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Notes on the Implicate Order

  • Should we consider the Implicate Order to be a new form of descriptive order in physics, for example replacing what Bohm called the Cartesian Order (coordinates and well-defined points in space)? Or is it an ontological statement about the world and reality (a statement about the way the world actually is)?

    An example may help. The sound of a violin is produced by the vibration of its strings (with all their overtones) as well as the wooden body of the instrument. The result is a rich sound that can, for the purposes of study, be analyzed in terms of Fourier transformations into a series of sine wave (vibrations each at a different single frequency). The Fourier transform is therefore a descriptive order but not an ontological statement about the origin of the sound itself. (Implicate Order as descriptive order.)

    On the other hand it is possible to reproduce the sound of a violin on a music synthesizer. In this case the simultaneous sounding of a series of oscillators creates the sound, each vibrating at a fixed frequency. Now the Fourier composition of the sound is an actual statement about its ontology - the origin and nature of the sound itself. (Implicate Order as ontology.)

    Today such a sound can be produced on a computer music system by first sampling a real violin, digitizing the result and then subjecting the sound to a variety of digital processing techniques. Now it may be better to speak of the resulting sound in terms of a Generative Order - the generation by means of the human computer operator, the computer's transformation routines and the underlying program itself.

  • Rupert Sheldrake, in his discussions with Bohm, suggested that the notion of the Implicate order as underlying the Explicate is, in a certain sense, a return to a type of Platonism. In his image of the cave, Plato suggests that the world of appearances is the shadow of a more profound world of Forms or Ideas. In reading Bohm one sometimes gets a similar impression, that the Explicate world is some sort of reflection of a deeper Implicate Order.

  • In talks and lectures Bohm used the idea of a holograph to explain the Implicate Order. (While a part of a photograph contains only a part of an image, a piece of a holograph contains the whole image. Ie the image is enfolded across the holograph.) However, Bohm also pointed out the limitations of such a metaphor. Unfortunately the "holographic paradigm" has gained in popularity without people always appreciating its limitations. To begin with it is a static metaphor, for the holographic transformation (a Fourier Transformation) contains no dynamics. On the other hand the Implicate Order is tied to the underlying notion of a Holomovement - the movement of the Whole.)

    Likewise, the Fourier transformation is a 1:1 mapping while the relationship between the Implicate and the Explicated (and the Superimplicate) is not so simple. For example, only certain aspects of the Implicate can at any one time be mapped into the Explicate. This recalls Bohr's notion of Complementary. An experiment reveals something about a quantum system. A second experiment may reveal some aspect that is incompatible, and paradoxically related, to the first. Bohr felt this Complementarity was characteristic of consciousness and the quantum. In a similar way the Implicate and Explicate Orders cannot be reduced to any simple mapping between them as can the holographic order.

  • For similar reasons Bohm felt that the holographic model of the brain was limited and should perhaps be replaced by something closer to second quantization. It is certainly true that Pribram's model of the brain contains significant insights - that perception and memory are mapped in a delocalized way across the brain by means of Gabor functions and that there is evidence that such Garbor transformations are carried out though synapses in the brain.

    Bohm's objection may have been to the static nature of the holographic approach. Second quantization carries a more dynamic nuance and suggests that events unfold dynamically in the brain. In the sections on Gentle Action I have suggested a model of the brain, via Neural Nets, that requires normal network connectivity plus either an aspect of non-locality, or at least some very fast signal. With such a signal, or non-locality, it is possible to correlate phases at different parts of the net. In this way signals moving across the net experience constructive interference allowing for global waves of activity to sweep inward into small focussed areas of the brain and then scatter outward. The image is of a brain in which electrical activity is spread across several active centers, sweeps inward to a particular region and then sweeps outward again. Such activity is seen in, for example, Perception where information is gathered and processed in various regions of the visual cortex.

  • What is the connection between Bohm's notion of Active Information (arising in his Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory) and the Implicate Order?

  • Further notes will explore the possible nature of mappings and transformations in the Implicate and Explicate Orders. i.e. using the metaphor of the Green's Function as well as the Reduced Density Matrix and the N-representability problem.

Contact F. David Peat