The sensation of ID


(more "I wonder what it's like..." (see also "folk psychology" vs "folk physics"))

Imagine... you come home and you see the light is on. Ah, you think, someone else at home. You can almost feel their presence. Then when you open the door, the house is empty, it was just a light left on.

Or... you hear a familiar voice, but turn around and see a stranger.

Or... every time you see a lily in the field or a cleverly designed animal or bird you see the work of the hand of your Creator, evidence of His warm omnipresence. You have a personal relationship with your Creator, in His aspect of Jesus, and it's a comfort to see his Hand in the things around you. But when you look closer you realize it's just the product of billions of years of random evolution guided by natural selection. Eeep!

... Interestingly, the distribution of paragraph lengths in "The Origin of Species" has a fairly high alpha. The sentence lengths also have high alpha. (A rather interesting possible way to diagnose autism in historical figures, btw. It will be interesting to see how Thomas Aquinas rates, or Paul the Apostle, or <insert favourite historical figure here>.)

Anyway. I'm not meaning to imply that higher alpha is always better, merely a different perspective. Different priors. Does better on some problems, worse on others. If alpha is fixed for individuals, it's a very strange limitation on human intelligence, and implies that no-one has a fully general perspective. Unless we build someone who does. This seems a worthwhile aim.

... A final notion.

God as a "folk psychology" notion of the universe would seem to imply that it is strictly the province of normal minds. I can believe that for simple spiritual beliefs... "spirit of the rock", "spirit of the river", "spirit of rain", etc. But for full blown modern religion, I think not. There are accounts of autistic people coming up with some really wacky world views. Certain religious figures seem somewhat autistic (this claim may be verifiable using statistical analysis of their writings). Autistic people are certainly often into rituals, rituals which can rule their whole lives. So we see certain religious belief types and behaviours in autistic people too. But if modern religion were a purely autistic invention, it wouldn't appeal to normal people.

So I'm starting to think modern religion is a product of on-going miscommunication between the two groups. A bastard compromise that everyone can just about live with.

An example (quoted from here):

One day, as a solitary traveler was walking through the woods, he encountered a bear. The animal began to chase him and, as the man fled in terror, he fell over the edge of a cliff. Luckily, before falling to his death, he was able to grab onto a large tree branch. When he looked down, however, he saw a hungry tiger encircling the base of the tree, waiting for him to descend. In the midst of his predicament, he noticed a plant of luscious strawberries growing near his branch. Above him lurked the bear, while the tiger awaited below.

Zen lineage gurus have taught us that this traveler, paying no attention to the bear above or the tiger below, need only reach out to eat the strawberries and enjoy their sweetness.

The normal interpretation of this is metaphorical:

As the teaching goes, "The bear above is the past. The tiger below is the future, which is subject to change. Why not live in the present and enjoy the present moment of freedom?"

Autistic people don't use metaphors. They do often give overly specific examples. These are two major ways in which their use of language differs from normal. There is an equally meaningful interpretation of this tale as an example. It's something that could actually happen.

So the story is somewhat like a sentence that has meanings in both, say, English and French, but not the exact same meaning.