Hey, Mom! The Explanation.

Here's the permanent dedicated link to my first Hey, Mom! post and the explanation of the feature it contains.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #692 - Spirits of Place - Musical Monday for 1705.29




Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #692 - Spirits of Place - Musical Monday for 1705.29

Hi Mom,

This is a very different Musical Monday as it features both music and some cool content.

We're still hip deep here in things to do with homes and our busy lives.

So much to tell you, Mom, but less time for original content right now than usual.

This is another share of something I want to read, and my second of two posts, shared back-to-back, of Warren Ellis related material.

I would wax on about this content, but I haven't even thought about it properly. I would attempt to think about it properly now, if I did not have so many things to do.

So for now, just this. I hope, more soon.

Best to you and yours.

I am thinking of you, today, Mom, on this Memorial Day. I will note one last thing. In a brief glance at Facebook, I saw a friend announce the death of his father. This man saved our lives once, me and my team mates. We had played a Sectionals tournament in Ann Arbor, savage (no subs), all day in 90 degree heat. Trevor Darnell invited us to his Dad's place. He had been preparing food for us all day, He had pork chops grilling. He had many sides of great things, and there was a glorious hot tub. We stayed the night here and played Ultimate, somehow, the next day. But without these amenities, we would not have "survived." I mean, I know it was not a lethal danger, but we were all starved and exhausted and Trevor's dad took care of everything and rejuvenated us.

I will never forget his kindness and generosity.
I am sad to hear that he passed away today.

But here's some things beautiful to lift our spirits, both in the writing and in the music.

Happy Musical Monday because one does not say "Happy Memorial for the Dead Day," not really.








FROM - http://folklorethursday.com/urban-folklore/talking-maria-j-perez-cuervo-warren-ellis-damien-williams-spirits-place/#sthash.hOT9lzzl.dpbs






Psychogeography & Landscape in ‘Spirits of Place’: An Interview with Contributors


Spirits of Place is an anthology examining the relationship between place and narrative – how stories, folkloric, historic, or otherwise, can become embedded in a location. In the book twelve writers – Alan Moore, Maria J. Pérez Cuervo, Warren Ellis, Gazelle Amber Valentine, Iain Sinclair, Bryndís Björgvinsdóttir, Vajra Chandrasekera, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Kristine Ong Muslim, Mark Pesce, Dr. Joanne Parker, and Damien Williams – each provide their own unique take on this premise. I, John Reppion, am the editor/curator of Spirits of Place and I wanted to take a bit of time to talk to three of the contributors about their individual essays, and more generally about the books core concept.
Maria J. Perez Cuervo is a Spanish born, Bristol based writer specialising in archaeology, history, mystery and myth.  Her piece is entitled ‘The Palace Built Over a Hellmouth (and can be read in full online by following the link).
John: Had you been meaning to write about El Escorial prior to your piece for Spirits of Place, or was there a flash of inspiration that led to your choosing the location and subject matter?
Maria: I knew there was a story there and I had written a note about it in my book of ideas. When you contacted me I thought of Spanish locations I had visited. Writing about El Escorial made sense because I could do it from a personal angle. I’ve only been once, two decades ago, so there’s a distance to it now. It was a nightmare-like experience and it feels very unreal to me. It was like conjuring up the memories of a different person. It also allowed me to reflect upon that grey area between Catholicism and superstition, which I find much more uncomfortable – perhaps because it’s more stifling – than the English weird, where I feel at home.

John: What’s your take on the Spirits of Place core premise about stories being physically embedded in a place or landscape?
Maria: It’s something I always carry with me, and the main reason why I love travelling. One of my favourite things to do when I arrive to a new place is to allow my mind to wander freely, trying to tap into what the place is telling me. It’s a visceral thing, but I suppose your senses inform you as well, based on your subconscious knowledge of history or architecture or whatever.
I once visited a place called Santa María del Naranco in Asturias as a teenager. It is a church, but I walked around and imagined it as a room full of Medieval lords having a banquet. When the tour guide explained it had been a palace before the 12th century, I was really surprised to see it matched my vision.
It’s easier to connect to the Spirit of Place in ancient ruins or in Medieval buildings, but it can also happen in big cities: I remember being ridiculously creeped out by the skyline in Berlin, thinking about how it would have looked – and felt – in WWII.
There’s something almost supernatural in experiencing the Spirit of Place, almost like channeling –not that I’ve ever channeled, but still. I’m not particularly concerned about my impressions being true or not, though. Its value is that your own experience becomes a story that you carry within.
A Compendium of Tides © Warren Ellis
A Compendium of Tides © Warren Ellis
Warren Ellis is a graphic novelist, writer, public speaker, and life-long resident of the Thames Delta. His piece, ‘A Compendium of Tides’,  deals with the history and psychogeography of his native terrain.
John:  As a writer, you think that where you come from, where you live and work has a direct influence on your output? Perhaps in a way that your readers might not even comprehend.
Warren: Possibly? We’re weirdly separate from everything out here, even though we’re only an hour by train from London. When I was a kid, we’d see ads on the TV for new films and try to calculate how long it’d be before they would make it to our local cinemas. A month? Six weeks?  For my generation, certainly, forty miles seemed like a thousand. It’s always felt outside the culture, outside the conversation, out here. Isolated. I suppose that’s had an effect on what I do.

John: I remember when you were doing your podcast, SPEKTRMODULE six years or so ago, before it went “full ambient”, you used to do some spoken word stuff and talk a bit about Essex and the Thames Delta and some of the stuff you covered in ‘A Compendium of Tides’. Is writing about Essex something you’ve wanted to do, or else steered away from, for any reason previously?
Warren: Oh, I had to stop that. I can’t stand the sound of my own voice – I’m sure some people find that unbelievable – and so I just couldn’t listen to the podcasts after I compiled them. Horrible.
I don’t know that I’ve ever had a lot to say about Essex. I mean, I jumped at the chance to do it for Spirits of Place, because I hadn’t done it in any sustained way before, and I figured I’d have a lot to get out of my system. Still not sure if I did, in the end, but I feel like I scratched the itch. I never exactly steered away from it before, but my part of the world is so littoral that I found it unexpectedly hard to surround, in the end.

John: Is there anything you left out of Compendium that you felt didn’t quite fit, or that you overlooked at the time, which you feel is a kind of quintessential bit of local lore or history?
Warren: John Rut, the man who sent the first known letter in English from America to Britain. Essex sailor who sailed the first British boat down the east coast of America. John Ball, the “mad priest of Kent,” gave his most radical speeches in Essex, getting the Peasant’s Revolt moving. I learn new Essex stories all the time. Cassandra Latham-Jones, notable for being the first and possibly only self-employed person to have listed her occupation as “village witch” with the tax office, was born and raised in Essex. But they all drift in and out of the county, on the tides.

John: What’s your take on stories being physically embedded in a place or landscape?
Warren: Look at our earthworks and megaliths, so many of them designed to be revealed by processions or act in concert with the sun at certain times of year. Those are acts of dramatising our landscapes – making stories out of them. We’ve always embedded narrative in the world, and drawn it out of the world. The core premise is in fact one of the core hard-codes inside the human species.  This is what we do.

Damien Williams is an American writer and teacher who has been been, talking, thinking, and learning about philosophy, comparative religion, magic, artificial intelligence, human physical and mental augmentation, pop culture, and how they all relate for more than a decade. His piece ‘Stealing the Light to Write By’ talks about his personal journey through all of the above.
John: Did you know straight away what you were going to write about for the book?
Damien: I think part of it was always going to be very personal. I tried a few different angles of approach, including one where I broke the sections up by interspersing facts about the life cycle of ravens and wolves, but ultimately all that changed was the order of the telling.
One of the things I had wanted to include was about elements of synchronicity around Ireland and ravens that showed up throughout my life. I’ve never been to Ireland, ever, but there’s always been a resonance, there, where imagery or symbolism of Irish ravens will crop up at significant points in my life. In the end, I just couldn’t figure out a way to weave it into the narrative.

John: What’s your take on the books core premise of stories being physically embedded in a place or landscape?
Damien: I definitely find that a place carries its narrative in itself, and that that narrative gets reinforced the more people live in that place and tell that story. Eventually the place passes along a sense of itself, a story that “everybody knows.” It’s something I’ve experienced in cities like DC and in a couple of houses where I’ve lived. They have a sense of themselves that emanates and reverberates through everyone that passes through or resides in them. Some places are so much themselves that they can change how people act and how they think about what they are.

Spirits of Place means so many different things to different people; they are the echoes of events, of ideas which have become imprinted upon a location, for better or for worse. They are the genii loci of classical Roman religion, the disquieting atmosphere of a former battlefield, the comfort and familiarity of a childhood home.  The Spirits of Place surround us, influence not just in what we do but in who we are.
Spirits of Place is available in e-book, paperback, and limited edition signed hardback from Daily Grail Publishing at www.spiritsofplace.com
- See more at: http://folklorethursday.com/urban-folklore/talking-maria-j-perez-cuervo-warren-ellis-damien-williams-spirits-place/#sthash.PKj9MyUL.dpuf


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Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.

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- Days ago = 694 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1705.29 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.

On Memorial Day 1965 - me 3yrs 4 months
Mom and Lori - Memorial Day 1976
Mom and Her Dad Foster Delbridge 5-23-98

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #691 - Castlevania - Netflix - July 7th




Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #691 - Castlevania - Netflix - July 7th

Hi Mom,

Things are a bit chaotic here, and so I am still in repost mode.

Today and tomorrow will be back to back Warren Ellis stuff.

New teaser for his show for Netflix based on the classic Nintendo game Castlevania.

Here's the teaser, a link to matter information, and an article on the new, just released (tomorrow actually by date) retro poster.

I promise I will have original content soon.



more on CASTLEVANIA:

http://www.denofgeek.com/us/games/castlevania/262088/netflixs-castlevania-trailer-release-date-story-everything-else-we-know






FROM - http://screenrant.com/netflix-castlevania-tv-show-poster-international/

Netflix’s Castlevania TV Show Goes Retro With International Poster





Netflix have released an international poster for their forthcoming Castlevania adaptation and there’s a distinct sense of nostalgia in the night air. Castlevania is best known as the long-running fantasy horror video game series that first began back in 1986, and new installments continue to be produced. The games are centered on the Belmont family, a group of vampire hunters and were well-loved for their mixture of action and puzzle-platforming (as well as their awesome soundtracks).
Earlier this year, online streaming giants Netflix announced that they would be releasing an animated Castlevania series from Adi Shankar with a four-part season due to drop later this year (and a second season slated for 2018). The first season is reportedly based on Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and Shankar has promised not to tone down the action and violence for the small screen. The first Castlevania TV show trailer seemed to confirm this and features plenty of nods to the original game series.
Castlevania‘s international poster (via Famitsu) also appears to come with more than a whiff of nostalgia. The image features our whip-wielding Belmont hero, with the series’ antagonist and eponymous castle looming large in the background. The poster is vastly more retro than Netflix’s domestic Castlevania poster and is surely hoping to cash in on the video games’ enduring popularity in Japan.

As fans of the games will no doubt have noticed, the poster is essentially a recreation of the original cover art for the franchise’s 1986 debut installment – albeit with more contemporary imagery and less of the corny Dracula. This suggests that the Netflix series will not be an adaptation that seeks to distance itself from its source material and will remain faithful to the style, tone and story that Castlevania has become famous for.
When the trailer for the new series first hit the web, many fans were somewhat disappointed that the project was animated, rather than a live-action interpretation of the Belmont clan’s adventures. Clearly, there is a significant market for a Castlevania adaptation that utilizes real actors and sets – and the fact that the series is animated may somewhat dampen the initial enthusiasm that surrounded the announcement of the project.
However, the medium of animation does give the Castlevania series far better scope to capture the kind of frantic action, cartoonish violence and fantasy-based characters that the franchise is known for. It’s also worth remembering that live-action video game adaptations have an appalling track record, so perhaps the animated route was the correct one to take after all. Only time will tell.

NEXT: SUMMER 2017 TV SHOWS – WHAT TO WATCH

Castlevania premieres July 7th on Netflix.
Source: Netflix (via Famitsu)
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Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.

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- Days ago = 693 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1705.28 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #690 - Rock Documentaries - Kate Bush, Pink Floyd, the Clash

Kate Bush
Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #690 - Rock Documentaries - Kate Bush, Pink Floyd, the Clash

Hi Mom,

This has been the week to just post basic stuff, simple shares, re-posts, content for me to share with you and save for myself for later, and if readers find it of interest all the better.

I am constantly amazed by You Tube and the wealth of material available.

There's tons more where these came from, but here's a nice selection of documentaries on music: two on Kate Bush, one Pink Floyd, one Clash, and then a playlist of 59 videos from the BBC on music and musicians and bands and all sorts of goodies.

I will never get this all watched.

Enjoy.










59 videos of documentaries from the BBC via the following ----->




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Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.

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- Days ago = 692 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1705.27 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #689 - Genetic Testing - xkcd



Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #689 - Genetic Testing - xkcd

Hi Mom,

I felt it was time for another xkcd comic, and I thought this one is particularly funny.

Lots of things happening around these parts, and so this is very short and a day late.

Enjoy.

Permanent link to this comic: https://xkcd.com/1840/




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Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.

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- Days ago = 691 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1705.26 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #688 - Mad About the Mouse - Throwback Thursday - photo series one #22

Mad About the Mouse - 1963 - one years old
Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #688 - Mad About the Mouse - Throwback Thursday - photo series one #22

Hi Mom,

This is a quickie. I tend to write that a lot, eh? Lots going on these days and I tend to always be at least a day behind. But our lives are somewhat chaotic right now.

I was very into the Mickey Mouse Club as a child. Isn't that just the classic example of media programming from the most formative age?

Not sure who that is behind me? My Dad? I think it is.

I like seeing your cook books in a low shelf in this shot, Mom. We still have those on a shelf at Dad's house, and we always will.

See me there? I am waving at you.

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Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.

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- Days ago = 690 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1705.25 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #687 - consciousness and time of the mind


Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #687 - consciousness and time of the mind

Hi Mom,

Still in share mode. Show and tell.
I love Aeon. It's a site worth checking and supporting.
There's a newsletter.
Again, this is stuffed here for reading.
I added some pictures.


FROM - https://aeon.co/essays/consciousness-is-not-a-thing-but-a-process-of-inference

I have a confession. As a physicist and psychiatrist, I find it difficult to engage with conversations about consciousness. My biggest gripe is that the philosophers and cognitive scientists who tend to pose the questions often assume that the mind is a thing, whose existence can be identified by the attributes it has or the purposes it fulfils.
But in physics, it’s dangerous to assume that things ‘exist’ in any conventional sense. Instead, the deeper question is: what sorts of processes give rise to the notion (or illusion) that something exists? For example, Isaac Newton explained the physical world in terms of massive bodies that respond to forces. However, with the advent of quantum physics, the real question turned out to be the very nature and meaning of the measurements upon which the notions of mass and force depend – a question that’s still debated today.
As a consequence, I’m compelled to treat consciousness as a process to be understood, not as a thing to be defined. Simply put, my argument is that consciousness is nothing more and nothing less than a natural process such as evolution or the weather. My favourite trick to illustrate the notion of consciousness as a process is to replace the word ‘consciousness’ with ‘evolution’ – and see if the question still makes sense. For example, the question What is consciousness for? becomes What is evolution for? Scientifically speaking, of course, we know that evolution is not for anything. It doesn’t perform a function or have reasons for doing what it does – it’s an unfolding process that can be understood only on its own terms. Since we are all the product of evolution, the same would seem to hold for consciousness and the self.
My view on consciousness resonates with that of the philosopher Daniel Dennett, who has spent his career trying to understand the origin of the mind. Dennett is concerned with how mindless, mere ‘causes’ (A leads to B) can give rise to the species of mindful ‘reasons’ as we know them (A happens so that B can happen). Dennett’s solution is what he calls ‘Darwin’s dangerous idea’: the insight that it’s possible to have design in the absence of a designer, competence in the absence of comprehension, and reasons (or ‘free-floating rationales’) in the absence of reasoners. A population of beetles that has outstripped another has probably done so for some ‘reason’ we can identify – a favourable mutation which produces a more camouflaging colour, for example. ‘Natural selection is thus an automatic reason-finder, which “discovers” and “endorses” and “focuses” reasons over many generations,’ Dennett writes in From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds(2017). ‘The scare quotes are to remind us that natural selection doesn’t have a mind, doesn’t itself have reasons, but is nevertheless competent to perform this “task” of design refinement.’

I hope to show you that nature can drum up reasons without actually having them for herself. In what follows, I’m going to argue that things don’t exist for reasons, but certain processes can nonetheless be cast as engaged in reasoning. I use ‘reasoning’ here to mean explanations that arise from inference or abduction – that is, trying to account for observations in terms of latent causes, rules or principles. 
This perspective on process leads us to an elegant, if rather deflationary, story about why the mind exists. Inference is actually quite close to a theory of everything – including evolution, consciousness, and life itself. It is abduction all the way down. We are thrown into the world as a process already in motion; and processes can only reason towards what is ‘out there’ based on sparse (if carefully selected) samples of the world. This view dissolves familiar dialectics between mind and matter, self and world, and representationalism (we depict reality as it is) and emergentism (reality comes into being through our abductive encounters with the world). But just how did inference happen before there were inferrers around to do it? How did inert matter ever begin the processes that led to consciousness?


Let’s first establish a few ground rules about the nature of processes, and see how far we get. We’re interested only in the processes that make up complex systems, those objects of study that are more than the sum of their parts. A good way to understand this notion is to look at its opposite. If you fire a gun at a target, it’s easy enough for a physicist to anticipate which part of the bullseye it will hit, based on the angle and momentum of the bullet as it leaves the barrel. That’s because the firing range is nearly a linear system, whose overall behaviour is determined by the interaction of its constituent bits, in a one-way fashion. But you can’t pinpoint the precise position of an electron when it’s circling an atom, or say for sure if and when a hurricane will hit New York next year. That’s because the weather and atoms – like all natural processes – are not reliably determined by their initial conditions, but by the system’s own behaviour as it feeds back into the interactions of its component parts. In other words, they are complex systems.
According to physicists, complex systems can be characterised by their states, captured by variables with a range of possible values. In quantum systems, for example, the state of a particle can be described by a wave function that entails its position, momentum, energy and spin. For larger systems, such as ourselves, our state encompasses all the positions and motions of our bodily parts, the electrochemical states of the brain, the physiological changes in the organs, and so on. Formally speaking, the state of a system corresponds to its coordinates in the space of possible states, with different axes for different variables.
The way something moves through this space depends on its Lyapunov function. This is a mathematical quantity that describes how a system is likely to behave under specific conditions. It returns the probability of being in any particular state as a function of that state (or, put differently, as a function of the system’s position in the state space, similar to how air pressure is a function of the density of air molecules at the point at which it’s measured). If we know the Lyapunov function for each state of the system, we can write down its flow from one state to the next – and so characterise the existence of the whole system in terms of that flow. It’s like knowing the height of a mountainous landscape at every location, and then being able to describe how a stream of water will run over its surface. The topography of the mountain stands for the Lyapunov function, and the movement of water describes how the system evolves over time.
Now, an important feature of complex systems is that they look like they are using their Lyapunov function to move towards more and more probable states. That is, the number returned by the function gets smaller and smaller. In turn, this means that such systems tend to occupy only a small number of states and, moreover, that those states tend to be frequented again and again. To pursue the mountain stream analogy, water flows downwards to the sea, after which it evaporates and returns to the mountainside by rainclouds. Or you might take your own body as an example: your temperature hovers within certain confined bounds, your heart beats rhythmically, you breathe in and out – and you probably have a daily or weekly routine.

What’s remarkable about this sort of repetitive, self-organising behaviour is that it’s contrary to how the Universe usually behaves. Everything should actually get more random, dispersed and chaotic as time marches on. That’s the second law of thermodynamics – everything tends towards chaos, and entropy generally increases. So what’s going on?
Complex systems are self-organising because they possess attractors. These are cycles of mutually reinforcing states that allow processes to achieve a point of stability, not by losing energy until they stop, but through what’s known as dynamic equilibrium. An intuitive example is homeostasis. If you’re startled by a predator, your heartbeat and breathing will speed up, but you’ll automatically do something to restore your cardiovascular system to a calmer state (following the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response). Any time there’s a deviation from the attractor, this triggers flows of thoughts, feelings and movements that eventually take you back to your cycle of attracting, familiar states. In humans, all the excitations of our body and brain can be described as moving towards our attractors, that is, towards our most probable states.
On this view, humans are little more than ‘strange loops’, as the philosopher Douglas Hofstadter puts it. We all flow through an enormous, high-dimensional state-space of manifold possibilities, but are forced by our attractors to move around in confined circles. We are like an autumn leaf; tracing out a never-ending trajectory in the turbulent eddies of a stream, thinking our little track is the whole world. This description of ourselves as playful loops might sound teleologically barren – but it has profound implications for the nature of any complex system with a set of attracting states, such as you or me.


To recap: we’ve seen that complex systems, including us, exist insofar as our Lyapunov function accurately describes our own processes. Furthermore, we know all our processes, all our thoughts and behaviours – if we exist – must be decreasing the output from our Lyapunov function, pushing us to more and more probable states. So what would this look like, in practice? The trick here is to understand the nature of the Lyapunov function. If we understand this function, then we know what drives us.
It turns out that the Lyapunov function has two revealing interpretations. The first comes from information theory, which says that the Lyapunov function is surprise – that is, the improbability of being in a particular state. The second comes from statistics, which says that the Lyapunov function is (negative) evidence – that is, marginal likelihood, or the probability that a given explanation or model accounting for that state is correct. Put simply, this means that if we exist, we must be increasing our model evidence or self-evidencing in virtue of minimising surprise. Equipped with these interpretations, we can now endow existential dynamics with a purpose and teleology.
It’s at this point that we can talk about inference, the process of figuring out the best principle or hypothesis that explains the observed states of that system we call ‘the world’. Technically, inference entails maximising the evidence for a model of the world. Because we are obliged to maximise evidence, we are – effectively – making inferences about the world using ourselves as a model. That’s why every time you have a new experience, you engage in some kind of inference to try to fit what’s happening into a familiar pattern, or to revise your internal states so as to take account of this new fact. This is just the kind of process a statistician goes through in trying to decide whether she needs new rules to account for the spread of a disease, or whether the collapse of a bank ought to affect the way she models the economy.
Now we can see why attractors are so crucial. An attracting state has a low surprise and high evidence. Complex systems therefore fall into familiar, reliable cycles because these processes are necessarily engaged in validating the principle that underpins their own existence. Attractors push systems to fall into predictable states and thereby reinforce the model that the system has generated of its world. A failure of this surprise minimising, self-evidencing, inferential behaviour means the system will decay into surprising, unfamiliar states – until it no longer exists in any meaningful way. Attractors are the product of processes engaging in inference to summon themselves into being. In other words, attractors are the foundation of what it means to be alive.


To the extent that you accept the above formulation, you now have the ultimate deflationary account of every kind of complex system, living things included. Any process (like you or me) that repeatedly occupies certain states must, by virtue of its very existence, be performing inference.
But does this make sense? You’d hardly consider the process of evolution or natural selection in terms of inference – or would you? In fact, that’s exactly the interpretation currently found in theoretical neurobiology. It turns out, for example, that the way nature ‘selects’ organisms for their capacity to survive and reproduce is based on inference. Take a population of crabs as the system in question, and the aggregated features or phenotypesof its individuals as its ‘state’. These crabs can have claws of different sizes, shells that are harder or softer, and eyes that see better above water or below. Such diverse phenotypes amount to multiple hypotheses about what might ‘work’; each individual is a hypothesis or model of what should occupy this ecological niche, and must compete for selection under pressure from the environment.
Since evolution is a complex system, it must also be self-evidencing – that is, it will always ‘choose’ organisms that are more and more likely to occupy their ecological niche. Large claws might persist because they’re better at catching prey; hard shells might help to resist predators; marine eyesight might make it easier to spot food where the food is most plentiful. Adaptive fitness, then, is nothing more or less than the marginal likelihood of finding a phenotype in its environment. In other words, its survival is nothing more or less than the evidence that it is a good model for its niche.

Applying the same thinking to consciousness suggests that consciousness must also be a process of inference. Conscious processing is about inferring the causes of sensory states, and thereby navigating the world to elude surprises. While natural selection performs inference by selecting among different creatures, consciousness performs inference by selecting among different states of the same creature (in particular, its brain). There is a vast amount of anatomical and physiological evidence in support of this notion. If one regards the brain as a self-evidencing organ of inference, almost every one of its anatomical and physiological aspects seems geared to minimise surprise. For example, our brains represent where something is and what something is in different areas. This makes sense, because knowing what something is does not generally tell you where it is and vice versa. This sort of internalisation of the causal structure of the world ‘out there’ reflects the fact that to predict one’s own states you must have an internal model of how such sensations are generated.
But if consciousness is inference, does that mean all complex inferential processes are conscious, from evolution to economies to atoms? Probably not. A virus possesses all the self-organising dynamics to qualify as a process of inference; but clearly a virus doesn’t have the same qualities as a vegetarian. So what’s the difference?

What distinguishes conscious and non-conscious creatures is the way they make inferences about action and time. This part of my argument rests upon the reciprocal relationship between the system and the world. The world acts on the system to provide the sensory impressions that form the basis of inference. Meanwhile, the system acts upon the world to change the flow of sensations to fit with the model of the world it has discerned. This is just another description of the cycle of action and perception; for example, we look, we see, and we infer where to look next.
If action depends upon inference, then systems must be able to make inferences about the consequences of their actions. You can’t pick what to do unless you can make a guess about the probable outcome. However, there’s an important twist here. A creature cannot infer the consequences of its actions unless it possesses a model of its future. It needs to know what to expect if it does this as opposed to that. For example, I need to know (or subconsciously model) how my sensations will change if I look to the left, to the right or, indeed, close my eyes. But the sensory evidence for the consequences of an action is not available until it is executed, thanks to the relentless forward movement of time.
As a result of the arrow of time, systems that can grasp the impact of their future actions must necessarily have a temporal thickness. They must have internal models of themselves and the world that allow them to make predictions about things that have not and might not actually happen. Such models can be thicker and thinner, deeper or shallower, depending on how far forward they predict, as well as how far back they postdict, that is, whether they can capture how things might have ended up if they had acted differently. Systems with deeper temporal structures will be better at inferring the counterfactual consequences of their actions. The neuroscientist Anil Seth calls this counterfactual depth.
So if a system has a thick temporal model, what actions will it infer or select? The answer is simple: it will minimise the expected surprise following an action. The proof follows by reductio ad absurdum from what we already know: existence itself entails minimising surprise and self-evidencing. How do systems minimise expected surprises, in practice? First, they act in order to reduce uncertainties, that is, to avoid possible surprises in the future (such as being cold, hungry or dead). Nearly all our behaviour can be understood in terms of such uncertainty-minimising drives – from the reflexive withdrawal from noxious stimuli (such as dropping a hot plate) to epistemic foraging for salient visual information when watching television or driving. Second, the actions of such systems upon the world appear to be endowed with a purpose, which is the purpose of minimising not-yet-actual, but possible, surprises.


We might call this kind of system an agent or a self: something that engages in proactive, purposeful inference about its own future, based on a thick model of time. The distinction between thick and thin models of time, then, suggests that viruses are not conscious; even if they respond inferentially to changes in their external milieu, they do not embody a deep understanding of their past or a long-run view of their future, which would enable them to minimise that hasn’t-yet-happened surprise. Vegetarians, on the other hand, are surprise-minimising and self-evidencing in a prospective and purposeful way, where the future prospects of the agent becomes an inherent part of action selection. For example, if we were operating at the level of the virus, we could reflexively counter low blood sugar by mobilising our glucose stores. However, our vegetarian might take a much longer-term view of herself and start preparing a meal. In a similar vein, we sidestep the problems of calling evolution conscious. The process of natural selection minimises surprise (that is, it maximises adaptive fitness) but not uncertainty or expected surprise of the whole system (that is, adaptive fitness expected under alternative, non-Darwinian evolutionary operations).
The key difference between consciousness and more universal self-organising processes, then, appears to be the imperatives for selection. In non-conscious processes, this selection is realised in the here and now; for example, with selection among competing systems (such as phenotypes in evolution) or the evocation of reflexes (such as chemotaxis in simple organisms, in which they move towards or away from a higher concentration of a chemical). Conversely, the sort of selection we have associated with consciousness operates in parallel but within the same system – a system that can simulate multiple futures, under different circumstances, and select the action with the least surprising outcome. The conscious self is simply a way of capturing these counterfactual futures, in a way that facilitates active inference.
Does consciousness as active inference make any sense practically? I’d contend that it does. From a psychiatric perspective, altered states of consciousness come in two flavours. There can be a change in the level of consciousness; for example, during sleep, anaesthesia and coma. Alternatively, there can be altered conscious states of the sort associated with psychiatric syndromes and psychotropic or psychedelic drugs. Different levels of consciousness are entangled with their impact on action. Put simply, the hallmark of reduced levels of consciousness is an absence of responsiveness. Try to imagine someone who is not conscious but acts in response to stimulation. The only responses one can elicit are reflexes that reflect minimisation of surprise in the here and now. By contrast, once this person is awake, she can fire up her predictive machinery about the past and future. In our daily lives, this suggests that temporal thickness or depth waxes and wanes with the sleep-wake cycle – that there’s a mapping between the level of consciousness and the thickness of the inference we’re engaged in. On this view, a loss of consciousness occurs whenever our models lose their ‘thickness’ and become as ‘thin’ as a virus’s.





As a psychiatrist, I’m drawn to the notion of altered conscious states as altered inference for several reasons. Key among these is the ability to understand psychiatric disorder as false inference. For example, in statistics, there are two types of false inference: false positives and false negatives. False positives correspond to inferring something is there when it is not, such as hallucinations and delusions. Conversely, false negatives are when one fails to infer something when it is there, such as a failure to recognise something or to entertain impossible ambiguities (for example, common questions posed by patients: Who am I? or Am I the right way up?). This translates clinically into disorientation and the various forms of agnosia that characterise dementias and other organic syndromes of the mind. From a practical point of view, this is a useful perspective because the neuronal machinery behind active inference is becoming increasingly well-understood.
We’ve gone fairly rapidly through the arguments. First, if we want to talk about complex systems, including living ones, we have to identify the necessary behaviours that their processes exhibit. This is fairly easy to do by noting that living entails existing in a set of attracting states that are frequented time and time again. This implies the existence of a Lyapunov function that is identical to (negative) self-evidence or surprise in information theory. This means that all biological processes can be construed as performing some form of inference, from evolution right through to conscious processing.

If this is the case, then at what point do we invoke consciousness? The proposal on offer here is that the mind comes into being when self-evidencing has a temporal thickness or counterfactual depth, which grounds the inferences it can make about the consequences of future actions. There’s no real reason for minds to exist; they appear to do so simply because existence itself is the end-point of a process of reasoning. Consciousness, I’d contend, is nothing grander than inference about my future.



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Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.

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- Days ago = 689 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1705.24 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.