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Fundamental Units of Consciousness

Energy comes in quanta (photons). So does matter (leptons). So does information (bits). So does sound (phonons).

What might a fundamental unit of consciousness be called? What might a fundamental unit of consciousness look like?

I propose the term “meons”.

What If We’ve Been Doing Handedness Wrong?

I recently took up the hobby of knife throwing. Since it’s a completely useless skill anyway, and I am currently equally clumsy at it with either hand, I am practicing almost exclusively with my non-dominant side.

I’ve long had the habit of doing certain manual tasks, like brushing my teeth or using utensils, with my non-dominant side, just to balance out my nervous system and keep my off hand from seeming completely useless. Over time I have noticed that, even if it seems awkward at first, with enough repetition any task will come to seem comfortable and efficient, even with my off hand.

My hypothesis is that as my off hand gets better at throwing knives, my dominant hand will largely absorb the skill by osmosis. I have found it to be true in other instances that whatever I can do comfortably with my off hand, I can also do competently with my dominant hand. I remember first being inspired to try this by a friend from college. He and his brother were studying a particular style of martial arts that emphasized using the right hand. His brother, who was left handed, would always have to learn and practice the drills with his right hand first. This was harder for him initially, but the payoff was that his left hand would more or less pick up the skill for free.

Yesterday it struck me that perhaps this is what Nature intended. Perhaps we have been doing it wrong all along by relying on our dominant hand to learn everything, and letting our off hand remain undeveloped and uncoordinated. Perhaps we should develop new skills with our off hand, and let them be automatically transferred to the dominant hand. Perhaps it is part of our design to function this way, so that we don’t have to practice continually with both hands to maintain bilateral proficiency and coordination.

To experiment with this effect yourself, I suggest starting with a skill that is new, so that you won’t feel frustrated, and non-critical, so that you won’t feel impatient. Writing with your off hand would be great if you could do it, for example, but it might feel prohibitively frustrating to do it with your off hand, and it might be a while before your off hand handwriting is good enough for practical use. So it will probably be easiest to start with a skill that is new to both hands and non-critical, so that it won’t feel unusually awkward and won’t interfere with the ordinary functioning of your life while you are getting over the learning curve.

Stan Grof on Overcoming Inadequacy

Excerpted from Beyond the Brain, by Stan Grof:

From the viewpiont of observations from deep experiential therapy, determined striving for external goals and the pursuit of success in the world are of little value in overcoming the feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, no matter what the actual outcome of these endeavors turns out to be.  The feelings of inferiority cannot be resolved by mobilizing one’s forces to overcomepensate for them, but by confronting them experientially and surrendering to them.  They are then consumed in the process of ego death and rebirth, and a new self-image emerges from the awareness of one’s cosmic identity.  True courage lies in the willingness to undergo this awesome process of self-confrontation, not in a heroic pursuit of external goals.  Unless the individual succeeds in finding his or her true identity within, any attempts to give meaning to life by manipulating the outside world and external achievement will be a futile and ultimately self-defeating, quixotic crusade.

Stan Grof on Spiritual Psychotherapy

Excerpted from Beyond the Brain, by Stan Grof:

Psychotherapy on this level is indistinguishable from the spiritual and philosophical quest for one’s cosmic identity. Various forms of perennial philosophy and the associated spiritual and psychological systems provide excellent guidance at this advanced stage, both for the client and the therapist, if those terms are still appropriate for two individuals who have now become fellow seekers and travelers.

The Global Breakeven Point

The Global Breakeven Point is the point in time at which the global total of automated economic productivity exceeds the global total of living costs. It is the theoretical point at which the human species has the physical means to throw off the yoke of economic servitude, to stop living in scarcity and competition and start living in abundance and cooperation. It should be celebrated as a sort of “Independence Day” for the planet.

The question is, when will it occur? Or has it already, and we just haven’t noticed yet?

breakeven

Care and Feeding of Neural Nets

Recently I asked myself the question, “Plants need air, soil, water, and sunlight to live; animals need air, food, and water. What does a neural net need to live?”

The answer, I realized, was “A steady diet of entropy that can be converted to negentropy.”

As biological machines, we consume matter at a lower entropy state and excrete matter at a higher entropy state; this is what fuels our metabolism. As neural machines, we consume information at higher entropy states and excrete information at lower entropy states; this is what fuels our intellect.

In other words, our minds consume disordered information and excrete ordered information. This is what our neural nets need in order to stay alive, just as our bodies need air, water, and food to maintain homeostasis.

By nature of the very processes that make us conscious, our minds exude order the same way our bodies excrete piss and shit.

The Cognitive Surplus of Video Games

NYU New Media professor Clay Shirky estimates that humanity as a whole has about a trillion hours of mental downtime, or cognitive surplus, on its hands each year, most of which is still spent watching TV.  I haven’t come across any figures for the cognitive surplus represented by video game usage, but I can only imagine it must be following some type of exponential or early logistic growth curve.

So far the use of video games has mainly been for entertainment, yet the potential for science and self development is largely untapped.  Sure, you can currently fold proteins and map the brain’s neural architecture with Foldit or Mozak, learn languages with Duolingo, and improve your life with Habitica, but what are these compared to World of Warcraft or Second Life?  When will scientific research become as massively connected as Facebook and as user-created as Wikipedia?  When will learning communities become as popular as Twitter and Instagram?  When will acquiring any skill for anyone on the planet be as easy as getting addicted to Angry Birds?

All this and more is coming soon, we’re working on it…

Schneider On The Universe As An Organism

Excerpted from A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe, by Michael S. Schneider:

 

All universal designs are found in human body proportions, which we have seen can be repackaged to produce the proportions of a crystal, plant, animal, solar system, and galaxy.  It is as if the universe is one single organism, motivated by a single power, developing in many ways to gradually become aware of itself through the awareness of the creatures and forces it produces.

Schools Of The Future

Schools of the future will not be “schools”. The very purposes that we believe these institutions serve, let alone the institutions themselves, will eventually come to be obsolete. Therefore, what they evolve into will not be an advanced version of the same thing. It will be something unrecognizably different, that will perhaps perform some similar functions, but utilizing very different means and with very different objectives. They will not be institutional facilities designed for the sequestration of unsupervized youth, but rather opt-in organizations providing barrier-free lifetime personal development opportunities.

The same can be said of hospitals, prisons, churches, governments, militaries, and all other institutions rooted in the historically dominant paradigms of scarcity and competition that are quickly becoming extinct.

What You Do In This Moment

Whatever you do in this moment, you are likely to do more of in the future.

If you move a little, play a little, dance a little, sing a little, write a little, in this moment, you are more likely to do more of that in the future.

If you treat people with a little more kindness, choose what you eat a little more consciously, choose your thoughts a little more deliberately, stretch yourself a little more, those patterns will be more likely to continue.

Chai Tea Tai Chi

Come with an empty cup.

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