LifeOS: exploring the system that executes DNA

September 19, 2011

Probability, Uncertainty and Quantum Waves of Consciousness

The terms uncertainty and probability are mathematical concepts that do not refer to anything physical. Uncertainty is a condition of the mind. Whether the cat is alive or dead is only an uncertainty to the mind of an observer outside the box. To the cat and its fleas, there is no uncertainty. Probability is statistical, inferring the comparison of many events over time. Time is another mental concept involving a memory and something like an imagination that can plot a path into the future.

If it is true that Quantum Mechanics, “is the mathematical description of the motion and interaction of subatomic particles,” and involves these same nonphysical, but decidedly mental concepts, how can we deny that QM is the very essence of intelligence? When we say, “That’s probably true,” or “I think so,” we are exercising our ability to imagine the future.

How is it that subatomic particles are engaged in the same kind of behavior? If subatomic particles are somehow connected to future events, it must be through some nonphysical process that remembers, evaluates and acts, very much like our own consciousness. The process is most certainly nonlinear, non-local, fully coherent and interconnected.

The model becomes clear when we view the Universe, not as an explosion, but a computation. The Big Bang becomes the Big Bootup, with no need to suspend classical physics for it to happen.

There is no paradox between quantum mechanics and classical physics if you consider one is the process and the other is the output. In the information processing model, the output of the quantum process is the physical Universe. The physical Universe is the expression of the current state of the process. The overlapping, nested and holistically interconnected quantum coherent fields represented by wavefunction, are the process in action. In this model it makes perfect sense that subatomic particles represent non-local variables, and could be collapsed by local interference.

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April 10, 2009

Why Are We Here?

When observed from above, from the control room of higher order of environmental systems, it looks like human beings have waged an all out war on Nature. From the time that man initiated slash and burn technology, the ability of one person to destroy habitat and reduce productive systems to wasteland has increased many fold, as have his reasons to do so. Human ingenuity has found many ways to profit from the plunder. And the sheer number of them has also multiplied. Six billion of them chewing away at the biological infrastructure like termites. What are they thinking?

At War With the System

Our imaginary war with the System is exemplified by the way we treat diseases like cancer. We think of cancer as something that has attacked us that we have to fight. We fight by killing cells, hoping to kill all of the enemy cells. Those cells indeed threaten a healthy body, but they are not enemies from the outside; they are the bodies own cells.

The body produces cancerous cells from time to time and has an elaborate immune system, that normally takes care of them. When the immune system becomes damaged itself, or the information it needs to function is compromised, or it is overwhelmed by damaged cells, a tumor results.

To the Rescue

The ego likes to blame the outside for all of its problems and the concept of attack and defense fits right in. The medical profession likes the concept as well. It makes them the knights in shining armor that save the day, defending the helpless ego from evil doers. But in reality, the carcinogens are always out there and the cancerous cells are always being produced. It is not that cancer is attacking, but the immune system is unable to cope with the level abuse heaped upon it by our decadent lifestyles.

It is Captain Self’s job to avoid carcinogens in the environment and make decisions that maintain the integrity of the immune system.

Misinformed Agents

When the good Captain is locked into battle with his own crew, nothing good can come of it. The Captain is not at war with the system, but a product of it. The cancerous cells are not at war with the body, but a product of it. Just like the Captain, the cancerous cells are simply misinformed. They are working under their own type of internal delusion. They both have forgotten that they belong to the system and have taken off on their own, following some internal dialog that takes them far from their intended path. In the efficient information processing system, we would expect these processes to be quickly terminated.

Run-a-way Process

In this journey of discovery, we are always on the lookout for repeated patterns. Here we see that an entity can run amuck, endlessly repeating a process because some feedback loop malfunctions. Just as in a computer stuck in an endless loop, sucking resources while producing no meaningful work, cancer cells and human beings have lost contact with their parent system; they no longer have the information they need to stay on track.

Is That Bad?

Depends on your point of view. From the view of the individual and/or species, failure is bad, success good. From the systems viewpoint, although run-a-way processes pose a threat to local subsystems, they also can provide benefits. A run-a-way process puts stress on the local system, causing accelerated learning and adaptation. For example, our separation from our environment has led to a spike in creativity and technology that never would have happened if the human animal had stayed connected to its natural system. For the individual, a diagnosis of terminal cancer can certainly rearrange one’s priorities. The sense of mortality may lead to extra effort going into an unfinished masterpiece.

Systemic Responsibility

The System provides the necessary information for all entities, just as it supplies nutrients and carries away their waste. The System also is responsible for any breakdowns in the supply channels. The System is also responsible for successful adaptation. The System knows what it is doing.

The System experiments with agents. There is a competition going on here; not a war, but a contest to determine what improvements need to be made in future models. This unprecedented acceleration of learning and adaptation is oriented towards an intentional outcome. We have a mission. Our job is to learn what that entails and get on with it.

April 4, 2009

Systemic Emotion

Emotion: an instinctive response to environmental situations, that is distinguishable from logic and reason.

Many folks feel that emotions are a throw back to our animal past and therefore, should be suppressed in favor of a logical state of mind. To those that see the human species as the pinnacle of evolution, emotions seem like a primitive mechanism that threatens to pull us down, impeding our progress. Our reptilian brain, favoring primitive behavior if survival is threatened, is a case in point.

Primitive or Fundamental?

Rather than looking at emotions as primitive, there are advantages to thinking of them as fundamental, performing valuable functions at all levels of biological systems. The emotional mechanism is just as important in our “advanced” civilization, as ever, it is the recorded behaviors and their settings that are primitive and need to be updated.

In the individual, emotions manage the state of readiness to meet environmental situations. The source of our emotions is definitely in our subconscious. Environmental situations, real or imagined, cause the release of a flood of chemical messengers, that reset the state of all subsystems, in preparation to react.

Security Alerts

One way to look at emotion is that it is a part of the security system, that instantly alerts Captain Self and the rest of the crew to danger or any situational change. Emotions can switch the state of readiness of the entire organism in a flash. Emotions work in real time, but are also intimately involved with memory and recall. In memory, emotions continue their role as an alert mechanism.

Not only is the emotional state recorded in memory right along with events, it also measures and grades the experience. The type and intensity of the emotion becomes a flag that marks the experience, both for a gauge to its importance and for easier recall. We know that emotional state has a lot to do with how well we remember things. So, the flow of data that our memory processes is categorized, referenced and assigned degree of importance(prioritized) on the fly.

Systems Level Emotions

Besides looking at what emotions do for the individual, we want to understand what function emotions perform for the system. From this vantage point it is immediately apparent that, as well as managing the agent’s internal state of readiness, emotions affect the external world. Emotions are part of the communications network that manages social relationships.

Body Language

In animals we see that emotions are communicated, between individuals and groups, by body language and other visual cues. It appears to be a separate channel of information from vocal exchanges. For example, the tails of dogs and cats project their emotional state to any observer. Barking guard dogs will often be wagging their tails while appearing to be vigorously defending their turf. One end of the dog is yelling, “I’m doing my job”, while the other end is saying, “Take me for a walk.”

For we humans, facial expressions and other body language communicate hidden feelings. No matter what the conscious mind is trying to convey, the subconscious is often projecting a different picture. To whom? The subconscious of other agents.

Color Coded

Throughout the animal kingdom, color is used to broadcast emotional state, especially in mating. From the red rumps of female baboons in heat to the colorful displays of cuttlefish, emotions play an important role in the reproductive process. Displays of fear serve to warn local residents of danger. Emotions serve a survival function for individuals and groups, but go even farther, providing realtime feedback to the higher levels of control, like species and ecosystems.

The Brine Shrimp Massacre

Remember the brine shrimp experiments in Cleve Backster’s lab? Death is a radical change of state for any organism. The traumatic termination of any living thing registers on all local agents, and beyond. The Primary Perception revealed by Backster’s experiments, is the core communicator of agent states to the nonlocal environment. This is fundamental emotion, highlighting, organizing and prioritizing the holographic feedback loops of all living things. How agents feel about what they are doing, is important to the system. The total of all agents states, generates the holoverse, the emotional state of System.

Suppressed Connectivity

Our attempts to suppress our emotions has hampered our ability to communicate with our local environment as well as the System at large. Many folks recognize that the root cause of much of our troubles is our separation from the natural world. We have done it to ourselves.

March 31, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect

Filed under: Ch 10 Conclusion — Tags: , , , , , — insomniac @ 6:30 am

How long does it take to learn mathematics? How long does it take to become proficient at chess or spelling or field hockey? These are all skills that are obviously possible for human beings to learn. Some folks are better equipped than others and will learn faster, while some will have a hard time mastering even the basics. None of these skills can be learned without practice. Practice will not take place unless the individual believes it is possible to learn the skill, in the first place, and actually attempts to master it.

Introspection

The same is true of introspection, conscience and psychic abilities. You cannot master what you don’t practice. The human mind has the ability to calculate, compute and and communicate at extremely high levels of efficiency, but only when trained to do so. The typical scientific career path offers no instruction in introspective pursuits, in fact “trains” the student to deny the value of same. The results are just what one would expect.

However, if one is trained from an early age to receive, accept and act on information obtained from internal sources, it becomes obvious that the internal is connected to the external. There are simple experiments anyone can do that will confirm that the mind of the individual can access information beyond the confines of the brain case. The neuro-philosophers can deny it all they want, once you discover for yourself that your consciousness has access, scientific credibility takes a gigantic hit. Denial is not the same as disproving.

Fraudulent Math?

That’s like me saying that math is an illusion and that all solutions thus obtained are fraudulent. You would certainly think me a fool. Or i must have some ulterior motive to promote such an obvious lie. That is the way a great many world citizens view western scientific thought, “The people who have brought us modern technology couldn’t possibly be so stupid as not to know that the mind is larger than the brain, that future can be told and thoughts take wings. Therefore, they must be lying.”

Science goes to great lengths to point out that we are all mistaken, that it is self delusion that fools us. Meanwhile, they refuse to accept the findings of their own, when they prove us right. Whom is deluding whom?

March 30, 2009

Is This God?

Filed under: Ch 10 Conclusion — Tags: , , , , — insomniac @ 6:21 am

About this time, someone will say, “It doesn’t matter what you call it, God, the Tao, LifeOS or the Great Spirit, they are all the same.” Well it does matter, they are not the same. There are certainly some similarities, but many differences between the concepts besides just their labels. One major difference is, that the concept of god is firmly established as an entity, whereas the latter three are processes. The distinction is critical to our discussion.

Conceptual Pyramid

Back in Shared Myths, i wrote about science and religion sharing the illusion that the universe is structured like a pyramid, with either god or the human brain at the apex. This is the conceptual structure favored by western civilization. It is closely aligned with the materialist mind set that “sees” reality as a linear path to some sort of singularity or super entity. Religion and science make extensive use of this conceptual structure to describe the physical universe for us. This static model defines objects quite well, but ignores the dynamic flow of information that manages the processes involved. That flow follows the rules of networks growing in complex systems. These rules are highly sophisticated fractal “algorithms”, involving conditional response(making choices) to optimize dynamic network traffic. This is best described as intelligent action. This is what goes on in the spiritual realm.

This informational/intelligent/spiritual “virtual reality” is an intricate web of relationships that exceeds the level of complexity seen in the physical universe, by several degrees of magnitude. This is both the history of the universe, (the memory of the total process) and its potential for growth. This is not an area that can be reduced to a iconic label and minimized, although science has attempted to do so.

One God, One Source?

Monotheism and evolution are both products of the same masculine, linear, rational and logical world view. Although the religious view of the All Mighty has morphed away from the bearded old man in the clouds, it is still based on an entity that is fundamentally separate from the system we are discussing. In the evolutionary view, there is no god, but the human being is supreme, and also seen as separate from the system.

Holistic Process

The System is not an entity, but a super, nonlinear process. The concept of an “eternal entity” is an illusion. There are only nested and overlapping subsystems that temporarily perform functions as if they were independent units, but flow on in waves, like the weather. The System is eternal; entities, even galaxies, are temporary.

You can’t talk to the System, only entities. The System is the communications network and medium, providing the system for all entities, but not in the business of user relations. Information comes from entities within the system, but not the System itself. It’s like trying to talk to the internet, you can talk to other entities using the system, not the system itself.

Political Expedient

Monotheism was a political expedient. Combining all the religions within the Roman Empire into a One Supreme Being(a Trinity really) was political genius. A world that worshipped enumerable deities, demons, gods and angels, could be ruled by one supreme representative, that just happened to reside in the capital city. This effectively removed religion from the life of the individual and replaced it with a state sponsored dogma.

Grand Network

You can ask anyone from a culture that converses directly with their environment and they will tell you that there are many entities that communicate with human beings. It is like the airwaves, the internet and your cellphone, all rolled into one. The System is a communications network that manages all living interactions. All entities use the system. Any entity that claims to be the one and only is pulling your leg.

You and i are part of that grand network, and therefore have access. Your entry portal is through your subconscious.

Beware of Introspection?

Both science and religion are in the business of inserting themselves between the individual and the System, by blocking off the subconscious as forbidden territory, too dangerous for common folk to mess with. They say our behavior should be left to the experts who interpret the “laws” of god and nature for us. They both attempt to define reality for us, with the intent of managing our behavior for their benefit. The concepts of deity and/or human superiority are their most effective management tools.

Accept Responsibility

The concept of a holistic information processing system puts the responsibility for behavior right where it belongs: on the shoulders of the individual. If you accept the “rules of behavior” given to you by your religion, your education and/or your government, you will, sooner or later, find yourself at odds with the Environmental System. Your culture has sold you out, using your behavior to increase the wealth and power those at the top of the cultural pyramid. The environment is a self-organizing, self-correcting system with a long history of success. It didn’t last this long by letting species run amuck. We will grasp our true relationship with that Environmental System, or perish.

March 23, 2009

Mind Beyond the Brain

One major misconception fostered by mainstream science that really affects their credibility is that “mind” is confined to the brain. The scientific community is so sure of this model that they refuse to even consider other possibilities. Locked into their boxes of logic, reason and math, in complete denial of a spiritual component, they seem disconnected from reality. Yet, they insist on trying to bolster their philosophical position by condemning all other methods for understanding reality. These childish reactions are not lost on the world audience.

Quantum Collapse

The concept of a purely physical universe is falling apart, (some might say shattered), by Quantum Mechanics. Even in the most respected bastions of logic and reason, the material approach to defining reality has uncovered its own limitations. However, they still want to keep the mind in a brain box, as if the evidence of totally interconnected, highly organized and communicating biological networks at lower(more primitive) levels, would not apply to the most advanced intelligence organ on the planet.

Let me put this another way. The most primitive single celled creatures, bacteria, worms, insects and neurons all learn and grow by exchanging information between individuals, species and environment. Information flows in waves of feedback through the environment, maintaining system integrity. To believe that the most sophisticated information processing organ around, the human brain, would be confined, separated or cut off from the environment and therefore denied use of this most fundamental of biological abilities, just doesn’t make any sense, logic or no logic. Unless you want to believe that the human brain was “dumbed down” from the rest of the system for a reason.

Restricting mind to the human brain would be an evolutionary step backwards.

Mind: nothing, but neurons and electrochemical reactions

It seems to be one of their primary assumptions that consciousness is a only a product of specific neural activity and therefore restricted to the brain. Electrical impulses, neurons and chemical reactions are thought to be the cause for consciousness, and therefore it is assumed that the mind cannot be active outside of a brain. Nonsense!

That’s like me trying to convince you that your cell phone can’t access outside information, because it doesn’t have a wire. You know better. You can call anybody you want and that proves me wrong. If you can’t make calls, (access outside information), with your cell phone, it is because you don’t have a contract, or you are out of range of a tower, or your battery is dead, or your phone is broken, right? Of course, if you don’t push the buttons, nothing happens.

The human brain is a far more sophisticated communications device than your cell phone. If you can’t access outside information with our brain, it is probably a user problem and not broken equipment. You don’t push the buttons, nothing happens. Precognition, telepathy, remote viewing, synchronicity and the rest are all features accessible with your brain. If you never take the time to master the skills necessary to use your built-in features, they certainly won’t work.

If the scientific community really wants to know why their credibility is so low,(about 80% choose superstition every time), they need look no farther than their absurd denial of “paranormal” activities.

What About You?

But how about you, personally? Do you believe that consciousness only exists inside the brain? If that is your belief, you are part of the minority.

That such concepts are nothing but superstition, is one of the things that education harps on continuously. By the time one has spent a career wearing that set of blinders, it seems to be true. However, the majority of world citizens believe that thoughts, emotions and prayers extend beyond the physical brain. It is no surprise to us that Cleve Backster’s plants responded to the death of the brine shrimp, or that people know they are being watched, or that prayers can aid in healing.

Personal Matter

I have said that i don’t expect “science” to overcome the inertia of its materialist, reductionist(soul-less) past, and embrace a holistic reality, anytime soon. But i really don’t care whether “science” ever gets it or not. My reason for touching on the subject at all, is but a hope to convince the reader that consciousness is a personal matter; not to be defined for us by institutions.

It can be interesting, and sometimes helpful, to understand what leadership believes, or wants us to believe, about a subject, but don’t forget that grain of salt. Their reason for fostering their beliefs on us has nothing to do with a search for truth, but for the exercise of control.

This view comes from looking at “science” as a subsystem, closely linked with financial, political, military, bureaucratic, educational and other subsystems, that control human behavior. Within that group, science is the closest thing to a conscience to be found. Without a spiritual component, science fails in this function. For the most part, the behavior of these groups has proven to be focused on accumulating wealth and not to be in the public interest, nor the interest of a healthy environment.

Rebel Researchers

Within this structure, there are individuals and groups that have formed subsystems, networks and associations that run counter to the overall reductionist, materialist belief system. It remains to be seen whether they will flourish within, and change “old science” into something new, or split off and form a new branch on their own. Either way, i see these groups as the foundation for the future of science. Until the current paradigm shifts to this new foundation, science will continue to misconstrue basic cognitive functions.

Your mind belongs to you, not the state. It is your responsibility to learn how to use it. It is too valuable a possession to let fall into the hands of the politicos, bureaucrats and money changers.

December 27, 2008

Self Help

I never intended this as a self help book, rather it was for my own exploration of information processing concepts as applied to biology. In that way it has been very therapeutic for me. However, now that i have progressed to this point in the journey, it seems to me that helping the “self”, is the only way to go. It isn’t about being selfish, but about helping integrate the desires of the individual with the intent of Life itself. It is about helping the self live in harmony.

You’ve Got to Serve Somebody

Learning to adapt is the fundamental goal of the System. LifeOS writes itself, by learning about itself. This too, is our reason for being. We are a collection point for information. We collect this information, not for the benefit of human beings, but to serve the System. It doesn’t matter what we think we are doing, the System is learning from it.

So, i am really writing about self improvement through learning how we relate to the System. Learning and living are really one and the same. It has been said by many observers that our present troubles are caused by the decline in our feeling of connection to the natural world. It is really no wonder, as both religion and science have tended to regard that connection to our animal nature, and emotion in general, as a negative that must be suppressed, overcome or denied. Nature has been seen as our adversary.

Our little self has been so overwhelmed by these cultural issues that it has forgotten it membership as a functional part of the System. It has succumbed to the self serving temptation of the shiny beads of wealth and power.

Failed Conquest

The fantasy that we can conquer Nature has run its course. We learn to live in harmony with the environment, or else. The very first step in that journey is to form an intimate bond with the crew and the ship that will take you there. From the point of view of the self, that’s the first level of the interface with the system.

The little imaginary self hiding in the back room, has to bond with the physical big body that will take the bumps and scraps of poor navigation. The ship and crew are selfless, but none-the-less, suffer the illusions of the captain. It isn’t that there is mutiny, but there can develop a loss of trust. The captain sees the environment, but the crew is flying blind. However, the crew feels the environment on a cellular level. Both are aware of the results. The object is to guide the ship through the maze of the environment to achieve specific goals. When the results of the process fail to meet expectations(no food, for example), the crew becomes agitated. Survival is the primary objective of the crew. So when in doubt, they just remove some of the responsibility from the captain, without notification, and proceed to propose and select behaviors based more on past success than the captain’s assessment. This frustrates the captain no end, but that only adds to the problem.

Deep down, the captain feels a degree of guilt, for the poor communication, and rightly so. This is analogous to a loss of confidence. The captain and crew are not on the same page. Sounds like the beginnings of a mental health issue, for sure.

Shooting Free Throws

An example of this that works for me is the shooting of free throws by professional basketball players. Here we have players that are capable of making baskets from 20 feet away, while being guarded by skilled opponents, at a higher percentage than they can make free throws at a shorter distance, with nobody in their face. These are highly paid professionals that practice for hours at a high percentage level, but can’t do the same in a game.

What’s the deal? It’s the relationship between the captain and the crew. When playing at speed, the captain doesn’t issue specific commands to the crew. The captain is busy watching the game and pointing out possible strategies to the crew chief. “That guy is open, that defender is out of position, etc”. The captain and crew have practiced this together and everyone does their job, as a team.

At the free throw line, the captain takes over and tells the crew what to do. “This is important… watch your feet… not too hard… this is a big game… don’t let the fans distract you,” and on and on. The crew isn’t left to do their job as they have practiced, and another shot clanks off the rim. Now this is a long way from the expectations shared by the whole gang, and those cells get agitated, further eroding confidence.

The successful techniques are the ones that still or occupy the conscious mind so the subconscious can get on with it. It boils down to improving the communication between captain and crew.

Make Peace With Your Self

Got to love your self before you can love the rest. The first step is to make peace with all aspects of the self. You need to feel your connections to the ship and crew to the point of tears. It takes a lot of emotional “juice” to make changes in our core beliefs. Hallucinogenic drugs, NDE’s, exhaustion, meditation, music, sacred spaces, etc. are all ways to trigger an emotional event with enough power to solidify new beliefs and behavior. They all depend on the power of the neurological “feel good” to reinforce desired behavior.

Behavior Modification

Depending on the set, setting and resident symbolism of the experience, one can be made to feel good about almost anything. The initiation rites of warrior cults, secret societies and basic military training are examples of behavior modification techniques with a proven record of success. It doesn’t matter what labels one hangs on the process, or what one believes, these are the elements involved in modifying behavior. Why not take control of the process?

When a self really feels the connection between mind, spirit and body for the first time, there is an emotional jolt (endorphins flow) that captures the moment and related symbolism as special. This is the moment when your behaviors are susceptible to change. When you have a good grip on that state, expand that feeling of love, devotion and appreciation to the environment around you. Acknowledge your connection to that which knows all, and your consciousness will be flooded with new information; sort of a welcome to the team, starter kit. Sounds like a spiritual rebirth, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what it is. It is this kind of experience that rewrites your interface.

December 24, 2008

The Point Is

little-big-body
Think about how this works. Deep inside the wetware we call the brain, resides a virtual world that matches the environment. It isn’t in one spot, but spread over billions of brain cells. Exactly how that world is created is a mystery, but the fact that it exists is right in front of us. That “us” is the little body that inhabits that internal world, the hands and feet you see when you look down. That self is also a virtual entity, complete with virtual body and virtual feelings.

Pinch the big body and the little body feels it. The little body reacts as does the big body. That there exists this connection between the mental image and the physical body cannot reasonably be denied. We can trace nerve impulses from a source of pain to the brain and the return messages from the brain. However, we can also trace the actions of muscles and see quite clearly that they react to pain before the message has had time to return from the brain. The body doesn’t wait for the brain to decide what to do in an emergency.

Virtual Self

So the little body, Captain Self, doesn’t exist as a physical reality. It is a virtual copy of the big body, used as a control element. The big body is the reality, the little body is pure imagination. The little body is not responsible for every action, but has a specific role within the system. The ship basically runs itself, so the Captain can focus on important details, like the hairdo.

The rub is that the little body, our Captain Self, is the one that feels most real. It feels separate from the big body. It feels like the one doing the feeling. It is like the senses focus down to a point.

A Point of Awareness

A point of awareness is absolutely necessary for decisions to be made. It takes an entity with a very fixed and limited point of view to act on specific information. The criteria one uses to make decisions needs a fulcrum or pivot point around which to form an opinion. That point is represented by the combined beliefs, prejudices, desires and other elements that make a personality. One must have a sense of self, an understanding of what is to be “individual”.

Captain Self is that point of awareness. In this view the self is a necessary component for the agent to do its job, but not really in charge of present behavior. The subconscious handles that, but the self has the ability to modify future behavior. The self can change.

Captain Self can plan strategically to modify behavior toward specific goals. The crew can be taught new behavior, as can the ship, but neither is able to use a behavior that has not been learned. This is where one can find wisps of the elusive free will. This is where imagination can outline the future. This is where the self can grow.

December 23, 2008

Captain Self

Viewing Reality

At first glance it seems that you and i are dealing directly with the environment. We can see it, touch it, smell it, hear it and otherwise interact just as if we were really observing reality directly. However, we interact with the environment through an interface. Why is it important to know this? Because it gives us the power to choose hidden options or even update its features.

I can remember the picture that became my view of the self for many years. It was from an old Flash Gordon comic strip. Back when i was a kid, we used to spread out the Sunday Comics on the floor, and listen to the radio. There was a guy who would go through the funnies and read with us. One episode of Flash Gordon was a mechanical football game. The players were thirty feet tall human replicas that played a brutal brand of train wreck football. Each machine had a pilot and copilot that sat inside the helmet, right behind the “eyes”. It was like the cockpit of an airplane, with gauges and dials everywhere. From there they worked control levers and switches to play the game.

Captain Self

Captain Self

That’s the way i had it pictured in my head, Captain Self, at the controls of this biological machine. Since then, control systems for aircraft have advanced, and over the years, i tended to add the same new capabilities to the Captains control room. Then there was Captain Kirk’s control room to borrow from. However, there were some problems with my model.

Learning about how the senses work and then following their information channels into the brain, it becomes obvious that there is nobody sitting behind the eyes. The senses each provide information to different parts of the brain. These different sections somehow work together to display a seamless virtual reality to the user. This is truly an amazing feat of biological information processing.

The captain of this ship is isolated somewhere in a back room, without windows and certainly no real view of the outside world. The Captain is led to believe that the view presented by the eyes is reality, but we now know better. It is all done with smoke and mirrors. The user/conscious mind is being presented with a virtual reality, that has been filtered, cropped, censored and otherwise altered by subsystems beyond conscious control. Who’s in charge, here?

Subconscious Deception

This virtual reality display has some very interesting attributes. One is the fact that this internal display is so well linked to external reality. The virtual image of my hands at the keyboard is so well linked to the external world that i am sure i am seeing the real thing. The sounds of the keys and the movements of my fingers, all in perfect sync. However, this complex display takes some time to conjure up in the brain; it is fast, but not instantaneous. There is another time lag in the decision making process. By the time i see something, some tenths of a second have elapsed. Deciding what to do takes a little time, then getting that decision out to the body uses up some more. That might not seem like a lot of time, but airbags can deploy faster. If the user were left to deal with such erratic transmissions, precise navigation would be difficult to impossible.

The subconscious clears that troublesome mismatch up by using a subtle deception. The subconscious goes ahead and makes the decision when it needs to be made to compensate for the time lag, and then delays informing the conscious mind until it matches the scenario. Clever stuff.

Virtual Persona

Then one night i was watching a TV show about virtual reality gaming and saw a guy in a suit wired up to input body movements into a computer. He was wearing a helmet that projected his virtual reality onto a screen in front of his eyes. He moved his body and his virtual persona moved in sync. That was my new Captain Self.

Gone were those primitive control levers and switches. The Captain moves and the ship moves. That’s what’s going on in the brain. It is creating a virtual reality with neurons and waves of sensory information, that matches the environment. The user interacts as if it were a direct connection to reality.

My Captain Self model also demonstrates how intelligence relates. The Captain has an intellect inside the helmet that is the user, and then there is the intelligence that manages the virtual displays and their complex interactions. This is the same intelligence that manages other, less sensual, but no less complex, internal affairs.

Captain and Crew

Captain Self is in charge and responsible for the behavior of the ship and crew. However, the good Captain is a relative newcomer, only being in charge for this lifetime. The crew has a long history of operating these ships and really doesn’t consult the Captain, except in emergencies. The crew is so good at doing their jobs that the Captain is seldom aware that there even is a crew. All the Captain has to do is think of an action and the ship responds. That makes a good interface: seamless, intuitive and invisible to the user.

December 14, 2008

Reason2Reality

Consciousness as Pure Information

Although consciousness certainly depends on cellular and molecular activity for its functionality, the content of consciousness is pure information. We reason by processing information. We use our ability to reason to guide our behavior. Through our activities we convert thoughts into adjustments to the environment.

Thoughts are Things

Thoughts undoubtedly exist. You and i experience them all the time. Thoughts are fleeting wisps of seeming nothingness that seem to have little direct impact on reality, but they are “things”, non-the-less. They add up. We know that thoughts, interacting with neurons, eventually become new pathways of learning, represented by real living tissue. The brain “grows” to accommodate what it thinks about. Through this process, thoughts become more “real”, until finally becoming behavior that results in changes in the environment.

Feedback

No human project would get far without thought. The process that takes us from thought to physical artifacts is what we do as humans. If we take the wider view of how this process works within the larger system, we can see that this progression from pure information to physical reality is only half of a feedback loop. Just as important to the system is the fact that physical reality is converted to pure information by the complimentary half of the process.

Another way to look at it is that the environment represents an increasing degree of uncertainty as one looks farther into the future. The role of this feedback loop is to make it possible to adapt to future environmental changes.

Adaptation

It is this process that we like to think of as uniquely human. This is the magic of what human beings do so well; we think and then act. Our nervous system converts reality into pure information, analyses it and makes adjustments that are converted back into reality as adaptations. However, the ability to adapt to future changes is universal.  At all levels of animal behavior, we see reality being converted to information and back again, by a very similar complex of nervous system activity. Our intellect is surely part of it, but is there any realistic way we humans can claim exclusive rights to this process?

All mobile creatures use a version of this process to navigate. Their nervous systems also convert reality into an internal display, where the animal makes choices that result in changes or motion within the environment.

Instinct or Free Will?

We can look at other animals and say that their process differs from ours in that there is no conscious thought, only subconscious or instinctual reaction. Can we be sure of that? Well, recent studies into how we humans make decisions indicate that the subconscious makes our choices first, and then informs the conscious mind. Is our intellect really the source of “free will”? If the subconscious is really the seat of authority in humans, how is that different from “lower” animals? Is the process by which an animal learns to find food any less an expression of free will then that of a man ordering a burger? Is it really possible to make choices without some rudimentary kind of thought?

Internal Hologram

All animals learn their environment using the same system of sensory input as we do. It seems obvious that a flying bird benefits from the same kind of seamless holographic projection of external reality, as do human beings. The brains of even the smallest creatures are giving them a similar internal projection. That half of the process is the same as in our own case; reality is converted into pure information.

Can the other half of the process, (conversion from pure information back to behavior in the environment), be any different? Pure information is understood and acted upon by all mobile species. Somewhere within the system, choices are made based on pure information. Something understands.

Evolution

We can see great differences on the complexity of human projects, but the act of learning about and adapting to the environment, is fundamental to living things. In fact, evolution itself, is a process whereby individuals learn about the environment and adapt to it.

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