NHA Tutorial 18
Intelligence, Consciousness and Comprehension
[updated November 2016]
In Tutorial 17 we looked at the biopsychology of belief, and how it underlies not only all of our decisions but also the architecture of our own biology and success or otherwise of our interactions. We learned some of the factors useful for avoiding the most common forms of bullshit, and we found out how unusual most so-called 'normal people' really are.
This awareness rather pulls the rug out from under our collective scientific feet and gives us a more realistic and honest perspective on our current 'body of knowledge' about healthy mental development. Obviously, research must be rational and any data that is to be considered representational of human nature must come from a selection of all humans – not, as we now realize, from one isolated group who happen to be peculiar in many ways (although that WILL help us understand that particular group); and not just from you (although that will help you understand yourself. Data on ourselves, of course, IS absolutely applicable to us, but we must also remember that individuals change all the time, and that NH will accelerate the pace of change and development.)
What is supposed to be 'normal' development for healthy human minds is now revealed as a frontier that is only just beginning to be explored. Other frontiers, in the shape of various recent biological paradigm shifts, were also considered in the last tutorial, and we may have had to recalibrate some of our old beliefs but more importantly, we now understand something of the nature of belief itself; we are more aware of how powerful congruous belief can be, and understand how problems arise from false beliefs. That awareness is very useful in the ongoing study or augmentation of intelligence.
We can continue to increase our body of knowledge via the scientific method, and should by all means do so. This is how the scientific method works -we play with stuff and we play with ideas, and we make a playful guess about what's 'probably' going on in a given situation. Then we do experiments to see whether our guess is congruous with nature. If it isn't, we're wrong. Then we guess again. That's it; that's the scientific method. A new paradigm is 'our current best guess', and it's our current best guess because it fits the facts of nature more closely than all previous guesses.
In this tutorial we take a multidimensional view of intelligence; exploring consciousness, comprehension, control, communication and interaction. This includes more 'boldly going' into the unknown as we consider possibilities for intelligence beyond its current subject positioning.
Investigating these processes reveals intelligence both in a developmental framework of biological imperatives essential for its growth; and 'intelligence at work' during healthy function, where evolution defines developmental success as the power to interact.
We frame this final tutorial with three questions: where have we come from, what are we doing, and where are we going – perhaps some of the deepest questions that humanity attempts to comprehend. As usual, there was a lot of potential material for this tutorial and a limited amount of space; therefore we have left some questions unanswered and some details of the connections between topics unexplained – by this stage, you should be able to figure out those connections for yourself and 'complete the story'. If you can't 'connect all the dots', you also know how to seek reliable research sources to join them up for you.
We'll also take a look at Golden Rule 8 – From time to time, you will forget all this. Forgetting about things (most especially, forgetting to actually DO things) is a major cause of slow progress in NH, but as long as we are aware that perceived need drives all systems including memory, we can always hack our way back to progress, out of a rut and away from decline. Paying attention and maintaining mindful awareness of reality is the key.
By the end of this tutorial you should understand the details of the latest research on consciousness and the big picture perspective furnished by the accompanying fields of evolutionary psychology and developmental biopsychology. You should also be able to:
- See the vital importance of biological imperatives to intelligence development and the quality of life.
- Recognize 'a priori' unconscious knowledge as distinct from 'empirical' unconscious knowledge and conscious knowledge.
- Use communication with core conditions to better understand how the words and thoughts we use can spread kindness and understanding or fear and anxiety.
- Respond with resilience and know how to increase resilience to all kinds of challenges and changes.
- Shift your locus of awareness and perspective according to necessity.
- Understand the science behind 'altered states', tripping, and shaman's 'spirit journeys'.
- Grasp the infinite possibilities of intelligence.
follow the right habit
During these tutorials we have talked a lot about getting rid of bad habits by replacing them with better habits. We want to shift perspective a little in this final tutorial; paying less attention to bad habits and concentrating more on developing good habits. Because whenever we are doing this; whenever we are doing anything that constitutes good input, we automatically avoid old habits without even having to bother trying. The prescription for bad habits is simply more good habits. Don't worry about giving things up; just create a set of conditions where you don't have time to do anything stupid because you are so busy doing good stuff. If progress is slow, concentrate on doing more and more good stuff.
If you find yourself caught in snapback thinking stupid anxious thoughts, move. Literally, move your ass. Get up and do something good and useful for yourself. Moods will pass, anxiety can be reduced. Difficult times might as well be filled with useful tasks; not just because you're still managing to get useful things done, but because your mood will change when you get up and move and start doing things, reducing anxiety and freeing up mental resources to tackle the problem. Anything will do; have a bath, clean up, make a good meal, listen to music, watch some comedy. If stupid thoughts arise, remind yourself firmly but kindly that you don't do that crap anymore because it's stupid, and you're not. In doing this our beliefs, behavior and words will be congruous, and congruity automatically improves things fast.
Ritual is habitual
We are constantly performing little rituals (any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner); from the morning drink to night time habits, a lot of our behavior is repetitive and largely automatic. Most daily tasks are repeated structured practices, some unconsciously known in detail, some more conscious than others. Each one is an aspect of our everyday experience, and as such forms part of the experiential basis for our metaphoric constructs.
It is thus often in the little things, the small changes, that we can affect permanent improvement on a larger level. This is bottom up reconstruction; the more we incorporate small, simple good habits into our everyday lives, the faster we progress.
Questions to consider:
How many of your daily rituals are beneficial for your mental health?
How many are harmful?
For you – entelechy
In the very first of these tutorials we learned how intelligence (and indeed, biological life) always moves us naturally towards entelechy, growth and development unless something gets in the way.
Our minds got here via billions of years of developmental evolution, which will not stop happening and which can adjust itself to changing circumstances with practiced ease. That's what it does best; evolution is modulated by changes in systems, and if it had a pov, humanity's current shenanigans would appear in perspective as just another chaotic event, which is no big deal. The world formed and developed life all by itself despite (and in some cases, because of) such events, and nature is quite capable of doing it again wherever the raw materials and conditions may be found. Indeed, life can't help evolving if they are there; it has no choice in the matter, biochemistry is still chemistry. Chemicals do what their physical properties determine they must do in given circumstances according to the laws of physics, and wherever a matrix arises with the properties that could allow life and intelligence to arise, it will. Programs have to run wherever recognized signals tell them to run.
Entelechy is the algorithm for an organism's ultimate success and highest quality output. It is hard wired in to life systems and only fails to run, as noted, when something gets in its way. When we first begin NH, we learn that once we remove the obstacles to growth, growth reinitializes development, and damage repair can take place.
Doing that becomes a lot easier at this stage! Once we begin practicing entelechy deliberately, more and more obstacles begin to disappear. Over time, behavioral entelechy becomes automatic once again, or 'second nature', and at this stage we are progressing into prevention of harm and augmentation of abilities, rather than repairing damage and removing obstacles.
against you - extinction
Beneficial epigenetic changes require recognized signals communicating functional requirements. In other words, it is perceived need that drives epigenetic change.
In biology, if something is considered necessary; if incoming signals imply that it is necessary, it will develop. If something is considered unnecessary, and no signals are received to indicate an ongoing need for it, it will decline. This applies to all life everywhere, because biology's rules are just as fundamental as the rules of physics or chemistry.
Mind is an entity that seems to itself and others to have a continuing identity – an 'I' inside that manifests consistently as time passes, yet when we consider plasticity and adaptation it becomes clear that mind is constantly redesigning, improving and developing itself.
Healthy life, despite everyday similarities, is also dynamic; it moves and changes and adapts. Any organism which becomes static depends on unchanging circumstances to maintain its success, and nature cannot produce unchanging circumstances because the processes of physics, chemistry and biology are dynamic.
Any organism incapable of sufficient adaptation dies out. With us, it has produced something with the potential to be the ultimate adapter, but we are still limited to functioning within the laws of physics.
We canna' break the laws of physics, captain. Stasis can't be maintained in reality due to the laws of thermodynamics; energy flow must be constantly maintained by a system in order to avoid entropy. In terms of biological species, entropy means extinction; of the species, or of the individual mind. The fastest ways to degrade any system are incorrect use or no use, and the fastest way to optimize a system is entelechy.
This means if you don't use it in the right way, you WILL lose it. Don't go there.
do it now – remind yourself - make a matrix, experiment style
Get two small bowls, tins or jars. Sterilize them. You can do this any way you please; boiling water works nicely, or anything which destroys life; bleach, disinfectant, etc. This makes sure there is no possibility for life in the containers when you begin. These containers are your physical platform.
A matrix needs more than a physical platform; it also needs input and energy. For a control, without adding anything, put one of your sterile containers into an airtight bag or box and place it in the cold and dark (in the fridge is great). This one is not a matrix; it is as close to stasis as we can achieve with simple equipment.
Put the other one outdoors in your garden, yard or on the outside windowsill where it can get energy from sunlight and input from reality in general. Without touching the insides, have a look in each container every day. How long does it take life to arise? What sort of life did you get? Where did it come from? If you have access to a microscope, have a peek.
Although in some areas results might take some time, and everybody's results will be different, in a majority of cases life will emerge in the matrix container. The life growing in your matrix is probably not terrifically attractive, so you may want to throw it away at some point, but the point is made. Given the right input, and not interfered with, life just goes for it. And from these humble beginnings, we have emerged.
The faster that life arises in your matrix, and the more complex the life that develops, the more conducive to life your (outdoor) local environmental conditions currently are.
If life failed to arise in your container at all, you are living in a place where life on the whole does not thrive.
If life arose in the control container, you really need to clean your fridge, dude!
DO IT NOW – DO it now
Hands up all those who read through these 'Do it nows' and vaguely imagine doing it now, but never actually DO it now in real life. Okay, here's the thing: your progress will be slower than those who actually really DO the do it nows. Why? Because we are biologically designed to learn from personal experience; theory brings understanding but experience brings comprehension. What we also learn by doing it now is how to avoid prejudiced thinking (ie, imagining what would probably happen, or what it would probably be like, without sufficient evidence). We pre-judge experiences automatically when we fail to try them out in real life. 'Do it nows' are here to get us out of that habit, and if we don't do them, we often remain stuck with the habit.
Giving our mind the experience of and practice at going into a situation without pre-judgment is a valuable step along the way towards habits of healthy intelligent thinking. So go on, remove the anxiety-based obstacle standing between you and reality. Stop imagining that a particular 'Do it now' would just be too boring to do or just a waste of time – be explorative, try the experience for real, and see what really happens. What really happens is that you have done something new that was good for you. Make a habit of it.
The habit you are trying to relearn is the childhood habit of thinking like a scientist or an explorer -real life experience approached with an open mind is what you seek; not avoidance of interactions because you pre-judge them as 'probably not worthwhile'. Training our minds to try things out before judging them is what we are trying to achieve; the details of 'do it nows' don't matter; the practice at trying new things out in real life is the aim.
Once you have got that far, you'll have 'done it now', and you will start to realize from personal experience how our imaginings about reality are often laced with anxiety, and that real life experiences are not actually the same as we imagined they would be. This gives us subjective experience of how anxiety can warp reality. Next we can incorporate the habit of not pre-judging into everyday life – after all, we wouldn't review a movie without seeing it – why judge a behavior without trying it?
The main reason for not 'doing it now' is fatigue; mental, physical or both, and lack of clarity, usually caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. We 'can't be bothered'. A lifestyle of too much stress and no relaxation leaves us feeling we can't be bothered doing anything which is not essential; we just don't have the energy or motivation.
This indicates a system low in power, which helps perpetuate the 'why bother' attitude. The trouble is, the 'why bother doing it' attitude leads to a 'why bother thinking about it' attitude, even less power, and mental decline.
Another excuse for avoiding interaction is 'I've done that sort of thing before; I've had the experience in real life, and it really was boring'. But this misses the fact that you are no longer the same person as the dude who did it last time, whatever it was. For starters you're an NH student, and that means your mind and consequently level of awareness and perspective will change and develop more rapidly than most peoples. This is not the same you, and the task will bring up thoughts and feelings that didn't occur last time. Secondly, we can never do the same thing twice, because time and space and circumstances are never the same.
If something remains boring to you on a long term basis, ask yourself why it is boring. It may be that it's an unnecessary task or wrong input, which you've been doing out of habit, in which case you take steps to ensure you'll never need to do it again. It may be that you have lost perspective on why you are doing the task (for example cleaning up can seem pointless unless you remember all the benefits; the powerful effects of input control, the mental benefits of playing your own 'faithful servant' for a while, the physical benefits of regular motion, the advantage to cognition of good hygiene and health, the effects of aesthetics on neurotransmitter release, self esteem, and the effect that bringing order out of chaos on the concrete level has on our abstract mental skills... etc).
Regardless of the details of the exercises, doing them gives us practice not just in avoiding bias and cultivating good interaction habits, but also in attention, concentration, tenacity and observation skills, which practice is otherwise missed. The more we get into the habit of sitting back and avoiding real life interaction, the more such practice is missed.
If you haven't done any of the 'do it nows' or exercises, the fact is that your progress will be way behind that of the students who have, with an accompanying gap in awareness, experience and self-knowledge.
So do it now. Think of any task which you have avoided doing lately because you expect it to be boring or difficult, but which, if done, will benefit you. Using the power of intelligence, break the barrier of inaction and do it now. Afterward, make notes about how you expected things to go with this task, and how they really went, paying particular attention to the differences in how you felt. We know you can do it. Do you?
Where do we come from?
"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
(Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
On a simple biological level we, too, are life developing in a matrix. More complex life on Earth (such as us) has evolved the abilities to shift from one matrix to another, provide a matrix for the next generation, change its own matrix over the course of its development and adapt to a new one, and even how to create new matrices for itself and for life in general. Notably, it has also evolved conscious creative intelligence, leading to an even broader possibility of matrices for human life (for example, in space); and a whole variety of complex adaptive tactics including culture.
This would be remarkable indeed if it had all happened by accident, but the current new paradigm for evolution as non-random mutation plus natural selection is much more realistic than earlier 'random chance' hypotheses (and much, much, much more realistic than our earliest guesses that 'gods did it').
Rather than being the rare eventual outcome of an occasional series of random accidents, life evolves epigenetically via biochemical interactions in response to environmental signals everywhere all the time, often at great speed, and once it gets going; once it has senses receiving sufficient environmental signals to adapt to changes; there's no stopping it.
Intelligence follows the same trajectory, and being a complex system it has, like life, inherent vulnerabilities as well as greater opportunities.
DO IT NOW – practice good habits - think like a scientist
(Don't answer the question below right away).
Q - How would we define 'intelligence'?
First, let's practice the good habit of thinking like a scientist:
What was the question? - What are the actual words of the question? Does it define the agent: for example, does it say 'human intelligence', 'machine intelligence', or 'conscious intelligence'? Does it define the context in which the agent is to be defined? Would the meaning of the question be the same if the context or perspective changed; for example if we were told that this is the first question of an exam for CIA agents, an exam for philosophers, or an query for AI researchers? In short, what does the question REALLY MEAN?
With a question so vague, we are best beginning with general information; such as, what does the word 'intelligence' mean formally, where did it come from and what are its roots?
Depending on what resource we use for this, we'll find between seven and nine different meanings listed for 'intelligence'. But all agree on origin: 'Intelligence' comes from the Latin 'intellegentia', from 'intellegere' to discern, comprehend, and literally means: 'choose between'; (from 'inter-' + 'legere' to choose).
Our next question must be: How is the author of the question most probably defining 'intelligence' in this context?
Because you're intelligent, you probably asked this question and answered it two paragraphs ago. Since this is a biopsychology tutorial on a neurohacking website, you decided it was probably asking about defining human intelligence, but possibly asking about defining intelligence in general.
Because this is real life and not an exam, however, you are free to exercise your mind and can answer from as many perspectives as you like, which gives great practice at the good habit of powerful critical thinking. How WOULD a wannabe CIA agent answer this as an exam question? What might a biopsychologist write? Or an AI researcher?
If you think through the possibilities, you may discover some interesting correlations in your imagined responses. The CIA student may consider covert and overt intelligence, levels of awareness, feedback and surveillance methods. The biopsychology student may consider unconscious and conscious intelligence, levels of awareness, feedback and sensory input. The AI student may consider automatic and volitional intelligence, levels of awareness, feedback and input.
Context has changed our semantic definitions in all these cases, but some core meaning is shared throughout. 'Intelligence' still comes through as discernment. Technological sensors are doing the same basic job as biological senses or behavioral 'surveillance methods'. Unconscious intelligence is covert, conscious intelligence is overt, there are 'levels of awareness' involved, and in all cases feedback and input are important.
So we have a basic idea of what intelligence involves. However, the main thing this exercise has served to point out is that when you are asked a bad question; a question which isn't as clear as it could be and doesn't give you enough information to understand fully what exactly is under discussion, it is very difficult to get a good accurate answer. Asking the right questions is very important, as this leads to good explanations and that's how knowledge is constructed.
Now here's a revised question:
Q: In context of biopsychology, how do we define intelligence in general?
This seems clearer; yet we can still get a wide variety of answers:
Example A: “Intelligence means discernment -which we can define biologically as an organism's ability to perceive and distinguish the differences and similarities between things sufficiently to make a probability choice.”
Example B: “Intelligence is an emergent property of the interaction between minds and their environment.”
Both these answers are true statements, but both students have made the same error in interpretation and hence in responding. Student 'A' has answered the question: 'what does the word 'intelligence' mean and how is it manifest in biological behavior?' And student B has answered the question: 'what IS intelligence'? Nobody has answered the question: 'how do we DEFINE intelligence?
This sort of misinterpretation happens all the time; not just in formal language or science research; but in everyday life communications and relationships: people don't ask the right questions, they don't answer the right questions, and they don't get the results they were hoping for. So here's a good habit: Before answering any question, regardless of your own meaning-associations for the words used, make sure you know as clearly as possible what the author of the question really means.
Here's our answer to the actual question:
A: There is no current mainstream standard definition of what exactly constitutes 'intelligence.' Some researchers have suggested that intelligence is a single, general, integrated ability while others believe that intelligence encompasses a range of separate aptitudes, skills, and abilities.
We think it's probably both.
In addition to questions of exactly HOW to define intelligence, the debate continues today about whether accurate measurements of intelligence (however defined) are currently possible.
It's likely that your own beliefs and concepts about intelligence have changed since you began these tutorials. Taking into account all that you now know, let's consider what seems to be necessary for intelligence in general to develop and function healthily. What sorts of properties or abilities define intelligence, or reveal its presence?
Perhaps the most obvious thing is that input is necessary for the growth & development of anything, as is some kind of platform and energy. It could be argued that these just provide the matrix for intelligence to develop, though; they don't provide intelligence itself. You built a matrix for life earlier in this tutorial, but it wasn't you that put the life in there. Indeed, you tried very hard not to.
For a system to interact with its matrix, there must be a connection between the two. We need a conduit for the exchange of information; a flow of energy between the system of mind and the real world, and that, in the case of intelligence, is furnished only by appropriate interaction and bonding with the matrix. Only sufficient uninterrupted interaction of the agent with the matrix; of the organism with the real world, will furnish enough signals for developmental responses. This is where discernment processing begins.
For discernment we need awareness, but not necessarily conscious awareness; simple sensory receptors will do. Awareness IS whatever a system is aware of, and it comes in levels or dimensions – all the way from sensory awareness to declarative knowledge, all the way from concrete to abstract, and all the way from fully unconscious-automatic to fully conscious-volitional. How many of these levels are necessary for intelligence to emerge is one area of disagreement in cognitive studies.
Given the above conditions, though; interaction between agent and matrix, we have everything we need for intelligence development. If we have an agent such as 'mind' in a connected relationship with a suitable environmental context (brain & body in the real world) with sufficient power; given the ability to interact, intelligence emerges whenever the environment provides input which signals a need for more intelligence. That means whenever biology faces a puzzle or problem that needs to be solved or obstacle which needs to be overcome in order to continue development, intelligence (like everything else) develops in response to the perceived need.
'Response to perceived need' is exactly the same process that causes muscles and bones to emerge in a system which is receiving clear regular environmental signals that they are needed. Epigenetic influences signaling the need for any mutation automatically causes it to initiate development unless something gets in the way (for intelligence, like all evolutionary necessities, is a mutation; and we'll discuss this further below).
That leads us to an overall biological rule: any system comprised of an agent in a matrix with awareness of input, given sufficient repetitive environmental signals indicating an existing limitation to development, will function to produce whatever it computes is needed that it's capable of producing to overcome that limitation.
Evolution has already done wings, legs, fins, tails, fur, feathers, scales, spines, and loads of different sorts of eyes, all in response to perceived environmental necessity, all the while it was upgrading intelligence (general) into adaptations for more and more different forms (specific).
Intelligence is an ongoing, dynamic process, and exactly what our brains are doing from moment to moment – discerning (computing) where new or stronger connections appear to be currently needed and where they are not, taking its cues from signals coming in from our environmental input and context mixed with memory and imagination. This is plasticity; it's the dynamic process of ongoing emergence of intelligence, driven by whatever the system believes is necessary, via epigenetics.
The emergence of intelligence is inherent in evolution; it is part of evolution's output; comprised of an history of responses to indicated necessities for further adaptation, because the underlying algorithm for evolution is 'adaptation'. This is not a conscious 'choice' any more than hydrogen atoms bond consciously or 'on purpose'. Evolution constructs ultimate adapters, and automatically drives itself to create more and different adapters, which is why we have such an abundant variety of species in the world; earth's biodiversity.
The cycle of COMPVC and its stretch/relax learning responses are an ongoing biological imperative for intelligence development, so the maintenance of ongoing healthy interaction is perhaps the next most important thing. Environmental signals indicating need are stressors; as part of the stretch-relax cycle which results in growth and development and ever-increasing adaptation to perpetual change.
Receptors in the system must interpret signals correctly and respond appropriately, to initiate the relaxation response. Actions or reactions in behavior cannot initiate growth; they will slow it down or postpone it (because a system can't be practicing good stuff whilst it is too busy practicing harmful stuff, so time is lost and development slips behind). With appropriate good input, though, the system is self-educating through personal experience, and optimal responses are automatic as long as nothing gets in the way.
So, for intelligence to develop in general, then, we need an agent with the ability to interact in a matrix with a conduit between the two allowing stretch/relax interactions...
...but woh, dude; didn't we define intelligence itself AS 'the ability to interact'; lots of times, back there in all those previous tutorials? ...So, are we saying that in order for intelligence to develop, you first need intelligence?
Before this bakes your noodle, first consider the process: unconscious discernment is initially automatic interaction; it is a simple matter of a system performing operations on detected input and responding with output according to interpretation of 'need'. Even bacteria can do that.
Second, consider the context: it IS true that in order for our personally conscious intelligent mind to develop, it needs the foundational context of unconscious intelligence; already developed during billions of years' adaptation, practice and variation by evolution. So yeh; to grow intelligence, you do first need intelligence. But the automatic unconscious intelligence that comes with being a complex mammal is your free 'starter kit'.
Do not, however, assume that automatic unconscious intelligence itself has to be designed by some kind of prior 'other intelligence'. Emergent phenomena do not possess 'roots'; that's what defines them as emergent. There is no slow, continual story behind the evolution of intelligence. It is a 'critical mass/threshold phenomena; a sudden expansion of the phase space for brain function in response to perceived necessity. The underlying hardware (wetware) in many organisms changes continuously, but an emergent feature like conscious intelligence can only appear when evolution reaches a critical mass 'trigger point'.
Interaction is the process of intelligence via which intelligence further develops the ability to interact.
Another noodle baker? Not really. Intelligence is an 'interaction engine', and the measure of intelligence in any system is a measure of a system's power in terms of its ability to interact (effective use of energy over time with a net benefit gain). But successful interaction, and even cooperation, communication and coordination don't need conscious intelligence; (if you want a real life example, just watch ants).
Mindless matter, energy, and evolution itself all have the 'ability to interact', but in a form that is automatic, chemical, physical; non-volitional and stimulus-response driven. From billions of years' worth of experimentation on adaptation, unconscious learning has (again, automatically) accrued into a 'body of knowledge'. All life on earth has some degree of unconscious knowledge, or it could not discern the difference between food and toxins, light and dark, heat and cold, nor could it discern the difference between benefits or dangers. Physical and chemical interactions have no intrinsic meaning; input is just code until biology begins interpreting things as beneficial or harmful in different contexts and starts giving meaning to code.
Simple life just does all this stuff without any conscious thought. Entire colonies of ants organize their activities as a distributed unconscious intelligence and have evolved quite complex behaviors including problem solving and probability calculations, some of which we have recycled in computer programming, but ants still don't sit around thinking.
We, too, have unconscious intelligence hard wired in, this is where our 'presets' for stepping, suckling and grasping come from; but the difference for humans is one of degree – we have far fewer 'presets' for automatic behaviors, which gives us the advantage of multiple options in adaptation and learning, but the disadvantage of having to gradually learn a lot of stuff that other species can already do at birth (such as standing, walking, talking, climbing, running and feeding ourselves).
The question of where intelligence originally evolved has inspired a great deal of scientific exploration and discovery, mainly in the fields of evolutionary psychology and developmental biopsychology.
Evolutionary psychology is the science that seeks to explain through universal mechanisms of evolved behavior why (healthy) humans think and behave in the ways they do. It proceeds from the not unreasonable expectation that understanding the process which enabled the human mind and intelligence to emerge in the first place will advance our understanding of its nature. From this perspective, intelligence (including unconscious intelligence) is a cluster of capabilities that have evolved in response to particular environmental signals indicating their need.
At the core of evolutionary psychology is the concept that all humans have innate areas in their brains which have specific unconscious knowledge that helps us continually adapt to the stressors of dynamically changing environments. These areas, when activated, give the brain specific algorithmic (step by step) unconscious instructions that have evolved from our ancestral pasts. And these instructions serve to develop the critical brain areas necessary for more conscious intelligence in order to adapt to the ongoing changes and events that we continue to face as humans.
Some scientists speculate that these 'newer' brain areas are later-evolved attachments to long-term memory areas, and assist in problem-solving.
Learning how unconscious knowledge algorithms work in relation to the environment and to our culture are the areas of research in which evolutionary psychology shows the greatest promise in exploring intelligence development. These areas aim at configuring behavior models based on primate studies, hunter-gatherer research, and anthropological evidence into the best possible problem-solving probabilities of our ancestral behavior patterns. It is from these studies that evolutionary psychologists build behavioral probabilities into our current activities and discover why we do the things we do - based on biological imperatives driven by intent, unconscious knowledge, and related core animal behaviors.
Evolutionary psychology includes the study of epigenetics and genetic mutation, and a lot of Nhers get into studying this, so a word of caution here: Darwin has been misinterpreted and misquoted more than most researchers. In Darwinian terms, 'mutation' simply means 'alteration'. (To be fair, Darwin used an unfortunate choice of words here, as he did with 'survival of the fittest'). 'Mutations' are simply alternative gene expressions, which result in different outcomes, and a more accurate term for them (although still not quite right) would be 'gene switches'. Every single genetic change, including the advent of conscious intelligence, is a 'mutation', so please try hard to remember that the term 'mutation' does not imply either dysfunction or superpowers.
Q: If we were to pose the question, 'Is mutation random or directional?' and then remind you that we are asking a question about biology, what would you expect the answer to be?
A: If you said 'both', well done you. For an extreme example, hard-radiation-induced mutation is absolutely random, but in the general case, outside of mutations which are expressed as soon as they occur, genetic mutation (expressing alternative genes) is absolutely not random. This is because biology (even in single cells) has known mechanisms for selecting which mutations will occur, and how they will function, because they occur in response to environmental signals.
Alterations (alternatives) in processes occur when 'junk DNA' is the target for change. Alterations in parts such as new materials, substances, links etc, occur when gene DNA is the target for change.
The epigenome constitutes the interface between an organisms’ genome and its environment. Evolutionary changes are adapting us all the time to whatever context, situation and environment our minds perceive that we live in most of the time. When cells are subject to environmental influence and environmental change occurs, variants in populations emerge bearing changes in DNA sequence that bring about an appropriate change in phenotype and/or behavior, which specifically raises the probability of successful adaptation by the organism to the specific environmental changes experienced.
For example, if climatic conditions become colder for extended periods, formerly hairless creatures may well develop fur, hair or feathers. But note; this production of genetic variants is not random; creatures don't also turn up with longer tails, gills, extra limbs, compound eyes or hairlessness to see 'which works best' in terms of which creatures reproduce the most; none of these properties is needed and no input has indicated their need. Creatures develop specific variant properties appropriate to the specific environmental changes experienced.
Variants which prove particularly useful, such as better eyes, tend to evolve many times independently regardless of inheritance or even species; in parallel or convergent evolution. This is one way in which we literally become more like whatever we are surrounded by in order to fit in better with it, whatever it is. If we culture life in a dish and subject it to environmental change of a specific type, the variants (epigenetic 'mutants') will adapt better, overtake the original population, and their epigenetic changes will appear in their offspring.
Epigenetic mechanisms directly regulate genetic processes and can be dramatically altered by environmental factors. For example, environmental triggers along with their epigenetic changes can (unconsciously) modulate sexual selection. Nor are they temporary - environmental factors have been shown to promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of phenotypic variations, sometimes for hundreds of generations.
Epigenetic changes also have an important role in short-term microevolution  and contribute to macroevolutionary (i.e., at or above the level of species) processes, such as speciation and adaptive radiation.
It must be clear by now that evolution relies heavily on environmental interactional experience for adaptation, and that genomes in general have been evolved via accumulation of epigenetic experience. We also know about the personal, individual experiential effects of epigenetics - the same genes could make a person feel happy or depressed, the same hormones could make us feel excited or anxious - depending on our environment and ability to interact.
It appears that we will have to drop the 'selfish gene' paradigm, because it is insufficient to explain the facts. Evolution takes place in the context of DNA, organisms, and their environment, and is driven by their interactions; and it's important to remember that interactions work both ways. They cannot be accurately viewed as events that occur in an isolated context alone, as gene-o-centric theories tend to do. Genes did not evolve in an isolated context, hidden away from environmental signals in vitro. Real life evolved in vivo.
Certainly it is absolutely true that the genes affect the organism, but the form and behavior of the organism and the nature of its environment determine (and signal) which genetic changes have adaptation value, in response to perceived need. The versatility of epigenetics links DNA and environmental context (inner and outer) together, making them inseparable. The possibilities inherent in interactions between DNA, organism and environment are far greater than those which occur in any one of these three alone. Looking at events that take place in only one of these three cannot give us a clear picture of what is going on in real life.
The interactive paradigm – evolution by natural interaction
This interactive paradigm of evolution, involving genes, organisms and environment, puts the genome in its correct place in evolutionary theory. Rather than thinking of 'a gene for big muscles' (old paradigm) we comprehend an epigenetically-triggered process in response to signals indicating a perceived need in the organism, which gives muscles an ability to grow when exercised.
Likewise, instead of looking for 'genes for intelligence', we should rather seek epigenetically-triggered processes for the ability to learn, remember and imagine.
We can't determine from appearance whether a muscle started out big, or has started out small and been exercised a lot, or both. We can't determine whether Einstein had very dense brain connections because he did complicated thinking a lot, or if he did a lot of complicated thinking because his brain connections were so dense. So we have to do experiments to find out. And what we find out, is that the answer is both and we'd been asking the wrong questions (in terms of either/or). We have discovered reciprocal upgrading, and it's going on all the time. It's what plasticity is.
Note that evolutionary changes are adapting us all the time to whatever context, situation and environment our minds PERCEIVE that we live in. What influences a system's beliefs is its level of reality-comprehension. If our perception is congruous with reality, that's great; our strategies will succeed in real life, we will adapt to changes, face challenges and deal with obstacles successfully and quickly. But if we have wrong input; where our mind believes something is going on in real life that in fact is fictional, or if we have no input; where it believes not much is going on at all; problems will emerge.
We already know about the power of beliefs and cognitive bias, which can greatly influence sensitivity to one’s environment, personal resilience, and free will. For example, inducing a negative attentional bias (focusing attention on wrong input) can increase a person’s anxious reaction to a stressful situation, whereas reducing the negative bias (focusing attention on good input) can increase resilience and decrease that person’s anxiety. Erroneous beliefs cause inappropriate framing, which restricts and limits both comprehension and mental performance.
We will explore comprehension in greater depth later in this tutorial.
The space of the possible
Intelligence development occurs through a complex ongoing interaction between DNA, its host organism, and its environmental contexts.
Evolution; the interaction between genes (inner environment), mind, and outer environment, is a joint dynamic and must be explored as such. The geometry of dynamical systems is modeled in a continuum known as phase space. Phase space contains all possibilities – not just what happens but what might happen and what is possible. It's the space of the possible. The space of the possible for dynamical systems is the space of its states – the things that are happening to it as a whole - and that space contains not just the states that DO occur, but also those which might or could have occurred instead.
All possible combinations of current variables occur as points in the continuum of phase space, but once a specific set of values are discerned and decided upon, the dynamic joins them up in association with the specific set of trajectories of change available in the immediate future. Unlike the points, these trajectories are not arbitrary; they are determined by the dynamical process whereby DNA, organism, and environment interact. They are our 'paths' through life, and as time passes mind moves along the paths of change, so the dynamic causes these points to flow through phase space.
Intelligence 'flows' along its dynamic, just like the river flows, driven by the dynamic of its currents and contexts. It does not process input arbitrarily; the form of the developmental matrices, the totality of possibility, is constrained by the laws that operate in our particular universe. Intelligence is constrained by its contexts; including geology and geography, biochemistry and physics. The result of contextual limitations is to restrict the range of possible interactions and behaviors, and phase space has form and structure just as spacetime has form and structure, and this structure is responsible for a variety of emergent patterns.
Among them are convergent evolution, gradual evolutionary change, and occasional sudden changes (such as brain growth spurts) accompanied by the development of radical new attributes. There are recognizable patterns, such as bursts of diversity that occur immediately after such sudden changes.
In Darwinian terms, mutation simply means alteration or alternative, and one small alteration can produce radical new attributes and give rise to previously unseen effects!
This same model holds for any system that develops from simplicity to complexity; such as culture, science, life on earth in general, and intelligence. Their superstructures have many comparable features, despite their substructural differences. In fact, this model is 'the norm' for self-organizing systems; in short it is the typical behavior in all systems that change over time and are subject to modification by external variables.
Obviously, this discovery has come as somewhat of a surprise to hard-core 'evolution is driven by random accidental mutations in genes' theorists of the previous generation, however, the scientific community has risen to the challenge of understanding it, and a unified theory of evolution has been presented to describe the integration of both environmental epigenetic and genetic aspects of evolution.
The new paradigm has served to explain a large number of biological phenomena that have been observed but cannot be easily explained by genetics alone. These include the fact that identical twins with similar genetics generally have discordant disease, or the fact that generally only a small percentage of a disease population has been found to have a correlated genetic mutation, or the fact that many diseases have increased in frequency an order of magnitude in only a couple of decades, or the fact that hundreds of environmental contaminants not able to alter DNA sequences have been shown to alter disease or phenotype later in life, or even the fact that the caterpillar has exactly the same DNA as the butterfly. If you extract that caterpillar DNA and put it inside another butterfly egg (the 'egg matrix'), what emerges is another caterpillar. But if you put the same caterpillar DNA inside a pupa (the 'pupa matrix'), what emerges is a butterfly. Agent programs have to respond to matrix programs.
Many biological observations in real life do not follow normal Mendelian genetic rules and were difficult to explain with classic genetic processes or mechanisms. One example in evolution is that the rates of molecular and morphological evolution are largely decoupled, and these patterns of phenotypic divergence are regulatory and not classic genetic mutations. Even Darwin suspected the inheritance of environmentally triggered acquired characteristics, and called the concept 'pangenesis'.
In terms of current molecular understanding, epigenetics is defined as “molecular processes around DNA that regulate genome activity independent of DNA sequence and are mitotically stable”. That is to say, epigenetic processes such as DNA methylation can become permanent and be inherited over generations. We discussed these processes in the last tutorial.
Evolutionary psychology reveals how we have evolved - adapted ourselves - to fit in better with the needs of our environment (including relationships with other people). It is the application of social anthropology to our evolutionary history, and thus, in effect, the study of the psychology of epigenetic as well as genetic changes.
Intelligence as we know it begins with 'a priori' unconscious knowledge and core concepts; this is the legacy of evolution; a type of unconscious 'reasoning' based on facts learned by our species collective previous experience.
On top of this, everything we learn and practice sufficiently for it to become automatic is empirical unconscious knowledge; this is the means by which unconscious knowledge and conscious experience increase over time, and its content relies on our individual experiences. Everything we know but which must be thought about in order to be accessed (facts, etc., from memory), is stored unconsciously and pulled into conscious awareness as required; this is what we call conscious knowledge.
Once intelligence has a certain minimum amount of unconscious knowledge (our species' internal unconscious memory), plus imagination and association, interaction builds a critical mass of new associative experience through play; modeling, practice and imitation learning. When such a system can also interact with the ever-growing resource of culture (our species' external conscious memory), and also with itself through introspection, self assessment and behavioral control, we have set in motion an auto-catalytic process that culminates in te emergence of conscious intelligence and self awareness.
Experience in a replicating, self-adjusting system capable of information storage and recall creates knowledge, and our own personal progress towards entelechy builds on evolutionary knowledge. This has been the case since human prehistory. We have a genetically enabled, environmentally-triggered ability to interact, and we are immersed in a culture of gathered information which we will both take information from and add information to.
Intelligence and the human brain have co-evolved in synchrony; which is exactly what the relationship between an agent and its matrix should be; in interaction, everybody wins. Organisms direct their own development, to the degree that the directions in which they stretch themselves physiologically and mentally are determined by their own intent. But it has been suggested by some researchers that consciousness may have evolved primarily in a cultural context.
Is there, then, a 'cultural evolutionary psychology' which shows us the other half of the story – the history of how we have creatively adapted our environment to better suit our own needs?
Not quite – if you go looking for 'cultural psychology' currently you will find a tangle of social psychology, philosophy and sociology; various different models calling themselves cultural psychology; because there is still a general confusion throughout between the concepts of society and culture.
This confusion is understandable, because throughout history society has tended to use some aspects of culture whilst energetically opposing others. The difference is clearest when society censors and outlaws aspects of culture (historically and currently, this can be anything from books, clothing, art, music and dancing to the general pursuit of medicine and science). Wherever this happens, cultural progress usually continues behind closed doors illegally until enough people find out the facts and society has to change its mind. This could take centuries, but will hopefully now be augmented by the internet.
Nevertheless, the confusion currently remains, much as it does between emotion and sentiment or between imagination and fantasy, or, ultimately, between real life and counterfeit games. So there is as yet no specialist name for the field which studies the ascent of culture outside of a societal context; and consequently to pursue this with clarity requires that we name such a field.
Despite the fact that it refers to culture, we clearly cannot use the term 'cultural' for studying this aspect of development, lest it be mistaken for 'social', therefore we have here referred to the field as 'Interactive Psychology', defined as, 'the study of the ways in which we interact with our environment in order to adapt it to suit our own needs'. This is the other half of the big picture of evolutionary intelligence development which evolutionary psychology covers the first half of.
Interactive psychology - The ascent of methods and tech
Interactive psychology includes our relationships with methods and procedures as well as tools and technology, as used to adapt our environments to better fit our needs. We tend to embody our technology, and all technology is ultimately prosthetic with regard to the extension of our sensory and motor abilities.
Think about that. Knives, forks and spoons are complex embodied extensions of teeth, hands and fingers. Microscopes and telescopes are extensions of eyes; microphones and speakers are extensions of vocal apparatus and ears; a stick and later a pen is an extension of a finger that can write in sand and paint with pigment; a stick and later a spear and much later, mechanics, are extensions of muscles and skeletal systems; computers are extensions of our calculating abilities, memory, and communication abilities (which comes back to our fingers, eyes, voice and ears again). All technology in some way enhances our own performance in one or more concrete sensory and/or motor areas.
Our culture; our 'interactive psychology', is our collective human body of knowledge, ability and creativity as well as methods, technology and tools; passed on to each other and to each new generation whenever we share our skills or seek new knowledge. Adding to human culture is what you do when you interact – when you write stuff and when you read stuff, when you watch someone else do something that you want to learn and you copy them, when you demonstrate or explain something in response to being asked about it. Do you know how to light a fire without matches, how to care for a baby, how to do stonemasonry, how to do hyperbolic geometry or how to program a computer? Do you know where you could learn these things? Could you show others how to do these things if asked? What's your favorite movie? Tell us a joke. Tell us a story. That's human culture. It is our species skill-sharing and artefact-sharing and information-sharing through time. Consequently our body of knowledge evolves, just as we do.
To clarify the difference between culture and society, many animal species have culture, while none (except us) has invented society. Nobody invents culture; it's emergent. Nobody needs to call a meeting to discuss how culture should proceed. Culture is a species' method of progress towards ever-greater adaptation, via intelligence interacting with its environment to adapt it in creative ways. It both drives and relies on a context of real life dynamic experience of continuity through perpetual change. Culture relies on cooperation and is a net result of human interaction and cooperation.
By contrast, a society is a group of anxiety-driven people stuck in bully mode trying to control other people by forcing them to do what they are told; via interference, conditioning and coercion; and with various excuses, justifications, lies, threats and promises in a counterfeit framed context of imagined 'authority'. It both drives and relies on anxiety, and it attempts to create a non-changing, static situation. Only one species has societies, which rely on competition and intra-species antagonism.
If we keep the model that simple, we won't get confused. Evolutionary psychology and Interactive psychology together, then, tell us about the history of intelligence development and adaptation in general; the story of mind and the genetic and epigenetic influences that have contributed to its emergence during evolution, without reference to dysfunction. In evolutionary terms, both unconscious intelligence and conscious intelligence have arisen in exactly the same way as other features – epigenetically; in response to a need for adaptation, indicated via environmental signals.
Developmental biopsychology is the study of the process by which our bodies, brains and minds interact with our environment to grow and develop within our lifetimes, which encompasses physical, cognitive, cultural, emotional and behavioral changes across the life span and how these are shaped by environmental factors such as culture, peers, lifestyle and our concepts of family.
The field includes studying states of consciousness, mental abilities and mechanisms, epigenetics, learning and memory, the regulation of emotional and motivated states and developmental-related behavioral changes in humans and other animals. Of necessity in humans this includes the experience of conscious intelligence that we all know and love so well, and probably think of currently as 'ourselves'.
The advent of conscious intelligence
Francis Crick asked a very good question some years ago, which has led to further discoveries about conscious intelligence:
Q: What's the most fundamental thing about consciousness? So axiomatic, in fact, that you take it for granted?
A: The answer is the fact that you are an individual person; a unity of many attributes of human consciousness. The continuity of mind. The 'time travel'—the ability to go to and fro in time—looking into the future, visiting memories from the past, stringing them together in approximately the right sequence.
Self-awareness is one attribute of consciousness. Putting it crudely, this is consciousness being aware of itself. But the central attribute of human conscious experience is our sense of unity. We've got a diversity of sensory experiences. We see things, we listen to things, we taste things. We have thousands of memories throughout a lifetime. Yet we think of ourself as a unified person.
Our abilities to adapt both ourselves and our environment so that we work more efficiently together tell us a great deal about where we – or at least, where our kind of minds - have come from. Yet a great deal of debate goes on around the concept of exactly where conscious awareness comes in during evolution – most people would probably say that dolphins, whales, gorillas and elephants have conscious intelligence, some would claim that wolves, tigers and lemurs have it too, but few would expect this to be true of fish, and even fewer of worms and beetles.
As explained above, unconscious knowledge expressed through automatic instinct can achieve a great deal in terms of intelligent behavior without any conscious awareness. A distributed unconscious intelligence such as that of ants or bees (or cellular automata on computers) can achieve complex organized results which can make it look a lot like conscious awareness is present when in fact it probably isn't.
We have already approached the question of WHY intelligence becomes conscious in Tutorial 14. The main effect of consciousness is that of increasing intelligence via increasing the ability to interact and adapt on different levels, and the benefits of conscious interaction are strong enough to warrant the energy expenditure, from biology's pov. Here, we aim to take a look at HOW intelligence developed conscious awareness.
DO IT NOW – thought experiment
From your own experience, answer the following questions:
1 how much alcohol can you drink before it measurably affects your intelligence?
2 how much alcohol can you drink before it measurably affects your consciousness?
3 is an ant conscious (when awake)?
4 does an ant have conscious intelligence?
5 is a single cell conscious?
6 does a single cell have conscious intelligence?
In attempting to answer these, you may have come up with at least one good, sound, scientific 'don't know yet'. You may also have encountered the need to try to define 'consciousness' more tightly. Get used to looking more closely at the questions and working out which terms need better definition in order to get a more accurate answer.
In the questions above, a definition of 'consciousness' would be useful. And here we meet another frontier. There is no consensus on a definition of 'consciousness' among neuroscientists, which prevents a full spectrum of exploration (if we don't clearly know what we are looking for, we are unlikely to find it). However, using theoretical frameworks or model-based concepts of various kinds, together with scanning technology, some exploration has been done.
Conscious intelligence is not just 'awareness'.
The most popular definition of 'consciousness' is simply the state or quality of 'awareness' or 'awakeness'. The word 'awareness' has the original meaning of 'watchful' or 'wary', and is variously used as a synonym for either 'awakeness' or 'knowledge'. But more awareness or knowledge does not mean more consciousness.
Becoming aware of something new -such as, that we just trod in something unpleasant, doesn't make us 'more conscious' (although it may make us more attentive). An illiterate person may well be much less 'aware' of reality on various levels than a highly articulate and well-read one, but s/he is not any less conscious.
What's more, everything that we haven't learned yet, by default we remain consciously unaware of. Yet we don't feel 'more conscious' when we learn a new subject, or lacking in consciousness because we can't understand something.
There is also a whole range of stuff out there which we cannot become personally consciously aware of at all without technology; for example, most of the universe and a great deal of life on earth. Very little in nature is detectable by unaided human senses.
As we learned above, it is perfectly possible to be aware of a great deal of stuff without necessarily having any understanding of it or any ability to interact with it. Clearly, there is more to conscious intelligence than simple awareness. Consciousness certainly increases the possibilities for intelligence, but does not create it.
Intelligence was around long before consciousness was, and so were sensory awareness and motor responses. Conscious intelligence appears (and grows) when it's needed – whenever an interactive network builds a critical mass of memory and has a flow of useful input which becomes too much for itself to process at any effective speed, yet more processing is required for an appropriate response, new connections will be furnished. (In a context where failing to process data with effective speed gets you eaten, we shouldn't be too surprised that processing speed became an evolutionary issue.)
Processing information in the brain involves our CPU integrating and coordinating multiple information channels – inter-network, (multiple brain region), feedforward information; inter-network feedback, and intra-network (within the same network) feedback. Functional networks accomplish much if not all of this task.
There is an approximate consensus among researchers who speculate on the neuronal basis of consciousness that its correlate must involve some form of cooperative activity, mediated by electrical and chemical synapses between neurons which are responding to different aspects of the same conscious experience; and that this activity must recruit a selection of brain structures or areas, via conduits of anatomical and/or functional networks within the CPU. Below we explore two types of 'specialist' neurons, and three main areas that appear to be fundamental parts of the CPU; the claustrum, insula and cingulate cortex.
structure & function
We have more neurons in our brain’s cerebral cortex (its outermost layer) than other mammals do. The insulation around nerves in the human brain is also thicker than that of other species, enabling the nerves to conduct signals more rapidly. Such biological subtleties, along with behavioral ones, suggest that human intelligence is best likened to an upgrade of the cognitive capacities of nonhuman primates rather than an exceptionally advanced form of cognition.
We are only just beginning to discover which circuits (functional networks) and which structures (in anatomical networks) are critically involved in the operations of conscious intelligence, and what their related functions are.
Evolution often takes advantage of pre-existing structures to evolve completely novel abilities. The human visual cortex is a pretty advanced information processor on its own, and it has been suggested that once the ability to engage in cross modal abstraction emerged; e.g. between visual "vertical" on the retina and photoreceptive "vertical" signaled by muscles (for grasping trees) this set the stage for the emergence of mirror neurons in hominids; notably in the hippocampi, anterior cingulate and inferior parietal lobule.
We have explored mirror neurons and some of their roles in previous tutorials (T6, T7, T10, T12, T15). In addition to these roles, it is argued that the emergence and subsequent sophistication of mirror neurons in hominids may have played a crucial role in many quintessentially human abilities. With knowledge of these neurons, you have the basis for understanding a host of very enigmatic aspects of the human mind: empathy, learning through imitation and modeling (rather than just isolated trial and error), abstraction, metaphorization, the rapid transmission of information via culture, the evolution of language, conscious self awareness, and even spirituality (which we'll discuss later on).
Anytime you watch someone else doing something (or even starting to do something), the corresponding mirror neuron might fire in your brain, thereby allowing you to "read" and understand another's intent, and thus to develop a sophisticated "theory of other minds."
Mirror neurons can also enable us to imitate the movements of others, thereby setting the stage for the complex cultural interactions that characterize our species and liberate us from the constraints of a fixed, gene based evolution. Moreover, these neurons may also enable us to mime — and possibly understand — the lip and tongue movements (and hence sounds) of others.
Once we have these two abilities in place: the ability to read someone's intent and the ability to mime their vocalizations, then we have set in motion the evolution of language.
It is not, incidentally, suggested that mirror neurons are the ONLY requisite for these abilities; mirror neurons are seen as a necessary 'pre-adaptation' that has enabled enhanced imagination and memory, which underlies all higher processing as well as the cultural innovations it has led to; such as complex tool use, art, mathematics and language.
Von Economo Neurons (VENs) or 'spindle cells'
Von Economo neurons are large bipolar cells that are found in cortical layer V of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and fronto-insular regions. The cells have also been found in the gray matter of the ventral claustrum, adjacent to the amygdala, and in the insula. The relative number of spindle cells varies by species, with humans having by far the greatest amount – over twice the number of our nearest evolutionary neighbor.
Functionally, the VEN architecture seems to be optimized for the parallel receipt and processing of a large amount of diverse information. The large size and simple dendritic structure of these projection neurons suggest that they rapidly send basic information to other parts of the brain, while slower neighboring pyramidal cells send more detailed information. Research has ascertained that spindle neurons help channel neural signals from deep within the cortex to relatively distant parts of the brain.
Emotion activates the ACC as it relays neural signals transmitted from the amygdala, a primary processing center for emotional weighting, to the frontal cortex. The ACC is also active during demanding tasks requiring judgment and discrimination, and when errors are detected by an individual. Signals from the ACC are received in the frontal polar cortex, where regulation of cognitive dissonance, discernment and disambiguation between alternatives is thought to occur.
This neural relay appears to convey motivation to interact and concerns the recognition of error. Self-control and avoidance of error are thus facilitated by the executive gate-keeping function of the ACC as it regulates the interference patterns of neural signals between brain regions.
Areas containing VENs have been related to motor awareness or sense-of-knowing, discernment between self and other, and between self and the external environment. Along this line, VENs have been related to the 'global workspace' architecture: they have been correlated to emotional and interoceptive signals by providing fast connections (large axons = fast communication) between salience-related insular and cingulate and other widely separated brain areas. The presence of VENs has also been related to special functions such as mirror self-recognition.
Recent findings underscore the hierarchical structural organization of cerebral networks, as explored in previous tutorials. Behaviors that more frequently activate cortical areas which have VENs are those associated with memory, emotions, attention, interoception, pain and behavior execution. All of these domains are coherent with the salience processing functional network and with subsequent activation of effector circuits related to the insula and anterior cingulate cortex. We will look more closely at the overall anatomy shortly.
Neuroanatomical and neurophysiological evidence over the past two decades has shown that the hierarchy in the cortex contains large numbers of reciprocal connections at each and every level. Rather than information making its way through an inverted funnel, getting refined as it goes higher and higher, it seems more like an interactive hierarchy. It apparently works to resolve the uncertainty inherent in the world through a constant feedback and feed-forward cycle. This allows the combination of current experience, memory and prediction at all levels of the hierarchy.
It appears that the mind has evolved methods of actively minimizing the disparity, moment to moment, between what is perceived and what is expected. Minimizing this discrepancy necessarily involves using probabilistic inference to predict aspects of the incoming information based on prior knowledge of the world. This is what is meant by 'predictive coding'.
The claustrum is a thin layer of tissue underlying the insular cortex of the brain.
The approximate location of the human claustrum beneath the insular cortex. The vertical lines correspond to the two coronal sections shown at 60 and 70 mm posterior to the frontal pole. The horizontal stripes correspond to the putamen and caudate nucleus and the vertical lines to the amygdala.
The claustra - for there are two of them; one on the left side of the brain and one on the right - lie below the general region of the insular cortex, underneath the temples, just above the ears. The word claustrum means ‘hidden away’, and indeed, the claustrum is a thin, irregular sheet of gray matter, one sheet on each side of the head, concealed between the inner surface of the neocortex and entirely embedded in white matter connections. They lie below the general region of the insula, and above the outer surface of the putamen.
Each claustrum is a medium sized structure, and is broadly divided into three subregions, the anterior–dorsal region connected with somatosensory and motor cortices, a posterior dorsal region connected with the visual cortex, and a ventral area connected to the auditory cortex.
The whole interhemispheric connectome of the claustrum appears as a well-represented network of white matter tracts. All major claustral-cortex connections are viewed here.
Green = front – rear (anterior-posterior), Red = horizontal (lateral), Blue = up – down (superior – inferior). There are 4 groups of white matter fibers connecting the claustrum to the cortex: Anterior, posterior, superior, and lateral.
Outside the cortex, the claustral medial pathway connects the claustrum with the basal ganglia, specifically with the caudate nucleus, putamen and globus pallidus. In addition, there are connections between the claustrum and the contralateral brain hemisphere, which occur along 2 pathways: Cortico-claustral and interclaustral. Interhemispheric cortico-claustral fibers originate from the superior claustrum and cross the corpus callosum.
The claustrum is reciprocally connected to almost every part of the brain including every part of the cortex (e.g., frontal, premotor, ventral anterior cingulate, ventral temporal, visual, motor, somatosensory, olfactory, and entorhinal cortex), as well as subcortical structures (e.g., caudate nucleus, putamen, globus pallidus, and lateral amygdala). Advanced brain-imaging techniques that look at the white matter fibers coursing to and from the claustrum confirm that it is very hard to find any region of the brain that is not connected to the claustrum.
Research reveals a unique asymmetry—each claustrum receives input from both cortical hemispheres but only projects back to the overlying cortex on the same side.
Interest in the claustrum increased recently  when it was discovered that electrically stimulating this area abruptly impaired consciousness in 100% of trials - the subject stared blankly ahead, became unresponsive to commands, and stopped reading. As soon as the stimulation stopped, consciousness returned, without the subject recalling any events during the period when she was out.
This result led to a rash of papers postulating an 'on/off switch' for consciousness, but the intriguing thing here is that the subject did NOT lose consciousness; intelligence just ceased all conscious operations. What apparently occurred was a loss of discernment and a complete inability to make decisions; resulting in complete nonaction. That is to say, the person is conscious, but cannot interact in any way. What has been lost is not consciousness, but conscious discernment; the root of conscious intelligence.
The claustrum is hypothesized to be a coordinator of cortical function; or 'conductor of consciousness' (or rather, one of the conductors of consciousness, with brain areas cingulate cortex, insula and pulvinar likely being other ones). Its extensive bilateral and interclaustral connections support the hypothesis that the claustrum serves as a ‘synchrony detector’, coordinating information sharing and temporal binding throughout the brain.
The connections between the claustrum and the cingulate are both diffuse and massive, with discrete regions in the cingulate cortex projecting to most of the claustrum and vice versa. These anatomical connections suggest that the main output of the claustrum to the motor-control system goes via the dense route with a relay in the cingulate cortex. This allows the claustrum to play a modulatory role in all the many functions of the cingulate cortex besides controlling motor output and behavior via the premotor cortex.
From the functional point of view, findings have confirmed that the claustrum can be considered as a functional bridge among many cortical and subcortical areas of the brain. The claustro-cortical fibers connected the dorsal claustrum with the superior frontal, precentral, postcentral, and posterior parietal cortices with a rigid topographic organization.
Neuromodulators and feedback connections may modulate the temporal sensitivity of such circuits and gate the propagation of synchrony into other layers as well as subcortical and cortical areas.
Researchers hypothesize that synchrony codes in conjunction with time-sensitive cortico-thalamic-basal ganglia (CTBG) circuits are the basis for the temporal integration required for consciousness and hierarchical temporal memory. The claustrum is able to support the full continuum of consciousness through the coordination of CTBG timing circuits in conjunction with cortical–striatal–hippocampal–insular networks, thereby creating a timing-based episodic conscious experience.
This hypothesis also suggests that the claustrum plays an important part in executive function. The proposal is that decision-making is mediated by select assemblies of neurons, with synchronized oscillations at different gamma frequencies, that carry integrated sensory information modulated by saliency (relevence-discernment task-switching mechanisms). These assemblies are subject to calculations to assess which gets access to the output conduit from the claustrum to the prefrontal and premotor cortices. In this way the most appropriate choice directs the autonomous (voluntary) decision-based behavior as well as autonomic (automatic, involuntary) behavior of the subject.
The claustrum is also hypothesized to be closely involved in selective attention, in that it serves an executive function for the selection of the stimuli to be processed within the multiplexing system of interval timing and working memory. It is theorized to modulate synchronized oscillations from widely distributed cortical regions in order to determine which patterns of spike coincidence-detection should be processed by cortico-striatal-thalamocortical timing circuits — either individually (selective attention) or in parallel (divided attention).
Our second area of interest is the insula; another complex structure involved in a wide range of functions.
Located in the depth of the Sylvian fissure, the insula, a pyramidal-shaped structure, is divided by the central insular sulcus into an anterior portion comprising 3 to 4 short gyri, and a posterior portion composed of 2 long gyri (anterior and posterior), which form a fan-like pattern.
Connections from the insula to the cortex on a random subject.
Red: left-right; green: back-front; blue: up-down.
Research reveals a wide array of connections between the insula and the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes as well as medial regions, with a rostro-caudal organization. Notably, revealed for the first time in humans is a clear structural connectivity between the insula and the cingulate, parahippocampal, supramarginal and angular gyri as well as the precuneus and occipital regions. These studies have also revealed different functional profiles between the left versus the right insula and the anterior versus the posterior insula.
Cumulative research has established a role for the insula in a wide array of functions, including autonomic functions, viscero-sensory and motor function, motorassociation, vestibular function, language, somatosensation, chemosensation, central audition, emotions, pain, bodily awareness, self-recognition, attention, empathy, time perception, and motivation.
Comparative studies have shown that the insula has undergone a gradual increase in the complexity of its organization and size in the course of primate and hominid evolution. The anatomical organization of insular sulci in humans is different from that of nonhuman primates, and it has been suggested that the greater size of some regions is correlated with newly emerged specialized functions such as empathy and cultural awareness.
There is a direct connection between the insula and the cingulate cortex, and their functional co-activation is a reflection of this direct link. While the anterior insula is mainly connected with the anterior cingulate cortex, the posterior insula is preferentially connected with the posterior cingulate cortex.
This strong link between both structures is further supported by their shared organization type, their neurons, such as VENs  and their shared functions.
The insula and cingulate cortex have both been associated with similar neuropsychological functions, including self-awareness and representation of time and space, empathy, pain, and cultural behavior, as well as being part of a salience or frontoparietal network.
The insula is also recruited by the salience network (SN), which is formed by the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and the insular cortex with robust connectivity to subcortical and medial structures.
Some recent works directly suggest that the insular cortex may be strongly involved in conscious awareness. The anterior insula (AI) has been proposed to participate in intuition, insight and interoceptive predictive coding; fast connections within the salience detection system and with anterior cingulate and visceromotor systems are preconditions that allow a prompt updating of generative models.
The cingulate cortex (in purple). There are different functional specializations associated with different parts of the cingulate cortex.
The cingulate cortex in humans contains multiple distinct cytoarchitectonic zones that imply localization of different functions to each zone. The key functional distinction between these regions relates to evaluative function and regulatory function.
The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), is the front part of the cingulate cortex which wraps around the head of the corpus callosum. This region is connected to the prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex as well as both motor and visual systems.
The posterior cingulate cortex, or PCC, lies directly behind the medial cingulate.
cingulate cortex anatomy
ACC = Anterior Cingulate Cortex; PCC = Posterior Cingulate Cortex; MCC = Medial Cingulate Cortex; pcACC = posterior caudal ACC; pdACC = posterior dorsal ACC; acACC = anterior caudal ACC; aMCC = anterior medial ACC.
The ACC is often divided into four regions, each of which seem to underpin a separate function. In particular, the anterior cingulate cortex includes:
The anterior region, which is involved in executive function; resolution of incongruity, detecting and resolving conflicts & discernment of errors. Researchers speculate that this region is a conduit between the cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex and the emotional experience weighting of medial temporal systems. Emotional regulation might invoke the same mechanisms as the detection of, and adjustment to, errors.
The dorsal region, which is a central nexus for processing top down and bottom up cognitive stimuli and assigning appropriate control to other areas in the brain. The dorsal ACC is active after both an error and feedback, reward-based decision-making and learning; suggesting an evaluative function in learning from error. It has been shown that improvement in performance after an error on a previous trial corresponds to emotional regulation. Specifically, individuals who show improvement in performance report diminished anxiety, even on days that involved many stressful or demanding events. Individuals who do not show improvement in performance after errors report amplified anxiety on stressful days.
The ventral region, which is involved in assessing the salience of emotion, regulation of emotional conflict, emotional control (output control) and motivational information. It is also active during 'self transcendence' experiences, as we shall explore later.
The posterior region, which is involved in evaluative processes, pain perception, and emotional responses to pain.
Posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) functions
The PCC is recruited by the default mode network; for example, the PCC is stimulated when someone is daydreaming or recalling memories. It has been suggested that the PCC helps to regulate the balance between internally and externally-focused attention, making it a crucial structure in awareness and attentional focus.
Neuroimaging studies indicate the PCC is active during the recall of episodic, 'autobiographical' memories. It is also activated by emotional stimuli, and thus has been suggested to be recruited for the recall of memories that have strong emotional weighting.
The ACC and interaction
The ACC plays a crucial role in processing cultural, personal and interactive information. It is proposed that the computational properties of the ACCg support a contribution to interactive cognition by estimating how motivated other individuals are and dynamically updating those estimates when further evidence suggests they have been erroneous. Notably this model, based on assessments of others' motivation and error processing, provides a unified account of neurophysiological and neuroimaging evidence that the ACCg is sensitive to dangers, benefits, and errors during cultural and personal interactions.
In previous research, links were drawn between ACC and the basic affiliative and communicative behaviors in which all mammals engage. It is active when people engage in interaction and in culturally oriented modes of cognition, such as empathy. In addition, disorders of cultural cognition have long been linked to the structure and function of the ACC. Understanding the mechanistic contribution of this region to interactive behavior is therefore vital for understanding cultural cognition in mental health and disease.
Evidence points to information relevant to cultural or personal interaction being processed in a specific ACC sub-region in the gyrus (ACCg). Studies suggest that this region computes “other-oriented” information (i.e., information about other agents that might be animals or people, rather than ourselves.
This region plays a vital role in processing benefits and also in decision making. Recent work has highlighted that this region may also be particularly important for evaluating harm vs. benefit information that influences how motivated we are, and foraging/seeking-related decisions such as whether to maintain or switch behavior. The ACC encodes variables determining the 'reward rate' of a behavior, including its probability of benefits and its effortfulness, which are key determinants of how vigorously behaviors should be pursued.
The ACC is also particularly important for processing information about others. In fact, complex abstract cultural interactive information, such as learning from observation of others, or predicting the behavior of others, uses the same processes that are engaged by adjacent brain structures during basic concrete foraging decisions. That is, the ACCg, in evaluating the dangers and benefits of interacting in cultural contexts, runs exactly the same process that the Anterior Cingulate Sulcus (ACCs) uses when evaluating the dangers and benefits of interacting just for ourselves. At this stage, that should come as no surprise to us.
The ACC is active when people interact with others in situations where they make decisions that affect not only their own subsequent benefit/harm but also the benefit/harm that others will receive.
Damage to the ACC results in changes in cultural behavior, interactive decision making, and the ability to learn from observation.
Approximately 25% of all neurons recorded in the ACCg are mirror neurons, which likely play a significant role in processing “other-oriented” information, such as calculating another's state or level of motivation, learning about the behavior of others, learning about the value others place on behavior, learning from others' mistakes, or calculating likely outcomes for others.
It may well be the case that this region is signaling the motivational value to ourselves of interacting with another, because in decision making the ACCg appears to be sensitive to the outcomes of decisions that impact upon others.
Fascinatingly, resting-state connectivity in the ACCg has been shown to correlate with the size of group in which subjects are living.
Taken together, research points to the ACC playing a key role not just in reward-guided learning and decision making but also in interaction and cultural cognition. The ACCg connects to the Temperoparietal junction (TPJ) and the dorso-medial PFC (dmPFC), to several amygdala nuclei, the ventro-medial PFC (vmPFC) and the anterior insula (AI) regions, which are engaged during affective and cultural processing; and also to inferior parietal cortex regions engaged during action-observation.
This connectivity profile identifies the ACCg as a very important region that integrates a variety of distinct forms of interactive information via recruiting different networks. Indeed, the anterior insula (AI) and ACC are major components of the system for the flexible control of goal-directed behavior.
The cingulate cortex and self awareness
Research has shown that just as the ACCg evaluates events from 'others' reference frame, the ACCs appears to operate within a “self” reference frame. This region signals the value of our own behavior, interactions, outcomes and errors; and updates those estimates when feedback suggests that they may have been incorrect.
Self-awareness is a pivotal component of conscious intelligence. It is correlated with a functional network of medial prefrontal/anterior cingulate and medial parietal/posterior cingulate cortical “hubs” and associated regions in the CPU. Electromagnetic and transmitter manipulation have demonstrated that the network is not an epiphenomenon but instrumental in the actual generation of self-awareness.
The brain is an 'imagination engine' with an output of behaviors based on an 'interpret/predict/adapt/ evolve' algorithm, whose main tasks rely on memory databases and appropriate input, but most of all upon awareness, pattern recognition and feature-detection, both conscious and unconscious. If we cannot interpret information, discern between differences and changes, and allocate coherent meaning to events in relation to ourselves, we have no intelligence; conscious or otherwise.
Self awareness provides the information essential for conscious self-monitoring (metacognition). Metacognition is a tool for consciously controlling behavior and adjusting our experiences of the world. It is essential for learning by conscious experience, not only within ourselves, but, importantly, also between individuals.
Self-awareness; that introspective awareness in which we have a clear feeling of individuality, is an indispensible part of our experience of the world, whether it is minimal self-awareness (pre-reflective, with an automatic sense of ownership of the experience), or narrative self-awareness, extended in time by retrieval of personal memories and thereby allowing predictions of the future.
Recent research has given us insights into the biological origin and function of self-awareness, and how its impediment in disease may account for major disorders in conscious regulation, with consequences for treatment and prevention. Shifting cerebral activation patterns occur with changing contents of consciousness during “mind wandering”, in the normal resting conscious state and during meditation.
A set of medial brain regions are continuously active in this state, including the medial and lateral prefrontal cortex, the right medial parietal cortex, and right striatum.
Functional network of medial prefrontal/anterior cingulate (N6 anterior “hub”) and medial parietal /posterior cingulate cortices (N3 posterior hub). Cingulate cortex and other medial structures are outlined in gray. This develops into the 'default mode' functional network; our creativity 'open mode', with maturity.
Experiments show converging evidence for these regions being correlated with self awareness. It is proposed that the medial prefrontal and parietal regions constitute a self-referential core of changing conscious experiences. This is consistent with the assumption that self-awareness is an integral function of all conscious experiences, binding conscious experiences together into a single construct with a sense of unity of consciousness.
It seems increasingly likely that conscious self awareness is constructed by imagination in the same way that all perception is, via memory, current input and future probability assessment. Which means, effectively, that different types or levels of consciousness emerge as 'applications that intelligence uses sometimes'.
Intelligence, like most if not all organic constructs, develops in stages and shifts its locus as it shifts its matrix. The newborn has a proprioceptive sense of its own body and readily imitates gestures and facial expression essential for bonding and anticipation of emotional responses of other people. The infant is probably aware only of events in the present time, while the adult capacity to put these sensations into a time perspective has to await later development.
Each stage of our development has its own specialized block of abilities and behaviors, and these open for development sequentially. Each of these stages of development takes place within its own matrix, a set of conditions for that stage of development. Brain growth spurts occur at the beginning of each stage, when the focus of development – and our locus of consciousness - shifts.
These shifts in awareness take place together with a change in dominance of the functional architecture from mainly sensorimotor networks to the medial hubs and finally frontal cortex.
Our sense of self is embedded in each network until it has developed a critical mass of connections to the next network in the sequence, at which point we shift locus, into the next developmental stage. Each developmental period functions on two complementary levels; its inherent behaviors must be developed according to genetics and epigenetics, yet must prepare for coordination with the higher structure they will eventually serve. N1 & 2 use their physical encodings to coordinate sensorimotor systems according to the needs of N3. Network 3 must order those embodied signals into a correspondingly higher order of operations that will be needed by the neocortex. Each stage in its turn contributes a level of awareness and a level of control.
N1&2 – sentience & motion awareness & control
The roots of consciousness exist in ancient neural territories we share with all vertebrates. By the weight of empirical evidence, and with apologies to Star Trek, ALL living things are sentient when awake; in that they are able to detect environmental sensory input and respond accordingly. Animals with very little (or even no) frontal cortex use vision, taste and touch to orient to their surroundings, learn where to find food in mazes, and remain capable of standing, climbing, grooming, mating, and caring for offspring.
Alongside more complex network development in higher mammals comes increasing awareness, and at each stage, increasing control.
Attention control remains one of the key factors in intelligence development; data suggest that the cortical oscillation frequency or amplitude of current brainwaves is determined by whether we attend to or ignore sensory information in the environment, and whether we pay attention to the presence of useful or distracting information. Behavioral control expands our options for interaction with others and primes us for personal and cultural bonding later.
Research indicates that three adjacent parts of networks 1 and 2 comprise a "neural reality simulator" that gives rise to a fundamental form of awareness, producing a two-dimensional, screenlike map of the world featuring moving shapes.
Along the top of the roof of the brain stem, layers of cells interpret the spatial layout of an animal's surroundings relative to its body. Just below, a patch of gray tissue influences basic biological drive-related behaviors, such as sex, defensive maneuvers, and pain responses. Farther down the brain stem lie interconnected regions that regulate the direction of eye gaze and organize decisions about what to do next, such as reaching for a piece of food or pursuing a potential mate. Once choices can be made, attention and locomotion become autonomous rather than automatic and control is ever more important in making beneficial choices.
In humans, these brain structures surround brain stem tissue that connects to sensory areas throughout the cortex, largely via network 3. Our large cortical endowment beefs up the neural reality simulator, creating an ability to perceive a three-dimensional world composed of solid objects.
N3 - emotional awareness & control
This form of primary awareness generates emotions and an awareness of one's surroundings but not an ability to communicate about what one has experienced, and being conscious of a feeling that we can't label or describe is a phenomenon that's especially common in healthy infants. Emotional control marks the beginning of frontal lobe development.
To be clear, emotional control is not about hiding emotion (unless that is necessary for survival). It begins with self-directional skills such as your ability to cheer yourself up, calm yourself down, adopt a relevant mood for your context, and motivate yourself.
N4 – interactional and cultural awareness & control develop soon after, enabling new kinds of relationships with others, skill-sharing abilities, cooperation, nurturing, creativity, and the networks previously dedicated to sensory merging use their skills to enable the descriptive power of metaphorization for abstract thought and language.
N5 – Enables self awareness and self-control; that is, awareness of our own minds as 'our selves'; which is inevitable once abstract introspection begins, and control of our own thoughts and words. Words become another medium in which we may both express ourselves and study ourselves in terms of rational thought and intellectual analysis.
N6 – Awareness matures into full comprehension & control (we'll look more closely into comprehension later in this tutorial). Intelligence can draw on and modulate all networks. It can create thoughts 'out of the blue'; thoughts that arise from thinking, rather than as responses to other input. The mind can extract information out of context and operate on it with self created ideas that are discrete and self referring, or that are balanced within a larger frame of reference. Intelligence can operate on (and so change) the structures of thought itself, programming its own software. Enclosing an infinitely open field of possibilities with a specific set of controllable operations, intelligence selectively lifts order out of chaos.
What is intelligence doing to enable all this architecture to be put into place? We have to remember that the mind sees life as a game. Each matrix is represented by an archetype which we must model and whose skills we must gain, before moving on to the next stage. We begin the game of life with the ability to learn and form associated concepts; plus our 'starter pack' bestowed by evolution. The aim of the game is always to stay in the game, by mastering abilities in each level. We are always learning awareness and control of systems (contexts) and processes, regardless of the details.
In matrix 1, for example, the aim is to learn sufficient control of our bodily systems and processes such that we no longer need the womb matrix. In stage 2 we are learning spatial skills and motion control; we heed to gain sufficient control of our own locomotion and enough manipulative control (dexterity) to start to take over as our OWN faithful servant, while at the same time learning how to become the explorer (the young seeker). This takes us out of our carers' arms and into learning communication skills. It's no coincidence we learn the basics of language at the same time, associating both motion and emotion with sound, merging body language with verbal language.
Sufficient exploration of the natural environment gives our minds the primer for exploring the abstract, mental environment. In matrix 3 we need the example of a guide; a navigator, in order to learn how to become our own guide – we need someone who can show us not only how to navigate around our home territory using physical control, but also how to navigate through communication and interaction using behavioral and emotional control. In short, the process of navigation through varied territory (different systems) is the aim of the game at this stage on both concrete and abstract levels.
Any appropriate input will suffice for our learning; archetypal stories are congruous with our core concepts and are ideal guides to navigation through obstacles in life. The examples in the stories we pay attention to and the stories we observe unfolding around us set the reference frames for our own future behavioral strategies. Archetypal stories give us examples of interaction and action/reaction, genuine emotion versus sentiments, courses of behavior and their consequences, and the unconscious mind comprehends all input in terms of these stories; in terms of the mind's own development. We learn the processes of emotion control at this stage (how to cheer ourselves up/ calm ourselves down/ inspire and motivate ourselves, etc.) and appropriate behavior in relationships.
In matrix 4 we need to learn the processes of creativity (how to initiate open and closed mode), cultural interaction and nurturing. We begin the abstract version of exploration and seeking – looking for answers; solving problems, creating knowledge, and bringing order out of chaos. We need to learn how to share the skills we have; how to demonstrate our comprehension to others, an how to delay gratification and stick with something once we've started. Some of these processes will recruit emotional control skills we learned in the last stage – this is why we have to play the game in the right order. The 'safe space' in this matrix is the a prori store of knowledge available from our culture. Its archetype is the wizard, scientist, engineer, musician; and during this stage, rather than treating culture as just a source of input, intent pushes us to add to that body of knowledge with our own creative output.
In stage 5 we gain control of thought processes themselves. We can clear our minds of anxious thoughts, concentrate on what is really going on and respond rationally. This too requires skills learned in previous stages, such as the ability to initiate the relaxation response. Creativity will blossom into innovation in stage 5 if we are provided with appropriate input from our culture in stage 4. Growing autonomy will open up new interests and independent concepts. We learn abstract formal languages in order to express these. Self confidence develops with self control, as we become able to take care of ourselves and interact as an equal with our allies, and as we learn the processes of reason, judging evidence and self assessment. We become the benefactor; the good king; capable, loving, kind and honorable. Mighty against the dragons of bullshit and misinformation, s/he smites them with faultless intellect.
Pure abstract thought (without words) becomes possible in stage 6 with full comprehension of concepts and processes and the ability to form successful strategies and create knowledge with new concepts and new processes.
During basic development, the locus of our consciousness remains fixed in the network currently being used the most, but at a certain point in maturity, the locus of consciousness is no longer fixed but dynamic, and we gain the ability to shift our locus at will (for example, during empathy, modeling, learning, acting or fantasy). We can imagine ourselves as somebody else, experience and so gain awareness of what it is like to be another person or another creature, or to be ourselves in different situations.
We can also shift our locus between networks and 'see things' from the perspective of, say, network 3 or network 5. And this is partly how we shift 'mode' (eg, from 'open mode' to 'closed mode', from default network to salience network, from stretching to relaxation.)
DO IT NOW - Shift your locus of awareness and perspective according to necessity.
Consider the following scenario:
“Suddenly there was a reverberating thud from some distance away. Alice wasn't sure where it came from.”
Now imagine how you would feel, what you might think, and what sort of behaviors you might perform as Alice, in the following contexts:
1 Alice is alone in an old house at night with no power available.
2 Alice is on board the space station and hasn't heard that particular sound from any of the systems before.
3 Alice is a crane operator unloading containers from a ship on the docks. Noises like that happen all the time.
4 Alice and Bob are asleep in bed in their home and are awakened when the noise occurs.
5 Alice is a small mouse in a large forest.
6 Alice is reading a story in which these words appear, right at the end of a chapter.
7 Alice is a paranoid schizophrenic who thinks evil spirits are trying to contact her.
8 Alice is tumbling down the rabbit hole.
The event remains exactly the same; only the perspective has changed ('the mind has moved'). We can immediately relegate some scenarios to fiction, and some of these situations may be easier than others to empathize with. We can imagine what behaviors the various 'Alices' might engage in. But the important point is that this ability; this sort of directed locus-shifting of awareness, attention, focus and control is at the root of our ability to discern; to comprehend; to understand; to make sense out of things, behavior and events as an entire whole; the big picture. In other words, our ability to experience and display conscious intelligence.
the most important things to remember
Consciousness clearly increases the possibilities for intelligence, but does not create it. Intelligence was around long before consciousness was, and so were sensory awareness, 'sentience' and motor responses.
Conscious intelligence appears when it's needed – whenever an interactive network builds a critical mass of memory and has a flow of useful input which becomes too much for itself to process at any effective speed, yet more processing is required for an appropriate response.
This interactive paradigm of evolution, involving genes, organisms and environment, puts the genome in its correct place in evolutionary theory.
Intelligence as we know it begins with 'a priori' unconscious knowledge and core concepts; this is the legacy of evolution; a type of unconscious 'reasoning' based on facts learned by our species collective previous experience. On top of this, everything we learn and practice sufficiently for it to become automatic is empirical unconscious knowledge; this is the means by which unconscious knowledge and conscious experience increase over time, and its content relies on our individual experiences.
Humans live in complex cultural groups. As a result, there are functions in the brain that have evolved to play important roles in cultural cognition and interactive behavior.
Once intelligence has a certain minimum amount of unconscious knowledge (our species' internal unconscious memory), plus imagination and association, interaction builds a critical mass of new associative experience through play; modeling, practice and imitation learning.
When such a system can also interact with the ever-growing resource of culture (our species' external conscious memory), and also with itself through introspection, self assessment and behavioral control, we have set in motion an auto-catalytic process that culminates in conscious intelligence and self awareness.
Each stage of our development has its own specialized block of abilities and behaviors, and these open for development sequentially. Each of these stages of development takes place within its own matrix, or set of conditions for development. Brain growth spurts occur at the beginning of each stage, when the focus of development – and our locus of consciousness - shifts.
These shifts in awareness take place together with a change in dominance of the functional architecture from mainly sensorimotor networks to the medial hubs and finally frontal cortex.
The directed locus-shifting of awareness, attention, focus and control is at the root of our ability to discern; to comprehend; to understand; to make sense out of things, behavior and events as an entire whole; the big picture. In other words, our ability to experience and display conscious intelligence.
'intelligence is a property which emerges from the interaction between mind and environment' is a good definition which fits the facts.
do it now – imagine the space of the possible
1 visualize and write about your 'best possible future selves.'
Possible future selves have been defined as personalized representations of goals  and comprise all of the futures that a person can envision for themself – that is, their 'most cherished self-wishes'. Writing about one’s possible selves can enhance self-regulation because it provides an opportunity to learn more about oneself, to gain insight into and restructure one’s priorities, and to understand better one’s motives, priorities and emotional responses. Writing about one’s life goals may also be beneficial because it can reduce ideological dilemmas and hence goal conflict, as well as bring greater awareness and clarity to one’s priorities, motivations, and values.
2 Think about your life in the future. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly
could. You have succeeded at accomplishing all of your current life goals. Think of this as the realization of all of your life dreams. Now, write about what you imagined.
Do this for 20 minutes per day for three days in a row.
This exercise may serve to integrate life experiences into a meaningful framework and allow you to gain a feeling of control. Imagining success at one’s life goals can boost psychological wellbeing, improve performance, boost psychological adjustment  and bring to bear a variety of benefits associated with positive thinking.
what are we doing?
This question may be approached in various ways depending on emphasis; for example 'What ARE we doing?' carries different implications to, 'What are WE doing?' or 'WTF are we DOING?' We'd like you to consider all these possibilities during this section.
physiology/biochemistry of self awareness
There is a growing body of evidence for clear, measurable biological markers of each domain of awareness at each stage of development; both neurochemical and physiological. Improvements in imaging technology have made many of these discoveries possible only recently.
For some cool examples; during stage 1, network 1's awareness of our own body is linked to changes in gamma-butyric acid (GABA) composition in the insula, (and damage to the insula in adulthood can cause out of body experiences; with disruption of multi-sensory integration processes  ); during stage 2, awareness of self-generated movement associated with activity in supplementary motor regions is linked to development of the medial circuitry of emotional and relational self-awareness ; and the development of our functional 'default mode network' is characterized by the appearance of a high degree of self-referential thinking in N4 and N5, culminating in self awareness (as mind) during stage 5.
The default mode network is very active when we are in open mode, and self awareness is enhanced, while its activity is decreased with the diminished self-awareness during goal-directed action in the 'outside world'. This change reflects the brains capacity to shift allocation of resources as well as the locus of consciousness according to changing needs.
Focusing on the CPU, specifically targeting the medial parietal/posterior cingulate  and prefrontal/anterior cingulate  regions with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has unequivocally shown that the former region in N3 is instrumental in retrieval of self-related episodic memory (narrative self-awareness), while the latter region in N6 is instrumental in self-evaluation (introspection). The interaction between the two sites is bi-directional and recurrent mainly in the lower gamma range providing a “bootstrapping” effect.  This conceivably increases signal duration and strength at medial parietal and medial prefrontal sites facilitating access to consciousness.
In healthy humans,GABA-ergic stimulation induces gamma power increase in the prefrontal cortex. The development of GABA-ergic inhibition of pyramidal cells, essential for generation of gamma synchrony, begins in utero and is not completed until adulthood.
Dopamine activation in humans elicits GABA activity directly in the medial prefrontal/anterior cingulate cortex and the associated right insula, which indicates that self-awareness is regulated by dopamine through the medial prefrontal/anterior cingulate cortex  and that this occurs via the GABA system. Causal effects may also be inferred by the influence of acetylcholine  serotonin  and oxytocin.
Intelligence as a process
At the heart of intelligence lies a process. The more we learn about this process, the more complicated it seems to be, but we have discovered that, if we 'zoom in', beneath all those complexities lie deep simplicities; laws of nature; programs; the underlying simple rules producing complex behavior.
Zoom in yet again, however, and inside the great simplicities of these rules we find not simplicity but overwhelming complexity. For example, one of the deepest simplicities of biological 'rules' is that everything alive has DNA. The genetic material of almost all life forms is constructed using the same giant molecule, which sounds simple enough, but when we look more closely at it we find that its workings are based on an intricate electrochemical code, interacting with an immensely complex environment via complex processes of epigenetics.
Yet again, though, beneath all this complexity are very simple rules that determine the possibilities for matter and energy in a spacetime continuum, themselves based on another underlying layer of complexity...and so on. It begins to look like a fractal pattern underlies all processes.
The phenomenon of simple results from complex causes is familiar to us on the abstract level in analyzing data for recognizable patterns, and in concrete terms it is apparent subjectively because intelligence does not usually seem complex on the behavioral level, even though we know there's lots of processing going on. In our daily lives, we experience the world as a straightforward concrete place. Common sense – the way we use intelligence when we go about our daily lives – treats the world as a simple collection of familiar objects bearing known ordered relationships to each other. Indeed, we would be unable to function if we had to grapple consciously with the hidden complexities of everything all the time.
The phenomenon of vastly complex effects arising from simple causes is also apparent in emergence. Intelligence is an emergent phenomenon; the collective behavior of a system whose behavior transcends its components. Our focus in studying intelligence as a process has moved from studying behaviors, to studying rules that govern behaviors via neurochemical signaling, to studying the language in which the rules are encoded; epigenetic signals from the environment.
When you can employ methods that code in new rules in the correct language for epigenetic changes yourself, you are a programmer. There is a multitude of ways to do this using different 'languages' (the formats of each network), input control, tech, chemistry and techniques.
A common objection to our programming metaphor is that in the real world, computer programs consist entirely of a set of rules (they are syntactic) whereas mind software deals with values, sense and meaning (semantics). The behavior of a cell (or a human) is not 'pre-programmed'; it is a dynamic response in real time to current environmental signals. However, this is a rather shallow view; it is the ability to make such dynamic responses itself that is programmed (and hence controllable).
All our expressions and interpretations of meaning in biological programs are derived from, and represented by concepts; however these are assembled via processing rules evolved to interpret binary input or output code and produce responses. To get behavior of any kind to happen at all, though, or to halt current activities, ultimately cells either fire or they don't. It's electrical impulses, it's on or off. Up- and down-regulation of receptors is an epigenetic effect. If a cell's receptors are removed or atrophy, no environmental signals = no response and no behavior. If receptors are hacked into believing that they are receiving signals, for example with drugs, the system will 'behave as though' it's happening, and make responses accordingly.
Q: If complex behaviors come from simple rules, is intelligence itself simple or complex?
Our framing of a system as simple or complex indicates only our own chosen perspective; not the nature of the system itself. We can view intelligence as a complex phenomena emerging from simple programs or processes, but are processes really simple? We can equally well view processes as very complex operations performed on simple chemicals, or chemicals as complex compounds following underlying simple laws of physics... and so on. The label 'simple' or 'complex' refers to our own chosen perspective; in other words, which type of patterns we are currently making consciously explicit and which ones are left implicit. This, too, is discernment.
Is intelligence subjective or objective?
Is intelligence concrete or abstract?
Is intelligence knowledge or experience?
Is intelligence the ability to interact, or interaction itself?
Is intelligence a property or a process?
Biological imperatives & development
Every individual has a biologically based inner nature comprised of elements that are common to the species and those that are unique to that individual. Biology has needs or requirements in order for lifeforms (and their intelligence) to develop, based on behaviors that need to take place. These are our biological imperatives. The behaviors that develop intelligence with optimal speed are human versions of the animal behaviors which evolved to meet those imperatives in order to develop intelligence in the first place. That sounds like the bleeding obvious, but you'll be surprised how easily it is forgotten!
In short, if you want to develop your mind fast, practice core behaviors; most especially play. Doing so is all about providing biological imperatives; the optimal signals biology requires FOR development.
The humanistic approach to development as exemplified by Carl Rogers sees our inner nature (our real selves) as inherently good, grounded in cooperation and enlightened self interest, and progressing towards full development ('self actualization') via entelechy, for the benefit of both individual and species in real life.
As we have learned, however, counterfeit games see (and condition their members to see) human nature as 'bad' and 'competitive', largely due to centuries of judging the dysfunctional behavior of the anxious, the paranoid and the downright delusional as 'normal' and labeling dysfunction as 'human nature'. This 'bad animal' view of humans blithely ignores the ample scientific evidence that humans are in fact naturally co-operative and caring, and that how many people behave appears to be largely a matter of (a) how much they are modeling bad examples and (b) how much their human nature is lovingly respected, nourished and developed, or repressed, conditioned and frustrated. In short, it's down to how many of our biological imperatives are provided.
Societies (and families, and peer groups) differ in the extent to which they restrict or enhance the full humanness of their members, which can be developed and augmented by healthy behaviors in an enriched environment, or inhibited and deformed by unhealthy (impoverished) environmental conditions and dysfunctional behaviors.
happiness & biological imperatives
Biology tells us when we are successfully achieving healthy development by making us feel good; we experience happiness and pleasure of various kinds whenever we are engaging with good input.
The scientific study of happiness classifies our levels of happiness in three ways: positive affect (positive emotions, such as comfort or excitement), negative affect ('negative emotions', such as grief or alarm), and life evaluation (overall life satisfaction).
The science behind the experiences, emotions and neurochemistry associated with happiness and well-being are developing a comprehensive understanding of what it means to live a good quality life full of purpose and meaning. An obsession with sentiment, human dysfunction, and weaknesses merely contributes to our insights on what it means to languish and decline.
Studies on what makes some individuals happier than others, including twin studies, conclude
that our levels of happiness hinge on various biological imperatives, including both genetic and environmental ones.
If you ask 'most people' what they believe would make them happy, they will assume things such as more material goods, higher income level, good job, expensive education, high social status, or being married. However, changes in life circumstances based on these counterfeit (societal) values are NOT correlated with greater levels of happiness.
Biology doesn't value synthetic ideals, and experiencing happiness and a fulfilling high quality of life depends vitally on meeting biological imperatives. Because when they are not met, the unconscious mind pushes for them, if its 'SOS' messages are blocked, suppressed, misinterpreted or ignored, anxiety arises; and it won't go away until we listen to our unconscious knowledge and align our conscious values with biology's.
We will blame the resulting anxiety on all sorts of imagined sources; parents, schooling, circumstances, each other, lack of money / partner etc. etc... but the bottom line is, we're fooling ourselves. It arose because development was interrupted and it's still around because our biological imperatives have not been met and are still not being met. It won't go away until you meet them.
I know we are repeating ourselves here but this is a really big, important issue which allows us to frame NH as something very simple where there's only one rule: if you don't feel ok or you are not making appropriate progress, some biological imperative is not being met. So you find out what it is, and you do your best to meet it by whatever means.
Biological imperatives are the contexts needed for healthy development and they indicate what we NEED to be doing in order to experience wellbeing and optimal mental health. Appropriate contexts provide our natural needs with appropriate input (such as breast feeding, good nutrition in childhood, storytelling, exposure to the natural world, interaction with culture, and natural sleep). Inappropriate contexts either neglect our biological needs, or postpone them if providing inappropriate input.
We examined biological imperatives in previous tutorials; here we look at the selection listed below along with related behaviors and goals. They are all important for different stages of intelligence development.
Environmental factors and lifestyle (self care, safe space, input control)
Integrity (beliefs & values are congruous with words and behaviors)
Healthy relationships (befriending & bonding)
Communication and interaction (core conditions, skill sharing, nurturing)
Creative play (exploration, innovation, making, learning)
Autonomy & personal freedom (independence, self sufficiency, self-reliance)
Resilient responses (post-traumatic growth, learning from mistakes)
Accurate self assessment & appropriate adaptation (output control)
Comprehension (life must 'make sense')
Overall imperative: Development must continue
These are behaviors that biology needs us to perform in the relevant contexts, in order to direct the appropriate gene transcription for full development, optimal mental function and feelings of psychological wellbeing. If we never perform them, we don't get full intelligence development; we get anxiety because we're blocking development. It really is that simple.
Replacing biological needs with counterfeit input such as material goods, false praise, dependence-based relationships, conditional regard, appearances or money doesn't remove the biological need for these things and doesn't remove the ongoing anxiety caused by not doing them. Given that they are essential for our healthy development, and that all knowledge needs to be embodied in behavioral experience, it is unlikely that anything will replace these needs (including drugs).
In this section we examine each of these necessities in greater depth. With each issue, we include a 'do it now' where we pose questions for your contemplation bearing in mind what we have learned from past tutorials. There are no answers given because considering these questions, and calculating how many of them you can answer easily, should help you be aware of what areas you know well, and what areas you need to learn more about.
Environmental factors & lifestyle
A variety of environmental and lifestyle factors can influence evolution, biology and general intelligence development. These range from ecological parameters such as temperature  and light, to nutritional parameters such as caloric restriction or high fat diets, anxiety  and toxins. All have all been shown to promote epigenetic transgenerational inheritance. The ability of environmental factors to directly alter the development and function of cells and tissues is critical for the health and phenotype of the individual.
Do it now - Questions to consider:
Do you believe that wellbeing is mainly context/environment dependent and if so, how?
Look around: do you feel you adequately understand the impact of your current environment on your wellbeing?
Do you see the vital importance of biological imperatives to both intelligence development and the quality of life?
Consider popular assumptions about different lifestyle structures (i.e., individuals, couples, groups, families, co-housing groups) and different locations (rural, suburbian and urban cities, etc.). Come up with a list of some benefits/problems of each structure.
All stress and no relaxation = burnout or apathetic exhaustion. Satisfying the biological need to complete the stress-relaxation cycle is what gives us the ability to learn effectively, remember well, and respond dynamically and creatively. We have the energy to do so.
We are much less susceptible to anxiety if we take good care of ourselves. Apart from the obvious things, such as hygiene, nutrition and natural sleep, input control should include our choices of activities – especially those energy-recharging activities in our life, and most especially in our daily routine. This can go a long way towards fostering both resilience and the capacity to deal with a long list of daily necessities without raising anxiety.
There are many ways discussed in these tutorials to 'recharge your batteries', and many ways to initiate the relaxation response. Some may include: bathing, dancing, singing, games, knitting, yoga, tai chi, rock climbing, reading literature, gardening, biking, hiking in nature, swimming, skateboarding, cooking, drawing, poetry, watching movies, scuba diving, dinner with friends or family, martial arts, making something for ourselves or a gift for someone, playing chess, playing music, listening to music, hang gliding, fishing, learning a new skill, talking with a good friend, painting, meditating, and so on. Many of these activities are free, and easy to do.
In any of these activities, we need to be intrinsically (self) motivated, rather than extrinsically motivated (by others or by 'rules' or 'timetables') to practice self-care; otherwise we unconsciously resent the coercion and adequate relaxation will not occur, plus some advice we are given may lead to self harm rather than care. Doing things because someone else (or a book) said we should is not intrinsic motivation. We have to do things because we genuinely want to, and it helps to know, biologically, why we want to; because usually it's in order to meet a biological imperative.
Do it now - Questions to consider:
What images or assumptions come to mind when you hear the words self-care?
What does self-care mean to you?
Right now, on a scale of one (crap) to ten (fantastic) how healthy and happy is your mind? Your body? Your mood and attitude? Do you feel renewed and refreshed? Why or why not?
Who were/are the positive role models for practicing self-care in your life?
How do you usually refresh yourself when you are exhausted?
How often do you currently rest, relax or renew yourself in other ways? Every day? Every week?
How do you continue to be excited about things and inspired by the world around you?
What might stand in the way of your self-care imperatives, and what will you do to overcome these barriers?
Are you more intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to practice self-care?
What are some reasons self-care is important for your long-term well-being?
We all know we are supposed to eat fresh unprocessed food, get natural sleep, and exercise daily, but few of us do it. Why is this?
As a child, were you taught to practice self-care? If so, what were you taught and by whom?
In what ways and to what degree does your self-care, or lack of it, impact your happiness, relationships, interests, and other responsibilities and commitments?
Do you think we get exhausted because of what we are doing ... or because of what we are NOT doing in life?
Biology needs integrity; congruity between our beliefs, expectations, words and behavior. Life needs to 'make sense' if we are going to interact at all.
Our beliefs and value systems strongly impact our individual and collective well-being, and cultural or societal values, by honoring or denying biological imperatives, can condition individuals for either high or low levels of well-being.
Research has uncovered a strong correlation between the development of several areas of the brain and an individual's beliefs and behavioral habits. It appears that our individual differences in empathic abilities are related to morphological differences in our brain structure.
Our thoughts are where we have leverage to change our behaviors or responses. The more we can practice integrity, the more it improves our neural function and our interactions.
Incongruous beliefs, expectations & behavior
Research reveals a striking difference between what most people believe will improve their wellbeing and what actually works. Most people in our society are conditioned to believe that more money will make them happier. But once our basic needs are met, whatever level of wealth or material goods we have, rather than pacifying anxiety, focusing on financial wealth results in addictive behavior, hoarding, or paranoid fear of loss.
This phenomenon is known as the 'hedonic treadmill' or hedonic adaptation. The hedonic treadmill is defined as: The tendency of a person to remain at a relatively stable level of happiness despite a change in fortune or the achievement of major goals. According to the hedonic treadmill, a person makes more money and buys more things yet fails to reduce anxiety, because biology's needs are not being met. The need for anxiety-pacification, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in satisfaction.
This is NOT because financial wealth is in some way harmful; it is because the enormous amount of time spent chasing and acquiring more and more of it prevents our fulfilling biological imperatives.
It's a bit like taking someone who is learning to walk and strapping them in a chair all day making them count pebbles; how are they going to develop walking skills? Counting pebbles is not a bad thing; it just prevents the essential practice on the good thing.
extrinsic and intrinsic goals & values
Extrinsic goals focus on something outside the person (like money, financial success, material goods, social status), while only intrinsic goals fulfil basic psychological needs (like personal growth, relationships, creativity or skill sharing). There is no surprise that research shows intrinsically oriented people are happier than extrinsically oriented people.
We habitually underestimate the impact of intrinsic values on our happiness. Intrinsic values (like personal growth, close relationships, creative play and a strong sense of belonging) have a very high impact on our well-being.
Do it now – questions to consider
Write out your top 5 goals for the year. Then label which ones are extrinsic goals and which are intrinsic goals. Would you prioritize any of those goals based on what you have learned from tutorials?
Write your thoughts about the following: Describe a happy time in your life in full detail. Don’t analyze the event; simply recount all of the aspects of it as if it were happening today. What aspects seem to be central to the experience (e.g. people, the environment, things, activities, conversations, events)?
There has been a very high cost to pay in terms of mental health for a society that over-values financial and material progress. Where in your life do you feel the tension between “what society wants” and maintaining personal integrity? How do you reconcile this tension?
Do you understand how differently cultural or societal values can influence individual happiness?
Are you aware of the dangers (direct and indirect) to personal congruity of adopting beliefs and values based on synthetic rules?
Have you critically analyzed the values underlying your own beliefs, life choices and decisions?
While culture and society influence us all, personal values are specific to each individual. What are your top five values? The things most important to you currently. Prioritize them. (Remember, values change throughout our lifetimes.)
Are your behaviors coordinated to make sense in agreement with your words and beliefs?
Consider how your current activities (work, relationships, studies, creative projects, etc.) reflect your top values. Then, individually create a mind map or other visual representation connecting your top values with your personal development, relationships, and cultural & environmental commitments.
What are the things you do that make you the happiest?
How often do you do them?
What does the research say about whether they actually make you happy or whether you will adapt to enjoying them?
Have you ever gotten something you wanted only to find that it didn’t make you as happy as you thought it would?
What was it?
Has that affected how you approach that sort of thing now?
One thing that the happiest, healthiest people have in common is a close network of relationships; either online, offline or both. Happy people do not necessarily love or get along with everyone, but they have strong bonds with those they care about. 'Family' means different things to different people, and 'family members' may not necessarily be biologically related.
We have explored some aspects of relationships in these tutorials, and we should now be aware (a) that every interaction sets up relationships of one kind or another; with ourselves and with things, tools, places, people, events and situations; and (b) that play/creative learning is our natural means of exploring and setting up relationships.
Though many relationships can be very brief, our personal relationships are often long term and contain the desire that they will continue into the future. Emotions and sentiments abound in such relationships; feelings of bonding (or anxious attachment), care and kindness (or apathy), and loyalty (or resentful obligation), as well as of love and optimism (or hatred and despair), can run very deep and carry heavy weighting in decision making about relationships.
Inevitably, relationships involve change. Over time, all people change in varying ways and degrees. For instance, they develop new abilities and different interests, and they explore different things. Furthermore, since we become more like whatever (and whomever) we are surrounded by and paying attention to, how partners relate contributes to ongoing changes in each of them, such as greater or less self-confidence. In addition, change can be deliberately initiated in relationships, for examples, beginning sex, getting a shared place together, working on joint projects, or having a baby. Sometimes external circumstances precipitate change, for instance, illness or unexpected opportunity.
Relationships need to accommodate changes. Given the developmental imperative for intelligence of perpetual change and challenge, relationships, like neurons, can grow and strengthen or weaken and die. We can have enriched relationships or impoverished ones.
Your relationship with your closest ally – understanding yourself
In self knowledge, we are always searching for what unifies our diverse experiences in order to give coherence to our lives. We seek out personal metaphors to highlight and make coherent our own pasts, our present activities, and our dreams, hopes, plans and goals as well. A large part of self understanding is the search for appropriate personal metaphors that make sense of our lives.
Self-understanding requires unending negotiation and renegotiation of the meaning of our experiences to ourself, including consciously recognizing previously unconscious metaphors and how we have framed situations in terms of them. It involves the constant construction of new coherences and perspectives in our lives that give new meaning to old experiences. The process of self knowledge and self direction is the continual development of new life stories for ourselves.
Our relationship to ourself will be established by our degree of psychological wellness. For instance, some people may be quite isolated from themselves, caught up in trying to meet society's ideals. Such isolation and incongruity may stem from a mixture of their biological makeup and epigenetic changes caused by unfortunate or impoverished earlier life experiences that psychologically they have not moved beyond. The results of this can include insufficient sense of identity, poor self control, and poor access to their own real feelings and thoughts.
We relate to ourselves not just in terms of our past, but also in terms of our present and future: for instance, we think and feel about current and future relationships with others. Our capacity for self-understanding presupposes the capacity for mutual understanding.
relationships and mutual understanding - understanding others
The relationships that interest us most are those with the greatest potential for interaction and development in ourselves and others, or in ourselves and our environment. People outwardly relate to others in terms of their thoughts, feelings, physical responses and how they communicate and interact.
Problems of mutual misunderstanding are not unusual; they arise in all extended conversations where understanding is important. They do however affect neurohackers in a particular way. When people don't share the same background, knowledge, values, associations and assumptions as ourselves, mutual understanding is going to be difficult, and this is a particularly an issue for advanced neurohackers who tend know a lot more about themselves and humanity in general than it knows (and, importantly, a lot more than it wants to know) about itself.
How we think and what we think about matters. We all frame things differently; in terms of our own metaphors; our own 'life stories'. Is a relationship a partnership, a means for pacifying anxiety, a journey through life together, a hiding place from the real world, a means for further development, an adventure, a merging of minds, a replacement matrix for parents? How does the other person frame the relationship? Drastic metaphorical differences can result in interpersonal conflict.
For example, imagine if one person views a relationship as a partnership, and the other person views it as a hiding place from the real world. The interaction necessary in a partnership may well be at odds with the anxiety relief the second person gets from viewing the relationship as a means of hiding. We are living in different stories. We need to create a shared story with shared metaphors.
In our societies, meaning is rarely communicated via the simple 'conduit' metaphor; as in one person transmitting a totally clear proposition to another in terms of a mutually shared understanding of reality; where both parties have all the relevant common knowledge, assumptions, values etc. Usually, meaning is negotiated; people slowly figure out what they have in common, what they are able to talk about, how they can communicate unshared experience or create a shared vision. Interaction is possible only via shared meaning, and it is possible to negotiate meaning between persons with different metaphoric frames only if we have a context of core conditions for interaction.
To negotiate meaning with someone, we have to become aware of, recognize, empathize with and respect both the differences in your backgrounds and when these differences are important. We need enough diversity of cultural and personal experience to be aware that divergent views of reality do exist and enough imagination to discern what they might be like. We also need patience, a certain flexibility in world view, and a general tolerance for mistakes, all of which will be learned from. Finally, we need sufficient practice (experience) in finding the best metaphors to communicate the relevant parts of unshared experiences, or to highlight the shared experiences as what is important.
Metaphorical imagination is a crucial skill in creating rapport and in communicating the nature of unshared experience. A lot depends on our ability to bend our world view and adjust the way we categorize experience.
In all relationships, people have roles, however a distinction must be made between stereotypical roles and archetypal roles. Stereotypical roles tend to be heavily influenced by traditional societal expectations of behavior for the role. Archetypal roles give us the basics but allow for spontaneity in our personal interpretations. Though a simplification, as relationships progress, people move beyond relating as they imagine society thinks they should be (stereotypical roles), to relating as they are and choose to become (archetypal roles).
Relationships as perceptions
All individuals exist in the subjective world of their perceptions. Our perceptions are our experience of reality; that is, what we end up believing is whatever the imagination thinks is true.
Relationships do not exist independently of people’s perceptions of them. Two people in the same relationship may well perceive and experience it differently. Thus within a two-person relationship, there are one person's perceptions and the other person's perceptions, as well as their joint perceptions.
Our perceptions influence all aspects of our relationships: with ourselves (for instance, not seeing some weakness we exhibit); with others (seeing only good qualities in someone to whom we are attracted); and with our context (the importance we attach to behaving in accordance with culture & biology or society's ideals).
Two people in a relationship do not just relate to each other. Instead we relate to our perceptions of ourselves, each other and our relationship, and these perceptions are of varying degrees of accuracy. Another way of stating this is that each of us develops a subject position for themselves and the other. These personifications – literally making up or fabricating our idea of a person – are the mental maps that guide our relationship journeys. In distressed relationships, misunderstandings can begin and be maintained by partners developing and holding on to distorted pictures or subject positions of each other and of themselves.
It's no surprise that the healthiest relationships are maintained by the mentally healthiest people; those who already have themselves sorted out are better at relating to others in general. But adept relationship interactions are not developed overnight and most of us would appreciate any help we can get with regard to improving relationships and eliminating conflict. It is with this in mind that we practice the mental and behavioral skills necessary for maintaining good relations.
Couples with strong relationships have a particular way of responding to each other when good things happen; called the “interactive and constructive” (sometimes, 'active and constructive') response.
Interactive and constructive responses are characterized by sincere enthusiasm for good events being described, by being excited and happy for the other person and by showing genuine interest in the good event being described.
Do it now – questions to consider
Who can you rely on when you need help with a challenge or things fuck up? A housemate? partner? parents? family member? Friends?
Why do you think connecting with people is so important for happiness?
If you have a partner, are you positively affecting each other’s lives?
When you're with friends, how often do you laugh together?
How do you show your fondness for others? With behavior? With words? With regular contact? With gifts? Which do you think makes the most beneficial impression on biology?
If your partner gets good news, do you respond in an interactive and constructive way?
How do you feel when others find your partner attractive? Proud, grateful or scared? Why?
Are you honest with intended partners about your preferences regarding monogamy/ polygamy/ polyamory? Do you have this conversation before sex or after it?
Do you feel that your current partner/s / friends are truly sensible enough to be absolutely honest with?
Communication & interaction
Connection and communication are the essential characteristics of relationships. People in relationships exist in some connection with one another, be it love, learning, lust, friendship, partnership or acquaintance. Isolation or being placed apart from others requires very different skills from relationships, though even in isolation people can mentally relate to others. From our 'safe space' of individuality and autonomy, humans naturally strive to relate to everything in beneficial ways.
context gives meaning
All relationships take place within environmental/conditional contexts; for instance, the conditional contexts of two people contemplating parenthood include their location, resources, lifestyle, families, friends, acquaintances, culture, beliefs, knowledge, and so on. The enriched or impoverished environments in which relationships take place provide important contexts: for instance, homes, forests, communities, or schools, workplaces and streets. An important aspect of such contexts is that, private or public, all biological contexts provide expectations about appropriate and inappropriate behavior, because we don't stop being biological lifeforms just because we go into a building or onto a beach. Counterfeit game contexts, on the other hand, provide synthetic parochial rules and inappropriate expectations.
Isolation in the real world is never complete – we can choose the most remote area and still find life thriving in it (often human life). Spending time by ourselves is not isolation. But if we isolate ourselves in a counterfeit game, we isolate ourselves from real meaning; we are stuck with interpreting the game as 'reality' and interpreting meaning only within the context of the game. Thought is not free to process data openly; conclusions must remain consistent with the game rules. And counterfeit game rules usually disempower and dehumanize people and make them dependent.
We'll look more closely into the importance of context to intelligence later in this tutorial.
Humans are cooperative creatures designed for compassionate and cooperative ways of living. Healthy interaction between people who share space (communities, groups, tribes) is a biological imperative important for happiness and wellbeing.
One of the greatest ways of sustaining our happiness is to do stuff with others. Research shows that when individuals cooperate in friendship networks to achieve goals towards greater happiness, their chances of succeeding improve. New Years' resolutions and weight loss goals, when attempted with others, achieve higher success-rate levels than when done alone.
We know from studies of anxiety reduction that happier people can positively influence the happiness of others. Automatically affecting the happiness of others is an incidental by-product of any strategy of living happily. A common form of contributing to others’ happiness is through acts of benevolence or gregariousness, and doing beneficial things such as creative projects with others can provide greater meaning and purpose.
Research indicates that when individuals experience happiness themselves, they tend to automatically inspire others or to be a beneficial influence in improving their quality of life. It is important to remember the difference between intent and intention here. Intent is biology's unconscious imperative to accomplish friendship bonds and creative cooperative interaction. Intention is the conscious decision to deliberately attempt to influence another (ie, coercion).
Empathy & empathic projection
Empathy describes not only our ability to share the emotions of others but also to exert cognitive control over our own behavior, and perspective-taking in our interactions. Accordingly, models of empathy highlight that the concept comprises at least three key components: cognitive empathy (theory of mind) – predicting and understanding another's mental state by using cognitive processes; affective empathy – experiencing an appropriate healthy emotional response as a consequence of another's state; and empathic projection – imagining how someone else feels, what they experience etc., for modeling and learning from others.
Results suggest that inter-individual variability in different aspects of empathy is linked with distinct morphological changes in separate brain regions. Differences in self-oriented affective empathy are positively correlated with volume in the insula; cognitive perspective taking abilities are positively correlated with gray matter volume of the anterior cingulate; and the ability to empathise with/place oneself into imaginary situations and/or empathise with fictional characters is positively related to gray matter changes in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
Those tending to low empathy, more frequent bouts of high anxiety, and 'bully' behavior tend to have enlarged amygdalae, while those tending to high empathy and low anxiety who do not indulge in either 'bully' or 'wimp' behavior have thicker anterior cingulates.
Do it now – questions to consider
Do you believe that you can automatically help others become happier?
What strategies and attitudes would you use to get involved with new joint projects?
List the ways that you know you can automatically influence others' happiness via input and output control.
Where could you go to meet new, interesting friends?
Explain the difference between inspiring someone towards better behavior and coercing them into better behavior.
Being creative and curious can be a strategy to intentionally increase our well-being and pleasure. Curiosity is about appreciating and seeking out the new. It’s about being flexible, recognizing the novelty and freshness of the familiar. Instead of trying anxiously to control the world, as a curious explorer we embrace uncertainty.
Deliberately set aside enough time as play time just for you; either alone or with friends. Either way, make some kind of play a fun, daily priority.
Individuals who practice a creative craft, skill, or art often experience elevated states of happiness, passion, and fulfillment. Creativity enables us to get lost in the moment, be immersed completely in an activity, experience harmony – the optimal experience called “flow.”
Research reveals that people experience flow when they are doing something they enjoy the most; whether it's singing, dancing, playing games, painting, writing, making something, playing music or climbing a mountain. It is important to note that active engagement, ie, DOING is an essential component of flow; rather than passive activities such as watching a movie or attending a concert.
Do it now – questions to consider
What things can you do to increase and/or sustain your levels of creative behaviors?
Which kinds of creative activities are best suited for you?
The term autonomy literally refers to regulation by the self. Its opposite, heteronomy, refers to controlled regulation, or regulation that occurs without self-endorsement.
Controlled regulation, or 'doing things of your own free will' does not mean listening to someone else telling you what to do and then agreeing with them that you want to do it (or at least, don't really mind doing it); the point is YOU are supposed to decide what to do without outside suggestion unless you decide you need help.
Friends help each other out, cooperation and empathy are essential ingredients of personal happiness. Cooperation and empathy are learned skills we cultivate to help us build high quality connections and successful interaction. Being curious and attuned to people and seeing the best in each other by spotting strengths and sharing visions for best possible futures are among the best strategies for improving relationships. But this does not mean cultivating dependencies. All relationships should encourage autonomy for all parties.
When we do need help, we often need to reframe what we seek in terms of autonomy. For example, if something breaks down, instead of seeking somebody who is able to fix it, what we should be seeking is someone who can show us how to fix it ourselves. If we need help solving a problem, we should seek those who can show us how to solve it ourselves. Instead of seeking 'self help' books or programs, we should be seeking enough understanding of ourselves to write self help programs for ourselves. That's what 'helping yourself' MEANS.
Perceived Locus of Control is considered to be an important aspect affecting personality and cognitive ability. A locus of control orientation is a belief about whether the outcomes of our behaviors are contingent on what we do (internal control orientation) or on events outside our personal control (external control orientation).
Locus of Control refers to an individual's perception about the underlying main causes of events in his/her life. Or, more simply: Do you believe consciously that your destiny is controlled by yourself or by external forces (such as fate, luck, god, society, or powerful others)? Do you believe that your behavior is similarly controlled? These beliefs guide what kinds of attitudes and behaviors we adopt.
It is obviously psychologically healthy to perceive (correctly) that one has control over those things which one really IS capable of influencing (such as where we choose to be), and to be aware of one's lack of control over things one is not capable of influencing (such as the weather).
In psychological terms, 'a more internal locus of control is generally seen as desirable'. Having an Internal locus of control can also be referred to as “autonomy”. "self-agency", "personal control", "self-determination", etc. However, it's important to avoid lapsing into the overly simplistic view that internal-based control is good and external control is bad. There are no absolutes in biology, and there are important variations and complexities to be considered.
Internal control can still be psychologically unhealthy and unstable in anyone delusional. Control needs to be matched with competence, self-efficacy and opportunity so that the person is able to successfully experience the sense of personal control and responsibility. Those who lack competence, efficacy and opportunity can become neurotic, anxious and depressed.
Allowing external control is necessary in many types of learning and performance; for example allowing someone to reposition your limbs if you are learning martial arts, or following the conductor if you are playing in an orchestra. But note the keyword, 'allowing'.
Research indicates that that external locus of control is often learned by conditioning. Some interventions have been found to produce shifts towards internal locus of control (e.g., outdoor activities, creative play.)
We include a self assessment for locus of control later in this tutorial.
Do it now – questions to consider
How much of what you spend your life doing is stuff that you genuinely want to do? Literally, how many hours a day?
In what ways do your interactions enable or encourage you to experience greater independence?
In what ways do your interactions enable or encourage others to experience greater independence?
Think of five things most people could do to become more independent.
Do you depend on others to do things or fix things instead of trying to learn how to do them yourself?
What needs fixing or sorting out, mending or making right now that you could learn to do yourself?
Do you buy food, swap food, steal food, hunt food, eat someone else's food, forage for food or grow food? How much of each? (If someone else buys your food and cooks it for you, this counts as 'eating someone else's food' unless you pay them).
Do you prepare your own food from raw fresh ingredients, or use processed food? How much of each?
Do you have debts or other arrangements that reduce your autonomy?
There is no such thing as a life with only benefits and no dangers, and a key ingredient to happiness and healthy development is being able to recover from adversity.
Resilience is the ability to overcome obstacles, to bounce back from a failure or a setback. It’s the ability to steer through the everyday stressors that we all face, so that no matter what life puts in our path, we’re still able to persist and go after our goals.
Many people have heard of the concept of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as it is frequently profiled in the news and in discussions of soldiers returning from war. What gets less attention is a phenomenon known as Post Traumatic Growth (PTG). Research shows that nearly two thirds of people who experience a traumatic event are more resilient after they experience the event than they were before.
When necessary, perception rewrites genetic instructions. If an environment is perceived to be full of stressors that we don't currently have the resilience to respond to, we have a mechanism for genetic resource change in response to need.
It is likely that PTG is the healthy way to respond after a trauma or series of high stressors that results from the operation of basic human adaptational systems. If those systems are protected and in good working order, development is robust even in the face of severe adversity.
Maintaining mindful awareness of reality is a great strategy for maintaining resilience in the face of action/reaction responses. Mainstream media's negativity bias also needs to be borne in mind, and we may sometimes need to search further for positive input to maintain a realistic grasp on reality.
There are 'universal safe' behaviors that can help when traveling through dodgy territories; appearing to be busy, humble and not drawing attention to yourself are some of the best. But this still won't help if you choose to go or stay somewhere impoverished with low personal freedom and a lot of nutters, or anywhere you need to interact a lot with the 'general public'.
Events likely to decrease resilience include the influence of others who spend a lot of time around us. We unconsciously up- or down-regulate our own cell receptors to match the levels in those around us, in response to pheromones that we cannot consciously smell.
Events likely to increase resilience include laughter and happiness. Happiness has very distinct measurable epigenetic influence on our biology, lowering inflammatory gene expression and strengthening antiviral and antibody responses, for example.
Factors indicating that we are successfully increasing resilience include changing our priorities about what is important in life, having a greater appreciation for the value of our own life, having a greater feeling of self reliance and self confidence, being better able to comprehend and accept the way things work out, having more empathy and understanding of others, being less gullible or easily fooled, being more aware and more likely to try to change things which need changing and of course, being a lot less anxious.
Posttraumatic growth and resilience itself is facilitated by lowering anxiety, relating to others, exploring new possibilities, personal integrity, spiritual development and appreciation for life.
Do it now – questions to consider
What is resilience?
Do you think good and bad events affect our long-term happiness?
What do you think the benefits of resilience are?
Do you believe that resilient people must always go it alone?
How much uncertainty and ambiguity can you tolerate without getting anxious?
If you don't know what's going on, do you jump to conclusions?
Do you see difficulties as temporary, expect to overcome them, and believe things will turn out well?
Do you feel you've been made wiser and more intelligent through past difficult experiences?
List 4 activities than can increase resilience.
Accurate self assessment
Self-assessment is an intrinsically difficult task, and there are several obstacles that prevent people from reaching truthful self-impressions. In general, most people's self-views hold only a tenuous to modest relationship with their actual behavior and performance. Training yourself to accurately assess your progress is all part of NH practice and this is why it is wise to do regular assessments.
Among the 'general public', correlation between self-ratings of skill and actual performance in many domains is moderate to meager; indeed, at times, other people's predictions of a person's outcomes prove more accurate than that person's self-predictions. In addition, 'WEIRD' people overrate themselves. On average, people say that they are “above average” in skill (a conclusion that defies statistical possibility), overestimate the likelihood that they will engage in desirable behaviors and achieve favorable outcomes, furnish overly optimistic estimates of when they will complete future projects, and reach judgments with too much confidence for the evidence available. Several psychological problems also produce flawed self-assessments.
Research focusing on health awareness echoes these findings. People are unrealistically optimistic about their own health (and dangers to it) compared with that of other people. Guided by mistaken but seemingly plausible theories of health and disease, people also misdiagnose themselves—a phenomenon that can have severe consequences for their health and longevity.
Several interventions are introduced in NH Tutorials to prompt us to evaluate our skill and learning more accurately; these include awareness of biased self-assessments, examination of where to find reliable evidence, and practice at functional analysis.
The issue of self-report inaccuracy is also important in the accuracy of scientific information, because studies that use self-assessment are regularly reported in the media as 'fact' and therefore have a significant impact on how the general public perceive scientific research.
troubleshooting self assessments
The following areas should be considered:
Self-assessments or questionnaires are relying on the honesty of their participants. The degree to which this is a problem varies with the topic , for example people are less likely to be honest about measures relating to sexual behavior, or drug use, than they are about caffeine consumption, although it is unwise to assume, even when you are measuring something relatively benign, that responses will always be truthful.
The level at which people want to manage how they appear varies depending on anxiety. Those in counterfeit games will answer according to what they think the reader/s want to hear. They present their best example of 'society's ideal self' and do not answer as their real selves. This is why students of these tutorials do not send their assessments in 'to be marked'. Only you will ever see them.
We may be trying to be honest, yet may lack the introspective ability to provide an accurate response to a question. We are probably all aware of people who appear to view themselves in a completely different light to how others see them. Undoubtedly we are all to some extent unable to introspectively assess ourselves completely accurately. Therefore any self-report information we provide may be incorrect despite low anxiety and our best efforts to be honest and accurate.
If you have trusted friends, a good validity check of self assessment is to ask two of them to rate you on the items and see what scores THEY come up with. Have a discussion with them about each of the items where there is a discrepancy and listen to what they say. You can all perform this service for each other.
We also vary regarding our comprehension or interpretation of particular questions. This is less a problem if measuring concrete things like alcohol consumption, but is a very big problem when measuring more abstract concepts such as our regular behaviors or overall personality.
Poor questions lead to inaccurate answers and incorrect ratings. Don't take the results of 'mainstream' quizzes and questionnaires, 'personality inventories' or astrological predictions seriously. Use the scientific community's tools; they are there (and here) at your disposal.
It's of no use expecting an accurate result from an advanced assessment if you're a newbie to NH. You're not going to comprehend a lot of the terms and you may well misinterpret them. Always do things in the right order!
Many questionnaires use rating scales that allow us to provide more nuanced responses than just yes/no. While yes/no questions do often appear restrictive in terms of how we can respond, using rating scales can bring their own problems. People interpret and use scales differently, what I might rate as ‘8’ on a 10 point scale, someone with the same opinion might only rate as a ‘6’ because they interpret the meanings of the scale points differently.
Research suggests that people have different ways of filling out ratings scales. Some people are ‘extreme responders’ who like to use the edges of the scales, whereas other like to hug around the midpoints and rarely use the most outer points. This naturally produces differences in scores between individuals that results in inaccurate assessment.
This refers to an individual’s tendency to respond a certain way, regardless of the actual evidence they are assessing. For example on a yes/no questionnaire asking about personal experiences, some participants might be biased towards responding yes (i.e. they may only require minimal evidence to decide on a yes response, so if an experience has happened only once they may still respond ‘yes’ to a question relating to whether they have had that experience). Alternatively other participants may have a conservative response bias and only respond positively to such questions if the experience being inquired about has happened regularly.
Do it now – questions to consider
Has your sense of humor ever gotten you into trouble?
Has asking questions ever gotten you into trouble?
Has your effort to anticipate problems ever had someone accuse you of having a
Has your ability to understand both sides of a conflict ever confused others?
A positive answer to any of these indicates you may be underestimating yourself on measures of resilience, self confidence or self esteem. OR it could mean you're hanging out with dumb people. Or both.
On the other hand...
Have you ever tried to help people and they got annoyed with you?
Have you ever suggested ways others might solve their problems but just been ignored?
Has your effort to anticipate problems ever had someone accuse you of causing them or 'stirring it'?
Has your attempt to calm someone down ever resulted in them getting more upset?
A positive answer to any of these indicates you may be overestimating yourself on measures of confidence, rectitude and empathy. OR it could mean you're hanging out with dumb people. Or both. You see the difficulties here, right?
We are never going to feel comfortable if we feel that we don't understand what is going on. We can tolerate chaos to some extent, but ongoing uncertainty and lack of comprehension raise anxiety and obstruct development, resulting ultimately in either burnout or shocked withdrawal; the nervous system 'breaks down' to the extent that we are no longer able to function on a day-to-day basis until the confusion is resolved.
Intelligence attempts discernment on an ongoing basis. The more congruity we have, the greater our chance of full comprehension. We will look into comprehension in much greater depth in the next brain section below.
Do it now – questions to consider
Imagine you overhear the statement, 'Alice shot quite a lot'.
Do you understand the meaning of the words in the statement?
Do you comprehend what the statement means?
What extra information do you need for comprehension?
Consider the statement, 'I think we should let it run'.
How many different ways could you interpret this?
Here is a phrase from a story:
'Asirret loves Vedilling.'
How many contexts are possible with different meanings for each word?
What enables comprehension more than anything else?
What is intelligence doing?
One thing we can say for certain about what human intelligence is doing is that it is creating knowledge. Intelligence seeks and creates explanations (as opposed to mere predictions) in knowledge creation, and the significance of knowledge and knowledge creating organisms in the universe is immense.
'Knowledge' is information with good explanatory function that has proven resistant to falsification. We have, through culture, initiated a potentially unending sequence of purposeful knowledge creation.
The ability to create and use explanatory knowledge gives humans a power to transform their environment and themselves which is ultimately not limited by parochial factors, but only by universal laws.
This is the cosmic significance of explanatory knowledge – and hence of humans. We are, as far as we know, the only entities that can create explanatory knowledge. Humans, and the purposeful creation of knowledge, are not only subjectively significant: they are by far the most significant phenomena in nature.
What happens if things go wrong
biological imperatives not met
Our two usual suspects are behind this:
what are we doing (wrong input)?
what are we not doing (lack of input)?
Epigenetics has the potential to explain various biological phenomena that reveal the concrete reality of 'wrong input' and 'lack of input'. Epigenetic expression is often thought of as the “software” of the genome because it directs embryogenesis and development, as well as influencing the development of an individual's body and brain after birth. We have genes whose function it is to rewrite other genes hen necessary. Unique sets of genes are induced or silenced epigenetically during different stages of development and these are responsible for the maturation of the individual; through orchestrated events in combination with input from the environment.
While such flexibility gives rise to beneficial adaptability to environmental conditions, it likewise allows weaknesses to integrate and exert negative and dysfunctional outcomes on both individual and evolutionary scales. Any kind of epigenetic factors deleteriously influencing genes, or gene expression networks during life stages, can result in an imbalance in the development process.
The success of epigenetic mechanisms in generating healthy outcomes relies upon input being genuine, real and consistent. It could be argued that if we drift through life accepting everything in front of us as 'input', the mechanism won't work; but this is an illusion: the mechanism will still work to produce whatever it thinks is needed, and if everything it receives via the senses is depressing and violent, or banal and shallow, it will work hard to adapt us to 'fit in' with what it believes are our real surroundings. This is the unseen danger of TV and other media as wrong input – epigenetics expects (and has evolved to work with) signals from ongoing reality; stuff going on in the real world.
Ultimately, the environment presents various factors to the individual that influence the epigenome, and the unique epigenetic and genetic profile of each individual also modulates their specific response to these factors. During the course of human life, we are constantly exposed to an environment that abounds with potent and dynamic input capable of triggering chemical changes that activate or silence genes.
There is constant interaction between the external and internal environments that is required for normal development and health maintenance as well as for influencing disease resistance and resilience. For example, exposure to pharmaceutical and toxic chemicals, diet, stress, exercise, and other environmental factors are capable of eliciting positive or negative epigenetic modifications with lasting effects on development, metabolism and health. These can impact the body so profoundly because they permanently alter the epigenetic profile of an individual.
Understanding how these diverse environmental factors cause both direct and indirect epigenetic changes can ultimately help us to improve both personalized medicine and individual mental performance.
Epigenetic signals fine-tune cell functions through changes in gene expression across the lifespan. A flexible epigenome allows us to adjust to changes in the world around us, and to learn from our experiences. Epigenetic hacking is a fast-track to reversing the results of harmful habits.
We include some epigenetic hacking notes in the Hacks & Exercises section of this tutorial.
barriers between real life discovery & public understanding
Research will continue to uncover the truth. Whether any of it will filter through to mainstream awareness remains unknown. Certainly there will be some efforts to obfuscate, but this is nothing new (see William Windle's work on parental epigenetic factors in childcare – if you can find it). It is also unlikely that either society's conditioning methods or its parochial propaganda will be addressed anytime soon. Currently, of all the subjects addressed in schools across 'WEIRD' territories, nowhere are mental skills promoted, demonstrated, studied or learned. Nor are they addressed in any mainstream counseling or therapy for mental problems.
Arguably the widespread acquisition of mental skills throughout humanity is fundamental to our pursuing benefits and avoiding harm on a daily basis and ultimately, the survival of our species depends on the existence of sufficient persons with sufficient mental skills. Yet to date, no so-called educator, therapist or method has placed an emphasis on explicitly identifying mental skills and demonstrating them for modeling. There is plenty of assessment of mental skills throughout the world of therapy, but absolutely no training for autonomy in them.
We (maybe) expect teachers, doctors, therapists and counselors to have mental skills themselves, yet we don't have any workable methods for these skills to be imparted, discussed, shared with or demonstrated to those interested, for they are too busy dealing with the ever-increasing problems caused by battling to work with an unworkable system.
Nor do most parents show their children the skills required for robust thinking; the basics of HOW to think well; being on the whole far too fixated on trying to tell them all the details of what they are 'supposed' to think ABOUT. Nobody ever mentions the concept of wisdom these days, and even rationality gets shoved under the carpet and ignored in most households. Plenty of parents, teachers and friends consistently demonstrate stupidity, but few consistently demonstrate intelligence.
Not to apply the concept of skills to human functioning creates big problems for anyone who is thinking about how to improve their lives and human life in general, but can't find the information they need to acquire mental skills. Mental skills are ultimately grounded in human biology and are a biological imperative; an evolutionary requirement for survival and ultimately thriving of the species. In a sane context, mental skills would be at center stage throughout our development and education.
We discuss methods for improving mental skills in the methods & tech section of this tutorial and in previous tutorials, and you are encouraged to make good use of them.
Reasons communications fail
We have a colloquial term for our general impressions of a person, place or event; we call it 'vibes'. Vibes is short for 'vibrations', and while it's a fairly straightforward correlation in music (where 'good vibes' means good music) it extends as a metaphor on several levels.
In emotional terms 'bad vibes' in a place refers to stuff like the atmosphere in a room just after a row. Good vibes refers to 'friendly or inspiring atmosphere'. In personal relations, 'bad vibes', is used to describe being around someone in a bad mood, paranoid or hostile, and good vibes to describe a friendly, happy person.
In material and spatial terms a place may have bad vibes due (for examples) to cramped, dark or dirty surroundings, depressing décor, uncomfortable furniture, oppressive surveillance, or cold and damp conditions.
What we are labeling with the concept 'vibes' in personal relations is our impressions of another person's state of mind. This impression is made up of a lot of things, including appearance, pheromones, tone of voice and body language.
In communication, the overall 'vibe' from place, persons and circumstances sets the overall context, especially in terms of emotional weighting, for any communication before we even speak. People can 'feel uncomfortable' in a place or with others, before any words are exchanged.
If people don't feel comfortable they're unlikely to be giving off 'good vibes', and if you're surrounded by bad vibes, you're unlikely to feel good. Creating a space that has good vibes encourages healthy communication.
We need a high quality of listening and speaking when communicating in relationships, in order to comprehend what is really being communicated (rather than what is being said). We particularly need a high quality of listening and speaking when strong feelings and needs are involved.
The habitual ways we have been taught to communicate and the scripts we use in counterfeit games tend to alienate us from each other rather than encouraging cooperation. Rather than promoting understanding and care when feelings are running high, our speaking and listening habits often intensify anxiety, as they focus on judging, error-spotting, comparative evaluation, blame, reasons for disapproval, accusations, diagnoses of what's wrong with each other, demands, complaints, commands, ridicule and (unconstructive) criticism.
We find it hard to express ourselves honestly without attacking. We moan a lot about what we don't like or don't want, but don't talk much about what we do like or do want. These are action/reaction strategies, rather than strategies for interaction.
Many societies teach these aggressive, competitive methods of communication as normal and useful, so many of us find our communication efforts painful and distressing, but we don't know why.
Bad communication habits were discussed in Tutorial 14; to remind you they include:
Coercion; i.e. attempting to control others, however subtly, by invoking fear, guilt, shame, obligation, etc.
Counterfeit moral judgments
implying wrongness or badness on the part of people who don't act according to counterfeit game values and thus raise anxiety. Blame, insults, put-downs, labels, unproductive criticisms, ad hominem, comparisons, subject positioning, and opinion-based diagnoses of 'character' or 'type' are all forms of judgment based on anxiety; not rationality. Anxiety sets up barriers by forcing us to focus via long range senses on visual and behavioral differences between us; and usurps intellect for classifying, analyzing, and determining levels of danger, harm, wrongness or threat, rather than on comprehending what is really going on and discerning what input we and others need that we are not getting (that is raising the anxiety in the first place).
Demands or commands
that implicitly or explicitly threaten listeners with blame or punishment if they fail to comply. Coercion via emotional blackmail is a notable example of this.
Denial of responsibility
via language that obscures awareness of personal responsibility. We deny responsibility for our behavior when we play 'the blame game', or attribute poor outcomes to synthetic rules (“Computer says no”) or personal lack of control ("I couldn't help it").
between people in one (usually parochial) context. Inexperience plus conditioning results in a parochial intelligence; that is to say, society/ the counterfeit game is the box and it cannot think outside the box. It is 'narrow minded' or close-minded.
Parochial thinking mistakes appearances (a counterfeit game) for reality, subjective preferences for objective quality, and/or local regularities for universal laws. People who think parochially usually grew up in a particular game and assume that the rules of their particular local counterfeit game are (or, morally, should be) applied universally to all people everywhere. This can manifest as large scale fundamentalist religious and political beliefs, or smaller dysfunctional groups (sometimes called 'towns') based on bullying behaviors considered as 'normal' in the game ('I drink ten pints and I beat my wife; that's the way we do things round here').
Parochial thinking is a major cause of offense, shock, alarm and disgust in relationships, so it's worth understanding the basics:
We have to comprehend that the rules WE were taught while growing up about what good manners are, about what behaviors are expected and acceptable, were probably parochial. That means they're limited to specific interactions in the specific conditions we grew up in, which for most of us was variations on a conditioning box. Kids in nursery and school are lab rats in cages, and we are seeing the results of raising caged people, needful of yet fearful of the reality context they were meant to grow up in.
Counterfeit game rules are parochial – they only apply within the context of the local game, thus if we were to visit a dozen different societies we would find a dozen different interpretations of the same behaviors and communications.
Get used to the fact that once they let you out and especially when you go somewhere different ad start meeting new people, everywhere you go folks are playing a different game and the behavioral rules that you were taught do not apply. They do things differently here. We have most likely been taught to behave according to a set of rules for continuing to live in captivity, servitude and dependence within a specific counterfeit context. We need to learn (or rather, remember and live by) the universal rules for living in freedom in real life, for they are applicable everywhere. If you don't know them, you will not know how to meet your own needs in different circumstances, you will not know how to work with others to meet their needs, and relationships are unlikely to thrive anywhere unless you do.
Travelers are familiar with this; something illegal in one place will be legal in another, something acceptable in one place is considered very rude in another, a behavior that makes people laugh in location A may well get you arrested or worse in location B, and so on.
Exploring other societies and other ways of doing things (via social anthropology, for example) is the best cure for being stuck in parochial relationships and attitudes. For example, there are many, many different types of relationships, worldwide, between sexual partners. Humans have tried all sort of different arrangements. If you had grown up in a different society, you could now be happily living somewhere in an arranged marriage with an extended family, or where you are legally married to several partners, or living in a place where there is no such thing as marriage and lovers just hang out in each others' homes, or somewhere you are married but expected by your society to take a lover, or living happily single with children, or living in a 'free love' commune where people sleep with whomever they want to, with mutual consent and no strings attached, or in a community where there is no sexual involvement at all, and none is expected.
All these are alternative, equally legitimate, workable ways of living together happily, in various societies across the world right now. All these arrangements work equally well for those who live in them. None is 'better than' or 'worse than' any other; they are just different ways of doing things (and from biology's pov it's very, very good that we have so many different ways of doing things, because regardless of the details, basics matter; and if one group fucks up and dies out due to unworkable relationships, others will still prevail). Adapting ourselves to be able to find happiness and contentment in all these different and varied circumstances is a very intelligent strategy for any species.
The details do not matter – whether we shake hands, salute, hug each other, kiss cheeks, or bow. The basics matter – that we comprehend how to greet each other politely and are able to model each others' ways of doing things. A mature mind has unrestricted intelligence, and can adapt rapidly and change beneficially in a very wide variety of circumstances.
Moaning & criticizing
Some people rarely speak except to complain and grumble about their difficulties to everyone who will listen, or get vocal on how awful other people are. In relationships they use the same habit and spend a lot of time complaining about things the other person does/ fails to do.
Failure to notice the fact that anything others do is absolutely none of your business unless they are addressing you directly is behind this behavior, along with the belief that others 'if they love you', 'ought' to care about your problems.
Usually, others are not very interested in your problems. That's why they're YOUR problems. Others have quite enough to do dealing with their own problems. Keep your own problems private, unless you genuinely seek help or information in dealing with them. And don't assume that because someone confides in you they need your advice, or you need to interrogate them or lecture them with your opinions. It's much more likely that they just needed to talk about something out loud in order to get a clearer understanding of it. Any trusted listener would do – so you are privileged if someone feels safe enough being with you to talk in this way.
Asking for help is a different matter and if you really are stuck, by all means do so. Likewise if you have solutions to share, do so. But unconstructive criticism of others' faults or moaning with no plan for change is an absolutely pointless waste of time.
Unequal power relations
usually via a premise of superiority; assuming that we have some kind of 'right' to interfere with other people's lives without their informed consent. Many people have a glorified delusion of self-importance, and since this is very common in relationship communication problems, so let's get it straight. In real life, you have no automatic 'rights'. It's a fictional construct. You have no 'right' to be paid attention to by any other living being. You have no 'right' to interfere with any other life. Nobody has 'authority' over anybody else, as far as biology is concerned.
Energetic practice is necessary to get rid of this delusion. Nobody has any 'right' to tell anyone else what to do or to pay unwanted attention to what others are doing. Respect includes respecting others' privacy.
For intelligent people, there is no point being 'against authority' because there is no real 'authority'. There are just fictional games filled with delusions, which some people outgrow (often by their own efforts) and some just don't. Once you outgrow counterfeit games, and are engaging with real life, you will come to recognize real power as the ability to interact, and valuable resources as trustworthy allies. This is the path to a successful life strategy in which your most valuable ally of all is intelligence.
Communication with core conditions (CCC) can help to overcome bad communication habits such as those discussed above, with or without Core Counseling. We include an introduction to CCC in the Methods & Tech section, and some CCC exercises in the Hacks & Exercises section of this tutorial.
Decision making dilemmas
All decision-making; all discernment, is problem-solving. Society presents decision making as though it were a process of selecting from existing options according to an existing formula, and calls this 'choice'. But deciding between options should be the latter part of decision-making, when we need to approach closed mode. Most of the process of decision-making in real life takes place in open mode and consists of fully comprehending to the best of our ability what the choices available to us actually are, and narrowing them down.
Without this open mode part, there is no freedom of decision; there is just a set of somebody else's preset choices to choose between; like in those role playing games where you choose between the red pill or the blue pill, but are not free to invent a green pill or refuse to take any pills at all.
Making a decision is choosing an explanation, and creatively changing the options is what allows people in real life to cooperate in ways previously unthought of, and what allows individual minds to make decisions at all.
Rational decision making is not so much about weighting evidence but about explaining and comprehending it. Arguments are attempted explanations, and accurate explanations are hard to vary.
The trick of society's counterfeit games is to condition psychological development sufficient that those conditioned face high anxiety and emotional trauma if they ever consider deviating from the 'ideal' behaviors. We are not conditioned to 'decide for ourselves', we are conditioned to depend on others to decide what's best for us.
A static society aims at leaving no escape from this conditioning; all behavior, all relationships between people, and all thoughts are subordinated to the role of faithful servant to the game. No critical faculties are exercised, no innovation is tolerated, and almost none is attempted. Static societies consist of a relentless ongoing struggle to prevent change; to prevent knowledge from growing, surviving by virtually eliminating all the creative variation biology intended to meet our collective and individual needs.
Preventing change is preventing development. Learning and creating knowledge are inherent human needs; biological imperatives we need in order to achieve maturity, and static societies prevent their realization with creativity-suppressing mechanisms which, if left unchecked, become catastrophically harmful. Regardless of their differences, counterfeit games leave their players chronically obstructed in their attempts to achieve anything positive for themselves as individuals, or indeed anything at all, other than 'ideal' game behaviors. Fake games can perpetuate themselves only by suppressing their players' self-expression.
The best way to avoid this sort of harm is to energetically participate in real life and focus attention on reality. Are the decisions you make truly autonomous or dictated by preset alternatives. Real life choices are rarely either-or; they are most usually IF = THEN.
wrong use in N5
The majority of people in WEIRD societies have a history of misusing network 5. The clearest sign that we are (or have recently been) misusing N5 is the presence of constant inner dialogue.
Inner chatter in words arises as frontal nets start to develop. We hear an inner voice (hopefully our own!) speaking our thoughts aloud 'inside our heads', and this is a normal development of originally speaking 'out loud' in infancy. All stages are temporary, however, and meant to be gone beyond; including this stage in which our thoughts arise as words. Our capacity to grasp and describe abstract concepts and states of mind can, if we receive the right input, lead us beyond our sensorimotor embodiment in word-thoughts. The quiet mind, free of inner dialogue, is rare because it comes with a high level of developmental maturity.
The best tools for initiating this development appear to be meditation, mindfulness and other anxiety reduction methods; physical, pharmacological or technical. It would seem that reducing anxiety alone is all that is required in many cases to reinitialize development and quieten down the inner chatter.
Obviously, wrong input must also be avoided, or development will become blocked again as habits fail to change. There are several key issues to remember in avoiding wrong use of N5:
hearing and repeating is not knowing
The current schooling paradigm assumes that if someone tells us something, and we remember what they said and can repeat it, we then 'know' that thing. We don't. We don't know anything; we have only been told something. We don't even know if the information is correct, let alone how it is relevant to the rest of our knowledge.
For example, here's how to learn Chinese, repeat after me, “Knee Hammer Sigh Chen”. If you remember that and can write it down in our exam, you know some Chinese. And now, here's how to play the flute: repeat after me: “you blow in one end and move your fingers over the holes”. If you remember that statement in 6 months and can write it down, you know how to play the flute. You get the problem here, right?
This is not false information; it's just disembodied from context; from experience in reality. Knowledge, to mean anything comprehensible, must be embodied in personal experience and relevant to a priori as well as empirical knowledge. It must have a coherent context; we must see the relevance of what we are studying in terms of relationships and associations with what we know already. There must always be a conduit between old knowledge and new. Disembodied knowledge can be remembered parrot fashion, but has no deeper meaning. It is 'chinese room' learning with no comprehension.
knowing is not fixing
Comprehending what's wrong with a situation does not enable us to fix it. Certainly we can use that information to avoid getting caught up in the same errors, but we cannot affect others' beliefs or behavior.
Certainly, good input can protect us from bad input, but even if we provide a good behavioral example it can only affect others minimally; depending on factors like how often they hang out with us, how seriously they take us, how paranoid they are to start with and how much attention they pay to the here and now.
This can be difficult to deal with if those we care about have problems that we understand but whose solution relies on their own personal understanding. Parents know this situation well; we've all had to stand by and watch our kids learn from experience that (for example) a lot of things, although harmless, really don't taste very nice.
Neither are we able to 'repair' society in general, because all counterfeit games are unworkable systems. Their very design consigns them to a cycle of excess growth and overconsumption followed by breakdown, this has been the case throughout history.
Personal change for the better relies on putting the theory (information) together with the practice (experience). But genuine change en masse relies on cultural progress (times in which science and arts are aimed at enabling our species' empowerment: discovery, exploration and clearer comprehension of reality), which is held back by society's requirements (times in which science and arts are aimed at enabling our species' dependence: the production of saleable products and services for marketing to consumers).
You know too much
Imagine you are out on a cold day and you have popped into a cafe because you fancied a warm drink. You get your tea or coffee but the tables are packed three a side and the only seat available is at a shared table. You sit down beside an elderly lady and a younger lady, whom you notice are eating sausages, eggs, beans and fries. The younger woman is busy on her cellphone, typing some message to a social media group, the older lady reading her horoscope in the daily newspaper. On the opposite side of the table are a lady about your age with a young boy, both busily sucking up diet coke through straws and tucking into waffles. The boy is watching some programme on an ipad with earphones in.
You may find yourself thinking, 'gosh, they're all heading for diabetes'; or, 'yuk, they're following a recipe for Alzheimers!' But the chances are you won't pay much attention. You know that most people don't look into these things and you're just glad you have the knowledge to avoid such issues...
...But now imagine the people are your mum, your sister, your girlfriend and your son.
You see the problem, right? You know too much, including a prime directive of 'no coercion', because you know that coercion causes harm.
Chances are if you meet anyone new, you are going to notice everything they do that is harmful, all the way from what toothpaste they use to whether they use an alarm clock. When it's a stranger it's ok. But the moment you start to like someone, and especially if you like them a lot, you'll encounter the 'don't be a preacher' problem. How can you NOT say anything while someone you love shovels down neurotoxins or puts drivel into their mind? It's particularly difficult with your children.
The common argument against such thought experiments is, well in real life I wouldn't go near such a place with my kids, so it's not a scenario which would arise. If you really are this sensible and have moved to a place that has no access to such things, then fair enough and well done you, but some people assume that because they don't go near certain places or activities, their relatives will automatically follow suit, or that they can live amidst the shit and their offspring won't notice it, and they're gonna be disappointed.
So let's consider this now; before it happens. Firstly, children are a special case. If you find your children with any bad input, or indulging in harmful, destructive behaviors, they haven't done anything wrong; YOU have failed in your responsibility to find 'a safe space with no bad input'. If children never see junk food or TV, they don't think of getting involved with it. You may need a rural location and preferably no car, but that's a small price to pay for good mental health and if you're smart you will work it out.
You also need to avoid indulging yourself in junk, of course, if you expect others around you not to get interested, so you can't expect to sit in front of a screen all day and then suppose your kids won't want to do the same.
Secondly, anyone you choose to start a friendship with is going to be fairly intelligent to start with, so consider: whatever they are doing it can't have done much harm yet, and they have the rest of their lives to adjust their habits as they learn. That still doesn't give you leeway to preach about what's good for them or bad for them either, because in fact you don't know that; but thinking about it can lower the anxiety you may be feeling in such circumstances.
Thirdly, you need to get to know a person AND their contextual circumstances really well before you can judge whether an item is 'good' for them personally at a given moment. For example, someone may be drinking alcohol or smoking because it's currently a better option then being addicted to amphetamines or overcome by anxiety.
Fourthly, if you want close relationships with people you will be looking for those who already want to improve themselves (because if they don't, their friends are signing up for a future choice of taking care of them – or opting out - when their bad input strategies come to fruition.)
With parents and others it can be difficult too, and we each have to draw our own lines about 'pushing' information and remain aware of reality - what is, and what is not, our business. Clear ongoing communication is the best remedy, but that's not always an option.
At best we walk a gentle course through life; sharing small bits of information and only following up with details if asked. We are informative, but not intrusive. We respect others' choices about how they wish to live, but we offer alternatives and set an example. We strategize for optimal circumstances for growth and development, and trust intelligence to do the rest.
This perspective requires a mind at peace with itself, and a quiet confidence in intelligence. Nobody else can advise you how to behave, for they are not in your circumstances. All we can all do is open the doors for information flow, and accept that people will walk where they choose when they choose. Our mission is to choose our own path, and follow it diligently.
the most important things to remember
Biological imperatives for full development include:
Environmental factors and lifestyle (self care, safe space, input control)
Integrity (beliefs & values are congruous with words and behaviors)
Healthy relationships (befriending & bonding)
Communication and interaction (core conditions, skill sharing, nurturing)
Creative play (exploration, innovation, making, learning)
Autonomy & personal freedom (independence, self sufficiency, self-reliance)
Resilient responses (post-traumatic growth, learning from mistakes)
Accurate self assessment & appropriate adaptation (output control)
Comprehension (life must 'make sense')
Overall imperative: Development must continue. Biologcal imperatives must be met, or satisfaction, wellbeing and happiness will not be experienced.
Disembodied knowledge can be remembered parrot fashion, but has no deeper meaning. It is 'chinese room' learning with no comprehension.
The process of self-comprehension involves:
Developing an awareness of the stories and metaphors we use to frame reality, and an awareness of when they enter into our everyday lives and when they do not.
Having experiences that can form the basis of alternate metaphors.
Developing an 'experiential flexibility'.
Engaging in an unending process of viewing your life through new alternative metaphors constructed by you personally.
To negotiate meaning with someone, we have to become aware of, recognize, empathize with and respect both the differences in your backgrounds and when these differences are important. Recognizing which framing metaphors are being used by each party can help you negotiate meaning.
golden rule 8 - From time to time, you will forget all this
Humans are very, very good at forgetting things. We have to be, or life would be too confusing. Whilst we are not meant to retain the memory of our every move, we can also forget things which we intended to remember – to our detriment.
There are two main reasons for not remembering stuff – lack of input and wrong input. In lack of input, we don't pay enough attention and/or assign the wrong emotional weighting to things in the first place. This may be due to uncertainty, or it may be due to wrong input. In wrong input anxiety warps our perception and denies access to incongruous information, often to support a false belief.
We will, for example, forget that TV and school are both dangerous to the developing mind. We'll forget this and so we'll keep the TV when kids come along and we'll send them to school to produce the next generation of good little counterfeit gamers. Maybe we're too afraid of what others will say, or maybe we don't really believe the evidence (and maybe because we didn't bother to read it). Maybe we don't want a load of hassle from the TE, but we're too anxious or apathetic to consider moving to another place.
We'll forget what processed food does to cognitive ability the first time it's lees hassle to buy junk than it is to buy food. We'll forget that the shock response is not alleviated by unconsciousness and occurs every time we wake to an alarm clock, because how the hell else can we get to work on time and when the hell do we have the time to consider changing our work.
In communication and relationships we'll forget core conditions all the time, especially the bit about honesty if we're trying to chat somebody up. It probably won't occur to us to be honest about our monogamy/polygamy views. One day we may even find ourselves getting married, despite our awareness that it's a fictional construct which is in real life meaningless to anyone who really cares about anyone else. Forgetting may consequently make us look like hypocrites.
We'll even forget that recognizing which framing metaphors are being used by each party can help us negotiate meaning; even though we only read it moments ago.
Be prepared for this sort of thing, and don't panic when you look back and realize you've done something dodgy and wonder how the hell that happened; or why on earth you did so-and-so, said this or thought that. It was, as Pink Floyd so aptly put it, 'A Momentary Lapse of Reason'; in that we don't realize when an anxious pov is blocking intelligence and restricting memory access.
We need to fully comprehend the limitations of our own memory and imagination, and how fundamentally they can be affected by anxiety. Anxiety hacks us out of our own database if we let it; a good thing to be borne in mind from our own experience. It happens to all of us, usually when we are fatigued or otherwise overstressed and doing the easy thing seems like a get-out clause from further hassle. Only later do we realize, it wasn't.
Alternatively, we'll claim full knowledge and awareness that we are doing something dodgy, but we'll have excuses or justifications for doing it. Eventually, the less introspective among us will conclude that they just don't have enough time to 'do everything properly', and the more introspective will conclude they don't have enough energy to do things properly. Both will need time and further development to realize that time and energy are in short supply because they are not doing things properly; not the other way round.
It's possible that we go through this sort of experience out of our inherent need to go into the unknown; to learn from experience rather than just theory. When we have first hand experience of a few disastrous relationships or failed strategies, we might start taking the theory more seriously. But the danger is we can get lost or stuck, which is why you are supposed to use your knowledge and experience in NH to help avoid such catastrophes in future.
A lot of interaction comes down to being very clear in our own mind about what we believe, why we believe it and where we draw our own personal morality lines. Being honest with ourselves and maintaining our integrity over time are also skills that can take practice.
do it now – write your own congruity constitution
Write your own 'congruity constitution', using the model:
'I believe X, and therefore from now on I will do Y and I will not do Z'
You will need a foundation of certainty for the belief (that means you are able to show genuine evidence supporting the truth that you believe; not woo woo or fiction). Bearing this in mind, complete the following statements:
1 Fill in the missing words
A I will eat the following things (insert products) because I have seen sufficient evidence to believe that they either cause or increase healthy mental development or augmentation.
B I will not eat the following things (insert products) because I have seen sufficient evidence to believe that they either cause or exacerbate mental dysfunction or dementia.
C I will do the following activities (insert activities) because I have seen sufficient evidence to believe that they are beneficial to mental development or augmentation.
D I will avoid the following activities (insert activities) because I have seen sufficient evidence to believe that they are harmful to mental development.
E I will do some mildly harmful activities, such as (insert types of harmful activity you are prepared to do) if avoiding them would cause offense to those I care about, but I draw the line at (insert types of harmful activity you will refuse to do under any circumstances).
F I care more about some people, for example (insert nicknames of those you care about) more than others, and I will do my best to treat them accordingly with respect, honesty and empathy. There are types of behavior I will never display when with these people, and they are: (insert behaviors).
Actually writing this down gives us immediate awareness of what areas we are already clear on, where we are not so sure, and what remains filed under 'don't know yet'.
2 Put a copy of your constitution somewhere and forget about it for at least two months. The next time it comes to mind, look it up. Have you broken your own constitution? Why?
where are we going?
'You' are an emergent, autonomous intelligence; a conduit for the flow of information and purposeful creation of knowledge in context of the universe. If that makes you feel rather grand, enjoy. This concept is a theory with good proof behind it; not merely an hypothesis, because it is the only known explanation for the facts which has survived all experimental tests. This is our current clearest view of what intelligence is.
Our knowledge of intelligence, much like our knowledge of the universe, is partial. 'Partial' is of course the normal state of human knowledge; and there's no error in that. Problems to solve are inevitable in our context but they can be solved with imagination, critical rationality, experiment, experience, and most of all, with flexible thought that seeks good explanations.
Our minds 'make up stories' about the outside world and try to make them accurate. Our experience of reality is literally a form of virtual reality rendering whose processing happens solely inside the brain, yet it is not solely reliant on the brain for interpretation, because meaning is embedded in our environmental context and embodied in our abstract concepts based on our own metaphorized concrete experience. Comprehension; full understanding (enlightenment if you like) emerges from the interactions between the three. The brain is the 'object', the environment is the 'container', and our metaphorized concrete experience is the conduit via which information can flow.
There is only one way of thinking that is capable of making progress, or of surviving in the long run, and that is the way of seeking good explanations through creativity and criticism. The whole [scientific] process resembles biological evolution. A problem is like an ecological niche, and a theory is like a gene or a species which is being tested for viability in that niche.
Science is both our body of established knowledge, and our developing body of ideas and discovery. Using its methods helps keep our stories more accurate. But the final judgment is always: is my theory congruous with nature? Because if it isn't, you're wrong. For one (albeit mighty) example: the proof that mathematics works indicates the congruity between the patterns of mathematical imagination and the regularities of the universe.
What matters for knowledge creation is imagination and creativity. New ideas that provide good explanations for phenomena. Once we have suitable knowledge, and a suitable flow of information, we are capable of sparking unlimited further progress.
Over time, the conclusions that science has drawn have become ever truer to reality. We seek explanations that remain robust when we test them against everything we can think of. And when we can change them no more, we have understood some objective truth. And, as if that were not enough, what we understand we then interact with to bring about beneficial change. How much more godlike could an entity get?
Perspectives on intelligence
From an objective perspective, intelligence is a process, or a set of processes; a program in a context; an emergent phenomenon. But no amount of external observation can tell us what being intelligence 'feels like' TO intelligence, any more than it can tell us what being a program 'feels like' to the program.
The distinction between objective and subjective experience (and the ignorance of any third possibility) creates an apparent dilemma in terms of understanding what it is like to be a mind (and indeed, why it is 'like this'). This dilemma, however, is an illusory one, caused by 'either/or' thinking instead of 'both' thinking.
Before exploring the nature of intelligence as an emergent construct, we must make clear its division from reality, which is tougher than you think because the only way we can experience reality is through intelligence. The objective/subjective difference is often misunderstood due to forgetting the following vital question: objective or subjective relative to whom or what?
Imagine that your mind is scanned while you view images of natural beauty. As a scientist, you're aware that the image from the scanner on the computer is objective, and your experience of the views is subjective. But, dudes, isn't your experience of looking at the scan on the computer screen also subjective?
We already know what a lot of experience feels like to us; the trick is to work out which physical processes in the brain are associated with that experience, and that's not an easy trick because everyone's is different. Our experience of Reality is subject to the relativity of our own perception, and any filters on it, in both subjective and objective terms. Science is a method we've discovered; to observe where our observations overlap, in the belief that what most of us experience when we objectively observe things will more or less agree with each other, even though our experience of such observations is subjective. The things we all agree on, such as 1+1=2, are almost certainly true, even if it takes us a while to prove them intellectually. When particular minds have specific ideas about reality which are confirmed by measurement, and this happens on a regular basis, we acclaim their genius.
'Reality' itself is a bugger of a concept to define. It is ordinarily takes to mean, vaguely, 'whatever it is that is actually existing out there, doing all this stuff', or, well, ...everything, you know...
But that's not all. The 'reality' our minds observe via the senses is partly determined by what exists outside ourselves, partly dependent on who is doing the observing, partly determined by the limits of our senses, partly determined by our knowledge and experience in interpreting sensory data and partly by whatever we expect to see and believe we are seeing...
Take a cookie; complex though this sounds, there is good news. Mind follows the same behavioral rules as ordinary matter, spacetime and energy, and it forms part of the reality it is attempting to observe. Intelligence is not something mystical but is a PROCESS carried out by an ordinary mind in an ordinary material brain made from ordinary organic material.
What matters in understanding the mind is NOT the distinction between objective and subjective experience. The vital 'discernment' is understanding the associations between the physical processes that occur in a brain and body, and the experiences of the associated mind which accompanies those processes. Only with the synthesis of objective and subjective views do we achieve full comprehension.
All processing takes place in the continuum of phase space (see above). Phase space (or 'game space') is the gap between input and comprehension, and between comprehension and output (behavior); and can take any number of possible connective steps in between the two, but if the gap is too wide or the connections too sparse, we cannot process the input. The connections between synapses in our brains ARE the associations between concepts in our minds.
To 'comprehend' is to grasp; and to comprehend something is to grasp it with your mind; to make it into an object that you can hold as a single unit. This is not the same thing as understanding.
For example, you fully understand what the words mean in the following sentence:
“It's too hard living next door to someone who's learning to play the bagpipes”...
But you don't comprehend the full meaning behind the sentence or grasp the full concept of what is really going on until you get the context:
...That's what she told the cops as she handed them the empty revolver.
Comprehension of what is really going on; seeing 'the big picture' or 'the whole story', is not just about which things may be grasped as concepts and which things cannot, but the ability to tell which are real concepts and which imaginary concepts, as well as which concepts are helpful and which are harmful.
The degree of comprehension can be measured. Physiological experiments have showed that understanding the syntactical and comprehending the semantic interpretation of information are processed separately from each other, and comprehension can be measured via EEG responses.
Semantic incorrectness in a sentence evokes a 'doesn't make sense' response (an N400 in the event-related potential (ERP); otherwise referred to as the 'WTF? response'). The degree of comprehension in semantic information processing can be ascertained by the measurement of the ERP.
For example, the statement: 'The cat sat on the mat' makes straightforward sense and evokes no negative signal response, whereas the statements: 'The mat sat on the cat' or 'the cat sat on the raining' do not make sense, and both produce a strong negative signal (N400) about 400ms after perceiving the critical word which did not make sense. However, the statement: 'The cat sat on the raining' produced a much stronger N400 signal than the statement: 'The mat sat on the cat', as there was even less comprehension. The more difficult it is to make sense of a statement, the lower the comprehension and the higher the N400 response.
Verbal humor uses the 'WTF? response' in jokes where the initial statement doesn't seem to make sense until it is explained by the 'punch line'; so that initial surprise at not understanding is rapidly followed by the comfort of comprehension. For example:
'The old man was a stripper'...
...'in his brother's painting & decorating team'.
The mind is capable of duality of interpretation, known by us all through experience since adolescence, via sexual innuendo, you remember; chicken farmers need big cocks, and all that hilarious-at-the-time kinda crap; and later (if development gets that far) through intellectual mental abstraction of concrete concepts.
The moment when you 'get' a joke, you are experiencing comprehension which, when it closely follows uncertainty, makes us amused at what our own minds did just as much as at the joke. In most cases comprehension is achieved by inference; the mind draws information out of a text that is not explicitly stated in the given words. Software merges with hardware where code is given meaning.
Intelligence uses two important features in processing; embedded meaning and embodied concepts.
1 Meaning is embedded in context
Whether we feel anxious or comfortable in an environment and how we explore it is down to our combined perception of space and of our bodies. The information our sensory organs provide about an environment and the information they give about our body movements influence each other in what researchers call the 'sensorimotor body-environment interaction'.
This means our emotional experience and the exploration of the environment are not simply triggered by environmental stimuli; the brain is regulating emotional experience and exploratory behavior based on the perception of our body and our spatial context in relation to each other. Meaning requires context; and it is these basics of a situation, the overall 'big picture' simple rules; the patterns underlying all life, rather than the complex individual details, which provide the real meaning.
In tutorial 17 we shared with you some of the differences between 'WEIRD' people and Others. One of the most important points in terms of developing intelligence is the fact that WEIRD people seem to focus on the details of a situation rather than the large-scale patterns, natural laws, analogies or metaphors; whereas Others tend to do the opposite, or to consider both.
WEIRD people look for ever-increasing details of information, but there is a big difference between information and meaning. Context determines the information in any input or output. Those aspects of information that matter to humans; such as comprehension and meaning, rely on it, more than the details of the information.
Focusing only on the details (as in parrot learning or mechanical data collection) ignores the context in which that information is interpreted, and thus how much meaning it possesses. The meaning of language does not reside in the code, the words, the grammar or the symbols. It stems from a shared conceptual interpretation of those symbols in both sender and receiver. This in turn stems from a shared context – the real world. For language, the context is the sum total of concepts shared by those who speak. For DNA, the context is biological development.
The contextual view of intelligence presents a different emphasis in thinking. EVERYTHING is determined by context; because everything has a context. The more intelligent you are, the more contexts you can comprehend, and the overall context is the laws of physics and biochemistry. Humans don't get to make those up; they are inherent and ubiquitous.
All information exchanges in the real world happen within a context. The context may be evolutionary, chemical, biological, neurological, linguistic, technological; but it changes the information content absolutely. There is much more information in the context than in the message, because the sense lies not in the words but in the interaction between the words and the listeners in context of past knowledge, imagination and present circumstances.
All our senses are contextual; sense organs abstract high-level features of sensory data. Our surroundings determine what eyes can see and what ears can hear, and we develop our interactive abilities by exposing ourselves to different contexts.
Intelligence (and our potential for comprehension) stands between cold reality and the warm mind that it engenders, between the candle of understanding and the star of comprehension; the darkness and the light, the concrete and the abstract. It moves across the continuum of the game space -the phase space between the two is what intelligence is engineered to discern. It purposefully creates knowledge, seeks greater wisdom, and metaphorizes abstract 'enlightenment' as clarity and comprehension, because in hard concrete reality it emerges in an organism that can see better in the daytime and to 'see' is to comprehend.
2 comprehension is embodied in concepts
The word 'comprehend' used to mean 'hold tightly' and 'understand', and this is reflected in our metaphoric abstraction of the term 'grasp' to mean understanding.
If the software of mind is viewed as disembodied, the 'game space' gap between mind and reality is impossible to bridge. There are not enough 'points of similarity' (familiar connections) between the known and the unknown. The embodiment of reason, as revealed by cognitive science research, provides a new paradigm for the bridge between mind and body, which has been called 'Embodied Realism'.
While it does treat our knowledge as relative in the sense that it is relative to our interactions via brains, bodies and our environment, embodied realism also explains how real, stable knowledge is possible.
Embodied realism is based in evolution; on our capacity as living organisms to survive and thrive in our physical environments. Evolution has provided us with adapted bodies and brains that allow us both to adapt ourselves and adapt our surroundings. Realism is about being in touch with reality so accurately that we can successfully interact; and function in the real world in ways that allow us to flourish and achieve our goals. Embodiment explains how intelligence can create the knowledge that is sufficient to enable us to thrive.
Firstly, we have evolution's 'starter pack' of directly embodied core concepts; such as object – container – conduit concepts relating to matter, energy, spatial and temporal relations, emotional weighting and power relations, which allow us to deduce event-structures. Core concepts have an evolutionary origin and enable concrete functions such as locomotion and physical control that enable us to perform successful behaviors in the world. Their details also form the basis of our scientific knowledge.
Secondly, archetypal metaphors make possible the extension of these embodied concepts into ever more abstract theoretical domains. Core concepts are highly constrained both by the nature of our bodies and brains and by the reality of our daily interactions.
Metaphorization unites reason, creativity and imagination. Reason and creativity both of necessity involve categorization, entailment, and inference. Imagination enables seeing one thing in terms of another – analogy and metaphor. Metaphorization produces imaginative, creative rationality. The very categories of our everyday reasoning are imaginative by nature.
Embodied realism also recognizes that concepts change over time, and provides mechanisms for characterizing these changes in the formation of complex metaphors that blend concepts.
This paradigm results from and relies on empirical evidence from recent cognitive neuroscience and embodied cognitive science, and makes it possible for the first time to explore the details of the workings of our embodied minds in their structuring of experience via neural cognition alone. There is no need for a ghost in the machine, magically joining up 'software' to 'hardware'; or tying together unconscious knowledge and conscious awareness; when connections are congruous, each just reinforces the other.
This view gives us ways to explain why we discern the categories we do, why we have the concepts we have, and how our embodiment shapes our reasoning and the structure of comprehension that forms the basis (or should) for what we take to be true.
Several areas of concept-embodiment are currently being explored; notably the neural level, phenomenological conscious experience, and the cognitive unconscious.
Neural embodiment concerns structures that characterize concepts and cognitive operations at the (obviously unconscious) neuron level. The neural level is not merely some hardware that happens to run some already-existing software. The neural level significantly determines (together with our experience of the external world) what concepts can be and what language can be.
Our everyday phenomenological experience is conscious, or accessible to consciousness through memory, and it consists of everything that we are or can be aware of; our own mental states, our bodies, our environment, our physical and interpersonal interactions. This is the level at which we 'feel' experience, or the way things appear to us and their distinctive qualities. Phenomenology also hypothesizes unconscious structures that underlie and make possible the structuring of our conscious experience.
The cognitive unconscious is by far the largest portion of our minds, that lies beneath the surface of awareness. It consists of all those mental operations which structure and make possible all conscious experience, including the understanding and use of language. The cognitive unconscious makes use of and guides the perceptual and motor aspects of our bodies, especially those that associate with core concepts. It includes all our unconscious knowledge and thought processes.
Because information is processed bottom up from concrete to abstract, the details of the character of the cognitive unconscious and of conscious experience arise from the details of neural structure. We would not have the inner models and related concepts we have without topographic maps, inner models and orientation-sensitive cells. We would not have the color concepts we have without the specific kind of neural circuitry that creates color categories. Conceptual metaphor is what makes abstract thought possible; it is the means by which we are able to make sense of abstract experience.
There is no truth accessible to us without comprehension. Any truth must be in a 'humanly' conceptualized and understandable form if it is to be a truth for us. If it's not a truth for us, how can we make sense out of its being a truth at all?
A person takes a statement as true in a situation if what s/he believes the statement is expressing means is congruous with what s/he comprehends the reality of the situation to be.
Q: In reality, then, is truth objective or subjective?
A: You guessed it! -Both.
Former paradigms for the discovery of truth emphasized a dichotomy between objective and subjective truth. Embodied truth encompasses both. Although embodied truth does not purport to be absolute objective truth, it accords with how people use the word true: in context relative to current understanding; and it takes into account the fact that we comprehend reality through our interactions with it.
Embodied truth is not purely subjective either; embodiment itself prevents that. Because we all have the same embodied core concepts, there is an enormous range of shared truths. What we take truth to be depends on the nature of human comprehension: what conceptual systems are, what metaphors are and how we use them, how we contextualize situations, and what our concepts are grounded in.
Embodied scientific realism works because once levels of understanding are discerned and delineated, then one can speak definitively of what is real or unreal, true or false, relative to those levels of scientific explanation. We have seen that truth is relative to comprehension, but this does not mean that there are no universal truths; it means only that our ability to discern truth is relative to our conceptual system, which is grounded in and constantly reinforced by our experiences and those of other members of our species in our daily interactions with each other and with our physical and cultural environments.
What we comprehend reality to be like is determined by many things; our sensory organs, our ability to move and to manipulate objects, the detailed structure of our brain, exposure to (or deprivation of) culture, and our interactions with the natural world, among others. What we discern to be true or real depends on our embodied understanding of the situation, which is shaped by all these factors.
Enlightenment is clear comprehension of reality; not the final goal of intelligence but a means to the ends of ever more developing the ability to interact, and databasing an ever more accurate and complete memory of reality – which itself serves the ability to interact.
self awareness is inherent in the system, and inevitable
Intelligence is not a 'thing' or a 'ghost' but a process; and that process can be interpreted in two ways:
1 it is a vast complex of scurrying electrons and chemical molecules (hard reality).
2 It is what these movements MEAN to the mind that they constitute (feature-detection from input, memory & imagination).
The first of these underlies the concrete 'rules' basis of the context of reality, the second underlies the emergent phenomena that they generate.
Cells that fire together wire together, that means the brain tends to strengthen connections that fire in synchrony because it assumes they are all responding to the same thing in the outside world. So the brain interprets that external loop of associations, creating an internal loop to model its effects. This process, carried out repeatedly, provides a matrix within which the evolving/developing brain will improve its ability to pick up common features from many different sources of sensory input.
Intelligence has developed an impressive ability to detect features. Features are generated in nature by the collapse of chaos into categorizable, orderly forms, and feature-detection (ultimately, pattern-discernment) provides a shortcut method for anticipating events in our environment faster so that we can respond more rapidly to dangers or opportunities. There is thus (and always has been) a lot of evolutionary pressure for brains to evolve better feature detection software.
The patterns that our brains perceive as whole concepts (such as, 'cat') are accurate representations of large chunks of reality. When we select a feature, the selection process is not arbitrary or random. It works in terms of features of our brain mechanisms, and those mechanisms are based on physics & biochemistry; not imagination. Because our brains evolved through achieving congruity between their content and their context, they can recognize features; analogies, metaphors, and comprehend patterns in them. Our brains are both made with and aware of genuine patterns in reality; they recognize, in fact, the features that they share.
The CPU emerges as a master feature-detector ('discernment engine') and rationalizer. So what happens when it directs its abilities to itself? It becomes aware of the apparent 'I' inside. This is where self awareness comes from: it is what you get when a generalized feature detector makes a recursive attempt to detect itself. The instant that such a system recognizes some part of 'self' as a feature discernible from 'other', the recursive loop is closed.
Feature detectors are themselves features, so a generalized feature detector will always be self-referential. We give the label 'consciousness' to our own personal feature-detection system: we become conscious of a feature of the world wen our brain detects it via feature-detection (discernment). Therefore consciousness is self-referential – that is, we're conscious that we possess consciousness. This is a simple consequence of the generality of our feature detection system, and is most likely how both our concrete CPU and its accompanying abstract sense of 'I' evolved.
spirituality and numinous experience
What philosophers call the Subject, the self or the 'disembodied mind' has been called by various religious groups the soul or spirit; the 'ghost in the machine'. The soul is conceptualized variously as the locus of consciousness, subjective experience, conscience and moral judgment, reason, free will, personality, or 'essence'. Basically, it means that which makes a person who s/he is. We call it mind, and do not consider it disembodied (see above).
The traditional religious (WEIRD) view of the self is in fact at odds on every point with the fundamental results from neuroscience and cognitive science. We now know that our conceptual system is grounded in, neurally makes use of, and is crucially shaped by our perceptual and sensorimotor systems. We can only form concepts through initial comprehension of bodily experience and associated emotion. Every understanding that we can have of reality can only be framed in terms of metaphoric game contexts in stories that model (and guide) our own development.
Core concepts use our perceptual, imaging and sensorimotor systems to characterize our optimal functioning in everyday life. This is the level at which we are maximally in touch with our environments.
Reason is embodied. Major forms of rational inference are representations of instances of sensorimotor inference. Truth and knowledge depend on embodied understanding.
Reason relies on metaphorizaton. Subjective experiences and judgments correlate in our everyday functioning with sensorimotor experiences so regularly that they become neurally linked. Because concepts and reasoning processes both derive from and make use of the sensorimotor system, the mind is not separate or independent from the body. Conceptual metaphors permit the use of sensorimotor inference for abstract conceptualization and reason.
Our concepts of what is moral, therefore, like all our other concepts, originate from the specific nature of human embodied experience.
Our brain is not, and could never be, a mere vessel for a disembodied mind. Those who believe that 'I' is a separate mind from 'me' are observing the results of incongruity, which really can produce a feeling of being an independent entity in no way dependent for its existence on the body, and make us experience being 'in two minds' (which puts one in mind of possible origins of multiple personality disorder, but let us not get distracted.)
What we have discovered so far would imply that our spiritual experience is also embodied. It is a consequence of what is happening in our bodies and brains. The neural mechanisms of spiritual experience also rely on our bodies and brains. What's more, sensorimotor manipulations (via muscles or brains) can enable 'out of body' experiences.
A major function of the embodied mind is creative play, using imaginative empathy. From birth we have the capacity to imitate others, to vividly imagine being another person, doing what that person does, experiencing what another person experiences. In the modeling phase of learning, we prepare to imitate; we empathically imagine ourselves in the body of another, cognitively stimulating the movements of the other. That simulation, via mirror neurons, is the activation of sensorimotor programs within the context of play; which (as all gamers know) results in the feeling of movement without actually moving.
This mode of conscious awareness with restricted movement is called empathic projection, and is achieved when the high-level sensorimotor programs of the brain are active and connected to our visual systems, while output to our muscles and emotional weighting is inhibited. We use it in modeling, in dreaming, and in play, and it's a sign of our discerning fact from fiction. It's the same circuit that stops us running away from the TV tiger, or falling out of bed during an active dream (yes, sometimes it fails, notably when we are alarmed).
The experience of empathic projection is 'transcendent'; that is to say a form of 'being in' the other which allows us to transcend current limits. Sufficient practice with it in these early forms enables its ongoing development, and in maturity it is responsible for a lot of what is referred to as 'spiritual experience'.
Techniques to develop or enhance spiritual experience cultivate this ability by emphasizing concentration and observation (the preludes to modeling in N1&2), offering role models or guides to translate metaphoric concepts or help us navigate 'the path' (N3), and outlining procedures, rituals or programs – or using tech/drugs -for getting into the 'right state of mind'.
Many people tend to think of 'altered states' as something 'extra-special' that only happen to spiritual yoo hoos and people on LSD. In fact, every time we move from one functional network to another, we are 'altering states' of mind. Every time we cheer ourselves up or pursue good input we are enabling an altered state. Every time we drink a coffee, smoke a cigarette, have a pint... in short, anytime you change your mind by whatever means, you are changing your state of mind and the architecture of your mind. You've got it.
Empathy is the precondition for realistic morality, healthy interaction and kindness to one another. Empathy links moral values to spiritual experience.
At lower levels we all experience empathic projection. Anyone who has lived with animals or babies will confirm that over time, we get better and better at 'just knowing' what they need and anticipating their needs ahead of time. Part of the awe we feel at wild animals is in imagining what it must be like to be that fast, that powerful, that adept at flying.
Shamans practice empathic projection with both archetypes and animals in order to have experiences which invoke specific states of mind. Ritual dances often incorporate the movements of animals for similar reasons. A shamanic journey is a deliberate shifting of consciousness from sensorimotor networks up through the processing hierarchy into pure thought and awareness. It appears to be an extension of 'open mode'.
This mindful embodied spirituality directs an aesthetic attitude to the world that is central to self development, for nurturing others, and behaving in congruity with our resources and environment. The primacy of empathy is at the center of natural morality.
A mature intelligence engaged in empathic projection is practicing the abstract equivalent of modeling, where the role model has become reality itself. This is the meaning of the Hindu 'Thou art That' mantra; 'you', as in your locus of consciousness, are experiencing what its like when you imagine 'being' the universe and thinking from that perspective. 'I' am 'this'. I am shaped by those stars and this earth. I am the process of intelligence, traveling through spacetime, creating knowledge, exploring and sharing information.
Identifying with this subject position as a perspective (I am this), we become aware of being a process. From this perspective the CPU – or even this brain - is not the neural correlate of 'ourselves'. Self, like intelligence, is experienced not as a thing but as a dynamic process, which preserves a unified identity even as it changes complicitly with whatever it is surrounded by, all the time. Environment (inner and outer) and behavior shape the continuity of our sense of self, and that, repeated across many individuals, is what maintains the continuity of environment and culture. This is what it is like to be intelligence.
This sort of empathic, bonded connection with the world is known as 'panentheism' (not to be confused with 'pantheism'; ie, the belief that god/s or spirit/s are present in all natural phenomena).
Panentheism as a way of conceptualizing 'the sacred' emphasizes transcendence and omnipresence in spiritual experience; the very things we experience in empathic projection.
Being in the zone is often described as a spiritual experience, and it utilizes empathic projection in an all-encompassing way. In the zone, our experience of the environment is not as something 'other' to us; it is not a collection of things we encounter. Rather, it is part of our being; we can direct it as we direct our own bodies.
It is through empathic projection that we experience our environment this way; comprehend how we are a part of it and it a part of us. Out bodies and minds participate in nature as well as observing it. We are in the matrix of mind; this all-encompassing wholeness of being. Intelligence is director and creator of the universe, and right now it's working through our mind, with no obstructions, as a flow of energy and personal power; an absolute delight. We experience our being as a flow; as something totally dynamic.
...'Ecstasy' means 'ex-static'. The experience of this is also emotional and physical, in terms of 'spiritual feelings'. Joy really is joyous.
Now, remember the Claustrum...?
the claustrum has one of the densest populations of kappa-opiate receptors in the brain (they are also present at lower densities in a number of other brain regions such as the frontal cortex and the amygdala). And there's a powerful psychedelic that acts (only) on kappa-opioid receptors; it's called Salvia Divinorum. Shamans chew its leaves to get in touch with the gods.
Humans consuming Salvia experience a few select psychological effects: they are likely to believe they are in an environment completely different from the physical space they are actually in; they often believe they are interacting with "beings" such as hallucinated dead people, aliens, fairies or mythical creatures; and they often report a variety of experiences in which the self 'ceased to exist' in the user's subjective experience and they felt 'at one with the universe'. Users of LSD also experience (albeit to a lesser degree) translation into altered environments, imaginary beings and 'selflessness'.
Taking this into account, it certainly makes sense that altered states would be a result of messing with a 'conductor of consciousness'. That is, if a region central to the integration of consciously represented information is disturbed in its function, we would expect fundamental disturbances in the conscious experience. The core state of a person's awareness seems to be altered by Salvia divinorum, rather than mere distortions of vision or audition. However, there appear to be many ways in to the empathic projection state, all of which involve manipulation of functional networks, and it is not yet known (2016) whether they all employ the Claustrum.
The claustrum is not our only area of interest for spiritual experience. Studies using TCI and PET scan show that Self-transcendence (ST) has significant positive correlation with the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) encompassing a ventromedial portion of the prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Intriguingly, sgACC/vmPFC activity has been shown to be significantly decreased in patients with anxiety, major depression and mood disorders.
Studies showed ST is positively related to meditation practice.
One meditation category - automatic self-transcending - includes techniques designed to transcend their own activity and improve ST.
Older methods and new rely on the accessibility of resources to invoke their altered states, and every group likely has their own most easily accessible methods, but these are the details behind a universal behavior; getting high in order to have interesting and intelligence-augmenting experiences, or to get access to hidden knowledge and abilities.
In every case where science or art are practiced for genuine exploration, they will enhance rather than diminish spiritual feelings. Creativity and discovery and comprehension ARE spiritual experiences, as are insight and the zone. Comprehension is enlightenment. Knowing what a star is and what a star does makes a star way more awesome than believing its a twinkly sequin stuck to the fabric of the sky.
The best place to go for details about drugs & chemicals used for spiritual explorations worldwide may be found in the references.
Even though the inner complexities of everything can be captured only through complex mathematics, the universe that we experience operates as a high level structure, and so do we.
This congruity between the way we see the universe and the way we see ourselves within it offers satisfaction on both conscious and unconscious levels. There is a shared dynamic (pattern of changing events) between the development of the universe and our own development; we follow the same emergent rules and process. Our own evolution is proceeding in context of the universe, and our perceptual systems evolved within the context of reality, yet all emergent systems rely on the same few underlying rules.
The developmental dynamic we share with the universe provides a spiritual frame that we find both comforting and awe-inspiring. Because of the shared dynamic, we will always feel 'at home' in the universe and derive satisfaction from being a part of everything or 'one with the universe', as Zen Buddhists and LSD fans see it. Awareness of and focus on this shared dynamic helps to create a feeling of empathy with the universe.
This leads us to see ourselves within the universe in a creative, playful, benevolent way; rather than the arbitrary consequence of random events so far removed from ourselves that we cannot comprehend the connections, but as a natural part of the universe's high level features. We belong here. Reality rewards us for comprehending it, and gives us hard time when we don't comprehend it. When we comprehend reality, our plans work and we feel good. When we comprehend reality we acquire spiritual equilibrium.
Where are we going?
Here are some things to consider:
The original input for intelligence came from the attempt to understand things as they manifest via the human experience. Today the limits of intelligence have stretched our explorations below the atomic level and out to the farthest reaches of spacetime.
Evolution mostly leads to increased complexity in individual organisms. This is a very general tendency, because it is easier to add stages onto an already effective sequence than it is to modify earlier steps in the sequence, and it is most likely that advantage will be gained by adding something rather than removing it.
Because creatures do not live in isolation but as part of an ecology (a coevolving system of organisms, interacting strongly with each other) the story of an ecology is usually one of increasing complexity, with organisms evolving into specialized niches or adapting & generalizing. Rather than 'competing' for a limited food supply, the latter type of animals adapt by finding an alternative food supply.
Rule based systems exhibit features on many levels or dimensions. Emergence occurs when low-level rules generate high-level features. Intelligence develops further whenever two or more rule-based systems interact; when two or more 'game spaces' join forces to grow a joint phase space that feeds back into both components and changes them recursively to better suit each others' needs.
Our minds are influenced by our environment, and vice versa, but our minds can select what appeals to them and exercise input control and to some extent construct their own realities (and themselves) accordingly. That is the amazing thing about being human; the creativity and imagination underlying our every decision and the ability to change our own minds (ourselves). For make no mistake about it, we ARE our minds; our minds are our 'selves'. Changing our minds, about anything, changes our experience (input) and thus ourselves.
We are all evolving in a reality that we shape psychologically with images of our own (or someone else's) creation. We are an ever-increasing part of reality, and reality is an ever-increasing part of us.
There are two constants in intelligence development: one is stages: we outgrow each matrix and move on to another. The second is the general progression from concrete to abstract.
It is possible that intelligence continues to develop in stages beyond those that we currently know about. This may mean that our six anatomical structural networks could give rise to six functional networks (of which we have currently discovered three), or maybe the functional networks that we already know about deal with all further processing between them.
The physical geometry of the brain’s modularity remains to be elucidated completely. The brain is not an object at rest but a system in motion, and functional connectivity as well as the spatial extent of the resting-state networks can vary periodically. Interestingly, fluctuations associated with awareness of self are positively and negatively correlated with the activities of the default mode network (DMN) and task positive network, respectively, and vice versa for the fluctuations associated with our awareness of the environment.
Changes in functional connectivity reflect optimization of networks for the task at hand, improving behavioral performance. High-performing individuals exhibit more efficient brain connectivity updates in the form of smaller changes in functional network architecture between rest and task. These smaller changes suggest that individuals with an optimized intrinsic network configuration for domain-general task performance experience more efficient network updates generally. Confirming this, network update efficiency correlates with measures of general intelligence. The brain’s reconfiguration efficiency therefore appears to be a key feature contributing to both its network dynamics and our general cognitive ability.
Currently, (2016) there is some confusion about what does and what does not constitute a functional network. Some researchers are referring to the CPU as our 'Central functional network', some are classifying the visual cortex and auditory cortex as functional networks. The problem is that modularity does not exist only at a single organizational scale, but rather that each module can be further partitioned into a set of sub-modules, and within each sub-module there may be sub-sub-modules, etc.
In other words, many systems have the fractal property of hierarchical modularity, multi-scale modularity or “russian doll” modularity.
Many information processing networks have a fractal community structure of modules-within-modules. Dendrograms displaying significant modular and sub-modular structure for (C) the human anatomical network estimated using MRI data on 259 normal volunteers, and (D) the human cortical network estimated using diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI) data on an independent sample of five volunteers. The insets demonstrate hierarchical modularity in terms of the co-classification matrix of each system.
Comprehension of the organizational principles of functional networks may provide a key to understanding the interplay between functional segregation and integration, and ultimately the emergence of cognition and adaptive behaviors.
the most important bits to remember
'You' are an emergent, autonomous intelligence; a conduit for the flow of information and purposeful creation of knowledge in context of the universe.
There is only one way of thinking that is capable of making progress, or of surviving in the long run, and that is the way of seeking good explanations through creativity and criticism.
What matters for knowledge creation is imagination and creativity. New ideas that provide good explanations for phenomena. Once we have suitable knowledge, and a suitable flow of information, we are capable of sparking unlimited further progress.
The distinction between objective and subjective experience (and the ignorance of any third possibility) creates an apparent dilemma in terms of understanding what it is like to be a mind (and indeed, why it is 'like this'). This dilemma, however, is an illusory one, caused by 'either/or' thinking instead of 'both' thinking.
Intelligence uses two important features in processing; embedded meaning and embodied concepts.
A real human being has neither a separation of mind and body, nor is there any concept or truth we can comprehend independently of our minds, bodies and brains. The world, life and brains are dynamic; not static, and comprehension of the abstract relies on comprehension of concrete experience.
A mindful embodied spirituality directs an aesthetic attitude to the world that is central to self development, for nurturing others, and behaving in congruity with our resources and environment. The primacy of empathy is at the center of natural morality.
The output of a mature consciousness is comprehension. It is also possible that further development towards abstraction opens up further levels of comprehension and more, different ways to interact. Let us know when you get there!
NHA guide to methods & tech
methods for improving mental skills
There are two main areas of practice: thinking skills and communication skills. Skilful communication and interaction, though, follow from and rely on skilful thinking. A useful way of framing human thinking skills is in terms of level of functioning or developing human potential (Rogers' 'self actualization').
Thinking skills that may be enhanced by certain types of practice/'therapy' include awareness, knowledge of rational thinking rules, clarity of perceptions, self-talk, visual images, rational explanations and realistic expectations.
Two of the central mental skills are the ability to reality-test and alter unrealistic perceptions, (the main practice in cognitive therapy), and the ability to dispute and restate irrational beliefs or rules (the main practice in rational-emotive behavior therapy).
The main way that we can acquire, develop and maintain satisfactory levels of competence in specific mental skills areas is by training ourselves in (learning & practicing) their required sequences of choices. This begins with consistently using the concept of mental skills to frame, describe and analyze our own and others' behavior. In terms of relationships, this means when necessary, thinking about how you relate to things, people, events, problems and situations in terms of mental skills strengths and weaknesses.
communication with core conditions (CCC)
Given that it is our nature to enjoy exchanging information in a productive way in relationships with others, what happens to disconnect us from our friendly, light-hearted, intelligent nature, and teaches us to behave anxiously, carelessly and exploitatively? And conversely, what allows us to return to reconnection with our nature under even the most trying circumstances? What enables us to develop such wisdom that we can 'keep our heads' when all around are acting like assholes?
Language and our use of words can play a crucial role in developing communication skills. Core conditions give us a specific approach to communicating—speaking and listening—that leads us to speak as our real selves, enabling us to better understand ourselves and others in a way that allows mutual comprehension to flourish.
While we may not consider the way we talk to be anxious or disrespectful, anxious words can often lead to hurt and pain, usually for both ourselves and others.
Communication has enormous power to enrich life or impoverish it. We can use words to contribute to enjoyment, learning and wisdom or we can use words that raise anxiety, spread falsehoods and make life depressing and miserable.
When our mind has been conditioned to worry about what people think about us, or what the counterfeit game insists is 'normal', and that conditioning is reinforced by long years of practice, we don't express our real selves very easily. We have also been trained to associate what we feel with sentiments, rather than emotions.
Anxiety, conflict, competition and implicit violence are part and parcel of societal conditioning via the very structure of counterfeit game language. Most people have been taught this language of fault-finding and justification: criticism, unequal power, moralistic judgments, analysis and diagnoses. Counterfeit game scripts frame others as inferior or as possessions, and they have a wide vocabulary for telling people what's wrong with them, what they did wrong and what's wrong in general. Alternately, game players use words to justify everything they do, brag, talk about themselves endlessly, and speak as though the universe only contains them and their desires. They intrude into other people's lives and aren't aware of the impropriety. Delusions of self-importance, lack of humility and lack of respect (including self respect) are rife.
However, we can, despite all this, change how we think and communicate. We can treat ourselves with much more respect, we can learn from our mistakes without anxiety, and we can retrain ourselves to interpret things and communicate things in terms of emotions and rational thought.
One way to do this is to practice communication with core conditions. We can do this as a stand-alone set of exercises or in context of core counseling, as it forms a good introduction to core counseling.
Treating this as at first as a game enables us to practice connecting with the people we’re closest with in a way that can allow us to enjoy deeper intimacy, to relate to one another with more enjoyment and to not get caught up in saying or doing things based on anxious reactions such as fear, guilt, shame, paranoia, anger, insecurity, jealousy or other sentiments that destroy intimate relationships.
At first, CCC may seem like learning another language, and may be a significant departure from the way we are used to looking at things, but soon a strange sense of familiarity starts to creep in. It's an echo of the way we all communicate as infants; as a child we are aware of our needs and of unpleasant and pleasant things, and we communicate them openly and directly without embarrassment or anxiety; which is the natural way to communicate. CCC takes us back to that natural way, but brings with it all the mental tools we have acquired since.
CCC is based on the natural state of communication when no anxiety is present. It begins from Carl Roger's perspective that we are all okay by nature, and teaches people to look behind the judgments they’ve been taught, to the needs that are behind feelings.
This approach to communication emphasizes biological need as the motivation for interaction rather than fear, guilt, shame, blame, coercion, threat or justification for punishment. In other words, it is about getting what you want for reasons you will not regret later. It is NOT about getting people to do what we want. It is about creating a quality of connection that gets everyone’s needs met through mutual interaction.
We all share the same biological needs, and our behaviors are supposed to be strategies to successfully meet those needs. Anxious, random or aggressive strategies—whether verbal or physical—are learned habitual behaviors taught and supported by society's conditioning. They prevent rather than facilitate the meeting of biological needs.
CCC skills emphasize personal responsibility for our interactions and the choices we make when we respond to others, as well as how to contribute to relationships based in cooperation and collaboration.
We include some exercises for CCC in the Hacks & Exercises section of this tutorial.
How to do it:
There are four areas where information flow through brains can go wrong: input, weighting, system requirements and output.
First, we look at a given input and analyze what is actually happening or has happened in a given situation: what are we and others saying or doing, and what else is occurring in this situation that is either (a)promoting beneficial communication or (b)raising anxiety? The first step is to be able to make this objective observation without introducing any judgments, opinions, criticisms or evaluation – emotional or rational – the goal is to simply discern and explain or write down what we and other people and/or circumstances) are doing that we either like or don’t like.
Second, we analyze the weighting: how we feel when we experience these behaviors; both physiologically (are we hot, cold, aroused, nauseous, breathless?) and psychologically (are we hurt, scared, joyful, amused, irritated, etc.?)
Thirdly, we identify what system requirements (biological imperatives, human needs, and animal behaviors) are associated with the feelings we have identified.
Fourthly we identify the personal requirements that would improve communication for us. Our conclusions are the output in this process; we state what is necessary to improve things. This reveals what biology wants from the other person or situation, that would benefit us or make life more interesting and fun for us.
In communication, if we can express these four areas very clearly, honesty is automatic. Empathy relies on getting the same information from others. We communicate with others by awareness of their input, their weighting, their biological imperatives, and their personal requirements.
Once you have practiced some exercises, it's time to start transfering your awareness of these four areas into everyday conversation. Practice with friends is useful. If we keep reminding ourselves to attend to these areas during conversations, it can help build mutual respect; we establish a flow of genuine communication and respect manifests naturally.
To put this into practice, remember these questions:
What input is affecting my wellbeing?
What weighting is my body and mind attaching to this input?
What are biologys system requirements in this situation?
What do I require to meet my needs?
The answers to these questions is your guide script for the next interaction: share your answers with others or ask them the same questions. Useful script phrases for doing this in a respectful manner are listed below:
Useful script phrases for CCC
When I experience X/ when X happens, I feel Y (consult reframing list for appropriate labeling of emotion)
When you experience X/ when X happens, how do you feel?
I need to know how you feel as well as what you think
I feel this way because I need / value...............
What needs or values are behind y/our feelings about this?
Would you be willing to..................?
Would you like.................?
What could make things better for you?
It would be easier for me if...............
Would it be better if................?
Obviously we have to listen carefully to others in order to comprehend their answers, and this is a part of CCC too!
Your relationship with society
Examples of lifestyles with different ways of relating to society
Alice taught herself animation skills using some software her brother stole. She does freelance work from a bedsit in her parents' home in the country. They and she get along well.
Benefits: Alice can work whenever she likes from anywhere she can get online, and can pick and choose her clients. She earns enough money to cover all her expenses and to save a little. She does not need a car. She has minimal involvement with corporate nutters. She looks out of her window onto natural scenery and only has to step outside to be in it. She needs no qualifications.
Hazards: Alice needed to practice for many years to get as good as she is now. She also had to buy high quality fast computers and large screens, which took some time to save up for. She has a fierce electricity bill as she is at home all day using her own resources. She has to organize complex webs of payment in order to avoid getting her ass taxed off, and sometimes gets ripped off in the process. She can get bored sitting still for long periods and lapse into the habit of not going out much.
Bob lives with his folks, who have a smallholding in a semi-rural area. The family believes that it would be best for everyone if society fell apart, and the only moral way to behave is to do their bit to speed that process along by peaceful means. They endeavor to take as many resources out of society as they can, and put nothing into supporting it. They all claim as many government benefits as possible, and Bob is proud of being long term unemployed. His folks bought the cottage from cash raised growing and selling marijuana. They all go shoplifting at least once a week, targeting multinationals, and sell the food cheap to their mates. They all do odd jobs for people for cash.
Benefits: large return for very little effort. They are part of a larger group with that comfortable feeling of 'striving for the same cause'. Bob needs no qualifications and very little tech.
Hazards: a potential 6 months inside and hefty fines if caught. They need to run a car for their shoplifting activities.
Carl is a qualified carpenter who lives in a motorhome with his girlfriend and son. He has chosen to live in a place where the healthcare is free. He picks up work through agencies and adverts and often works for cash in hand.
Benefits: Carl can choose when and where he lives and works. He has no bills to pay except his driving costs, vehicle tax and insurance. He makes new friends everywhere he goes.
Hazards: Carl had to pay for several courses to get some qualifications, which took three years. People are, on the whole, not very nice to travellers, and Carl gets hassled to move on quite a lot. They also get hassle from healthcare and education officials, who would like more control over their child. Carl has no permanent base and doesn't see old friends very often.
Donna is a musician who lives with friends in a shared house in a city. She plays in a band doing pop covers and also does work for studios, as she can read music. She earns enough to save steadily and plans to go off the grid once she can accumulates enough wealth to buy her own place.
Benefits: If all goes well Donna will achieve her dream before too much mental stress accumulates. Keeping focused on her dream enables her to ignore a lot of hassle. She doesn't need any qualifications. If times get hard she can go out busking on the street for cash.
Hazards: Donna had to study for two years to teach herself to sight read music. Being in the city all the time, Donna risks poor air quality, noise and light pollution, poor quality water and interrupted sleep. Bills are high, and Donna has to live frugally to save enough to meet her goal in 5 years' time. There are a lot of nutters around her, as she works in cabaret bars where the public drinks. There is a risk of excess spending and wasting resources if the stress gets to her. She needs a car, and risks being assaulted or otherwise harmed if out alone after dark on foot.
Eve inherited her parents' home which was in a pretty scummy area. She took in lodgers until she could afford to start buying another place. She now lives in the second place out in the country, and the rent from the first place pays her mortgage for this one. She lets out rooms in the second place to cover the bills, and spends her time organic gardening just for her own needs.
Benefits: She doesn't need a car, qualifications or much tech. She is free to do any kind of work she pleases. She is in pleasant, healthy surroundings. She may feel that anyone living in the first location is likely to be dumb, so it's good to take resources off them.
Hazards: Tenants resent landlords, period. Eve is likely to find her tenants damage her property and create constant maintenance bills. She either needs a car and a lot of travelling in order to keep track of it from a distance, or she will need to pay agents. If she takes on extra work, she will get her ass taxed off. She may feel unconsciously depressed about the unfairness of taking money off people just for the privilege of living in 'her' house.
Fred is a games systems programmer and general IT wizard. He works in a games studio in the city with flexitime, where all the other dudes smoke weed, drink coffee, and generally take things easy unless there is a crisis. Fred lives with his girlfriend, in her house in suburbia. He earns enough to cover his needs and to save a little.
Benefits: There is a 'buffer' of middle management in place between the creative programmers and all the sales & marketing bollocks. They are free to be creative and do their own thing, as long as a game comes out at the end that can be sold. The company needs their talents, some of which are not at all easily replaced, so their jobs are fairly secure. Fred gets to do what he loves all day and gets paid for it as well. He needs no qualifications, and is self taught at home. The company has great tech to play with.
Hazards: Fred has to commute a fair distance and needs a car or must use public transport. The quality of air, water and food where he works are likely to be poor. He may feel unconsciously anxious that he is prostituting his creative ideas. There is always at least one asshole in middle management. If there long enough, Fred risks getting 'promoted' into the company of twats rather than staying with his friends, or getting caught up in the 'party all night' habits of colleagues and wasting his savings.
Do it now – empathy experiment
Imagine you are each of the characters above, and answer the questions below.
What extra benefits or hazards might you discover in the given lifestyle?
What unforeseen events could create obstacles for each character?
What other kinds of lifestyles might be beneficial for each character?
things to remember: Basics matter more than details
As people adopt strategies to increase their overall well-being, it is important to know which ones are capable of having a positive influence. However, it appears that our overall frame of mind and habits of behavior may matter more than the details of the methods we individually select.
Promoting positive emotions, good interaction and autonomy can positively influence a depressive-to-happy state (defined as increasing levels of happiness and decreasing levels of depression), as well as increasing life satisfaction.
Researchers have examined 8 basic 'happiness-increasing' strategies: Affiliation (for example, hanging out with kind, encouraging friends); Partying and drugs (for example, drinking alcohol); Mental Control (for example, trying not to think about being unhappy); Beneficial Goal Pursuit (for example, studying), Passive Leisure (for example, surf the internet), Active Leisure (for example, exercise); Spirituality (for example, Meditation & mindfulness); and Sensorimotor hacking (for example, behave as though you're happy and smile).
The researchers found that individuals with different behavioral habits differ in the positive measures of well-being in all 8 strategies studied. Individuals who are more self-fulfilling (high positive affect, low negative affect) are the ones who show lower levels of depression, tend to be happier, and are more satisfied with their lives.
With respect to specific intelligence-augmenting strategies, those related to agentic (e.g. autonomy, responsibility, self-acceptance, internal locus of control, self-control), communal, cultural, and spiritual values are positively related to a 'self-fulfilling' profile. This supports findings about how self-awareness based on the self, our relation to others, and our place on earth might lead to greater happiness and mental harmony as well as strong intelligence.
Meditation and altered states
Meditation has the potential to develop a positive relationship between self and other that transcends self-focused needs and increases cooperative characteristics. Here are some recent research results:
Substantial evidence indicates that the ACC plays a key role in meditation training. For example, compared to non-meditators, long-term Vipassana meditators show stronger activations in the rostral ACC and adjacent medial PFC bilaterally for the meditation condition.
Compared with a memory training control, compassion meditation training elicits activity in a selection of areas including pregenual ACC, medial orbitofrontal cortex and striatum.
Transcendental Meditation increases DMN activation and theta brain waves in orbitofrontal areas.
5 days of integrative body–mind training (IBMT) improves vACC activity compared to the same amount of relaxation training. It also reduces anxiety, improves positive emotion and self-report of feeling oneness with nature. Further, 10 days of IBMT increases white matter connectivity surrounding ACC and this brain structural change correlates with improved emotional regulation. These results indicate that meditation accompanies positive emotion, ST experience, and beneficial ACC functional and structural changes.
Self-transendence (ST) related meditation induces brain and behavioral changes, and also improves brain (mind) and body cooperation indexed by central (CNS) and autonomic (ANS) nervous system interaction.
These results indicate body-brain works together to maintain certain consciousness states such as ST that may be related to different performance.
Practicing mindfulness – spending time paying attention to your current mental experiences in a non-judgmental way – has been associated with many beneficial outcomes, including reduced anxiety and improved decision making. A recent review in Brain and Cognition has looked at all studies published prior to July this year that investigated brain changes associated with eight weeks of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. The combined results suggest that a short course of mindfulness practice leads to multiple brain changes similar in nature to those seen in people who have practiced meditation for a lifetime.
Associated brain changes, in terms of activity levels and volume and connectivity changes, have been reported in the prefrontal cortex, the insula, the cingulate cortex, the hippocampus and the amygdala.
beware of hype
Any claim for 'intelligence improvement' via 'neuroplasticity' that does not specify exactly what type of plasticity is taking place, and exactly where it is happening, and links between structure and function, is meaningless.
Brain training companies evoke the concepts of 'neuroplasticity' and epigenetic change to bolster claims that their products can improve cognitive performance and reduce the risk of dementia. Earlier this year, one was fined $2 million for false advertising, and subsequently ordered to reimburse 13,000 customers who paid for their brain training app.
Epigenetic therapy is very real and shows some encouraging results, but is only just beginning to be explored. We don't know yet how many conditions it may be useful for or what its exact limits are.
Age considerations in NH
Believe it or not, we are designed by biology to get smarter, wiser and more knowledgeable as we age. Mainstream ideas about 'normal' development are not very helpful as they don't give us the data on diverse healthy humans. All we find out is the average development of WEIRD people (see previous tutorial). This is not going to apply to anyone practicing NH on a long term basis or anyone not raised in WEIRD societies trying to get an idea of how their development is progressing.
The good news is that we know development can continue to progress at any age, as long as we do things in the right order and provide the required input FOR development to progress.
There are however limits to development depending on current age for younger students; as follows:
If you are under age 11, you should not be working on network six or on augmenting the whole brain AT ALL, but continuing to build the foundations which that network will rely on.
If you are under age 15, do not commence intelligence augmentation until you have (measurably) developed all networks and have their associated skills.
To give you some perspective, the optimal age for developing a full set of completed networks (ie, if all our biological imperatives are met right from the beginning and we are raised in a 'perfect' enriched environment by loving, creative, intelligent people) is age 15. That's the soonest, as far as research has shown, healthy humans can achieve this, and it is likely that this is the natural progression of unhindered development; our intended 'norm'.
On the other hand, research shows that many 'WEIRD' people manage to achieve a complete set of rear nets and some of network 4 by the time they are sixty,  which in one sense is good news, because it shows that intelligence keeps on trying to develop for as long as it can, but in another sense it's bad news, because it's probably a lot longer than you want to wait for 'half the kingdom'.
However, WEIRD people are not neurohackers. All that this figure reveals to us is (averagely) how long it takes for nature to catch up, despite lack of appropriate nurture, if you grow up in an impoverished counterfeit game environment and do nothing to assist your own development.
That's not the path we are taking here. WEIRD people are, on the whole, dysfunctional due to interrupted development, and the nature of their individual dysfunctional behaviors reveals where and when development was interrupted, or 'what matrix they got stuck in'.
Note to those who believe they are already 'grown up'
There's more 'up'.
Self assessment - Locus of control
Our conscious locus of control needs to be congruous with our unconscious knowledge. To explore this, complete the following questionnaire by answering 'T' for 'probably true'; 'F' for 'probably false'; and 'ST' for 'sometimes true' to the following statements:
1a Children get into trouble because their parents punish them too much.
1b The trouble with most children nowadays is that their parents are too easy with them.
2a Many of the unhappy things in people's lives are partly due to bad luck.
2b People's misfortunes often result from the mistakes they make.
3a One of the major reasons why we have wars is because people are so interested in politics.
3b There will always be wars, no matter how hard people try to prevent them.
4a In the long run people get the respect they deserve in this world.
4b Unfortunately, an individual's worth often passes unrecognized no matter how hard he tries.
5a The idea that teachers are unfair to students is nonsense.
5b Most students don't realize the extent to which their grades are influenced by accidental happenings.
6a Without the right breaks one cannot be an effective leader.
6b Capable people who fail to become leaders have chosen not to lead.
7a No matter how hard you try some people just don't like you.
7b People with fewer friends just don't understand how to get along with others.
8a Heredity plays the major role in determining one's personality.
8b It is one's experiences and nurture in life which determine what they're like.
9a I have often found that what is going to happen will happen no matter what I do
9b Trusting to fate has never turned out as well for me as making a decision to take a definite course of action.
10a In the case of the well prepared student there is rarely if ever such a thing as an unfair test.
10b Many times exam questions tend to be so unrelated to course work that studying is really useless.
11a Becoming a success is a matter of hard work and making allies; luck has little or nothing to do with it.
11b Becoming a success depends mainly on being in the right place at the right time.
12a The average person can have an influence on how our planet changes.
12b This planet is overrun by mad bullies destroying our resources, and nobody can do anything about it.
13a When I make plans, I am almost certain that I can make them work.
13b It is not always wise to plan too far ahead because many things turn out to be a matter of good or bad fortune anyhow.
14a There are certain people who are just mad assholes.
14b There is some good in everybody.
15a Getting what I want has little or nothing to do with luck.
15b Many times we might just as well decide what to do by flipping a coin.
16a Who gets to be in charge often depends on chance meetings.
16b Getting people to do the right thing depends upon ability, luck has little or nothing to do with it.
17a As far as the universe is concerned, we are the victims of forces we can neither understand, nor control.
17b By taking an interactive part in culture, people can control many events in their lives.
18a Most people don't realize the extent to which their lives are controlled by accidental happenings.
18b There really is no such thing as "luck."
19a One should always be willing to admit mistakes unless doing so would put one in danger.
19b It is usually best to cover up one's mistakes.
20a It is hard to know whether or not a person really likes you.
20b How many friends you have depends upon how nice a person you are.
21a In the long run the bad things that happen to us are balanced by the good ones.
21b Most misfortunes are the result of lack of ability, ignorance, laziness, or all three.
22a With enough effort we can wipe out political and religious conditioning.
22b It is difficult for people to have much control over what they believe.
23a Sometimes I can't understand why my results are poor.
23b There is a direct connection between how often I practice and the results I get.
24a A good friend expects people to decide for themselves what they should do.
24b A good friend makes it clear to everybody what they should do.
25a Many times I feel that I have little influence over the things that happen to me.
25b It is impossible for me to believe that chance or luck plays an important role in my life.
26a People are lonely because they don't try hard enough to be friendly.
26b There's not much use in trying too hard to please people, if they like you, they like you.
27a There is too much emphasis on sport for youngsters.
27b Team sports are an excellent way to build character.
28a What happens to me is my own doing.
28b Sometimes I feel that I don't have any control over the direction my life is taking.
29a Most of the time I can't understand why people behave the way they do.
29b In the long run people are responsible for themselves as far as biology s concerned.
See end of tutorial for scoring
time and motion assignment – what are you doing?
Fill in the missing blanks in the statements below (approximately), then answer the questions:
A Today so far I have spent ---- hours doing stuff that I really wanted to do, that I believe was of more benefit than harm to me personally.
B Today so far I have spent ---- hours doing stuff that I really wanted to do, but that I believe was of more harm than benefit to me personally.
C Today so far I have spent ---- hours doing stuff that I believe was, on the whole, more beneficial than harmful for humanity in general.
D Today so far I have spent ---- hours doing stuff that I believe was, on the whole, more harmful than beneficial to humanity in general.
E Today so far I have spent ---- hours doing stuff for others that I didn't really want to do, but I believe that I chose to do because I got money for it.
F Today so far I have spent ---- hours doing stuff for others that I didn't really want to do, but was too anxious about possible consequences I believe would happen if I didn't.
G Today so far I have learned ---- new things/procedures.
H Currently I can think of ---- healthy relationships I am in which I believe are good for me and/or others.
I Currently I can think of ---- unhealthy relationships I am in which I believe are bad for me and/or others.
Questions to consider:
1 How many of my beliefs above can I justify with actual proof?
2 How aware am I about the repercussions and knock-on effects of each of the main things I do (a) to my own health? (b) for the environment? (c) for humanity in general?
3 What did I spend most of my time doing today so far?
4 How many beneficial hours versus harmful hours did I clock up?
5 What did I spend most of my time doing yesterday, and what am I likely to spend most of my time doing tomorrow?
6 How could I change this for the better? How can I introduce ten minutes' good input into each day? How could I push that to half an hour?
7 How much time was wasted doing basically bugger all? What good stuff could I be doing instead?
8 How much new stuff and novelty do I introduce to each day for myself? How could I increase the amount of new stuff I encounter each day?
9 Am I stuck in unhealthy relationships? What can I do to change this?
10 Am I making the most of good relationships, or neglecting them?
11 Am I avoiding potential new healthy relationships, or seeking them out?
Draw your own conclusions about 'what you are doing' from this assessment. What we are doing right now is a good indicator of the state our mental health will be in, in the near future.
Remember, good input doesn't mean running around the place doing physical exercises, unless you like to do that. Good input can be as easy as fitting one short lecture/ documentary/ demonstration/ TED talk/ podcast/ inspiring novel/ comedy or similar into your day. It isn't difficult to sit on your ass and listen and think; and laughter is energizing, so no excuses!
To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
Some men see things as they are and say, "Why?" I dream of things that never were and say, "Why not?"
(George Bernard Shaw)
The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.
(Carl Sagan, Psychology Today;Jan 1996).
"This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night follows day, thou canst not then be false to any man."
The mind comes up with ideas because it believes they are necessary. The fundamental connection between explanatory knowledge, the ability to interact, and cultural progress make humans rather unique. The ability to interact and use or create explanatory knowledge gives us a power to transform nature, not in limited parochial ways but via practical application of universal laws.
For every other species, we can determine the limits of its ability to interact (and hence how far its intelligence can develop) by listing all the resources and environmental conditions on which its adaptations depend. Although this is complex in some cases, it is always computable given enough variables. Other creatures can manipulate the details (such as building a nest with twigs) but we alone can manipulate the resources; the basics that produce the details. We alone can become programmers.
What we can achieve has little to do with the immediate resources at our disposal; we are all born with nothing apart from our bodies and brains, but our bodies and brains are tools through which our minds can interact, explore, and get things done. We can create and apply new knowledge and new ways of doing things.
Most species can perform operations on the given choices; but we can perform operations that change the given choices. We break boundaries and limits by nature; we build bridges over them; conduits for information flow; metaphoric constructs that leap the conceptual gap with explanatory conjecture followed by experiment. This is what enables us to engage with unknown phenomena, imagine the possibilities, and boldly go to find out what they are. This creates knowledge.
Doing so is part of what WE are. Once we have suitable knowledge we are capable of sparking unlimited further progress. This ability is unique to our species and makes it very difficult if not impossible to set limits on our ability to interact and further develop intelligence.
The only other programmer we know of is evolution. The analog of evolutionary change in a species is creative thought in a person.
As a species we are facing some difficult problems, but for humans, 'difficult' is not the same as 'unlikely'. In fact, the more difficult a problem may appear, the more we tend to get motivated to solve it. But freedom is the root of success; freedom from conditioning, freedom to think extensively and to play creatively, freedom of information, freedom to take care of ourselves and freedom to develop as biology intended.
Intelligence needs – and humans consequently need – to learn, play and create knowledge. With mass communication via the internet, we have new tools available to anyone motivated to use them wisely. Using tools wisely means using them to extend and enhance our awareness into areas we cannot otherwise achieve; thus increasing our autonomy and ability to interact. Using tools unwisely means using them to replace an ability we already have and reduce our awareness, so that our natural ability atrophies due to lack of use; thus increasing our dependence and reducing our ability to interact. Our goal must be continuing development via beneficial change.
Beneficial change does not mean jumping sideways from one counterfeit game into another, or from one false belief to the next; that's just swapping one pile of BS for another pile of BS (same old shit, different toilet; or, same old toilet, different shit).
Neither is there any need for rebellion against society, no need for revolutions; because the most beneficial way to use our physical and mental energy is to proceed forward into cultural progress and personal development. The quest for true explanations, innovative ideas, sane behavior and good solutions is (or should be) the basic regulating principle for not only science and cultural progress, but for the wellbeing of each one of us individually.
Inventing fictional falsehoods is easy, they are based on details that are easily varied; for example:
god/witches/evil spirits/getting wet/eating ice cream makes us catch colds.
We could vary the first term in almost any way to produce an equally feasible explanation. Good explanations on the other hand are difficult to vary; for example:
Viral infections make us catch colds.
The only way we can vary this is to say that 'microorganisms make us catch colds', which is just another way of saying exactly the same thing.
Likewise, the fiction:
I fail to change my old habits because of …............... (my genes/my parents/my environment/ my circumstances/society/other people/lack of wealth/gods will)
or the overcomplicated justification:
I fail to change my old habits because I haven't reduced anxiety enough/ taken responsibility for my own behavior yet/ feel exhausted /don't have enough time/ have overused N5 in the past/ have trouble finding good input/ etc...etc...
versus the simple truth:
I fail to change my old habits because I don't practice new habits.
False or poor explanations are shallow, often go on a bit, and have little relevance outside their parochial counterfeit game contexts. Good explanations are based on basic truths; not details; they are simplicities that underlie complexities. Simple rules that work regardless of details, grounded in observations reinforced by facts.
When you take a decision to prioritize your mental health, you have to take into account the fact that this takes up time. Improving ANY thing takes time. If you think pursuing the goal of optimal development is too much hassle in the benefit/hassle equation, that's your free choice.
But don't judge it before you've tried it – that's prejudice. If you try it, and you have sufficient tenacity to stick with it for a while, you'll start to save more time than you spend, because spending time on developing and maintaining mental function gives you the tools to remove hassle and obstacles from almost every other area of your life.
No longer crippled by anxiety, tasks and communications proceed smoothly and with a minimum of fuss. You don't get dragged gullibly into pointless relationships, rows or dodgy deals, or stuck in dependence-based obligations. Stupid people don't tend to bother you; you are no fun to argue with because you think clearly and you don't get anxious or confused. You are resilient against emotional blackmail and stupidity in general. You treat surprises, even unpleasant ones, as challenges, learning experiences and opportunities to do better.
We must never give up our own free choice to do whatever we choose to do. We only have one life. It's ours, and nobody else's. Do what YOU want to do. But be fully aware of the choices available to you.
We really do stand between the atom and the star; stars create the atoms we are made of, and lowly biochemistry determines our complex structure.
“Like an explosive awaiting a spark, unimaginably numerous environments in the universe are waiting out there, for aeons on end, doing nothing at all or blindly generating evidence and storing it up or pouring it out into space. Almost any of them would, if the right knowledge ever reached it, instantly and irrevocably burst into a radically different type of physical activity: intense knowledge-creation, displaying all the various kinds of complexity, universality and reach that are inherent in the laws of nature, and transforming that environment from what is typical today into what could become typical in the future. If we want to, we could be that spark.”
We stand, as humans have always stood, between the possibility of mental slavery in static societies consisting of anti-rational, counterfeit harmful behaviors, and the possibility of emancipated life in a dynamic culture consisting of the rational, real life benefits of autonomous exploration. It is a choice between reality and falsehood; between comprehension and delusion, between the Carl Sagans and the Caligulas.
Each one of us must make this choice for ourselves; these tutorials have merely been a guide with regard to how to examine evidence, learn from ways that others have used to progress along the path, and forewarn as to what sort of obstacles can get in the way of intelligence development.
“We began in chaos; too primitive to make our own decisions. Then we were manipulated by forces from outside that thought *they* knew what was best for us. And now, - now we're finally standing on our own. Now we make our own magic. Now we create our own legends. Now we build the future. Now we stop being afraid of shadows.”186]
We stand between the darkness of ignorance and the light of comprehension. Your move.
hacks & exercises
A little of what you fancy does you good
Artificially stimulating network 2 boosts immunity.
Activation of areas of the brain associated with positive expectations can affect how the body copes with diseases. It has long been known that the human brain's desire system, which mediates the 'stretch' element of pleasure, can be activated with a placebo (expectation placebos -see Tutorial 17).
The immune-boosting signals emanate from the ventral tegmental area, home to our desire system powered by dopamine. This area lights up in brain scans when a mouse—or a human—knows that a tasty meal, pleasure-inducing drugs, exciting discoveries, or a sexual encounter, is in the offing.
From there, signals are routed via the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for snap responses in spontaneous situations, until it triggers the bacteria-fighting immune response.
Studies in genomic imprinting have revealed how DNA methylation patterns are influenced by diet, and how epigenomic sensitivity to environmental cues and specifically diet can be used to influence disease susceptibility.
Nutrients extracted from the diet enter metabolic pathways and are transformed into useful molecules. These nutrients are known to have epigenetic targets in cells such that they can be used to modify the epigenome in order to correct abnormally activated or silenced genes and can be combined into an “epigenetic diet” useful as a therapeutic or chemopreventive measure. During this transitory phase methyl groups are formed from key nutrients including folic acid, B vitamins and s-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), and these methyl groups comprise important epigenetic marks for gene silencing. Diets high in such methyl rich nutrients may significantly alter gene expression and offer protective health benefits.
Deficiencies in folate and methionine, both of which are involved in cellular processes that supply methyl groups needed for DNA methylation, can change the expression (imprinting) of growth factor genes such as (IGF1).
Specifically, deficient levels of folic acid lead to epigenetic alterations which result in demethylation and chromosome instability. Thus, not only can dietary folate bolster a healthy locus-specific and global DNA methylation program, but can also direct proper uracil incorporation, inhibit DNA breakage, and foster DNA repair via thymidine and purine biosynthesis.
Dietary folate is present in a variety of green vegetables including broccoli, zucchini, brussels sprouts, green beans and spinach participates in maintaining a healthy DNA methylation profile and even reverses accrued damage.
Antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Disruption in the balance between reactive oxygen species and antioxidants may result in harmful health effects caused by DNA damage due to the genotoxic effects of oxidative stress. Protective agents that target the epigenome include micronutrients found in folate, retinoic acid, selenium compounds, polyphenols from green tea, apples, coffee, black raspberries, and other dietary sources. Similar compounds are present in foods containing curcumin and resveratrol.
While certain food components epigenetically increase the levels of DNA repair enzymes, others such as isoflavones and bilberry anthocyanins actively decrease DNA damage.
Anthocyanin is an effective antioxidant for humans that is found in plants and are easily identified by its potent red or purple pigment. It is found in plants such as eggplant, plums, pomegranate, red onion, cranberries, blueberries, kidney beans and cherries which all possess anthocyanins. This flavonoid serves as a powerful antioxidant that contributes to scavenging of DNA-damaging free radicals.
Another example is the polyphenol epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is contained in green tea and has been shown to retard carcinogenesis. The pathway involves regulation of DNA methylation at key genes to elicit positive epigenetic outcomes.
Others like sulfopropanes from cruciferous vegetables and green tea are capable of reverting an aberrant epigenetic profile.
herbs & spices
Epigenetic effects have been identified for several spices and herbs. For example, tulsi and ginger regulate histone H3 acetylation, and other spices such as turmeric and cinnamon possess similar effects.
The health benefits of physical exercise, especially on a long term and strenuous basis, has a positive effect on epigenetic mechanisms and ultimately may reduce incidence and severity of disease.
The mere act of putting one foot in front of the other for a few minutes has a significant beneficial impact on our mood, regardless of where we do it, why we do it, or what effect we expect the walk to have.
Exercise has been shown to induce positive changes in DNA methylation within adipose tissue and regulate metabolism in both healthy and diseased individuals. Increased DNA methylation of genes has also shown to increase lipogenesis following exercise. Exercise also leads to beneficial changes in DNA methylation patterns in skeletal muscle. Exercise is also known to positively influence the expression patterns of miRNAs in leukocyte cells.
Recent research suggests a fat-burning hormone, released during exercise, plays a role. This hormone, irisin (aka 'FNDC5'), a cytokine or chemical messenger produced by muscle, helps your body shed fat and keeps body fat from forming in the first place. Irisin appears to work by boosting the activity of genes and a protein that are crucial to turning white fat cells into brown fat cells, the latter of which primarily burn energy rather than storing it. It also significantly increases the amount of energy used by those cells. Tests show irisin is able to suppress fat cell formation by 20 to 60 percent. Normally, your body produces only small quantities of irisin. And exercise is the key to boosting its production.
In addition to exercise, brown fat can be activated through exposure to cold temperatures such as ice baths or cold showers.
Pharmacoepigenetics is another great word to use at parties. It means the study of inter-individual variations in epigenetic modifications as a result of prescribed pharmaceutical, over-the-counter medications, or recreational drug use. Even therapeutic drugs may cause persistent epigenetic changes, possibly manifesting as permanent adverse side-effects. Direct effects are caused by drugs that interfere directly with the normal controls of DNA and/or histone methylation, resulting in aberrant gene expression. Indirect effects cause epigenetic changes by interaction with a cell surface receptor, enzyme, or other protein, which thereby alters expression of said receptors, and subsequently alters expression of transcription factors, which in turn change epigenetic regulation. Several epigenomic screening protocols are in place to identify drugs whose epigenetic power has therapeutic benefit and to isolate other drugs whose negative epigenetic impact outweighs potential benefit.
Many drugs are used to enhance or alter the perception of reality and reward pleasure centers in the brain, but often these substances carry the risk of addiction. Generally speaking, recreational drugs like cocaine but also including opiates, amphetamines, alcohol and nicotine modify the epigenome by altering methylation patterns in areas such as the nucleus accumbens, or increasing neurotransmitter levels in several areas. Recreational drugs such as cocaine induce epigenetic changes in many ways, such as increasing histone acetylation on c-fos and fosb gene promoters. In terms of histone methylation, the epigenetic mark H3K9 been associated with chronic cocaine use, as well as with the process of cocaine addiction. Cocaine-induced plasticity is associated with the reduction in H3K9 methylation marks due to the repression of HMT G9a in the nucleus accumbens.
Smoking tobacco causes epigenetic changes such as DNA methylation changes, which alter gene expression. For example cigarette smoke induces demethylation of metastatic genes in lung cancer cells.
The epigenetic effects of alcohol on hepatic and neuronal tissue are well documented. Ethanol is known to cause site-selective methylation, acetylation and phosphorylation of histones and DNA hypomethylation. Chronic alcohol induced changes at the gastrointestinal- hepatic level like steatosis, carcinogenesis, endotexemia are also a result of epigenetic alterations.
Alcohol induced neuro-adaptations like tolerance and dependence are a result of epigenetic modulation at the neurobiological level.
Paternal alcohol exposure, prior to mating, has shown to induce increased sensitivity to anxiolytic and motor effects of alcohol, reduced alcohol preference and consumption in offspring in mice. An increased expression of BDNF in the ventral tegmental area of such male offspring was also observed along with DNA hypomethyaltion of the BDNF promoter in the sire's germ cells and male and female offspring. Such effects are epigenetically transmitted through the male lineage and are capable of being a trans-generational influence.
Hypnotic script for congruity - integration of conscious awareness and unconscious knowledge
Note: (comments in brackets are user notes and not to be read aloud as part of the script)
(You will need:
1 Half an hour somewhere comfortable, warm and dark, with no interruptions or distractions.
2 A pre-recorded hypnotic script which we will give you the basics for below. You can add the details yourself. The script will resemble a story. If you choose to use an assistant to read the script for you, make sure it is someone you feel absolutely safe with and whom you can trust.
You may also choose to use enhancing tools such as pre-meditation, archetypal preparatory behaviors (baths, going through doors, etc), drugs or tech. Do not use ambient music during this induction; it is best done in silence and darkness.
In part three of this induction you may choose to play any of the following roles:Guide/ Shaman/ Wizard/ Time lord/Super-intelligent friendly Alien/ Superhero. If you can't decide, choose the one most relevant to your 'highest scoring' network in your FA.
Read through all three parts of the script before you start, as you will want to adjust details to suit your chosen archetype (for example, if you are playing Shaman, you will want to write in a spirit journey rather than a time machine, and you will be going through tunnels rather than wormholes. Be creative, but keep it simple; leave the descriptive details to be filled in by imagination during the experience)).
We are going to go on a journey in a time machine. Before we go, we have to set the coordinates at both ends, so for now you can close your eyes and enter a state of relaxation and body-mindfulness...
...because when you pay attention to and focus on your body, your sense of proprioception is enhanced. You can feel the position of all your limbs and the textures around them, you can relax and feel your muscles lose tension, like sinking into a soft cloud...
...pay attention to your context in this memory; what can you feel? Hear? Smell? Experience yourself in this context and make a picture of it in your mind, because remember, this is where you will be coming back to. This is the context you must bear in mind whenever you want to come back. This is your 'No place like home' moment. When you have a clear picture of how this moment feels, you need to link it with a code coordinate, so say aloud, 'One - two – three', and return to the here and now and stretch your arms and legs...
(You can go straight into part two if you feel ready.)
We have set our coordinates for 'home', so now you can relax, close your eyes and consider your outbound coordinates...
... Search for a memory of yourself in childhood or youth; can you think of a time, possibly when things weren't going so well, when you felt you were being held back, when lots of things were getting in your way, there were lots of problems; did you ever wish or wonder whether there was any kind of 'higher power' that you could access to help you? Most of us consider the possibility at some time in our youth, and wonder whether it's true – is magic real? Are Wizards real? Are there really supersmart aliens? What about gods? A real Batman, or even some vague benevolent power in the universe somewhere, somehow, that would help us if we only knew how to contact it?...
...Did you ever feel a strong conviction that you were meant to do something more exciting and fulfilling that the boring situation you were in? That you were meant to BE something more? That there was 'something more' to life than the contemporary, over-hyped boring story.
These thoughts are the result of creative imagination blossoming, and they were some of the first signs of your intelligence exploring possibilities in response to need... developing problem solving skills... and giving foundation to further development...
...Find a memory of a time – preferably the earliest time – when you thought these kind of thoughts...
...Can you remember where you were when you were thinking them? Find an example where you can remember the context, and remember what it felt like to be in that context. What were the surroundings like? How was your mood at the time? Can you remember details of the surroundings?
When you get a clear memory in your mind, make it as detailed as possible...
The coordinate code for this location in memory will be the opposite of your 'home code', so say aloud 'Three two one' to tag this location and store it in RAM; ready and primed for recall...
...Now, slowly return to the here and now and stretch your arms and legs.
(You can go straight into part three if you feel ready.)
Relax and close you eyes. Now you are ready to journey through time. Compose your mind into the persona of the archetype that you have chosen to use. Feel as they would feel. Appreciate and enjoy the feeling of power this archetype is familiar with, and be aware of the responsibility it brings to share. In this persona, feel what it's like to be kind, considerate, understanding, loving, happy, at peace, strong, nurturing and gentle...
As this persona, recall the location of the child – but do not go there yet. Simply 'peep into the memory' as an observer. Observe the child in that context as though from a distance, like watching through a tunnel in space, back to the point where that happened; a wormhole between here ad then. As your current persona, you can empathize with the young person who, so inexperienced compared with the adult, was still somehow aware that there was 'something more' to life than the contemporary, over-hyped, boring story of mundanity...
...Look down at the youth and now appreciate that you are in a privileged position of being able to 'go back and rescue yourself'; to bring the younger, hopeful you into the current reality you now inhabit...
...you are in a position where you can answer that question from long ago...
...Say aloud your outbound coordinates: 'Three two one' and feel yourself shift into the memory. Imagine the youngster responds with wonder and fearless delight to your archetype appearing to answer their question, and say aloud, 'Never be afraid. There IS more and you ARE more; in my time you have already journeyed the gap between us, so I'm here to take you out of all this.'...
(you can write your own phrases to fit your own archetype, but 'let's go kick ass' or 'this time we stick together' works quite well for general purposes.)
...Hold hands with the youngster, and with a light hearted happiness, say aloud your return coordinates; 'One two three' and zoom back up the tunnel...
...Slowly become more aware of your current surroundings, and stretch your limbs. As you come back to ordinary awareness, consider that you can use this induction to go back to any time in the past and literally 'comfort yourself' and bring that person (those memories) up to date with current perspectives, knowledge and awareness...
(Post-hypnotic exercise: Over the next few days, use mindfulness to reinforce the idea that you now have the younger you 'with you' and will work as a team from now on. You will re-access the open-mindedness, imagination and motivation of youth and they will access the benefits of experience, creativity and rational thinking. As you work together, you'll slowly become aware that you are one congruous entity, stepping forward into the future.
Practices like this improve the connections between rear nets and frontal ones, because we have to USE those networks in coordination in order to do the induction, and cells that fire together wire together, which upgrades connections via plasticity. Nothing builds connections like regular use.)
Helpful trick for enhancing self suggestion:
Some have found adopting the following posture augments meditation, mindfulness and self suggestion: Sitting down, keep your eyes half open and focused towards the floor.
Exercises for communication with core conditions
Exercise 1 (warm up exercise)
Practice discussing, writing about and expressing two things: (1) what’s good about your life right now and (2) what would make life more interesting and fun. Learn how to say and write just that; without any criticisms, complaints, value judgments or demands.
Don't include negatives (for example, 'I'm getting a bit less hassle this month') – reframe them as positives (for example, 'I'm succeeding in getting more peace & quiet this month').
Include discussion of the most recent things or events you have enjoyed and why you enjoyed them.
Notes: Using core conditions enables communication skills that strengthen our resilience and ability to remain sane, even under trying conditions. The exercises are to remind us about what we already know—about biological needs and how healthy humans are meant to relate to one another—and to assist us in thinking, talking and behaving in congruous ways that both manifests and reinforces this knowledge.
Practice awareness of autonomy and interdependence and the concept of "power with" instead of "power over" others. Consider things you need to do or would like to do, which you are not currently able to do alone. Replace 'Who can I get to do X for me?' with 'Who or what can help me learn to do X?' or, 'Who might like to do X with me?'
Exercise 3 Discourse analysis
Consider a past situation or event where things went badly for you. Using the 'Alice & Bob' method for naming those involved, write a short account (anything up to half a page of A4) of what happened. Don't spend more than ten minutes doing this, as we are going to edit it later. Alternatively, record yourself giving an account and then play it back and make notes.
a) Write a second account, differentiating your observations from your evaluation; that is, include only the bare facts of what happened and miss out any words that are evaluating or judging anything. In avoiding value judgments, we avoid using words like good, bad, right or wrong, because they have a high emotional rating. Terms with a high emotional rating prevent us or an anxious listener from connecting easily with what we might actually be saying and feeling.
b) Specify the behaviors and conditions that affected you.
c) Differentiate your feelings from your thoughts during the event. What were you thinking? What were you feeling? Are there periods where you can't remember what you were thinking?
d) Identify and describe the internal feeling states you remember, in a way that does not imply judgment, criticism, blame or punishment. Do NOT descibe emotions or sentiments. Describe how your body felt (eg hot, cold, numb, nauseous, unable to move, unable to keep still, tense, stiff, relaxed).
e) Identify the biological imperatives (human needs) in you that were being met or not met in relation to what was happening and how you were feeling.
f) Describe what you would have liked to happen, in terms that that clearly and specifically states what you wanted (rather than what you didn’t want), in a factual way that is framed as a desire and not a demand (do not use the terms 'should have or 'shouldn't have').
When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, needed, and wanted, rather than on diagnosing and judging, we access a greater depth of comprehension.
Exercise to break habitual interpretation
We have been trained to frame our own feelings in counterfeit game terms; as sentiments, and through habit may continue to do so. We can retrain ourselves to see what is really going on with the aid of reframing or 'changing the script'. If we don't, we may underestimate ourselves and others by judging through a filter of anxiety.
Think about a communication problem in any relationship, past or present. Consider what those involved felt during the problem and use the Alice and Bob method to write notes about the emotions or sentiments involved (eg, 'When Alice said X, Bob felt ….........., when Bob did X, Alice felt …..........'). Then consult the reframing phraselist below, and change your notes accordingly. (see other lists below)
Comunication with core conditions – Change the script reframing phraselist
Where you have interpreted your own and others' feelings as
Change the script to interpreting those feelings as one or more of the following
Hurt, rejection, ignorance, neglect
Alarm, concern, antipathy and defensiveness
Sickess, fear, freak-out, panic, repulsion
Disgust, alarm, offense
Concern, alarm, disgust
Jealousy, possessiveness, envy
Lust, desire, friendliness, amiability, empathy
Guilt, shame, embarrassment
Antipathy, defensiveness, alarm
Hopelessness, helplessness, despair
Persecuted, suspicious, paranoid
Arrogance, hubris, snobbery, megalomania
Pride, confidence, certainty, autonomy
boredom, apathy, tiredness, depression, misery
Concern, sadness, grief
Levity, Light heartedness, humor
Comfort, excitement, friendliness, interest
Disgust, alarm, antipathy
Isolation, loneliness, neglect
Uncertainty, concern, sadness
Now we apply the question 'Why?' to all our amended statements, and this is cool because we already know the answers to every one! The answers will be either: 'Because my needs were not being met', or, 'Because my needs were being met'. You can go on to work out which needs were not being met (e.g. safe space, self care, trusted allies, learning, comprehension).
Repeat this exercise with behaviors and construct your own list, with the headers:
'Where you have interpreted your own and others' behaviors as' and 'Change the plot to interpret those behaviors as one or more of the following'.
Notes: When we practice reframing how we express ourselves and hear others, instead of being habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on an awareness of what we are perceiving, feeling, and wanting. We are led to express ourselves with honesty and clarity, while simultaneously paying others a respectful and empathic attention. In any exchange, we come to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. We begin to observe more carefully, and to be able to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us when anxiety strikes. We learn to identify and clearly articulate what we are trying to achieve in a given situation.
Regular practice replaces our old patterns of defending, withdrawing, justifying or attacking due to anxiety. Panicky or aggressive reactions are minimized.
Advanced users can incorporate other kinds of language into their practice, for example body language, gestures, facial expression, calmness, silent empathy, humor, stories, poetry; but don't try to do all this at once during initial practice, let these other forms simply develop themselves (because they will, as congruity, self confidence and personal integrity increase).
Exercise to use embodiment for cognitive augmentation
Make a mind map for an issue or problem. Then present the same information on a pack of cards to move round and rearrange in any way you like. Spread out related information over your desk and walls. You are enhancing your ability to think.
Research shows that people's thoughts, choices and insights can be transformed by physical interaction with things. In other words, thinking with your brain alone is not as efficient as thinking with your brain, your eyes, and your hands – as humans frequently do when explaining things.
As people reconfigure the physical properties of their environment, they are not simply making it easier to think; they ARE thinking. Moves can be deliberate or serendipitous. Thinking is fundamentally relational: it unfolds along a series of physical changes in the contextual environment that at times affects, and at times is affected by, a series of biological changes in the brain.
Interactivity inevitably benefits performance. In part this is because changes in the physical environment makes it easier for us to remember what information we are considering, but also dynamically changing the problem's configuration prompts new possibilities for interaction, or unveils new ways of solving problems. People are more creative and more efficient when solving problems with their hands, and those who can use physical artefacts to build a model of the problem are much more likely to reach some insight.
1 Richard Feynman http://www.geek.com/news/richard-feynman-explains-the-scientific-method-in-1964-lecture-1488517/
2 paraphrased from Cohen & Stewart; The Collapse of Chaos; https://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Chaos-Discovering-Simplicity-Complex/dp/0140178740 ; https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/complicity/article/view/8955
3 paraphrased from David Deutsch; The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
5 Michael K. Skinner; Environmental Epigenetics and a Unified Theory of the Molecular Aspects of Evolution: A Neo-Lamarckian Concept that Facilitates Neo-Darwinian Evolution; April 17, 2015. http://gbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/7/5/1296.full
6 John Cairns, Julie Overbaugh & Stephan Miller; The origin of mutants; Nature 335, 142 - 145 (08 September 1988); doi:10.1038/335142a0
7 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_evolution AND https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_examples_of_convergent_evolution
8 Crews et al. 2007; Skinner et al. 2010
9 Cubas et al. 1999
10 Day and Bonduriansky 2011
11 Rebollo et al. 2010; Flatscher et al. 2012; as quoted in  above
12 M F Nijhout; 'Metaphors and the role of genes in development'; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1979486
13 Zwijnenburg et al. 2010; Kratz et al. 2014; Tan et al. 2015
14 Skinner 2014a
15 McClintock 1984
16 Janecka et al. 2012
17 Darwin (1868)
18 Skinner et al. 2010
19 Skinner 2014a
20 by Horace Barlow, Nick Humphrey, David Premack
and Marvin Minsky (among others)
21 this state of affairs may also be experienced with a decent sized bag of magic mushrooms, or similar
22 Ursula Dicke and Gerard Roth; Subtle refinements in brain architecture, rather than large-scale alterations, make us smarter than other animals; Animal Intelligence and the Evolution of the Human Mind; http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/intelligence-evolved/
23 paraphrased from V.S. Ramachandran; Mirror Neurons and imitation learning as the driving force behind "the great leap forward" in human evolution; https://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/ramachandran/ramachandran_p1.html
24 Allman et al., 2002; http://saki.caltech.edu/biCNS217_2008/PDFs/Allman2002.pdf
25 Allman et al., 2002; Allman et al., 2005; http://www.allmanlab.caltech.edu/PDFs/AllmanVENCounts2010.pdf
26 https://www.edge.org/conversation/vilayanur_ramachandran-adventures-in-behavioral-neurology-%E2%80%94-or-%E2%80%94-what-neurology-can; Adventures in Behavioral Neurology — or — What Neurology can tell us about Human Nature; a talk with Vilayanur Ramachandran
27 Modified from Rae (1954); http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cne.901000103/abstract
28 Baizer JS, Sherwood CC, Noonan M, Hof PR: 'Comparative organization of the claustrum: what does structure tell us about function?' Front Syst Neurosci 2014, 8:117.
AND Milardi D, Bramanti P, Milazzo C, Finocchio G, Arrigo A, Santoro G, Trimarchi F, Quartarone A, Anastasi G, Gaeta M: 'Cortical and subcortical connections of the human claustrum revealed in vivo by constrained spherical deconvolution tractography'; Cereb Cortex 2015, 25:406-414; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256470227
30 Mohamad Z. Koubeissia, Fabrice Bartolomei, Abdelrahman Beltagy, Fabienne Picard. (2014). Electrical stimulation of a small brain area reversibly disrupts consciousness. Epilepsy & Behavior Volume 37, August 2014, Pages 32–35
31 Smythies J, Edelstein L, Ramachandran V: 'Hypotheses relating to the function of the claustrum.' Front Integr Neurosci 2012, 6:53
AND Crick FC, Koch C: 'What is the function of the claustrum?' Phil Trans R Soc B Lond 2005, 360:1271-1279
33 Fernández-Miranda et al. 2008
34 Smythies J: 'The nature of consciousness and its relation to brain: the pith of a formidable problem and its possible solution.' J Conscious Stud 2014, 21:183-202
35 Merchant H, Yarrow K: How the motor system both encodes and inﬂuences our sense of time. Curr Opin Behav Sci 2016, 8:22-27. 76
AND Yin B, Meck WH: Comparison of interval timing behaviour in mice following dorsal or ventral hippocampal lesions with mice having d opioid receptor gene deletion. Phil Trans R Soc B Lond 2014, 369:20120466
36 Gu B-M, van Rijn H, Meck WH: 'Oscillatory multiplexing of neural population codes for interval timing and working memory.' Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2015, 48:160-185
37 Flynn 1999; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect
38 Jimmy Ghaziri, Alan Tucholka, GabrielGirard, Jean-Christophe Houde, Olivier Boucher, Guillaume Gilbert, Maxime Descoteaux, Sarah Lippé, Pierre Rainville and Dang Khoa Nguyen; 'The Corticocortical Structural Connectivity of the Human Insula'; http://scil.dinf.usherbrooke.ca/wp-content/papers/ghaziri-etal-cc15.pdf
39 for an extensive review, see Shelley and Trimble 2004; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15543513 Kurth et al. 2010; Nieuwenhuys 2012; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22230626
40 Semendeferi and Damasio 2000; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10656781
41 Semendeferi and Damasio 2000; Allen et al. 2002; 'Attachment and Autonomy as Predictors of the Development of Social Skills and Delinquency During Midadolescence';
http://www.people.virginia.edu/~psykliff/pubs/publications/allen%20marsh%20mcfarland%202002.pdf ; Kaas 2013; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wcs.1206/abstract
42 Cauda et al. 2011; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21111053; Cloutman et al. 2012; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3429885/
43 Eickhoff et al. 2010
44 Nimchinsky et al. 1995; Allman et al. 2011; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21534993; Butti et al. 2013
45 Torta and Cauda 2011; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21459151
46 Torta and Cauda 2011; Cauda et al. 2013, 2014
47 Seeley et al. 2007; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17329432; Vincent et al. 2008; Menon and Uddin 2010; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2899886/
48 Seeley et al. 2007; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17329432; Cauda et al. 2012; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22521480 Ham et al. 2013
49 Ploran et al., 2007 ; Craig, 2010 ; Nelson et al., 2010
50 Aziz-Zadeh et al., 2009 ; Allman et al., 2011
51 Critchley and Seth, 2012 ; Palaniyappan and Liddle, 2012 ; Seth et al., 2012
52 Gabriel, Burhans, Talk, & Scalf, 'Neurobiology of the Cingulate cortex'; 2002
53 Palomero-Gallagher et al., 2008, Vogt, 2009
55 see Bush, Luu, && Posner, 2000; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10827444
56 e.g., Falkenstein, Hohnsbein, Hoormann, & Blanke, 1991 & Gehring, Goss, Coles, Meyer, & Donchin, 1993; http://apsychoserver.psych.arizona.edu/jjbareprints/psyc501a/readings/Gehring%20et%20al_A%20neural%20system%20for%20error%20detection_Psych%20Science_1993.pdf
57 Mayberg, Lozano, Voon, McNeely, Seminowicz, Hamani, et al., 2005; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15748841
58 Compton, Robinson, Ode, Quandt, Fineman, and Carp; 2008; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18727786
60 e.g., Bush, Vogt, Holmes, Dale, Greve, Jenike et al., 2002; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11756669
61 the PCC helps to regulate the balance between internally and externally-focused attention
62 Maddock, R.J.; Garrett, A.S. And Buonocore, M.H.; 'Remembering familiar people: the posterior cingulate cortex and autobiographical memory retrieval'; Neuroscience. 2001;104(3):667-76; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11440800
63 Maddock, R.J.; Garrett, A.S. And Buonocore, M.H.; 'Posterior cingulate cortex activation by emotional words: fMRI evidence from a valence decision task'; Hum Brain Mapp. 2003 Jan;18(1):30-41; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12454910
65 MacLean, 1993
66 Singer et al., 2004, Lamm et al., 2011
67 Apps et al., 2013b, Anderson and Kiehl, 2012
68 Apps et al., 2013b, Behrens et al., 2009
69 Ullsperger et al., 2014, Kolling et al., 2016
70 Holroyd and Yeung, 2012, Kolling et al., 2016
71 Kennerley et al., 2009, Kurzban et al., 2013, Kolling et al., 2016, Rushworth et al., 2012
72 Kolling et al., 2016
73 Blair and Cipolotti, 2000, Krajbich et al., 2009, Anderson et al., 1999, Moretti et al., 2009, Kumaran et al., 2015, Hornak et al., 2003
74 Koban et al., 2010, Shane et al., 2008
75 Sallet et al., 2011, Noonan et al., 2014
76 Dosenbach et al. (2006)
77 Amemori and Graybiel, 2012
78 Procyk et al., 2016
80 Bahrami et al., 2010
81 Ingvar, 1985
82 Kjaer and Lou, 2000
AND Kjaer et al., 2001
83 Kjaer et al., 2001, Kjaer et al., 2002a, Kjaer et al., 2002b
AND Lou et al., 2005
84 Lagercrantz and Changeux, 2009
AND Legrain et al., 2011
85 Cho et al., 2015
AND Fransson et al., 2011
86 Joseph Chilton Pearce; Evolution's End; https://www.amazon.co.uk/Evolutions-End-Claiming-Potential-Intelligence/dp/006250732X AND http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-250693-1
87 2007; http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20070915/bob9.asp
90 'Cortical oscillations arise from contextual interactions that regulate sparse coding', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Published online before print on April 17, 2014, doi:10.1073/pnas.1405300111
91 Markus & Nurius, 1986; http://www.psychwiki.com/wiki/Markus,_H.,_%26_Nurius,_P._(1986)._Possible_selves._American_Psychologist,_41(9),_954-969.
92 Allport, 1961
95 King, 2001; http://psp.sagepub.com/content/27/7/798.abstract
96 Pham & Taylor, 1999; http://psp.sagepub.com/content/25/2/250
97 Rivkin & Taylor, 1999
98 Fordyce, 1983; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_W._Fordyce Taylor & Brown, 1988; http://positivepsychology.org.uk/pp-theory/optimism/124-positive-illusions.html
99 Wiebking et al., 2014
100 Heydrich and Blanke, 2013
101 Nguyen et al., 2014
102 Gusnard et al., 2001, Luber et al., 2012
AND Salomon et al., 2014
103 Lou et al., 2011a, Lou et al., 2011b
AND Lou et al., 2011c
104 Lou et al., 2004
105 Luber et al., 2012
106 Lou et al., 2011a, Lou et al., 2011b
AND Lou et al., 2011c
107 Libet, 1991
108 Hall et al. (2010
109 Lou et al., 2016
110 Lou et al., 2011a, Lou et al., 2011b
AND Lou et al., 2011c; Joensson et al., 2015
111 Changeux and Lou, 2011
112 Juckel, 2015
113 Liu et al., 2013
AND Muthukumaraswamy et al., 2013
114 Carl Rogers self actualization; http://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-rogers.html; https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/personality-16/humanistic-perspectives-on-personality-78/rogers-humanistic-theory-of-personality-308-12843/
115 Richard Nelson-Jones; 'Are there Universal Human being Skills?'; http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09515070110100947
116 World Happiness Report, 2012; http://www.earth.columbia.edu/sitefiles/file/Sachs%20Writing/2012/World%20Happiness%20Report.pdf
117 If you doubt this, or don't get what it means, try giving a gorilla money and taking his bananas, and see how far you get. Now try exchanging bananas for peaches. Behold the 'aha!' moment; that's comprehension dawning. If you don't have a gorilla to hand, try paying any animal versus feeding it (except for goats, who will eat your money).
118 Song et al. 2013
119 Pembrey et al. 2006; Burdge et al. 2011
120 Skinner 2014b
121 Anway et al. 2005; Skinner 2014a
122 Skinner 2014a
123 Gilbert, 2007 https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Psychotherapy_and_Counselling_for_Depres.html?id=3O9VxBws5-UC&redir_esc=y
124 Kahneman & Krueger, 2006 https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/089533006776526030
125 Yukl, 2010
126 Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005 http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/wp-content/themes/sonjalyubomirsky/papers/LSS2005.pdf
127 paraphrased from Lakoff & Johnson Metaphors We Live By; http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/M/bo3637992.html
128 Rogers, 1951, 1975; http://www.simplypsychology.org/client-centred-therapy.html
129 Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2007; http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/wp-content/themes/sonjalyubomirsky/papers/SL2007.pdf
130 Ben-Shahar, 2007
131 Baron-Cohen and Wheelwright, 2004; http://isik.zrc-sazu.si/doc2009/kpms/Baron-Cohen_empathy_quotient_2004.pdf Batson, 2009; Decety and Jackson, 2004; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15537986 Preston and de Waal, 2002; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12625087
132 Geraint Rees; University College London (UCL) Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience; https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=inter-individual-differences-in-empathy-are-reflected-in-human-brain-structure.pdf&site=42
133 Kashdan, 2009; http://toddkashdan.com/articles/Kashdan%20&%20McKnight%20(2009)%20Origins%20of%20purpose%20in%20life.pdf
134 Cskiszentmihalyi 1990; http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/mihaly-csikszentmihalyi/
136 Gable et al, 2006
137 Peterson, 2006; https://www.amazon.co.uk/Primer-Positive-Psychology-Oxford/dp/0195188330
138 Reivich & Shatté, 2002
139 Peterson, Park, Pole, D’Andrea & Seligman, 2008; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18404632
140 http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/10/e1600855 AND https://www.statnews.com/2016/10/19/is-pain-contagious/?s_campaign=stat:rss AND https://www.newscientist.com/article/2109755-is-pain-catching-first-clues-that-it-might-spread-to-others/
141 http://www.neurosciencegateway.ucla.edu/sites/all/files/users/user-107/Marchant%20-%20Nature%202013%20Cole.pdf AND http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264105.php
142 Carver, C. "Resilience and Thriving: Issues, Models, and Linkages". Journal of Social Issues. 54: 245–266. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.1998.tb01217.x
145 Riya R. Kanherkar, Naina Bhatia-Dey, and Antonei B. Csoka; Epigenetics across the human lifespan; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4207041/
147 paraphrased from David Deutsch; 'The Beginning of Infinity'; https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beginning-Infinity-Explanations-Transform-Penguin/dp/0140278168 audiobook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjg0hnITUio
148 Joseph A. Tainter; 'The Rise and Fall of Complex Societies'; Cambridge University Press; 1988 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Collapse-Complex-Societies-Studies-Archaeology/dp/052138673X
149 Dunbar and Shultz, 2007, Passingham and Wise, 2012, Chang, 2013, Chang et al., 2013b
150 Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., Impett, E. A., & Asher, E. R. (2004). What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal andinterpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(2), 238-245. ]
151 David Deutsch; The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications
153 Dobricki et al.; "Sensorimotor body-environment interaction serves to regulate emotional experience and exploratory behavior" Heliyon, http://www.heliyon.com/article/e00173/ DOI: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2016.e00173; "Virtual reality study finds our perception of our body and environment affects how we feel" October 13, 2016 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-10-virtual-reality-perception-body-environment.html
154 Lakoff & Johnson; 'Philosophy in the Flesh' https://www.amazon.co.uk/Philosophy-Flesh-Embodied-Challenge-Western/dp/0465056741; http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/lakoff.htm
155 Fauconnier & Turner, 1998; http://www.cogsci.ucsd.edu/~faucon/BEIJING/CIN.pdf
156 Cohen & Stewart, 'Figments of Reality'; ISBN 0 521 571553
157 Arvid Guterstam, Malin Björnsdotter, Giovanni Gentile & Henrik Ehrsson, 'Posterior Cingulate Cortex Integrates the Senses of Self-location and Body Ownership', Current Biology, online 30 April 2015. "Brain scan reveals out-of-body illusion." April 30th, 2015. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-04-brain-scan-reveals-out-of-body-illusion.html AND https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/out-of-body-visit-lab-master-illusionist/
159 Hakamata et al., 2013
160 Drevets et al., 2008; Shin and Liberzon, 2010; Kühn and Gallinat, 2013
161 Levenson et al., 2005
162 Cahn and Polich, 2006; Tang et al., 2007 ; Travis and Shear, 2010
164 David Meunier, Renaud Lambiotte & Edward T Bullmore; 'Modular and hierarchically modular organization of brain networks'; http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnins.2010.00200/full
165 Carlo Nicolini & Angelo Bifone, 'Modular structure of brain functional networks: breaking the resolution limit by Surprise'; 14 January 2016; http://www.nature.com/articles/srep19250
166 (Allen et al. 2012; Chang and Glover 2010; Handwerker et al. 2012) AND (Kang et al. 2011; Kiviniemi et al. 2011)
167 Xin Di & Bharat B Biswal; 'Dynamic brain functional connectivity modulated by resting-state networks'; January 2015; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3980132/
168 Douglas H. Schultz and Michael W. Cole; 'Higher Intelligence Is Associated with Less Task-Related Brain Network Reconfiguration'; http://www.colelab.org/pubs/Journal_of_Neuroscience_2016_Schultz.pdf
169 Schutz et al. (2013), 'The affective profiles in the USA: happiness, depression, life satisfaction, and happiness increasing strategies'; PeerJ 1:e156; DOI: 10.7717/peerj.156
"Positive emotion influences a depressive-to-happy state and increases life satisfaction." September 10th, 2013. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-09-positive-emotion-depressive-to-happy-state-life.html
170 Tkach & Lyubomirsky; 2006; http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/wp-content/themes/sonjalyubomirsky/papers/TL2006.pdf
171 Hölzel et al., 2011; Tang et al., 2012a,b; Vago and Silbersweig, 2012
172 Hölzel et al., 2011
174 Klimecki et al., 2013a,b
175 Frederick Travis et al, Default mode network activation and Transcendental Meditation practice: Focused Attention or Automatic Self-transcending?, Brain and Cognition (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.bandc.2016.08.009 "Research validates the defining hallmark of Transcendental Meditation—effortlessness" November 4, 2016 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-11-validates-hallmark-transcendental-meditationeffortlessness.html
177 Tang et al., 2009
178 Tang et al., 2007
179 Tang et al., 2012a,b
180 Cahn and Polich, 2006; Hölzel et al., 2011
181 Tang et al., 2007; Xue et al., 2011; Tang et al., 2012a,b
182 "Emotional intelligence peaks as we enter our 60s, research suggests." Medicine & Health / Psychology & Psychiatry; December 16th, 2010. http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-12-emotional-intelligence-peaks-60s.html
AND The Secret Life Of The Grown-up Brain by Barbara Strauch; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyy2S6EoV9s
183 Rotter, 1966
184 Zimbardo, 1985, p. 275
185 Hans, 2000; Hattie, Marsh, Neill & Richards, 1997
186 paraphrased from excerpts; Babylon 5 'Into the Fire'; Sheridan & Delenn
187 Tamar L Ben-Shaanan et al.; "Tickling the brain can boost immunity: study"; Nature Medicine & Health / Immunology; July 4, 2016; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-07-brain-boost-immunity.html ; [be advised that this article mistakenly calls the desire system the 'reward system'; a very common mistake. -ed]
188 Waterland and Jirtle, 2003; Carone et al., 2010; Jennings and Willis, 2014
189 Hardy and Tollefsbol, 2011
190 Dulthie, 2011
191 Ingrosso et al., 2003
192 Bhusari et al., 2010; Jennings and Willis, 2014
193 Waris and Ahsan, 2006
194 Gerhauser, 2013
195 Davis et al., 2001; Djuric et al., 2001; Olaharski et al., 2005; Fang et al., 2007; Kikuno et al., 2008; Burdge et al., 2011; Kropat et al., 2013
196 Fang et al., 2003
197 Tollefsbol, 2014
198 Shim et al., 2011
199 Sanchis-Gomar et al., 2012
201 Ronn et al., 2013
202 Nitert et al., 2012
203 Radom-Aizik et al., 2010
204 1 American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism August 19, 2016; 311(2): E530-E541
AND Psychology Today October 5, 2016
AND Medical News Today October 2, 2016
205 Csoka and Szyf, 2009
206 Renthal and Nestler, 2008; Maze and Nestler, 2011; Doehring et al., 2013
207 Kumar et al., 2005
208 Maze et al., 2010
209 Shukla et al., 2008
210 Shukla and Lim, 2013
211 Finegersh and Homanics, 2014a
212 Finegersh and Homanics, 2014b
213 refs Marsh, H. W. & Richards, G. E. (1987). The multidimensionality of the Rotter I-E Scale and its higher order structure: An application of confirmatory factor analysis. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 22, 39-69.
AND Rotter, J. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcements, Psychological Monographs, 80, Whole No. 609.
Scoring for self assessment – locus of control
Score 1 point if you answered 'T' or 'ST' for each of the following:
External locus = low score; Internal locus = high score