Quora Answer: What do I do with a theory of everything (TOE) that solves the hard problem of consciousness?

Oct 18 2014

Having a Theory of Everything is not unusual. Almost everyone who is anyone seems to have that. And what is the use of having a Theory of Everything if it does not cover the hard problems, like Life, Social, Consciousness because these are included in Everything. Unfortunately having a Theory of Everything is not enough. This is because theories are a dime a dozen. There are myriad theories available. The problem is to develop a theory that interacts in significant ways with the cutting edge of science. Most crackpot theories do not do that. And that is why they are for the most part ignored. Also they are ignored by academics if you are not an academic, because they don’t believe that someone who is not doing this full-time and is employed in the field actually can get in touch with the cutting edge of science. Even people who are full-time physicists at university have a hard time connecting in a significant way with the cutting edge of science, so how would anyone else do. Anyway that seems to be their reasoning when ignoring independent scholars.

I would argue of course that independent scholars are just as likely if not more likely to be able to connect significantly with the cutting edge of a given discipline or science in general. Why is this. One reason is over specialization within academia. Someone not forced to stick to one discipline is more likely given enough hard work across disciplines to see things that specialists cannot see. Another reason is that Independent scholars who are funding their own work are not tied to what grant committees think are important. Independent scholars just do their work on what fascinates them and may even have more time to dedicate to their subject than academics who are embroiled in the educational system. But on the other hand there are severe handicaps for the independent scholar. First of all if they are not teaching they are not going over and over the basics of their field on a regular basis. And if they are not attending conferences in their field then they don’t actually know what is going on in it. And they are unlikely to have colleagues in the field with whom they can discuss their ideas. So the independent scholar is unlikely to know what is going on in the field in a way that is continually updated and fresh in their minds. And so what is more likely is that they will have some idea of it from when they were studying at school which they continue to develop as they read further, but they are hopeless ly out of date without knowing it. From all this we can see that there are both plusses and minuses concerning the position of the independent scholars position toward their field.

What has changed of course is the internet. The role of the public scientist has been enhanced by the internet because it is possible for the independent scholar to publish their papers on the Internet without filtering by journal editors. But unfortunately a culture of serious conversation and deep consideration and debate of issues on the internet has not formed yet. So there is really no audience for the work of independent scholars among others who consider themselves public scientists. One of the major barriers is the fact that scientific papers are locked behind firewalls that most people do not have access to who are not part of a university. This is a huge barrier to scholarship. But even if open source journals take off the real problem is that outside of academia the public has not organized itself yet to act as a community of public scientists so that they can consider what Independent Scholars have come up with along with what is relevant produced in academia to help determine what is relevant and what is not relevant in our general search for meaningful contributions to the cutting edge of science. The point is that for the most part science has become so esoteric that most people cannot relate to it at all, less well come to terms with its cutting edge in a significant ways. Fundamentally, if you have not dedicated your life to it as an academic then you are unlikely to know enough to contribute. But on the other hand there are extraordinary people who exist in this world who break this general rule, but then those people do not have the channels to get their ideas out to others so that they can be seriously considered. In general the best way to get ones ideas out for others to consider is to attend conferences and give papers. The next way is to write articles for the core journals in your field. And of course there is always the path which is tried and true which is to write a book that explains your TOE to everyone. But the sad fact is that even if it is the next best then since sliced bread it is unlikely to attract attention either within the field of your choice or among the scientific public.

One reason is that many people are claiming what you are claiming. And for the most part they are wrong about the importance and significance of their work. And the chances are that you too are wrong. Science is about power relations rather than knowledge for the most part. Knowledge is a secondary concern. The institutions of Science, academia, have been set up to keep people like you out and to make sure you do not have an impact. Only special people who get grants and get positions in universities are considered worthy of trying to come up with something important in their fields. Of course, these roadblocks have been more of less rendered ineffective by the internet, but still because the scientific public has not organized itself to consider more than whatever comes out of academia as significant, it is unlikely that other theories not supported by the academic power structure will get considered outside of academia, and they are certainly not going to get considered inside of academia, as its whole raison d’être is to take care of its own.

Think of it this way. Your TOE is really your education. Buy developing it, if it really is any good, has been an educational journey. And that is worth while in itself regardless as to whether anyone else recognizes it. As independent scholars we really do have to be completely independent. In other words we are independent in as much as we fund our own studies. We are independent from the strictures of academia, which makes it possible to move across the lines of the specialties when those in academia are loth to do that because of the repercussions on their precious careers. We are independent in our assessment of what is the cutting edge of the discipline to which our work responds. And we should be independent of whether or not our work attracts attention or not. In other words it all gets back to motive. It is good to share what you can as you can of what you have done, if you think it is important to the field. But whether or not the field takes any notice should be irrelevant to you. Present your work at conferences, write some articles, publish a book on your work, and then move on to further research, further education. And if you continue to educate yourself you may find that what you thought was the ANSWER to EVERYTHING was in fact wrong and only interesting to you because of what you did not know at that time. And eventually you may discover an even deeper theory of everything, but then you will have the experience to know that this is probably not the ultimate in knowledge either.

Lets go back to Socrates. The Delphic Oracle said he was the wisest of men. So he went around questioning people who were deemed knowledgeable to find out why that might be so. What he found out was that his wisdom lay in the fact that he did not think he knew anything, while everyone else thought they knew. Having a Theory of Everything is tantamount to thinking you know something that others do not know. Something that gives you the right to pontificate and that should make others listen. But probably as with the various sophists and philosophers who Socrates questioned this is probably a self-generated illusion, and when it comes down to it, you probably need to go back to your studies and learn more and you just have not realized that is the best course yet. Who gets attention and who is ignored is not fair but is about the distribution of power more than it is about knowledge. So it may be that you really do have something important to say. In which case you should record the fact that you discovered what ever it is you think you have found which is so astounding, and then move on, getting on with your education, because guess what, you can spend a lifetime waiting to be recognized and never get recognized. So you need to think whether that is the reason you are doing what you are doing. Is it to get recognized or to gain knowledge. Gaining knowledge is endless. Even if you have a TOE you have not exhausted the depths of knowledge that is possible to have, and I suggest you fix your gaze on what you do not know and move on to those greener pastures, after you have made your mark in the sand by letting others know about your theory. This way when you find out what your TOE was not all you thought it might be, you will be less embarrassed because after learning more you will be the first to say what its defects are. And by identifying its defects first, you will earn more respect than if you had produced something and never realized what was wrong with it.

Knowing what we actually know is one of the hardest things to do. The best policy is to assume ignorance unless proved otherwise after much testing of your own ideas.

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