Category Archives: Exposing ROY

On Culture

On Culture

We can’t go on living solely relying on systems. Systems are mainly useful for collective preservation and growth. Culture, for instance, is a binary bio-technological system that’s used to transfer series of instructions. At its core, it’s an intergenerational tool for preserving definitions of good and bad, that apply to many things from certain acts to large groups of people. For some it may be tempting to deem culture an ally, as it represents a will that cares about our preservation. For others, it may represent an oppressive will that has something against our potential as beings. These points of view are taking place within the confined scope of culture’s binary “good or bad” discourse. They also collapse the will of authors and the system itself into a single entity.

I believe this is partly due to our affinity to assign consciousness to things we think about. We can’t imagine being without consciousness, therefore, even when we isolate objects, concepts or emotions in our minds, we tend to think in terms of these things being actual people. It may therefore be a useful first step, in our attempt to understand culture better, to actively realize that culture isn’t a person, but there are people behind it. Relying on a system as if it’s a person causes unrealistic expectation from the system and its authors’ level of foresight. We can contemplate the constructor by looking at a construct and vice versa, however to do so, we must first differentiate between the construct and the construction. Without doing so we can’t really make use of this vessel of information or improve it.

When my wife asks me for the scissors, I place it on a surface for her to pick it up, rather than directly handing it to her. I was, probably at an early age, warned that “one mustn’t hand scissors to others, because it’s bad luck.” For whatever reason, probably around adolescence, I was inclined to ask “why?” and keep asking it. I propose this way of inquiry is the correct way to utilize culture. Get the instruction, question it, if it makes sense integrate it, if not keep questioning.

For the sake of the argument, let’s imagine two versions of me; the first version avoids directly handing the scissors, because they believe that it’s bad luck to pass scissors from hand to hand. The second version acts the same way but not because of fear of bad luck but rather because they don’t want to accidentally pierce and injure other people. One might say that both these approaches are equally useful, as in both scenarios a safety protocol was followed. This might be true in an individual case, however over time, to mistake the binary limitations of culture as a bio-technological system, for instructions to have a polarized view of the world can potentially lead to abandonment of this system altogether, by those who praised it in the first place, and thus all the information would be lost. We really don’t know how many times over this may have happened in our kind’s cultural past. Perhaps the cultural acts and concepts remained the same, whereas some of the meanings underneath shifted drastically. On the other hand, the person who knows it’s dangerous to hand scissors to others directly can continuously use precaution, with minimal effort. Questioning things isn’t always an act of bravery that involves a heroic leap into the void. It’s sometimes simply a matter of efficiency; by partaking in culture through an open-source approach improves it on both ends.

On Talking to our Subconscious

Consciousness is a small illuminated dot of light within a dark cavern that is our subconscious. Our subconscious speaks to us in a very creative manner through metaphors and symbols. The medium of the subconscious expression is our entire being. The unconscious speaks to us through dreams, through manifestations of unintended physical acts, or even though psychosomatic symptoms. The subconscious part of ourselves is intelligent as it shares the same facilities with our conscious part. This makes us more inclined to believe that we’re being watched over by something other than ourselves. I’m of the opinion that this is the main reason some people tend to mistake the projection of their subconscious during psychedelic experiences for a separate being other than themselves. The best and perhaps only way to talk to our subconscious is to learn the language it speaks, this will enrich our conscious forms of expression, but more importantly once we’re familiar with this language, we can benefit from any long-term transformative endeavor, whether it be, psychotherapy, psychedelic experimentation or meditation, as we’ll be able to comprehend the obstacles we have, and why we have them.

Final Notes:

Throughout this week I took notes on possible subjects to write about, combined with my in-class notes and inspirations, on top of the reading, it all became unrealistic to mix in a meaningful way. I’ve decided to try and write a short meditation on culture, as I’d been intending for a while. I also tried to distill my views about how to relate to our subconscious into a short meditation.

Possible threads of interest for this course: 1.) A proposed framework for Turning my Psychedelic Artwork into open-source material 2.) Starting to methodically try guided breath meditation and document the process

Finally, I’ve found that the “Speaking of Attention and Effort” section at the end of the Kahneman reading reflected a very positive and constructive approach

Exploring how I can choose what I focus on.


As mentioned in the reading, this system 1 and 2 made me really curious about focusing ability and what are the factors that make me choose what I focus on, time, conscious control.

One aspect of my personality is that I am a slow person, my sense of time is also slower than others and sometimes I am easily distracted by other environments around me, which makes me unable to focus on one specific subject. I cannot resist seeing the things that are happening around me given my short attention span.

I was thinking that if everyone and gorilla both are moving extremely slow in the experiment, then it would be easier for people’s system 2 to handle.

For me, the rest of you is all about consciousness, but consciousness is hard to control. As the reading “Thinking, fast and slow” mentions, human beings are designed to manage our energy efficiently to keep our brains healthier. Multi-tasking is not usual and even bad for our mental health in the long term, but how can we choose what task to focus our attention on with System 2?

Prescription: Blue Pills

Just my thoughts here.

Life, illusion, perception, time, moments… these words are something that were occupying my brain for a couple of years. And I remember I walked out of the class last Monday, realizing that I have been taking the “blue pill” for a past few months. I completely let myself sink into the joy of living in the simulation. It’s fun not to think about existential crisis. But this was not because I was trying to avoid the reality, but because I have come to a conclusion that there is no answer to anything. To be honest, I think the quality of my life has been elevated ever since I stopped identifying and classifying all the brain activities inside my head. But selling the blue pill is not what I am trying to do here. I used to think settling down for a surface level reality was something cowardly. But there is a certain value to taking a blue pill – only if you are aware of it.

So what does being ‘aware’ mean here? I know we use this term a lot during meditation practices. Is it something that’s happening on a higher level than brain activities? Is it the real me? Is it even real?

Well, all of these questions come down to personal experiences at the end. In my opinion, I have been noticing “something” that can control the involuntary actions or thoughts that occurs within me. And whether it be consciousness, mind, awareness, soul, or whatever you want to call this, there is a sense of separation from your physical body and “you”.

After reading, I am more convinced that I am composed of a physical body that is a complete delusional box that carries me around – trying to survive from the ruthless world, and “me” being the control tower over here. You could actively engage with the physical stimulation, or you could make your body believe in what you want to live in. To expand on this idea, you can pretty much form your own reality and and live in it as you want. I know it sounds like I don’t care about the truth at all. But wait, I do think it could actually be somewhat closer to the “truth” if there is any.

One of the greatest, scientifically proven and intact(!) discovery is that time is relevant. In the world of quantum physics, as far as we know, nothing exists outside of the relation with another. The relationship exists not because the objects exist, but because the relationship itself is what makes objects exist. So there is no such thing as single ultimate reality. It’s a false myth. And as we have became aware of, even our perception is all an illusion. The reality, it resides within the relation between you and the other.

So what’s my conclusion? I am still trying to figure it out myself and live. Maybe the reality is an illusion and it’s the truth. The only thing I am quite sure about is that you learn to live with your physical self and your mind. Go out, make connection to the world, and to the others. Then perhaps you’ll become less of an illusion, but more of an existential being in this world, who knows?

Illusions, Definitions

I want to share with you a story of me that happened five years ago. After a full day of mindless working in an architecture office(I was an intern that took the job that no one else in the office had time to do) I was waiting for the train home at a subway station when a mysterious middle-aged man came and started talking to me. He was an art curator and we had some interesting conversation about art , architecture. Later he claimed that he could read energy and micro-expressions to see one’s thoughts. He offered me an energy healing session which I politely rejected. Before I got off the train he gave me a piece of free advice ” Do not define things.”

The whole experience was absurd to me because at that time I didn’t believe in mind reading. I had not thought much about interpreting people’s thought micro-expressions, pupil dilation, nonetheless, energy reading. However, this last piece of “advice” aroused my attention because it was so uncanny. How can I not define things? My life relied on definitions and that’s one of the ways I perceived the world. I learned vocabulary by looking up the definitions, I defined the people that I saw. I defined things and categorized them so that I don’t need to reevaluate what I see or experience in every reencounter.

Two years later I started practicing Yoga and hence became interested in practicing meditation. I read a book named Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Thought reading and practicing mindfulness meditation. I realized there is a long period in a day that my mind is wandering and there is a long period that I am on a so-called autopilot mode, acting without utilizing my “system 1 “in Kahneman ‘s word in thinking fast and slow. It’s interesting how my mind could be thinking about other things and be able to finish some work and how I don’t have to be super conscious after getting home from a long day of work and be able to make myself a meal and not burn my fingers. If somebody asks me what I had for dinner on my dinner yesterday when I was in my autopilot mode, I probably will have a really hard time to recall. It’s not so necessary to be very conscious to survive.

The fact that we have the illusion that we perceive things as how we think they are instead of how they actually are is the key to survival. If our ancestors recognize a long fury stripped tail as a long fury stripped objects instead of the tail of the tiger, the Human race won’t be surviving. And these genes that are crucial for living then are passed to us although some of the behavior embedded in these genes are no longer needed in today’s circumstances. Take my only cat for example, if there were leftover food in his bowl after a meal, he would use his front paws to dig on our wood floor as if he was trying to bury the leftovers with soil. The funny thing was that despite his actions had never lead to any effects, he kept on doing it every single day just like performing a ritual. I guess he didn’t understand what he was doing but the genes in him that saved his ancestors were asking him to do the same thing because this behavior had helped cats to hide and protect the food from competitors. The system 1 of my cat performs really well yet his system 2 was too lazy.

Bringing the topic back to the phase that once seemed absurd to me “ Do not define things”. To my understanding. When I am actively trying to define things and adding labels that are not so necessary (it’s not survival related) like a new term, a technology, a religion etc. I am thinking fast yet loses the chance to further observe and deeply understand and lead me thinking that I know something that I don’t actually know. Although I survive by having System 1 and am guided by it without noticing. I would like to understand this world a little bit better with System 2.

What should we do after noticing the gorilla?

After done with class discussion and finished the readings, “Rest of me” topic seems to be a lot more philosophical topic than I was expected ( even though I’ve already expected it to be philosophical ) and it’s pretty hard for me to absorb and apply all this ideas into my reality.

I moved to New York about 5 years ago to take care of my late husband who was diagnosed with cancer in that time. We both born and raised in Bangkok where, unfortunately, if you are a middle class person you might need to spend at least 3-4 hours everyday commuting on the street – which my husband always making joke about how many things we Thais might have missed out during our time behind the wheel compared to people from other country. And this reminded me so much of the invisible gorilla experiment video that we saw in the class which is also mentioned in “Thinking, Fast and Slow” as selective attention.

Imagine the invisible gorilla experiment in a much bigger scale in time – maybe a life time. For example, if there is a Thai women who moved to New York just so she didn’t have to spend her 3-4 hours attention on her driving in the traffic and then she suddenly got some time to notice the gorilla existence in her life – what’s the best way that she should do after noticing the gorilla? 

In class, maybe because of my poor English skill or my short attention span, I didn’t start counting the ball passing by the player wearing white since the beginning of the video and noticed the gorilla right away. Though, I did’t know what I should deal with the note of the gorilla that I had. Should I shout it out? – but why people will care about the gorilla anyway since what Dan just asked everyone to do is counting the ball passing not to notice the gorilla.

Anyway, I realized that maybe in our life time we might not even notice the gorilla since we always busy focusing on other things unless other people tell us to notice it. So maybe the “Rest of me” for me now is not only about to learn what is the rest of the iceberg that I didn’t know but also to share the little gorillas that I’ve noticed and learn how/what is the best way to share it with other people who didn’t notice it without interrupting or intermediating them from their other focus. This can also linked back to Hoffman’s talk about how we construct our reality as a 3D desktop to control our behavior which I believe that the world would be much better if we have many different gorilla’s Interfaces to explore.

ps. sorry for my poor English and please don’t judge me by my grammar.

The Map of Thoughts

So, Reality?

After watching the TED video “Do we see reality as it is?” by Donald Hoffman for several times, I was getting more and more convinced by his point of view. Before this, I used to assume that the space and time is outside of our body and objective to all life beings.

However, everything is so weird that we can’t actually know whether my mind work as other’s. This includes vision, textile sensing, odor, listening, and thinking. There are basically everything in life experiences and we can’t even know if we share the same “red” color. It’s so wild.

In his talk, we use the analogy of “3 dimensional user interface” to explain what he meant. He said that our perception is merely a layer of abstraction on the reality. We can’t really see the logic gates and circuitry by only looking at the monitor of a computer. However, we can still feel, manipulate, understand, and predict how the interface work.

It’s quite fascinating for me. It might be the first time I felt that a theorem starting with “reality is pure illusion” can end up optimistic and progressive.

Although I really want to use this realization as a starting point in the exploration of “Rest of You”, I consider that this might be one of the hardest choices. The inquiry of the kind of problem usually get super messy in a minute, and I want to keep everything simple at the beginning.

The Map of Thoughts

At this point, an idea suddenly got into my head. Thinkng inside our head is usually like driving a bumper car in the realm of imagination. The thoughts wander in a vague direction or around a series of related questions or topics. When does this end or change direction? There are two common cases. First, something attracts the sense. Or, the thought got stuck more than a few seconds. This is just a simple observation, and I think there might be more to explore.

This process is mostly invisible and easy to forgot. I wonder if it’s possible to track our thinking for a whole day. Then, I might be able to observe some more interesting patterns than the one mentioned here.

The quick idea is to attach a microphone and force myself to talk out loud for the whole day. There might be some loss between the thoughts and the vocalization, but it seems to be the only feasible way.

Digital Footprints of My Thoughts

Can I get further with this observation? Yes. The vocalization can be considered as a certain kind of mapping. The internal mechanism in our brain maps the thoughts into a series of verbals. We can actually find that there are several potential mapping that is observable.

During heavy-duty working period, I usually sit in front of my computer more than 8 hours a day. In one of these days, browsing history, Google queries, emails, messages, and typing history are almost complete representation of my thoughts. If I can collect and analyze a day/week/month/year of this kind of data, I can probably find some habits and patterns that I am totally not aware of.

I found it extremely challenging to do this blog. After all, we can’t see what we can’t see, right?

(2020-02-02 20:43 Brooklyn)

The Rest of Me that Thinks Differently

Well, this is a little bit personal.

Over the years, I’ve realized that I have a tendency to tackle my problems extremely systematically. I would always try to see things from a higher level and once I have a full grasp on the problem, I will chomp away at it one bite at a time. I’ve learned to become extremely technical and efficient in processing my thoughts and emotions.

This becomes an issue when I am faced with problems that are beyond my field of view. It would overwhelm me, and whenever I am overwhelmed, my whole body (outside of life-supporting organs) would shut down. I would become extremely sleepy, curl up in a ball, and just spiral down in my frustration, unable to do anything other than breathing, not even to cry.

I had a very hard time in the first half of my first semester here at ITP. Moving to New York and starting grad school came at a heavy price. I lost the presence of my friends and family, I lost my job, I lost my financial security, I even lost the use of my native language. A flight home cost upwards of $1200 and would take over 30 hours. Furthermore, I don’t even know what this school I’m in will lead me to. It was (is) all a big question mark. Suffice it to say, I was overwhelmed.

Right on cue, my whole body started to shut down. I started to sleep very long hours, taking time only to go to class and do my assignments. I am totally fine now, but back then I was a barely functioning human being. I remember a very specific moment in time when I wanted to cry to let all of my emotions out so that I can gather myself and chomp away at my problem. The thing is, no matter how hard I try, I was unable to shed a tear, and that would frustrate me even more.

My therapist told me that it could be that my subconscious sense that my life was under threat, instructing my conscience not to break down (cry). Even if my conscious self fully realizes that crying is healthy, my subconscious would not allow it – not even for a second. Furthermore, what I don’t understand is why does my body shuts down whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed? My conscious self fully understands that the only way to exit a problematic situation is to work at it, but my subconscious seems to think otherwise and does the opposite.

Much like the dumb bees, it could be that my reaction to being overwhelmed is just an evolutionary product that has nothing to do with my own personal intention. Intent is an illusion in the grand scheme of things anyway. Maybe I should just trust my subconscious and go along with it? But then again, maybe not.

ROY – What it means to be conscious

The idea of the unconscious is an intriguing one for me. As someone who practices meditation on a daily basis, I feel like I’m really in touch with my subconscious mind, and it’s there for me as a guiding principle in my life. I’m a very spiritual person, so although perhaps my opinions differ than others, I feel that we are all universally “ONE” in this light.

The rest of you for me would be less about me expressing my bodily functions, and more a representation of how the unconsciousness of the world could become more conscious. As in, more “aware” of the unity of us all, and the representation and importance of nature. God, for me, is a universal concept whether people believe in someone up there or not. There are laws in the universe, including physics etc. For me, this is what God really is. The math that makes up this universe and beyond. The thinking of it all. We are in God, and God is in us.

Genesis is something I’ve been trying to compare recently to machine intelligence. If we are to create intelligence that is “kind”, as in, doesn’t destroy us, then we must be sure we don’t expose machine intelligence to evil. Similar to Genesis where Adam + Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, where they learned evil and suddenly realized more than God had intended for them only to later regret creation, we might be able to learn from these historical stories. We must be careful not to expose whatever we create to feelings of evil, jealousy, anger, etc. We must be training technology with the underpinnings of love.

Perhaps my concepts are somewhat out there, especially in the realm of technologists, New Yorkers and SF software folk, but for me this idea has been one I’ve thought a lot about. There’s an inherent feeling of consciousness that breathes into everything in this universe. There’s things happening that we can never understand. We as a species cannot ever create a tree from scratch, it’s expected that it already “was” “is” and “eternally designed”. Similar to this, we must develop machine consciousness with considerate design.

Embodied Intuition as the Rest of You

I jolted awake. 7:44am — one minute before my alarm was set to ring. Time and again throughout my life, this same thing has happened; my internal clock has known when to get up and shot some sort of signal behind my eyes and forced them open, just ahead of my alarm. Not every day. I still need alarms. But it’s happened enough times in enough varied instances that it is unlikely to be coincidental. Something else is going on.

Close your eyes. Move your mind out of your head. Live in your right arm. Now breathe into your gut. Stop thinking. Heal. At the front of the room, our teacher sits cross-legged, leading us through a Somatic Meditation practice that emphasizes “connecting with the inherent, self-existing wakefulness that is already present within the body itself.” He tells stories of people in distant, old cultures being able to sense incoming rains more accurately than technological systems, all from years of living outdoors, tuning their bodies’ sensing machinery subconsciously. He speaks of “embodied intuition,” a way of sensing phenomena outside of the mind.  More advanced students are exorcising physical pains lodged deep in their bodies, caused by emotional traumas that they talk about gingerly during our post-class reflection. Color me intrigued.

Attendees at Steve Jobs’ funeral famously left with a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi, a book that sits on my shelf, half-read. During my various stops-and-starts with this book, one feature of the writing stood out: the number of seemingly miraculous events that occur. The pages are peppered with stories of yogis who never eat yet live for a long time; yogis who can teleport into other bodies; yogis who can control their “involuntary” biological systems. During earlier moments in life, I was highly skeptical of these accounts. Now, I’m willing to be more open. Maybe these are symbolic anecdotes that still connect to an unbelievable reality, or maybe our bodies and minds are capable of far more than I had suspected.

———

Where do thoughts live? When I visualize an answer, I see them floating around in my head. In each of the stories above, however, thoughts — or maybe a different word, something like “conscious activity”– exist in the body, outside of the head. If our mental model for consciousness is a powerful computer in our brains, the model suggested by these anecdotes is that we have distributed computing power in far more parts of our body. That our limbs and organs are not just sensors feeding data to the head’s CPU, but that they may have their own local processing units as well.

What if every time we have a negative experience, our muscles encode that negativity in the form of tension. And what if that network of tense muscles were able to self-correct after taking on too much tension? What if positive thoughts were encoded as well, perhaps by storing and/or releasing hormones that increase alertness. What if we could access those positive stores of hormones whenever we needed to? What if this experiential encoding/ distributed response could allow us to sense the future or remember multiple pasts?

We already do a version of this: we have immune responses to stress, physical responses to pain, etc. But perhaps the rest of us lies in building a deeper connection with our embodied intuition, our embodied consciousness. 

The explosion of mindfulness practices in the West seems to be, at least in part, a response to the strain we are placing on our brains to process an ever-increasing amount of signal. While these practices are often marketed as cures to anxiety and stress or superchargers for mental focus and productivity, perhaps they are really a way of training ourselves to load-balance signal processing from the mind to the rest of the body — and in the process unlock wholly new human capabilities.

Beyond mindfulness training, it would be interesting to see whether we could measure what our bodies are doing when they bypass conscious thought to make autonomous decisions. Measuring tension, hormone production, and perhaps other biological markers when people are exposed to a variety of situations would allow us to refine our mental model of the mind/body connection– or at least start to sketch it in low resolution while our instruments of measurement catch up to our actions.

Illusions, body, brain, and mind.

When I think about illusion, I would think about traditional, sensual illusions. Just like the P5 sketch we all experienced in class. When I found the ball disappeared, I was like wow. And I think seeing these types of tricks, is always fun and enjoy. When it came to thinking illusions, it become more complex and I often try to avoid these thinking illusions. But the book Thinking Fast and Slow gives me a new perspective to think about thinking illusions.

In the book, the author points out that cognitive science shows us that we are not only think with our brain, but also we think with our body. It makes sense, but I never think about how our mind system works. But, one thing comes to my mind is that when we were babies, we can cry and wave hand, and do we “think” when we have these actions when we just born? So I guess we do think with our body since the beginning of our birth. The book points out ”Innovation happens when we are in an environment we can keep connect in the mind.“ As someone in the creative technology field, I think this is sure. Every time I brainstorming for a new project idea, it’s always keep going and going. One other interesting the book mention was that when we see and hear a world, our mind will be changed. So when we keep writing and speak loud any world we think of, it will change our thinking. This is something I always experience. Thinking, new idea, seeing new idea, thinking, come up with another new idea, cycle through. In this scenario, thinking is following the whole action, and not happening by just think out of the brain. So the relationship between our body and brain become very interesting. In the brainstorm process, for me, it seems like our brain in following our body actions. 

“Your intuition may be your illusion” I think the book gives me a different way to view illusion. In my mind, intuition means doing without conscious reasoning. But when I think of illusion, I think it’s something happens after “conscious reasoning”. I think this is a very interesting argument. Later the book mentions “Seeing is believing often leads us to rush decisions.” Which I think those rush decisions are based on intuition, and intuition could be an illusion at this point. 

One illusion I experience the most was that, I feel something is happening now, happened previously in my life. It always like, I lived in the movement where I can go back to my past. When I had those experiences, I always feel like living in a magical movement.

Layers, Definitions, and Dichotomies

Ok, so…

Let’s go through these reactions I’m having one by one and we’ll try to triangulate what my actual feelings are after this week.

The Case Against Reality:

I’m not sure I’m super sold on this guy’s central thesis, or maybe I just don’t see how it’s relevant to my life. Unless I’m completely misunderstanding him, his point seems to be that we’re not actually seeing reality as is because we’re not seeing the electrons and protons and magnetic rays that are flying around and we only see 0.05 percent of the visible light spectrum or this that and the other thing. Maybe this is my preoccupation with Wittgenstein talking, but I feel a bit offended when he says that, because of that, I’m not seeing “reality”, just because literal physical objective reality (if there can be such a thing, keeping in mind something like the observer effect in physics where it’s impossible to observe a certain system without changing the way the system operates) is not what I’m seeing. That’s a crummy way to define reality. The interesting thing, to me, doesn’t come from the difference between what “people as an evolutionary branch” see and don’t see, but rather from the difference between what different people see, which is especially interesting because evolutionarily speaking we’re all equipped, more or less, with the same stuff. Comparing your reality and my reality is a more meaningful distinction than trying to compare what I see with what electron configurations may be.

Incognito:

This reminds me of a really really good book which I highly recommend called “Morality for Humans”, which I read as part of a cognitive science class a while back in undergrad. It deals with defining how to act morally assuming that any moral system doesn’t come from God or some certain ineffable principle but rather from how we as people interact with the world. One of the focuses of the book is on the distinction between the rational, conscious, deliberative mind and the unconscious quick-heuristic mind, and the influence each has on making “right choices” — different philosophers and psychology people have, over the years, shifted the balance back and forth, some saying that the conscious mind only exists to handle rationalizing one’s decision after the fact and others saying that the conscious mind actually has a handle on what we end up doing. This topic is much more interesting (and pertinent in my opinion) than the question of an objective reality because it calls into question not only to what extent we can understand ourselves but to what extent others can know us, which is a question I think about a lot.

Thinking Fast and Slow:

Yeah, brains are lazy. This is also something I came to terms with long ago. I think the most interesting thing about this article is this line: “Suppose you are shown four digits, say, 9462, and told that your life depends on holding them in memory for 10 seconds. However much you want to live, you cannot exert as much effort in this task as you would be forced to invest to complete an Add-3 transformation on the same digits.” What is crazy about these two systems isn’t that they exist per se (which is just a way to save on power and streamline things), but rather that THEIR VALUE SYSTEMS ARE SO RADICALLY DIFFERENT. If someone points a gun to your head and tells you that you have 30 seconds to recite the phone number of your second cousin, you’ll probably die, not necessarily because your brain is incapable of such a feat but because there is some critical failure in communication between what “you” as an entity with an idea of self-preservation and continuous consciousness value think is important and what the rest of your “unconscious” brain considers important. On the other hand, if your unconscious decides that you’re hungry your conscious mind can’t just open up a hatch and shout down that it’s wrong. The feeling persists. Obviously these two systems are in consensus in some situations, like when adrenaline kicks in right before you get in a big fight, but the idea that you can otherwise be so lazy in the face of death is astounding to me.

Conclusion (focus???):

What I think is really cool about these readings is that there are so many layers to what one can consider hidden and separate from themselves. In a very real sense my bones are a part of me that only exist theoretically, because I’ve never seen a single one of them (hopefully I’ll never have to). This is the kind of illusion Hoffman talks about: there is something in the real, physical world that we as humans aren’t seeing and can’t see.

Incognito is interesting because it calls into question my relationship with how I form my identity. When I think of myself, I’m thinking of things from a surface-level perspective. When I try to figure out how to be as authentic with others as possible I don’t necessarily have access to all the info I could have. Maybe in the end that’s not a huge problem; just because we don’t have access to all the electrical flow inside a computer at any given time doesn’t mean we can’t take the information on the screen as a complete and accurate picture of a given situation. At the very least though it’s pretty creepy.

Thinking fast and slow is creepy because it calls into question what we think we value and what we think is important to us. I can say I find someone really attractive, and maybe I think I really mean it, but if I can’t get my pupils to dilate when I say it is it true? Yesterday I heard someone say “once a cheater, always a cheater”. Is that true? What about murderers? Can they change? To what extent is someone liable for what goes on in the dark underbelly of their brain?

… This is a lot and I can’t focus on all of it. I think what really speaks to me is how people construct the self and the extent to which they have control over that, and to what extent we can consciously decide to become different (maybe even better?) people. How to analyze and break down that illusion… there’s a scientist and an artist in me and they both have very strong preferences for the best way to go about things, but maybe I should roll with that. Could “artistic experimental design” be the way of the future? Or maybe I can use that dichotomy as a platform to leverage the kind of concerns I have in the first place.

Scores Don’t Matter

I’ve always believed that the Intelligence quotient was a hoax, and after reading the assigned chapters, especially Incognito, I feel like they’ve proven my point. Being intelligent is associated with many subtle influences that include lifestyle, education, religion, culture, background, knowledge, memories, and so on. These are all factors that can shape how people think and react. However, IQ tests are designed to measure one‘s cognitive abilities without taking cultural differences and lifestyle into account. Also, it was suggested that scientists found a strong correlation amongst children with their parents which implies that IQ may be inherited. That doesn’t make sense to me because we are exposed to a massive amount of technology on a daily basis as opposed to our parents. This will be the case in the future with our kids as well; they’ll have access to more developed tech as opposed to us. 

Technology, like everything in the world, has its pros and cons. Some people might suggest that it’s causing people to rely on it so much that they forget to use their brains and actually ‘think’. Others, including me, think that technology is a blessing (wo)manmade creation that introduces us to an unlimited amount of information at absolutely anytime. Coming to ITP with this mindset, I try to always create or co-create projects that challenge users and make them think, while participating.

On another note, I was going to talk about another “illusion,” because now I think everything is an illusion after last class’ discussion. But what intrigued me to focus on IQs and intelligence is the fact that Incognito talked about how some of the greats were somewhat possessed by the unknown to create the work that planted their names in history. This fact just blew my mind, and made me wonder, were they ‘smart’ all along?

Exposing the Rest of Me

Honestly, “Rest of You” is a topic that I have never thought about before. I am always considered the most “careless” person among my friends since I never think about deep and profound questions—when they are thinking about the true meaning of life, I am thinking about what I am going to eat for dinner. So, finding and exploring the rest of me is a challenging, exciting, and brand-new experience for me.

After reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I learned that people’s thinking can be categorized into two types: System 1—fast, automatic, and more emotional; System 2—slow, effortful, and more logical. Because of the existence of the “law of least effort,” system 1, aka fast thinking, often comes up in the first place because it is easy, instinctive, and spontaneous.

Now come back to myself: as a person who tends to have a carefree mind, I believed that fast thinking must usually come out on top in my thought. However, after recalling some of the experience in my daily life and trying to expose the deepest part of my being, I surprisingly found that slow thinking always has the upper hand when I am dealing with things, such as when I am facing my powerful daily meditation question: “What should I eat for dinner?”

Back in the day, deciding what to eat was the happiest and easiest thing in my life. I was not fussy about food, and the one and only concept for me is to get whatever I am craving for, no matter it is pizza, fried chicken, fries, ramen, rice bowl, or hot pot. When I was in the dining hall at school, I did not really read the menu. I just glanced over the kiosks and chose the one that looked good to me.

However, I do not know since when the way I think about my diet has changed. Under the popular trend of healthy-eating, I no longer listen to my gut and eat whatever I want. Instead, I have started paying attention to the nutrition of the food I eat. The process of choosing what to eat has become much more complicated to me.

Here is a true story. I was in the Panera Bread next to 370J in the evening trying to get a clam chowder bread bowl because I suddenly thought about clam chowder when I was in class that afternoon. The old me might just directly walk to the counter and order it, but the new me would never allow that kind of irrational thing happen. I took out my phone, opened the Panera Bread app, and pulled out the nutrition facts of the clam chowder bread bowl. 1040 Calories! Gee! I had a donut for breakfast and a burger with fries for lunch, and now I am thinking about having a bowl of heavy cream which would take half of my daily calorie intake? What is wrong with me? Then, my rational thought and analysis beat up my natural instincts and desires—I got a seasonal greens salad and an apple in the end.

I have been calculating like this for quite a while. Every day my brain is full of calories, saturated fat, sodium, total carbohydrate, fiber, sugars, protein, and all those vocabularies. My diet seems healthier and more balanced, but I am not sure if this brings the best result to me. First of all, it just adds a lot of extra procedures to my daily routines and makes my life a lot harder. Secondly, I have lost 15 pounds in the past 4 months, but I do not even want to lose weight! Most importantly, I noticed that my enthusiasm for eating is decreasing. Eating is no longer an enjoyable experience for me. Instead, it is more like a task that I need to fulfill, because I have spent too much time making sure my choices fit those unemotional numbers on the dietary guidelines.

People keep exploring the differences and relationship between intuition and rational thinking. Indeed, slow and logical thinking avoids cognition illusion and cognitive bias, but at the same time it may bring up a fixed form of thinking, which is the thing that sometimes we want to break through. In Donald Hoffman’s TED talk Do We See Reality as It Is, he mentions that “not seeing the world accurately gives us a survival advantage.” I feel exactly the same because I know how good it feels when I used to just rely on my gut feeling. Is there a way that can let me go back to who I used to be?

Fortunately, as Hoffman says, human beings have an advantage over jewel beetle: our science and technology. During this semester, I want to explore the differences between my behaviors when I am in the states of fast thinking and slow thinking. I would love to see if I can use technology to help myself stop being “excessively rational,” guiding myself back to my instincts which are high-calorie, high-fat, high-carb, and super delicious.

LO