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Old 02-07-2009, 07:20 PM   #1
Diane
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Default The Ego Tunnel, By Thomas Metzinger

Ian Stevens sent me a link to a review of this book by Tom Clark at Naturalism.org. I already had spotted its existence at Deric Bownds Mindblog. Deric is doing chapter by chapter abstracts, one each day.

I can hardly wait to get my hands on this book. I have a few things to do before I can order and read it, like move my life to a new province, but I definitely look forward to getting settled again just so I can obtain and read this - it'll be the first new book in my new library, I expect.

Some tidbits. From Clark's review:
Quote:
"His two main themes, self and consciousness, are closely linked, and they culminate in two rather unsettling conclusions. First, selves don’t exist in the way most folks suppose. Second, the solid, three dimensional public reality that is so palpably there in our waking lives turns out to be a private model of reality. On Metzinger’s view, the self – the feeling of being a mental me in charge of the physical body – is a module within consciousness activated by your brain’s neural processing. The self is categorically not some substantial, essential invariant entity, like a soul, spirit or homunculus. As he emphasizes, there are no such things as substantial selves. Instead, the self is a phenomenal (that is, experiential) construct that disintegrates entirely when you fall into a dreamless sleep, to be reactivated (usually in attenuated form) when you dream, and that reappears nearly instantaneously when you awake in the morning. The self is put online only when needed, part of a larger phenomenal reality generated by the brain as it represents the world and you in it. This reality seems perfectly concrete, but the startling fact of the matter, a challenge to naïve realists (that is, just about everybody), is that it’s an appearance, a virtual reality. You, the subject conjured up by the brain, do not directly encounter the world. Rather, you participate in a larger brain-based representational construction – consciousness – that maps the actual world closely enough for you-the-organism to stay out of trouble. This global simulation carried out in each of our heads, what we can’t help but take as real, is what Metzinger calls the Ego Tunnel. Welcome to the Matrix."
Deric Bownds is captivated by this book at the moment. Here are his posts so far:
1. Metzinger: introduction to "The Ego Tunnel"

Excerpt:
Quote:
"Thomas Metzinger is one of my heroes, a philosopher and polymath who has a deep understanding also of neurobiology and cognitive psychology and neuroscience. His model of the mind is one that I find most sane and accessible. I strongly recommend that you read his recent book, "The Ego Tunnel," which casts the arguments in his much longer and more technical book - "Being No One" - in layman's terms."
Excerpt:
Quote:
"The central metaphor of “The Ego Tunnel” is that: “Conscious experience is like a tunnel. Modern neuroscience has demonstrated that the content of our conscious experience is not only an internal construct but also and extremely selective way of representing information. This is why it is a tunnel: What we see and hear, or what we feel and smell and taste, is only a small fraction of what actually exists out there. Our conscious model of reality is a low-dimensional projection of the inconceivably richer physical reality surrounding and sustaining us...our brains generate a world-simulation and an inner image of ourselves as a whole so perfect that we do not recognize it as an image in our minds...We are not in direct contact with outside reality or with ourselves, but we do have an inner perspective. We can use the word “I.” We lives our conscious lives in the ego tunnel."
2. Metzinger: The appearance of a world

Excerpt:
Quote:
"The conscious brain is a biological machine - a reality engine - that purports to tell us what exists and what doesn’t. It is unsettling to discover that there are no colors out there in front of your eyes...they are models created by your brain...The world is not inhabited by colored objects at all..there is just an ocean of electromagnetic radiation, a wild and raging mixture of different wavelengths. Most of them are invisible to you and can never become part of your conscious model of reality. ...the visual system is your brain is drilling a tunnel through this inconceivably rich physical environment and in the process is painting the tunnel walls in various shades of color. Phenomenal color. Appearance. For your conscious eyes only...cognitive neuroscience has shown that the process of conscious experience is just an idiosyncratic path through a physical reality so unimaginably complex and rich in information that it will always be hard to grasp just how reduced our subjective experience is."
3. Metzinger: A tour of the ego tunnel

Excerpt:
Quote:
"This chapter has really fascinating ideas.
1- The One-World problem: the unity of consciousness.
Quote:
In apperceptive agnosia, no coherent visual model emerges on the level of conscious experience, despite the fact that all the patient’s low-level visual processes are intact. An intact visual field is perceived, but not its content.
2- The Now Problem - the appearance of a lived moment
Quote:
Presence is a necessary condition for conscious experience. If the brain could solve the One-World Prolem but not the Now Problem, a world could not appear to you. In a deep sense, appearance is simply presence, and the subjective sense of temporal immediacy is the definition of an internal space of time. There is an upper limit to what you can consciously experience as taking place in a single moment: It is almost impossible to experience a musical motif, a rhythmic piece of poetry, or a complex thought that lasts for more than three seconds as a unified temporal gestalt...the sense of presence is an internal phenomenon, created by the human brain.
3-The Reality Problem - why you were born as a naive realist
Quote:
The binding of the model of your current reading device with the rest of your experience space, optimized over millions of years, is so fast and reliable that you never notice its existence. It makes your brain invisible to itself. You are in contact only with it content; you never see the representation as such: there you have the illusion of being directly in contact with the world.. you become a naive realist, thinking to be in touch with an observer-independent reality.
4-The Ineffability Problem - what we will never be able to talk about
Quote:
We are much better at discriminating perceptual values than we are at identifying or recognizing them.
5-The Evolution Problem - what consciousness was good for
Quote:
Consciousness as a new kind of virtual organ, unlike permanent hardware of liver, kidney, or heart..., that forms for a certain time when needed (like desire, courage, anger, or an immune response)...a new computational strategy, a consciousness tunnel, makes classes of facts globally available and allows attending, flexible reacting, within context.... ‘reality generation’ allowed animals to represent explicitly the fact the something is actually the case, the world is present.
6-The Who Problem - what is the entity that has conscious experience"
Quote:
It is likely that consciousness is epistemically irreducible... one reality, one kind of fact, but two kinds of knowledge: first-person knowledge and third-person knowledge, that never can be conflated.
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"Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

“Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

“If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

"In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

"Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire
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Old 02-07-2009, 07:56 PM   #2
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I love this stuff, Diane. I wish I could condense it to help my patients (and quite a few of my colleagues) understand the notion of "perceived and constructed reality". It would so help them understand the concept of persistent pain - as well as many other things.....
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Old 03-07-2009, 02:52 AM   #3
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Hmmmm.... I love this stuff too but it really makes my head spin!

I remember when I first realized that the feeling of different textures was actually happenning in my brain- not in my fingers. The fingers 'experience' nerve impulses the brain creates a "texture experience" based on these impulses and then creates the perception that we feel that in the place where the signals come from (the fingers).

I actually spent an hour or so trying to feel the texture in my head not in my hand. But of course you can't. No more than you can experience 'seeing' in your occipital lobe instead of 'out of your eyes'.

Then you think that the brain is actually creating the perception of me being a 'concious me' in much the same way- and then you start wondering who and what we really are. Or if we are anything at all.

And then my head starts spinning!

Good stuff.
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Old 03-07-2009, 03:00 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jono View Post
Hmmmm.... I love this stuff too but it really makes my head spin!

I remember when I first realized that the feeling of different textures was actually happenning in my brain- not in my fingers. The fingers 'experience' nerve impulses the brain creates a "texture experience" based on these impulses and then creates the perception that we feel that in the place where the signals come from (the fingers).

I actually spent an hour or so trying to feel the texture in my head not in my hand. But of course you can't. No more than you can experience 'seeing' in your occipital lobe instead of 'out of your eyes'.

Then you think that the brain is actually creating the perception of me being a 'concious me' in much the same way- and then you start wondering who and what we really are. Or if we are anything at all.

And then my head starts spinning!

Good stuff.
If you think this is mind-blowing, check out Bownds' podcast on the "I"-illusion.

Bas, Damasio had the clearest take on all this feedforward stuff, I think.
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"Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

“Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

“If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

"In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

"Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire
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Old 03-07-2009, 03:09 PM   #5
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Today Bownds skipped over to Chapter 8 and abstracted it; Consciousness Technologies and the image of humankind.

Dark little chapter, this one, by the look of it.
I would hope Metzinger remembers that correlation does not equal causation.
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"Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

“Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

“If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

"In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

"Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire
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Old 03-07-2009, 10:56 PM   #6
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Quote:
Then you think that the brain is actually creating the perception of me being a 'concious me' in much the same way- and then you start wondering who and what we really are. Or if we are anything at all.
Jono, we are at the 'mercy' of what our nonconscious decides to do or not do. If we think we make a conscious decision about anything, it can be a jolt to the 'ego' to realise it doesn't work like that.
Non-pathological persistent pain is a great example of our ill-conceived perceptions. Even the well-known 'I am, therefore I think', devised to correct Descartes' erronous assumption, doesn't sit well because of the "I am" bit....

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Old 04-07-2009, 02:04 AM   #7
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Ultimately, Descartes may be more right than wrong with his "Cogito ergo sum". If we equate "cogito" (think) with cognition:
Our sense of identity comes from the interplay between our surroundings and our processing of in- and output - it is the sum of our cognitive processes that give us our "self".
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I suppose it's easier to believe something than it is to understand it.
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Pain is a conscious correlate of the implicit perception of threat to body tissue - Lorimer Moseley

We don't need a body to feel a body. Ronald Melzack
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Old 04-07-2009, 02:56 AM   #8
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That's what I was starting to think (pun intended) too. I wonder if Descartes did have premonitions of consciousness vs nonconsciousness.
Will see if I can find something...

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Old 05-07-2009, 01:12 AM   #9
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Diane,

I'm not sure what this is in reference to exactly,

Quote:
I would hope Metzinger remembers that correlation does not equal causation.
but it may be reassuring to you that in chapter one (p. 19) Metzinger states:

Quote:
However, what we do not know is how far discovering such neural correlates will go toward explaining consciousness. Correlation is not causation, nor is it explanation. And if certain aspects of consciousness are ineffable, we obviously cannot correlate them with states in our brains. We have no good understanding of what it means to say that consciousness is "subjective", a "private" phenomenon tied to individual selves. But pinning down neural correlates of specific conscious contents will lay the foundation for future neurotechnology.
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Old 05-07-2009, 01:22 AM   #10
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Hi Jon,
I was thinking more about the gloom he paints in Chapter 8.
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"Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

“Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

“If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

"In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

"Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire
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Old 05-07-2009, 02:11 AM   #11
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Not gloom. Suspense. Chapter 9 brings the relief. Or at least the set up for the sequel.

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Old 06-07-2009, 03:36 PM   #12
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Here is Deric's abstract of Chapter 9. You're right Jon, this chapter is less bleak.

Metzinger: A new kind of ethics. Excerpt:
Quote:
"What is a good state of consciousness?

Metzinger’s intuition is that it should satisfy at least three conditions. It should minimize suffering, in humans and other beings capable of suffering; it should possess an epistemic potential (have component of insight and expanding knowledge; and, should have consequences that increase the probability of future valuable types of experience."
My bold.

Quote:
"The ego tunnel evolved as a biological system of representation and information processing that is part of a social network of communicating ego tunnels...now embedded in a global data cloud characterized by rapid growth, increasing speed, and an autonomous dynamic of its own....it has begun to reconfigure our brains..perhaps body perception will change as we learn to control multiple avatars in multiple virtual realities, embedding our conscious self into entirely new kinds of sensorimotor loops... we will understand what our social life has been all along - an interaction between images, a highly mediated process in which mental model of persons begin to causally influence one another... communication viewed as estimating and controlling dynamical internal models in other people’s brains.

For those of us intensively working with it, the Internet has already become a part of our self-model. We use it for external memory storage, as a cognitive prosthesis, and for emotional autoregulation...We are learning to multitask, our attention span is becoming shorter, and many of our social relationships are taking on a strangely disembodied character..."
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"Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

“Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

“If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

"In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

"Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire
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Old 06-07-2009, 06:46 PM   #13
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Here is something that ties in to Chapter 8 and 9, also via Deric.
THE SYNCHRONIZATION OF BRAINS, by Jamshed Bharucha, at Edge.com.

Excerpt:
Quote:
"An understanding of how brains synchronize — or fail to do so — will be a game-changing scientific development.

Few behavioral forces are as strong as the delineation of in-groups and out-groups: 'us' and 'them'. Group affiliation requires alignment, coupling or synchronization of the brain states of members. Synchronization yields cooperative behavior, promotes group cohesion, and creates a sense of group agency greater than the sum of the individuals in the group. In the extreme, synchronization yields herding behavior. The absence of synchronization yields conflict.

People come under the grip of ideologies, emotions and moods are infectious, and memes spread rapidly through populations. Ethnic, religious, and political groups act as monolithic forces. Mobs, cults and militias are characterized by the melding of large numbers of individuals into larger units, such that the brains of individuals operate in lockstep – a single organism controlled by a single — distributed — nervous system.

Leaders who mobilize large followings have an intuitive ability to synchronize brains or to plug into systems that already are synchronized."
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"Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

“Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

“If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

"In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

"Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire
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Old 06-07-2009, 07:05 PM   #14
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Here is a link to a paper about linkage inside one brain at a time: Efficiency of Functional Brain Networks and Intellectual Performance.

Another thank you to Deric.
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Canadian Physiotherapy Association Pain Science Division Facebook page
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Neuroscience and Pain Science for Manual PTs Facebook page

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SomaSimple on Facebook
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"Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

“Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

“If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

"In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

"Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire
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Old 14-10-2009, 04:53 AM   #15
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Speaking of Hitchcock (post 11)--Check out how Hitchcock fairs in neurocinematics--via the Neurocritic.
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Old 11-06-2011, 01:31 AM   #16
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I just found this TED talk with Thomas Metzinger. 17 interesting minutes.

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