Consciousness

Defense Mechanism: How Does Your Body React To Things That Do Not Happen As You Wish

to Sigmund Freud in the psychoanalytic theory, a defense mechanism is a tactic developed by the ego against anxiety.1 Security mechanisms are thought to guard the mind against feelings and thoughts that are too difficult for the conscious mind to cope with.

Also, Wikipedia defines a defense mechanism as an unconscious emotional mechanism that reduces stress as a result of unacceptable or potentially damaging stimuli.2 Sigmund Freud was one of the first proponents of this construct. However, defense mechanisms may bring about healthy or unhealthy consequences with regards to the circumstances and frequency in which the device is used.

While all these mechanisms can be harmful, they can also be very useful and allows us to function normally. The greatest problems occur when defense mechanisms are overused to avoid dealing with problems.

You might have perhaps heard people speak about immunity processors with which we protect ourselves from things that people no longer want to think about or deal with. The term got its start in psychoanalytic therapy, but it has slowly proved helpful in day-to-day language. Think of the last time you referenced to someone as being “in denial” or alleged someone of “rationalizing”. Both of these illustrations label a type of defense mechanism.

I want to analyze below each type of defense mechanism as well as other immunity processes defined by psychologists.

Displacement: express the anger towards other people that are less threatening

Displacement defense mechanism involves getting feelings, frustrations, and impulses on people or objects that are less threatening. Displaced aggression is a common sort of this defense mechanism. Rather than express our angriness in manners that could lead to negative effects (like arguing with the boss), we instead express our anger towards a person or object that position’s no threat (such as our spouse, children, or pets).

For example, this frequently occurs with family members, where we often see the father getting angry at the mother. The mother then takes her anger to her kid, the son in change yells at his little sister, the little sis kicks the dog, and your dog bites the kitten.

Sublimation: transform unhelpful emotions into healthy actions

This is a mechanism that…

Should We Trust Our Gut Feeling When Making Decisions?

You’ve got a difficult choice to make.

You are up for a promotion on your current job and suddenly, out of nowhere, you are confronted with another, very attractive job opportunity. The salary and benefits are great for both your current job and for this new position.

If you stay on your current job you eliminate having to deal with all of the woes of transitioning to a new job and you may get the promotion you’ve been working so hard for these last five and half years.

On the other hand, if you take the new job, you will be making more money, you’ll have more responsibilities, you’ll have to learn a new system and make new friends.

What should you do? Should you play it safe? Should you take the risk? What does your gut tell you? Should you even listen to your gut?

What is Intuition?

Often times when you’re faced with a difficult decision, you just know what the right choice is. You feel the answer in your gut. That’s what experts refer to as your intuition. Intuition is defined as “the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning.” And while intuition1 may seem to be some instinctual and mysterious internal process, it’s actually a form of unconscious reasoning. It is a process that is rooted in the way our brains collect, store, synthesize and recall information.

The problem so many of us have with trusting our intuition is two-fold. First, the process in which we undergo to arrive at our “gut feeling” is an almost entirely, subconscious process. Therefore, you have no idea what data and processes you used to arrive at your conclusion. The second issue is that we often times confuse fear with intuition. We literally feel fear in our gut. This feeling can lead us to believe that our gut is telling us to avoid danger.

When To Trust your Gut

So, when should you trust your intuition? And how do you distinguish between fear and a legitimate gut feeling? Below are three tips that can help you determine when you should go with your gut and when you should get a second opinion.

1. Evaluate your thoughts

This is so important because intuition is a highly subconscious process. Understanding how you think and process information builds confidence in your internal reasoning process. You assimilate information and use inductive and deductive reasoning constantly. The trick is to shift the process from the background to the forefront of your consciousness.

Consider a routine task you do daily without actually thinking about it–such as driving a car. Just as you perform all of the necessary actions to operate a vehicle without actually thinking about it, if asked, you could reverse engineer your thought process. You could describe circumstances, conditions, other people’s motivations, and your own…

Is Free Will an Illusion?

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Whether or not we act out a predetermined role in life or set our own course, has been argued for time immemorial, by philosophers, scholars, and theologians alike. Traditionally, there was an East-West dichotomy. In Eastern philosophies, generally speaking, one was the subject of fate.

People did best in this view, when they recognized their role in the universe and took part in it, wholeheartedly. In the West, humans were thought, by and large, to be imbued with free will. This comes from ancient Greece as much as the Judeo-Christian tradition. Still, free will vs. fate has been debated in the West for ages.

So which is our actual nature? Do we have free will or is it all just an illusion? With the benefits of modern science, we’re able to probe this ancient quandary in new and exciting ways. Today, neuroscientists, psychologists, and physicists have each approached the question in a different way.

Jerry Coyne is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago. He says that all of our choices are determined by molecules in the brain, genes, and the environment. Sam Harris goes a step farther. He’s a philosopher and neuroscientist. Harris wrote a book about how the latest in neuroscience unravels the case for free will irreparably.

According to that field, we make decisions even before we’re consciously aware of them. Decades worth of experiments offer evidence, starting in the 1980s with EEG machines and more recently, with fMRIs and even implants, which read neurons directly inside the brain.

In 1999, psychologists Dan Wegner and Thalia Wheatley conducted a series of experiments to see how the brain made decisions. They found that there is a quarter-of-a-second lag between the time we make a choice and when our conscious mind becomes aware of it.

fMRI scan.

Brain scan studies have shown that we make decisions even before we’re consciously aware of them. Getty Images.

The implications are vast. If we could map a person’s brain in its entirety and know their complete genetic makeup, we’d be able to predict with 100% accuracy, in theory, their response to any given situation. Though American society is based on the idea of free will, such as meritocracy and the American dream, these findings from neuroscience are starting to leak into court rooms and other institutions.

Neuroscientist Christof Koch How the “Qualia” of Our Experience Illuminate the Central Mystery of Consciousness

Neuroscientist Christof Koch How the “Qualia” of Our Experience Illuminate the Central Mystery of Consciousness

“I wish you could know what it means to be me,” Nina Simone sang in her 1967 civil rights anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” — an invitation to empathy at the heart of which is the animating question of consciousness: What does the experience of being feel like from the inside and can that subjective experience ever be fully understood from the outside?

“Everything begins with consciousness and nothing is worth anything except through it,” 28-year-old Albert Camus proclaimed in his meditation on the nature of consciousness just as modern science was beginning to wrest the question from the reposable thumbs of philosophers. Well before Santiago Ramón y Cajal fathered modern neuroscience and set it loose on addressing these questions over the course of the following century, the poet Emily Dickinson captured this elemental paradox of existence in a verse that remains the ultimate ode to — or is it a lamentation of? — consciousness:

How have I peace
Except by subjugating
Consciousness?

And since We’re mutual Monarch
How this be
Except by Abdication —
Me — of Me?

A century and a half later, neuroscientist Christof Koch sets out to map this “mutual monarchy” of self and consciousness — or, rather, of the mind’s phenomenal experience and the brain’s neurophysiology — in his excellent book Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist (public library).

Koch describes himself as a “romantic reductionist” — a reductionist because he seeks “quantitative explanations for consciousness in the ceaseless and ever-varied activity of billions of tiny nerve cells, each with their tens of thousands of synapses,” and romantic on account of his conviction that “the universe has contrails of meaning that can be deciphered in the sky above us and deep within us” — meaning illuminated not within the blink of an individual existence but across the vast cosmic scales of space and time. (Physicist Sean Carroll would later call such an orientation to the quest for meaning “poetic naturalism.”)

Two millennia after Plato’s famous allegory of the cave, Koch writes with an eye to the central inquiry of his life’s work:

Without consciousness there is nothing. The only way you experience your body and the world of mountains and people, trees and dogs, stars and music is through your subjective experiences, thoughts, and memories. You act and move, see and hear, love and hate, remember the past and imagine the future. But ultimately, you only encounter the world in all of its manifestations via consciousness. And when consciousness ceases, this world ceases as well.

[…]

Consciousness is the central fact of your life.

One of neuroscience founding father Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s

In addition to the paradox consciousness presents to the experiencing self, Koch points out that it presents a second paradox to science — on the one hand, it challenges the scientific model of the world by raising the same questions that mystics have been asking for millennia; on the other, it lends itself to being investigated empirically with the very tools of the scientific method and, as Koch puts it, “with both feet firmly planted on the ground.”

Having devoted much of his life to uncovering “how a highly organized piece of matter can possess an interior perspective,” Koch considers one of the most interesting questions of consciousness — that of qualia, the subjective interiority of experiences. (Nina Simone’s moving lyric line brings into sharp relief the grandest quale of all — that of selfhood.) Koch writes:

What it feels like to have a particular experience is the quale of that experience: The quale of the color red is what is common to such disparate percepts as seeing a red sunset, the red flag of China, arterial blood, a ruby gemstone, and Homer’s wine-dark sea. The common denominator of all these subjective states is “redness.” Qualia are the raw feelings, the elements that make up any one conscious experience.

Some qualia are elemental — the color yellow, the abrupt and overpowering pain of a muscle spam in the lower back, or the feeling of familiarity in déjà vu. Others are composites — the smell and feel of my dogs snuggling up against me, the “Aha!” of sudden understanding, or the distinct memory of being utterly transfixed when I first heard the immortal lines: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those…

Don Giovanni and the Universe: Aldous Huxley on How the Moon Illuminates the Complementarity of Spirituality and Science

Don Giovanni and the Universe: Aldous Huxley on How the Moon Illuminates the Complementarity of Spirituality and Science

“The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both,” Carl Sagan wrote shortly before his death. Two decades earlier, he had found a lyrical intersection of science and spirituality in Diane Ackerman’s scientifically accurate poems about the Solar System, which Sagan sent to his pal Timothy Leary in prison.

Leary had been jailed for his experiments probing precisely this meeting point of science and spirituality through his experiments with psychedelics, the most famous of which he conducted at Harvard in the early 1960s together with his friend Aldous Huxley (July, 26 1894–November 22, 1963).

Long before his collaboration with Leary, thirty-something Huxley began exploring the complementarity of the scientific and the spiritual realms of existence not through psychedelics but through immensely poetic prose, nowhere more beautifully than in his 1931 essay collection Music at Night (public library) — the out-of-print treasure that gave us Huxley’s moving meditation on the transcendent power of music.

Aldous Huxley

In an essay titled “Meditation in Arundel Street,” Huxley beings by wresting from the geographic cohabitation of two disparate journals — a religious magazine and a periodical on the science of poultry raising — a metaphor for two radically different ways of looking at the same thing: the universe and our place in it. He writes:

A walk down Arundel Street in London remains, after all, the best introduction to philosophy. Keep your eyes to the left as you descend toward the river from the Strand. You will observe that the Christian World is published at number seven, and a few yards further down, at number nine, the Feathered World. By the time you have reached the Embarkment you will find yourself involved in the most abstruse metaphysical speculations.

The Christian World, the Feathered World — between them a great gulf is fixed… The values and even the truths current in the world of number seven Arundel Street cease to hold good in that of number nine.

Just a few years before the great biologist and writer Rachel Carson extended her pioneering invitation to imagine Earth from the perspective of other creatures, Huxley uses the contrast between these two worlds as the leaping point for illuminating what a tiny sliver of physical reality we perceive through the limited lens of the human mind and spirit. That lacuna between the physical world of science and the metaphysical world of art, he suggests, is where the human consciousness takes shape and takes flight:

The world of Christians and the world of the feathered are but two out of a swarm of humanly conceivable and humanly explorable worlds. They constellate the thinking mind like stars, and between them stretches the mental equivalent of interstellar space — unspanned. Between, for example, a human body and the whizzing electrons of which it is composed, and the thoughts, the feelings which direct its movements, there are, as yet at any rate, no visible connections. The gulf that separates the lover’s, say, or the musician’s world from the world of the chemist is deeper, more uncompromisingly unbridgeable than that which divides Anglo-Catholics from macaws or geese from Primitive Methodists. We cannot walk from one of these worlds into another; we can only jump. The last act of Don Giovanni is not deducible from electrons, or molecules, or even from cells and entire organs. In relation to these physical, chemical, and biological worlds it is simply a non sequitur. The whole of our universe is composed in a series of such non sequiturs. The only reason for supposing that there is in fact any connection between the logically and scientifically unrelated fragments of our experience is simply the fact that the experience is ours, that we have the fragments in our consciousness. These constellated worlds are…

How ambient computing will help chatbots evolve

The smart home is stupid compared to what it could be.

In order for the Internet of Things (IoT) to live up to its massive global potential, the smart home needs one key thing: consciousness. Rather than optimizing the “things” — the devices that are facilitating the IoT — IoT providers should understand that the real value of IoT will come from the services enabled by the data from connected devices, a 24/7 consciousness that captures and learns from data, not the devices themselves.

We’re currently experiencing a shift in computing, fueled by bots and ambient computing, that is poised to accelerate innovation in IoT. Bots leverage the intelligence of ambient computing to transform idle data into value-added services and give the smart home consciousness. Predictive analytics help to understand a person’s lifestyle, detect patterns, and anticipate problems. This provides developers with a massive opportunity to design services that aren’t possible with a mobile phone or desktop computer. The future of innovation in IoT today resides in the hands of developers.

What makes bot development different

With history as our compass, it’s clear that we are on the cusp of a huge new economy and a paradigm shift in computing — something that happens about every 10 years. You may recall that mainframe computing was the norm in the 1970s until desktop computing changed everything in the 1980s. The 1990s delivered a more powerful personal computer and increased mobility until the next decade, which brought inventive capabilities in mobile and remote computing. We’re witnessing another shift in computing in the 2010s. This change is not just about cloud computing, but the acceleration of the IoT through bots.

So, what is the key factor that signals these shifts? Developers drove them all. The emergence of Apple’s mobile supercomputer — the iPhone — gave developers an opportunity for supercharged innovation by allowing them to create apps for smartphones.

Today, though, most developers would agree that app development has hit a wall and that momentum is shifting toward bots. Bots are now exploding faster than apps did. According to Citi Research, comparing early market smartphone app development to bot development in its first year, we see three times more bot developers and solutions than we did with apps. The number of bot developers in the past six months, 36,000, is triple that of the first year of app developers.

Companies like Facebook are accelerating this by making it very easy to develop and deploy bots. Bot development is comparatively easy, and it’s designed to deliver recurring revenue streams. With apps, people pay a one-time fee of 99 cents, whereas with bots, developers can make 99 cents as a recurring fee every month. Bots are a promising way for developers to begin making money again by enabling services that don’t require a phone screen like apps do.

So, what’s a bot?

A bot enables micro-services that incorporate deep learning algorithms and the benefits of artificial intelligence while operating in the background of your life. Think of a bot as a small computer program that’s listening to the real-time data from your devices. It’s trying to figure out what to do with that data. It can learn, react, and communicate with you.

While bots became a part of our vernacular this year because of the likes of Facebook Messenger bots, here we’re talking about much more. Messaging bots won’t be what drives big revenue. The bots with huge potential are those that are going to deliver services that get deeper into people’s lives than simple screen interaction. In fact, the next wave of consumer solutions will be comprised of products that don’t even have a screen. Intelligence is beginning to surround us in everyday objects, many having no interface at all — except for a voice prompt.

The interface for bots is the spoken conversation. Connected outcomes…

Are We More Than Just the Physical? Philosophers Argue over Zombies

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Zombies are a big part of our pop culture. They are both a cathartic exploration of what it means to be human and a vehicle for social commentary. The word “zombie” comes from Haitian folklore and refers to a corpse animated by witchcraft. Facing a horrid life, 17th-century Haitian slaves, who worked on sugar plantations in the French-owned Louisiana area, often considered suicide but were afraid to be trapped in their bodies, wandering the Earth as soulless shells.

In philosophy, this idea of a hypothetical creature that looks like a regular human but has no conscious experiences is known as a “philosophical zombie” or a “p-zombie”.

Why do philosophers need zombies?

The concept is kind of a mind trick. Imagine a being that looks and even talks like a human. It goes through all the normal motions of a human and yet has no consciousness. And you would have no idea that it is not like you.

According to philosophers like David Chalmers, p-zombies are an argument against physicalism – the school of thought that everything that makes us human is ultimately derived from our physical characteristics.

Physicalism is based on the success of science in exploring the physical world. According to physicalists, we are essentially intricate arrangements of atoms. Behaviorists, a subset of physicalists, maintain that even all mental processes – thoughts, desires, etc – are just responses to the behaviors of others.

If a p-zombie that is exactly like us, except for the sense of self and consciousness, is possible to logically conceive, then it could support dualism, an alternative view that sees the world consisting of not just the…

Bees Have Emotions and Moods. But Do They Have Feelings and Consciousness?

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The honeybee is in deep trouble. Colony collapse disorder (CCD), a condition whose cause isn’t known, has occurred in 42% of colonies within the US, since 2015. CCD occurs when worker bees mysteriously disappear, leaving a queen and her young with no one to tend to them. Invasive species, the loss of habitat, gut parasites, certain pesticides, and other causes have been considered, but nothing is definitive yet.

Research is ongoing. The Obama administration did enact some measures to help protect bee populations which so far remain in place. But they won’t be enough. Without knowing what’s causing CCD, there can be no definitive plan in place to reverse it.

That’s a serious blow to our agricultural industry and could have disastrous consequences for our food supply. 70% of food bearing plants are pollinated by bees. Harvard scientists have a technological fix in place. They’ve developed a type of micro-robot to replace these crucial pollinators, nicknamed robobees. In truth, no one really knows if they can do the job.

What’s more, who will pay for the additional service, which nature normally provides for free? Most likely, the cost will be passed along to the consumer. That means higher food prices, at a time when more and more jobs are disappearing, and wages continue to come back at a crawling pace.

To combat the loss of the honeybee population and perhaps preserve their supply chain and mascot, Cheerios has launched a campaign called #BringBacktheBees. They’ve partnered with a seed company, and have already given away 100 million wildflower seeds to interested parties in the general public. By reestablishing the bees vanishing habitat, they hope to bring these insects back from the brink. Though they’ve already reached their goal, they still have more seeds to give away, should you be interested.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) in France. Getty Images.

Perhaps we’d hear a far greater outcry and more would be invested, if the problem was packaged in a way that pulls at the heartstrings, rather than engages the intellect. Usually, we think of invertebrates as incapable of advanced emotions. Some of the latest experiments with bees however, are challenging this assumption.

These prodigious pollinators show a remarkably advanced understanding of patterns, can anticipate future ones, be taught behaviors, and we now have evidence that they display a range of emotions, even moods. Today, the bee crisis is packaged thusly—these service-providing drones are being snuffed out by a sterilized acronym. Instead, why not portray it as fellow, sentient beings suffering from an epidemic? This is Ebola for bees, people!

Need…

See What Over 1000 Quora Users Around The World Would Recommend If You Can Only Read Once In Your Life

When asked to pick only one book to recommend to someone, most people would agree that it is quite a difficult task. Firstly, because there are so many great pieces that it seems unfair to pick just one. Secondly, definition of a great book varies from person to person. Yet, when asked what would be the one they would recommend if someone could only read once in their life, most Quora users opted for books that greatly influenced their thinking and ideas about life. Go through the list and see if you agree and maybe pick one or two for your personal library.

1. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter

The book explores lives, works and ideas of logician Kurt Gödel, artist M.C. Escher, and composer Jonathan Sebastian Bach. Using puns, metaphors and puzzles to connect concepts of mathematics, symmetry and intelligence, the book actually explores the notion of human cognition and consciousness. The value of the book is in its ability to take you on a journey of exploring your abilities to self-reflect, and it doesn’t require a scientist or artist of any sort to realize the universality of laws of our consciousness and perception.

2. Best of Quora (2010 – 2012)

Great book that covers 18 sections of creative, funny, practical and intelligent answers to all sorts of questions. A book about everything for everyone. “It’s less about the “right answer” and more about perceptions and experiences.” Says one of the reviewers.

3. Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

Written as a means to fix the emotional scars that surgeon Maxwell Maltz couldn’t help his patients with by surgical procedure, Psycho-Cybernetics is one of the corner-stones of self-help programs. Even though…