CONSCIOUSNESS

EVERY MAN, WOMAN and child on earth is completely individual. We may share characteristics that are physical – skin, eye, hair colour, shape of features (racial, coincidence, breeding). We may share cultural, educational, and linguistic similarities and so on ad infinitum, but the odds against any single person being identical to anyone else are impossibly large. The same goes for virtually every living, breathing thing on earth, animal or vegetable. The same goes for all inorganic substances – take every snowflake that ever fell or will fall. It is reliably claimed that no two are ever the same. The same applies to every crystal form known to mankind.

Mathematicians and Physicists worldwide still seek The Theory of Everything as if life on earth depended on an answer. Reputations certainly seem to. The man most frequently identified with this search is one of the most revered academics in the world, whose name springs to everyone’s lips every time the subject is mentioned – Stephen Hawking. For many reasons, not least the superiority of his brainpower, SH is a man worthy of huge respect. Most people know him from his characteristic computer-synthesised voice issuing from the apparatus on his withered, wheelchair-bound frame. They know him as the man who, through sheer determination, has defeated a terrible wasting disease and gone on to excel far beyond the prognostications of eminent doctors, all of whom expected him to be dead long since. For his survival alone he deserves our respect; like all human beings he has his faults that have been pitilessly and frankly revealed to the world.

A mid-twentieth century philosopher Kurt Gödel postulated, basing his theory on the Liar Paradox, that no Theory of Everything (or anything) can possibly be proven – ever. It will always remain a hypothesis, since – like everything else in the universe – truth is relative. Now even Professor Hawking says that ToE doesn’t exist. His latest cooperative publication proposes five complementary theories to explain how the world works. That said for what it’s worth, even if it were provable, what benefit could it possibly bring us that scientists cannot eventually achieve following well-established (and almost exponentially advancing) technology and scientific principles?

Fantasy writers would have us believe that time travel is a desirable aim, that the ability to launch ourselves into the depths of the universe at ‘warp’ speed, many times the speed of light, is a realistically achievable aim. They – we – dream of being able to teleport ourselves from place to place but it can only ever be a dream. It has been proven beyond doubt that individual subatomic particles can indeed be transported from place to place over very small distances (centimetres, if not millimetres). Even such less than mind-blowing feats require huge amounts of electrical energy to perform. To replicate such ‘teleportation’ of any visible, single-element object, let alone a whole human being, would require impossibly large amounts of energy and a suspension of all laws of probability.

No, we have to be content in the knowledge that we aren’t and never will be gods, who perform miracles at the wave of our hands, however well we may ever come to ‘understanding’ the laws of physics and advanced quantum mechanics. Better and cleverer men than I can explain why with great clarity and authority.* We have our dreams, our adult fairy stories otherwise known as science fiction.

A recent discovery in experimental psychology has shown that it is possible to expand the brain’s power to use telepathy, a gift pooh-poohed by most conventional psychologists and psychiatrists who consider it to be a brain function deep in the backwater of parapsychology, the realm of shamans, wizards and witches, to say nothing of confidence tricksters. Having recently written a sci-fi trilogy on the subject of the discovery of the ‘reality’ of parapsychological powers, using equipment not very far removed from that used by the real-life scientists in their latest experiments, I feel somewhat vindicated, although the real research team have got a long way to go to catch up with mine.

Developing my theme, I delved in to the far reaches of parapsychology, exploring the benefits that could be achieved if psychokinesis could be added to telepathy, giving ‘adepts’ in the practice of these powers the ability to harness them for the good of others. My researchers, benefiting from the luxury of unlimited electrical energy available from nuclear fusion and the use of artificial general intelligence controlled quantum supercomputers discover how mankind can use the powers once used by ancient priesthoods to manipulate the lives of the people they controlled through their physically rich and powerful leaders.

In their exploration of these fascinating powers my fictional research team realises how easy it would be to use them for evil purposes as well as good. They go to great lengths to ensure that what they discover can never be harnessed by the underworld. However, on the way they find that even they are not totally free from the temptation to misuse their powers, especially when they find that their ability to combine telepathy and psychokinesis gives them – amongst other things – the power to transport themselves in avatar form wherever they will.

This is, of course, the long-claimed power of the shaman/witchdoctor and any other practitioner of parapsychological powers you can think of down through the ages. It is the stuff of fairytales, including sci-fi ones such as Star Trek and its many imitators, and may even be behind the recent research designed to prove that it is possible to remove matter from one place and make it rematerialise in another, using the known laws of physics.

It is probably the case that self-proclaimed shamans self-hypnotise themselves into a trance-like state and ‘fly’ in their imaginations, awakening with tales of their fantasy travels, invisible to the eyes of the peoples they visit. The usefulness of such abilities has obvious limitations.

The Star trek version of teleportation envisages physical objects, including human beings, being transported lock stock and barrel from place to place, i.e. removing them completely from A and depositing them unchanged at B, complete with all their existing faculties. By contrast, my sci-fi version of moving from place to place using only the powers of the mind has the limitation that the body stays put, while the mind travels in avatar form. The ‘host’ body, like the shaman’s, remains discoverable and therefore vulnerable. It is not a power that can be used to escape from real life disaster situations. Once ‘out-of-body’ the avatar is, however, able to escape from danger by returning to its host body, hopefully safely concealed on home territory.

Perhaps there is more scope for scientific achievement in the field of parapsychology than there is in the (to the layman) equally fantasy realms of quantum mechanics and the transience and dubious usefulness of bosons and weird and wonderful energy fields that hold the atoms and molecules of all things together – unless scientists really are searching for the alchemists’ dream of turning lead into gold (possible, even if the cost is prohibitive).