The radio metaphor explanation in the description of Reality and subjectivity

Apparently, we are all different kind of people who get born and die. However, it would be more logical to think that we are all only one being who lives forever. Let´s see the radio metaphor.

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In the 80s and through the BBS (before the internet) I run into a document that seemed to have been written by a madman. Among other things -and the author insisted on it- because the size was 5 MB (really too much for the time, when almost everything was only Bytes or Kilobytes size). The text was an obsessive essay about the reality where he described human beings as “silly terminals” of a huge computer, who tuned into another reality or Being, the same way that a radio receiver tunes to a radio station. Sadly I didn´t keep it or lost it. Recently I have run into the same metaphor in the interview to Doctor Pim van Lommel called “When you die you only change your conscience”.

Although I find many important incoherences in this metaphor (incoherences? it’s a metaphor! How could it be coherent?) it has a symbolic language very compatible with the way that most people perceive some aspects of reality to explain how others could be.

The metaphor will be very useful to express the answer to the mind-body problem, althouth this expression is very ambigouos.

Let´s say the question is “when and how a material body becomes a mind with a point of view?”, in other words, does the human brain get some degree of complexity which produces subjectivity? Did subjectivity preexist and complexity allows us to reach it?And (this is the top-seller part) if it preexisted, isn´t it true and reasonable that after death mind may still alive?

Once again I try to use the common terminology, although it may look ambigouos. On one hand, we usually say “human mind” when we should say “animal mind” or “person mind” (if animals are included). On the other hand, we speak of mind when it´s more accurate saying “subjectivity”, “point of view”, “me”, “sensitivity”… and leaving “mind” to describe personality: the way of thinking, memories…

Anyhow, the radio metaphor help us to understand how some pieces (matter) combine forming an object (“the radio” or human body with the brain) that has a magical and extraordinary aspect (the sound of the radio) which seems to give the object its own supernatural life.

Our minds are then radio receivers capable to connect some “station”, that´s all. The mind, as the radio-receiver, does generate nothing new, but connects to something that preexisted.

This way the magical part of human beings -not people but animals- consists of connecting with a station which will be heard at different levels depending on the personal complexion (which produces different or apparently different points of view).

There is a curious aspect in the metaphor, is there an only station and the visible differences between receivers are due to the different ways a radio-receiver may be built, or are there different stations? These two alternatives are called E2 and E1 in the “Map of existential alternatives to the sentient experience” that I created.

The radio metaphor uses the popular and intuitive prejudice that sound has some magical or immaterial (not visible) part and that if we hear a voice there must be someone behind. This analogy has big qualities to communicate “the reality as it could be” and to suggest an answer to a mind-body problem much more coherent than the intuitive one.

Sentient beings (people) have at least four parts or levels of description. On the one hand, we are matter (body), an atomic and very complex structure. Nothing else. On the other hand, we are mind, in the sense that we have an inner logic, some kind of thinking processes, an opinion or way of thinking (algorithm) and memories (data) and together they produce apparently free and creative behaviors. So far computers are both things (matter and mind -they “think” and seem to have an opinion-)

Thirdly, we are a continuous emotions, feelings and senses flow, not only as information but as a subjective experience. I mean that we have constant pleasure and pain feelings, that are positive and negative subjective experiences.

Finally we are a subjectivity or a point of view. We are “somebody” who experiments those feelings and due to that has an incentive (interests, wishes, yearnings, intentions) and uses his mind (matter) to solve problems.

In the radio metaphor, the two first levels of description are covering the receiver. The radio is made of matter but has a stuctural combination (with some complexity) that allows it to connect to something that gives it the magical touch (the feelings). Matter is a mind that at the same time is able to connect to another thing (the transmitter).

That something is (or may be) unique (“The Being” or transmitter). That something doesn´t need to have a great variety in order to see a multiplicity in the radio-receivers, because the big and small differences in the receivers construction, the different places they are located and its aerials orientation will make they behave as different “people”.

Metaphor disaster is when it´s used to show that eternal life exists and that after death we will find our loved ones. It could be totally true or false depending of the point of view.

In my opinion the self doesn´t die when body does, but life after death is not at all like life before death, because we won´t keep our body and mind, our personality or memories.

We will only keep the subjectivity, the point of view, the “self” in its pure state.

Let´s remember the four levels: the two first ones are destroyed when dying (although they could be rebuilt). The other two are the ones that may exist after death.

In this interpretation of reality we are all the same “self” (including all living beings) and whatever (good or bad) we do to others we do to ourselves.

This theory that says matter connects to sentience is simpler (although not so intuitive) that the one that says matter makes sentience, but the two of them are astonishing. I believe both are worth of attention. Matter existence and sentience existence are amazing by themselves.

In a strange manner the radio-receiver hypothesis agree with both theories: The radio-receiver makes the music that we hear (because it plays it) and, on the other hand, the radio-receiver connects to a transmitter that makes the music (which is also true).

Working with the radio metaphor is not only an intellectual impulse. If that were true it could end the pain going to the source and removing it. The hypothesis assumes that all beings all only one. That being could go to its source and remove its own pain, forever.


Posted by Manu Herrán

Research associate at the Organisation for the Prevention of Intense Suffering (OPIS).

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