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The User Illusion
Are you conscious right now?
Are you sure about that?
How much of what we see are we actually
            conscious of?
The human brain takes in more information than
            we are conscious of.
That is:

When we see letters on a screen,
 we are conscious of meaning.
Consciousness is very low bandwidth.
Some numbers:

Silent Reading: 45 bits/sec
Reading Aloud: 30 bits/sec
 Proofreading: 18 bits/sec
Piano Playing: 23 bits/sec
No, really.

   One page in 2.5 minutes

        1 page = 40 lines
     1 line = 60 characters
2400 characters in 150 seconds
  16 bits raw, 32 bits per char
 ~40 bits/sec just by the letters.
The upper limit seems to be 50 bits/sec for words.
Same with sound and light.
Make sounds at 16 pulses a second.
          You hear pulses.

Make sounds at over 16 pulses a second.
          You hear a tone.
Show images at 16 slides a second.
         You see slides.

Show images over 16 slides a second.
      You see moving images.
And you don't need consciousness.
Blindsight

People with brain damage that can't see in parts
             of their field of vision.

   But then they “guess” absolutely correctly.
They are not conscious of what they are seeing.

  But they still duck if they're about walk into
                   something.
We do not see what we sense.

     We see what we think we sense.

Our vision is interpreted long before we are
               conscious of it.
Also, your conscious lags behind.
Not just what you perceive, but how you act.
Kornhuber and Deecke hook people to an EEG.

They ask people to move their fingers at intervals.

They see the readiness potential when a finger is
              about to be moved.

 The signal happens a second the finger actually
                    moves.
The act of moving a finger happens a second
          before we actually move it.

When do we actually decide to move the finger?
Around 0.35 seconds AFTER the potential starts.
By the time we decide to do something, we're
              already moving.
So what good is consciousness?
David Rosenthal:

“[...] the consciousness of these states itself adds
         no significant function to that of those
                 other developments.”

                  Which means:

Consciousness is just a side-effect, with no real
              adaptive value.
Well, maybe not quite a side-effect.
Ezequiel Morsella:
“a senate, in which representatives from different
provinces are always in attendance, regardless of
    whether they should sit quietly or debate.”

   Consciousness resolves conflicts between
             different systems.
Peter Watts:
 “The more cognitively sophisticated you become,
   the more able you are to suppress hardwired
aversion responses in favor of long-term agendas.
The more sublime your awareness, the more pain
               you can withstand.”
Consciousness: you usually don't need it, and
when you do, you'll probably wish you didn't.

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User illusion

  • 2. Are you conscious right now?
  • 3. Are you sure about that?
  • 4. How much of what we see are we actually conscious of?
  • 5. The human brain takes in more information than we are conscious of.
  • 6. That is: When we see letters on a screen, we are conscious of meaning.
  • 7.
  • 8. Consciousness is very low bandwidth.
  • 9. Some numbers: Silent Reading: 45 bits/sec Reading Aloud: 30 bits/sec Proofreading: 18 bits/sec Piano Playing: 23 bits/sec
  • 10. No, really. One page in 2.5 minutes 1 page = 40 lines 1 line = 60 characters 2400 characters in 150 seconds 16 bits raw, 32 bits per char ~40 bits/sec just by the letters.
  • 11. The upper limit seems to be 50 bits/sec for words.
  • 12. Same with sound and light.
  • 13. Make sounds at 16 pulses a second. You hear pulses. Make sounds at over 16 pulses a second. You hear a tone.
  • 14. Show images at 16 slides a second. You see slides. Show images over 16 slides a second. You see moving images.
  • 15. And you don't need consciousness.
  • 16. Blindsight People with brain damage that can't see in parts of their field of vision. But then they “guess” absolutely correctly.
  • 17. They are not conscious of what they are seeing. But they still duck if they're about walk into something.
  • 18. We do not see what we sense. We see what we think we sense. Our vision is interpreted long before we are conscious of it.
  • 19. Also, your conscious lags behind.
  • 20. Not just what you perceive, but how you act.
  • 21. Kornhuber and Deecke hook people to an EEG. They ask people to move their fingers at intervals. They see the readiness potential when a finger is about to be moved. The signal happens a second the finger actually moves.
  • 22. The act of moving a finger happens a second before we actually move it. When do we actually decide to move the finger?
  • 23. Around 0.35 seconds AFTER the potential starts.
  • 24. By the time we decide to do something, we're already moving.
  • 25. So what good is consciousness?
  • 26. David Rosenthal: “[...] the consciousness of these states itself adds no significant function to that of those other developments.” Which means: Consciousness is just a side-effect, with no real adaptive value.
  • 27. Well, maybe not quite a side-effect.
  • 28. Ezequiel Morsella: “a senate, in which representatives from different provinces are always in attendance, regardless of whether they should sit quietly or debate.” Consciousness resolves conflicts between different systems.
  • 29. Peter Watts: “The more cognitively sophisticated you become, the more able you are to suppress hardwired aversion responses in favor of long-term agendas. The more sublime your awareness, the more pain you can withstand.”
  • 30. Consciousness: you usually don't need it, and when you do, you'll probably wish you didn't.