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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Alien Mind

Recently there have been quite a few stories circulating about UFOs. Personally, I have a very open mind about the phenomenon of UFOs, and in large part this is based upon my own experience in witnessing unidentified flying objects in Australia about 17 years ago.(you can read it on page 46 of my book Extraordinary Mind: the first 50 pages can be downloaded here – click on the “download file at page centre, to the right of my photo).

Some particularly interesting footage has come out of South America, which seems to be a UFO hotspot.

However something sent to me by 22C+ member Karl Jacobs ( yesterday caught my attention. This coming weekend tmore han 100 of the world's leaders in business, politics, education, sports, entertainment, the environment and technology will be meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The subject matter: unusual ways to spark innovation, and subjects discussed will include UFOs and life in outer space. 

Nuclear physicist and UFO researcher Stanton Friedman expressed his thoughts about the conference.

"I think because they recognize that if you want to look for innovation, look for somebody who's way ahead of you… Even if UFOs and aliens weren't real, just thinking about it is a big thing, enlarging the scope of our thinking to include a larger part of the galactic neighborhood instead of the planet."     

The conference is being organised by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, whose goal is to bring together business leaders, politicians and intellectuals with a common interest in how competitiveness can be used to find solutions to global challenges.

Stanton Friedman added that he's:

"..convinced, after my work for major corporations as a nuclear physicist, that technological progress comes from doing things differently in an unpredictable way. The future is not an extrapolation of the past."

Astrophysicist/computer scientist Jacques Vallee will also be a key member attending the conference.  He is interested in discussing how UFO patterns can add to our knowledge of physics. He says: "Reviewing the UFO evidence requires us to examine our assumptions about how things work."

Personally, I believe that questioning our assumptions is the key to understanding things at a deeper level. It is the presuppositions which lie behind our thinking, including the assumptions within the models that we use to construct our thought processes, which hold us back from seeing things anew. I have long argued that the reason why consciousnesses is so poorly understood in modern science is because there is an implicit assumption that consciousness is a product of the brain, and is limited by the local infrastructure of the brain. My experience leads me to conclude that consciousness is merely mediated by the brain, and not limited by it.   

Notable is the following statement by astrophysicist/computer scientist Jacques Vallee, who will be a key panel member:

"I'm convinced there's a phenomenon there, that there is a technology… And I'm not kidding myself that we're going to discover a new form of propulsion tomorrow, just by looking at UFO patterns….These things are real and they do something we don't understand, but if we're clever in watching and understanding the patterns, maybe we can learn something about physics that we didn't know before."          

Vellee is correct. We do not need the hardware of alien technology to expand our thinking. As Einstein once famously noted, once a mind is expanded by a new idea, it never returns to its original size.

For many years Vallee has attempted to get UFO research taken seriously. He has faced a lot of resistance, but he believes that things have changed greatly. He now believes that UFOlogy “is a respectable subject."

 "Certainly, internationally, what I've found is that people who are informed and are aware of the phenomenon are much more willing to support people doing serious research on it."  

In my opinion, this is a central issue in the retention of an unbalanced mechanistic paradigm in mainstream science, especially biology. Many people are uninformed of domains of knowledge which lie beyond their worldviews, and are thus resistant to conceptions which lie beyond their maps of reality.

Regardless of whatever personal beliefs we have about UFOs or other domains of knowledge which might be considered anomalous in western cultures, one very useful way to put such domains to good use is to use them as a “provocation”. This is precisely what lateral thinking guru Edward de Bono recommends . He correctly points out that the mind is a self-organising system. The mind tends to slot ideas into pre-existing categories, and in doing so often fails to acknowledge anomalous data or identify patterns that do in fact exist.

In an upcoming volume of the Open Information Science Journal, I have used de Bono’s idea of provocation to encourage academics to explore my idea of Integrated Inquiry, which is a way of employing Integrated Intelligence during research. Using seemingly outlandish ideas as a provocation takes some of the heat out of their use, and those exploring such ideas do not have to necessarily profess a “belief” in them. Thiis takes a the pressure off the academic ego.   

Still, the existence of strange ideas does not guarantee innovative thinking, and one reason for this is that the ways of knowing employed often remain unchanged. As a perfect example, take one of the contributors in the comments section on the web page where the conference is outlined. The comment highlights a tremendous irony. On a web page devoted to innovative thinking, one poster “callendoudna” dismisses the possibility of the existence of interplanetary travel in the following way.

Hit a light pole at 5 miles an hour and you need to replace the fender. Hit it at 50 mph and you need to replace the car. You're the Captain of the SSSS Titanic (Solar System Star Ship Titanic) on Humanity's maiden voyage to the nearest star. You are cruising at 10% of the speed of light when the SSSSTitanic strikes a pebble the size of a pea and having a mass of 13 grams (half an ounce). Assuming only 10% of this 13 grams is converted to distructive energy the resulting blast would equal the atomic bomb that wiped out Hiroshima. So we're not going to travel to other stars anytime soon and they're not going to be in a big hurry to get here. Realistically you need to consider things like O'Neil Cylinders and Space Arks that travel no more than 1% of the speed of light and will take centuries to make the trip. 

The comment points to the limitations of analysis as a way of knowing. Analysis tends to be  rather uncreative, and certainly unimaginative. Analysis can be so focused upon breaking down arguments and facts that it misses the big picture - including questioning the background assumptions. Callendoudna’s logical argument reminds me of the sentiment’s expressed by a certain physicist (whose name escapes me) just before the turn of the twentieth century. He dismissed the possibility that a person could ever travel round the world in 24 hours or less. His reasoning? According to the laws of physics, no boat could ever cut through water at the speed required. Just a few years later the Wright brothers made the first airborne flight, and the rest is history.
What unexamined assumptions  have we made about space travel, UFOs and alien life?

It's worth pondering.

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