Shamanism in the Age of Reason : Chapter 09
Information Genesis and Complexity
The emergence of new information over time was the obsession of psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna, and he popularized the term Novelty Theory to describe the phenomenon of increasing information complexity in the universe through time. In order to graph the emergence of novelty through time, McKenna created an occult formula based on the hexagrams of the I Ching and charted a jagged line that starts at zero and tops out at infinity; what he called Timewave Zero. McKenna’s observation that novelty appeared to be speeding up led him to believe that time was approaching a singularity in which all information tops out at infinity, set to occur on December 12, 2012.1 McKenna’s observations about novelty speeding up were essentially correct, and many people have adopted McKenna’s 2012 meme, but the construction of McKenna’s Timewave and other aspects of his 2012 prophecy have left many unconvinced.
Psychedelic Information Theory approaches novelty and information genesis from a different perspective than McKenna. McKenna viewed novelty as a trend line that begins with the start of the universe and speeds forward from zero until infinity, which is accurate but is also misleading at the same time. McKenna also does not differentiate between types of information and the contexts in which new information emerges; this is also a problem. By blending all information together into a single trend line it would appear that novelty is speeding up and will soon top out at infinity, but this trend line flattens out if you consider that information exists in various states, and that each state generates information at a more or less constant rate depending on state energy density.
To illustrate the fundamentals of energy density and information complexity I have created a table that delineates the emergence of quantum levels of information systems over time, and the type of information each system generates. (Fig 1.)
Since information is created by state change over time, I have used the symbol Δ (delta, as in delta-one, delta-two, etc.) to denote stages of information creation. Each stage in the matrix represents a quantum leap in the order of energy density and complexity of information being generated, and novelty creation in the universe accelerates with each of these quantum leaps. Each stage relies on the information created in the previous state to move forward with increasing physical density and complexity. This model takes into account the Big Bang theory and the best guesses of modern astrophysics and cosmology as to when each new information level emerged, but the story of information genesis in the universe goes something like this.
Starting at Δ0 we have the pre- Big Bang singularity where all information is condensed into a single infinitely small point. There is no state change over time, so there is no information in this state. Around fifteen billion years ago there was a Δ1 state change we call the Big Bang, in which the uniform singularity breaks into the fundamental forces of physics; strong nuclear force, electromagnetism, and gravity. At this stage God says “Let there be light,” and we have the emergence cosmic radiation and nuclear fusion which allows subatomic particles to form, leading to a Δ2 state change where simple hydrogen and helium atoms can stabilize; the first matter created from particles of energy. The gravity drag on this new mass allowed a Δ3 state change where globular clouds of gasses gather and then collapsed inward, creating spinning galaxies of exploding stars fueled by nuclear fusion. When stars begin to exhaust their energy and collapse inward there is a Δ4 state change that allows for the creation of all the denser elements on the periodic table that can store more cosmic energy within a single point, or an atomic nucleus, which is comprised of particles of condensed energy.
The Δ4 state represents the galactic preconditions necessary for life as we know it – the “firmament” – and in order to create the dense elements needed for life you need the fundamental forces of physics (Δ1), an energy radiation source (Δ2), the formation of simple gasses (Δ3), and billions of years of nuclear fusion (Δ4). At each stage you have a modest increase in the complexity of physical interactions which allows for new information genesis, but at the Δ4 stage following star collapses and supernovae we finally have the raw materials for terrestrial formation, heavy metals. A glob of heavy metal orbited our local star (the sun) and cooled to form a solid planet. As our planet cooled liquid water formed on the surface and oxidized the metal on the outer crust, creating the nutrient-rich salt-water conditions for a Δ5 stage change in the formation of complex molecules held together on strands of charged hydrocarbons, the beginning of life.
The Δ0 to Δ4 information states are pre-organic and are therefore only interesting to physicists, astrophysicists, and mathematicians, but the Δ5 information matrix is the matrix that chemists and microbiologists study; it is the study of the conditions in which energy is stored and released in molecular bonds. When shamen and mystics tap into the web of life and the primal force that connects all living things, they are tapping into the Δ5 information matrix, which is sometimes described as an invisible electromagnetic field which permeates all creation, or the invisible landscape. The visual representation of this living energy field is most acute under the influence of tryptamine hallucinogens such as psilocybin and ayahuasca (DMT), and the source of this field is often perceived to be divine in origin, leading to many interesting speculations about spirit realms, Akashic fields, morphogenetic fields, and the like. Whether or not tryptamine visions are accurate representations of the electromagnetic spectrum is a matter for some debate, but the overwhelming number of subjective accounts make the appearance of this field difficult to deny.
The Δ5 matrix is the matrix which sustains our life; it is at work in our cellular functioning and metabolism right now. The Δ5 matrix allows for the creation of new information at a rate that far exceeds previous information stages, and information genesis at this stage happens at the level of nucleotides, DNA, RNA, enzymes, and the organic chemistry of replication, mutation, and Darwinian selection. Life excels at taking inert matter and organizing it into more complex forms, and in a few billion years life evolves from single-celled organisms to complex animals, representing a Δ6 state change that allows for the development of motor nervous systems and rudimentary organism consciousness. The Δ6 matrix relies on the Δ5 organism matrix for cellular energy and nutritional support, but it represents a state change in that information stored in the Δ6 matrix is neural, connective, and allows for internal storage of external state properties (or memory) at the organism level. The same connective neural network needed to control muscle behavior while navigating the external world is adapted to store memories of the external world for later use, and this internal neural storage increases organic information complexity from simple cellular organization into connective representational and symbolic logic.
The Δ6 state change marks the most important quantum leap in the entire information chain because at Δ6 organisms begin to internalize external data into personal connective networks. With the development of subjective animal consciousness the universe begins to map properties of the physical world (objective information) into connective logic stored in brains (subjective memory). Information in the Δ6 state flows intuitively through animals in the alpha state, the tribe mind, the hive mind, and the fluid pack. The Δ6 information matrix is semiconscious, instinctual, and routine; it is where nonverbal intuition, habitual behavior, and psychic bonding occur.
After hundreds of millions of years of animal life there is another state change brought about by evolution and morphology, the early primate adaptation of the fine finger dexterity needed to use tools. The ability for an organism to incorporate an external tool (like a rock or a stick) and a specialized skill (like throwing or pounding) into daily behavior heralded the age of technology, and with the Δ7 state change came corresponding shift in the speed and complexity of technological information which continues to this day. From sticks to fire to wheels and alphabets and machines and computers, hominids have excelled at incorporating information into their brains, rearranging it, and using it to externalize new information and technologies. The story of Δ7 information genesis is the story of human culture itself, the organized spread and control of information through hominid tribal groups leading to power, civilization, empire, and industry.
The Δ7 information matrix represents another quantum leap in information genesis, storage, and transmission. The logic networks created by internalizing external reality in the Δ6 matrix are now used to create new information which is externalized in the form of technology, language, art, media, and invention. The Δ7 information state is the realm of language, logic, critical thinking, science, and rational analysis. Modern culture cherishes the Δ7 information space above all others, this is the space where the tools of mythology, religion, politics, and society emerge. The Δ7 information space occupies an ego-driven, distracted, beta state of critical self-awareness. Like charged particles seeking to find electromagnetic balance, the human in the Δ7 state will seek to correct or improve perceived problems with external reality via subjectively controlled ingenuity. Total mastery over the subjective manipulation of matter and energy is the ultimate goal of the Δ7 information state, the state we humans have almost perfected. Now that we have the internet, supercolliders, nanotech, and atomic bombs, all of these technologies seem to herald another quantum information state change in the near future.
The Singularity and Post-Technological Matrices
The Δ8 information state can be called the post-technology state, and much like McKenna’s Timewave Zero, the technological Δ7 information matrix must eventually top out with the end of science and the complete integration of all physical forces into human technology. Though it is currently impossible to imagine what a Δ8 information space might be like, subjective control over the very fabric of space and time may become possible, allowing something like personal access to space travel, time travel, alternate time streams, and/or parallel dimensions. From the perspective of a Δ7 information state a Δ8 state change would look like subjective human information topping out at infinity; Δ8 consciousness will have instant access to everything there is to know about the entire universe and beyond. I believe this Δ8 state transition is what McKenna perceived in his novelty wave as the end of information.
If we are to follow the permutations of information complexity so far, it is logical to assume that the technology created in the Δ7 matrix will directly contribute to the fundamental state variables needed for a Δ8 state change. This can be interpreted to mean that machine code is the next level of information energy density and computers will drive complexity and information genesis into the Δ8 state. Perhaps this transition is already underway and is approaching what is popularly called the singularity, but in a few hundred thousand years it is conceivable that the infestation of machine intelligence throughout the universe may be ubiquitous, and they will have rightly incorporated biology, neurons, connective memory, digital storage, quantum possessors, and everything else we have achieved in our matrix into their matrix.
Shamanism and Information Matrices
When a shaman enters the trance state and searches for new information there are specific levels of knowledge which are more helpful than others. For instance, when entering group mind with the tribe, the shaman will want to access a pre-technology Δ6 information matrix where primal animal consciousness, non-verbal communication, and pack bonding instincts are strongest. If the shaman wants to commune with plant intelligence he will enter into a Δ5 matrix of cellular metabolism and genetic expression; this is also where the shaman will diagnose disease and attempt healing by visualizing and diverting the flow of metabolic energy through the patient’s cells with bodywork and sound. Some shaman may also commune with the more cosmic levels of awareness, but shamanism is essentially a Δ7 technology used by Δ6 organisms to access information available in Δ0-5 matrices; information which is always there but is normally invisible or beyond the limits of human perception.
 McKenna T, 'The Invisible Landscape'. Harper, San Francisco, 1993.
Citation: Kent, James L. Psychedelic Information Theory: Shamanism in the Age of Reason, Chapter 09, 'Information Genesis and Complexity'. PIT Press, Seattle, 2010.
Copyright: © James L. Kent, 2010. Some Rights Reserved. Please read copyright information before reproducing.