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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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Reading as Contemplation versus Reading as Compulsion

In the middle of Twitter-mania and the push toward writing and reading fast, updated and short-lived information, it is good to be reminded about different ways of reading by two spiritual teachers from two very different paths. One is from Carlo Maria Martini.

The Christian tradition developed lectio divina (divine reading), a method in four steps: “lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio” (reading, reflecting, oration, meditation). Those successions are the products of theological and anthropological reflections on the way the believer approaches God’s word, in order to assimilate them and transform them in real life, in action. (Carlo Maria Martini, Lectio Divina e Pastorale: A Cura di Salvatore A. Panimolle, Ascolto della Parola e Preghiera, La “Lectio Divina”, Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1987, p. 217).

The second is from the Indian mystic Osho.

To read is to know a certain art. It is to get into deep sympathy. It is to get into a sort of participation. It is a great experiment in meditation. But if you read the Gita the same way as you read novels you will miss it. It has layers and layers of depth. Hence, path – every day once has to repeat. It is not a repetition; if you know how to repeat it, it is not a repetition. If you don’t know, then it is a repetition.
Just try it for three months. Read the same book – you can choose any small book – every day. And don’t bring your yesterday to read it: just again fresh as the sun rises in the morning – again fresh as flowers come this morning, again fresh. Just open the Gita again, excited, thrilled. Again read it, again sing it, and see. It reveals a new meaning to you.
It has nothing to do with yesterday and all the yesterdays when you were reading it. It gives you a certain significance today, this moment, but if you bring your yesterdays with you, then you will not be able to read the new meaning. Your mind is always full of meaning. You think you already know. You think you have been reading this book again and again – so what is the point? Then you can go on reading it like a mechanical thing and you can go on thinking a thousand and one other thoughts. Then it is futile. Then it is just boring. Then you will not be rejuvenated by it. You will become dull. (Osho, The Search: Talks on the Ten Bulls of Zen, Rebel Publishing House, 1977, p. 122).

I wonder if the compulsive search for the latest news/messages and for an unending flow of information could be a reflection on the mental level of the everlasting freshness experienced by an enlightened soul. Such a condition re-creates itself anew at every moment, keeping the mind free from the burdens of the past.

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Memory

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Scientists have come close to the possibility of erasing a one-month-old guinea pig’s memories. A protein called α-CaMKII is involved in the storing and regaining of memory.

In particular, researchers increased the levels of this protein at the moment when the guinea pigs remembered the pain consequent to a shock. This increase caused dissipation of the memory connected to the shock, and not just temporarily. The memory seems to be completely lost, as if the fact had never happened. Possible applications of this research are seen in overcoming memories of painful traumas.

Apart from the risk of engineering soldiers who can commit any brutality and forget it chemically, this approach to traumatic memories is a mechanical type without a holistic vision of human beings. The idea is still about having a war against something, as with medicine (“the war against cancer”, against microorganisms, etc.) instead of becoming aware of it.

Memories and traumas enter every cell of the body, and I have an impression that it will probably be possible to inhibit access to a certain memory, but it will not remove its energetic charge in the person. The extreme precision of awareness can act in a way that memories are not removed but are integrated into wider acceptance which becomes part of our experience and growth.

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Gli scienziati si sono avvicinati alla possibilità di cancellare nelle cavie i ricordi di un mese precedente. Una proteina di nome α-CaMKII  è coinvolta nella memorizzazione e nel recupero delle memorie.

In particolare, i ricercatori hanno aumentato i livelli di tale proteina nel momento in cui le cavie ricordavano il dolore conseguente ad uno shock. Questo aumento ha portato alla dissipazione della memoria legata allo shock, non solo temporaneamente. La memoria sembra persa completamente, come se il fatto non fosse mai avvenuto. Le applicazioni possibili di questa ricerca vengono viste nel superamento dei traumi dolorosi.

A parte il rischio di trovarsi con dei soldati che possono compiere qualsiasi efferatezza e dimenticarla chimicamente, questo approccio verso i ricordi traumatici è di nuovo di tipo meccanico/organico senza una visione d’insieme dell’essere. L’idea è ancora quella di fare la guerra a qualcosa, come avviene per la medicina (“la guerra contro il cancro”, contro i microorganismi, ecc…) invece che prenderne consapevolezza.

Il ricordo ed i traumi entrano in tutte le cellule del corpo e la mia impressione è che si potrà forse anche inibire l’accesso ad un certo ricordo, ma questo non toglierà la sua carica energetica nella persona.  L’estrema precisione della consapevolezza può far sì che il ricordo non venga rimosso ma che venga integrato in una accettazione più ampia che lo rende parte della nostra esperienza e crescita.

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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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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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Internet and the weakening of central (inner) organizations

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In the Hindu and tantric Buddhist esoteric traditions, human beings are seen as composed of centers of energy called chakras. Of those, the sixth chakra, called Ajna chakra, is located between the eyes and is often associated with the pineal gland and the “third eye.”

The sixth chakra resonates with an intuitive kind of intelligence, with clear thinking and clear vision. The sixth chakra way of knowing allows one to see the forming of clear patterns in a huge amount of information. This chakra synthesizes many different aspects of intelligence and gives the skill to pick out information about anything by non-logical means.

The sixth chakra world points to a fascinating place where pure knowledge is omnipresent. Descartes would probably have loved to imagine such a place. Anybody heavily involved with information technology as well would enjoy the sixth chakra capacity to see patterns in the information overload and to live in a clear, brilliant place where intuition rules.

The sixth chakra is even more than intelligence as we know it. It is pure knowing, where even thinking is not needed any more. It is also a place where single individualities melt, where there’s nobody who knows and just knowing remains, a place where there’s no separation between inner and outer, between me and you… no more duality. There is a transpersonal flavour about the sixth body.

The sixth chakra is supposed to take charge of the person when the ego, through a spiritual path, doesn’t have the primary role any more. The sixth chakra starts to coordinate the body and the mind from a higher awareness than the ego and one of its names is “the command chakra.” The ego keeps the personality together through a thick net of thoughts, feelings and conditionings that are mostly acquired, while the Ajna chakra gives direct vision, knowledge and action, non-mediated by any past conditionings.

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Nelle tradizioni esoteriche Indù e nel Buddismo tantrico, gli essere umani sono composti da centri energetici chiamati chakra. Di questi, il sesto chakra, chiamato  Ajna chakra, è localizzato in mezzo agli occhi ed è spesso associato con la ghiandola pineale e il “terzo occhio”.

Il sesto chakra risuona con un tipo di intelligenza intutitivo, con un pensiero e una visione nitida. La modalità di conoscere del sesto chakra consente ad una persona di vedere con chiarezza delle strutture, dei pattern, all’interno di un’enorme quantità di informazioni. Questo chakra sintetizza molti diversi aspetti dell’intelligenza e conferisce la capacità di estrapolare informazioni su qualsiasi tema tramite procedimenti non-logici.

Il mondo del sesto chakra mostra un luogo affascinante dove la conoscenza pura è onnipresente. Probabilmente Cartesio avrebbe amato immaginare un tale luogo. Anche chiunque è fortemente coinvolto nell’elaborazione dell’informazione si feliciterebbe della capacità del sesto chakra di vedere delle hiare strutture nel sovraccarico informativo e di risiedere in un luogo trasparente e brillante dove l’intuizione la fa da padrona.

Il sesto chakra va oltre alla definizione di intelligenza per come la conosciamo. E’ conoscenza allo stato puro, dove anche il pensiero stesso non è più necessario. E’ anche un luogo dove le singole individualità si fondono, dove non vi è più nessuno che conosce e dove rimane solo la conoscenza, un luogo ove non vi è separazione tra interiore ed esteriore, tra me e te, nessuna dualità. Il sesto corpo ha un sapore transpersonale.

Si ritiene che il sesto chakra si prenda cura della persona quando l’ego, tramite un percorso spirituale, non ha più un ruolo primario. Il sesto chakra inizia a coordinare il corpo e la mente da una conspevolezza più elevata dell’ego, tanto che uno dei suoi nomi è “il chakra del comando”. L’ego mantiene la personalità unita attraverso una fitta rete di pensieri, emozioni e condizionamenti, perlopiù acquisiti, mente l’Ajna chakra produce una visione, una conoscenza e un’azione diretta, non mediata da alcun condizionamento del passato.

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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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Nobody’s copyright

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]The debate about copyright is one of the most heated on the Internet. Record labels, movie distributors, publishers, news agencies, bloggers and users are involved in a discussion which at times gets aggressive.

It seems that virtually everything on the Net is eventually copied, aggregated, cut, pasted and homogenized. There are various sites which aggregate articles by collecting everything being produced by blogs. The aggregators often allow readers to comment on the articles. This way, both the contents and the comments are being taken away from the authors’ sites.

Every intellectual production is being absorbed by the collective sphere and somehow becomes depersonalized from the original author.

The hyperproduction of information and knowledge by hundreds of millions of people at the same time creates a whirl where individual identities and sources of information become out of focus and, like the rotation pinwheel of colors, creates a single white color from which it is difficult to trace the original color.

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Il dibattito sul copyright è uno dei più accesi su Internet. Case discografiche, cinematografiche, editori, agenzie di informazioni, blogger e utenti sono coinvolti in una discussione che talvolta assume dei toni aggressivi.

Sembra che tutto ciò che è mostrato in Rete alla fine è citato, copiato, aggregato, tagliato, incollato e omogeneizzato. Vi sono diversi siti che aggregano gli articoli raccogliendo tutto quanto viene prodotto dai vari blog. Gli stessi aggregatori spesso consentono anche di commentare gli articoli da parte dei lettori. In questo modo, sia i contenuti che le discussioni vengono portate fuori dal sito degli autori.

Ogni produzione intellettuale viene assorbita dalla sfera collettiva e in qualche modo si spersonalizza nei confronti all’autore originale.

L’iperproduzione di informazioni e conoscenze da parte di centinaia di milioni di persone contemporaneamente crea una girandola dove  le identità e le sorgenti individuali delle informazioni si sfuoca e, come la rotazione di tutti i colori, genera un unico colore bianco da dove è difficile risalire al colore originale.

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Descartes’ little “Spirits”

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Though Descartes is considered the father of rationality and of the modern scientific method, in his researches he was a philosopher and sometimes a mystic. The religious aspect was a kind of partial compromise for pandering to the ecclesiastic hierarchies of his time, but his method of investigation was still anchored to inner analysis and to philosophy, besides scientific objectivity.

Science, not having modern research instruments then, was integrated with the investigation methodologies that rested upon cosmology, religion, and philosophy, among other sources of knowledge.

It is known that Descartes considered the pineal gland as a bridge between the immortal soul and the mortal body.

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Cartesio, nonostante sia considerato il padre della razionalità e del metodo per l’indagine scientifica moderna, era nelle sue ricerche filosofo e talvolta mistico. In parte l’aspetto religioso era un compromesso per assecondare le gerarchie ecclesiastiche del tempo, ma il suo metodo di indagine era comunque ancora ancorato all’indagine interiore e alla filosofia oltre che all’oggettività della scienza.

La scienza, non avendo gli strumenti di indagine moderni, era integrata con metodologie di indagine che poggiavano sulla cosmologia, sulla religione e sulla filosofia, tra le altre fonti di conoscenza.

E’ risaputo che Cartesio ritenesse la ghiandola pineale un ponte tra l’anima immortale e il corpo mortale.

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Brains

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The global ecological conscience becames unavoidable both because of the obvious environmental devastation and because of the expanded awareness of that through the Internet.

Every instance of deforestation, the melting of every glacier, every territory where drought advances, as well as the presence of pollutants in the atmosphere and in the seas is monitored by the sensitive nervous systems of satellites, whose data are being sent back to the Internet’s nervous system, which in its turn is connected to individuals’ nervous systems, and in their turn connected between themselves through the Net.

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La coscienza ecologica globale è diventata inevitabile sia per gli evidenti disastri ambientali che per l’allargata consapevolezza degli stessi tramite Internet.

Ogni deforestazione, ogni fusione dei ghiacciai, ogni territorio in cui avanza la siccità, nonchè la presenza di inquinanti nell’atmosfera e nei mari è monitorata dal sistema nervoso elevato dei satelliti i cui dati vengono rimandati al sistema nervoso di Internet, a sua volta connesso ai sistemi nervosi dei singoli individui, e a loro volta connessi tra di loro mediante la stessa Rete.

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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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