Psychedelics, dreams, and a party game

Guru George (
Fri, 25 Jul 1997 23:43:11 +0100

On Fri, 25 Jul 1997 10:07:24 -0700
Hara Ra <> wrote:

>As the psychedelic
>occupies the inhibitory sites, the noise level in the brain increases.
>Noise when applied to a complex system will evoke whole complexes of
>experience, well beyond mere pixillated snow type effects.


Interesting. I recently posted to the effect that I now don't take
trips very seriously anymore - I actually enjoy them (on the odd
occasion) as mostly just pretty visual and conceptual nonsense that
occasionally throws up something that proves interesting in the context
of 'normal' experience; and one of the main reasons for this change of
attitude was reading the 'Prelude' to 'Consciousness Explained by Daniel
C Dennett, where he talks about dreams and a party game called
'Psychoanalysis' (it has other names too, I think).

The party game goes like this: (quoting Dennett) "... one person, the
dupe, is told that while he is out of the room, one member of the
assembled party will be called upon to relate a recent dream. This will
give everybody else in the room the story line of that dream so that
when the dupe returns to the room and begins questioning the assembled
party, the dreamer's identity will be hidden in the crowd of responders.
The dupe's job is to ask yes/no questions of the assembled group until
he has figured out the dream narrative to a suitable degree of detail,
at which point the dupe is to psychoanalyze the dreamer, and use the
analysis to identify him or her.

"Once the dupe is out of the room, the host explains to the rest of the
party that no one is to relate a dream, that the party is to answer the
dupe's questions according to the following simple rule: if the last
letter of the last word of the question is in the first half of the
alphabet, the question is to be answered in the affirmative, and all
other questions are to be answered in the negative, with one proviso: a
non-contradiction override rule to the effect that later questions are
not to be given answers that contradict earlier anwers.

"... When the dupe returns to the room and begins questioning, he gets a
more or less random, or at any rate arbitrary, series of yeses and noes
in response. The results are often entertaining. ... When the dupe
eventually decides that the dreamer - whoever he or she is - must be a
very sick and troubled individual, the assembled party gleefully retorts
that the dupe himself is the author of the "dream". This is not
strictly true, of course. In one sense, the dupe is the author by virtue
of the questions he was inspired to ask. (No one *else* proposed putting
the three gorillas in the rowboat with the nun.) But in another sense,
the dream simply has no author, and that is the whole point. Here we see
a process of narrative production, of detail accumulation, with no
authorial intentions or plans at all - an illusion with no illusionist.

"The structure of this party game bears a striking resemblance to the
structure of a family of well-regarded models of perceptual systems. It
is widely held that human vision, for instance, cannot be explained as
an *entirely* "data-driven" or "bottom-up" process, but needs, at the
highest levels, to be supplemented by a few "expectation-driven" rounds
of hypothesis testing (or something analogous to hypothesis testing).

"...Whatever the utlimate verdict turns out to be on generate-and-test
theories of perception, we can see that they support a simple and
powerful account of hallucination. All we need suppose must happen for
an otherwise normal perceptual system to be thrown into a hallucinatory
mode is for the hypothesis-generation side of the cycle (the expectation-
driven side) to operate normally, while the data-driven side of the
cycle (the confirmation side) goes into a disordered or random or
arbitrary round of confirmation and disconfirmation, just as in the party
game. In other words, if noise in the data channel is arbitrarily
amplified into "confirmations" and "disconfirmations" (the arbitrary yes
and no answers in the party game), the current expectations, concerns,
obsessions, and worries of the victim will lead to framing questions or
hypotheses whose content is guaranteed to reflect those interests, and so
a "story" will unfold in the perceptual system without an author.

"...This provides in the most direct possible way a link between the
emotional state of the hallucinator and the content of the hallucinations
produced. Hallucinations are usually related in their content to the
current concerns of the hallucinator, and this model of hallucination
provides for that feature without the intervention of an implausibly
knowledgeable internal storyteller who has a theory or model of the
victim's psychology. Why, for instance, does the hunter on the last day
of deer season see a deer, complete with antlers and white tail, while
looking at a black cow or another hunter in an orange jacket? Because
his internal questioner is obsessively asking: "Is it a deer?" and
getting NO for an answer until finally a bit of noise in the system gets
mistakenly amplified into a YES, with catastrophic results."

This ties in with your theory above, Hara Ra, does it not? It's easily
extrapolated both to ordinary dreams and to psychedelic experience, in
terms of both sensory and conceptual hallucinations.

Of course, even if this is the correct explanation, there's still room
for the possibility of hyperdimensional communications from transcendental
machine elves and Psylocybin Powers alongside it! But that would make
the job of separating the nonsense from the genuine hyperdimensional
stuff very tricky indeed.

At any rate, this explanation of Dennett's had a very 'cooling',
Epicurean effect on *my* psychedelic experience!

Guru George