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Not Knowing

Edge asked The Edge Annual Question 2010 to 170 scientists, philosophers, artists and authors. This year question was “How is the Internet Changing the Way You Think“? Interesting question with several intesting answers as well as some which looked like “Oh no, my literary agent wants me to answer another question, let’s just write something down”.

Among the ones who grabbed my attention was Anthony Aguirre’s (Associate Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Cruz) answer “The Enemy of Insight?” which reverberates with my reflections on knowledge and the inner mechanisms which insights are based on.

A passages from Anthony Aguirre’s answer:

I, like most of my colleagues, spend a lot of time connected to the Internet. It is a central tool in my research life. Yet when I think of what I do that is most valuable — to me at least — it is the occasional generation of genuine creative insights into the world. And looking at some of those insights, I realized that essentially none of them have happened in connection with the Internet…
I’ve come think that it is important to cultivate a ‘don’t know’ mind: one that perceives a real and interesting enigma, and is willing to dwell in that perplexity and confusion. A sense of playful delight in that confusion, and a willingness to make mistakes — many mistakes — while floundering about, is a key part of what makes insight possible for me. And the Internet? The Internet does not like this sort of mind. The Internet wants us to know, and it wants us to know RIGHT NOW: its essential structure is to produce knowing on demand. I don’t just worry that the Internet goads us to trade understanding for information (it surely does), but that it makes us too accustomed to to instant informational gratification. Its bright light deprives us of spending any time in the fertile mystery of the dark.

The attitude of not-knowing is been shared by good science and by spiritual researchers as well, two worlds who usually tend te be considered far apart. Descartes itself is his Discourse on the Method started his philosophical investigation with a not-knowing attitude which made him find his first principle of the philosophy “I think, therefore I am”.

Let’s see what the spiritual teachers say about not-knowing. Sri Aurobindo said, regarding the enlightened mind: “One is in an unutterable state of truth without understanding anything about it – simply, it is.” (Satprem. Sri Aurobindo, or the Adventure of Consciousness. Harper & Row. New York. 1974.)

Nisargadatta Maharaj:

When consciousness mixes with itself, that is samadhi. When one doesn’t know anything – and doesn’t even know that he doesn’t know anything – that is samadhi. (Nisargadatta Maharaj. Prior to Consciousness. Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Acorn Press. Durham. 1985. p. 6)

Then Osho:

This is the the ultimate paradox of mysticism: with not-knowing you can reach knowing and through knowing yiu lose it. Not-knowing is superior to any knowledge. Universities make you learned but when you enter the Buddhafield of a spiritual Master you enter in an anti-university. In the university you harvest more and more knowledge, information and you accumulate. In the anti-university of a Master you unlearn more and more… until the moment you don’t know anything anymore. (Osho. Theologia Mystica. Rebel Publishing House. 1983)

And Almaas:

Why am I here? Where am I going? We need to see how honest we can be with ourselves when trying to answer these questions. These two questions are related; that is, most people think they are here because there is a goal, they want to go somewhere. Where do you want to go? You probably think you know; do you? Do you think I know where you should go? If you think I know, can I tell you? And if I tell you, will you follow? Can you follow? These are questions that you cannot answer with your mind. These are questions that should remain questions. Do not try to simply answer them mentally. These questions are like a flame. If you answer them with your mind, you will put out the flame, because the mind doesn’t, the mind can’t know the answers to these questions. When you answer them with your mind and you think you know, the question is gone. When you believe you have answered such questions, the flame is gone and there is no more enquiry. (A.H. Almaas. Being and the Meaning of Life (Diamond Heart Book Three). Diamond Books. Berkeley. 1990. p. 1)

Even neurophysiologically a stage of not-knowing is needed for getting the “Eureka effect”. Being in the unknown is uncomfortable for the mind, our ego identifies mostly with what we know. Knowing reassures us too.

So whenever we have an itch to know anything we can search for it on google and quench our thirsts. However, this way, as Almaas say, “the flame is gone” and good meals sometimes require a slow long cooking, better if on flames rather than electricity.

But Google works hard for avoiding any darkness and delays in his answers, wanting to “help” computers understand language.

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The Digitally Divided Self

There’s an unusual but apparent alliance between two philosophies which are barely aware of and rarely come into contact each other, which conjure against the physical reality and the body. The first “philosophy” is represented by what have variously been called Cyberspace, Technopoly, Cyburbia and other names.

I prefer to define it as “The Digitalization of Reality,” wherein more and more human activities are being translated into bytes. Work, communication, media, entertainment, friends, dating, sexuality, culture, shopping, politics and causes are among the growing number of human needs that have gone digital.

While the Internet was something which earlier we mostly visited, now we are inhabiting the virtual worlds full-time and engineer them according to our mental projections. The Cartesian dream of a mind without a body has almost been fulfilled (even though in his old age Descartes, in Passions of the Soul, affirmed that “the soul is jointly united to all the parts of the body”).

This separation has a long history of Western thought starting from the Judeo-Christian separation between body and soul up to people like the transhumanist Hans Moravec, the artificial intelligence researcher Marvin Minsky, or the singularity guru Raymond Kurzweil who want to download the biological human mind to a safer mechanical medium in order to achieve nothing less than immortality.

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Indranet joins the July 14 initiative to defend the freedom of information

Logo bavaglio Network

I joined the July 14 initiative started, among others, by Alessandro Gilioli, Enzo di Frenna and Guido Scorza against Alfano’s proposed law which would strongly limit the freedom of the press and the Net. Blogs which join will show only the protest’s logo on their home pages on July 14.

Even though I was enthusiastic about the Net having contributed by publishing the first books on the Internet in Italy, I think the network is no longer an instrument of social and consciousness transformation as much as could have been envisaged around 10 years ago, for many reasons, among them the infinite distractions and the race toward novelties.

Also, I do not believe that freedom is in prevalence in the freedom of words. The silence of the mind goes more in depth and creates a wider freedom. But, as Almaas writes: “There is nothing you can ultimately say, but you have to exhaust all the words.”

Perhaps the secret goal of the Net is to let words rotate as fast as to create – like a windmill – white color as the sum of every color. Words can exhaust themselves only after being expressed in full totality and freedom, not due to a law which would limit their scope and which would bring us not beyond words, but at a previous level.

I wish as well, that more days of silence will be realized, even without the opportunity of a righteous protest.

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Mystifying science, and scientific mysticism

Dali. Swans Reflecting Elephants[en]

Edgar Cayce used to say that it is possible to connect with any source of knowledge when our consciousness is expanded to the extent that it can render the Akashic records transparent. In the Eastern mystic tradition as well the access to universal knowledge is a stage which can manifest in the awareness of a person during the evolution of his spiritual path.

In the West, the subject who knows has been separated from the object of knowledge, especially since the introduction of Descartes’ method where the scientist had to separate his subjectivity from the object of research. Modern science, being based on the reproducibility and objectivity principles which are fundamental to Newton’s world of physics, led to an enormous technical and scientific development but doesn’t have the tools to understand awareness, the soul, the psyche itself, or existence. The problem of consciousness which is nagging the neurosciences seems to be elusive to the research method which negates any role for the inner life.

Subjectivity in science has such a marginal role that it became a taboo, so much so that Alan Wallace even wrote The Taboo of Subjectivity (Oxford University Press, 2000). He affirms that through scientific materialism people became convinced that scientists have knowledge about the mind when actually they are ignorant about it, and that non-scientists do not know what they actually know perfectly. Since for science subjective opinions are fallible by definition, it seems that everything that is intuition or perspicacity does not have value if not backed by data and objective procedures.

Comte, the father of positivism, affirming that what could not be observed and measured was to be considered unreal, put the basis for the digitalization of the human being, where intelligence became a number of IQ and human qualities became DNA sequences. Science expanded itself to the point of including areas pertaining to wisdom.

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Edgar Cayce diceva che è possibile connettersi con qualsiasi fonte di conoscenza quando la nostra consapevolezza si fosse espansa in modo tale da rendere trasparente gli archivi Akasici. Anche nella tradizione mistica orientale l’accesso alla conoscenza universale viene considerata una fase che può manifestarsi nella coscienza di una persona durante il suo percorso di evoluzione spirituale.

In Occidente si è separato il soggetto che conosce dall’oggetto di conoscenza, in particolare dal metodo Cartesiano dove lo scienziato separa la sua soggettività dall’oggetto di ricerca. La scienza moderna, basandosi sui principi della riproducibilità e dell’oggettività, funzionali per il mondo della fisica di Newton, ha portato a uno sviluppo tecnico e scientifico enorme ma non ha gli strumenti per comprendere  la consapevolezza, l’anima, la psiche stessa, l’esistenza. Il problema della coscienza, che assilla le neuroscienze, sembra essere elusivo al metodo di ricerca che nega all’interiorità alcun ruolo.

La soggettività nella scienza ha un ruolo talmente marginale che è diventato un tabù, tanto che Alan Wallace ha scritto The Taboo of Subjectivity (Oxford University Press. 2000). Egli afferma che tramite il materialismo scientifico le persone si sono convinte che gli scienziati abbiano delle conoscenza sulla mente su cui di fatto sono ignoranti e che i non-scienziati non conoscono ciò che in realtà sanno perfettamente. Poiché i giudizi soggettivi sono per la scienza per definizione fallibili, sembra che tutto ciò che è intuizione o perspicacia non abbia valore se non è suffragato da dati e procedure oggettive.

Comte, il padre del positivismo, affermando che ciò che non poteva essere osservato e misurato andava considerato irreale, poneva le basi per la digitalizzazione dell’essere umano, dove l’intelligenza è diventata un numero di QI e le qualità umane sono diventate sequenze di DNA. La scienza si è espansa fino a includere aree che erano pertinenti alla saggezza.

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The Singularity is Nearest

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Ray Kurzweil, futurist, inventor, and author of The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, looks forward to an era where humans, in their evolution, will be linked to machines, through electronics and biotechnology. His research and inventions range from music to artificial intelligence, from speech recognition to optics. Kurzweil defines The Singularity as “an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today — the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity.”

Kurzweil forecasts the enhancement of our intelligence by merging with non-biological intelligence, sending intelligent nanobots into our brains. In his view, our neurons and the nanobots will communicate on a local area network. We’ll be online all the time directly from our brains and we’ll communicate with other brains through the network.

This quest also goes in the direction of searching for radical life extension – even immortality. In the book co-authored with Terry Grossman, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, they write that through biotech we’re developing the tools to reprogram our biology at the most fundamental level. I have been consulted myself by Terry Grossman about health and life extension, getting interesting hints about how supplements work on my biology.

When Kurzweil was interviewed by What is Enlightenment magazine (now called EnlightenNext), he stated that we are in a stage of intersection of information technology and biology where we understand life, death, disease, and aging as information processes. With our knowledge we can start to reprogram genes, seen as software codes. Merging our biological intelligence with non-biological intelligence will vastly expand human intelligence, where the thinking process will be a hybrid of the two and where the non-biological portion will be much more powerful, giving birth to new and enhanced forms of intelligence.

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Ray Kurzweil, futurista, inventore e autore di The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, immagina un’epoca non distante dove gli esseri umani, nella loro evoluzione, verranno congiunti alle macchine attraverso l’elettronica e le biotecnologie. Le sue ricerche e invenzioni spaziano dalla musica all’intelligenza artificiale, dal riconoscimento del linguaggio parlato all’ottica. Kurzweil definisce la Singolarità come “un’epoca in cui la nostra intelligenza diventerà sempre meno biologica e sarà trillioni di volte più potente di ciò che è oggi – l’alba di una nuova civilizzazione che ci consentirà di trascendere i nostri limiti biologici ed amplificare la nostra creatività.”

Kurzweil predice il miglioramento della nostra intelligenza tramite l’unione con un’intelligenza non-biologica, mandando dei nanorobot nei cervelli. Nella sua visione, i nostri neuroni e i nanorobot comunicheranno tramite una rete locale. Saremo collegati online direttamente dai nostri cervelli e comunicheremo con altri cervelli attraverso la rete.

Questa ricerca va anche nella direzione dell’estensione radicale della vita – addirittura verso l’immortalità. Nel libro che ha scritto insieme a Terry Grossman, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, viene affermato che attraverso le biotecnologie stiamo sviluppando gli strumenti per riprogrammare la nostra biologia al livello più fondamentale. Ho incontrato personalmente Terry Grossman riguardo la salute e l’estensione della vita, ricevendo interessanti informazioni su come i supplementi operano sulla mia biologia.

Quando Kurzweil fu intervistato dalla rivista What is Enlightenment (ora chiamata EnlightenNext), egli ha dichiarato che siamo in un’epoca di intersezione tra l’information technology e la biologia, in cui capiamo la vita, la morte, la malattia e il processo di invecchiamento come processi informativi. Tramite la nostra conoscenza possiamo iniziare a riprogrammare i geni, intesi come codici software. L’unione della nostra intelligenza biologica con quella non biologica espanderà enormemente l’intelligenza umana, dove il processo di pensiero sarà un ibrido dei due e dove la porzione non-biologica sarà molto più potente, facendo nascere nuove ed accresciute forme di intelligenza.

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Google Lively is dead

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Google recently discontinued Lively, the Second Life-like project. Even though that’s only one out of many of Google’s projects, it’s symbolic of a turning point from representation to reality.

In 1978, Jerry Mander in Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (Quill, 1978) wrote:

In one generation, out of hundreds of thousands in human evolution, America had become the first culture to have substituted secondary, mediated versions of experience for direct experience of the world. Interpretation and representations of the world were being accepted as experience, and the difference between the two was obscure for most of us.

Thirty years later, it is not just about America and not just about TV. The detachment from direct experience grew layers. The attitude of substituting reality with mental representation was also one of the causes of the current financial problems, which constructed the illusionary “wealth,” considering information flowing through the cables as real goods.

Affirming that nothing is real is true both on the neurophysiological and spiritual levels. We have all heard that, especially in the Eastern traditions, the world is “maya,” an appearance, or illusion. Also, one of the mantras of people who populate the virtual worlds is to question reality saying that “there is nothing real in reality” since our experience is in any case mediated by our senses and by our nervous system which, starting from the mechanism of vision itself, only interprets reality. Following this line of thought we can say that there’s no objective reality and perhaps there’s no reality too, since every experience is mediated by our nervous system.

There’s an apparent concordance between neuroscientists, technical creators of virtual worlds and spiritual teachers. All of them, in different ways, say that the world in an illusion.

Since the times of Buddha and Plato, that the world is our representation has been a philosophical, metaphysical, psychological and spiritual assumption much before science and technology came into our lives. Philosophers and mystics expressed this in a much more sophisticated way than any software environment or technocrat.

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Recentemente, Google ha chiuso Lively, il progetto ispirato a Second Life. Anche se questo era solo uno dei molti progetti di Google, il suo termine rappresenta un punto di svolta dalla rappresentazione alla realtà.
Nel 1978, Jerry Mander ha scritto in Quattro argomenti per eliminare la televisione (Quill, 1978; ed. italiana: Edizioni Dedalo, 1982):

Dopo centinaia di migliaia di generazioni, l’America, nello spazio di una sola generazione, è diventata la prima cultura ad aver sostituito l’esperienza diretta del mondo con suoi sostituti mediati e secondari. Interpretazioni e rappresentazioni vengono accettate come esperienze, e la maggior parte di noi ignora quale sia la differenza tra le due.

Trenta anni dopo, questo discorso non riguarda solo l’America e non è più solo relativo alla televisione. Il distacco dall’esperienza diretta si è fatto sempre più grande. La sostituzione della realtà con una rappresentazione mentale è anche stata una delle cause dell’attuale crisi finanziaria, perché ha creato una “ricchezza” illusoria dove le informazioni che attraversavano i cavi venivano considerate come beni reali.

Affermare che niente è reale è vero sia a livello neurofisiologico che spirituale. Tutti abbiamo sentito dire, in particolare nella tradizioni dell’Oriente, che il mondo è “maya”, apparenza e illusione. Inoltre, una delle posizioni ricorrenti delle persone che popolanoi mondi virtuali è mettere in dubbio la realtà affermando che “non c’è nulla di reale nella realtà”, poiché la nostra esperienza è in ogni caso mediata dai sensi e dal sistema nervoso i quali, a partire dal meccanismo stesso della visione, non fanno altro che interpretare la realtà. Secondo questo modo di pensare, possiamo dire che non esiste una realtà oggettiva e che forse non esiste nemmeno la realtà, in quanto ogni esperienza è mediata dal nostro sistema nervoso.

Tra i neuroscienziati, i tecnici creatori di mondi virtuali e gli insegnanti spirituali esiste un’apparente concordanza: tutti, in modi diversi, sostengono che il mondo è un’illusione.

È dai tempi del Buddha e di Platone, e anche prima di questi, ovvero molto prima che la scienza e la tecnologia entrassero nella nostra vita, che si parla del mondo come rappresentazione, a livello filosofico, metafisico, psicologico e spirituale. I filosofi e i mistici hanno espresso questo concetto in modo molto più sofisticato di qualsiasi ambiente software o tecnocrate.

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The monkey and the Buddha

image courtesy of http://www.toothlessmonkey.com [en]

Apart from human beings, only a few animals have the physical characteristics and mental capacities for using a tool. Monkeys are among them. But in what way do the primates learn to use a tool?

Research by Giacomo Rizzolatti of the University of Parma tells us that the brain uses the trick of considering the tool as a part of the body. Some previous researchers demonstrated that the hand movements are controlled by the area of the brain called F5.

He registered the cerebral activity of two macaques after they had learned to grasp food with pliers. He documented the activity in the F5 area and in the area called F1, which in turn was employed in the manipulation of objects. He discovered that there was the same cerebral activity both when the monkeys grasped the food with only the help of their own hand and with the pliers: the neuronal activity is transferred from the hands to the tool, as if the tool were the hand and its extremity were the fingers.

Furthermore, Rizzolatti puts in evidence the fact that the F5 area is rich with mirror neurons, a type of neurons that he had previously discovered, which are excited both when an act is being performed and when another individual is observed while performing the same act. The discoveries, according to Dietrich Stout, an archeologist specializing in the use of tools, tell us that “obviously, the use of instruments by the monkeys implies an incorporation of the instruments in the body scheme, literally it is an extension of a body”.

The monkey cannot distinguish between his own hands and the tool that he uses, considering the latter a real extension of his body. It reminds me of what Marshall McLuhan said regarding the media and tools as extensions of ourselves.

In this experiment, however, they make a decision without consulting the person in-charge. The factor of consciousness is missing, which is still elusive to neuroscience. The presence or otherwise of consciousness and what it is about cannot be identified by experiments. This experiment made me reflect on the relationship between consciousness, tools, and the spiritual paths toward awareness.

Therefore, tools are really like body extensions on a neural level, but the consciousness of a human being allows the understanding that the tool is external. The monkey does not know the duality which is produced by the self-consciousness, thus it seems like getting closer to a spiritual condition of a “union with everything.” However, the union takes place on a pre-conscious level.

The consciousness of ourselves is at the same time joy and distress since they entrap us in the mind, separating us from the rest of existence, and it splits as well on the inner level down to our inside, but it also allows us to reach spiritual peaks unknown to our hungry macaque. Self-consciousness and consequently the development of an ego which separates us from everything are the intermediate phases between the monkey and the spiritually enlightened state.

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A parte l’uomo, solo pochissimi animali hanno le caratteristiche fisiche e le capacità mentali per utilizzare uno strumento. Tra questi, le scimmie. Ma come fanno i primati ad apprendere l’uso di uno strumento?

Uno studio di Giacomo Rizzolatti dell’università di Parma ci dice che il cervello usa il trucco di considerare lo strumento come fosse parte del proprio corpo. Alcune ricerche precedenti avevano mostrato che le azioni della mano vengono controllare da un’area del cervello chiamata F5.

Egli ed il suo team hanno registrato l’attività cerebrale di due macachi dopo che avevano appreso ad afferrare il cibo con delle pinze. Hanno documentato l’attività nell’area F5 e in un’area chiamata F1 che a sua volta è implicata nella manipolazione di oggetti. Hanno scoperto che vi era la stessa attività cerebrale sia quando le scimmie afferravano il cibo con l’ausilio delle sole mani che quando usavano le pinze: l’attività neuronale viene trasferita dalle mani allo strumento, come se lo strumento fosse la mano e la sua estremità fossero le dita.

Inoltre Rizzolatti mette in evidenza il fatto che l’area F5 è ricca di neuroni specchio, un tipo di neurone da lui scoperto in precedenza, che si eccitano sia quando si svolge un’azione sia quando si osserva un altro individuo che attua la stessa cosa. Le scoperte, secondo Dietrich Stout, un archeologo specializzato nell’uso di strumenti ci dicono che “chiaramente, l’uso degli strumenti da parte delle scimmie implica l’incorporazione degli strumenti nello schema corporeo, letteralmente una estensione del corpo”.

La scimmia non sa distinguere tra le proprie mani e lo strumento che utilizza, considerando quest’ultimo come una vera e propria estensione del corpo. Questo mi ricorda ciò che disse Marshall McLuhan a riguardo dei media e degli strumenti come estensioni di noi stessi.

In questo esperimento tuttavia si fanno i conti senza l’oste. Manca il fattore coscienza, che tutt’ora sfugge alle neuroscienze. La presenza o meno della coscienza e di cosa si tratta non può essere rilevata dagli esperimenti. Questo esperimento mi ha fatto riflettere sul rapporto tra coscienza, strumenti e percorsi di ricerca spirituali verso la consapevolezza.

A un livello neurale primitivo quindi gli strumenti sono veramente estensioni del corpo, ma la consapevolezza di un essere umano permette di comprendere che lo strumento è esterno a noi. La scimmia non conosce la dualità che viene prodotta dalla coscienza di sé, quindi sembrerebbe avvicinarsi ad una condizione spirituale di “unione con il tutto” . L’unione però avviene ad un livello pre-cosciente.

La coscienza di se stessi è allo stesso tempo gioia e dolore poiché ci intrappola nella mente, separandoci dal resto dell’esistenza, e ci scinde anche al nostro interno, ma, anche, ci consente di raggiungere vette spirituali ignote al nostro famelico macaco. La coscienza di sé e di conseguenza lo sviluppo di un ego che ci separa dal tutto sono fasi intermedie tra la scimmia e lo stato di illuminazione spirituale.

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I click, therefore I am: Toward outsourcing our identity

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We are scattered over the Net, a piece in a social networking site, another piece in a different site, in a dating site, we write in our blog and we comment on others’ blogs, meet on chats and join forums on the most diverse subjects. Furthermore, we keep several contacts by email.

Our identities are becoming ever more fluid, we feel affiliated with various situations with only a part of ourselves. The real communities of family and friends too are now more like windows which maybe we would prefer to also manage in our computers. Lifelogging projects want to extend the scope of our life activities which are processed and managed online.

Sherry Turkle described in her books The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (1984) and Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet the exploration of the psychological parts in role-playing games and later on the Net. She thought that having the chance to live our object relationships could be important to individualize our identities.

One aspect of our online identities, explored by several experts, is the attenuation of inhibitions in online life. The superego, our psyche’s structure devoted to criticizing ourselves, to inhibit our actions and desires, is weakened by our online activity. Without superego pressure we can explore parts which are usually kept in the shadow.

Using false identities, as happened more frequently in the first years on the Internet, hides our real identities (partly for our own selves as well) and the superego is hidden along with it.

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Siamo sparpagliati nella rete, un pezzo su un sito di social networking, un pezzo su un altro, un altro pezzo su un sito di incontri, poi scriviamo sul nostro blog e commentiamo sui blog degli altri, ci troviamo sulle chat, e poi partecipiamo ai forum sui temi più disparati; inoltre manteniamo diversi contatti via email.

La nostra identità è sempre più fluida, ci sentiamo di appartenere alle diverse situazioni solo con una parte di noi stessi. Le comunità reali della famiglia e degli amici sono altre finestre che magari vorremmo poterle gestire a loro volta con computer. I progetti di lifelogging vogliono estendere le attività della nostra vita che vengono elaborate e gestite online.

Sherry Turkle aveva già descritto nel suo libro Il Secondo Io del 1984, e poi con La vita sullo schermo l’esplorazione delle parti psicologiche nei giochi di ruolo e poi nella Rete. La Turkle riteneva che il poter vivere i propri oggetti di relazione potesse essere importante per individuare la propria identità.

Un aspetto della nostra identità online, anche questo esplorato da diversi studiosi, è l’attenuazione delle inibizioni nella nostra vita online. Il superego, la struttura della nostra psiche dedicata a criticare noi stessi, ad inibire le nostre azioni e desideri, viene indebolito dalla nostra attività online. Senza la pressione del superego possiamo esplorare parti di noi stessi che normalmente sono in ombra.

Usare una falsa identità, come succedeva più frequentemente nei primi tempi della Rete, ci nasconde la nostra vera identità (in parte anche a noi stessi) e con questa anche il superego inibente.
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Writer’s block

thinking-man[en]

This is an expanded version of an older post.

Many writers and probably many bloggers are faced with the typical writer’s block. While this block doesn’t affect many writers who operate in a productivity setting, it does afflict those who need the spark of creativity to express something bright and new.

True creative expression goes through cycles; the similarity between creativity and procreativity is not just linguistic. Both follow cycles and peaks like the female reproductive cycle.

Parecchi scrittori e probabilmente diversi blogger affrontano il tipico blocco dello scrittore. Mentre questo blocco colpisce pochi scrittori che operano in un ambiente produttivo, tipicamente coinvolge invece coloro che necessitano di un lampo creativo per esprimere qualcosa di fresco e innovativo.

L’autentica espressione creativa passa attraverso dei cicli; le somiglianze tra la creatività e la procreatività non sono solo linguistiche. Entrambe seguono cicli e vette come il ciclo riproduttivo femminile.

In the astrological tradition, both the creative and sexual expressions are at home in the fifth house, telling us that symbolically the creative forces in the universe derive from the same archetype. People who have high libidos often have some kind of artistic or creative quality as well.

The Latin word oestrus was used to mean “frenzy, driven by desire, mad impulse.” There’s a compulsive quality in this, a drive to act, just as compulsive as sex can be, being the most (pro)creative energy in the world.

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Questa è una versione espansa di un post che avevo pubblicato in precedenza.

Parecchi scrittori e probabilmente diversi blogger affrontano il tipico blocco dello scrittore. Mentre questo blocco colpisce pochi scrittori che operano in un ambiente produttivo, tipicamente coinvolge invece coloro che necessitano di un lampo creativo per esprimere qualcosa di fresco e innovativo.

L’autentica espressione creativa passa attraverso dei cicli; le somiglianze tra la creatività e la procreatività non sono solo linguistiche. Entrambe seguono cicli e vette come il ciclo riproduttivo femminile.

Nella tradizione astrologica, entrambe le espressioni creative e sessuali si trovano nella quinta casa. La simbologia ci suggerisce che le forze creative dell’universo derivano dallo stesso archetipo. Le persone con una forte libido spesso possiedono anche delle capacità creative o artistiche.

In the astrological tradition, both the creative and sexual expressions are at home in the fifth house, telling us that symbolically the creative forces in the universe derive from the same archetype. People who have high libidos often have some kind of artistic or creative quality as well.

The latin word oestrus was used to mean frenzy, driven by desire, mad impulse. There’s a compulsive quality in this, a drive to act, just as compulsive as sex can be, being the most (pro)creative energy in the world.

The process of creative revelation and the eureka effect has been documented by neurophysiological researches. Joseph Chilton Pearce in The Biology of Transcendence (Inner Traditions International. Rochester. 2002), referring to Margharita Laski’s work on Ecstasy, illustrates the six stages of the discovery process: 1. Asking the question. 2. Looking for the answer. 3. Hitting the plateau period. 4. Giving up the search for a solution. 5. The answer comes as the eureka effect. 6. Translating the discovery in a way that can be understood and shared by others.

This six stage process involves different parts of the brain. Both brain hemispheres are involved, as well as the emotional-limbic brain, which is itself the connection to the heart. Without the passion of the heart, the creative discovery seems difficult to reach. It reminds me of a book by Almaas saying that “Love of truth for its own sake is actually the expression of essential heart.”

What is usually not accepted in our hyper-productive culture that fears silence and the void is that fourth stage of giving up the search for a solution. Even though everybody has the experience of finding a solution or an insight when the mind wasn’t actively searching for it, the general attitude is to push for a solution, not accepting that empty stage. Quoting Joseph Chilton Pearce, “The corpus callosum can complete the circuitry only when the left hemisphere is inactive, when the analytical and critical processes of mind are suspended.” Without knowing anything about neurophysiology, most of the spiritual teachers say that there is a stage of giving up the search and that the condition of not-knowing is necessary for any true insight on ourselves. So the eureka effect path seems to apply both to personal insights and to scientific or artistic works. Given this vision, the writer’s block is not just natural, is even needed for every important creative outcome.

La parola latina oestrus veniva usata per significare frenesia, essere guidati dal desiderio, impulso folle. C’è una qualità compulsiva in ciò, una spinta all’azione, quanto può essere compulsiva la sessualità, come l’energia più fortemente (pro)creativa.

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The mind as a kind of media

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Marshall McLuhan told us that every medium and every technology has a role in the extension and numbness of our organs. The mind’s extensions created by computer technology on the one hand expand our mental possibilities in terms of research, information, and knowledge processing, but on the other bring us to amputate or to numb some of the capacities of the same mind.

The computer can seem an extension of the mind’s capacities, but in reality it numbs our capacities to observe our minds from the inside, as self-consciousness, of our mental mechanisms, and of our whole body/mind systems.

At this point, my hypothesis is: If the computer is a way of outsourcing the mind’s functions, the mind itself could be considered as a “medium” which determines an extension and an anesthesia, in this case in relation to the original completeness of the soul. This is an application of McLuhan’s theories considering the knowledge that comes from the psychology of the ego.

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Sappiamo da Marshall McLuhan che ogni medium ed ogni tecnologia hanno un ruolo nell’estensione e nell’intorpidimento dei nostri organi. Le estensioni della mente create dalla tecnologia del computer se da una parte ci espandono le possibilità mentali in termini di ricerca ed elaborazione di informazioni e conoscenze, dall’altra parte ci portano ad amputare o intorpidire alcune capacità della stessa.

Le estensioni della mente create dalla tecnologia del computer se da una parte ci espandono le possibilità mentali in termini di ricerca ed elaborazione di informazioni e conoscenze, dall’altra parte ci portano ad amputare o intorpidire alcune capacità della stessa. Il computer, che può sembrare un’estensione delle capacità della mente, in realtà intorpidisce le capacità di osservazione della nostra mente dall’interno, intesa come consapevolezza di noi stessi, dei nostri meccanismi mentali e del nostro sistema globale corpo/mente.

A questo punto la mia ipotesi è che se il computer è un modo di esternalizzare le funzioni della mente, la mente stessa può essere considerata come un “medium” che determina una estensione e una anestesia, in questo caso in relazione alla completezza originaria dell’anima. Un’applicazione delle teorie di McLuhan considerando le conoscenze della psicologia dell’ego.

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Downloading our mind

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In 1964 Marshall McLuhan said: “Having extended or translated our central nervous system into the electromagnetic technology, it is but a further stage to transfer our consciousness to the computer world as well” (Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1994).

Hans Moravec took him in earnest, stating that the mind’s contents could be copied on a mechanical support – and who knows, perhaps even transplanted as any other organ. The technological dream of transcending the body is a revival of separation of the “impure” body and the “divine” mind, shared both by Christianity and the Cartesian science.

But our identification with the mind could be challenged in the very moment when the mind could be copied, reproduced and shared between people.

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Marshall McLuhan nel 1964 affermava: “Avendo esteso o tradotto il nostro sistema nervoso centrale nella tecnologia elettromagnetica basta un solo passo per trasferire anche la nostra coscienza nel mondo del cervello elettronico”. (Marshall McLuhan. Gli strumenti del comunicare. Mondadori. Milano. 1990)

Qualcuno come Hans Moravec lo ha preso sul serio, affermando che i contenuti della mente potranno essere copiati su un supporto meccanico, e chissà magari anche trapiantati come qualsiasi altro organo. Il sogno di trascendenza del corpo in veste tecnologica è un rigurgito della visione religiosa/illuministica di separazione del corpo “impuro” dalla mente “divina”.

Ma la nostra identificazione con la mente potrebbe venire messa a rischio proprio nel momento in cui la mente potrà essere copiata, riprodotta e scambiata tra le persone.

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Loving the truth for its own sake, interview with Almaas

<h1><a mce_thref=[en]The Diamond Approach, the path created by Hameed Ali, better known by the pen name A.H.Almaas, emphasizes loving the truth for its own sake. Searching the truth takes place through a process of inquiry that includes the subjectivity of the researcher and his personal history as a way to reach objective knowledge of the soul and of the divine.

In this interview, originally appeared on Innernet, he speaks about the inner inquiry process, the researchers and the nature of the soul.

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Il Diamond Approach, il percorso creato da Hameed Ali, meglio conosciuto con il nome di penna di Almaas, valorizza l’amore della verità fine a se stessa. La ricerca avviene tramite un processo di “inquiry”, di interrogazione interiore, che include la soggettività del ricercatore come passaggio per arrivare ad una condizione di oggettività della conoscenza dell’anima e del divino.

In questa intervista, originalmente apparsa su Innernet, Hameed Ali parla della ricerca interiore, dei ricercatori e della natura dell’anima.

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