dirtSimple.orgwhat stands in the way, becomes the way

The Multiple Self

If you’ve spent any amount of time trying to “improve yourself” in any way, you’ve undoubtedly experienced some frustration, in that you discover your “self” isn’t as much of a part of you as it would appear. It seems bizarre – “you” want “yourself” to do something (or refrain from it), but “yourself” goes ahead and does whatever it wants. Often, “you” may rationalize your behavior in context, only to be later exasperated by your lack of “willpower”.

If that is the case, I have some good news for you. It may sound a bit snake-oily at first, like I’ve got a product to sell or something to gain from convincing you of the idea. And I’ve been tempted not to try to explain this here, because why should I explain something that could give me a tremendous advantage over people who don’t understand it?

On the other hand, since I’ve come to understand the secret, I find that virtually every form of self-help (that has any competence at all) reflects at least some portion of this secret, and many of the teachings of Zen and other mystic traditions point to it as well. So, in a sense it’s not really a secret at all. Everybody’s been practically shouting it from the rooftops for centuries, and yet you can’t give this secret away. This is mainly because whatever you say about it, people think they already understand it, and so never really dig down to the real truth of it, and the profound implications it has for every aspect of life and the human condition.

So, I probably could turn this idea into yet another school of self-help of my own variety, but I don’t really see any reason to do that at the moment. So here it is, a freebie – the ultimate answer, not to life, the universe, and everything, but the ultimate answer, I think, to the nature of the human condition: “You” are not “yourself” today.

For that matter, you were not yourself yesterday, and you will not be tomorrow. You never have been, and never will be, because “you” and “yourself” are distinct neural subsystems which do not overlap.

What does that mean? Why should you care? And how is this a deep and mystical revelation, exactly?

Who are you, anyway?

Wave “your” hand at the screen. Do it now.

Who waved your hand? Was it you? Could you have? Do “you” know how to wave your hand? Of course not. “You” don’t know how to do anything, but “yourself” does.

Now, if you are determined not to learn anything new, you will have already conveniently reclassified these ideas as being about conscious/unconscious mind, or left brain/right brain, and if you want to do that, by all means do so, but you won’t actually end up with any new knowledge that way.

In fact, that’s precisely how I managed to read so very much about these subjects for so many years without actually ever understanding what this really means about life and living. Abstract ideas like conscious and unconscious mind don’t help you do anything differently than you already do. But if I succeed in actually conveying the real experiential truth that lies beneath concepts like “unconscious mind”, then you can begin to change your life in the same way that I’m already changing mine.

To really understand, you need to first understand that you are an animal. Most of us humans pretend our entire lives that we are something other than animals, and as a result we think our “animal nature” is something you can just ignore or somehow transcend – preferably while ignoring it. We enter the false dichotomy of “man or beast”, when the truth is actually “man and beast.” We are not one – we are two. And the one of us who thinks he’s running things is really just a recent software upgrade that runs atop a highly sophisticated operating system that’s already had millions of years of performance tuning – and can run just fine without you.

That’s right. “You” are just a subroutine, and a recently-added one at that. You’re like a user-mode driver that gets access to certain kernel data, but you only see and control what the kernel lets you. You have no direct access to the kernel’s process space, but you can make calls into it, and you get notifications from it. The bulk of your nature as a human lies entirely outside your process space, outside your ability to directly perceive or control.

(If you find yourself thinking here about the famed “10% of your brain”, well, you’re not wrong, but it’s important to understand that the truth of this and lots of other ideas (like conscious vs. unconscious mind) is quite a bit deeper than the sound bites.)

Now, when I say you’re just a subroutine and that your animal nature is the kernel, this doesn’t mean that we are robots or machines or that we don’t control our actions. Far from it. I mean, however, that we are deluded when we think we directly control our actions, and therefore ascribe intention to our actions that doesn’t exist.

Why does anyone do anything?

In fact, we frequently do things for reasons that are entirely opaque to us, and then make up reasons later to explain them, because nobody wants to admit that they don’t know why they did something. Nonetheless, none of us know, because it’s not in our process space to know why the kernel switches in this process at this time, and that process at another time. We can reverse engineer things, and we can use our “supervisor calls” to inject new programs into kernel space, sure, but we don’t run in kernel space and we never will.

And yet, we all mostly go around pretending as if we did run things in our mind and body, which then leads to all sorts of screwed-up thinking – “delusion and ignorance” as the Zen Buddhists call it. We mistake kernel notifications for our own thoughts. We think our actions somehow reflect on us, when in fact they may reflect nothing more than a poorly-written script that the kernel is running. This is like trying to eat pictures of food: it might fill you up, but it’s ultimately unsatisfying.

The thing you need to understand is that it’s not a question of “using only 10% of your brain”. The point is, you are only 10% of your brain. The rest of your brain is bigger, smarter, and better-educated than you, because it can learn things you don’t even know you’re learning, faster and better than you. It can actually do things, for one. You can’t. “You” are really just an I/O filter, in a way. You can control everything because you are a software hook that controls what meaning things have. By defining the meanings of things, you can get the kernel to do whatever you want. However, if you are confused about any of this, you will feed the kernel garbage meanings, and, well, you will get garbage results.

For that matter, if you are confused about this state of affairs, you will try to “do” things yourself, and because you’re only 10% of the processor, you will only screw things up by getting in the kernel’s way. Don’t do that, it doesn’t work. The hidden meaning of “Just do it” is, “establish the kernel’s operating parameters and then get the hell out of its way.”

Shortly before I figured this out, I read about an interesting computer game called NERO. The idea of this game is that you get a team of robots and you have to train them to fight, by designing training exercises in which you establish goals like maintaining a particular distance from the enemy, and lay out a battleground for the robots to learn in. The interesting thing about this is that the robots basically evolve neural networks that seek to meet the goals you set, and they learn how to do this from experience, not by being programmed. The neural nets that evolve have no self-consciousness, no awareness of how they accomplish the task. Wiring just forms and improves. It would be a mistake to look at the robots’ behavior and conclude that there is intelligence or intention there; it is just formation of neural nets in response to environmental stimuli coupled with goal-oriented feedback.

It’s not “you” that learns…

And that is precisely what the other 90% of our brains are up to. Formation of neural logic networks in response to environmental stimuli and goal-based feedback. If you are not actively participating in this process, what you get is well, whatever you get. Pretty much, you’re going to have random feedback loops, because whatever you initially train the networks on (e.g. childhood) is going to get used as the basis for evaluating later input and as the basis of your goals. Your subconscious is like a random number generator whose output is fed back into its input, only there’s goal seeking involved. It’s more like it’s a random number generator that’s striving to repeatedly reproduce whatever numbers it generated before.

At least, it works that way without your input. Your subconscious needs you to establish meaning, and goals, and values, because without those things, all it knows how to do is maintain the status quo, or respond to what other people put into it. If you’re not doing your I/O interception duties, it’s like the captain is asleep and the entire ship’s crew fights to the death to carry out the captain’s last orders, whatever they were, even if he was half-asleep (or a child) when he gave them and they no longer make any sense. Conversely, if you over-manage yourself, then you’re like the captain going around and trying to do everybody’s job, and that just isn’t workable either.

After stopping and reading over what I’ve written so far, I’m a little frustrated, because I still seem to be slipping away from the heart of what I want to convey. It’s too easy to come away from what I’ve said without realizing just how incredibly small “you” are, in relation to your own brain. It’s like that old system administrator joke, “Go away, or I shall replace you with a very small shell script.” Only it’s not a joke, and you are a very small shell script that thinks it’s the data being piped through it.

Thoughts Are Data – And The Numbers Always Lie

You see, your thoughts aren’t you either. They’re just data being piped through “you”. What you “think” about things is mostly just regurgitation of patterns captured by the kernel as part of its massive imitate-and-evolve subsystem. This is not a bad thing, but a good one. Have you ever realized how little control you have over your thoughts? Can you imagine how bad life would be if those were really your thoughts?

Imagine a person listening to the radio. Now imagine that this person has never seen a radio before, and thinks that the radio is talking to him or her directly. That is, he or she thinks the announcer is talking to him, all the singers are singing to her, etc. For example, when the radio plays the song “You’re So Vain”, our imaginary person thinks the song really is about him!

This is almost as bad as the situation the rest of us are in, but not quite. At least our imaginary listener thinks someone else is talking to him. Most of us, on the other hand, think we are the announcer on the radio in our heads, and that we’re announcing live, when in fact most of it is previously-recorded, and all of it is being piped to you straight from the kernel.

So, don’t be frustrated by your thoughts, because they’ re not “you” either. Just because the kernel sends you a heap of worry, fear, anger, or other crap on sys.stdin doesn’t mean you have to send it on to sys.stdout. Until I understood that, I was under the mistaken impression that fear and worry, hurt and anxiety, disappointment and regret were all real things. But they’re not real! They’re just data. Heck, they’re not even data about real things. They’re data about previous conclusions drawn about similar things! Sometimes, they’re even data about erroneous conclusions previously drawn about similar things.

It’s not enough to know; you must also rewire!

Don’t just understand this intellectually. I’ve “understood” all these things intellectually for many years and it was useless. The question to ask is, “How do I implement things with this knowledge?” How do you drop input data on the floor? How do you insert new data into the output stream? How do I make supervisor calls to the kernel? How do I edit the scripts the kernel is running? Until I started asking these questions, I wasn’t able to do much besides dance to the tunes on the radio in my head.

And don’t get me wrong, after weeks of playing around with this stuff, I’m still no superman or Zen master. But I have managed a few very interesting hacks. For example, a few weeks ago a certain situation led to me feeling very bad. Intellectually, I totally knew there was no reason to feel bad, because what happened had nothing to do with me. Emotionally, though, I was a wreck.

Suddenly, I had a flash of insight: these are two different neural networks. The intellectual understanding and the emotional response were networks that evolved at different times in my life, under different circumstances. They were therefore not connected, except through their mutual activation in the current circumstance. Therefore, I experienced each network’s output as a full and distinct input, but the “emotional” net had no way to receive data from the “intellectual” net, in order to moderate its output. This led to an experience of conflict, in which I could try to suppress the output of the emotional net, given the data from the intellectual one, but this couldn’t and wouldn’t stop the emotional input from coming in my input pipe.

As soon as I could see that, it was obvious what I needed to do: pipe the output from the “intellectual” net into the “emotional” net, instead of trying to integrate the data downstream in the “consciousness” process. And literally, as soon as I imagined this, the two upstream networks integrated, and the need to feel bad went away. I still felt bad physically, in my body, so I “shook it out” and it went away. (It appears that shifts in glandular output and neurotransmitter states are used as a crude system-wide state machine to aid in sorting input and output, so even after you adjust an upstream source, you may retain some kinesthetic “pollution” downstream until you garbage collect it.)

Many Circuits, Loosely Joined

Now, before I go further, I want to explain that the “emotional” and “intellectual” networks I just mentioned were not my entire emotional or intellectual being. That’s precisely the sort of large-scale behavioral integration that our brains do not have by default. I integrated two isolated “understandings”, each of which was a simple script to assign meaning to a certain class of events. In programming terms, each of these nets could be considered a “business rule”; just pattern recognizers that fired off to send “me” their analysis of the situation. It’s just that one of those rules fired off a “knowing” and the other fired off a “feeling”.

So, the fact that I did this one particular edit of my brain’s rule system does not now mean that intellectual understanding is now integrated with all my emotional impulses. During early life, we write a lot of scripts in our brains that are not abstracted or reused in any significant way. Later scripts may abstract or absorb chunks of previous scripts, but they often do so in a downstream way; that is, they take their input from older scripts and output commentary on them, but this commentary doesn’t necessarily have any effect on our behavior or feelings, and therefore leads to the experience of inner conflict. So, we inherit a lot of “legacy” code that desperately needs refactoring.

I’m still experiencing these conflicts from time to time, and it’s not always easy to integrate the processes. Sometimes, an emotional network offers some kind of input or is linked to a goal that’s important, so even piping the intellectual data into that network’s input doesn’t modulate its output much, and I have to do more extensive refactoring. This can be a pain to try to do while the net is still running and making you feel bad! It’s even worse when the net uses bad feelings as an input indicating that you’re in a bad situation; once you get a loop like that started it’s pretty tough to get out of without a reboot (like going to sleep, or a surprise interruption that forces the whole process to swap out, as it were).

However, I’m starting to get a kind of catalog of “design patterns” together to make the process a little easier, like establishing state machines to evaluate rules over longer time periods, rather than needing to immediately feel a certain way at the first evidence of a circumstance that potentially matches a pattern.

Command Mode

So how do you do this? How do you edit rules, pipe one net to another, make a supervisor call? In the same way you waved your hand at the screen, several paragraphs ago. You imagine it, in command mode.

There are a lot of books out there about creative visualization and imagining what you want and all that, but there are very very few that even hint at the need for the command mode. You see, imagination is like a scratchpad; it’s working memory. If everything you did with that working memory were a command, you’d say and do everything that came into your head. The command mode is like a modifier that says “actually do this”, or “make it so”. It’s quite literally metadata that describes what to do with what you imagine.

Point your finger at the screen. How did you do that? Do it again. Try something else. Make various motions with your body. Now just think about making the motions. What’s the difference between thinking it, and doing it? That’s command mode.

If you play with it for a bit, you’ll discover that command mode is easiest to use with a destination. It’s likely that when you decide to point at the screen, you’re visualizing the endpoint, where your finger is pointing at the screen, rather than visualizing all the motions in-between. Similarly, when I integrated those two networks I spoke of, I just visualized them integrated, and I happened to engage command mode even though I didn’t really know what it was yet.

This is what I mean about not getting in your own way. Your operating system has enormous parallel processing power, whereas “you” are a serial processing filter. If “you” try to get involved in the “how” of things, you will just interfere, because you’re a bottleneck on how much “yourself” can do! Really, saying that your conscious mind is 10% of your brain is probably grossly exaggerated, because we mistake a lot of the things the kernel does as being part of our consciousness. 5% might be a better estimate.

But even that doesn’t truly show just how bad it is to try to shove the entire system’s I/O load through the consciousness filter. Even if “you” had a whole 10% of the brain to play with, that 10% is set up for simultaneous use in serial processing of experience. “You” just don’t have the pipes and peripheral processors to handle that load, but the operating system does.

Those pipes and processors will never be directly accessible to you, for much the same reason that intellectual understanding of your behavior that comes after those behaviors is ingrained usually has no direct effect on the behavior. The newer, more sophisticated abstractions are there to process outputs from the older, more “primitive” subsystems. We can reason about our inputs, but our inputs are not driven by our reasoning.

Of course, within the scope of networks wired after we were born, we have a lot more flexibility. Among those networks, we can rewire older nets to include input from newer ones. But at the periphery of the brain, these networks are simpler, more hardwired, with less “meta” wiring capability.

This isn’t a problem as such, because the brain has plenty of “meta” wiring to go around, and you can do a lot up there that can’t be done directly. However, that meta wiring is also part of an older layer than “you”, so you still can’t access it directly. But you can access it via emulation mode, which is another variation on command mode.

In fact, I’ve been finding that there are a lot of command mode variations. I’m rather reminded of a novel I once read, where a computer programmer traveled into a dimension where magic worked, and he ended up writing a magic compiler. Unlike other magicians who worked out their spells in somewhat random fashion, he developed abstractions, a subroutine library, and an orthogonal command system.

For example, he would say things like “backslash light enter” to cast a light spell, where other magicians might chant some kind of short poem about light. As a result, he became one of the most proficient wizards in the land, because his powers were extensible and composable in ways that other wizards’ were not.

In the same way, most of us don’t really know how to use our own brains in a systematic way. We give them commands like we were a cat walking across a keyboard: every now and then we end up with something syntactically valid, but semantically… questionable.

So I’m beginning to understand now why Bandler and Grinder speak so disparagingly of the conscious mind, and talk about the need to engage the unconscious mind when training people, meanwhile distracting their conscious minds so as to keep them out of the way. I suppose that beats trying to actually get across to someone all the information that I just wrote in this article, and further get them to actually believe it, just in order to teach them something else.

WYFIWYG: What You Feel Is What You Get

And on that note, I’m going to tell you one more secret-that’s-not-secret before I go. A lot of self-help books mention this, but I’m going to try to explain how and why it’s so important. They usually tell you to suspend judgment, to just “try the ideas” without getting caught up in your ideas about whether the book’s approach will or won’t work. This is not, as it happens, because of some sort of faith-healing type thing, so that they have an excuse in case their stuff doesn’t work. (Well, maybe with some of them it is.)

The actual issue is that if you think you’re the announcer on the radio in your head, you’ll probably believe whatever it says as the gospel truth, and act on it, regardless of whether it has anything to do with your goals or what you’re trying to accomplish. The next thing you know, you’re believing stuff like “This won’t work,” and you’re suddenly adding metadata tags like “doesn’t work” and “don’t believe his lies” to the audio and video streams you pipe back to the kernel. And the kernel, since it has no reason to doubt you, will then act according to the metadata you give it.

You see, the real secret about command mode is that there is no command mode. It’s really more like a tagging system, where the kernel acts according to the tags you put on stuff. You can tag things as “just pretending”, or “not important”, or any number of other things, and the kernel does whatever you’ve set it up to do for those tags. That means you really do need to watch what you think, and learn how to browse your own thoughts at -3. Otherwise, you can clog your kernel with an awful lot of crap.

There is so very much more to all this, more that I’ve seen and discovered and experienced and want to tell you about, but many books have been written about it already, and there’s no way for a single article to compete. I’m not going to promise to elaborate further in future posts, although I’m sure I’ll want to try from time to time as new insights or possibilities occur to me. But I’d certainly be interested to hear if any of you pull off any cool or interesting hacks using the information in this article. There is an entire field of knowledge waiting to be discoveredout there… or should I say, in here? (he said, gently tapping his forehead.)

Join the discussion
  • I can’t yet say I have pulled off any interesting hacks based on your article, because I’ve just read it, but it gives an interesting perspective on stuff I’ve been thinking or trying to pull off. I’ve been trying to “talk to myself” in a very humble way; kind of like accepting that I can’t totally control myself. Tagging stuff, you could say. Like: “if I do this-and-that, I get psyched up and feel productive. Do more of that.” And not trying to directly force myself doing something (which sometimes works and sometimes does not work).

    You mention that there are books written about this subject (or related to it). Would you care to recommend any? I guess I could just re-read some books with the mind-set based on your article, but still I’d genuinely like to know what you recommended.

  • Wow.
    Most of what I read here, I’ve thought at one time or another. It isn’t, to me, what was presented here, but how. I’ve never been able to consider all this together in such a coherent matter, even though I have lived most of my life with some ‘hacks’ as you describe.
    As much as I love the software analogy, and plan to give it lots of thought and consideration, I’d like to see a version of this article without it for non-techies, such as my wife. I may actually write something myself on the matter.
    I always enjoy reading my own thoughts from someone elses lips in a way that I can understand better than I’ve ever talked to myself.
    A lot of meditation is going to come from this, and I think a lot of issues are going to be tackled successfully using some techniques I’ll derive here. I really appriciate the effort you put into writting this. Perhaps along with some de-techified writings, I’ll post something soon about anything I discover of the analogy myself.

  • A few remarks:

    The conscious isn’t an IO filter but rather a sort of plugin that gets invoked from time to time while the kernel crunches it’s way trough the flood of data.

    Expiriencing depression regularly teaches you to deal with it. Part of it is recognizing that this feeling isn’t dictating your actions. Heck it’s not even dictating all your feeling. I can have joy and feel good even while I technically feel depressed.

  • Brilliant! Very clearly written. It reminds me of a series of books I read years ago. I think one was called “The Corbin Project”. They made a movie of one of the books. It was about a computer that took over the world. At the end if the movie, it was still in control. In the book sequel, they fed an unsolvable problem to the computer that crashed it. When they started taking it apart, they discovered that it had grown massively but the part that was controlling the world was a small file cabinet sized thing that fit into a closet. Kind of like that small 5% that we think is running things.

    I also find it interesting how different it is to understand something intellectually but not emotionally. I’ve had insights that have changed my life but when I try to explain them, the concepts come out dry and lifeless with no impact. They only seem to mean anything to the people who already understand them emotionally.

    I had a flash of clarity back in 2002 and wrote a journal entry about it. It doesn’t explain everything as clearly as your post but you might find it interesting. http://www.livejournal.com/users/jgoldblog/588.html

  • Very nice work with the OS metaphor. For me, the path to the same understanding was through zen, some 25 years ago, and the result was a fundamental sense of liberation from assumptions of who and what I am. While remaining throughly grounded in a physical deterministic view of the universe, we can better hack the subjective world where all meaning resides.

    Taking this concept further another layer or two, one can see that the Self can identify with increasingly broader spheres of awareness, augmented by plugging into the awareness of others (the larger network of others,our environment and culture.

    A natural consequence of increasing scope of awareness is more effective decision-making. More effective decision-making coincident with increased scope of self-identification leads to increasingly moral decision making (“moral” defined as “good” in the sense of what tends to work over increasing scope of agents and their interactions.) I’ve described this elsewhere as the “Arrow of Morality”.

    Timely thinking for a society on the cusp of radical technological and societal change.

    – Jef

  • Brilliant piece of thinking. Except for one very minor point. We don’t use only 10% of our brains. That is a bad meme that’s gotten stuck in the public discourse somewhere along the way, and it annoys the piss out of me everytime I run across it again.

    Other than that, this is nice, nice work.

  • Very enlightening for me. I’m going to consider this while meditating and I also think that a non-techie version would be really good for other people I know.

    I’ll definately will let you know about any hacks I discover. I also thought that maybe it’d be worth creating a community blog for people to post their experiences on, what do you think?

  • First off, this is a thought-provoking essay, thanks for writing and sharing it.

    I’m not sure about the accuracy of your descriptions of an emotional network in the brain. What you refer to as the intellectual network is, in reality, the neocortex. This is where new patterns are formed and is the residence of intelligence. The neocortex is a newer area of the brain, but it plugs into the older brain at several points. It’s my understanding that emotions (and all things hormonal) are occurring in the old brain.

    The point is, the intellectual network and the emotional network are very dissimilar and function on different levels and are physically located in different areas of the brain. You can only physically modify the emotional network, there is no way to train it in the way you mention.

    What you mention in your next post, “A Spooky Mind Hack“, also struck a chord. You’re very much on to something about letting your mind wander to find objects for you. But this wandering is occuring in the neocortex, the same portion of the brain that houses your intellectual network. What you’re allowing the neocortex do is fire in response to “Effective C++” instead of pouring in a bunch of noise by thinking too hard about where the book could be. The bottom-up approach works better for finding a saved pattern than the top-down approach.

    I’d be very interested in hearing more of your thoughts on this.

    (Note: I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors and whatnot, I’m trying to quickly type this during a work break.)

  • I am very glad you wrote this article. I also see the functioning of my brains as you described, but I was never able to write it down and share it with others.

    This 10% of “you”, would very much like to control the other 90% of “yourself”, but it just isn’t powerful enough. We feel, that we have some kind of willpower, but we certainly cannot compete with structure in our brain, which has much longer history of adjustment.

  • “virtually every form of self-help (that has any competence at all)”

    I too would like to know what self-help authors etc fall in the category of having some competence.

  • In fact, I’ve been finding that there are a lot of command mode variations. I’m rather reminded of a novel I once read, where a computer programmer travelled into a dimension where magic worked, and he ended up writing a magic compiler. Unlike other magicians who worked out their spells in somewhat random fashion, he developed abstractions, a subroutine library, and an orthogonal command system. For example, he would say things like “backslash light enter” to cast a light spell, where other magicians might chant some kind of short poem about light. As a result, he became one of the most proficient wizards in the land, because his powers were extensible and composable in ways that other wizards’ were not.

    You mean Wizard’s Bane, by Rich Cook?

  • Two days ago I read this article and it opened my eyes considerably. I had heard the idea before, I even thought it before but I suppose I was not ready to internalize it then. This time, it stuck. People here asked for a non-technical explanation of this. Well, let me try my hand at that.

    The I that is writing this is not the same as the one that you always see. What you always see is my body, my physical entity. My physical body is a different Marco. The one writing this is the Marco-conscious, the other one is the Marco-body. But the body is not just the physical component, it is also much more. It regulates many automatic processes such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, etc. This is why the body does not need you. It knows what to do without the conscious you. This conscious part of you is your identity.

    Identity is who your consciousness identifies with. You identity inhabits your body most of the time, but not all of the time. There are times when your identity leaves your body. Have you ever driven for a long period of time while contemplating something in your mind? Your consciousness was so immersed in thoughts that you forget you are driving. Once you get to your desired destination, you notice that time flew and that “you” don’t exactly know how you got there. You may know that you took a certain route because you always take the same roads, but you don’t recall much about this particular time. Well, what do you care how you got there…you’re there safe and sound and so you don’t give it another moment’s thought—you move on to the next task.

    Well, this is what is being discussed here. Identity meet the Body and vice-versa. But allow me complicate things a little more. The automatic things your body does are learned behaviors. A learned behavior is something you do without thinking about it, a routine. An example of this I hear you say… I thought you’d never ask.

    How you dress yourself every day in the morning. You always do the exact same movements. The left shoe goes before the right one and so on. When you’re dressing in the morning, your person is in automatic mode. Your body is just following a routine. Your mind may engage to ensure the body wears clothes that match, but after that, your body just follows the same routine and your mind disengages to think about what lies ahead.

    Try it yourself: tomorrow morning be there while your body dresses itself. Watch it, don’t get in its way, just watch it do its thing. You’ll be amazed at how it just knows what to do. Yes, you can interrupt it by deciding to reverse the order of how you put your shoes or which leg goes in your pants first, but I warn you, it will be awkward. I tried it and managed to confuse my body. It did not know what to do next and I almost fell trying to balance on the wrong leg.

    Routines are stored in your subconscious very much like files in a file cabinet. When the conscious you needs to do something that the body already knows, you go to the file cabinet, retrieve the file and get out of the way. Like shaving, cooking eggs, etc. After that, you get the next file: “Prepare breakfast” or “Get to car”, etc.

    This is what these computer folks are talking about. A hack is the realization that you don’t need to know certain things that your body already knows how to do and requesting it be done. Another example of this is when you go call someone, your fingers just dial the numbers without thought. Amnesia patients display this body-knowledge. When someone cannot remember who they are they are given a phone and asked to dial a number. The motion is a routine stored in the body without identity. Pretty neat huh?

    This is really great folks. The realization that there are two structures operating in my person is very freeing. I don’t have to fight certain things anymore. I encourage everyone to continue their search for themselves. “Know thyself” is the dictum here I suppose.

  • continuing the metaphor, here’s a pointer to good freeware for dealing with ‘you’ and ‘yourself’: there is a meditation technique, called yoga nidra, that does a very good job of filtering emotional static out of the data stream or at least making it easier to prevent noise from amplifying and spreading nonsense through the system. Get physically relaxed — yoga deep relaxation is the traditional prep — and then meditate on pairs of opposites. Imagine feeling cold, then hot, light, then heavy, etc. Go on to a few emotional pairs. Right after this is a good time to state a goal to oneself — I will write an award-winning proposal tomorrow, or I will experience useful support from my user community. You and yourself are pretty good friends at this point, and may do some useful work in the basement of the mind/soul.

    On the same line, most martial arts and yoga practices do enhance mind-body integrating. Rational explanations involving seratonin levels and human growth hormone could be manufactured, but the only thing that is really worth referencing is that this type of script, run regularly, help optimize the system. You or yourself may know why. I used to be a sysadmin, and remember that installations where the sysadmin had regular quiet time to commune with the system and do a little thing here, a little thing there, just ran better. Getting on a yoga mat every day is like that (the effects get more and more obvious as my sell-by date gets nearer)

    lots of references out there to yoga nidra, some practical, some so esoteric as to be of use only to users familiar with the jargon. A reasonable straightforward one is http://www.lifepositive.com/Spirit/meditation/yoga-nidra.asp

  • I loved this article. It pulled together a lot of thoughts and ideas that I’ve been toying around with for years and gave them a formal structure.

    I’ve often wondered if the illusion of self as a unified individual was a feature or a bug. We are often driven by conflicting desires and ideas, for example, “I want to be healthy and lose weight”, “I want to eat that piece of chocolate cake”. Those desires, or subroutines if you will, obviously have no connection, and are competing motivators. Yet our brain creates the illusion that they originate from “you”, your concious mind. Much like your brain will create a story to make sense of the random images and thoughts in a dream. Is our conciousness a side effect of a very complicated system, or an inherent feature required by the sheer complexity of our brain/mind?

    You mentioned “many books have been written about it already”. Can you provide some references? I’d love to read some more on this subject.

  • What you are talking about is the difference between the “I” and the “I am.”

    It’s a complicated concept I first encountered when reading a book about Raja Yoga years ago. I can’t remember the name of the book, but I recommend further study of Raja Yoga.

  • You draft a great analogy of the mind, but I believe you are not drawing the right conclusions from it. Specifically you are making the assumption that the 10% of the brain called “you” knows better how to handle life and how to steer life in the proper way than the other 90%. I.e., you are advocating the engineering of “hacks” that will influence the 90% to go the way that “you” want it to.

    But do “you” really know whats best? If “you” have all the limitations you listed, wouldnt it be very likely that it does more harm than good when trying to control the other 90%?

    Why not simply start trusting the massive processing power in your brain to know what is right?

    Maybe all that needs to be “hacked” is to become more of a teamplayer with the rest of the brain 🙂

  • “Heck, they’re not even data about real things. They’re data about previous conclusions drawn about similar things! Sometimes, they’re even data about erroneous conclusions previously drawn about similar things.”

    It gets worse: sometimes, they’re conclusions previously drawn about similar, imaginary things.

  • OS metaphor is personally appealing to me as I (sadly so late) came to a wider understanding of “hacking”.

    Previously I read some self-help books and quite a bit of “academic” works on the subject of mind. I find both kinds missing the point. Self-help books are kind of “quick-fix” or “cook-book” recipes, many of them working but not giving the basic theory so that you can work out hacks on your own.

    In scientific literature I find a grain of truth mixed with tons of “scientific” talk and “beating about the bush”.

    Likewise spiritual texts are, much like self-help and scientific works of their own time are additionally mixed with mysticism (apparetly popular at the time).

    In any case this article seems like a great contribution, I will certaimly try to figure-out some hacks on my own 🙂

  • “You see, the real secret about command mode is that there is no command mode. It’s really more like a tagging system, where the kernel acts according to the tags you put on stuff. You can tag things as “just pretending”, or “not important”, or any number of other things, and the kernel does whatever you’ve set it up to do for those tags.”

    So it sounds to me that ultimately you think that the way to direct your response is to try and control the tagging process yourself preemptively, before the “90% you” responds? This sounds similar to neuro linguistic programming, but I guess it’s more about the emotional response… Not removing the emotional response, but controlling it and directing it?

    Definitely interesting… Thanks for the info! I’ll keep watching for more on this!

  • Eww, this article kind of bugged me, actually. To me it seemed very much like trying to get the internal mysterious parts of us under the control of the intellectual command mode parts of us. Feels like a contrast to, for instance, Steve Jobs’ commencement speech, where he says things like:

    “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

    I really responded to that.

  • The author of a blog as self obsessive as Jim Klee’s should take to these observations like a fish to water once someone does him the service of translating them into his native gibberish.

  • Nice write-up. I have to say your description of a ‘command-line emulator’ rings a bell – I frequently imagine experiencing something from someone elses point of view, to try and see what they would see, think what they would think. I think I started doing this because of something I read in a ‘exercise your brain to use 110% of its capacity!’ article somewhere. Whatever effect it has, it’s good fun and probably good for your imagination as well.

    ‘Tagging’ stuff is familiar too to me – things like ‘eating space cake makes me go insane. don’t do that anymore’ or ‘being drunk makes me feel happy. do more of that’. Also making mental todo checklists and intentionally forgetting (deleting, if you will) things that have been done, can be interpreted as being two consciousnesses (the kernel and the layer on top of that) where one tells the other stuff like ‘don’t worry about that, it’s been taking care of’.

    Nice piece of philosophy in all. A small bit of it doesn’t make much sense to me, but mostly you’re spot-on. 🙂
    Love the analogy with an OS, as well as the references to Memento and Slashdot.

  • I think this is generally spot on – both the general pattern of the brain’s operation, and the resulting advice on how to help it run better. I particularily like the analogy that you are the listener to the radio in your brain, not the announcer. But upon realizing this, you can tilt things – be skeptical of the thoughts that arise – debate yourself!

    Check out Christof Koch’s The Quest for Consciousness (A Neurobiological Approach) for a compelling overview of how consciousness operates on top of all the automatic “zombie” subroutines in the brain. The book mainly focuses on vision processing, which is probably the best understood part of the brain, but many of the conclusions are general.

  • Completely wrong and refuted a hundred times.

    Sorry, but this is just the same rehashing of the mind-body problem that has bugged philosophers since Descartes… its just wrapped in a frilly cyber-zen package.

    Modern epistemologists have demonstrated over and over and over that mind as ‘software’ and body as ‘hardware’ or ‘kernel’ leads inevitably to contradictions. Not to mention its inability to explain conciousness, intentional states, and comprehension.

    However, computer scientists have time and time and time again attempted to convince us that its the ‘right way’ to think about our brains. This is probably because they understand computers better than minds, and are unable to see the inherent contradictions. Its ‘close enough,’ so they roll with it.

    The truth is, we haven’t got a frigging CLUE how the mind works. We haven’t done the hard biology yet. But we do have pretty damn good evidence that there is no ‘mind-body’ problem. There is only the ‘body’ problem… because as different as it seems, the brain is just one more complex piece of the body.

    There is no you and yourself. There is only you.

    Check out Searl’s Chinese Room argument for perhaps the clearest refutation:


    Also, the Astonishing Hypothesis is a good overview of the biology of conciousness:


  • Interesting idea, but its relationship with Buddhist psychology is more tenuous than you seem to think. The “kernel space” idea makes intuitive sense for low-level stuff like your example of physical motion, but in Buddhist psychology even your “10% self” is an illusion. Buddhist psychology models more elaborate behavior as arising from entirely volitional cognition, most of which seems nonvolitional because we choose to perceive it that way. It assumes that we start by adopting a view of our experience as representing some sort of continuous “self” which needs to be protected, and then erect increasing complex defense mechanisms to solidify this sense of self, all the while believing that these defenses are being created without our explicit choice. Conflicts between behavior and intention arise in this model from intentions which threaten the imperatives served by these defense mechanisms. Because we have chosen to regard the defenses as nonvolitional, we perceive the attendent mental phenomena and behaviors as compulsive. Meditation brings attention to these defenses, allowing us to see our intentional creation of them, and the imperatives we perceive them to serve. You can read more about this in the recent anthology of Chogyam Trungpa’s psychology talks, “The Sanity We Are Born With.”

    I think you are deluding yourself with all that stuff about kernel reports, setting the kernel parameters and letting the kernel do its thing, and so forth. It sounds like materialistic, magical thinking based on a model which you will be unable to obtain experiential evidence for, and for which there is currently no evidence. (Just like NLP.) How are you going to distinguish a “kernel level activity” from simple self-deception, for instance? I think at best you might achieve a temporary resolution of some of the behavior/intention conflicts you’re struggling with, as a result of the extra attentional energy you might achieve by “browsing your thoughts at -3” as you call it. At worst, you might end up forming some really weird mental compulsions which just sap your energy further. If you’ve seriously experimented with NLP, and approached the results honestly, then you’ve already experienced this.

  • I liked this post, although I disagreed with it here and there. Mostly I’d back up what anonymous said: “There is no you and yourself. There is only you.”

    Really the mind/body conscious/unconscious dichotomy makes something firm and logical out of something that is messy and poorly understood. Unfortunately the ‘I’ we’re talking about, i.e., consciousness, does not have such a direct relationship to the ‘not-I’; and it is not an autonomous, perfectly free Cartesian observer interacting with a body or unconscious that has been compromised by experience and routinized learning. The two are interpenetrating.

    The Koch book mentioned above is a good pace to start; but so are other books from philosophy, psychology, and literary studies that have discussed this in various ways – e.g., Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, even Judith Butler. A great recent book on this is “Authority and Estrangement” by Richard Moran, a philosopher at Harvard. He gives an overview of the many arguments about the self and its claim to “authority,” versus its possible “estrangement” from the body and the rest of the mind. (He comes down very powerfully on the side of “authority.”)

    As a way of looking at the world for self-improvement purposes, I think you’re spot on, however!

  • I would suggest reading Frogs into Princes by Bandler and Grinder as an early introduction into this kind of thinking. It may be out of print but is very easy to find used.
    Interesting approach. Those struggling with addictions will find an interesting take on this at http://www.rational.org . A little primitive but useful.

  • Echoing the earlier Whitman comment, this makes me wish that CS types had more familiarity with literary history and philosophy.

    That said, the thing that makes me nervous about this sort of talk is the notion (fallacious, I think), that we can somehow stand truly aside from emotion (or limbic noise, if you prefer). To do so, and to be successful is to become less human, I think. Ultimately, you may end up where Emerson ended up, stating about his son’s death: “it does not touch me.” A creepy conclusion, I’d say.

    For what it’s worth, Emerson’s essay Experience, goes into great detail on these themes.

  • I know that you are getting a lot of really thoughtful responses. Some very positive and others not quite so. I just want to say thanks for sharing these thoughts. I found a link to your page on 43 Folders and followed it here. While reading what you wrote, I had an “Aha, so that’s why I do that” kind of moment. I don’t know that I absorbed it all, but I do know I walked away with something worthwhile. So again, thanks for sharing your thoughts with the rest of us.

  • Fascinating stuff. I’m a little surprised by how many people have posted “what you’re trying to say is [someone else’s philosophy/religion]”.

    I’d be interesting to hear how the idea works when the person’s kernel is telling them to do things like “take heroin” or “commit rape”.

    What does your mental model do for people with major malfunctions?

  • I’ve poked around on your site for a bit, and as best as I can tell, there is no contact information for you posted anywhere that’s plainly visible (an email sent to PJE@dirtsimple.org bounced back to me promptly). How might I contact you directly? Should I post my address in one of these comments, perhaps? Or would you prefer to simply forego this type of direct correspondence altogether?

  • Hmm. Read twice. I’m afraid that in about eight weeks you’ll start to feel something about this essay, and this “mind hack”. I see it now because this line of thought is very familiar to me… it’s based on a fundamental flaw, one that really bit me a lot when I was younger.

    Everything you’ve described here is *metaphor* (computer, process, kernel, etc). And there isn’t a strong foundation in philosophy or cognitive science – which is another way of saying there is no proof here for the mind once the metaphor fades away.

    All metaphor fades away. They have only a short vitality and sphere of effectiveness. They solidify and stagnate, effectively fading into the background. (Everything in this paragraph is a metaphor – describing what happens to thought in non-thought-based terms.)

    All of the design patterns and mind-hacks you mentioned, all the metaphors in this article, will eventually solidify into what’s termed “mental furniture”, which the mind will eventually both ignore and not use. Instead of being living, active things to interact with, they become ‘known’ – dead static things – as opposed to ‘knowledge’, living static things – guess which the mind likes more?

    This is where the foundation in cognitive science and philosophy is vital… to have ‘knowledge’ of yourself, not just things ‘known’, to which the mind naturally says, “I’m ready for more, something new”.

    But it’s not a dead end… Once you see this larger pattern, you’ll have a real edge into this more dynamic struggle with the mind (see ‘struggle’, there’s another metaphor… and again, only good for so long, in certain ways).

    Also I’m sure you’ve reflected on this by now – but you really could have said all of this in about 1/4 of the text you used. Just don’t be afraid to rewrite. That’s how you get from metaphor down into philosophy.

    Keep writing. All this is good work. Ignore me, see if any of the yellow flags ring true. Have a great one!

  • It is easy to admire your abstraction.

    Note that the ‘now’ that you perceive is old news to the kernal, the idea that your decisions and actions coincide is illusion.

    The notion of self, or of I, can be consider a gestalt. You ‘see’ a triangle by placing three vertices that is not really there.

    The triangle, the dominion, reflects a coherence optimum. Some call this Self, others have extended it for Family, Tribe/Villige, Nation, Gaia, God, the Universe, or Everything.

  • Some interesting stuff here. I’d come at this from another direction a few months ago, where I was postulating that a possible analogy for that other 90% was that it was a self-organizing set of inheritable subroutines. I then extended it to make the point that the subroutines were context-activated, that they “are called in an event-driven fashion based on incoming stimuli”. Of course, extending that further led to realizing that who we “are” is a function of our environment, and that by choosing our environment, we are choosing our identity, which relates to your idea that it’s all a bunch of neural-networks learning based on the stimuli it’s presented with.

    Again, it’s a metaphor, and I don’t think that it’s literally happening that way underneath. But it makes sense to me as a programmer. Still trying to figure out ways to apply it myself.

    I second the recommendations for The User Illusion and Sources of Power. I haven’t read On Intelligence or Mind Hacks yet, but they’re sitting in my pile of books.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  • The “10% of our brains” thing is a stupid urban legend, and if you remove it from the text it will read better in the future. Just FYI.

    To answer the 11:32 PM, Anonymous post…

    John Searle is an idiot. The Chinese Room argument is ridiculously flawed, and I say that as someone who knows a lot about philosophy of mind. I would go so far as to say I understands minds better than computers, and it is wrong of you to dismiss the article out of hand or cite Searle as some kind of counterargument. If you don’t have a clue how the mind works, that’s one thing. But you are you. Not “we”. Don’t speak for the group; you don’t have permission.

  • Hi PJE,

    Too many “Anonymous’s” to quote …

    Nothing new under the sun, and you say yourself the general idea is not-so-secret, having been shouted from the rooftops, but ignored for several millennia. So no-one should be surprised that many responders can provide existing alternative documented metaphors and methodologies for what you are describing.

    I think you also say that you’re not making any literal claim about two independant neural networks, just an abstraction, two rules to collect different classes of message. (That said, I for one believe that the actual physics and physiology of consciousness is a tractable problem, and its explanation will involve information theory – but I digress)

    Unfortunately with your command and control system level metaphors, for this “emotional vs rational” distinction, you blur the fact that there are many different levels of behavioural responses within different levels of conscious and subconscious awareness anyway – evolved for reasons of efficiency. Your metaphor may not hold-up to wide use, even if you find it satisfactory.

    On both these axes (control levels and response class) there is evidence of their development at different stages of both animalian (biological) and cultural / linguistic evolution.

    However, you are absolutely right I believe, that controlling the intellectual responses can be learned by Zen-like practices. Choose your favourite flavour. In fact the existence of many of the rules of rationality we would generally consider “intellectual” are really culturally evolved by the application of western scientific and religious philosophy since Plato and Aristotle. Simply recognising that fact can go a long way to being wary of when so-called intellect kicks-in over (emotional) gut-feel.

    Have you guys ever read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or the review article Zen and the Art of Programming ?

    Ian Glendinning

  • ok this is the part that excites me the most. i think the system never needs to reboot, or swap out. at least, not from a tag that tells it to. sometimes it will reboot or swap out – fall asleep, distract itself – on its own, with seemingly little or no input at all from ‘you’, but the commands never really have to be given and i find that its much more interesting if they arent. because the results of going through the system crises are unfailingly either a higher level reintegration, or a complete collapse of the system – which is actually the best thing that can ever happen. because all that collapses is the distinction between the ‘you’ and the ‘yourself’, the driver and the kernel, and it is fucking harmony and more real than anything that can be available to the i/o.

    this is whats worked for me – at a time when the system has gotten caught up feeding itself bad feelings, recall the command mode but with no objective or destination. this will lump all the objective/destination data in with the other stuff thats being piped in, and free the command mode from the trapping belief that it should do anything about how its functioning/not functioning properly (which is really just more piped data). this will work to whatever extent it will work to, and the rest of data that doesnt detach from the command mode – simply because the kernel (which is really what runs the command mode too) isnt ready to readjust this much – will just feel like lag.

    what i’ve found to be the secret here -perhaps not so secret, like you’ve said- is the sense of time. all emotions and opinions about the sense of time is data being piped in. if its not taken as real, the lag can be your best friend. in fact, it is your best friend because the lag is as direct an indication of whats going on with the kernel as the i/o can receive. when you’re in a bad place that you can’t seem to get out of, and the lag is intense, this is good, because you no longer live in regular time, the circumstances dont matter, so you have nothing to lose by not rebooting or swapping out, ever. and like ive said, ive found unfailingly that the results are either the lag intensifies then drops off on its own back into a more pleasant real-time environment, which i think means a higher level integration has just completed, or time disappears completely and so does the whole i/o, leaving only the kernel to operate like an open sky.

  • Thanks for your very intriguing essay. I am constantly on the lookout for hacks, as you call them. My most recent one involves letting go of an emotionally painful situation by reframing that circumstance and realizing that I am not grieving what actually happened, rather the memory of an event which bears surface resemblance.

    I have also quit smoking and almost magically known where to find parking in very crowded places as a result of such hacks. Well, what you call hacks I call tapping into N (the cognitive process of iNtuition as put forward by Jung and others).

    I am very curious about your command mode concept. It makes sense, but I intuit I do not yet have a fully functioning understanding of it yet, that blurry part of the process between imagination and behavior.

    Incidentally, my favorite part of your piece is how you describe hearing something so many times and not really understanding it when you think you do, *because* one has heard it so many times. I think of clarifying missed understandings as somewhat the purpose of my life (she said, grinning goofily).

  • in thailand i undertook a 10 day vipassana meditation retreat at wat koh tahm. no speaking, no writing, no eye communication with the other 50 people who were doing the retreat.. 190 hours of meditation all up.

    on day five i was having similar thoughts. my mind was a massive blue ocean and i was a submarine, wondering around looking for random thoughts to collect. i saw one in the distance, the painful memories of a prior breakup from a 6 year relationship. i had never really cleared my logs of this pain and i felt that i was in control of my system enough to attempt it.

    i pressed a few buttons on the dashboard, the submarine twisted and turned to face the rock. the rock was my pain, and there was a rope around it tied to the bottom of the ocean. i neared closer. i looked upon the panel of my mind (sorta looked like a mech warrior 2 type interface) and pressed the button for my big scissors. they were extended, and with the press of another button i snipped that rope and sent the rock floating away.

    when i opened my eyes from that hour of sitting meditation, i had made some deep changes to my inner being. from that moment on i have not felt that old pain. three years later, i forget what that pain even felt like.

    the 10% analogy is false. some people know this but the way we use our brain is in bits here and there. we actually use all parts of the brain, but we just use different parts of it at different times and in varying amounts.

    anyway, my point is that with deep meditation you can start poking around in /proc.i think this is the reason most zen/buddhist type belief systems incorporate meditation. either on a daily basis (for a stronger understanding of the kernel) or for a once off (ten days), intensive look at what really is under the hood.

  • A very interesting way to see the whole subject, Philip.

    Eckhart Tolle in “The Power of Now” has a most interesting description of his experience suddenly realising his duality. I reproduce it below:

    “I have little use for the past and rarely think about it; however, I would briefly like to tell you how I came to be a spiritual teacher and how this book came into existence.
    Until my thirtieth year, I lived in a state of almost continuous anxiety interspersed with periods of suicidal depression. It feels now as if I am talking about some past lifetime or somebody else’s life.
    One night not long after my twenty-ninth birthday, I woke up in the early hours with a feeling of absolute dread. I had woken up with such a feeling many times before, but this time it was more intense than it had ever been. The silence of the night, the vague outlines of the furniture in the dark room, the distant noise of a passing train — everything felt so alien, so hostile, and so utterly meaningless that it created in me a deep loathing of the world. The most loathsome thing of all, however, was my own existence. What was the point in continuing to live with this burden of misery? Why carry on with this continuous struggle? I could feel that a deep longing for annihilation, for nonexistence, was now becoming much stronger than the instinctive desire to continue to live.
    “I cannot live with myself any longer.” This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self that ‘I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.”
    I was so stunned by this strange realization that my mind stopped. I was fully conscious, but there were no more thoughts. Then I felt drawn into what seemed like a vortex of energy. It was a slow movement at first and then accelerated. I was gripped by an intense fear, and my body started to shake. I heard the words “resist nothing,” as if spoken inside my chest. I could feel myself being sucked into a void. It felt as if the void was inside myself rather than outside. Suddenly, there was no more fear, and I let myself fall into that void. I have no recollection of what happened after that.
    I was awakened by the chirping of a bird outside the window. I had never heard such a sound before. My eyes were still closed, and I saw the image of a precious diamond. Yes, if a diamond could make a sound, this is what it would be like. I opened my eyes. The first light of dawn was filtering through the curtains. Without any thought, I felt, I knew, that there is infinitely more to light than we realize. That soft luminosity filtering through the curtains was love itself. Tears came into my eyes. I got up and walked around the room. I recognized the room, and yet I knew that I had never truly seen it before. Everything was fresh and pristine, as if it had just come into existence. I picked up things, a pencil, an empty bottle, marveling at the beauty and aliveness of it all.
    That day I walked around the city in utter amazement at the miracle of life on earth, as if I had just been born into this world.
    For the next five months, I lived in a state of uninterrupted deep peace and bliss. After that, it diminished somewhat in intensity, or perhaps it just seemed to because it became my natural state. I could still function in the world, although I realized that nothing I ever did could possibly add anything to what I already had.
    I knew, of course, that something profoundly significant had happened to me, but I didn’t understand it at all. It wasn’t until several years later, after I had read spiritual texts and spent time with spiritual teachers, that I realized that what everybody was looking for had already happened to me. I understood that the intense pressure of suffering that night must have forced my consciousness to withdraw from its identification with the unhappy and deeply fearful self, which is ultimately a fiction of the mind. This withdrawal must have been so complete that this false, suffering self immediately collapsed, just as if a plug had been pulled out of an inflatable toy. What was left then was my true nature as the ever-present J am: consciousness in its pure state prior to identification with form. Later I also learned to go into that inner timeless and deathless realm that I had originally perceived as a void and remain fully conscious. I dwelt in states of such indescribable bliss and sacredness that even the original experience I just described pales in comparison. A time came when, for a while, I was left with nothing on the physical plane. I had no relationships, no job, no home, no socially defined identity. I spent almost two years sitting on park benches in a state of the most intense joy.”

  • This concept may explain people like “Rathma” who seem to be able to channel additional personalities from within themselves. I don’t really believe that Rathma is a 3000 year old warrior. But I do believe that the woman who channels him maintains a duel personality (multiple operating system). While the whole Rathma thing is kind of crazy, I do think it would be cool if we could harness this ability to run duel operation systems like she does. One of us could go to med school while the other has a social life and gets to party. Can we now learn to run additional programs in the background that put better use to our wasted brain cycles? Can we do it without creating a split personality? If not, can we create a split personality that is cooperative rather than psychotic? I want to know!

  • I am sorry to request more work from you but this seems essential: a bibliography.

    It is very obvious that the application of what you explain here requires much more depth to truly apply it fully than just your words alone. You referenced many influences for particular ideas you had. Could you make a more thorough list?

  • I have to agree with cyphunk… a bibliography would be very interesting. Lots of convergant perspectives might appear (Tor Norretranders writes from the biological perspective to try to understand “The User Illusion“, for example, while others prefer the Zen). Of course it isn’t me that requests it, but the late-comer-to-the-party that is my consciousness… 😉

  • Your article reminded me of the theory of triune brain. A lot of what you describe is compatable with the theory:

    In 1973, Paul MacLean, senior research scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health proposed that the brain is made up of three distinct subdivisions corresponding to three consecutive evolutionary eras; the reptilian, the limbic and the neocortical.

    Neuroscientists point out that the brain does not function as a collection of separate functional units but rather as a set of interlaced networks which evolve in intimate connection with each other.

    Each one of these evolutionary stages is represented in a neural network which has its own, separate function and which is capable of inhibiting and stimulating the other two.

    Full text:


  • Interesting Stuff. One thing that’s been on my mind recently which relates to your thoughts; There are no such things as things existing alone, there are only things existing in relation to other things. We would not know black if there was not white. We would not percieve a self if there was no “everything else but the self”. So the self is only an abstraction that we make arbitrarily, although a very important one for us. We are as much the entire universe as we are ourself. So while your article goes far in exploring the nature of our experience of awareness and self awareness, it discounts much.

  • enormously interesting. I’m very aware that I’m a slave to thoughts and emotions that aren’t under my control at all, and I’ve been thinking for some time about ways to change this order of things. Your operating system analogy points out a lot of potentially useful concepts.

    the brain is a self balancing system though. When we start affecting its metaprogramming, ie writing new “scripts” for it, we better be doing the right thing. What if we write incorrect scripts based on false conclusions and misconceptions? I guess a bit of care is in order.

    – Johan N-P

  • Another great source of hacks and other self-tweaking is “Double Your Dating” by David DeAngelo. His DYD vid starts with the triune brain and evolutionary psychology to explain that the unconcious is indeed much in control of especially (most) female humans.

    Then the vid (and later vids) go about how to tweak yourself to make yourself think and function more like an attractive male. This is the most important part of his method, the other parts are about how to put yourself into the input stream of others (females.)

    Another, smaller, part of the method is getting her to link the input “that guy” (you) with tags that make her feel like “interfacing” with you on multiple level (hur, geddit?). In other words, you’re doing a lot of talking to her emotional or even reptilian brain directly. Bypassing the rational conciousness and trying to trigger her in-built scripts put there by natural selection using tags that are attached to the input she has of you.

    Ok, I’m starting to repeat myself because I’m too lazy to iterate this post and you’ll get what I want to say even if I say it twice right? Anyway, even though the hacks in DYD are focused on creating a system that attracts females, the method of reaching those goals can be used to reach other goals.

    An example, why are nerds unattractive? Most of it is because they live in disharmony with their emotional brain. This conflict between the brains is picked up by the perceptions of females by watching our body language. Do nerds have bad body language? Yes they do, even males can see that. They might try to talk a girl into liking them using logic but that doesn’t work. It’s the emotional brain, the built-in systems that you have to “talk” to. “Jocks” just let their built-in systems interface with the female’s built-in system and the age old dance begins. Nerds have blocked off that part of their brains too much in search of logical knowledge I guess.

    Here I go again, just writing what pops into my head. Forgive my lazyness but I’m not editing 🙂

    The advantage that us “intellectuals” have is that we have spent a lot of time ignoring, fighting or controlling our hardwired systems and we made our rational brain stronger that way (my personal theory).

    If you have the knowledge about brains and you can implement that knowledge to function in harmony with your emotional and reptilian systems, then you’re operating on a higher level than the “jocks” that have their locus of control mostly in their emotional systems. You can do that AND have the additional advantage of logic and prediction.

    So I recommend David DeAngelo. You can probably get his stuff for free but if you have the resources, please buy his stuff, he’s one of the good guys.

    David DeAngelo’s method is based mainly on the evolutionary psychology angle and “getting more bees with honey”. There are other guys doing the “getting laid as much as you want” thing like Ross Jeffries “Speed Seduction” which is based more on nurture psychology and putting “frames” in her head (make her tag your input favourably).

    I haven’t read/seen Mystery with his “Mystery Method” but he seems to be good at it as well. From what I’ve seen, he stands somewhere inbetween both methods.

    What better way to self-improvement that to test the results with the selection mechanisms of the females you meet? Body language is a good indicator of tri-brain integration in my experience. You’ll need to get the hang of this stuff anyway otherwise your genome will vanish so why not start with it? It was good fun for me and a great incentive.

    If you’re after the pure bliss feeling of triune brain cooperation, the seduction stuff is a big part of it because it’s such a big part of your in-built subroutines.

    Good luck, we need more smart people.

  • I enjoyed the entry, and Christopher’s response.

    And to both:

    First point: Destruction of all foreign(not of your own mind’s creation) metaphors and “anti-gravity” metaphors are to be discarded. Once this has been done, awareness will be left emtpy. The machine will automatically begin to rebuild meaning, identity etc., but it will be forced to look else where for inspiration. Ultimately, it will discover that reality is a metaphor for the mind, and the mind is a metaphor for reality. This is what I call the reflective truth. It’s based on if/then. If reality is that way, then that means that my mind is this way. And vice versa. These understandings only seem to come in at random times. I’m 22, maybe their rate will increase.

    Once this has been accomplished though, the mind begins to build a muscle for those understandings, and it will then build metaphors on the fly, but those things are more like the mental furniture.(Chicks seem to dig ’em though.)

    The trick then, according to my interpretation of Greek Stoicism, is impassive awareness, lacking impetus, which allows the mind to see reality uncluttered of mental furniture, and make decisions based upon the “metaphor” of reality, also known as the ultimate “if/then” lesson. Getting to that point, for me, was through extremly powerful nihilism. (AS a process, not as a state of living, which would be impossible). I wouldn’t recommend delving into such a path unless the student is ready, ( ; ) As it can totally screw up your life as you know it now. And by totally, I mean to-tal-ity.

    I can give a few specific examples to open your eyes: You’re always in the “right” car. Actions speak louder than words. The clothes make the man. (That one is disputable).

    Once the “unconcious/subconcious” mind, which I like to call “the flow”, begins to understand this way (which it learns to do once nihilism has been reached, the ultimate if/then lesson), The flow will “know” or want to “know” why such and such took place, based on factual evidence/empirical based reasoning. More awareness = more accurate answers.

    To my knowledge, the only way to escape this is through caking junk onto the awareness zone.
    This then precipitates another reflection of reality, slightly more deeper, that of the pattern of creation/destruction.

    One then begins to create junk, then destroy junk, then see clearly, then repeat the process. But because the bigger if/then lesson has been learned (I know I’m changing levels around now) the creation junk, called dogmas, are less powerful, making them easier to destroy, thus leading to habit control. At which point I find that the aphorism “the path of excess leads to the temple of wisdom” rings especially true.

    For the real straight buisness, read “Total Freedom”.

    I know it was inconsistent, but I think one can catch my drift if they want to. I’ve found that really the only way to have someone realize these things, and not just know of them intellectually, is through koan-speak, but I still try.

    Now for the test: How many metaphors did I use to explain metaphors about metaphors using only metaphors, I.E. words?

  • I found your post to be quite interesting! Thanks for writing it. One of the most interesting things is that you seem to think your concept is Zen (and it is in some ways), but it is also Christian!

    I bet you didn’t know that.

    Sure, the apostle Paul said a long time ago…

    I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. — Romans 7:15

    You have termed the two selves as “you” and “yourself” but Paul called them the “mind” and the “flesh.”

    I think it’s always important to remember that the realm of our thinking is as you say only 10% of what makes up our entire existence but someday, when the body passes away, that realm of self-awareness will be released to become all it can be.

    Thanks for helping this pastor think just a little bit more about this important topic.

  • I’ve followed this sentiment myself for many years to their logical conclusions. You do realize ironic implications of newly discovered capabilities. Ironically most systems that arrive at good concusions involve conflict. What I call the logical mind and emotional mind are constantly fighting and when they are in harmony you achieve the highest level of “happiness”.

    However the smarter you are the better you are at manipulating the inputs to your own purposes. People who try to harmonize by letting their emotional conclusions rule are what I call “post-justifiers”. They reach their emotional conclusion and then fabricate a framework to appear as though the conclusion was logically arrived at. Hoever the cart came before the horse.

    On the other side are the people who get good at manipulating their emotions based on their logic. They communicate to themselves using really good emotional hacks to harmonize with their logical conclusions.

    Oddly enough the emotional mind has history behind it. The emotional mind is the one whose knee-jerk lessons are burned into your genes. Your “logical” mind is much more geared towards what you’ve learned.

    The emotional mind works out of the box but can be made much, much better. The logical mind can make some great jumps ahead. However the logical mind is very garbage in garbage out.

    If the logical mind thinks it has good reasons for something and you are adept at harmonizing the emotional mind you can do some really amazing and stupid things.

    Logical conclusions are based on the postulates they use to populate their framework. Garbage in – grabge out. You may question everything but in the end you have some assumptions that feed the framework. And sometimes they are wrong.

    I could get much more done if I slept 4 hours a day. This can be made to seem logical. If you speak to your emotional mind with the proper symbolism it can be convinced of this fact. But in this respect it knew best to begin with. It wants you to sleep a solid 8 because of thousands upon thousands of years of good data.

    So even though it isn’t always nirvana – the conflicts in your mind should be equalized and harmonized. Sometimes your emotional mind is right and sometimes your logical mind is. You just need to make sure and take the steps to allow the right one to prevail and bring them together.

    If you blindly allow logic to win you will find out why some emotional elements evolved in the first place.

    Great examples include:

    If I wasn’t bothered by social interactions I’d be much more productive (invariably you are “lonely” for good common sense reasons)

    If I could do as I pleased I would be better off (the prisoner’s dilemna is true and your built in altruism is selfish no matter how pure it seems – stick with it.)

    Emotions are old school baggage and things would work better without them (you are an animal at the core – love it because you can’t leave it).


    Steve Riley
    A Programmer’s Perspective

  • This is one heck of a cool article!
    I have read some books and many article on this topic of “conscious, unconscious and subconscious mind” but this article puts it so articulately.

    I recently read an article by a professor who says “why management as a skill can not be taught and elaborate class room based bookish knowledge is not very beneficial in teaching how to manage real world situation.

    Hopefully both these two streams can be joined (snapped in) to develop managerial skills!

    I only wish the writer develops some exercises and add-on ‘tags’.

  • This was an interesting read, but the allegory was a little outside my area of expertise. What interested me is that I have recently come up with something very similar in dealing with problems with self-doubt, worry, anxiety, etc. These things seem to just start running. I have assumed responsiblity for them. Basically that means that only I can arrest them, confront them, etc. 99% of the time there is no need for a new script. The point is to just interrupt the thing that starts to run out of control. To identify early in its process. There’s no point in trying to make this process fit any computer science analogy or theory about the brain. That’s irrelevant. The point is to identify and to just stop it. Most of this stuff dates to childhood self-preservation skills which don’t need to be thoroughly understood. They just need to stop running. The replacement script will come naturally, most of the time it amounts to just have some peace of mind for once and for all. So it’s about confronting neurosis and knowing that you have the ability to successfully change the course of the mind.

  • This was the most enlightening article I have ever read on subcoscious/”just do it”/all that. I finally not only understood it, but fundamentally accepted it. I imagine Me – active, clever, chatty – as a small, lean creature that walks hand-in-hand with this big, dull, friendly beast that is Myself. I finally understand how I can be so profoundly intellligent and lazy at the same time. I just have not been training my beast, since until now, I thought that I should be able to just command my beast and always felt bad because it did not work. I finally understand! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  • In the article "The Multiple Self" Phillip speaks of working towards "a kind of catalog of "design patterns"" meant to interrupt unfavorable habbitual reactions. Has such a compilation come into being? If so, please let us know. The design pattern and the intended "fix".

  • "Now imagine that this person has never seen a radio before, and thinks that the radio is talking to him or her directly. That is, he or she thinks the announcer is talking to him, all the singers are singing to her, etc. For example, when the radio plays the song "You're So Vain", our imaginary person thinks the song really is about him!

    This is almost as bad as the situation the rest of us are in, but not quite."

    Good example, however, it is skirting really close to a pretty accurate description of Psychosis. Not something I see as preferable to maintaining the mass-shared delusion.

    All in all though, thanks for the post!

  • This sounds a lot like the perspective I view life from when I take mushrooms. I don't really follow most of the computer analogies though… laymen's terms please!!!

  • There is material in here for a science fiction story in which a person becomes the entire brain, being able to use the parallelism and the ability to run in kernel mode to his advantage. But the mere thought of killing himself would actually make it, thought…

  • I fully believe we humans act like the animals we are 99% of the time. That wee prefrontal cortex that we think makes us "better" than the animals is so sparingly used it's embarrassing. We use our limbic (emotional) brain for most decisions even when we think we're using intellect–as you pointed out, we do what we do and make "logical" reasons for it later. The funniest part, we believe our own PR about how great it was "we" decided to do it.

    I got a little lost with the programming analogy as I don't know what much of it means. I got the gist if it, but a more layman's vernacular would have helped.



Stay In Touch

Follow our feeds or subscribe to get new articles by email on these topics:

  • RSS
  • RSS
  • RSS


Get Unstuck, FAST

Cover photo of "A Minute To Unlimit You" by PJ Eby
Skip to toolbar