Interesting article on how what we perceive isn’t always the reality. We make up stories that shape our perceptions.
“‘It’s really important to understand we’re not seeing reality,’ says neuroscientist Patrick Cavanagh, a research professor at Dartmouth College and a senior fellow at Glendon College in Canada. ‘We’re seeing a story that’s being created for us.’ Most of the time, the story our brains generate matches the real, physical world — but not always. Our brains also unconsciously bend our perception of reality to meet our desires or expectations. And they fill in gaps using our past experiences.”
“Why are we seeing a story about the world — a story — and not the real deal? It’s not because evolution made our minds flawed. It’s actually an adaptation.”
“‘The dirty little secret about sensory systems is that they’re slow, they’re lagged, they’re not about what’s happening right now but what’s happening 50 milliseconds ago, or, in the case for vision, hundreds of milliseconds ago.’ If we relied solely on this outdated information, though, we wouldn’t be able to hit baseballs with bats, or swat annoying flies away from our faces. We’d be less coordinated, and possibly get hurt more often.So the brain predicts the path of motion before it happens. It tells us a story about where the object is heading, and this story becomes our reality.
“What we experience as consciousness is primarily the prediction, not the real-time feed. The actual sensory information, he explains, just serves as error correction. ‘If you were always using sensory information, errors would accumulate in ways that would lead to quite catastrophic effects on your motor control,’ Hantman says. Our brains like to predict as much as possible, then use our senses to course-correct when the predictions go wrong. This is true not only for our perception of motion but also for so much of our conscious experience.”
“The big principles that underlie how our brains process what we see also underlie most of our thinking. Illusions are ‘the basis of superstition, the basis of magical thinking,’ Martinez-Conde says. ‘It’s the basis for a lot of erroneous beliefs. We’re very uncomfortable with uncertainty. The ambiguity is going to be resolved one way or another, and sometimes in a way that does not match reality.’ Just as we can look at an image and see things that aren’t really there, we can look out into the world with skewed perceptions of reality. Political scientists and psychologists have long documented how political partisans perceive the facts of current events differently depending on their political beliefs. The illusions and political thinking don’t involve the same brain processes, but they follow the similar overarching way the brain works.”
Subtitle: An integrative review and process-based framework, by Hobson et al. (2018), Personality and Social Psychology Review 22(3). The abstract:
“Traditionally, ritual has been studied from broad sociocultural perspectives, with little consideration of the psychological processes at play. Recently, however, psychologists have begun turning their attention to the study of ritual, uncovering the causal mechanisms driving this universal aspect of human behavior. With growing interest in the psychology of ritual, this article provides an organizing framework to understand recent empirical work from social psychology, cognitive science, anthropology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience. Our framework focuses on three primary regulatory functions of rituals: regulation of (a) emotions, (b) performance goal states, and (c) social connection. We examine the possible mechanisms underlying each function by considering the bottom-up processes that emerge from the physical features of rituals and top-down processes that emerge from the psychological meaning of rituals. Our framework, by appreciating the value of psychological theory, generates novel predictions and enriches our understanding of ritual and human behavior more broadly.”
- What is humanity’s situation with respect to surviving long-term with a good quality of life? (Frame the core opportunities and obstacles.)
- What attributes of our evolved, experientially programmed brains contribute to this situation? (What are the potential leverage points for positive change within our body-brain-mind system?)
- What courses of research and action (including currently available systems, tools, and practices and current and possible lines of R&D) have the potential to improve our (and the planetary life system’s) near- and long-term prospects?
Following is a list of (only some!) of the resources some of us have consumed and discussed online, in emails, or face-to-face in 2019. Sample a few to jog your thoughts and provoke deeper dives. Please add your own additional references in the comments below this post. For each, give a short (one line is fine) description, if possible.
- In The Age of AI (Frontline video – about 2 hours)
- Cognitive aspects of interactive technology use
- The origins and evolutionary effects of consciousness
- Damasio on consciousness
- Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
- Team Human by Rushkoff
- Life 3.0 (video interview – about 1 hr 23 min)
- Life 3.0 synopsis
- Eric Brynjolfsson and Max Tegmark on ‘Life 3.0’ – exponential change (video – about 1 hr)
- Zero marginal cost society – collective commons
- Syntegration – key to innovation
- Storytelling as adaptive collective sensemaking
- How does music affect the brain?
- The neuroscience of creativity
- Is the info processing (IP) metaphor of the brain wrong?
- Intra-species evolutionary arms race drove brainpower leaps
- Evolutionary theory: Fringe or central to psychological science
- Climate change and social transformations
- Algorithm, not talent or merit, determines wealth distribution
- 2019 ‘best’ year on record for humans
- Influence of capitalism on well-being
- Does altruism exist?
- Networks thinking themselves (video – about 1 hour)
- Did ability to enter trance states enable formation of human society?
- Cultural evolution
- Free, Fair and Alive: The insurgent power of the commons
- New scientific model can predict moral and political development
- Do our models get in the way?
- 40-year update on meme theory
- Beyond free will: The embodied emergence of conscious agency
- How the internet is affecting your brain
- Ideas of Stuart Kauffman
- This link shows 12 positive benefits of meditation supported by scientific studies
- Part of the collective commons transformation is how humanity has become a hybrid cyborg with the machine, meaning the personal computer and an internet connection. It has fundamentally changed our nature to one of a mass-communicated collaborative commons. The Frontiers ebook is the tech side of that development, whereas the more social side is what Rifkin writes about.
- Heart-rate variability and social coherence
- How cooperatives are driving the new economy
- Yuval Noah Harari Is Worried About Our Souls
- The Age of Entanglement
- Fungi as a new model for cooperation and communication?
- The landscape of 21st century science
- The collective computation or reality in nature and society (among other great SFI resources)
- Brain tunes itself to criticality, maximizing information processing
- Evolved biocultural beings
- Editorial: Evolutionary Theory: Fringe or Central to Psychological Science
- From computers to cultivation: reconceptualizing evolutionary psychology
- Evolved computers with culture. Commentary: From computers to cultivation: reconceptualizing evolutionary psychology
- Information-Processing and Embodied, Embedded, Enactive Cognition Part 1
- Frontiers – Peer-reviewed, free-access scientific journals
- Divided brain, divided world (video – about 11 mins)
- Is the power law really all dat?
- Scale-free networks are rare
- Consciousness in humanoid robots
- Journal: Human Arenas
- SFI: InterPlanetary Round Table Discussion: Our Future in Space (Neal Stephenson and others)
- Thinking devices – imitation, mind-reading, language and others – are neither hard-wired nor designed by genetic evolution
- EU Ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI
- The neural and cognitive foundations of math
- AI will never conquer humanity
- The agency of cognitive artifacts
- Neuroscience: Deep breathing changes your brain
From this article at MIT Technology Review:
“Massimiliano Proietti at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and a few colleagues say they have performed this experiment for the first time: they have created different realities and compared them. Their conclusion is that Wigner was correct—these realities can be made irreconcilable so that it is impossible to agree on objective facts about an experiment. .[…] ‘This calls into question the objective status of the facts established by the two observers,’ say Proietti and co.” […] Proietti and co’s result suggests that objective reality does not exist. In other words, the experiment suggests that one or more of the assumptions—the idea that there is a reality we can agree on, the idea that we have freedom of choice, or the idea of locality—must be wrong.”
I was reminded of the video below, and this longer examination of the ideas therein. Here’s the blurb from the latter:
“Divided Brain, Divided World explores the significance of the scientific fact that the two hemispheres of our brains have radically different ‘world views’. It argues that our failure to learn lessons from the crash, our continuing neglect of climate change, and the increase in mental health conditions may stem from a loss of perspective that we urgently need to regain.
“Divided Brain, Divided World examines how related issues are illuminated by the ideas developed in author and psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist’s critically acclaimed work: The Master and his Emissar
y. It features a dialogue between McGilchrist and Director of RSA’s Social Brain Centre, Dr Jonathan Rowson, which informed a workshop with policymakers, journalists and academics.
“This workshop led to a range of written reflections on the strength and significance of the ideas, including critique, clarification and illustrations of relevance in particular domains, including economics, behavioural economics, climate change, NGO campaigning, patent law, ethics, and art.”
Since this came up in our book discussion or Range yesterday, something relevant from this article. It’s interesting how the salience network mediates between and integrates two normally one on, one off networks. And how it is the connections between networks that seems to do the trick akin to the book’s description of how those with range make analogous connections between ideas and domains.
“Three of these distinct brain networks — the default mode, the executive control network and the salience network — have been identified by Dr Beaty and colleagues as being associated with creativity.
“The default mode network is activated when people are relaxed and their mind is wandering to different topics or experiences, associated with remembering past experiences, thinking about possible future experience and daydreaming.
“The executive control network comes into play when you need to pay close attention and focus on something in the environment. It comes online when we have to focus our attention and cognitive resources on more demanding tasks that require us to hone our attention and manage multiple things in our mind at one time, directing the content of our thoughts.
“The salience network plays a significant role in detecting and filtering important — or salient — information. It’s called salience because it helps us to pick up on salient information in the environment or internally. Interestingly, the default mode and the executive control networks don’t typically work together — when one network is activated, the other tends to be deactivated. One thing that we think the salience network might be doing is switching between an idea-generation mode, which is more of a default process, and the idea-evaluation mode, which is more of a control way of thinking. […] More creative people tended to have more network connections.”
New draft paper by me. Update: Published here. The abstract:
A ‘power law’ refers specifically to a statistical relationship between quantities, such that a change in one quantity has a proportional change in another. One property of this law is scale invariance, otherwise known as ‘scale-free,’ meaning the same proportion repeats at every scale in a self-similar pattern. Mathematical fractals are an example of such a power law. Power laws are taken as universal and have been applied to any and all phenomena to prove the universality of this law.
However, a recent study (Broido and Clauset, 2019) claims that “scale free networks are rare.” They conducted an extensive review of one thousand social, biological, technological and information networks using state of the art statistical methods and concluded what the title of their article states. To the contrary, “log-normal distributions fit the data as well or better than power laws.” And that scale-free structure is “not an empirically universal pattern.” Hence it should not be used to model and analyze real world structures.
In his new book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David J. Epstein investigates the significant advantages of generalized cognitive skills for success in a complex world. We’ve heard and read many praises for narrow expertise in both humans and AIs (Watson, Alpha Go, etc.). In both humans and AIs, however, narrow+deep expertise does not translate to adaptiveness when reality presents novel challenges, as it does constantly.
As you ingest this highly readable, non-technical book, please add your observations to the comments below.
Psychologist Robert Epstein, the former editor of Psychology Today, challenges anyone to show the brain processing information or data. The IP metaphor, he says, is so deeply embedded in thinking about thinking it prevents us from learning how the brain really works. Epstein also takes on popular luminaries including Ray Kurzweil and Henry Markram, seeing both exemplifying the extremes of wrongness we get into with the IP metaphor and the notion mental experience could persist outside the organic body.
The Empty Brain (Aeon article with audio)