According to the ancient Greeks, humans can only acquire higher knowledge and insights
(make sense of the world), when we have Self Knowledge.
And, in order to know oneself, one must surely know what the self is all about.
A truly intriguing subject! See: The Self and Its World.

We might never truly know You, the bearer of consciousness and identity,
- the first person observer of reality, inhabiting a human body.
But the same brain, that has a you, can also set up a goal to know more about itself....
See: Goal Mapping.

But it is a difficult quest, so, once in a while we need sleep to get reenergized. See: To Sleep.

And then, the next day, the process can start all over ...
Luckily, the self remembers, stays on target, and creates a sense of continuity in our experiences.

In the digital age, machines can help us track what people (and their selves) are up to.
E.g. phones give away locations, and machines that crawl through (internet) documents can extract keywords (on what people are thinking about) etc.
When I extracted keywords for this homepage, I had hoped they would spell out the words: ''Who are you'' (dear self) ....
Sadly they didn't, but ''People and Minds'' are pretty close ... :-)
See: Keywords For Homepage.


Simon Laub

The Self and Its World.

Great (amusing, teasing, though-provoking) cover story about The Self in this weeks NewScientist (February 23rd, 2013). Certainly, there seems to be enough material for a lifetime of study in that article:
Modern humans have existed for perhaps 100.000 years, and more than 100 billion have already lived and died. We assume that they all experienced a sense of self similar to yours.
The brain accomplishes an extremely complex task in bringing about the appearance of a unified world.
Consider, for example, that light travels much faster than sound, yet visual stimuli take longer to process than noise. Putting together these different speeds means that sights and sounds from an event usually becomes available to our consciousness at differnet times (only sights and sounds from 10 metres away are available at the same time). That means the apparent simultaneity of hearing a voice and seeing the speeker's lips move, for example, has to be constructed by the brain.
Constructions: In the Beta phenomenon a bright spot is flashed, and is immidiately followed by a similar spot somewhere else on the screen.
Phi Phenomenon
Phi Phenomenon
Do you see a ball moving back and forth at the top, and below this moving ball, do you see two stationary balls?
This is easily explained: The brain often fills in elements of a scene using guesswork...

In the color phi phenomenon the brain construction/illusion gets a little bigger.
Subjects report seeing a dot that moves from the top to the bottom of a screen. The dot changes color midway through its path.
Actually: First a blue dot is shown at the top of the screen, followed by a period of blank screen. Finally a red dot is shown at the bottom of the screen.
Our experience of the world resembles a television broadcast with a timelag; Conscious perception is not ''live''. This on its own might not be too much cause for concern, but in the same way the TV time lag makes last-minute censorship possible, our brain, rather than showing us what happened a moment ago, sometimes constructs a present that has never happened.
Body Constructions: Sometimes, the brain might even make a construction, where the self is not placed within the body. According to Olaf Blanke, brain lesions might cause certain out-of-body experiences.
E.g.: In experiments using MRI scanners, the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) behaved differently when people said they were drifting outside their bodies. It is our ability to integrate visual, tactile and propioceptive senses with signals from the inner ear that give us our sense of balance and spatial orientation. It follows that we can have bodily illusions, if something doesn't work just right:
The brains ability to integrate various sensory stimuli plays a key role in locating the self in the body.
According to philosopher Thomas Metzinger, understanding how the brain performs this step is the first step in understanding how the brain put together our autobiographical self - the sense we have of ourselves as entities that exist from a remembered past to an imagined future.
Social Constructions: A self might reach out to other selves. I.e. our relationships with others are also important for the self:
The idea that sense of self drives, and is driven by, our relationships with others makes intuitive sense. We can't have relationships without having a self?
Indeed, ''the social me'' evidence continue to mount (See the NewScientist article).
Obviously, usually, it is all good, and the self does a brilliant job for us.
Still, one should remember, that sometimes, the social self might not be helpful for our wellbeing. Groups aren't always nice.


Simon Laub

Making Sense of the World.

Data integration, Default Mode Network, Concepts, Attention.

According to Lena Groeger, on Scientific Americans blog, Sensory cross talk helps us navigate the world:
Our five senses - sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell - seem to operate independently, as five distinct modes of perceiving the world. In reality, however, they collaborate closely to enable the mind to better understand its surroundings.
We can usually differentiate the sights we see and the sounds we hear. But in some cases, the two can be intertwined. During speech perception, our brain integrates information from our ears with that from our eyes. Because this integration happens early in the perceptual process, visual cues influence what we think we are hearing. That is, what we see can actually shape what we hear.
See the McGurk Effect.
Data integration is obviously key to a healthy mind.
Btw (Scientific American Mind, March 2013):
The Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology has changed the name of schizophrenia from seishin bunretsu byo, or Mind-split disease, to togo shitcho-sho, or Integration disorder.
And we certainly need healthy minds to make sense of the world around us.
Marcus E. Raichle writes (Scientific American, March 2013):
Of the virtually unlimited information available in the world around us, the equivalent of 10 billion bits per second arrives on the retina at the back of the eye. Because the optic nerve attached to the retina has only a million output connections, just six million bits per second leave the retina, and only 10.000 bits per second make it to the visual cortex.
After further processing, visual information feed into the brain regions responsible for forming our conscious perception. Surprisingly, the amount of information constituting that conscious perception is less than 100 bits per second. Such a thin stream of data probably could not produce a perception if that were all the brain took into account; The intrisic activity must play a role.
Yet, another indication of the brain's intrinsic processing power comes from counting the number of synapses, the contact points between neurons. In the visual cortex, the number of synapses devoted to incoming visual information is less than 10 percent of those present. Thus, the vast majority must represent internal connections among neurons in that brain region.
According to Raichle, a Default Mode Network in the brain helps different regions of the brain to react in concert to stimuli:
Orchestrator of the Self:
The Default Mode Network is thought to behave something like an orchestra conductor, issuing timing signals, much as a conductor waves a baton, to coordinate activity among different brain regions.
This cuing - among the visual and auditory parts of the cortex, for instance - probably ensures that all regions of the brain are ready to react in concert to stimuli.
Raichle has showed that the brain's energy consumption is increased by less than 5% of its baseline energy consumption while performing a focused mental task. These experiments showed that the brain is constantly active with a high level of activity even when the person is not engaged in focused mental work. Research thereafter focused on finding the regions responsible for this constant background activity level.
Raichle coined the term default mode in 2001 to describe resting state brain function.
The term Default Mode Network is not universally accepted though.
Still, obviously, some coordination much be going on.

Eventually, either because of (something like) the Default Network or because of the Task Positive Network, a concept comes to mind.
According to Quirogo, Fried and Koch (Scientific American, February 2013):
We performed experiments that led to the discovery of a neuron in the hippocampus of one patient, a brain region known to be involved in memory processes, that responded very strongly to different photographs of actress Jennifer Aniston, but not to dozens of other actors, celebrities, places and animals.
During the experiments, it was as if the neuron in its firing patterns tells us:
I know it is Jennifer Aniston, and it does not matter how you present her to me, whether in a red dress, in profile, as a written name or even if you call her name out loud.
The neuron, then seems to respond to the concept - to any representation of the thing itself. Thus, these neurons may be more appropriately called concept cells instead of grandmother cells (reacting to the image of your grandmother in any shape or form).
We should consider the fact, that a typical person remembers no more than 10.000 concepts. And this is not a lot in comparison to the billion nerve cells that make up the medial temporal lobe.
Neurons in the medial temporal lobe just do not care about different instances of the same concept. They fire to the concept itself no matter how it is presented.
Concept cells, that resides in the hippocampus, and the medial temporal lobe in general, might not be necessary for a person to recognize Jennifer Aniston, but it might be critical for translating what is in our awareness, triggered by sensory inputs or internal recall, into long-term memories that will later be stored in other areas in the cerebral cortex.
Concepts may be the basis for the creation of episodic memory:
If two concepts are related, some of the neurons encoding one concept may also fire to the other one. This hypothesis gives a physiological explanation for how neurons in the brain encode associations. The tendency for cells to fire to related concepts may indeed be the basis for the creation of episodic memories (such as a particular sequence of events during a cafe encounter, or the flow of consciousness, moving spontaneously from one concept to the other.
Concept cells link perception to memory; they give an abstract and sparse representation of semantic knowledge. The people, places, objects, all the meaningful concepts that make up our individual world. They constitute the building blocks for the memories of facts and events of our lives.
If this (and the world in general) is a bit overwhelming :-) , Scientific American Mind, March 2013, suggest that we all start practicing Mindfulness.
Mindfulness techniques are most likely to alter and strengthen many brain networks and processes. Several studies suggest, for example, that such exercises shift the mind from a narrative mode of viewing the self, in which the central character in the story is you, to a more experimental view, in which you observe the unfolding of your thoughts, feelings and sensations over time. Other studies indicate that emotional changes or calming of stress- induced physiological symptoms may drive phychological improvements.
Indeed, it might be just the thing needed to make sense of it all ...

Here's what to do:
- Sit in an upright, stable position, hands resting on your thighs or cradled together.

- Lower or close your eyes, whichever is more comfortable for you.

- Attend to your breath, following its movement throughout your body.

- Notice the sensations around your belly as air flows into and out of your nose or mouth. You have been breathing all day, all your life, and in this moment, you are simply noticing your breath.

- Select one area of your body affected by your breathing and focus your attention there. Control your focus, not the breathing itself.

- When you notice your mind wandering - and it will - bring your attention back to your breath.

- After 5 to 10 minutes, switch from focusing to monitoring. Think of your mind as a vast open sky and your thoughts, feelings and sensations as passing clouds.

- Feel your whole body move with your breath. Be receptive to your sensations, noticing what arises in the moments. Be attentive to the changing quality of experience - sounds, aromas, the caress of a breeze ... thoughts.

- After about five more minutes, lift your gaze or open your eyes.

Maybe, doing this is really what making sense of it all is all about?

See more here: Memories and Mindfulness (d).


Simon Laub

Goal Mapping.

Great inspirational talk by Brian Mayne at Speakers Club (Musikhuset, Aarhus, February 6th 2013).

According to Brian Mayne:
Goal-setting is a natural function of the brain.
Making a decision starts a subconscious process that transforms the decision into a deed.
Learning the most effective way to set goals is the number one prerequisite for success in any endeavour, for any individual, team, or organisation.
Much of Brian Maynes talk might not be entirely new territory for most people.
But it was a very clear talk, where a lot of the difficult material (why people might not have the life they want) were explained in simple and precise terms. Great stuff!

E.g. you might know that it is good thing to think positively, but why?

In the talk, Mayne explained how thinking positively may help activate your brain, and actually create new connections, new ideas and answers (whereas thinking negatively basicly does the opposite...).
It might all come down to chemicals in the brain (See stress page):
Have you ever been so stressed out you can't think straight?
Crunch time, trying to make a rational decision and you can't even clearly see the problem? This happens when there is too much cortisol in the brain.
Then the brain cannot properly make and store new thoughts and memories because it is overwhelmed by cortisol.
On the other hand: Optimum levels of serotonin in the brain is essential to maintain a feeling of well-being. So stay away of chronic stress, poor nutrition, yo-yo diets, emotional turmoil and even job-related stress...
But, obviously, Brian Maynes talk was more about low level good advice, rather than brain chemistry, even though the two are obviously connected.
Indeed, setting goals might help the brain stay positive (the brain does not like to go around in circles ...).

Mayne adviced us to use words for the left brain and images for the right brain, when we set goals
(And we were warned that the subconscious can't understand future goals.
A future goal will be interpreted as not now, and will never be activated...
So, the right brain should see the big picture, and the left brain should work on getting there, starting right now).

Some headlines from the talk.

Great comments about:
- The Power of Positive Thinking, applying the mind to find solutions to problems.
- Raise your awareness: Shifting perceptions to gain clarity on reality.
- Developing a possibility consciousness: Tuning your beliefs to release your potential.
- Be ''on purpose'': Working in alignment with your self-motivation strategy.
- Become fully ''response-able'': Learning how to choose your response.
- Maintain a positive focus: Commanding your subconscious to create your own reality
(The subconscious controls so much more than consciousness. And the subconscious takes its commands from the most dominant themes in our heads. I.e. if we are constantly worried or fearful the subconscious thinks that is the plan to be executed...).

So, according to Mayne, we should ascend the lift ladder:
7. Involve to Evolve.
6. Maintain a positive focus.
5. Become Fully Response-Able.
4. Be on Purpose.
3. Find Balance.
2. Develop Possibility Consciousness.
1. Raise your awareness.
Starting by raising awareness on what is actually going on right now ...

Later, we can set some goals, where the DAC factor (Drive, Attitude, Confidence) is just as important as knowledge and skills:
According to Mayne, Knowledge and Skills are only the back wheel of what we need in order to reach our goals,
the front wheel is actually just as important, if not more.
And contains the mental setup that gives us our goals and purpose.

Finally, we were introduced to some Goal Mapping Templates that could help start the process of actually working towards some goals:
1. Dream = What do you want?
2. Order = Which goal is the priority?
3. Draw = Create right-brain imagery.
4. Why = Identify your motivating reasons.
5. When = Over what period of time?
6. How = What actions will be needed?
7. Who = Whose help will you require?
See Free Templates.


Simon Laub

To Sleep.

According to Tononi's ''Synaptic Homeostasis Hypothesis'':
Wakefulness leads to a net increase in synaptic strength, and sleep is necessary to reestablish synaptic homeostasis.
In PubMed Tononi and Cirelli writes:
1. Wakefulness is associated with synaptic potentiation in several cortical circuits;
2. Synaptic potentiation is tied to the homeostatic regulation of slow-wave activity;
3. Slow-wave activity is associated with synaptic downscaling;
4. Synaptic downscaling is tied to the beneficial effects of sleep on performance.
The hypothesized link between sleep and synaptic homeostasis is supported by several lines of evidence and leads to testable predictions.
In NewScientists cover-story (February 2nd, 2013) Liam Drew writes:
There is now much evidence to support what is now known as the ''Synaptic Homeostasis Hypothesis''.
In humans, brain scans show that our grey matter uses more energy at the end of the working day than at the start...
Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli have shown that in rodents and fruit flies, synaptic strength increases during wakefulness and falls during sleep. The pair have also shown that when people learn a task that uses a specific part of the brain, that part generates more intense slow waves during subsequent sleep.

This kind of downscaling is best done ''offline'', says Tononi.
''You can activate your brain in all kinds of ways, because you don't need to behave or learn.''
So, there might actually be a reason why we sleep... :-)

For more, see William Dement's sleep comment
(In the Sleep section at the bottom of the page).


Simon Laub

Keywords for Homepage.

Extracting Keywords for websites is a big business (E.g. see Google AdWords).
However, on this website, I have just manually entered keywords, and hoped that people would be able to locate my texts (in their favorite search engine) ...
Obviously, there is a lot more that can be done.

Are the keywords accurate?

I have recently tried to verify that my (manually entered) keywords are actually accurate.

E.g. on my Silicon Sirens page a machine extracted these keywords from the text:
Self, Reality and Reason
I was pretty pleased with that.
The page is indeed about Silicon Sirens, Conscious Machines and Global Workspace Theory.
And certainly, I had manually entered some of the same keywords in the metadata for the page.

Same thing for my CogSci 2012 page:
Self, Reality and Reason
This page is indeed about impressions from CogSci 2012.

So far so good.
On all the pages I tried this on, my own manually entered keywords seemed to be rather accurate...

Graphical Presentations.

I then handed WordItOut the complete texts from 20 selected pages from my Website.
Keywords were calculated and graphical presentations made, beautiful stuff...

Finally, I entered text from 50 pages from my website into WordCounter,
and made a graphical presentation from the data.

So, what does the machines say this website is really all about?
See the results below:

Post 1: Self, Reality and Reason.
Self, Reality and Reason
Calculated Keywords: Memories, Self, Reality.

Post 2: Connectome.
Calculated Keywords: Brain, Neurons, Connectome.

Post 3: Silicon Sirens.
Silicon Sirens
Calculated Keywords: Conscious, Social, Cognitive.

Post 4: Sum - Forty tales from the afterlives.
Calculated Keywords: Life, Afterlife, Understand.

Post 5: Decisive Moment - How do we make decisions.
Calculated Keywords: Rational, Brain, People.

Post 6: The Emotion Machine. - Commonsense thinking.
Emotional Brain
Calculated Keywords: Goals, Minsky, Emotion.

Post 7: Kluge - Redesigning the human brain.
Kluge Brain
Calculated Keywords: Rational, Emotional, System.

Post 8: I, Robot.
I, Robot
Calculated Keywords: Robotics, Robot, Human.

Post 9: Roboticide and Robot Love.
Roboticide and Robot love
Calculated Keywords: Love, Robots, Asimov.

Post 10: Robot Power.
Robot Power
Calculated Keywords: Dimensions, Power, Robots.

Post 11: I, Computer.
I, Computer
Calculated Keywords: Consciousness, Personality, Robots.

Post 12: Visit to the Ishiguro Robot Lab.
Visit to the Ishiguro Robot Lab
Calculated Keywords: Future, Human, ReplieeQ2.

Post 13: Top 10 reasons why people don't like robots.
Top 10 reasons why people don't like robots
Calculated Keywords: Robots, Humans, Obedient.

Post 14: True Blue - John Adams.
True Blue - John Adams
Calculated Keywords: John Adams, Revolution, Jefferson.

Post 15: 1776, a close call with destiny.
1776, a close call with destiny
Calculated Keywords: British, Washington, Army.

Post 16: Psychohistory.
Calculated Keywords: Psychohistory, Asimov, Foundation.

Post 17: The Never-Ending Days of Being Dead.
The Never-Ending Days of Being Dead
Calculated Keywords: Universe, Simulation, Infinite.

Post 18: Antipatterns. Refactoring Software.
Antipatterns. Refactoring Software
Calculated Keywords: AntiPattern, Management, Solution.

Post 19: CogSci 2012.
CogSci 2012
Calculated Keywords: About, Cognition, Models.

Post 20: Nasslli 2012.
Nasslli 2012
Calculated Keywords: Turing, Machine, Time.

Finally, I entered text from 50+ pages (from into the machine,
in order to calculate keywords for my entire Website.

Summarized: Homepage. Homepage
Calculated Keywords: About, People, Brain.

Surprise, my website is about People and Minds :-)

You can read more about my Agenda here.

Blogspot: [1].


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).


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