Saturday, July 27, 2013

free energy and suffering

the free energy framework provides a really natural explanation for what suffering is. "good" vs "bad" feels like such a basic quality of subjective experience, but neuroscience says the material correlate is dopamine or opioidergic neuron firing or whatever. that doesn't make sense, it's way too arbitrary. in the active inference framework, suffering is exactly free energy. it's the same principle for any system. to the extent that the system is trying to assert that "it is the universe", and the rest of the universe is shooting that theory down, that's the subjective quality of suffering.

of course, the concept of a "system" is just something we lay down post hoc to try to understand. you can draw a boundary anywhere you want and call the inside a "system" (although this might get increasingly pointless for weird boundaries). and then our concept of "suffering" would match up with the free energy of that "system".

this is a nice explanation for what happens in addiction, i think. when you look at the system-boundary around your relatively shallow ego, free energy actually decreases when you take drugs (or do whatever addictive behavior), because the drugs help this shallow system to live in a more isolated dream, where it's not exposed to the truth of the rest of the world which it's denying. but simultaneously, if you look at the system-boundary around some deeper identity of the individual, the drugs are making things worse -- creating more suffering. so at the same moment, there's either more or less suffering depending on what system-boundary you're considering.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


whether particular beliefs are inconsistent depends on your model of the world. fundamentally all beliefs must be inconsistent in some way because they're just partial truths. evolution in general, i think, is the process of steadily burning away these inconsistencies when they're forced to interact with each other. or in another sense, the inconsistencies remain (since, after all, they are what manifestation is), but their reconciliation also exists (which itself is another kind of inconsistency). so depending on how you look at it, more-and-more "stuff"/form is being created, or more-and-more "stuff"/form is being burned away to leave what it originally was, truth.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

the transition from not-life to life

Q: do you think the "no-life" to "life" transition... that first step to the first living cell.... was a bigger and more complex step than all of the evolution of lifeforms that has happened since?

A: the free energy way of looking at life suggests that, 1) there isn't any kind of border between life and not-life. homeostatic dynamics arise within all systems, and just progressively increase in richness when possible. there were probably lots of intermediate steps between autocatalytic RNA sets and modern "cells". and 2) each additional step is only meaningful in the context that it arose in. the organizational level of, e.g. what we call "life" is just the tip of an iceberg of systems dynamics. the right way to think of the non-living world isn't as a static or dead -- it has its own rich dynamics, upon which the steps toward life are just little nudgings that reorganize those dynamics.