February 28, 2021

Is the experiential a science ? – Part 1

The experiential capital is as scientific as objectivized knowledge
Keywords: Science | Knowledge | Tradition | Civilisation | Experiential | Vernacular | Individualism | Learning | Experiments | Transcendental | Supranatural | Heuristics | Objective   
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Indian civilization had a tradition of verbal transfer of knowledge (called ‘shruti’) as common or in certain periods more common that in form of written records (smriti) owing to:

A) Primality of experience over objective knowledge. 

B) verbal transfer of knowledge enabled selective knowledge transfer. Scholars were an elite guild, which  defended its turf by limiting knowledge dissemination to its own, verbally. Restricting a written word is difficult. A very methodical language of mankind, Sanskrit was not vernacular.

What were A) & B) doing to India, while James Watt was building his steam engine?

The outcome of focus on self, individualism, experiential sciences, and  propagation of higher education only among elite (mostly through verbal tradition) & lack of theoretically objective and written dissemination of knowledge in India was that the industrial revolution skirted us – both intellectually & culturally.

Experiential Science 

Individualism and Intent, as also Plurality naturally lead to primality of experiential sciences vis-a-vis objective knowledge.

Thinking from first principles was common in India and India traditionally advanced in experiential sciences like healthcare. Indian traditional therapies may lack in novel healthcare gadgets, but in clinical practice, which requires subjective and experiential understanding of what a patient undergoes, Indians are amongst the best in the world, whether in India or in U.K., the USA, Canada, South Africa or Australia. 

Psychology is an interesting case study in the west. It  suffered from a lack of recognition as a science in western academic tradition of objective and exact sciences. The lack of comprehension of the ‘experiential’ as science led to forced metamorphosis of many psychologists into ‘Cognitive Scientists’ at first. Thereafter cognitive science was mated with neurology to become ‘neurocognitive sciences’. In the process, the experiential was reduced to the minimum and objective gadgets (fMRIs and Electroencephalography) were introduced to achieve objectivity. 

There is a fallacious perception in the western scientific community that experiential knowledge is faith-based. The experiential capital is as scientific as objectivized knowledge. As such there is nothing perfectly objective in the world. All that is termed objective is marginally subjective. 

Reasons: Two of the important postulates of ALCCO Approach (proposed by this author) are – (i) absence of perfect objectivity in a world including an observer as the universe changes irrevocably owing to entropy increase by the time a measurement by the same or two separate observers is repeated & (ii) Fruitlessness of causality in a world without observer. Latter (lack of causality) makes measurement useless altogether.

Objective scientific knowledge is: “Anyone, using the described technique or art will produce foretold results. It is a state of chronospatially segregated observers & observed”; and

experiential scientific knowledge is: “Only those using the described art ‘will’ experience the foretold, heuristic results. It is a state of merger of the observer with the observed, which is  self-observation”.

Please note that in the definition of ‘experiential scientific knowledge’ the verb ‘will’ is crucial because of its critical import. If ‘will’ is replaced by ‘may’, experiential scientific knowledge is reduced to experience & it loses its ‘scientific knowledge’ tag immediately.

Heuristics & Experiential Sciences

Heuristic solution is one which is known to lie in a region but cannot be pinpointed. Example is recooking a food recipe, it is never exactly the same in inputs and process, but the output is closely similar, not identical).

Heuristics don’t make anything unscientific, conversely, the most advanced sciences of machine learning and deep learning (AI) & quantum mechanics are based on heuristic outputs and not rule/law based (with zero deviation on every repetition). 

Discomfort with heuristic processes is the reason that the west finds quantum mechanics ‘counter-intuitive’. India, conversely, finds comfort in the heuristical, owing to primacy of experiential sciences in previous ages, preceding the advent of objective science through British colonial influence. The experiential as shown previously is essentially heuristic. 

Learning music (experiential) is not less scientific than reading the notes. Western scientific development is in some sense faith-based knowledge dispersion (please note that I specified ‘dispersion’, not ‘generation’), while the eastern approach is experimental. I call western knowledge-dispensing faith-based because objectivized knowledge is taken for granted – on faith. All facts of science are discovered and documented by a few people whether it is the discovery of Higgs boson or the  precession of mercury; a common person has no access to tools and  knowledge to undertake these experiments himself. But since these discoveries and inventions are repeated a few times to check for standard deviations and the papers, patents are peer-reviewed [which just means overwhelmingly voted ‘in favour of’ by the community], it is ‘considered’ objective. How large is the voting community? A few, at most a few dozen people, at best; among billions, who just ‘believe’ what they are taught about the results. The situation with objective knowledge becomes more grim as fake or substandard peer reviews start authenticating critical information. One of the consequences is that Journalism has lost public trust, I am afraid, the rot is spreading to academia. The higher the sources of information, the lower is the capability to review and extract worthwhile knowledge from it. I hope that technology can at least partially resolve this issue of peer reviews, making it more rigorous and democratic. The author with a small team of peers is working on this problem.

Experiential knowledge on the contrary, cannot be accessed without self-experimentation and the concurrence of the learner.

My aim is not to celebrate the experiential by disparaging the objective, but to state that both experiential and objective are scientific and have their own areas of excellence. In every such area, where rapid development is required through practice, the experiential method is ideal while all that needs to be disseminated as tangible or intangible is good to be objectivized. The Experiential is by definition heuristic’ slight deviations are expected and valued, building up to a consensual overall but never definitive conclusion and that  allows & encourages easy and quick mutation.

Experiential & Transcendental 

Transcendental is experientially complex and there is no way to match what one feels in a specific state to how another feels in purportedly similar state. My understanding of transcendental is

“an unanticipated (previously never experienced) mutation in perception (a new experience).” 

It is a deviation in one’s sensory-nervous system in response to an internal (lower systemic complexity) or external (higher systemic complexity) stimuli, where newer types of signals are processed. We are in an ocean of signals, and laws of evolution determine, which of these signals are processed and interpreted and which are left unreacted to. The world one sees emits light in practically all wavelengths but our response system is capable of interpreting only the spectrum from violet to red (VIBGYOR), but sometimes in a deviated (mutant) state our response system processes more signals in range or amplitude then usual, leading to transcendental experiences, which happen in sleep, dreams, deep sleep, yoga, meditation; while the latter (recognition of substantially deviated stimuli & production of similarly, substantially deviated amplitude) leads to untethering of amplitude of response from the usual physiological constraints: a state common on use of psychedelics (innumerable papers  on psychedelics are presented in all major science conferences). It is important to distinguish distorted experiences (deviation in amplitude) from new experiences (new range) and only the latter one is transcendental.

Can transcendental & experiential be miraculous or supranatural? 

Not at all. I reject any supranatural constitution of either transcendental or experiential. I treat it as phenomenal, yet not within the reach of easy human comprehension. Probably as experiential sciences start developing, transcendental experiences will be controlled and accessed as comic  shows trigger laughter on television.

The resolution of the hard problem of Consciousness lies not in objectivizing the subjective, but in understanding the constitution of the subjective, its evolution and devising ways to measure it heuristically. 

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Deepak Loomba

Deepak Loomba

Deepak Loomba is Chairman of De Core Nanosemiconductors Limited, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. He owns the only Private Company in the history of independent India, and the only one in entire South Asia which established a compound semiconductor plant with a material growth facility.

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