Cognition – Reason – Tools

by pre., Friday, November 20th, 2009.

In the the first part of this lap we listed some basic reasoning skills which are used in various combinations to give human beings the underused power of reason.

Developing these is certainly a useful thing to do and it will help you to reason more quickly, better, faster, and more accurately. However these skills are just the beginning of reason. Their powers have enabled us, as a species, to invent yet more systems to help push reason further.

Mental Tools

For example, you have already been using the loki system and the peg system to help improve your memory. That, in turn, will help you to reason as you juggle more symbols around in your mind at once.

The meditation, hypnosis and auto-suggestion which you have been using to concentrate your mind’s own learning power on it’s own function are also useful tools to help you to think more clearly, to help you to bend your mind towards reason.

Reason draws on any metaphor and system it can to try and grasp the reality which your brain models. The more abstract reasoning systems you can study the better your reasoning ability will become.

Some of the best tools which can be learned include Boolean Logic, graphing and algebra. Mathematics in general has a whole host of techniques and statistical methods which will help you to understand an issue. All these things can help you to think more clearly.

As well giving your mind an understanding of plenty of different reasoning systems, it has to be worth spending some time studying common reasoning errors. A catalogue of logical fallacies exists, and reading it, understanding it, will certainly improve your reasoning.

The tools of science need not be confined to professional scientists. The reasoning power leveraged by the scientific method has produced stunning results for culture as a whole. It can provide similar benefits outside the lab. Empiricism, Scepticism, and Occam’s Razor are just three of the priceless mental tools which the Scientific Understanding can give and of course a grasp of the subject of science, the best scientific models of the world itself, will help keep your reason grounded in reality.

External Tools

Not all tools to help your reason are abstract thinking systems you need to practice enough to load into your brain. Some are literal, physical, items. The simplest perhaps being simply counting on your fingers.

Just above that, one of the first and still best developed is the good old fashioned pencil and notepad. Ah, how much easier a crossword is when you can write the answers down, now much easier an engineering design is with a few ideas literally sketched out.

Just the simple ability to write opens up more tools for improving reason. Lists alone will help you in many ways: checkists, todolists, pro-and-con lists. All good tools for thinking.

A pencil and paper also enable you to visualise data, draw graphs and charts and mind-maps to help to grasp a subject.

From this tool also grew books, libraries, the sharing of knowledge. If you want to better understand a topic there are likely a dozen different books you can read on that topic. Why waste that opportunity? Read, read, and read. The more you read, the better your reasoning will become.

As technology improves it brings with it yet more tools which can help the way we think. The common desktop calculator can do in mere seconds the kinds of calculations which took hours with a pen and paper or abacus and would have been literally impossible to manage in just a single brain without even literacy.

The calculator in turn is just a tiny hint of the power you can get by using computers to properly aid your thoughts, you reasoning. A spreadsheet program is like having a dozen calculators, most of them automatic. A database can help you store and retrieve millions of records at the push of a button. The internet puts essentially the entire world’s best (and worst) knowledge at your fingertips.

Surely yet more tools for enabling new ways of thinking will be produced as the march of technology continues apace, but the main thing is to not see “thinking” as something that just happens in your head. You can think on your fingers, in your notebook, on your computer screen. Expanding your mind skills is certainly a part of becoming more transcended, but teaching your brain how best to use all the tools available will make you better faster.

Two heads are better than one

More powerful even than the fastest computer, the other people in your life are one of the best tools for reasoning you will ever have. Just talking an issue over with a friend can help you both to understand it. Debate, dialogue and argument are some of the best tools humans have ever found for achieving consensus and striving to understand. Make good friends, canvas opinions when you’re unsure.

All these tools are helpful, do not try and restrict your thinking to just using a single brain, use all the tools you have available. Metal tools, yes, maths and science of course, but also physical tools, computing devices, friends and language and family. All these tools together will bring your clearest reason to the fore.

Cognition – Reason – Dream Reason

by pre., Friday, November 27th, 2009.

It’s the end of the month so, as usual, we have a new guided meditation for you. We continue the theme, this lap, of designing our meditation to be performed from within a lucid dream. You should set it as an alarm-clock to start ten minutes or so before you have to get up, and with luck it’ll wake you just enough to realize what’s happening without breaking the dream state.

In this lucid dream you will visualize how information flow around the world has helped to build the “echo of the universe” inside your brain and how that same information flowing around in your mind is producing the dream experience.

You’ll ponder, in your dream, how the information from your experience circulates around your mind, through your memory, through learning to categorise etc. to create the echo of the universe that you live in, especially when dreaming. You’ll see how those systems feed-back into each other to produce your ability to reason, to build this dream world.

You’ll also see how the sapient mental skills of language, logic, maths, learning and empiricism effect your dream as you experience it.

Then you’ll see how your interaction with the world effects the flow of information in your mind through that very interaction. You’ll dream you’re using some common physical aids to reason: Pen and paper, computers, calculators. You’ll see how the data you provide to the universe through your interaction through it can help to build and refine your reasoning powers.

One of the most common physical aids to reason is of course other people, you’ll dream that you can see how the information flow between two people, even whole groups. You’ll see how their interactions with each other, the language they use, can boots reason even further.

Finally, you’ll be encouraged to be excited by the discoveries you are making, to want to refine your model further, to want to get out there into the real world and improve your reason.

Then, of course, you’ll wake up and do just that.

Guided Meditation File 22 – Cognition – Reason
Backing Music “June Seven” By Bert Jerred
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Cognition – Integration – Imagination

by pre., Friday, August 6th, 2010.

Your imagination was covered in the first lap around the spiral, your ability to cognitively change the world, at least your model of the world, and see how that would affect you, whether your alternative world is a better one than the real world. If so, you can begin to plan ways to try and make the world more like the one you have imagined. This is at the heart of cognition, of thinking.

You practised using your imagination, especially by imagining that your imagination was better. Trying to force your neural patterns into seeing how they would think if this were true, and by doing so training them to form connections as though it were true. With a plastic brain like the human brain, this quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We looked at Blank Page Syndrome, and found ways to fight that stupefying difficulty by imposing arbitrary restrictions, to narrow down the range of possibilities which confront you and push your neural connections towards a solution.

We encouraged you to try new things, to give you more raw material to feed to your growing imagination, to give it more symbols to collide and interact with each other, to give you a wider range of possible connections to feel your way through.

We also examined distraction activities, pointing out that often directing your consciousness towards something entirely unrelated to a problem can give your subconscious the time, and often the inspiration, to spot a solution to a problem that you’d have never have imagined if you’d concentrated your consciousness on only things directly associated and connected to the issue.


How does your imagination feed from and feed into the other skills on the spiral?

Awareness is not all that it appears. You may think you are looking directly at an object, and seeing it as it exists, but in fact the stream of light hitting your eyes is very noisy, your retina is unevenly coated with rods and cones, your eyes are filled with light from other directions, your view of that object is unlikely to be straight-on. In programming computers to try and achieve image recognition computer scientists have been foiled time and time again. The task is hard. It not only requires pattern recognition but also pattern completion. That is, imagining what the rest of the object looks like. Your awareness of an object is never of the object itself but how you imagine the object to be. It’s likely this is the only way it’s even possible to perceive with any understanding.

Likewise for your memory, for memory is in fact highly constructive. Most of the details of any given event aren’t stored directly in the connections between the neurons of your mind, they are instead constructed or imagined given the constraints of those things which are directly encoded. Your memory itself is also deeply routed in imagination.

Your view of your body, even the one you see in a mirror, but certainly the one you hold in your mind when looking at things other than yourself is also an imagined view. Control over your imagination can increase your control over your body, awareness of one leads to greater awareness of the other.

Your imagination is also the foundation of your social skills, since dealing with another person requires imagining yourself as them, conjuring up in your mind a model of their mind, understanding their position, their needs, their likely reactions. Without imagination, the power to build a model of another person’s view of the world, social interaction would likely be impossible, certainly very restricted.

The Meditation

Inventing stories is a very good way to practise and so improve your imagination. You’ll spend a few minutes in the meditation at the end of the month doing just this, constructing an imaginary story based on something you see in your walk.

Cognition – Integration – Intuition

by pre., Friday, August 13th, 2010.

Our guided meditative excercise session in the second lap was designed to improve your intuition, your gut-level understanding of your world, the way things work. We talked a little about the pattern-detection and prediction mechanisms deep within your brain which may provide your intuition, the hierarchical Hebbian-learning models we suggested may be a hint at how these processes work.

We also discussed the dangers that excessive use of your intuitive cognition systems can lead (in particular the tendency in human intuition to use unquestioned false stereotypes which can mislead). We argued that, as they are not infallible, questioning and improving these systems is a useful goal.

It would appear that systems similar to this are working all over your brain, intuitively learning and understanding the senses, the way the world fits together, and operating all the other functions of your mind.

For example, your awareness is certainly something that takes much work to consciously understand and deliberately train, yet it’s as intuitive to turn your consciousness on itself as it is to turn your awareness towards a dog or a coal fired power station. Clearly intuitive systems lie behind the phenomenon.

Hebbian learning systems also very likely underlie your memory, certainly some kind of learning system must be! Like all the mental skills, learning to use your memory is intuitive and not only second nature but really just simply first nature. By the time you are conscious, you are always aware how to use your memory, it’s methods of implementation are basically entirely subconscious.

While learning a skill, like guitar playing or brick-laying or darts-throwing, is certainly time-consuming and requires much practice, the understanding of how your body works and must be instructed to do these things is intuitive. You know how to practice, even if you don’t yet know how to juggle or fly a remote controlled plane or whatever.

Likewise your empathy works not only intuitively but often beyond your conscious control. You can’t just command your system to feel empathy with a remembered happy person, especially while there is a crying one in the room. Your empathy, the very basis for all your social skills and ethics, is a process wired into your brain below the conscious level. To see a smile, all other things being equal, is to smile back, and intuitively feel the warmth and connection from that shared lip-curling entirely without having to push yourself consciously to do so. That is, it works entirely by intuition, by you just feeling, on a gut level, the warmth of affection which has passed between you.

With all these brain skills working intuitively, it’s clear that both an increase in general intuition skills will lead to improvement in each of these skills, and that improvement in each of these skills will lead to an improvement in general intuition.

Cognition – Integration – Reason

by pre., Friday, August 20th, 2010.

Our lucid dream to improve cognition was aimed at improving reason. You dreamed that you saw and understood the information flow between the various spiral skills and the world outside your nervous system. The people in your family, the wider society, even the tools you use (such as pen and paper) to direct and improve that information flow.

Understanding that information flow is the very essence of our topic this lap: integration. The way one spiral skill feeds upon the others and then uses it’s power to enhance all the others. A whole family of brain functions, each supporting the others, sitting on each other’s lap in a circle without need of support outside that loop.

Your powers of reason are just one of the family of skills in the spiral, but they do much to support the others. You may see your reasoning powers as a system for finding hierarchy. Your way of chopping up the world in your mind into manageable bits. These flashes of neural input represent a line, which compared to other data indicates an edge, which compared to other data represents a solid 3D object, which compared with other data represents a book, which compared with past experience will likely have words you can read inside it.

Each of these steps represents an inference, an act of reasoning, the exercising of whatever neural functions eventually get exaggerated by the other skills to the cognitive systems we use the word “reason” for.

It’s obvious how these steps culminate in the raw data for your awareness, in order for there to be something for you to be aware of, there must be these internal reasoning processes in your brain.

Your memory is certainly a skill which helps your reasoning systems. In the example above it supplies much of the data required to produce this awareness, to provide access to past experience to enable you to search for patterns to reason with at all.

Could you learn to move your body without the skills to learn, to reason about the interaction you observe from experimenting with stretching and moving as a baby? How could you learn to walk as a child without these basic underlying skills?

These functions are responsible for you even realizing there are other beings like you out there in the world, let alone learning the social and bio-programming skills needed to get along with them, to help and be supported by them. Certainly no sensible ethics system could evolve without a brain able to reason about the world to determine the best course of action.

The Meditation

Next week we’ll present a guided walking meditation to improve your reasoning skills by imagining other worlds, words where something was different, and search for the implications of that change, try to find something which proves it can’t be so. In this way we hope to improve both your imaginative skills and the reasoning abilities which are so important to transcendence.

Cognition – Integration – The Meditation

by pre., Friday, August 27th, 2010.

This week we present our fifth guided walking meditation, this time designed to improve your cognition, the way you think, the shape of your thoughts. Your imagination, your intuition, your reasoning. All these things, these interconnected things, should be improved by plugging this audio file into your MP3 player and regularly spending 10 minutes walking around the area in which you live listening to it, and of course thinking along, following instructions. It’s no use just listening, you need to think the thoughts it tells you to think, visualise the visions it paints, actually practise the skills it suggests you practice.

You will improve your intuition by using it, by looking at the things around you and trying to guess the answers to almost impossible questions.

You will improve your imagination by using it, by imagining the stories behind the objects you see, trying to explain your intuition about them.

You will improve your reason by using it, by looking for holes in your stories, seeking to disprove them, to see beyond your intuition through the power of negation, of counter-example, the methods of science.

Most if not all of the stories and reasons you invent for your intuitions will be wrong, provably obviously wrong when you examine them for more than a few seconds. Do not worry about this. This is true for all people, for science itself, for understanding. It’s easier to come up with an untrue theory, a false idea, than a true one. Practice, however, will continue to improve your skills. You may, eventually, begin to make theories and ideas which aren’t easily disproved. You may even come up with one that’s true! Surely, your practice will make you closer to the truth, even if you never get there.

The Meditation

You’ll spend the first few minutes as usual relaxing, thinking about your posture, your walk, falling into a suggestible state, then starting to examine the world around you. Always useful things to do whenever you begin any walk, whether listening to a guided meditation or not.

After this you’ll spend a minute or so looking for an interesting object in your path, a discarded piece of rubbish perhaps, a building, a signpost, or outside the city perhaps a more natural artifact like a rock or an animal or a plant or field.

Once you’ve picked an object, you’ll try to imagine something from it’s story, perhaps how it got there, how it came to exist, what the forces that moved it into place looked like, how they acted, you’ll try and form a theory about it, using your intuition to guide you towards some essential truth about the object.

Once you’ve formed that theory in your head, usually as a picture, a sound, am internal movie, you’ll begin to use your reason to look for holes in the theory. Things which prove it can’t possibly be so. You’ll spend a few minutes trying to think of things which disprove your earlier vision.

This is, essentially, how planning and theorising, most of cognition and all of science work: allowing the networks in your mind guide you towards a pattern, and then discounting all those patterns which can’t possibly be true. Which would conflict with some pattern of which you’re more sure.

Practising these skills should be done as often as possible, whether listening to this meditation or walking without it or even just while existing. Always try to see the patterns in things, but don’t forget to always try to see the differences, the places the pattern doesn’t match. Your pattern matching systems in your head are biased: they are more likely to see one that’s not there than miss one which really is there. It’s better to run away from a none existent lion than assume that rustle in the grass is just the wind.

Reason (that is deliberate debunking and critical thinking) is the system we’ve evolved socially to try and compensate for this genetic bias, the flaw in all our brains in the search for truth. It will save you from seeing things which don’t exist, from jumping to conclusions which are untrue.

If it’s life and death, then still run away from the lion, or the possibly-imaginary knife-wheeling maniac. Obviously. But if you have time, if you can spare the consideration, practice assuming you’re wrong, looking for evidence that you’re wrong, improving your reason.

Guided Meditation File 30 – Cognition – Integration
Backing Music “Those 3 Lovely Seconds” By Awakenas
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