Tuesday, December 22, 2009


How can we reconcile the psychiatric and neurophysiological concepts of addiction with the more general Buddhist idea of addiction (attachment to things that temporarily let you avoid seeing your true nature)?

Being addicted to something means you're doing it to avoid something else. On some level you know it's wrong (not bringing real peace and happiness), but you do it anyway. Procrastination. Distraction. Is this the same as drugs of abuse? Say I have a compulsion to take drugs. What would happen if I didn't take drugs? I don't know.

Or say I am afraid my body will fail if I stop distracting myself. It won't really. I can understand this if I really think it through. But a lot of the time I don't want to. I'm afraid of it. The defense and safety comes from a self-delusion and I intuitively recognize that once I start to let it go, it will fall apart. I want to have my head in the sand. But at the same time I deeply crave something that I'm not getting.

An article said we get a boost of dopamine when we distract ourselves. So how does dopamine fit into the psychological theory?

I guess we do something about the pain that we know how to fix.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I've used cellular automata as a thinking metaphor for how life could emerge from the Universe. If you had a large enough CA grid, starting random, you'd be guaranteed to get any possible structure. So if there are any structures that can persist and replicate, you should see them appear and start to dominate the grid.

1) This makes me think you would want a CA rule that didn't generally collapse randomness to nothingness or static structures. For example, Conway's rules on a random grid produce mostly empty space along with some bricks, blinkers, and occasional gliders. But in the Universe, even where you don't have life, you have interesting and complex stuff going on, possibly analogous to Wolfram's Rule 30.

2) In the Universe, we don't know how life started, but it seems like there might have been a fairly smooth progression of complexity. Subatomic particles, hydrogen, heavier elements, simple molecules, nucleotides, RNA, etc. This differs from the "rely on extreme luck in the midst of a flat background" vision of CA. Even something like Rule 30 that doesn't flatten everything still doesn't produce stages of increasing depth. Maybe a CA would look like the Universe if you zoomed out (spatially and temporally) 10^10 so the "extremely lucky" structures were common and interacted with each other. If so, is the enormous amount of empty space and time between structures somehow necessary?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

half halt


I was in a waiting room and I saw an article in "Dressage" magazine about this equestrian maneuver. From all the diagrams and explanation, I couldn't tell what a "half halt" is supposed to be. I can't even tell from the wiki video.

Here's the thing. I bet if you ride horses for a little bit, you "find" this maneuver. Even if you don't know what it's called, you recognize that when you "do" a certain thing, the horse responds in a certain way, and this is like a discrete entity. You can tell when it's working or not working. Sometimes you might try to do a half-half; seemingly doing the exact same action that you've always done, but for some reason it doesn't work, you don't get that response.

Like in Go, the ideas of moyo or thickness or sente. Once you've played a bit, you know exactly what they are, but it's pretty damn hard to explain to someone who doesn't play; even if you give a perfectly good explanation, they just don't *see* it, they can't see it on the board. They have to see the thing itself first, without a name; then you can point at that thing and name it.

It's a discrete entity because there's some strength to it as apart from other possible ways the sequence of events could unfold. It's amazing in a way that things like this exist at all.

Another example is the kinds of interactions you can have with people. You can just feel that it's "this" kind of thing, 99% of the time you don't have a word for it, but you recognize it very clearly. And artists communicate this shit in sweet ways.

It blows my mind that we can communicate this stuff. Even giving a name to something like the "half halt". What *IS* it?!?!? The rider does something and the horse responds in some way and this influences the rider... and all of this is fluid and is totally dependent on the surrounding context.

It's easier for me to have this amazed feeling about something that I *don't* understand; it's harder to have it about something that I deal with routinely. That's one reason it's awesome to learn new things. You can have this vague idea of "what if things fit together in this kind of way that I can't wrap my head around", and then someone has a word for it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

sputnik means traveling companion but it stands for the loneliness of outer space

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

from the beginning, not a thing is

somehow this is an awesome sentence to me

Friday, June 19, 2009

maybe one of the highest things to aspire to is giving hope to other people. i have never thought of myself as influencing people particularly. but i was just thinking about how i am going through some tough shit and trying to stay mindful, always trying to recognize if i'm just anesthetizing myself, and sort of keeping in mind the deepest goal or direction (following my conscience, as i've thought of it). and at the same time having a meta-interest in this process, which may actually be a hindrance sometimes, but it means that i can maybe vaguely try to explain it. so when other people are going through distress, i can maybe be more aware of it, and even though my thoughts sound like total nonsense when i try to explain it, maybe somehow people are benefiting from that.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

systems that are rich and ready

Drop a grain of sand into a supersaturated solution and watch complex crystals spontaneously form. Give an engineer two words of inspiration and watch him build an intricate machine. Inject a pathogen into the blood and watch the immune system build new antibodies and make new cells.

Many systems contain a lot of "potential energy" in this sense. What seems like a small input triggers an elaborate set of processes. With your small input, you "caused" the reaction, but a lot of the "cause" is actually the prior state of the system.

There is an important distinction between this and gating. For example, turning on your computer is a simple action that invokes a massively complex process. But there's no informational input. The computer will boot exactly the same way regardless of small variations in how you press the button. The key to what I'm thinking of is that the system receiving the input is not just waiting for some "Go" signal to perform a predetermined function. Instead it's rich and ready for a huge possible variety of inputs, each of which will engage the resources of the system in a different way.

Monday, April 20, 2009


i was just reading experience reports on erowid about mirtazapine. it reminded me of how TOTALLY AWESOME drugs are. there is so much SPACE to explore in the dimensions of interior consciousness. not diving into this is like being color-blind.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Saturday, March 07, 2009


when jeff hawkins spoke at sfn, he made the point that humans receive a lot of training before they can do anything intelligent. there's just so much stuff in the world that you have to be exposed to a lot before you can start to sort it out. i looked at the numenta website just now and i saw that they still haven't made any significant progress on AI. their program can recognize a sailboat, as long as the sail is up and it's oriented the right way and so forth. then i thought, to recognize other configurations, the program would have to have some deep knowledge about sailboats and how they work, not just pixels. so it would probably have to be trained on other kinds of data besides pictures of sailboats. then i wondered if this could actually be an advantage in some way, because of the repeating nature and scale-invariance of patterns in the universe. for example, you can attach a mast to a sailboat like you attach a methyl group to a carbon ring.

Friday, January 02, 2009

the more direct the experience, the harder to talk about... why?

i was thinking about "brain freeze", an expression people sometimes use when they can't think of something. i wanted to ask, when people use that expression, what is the actual experience they're describing? is it just applied rhetorically in retrospect if you happen to not be on the ball? or is there some really distinct feeling, like a brain-state movement? i was thinking that it's kind of hard to phrase this question in a way so someone could understand what i'm trying to ask. how do you talk about "brain-state movements"? "now it feels like this...."

and then i was thinking that, paradoxically, the most abstract (distanced from direct experience) things are the easiest to talk about. in the limit, you have formal systems that can be perfectly described with no ambiguity, and no one has ever experienced a formal system. on the other end of the spectrum, looking at a block of wood. it's pretty hard to describe the essence of that experience.


if you have a fantasy image of yourself being an awesome person, then you have to defend that image if something suggests it might be false. if you have a fantasy image of yourself being worthless, then everything bad confirms this image. what if you have no real image of yourself?