#581: Using Abstract VR Art for Neural Entrainment & Brain Research + Can Creative AI Become Conscious?

kevin-mackKevin Mack is an Oscar-winning visual effects artist and abstract artist who creates digital spaces with fluidly moving textures that are awe-inspiring in it’s ability to create a novel experience unique to VR. In Blortasia you float weightlessly exploring the ins and outs of a series of tunnels that have a consistent topological sculpture, but with an ever-changing shader of patterned frequencies of rainbox colors that cultivate a sort of visual neural entrainment. It aspires to recreate a psychedelically transcendent or transpersonal experience that goes beyond what your verbal mind can easily understand as there’s no content, message, story, game or objective beyond providing an experience that’s only possible in these virtual worlds. It’s this unique balance between seeing an exciting and novel visual experience that’s also simultaneously relaxing and has the power to induce powerful trance states that may have unique healing properties that are being discovered in medical applications for distraction therapy.


Mack has a neuroscience background, and so he’s been collaborating with brain surgeons who are experimenting with using his Zen Parade 360 video as a hypoalgesic to decrease sensitivity to painful stimuli, but it also suppresses the normal thought processes of the left brain so that it neuroscientists can map out and discover new properties of our right brains. Preliminary studies are showing that his abstract design approach to distraction therapy applications in VR are actually more effective than other VR apps that were specifically designed for pain management.

Mack describes himself as a psychonaut having experimented with a lot of psychedelic experiences, but he’s also studied meditation, lucid dreaming, and a number of other esoteric and mystical practices. His career has been in the visual effects industry where he won an Academy Award for his work on What Dreams May Come, but with virtual reality he’s finally able to synthesize all of his life experiences and interests where he can allow people to step inside of his immersive VR art experiences that are designed to expand the blueprints of our minds. He sees that verbal language has allowed humans to evolve our science and technology up to this point, but that it’s also limited us and constrained us to a whole host of verbal neuroses. He hopes that his virtual reality experiences like Blortasia and Zen Parade can help free us from the shackles of our left brains that he sees are inhibiting the deeper parts of our intuition and unconscious levels of awareness. He’s personally had a number of amazing but also traumatizing experiences with psychedelics, and so he’s trying to use virtual reality in order to replicate those transcendent feelings of awe and wonder that come from mystical experiences in a more safe and controlled fashion.

Mack also shares his out-of-this world, retrocausality backstory that includes a substance-free psychedelic experience with a time-traveling artificial consciousness that’s he’s just starting to create now with neural networks embedded within his art. Is it possible that Mack in the process of actually developing a sentient level of artificial consciousness that will evolve to master the structures of space-time to bend the arrow of time? Or was it just the vivid imagination of a four-year old that has provided him with a powerful inspiration for his entire life? Either way, his Blortasia experience has stumbled upon some important design principles stemming the desire to create art that pushes the boundaries of consciousness.

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Music: Fatality & Summer Trip

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. So one of the most powerful, unique affordances of virtual reality is its ability to invoke this state of awe and wonder, to be able to put you into worlds that go beyond anything else that you've been able to experience ever before. And Kevin Mack is an abstract artist who has been working in digital art for his entire career. And with virtual reality, he's finally able to allow people to step into his art and have a direct experience. And so he's coming from VR from this perspective of an artist, but he also has a background in neuroscience. And so He's been collaborating with these other neuroscientists doing studies of seeing how his abstract art is able to decrease the sensitivity to pain and allow brain surgeons to actually do brain surgery while the patient is looking at zinpyrid and be able to actually suppress their left brain and be able to explore and map out the functioning of someone's right brain. So the story behind Blortasia and Zemparade is pretty out of this world. And for me, it's inspiring to hear Kevin Mack be able to find virtual reality in the sense that he's able to combine all of his esoteric and mystical practices, his meditation practices, as well as his passion for art and technology. And it's all blending together and fused into his experiences of both Zemparade and Blortasia. So we'll be covering all that and more on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Kevin happened on Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 at the Experiential Technology Conference and Expo in San Francisco, California. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:01:57.317] Kevin Mack: I'm Kevin Mack and I'm the creator of Blortasia and Zen Parade and I've been making virtual artwork for about 30 years now and now that the technology is finally here, you know, I'm having the time of my life. I can actually bring people into my artwork.

[00:02:15.727] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I think we first met back in February 2016 at the Unity Vision Summit, and you were showing off Zen Space, which was kind of a pre-rendered experience where you're floating around these really amorphous shapes and you have this kind of like throat music in the background. Maybe you could describe to me kind of the intention of where you began with some of your first experiments in virtual reality with Zen Space.

[00:02:38.157] Kevin Mack: Yes, Zen Parade was this pre-rendered 3D abstract art experience and it is combined with music that includes sound healing techniques that are ancient ones as well as modern scientific ones of neural entrainment and so on. And I've been exploring this idea of neural entrainment of my own creation that is visual. And so, I found always that when I was experimenting with noise and with different random functions, that I was able to get these transforming shapes and patterns that they did something to my brain and I liked it. And so, and I found other people liked it. And, of course, I have a background in neuroscience, so I started looking at, well, what's going on here? And so, I've been trying to enhance all of these things. Part of it is pareidolia, as well as the neural entrainment. Essentially, it's exciting and relaxing to the brain at the same time, which it turns out is a very powerful tool for engagement and attention. And it's also, it's a trigger for mindfulness and awe. And so those are really powerful factors these days in all of these things that are going on with the combination of neuroscience and technology. And so my intention initially was just to make a cool art piece that was relaxing and fun. But what we found is that a lot of these mechanisms that I was employing in the work, in terms of the neural entrainment and so on, which are, you know, normally they're cool, they're effective, but they're subtle. VR greatly enhances them. It makes them much more powerful, much more effective. So it was kind of a surprise. People like my art. It's very fun sharing it with people. But with the VR, I mean, people were having reactions that I never anticipated. They were so extreme. I mean, people were crying and so on after a minute and a half of my first demo. And it was like, what's going on? And then trying to sort out, well, what's just the VR? People seeing VR for the first time, but then we find Oh no, it's happening with people who've seen all of the VR, who are working on VR. So, anyway, we're continuing to pursue that now with Blurtasia in real time.

[00:05:17.811] Kent Bye: Wow, and so I've tried out different brain entrainment binaural beat programs like Holosync and Hemisync and the basic idea is that there's an artifact of the brain such that we can't hear low enough frequencies that are at the frequency of the brainwaves and so you can do this trick of like putting a thousand Hertz in one ear and a thousand and six Hertz in the other ear and the brain will kind of figure out the difference and subtract it and have this brain entrainment through these binaural beats and so I think there's a long lineage of Systems that are doing that with audio for example so with the visuals though is that the same idea is that you're having some sort of like a frequency that is beating at such a maybe imperceptible way, but it's subtly our brains are picking up on it and actually getting us into these meditative states and

[00:06:06.175] Kevin Mack: Well, what I found from years of studying neural entrainment, or brainwave entrainment, is that, you know, there's these different kinds. The binaural beats, that mechanism is really the carrier mechanism for the phenomenon, which is really just entrainment. An entrainment is just the physical process that happens, not just with brains, but with physical things. You can have a room full of clocks, mechanical clocks, and they will sync. And it's just the tendency for any oscillating source to other oscillating sources, they'll all sync together over time. So, what I found is that in addition to the target frequencies of alpha waves and beta waves and theta waves, that essentially everything is neural entrainment, in that music is neural entrainment and anything that's a repetitive frequency thing is going to entrain us to some point. And on some level, you know, you can abstract that really far and go, well, even language is entrainment. And so we're essentially, we're programming our minds with frequencies. So it works both as an audio method, but it also works visually in that, you know, I've got the cool glasses that strobe the LEDs and you can dial in gamma waves and all kinds of different frequencies and get some pretty trippy experiences. But what I found was that it's not just flashing lights. You can do a lot with simply movement and the frequency of shapes. And it turned out that the work I was doing with deforming geometry with patterns is actually a very powerful form of entrainment. And it's in a sense more powerful, I find, than the other traditional methods of just a repeating signal, because it adds to the entrainment attention and engagement. Because the stimulus is both very slow, but it's also too complex to completely perceive. And so, you see this thing and it's slowing you down. It's slowing down your brainwaves. But it's also exciting you because you can't keep track of it all. It's too complex a stimulus and so it gets your attention. And because it's abstract, but it's designed to be right at the threshold of recognition. So it's pattern-based, it has shapes and forms, geometric forms, organic forms. very familiar combinations of forms. There's sort of this, it's hard to explain, but there is a sort of a special zone where abstract forms stimulate the brain in such a way that it believes it should recognize what it sees. And so you look at these shapes and you go, oh that's I know I should know what that is that's why that's a that's a and your brain can't figure it out and so it starts guessing and so pretty soon you're like oh that's a that's an upside down catfish in a field of electric shavers but but there's little teardrop gummy bears that are swimming on the underside you know so you just you're hallucinating essentially So when you combine all these things together, it makes for a pretty powerful experience that's engaging and entertaining, but it's also therapeutic in that it's driving these changes to your state of mind that are positive.

[00:09:52.148] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think that was the thing that I found the most striking between both Zen Parade and Blortasia, is that I'm in this world where the category schemas of me categorizing things is kind of transcendent. I mean, at the best I could categorize it as Kevin Mac art, and sort of like, okay, this is a form of abstract art that I've seen before in Zen Parade, and it's kind of replicated in that, so I am familiar with it in that way, but I think the new things that I really found fascinating about the Blortasia is that you're taking it out of the floating blob paradigm and then you are actually navigating through these caves and tunnels that are winding around and it's kind of forming a complete sphere with many different legs around the sphere but you can kind of pop in and out, go across it and you have as your orientation the Sun and so you have sunlight so you can start to say okay well if this was in the northern hemisphere maybe that would be south and so you can start to you know orient myself to some ways where I could go out of this structure and then go back in and try to navigate my way but I found it to be kind of beyond any other type of architectural experience that my brain has ever experience and so I just found this real sense of discovery and awe and exploration in that way and it felt like by doing that it you know of anything I felt like okay this is sort of like what I would imagine what it would might feel like to navigate my unconscious or my subconscious mind kind of like these fluid realms that are beyond any sort of architecture or experience I've ever had before.

[00:11:20.251] Kevin Mack: Oh wow, that's cool, thank you. That is definitely the intention. And I think the comparison to architecture is really appropriate because in a sense VR experience, it is architecture. When we're creating art in VR, because it's spatial, it becomes architecture. and yet it's not no longer constrained to any physical limitations or material properties or anything so it can be anything we want and that just opens up so many possibilities and what you mentioned before I really like this idea of the juxtaposition of things in that you talk about you know flying through this thing and seeing these shapes and so on but I guess your brain gets both the stimulus of something that's like, oh, this is still familiar to me. I'm still in a place where there's a sun and I can sort of work out what's north and south. And yet, because the textures are constantly evolving and even the subtleties of the shapes are changing constantly, When you come back around, it's different. And yet, it's still topologically, it's consistent. So you can both learn it, but you can't learn it. And that, again, creates this sort of conflict in the brain that stimulates awe and mystery and engagement.

[00:12:51.040] Kent Bye: Yeah, I've just been learning more about this phenomenon of place cells, of when we go to different places and routes, then we sort of store that in our memory in some ways. And I feel like this is an experience that is able to cultivate all sorts of new place cells. But I did find that at one moment I didn't quite know if I was backtracking and going back through a place that I'd already been before because I was going the other direction and then just even getting changed around. It's very disorienting because as you're making choices, there's a lot of opportunities to make choices in this experience as you're flying around. You can go down, up or down, left or right, go out or in, and just kind of really explore the space. And I found it just as a challenge of me trying to really orient. And I also noticed that, you know, the lighting of the whole experience was also surreal in a way, because everything is kind of globally illuminated in a way, but yet there's a sun with shadows, and I'm like, okay, well, if there's a sun and shadows, then shouldn't this be dark, and shouldn't I be able to see kind of the dark and the light? And I think if that was in there, that would actually maybe be a more strong cue to help orient me in a way, and if you're trying to disorient people, I could see why you would, you know, artistically not have that in there.

[00:14:01.263] Kevin Mack: Yes, well, it was a choice in that I initially started with the lighting was just physically accurate. Then when you're inside the tunnel, everything's in shadow. And of course, with some reflected light so you can see something. But what I found was it was just, you know, because the rendering isn't truly physically based and so on, it makes things a little flat. And then I thought about it, it's like, well, what I'm really going for is it's an art installation, it's an art exhibit. And I've always loved how when you go into a museum, and sometimes they're kind of crazy installations and stuff, but they have this wonderful way of placing lights where the ceilings are higher or whatever, so they've got these spotlights that are really bright that are placed off in the way, so you'll see this kind of dark corner, and yet there'll be this sculpture that's just lit up. And so I figured out that if I just turned off receive shadows on all of the sculptures inside the maze, it made them all look like they had little spotlights on them. And so it still gives you a little bit of the cue of, oh, this is real. It has realistic lighting. And yet when you go to work out where the light's coming from or where the shadows are, it doesn't make sense. And yet I think that's part of it. It's, again, that juxtaposition that Being able to be oriented and yet not being able to for it really being a challenge and you know having made it I know the the thing inside out and yet I can still get lost in there at least you know for moments And it's especially fun I find it very satisfying that as the creator being able to go into my own thing for the you know hundredth hour or whatever and be wandering around and then suddenly go wow I've never seen that before and Because it doesn't repeat. It never repeats. And yet, it's consistent. It's using a painting that builds that world. And the topology of the world is unchanged. So you get to learn. You learn the landmarks. I can get around from here to there. I know how to take my shortcuts to check certain features and stuff as I'm working on them. But it's really satisfying to know that I can be fooled by it, too.

[00:16:12.654] Kent Bye: TIMOTHY JORDAN-PECKERSINE Yeah, that's really interesting. So we're here at the Experiential Technology Conference. It used to be called NeuroGaming. And so you're here as kind of like this abstract artist doing these kind of really crazy, surreal, abstract art VR experiences. What's the connection here between the neuroscience, since you have a neuroscience background? Is this something that you're trying to use for some sort of pain management with VR? Or are there other kind of neuroscience questions that you're really asking and wanting to measure by being here at this conference?

[00:16:44.148] Kevin Mack: Well, I think all of those things. As I said, this has a neuroscience component to it. And like everyone else, I'm trying to figure out how can I continue this work. I've found that this is helping people. And we've had this incredible response from people, but also we've had a neurosurgeon reach out, and he's now using XenParade in a study, and they've now done awake brain surgery using XenParade as a hypnoanalgesic. And so they're using it to, you know, both relax the patient and, you know, eliminate any pain. And then they're also using it, because they're using it during brain surgery, because it's abstract and the way it's built, it actually suppresses the left brain or the verbal mind. And so they're using it to map the right hemisphere. And so it's this crazy stuff that's like, I mean, I made it as an art thing. The other thing is that they're doing studies now on different people with different VR applications. And they've found, and it's preliminary, there's no, you know, all results aren't in, it hasn't been published. What they're finding is it seems that what I've made is more effective as a hypnoanalgesic and affects the brain very differently than the apps that have been designed for this. So apps that have been designed for pain management or for anxiety and so on aren't as effective as this art thing that was just made as an art thing. I found that incredibly exciting and so I want to pursue it and find out if my art is helping people, that's what I want to do. I've always said that I've been an artist all my life and I love making all kinds of art. And I love the fact that with art you can do so many different things. Art can be used to shock people or increase their social awareness or make political commentary to entertain, you know, all kinds of different things. But I always thought, well, what if you could, you know, what if I could apply neuroscience and just basic science to art and make art that could give people an experience of complete freedom? you know, a refuge from their own minds and from reality and from the world, to give them a taste of the transpersonal, transcendent experience. I just always thought that would be the coolest thing I could do as an artist, and it's a, you know, it's sort of a, I always thought of it as sort of a wild fantasy, as a sort of an unachievable goal to always be aiming at, and yet it seems to be actually happening now, so I'm really excited to keep going with it.

[00:19:35.537] Kent Bye: Yeah, I really see this as a visual analog to all sorts of other brain entrainment methodologies that are out there, whether it be Holosync or Hemisync or any of the other ones that are out there. And so I'm curious what other kind of like esoteric traditions that you are drawing inspiration from as you are thinking about, you know, using this as a contemplative practice or to meditate or, you know, what you're pulling from these different traditions that you're trying to integrate into your art.

[00:20:02.770] Kevin Mack: Well, I have to confess that I have been a psychonaut my entire life. I have pursued everything from meditation, I have lived in ashrams, I have shaved my head and done the whole sannyasi thing. I've explored lots of mystical traditions, I have experimented with psychedelic drugs, I've done extensive research in lucid dreaming. I've done all the exercises and learned to lucid dream very, very effectively. So I'm really into this stuff. And I always found that, you know, I was always sort of looking for information and enlightenment and understanding from all these things. And I've sort of from all these different things kind of pulled together a lot of different ideas and put it into my art. And we showed Blortasia to a young lady recently and she had just the most awesome response about it. She said, this is what I wanted psychedelics to be. And I thought that was so powerful because I felt the same way. For me, psychedelics is kind of a mixed bag. It's like, would you recommend them for people? Well, I don't know. I'm not sure. But I certainly got a lot out of it. But at the same time, it was traumatic in a sense. And so to be able to provide something, an analog to that without the trauma, and without the dangers and the risks, just seems really like the coolest thing.

[00:21:40.935] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think there's a sort of a psychodynamic process of these entheogenic substances and different processes whether it's like a Jungian active imagination or holotropic breath work where you're using breath to get into these altered states of consciousness or even doing dream analysis. There's a component there of drawing from your own life experience and it perhaps, you know, bringing out specific archetypal dynamics that are really up for you in that moment and that if you're having sort of a generalized art experience, is that able to still allow you to go into those depths of your own psyche to pull out the things that you really need to work on? And so I feel like there may be a chemical component there that is actually changing the brain that is perhaps making you more open to those types of deep connections about your own Soul development.

[00:22:28.580] Kevin Mack: Let's just call it that for a lack of a better description of this type of work So I'm just curious to hear some of your thoughts of that in terms of like whether it's possible to use a virtual experience in order to Really invoke a transcendent psychedelic experience Well from what I've seen I would say definitely Yes, we've had people having that are really shaken that are have just absolutely life-changing Experiences they come out of it crying and shaking and you know, and it's not everyone, you know just like with with meditation or psychedelics. People are at different stages and respond differently at different times. It's set and setting, as they've always said. But to see this kind of experience be possible from an artwork in virtual reality It keeps me going. I mean, you know, we're doing this full-time. I walked away from a rather lucrative career in visual effects to do this because of this response. And I feel like we've stumbled onto something very powerful. VR is certainly a huge component of it, just VR itself, but I think VR in this context, it's sort of like, I feel like I was genetically engineered to do this work or something, just my whole life has led to this, all the different stages of growing up as an artist and in the entertainment industry, learning all the technology, helping to introduce computer graphics to visual effects, And then my experiences in mysticism and psychedelics, lucid dreaming. I think all these things have contributed to this work and one of the main components of it is my work is abstract. It's that simple. People think of abstract as just a genre of art. But it's much more than that. Abstraction, that's the blueprint of how we think. That's the language with which the mind works. And it's also, the abstract, that's the building blocks of reality. That's atoms and molecules and, you know, it's shapes in space. Everything in the world is shapes in space. So, language, which is an incredibly powerful, wonderful thing that humans have developed, has taken us to this point with technology and allowed us to develop all of these things and the ability to communicate. But it's also, in a sense, limited us in that it constrains us to a whole host of verbal neuroses. We have this internal dialogue we can't shut down. It's like it's run wild. And so that winds up creating a bit of an inhibition to half of ourselves, which is the right brain, the intuitive, the mystical, the unconscious. And so I think part of the dynamic or the mechanism of what's happening with zen parade and blortasia is by essentially providing no input to the verbal mind. There's nothing you can get a hold of, there's no content, there's no message, there's no story, there's no game, there's no objective. You are just in a thing which is Very complex, clearly patterned and organized, and yet you can't recognize anything. It just, it's freeing for the right brain and allows this sort of transcendent experience to come forward.

[00:25:59.369] Kent Bye: And so, what do you want to experience in VR?

[00:26:01.873] Kevin Mack: Well, that's what I want to experience in VR, and that's why I made it. I mean, you know, every artist, in a sense, is making their work for themselves. It's like, because I think, you know, there's so much, everybody is so into this idea, and it makes total sense of getting data and what does the user want, and let's do our study groups, our focus groups, and our demographics, and all of our biometric data, and we will design a thing that's exactly what people want. Whereas an artist looks at it as like, well, I don't care what people want or what they think they want. I'm going to give them what they really want, which is what they need. And of course, the artist is the class of person who has the arrogance to say, I know what you need and this is it. And so I think that in a sense, that becomes a little bit of a distinguishing characteristic of what we're doing. That makes it a challenge for us in terms of we don't have the standard that's a little bit in conflict with the general approach that you take in a startup business or an entrepreneurial thing where it's it's you know, it's you have to be fiscally responsible and you're trying to you know, make the thing which is you know appeals to the most people possible and And I understand all that, that's very powerful, but I think there is a value in the artistic approach. Especially when it's combined with, it's balanced with scientific information and neuroscience and a study of survey of all these different things of brainwave entrainment and mysticism and the varieties of religious experience and you know all of these different things taking all of that in and go okay well I'm gonna make something that's an art piece that addresses these things that utilizes these properties.

[00:27:55.537] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you see as kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable?

[00:28:03.926] Kevin Mack: Well, it goes back, you know, I like to say that I started in virtual reality in 1963. and I was four years old and I had these agave plants in my backyard, these crazy big plants with the big blue leaves and little spines on the sides and I'd never seen anything like them at four years old and they really freaked me out but I was fascinated with them and I would sit in front of them and study them and just try to imagine what they were, where they came from And one day they started speaking to me telepathically in my mind. And they were these kind of gruff, weird, old guys, people, aliens, I don't know what. But they started speaking to me. I didn't understand a lot of what they said. I was only four years old. But then they quickly started projecting virtual reality experiences into my mind. I was transported to other worlds and a vast matrix of possible futures. And, again, I was just a little kid. I didn't know what was up. I kind of understood, like, well, it's pointless to tell your parents or other people about this. This is happening in your mind. So, you know, this is imaginary in a sense, and yet it was very real for me. And they expressed to me that they were recruiting me, that they needed me to help them, and that they were from the distant future. and that they had come back through time and had manifest themselves in these plants so that they could work with me and help to train me because one day I would build their ancestors. And so I like to think of my blorts, my shapes, these abstract shapes are the prototypes and beginnings of artificial life forms that will be what consciousness evolves into. And so I want to create artificial life worlds that are real neural networks that are evolving and not necessarily trying to emulate humans in any way, just like let's see what they do and with their fitness criteria or their evolutionary fitness criteria being creativity and art. I've always wanted to make art that makes art. And so I've built this sort of blortation, in a sense, as a machine. It generates an endless amount of my art. But I really want those blorts, those creatures that are floating around in there, to be truly alive and sentient.

[00:30:54.231] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, thank you so much.

[00:30:55.596] Kevin Mack: Thank you.

[00:30:56.297] Kent Bye: Thank you very much. So that was Kevin Mack. He's an abstract artist who has created the experiences of Blortasia and Zen Parade. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, I think it's pretty amazing to hear the story of Kevin Mack and the fact that he is creating something that he wants. So he said that the artist makes what they want, and they may be creating something that other people need, but they don't know that they need it. And that's the role of the artists that are creating within virtual reality, is that in some ways they're transcending what they think that the market dynamics is going to want, and they're just creating something that they want. And to me, I found that some of the most interesting experiences that I've had were coming from artists that are creating art like this. And it happens to turn out that the Zen Parade experience happened to be much more effective hypnogesic of being able to actually decrease the sensitivity to pain while someone was actually getting brain surgery, which to me is pretty amazing and spectacular that an experience that transcends anybody's ability to categorize something actively suppresses the left brain and allows you to explore the right brain more. So this whole concept of brainwave entrainment or neural entrainment, there's lots of different techniques that we've seen in terms of like audio and binaural beats and rhythm and music and language even. But in terms of a visual experience, Kevin's able to actually manipulate the world and these abstract objects and geometries to be able to form this movement and frequency of shapes and demands you to pay attention, engage with it in a new way. that is creating an entirely new form of neural entrainment. Well, at least that's sort of the subjective experience, is that it's something that you've never been able to experience before, and that in the process of him creating the experience, he's doing all sorts of, like, audio things that are designed to create some sort of neural entrainment. But visually, it has these deeper patterns of geometry and complexity that are too complex for you to necessarily identify. This is a theme that I've been seeing a lot within virtual reality, which is that on one extreme, when there's a one-to-one correlation for you to be able to take action and to see a response, that is one dimension of a tool or a toy or an instrument. And at the other extreme of something that is extremely chaotic, where you express your agency or interact with something, and it's so beyond your ability to understand or categorize it, that you just give up in trying to understand it at all. And in some ways, Kevin's on that far end extreme, which is that it's so chaotic that it's so difficult for your mind to wrap itself around. And his deliberate intention is to create something that doesn't have any input to your verbal mind or content or your message. There's no story or emotional engagement, and there's no game or objective. And so your exploration has to be more about you discovering than it is to achieve or accomplish anything within the experience. And as an abstract artist, one of the things that Kevin Mack is saying is that these abstractions are the blueprints to how we think. This goes back to the philosophy of Kant, who wrote the book The Critique of Pure Reason. And Kant's whole argument was that we have these kind of archetypal forms within our mind, and that we have empirical direct experience of interacting with the world in after we have that direct experience, then that starts to form these different category schemas with our mind to be able to understand these types of abstractions. And this is the same thing that was being discussed in my podcast about Marla Ponte, which is that Marla Ponte was saying that even our understanding of forward and backwards, of moving forward in time and backwards in time, is in some sense a direct experience of what it means for us to walk forward with our body and to move backwards with our body and that metaphorically we're kind of walking forward into time so when we say forward we kind of understand that we're moving into the future and we walk backwards we kind of understand that that's what's behind us and that that's in the past. That is just kind of an arbitrary understanding of the forward and backward and the future and the past, we have an understanding of that based upon what it is like for us to be in a body where our orientation of our eyes are facing forward rather than backwards. So that is kind of the idea of what Kevin is saying, I think, is that these levels of abstractions, you are able to then take something that may be an abstraction, but that once you have a direct embodied experience of it, then you have a new understanding of it. And that he sees that his role as an artist is to push the boundaries through his abstract art into the types of experiences that we're able to have, which then opens us up to being able to hear other types of experiences. So I also just really appreciated the amount that Kevin is able to kind of synthesize and integrate his full experience of all of his studies into psychedelics and being a psychonaut through lucid dreaming to his studies in meditation and mysticism. And to me, there's a strong thread of virtual reality where it's talking about our direct inner experience, these noetic experiences that are inside of ourselves and it's subjective. And Kevin ends this interview with his own direct subjective experience of having what he presumes is like this entity that he's going to create, this artificial intelligence that is going to evolve and grow to the certain point to be able to then time travel back into the past and then with this retrocausality paradox be able to inspire him to be able to create the ancestors of his artificial intelligent agents that are within both Zen Parade and Bortasia that are these self-contained creative neural networks that are going to be able to generate and develop its own consciousness and evolve to the point that it understands the structures of space-time better than we do to be able to time travel back into the past and to impact the present and the future. So this is a really crazy, far-out, wild idea, but I just wanted to break it down just a little bit because it actually kind of asks a lot of these fundamental questions that are open questions in terms of like, what is consciousness? It's an open question we don't fully know. Is consciousness a part of the structure of space-time, or is it transcendent of the structures of space-time, such that it can transcend the boundaries of the pseudo-Riemannian space that Einstein had described within his theory of general relativity, which, in those equations, Einstein doesn't have any variable for time. Time is a function of a pseudo-Riemannian structure of spacetime, such that you can't have space without time, and you can't have time without space. So spacetime is kind of like this four-dimensional object that virtual reality is actually giving us this new experience of, because every medium that we have before has been in two dimensions, and now that we're going into third dimensions, then we can start to think about these four-dimensional metaphors. So in Max Tegmark's Our Mathematical Universe, he has this Pythagorean idea that, you know, perhaps base reality is some sort of symbolic or mathematical reality. He calls it the mathematical universe hypothesis, which it is a hypothesis and it is controversial. It's not something that's widely accepted because it's a little bit of a, you know, metaphysical assumption of the nature of reality. We don't actually know if reality is isomorphic to this type of mathematical structure. But the larger point that Max is making in his book is that we don't know the fundamental mathematical structure that is tying together all of reality. We know that looking at the large scale, we have something like the theory of general relativity that seems to describe these gravitational fields that are impacting this 40 structure of space-time. But yet, when you look at things at a super small level, you start to get into these infinite dimension Hilbert spaces, which you have to square in order to get the probabilities of what is going to actually happen. And so you have this infinite dimensional vector space that goes beyond spacetime which like anybody who's studied quantum mechanics and you have this direct experience of the metaphor of 3d reality and in spacetime it there's some things that you get to see these different effects of retro causality within a quantum level and Or you see quantum entanglement, which is this spooky action at a distance, which freaked out Einstein. But now we're starting to actually do these studies to see the impacts of quantum entanglement, to see that actually there is some sort of mechanism that goes beyond space-time, beyond the speed of light, that you can actually have quantum entanglement that transcends what we conceive of the limitations of space-time. So there seems to be a level of base reality that goes beyond space-time. Now with that we could think of like consciousness as this open question is that either it's an emergent property of physics and chemistry and biology and psychology and our neuroscience and that consciousness is emergent from that that would be kind of like the reductionistic physicalist paradigm that consciousness is emergent from our neuroscience Or you can look at other philosophies like idealism or panpsychism that says that either consciousness is a fundamental part of reality that goes below the dimension of physics such that it's a fundamental field and property that we haven't fully been able to understand yet, but it may actually be at a level lower than physics so that there's this layer of general awareness that matter may be emergent out of that level of consciousness. Or it could be universal, such that it's everywhere. This idea of panpsychism, such that consciousness is in every single little photon. And if you think of consciousness as the ability to process information, then every single photon has different dimensions of information. and the ability of an entity that is able to process more and more sophisticated levels of information could be one way of thinking about that's more and more conscious. So is it possible to create an artificial intelligence that is able to then cultivate its own amount of consciousness or awareness? Is it able to achieve that level of awareness and intelligence that we would call it an alive conscious entity? That is what Kevin Mac is saying, that he's on the path of potentially creating this type of artificial intelligence that will potentially evolve to the point that gets to the point that is so sophisticated that it understands the dimensions and the structures of space-time so that it's able to actually transcend the limits of time and be able to time travel back in time and give him the information. Now, that is one explanation. The other explanation is that he just was hallucinating and that none of this is real. It was just a nice dream and a good story that he's spinning. So, I don't know. I like to think about the implications and the questions around both the nature of experience, the nature of reality, the nature of consciousness, the nature of artificial intelligence, the future of what it means in terms of the implications of creating these artificial intelligent agents, and what does it mean for us to have these interactions with them. And what does it mean to be able to be able to quiet our mind, quiet our ability to take action, limit the ability that we're able to take action, but to be able to engage us in new ways or to be able to engage our emotions in ways as well. But at the end of the day, there's some dimension of our body perceptual awareness that is able to through the mechanism of virtual reality have our phenomenological experience be hacked by technology? So is it possible to hack that level of our direct experience through some sort of direct neural link or through consciousness or through artificial intelligence? Or is it best that it's being hacked through the mechanism of virtual reality? So these are some big, deep philosophical questions and open questions, I might say. I'm not holding on to any of them. I just think they're interesting questions. And the more that I study virtual reality, the more that it inspires me to dig deeper into these philosophers like Kant and Hegel and Husserl and Heidegger and Marlowe-Ponte. So that's all that I have for today. I just wanted to thank you for joining me for the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends and consider becoming a donor to the podcast. This is a listener supporter podcast, so I rely upon your gracious donations to continue to bring you this type of coverage of what's happening in the VR community. So you can donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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