Disclaimer; this blog is still in process. The fundamentals of the article are there, however the structure of the article is not in place yet. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.
Imagine you are a baby a few hours after birth. The moment you came in the world you were handled, washed, cuddled, and ended up alone in your crib. Until this moment a baby might not have a conscious self. It was one with nature, coming from a natural process where he was just a part from the environment. In the first hours after birth, a baby doesn’t have the power to control or change anything in his world. But something doesn’t feel right for this baby when he is lying there alone in his crib. The environment becomes colder and colder. The baby wants to get warm. Does he have control over his body warmth or is he merely a product where the body temperature slowly escapes his body like the laws of thermodynamics depict, causing him to die slowly? While the baby lies there, it has no clue that anything he will do, will help him in this situation. The baby never had any feedback from the external environment that helped him with his goals. So as a baby, you move your extremities in the thin air but receive no feedback. You can’t grab on to something. You pee your pants, this provides you some warmth, but not soon after that, it gives you even more cold and the heat is continuing to escape your body. You try anything, but nothing works. Then, out of pure desperation you start to cry, instinctively, hoping for any feedback. Within a few seconds, a shape appears in your eyesight. It grabs you, and you are feeling heat flow into your body. Your first moment of effective feedback in this world. You are astonished, you caused something to happen that coheres with the thing you want, you are in control of something.
When we cause something to happen in the world, we feel like we are in control. However, I believe this is merely an illusion.
The most interesting from a baby who cries to avoid coldness, is the fact that it does something out of his own initiative. A lifeless doll will just get cold and be “one” with the environment. But there is an inherent thing that makes the baby want to live. From the start the baby has some setpoints to regain homeostasis inside his own body. He therefore focuses on getting warm and tries everything to get warm, where crying seems to be the best solution. Focus seems to be a result of setpoints which aren’t in order; once you feel pain, you focus on solutions to reduce the pain, Once you feel cold, you focus on solutions to get warm. But on what should you focus to get warm, as a baby? Firstly, a baby might move his limbs trying to get warmer. He touches the sides of the crib and he hears sounds as a feedback. He got feedback, but it didn’t make him warmer. Then he cries, he got picked up, and feels warmer; problem solved. But in between the steps of crying, and getting warmer, there were a lot of steps from the moms perspective. She identified the problem, got a blanket, picked the baby up, and cuddled the baby. These steps were mostly ignored by the baby. Therefore, the baby might still cry when he is being picked up. Because picking up does not solve the problem for the baby itself. We feel that the baby is quite stupid here, he is unable to imagine that these sub-steps are necessary for the problem to be solved. But in daily life adults show these same stupid characteristics too. We want nice buildings next to our house, but we don’t want the noise of building them. We want free healthcare, but we don’t want to pay that many taxes to make us have it. As stupid as we are, we forget/ignore/despise the steps that are necessary for the outcome we desire evoking irritation with the other party we are working with.
The multilevel process of things
So when something leads to the other, there are some steps in between the process. But when I ask you; what causes food to come out as poop within your body? You could say your digestive system. That is true, but what is that is that more detailed? Well, my mouth, stomach, liver, pancreas, and colons digest my food. That is true, but what causes your mouth to digest the food? Well in my mouth, my tongue, teeth, saliva, and jaws are crushing my sandwich, in my stomach my stomach acids, the contractions, and so on, and so on. Also, right answer. There were over a million things that helped causing your food to digest. You only described broadly what happened in your mouth even though your mouth is a very complex environment. The digestive system and almost every system have numerous levels that all contribute to a cause. But the weird thing is, that only the smallest levels actually do anything, the larger systems like your mouth, is just a concept to make things comprehensible. Thus you could say that your digestive system does not really exist, but it is a concept of a system of multiple parts working together doing one thing. There is no central coördinator that tells your body what to do with the food. The enzymes in your mouth, the acids in your stomach, and the bacteria in your colons all direct their own “activities”. But what does this have to do with the baby? Well, as do we, the baby ignores the smallest steps in between the processes and finds a linear pattern across the steps. We also say; food -> digestive system -> poop. Our focus is on a certain level of specificity. specialists focus on the smallest levels and their interactions, while generalists focus on the broader concepts and their interactions with each other. Both have their advantages. From a few details, you might be able to extract the larger pattern of a (sub)system and make generalizations for that system. This is exactly what Pavlov’s dog does. From a single small detail (the ringing bell), the dog made generalizations of a larger pattern (getting food).
From details to patterns
Like the Pavlovian dog, we often ignore many details and just focus on the patterns we have seen before. When you buy a TV, you expect that it could show all your favorite channels. When you pick up an apple, you don’t worry about whether it will taste like an apple. But a baby might need to eat an apple a few times before he is sure that apples have an apple-taste. More precisely, baby’s will taste apples in terms of sweetness and sourness and don’t have a concept of “apple-taste”. We can also taste the sweetness, but we need to go back from the pattern of “apple-taste” to the details of the exact taste, which is sometimes hard to do. But we can also go up and up with our concepts (towards generalized patterns), but we can also go down, back to the details. Baby’s can often only go up because they have no concepts yet.
Details and patterns over time
This same process happens also over time. When we experience something, we can only start from small details and make generalizations from there. Things need to start with something. Once you hear the doorbell ringing, you make the generalization that there is someone at the door waiting for you. But are you sure? And does this also work the other way around? Can you think (without knowing any other detail) that there is someone at the door, and therefore you can hear the doorbell ringing? I think not, but I do think that when you expect someone at a certain time to be at your door (which is also a detail), we are more likely to “hear” the doorbell when it’s actually a different sound (this is related to priming in psychology).
Finding coherence in patterns
Once you have concept, a pattern in your mind of something, you’d like to confirm that with reality. Once you cry as a baby, you’d like that your crying coheres with the action of being cuddled. However, if your mom wants you to notify her “in between” steps, but you ignore them, she might get frustrated (M: Why are you still crying although I already picked you up? B: Well, I’m not warm yet!). Imagine that you are a baby, you want to get warm and you can do one action every second. You can either cry (1) or stay quiet (0). If you are really cold, you will do this “1111” for the next 4 actions. At the same time, you have the mom who wants to help the baby and make it stop crying by cuddling. But she has one action delay (0), then she needs to make a decision (0), then she needs to pick the baby up (0), and then she can start cuddling (1) making a pattern of “0001” (from the baby’s perspective). So the baby will cry for at least 3 actions. From a baby’s perspective the sequence of the mother would be “0001” even though the mother actually made 3 different actions to help the baby (also 0111). A more comprehensive baby would understand that she did every (other) action to help him. The baby should get more into the details of the mothers’ behavior to understand her actions and find a pattern. The fact that the mother enters into the eyesight of the baby should indicate that he will be warm in a few seconds, and thus there is no need to cry anymore. But some baby’s lack this ability of reasoning, they don’t comprehend that these details (of showing up and picking up) lead to a re-occurring pattern of warmth. You could imagine this as if mothers can act with a higher frequencies (let’s say two actions within a second), while baby’s can only act once a second. So the baby aggregates the behavior of his mom to helping or not helping, because he can’t think that frequently and does not recognize the variation of behavior. A baby thinks in simple “yes” or “no”, while adults have varying patterns that say “yes” together, but do not show “yes” directly at each step. For example, the decision making on how to make a baby warm most efficiently, will be judged as; “you are not helping me directly”. There are some analogies here to politics and long-term decision making by the way. When people are in the same depth, same level of communication, there is better coherency. If you are in the same level of specificity there is no need to aggregate behavior. You could see two experienced salsa-partners as being in the same “depth” with each other. They know what to expect from each other, and why they do unexpected things that ultimately lead to amazing dance moves. Baby’s and parents just don’t exactly cohere all the time with their thoughts.
Old material: Maybe for total different blog?
Well, you could question whether it was the baby who controlled the event or whether it was the mother who chose to look at her baby. You could question if the event (of the mother present at the time of the cry) wasn’t coincidentally occurring. And you could question whether the “instinct” to cry, leaves any causation for the baby to have. Did he choose to cry or was this just a product of evolution? Well, I believe, there is no causation ever. I believe everything is a chain and only through a focus we can achieve feedback on the things we focus on. With the loops of action and perception we distinct ourselves from nature creating consciousness, trying to separate us from nature. In this blog, I will argue why I feel this way.
Syncing with layers
People get frustrated when you talk on different layers.
So whether you are in the same layer when communicating, might determine the quality of the communication. For example, you say “I think love is very important”, because you think that love determines everything you do in life, and your conversation partner agrees, and thinks that love is important to have better sex, you both agree with each other, but you don’t agree on the same thing. You’re talking on a deeper level of “love” than your conversation partner does.
We have to realize that when we think about causality, we focus on a certain level of specificity. If the questioner asks a short description of the digestive system, we answer accordingly with a general description. So questions themselves form what we think of as causation. A question about causation isolates a certain level of specificity. Nevertheless, each system has numerous levels interacting with each other. Secondly, questions about causation isolate a certain time frame. Like what caused you to eat breakfast, could also be answered in different ways which are all true. Namely, I was hungry this morning what caused you to eat breakfast (your reason from today), I always eat breakfast in the morning (your habit over the past years), your existence caused you to eat breakfast (since birth), there is a humanity (about 40.000 years ago), there is a universe (about 13 billions years), which all caused you to eat breakfast eventually. Without any of these “causes”, you would never have eaten breakfast. So if someone asks you; why do you love her? And you answer; well, because there is a universe, you are weirdly correct. Thirdly, causation is about distilling the main cause (this one is closely connected to the first two, but slightly different). When someone asks you why did you eat breakfast? You might answer; because I was hungry. But in fact, there are always multiple reasons for eating breakfast that determine whether you eat breakfast even though you don’t consider them as primary reasons. Like the fact of having groceries, if you have time to eat breakfast, the events later that day, and so on. A complex algorithm containing several (constant) reasons (where coupling and transitions play a large role) cause something to happen. Moreover, most of the time we ignore the constant variables in our lives that determine a huge deal of our reasoning and behavior (and wrote a blog about that). But when we want to say this causes that, we need to distill the “main” cause and focus on that. Distilling the main causes for something to happen needs a focus. So when we talk about causation, we need to keep in mind the three concepts; specificity, time-frame, and distilling the main cause. Nevertheless, these three concepts are heavily connected to each other but each a little bit different. These three concepts all have something to do with focus. Namely, specificity is a focus on certain “appropriate” level, time-frame is a focus on a certain time period, and the distilling the main cause within a time-frame also requires focus on the primary reason. So in the end, causation seems to be a focus coming together on different levels; specificity, time, and main cause.
Feedback and coherent patterns
But let’s go back to that arbitrary place in time, where the baby wanted to get warm. This moment was point zero in time (for this baby), a singular point of reason (distilled on temperature), and on the appropriate level; a general description of perception and action within human baby’s. At that time, the baby needs to do something to become warmer. Let’s say that when the baby does something to change the temperature is “1”, and doing nothing is “0”. One action is moving its joints for example. So the baby try’s to get warm by moving his joints once in a while, for example; 01001010. The baby receives no coherent feedback from its environment that solves anything. His mother is a separate time frame (which will form feedback later) that just looks occasionally at the crib with the sequence 0010010. The sequences (from the baby) 01001010 and (the mother) 0010010 don’t cohere with each other, there is no correlation between the two sequences. But now the baby tries to cry and finds a coherent pattern in his environment! For crying the sequences could be 01111111 for the baby, and 01111111 for the mom. You can see here that the sequences are similar. Mom warms the baby up by picking him up whenever the baby is crying, making the baby and the mom sequences coupled together. The succes of the feedback is very important to sustain the coupling, when the baby cries he should always get warmer, otherwise he will stop crying and try something else. But overall; when coupled, the baby feels control because of the coupling itself. His crying made him warmer. The baby might not be aware of all the steps between his actions and the appropriate responses, just like you are not aware of all the steps there are when you turn on the car, but you do recognize it when your car doesn’t start. For the baby, his crying made him warmer (even though it was indirectly). As a cause of his actions, a similar pattern emerged into the world that had the warranted effect giving an appropriate “echo”. The things the baby desired came true, even though the steps between his actions and responses were quite a few. We all ignore the steps in between our actions and feedback most of the time. We expect our car to start, our messages to be read, and our words to be understood. Along the line of time we expect our messages like “01001010” to be translated across different forms of energy and successfully be returned to us. Just like the bizarre event of ordering a package from China, it almost never fails. With every coupling, or feedback, we create loops. Loops are about sending something and getting something in return, albeit in different forms of energy. We can knock on wood and hear the kinetic energy of the knock coming back through sound energy in our ears. While causation seems to be one way, we do keep in mind the appropriate feedback of our action, a knock on the wood in the Netherlands will not give birth to birds in India, even though these events happened at the same time.
The link to consciousness
But the only one who could receive feedback from the patterns being send into the world, is you. Your message, your cry, and your words will disappear into the soup of information of our universe when no one listens. You would be just one with nature if you were unable to receive feedback. Someone should be there with a focus on that particular event, in that point of time, looking at the appropriate level. Like everyday you will stand there, yelling across the street, while billions of noises have pasted before you in that street, and billions of noises rise at the same time all over the world on all scales, while no one has a clue to filter on that appropriate frequency. Why would anyone listen? Well, we listen because we are there at that time, because we are human well-adjusted to these frequencies, and keen on listening to patterns which we can understand, like the yell for “Help!”. While a cat will ignore you completely; adjusted to different frequencies, focused on different messages, on different levels. You as a human, have a focus on other humans. With your focus, you can zoom into specific events, be in this time-frame, select the appropriate level and determine the causes within this event. So maybe causation and thus focus, is fundamentally linked to human consciousness. At the birth of a baby, the time-frame of this child is of absolute zero, where consciousness arises. From this point forward, the baby can focus on events, and can zoom into on levels that are in correspondence to his environment. Maybe, then consciousness is the ability to be in a time-frame in time, to focus on a particular event at the appropriate level. Well, we believe that we become conscious from the day we are born (approximately). Our time-frame starts with the day we open our eyes. Secondly, our ability to focus might depict consciousness. Focus is the ability to zoom into something while being aware of the bigger picture, what I also call the reference frame (in this blog). A focus depicts the distinction between the one thing you focus on, and the other (or several) things you don’t want to focus on (from larger scales to similar objects or events). So focus by itself is decoupling events from one another. This is quite some power, and might make us human. How do we determine to focus on the (sequential) responses of our mother and not on the noises of the cracking wood of the crib? Well, maybe because our mother helps us solve our problems and does more than just cohering with our inner sequences (duh). But our problems also require a focus, if we don’t focus on them, are the problems there?
Life seems to come with a need to determine causation, a focus, and thus a distinction from things we call nature. We are born with an internal sequence that is our reference-frame, aka the set points of our system (like the temperatures we desire in our crib or the amount of darkness when we want to sleep). Through the sensory input of our body we can detect the external environment and process this in our brain. As follows, we will change behavior or change our minds to get us closer to the desired set point (homeostasis). Sometimes we can do this directly by wearing more clothes when we feel cold, sometimes we need or mom and just start to cry, and sometimes we try to change our mind to think differently about cold (what I tried to do). The ability to choose between these options is maybe what makes us conscious, this requires a focus and a mindset. Do we adapt to the sequences in our environment, or do we try to strengthen our own sequence to acquire full control across our environment? Do we search for an environment where we can control? Or do we find a balance somewhere between adaptation and robustness where we can thrive? But somewhere, deep within us, there is something that is trying to find the right environment for ourselves. Something that makes us want to live, an inner sequence, a set point, that makes us, us.
Some things for further thinking:
– How does our “inner sequence” emerge? What is the causation in this?
– The relation between sensory input and consciousness
– How do we handle delay in feedback?
– How do we focus?
– The difference between causing things to happen in lifeless objects and in things with inherent rhythms (like animals)
– The relation between instincts, genomics, and the self