Even in absurdity, sacrament.     Even in hardship, holiness.     Even in doubt, faith.     Even in chaos, realization.    Even in paradox, blessedness

 

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"Life expands or shrinks in proportion to one's courage."    ~Anain Nin

{ Tuesday, 10 October, 2006 }

Beauty is in the Processing-Time of the Beholder

In the late 1870s, scientist and eugenicist Sir Francis Galton developed an image of the prototypical "face of crime" by creating composite photos of men convicted of serious offenses.

Though Galton failed to discover anything abnormal in his composite criminal faces, he did find that the resulting visages were shockingly handsome... Studies have since established that people find prototypical faces—those with average features—to be attractive. A paper published in the September issue of the journal Psychological Science proposes a new explanation for this phenomenon: Prototypical faces are pleasing because they're easy for the brain to process.

"There is always this question in psychology or in experimental aesthetics: Is there some sort of psychological principle that can explain a lot of what people find attractive, not only in terms of faces or people, but things in general?" said Piotr Winkielman, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego and the study's lead author. "This idea of ease-of-processing seems like a good candidate."

jaybird found this for you @ 14:09 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 09 October, 2006 }

Scientists discover 'shadow person'

Ever feel as though you're being followed? As if someone is behind you, shadowing your every move? It might be your ‘shadow person', created by unusual activity in a specific brain region, a new study shows.

The paper, published in the British journal Nature, describes the case of a 22-year-old woman with no history of psychiatric problems who was being evaluated for treatment of epilepsy. When a region of her brain called the left temporoparietal junction was electrically stimulated, the woman described encounters with a ‘shadow person' who mimicked her bodily movements.

"Electrical stimulation repeatedly produced a feeling of the presence of another person in her extra-personal space," said Olaf Blanke, co-author of the study conducted by a team of researchers from University Hospital in Geneva, Switzerland.

When the patient was lying down, stimulation of this brain region caused her to feel that someone was behind her. She described the person as young, of indeterminate sex, "a shadow who did not speak or move, and whose position beneath her back was identical to her own", according to the researchers.

When the patient sat up, leaned forward and clasped her knees, she felt that the figure was also sitting, embracing her in its arms - a feeling she described as "unpleasant".

jaybird found this for you @ 20:23 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 04 October, 2006 }

The Reinvention of the Self

For the last 40 years, medical science has operated on the understanding that depression is caused by a lack of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in just about everything the mind does, thinks or feels. The theory is appealingly simple: sadness is simply a shortage of chemical happiness. The typical antidepressant—like Prozac or Zoloft—works by increasing the brain’s access to serotonin. If depression is a hunger for neurotransmitter, then these little pills fill us up.

Unfortunately, the serotonergic hypothesis is mostly wrong. After all, within hours of swallowing an antidepressant, the brain is flushed with excess serotonin. Yet nothing happens; the patient is no less depressed. Weeks pass drearily by. Finally, after a month or two of this agony, the torpor begins to lift.

But why the delay? If depression is simply a lack of serotonin, shouldn’t the effect of antidepressants be immediate? The paradox of the Prozac lag has been the guiding question of Dr. Ronald Duman’s career. Duman likes to talk with his feet propped up on his desk. He speaks with the quiet confidence of someone whose ideas once seemed far-fetched but are finally being confirmed.

“Even as a graduate student,” Duman says, “I was fascinated by how antidepressants work. I always thought that if I can just figure out their mechanism of action—and identify why there is this time-delay in their effect—then I will have had a productive career.”

When Duman began studying the molecular basis of antidepressants back in the early 90s, the first thing he realized was that the serotonin hypothesis made no sense. A competing theory, which was supposed to explain the Prozaz lag, was that antidepressants increase the number of serotonin receptors. However, that theory was also disproved. “It quickly became clear that serotonin wasn’t the whole story,” Duman says. “Our working hypothesis at the time just wasn’t right.”

jaybird found this for you @ 14:25 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 03 October, 2006 }

Ethics on the Brain

Imagine two scenarios. In the first, you are driving down the street and are suddenly overcome by a fit of sneezing. You veer off to the right, and by the time you come to a stop, you realize, to your horror, that you have hit a young woman walking on the sidewalk. She is pinned against a brick wall and, despite emergency treatment, will be paralyzed below the waist for life.

In the second scenario, you are driving a pickup truck on a fine summer morning when you suddenly notice a bee buzzing around inside. You are frightened because you think you might be allergic to bee stings, and while trying to kill the bee with a handy newspaper, you swerve into oncoming traffic, hitting a small car head-on. The driver, a young father of two, is killed.

Are you morally responsible in either of these cases (both of which actually occurred), and should you be held legally responsible? In each case, you can honestly say you didn’t mean to cause harm, and it makes a difference that there was neither conscious nor unconscious intent. Still, could you have foreseen the potential consequences of your distraction? We expect people to exercise self-control. We all know that it is difficult but not impossible to stifle a sneeze; you might do so in a classroom, for instance. We could argue that we have even more control over how we respond to our fears than we do to our impulses. Shouldn’t we be expected, then, to not allow ourselves to be distracted by fear of a bee sting when engaged in something as risky as driving?

We could imagine a spectrum of situations in which the degrees of self-control and personal responsibility would be up for debate. Consider one final scenario: In a fit of anger, a man hits his girlfriend’s young daughter for accidentally spilling a drink on him. He is arrested, but while in jail awaiting trial, doctors discover he has a tumor in a brain region linked to emotional behavior. The tumor is surgically removed, and the man’s angry outbursts diminish. At his trial, the judge declares that the insanity defense was created for this type of situation, and the man is released. Did the judge do the right thing? Should we make allowances when there is evidence that biological factors have led a person to act in a particular way?

jaybird found this for you @ 20:18 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Robert Anton Wilson Needs Our Help

Rushkoff: I hope people I've inspired with my work would band together to help me out in my later years if I needed it. Which is at least part of the reason why I'm sending what I can to support cosmic thinking patriarch Robert Anton Wilson, whose infirmity and depleted finances have put him in the precarious position of not being able to meet next month's rent.

In case the name doesn't immediately ring a bell, Bob is the guy who wrote Cosmic Trigger - still the best narrative on how to enter and navigate the psycho-spiritual realm, and co-wrote the Illuminatus Trilogy, an epic work that pushes beyond conspiracy theory into conspiracy practice. Robert Anton Wilson will one day be remembered alongside such literary philosophers as Aldous Huxley and James Joyce.

But right now, Bob is a human being in a rather painful fleshsuit, who needs our help. I refuse for the history books to say he died alone and destitute, for I want future generations to know we appreciated Robert Anton Wilson while he was alive.

Let me add, on a personal note, that Bob is the only one of my heroes who I was not disappointed to actually meet in person. He was of tremendous support to me along my road, and I'm honored to have the opportunity to be of some support on his.

Any donations can be made to Bob directly to the Paypal account olgaceline@gmail.com.
You can also send a check payable to Robert Anton Wilson to
Dennis Berry c/o Futique Trust
P.O. Box 3561
Santa Cruz, CA 95063.

I ponied up, fnord, and was indeed a bit misty eyed.

jaybird found this for you @ 14:07 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 26 September, 2006 }

Living Without Ultimate Moral Responsibility

Imagine for a moment that instead of Timothy McVeigh destroying the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, it had been a mouse. Suppose this mouse got into the wiring of the electrical system, tangled the circuits, and caused a big fire killing all those inside. Now think of the victims’ families. There would of course still be tremendous grief and suffering, but there would be one significant difference. There would no extra bit of resentment, no consuming anger, no hatred, no need to see the perpetrator punished (even if the mouse somehow got out of the building) in order to experience “closure.” Why the difference? Because McVeigh, we think, committed this terrible act out of his own free will. He chose to do it, and he could have chosen not to. McVeigh, then, is morally responsible for the death of the victims in a way that the mouse is not. And our sense of justice demands that he pay for this crime.

There is an undeniable human tendency to see ourselves as free and morally responsible beings. But there’s a problem. We also believe—most of us anyhow—that our environment and our heredity entirely shape our characters (what else could?). But we aren’t responsible for our environment, and we aren’t responsible for our heredity. So we aren’t responsible for our characters. But then how can we be responsible for acts that arise from our characters?

There’s a simple but extremely unpopular answer to this question: we aren’t. We are not and cannot be ultimately responsible for our behavior. On this view, while it may be of great pragmatic value to hold people responsible for their actions, and to employ systems of reward and punishment, no one is really deserving of blame or praise for anything. This answer has been around for over two thousand years, and it is backed by solid arguments with premises that are consistent with how most of us view the world. Yet few today give this position the serious consideration it deserves. The view that free will is a fiction is called counterintuitive, absurd, pessimistic, pernicious, and most commonly “unacceptable,” even by those who recognize the force of the arguments behind it. Philosophers who reject God, an immaterial soul, even absolute morality, cannot bring themselves to do the same for the concept of free will—not just in their day to day lives, but in books and articles and extraordinarily complex theories.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:03 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 05 September, 2006 }

Just why are human beings hard-wired to appreciate music?

The fact that music is universal across cultures and has been part of human life for a very long time-archeologists have found musical instruments dating from 34,000 BC, and some believe that a 50,000-year-old hollowed-out bear bone from a Neanderthal campsite is an early flute-does suggest that it may indeed be an innate human tendency. And yet it's unclear what purpose it serves.

The evolutionary benefits of our affinity for food (nutrition) and sex (procreation) are easy enough to explain, but music is trickier. It has become one of the great puzzles in the field of evolutionary psychology, a controversial discipline dedicated to determining the adaptive roots of aspects of modern behavior, from child-rearing to religion.

Some evolutionary psychologists suggest that music originated as a way for males to impress and attract females. Others see its roots in the relationship between mother and child. In a third hypothesis, music was a social adhesive, helping to forge common identity in early human communities.

And a few leading evolutionary psychologists argue that music has no adaptive purpose at all, but simply manages, as the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker has written, to ``tickle the sensitive spots" in areas of the brain that evolved for other purposes. In his 1997 book ``How the Mind Works," Pinker dubbed music ``auditory cheesecake," a phrase that in the years since has served as a challenge to the musicologists, psychologists, and neuroscientists who believe otherwise.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:04 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Living Without Ultimate Moral Responsibility

Is it even possible?

There is an undeniable human tendency to see ourselves as free and morally responsible beings. But there’s a problem. We also believe—most of us anyhow—that our environment and our heredity entirely shape our characters (what else could?). But we aren’t responsible for our environment, and we aren’t responsible for our heredity. So we aren’t responsible for our characters. But then how can we be responsible for acts that arise from our characters?

There’s a simple but extremely unpopular answer to this question: we aren’t. We are not and cannot be ultimately responsible for our behavior. On this view, while it may be of great pragmatic value to hold people responsible for their actions, and to employ systems of reward and punishment, no one is really deserving of blame or praise for anything. This answer has been around for over two thousand years, and it is backed by solid arguments with premises that are consistent with how most of us view the world. Yet few today give this position the serious consideration it deserves. The view that free will is a fiction is called counterintuitive, absurd, pessimistic, pernicious, and most commonly “unacceptable,” even by those who recognize the force of the arguments behind it. Philosophers who reject God, an immaterial soul, even absolute morality, cannot bring themselves to do the same for the concept of free will—not just in their day to day lives, but in books and articles and extraordinarily complex theories.

jaybird found this for you @ 14:57 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 30 August, 2006 }

The Experiential Life: Sense of Time, Sense of Place

It is possible though, to work with any numinous experience that one has in nature and translate it or adapt it to ones daily life. When I returned from that trip to the British Isles, the new sense I had about the landscape continued; as I hiked my local trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, I looked at every tree, boulder, and chaparral bush with new eyes. I wanted to know, what was behind what I was seeing here? Was it possible to have a similar experience such as I had on Glastonbury Tor? I’ve not experienced anything like that time in Somerset twelve years ago, but I set out on a program to hike the same canyon every week for a year in order to observe the changes over time. And there are changes, even if the freeway-laden horizon doesn’t seem to change. I noted the flowering of different trees and wildflowers, when the streams held water and when they dried up, when the grasses reached their tallest, and when the coyote pups arrived and the rattlesnakes became active. I watched the continued natural repair from a large wildfire that had burned the area a year earlier and saw migratory birds traverse the area in their seasons. I even found a place near a seasonal spring that some people have designated as a special or even sacred spot. On a tree branch near the stream was a collection of colored ribbons and torn fabric strips, some attached to shells or pieces of carved wood. The spot was lovely to sit in during a hot dry day and the water sounds were soothing, the nature spirits of the area were welcoming. So I added offerings of my own after a time and I assume that people are still doing so.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:48 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



The Ecology of Magic

The traditional magician, I came to discern, commonly acts as an intermediary between the human collective and the larger ecological field, ensuring that there is an appropriate flow of nourishment, not just from the landscape to the human inhabitants but from the human community back to the local Earth. By their rituals, trances, ecstasies, and 'journeys," magicians ensure that the relation between human society and the larger society of beings is balanced and reciprocal, and that the village never takes more from the living land than it returns to it-not just materially, but with prayers, propitiations, and praise. The scale ofa harvest or the size of a hunt is always negotiated between the tribal community and the natural world it inhabits. To some extent every adult in the community is engaged in this process of listening and attuning to the other presences that surround and influence daily life. But the shaman or sorcerer is the exemplary voyager in the intermediate realm between the human and the more-than-human worlds, the primary strategist and negotiator in any dealings with the Others.

And it is only as a result of his ongoing engagement with the animate powers that dwell beyond the strictly human community that the traditional magician is able to alleviate many individual illnesses that arise within that community. Disease, in most such cultures, is conceptualized as a disequilibrium within the sick person, or as the intrusion of a demonic or malevolent presence into his body. There are, at times, malevolent influences within the village that disrupt the health and emotional well-being of susceptible individuals within the community. Yet such destructive influences within the human group are commonly traceable to an imbalance between the human collective and the larger field of forces in which it is embedded. Only those persons who, by their everyday practice, are involved in monitoring and modulating the relations between the human village and the larger animate environment, are able to appropriately diagnose, treat, and ultimately relieve personal ailments and illnesses arising within the village. Any healer who was not simultaneously attending to the complex relations between the human community and the larger more-than-human field will likely dispel an illness from one person only to have the same problem arise (perhaps in a new guise) somewhere else in the village. Hence, the traditional magician or "medicine person" functions primarily as an intermediary between human and nonhuman worlds, and only secondarily as a healer. Without a continually adjusted awareness of the relative balance or imbalance between the local culture and its nonhuman environment, along with the skills necessary to modulate that primary relation, any "healer" is worthless-indeed, not a healer at all. The medicine person's primary allegiance, then, is not to the human community, but to the earthly web of relations in which that community is embedded--it is from this that her or his power to alleviate human illness derives.

[via mefi]

jaybird found this for you @ 14:42 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 23 August, 2006 }

Confronting the New Misanthropy

The big question today is not whether humans will survive the twenty-first century, but whether our faith in humanity will survive it.

Discussions about the future increasingly tend to focus on whether humans will survive. According to green author and Gaia theorist James Lovelock, 'before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be kept in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable' (1).

More and more books predict there will be an unavoidable global catastrophe; there is James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, and Eugene Linden's The Winds of Change: Weather and the Destruction of Civilisations. Kunstler's book warns that 'this is a much darker time than 1938, the eve of World War II' (2). In the media there are alarming stories about a mass 'die-off' in the near future and of cities engulfed by rising oceans as a consequence of climate change.

Today we don't just have Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse but an entire cavalry regiment of doom-mongers. It is like a secular version of St John's Revelations, except it is even worse - apparently there is no future for humanity after this predicted apocalypse. Instead of being redeemed, human beings will, it seems, disappear without a trace.

Anxieties about human survival are as old as human history itself. Through catastrophes such as the Deluge or Sodom and Gomorrah, the religious imagination fantasised about the end of the world. More recently, apocalyptic ideas once rooted in magic and theology have been recast as allegedly scientific statements about human destructiveness and irresponsibility. Elbowing aside the mystical St John, Lovelock poses as a prophet-scientist when he states: 'I take my profession seriously, and now I, too, have to bring bad news….' (3) Today, the future of the Earth is said to be jeopardised by human consumption, technological development or by 'man playing God'. And instead of original sin leading to the Fall of Man, we fear the degradation of Nature by an apparently malevolent human species.

All of today's various doomsday scenarios - whether it's the millennium bug, oil depletion, global warming, avian flu or the destruction of biodiversity - emphasise human culpability. Their premise is that the human species is essentially destructive and morally bankrupt. 'With breathtaking insolence', warns Lovelock in his book The Revenge of Gaia, 'humans have taken the stores of carbon that Gaia buried to keep oxygen at its proper level and burnt them'.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:08 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 15 August, 2006 }

Study provides new insights into brain organization

Scientists have provided new insights into how and why the brain is organised - knowledge which could eventually inform diagnosis of and treatments for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and autism.

A study by Newcastle University, UK, and the International University Bremen, Germany, debunked a prevailing theory that the nervous system should have mainly very short nerve fibre connections between nerve cells, or neurons, to function at its most effective.

Instead the study, which carried out a sophisticated computer analysis of public databases containing detailed information of worldwide anatomical studies on primate and worm brains, found that long nerve fibre connections were just as vital to overall brain function as short ones.

Much of what we know about the human brain derives from neuroscience research on primates, which are used because they have have experienced similar evolutionary stages to humans.

Brain scans of Alzheimer’s patients and people with autism have shown that they are lacking certain long-distance neural interactions, although experts have yet to discover their specific purpose.

The new study, published in the academic journal PLoS Computational Biology, found that long fibres are important because they can send messages quickly over a longer distance compared with if the same message was sent over the same distance via lots of short fibres. It also found that long fibres are more reliable for transmission of messages over longer distances.

“You can draw parallels with a train journey from Newcastle to London,” said lead researcher, Dr Marcus Kaiser, of Newcastle University’s School of Computing Science and the University’s Institute of Neuroscience.

“For example, you would get to London much more quickly and easily if you took a direct train there. However, if you had to make the journey via Durham, Leeds and Stevenage, changing trains each time, then it will take you longer to get there, and there is the possibility you would miss a connection at some point. It’s the same in the human brain.”

jaybird found this for you @ 20:53 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Spock and Roll: Emotions 'fuel irrational acts'

People who make irrational decisions when faced with problems are at the mercy of their emotions, a study says.

Researchers traced the origin of such decisions to the brain's emotion centre, the amygdala, in a study of 20 people using a gambling game.

That brain region fires up in people faced with a difficult situation but reactions to its effects vary, the University College London team found...

The researchers found some people kept a cool head and managed to keep their emotions in check, while others were led by their emotional response.

jaybird found this for you @ 14:45 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 10 August, 2006 }

Viddy Thursday: Aldous Huxley

jaybird found this for you @ 20:58 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Viddy Thursday: G.I. Gurdjieff

jaybird found this for you @ 14:45 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Viddy Thursday: Carl Jung

jaybird found this for you @ 08:56 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 07 August, 2006 }

Oddballs abound when you're a freak magnet

“A freak magnet is basically someone who attracts bizarre, unwanted attention,” says Ginger, who asked that her real name not be used due to the number of times she’s been stalked. “You’re minding your own business and then you suddenly have some encounter that you didn’t invite in any way. It just happens to some people more than others.”

But the burning question is why? Why do some people walk through a public garden and see beautiful flowers and other people, like Ginger, see a naked guy standing in his picture window masturbating?

Do freak magnets emit some kind of special scent? Use different body language? Are they more open and approachable than other people? Or do they just like all the crazy attention or perhaps attract it because they’re a little freaky themselves?

"Being a freak magnet sounds to me like half-complaint and half-boast,” says Dr. Doe Lang, psychotherapist and author of "The New Secrets of Charisma." “There is a sort of suggestive glamour about it. Even if you’re magnetizing freaks, you’re still magnetizing somebody. You’ve got the power to attract.”

But it’s what some folks attract that’s the problem.

Beth Duddy, 46, a restaurant server/artist from San Francisco tends to pull from the paranoid schizophrenic end of the spectrum, i.e., “intense people who like to talk,” often, as it turns out, about their “enemy lists”.

Duddy, whose mother suffered from mental illness, calls herself freak tolerant and admits to being a bit outside the norm, herself.

“I’m college-educated and can put on a business suit and pumps and all that,” she says. “But I’m not afraid to talk to strangers on the street. And it seems that I attract these amusing oddballs and losers. It feels like once I make eye contact with them, it’s all over. They pick up on whatever it is that tells them they can open up their freaky baggage.”

jaybird found this for you @ 14:23 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 03 August, 2006 }

Viddy Thursday: Robert Anton Wilson

jaybird found this for you @ 20:11 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Viddy Thursday: Ken Wilber

jaybird found this for you @ 14:08 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Viddy Thursday: Terrence McKenna

jaybird found this for you @ 08:05 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 02 August, 2006 }

A Nation of Wimps?

Maybe it's the cyclist in the park, trim under his sleek metallic blue helmet, cruising along the dirt path... at three miles an hour. On his tricycle.

Or perhaps it's today's playground, all-rubber-cushioned surface where kids used to skin their knees. And... wait a minute... those aren't little kids playing. Their mommies—and especially their daddies—are in there with them, coplaying or play-by-play coaching. Few take it half-easy on the perimeter benches, as parents used to do, letting the kids figure things out for themselves.

Then there are the sanitizing gels, with which over a third of parents now send their kids to school, according to a recent survey. Presumably, parents now worry that school bathrooms are not good enough for their children.

Consider the teacher new to an upscale suburban town. Shuffling through the sheaf of reports certifying the educational "accommodations" he was required to make for many of his history students, he was struck by the exhaustive, well-written—and obviously costly—one on behalf of a girl who was already proving among the most competent of his ninth-graders. "She's somewhat neurotic," he confides, "but she is bright, organized and conscientious—the type who'd get to school to turn in a paper on time, even if she were dying of stomach flu." He finally found the disability he was to make allowances for: difficulty with Gestalt thinking. The 13-year-old "couldn't see the big picture." That cleverly devised defect (what 13-year-old can construct the big picture?) would allow her to take all her tests untimed, especially the big one at the end of the rainbow, the college-worthy SAT.

Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history. "Kids need to feel badly sometimes," says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. "We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope."

Messing up, however, even in the playground, is wildly out of style. Although error and experimentation are the true mothers of success, parents are taking pains to remove failure from the equation.

"Life is planned out for us," says Elise Kramer, a Cornell University junior. "But we don't know what to want." As Elkind puts it, "Parents and schools are no longer geared toward child development, they're geared to academic achievement."

No one doubts that there are significant economic forces pushing parents to invest so heavily in their children's outcome from an early age. But taking all the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of development, especially while increasing pressure for success, turns out to be misguided by just about 180 degrees. With few challenges all their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety. In the process they're robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget, too, about perseverance, not simply a moral virtue but a necessary life skill. These turn out to be the spreading psychic fault lines of 21st-century youth. Whether we want to or not, we're on our way to creating a nation of wimps.

jaybird found this for you @ 14:00 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 01 August, 2006 }

Neural bases for language existed already 25-30 million years ago

The origin of the brain mechanisms involved in human language is a much debated subject, especially whether these mechanisms appeared independently in humans or were already present in a common ancestor of human and non-human primates. But now, research just published in the advanced online issue of Nature Neuroscience, found that Rhesus macaques when listening to other monkeys’ calls activate brain areas equivalent to the ones used for language in humans supporting the hypothesis that the neural basis for language existed already in a common ancestral. The discovery is a major step in understanding better language origins and evolution.

jaybird found this for you @ 14:12 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



AN INTEGRAL THEORY OF CONSCIOUSNESS

Ken Wilber, blowing your mind again:


An extensive data search among various types of developmental and evolutionary sequences yielded a `four quadrant' model of consciousness and its development (the four quadrants being intentional, behavioural, cultural, and social). Each of these dimensions was found to unfold in a sequence of at least a dozen major stages or levels. Combining the four quadrants with the dozen or so major levels in each quadrant yields an integral theory of consciousness that is quite comprehensive in its nature and scope. This model is used to indicate how a general synthesis and integration of twelve of the most influential schools of consciousness studies can be effected, and to highlight some of the most significant areas of future research. The conclusion is that an `all-quadrant, all-level' approach is the minimum degree of sophistication that we need into order to secure anything resembling a genuinely integral theory of consciousness.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:07 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 28 July, 2006 }

Why our intuitions about how the world works are often wrong

The reason folk science so often gets it wrong is that we evolved in an environment radically different from the one in which we now live. Our senses are geared for perceiving objects of middling size--between, say, ants and mountains--not bacteria, molecules and atoms on one end of the scale and stars and galaxies on the other end. We live a scant three score and 10 years, far too short a time to witness evolution, continental drift or long-term environmental changes.

Causal inference in folk science is equally untrustworthy. We correctly surmise designed objects, such as stone tools, to be the product of an intelligent designer and thus naturally assume that all functional objects, such as eyes, must have also been intelligently designed. Lacking a cogent theory of how neural activity gives rise to consciousness, we imagine mental spirits floating within our heads. We lived in small bands of roaming hunter-gatherers that accumulated little wealth and had no experience of free markets and economic growth.

Folk science leads us to trust anecdotes as data, such as illnesses being cured by assorted nostrums based solely on single-case examples. Equally powerful are anecdotes involving preternatural beings, compelling us to make causal inferences linking these nonmaterial entities to all manner of material events, illness being the most personal. Because people often re-cover from sickness naturally, whatever was done just before recovery receives the -credit, prayer being the most common.

jaybird found this for you @ 14:23 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 19 July, 2006 }

You live in the big here

Wherever you live, your tiny spot is deeply intertwined within a larger place, imbedded fractal-like into a whole system called a watershed, which is itself integrated with other watersheds into a tightly interdependent biome... At the ultimate level, your home is a cell in an organism called a planet. All these levels interconnect. What do you know about the dynamics of this larger system around you? Most of us are ignorant of this matrix. But it is the biggest interactive game there is. Hacking it is both fun and vital.

The following exercise in watershed awareness was hatched 30 years ago by Peter Warshall, naturalist extraordinaire. Variations of this list have appeared over the years with additions by Jim Dodge, Peter Berg, and Stephanie Mills among others. I have recently added new questions from Warshall and myself, and I have edited or altered most of the rest. It's still a work in progress. If you have a universal question you think fits, submit it to me.

I am extremely interested in hearing from anyone who scores a 25 or better on the quiz on their first unassisted try. I'd like to know how you got your Big Here education. I have a few small prizes for anyone who scores (on the honor system) a perfect 30, without Googling.

The intent of this quiz is to inspire you to answer the questions you can't initially...

jaybird found this for you @ 20:47 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 11 July, 2006 }

NEW MODEL OF BRAIN SHEDS LIGHT ON CAUSES OF AUTISM

“Autism involves multiple genes and correspondingly, people with autism are known to have multiple cognitive, emotional, and motor symptoms – such as impaired development of speech and difficulty expressing emotions,” said Dr. Grossberg. “The iSTART model describes the various brain mechanisms that underlie autism and how they may give rise to the symptoms of the condition.”

iSTART, which stands for Imbalanced Spectrally Timed Adaptive Resonance Theory, is derived from the earlier START model developed by Grossberg to explain how the brain controls normal behaviors. The new model describes how brain mechanisms that control normal emotional, timing, and motor processes may become imbalanced and lead to symptoms of autism. START and its imbalanced version iSTART are a combination of three models, each one of which tries to explain fundamental issues about human learning and behavior.

The first, called Adaptive Resonance Theory, or ART, proposes how the brain learns to recognize objects and events. Recognition is accomplished through interactions between perceptually-driven inputs and learned expectations. Inputs attempt to match expectations which helps prompt the brain to anticipate input/expectation patterns.

“When a match occurs, the system locks into a resonant state that drives how we learn to recognize things; hence the term adaptive resonance,” explained Grossberg.

The degree of match that is required for resonance to occur is set by a vigilance parameter which controls whether a particular learned representation will be concrete or abstract. Low vigilance allows for learning of broad abstract recognition categories, such as a category that is activated by any face; high vigilance forces the learning of specific concrete categories, such as a category that is activated by a particular view of a familiar friend’s face. iSTART proposes that individuals with autism have their vigilance fixed at such a high setting that their learned representations are very concrete, or hyperspecific.

“Hypervigilance leads to hyperspecific learning which perpetuates a multitude of problems with learning, cognition, and attention,” said Grossberg.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:42 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Why do we dream?

Some scientists take the position that dreaming probably has no function. They feel that sleep, and within it REM sleep, have biological functions (though these are not totally established) and that dreaming is simply an epiphenomenon that is the mental activity that occurs during REM sleep. I do not believe this is the most fruitful approach to the study of dreaming. Would we be satisfied with the view that thinking has no function and is simply an epiphenomenon--the kind of mental activity that occurs when the brain is in the waking state?

Therefore I will try to explain a current view of dreaming and its possible functions, developed by myself and many collaborators, which we call the Contemporary Theory of Dreaming. The basic idea is as follows: activation patterns are shifting and connections are being made and unmade constantly in our brains, forming the physical basis for our minds. There is a whole continuum in the making of connections that we subsequently experience as mental functioning. At one end of the continuum is focused waking activity, such as when we are doing an arithmetic problem or chasing down a fly ball in the outfield. Here our mental functioning is focused, linear and well-bounded. When we move from focused waking to looser waking thought--reverie, daydreaming and finally dreaming--mental activity becomes less focused, looser, more global and more imagistic. Dreaming is the far end of this continuum: the state in which we make connections most loosely.

Some consider this loose making of connections to be a random process, in which case dreams would be basically meaningless. The Contemporary Theory of Dreaming holds that the process is not random, however, and that it is instead guided by the emotions of the dreamer. When one clear-cut emotion is present, dreams are often very simple. Thus people who experience trauma--such as an escape from a burning building, an attack or a rape--often have a dream something like, "I was on the beach and was swept away by a tidal wave." This case is paradigmatic. It is obvious that the dreamer is not dreaming about the actual traumatic event, but is instead picturing the emotion, "I am terrified. I am overwhelmed." When the emotional state is less clear, or when there are several emotions or concerns at once, the dream becomes more complicated. We have statistics showing that such intense dreams are indeed more frequent and more intense after trauma. In fact, the intensity of the central dream imagery, which can be rated reliably, appears to be a measure of the emotional arousal of the dreamer.

Therefore, overall the contemporary theory considers dreaming to be a broad making of connections guided by emotion. But is this simply something that occurs in the brain or does it have a purpose as well?

jaybird found this for you @ 14:35 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 10 July, 2006 }

Consciousness: East & West

Looking at computers as metaphor, where did computer technology come from that gave these new more powerful ideas? Obviously it emerged out of ongoing historical technological trends. However, all of this progress is the result of scientific minds working on things. Whose minds were they, and what was inspiring them to work on the things they did? I think this is the more important question. When you examine the historical roots of the PC revolution you'll find that things like PC's and the World Wide Web came from a very particular group of people. As pointed out in What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer, it was the insights gained from higher states of consciousness, specifically those unique to LSD, that gave rise to the PC revolution. As many people who have taken LSD, you experience your brain has a large set of programs, that you in turn can program, and better still, metaprogram "who" and "what" you want to become. Please read our online book by John Lilly, Programming and Metaprogramming the Human Biocomputer, for a pioneering work in this area. It's also no secret that the 60's is often equated with a turn to Eastern mysticism for guidance. There's was good reason for this embrace, as many very intelligent people felt current Western ideas on the nature of reality were woefully incomplete in describing, let alone assisting in integrating these sometimes powerful and overwhelming transpersonal experiences.

When I was 17 I experienced a profound and spontaneous (non drug) shift in consciousness myself. It lasted all of about 10 seconds. At the time I had no knowledge of eastern thought. I made every attempt to recapture the experience. Having read Gödel, Escher, Bach my sophomore year of high school, I often resorted to using Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem as a launching pad into understanding this transcendent state of consciousness. One night while trying, in a rather ridiculous and humorous way, to describe all of this to one my friends, I somehow "tricked" my brain back into this state. For the next hour I laughed my ass off at the cosmic joke of it all. I've tried unsuccessfully many times since to explain this state.

I believe my failure to adequate explain this state is rooted in our language and way of looking at the world, which itself is rooted in the Greek ideas of atomism, reductionism and materialism. This way of perceiving and understanding the universe eventually became what we now call science and forms the bedrock of Western philosophy. Barring the recent emergence of Eastern thought into this dialog, the only other alternative explanation of the universe are the beliefs of religious extremism of various stripes. (be it Christian, Islam or New Age). Scientists, being all too human that they are, seeing the believers at the gates, understandably defend their turf with as much zeal. However, this citadel of science as RAW liked to call it, similar to the Catholic Inquisition before it, believes, just like the religious extremism they oppose, that they, and they alone, have a monopoly on all knowledge. If it can't be objectively verified scientifically, then it doesn't really exist. Yet, ironically science has *created* just as many ephemeral concepts as any religion. Energyfor example is a fantastic and highly useful and utilitarian concept, but that's all it really is. The difference in this case, is western concepts like energy have "real-world" objectively verified effects. Understanding these effects and knowing how to predict and utilize them has tremendous power as evidenced by our current technological civilization.

jaybird found this for you @ 14:13 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Couch: Anarchist Therapy

It was during the dictatorship that a clandestine anarchist activist named Roberto Freire, who also was a psychoanalyst, (anti)psychiatrist and author of books and plays, confirmed the destructive effects of repression on people’s behavior and psychological and mental health. Freire believed that micro-social relationships are the genesis for macro-social authoritarianism and he aimed for understanding the politics of modern society through people’s behavior in their everyday life. He realized that the fact that one believes in a certain ideology and has a libertarian view of the world doesn’t always lead one to have a libertarian behavior in his/her personal relationships with his/her fellows – there is something else, like an unconscious barrier, that determines the attitudes of the individuals towards life and other people. Freire, then, broke with psychoanalysis and over the next decades researched and developed Somatherapy – a therapy form in shape of a pedagogy, or a kind of pedagogy with therapeutic effects. That means that the way of dealing with neurosis is shifted from a medical perspetive to an educational one. The goal is to liberate those who have been subjected to repression (all of us). Somatherapy supports itself in theory and praxis with the social and corporeal psychology of Wilhelm Reich, Antipsychiatry, Gestalt Therapy, Anarchism and with the Afro-Brazilian art form of the people called Capoeira Angola.

The technique that he created consists of assembling a group of people to form a collective with limited duration (about a year and a half) that, through self-managed and non-hierarchical dynamics, will search to explore, understand and develop their capabilities to be creative, self-regulated, to love and to be loved and to be confident in the defense of their own desires and needs towards a society hostile to independent individuals.

All of this happens in a methodology composed of four elements: (1) experience of exercises created by Freire and carried out by the therapist in charge of the group (Freire or a disciple of him); (2) meetings of the group without the presence of the therapist (that guarantees the group’s and each person’s independence and responsibility for the therapeutic process); (3) practice of Capoeira Angola; (4) interaction of the group’s members in various social activities, either for fun or any kind of collective work.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:10 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 07 July, 2006 }

Dodging punishment may be its own reward

Is the carrot or the stick the more effective encouragement? Both are equally effective, suggests a new study that found an important reward centre in the brain responds similarly to avoiding punishment or gaining a prize.

The brain area is known as the medial orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Damage to this area – caused by anything from car accidents to tumours – can cause a person to develop behavioural problems, explains John O’Doherty of Caltech in Pasadena, California, US. He recalls one patient, a karate expert, who after damage to the medial OFC began inappropriately practicing karate moves on hospital staff.

The new insight into how the undamaged medial OFC reacts in people may pave the way for researchers to explore whether habitual rule breakers, such as career criminals, have abnormal activity in that part of the brain.

Behavioural experiments had previously suggested that dodging punishment is a reward in itself. But researchers had not verified that punishment avoidance registers as an actual reward in the brain.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:04 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 06 July, 2006 }

Not Your Average Summer Camp

In the summer of 1954, twenty-two fifth-grade boys were taken out to a campground at Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma. Admittance had been quite selective. None of the boys knew each other. They were taken to the park in two separate groups of eleven. Ostensibly it was an unremarkable summer camp.

In fact, what the boys were heading to wasn't that at all. They did have a very normal camp experience, certainly, but what they had really done for two and a half weeks was unwittingly take part in an elaborate and fascinating psychological experiment. Their parents had okayed it: the twenty-two boys of Robbers Cave were actually the basis of social psychologist Muzafer Sherif's landmark study of group conflict.

There were two parts to Sherif's hypothesis:
(1) When individuals having no established relationships are brought together to interact in group activities with common goals, they produce a group structure with hierarchical statuses and roles within it.

(2) If two in-groups thus formed are brought into a functional relationship under conditions of competition and group frustration, attitudes and appropriate hostile actions in relation to the out-group and its members will arise and will be standardized and shared in varying degrees by group members.

After conceiving of the experiment and working out the logistics of its program and setting– a Boy Scouts' campground– Sherif and his colleagues had chosen their campers carefully. To decrease the potential impact of variables (other factors that could prompt hostility), Sherif and his colleagues had looked for boys of similar age and intelligence, all Caucasian and Protestant, all middle-class, none from insecure homes and none known to be troublemakers. They had aimed for a balance of different kinds of mental and physical strengths. It was also very deliberate that the boys had never met before; this was in accordance with the first part of Sherif's hypothesis. Any preformed alliances would throw off the study.

The aim was to establish immediately a sense of group unity within each group of eleven boys. Taking the two groups to Robbers Cave separately was a major part of this; it also kept the other side wholly unknown. None of the boys were even aware yet that there was a second group. That would only be revealed once a strong sense of group identity had been forged.

Once at the park, the activities continued to encourage the groups to work together. These were typical aspects of camp: preparing food, putting up the tents, etc. They also played sports, went swimming, and performed for each other. This was all very successful - in fact, as the boys bonded each of the two groups chose to give itself a name, which was not an intentional part of the experiment. One became the Eagles, the other the Rattlers. Precisely as Sherif had hypothesized, there came to be a social order very quickly in each group. Clear leaders emerged from both. And, as the boys became vaguely aware that theirs was not the only group, they actually asked to be put into competition with them.

This, of course, was exactly what the psychologists had planned to happen.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:01 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 28 June, 2006 }

Sexual Success And The Schizoid Factor

Ever wondered why uncouth, scruffy rock musicians are pursued by legions of doting, lovelorn female fans? Or why women threw themselves at Pablo Picasso? Well, a new study suggests that creativity may confer an evolutionary advantage in finding a mate; indicating that creative types have increased sexual appeal. But paradoxically, people who have certain traits predictive of schizophrenia - a condition not normally associated with evolutionary fitness - also have a higher propensity toward artistic ability. This creative ability, say some evolutionary experts, is far from being a disadvantage, as creativity is highly attractive when it comes to mate choice.

Like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Stephen Pinker, evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller considers sexual selection to be right up there in importance with natural selection. Advocates of sexual selection argue that competition between members of the same sex drives the evolution of particular traits that mates of the opposite sex find attractive. Miller, author of The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature, claims that traits like morality, art, language and creativity, influence the way in which the human mind evolves. It may sound like a stretch, but recent studies show that reliable predictions of mate choice can be made using these kinds of traits as a guide. Before looking more closely at these studies, however, it's worth first considering whether creativity is actually quantifiable.

Neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran's musings on savants, who display exceptional skills in a very specific field, is illuminating in this respect, as he "unashamedly speculates" that a savant's talents may stem from an enlarged section of the brain called the angular gyrus. "You can imagine an explosion of talent resulting from this simple but 'anomalous' increase in brain volume," says Ramachandran, adding: "The same argument might hold for drawing, music, language, indeed any human trait." Ramachandran explains that this theory is at least in part testable, and points to examples where damage to the right parietal cortex "can profoundly disrupt artistic skills, just as damage to the left disrupts calculation." Ramachandran also considers possible the idea that these esoteric human traits can be attractive to mates in the way that a male peacock's plume is attractive, as exceptional ability in music, poetry or drawing may be an "externally visible signature of a giant brain." Citing Dawkins, Ramachandran argues "that this 'truth in advertising' may play an important role in mate selection."

Despite what seems to be logically valid reasoning, Ramachandran stresses that the talents and specializations associated with the savant are not enough. They will not become a Picasso or Einstein, because they are missing one vital, ineffable ingredient: creativity. "There are those who assert that creativity is simply the ability to randomly link seemingly unrelated ideas, but surely that is not enough," writes Ramachandran. We may have a fantastic grasp of language, and think that we can knock out a half decent metaphor on call, but it is actually harder than most people think. Yet when we come across something truly creative, it speaks volumes to us, "In fact," says Ramachandran, "it's crystal clear once it is explained and has that 'why didn't I think of that?' quality that characterizes the most beautiful and creative insights."

But if creative juices are responsible for an evolutionary advantage, there must surely be some aspect of this seemingly ineffable trait that can be identified as heritable.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:20 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 27 June, 2006 }

We Earth Neurons

Four and a half billion years ago, the earth was formed, and it was utterly without life. And so it stayed for perhaps as long as a billion years. For another billion years, the planet's oceans teemed with life, but it was all blind and deaf. Simple cells multiplied, engulfing each other, exploiting each other in a thousand ways, but oblivious to the world beyond their membranes. Then much larger, more complex cells evolved--eukaryotes--still clueless and robotic, but with enough internal machinery to begin to specialize. So it continued for more than two billion more years, the time it took for the algorithms of evolution to hit upon good ways of banding these workers together into multi-cellular organisms composed of millions, billions and, (eventually) trillions of cells, each doing its particular mechanical routine, but now yoked into specialized service, as part of an eye or an ear or a lung or a kidney. These organisms (not the individual team members composing them) had become long-distance knowers, able to spy supper trying to appear inconspicuous in the middle distance, able to hear danger threatening from afar. But still, even these whole organisms knew not what they were. Their instincts guaranteed that they tried to mate with the right sorts, and flock with the right sorts, but just as those Brazilians didn't know they were Brazilians, no buffalo has ever known it's a buffalo.

In just one species, our species, a new trick evolved: language. It has provided us a broad highway of knowledge-sharing, on every topic. Conversation unites us, in spite of our different languages. We can all know quite a lot about what it is like to be a Vietnamese fisherman or a Bulgarian taxi driver, an eighty-year-old nun or a five-year-old boy blind from birth, a chess master or a prostitute. No matter how different from one another we people are, scattered around the globe, we can explore our differences and communicate about them. No matter how similar to one another buffalos are, standing shoulder to shoulder in a herd, they cannot know much of anything about their similarities, let alone their differences, because they can't compare notes. They can have similar experiences, side by side, but they really can't share experiences the way we do.

Even in our species, it has taken thousands of years of communication for us to begin to find the keys to our own identities. It has been only a few hundred years that we've known that we are mammals, and only a few decades that we've understood in considerable detail how we have evolved, along with all other living things, from those simple beginnings. We are outnumbered on this planet by our distant cousins, the ants, and outweighed by yet more distant relatives we share with the ants, the bacteria, but though we are in the minority, our capacity for long-distance knowledge gives us powers that dwarf the powers of all the rest of the life on the planet. Now, for the first time in its billions of years of history, our planet is protected by far-seeing sentinels, able to anticipate danger from the distant future--a comet on a collision course, or global warming--and devise schemes for doing something about it. The planet has finally grown its own nervous system: us.

We may not be up to the job. We may destroy the planet instead of saving it, largely because we are such free-thinking, creative, unruly explorers and adventurers, so unlike the trillions of slavish workers that compose us. Brains are for anticipating the future, so that timely steps can be taken in better directions, but even the smartest of beasts have very limited time horizons, and little if any ability to imagine alternative worlds. We human beings, in contrast, have discovered the mixed blessing of being able to think even about our own deaths and beyond, and a huge portion of our energy expenditure over the last ten thousand years or so has been devoted to assuaging the concerns provoked by this unsettling new vista. If you burn more calories than you take in, you soon die. If you find some tricks that provide you a surplus of calories, what might you spend them on? You might devote person-centuries of labor to building temples and tombs and sacrificial pyres on which you destroy some of your most precious possessions--and even some of your very own children. Why would you want to do that? These strange and awful expenditures give us clues about some of the hidden costs of our heightened powers of imagination. We did not come by our knowledge painlessly.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:06 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 26 June, 2006 }

Addicted To Knowledge

Neuroscientists at the University of Southern California have proposed a simple explanation for the pleasure of grasping a new concept: The brain is getting its fix. According to researcher Irving Biederman, the "click" of comprehension triggers a biochemical cascade that rewards the brain with a shot of natural opium-like substances.

Writing in American Scientist, Biederman suggests that in seeking knowledge, scholars are almost like junkies. "While you're trying to understand a difficult theorem, it's not fun," said Biederman, a professor of neuroscience. "But once you get it, you just feel fabulous."

Interestingly, Biederman says the brain's craving for a fix motivates humans to maximize the rate at which they absorb knowledge. He hypothesized that knowledge addiction has strong evolutionary value because mate selection correlates closely with perceived intelligence. Only more pressing material needs, such as hunger, can suspend the quest for knowledge, he added. And apparently, the same mechanism may be involved in the aesthetic experience, providing a neurological explanation for the pleasure we derive from art.

jaybird found this for you @ 14:53 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 23 June, 2006 }

Social Isolation Growing in U.S.

Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States.

A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two.

The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties -- once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits -- are shrinking or nonexistent. In bad times, far more people appear to suffer alone.

"That image of people on roofs after Katrina resonates with me, because those people did not know someone with a car," said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist who helped conduct the study. "There really is less of a safety net of close friends and confidants."

jaybird found this for you @ 20:15 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



New research is blurring the species boundary, forcing us to rethink what it is to be human.

We now understand that all vertebrates, and it is argued even some invertebrates, share many biological structures and processes that underlie attributes once considered uniquely human: empathy, personality, culture, emotion, language, intention, tool-use and violence. Furthermore, we are able to see beyond species differences in ways we have never been able to before. Neuroimaging advances such as PET and fMRI can help map more elusive subjective qualities—such as emotion, states of consciousness and sense of self—to specific regions of the brain. In conjunction with a rich legacy of observational data and theories on animal behavior and human psychology, neuroscience is bridging long-standing conceptual and perceptual gaps.

Whether or not this paradigm shift conforms precisely to science philosopher Thomas Kuhn's definition, its potential effects on science and society are revolutionary. The idea that humans share a psyche with other animals is enormously challenging. First, it alters the basic model around which biomedical and other disciplines have organized theory and terminology. Concepts like sense of self, empathy and intention have largely been considered exclusive to humans, and have therefore defined what animals are not. Such perceived dissimilarities have shaped theory, practice, law and custom for centuries. The human-animal gap influences how we live, how we formulate scientific questions, how we practice science and even what we eat. Today, in contrast, models of species' similarity are replacing models of difference, and the lines between species have become increasingly blurred—blurred to the extent that many insist on limits to stem cell-chimera research to avoid mixing the neuronal and psychological capacities of humans and other species.

jaybird found this for you @ 14:11 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 19 June, 2006 }

Study finds attitudes about aging contradict reality

Back when he was 20 years old in 1965, rock star Pete Townshend wrote the line “I hope I die before I get old” into a song, “My Generation” that launched his band, the Who, onto the rock ‘n’ roll scene.

But a unique new study suggests that Townshend may have fallen victim to a common, and mistaken, belief: That the happiest days of people’s lives occur when they’re young.

In fact, the study finds, both young people and older people think that young people are happier than older people — when in fact research has shown the opposite. And while both older and younger adults tend to equate old age with unhappiness for other people, individuals tend to think they’ll be happier than most in their old age.

In other words, the young Pete Townshend may have thought others of his generation would be miserable in old age. And now that he’s 61, he might look back and think he himself was happier back then. But the opposite is likely to be true: Older people “mis-remember” how happy they were as youths, just as youths “mis-predict” how happy (or unhappy) they will be as they age.

The study, performed by VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and University of Michigan researchers, involved more than 540 adults who were either between the ages of 21 and 40, or over age 60. All were asked to rate or predict their own individual happiness at their current age, at age 30 and at age 70, and also to judge how happy most people are at those ages. The results are published in the June issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies, a major research journal in the field of positive psychology.

“Overall, people got it wrong, believing that most people become less happy as they age, when in fact this study and others have shown that people tend to become happier over time,” says lead author Heather Lacey, Ph.D., a VA postdoctoral fellow and member of the U-M Medical School’s Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine. “Not only do younger people believe that older people are less happy, but older people believe they and others must have been happier ‘back then’. Neither belief is accurate.”

The findings have implications for understanding young people’s decisions about habits — such as smoking or saving money — that might affect their health or finances later in life. They also may help explain the fear of aging that drives middle-aged people to “midlife crisis” behavior in a vain attempt to slow their own aging.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:44 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 06 June, 2006 }

Numbers: Infinite Wisdom

How many numbers are there? For children, the answer might be a million—that is, until they discover a billion, or a trillion, or a googol. Then, maybe they notice that a googol plus one is also a number, and they realize that although the names for numbers run out, the numbers themselves never do. Yet to mathematicians, the idea that there are infinitely many numbers is just the beginning of an answer. Counterintuitive as it seems, there are many infinities—infinitely many, in fact. And some are bigger than others.

In the late 19th century, mathematicians showed that most familiar infinite collections of numbers are the same size. This group includes the counting numbers (1, 2, 3, …), the even numbers, and the rational numbers (quotients of counting numbers, such as 3/4 and 101/763). However, in work that astonished the mathematicians of his day, the Russian-born Georg Cantor proved in 1873 that the real numbers (all the numbers that make up the number line) form a bigger infinity than the counting numbers do.

If that's the case, how much bigger is that infinity? This innocent-sounding question has stumped mathematicians from Cantor's time to the present. More than that, the question has exposed a gaping hole in the foundations of mathematics and has led mathematicians to reexamine the very nature of mathematical truth.

Now, Hugh Woodin, a mathematician at the University of California, Berkeley, may finally have found a way to resolve the issue, long considered one of the most fundamental in mathematics.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:06 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Brian Swimme: Comprehensive Compassion

You see, the cartoon version of our civilization is that we're all materialists, so we don't have a sense of a larger significance beyond us. In our materialistic Western culture, our fundamental concern is the individual. The individual, and accumulation—of whatever it might be. Is it fame? Is it money? We put that as the cornerstone of our civilization. That's how we've organized things. Now there are mitigating factors, but I'm giving a cartoon version. What's necessary is for us to understand that, really, at the root of things is community. At the deepest level, that's the center of things. We come out of community. So how then can we organize our economics so that it's based on community, not accumulation? And how can we organize our religion to teach us about community? And when I say "community," I mean the whole earth community. That's the ultimate sacred domain—the earth community.

These are the ways in which I think we will be moving. How do you organize your technology so that as you use the technology, the actual use of it enhances the community? That's a tough one. So long as we have this worldview in which the earth itself is just stuff, empty material, and the individual is most important, then we're set up to just use it in any way we like. So the idea is to move from thinking of the earth as a storehouse to seeing the earth as our matrix, our fundamental community. That's one of the great things about Darwin. Darwin shows us that everything is kin. Talk about spiritual insight! Everything is kin at the level of genetic relatedness. Another simple way of saying this is: Let's build a civilization that is based upon the reality of our relationships. If we think of the human as being the top of this huge pyramid, then everything beneath us is of no value, and we can use it however we want. In the past, it wasn't noticed so much because our influence was smaller. But now, we've become a planetary power. And suddenly the defects of that attitude are made present to us through the consequences of our actions.

It's amazing to realize that every species on the planet right now is going to be shaped primarily by its interaction with humans. It was never that way before. For three billion years, life evolved in a certain way; all of this evolution took place in the wilds. But now, it is the decisions of humans that are going to determine the way this planet functions and looks for hundreds of millions of years in the future. Look at an oak tree, look at a wasp, look at a rhinoceros. The beauty of those forms came out through this whole system of natural selection in the past. But the way they'll look in the future is going to be determined primarily by how they interact with us. Because we're everywhere. We've become powerful. We are the planetary dynamic at this large-scale level. So can we wake up to this fact and then reinvent ourselves at the level of knowledge and wisdom that's required? That's the nature of our moment. Our power has gotten ahead of us, has gotten ahead of our consciousness. This is a challenge we've never faced before: to relearn to be human in a way that is actually enhancing to these other creatures. If you want to be terrified, just think of being in charge of how giraffes will look a million years from now. Or the Asian elephant. Biologists are convinced the Asian elephant will no longer exist in the wild. Even right now, the cheetah can't exist in the wild. That means that the Asian elephants that will exist in the future will exist primarily in our zoos, likewise cheetahs. So the kinds of environments we make for them are going to shape their muscles and their skeletons and all the rest of it. I'm talking over millions of years. This is the challenge that is particular to this moment, because this is the moment the earth goes through this major phase change—the dynamics of the planet are beginning to unfurl through human consciousness.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:01 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Gurdjieff 's Ideas About Man and the Universe

Gurdjieff's vision of the cosmic scheme places man within the film of organic life covering the earth, which is a part of the solar system, the Milky Way galaxy, and the universe of stars and galaxies as it is known to science, and sets all of this within a framework of intelligence consisting of cosmoses one within another, from God down to the tiniest speck of matter. Within this scheme, there is a perpetual flow of energy up and down; each level is fed by something and feeds something else, and the whole system is planned to remain in harmony.

According to Gurdjieff, organic life on earth is not a mere chance arising with no significance beyond itself but has a definite function in transmitting influences up and down the great chain of worlds.

A man serves nature whether he knows it or not, voluntarily or involuntarily, contributing his small share of energy to cosmic purposes of which he has no conception.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:58 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 31 May, 2006 }

Conversation: Spirit and Soma

MISHLOVE: ...it's the language of spirit and spiritism and spiritual things that bothers you.

KELEMAN: That's the first thing that offends me, because when you get into what the experience may be, or what experience people are having, you enter into a ball game in which you're dealing with the very basis of life. That is, you're dealing with life experience of a particular kind. And in my opinion, the basis of all experience is what we call the body, or what I call the soma. So in this workshop I decided that I'll make clear, as I have in my books and in my other workshops and lectures, that by body or by soma we do not mean the object of consciousness. We don't mean an object in the world. We don't mean this body walking around out there, sort of divorced from all other aspects.

MISHLOVE: The skin-encapsulated ego.

KELEMAN: Right. What we mean is a living process that in some way organizes itself around a set of nouns called I. I, Stanley, go by the name Stanley, but I'm really a living process, and I have certain experiences. I have experiences of love, of appetite, of being distant from others and close to others. And out of that ground of experience -- that is, as a somatic process, as a living process -- I have certain experiences which people want to call spiritual or soulful.
Experiences like feeling that life itself is without end; feeling that the question of death doesn't end a life process, although it might end my particular configuration around my life; that there is meaning in the experience of myself without necessarily having to allude to a high deity that may or may not fit my particular way of looking at the world. It may relate to an experience of feeling a livingness that seems to transcend all living creatures, in the sense that it encompasses us. So in that sense the word spirit then becomes a living phrase, and the wild bull, like myself, just settles down and doesn't charge.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:36 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Of Ayahuasceros in the Amazon

've told no one this time—especially not my family. I grew up among fundamentalist atheists who taught me that we're all alone in the universe, the fleeting dramas of our lives culminating in a final, ignoble end: death. Nothing beyond that. It was not a prescription for happiness, yet, for the first couple decades of my life, I became prideful and arrogant about my atheism, believing that I was one of the rare few who had the courage to face life without the "crutches" of religion or, worse, such outrageous notions as shamanism. But for all of my overweening rationality, my world remained a dark, forbidding place beyond my control. And my mortality gaped at me mercilessly. Lisa shakes me from my reveries, asking why I've come back to take another tour with the shamans.

"I've got some more work to do," I say. Hers is a complicated question to answer. And especially personal. Lord knows I didn't have to come back. I could have been content with the results of my last visit: no more morbid desires to die. Waking up one morning in a hut in the sultry jungles of Peru, desiring only to live.

Still, even after those victories I knew there were some stubborn enemies hiding out in my psyche: Fear and Shame. They were taking potshots at my newfound joy, ambushing my successes. How do you describe what it's like to want love from another but to be terrified of it at the same time? To want good things to happen to you, while some disjointed part of you believes that you don't deserve them? To look in a mirror and see only imperfections? This was the meat and potatoes of my several years of therapy. Expensive therapy. Who did what, when, why. The constant excavations of memory. The sleuth-work. Patching together theory after theory. Rational-emotive behavioral therapy. Gestalt therapy. Humanistic therapy. Biofeedback. Positive affirmations. I am a beautiful person. I deserve the best in life.

Then, there's the impatience. Thirty-three years old already, for chrissakes. And in all that time, after all that therapy, only one thing worked on my depression—an ayahuasca "cleansing" with Amazonian shamans.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:31 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 23 May, 2006 }

Mishlove and Herbert: CONSCIOUSNESS AND QUANTUM REALITY

MISHLOVE: Now, Bell's theorem, as I understand it, goes back even prior to Bell -- to Einstein, and Einstein's disagreement with quantum physics, back in the early days. He made his classic statement, "God doesn't play dice with the universe," at a time when Einstein himself felt he disagreed with quantum physics, as I understand it. He felt that if quantum physics were true, it would have these horrendous implications which it now turns out are true.

HERBERT: Yes, Einstein was never comfortable with quantum theory, and he basically had three gripes with it. The one gripe was that quantum theory is a probabilistic theory. It just describes things like the world is essentially random and governed only by general laws that give the odds for things to happen, but within these odds anything can happen -- that God plays dice. Einstein didn't like that, but he could have lived with that. The second aspect that Einstein didn't like was the thinglessness, this fuzzy ambiguity -- that the world isn't made of things, it's not made of objects. It was put by Paul Davies -- the notion that somehow big things are made of little things. Quantum theory doesn't describe the world that way. Big things aren't made of little things; they're made of entities whose attributes aren't there when you don't look, but become there when you do look. Now, that sounds very, very strange.

MISHLOVE: Like an illusion.

HERBERT: Like an illusion, yes.

MISHLOVE: Or the Hindu concept of Maya, something like that.

HERBERT: That's right. The world exists when we don't look at it in some strange state that is indescribable. Then when we look at it, it becomes absolutely ordinary, as though someone were trying to pull something over our eyes
-- the world is an illusion. Einstein didn't like that. He felt that the big things were made of little things, as the classical physicists thought.

MISHLOVE: The Newtonian view of billiard-ball-like particles -- that if you could only understand the momentum and position of each one, you could predict everything in the universe.

HERBERT: Everything in the universe, yes, a comfortable sort of view.

MISHLOVE: You mentioned three things that Einstein objected to; then there must be one more.

HERBERT: Well, the third thing is this interconnectedness. Einstein said the world cannot be like this, because this interconnectedness goes faster than light. With this quantum interconnectedness, two objects could come together, meet, and then each go into the universe, and they would still be connected. Instantaneously one would know what the fate of the other one was. Einstein said, now that can never be; that's like voodoo -- in fact, he used the word -- it's like telepathy, he said; he said it's spooky, it's ghostlike. Almost his last words in his biography were, "On this I absolutely stand firm. The world is not like this."

jaybird found this for you @ 20:54 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 17 May, 2006 }

Perceiving Infinity: Schematic Portals into The Mind of God

Infinity defies absolute definition. Perception of the infinite, for anything other than a mind which is itself infinitely composed, is an oxymoron. And yet, in historical conceptions of the infinite, or at least the imperceptibly extended, can be found abstract tools by which to better comprehend the very nature of thought, and thus reality itself.

The idea of infinity can lead you to grasp the mind of God....

I am still left wondering about true infinity, at least that which consciousness can attain. What would be the nature of a stimulus which had the capacity to assimilate an endless variety of schema? Or alternatively, is there such thing as a mental construct, a concept, which has no limit to the stimulus it can assimilate? Perhaps the mind of God is capable in its imagined brevity to perceive every objective truth from an infinity of angles. In fact, this need necessarily be the case for any infinitely capable being, such as God. To this kind of consciousness even the proverbial dog shit you carry around on your shoes has an infinite number of ways it can be perceived.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:43 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 15 May, 2006 }

Creativity and Famous Discoveries From Dreams

[Kekulé] had a dream that helped him discover that the Benzene molecule, unlike other known organic compounds, had a circular structure rather than a linear one... solving a problem that had been confounding chemists:

"...I was sitting writing on my textbook, but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation; long rows sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the consequences of the hypothesis."

The snake seizing it's own tail gave Kekulé the circular structure idea he needed to solve the Benzene problem...

jaybird found this for you @ 16:06 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 11 May, 2006 }

2050 - and immortality is within our grasp

Aeroplanes will be too afraid to crash, yoghurts will wish you good morning before being eaten and human consciousness will be stored on supercomputers, promising immortality for all - though it will help to be rich.

These fantastic claims are not made by a science fiction writer or a crystal ball-gazing lunatic. They are the deadly earnest predictions of Ian Pearson, head of the futurology unit at BT.

'If you draw the timelines, realistically by 2050 we would expect to be able to download your mind into a machine, so when you die it's not a major career problem,' Pearson told The Observer. 'If you're rich enough then by 2050 it's feasible. If you're poor you'll probably have to wait until 2075 or 2080 when it's routine. We are very serious about it. That's how fast this technology is moving: 45 years is a hell of a long time in IT.'

Pearson, 44, has formed his mind-boggling vision of the future after graduating in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, spending four years working in missile design and the past 20 years working in optical networks, broadband network evolution and cybernetics in BT's laboratories. He admits his prophecies are both 'very exciting' and 'very scary'.

He believes that today's youngsters may never have to die, and points to the rapid advances in computing power demonstrated last week, when Sony released the first details of its PlayStation 3. It is 35 times more powerful than previous games consoles. 'The new PlayStation is 1 per cent as powerful as a human brain,' he said. 'It is into supercomputer status compared to 10 years ago. PlayStation 5 will probably be as powerful as the human brain.'

The world's fastest computer, IBM's BlueGene, can perform 70.72 trillion calculations per second (teraflops) and is accelerating all the time. But anyone who believes in the uniqueness of consciousness or the soul will find Pearson's next suggestion hard to swallow. 'We're already looking at how you might structure a computer that could possibly become conscious. There are quite a lot of us now who believe it's entirely feasible. [via bruce eisner]

jaybird found this for you @ 17:06 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 10 May, 2006 }

Living without Numbers or Time

The Pirahã people have no history, no descriptive words and no subordinate clauses. That makes their language one of the strangest in the world -- and also one of the most hotly debated by linguists.

During one of his first visits to Brazil's Pirahãs, members of the tribe wanted to kill Daniel Everett. At that point, he wasn't even a "bagiai" (friend) yet and a travelling salesman -- who felt Everett had conned him -- had promised the natives a lot of whiskey for the murder. In the gloom of midnight, the Pirahã warriors huddled along the banks of the Maici and planned their attack.

What the tribesmen didn't realize, however, was that Everett, a linguist, was eavesdropping, and he could already understand enough of the Amazon people's cacophonic singsong to make out the decisive words.

"I locked my wife and our three children in the reasonably safe shed of our hut and immediately went to the men," Everett recalls. "In one move, I snatched up all of their bows and arrows, went back to the hut and locked them up." He had not only disarmed the Pirahãs -- he had also startled them -- and they let him live. The next day, the family left without any trouble.

But the language of the forest dwellers, which Everett describes as "tremendously difficult to learn," so fascinated the researcher and his wife that they soon returned. Since 1977, the British ethnologist at the University of Manchester spent a total of seven years living with the Pirahãs -- and he's committed his career to researching their puzzling language. Indeed, he was long so uncertain about what he was actually hearing while living among the Pirahãs that he waited nearly three decades before publishing his findings. "I simply didn't trust myself."

Everett sensed his findings would be controversial. Indeed they were: What he found was enough to topple even the most-respected theories about the Pirahãs' faculty of speech.

The reaction came exactly as the researcher had expected. The small hunting and gathering tribe, with a population of only 310 to 350, has become the center of a raging debate between linguists, anthropologists and cognitive researchers. Even Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Steven Pinker of Harvard University, two of the most influential theorists on the subject, are still arguing over what it means for the study of human language that the Pirahãs don't use subordinate clauses.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:14 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 09 May, 2006 }

Facing up to Freud

The psychiatric profession observed the 150th anniversary of Sigmund Freud's birth on May 6. My modest proposal for the event is to exhume his body and put a stake through his heart. Freud's Viennese contemporary Karl Kraus quipped that psychoanalysis was "a disease posing as a cure". Kraus was closer to the truth than he could have imagined.

No one did more than Freud to reduce women to sexual objects, a condition against which women rebel by seeking to destroy the objectified body. Epidemic self-destructiveness has reached proportions that are difficult to grasp. Eating disorders reportedly threaten the lives of 10 million American women. [1] "Anorexia or bulimia
Put a stake through Freud's heart
By Spengler

The psychiatric profession observed the 150th anniversary of Sigmund Freud's birth on May 6. My modest proposal for the event is to exhume his body and put a stake through his heart. Freud's Viennese contemporary Karl Kraus quipped that psychoanalysis was "a disease posing as a cure". Kraus was closer to the truth than he could have imagined.

No one did more than Freud to reduce women to sexual objects, a condition against which women rebel by seeking to destroy the objectified body. Epidemic self-destructiveness has reached proportions that are difficult to grasp. Eating disorders reportedly threaten the lives of 10 million American women. [1] "Anorexia or bulimia

China Business Big Picture


in florid or sub-clinical form now afflicts 40% of women at some time in their college career," wrote the journal Psychology Today. [2]

Self-harm often accompanies self-starvation, and millions of these women also mutilate themselves. One study claims that up to one in seven British adolescents self-harms, but up to half of those enmeshed in the "Goth" subculture do so. In the US, a recent survey of 1,000 pupils at one secondary school found that one-quarter had deliberately harmed themselves. [3] Some British hospitals dispense "self-harm kits", including razors and antiseptics.

What impels so many young people in Anglo-Saxon countries toward slow-motion suicide? It is easy to blame the undernourished wraiths who haunt the runways of the fashion industry for disseminating a twisted ideal of beauty that lures young women into anorexia. But that cannot be a complete explanation, because anorexics starve themselves into extreme ugliness, and in many cases mutilate themselves as well. These women are not enhancing their bodies, but rejecting them altogether.

Freud claimed to have discovered the source of all neurosis in the repression of the sexual impulse, or libido. In fairness, Freud did not think repression was a bad thing, for without it society would disintegrate. The object of psychoanalysis was not to spread universal joy, but to proceed "from hysterical misery to ordinary unhappiness". He did not count on the adolescent narcissism of the 1960s, when the complacent and affluent youth of the industrial world demanded something better than ordinary unhappiness. Freud provided the ideological foundation for the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s, and popularized versions of his theory dominated popular culture.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:52 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Facing up to Freud

The psychiatric profession observed the 150th anniversary of Sigmund Freud's birth on May 6. My modest proposal for the event is to exhume his body and put a stake through his heart. Freud's Viennese contemporary Karl Kraus quipped that psychoanalysis was "a disease posing as a cure". Kraus was closer to the truth than he could have imagined.

No one did more than Freud to reduce women to sexual objects, a condition against which women rebel by seeking to destroy the objectified body. Epidemic self-destructiveness has reached proportions that are difficult to grasp. Eating disorders reportedly threaten the lives of 10 million American women. [1] "Anorexia or bulimia in florid or sub-clinical form now afflicts 40% of women at some time in their college career," wrote the journal Psychology Today.

Self-harm often accompanies self-starvation, and millions of these women also mutilate themselves. One study claims that up to one in seven British adolescents self-harms, but up to half of those enmeshed in the "Goth" subculture do so. In the US, a recent survey of 1,000 pupils at one secondary school found that one-quarter had deliberately harmed themselves. [3] Some British hospitals dispense "self-harm kits", including razors and antiseptics.

What impels so many young people in Anglo-Saxon countries toward slow-motion suicide? It is easy to blame the undernourished wraiths who haunt the runways of the fashion industry for disseminating a twisted ideal of beauty that lures young women into anorexia. But that cannot be a complete explanation, because anorexics starve themselves into extreme ugliness, and in many cases mutilate themselves as well. These women are not enhancing their bodies, but rejecting them altogether.

Freud claimed to have discovered the source of all neurosis in the repression of the sexual impulse, or libido. In fairness, Freud did not think repression was a bad thing, for without it society would disintegrate. The object of psychoanalysis was not to spread universal joy, but to proceed "from hysterical misery to ordinary unhappiness". He did not count on the adolescent narcissism of the 1960s, when the complacent and affluent youth of the industrial world demanded something better than ordinary unhappiness. Freud provided the ideological foundation for the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s, and popularized versions of his theory dominated popular culture.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:52 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 02 May, 2006 }

Tomorrow's Now: Cinematic Urbanism and Future-Making

Motion and perspective change are themselves useful tools for showing the nature of envisioned space, but there is more to the idea of cinematic urbanism that mere camera shifts. For, if we're serious about imagining better cities, we need to not just tell about them but show them coming alive. They may be visual tools, but too often plans and drawings can become a pedantic way of telling your audience about ones ideas. Geoff asks, "What's the plot?" and he's dead right: great places are not merely engineering feats, they are performances which change the stories of those living in and moving through them. We need to not only describe how a bright green city is possible, but show how it will feel to live and work there, and for that, we need stories.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:18 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 27 April, 2006 }

The root of language is everywhere (look around)

If there is one quality that marks out the scientific mind, it is an unquenchable curiosity. Even when it comes to things that are everyday and so familiar they seem beyond question, scientists see puzzles and mysteries.

Look at the letters in the words of this sentence, for example. Why are they shaped the way that they are? Why did we come up with As, Ms and Zs and the other characters of the alphabet? And is there any underlying similarity between the many kinds of alphabet used on the planet?

To find out, scientists have pooled the common features of 100 different writing systems, including true alphabets such as Cyrillic, Korean Hangul and our own; so-called abjads that include Arabic and others that only use characters for consonants; Sanskrit, Tamil and other "abugidas", which use characters for consonants and accents for vowels; and Japanese and other syllabaries, which use symbols that approximate syllables, which make up words.

Remarkably, the study has concluded that the letters we use can be viewed as a mirror of the features of the natural world, from trees and mountains to meandering streams and urban cityscapes.

The shapes of letters are not dictated by the ease of writing them, economy of pen strokes and so on, but their underlying familiarity and the ease of recognising them. We use certain letters because our brains are particularly good at seeing them, even if our hands find it hard to write them down. In turn, we are good at seeing certain shapes because they reflect common facets of the natural world.

jaybird found this for you @ 21:08 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Identity and Violence : Why we can't get along.

One might have been tempted--had one been consulted--to suggest a renaming of this latest book by Amartya Sen. "Identity and Violence" is much too lurid. "Sen and Sensibility," by contrast, would have been a perfect title, reflecting better the author's exquisite concern for everyone's personal feelings and his desire to make large-hearted accommodation for every political and social bent--except, notably, the religious and nationalist kind.

Mr. Sen, now a professor at Harvard, was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in economics for his contributions to the field of welfare economics. He has a CV so seriously good that everyone, surely, knows of his being (in his previous post) the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, the apex of the British academic pyramid.

Everyone, that is, except a British immigration official at Heathrow Airport a few years ago who, on looking at Mr. Sen's Indian passport and then at his home address on the immigration form--"Master's Lodge, Trinity College, Cambridge"--asked whether Mr. Sen was a close friend of the Master. This question made Mr. Sen enter into a private contemplation, rather self-indulgent in the circumstances, of whether "I could claim to be a friend of myself."

As the seconds ticked away without answer, the immigration officer asked whether there was an "irregularity" with Mr. Sen's immigration status. And can you blame the man? Yet Mr. Sen--in his amused-but-chippy recall of the episode--says that the encounter was "a reminder, if one were needed, that identity can be a complicated matter."

jaybird found this for you @ 17:04 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



"What Is Occurring Today Is a Mimetic Rivalry on a Planetary Scale."

The error is always to reason within categories of "difference" when the root of all conflicts is rather "competition," mimetic rivalry between persons, countries, cultures. Competition is the desire to imitate the other in order to obtain the same thing he or she has, by violence if need be. No doubt terrorism is bound to a world "different" from ours, but what gives rise to terrorism does not lie in that "difference" that removes it further from us and makes it inconceivable to us. To the contrary, it lies in an exacerbated desire for convergence and resemblance. Human relations are essentially relations of imitation, of rivalry.
What is experienced now is a form of mimetic rivalry on a planetary scale. When I read the first documents of Bin Laden and verified his allusions to the American bombing of Japan, I felt at first that I was in a dimension that transcends Islam, a dimension of the entire planet. Under the label of Islam we find a will to rally and mobilize an entire third world of those frustrated and of victims in their relations of mimetic rivalry with the West. But the towers destroyed had as many foreigners as Americans. By their effectiveness, by the sophistication of the means employed, by the knowledge that they had of the United States, by their training, were not the authors of the attack at least somewhat American? Here we are in the middle of mimetic contagion.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:51 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 25 April, 2006 }

Better living through heresy: The Knights Templar

The real Templars bear little resemblance to their fictional re-creations. They were founded in the Holy Land in 1119 by two French knights, who swore to devote themselves to the protection of Christian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem and the holy places. Crusaders had captured Jerusalem in 1099 and then struggled to establish an effective military and political structure to protect their conquests. The contribution of these founding knights was tiny, but they quickly captured the imagination of the Western Christian world. Soon, they were given a base in the al-Aqsa Mosque, which Christians believed had been the site of the Temple of Solomon. They received papal recognition at the council of Troyes in Champagne in 1129, where they were described as a "military order," a quite unique institution at the time, for they not only swore the usual monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience but made a fourth key promise—to defend the holy places from the infidel.

From then on they grew rapidly into an international order, receiving lands in the West that they developed into a great network of preceptories. This enabled them to supply men and money for the cause of the Holy Land, as well as to offer a range of services to crusaders, most important help with finance, a role that they expanded into something like a modern banking service. Such an order might seem invulnerable, but by the early 14th century, the Knights Templar faced a serious crisis. In 1291 the Christians had been driven out of Palestine by the Mamluks of Egypt and were thus obliged to wage the holy war from their remaining base in Cyprus. This expulsion was particularly serious for the Templars, whose prestige and functions were so closely identified with the defense of the sites associated with Christ's life, death, and resurrection. They were desperate to see papal plans for a new crusade take concrete form. In 1307, in response to a request from Pope Clement V, James of Molay, the grand master, therefore traveled to the West to advise the papacy and gather support in the courts of Christendom.

It was thus that on Oct. 12, 1307, James of Molay was present in Paris, holding one of the cords of the pall at the funeral of Catherine, wife of Charles of Valois, brother of King Philip IV, "the Fair," of France. But the master had no idea what awaited him. Without warning, royal officials, acting on secret orders from Philip, fell upon the Templars living in France, in a coordinated operation that took hundreds into custody. The order for the arrests said that the Templars were not a force dedicated to the defense of the Holy Land, willing to endure martyrdom for their beliefs—they were in fact apostates who denied Christ, spat on crucifixes, engaged in indecent kissing and compulsory sodomy, and worshipped idols.

Although rulers outside France initially found the allegations difficult to believe, and the pope was outraged because he had not been consulted, at first sight the charges seemed justified. Most of the Templars confessed to one or more of the allegations, including Molay himself, who repeated his admissions in public in the presence of a select gathering of university theologians. In the end, neither the papal attempt to take over the trial, nor a robust defense of the order led by two Templar lawyer-priests, could shake the impact of these first confessions.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:26 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 21 April, 2006 }

'When we turn the current on, the patients report the emptiness suddenly disappears'

Sufferers from depression who do not respond to existing treatments could soon benefit from a new procedure in which electrodes are inserted into the core of the brain and used to alter the patient's mood.

Later this year, scientists at Bristol University will conduct the first trials of the so-called deep brain stimulation method on sufferers from depression. They will use hair-thin electrodes to stimulate two different parts of the brains of eight patients who suffer from an extreme form of recurrent unipolar depression - where mood only swings in one direction.

If the trials are successful, deep brain stimulation could be extended to the estimated 50,000 people in the UK who suffer from depression but cannot be helped by drugs or electroconvulsive therapy.

"There are thousands of people in this country who have depression who are not responding, who are disabled by it," said Andrea Malizia, a consultant senior lecturer at Bristol University's psychopharmacology unit. He will lead the experiments with David Nutt, head of Bristol's psychopharmacology research unit, and Nik Patel, a surgeon at the nearby Frenchay hospital.

Deep brain stimulation is already used to treat people suffering from Parkinson's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that results in uncontrollable tremors and affects mobility. Thousands of people worldwide have benefited from the surgery, which involves implanting the electrodes several centimetres into the brain. Brain scans are used to pinpoint which parts of the brain are acting incorrectly, and the electrodes then interfere with the electrical activity there, blocking the signals and easing the symptoms.

Currently, last-resort measures to help people with intractable depression have included cutting out or lesioning parts of the brain. Deep brain stimulation would largely give the same results, without the need for such drastic surgery.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:53 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Take this down: Thoughts Trigger Mental Typewriter

A computerized typewriter that translates electrical impulses from brainwave signals into letters and words could be available in the next five years.

In the short term, the technology will allow its developers, from the Fraunhofer Institute and the Charité Hospital in Berlin, Germany, to watch a thinking and behaving brain function in real time.

But in the long term, such a brain-machine interface could replace the joystick in electronic gaming or serve as a communication tool for people unable to speak or sign.

"We are dreaming of something like a baseball cap with electrodes in the cap that can measure the brainwaves," said one of the scientists behind the project, Klaus-Robert Mueller of the Fraunhofer Institute.

"People could just put on the cap and have a wireless connection from these electrodes to a computer and they can play video games."

jaybird found this for you @ 12:45 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Clap off: Watching the brain 'switch off' self-awareness

Everybody has experienced a sense of “losing oneself” in an activity – being totally absorbed in a task, a movie or sex. Now researchers have caught the brain in the act.

Self-awareness, regarded as a key element of being human, is switched off when the brain needs to concentrate hard on a tricky task, found the neurobiologists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

The team conducted a series of experiments to pinpoint the brain activity associated with introspection and that linked to sensory function. They found that the brain assumes a robotic functionality when it has to concentrate all its efforts on a difficult, timed task – only becoming "human" again when it has the luxury of time.

Ilan Goldberg and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of nine volunteers during the study. Participants were shown picture cards and told to push buttons to indicate whether or not an animal was depicted.

The series was shown slowly the first time, and at three times the rate on the second run through. On its third showing, the volunteers were asked to use the buttons to indicate their emotional response to the pictures. The experiment was then repeated using musical extracts, rather than pictures, and asked to identify whether a trumpet played.

Goldberg found that when the sensory stimulus was shown slowly, and when a personal emotional response was required, the volunteers showed activity in the superfrontal gyrus – the brain region associated with self-awareness-related function.

But when the card flipping and musical sequences were rapid, there was no activity in the superfrontal gyrus, despite activity in the sensory cortex and related structures.

“The regions of the brain involved in introspection and sensory perception are completely segregated, although well connected,” says Goldberg, “and when the brain needs to divert all its resources to carry out a difficult task, the self-related cortex is inhibited.”

jaybird found this for you @ 08:41 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 20 April, 2006 }

Ours: Beyond Property

(scroll down)

If we humans are going to solve our fossil fuel energy/global warming crisis, it will require that we take action. We can expect no help from big government and big business. They created this crisis and they have no interest in solving it. Big government's only goal is to be re-elected so they can retain political power, and the only goal of big business is to make money. These two forces have combined to create the present law of society one dollar = one vote.

If we humans with no political or economic power want to solve our problems, then we will have to take charge of our society. What is our authority for taking such action? We must begin by seizing the moral highground. And, taking the moral highground requires that we face the truth.
Truth #1-Possessions are not necessarily property.

The possession of an object does not mean that the possessor has a moral or rational claim to ownership of the object. The political, economic, and social structures of our present world are all based on our concept of ‘property’ and property rights. Recall from the Basics section, my discussion of the shifting of human values as humanity evolves from adversary processing to neutral processing to synergic processing. Adversary wealth is physical force. Neutral wealth is money. And, synergic wealth is mutual life support. Therefore adversary ‘property’ is property obtained by force or fraud, and then held with physical force. Neutral ‘property’ is property purchased in the fair market, and held by right of law enforced by neutral government.

Remember Neutrality was an evolutionary advance from Adversity, at the time of Neutrality’s inception most possessions were adversary. They had been obtained through force or fraud and held with physical force. The new institutions of Neutrality never made any attempt to correct what by the new values of Neutrality would be past injustices. Neutral values would prevail in future, but the past was left alone.

This resulted in the legal precedent wherein possession is 9/10 of the law.

In other words, at the time Neutrality was institutionalized, all existing ‘property’ whether adversary or neutral was made legal ‘property’. However, all new ‘property’ was required to be neutral ‘property’–that is ‘property’ acquired by paying a fair price in a free market to the rightful owner, or that ‘property’ which is created directly by the mind and labor of the owner.

Most of the founding fathers of Neutrality were beneficiaries of ‘adversary’ property and in no hurry to give it up. They also believed that in the long run these injustices would slowly be corrected, and all property would eventually come to be ‘neutral’ property. We will see later that this was not the case.

While synergic ‘property’ is not yet defined, it would have to be property that was obtained without hurting or ignoring anyone, and even more importantly, it would have to be property that was mutually life supporting–that is it would have to be property that had a beneficial effect for self and others. If humanity is to advance to Synergy, our concept of ‘property’ and property rights must change radically in the future. How this could work will be explained in the Future section, but now let us examine ‘property’ as it exists today.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:09 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



The Point-I and the Space-I

A new way of approaching the subject of Nirvana has come to my mind which may be helpful in clarifying certain difficulties relative to the nature of this State. The usual idea of Nirvana seems to be that It is a sort of blissful State produced by an extinguishing of life through the elimination of the will-to-live and the desire for enjoyment. Since ordinarily men find themselves unable to conceive of consciousness unrelated to personality and the various cravings associated with sentient life, Nirvana appears to be something like an absolute nonexistence or an annihilation in the full sense of the word. If, on the other hand, it is granted that Nirvana is some sort of State of Consciousness, it is often thought of as something undesirable.

There is much misconception in all this. Anyone who has ever touched even the hem of Nirvanic Consciousness would not regard It as an undesirable State and most certainly would Know that It did not imply the cessation of Consciousness, although It is a kind of consciousness quite different anything to be found within the relative field. Now the difficulty seems to me to grow out of a misunderstanding of what is meant when we say 'I,' and I believe I can say something that will make this matter clearer.

Approached from the usual standpoint of relative consciousness, the T seems to be something like a point. This 'point' in one man is different from the T in another man. One T can have interests that are incompatible with the interests of another 'I,' and the result is conflict. Further, the purpose of life seems to center around the attainment of enjoyment by the particular I-point which a given individual seems to be.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:59 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 17 April, 2006 }

Rudolph Steiner: Dweller on the Threshold

In matter-of-fact terms, (Steiner) introduced them to his teaching – 'anthroposophy', as he called it – telling them along the way about ancient Atlantis, life after death, astral and ætheric bodies, the true meaning of Christianity and much, much more. Yet this humble, self-effacing character became one of the most influential – and simultaneously vilified – forces in the spiritual and cultural life of early 20th-century Europe. And his ideas are still powerfully influential today. Steiner's efforts to lead "the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the Universe" have produced remarkably concrete results. Since his death, more than 1,000 schools around the world work with Steiner's pedagogical principles, not to mention the many "special needs" schools, working along lines developed by Steiner more than a century ago. There are also the hundreds of 'bio-dynamic' farms, employing Steiner's agricultural insights, developed decades in advance of our interest in ecology and organic foods. The practical application of Steiner's ideas have also informed very successful avenues in holistic healthcare, the arts, architecture, economics, religion and other areas.

So, given these achievements in the 'real world', which certainly exceed those of other 'esoteric teachers', why isn't Steiner better known? You would reasonably expect the average educated person to have some idea of who, say, Jung is, or Krishnamurti, or the Dalai Lama; possibly even Blavatsky, Gurdjieff and Crowley. But Steiner? He remains something of a mystery, a name associated with a handful of different disciplines and endeavours, but not solidly linked to any one thing. He remains, as one of his most eloquent apologists, the Inkling Owen Barfield, called him, "the best kept secret of the 20th century." It's certainly time that he was better known.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:40 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Knowledge and Care: Technologies of the Self

When I began to study the rules, duties, and prohibitions of sexuality, the interdictions and restrictions associated with it, I was concerned not simply with the acts that were permitted and forbidden but with the feelings represented, the thoughts, the desires one might experience, the drives to seek within the self any hidden feeling, any movement of the soul, any desire disguised under illusory forms. There is a very significant difference between interdictions about sexuality and other forms of interdiction. Unlike other interdictions, sexual interdictions are constantly connected with the obligation to tell the truth about oneself.

Two facts may be objected: first, that confession played an important part in penal and religious institutions for all offenses, not only in sex. But the task of analyzing one's sexual desire is always more important than analyzing any other kind of sin.

I am also aware of the second objection: that sexual behavior more than any other was submitted to very strict rules of secrecy, decency, and modesty so that sexuality is related in a strange and complex way both to verbal prohibition and to the obligation to tell the truth, of hiding what one does, and of deciphering who one is.

The association of prohibition and strong incitations to speak is a constant feature of our culture. The theme of the renunciation of the flesh was linked to the confession of the monk to the abbot, to telling the abbot everything that he had in mind.

I conceived of a rather odd project: not the evolution of sexual behavior but the projection of a history of the link between the obligation to tell the truth and the prohibitions against sexuality. I asked: How had the subject been compelled to decipher himself in regard to what was forbidden? It is a question of the relation between asceticism and truth.

Max Weber posed the question: If one wants to behave rationally and regulate one's action according to true principles, what part of one's self should one renounce? What is the ascetic price of reason? To what kind of asceticism should one submit? I posed the opposite question: How have certain kinds of interdictions required the price of certain kinds of knowledge about oneself? What must one know about oneself in order to be willing to renounce anything?

Thus I arrived at the hermeneutics of technologies of the self in pagan and early Christian practice. I encountered certain difficulties in this study because these practices are not well known. First, Christianity has always been more interested in the history of its beliefs than in the history of real practices. Second, such a hermeneutics was never organized into a body of doctrine like textual hermeneutics. Third, the hermeneutics of the self has been confused with theologies of the soul-concupiscence, sin, and the fall from grace. Fourth, a hermeneutics of the self has been diffused across Western culture through numerous channels and integrated with various types of attitudes and experience so that it is difficult to isolate and separate it from our own spontaneous experiences.

[via corpus mmothra]

jaybird found this for you @ 16:35 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 13 April, 2006 }

You: Universalist or relativist?

Are you U or non-U? By which I mean, are you a universalist or a relativist? Forget left and right; the defining political divide of the global era is between those who believe that some moral rights and freedoms ought to be universal and those who argue that each culture to its own. This new frontline of contemporary debate runs across issues as diverse as race, faith, multiculturalism, feminism, gay rights, freedom of speech and foreign policy. In each instance, the argument eventually comes down to whether you have a universalist or relativist view of the world.

Universalists argue that certain rights and protections - freedom of speech, democracy, the rule of law - are common or, at least, should be available to all people. Relativists maintain that different cultures have different values and that it's impossible to say that one system or idea is better than another and, moreover, it's racist to try.

If all of that sounds a little abstract and theoretical, then a quick glance at government policy is enough to show that these contradictory principles underpin many of the most significant developments of recent years. For example, the interventions in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and, most controversially, Iraq were predicated, give or take a few WMD, on the notion that the inhabitants of those countries should be extended the democratic rights that most people in the West take for granted.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:56 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 12 April, 2006 }

Why Are Letters And Other Human Visual Signs Shaped The Way That They Are?

In a new study forthcoming in the May 2006 issue of The American Naturalist, Mark A. Changizi and his coauthors, Qiang Zhang, Hao Ye, and Shinsuke Shimojo, from the California Institute of Technology explore the hypothesis that human visual signs have been cross-culturally selected to reflect common contours in natural scenes that humans have evolved to be good at seeing." [We] analyzed one hundred writing systems, Chinese characters, and non-linguistic visual signs, and found that these very different types of human visual signs possess a similar shape structure," explain the researchers.

Comparing human visual signs to natural scenes, the researchers demonstrate a high correlation between the most common contour combinations found in nature and the most common contours found in letters and symbols across cultures...

[via vortex egg]

jaybird found this for you @ 15:53 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



MINDS ARE SIMPLY WHAT BRAINS DO

We all believe that we have minds - and that minds, whatever they may be, are not like other worldly things. What makes us think that thoughts are made of different stuff? Because, it seems, thoughts can't be things; they have no weights or sounds or shapes, and cannot be touched or heard or seen. In order to explain all this, most thinkers of the past believed that feelings, concepts, and ideas must exist in a separate mental world. But this raises too many questions. What links our concept about, say, a cat with an actual cat in the physical world? How does a cause in either world affect what takes place in the other world? In the physical world we make new things by rearranging other things; is that how new ideas come to be, or were they somewhere all along? Are minds peculiar entities, possessed alone by brains like ours - or could such qualities be shared, to different degrees, by everything? It seems to me that the dual-world scheme creates a maze of mysteries that leads to problems worse than before.

We've heard a good deal of discussion about the idea that the brain is the bridge between those worlds. At first this seems appealing but it soon leads to yet worse problems in philosophy. I maintain that all the trouble stems from making a single great mistake. Brains and minds are not different at all; they do not exist in separate worlds; they are simply different points of view--ways of describing the very same things. Once we see how this is so, that famous problem of mind and brain will scarcely seem a problem at all, because ...

Minds are simply what brains do.
I don't mean to say that brains or minds are simple; brains are immensely complex machines-and so are what they do. I merely mean to say that the nature of their relationship is simple. Whenever we speak about a mind, we're referring to the processes that move our brains from state to state. Naturally, we cannot expect to find any compact description to cover every detail of all the processes in a human brain, because that would involve the details of the architectures of perhaps a hundred different sorts of computers, interconnected by thousands of specialized bundles of connections. It is an immensely complex matter of engineering. Nevertheless, when the mind is regarded, in principle, in terms of what the brain may do, many questions that are usually considered to be philosophical can now be recognized as merely psychological-because the long-sought connections between mind and brain do not involve two separate worlds, but merely relate two points of view.

[via bruce eisner's vision thing]

jaybird found this for you @ 07:45 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 03 April, 2006 }

Know Thyself some more: Becoming real

Consciousness becomes fulfilled in the light of being, and like the moon moves into fullness with the sun's light, but the moon does not become the sun. The fulfillment of consciousness is a great thing: so great that one might think one is absolute being. But just as the moon wanes, so the consciousness will inevitably recede from being until it returns to the zero point and the long dark night of the soul.

How terrible it is to lose being. But how less confusing if one knows it is only a phase. If, however, you think you now are eternal being when your consciousness has filled to the maximum, then it will be especially painful. Consciousness is forever becoming. Whatever it becomes does not last. So when it becomes being, it immediately starts becoming not-being. Its mutability is what makes human life beautiful. Beauty resides in the veil thrown over the light. Life needs both the light and the veil.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:23 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 31 March, 2006 }

The Race is On: Chimps Are Out-Evolving Humans

The results are in: chimps are evolving faster than human beings. This startling discovery was made by a group of biologists and evolutionary scientists at the Biped Research Institute of Portland, Oregon following a three-year study into the genetic and evolutionary patterns of multiple generations of both species. Research was conducted by analysing the genetic patterns in a rare, 22-generation direct line of chimpanzee descendants, then comparing these records with those of a similar multiple-generation selection of humans. According to Biped Research, chimpanzees, or Pan troglodytes, are evolving approximately 30% faster than human beings and will, if the rate continues, eventually outstrip homo sapiens in many of the characteristics that define "humanness".

"We're not particularly surprised that there is a disparity in evolutionary efficiency," said Dr. Truman Kettle, President of BRI. "However, that the disparity is so dramatic took us all a bit aback. Should trends continue, we could expect to find talking, reasoning, fully bipedal chimps to begin to appear within 15-20 generations. Quite possibly faster."

jaybird found this for you @ 16:56 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Kosmos: A Brief History of the Word that means “Everything”

“The authentic and primal Kosmos . . . contains within itself no spatial distinction, and has none of the feebleness of division, and even its parts bring no incompleteness to it since here the individual is not severed from the entire. . . . [D]o but survey it, and surely this is the pleading you will hear:”

“I am made by a God: from that God I came perfect above all forms of life, adequate to my function, self-sufficing, lacking nothing: for I am the container of all, that is, of every plant and every animal, of all the kinds of created things, and many Gods and nations of Spirit-Beings and lofty souls and men happy in their goodness. . . . And all that is within me strives towards the Good; and each, to the measure of its faculty, attains. For from that Good all the heavens depend, [along] with all my own Soul and the Gods that dwell in my every part, and all that lives and grows, and even all in me that you may judge inanimate.”

jaybird found this for you @ 08:40 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 30 March, 2006 }

Flemming Funch: Key Concept

The global brain, well, we seem to really need it. As it is right now, humankind is a schizophrenic moron. Or manic-depressive, maybe. Sometimes brilliant and productive, mostly lethargic, largely criminally destructive. Despite that many members of the human race are well-meaning, knowledgeable and resourceful. We desperately need to be connected in a manner that is constructively complex, so as to awaken our collective intelligence. Maybe that is something we can do on the internet, maybe it is a different way of doing a few key things. It appears that none of us are smart enough to solve the puzzle. But we might be smart enough to discover patterns that allow something bigger to emerge. We might not be clever enough to know exactly how to do it, but we might know how to start something that triggers the emergence of a bigger level of intelligence. Patterns that promote self-organization and collective intelligence, even small scale, are a very likely leverage point. One ingredient is to know when to get out of the way, and let useful things happen.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:59 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Hormones could treat phobias

It could be easier for those with a fear of spiders to have a bath following a study published this week. Researchers suggest arachnophobes, and people with other phobias, could be helped by a dose of the stress hormone cortisol, which impairs memory. The University of Zurich team found giving the hormone before being exposed to the phobia trigger led to less fear...

Cortisol impairs the retrieval of memories, so the principle the researchers were looking into was whether giving a dose of the hormone before people were exposed to a spider - or their own personal phobia trigger - would help. The theory was tested on 40 people with social phobia and 20 with spider phobia. Half of those studied were given cortisol and the rest a dummy version. They were then either asked to give a speech in public, or exposed to a spider, depending on their phobia. In both cases, subjects who received the hormone reported less stimulus-induced fear and anxiety.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:55 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 27 March, 2006 }

Brezny: Secrets of Pronoia

When an old tree in the rain forest dies and topples over, it
takes a long time to decompose. As it does, it becomes host to
new saplings that use the decaying log for nourishment.
Picture yourself sitting in the forest gazing upon this scene.
How would you describe it? Would you dwell on the putrefaction
of the fallen tree while ignoring the fresh life sprouting
out of it? If you did, you’d be imitating the perspective of many modern storytellers, especially the journalists and novelists
and fi lmmakers and producers of TV dramas. Th ey devoutly
believe that tales of affl iction and mayhem and corruption and
tragedy are inherently more interesting than tales of triumph
and liberation and pleasure and ingenuity. Using the machinery
of the media and entertainment industries, they relentlessly
propagate this dogma. It’s not suffi ciently profound or wellthought- out to be called “nihilism.” “Pop nihilism” is a more accurate term. Th e mass audience is the victim of this inane ugliness, brainwashed by a multi-billion-dollar propaganda machine that makes the Nazis’ Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda look like a child’s backyard puppet show.

At the Beauty and Truth Laboratory, we believe that stories
about the rot are not inherently more captivating than stories
about the splendor. On the contrary, given how predictable
and omnipresent the former have become, they are actually
quite dull. Obsessing on evil is boring. Rousing fear is a hackneyed
shtick. Wallowing in despair is a bad habit. Indulging
in cynicism is akin to committing a copycat crime.

How did it come to be that the news is reported solely by
journalists? There are so many other kinds of events besides
the narrow band favored by that highly specialized brand of
storytellers. Indeed, there are many phenomena that literally
cannot be perceived by journalists. Th eir training, their
temperament, and their ambitions make vast areas of human
experience invisible to them.

“Ninety-six percent of the cosmos puzzles astronomers,”
read a headline on CNN’s website: proof that at least some of
our culture’s equivalent of high priests — the scientists — are humble enough to acknowledge that the universe is made up
mostly of stuff they can’t even detect, let alone study.
If only the journalists were equally modest. Since they’re
not, we’ll say it: Th e majority of everything that happens on
this planet escapes their notice.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:30 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 24 March, 2006 }

"Flow" & Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Csikszentmihalyi opened the lecture with an account of his name which included reference to its Hungarian/Transylvanian roots. Talking of his roots he noted one of his defining moments was at the age of ten, in 1945, when Hungarian society was overturned and most of the adults whom he had respected "disintegrated" with the loss of social status and financial support. Though he acknowledges that he hasn't yet discovered the basis for why a few did not "disintegrate", he set himself a goal of discovering a way to live a better life.

He has looked at many different answers to this question in domains as separate as art, religion, and sport, and in the past as well as the present, and sees that there are many different forms of answer. Indeed he noted there seems to be a need to reinvent or reexpress the answer every couple of generations. He saw the need to find or refind the answer as urgent as people do not seem to know what to do to live happy lives.

He started with artists, or with those that were "creating meaning". Many described an "ecstatic state" or a feeling of being outside of what they were creating with their hands. Ecstatic comes from the Latin for "stand to side". Csikszentmihalyi accounted for this feeling of being consciously outside of the creation as due to the psychological limits of consciousness, that at higher levels of consciousness the more mundane aspects become subconscious in order to restrict conscious attention to the number of items it can manage. So a pianist described not noticing the room, his hands, the keys, the score, but rather being conscious of only "being one with the music and expressing emotion".

He noted that a major constraint on people enjoying what they are doing is always being conscious of a fear of how they appear to others and what these others might think. Ecstasy includes rising above these constraining concerns of the ego.

Csikszentmihalyi concluded that stepping outside of normal daily routines is an essential element of what he was looking for. This might be obtained through diverse routes or activities, such as reading a novel or becoming involved in a film.


[more, via metafilter]

jaybird found this for you @ 08:34 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 15 March, 2006 }

The woman who can't forget

The "human calendar." That's what some people call the woman who contacted UC Irvine neurobiologist Jim McGaugh six years ago and said, "I have a problem. I remember too much."

She wasn't exaggerating. McGaugh and fellow UCI researchers Larry Cahill and Elizabeth Parker have been studying the extraordinary case of a person who has "nonstop, uncontrollable and automatic" memory of her personal history and countless public events.

If you randomly pick a date from the past 25 years and ask her about it, she'll usually provide elaborate, verifiable details about what happened to her that day and if there were any significant news events on topics that interested her. She usually also recalls what day of the week it was and what the weather was like.

The 40-year-old woman, who was given the code name AJ to protect her privacy, is so unusual that UCI coined a name for her condition in a recent issue of the journal Neurocase: hyperthymestic syndrome.

"I have studied learning and memory for over 50 years, and I had never read of or even heard about a person who has a comparable ability to remember," McGaugh said. "However, we do not know whether she is unique or whether there may be others with comparable remembering ability who have not as yet been identified."

jaybird found this for you @ 08:00 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 14 March, 2006 }

How Poor People Live

One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from the trip, the father asked his son, "Did you enjoy the trip?"

[please read on, it's very short and very powerful]

jaybird found this for you @ 20:26 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



How to stop time

Einstein demonstrated that time is relative.

But the rabbit-hole goes much deeper. Quantum physics discovered that consciousness is entangled in matter in some inexplicable ways; but other than the very fast, or very small, or very large, we tend to assume our “ordinary” reality conforms more to the laws of Newton. Simple cause and effect unfolding with clockwork constancy —well, it’s time to shatter this assumption. Let’s stop time.

Find a clock with a smooth sweeping second hand. The one on this page might work, but depending on how much is running on your computer, it may or may not be completely smooth. If it appears relatively smooth, it will still work, you’ll be able to factor out what you are controlling...

jaybird found this for you @ 16:24 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



On Evil: An Interview with Alain Badiou

The idea of the self-evidence of Evil is not, in our society, very old. It dates, in my opinion, from the end of the 1960s, when the big political movement of the 60s was finished. We then entered into a reactive period, a period that I call the Restoration. You know that, in France, "Restoration" refers to the period of the return of the King, in 1815, after the Revolution and Napoleon. We are in such a period. Today we see liberal capitalism and its political system, parlimentarianism, as the only natural and acceptable solutions. Every revolutionary idea is considered utopian and ultimately criminal. We are made to believe that the global spread of capitalism and what gets called "democracy" is the dream of all humanity. And also that the whole world wants the authority of the American Empire, and its military police, NATO.

In truth, our leaders and propagandists know very well that liberal capitalism is an inegalitarian regime, unjust, and unacceptable for the vast majority of humanity. And they know too that our "democracy" is an illusion: Where is the power of the people? Where is the political power for third world peasants, the European working class, the poor everywhere? We live in a contradiction: a brutal state of affairs, profoundly inegalitarian–where all existence is evaluated in terms of money alone–is presented to us as ideal. To justify their conservatism, the partisans of the established order cannot really call it ideal or wonderful. So instead, they have decided to say that all the rest is horrible. Sure, they say, we may not live in a condition of perfect Goodness. But we're lucky that we don't live in a condition of Evil. Our democracy is not perfect. But it's better than the bloody dictatorships. Capitalism is unjust. But it's not criminal like Stalinism. We let millions of Africans die of AIDS, but we don't make racist nationalist declarations like Milosevic. We kill Iraqis with our airplanes, but we don't cut their throats with machetes like they do in Rwanda, etc.

That's why the idea of Evil has become essential. No intellectual will actually defend the brutal power of money and the accompanying political disdain for the disenfranchised, or for manual laborers, but many agree to say that real Evil is elsewhere. Who indeed today would defend the Stalinist terror, the African genocides, the Latin American torturers? Nobody. It's there that the consensus concerning Evil is decisive. Under the pretext of not accepting Evil, we end up making believe that we have, if not the Good, at least the best possible state of affairs—even if this best is not so great. The refrain of "human rights" is nothing other than the ideology of modern liberal capitalism: We won't massacre you, we won't torture you in caves, so keep quiet and worship the golden calf. As for those who don't want to worship it, or who don't believe in our superiority, there's always the American army and its European minions to make them be quiet.

Note that even Churchill said that democracy (that is to say the regime of liberal capitalism) was not at all the best of political regimes, but rather the least bad. Philosophy has always been critical of commonly held opinions and of what seems obvious. Accept what you've got because all the rest belongs to Evil is an obvious idea, which should therefore be immediately examined and critiqued. My personal position is the following: It is necessary to examine, in a detailed way, the contemporary theory of Evil, the ideology of human rights, the concept of democracy. It is necessary to show that nothing there leads in the direction of the real emancipation of humanity. It is necessary to reconstruct rights, in everyday life as in politics, of Truth and of the Good. Our ability to once again have real ideas and real projects depends on it.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:22 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



A SOCIAL HISTORY OF CHEERFULNESS

American historians of emotions note a major emotionological shift from melancholy to good cheer over the eighteenth century. In the early modern period American culture, just as European, was fascinated with feelings of sadness. In Europe, there was a fashion for melancholy. People delighted in appearing melancholic and such words as Schwermut or Schwärmerei (religious or mystical melancholy), spleen, ennui and Heimweh (nostalgia) were in constant circulation. Many philosophers assumed that melancholy was all-pervasive. The French Encyclopedia talked about "the habitual feeling of our imperfection." "Profound sadness became the badge of a way of life."Sentimentalism was part of the Age of Enlightenment: tear-provoking novels such as Richardson's "Pamela" and "Shamela," Rousseau's "La Nouvelle Héloïse," and Goethe's "The Sufferings of Young Werther," made the first bestsellers. Epistolary art, painting and the theater aimed to provoke sadness far more often than laughter. People sought to partake in sadness and valued its expression. It was considered good to cry so tears were frequently shed in public by both men and women. For example, book reading, done aloud and in groups, often ended in collective weeping. In France, melancholy was part of the code of the salons where the apostles of reason, Diderot and Voltaire, were repeatedly seen tearful. In eighteenth-century European aesthetic, tears implied a noble soul and a sad face was a sign of sensibility and compassion. Royal events provoked mass weeping and, at the time of the French Revolution, it was customary for the entire National Assembly to break into tears after a moving speech. This emotional style was not unknown to the American Congress during the first several decades of its existence. Here is how Harriet Martineau describes a speech on the treatment of the Cherokees given in 1835 by Senator Henry Clay, his voice "trembling with emotion, swelling and falling. [...] I saw tears, of which I'm sure he was wholly unconscious, falling on his papers as he vividly described the woes and injuries of the aborigines. I saw Webster draw his hand across his eyes;I saw everyone deeply moved..." Parliamentary institutions on both sides of the Atlantic subscribed to the culture of sadness thus setting the tone for emotion display in public.

[via mefi]

jaybird found this for you @ 08:13 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 09 March, 2006 }

Media Theory: Simulation and Simulacrum

Simulations are now a part of everyday life. A fire drill is one example, as it is a process which has all the outward appearance of an orderly escape from danger but none of the danger itself. Pilots and astronauts now train in flight simulators before taking to the air. Simulacrum has very little modern and vernacular use, and instead is employed almost entirely in the theoretical field. According to the OED's first definition, a simulacrum is almost impossible to distinguish from a representation (see: representation). But in the second and third definitions we can see that the simulacrum supercedes representation in terms of the accuracy and power of its imitation. It is only when the viewer of the simulacrum penetrates the surface that he can tell that it differs from the thing it imitates.

Michael Camille elucidates the classical notion of the simulacrum in his article "Simulacrum" in Critical Terms for Art History. Camille analyzes Plato's opinion of the simulacrum in The Republic: "The simulacrum is more than just a useless image, it is a deviation and perversion of imitation itself - a false likeness" (Camille, 31-32). Imitation, resulting in the production of an icon or image (see: image), results in the production of a representation that can be immediately understood as separate from the object it imitates. The likeness, however, is indistinguishable from the original; it is "a false claimant to being" (32). While the simulacrum is defined as static, it nevertheless deceives its viewer on the level of experience, a manipulation of our senses which transforms the unrealistic into the believable. Camille writes: "what disturbs Plato is...what we would call today the 'subject position' of the beholder. It is the particular perspective of human subjectivity that allows the statue that is 'unlike'...to seem 'like' and, moreover, beautifully proportioned from a certain vantage point' (32). The simulacrum uses our experience of reality against us, creating a false likeness that reproduces so exactly our visual experience with the real that we cannot discern the falseness of the imitation.

jaybird found this for you @ 18:17 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



FuturePositive: The Geometrization Of Thought

As a result of the popular books and magazine articles that have appeared over the last few years the topic of chaos theory has become familiar to many people. While some psychologists may not be comfortable with the mathematical details of the theory they are probably acquainted with its broad outlines and general concepts. Thus, for example, the image of "butterfly effect" is often applied to systems so extraordinary sensitive that a perturbation as small as the flapping of a butterfly's wings produces a large scale change of behavior. While chaos theory holds that such systems remain strictly deterministic they are, nevertheless, so enormously complex that the exact details of their behavior are, in practice, unpredictable even with the aid of the largest computers.

On the other hand, since such systems remain within the grip of their strange attractor while the details of their fluctuations appear to be random, nevertheless, their chaos is contained within a particular range of all possible behaviors. Their dynamics may, for example, exhibit a fractal structure in which similar patterns are repeated at smaller and smaller scales of space and intervals of time. As an example, while it is impossible to predict the exact value of a particular share on the stock market at an arbitrary date in the future one may be able to say something about its general pattern of fluctuation over a month, day or even an hour.

In a sense, therefore, chaos theory is something of a misnomer for it is not so much the study of systems in which all order has broken down in favour of pure chance but rather of those which exhibit extremely high degrees of order involving very subtle and sensitive behavior. The full description of such systems would require an enormous, potentially an infinite, amount of information. On the other hand, highly complex behavior can sometimes be simulated in very simple ways through the constant repetition of an iterative processes such as Prigogine's baker's transformation or the non-linear feedback associated with the changing size of insect populations.

While chaos theory and fractal descriptions are capable of simulating a wide variety of natural processes it remains an open question as to the extent to which such theories actually offer a full account of the inner workings of nature and society.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:14 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 07 March, 2006 }

The Open Future: The Reversibility Principle

Two philosophies dominate the broad debates about the development of potentially-worldchanging technologies. The Precautionary Principle tells us that we should err on the side of caution when it comes to developments with uncertain or potentially negative repercussions, even when those developments have demonstrable benefits, too. The Proactionary Principle, conversely, tells us that we should err on the side of action in those same circumstances, unless the potential for harm can be clearly demonstrated and is clearly worse than the benefits of the action. In recent months, however, I've been thinking about a third approach. Not a middle-of-the-road compromise, but a useful alternative: the Reversibility Principle...

jaybird found this for you @ 16:59 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 02 March, 2006 }

Future Hi: Meaning and Experience

Everything must have context: what she said, what he did, political motivations, religious tendencies, creation, destruction, everything. Do you think bacteria want to know why they're being constantly attacked with antibiotics? Does the rock ponder the meaning of it's own demise through the grinding of nature? Are families of gazelle trying to comprehend why their child was eaten by a lion? No. It all just happens. It's all experienced openly and completely without superimposed abstractions, thanks in large part to a diminished forebrain.

Meaning gives us, well... meaning. It's a uniquely human creation evolved in the interface between self-awareness and language. Self-awareness establishes the fundamental awareness of the Other. There is me and she. Me and this computer. Me and the myriad of creation that I contend with. Animals may instinctively defend themselves and follow the rules of biosurvival, but self-preservation is not self-awareness. Language creates the representational overlay we apply to experience. It provides a shared code within which we can define the objects of our world, co-process and collaborate on various projects, theories and algorithms about the perceived patterns of nature, and by which we can share our experiences through the common syntax. The early childhood rites of language acquisition lay the foundation of our quest for personal meaning. What does "cat" or "biology" mean"? What about "Honesty"? "Love?" "Hate?" "Thermonuclear"? What does it mean when birds flock together at sunset over the water? Why did she say that? Why am I here?

Meaning is a complex expression of the perception of pattern - the perception of pattern mixed with emotional content. Meaning is almost always a form of emotion. Science functions best when it's removed from meaning. Just the facts of observation. Magick functions best when it's embedded deeply within the folds of meaning, of emotion. The clinical poles might be psychopath and schizophrenic, respectively. A life without meaning is empty and free of consequence. A life overwhelmed by meaning is one incapable of dealing with the diverse and immediate mechanisms of the competitive world.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:26 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 27 February, 2006 }

Prieur: How to survive the crash and save the Earth

Strong words:

Abandon the world. The world is the enemy of the Earth. The "world as we know it" is a deadly parasite on the biosphere. Both cannot survive, nor can the world survive without the Earth. Do the logic: the world is doomed. If you stay on the parasite, you die with it. If you move to the Earth, and it survives in something like its recent form, you can survive with it.

Our little world is doomed because it's built on a foundation of taking from the wider world without giving back. For thousands of years we've been going into debt and calling it "progress," exterminating and calling it "development," stealing and calling it "wealth," shrinking into a world of our own design and calling it "evolution." We're just about done. We're not just running out of cheap oil -- which is used to make and move almost every product, and which gives the average American the energy equivalent of 200 slaves. We're also running out of topsoil, without which we need oil-derived fertilizers to grow food; and forests, which stabilize climate and create rain by transpiring water to refill the clouds; and ground water, such as the Ogallala aquifer under the Great Plains, which could go dry any time now. We're running out of room to dump stuff in the oceans without killing them, and to dump stuff in the atmosphere without wrecking the climate, and to manufacture carcinogens without all of us getting cancer. We're coming to the end of global food stockpiles, and antibiotics that still work, and our own physical health, and our own mental health, and our grip on reality, and our will to keep the whole game going. Why do you think so many Americans are looking forward to "armageddon" or the "rapture"? We hate this shitty world and we want to blow it up.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:59 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 23 February, 2006 }

Meditation found to increase brain size

Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found the first evidence that meditation can alter the physical structure of our brains. Brain scans they conducted reveal that experienced meditators boasted increased thickness in parts of the brain that deal with attention and processing sensory input.

In one area of gray matter, the thickening turns out to be more pronounced in older than in younger people. That's intriguing because those sections of the human cortex, or thinking cap, normally get thinner as we age.

"Our data suggest that meditation practice can promote cortical plasticity in adults in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being," says Sara Lazar, leader of the study and a psychologist at Harvard Medical School. "These findings are consistent with other studies that demonstrated increased thickness of music areas in the brains of musicians, and visual and motor areas in the brains of jugglers. In other words, the structure of an adult brain can change in response to repeated practice."

jaybird found this for you @ 15:53 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 21 February, 2006 }

Caring for Your Introvert

Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

If so, do you tell this person he is "too serious," or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?

If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren't caring for him properly. Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:32 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



An interview with Fritjof Capra

at the very core of my framework is the analysis of networks, of living networks and the comparison of biological and social networks. And first, as I did already in The Web of Life, I identified a set of key characteristics of living networks. One of them is that these networks are self-generating, that is, every part in the network contributes to continually generate and regenerate the whole. For example, in a cell, you have a network of chemical processes and the food comes in from the outside, simple molecules, sugars, oxygen and so on, come in from the outside, and the cellular network builds all the structures—the proteins, the enzymes, the DNA—all that is built and continually rebuilt and regenerated and maintained by the cellular network.

Now in human society, we’re not talking about chemical processes, we’re talking about processes of communication. A human community is a network of communications. This network of communications also generates itself continually. What it generates, though, are not so much material structures but ideas, information, meaning. These are nonmaterial structures. When a conversation or a communication happens, it gives rise to ideas or information, which then trigger new communications. The entire network also sustains itself and continually regenerates conversations and communications.

Another similarity would be that both types of networks, the biological and the social, create their own boundaries. So a cell, again, creates its boundary, which is semipermeable. That is, it lets certain substances in and others it doesn’t let in, and it gives the cell its identity in this way. The boundary is created by the cell itself. Similarly, of course, multicellular organisms have other kinds of boundaries—we have our skin, you know, the various boundaries of organisms. A social network of communications also creates its boundaries but again, they are not primarily material boundaries, although these also exist, but they are cultural boundaries.

When you have a community, you know who belongs to the community and who doesn’t, and you would treat them differently, you would have different expectations as to their behavior, you would share information differently—some things you would tell people in the community and not tell people outside of the community and so on. This is a boundary of trust, a boundary of expectations, a boundary of values and meaning. It is also continually generated and renegotiated by the network, by the community.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:30 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Giving déjà vu a second look (again)

Dr Chris Moulin first encountered chronic déjà vu sufferers at a memory clinic. “We had a peculiar referral from a man who said there was no point visiting the clinic because he’d already been there, although this would have been impossible.” The patient not only genuinely believed he had met Dr Moulin before, he gave specific details about the times and places of these ‘remembered’ meetings.

Déjà vu has developed to such an extent that he had stopped watching TV - even the news - because it seemed to be a repeat, and even believed he could hear the same bird singing the same song in the same tree every time he went out. Chronic déjà vu sufferers are not only overwhelmed by a sense of familiarity for new experiences, they can provide plausible and complex justifications to support this. “When this particular patient’s wife asked what was going to happen next on a TV programme he’d claimed to have already seen, he said ‘how should I know? I have a memory problem!’” Dr Moulin said.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:26 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 20 February, 2006 }

Want to make a complicated decision? Just stop thinking

Here's a suggestion for the next time you need to make a complicated decision: stop thinking. According to a new study, thinking too hard about a problem leads to poor choices - difficult decisions are best handled by our unconscious minds. While most people are happy to buy a new set of towels without much thought, they are unlikely to buy a new car or house without some serious thought. But Ap Dijksterhuis, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam, argues that we might be getting these methods of decision-making the wrong way around.

He asked volunteers to pick their favourite car from a list of four based on a set of four attributes including fuel consumption and passenger leg room. He gave them four minutes to think about their decision and most people chose the car with the most plus points. When Dr Dijksterhuis made the experiment more complex - 12 attributes rather than four - people could only identify the best car a quarter of the time. This result was no better than choosing at random.

However, when the researchers distracted the participants after showing them the cars (by giving them puzzles to do before asking participants to make their choices), more than half picked the best car. "Conscious thinkers were better able to make the best choice among simple products, whereas unconscious thinkers were better able to make the best choice among complex products," wrote Dr Dijksterhuis in a paper, published today in Science.

The problem with thinking about things consciously is that you can only focus on a few things at once. In the face of a complex decision this can lead to giving certain factors undue importance. Thinking about something several times is also likely to produce slightly different evaluations, highlighting inconsistencies.

jaybird found this for you @ 14:09 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 16 February, 2006 }

Supernatural selection: study religion like any other human behavior

The argument that religion can be explained as a natural rather than a supernatural phenomenon is not new. The Scottish philosopher David Hume set himself a similar task over 250 years ago. Marx and Freud had their own explanations. Over the years, scholars have enlisted everything from rational choice theory to brain scans in their efforts to trace the origins of faith...

Until a few decades ago, the assumption in much social science research was that religion was the product of ignorance: Unfamiliar with the germ theory, primitive tribes believed that vengeful spirits brought disease; lacking an education, the farmboy believed in the virgin birth. In a world of increasing technological and educational advancement, the influential anthropologist Anthony Wallace wrote in 1966, ''the evolutionary future of religion is extinction. Belief in supernatural beings and in supernatural forces that affect nature without obeying nature's laws will erode and become only an interesting historical memory."

In the intervening years, of course, religion has not gone extinct-by most measures the United States is a more religious country than it was 40 years ago-and social scientists have started to take another look at it. Dennett's new book is concerned primarily with this more recent work, in which a new generation of researchers have begun to suggest that religion may be neither a matter of revealed truth nor willed ignorance, but something a bit more complicated.

Several of these new theories enlist Darwin. David Sloan Wilson, a professor of anthropology and biology at Binghamton University, is a leader of the ''functionalist" school. His argument, which borrows from the early French sociologist Emile Durkheim, is simple: Religion evolved because it conferred benefits on believers. In terms of natural selection, human groups that formed religions tended to outcompete those that didn't, surviving longer and propagating more. Calvinism brought social cohesion to 16th-century Geneva, the ''water temple" system on Bali coordinates the island's complex irrigation scheme.

''There are practical benefits that are shortchanged when most people think about religion," Wilson told me. In a way, ''religion is basically providing the kinds of services we always associate with a government."

jaybird found this for you @ 21:12 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Patients Suffer Déjà Vu … Over and Over

Imagine suffering from chronic déjà vu. You don't even go to the doctor because you feel like you've already been there.

"We had a peculiar referral from a man who said there was no point visiting the clinic because he'd already been there, although this would have been impossible," said psychologist Chris Moulin, who runs a memory clinic at the University of Leeds in the UK.

So Moulin has started the first known study of the condition.

Déjà vu hits most of us now and then. We're struck by the sensation that we have experienced an event before, even though we can't fully remember it or perhaps know it didn't really happen. The sensation is fleeting, so researchers can't study it.

But Moulin figures chronic déjà vu sufferers offer an opportunity to do research that might unlock the secrets of the everyday variety.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:05 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 14 February, 2006 }

Reasons Why 'You' Don't Exist...

A multipart series from many contributors. This snippet from Clifford Pickover:

In our own region of the universe, we've already developed computers and the ability to simulate lifelike forms using these computers and mathematical rules. I believe that one day we will create thinking beings that live in rich simulated ecosystems. We'll be able to simulate reality itself, and perhaps more advanced beings are already doing this elsewhere in the universe. Huge supercomputers would have the capacity to simulate not just a tiny fragment of reality, but a substantial fraction of an entire universe.

What if the number of these simulations is larger than the number of universes? Could we be living in such a simulation? Astronomer and philosopher Martin Rees suggests that if the simulations outnumber the universes, "as they would if one universe contained many computers making many simulations," then it is likely that we are artificial life. He notes that this theory allows for "virtual time travel," because the advanced beings who create the simulation can rerun the past...

jaybird found this for you @ 17:59 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Old Beliefs Keep Medicine in a Closed Bottle

If we are a reflection and microcosm of the universe, why do we think in such a limited fashion, when the universe is so infinite? Are we afraid of infinity, of being open vessels to the greatness of the vast universe? The brilliant Latin American writer Jorge Luis Borges thought so. In an essay entitled “Avatars of the Tortoise,” he wrote, “There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics. I refer to the infinite.”

Yet, quantum physics, and the field of quantum consciousness, tell us that consciousness is infinite and eternal, and spreads out across the universe everywhere all at once. Although we can only be in one place at one time in the relative plane, at our core we are infinite beings.

Yet we behave just the opposite. We think and act dogmatically; we would rather defend our dogmas – and dogmas are the antithesis of an open-ended, infinite universe - to the death than to take a step back and examine why we think the way we do. And the reason we think the way we do is because of our mental models.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:57 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 08 February, 2006 }

a single memory is processed in three separate parts of the brain

...While one part of the brain, the hippocampus, is involved in processing memory for context, the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the cerebral cortex, is responsible for retaining memories involving unpleasant stimuli. A third area, the amygdala, located in the temporal lobe, consolidates memories more broadly and influences the storage of both contextual and unpleasant information.

“These results are highly intriguing... It is the first time we have found this fragmentation in the brain of what we would think of as a single experience. For example, different aspects of an experience, such as a car accident, would be processed by different parts of the brain. The experience is fragmented in our brain, even though we think of it as one event.”

...Understanding which parts of the brain process which types of memories gives scientists a better grasp on why particular types of memory impairment can occur and why, for example, different types of strokes might affect different memory systems. “This study is a terrific demonstration of how different components of our neural real estate can be allocated to process different aspects of memory... The more we know about the specialization of memories, the more we can understand how and why the processing of memory can go awry, which in turn can critically inform clinical problems involving a wide range of cognitive deficits.”

jaybird found this for you @ 18:37 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 07 February, 2006 }

Future Hi: Thought Fields

Nature so faithfully reproduces it's best algorithms across the entire scale of creation.

While thought and ideation are often reduced to synaptic events arcing between neurons, it is perhaps more accurate to regard the realm of thought as a field arising from the summation of hundreds of billions of such events. To consider even a very localized region of neural activity - say, the right frontal cortex - is to regard the complex interaction of many millions of neurons each with countless axonal and dendritic projections reaching out to each other and themselves, all tangled up in a maddened, organic mess of gray spaghetti. Each neuron releases a swarm of neurotransmitters through every axonal projection and each neurotransmitter carries an electrochemical charge. As these neurotransmitters bond with enzymes embedded in the neuronal membrane, altering the ionic balance of the cell interior, the action potential of the receiving neuron is either excited or inhibited. When excited, it passes the signal onto the next neuron(s) in the chain by releasing more of it's own select group of neurotransmitters. Each such pulse along the chain induces it's own electromagnetic field.

One could imagine the cortex as a pulsing blob of neural tissue waxing and waning with the dynamic EM field generated by its neuronal activity. Since a single neuron ultimately only possesses the capability of sending a binary message - fire or not-fire - it would be odd to suggest that conscious thought would occur in this domain. The analogy is to binary code - 0 & 1 - where each switch represents a single bit. Eight such bits can be combined to create a byte, which is essentially equivalent to a word. So by analogy we could suggest that while a single neuron can only pass a simple off-on signal, a group of neurons might possess at least a basic amount of informational content equivalent to a word.

But words alone do not make speech, nor do bytes make a program. It's the complex aggregation of bytes into functions and the dynamic flow of data between these functions that creates a program. It is the emergent property of the entire system. Thus, our pre-frontal cortex is a regional function that generates a dynamic electric field from the summation of it's bytes, the neurons. And it's not isolated. It transmits to and receives input from other cortical regions, from the midbrain, the hindbrain, and the steady flow of data streaming in through the sensorium. The whole thing is bathed in blood and nutrients and gases, and awash in hormones pumped out by the hypothalamus And this avoids consideration entirely of exogenous compouonds we take in from the air, from food, drugs, cars, factories, each other, etc. Suffice it to say that from this rich, noodly broth, our unique sense of self arises. Mind manifests across the electromagnetic field of brain.

jaybird found this for you @ 13:07 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 19 January, 2006 }

Futurepositive: Connecting Synergistically

Within the complexity field we spend much time talking about state space and the total possibilities open to the system. Here alternative answers come into their own, and in this sense complexity studies is more a female oriented approach to choice than a male one. Synergy is the study of how interactions within systems affect their joint fitness, and this depends largely upon the forms of interaction employed. In the ancient philosophy of Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism, and also in its close relative Taoism, we find the observation that as well as the view of 'me' and that of 'you' we can also have the views of 'both me and you' and of 'neither me nor you'. In other words, when we view combinations or interactions we must take into account all the possible combinations, and not just those obvious or familiar to us.

Relating this to our two forms of interactions, the male 'rights' approach seeks to keep 'me' and 'you' separate and to mediate a sort of mutual non-interference pact between us - a uneasy truce (as seen in the politics of Rawls and Dworkin). The female 'care' mode addresses the 'both me and you' viewpoint, and seeks to benefit both as a result - a compromise, more concerned with emotions, intuition and trust (e.g. in the work of Noddings and Baier). But what about the 'neither me nor you' viewpoint, what do we make of this ? Here we step up a level, we transcend the limitations of individual viewpoints and enter a new plane, a social viewpoint. In complexity terms this is a form of emergence and leads to new system properties coming into being, properties or opportunities that do not exist in terms of individual viewpoints.

jaybird found this for you @ 13:46 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 17 January, 2006 }

Hypertime, Hyperself, and Googling The Akashic

From a psychological perspective our experience of Universe has been equally if not more profoundly changed and expanded since our ancestors were struggling with fire. Imagine further the gulf between our ontological space and that of an insect or small microbe. Now imagine looking beyond our current technology and psychology, to the future of post-human intelligence vastly exceeding our own. Who is to say that these other dimensions of space described by string theory and quantum gravity will not open up to us? Who is to say that parallel universes (which apparently are right next to us - less than a micrometer, just in a parallel dimension out of our 3d space) will not become known and experienced by our future post-human selves?

If David Bohm is correct about the implicate order, then there are an infinite number of dimensions of space, time and everything else, within us and all around us. All we need is believe in them and open ourselves up to them. It doesn't require any fancy technology, only a willingness inside you to go there. You'll soon learn that our physical bodies, space and time, and all that other stuff doesn't matter very much. It's just this tiny place we happen to be in at the moment. But the next moment, the one right after now, can become the first moment you are living in infinity. Many people who have taken sufficient amounts of psychedelics to have experienced these hyperdimesnions. The best part is we don't need drugs anymore to go to these places. The helped show many of us the way, but the way out is past the drug experience. I know this view has given me some flack here on this 'psychedelic' site, but I believe ultimately that drugs are a dead end. It's kind of like an old tool that has served us well, but is now no longer necessary. We cling to it because it gave us fond memories, but it no longer serves us. We have outgrown it. We have become one with these higher spaces, we are going there in dreams, in OBE's and NDE's. Death is an illusion.

The holographic theory provides a great map to understand and integrate this beautifully simple and inclusive worldview.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:20 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Ecoliteracy: A Path with a Heart

I think self-organization and the newer understanding of life and complexity, when it is applied to the social realm and human organizations, can help people to find their authenticity as human beings The old paradigm model is a mechanistic model where people are seen as parts of a big machine and the machine is designed by experts who either sit at the top of the organization or are brought in from outside as consultants. Then this design of new structures is imposed upon the people who work in the organization and they are pigeon-holed in certain departments with well-defined boundaries. So the underlying model is that of a machine working very smoothly.

What self-organization tells you, among many other things, is that creativity is an inherent property of all living systems. All living systems are creative because they have the ability to reach out and create something new. In the last 20-25 years we have begun to understand the dynamics of this creativity, in terms of emergence of new structures and in terms of instability, bifurcation points, and the spontaneous emergence of order. This is the underlying dynamics of creativity at all levels of life.

When people understand this they will realize that human individuals as well as groups of individuals are inherently creative. So when you have an organization and you want to design a new structure and you bring in outside experts and then impose this structure on the organization you have to spend a lot of energy and money to sell the idea to the employees and the manager. Since human beings are inherently creative they will not accept the idea as it is. since this will deny their humanity. Therefore you can give them orders and they will nominally adhere to the orders but they will circumvent the orders; they will re-invent the orders and will modify it, either boycott it or embellish it, adding their own interpretation.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:42 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 06 January, 2006 }

Consciousness in meme machines

If we hope (or fear) to make a conscious machine it would be helpful to know what consciousness is. We do not. I shall not claim here to solve the hard problem, or to say what consciousness ultimately is (if anything). Instead I shall argue that ordinary human consciousness is an illusion. Therefore making a machine that is conscious in the same way as we are, means making one that is subject to the same kind of illusion. Before explaining this in more detail I want to distinguish this view from some other major positions on machine consciousness, crudely divided here into three.

[via bruce eisner]

jaybird found this for you @ 14:28 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 04 January, 2006 }

Introduction to the Psychology of the Four Elements

The first step in working with a psychology of the four elements
involves creating elemental sensations within ourselves through
force of imagination. The sensation relating to each element has to
be fully felt. Once we can generate a particular sensation in
ourselves by will, we can then tie that sensation into the basic
qualities of the element.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:41 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Your dangerous ideas: 2006

Something radically new is in the air: new ways of understanding physical systems, new ways of thinking about thinking that call into question many of our basic assumptions. A realistic biology of the mind, advances in evolutionary biology, physics, information technology, genetics, neurobiology, psychology, engineering, the chemistry of materials: all are questions of critical importance with respect to what it means to be human. For the first time, we have the tools and the will to undertake the scientific study of human nature. [via metafilter]

jaybird found this for you @ 11:34 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 20 December, 2005 }

Children Learn by Monkey See, Monkey Do. Chimps Don't.

Dr. Horner and Dr. Whiten described the way they showed young chimps how to retrieve food from a box.

The box was painted black and had a door on one side and a bolt running across the top. The food was hidden in a tube behind the door. When they showed the chimpanzees how to retrieve the food, the researchers added some unnecessary steps. Before they opened the door, they pulled back the bolt and tapped the top of the box with a stick. Only after they had pushed the bolt back in place did they finally open the door and fish out the food.

Because the chimps could not see inside, they could not tell that the extra steps were unnecessary. As a result, when the chimps were given the box, two-thirds faithfully imitated the scientists to retrieve the food.

The team then used a box with transparent walls and found a strikingly different result. Those chimps could see that the scientists were wasting their time sliding the bolt and tapping the top. None followed suit. They all went straight for the door.

The researchers turned to humans. They showed the transparent box to 16 children from a Scottish nursery school. After putting a sticker in the box, they showed the children how to retrieve it. They included the unnecessary bolt pulling and box tapping.

The scientists placed the sticker back in the box and left the room, telling the children that they could do whatever they thought necessary to retrieve it.

The children could see just as easily as the chimps that it was pointless to slide open the bolt or tap on top of the box. Yet 80 percent did so anyway. "It seemed so spectacular to me," Mr. Lyons said. "It suggested something remarkable was going on."

jaybird found this for you @ 17:01 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 19 December, 2005 }

You Are What You Think: How You Use Your Brain May Determine How Healthy or Unhealthy It Is

If we are what we eat, as the old saying goes, we may also be what we think. Or how we think, as well as how much we think. One treatment for some of our mental ills may well lie in the practice of meditation, an awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind.

The latest evidence comes from an impressive group of researchers from some of the leading institutions in the world who have found that a serious effort at meditation can physically change the brain, leading to reduced stress, better mental focus, and possibly fewer effects from aging.

"The structure of the brain is very complex and it is constantly changing," says Sara Lazar, a psychiatrist and research scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University. "It is well documented that around the age of 20 to 25 the whole front of the brain starts to get thinner with age, and other parts of the brain continue to grow, and all sorts of things are happening, all of the time."

jaybird found this for you @ 08:10 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 06 December, 2005 }

Pinchbeck: Gurdjieff's Vision

Most of my life, I have been chained to cities where night is, for the most part, a muted void and the elements are reduced to abstractions. On the other hand, in Manhattan, it is very easy to have the uneasy awareness of being a miniscule cog in a vast machine, a "cybernetic pulse engine," accelerating outside of human control. I now suspect that Gurdjieff is right: the cosmic apparatus of swirling constellations and planetary bodies and radiating moon exerts a direct and causal influence on human destiny -- that those forces might be responsible for the running of the entire mechanism.

[via corpus mmothra]

jaybird found this for you @ 19:57 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 02 December, 2005 }

Triggering the Total: From the Unreal to the Real

We all experience ‘higher states of consciousness’ from time to time, when an inner peace seems to fill us and the world around us seems magically transformed. Everything seems much more real and more beautiful, we feel like we’re actually part of our surroundings, and there seems to be a meaning in things which we aren’t normally aware of. The world seems a benevolent, harmonious place, and we may even become aware of a kind of force or presence which seems to pervade all things. We also have a sense that we’re seeing the world in a wider and truer way than normal, as if a veil has been pushed aside and we’re catching a glimpse of how things really are.

Studies show that, while these ‘higher states of consciousness’ can occur for no apparent reason, they are often ‘triggered’ by certain things: they often occur when we’re amongst natural surroundings, for example, or when we do meditation and yoga, or after periods of emotional turmoil and depression. They also sometimes occur when we do certain sports (such as long-distance running); people who suffer from epilepsy often experience them in the moments before seizures.

jaybird found this for you @ 21:03 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 30 November, 2005 }

Ad Infinitum: Mental processing is continuous, not like a computer

"For decades, the cognitive and neural sciences have treated mental processes as though they involved passing discrete packets of information in a strictly feed-forward fashion from one cognitive module to the next or in a string of individuated binary symbols -- like a digital computer," said Spivey. "More recently, however, a growing number of studies, such as ours, support dynamical-systems approaches to the mind. In this model, perception and cognition are mathematically described as a continuous trajectory through a high-dimensional mental space; the neural activation patterns flow back and forth to produce nonlinear, self-organized, emergent properties -- like a biological organism."

jaybird found this for you @ 20:23 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 28 November, 2005 }

Boo: Can We Cure Fear?

So what can be done about irrational fear? There is no one standard treatment in part because symptoms vary from one individual to the next. A person may feel destined to a given bad outcome and have a greater sense of foreboding because of a certain family tendency. Some people's bodies more easily release the ght-or-ight hormones than others. Time-consuming therapy and the resulting reeducation, to avoid triggering our fears, have been the chief solution to date. Now research also suggests therapy could be supplemented by a simple pill that blocks the reception or production of fear signals or even by a fear "vaccine." The fear research does not seek a traditional vaccine--in which the immune system develops protective capabilities in response to the presence of an injected (inert) disease agent. Rather the immune system might be chemically primed with a shot so that it is as healthy as possible--making the body less susceptible to hyperreacting to threats.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:11 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 23 November, 2005 }

Leary: DIGITAL POLYTHEISM

The baby boom generation has grown up in an electronic world of TV and personal computing screens. The cyberpunks offer metaphors, rituals, life styles for dealing with the universe of information. More and more of us are becoming electro-shamans, modern alchemists.

Alchemists of the Middle Ages described the construction of magical appliances for viewing future events, or speaking to friends distant or dead. Writings of Paracelsus describe a mirror of ELECTRUM MAGICUM with telegenic properties, and crystal scrying was in its heyday.

Today, digital alchemists have at their command tools of a precision and power unimagined by their predecessors. Computer screens ARE magical mirrors, presenting alternate realities at varying degrees of abstraction on command (invocation). Aleister Crowley defined magick as "the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with our will," and to this end the computer is the universal level of Archimedes.

The parallels between the culture of the alchemists and that of cyberpunk computer adepts are inescapable. Both employ knowledge of an occult arcanum unknown to the population at large, with secret symbols and words of power. The "secret symbols" comprise the languages of computers and mathematics, and the "words of power" instruct computer operating systems to complete Herculean tasks. Knowing the precise code name of a digital program permits it to be conjured into existence, transcending the labor of muscular or mechanical search or manufacture. Rites of initiation or apprenticeship are common to both. "Psychic feats" of telepathy and action-at-a-distance are achieved by selection of the menu option.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:09 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Mystical and Psychotic Perceptions of Reality

How do people think when they are insane? What is the stream of consciousness like in a psychotic mind? Even, say, for a minute or two? Since, sadly, I have been there myself nearly twenty years ago I can tell you. The memory of psychotic thinking indeed is quite vivid, I can even now play at recreating it whilst remaining perfectly sane, but I wouldn't recommend this to anyone else! In psychosis everything seems to 'mean' something; nothing is trivial; the most innocuous item is quite portentous. And the level of fear is beyond anything a sane mind has ever entertained. it is as if the world 'has a message', as if trivial things have been 'put there' as a sign - in this context it is hardly surprising that psychotics think they are being persecuted by the Mafia or the CIA. Cognitions change with every eye movement; five minutes is a very long time in an acute psychotic episode. The following eye movement/psychotic thought sequence is not atypical: I notice, for example, a dead moth on the window sill - 'a life extinguished' I think, 'like yours may be soon' I also think; I then notice a packet of mints with one left in it ('you have one chance left' I imagine my persecutors saying); then a half onion ('the layers of your mind and character are revealed for all to see' they snidely state); then my eyes alight on Quink ink ('drink you queer'), on painted flowers on the curtains ('your beauty is only painted on'). I turn on the radio, but the first words emitted (in a song) are, 'You can't hide!'. I turn it off immediately and abruptly - but this is curtly 'reacted' to by laughter from the street outside - as if I am being mocked for my evasiveness by some strange all encompassing power that can orchestrate such events. I turn the radio back on - but now the DJ is laughing too. I turn it off again. I cannot get away from the torment. The sound of a car window being smashed rips through the air ('they're breaking through' I fear). The sound of police sirens quickly follows ('help is near'). I relax, And as I relax the 'sequence' seems to stop. My 'galloping paranoia', at least for a few minutes perhaps, is over. Notice that the above is a kind of verbal window on an episode that may last several months in duration! One can see here why patients are in the dreadful state they are on admission: Sometimes every single audible line of a song on the radio can seem 'meaningful' in this way and produce what patients do call 'galloping' of this kind.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:04 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 16 November, 2005 }

Om maker: Meditation builds up the brain

Meditating does more than just feel good and calm you down, it makes you perform better – and alters the structure of your brain, researchers have found.

People who meditate say the practice restores their energy, and some claim they need less sleep as a result. Many studies have reported that the brain works differently during meditation – brainwave patterns change and neuronal firing patterns synchronise. But whether meditation actually brings any of the restorative benefits of sleep has remained largely unexplored.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:09 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 14 November, 2005 }

Eisner: When I Die, I Want To Go Up To That Google in the Sky

The idea of achieving some kind of immortality beyond this body sounds like a good idea but having my brain plucked apart by a robot spider has always left me somewhat ambivalent. My feelings about these prospects could be summed up by a well-known remark made by comic Woody Allen.

Allen reflecing on one of his two favorite topics said: "I am not afraid of death, I just don't want to be there when it happens."

jaybird found this for you @ 12:26 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 10 November, 2005 }

Leary: The Declaration of Evolution

When in the course of organic evolution it becomes obvious that a mutational process is inevitably dissolving the physical and neurological bonds which connect the members of one generation to the past and inevitably directing them to assume among the species of Earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitle them, a decent concern for the harmony of species requires that the causes of the mutation should be declared.

We hold these truths to be self evident:

• That all species are created different but equal;

• That they are endowed, each one, with certain inalienable rights;

• That among them are Freedom to Live, Freedom to Grow, and Freedom to pursue Happiness in their own style;

• That to protect these God-given rights, social structures naturally emerge, basing their authority on the principles of love of God and respect for all forms of life;

• That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of life, liberty, and harmony, it is the organic duty of the young members of that species to mutate, to drop out, to initiate a new social structure, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its power in such form as seems likely to produce the safety, happiness, and harmony of all sentient beings.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:54 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 08 November, 2005 }

Fritjof Capra: What Matters Most

I began with the observation that our social institutions are unable to solve the major problems of our time because they adhere to the concepts of an outdated worldview, the mechanistic worldview of seventeenth-century science. The natural sciences, as well as the humanities and social sciences, have all modeled themselves after classical Newtonian physics, and the limitations of the Newtonian worldview are now manifest in the multiple aspects of global crisis. While the Newtonian model is still the dominant paradigm in our academic institutions and in society at large, I continued, physicists have gone far beyond it. I described the worldview I saw emerging from the new physics—its emphasis on interconnectedness, relationship, dynamic patterns, and continual change and transformation—and I expressed my belief that the other sciences would have to change their underlying philosophies accordingly in order to be consistent with this new vision of reality. Such radical change, I maintained, would also be the only way to really solve our urgent economic, social, and environmental problems.

I presented my thesis carefully and concisely, and when I paused at the end I expected Schumacher to agree with me on the essential points. He had expressed very similar ideas in his book and I was confident that he would help me formulate my thesis more concretely.

Schumacher looked at me with his friendly eyes and said slowly: "We have to be very careful to avoid head-on confrontation."

jaybird found this for you @ 17:09 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



sacred addicts

The history of neoshamanism is bound up with the history of psychedelic drugs in the 1960s. Carlos Castenada's hoax was accepted uncritically because it provided something that people were looking for: a mythic framework for tripping, a worldview that gave their experience a context and meaning. Government propaganda against psychotropic drugs was countered by raising the point of shamanic use of those same drugs. Unfortunately, the myths of "progress" and "the Enlightenment" combined those ideas seamlessly. Yes, shamans used psychotropic drugs; that underscores the uselessness of religion, and the basic foundation of religious expression in delusion. Shamans became denigrated as some kind of sacred addict.

These "plant allies" in shamanic cultures bolster the shaman's abilities. They allow new, inexperienced shamans and those uninitiated into the mysteries of consciousness to experience those states the shaman specializes in. Sometimes the state is described as a kind of symbiosis between the shaman and the "plant ally." The altered state of consciousness is considered a melding of the practitioner's human consciousness, and the entheogen's plant consciousness. Very often among entheogenic, shamanic cultures, the entheogen they use is apotheosized as a god in itself. [via bruce eisner]

jaybird found this for you @ 13:05 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



TECHNO-SHAMANISM AND THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF BLISS

Perhaps the most intriguing and important conflict throughout human history has been the continuing struggle between the forces of authority and those individuals seeking freedom to follow their own exploratory impulses. The forces of authority, aware that their power over others rests on maintaining the status quo, have throughout the ages attempted to restrict social change by controlling or suppressing the flow of information. The seekers of social change and individual freedom, on the other hand, have always attempted to spread new information as widely as possible. Compare, for example, the jealous guarding of information by ancient rulers, emperors and church authorities with the command of Jesus to his disciples to "go out into the world and spread the Gospel." In the area of spiritual wisdom and spiritual technologies, this has meant that throughout history those in positions of spiritual authority, those in control of the spiritual technologies, and who seek to maintain power, have attempted to keep the spiritual technologies secret. Thus they have perpetuated the tradition of spiritual "mysteries," known only to a small circle of initiates, passed down to selected individuals who will perpetuate the tradition and maintain the secrecy - and the authority - of the spiritual technologies.

On the other hand, the seekers of change, wanting to spread information as widely as possible, have always sought to tear away the veil of secrecy that has hidden the spiritual mysteries. Thus, one central impulse throughout history has been to find ways of systematizing and simplifying spiritual technologies to make them more easily taught, and to provide access to the core mystical experience to as many people as possible. As an example: for millennia, the mysteries of how to attain states of spiritual ecstasy was kept secret, passed down in monasteries and mystery schools from master to pupil.

But then, as Dr. Herbert Benson observes in The Relaxation Response, by the twelfth century... it was realized that this ecstasy could be induced in the-ordinary man in a relatively short time by rhythmic exercises, involving posture, control of breath, coordinated movements, and oral repetitions.

In many ways the western rationalist, materialist scientific tradition of the last five hundred years can be seen as an attempt to systematize and make accessible to all - that is, to democratize - these mystical experiences. Power to the people

jaybird found this for you @ 09:00 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 07 November, 2005 }

Unplugged: The Simulation will be shut down

Just when you thought the perils of bird flu, terrorism, bio-engineered viruses, grey goo and pathological AI were enough to be getting on with, thank you very much, Kurzweil brings back an old chestnut to put somewhere near the bottom of your list of worries. But whatever you do, try not to be boring – the fate of humanity might depend on it.

[An] existential risk that Bostrom and others have identified is that we’re actually living in a simulation and the simulation will be shut down. It might appear that there’s not a lot we could do to influence this. However, since we’re the subject of the simulation, we do have the opportunity to shape what happens inside of it. The best way we could avoid being shut down would be to be interesting to the observers of the simulation. Assuming that someone is actually paying attention to the simulation, it’s a fair assumption that it’s less likely to be turned off when it’s compelling than otherwise.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:02 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 02 November, 2005 }

The Elan Vital and Self-Evolution

The increase in consciousness and life force is seen as the purpose of evolution What is it that makes one form of life more advanced than another? From one point of view, we can say that some beings are literally more alive than others. This 'aliveness', that the French philosopher Henri Bergson called the 'elan vital,' has manifested itself more powerfully within them. We can see the whole evolutionary process which has taken life forward from amoebi to human beings as a process of 'vitalisation', by which living things become progressively more animated. As living beings become more 'vitalised' the intensity of their consciousness increases; so another parallel way of looking at evolution is to see it as a process by which living beings become more and more conscious.

Thus, we can say that because the 'elan vital' is relatively weak inside them, plants only have a small degree of consciousness, which manifests itself in the way they react to changes in their environment; while animals like sheep and cows are more conscious than, say, insects, because they have a much fuller awareness of their surroundings. And we human beings, as the latest products of the evolutionary process, are more 'vital' and also more conscious than any other animal: we're the only animals who have self-awareness, for example, the only animals who are conscious of death to any degree, and also the only animals who are conscious of the past.

The 'elan vital', or 'life force', is inside us all. It's the vital energy which we give out as we go about our daily lives, which we expend when we think, when we work, when we use our senses to perceive what's happening around us, and which we also need to mantain the healthy functioning of our bodies. It's this energy which is recharged inside us when we sleep, which drains out of us when we've been doing too many things and our senses have been overloaded with external stimuli, and which also passes out of us when we die. The Chinese word for this 'life energy' is Chi, and acupuncture and the exercises of Chi Gung and T'ai Chi are based on it, while in Sanskrit the word for it is Prana, and it's the principle underlying the exercises of hatha yoga. Strangely, even though everybody
accepts its existence on an everyday level (for example, when we say that we feel 'run down', that our 'energy levels are low' or that we need to 'recharge our batteries'), the concept of a 'life energy' is alien to our materialistic Western culture, and our scientists and doctors refuse to believe that there's any such thing. But we too have a word for 'life energy', even if it's not used much nowadays: vitality.

It's very important to look at the 'elan vital' in both these areas, in connection with evolution and in connection with ourselves, because there's a very close relationship between the evolutionary process as a whole and the personal evolution which can take place in our own lives. In exactly the same way that evolution as a whole can be seen as a process by which living beings become more and more 'vitalised', we can also see personal spiritual development as a process of making ourselves more and more 'vitalised' as individuals.

jaybird found this for you @ 14:22 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 01 November, 2005 }

Towards a Wisdom Based Society

People crave not only more computers, but also inner rapture, peace and justice. We yearn for a fusion between the finest forms of humanism and the deepest essence of spirituality. We aspire for an outburst of rational humanism and spiritual wisdom—a common vision that can shape a more harmonious and integrated planet. As espoused by the sages, philosophers, and scientists of both East and West, this visionary fusion can foster a global renaissance of inner meaning and social values. Some social observers believe that the faint glow of this phenomenon can already be seen on humanity’s horizon.

This new, integral, spiritual humanism represents a synthesis between the Enlightenment of the East and the Enlightenment of the West. And what is the most important step to achieve this lofty goal? To establish spiritual practice as the cornerstone of human culture. Hence, it is not enough to simply popularize spiritual (and pseudo-spiritual) ideas as is done today through the ever-growing self-help marketplace which often spread ideas that represent religious dogmas or arcane, mythological belief systems. It is also not enough to preach the noble ideals of humanism. Instead, sincere spiritual practitioners will have to initiate an authentic, spiritual movement which can spearhead the integration of spiritual humanism in society.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:21 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 31 October, 2005 }

A Metaphysics of Human Interface

We define metaphysics as the philosophy that examines the nature of reality, the connection of mind and matter, of “being” (ontology). Interface, as the aggregate of means by which users interact with a complex system, device, or tool. User input allows control of the system, while system output provides the users of the results, also called feedback. System feedback may be regulated by cybernetics. From cybernetics’ point of view, it is possible to consider the whole universe in terms of data and data processing. Here, I propose a simple experiment from the field of contemporary esotericism: a simple request made by a user in order to accrue a procedural knowledge of phenomenon, with which the experimenter can further explore to her or his delight.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:02 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 28 October, 2005 }

Chomsky: The Spontaneous Invention Of Language

There was [a]... very interesting case with a community of deaf people in Nicaragua. For a long time deafness was considered much like a disease, and they were isolated. Kept to themselves, there was no effort to teach them. Later, there were some efforts to improve their situation slightly, and it turned out that they had pretty quickly developed a sign language within the community.

Now that language has been investigated in considerable depth, and it appears to be just like any existing language. It has the same structural properties. The infants even babble in sign just like they babble in spoken language. There don't seem to be any detectable differences. It's just that the mode is different--sign and visual, instead of articulate and auditory.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:31 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Arthur C. Clarke: Join The Planetary Conversation

We as a species have a deep urge to communicate--so if something is technologically feasible, we will pursue it sooner rather than later. Virtually everything we wish to do in the field of communications is now within the reach of our technology. The only remaining limitations are financial, legal or political. In time, I am sure, most of these will also disappear--leaving us with only limitations imposed by our own morality. How we shape the networked world of the future lies entirely in our hands--and minds.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:29 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Schizophrenics fall for no illusions

The paranoia, or sense of persecution, experienced by some schizophrenics could be due to a problem they have processing contextual information, according to researchers at University College London.

Researchers at the London university found that schizophrenics are not fooled by visual illusions that easily trick non-schizophrenics.

Volunteers were shown high-contrast black and white patterned images, with sections altered so that the level of contrast is much lower. They were then asked effectively to match the contrast of the altered section to its twin in a line up of otherwise identical shapes.

Schizophrenics find this task relatively easy, because their brain takes no account of the surrounding information when judging the level of contrast in the altered section of the pattern. Non-schizophrenic brains, however, make relative judgments about the altered section, because of the surrounding higher contrast pattern.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:20 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 26 October, 2005 }

A Metaphysics of Human Interface

We define metaphysics as the philosophy that examines the nature of reality, the connection of mind and matter, of “being” (ontology). Interface, as the aggregate of means by which users interact with a complex system, device, or tool. User input allows control of the system, while system output provides the users of the results, also called feedback. System feedback may be regulated by cybernetics. From cybernetics’ point of view, it is possible to consider the whole universe in terms of data and data processing. Here, I propose a simple experiment from the field of contemporary esotericism: a simple request made by a user in order to accrue a procedural knowledge of phenomenon, with which the experimenter can further explore to her or his delight. [via corpus mmothra]

jaybird found this for you @ 12:25 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Gurdjieff and Now

Along these lines, it seems to me that Gurdjieff’s famous ‘work’ has been turned into a set of techniques. People get together to do his movements, practical work, and to practice some kind of meditation or other supposedly derived from exercises he showed during his lifetime. Some have gone on doing this for fifty years – even though there is little evidence that any deep change is being brought about. It is just like the situation of someone being shown a mantra that will ‘liberate’ them and after trying it for some time asking why it is not working to be told that they have not tried hard enough!

I’ve always had a strong response to those anecdotes about Gurdjieff in which he is urging his followers to think. In one of his most splendid talks titled ‘connaissance’ (French word for ‘knowing’) he actually says that the whole point is ‘to know’. In introducing exercises as written up in ‘Life is Only Real’ he tells his audience to look into what the exercises mean. It is an astonishing passage. In contrast, I discovered for example in speaking with a member of the Gurdjieff Society in London that they hardly ever discussed ‘the ideas’! The inevitable result must be that we go on with various practices, read various books, but never get down to investigating what it means.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:12 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 25 October, 2005 }

In Search Of The Primitive

In machine based societies, the machine has incorporated the demands of the civil power or of the market, and the whole life of society, of all classes and grades, must adjust to its rhythms. Time becomes lineal, secularized, "precious"; it is reduced to an extension in space that must be filled up, and sacred time disappears. The secretary must adjust to the speed of her electric typewriter; the stenographer to the stenotype machine; the factory worker to the line or lathe, the executive to the schedule of the train or plane and the practically instantaneous transmission of the telephone; the chauffeur to the superhighways; the reader to the endless stream of printed matter from high speed presses; even the schoolboy to the precise periodization of his day and to the watch on his wrist; the person at "leisure" to a mechanized domestic environment and the flow of efficiently schedule entertainment. the machines seem to run us, crystallizing in their mechanical or electronic pulses the means of our desires. The collapse in time to a extension in space, calibrated by machines, has bowdlerized our natural and human rhythms and helped disassociate us from ourselves. Even now, we hardly love the Earth or see with eyes or listen any longer with our ears, and we scarcely feel our hearts beat before they break in protest. even now, so faithful and exact or the machines as servants that they seem an alien force, persuading us at every turn to fulfill our intentions which we have built into them and which they represent--in much the same way the perfect body servant routinizes, and finally, trivializes his master.

jaybird found this for you @ 21:15 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 21 October, 2005 }

The Milgram Experiment

Today the field of psychology would deem this study highly unethical but, it revealed some extremely important findings. The theory that only the most severe monsters on the sadistic fringe of society would submit to such cruelty is disclaimed. Findings show that, "two-thirds of this studies participants fall into the category of ‘obedient' subjects, and that they represent ordinary people drawn from the working, managerial, and professional classes (Obedience to Authority)." Ultimately 65% of all of the "teachers" punished the "learners" to the maximum 450 volts. No subject stopped before reaching 300 volts! [via mefi]

jaybird found this for you @ 13:45 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 20 October, 2005 }

I didn't post this: Abnormal brains wired for lies

Pathological liars may have structural abnormalities in their brains, a new study suggests. Researchers have found that individuals who habitually lie and cheat have less grey matter and more white matter in their prefrontal cortex than normal people...

Past studies have found that the prefrontal cortex shows heightened activity when normal people lie. It is believed to be involved in both learning moral behaviour and feeling remorse. The new study suggests that because grey matter consists of brain cells, while white matter forms the "wiring" or connections between these cells, pathological liars may have more capacity to lie and fewer moral restraints.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:14 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 17 October, 2005 }

McKenna: Stoned Ape Theory of Human Evolution

McKenna theorizes that as the North African jungles receded toward the end of the most recent ice age, giving way to grasslands, a branch of our tree-dwelling primate ancestors left the branches and took up a life out in the open -- following around herds of ungulates, nibbling what they could along the way.

Among the new items in their diet were psilocybin-containing mushrooms growing in the dung of these ungulate herds. The changes caused by the introduction of this drug to the primate diet were many -- McKenna theorizes, for instance, that synesthesia (the blurring of boundaries between the senses) caused by psilocybin led to the development of spoken language: the ability to form pictures in another person's mind through the use of vocal sounds.

About 12,000 years ago, further climate changes removed the mushroom from the human diet, resulting in a new set of profound changes in our species as we reverted to pre-mushroomed and frankly brutal primate social structures that had been modified and/or repressed by frequent consumption of psilocybin.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:48 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 14 October, 2005 }

Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence

In his philosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche presents the idea of eternal recurrence as an answer to nihilism. Nietzsche addresses the idea of eternal recurrence in his work Thus Spake Zarathustra. In this work, Zarathustra finds himself on a path up a mountain, a path that ends at a gate marked "This Moment." Two paths come together at this gate, going opposite directions, and neither having an end. Zarathustra ponders this and discusses it with the dwarf who has been riding on his shoulders. (I know it sounds strange, but yes, a dwarf on his shoulders.) Together, Zarathustra and the dwarf work on this problem of the two eternal paths, one of which runs backward, the other forward. And Zarathustra asks about the path running backwards, "Must not whatever can run its course of all things, have already run along that lane? Must not whatever can happen of all things have already happened, resulted, and gone by?" Zarathustra thinks that if everything has already run along this eternal path, then everything has already existed, including the gate at which they stand. It is there that the idea of eternal recurrence is presented. [via mefi]

jaybird found this for you @ 12:24 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 13 October, 2005 }

Dreams prepare your emotions

Dreams can help in coming to terms with major events and in taking difficult decisions in life. This is what [a] Dutch-sponsored researcher concluded after her research into the function of dreams in indigenous Surinamese and Australian tribes. [via mecha]

jaybird found this for you @ 08:57 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 12 October, 2005 }

About Time: Academia Embraces Spooky Studies

At the University of Arizona, a psychology laboratory devotes its time to investigating "dynamic info-energy systems" and a "survival of consciousness hypothesis." University of Virginia cardiologists have been studying whether heart patients enter "transcendental environments" in the operating room. Meanwhile, a psychiatrist colleague compiles records of alleged "transmigration" events from around the world.

Translation? At two of America's best universities, professors and doctors are studying the existence of the soul, near-death experiences and reincarnation.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:19 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 10 October, 2005 }

To Know Oneself

Thoreau said in Walden; Or, Life in the Woods, “Direct your eye sight inward, and you’ll find, A thousand regions in your mind, Yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be expert in home-cosmography”.

Becoming a naturalist of the mind is challenging because we rarely take the time to observe ourselves, to see how we ‘think, feel, and react or act in situations’, without labeling or judging ourselves in the process.
But a naturalist does just that – he or she observes, notes, in a very neutral way, without passing judgment or labeling, just seeing what is and noting it ‘in neutral’. (Try watching ants for a moment, just observing and seeing where they go and what they do).

Why is it valuable to note in neutral one’s own thoughts, feelings, and actions? It is the ultimate discovery tool – a tool to discover one’s own way of thinking – the unique biological blueprint (encoded in part through genes) for the brain and body’s way of responding to the environment. Rather than reacting, however, and being swept away by thoughts or feelings, when one treats the mind/brain/body as an experiment itself and becomes an observer of the thoughts, feelings, and actions as they occur, one becomes aware of the space in which they arise. If you stare at a blue sky without a cloud or tree or bird in it, it is just a spacious opening, infinite space and hard to discern. But with a cloud or tree or bird present, the sky is discernable as sky. Similarly, becoming aware from a naturalist’s perspective of thoughts, feelings, and actions in the mind, one becomes aware of the space in which such thoughts arise. With practice in detecting the arising of thoughts, feelings, and actions, comes an increasing awareness of the spaciousness in the mind.

jaybird found this for you @ 21:21 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Circa 2003: Thoughts are Things

...Everything in our world is a field of energy and therefore has a particular frequency. The chair you're sitting on, your car, your cat, dog, you and everything else including thoughts, have a field of energy or vibration. Recent scientific work has identified particular ranges of frequencies and scientists are able to measure them. Interestingly enough, negative energies, like anger and rage, measure very low on the scale, while positive energies like those given off by prayer and meditation reach the highest measurements.

At this point you may be wondering what this has to do with your thoughts. Bear with me and I promise to connect the dots.

The second part of this equation is the universal law that states "like attracts like". This has been referred to as the law of attraction, law of similar and other names. What we choose to call it is not terribly important, what is important to understanding the part this plays in our lives.

jaybird found this for you @ 17:14 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Circa 1908: Thoughts are Things

The material mind wants to more on in a rut of life and idea, as it always has done, and as thousands are now doing. It dislikes change more and more as the crust of the old thought held from year to year grows more thickly over it. It wants to live on and on in the house it has inhabited for years; dress in the fashion of the past; go to business and return year in and year out at precisely the same hour. It rejects and despises after a certain age the idea of learning any new accomplishments, such as painting or music, whose greatest use is to divert the mind, rest it, and enable you to live in other departments of being, all this being apart from the pleasure also given you as the mind or spirit teaches the body more and more skill and expertness in the art you pursue.

The material mind sees as the principal use of any art only a means to bring money, and not in such art a means for giving variety to life, dispelling weariness, resting that portion of the mind devoted to other business, improving health and increasing vigour of mind and body. It holds to the idea of being "too old to learn."

This is the condition of so many persons who have arrived at or are past " middle age." They want to "settle down." They accept as inevitable the idea of "growing old." Their material mind tells them that their bodies must gradually weaken, shrink from the fullness and proportion of youth, decay and finally die.

Material minds say this always has been, and therefore always must be. They accept the idea wholly. They say quite unconsciously, "It must be."

jaybird found this for you @ 12:42 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 06 October, 2005 }

Bhutan: A New Measure of Well-Being From a Happy Little Kingdom

In 1972, concerned about the problems afflicting other developing countries that focused only on economic growth, Bhutan's newly crowned leader, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, decided to make his nation's priority not its G.D.P. but its G.N.H., or gross national happiness.

Bhutan, the king said, needed to ensure that prosperity was shared across society and that it was balanced against preserving cultural traditions, protecting the environment and maintaining a responsive government. The king, now 49, has been instituting policies aimed at accomplishing these goals.

Now Bhutan's example, while still a work in progress, is serving as a catalyst for far broader discussions of national well-being.

jaybird found this for you @ 09:13 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 05 October, 2005 }

Huxley: Culture and the Individual

Genius and angry ape, player of fantastic tricks and godlike reasoner—in all these roles individuals are the products of a language and a culture. Working on the twelve or thirteen billion neurons of a human brain, language and culture have given us law, science, ethics, philosophy; have made possible all the achievements of talent and of sanctity. They have also given us fanaticism, superstition and dogmatic bumptiousness; nationalistic idolatry and mass murder in the name of God; rabble-rousing propaganda and organized Iying. And, along with the salt of the earth, they have given us, generation after generation, countless millions of hypnotized conformists, the predestined victims of power-hungry rulers who are themselves the victims of all that is most senseless and inhuman in their cultural tradition. [via bruce eisner]

jaybird found this for you @ 15:51 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 04 October, 2005 }

Everything Old is New Again -- Man and the Anthropocosm


What man most passionately wants is his living wholeness and his living unison, not his own isolate salvation of his "soul". Man wants his physical fulfilment first and foremost, since now, once and once only, he is in the flesh and potent. For man, the vast marvel is to be alive. For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive. Whatever the unborn and the dead may know, they cannot know the beauty, the marvel of being alive in the flesh. The dead may look after the afterwards. But the magnificent here and now of life in the flesh is ours, and ours alone, and ours only for a time. We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living, incarnate cosmos. I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea. My soul knows that I am part of the human race, my soul is an organic part of the great human soul, as my spirit is part of my nation. In my own very self, I am part of my family. There is nothing of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself, it is only the glitter of the sun on the surface of the waters.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:10 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 29 September, 2005 }

In all fairness, a critique of transhumanism: The Age of Batshit Crazy Machines

One problem: The biosphere did not gain its complexity by destroying the universe, as their system has gained complexity by destroying the biosphere. They always claim to represent "evolution," or a "new evolutionary level." But evolution doesn't have levels. Video games have levels. Evolution is a biological process in which the totality of life grows more diverse and complex, and then apparently gets cut down by some catastrophe every 60 million years, and then rebuilds itself, maybe better than the time before, maybe not. Evolution is not about one life form pushing out another, or we wouldn't still have algae and bacteria and 350,000 known species of beetles. It's not about "survival of the fittest" unless fitness is defined as the ability to add to the harmonious diversity and abundance of the whole. (And one has to wonder: Since there's no biological basis to imagine that new life forms will replace or destroy old ones, how did they come to imagine that?)

This article has salient points, whether or not I agree with them. I'm not actually decided on transhumanism, and the greatest thing I come back to is the inequity of transhumanist technology. It ought to be as available to me as it would an Indian untouchable. Otherwise, given that the technology worked, it's another awful form of cultural elitism. Additionally, can the world support more codgers hanging 'round, greedy for more life? But there are great things we can learn from this way of looking at technology, and it does seem that the biological processes of Earth are in complete peril, so this coin most definitely has two sides.

jaybird found this for you @ 14:05 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 28 September, 2005 }

dream vacation

...Dreams will always remain difficult to elucidate because, though they are physical phenomena, they are important to us as mental experiences and sensations. ''The dream body,'' he says, ''is sensual but unphysical. It's also primeval. Curiously, we don't dream about writing, for example, because it's a relatively recent skill we've acquired; but we frequently dream about overcoming difficulty or danger because that's a human experience that goes back thousands of years.'' LaBerge is not concerned by the prospect that psychology or evolutionary science may never elucidate the significance of dreams. Even if dreams are some sort of biological side product or accident, he argues, they are still experiences. For us, dreams are narratives, which gives them emotional power, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that they are often cryptic or puzzling.

jaybird found this for you @ 21:58 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 27 September, 2005 }

HUH?: The basic laws of human stupidity

Cultural trends now fashionable in the West favour an egalitarian approach to life. People like to think of human beings as the output of a perfectly engineered mass production machine. Geneticists and sociologists especially go out of their way to prove, with an impressive apparatus of scientific data and formulations that all men are naturally equal and if some are more equal than others, this is attributable to nurture and not to nature. I take an exception to this general view. It is my firm conviction, supported by years of observation and experimentation, that men are not equal, that some are stupid and others are not, and that the difference is determined by nature and not by cultural forces or factors. One is stupid in the same way one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs to a blood group. A stupid man is born a stupid man by an act of Providence. Although convinced that fraction of human beings are stupid and that they are so because of genetic traits, I am not a reactionary trying to reintroduce surreptitiously class or race discrimination. I firmly believe that stupidity is an indiscriminate privilege of all human groups and is uniformly distributed according to a constant proportion. [via mefi]

jaybird found this for you @ 09:47 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 26 September, 2005 }

Key 23: Emerging from Fear

Within a community of practice, individual take on differing roles based on their skills and interests. A “community of practice"* (CoP) is a collection of individuals with a set of established theories and praxis, working within this shared framework toward common goals. The membership of such a community changes over time as individuals join and leave. At any time, a group of core-participants largely determine the operant models and actions pursued by the group. Also, peripheral participants seek to establish and legitimize their own interpretations within the larger CoP. The dialogue between core and peripheral participants acts to bring the periphery closer to the center, but at the same time changes the established praxis and direction of the community.

I see my own ultracultural participation as largely on the periphery. I have yet to establish a strong personal sense of role-idenity within the larger scope of task differentiation. This in part because I have yet to grasp toward what desires and dreams I seek to actualize in my own life, nevertheless within a CoP, or the world at large. Why? What do I fear?

jaybird found this for you @ 20:29 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 20 September, 2005 }

The Ten Stupidest Utopias

...Utopia—a word that has come to represent a hope that the future could surpass the present—persists. "As long as necessity is socially dreamed," Guy Debord says in his 1973 film The Society of the Spectacle, "dreaming will remain a social necessity." Debord meant that in conditions of inequality and injustice, people will always imagine a better place. What constitutes "better" is, however, a matter of much dispute. We dream our fears as well as hopes, reflecting all the agonies and contradictions of the waking world; in dreams, demons rise from our darkest places. This is the dangerous element in utopian aspiration, the monster behind the smiling face. Utopias can embody the highest hopes of humankind and frameworks for continuous evolution, but they can also reflect our worst fears and sickest appetites—not to mention a mania for power and control that is latent in every person. "What a strange scene you describe and what strange prisoners," says Glaucon, Socrates' disciple, in Plato's Republic, the template for the stupid utopia. "They are just like us," answers the master.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:53 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 19 September, 2005 }

Cognitive science’s search for a common morality

How far have these technologies come in teaching us new truths about our moral selves? How far could they go? And what will be the implications of a new biopsychological science of natural morality? “The truth, if it exists, is in the details,” wrote Wilson, and therefore I will concentrate on the details of three sets of very recent experiments, each of which approaches the problem using a different method: an Internet survey, a cognitive study of infants, and a study of brain imaging. Each is at the cutting edge of moral psychology, each is promising but flawed, and each should be greeted with a mix of enthusiasm and interpretative caution.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:00 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



The Multiple Self

you need to first understand that you are an animal. Most of us humans pretend our entire lives that we are something other than animals, and as a result we think our "animal nature" is something you can just ignore or somehow transcend -- preferably while ignoring it. We enter the false dichotomy of "man or beast", when the truth is actually "man and beast." We are not one - we are two. And the one of us who thinks he's running things is really just a recent software upgrade that runs atop a highly sophisticated operating system that's already had millions of years of performance tuning -- and can run just fine without you.

That's right. "You" are just a subroutine, and a recently-added one at that. You're like a user-mode driver that gets access to certain kernel data, but you only see and control what the kernel lets you. You have no direct access to the kernel's process space, but you can make calls into it, and you get notifications from it. The bulk of your nature as a human lies entirely outside your process space, outside your ability to directly perceive or control. [via bruce eisner]

jaybird found this for you @ 16:17 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 15 September, 2005 }

Helical Visions

The ayahuasceros said they spoke to serpents, and Narby's own ayahuasca experience had him conversing with a huge snake. Sifting through records of shamanic experiences and creation myths from Australia to Scandinavia, Narby was amazed at how many featured twisted vines, rope ladders, creator serpents and twins, forms he found suggestive of the double helix of DNA. Finding that DNA emits weak but brightly coloured biophotons, Narby suggested these could be the basis for the luminous patterns in the ayahuasceros' visions.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:21 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 14 September, 2005 }

Brain May Still Be Evolving

Two genes involved in determining the size of the human brain have undergone substantial evolution in the last 60,000 years, researchers say, leading to the surprising suggestion that the brain is still undergoing rapid evolution. The discovery adds weight to the view that human evolution is still a work in progress, since previous instances of recent genetic change have come to light in genes that defend against disease and confer the ability to digest milk in adulthood. It had been widely assumed until recently that human evolution more or less stopped 50,000 years ago.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:25 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 29 August, 2005 }

Fractal Thinking: This is Not the Title of This Essay

This essay is full of mistakes. Idea after idea and sentence after sentence is simply wrong. This sentence, for example, is false. Worse yet, this not even complete sentence! A long time ago (so the legend goes) a Cretan prophet by the name of Epimenides declared that "All Cretans are liars." This paradoxical statement has come to be known as the Epimenides paradox or the Liar paradox This Adam (or atom) of paradoxes has been reformulated into countless variants, yielding such gems as "I am lying," and "this sentence is false." It has been split, ("The following sentence is true. The preceding sentence is false.") boxed, translated and quoted in the Bible. In short, one would assume that the Liar Paradox had been beaten to death. In 1931, a German mathematician named Kurt Gödel breathed new life into the Liar paradox in a paper poetically entitled "On Formally Undecidable Propositions in Principia Mathematica and Related Systems I": Gödel's work demonstrated that paradox forms an implicit part of every axiomatic system of logical reasoning. In this essay, I will be examining the problems which self reference and paradox pose to systems of reasoning especially formalized mathematical and logical reasoning. These two areas, in their quest for objective truth become very interesting in the light of Gödel's revelations. In the end, it may turn out that their quests for a formalized objective truth may have been in vain...

jaybird found this for you @ 16:12 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 26 August, 2005 }

The Future Starts Now

“In many areas of the world, something as simple as a water filter or a mosquito net could save many lives... Such small, simple products would cost almost nothing to produce with a nanofactory.” What I want to propose is that because the cost of saving lives with a water filter or an insecticide-treated mosquito net is already so negligible, especially considering the benefit it confers, that unless we actively devote ourselves to saving lives with the technologies cheaply at our disposal today, then we cannot expect more sophisticated nanotechnological solutions to these problems to be employed to that purpose, however much cheaper, more powerful, more effective they may be.

jaybird found this for you @ 17:25 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 24 August, 2005 }

Consciousness as Relationship

Picture an amoeba propelling itself sluggishly in a pond. It inadvertently approaches the inlet from the local paper mill. The water is becoming too warm and growing acid. It reflexively changes direction to avoid the threat. A conscious act? Arguably, but it is nonetheless a demonstration of a degree of consciousness. But what is the heart of this consciousness? Is it in the capacity to react? Is it the ability to choose an alternative? It's easy to get lost in intellectualizing this issue. But if we use the simple idea that consciousness is relationship the question becomes much clearer and the meaning for our lives becomes evident. The amoeba is in relationship to its environment. It has enough of a sense of its own beingness that it recognizes when this relationship is more or less nurturing and within its capacities attempts to fulfill its needs, or avoid threat.

If consciousness is relationship, then considering the evolution of consciousness from a "lower" to a "higher" state is really to ask about a growing capacity for relationship. But in terms that really matter to us as ordinary people, isn't this really our growing capacity for intimacy? Yes intimacy, our capacity for emotional closeness, our capacity to feel connection or lack of connection. This is primarily intimacy with ourselves, a knowledge of how our minds work, an ever deepening comfort with our bodies and our feeling nature. More importantly intimacy is acceptance, a profound acceptance of ourselves. And none of us can reach such acceptance without simultaneously being challenged and opened by relationship with others. Higher consciousness is profound relationship, a deep sense of connection with and compassion for other people and ultimately our world. For all the ways we intellectualize and mystify enlightenment, isn't it true that those who we acknowledge as enlightened are individuals who bring us a deeper understanding of ourselves and a greater sense of relationship with each other?

[via community of minds]

jaybird found this for you @ 16:03 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 23 August, 2005 }

Busting the Metaphor: The Brain is Not a Computer

...Researchers found that the brain continuously shifts between states rather than having internal "variables" that contain discrete "values" that are updated as the result of calculation processes. According to researcher Michael Spivey, "In thinking of cognition as working as a biological organism does... you do not have to be in one state or another like a computer, but can have values in between -- you can be partially in one state and another, and then eventually gravitate to a unique interpretation, as in finally recognizing a spoken word." The brain is not composed of modules that pass the results of calculations back and forth; there are no "results," just continual modulation.

This notion becomes interesting when you combine it with the Extended Mind metaphor proposed by Clark and Chalmers. They contend that the brain offloads its processing into the external environment whenever convenient. It's not actually possible to separate such offloaded calculations from calculations done inside the brain... The mind is not separate from the body (or environment) in some Cartesian sense; it is part of both.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:08 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Steinem: A Balance Between Nature and Nurture

I no longer believe the conservative message that children are naturally selfish and destructive creatures who need civilizing by hierarchies or painful controls. On the contrary, I believe that hierarchy and painful controls create destructive people. And I no longer believe the liberal message that children are blank slates on which society can write anything. On the contrary, I believe that a unique core self is born into every human being -- the result of millennia of environment and heredity combined in an unpredictable way that could never happen before or again.

The truth is, we've been seduced into asking the wrong question by those who hope that the social order they want is inborn, or those who hope they can write the one they want on our uniquely long human childhoods.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:51 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 18 August, 2005 }

Alice in Quantum Land

“Good morning, Alice,” a voice said. Or at least it seemed like a voice.

Alice rubbed her eyes. She'd fallen asleep in the orchard, and had been dreaming of tea parties with singing cakes and dancing oysters. She rubbed her eyes and looked around, but there was no one in sight. Had the voice been in the dream, she wondered? Or maybe she was still dreaming. She'd caught herself enough times in that trap, thinking she had woken up, only to discover she was still dreaming. It always annoyed her.

“Good morning, Alice.” There it was again. But where was it coming from? Alice had become used to voices that came from strange and unexpected places, or were disconnected from the people or things who were speaking, but not voices that came from nowhere.

“Good morning,” replied Alice cautiously but politely, not wanting to upset whoever, or whatever, this might be. “Who are you? Or more to the point, where are you?”

“I'm a quantum,” the voice continued. “You've been hearing a lot about quantum physics and all the strange conclusions that it leads to in your world, so I thought it was time you heard from me, and got a picture of how the world looks from a quantum's point of view.

“As to where I am, I am everywhere and nowhere. Always and nowhen.”

Alice knew better than to let her mind be worried by paradox. Just about everything she had heard so far was paradoxical in some way or other, and trying to understand paradoxes was bound to lead to even greater confusion.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:09 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 15 August, 2005 }

Levels of Consciousness

...if you catch yourself thinking about something else while reading (mind-wandering experience) you become “meta-conscious”; but before you became aware of this, you were thinking about something without knowing that you were doing so—you were “conscious..." “Meta-consciousness”, because it is limited to a reflection on one’s internal and invisible experiences, means private self-awareness.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:33 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 12 August, 2005 }

i spy with my duelling hemispheres...

What are you looking at?

By using stimuli that are briefly presented, researchers can know which hemisphere has what information. When J.W. is looking at center of the computer screen, images presented on the left half of the computer screen will be processed by the right hemisphere; the left hemisphere will process images presented on the right half of the computer screen. This is true for everyone (not just J.W.) and is called contralateral projection—the left hemisphere receives input from the right side of the world (vision, sound and touch) and controls the right side of your body; the right hemisphere does the same for the left. When J.W. keeps his eyes focused on the center of the screen, we know what each hemisphere is seeing (we know this for other people, too, but their hemispheres are connected and so information passes from one to the other). Using two very simple faces and a target detection task... [researchers] can find out how much the joint attention reflex depends on the face by manipulating whether or not the right hemisphere (the one with specialized face processing) is presented with the target.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:28 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



the work of self-ing

How We Understand Ourselves

Studies have shown that information about the self is processed from each of the five senses. But little research to date has investigated how information from the different senses is integrated into an image of oneself. It has been suggested previously that multiple points in the brain (a distributed self-network) are involved in constructing a self image. However, the present study is the first to suggest that, rather than each sense acting independently, the five senses act together to contribute to the concept of self.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:53 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



"more evil than necessary"

Bidness & Gubmints

Government exists only by conflict. If there were no conflict, why would you need government? People must be regulated or they might walk out on their jobs and start looting department stores and murdering children. The state always assumes the worst about humanity. And it probably should, for now. Although we think we’re so special and evolved and “Chosen", the truth is that we’re barely out of the cradle, still baring our teeth and tucking our tails. A simple survey of the global sociopolitical zeitgeist reveals a species driven in large part by ape politics. Resource hoarding, tribal warfare, fear of the Other, sexual and physical dominance and submission, and an overall lack of self awareness - all these characterize modern human existence. Some tribal cultures have managed to find an equilibrium of harmony and sustainability, simple and peaceful. Others whirl out of control driven mad by imposed scarcity and repressive socialization or marched into oblivion by fearful men of god. The ongoing expansion of commerce ensures that the simple cultures will be duly “civilized” and taught how to make Nikes and buy cigarettes. Every ape is a potential contributor to capitalism.


jaybird found this for you @ 07:42 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 10 August, 2005 }

jeffrey mishlove

The Roots of Consciousness
"Why am I me?" The chills and sensations of first being conscious of myself being conscious of myself are still vivid in my memory. I was a ten year old child then, sitting alone in my parents' bedroom, touching my own solid consciousness and wondering at it. I was stepping through the looking-glass seeing myself being myself seeing myself being myself...tasting infinity in a small body.

I could be anybody. But I happen to be me. Why not someone else? And if I were someone else, could I not still be me?

What does it mean to be an individual being? How is it possible that I exist? How is it I am able to sense myself? What is the self I sense I am?

How is it I am able to be conscious? What does it mean to exercise consciousness?

Does conscious awareness naturally emerge from the complex structure of physical atoms, molecules, cells and organs, that compose my body? Does consciousness reside somehow or emerge from the higher structure of my brain and nervous system? And, if so, how does that occur? What is it about the structure of my nervous system that allows me to discover myself as a human being? How can a brain formulate questions? Are thoughts and questions even things in the same sense that neurons and brains are things?

As conscious beings, do we possess spirits and souls? Are we sparks of the divine fire?

How close are we to understanding the origins of the universe, of life, of consciousness? Is it possible to answer questions such as ... Who are we? What does it mean to be human? What is the ultimate nature of matter? Of mind?

In our time, the spiritual and material views seem quite divergent. In a way they both ring true. They each speak to part of our awareness. And, for many if not most people, they each, by themselves, leave us unsatisfied.

We have myths and stories. We have world views, paradigms, constructs and hypotheses. We have competing dogmas, theologies and sciences. Do we have understanding? Can an integration of our scientific knowledge with the spiritual insights of humanity bring greater harmony to human civilization?

We go about our business. We build cities and industries. We engage in buying and selling. We have families and raise children. We affiliate with religious teachings or other traditions.

We sometimes avoid confronting the deep issues of being because there we feel insecure, even helpless. And like a mirror of our inner being, our society reflects our tension.

Yet the mystery of being continues to rear its head. It will not go away. As we face ecological disaster, nuclear war, widespread drug addiction, widespread inhumanity, we are forced to notice the consequences of our lives in ever greater detail. Are not these horrendous situations the products of human consciousness and behavior? Can we any longer continue to address the major political, technological and social issues of our time without also examining the roots of our consciousness and our behavior?

Can we reconcile our spiritual and material natures? Can we discover a cultural unity underlying the diverse dogmas, religions, and political systems on our planet?

[The entire book is online at the link above]

A valid reply from the [now obsolete] temporary comments system:

Ray Kurzweil is out of his mind. He is a classic techno-pollyana of the worst kind. When he starts talking about "downloading" human minds into machines, he is not being scientific - he's being religious. We simply do not have clue one about what it is about us that we would be able to put in a bottle and have that be us.

He looks at some trends, and, *voila*, HEAVEN! Well, as a wise man once said, "trend is not destiny". This is not science - it is a pathetic and forlorn faith.

Sorry people, we're still made of meat, and we still need air, water, and food. We have limits, but limits within which we *could* have a wonderful world. But so long as nut-jobs like RK hold out visions of pie-in-the-sky, we'll never realize it.

Cheers,

- roebuck

jaybird found this for you @ 15:39 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 09 August, 2005 }

The Human-Techno Future

How Weird? How Soon?

The foremost proponent of the heaven scenario is a guy named , a famed inventor—the classic geek hero. He looks at this curve of exponential change and what's going on in the GRIN technologies, and he thinks this is all terrific. He sees a curve going straight up to heaven, basically. He sees us conquering pain, suffering, death, stupidity, ignorance, ugliness, and basically doing this in our lifetime.

That's one of the critical aspects of Radical Evolution: We're talking about the next 10 or 20 years. We're not talking about some far side of the moon. This is going to happen on our watch.

In the heaven scenario that Ray and others portray, what happens is that the curve goes straight up, and there're all sorts of wonderful technological changes that solve all sorts of problems that have plagued mankind forever. This produces a change in what it means to be human that is basically good. As Ray describes it, it's essentially indistinguishable from the Christian version of heaven.

Ray, for example, doesn't think he's going to die. He takes 250 pills a day. And his view of it is that if you can stay healthy for the next 20 years, the curve of technological change will be advancing so rapidly that an awful lot of what ails [us we] will essentially be able to conquer.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:36 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 04 August, 2005 }

further thought on simulated reality

A Simulation Game? [via orlin grabbe]

Various schools of thought have proposed the idea that our world is mere appearance, and that there is some kind of underlying mystical truth that can explain everything.

For example, religious mystics propose that it is the supernatural that is the true reality; meditators propose the absence of thought as a profoundly significant state of being; Idealist philosophers propose a "realm of ideas" which is the true reality; promoters of Near-Death Experiences propose that the NDE is the highter reality, and so on. Any idea or experience which diverges from daily experience is inevitably pointed to as the answer.

While not part of this extreme, a recent argument by Dr. Nick Bostrom (Department of Philosophy, Yale University) has made modest waves in the media. According to reports, Bostrom believes that we are in fact probably living in a computer simulation.

His reasoning is fairly simple. There will be a time when we are able to simulate sentient life on a large scale. If that is so, then there will be an enormous number of lives which will be simulated in the future. Eventually, it is not too far-fetched to think that this number will be far greater than the number of people who have ever lived.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:38 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 03 August, 2005 }

"tek-knowledgry"

A Common Vision to Re-Work Magick

It's limiting to assume magick must enchant in apocryphal aleph bets and wear the masks of dead gods in order to be "magick". Magick describes an evolving set of technologies that 1) allow access to and provide context for transcendent and liminal states of awareness, 2) function to bring the individual into some greater degree of connection and alignment with the macrocosm, and 3) enable the translation of imagination and will into material change. I'm on the side of GM and Doug Rushkoff: magick is everywhere and we're all magicians. We just need to take responsibility for that power and manifest the world that's most in line with the collective will and the balance of nature.

The term "magick" itself is encumbered with associations and connotations, perhaps too weighty for it's own good. Labels are ultimately misleading and confining so it's probably best to simply let go of them. The language of magick needs a complete upgrade, anyway. Experience fuels insight. Insight breeds action. Action begets experience. This may be all we need to know about living. The esoteric toolkit is a set of technologies that can drill through the ego complex of identity to reach the core depths of the self. Magick may hint at demonic powers but the true strength is in self mastery. Without the steady smoothing of the stone of mind (or the sudden shattering of the mirror of self) we walk around like cattle, driven by base want and fear of the blade.

NOTE: we shall overcome.

jaybird found this for you @ 21:00 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 28 July, 2005 }

truth grudge match

"What is truth? Is truth unchanging law?
People have truths- are mine the same as yours?"

The idea that truth matters actually sums up four claims. Together, these truisms, as I'll call them, explain what I mean by "truth" and what I mean by its "mattering." Accordingly, I begin by introducing these truisms about truth, with an aim toward convincing you that they are just what I say they are, obvious truisms. This doesn't mean that everyone agrees with them. As I already noted, some of us are confused about truth-we have contradictory beliefs about it. So we may believe these truisms but also believe something else that undermines our belief in one or all of them. Moreover, nothing is so obvious that someone hasn't proclaimed it to be false, misguided, naive, incoherent, impossible, or corrupting for the young. And lots and lots of folks, as we'll see, continue to say as much about these four ideas.

Wittgenstein once remarked that the job of the philosopher was to "assemble reminders"-to point out to us what has been right there in front of our face all along. While this isn't all that a philosopher does, there is a lot of sense in this point. The very familiarity of something can make us forget, or even deny, its importance. When that happens, we need to be reminded of its role in our everyday life. This is what we need in the case of truth.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:12 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 25 July, 2005 }

self and cosmic self

I am always I

In the end, evolution on this planet will have been the growth of an immortal spark of Divinity from an invisible evolutionary trigger to a hyperspatial Entity with complete mastery of Space and Time.

What began as an implicate order tightly knotted into the subquantum fabric of reality will end as a fully explicate architecture of dazzling supernatural complexity, an interplanetary flowering into Deity.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:27 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 21 July, 2005 }

being here

Life and Space-Time Cosmology [via abuddha's memes]

The view that life is a fundamental part of nature suggests that it must involve a "complementarity" between material nature (syntactic structure and composition) and formal nature (semantic definition and function), both of which may be considered theoretically "real..." Our investigation is here extended to a cosmological world view to explore the generality of these conclusions. We present an alternative to traditional space-time cosmology in terms of a geometrical model of the space-time universe. A simple, self-referential model is constructed in a radially Euclidean complex space... based on the assumption of universal semantic closure. This model is shown to be consistent with many aspects of modern cosmology, including the Hubble expansion and special relativity theory, and makes testable cosmological predictions. A feature of this model is that it represents temporal singularity (the "big bang") as a perceptual phenomena in an otherwise infinite abstract temporal domain. This model in multiple instances may suggest a fundamental geometry for perception and universal self-organization. These exploratory views are seen as contributing to fundamental definitions of life that encompass psychological phenomena.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:33 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 20 July, 2005 }

Occupy the spectacle

First Meditation of MythSpace

Dreamspace seems unlimited, yet with clear boundaries. I think of it as a sort of Universe. The dreamscape, however, does not throw up the entrenching obstacles of Malkuth. Space fades into other space. Places strangely familiar become familiarly strange. Pylons line highways which extend into eternity and then abruptly end. One could easily compare the dreamscape to the Labyrinth room of House of Leaves. It expands and contracts at will. Whose will expands and contracts appears open for interpretation. I suspect that even rudimentary control of the dreamscape lies beyond the abilities of the average human being...

jaybird found this for you @ 19:46 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



time passages

The Experience of Time in the Very Young

Try to explain to the four- or five-year-old a "tomorrow," or a "yesterday," or even to wait until "later." For the child time is "now." Time is not repeating itself for the child who skips joyfully up and down the stairs ten or twenty times. It is a pleasure that perseveres in a present. For the grownup this same stairway is a constructual contrivance connecting downstairs to upstairs. The adult ascends for the purpose of having something to do elsewhere. For the adult even to consider the prospect of running up and down a flight of stairs would be childish. As adults, we seem to reach a time when we no longer need the stairway. But the child sent upstairs to fetch some object may still dally on the steps after a quarter of an hour, taken up with the wonder of an imaginary mountain climb, or sliding down a bumpity-bump slide. And the original intention for ascending the stairs becomes yet another "present" that must wait to happen, but in its own time. The time on the stairway for an adult is taken for granted; the time on the stairway for the child is subjectively used. The child will not allow a transient minute; all minutes are used.

There is a fundamental difference in my own time experience compared to that of my five-year-old daughter. It is a classic contrast in time experience; that of objective versus subjective time. The morning ritual of getting her to daycare consists of exhorting her to rush, to hurry, to get dressed (right now), to get breakfast done with, to get into the van, and to get to the playschool. In other words, I force her to act in a behavior oriented toward a future time space-my time space insofar as I won't be late for work. She is learning to live the logistics of my life: I am certainly not attuned to her natural ability to live in a primordial present-a present that does not know of a future or a past. What does she "know" as a young and fresh human being but to dawdle in the snow, greet the alley cat, pick up a twig, contemplate the possibilities of a discarded gum wrapper, or make a wish upon a morning star.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:44 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 19 July, 2005 }

chalmers

Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness
Consciousness poses the most baffling problems in the science of the mind. There is nothing that we know more intimately than conscious experience, but there is nothing that is harder to explain. All sorts of mental phenomena have yielded to scientific investigation in recent years, but consciousness has stubbornly resisted. Many have tried to explain it, but the explanations always seem to fall short of the target. Some have been led to suppose that the problem is intractable, and that no good explanation can be given.

To make progress on the problem of consciousness, we have to confront it directly. In this paper, I first isolate the truly hard part of the problem, separating it from more tractable parts and giving an account of why it is so difficult to explain. I critique some recent work that uses reductive methods to address consciousness, and argue that such methods inevitably fail to come to grips with the hardest part of the problem. Once this failure is recognized, the door to further progress is opened. In the second half of the paper, I argue that if we move to a new kind of nonreductive explanation, a naturalistic account of consciousness can be given. I put forward my own candidate for such an account: a nonreductive theory based on principles of structural coherence and organizational invariance and a double-aspect view of information.

Dang!

jaybird found this for you @ 08:02 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 18 July, 2005 }

men like to hear themselves think

Male and female voices affect brain differently

Scientists... have explained the differences in the way the male brain interprets male and female voices, explaining why people who hallucinate and hear false voices almost always hear a man. It also sheds new light on the way the brain processes voices to produce an `auditory face´ that allows people to determine aspects of someone´s physical appearance based solely on the way they sound.

The paper... describes how scientists studied brain scans of 12 male subjects whilst they listened to male and female voices. It found startling differences in the way that the brain interprets the two sounds, with female voices causing activity in the auditory section of the brain and the male voice sparking activity in the `mind´s eye´ at the back of the brain.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:42 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 15 July, 2005 }

spirits in the material world

Koch and Crick: The Neuronal Basis of Consciousness

The physical basis of consciousness appears to be the most singular challenge to the scientific, reductionist world view. In the closing years of the second millennium, advances in the ability to record the activity of individual neurons in the brains of monkeys or other animals while they carry out particular tasks, combined with the explosive development of functional brain imaging in normal humans, has lead to a renewed empirical program to discover the scientific explanation of consciousness...

Consciousness is a puzzling state-dependent property of certain types of complex, adaptive systems. The best example of one type of such systems is a healthy and attentive human brain. If the brain is anaesthetized, consciousness ceases. Small lesions in the midbrain and thalamus of patients can lead to a complete loss of consciousness, while destruction of circumscribed parts of the cerebral cortex of patients can eliminate very specific aspects of consciousness, such as the ability to be aware of motion or to recognize objects as faces, without a concomitant loss of vision in general. Given the similarity in brain structure and behavior, biologists commonly assume that at least some animals, in particular non-human primates, share certain aspects of consciousness with humans. Brain scientists, in conjunction with cognitive neuroscientists, are exploiting a number of empirical approaches that shed light on the neural basis of consciousness...

jaybird found this for you @ 12:16 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 14 July, 2005 }

playful thoughts

Erotic Telepathy

Telepathic attraction. Who hasn’t felt it at least once? But wait a minute. What is telepathic attraction? A weird sensation that is difficult to put into words, an uncontrollable instinct with no logic. What about erotic telepathy? Maybe somebody is calling you with their mind, but your rational mind is not trained to take in such messages.

So, what is telepathy? When an unknown situation all of a sudden feels all too familiar, when you believe you know what somebody else is thinking, even if that somebody is unknown to you, when you are turned on by someone you have never seen before...is this telepathy? These experiences might be the result of a pleasant, excellent and affectionate love relationship, or the deepening of mental communication between two people who are in contact. The underlying question is: what is the mind?


jaybird found this for you @ 20:18 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



streaming audio

Neuron Network Goes Awry, and Brain Becomes an IPod

Seven years ago Reginald King was lying in a hospital bed recovering from bypass surgery when he first heard the music. It began with a pop tune, and others followed. Mr. King heard everything from cabaret songs to Christmas carols. "I asked the nurses if they could hear the music, and they said no," said Mr. King, a retired sales manager in Cardiff, Wales.

"I got so frustrated," he said. "They didn't know what I was talking about and said it must be something wrong with my head. And it's been like that ever since." Each day, the music returns. "They're all songs I've heard during my lifetime," said Mr. King, 83. "One would come on, and then it would run into another one, and that's how it goes on in my head. It's driving me bonkers, to be quite honest."

jaybird found this for you @ 16:12 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 12 July, 2005 }

glor xvii

The Codex Seraphinianus, a Hallucinatory Encyclopedia, details fantastical beings and impossible places. It's one of the highlights of issue 17 of the Grey Lodge Occult Review, which also includes Maya Deren's very rare film on Haitian Voudoun "Divine Horsemen" [torrent] and William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin's "The Cut-Ups" [torrent].

jaybird found this for you @ 12:07 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 08 July, 2005 }

panic

Myth or reality?

Panicky behavior is rare. It was rare even among residents of German and Japanese cities that were bombed during World War II. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, established in 1944 to study the effects of aerial attacks, chronicled the unspeakable horrors, terror and anguish of people in cities devastated by firestorms and nuclear attacks. Researchers found that, excepting some uncontrolled flight from the Tokyo firestorm, little chaos occurred.

An enormous amount of research on how people respond to extreme events has been done by the Disaster Research Center, now at the University of Delaware. After five decades studying scores of disasters such as floods, earthquakes and tornadoes, one of the strongest findings is that people rarely lose control. When the ground shakes, sometimes dwellings crumble, fires rage, and people are crushed. Yet people do not run screaming through the streets in a wild attempt to escape the terror, even though they are undoubtedly feeling terror. Earthquakes and tornadoes wreak havoc on entire communities. Yet people do not usually turn against their neighbors or suddenly forget personal ties and moral commitments. Instead the more consistent pattern is that people bind together in the aftermath of disasters, working together to restore their physical environment and their culture to recognizable shapes.

UPDATE: Posting this on Friday was entirely too ironic and rather spooky based on the events of the weekend.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:44 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



recursive self

Does the 'many-worlds' interpretation of quantum mechanics imply immortality?

The Everett 'Many Worlds Interpretation' of quantum physics postulates that that all systems evolve according to the Schrödinger equation, whereas the more conventional Copenhagen Interpretation says that this is true until the moment of observation, at which point the equation 'collapses'. The proposed paper examines some philosophical questions arising from the MWI interpretation. From the Tegmark 'quantum suicide' experiment and the Stapp analysis of the quantum effects on calcium ions in neural synapses, MWI may imply a 'Quantum Theory of Immortality'.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:39 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



coinkydinks

Remarkable or Random?

"You don't believe in telepathy?" My friend, a sober professional, looked askance. "Do you?" I replied. "Of course. So many times I've been out for the evening and suddenly became worried about the kids. Upon calling home, I've learned one is sick, hurt himself, or having nightmares. How else can you explain it?"

Such episodes have happened to us all and it's common to hear the words, "It couldn't be just coincidence." Today the explanation many people reach for involves mental telepathy or psychic stirrings. But should we leap so readily into the arms of a mystic realm? Could such events result from coincidence after all?

There are two features of coincidences not well known among the public. First, we tend to overlook the powerful reinforcement of coincidences, both waking and in dreams, in our memories. Non-coincidental events do not register in our memories with nearly the same intensity. Second, we fail to realize the extent to which highly improbable events occur daily to everyone. It is not possible to estimate all the probabilities of many paired events that occur in our daily lives. We often tend to assign coincidences a lesser probability than they deserve.

More: 1,2 [via mefi]

jaybird found this for you @ 07:23 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 04 July, 2005 }

Hacking potentiality

Other Worlds, Real and Imagined

Open source has great potential for solving global problems as a collective action catalyst. Generally — not in every case, but generally — open source software projects have fewer security and stability flaws than equivalent closed source applications, and in almost every case the flaws that are found are fixed more rapidly. That's because they have a wider array of people looking for problems in the code, and arguably free/open source developers have less of an interest in covering their asses. As more of our infrastructure and tools have a strong information (or "knowledge-enabled") aspect, the more an open source approach will be useful for finding and resolving problems with these technologies.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:42 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Saturday, 02 July, 2005 }

G. I. Gurdjieff and Frank Llyod Wright

A Meeting at Taliesin

A man able to reject most of the so-called culture of our period and set up more simple and organic standards of personal worth and courageously, if outrageously, live up to them. He affected us strangely as though some oriental buddha had come alive in our midst. With perfect unconsciousness of self he would deliberately walk to the piano and adjust his glasses to correct the player. Or, his bulk seated at ease in his chair, he smiled about him when his readings were read, watching the different faces and recognizing the feelings behind the various expressions.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:33 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 28 June, 2005 }

Ito and Sirius

Connecting In Chaos

People on the Internet have talked a lot about how a sort of intelligence will form just by connecting everyone together. The issue is how we are connected together. Since it is an organic/chaotic system you can’t engineer it like you engineer a bridge, you have to get it just right, and I think a lot of it is trial and error. Although this isn’t a great metaphor, the amount of DNA that separates us from Chimps or even slugs is quite small. Similarly, throwing social software at the problem of freedom, democracy and leadership is like trying to predict — by looking at a bunch of DNA – whether you’re going to get Einstein, a chimp, or a slug. Some day maybe we will know how to figure this out, but right now, it’s a lot of tasting and stirring.

So what have we learned? We’ve learned that conversations on mailing lists tend to explode in flame wars. We’ve also learned that if you make a web page, there is a good chance no one will notice. Mailing lists are like rooms that people can get into, but very difficult to get people out of. Everyone in the room hears everyone else in the room. Too much feedback.

A personal web page .... No one can hear you. Not enough feedback. Life and good emergent systems live in the interesting place between too much feedback and too little feedback, that very special space between chaos and order. It’s the sweet spot of emergent order that we see in fractals, life, and the high of being "in the zone."

My theory is that the critical mass of actors as well as the right balance of the cybernetic feedback systems is getting closer. Blogs allow you to more easily ignore stupid threads on other blogs, but participate in conversations. This is because blogs ping servers to let you know that they have been updated so they can be indexed immediately and those who have been linked to or mentioned will immediately know. They can read the post and assess whether the comment requires feedback or not. Speed has increased, feedback occurs, but filtering occurs as well.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:19 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 14 June, 2005 }

peter carroll

Sleight of Mind [via]

The conscious mind is a maelstrom of fleeting thoughts, images, sensations, feelings, conflicting desires and doubts; barely able to confine its attention to a single clear objective for a microsecond before secondary thoughts begin to adulterate it and provoke yet further trains of mental discourse. If you do not believe this then attempt to confine your conscious attention to the dot at the end of this sentence without involving yourself in any other form of thinking, including thinking about the dot.

Sleight of Mind means using the more stable thoughts, feelings, sensations and images stored in the subconscious or unconscious parts of the mind to launch or receive aetheric patterns. Tricks have to be used here, because if those things in the subconscious are brought into the focus of the conscious they will not be magically effective. On the other hand, they have to be released or activated somehow at a level just below conscious awareness for in their normal memory storage mode, which is an abstract code, they are not magically effective either.

Thus the magician has to occupy his conscious mind with something which somehow activates his intent in his subconscious without consciously reminding him of what it is. This is basic Sleight of Mind. Though this seem paradoxical or impossible, there are many tricks in the lore of magic which make it easier in practice. Some consideration will be given to Sleight of Mind in each five classical magical operations.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:17 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 27 May, 2005 }

eclipsing the media with mind

Toward an Occult Intelligence Network

The message seems clear- resist and we will fuck you up. Underneath this lies a second message. This message lies encoded inseparably from the phenomenology of seeing America’s best and brightest choked down by fascist thugs. I urge people to view this video as an amazing piece of guerilla surveillance. The Third Mind keeps the pressure on, even in sight of a Gestapo onslaught against peaceful protest. Kids- barely out of their teens, if at all- choked out by cops in riot gear, recalling the worst excesses of apartheid states from Birmingham to Cape Town to Tel Aviv to Boston. The constant recurrence of other people’s cameras provide the most hope for me. Indeed, we leave the Third Mind and add a Fourth, a Fifth, ad infinitum.

The corporate media, always hungry for a scandal, will no doubt be interested in footage of police terror. Innocent (and let’s be frank here, white middle class) post-adolescents getting brutalized by riot police makes for good copy. Cut the footage down to nothing but the most horrific moments. Skinny white men choked down by the town’s hottest Bears in cop suits, dressed up like Little Lord Fauntleroy Gestapo Style. Brutality captured from all angles opens the door for a cut-up of violence. Picture, if you will a meeting of four or five camera-persons from this event. One of them must know how to edit. They cut the footage down to the most brutal events. Splice in footage of the Gestapo, Boston cops defending racist terrorists in the 70s, LBJ, township rebellions, Kent State, atomic testing, etc. Finally add in prepared commentary to the mix. I suggest a string of nonsense, immediatist slogans, pop magic! Mantras, and even the odd flash of sigil. The end product resembles something between a Kenneth Anger film and the six o’clock news.

America, you have raised your children for this.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:54 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 25 May, 2005 }

Rebuilding Creation


Mayan religious centres were designed along the principles of sacred architecture

The Mayan story of creation has survived the destruction of the Spanish invasion. It is contained within the Popol Vuh, a 17th century book of the history of the Quiche Maya. The story of creation details the activities of the Twin Maize Gods and their family in the Third Creation, which the Maya date to 3114 BC. This date should not be taken literally – like the 4004 BC that people calculated as the date for Creation based on the Bible. Many scholars now believe that August 12, 3114 BC marked a significant celestial event, with one author, John Major Jenkins, arguing that the Mayan careful stellar observations resulted in their knowledge of what is known as the “galactic centre”. It is this stellar phenomenon that is also linked with the Mayan calendar’s end date of December 21, 2012 AD, which experts like Linda Schele remarks is nowhere mentioned as a physical end for the world within the Mayan literature.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:06 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Natural-Born Liars

Why do we lie, and why are we so good at it? Because it works.

Deception runs like a red thread throughout all of human history. It sustains literature, from Homer's wily Odysseus to the biggest pop novels of today. Go to a movie, and odds are that the plot will revolve around deceit in some shape or form. Perhaps we find such stories so enthralling because lying pervades human life. Lying is a skill that wells up from deep within us, and we use it with abandon. As the great American observer Mark Twain wrote more than a century ago: "Everybody lies ... every day, every hour, awake, asleep, in his dreams, in his joy, in his mourning. If he keeps his tongue still his hands, his feet, his eyes, his attitude will convey deception." Deceit is fundamental to the human condition.

Research supports Twain's conviction. One good example was a study conducted in 2002 by psychologist Robert S. Feldman of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Feldman secretly videotaped students who were asked to talk with a stranger. He later had the students analyze their tapes and tally the number of lies they had told. A whopping 60 percent admitted to lying at least once during 10 minutes of conversation, and the group averaged 2.9 untruths in that time period. The transgressions ranged from intentional exaggeration to flat-out fibs. Interestingly, men and women lied with equal frequency; however, Feldman found that women were more likely to lie to make the stranger feel good, whereas men lied most often to make themselves look better.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:44 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



the end is beginning

The Singularity as Eschatological Archetype

Whether it is named the Singularity or the Spike, the Transcendental Object at the End of Time or the New Jerusalem, the vision of humankind’s mass transcension into a hyperdimensional state of being is a millennia-old archetype whose depths obstinately refuse to be fully plumbed. Like all abiding memes, it is a motif whose representations can vary a great deal in detail without losing their basic archetypal pattern.

Today’s prophesized Singularity (as commonly publicized by Vinge, Drexler, and Kurzweil, among many others) is no different. Though first catalyzed by an unparalleled technological leap, this metahistorical Spike promises to comprehensively and irrevocably transmogrify every mode in which we relate to our selves, each other, and the phenomenal world at large. Our sphere of influence will vastly deepen -- not only outer space, but inner space as well will be laid bare to the penetrative stare of innumerable nanites and foglets. We shall at last see as we have been seen, and will then be, courtesy of superhumanly intelligent and benignly spiritual machines, summarily remolded in the image of our greatest and wildest expectations.

The only significant precedent to such a mind-bending warp in consensual reality would have to be the resultant Utopia often foreseen as the coda to the various ‘end-times’ scenarios of pious apocalypticists. Peering at length through the symphonic perversity of their feverish visions, we touch upon several key intimations regarding the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of a post-historical planetary renovation -- visions which until recently have been either faithfully reverenced as gospel truth in spite of (or perhaps because of ) their seeming improbability, or alternatively scorned as hallucinogenic pipe-dreams. But when set alongside the forecasts of our contemporary futurists, these ancient allusions are sometimes startlingly similar to those foreseen today, and occasionally appear to describe the technologies of tomorrow in bold detail.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:40 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 24 May, 2005 }

Yup. Yes indeed.

Researchers Pinpoint Brain's Sarcasm Sensor

...Some brain-damaged people can't comprehend sarcasm, and Israeli researchers think it's because a specific brain region has gone dark. The region, according to the researchers, handles the task of detecting hidden meaning, a crucial component of sarcasm. If that part of the brain is out of commission, the irony doesn't come through, the scientists report... "People with prefrontal brain damage suffer from difficulties in understanding other people's mental states, and they lack empathy... Therefore, they can't understand what the speaker really is talking about, and get only the literal meaning." The findings... could help rehabilitation centers do a better job of helping brain-damaged patients adjust to the world and understand other people.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:10 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 23 May, 2005 }

Atalanta Fugiens

maier01-thumb.jpg

A Classic Alchemical Tome

Michael Maier’s book Atalanta Fugiens (Atalanta Fleeing) was published at Oppenheim in 1617 by the firm of Johann Theodor de Bry. It’s an alchemical text in a strikingly unusual form: it comprises fifty sections, where each section consists of a score of a short fugue (‘in two canonical parts over a cantus firmus’), a motto, an engraved emblematic image, a Latin verse, and a few pages of cryptic commentary. It takes its title from the legendary tale of Atalanta’s race with Hippomenes. In its simultaneous presentation of music, image, poetry and prose, it is a singular piece of Baroque multimedia.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:15 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



howard zinn

The Sourge of Nationalism

I cannot get out of my mind the recent news photos of ordinary Americans sitting on chairs, guns on laps, standing unofficial guard on the Arizona border, to make sure no Mexicans cross over into the United States. There was something horrifying in the realization that, in this twenty-first century of what we call "civilization," we have carved up what we claim is one world into 200 artificially created entities we call "nations" and armed to apprehend or kill anyone who crosses a boundary.

Is not nationalism--that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder--one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking--cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on--have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica, and many more). But in a nation like ours--huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction--what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:07 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 20 May, 2005 }

sheep in wolf's clothing

On Being Sane In Insane Places [via mefi]

Eight sane people gained secret admission to 12 different hospitals. Their diagnostic experiences constitute the data of the first part of this article; the remainder is devoted to a description of their experiences in psychiatric institutions. Too few psychiatrists and psychologists, even those who have worked in such hospitals, know what the experience is like. They rarely talk about it with former patients, perhaps because they distrust information coming from the previously insane. Those who have worked in psychiatric hospitals are likely to have adapted so thoroughly to the settings that they are insensitive to the impact of that experience. And while there have been occasional reports of researchers who submitted themselves to psychiatric hospitalization, these researchers have commonly remained in the hospitals for short periods of time, often with the knowledge of the hospital staff. It is difficult to know the extent to which they were treated like patients or like research colleagues. Nevertheless, their reports about the inside of the psychiatric hospital have been valuable.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:33 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 17 May, 2005 }

ramsay dukes

Does Science lead to Magic, or Vice-Versa?

The reductionist argument does not really disprove the existence of God, it simply makes God unnecessary. For every 'wonder of nature' or 'ecstatic realisation' put forward by Religion, Science responds with an explanation based upon physical law. The fact that an electrode in the brain can simulate a mystical experience does not logically prove that mystical experiences are 'no more than' currents in the brain than does imitation leather disprove the existence of cows, but it does offer an easy route to the mental tendency to prefer simpler or unifying explanations. Why believe in God if we don't need to?

But the point is that this reductionist argument also has momentum in human culture. After hearing umpteen such reductions of the spiritual world into simple material models, the human mind moves to the next step and realises that it can survive on the models or explanations alone - it no longer needs the material world. "Just give me the information, I do not need matter." ...If Science aspires to a "theory of everything", then that theory could be modelled in an information processor and it should create a virtual universe which will itself evolve life and conscious beings. If it fails to do this, it suggests the theory of everything is not complete.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:59 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



alan watts

The Nature Of Consciousness

And so what I would call a basic problem we've got to go through first, is to understand that there are no such things as things. That is to say separate things, or separate events. That that is only a way of talking. If you can understand this, you're going to have no further problems. I once asked a group of high school children 'What do you mean by a thing?' First of all, they gave me all sorts of synonyms. They said 'It's an object,' which is simply another word for a thing; it doesn't tell you anything about what you mean by a thing. Finally, a very smart girl from Italy, who was in the group, said a thing is a noun. And she was quite right. A noun isn't a part of nature, it's a part of speech. There are no nouns in the physical world. There are no separate things in the physical world, either. The physical world is wiggly. Clouds, mountains, trees, people, are all wiggly. And only when human beings get to working on things--they build buildings in straight lines, and try to make out that the world isn't really wiggly. But here we are, sitting in this room all built out of straight lines, but each one of us is as wiggly as all get-out.

Now then, when you want to get control of something that wiggles, it's pretty difficult, isn't it? You try and pick up a fish in your hands, and the fish is wiggly and it slips out. What do you do to get hold of the fish? You use a net. And so the net is the basic thing we have for getting hold of the wiggly world. So if you want to get hold of this wiggle, you've got to put a net over it. A net is something regular. And I can number the holes in a net. So many holes up, so many holes across. And if I can number these holes, I can count exactly where each wiggle is, in terms of a hole in that net. And that's the beginning of calculus, the art of measuring the world. But in order to do that, I've got to break up the wiggle into bits. I've got to call this a specific bit, and this the next bit of the wiggle, and this the next bit, and this the next bit of the wiggle. And so these bits are things or events. Bit of wiggles. Which I mark out in order to talk about the wiggle. In order to measure and therfore in order to control it. But in nature, in fact, in the physical world, the wiggle isn't bitted. Like you don't get a cut-up fryer out of an egg. But you have to cut the chicken up in order to eat it. You bite it. But it doesn't come bitten.

So the world doesn't come thinged; it doesn't come evented. You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean. The ocean waves, and the universe peoples. And as I wave and say to you 'Yoo-hoo!' the world is waving with me at you and saying 'Hi! I'm here!' But we are consciousness of the way we feel and sense our existence. Being based on a myth that we are made, that we are parts, that we are things, our consciousness has been influenced, so that each one of us does not feel that. We have been hypnotized, literally hypnotized by social convention into feeling and sensing that we exist only inside our skins.

Bonus feature: Prickles and Goo (flash)

jaybird found this for you @ 07:39 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 16 May, 2005 }

timothy leary

The Eternal Philosophy of Chaos

For several thousand years it has seemed obvious that the basic nature of the universe is extreme complexity, inexplicable disorder; that mysterious, tangled magnificence popularly known as Chaos. The poetic Hindus believed the universe was a dreamy dance of illusion (maya).

The paradoxical, psycho-logical Buddhists spoke of a void too complex;maybe a trillion times too complex; to be grasped by the human A-B-C-1-2-3 wordprocessing system (mind). Chinese poet-philosopher Lao Tse sardonically reminded us that the tao is forever changing complexities at light speed, elusive and inaccessible to our fingers and thumbs laboriously tapping letters on our alphanumeric keyboards and mind-operating systems.

Socrates, that proud, self-reliant Athenian democrat, indiscreetly blurted out the dangerous secret when he said, "The aim of human life is to know thy selves. "This is surely the most subversive T-shirt flaunted over the centuries by humanists, the most confrontational bumper sticker on their neuro-auto-mobiles. Individualistic thinking is the original sin of the Judeo-Christian-lslamic bibles and sabotages attempts by the authorities to order Chaos.

The first rule of every law-and-order system is to trivialize-demonize the dangerous concepts of Self, Individual Aims, and Personal Knowledge. Thinking for Yourselves is heretical, treasonous, blasphemous. Only devils and satans do it. Creative thinking, committed out loud, becomes a capital crime. It was "Three Strikes and You're Out" for several hundred thousand Protestant dissenters during the Inquisitions of the Roman papacy;not to forget the witch burnings performed by the Protestants when they took charge of the Chaos-control department.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:10 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Cultural Creatives

Shift

Are you a Cultural Creative? This list compiled by Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson can give you an idea. Choose the statements that you agree with.

You are likely to be a Cultural Creative if you...

1. ...love Nature and are deeply concerned about its destruction
2. ...are strongly aware of the problems of the whole planet (global warming, destruction of rainforests, overpopulation, lack of ecological sustainability, exploitation of people in poorer countries) and want to see more action on them, such as limiting economic growth

3. ...would pay more taxes or pay more for consumer goods if you could know the money would go to clean up the environment and to stop global warming

4. ...place a great deal of importance on developing and maintaining your relationships

5. ...place a lot of value on helping other people and bringing out their unique gifts

6. ...do volunteering for one or more good causes

7. ...care intensely about both psychological and spiritual development

8. ...see spirituality or religion as important in your life, but are concerned about the role of the Religious Right in politics

9. ...want more equality for women at work, and more women leaders in business and politics

10. ...are concerned about violence and abuse of women and children around the world

11. ...want our politics and government spending to put more emphasis on children's education and well-being, on rebuilding our neighborhoods and communities, and on creating an ecologically sustainable future

12. ...are unhappy with both the Left and the Right in politics, and want a to find a new way that is not in the mushy middle

13. ...tend to be somewhat optimistic about our future, and distrust the cynical and pessimistic view that is given by the media

14. ...want to be involved in creating a new and better way of life in our country

15. ...are concerned about what the big corporations are doing in the name of making more profits: downsizing, creating environmental problems, and exploiting poorer countries

16. ...have your finances and spending under control, and are not concerned about overspending

17. ...dislike all the emphasis in modern culture on success and "making it," on getting and spending, on wealth and luxury goods

18. ...like people and places that are exotic and foreign, and like experiencing and learning about other ways of life.

If you agreed with 10 or more, you probably are a Cultural Creative.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:06 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 13 May, 2005 }

Turning the Superparadigm Inside Out

Reality and Consciousness

The key to this new model of reality is an understanding of how we perceive reality. Advances in physics, psychology, and philosophy have shown that reality is not what it seems.Take vision, for example. When I look at a tree, light reflected from its leaves is focused onto cells in the retina of my eye, where it triggers a cascading chemical reaction releasing a flow of electrons. Neurons connected to the cells convey these electrical impulses to the brain’s visual cortex, where the raw data is processed and integrated. Then—in ways that are still a complete mystery—an image of the tree appears in my consciousness. It may seem that I am directly perceiving the tree in the physical world, but what I am actually experiencing is an image generated in my mind.

The same is true of every other experience. All that I see, hear, taste, touch, smell and feel has been created from the data received by my sensory organs. All I ever know of the world around are the mental images constructed from that data. However real and external they may seem, they are all phenomena within my mind.

This simple fact is very hard to grasp; it goes against all our experience. If there is anything about which we feel sure, it is that the world we experience is real. We can see, touch and hear it. We can lift heavy and solid objects; hurt ourselves, if we're not careful, against their unyielding immobility. It seems undeniable that out there, around us, independent and apart from us, stands a physical world, utterly real, solid and tangible.
But the world of our experience is no more "out there" than are our dreams. When we dream we create a reality in which events happen around us, and in which we perceive other people as individuals separate from us. In the dream it all seems very real. But when we awaken we realize that everything in the dream was actually a creation of our own mind.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:18 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 11 May, 2005 }

transformative eyes

Visualization in Medieval Alchemy [via orlin grabbe]

This paper explores major trends in visualization of medieval theories of natural and artificial transformation of substances in relation to their philosophical and theological bases. The function of pictorial forms is analyzed in terms of the prevailing conceptions of science and methods of transmitting knowledge. The documents under examination date from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. In these, pictorial representations include lists and tables, geometrical figures, depictions of furnaces and apparatus, and figurative elements mainly from the vegetable and animal realms. An effort is made to trace the earliest evidence of these differing pictorial types.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:36 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 10 May, 2005 }

ken wilber

Kosmic Karma: Why is the Present a Little Bit Like the Past?

Moment to moment, the universe hangs together. Somehow, the universe of this moment and the universe of the previous moment are both similar and different: similar, in that the present moment resembles the previous moment in important ways; different, in that it is also significantly new. The more you think about it, the more mysterious the whole thing is....

The inheritance of the past is one the central topics we will be discussing, because it turns out to be a key in almost every area of human inquiry. But it also touches on what is perhaps the most crucial question in the whole area of spirituality.

All of the ancient spiritual traditions--from shamanism to Neoplatonism to Christian mysticism to Buddhism--maintain that, in addition to this physical realm, there are higher realms or higher dimensions or higher levels of reality, and these higher levels already exist in some sense (e.g., as Platonic forms, Hegelian ideas, Aurobindian involutionary deposits, archetypes of all varieties, or as shamanic higher and lower worlds). For Aurobindo, to give one example, all of the higher levels of reality are laid down by involution and therefore pre-exist in a real sense, and thus these higher levels unfold or become manifest during evolution (so that evolution is simply unfolding what involution enfolded or deposited). But all of the modern and postmodern currents deny that there are higher realms--or, more generally, deny that there are any sort of pre-existing givens at all (including any sort of pregiven ontological structures: modernity denies higher structures, postmodernity denies structures altogether: either way, spirituality is out). Spiritual traditions insist that salvation is in some sense a re-discovery of an already existing reality. Postmodernity insists that nothing is discovered, everything is constructed. The entire 'fight' between ancient and modern hinges on that central issue: are there ontologically pre-existing levels or dimensions of reality?

jaybird found this for you @ 20:13 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 05 May, 2005 }

the machine will tell you what's on your mind

Mind-reading machine knows what you see

It is possible to read someone’s mind by remotely measuring their brain activity, researchers have shown. The technique can even extract information from subjects that they are not aware of themselves.

So far, it has only been used to identify visual patterns a subject can see or has chosen to focus on. But the researchers speculate the approach might be extended to probe a person’s awareness, focus of attention, memory and movement intention. In the meantime, it could help doctors work out if patients apparently in a coma are actually conscious.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:34 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 03 May, 2005 }

it's all about intention

Far-off healing
On an operating table at a medical center in San Francisco, a breast cancer patient is undergoing reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy. But this will be no ordinary surgery. Three thousand miles away, a shamanic healer has been sent the woman's name, a photo and details about the surgery.

For each of the next eight days, the healer will pray 20 minutes for the cancer patient's recovery, without the woman's knowledge. A surgeon has inserted two small fabric tubes into the woman's groin to enable researchers to measure how fast she heals.

The woman is a patient in an extraordinary government-funded study that is seeking to determine whether prayer has the power to heal patients from afar — a field known as "distant healing." While that term is probably unfamiliar to most Americans, the idea of turning to prayers in their homes, hospitals and houses of worship is not. In recent years, medicine has increasingly shown an interest in investigating the effect of prayer and spirituality on health. A survey of 31,000 adults released last year by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 43% of U.S. adults prayed for their own health, while 24% had others pray for their health.

Some researchers say that is reason enough to study the power of prayer.

Prayer, however, is just one modality. Scientists have suggested in field of consciousness studies that our actual awareness is as external as it is internal, and things like telepathy, psychokinesis and possibly healing is simply a stretching of that energized 'membrane' which forms the skin of our awareness...

jaybird found this for you @ 20:22 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



stanislav grof

Future Hi: Alternative Cosmologies and Altered States

According to materialistic science, any memory requires a material substrate, such as the neuronal network in the brain or the DNA molecules of the genes. However, it is impossible to imagine any material medium for the information conveyed by various forms of transpersonal experiences described above. This information clearly has not been acquired during the individual’s lifetime through the conventional means, that is by sensory perception. It seems to exist independently of matter and to be contained in the field of consciousness itself, or in some other types of fields that cannot be detected by our scientific instruments. The observations from the study of transpersonal experiences are supported by evidence that comes from other avenues of research. Challenging the basic metaphysical assumptions of Cartesian-Newtonian thinking, scientists like Rupert Sheldrake 8seriously explore such possibilities as "memory without a material substrate" and "morphogenetic fields".
Traditional academic science describes human beings as highly developed animals and biological thinking machines. Experienced and studied in the everyday state of consciousness, we appear to be Newtonian objects made of atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, and organs. However, transpersonal experiences clearly show that each of us can also manifest the properties of a field of consciousness that transcends space, time, and linear causality.The complete new formula, remotely reminiscent of the wave-particle paradox in modern physics, thus describes humans as paradoxical beings who have two complementary aspects: They can show properties of Newtonian objects and also those of infinite fields of consciousness. The appropriateness of each of these descriptions depends on the state of consciousness in which these observations are made. Physical death then seems to terminate one half of this definition, while the other comes into full expression.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:14 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 02 May, 2005 }

Neuro Lit. 101

It's Official: Everyone Can Read Minds

Because the cells reflected the actions that the monkey observed in others, the neuroscientists named them "mirror neurons." Later experiments confirmed the existence of mirror neurons in humans and revealed another surprise. In addition to mirroring actions, the cells reflected sensations and emotions.

"Mirror neurons suggest that we pretend to be in another person's mental shoes," says Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. "In fact, with mirror neurons we do not have to pretend, we practically are in another person's mind."

Since their discovery, mirror neurons have been implicated in a broad range of phenomena, including certain mental disorders. Mirror neurons may help cognitive scientists explain how children develop a theory of mind (ToM), which is a child's understanding that others have minds similar to their own. Doing so may help shed light on autism, in which this type of understanding is often missing.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:53 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 26 April, 2005 }

douglas rushkoff

Get Back in the Box

A renaissance allows for a profound shift in perspective. While the original Renaissance invented the individual, as well as competition, this renaissance has really brought us new possibilities for collaborative action - networked collectivism and a society of authorship. We’ve been wrestling since the Renaissance - and some would say since high Greek culture - with the seeming contradiction between the agency of individuals and their power as a collective. I mean to show that we have new ways of contending with dimension that let us see how individuality is itself defined by connections to other people, and that agency is really a group activity.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:47 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 25 April, 2005 }

words cannot approach reality

Being, Consciousness and Everything

Unlike religious proposition or culturally centered knowledge, scientific knowledge applies equally to everyone and everything. Science focuses its search for truth based on universal predictability and regularity, and shows little preference for anything else such as race, gender or religious belief. By understanding the causes of observed regularities, science has discovered the fundamental laws of nature. The powers of scientific discovery have been demonstrated through the achievements of modern technology. And yet, science has not arrived at its ultimate goal where it would seem to merge with religion and philosophy. For the ultimate goal of science must be to discover the absolute nature and condition of everything.

Newton’s laws of motion first established a basis of understanding with enthusiastic outlook. Einstein’s theory of relativity revealed that the speed of light is a constant operating in the context of a space-time continuum populated with matter and sporting with energy. The fact that the speed of light is constant for any observer in a common frame of reference points to an underlying discrete structural relationship between time and space and experience. Finally quantum physics has taken us to the brink of understanding subatomic behavior and the underlying construction of the very building blocks of physical reality. It has revealed the paradoxical wave-particle behavior of light or electromagnetic radiation. When theoretical physicists found the right model to describe the observed behavior of elementary particles, regularity gave way to discontinuity and uncertainty. After nearly seventy years, the profound implications and varied interpretations of quantum mechanics remain a subject of incredible fascination and serious scientific debate.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:22 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 13 April, 2005 }

the death of pain?

The Hedonistic Imperative
The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how nanotechnology and genetic engineering will eliminate aversive experience from the living world. Over the next thousand years or so, the biological substrates of suffering will be eradicated completely. "Physical" and "mental" pain alike are destined to disappear into evolutionary history. The biochemistry of everyday discontents will be genetically phased out too. Malaise will be replaced by the biochemistry of bliss. Matter and energy will be sculpted into life-loving super-beings animated by gradients of well-being. The states of mind of our descendants are likely to be incomprehensibly diverse by comparison with today. Yet all will share at least one common feature: a sublime and all-pervasive happiness.

But, lemme ask, is life without pain or suffering truly living? Stuggle shapes who we are, defines our character and helps us make decisions. I can't help but think that a hedonistic imperative in this sense will create a freakish pleasure-dome Logan's Run/THX-1138 type future (non)society, as well as a monstrous cleaving of the haves and have-nots. At the same time, many aspects of this treatise could be fused with social action and global goodwill to raise our overall joy threshold... it's all so very complicated.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:30 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



words on chaos magick

Altar, Consciousness

If you're studying magic, you probably have one of three main objectives in mind. Either you are searching for a way to increase your knowledge of the phenomenal world, or you're seeking an increase in personal power through magical actions, or you're trying to increase your wisdom. All three of these aims are relatively harmless in & of themselves.. studying occult arts is dangerous only to those who have a vested interest in seeing you remain the same.

Would you sell your soul to some greedy djinn for three measly wishes? & if so, what would they be? Knowledge is the djinn.. wisdom comes with sorrow. Whatever you pursue is what you've established as your life's worth, your soul's purchase price... the soul you possess is determined by the path you walk, and to alter your course requires that you sacrifice who you are to who you can become, or it requires you to subsume yourself to some greater archetypal force and act as its avatar in the phenomenal world.

But there has to be more than desire, than intent, for the whole formula to work...

jaybird found this for you @ 11:23 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 11 April, 2005 }

huh?

Why can't you pay attention anymore?

[Attention Deficit Trait is] sort of like the normal version of attention deficit disorder. But it's a condition induced by modern life, in which you've become so busy attending to so many inputs and outputs that you become increasingly distracted, irritable, impulsive, restless and, over the long term, underachieving. In other words, it costs you efficiency because you're doing so much or trying to do so much, it's as if you're juggling one more ball than you possibly can... When people find that they're not working to their full potential; when they know that they could be producing more but in fact they're producing less; when they know they're smarter than their output shows; when they start answering questions in ways that are more superficial, more hurried than they usually would; when their reservoir of new ideas starts to run dry; when they find themselves working ever-longer hours and sleeping less, exercising less, spending free time with friends less and in general putting in more hours but getting less production overall.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:57 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Saturday, 09 April, 2005 }

our turn!

New Game Rules [via orlin grabbe]

New rules. Scrap the old ones. By old I mean those of any previous age, and previous time; yesterday, 5 years ago, 20 years ago, 100 years ago, 2000 years ago. Scrap Ethics, scrap morals, scrap everything you have been told, everything you think you believe about anything. It is time to start again, to redefine recreate and remake the game we have been forced to play. This is the age of discord, the Pandamonaeon; this is the age of chaos. “"I tell you: one must still have chaos in one to give birth to a dancing star" We are the virus that will spread to mutate the world as we know it. We have never been seen before, so for, there are no rules; for us, we make the rules.

We are playing in a game, a game we did not choose to be a part of, but were none the less thrown into and forced to participate in. It is, of course, improper to think of the game as a game. That is Their number one rule. This is not a game, we are told; this is real. What we see on TV, on stages, on Movies, in newspapers, read in books, that is a game; but life, life is real, and life is dangerous and we must draw the distinction between the game we dare to play and the life we are forced to live. We must stick together, they say, we must obey not just for our own good, but for the good of our neighbor; love thy neighbor, even if it means your own demise; or at the very least your loss for his gain. These are the lies we have been spoon fed, lies that have been made necessary to the game (their game). Lies that make it so we cannot win; the deck is rigged in their favor, and unless we choose to admit it, and stack the deck in our favor again, we will never be happy.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:59 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 08 April, 2005 }

10,000 years of nostalgia

The antiquity of ‘the progress paradox’

Socrates said that man’s basic requirements were few and easily satisfied, and Epicurus agreed. Diogenes once talked a prosperous Athenian into turning his agricultural land into sheep pastures—pastoralism has always had a special appeal with its visions of rustic tranquillity—and talked him into throwing his money into the sea. Plato’s Republic dwelt fondly on the idyllic picture of an earlier communal society, while any number of Greek thinkers were convinced that the savage Scythian tribes, somewhere beyond Thrace along the shores of the Black Sea, exemplified primitive virtue in contrast to degenerate Athens.

Reaching back a bit further we find that as early as 700 BC the Greek poet Hesiod felt humanity’s heroic days were past and that he lived in an era of lamentable decline. In the Golden Age (which Hesiod says was long before his own time) men were naturally peaceable, and for that reason there was no war. Nor was there any foreign trade or travel to confuse us with luxuries: everyone stayed home happily knitting their own sweaters, and no-one fussed about Paris or Pierre Cardin. Among other attractive features of the Golden Age, the people were vegetarians, made everything out of wood, and because they were naturally good their communal society was free of conflict and required no lawyers.

Notice that from the Golden Age all the way down through a series of inferior ages (Silver, Bronze, and Iron) this is a story of degeneration. Not a story of progress, but of regress. It is virtually certain that Hesiod did not live like a savage: he used a spoon and slept in a bed. But paradoxically... he hated progress. And notice also what is admired above and beyond all these particularities: the social and economic virtues described are only to be found in an imagined community where xenophobia and group hostilities had been vanquished and universal love prevails. In all these idealistic visions communal order was an implied prerequisite: some tight-knit form of collectivity was thought to be inseparable from the social virtues portrayed.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:33 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 07 April, 2005 }

Thomas Friedman

The World is Flat, or is it?

Friedman writes that the world is now entering the era of "Globalization 3.0," following Globalization 1.0, which ran from 1492 until 1800 and was driven by countries' sheer brawn, and Globalization 2.0, in which "the key agent of change, the dynamic force driving global integration, was multinational companies" driven to look abroad for markets and labor, spurred by industrial-age "breakthroughs in hardware" such as steamships, trains, phones and computers. That epoch ended around 2000, replaced by one in which individuals are the main agents doing the globalizing, pushed by "not horsepower, and not hardware, but software" and a "global fiber-optic network that has made us all next-door neighbors." If the first two eras were driven mostly by Europeans and Americans, the third is open to "every color of the human rainbow."

In particular, Friedman is obsessed with one of the great economic phenomena of our day: the outsourcing of the U.S. economy's service and information-technology work to India, China and elsewhere. The reason that Indian accounting firms are expected to do about 400,000 American tax returns this year, that small U.S. hospitals have their CAT scans read in the wee hours by Indian or Australian radiologists known as the "Nighthawks," or that the Chinese port city of Dalian is taking outsourced work from its former imperial masters in Japan, Friedman argues, is that the world is undergoing "one of those fundamental changes -- like the rise of the nation-state or the Industrial Revolution" -- that transform the roles of individuals, governments and societies. The world was flattened, he writes, by 10 forces, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the discrediting of Soviet-style command economies; the 1995 Netscape IPO, which opened up the Internet for easy browsing; the dot-com era overinvestment in the fiber-optic cables that such globalizing hubs as Bangalore and Shenzhen, China, rely upon to cheaply transmit data around the planet; search engines like Google, most of whose queries are now no longer in English; and such flat-world "steroids" as PalmPilots, tiny laptops and the wireless technology that lets one of Friedman's colleagues merrily e-mail from aboard a Japanese bullet train. "The 'hot line,' which used to connect the Kremlin with the White House," Friedman writes, "has been replaced by the 'help line,' which connects everyone in America to call centers in Bangalore."

jaybird found this for you @ 15:51 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



another go at it


A Provisional Metaphysical Theory of Everything

The one rule here should be: include every experience. Even if the experience is a subjective "hallucination" , it still needs to be explained. That is also why those teachings and worldviews that are based on negation - e.g. fundamentalist religionism rejects evolution and process, sceptical physicalism rejects psychic experiences - cannot be used as guides, the way that more embracing theories and explanations can. If there are facts that don't fit one's theory, it is necessary to expand and develop the theory so that they do, not misinterpret and distort or ignore the facts!

jaybird found this for you @ 11:49 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 06 April, 2005 }

Teilhard de Chardin

The Human Phenomenon

Within a better understanding of the collective, it seems to me that the world should be understood without attenuation or metaphors when applied to the sum of all human beings. The universe is necessarily homogeneous in its nature and dimensions. Would it still be so if the loops of its spiral lost one jot or tittle of their degree of reality or consistence in ascending ever higher? The still unnamed Thing which the gradual combination of individuals, peoples and races will bring into existence, must needs be supra-physical, not infra-physical, if it is to be coherent with the rest. Deeper than the common act in which it expresses itself, more important than the common power of action from which it emerges by a sort of self-birth, lies reality itself, constituted by the living reunion of reflective particles.

And what does that amount to if not (and it is quite credible) that the stuff of the universe, by becoming thinking, has not yet completed its evolutionary cycle, and that we are therefore moving towards some new critical point that lies ahead. In spite of its organic links, whose existence has everywhere become apparent to us, the biosphere has so far been no more than a network of divergent lines, free at their extremities. By effect of reflection and the recoils it involves, the loose ends have been tied up, and the noosphere tends to constitute a single closed system in which each element sees, feels, desires, and suffers for itself the same things as all the others at the same time.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:35 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



out of mind

Brok's Paradox

The separateness of body and mind is a primordial intuition. It has sprung from our evolution as social beings and coalesced into the hardware of the central nervous system. Human beings are natural born soul makers, adept at extracting unobservable minds from the behaviour of observable bodies, including their own. Taking the next, false step, if mind and body are conceived as separate entities, it is easy to see the possibility of a mental life after physical death.


This leads me to "Broks's paradox": we are inclined to believe in mind-body dualism even though we understand it to be wrong...

jaybird found this for you @ 07:33 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 05 April, 2005 }

Our Emerging Future

Impressions from: Jeremy Rifkin, Elisabet Sahtouris, Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Ray Kurzweil

Most of us already know that the world is changing fast—we can feel it in our bones and we can smell it in the air, even though we may not always be able to put our finger on just what it is that's happening. We may notice that the weather is more capricious, or we may shake off a bit of irritation when we find out, for example, that the new computer we purchased just a few months ago has already been superseded by a better-faster-smaller-cheaper-hipper-looking model. What would happen if we sat down to look at what all these small signs of change, taken together and viewed over a longer span of time, might actually be pointing to? It's not necessarily a comfortable or easy exercise to undertake, as we discovered. Because, as those who spend a lot of time thinking about things like change and time will tell you, the kind of change we're in the midst of right now is, by its very nature, different from what we've known before. How? According to the scientists and futurists featured here, all of these apparently isolated changes are part of a larger wave of systemic change that is now occurring with a magnitude and complexity greater than anything the human race has yet experienced. And that rate, some say, is accelerating exponentially—a concept that alone is overwhelming to comprehend. Indeed, the more we learned about change and the future, the more we found ourselves asking the question: Can our existing spiritual and ethical structures—both traditional and contemporary—equip us to handle the enormity, the speed, the complexity, and the overwhelming nature of the changes we're undergoing? Changes that may shortly take us, as you will see in the interviews that follow, far beyond our current capacities of imagination.

As a first step toward finding the answers to these questions, we spoke with a number of scientists, evolutionary thinkers, and futurists, who each view the world of change from a slightly different perspective. From biologist Elisabet Sahtouris's microscopic empires of warring bacteria to inventor Ray Kurzweil's intravenous brain-enhancing nanobots; from futurist Jeremy Rifkin's deathblow to the oil age to Barbara Marx Hubbard's birth of a new consciousness, each contributor opens a unique window into the many dimensions of our changing life conditions. Whether the subject of discussion is as large as our universe or as small as a nanotube, whether it's as tangible as petroleum or as ephemeral as consciousness—one thing you can count on is that it's ALL changing. And just how much and how fast is something that all of us, like it or not, are about to find out.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:04 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



The Digital Be-In

Grokking the Transparent Network

The Transparent Network archetype also implies the web of life in which we are enmeshed: gravity, cosmic rays, geometric forms, resonant fields, and the genetic code. Inventor Patrick Flanagan, whose 1971 book Pyramid Power explored invisible energy fields and sacred geometry, referred in his talk to the first major invention he “channeled” (at age 14) — the neurophone — which used ultrasonic waves to transmit information directly into the human brain. In fact, he said, like dolphins and whales, the human cranium has ultrasonic resonators that can be activated for advanced communication. This example underscores the value of Janine Benyus’ idea of “biomimicry,” which suggests that the design for virtually any technology already exists in nature. All we have to do is find and mimic it.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:38 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 31 March, 2005 }

elders speak, we listen

Hopi warnings to the world

From Hopiland, a spiritual vortex for Native people, spiritual leaders Dan Evehema and Thomas Banyacya became the voice of the voiceless: the birds and animals. Warning of the impending apocalypse, they urged all people of good hearts to join them. Even in their last years, Evehema and Banyacya warned that material greed and ignoring spiritual truth results in climate change, and, ultimately, the destruction of the world. Hopi Snake Priest Evehema said the disease in the world today is greed, and the final insult for this country's aboriginal people is the loss of ceremonial land.

"We are now faced with great problems, not only here but throughout the land. Ancient cultures are being annihilated. Our people's lands are being taken from them. Why is this happening? It is happening because many have given up or manipulated their original spiritual teachings. The way of life that the Great Spirit has given to all people of the world, whatever your original instructions, are not being honored. It is because of this great sickness called greed, which infects every land and country..."

jaybird found this for you @ 20:44 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



The Dream Quest

How I Dueled My Shadow by the Light of the Moon

The dream quest is a continuous dream. This is not quite a recurring dream, where the exact same dream plays over again each night; instead here the dream picks up where it left off the night before, like a TV or radio serial. Each night’s dreams occur in the same world, with the same characters and follow a single arcing plotline that has consumed approximately 1/9th of my entire life. The world and characters are not static, but grew and changed as I interacted with them over the last sixteen years; I know a few of the characters better than I know some real people. My active decisions shaped the future outcomes of the plot. In tone the dream is like a fantasy adventure, centered on an epic battle between the forces of light and dark.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:40 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 30 March, 2005 }

spring's mystery

The narrative of eternal return

A soft rain is falling outside the window. Drops of water glisten on the branches and twigs. Each drop, you see now, clings to a bud, magnifying the tiny crimson knots, which are the year's way of saying -- the spring returns. Leaves are being born. Blossoms exist already, inside their tiny shells. Life begins anew. The tree's job, with the rain's help, is to show it. Your job is to notice.

If this were the first time you had ever seen living buds appear on a dead twig, you would know too little of the mystery. You would think -- aha, life is victorious over death. The hurt world is recovering. The wars are ending. Suffering is becoming passionate delight. All is well. But because you have seen this manifestation again and again, and because you know what else happens in the cycle of the year, your welcome of the spring return is complex.

Relief is proper to this time of year, and so are the sensual joys of perception -- warmth on the skin, perfumes of the air, the sudden sight of robins, the illuminated world. Yet every such signal of rebirth comes with its own contradiction, which makes it all the more precious. This complexity of death and life together, stretched across a realm defined by the movement of planets and stars, is what you call time. Time is the cosmos. Time is your native country. Human beings have a built-in tendency to imagine life and death as opposite forces in conflict with one another. If, across the stretch of the year, life and death seem equal, each with its season of triumph, the human story is not so simple.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:49 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 29 March, 2005 }

imagine this...

Who Needs Imagination? [via mefi]

...Imagination helps us to make causal judgments about how things might have turned out differently. Historians also do this and so do we with respect to our own decisions. If something goes wrong in life, then we ask ourselves where we went wrong. The imagination allows us to engage in thinking about alternatives in this prosaic form. In making moral judgments we also think about alternatives. We look at something that has happened and we ask how it could have been done better or differently. And again we are exercising our imagination.

And then a third domain is simply language comprehension. There is a great deal of work showing that when adults listen to a narrative they build in their mind's eye, so to speak, a mental image or a model of the situation that is being described and of the events that unfold. And it's that mental model that they retain over a long period of time rather than the particular words. The ability to construct such models in the imagination is, in my view, something that emerges from these very early capacities that children show to engage in pretend play and to think about a time and place that is removed from their current situation. So, depending on how you define the imagination, you can either see it as disappearing or waning during childhood or you can see it the way I do as persisting throughout life.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:25 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 28 March, 2005 }

Talbot: Spirituality and Science

The Holographic Universe

The "whole in every part" nature of a hologram provides us with an entirely new way of understanding organization and order. For most of its history, Western science has laboured under the bias that the best way to understand a physical phenomenon, whether a frog or an atom, is to dissect it and study its respective parts. A hologram teaches us that some things in the universe may not lend themselves to this approach. If we try to take apart some thing constructed holographically, we will not get the pieces of which it is made, we will only get smaller wholes.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:54 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



"Crazy Enough to be True"

Shapeshifting, Consciousness & The Edge of Science

"Given the right playbook,the thermal jostling of the atoms in a rock can be seen as the operation of a complex, self-aware mind.How strange. Common sense screams that people have minds and rocks don't. But interpretations are often ambiguous....We can see levers and springs in animal limbs, and beauty in the aurora: our "mind children" may be able to spot fully functioning intelligences in the complex chemical goings on of plants, the dynamics of interstellar clouds, or the reverberations of cosmic radiation. No particular interpretation is ruled out, but the space of all of them is exponentially larger than the size of individual ones, and we may never encounter more than an infinitesimal fraction. The rock-minds may be forever lost to us in the boggingly vast sea of chaotic rock-interpretations. Yet those rock minds make complete sense to themselves,and to them it is we who are lost in meaningless chaos. Our own nature, in fact, is defined by the tiny fraction of possible interpretations we can make, and the astronomical number we can't."

jaybird found this for you @ 11:43 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 24 March, 2005 }

dream world

Lucid Crossroads
After you read this paragraph your mind will remember that you are looking out for hints, triggers in your dreams that will fire up your brain and make you realise that:- one, you are dreaming and so will become lucid; and two, you want to visit the Lucid Crossroads. Look out for anything associated with the Crossroads, especially doors, the desert, the colours blue and red, mirrors, Persian carpets and materials like blue slate etc. A sign might be a physical door or a blue person, or it could be symbols on a signpost or painted on the floor, like the dreaming head that you can see on the Crossroads reception desk.

Wha...? This warrants further investigation...

jaybird found this for you @ 13:48 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 23 March, 2005 }

LISTEN TO THE ANIMALS

Sheldrake: Why did so many animals escape December's tsunami?

Many animals escaped the great Asian tsunami on Boxing Day, 2004. Elephants in Sri Lanka and Sumatra moved to high ground before the giant waves struck; they did they same in Thailand, trumpeting before they did so. According to a villager in Bang Koey, Thailand, a herd of buffalo were grazing by the beach when they “suddenly lifted their heads and looked out to sea, ears standing upright.” They turned and stampeded up the hill, followed by bewildered villagers, whose live were thereby saved. At Ao Sane beach, near Phuket, dogs ran up to the hill tops, and at Galle in Sri Lanka, dog owners were puzzled by the fact that their animals refused to go for their usual morning walk on the beach. In Cuddalore District in South India, buffaloes, goats and dogs escaped, and so did a nesting colony of flamingos that flew to higher ground. In the Andaman Islands “stone age” tribal groups moved away from the coast before the disaster, alerted by the behaviour of animals.

How did they know? The usual speculation is that the animals picked up tremors caused by the under-sea earthquake. This explanation seems to me unconvincing. There would have been tremors all over South East Asia, not just in the afflicted coastal areas. And if animals can predict earthquake-related disasters by sensing slight tremors, why can’t seismologists do so? ...No one knows how some animals sense earthquakes coming. Perhaps they pick up subtle sounds or vibrations in the earth; maybe they respond to subterranean gases released prior to earthquakes, or react to changes in the Earth’s electrical field. They may also sense in advance what is about to happen in a way that lies beyond current scientific understanding, through some kind of presentiment.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:02 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



zygmunt bauman

The Dream of Purity
Purity is an ideal; a vision of the condition which needs yet to be created, or such as needs to be diligently protected against the genuine or imagined odds. Without such a vision, neither the concept of purity makes sense, nor the distinction between purity and impurity can be sensibly drawn. A forest, a mountain range, a meadow, an ocean ('nature' in general, as distinguished from culture, the human product) is neither pure nor impure - that is, until it is spattered with the leftovers of a Sunday picnic or infused with the waste of chemical factories. Human intervention does not just soil nature and make it filthy; it introduces into nature the very distinction between purity and filth, it creates the very possibility of a given part of the natural world being 'clean' or 'dirty'.

Purity is a vision of things put in places different from those they would occupy if not prompted to move elsewhere, pushed, pulled or goaded; and it is a vision of order - that is, of a situation in which each thing is in its rightful place and nowhere else. There is no way of thinking about purity without having an image of 'order', without assigning to things their 'rightful', 'proper' places - which happen to be such places as they would not fill 'naturally', of their own accord. The opposite of 'purity' - the dirt, the filth, 'polluting agents' - are things 'out of place'. It is not the intrinsic quality of things which makes them into 'dirt', but solely their location; more precisely, their location in the order of things envisaged by the purity-seekers. Things which are 'dirt' in one context may become pure just by being put in another place - and vice versa. Beautifully polished, shining shoes become dirt when put on the dining table; returned to the shoe-stack, they recover their pristine purity. An omelette , a mouth-watering work of culinary art when on the dinner plate, becomes a nasty stain when dropped on the pillow.

There are, however, things for which the 'right place' has not been reserved in any fragment of man-made order. They are 'out of place' everywhere; that is, in all places for which the model of purity has been designed. The world of the purity-seekers is simply too small to accommodate them.

From the new issue of the Grey Lodge Occult Review.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:42 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 21 March, 2005 }

what does mysticism have to teach us about consciousness?

Plenty. [via Orlin Grabbe]

Mystical experiences may represent... a simple form of human consciousness. Usually our minds are an enormously complex stew of thoughts, feelings, sensations, wants, snatches of song, pains, drives, daydreams and, of course, consciousness itself more or less aware of it all. To understand consciousness in itself, the obvious thing would be to clear away as much of this internal detritus and noise as possible. It turns out that mystics seem to be doing precisely that. The technique that most mystics use is some form of meditation or contemplation. These are procedures that, often by recycling a mental subroutine, systematically reduce mental activity. During meditation, one begins to slow down the thinking process, and have fewer or less intense thoughts. One’s thoughts become as if more distant, vague, or less preoccupying; one stops paying as much attention to bodily sensations; one has fewer or less intense fantasies and daydreams. Thus by reducing the intensity or compelling quality of outward perception and inward thoughts, one may come to a time of greater stillness. Ultimately one may become utterly silent inside, as though in a gap between thoughts, where one becomes completely perception- and thought-free. One neither thinks nor perceives any mental or sensory content. Yet, despite this suspension of content, one emerges from such events confident that one had remained awake inside, fully conscious. This experience, which has been called the pure consciousness event, or PCE, has been identified in virtually every tradition. Though PCEs typically happen to any single individual only occasionally, they are quite regular for some practitioners. The pure consciousness event may be defined as a wakeful but contentless (non-intentional) consciousnes.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:41 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



history of the vernal equinox

The Vernal Equinox, Saint Cuthbert's Feast Day, and Eggs

While the Vernal Equinox was an important point of passage in the year, the actual method of marking the festival varied from village to village and people to people. Rituals and invocations for abundance in the new crops being planted would often be held during the new moon closest to the Equinox (traditionally a good time to plant). In some places this was also the time when promises were made between lovers for the Handfasting Ceremony that would come at Midsummer. In a very real sense the ceremony was an expression of hope and trust in the new lives that would blossom in the warmth of summer.

Even the latter day celebration (comparatively speaking) of Easter acknowledged the significance of the Vernal Equinox. The Council of Nice decreed in 325 A.D. that "Easter was to fall upon the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox."

jaybird found this for you @ 11:33 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 18 March, 2005 }

gravity

The web of influence and (in)tention

All beings have weight. If you throw them in the water they will cause waves. All beings have gravity, but this doesn’t just mean they fall down a lot. They each exert a field of attraction on every being, a subtle pull that influences and is influenced by the pull of every other thing. The earth pulls us to it, the moon pulls the tides and our blood, the stars pull each other and hold it all together. We are stars too, centers of our own web of attractions, and what strange attractors indeed. We attract through us the influence of all that crosses our attention, consciously or not, and change our relationship to the entire world in every moment. Imagine a cluster of spheres attached to each other by strings; move one and it readjusts the tension between all the rest. Our muscular system works the same way, in tensile integrity that continually keeps the system in balance (tensegrity, made known by Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes). The whole universe is balanced in this tension, a great nexus of affect and reciprocation. Nothing is not involved, nothing is not affected, even our atoms “know” when another moves on the other side of the world, because they all move. They are all one medium, waves in the sea of particles that make us up, and it is only our attention to the particular waves of influence that separates them into distinct beings. Attention is etymologically to be stretched away from something, to be made more tensed, to be apart from what we attract and are attracted to. Knowing is being affected, interpreting the tensions into separate things in whatever degree one can be aware of their distinct level of detail. In this sense a rock knows something about falling into Earth’s pull, if not much else. Earth itself knows what it’s like to attract countless beings to its surface and about circling the sun. We exist as nodes in this web of mutual attraction, interfaces in Indra’s network, not reflecting all the other reflections but influencing all the other influences, or interpreting all the other interpretations.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:23 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 17 March, 2005 }

the altruism game

Charity begins at Homo sapiens

In the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami last year, people from the world's richest countries were falling over each other to make donations to help rebuild the lives of the survivors. Perhaps it was the conjunction of this terrible natural disaster with the consumerist orgy of Christmas that spurred so many of us to greater generosity. Whatever the reason, conspicuous donation suddenly became the vogue. Individuals, and even entire countries, competed to see who could send most money to people on the other side of the world whose identity they did not know and who they were highly unlikely ever to meet. What an odd species we are.

Not that Homo sapiens is the only species in which individuals bestow kindness on others. Many mammals, birds, insects and even bacteria do likewise. But their largesse tends to be reserved for their genetic relatives; this makes sense in evolutionary terms, because by helping someone who shares many of your genes you improve the chances of propelling this common DNA into the future. Humans are different, for we cooperate with complete genetic strangers - workmates, neighbours, anonymous people in far-off countries. Why on earth do we do that?

jaybird found this for you @ 11:38 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 16 March, 2005 }

hide and seek wit the eternal self

Thought Experiments On The Nature Of Identity

The sum total of my experiences may have made me who I am today, but if my memory of them is taken away, I am still the same person, and in this sense "I" am more closely identified with the collection of habits, propensities, aptitudes, dispositions and so on that exist even absent any memory of the past. In effect, as long as my future life is likely to proceed in a more or less contiguous fashion from past, that seems to be enough for me to identify my "self." In effect, if my future memories will be consistent with my past ones, I still consider myself to be continuous with the past self that I can no longer remember. It is a curious situation that most people seem willing to accept that the self is not memory, and yet our identity seems so constrained by what we have done in the past.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:03 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



there is no mountain, then there is

There is no stream of consciousness [via corpus mmothra]

What is all this? What is all this stuff around me; this stream of experiences that I seem to be having all the time?

Throughout history there have been people who say it is all illusion. I think they may be right. But if they are right what could this mean? If you just say "It's all an illusion" this gets you nowhere - except that a whole lot of other questions appear. Why should we all be victims of an illusion, instead of seeing things the way they really are? What sort of illusion is it anyway? Why is it like that and not some other way? Is it possible to see through the illusion? And if so what happens next.

These are difficult questions, but if the stream of consciousness is an illusion we should be trying to answer them, rather than more conventional questions about consciousness. I shall explore these questions, though I cannot claim that I will answer them. In doing so I shall rely on two methods. First there are the methods of science; based on theorising and hypothesis testing - on doing experiments to find out how the world works. Second there is disciplined observation - watching experience as it happens to find out how it really seems. This sounds odd. You might say that your own experience is infallible - that if you say it is like this for you then no one can prove you wrong. I only suggest you look a bit more carefully. Perhaps then it won't seem quite the way you thought it did before. I suggest that both these methods are helpful for penetrating the illusion - if illusion it is.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:57 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 15 March, 2005 }

how time flies

Not where we expect it

The old man shields his eyes against the fierce light of the Altiplano and considers the question. When he talks about his ancestors, does he mean the Incas? No, he replies in a sort of Spanish creole, he means his great-great-grandfather. And with his right hand he makes a rotating gesture up and forwards from his body. The Incas, he adds, came way earlier. And with the same hand he sweeps even further forward, towards the mountains on the horizon.

In the next video clip, the researcher asks a woman to explain the origins of her culture. She starts by describing her parents' generation, then her grandparents', and so on, extending her arm further and further in front of her as she does so. Then she switches to talk about how the values of those earlier generations have been handed back to her (her hand gradually returns to her body from out front), and how she will in turn pass them on to her children (she thumbs over her shoulder).

The man and woman belong to an Amerindian group called the Aymara, who inhabit some of the highest valleys in the Andes - in their case, in northern Chile. The researcher is Rafael Núñez, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego, who is interested in how we develop abstract ideas like time. Núñez now believes that he has definitive evidence that the Aymara have a sense of the passage of time that is the mirror image of his own: the past is in front of them, the future behind.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:45 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



we're doing the cosmic slop

Can trance-dancing save the planet?

A few of us, myself included, have made public fools of ourselves already by answering in the affirmative, and even giving some tentative reasons why. Here I want to try to introduce a new way of thinking that complements and deepens what's already been proposed by people like Fraser Clarke and Terence McKenna. They see psychedelicized mass trance dances as the only quick, viable antidote to the egotism at the base of the western, techno-industrial "mega-machine" maniacally chomping away at the life-fabric of the planet.

This different line of thought is based on a simple but profound idea first expressed by the philosopher and teacher of temple dances G.I. Gurdjieff, who died in 1949. His idea is almost completely unknown, outside of readers of his hard to read book All and Everything. If true, it has staggering implications for ourselves, for our planet, even for our entire solar system. I don't expect anybody to automatically take it as Goddess's given truth, but it's worthy of some serious attention.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:43 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 14 March, 2005 }

Culture as anesthetic

The Numbing of the American Mind

Here's the basic situation. On the one hand: the Web, satellite cable TV, PalmPilot, DVD, Ethernet - Virtual Environments everywhere. On the oth­er hand: cloning, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, robotics - Vir­tual Beings everywhere. Someday, when people (or whatever they are) look back on our time, all this will appear as a single development, called some-thing like 'The Information Revolution," and the lesson of that revolution will have been this: what counts is the code. Silicon - or carbon-based. Ar­tifact or animate. The difference between them is disappearing. This is not science fiction. This is really happening. Right now, in an Atlanta hospital, there is a quadriplegic with his brain directly wired to a computer. He can move the cursor with his thoughts.

The moving cursor doesn't really need explaining - it comes down to digital bytes and neurochemical spikes. What needs explaining is our equa­nimity in the face of staggering developments. How can we go about our busi­ness when things like this are happening? How can we just read the article, shake our heads, turn the page? If creatures from outer space sent a diplomatic mission to the U.N., how long would it be before we were taking that in stride? Before Comedy Central send-ups were more entertaining than the actual crea­tures? About six months?

Soap-opera politics. The therapy industry. Online communities. Digital effects. Workshops for every workplace. Viagra, Prozac, Ritalin. Reality TV. Complete makeovers. Someday, it will be obvious that all the content on our information platforms converges on this theme: there is no important dif­ference between fabrication and reality, between a chemical a pill introduces and one your body produces, between role-playing in mar­ital therapy and playing your role as a spouse, between sell­ing and making, campaigning and governing, expressing and existing. And that is why we moved on after September 11, after an event that seemed so enormous, so horrific, so stark, that even the great blob of virtuality that is our pub­lic culture would be unable to absorb it. But it could. It has.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:47 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



The Developmental Spiral

An Unexplained Physical Phenomenon [via reality carnival]

When we consider history in terms of trend reversals in differentiated networks (with widely varying, nonclonal nodes), rather than in terms of disruptive technological punctuations, we can can see the possibility for defining another, even less arbitrary set of developmental eras. Furthermore, the most clear and possibly most valuable cusps and inflection points (trend reversals) seem to be those involving not just isolated environments, but the entire network of the leading edge of local intelligence.

Using this methodology, we can state that Earth's techno-bio-socio-political networks arrived at a kind of singularity, or global phase change, about thirty years ago, when a number of trends broke and are now accelerating in a reverse direction. Circa 1970, shortly after humanity's first foray into the "beautiful desolation" of space, we reached a peak in global nuclear arms buildup, and simultaneously passed an inflection point in total world population and total world energy consumption (this latter point is still little known among futurists, but is a result of the stunning energy efficiency of each new generation of our increasingly intelligent machines). As I've written elsewhere, a "technological contraceptive" of relentless force is rapidly spreading across the planet, superceding our primal urge to reproduce with even deeper desires for personal and child development. We are learning social self control amid a world of plenty.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:39 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Saturday, 12 March, 2005 }

How we perceive biological motion

Flanker-interference paradigm

You might think... biological motion is “hard-wired” into our brains — and it is indeed a good indicator that this might be so, but other animals can also learn. It’s possible that we learn to perceive biological motion, or that we rely on higher cognitive processes to understand it. This is the “top-down” versus “bottom-up” question: does the mind first simply look at the image we see and then later try to determine what it is? Or do we determine what we are looking at early on in the visual process and then later figure out what to do with that knowledge?

jaybird found this for you @ 07:56 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 11 March, 2005 }

The depths of feeling

New Study Provides Insights Into The Brain's Remembrance Of Emotional Events

Those of us who are old enough to remember the Kennedy assassination are usually able to remember the initial announcement almost as if it's a movie running in our heads. That's because there is a well-known tendency for people to have enhanced memory of a highly emotional event, and further, a memory that focuses especially on the "gist" of the event. In other words, people who remember the words "President Kennedy is dead" will remember the news extraordinarily well. But at the same time, they will likely have no more recollection of extraneous details such as what they were wearing or what they were doing an hour before hearing the news than they would for any other day in 1963. Neurobiologists have known both these phenomena to be true for some time, and a new study now explains how the brain achieves this effect.

In the new study, researchers from the California Institute of Technology and the University of Iowa College of Medicine show how the recollections of gist and details of emotional events are related to specific parts of the brain. In an article appearing in this month's Nature Neuroscience, the authors report that patients with damage to an area of the brain known as the amygdala are unable to remember the gist of an emotional stimulus, even though there is nothing otherwise faulty in their memory. The study shows that the amygdala somehow focuses the brain's processing resources on the gist of an emotional event.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:21 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 10 March, 2005 }

two by Thomas de Zengotita

Reality is so passe[via y2karl on MeFi]
"Real isn't real enough," writes Thomas de Zengotita in "Mediated," his spectacular widescreen critique of contemporary American culture. "That's the telltale sign of an otherwise invisible tipping point in the historical balance between representation and represented. It marks a threshold of saturation, the point beyond which no real entity can survive in popular culture..." The defining feature of our culture, according to de Zengotita, is our mass narcissism. He refers to this as the "flattered self, a self that exists in its very own field of representations, that constructs its own identity, chooses what it wants to be." We got to be that way primarily because of the astonishing abundance of opportunities that have practically defined the 20th century, perhaps best illustrated by the fact that, in a single afternoon, the average American is exposed to more vibrant sensations in greater variety than was Constantine or Henry VIII or Napoleon over a whole lifetime.
Closure for You, Jedermensch ein Übermensch
What would Nietzsche have to say about cloning if he were alive today? It's hard to know, but one thing's for sure; he would not be noodling around on the practical margins, he would not allow experts to reduce this fabulous eventuality to mere policy. He would plunge straight to the metaphysical heart of the matter, to the delicious and terrible dilemmas that cluster around the possibility of self-replication. And so will we, because one way to interpret this account of mediation I have offered is to say that we have now realized—but democratically—the concept of the Overman, the Übermensch. That Olympian figure was to earn his standing by dint of self-overcoming, you may recall. That meant self-creation. Nietzsche thought of this as the most demanding of all projects, to be undertaken only by the rarest and greatest spirits in history. But the enterprise of self-construction turned out to belong to everybody. Nietzsche thought a lot about how the herd was flattered by its shepherds, but even he couldn't foresee the extent of that flattery's effects or the technological modalities of it's expression. The possibility of cloning yourself is the ultimate representational achievement, the archetype of simulation, the final form of flattery.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:40 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 08 March, 2005 }

Building Gab

The Complex Evolution of Language

...Perhaps only one thing makes human language unique. They call this special ingredient recursion. Roughly speaking, it's a process by which small units--such as words--can be combined into larger units--such as clauses--which can be combined into larger units still--sentences. Because units can be arranged in an infinite number of ways, they can form an infinite number of larger units. But because this construction follows certain rules, the larger units can be easily understood. With recursion, it's possible to organize simple concepts in to much more complex ones, which can then be expressed with the speech-producing machinery of the mouth and throat.

According to the almost-everything hypothesis, all of the components of language may not have all gradually evolved together as an adaptation. Instead, much of it was already in place when recursion evolved. It's even possible, they suggest, that recursion didn't even evolve as part of language, but for another function, such as navigation. By happenstance, it also fit together with the other elements of language and voila, we speak.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:51 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 07 March, 2005 }

vegitative state

New research opens a window on the minds of plants

Hardly articulate, the tiny strangleweed, a pale parasitic plant, can sense the presence of friends, foes, and food, and make adroit decisions on how to approach them. Mustard weed, a common plant with a six-week life cycle, can't find its way in the world if its root-tip statolith - a starchy "brain" that communicates with the rest of the plant - is cut off. The ground-hugging mayapple plans its growth two years into the future, based on computations of weather patterns. And many who visit the redwoods of the Northwest come away awed by the trees' survival for millenniums - a journey that, for some trees, precedes the Parthenon.

As trowel-wielding scientists dig up a trove of new findings, even those skeptical of the evolving paradigm of "plant intelligence" acknowledge that, down to the simplest magnolia or fern, flora have the smarts of the forest. Some scientists say they carefully consider their environment, speculate on the future, conquer territory and enemies, and are often capable of forethought - revelations that could affect everyone from gardeners to philosophers.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:17 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



go analyze yourself

Verbal/Linguistic

96%

Intrapersonal

89%

Interpersonal

86%

Visual/Spatial

75%

Musical/Rhythmic

54%

Logical/Mathematical

50%

Bodily/Kinesthetic

46%

The Rogers Indicator of Multiple Intelligences

jaybird found this for you @ 07:19 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Sunday, 06 March, 2005 }

ecstatic archetypes

The Shaman, The Monk, The Fool, and the Transhuman

As time passed I concluded that the Shaman opened doors but that the Monk walked through them. The Shaman left the earth, floated up into another dimension to view life from the above but after a few hours, it was the Monk who had to blaze the trail, making for the psychic landmarks the Shaman had spotted from the higher dimension. The work of the Shaman is terrifying, that the Monk, arduous. Where the core virtue of the Shaman is courage, the core virtue of the Monk is perseverance.

For those few with both courage and perserverence, a synthesis appears to be possible, but though many aspire to it, few realize it. This archetype finally coalesced for me when I began to study Tarot, revealing itself in the symbolism of the Fool. The Fool has a foot in each world. He maintains enough ego to negotiate the world of Maya, but the ego is his servant not his master. In contrast to the Monk, the Fool feels the burdens of the world lightly, fairly floating off the ground.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:31 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Saturday, 05 March, 2005 }

Ghosts in a machine

What is it that triggers the brain to produce a religious experience?

For years brain researchers shied away from exotic experiences such as hallucinations, near-death experiences or “intimations of the divine”, on the grounds that there was no way to study them scientifically. But as consciousness has become an academically respectable topic, it has become harder to ignore “altered states”. If memory and imagination can be linked to the activity of groups of neurons, couldn ’t the experience of being “at one with the universe” just be the result of brain cells firing?

jaybird found this for you @ 20:04 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 02 March, 2005 }

what will i put on today?

The Masks We Wear


I first became conscious of my masks when a wise man, to demonstrate an emotional healing process, asked me to share something about myself I really liked. I promptly replied, “My smile.” and smiled broadly. I have always been complimented on my smile. Now this wise man knew that often those things we best like about ourselves are protective masks or patterns which conceal our true identity. Employing a technique termed “exaggerating the pattern”, he asked me to smile. When smiling became uncomfortable, I would stop. He would smile and prompt me to smile again.

As we continued, I became increasingly uncomfortable, then sad, and finally began to cry. Thus I discovered my Mask of the Smiling Face, a mask I had fashioned as a very young child to conceal my real feelings. As the adult, I was still wearing this mask to conceal anger, grief, and disappointment, and often found myself smiling inappropriately.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:15 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 28 February, 2005 }

From Here to Alternity and Beyond

The Unconventional Wisdom of John Lilly
How does one briefly describe a man as complex as John Lilly? Whole books barely provide an overview of this man's extraordinary existence, amazing accomplishments, and contributions to the world. His list of scientific achievements covers a full page In Who's Who in America. John C. Lilly, M.D. is perhaps best known as the man behind the fictional scientists dramatized in the films Altered states and The Day of the Dolphin. He pioneered the original neuroscientific work In electrical brain stimulation, mapping out the pleasure and pain pathways in the brain. He frontiered work in inter-species communication research with dolphins and whales. He invented the isolation tank and did significant research in the area of sensory deprivation... John Lilly is a pure delight to be around.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:55 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



transplanted lives?

Some heart recipients report strange changes

For most of her life, the young woman hated sports. And though she was born and raised in Tucson, she never liked Mexican food. She craved Italian and was a pasta junkie. But three years ago, all that changed for Jaime Sherman, 28, when she underwent a heart transplant at University Medical Center, after battling a heart defect since birth. "Now I love football, baseball, basketball. You name it, I follow it," said Sherman, a psychology student at Arizona State University. "And Mexican food is by far my favorite." She'd heard similar stories - of people who get donor hearts, develop new and surprising tastes and traits, then trace them to the donor. It's an eerie phenomenon that has triggered controversy and skepticism. Could it be happening to her?

No scientific evidence exists to explain how characteristics of an organ donor might live on in the person who gets their organ. But theories and speculation abound, from the transforming power of beating a death sentence to the notion that the body's cells store memory. Some blame the toxic effects of potent transplant drugs and heavy anesthesia, while others cite the psychological trauma of knowing someone had to die to save a life. But even the self-described skeptics admit there may be more to this than imagination, though they insist it happens to a minority of patients.

jaybird found this for you @ 08:47 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Saturday, 26 February, 2005 }

psychedelic medicine

Mind bending, health giving [via the lovely local Easy Bake Coven]

Halpern's first big foray into psychedelic research was aimed at risk-assessment. In the late 1990s he launched a study of members of the Native American Church, who are permitted by US law to consume peyote. Halpern examined 210 residents of a Navajo reservation in the south-west US, who fell into three categories: church members who had taken peyote at least 100 times but had had little exposure to other drugs or alcohol; non-church members who abstained from alcohol or drugs; and former alcoholics who had been sober for at least three months.

Halpern tested the subjects' IQ, memory, reading ability and other functions. His interim results showed that church members had no cognitive impairment compared with the abstainers, and scored significantly better than recovering alcoholics. Church members also reported no "flashbacks" - sudden recurrences of a psychedelic's effects long after the initial trip. Halpern believes this study, which he expects will be published soon, shows that contrary to the 1971 editorial, peyote at least can be taken repeatedly without adverse effects.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:04 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 25 February, 2005 }

ya think?

Your unconscious is making your everyday decisions

Most of us can appreciate the fact that we make up our minds about things based on thinking that takes place somewhere just out of our reach. But today, scientists are finding neural correlates to those processes, parts of the brain that we never gave their due, communicating with other parts, triggering neurotransmitters, and driving our actions. Says Clinton Kilts, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory, "There is nothing that you do, there is no thought that you have, there is no awareness, there is no lack of awareness, there is nothing that marks your daily existence that doesn't have a neural code. The greatest challenge for us is to figure out how to design the study that will reveal these codes."

jaybird found this for you @ 12:48 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 24 February, 2005 }

the mechanics of thought

The number's up for the idea that we think with words and grammar

...We seem to think in sentences. It is very hard to imagine thinking about anything without framing the thought in words. When I wonder whether I am having a bad hair day, my mind’s eye sees the phrase swimming in front of it. It almost comes to my lips. In fact, much of what I ponder slips into vocal form, an unfortunate trait that has occasionally led me to be less tactful than I would have wished. But this habit also seems to confirm Noam Chomsky’s thesis that we think in words and grammar. Indeed, there is evidence that the part of the brain that deals with language is roped in to assist with mathematical tasks, suggesting the overarching presence of linguistic ability in all things neural.

However, a trio of brain-damaged patients have cast doubt on this widely accepted theory... the patients could tell the difference between similar mathematical expressions. For example, they could distinguish between 30/90 and 90/30. They could also handle arithmetic inside brackets, such as (90 - ((3 + 17) x 3)), that resemble the clauses inside sentences. They could not, however, decipher the sentence, “the man who killed the lion was angry.” The patients could also read numerals, but not written numbers, such as “three”. The results... challenge the idea that language is the master ability required for all types of cognitive processing. The study also raises the possibility that aphasic patients could be taught a “words by numbers” language that would allow them to communicate with others.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:35 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



No Gene Is An Island

Howard Bloom In Conversation with R.U. Sirius [via ?]

On the one hand, the Global Brain is as easy to understand as can be. Put one gigantic microprocessor to work and you have a pretty potent computer. But put 60 together in parallel and you have something only governments and a few top universities can afford, a supercomputer. The earth is a mesh of processors working in parallel. It's been that since a single chemical family rose and started a land-grab for the planet 3.85 billion years ago. That family is an imperialistic intermesh that specializes in transformation, invention-swapping, and collective smarts. The territorially greedy chemical family I'm talking about is the clan of life, the clan of cells, and the clan of DNA.

For 3.85 billion years, biomass has worked full tilt on the imperialistic enterprise of transforming the inanimate atoms of this huge hunk of stone — the earth — into biomass. That's a big job. And biomass has pulled this off by lacing masses of micro-intellects into planet-spanning macro-intellects. It sounds like a goofy and exaggerated notion. But think for a second. To kick off this thinking process, let's start with Richard Dawkins' idea of The Selfish Gene. Dawkins is a brilliant thinker. And his "let's turn this upside down and see what new insights appear" approach was great a quarter of a century ago. But the gene-worship that's taken over since then misses a basic point. No gene is an island. No gene can afford to be totally selfish.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:22 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 23 February, 2005 }

All About Power

And The Three Ways to Topple It*
Most of what has been written about change -- by political theorists as well as business gurus -- is about revolutionary change. It is about creating a sense of popular urgency for change. Writers on social and business innovation, by contrast, are (perhaps subconsciously) writing about change that incapacitates. Clay Christensen speaks candidly about 'disruptive innovation', the kind that catches successful businesses off guard, just like a virus or undetected parasite, and brings it to its knees. A huge amount of money and energy is being spent these days -- on so-called 'anti-terrorist' programs, on physical and computer security, on fighting file-sharing, on patenting anything even vaguely innovative to prevent a competitor bringing it to market, on the search for vaccines and cures for AIDS, BSE, Avian Flu etc., on anti-fraud measures like Sarbanes-Oxley -- all designed to fight incapacitating, rather than popular, revolutionary, enemies. Actions that are aimed to incapacitate are called guerrilla (meaning 'little war') actions. Since the Vietnam war debacle in the 1960s the very term has struck fear in the hearts of the power elite, because they know that, in today's heavily concentrated, centralized, interconnected, 'grid-locked' society, this is where they are most vulnerable, most powerless to defend themselves.

Part 2: Free innovation, Freedom from thr grid, and peer-to-peer bio innovation:


But suppose if, instead of waiting for the collapse of the market economy and the crumbling of the power elite, we brought about that collapse, guerrilla-style, by making information free, by making local communities energy self-sufficient, and by taking the lead in biotech away from government and corporatists (the power elite) by working collaboratively, using the Power of Many, Open Source, unconstrained by corporate allegiance, patents and 'shareholder expectations'? ... The first part of this guerrilla undermining of the corporatist-controlled 'market' economy -- the 'making free' of information -- is already underway. The war for free information between corporatists and people is occurring on multiple fronts: The attempt by large corporations to patent everything so it cannot be used by the people without paying an exorbitant and prohibitive fee; the attempt by large corporations to ban file-sharing without first paying extortion to the intellectual property 'owner' (little of which actually goes to the artist); the attempt to make more of the information on the Internet 'pay for itself'. But the people are winning this guerrilla war.

*Via Abuddha's Memes, where on the entry for Feb. 10th, one of my favorite bloggers answers some questions I posed in this post.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:19 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 21 February, 2005 }

reality mechanics

On Lucid Living

Reality is whatever we make of it, our perceptions are shaped by the ways we approach the world and the filters we use to see the world through. Quantum physics points to innumerable different views on what the underlying reality could be, whether as shaped by our perceptions, an infinity of possible worlds, as a hologram, or colliding waves of energy. Any or all of these views could (or not) be correct in describing reality as we can know it, and may all just be different methods of interpreting the patterns we discover in the world. In this sense, anything we can imagine can be possible, as long as we develop the filters to perceive the world in a certain way. This means reforging the connections between our senses in order to perceive the subtle aspects of reality. We are raised and trained to perceive the world from certain points of view that fit together in the consensual reality, that is, our senses remain isolated from each other and we remain oblivious to patterns of energy and events that point to some higher-level structures in the organization and movements of the world.

However, we humans have the ability to imagine different realities and do so each time we create subjunctive worlds in order to prophecy our futures. These alternate realities can be simple or wild as our imaginations, and as possible as the amount of energy required to bridge the state differences. This ability to create our worlds can be turned inward to posit realities in which we can gather quite different information with our senses, These worlds are quite possible, to the extent that we can put energy into forming and maintaining perspectives which surpass those we typically use to interpret and perceive reality.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:28 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Saturday, 19 February, 2005 }

Magic and Cyberspace

Fusing Technology and Magical Consciousness in the Modern World

As we embrace the new millennium, it is surely worth considering how the rapidly unfolding technologies of cyberspace and the ancient magical approaches to sacred space can actually connect with each other...

The Internet is providing us with a new concept of space that did not exist before - the interconnected 'space' of the global computer network [1]. And, as she points out, this is a very recent phenomenon indeed. During the early 1980s few people outside the military and academic field of computer science had network access, but now there are billions of webpages on the Internet. ' As of mid-1998,' writes Wertheim, ' there [were] over 100 million people using the Internet regularly, and it is estimated that in the next decade, there will be close to one billion people online. In just over 25 years, this space has sprung into being from nothing, making it surely the fastest-growing territory in history.'

However, it is the actual nature of the cyberspace experience that Wertheim finds so fascinating. When one person communicates with another online there is no sense of physicality, for cyber-journeys cannot be measured in a literal sense. ' Unleashed into the Internet,' she says, ' my "location" can no longer be fixed purely in physical space. Just "where" I am when I enter cyberspace is a question yet to be answered, but clearly my position cannot be pinned down to a mathematical location.' So all we can really confirm about the nature of cyberspace itself is that it involves a form of digital communication where information is relayed back and forth from one computer site to another, and where people share the outpourings of each other's minds.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:40 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



romance as social grace

On Love

Love, sings Carmen in Bizet's opera, is a gypsy child who has never recognized any law. Take guard against him, though it will do no good. Any of us may become his helpless, fated victim, and the old cards of the fortune-teller will alone declare our destinies. Passion leads nearly always to suffering, madness and death. Even the most respectable may grow ardent and reckless, paying no heed to consequences. Who cares about anything else when the sex is hot and sweaty and feverishly intense? There is a cost, though. When jealousy suddenly pierces us like a knife, every affair risks ending up a blood wedding.

jaybird found this for you @ 16:34 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 15 February, 2005 }

The Soul of Science

Essence, Identity, and the Scientific Patterns of Soul

The atoms in my brain and body today are not the same ones I had when I was born. Nevertheless, the patterns of information coded in my DNA and in my neural memories are still those of Michael Shermer. The human essence, the soul, is more than a pile of parts—it is a pattern of information.

As far as we know, there is no way for that pattern to last longer than several decades, a century or so at most. So until a technology can copy a human pattern into a more durable medium (silicon chips perhaps?), it appears that when we die our pattern is lost. Scientific skepticism suggests that there is no afterlife, and religion requires a leap of faith greater than many of us wish to make.

Whether there is an afterlife or not, we must live as if this is all there is. Our lives, our families, our friends, our communities (and how we treat others) are more meaningful when every day, every moment, every relationship and every person counts. Rather than meaningless forms before an eternal tomorrow, these entities have value in the here-and-now because of the purpose we create.

jaybird found this for you @ 20:45 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Monday, 14 February, 2005 }

weaving cosmic timelines

Hypertime, Hyperself, and Googling The Akashic

We've probably all heard about hyperspace by now, but what about hyper-time? Is there such a thing? Well, most likely. Each bubble universe by definition has its own space-time continuum, and so it would only make sense that other bubble universes have their own space-time continuums. Since they have their own self-contained space-times, why then would these timelines synchronize with ours? Logically, since they are separate, they wouldn't. Which means each timeline operates independently of our own. Although in a way it's a meaningless statement, while millions of years passed there, no time at all would pass here. The same could be true from their perspective. It's possible, as hard as it might be to imagine, universes with 3 time dimensions and 6 spatial ones. Better still, why not universes without space and time at all, but something altogether different and more extraordinary? Why not intelligences from realms where time and space would be completely alien to them, even restrictive from their perspective?

We exist and perceive our universe within certain boundary conditions. However, we have also noticed that if you change our perspective those boundary conditions can be broken or transcended. For example the universe has become a lot larger over the last century as our technologies have improved to probe it. Now we can send probes out of earth atmosphere, and in turn have greatly expanded our ability to understand and perceive the universe.

jaybird found this for you @ 12:08 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



what's autism like?

A genius explains [via MeFi]

Daniel Tammet is calculating 377 multiplied by 795. Actually, he isn't "calculating": there is nothing conscious about what he is doing. He arrives at the answer instantly. Since his epileptic fit, he has been able to see numbers as shapes, colours and textures. The number two, for instance, is a motion, and five is a clap of thunder. "When I multiply numbers together, I see two shapes. The image starts to change and evolve, and a third shape emerges. That's the answer. It's mental imagery. It's like maths without having to think."

Tammet is a "savant", an individual with an astonishing, extraordinary mental ability. An estimated 10% of the autistic population - and an estimated 1% of the non-autistic population - have savant abilities, but no one knows exactly why. A number of scientists now hope that Tammet might help us to understand better. Professor Allan Snyder, from the Centre for the Mind at the Australian National University in Canberra, explains why Tammet is of particular, and international, scientific interest. "Savants can't usually tell us how they do what they do," says Snyder. "It just comes to them. Daniel can. He describes what he sees in his head. That's why he's exciting. He could be the Rosetta Stone."

jaybird found this for you @ 07:59 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Sunday, 13 February, 2005 }

Through the Gates of Heaven

One Man's Journey to the Center of Existence


This is a personal story of enlightenment, found in a tattered notebook in the library of a burned down mansion, a long tale that seems to twist in on itself like a snake devouring its own tail. It is a map and a manifesto, but who would follow it, for it seems to be drawn inside out with the heavens in the middle of the earth. It is a stone, slammed into the face of reality and left to sink, with the ripples whispering its name across the chaotic seas of time. It is both truth and illusion, duking it out to see who will get the last laugh.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:30 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Saturday, 12 February, 2005 }

How To Talk When You Can't Speak

Communicating with unconscious minds.

This week, Neurology published an unsettling study of two brain-damaged men who are "minimally conscious"—able to breathe on their own but otherwise generally unresponsive. When neuroscientists scanned the patients' brains as they played audiotapes of loved ones, the activity was strikingly normal. The visual cortex of one of the men even lit up in a way that suggested he was visualizing the stories that his relatives told. One of the researchers told the New York Times that they've repeated the experiment on seven more patients and found the same results.

If the study holds water, we may need to rethink how we treat the estimated 300,000 Americans who are regarded as unreachable.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:15 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



old question, new question

What is Reality?

Physics tells us that the “out there” is an interference pattern of quantum magnetic fields. Our individual interfaces give it form, solidity, and meaning. Our human sensory apparatus, constructed from shared genetics, provides us all with a roughly equivalent representation of the interference pattern “out there". We all see the sun and the moon and buildings and cats, but cultural and psychological factors layer associative relationships on top of the shared forms. My sun is paternal and reminds me of desert sand and circling hawks. Another’s sun might be harsh and dessicating, inspiring melanoma. The interface becomes personalized. The reality we rely on is an exposure on the neurocortex painted by associative emotional complexes.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:11 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 08 February, 2005 }

Counterculture, Commodification, and Social Change

R.U. Sirius and Tom Frank in debate about the challenges of modren counterculture

RU: Human beings, even outside Kansas, define themselves by more than their economic interests. I could take you to a "Rainbow Gathering" where aging "hippies" who have spent their entire lives as poor as Wal Mart workers feel pretty good about their experiences (albeit they're still politically pissed off.) Even the poorest people in the world value ceremonies and other forms of shared cultural expression; they're passionate about music and maybe art; they care deeply about religious or spiritual matters; they have taboos and various levels of liberality or conservatism around sexuality; they like to be entertained, ad infinitum.

...

TF: There are countless examples through history of people overlooking their economic interests in favor of cultural/religious/ values factors. The present is one of them. The reason I emphasized this point so much... is, first of all, because almost nobody talks about right-wing politics in this way anymore. The problem in America is not that we have an excess of Marxists or Chicago-schoolers or anybody else ramming economics down our throat and forcing us to be rational economic choosers; it's just the opposite. In our culture, economic interests are not believed to be primary; the first thing you are supposed to care about is how flash you look in your new convertible or with that bag of xtreme corn chips in your hand.

jaybird found this for you @ 07:24 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Thursday, 03 February, 2005 }

Brian Swimme: Comprehensive Compassion

For mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme, the universe is a continuous, radiant, numinous revelation...

These are the ways in which I think we will be moving. How do you organize your technology so that as you use the technology, the actual use of it enhances the community? That's a tough one. So long as we have this worldview in which the earth itself is just stuff, empty material, and the individual is most important, then we're set up to just use it in any way we like. So the idea is to move from thinking of the earth as a storehouse to seeing the earth as our matrix, our fundamental community. That's one of the great things about Darwin. Darwin shows us that everything is kin. Talk about spiritual insight! Everything is kin at the level of genetic relatedness. Another simple way of saying this is: Let's build a civilization that is based upon the reality of our relationships. If we think of the human as being the top of this huge pyramid, then everything beneath us is of no value, and we can use it however we want. In the past, it wasn't noticed so much because our influence was smaller. But now, we've become a planetary power. And suddenly the defects of that attitude are made present to us through the consequences of our actions.

jaybird found this for you @ 21:20 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Wednesday, 02 February, 2005 }

Consciousness: The Factory Of Illusions

The mystery is no longer in our surroundings: it is inside ourselves. What we still cannot explain is precisely that: "ourselves". We may have a clue to what generates reasoning, memory and learning. But we have no scientific evidence and no credible theory for the one thing that we really know very well: our consciousness, our awareness of being us, ourselves.

No scientific theory of the universe can be said complete if it doesn't explain consciousness. We may doubt the existence of black holes, the properties of quarks and even that the Earth is round, but there is no way we can doubt that we are conscious. Consciousness is actually the only thing we are sure of: we are sure that "we" exist, and "we" doesn't mean our bodies but our consciousness. Everything else could be an illusion, but consciousness is what allows us to even think that everything else could be an illusion. It is the one thing we cannot reject.

jaybird found this for you @ 19:55 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



How do you know that you are not a brain in a vat? [via reality carnival]

While you were sleeping last night, an evil scientist sneaked into your room, anesthetized you, kidnapped you, and took you back to her laboratory. Once there, the scientist removed your brain, put it in a vat, and hooked it up to a sophisticated computer with a remarkable program that allows it to feed your nerve endings signals that duplicate the sensory impulses that usually inform your brain about what your body is doing and where you are.

jaybird found this for you @ 11:38 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 01 February, 2005 }

Revenge of the Right Brain: Logical and precise, left-brain thinking gave us the Information Age. Now comes the Conceptual Age - ruled by artistry, empathy, and emotion.

...Abundance has produced an ironic result. The Information Age has unleashed a prosperity that in turn places a premium on less rational sensibilities - beauty, spirituality, emotion. For companies and entrepreneurs, it's no longer enough to create a product, a service, or an experience that's reasonably priced and adequately functional. In an age of abundance, consumers demand something more...

Liberated by this prosperity but not fulfilled by it, more people are searching for meaning. From the mainstream embrace of such once-exotic practices as yoga and meditation to the rise of spirituality in the workplace to the influence of evangelism in pop culture and politics, the quest for meaning and purpose has become an integral part of everyday life. And that will only intensify as the first children of abundance, the baby boomers, realize that they have more of their lives behind them than ahead. In both business and personal life, now that our left-brain needs have largely been sated, our right-brain yearnings will demand to be fed.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:21 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Sunday, 30 January, 2005 }

Wade Davis: Feel the Loa, Taste the Vision Vine

We live in a time of great hope and great potential horror. Thirty years ago, the terms ‘biosphere’ and ‘biodiversity’ were esoteric words known to just a few scientists. Now they’re in the curriculum taught to school children. I want to introduce the idea of the ‘ethnosphere.’ The ethnosphere is the entire scope of human thought, mythology, drama, philosophy, knowledge and dreams from the dawn of the species until now—and that’s being eroded at an even more dire rate than the environment. The linguistic evidence is the most dramatic illustration. When our mothers and fathers were born, there were 6,000 languages spoken on Earth. Now, half of those are not being taught to schoolchildren, not being passed on to new generations. When you lose a language, you sever the link to that entire intellectual tradition. What we’re doing is reducing the repetoire of the human race, reducing our collective ability to adapt and respond to conditions...

So what I say to people is, would you rather live in a monochromatic world where everyone is the same, or would you rather live in a world full of colors and diversity, a more poetic and dramatic world? And the answer is always the same. What we need to realize is that diversity isn’t a luxury—it’s the sign of health. Look at this way: Indigenous people number maybe 300 million, about 5 percent of the world’s population. But their knowledge represents half of the world’s cultural heritage.

jaybird found this for you @ 17:02 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



Sasha Shulgin: The Alchemist of Ecstasy

When Shulgin had his first psychedelic experience in 1960, he was a young U.C. Berkeley biochemistry Ph.D. working at Dow Chemical. He had already been interested for several years in the chemistry of mescaline, the active ingredient in peyote, when one spring day a few friends offered to keep an eye on him while he tried it himself. He spent the afternoon enraptured by his surroundings. Most important, he later wrote, he realized that everything he saw and thought ''had been brought about by a fraction of a gram of a white solid, but that in no way whatsoever could it be argued that these memories had been contained within the white solid. . . . I understood that our entire universe is contained in the mind and the spirit. We may choose not to find access to it, we may even deny its existence, but it is indeed there inside us, and there are chemicals that can catalyze its availability.''

Epiphanies don't come much grander than that, and Shulgin's interest in psychoactive drugs bloomed into an obsession. ''There was,'' he remembers thinking, ''this remarkably rich and unexplored area that I had to explore.''

jaybird found this for you @ 13:57 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Friday, 21 January, 2005 }


Brion Gysin's Dream Machine in NYT's Home and Garden section?

At first glance it looked like something in the window of a TriBeCa furniture store, an oversize lamp from the early 60's maybe. But when Kate Chapman flicked a switch and the three-foot high latticework cylinder in front of me began to spin, it was clear that we were dealing with more than just another piece of midcentury flotsam.

The machine started to cast strobelike patterns of bright light on our faces, and when I closed my eyes as instructed, there they were, the dazzling multicolored forms that I'd been told about: mandalas and crosses and even Mandelbrot fractals, dancing across my eyelids.

jaybird found this for you @ 15:30 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



{ Sunday, 16 January, 2005 }

the wisdom of dr. king

  • We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.

  • In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality.

  • A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

  • Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

  • I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

  • Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.

  • Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

  • The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

  • The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be...The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

  • We must meet hate with love. We must meet physical force with soul force. There is still a voice crying out through the vista of time, saying: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. Then, and only then, can you matriculate into the university of eternal life. That same voice cries out in terms lifted to cosmic proportions: He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. And history is replete with the bleached bones of nations that failed to follow this command. We must follow nonviolence and love.

    jaybird found this for you @ 18:11 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Friday, 14 January, 2005 }

    David Chalmers' Collection of papers on consciousness, a directory of 2160 online papers on consciousness and related topics.

    jaybird found this for you @ 21:49 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    The Trip Receptacles was a series of three 3-hour shows consisting of all-psychedelic, all-entheogen radio, featuring names like Leary, Grof, Capra, McKenna and more. Nearly four hours of shows on mp3. [via FutureHi].

    jaybird found this for you @ 17:44 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Wednesday, 12 January, 2005 }

    The Secret Lives of Just About Everybody

    ...psychologists say that most normal adults are well equipped to start a secret life, if not to sustain it. The ability to hold a secret is fundamental to healthy social development, they say, and the desire to sample other identities - to reinvent oneself, to pretend - can last well into adulthood. And in recent years researchers have found that some of the same psychological skills that help many people avoid mental distress can also put them at heightened risk for prolonging covert activities.

    "In a very deep sense, you don't have a self unless you have a secret, and we all have moments throughout our lives when we feel we're losing ourselves in our social group, or work or marriage, and it feels good to grab for a secret, or some subterfuge, to reassert our identity as somebody apart..."

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:36 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Monday, 10 January, 2005 }

    Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sleep (But Were Too Afraid To Ask)

    Until not long ago, just about until electricity became ubiquitous, humans used to have a sleep pattern quite different from what we consider "normal" today. At dusk you go to sleep, at some point in the middle of the night you wake up for an hour or two, then fall asleep again until dawn. Thus there are two events of falling asleep and two events of waking up every night (plus, perhaps, a short nap in the afternoon). As indigenous people today, as well as people in non-electrified rural areas of the world, still follow this pattern, it is likely that our ancestors did, too.The bimodal sleep pattern was first seen in laboratory animals (various birds, lizards and mammals) in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, i.e, before everyone moved their research to mice and rats who have erratic (un-consolidated) sleep patterns. The research on humans kept in constant conditions, as well as field work in primitive communities (including non-electrified rural places in what is otherwise considered the First World) confirmed the bimodality of sleep in humans, particularly in winter.

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:06 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Sunday, 09 January, 2005 }

    Considering the last few omens, indeed it do: It Pays to Trust Your Gut

    "When you walk out into the street and suddenly realize that a truck is bearing down on you, do you have time to think through all your options? Of course not... The only way that human beings could ever have survived as a species for as long as we have is that we've developed another kind of decision-making apparatus that's capable of making very quick judgments based on very little information."

    jaybird found this for you @ 18:00 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Thursday, 06 January, 2005 }

    Great Minds Queried: What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?

    We are in the age of "searchculture", in which Google and other search engines are leading us into a future rich with an abundance of correct answers along with an accompanying naïve sense of certainty. In the future, we will be able to answer the question, but will we be bright enough to ask it?

    This is an alternative path. It may be that it's okay not to be certain, but to have a hunch, and to perceive on that basis. There is also evidence here that the scientists are thinking beyond their individual fields. Yes, they are engaged in the science of their own areas of research, but more importantly they are also thinking deeply about creating new understandings about the limits of science, of seeing science not just as a question of knowing things, but as a means of tuning into the deeper questions of who we are and how we know.

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:04 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Monday, 03 January, 2005 }

    Key23: Memewars

    Across arid deserts sand blown and scorched three great beings rage against each other for dominance, whipped by winds and beaten back by the melting ochre of an aging Ra hung heavy and languid in the sky. Like the winds themselves, the dust devils, they whorl and spin, at times fierce and swift, at others thin and empty.

    One such entity gathers like flies around the Nile people, buzzing in their ears and kissing their hearts, offering identity and meaning, culture and salvation. It’s arms are thick and multitude, enough to smite the pharaohs and part the seas. Yesheva is its name and it’s as much of a creation of them as they are of it - a metameme deity nourished and fed in mythic symbiosis. The deity is the enduring vessel of the culture protecting and transporting it’s archives codified in poetic myth and symbolism. The priesthood ensures that the metameme continues to have hosts - the more the better, though for Yesheva it’s been a long, difficult battle with little returns to show for the effort.

    jaybird found this for you @ 15:36 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Thursday, 30 December, 2004 }

    No brainer, er... Did animals' 'sixth sense' save them from tsunami?

    Wild animals seem to have escaped the Indian Ocean tsunami, adding weight to notions they possess a "sixth sense" for disasters, experts said on Thursday. Sri Lankan wildlife officials have said the giant waves that killed over 24,000 people along the Indian Ocean island's coast seemingly missed wild beasts, with no dead animals found. "No elephants are dead, not even a dead hare or rabbit. I think animals can sense disaster. They have a sixth sense. They know when things are happening," H.D. Ratnayake, deputy director of Sri Lanka's Wildlife Department, said on Wednesday

    Hardly a case, I think, of a 'sixth sense,' but rather the application of the existing ones in tune with the natural environment, something we humans have long since abandoned at-large. If animals can navigate by detecting differing magnetic fields, subtleties of light and the stars, and simply by sensing changes in the earth, than biologically speaking 'higher order' creatures must have the same talents. It's thinking too damn much, and intellectual over-analysis (versus sensual intuitiveness) of our surroundings that's made that a latent talent.

    jaybird found this for you @ 20:06 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Mapping Miracles into the Machine

    The fact is that as I type this document the things that I am thinking at this time at this place are affected by things in the room, by my past and present(and future?), by things outside the room, etc. In this way this document is connected to everything in the universe in its creation and existence. In its own way, this document, or any form of data for that matter, provides a glimpse into the underlying pattern that created it. In its own way this document is a "miracle" because if one figures out the probability of my creating this exact document at this time in this place the probability is almost zero, yet I AM CREATING IT. It is not like creating objects out of thin air or moving objects with your mind, or raising the dead, but just as miraculous in its own way. This document is miraculous in its uniqueness, which is connected to everything involved in its creation.

    jaybird found this for you @ 16:34 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Rudy Rucker: God without God

    We could simply say that asking God for help has an organic effect upon a person’s brain. In other words, expressing a desire to have a spiritual life might activate, let us say, certain brain centers which release endorphins that in turn affect the threshold levels of one’s neurons. And these changes nudge the brain activities to a new strange attractor. A deterministic chaotic bifurcation occurs.

    Do I really think it works like that? Well, to be truthful, I’ve always felt comfortable about reaching out for contact with the divine. The world is big and strange, and we have only the barest inkling about what lies beneath the surface.

    jaybird found this for you @ 11:30 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Wednesday, 29 December, 2004 }

    The Monadology of Wilhelm Leibniz

    ...there is no way of explaining how a Monad can be altered in quality or internally changed by any other created thing; since it is impossible to change the place of anything in it or to conceive in it any internal motion which could be produced, directed, increased or diminished therein, although all this is possible in the case of compounds, in which there are changes among the parts. The Monads have no windows, through which anything could come in or go out. Accidents cannot separate themselves from substances nor go about outside of them, as the 'sensible species' of the Scholastics used to do. Thus neither substance nor accident can come into a Monad from outside.

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:27 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Friday, 24 December, 2004 }

    Bucky Fuller: Accelerating Acceleration

    The year I was born, Marconi invented the wireless, but it did not get into any practical use until I was twelve years of age, when the first steamship sent an SOS, when it was in distress, by wireless. Think of it. Great many miles–and the world began to know the ship was in distress, and a ship then rushed to its aid. Absolutely unexpected. My father and mother were saying, "Wireless? Nonsense!" And, when I was three the electron was discovered and nobody talked about that; it wasn’t in any of the newspapers. Nobody was interested in the electron, they didn’t know what was the electron or whether it was discovered. I was brought up that humanity would never get to the North Pole. Absolutely impossible. They’d never get to the South Pole. On Mercator maps, it didn’t even show anything up–the northernmost points were a very rugged kind of a line, if you see it, with nothing beyond that. When I was fourteen, man did get to the North Pole. When I was sixteen, he got to the South Pole. The "impossibles" were happening.

    jaybird found this for you @ 10:22 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Thursday, 23 December, 2004 }

    Why I became a Panexperientialist (via FutureHi)

    I did not feel that I was a machine entirely, because I had feelings and machines didn't seem to have feelings. Very early on I was troubled by how consciousness fitted into a mechanistic universe. When I raised this with my materialistic scientific colleagues, they invariably said this was a bit of a problem, philosophers had been arguing that one for ages, they always disagreed and never came to any agreed conclusion. I remember, as a graduate student, my supervisor saying that what the world needed was more science and more scientists, allowing perhaps for one of two philosophers but no more. The chance of philosophers explaining the world was so small that it was a waste of resources to have many of them around. That was one response I got to my dilemma.

    jaybird found this for you @ 17:57 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Monday, 20 December, 2004 }

    Physics and Consciousness: Shamanism (via FutureHi)

    "By invoking modern physics, we can say, together with many a shaman, that all reality is only a continuum of the same spectrum. Put otherwise, reality is always in a state of Being or Existing."

    jaybird found this for you @ 17:28 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Saturday, 18 December, 2004 }

    Psycho-Spiritual Transformer

    The Hindu mystic Aurobindo prophesied the coming of the “supermental state,” which would have direct effects on our physical reality. He also suggested that a lot of the powers that we have now projected out into our technologies might be reintegrated by human consciousness when we had stabilized our new condition. Kurzweil sees the “New Jerusalem” as one of endlessly more subtle technological advances and modifications to the brain and the body. I suspect that one aspect of the shift is the supercession of all sorts of dualisms (for instance, technological versus natural), yet I still side a bit with Aurobindo. I think that we will gain more from exploring the depth-dimensions of the human psyche than from technological modifications, and in fact may end up dismantling the greater portion of the technosphere once we realize our true condition.

    jaybird found this for you @ 15:04 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Friday, 17 December, 2004 }

    Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House

    Cultures do not spring forth fully formed. The process is arduous and slow, often arising from the ashes and remnants of various predecessor cultures.
    The original knights were like Hell’s Angels.
    Yet ... just how antecedent cultures are spawned and formed remains unclear. This is especially true of radical cultures, those that depart from the mainstream, and run counter to it.

    How these countercultures are born … how they develop …why they succeed … why they fail … why certain tenets survive … and why others whither and disappear: these are burning questions, civilization’s existence may very well depend upon the answers.

    jaybird found this for you @ 15:41 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Thursday, 16 December, 2004 }

    Buckminster Fuller: Big Picture Thinking

    So, we are a little planet of a rather inferior star which is one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy and we know of billions* of galaxies. So you get an idea of our little planet, and you and I are utterly invisible on it. We take pictures of our planet coming in from the moon, when you can see through the cloud cover, you can see the blue of the waters and brown of the land, but you can’t make out a human being. You can’t even make out a mountain, let alone a human being...

    We are absolutely invisible on a really negligible little tiny planet of a rather negligible star, which is one member of a hundred billion of known million billion such stars. So you multiply the billion times a hundred billion and you’ll get an idea.

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:07 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Wednesday, 15 December, 2004 }

    How the World Represents Itself to the Mind

    Our concepts of fields have arisen out of the intimate relationship between mind and matter and the ability of matter to represent its actual structure and dynamics in symbolic form within the psyche. Indeed, the psyche itself possesses structures and effects that have direct analogies to physical fields. The relationship between these psychic and symbolic representations and the creation of physical theories can lead to a confusion of myth and folklore with objective science and can even lead to psychological disturbances.

    jaybird found this for you @ 15:07 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Tuesday, 14 December, 2004 }

    Blind man uses 'sixth sense' to detect emotion.

    A completely blind British man has been shown to possess an apparent "sixth sense" which lets him recognise emotions on people's faces, according to British scientists. The researchers say the 52-year-old was able to react to pictures of human faces showing emotions such as anger, happiness or fear. The man, identified only as 'patient X', has suffered two strokes which damaged the brain areas that process visual signals, leaving him completely blind.

    I think this is another step in verifying that consciousness exists outside the body, as studies at Rutgers have been edging toward suggesting. Further, based on observed neural activity, it appears that we are constantly processing information bits, even in our most relaxed state. That need not necessarily be reflected, internal stimuli.

    jaybird found this for you @ 10:08 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Monday, 13 December, 2004 }

    Deoxy: God as Consciousness without an Object

    The culmination of the series is that Consciousness-without-an-object is SPACE. This is probably the most abstract and yet the most satifying way of looking at the universe which I have come across anywhere. If one pursues this type of thinking and feeling and gets into the introceptive spaces, the universe originates on a ground, a substrate of Consciousness-Without-an-Object: the basic fabric of the universe beyond space, beyond time, beyond topology, beyond matter, beyond energy, is Consciousness. Consciousness without any form, without any reification, without any realization.

    jaybird found this for you @ 21:57 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Sunday, 12 December, 2004 }

    Dr. Susan Blackmore: A window on the mind

    Take the common experience of losing our separate self, or becoming one with the universe. This may seem, to some, like mystical nonsense, but in fact it fits far better with a scientific understanding of the world than our normal dualist view. Most of us feel, most of the time, that we are some kind of separate self who inhabits our body like a driver in a car or a pilot in a plane. We speak about “my body” and even “my brain” as though “I” were something separate from them both. Throughout history many people have believed in a soul or spirit that can leave the body and even survive after death. Yet science has long known that this cannot be so. There is no observer inside the brain who has our experiences, and no space in the brain from where an inner self can control it. There is just a brain that is made of exactly the same kind of stuff as the world around it. In other words, we really are one with the universe.

    jaybird found this for you @ 13:44 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Thursday, 09 December, 2004 }

    This is beautiful: Wake

    No road, no trace of a path, nothing more than the briefest of wakes: only the anonymous authors of the Daodejing thought this sufficient to base a coherent philosophy upon. But it's not as if no one else ever took notice of such things. There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four things which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid (Proverbs 30:18-19). I am not sure in what manner Agur ben Yakeh committed his words to writing - quill and papyrus? But of course this may have been a popular saying for generations before this otherwise unknown sheik captured and preserved it - just the shell, no soft vowels - on whatever scroll.

    jaybird found this for you @ 18:50 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    The last punch I threw was in 5th grade, I swear: vLeft-handers flourish in violent society

    Left-handed people thrive best in the most murderous societies, according to a study of tribes across the world. The discovery may help to answer the riddle of why a minority of left-handers persist in human populations. Being a southpaw is an advantage in a host of confrontational situations. Lefties are far more common at the top of sports such as boxing and fencing than in normal society. The benefit comes from the element of surprise: most opponents will be less used to facing a left-handed adversary.

    But left-handedness comes at a cost. Developmental experts think that stress during development or birth may divert the nervous system from its default, right-handed path. And developmental stress is also linked to reduced lifespan, low birthweight and increased incidence of immune and nervous disorders, meaning that natural selection might be expected to weed out lefties altogether.

    jaybird found this for you @ 15:27 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Wednesday, 08 December, 2004 }

    Two-thirds of school-age children have an imaginary companion by age 7

    Having an imaginary companion appears to be an ongoing and changing process because a child doesn't necessarily play with the same imaginary companion throughout childhood. Carlson said some children reported having multiple and serial imaginary companions. The number of imaginary companions described by children ranged from one to 13 different entities...

    The researchers also looked at childhood impersonation -- pretending to be an imaginary character -- and found it to be almost universal. Virtually all preschoolers pretended to be an animal or another person and 95 percent of the school-age children engaged in impersonation. The researchers did not look at impersonation in the same detail as they did imaginary companions, and were surprised that so many school-age children continued to engage in the activity. One tantalizing finding was that school-age children who did little or no impersonation scored low on emotional understanding of other people...

    jaybird found this for you @ 10:03 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Thursday, 02 December, 2004 }

    Nature's Mind: the Quantum Hologram

    The missing concepts that prevented the earliest investigators of consciousness from succeeding in their quest were 1) a generalized theory of information, and 2) quantum science itself, with the associated phenomena of nonlocality, the zero point energy field and the quantum hologram. These associated phenomena are still not well understood but are sufficiently validated today by both theory and experiment to provide a basis for postulating a necessary condition for the existence of consciousness phenomena, as experienced in the observable four dimensional space/time universe. A third concept, chaos theory, is also necessary to understand the nonlinear evolutionary processes that caused consciousness to evolve toward the anthropic consciousness experienced by humans. In particular, chaos theory maps far from equilibrium systems and demonstrates the irreversibility of nonlinear processes and thus the irreversibility of time in the macro-scale universe.

    jaybird found this for you @ 12:08 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    This is Not the Title

    This is Not the Title of This Essay: A Playful Look at Attempts to Solve the Problems of Paradox and Self-Reference

    This essay is full of mistakes. Idea after idea and sentence after sentence is simply wrong. This sentence, for example, is false. Worse yet, this not even complete sentence! A long time ago (so the legend goes) a Cretan prophet by the name of Epimenides declared that "All Cretans are liars." This paradoxical statement has come to be known as the Epimenides paradox or the Liar paradox This Adam (or atom) of paradoxes has been reformulated into countless variants, yielding such gems as "I am lying," and "this sentence is false." It has been split, ("The following sentence is true. The preceding sentence is false.") boxed, translated and quoted in the Bible. In short, one would assume that the Liar Paradox had been beaten to death. In 1931, a German mathematician named Kurt Gödel breathed new life into the Liar paradox in a paper poetically entitled "On Formally Undecidable Propositions in Principia Mathematica and Related Systems I": Gödel's work demonstrated that paradox forms an implicit part of every axiomatic system of logical reasoning. In this essay, I will be examining the problems which self reference and paradox pose to systems of reasoning especially formalized mathematical and logical reasoning. These two areas, in their quest for objective truth become very interesting in the light of Gödel's revelations. In the end, it may turn out that their quests for a formalized objective truth may have been in vain. In addition, I will sometimes be referring to myself (with good reason).

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:05 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Tuesday, 30 November, 2004 }

    Genesis P-Orridge: Behavioural Cut-Ups and Magick

    My primary concerns in space and time: That situation which society informs us is named "being alive," or on more intellectual days, "reality;" are Control, Human Behaviour, and an inkling that underlying everything is a web of parallel causes and parallel effects upon which we can exert more manipulative pressure than we are led to believe by the aforementioned Society. Whilst is is true that we did not ask to be here, it is also true that we did not ask to not be here either. Birth and Death at this stage of evolution appear to our everyday senses to be thee only certain points in this
    maelstrom of "being alive." Thee word being is such a nice word, to be, to be in, being, a state of mind and/or body, it is a rather coumforting and seductive word. Yet like all words it has reverberations. Languages interfacing, wars and migrations cross fertilising, needs to do more than grunt, urges to express more than biological functions and pre-requisites.

    jaybird found this for you @ 11:11 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Sunday, 28 November, 2004 }

    Antero Alli: The Secret Marriage of Art and Magick

    Imagine information as fresh experience -- spontaneous, unknown and alive -- rather than the perpetual accumulation of dead data. This breakthrough in creative thought eventually found its assimilation in twentieth century culture. What the scientist discovers through experiments, the artist experiences through new ways of perceiving, hearing, feeling and sensing. While Einstein made scientific history with his theory of relativity and Heisenberg with his uncertainty principle, the Surrealist "dada" revolution (Dali, Cocteau, Satie, etc.), James Joyce's omnicultural Finnegan's Wake, and the music of Jazz brought the living experience to the people. Both scientists and artists recognized this dynamic shift from a world view that was "predictable, solid and fixed" to a new vision of the universe simulatenously wilder, more plural, malleable and unfathomable. To those minds awakening from the slumber of nineteenth century "certainty" trance, so-called "reality" became a realm of immeasurable possibilities with countless interpretations. Any culture, or person, failing to assimilate this transformation into their perceptions and lives, remains in the past; it never enters the twentieth century let alone, the twenty-first.

    jaybird found this for you @ 17:30 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Thursday, 25 November, 2004 }

    On Dreams by Aristotle [via MeFi]

    He will sometimes, in the moment of awakening, surprise the images which present themselves to him in sleep, and find that they are really but movements lurking in the organs of sense. And indeed some very young persons, if it is dark, though looking with wide open eyes, see multitudes of phantom figures moving before them, so that they often cover up their heads in terror.

    jaybird found this for you @ 23:41 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Monday, 22 November, 2004 }

    Hakim Bey: New Primitives

    Luddism as a tactic has much to recommend it: -- on the local level, machine-smashing can actually accomplish something. Even one or two nuclear reactors have been shut down by "sabotage" (legal, political, or actual) -- and one can always gain at least a moment of satisfaction with a wooden shoe or a monkey wrench.

    On a "global" level however -- the "strategic" level -- the totality of the neo-primitive critique of the totality itself begins to take on a disturbing air of -- totalitarianism. This can bee seen most clearly in certain strains of "deep" ecology and "ecofascism", but it remains an inherent problem even in the most "left-wing" strains of primitivism. The puritan impulse -- purification, the realization of purity -- imparts a certain rigidity and aggression to all possible actions on behalf of such a total critique. This must seem especially the case when the critique extents beyond, say, urban civilization (or "History") into the "prehistoric" realm of art, music, techné, language, and symbolic mediation itself.

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:23 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Sunday, 21 November, 2004 }

    Party People at the End of Time

    As a perceptual organism embedded in 4 dimensions, I record existence. My recording range is only limited by the range of the senses. Whether memory is total or fragmentary I continuously receive and categorize data, tagging memories with associative relationships to smells, emotions, feelings, etc... and logging them into the holographic library of experience. Yet there is some evidence to suggest that the brain records everything that's perceived, filling huge volumes of memory with even the most minute details. Who knows what the storage capacity of the holographic brain might be but it surely dwarfs even the greatest giga-terabit computers. It may even be infinite.

    jaybird found this for you @ 21:07 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Thursday, 18 November, 2004 }

    Grand Illusions, a site for the enquiring mind.
    With optical illusions, scientific toys, visual effects, and even a little magic.

    jaybird found this for you @ 16:15 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Sunday, 07 November, 2004 }

    The Critical Psychology Project:Transforming Society and Transforming Psychology

    ...in common with many self-defined "critical" approaches in disciplines such as sociology and law, our ultimate political goal is to help bring about a radically better society. Using psychological insights to evaluate, synthesize, and extend competing perspectives, critical psychology explicitly or implicitly envisions what this fundamentally better society might look like and how we might help bring it about. Our assumptions, conclusions, and speculations often take us beyond the relatively minor reforms advocated by politically liberal mainstream psychologists. Although we may never reach our ultimate goal, it provides a fluid working model today as we try to learn better how to expose and oppose injustice, oppression, and other institutional barriers to a meaningful life.

    jaybird found this for you @ 16:04 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Friday, 05 November, 2004 }

    Conquest of the Self-Evident: The Philosophy of Dostoevsky

    How has it happened, how could it happen, that the wisest are in doubt where the ordinary man can see no difficulty whatsoever, and why are the most painful and terrible difficulties always reserved for the wisest? For what can be more terrible than not to know whether one is alive or dead? "Justice" should insist that this knowledge or this ignorance should be the prerogative of every human being. What am I saying: Justice! Logic itself demands it, for it would be absurd that it should be granted to some to distinguish between life and death, while others were bereft of this power; for those who possessed it would then be completely different from those to whom it is refused, and we should hardly have the right to comprehend them both under the category of human beings. He only is a man who knows certainly what life is and what death. He who does not know, he who even occasionally, were it but for a single instant, ceases to perceive the dividing line which separates life from death, ceases to be a man and becomes... what? Where is the Oedipus who can resolve this question and penetrate to the depths of this supreme mystery?

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:58 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Wednesday, 03 November, 2004 }

    Empires Fade

    The powers of control are scrambling to keep up with the ever-quickening pace of change. But conquerors rise and empires fade. In the heart of order the seed of chaos finds sustenance. Control is predicated on stasis and the oppression of dissent. In a dynamic nonlinear world, control will always be cast off by the forces of evolution. Power-mad apes battling over dwindling resources, driven by competition and the illusory fear of otherness, are simply caught in the spasms of a vestigial tail held on the chopping block.

    jaybird found this for you @ 18:55 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Monday, 01 November, 2004 }

    From Proletariat to Soulitariat

    The soulitarian is the creative and information worker who knows that there has to be a finely struck balance between the self that is demanded by the job, and the self that is brought to the job. The proletarians in Roman times brought his body to the service of the master. The soulitarian is often asked to bring her mind, imagination and heart also. Yet will there be true innovation in a company if it invites people to commit too much of their interiority and hinterland to a particular goal-directed enterprise? In advance of companies realising that they can't colonise their employees sensibilities entirely, soulitarians make sure that they have some kind of supporting matrix - friends, interests, private tech, a mission or activism - that can allow them to get some distance from workplace imperatives. Many soulitarians take the freelance option, of course - composing a portfolio career of value-adding and -creating activities. But their experience of digitality and connectedness over the last decade gives them a different take on how organisations and production situations can be. Soulitarians put the company and enterprise "into play" - until it either changes, or shows them the door.

    jaybird found this for you @ 08:52 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Saturday, 30 October, 2004 }

    Revolutionary Minds: A selection of icons and iconoclasts whose radical ideas are inspiring a vivid dialogue that is deepening our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

    jaybird found this for you @ 15:26 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Friday, 29 October, 2004 }

    The Great Bear in Maine

    Myths are, we might say, endemic to the world, and the stories about the Big Dipper show this. We call it the Big Dipper because its seven brightest stars visually resemble a ladle. A thousand years ago, Britons called it the Wain because they thought it resembled a wagon - at least, so goes the theory. But poking a little past the merely visual, the Big Dipper's scientific name, held over from Latin, is Ursa Major, which means the Great Bear. The constellation covers not only the seven stars of the cup and handle - which are also the bear's body and tail - but about fourteen other stars outlining the head, neck and legs as well.

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:56 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Saturday, 23 October, 2004 }

    Quantum Consciousness

    The hermetic tradition has long been concerned with the relationship between the inner world of our consciousness and the outer world of nature, between the microcosm and the macrocosm, the below and the above, the material and the spiritual, the centric and the peripheral. The hermetic world view held by such as Robert Fludd, pictured a great chain of being linking our inner spark of consciousness with all the facets of the Great World. There was a grand platonic metaphysical clockwork, as it were, through which our inner world was linked by means of a hierarchy of beings and planes to the highest unity of the Divine.

    jaybird found this for you @ 14:18 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Thursday, 21 October, 2004 }

    Under the Surface, the Brain Seethes With Undiscovered Activity

    There’s an old myth that we only use 10 percent of our brains, but researchers at the University of Rochester have found in reality that roughly 80 percent of our cognitive power may be cranking away on tasks completely unknown to us. Curiously, this clandestine activity does not exist in the youngest brains, leading scientists to believe that the mysterious goings-on that absorb the majority of our minds are dedicated to subconsciously reprocessing our initial thoughts and experiences. The research, which has possible profound implications for our very basis of understanding reality, appears in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.

    jaybird found this for you @ 19:24 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Tuesday, 19 October, 2004 }

    Future Hi: Transcending Hierarchy: Our Survival Depends on It.

    After thinking about the future for as long I have, I agree with Bucky Fuller that humanity's fate is locked into one of two possible outcomes - utopia or oblivion. I believe such an outcome comes down to just one thing: Unless humanity trancends hierarchy, we are doomed to oblivion.

    jaybird found this for you @ 11:13 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Sunday, 17 October, 2004 }

    Art versus Nature

    ...alchemy challenged the boundary between art and nature most spectacularly with the idea of the homunculus, a "little man" generated artificially in a glass vessel by the knowing alchemist. Newman shows that related stories date from late antiquity and came into the Latin West via Arabic sources. But it was the German physician and mystic Paracelsus who in the 16th century definitively created the idea of the homunculus as a feature of species-creating alchemy, which now transcended the making of gold.

    jaybird found this for you @ 18:38 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Running Backward Into The Future: Some Considerations About the Nature of Time and Memory (via abuddha's memes)

    . . . each age has described consciousness in terms of its own theme and concerns. In the golden age of Greece, when men traveled about in freedom while slaves did the work, consciousness was as free as that. ... A millennium later, Augustine among the caverned hills of Carthage was astonished at the "mountains and hills of my high imaginations", "the plains and caves and caverns of my memory" with its recesses of "manifold and spacious chambers..." Note how the metaphors of mind are the world it perceives.

    jaybird found this for you @ 12:41 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Saturday, 16 October, 2004 }

    Frightening Neuromarketing: Coke versus Pepsi: It's all in the head

    The preference for Coke versus Pepsi is not only a matter for the tongue to decide, Samuel McClure and his colleagues have found. Brain scans of people tasting the soft drinks reveal that knowing which drink they're tasting affects their preference and activates memory-related brain regions that recall cultural influences. Thus, say the researchers, they have shown neurologically how a culturally based brand image influences a behavioral choice.

    jaybird found this for you @ 16:17 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Friday, 15 October, 2004 }

    Kurzweil: The technology of universal intelligence

    Levels of intelligence far greater than our own are going to evolve within this century. We will ultimately saturate all of the matter and energy in our area of the universe with our intelligence.

    jaybird found this for you @ 11:28 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Wednesday, 13 October, 2004 }

    Down with 21st century philistinism

    'Cultural institutions like universities and galleries no longer challenge us or encourage us to question what we know. Instead they flatter us. But flattery will get us nowhere.'

    jaybird found this for you @ 17:49 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Tuesday, 12 October, 2004 }

    How you can break Murphy's Law

    A new mathematical formula has proved Murphy's Law really does strike at the worst possible time. Ordinary people have long known that computers crash on deadline and cars break down in emergencies, while previous studies have shown the law, also called Sod's Law, is not a myth and toast really does fall buttered side down. But now a panel of experts has provided the statistical rule for predicting the law of "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" - or ((U+C+I) x (10-S))/20 x A x 1/(1-sin(F/10)).

    jaybird found this for you @ 09:34 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Sunday, 03 October, 2004 }

    On The Order of Things

    On The Order of Things and the Creator

    "The 'idea' of justice is not identical with anything that is just: it is something other than particular things, which particular things partake of. Not being particular, it cannot itself exist in the world of sense: it is eternally itself, immutable and indestructible."

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:36 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Saturday, 02 October, 2004 }

    The meaning of life just

    The meaning of life just might be a website, which addresses big, cosmic questions (Is the universe imbued with purpose? Does life have meaning even if the universe isn’t imbued with purpose?) as well as some littler, but still significant questions (How do you keep from going crazy in the modern world?). I’ve gone around asking scientists, social scientists, philosophers, and theologians such questions, and the results are here for you to see.

    jaybird found this for you @ 17:54 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    On The Epistemological and Metaphysical

    On The Epistemological and Metaphysical Aspects of Intuition

    Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was a distinguished French philosopher of the twentieth century. He held one of the leading academic positions in France, the chair of modern philosophy at the College de France, and also won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1927. Bergson developed an account that emphasized the subjective experience of time as the ground for human freedom and argued that thought, creativity, motion, and evolution are all products of a creative impulse that emerges in opposition to material entropy. In the following excerpt, taken from his work An Introduction to Metaphysics, Bergson asserts that we can either know a thing from an outside perspective, by analysis, or from the inside, by intuition. Knowledge from the outside is merely relative and fails to capture the inner dynamic and unity of the real. Once analysis breaks things up, it cannot put the pieces back together again. What is left is a distorted set of static perspectives, not a real dynamic thing. Intuitive knowledge, like the kind we have of our own consciousness, grasps all of the complex and changing parts of a thing from the inside as a unified whole. This intuitive knowledge is true metaphysical knowledge, which cannot even be comprehended or communicated using the concepts of analysis, which are too rigid to capture the dynamic flow of things.

    jaybird found this for you @ 10:25 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Wednesday, 29 September, 2004 }

    Human/Machine Anomalies In these experiments

    Human/Machine Anomalies

    In these experiments human operators attempt to influence the behavior of a variety of mechanical, electronic, optical, acoustical, and fluid devices to conform to pre-stated intentions, without recourse to any known physical processes. In unattended calibrations these sophisticated machines all produce strictly random outputs, yet the experimental results display increases in information content that can only be attributed to the influence of the consciousness of the human operator.

    jaybird found this for you @ 11:53 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Tuesday, 28 September, 2004 }

    The Promises of Monsters Nature

    The Promises of Monsters

    Nature is... a topos, a place, in the sense of a rhetorician's place or topic for consideration of common themes; nature is, strictly, a commonplace. We turn to this topic to order our discourse, to compose our memory. As a topic in this sense, nature also reminds us that in seventeenth-century English the "topick gods" were the local gods, the gods specific to places and peoples. We need these spirits, rhetorically if we can't have them any other way. We need them in order to reinhabit, precisely, common places-locations that are widely shared, inescapably local, worldly, enspirited; i.e., topical. In this sense, nature is the place to rebuild public culture.5 Nature is also a tropos, a trope. It is figure, construction, artifact, movement, displacement. Nature cannot pre-exist its construction. This construction is based on a particular kind of move- a tropos or "turn." Faithful to the Greek, as tro'pos nature is about turning. Troping, we turn to nature as if to the earth, to the primal stuff-geotropic, physiotropic. Topically, we travel toward the earth, a commonplace. In discoursing on nature, we turn from Plato and his heliotropic son's blinding star to see something else, another kind of figure. I do not turn from vision, but I do seek something other than enlightenment in these sightings of science studies as cultural studies. Nature is a topic of public discourse on which much turns, even the earth.

    jaybird found this for you @ 21:42 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Long Trip for Psychedelic Drugs

    Long Trip for Psychedelic Drugs

    Psychedelic drugs are inching their way slowly but surely toward prescription status in the United States, thanks to a group of persistent scientists who believe drugs like ecstasy and psilocybin can help people with terminal cancer, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name just a few.

    The Heffter Research Institute, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies and others have managed to persuade the Food and Drug Administration to approve a handful of clinical trials using psychedelics. The movement seems to be gaining ground in recent years. Since 2001, the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Administration have given the go-ahead to three clinical trials testing psychedelics on symptomatic patients, and several more are on deck.

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:32 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Monday, 27 September, 2004 }

    Spiritual Dimensionality of Artistic Creation:

    Spiritual Dimensionality of Artistic Creation: Albert Einstein and Sensory Experience of Art

    Art can help a person apply cognitive processes, occurring within prefrontal lobe brain cells and tissue mass, to learn how to better use a larger area of the cerebral cortex. Art is about teaching the brain to engage in a greater degree, depth, and level of parietal, temporal, and occipital lobe sensory processing.

    A constant process of rapid assembly and disassembly of temporary sensory neuron electrical chemical sequences occurs in parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes. Rapid assembly and disassembly of temporary sensory neuron electrical chemical sequences allow new patterns of energy to be processed.

    jaybird found this for you @ 10:04 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Saturday, 25 September, 2004 }

    Future Hi: Breaking the Veil

    Future Hi: Breaking the Veil

    Ever since I was a small child I’ve had the most amazing dream life. Although I’ve also had my share of nightmares and even off periods, most of the time my dreams are always deeply satisfying and beautiful. Like most children I lacked the capacity to clearly distinguish between the dream world and reality. However, if you ask the Aborigini’s, such a distinction is meaningless anyway, with the dreamworld being the more "real" of the two. For me this is a belief I share with them and have carried into adulthood. My dreams have offered so many profound insights, and the lucidity of them has been so intense and real to the depths of my being, that to deny the veracity of these experiences would be to deny my very soul – the deepest meanings that guide my life. And it is here that people start to make value judgments that although the inner life of dreams might be significant, the external world is more important, because without it we die. In the West particularly this emphasis has been valued almost exclusively to the detriment to our inner lives. As Ghandi once said when asked what he thought of Western Civilization, he said, "I think it’s a good idea."

    jaybird found this for you @ 16:29 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    Clifford Pickover: We are in

    Clifford Pickover: We are in the Digits of Pi and Live Forever

    Somewhere inside the digits of pi is a representation for all of us -- the atomic coordinates of all our atoms, our genetic code, all our thoughts, all our memories. Given this fact, all of us are alive, and hopefully happy, in pi. Pi makes us live forever. We all lead virtual lives in pi. We are immortal.

    jaybird found this for you @ 07:41 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink



    { Tuesday, 21 September, 2004 }

    Alan W. Watts: The Joyous

    Alan W. Watts: The Joyous Cosmology, Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness

    For a long time we have been accustomed to the compartmentalization of religion and science as if they were two quite different and basically unrelated ways of seeing the world. I do not believe that this state of doublethink can last. It must eventually be replaced by a view of the world which is neither religious nor scientific but simply our view of the world. More exactly, it must become a view of the world in which the reports of science and religion are as concordant as those of the eyes and the ears.

    But the traditional roads to spiritual experience seldom appeal to persons of scientific or skeptical temperament, for the vehicles that ply them are rickety and piled with excess baggage. There is thus little opportunity for the alert and critical thinker to share at first hand in the modes of consciousness that seers and mystics are trying to express-often in archaic and awkward symbolism. If the pharmacologist can be of help in exploring this unknown world, he may be doing us the extraordinary service of rescuing religious experience from the obscurantists.

    jaybird found this for you @ 11:55 in Consciousness, Psychology & Philosophy | | permalink