Re: Extropian Views
Fri, 1 Oct 1999 05:00:30 EDT

In a message dated 9/30/1999 2:05:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

<< After lurking for a few weeks I have seemed to notice a common thread in the "intellectual" discussions on this list. I do have some initial questions during my brief time on this list. My use of certain terms it to generalize and not pigeon hole this philosophy into mediocrity. I am just curious the way other Extropians view the following:

  1. The need for understanding based solely on the Objective universe.

I, however, view the greatest advances in science based on the need for Subjective expansion. The ancient Egyptians held the philosophy, "A thing that exists in the mind thereby exists". Science gives a fantastic tool to explain the Objective but little is understood about Subjective states of mind. For example, hypnotism is still an abstract science. Rather than trying to understand the brain under a microscope, should we not try to understand based on experience? Gravity has no Objective form but we know it exists based on its effects. >>

I would agree with you that there is a need to understand the Subjective as well as the Objective, but I would add to that my belief that the Subjective arises from Objective reality, and thus to reach an understanding of the Subjective you must have an understanding of the Objective universe from which it is born. This does not diminish the importance of the Subjective, on the contrary, I would argue that it is the Subjective from which all value derives. Hypnosis I think actually has been fairly well elucidated, although some work could be done on the physical processes which underlie it. Essentially, Hypnosis is about strong control of attention of the conscious mind, usually by intense focus of the mind on one thing, or alternatively it can be inducement of strong inattention (like a neglect syndrome).

As an aside, during a psych rotation a forensic psychiatrist demonstrated to us med students some techniques in hypnosis. Many of the students couldn't achieve a hypnotic state, which the psychiatrist told us is often the case with people who need to be in control of themselves (yes, most med students are pretty tightly wound<g>). Strangely enough, though I like to be in control of my destiny, I had absolutely no problem achieving a hypnotic state, and was quite comfortable with it. In fact, I have never felt more in control of myself than then. I saw myself in a quiet moment of my life, then felt myself expand to stride the world and ever onward, reaching out to encompass the whole of the universe in my being. I think the difference between myself and those students who couldn't get into the hypnosis was due to two things: one being my previous experience with meditation, and the other being something the psychiatrist said at the beginning, which was that all hypnosis is a form of self hypnosis. I also think this may be related to a difference I noticed between myself and some of the others who were able to get into a hypnotic state. At a certain point the psychiatrist was demonstrating how open to suggestion people were during hypnosis by getting us to move our hand involuntarily. I decided from inside my total calm that I would not do this, and I did not, though many of the other students did. Not really on the point there, but it just shows how interesting the subjective experience can be.

<<2. The dismissal of consciousness and the psyche.

Making copies of "The Self" into a computer are we creating people or zombies? A great movie that I immediately think of is, "Dark City". They explore the idea, "Are we the sum of our memories". Science seems to think so. Amnesia victims don't seem to fall into this category. Maybe this is something beyond the Memory? I'm not saying the "Soul" or any religious terms there of, but some element that is beyond the tangible, the source of emotion and creativity. P.D. Ouspensky wrote in, "The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution", that mankind is in a state of sleep. Until we realize this we cannot awake and become Individuals, thinking on our own. How many of us go through our life asleep and how many are truly awake and be Conscious?>>

Actually, I think global amnesia patients show that we are to a great degree the sum of our memories (though there are other elements of personality that are as important). Remember first that amnesia usually refers to the loss of episodic, personal memory (while loss of other information types are classified differently, such as agnosias, apraxias, etc.), and that rarely is it a loss of all episodic memory (instead maybe access to most of the last 10, 20 years). Many mannerisms which have been long standing remain, and the person will often seem to others like the they were back at the time of their last memories. No, they are still people, as they retain enough of their personality (as well as the ability to rebuild personality) to be considered so. Another type of amnesia which is illuminating is anteriograde amnesia, where the person remembers their past, but can not keep new memories. They also are still people, but they are unable to grow because they can not maintain new memories.

As for the source of emotion and creativity, we're woefully lacking in our understanding of creativity, but emotion itself we're making some headway in. It's base is actually for the most part very tangible and clearly linked to the objective world. It is only when emotion is linked to conscious thought that we get into more abstract realms. Again, I would suggest that studies of various organic brain damage syndromes are somewhat illuminating on the objective substrate of the subjective. I can give some examples later if you'd like, but I'm not at home right now and I'd like to refer to some of my neuro texts before so doing.

>> I guess this all comes down to, what good is intelligence if it is just
used for information regurgitation. I feel that evolution can only take us so far. Arthur C. Clarke explored this abstract concept in 2001, A Space Odyssey. I thrive on my ability to put knowledge into action as I am sure most people here do. We do this to expand in a non-physical evolution. Why do this if we are not strengthening anything but our gene pool? All we need to do is go into the local library to see how separate we are from the rest of nature. Nature does not over compensate in evolution. A giraffe grew a long neck to reach the tops of trees for food. Nature did not give legs for jumping and wings to fly at the same time. It took the easiest way out. We could survive with half our intellectual capacity but nature seems to have blatantly not taken the easy way out in our case. This brings a state of wonder into my existence.<<

I don't think that it's all about information regurgitation, but rather information (knowledge) is part of the great endeavor that is life. As for the easy way out, I think nature takes every which way and devil take the hindmost (it develops strategies at random and any that work stay, that's why there is so much diversity, and not everything is efficient). I don't know if growing a long neck is the easy way out, just one of many. As for why we humans seem to have evolved so much intellectual capacity, I must admit to my current ignorance, but I believe there is an answer, and I don't expect that finding it will diminish in any way my sense of wonder as to it's existence. Everything is a wonder to me, objective and subjective. It is good to be alive!

>>If I have offended anyone by my words I apologize. I hoped to gear an
intellectual discussion. Obviously when confronting someone else's belief system, emotions come into play. Please do not flame me. I consider my life journey to be Extropian but I perceive myself to differ in the areas previously mentioned. How do others view these concepts?? <<

I think there is no need to flame here. I rather enjoyed your message. I hope I've provided some grist for an intellectual discussion. Thanks.

Glen Finney