Ep. 1 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Introduction

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  • John’s Notes

Important terms:
participatory-knowing (or relational-knowledge)

2; Why is there growing interest in Hellenistic philosophy.
3; increased interest in psychedelics, in treating addiction and PTSD. The normal treatment success rate for PTSD is about 20%, but with psychedelics its 80%
4; Meaning is a good predictor for well-being.
5; We’re going through a mental health crisis, suicides are spiking, (as well as high opioid usage)
6; We’re losing trust in our institutions, political, judicial, religious, participation in clubs is in decline.
10; These three crises are not disconnected
10;30 Wisdom is about enhancing meaning, realizing meaning in life in a profound way.
11; 3 Questions: What is this meaning, why do we hunger for it, and how do we cultivate the wisdom to realize it?
14; His endeavor is to create a scientific account of what enlightenment is
16; True horror is the sense that one’s grip on reality is being undermined
19; We’ve reduced all knowing to be ‘special kinds of beliefs’ (justified true beliefs), but there are other ways of knowing, such as HOW to catch a baseball, or what its like to be having particular experiences, and what it’s like to be in something or in relationship with something.
41; Exaptation, what was originally designed for certain functions, used alternatively for others.
45; "When you start to use a tool, even after a short period of time, your brain will start to model it as part of your own body."
46; We are natural-born cyborgs. most everything we interact with are tools that have been created. (def: fits your biology and enhances it)
47; A psychotechnology fits your brain and enhances it. (the removal of psychotechnology limits your capacity to solve problems)

50: Shamans will go through certain practices to enter a shamanic state (isolation, sleep deprivation, imitation, psychedelics (fasting))
54; Being told that they must go outside the box does not help ppl solve the 9 dot problem, that is why not all knowing can be reduced to believing. You must be shown HOW.
55; Shamanism is the set of intentional practices to disrupt everyday framing. (the previous psychotechnologies that we’ve gotten used to, but are witholding data from us)

my notes

  • 1:00 mindfulness is taking off, this series will look at why
  • 2:00 mindfulness, wisdom and neuroscience
  • 3:00 psychedelics also have academic interest, release from treatment addiction, release from PTSD (20% w/o to 80% with)
  • 4:00 pursuit of happiness, content -> meaning, meaning predicts wellbeing and status
  • 5:00 there are also dark factors at play
  • 5:30 we are going through a mental health crises
    • ben: technological addiction, dopamine addiction
  • 6:00 nihilism, frustration, futility, lack of trust, loss of faith in all systems
  • 6:30 zombies in western culture, we argued, that the sense of being out of touch, increases our sense of how much bullshit there is in the world, increasing the sense we are spending too much time in our virtual environments, social media depression/loneliness
  • 8:00 this sense has become a pervasive background sense
  • 9:00 this series will show how the positive and negative factors point to a unified explanation of why culture is having a meaning crises and how it is interacting with other crises, these crises are interdependent
  • 10:20 what is this meaning that came intro crises? how can we generate wisdom? Wisdom is about realising meaning in life. How can we cultivate it through practices?
  • 11:20 the three questions: what is this meaning? why do we hunger for it? how do we cultivate the wisdom to realise it?
  • 11:50 what is the history of this meaning, the connections between wisdom, meaning, self-transcendence - we need transcendence as it is a core need in human being function - why do intelligent organisms wish to alter their state of consciousness
  • 13:23 - intelligence, shamanism, flow state, mystical experience, awakening experiences, transformative experience - people’s lives get better after these awakening experiences
  • 14:30 - propose a scientific account of what enlightenment is, and why it alleviates the suffering of lack of meaning and why it has always been a perennial threat since the axial revolution
    • ben: what is the axial revolution?
  • 15:30 - there is a reason why we are so awash with bullshit, it is important to talk about foolishness (lack of wisdom - when our ability to self-actualise is undermined by our bullshit) as different from ignorance (lack of knowledge)
  • 16:30 - topics like absurdity, humiliation, horror, meaninglessness, despair
  • 18:30 - the most meaningful moments of people’s lives are those the most ineffable to them, why?
  • 19:00 - we’ve deprived meaning into a single term, to know - but we need more than that - we need more knowing than just holding true beliefs - we need knowing in the knowing ourselves in the different moments of life - we need to know ourselves - we need to transform theoretical knowing into practical knowing
  • 21:00 - what are the cognitive processes of knowing - how can they fall into function and disfunction
  • 21:30 - I propose an awaking from the meaning practice, in a profound transformative and existential manner - this is not something that can be done in an hour, if anyone can tell you they can do it in an hour, they are deceiving you are they themselves are significantly self-deceived - there is a reason why this is hard, this is a complex and difficult thing we are undertaking
  • 23:00 - I will always do my best, to give rigorous rational explanations, to give proper scholastic references to other people, that I cannot offer the absolute uncontested truth, I can only offer you good arguments and good evidence, and why I think they can be understood to be highly plausible - I do not want this to be an academic series, I want this to be transformative for those who are facing an existential crises

  • 24:00 - I want to start with why this topic is so important to our humanity, why we crave it so much - I suspect it goes back to our early evolutionary history, however we will focus when “us” as humans started to form - the Upper Paleolithic era (200,000 BC) and around 40,000 BC there was a significant radical change, where humans started making art, paintings, music - evidence of significant enhancement in their cognition - first use of symbolic calendars, that is to say tracking time, to enhance their hunting abilities - developing projectile weapons (neanderthals only had spears they thrusted) - homosapiens developed thin spears with bone tips and stone missiles to throw at distance - this requires enhanced prefrontal cortex - this is embedded into our language
    • project we are working on - the thing we are throwing
    • they are over there at that object - the thing we throw against
      • ben: isn’t this better as target?
    • I am the subject - the thing thrown under
    • all day we are throwing
  • 30:00 - all of this is associated by different aspects of what we mean by meaning - time is being made more meaningful - art is being made more meaningful - why did this occur?
    • ben: seems nutrition from agriculture from arranged marriages
  • 31:00 - around this time was an super extinction event, tremendous pressure put on humans - they move to the coasts - they diversify their diet - but what is really interesting, they come up with a socio-cognitive response - they create broader trading networks - when you do that, you become more resilient to environmental changes, as you expand your viable environment, and the discoveries that the environment offers
    • ben: free markets for the win!
  • 33:00 - they developed rituals for dealing with the enhanced environmental challenge, and the enhanced social network they made to deal with it - for the first time, humanity started participating in distributed cognition - large networks of cognition - way before the internet networked computers together, culture networked brains together, to provide some of our most powerful problem solving abilities
  • 34:00 - in cities, you hang around with strangers, this is a hard thing!!! other species don’t do that!! we have to have a way of developing relations with strangers - rituals enhance our ability to create communication and relations with those we do not personally know
  • 35:00 - shaking hands give us cues to the psychological and physical state of those we shake with, however we rarely pay attention to those cues anymore
  • 36:00 - to enable these social rituals, I must be able to know what is going on in your mind, your reality, how you feel - the development of the ability to go from a 1st person perspective to a 3rd person perspective - and if I can’t do that, I can’t trade with you — Daniel Seigel’s Mindsight — the ability to pick up on other people’s mental states — and as you increase the ability to pickup other people’s mental states, you increase your ability to pickup your own mental states — the origins of meta-cognition and mindfulness
  • 37:00 - knowing another, is just one side of trade, the other side of trade is knowing yourself - if you engage in trade, you must know how that will affect you and your group - will your loyalty be questioned by other members? - there is temptation from the stranger - something part of all our myths - we create initiation rituals - rituals designed to show our commitment to the group - that require threat, loss, sacrifice - our modern initiation rituals have been very tamed down - they use to be traumatic, experience tremendous pain or fear - why make anyone go through that? well it shows that are really committed to you and your group…
    • ben: have we become soft? especially in marriage?
  • 38:40 - what does this show? That we need the ability to regulate our emotion, to improve our ability to decentering, to let ourselves be in the hands of other people - a non-egocentric ability - the ritual is centered on you, but the ritual on you is centered on the group
  • 40:00 - exaptation - tongues did not evolve for speech, if they did, all animals with tongues would be speaking with you - tongues evolved for moving food around your mouth, and poison detection - the tongue was exapted for speech (flexible sensitive muscle that can be used with airflow - that is the building blocks for speech), evolution did not have to make something from scratch, it took something made for one purpose, and exapted it for another — the brain has designed for one purpose, that it reuses for another subsequent purpose
  • 41:30 - shamanic rituals are exapting — a practice, that exapts the enhanced ability to control your emotional mental state — a shaman in the group enhances discourse and trade within the group — why were they so effective? — it seems the advent of shamanism that enabled Upper Paleolithic explosion in upper cognition — this is the thesis of several people — here is the issue, it is not a hardware change! the brain couldn’t have evolved that quickly in that timespan to change significantly, it must have been exaptation, that is to say, not a hardware change but a software change
    • ben: or nutrients / environmental cues that allowed genes to finally express themselves
  • 45:00 - psychotechnology — technology is the systematic use of a tool — you are a natural born cyborg, your brain has evolved to use tools, you feel the tools as part of your own body — unless we are naked, everything else is a tool! our clothing! our room! — our brains can exapt a tool from a physical thing to a cognitive thing — a physical technology fits out physiology and enhances it — a psychotechnology fits our brain and enhances how it operates — literacy is a pyschotechnology — we are not born literate — we can write things down, and come back to it later — we can link a past state of brain, by writing it down, to a future state of brain, by reading the past state of brain — we are networking our cognition through literacy — not only does it enable us to network our own brain’s states, it allows us to network our brain with others, without us being there — the brain is the same hardware, psychotechnologies enhance the software of our hardware
  • 49:00 - shamanism is a set of pyschotechnologies for altering your state of consciousness and enhancing your cognition
  • 49:30 - the shaman does a lot of interesting things to alter mental state — sleep deprivation, prolonged dancing, clothing of imitation, prologoned isolation, some may utilise psychedelics — what a shaman is trying to do, is disrupt your normal ways of finding patterns in the world — the very thing that makes you adaptive, the way you find patterns, makes you prone to self-deception
  • 52:30 - pause here if you want to attempt it without the answer
  • 52:45 - if you want to do it this way, people get angry and say you cheated, you went outside the box - that is where think outside the box came from
  • 53:00 - why that was hard, is because you projected the constraint unconsciously - as a projected pattern of connecting the dots from prior pattern matching - but it is unsuitable for this case of pattern matching - it is an issue with framing - you must disrupt your framing to gain insight - saying to people think outside the box, giving them the belief that they should go outside the box, does not help them with this problem!!! — it is not about belief, it is about knowing how to change your perspective, alter what is important or real to you
  • 55:00 - what shaminism is, is disrupting everyday practices, to enhance framing, to gain insights to the environment and people that others may not pick up on
  • 56:00 - the shaman becomes the deer to understand the deer this enhances the shaman’s ability to track and find the deer
    • ben: then why has aboriginal communities around the world, practiced this until only even a few hundred years ago, yet technological progress (health, wealth, ability, etc) was so stunted — shouldn’t the more shamanic a tribe be, the more progressed it would be?
  • 56:00 - shamans enhance your placebo effect - 40% of the effect of real drugs is placebo - they are rockstars and therapists who come to you when you are sick — what is it that they do? how do they enhance your and their cognition?
  • 59:00 - wizard meant wise person