When we consider consciousness, a number of questions naturally arise. Why did consciousness develop? What is consciousness good for? If consciousness developed to help us plan and act for the future, why is consciousness so difficult to control? Why is mindfulness so hard? And for that matter, if our actions are under our conscious control, why is dieting (and resisting other urges) so difficult for most of us?

Why does it appear that we are observers, peering out through our eyes at the world while sitting in the proverbial Cartesian theater? Why do we speak, in William James’s words, of a “stream of consciousness”? Can we perform complicated activities (such as driving) without being consciously aware of it?

Are animals conscious (and if so, which ones)? Are there developmental, neurologic, or psychiatric disorders that are actually disorders of consciousness?

There have, of course, been many answers to these questions over the last 2500 years. We hope to provide new answers to these and a number of related questions in this paper.

~ Andrew Budson, et al from,

A longer pull-quote than usual for me. But it’s from a 30,000 word article. o_O

That list of questions reads like the Table of Contents from the Owners Manual that my body didn’t come with. It’s a big deal that there might be an answer to just one of them, let alone the claim in the last sentence, “We hope to provide new answers to these and a number of related questions.”

Having now read some of those plausible answers to those questions—including rebuttals and improvements to some others’ answers to those questions—my take away is: Oddly, I am now less interested in those questions.



I don’t know if you like parties. I don’t know if you’re organized or punctual. But I bet you don’t like rotting smells or long swims in freezing water. That is to say: People are different, but only in certain ways. What’s the difference?

~ “Dynomight” from,

This article is about personality types, and it goes down the rabbit hole, (in a good way.) We’ve all learned about the theory of evolution, and there are countless examples where it’s used to explain—or at least to try to imagine—how some specific feature of ourselves came to be so.

Way down in that article he mentions in passing that we—us, the people—might not currently be in equilibrium with the current selection pressures. This was a startling thought for me. Evolution can be fast—a gene mutation leading to a significant change in one generation—but I’ve always had the impression that it is most often slow and steady. I’ve always imagined a big-ship with a small-rudder metaphor. And I’ve always had the impression that who we are genetically, (the big ship) has its rudder set for straight-ahead. I’ve imagined that at some point in our distant past, selection pressures made us who we are as a species, and that was then. This is now, when we’ve been on a stable, no-changes evolutionary course for all of recorded history.

What if, let’s say around the time of the invention of the transistor and computers, the social pressures changed drastically. That is to say: Suppose that introduced a major change in the rudder’s position? Suppose we, the big ship with the big pile of DNA-encoded information, are right in the middle of a slow course change. What if right now, important and noticeable features of our biology and psychology are being strongly differentially selected?


wait wat?

This community’s value proposition is about more than being the Hacker News or reddit for travel. The focus is squarely on quality.

~ Anuj Adhiya from,

Yes, please. Based on that statement alone, I’d want to be a part of this sort of community.

The basic idea is that, to create habit-forming communities, you must move a user through a loop that over time will help them develop a habit of returning and contributing to the community. It looks like this: A trigger, internal or external, drives a user to the platform where they get some sort of variable reward, contribute something of their own, and return to the platform later for the same loop.

~ ibid.

Uhmmm… (That slight-squint with slightly-sideways, dubious look happens here.) Habituation is not, per se, a good thing. I agree that it is important to understand how what’s said there actually works; I often talk about the Oxo® handles we all have sticking out of our psyches. The ability to generate a habit in someone else is clearly one such handle.

A community comes into extence from the network of interpersonal relationships. A community isn’t, simply by its existence, a good thing. Also, if those relationships form because of habituation to come to the community space, that still doesn’t mean the community is a good thing. And we don’t even need habituation in order to form those interpersonal relationships. Yes, we may be able to “hack” those relationships into existence via habituation, but there are other ways to encourage those relationships.

I want to be part of communities that understand the nature of the interpersonal relationships, and the effect a community has as a whole. I want to be part of communities where those things are actually positive goods.


Personal space

While the software has been an essential tool for productivity, learning, and social interaction, something about being on videoconference all day seems particularly exhausting, and the term “Zoom Fatigue” caught on quickly. In this article, I focus on nonverbal overload as a potential cause for fatigue, and provide four arguments outlining how various aspects of the current Zoom interface likely lead to psychological consequences.

~ Jeremy N. Bailenson from,

This is more science-y than usual for this ‘ol blog. That’s a link to a journal article, (albeit not a peer-reviewed, “real” Journal-with-a-capital-J,) which presents an actual theory about “Zoom fatigue.” We all know it’s real, but why?

There are four parts to the theory. But the one that jumped out as glaringly obvious once I’d read it is about personal space. The distance around oneself within which another person’s presence begins to feel intimate varies among cultures. Americans like a goodly full arm’s length, and—my personal experience and opinion here—Europeans are cool with noticeably less. Regardless of the specifics, if people are in your personal space, that gets tiresome. Not “omg this is lame” tiresome, but physically tiring. (That’s apparently settled psychology and science.) Guess what? It seems the apparent size of the people on your screen triggers our brain’s perception of “how close is this person?”


Many a milestone I missed

This raises the obvious question of whether there are any basic mental operations I still don’t have, how I would recognize them if there were, and how I would learn them once I recognized them.

~ Scott Alexander from,

I truly don’t understand how he does this. This is so bootstrap-meta, I’m just left staring at it like a chicken stares right before pecking idiotically at a pebble.


When the ‘me’ is obliterated

(Part 52 of 72 in series, My Journey)

When the ‘me’ is obliterated by fear or the demands of immediate survival, action is no longer constrained by social forces, and the individual is left with a sense of self-determination. […] Behavior in edgework appears to the individual as an innate response arising from sources deep within the individual, untouched by socializing influences”

~ Stephen Lyng from, Edgework, 2004

A couple years ago I tried to write something explaining what exactly it is about practicing parkour that I like so much. It turns out others are way WAY ahead of me. Julie Angel (you have read Cinè Parkour, right?) talks a bit about “edgework”; The idea of negotiating the “edges” between things like consciousness/unconsciousness, sanity/insanity, and life/death. Others (H.S. Thompson and Lyng) have talked about “edgework” in depth.

And I agree. My experience is that being in the parkour practice — even just the visceral edges where I’m pushing my physical limits while exposing myself to only manageable levels of risk — just totally strips away all the context of my work-a-day life. Everything — all the way down to my thoughts — everything falls away.

My martial arts teacher has a great phrase related to edgework: No this. No that. No delay.