Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Origins of Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes

is a rather interesting read....I think the main thing missing from it
is any understanding whatsoever of society

but more interestingly, it seems to be pretty naive about congnition reflection, AI and especially literature.

The basic claim is that sometime between the writing of the Iliad and the Odyssey
humans switched from being a mass of id, with an imaginary friend (the gods, or the voices) and a complex social structure (think the Enki of Loki in Snow Crash) to make sure people didn't just behave chaotically, to having a system of metaphor (actually, confusingly, an analog) called consciousness which each person could apply, which would monitor their behaviour and regulate it (think ego and super-ego).

Two terrible mistakes: 1 the Iliad may just be an example of literary convention - there are lots of weird ways people write - just because there is no "I" in Iliad, doesn't mean that Mycaeneans didn't think like us. There's no "You" in Uysses (James' Joyce's stream of consciousness), and that doesn't mean that early 20th century anglo/irish people didn't have a concept of the "other". Oh, and a third mistake - if every one was guided either by rules, or by delusions, then who wrote the books? (i.e. how do you bootstrap a society out of chaos? who is the author of the enki of loki, or the laws that govern when you plant crops, and when you pray?). no - wont do.

Finally, reading the book did give me one idea:

In the work on social nets, we have this model where human's carry around a set of cognitive structures that represent other human's intentions.

Is this structure:
i) a parameterized model of my model of self?
ii) a set of models (e.g .acquired by observing others)?
iii) a hybrid?

perhaps kinship would (evolutionarily) justify i) where socialisation (i.e. friends, colleagues, acquaitences) would be more ii) or iii)
and does the use of technology (e.g. extending the number of people for which one has a model, albeit, perhaps, at the cost of superficiality) mean that one could study this objectively? perhaps the externalisation of records of interactions means that one can recover the model by looking (at diaries, email traces, web interactions etc) both as an individual (deciding how to interact next time with someone) and as a researcher studying that ineraction.

bicameral: two chambers (commons, lords:)
no "I" in Iliad
but then there's no "U" in Uysses

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