Thursday, December 25, 2014


life is the ultimate precommitment.

i was thinking of the movie "what dreams may come". robin williams loves his wife so much that when she spirals into a bottomless psychosis and kills herself, he's willing to give up heaven and be trapped hell in hell forever, for a chance to see her, even if he can't save her. even if she doesn't recognize him, if everything that seemed to be *her* is gone and what's left is just a shell, he believes in her so much, that he never gives up.

in that movie it's two people, robin williams and his wife. but what if you think of them both as being yourself? let's say you really fuck things up in your life, and you get to a state where you don't know who or what you are, and you have no path whatsoever back to something good. or maybe this never actually happens, but it exists as a potential that in some sense you're always working implicitly to avoid - it's inside you somewhere.

what can you do? you could kill yourself, but that doesn't solve anything.

you can only keep believing in yourself no matter what, and go all the way to hell to find yourself. by being yourself, from the very beginning you've been committed to this, even if you don't know it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

from the Shinjin Gakudō

The thought of enlightenment sometimes arises in a life-and-death situation, sometimes in the serenity of nirvana, and sometimes under other conditions. It does not depend on any place, and it is not obstructed by any place where it arises. The thought of enlightenment does not arise from any particular set of conditions and it does not arise from the intellect. It arises from the thought of enlightenment. 

The intention that gives rise to seeking enlightenment is beyond existing or not existing, beyond the judgmental realm of ‘good or evil’, and beyond moral indifference. It is not something that arises as an effect from some previous life, nor is it something that beings in lofty worlds can always realize. It is simply the arising of the intention to realize enlightenment at that moment in time. Because it is not concerned with external circumstances, at the very moment when thought of enlightenment arises, the whole universe, through and through, also gives rise to the thought of enlightenment. Though it is said that this arising seems to turn external circumstances around, the thought of enlightenment is something that these circumstances do not recognize. The arising of this intention is like both self and other stretching out their hands to each other. And we ourselves stretch out our hands going forth amidst beings who are alien to us. Thus the thought of enlightenment is aroused even within the realms of hell, hungry ghosts, animals, and the asuras.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Understanding doesn't get in the way of not understanding

Sunday, November 30, 2014

In each moment of experience, I think the fundamental suffering is there with us; we're more or less aware of it.

Activity engages other goals and takes attention away from it.

one theory is that the self likes things it can catalyze. if something is completely foreign to us, we don't especially like it because there's nothing we can do with it. like random noise. but if something is overly familiar/repetitive, we don't like it either - again because there's nothing more we can do with it, we're already predicting it fully.

what we like is the in-between part where we can grapple with the thing and assimilate it. this is the most fundamental way of looking at "making progress toward one's goals". before we start assimilating something, the parts that we don't understand represent "not-self", but after we've finished assimilating it, it's "self". moving along this gradient is what life constantly tries to do. suffering/frustration/confusion is what we feel like when we're not moving along this gradient.

as long as we feel like we're moving along this gradient, we're not too motivated to make big changes, because things are basically working out. if things are not working out, one response is to change "who we are" - i.e., find a different approach that might be able to make progress.

but one interesting thing that buddhism says is that we can get *stuck* in a situation where we're continually *not* feeling like we're making progress, and yet we *keep* persisting with the approach (i.e. goals, beliefs, self-concept) that isn't working. [attachment, perseveration, addiction, being stuck in a too-deep basin with not enough metastability, etc]

the solution that buddhism suggests is then to just *look* at the approach itself (i.e., look at the self), because looking at it inherently makes it less deep/stuck, because "looking" literally means to allow dynamical contact or information exchange between that approach and something outside it. the more information exchange there is, the less that approach can be stuck in its own dynamics -- they're partly washed out by the other dynamics.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


once you think of me
dead and gone
you will make up with me
you may even adore me

why be a worshiper of the dead
think of me as a goner
come and make up now

Thursday, November 20, 2014


congruency effects are all over the place. like the simon effect where it's easier/faster to respond in the same place as you just saw a stimulus. or "pavlovian" effects where action is congruent with valence.

i wonder if using natural objects as cues in a task, as opposed to fractals, is another form of the same principle of "congruency". they look like our predictions, so it's easier to deal with them.

i know how to deal with this, it's a self-contained object, it's not going to start animating or bleeding off the edges or whatever. all those things are forms of congruency (since it actually does behave like that). we don't have those priors about the fractals.

UPDATE: is this just a simple rule -- "make the world look like what you want"? this might correspond to hierarchical action-unfolding. like if PFC representations are abstract goals/beliefs, and they're unfolded down the motor hierarchy by a constraint satisfaction settling process that checks forward models against how we want the senses to look.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

incest and zazen

(i keep saying the same thing in different ways)

zazen is like the incest taboo. the default is path of least action: re-merging with the parents, or taking whatever local action seems to make progress toward the online goals (equivalently, i think, away from the fears). this discharges the potentiality of that goal or separation. (a really simple one of these could be particle/antiparticle annihiliations.)

but zazen, like the incest taboo, blocks this route back to zero. this actually spawns new things, because that energy is now in the universe and has to interact with other things, getting integrated into all those patterns.

interestingly this also breaks habits. whenever energy has a route to discharge, it probably starts to form some kind of habitual pathway, without "awareness" (which is maybe just the same as slowing down the route to discharge). but somehow - i don't get this yet - holding it in awareness really eases that... hmm... seems like this might actually be key to understanding "habits", but i don't get it yet.

anyway, in this sense "incest" is being used probably more broadly than just physical sex with the family, but that is a big thing given how we're built as humans.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

No source of suffering, no relief from suffering, no path, no wisdom, no attainment and no non-attainment. Without attainment, bodhisattvas take refuge in the Unknown and live without walls of the mind. Without walls of the mind and thus without fears, they see through delusions and nirvana.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

old ideas, restated

an argument. intelligence is a vast collection of well-interfunctioning solutions accumulated over biological history. if you want to recreate something like intelligence, you have to figure out many of these kinds of solutions and put them together in a meaningful way.

for example, the mechanical shapes of axon guidance proteins for visual cortex are probably tuned in some way to natural visual statistics, or to meta-aspects of the visual problem. even the shape of the body itself (like having legs and stuff) is a kind of intelligence. there's an incredible array of clever engineering tricks throughout all levels.

a counterargument. maybe there are simpler principles underlying how these solutions get found and put together. so if you had a grasp of these principles, you wouldn't have to spend decades researching solutions, but instead you could turn your principles loose on tons of real data and they would gradually figure out all these solutions similar to how real life did it.

that's why i was excited about "plasticity in overlapping representations". if there are simpler principles, i think they'd have to erase the boundary between form and content in a learning system.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

hmm... also on the topic of goal-states... i guess if the representation of the outcome is a strong driver, it makes sense that you would get "pavlovian" behaviors that are uncoupled from instrumental contingencies. the dominant representation isn't "i'm here, what should i do?" (which you could imagine would favor instrumental behavior), but it's "here's what i want". this could favor actions that are associated with that outcome (like salivating for food).

maybe you could also view lots of the little internal actions that we do during goal-states as pavlovian. orienting/preparatory actions that are consistent with consuming (or avoiding) the outcome. i wonder if we're doing lots of these online during listening to music.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"being high", goal pursuit, dopamine, internal conflict

there's something about being "high" that's really hard to let go of. let's say you're feeling euphoric from mdma or meth or opiates. when the first waves of "not-high" state start to hit you, it can be pretty awful. deep sadness in the pit of your stomach, isolation, hopelessness. it would be understandable to want to take more drugs at this point to avoid those feelings.

parts of our deep suffering are often probably coming from very old things, fragile childlike stuff. this is kind of a discordance, often pretty unconscious but still there. for example if some childlike part was hurt before it knew how to deal with it, it still has this wretched image of itself, which is constantly grating against our adult self-image. dunno, that's pretty freudian and rough, but something like that. and so, if drugs let us kind of muzzle the discordance to just believe completely in some positive perspective, then when the drugs wear off and the muzzle disappears, those things ache particularly. partly because you've kind of betrayed yourself in a way.

(incidentally, this might explain why mdma with psychotherapy could be positive without a hangover.)

i think on a smaller scale this is what's happening without drugs, with every little perspective we take. we don't like to let go of our current movement/direction/goal. and the more that connects to any really long-term deep things we haven't been connected to, the harder it is probably. it hurts when you believe in something and that rug is swept out.

i wonder if dopamine contributes to energizing these goal-states - maybe partly related to the idea that dopamine can stabilize representations. some drugs really blast the dopamine. and you can feel great, fully believing in what you're doing or whatever perspective you have at that point. you feel like you're making progress toward this overall goal that you believe in.

this seems like randy o'reilly's "tantrums" that come from frustrated goal-pursuit. it's the worst feeling. it might even be the same thing as hopelessness, because if you have some idea and motivation for how to turn things around and start feeling better, then your goals really haven't been completely frustrated; you still have a goal-state at that higher level that you feel like you can make progress toward.

with or without drugs, this also brings up something similar to the last post i made here about what's special about human suffering. one thing humans can do is entertain perspectives that frustrate the goals of our other perspectives. like when you're an adult, it's hard to get too excited about christmas, because you've had better things than presents, and you know santa claus isn't real.... thus your mental hipster is constantly short-circuiting lots of potentially engrossing goal states. (this reminds me of "zen mind beginner's mind".)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

you could think of two dynamical systems with metastable attractor configurations. they've each been selected because they can perpetuate some aspects of their organization through time despite the impinging of outside things that don't match this organization. this means they tend to have mechanisms that respond to offsets with some counter-reaction (wilber called this "exclusivity structures"). for example, a bacterium might secrete a hard shell when the environment goes dry.

possibly the same type of thing happens in social interactions, where someone denying some facet of your beliefs triggers a reaction that strengthens the basin of attraction you're in - a feedback loop that makes it harder to reach synthesis. subjectively, i think this is the opposite of feeling safe, which promotes synthesis. from any individual system's point of view, it can only be selfish, thermodynamically speaking.

i wondered if this is related to what's special (if anything) about human suffering. in buddhist terms, why humans might create karma in ways that other animals don't. we get stuck by criticizing ourselves; thinking that the problem is something we're doing. for example, i've noticed when i'm going to sleep that there are little bits of mental action that i subconsciously think are keeping me from getting to sleep, and i try to turn them off or avoid them. but that actually keeps me awake.

this kind of thing sounds like two functional systems within the individual are falling into this same feedback loop problem, and thereby hardening their own exclusivity structures. i wonder if this property of splitting into two functional systems (very roughly speaking) at this level is something only humans have, since it might be a little bit related to perspective-taking. it could create a qualitatively new way of getting stuck: creating conflict within one individual that hardens both parts.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

i think it would be reasonable to say that any form is a perspective. (by a form, i mean anything in the universe -- cheese, zen, you, your wire whisk, the laws of physics, the tendency for white men to be republican, etc.) so that's basically the same as saying that "subjective" and "objective" are just different ways of looking at the same thing. given any particular thing, a form is what it looks like when you're looking at it, and a perspective is what it looks like when you *are* it.

and i think that any perspective could be seen as a world-view. any particular vantage point that looks out at the world i think inherently carries its own overall "purpose" or "meaning", which is defined by the organization of that system.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

sparsity/regularization, holographic representation, bigger/smaller loops (e.g. thalamocortical or neuromodulator systems), and "scalar fields"

if you force the dynamics to breathe through cycles of compression and expansion (in terms of information capacity of the channel), is that a possible way to get an efficient coding? and maybe this is separate, but could this be related to holographic? like with plasticity in overlapping representations, everything is morphed into a dual form where every part of the original has a partial representation in every part of the dual...

Sunday, August 03, 2014

- Are exclusivity structures always trying to avoid exposure to unpredictable inputs?

- Self consciousness is the beginning of self awareness? The recognition that there's a simplification gradient?

- Is commitment to a particular idea a form of self-study?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

so in RLS... D2 agonists might isolate you from the arcing that gets released at this low motor level

Sunday, June 29, 2014

least action

there was an amazing passage in stein's book. he has kind of an interesting argument for why the incest taboo is psychically "necessary" - if i'm understanding, it's roughly that the default or symmetric case would be full realization of intimacy with parents and siblings, including sexually. (this is like what clark calls a psychic energy sink.)

he argues that imaginal forms are created when an instinctual drive can't be immediately realized. if there's a potentiality (a divergence between generalized expectation and observation), it essentially follows the path of least action to return to satisfaction/zero. this is kind of like general relativity. because of the "warping" or shape of functional topology of Kosmos/holarchical space (which is simply the truth of all other potentiality), the path of least action can actually involve the apparent creation of new forms.

in his view, imaginal forms are created to find other ways to discharge this potentiality. (and he says this is part of what sets humans apart from other animals; we can rest with some unresolved potentiality over much deeper and more elaborated scales/structures.) so in this case, the incest taboo is strangely like meditation: it induces the path of least action to follow a deepening and spiritualization of male-female polarity. (there are obvious teleological problems with this argument as it's presented here, but let's forget about that for the moment.)

the nice thing is, this fits perfectly with marc's dopamine story. roughly at the human decision making level, dopamine energizes *action* (and i think especially relevantly and perniciously, internal or mental action) to resolve some potentiality. the immediate resolution is benoit's arcing (aka clark's psychic energy sink). at a very motoric level this can be like restless legs syndrome, or slightly more abstract into tourette's or drug addiction.

there feel like vague parallels to hierarchical bayesian stuff - when is there enough evidence to justify another level or meta-parameter. failures of a given model to capture the structure of the world keep increasing the effective temperature until the model complexity of a new level is justified. haven't thought that through yet... but the gist of it is involution -- the impinging of everything is all potentiality.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.—Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.


on one level it's a pretty generic trope. he's chickening out of suicide because he starts overthinking it and getting scared of what it will be like.

but this brings up the good and bad of "thinking". "the currents of enterprises of great pitch and moment turn awry" is zen-like. with more patience and contemplation, there's space to take proper care of any particular conviction, relax it into a bigger love.

so is the "native hue of resolution" our spontaneous self, getting troubled by thoughts and fear; or is it our momentary passion, getting ripened and softened by reflection?

paradox: the chaotic thinking that's troubling us may be the movement that ultimately generates space.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

vice and virtue...

why is it so hard to do the right thing. coming back to the old dual-systems view: plato's charioteer and horses, kahnemann's thinking fast and slow, model-based and model-free, hot and cold systems, etc.

also, what is "impulsivity" and addiction.

i'm wondering if the most salient dichotomy is vice and virtue. the other definitions get caught up on weird issues, like the fact that drug addicts can spend weeks planning sophisticated schemes to get drugs, or that scientists compulsively stay at work even when it's hurting their overall productivity.

maybe these things boil down to some kind of dynamic attractor state in the brain (or in lots of cases probably implemented on a substrate that includes both the brain and other components, parts of your body, other people, etc) that keeps pulling things back toward a certain configuration. this comprises all the partially erroneous beliefs that make up that attractor. "vice" is the continuation of that attractor configuration; "virtue" is when it partially dissolves to inclusion with other dynamics. (incidentally, this is exactly the continental divide between free will and determinism.) so virtue is highly context dependent and can't really be pinned down by any particular understanding.

vice often manifests as short time horizons, self-centric behavior, less deliberative, etc -- but it doesn't necessarily have to. it's possible for other kinds of dynamics to get stuck, even very apparently generous behavior for example, which could still be stuck somewhere as a self-assertion (although this language can be confusing because it's not the standard notion of self).

Sunday, June 08, 2014

a rock just exists as a rock -- no problem. like the garden of eden in the bible. there's no suffering when there's no self-awareness.

the birth of suffering is the awareness that things *could be* different than they are. then there's constant dissatisfaction/confusion in the divergence between how things are and your ideal image of how things should be (this ideal image is your "self").

but, the clash will *never* end. you wouldn't want it to, because this trajectory is exactly what creates the world: form is created by the divergence. what looks like suffering from one perspective is also impossible beauty. to take care of the world is that.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

ensemble methods, sexual reproduction, regularization, order and chaos

one idea is, the balance between order and chaos in giving rise to life.

another idea is ensemble methods performing really well - like the netflix competition winner. (is this related to monte carlo methods too? lots of weak solutions thrown together?)

in this talk hinton talks about why it might be good to have sexual reproduction in evolution. sex keeps reassorting chunks of the genome, so you never have a "single learner" in that evolutionary sense, but rather an ever-shifting ensemble of individually maybe not all that amazing learners, but always thrown back together into the same system.

he shows an example of how you can do the same thing within a deep neural network. you basically constantly turn on and off bits of the network as it's learning, so subsets of it are trying to learn some of the structure in the data, but the whole thing is never getting too committed, it's finding bits of *relatively* shallow solutions. and all these bits are learning in the context of each other (so they regularize each other, in that larger generalized space).

for one thing, it would be cool if the brain works this way, essentially living on the edge of chaos so the dynamics are always getting thrown around of which subcircuit is online during some experience (even at a microscale of time, like individual theta cycles for example). so the brain is keeping online a sort of chaotically scattered but somewhat balanced subset of stuff, always flitting between different hypothesis spaces and driving updates in those, within the global weight-space of all the learning it's done so far.

this might partly explain why individual trials of brain activity look so random, and doug garrett's data where dynamical *variability* in brain signals is related to behavioral performance.

and fundamental balance between chaos and order- the emergence of beauty and life is this being tilted with your weight ahead of your feet, the unresolving energy of the sampling dynamics kind of bootstrapping itself.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

No guests remain within the dragon gate

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


"generalizing from finite samples in extremely high dimensions" is an amazing problem. think of life expectancy. let's say men born today expect to live 82 years and women expect to live 84 years (don't know the actual numbers). that's based on a lot of samples of men and women (plus some projections, but let's say for now it was just based on raw statistics of past events). OK. so if you're a man, your best guess for how long you'll live is 82 years, and if a woman, your best guess is 84 years. in other words, if you were doing optimal decision-making or whatever, this is the number you should factor in (well actually the variance could be asymmetric so you ought to integrate over the whole distribution but let's ignore that for now too). OK, *but*, let's suppose the expectancy for white-men is 85 years and for non-white-men is 77 years. maybe for some reason it's reversed for women; white-women 82 years and non-white-women 86 years. NOW, if you know you're a white man, you should use 85 years as your best guess. OK, but what if you factor in height? smoking? educational history? city of birth? environmental toxin exposure? genetics? .... pretty soon, there won't even be a *single sample* of experience to draw on, to make an estimate of the life expectancy in your particular category.

one way around this problem is to assume that each factor operates linearly and independently. then, you solve a big linear regression problem, and linearly interpolate/extrapolate to points in the space where you don't have any samples. note that even under these simplifying assumptions, there are serious problems. for example, when you have many many dimensions, some will by chance have extreme slopes -- which will push your extrapolated prediction into crazy values. but even ignoring those problems, there's the bigger problem that the factors aren't actually linear or independent. they interact very strongly in fact: sometimes one factor might even reverse its direction of effect depending on another factor. so the linear regression is not a good solution.

what can you do? you have to regularize the problem. this is, you have to use some prior knowledge to drastically pare back the number of effective dimensions. for example, you might know some variables are strongly correlated, so you can treat them as one. or you might know that some variables are dominated by others, so you omit the weak variables. or you might know that the underlying function ought to be at least locally smooth, so you impose a smoothness constraint.

but what is the right regularization? brains are somehow really good at this (algorithms are getting better quickly though..)

i was just thinking that the regularizing prior knowledge could be a good place to fit in scale-invariance and holo-stuff. i haven't read enough, but i haven't seen yet much in machine learning on using a single learning framework to accommodate all different kinds/levels of data. i imagine that's what the brain is doing (maybe it's related to the relatively "unitary" consciousness that we seem have subjectively) -- because we're essentially shifting around the focus of more or less the same global model to apply to massively disparate "kinds of things". so we have more samples to draw on for any given problem. we can even turn this global model partially on itself, which perpetually gives us even more samples and might also produce other weird features.

somehow, the circuitry of the cortex must be cleverly set up to do this kind of learning over space and time. (like hawkins' and others' "hierarchical temporal memories" type ideas).

in a friston-type framework, i'm picturing that the structure of the organism at all levels already encodes a deep regularization (for example RNA only interacts with some molecules). since there's no separation between what is "inference" and what is just dynamical structure of the "inferring entity" itself. if every dynamical system can be thought of as doing prediction (which means vastly generalizing from finite samples), then its whole structure from the ground-up is scale-invariantly encoding regularization for all the external states it's exposed to.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

new ideas

Part 1

Some models suggest that the basal ganglia are used to select between actions. Some candidate actions are generated, and the circuitry of the basal ganglia allows one to win and be executed (like Jeff Wickens). I wondered if the basal ganglia are also used to select between "internal actions", like what to think about, what to attend to, etc. This could be connected to habits of mind. 

Part 2

I was thinking about Karl Friston's view of sleep. If I understood correctly, sleep is a time of lower top-down precision, when the experience collected during wakefulness can be used to drive big changes to the world-model. It makes sense to isolate your brain from your muscles when you're doing this deep restructuring: when you're awake you need high top-down precision to make your best active predictions.

[As a side note, I wonder how this fits with the data about interstitial volume increasing during sleep to allow "clean up" of metabolic products. Maybe a sleep-state is simply a useful time to do multiple unrelated things. Or maybe the physiological implementation of precision actually has to do with neuron-glia interactions and interstitial space (e.g. glutamate reuptake).]

The most obvious thing that happens during sleep, physiologically, is change in oscillatory activity. High-frequency activity mostly drops away, and low-frequency oscillations become prominent.

Does low-frequency activity correspond to the "subtle" state described by Eastern mystics?

In terms of oscillatory activity, a child's brain looks like a sleeping adult's brain. Roughly, a deeper stage of adult sleep corresponds to an earlier stage of child development. In childhood we also have high plasticity. This is when things seem really meaningful, like they can in dreams.

The adult mind can be pretty locked in place. Old feelings, even from early childhood, are still there somewhere, but maybe don't find much expression. Really deep *meaning* seems to be locked in there somewhere, too. Things can seem a bit abstract until it's in your gut. Truly believing in love isn't something the rigid adult mind is very good at.

What about meditation and the subtle stage of development?

Maybe meditation peels the layers off. Perhaps during development, something happened to hurt that level of the self: suffering (free energy) caused by direct contact with not-self. That then becomes a scar or a rigidity: some loss of dynamic flexibility like Eve Marder's ion channels. Specifically it's a hyper-assertion of the self-pattern at that level.

Meditation brings awareness to the thing that's creating the rigidity. Bringing awareness is the same as nesting the thing in a larger context, allowing it to healthily integrate and discharge some of its exclusivity. In meditation we also see slow oscillatory states.

This suggests that top-down precision is something we should look at in multiple layers. There might be a different kind of precision every time we peel off a layer.

Something like the aPFC or hippocampus might correspond to top-levels of the adult hierarchy. Interestingly, you also grow to a bigger model as you relax levels, because that slice of the self gets integrated with a bigger context. This might be like how unexpected uncertainty could convert to expected uncertainty as the model grows.

A tricky issue is how to reconcile this with the psychedelic state. Psychedelic states have been likened to dream states, and sometimes include a feeling of vast lovingness and meaningfulness. Is this playing the same role as sleep? If so, do psychedelic states show the same oscillatory signature?

Some studies have described increases in low-frequency oscillatory power with psychedelics, but more recent work (Carhart-Harris et al, 2013) showed decreases in oscillatory power across the spectrum (in default mode). Carhart-Harris suggests this corresponds to "destabilization" of brain activity, possibly allowing it to leave attractor states that it's been stuck in.

Part 3

Oscillations, again. Subjectively, people sometimes describe "the present moment". To some extent, every moment seems to be the "same moment". It's always the present moment. Of course in some ways this is vacuously true; it follows from the definition of "now". But I think it might also be describing some aspects of how the brain works.

Clark and I talked about "ontologeny" (he calls it "microgeny"), which is the "waking up" of the universe in each moment. It's possible that it sort of ultra-quickly recapitulates all of the development of the universe, up until now.

Clark wants to extend this to fundamental physics, which I don't necessarily disagree with, but being more conservative for a minute, let's say this is just an attribute of the brain. Within a brain rhythm, you keep doing the same thing over and over again. If this brain rhythm is one signature of the dynamic quasi-stable attractor state you're in, then it's probably repeating the same pattern over and over again. That's "you" -- the stability of that attractor is what makes up the coherence and consistency of your experience. But it's constantly "refreshing", going through all the phase-angles of that space. So in every moment it would feel like you're constantly waking up to that moment as you go through that same cycle. The attractor can gradually (or sometimes quickly) change, both through its own unstable dynamics and through sensory inputs, and there's also long-term plasticity. A wakeful attractor state would have some signature in alpha frequencies in the brain, for example.

This could explain why sometimes it seems like mental events are perpetually happening "before" the present moment of awareness. A simplistic explanation would be that there is some particular phase-angle that actually corresponds to the "waking up" or the present moment (and I suspect that's true in some partial ways), but a more complete explanation probably involves interactions at all the phase-angles. In either explanation, bringing those things into awareness (into the present moment) might involve an attentionally-driven shift in the relative phases of firing of different neural populations.

For me, subjectively, this corresponds to things that I feel were always "there" inside me somewhere. With some attention they can be brought up to "near" awareness, but it sometimes feels like they're still lurking before the edge of the present moment. Sustained attention brings them into the present.

I think this is also a key to the "hierarchical temporal memory" idea from Jeff Hawkins. Microcircuits in the brain must be set up to dynamically mirror aspects of the sensory inputs / the world. But as you go up the hierarchy of the brain, they extract structure. A lot of work has focused on the "spatial" structure they extract (like going from spots to oriented lines to edges to objects to recognizing people, etc), but they are implemented as oscillatory dynamical systems, so it makes sense that the real mirroring and abstraction is deeply spatiotemporal.

[Also, I think it's worth mentioning that we often use the visual system as an example for this type of thing, but a huge area of the brain is devoted to somatosensory, visceral, vestibular, etc processing. Further, I only talked about the sensory side of the hierarchy but the brain can at least as well be thought of as organized hierarchically around action, on the motor side. There are always rhythms in motion, too. Together I think this fits embodied cognition and the body-mind naturally into the framework.]

Sunday, February 09, 2014

"Commit not a single unwholesome action,
Cultivate a wealth of virtue,
To tame this mind of ours,
This is the teaching of all the buddhas."
-- attributed to Shakyamuni Buddha

somehow this meant to me that we create the world (in its partial, divided, samsaric sense) through karma. or, duality *is* precisely our own karmic burden. which is why buddha said "i and all beings are enlightened".

Thursday, February 06, 2014

zen & inference

i think i've said the same thing before, but this felt more clear as i was writing it.

one suggestion is that zen is about building a better model. that the vast majority of your model of the world is the sort of moment-to-moment dynamics of sensory prediction (including interoceptive, meta-cognitive activity, etc) ; and the model basically sucks because it ignores the vast majority of the actual structure of the world (you see what you expect to see). so zen practice is about relaxing the top-down priors to allow the model to incorporate more of the dynamics.

that doesn't feel like the whole story, but it's an idea to start from.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

This discovery will be the one that tells me what invented me

Like any dealer, he was watching for the card that is so high and wild he'll never need to deal another

Sunday, January 05, 2014


one issue that's been bugging me is what "identification" means. i was watching another one of diane hamilton's videos, and she's talking about how identification with the small self is just one of many perspectives.

it seems to be true that "i" suffer when i identify with a particular small-self to the exclusion of other phenomena. when "i" release into a more inclusive perspective, the suffering-as-partiality of the smaller-self is revealed to just be a transient object, whereas before it felt like an existential/unsolvable problem.

but, what does it *mean* to expand identification like that? three broad categories of possibility:

1) both the smaller system and the larger system already existed before you released your perspective, and your change in perspective didn't really change either system. instead, it has something to do with how the dynamics of these systems are coupled to the aspects of manifestation that we agree to associate with the individual (e.g. control of your speech muscles to say "i am experiencing xyz").

2) the smaller system is being changed. dissolving exclusivity structures, so that it can arise and release and transform more spontaneously in the context it's in.

3) the larger system is actually being created in the process. when the smaller system is allowed to enter into increased dynamic coupling with other phenomena, then the system that calls itself "zeb" now consists of fundamentally new dynamics that only exist in the interplay between the previous small-self and the other phenomena. *however*, i'm not sure how this fits in the case of releasing to "identification" with all phenomena / formless awareness.

i feel like all of these are true, but i'm still missing something.

Friday, January 03, 2014

making pot illegal

i love brooks, and this is a fucking awesome article in a lot of ways.

i can't even say i categorically disagree with "seatbelt laws". we want to make policy that does the most overall good, and the disutility of restricting personal choice is just one component of that.

i think he misses two things-

1) some of personal growth comes from making stupid choices- how do you do that if all the stupid choices are illegalized?

2) it's true that you can find some good in illegalizing pot (and he does a brilliant job of outlining the shape of that good), but how can you have a complete argument without comparing the magnitude of that good with the magnitude of the concomitant harms?

when it comes to illegalizing pot, the magnitude of the good is really pretty meager. like one comment points out, the usage doesn't skyrocket when pot is legalized in places like holland. yeah, if you make it illegal people might do it a bit less. that is a good, but is a big one? i believe illegalizing heroin reduces the number of addicts. that's probably a bigger good. (still, how big?)

and he doesn't talk about the harm. making drugs illegal obviously creates shit-tons of practical problems. then there's the difficult-to-estimate disutility of inhibiting personal freedom. and another nebulous factor is slippery-slope into 1984. i'd have to think very carefully about how to put this harm in a common currency to compare directly to the good. yet my intuition is that the harm outweighs the good by several orders of magnitude here.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

i want to be SURE