Archive for the ‘strange loops’ Category

flows and loops, hardening

March 4, 2010 Leave a comment

from Haunted Geographies’ “Riffing on Transition”

The Transition movement places a great deal of emphasis on stories and narrative— which is deeply attractive. If one expands their definition, it becomes interesting to consider narrative and design, particularly with regards to co-creation and communication. Two things just briefly; firstly, there is the question of whether designers have an archaeological approach to complex systems— are they aware of a systems history? Obviously, one cannot anticipate certain synergies, but we can begin to interrogate flows of matter and energy, pinpoint the various feedback loops that contribute to a particular ‘dynamical state’. The mapping of a network’s story or biography should lead to a more informed design and (hopefully) interventions should become less destructive.

Secondly, as with the process of ‘hyperstition’, certain narrative flows traverse the ‘real-and-imagined’, coalesce and harden. Storytelling can be used as a form of ‘reality hacking’, particularly when harnessed to certain cultural practices, as ritual, writing or design. Myth and narrative can act as reprogramming tools, re-patterning entrenched constellations— even speeding-up and catalysing essential phase transitions. ‘Bringing forth new worlds’. In this sense, narrative becomes a vital political tool.

Hofstadter’s Strange Loops and Distributed Consciousness

March 1, 2010 Leave a comment

The abstract to Douglas Hofstadter’s contribution to the 2006 Science of Consciousness Conference in Tucson:

Strange Loops, Downward causation, and Distributed Consciousness by Douglas Hofstadter

As everyone knows from hearing microphones screeching in auditoriums, feedback loops give rise to a highly stable type of locking-in phenomenon. A related phenomenon arises in other types of feedback loops — in particular, in video feedback. The patterns that result from such feedback loops exhibit stability and robustness, and therefore take on a seeming reality at their own level.

The brain’s mirroring of the world is far more complex than that of a television camera, since its purpose is to “make sense” of the world, which means the selective activation of small sets of symbolic structures, or as I call them, “symbols”, which reside on a level far higher than that of neurons. The interplay of symbols in the brain constitutes thought, and thought results in behavior, whose consequences are then perceived anew by the selfsame brain. Such a feedback loop exists in any system that has internal symbols, but when the symbolic repertoire is unlimitedly extensible (through the mechanism of chunking) and when it additionally gives rise not only to permanent records of past episodes but also to the possibility of imagining future and counterfactual scenarios (which is the case for human brains but not for, say, dog brains), then the system’s representation of itself becomes an extremely stable, robust, locked-in, epiphenomenal pattern (which I dub a “strange loop”), and the system thus fabricates for itself an “I”, whose reality (to the system itself) seems beyond doubt.

The “I” seems to act on the world purely through high-level phenomena such as desires, hopes, beliefs, and so on — and this lends it an apparent quality of “downward causation” (i.e., thoughts and other emergent phenomena “pushing around” particles, rather than the reverse). To the extent that the “I” is real, so is downward causation and also conversely: to the extent that downward causation is real, so is the “I”.

Each human being, by virtue of being acquainted with (and thus internally mirroring) many other human beings, houses not only one strange loop or “I”, but many such, at extremely different levels of fidelity — metaphorically speaking, mosaics at wildly different grain sizes. Thus each human brain is the locus of not just one consciousness (or “soul”) but of many such, having different levels of intensity or presence. Conversely, a given individual, although it inhabits primarily a particular brain, does not inhabit that brain exclusively, and as a consequence each human “soul” and each human identity is a somewhat distributed entity.

The near-alignment of one brain and one soul is thus misleading: it gives rise to the illusion that consciousness is not distributed, and it is that illusion that is the source of much confusion about what we human beings really are.

hypersigils and feedback loops

February 28, 2010 1 comment

Linking to this recent post “Hypersigils reconsidered” at technoccult, because it is foreshadowing critical aspects of where HEAR posts are going – namely, discussions of cybernetics and feedback loops.

However, for purposes of this essay, I’m only going to consider “hypersigils” as narrative works- but I do want to consider narrative beyond strictly fictional narratives. For example, one can create a narrative in a personal blog or Live Journal or their Twitter or Facebook updates.

The way I see it, the online persona, fictional self, or avatar one creates can create feedback loops to reinforce behaviors and perceptions and have a create significant “real world” changes in a person’s life over time.

Some interesting commentary there.

Just to split a few hairs in the interest of clarity. “Hyperstition” is (loosely defined) “fiction that becomes reality.” On the other hand, a “hypersigil” is a sigil (a ‘method for altering reality in accordance with intent’) extended past a static image, and typically considered to have a narrative form. The differences are thus twofold:
1) intent – The sigil or hypersigil involves an intent of the creator to actually alter reality. In contrast, hyperstition is simply “realized fiction”, and does not (necessarily) presuppose an intent on someone’s part.
2) scope – A sigil or hypersigil is created for some “specific magical purpose”, or, per Morrison “for altering reality” – in other words, it does not necessarily entail “realizing” the hypersigilic “narrative”. If a hyperstition is a “realized fiction”, then a hypersigil is a narrative used to alter reality, although not necessarily with the intent of realizing the narrative.