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The Politics of Eustress: A Synthesis of Government, Psychology and Experience

September 26th, 2019 by Robert DePaolo | Posted in Psychology | No Comments » | 11 views | Print this Article

The Politics of Eustress
A Synthesis of Government, Psychology and Experience

by Robert DePaolo


This article discusses the concept of an “ideal state” in terms of behavioral science, emphasizing the importance of a core motivational factor known as eustress. The point is made that while the Utopia ideal seems at odds with the functions of the human mind (which is a closure-seeking, noise reducing mechanism requiring ongoing conflict as a learning prompt)), there might be an optimal, culturally imparted state of mind that can produce the closest thing to a human-consonant social system.

A Brief History of Utopia…

For all its blissful connotations the idea of a Utopian state is hard to define. Some of the Utopian ideas and ideals of the past have revolved around on the whims of writers railing against the political systems of their time. Marx and Engels wrote in opposition to rampant capitalism. They sought to rescue workers from exploitation by property owners, noting (not inaccurately) that without labor there could be no production, profit or general wealth.

In trying to extend this idea -which Engels termed “scientific socialism” – to create a vast governmental system their theory exhibited a number of significant flaws. For example, they presented scientific socialism in a moral context based on a vague notion of pan-equality, the idea being that is wasn’t fair for workers to be paid substantially less than capitalists and that advantages afforded the wealthy such as inherited family resources and wealth could be naively construed as “unfair.” That would imply that even if status was earned by the first generation, coming from a well-to-do family would have to be deemed somehow immoral. That in turn would mean parents trying to do right by their children were actually doing wrong.

Still another flaw was reflected in their historical ignorance. The inequity argument had been addressed more rationally in Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations”, written more than half a century before Das Capital. Smith deftly provided a moral and functional regulation by which to level the playing field. While his tome was voluminous, his resolution rested on a single word – competition. He felt if govenment disallowed monopolistic business practices (pervasive in the times and places in which Marx and Engels lived) consumers could choose where to shop (thus lowering prices) and where to work (thus raising wages and improving working conditions). Though not in a straight line trajectory, Smith’s vision turned out to be more prescient. In effect with the advent of competition capitalism evolved into neo-capitalism. That rendered scientific socialism (aka.communism) at best unnecessary and at worst rather pointless.

Neo-capitalism tends to work better than socialism for two reasons. First it allows for aggressive product improvement and distribution (making more goods available to more people). Second, because of its breadth, it rewards businesses for being consumer and worker-friendly. In somewhat paradoxical, yet very real terms it both restrains and frees up companies; like democracy itself functioning within a populist, consumer-controlled context.

Another aspect of Marxism is even more questionable because it is based on Hegel’s speculative notion of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. (North 2006). This Hegelian triad proposed that a kind of social algorithm orchestrates all of human history. More specifically that an existing social system would always encounter its antithesis (often via revolution), then would be replaced by a new synthesis, or social system. Ironically, Hegel saw this as a spiritual inevitability; as though God, or some transcendent entity was behind the transformations. Marx and Engels were hard core atheists, so it is difficult to discern what transcendent agent they had in mind. Perhaps they were also referencing Immanuel Kant’s notion of a ‘categorical imperative,’ which was highly abstract, involved a built-in inevitability but was not quite deistic. It does appear Marx and Engels held Kant in high regard as well.

Other versions of Utopia revolved around religious themes. Most involved some form of socialism. The Labadist movement in Maryland and in prior locations around Europe espoused a communal society with relative deemphasis on the core family. While their community attracted some very bright clerics and intellectuals its rejection of notoriety and individuality led to its dissandonment in 1730. (Saxby, 1987).

Other systems were similarly communal, thus deviating from the notion that individuality matters and that mom and dad were crucial to the moral, intellectual and educational development of sons and daughters whose behaviors and dispositions would, generation after generation determine whether any given society would sink or swim. Among the most notable was Robert Owen, an English textile merchant who came to America to found a socialist community in New Harmony, Indiana. His societal foundation was also religious (though he was a deist – believed in a world loosely created by a deity but left to run on its own rather through periodic divine intervention. Owen espoused many humanitarian ideas. Much of his writing had an egalitarian tinge, with allusions to “human nature being the most basic and necessary constituent in an evolving society”…and references to a “New Moral World” (Claeys 2011). On the other hand his theories, despite advocating for a society designed around human nature had the same flaws as all socialist systems. Among the most prominent being his refusal to accept that human beings have and require a sense of self – of individuation, not just to attain wealth and status but to use as a reference point in all experiential endeavors. Owen’s ideas fizzled out by 1846.

The historical failure of socialism seems to continually repeat itself. It can last for as long as emotionally galvanized believers can overcome their primate/hierarchical instincts with threat and persuasion but can never settle comfortably into the every day life of identity-driven mankind.
Thomas Moore was probably the first to try so systematize a theory of Utopia. While he was influenced by the Christian/humanism movement his egalitarian concepts took things to a different level. His ideas, spawned in the context of rather inequitable 16th century English society (which issued the death penalty to thieves, placed all wealth in the hands of a monarch and contained many long-debunked tyrannical policies) have been obviated by the advent of purer forms of democracy and populist rule, (Sullivan 1983). In other words his complaints have been addressed and to an extent resolved through simple socio-political evolution.

The idea of Utopia is considered passe’ in modern times, simply because a perfect society could not exist without absolute uniformity of opinion, need and sentiment backed by cultural consensus. Getting a democrat from New York and a republican from Texas to agree on policy is hard enough. Asking 300 million people to do so would be inconceivable.

Still it seems thinkers cannot scrap the idea. Philosophers, candidates and theorists speak constantly about “ideals”, that is, policies and actions universally sanctioned by some alpha-entity to make sure that authority will not derive from mere, flawed humans. The framers, rather brilliantly, put this in God’s hands which made final authority both eternal and unattainable by tyrants.

The fact that true Utopia cannot exist even as humans are inclined to seek it out creates an ongoing problem. Since protests, complaints and revolutions abound in every society on earth that problem would seem difficult to solve. It raises the question of whether the quest for ideals and a perfect society should even be broached; or whether mankind would be better off letting society evolve of its own momentum as a function of stresses, strains and moment to moment problem solving.

The obvious counter-argument would be that without the drawing power of an ideal the quest to improve society would lack direction. It would be a bit like hippies in the sixties protesting against the “system” without offering alternative solutions (other than, ironically, donning Mao jackets). Interestingly, Jefferson’s belief in the need for constant vigilance – which seems to derive loosely from the idealistic teleology of the Greeks seems to have fostered a kind of Utopian-developmental mindset. Yet frustration resulting from conflict between the desirable and the possible seems to have persisted throughout history.


One way to address that problem might be to view society not in purely philosophical or political terms but like Owen (albeit in a different context) in terms of human nature; more specifically from knowledge accrued in the field of behavioral science.

Some might argue that such a task would be pointless. This author would disagree, for two reasons. First what we call “sociopolitics” is nothing more than a broad, conceptual view of human individual and group behavior patterns. These patterns have been studied with some rigor over the past century by behavioral scientists and clinicians. Second, to reiterate, abandoning the quest for a homo-consonant society could mean abandoning any hope of finding one. Clearly human society is not yet perfected. While only a handful of socio-political theories have emerged over time the study of human behavior is rich with ideas and proven facts regarding habits, attitudes, motivations and temperament. In that context perhaps theorizing is worth a shot.

The Political Psyche…

Many theories on human behavior and the personality exist, and there is no point in discussing them here. However one element common to all is the idea of the self. With a substantial brain, and exceptional linguistic ability humans can and will label things (including themselves). It is not a whim, or happenstance acquisition from experience but a mandate. Labeling invariably leads to drawing distinctions between and among things. To label the color “blue” is to automatically know that another color is not blue. This is to due to the unavoidable process of perceptual differentiation that characterizes our species. This rule is responsible for everything from unity to discrimination, from discovery to ignorance. In a political context that means n pan-eqalitarian society that disregards differences in terms of traits, assets, accomplishments, status, and skills etc runs contrary to human nature. We are, after all genetically close in makeup to primates whose social groups are typically hierarchical. They engage in social differentiation – so do we.

In that context an egalitarian society would be difficult to sustain. That brings to mind two essential tasks of human society. On one hand it is necessary to enlist the efforts and commitment of the many in common cause, based on a vague notion of equality. On the other we must enable and support individuality, including differentials in skill, status and wealth in what amounts to an ideological co-existence. Groups use products. Individuals create and invent them. Interestingly, while such modulation might seem a lofty pursuit Jefferson discussed this eloquently in a letter to John Adams on natural aristocracy (2018).
Where does that leave us? In addressing the question of a human-consonant society the first question to ask is whether there exists an ideal state of mind which if imparted culturally through experience and (incentive-driven) policy, would produce the greatest degree of pro-social contentment. In other words is there a scientific premise by which to fulfill the vague promise of pursuit of happiness. As a corollary, is there something about western democracy that is quintessentially rooted in human psychology?

Eustress in the Lab…

The obvious place to begin looking for an ideal mental state is of course the human brain with its vast and complex neural connections. Just how it orchestrates holistically all the functions of mind has yet to be determined but one of its most essential functions is ongoing noise reduction. Once aroused the brain tends toward mass action (Lashley 1930) rather than immediately summoning only the stimulus-relevant circuits. That is a benefit in terms of associative accessibility. It can also be a detriment because it can draw in all kinds of peripheral distractions, moods and demons. To sift through that complexity to find memories and ressponses it must operate as a closure-seeking machine. In other words like a homeostat that reacts to uncertainty by seeking restoration of stability.

There are two facets to brain activity. One is in the realm of experience which causes us to “feel good” post-closure. The other is a systemic process that while reflected in experience is concerned with resetting the inter-neural guage, much as a thermostat restores a pre-set home temperature. That dual dynamic is responsible for everything from the discovery of Relativity Theory to paranoid delusions.

In that context any socio-political system that provides opportunities for as many individuals as possible to engage in closure seeking (meaning a reasonable chance to convert uncertainty to closure across circumstances (i.e. poly-control) could arguably contain one crucial element of a human-consonant society.

However it doesn’t end there. Closure requires a prior state of uncertainty, because in terms of information dynamics there is no point in finding an answer unless a question is first posed. In the field of behavioral psychology this controllable transition from uncertainty to closure is often referred to as a state of “eustress” – which is a combination of the words ‘euphoria’ and ‘stress.’ It refers to the fact that no individual or group can be in a psycho-socially optimal state without experiencing stress as a prelude to closure (i.e. successful completion of tasks and/or confirmation of anticipations. Just as closure is preceded necessarily by uncertainty so is closure preceded necessarily by work and duress according to the eustress model.

The research in this area has yielded interesting results. If the stress/impetus is too harsh and prohibitive, closure unattainable, individuals will tend to incur a state of learned helplessness which often leads to lethargy and depression as well as fostering anti-social attitudes. It is as if the conflicted individual has declared the social contract null and void, reverted back into a state of nature and no longer feels bound by social norms. An internalization of that anti-social attitude outcome can lead to inner turmoil and psychopathology (Ackerman 2018).

The interesting flip side of that process is that when there is reward/closure without exertion – in other words there is “eu” but no preliminary “stress” i.e. reward without work, a similar outcome occurs. Receiving reward without exertion deemed proportionate to the reward can also lead to depression and an anti-social mindset. That is because with no behavior to equate with the outcome no associative or emotional bond is established between effort and reward,. In that case, behavior, mood and motivation become inconsequential Thus a soft socio-political climate (where everything comes easy can actually lead to a dys-national mindset. In effect giving people what they want does not work. Enabling them to earn what they want does work.

In that sense a psychologically ideal (homo-consonant) society would be one with a close ratio between effort and reward, i.e. stress and closure spread among the populace. Some research suggests values, policies and/or customs making life neither too easy nor too hard, could produce a broad contentment leading to a creative, pro-social, environment (Nelson,Cooper 2005). That could produce enormous benefits that resonate throughout the culture.

Implications, Questions…

While that idea might have validity, four problems come to mind. First, the tendency is for societies to modernize constantly in order to make things easier and more convenient. Over time that could skew the stress/closure ratio. By virtue of our neural software and its effect on experience, closure must be “earned” to take effect. In that sense the quest for convenience can be counterproductive over the long run no matter how much it boosts an economy or expands leisure time.

A second problem is that in order to foster a eustress-driven culture would require some kind of regulatory process. To an extent this happens now – for example programs moving people from welfare to work. But on a larger scale this would require a super-meritocratic philosophy translated into the language of law or at least prompted within the education system, emphasizing the important relationship between effort and reward.

Because democratic systems tend not to impose life style changes on the public this would be difficult – though anti-smoking ad campaigns have been successful. Once upon a time it wasn’t so difficult because family was the core. Can this influence be re-established? If so, such a goal could be reached and eventually translate, child by child, family by family into a broadly accepted custom.
The third problem (and undoubtedly the most difficult) revolves around the question of individual talents. Despite its negative connotations, there is such a thing as the normal curve, that is, a dispersion of skills and traits. This has little to do with intelligence per se – simply because most people hover around the average to high average range (if not, society could not possibly rely on the reasonable person standard to render verdicts, vote or abide by laws. Rather it has to do with the highs and lows of skills and interests.

For example some people are mechanically inclined, but not terribly interested or gifted in abstract, philosophical areas. The opposite is true as well. Some people are highly social, others introverted, some abstract and artistic, others practical and concrete. For the eustress dynamic to work society would have to emphasize vocational and educational skill diversity to match the normal curve. Rather than advocating that all students should go to college (a preposterous idea since it would ultimately render college graduates less valuable via the supply/demand dynamic), it would involve an advocative (if not legislative) policy by government and education systems to facilitate a skill-diverse system.

One main barrier? The prideful assumption that lack of a college degree diminishes one’s worth. Such a change in the American weltanschaung would require a shift in attitudes, not only in terms of the worth of laborers (perhaps beginning with an overview of human evolution, which was enhanced and sustained primarily by the efforts of toolmakers – not poets (Stout 2011) but by challenging the worshipful attitude toward “intellectuals.”

How to re-value the worker, inventor and mechanic? One way is via simple capitalism. It is well known that many types of laborers, mechanics and hands-on workers make more money and are often more functionally necessary than students with a B.A. in liberal arts. Attention paid to that by high school guidance counselors and other advisers would help foster vocational diversity. Of even greater assistance would be greater diversity in school programs, including high schools and post secondary programs.

The net effect of such skill diversity could be greater control of rewards and in terms of the eustress dynamic, a closer correlation between efforts and closure/reward for a larger segment of the general population. That is because a round peg-round hole vocational topography not only ameliorates fervent competition for jobs (which does happen when students all go into one field or another based on trend or fad) but also makes it more likely that workers will be successful.

A still greater challenge results from a pervasive idea entrenched in the American ethic – the idea of pan-equality. The USA is unique because of its promise of upward mobility. Ours is a nation nurtured by the framers but born in the womb of an idea fostered by John Locke – the notion of tabula rasa…or “blank slate.” (Walker 1996) It proposes that all talents and skills are a function of experience. In that context, thinkers following the framers interpreted their writings to mean that anyone can accomplish whatever they set their mind to once the playing field was leveled -that anyone could be an Einstein or a Picasso. That is a mis-perception (Turkheimer 2000). We are not all equal- which does not mean some are superior. others deficient. It means that success in any endeavor has to do with so many variables such as temperament, intelligence, motivation, and attitudes as well as simple experience. One person’s strength is another’s weakness. That’s life, and if we built a culture based on a model espousing “good fit among the many” rather than valuing more highly those with higher abstract, verbal ability the resulting social stability could ameliorate the anti-social behavior and some of the psychopathology that too often occurs in social systems lacking proportion in terms of the eustress dynamic.

Does that mean we cease to talk about equality, and if so, what do we replace it with? First of all, despite Locke’s tabula rasa concept, the term equality initially meant equal before the law. In other words, all people were to be granted the rights and privileges inherent in the judicial process. With that in mind, one can imagine adding to the words…”We live in a free society where all men are created equal” with “before the law” further adding…we hold that ‘all people are different, with varying interests, abilities and motivations and we aspire, not to render everyone the same but to foster the growth of a society by creating opportunities for as many of human traits and abilities as possible.

While much of the history of human politics can be described as an attempt to override our primal urges and traits such a congruence-based socio-political model would, like human evolution itself, end up favoring trait variety over trait uniformity in the quest for survival and adaptation. Rather than two straight lines rubbing against each other in a high-friction interaction, the eustress society would be analogous to an inverted and external angle fitting together to create a whole, congruent and complimentary structure.


Ackerman, C. 2018;Learned Helplessness; Seligman’s Theory of Depression (+ Cure) Positive

G. Claeys (ed) (1993) The Selected Works of Robert Owen London, Pickering and Chatto. Routledge.

Lashley, K. 1930 Basic Neural Mechanisms in Behavior. Psychological Review

On Natural Aristocracy: (2018) – Article in The Imaginative Conservative: derived from Thomas Jefferson’s letter to John Adams Oct 28

Nelson, D , Cooper, G. (2005) Stress and Health: A Positive Direction. Stress and Health 21 (2) 73-75

North, D. (2006) Hegel, Marx and the Origins of Marxism World Socialist Website. Mehring Books

Saxby, T.J. (1987) “Chapter 6″ Quest for the New Jerusalem. Jean de Labadie and the Labadists 1610-1744, Dordrecht-Boston-Lancaster

Stout, D. (2011), Stone Toolmaking and the Evolution of Human Culture and Cognition. Philosophical Transactions B Royal Society Publishing.

Sullivan, EDS (ed) (1983) The Utopian Vision: Seven Essays on The Quincentennial of Sir Thomas More. San Diego State University Press, San Diego Calif.

Turkheimer,, E. (2000) Three Laws of Behavior Genetics and What They Mean. Current Directions in Psychological Science 9 (5) 160-164

Walker. K. (1996). (ed) Essay Concerning Human Understanding 1813 p xix and 33-36 Book II Chapter 1, 1-9 Hackett Publishing Com. Indianapolis, IN 1996

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Essay on Time; A Contrarian Viewpoint

June 12th, 2019 by Robert DePaolo | Posted in Psychology | No Comments » | 14 views | Print this Article

by Robert DePaolo

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, despite depicting an orderly, quantifiable and predictable universe actually led to some rather odd predictions regarding the relationships among matter,space and time.

The inter-dependency between space and time is particularly fascinating, not just because it leads to a topsy-turvy alteration of human experience but because some of its premises must be considered impossible if one accepts that there is such a thing as existence.


Relativity Theory is considered fact in the field of modern physics and experimentation has consistently supported its premises. In some instances however, misinterpretations of what Einstein said have become just as entrenched in the field as the valid components of the theory. One of these is the oft-repeated theme that matter and energy are interchangeable; that each derives from the other. Certainly matter at rest contains latent energy which can be converted to kinetic energy. But energy does not equate with matter so the relationship is not reciprocal or isomorphic.

For example, Einstein said that the mass of an object increases as it approaches light speed, that its mass is enhanced but not created. An example that brings home this distinction is the Higgs field, which is made up of force conveying particles (bosons). These particles are not material, rather interact with (in a sense “bathe”) other particles that then attain mass to create matter (fermions). Still another example can be found in the photon, which has no mass, does have energy but never converts to matter unless it interacts with electrons or other particles. In that sense, the relationship between mass and energy actually plays out as a material/ergonomic duality rather than as two sides of a singe coin.

Einstein’s concept of time is even more mysterious and to an extent has also been embellished over the years. He viewed light speed as an anchor point in the universe – a governing entity that regulated space, time and existence. To understand why Einstein brought space and time together into a single dimension, consider the following example.

Say you are about to toss a baseball against a wall as a kind of experiment. The wall is exactly 60 feet across. You make sure the force of your toss is exactly the same each time (the ball travels to the wall at the same speed with each toss). The ball reaches the wall in half a second. Now, say the wall is moved forward to 50 feet across. Once again, you toss the ball with the same force and speed. Of course the ball takes less time to reach the wall. Nothing unusual about that. Now, say the wall is pushed back to 60 feet but as you begin to toss the ball the entire room starts moving forward. The ball will arrive at the wall in less than half a second, even though you tossed it at the same exact force and speed and even though the wall was still 60 feet away.

That illustrates how acceleration can alter time. The logical endpoint of this process is that if something travels fast enough the amount of time from one site to another would be so compressed that no time will lapse at all. That time-dilation barrier is the speed of light or ”c”.

Einstein refused to take this to the levels espoused by some modern physicists, who presume it is possible to travel back in time by exceeding light speed. That makes perfect sense if time and space are so intertwined. On the other hand such extrapolations haunted Einstein. He had no taste for the insertion of quasi-mystical ideas into what he considered the forward moving, measurable hardware of the universe.

In the Beginning…?
One of the most far reaching extrapolations from the time dilation idea has to do with the time line for the origin of the universe. Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose and others have addressed this question, which is a profoundly difficult one. In doing so they have refuted the need not only for a creative deity but for the necessity of a beginning at all. Theirs is a non-temporal theory, holding that there was no chronological beginning. At face value this might seem absurd – doesn’t everything have a beginning? Yet the way in which Hawking and others conceptualize the problem is roughly as follows.

1. After billions of years the force from the big bang will undergo entropy and its expansion will slow down.
2. When this occurs gravity will take over and compress all cosmic matter into a tiny spec of unimaginable mass and energy.
3. At this point there will be nothing outside the “cosmic egg” – no space or surround phenomena at all. Because there is no space there can be no time or movement, only intense heat and energy. The entire proto-cosmos would be analogous to the ultimate singularity.
4. Therefore, since time could not exist without space, there can be no temporal “before.” or beginning.
Hawking’s brilliant career and courage are well documented but one wonders if this model holds true because while it agrees with relativity it stands in stark contrast with core elements of information theory. Essentially, Hawking and others have described the proto-universe as existing in what could be called a simultaneous epoch. Simultaneity means everything happens at once,which precludes any sort of sequential/cause-effect process. Most theoretical physicists believe the universe had to cool (i.e. its symmetry broken) before matter, forces, space and time evolved into their present forms. Yet for cooling to occur particles had to separate to reduce friction-induced heat. To go from compression to separation required a force, which involved inexorably a sequence of events. That is because one element had to interact with another to enact or produce the force (even quantum theory would require that). That entails an exchange of information, which by definition and orchestration requires a sender and receiver. That is an unavoidable mandate of Information theory. Simultaneity precludes that possibility and while it is interesting to consider that time did not exist prior to the Big Bang, such a scenario would also remove both information content and transmission from the process. In that case no event could have occurred because there cannot be information without time.

Beyond that, in the pre-expansion cosmic egg heat could only be generated via the rapid bombardment of particles; ostensibly in a plasma containing mostly hydrogen and helium. Heat is a form of information requiring senders and receivers since it is created by, for instance, particle A crashing into particle B. If all matter in the cosmic egg was a singularity, with no distinctions, just an entity of infinite noise (the opposite of information) no event could have led to cooling, expansion or any other event. In other words a simultaneous epoch could have prevented any universe, multi-verse, “brane” or string from coming into existence.
Other features of a non-temporal cosmic egg also run contrary to information dynamics. Perhaps the most obvious is seen in the law of conservation, which holds that energy will always be conserved – never run out, though it can change form. Burn a log of wood and ash will replace the solidity of the log. Yet the chemicals and energy of either form will always remain the same. That poses a problem for the idea of simultaneity. The universe of now must have exactly the same amount of energy it had in the beginning. Without time it could have had no energy then, consequently no energy now. By the same token, energy and the components and forces that drive and reshape it are a form of information. That means if there was no information in the cosmic egg there cannot be any information in our present day universe. That would preclude any semblance of cause-effect, time, force, matter, distinctions or symmetry breaking. To put it crudely, there would be nothing – we would have ourselves a negative universe.
Without invoking a deity the idea of an non-temporal cosmic egg seems unlikely. While modern theoretical physics has drifted into at times Byzantine descriptions of mass, time, space, energy and causation it could be that there was a beginning – that time never originated but was (necessarily) there from the outset. Perhaps there were infinitely narrow time passages at work, for example an unsurpassed Planck time that would not be measurable or even comprehensible to us now. That aside, it seems the notion of a pre-expansion, simultaneous epoch can be called into question.


Hawking, S. Mlodinow, L. (2012) The Grand Design Bantam Books,

Hawking, S. Penrose (2015) The Nature of Space and Time, Princeton University Press
Hawking, S. Penrose, (2005) A Brief History of Time. Bantam Books.

On Information Theory and Cosmology: Kamani, M. Paakkonen, K. Annila, A. (2009) The Physical Character of Information, Proc. R. Soc. A 465 (2107) pp. 2155-75

Reference to bosons (force particles) and fermions (mass particles) Lederman, L. Hill, C. (2013) Beyond the God Particle, Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY.

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Essay on Time: A Contrarian Viewpoint

June 12th, 2019 by Robert DePaolo | Posted in Psychology | No Comments » | 11 views | Print this Article

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The Bimodal Personality: A Socio-sexual Model of Human Motivates and Behavior

December 13th, 2018 by Robert DePaolo | Posted in Psychology | No Comments » | 31 views | Print this Article

by Robert DePaolo


This article discusses two core aspects of personality that have broad impact on multiple behavior patterns; including creativity, politics, sexuality and antisocial behavior. The model is derived from human/primate evolutionary origins which include the quest for social hierarchical status and the drive to reproduce. The two factors are presented as inextricably linked as an integrated, bimodal motive to a wide range of emotions and behaviors.

The Master…

Freud’s tripartite theory of the psyche emphasized the relationship between reason, impulse, the conscience and their interactive relevance to normalcy and pathology. If one were to include all the other components of his theory, for example the unconscious, dreams, complexes and stages of development, gaining a concise understanding of what makes Homo sapiens tick would be very difficult indeed.

Over time the sheer complexity of psychoanalytic theory put it somewhat on the sidelines as a conceptual and therapeutic methodology. In addition its long term parameters created a bottleneck for insurance carriers who began to gravitate toward more economical methods such as cognitive-behavior therapy and behavior modification. Whether the newer, briefer methods are more effective than psychoanalysis is open to question, particularly since the ways in which therapeutic improvement is determined can be subjective and ultimately existential. Still the elegance of Freud’s theory remain appealing, in part because it dovetails with some irrefutable facts about human nature. For example his unification of the libido and the principle of energy conservation (borrowed from Maxwell and Einstein) was elegant. Much of what we do has some sort of relationship to the drive to seek pleasure (sexual and otherwise); particularly in an evolutionary context. Archaic Homo was only modestly encephalized, could neither run very fast nor climb as well as his quadrupedal cousins. Over time our forebears were evolving into a more slender, gracile creature. Despite potential advantages emanating from that, including enhanced fine motor dexterity and greater heat tolerance for long distance traveling, having less muscle mass was also a physical liability. In addition, archaic females, in typical primate fashion gave birth to one child at a time in most instances and the infant’s development extended beyond the usual primate norms. Faced with such long odds and predatory vulnerability nature had to bestow on the creature a fervent, compensatory sex drive.

Ladies to the Rescue…

Fortunately, females in at least one of the Archaic Homo groups changed in their morphology (by a quirk of nature or something more neo-Lemarckian?) Protruding breasts and pelvises, which in other primates only emerge during estrus, became more permanent. It looked to males as though these females were in permanent estrus. Good fortune prompted a physically weak, not yet brainy species to develop an intense interest in mating, which helped to ensure species continuity.

Primate courtships…

The final result was a complex human psycho-sexual dialectic. On one hand having such a lustful orientation favored much-needed propagation. On the other hand, since the infants’ development began to take longer, females had to balance their sexual interest with their maternal/protective instincts. They did so by selecting males with a helping, cooperative orientation, that is, males whose behavioral traits signaled commitment and stability. To the prospective mothers, it was clear that while having males around to help in child rearing was beneficial, it also meant males would have more contact with the infants. Males are not as typically gentle with infants so the females offered themselves up as a laboratory. An empathic strategy evolved in which females used the males’ behavior toward them as an indication of how the males would react to off spring in what amounted to a fusion between courtship and paternal fitness. As a result of this complex process a distinctly new primate mating pattern emerged which was both revolutionary and evolutionary.

One might ask; why use the term “revolutionary”? For example, don’t most animals treat each other gently during mating season? For example, even the lion in the throes of sexual fervor makes sure none of his sexual reactions will hurt or frighten off the lioness – pleasure, not pain being the whole point of the interaction.

The problem is that this is not necessarily true of primates. Chimps (our closest evolutionary relatives) have a fairly random mating process, whereby deception, opportunism and aggression are a bit more common (Crystal, 2018). Because they tend to live in large social groups sexual competition is more intense. Indeed alpha males attempt to hog all the action and lesser ranked members have to persuade or cajole females into clandestine rendezvous. If caught by alpha males the consequences can be dire – which makes one wonder if this is the original/primal source of sexual guilt (fear of getting caught in a non-approved sexual encounter by an authority figure).

That, of course, is mere conjecture. Less speculative is that sexual opportunity in primates has a direct correlation with social status. Thus a more comprehensive view of the human psyche would suggest one fundamental catalyst of human behavior, the libido, must be integrated with another, the drive for social status. In that context “rank and arousal” would be coupled in the same way that Einstein coupled mass and energy.
While this proposal is theoretical there is ample research lending support. For example Muehlenbein, Watts, et. al. showed that as social status was enhanced not only did chimp males experience an increase in testosterone levels but also became more attractive to females-who apparently sensed both the status and fertility of the higher ranking male. (2003 ).

Such a neo-Freudian modification might entail not just a unification of two prominent (previously separate) personality factors; social need and sexual need but would also include the inferiority/superiority complex and derivative compensatory mechanisms discussed by Alfred Adler, (Orgler 1976).

A (Psychic) Theory of Everything?

Ever since Einstein put forth his special and general theories of relativity, theoretical physicists have argued about what a unified field theory would look like, i.e. one describing a common source for the electromagnetic, weak, strong and gravitational forces and whether such a mechanism exists. Whether it be Neils Bohr challenging Einstein on the orderliness vs. uncertain nature of the cosmos, Richard Feynman depicting the universe as having no more of a cause-effect history than a fluctuating random particle, the central question has been the same: Which model/argument has enough teeth to resolve all issues related to the functions of the large and subatomic aspects of the universe?

A similar question could be asked regarding this bimodal socio-sexual theory, to wit: does it explain a significantly wide range of human behaviors and motives?

In addressing that question, obviously one must wax subjective, since there seems to be a dearth of research on this topic. Yet one can begin on fairly solid anecdotal ground by pointing out that almost every human motive has either a sexual or social source. From the moment of early human art, depictions of large breasted females and otherwise voluptuous characterizations were prevalent. The influence of sexual themes on language, morality, literature, art, filmmaking and music remains pre-eminent in human affairs.

So does social concern. Modern technology has shown us that our need to know about what every person does, what they achieve, what they say, how they act, how they sin and how sincerely they apologize has turned social media into a trillion dollar enterprise. Clearly Homo sapiens is by nature a bit snoopy, gossipy and competitive – traits that are thankfully (occasionally) balanced by altruistic concerns.

If sex and social interest are in themselves powerful drives, one could argue that the unification of those drives into a psychological mosaic would be powerful enough to be at the root of other motives. That is precisely the argument here.

The Particulars…

Freud’s theory of the personality was by far the broadest and possibly the most ingenious ever devised; not just because of its clinical, physical and biological breadth but also because Freud was bold enough to apply his theory to a wide variety of behavior patterns – even some of the most mundane. He discussed history, dreams, humor, smoking (his own personal vice), art, politics, child development, as well as psychopathology through the prism of psychoanalysis. While it is difficult to aspire to that level of intellectual prowess, it might be worthwhile to apply this socio-sexual model to various aspects of human behavior to see if a theoretical unification is possible.


The drive to create has many possible antecedents. For example, the curiosity drive forces us to seek new stimuli. Humans not only have a tendency to invent new and useful or entertaining concepts and tools but often invent new fears and worries because we need to not only adapt to our environment but also to anticipate its perks and dangers. (One cannot come up with solutions unless there are problems to solve in the first place and creativity initially requires an irritating vacuum). Yet art is also a social phenomenon. Painting, music, sculpting, literature, architectural design – all pass through the filter of social approval. While not experimentally validated, but demonstrable, artists usually have no dearth of mating opportunities. That does not mean artists employ their skills merely to attract sexual partners but the effect is the same. The fact that their social rank (through reputation, notoriety and financial success) is enhanced by artistic endeavors offers further support of the inextricable link between status and the libido. As an interesting side note, paleo-anthropologists have long wondered what motivated early man to paint in the caves at Lascaux and Altamira. Some believe the paintings were spiritual (Greene 2007). Others believe the drawings were the inevitable byproduct of a cognitive leap in brain evolution (Waldman, 2012). These theories, and others, are interesting and possibly valid. One question seldom asked is whether the ancient artists drew these pictures to among other things, obtain higher rank and sexual access.


One way to address this aspect of human endeavor is to conjure up a kind of thought experiment, whereby one group of well-trained athletes are asked to run as fast or jump as high as they can with no one watching, the second group to do so with people observing. This is not the same as asking whether some athletes perform better or worse under pressure of scrutiny – clearly that varies with the individual. Rather it is to ask whether non-social performance would differ significantly from social performance. The same question could be asked of musicians, lecturers and actors. Research on this is sparse but one suspects the presence of observers would more often than not enhance performance; for various reasons having to do with social status, heightened adrenal output and the performance enhancing reinforcement (or fear of rejection) from the crowd.


The role of socio-sexual elements in politics is obvious; not only in light of the sexual exploits of various leaders over time (and not just in the USA – which begs the question of why we are so surprised by revelations about the sex lives of powerful politicians) but also because politics is not only about policy but also about appeal, attractiveness, and abstractions such as…”connecting with the people” “being charismatic” and “having a following.” Under the most horrendous circumstances we have seen this tendency utilized by figures like Caligula, Jim Jones and Charles Manson to manipulate the social and sexual/political instincts of their followers. Yet even benevolent figures have fished in those waters. Henry Kissinger’s famous quote about power being an aphrodisiac comes to mind.


Humor can also be said to derive from socio-sexual roots. It is of course social, since much of it pertains to one person’s observations of others; for example George Carlin’s comments on the flat rear ends of white folks and Richard Prior’s epiphany at seeing predominantly black folks in his travels to Africa. Yet while it is social it is also, interestingly, devoted to social rank. In fact when this writer was a young man a joke-fest among peers was often called a “ranking party.” Freud maintained that inherent in humor is an aggressive or taboo component, that allows us to say or imply things that have hurtful, demeaning tones but are masked as sarcasm and irony. Hennie Youngman’s “take my wife… please”, Jeff Foxworthy’s…”You could be a redneck if” are just two of many examples of the hierarchical underpinnings of humor. Since social rank has bearing on sexual access it can be said to fit into the bimodal personality paradigm as well.


In recent times there has been an emphasis on analyzing the psychological motives of criminals – particularly terrorists and serial killers through the prisms of religious fervor, symbolism, maternal relationships, child abuse etc. While each of these elements no doubt plays a role one has to wonder if the hyper-analysis of criminal behavior misses the point and if the roots of such behavior also derive primarily from a socio-sexual dynamic. For purposes of discussion let us review some crimes of note.

Ted Bundy’s horrific dynamics…

For all the analysis in books, commentary and documentaries on the motives of serial killer Ted Bundy the dynamics of his horrendous acts might have been fairly uncomplicated. He was spoiled as a child – perhaps due to guilt over the deception that his mother was really his mother. His eventual discovery that he was illegitimate and that his sister was really his mother created a dissonance-fomenting demotion from status of favorite son to gullible, unwanted bastard. He was later rejected by his fiance’, a slender woman with long dark hair who broke their engagement abruptly. This was no doubt interpreted by Bundy as a further demotion in status. He then found another girlfriend whom he tied up regularly as part of a sexual control ritual (possibly in a feverishly compulsive act of self restoration: “If I prevent you from moving and exert maximal physical control you can’t leave or demote me”) and subsequently went about murdering numerous look-a-likes to his fiance’. Did his need to kill, then rape his victims posthumously occur because he was never able to reestablish his hopeful, self perceived social rank as “bright, charming law student”; his female-directed nihilism a bizarre way of re-promoting himself and during the process, raising his testosterone levels through the safety valve of ultra control ?

Similar dynamics seem to be involved with many mass murderers and Islamic terrorists – the latter of whom had been promised not only legendary heroic status in death but also access to 72 virgins in paradise.
Meanwhile, Charles Manson was a rejected musician who neatly divided up the world into “injured have-nots” (his narcissistically inspired group) and the “haves.” For all his rants about “helter skelter” his actions might have been designed for rank restoration and to establish sexual and physical dominance.


Freud’s main emphasis was of course on psychopathology. In recent times many syndromes have been found to derive from biochemical processes in the brain. At face value this would seem to mitigate against a bimodal, evolutionary model of causation; that is, unless correlations can be found between the neurochemical and socio-sexual systems.
Perhaps there are. For example a causative feature of many depressive disorders is a depletion of pleasure-enhancing neurotransmitters such as the catecholamine group. This and other transmitters are also related to social-hierarchical experiences, including an uptake following successful experiences and increased social status (Cheng, Kormenko, et al. 2015). Thus many of the same chemical agents involved in psychopathologies are functional in the socio-sexual dynamic. In addition, the cognitive themes of psychotics, dissociative as they might be, often pertain to social themes. For example a sense of being programmed or spied on by the paranoid schizophrenic, social anxiety at being in a room full of people, compensatory (status enhancing) rage at authority figures by an individual with an anti-social personality, status enhancing acts of sexual dominance by a low ranking individual who engages in rape or child molestation and the status seeking hysteria of the spotlight-seeking borderline personality.
Whether one can, as per this model, simplify the psyche via the integration of two indistinguishable drives is, of course, speculative. To do so would probably require proof that on a basic neurobehavioral level the human brain is co-wired in this way. It might also mean conjuring up an evolutionary link between social and sexual need (perhaps even extending to the origin and primal functions of human language).

It is clear that studies of the comparative cognitive abilities of young children and chimps showed that (brain mass notwithstanding) the advantage human infants had was a greater capacity to learn by observing and copying others (Hirschon, 2017). It suggests enhanced social perception might have been the evolutionary ratchet leading to our higher intelligence and unique capacity to pass information down through generations in building a cumulative culture. If the sex drive fuels us and social concern drives us, perhaps it can be assumed that in some way there would be a level of cooperation and mutual influence between the two in virtually all aspects of the personality.


Cheng, T. Kormenko, O. Granger, D.A. (2015) Prestige in a large scale group predicts longitudinal changes in testosterone. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Cherry,K. Freud, Ego and Superego. Article on Internet on Very/Well/ 11/6/2018

Crystal, M. (2018) Chimpanzee mating habits; Home, Science, Nature, Animals. Science Web site

Greene. F.J. (2007) Lecture at N.Y. Museum of Biblical Art. Religious Awareness in Art from prehistoric to today; A Course in Art Appreciation.

Hirschon, B. Apes vs. Toddlers: Although equivalent in many intellectual tasks human toddlers are much better than apes in social thinking. Science Net Links. Science Update Nov. 2017

Muehlenbein, M. Watts, D. Whitten, P. (Dec, 2003) Dominance, Rank and Fecal Testosterone Levels in Adult Male Chimpanzees at Ngogo,Kibale National Park,Uganda. American Journal of Primatology

Orgler, H. (1976) Alfred Adler; International Journal of Social Psychiatry 22 (1) 67-68

Waldman. K. Lascaux’s Picassos; What prehistoric art tells us about the evolution of the human brain. Health & Science Oct. 18, 2012

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The Bimodal Personality; A Socio-sexual Model of Human Motive and Behavior

December 13th, 2018 by Robert DePaolo | Posted in Psychology | No Comments » | 32 views | Print this Article

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Cosmic Phenomena

May 21st, 2018 by Robert DePaolo | Posted in Psychology | No Comments » | 16 views | Print this Article

by Robert DePaolo Abstract

This article raises several questions regarding current ideas on non-locality, isomorphism, quantum mechanics, gravity and the acceleration of the universe, including the possibility that para-classical explanations might not be necessary in describing the laws of nature.

With admittedly little insight into the mathematical operations that underscore current interpretations of classical and quantum physical laws, this writer (having read numerous books on the subject) has yet ended up confused more than informed. Part of the reason has to do with the writing style of author-physicists who, admirably, seek to popularize complex topics. While some stick to concrete ideas and definitions others lapse into abstractions with no spatial, geometric or experiential foundation, i.e. concepts that don’t seem to coincide with the world we live in; for example multi-verses, time travel and the existence of extra dimensions. Often unable to bring their explanation down to earth, they rely on cart-before-the horse mathematical models to create reverse resolution.

While this method is reasonable the speculation typically goes well beyond that into areas that might never be confirmed or refuted. At times it seems in their zeal to uncover a theory of everything, these thinkers come up with so many “every-things” as to be left with nothing. In this opinion, science should dovetail at least loosely with common sense. In that context, a series of items is discussed in concrete terms about current theory and the nature of our world.

Item # 1: On Gravity…

The confusion-driven search for a theory of quantum gravity is feverish in scientific circles. Confusion results from the fact that on a large scale gravity is lawful with regard to the influence of one body on another (whereby the more massive body will draw the less massive one in via an inverse square law based on the respective mass and distance between the two). However this only applies to objects with mass equal to or beyond that of an atom. The subatomic (quantum) world acts differently, particularly regarding massless particles which move around seemingly on their own, independent of surrounding matter and in a way that makes it impossible to track their position and momentum sequentially. At face value this conflict begs for resolution which is why physicists have sought a theory of gravity that encompasses both General Relativity and particle (quantum) physics. But is this confusion justified?

Item # 2. Do we need a theory of quantum gravity?

One could ask: if gravity is a function of mass and particles such as photons and electrons have no mass, why they should behave as if in a gravitational relationship? How can something that “weighs” nothing attract something else? In addition, “mass” reflects the congestion of particles or atoms within a body; for example uranium, with an high density of atoms has greater mass than a more sparsely congested liquid such as water. As the density of a body decreases (at some point down to a single particle such as a quark) it would have less mass. With only one particle there can be no congestion unless the particle itself has internal components that congeal. Even then, (assuming there exists a root form of matter which cannot be further broken down) there would have to be a point where gravity could not pertain due to zero mass. In other words, gravity is ultimately a spatial, mathematical composite that cannot exist without at least two components pressing on one another. As an aside, this is something to consider when discussing the mass of any singularity. More specifically, once anything is whittled down to a single body can its information/communicative content reach a point where its implicit redundancy adds up to zero congestion and zero mass, despite the antecedent “crunching” of diverse elements that ended up in a singularity? In that context one could argue that Einstein’s model of gravity is sufficient; the search for a quantum/classical combine unnecessary.

Beyond that, since both gravity and massless particles travel at light speed wouldn’t gravitational influence on the particle be canceled out as a result of relativity? For example if you travel at 100 mph on a highway and a wind of 100 mph is facing you, your car would come to a stop – all things being equal, and exhibit neither momentum or regression. Along the same lines; gravity would require differentials in mass, acceleration etc. (something that is discussed below in term of Information Theory).

Furthermore, celestial bodies do not simply adhere to gravitational relationships. All are hurtling through space at enormous speeds. As a result it isn’t just gravity that is influencing their movements, but also momentum, centripetal and centrifugal force, inertia or “drafting” (as when a cyclist cuts down on friction by undercutting wind factors when riding directly behind a competitor) and the action/reaction principle as depicted in Newton’s third law of motion – the latter holds that as a body thrusts forward it does so into an atmosphere containing some matter (not all of space is a vacuum), which leads to a counter-reaction in the opposite direction. Conceivably any and all of these forces are influencing planetary and galactic movement. Is it possible that the acceleration of the universe, as well as dark matter could be explained as some juxtaposition of all these influences rather than through a single explanation such as superstring theory, brane theory or hologram theory?

Eine Gedanke…

One interesting thought experiment would be to imagine gravity’s influence if all bodies, notwithstanding mass and distance, were completely inert: that is, had no momentum, rotation, or any susceptibility to centripetal, centrifugal forces, drafting, or action-reaction mechanics. Presumably gravity could not exist in such a state because in an inert universe any sort of gravity-induced attraction/collapse would entail a change in momentum, i.e. movement. Thus, if lack of motion cancels out gravitation then one might assume motion is the most essential correlate, or even cause of gravity.

Item # 3. Non-locality…

At face value the notion that particles have no lawfully discernible locations or momenta and can act lawfully only when observed seems either weird or tautological, depending on one’s perspective. One explanation for this phenomenon (the anthropic principle) holds that the observer is implicitly connected to the physical world, thus can never truly be an observer. In other words he is as dependent a variable as the particle being observed; it is as if only God can truly be an observer. Other explanations refer to the particle being virtual, darting in and out of reality or parallel universes, thus being beyond the circumscribed physical laws peculiar to our universe. Both explanations raise the question of why, even if the observer changes the particle’s behavior, both wouldn’t be subject to physical laws.

This point has been made far more eloquently. For example Witten believed the act of observing stimulated particles because the observer’s vision could only occur by firing photons at the particles (Zimmerman-Jones, Robbins 2014) – leaving the observer in roughly the same position as someone bobbing for apples. Others, for example Bohr, argued against this idea, stating that the uncertain nature of particle behavior is built into the particle and nature itself; seemingly mysterious, then again, perhaps not.

Mind and Matter…

One way to address this issue is by discussing the layout of the human brain. Early Russian research, beginning with Pavlov, demonstrated the existence of a brain mechanism known as the second signal system. He demonstrated that the dual hemispheric makeup of the cerebral cortex leads us to categorize experience in two ways: one spatial/material and one associative i.e symbolic/linguistic (Windholz 1990). The encoding of the former onto the latter – much like a card catalogue – enhances not only our communicative capacities but also our memory storage. For instance we don’t have to commit to visual memory all items in the sequence….’apple’, ‘orange’, ‘pear’, etc. because we can assign the label “fruit” to each and access all of them by cross reference. As a trite, but perhaps amusing aside it appears that by conceptual symbolic thought our brains are able to override the quantum (individual, piece by piece) model of nature favored by quantum physicists through nifty, integrative mental mechanisms.

Yet while this neural mechanism provides a mnemonic and communicative advantage it can also lead to a hyper-categorization of experience. That is why Eskimos label a dozen types of snow when in fact the composition of snow is always the same.

If, due to that neuropsychological mandate, we cannot break free of a dual signal system then we cannot conceive of an un-categorical phenomenon like quantum mechanics. Due to the human penchant for categorical drift we are forced to attribute the uncertainty of particle behavior to something. That “something” might have less to do with reality than with the evolution of the human brain (which, after all is designed to survive, not just discover).

In that context one could ask whether we even need labels to describe non-locality. Perhaps there is no such (material) “thing” as a photon. Its apparent capacity to operate as a wave or a particle might really pertain more to our cognitive dispositions than to the photon’s nature. Our brains are finite and until we can soundly, experimentally verify a theory (bearing in mind that neither an atom, electron or a photon has ever been observed) we might be looking at nature through a neuropsychological prism.

The Particle/Wave Duality…

Another issue in physics is the apparent dual nature of reality – more precisely of matter. In various contexts a particle can behave like a discrete entity with circumscribed location and motion, yet at other times exhibit a wave property (which ameliorates its positional features as it appears to draw out and scatter probabilistically). It is an interesting quality that adds to the confusion in scientific circles. Once again, however this might be explained with Occamesque simplicity.

Consider the following hypothesis. A particle such as a photon or electron does not decay. Yet it has been established that all systems undergo entropy (decay) unless they are replenished periodically by outside energy sources. Even with that, entropy usually wins out due to the passage of time. That is because, among other things, those outside sources are finite and will themselves wind down. Thus, perhaps something inherent in the particle’s non-entropic quality can address the duality problem.

One can begin by asking why a photon does not decay. One possibility is that the underlying source of entropy is time itself.

An example comes to mind. If a person could remain at a certain age – say 15, in year 1967, and that year extended into perpetuity he would never age. In that case an outside energy source would be unnecessary; first because he wouldn’t need it, second because with no time lapse it would be impossible for “new” energy sources to be absorbed because a time lapse would be required even if just for one to open his mouth, bite down and ingest the new source of energy. Renewal, or counter-entropy implies a temporal sequence from depletion to energy restoration, which involves an event transition and a time lapse. Without a time lapse, there can be no entropy and no need or possibility to re-energize. In that context it might be time that ultimately determines entropy.

If a particle is traveling at light speed, it is moving neither forward nor backward in time. It becomes “constant” not only in terms of its unsurpassable speed but also as a chronological anchor point in the universe. Since it does not experience time lapses it cannot by definition be at one location at one point in time, then in another later on. While the “where” and “when” of human measurement depends on time passage massless particle do not recognize time passages. In the particle’s range of experience there is no such thing as time.

Similarly, with no time elapse, there can be no spatial transition. That means the particle is what it is and everything that it is, i.e. temporo/spatially neither here nor there. It’s dual nature is a simple manifestation of its para-chronological and para-spatial make-up. Theories superimposed on its behavior create closure, which satisfies the dual signaling system of the human brain, but might not reflect the non-spatial, non temporal realities of the subatomic world.

The Classical/Quantum Dichotomy…

It is understandable that physicists venture beyond parsimony at times in the attempt to unify classical and quantum physics. Perhaps because simple answers have been ruled more complex solutions are the only recourse. Yet our universe is undeniably systemic and as such it must be integrated on some level. The elegant stability of its various characteristics make that obvious. For example, just the right amount of matter overrides anti-matter to make existence (symmetry-breaking) possible. Another example is seen in the even distribution of matter and energy spread throughout the universe. Others can be seen in the spatial regulatory limits of the Planck length, Newton’s inverse square law and the regulatory trick played on us by light speed which is so functionally stubborn that any possible differences in speed that might occur as a result of two people viewing an object in motion from different perspectives must lead to a corrective change in time lapse (time dilation) in order to hold “c” constant. All such mechanisms offer clear indications of a universe with a disposition toward stability.

The pervasive existence of cosmic order suggests there might be a congruent and/or co-functional relationship between quantum and classical physics (an idea implied by David Bohm via the hidden variables theory of quantum mechanics (Riley, 2010). Ultimately both the classical (order-based) and quantum theories must agree, and perhaps even be dependent on one another. Still physicists continue to grapple with the apparent discrepancies so it is worthwhile to discuss this issue further.

Information and the Pre-material Universe…

One way to connect classical and quantum physics is through a concept that simultaneously refutes and confirms both theories. It is found in an essential component of Information Theory. This bears some preliminary discussion.

Many theoretical physicists have referenced “information” in their writing, particularly regarding the behavior of black holes (Barbon 2009). Information in that context typically refers to matter and energy. For example, if an object is sucked into a black hole, the object will break up, as seen in various Star Trek movies. Yet since the law of energy conservation holds that the energy of the object cannot be anihilated, can only change its form the info-energetic components of the object cannot disappear. In effect, all of the information content must continue to exist in some form. One reason why Stephen Hawking believed that radiation would materialize and radiate beyond the black hole (and not be completely absorbed) was that the law of energy conservation, combined with beneath-the-surface energy fluctuations that characterize a quantum state means that some of the information content – the stuff that popped in and out of existence (virtual particles) had to continue to exist, and to retain the information content of the mass that was absorbed into the black hole. More simply put; you cannot get something from nothing, or nothing from something. That use of the term information as applied to matter and energy is useful but possibly incomplete.

An Abstract Universe…

This writer has discussed this topic in previous articles but the idea is worth repeating. Information equates not just with mass and energy but with existence in every sense of the word. While theoretical physics assumes matter and energy are essentially all there is – thus the word “physics”, there is a universal “something” that is not completely physical.

Information theory holds that “something” can only come into existence by being extracted from a prior state of monotony or uncertainty. The latter refers to a super blend without any internal distinctions, whether in the form of mass or force. The amount of information corresponds to the amount of uncertainty that is reduced. For example, if we type out the letters “tele”…and ask which word it refers to, answers would vary (uncertainty would be high). But if we add one letter at a time, each new letter (say initially the letter “p” it would reduce uncertainty by one bit. Now we have the letter sequence “telep.” Still this can entail several possibilities so uncertainty still prevails, as does redundancy. If, however we add the letter “h”, followed by the letters o…n…e. the word “telephone” emerges ( a kind of grammatical “creation)”. At that point maximal information has been attained, while uncertainty is reduced to zero. In an analogous process this gives the idea of nothing a slightly different meaning.

Within that model each reduction in uncertainty..(i.e. each distinction extracted from redundancy item) creates a viable message….a “something” that can apply not just to language but conceivably to any aspect of nature.

In a cosmic context, “nothing” would equate with complete/infinite redundancy. For example, with no distinctions between a photon and an electron, between, plasma and matter, between a fermion (matter-carrying particle) and a boson (a force-mediating particle) there could be no existence; neither perceptible to the human eye nor with any functional or communicative properties. By that process, perhaps the entire universe – its essence, its functions, its communicative features originated, not quintessentially in a big bang but more functionally through information expansion in process that could be called cosmic resolution.
In some ways this is coincides with the anthropic principle but goes beyond that to a broader world mechanism which can be discussed through another experiment (sorry about the redundancy).

Universal Noise…

Imagine a universe with no distinctions among particles, forces, stars, planets, flora and fauna; only an infinite blend. In that state nothing could communicate with anything else. Changes, adaptations, messages, force and mass variations, as well as symmetry-breaking would all be impossible. This redundant world would not just be in a permanent state of entropy. It would not be a “world” at all because only with a transition from a state of uncertainty to information can existence originate.

A Proto-physical Explanation…

In that sense, a bridge between classical and quantum physics might lie in information dynamics. Without the uncertainty of the quantum world there could be no classical, lawful world. In that sense classical and quantum physics might be complementary rather than contradictory. In other words, just as one cannot get information without a prior state of uncertainty, one cannot get the lawful classical world without it being extracted from the uncertain quantum world.

Room for Dissent…

There are several problems with this argument (I told you I was fairly ignorant on this subject matter). One is that it explains the universe in abstract, rather than material terms. In this model Information theory replaces physics as a prime frame of reference. Second, it transcends both the quantum and classical models by postulating a ‘derivation’ theory of the cosmos whereby one cannot have order without an initial state of disorder. That would seem to refute the the typical order to chaos sequence implicit in thermodynamics. Another problem lies in the implication that something can arise from nothing, which runs contrary to the principle of energy conservation.

How to address such conundrums? It is not an easy task. Quantum mechanics has been not only verified by research but employed very effectively technologically. So have classical concepts – or else we couldn’t not travel into outer space or use GPS systems in our cars. On the other hand so has Information Theory, both technically and mathematically. The notion that information is measured by a reduction in uncertainty is almost well established (Stover 2014).

Another potential problem is that this idea raises interesting questions about reality; converting it to something more metaphysical because origin and causation are considered pre-material. It is scientific in that information lends itself to measurement through the uncertainty reduction postulate but the ultimate unified theory is not a field or theory of quantum gravity but a non-material info-resolution process.

What About the Beginning?

How might one conceptualize the pre-informed universe? One way is by drawing a parallel between two forms of energy – potential and kinetic. Potential energy corresponds to mass but has no impact or communicative possibilities or any effect at all, without movement (which converts it to kinetic energy). Potential energy is a state of pre-existence with no cause-effect manifestations. Like potential energy the proto-universe might have been implicit, at least until one bit (the first distinction) of information was extracted from its absolute state of redundancy.

Once a distinction occurred and separated from the pack (electron, photon, helium gas etc) something interesting would have happened. Not only would the information content of the cosmos have increased at that point, but through separation by distinction it became possible for the first foray into communication to begin. That is because only with a capacity for signal differentiation can there be a message. Thus the newly distinct particle/gas entities were at some point able to exert influence on each other where none existed before in the potential universe. That in itself would have led to more rapid signal distinctions. An information explosion would have unfolded into a plethora of celestial bodies (which could be categorized as cosmic bits). Eventually, the four main forces would have separated functionally.

From information to systemization and complexity…

As more distinctions occurred, more bits of information would have obtained. Atoms developed distinctions in the form of electrons, a nucleus, protons etc. as part of information proliferation. Massive clouds of gas swirled until gravity pulled some together into distinct galaxies, which entailed still more information (uncertainty reduction) in the universe.

The question is whether existence, as applied to the origin and evolution of the universe can be seen as an evolving information system. If so, the quasi-entity prior to creation would have to be described as somewhere between a physical and a pre-material world. Not “nothing” as with a vacuum, but “nothing” in a functional/communicative sense; governed most basically by a process encompassed in information dynamics, and ultimately manifest through a resolution process, not unlike the cognitive quest for discovery by those who study the universe.


Barbon JLF (2009) Black holes, information and holography, Journal of Physics, Con. Ser.. 171 01

Burridge, L. Pavlov and his Disciples. The Pavlovian Journal of Biological Science. Vol. 25 (4) 163-173

Bohr, N. Discussion with Einstein on Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics; The Value of Knowledge; A Miniature Library of Philosophy. Marxist Internet Archive (Retrieved 2010-8-30. From: Albert Einstein, Philosopher-Scientist (1949) Cambridge University Press.

Cover, J.M. Thomas, JA (2006) Elements of Information Theory (2nd Edition) Wiley-Inter-science

Riley, B.J. (January 2010) Some Remarks on the Evolution of Bohm’s Proposals for an Alternative to Standard Quantum Mechanics TPRU, Birbeck,University of London.

Stover, J.V. (2014) Chapter 1; Information Theory; A Tutorial Introduction. University of Sheffield, England

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Zimmerman- Jones, A. Robbins, D. (2009). String Theory for Dummies, Wiley Publishing Co.

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