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June 07, 2023


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Andy Clark.: - “Predictive processing suggests that the way we see and experience the world is quite routinely shaped and guided by our own (often unconscious) predictions and expectations.” He talks about ‘Realistic Optimism’ and “. . . predictive future states -- such as the state of drinking the coffee, arriving at that airport on time, or improving my surfing skills. This in turn requires a kind of informed optimism.’ and “We must at some level strongly predict that we will occupy the states that we can plausibly attain and that best realize our goals.”

Yes, predictive processing does suggest that various practices such as ‘focussed-attention meditation,’ is a way to ‘disengaged from our normal tendencies,’ (though this does sound to me more like projection rather than prediction.)

In the predictive brain theory, the human brain is a predictive, internal model of the world and is continuously engaged in predictions constructed from past experience whether they are sensations from within the body or without. Fieldman-Barrett affirms that “Essentially, we are the architects of our emotions [and thoughts?] and have the capacity to master our emotions or “construct” our lives differently.” – meditation practice and perhaps choiceless awareness?

If our minds have this innate capacity to choose sanity and happiness, then why do Americans lead the world in the use of mood-altering drugs?

Oh, but what's needed is more drugs? A phone app?

I find it strange that proven traditional methods for mental health are not even worthy of consideration here. "You can't say God, because it's not true1" The church of Dawkins.

And yet, these very qualities that the Harris app and drugs are supposed to fix? Religion has been meeting these human needs for many centuries. Optimism, self-affirmation, relief, purpose, love. The verdict of the ages is that religion provides genuine mental balance. Why pretend this isn't so?

And by religion, I don't mean just vague belief or subscribing to a mountain of dogma, but a comprehensive approach that includes meditation, service to others, affirmed belief that life has transcendent purpose, and especially community.

Community is very important, essential even. We are built for community, for sangha, kalyana mittata, confession, service, demonstrations of gratitude, and without community our minds suffer in isolation.

A phone app won't do much, and drugs are not the answer.

So many of the solutions of today are at best useless, at worst downright harmful. Telling young people that their mental health issues can be resolved with drugs or surgery is beyond horrible advice.

I’ve re-read the posts in regard to ‘snippets of’ Andy Clark’s book and come to the conclusion that there's a lot of technical jargon now used to describe how the brain works to create mental grooves and circular habits of thinking a lot of the time. It seems we ( identified as a thinking entity) will always be behind the eight ball because the brain’s proclivity for prediction will be at work prior to our thinking responses, in a sense governing the nature of such responses. Isn’t waking up about realising/uncovering this and taking counter measures (if that’s important to us)? I was waiting to see what Clark’s hack suggestions would be and low and behold he talks of psychedelics and what seems to be mindfulness/insight meditation as ways to bypass the brain’s predictivity and mental creations.
Some responses to quotes from the post:

“[Predictive processing] suggests that the way we see and experience the world is quite routinely shaped and guided by our own (often unconscious) predictions and expectations”
- I agree particularly in regard to those of us who have never spent time investigating and modifying such mental states through personal growth and meditation. However, what if we have arrived at a place where our unconscious ‘predictions’ have been revealed/recognised and we no longer have expectations? I’m not saying this is where I’m at (far from it), but from my observations and research over the years there are definitely people who appear to be in this state, imo.
“For example, consider that prickly rush of adrenaline so often felt before going onstage or delivering a speech. We can practice attending to that feeling while verbally reframing it as a sign of our own chemical readiness to deliver a good performance. This can lead to more relaxed and fluent behavior.”
‘attending to that feeling’ = mindfulness.
“"holiday from the self."
This is also one of the key effects of meditation, a practice that likewise quiets the ego, as evidenced both by verbal reports and by dampened neuronal responses in areas (such as the default mode network) associated with introspective self-consciousness -- the same areas in which activity was seen to be dampened by the action of the psychedelic drugs.”
- First time in the posts ego is mentioned - does Clark describe how it is created? What is this ‘self’ that we have a holiday from? Who has the holiday? What has he got to say about the DMN? - I’ve always been interested in this and by the way - good on you Spencer for the latest links.
“Focused-attention meditation”
- What other forms of meditation has Clark considered? (aren’t most about focused attention?)
“In predictive processing terms, upping the precision on that sole reliable object inevitably results in dropping the precision assigned to all other states, effectively down-weighting all the rest of the information flowing in from the senses. Once this skill is acquired, thoughts, memories, and sensations can also arise without capturing attention.”
- When I disentangle myself from the tech speak, I understand this as “meditation takes attention away from the senses and helps reduce identification with, and effects of, thinking” .

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