RE: [kenwilber-275] Science of Mind, Myth of the Self

From: Doug
Sent on: Monday, September 5, 2011 9:34 PM
Metzinger shares your concern and wrote the book to fulfill an ethical obligation to inform the general public of the current  state of science -- both its possible negative and positive implications. In addition to the challenges created by neuroscience, TM points out that that a single researcher at Dow Chemical discovered 179 psycho-active agents available today. Most of which are barely understood. Studies show other pharmacological agents appear to enhance "spiritual" understanding and positely impact behavior as reported by studies.
In the below, you'll see a reference to "consciousness culture." By this Metzinger means a recognition that human consciousness is our ultimate natural resource and must be protected and managed by the society. As an example, he gives a toolset that every child should learn in school to manage their own states of consciousness. We learn to balance a checkbook in school; we learn about protecting the ecology. At some point, students may learn to manage their states of consciousness in a healthy.
In a sense the good news is that science is recognizing the reality of consciousness rather than simply ignoring it. The bad news is that it becomes an another object/energy in the universe to be manipulated for better or worse. To be honest, it's already that now, we just consider it to be special somehow.
The concluding paragraph of the book echoes Jeff's concern:

"Many fear that through the naturalistic turn in the image of mind, we will lose our dignity. "Dignity" is a term that is notoriously hard to define -- and usually appears exactly when its proponents have run out of arguments. However, there is one clear sense, which has to do with respecting oneself and others  -- namely the unconditional will to self-knowledge, veracity, and facing the facts. Dignity is the refusal  to humilate oneself by simply looking the other way or escaping to some metaphysical Disneyland. If we do have something like dignity, we can demonstrate this fact by the way we confront the challenges to come, some of which have been sketched in this book. We could face the historical transition in the image of ourselves creatively and with a will to clarity. It is also clear how we could lose our dignity: by clinging to the past, by developing a culture of denial, and by sliding back into the various forms of irrationalism and fundamentalism. The working concepts of "consciousness ethics" and "consciousness culture" are exactly about not losing our dignity -- by taking it to new levels of autonomy in dealing with our conscious minds. We must not lose our self-respect, but we must also stay realistic and not indulge in utopian illusions. The chances for succesfully riding the tiger, at least on a large scale, are not very high. But if we manage, then a new consciousness culture could fill the vacuum that emerges as the Consciousness Revolution unfolds at increasing speed. ... The greatest practical challenge lies in implementing the results of the ensuing ethical debates. ... The greatest theoretical challenge may consist in the questions of whether and how, given our new situation, intellectual honesty and spirituality  can ever be reconciled. But that is another story."

Some may say "Well, none of this is practical at all, even if true in some future." However, there's an overarching question of how we value and care for our consciousness in our daily lives. Is this even a concern? What does it mean to do so? How do we cultivate it?  At some level, these discussions are all about consciousness becoming conscious of itself in the both the objective (scientific) and subjective domains for each of us. Since consciousness is creating our world, the greater clarity with which we can perceive it and develop it, the more complete a life we can live -- however that's defined.
Jeff asks how something beyond ego could be modeled or incorporated into a self-model. Once the ego becomes an element of experience rather than the owner of experience, then the self-model begins to update itself based on that reality. Identify then evolves?   

Subject: Re: [kenwilber-275] Science of Mind, Myth of the Self
From: [address removed]
To: [address removed]
Date: Mon, 5 Sep[masked]:07:31 -0400

The future of science is scary indeed, especially when the reward system is based on technological achievement irregardless of long term consequences, and completly uninterested in developing an ethical or moral environment with the same rigor it applies to that technological achievement-at-all-cost.  This is perhaps an example of a missing element that science in itself is blind to because of its reductionism, ignoring anything outside the UR quadrant.
I wonder what neuroscience thinks are the biological factors for creative leaps - discoveries, intuitions and sudden changes of direction.  It seems these are the essence of the evolutionary impulse, at least as expressed in human consciousness (evolution, the next metaphysics?).  And what is the factor within groups that allows them to achieve insights that an individual is incapable of on his/her own?  I have no idea what self-modeling would have to do with this.
One more thought - it seems this self-modeling is based on ego awareness.  If there is something beyond ego, how is it modeled?  For instance, if you have an experience of "cosmic consciousness", as many claim, what is that modeled from?
Anyway, a lot to explore here.  Redutionist science, good or bad, still scares me.
On Sat, Sep 3, 2011 at 9:35 PM, Doug <[address removed]> wrote:
Here's a selection from Thomas Metzinger's "The Science of Mind and the Myth of the Self", p. 216 First a little background before the quote. TM attempts to integrate philosophy (his discipline), consciousness studies, artificial intelligence, ethics and neuroscience. In the last few years the latter has given us fMRI techniques that allow us to watch the brain in operation. In addition, the discovery of mirror neurons demonstrate a physical basis for how we understand others -- our brains essential "mirror" the behavior of others allowing us to understand them -- at least through the lens of our own consciousness. Social consciousness was born. In a very real sense we experience the other as ourselves, as if we were them. Neuroscience is now giving us unprecedented insight into the mechanisms of consciousness.
In the below, you'll see reference to a self-model. A key contribution of TM is that the brain creates a self-model -- a model that differentiates self from other -- this is us. It tells us that this is our body, our thoughts and so forth. We know that such a model exists because it is not present in all humans in the same way. We know there is no central operation in the brain that is us, no conductor, no boss.
"Now we are entering an unprecedented stage. Centuries of philosophical searching for a theory of consciousness have culminated in a rigorous empirical project that progressing incrementally and in an sustainable manner. This process is recursive, in that it will also change the contents and the functional structure of our self-model. This fact tells us something about the physical universe in which these events are occurring: The universe has a potential not only for self-organization of life and the evolution of strong subjectivity but also for an even higher level of complexity. I will not go so far as to say that in us the physical universe becomes conscious of itself. Nevertheless, the emergence of coherent conscious reality-models in biological nervous systems created a new form of self-similarity within the physical universe. The world evolved world-modelers. Parts began to mirror the whole. Billions of conscious brains are like billions of eyes, with which the universe can look at itself as being present.
More important the world evolved self-modelers who were able to form groups; the process of increasing self-similarity via internal modeling jumped from nervous systems to scientific communities. Another new quality was created. Thes groups in turn created theoretical portraits of the universe and of consciousness, as well as a rigorous strategy of continually improving these portraits. Through science, the dynamic processes of self-modeling and of world-modeling were extended into the symbolic, the social, and historical dimensions: We became rational theory-makers. We used the unity of consciousness to search for the unity of knowledge, and we also discovered the idea of moral integrity. The conscious self-model of Homo Sapiens made this step possible."
The bottom line is that science is beginning to physically confirm the insights of spirituality. Consciousness creates experience. The "me" is a function of consciousness, not the owner of it. I'm just a long for the ride -- as long as I'm useful. Maybe you and I just aren't as useful as we used to be.
The above may be seen as reductionist. However, the job of science to simplify, to reduce, to boil things down to their essence.  Good reductions simplify and deepen understanding. Bad ones miss important elements. According to TM, a system needs three things to develop subjectivity -- a self-model, a world model, an Ideal Observer, and a Now around which to order events. BTW, the human Now is about 3 seconds long. That's your window of experience.  
TM sees dramatic implications, "an unprecedented stage", where humanity is challenged to internalize and interpret the insights of modern neuroscience. He outlines scary scenarios where it will become possible to create conscious artificial or hybrid bio-computer systems. Primitive forms of these have been built today - computer controlled cockroaches and primitive robots with a self-model that learn to walk and evolve their operation in response to their environment.  It will become possible to create states of consciousness as their neural correlates become known.  We will need to understand which states of consciousness are ethically desirable and which are not. The field of consciousness ethics will emerge.
Sounds like science fiction? These are serious ideas from the limits of scientific consciousness studies.
If you're not scared, I am. Makes drugs look like child play doesn't it? You won't only select tunes on the phone of the future, you'll download an experience -- any experience. For a $1.
On the positive side, neuroscience tells us that we haven't even begun to explore our human potential. We experience only a very small part of the potential of human consciousness. Again not a feel-good hypothesis, but a direct implication of science's understanding of neural networks and the brain.
Consciousness is seeking to understand it's own mechanisms. But why? And what should we do? Eckhart Tolle said "The purpose of intimate relationships isn't to make us happy, but to make us conscious." Maybe that's the purpose life?

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