Wednesday, December 27, 2006

good, bad, Principle, ...?

I don't really have a clear question or idea here, but I'm wondering about different approaches to spirituality. Stuart Davis, for example, is very positive. You get the feeling that everything is ok, and even though you're being challenged, you are still loved and someone will hug and comfort you along the way. Bernadette Roberts, on the other hand, makes the journey sound like constant pain and emptiness, and lack of comfort. Even Stuart Davis points out that a lot of our life serves as anesthesia, but he phrases It as "Love has no opposite".

supreme doctrine

A few days ago, I read part of a chapter where Benoit is talking about affectivity. His use of language (originally French, but I think the translator did an awesome job) is very specialized, and I can't really explain exactly what he means by affectivity. But basically, he says that if you look for your own affectivity, you won't find it. It's not the absolute Principle, nor is it a relative (formal) phenomenon. You will find images of happiness or sadness, but no actual fundamental good or bad affectivity. So I tried looking, and it was very strange. It seems so basic that affectivity is real; it's what I work for constantly. And there are clearly lots of "images" about it. But if I try to direct my attention to the thing itself, it doesn't exist where I thought it would be.

What the hell.

I really want people to like me.

Monday, December 11, 2006

reality is awareness

I suddenly had this thought as I was on the bus, and it seems to explain a LOT. My old question was, how does phenomenology connect to ontology? For example, why do human brains (a particular configuration of molecules) have "consciousness" and other configurations of molecules don't?

There are the classic explanations for how mind and matter relate. A) Dualism says mind and matter are two fundamentally separate things that can influence one another. My spirit could make a decision and push around some molecules in my brain; and sensory events impinging on my brain could influence my spirit. B) Materialism or Idealism says that matter or mind (respectively) is the only real thing and the other is an illusion. C) Epiphenomenalism, like dualism, says that mind and matter both exist, but mind has no causal power. Sensory events in the brain can influence my spirit, but my spirit is a passive reflection of reality and can't influence anything.

Here's the new answer: matter is mind. This is so simple. Of course a rock is aware as a rock -- that's what it is! A rock doesn't have self-awareness in the sense of a reflexive arc like humans do; a process that feebly tries to represent some aspects of the entity of which is it a part. It's just a rock.

This is why humans are aware (or, in another sense, have the illusion of being aware) of a lot of reality. When the brain instantiates a pattern that mimics a pattern in reality (i.e. when the brain has any representation), that pattern IS aware as itself, so we have the awareness of what seems to be the thing we are representing. Of course, our representation is not the thing itself, so we're not really aware OF the thing itself. Brains happen to be highly concentrated areas of representation.

So humans are not aware OF reality. The representation in the brain is aware as itself, and it shares characteristics with the thing in reality. Maybe you could even go so far as to say that nothing is aware OF anything.

So I wonder what non-dual awareness is. Or is it just that insomuch as things are not dual, they are aware as everything?

Monday, December 04, 2006

genpo roshi, ego, reality

Watching the first few of these videos did something to me. That, along with a video of Ken Wilber talking to some other guy. I started to really change my basic orientation to the self. Genpo Roshi pointed out that all of those aspects of the self that we try to pretend don't exist are actually serving valuable functions. Ken Wilber said that at the center there is always the contraction of self. I was like, holy shit. It also made me rethink what I said in my last post. I have been trying to dissect out where the "badness" is in the Universe. It was making me really confused, because the same essential contraction, or recursion, or duality seems to be in all manifestation -- not just the human ego. Does that make all of manifestation a pathology? But now I'm thinking: that's what manifestation is. Now my confusion is kicked back to this: what is the process of enlightenment, then? It's not causing the mind to stop manifesting, is it? Maybe it's very psychological. Maybe it's even specific to the detailed implementation of a human brain. Maybe it's embracing the lower-level contraction into a higher-level contraction. Any thing that happens in reality has to be that, right? Are there non-dual events? The non-dual creates another manifestation during enlightenment, I suppose. Maybe reality is constructed such that particular manifestations can be deeply embracing of all manifestation in a way that goes beyond our current understanding of state and information.

Friday, December 01, 2006

What is agitation in the brain?

I feel like it's starting to be the right time for me to ask the question: what processes in the brain are mental agitation (i.e. non-spontaneous, non-True, self-protecting thoughts; illusion or Samsara)? Here are a few possibilities:

1) It's not a feature of the physical brain. It's something spiritual that can't be reduced to mechanistic processes.

2) It's any neural activity at all. Any manifestation is inherently dual; the richer the manifestation, the more pronounced the duality. When the manifestation goes away, what's left is the Self.

3) It's neural activity that is out of sync with reality. I see a tree, but for some reason my representation of a fish is activated instead. (This example is a sensory-level misrepresentation; maybe what would correspond in Wilber's framework to psychosis. Most practical examples would be much more subtle, like lying to oneself about motivations.) Interestingly, this could help explain development. The lower levels of representation have to be in sync with reality before higher levels can form, because otherwise the conflict with reality agitates the lower-level representations to the point where the higher-level structures are unstable.

4) It's recursive neural activity. When the flow of information is somehow circular in a network or system of networks, the brain is no longer representing reality and instead representing "itself", which isn't really anything. The internal dynamics of that circular network are the self. Those dynamics are not really a representation of anything, although some other system could represent them. This is surprisingly similar to Benoit's analogy of a short-circuit. If you hooked the output of a thermostat up to its own input, it might go into an oscillation (if there were a time-constant), or an unbounded growth, which would be the internal dynamics of the recursive system. Strangely, if all manifestation arises from feedback processes, could all manifestation be a kind of agitation; self-creating unreality? But what does that mean for it to be unreality? We started with the idea that the recursive activity in the brain was unreality because it didn't represent the outside reality. But there's no outside reality to all of reality. What the hell?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

crap-a-fuck mental processes

There is a central part of myself that I am scared to have other people find out about. This is related to two things: lying and mental agitation. I lie more than I should, especially to myself. It was hard to admit that. The lies are sometimes subtle, like trying to justify something by spinning it a certain way. When I really directly noticed that process of lie-generation, it seemed to be identical to the process that makes agitation. When I say agitation, I mean all the little self-recursive energy-discharging thoughts that go on endlessly. The first word that came to mind to describe these thoughts was crap-a-fuck. I'll try to think of a better word.

I think the lies exist to protect the part of myself that I want to keep hidden. If people see what I really am, they will loathe me. Is this my "self", as Bernadette Roberts calls it? Could this be why it's so connected to the agitation? The agitation is the processes constantly being spun to keep the self existing? I'm a little worried because I get excited with a kind of "I'm so great" feeling when I get the idea that I'm somehow close to understanding something so spiritual as my "self". That bothers me.

Here's another idea. Sometimes relationships are used as anesthesia, and sometimes they are genuinely contributing to awakening. The craziness that comes from opening to someone can really facilitate seeing things that would have been hard to see otherwise. Maybe just because it makes you so agitated that you have to do something about it now!! But I don't think that's the whole reason.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

things i could do to really challenge myself

-throw parties
-ask girls out
-start a business
-take apart and put together an engine
-travel somewhere without preparation
-take LSD
-get into a fight


"I am painting pictures which make me die for joy, I am creating with an absolute naturalness, without the slightest aesthetic concern, I am making things that inspire me with a profound emotion and I am trying to paint them honestly."
-- Salvador Dalí

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

word to the way thoughts affect other interior stuff :-)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


In the classical view, one of the big drives in evolution has been getting enough energy for the organism. If you can't get enough food, you die. Of course, other things are bad for your fitness, too, like getting eaten or not finding a mate. But your energy input also limits your other qualities. Organisms have to balance their energy investment between muscles, brains, reproduction, and other things. If you had enough energy, you could outrun all your predators and prey, develop elaborate mate-attraction anatomy, develop super sensory organs to hyper-process every modality, and not have to compromise anything.

Nowadays, humans in the developed world essentially have access to unlimited food. The problem is that our biology doesn't know what to do with all that energy. Enzymes have ranges of substrate concentrations that they work in; gene transcription has programmed ranges of outputs; and most importantly, the structure doesn't exist to use the energy. For example, if you could always count on plenty of ATP being available in the cell, you could manufacture a new protein that would do something awesome (like shooting X-ray beams to kill enemies).

Throwing a lot of energy at a system doesn't immediately make it work better. All it does is provide a level of support so if the system invents a new structure that requires energy, that structure won't necessarily fail.

Same with people. You can't improve people by immersing them in love; but if you do provide that energy, they won't be clobbered down when they let go of some of their defenses.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

relationship between a thing and the things that are about that thing

Two posts ago I talked about how the subjective experience of chlorine is closely linked to the actual thing of chlorine itself.

That principle may hold for the representations that people hold of each other, too. This relates to the idea that "souls" and "reincarnation" could be partially explained by the way our minds are distributedly represented across many other systems, especially the people who know us.

the windowlicker characters are transdimensional aliens

You simple-ass nigga! You better roll on!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How is a perception of a thing connected to what that thing is?

There's a question: is a perception just a superficial image in our mental processes, or is it directly linked to the essence or reality of the perceived thing?

I just thought of an example of this. Chlorine has a distinctive smell, like in bleach or swimming pools. Why does it smell that way? Because it binds to olfactory receptors that connect to certain parts of the brain. If you took a normal brain and rewired the olfactory receptors for chlorine to the parts of the brain that normally smell ginger, then chlorine would smell like ginger.

This makes it seem like there's nothing meaningful about the subjective experience we have when we smell chlorine. You could just rewire a few neurons and the subjective experience would be different -- so how could we claim that the subjective experience is deeply linked to the reality of chlorine?

Here's my new idea: it's not just "chance" that made those neurons normally wire to the particular part of the brain that creates the chlorine-smell experience. Chlorine olfactory receptors have a particular structure that allows them to bind to chlorine. Their structure also determines how they interact with other molecules, like axon guidance molecules and other developmental signals.

That's how the meaning gets in there. The reality of chlorine is the way it interacts with things (on any level). The things that interact with it are configured in a way that reflects that reality.

Monday, July 31, 2006

getting better

If you want to get good at something, you have to realize that initially you're going to suck. When your first attempts are failures, it's easy to think, "I'm just not good at this". Instead, think about what specifically sucked. What do other people do that works better? Whom can you learn from? Seek out that knowledge and then try to apply it. The most frustrating time is when you see yourself applying the ideas and still not getting great results. There's some mysterious pattern that the gurus can channel and you can't. Keep practicing. Now when you look at what other people are doing, you'll see that some people are actually following pretty simple patterns; you just didn't see it before. Keep watching what the masters do. They're still doing something you're not doing. Find it and try to apply it. You're already in the 95th percentile and many people will look up to your skills. That's as far as I've gotten.


Some things are not to be fucked with.

Extension: Everything is to be fucked with, but only at the right time and place.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

social man&woman

Social interactions are not what I thought they were. We are incredibly far from being the rational free agents that we sometimes imagine.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

articulation vs codification

To articulate something is literally to give it joints. We say, "he articulated his idea well" to mean he clearly explained the details of the idea and their relationships to one another.

Imagine a shapeless blob. It has essentially no internal dimensions. Add a skeleton with joints. Now there are many internal dimensions, or degrees of freedom. The possibility space of the blob's movement has been compartmentalized.

I like to think of all development as a kind of articulation. Wilber says evolution is a combination of differentiation and integration. Differentiation creates new parts or details, and integration combines those parts together into a system. That's like giving a thing joints. Each detail is a compartmentalization.

The way I think about articulation, it's a process embedded in the context-dependent, scale-invariant fabric of reality.

Codification, on the other hand, is translation from non-formal to formal. You start with "an idea" (a fractally fuzzy entity nested in holarchy) and generate an algorithm or a set of propositions.

In a sense, the codification itself isn't actually articulation, because the original idea isn't getting jointed; it's getting projected into a flat space. However, the process of codification probably causes an articulation of the idea, because you have to understand it well to formalize it. This is sort of like epiphenomenalism, or a backwards version of Platonism. The real world has a dynamic flat mirror of "perfect forms" or formalisms.

Friday, July 21, 2006


I was just reading this article about "Search 2.0". What I think we need to improve search is deeper syntax in the search box. Right now the best we have is boolean queries ("this AND that", "this OR that"). A next step could be syntactic categories. For example,
1. Encyclopedic (what is a thing, or how does a process work)
2. Personal (information about any person: their blogs, photos, etc)
3. Specific data (how many civilians have died in Iraq)
4. Realtime data (weather, game scores, etc)
5. Data sets for living (bus routes, maps, showtimes, etc)
6. Meta (information about the system)

Some of these categories overlap, and each one could be broken down. Once we figure out the best syntactic abstractions, they could be combined into a rich grammar. For example, "realtime metadata relevant to a particular person" (e.g. what types of searches does that person make).

The search system should also perform some data analysis. For example, suppose I had the question, "What are the major theories about JFK's assassination; what kind of people subscribe to these theories; what news articles have been written about the theories; what proportion of magazines have run these articles; and what is the correlation between readership of a magazine and the number of articles?". The search system could dynamically compute the answers to these questions, based on the built-in syntactic concepts.
I am proud of humanity for having the Internet. :-)

Friday, July 14, 2006

life after death

Another thing Beraki wrote about was the life of the spirit independent of the body. As religions say, the righteous person is rewarded in Heaven. It occured to me that the process I described in the previous post (which is, maybe, Aurobindo's "involution") may be the reason.

The person who does the "will of God", who works hard to live rightly, has faith, and invests herself in all her actions -- the person who has purpose -- also may be a deeper holon. If your Self is more deeply reflective of the Universe, then maybe the Universe is also more deeply reflective of your Self. The Universe would contain you in a more profound sense. When you die, your spirit would live on more fully. For that matter, your spirit probably lives more fully even before you die :-)

"the image of god"

The Bible says that humans are created in the image of God. I ran across this today. I met a guy named Beraki from Eritrea (just north of Ethiopia). He showed me some stuff he had written. He used that phrase, and it gave me an idea.

If you believe Wilber, some holons are deeper than others. They integrate more; they have a bigger purview. The human is probably a good example of a deep holon (from our perspective, maybe the deepest -- that gets into a whole other awesome topic :-).

As holons become deeper, they embody more of the process of the Universe. Not just because they contain more elements of the Universe, but also because the way in which those elements are put together reflects the way that elements get put together by the Principle of things (as Benoit would say). Deeper holons have had more "time" (maybe time doesn't need to be in quotes; that's a whole other awesome topic :-) to absorb the nature of the Universe.

Everything is "created in the image of God", because everything arises from the Universe. But deeper holons, like humans, more richly and deeply embody the image of God.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

building altruism through a combination of selfishness and generalization

"Do to others as you would have them do to you."

Do a good job of rinsing out the glassware because it might be you using it next; and wouldn't you like other people to do the same thing?

Maybe this is where altruism comes from. We want things to be good for ourselves, and then we start identifying with other people, so we want things to be good for "them". Selfishness is the only motive, but the subject is displaced. Maybe this is how true altruism is born.

It's interesting how it's sort of a habit. Once you get into the pattern of doing altruistic things, it just comes naturally. And the really interesting thing is how it's always a choice. You can be in the habit of being nasty, but you always have the choice of letting the other person take the close parking spot. If you can recognize that choice, you can be the way you want to be.

the skin of a system

Here's another interesting generalization about systems.

A meta-stable system has a pattern that it more-or-less preserves despite a varying environment. However, the substrate is in flux. For example, our bodies maintain their integrity even though:
- subatomic particles quantumly jump in and out of space
- atoms and molecules recycle continuously, especially through breath and food
- cells die and are replaced

How can you keep a system in rich communion with its context, without losing the pattern of the system? Why isn't there breakdown along the edges that propagates inward to destroy the system?

Every meta-stable system has a skin. The cell membrane is the quintessential example. The cell NEEDS to be in flux with its environment, but that flux also NEEDS to be regulated. So there has to be a border patrol. Otherwise, the cytoplasm would take on too many of the characteristics of the external world, to the loss of its identity (in this case, primarily through diffusion). The border patrol is, in some senses, its own entity, with a purpose aligned to the system. It masks the lever points of the system, so they can't be pulled willy-nilly by the external world.

Countries have skin, cultures have skin, even minds have skin. If the mind were a pure representational mirror of the world, the mind wouldn't exist as a separate entity, and it would have no purpose.


You can't get new concepts out of an algorithm at the depth of the algorithm.

For example, this article suggests that video games can perpetually "self-upgrade" if they are designed around procedural rather than fixed data. To some extent we've already seen this: when you upgrade your computer, you can turn up the graphical options in many games and get a better rendering. This principle could be extended a long ways, by adding more "scaling parameters". Designers could be creative and make these parameters govern abstract elements of the game.

But the problem they will always be faced with is that you won't get anything fundamentally new. There won't be any new depth of realism. Suppose "number of polygons tessellating a sphere" is one of the scaling parameters. That sphere will get really smooth. But if the game uses monochrome lighting, the sphere will never be lit in color.

Next -- ways to get new things.

Take a program that generates a string of 64 random bits. Once in a while, this program will produce something "meaningful", like digits of pi, or my name. However, these outputs don't reflect a stable organization of the system. The algorithm, by itself, never generates a new attractor basin, a new focusing of probabilities: a new entity.

Now imagine coupling the random program with a "filter" program that squelches all but a few meaningful outputs. The conjunction of these two systems is now a generator for meaningful outputs.

In general, by compositing two systems with their own concepts, you get a third system with its own concepts.

It's true that you can build a Universal Turing Machine inside of Conway's Game of Life. Then again, you can build a UTM from a pile of tubing and valves. The concept of the UTM doesn't exist in the cellular automaton, just like it doesn't exist in the tubing, before you put it there. And even the UTM doesn't have the concepts for any of the programs that it's capable of running.

The critical counter to all of this is evolution. If all concepts have to be transferred from somewhere else, then where did they originally come from? The answer is: whatever was stable. We can witness one step of evolution in the Game of Life, when gliders and blinkers and blocks are born.

Something else I've been thinking about -- all entities are non-linearities (and vice versa). Here's an example of building a new entity by compositing two systems:

The local maximum at x=0 in the product function is a new stable point for the state of the system.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Squishy context-dependent meaning

"Any treasured theory can be made to fit any evidence, as long as you're willing to adjust enough auxiliary hypotheses."
-spetey, Slashdot

This is an awesome observation. I love this way of thinking about the squishy context-dependent meaning of entities.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Melodies from Mars is an aperature.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

depth of pattern in art, niceness and nastiness

Let's start with the idea that the mental states we like are the ones that are somehow "internally consistent" or non-conflicting. Mental states that contain disharmonious representations, on the other hand, cause us mental pain. Maybe this is connected to energy efficiency of representation in the brain, but that's a tangent.

We like art because it promotes self-consistent sets of representations. Take music as an example. In the simplest case, just listening to something like a single tone occupies part of your attention. But lots of other parts of your mind aren't engaged in processing that tone. So the tone isn't extraordinarily pleasing. But if you add some variation, then more processing is required. The specific types of variations that will engage more processing depend on the listener, although there are lots of commonalities across humans.

For music to be profoundly awesome, it has to engage huge amounts of your mind. Most of the mind doesn't deal with low-level sound patterns (e.g. the specific mathematical characteristics of a waveform); it deals with human things, like people and stories and feelings and ideas. That's why great songs have complexity on many levels - including sounds that evoke higher-order sensory representations (like the way a sound of glass breaking creates a certain kind of imagery), and even things like lyrics.

To me, this is connected to things like syncopation. For example, I love the title track on Toxicity because every rhythmic pattern is punctuated by another pattern. Of course this is listener-specific again. Some people might be awe-struck by Bach's Goldberg Variations or Nancarrow's player piano pieces, but other people just perceive it as a homogenic wash of notes. For the latter person, the pattern of the music isn't being articulated on the lower level, so those parts aren't available for synthesis/representation on a higher level.

Another thing is that the brain is good at collapsing things that have any repetition. So a good piece of music can't continue to engage a lot of your mind with a single set of patterns. They have to change. For example, in movies with a surprise ending, your brain has "figured out" the pattern of the first part of the movie, and then the end part forces new representation relative to the "figured out" state of representation.

Any given "part" of your mind can only represent "one thing" at once. So when a piece of art coordinates many parts of your mind to represent it, much of your mind is brought into harmonious representation.

Monday, March 27, 2006


The idea of "dimensions" is interesting. It's such a powerful concept. A dimension in linear algebra corresponds to an extra "basis vector" that you need to reconstruct the entire space. If you can make every point in the space from linear combinations of n vectors, then the space is at most n-dimensional. (If those n vectors are linearly independent, then the space is exactly n-dimensional.) We often think of dimensions in a spatial sort of way, but in something like Principal Components Analysis, the dimensions are not necessarily spatial at all. They're more like, how many factors do you need to explain the behavior of the system. Where a "factor" is some principle at the level just beneath the system itself; the level that creates the system. In that sense, there are way more dimensions in the universe than just the spatial dimensions of string theory. For example, there is the dimension of "how happy am I right now", or the dimension of, "how far along is my computer in downloading some files". And then dimensions build on dimensions. When there is some pattern, and that pattern has parameters within which it remains coherent, those parameters are dimensions. But if another pattern contains that original pattern as a constituent, it might "compress" a lot of the parameters from the constituent pattern by causing them to covary, and that creates a new dimension.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

"That which is not present in deep dreamless sleep is not real." -Ramana Maharshi

Ken Wilber references this quote in a journal entry. It's an amazing idea. I don't know what real means. But if you just imagine what is present (from the point of view of your interior consciousness) when you are in dreamless sleep, and think of that as being something that is present always, it's pretty amazing. It reminds me a little of when I would get really high and things would start to look like a surface, a film with basically no substance. That was a little scary actually, because it was like I was seeing through things to something else.

Monday, January 09, 2006

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
You never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol
Come trickling down the rocks

Sunday, January 08, 2006

a new idea

It's one thing to have a lot of ideas about faith, and it's another thing to just have faith. Word to God!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

monica suggested that overcoming pathologies is the evolutionary process itself

My personal theory is that at some level you "know" what the "right answer" is; and I use quotes there because those words are just rough sketches of the idea ... you know how people say to follow your conscience? I think that's the right idea. Christians talk about opening their heart to Jesus and putting aside their own plans to follow God's plan. I think God, in the cosmic creator sense, is very related to the presence at the center of your being ... it's almost like, if you look deep enough inside yourself, you're actually looking outside yourself and seeing a truth that manifests you and everything around you. That "looking inside yourself" process also seems to be connected to a willingness to acknowledge when your "temporal-self" (i.e. the tangled mess of thoughts that are always trying to benefit themselves by seeking validation and pleasure, and framing your perspective in a way that is favorable to their existance) is contributing to your behavior. For example, if I hold the door open for someone, am I trying to make them think highly of me, or is my motive really selfless? It's very "painful", in a sense, to acknowledge those things (because a part of your "self" that is struggling to validate itself is exposed and dies), but I think it's something we should struggle to do continuously. Then your innermost self, the part that's "the same" as God or the world, is more connected to your actions, and you will always do the Right Thing, because the Right Thing is exactly the principle that is continually making you. In the case of a relationship, I think it's extremely hard, because we care SO much about being validated and loved by other people, so it's a huge challenge to even realize our own motives. But I think a truly good relationship will only come when both people are acting out of non-specific Love (i.e. the Right Thing). Otherwise a relationship is only a transient validation of your temporal-self, like taking cocaine!