It’s tough to come up with a device that reasonably simulates the relationship of an individual to the rest of the world. When I was thinking it through a year or so ago, it seemed like I was coming up with a computer game. It’s been hypothesized – and being a Computer Engineer it is pretty natural for me to accept – that the human consciousness amounts to a program running in the human brain. We have at least 5 (probably more, but these 5 describe things pretty nicely) senses with which we interact with the outside world. There is no direct physical contact between our program and our world. Our consciousness seems to be able to encompass things – like our bodies, our cars, … – and be able to have a sense of where those things we have encompassed are in the world in relation to other things for navigation, collision avoidance, etc. We seem to build a 3D model of the world in our brains and move ourselves (whatever we are encompassing at the time at least) through that world. As we do this, we are running ourselves through scenarios to determine where we will be safe, where we will be in trouble, how we will reach our objectives, etc. The last time I read on the topic was The Ego Tunnel by Thomas Metzinger – I considered this to be an excellent and revealing discussion. Metzinger calls consciousness our Phenomenal Self Model, or PSM.
If this all sounds complicated, that’s good. If it doesn’t, then unfortunately you are probably vastly underestimating what you are going through as a human being. Our program of consciousness is far beyond anything we scientists and engineers have so far been able to imagine – at least as an implementation.
Take this a big step further. What we’ve been discussing in these essays is understanding and managing relationships with other human beings. What this implies is that you are attempting to create a model in your brain for how people will respond to your actions – hopefully in a manner that will meet your objectives. Evidently our brains and the programs they run are built for these sorts of things. While these essays are not really ABOUT relationships, relationships are central to good things and bad things, so we must attempt to understand them. Our approach might be:
- Objective – have my neighbor “like” me
- Possible Plan – act “fun,” smile, say nice things, show interest in their interests
- Empathize – Attempt to put yourself in your neighbor’s shoes, and figure out how your neighbor might react to your possible plan
- Modify – If you can’t empathize with reacting as your neighbor the way you wish them to react, then go back to “Possible Plan,” rethink, and try again
- Implement Plan
- Integrate – Take the reactions you’ve observed and use them to change your objective if needed, and start back at “Possible Plan” repeating as necessary
This process of reflection and running yourself through scenarios and making/executing plans is highly likely to be rewarding, and seems to be ignored more as we continue to be inundated with information. I just watched Amber Case’s TED Talk “We Are All Cyborgs Now:”
She presents a very interesting perspective including a reference to the fact that we do NOT take enough time to reflect on our actions since we have an almost limitless number of things we can “check” if we are so inclined. The act of checking things is likely just easier than taking some time to reflect upon what is important to you and then making/executing a plan.
There are several reasons why I chose the bubble analogy. The most important is that your relationships have no direct connection to your body, and yet, if you chose, it is at least possible to try to encompass them in your Phenomenal Self Model (PSM). Trying to predict, much less to productively influence, someone else’s opinions and actions toward/about you is no mean feat. Add more people and actions that can occur that are removed from your direct experience by one or more levels and it can become truly complex. Bubbles are also interesting because they at least seem at times to defy the laws of physics (of course they don’t, but that’s another discussion). Using bubbles as a device to discuss the properties of relationships seems like a reasonable fit. You might wish to attract another person or group, repel, increase your value in someone’s eyes, make yourself (seem) fun to be with, make yourself seem like a solid business partner, make yourself seem like you can’t do something so that “they” won’t ask you to do it, etc., etc. Of course, you can do this with or without the internet. The internet primarily gives you more volume to encompass with your PSM, and more opportunities to influence. Maybe this is where the sixth sense argument I referenced earlier applies.