Ep. 10 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Consciousness

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Lecture here:

My Notes:

  • 16:00, Consciousness is the bringing forward of relevant information
  • 21:00, it’s what gives us an optimal, not maximal grip on the problems of our focus.
  • 22:00, An affordance is the relation between the constraints of a thing along with the constraints of the figure that allows for an interaction.
  • 23:00, you don’t see colors and shapes, you see ‘graspable’, or ‘walkable.’ (I suppose what he’s getting at is that we cannot see what our biology is too limited to apprehend.)
  • 27:00, to change ones consciousness you have to change the salience-landscape (relevancy), the presence-landscape (graspable), and depth-landscape (causal interactions).
  • 36:00, If you’re able to allow your S-L update your P-L, which does so for your D-L, to changing the entire system in which one takes in problems, this is the significance landscape: where you suddenly see everything in connection with one another in a way that feels more significant or more real than previously.
  • 38:00, the higher states of consciousness give people the feeling of understanding how the world REALLY is, and also who they REALLY are. Such that they wish to change how they live so as to better live out those ‘more-real’ realities.
  • 43:00, Realness is something like the pattern of intelligibility with the widest scope. Makes the most sense of the most of your experience. (Dreams aren’t as real as waking life, because they the waking story can explain the sleeping one, but not vice-versa)
  • 44:00, yet higher states of consciousness are small, singular experiences that are used to reject all the basic norms used for the major portion of your life.
  • 47:00, Despite these HSC being temporary and ineffible, by adopting the ontonormative changes to their lives, they do seem to get better.
  • 52:00, these higher states do not give us any evidential-knowledge, thus should not be used to challenge scientific claims.
  • 54:00, When the child grows to no longer choose the longer-looking chain of candies, he has not gained any new facts. Wisdom is the ability to recognize and illusion and not allow it to control you.
  • 55:00, Different people can go into the HSC and receive polar opposite insights, indicating that they are not gaining any factual knowledge via these experiences.

Pleasure of Doubt’s Notes:
“Here’s my notes from Episode 10.”

Episode 10 Vervake Notes: Consciousness

  • last week: Mindfulness can bring about insight not just into a single problem but a modal insight, a systematic insight that is fully transformative of the agent/arena relationship and relieve existential distress
  • Two kinds of attentional scaling: transparency/opacity shift, breaking gestalt into features and scaling up
  • mindfulness: scale down, break down inappropriate framework. Also scale up train making better framing
  • Optimize by flowing between the two, can optimize capacity for more comprehensive insight
  • Progena: non-duality, dissipate modal confusion, realness, increase meaning and life
  • Transformative Experience: LA Pauls

Alterred State of Consciousness:

  • hard problem of consciousness
  • Not going to talk about that but looking at some of the form and function of consciousness
  • Two questions:
    • What is consciousness: how does it emerge out of the brain
    • What is the function of consciousness
    • No consensus on what consciousness does.
  • Don’t know your consciousness the way that you know other things. Just know you’re conscioussness. Knowing and being are the same. You participate in your consciousness
  • What does it do?
    • Not obvious. Do most things without conscioussness. No conscious awareness of what brain is doing that allows to generate speech.
    • What is consciousness for, what does it do?
  • Not going to answer these comprehensively: hard problem of meaning is the goal here
  • Work on consciousness points to why C is valuable

Global Workspace Theory:

  • C functions like the desktop of a computer
  • Have desktop and files, can activate file and bring it into desktop, pieces of information broadcast back to you and can broadcast back to the files
  • All unconscious processing in brain, retrieve it to working memory, activate it so pieces can work together, then broadcast it back to existing files
  • Don’t want all files active at same time b/c that’s disaster
  • What to bring them to mind when relevant, transform them, then broadcast them back
  • Baars: paper
  • Idea that architecture helping to solve the “frame problem” - helping to zero in on relevant information.
  • 3 areas where huge issue:
    • All information available in this room astronomically vast, can’t make use of all of it, have to select what info make use of
    • Huge information in my memory, have to select from all of that.
    • Have to put pieces of information altogether
  • C helping to zero in relevant info out there, in the brain, and put them together.
  • C associated with working memory which is associated with function
  • Help realize, actualize relevant information
  • Will come back to this

Neuroscientific account

  • correlation with brain activity
  • Activity seems to be involved when people chunk information or insight
  • Boren-Seth model

Integrated Information Theory

  • Tononi, about the nature of C
  • C is how powerfully integrated pieces of information are in brain
  • More tightly integrated more powerful processing
  • Why is it doing this? Proposes like a Turing test for C, can test by giving it anomalous pictures and see if they don’t make sense
  • Tracking how much picking up on the patterns in the world, making sense of the world
  • Trying to track the complexity of the world
  • Main function of IIT: allow to determine if pieces of information are relevant to one another and relevant to you
  • Not saying any relevance realization is C
  • But C is to coordinate attention and other related abilities of awareneesss to optimize how insightfully insight the world
  • Can reduce C when problem well defined, no high degree of novelty or insight
  • Don’t know if its a complete account of the function of C but a part of it
  • Insight is like a flash, brightening of C
  • Explains why may want to alter state of C, alter what I find relevant and salient

Putting it together:

  • Matson: sizing up
  • Salience landscape: picking out out of all the things could be picking out some features (featurization)
  • foregrounding: foreground some of what is around you, the rest is backgrounded. Goes both ways. Take them in Gestalt those features, create a figure - figure it out - make it stand out even more - more salient, also configuring it together
  • Figuration: also feeds back
  • Framing: framing problems
  • Very complex dynamical system at work
  • C creates a salience landscape: some things rising up out of unintelligibility as features that get forgrounded and configured, frame problems around them, attention shifting
  • Highly textured/flowing salience landscape. That’s what it’s like to be here right now
  • If get too close lose the gestalt, if too far lose the details: want to get an optimal “grip” on it.
  • Optimizes between gestalt and feature, taking salience landscape

( This episode more about framing and providing language for what we’ve already concluded: that need a balance between gestalt and features)

  • grip: metaphorical contact, where I can place things, this is movable
  • Salience landscape gets you in contact, then optimal gripping get info affordances. Agent/arena: I am a grasper and this is graspable.
  • I am presenting myself to it and it is presenting itself to me
  • Sizing up: Presence Landscape: whole affordance network laid out for you
  • flow: need to track the differences between correlational and causal patterns
  • Depth landscape: C is figuring out the causal patterns and not just correlational.
  • 2 year old and spoon: drop it over and over, because trying to use salience landscape to use affordances. The spoon is graspable. Transform salience landscape into presence landscape into a depth landscape
  • Getting a deep understanding interjectionally with the spoon
  • This is what C is doing for you. Helping zero in on relevant information

( This is the argument against pre-suppositionalism. My argument with Sye Ten B on how why we trust our senses - based on empirical experience. Why we trust won’t fall through the earth).

  • shifting dynamically, how you and what’s salient are being co-identified in agent/arena and tracking the Casal patterns, connect with the guts of the world

( Course it seems to do more than that)

  • if transform my C transforming all this: salience landscape, presence landscape and depth landscape

( So is it more about different perspective? Is that about truth? Does it entail truth? Which model of truth: affects how we interact and see ourselves, maybe function better, more self-realized?)

  • the patterns going to track, the kind of agent going to be, kind of arena in going to be transformed.

( Interesting, the arena is a mental construct here, it’s not the bare physical pieces, it is how we perceive it.)

  • not an insight IN C, its an insight OF C
  • Radical transformation of all landscapes
  • Systematic insight
  • Goes back to Piager, childhood development
  • As the child is to the adult, the adult is to the sage
  • 5 candies experiment with 4 year olds. Two layers of candies, bottom one is more spread out. Ask which row they want. Counted, know there are the same amount. All the kids pick the bottom row. Bunch of errors.
  • Used to pay attention to what the kids got right, but thought might be a pattern in the errors
  • Contraints operating in the child’s cognition
  • Maybe could understand development on how constraints are shifting.

( Interesting though that there’s a strong physical link there. The kids literally aren’t capable of that deeper understanding based on their current physical development now. The pathways aren’t formed. Meditation has been found to reinforce certain neural pathways. Does give you better - or different - ability to process. Interesting physical/mental relationship).

  • Kids picking lower row because it takes up more space. Space variable super salient to them. Only picking up on that. Adults also make salient that the extra space is non-candy space so not relevant.

( a robot could be programmed to make the same inference, he’s saying our C helps us do this.)

  • we see through this illusion. Our salience landscape trained to see these multiple variables at the same time.
  • Zero in on the relevant information in the relevant way
  • Super-salience triggers bullshitting and self-deception - if can change salience landscape don’t fall prey to the illusion and don’t behave foolishly
  • Kids make a system of errors, salience landscape not sufficiently cultivated.

( But is there a difference between what one considers relevant and what one SHOULD consider relevant. In practice we all tend to focus on subtly or non-subtly different relevances. Left/Right is a prime factor in this. Working together to share what we’ve picked up helps us spot all of them. I guess cultivating mindfulness helps us do it ourselves, but maybe there are pros to just focusing on one or the other so long as we come together or trade off (like why I don’t want my preferred party in power all the time)

  • 33:50; what if has systematic insight of C, change salience landscaping. See through illusion and into reality.

( Is any change in salience landscaping good? How do we know that our new perception is seeing through the illusion)

  • even as adult falling for systematic illusions not aware of. Only become aware if change the 3 landscapes systematically. Systematc improvement in insight is to be wise.
  • Significance landscape: Systematically tracking presence in depth so can wisely zero in on the relevant information and make life more meaningful. Protects from BS, allows to see through illusion and into reality and afford you having things more present to you
  • More comprehensive flowing relationship with reality

(but still have to double check)

Alterred States of Consciousness

  • 36:50: altered states of consciousness have potential to create insight of C, but also screw up salience landscape make more prone to BS

  • Most altered states do that. But certain altered states do the opposite feel like changing systematic insight - it all makes sense now

( But is “feels like” a key word here?)

  • why is that altered state more real? Really real. And this state less real. Why feel like woke up?
  • 37:30: Set up the problem. We know that many people experience higher states of C, reliably what is characteristic of these states find it to be really real, arena and agent. That’s the way the world really is and who I really am. So much so that I’m going to transform my everyday experience. Mutual more realness
  • AS prompts to change, need to have that
  • Willing to transform everything to get back to that really real world and self
  • Problem of the Ontonnormativity: Ontology: structure of reality. Normative: when things placing demand on you to be better
  • AS challenging you to change because presenting more realness.
  • Historically important and pervasive: Steve Taylor waking from sleep
  • Newberg: how enlightenment changes your brain
  • Range in intensity: 30-40% of the population

( Seems high?)

  • psychedelic experience can produce deeply transformative mystical experince.
  • Problem: transformative experience people undergo seem driven and justified by this more realness. Justify the transformation. Religions have this. Come down to this claim: I had THIS and it justifies what I’m telling you.

(getting at the questions I asked above)

  • problematic because in contrast to how we see most of our other Alterred states.
  • Why do reject dreaming as unreal: when in the dream it seems real. When come out pattern in dream don’t cohere to rest of life
  • intelligibility plato: more intelligible something is, more real it is. Dream doesn’t fit in so less real
  • Real: pattern of intelligibility with the widest scope: makes the most sense of experience
  • But: in higher state of C its the reverse: single experience, doesn’t cohere with rest of life, and challenges rest of life.
  • Difference so great that instead of rejecting it, reject everyday experience
  • What’s going on?
  • Does this without providing new content: ineffiable can’t put into words, trans-rational, can’t explain.
  • No content, and temporary but we treat it the opposite of most AS
  • Should be the states we most reject. But we promote them as really real, and reject everyday experience
  • Core of axial revolution
  • Way it is still informing cognitive grammar, and informing existential way of being
  • Know that AS can bring about developmental improvement, but how?
  • Can we give an adequate explanation of AS?
  • People’s lives do get better, Not making it up

( So maybe it’s not about truth? It’s about making our lives better)

  • have to solve this problem. Make some progress on it:
    • Descriptive explanation - cognitive brain processes, explain the phenomenological
    • Explain why people feel it being more real, feels justifies empowers and motivates them to transform - psychological
    • Prescriptive account: is it actually a legitimate thing? Do they provide a rational explanation and guide to the transformation
    • Are they actually philosophically justifiable or just an illusion? Is it rationally justifiable
    • Prescriptive account must integrate with the descriptive to be coherent.
    • Descriptiove account best way is to do a cognitive science approach: plausibly trying to integrate different levels in the analysis
    • Good account of cognitive processes in the mind, information processes at work, draw on AI and machine learning.
    • Draw on neuroscientiifc accounts of what’s happening in the brain
    • Going to try and give this account. Though not going to argue these states give us any special knowledge - not about changing evidence, shouldn’t use them as a way of challenging scientific claims/ that’s a mistake many make. People think the whole point of cognition and rationality is to get better beliefs and shown more to it\

( This is really interesting. Getting at its not just about truth. Want to see where he’s going with this)

  • when child stops falling prey to illusiion, no new facts been discovered. What changed was not knowledge but wisdom.
  • Pursue idea that higher states of cognition are rational not because give us new knowledge (people come out with opposite conclusions) knew God, knew no God -= content diametrically opposite. Dyametrically opposite claims
  • What’s changing is not the content is your functioning. Gaining wisdom. Gaining skills of significance landscaping, radically transform existential mode

( So its how we opearate, how we feel. )

  • buddha didn’t answer metaphysical questions
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Difference b/w Awareness, Consciousness, Attention?

Uploading Snapshots from letcture for discussion:

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