Consciousness as reality itself

In Buddhism the idea that consciousness is reality and reality is conscious is called “mind only” or Yogachara.

David Ray Griffin, a process theologian, has come to similar conclusions—that reality is fundamentally conscious.

As has Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at UC Irvine.

Hoffman came at this subject from a mathematical angle, but arrived at a similar conclusion to Yogachara Buddhism. Hoffman says:

As a conscious realist, I am postulating conscious experiences as ontological primitives, the most basic ingredients of the world. I’m claiming that experiences are the real coin of the realm. (The Case Against Reality)

I tend to reach similar conclusions when I think about everything in terms of signals.

The advantage of thinking in terms of signals is we get a good picture of “reality” without needing to say what is real beyond the signal itself.

This kind of thinking is helpful for metaphysics but it is also extremely practical when it comes to human psychology.

Rather than posit personality types and what goes wrong or right with them, we analyze how people send and receive signals instead.

In thinking along these lines, I have come to the conclusion that most psychology as most people understand it uses “arms-length” language, the language of meso and macro signals rather than the much more precise language of the micro signals that actually comprise our shared “realities.”

The difference can be illustrated in this way: Rather than explain your most recent signal (sent or received) in terms of personality, explain it by accessing the micro-signals of short-term memory to find its true antecedents.

If you do this again and again by using a game such as FIML, you will probably come to conclusions similar to the above—that there is no deeper substance to psychological reality than your consciousness of it.

Disgust and sex

Disgust is a primary emotion.

The others are anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise. There is some controversy about how to group these basic emotions, but generally, expressions associated with primary emotions are recognizable across all cultures and are experienced by all functional human beings.

A new study has found that stress, which is probably interpretable as disgust in this case, was experienced by all of the (heterosexual) men being studied when viewing male-on-male kissing.

From the study’s abstract:

The results of the current study suggest that all individuals, not just highly sexually prejudiced individuals, may experience a physiological response indicative of stress when witnessing a male same-sex couple kissing.

The study is here: What do two men kissing and a bucket of maggots have in common? Heterosexual men’s indistinguishable salivary a-amylase responses to photos of two men kissing and disgusting images.

Co-author of the study, Karen L. Blair, says:

It is difficult to specifically state what this means. It could mean that participants found the images of male same-sex couples kissing to be equally disgusting as the disgusting images. It could mean that they had an anxiety response to the male couples kissing and a disgust response to the disgusting images, but that physiologically, we could not tell the difference between these two emotions. (Straight men’s physiological stress response to seeing two men kissing is the same as seeing maggots)

Make of this data what you like.

Just two months ago another study found that disgust plays a significant role in how people respond to people from other cultures or who look different.

An article about that can be found here: Multiculturalism fails due to “behavioral immune system”.

In my view, it is hard to argue with primary emotions. Our neocortexes may want us to be perfectly tolerant and judiciously blind to all human differences, but maybe that’s not actually possible?

Edit 07/22/17: “Yuck, you disgust me!” Affective bias against interracial couples

Error, ignorance, and disproportionality

Error, ignorance, and disproportionality are important factors in all forms of human communication.

They underlie and often dominate all individual psychology, all interpersonal communication, and all social arrangements, including economics, politics, science, media, societal norms, and so on.

We can see these three factors—error, ignorance, and disproportionality—in the recent revelation that the opioid addiction catastrophe was based on a single misconstrued sentence.

That single sentence was interpreted erroneously due to ignorance of its true context and then blown out of proportion.

Many thousands have lost their lives due to those mistakes.

Yes, science did eventually notice and will eventually correct this error, and that is good, but medical science also messed up prescriptions for dietary salt and fat based on even worse information.

For many years, and probably even still today, an obese person could go to a doctor’s office for a sore knee and be prescribed addictive opioids while also being advised to eat less fat and salt while increasing carbohydrate intake.

If even science can do this, how much more can it occur in politics, economics, and social norms?

When error, ignorance, or disproportionality happen outside of us, there is usually little we can do. Usually it is best to be stoical or Buddhist about it.

When error, ignorance, and disproportionality happen within interpersonal relations, there is much we can and should do. FIML can completely fix these problems when they arise between two people.

As mentioned, science eventually fixes its own problems. That is a foundational reason for the success of science and why humans admire it.

FIML is a kind of scientific inquiry into interpersonal psychology and functionality.

When people do not do science, they become even worse victims of error, ignorance, and disproportionality. When they don’t do FIML, the same bad things happen interpersonally and within individual psychology.

Error, ignorance, and disproportionality are often exploited for financial or emotional gain. If you know anything that someone else does not know, you will probably be able to exploit that knowledge to your advantage and their disadvantage.

And if you don’t do that (thank you for your goodness), you can be certain that many of the people around you will.

That is the world we live in. You have to be philosophical to accept that and to change that.

Thought alone tells us that removing error, ignorance, and disproportionality when we can is a good thing to do. Thought alone also tells us that in many cases we will pay a price for doing that as our good will will often be misinterpreted or used against us.

I see much of this as what the First Noble Truth is all about. A lotus grows out of mud much as our minds grow out of and beyond these kinds of delusions.

The power of a single sign

Signs are units of thought.

A single sign is central to the ongoing opioid addiction catastrophe in the USA.

The single sign is a 40-year-old misquoted sentence taken out of context from a letter written to the New England Journal of Medicine by a graduate student.

Here is the sentence:

We conclude that despite widespread use of narcotic drugs in hospitals, the development of addiction is rare in medical patients with no history of addiction. [emphasis added] (Source)

What was taken out of context is the letter was about patients who were being treated for pain while in hospitals.

On Wednesday, the journal published an editor’s note about the 1980 letter and an analysis from Canadian researchers of how often it has been cited — more than 600 times, often inaccurately. Most used it as evidence that addiction was rare, and most did not say it only concerned hospitalized patients, not outpatient or chronic pain situations such as bad backs and severe arthritis that opioids came to be used for. [emphasis added] (How a 1980 letter fueled the opioid epidemic)

The deep significance of this misinterpreted sentence shows the incredible power of signs and how even a single sign can influence an entire society for decades, even centuries.

That this massive mistake occurred within the medical community, which is science-based, shows that blind consensus can overrule reason even among the brightest and best trained among us.

Add similar mistaken consensuses within the medical community concerning dietary fats and salt and we have even more evidence of the human tendency to believe in and act on nonsense.

I mention this because it is interesting and also because it shows how irrational or non-rational we humans can be. All of us are susceptible to making mistakes of this type.

While most of us cannot do much about large-scale mistakes in medicine or politics, most of us can do a great deal about our own individual psychological mistakes that harm our ability to function. We can do this by practicing FIML.

Basic FIML practice corrects small mistakes (misinterpretations) in real-time. FIML focuses on how our minds are actually functioning in real-time.

If the entire medical community can make such a huge mistake based on so  little evidence it should be obvious that as individuals we are just as susceptible to error.

Consensus works only when it works. When it doesn’t it can be very dangerous.

I believe the lion’s share of “delusion” in Buddhism is stuff like the above—individuals or groups getting something terribly wrong and then acting on it with little or no self-reflection.

Psilocybin as effective psychotherapy

We should be looking for ways to effectively use drugs people already like and seek out on their own rather than ban them.

There is good evidence that psychedelics like psilocybin can do good things for people. A recent study confirms this.

Lead author of the study, Kelan Thomas, says:

This therapy has also demonstrated large effect sizes for improving symptoms on validated psychiatric rating scales, which suggests psilocybin-assisted therapy may be significantly better than the current treatment options only demonstrating small to moderate effect sizes. The other important distinction is that participants experienced dramatic improvements and higher remission rates after only a few psilocybin-assisted therapy sessions, which also appeared to persist for a much longer duration than current treatment options.” (Clinical review: Psilocybin therapy could be significantly better than current psychiatric treatments)

The study is here: Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy: A Review of a Novel Treatment for Psychiatric Disorders.

Psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD change awareness for several hours by changing brain connections. This brief change is the “high” many people enjoy.

This change provides dramatic evidence, or a dramatic example, to the brain of how it can be. Positive new connections can be formed while negative old connections can be extirpated.

At lower doses, psychedelics seem to make people both feel and act more creatively and positively.

White people and ethnocentrism

White people seem to be less ethnocentric than most other people in the world.

I (anecdotally) have observed this based on many years living in China and Japan, but many studies have also found this to be true.

An article I read this morning covers this topic quite well.

There are two types of ethnocentrism. “Positive ethnocentrism” means you take pride in your own people and make sacrifices for them. “Negative ethnocentrism” means you don’t especially like other peoples. Computer modelling experiments show once you control for other factors, ethnocentric groups will dominate and displace less ethnocentric groups.

The article, It’s Official: Europeans (Such As Macron’s Voters In France) Have a Genetic Death Wish, has a splashy title which I do not care for, but otherwise deals with this topic pretty well. It includes links to a number of studies that support its basic claim—that whites have evolved differently.

We know that evolution must lead to group differences and we know that many group differences are based on genes, so why do we generally avoid this topic?

We will all be much better off when we recognize the fundamentals of group differences.

Full disclosure, I come from a small ethnic group that tallies some of the lowest IQ scores in Europe. This does not bother me at all. I believe “my group” will be better off recognizing both its weak and strong points and dealing with them realistically.

Moreover, l know that low group averages for “my group” say very little about me as an individual.

Memory-guided behaviors employ spatial “maps” in the brain

A new study seems to show that the brains of rats—and by extension ours as well—use a spatial “mapping” system to encode more than just space.

This suggests that mammalian brains encode “continuous, task-relevant variables” in “common circuit mechanisms” that can “represent diverse behavioural tasks, possibly supporting cognitive processes beyond spatial navigation.” (Mapping of a non-spatial dimension by the hippocampal–entorhinal circuit)

It does seem that we do a lot of thinking, remembering, and associating in systematic or roughly systematic ways. And it does seem that these systems resemble spatial ones.

Ever notice how amazing it can feel to stumble upon a new view of a spatial system you already know well? “So that’s where the duct goes through the wall!” Or, “I never realized that Bob’s Street intersects Jones right here!”

When we explore our psychological “maps” in interpersonal settings using FIML techniques, we gain access to details that reorganize those “maps” in a similar way to the example above. Small insights can yield amazing results.

Typically, normal psychological maps are distorted impressions of the psychological space around us. FIML allows us to see in our psychological “maps” a level of detail or resolution that cannot be gained in any other way.

Understanding verbal, emotional, semiotic, and associative details is key to understanding our “psychological locations” in this world.