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Noetic Spaces: The human mind and the sense of reality

Niko Shido

“Reality is real because we believe it as real.” - John Searle

Introduction

Transvergence leads to evolutions. The article introduces the portals of multi-disciplinal minds of philosophy, linguistics, technology, and psychology. The intent is to investigate the concept of “reality” and how the characteristics of a sense of reality could be implemented in terms of virtual reality in productive ways. By rediscovering the “true” meaning of “reality”, humans can forge other reality fields to perceive other dimensions with our multi-modal sensory systems. The new lexical item “transvergence” makes listeners visualize interactions in each mind/body while implementing computers as extensions of our intentions. The mind as a simulator of each individual’s “reality space”, the notion of transvergence allows our mind to hybridize, to extend, and to actualize blueprints in dynamic interactions. A computer-as-mind metaphor and its possible actualizations have been discussed among scholars from several fields. The article introduces how computers and virtual reality can give opportunities to switch the sense of reality, and to enhance cognitive and perceptual systems to comprehend other person’s “reality”, or to perceive undiscovered reality spaces.

The subject of the human mind has been capturing countless thinkers’ interests who investigate its mechanisms, and capabilities. They have been providing the ideas that the mind is a source of everything which is inter-connected to many factors such as consciousness, sensation, perception, body, action, reasoning, intention, belief, memory, and so on.

The philosopher John Searle explains the difference between the mind and the computer is its’ existence or absence of intentionality. The digital languages are inputted and outputted data through conduits of proxy systems. On the other hand, minds interpret the information by filtering it through people’s belief systems. Searle defines “seeing” as “seeing as”, and “perceiving” as “perceiving as” according to the focus of each person’s attention. He states that the mood and state of minds filter information as to how and when we perceive things. I assume it is because each person’s “semantic engine” or “conceptual apparatus” (both are metaphors of mind) are different according to their configurations (ways of thinking or personalities). The Searle’s states, “computers will never function as human minds because computers do not have intentionality.” Examining the lexical item “intentionality” may be helpful to explain the meaning of “mind”. The lexical item “intend” is originated from the Old French, from Latin “intendere”. The Old French “in” means “toward”, and “tendere” means, “to stretch”. It shows one of the natures of the” mind” which has plasticity and a scope of attention. The ancient Greek used a metaphor of mind-as-a slingshot, which may be to define mind as something which has intention, or mind as intention itself.

Extended minds

Computers have many advocates, even though many thinkers have reasoned by their theories that computers will never work the same as the human mind, or any minds. Computer advocates have been continuing their exploration in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and robotics. I assume it is because of their intention to make artificial entities which seem to use languages the same as a human would communicate, or seem to have its own will. I consider their projects to be the simulations of the creators’ own extended minds. Their inventions could enhance human perception, or demonstrate the possibilities of perceptions through our sensory system in parts of our brains which are not yet activated. We could consider our own personal computers as our prosthetics to express our extended minds.

The German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz introduced the idea of “Monads” in terms of metaphysics. The lexical item “monad” is originated from the Greek, which means “one”, “single”, “unique” and so on. According to Leibniz, monads are windowless mental atomic entities, which do not interact with other entities but reflect upon their environments. Using Leibniz’s monads as an example to assume the nature of minds, I appropriate the idea of “monads” as nodes in social networks. Even though Leibniz’s philosophy is also based on spiritual concepts, which include the idea of God, it might be helpful to visualize how each mind is related to our environments. In my mental landscape, I imagine Leibniz’s monads as a metaphor of mental spaces. In this fictional setting, I would like to ask you to imagine that the monads are sort of mirror balls, which reflect its environments. Some sections of the mirror of balls may have defects such as cracks, bumps, or stains. If we imagine these monads mirror balls as a metaphor of people’s mental spaces, we might be able to picture the reflections of these mirrors where people’s mental spaces which reflect their environments with their uniquely formed mirrors according to their cultures and other factors. Also in my imagined visualization, these “monads mirror balls” are networked as nodes in their social networks. Each node begets other nodes’ reflections in their environments. If each node were each person’s mental space itself, a sense of reality and a sense of truth might be the same equivalents to their uniquely formed mirrors. In the other words, each node is an individual’s cognitive terrain, which reflects a person’s environments while filtering through the configurations of their unique minds.

The mind seems to have infinite characteristics to change their states. The French linguist Claude Vandeloise considers that “the container/ contained” and “bearer/ burden” relation are the most fundamental aspects in language acquisition. He also states that there is the existence of boundaries because of the arbitrations of knowledge. Language acquisition and the formation of the sense of boundaries occurs in minds because minds receive information and transform them into other forms through each individual’s canonical categorizations. Vandeloise’s hypothesis the container/ contained and bearer/ burden relation brings the acquisition of conceptualization of spatial and mental relationships of objects. Objects could be physical entities or abstract ideas because conceptualization occurs within each mind which forms the sense of reality.

Neuroplasticity

Mind is one of the most flexible and mobile entities, which has the characteristics of a container and a carrier of thoughts and ideas. The neuroscientist from the Rutgers University, Paul Tallal says that people create their brain from the input they get. The term “neuroplasticity” is used to explain the fact that brains constantly reorganize themselves via interaction. Neuroplasticity also adds to its’ speed and to its plasticity according to the amount of information brains receive, and manifest complexity. The brains’ developments alter behaviors of people, which enable to explain the mechanism of the human minds, and how people describe their state of minds as “reality” through language.

Mind and Body

For two thousand years, countless thinkers idolized Descartes as an icon of the intellectual mind, and they had considered his ideas as the “truth”. Therefore, they had inherited and imitated Descartes’ ideas as “reality (truth)”. Cartesian traditions are perceived as the absolute truth because of the idealization towards Descartes as a supreme intelligence, in relevance to the mind. Sharing his belief had become cultural, which produced the notion of division between such ideas as good and evil, right and wrong, us and them, inferior and superior, high art and low art, and so on. The linguists Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner state that a mental space is comparable to conceptual packets, which are made in the human minds via cognitive process and intentions. The blending of mental spaces or cognitive contents includes the factors of emotion (excitement, flattery, ego, etc.) in the process of judgments. There might be factors of emotion during the process of judgment in thinkers’ minds whether Descartes was noteworthy to have believed it or not. For instance, in order to identify themselves as intellectuals for Descartes, it would have been necessary to share the same mindset. Fauconnier and Turner call this “identity connection.” John Searle states that we are historically conditioned to think about the Cartesian tradition. He disagrees with the idea of Dualism. He wrote: Consciousness is a mental, and therefore physical, property of the brain. At this point, the idea of Descartes’ Dualism – body versus mind – does not apply. The body reflects upon the mindset while sending the semantically intentional messages throughout the entire body. The mind creates blueprints of an outcome, and with intention, the outcome is actualized in the physical world.

Mind and Computers

Many linguists, philosophers, psychologists, and computer programmers have been debating on the mind as a computer metaphor. In the genre of science fiction, it is easy to view the scenes of interactions between machines, robots, artificial intelligence, and humans. In the field of academics, this idea is denied. Searle states that a computer will never function like anything that of brains because computers lack intentionality. Unlike humans, computers do not have a mood; the capacity to sense pleasurable or unpleasurable inputs; are not self-conscious; do not have desire; or intentionality. Still, it is very intriguing that the people’s desire which ventures to invent something interactive and communicative. Machines could be considered as extended minds of their creators. Programming languages and digital apparatuses enable their ubiquity and weightless mobile nature throughout networks. The characteristics of digital media might be one of the factors to be used comparatively with computers as a metaphor of mind.

The human mind is more complex because it produces imagination, the sense of imperfection, curiosity for knowledge, and the desire for improvement. These thoughts require intention. The linguist George Lakoff states that the mind-as-machine paradigm cannot be actualized because of the analogue and digital differences. The kinesthetic image schemas are largely analogue, not digital. He states that if the mind-as-machine concept were true, the “language of thought” has to be digital. However, minds translate information through its accumulated semantic structures, which are acquired through gestalt perception, experiences, and environments. John Searle also stated that the simulation of the mind is not a duplication of the mind.

The existence of computers still lures people to think over the subjects of the human mind and the notion of reality. The mind as a metaphor of Euclidean free space, humans can shift their own minds to immerse into the world of virtual reality. It is often said; “brains cannot tell the difference between reality and illusion.” Medical researchers and computer scientists have collaborated to create several software which allow users to experience virtual reality. One of the examples is software which was created for burn victims, especially for children, who need intensive treatments for their wounded skins. During the treatments, there is an option of using narcotic drugs such as morphine. Instead of using strong and addictive pain relievers continuously, the patients use the software during the painful treatment sessions. The software has an interface of a video game. Its virtual setting is that of a soothing landscape of a snowfield, and the players (patients) throw virtual snowballs to virtual characters such as a snowman or other imagined creatures. While playing inside of the virtual world (snowfield), the patients are able to shift their minds from their actual situation (a physical world) while receiving painful procedures in hospitals. Researchers state that the effect of mind shifting is maximized when the players played the video games with their mothers. The pleasure of having fun and the pleasure of sharing the experiences with other people in the virtual world transports them into the more preferable mental spaces from the physical space, which is hard to bare. This example shows the body – mind connection. Mind is transportable by a person’s focus of attention. The mind will also be more likely to perceive the realness of an event as real by sharing the experience with other people. Another example of implementing digital media for virtual reality is to simulate the mental scenes of people who suffer from schizophrenia. Medical researchers who have computer science backgrounds interviewed patients who suffer from schizophrenia. With the given information, the researchers have simulated scenes the patients may see in their minds in three-dimensional computer graphic, which has the interface of a video game. The purpose of the simulation is to inform people who do not understand the illness, especially to people who have a family member who is suffering from the illness. The patients “see” things other people cannot see through their eyes, and often patients are horrified by their images and the voices they hear, which are generated inside of their minds. They are genuinely horrified because the experience is a reality to them. An Australian psychiatrist, Dr. Peter Yellowlees started the project to demonstrate the visualization of the hallucinations associated with schizophrenia. Then Nash Baldwin implemented the video game software, which enables the users to navigate inside the virtual space. After visitors viewed and listened to the simulated environments of the mental spaces of schizophrenia patients, they still felt the sense of unnerving even after they left the simulated environment. Baldwin commented to them as;” Not having such a strong grasp on reality anyhow”. From this example, I assume that minds have permeative characteristics which absorb information from the environments people encounter. Virtual reality shows us glimpses of other forms of “reality” of other mental spaces to experience. There is also a mirroring mechanism in minds. There are brain cells called “mirror neurons” which perceive environments and make us imitate data we receive through our sensory systems. If I speculate, the idea of “self”, “identity”, “reality”, or “real me” may be products of mirroring mechanisms in our minds. Everything we see which is a manmade is a form of simulation and actualization of someone’s mental spaces.

Created by mweisert
Last modified 2005-05-15 22:52
 

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