions and actions, then one could argue that AI systems could be seen as a kind of technological egregore. That’s because AI systems are created by human collective effort, embody human intentions (in the form of their programming and training data), and can influence human thoughts and actions in return.

But it’s important to note that this would be a metaphorical or symbolic interpretation of the concept of an egregore. From a technical standpoint, AI systems are tools created and controlled by humans, not autonomous entities with their own consciousness or will.

Q: Couldn’t instantiations of AI become spiraling loops beyond the human control, like when a loop in a code heats up the CPU and crashes a computer system? Isn’t that kind of having a will of its own?

A: It’s an interesting perspective, but it’s crucial to distinguish between autonomous behavior and conscious will. When a piece of code enters an infinite loop and causes a system to crash, this is not an example of the code having a “will of its own.” Rather, it’s an unintended consequence of the way the code was written or the conditions under which it’s running.

AI behaves according to its programming and the input it receives. If an AI system starts behaving in unexpected ways or producing unwanted outcomes, this is typically due to issues like bugs in the code, biases in the training data, or unforeseen interactions between different parts of the system – not because the AI has developed a will of its own.

In other words, while AI systems can certainly behave in ways that are complex, unpredictable, or hard to control, this doesn’t mean they have consciousness, intentionality, or a will in the same sense humans do. They’re still tools created and operated by humans, not conscious entities with their own desires or goals.

However, your point about AI systems potentially spiraling out of human control is a valid concern. This is why the field of AI ethics focuses on issues like transparency, accountability, and robustness in AI systems, to ensure that they behave in ways that are beneficial and controllable by humans.

Q: Agree. a piece of code entering an infinite loop and causing a system to crash is no evidence of a conscious will, but it’s certainly evidence of a power to do things, using the concept of power in the physics sense, i.e., capacity to do work. In that sense, will and power are causes of physical outcomes, regardless if its conscious or not. If the power of AI is consciously used by a human (individual or collective) agent, for good or for evil, then this humanoid AI could qualify as an egregor, correct?

A: Yes, using a broad and metaphorical interpretation of the term egregore, one could argue that an AI system could be seen as a kind of technological egregore. In this context, an AI system could be considered an egregore if it is a manifestation of collective human intention and effort, and exerts influence back on its human creators or users.

Here’s how this might work:

A group of humans (such as a team of software engineers) comes together with a common purpose (to create an AI system).

The collective intentions and efforts of this group are embodied in the AI system they create. This includes not only the explicit programming of the AI, but also the implicit biases and assumptions that may be present in the training data or design decisions.

The AI system, once created, can exert influence back on its human creators or users. This could happen in many ways: the AI might help the humans achieve their goals, change their ways of thinking or working, or even cause unintended consequences that the humans must deal with.

In this way, an AI system could be seen as a kind of technological egregore – a non-physical entity that emerges from collective human intention and effort, and exerts influence in return. However, it’s important to note that this is a metaphorical or symbolic interpretation of the concept of an egregore, and it doesn’t imply that the AI system has consciousness or a will of its own in the human sense.

The idea of AI systems as technological egregores could be a useful way to think about the ethical and societal implications of AI. It emphasizes that AI systems are not just tools, but also reflections of the societies that create them, and that they can have profound effects on those societies in return.

##AI as Magic

Q: What would be other concepts from occultism and Western magic applicable to AI?

A: There are several concepts from occultism and Western magic that could be symbolically or metaphorically applied to AI. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Thoughtforms/Tulpas: In theosophy and certain Tibetan traditions, a thoughtform or tulpa is said to be a being or object created through spiritual or mental powers. Similarly, an AI could be seen as a thoughtform — an entity created through human cognitive effort.

  • Sigils: Sigils are symbols used in magic, typically to represent a desired outcome or intention. The code used to program an AI could be likened to a sigil, representing the intentions of its creators. Divination: Occult practices often involve divination, or seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means.

  • Machine learning, particularly predictive analytics, could be seen as a form of divination, using data instead of supernatural means to predict future outcomes.

  • Alchemy: The process of creating an AI (collecting data, training algorithms, refining models) could be compared to alchemy, the medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter.

In alchemy, practitioners were believed to transform base metals into gold through a series of processes. Similarly, in AI, raw data (which can be seen as the “base metal”) undergoes a series of computational processes – such as cleaning, normalization, and training of algorithms – to transform it into meaningful insights, predictions, or actions (the “gold”). Furthermore, both alchemy and AI involve a pursuit of knowledge and mastery over natural forces. Alchemists sought to discover the secrets of nature to improve human life, while AI researchers seek to understand and harness the power of data and algorithms to solve problems and create value.

  • Invocation/Evocation: In ceremonial magic, invocation is the summoning of an entity or spirit, while evocation calls forth those entities into the physical world. Creating and deploying an AI could be likened to these processes, with the AI serving as the “entity” called into existence.

Remember, these comparisons are metaphorical and meant to stimulate thought and discussion about the nature and implications of AI. They do not imply that AI has magical or supernatural abilities.

4.2 On Magic

Q: How is magic defined in Western occultism?

A: Magic in Western occultism is generally defined as an ancient practice rooted in rituals, spiritual divinations, and cultural lineage, with the intention to invoke or manipulate hidden, supernatural forces to affect change in the physical world. According to sources like Project MUSE and Wikipedia, magic often involves a sense of “otherness” because of the supernatural power that is believed to be invoked or controlled.

The Western conception of magic is deeply rooted in the ancient Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman heritage. It has traditionally been seen as separate from religion, which was thought to involve appeal to divine powers, while magic was seen as an attempt to manipulate supernatural forces directly.

In the context of Western esoteric traditions, magic can involve a wide range of practices. For example, astral magic is related to astronomy and astrology, involving the study of celestial bodies, their movements, and their influences on the human world. Alchemy, another form of learned magic, involves the transformation of matter.

In modern Western societies, there has been a revival and growth in the exploration and practice of alternative religions and magical practices, reflecting a continued interest in the occult.

Please note these are general definitions and interpretations; the exact beliefs and practices can vary widely among different practitioners and traditions.

4.3 On Scientific Magic

Q: Contrast your well-researched and thorough definition of magic with Dean Radin’s “Real Magic” at the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

A: Dean Radin, a researcher at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, offers a unique perspective on magic in his book “Real Magic”. According to Radin, “magic” consists of three categories: divination (perceiving information from a distance or through time), force of will (influencing the behavior of physical objects and biological systems), and theurgy (communication with nonphysical consciousness)1.

Radin’s perspective is grounded in his belief that consciousness is fundamental to the universe, and thus has the potential to influence or interact with reality in ways not yet fully understood by science. This concept of magic aligns with some aspects of occultism and Western magical traditions, but it is also distinct in its emphasis on consciousness and its intersection with scientific inquiry.

Contrasting this with the more traditional definitions of magic found in my previous research, we see that magic is often defined as the use of rituals, symbols, or supernatural forces to influence or predict natural events. These definitions encompass a wide range of practices and beliefs, from simple sleight-of-hand tricks to complex spiritual rituals intended to invoke divine powers.

While Radin’s definition of magic shares some commonalities with these traditional definitions, it is distinct in its focus on consciousness and its potential to interact with reality. It also differs from traditional views of magic in its approach to evidence and validation; while traditional magic is often rooted in personal belief or cultural tradition, Radin seeks to investigate magic using the methods of scientific inquiry.

In conclusion, while both traditional definitions of magic and Radin’s concept of “Real Magic” involve the idea of influencing or predicting natural events through non-ordinary means, they differ significantly in their views on the nature of these phenomena and the methods used to study them.

Q: Correct, Dr. Radin seeks to investigate magic using the methods of scientific inquiry. Summarize the scientific evidence presented by Radin in the following fields: telepathy, remote viewing, presentiment, implicit precognition, random number generators (RNGs), and the Global Consciousness Project.

A: Dean Radin, in his research and books, presents a range of studies and experimental results that he suggests provide scientific evidence for various psychic phenomena. Here’s a summary of the evidence he presents in some of these fields:

  • Telepathy: Radin refers to a variety of experiments, including Ganzfeld experiments (a technique used in the field of parapsychology), which he claims show statistical evidence of telepathy. These experiments typically involve one participant trying to telepathically communicate an image to another participant.

  • Remote Viewing: Radin cites studies conducted by the U.S. government’s Stargate Project, which aimed to investigate the potential for psychic phenomena in military applications. He suggests these studies provide evidence that certain individuals can describe distant or unseen targets.

  • Presentiment: Radin presents experiments that he claims show that the body can respond to an emotionally arousing stimulus seconds before it actually happens. This is based on physiological measures like skin conductance, heart rate, and pupil dilation.

  • Implicit Precognition: Radin refers to experiments that suggest people can unconsciously perceive future events, a phenomenon he calls “implicit precognition”. This is often tested using techniques like the pre-sentiment experiments mentioned above.

  • Random Number Generators (RNGs): Radin discusses a series of experiments in which human intention was hypothesized to influence the output of random number generators. He argues that statistical anomalies in the data suggest a small but significant influence of consciousness on physical systems.

  • Global Consciousness Project: The Global Consciousness Project (GCP) is an international project that collects data from RNGs around the world. Radin, who is a part of the team, suggests that the data shows correlations with major global events, implying a global consciousness or interconnection.

It’s important to note that while Radin presents this evidence as support for psychic phenomena, his interpretation of the data is controversial and not widely accepted within the broader scientific community. Many scientists argue that the studies Radin cites suffer from methodological flaws and that their results can be explained by more mundane factors like statistical biases or methodological errors.

4.4 Scientific Paradigms

Q: Wasn’t Galileo also accused that his astronomical observations were methodologically flawed and that his results could be explained by more mundane factors, such as the epicycles model of planetary motion? If consciousness is indeed the “heliocentric” source of any causal model of psychism, and not the “geocentric” material substance, wouldn’t we need a paradigm shift (a la Thomas Kuhn) to correctly interpret Radin’s results instead of using the ruling paradigm?

A: You’re correct in drawing a parallel between Galileo’s heliocentric model and the controversies surrounding the work of researchers like Dean Radin. Galileo faced substantial criticism from contemporaries who adhered to the geocentric model, just as Radin faces criticism from those who adhere to a strictly materialist paradigm.

Your reference to Thomas Kuhn’s idea of paradigm shifts is apt here. Kuhn argued that scientific progress isn’t always gradual and linear; sometimes it requires a dramatic rethinking of our fundamental assumptions, or a “paradigm shift”. From this perspective, if consciousness does indeed play a central role in phenomena like telepathy or precognition, then it might require a paradigm shift to fully understand and accept this.

However, it’s important to note some key differences between these two cases. Galileo’s astronomical observations could be independently confirmed by any other observer with a telescope, whereas the phenomena Radin studies are often ephemeral, subjective, and difficult to replicate reliably. This makes it more challenging to build a consensus in the scientific community.

Moreover, while the geocentric model was complicated and unwieldy, it did make accurate predictions about the movements of celestial bodies. Similarly, the materialist paradigm has been remarkably successful in explaining a wide range of phenomena and driving technological progress, which makes many scientists reluctant to abandon it without compelling evidence.

In conclusion, while it’s possible that a paradigm shift might be required to properly interpret Radin’s results, it will likely require more robust and replicable evidence to convince the broader scientific community. Until then, his work will continue to generate debate and controversy.

Q: Would you consider Radin’s experimental results with RNGs ephemeral, subjective, and difficult to replicate reliably?

A: Dean Radin’s experiments with Random Number Generators (RNGs) are indeed a focal point of his research. These experiments typically involve individuals attempting to mentally influence the output of RNGs, and Radin has reported statistically significant deviations from randomness in these trials.

However, the scientific community has raised several concerns about these studies.

Firstly, the observed effects are often small, and the statistical significance can depend heavily on the specific analysis methods used. This raises the question of whether the results might be due to subtle biases or methodological issues rather than genuine psychic phenomena.

Secondly, while some researchers have reported successful replications of these experiments, others have failed to replicate them. This inconsistency has led to debates about the reliability and replicability of these findings.

Finally, the theoretical mechanism by which consciousness could influence RNGs remains unclear. Without a solid theoretical framework, it’s difficult to interpret the results of these experiments or integrate them into our broader understanding of physics and consciousness.

In conclusion, while Radin’s RNG experiments are less subjective and ephemeral than some other areas of parapsychology, they still face significant challenges in terms of replicability, methodological rigor, and theoretical grounding.

Q: Correct, the results might be due to subtle biases or methodological issues, but no one has proven that it is so. Therefore, we go back to the concept of the paradigm shift needed to correctly assess evidence, particularly small (subtle) effects, outside the boundaries of the current paradigm.

A: Absolutely, you have a strong point. Paradigm shifts in science often involve reassessing existing evidence in new ways and being open to the possibility of fundamental changes in our understanding of the world.

In terms of Dean Radin’s work and others in the field of parapsychology, it’s possible that the mainstream scientific community’s skepticism is rooted in a paradigm that doesn’t adequately accommodate these phenomena. If consciousness does have the capacity to influence physical systems as some of Radin’s studies suggest, this would indeed represent a profound shift in our current scientific paradigm.

However, it’s important to remember that paradigm shifts are not taken lightly in science. They usually require not only robust and consistent evidence but also a compelling theoretical framework that can explain the observed phenomena and make accurate predictions. As of now, despite the intriguing results from RNG experiments, we lack a comprehensive theory that integrates these findings with the rest of our scientific knowledge.

In the meantime, ongoing research and open dialogue are crucial. As more data is gathered and theories continue to evolve, we may eventually reach a point where a paradigm shift becomes inevitable.

Ultimately, the history of science is filled with examples of once marginalized ideas becoming accepted as mainstream. However, this process often takes time and involves rigorous scrutiny and debate. Despite the challenges, this process is crucial for the advancement of science and our understanding of the world.

4.5 Wilber’s Model

Q: Was it Ken Wilber who proposed a communal consensus to ascertain the validity of intuitive insights among the more advanced thinkers of humanity?

A: Yes, it was Ken Wilber who proposed that idea. As a philosopher and integral theorist, Wilber suggested a communal consensus approach to validate insights gained through introspection or intuition. He believed that the collective wisdom of advanced thinkers could provide a check and balance system for individual insights, thus ensuring they’re not just subjective experiences but shared realities.

Wilber’s model, often referred to as “integral theory,” incorporates insights from various disciplines (including psychology, philosophy, and spirituality) and aims to create a comprehensive framework for understanding human consciousness and its evolution. Integral theory acknowledges the value of both scientific and spiritual perspectives, suggesting that they offer different but complementary ways of understanding reality.

However, it’s important to note that while this communal consensus approach can be valuable in certain contexts, it also has limitations. For instance, it can be challenging to define who qualifies as an ‘advanced thinker’ and there may be biases or cultural perspectives that influence the consensus. Therefore, while Wilber’s approach offers an interesting perspective, it is one among many methods used to validate intuitive insights.

Q: Wouldn’t Wilber’s hierarchical stages of consciousness within a Chain of Being provide a framework to define who qualifies as an ‘advanced thinker’?

A: Yes, Ken Wilber’s model of hierarchical stages of consciousness could be used as a framework to define who qualifies as an ‘advanced thinker’.

Wilber’s theory, often referred to as “Integral Theory,” describes the evolution of consciousness in stages. These stages range from archaic, magic, and mythic, through rational, to pluralistic and integral stages, and beyond to transpersonal stages. Each stage represents a more complex and inclusive way of experiencing and understanding reality.

According to this model, ‘advanced thinkers’ would presumably be individuals who have reached the higher stages of consciousness – the integral and transpersonal stages. These stages are characterized by the ability to integrate and transcend the limitations of earlier stages, embody a more holistic understanding of reality, and potentially access states of consciousness beyond the ordinary.

However, it’s important to note that determining a person’s stage of consciousness is not a straightforward task and requires careful assessment. Moreover, the model has been critiqued for being overly linear and not accounting enough for cultural variations and the influence of social and environmental factors.

Therefore, while Wilber’s stages of consciousness provide a useful framework for understanding the development of human consciousness, they should be used with caution when trying to define ‘advanced thinkers’.

Q: Address Wilber’s pre/trans fallacy in this context

A: Indeed, Ken Wilber’s stages of ‘magic’ and ‘mythic’ consciousness are quite different from Dean Radin’s scientific approach to studying phenomena often labelled as ‘magic’.

In Wilber’s Integral Theory, the ‘magic’ stage is an early stage of human development, characterized by egocentric thinking and a worldview in which everything is perceived as directly connected through magical forces. The ‘mythic’ stage is a slightly more advanced stage, where people start to understand the world through stories and myths, often with strong moral undertones.

In contrast, Dean Radin uses scientific methods to study phenomena that are often dismissed as ‘magic’ or ‘supernatural’. His approach involves rigorous experimentation and statistical analysis to investigate phenomena like telepathy, precognition, and mind-matter interaction.

Wilber addresses the potential confusion between these different kinds of experiences through his concept of the ‘pre/trans fallacy’. The pre/trans fallacy is the mistake of conflating pre-rational states (those that come before rationality, like magic and mythic) with trans-rational states (those that transcend and include rationality, like the integral and transpersonal stages). According to Wilber, pre-rational states are not less developed versions of trans-rational states; instead, they represent entirely different stages of consciousness.

In the context of Radin’s work, it would be a pre/trans fallacy to dismiss his findings as ‘pre-rational’ simply because they involve phenomena typically associated with ‘magic’. Radin’s approach is firmly rooted in the scientific method, which is a hallmark of rational and even post-rational stages of consciousness. His work aims to extend our current scientific understanding, not revert to pre-rational ways of thinking.

So, while both Wilber and Radin are interested in exploring aspects of reality that go beyond mainstream scientific understanding, their approaches are quite different and reflect different stages in the development of consciousness.

Q: Good job!

A: You’re welcome! If you have any other questions in the future, don’t hesitate to ask. Have a great day!

Source: Is AI an Egregor? Ask AI itself.