Thoughts on Reality and Perception

Notes from a conversation with Scott , instigated by William James :

Perception and it’s effect on reality. Sensory deprivation. Mysticism. Phantom limbs. Consensual reality.

Scientific discoveries so subtle, so far down the scale of physical things, that they exist as almost pure potential, waiting only for observation to give them shape. Going from here to the principle that the observer affects the observed, and scientific discovery approaches the level of metaphor, or creation. As a self-fulfilling prophecy, we discover what we expect to discover, because it comes into being when we look for it.

Leaving aside what this does to the freedom vs. predestination argument, this very much calls for a hard look at the scientific method, with reference to quantum physics.

More after the thunderstorm.

The Post-Apocalyptic 1800s

Have finished Son of the Morning Star. Now working on Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. I am 60 pages into this beautiful, hellish book, and I know, I just KNOW, that when I finish I will wish I had never read it, so I could discover it, again, for the first time. Consider this excerpt, in which a group of men are traveling through the southwestern desert:

“That night they rode through a region electric and wild where strange shapes of soft blue fire ran over the metal of the horses’ trappings and the wagonwheels rolled in hoops of fire and little shapes of pale blue light came to perch in the ears of the horses and in the beards of the men. All night sheetlightning quaked sourceless to the west beyond the midnight thunderheads, making a bluish day of the distant desert, the mountains on the sudden skyline stark and black and livid like a land of some other order out there whose true geography was not stone but fear.”

Again, when I re-create my book page, I will post a small review.

A Small World Experience

Today I took advantage of a gift certificate and went to the local bookstore for my weekly fix. I picked up a couple of collections of Roger Zelazny’s short stories, and a copy of Eugene Onegin, by Alexander Pushkin .

This particular edition was translated by Douglas Hofstadter. As I was checking out, the clerk froze for a moment, then spun Eugene Onegin around and said “Why this edition of this book?” I mentioned my recent Hofstadter spree, and the clerk — who spoke with a very slight accent which might have been French — said he had helped with the translation, and had worked with Hofstadter on one of his other books, Le Ton Beau De Marot : In Praise of the Music of Language.

So now I am only one degree of separation from Hofstadter. Well, one degree and about ten thousand IQ points…

If you look to the right you will see a link to a page where I have collected all of the book references which I post on this site. I expect to have reviews up soon.


I have been crazy busy at work. A project which we started this past Thursday needs to be finished tomorrow night. This will not be a problem. I am just that good.

Nothing new to report of the memetics front, other than this: Have you ever noticed that when you develop an interest in something, that something seems to pop up all over the place? I am reading The Cassini Division by Ken MacLeod, wherein memetic viruses are used as a kind of instant post-hypnotic suggestion to either frighten enemies or keep servants in line. And get this: They seem to be transmitted by ‘swirling patterns’ on the hulls of ships, or in visual broadcasts. Could they be using archetypal symbols to cause this effect?

In other news my two Hofstader books ( Metamagical Themas and Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies ) have arrived. I started reading FCCA yesterday.

The chapter titled “To Seek Whence Cometh a Sequence” explores the methods by which patterns are recognized, and the processes we use to extend those patterns beyond the information we are given. The idea being, I suppose, that what humans and computers consider meaningful are not at all the same thing. If I see a sequence {1,2,3,5,7,11,13} I know from experience that these are prime numbers. A computer doesn’t care if they are prime numbers. It won’t discover that they are primes unless we ask it to test the sequence for the possibility that they are primes.

And that is the fundamental conceptual stumbling block in building a thinking machine. Computers don’t out of habit, attach significance to symbols. Things are not “interesting”. They don’t have subconscious biases toward recognizing familiar patterns.

Or maybe they do. What do I know?

Schrodinger’s God

Added a couple of links to the LINKS page. See if you can guess which ones.

Participated in a long discussion over at Something Awful a few days ago, concerning “The Worst Modern Religion”. To sum up the entire fourteen-page, two-hundred-post-plus shebang, I posted, on or around page nine, words to the effect that there are no arguments to be had, either for or against the the existence of God, which are not either self-referential, or self-contradictory, or both. In a weird inversion of the Schrodinger’s Cat problem, God neither exists nor doesn’t exist until we die.

Schrodinger’s God. Has a nice ring to it

The Meme Machine is turning out to be a damn fine read. What started out as a simple inquiry into the use of memetics in the manipulation of the Social/Information sphere is quickly branching out in several fascinating directions. The most compelling/disturbing option is probably the one which hints that memes, being essentially metaphors and therefore symbols, may exist at any point up and down the spectrum of consciousness (cf. Ken Wilber). Therefore it is possible that memetics could operate on the level of the Jungian Archetype/racial memory, with the very real effect that a meme, a product of the information sphere, could directly affect the physical body of the recipient. This idea was used to some effect in Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson), and may be witnessed in the occasional health-destroying nervous breakdowns of those who allow conscious mental stress to bleed over into unconscious/autonomous biological systems.

The flip side of this is the use of memes and memeplexes (memeplexi?) to essentially hard-wire behavior into individuals or groups. A suitable subtle, deep-reaching meme could cause changes in behavior which lead to changed in physical ability, either enhancements or regressions. While these changes would obviously not happen at the genetic level, they could easily be passed as viral information from generation to generation. Couple this to a shift in consensual reality and something resembling a cult may arise.

The use of memetics in conjunction with a deep understanding of levels of psychology could therefore be extremely powerful. One could develop the ability to directly access and manipulate the archetypal/symbolic core of a society.


Now I need to grab yet another book:The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. I am rapidly running out of room at my desk.

In With the New

I am putting together my first reading list of the year. The theme, I think, is Social Patterns in the Infosphere. Here is a short list:

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson
Godel, Escher, Bach by Dougles R. Hofstadter
The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore
Flesh Machine by the Critical Art Ensemble
Eye to Eye, by Ken Wilber

I am not sure what I am looking for, exactly, but somehow, I think these books point to it. And most likely to other books.