Toward a Unified Metaphysical Understanding: About Coherence    
 About Coherence
2010-07-16, by John Ringland

Quoted from my comments to a facebook conversation...

Some Information Theoretic Background

In terms of communication, the issue of coherence is related to the transference of pattern/structure between information spaces. E.g. the transference of an idea between minds or an email between computers.

So coherence could be described as "the correlation between the sent and received patterns". If we have correlation value of 1 then they are identical and perfect coherence was achieved (e.g. perfect transference of understanding form one mind to another). If the value is zero there is no discernible dependence between them and they are unrelated. If the value is -1 then they are anti-correlated and have an inverse relation (e.g. 0 --> 1 & 1 ---> 0 ).

Computers operate at near perfect coherence, however human discourses are much less coherent and often anti-correlated (anti-coherent?). In human relations an anti-coherence corresponds to what was called a schizmogenesis by R.D. Laing. E.g. the Israel / Palestine issue and its spiral of recriminations and deepening misunderstandings.

we are dealing with networks, in fact hollarchies, which are hierarchical networks of networks of networks of... That domain of study is often called "Communication Complexity" and it is really quite complex.

So rather than jump in at the deep end of hollarchic communication coherence lets wade in gently... The basic elements of a network is a single p2p (point to point) communication channel. These can be connected up to form any network.

Hence historically this is where the analysis began. Most notably with the formulation of Shannon Information. It is a measure of the information content of a transmission. I.e. exactly how much is one 'informed' by the receipt of a signal? There are other measures as well that are relevant, such as Kolmogorov Information which is a measure of the minimum required information necessary to represent a construct / structure / pattern. E.g. how much can you compress a file before it reaches its Kologorov limit where it is impossible to compress any further without destroying information that cannot be recreated from the remaining information.

Note: in information system science
a 'system' can be defined as a structured pattern of information that structures the flow of information. Also, information can be defined as "discernible difference". If you can't discern it, then it can't inform you. This definition inherently implies the existence of a discernment process (awareness, computation) that is the structured flow and transformation of information.

The interplay of these interdependant and mutually co-arising phenomena results in experiences of internal observables associated with externally incident information, thus allowing for the transference of pattern from one information medium to another, e.g. light being transduced to neural signals by retinal cells, sound being transduced to mp3 format.

From that little detour we see that systems are not in any sense 'material'. In a sense they are "made of" information/state, computation/awareness, communication/interaction.

Hence the coherence of communication can determine whether a system even exists or not; whether it can self-organise and boot-strap itself into ongoing existence, and whether it can support its existence into the next moment or whether it will succumb to entropy and disorder, thereby entering into a cycle of decay and re-assimilation into the surrounding systemic network (i.e. death).

Note: information, entropy and noise are closely related. Information is difference (e.g. radio frequency modulation) that can be discerned by a system (e.g. a little transistor radio cannot pickup up ultra long wavelength radio signals). All other incident information becomes entropy from the perspective of that system. Entropy is simply information that cannot be meaningfully interpreted and assimilated into the system, in the mind it might feel like 'confusion', 'information overload', 'forgetfulness', etc. The unrecognised or lost signals merge into a background of disturbance that is noise.

The more information that can be assimilated and channeled effectively the less entropy and noise (note: heat is a type of kinetic noise). E.g if an engine converts fuel into vehicle motion efficiently then a minimum amount of information / energy will go into vibration, sound, heat, etc, and most will be converted into the kinetic motion of the vehicle along the road.

The flow of information through interaction channels is what implements the dynamics of all complex systems...

A little about the two information measures, Shannon and Kolmogorov, as well as p2p channels

The two information measures together can be used to study the information dynamics within a system. Both the information content of structures and the information content of streams. It is the interplay between pattern and flow that underlies information system dynamics.

Communication efficiency is improved by increasing the Shannon information and reducing the Kolmogorov complexity of the signal carriers. E.g. sending highly compressed and highly informative digital files via an optical fibre network has high communication efficiency. Whereas, at the other end of the spectrum, imagine using bitmap images of large font text, that contained a lot of useless waffle, sent via a morse code telegraph system that used 10 pound cannon balls as the signal carriers and numerous relay stations along the way due to the short range of the cannons. This would still transfer exactly the same information using the same information theoretic stages and principles, yet the efficiency is low because the the Shannon information of the stream is low and the Kolomogorov complexity of the carriers is high. This is why miniaturisation in computer semi-conductor technology gives such vast speed and capacity improvements - especially over traditional "desk and paper" bureacracies.

Now consider a single p2p channel with a single communication event.
This process advances in several stages, firstly the encoding of some pattern/construct into some symbolic language creating an expression that is transmited through a communication channel. Note: each stage may contain many sub-channels and sub-processes.

On the receiving end the symbols are decoded according to some language (not necessarily the same as that which was used to do the encoding) which results in a cascade of internal associative activity resulting in the experience of a meaning associated with the expression.

If the sent and received patterns are correlated then there is coherence. If you can come to know exactly the same knowing that I am trying to convey, then we have perfect coherence. However in general information is added e.g. noise or distortion, a mismatch of encoding/decoding schemes leads to distortion of the signal and can potentially render it uncorrelated or anti-correlated. Information is also lost e.g. entropy.

This occurs at each stage of the communication process, particularly if a complex construct is encoded using a simple language. The language must have, the "requisite variety" to encode the complexity. E.g. you cannot store the whole internet on a single CD, it lacks the requisite variety. You cannot define quantum physics using the language of a four year old, it lacks requisite variety. You cannot explain a new paradigm idea in a sentence...

Economic Example

I am not just talking about languages such as English and Chinese, they could be conceptual, computational, mathematical, economic, etc. Any symbolic system!

For example, money is a symbol for value that allows us to "communicate value", which facilitates our interactions.

Money itself is not the problem, the problem arises because of control of the value and the flow of money, and for what purpose. Money is a medium of exchange that facilitates social interactions - it is social interaction potential energy, which can make of break organisational, national, and civilisational endeavours. Money is a key 'metabolic' substance within the social dynamics that animates organisations (collective organisms).

Societies, corporations etc can economically kill, digest and assimilate other collective entities. Systemically speaking this is equivalent to biological entities eating each other. This can also occur culturally - e.g. through cultural imperialism and cultural assimilation by replacing the signs, symbols and protocols of a culture with those of another. However it is also through these interactions that organisations merge and bifurcate, creating monopolies or fields of competition in a dynamic equilibrium with each other. This is part of the dynamics of their ecosystem.

Systemic Health

Coherence, due to its impact on communication, interaction, integration, meta-system transition and evolutionary refinement processes, it is a macroscopic observable of the state of a complex adaptive system. In a sense, it is a measure of its systemic health. The nadis or subtle energy pathways that pervade biological organisms are the lines of communication and interaction that animate the being. When these become blocked, or corrupted, then an energetic imbalance arises, from a deep level. It is a disturbance in the discourse that maintains the memeplex that is the animating principle of the system, hence systemic dis-ease can arise.

So developing and maintaining coherence is essential to the emergence, health, persistence and effective functioning of systems. Incoherence is a force of disorder and decay when out of balance. However it has also been found that a zero noise operating condition is sub-optimal for complex systems - so systems need a little chaos, a little wiggle room and some rough edges in order to function optimally otherwise they become rigid and inflexible in the face of inevitable change.

For example, excessive coherence in society can become an invasive / normalising / brainwashing force - to which the antidote is a healthy dose of anarchist incoherence. This maintains the wiggle room. But if the system is anything more than just 'spiced' with incoherence, then the system quickly fragments into warring factions, which start to tear each other apart in countless subtle ways.

Furthermore, coherence and incoherence must be in the right balance throughout an ecosystem for it to maintain evolutionary 'flexibility'. This means inevitable catastrophic suffering, death and decay for many individuals within any ecosystem. This is necessary for the healthy functioning of the ecosystem.

However within each individual system, the tendency is to seek coherence and avoid decay. In most of the above writing I am coming from the perspective of an individual rather than an ecosystem.

Two Clarifications

Firstly, I was not dwelling on "computer systems" in the sense of PC's. Information and computation are more fundamental than energy, space and time, they underlie the dynamics of all systems of all kinds. At least from the perspective of the information system science that I am describing here.

Computation is not just the activity of computers, it is any structured coherent flow and transformation of information. And information is any discernible difference - it is pure pattern. What we call 'energy' is the communication/interaction bandwidth between systems. Thus all system interactions and all energetic phenomena arise via computation of information.

Secondly, in the context in which I am speaking there are no material entities at all. That which we call material objects are actually objects of experience within the mind, which, due to naïve realism are believed to be external material objects. This is also the view of quantum mechanics and Perennial Wisdom. The alternate view is naïve realism which claims that we experience reality "as it is" so its appearance is its nature. Thus is dis-proven beyond all doubt by quantum physics.

When we look out from our eyes we are looking into something that is more like a virtual reality than a physical one. There is not a shred of material substance anywhere in existence - it is all information. See "The Scientific Case Against Materialism"

Going Deeper...

Also, there is a whole other dimension to this issue of coherence!

To understand this other aspect one really has to look at it from the new paradigm - it just sounds unbelievable in terms of the old one - but it is experimentally proven and there are even commercial products available that use it.

I'll just talk about the evidence for it - I won't try to explain it here...

What is coherence? In one sense it is that which is measured by a REG machine. This is a quantum random event generator. Over thirty years of exhaustive research at the PEAR labs at Princeton Uni, they found that the presence of a coherent field of consciousness would drive a REG machine away from randomness. A coherent mind creates an ambient field, that subtly drives quantum events away from randomness and toward order.

E.g. a single person focusing their attention on the machine and willing it to change will cause it to change.

Or more interestingly, taking a REG to a group meditation, or a rock concert, or a world cup final, or to different genres of classical music concerts, and so on. The REG measures the coherence of the ambient field of consciousness.

You when at the theatre or symphony or whatever there are those moments when the energies rise and you feel shivers down your spine - in those moments there is strong coherence detected by the REG.

This is when the separate ambient fields of individual consciousness have aligned with common focus and are resonating together coherently. This exponentially amplifies the telekinetic impact of the group field and if focus with intent it can produce measurable influences upon physical systems.

The research proved that the likelihood that this effect was due to chance was less than one in a trillion (10^-12), which is more exhaustively proven than many accepted facts of science.

There is also the GCP (Global Consciousness Project) which involves a global network of REG's connected up and monitoring the coherence of the global field of consciousness. They take note of interesting features and then try to correlate those with mass social phenomena. They keep a public archive of the analyses on their site.

BTW here's some comments and links about PEAR / REG / GCP etc

An interesting graph linked to via that link shows the coherence data during the days surrounding the 911 event. There were notable features before, during and after the event. It was not just about a bunch of guys in some planes - that was just the visible 'tip' of a global movement in consciousness.

So coherence goes much deeper than just information theory, which is the low-level details, but things like REG machines measure it at the level of macroscopic ambient fields of collective consciousness. It would be fun to play around with one :)

Going Even Deeper...

Another related aspect of 'coherence' is alluded to in this comment I made in regards to the book "Science and the Akashic Field" by Ervin Laszlo (

"The overall idea behind the concept of an Akashic Field is that behind the materialistic and mechanistic world there is in fact another realm of interaction. This book presents compelling evidence for this from the fields of cosmology, quantum physics, biology and studies of consciousness. It is like a subtle communication network that underlies physical reality and that connects every point in space with every other point, and every thing with every other thing. This communication network operates in the realm of pure information that underlies empirical existence and thus does not rely on the transport of physical energy, hence, through this field, interactions can occur instantaneously regardless of physical separation and without any channel for the mechanistic transport of energy. Furthermore, like things tend to interact more strongly with like things, thus humans interact more strongly with humans, galaxies with galaxies and so on. The principle empirical and observable effect of this field is coherence between phenomena across any distances."

There are some great quotes from the book about coherence if you follow the link above (

I'd also recommend the books:

"The Field" by Lynne McTaggart

"Piercing Time and Space: Where Science and Spirit Meet" by Traci L. Slatton

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