The Why of I
BASICS "Think? There are machines that can do that!"
That's how a friend who composed computer-generated music used to express himself when asked what he thought of one thing or another.
Yes, of course there are machines that are thinking, namely we.
I have written elsewhere that a basic requirement for a machine that can be said to think is that it is capable of self-reference.
This does not mean that self-reference in itself is the same as thinking ability. In fact, very little, as Gödel showed, is required for a machine to be self-referring. It must only have a mechanism for some simple forms of calculations. And vice versa is the simplest possible mechanism capable of performing non-trivial calculations one that can be defined by recursion, i.e. with reference to itself.
Transferring movement from one place to another is the everyday way of talking about mechanisms. Mechanisms affect, change, what they are targeting. That mechanisms can be directed towards something, including themselves, is what philosophers call intentionality. All thoughts are aimed at their content, whether they trust the content, doubt the content, are afraid of content or adopt a different attitude, so they are self-referring, containing the content.
That's why that's basic. That's where we'll start.
REALITY CHECK If we with David Wallace say -something is real if it interacts in a complex, autonomous way with other real things- we have by the same token defined our thoughts as real and, recursively, everything else we take as real in order to explain how we think or what we have knowledge of.
Of course a machinery for knowledge, like the brain, needs more than just recursive ability. It needs resources to run. And, recursively, other machines can be part of those resources. One thing we know about the brain, it communicates with itself constantly but also takes help through communication loops where machines (and brains) outside itself are included.
A mathematician has said that what mathematicians are doing is that they ultimately try to map everything to what they can count. Recursively you can make to count (and to add and multiply) to point to just about anything.
Thus, all perceived patterns in reality can, in principle, be ultimately depicted by simple counting operations, which can thus be said to have universal representation characteristics. These simple calculations are of course since long possible with machines. This means that any machine that can handle these simple calculations basically meets all calculations (and measurements) that all other machines (including human brains) can handle.
Autonomy is no real problem. It all comes down to complexity.
ERASURE It always costs to get rid of irrelevant information. It is a big problem for all machines with claims. Especially those claiming awareness. There are two ways to address the problem. The first is to compress the descriptions so that each information bit contains very useful knowledge while not taking up much memory and therefore costs very little to erase. The second is to use information in a way that makes it reusable as much as possible so that there is as little information as possible that needs to be thrown away.
Information is meaningful data and there is no unambiguous transfer from data to semantics - many different data sets (descriptions) can be interpreted to have the same meaning. Suppose a computer receives a digital input that looks like this: 001010101010101010 ... Then it can try to divide 1 by 3. 1/3 = 0.01010101010101010 ... In order to remember the infinite series 001010101010101010 ... etc, it now only needs to remember how to divide 1 by 3. It is an unprecedented compression from an infinite number of bits to the few bits needed to describe how the division between two small integers is turned into a decimal which can be treated as identical (so far). This small description (in the form of a small code in a computer) is (in this context) the meaning of 001010101010101010 ...
A mechanism (conscious or not) can only take into account a limited number of decimals in the toy example above. If we take thte limit to be three decimals (an arbitrary choice), all series starting with 0.010 will be the same as 1/3. However, that means that a single randomly long selected binary sequence can stand for all data series that in the eyes of the mechanism mean 1/3. Or, in other words, the same data series can be reused for all information that gives the same meaning. All the other data series do not need to be put in memory, they are filtered away from the beginning by old information.
Someone may think that it is too much randomness involved. But such "background noise" is a prerequisite for distinguishing between semantics and syntax in dealing with the complexity of reality.
FREE LUNCH A bit is the basic unit of information. It can be represented by something that contains something (1) or does not contain anything (0). In a computer, it corresponds to "small buckets" containing electrons (1) or not (0). Gates in the computer's electronic circuits take care of the information management, that is when and if a "bucket" is to be emptied or filled with electrons. These gates determine the computer's logic.
In the 1970s Ed Fredkin invented something he called conservative logic. He designed a gate that was completely reversible (NO information was thrown away; when two Fredking gates were serially switched, the starting position was reset exactly) all the while it was functionally complete (ALL mechanisms could be performed with appropriate combinations of the gates).
One would think that it must be a very complicated construction, but not. Like most really good ideas, it's simple. Suppose we have three buckets, they are usually denoted by c, p and q, which can either be filled (1) or not (0).
The simple logic of a Fredkin gate is now this: if the c (control bucket) is empty (0) neither empty nor fill the two other buckets (they keep one or zero), if c is filled (1) bucket p and q is filled or emptied so that they "switch" their content.
This mechanism that makes the buckets change location of their content is the logical controlled-NOT gate. It can be arbitrarily energy-efficient (thanks to Fredkin's invention) and this shows that it does not have to cost anything to know. Knowledge is the ultimate free lunch.
PAYING DUES Every little bit of information that reaches us reaches us through quantum bits. Quantum bits can be described as a kind of wave. A wave can, in turn, be described as a sum of a large number of incoming waves that build up the wave we observe. Another way of describing a wave is like a "disturbance" around an average. What I experience as reality is literally what interferes with me. What disturbs me!
Everything in the quantum physical way of describing reality is in a waveform, including the description (or experience) of reality. Waves are affected by waves. There is a quantum mechanical wave phenomenon called spin. When the spin is counter-clockwise, it is called up and is written as follows: |up> When it is clockwise, it is called down and written: |down>
With another quantum wave one can turn the spin. You do not have to turn the spin all the way around. Waves can be superimposed. The composite wave |up> + |down> can be desribed as a spin to the right. Waves can not only be added together but also substracted from each other (where one wave has peaks has the other valleys). Thus, |up> - |down> can be seen as the spin is horizontal, but to the left. In short, waves can be rotated to assume any direction.
Quantum waves rotate each other upon contact. It's good, but knowledge of the existence requires a controlled-NOT operation. How does it look with quantum bits?
The control quantum bit |0> + |1> leads via a controlled-NOT operation to the state |00> + |11> If one tries to rotate the latter state back, however, you do not get back to where you were, ie |0> + |1> but instead half of the times in a state | 0> and half in a state |1>
The reality has been split into two parallel events with no memory of each other. Even if no information is erased it is lost if the quantum bits don't interfere again. A good analogy is what all mechanisms are exposed to in everyday life, friction. Friction is the conversion of a relatively coherent motion into a more disordered motion split in different directions. Conversion occurs at the molecular level due to electromagnetic effects. In the quantum context it is due to decoherence. Without it no conscious mechanism could occur.
NOT WHAT YOU SEE Before anything is measured, in the world of quantum physics it is in a state that does not resemble something we have any experience with. For example, a particle can go in multiple directions at the same time or move at different speeds at once. But reality is not even the sum of these incredible things, but is when we
measure it so; that the particle is either here or there but at the same time has all possible speeds, or has a fixed speed but is everywhere at once. In addition, it seems to know if we intend to measure it or not. It is different in measurements of motion if we set the possibility of measuring its position, and vice versa, even if the measurement is never carried out. However, if you perform the measurement afterwards, you seem to be able to change the past behavior of the particle, change the course of history. One can theoretically change if a photo went to the right or left of a star on billions of light years distance a billion years ago with a measurement on Earth today!
No wonder that quantum mechanics has given rise to ideas that reality does not exist objectively. It is in a superposition, say physicists. They also do not know what it would mean, but are pleased to have put a name on something that behaves in the above-described strange way when measured and they then report the results of the measurements. Somewhere along the way, the surreal superposition has become the reality we are used to.
Note that each measurement separately and each report separately is completely predictable and accurately described by quantum mechanics and quantum physics laws. If you realize that reality is layered and determined in such a way that a number of identical states each give a predictable, but not necessarily the same result, interpretation is not really a problem. Everett wrote a famous doctoral thesis about this insight fifty years after the theory began to be experimentally tested. No problem, say, if it were not for the fact that that is not how we experience it.
Another fifty years later, it was finally time to come to terms with that even though the founders of the theory were on the correct interpretation path, they had it upside down. It's not the reality that does not exist. It is the experience we believe we have of it that doesn't.
WE ARE NOT THE GOAL Man always seems to have wanted to believe there was a center of existence. First, it was the earth that was. Later it was revised to Mother Sun, that the Earth just revolved around. Then it was discovered that the sun was just a star among others in the Milky Way, and not even centrally located in the galaxy. But not enough, man was forced after new findings to realize that the Milky Way was just a galaxy among countless others, without any special position in the universe.
If there has been any leading motive in science since the sixteenth century, then it might well be the Copernican principle that we do not observe the universe from any chosen place. The principle is so called to honor the priest and astronomer Nikolaus Kopernikus, dead 1543, who moved the Earth away from the world's center. A final bastion of belief that there would be something special about our observation has been a number of interpretations of quantum physics measurements in the last hundred years.
According to the so-called Copenhagen interpretation, the school book interpretation, of the laws of quantum mechanics, everything exists as a kind of superimposed coherent wave until someone makes an observation when it collapses, decohering with a finer word to our reality. During the hundred years of
analyzing this so-called measurement problem, we have not been able to find any single point in the entire process where the actual collapse occurs according to the physical laws. So it must happen at the moment of consciousness! All measured reality is thus subjective. If you define reality as that which has some measure of effect, according to this, until recently, the prevailing interpretation will make the subject the target goal of reality.
Suppose we are the goal of not only Amor's arrows, but effectively all arrows. Assume further that we give the arrows efficiency. Quantitative physical measurements that correspond to that layout then ALWAYS give the result that 3 out of 8 end up in the upper third, 3 out of 8 end up in the middle third, and 3 out of 8 end up in the lower third. Thus, 9 out of 8 possible arrows hit the target!
If we are convinced that consciousness is the goalkeeper where reality becomes unique, then we end up with the same problem as if we assume any other (physical) goalpoint wherever a superposed parallel reality would coincide to a single layer. The Copernican principle applies not only to what we measure "out there". It also applies to what we perceive the result of the measurements with - the subject. The subject is nothing special. It is also infinitely layered and obeys the quantum mechanical coherent laws.
Another way of saying it is: There is no particular point in existence beyond the physical process that does not follow the physical laws. We are not the goal. We are just one in waves of scoreboards.
On the other hand, it means that every moment is part of an infinite number of universes. Not even our universe is unique.
A TIMELY SUBSET A universe with a special value of a particular characteristic exists in an infinite amount. This amount is, however, an incredibly small part of the infinitely greater amount in a multiverse. However, the proportion is not zero but a definite value, but a value that, unlike all measurable values, changes continuously.
There are no measurable continuous transitions. Not only is it known today that the light is not a continuous stream but consists of photons, but also such a thing as distance - that is, physical, measurable distance as opposed to abstract distances in abstract spaces. Within each universe nothing can assume an uninterrupted array of values but only discrete values - but nothing changes from discreet a value to another! It is only the proportion of worlds where something assumes one value or another that changes continuously (uninterrupted) without "jumps". And in no universe is a jump recorded.
Consciousness is ultimately a quantum mechanic mechanism like everything else. And no consciousness can be in the coherent wave movement "beyond" the measurable. The laws of quantum physics make reality in parallel stories. In each story, the experiences (at least approximate) correspond to the underlying physical reality, while we do not experience the other stories with their experiences that correspond to their physical reality. This justifies the fact that we are talking about each layer as a universe, and about the other layers as a parallel universe - though the multiverse cannot be described by reference only to a number of universes, it has a lot of structure in addition to the sum of all universes.
However, when we study the mechanism of consciousness, we do not need to study the reality beyond the parallel worlds. In addition, we can limit ourselves to one, in this context "infinitely" small, subset of parallel worlds - those that can be arranged, at least approximately, in time. Other times are just special cases of other universes, but special cases that are interesting from the perspective of consciousness.
HOW IT FEELS LIKE BEING AN AMOEBA What is closest associated with a mechanism, the motor part of a living organism, appears according to the best theories, and empirical research about the awakening of emotions out of dead materia, to be the most likely explanation for what emotion in the final analysis is. The following is my intuitive understanding of Nicholas Humphrey's "How to Solve the Mind-Body Problem"and how it feels like being an amoeba.
Responding to the outside world, for example, does not require a sense of attendance. So does every thermostat, without us believing that there is someone in the thermostat. Is there anybody in the amoeba? In the spider? The spider is usually used by philosophers of mind as an example of an advanced creature living in the world without knowing about it. The question these philosophers ask is this: How does it feel like being a spider? And the answer usually is: It probably does not feel like anything at all.
When a computer makes calculations, they are not accompanied by emotions. We can describe the entire course of events on the computer without the description giving any indication that the computer has even a rudiment of feelings. If the same can be said about the description of an amoeba life, I leave the reader to judge. But that you and I have feelings when we deliberately discuss with ourselves is beyond doubt. It is precisely that consciousness is always accompanied by emotions, the subjective experience, which many claim as support that it can not be explained in physical terms. Yet, of course, that is what is required. Attendance and physical brain mass must be exactly the same kind of thing unless we need a miracle to come from one to the other!
Emotions are about the inside of a body. An inside can only occur when there is a boundary to be the inside of. An amoeba has a membrane that encloses its molecular machinery and allows some material from the outside to sip in, but excludes others. The natural selection aims to benefit the amoebans whose membranes are better at releasing only those materials that are good for the inner machinery. Even before the first amoeba, there survived molecules that hide behind a rudimentary protective boundary better than others. Before there were molecular machines capable of copying, there were no biological membranes, but well chemical. Chemical bonds arise because of the physical laws. Bonding to something resembling itself can be said to have a rudimentary ability to discriminate with subjective preference.
Thus, the physical laws allow chemical bonds that allow the ability to discriminate with 'subjective' preferences that allow evolution through natural selection. Continuing evolution favors flexibility with local variations in the ability of the biological membranes to discriminate. Furthermore, flexibility is also favored in
the discriminatory response, with delays between local variations. Those are simple memory features. The membranes can soon also react with fluctuations that move the entire organism against or from external chemical environments that are good or bad for the survival of the organism.
We have arrived at an amoeba-like organism that has a system to keep track of (1) what happens at its own limit, if it is good (turn towards) or bad (turn away), (2) where it happens on the diaphragm (local oscillations), (3) the time of events (time delay due to delayed attenuation), (4) the type of events (the fluctuations discriminate to repel or suck up various chemical substances) and (5) it is a direct system without detours, the only organism has to 'go on'.
That's how it feels like being an amoeba!
FROM AMOEBA TO IDEAS Now there are not many who would say that an amoeba "feels that it feels", although it is an evolution of its internalized fluctuations we feel when we feel. In order to become aware of the subjective feeling it is desirable to have an objectification. If not, we could not control the feelings at all. A task that is difficult enough even for as well-developed machines as we humans. As everyone knows, the emotions are what we have the hardest time to control while at the same time most would say that it is the ability to own feelings that distinguish us from less developed machines.
During the course of evolution, we have not only developed the abilities to know what is happening to our surface. We can also perceive beyond the limits of our own organisms. Of course, it is a clear advantage for survival to not only know the vibrations in the field when a predator approaches, but also to interpret these in that way.
In order to be able to associate the vibrations of annoying predators, developed memory functions are required. It becomes necessary to connect multiple sensory sensations. When the wind is in the right direction, the beast can easily, through its sense of smell and its inherited or acquired memories, decide if it is a predator that comes and not a species mate. Such observations can be made by everyone within the flock, and thus different from the purely subjective sense of what is happening to the surface of the organism itself.
I have read somewhere that every cat has a concept for trees. A tree is what you run up in when you are chased. Having a concept about the world beyond one's own body is thus widespread in the animal kingdom. It has proved very good for survival to be able to objectify. During the evolution, that trend of development has partly followed its own tracks in parallel with the ability of subjective sentiment. The important thing is to remember the following: There are no ideas without feelings and no developed feelings without ideas.
THERE IS NO MENTAL CANVAS The difference that I make between the subjective world of phenomena and the perception of the environment is NOT the same as many philosophers do between qualia, defined as experiences that can not be conveyed (such as the experience of the red in red, for example), and what is transmittable (that is with
what we can affect others than ourselves).
To me, ALL experiences are sensomotor invariants. Some are more connected to your own body (ultimately to a motor center in the brain stem), some more to the sensomotor relationship with the environment.
This approach allows a scientific response to the otherwise inadmissible question if the sunset is red when no one sees it (unless one is a solipsist).
As we all know, we influence each other with speech. The simplest form of communication may be to point to something and call it by name. Monkeys have a name, in this way, for 'snake'.
When we are influenced and influence the surroundings wordlessly, through sensory experiences, this can also resemble communication by name. We have a group of microcolumns that is involved as the cerebral cortex fires one or more whole sequences of such microcolumns, which is the way of giving events names in the brain, and we have the way the environment provides invariants in a variety of ways to affect our senses. When we look at a round plate, what ever affects the eye is never completely round. At a distance and at a certain angle, the plate is always more or less elliptical. The invariant of our sensomotor relation to the plate is, however, that it is round. You therefore perceive it correctly as round.
However, this roundness, that you perceive, is not within you, but beyond in your sensomotor relationship with the outside world. It's a 'name' that you can learn to represent with a microcolumn name in the cerebral cortex. However, learning to call a color red, for example, is another thing than the phenomenon red. This phenomenon is an objective property, an invariant, in the circumstances of your environment, where angles, light intensity, surface properties and other things in your surroundings interact. This 'natural name' is out there before you learn to call it red.
The correct answer to the old philosophical issue if the sunset is red when nobody sees it is: Yes, it is! That's what it tells you, and then you can call it what you want.
A famous philosopher of mind, David Chalmers, has said that there is no explanation for how the brain can realize the "feeling of experiencing". He has coined the term "the HARD problem" for this insoluble problem. Yes, IF you assume there is a kind of mental canvas that is painted on the dark cerebral convolutions, then that would be the way it is. But the insolubility comes from the foul restriction of thinking in old dualistic terms!
Open landscapes are best felt in freedom, not trapped inside your head. Why would you create a landscape painting inside your head when the landscape is at your feet ready to be explored?
With a little introspection you notice that the fields and trees really do not feel like they are inside you. It feels like you look at them out there. The art of seeing has more similarities to the craftsmanship of the skilled landscape painter - it is an exploratory movement of the visual space.
The colors, shapes, perspectives, though, get representation in the brain cortex (not as colors, shapes and perspectives, but as microcolumn stable patterns) but
it's in the motion - the motion sequences in the microcolumns of the cortex, muscle cells, eyes and body that are affected by and affects the environment - that the details, the colors and sharpness of the experience are available.
Our sensomotor 'space' is an evolutionary niche.
We share the possibilities in nature to perceive sensual differences, such as smell, hearing, sight, feel and taste, with other species, but each species's sensomotor space is unique.
It's a kind of virtual space, a theater stage if you want, where the props and how we play our 'roles' determine the experience and content. It might be a theater room, but it's a real room, not a picture on a mental canvas.
The REALLY difficult problem is how we become aware of the role play and what that mechanism looks like?
SOLVING MYSTERIES Is the question of how we become aware of our sensomotor spaces and our role in them possible to answer? Is not consciousness the last GREAT mystery, the ultimate?
Yes on both questions. Mysteries are there to be solved!
But are not mysteries somewhat pleasing, whose existence in some way increases the value of living? Can it be combined with the likewise strong desire to explain?
Again, yes to both questions. This is because we can only explain something if we use our imagination!
Fantasy is a mechanism of the developed consciousness. Imagination allows us to get elbow space between stimuli and response. We get more choices than to "just" connect a situation with a feeling.
But was it not precisely this connection that was close to an insurmountable obstacle in understanding what consciousness is? The rest surely is, as physicists usually say, just chemistry?
There is a phenomenon called blindsight. Wholly blind people, although not perceiving, can "see" things in their surroundings. This has been plotted in a number of experiments. As long as the part of the sensory motorics involved in perception of the environment is intact, a blind person can point to objects, talk about color and shape etc without having the sense of perceiving. Blindsighted people who experience blindness are suffering from brain injuries, which means that they do not understand how they can do things that show that they still see their surroundings because the sense of perceiving is gone. They know they do not see anything. Neurologists who study their brain functions know that as well. Yet, in experiments, they can do things only seeing can.
In order for perceptions to be felt, they must be linked to an idea of their own body's reactions to external stimuli. In most cases, they go hand in hand. We see the red color of the strawberry before we put it in the mouth, but not if we're
having our eyes closed. Should anyone who sees our face, but not the strawberry, see that in one case we perceive the red color, but in the other case just concludes that the strawberry is red? Hardly. But if we could see our own facial reactions from the inside? In other words, if we were able to study our own bodily reactions to the environment with enough resolution, we would probably know what perception we are currently having.
In fact, it is only such stimulus linked to the reactions of our own body we care about. People with blindsight can be convinced of their ability, but they do not care about it. It's an ability that does not seem to be their own. Therefore, it is uninteresting to them.
So, we only take on a subjective role in the sensomotor space when we add the role of our body reactions.
DRAWING FROM THE INSIDE Expectations play a major part in our perception of reality. We see what we want to see.
When the world meets your expectations, you feel that your actions are meaningful. Particularly meaningful, they become if you feel that you act as you imagine you really want to act.
This fantasy-loop can, when repeating, amplify a memory sequence so that its influence spreads throughout the cerebral cortex. Each memory sequence is like everyone else, but some get a short while of 'fame' (everyone else 'mimics' and follow them). Every form of fame is, like all reality show celebrities know, volatile. Soon it's a completely different more or less amazing sequence's turn to stand the spotlight where everyone can see. Any kind of sense of presence is just this. Consciousness is not a trait, it's an effect.
Consciousness as the effect of the will thus. And the will is ultimately just a memory sequence (of a memory sequence, of a memory sequence ...). We can only expect what we have experience of.
Given the qualitative wealth of the world we live in, it's not as freaky as it sounds. Another way to look at memory sequences is to see them as dimensions of reality. We will not only remember how high we jump or how fast we run but also if something changes from more or less red or from more or less sweet.
Forget three dimensions (or four)! Fortunately, an entire fireworks of dimensions is required to make us experience the moment.
But how about free fantasies? And how can we experience memories and fantasies (and dreams) so strongly if the perceived qualities, as I assert, are not within us more than sensomotor events in relation to the outer space where all qualities really exist?
In several experiments, one can show that when people imagine something nearby, they imagine the happenings more in detail than when the conception
concerns something that is further away in time (much like when we look at details close up spatially but with less colors and others details far away).
When we look at something from far away, we do not think that the lost details correspond to reality. But when we think about something forward or back in time, we sometimes forget that the pink shimmer does not correspond to the less beautiful details of the real show. That is why we often regret things that seemed fun when we promised to do it, but are becoming increasingly difficult when time approaches for the embracing of the promise, and we see all the difficult little circumstances surrounding the implementation of the promise.
Why is it like that? This is really an appropriate question. When we say thank you yes to being a babysitter, to take an example, we think about why we should be a babysitter. We want to help. It's fun to see the grandchildren. When the time to babysit approaches, we are thinking of how to do feeding and diaper changes. The concepts why and how turns out to be just different perspectives, with less or higher resolution, on the experience dimensions.
When we look at a wallpaper, we jump with our eyes over the wallpaper but feel that we see the entire wallpaper at once. We simply fill in those places we do not have directly sensomotor "contact" with, with memories that are so close in time they are still very detailed. When we consider a wallpaper we saw at an earlier time, we use a less detailed memory image of the entire wallpaper wall and fill the "holes" with "patches" of this. When we fantasize about a wallpaper we've never seen, it's the same fill-up again, but this time we start immediately with the "patch" that enlarges to a whole wallpaper wall. But where does the "patch" come from this time?
The brain always uses some current memory to understand the future. And when we have empty memory slots we also fill in with some closely related memory. That's what the brain uses and it uses it the same way it always does at perception.
When you imagine a unicorn, it seems to be in a room in your imagination where you can watch it. It feels about the same as usual seeing. And that it is too! Brain researchers have found that it is the same sensomotor nervous system that is activated. It is as if you were drawing from the inside the outer space you imagine.
Of course, what you know with the imagination's help is just what's happening in your body. It is the same domain as the feelings. The feelings therefore have a great influence on how we imagine and how we project our perceptions forwards or backwards.
FAILURES OF GUT FEELINGS Looking at a preview of a movie, you're not only reacting to it with your sight and hearing, distance senses of perception, but also with emotions. You'll be happy or sad or maybe bored by the movie, whether it's a preview or a premiere or an old rider notwithstanding . When you "preview" something in your imagination, you react in the same way, not just with your distance senses as if they were looking
at something real, but also with your emotional centers in the brain and their offshoots into the body. You may start to sweat or blush and feel ashamed of something you're fantasizing. I have previously stated that you can not have a concept of something without having feelings involved. Now, brain research has been able to show that when you "preview" you "pre-feel" at the same time.
This has predictable effects. The brain can not allow you to see a fantasy image, of a unicorn say, while looking at a horse in reality. You have to shut down one or the other. If you close your eyes, it's easier to see the imagination image. The brain prioritizes the ongoing external view to the interior. This usually does not lead to any major difficulty in distinguishing sights in our imagination and real visions, at least in sober undrugged states.
With the feelings that accompany the imagination it is not as unproblematic. How do you close off the current emotions that come with the awake reality? The brain allows no more two "emotional images" than two visual images, or two sound images. Counterparts to closing your eyes or putting fingers in your ears are also not available when it comes to feelings. Thus, an ongoing feeling arising from an ongoing real situation often accompanies a vision of let's say a future workplace, to take a practical example showing how we can get the wrong expectations about how well we will enjoy the new job.
When we find it difficult to "preview" a unicorn because we look at a horse, we know that the horse we see is not the unicorn we are thinking of. But it is very common that we do not notice that what we think we "pre-feel" in fact is an ongoing feeling that has nothing to do with what we intend to do. I hope you see the problem. We think something or someone will hurt us if we happen to feel bad when we think of that something/someone. We believe that something will make us happy if we happen to feel happy when we think about this something.
Outsiders who perceive your feelings through their distance senses, they hear how you sound, not just what you say, and looking at your face they see how you feel, can easily see how you blend an ongoing feeling with what you think is a pre-feel of how a certain future situation will be for you. The best way to avoid mistakes in assessing the future when we plan is to continue to do what we did when we were children: Ask for advice.
However, as adult individuals, we are so convinced of our unique personality that we do not give the advice of others the same weight and trust the child does. Even though others tell us that a particular job is not as satisfactory as you can think, we think it does not concern us. Someone else with just my personal preference and aptitude for that job is simply not! So we go on our own gut feelings and make the same mistake as many others who could save us if we had listened to their advice.
But of course, our highly developed language ability makes it possible for humans to both imagine and plan for the future and communicate our experiences of implementing these plans in a way that makes us unique among the world's animal species. Despite the failures, it is actually easier than one might think to transmit a feeling from one individual to another, even over large distances in space and time.
OUR HIDDEN TREASURE All the senses originate in the motor machinery. Already reptiles have "a sense of the mind". It's an evolutionary new dimension that opens. I have compared it with multiplication of the size of two directions (of desire and disgust) that gives a surface where the feelings are present. It is believed that this occurred when the evolution tree branched from the amphibian strain to the reptile branch.
So we are far from being the only ones with feelings in the sense we usually give them, the feelings we feel. For this, the reptile brain in us all is sufficient. What we can besides, along with all mammals, is to convey to each other the emotional image drawn on our inner dimension . We have a special machinery for it. After reading "A General Theory of Love" (Lewis, Amini, Lannon) I wrote the following in my diary:
Monday, October 09, 2006 "The limbic system in the brain is sometimes called the mammalian brain. It has a different cell structure than the brain cortex, while the latter has a tremendous development among some mammals, the limbic system has about the same size in a rabbit, a cat and a human. While the reptile brain already allows for behavior with presence, the mammalian brain allows a much more developed such, but above all that the mammal can announce how it is present. Mammals have a social dimension in common in their actions that sees the individual, even though they can fall back on soldier behavior when the reptile brain takes over. We can easily see that a mouse is terrified and our cat can easily read that we had a bad day at work and hide under the sofa when we get home. Monkeys and people also use the same facial expressions for the same emotions . That's why the disneyfication of animals seems so natural. People in all cultures can by a few drawn lines around the eyes of Mickey Mouse read his mood, promptly and with the same result."
I have called this a game, with a very simple basic rule: Copy emotions you can read! It does not matter if those are your feelings or the feelings of someone/something else. Mammals copy each other's feelings as infectiously as yawning. What Hollywood and all the good communicators know is that it's much easier to convey a feeling than an idea.
With the growth of the cortex, we have a hugely flexible machine to tie thoughts to the feelings. We get episode memories and episode memories of episode memories. We have acquired an incredible amount to talk about. But we all know that all of that which exists in our consciousness is incredibly difficult to communicate. We feel alone with this treasure of which we can only give glimpses to others.
This entire series of articles is a good example of how difficult it is to describe this treasure, even though it is the treasure we ourselves think we have the most intimate knowledge about. It's not just that we will hide it from others, we've been desperate to explain how others will find our treasure no matter how much we would like them to.
In fact, it should be desperate for us to find yourselves. Evolution's solution to that problem is also what made us humans. In human consciousness, not only
are there short-term memories and long-term memories, but there is also a mechanism that I've called "contagious memories".
Genes spread by copying. But if our entire mass of genes focused on copying themselves, we would be "genetically lonely" in the same way we are "subjectively lonely". Genes are proteins. And luckily, genes also start producing non-genetic proteins. The brain and other organs can thank this alternative production for its existence.
And our subjective treasure can thank its existence for the alternative production of infectious memories. How that plays out we will see in the next and concluding chapter.
THE WHY OF I This entire text has been an attempt to show that emotions are mechanical and programmed early by evolution as a particularly successful way of protecting complex organisms so that they can carry on their genetic heritage further into the future. However, evolution's reward system is blunt and can be fooled. We are robots that make rebellion against our genetic programs every other minute. Let's look closer at how far the influence of the genes extends within our brains.
What happens in the brain happens mainly in the connections, when the brain switches from one state to another. The brain's connections are called synapses. Genes' way of controlling the development of these connections occurs, as always, in the case of genes, through the production of proteins. The proteins react to changes in the strength of the couplings. These electrochemical changes occur in a thousand of a second. In the time interval from one millisecond to a second, the short-term memory puts out a trace that proteins can consolidate in the long-term memory and there is room for a different evolution separated from genetic setup that can last for about 1000 generations in each memory consolidation. Here, "contagious memories" may occur.
Since long-term memories that are activated must be reconsolidated, "contagiousness" may be incorporated as an aspect of "common" memories. The genetic evolution has created a brain that can mass copy memories. Richard Dawkins called contagious memories that can spread like viruses "memes". Once this mechanism is in place, a memetic evolution starts. The result of this incredibly much faster evolution puts traces in the brain that genes do not control.
The "contagious memories", memes, in our brains also have an alternative production, in addition to reproducing themselves. They are parasites on the protein-controlled memory mechanism, but help, thanks to their copying ability, to awake sleeping parts of the brain to just remember over and over again. The complex signal patterns that arise are for the memes equivalent to the phenotypes of genes. Actually all communication begins within the brain. The brain cells interact with electrochemical signals in the molecular scale. In addition to the internal signals, we all send out signals in the surroundings as signs of what is happening within us. We are signal lighthouses and hope that foreign ships will see us. This is the typical evolutionistic solution to the communication problem. The overflow allows at least one of the signals to eventually generate a trace in another brain that resembles the memory activations from which the
signals originated. Do memes also have an extended phenotype? Perhaps a large part of our actions, including our talks, are the target of a natural selection for the survival of memes as well as for the genes.
Infectious memories thus leave not only traces in our own long-term memory. On and off they also leave traces in other brains. In addition, they can leave tracks in artificial objects - artifacts. From the stone ax to the computer, the artifacts have affected us. We think differently because of them. Our thoughts are also reinforced by them. But the most important cultural product as a tool for thinking is of course language.
Memes dressed in language spread more easily than memes without. In addition, some linguistic memes are spread more easily with the help of a specially developed toolkit. Like the molecular toolkit in an evolutionary spiral developed the cell and its ability to distinguish itself from the outside world by making the situation between itself and the outside world extremely unsymmetrical, memes analogously develops a cultural cell - the self. The self is attributed free-will and of being able to control the biological organism in which it lives. We are much better at spreading ideas, ie memes, we ourselves believe in or feel for, than ideas we did not acquire any emotional relationship with. Memes linked to the self, therefore, spread more easily and therefore necessarily also "the meme of the self", or rather the complex of memes building the self.
In memetics such a complex of memes is called a memplex, and consequently, in memetic jargon the memplex that makes up the self or your I is called a selfplex. As with all other successful reproductors, the world of selfplexes must encompass habits of useful knowledge of the outside world. One of the memes that deals with your selfplex resembles that of a person who in his world of memes can move around these as you move around things. Just like accounting occurred to keep track of which people would be connected to what things in the outer world arose through metaphorical transfer a bookkeeping in the "inner" world. A symbol language is developed where you can count both sheep and memorable possessions. Managing things in a certain way in the physical world gets a counterpart in the virtual, where the selfplex learns to shuffle abstract symbols according to certain rules. It's no wonder since we already dedicated ourselves to the prevalence of grammatical rules in language.
Mathematical theories have then appeared as an appendix to the selfplex but have been given the role of "meme's genes", which gives the selfplex useful knowledge to sort out false memeplexes. Note that this knowledge, by its nature, is rebellious viewed from the perspoective of genes, as it strives for the immortality of the I and not the immortality of the genes. As David Deutsch once stated; we are living by knowledge.
That's why we're here!
LN september 2018