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May 5 17 11:26 AM

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I recently came across a fascinating article and want to share it here, along with some of the woolly thoughts it prompted in me:

http://nautil.us/issue/47/consciousness/is-consciousness-fractal

As it happens, I've also been becoming acquainted with the work of Rupert Sheldrake and the somewhat-related philosophical theory of "extended minds" -- the idea that our consciousness extends out into the world and isn't confined within our skulls.  Sheldrake likes to explain the mind as a kind of field, like the ones involved in electromagnetism or the gravity wells of relativity theory.   It's a metaphor I find congenial, and I like to combine it with something like George Berkeley's idealism and Advaita Vedanta.  My consciousness is my world, and I share it with other beings, with whose fields of consciousness my own interacts, in an intimate embrace like the way electromagnetic fields or waves in a water pond form interference patterns with each other.  I am always in touch to some degree with everything in my world, and so there is a sense in which we all are one, as Vedanta's doctrine of non-dualism teaches.  

The strength of this interaction varies as a result of attention.  When we say that something stimulates a section of our brain, we might also say that our brain has evolved or grown to detect that thing.  To detect is to notice, to focus on, to become conscious of, to pay attention to.  In gestalt terms, it is to bring into the foreground.  In cybernetic terms, it is to amplify the signal, perhaps using some kind of positive feedback loop.

The more mundane form of philosophical theory of external mind talks about the way we use tools like notebooks, diaries, calculators, etc. to augment our thinking.  But I'm intrigued by Sheldrake's more radical position that our brains are also tools that we have created to enhance (or enable!) our thinking.  It's the old chicken or the egg problem: does the brain produce consciousness or is it the other way around.  I think it's interesting to see where taking the second alternative brings us.

Now add in Kerri Welch's ideas, as described in the article:
Philosopher Kerri Welch looks at consciousness in a more holistic way, through the lens of time and memory. “I think consciousness is a temporal fractal,” she says. “We’re taking in an infinite amount of data every moment. It’s a jump in scale every time we compress that data.” According to Welch, perceived time is not a linear progression but a “layering.” A fractal. This “fractal-ness” changes as we do: Infants, for instance, live purely in the present, she says, not dividing time, surely not experiencing it the way we do now. That’s why, for them, the delta-wave brain state—similar to what’s seen in adults in deep sleep—dominates, according to Welch. “And then, as we grow into childhood, we start seeing faster brain waves, theta brain waves … then alpha waves, and finally beta waves once we reach adolescence.” This layered understanding of time, she says, corresponds to how we increasingly divide time into smaller and smaller pieces.

And with it, “it’s also our internal density increasing,” Welch adds. “As we get older, we switch, taking in the complexity that surrounds us and recreating it inside. Our internal fractal dimension—that internal density—is increasing.”

A temporal fractal, something that is unfolding in time.  Our brains and our consciousness are something that has grown, and the principles governing that growth and the resulting form are fractal.  Yet if my consciousness is my world (or, to put it another way, if my world is my consciousness), and my brain/consciousness has developed fractally, then so has my world.

One of my old philosophy professors used to say that the mark of the real is that it is infinitely describable, that a complete description of it is impossible.  You can find a similar idea in Leibniz's Monadology and the infinite specifiability of each unique monad, which underpins the principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles.  Fractals have some of the same infinite, never-completed complexity, so it's not surprising to find fractals both in the world and in the activity, growth, and form of our brains.

Well, I could go on and on, but this is probably enough amateur philosophizing for now.  (I warned you in my Introduction that I have a philosophy degree!)  I posted it here in the offtopic section because I'm not sure how this all plays into gender theory and crossdreaming.  I suspect the fact that fractals aren't random but instead are principled has something to do with what has been called our gender core.   Anyway, something to ponder...

Some more links in case anyone wants to explore the idea of external mind:

https://www.philosophytalk.org/blog/extended-mind

Here's another one re what I call the mundane version of the theory:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/the-extended-mind/2986780

And another presentation by Sheldrake:

https://iai.tv/video/the-extended-mind

Last Edited By: Kippi May 5 17 7:38 PM. Edited 4 times

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May 5 17 11:42 AM

There are also some obvious connections to the theory of the social construction of reality, and thus to repression and the effects of transphobia. The interference patterns aren't always benign!

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May 7 17 7:50 AM

I had a root canal Thursday morning and needed an analgesic. image   
Which led to yet another attempt to *think* my way out of my usual introverted stance.  
Reality and embodiment in that reality are two of my lifelong interests.
I wish I could finally get to the bottom of those issues,
but that would take some hard work and I'm the type who likes to putter around instead. 

image

 

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