Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the tag “Ego Tunnel”

The Unfathomable Depth of Our Phenomenal-state Space

I’m nearing the end of an epic nine month consumption of Thomas Metzinger’s ‘The Ego Tunnel’:

‘The mathematical theory of neural networks has revealed the enormous number of possible neuronal configurations in our brains and the vastness of different types of subjective experience. Most of us are completely unaware of the potential and depth of our experiential space. The amount of possible neurophenomenological configurations of an individual human brain, the variety of possible tunnels, is so large that you can explore only a tiny fraction of them in your lifetime. Nevertheless, your individuality, the uniqueness of your mental life, has much to do with which trajectory through phenomenal-state space you choose.

Nobody will ever live this conscious life again. Your ego tunnel is a unicum, one of a kind’

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Imagining is a Human Core Competence

The phenomenal self model (PSM) is ‘the conscious model of the organism as a whole that is activated by the brain’. Thomas Metzinger’s ‘The Ego Tunnel – the Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self’ refers to it as ‘probably one of nature’s best inventions’

‘Whenever our brains successfully pursue the ingenious strategy of creating a unified and dynamic inner portrait of reality, we become conscious’

‘First, our brains generate a world-simulation, so perfect that we do not recognise it as an image in our minds. Then, they generate an inner image of ourselves as a whole. This image includes not only our body and our psychological states but also our relationship to the past and the future, as well as to other conscious beings’

My marginalia at this point in my first reading of the book explodes. One of my long-term passions (and the core objective of this blog) is to investigate the relationship between the conscious mind and other-than-consciousness in relation to vision and goal-setting. I was immediately struck by Metzinger’s words above because of the sophistication that it infers the brain must have in the areas of image creation, belief and subsequent thoughts and actions reliant on the images and vision created. Some inter-linked areas I’ve explored:

What Could You Do in the Future With Your Imagination Now? illustrates the MRI scans from a brain remembering and imagining: the same areas are used.

How The Different Parts of The Brain Help Vision and Goal-Setting is my earlier, formative attempt to start to pull the findings of neuroscience into the vision area.

NLP, Modelling and Scenario Planning looked at the area from a business planning perspective following a great article by Ram Charan.

In Seth Godin’s compilation ebook, What Matters Now, Michael Hyatt writes about vision: ‘Leadership is more than influence. It is about reminding people of what it is we are trying to build—and why it matters. It is about painting a picture of a better future.

So, one conclusion to draw is that one of our core competences as Homo sapiens is the ability to imagine – to become conscious by creating a ‘inner portrait of reality’ – and then to project forward future realities.

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Nobody has Ever Been or Had a Self

‘I will try and convince you that there is no such thing as a self. Contrary to what most people believe, nobody has ever been or had a self’

So starts Thomas Metzinger’s staggeringly good, The Ego Tunnel – the Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self.

As much to embed and internalize (in what, I don’t now know :-) as well as to evangelise the content of his book, I am writing this as the start of a series of posts highlighting my highlights.

He continues (in the Introduction that took me nearly a week to absorb):

‘To the best of our current knowledge there is no thing, no indivisible entity, that is us, neither in the brain nor in some metaphysical realm beyond this world.’

‘So when we speak of conscious experience as a subjective phenomenon, what is the entity having these experiences?’

He raises the ‘one central question we have to confront head on: Why is there always someone having the experience? Who is the feeler of your feelings and the dreamer of your dreams?… Why is your conscious reality your conscious reality?’

His assertion is that by exploring and paying attention to ‘the fine-grained and careful description of inner experience as such’: phenomenology, we will be equipped with more tools to understand the evidence that ‘strongly suggests the purely experiential nature of the self’

For me, the first mind stretching/ idea glueing starts at this point, and for this reason I’ll keep these series of posts fairly short and bullet-like:

Metzinger calls the ‘conscious model of the organism as a whole that is activated by the brain’, the ‘phenomenal self-model (PSM)’. He explains that ‘”Phenomenal” is used here, and throughout, in the philosophical sense, as pertaining to what is known purely experientially, through the way in which things subjectively appear to you. The content of the PSM is the Ego’

This then becomes nicely grounded for me in the ‘why’: ‘the PSM of Homo sapiens is probably one of nature’s best inventions. It is an efficient way to allow a biological organism to consciously conceive of itself (and others) as a whole’

‘Our evolved type of conscious self-model is unique to the human brain, in that by representing the process of representation itself, we can catch ourselves … “in the act of knowing” (Antonio Damasio)’

The evolutionary ‘why’ provides the foundations: ‘This ability turned us into thinkers of thoughts and readers of minds, and it allowed biological evolution to explode into cultural evolution’ The Ego has ‘helped us understand one another through empathy and mind-reading’

‘Finally, by allowing us to externalise our minds through cooperation and culture, the ego has enabled us to form complex societies’

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