Here's another compilation of notes I'm taking from audio recordings of Alan Watts that Sam Harris has shared on his Waking Up app. This talk is called Seeing Through the Net. It's 47 minutes long, but you can get the gist of what Watts said by reading my summary in a much shorter time.
"Who guards the gods?"
In modern times many have the goal of rational control of everything inside and outside us. But things have gotten so complex, nobody knows what to do. If you try to run a hospital, or a business, there's so much red tape.
You don't understand the basic assumptions of your own culture if that's the only culture you know. What do you mean by the good life, rationality, and so on? So find complex cultures different from your own, such as Chinese or Indian.
Triangulation often is better than a single line of sight. What are you going to do if you're a god with technological powers? Most people don't know what they want.
What if you could control your dream and experience 75 years in one night? Are you wise enough to play at being God?
The Western model of the universe is political, engineering. No Chinese child would ask, "How was I made?" However, Western thought has a creator. The world is a construct. We look at things as bits of information.
But the physical universe is wiggles. Clouds, mountains -- no sharp edges. Some fishermen held up a net and looked at things through it. Likewise, we break up the world into measurable units. We come to think that this is the way the world really is. Discrete, made up of points.
Prickly people want precision. Gooey people say, you don't understand. Actually, the universe is both. Look close, prickly. Broader view, gooey.
The capacity to look via scanning is like a spotlight. A floodlight has less intensity, but you see more all at once. A spotlight notices those things for which we have notation. A thing is a unit of thought. To talk about the universe you have to reduce it to things
As one understands a machine, we have reduced the cosmos to bits. This is very fruitful in being able to control the world via technology.
We reduce the infinite wiggleness of the world to grasp it in thought. In medicine, you get a specialist who looks at a patient as a gall bladder. But there are fundamental differences between a mechanism and an organism.
Trying to control the world only through scanning, bit by bit, things will look overly complex. We face an information explosion. Even computers won't help much.
What if we went from from spotlight to floodlight? What if we could grasp a situation instantly, intuitively? With pattern recognition, humans can recognize an object instantly. Humans have no problem with this, while computers do.
Brain: you yourself are this thing you can't figure out. You are the most complex thing that has been encountered in the cosmos. What you want is surprise. When you've figured everything out, you'll be bored.
Ideally, a person trusts his own brain. He makes his best discoveries without thinking.
But others only will believe you if you explain in a bit by bit fashion. This takes time. Most decisions in life can't wait. I'm not against technology. But new respect for organic organization is needed. We've got to let back some goo in the system, not just prickle.
The brain can solve problems without us knowing how.
Practical issue: if technology relies exclusively on linear thinking, it will destroy its environment, because everything becomes too complex.
Are we going to foul things up by insisting on using linear input/analysis, without trust in multiple inputs that we can't pin down because it is you? In Chinese culture, man's essential nature is good, unlike the Christian notion of sin.
Native Americans have a saying, "Paleface doesn't know he is hungry until he looks at his watch." We've confused the menu with the dinner, and we're starving. Symbols are not reality.