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Waking from the Meme Dream

We are in charge of our bodies, we run the show, we decide which ideas to believe in and which to reject. But do we really? If you begin to think about selfish memes it becomes clear that our ideas are in our heads because they are successful memes. American philosopher Dan Dennett (1995) concludes that a "person" is a particular sort of animal infested with memes. In other words you and I and all our friends are the products of two blind replicators, the genes and the memes.

(...)

This simple logic explains why it is so hard for us to sit down and "not think"; why the battle to subdue "our" thoughts is doomed. In a very real sense they are not "our" thoughts at all. They are simply the memes that happen to be successfully exploiting our brain-ware at the moment.


Via ddrrnt
Micki Pacific's insight:

Since he first suggested the idea of memes Dawkins has discussed the spread of such behaviours as wearing baseball caps back to front (my kids have recently turned theirs the right way round again!), the use of special clothing markers to identify gangs, and (most famously) the power of religions. Religions are, according to Dawkins (1993), huge co-adapted meme-complexes; that is groups of memes that hang around together for mutual support and thereby survive better than lone memes could do. Other meme-complexes include cults, political systems, alternative belief systems, and scientific theories and paradigms.

Religions are special because they use just about every meme-trick in the book (which is presumably why they last so long and infect so many brains). Think of it this way. The idea of hell is initially useful because the fear of hell reinforces socially desirable behaviour. Now add the idea that unbelievers go to hell, and the meme and any companions are well protected. The idea of God is a natural companion meme, assuaging fear and providing (spurious) comfort. The spread of the meme-complex is aided by exhortations to convert others and by tricks such as the celibate priesthood. Celibacy is a disaster for genes, but will help spread memes since a celibate priest has more time to spend promoting his faith.

Another trick is to value faith and suppress the doubt that leads every child to ask difficult questions like "where is hell?" and "If God is so good why did those people get tortured?". Note that science (and some forms of Buddhism) do the opposite and encourage doubt.

Finally, once you’ve been infected with these meme-complexes they are hard to get rid of. If you try to throw them out, some even protect themselves with last-ditch threats of death, ex-communication, or burning in hell-fire for eternity.

I shouldn’t get carried away. The point I want to make is that these religious memes have not survived for centuries because they are true, because they are useful to the genes, or because they make us happy. In fact I think they are false and are responsible for the worst miseries in human history. No - they have survived because they are selfish memes and are good at surviving - they need no other reason.

Once you start to think this way a truly frightening prospect opens up. We have all become used to thinking of our bodies as biological organisms created by evolution. Yet we still like to think of our selves as something more. We are in charge of our bodies, we run the show, we decide which ideas to believe in and which to reject. But do we really? If you begin to think about selfish memes it becomes clear that our ideas are in our heads because they are successful memes. American philosopher Dan Dennett (1995) concludes that a "person" is a particular sort of animal infested with memes. In other words you and I and all our friends are the products of two blind replicators, the genes and the memes.

I find these ideas absolutely stunning. Potentially we might be able to understand all of mental life in terms of the competition between memes, just as we can understand all biological life in terms of the competition between genes.

What I want to do now, finally, is apply the ideas of memetics to the questions I asked at the beginning. What are we waking up from and how do we do it?

 
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Rescooped by Micki Pacific from Consciousness
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The Self Illusion: How Our Social Brain Constructs Who We Are

The Self Illusion: How Our Social Brain Constructs Who We Are | radical cosmology | Scoop.it

"Each morning, we wake up and experience a rich explosion of consciousness — the bright morning sunlight, the smell of roast coffee and, for some of us, the warmth of the person lying next to us in bed. As the slumber recedes into the night, we awake to become who we are. The morning haze of dreams and oblivion disperses and lifts as recognition and recall bubble up the content of our memories into our consciousness. For the briefest of moments we are not sure who we are and then suddenly ‘I,’ the one that is awake, awakens. We gather our thoughts so that the ‘I’ who is conscious becomes the ‘me’ — the person with a past. The memories of the previous day return. The plans for the immediate future reformulate. The realization that we have things to get on with remind us that it is a workday. We become a person whom we recognize.

 

The call of nature tells us it is time to visit the bathroom and en route we glance at the mirror. We take a moment to reflect. We look a little older, but we are still the same person who has looked in that same mirror every day since we moved in. We see our self in that mirror. This is who we are.

 

The daily experience of the self is so familiar, and yet the brain science shows that this sense of the self is an illusion. Psychologist Susan Blackmore makes the point that the word ‘illusion’ does not mean that it does not exist — rather, an illusion is not what it seems. We all certainly experience some form of self, but what we experience is a powerful depiction generated by our brains for our own benefit."

 

The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity - Bruce Hood


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Rescooped by Micki Pacific from Consciousness
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Waking from the Meme Dream

We are in charge of our bodies, we run the show, we decide which ideas to believe in and which to reject. But do we really? If you begin to think about selfish memes it becomes clear that our ideas are in our heads because they are successful memes. American philosopher Dan Dennett (1995) concludes that a "person" is a particular sort of animal infested with memes. In other words you and I and all our friends are the products of two blind replicators, the genes and the memes.

(...)

This simple logic explains why it is so hard for us to sit down and "not think"; why the battle to subdue "our" thoughts is doomed. In a very real sense they are not "our" thoughts at all. They are simply the memes that happen to be successfully exploiting our brain-ware at the moment.


Via ddrrnt
Micki Pacific's insight:

Since he first suggested the idea of memes Dawkins has discussed the spread of such behaviours as wearing baseball caps back to front (my kids have recently turned theirs the right way round again!), the use of special clothing markers to identify gangs, and (most famously) the power of religions. Religions are, according to Dawkins (1993), huge co-adapted meme-complexes; that is groups of memes that hang around together for mutual support and thereby survive better than lone memes could do. Other meme-complexes include cults, political systems, alternative belief systems, and scientific theories and paradigms.

Religions are special because they use just about every meme-trick in the book (which is presumably why they last so long and infect so many brains). Think of it this way. The idea of hell is initially useful because the fear of hell reinforces socially desirable behaviour. Now add the idea that unbelievers go to hell, and the meme and any companions are well protected. The idea of God is a natural companion meme, assuaging fear and providing (spurious) comfort. The spread of the meme-complex is aided by exhortations to convert others and by tricks such as the celibate priesthood. Celibacy is a disaster for genes, but will help spread memes since a celibate priest has more time to spend promoting his faith.

Another trick is to value faith and suppress the doubt that leads every child to ask difficult questions like "where is hell?" and "If God is so good why did those people get tortured?". Note that science (and some forms of Buddhism) do the opposite and encourage doubt.

Finally, once you’ve been infected with these meme-complexes they are hard to get rid of. If you try to throw them out, some even protect themselves with last-ditch threats of death, ex-communication, or burning in hell-fire for eternity.

I shouldn’t get carried away. The point I want to make is that these religious memes have not survived for centuries because they are true, because they are useful to the genes, or because they make us happy. In fact I think they are false and are responsible for the worst miseries in human history. No - they have survived because they are selfish memes and are good at surviving - they need no other reason.

Once you start to think this way a truly frightening prospect opens up. We have all become used to thinking of our bodies as biological organisms created by evolution. Yet we still like to think of our selves as something more. We are in charge of our bodies, we run the show, we decide which ideas to believe in and which to reject. But do we really? If you begin to think about selfish memes it becomes clear that our ideas are in our heads because they are successful memes. American philosopher Dan Dennett (1995) concludes that a "person" is a particular sort of animal infested with memes. In other words you and I and all our friends are the products of two blind replicators, the genes and the memes.

I find these ideas absolutely stunning. Potentially we might be able to understand all of mental life in terms of the competition between memes, just as we can understand all biological life in terms of the competition between genes.

What I want to do now, finally, is apply the ideas of memetics to the questions I asked at the beginning. What are we waking up from and how do we do it?

 
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Rescooped by Micki Pacific from Knowmads, Infocology of the future
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The interspecies internet: Peter Gabriel and Vint Cerf at TED2013

The interspecies internet: Peter Gabriel and Vint Cerf at TED2013 | radical cosmology | Scoop.it
In a bold talk at TED2013, Diana Reiss, Peter Gabriel, Neil Gershenfeld and Vint Cerf come together to launch the interspecies internet.

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The internet connects people all over the world. But could the internet also connect us with dolphins, apes, elephants and other highly intelligent species?

 

In a bold talk in Session 10 of TED2013, four incredible thinkers come together to launch the idea of the interspecies internet. Each takes four minutes to talk, then passes the metaphorical baton, building the narrative in parts.

 

The talk begins with Diana Reiss, a cognitive psychologist who studies intelligence in animals. She shows us a video of an adorable dolphin twirling in the water. But the dolphin isn’t spinning playfully for the camera — the dolphin is watching itself in a two-way mirror.

 

“A dolphin has self-awareness,” says Reiss. “We used to think this was a uniquely human quality, but dolphins aren’t the only non-human animals to show self-recognition in a mirror. Great apes, our closest relatives, also show this ability.” Ditto for elephants and even magpies.


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Rescooped by Micki Pacific from Consciousness
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Integrated Information Theory

Integrated Information Theory | radical cosmology | Scoop.it

Giulio Tononi, a University of Wisconsin psychiatrist and neuroscientist, invented the Integrated Information Theory of consciousness. Online in Scientific American last Friday, he published an excerpt of a new book, titled “PHI: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul,” in which he expounds his ideas.


“Consciousness lives where information is integrated by a single entity above and beyond its parts,” he writes in the subheading of the published chapter. (...)

 

The core of Intergrated Information Theory is the identification Tononi makes of consciousness with “the information generated by the whole above and beyond its parts,” which he calls “integrated information.” Using a measure of information derived from information theory, he assigns this bonus quantity of information the symbol Ф. 


As an example, Tononi imagines a row of men. If each is whispered the word of a single sentence, each man may think of that word, but “nowhere will there be a consciousness of the whole sentence,” Tononi writes.  (...)

 

In the case of the men in a row, Ф is the quantity of information that corresponds to the meaning of the sentence, which does not emerge until each man speaks his word. (...)

 

When information is exchanged between objects (i.e., when photons pass between them), the wavefunctions of those objects become entangled, and to some extent merge together (overlap) as a single wavefunction. Thus, when the men exchange the information of their words, the wavefunctions of their brains entangle and overlap to a degree. Their individual brain wavefunctions come to share a mathematical component — a factor, if you will — and that shared component corresponds to the meaning of the sentence.


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Human Consciousness. A personal narrative arises through the vehicle of language

Human Consciousness. A personal narrative arises through the vehicle of language | radical cosmology | Scoop.it
Sue Savage-Rumbaugh on Human Language—Human Consciousness. A personal narrative arises through the vehicle of language Jamie Marie Waelchli, Thought Map No. 8 “Human language, coupled with human...

Via Sakis Koukouvis
Micki Pacific's insight:

 Science has now become aware of the power of initial conditions, through chaos theory, the work of Mandelbrot with fractal geometric forms, and the work of Wolfram and the patterns that can be produced by digital reiterations of simple and only slightly different starting conditions. Within the fertilized egg lie the initial starting conditions of every human.

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