11-13 November ’15 ~Question of the Day~ Reincarnation

What are your thoughts on reincarnation?

Seems highly improbable.

Lots of mechanisms well described that produce results that can seem to individuals like memories of a past life.

Seems much more likely that the experience that some have of that seems to them to be memories of a past life are not in fact that, but are other mimetic artefacts.

[followed by]

I don’t doubt the experiences, just the interpretations.

[followed by]

There is a rather different perspective on Stevenson and his work and his credentials here:
He admitted that “the evidence is not flawless and it certainly does not compel such a belief. Even the best of it is open to alternative interpretations, and one can only censure those who say there is no evidence whatever.”

Having read the article above, and in the light of all the information and understandings I have about the nature of evolution of complex systems and of the emergence of levels of awareness in complex computational systems, the balance of probabilities are not currently favouring the likelihood of Stevenson’s hypothesis in my mind at this time.

You wrote “yet, some things are not interpretations, they are simply our reality as we know it. Do I perceive that I exist? Or is that just an interpretation?
What is it that perceives its existence? What is it that knows what it knows?”

To me these are profound questions.

To me it seems very likely that there is only one thing that I know with certainty – “cogito ergo sum” – I think therefore I am – and that only in one very abstract sense of knowing that in the thinking, I must be some sort of something – without having certainty of what sort of thing that something is.

And having spent half a century in the enquiry as to what sort of thing I might be, I do have quite a few ideas on the subject that seem to be far more likely than any of the alternative explanations – and they are all probability based.

One of those things, that seems very likely indeed (a very close approximation to unity) is that all knowledge is probability based, and that the probabilities are very contextually dependent. So I can be very confident of some things in some contexts, but not others. Being aware of as many levels of contextuality as possible seems to have a lot of utility associated with it.

Certainly there are many subconscious systems within the human brain that deliver particular scenarios to awareness that are poorly understood by even the best researchers into those areas. So for the vast majority of people, those intuitions just appear, as they do. Without a knowledge of systems, complexity, computation, algorithms, probability etc, then interpretations within the paradigm spaces available in the cultural environment are what the brains of those individuals deliver. That such understandings are given the label knowledge sort of works at some levels, and sort of fails at other levels. And please be clear that I stated that last sentence from a probabilistic context.

I simply do not have the sort of certainty of knowledge that is common to most people in most cultural contexts. That sort of certainty ceased for me almost 50 years ago, once I started to comprehend two key concepts:
The concept of infinity; and
The concept of probability.

Once I started to be able to make some sort of sense of really quite large numbers, then to realise how much bigger than those infinity is.
The number of seconds in a year is roughly 3×10^7 (actually 31,536,000 in a normal calendar year).
The number of seconds since our universe started is roughly 10^18
The number of quantum states that have existed in this universe to date is roughly 10^220 – that is an unimaginably huge number, yet I could write it using just 6 symbols. Compared to infinity that number is a close approximation to zero.
Compared to infinity any number is a close approximation to zero.
Compared to all that is possible, any human understanding is a close approximation to total ignorance.

And in a context that is much less than infinity, a context of a ball of mostly molten rock spinning around an ordinaryish sun in an ordinaryish galaxy, that is this instant of spacetime we find ourselves in, then the degree of our ignorance in respect of this context can be somewhat diminished (while still being profound).

So this is the context of my uncertainty and my confidence, and my approximations to something that might be called knowledge. It seems most likely to be a simplistic model of a profound complexity that my limited human brain puts together that I get to have as an experiential reality.

[followed by]

Hi Cougar and OM

I agree that some skeptics are dogmatic, as are some of any persuasion. In any group, it is often those with the most firmly held beliefs who are most vocal.
And not all skeptics are dogmatic.
I have been a skeptic for as long as I can recall, and my breed of skepticism involves continually asking questions, at the same time as I explore and try things myself. I ask questions about assumptions on as many levels as I can. I belonged to the Theosophical society for about 4 years, and studied their stuff and attended meetings during that time. From that experience I had already had evidence of Blavatsky’s cheating.

So I am skeptical of the skepdic article in the same way as I am of the Stevenson article. And reading both, and combining the words presented with my own background experience and knowledge, I am left, on balance of probabilities, with the improbability of Stevenson’s claims.
The key passage for me from the Skepdic site was Stevenson’s own words.

And I am someone who is rejected by the scientific establishment for my lack of orthodoxy.
I do make my own efforts to enquire and to test (to such levels as seem reasonable to me, on balance of evidence and probability and opportunity). I have spent years trying things that most (like the prime author of the Skepdic site I suspect) would never even try.

So yes, many people are locked into the boxes of their paradigms. Few people make the effort to recursively challenge the boundaries of their current paradigm (whatever that paradigm may be).
Finding perspectives that allow us to view our boxes can be difficult, breaking out of our boxes is not easy, and it seems (from both logic and experience) that there is always another box awaiting us in a sense (turtles {boxes} all the way down, in a sense).

And it seems to me that David Snowden’s Cynefin framework offers a spectrum of paradigms that seem to be recursively applicable at all levels.
The Cynefin framework has 4 Categories (for simplicity) that represent a categorisation of a set of infinite spectra.
It speaks of 4 types of complexity, and the sorts of responses to them that are useful and practical.
The 4 sorts of systems are:

In simple systems, the boundaries are well defined, the system has a limited number of states, those states can be relatively simply categorised, and optimal responses can be developed for each category. This is the domain where rules and laws have maximum utility. Manufacturing environments are often like this. These are the domains of Best Practice, where the most efficient response is:
One can “engineer the hell” out of such systems.

In complicated systems the boundaries are less well defined. Individuals in such systems develop heuristic knowledge from experience that for the most part they are not even aware of. In the same way as pigeons can be trained to accurately identify breast cancer in mammograms, our neural networks learn patterns from experience that we are not conscious of, and only experience from our intuitions in the moment of experience. Medical domains are like this, as are most domains of human work experience. Such domains are the realm of “Good Practice”, where there can be general guidance, and also room for individuals to use their domain specific knowledge and intuitions to deliver optimal outcomes.
The operational procedure in such systems is:

Complex systems have very flexible and changing boundaries. Within complex systems the agents and the system modify each other. The entire system is constantly changing. When viewed from the conceptual landscape of probabilities of disposition to action, one can see that any action is possible, and some are more probable than others.
In such systems, one has to probe the system, to see how it actually responds, then to look closely at what is happening, and reinforce those agents moving in the direction you want, and dampen down those moving in other directions. The behaviour of the system emerges from the interaction with it.
The mode of operation is:

Chaotic systems are not predictable, if there are boundaries they are quite broad. There are two major classes of chaotic systems, deterministic and non-deterministic. Deterministic chaos follows rules, but those rules deliver outcomes that cannot be predicted ahead of time. The Mandelbrot set is an example of one class of deterministic chaos. In popular culture these are known as the butterfly effect, where very small changes at one point can produce massive changes a relatively short time later. In non-deterministic chaos there are actually stochastic random factors at play – random is the word.
In chaotic systems, any sense that one can determine an outcome ahead of time is illusory (a trap that often catches people). All one can do in the grips of a chaotic system is:
Try and stay out of the way of buses and bullets, and get out of there as soon as possible.

And all real systems contain all types in different mixes.
Most systems seem to belong to the the complicated and complex domains, but our brains have a habit of categorising most things as simple systems. On average it seems to take about 50 years to break a brain out of the habit of tending to classify systems as being simple, and moving the probability of accurately classifying a system to more closely reflect the distribution of systems that we actually seem to exist in. And that distribution seems to contain few simple and few fully chaotic systems, and most systems falling into the complicated and complex categories.

So certainly, there are some dogmatic skeptics, and they are a small (if vocal) group within the much larger set of skeptics that are mostly of the non-dogmatic persuasion.
And most people display a range of response on the skeptical spectrum that varies according to situation.
Most people have a certain skepticism to weather prediction (mostly born of hard experience). Weather is a chaotic system, hard skepticism is entirely appropriate to any chaotic system.
Skepticism is rarely appropriate to simple systems. It is appropriate only if the system (or some component subsystem) is not simple, but belongs to another category.

And one must always stay alert to the most common trap – correlation does not imply causation, and correlation is often a useful place to start looking for causal mechanisms. And sometimes, there are no causal mechanisms.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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