Alien Information Theory (Book Review)
This post originally appeared on Blossom Analysis.
Alien Information Theory by Andrew Gallimore aims to explain how DMT will allow us to see a higher dimension of reality than we currently can do. The book starts by explaining the neuroscience of psychedelics in a very informative, imaginary, and grounded way. Then from chapter 9 onward the reader is launched into hyperspace and Gallimore tries to convey how we are part of a larger HyperGrid (of information) that DMT is able to connect us to.
A book that is very suitable (from my perspective) in explaining how psychedelics work (just as his excellent course on YouTube↗). But also a book that presents a theory that doesn’t seem fully formed yet (the latter chapters). With future experiments (extended DMT trips), more clarity could possibly be provided about the DMT-state and the ‘information’ that one is able to bring back from it.
“Since prehistory, humans have used a range of psychedelic drugs for communion with the gods, connection with nature, or for the pure pleasure and wonder they generate as they transform the mind and the world. But one natural psychedelic in particular towers above the rest in its astonishing power to replace the normal waking world with a bizarre alternate reality replete with a diverse panoply of intelligent alien beings. As well as being the most powerful, N, N-dimethyltryptamine, more commonly known as DMT, is also the most common naturally-occurring psychedelic and can be found in countless plant species scattered across the Earth. DMT carries a profound message embedded in our reality, a message that we are now beginning to decode. In Alien Information Theory, neurobiologist, chemist, and pharmacologist, Dr. Andrew R. Gallimore, explains how DMT provides the secret to the very structure of our reality, and how our Universe can be likened to a cosmic game that we now find ourselves playing. Gallimore explains how our reality was constructed using a fundamental code which generated our Universe — and countless others — as a digital device built from pure information with the purpose of enabling conscious intelligences, such as ourselves, to emerge. You will learn how fundamental digital information self-organises and complexifies to generate the myriad complex forms and organisms that fill our world; how your brain constructs your subjective world and how psychedelic drugs alter the structure of this world; how DMT switches the reality channel by allowing the brain to access information from normally hidden orthogonal dimensions of reality. And, finally, you will learn how DMT provides the secret to exiting our Universe permanently — to complete the cosmic game and to become interdimensional citizens of hyperspace. Alien Information Theory is a unique account of this hidden structure of reality and our place within it, drawing on a diverse range of disciplines — including neuroscience, computer science, physics, and pharmacology — to carefully explain these complex ideas, which are illustrated with full-colour diagrams throughout.”
Chapter 1 – The Code
“Our reality emerges from a code programmed by an alien hyperintelligence beyond the confines of our 3-dimensional Universe. For want of a better term, we will refer to this intelligence – the author of the Code – as the Other.“
This first chapter sets up the hypothesis that we (normally) only have access to a very small slice of what is really out there. That we are stick-figures living on a 2d piece of paper, and that a 3d world is actually out there. It is through DMT that we may be able to view this world and achieve “interdimensional citizenship and the resolution of the Game.”
From my personal reading and understanding of (among others) Daniel Dennett (e.g. Darwins Dangerous Idea↗) and David Deutsch (The Beginning of Infinity↗ & The Fabric of Reality↗), I can concur on the idea that there is a certain ‘hyperspace’. There are infinite amounts of (always splitting) universes and with quantum computing we are starting to get the first grasp of how this works. But I also think that all our information and meaning-making is a bottom-up process. One in which more and more complexity is added and meaning emerges as things are combined.
This is further discussed in the book when Gallimore talks more about Conway’s Game of Life↗. I think I have the same understanding as him on that point. But not on the point that there are the ‘Others’, the ones who have developed the ‘Game’ that we’re involved in. In my understanding, there really is nothing more to it than quarks, atoms, molecules, humans, etc. No top-down plan, no ‘Game’, no ‘Resolution’, only bottom-up (cranes) processes.
So with that information/my perspective, the rest of the summary review.
Chapter 2 – The Universe as Digital Information
Gallimore defines information as “… the opposite of uncertainty: when you gain information about something, your knowledge of that thing increases and your uncertainty about it decreases.” He also explains it as selecting between different states, when you know it’s one – you have gained X pieces of information, X being the number of states you choose between. The number of yes/no (1/0) choices that you decide between can be seen as the number of bits of information you generate. For instance, electing one square on a chessboard equals six bits of information.
The rest of the chapter dives deeper into how even the smallest things in our universe are in essence just bits of information (it’s
turtles information all the way down). “At its deepest level, deeper than the atom and more fundamental than the quark, the Universe is running a low-level computation.”
Chapter 3 – The Hierarchy of Complexity / The Complexification of Information
The universe can be seen as a computer (something that computes) that updates with every ‘tick’. This chapter illustrates this with Conway’s Game of Life and explains further how information has a certain hierarchy, that from very simple rules, you can get complex behavior.
This Numberphile video playlist is a good starting point if you want to learn more about Conway’s Game of Life (from John Conway himself).
The hierarchy put forth in this chapter is as follows:
- The Code: the fundamental code that generates the Grid
- The Grid: the fundamental structure of space consisting of Cells in specific states
- Fundamental particles: electrons, quarks, neutrinos, etc. Low order information complexes self-organised from the Cells of the Grid
- Subatomic particles: neutrons, protons. Higher order information complexes self-organised from fundamental particles
- Atoms: carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. Higher order information complexes self-organised from subatomic and fundamental particles
- Molecules: proteins, water, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, etc. Very high order information complexes self-organised from atoms
- Cells: smallest components of life. Higher order information complexes self-organised from molecules
- Multicellular organisms: higher order information complexes self-organised from cells
One could, of course, imagine even more levels that go beyond the 8th one here (e.g. social structures/network, countries, companies).
Chapter 4 – Living Information in a Digital World
This chapter touches upon how simple components together can have complex systems emerge from their interactions. This always happens at the ‘edge of chaos’, a place where it’s fluid enough that not everything is stagnant (not changing) or that all the activity is just random noise (no information). The four basic characteristics are:
- Many simple components (agents)
- Local, rule-based, interactions between agents
- No central control. Agents interact locally.
- Self-organisation and emergent behaviours
A definition of ‘life’ is quoted from Humberto Maturana and Francisco Valera, which states that “living organisms are distinct from non-living machines in that they are autopoietic, meaning ‘self-creating’.”
Chapter 5 – Waking Up in a World
As humans, with our awesome brains, continuously perceive the world around us. But we don’t do this as passive receptors, we also actively build (generate) a world in our own head. And we test our incoming information against this model. If you’re awake, dreaming, or under the influence of psychedelics, “your personal reality is always built from information generated by your brain.”
For a further discussion on how we perceive, or predict, the reality around us (and how psychedelics help us study this), I would recommend Carhart-Harris & Friston (2019) – which proposes the REBUS model, or Swanson (2018) which discusses the various psychedelic theories and their connections.
Chapter 6 – How to Build a World – Part 1
This chapter explains, in more detail, how information is generated in the brain (cortical columns, thalamocortical loop) and that sensory (external) information only slightly modifies this process.
Chapter 7 – How to Build a World – Part 2
The building of our world (model) is shaped both during your life and over the course of evolution. Some birds see more colors than we do as they co-evolved with flowers that provide nectar (and the birds provide pollination). And you can learn to better distinguish different flavors of food if you train this skill over time.
So what happens if you change the ‘weight’ of how you are building your world model. That is what the latter chapter are all about. They propose that under the influence of DMT you ‘tune in’ to a different (but still very much real) reality than during normal waking life.
Chapter 8 – Psychedelic Molecules and the Brain
In contrast to serotonin (a neuromodulator), psychedelics bind specifically/preferentially to (mostly) the 5HT2a receptor and make it more likely for cortical pyramidal neurons to fire. The frequency that becomes more active (especially under the influence of DMT) is called Gamma oscillations.
“Normally, the intrinsic activity of the thalamocortical system provides the context of incoming sensory information, which is matched to this ongoing activity, selecting and amplifying states from the T-state repertoire. However, in the presence of a psychedelic drug, the inflated state repertoire means that sensory information may select completely novel T-states.”
If applied to someone’s memories (PTSD), thought patterns (depression), or capacity to generate ideas (creativity), this (to my best understanding) also explains how psychedelics can lead to positive outcomes, by making more (and more novel) ways of thinking possible.
Chapter 9 – An Introduction to Hyperspace
This chapter gives a very brief description of the DMT-world (a different (higher-level) reality). My personal gripe with some of the explanations here is that the entities (elfs, machines, etc) are described as ‘intelligent’ but without further clarifying in what way that is true. Other descriptive words used are: highly artificial, constructed, inorganic, technological. All words that could convey a certain meaning, but without further clarification don’t seem to provide much context or ‘proof’ (if possible) of why that should be the case.
The entities also seem very human-like. Be it elves, insects, or other entities. As described here (but also in other places) they seem closer to us than for instance the aliens in the movie Arrival (2016)↗. A question that I always have in the back of my mind is: In how far is it not just our brain connecting disparaging parts and ‘making a story’ just like it was doing before but now with more chaos and/or at another ‘frequency’ that is different than ‘normal waking consciousness’ in relatively predictable ways.
Chapter 10 – Information Flow Through the Grid
Under the influence of DMT, Gallimore proposes, we are able to tune into the alternate DMT reality. The latter part of the chapter explains how information flows up and downwards, and that with DMT this downward (from orthogonal dimension) information flow is attuned to.
How psychedelics work is explained in this very good and concise paragraph:
“Psychedelics change your world by changing the activity of the cortical system and so change the information that constitutes your world. Your model of the external world is altered. Modern neuropharmacological techniques have revealed the binding of classical psychedelics, including DMT, to the 5HT2a receptor as being primarily responsible for these effects. Activation of this receptor causes pyramidal cells to depolarise, promotes gamma oscillations, and changes the patterns of information generated by cortical activity. These changes in information manifest as a change in the world you experience, which is the psychedelic state.”
Chapter 11 – Information Flow Through the HyperGrid
The reason why one could be able to pick up hyperdimensional information is (proposed to be) the patterns of activation in the Grid (our universe) that allow it to receive normally inaccessible information.
An analogy with Conway’s Game of Life and a visualisation of the 3d world as 2d (so the 4d becomes 3d) is used to further explain how this process takes place.
Chapter 12 – DMT and the Hyperdimensional Brain Complex
This chapter further explains how the brain changes to receive this information. The best analogy made here is “the differences between observing the patterns of ripples on the surface of water and actually being the water.”
Chapter 13 – The Mechanism of Interdimensional Communication
“DMT causes your brain to cease building the consensus world and start building the DMT world.”
The three phases are distinguished as:
- Bottom-up modulation – activation phase (5HT2a depolarising)
- Top-down modulation – gating phase (switching patterns, Alpha to Gamma)
- Transdimensional informational feedback loop – lock phase (positive feedback loops)
Chapter 14 – Structure of the Code
The Grid (level 2, chapter 3) is made from pure digital information, the Code (level 1). This chapter explains further how this is so and how higher dimensions follow from lower-order levels.
Chapter 15 – How to Build a Universe
“Building a universe within which complex life will emerge is as easy as finding the right rule set. And as hard.”
Gallimore explains that we were not designed per se, but that we emerge on the edge of chaos. He does argue that there is an alien hyperintelligence (outside the Grid), but that it hasn’t purposefully made us humans.
We are playing a/the Game (see next chapter) and in a way DMT is the intelligence test to see if we know what is going on (if we can use DMT as a ‘technology’ then we’re smart enough to get out of the Game? (to be honest, I really don’t get where this is all coming from)).
Chapter 16 – The Game
The Game is explained along six different levels:
- Emergence (finding DMT)
- Transmission* (using DMT)
- Realisation (entering hyperspace, but only for a limited amount of time, minutes)
- Resolution (transcription) (staying in hyperspace and thus completing the Game)
* “Newborn children are ferried from a prenatal hyperspace to the lower-dimensional life they will gradually become immersed within …”
As noted in the introduction, it would be interesting to hear back when experiments with longer duration DMT trips (via IV administration) have been done and what comes out of it.