[ExI] Flash of insight...

Jeff Davis jrd1415 at gmail.com
Sat Oct 30 21:52:03 UTC 2010

2010/10/29 Alan Grimes <agrimes at speakeasy.net>:


> We each have a perception of our own
> consciousness but these perceptions might be radically different in ways
> for which there are no words and in such a way that affects practically
> nothing but how we perceive uploading.
> Short of getting into DSM-IV definitions, what is it like to be you?
> My own experience is a fairly fluid stream of consciousness which
> operates at all waking hours, and even disrupts my sleep as it did last
> night, too much on my mind! =P I have a fairly strong sense of mind-body
> integration. I never feel that my limbs belong to someone else. I'm able
> to divide my attention several ways but can only really work at one
> thing at a time. I'm not sure what else would be relevant to add,
> perhaps it will come out in discussion.

Totally excellent question.

I must confess to both laziness and cowardice..., well actually,
laziness is enough.  I have been wanting to discus this sort of thing
for years now, ever since Max's talk at extro 3, which as I recall
addressed the limits on human accomplishment imposed by
instinct-driven behaviors and current cognitive limits.

Then, last year there was "The thread that dare not speak its name":
Gordon Swobe's  and respondents' tireless posting of his challenge to
uploading, based on his assertion of mind/body inseparability.  In
that thread, every term relating to "consciousness" -- cognition,
volition, sentience,...all the usual suspects -- was deployed at one
point or another.  Others hated it, but I thoroughly enjoyed that
thread, which came at the question from so many angles.  In the end I
was able to break new ground in my thinking on this subject, and am
grateful to all participants.

Well,... in that thread I noticed something odd.  Everyone was talking
about consciousness, but despite each of us having a lifetime of
experience being conscious -- subjective experience to be sure, but
that's hardly an excuse for ignoring the data set -- no one was
describing the details of consciousness as they experienced it.  I
wondered why.  I guessed -- but I'm not married to the notion -- that
maybe folks are hesitant to talk about their inner life.  Why?
Perhaps because it's so over-the-top whacky that no one wants to run
the risk -- social, professional, ego stability, whatever -- of
fessing up.

Now Alan asks the question straight up.

Okay, here's the deal.  I have a flippin' raft of personalities inside
my head.  So much so that I have been trying to figure out how to
reconcile them with a model of consciousness.  I've used  the term
"personalities" above, but shift over to "consciousness" below.  I use
the two interchangeably.  A "consciousness" is, in the context of my
ongoing attempt to make order out of this business, a personality or
persona.  Try substituting "persona" for "consciousness" below, and
see how it feels.

There's the speaking consciousness, the hearing consciousness, the
seeing consciousness, the tactile consciousness, (presumably "tasting"
and smelling consciousnesses (powerful but "quiet").   I see these as
neocortical-to-sensory-organs-and-related-tissues modules, engaged in
a continuous periodic back-and-forth signaling paradigm.

Then there are wholly neocortical personas: the "watcher" or oversight
consciousness is one of these, as are the various links from mirror
neurons to other neocortical locations.

Then there are mood-associated personas: the angry (fierce, "warrior")
judgment-limited consciousness, the calm, sensible (but timid, weak?)
consciousness.  Others?

Finally, as a first generation attempt to fuse these notions into a
model of consciousness ( "hard problem" my ass.  Nothing's hard.  Not
knowing is NOT the same as "hard".  See my boy Ray.) I hypothesize the
coordinated cross-talk of this multitude of neocortical back-and-forth
modules to be what we call consciousness.  In support of this notion I
submit that the evolutionary process achieves complexity by developing
a diversity of simple "modules" -- bacterial cells -- which then
combine into more complex modules -- eukaryotic cells -- which then
evolve their own diversity, and then combine into the multi-cellular
"modules" we call organisms -- within which there is yet again
"modularity" in the form of organs.  These multicellular organisms
then evolve even further.  And of course modularity in the brain is an
established fact, as is the gradual evolution-driven layering of ever
more modules in brains from C.elegans to homo not-so-elegant

I talk to myself.  The talker and the listener are not the same
persona.  Sometimes I have a conversation where two talkers with
different attitudes or points of view engage each other.  Sometimes
this all stays inside my head, but the single-talker habitually speaks
"out loud".  When two speakers go vocal to each other, it's almost
always a deliberate act of self-entertainment (and whimsical
creativity).  Which brings up the question of what is going on in your
head when you "play" a part, play at being someone else?  As we get
older (some of you) we may set aside this easy playfulness, and become
"who we are", but the self-evident plasticity of our youth is a data
point, and suggestive.

Few of these personality components have executive authority, which
seems to remain with the over-arching observer "I", and with any
innervated but non-neural, non-neocortical somatic part of me.  This
is the lesson of pain.  Tissue in survival mode can compel "the I" to
save it.

Hope this is worth something to someone.

Best, Jeff Davis

"Everything's hard till you know how to do it."
                                Ray Charles

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