2008.04.20 13:00 - Flying and Gliding

    Flying and Gliding

    2008, April 20, Sunday · No Comments

    I found Maxine already sitting in the tea house, when I strolled in.

    Maxine Walden: hi, Pema
    Maxine Walden: listening to the nature sounds is very peacful
    Pema Pera: hi Maxine!
    Pema Pera: yes, one of the joys here!
    Maxine Walden: indeed,
    Maxine Walden: interesting to have access to at least three ‘worlds’ in terms of sound:
    Maxine Walden: one here in SL, a background of music in RL right now, and then some distant sounds outside in RL
    Pema Pera: yes, all those world really intermingle in funny ways
    Maxine Walden: yes
    Pema Pera: sometimes I go into SL while I am in the train in my morning or evening commute . . . .
    Pema Pera: flying through SL while gliding through RL . . . .
    Maxine Walden: different dimensions

    At this moment a visitor was entering and clearly felt at home right away, sitting down with us. I couldn’t help wondering what his impression was about our conversation if he only had heard the last sentence about flying through SL while gliding through RL . . . perhaps he would construct a far more poetic or profound meaning than the simple report about my daily commute . . .

    Pema Pera: Hi Sebastian!
    Maxine Walden: hello, Sebastian
    Sebastian Niangao: Hi Pema and Maxine
    Pema Pera: Welcome here!
    Sebastian Niangao: Thanks
    Pema Pera: Have you been here before?
    Sebastian Niangao: First time.
    Pema Pera: it’s a nice little building, isn’t it?
    Sebastian Niangao: It is.
    Sebastian Niangao: Sorry to interrupt. I just thought I’d stop by and see if anyone was here.
    Maxine Walden: not an interruption at all, just listening
    Pema Pera: I’m glad you stopped in!
    Pema Pera: we gather here a few times a day to chat
    Pema Pera: and anyone is welcome to join
    Maxine Walden: I know how it is at first, when others are talking it can feel like interrupting something
    Maxine Walden: but for me there is always room for another voice or mind
    Sebastian Niangao: I noticed you were talking about “flying through SL while gliding through RL.” Are you familiar with the work of your compatriot, Sander Veenhof?

    Indeed, Sebastian had just heard the last sentence. When you walk through SL, you can quickly cross the 20 or so meters range through which text speech carries; any distance larger than that and you are spared what others type ;>).

    Maxine Walden: Pema and I were talking about being in different dimension…
    Sebastian Niangao: Oh?
    Pema Pera: no, I’m afraid I’m not familiar with Veenhof’s work — what does he do?
    Sebastian Niangao: http://sndrv.nl/
    Maxine Walden: different dimensions at the same time, what about the man you were thinking of?
    Sebastian Niangao: I found out about him through Conflux. Last year he did something called an “SL Walkie Talkie Walk”
    Pema Pera: what was that?
    Sebastian Niangao: To be honest, I’m not exactly sure. But it seemed like a sort of telepresence thing in which one person in SL would be in communication with another person in RL while they both talk a guided walk around the city (a virtual and real version respectively)…or something like that….
    Pema Pera: sounds interesting!

    When I later read the walkie talkie walk web site, I found the following description:
    With the walkie talkie walks festival attendees will be given the opportunity to experience their surroundings by being accompanied by a Second Life avatar using specially developed walkie talkie devices. In this project two real life persons will be performing a simultaneous walk together, one being on the street in Brooklyn, New York, the other behind a computerscreen, using the Second Life avatar.

    What a neat idea!

    Pema Pera: Yesterday I was in a coffeeshop in real life
    Pema Pera: and met two others who were into SL
    Maxine Walden: and the experience of different simultaneous dimensions is interesting
    Pema Pera: so all three of us went in
    Pema Pera: and met each other there again with some friends
    Pema Pera: very very confusing, haha
    Maxine Walden: truly, Pema, did it feel confusing? I could imagine that
    Sebastian Niangao: Reminds me of when I used to play Warcraft. I noticed that if my friends were in the same (physical) room as me, we had a huge advantage over our opponents.
    Maxine Walden: how so?
    Pema Pera: yes
    Pema Pera: communication!
    Sebastian Niangao: exactly
    Sebastian Niangao: typing is very inefficient
    Maxine Walden: but probably non verbal communication
    Sebastian Niangao: both
    Maxine Walden: yes, I had to get used to it also, frustrating at first
    Pema Pera: we are generally talking about the nature of reality, but in a very playful and informal way
    Pema Pera: we have a web site http://playasbeing.wordpress.com/
    Maxine Walden: but having to become succinct in conveying thoughts has been very interesting, and there is a quiet which is very interesting

    The conversation then took a more philosophical turn.

    Sebastian Niangao: heh. I’m in the middle of reading Bertrand Russell’s “On the Notion of Cause”
    Maxine Walden: please, what is the gist so far in Russell’s book?
    Sebastian Niangao: It’s just an article, actually. But he argues that the notion of cause is more confusing than it is helpful.
    Maxine Walden: I can really appreciate that, ’cause’ may narrow the view to the wider reality which may not be obvious as cause
    Sebastian Niangao: Philosophers seem to assume that science is dependent upon the notion of cause. But he points out that, on the contrary, “cause” as is generally understood, is never invoked by scientists.
    Pema Pera: true, especially in modern physics
    Sebastian Niangao: Right, which is where he’s coming from.
    Maxine Walden: yes and many of us seem to appreicate the multiple perspective notion, but still get snagged in terms of ‘what we know’ or think we should know
    Sebastian Niangao: Actually, I was wondering about the state of physics when he wrote this. It was published in 1929. Had the uncertainty principle been uncovered yet?
    Pema Pera: yes
    Pema Pera: I think so
    Pema Pera: it was around that time at least
    Maxine Walden: 1923?
    Pema Pera: quantum mechanics itself being discovered in 1925
    Sebastian Niangao: Okay. He seems to ignore it. Not that it does much damage to his argument.
    Sebastian Niangao: Actually, if anything, it supports his argument. But maybe he felt it better not to rely on such a new discovery since his conclusions are perfectly valid without it.
    Pema Pera: makes sense
    Maxine Walden: Pema, I have seen somewhere, think you wrote it, that QM or any paradigm shift is really arrived at by consensus, verification then follows, but the sense of shifting views of reality are really the product of discussion …is that in the ballpark?
    Pema Pera: it’s a combination really
    Pema Pera: experiment hinting at new theory, new theory proposing new experiments and lots of discussions and confusion for a long time ;>)
    Maxine Walden: right, that puts it better because experimentation is certainly in there
    Sebastian Niangao: Actually, speaking of paradigm shifts, one of the things Russell talks about is how causation might be useful to a science in its infancy, but becomes useless to a mature science. This made me wonder about Kuhn’s idea of the paradigm and if the development of a paradigm makes the notion of cause obsolete.
    Pema Pera: not so much obsolete, I would say, as putting it in a wider context
    Maxine Walden: bearing the confusion while considering new ways of viewing things, things often held sacred…think that must take a lot of maturity and respect among colleagues
    Maxine Walden: because that old nemisis of ‘got to know’ is so powerful…

    I was eager to hear more about Sebastian’s view of the world.

    Pema Pera: Sebastian, what do you find most interesting
    Pema Pera: in terms of philosophical questions
    Pema Pera: or just questions about life?
    Sebastian Niangao: lol. Where to begin….
    Sebastian Niangao: I suppose I’m interested in the nature of reality, especially with the nature of the mind. You know, “the hard problem” and all that.
    Maxine Walden: what is ‘the hard problem’ re nature of mind that you are thinking of?
    Sebastian Niangao: As I understand it–and I’m no philosopher–the hard problem is basically this:
    Sebastian Niangao: there is no way to account for the existence of consciousness by our current understanding of the physical universe.
    Sebastian Niangao: This is not because of a lack of data, but because of a fundamental understanding of how the physical universe operates.
    Sebastian Niangao: And yet, consciousness, quite clearly, exists.
    Sebastian Niangao: People might argue that “it only seems to exist” or that it is an illusion. But then that only pushes the question back to “to what (or whom) does it ’seem’?”
    Sebastian Niangao: Dualism doesn’t work, because there’s no room for a separate universe of mind to interact with the material world.
    Sebastian Niangao: Materialism doesn’t work for the above stated reasons.
    Sebastian Niangao: Idealism might work, but then that brings up the question of why science should work at all.
    Pema Pera: I agree that none of these solutions will work
    Sebastian Niangao: The option Russell takes, that I like, but I don’t understand (and I suspect he didn’t really understand either) is that of “neutral monism.”
    Sebastian Niangao: Neutral monism states that there is one world from which both the objective material universe and the subjective phenomenal universe issue. But it is all, at essence, one thing.
    Maxine Walden: Yes, I understand there are several ways to conceptualize consciousness and perhaps several ways to try to measure it…some neural scientists suggest consciousness developed as a way to handle the incredibly complex coordination of ‘lessons’ from evolution, but that of course does not take in the dimension of subjective experience
    Maxine Walden: I find something like the need for inner space to be of value because
    Maxine Walden: there are times in everyday experience when I am not as fully aware, as thoughtful, as conscious as at other times;
    Maxine Walden: and so some spectrum which embraces quality of mindfulness or not seems of value. Now that may be very different from what you were addressing

    Maxine that brought in a tentative historical component.

    Sebastian Niangao: So it sounds like you’re bringing up the question of whether there is an evolutionary function to consciousness, and if so, what is it?
    Maxine Walden: I suppose so; it seems to me that it is a fair guess that in ancient times, man the hunter, etc was not really as conscious of himself as when there was more time for leisure, contemplation of the wider reality, first glimpsed as a ‘god’ or bigger presence than him with his spear…and that
    Maxine Walden: when there was more time for considerations wider than just survival that consciousness may have then developed, the capacity to be aware of self (and others) from an observing position, not just ‘being there, in it’…something like that
    Maxine Walden: afraid I may have stopped the conversation…
    Pema Pera: Yes, Maxine, I do think that our ways to view all that has changed a lot
    Sebastian Niangao: That sounds like Julian Jaynes’ hypothesis
    Sebastian Niangao: sorry for not being responsive, I’m trying to do several things at once
    Pema Pera: no problem at all
    Maxine Walden: its been a long time since I read Jaynes, did he write the Becameral Mind?
    Sebastian Niangao: that’s right
    Maxine Walden: it may be his hypothesis, I was just trying to embrace the various levels of experience and self-reflection we all seem to meander through and out of a lot of the time
    Sebastian Niangao: Sue Blackmore likes to ask the question, “are you conscious now?”
    Pema Pera: That’s a good question, Sebastian!
    Sebastian Niangao: The funny thing about that question is that the answer is always “yes.” But what about the moment just before? I bring that up because I think it has to do with what you’re saying about going in and out of self awareness.
    Maxine Walden: interesting
    Maxine Walden: I am having to be aware of time, one of those RL things, and go to another meeting in a few minutes
    Pema Pera: I’ll have to leave soon too
    Maxine Walden: Pema, this experience in SL does seem to bring in another dimension which for me is so interesting
    Maxine Walden: in that it is not one that I have been used to navigating before
    Maxine Walden: and so it seems to enhance my self awareness, but in a way which seems to add layers, simultaneous layers of experience…
    Maxine Walden: well, I think I need to go; it has been very interesting talking Sebastian, hope to see you again; enjoyed talking with you. See you again soon, Pema.
    Pema Pera: thank you Maxine!
    Pema Pera: I very much appreciate what you wrote, as always
    Pema Pera: we have to come back to that historical aspect soon
    Pema Pera: that seems quite important
    Maxine Walden: it will be a pleasure to continue this discussion…look forward to it.
    Maxine Walden: Bye
    Pema Pera: The questions you brought up, Sebastian, are all fascinating, but my guess is that a solution will have to come from quite a different direction, beyond the categories we normally think in, both scientifically and philosophically
    Pema Pera: I have to leave now, but by all means do come back some other time!
    Sebastian Niangao: Will do.
    Pema Pera: thanks, and c u !
    Sebastian Niangao: adios
    Pema Pera: bye!

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