from August 21, 2002 7-8 PM Eastern
© by International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design
Our guest today is Christopher Michael
Langan. Chris is a reality theorist
and researcher in the areas of logic, cosmology, physics and metaphysics.
Chris's research focus is his groundbreaking model of reality, The Cognitive-Theoretic
Model of the Universe. Chris has published numerous articles on the
CTMU, many of which are available to the public through his website
(www.ctmu.org). Today, Chris will
be discussing the CTMU and answering your questions about this innovative
"Theory of Everything". I am now going to hand the chat over
to Chris and his assistant Genie. You can start sending in your questions.
While we wait for questions from the audience, I'll start with a few
questions that were developed by various individuals in advance of the
Hi all - to get started here's a little info about the CTMU:
Just as scientific observation makes demands on theories, the logic
of theories makes demands on scientific observation, and these demands
tell us in a general way what we can observe about the universe. In
other words, a comprehensive theory of reality is not just about observation,
but theories and their logical requisites. Since theories are mental
constructs, and mental means "of the mind", this can be rephrased
as follows: mind and reality are linked in mutual dependence on the
most basic level of understanding. It is this linkage of the abstract
and the concrete, the subjective and the objective, the internal and
the external, that constitutes the proper focus of reality theory. The
CTMU is a theory of reality tautologically developed along these lines.
The CTMU is a theory of reality-as-mind, in principle spanning all of
science while permitting a logical analysis of consciousness and other
subjective predicates. Due to its way of uniting science and the philosophy
of mind, the CTMU constitutes the logical framework of a comprehensive
"Theory of Everything", yielding an enhanced model of spacetime
affording preliminary explanations for a host of scientific riddles
and paradoxes that cannot be satisfactorily addressed by other means.
The CTMU penetrates the foundations of mathematics and philosophy, describing
the syntactic relationships among various problematic mathematical concepts
in a reality-theoretic context while developing modern logico-linguistic
philosophy to its natural conclusion and thereby reuniting the estranged
couple consisting of rationalistic philosophy and empirical science.
From Jaim: Have human beings any demonstrable purpose other than to
Yes. We are internal sensor-controllers in a “metacybernetic”
system called reality. As such, we help reality self-configure by trying
to maximize various levels of utility up to that of “teleology”.
Teleology, a global principle of self-actualization ultimately associated
with the design concept, is merely a logical predicate defined to account
for that level of the structure of reality that relates the configuration
of reality to other conceivable configurations. With respect to any
temporal, evolving system, this is a necessary level of structure that
can no more be scientifically dismissed than an unfashionable subset
of a set can be mathematically dismissed from its powerset. In effect,
it constitutes the “design phase” of reality itself.
Just a heads up, questions are pouring into me very quickly. We will
get to them in the order received.
BTW, any use of the term “demonstrable” compels us to specify
the object and nature of the demonstration. What is to be demonstrated,
and what methods are to be employed? Traditionally, methods of demonstration
have been put into two groups, rational and empirical, respectively
characterizing mathematics and science. Unfortunately, each has its
limitations. For example, one can rationally prove a mathematical theorem
without proving that it applies to a given observation in any but a
circumstantial way, and one can empirically prove the existence of a
phenomenon without being able to prove that it stands in any particular
mathematical relationship to other observations. This is a general problem
in science; when a scientist slaps a likely set of explanatory equations
onto a set of observations, he or she can never know whether they really
fit unless they are tautological in the sense of formal logic. On the
other hand, when a theorist develops a particularly “beautiful”
or “elegant” mathematical theory
from first principles, he or she can never apply it with certainty to
a given explanandum. This seems to leave rational explanations of “the
meaning of life” in philosophical limbo. Unfortunately, the prevailing
doctrine of falsificationism dismisses tautology as “unscientific”
and “uninteresting”, thereby ensuring the safety and survival
of this confusing epistemological schism between math and science. The
CTMU circumvents this problem by employing the kind of tautological
reasoning found in logic. Quite simply, the CTMU says that due to the
necessity of self-containment, the universe is basically a self-explanatory
entity that evolves through a process of self-explanation; with respect
to ontology, there is no essential difference between self-configuration
and self-theorization. This means that as parts of reality, we are implicated
in the “self-explanation” of the universe. (Goodbye, “meaninglessness
From Brian: If evolution provides all things with the tools to survive,
relative to its environment, why does the human mind have the ability
to understand quantum physics? It seems that having our current beliefs
mankind may be correct on its path but, the path I believe is not the
correct one. I thought our potential for knowledge may be a fluke, a
byproduct of complex communication, but I'm not really sure.
Explaining the human potential for knowledge as a “byproduct of
complex communication” requires that one provide an explanation
for complex communication. Declining to do so on the supposed grounds
that “such an explanation need not exist because it would be meaningless”
amounts to a decidedly unscientific affirmation of acausality (science
is about finding explanations, not about making a priori decisions about
what is or is not “meaningless”). The first thing to notice
about complex communication is that it constitutes a fair description
of what the universe does in the course of evolving. For any two particles
of matter to interact, they must exchange information on state; that
way, they “know what to do” in order to satisfy the laws
of physics. Thus, explaining complex communication essentially amounts
to explaining the universe.
As explained in response to the last question, human beings can be characterized
as internal sensor-controllers in a “metacybernetic” system
called reality. Because these sensor-controllers are required components,
their evolution is a teleological imperative. Since the ability to acquire
and apply scientific knowledge is essential to this imperative, it too
is a teleological imperative. As such, it can be described as integral
to the purpose of evolution rather than as a mere “byproduct”
What practical or scientific applications do you see for your Cognitive-Theoretic
It explains cosmic expansion, it explains the generative phase of evolution,
and addresses many other problems too fundamental to be addressed by
other branches of science. As far as wringing practical applications
out of it is concerned...well, there'll be time for that later. I will
say, however, that it has a lot to say about "AI".
Since conscious development appears to be a bi-product of the need to
survive, how could an eternal being develop a conscious when no need
for one existed?
The need is built into the construct.
In other words, regression to an "initial state of reality"
produces a protean spatiotemporal construct forming the seed of consciousness.
Chris, when you speak of the role of sensor-controllers is "integral
to the purpose" you are suggesting that CTMU goes to being a normative,
rather than purely descriptive model, is this correct? If it is a normative
model, is this normativity global or local, and if locality holds, are
there local consequences to resistence to the evolution, beyond simply
dying locally and being discarded from subsequent generations of reality?
The CTMU covers reflexivity on the global and local levels. In fact,
it can be regarded as the "syntax" of the language in terms
of which both of these levels are expressed. Any resistance to this
syntax is ultimately futile, because the syntax merely re-forms around
the new state defined by the resistance.
From Chris Fox: I am currently knee-deep in an ongoing debate between
myself and another. I represent a pantheist point of view while the
other person represents the traditional separationist point of view.
Frankly, I need ammunition. Obviously, the CTMU would be of enormous
help, but what writing is on www.CTMU.org is limited. I need an explanation
of why God cannot be separate from His creation (as my adversary purports).
First, let me make it clear that since this question takes the existence
of a theological designer for granted, I will follow suit for the sake
of responding to it in the desired way. But this doesn’t mean
that I think such an important concept can simply be assumed.
Suppose that the cosmic designer were utterly separate from the physical
(or observable) universe. Then there would exist an absolute difference
relation between them. A difference relation, being a relation after
all, entails a relational medium containing the relation and the entities
thereby related. But then the relation and both of its elements are
expressions of this medium, and because they are expressions of a common
medium, they possess a common attribute, namely “inclusion in
the common medium”.
Indeed, the laws of this common medium are those that would be employed
in the creation process; even if that process amounts to a simple projection
of the designer’s will, the medium must support it. But since
the existence of a common attribute implies that the difference relation
is not absolute, the designer and its creation are not utterly separate
after all. Since the premise of utter separation generates a contradiction,
it is false. Therefore, the designer is not utterly separate from its
creation. On some level, the designer and the object of design are identical.
An extension of this reasoning implies that the designer properly includes
its creation (this is because the creator-creation relationship is not
just a difference relationship, but also a priority relationship). Moreover,
the nature of this inclusion relation is a distribution of the predicate
“designer” over the predicate “universe”. Note
that because this makes the designer distributive or “omnipresent”
with respect to the physical universe, it somewhat resembles pantheism.
However, whereas ordinary pantheism tends to neglect the existence of
a designer or reduce it to a kind of diffuse, passive, incoherent status,
this is inconsistent with the definition of “designer” as
a creative agency. The form of distribution implied by this explanation
imparts to the designer a certain degree of unity and coherence. In
fact, it helps impart to the designer a property that is semantically
indistinguishable from “intelligence”.
Do causation and purpose have a real existence in CTMU or are they constructs
imposed on the space by human observers?
No. As conceived by human observers, causation and purpose are merely
emergent forms of global versions of these predicates. The global level
of purpose is called Teleology. Teleology is actually a level of structure
of reality. Omitting it from explanations of reality would be the reality-theoretic
equivalent of mathematically omitting a subset of a set from its powerset.
what is the minimum entities required for the universe to exist
The universe comes into existence as an interplay of syntax and content.
Therefore, it requires a form that sets up a "feedback" between
these two poles. This is essentially a fundamental form of spacetime,
with syntax playing the role of law (or time) and content playing the
role of state (or space).
This form refines itself from a domain of null constraint called unbound
telesis or UBT.
I have read the term "Noeon" as coined and described by you.
I like it. Could you go beyond the definition of ' a quantum of knowledge'
and give an example of a noeon that both denotes and connotes the heart
of its 'mission'. Specifically, is it your desire that a 'noeon' occupy
a fundamentally reductionist role in the scheme of epistemology?
Essentially, "noeon" is a synonym for something called a "syntactic
operator". A syntactic operator is the fundamental entity in SCSPL
(self-configuring self-processing language). It can also be described
as "a quantum of infocognition" or self-transducing information.
Since the CTMU is an infocognitive monism, a "noeon" is a
From William: In the CTMU, you propose that the universe is a sentient
self-creative force, essentially a cosmic designer. Is it possible that
there may be more than one “designer”?
No, there is but one cosmic designer (assuming for now that one exists).
This can be shown by repeating the argument used to answer the last
question. This time, instead of asking whether the designing agency
can be utterly separate from its creation, we ask whether a first designer
A can be utterly separate from a hypothetical second designer B.
(...where the "last question" is the one asked by Chris Fox).
If so, then there exists an absolute difference relation between them,
and a difference relation requires a supporting medium containing the
relation and the entities thereby related. But then the relation and
both of its elements are expressions of this medium, and because they
are expressions of a common medium, they possess a common attribute,
namely “inclusion in the common medium”. Indeed, the laws
of this common medium are those that would be employed in the joint
design-creation process. But since the existence of a common attribute
implies that the difference relation is not absolute, designers A and
B are not utterly separate after all. Since the premise of utter separation
generates a contradiction, it is false. Therefore, A and B are at most
distinct manifestations of a single ultimate designer.
Does nonconsciousness exist? Is that question the same as the nonsensical
question: "Does nonexistence exist?"
Consciousness is a stratified predicate. Everything partakes of global
consciousness, but on the local level, incoherence results from stratification.
So the answer is yes and no. Regarding existence, it is defined on its
complement, namely "nonexistence". So if one exists, both
Chris, about AI. If AI exists within an isolated system, wouldn't this
be a universe of it's own, hence the carteasian dualism? And could you
use AI both in that sense and the practical use of it as a proof of
Computation theory is limited by its mechanical roots. In fact, it can
only come to be in a system that evolves by a more fundamental process
called "protocomputation". To develop the CTMU, protocomputation
As far as concerns the possibility of a stratified simulation in which
a universe is simulated within a universe... and so on, this may be
feasible...but to come up with a theory of reality, one must go directly
to the most basic level of the simulation. This level is by nature reflexive,
and in this sense, the universe can be described as a "self-simulation".
I sure hope I don't sound like a "Homer Simpson" to many but
do you think that it is possible that within this century, we would
be able to pierce that plank energy? In the one article you say that
Time Travel is possible
Well, I don't recall saying that time travel is possible. In fact, it's
limited by the fact that one can't travel through time any faster than
time creates the universe in the first place. As far as the Planck limit
is concerned, I assume you mean Heisenberg uncertainty. In the CTMU,
this is to be read "self-configurative freedom".
Is consious awareness space/time dependent? I was nearly sadly dissilushioned
to reach the opposite conclusion. Regression and progression are dependent
on a space/time continuum. Or am I guilty of violating the Plank Time
constraints about what it was like before the universe was created?
No, consciousness has an active, volitional dimension that transcends
deterministic space and time. Indeed, it participates iun the formation
of space and time...the mutual definition of syntax and state I mentioned
above. The self-configuration of the universe is a distributed process,
so human beings get to participate without violating the laws of nature.
What does CTMU say about the putative perfection, infinity, omnipotence,
omnipresence, and omniscience of the eternal designer?
The CTMU says that all predicates used to describe reality, including
those you mention, are definitionally coupled in what might be referred
to as a "closed descriptive manifold" through which reality
defines itself. Therefore, the designer is whatever it has to be in
order to do its job *by self-definition*.
Regarding the three O's, these correspond to three theoretical properties
possessed by the CTMU: comprehensiveness, closure and consistency. Since
the CTMU doubles as the extended logical syntax of reality, its theoretical
properties become properties of the universe itself.
Can a non-dominant brain imagery yield its propositional content, if
Clarify "non-dominant" please.
As opposed to the dominant brain.
You mean right hemisphere pictorial representations and so forth? Well,
patients with hemispherectomies can still convert their right-brain
imagery to logical propositions. And not everyone is left-brain dominant...at
least in some respects.
How can the 'talking brain' handle non-sentential propositions, eg,
The brain is a marvelous organ. It's also very, very complex. But I'll
be sure to let you know as soon as I'm able to answer this question...provided
you don't beat me to it!
I was wondering if you can give me your opinion on the accuracy of the
"Ultimate IQ Test"?
Never took it. But I'll be sure to give it a look.
Well, it looks like it is just about 8PM here in Princeton, NJ. ISCID
would like to thank Chris Langan for the thought provoking discussion.
If you would like to continue chatting after the event, feel free to
move over into the General Discussion room.
Thanks a lot Chris!
Thank you too, Micah! Great job moderating.
Thanks, everyone, for coming to the discussion! You can find more information
about the CTMU at Chris’s website: www.ctmu.org
by International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design August