consciousness

Excerpts from: "Conversations on Consciousness"

A few highlights from a recent highly-recommended read, Conversations on Consciousness:

 

Richard Gregory, British psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol.

And do you ponder about other big questions like the meaning of life or what happens when you die?

Oh I think one just snuffs out. And I don’t think life has a meaning beyond what we put into it. It’s like vision. I mean one not only projects colors onto objects – they’re not, of course, themselves colored – one also projects meaning onto things. If you look at a painting, the viewer is projecting his own meaning into the paint, whatever the artist wants.

The other big question is what consciousness does. I don’t think it’s uniquely human.

… it’s very much associated with the present moment.

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When you’re perceiving things, the brain has a vast amount of processing going on from the past.

… I see that {item} as a real object, not just because I’ve got a retinal image and a bunch of signals going into the cortex, but because it’s evoking all this from the past. Now it seems to me that you’ve got to live in the present moment; you’ve got to survive crossing the road. So it really matters that the traffic light is red or green now, at this moment in time.

Qualia

So are you saying then that the function of consciousness is to discriminate the past and the future from what’s now, and requires action?

Yes, absolutely.

Stuart Hameroff, anesthesiologist and professor at the University of Arizona known for his studies of consciousness.

You want to know what my answer to the hard problem is?

Yes.

… I think there are basically two types of explanations for qualia, for conscious experience.

  1. ... emergence; that is, (paraphrased) out of complex information processing a new property emerges at some higher level. (“properties that emerge from a higher order”). I question emergence. I think we need something else.
  2. The other way of looking at it is that consciousness, or perhaps something proto-conscious, is fundamental to the universe; it’s part of our reality, much like spin, or mass, or charge. There are certain irreducible things in physics that you just have to say ‘they’re there’ and consciousness is like that. (Chalmers) said that consciousness must involve something fundamental something that’s intrinsic to the universe, and I agree with that.

I think that qualia, if they are fundamental, must exist at the fundamental level of the universe, the lowest level of reality that exists. In modern physics that’s best described at the Planck scale, the level at which space-time geometry is no longer smooth but quantized. When you go down in scale, you get to this level of space-time where there is a granularity, and that’s the fundamental level. It is at that level where we think qualia are embedded as patterns in this fundamental granularity of space-time geometry that makes up the universe.

Losing My Mind By Choice: Why Go

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My greatest fear has always been losing my mind. I'm about to do it, by choice.

Lose it, lose myself, lose control. Control, which from before I have conscious memories, was my comfort.

I know now, (at least many of) the nuances of control and fear and logic and perception that have guided, and misguided, my mind and body through anxiety, relationships, life choices and self formation, to where we find ourselves today - at another chapter fold and open. Caused, as we are more capable of than we often realize, by choice.

This choice isn't about anxiety (which is a symptom not a root). And it's not about control, ultimately, either (though that's deeper and closer to why I've chosen to "lose my mind").

Today I leave for The Sacred Valley of the Incas to spend two weeks with a Peruvian Shaman, and plants - one of which contains the most powerful psychedelics on the planet. While not shy of drugs, I've not so much as eaten a mushroom. (You know what I mean.) Psychedelics scared me. They still do. Anything that tampers with this fragile "reality" was the last of my wants. I've always needed the ground, not a trip to space.

So, why?

At the beginning of this journey, I started keeping a list of what I believe. That is actually the title of the list. It's a series of conclusions and resolutions - answers to questions I've been asking since I could. In writing this note I realized that the culmination of that list is the answer to that why.

Because, I Believe:

That experience is the way to knowing. That knowledge is growth. Growth is motion. Remaining in motion, I believe "is" "life." Moving means leaving things behind and meeting newness. It means encountering change, and the unknown. The unknown is uncomfortable. Scary often. But, fear is a mirage. It's a two-way mirror. Fear can be heard, understood and sometimes heeded but should not be a hinderance to going.

(An aside, my novella published six years ago was titled "Go Gallantly".)

What persists through going into change and the unknown? Self. Self reliance requires grit. I believe in grit. Wherever we go, it's expansion. Externally or internally, which are ultimately the same thing. Outward, we might learn something that is true. Or did we know it all along? If it's true, does that mean that others, maybe everyone and everything, know it too? I believe in collective consciousness.

Going in, is learning self. We die alone. Or, all together. Knowing ourselves is the minimum must.

And the expanses of our minds are greater and as unknown as space or the sea - as well that's where we spend more time than anywhere else - which is one hell of a travel destination. It also happens to be where we make this so called reality. The one we think we're so attached to.

I believe that reality is subjective.

When we know ourselves, know something, or know that we know nothing, we might better know what’s right, and when. ("Know" just lost a lot of the meaning we typically attribute to it, did it? Maybe "know" isn't a thought.)

I believe we can feel "knowing".

Call it what you will, and be it because we know it, or that we believe it - by choice ("faith") or because we learned it.

I believe that sometimes we only know we have to go because on the other side is something more to know, to life.

And so, I go.