Dreams, Stories, Psychedelics & Conscious | Tor Nørretranders | EP 441

Dreams, Stories, Psychedelics & Conscious | Tor Nørretranders | EP 441

Coming up (00:00:00)

  • Modern civilization is obsessed with predictability and control, which can lead to a lack of sensory input and a sort of 'falling asleep' of the mind.
  • Refreshing sensory input is necessary to counter this effect.

Intro (00:00:37)

  • Tor Nørretranders is a Danish author who has written extensively on consciousness.
  • His book, "The User Illusion," is considered one of the best books on consciousness and has been influential in the field.
  • Nørretranders conceptualizes consciousness as a reducing function, similar to Aldous Huxley's ideas, but with more detail and usefulness.
  • He also associates consciousness with verbal communication, which aligns with relevant neuropsychological literature and knowledge about perception.
  • The conversation with Nørretranders will delve deeper into these ideas and share them with the audience.

The User Illusion, selective awareness (00:02:11)

  • Tor Nørretranders' book, "The User Illusion," published in 1991, explores the psychology of consciousness and proposes that linguistic communication is a form of unpacking that maps the imaginal realm, capturing patterns of behavior.
  • Consciousness is a multi-tiered phenomenon that encompasses the material realm of patterns, the behavioral realm of living creatures, the imaginative realm where patterns are captured, and the linguistic realm that maps the imaginal.
  • Despite the vast amount of information (11 million bits per second) that enters our sensory apparatus, we are only consciously aware of a small portion (16 bits per second).
  • Consciousness allows us to share our awareness of the outer or inner world with others in a compact manner, facilitated by language, social relationships, and co-awareness.
  • Pointing and directed shared attention are crucial aspects of consciousness, enabling social interactions and understanding.
  • Consciousness involves a collective mind that we internalize, allowing us to share experiences with others even without direct communication or physical presence.

How stories act as pointers for value, predictive processing (00:11:00)

  • Affordances are phenomena relevant to a specific goal and can be categorized as tools, obstacles, friends, foes, or agents of transformation.
  • Consciousness enables us to provide pointers to destinations, similar to how bees communicate about pollen and nectar locations.
  • The ability to share pointers to value through words is a crucial aspect of consciousness.
  • Predictive processing theory suggests that perception is based on expectations and prior experiences, creating a continuous narrative of our surroundings.
  • Perception involves correcting and refining our understanding of the world as we receive new information.
  • Children's fear of the dark arises from a lack of information to contradict their inner fantasies, while daylight's sensory data contradicts these fears.
  • Perception can be viewed as a form of hallucination that aligns with sensory data.
  • Altered states of consciousness, such as dreams, stories, and psychedelic experiences, relax the usual constraints of perception, allowing for diverse ways of experiencing and interpreting the world.

Karl Friston, entropy and emotion (00:21:05)

  • Friston's theory of anxiety as an index of entropy was discussed.
  • If a specified route to a destination becomes more complicated or impossible due to obstacles, it leads to an increase in entropy and negative emotions like anxiety.
  • Conversely, each step taken towards a specified destination decreases entropy and results in positive emotions as the path becomes shorter and requires less energy.
  • Positive emotions are associated with tools and friends that indicate a clear and efficient pathway, while negative emotions are associated with obstacles and foes that signal danger to the pathway.
  • This theory connects emotions to the fundamental concept of entropy and grounds emotions within the narrative frame.

Motivation, loaded perceptions (00:23:39)

  • Motivation systems set goals, while emotions calibrate in relation to those goals.
  • Emotions are a way of testing predictions.
  • Perception is influenced by emotions, and we often start with the worst hypothesis in a situation.
  • We respond emotionally to people very quickly, often in a split second.
  • Prediction processing models were inspired by training robots, which use goal-oriented reinforcement learning.
  • Dreams are a way for the brain to process information and emotions.
  • Stories are a way for us to make sense of the world and our experiences.
  • Psychedelics can alter our perception of reality and lead to profound insights.
  • Consciousness is a complex phenomenon that is still not fully understood.

Supernature, sperm and asymmetry (00:28:58)

  • The speaker mentions a book called "Supernature" by L Watson, which discusses supernatural phenomena.
  • Watson gives an example of how the asymmetry introduced by sperm triggers the reorganization of a frog's egg into an embryo, suggesting that symmetry breaking is a key aspect of consciousness.
  • The speaker relates this to the idea that children may hallucinate terrors due to a lack of sensory information, leading to a negativity bias and misinterpretations.

Kayak angst, the removal of sensory data (00:31:58)

  • The speaker discusses the concept of "kayak angst," a phenomenon observed among Greenlandic people who experience sudden anxiety attacks while kayaking.
  • This anxiety is not simply due to factors like excessive drinking or caffeine, but rather arises from the loss of orientation caused by the uniform blue surroundings of the sky and ocean.
  • Pilots flying into clouds and individuals placed in isolation tanks with limited sensory input also report similar experiences of hallucinations.
  • The removal of sensory experience can induce hallucinations without the use of substances like LSD.

Pointlessness, how aim creates hope (00:34:03)

  • Pointlessness is chaotic and anxiety-provoking.
  • A point constrains existential terror and elicits hope.
  • The sharper the point, the more promising and less threatening the terrain.
  • Sin is derived from an archery term meaning "to miss the target".
  • The worst sin is to aim in the opposite direction or not to aim at all.
  • Kayak anxiety is the sudden realization of the expansiveness of everything.

Exodus, compressing what’s there (00:36:08)

  • In the story of Exodus, the Israelites get fractious and rebel when they are lost and aimless in the desert.
  • Moses retreats away from them along with God but keeps his faith and direction.
  • As a reward, God shows himself a little bit more to Moses but puts him in the cleft of a rock so he can hardly see anything.
  • This is protection against kayak anxiety.
  • We can only perceive a compressed version of reality, which is highly screened.

How psychedelic experiences multiple the emotional landscape (00:37:17)

  • Psychedelic experiences expand the domain of narrowed consciousness, leading to a significant increase in both positive and negative emotions.
  • This emotional expansion aligns with the shift from 16 bits per second to 11 million bits per second of information processing.
  • The book "The User Illusion" by Alis Harkley, published in the 50s or 60s, discussed this concept of mind-opening and is considered a precursor to the current psychedelic research.
  • Psychedelic research suggests that psychedelics can change human perspectives, allowing for the integration of different types of information.
  • Neuroscientist Karl Friston is involved in studying how psychedelics alter human perception and outlook.
  • The ongoing psychedelic revolution holds promise in addressing mental health issues like anxiety and depression by opening the mind and promoting direct attention.
  • Modern civilization's obsession with predictability and control can lead to mental stagnation, necessitating the refreshment of sensory input through various means, including psychedelics, physical exercise, and meditation.

The Tower of Babel, the first builders of cities (00:41:16)

  • Psychedelic experiences can lead to misinterpretations due to the reduction of complex information.
  • The Tower of Babel represents the negative consequences of presumptuousness and rigidity.
  • Psychedelics can help individuals break free from false beliefs by reducing their intensity and expanding their perspective.
  • The shift from hunter-gatherers to farmers resulted in a narrowing of the human mindset and a loss of the ability to perceive multitudes.
  • Modern society's evolution has further contracted our perspective, causing us to forget the broader possibilities of the world.
  • Agriculture has simplified our environment, leading to a diminished capacity to perceive complexity.
  • Psychedelic experiences can restore our ability to perceive multitudes by opening our minds to a wider range of information.

Cain, how agriculture changed worldview (00:47:54)

  • Agriculture led people to believe that the world provided fruits as a result of human labor and effort.
  • This contrasted with the hunter-gatherer and herder mentality, which viewed the world as more diverse and wandering.
  • Agriculture enabled the aggregation of more people and the building of larger civilizations.
  • This led to the presumption of civilization and a prideful sense of control over the world.
  • Transforming the world into a linguistic matrix and conceptualizing it allowed humans to transform the world itself into an analog of that matrix.

Food has become “over-civilized” and that’s the problem (00:49:49)

  • The speaker became interested in nutrition and food production due to a life-changing experience.
  • The problem with modern food production is that it's overly agricultural, abstract, and civilized, neglecting the richness of wild food.
  • People are losing knowledge of the diversity of wild food and nature's offerings.
  • The speaker highlights the rise of Noma, a Danish restaurant that serves only locally grown and seasonal ingredients, revolutionizing gastronomy.
  • Noma's approach emphasizes wild foods, leading to a fantastic culinary experience.
  • The speaker was invited to give the opening lecture at Noma's events, where he discussed the shift from wild to tame food and the need to return to wild food sources.
  • Humans have moved away from the diverse diet of wild foods and now primarily consume only four crops, leading to a lack of nutritional variety.
  • Chefs' creativity is often focused on making a few basic ingredients interesting, rather than exploring the richness of wild nature.
  • The new trend in fine dining involves chefs studying the edibility of wild plants and creating delicious dishes from them, requiring skill, knowledge, and care.
  • This approach is seen as a return to nature and a rejection of overly controlled and civilized agriculture.

Machines for living, excess orientation (00:55:05)

  • Chefs create art by reintroducing the richness and quality of abundant nature into our lives through fine dining experiences.
  • Modern architecture, with its focus on efficiency and lack of ornamentation, has removed us from the richness and variety of the natural world.
  • Excess ornamentation can be seen as a pointer to the plenitude beyond mere efficiency.

The Japanese economic miracle, establishing new points (00:56:28)

  • Japan's economic success in the 1980s was due to their ability to efficiently move towards a specific goal.
  • However, when Japan gets the point wrong, their efficiency can lead them in the wrong direction, as seen in their current surveillance state.
  • The United States, with its diverse society and tolerance for eccentricity, is more robust because there are always new points emerging from the chaos.
  • A society that is too focused on a single point can become pathologically efficient in the wrong direction.
  • The proper pathway through life, according to the Dao, is a balance between chaotic plenitude and pointed order.

The sense of meaning, the raindrop analogy (00:58:04)

  • The sense of meaning is like a meta-motivation that unifies various motivations and gives life a sense of purpose.
  • It is a biological marker for the optimal balance between amplitude (plenitude) and focus.
  • Too much focus can lead to narrowness and a reduction in the richness of life, as seen in agricultural enterprises.
  • In relationships, building a model of the other person and punishing deviations from expectations can lead to boredom and a loss of interest.
  • The raindrop analogy illustrates the richness of a path that is not a straight line, with constant adjustments and adaptations to obstacles.
  • The straight road can become the road of the intellectual or the luciferian intellect, while the raindrop's path is more akin to the Dao.
  • In relationships, there needs to be a balance between predictability and variability to maintain interest and avoid the imagination seeking richer experiences elsewhere.

Fantasy and substituting presumption (01:02:42)

  • The speaker used to ask clients about their fantasies in relationships when they were dissatisfied with their spouse.
  • He believes that people are complex and have hidden potential.
  • The speaker found that even seemingly simple people could be fascinating if he paid attention and didn't make assumptions.
  • A Norwegian writer, Axel Simus, wrote that a man who doesn't understand that any woman contains every woman is an idiot.
  • The speaker believes that staying faithful to a relationship allows for the full richness of the other person to be experienced.
  • Love and openness involve allowing the other person to be fully themselves.
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Gracing demise, and how relationships shape perception (01:06:02)

  • The speaker's wife almost died a few years ago, which made him realize how much he loved and appreciated her.
  • After recovering from her illness, the speaker's wife changed for the better, shedding many of her self-imposed constraints.
  • The speaker believes that this change in his wife is a reflection of his own change in attitude.
  • He compares his wife's transformation to that of a child, who is imaginative, transformative, and enchanting.
  • The speaker asks the guest to comment on this and also asks what the guest thinks about the idea of becoming like a child again.

Every person is a universe (01:08:13)

  • The speaker believes that every person is a universe.
  • He has always had a tendency to be monogamous and faithful in his relationships.
  • He realized that monogamy allowed him to discover and explore the richness of the other person instead of comparing them to someone else.
  • He believes that when people are not faithful in their relationships, they are constantly making comparisons instead of accepting the other person for who they are.
  • He compares this to confusing the label for the real thing, or the terrain for the map.
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Play as the antithesis of tyranny (01:12:49)

  • Psychotherapy aims to help individuals gain realizations through conversations, leading to positive transformations.
  • Defining "good" is more challenging than identifying evil, as exemplified by the contrast between a sadistic guard and the concept of "good."
  • Play, the opposite of tyranny, is a natural and voluntary activity that children enjoy.
  • Play represents the beautiful exchange of openness and love between individuals.
  • Evil involves closing oneself off from others and ignoring their suffering, while love entails complete openness and acceptance.
  • Play exemplifies the ability to fully engage with another person, while evil is the refusal to interact.
  • Tickling oneself doesn't cause a response because the brain anticipates the action, but tickling someone else elicits laughter.
  • Humans find others interesting due to their capacity for surprises and unexpected actions.
  • Extreme situations, like being tickled on a train, can alter the balance between control and unpredictability, making the experience enjoyable or frightening.
  • The ideal balance lies between complete control and complete unpredictability, creating a sense of pleasant surprise.

Peripheral code, the experimental fringe (01:20:23)

  • Love is most evident in a state of play, which requires optimal conditions and the absence of obstacles. Play involves a balance between the predictable and the unpredictable, pushing individuals slightly outside their comfort zones.
  • The concept of margins and experimentation is highlighted, with examples from agriculture and DNA repair.
  • The author expresses concern about the narrow-mindedness of technological efficiency and the reduction of complex entities to simplified concepts.
  • Studying consciousness draws attention to the tendency to oversimplify experiences and the richness that is lost in the process.
  • Tor Nørretranders and the guest speaker discuss hemispheric function and its relation to consciousness. The right hemisphere is associated with the domain of plitude, while the left hemisphere is the reducer.
  • People with right hemisphere damage tend to become more tyrannical, authoritarian, and reductionistic.

Pride and the moral order (01:27:17)

  • Pride leads to the substitution of one's own narrow perspective for reality.
  • The story of Adam and Eve warns against replacing the moral order with one's own preconceptions.
  • The problem is not reduction itself, but the insistence that one's own reduction is the only correct one.
  • This totalitarian proclivity becomes pathological when allied with force.

The pathology of force (01:29:05)

  • Moses' story illustrates the dangers of using force instead of listening and interacting.
  • Power involves not listening and doing things to people without regard for their cries and sorrows.

Seeing your interactions with the world as a relationship (01:31:24)

  • The speaker views the world as relational, meaning that our interactions with the world are fundamental to our existence.
  • Quantum physics can be interpreted as a system of relationships, and problems arise when we view objects as independent of our interactions.
  • Social relations are also relational, and we cannot truly understand someone without interacting with them.
  • Consciousness is a collective of human beings in our head, and we see and understand the world through the eyes of others.
  • Private experiences, such as mystical or psychedelic experiences, are direct and personal but also private.
  • We can see the world through the eyes of our friends and their concepts, which is a useful but potentially dangerous aspect of consciousness.

Reality is a consequence of your aim (01:34:54)

  • Consciousness arises from our intentions and purpose.
  • Our intentions influence how others perceive and interact with us.
  • When interacting with people who have difficulties, it's important to show purpose and interest rather than intruding.
  • Tor Nørretranders highly recommends his book, "The User Illusion," for its unique exploration of the linguistic aspects of consciousness.
  • The Daily Wire will provide a more detailed exploration of Tor Nørretranders' life and works.
  • Gratitude is expressed to the film crew, the Daily Wire team, and Tor Nørretranders for their contributions and sharing of knowledge.

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