P R I N C I P I A T R I O O N I C A
(Principles of Trioonity)
Welcome to trioonity where comedy meets neuroscience. Why? Because we've tried everything else. Comedy is already a science of how people's minds work. Brain-science is doing a great job but it has kind of hit a wall and needs a new angle of approach. The trioon scheme proposes an operational layout of what our brains are doing. I think that is where the problem is. Scientists are trying to explain things that are not what is actually happening. The existing presumed operational layout is an accommodation to old philosophies and wishful thinking about ourselves. It remains the unseen and unchallenged driver of research. It's a Do for which there is no How. The trioon scheme is a different Do that might provide an easier How.
Unlike other triune models built from lizards and cowboys, this isn't a three-self scheme as only our vision and hearing are trioon. 'Oon' is silly word that looks like a pair of glasses and means 'a perceptual glean' and nothing more. If you hold the position that the self is an illusion, this is not an attempt to change your mind. This will be an attempt to describe what our brains are doing with our vision and hearing and how these perceptions are, in modern humans, a three stage process. The trioon process does not explain consciousness but it does have many rule-changing implications for those who would like to have an explanation so the subject will come up often. The trioon scheme points to an explanation of consciousness that is disturbingly mundane compared to other popular explanations. Trioon just points. The main subject will be the back-end of our perception.
Along the way, the trioon scheme will suggest a radical explanation for the political divide that is splitting the world in half. Folks either cling to a feeble and unconvincing explanation for what is happening or admit they are stumped by what makes the other side tick. What if our personal perceptual habits determined how we consume information about the world and the manner in which we attend to info as thoughts? What if there was an older, easier and more reliable method of digesting our perception that was always challenged by a newer and more demanding method of digestion? Not a physical difference but a difference in operation. Would being conscious of fundamentally different workings of the brain lead to differing experiences of consciousness? What if the resulting social and political aspirations were utterly incompatible? Pundits say folks are living in different realities. Could all of that come from the way we see and hear and, as a result, think?
Hearing and seeing start as separate sensory departments and become information that informs a broad range of tasks like coordination or localizing outside stimuli. Since the performing of the tasks is not a part of conscious awareness, they are considered as part of the workings of the subconscious mind. We should take notice that this includes a task that serves no immediate purpose to the subconscious. This occurs after the subconscious has already made a complete glean of everything it needs from all five senses including what was seen and heard. The subconscious moves on to what comes next. Before it does, it leaves behind an extra sensations of a cinematic picture and a sonic landscape. Together, their purpose is to allow further gleans to be made. Gleans that are beyond the reach of the subconscious.
That is the sole basis on which the trioon scheme divvies up what goes on in our brain. No maps of regions and lobes will be offered. The division is where one glean ends and another different kind of glean begins. The subconscious glean is contained in its own sampling of perception with which a reaction is coordinated from a plethora of sensory input. There is a strong temptation to grant this container a sense of self with some sort of unified awareness of every sense contained. It is a leap that trioon does not take.
I will propose that there is a second glean of sight and sound that uses its own process and method to comprehend and learn not from the eyes and ears but from the picture and soundscape presented by the subconscious. We don't call these inner experiences subconscious because they are tangible foundations of consciousness or simply being awake. With our eyes closed, we are conscious of a picture of darkness. In a quiet room we are conscious of silence. A lack of motion is stillness. Those aren't subconscious perceptions. Our entertainments cater to our desire for a picture and soundscape to be conscious of and enjoy even while the subconscious takes in the actual surrounding visuals and sounds of the theater or TV room. We digest images of things that cannot possibly be in front of us like battles in outer space. We can handle a constantly jumping point of view without getting dizzy. We enjoy it and appreciate the handy sub-ness of the subconscious. It is an isolatable glean of its own built on the cinematic input provided by the first glean. Call it cinema perception.
If you are reading this, then you're already looking at the presented picture. You might be thinking "it's what my eyes see, dummy!" Sure enough, showers of photons are hitting your retinas in two optical cones focused with a lens and combined for stereoscopic depth. Color sensations are synthesized using the RGB method aka Technicolor. There are things your brain has to know in order to have a picture. No one wants to fuss with optical geometries, blind spots, light levels, chromatic hues and whatnot. Never mind what your eyes are seeing. The picture is not a real-time readout of photon reception. What your brain is seeing has been jimmied to provide a panoramic field with a convincing geometry. Even if you wear glasses, your brain will work out the best jimmying. Reality is out there deflecting photons and brains do a wonderful job of making a seemingly luminous inner diorama for us to gaze at and ponder.
The subconscious does not need the picture to represent info it has already consumed. It has no use for the fake geometry presented as conscious visuals. Any actual task of tracking or aiming is tackled while visual info is still info. The picture represents a completed perception for an opportunity to have a second look of a different kind. This opens the door to knowing things only because you have a picture.
It must have been a successful survival strategy to follow the picture with a following of the picture by a second process that sees continuities and connections that build new conclusions. We can infer threats and opportunities that are not in plain sight. With the same skill, we can follow a space battle just by reading words about it. That takes more than recognizing words. It takes parades of words and we need to know what the parade means.
If you are still reading, you are using a second glean right now to follow this parade of words. Turn on the news and read some more. While reading this sentence, follow the parade of words you are hearing and notice how reading can continue but with a loss of comprehension. You can still see the words. Switch back and you can still hear the words but you can only follow one parade from either ears or eyes. Unless they are synchronized. This is the same perception that follows a raging and noisy space battle from impossible points of view. We train our subconscious to ignore it, relax and be patient while we enjoy the show.
The final oon of trioonity is just an add-on to cinema perception that, put briefly, provides an alternate point of view. When added to conscious experience, it is like a spectator watching a passing parade or like standing on a bridge watching flowing water pass below. Figuratively, of course. A more robust explanation is offered in The Tale of the Leisure Class
If we embrace the idea of evolution as where humans came from, then we have to accept that, as evolving animals, we are still in the oven. We are the current state of baking and not a final confection. We all know that whatever consciousness is, it is different for humans and there must have been a time in our ancestry that was before we were different. It seems like a huge difference but what if it were brought about by the arrival of a single addition that allowed us to exploit a host of capabilities we already possessed?
As modern research shows, the Animal Kingdom is full of impressive cognition and intelligence. Compared to humans, they have a limited means of harvesting them. We see them follow a natural order of things. We see that our primate cousins and presumably, our ancestors (before we were different) followed the natural order of things. Obviously, there is an alternative to that order that humans demonstrate just by making the observation. It is not the natural order of things to observe the natural order of things. That could be all that evolution added on. It doesn't have to be more intelligence or more consciousness. It only has to be more perception to which we can apply our established abilities. With it we can supervise the order of things including in our heads. There is an additional view from which we can see ourselves following the parade.
That should set off some self-alarms but trioonity suggests there is a way around all that. There is no dualism suggested here. Stick with the gleans and don't add anything else to take the role of observer. Stick with the broad consensus. Folks agree that there is a subconscious that we do not experience consciously and there is a consciousness that we do. That should not be a leap for anybody. A trioon layout expands on this modest proposal. There are two different ways to be conscious of consciousness. They are different gleans of the same mental interior. Put simply, one of them follows and the other one leads. As the second and third oons in trioonity, it's their job. The point is, at any one time, only one of them is consciousness while the other is effectively subconscious. Our minds can gearshift back and forth all day. Over time and depending on our lifestyle and habits, one of the oons is going to seem more normal and provide more mental equilibrium than the other. Both continue to do their jobs even when they're the not-conscious glean.
It's an internal contest of consciousness in which the third glean has a disadvantage of limited stamina. Feeble in some and strong in others, it can be trained and exercised. There are methods of education that favor one perceptual oon over the other. There are political systems that expect citizens to possess one perception and exclude the other. It is also an external contest of consciousness.
Everyone says the people on the other side of the divide are the problem. Trioonity does not take sides. We need to realize that the people on our side are the other problem. Some say it is a matter of how people form their opinions. Trioonity says yes. Or how people look at the world. Also yes. Or how we view other people. Right again. Many conclude that folks on the other side are driven by their emotions. They ask why folks cannot see things our way. Is it because they are full of hate and low on intelligence? Or filled with pride and not as smart as they think they are? Nah, that doesn't add up. We're better than that. We are trioon. This collection of essays and stuff (mostly humorous) will make the case.
A Primer & Semi-Glossary of Things Trioonish (appears below)
A Primer & Semi-Glossary of Things Trioonish
Trioon is not a theory of everything. It does not address the origins of the universe or the meaning of life. It is only about how we look at things and all the subjective phenomena that comes after we look, like memory, learning, dreaming, thinking and story-telling.
Trioonity suggests a model of perceptual machinery that we can observe in action in ourselves and others. This machinery affects how we experience and react to the world.
Trioon Terminology is a small set of invented names and designations that appeared throughout trioonity's long evolution on the Sam Harris Forum and the Project Reason Forum. Some are intended as technical terms and some have been components of arty metaphorical dreamscapes that attempt to model the activity of the human mind.
Oons (or, ooooons)
An oon is a sensory system that harvests perception for the benefit of a living creature. Whatever combination of senses Nature and evolution have provided inform a nervous system that will prompt a pre-wired response that serves the creature's survival. This occurs without willfulness or any sort of inner observer. Inherited or learned survival skills are not known to some conscious state but are simply triggered. The system gleans then acts accordingly. In simple animals like amoebas, this tells the whole story. Responses to stimuli come from an organized glean of the senses. That glean is called an oon.
It is likely that simple creatures feel their pains, pleasures and cravings but without any sense of who the feelings belong to. If, as evolution unfolded, this basic system simply grew in complexity until forest critters and jungle beasts appeared, we would have a very different Animal Kingdom than the one we see around us now. Humans, with their moralities and faiths, self-restraining consciences and understanding of amoebas, would be a staggering and unaccountable leap beyond what the simple amoeba system could ever grow into. Many believe that course from worm to man could only occur if something were added to the mix like a soul or a fundamental cosmic consciousness.
Even before sciences like biology and zoology came along, mankind was sure we were something more than animals. When animals displayed qualities or behavior that reminded us of ourselves, it was because they were magically endowed with something more as well. Alas, modern science says that Nature has no means of providing something more and has no place from which to draw upon something more or store any that we are not using. This is a problem for those who seek a science-based view of the world. Religions do a fine job of offering an understanding that copes with the science problem by ignoring it. It is an understanding that seems to do a better job than science of comprehensively describing what we see around us. Unless you hold the sciencie view that the something more must be a findable part of the material universe or we must accept we are pointlessly elaborate amoebas. It is an ongoing debate that, thankfully, trioonity does not need to engage in or take a side.
Is there a way for the indescribable leap or the addition of something more to be understood as a long process like we usually see in evolution? What if the added something was a something that we all already accepted as subjectively real even if we do not know the how or why? This is where the oon enters the picture. Never mind consciousness. Do you feel the feeling of hot or cold? We're all sure we can. It's our own personal subjectively. We already believe it can happen once. Why can't it happen more than once?
We could leave the amoeba behind as a single-oon'ed or monoon sensory system and consider a bioon or even a trioon sensory system. We could do that without believing anything more than we already do. What if the added something was oons?
If one brain can produce more than one subjectivity, how do they combine into a single conscious experience? A better question is why do we believe that they would have to? Our subjective experience seems like an infinitely small singularity of awareness moving through time like a dot on a timeline or the tip of a stylus on a record. That presumption of infinite smallness is why we would expect our subjective experience to be a combining or unifying of everything our nervous system is offering including our thoughts. We imagine a neural black hole swallowing every thought and feeling we can know. Are we the singularity at the end of the hole? Imagine what amazing realms we might be floating in while taking in our physical lives. We're more than amoebas! That kind of talk makes scientists crabby. They've looked under every particle, wave and quantum field and there is still nowhere to put any amazing realms. The issue will not be settled here. Instead, we can make the hole thing go away by confronting the illusion of singularity. It's about time.
Nothing in the physical world can occupy 0 ms. One cannot see 0 ms on an oscilloscope. It's only the left edge of the screen. Our subjective experience represents the smallest temporal space we can imagine. That would still be true even if that space wasn't 0 ms or even a handful of nanoseconds but a whopping gob of milliseconds. If the time isn't zero, then dreams and dampness don't have to be funneled, unified or combined to anywhere. We can still be complex amoebas with a circus of subconscious gleans all presenting various durations of subjectivity simultaneously. Your feeling of cold does not know you're hungry and vice versa. This is admirably amoeba-like. There is no observer of all subjectivities. It's not a self. It's just an oon. Even an amoeba could have one of those.
It turns out that the added something was just another oon and the amazing realm was just our brain. Our distant ancestors developed a sort of sensory clearinghouse. A new system that, unlike the old perceptual system, didn't have to wait for something to happen. The old system was reactive. If all was safe and all needs were met, it was happily quiescent. The new system maintained a state of continuous reaction without any provocation from the outside world. Its only stimuli are the panoramic internal picture and aural landscape served up from the old system. The delivery is continuous even if nothing is happening. To the new system, the delivery was what's happening and it reacts to it continuously. If there was only darkness and silence, than darkness and silence was what was happening.
Since any vital and immediate reactions to photons and pressure waves had already taken place, the old system could deliver the picture and sound at its own pace. There's no need to hurry. Our hearing can take as much as 20 to 25 ms to perceive our lower range of audible frequencies so, this scheme asserts, that became the delivery's overall refresh rate. That rate was the new system's only perception of the passage of time. Its attention to the sensory delivery was a steady continuous flow and so was the subjective experience it presented. That's why the experience deserves to be called an oon of its own. Like the first oon, it doesn't include a 'self'. The new system is an observation and not an observer. But it might be forgiven for believing so if we consider its only means of acquaintance with its physical body.
That nose that hovers just below your view of this text is, for our second oon, a part of its environment. If you follow your movements, they always correspond to the subjective experience of your body. That makes our second oon an observer of our physicality but without any of its subjectivity. That is why we call it subconscious. It's how me was created. That is bioonity.
When we plop down to watch television, our first oon handles the plopping and our second oon does the watching. The television screen delivers a steady flow of individual pictures. These still-frames are doing what our subconscious glean is doing. That is, delivering a picture at a regular pace to our second perceptual system which consumes the delivery in 40 to 50 millisecond gulps. As long as the pace of pictures sticks to or exceeds the rate of gulps, the second system will see the same continuity it sees in its own operation. Its flowing attention sees moving pictures. The screen reveals its stutter if the refresh rate exceeds 55 ms. That's around 18 frames per second. Since any decent cinema caters to this means of perception, it is called cinema perception. Our subconscious glean of vision can thus be called sub-cinema perception. Even if it isn't really submerged (it's right there in front of you) its operations are beyond the reach of the subjectivity presented by a 40 ms gulp.
Our hearing has a similar disconnect. If you hear two click sounds 20 milliseconds or less apart, your brain cannot hear the gap between them. We hear a thicker click with the second click actually affecting the way we hear the first click. Together, the clicks will suggest a sense of locality to our subconscious glean relative to other sounds. Since these are lab-created clicks, they will glean as a weird anomalous sound with a phantom location. To our cinema perception, the clicks are one sound delivered in a single frame from the subconscious. If the clicks are 40 ms apart, we can hear the gap between them. Each click is its own aural event because they are far enough apart to be in separate frames. Our experience of musical pitches and their harmonics is made possible by two stages of perception with the right durations. Too short and we would hear only zizzy buzzes. Too long and we would hear notes as we move around the room.
Outside the lab, if we hear a sound repeat in less than 20 ms, our brain considers it a reflection and uses it for echo-location but if the gap lasts much beyond 20 ms, the reflection becomes just an echo (or slap-back in the audio biz). That gives us a sonic radar range of a bit more than twenty feet which was likely the sweet spot for survival. The picture follows the same pace. Light waves are blazingly faster than sound waves but we're not talking about light. It's just a picture in our brain of what light looks like. Likewise, the noisy sonic landscaoe in our brain is what wiggly air pressure sounds like.
Cinema perception allows us to recognize and perceive continuities in sound and vision that our subconscious/sub-cinema glean has no means of knowing. Imagine a visual field containing three or four elements that, while each has no significance on their own, have a significance because they appear in the same view. Now imagine three or four sounds of no significance that have a significance because of the order or sequence in which they are heard. When looking at or listening to things, we can discern meaning in their placement, quantity or relationship to other things. Cinema perception makes all that possible. Its abilities led to music, language and thought.
The Chunk Limit
I cannot remember who I stole this phrase from one day on the forum. The chunk limit is the maximum number of elements that cinema perception can perceive as a related group. That can be separate items seen in the picture or separate sounds heard in sequence. The assertion of the chunk limit's existence is based on the fact that we can contrast and compare things at all. That means the limit is at least two. It cannot be infinite. Why should the number be an inflexible limit at all? If it were, that would be a simple explanation for some big mysteries. The scheme asserts that the chunk limit for humans and probably the whole primate family is four. The evidence can be heard on any popular music radio station.
Our perception of music involves real-world physics but only up to a point. Notes, harmonics and scales can be described as the phase relationships of propagating waves of various frequencies. A rhythm starts with an evenly spaced pulse. Notes and tempos answer to physical laws. The wave propagation that leads to music is real cosmic wiggling but hearing music is not something the cosmos can do. Once again, an added something within us provides the extra element that turns sounds into songs.
Rhythmic structures come in measures and repeating phrases that follow an evenly spaced pulse or beat. It will take some number of beats to reveal the pattern. As it repeats, an anticipation is built for each restart of the pattern. Once a pattern is established as what we're following, it can deviate a bit without impacting our anticipation of where the next restart or beat-one will be. Rhythmic patterns have a tempo measured in beats-per-minute and a time signature measured in beats-per-measure. The universe provides the minutes but not the measures. Measures are created in our brain. Noticing and following a repeating pattern is an observation made by our brain. Anticipating the next beat one can be likened to drawing a conclusion about the current measure. Following music is cinema perception in action.
We anticipate beat-one as the start of a new measure which we're going to need because the last measure ends at the chunk limit. Music makes this prosess easy to describe but the process is not intended for song & dance. Cinema perception is intended to learn from groupings or sequences of any kind. Sound and a picture can be followed if they are coordinated. Without measures and the chunk limit, cinema perception would follow without learning and be pointless. Amusing perhaps but not an evolutionary advantage.
Following is more than a focus of our attention. It is a commitment of attention. If we are listening to and following music, that means we are not following a newscast or reading text with comprehension. Cinema perception will follow one thing at a time. We can choose what we want to follow. We can be distracted and start following something without choosing. If we stop anticipating where something we're following is going, some other beat-one will come along, and we'll anticipate where it's going instead.
Cinema perception's attention takes in what it follows in one finite showcase or measure at a time. We carry a conclusion of each measure to the next measure. Each conclusion builds on the last until we learn or perceive something that is only knowable because we consumed an ongoing pattern with a beginning, a middle and an end. Cinema perception's chunk limit makes that possible. It is our capacity to draw a conclusion instead of depending on triggered reactions. It was for our survival. Beethoven symphonies are a bonus.
Mr. Hippo and Mr. Now
These imaginary lads are cartoonish characters intended to represent the two oons of bioonity. They have a quirky relationship. Neither of them have any real substance but their relationship is analogous to, when thinking about the Mind and Body, the Body part.
Each of them represents an apparent source of willfulness with an occasional willingness to work with the other as a team. Mr. Hippo experiences all the subjectivities of the subconscious glean. His job is to fill in all the gaps in our instinctive pre-wired reactions with a mortar-like volition. Mr. Now experiences just the subjectivity of cinema perception. His job is choosing what we follow. They cannot perceive each other but each is convinced the other is there. Mr. Now is depicted as just a face and a pair of hands floating at the surface of a pool of thoughts and memories. I'll introduce him. Blink your eyes twice. That was Mr. Now blinking your lids. Before that, Mr. Hippo was blinking. That is as carried away as they get. They, along wirh a third character known as Mr. Flashlight, are imaginary contextual conveniences. They had their heyday in the forums a decade ago and, for better or worse, they captured the imagination of many readers.
Mr. Hippo might be cast as a car with Mr. Now cast as the driver. They are crash-dummies for thought experiments about the so-called mind/body duality.
The Nyeep Pool
This is one of the arty dreamscapes intended as a model of bioonity in action as personified by Mr. Hippo and Mr. Now. In an interview long ago, Joni Mitchell described a flash of thought with a silly sound that appears in the transcript as "nyeep". I've slightly twisted the term to mean a single irreducible memory or thought. The nyeep pool is a fanciful representation of a memory bank.
Picture a grassy park with a pond in the middle. The pond is constantly fed from underground streams. The overflow is funneled to a narrow stream that flows away from the pond toward the horizon where it vanishes from view. Below the surface lies the nyeep pool where everything we know and remember swirls around like laundry. The flow heading downstream is constant and represents the flow of time. The surface of the pond shows the current thought floating like a reflection. The thought then passes downstream and vanishes at the horizon. If you can picture this pond scene, that picturing appears at the surface of the pond. We can hold the imaginary picture (or nyeep) still at the surface for a spell but when we let go, it flows downstream and vanishes at the horizon.
Above the surface, the pond scene is a representation of cinema perception with its cartoon representative Mr. Now appearing in the middle of the pond like a figure treading water. Just a head and hands are above the surface. Below the surface is the nyeep pool which does not represent the subconscious mind. The subconscious is Mr. Hippo, who sits at the bottom. It is a storage tank of nyeeps for use by both the conscious and subconscious. Nyeeps that reach the surface are seen by Mr. Now but some nyeeps from the subconscious glean can never come up from the bottom. Surface nyeeps that flow downstream to the horizon drop back into the pool but Mr. Now just sees them vanish. Nyeeps can also be bits and pieces of the current picture and sound fresh from the subconscious glean.
Mr. Now can have up to four nyeeps at the surface in front of him. His attention holds them against the flow. He can make four nyeeps resolve into one new nyeep making space for three more to come to the surface and then resolve with the new nyeep and become another new nyeep and so on. If Mr. Now loses his commitment to the nyeeps in front him, the flow will take over sending nyeeps to the surface like a free-running stream of consciousness. While Mr. Now's attention varies, the flow is always there.
At the bottom of the pool, Mr. Hippo looks for a single nyeep that will show him what is likely to come next. His mentality is a simple form of anticipating one step into the future. If Hippo sees one thing lead to another, every recurrence of that one thing will trigger a nyeep that is a recollection of what it led to.
There's a nyeep in the pool for everything we know or remember. Some nyeeps sleep for decades and some interact and form connections and whole chains in an ongoing process of unconscious learning.
We consider consciousness to be something we carry around in our heads like a captive passenger. If we take our head to Disneyland, that's where our consciousness will be. We have our awareness or subjectivity of our physicality but there seems to be a mind-like subjectivity superimposed on it that is different in every way we can describe except for who they belong to.
There's no explaining or defining consciousness but we can make assertions about it. The subjective experience of cinema perception in operation is a fundamental component of consciousness. If consciousness is not a 0 ms singularity of subjective experience, and I assert that it cannot be, then it need not be thought of as a single experience. It can have layers of tasks carried out in different durations. If our conscious experience has a width, if it spans time, then mundane interactions between its layers can occur within that span that would have to seem like something we were willfully doing. But each instant of consciousness actually includes operations of the brain that take time to carry out. Layers of small durations of time become the so-called instant of consciousness. All of our physical subjectivity comes in very short durations which makes the experience of the mind's longer durations seem like an isolated passenger. We are a colony of simultaneous subjectivities. They don't need to be put in a bowl and mixed together. The scheme's division into oons is just an operational distinction in how our gleans are consumed.
I'm not an evolutionary biologist so I'll make the vague assertion that life went bioon about halfway between us and amoebas and it came along with stereoscopic sight. That would mean that most animals share some degree of our conscious experience by also having cinema perception. Maybe some with chunk limits other than four. Maybe some with a stereo-aromatic smellscape.
What if humans were not a Great but only a Marginal Leap in evolution? There should be tangible evidence of a very slow Leap that shows that becoming human is something we are still doing. In the scheme, intelligence is cast as a benefit of cinema perception. Humans did not become super intelligent. Humans developed a new way of exploiting their intelligence. This Leap was, as before, achieved by adding an oon.
Any assertion about the human mind with as much cheeky bravado as this one should have every piece of known evidence of our prehistory back it up. The scheme shines a new light on that evidence and changes the meaning and explanation of nearly all of it. It's nothing fancy. It is mundane enough to be disappointing. That convinced me that the scheme was worth putting in some effort.
Right now, folks are saying that we are falling back into tribalism but I have to disagree. Tribal social orders can be achieved by hominids with just cinema perception. We're falling back to an earlier stage of development of becoming human. We're not literally devolving. Our physical make-up does not have to change at all. We didn't always use the added something that made us human the same way we do in modern societies. Our third oon offered options as to how it interfaced with existing brain functions.
We've lost track of the original meanings of worship, thrones, holy cities, icons, masks and drums and totems. We have forgotten why people enthusiastically pampered their leaders. We look back at a strange and impossible people leading lives that are a challenge to imagine now.
But it all tracks with the scheme's notion that our cinema perception became increasingly supervised by an overseer that presented no subjective experience of it own. It gleans cinema perception like a bystander watching a parade. Its only purpose is to stop the parade or force it to back up and repeat. It can intervene in consciousness. It affects only the mental passenger. As if something unseen is along for the ride.
Its one simple task freed us from the chunk limit and opened our minds to greater continuities. We no longer had to glean reality in the sequence that our senses provided. We could make our own narratives. We could edit the natural order of things. We developed an oon that stepped out of the relentlessly flowing frames of cinema perception. The scheme calls it narrative perception or, sometimes, post-cinema perception.
All that changed between ancient and modern man was the extent and manner in which narrative perception presented subjectivity. It went from none to rare and eventful to occasionally and then from routinely to relentlessly. There is a tipping point in its frequency that impacts our sense of identity and changes what we think we are.
Ancient societies were economies of narrative perception. Their habits were based on the overall or average amount of it on hand. They served folks with different senses of identity provided by their subjective experience. Modern societies are designed for folks who can routinely and reliably include narrative perception in their conscious experience. This requires a sort of mental muscularity. Advanced societies nurture narrative ability in all its enfranchised members. Earlier societies were more exclusive with the nurturing. In those social orders, there were those that authored the story and those that followed the story. Some developed a hierarchy of story tellers who were authors to those below them and followers of those above them. Modern societies that expect everyone to author their own story depend on a shared truth. Like many boats in the same water.
We no longer nurture narrative perception enough to sustain a modern liberal society. We encourage following more than authoring. The scheme points to this as the core of our political crisis. Too many folks are terrified of modern society and possess a sense of personal identity that does not want to live in it. They are designed to share an adjustable story and not an objective truth. Both modes of operation are indispensable parts of becoming human.
The Libet Bridge
Back at the pond scene, Mr. Now is busy attending the flowing nyeeps, making commitments and resolving four into one. An arched bridge has appeared that straddles the outgoing stream. A shadowy figure stands at the center overlooking where the pond meets the stream.
The bridge is named after the professor who measured a 400 ms delay between intent and consciousness. It's honorific. No endorsement from the professor is implied. The bridge-dweller carries a net on a long pole that can catch an exiting nyeep and fling it back in front of Mr. Now. This new character is a shadowy interloper with no fixed identity. Mr. Now makes a commitment to what he follows. By sending back departing nyeeps, the bridge-dweller can force commitments on him or stop one. The effect is an imposition of discipline.
It is well known that the subconscious can arrest or alter perceptions before we are conscious of them. Our third glean arrests or alters perceptions after we are conscious of them.
We have strong memories and impressions of those who wielded some command and control of our lives for one day or everyday. Parents, teachers, bosses, drill-sergeants, bullies, counselors and attackers all influentially focused their attention on us. They got in our face. They stood in our way. They thwarted what we wanted to follow. Bullies derailed our day. Nurturers made us stick to the plan. Some degree of physical trauma may have been involved but this was more a matter of content trauma. Consciousness is told it cannot choose what it follows. Cinema perception's resolve to beat-one is overruled. Mr. Now discovers subservience. Nyeeps in the flow that Mr. Now chose to disregard or de-emphasize are plopped back in front of him by the shadowy figure standing on the Libet Bridge. Imagine a flash of lightning accompanies each intervention briefly illuminates the bridge-dweller as the influencer that authored the intervention. Our thoughts become a narrative instead of a flow.
Some animals can be trained by human trainers assuming the role of the bridge dweller and the animal's third oon. Eventually, the trainer can prompt the animal to perform a narrative of behavior it would not have chosen on its own. Humans can be trained too but humans will install a copy of the trainer in their head and perform the narrative behavior without the external prompting. The copy is called an auto-narrator.
An auto-narrator presents no subjectivity but its actions are part of Mr. Now's experience. That was Half of the Great Leap. The other Half came when the bridge-dweller became, sporadically at first, the dominant subjectivity. At those times, consciousness is from the perspective of the bridge with Mr. Now still doing his job of following and resolving to beat-one. The bridge is occupied by a self-narrator. The same influenced interventions are taking place but because they are experienced subjectively, it seems self-directed.
The scheme and the pond scene describe a simple three stage operation where first, now gets a next, then four become one, and then a repeat or derailment is applied. Conscious experience is far more complex than the pond scene but the process it portrays underlies everything we can do with our so-called minds.
The scheme's third cartoon character is inspired by the gag about the flashlight who thinks his light is everywhere because wherever he looks, he sees his light. In forum discussions, Mr. Flashlight often became a name for the bridge-dweller but I prefer to set him aside for a special role. Mr. Flashlight believes that if he ever leaves the Libet Bridge, his light will shine into an abyss with nothing to shine on and he will cease to exist. His fear is warranted. His subjectivity will switch off. The subjectivity of Mr. Now feels, in comparison, like losing control or becoming a halfwit.
Higher education, working to solve complex problems and putting big pictures together build a mental muscularity in our narrative perception. As will sticking to strict disciplines or maintaining a personal moral standard. It's all great stuff but it can come at the cost of becoming a relentless self-narrator. The term doesn't mean you're always telling yourself your story. It means being stuck on doing the derail-or-repeat part of the process even when socially inappropriate. It means that you will be the one to make narratives even when someone else is making one right in front of you as an integral part of their expression. You don't hear the narrative, just the chunks that built it. It's called 'narrative stripping'. That can make one emotionally distant and not quite 'there' to other folks.
Listening to someone say something complicated should be like allowing a guest on your Libet Bridge while you follow from the pond. Yielding the bridge allows someone else to shepherd your thoughts. For those who rely on a lot of self-narrating like academics and engineers, yielding the bridge requires trust or generosity.
Mr. Flashlight says, "All illumination is mine". He is a cautionary name for a potential personality disorder.
The Malarkey Scale
There is a limitation on our narrative perception. Like subjectivity, mental strain is hard to define but we all know what it is like. Brain fatigue will eventually make the Libet Bridge and our ability to make narratives collapse. There is no loss of consciousness but it is one less layer of subjectivity. Folks need to rest from self-narrating and just follow something that only requires cinema perception. Or sleep for a while. Either way, the charge or juice or whatever is replenished and the next bridge will rise again.
For many folks, going from bridge to pond and back is a simple shift of gears that happens throughout the day. Some lifestyles have little need for narrating while others demand as much as possible. We can have more narrative stamina for tasks we are trained for like engineering work and less for day-to-day needs. We can observe the general level of narrative ability in others but there is more specific measure of narrative skill called The Malarkey Scale.
The scale measures one's capacity to sustain a continuous progression of reasoned conclusions. A leads to B, which leads to C and so on. The scale goes from one to seven with seven or more being the top echelon. Only an infinite reasoning can be totally malarkey-free but a higher score on the scale means less overall malarkey than a lower score. A score can be given to a specific task of reasoning or count as someone's average overall score that indicates what others can expect of them.
The Malarkey Scale can also be applied to whole populations. A society's score is the average of all of its citizens. The lower the score, the greater the need for an authoritarian power structure. The higher the score, the greater the desire for a nuanced liberal democracy. A society designed for twos that spawns a generation of fours will face a revolution. A liberal society of threes and fours that raises too many ones and twos will not last. Right now, technology and social media are dragging the score downward.
Type A & Type B
These un-fanciful designations can be applied to societies with Type A being authoritarian and Type B being liberal and democratic. They also apply to two different methods of operation of the human mind. These too can be loosely described as authoritarian or democratic. It depends on how one's narrative perception interacts with their cinema perception. This will determine how a person interacts with others and what sort of society can be imagined and expected.
Some folks are looking for their place in a hierarchy or societal food-chain. Order comes when everyone accepts their rank and the boundaries that come with it. Other folks expect no hierarchy and presume no rank on themselves or others. Order comes when everyone embraces their equal rank and the boundaries formed by consent. In either case, the trioon scheme strongly suggests that these attitudes mirror the manner in which narrative perception interacts with cinema perception.
To put it in pond-scene terms, is the shadowy figure on the Libet Bridge your boss or your equal? Is your truth what comes from the bridge? Or is it something external that the bridge-dweller consents to seek? Both methods are proven survival skills though the Type A authoritarian method is older and more proven. Type B societies emerge from Type A's when a sufficient portion of the population uses the Type B method.
The unwitting assumption by both A's and B's is that their method is universal. The A's see B's as untrustworthy folks who don’t know their place. The B's see A's as folks who won't think for themselves or acknowledge truth from any unrecognized authority like evidence or reason. They see each other as flawed versions of their own mental method. In politics, if one side does not fully dominate the other, they will fight over control of their society.
A type A authoritarian society with too many B's will become an unmanageable police state. A Type B liberal society with too many A's will see democracy turned into a sham ritual and a façade for backroom deals
All terms and their meanings evolved slowly and, unlike humanity, their evolution is finished. Some older pieces use the word 'stage' instead of oon, as in first, second and third stages of perception but it's the same basic idea. A house motif was often used with three 'floors' as the oons. Cinema perception was the main floor with the subconscious in the cellar and an upper floor with a shadowy figure standing at the top of the stairs. The concept of a mass-mind is used but only as a set of shared beliefs and not as a separate conscious entity. Some terminology would take on a life of its own after capturing the imagination of forum patrons. The discussions were always helpful.
The forums were where all the Type B's hung out. I didn't manage to convince any B's about the nature and number of A's. Ironically, the A's don't believe in B's either. Both sides are seeing imaginary opponents. Both sides see a corrupted form of their own mental method. Regrettably, both sides are correct. The problem does not have a supernatural cause. Evolution got us here. Neuro-science has already winnowed it down to something to do with our brains. The trioon scheme offers an outline of what our differences look like. There's no need to alter our scientific pursuit but how about, just for a lark, changing our expectations about what we're looking for?