We have developed the notion that Life has two sides – material and immaterial. As they obey an entirely different set of mathematical laws, we have found it useful to refer to these two sides as separate, but interacting, realms of existence. Life’s interactive relationship with Information occurs in what we call the Attention Realm (or alternately the Imaginary Realm, due to its relationship to image-making).
Time in Life’s Immaterial Realm is based upon Attention’s iteration rate, i.e. the rate that we digest information. This rate is personal, elastic and context dependent. For instance, intoxication and emotions could have an effect.
The iteration rate’s frequency is directly proportional to awareness and the number of opportunities we have to monitor and adjust to circumstances. Increasing these factors, i.e. awareness and opportunities to choose, generally has a positive influence upon performance. As such, increasing our iteration rate benefits performance.
Frequency Up: Awareness & Choice Opportunities Up
Awareness & Choice Opportunities Up: Performance Up
Therefore Frequency Up: Performance Up
Due to this link with performance, it is beneficial to maximize our iteration rate, i.e. the rate that we digest information. We can’t control our iteration rate directly, but we can control the factors that influence it. Strong emotions exert a negative impact upon our iteration rate and hence performance. We can calm our emotions by aligning body, regulating breath, and quieting mind.
We have written many pages developing the notion that Living Behavior can best be understood as the interaction between the Realm of Attention and the Material Realm.1 The Material Realm is also based upon the interaction of realms, the Molecular and Subatomic Realms. These relationships are illustrated in the following equation-like sentences.
Molecular Realm x Subatomic Realm = Material Realm
Material Realm x Imaginary Realm = Living Realm
Scientists have a deep understanding of the mathematical laws that govern the two Material Realms. The Material Realms are deterministic. We have no control over this dualistic realm of physical existence. It is on automatic pilot.
We do, however, have a modicum of control over the Attention Realm. The Attention Realm is associated with awareness, information digestion, image-production and meaning-making. Consciousness and Choice are essential features of this realm of existence that is unique to living systems. Reiterating: the interaction between the Attention and Material Realms generates the Living Realm, the duality in which we exist.
What is the significance of this realm?
We are hapless victims of the inviolable mathematical laws of the Material Realms. However, we do have limited control over our behavior in the Attention Realm. We have the seemingly miraculously ability to choose between alternatives. These choices are far from neutral, potentially leading to our destruction, survival or elevation.
This potential for choice raises a host of questions. On the pragmatic level, what features can we manipulate to our advantage? How is this accomplished?
An architecture of dynamical constructs is one feature that joins the three realms of existence in a single set2. Time is a keystone construct of this dynamical architecture. Through a deeper understanding of time in this realm that is unique to living systems, we will better be able to focus Attention upon data streams that will enhance the possibility of fulfilling potentials.
To provide context, let us compare and contrast the nature of time in the three realms. Through this comparison, we will gain a deeper understanding of the Attention Realm. In turn, this understanding enables us to enhance our existence by taking better advantage of the innate nature of time in the Attention Realm.
Scientists have developed an equation that accurately predicts the logarithmic rate of Uranium’s radioactive decay. One of the assumptions behind this equation is that the passage of time is continuous and regular. Watches and computer time are based upon this principle. Because of the redundancy of the evidence, we assume that time is continuous and regular.
Yet this evidence only applies to our everyday Molecular Realm. We can envision an appropriately named space-time continuum existing on the exterior of the atom. This is where the ordinary stuff, molecules and matter, of existence lives.
This supposed ‘truth’ (continuous time) does not necessarily apply to the other mathematical Realms of Existence. It certainly does not apply to the Subatomic Realm (the interior of an atom), where space and time are quantized. Time is not even regular on the fringes of the Molecular Realm, but is instead distorted when velocities approach the speed of light.
What about the Realm of Attention? One of the assumptions behind the mathematical model that underlies the Imaginary Realm is that time is subjective, discretized, and elastic. This position is in direct conflict with the nature of time in the Molecular Realm.
Which notion of time is correct? The answer is Realm Dependent. An assumption could be true for one realm and false for another. While consistent in the Molecular Realm (matter), time is personal, irregular and subjective in the Attention Realm (information).
The question: ‘what is the true nature of time, either continuous or discretized?’ is misleading. The query is based upon the misconception that there is only one truth. Rather than unitary, truth, like time, is specific to/dependent upon the realm is applies to.
Rather than endlessly debating which position is true or false, the question should be: Which map best describes the territory? Which perspective works most effectively to describe and predict the behavior of the data set in question?
Some erroneously assume that all data sets can be encompassed by the mathematical laws of the Material Realms. If so, why are there a virtual infinity of data sets that material explanations can’t touch? Why are their fabulous mathematical intricacies impotent before living behavior? Could it be that another type of explanation is needed?
Again efficacy is realm or territory dependent. It is most effective to view time as regular, consistent and objective in the Material Realms. In contrast, it is more effective to view time as elastic and subjective in the Attention Realm.
This logical inconsistency is a necessary feature for completion. A logically consistent system is always incomplete. A complete description of reality demands paradox (Gödel). Our Polyverse3 consists of mutually exclusive, yet interacting, internally logical realms of existence. We must continue to demand internal consistency from the individual realms. Rather than complete logical consistency from the whole, we must simultaneously accept external inconsistency between the realms.
What is the nature of time in the Attention Realm? We mentioned that this immaterial realm of existence employs the same architecture of dynamical constructs as do the other realms. Time is foundational, a keystone, of this structure that binds the 3 realms in one set. How is the passage of time determined in this realm that is unique to living systems?
Simply speaking, Attention’s iteration rate. Iteration Rate?! “What the hell does that mean?” – you might be wondering – “And what does it have to do with Attention?” To understand the meaning of this seemingly abstruse concept, let us provide some background.
A lifetime of personal research into the relationship between data streams and living behavior led to our information digestion model. In brief, the model holds that Attention employs an image-overlay process to digest information, i.e. transform data streams into a form that is useful to living systems. The Living Algorithm (LA) is the mathematical realization of Attention’s digestive process.
In algebraic-like notation that we have developed elsewhere:
Attention’s Image-Overlay Process ≈ Living Algorithm’s Iterative Process
Due to this affinity, we can employ LA mathematics to better understand the rhythms of Attention. As the relationship is metaphoric (≈), the fit is not perfect – never is. The two systems (mathematical and living) have a significant difference that concerns us here. The LA’s iteration rate is an abstract constant, while Attention’s iteration rate is variable. This variability has highly significant consequences, as we shall soon see.
Let us reify Attention’s patented image overlay process – objectify the participants for ease of understanding and explication. As long as we don’t mistake the metaphor for reality, we will arrive at the same general conclusions. Rather than a mere descriptor of this natural process, we are going to pretend that the LA is the tool that Attention employs to digest data streams.
Put another way, Attention employs the Living Algorithm as a computational interface with the constant flow of data streams, sensory and otherwise. Besides a host of useful analytics, the LA’s mathematical system also provides the forms that govern and restrain Attention. These mathematical forms provide the restraints that are necessary for the emergence of complexity.
Attention via the LA digests data streams as discrete chunks (quanta). Scientific evidence provides partial support for this position. Although seemingly continuous, neural scientists have conclusively showed that Attention is discretized in micro-seconds4. Rather than a flow of consciousness, Attention comes in discrete bundles (quantized). Although the findings are relatively new, this factoid could be considered a scientific fact.
Under our model, Attention repeats the same mathematical algorithm (LA) over and over again (iterated). The LA’s iterative process gives rise to mathematical time in its dynamical system. Because Attention employs the LA’s computational talents to digest data streams, we suggest that this iterative process also provides our experiential sense of time in the Living Realm.
Our current model holds that our personal iteration rate provides both a sense of time and a means by which we can compute, at least subliminally, the amount of time that passes. Following is some circumstantial evidence that links Attention’s iteration rate with our time sense.
When we are fully anesthetized for an operation, we completely lose our sense of time. Upon regaining consciousness, we feel as if only a few instants have passed rather than hours. We experience neither pain signals nor a sense of time during this drugged state. Could this be because the anesthesia brings our iteration rate to a dead halt?
In contrast, most of us still sense the passage of time while sleeping, i.e. when Attention is turned off. Could this be because Life’s image overlay process continues digesting information, even without Attention to propel it?
If Living Algorithm’s iterative process indeed provides this temporal sense, then we continue to digest information as we slumber. Conversely, if the LA’s iteration process ceases under complete anesthesia, then we cease to digest information and still require sleep to digest the residual energy, the leftovers from our daily Experiences.
Could it be that Life’s image-overlay process (mathematized by the LA) does not require Attention? Do humans digest information continually, even while sleeping? The evidence derived from brain waves certainly supports this probability. Rather than resting as the body does, the human brain is highly active while we slumber.
These factoids suggest that: while sleeping, we continue to employ the LA’s image-overlay process to digest information. We continue to have a limited sense of time passing. Under anesthesia, we completely lose our sense of time. Could it be that anesthesia shuts down the LA’s info digestion process, along with our experience of pain?
Attention’s iteration process provides an opportunity for decision-making. Each repetition of LA’s computations also provides useful analytics. Mind evaluates these analytics to make decisions. Each iteration provides another possibility to monitor and then adjust. The more of these adjustment opportunities, the greater our chance of survival in a dynamic environment.
This connection between iterations and the potential for choice has significant ramifications when we consider the variability of the iteration rate. Iteration rate up: Choice possibility up; and vice versa. In other words there is a positive correlation between the opportunities for choice and our iteration rate.
Iteration Rate Up ≈ Choice Possibility Up
Iteration Rate Down ≈ Choice Possibility Down
Attention’s variable iteration rate is the prime source of temporal distortion in the Living Realm. On the micro level that scientists have tested, Attention’s iteration rate is fairly consistent overall. However, we suggest that this rate is much more irregular on the macro level on which we humans operate. We further believe that people even have a modicum of control over their iteration rate.
Due to its importance to the speed of our decision-making, let us consider the type of circumstances that might affect Attention’s iteration rate.
Continuing our speculations: Is it possible that Attention’s iteration rate varies amongst species? Could one of the differences between plants and animals be their iteration rate?
Plants, e.g. especially trees, seem to have a very slow iteration rate, perhaps orders of magnitude slower that animals. Why? Perhaps as sedentary creatures, there is no urgency to their response time. Plant survival does not require as many choices.
Plants could experience existence as if through a stop-frame camera that only takes a picture every fraction of an hour. The rate could be so slow that trees and other plants are not even aware of animals and insects as they move in and out of the plant’s sensory frame, except as a feature of the background. If these speculations are true, then the experience of time is much slower for plants than animals.
Due to their mobility, animals must make more choices in order to survive. Under this model, they would then require a higher iteration rate. Is it possible that a key feature in the evolution of animals was an increasingly higher iteration rate? Could it be that this rate even differentiates animals from one another?
Plants: Slower Iteration Rate -> Less Choices
Animals: Higher Iteration Rate -> More Choices
Evolutionary forces select for physical characteristics and physiological systems that optimize survival possibilities, whether of species, individual or genes. Besides physical characteristics, the above speculations imply that natural selection also chooses ways of optimizing Life’s information digestion system. In this case, evolution focuses upon Attention’s iteration rate.
This position, of course, violates the current Materialist Dogma, which claims that evolution only works upon matter and that there is no such thing as an information digestion system. Why? According to their unshakable paradigm, the Universe only consists of the interaction between matter and energy. Hence, no Choice, no Interaction with Information. Are their eyes open and their critical faculties operating?
It seems that a variety of factors could affect Attention’s iteration rate for humans. We will examine the potential effect of intoxication and emotions. Our ability to control these factors is related to our control over the rate at which we both digest information and make choices. Let me illustrate how these states can introduce potential irregularities into our sense of time via Attention’s computational process.
Intoxication could easily affect our iteration rate. Alcohol seems to slow the turnaround speed. Could this be why drunk driving is so dangerous? Due to the reduction in repetitions, the intoxicated driver does not have the same amount of available information – hence his over-confidence. In contrast, marijuana and/or psychedelics seem to accelerate our iteration rate. Because more information than usual is entering our consciousness, we might become confused or inspired.
We also suspect that emotions could affect our iteration rate. Strong emotions could slow down this rate, while relative emotional calm could speed it up, or at least allow it to reach its natural high. Because they evoke a more immediate, unmitigated response, strong emotional states don’t require the extra information that a quicker iteration rate provides. Associated with holistic monitoring, the relaxed state benefits from the increased info that a quicker iteration rate provides.
Here is a real-life example of how humans attempt to take advantage of this understanding. As a strategy, martial artists and/or athletes frequently taunt their opponents in the attempt to ignite their anger. The idea is that emotional arousal slows down response time. Could this be because anger slows down our iteration rate, making us less aware and hence more vulnerable?
Attention’s iteration rate could also have a huge effect upon the quality of our performance, whether musical, theatrical, dance or athletic. Anything with a sense of urgency – split-second timing – would benefit from an awareness of smaller and smaller subintervals. Paying attention to subintervals is of utmost importance as it frequently determines the difference between mere notes and music – between technique and art – also between losing and winning.
Indeed, one task of the teacher is to increase the student’s awareness of smaller and smaller time increments, i.e. increasing the iteration rate – more frames per second. Tom, my organ teacher, accomplishes this feat by focusing my Attention upon minute details of the music that I had been previously unaware of. Rather than anal, these subintervals allow the notes to become music – nuancing the half notes – leaning on significant sounds and imperceptibly shortening less important ones.
Training and practice certainly enhances our performance (by increasing our iteration rate?) Further, teachers regularly counsel the performer to remain calm. Could this emotional tranquility enhance or at least not harm our iteration rate?
The control we can exert over our iteration rate is oblique. It is not like a muscle that we flex to extend our arm. Intentionally trying to increase our iteration rate seems to slow it down. Rather than command, we must instead provide a welcoming environment. To increase our turn-around-time, we must instead seek to calm our emotions. Internally quiet, Attention’s rate naturally rises and with it our key potential for choice.
Music provides a great example. When relaxed, we have a greater awareness of each note and phrase. When tense, our awareness of fingers, notes and phrases falls dramatically. Significance? When tension diminishes Attention’s iteration rate, our awareness is diminished and our performance suffers. On the other hand, a relaxed internal state augments our iteration rate, which benefits performance
It seems as if Attention’s iteration rate is out of our direct control. We can’t exert deliberate control over this frequency as if it were a muscle. However we can exert indirect control by calming our emotions. It seems that emotional tension reduces our iteration rate, which reduces awareness and performance. Tension decreases Attention’s Iteration Rate and Relaxation increases it.
How do we calm our emotions to increase our awareness? According to the Nei-yeh, an ancient Chinese self-cultivation manual, three processes calm our emotions: body alignment, breath awareness, and mental quietude. Through these deliberate processes we can relax our mind, which increases our iteration rate, which enhances awareness, which augments performance.
How does Attention’s elastic sense of time mesh with the objective time of the material world? Is there any interaction between the two notions of time? If so, what does the interaction consist of? How do the Realms of Existence interact temporally?
The Material Realms behave deterministically. Time has no wiggle room. Real time marches on with an inviolable regularity. In contrast, our sense of time in the Realm of Attention speeds up and slows downs depending upon circumstances.
A variable iteration rate enables us to both conserve energy and better adjust to a dynamic environment. Tied to our sense of time, this variation also distorts our personal sense of time. After an intense experience, e.g. intoxication, anesthesia, fear, anger or ecstasy, we must reset our system – readjust our internal clock – to better align with the material world. How do we achieve this?
To attune our Attention Realm with Material Reality, we align our personal and subjective sense of time with objective material time. To assist this alignment process, Life has always had natural clues, such as the day-night cycle and even the seasonal cycle. In modern times, we have clocks, watches and digital devices to reinforce and augment this alignment of subjective time in our inner Imaginary (Attention) Realm with the objective time of the external Material Realms.
Which is version of time is most important? It is easy to confidently assert that objective material time is real, while subjective mental time is imaginary. While this statement has a high truth quotient, it neglects and obscures a key possibility. What if our imaginary time exerts a significant effect upon the real?
Indeed this notion is both a central feature of existence and a key assumption of our Information Digestion Model. To be more precise, the Realm of Attention is based in images – the constant generation of images – one overlaid upon the previous in endless succession. Rather than supplanting, the current image merges with a composite generated from past images. After enough iterations, these overlays, i.e. the composite image (the data stream’s content), achieves a type of reality. (Mathematically, the data stream’s density approaches 100%). Our Feelings assign value to the data stream’s content. This value is the basis of meaning.
Due to the crucial importance of imagery and image-making in this realm, we also call it the Imaginary Realm5. It is merely another name for the Realm of Attention. As mentioned, this immaterial realm that is exclusive to living systems includes choice and intentionality. These choices enable living systems to better navigate the limits of the material realm in order to fulfill potentials including survival. In such a way, the Imaginary Realm influences the Material Realms – the imaginary influences the real.
Due to this significant and intimate connection, the elastic and subjective time of the Imaginary Realm influences choices that affect the Material Realm. These interactions are not trivial. For instance, a drunk driver with his slowed, thereby compromised, iteration rate could run into a pedestrian. Or a singer with her maximized iteration rate is able to awe us with her artistic expression.
Subjective Mental Time x Objective Material Time = Living Reality
The elastic time of our Mind cannot be ignored if we want a complete description of reality. Subjective mental time interacts with objective material time to generate our living reality. True in one realm and false in the other. Our Polyverse requires multiple, potentially contradictory, even paradoxical, versions of time for completion. Let us provide a relevant example.
Material explanations of reality will always fall short when it comes to the Attention that is exclusive to living systems. The Realm of Attention and the Material Realms are shaped and described by an entirely set of mathematical laws. The mathematical laws of the Material Realms have very little, if anything, to say about the Attention Realm that is such an important feature of human existence. No Explanatory Power.
For example, material mathematical models have nothing to say about how to maximize the possibility of Inspiration. In contrast, LA’s mathematical system, Data Stream Dynamics (DSD), was actually developed to address this key feature of existence. Sustained, uninterrupted Attention is required to maximize the potentials of a creative session. Put another way, the underlying logic of DS Dynamics has a high degree of symmetry with the underlying logic of inspiration, while material logic has a low degree of symmetry.
DS Dynamics ≈ Inspiration ≠ Material Mathematics
The current article suggests yet another technique for maximizing the potentials (the inspiration) of a creative session. Attention’s iteration rate is linked with Awareness. Awareness is linked with Inspiration. Mental Relaxation enhances Attention’s frequency. Cultivate a relaxed state to maximize Awareness, which increases the potential for Inspiration.
Relaxation maximizes -> Iteration Rate -> Awareness -> Inspiration
A similar system of dynamics describes each realm. Time is a keystone construct in any system based in changes. The nature of time is realm dependent. Contradictory versions of time are required for a more complete description of reality.
These supposedly competing versions of the nature of time provide explanatory power for important features of existence. If these paradoxical statements regarding time have efficacy in our day-to-day lives, they have value. Conversely, if any assumption, no matter how seemingly true, has neither efficacy nor explanatory power, it is relatively worthless.
An understanding of the Attention Realm with its flexible and subjective sense of time assists us to navigate the Material Realm. It provides an effective map to negotiate the territory. For instance, calming emotions maximizes awareness by increasing our iteration rate, which is linked to our subjective sense of time. Efficacy determines value and significance.
There is yet another significant difference between time in the Material Realms and the Imaginary Realm that is exclusive to living systems. Time in our physical universe is linear, while time in our Living Realm of existence can have a cyclical and even spiral nature. For details, check out the next article.
4 The Rhythm of Perception, Hickok, Farahbod & Saberi. 2015.
5 We have chosen the term ‘Attention’ for the realm of existence that is unique to living systems. Other terms such Intention, Information, or even Imaginary are equally appropriate as names for this realm. We ultimately chose Attention because of the primacy of awareness for Life. Yet Intention and Information were equal contenders as they are also crucial components of the Attention synergy that distinguishes Life from Matter.
Due to a variety of factors, perhaps a mixture of boredom, fun and rebelliousness, we sometimes refer to the Realm of Attention as the Imaginary Realm. Why? On the somewhat humorous level, the Attention Realm is imaginary/virtual until it interacts with the Molecular Realm. This Imaginary realm is also the product of the imagination, as is everything else. More technically, The Attention Synergy employs an image-overlay process to digest information. Anyway, there are lots of reasons for choosing this name, but it missed the cut.