Sense Motion

Our senses are constantly bringing in information whether we like them to or not, but this hardly means that we constantly use them.
What happens when we do consciously become aware of and ‘use’ a sense?

I notice that for each sense, the act of using itself is perceived as bodily motion, much the same as moving an arm or leg.

Sight: I ‘push’ outwards at what I’m looking at.

Hearing: I try to draw inwards the noise that’s around me.

Touch: Seems to actually be passive, directionally neutral. I actively perceive it without either pulling or pushing.

Taste: I tend to start from the tip to middle of the tongue and work my way back.

Smell: I try to pull the smells inward when I consciously smell.

Balance, location: Rising?(The feeling of being oriented towards ‘up’)

I tried ‘going backwards’ on all of these senses and this break of mental routine had a near dizzying effect.

The Price of Consciousness

The price of being, of having consciousness at all is very steep. There’s a reason why humans can’t survive on their own very efficiently. It just takes too much energy to keep us running and far too much time to mature from a state of vulnerability in infancy. To pay the price of being, we’re condemned to live in societies.

When I was a kid, I would fantasize about being a dragon that could fly across the Earth, never need food or be dependent on others for survival. Or other times, a sort of invisible disembodied person not constrained by energy requirements and free to travel even across the bottom of the sea without harm.

Does some deep set intuition within us recognize the absurdity of being stuck inside the head of a bipedal ape?

Damming the Thought-stream

When we characterize thoughts, they’re always ‘running through our heads’ constantly like a stream. Thoughts come seemingly out of nowhere and then are replaced with another just as quickly as it appeared.
We tend to leave our minds in a state of nature, never challenging, rarely becoming aware of our unchanging mental routines.

What if we were to dam the stream?

-First close your eyes and stare into the ‘distance’ until you are able to perceive your pre-conscious visions.

-Generally, these images and ideas of images flicker in and out of existence just like anything else in the thoughtstream.

-Concentrate on just one of these impressions, hold it there, don’t let it get away.

-This will likely be difficult at first because our minds are so used to capriciously flitting around without any input from the conscious mind.

-Now not only hold that thought-image in your mind, but use that dammed up mental energy to add increasing levels of detail.

-As you create the image/idea in progressively greater detail, try to keep track of the whole you’ve created. Try to remember and keep all the details you’ve already added to it. This grows progressively more difficult, once again especially because it is stretching your brain in a new way.

And I suppose there’s no reason why this same exercise couldn’t be done with inputs from any of the senses.

Does Perception Create Linear Time?

Any action must ‘take time.’

So if we consider that perception itself is an action, then it too takes time. Indeed, there is a minimum window of time that humans are capable of perceiving as a ‘moment.’ We can only perceive a moment in time as quickly as our nervous system can react.

Thus, is our perception of a linear moving time the direct result of perceiving in the first place?

If perception could be timeless, would time appear as a static immobile object, already mapped out in its entirety?

Mindspace

When you think a thought where in your concept of body is it?
I would suppose the default location is in the head.

Can you move your feeling of your own mind to some other location. Can you think thoughts from inside your big toe?
I cannot, I form thoughts within my head however I might try.

But what about peoples such as Ancient Greeks and Egyptians who supposed that the heart, not the head was the seat of the mind?
Did they think from their heart just as I do from my head? Is this just an association that is permanently formed in early childhood?
If so, could a baby be trained to think from its big toe as it grows older?

Whatever the answers to these questions might be, one thing is clear: Our idea of mind and sense of consciousness has the ‘feeling’ of occupying a physical space, wherever, that might be.

We all have a mindspace.

Now try this:

-Try to move around in your mindspace.
-Do you walk around inside your head with a human body or do you experience more of a
disembodied drifting?
-What are ‘you’ moving around in there? Is it a human body at all or something else.

Then:

-Think of a person/event you have strong feelings about.
-Is there a physical ‘spot’ in your mindspace where you feel the idea of this person most strongly?

Also:

-What happens when you reach the edge of your mindspace?
-Does it stretch a bit if you push on it or does it remain solid?
-What do the edges ‘feel’ like? Do they have a texture? Does your mind have hands to feel with?

If
‘you’ = entity moving around in mindspace
and
‘yourself’ = mindspace ‘chamber’

-Can ‘you’ leave ‘yourself’?…

-Can ‘you’ occupy all of ‘yourself’ or are you limited to a single small point at a time?

Flatlanders

Also See: Uniting the Self Through Time

I am a survival routine for a particular bipedal ape. Thus my perception of time and contemplation of my demise are inevitably limited by my vantage point.

Faced with this dilemma, I look to Edwin Abbott’s “Flatland” in which he explores how a two dimensional person would see the world and how this person would have difficulty conceiving of a third dimension.

So I wonder: how does being a survival computer hamper my ability to see existence as it really is? After all, when it comes to time, my perception is very limited. To me, it appears to be just a line. And my computer perceives itself as one paltry point on that line at any given time.

But if we could detach to a third dimension and see from above then might our lifespans seem like geographical features on a vast terrain, the beginning and ending already mapped out, considerations of past, future, life, or death irrelevant?
I’m not exactly proposing this as a theory, but it’s just one way of conceptualizing how we may not be seeing the important things because of our nature. And if we realize that we are narrow little survival programs, seeing everything through tunnel vision, we are enabled to imagine entirely new ways of explaining our existence and the universe itself.
Concerns about transience and an afterlife become less relevant…as do concerns of nihilism and absurdism.
If we understand exactly how our perceptions are bound to limited, we can begin to figure out where our blind spots are!

Furthermore, I think there is an element of the human character that intuitively understands that the past is not necessarily gone. Or else why would we feel any link at all to past generations or civilizations?
What would be the appeal of mythology whether an ancient pantheon or modern day fantasy novel if there wasn’t some essential human need to perceive outside of our own little point in time?

This understanding leads us to imagine a way one might really attain eternal life. After all it is impossible to live forever since forever cannot be lived, only approached.

Thus if one thinks about it, the key might not be to live for a larger quantity of moments, but to extend the idea of moment and exist across our time. To stop being a single point and become the line.

With this in mind, I sometimes focus on memories that come to mind, and reflect upon the feeling of what is was like to be then in that reality of myself.
I understand that memories are inexact, a simulacrum, but if I can approach that feeling of actually experiencing non-present moments, I begin, in a way, to escape the prison of that single point.

Why did Consciousness Develop from Living Things?

As children, many of us would play with insects, often in a way we might consider cruel as adults. Yet it was an object of fascination whenever a fly would struggle onwards and devote all of its tiny being to survival, even if it was missing legs or wings. This is not to say we ever supposed that a fly felt pain or sensations of urgency in the same way as humans. However, we did discover that any random housefly possesses a pure drive to live. One might be hard pressed to find a human who clings to life with the undivided intensity of a fly.

In bacteria even we see the same drive to survive and reproduce. Every living thing strives for the same objective: to produce copies of itself until it has overrun the universe.
When this objective is achieved, then what? That’s it. No life form has a plan beyond extending itself whether human or microbe. Certainly, the ultimate unopposed life form would doom itself to total extinction. As we see in any smaller environment, a life form that grows without constraints soon destroys itself.

Since bacteria and insects are so driven and efficient, why would more complex forms of life ever come into existence?
Why when a bacillus or a fly struggles relentlessly, unhesitatingly to live would there ever arise a creature capable of doubting itself or committing suicide?

What does the force of life get in return for putting more eggs in one basket, countless eggs to assemble even relatively simpler multi-cellular organisms?

Energy conservation would seem to be part of the answer.

Just as buying in bulk reduces the expenditure per unit of a corporate body, the same principle applies to the design of a biological body.

Big organisms are more energy efficient than smaller ones.
One might compare a thick log to a cloud of fine sawdust.

What happens to each when combustion occurs?

Greater exposed surface area means greater net energy needs and faster energy use. It doesn’t take much energy to get started, though.

Less surface area needs a greater inertia to get started but needs less energy to sustain itself while lasting far longer.

It seems to make sense that life would have to start out at the simplest possible form and would then develop into progressively more complex forms to conserve energy.

When life becomes big enough, there’s a lot of lot of living energy at stake in every single specimen of an organism. Leaving things completely to chance is not necessarily the best approach any more.
A more complex life form made of millions of cells becomes more like a bank.
Plants for the most part seem to have placed all their bets on passively holding one position.
Animals on the other hand are living things that have generally adopted a more aggressive and interactive approach to their environment.
For animals, it seems the bank often did best when managed by a banker.

What started out as simple emergent algorithms to facilitate survival seems to have led to central nervous systems in some animals.
Brains are able to do more than react based on the probabilities of survival. They provide the possibility of situational reactions to the environment, a much more precise approach than the general heuristics defining the strategies of other living things.
Thus a complex animal with a brain might have very few offspring relative to trees or jellyfish but the precision of nuanced conditional behaviors ensures that the survival rates will be many, many times higher than those of life forms without complex central nervous systems.

Survival calculators seem to have become more complex until we start to see the emergence of the phenomenon we call consciousness.

Becoming self aware marks a critical point.

For most creatures, it seems to be in their best interest that their brain has no self awareness. This way, its energies are fully and explicitly directed towards the causes of survival and reproduction.

Thus any measure of self awareness for the brain comes as something of a surprise.
It would seem at first to be a liability for this servant to become capable of any degree of autonomy.

Having any degree of self-awareness comes with substantial risks and drawbacks. Such a brain houses an awareness capable of performing actions directly against the interests of its own body. Suicide actually becomes possible amongst human beings.

Giving the brain a degree of freedom allows for multiple, radical changes in survival strategies within the space of a single generation. In all other living things, speed of adaptability is the span of time between the current generation and the next. Perhaps humans combine energy efficiency with the ability to mimic the short generational spans that allow very simple, energy intensive living things to adapt to new stressors overnight.

Human consciousness is a tradeoff between adaptability and unpredictability.
The same creativity that allows for improvisation in tough situations also seems to allow the brain to engage in evolutionarily unforeseen activities with relatively low survival value such as watching TV or staring at paintings.

The more elaborate the brain and the further it operates ahead of natural selection, the more “unintended” properties and “bugs” there will be.

The ironic result is a living thing that has some capability of at least imagining an end purpose besides making endless copies of itself.

More intriguing still, it’s often the less explicitly “useful” activities in life that make us feel that life is worth living.

If optimum survival and reproduction were the only goal of human beings, we certainly would go about it differently than we do now.

Part of the “problem” seems to be that natural selection lets through anything that manages to survive and reproduce. It doesn’t ask why. It doesn’t make design decisions or plan for compatibility with future developments.

Our mental infrastructure can’t ever have known there would be a consciousness.

Thus we’re impelled towards many survival behaviors by indirect stimuli, usually a first cause in a desirable chain of events.
For instance:

Strong pleasure incentives drive us towards sex, but not so strongly towards having children.

In previous species, getting a creature to have sex was a sure initial cause that would result in offspring.

Humans, however, have always known ways to get the pleasure payoff of intercourse without producing the consequences. That way they can keep getting more of the pleasure without pregnancies or responsibility for children.

Thus the mechanism that ensured other animals would reproduce can be gamed by humans, especially in a society where contraception is both simple and socially acceptable.

Still our initial issue lies unresolved: why did the tendencies of living things cause them to move beyond bacteria that are resilient, adaptable, and all but ineradicable. Surely if life was just about being survival and reproduction, bacteria already do it best.
Is even moving into less energy intensive forms really a satisfactory explanation if it results in organisms that are less adaptable, more easily eradicated, and even more perplexing: capable of unproductive or counterproductive behavior.

One of the founding laws of classical physics: something that is at rest tends to stay at rest.

We’re also told that our universe tends towards entropy. Things tend to be no more complex or structured than they have to be.

We wouldn’t expect water that has settled into a state of equilibrium under the influence of gravity to suddenly start spilling upwards.

So why would the most efficient living things diversify into more risky, more complex, less efficient forms?