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David Eagleman's book "Incognito" and how it relates to tulpas

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This is a discussion thread for "Incognito: Secret Lives of the Brain" and how it relates to tulpas and the mind as a whole. Incognito was written by neuroscientist and author David Eagleman.  It was published in 2011, was on multiple best-sellers lists and was named "Best Science Book of 2011" by Amazon. Personally, I found it to be very well researched and incredibly insightful, but don't take my word for it. Please get a copy and judge for yourself. You can easily find it in libraries, bookstores and online.

 

To start the discussion, I'd like to bring up one of the main thesis points of the book.

 

Eagleman puts forth the idea that the consciousness is a very small portion of the total activity in the brain. The conscious mind is mostly unaware of the activity going on as a whole, and it exerts influence on the rest of the processes in the brain indirectly rather than directly.

 

Quote

Brains are in the business of gathering information and steering behavior appropriately. It doesn't matter whether consciousness is involved in the decision making. ... Our brains run mostly on autopilot, and the conscious mind has little access to the giant and mysterious factory that runs below it. (p.5)

 

In the first chapter he explains how the consciousness essentially just "reads the headlines" when getting information from the rest of the brain:

 

Quote

Consider the activity that characterizes a nation at any moment. Factories churn, telecommunication lines buzz with activity, businesses ship products. People eat constantly. Sewer lines direct waste. All across the great stretches of land, police chase criminals. Handshakes secure deals. Lovers rendezvous. Secretaries field calls, teachers profess, athletes compete, doctors operate, bus drivers navigate. You may wish to know what's happening at any moment in your great nation, but you can't possibly take in all the information at once. Nor would it be useful, even if you could. You want a summary. So you pick up a newspaper—not a dense paper like the New York Times but lighter fare such as USA Today. You won't be surprised that none of the details of the activity are listed in the paper; after all, you want to know the bottom line. You want to know that Congress just signed a newtax law that affects your family, but the detailed origin of the idea—involving lawyers and corporations and filibusters—isn't especially important to that new bottom line. And you certainly wouldn't want to know all the details of the food supply of thenation—how the cows are eating and how many are being eaten—you only want to be alerted if there's a spike of mad cow disease. You don't care how the garbage is produced and packed away; you only care if it's going to end up in your backyard. You don't care about the wiring and infrastructure of the factories; you only care if the workers are going on strike. That's what you get from reading the newspaper.

 

Your conscious mind is that newspaper. (p.6)

 

In chapter 3 he gives a great example for how automatic, subconscious thought processes will do the correct thing without our consciousness being aware of them.

 

Quote

Consider the simple act of changing lanes while driving a car. Try this: close your eyes, grip an imaginary steering wheel, and go through the motions of a lane change. Imagine that you are driving in the left lane and you would like to move over to the right lane. Before reading on, actually put down the book and try it. I'll give you 100 points if you can do it correctly. It's a fairly easy task, right? I'm guessing that you held the steering wheel straight, then banked it over to the right for a moment, and then straightened it out again. No problem. Like almost everyone else, you got it completely wrong. The motion of turning the wheel rightward for a bit, then straightening it out again would steer you off the road: you just piloted a course from the left lane onto the sidewalk. The correct motion for changing lanes is banking the wheel to the right, then back through the center, and continuing to turn the wheel just as far to the left side, and only then straightening out. Don't believe it? Verify it for yourself when you're next in the car. It's such a simple motor task that you have no problem accomplishing it in your daily driving. But when forced to access it consciously, you're flummoxed. (p. 55)

 

Later on in chapter 3, he describes the role of the consciousness in relation rest of the brain and its underlying processes.  He does this with an example of the consciousness being the CEO, and the rest of the brain being the company.

 

Quote

Consciousness is the long-term planner, the CEO of the company, while most of the day-to-day operations are run by all those parts of her brain to which she has no access. Imagine a CEO who has inherited a giant blue-chip company: he has some influence, but he is also coming into a situation that has already been evolving for a long time before he got there. His job is to define a vision and make long-term plans for the company, insofar as the technology of the company is able to support his policies. This is what consciousness does: it sets the goals, and the rest of the system learns how to meet them. (p.70)

 

In other words, the consciousness directs and influences the subconscious processes to train them, which then become autonomous over time. The consciousness only needs to step in during certain cases that the training did not cover.

 

So if we are to accept this hypothesis about the brain and it's structure, what does it mean for tulpamancy? I believe that Eagleman's work is highly congruent to the ideas in the tulpamancy community.  For example, instead of there being one consciousness as the CEO, why can there not also be two consciousnesses running things as partners? As the consciousness is relatively small compared to the rest of the mind, there would be enough room and "processing power" in the brain to support it.  Different CEOs could get different "headlines" about activity and information in the brain, leading to different ideas, opinions and beliefs being held by the tulpa and host. A company can switch who's in charge, and therefore possession and switching would work by the CEO stepping down momentarily for another to take his/her place.  The ideas presented in Incognito might also be used to explain things like imposition and parallel processing.

 

What do you think? Do Eagleman's ideas provide a compelling explanation of how tulpamancy might work from a neuroscience perspective? Why or why not?

 

Do you have any other examples or quotes from the book that you'd like to discuss? Post them here!

 

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