Also known as “Michael discovers egolessness – just as he discovered kissing.” I’m not sure where this fits in the scheme of the book, but it might be one of the uber-functions (Self-organization that is.) Or perhaps it fits in better with “the fetish of the individual” What is weird is that a self-organizing system–which could be defined as any system that organizes the parts (it is so tempting to say “its parts” in English, but that is begging the questions)–may be assumed to have some “self” that is doing the organizing. See also Homunculus.
We might be tempted to look for the thing that does the organizing, and in that search we might tend to look for some “thing” like a self, or God, or “command module.” What I’m thinking about here is that search might be misdirected.
For example, What causes clouds to hang together? I think the accepted theory is there is an electro-static force that, once a few cloud pieces get together, causes more of them to gather together, to become a “cloud.” Once a cloud has formed, it may appear to move and change shape, and we might attribute that to something that causes that to happen. if we were not so sophisticated, we might think there is a “cloud god” that is doing it. Perhaps this is how
You can see the same thing the computer “Game of Life.” It looks like there is a master program organizing the whole thing, and at some level there is – but the master program is simply a set of rules applied over and over again.
A Buddhist Approach
The Buddhists approach on this issue from a different vantage point. They challenge you to find yourself. There are detailed instructions to look for where the “I” is, where does it reside. It is hard to find it. You might think, I am my awareness – if I just look up from the book, and don’t think, I am still aware. There is apparently awareness, there are sights that are seen, sounds that are heard, perhaps sensations that are sensed. But does there need to be a “me” who sees the sights, who hears the sounds, who senses the sensations? Or are you a memory? I’m Michael, who did this and that last year and yesterday, and who will do something tomorrow, and who am thinking this right now. I think (there, as Ronald Regan said, I go again. Or was that Madonna?) therefore I am. Maybe. Or I think that this is beyond the scope of the current text. So let’s go back to things that look as if they have a central organizing principle, a “self” that is in control, but that perhaps does not. ((Note: maybe I’m working on the ‘don’t attack a defense until you have addressed the underlying problem, or at least have a better defense in place’ approach.))
Does a tornado or hurricane have a self? They are organized systems that hang together and seem, to those whom they are “threatening” to have purpose. Crystals grow into beautiful patterns, but there is nobody who is doing the growing. It is the “being angry at the empty boat” story. Might thoughts be like clouds – I mean big thoughts – constellations of thoughts. Once we learn a language, we are goners. We learn to think in subject object – I hit the ball. It is raining. I am sad. Is the I who is sad more like the I who hits the ball, or the it that is raining?
Ego or Self or God as wavicles
And perhaps this is like wavicles. Maybe we do have a self that hits the ball, though of course it is usually a bat that actually does the hitting and a something else that is sad. Am I sad, or do I notice sadness. Could it be that sadness is noticed, and does there have to be an “it” that notices, any more than there is an “it” this is raining? It seems we are trapped by language. So for the sake of not arguing, let’s assume that there might be some benefit to look at things as if we don’t have a central organizer – just to explore where that takes us. Or where that leads (to avoid the “taking us” thing.) If we look at people as self-organizing systems, as consisting of numerous systems and subsystems that work together and create an emergent more complex system – where does that take us?
Emergence of Self
Since one thing that clearly emerges in some of these systems is the idea of a self, ego, I, me, homunculus, master program…. How might this have happened? There seems to be awareness – a system benefits from being able to look at the environment (internal and external) and make adjustments to respond to changes in the environment. Behavioral therapy (stimulus, response, reinforcement) works with all levels of intelligence. But it seems to work better with younger children, and not so well with young adults and older adults. I assume because we can think of ourselves, we can see that attempts are being made to condition us, and we can work against that conditioning. So at some point this self-awareness matures, and we can take our “self” as an object. (see also Creation of self … Bicameral Mind.) Does the teen have a “self” that the child doesn’t? Or has the teen merely learned to think of his or her self as an object – if I do this then that will happen “to me.”
This is a hint. Intelligent design without a designer This is the theistic view. Not only do we “create ourselves” but G*d created “his creation.” This is arguing “as below, so above.” If there is a “me” who has hands, feet, mind, family, home, thoughts, a job, then it makes sense (sort of) that there is a “god” or a super-me who has the earth and planets and galaxies and people and our thoughts….
Evolutionary algorithms, neural networks, Artificial life, all are forms of intelligence that don’t require someone who created the intelligence. Random seeding in The Game of Life produces things that move around and seem to form stable “relationships.” If you start off with a cellular automation game, like LIFE, you get some interesting patterns. What if each cell was made up of a grid, as a fractal of the larger cells? What if cells (at each level) could communicate with each other? What if a neural network developed – some system that allowed the s-fract to learn? The emergence of intelligence If we accept that in a complex system new features may emerge, then why can’t something that looks like intelligence emerge? If the s-fractals are self-organizing (is this the same as self-defining) and we accept that outside factors (other s-fractals) influence any given s-fractal, the question becomes how does the outside influence impact the self-organizing. If you look at iron filings organizing around a pair of magnets, it seems that outside of the magnets there is no outside influence. But if the iron filings are on a curved surface, that will impact their self-organizing. Same for s-fractals (the topography of the environment, and this could be psychological, spiritual, political, emotional….).
There is also the possibility that external s-fractals can provide patterns or templates for the self-organizing. That is, a person born in Russia will create a self different from a person born in NYC. More or less. A self-organizing computer program written in Pascal will probably, even with the same basic structure, create new versions of itself than if it were written in C++ (I am ignorant of the actual facts here.)
Animism and the “creation” of God
When I was working on this and wanted to talk about “animism” a few paragraphs earlier, I decided to look it online, so I “binged” it. Look at the logic in the order of the definitions.
Definition of animism (n)
- belief that nature has soul: the belief that things in nature, e.g. trees, mountains, and the sky, have souls or consciousness
- belief in organizing force in universe: the belief that a supernatural force animates and organizes the universe
- belief in existence of separate spirit: the belief that people have spirits that do or can exist separately from their bodies
If we add a
0. belief that things in nature are created by something (i.e. “the cloud god”)
There we have a progression from 0 to 4
Back to Wavicles
This is not to say there is no soul, or no G*d. It is to say that there doesn’t need to be one in the manner we tend to think ot it.