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May 30, 2023


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"If you want to experience how your brain uses prior experience to predict current reality, check out these examples of sine-wave speech."

..........That was completely awesome!

It's one thing to know, intellectually, as an abstraction, that our brain models what we experience of reality; but to actually see it demonstrated like this, that was completely mind-blowing.

I tried out the whole set twice, and each time, each and every effing time --- even during the second set, because by then I'd forgotten what I'd heard the first time (and I suppose, had I listened in one or two times more, then I'd have remembered past sets) --- I was saying, each and every time it worked. Incomprehensible pseudo-speech to begin with; and after listening in, immediately, all there, perfectly comprehensible, just like magic.

That was super cool, that demonstration!

Andy Clark points out that: - “Since all human experience is constructed from mixtures of expectation, attention, and sensory stimulation, it will never be possible to experience either the world or your own body "as it really is." Fascinating stuff!

Brian Lowery also observes in his book ‘Selfless’ that: - “Selves don’t emanate from some ineffable light within people. Instead, selves are created in relationships.” And: - “The concept of self is not static, but rather constantly evolving through social interactions and the ongoing construction of our identity.” He adds: - “The self is a complex and dynamic construct influenced by personal experiences, cultural background, and beliefs about oneself and others.”

Another proponent of the predictive brain theory is Lisa Fieldman-Barrett. In her two books “How Emotions are Made” and “Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain” She talks about how your brain predicts and launches your actions based on data, namely, based on your past experience.” Depending on the perceived physical reality, the brain extracts information from our past experiences and predicts a course of action. There is no ‘me’ involved, just the brain making predictions from past experience in conjunction with presented sense information.

All in all, these studies highlight the amazing function that brains perform, suitably evolved to give us the best chances of survival. It would seem then, that experiencing reality “as it really is” is largely obscured by: - ". . . a particular human brain, our particular human body, raised and wired in a particular culture, will produce a particular kind of mind” – (L. F-Barrett).

"All in all, these studies highlight the amazing function that brains perform, suitably evolved to give us the best chances of survival."

..........Thinking aloud, a bit, Ron, off of what you've said there:

We humans aren't really unique, are we? Our technology is indeed unique, and what we've made of it, sure; but we'd evolved more or less to what we are now before most of this tech came into the picture. And homo sapiens 10K years ago was not much different than other animals.

Therefore, I was thinking, given that our evolution has equipped us with this model-building capacity, and this sense of self, because, as you say, it helps with survival: well then, wouldn't evolution have done the same for other species as well? No reason to imagine that we're uniquely privileged in this matter.

Therefore, it stands to reason that other species also must have this model-building business going on inside their brains, and also this sense of self thing. Other primates, like orang utans, and bonobos, and chimpanzees, and gorillas, certainly; dogs and cats as well; and in fact most creatures, bar maybe those that don't have brains at all, or only rudimentary brains.

I don't know if this is already established science. It may be, I'm not aware of this. But I was under the impression that we don't actually know if other creatures than us are sentient. It seems to me to be reasonable to believe that they might be, basis, well, basis the fact they've survived, in this Squid Game of evolution, and given that model-building and self-hood seem to carry some survival value.

@ AR

All living creatures are ...self sustaining, maintaining, systems but they do not all have the same degrees of freedom.

In that sense they are all equiped with whatever is necessary to survive.

Only humans are able to RE-create their original and natural habitat and that is what they do all the time, adapt to new and changing circumstances.

For THAT reason they are equiped with whatever is needed to do so.

Humans are natural still as they were 10.000 years ago

A.R. Quite so – “We humans are not really unique, are we”?

I ask myself, do animals have interoception – the sense that helps you understand and feel what's going on inside your body? So, it seems that they must have: animals know when they feel hungry or thirsty or when they are hot or cold. But are they aware of it? Animals certainly have an awareness of ‘me’ and ‘not me’, otherwise they could not survive in what is generally a hostile environment. Perhaps the difference is they do not (like us) form mental constructs around their feelings that they recognise as being a ‘me’ alone that is being affected.

We know humans have the ability of looking inward to examine our own thoughts, emotions, judgments, and perceptions and also the sense of being me, the sense of being a particular separate and distinct identity. The human brain is capable of eliciting from its store of experiences and information, a model that explains ‘me’, my ‘self’ and we form an image of ‘me’ from all that. It is not known whether animals (even other primates) do that.

Animals certainly have the interoceptive ability to know how and when to take advantage of situations that provide them with a better source of food and shelter – but again are they aware of it? Perhaps it all comes down to awareness, of being ‘self-aware’ – and have we humans taken the sense of being a separate self a bit to far. Some philosophers and some schools of Buddhism would say that we have.

Perhaps like us, animal’s brains construct the realities that helps them survive in their particular environments. A dog’s reality arises through its sense of smell, a hawk through its vision and so on – and is our reality based on thoughts and concepts rather than what our particular brains and senses tell us?

All interesting question – and fun to pursue.

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