Monday, May 19, 2003

Two More Interesting Books on Consciousness

I mentioned these last time.

"The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size" by Tor Norretranders, who's a Danish science writer. Lots of good stuff in this. He talks about the conscious mind ("I") vs the unconscious mind ("me"). One great figure: what is the baud rate of the human consciousness? The human sensorium takes in 11 megabits a second: 10 Mb visual, .5Mb audio, the rest taste, smell, touch and proprioception. So what is the baud rate of human consciousness? 20 baud per second! It's why movies work at 24 frames a second. The mind cannot discern any time intervals less than 50 milliseconds (1/20th of a second). It pissed me off, the last world cup they would show slo-mo of offsides calls missed by linesmen by 2-3 inches. In 50 milliseconds, a fast human running at full speed can go about 18 inches. So, anything better than that is just luck. Humans don't have slo-mo eyes or consciousness.

I read this a few years ago, I was going to refer to it for some more FFTKAT (fun facts to know and tell), but it seems to not be on my bookshelves. Another meme that wanted to be spread, I guess.

"The Meme Machine" by Susan Blackmore. I read a couple of years ago. It is a fairly good books on memetics. She had a summary article on it in Scientific American shortly after that. They had some critical responses. One of her contentions is that humans are the only species to practice imitation, which lead to memetics and the runaway evolution of our big brains. Other biologists questioned that, pointing out other species that practice imitation, including some birds, I think.

Blackmore talks about memeplexes -- groups of memes that come as a package. For example, when you're infected with a religious meme, you get belief in a god, belief in life after death, belief in the power of prayer, etc. One of the strongest memeplexes is the selfplex. It is the "take credit for it all" conscious part of our mind that really doesn't do that much, but is constantly reinforcing its own importance.

Blackmore at the end advocates learning to ignore the incessant demands of the selfplex. Kind of a Buddhist attitude.

I really, really don't believe that everything is an illusion. I have been observing reality closely for many, many years, and it never once has slipped. (No deja vu cats like in The Matrix). So, I think Buddhism/Hinduism is wrong, everything is not illusion -- but I think I do buy into the idea that the self is.

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