Conscious Inspiration

The various bits and pieces suddenly fit together perfectly in my mind today as I was walking my Yorkie, Diogee. I had a moment (well, several moments actually) of inspiration.

Please remember that I have been attempting to decompile the piece of evolved software that I refer to as the Human Consciousness Program (HCP). I have spent a lot of time (hundreds of hours I would suppose) simply listening to my own thoughts. I know this may strike you as an odd activity. You need to remember two things:

  • I have been practicing Buddhist style meditation for most of my adult life
  • I am married to a woman whom I find devastatingly attractive, and thus will lie in the bed with her cuddling for hours, and not get bored by this.

Thus, I lay in my bed and listened, perfectly awake, to the sounds of my own thoughts. And I did this for a long, long time.

Anyway, I have been working on a overall framework for understanding the HCP, and today, three big pieces came together.

1. Awareness vs. Background

OK, first the HCP has two main areas: The foreground (what I refer to as the Point of Awareness) and the background (I call this the Dark Place). Now, originally, I thought that the Point of Awareness was a single threaded thing, whereas the Dark Place was massively parallel. Now I understand that this is merely a range.

Frequently I can pay attention to more than one thing at a time. For example, I can eat and watch television at the same time. That’s because the mechanics of both activities are very familiar to me, and I do not require my full attention to be devoted to either of them.

On the other hand, if I am attempting to learn something new, say a musical instrument or a foreign language, then I probably can’t do much other than really, really concentrate on that activity. Or else I simply won’t make much progress.

The first insight today, then, was this thing: I can be (slightly) multi-tasking in the foreground, and I also have things of which I am partially aware. I can have a limited number of these, but that number can be varied, depending on how distracted I am, and how much attention I need to pay to any particular thing.

2. Instinctive Modules vs. Combination Modules

OK, then. It’s time to define the “thing” I am talking about when I referred to how much attention I need to pay to “any particular thing”. I call these things modules.

Let’s take for example my Check Timer. I have a module that contains a timer. When I don’t know where my wife is, this timer begins a countdown. When that timer expires, if I don’t know where my wife is, then the Check Timer module fires another module called Worry. Worry in turn fires an emotional module called Anxiety. That creates a form of discomfort (emotional stress) that I then have to pay attention to.

At that point, I have to take action to alleviate that discomfort. This usually takes the form of my walking around so that I can figure out where my wife is, and make sure that she’s OK. Once I have done that, then the Check Timer module resets, and I go back to whatever I was doing.

The Check Timer contains a variable numeric value. For me, when my wife and I are at home, this value is set to about 10 to 15 minutes. However, this is a tunable. If my wife tells me that she needs space and wants to talk to her friend on the phone for a while, I will reset the Check Timer variable to around an hour or so.

And it’s even situationally specific. If I am on a business trip and 3 timezones away from my wife, I may decide that I can set the Check Timer variable to around 24 hours. And I can even adjust that to various situations. Thus, I am actually in control (whatever that means) of this to some extent.

Now, the specific insight that I had today while walking Diogee was that some modules are built ins: I don’t have to learn anything in order to have those modules. They are Instinctual. A good example is Insect Avoidance. I had a module when I was born which causes me to avoid insects. If an insect flies at me, lands on me or the like, I have an automatic reaction. I think most people have this same module.

Some folks, however, choose to be involved in professions or hobbies (like beekeeping or butterfly collecting) which require close contact with insects. So even an instinctive module can be unlearned.

But back to my insight. Some modules are Instinctive. These modules were in me when I was born. At some point in my development, these modules fired. At that point, I had those abilities.

Other modules are created by a process of learning, through a combination of the Instinctive Modules. An example would be the module Music, which is a Combination Module consisting of the Instinctive Modules: Hearing, Art, Logic and Reasoning, and, of course, the Temporal Module. (All modules include the Temporal Module in some form, as all of this is about human experience which occurs in a temporal framework, and no where else. However, Music includes the Temporal Module in a more direct way, since music really is all about time.)

Anyway, I can now categorize modules as either Instinctive or Combination, and most of the time I can get pretty close to coming up with the module stack. At the base of the stack are always Instinctive Modules.

One interesting side effect of all this is that I can now watch myself actually writing these modules in my own mind. Weird!

3. Data Storage

The third insight had to do with something that I have mentioned already: Modules contain data. For example, as I have already alluded to, the Check Timer module contains a value I called the Check Timer variable. This is effectively a timer which tells me when to check on my wife. That’s obviously a data structure.

Given that modules contain data, that makes a module look pretty similar to the object-oriented programming construct known as an object. I am pretty familiar with object-oriented programming, which as I recall was invented for this very reason: Object oriented program emulates the way we think about the real world. It should be unsurprising, then, that the human mind (at least my mind, remember please that I am the subject of the experiment) resembles objects in a sense.

Anyway, some modules are entirely about data storage. For example, there are modules related to Memory. That’s a really interesting one. Memory contains two spaces of data storage: Short Term Memory and Long Term Memory. Short Term Memory is a variable amount of storage (depending on the individual, the situation, state of health, etc.). Generally, though, Short Term Memory is good for about 24 hours. After that the Short Term to Long Term Memory Module kicks in. It is the job of the ST2LTM to sift through my short term memory, decide what is important, and transfer that to the Long Term storage area. The rest gets chucked. That means I remember maybe 1% of what I experience. Oh well. Remember that stuff about the human condition? Yeah. Big time.

Anyway. Bottom line: I have data storage in variables inside my head. Go figure.

More later.

Rethinking How We Think

Human consciousness is a piece of software. Highly evolved, messy, counter-intuitive, massively patched, and so forth, yes. But still a piece of software nonetheless. I have observed this before, but as I decompile the HCP (Human Consciousness Program, please keep up), and as I figure out more and more about it, the more interesting this idea becomes to me.

Take inebriation. I have been an alcoholic during several periods of my life. Now, I barely touch the stuff and it does not appeal to me. Largely eliminating alcohol from my lifestyle has had huge health benefits for me. I have lost around 90 pounds, and many of my chronic health care problems have simply resolved since I made this simple lifestyle change. Which leads to the question: Why does mankind consume alcohol since it is obviously harmful to our health?

Simple: The force of evolution favors one thing, and one thing only: Reproduction. Inebriation leads to sexual activity, which leads to reproduction. Hence, mankind loves alcohol, marijuana, opiates and all the rest. Anything that makes us less inhibited, more inclined to relax, that will be preferred in evolutionary terms, because those who get inebriated will breed the teetotalers out of existence.

It gets gnarly when you talk about things like marijuana and opiates. Marijuana is also referred to as cannibis, and we actually have physical structures in our brains called canniboid recepters. These puppies receive the THC released by marijuana and causes the effects of marijuana which we experience: Increased sensory sensation, euphoria and all the rest. That same thing is true with opiates: We have opioid receptors in our brains as well.

So, obvious question: Why do we have these structures at all? I mean, again, inebriation is harmful, right?

Wrong: Inebriation using marijuana definitely increases sexual activity. So do opiates. Given two proto-humanoid primate family groups, one with canniboid receptors and the other without, assuming that both have access to cannibis, the group with canniboid receptors will breed the other group into oblivion.

Hence: Evolution favors anything that increases reproduction. Nothing more.

Which leads to my original thesis: The HCP is a piece of software. That piece of software includes features like inebriation, all of which got built in for various reasons, all related to enhancing chances for reproduction. Survival at least until successful reproduction, and rearing of viable offspring.

Here’s the problem: The HCP is based upon incorrect assumptions. Like any piece of software that becomes obsolete over time, it needs to be fundamentally rewritten. The assumptions of the HCP are the ancestral environment: Paleolithic, pre-agricultural man. Hunter gathers, in other words. We are about as far away from that as you can possibly imagine.

It reminds me of the Chicago project. During the mid-1990s, Microsoft launched a project they called Chicago. At that time, Microsoft was one of the largest and most successful businesses in the history of planet Earth, largely based upon the success of one product: Windows. Despite this, Microsoft made the odd, counter-intuitive decision to completely rewrite Windows from scratch, starting with a relatively clean slate. In the process, Microsoft somewhat trashed the work they had done before on the existing version of Windows.

The result of the Chicago project was Windows NT, which eventually led to Windows 2000, and ultimately the versions of Windows we have now. This was the most successful and profitable software project in the history of Microsoft, and maybe the entire world. But it was based upon one simple reality: Windows was dying. It was crippled by an obsolete architecture based upon assumptions that were no longer correct: Memory was scarse and expensive, networks were slow and tiny, disk space was cramped, CPUs were terribly slow, and so forth. The IT industry even has a word for this type of software: They call it “crufty”. Crufty means a piece of software that is old, obsolete, difficult to rewrite, and just needs to be scrapped.

The HCP is crufty. We need to rewrite it.

More later.