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Global Brain: Chapter 7 - 8 - 9 Discussion 
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Post Global Brain: Chapter 7 - 8 - 9 Discussion
Global Brain consists of 21 chapters total, so I'm creating 7 seperate threads breaking the book into 3 chapter segments. Hopefully this format will keep the discussion somewhat organized and on track. You do not need to keep your discussions within these 7 threads.

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 10/30/05 4:30 pm



Mon Jan 13, 2003 1:25 pm
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Post Re: Global Brain: Chapter 7 - 8 - 9 Discussion
Chapters 7 & 8 delve into perception, distortions, and reality. Bloom moves quickly from the well known unreliability of eye witnesses to describe the myriad internal processes that filter, predict, interpret, conflict, and attempt to deliver a version of what is perceived.

In chapter 8 "Reality is a shared hallucination", Bloom lists some of the ways social pressures affect perception. He mentions an experiment where a group was instructed to give false answers to such questions as "which two lines are the same length"? Uninformed dupes in the group went along with the incorrect concensus 75% of the time. Some of them actually perceived the lines incorrectly, others saw them correctly, but assumed it was a trick and the group was right, and others simply lacked the nerve to give an alternate opinion. "Conformity enforcers had tyrannized everything from visual processing to honest speech, revealing some of the mechanisms which wrap and seal a crowd into a false belief".

Bloom describes how even vocabulary affects perception, mentioning how professionally trained ornithologist Jared Diamond (yay!) could not identify birds as well as the natives of New Guinea because their names for the birds were based on the experience of many generations of hunters, not formal taxonomy. (pgs 78 - 79)

The discussion of Galen, the ancient founder of modern medicine is a famous one - I've seen it in other books. Scientists for over a thousand years misinterpreted what they were dissecting because it conflicted with Galen's teachings. It is comforting to know that modern scientists are doing nothing of the sort. :rolleyes

Bloom leaves you with the impression that "reality is a fabrication slapped together by a bumbling inner team" heavily influenced by ancient and modern social distortions. Not very encouraging, AY? ... 8o

Edited by: LanDroid at: 2/10/03 9:44:15 pm



Sun Feb 09, 2003 10:27 pm
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Post Re: Global Brain: Chapter 7 - 8 - 9 Discussion
Chapter 9 delves into the conformity enforcement part of the learning system. By looking at the behavior of toddlers and adolescent girls as well as animal behavior, Bloom makes a strong case that conformity police actions and ostracizing the abnormal are innate. This can be quite depressing as when reading "The apparent victim of a serious problem was much less likely to get help if he had a large birthmark". But it seems to have critical importance: spreading uniform mores thoughout the society and forward into time. "The tools of our cohesion include ridicule, rejection, snobbery, self-righteousness, assault, torture, and death by stoning, lethal injection, or the noose. A collective brain may sound warm and fuzzily New Age, but one force lashing it together is abuse."

This quote is painfully obvious these days.
Quote:
Public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law.
- George Orwell




Mon Feb 10, 2003 10:55 pm
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Post Re: Global Brain: Chapter 7 - 8 - 9 Discussion
Lan
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Bloom leaves you with the impression that "reality is a fabrication slapped together by a bumbling inner team" heavily influenced by ancient and modern social distortions. Not very encouraging, AY? ...
It leaves me wondering, "is this new-age bullshit, or post-modernist bullshit?"




Tue Feb 11, 2003 8:25 pm
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Post Re: Global Brain: Chapter 7 - 8 - 9 Discussion
Siiiighh... So in what aspects do you disagree with his analysis of the accuracy of our senses or the effects that social pressures have on perception?

Edited by: LanDroid at: 2/11/03 9:31:11 pm



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Post Re: Global Brain: Chapter 7 - 8 - 9 Discussion
Reality is that which is actually there. It exists outside our senses. Our senses have evolved to perceive it as accurately as possible... with respect to what we can eat and what can eat us in a Pleistocene grassland. We have the good luck to be able to apply our massive intelligence to a deeper understanding of the real, physical universe; one of the tools we have is our ability to understand our own biases and compensate for them.

The tool we have come up with for sorting out what is real and what is not real is the scientific method. No, "science doesn't know everything". On the other hand, everything we know for sure, we know from science.

The fact that human beings have instincts to enforce conformity comes as no shock to anyone who understands the fact that we are a cooperative species, and cooperative species need innate tools to keep their diverse members working together. Although this reality has its downside... again because it evolved to empower small tribes of hunter-gatherers in the Pleistocene, not nations of 260 million nor a species of six billion... we would have almost none of the positives of human life without it.

The trick to intelligently making things better is not to bemoan the shortcomings of our cooperative instincts, nor to deny the reality that understanding is based on. The way to overcome the shortcomings is to change our perception of who is "us" and who is "them".




Wed Feb 12, 2003 8:02 am
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Post Reality and knowing through science
Saying that 'everything we know for sure, we know from science' might need some qualification or else the logical conformity police will be calling on you.

When a head hunter from lower Panguales gets a pirahna stuck on his loincloth, he 'knows' he has a problem, when I swallow chili sauce I 'know' what the sensation feels like. Science is still struggling to explain things at this level, to an extent that even educated views cannot 'know' this in exactly the same way as the person who had the original experience. Sensory as opposed to intellectual knowledge. When a male player stops a baseball with his groin, the men in the audience react quite differently to the women. Men know it hurts, women think it hurts.

Extremism aside, science has done pretty well in some limited areas, but many areas of knowledge are beyond it, perhaps forever, in its current form. Just ask Darwin.

No problem with the cooperative instincts, reality being what is, but I think the message is that once the tools of conformity have blinkered us, we have no way of knowing if we are seeing reality. Beauty is, its greatest power comes in kidding us that we do. Think - we see our world in 3 spatial dimensions. Imagine reducing your perception to 2D, then try brush your teeth.




Thu Feb 13, 2003 5:18 am


Post Reality
I sympathise with Jeremy's recoil from Bloom's characterisation of reality: too much like the gibberish of Jacques Derrida and deconstructionism for my taste. But what individuals take as reality often differs radically from other individuals -- all of us occupy differenct niches in space-time and thus are ontologically forced to have a different outlook on what's "out there." That is why there have been so many different epistomologies.

But modern science deals niftily with the problem by recasting "objective" reality in terms of interjudge testatbility: it is whatever multiple viewers, using disciplined methods, agree on. As in the case of scientists on different continents replicating experiments. This does, though, mean that we individuals may never be able to grasp reality individually -- raising the possiblity that it is, after all, a construct.

Perhaps we ought to select some readings from epistemology and scientific method to discuss.




Thu Feb 13, 2003 3:59 pm


Post Reality
Outside of our perception of reality we can be sure that there an objective view. For us perception is reality and we have multiple perceptions, so multiple realities abound. Even if science constructs a reality with interjudge testability it is still different from reality itself. So even groups like science as well as indivs are not grasping reality at all.

The good question to ask is 'so what?, what is it about an objective reality that is important to us?'. Why do we care if it is reality, a construct or an illusion. Something within us needs reality or apparent reality. Society works hard at keeping the illusion, anarchy is part of the response when the covers are tipped. Of course the old constructs are just replaced with new, reality remains hidden.




Fri Feb 14, 2003 4:15 am
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Post Re: Reality
Trevor
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For us perception is reality and we have multiple perceptions, so multiple realities abound.
Nonsense. There is one reality, perceived in multiple ways
Quote:
Even if science constructs a reality with interjudge testability it is still different from reality itself. So even groups like science as well as indivs are not grasping reality at all.
So you are asserting that the guess that the earth is flat is as accurate as the ever-more-accurate measurements of our favorite oblate spheroid? Double nonsense. Over time, we refine a better and better "grasp of reality". If neither flat nor oblate spheroid were based on "grasping reality at all" then they would be equally wrong. This is simply not true.

Quote:
The good question to ask is 'so what?, what is it about an objective reality that is important to us?'. Why do we care if it is reality, a construct or an illusion.
I could write a book. (a) If reality is an illusion, what difference does it make if someone rapes your wife? If you are raped? If Stalin conquers the world? After all, its all just illusion. (b) Personally, I have a burning desire to know what is real and what is not. Probably innate



Fri Feb 14, 2003 5:45 pm
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Post map vs. reality
Bloom mentions postmodernism , and his conclusion is that they are right, that neurological and sociological evidence agrees. I think he's right, not that there's no "real" reality, but that our brains contain maps of reality that are easily shown to be false, because we are wired to create a social reality independent of actual data. Society didn't evolve to have an accurate view of physics, but to organize hunting packs and synchronize tribe members so that they could act as a unit. Sometimes that means the tribe will be wrong. Each of us contains some assumptions that we aren't aware of, that conflict with reality, and that would shock us if we knew we held them. In this, I think Bloom and the postmodernists are correct, although I'd reject the extreme view that there is "no reality", rather I would say there is a reality but that our maps of it are as incomplete as any map. A map of Las Vegas will screen out the vast majority of the reality of Las Vegas, preserving only the roads and buildings, and grossly simplified roads and buildings at that. And maps of cities are quite well researched, compared to our unconscious maps and assumptions about the world and about ourselves.

Michael:rolleyes




Thu Feb 27, 2003 9:21 pm
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