Cosmos Café discussion—April 17, 2018
There is so, so much I like about this essay, Zachary. Making the unconscious conscious …
Some theme music for our 4/17 Cosmos Café on Zachary’s excellent essay:
Determinism: Belief that behavior is a function of a finite number of variables, and if those variables were completely known, behavior could be predicted with complete accuracy.
Raymond Cattell’s formula:
Pj = sj A … + sj T … + sj E … + sj M … + sj R … +sj S
Pj = performance in situation j
A = ability traits
T = temperament traits
E = ergic tensions present
M = metaergs (sentiments and attitudes)
R = roles called for in the situation
S = temporary bodily states such as fatigue, illness, or anxiety
sj = a weight or “loading” indicating the importance of each of the foregoing influences in situation j.
It’s not without criticism, but Cattell is one of the most influential psychologists ever. I post this because my mention of Free Will being illusory got the loudest response - which, by the way - was all very predictable. Why did I do it? Also very predictable; but I’m working on it.
Good discussion. thanks everyone.
Very good discussion, appreciated once again from the outside.
I wouldn’t exactly say ‘free will’ is an illusion, but it is a rather unfortunate choice of wording.
I forget where I heard it, but someone once said that our buttons were placed in us by people who loved us long before we developed defense mechanisms. And of course habits save time. If we think of ‘free will’ as anything more than a selection of an option within the greater or lesser limits of our respective individual and collective “ranges” we delude ourselves. But by the same token to deny the importance of having the option - and the sometimes terrible weight of responsibility for the consequences of a chosen option - is to miss a crucial point of being human. (Mark did say, and I appreciate, that if free will is an illusion, it is a necessary one.)
Free will vs. determinism is (according to my belief ) one of those false dichotomies when the terms are philosophically framed as antithetical absolutes.
Those who know me could have predicted the tone and content of this post with 99% accuracy. But the fact that I’m up typing it right now is a fluke… LOL!
For me the take-off point of the article resonated most strongly: computers and humans are different. For the time being at least, much confusion could be avoided by not ascribing “aims” to machines but by more closely examining the character traits of we who build and use them.
Well said, TJ.Determinism vs Free will is a dressed up binary with nowhere to go.
To what uses do we put our beliefs? Deterministic persons have a strong need perhaps to predict even when they admit that they know they cant. But they could if they had all the finite variables. All of them. And how do they know when they have ALL variables?
The Human Genome Project is an example of a failed attempt to get all the variables on the table with the result that we now appreciate that epigentics ( culture) shape genetic expressions. This is not something that Crick and Watson or Mr. Darwin could have anticipated in their top down models which mirror rather precisely the social dynamics of Late stage Capitalism. If you are rich or poor there’s nothing you can do about it. If you got sick it is in your genes not the bad air or toxic water. Determinism as a belief distorts our social realities and disrupts our futures.
Nothing in the Cosmos copies itself, nor does a pattern ever repeat itself exactly. Nothing is exactly the same, but it is similar. It iterates, repeats with variation. Emergent knowledge. Ours, I believe, is becoming an Emergent Age, which I personally prefer to Aperspectival or Integral. It is intrinsically unpredictable or controllable, driven not by Laws but by habits.
Hence the need to articulate a New Science that is not driven by the need to predict and control. We are complex. Fractals all the way up and all the way down.
Having said that, I appreciate that we are not therefore absolutely free to create our own reality. Nor is there one future that fits all. We have multiple pasts and multiple futures. There is a lot more wiggle room that the deterministic tend to deny. They often demand compliance to a limiting belief structure. And so the circular arguments predictably arise. If we had a Science and a Society that could manage different logics, that recognized the participating observer matters, we could create a greater capacity to handle the complexity that is coming at us. We would then embrace paradox and reduce regressions to overly optimistic or pessimistic conclusions about our Human Nature(s) with other Species in a constantly shifting environment.
We are in the midst of this very big shift in thinking and feeling and it is intensifying.Computers are extremely useful but is a computer an observing participant in biotic affairs? I am not convinced. Do the use of computers have effects upon biotic systems? Yes I believe they do. So I welcome these subtle ideas ( What is biotic? Abiotic? How do we relate to these differences?) Zach is playing with these ideas in his essay. Thanks to each of us and all of us for developing these ideas. May we do more of this and do it even better.
I was half-offline as I was listening while driving and missed much of the discussion. I only heard the increasing tension in your voices. Glad everyone made it through the discussion without any bumps or bruises! Appreciate Raymond Cattell’s formula @Mark_Jabbour.
Yes! exactly! My simplistic mind has always wanted to state that the focus on “is there free will?” is the wrong question. Of course there is determinism…we can never say we have true free will; of course there are indeterminate chances floating about, allowing for many possibly futures and some level of choice.
I am interested in the moral side of things, which @ZacharyFeder explored in his writing (and we loosly discussed in the conversation), an updated tech version of “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” based on the knowledge or “prediction” of our traumas and personality glitches from generations of living in a confusing world with only a grand monkey mind to make sense of it all. If we do the Zac’s father technique of transposing our life onto that of another individual, we may realize, once we “become” this examined individual, that we could have really been that person. We could have been (or “thrown” into this world as)the being that follows the path towards the abusive parent, the murderer of a family, or we could have even been the most respected member of a community. Sam Harris explores this in depth in the straightforward short book Free Will. (highly recommended if you have a couple hours to spare - please note that I despise most all of his other writing.)
No one wants to be the trauma-inducer, and if they had the ability to stop, I am sure they would. Even if they do want to induce trauma, we are likely back to the modern day “they know not what they do,” perhaps because of a brain injury or repeated childhood abuse. But we have to do something to them…an awakening punch can be all they need to stop. Others will need lifetime in jail. But what do we do with drug addicts and other self-inflicting abusers? I think Sloterdijk is correct to conclude that “microclimates and lifeworld atmospheres could become legal and political factors” (Globes, p. 333)…once the “stench” of others’ actions affect more than the individual, the collective has the right to protest. We could do as Zarathustra does in the “On the Rabble” section and "hold our noses as we wander “disgruntled through all of yesterday and today,” or we can use our growing knowledge of all things human to make more conscious predictions and change society into a more spiritually conscious entity.
So available online, free, (via Google books, via Raymond Cattell + Syntality) is his book, A New Morality from Science: Beyondism_(1972) “which traces the religious & philosophical origins of moral systems, and argues that a moral system based on objective scientific data is both possible and desirable.”
I am suggesting we (in this group) read it; and then have at it, chapter x chapter, perhaps, or just in general (it’s 500 pages).
With regard to (w/r/t) Zachary’s paper, there is much in Cattell’s book that can be applied. I think it’s possible that Zach’s solution ( a psycho-metric test for leadership) borders on Nazism. Cattell addresses this, and so much more, in this book.
And yes, John, I’ve read Harris’ Free Will book/paper. As with most thinkers I’ve read, I agree with some/much/most of what they are arguing, but not all.
W/r/t “our” current situation (an update w/r/t the current global/planet-ization), the question is: has it gotten worse? Cattell, actually asks this question back in 1972, and now, 50 years later … well, what do we “know”?
Look at his book - he uses measurements/markers to assess, not only individuals, but cultures and nations. Do they still apply? I think so, but it has gotten so much more confusing because of the internet.
Anyway … I’m retiring (escaping) for the rest of the day as I am, officially, retired.
PS - Cattell’s “beyondism” seems like the postmodern version of (Wilber, et all) “integral”, “singularism”, pluralism, multiculturalism, and/or, E.O. Wilson’s Consilience … and yes, Jennifer Gidley is a “naive romantic” (not that that’s a bad thing). Just saying.
Doug I am sensitive to your interest in morality and without an imagination we are in danger of re- traumatizing people. As you walk in the shoes of a perpetrator, spend an equal amount of time in the shoes of those who were tortured and are unable to forgive. Can you forgive those who cant forgive?
I am not angry that my father beat me up constantly. I am angry that my father beat me up and then told me he didn’t beat me even when I had a split lip and black eye and eye witnesses ( including my mother who did nothing to stop him) to prove it. He denied that he hurt me because he said he loved me and therefore he wanted me to embrace him. His demand that I embrace him after abusing me is in my opinion unforgivable and I have wasted no effort on such a grandiose demand. To demand a helpless child to forgive a psycho parent is a crime against the child. A child is not a free agent that can make such a thing happen. Stop the abuse and then make the parent make amends is a possible path, after they spend some time in jail. Before he hit me he would often demand that I smile. That is a terrible thing to do to someone. Luckily, I found a peer group who protected me and loved me. I escaped. Others were not so lucky.
My father also spit in my face and told me he wished I had never been born than to be a queer. He told me he gave me life and he could take away anytime he wanted. We need to be very cautious adding guilt trips based upon your own creeds. I believe it is is more compassionate to let the person who suffered the abuse find their own way to deal with the effects of that abuse without having to forgive without justice. Pseudo-transcendence is a danger. I do not pretend to have transcended his cruelty. I have, however, moved on and focus my attention on the future(s) that are ahead of us all, rather than getting sucked into the bottomless vortex of my father’s arrested development. It would have been much better for me to have never had a father than to have the father I got.
We might want to consider that in a complex unstable society such as our own that it will be inevitable perhaps that we are not able to keep promises that we would like to keep, and that we might betray those who are unborn and unbegot. We may need to ask them to forgive us. We are sorry we were so confused and distracted and didnt pay enough attention. But I am working to make a different future for them and for us. We have lots of resources. We are already exploring our peak performances. I think this a healthy trend for training attention.
I offer these musings as an attempt at transparency. I have no easy answers but I do believe that a mature relationship to suffering is necessary and desirable. Perhaps listening to those who have suffered is enough. Breathe and relax. Breathe and relax even more. And I doubt any time soon that a computer or robot is going to be able to pull this miracle off. Thanks again, Doug, for trying to capture the higher ground. I am eager, willing and able to seek out new metaphors and narratives even as we admire what our spiritual traditions have bequeathed to us. Let the dead bury the dead.
I agree with Gao Xingjian; we go beyond isms.
Thank you @Geoffrey_Edwards, @johnnydavis54, @Douggins, @achronon, @Mark_Jabbour and @madrush sincerely for reading the piece, and for sharing such insightful feedback. I enjoyed the talk and personally could have gone on for a couple more hours.
I agree with you @patanswer and others that the “Pre-determinism / Free Will” debate is woefully binary, but also often simply “philosophical” as opposed to something that we test, with years of practice and experimentation, against a control. Edgar Cayce’s “source” used to say something that I liked - ‘you don’t go to heaven, you grow to heaven’ - which I think can be applied to Free Will, in my experience (minus the Christian overlay).
I also know Harris’ Free Will and didn’t like it because, once again, there was no developmental approach taken to the idea of training this muscle. For those who didn’t read it I recall him being on the ‘nay’ side of the street, that we have none, ending with a puerile point that if you say the word Elephant to someone they can’t help but think of one.
Then also take the Harvard studies on Free Will, that are often cited in this conversation, where they hook an MRI up to the brain and then ask someone to pick pictures at random, only to find that the brain fires long before the person consciously chooses.
Once again this smacks as an incomplete experiment for me devised by individuals who have never done extensive-building-of free-will-training, and then tested on college students who have also never done such training, which is not to say that I would ace the experiment myself and precede my own neuro-chemistry. I just don’t believe that’s how we measure it.
(And for the purists among us who just flat out believe there is none, I will, if really pushed, accept that, but only if we acknowledge that under the umbrella of “no free will” are “degrees” of “no free will.” Because change is so real and so obvious (or I would have long been out of a job) we must at least say that you can have less or more of “no free will” depending on how much work you do on it.)
(Also I’d say there’s really only about 15-20% of Free Will Available to us to seize (a casual, working estimate) simply because there is so much that is out of our control, and I don’t include gene expression in that. Another interesting conversation perhaps …
All of this just to say that I am still surprised that we don’t have an accepted series of foundational behavioral patterns that we agree need to be addressed if we are to have the ease of healthy unencumbered choice. Reading, Writing, Arithmetic is not enough, we are long overdue for a fourth that covers Consciousness, specifically in this area.
This was where I had planned to go, to have this “Spiritual Singularity and Coming Age of Transparency” book suggest that the digital revolution is forcing more transparency, which will ultimately lead to a more overt approach to teaching healthy Consciousness to young people in schools (still a long way off because the adults in the room need to have their bases covered first).
Following that book, I had / have another one (2/3rrs complete) which would then give an example of what this internal, foundational list might look like. For the Integral Theorists this would be a manual of the Upper Left, the internal, subjective space of the individual.
THEN following that one, I have the personal narrative of how this played out in my own life.
So the entire project was planned as a trilogy all talking about the same thing from three different angles. The non-fiction, the how-to, and the personal drama.
Since the publisher that was interested passed I decided that, time permitting, I would skip book 1 (the piece we discussed was the opening) and continue with book 2 but as an MP3 series (which I’ve already started) as well as book 3 (the drama) which is now being explored in Writers Underground in draft form (Submission 3 posted last week).
A few more points.
And finally, if anyone thinks I’m missing something, barking up a wrong, or incomplete tree, I’m all ears!
This is an ambitious project, Zach, and a well rounded response. I hope that we can create the conditions for collaborative research that has a transdisciplinarity slant. This strong desired outcome emerges out of my own life experience of watching the mess that the deficient mental has made studying the mind.
I find little in the public discourse around the science of mind as currently reported very interesting or even remotely Integral. The science is mostly generated by junk reports that happen in closed circles talking loose jargon. Our reductive materialist science makes reductive materialist reports ( brain-centrism, genome-centrism, top/down, command and control, etc.) and it all happens in routine, replicable experiments (like the Libet stuff you mention) in closed set ups that then promote broad generalizations that apply Nature at Large. We are looking not at Nature but the lenses through which the experimenter looks at the phenomena.
The Observer is left out of the experiment, objectivity is the goal. Just the facts, mam. But only the facts that we want to work with. Facts as we all know are not value free, they are selected and discarded, to promote a certain view. Basic Epistemology. So grand theories are generated out of a small area of closed off encounters in laboratories. And the next generation of grad students has to write papers about what didnt work. And it is heavily weighted to what the cognitive has access to, which is very little.
More, much more is going on than thinking in the head and enactive approaches are being developed but the cognitive bias continues to amplify and ultimately distracts us into believing computers are smarter than a breath based consciousness. The body-mind is in constant motion, it grasps, holds, kisses, slaps, touches, tastes, desires, rejects, decides. Cognition arises out of messy relationships. I do imagine a new science of observing observers as observer-participants is underway and this will be an interesting development.
Human potentials such as remote viewing have been studied and funded for military purposes and there is lots of data that reveals obscure capacities that can be trained and developed. Studying peak experience is a way to develop a different range of data, data that then would reveal a different set of relationships that favors complexity and emergent knowledge. Some of the Black Magicians you reference are working for the CIA. We are working with areas of Mind at Large that are quite dangerous if there is not an ethical component. We are myth generating creatures and we will enact our myths. If you believe a computer is smarter than your new born baby then we will treat the new born in a way that supports that myth. I believe we will extinct very soon by using myths and narratives generated by ( as you mention) the Black Magicians wearing white lab coats.
Studying the language of our tribe is crucial, especially the magical aspects. Words are magic. They can do great harm or great good. And creative trance states can be developed and studied. I have studied with the most skilled practitioners of trance states and I have learned lots! We should be teaching healthy trance states, ecological awareness, rather than imposing top down trance states in our schools, arranging lines of desks, in front of the boss at the head of the class who will indoctrinate the child in mono-phasic aphasia, forgetting almost entirely what you really are.
This is much more like a Gnostic drama unfolding ( with heretical voices speaking out!) than it is a top down management exercise put out by Harvard Business School for the creating of short term profits that benefit the 1%. Studying Edgar Cayce is an excellent choice and I would like more creative research on what is happening in the depths rather than splashing around in the shallow end of the pool. I would like more of Edgar Cayce and less of Sam Harris. Thanks, Zach, for adding to our pool of resources and I continue to nurture great expectations.
Thank you Johnny. You understand completely, as I would have no doubt you would, the complications and challenges. I am aware of them and still compelled to move forward. But any guidance, warnings, or flat out objections welcome. This group is a perfect container to explore and co-collaborate into such things.
And yes! The Mind is not all there is. Although this has been the preeminent lens for some time. My own initial proposition for the main Big Four lenses are: Heart, Body, Emotions and Mind, with Heart being the energetic one in the center of the chest, and Body being the one activated in family constellations, that some believe is the hippocampus because it responds so strongly and in its own unique, and differentiated voice to our relationships in space. There are of course a few other “lenses” but these are the main, foundational four, each having it’s own language, area of expertise, and functioning principles.
My joke has long been that we get the emotions and mind just for showing up to the game show of life, but that the other two we have to learn how to hear, so that only then we can process with all four. Madness?
And obviously a science of mind is complicated but I’ve read some of those books, and always yearned for something simpler, a practical phenomenology, as I felt we had been speaking of. In fact I even hesitate to use the word “mind” because it is so saturated. How about thoughts, or voices in the head? That’s simple, straight forward, and true for most peoples experience of that “system”.
Some other examples of simple principles for this system might be:
On another note - did I ever mention that the one person I wanted to meet when returning to New York after my years of isolation was Ingo Swan? I did met him in the end at his town house on the lower east side. Not what I expected but fun. We could talk about that some time. <3
It often goes unnoticed, these contributions from @achronon, who listens/reads with deep intention and question our words or line of thought. Just a quick thank you Ed for providing clarity (referring here to Ed’s prodding of Zachary to clarify the usage of “predetermined” in the conversation).
As I continue to find which voice is ultimately my own, I rely on the utterances of others. And, as this Harris guy keeps showing up uninvited, I wish to frequently clarify that he is allowed inside, partly in an undercover study, partly in hopes that he (and his massive following of reductionists) will come around to his senses and at least recognize, if not truly explore, the other aspects of this little mind of ours. Just like the free will debate, this solo-focus on the reductive materialism needs a swift punch to the noggin. Harris is essentially coming to the same conclusions as we are…but from within his own singularity bubble, so when put into practice, so much is excluded. Cayce is a Kentuckian and closer to my heart, body, emotions.
Edit: found the Submission 3 in the Submission 1 thread…I’ll check it out today. I’ve been sucked into your vortex and now see more objects swirling in the mix, such as the potential for connecting the “Human Singularity” with your past experiences.
Ingo Swan? Wow. I live around the corner from him and I saw him a lot in the neighborhood but didnt know who was until I recognized him in an interview, after he had died. He was a character. New York is and always has been into the Occult forces that shape multiple realities around the globe. Living here is a terrible ordeal (lots of black arts practiced) and I am aware of the surges of psychic power pouring through this dirty, corrupt town. City as labyrinth, as layers of Mind at Large incarnating evil and love. City as a big Petri dish with new kinds of critters living next door.
A good start is to study Evolutionary Trance States. This is a vast area, and our phenomenology has been pretty sloppy. A senior statesman, Adam Crabree, co-author of Irreducible Mind makes a solid case for developing ethical trance-work. We have so many bad myths around trance work ( Freud was one of the worst practitioners) and we could do well to start fresh. Perhaps a future Cafe could convene around this hot topic. What could trance be when used Cosmo-ethically rather than for selling crap on TV?
John you’re the first person I’ve encountered with as much interest in them as me. I’ve been working with trance for almost a decade and use it regularly in my practice. This too is one of the areas that got me interested in Free Will due to the deeper ‘truths’ that emerge from the sub and unconscious that often completely contradict the rationalizations and belief of the conscious.
I’m eager to explore this aspect more, though for me it is certainly one of the ‘advanced’ systems.
The future site of CosmosCafe. [more time & further research (and money) is clearly needed - both for this discussion & others]. Happy Sunday, see ya all Tuesday. Cheers.
A Brief Parable About Free Will and Techno-Demonic-Trance States.
" All of these new things, these new inventions, new powers, come crowding along; everyone is fraught with consequences, and yet it is only after something has hit us hard that we set about dealing with it." H. G. Wells
I fell off the bike Friday, while riding down a steep hill, glancing at my smart phone, hitting a pot hole. Cement coming at me, left hand, right knee broke the fall, right shoulder pounded the pavement, and the left ear scrapped, the lip grazed. The miracle of fast mind.
I am helped up by a man who said my head didn’t hit the ground. I thanked him for his kindness. Disoriented, I went to the emergency room a block away and got checked out, took x rays. Nothing broken.
The ache in the shoulder the next day was mild but the memory of almost hitting my head and ending up brain damaged shook me up. Once again, I marvel at the miracle of this odd life we are given. I recalled the death of a dearly loved friend in a bike accident in lower Manhattan, thirty odd years ago. He didnt wear a helmet eighter. I have never, not for a single moment, been free of Chuck’s strange loss.
I had a psychic flash, a direct hit, a fast forward into time. Two days before his accident occurred, I predicted that it would happen, precisely. I had a flash of the future accident Chuck could have and I warned him, bursting into tears. And I described it just the way it actually happened, how it would happen, the exact street corner, every detail. It was creepy, that flash from nowhere. I saw it in my mind’s eye, felt it in my energy body. Chuck gave me a faraway look. " Whatever happens," I said," I will always love you."
As I go to sleep, I feel the fall of my 64 years into the arms of oblivion. I feel as a high risk taker, the felt sense of the frailty and resilience of our living systems in motion. The only thing broken was my smart phone. I saw it cracked and blinking on and off in a techno meltdown. I decided not to replace it. A bad omen, that smart phone.
Before sleep came, I recreated in my third eye some of the maps the Cosmos crew has made during some of the CL explorations. I saw the maps appear and felt the presence of the energies of a group mind in formation. It was aesthetically pleasant, even as I recognize that these discourse events happened in fluid cyberspace/inner space.
" John Davis," a man calls my name. In a dream, I hear my name called out by a hostile man. " John Davis!" I felt a wave of malice from him. He was in front of my dreaming body and there was no where to escape. I also felt the presence of a protector, a benevolent male energy, floating above the left shoulder of my dreaming body. I was ready for a confrontation.
Then I awoke from the dreadful clash. Relieved it was just a dream, I contemplated it’s indeterminate meaning, wondering who this hostile figure could be. I then turned over in bed and felt the room spin. I sat up and felt sick to my stomach. I was having an attack of vertigo.
I got out of bed and tried to re-balance, using yoga moves and chants but having a wave of anxiety for I was debating if this was due to the bike accident. I stabilized enough to return to bed, a dreamless sleep.
I awoke again too early and got up and had coffee but felt the queasy feeling as the room continued to tilt and sway, like a crooked scene from Caligari’s Cabinet. I am not afraid of Death but I am afraid of having to figure out what these symptoms really mean.
I found a YouTube video with a method for reducing symptoms of vertigo. I practiced as instructed and then symptoms vanished. I got on my bike for the first time since the accident and rode across town to the gym. I came back home and all in one piece.
I continue to value fast mind ( that broke the fall ) and the slow mind ( that reflects upon that incident). If my body had not acted fast I would not be here to write this sentence. I would be recovering in a hospital, with tubes in my body.
So it with the utmost humility that I will get a good helmet ( I have resisted that) but now see it’s value as a protective device that is needed. I will shop around for that item and make that happen.
I am though not freaked out by the accident, but grateful that I am functioning at all, a great blessing. Perhaps we too much take for granted our ordinary functioning. What a blessing it is to play here at the Cooper U library, to read my books, to think, feel, imagine.
I have lots of videos now on YouTube generated by Infinite Conversations, many of the recent episodes I have coordinated with collegues here. We have co-created an imaginal community. I have always had a deep interest in community building and in my sixth decade my activism is once again renewed. I am glad we are co-creating compelling future(s) for ourselves. We are entering a huge shift in consciousness that is tearing apart communities and nation-states as well as business as usual. We will need to learn how to pay attention carefully to what is happening on the ground as well as cyberspace.
We are working with Fast Mind and Slow Mind, the pre-determined and the indeterminate, the accidental and the planned. We are not slaves or masters but somewhere in the in-between.
I so love that, John. Me too, w/r/t a bike crash. Now, we just need Marco to get some funding for the cosmos cafe. Yes?