An informal case for the wave computing hypothesis

Posted on 20 February 2023 by Cube Flipper

In my previous post, I described what I saw during a period of time I spent experimenting with DMT. At moderate doses, DMT increases the symmetry of three-dimensional objects volumetrically:

It thrives in an artificial environment, if sufficiently vibrant. Flat surfaces appear smoothed over, sometimes tiled with their own textures, while three dimensional objects conform to a global gestalt – as if aligned to a grid by an invisible carpenter with set square and ruler.

As I increase the dose, this normalisation process becomes more extreme, decimating geometry until the dimensions of objects begin to snap to small integer aspect ratios. Let’s say you apprehend a flatscreen television with an aspect ratio of 16:9 – perhaps it will adjust its shape to fit an aspect ratio of 2:1.

It was during this time that I found myself reading the Steven Lehar paper, The Constructive Aspect of Visual Perception, which describes how a feature-agnostic, symmetry-maximising process of visual reification could explain how our brains construct a volumetric world simulation from visual stimuli.

I quickly related what I was reading to what I’d been seeing, recognising the increased symmetry I observed as representative of a turbocharged version of visual reification, perhaps revealing how it operates under extreme conditions. Of course, this is all very subjective, but I found this to be sufficiently consistent across such a wide variety of stimuli and settings that I came away quite convinced that there’s something there – something which warrants further, more empirical investigation.

I have since published my own summary of the paper, covering visual reification as well as the non-linear wave computing theory proposed by Andrés Gómez Emilsson. These theories both describe the dynamics of our subjective experience, and both depend upon our subjective experience being embedded in a continuous, field-like substrate.

One such candidate substrate would be the electromagnetic fields around our neurons. I had a few computationalist friends raise objections to this idea, preferring to identify our subjective experience with the neurons themselves.

I’d like to call upon another phenomenon to make the case for a field-like substrate. From Andrés’ video, Are Higher Dimensions Real? From Numerology to Precision Xenovalence:

One of the key effects of something like DMT is that the resolution you have in your visual field at the fovea actually propagates to the rest of the experience.

I can replicate this phenomenon quite reliably. I have gazed out over the East Bay skyline as the redwoods and city grid tessellated themselves far outside my fovea, a vision of uniform urban planning rendered at high resolution from Oakland in the south to Berkeley in the north. I did this several mornings in a row.

This photograph, taken on an iPhone camera with a 70° field of view, is representative of the visual angle I saw covered by this phenomenon.

The PsychonautWiki page for symmetrical texture repetition has a handful of representative examples of what this phenomenon can look like.

You might not notice it, but the human fovea only covers about a 2° field of view, with acuity declining hyperbolically towards the periphery. Approximation in Photoshop.

The connection from the retina to the visual cortex – the retinotopy – undergoes a log-polar transform. This is so that a larger amount of cortical surface – and neurons – can be devoted to the fovea, with progressively smaller areas used for the near, mid, and far peripheral vision. This is also known as cortical magnification.

If the origin of the repeating texture phenomenon was in the neuronal substrate, I would expect the texture to increase in size or decrease in resolution as it spreads outside the fovea. This is not the case. Instead, it maintains its subjective size and resolution as it spreads. It is difficult to imagine how a variable fidelity neuronal substrate could give rise to a constant fidelity phenomenon like this, especially when the observed resolution exceeds typical bounds. The only explanation I am aware of is that our visual qualia reside in a continuous, field-like substrate of some description, and that this phenomenon is some kind of standing wave in those phenomenal fields.

I expect this subjective claim to be unsatisfying for the skeptical reader. Mostly I’d like to know whether or not other people see the same things as I do. If you have this kind of experience with DMT, don’t be a stranger – I’d love to hear from you via email or Twitter.