Ep. 2 - Awakening from the Meaning Crises - Flow, Metaphor, and the Axial Revolution



my notes

  • 00:00 - recap of last lecture
  • 2:30 - explication
  • 2:55 - the shaman is also trying to get people into the flow state - the flow experience is described as being in the zone - you are in a task that is very demanding, but only just above your skill abilities, so you can put everything into it - if your skills are higher than the task, then you fall into boredom - you need a situation, where if your skill improves, your environment also improves - we have created flow induction machine - tight feedback loop between your action and the environment’s reaction - failure matters symbolically — these are video games — addiction occurs because it hijacks things that were evolutionarily compelling
  • 6:25 - what do people do to get into flow? they compete, they rock climb, they do things that would be torturous if it was not for flow — the more you get into the flow state, the more likely you are to rate your life as meaningful
    • ben: it seems then that flow state is a evolutionary strategy for increasing competency against futuristic increasing challenges
  • 7:42 - flow state is universal - it occurs across all demographics - and cognitive sciences pay attention to universals, as they reveal parts of our cognitive machinery
  • 8:18 - so what is the flow state? it is when you feel one with things - a feeling of spontaneity in oneness - your movements flow out of you - at one level you are expending tremendous energy, at another it is completely effortless - sense of time passes differently - sense of self is dramatically altered - self-consciousness disappears - flow state is super salient, the world feels more intense - it is when people feel they are being and delivering their best
    • ben: this is running and motorbike driving for me and to some extent the Bevry meetings
  • 11:30 - so why is flow state so compelling? to get into it, you need skills that match demand, you need tight coupling between you and the environment, clear information, and costly failure - also need training to enhance your ability to get into the flow state - the more training in mindfulness, the greater ability to enter the flow state
  • 13:00 - so what is flow? the rock climber gets stuck, they all get stuck, then they have to refit themselves to the environment - it is a cascade of insights, it is priming them, in constant births of energy
  • 16:00 - implicit learning - psychic abilities are your abilities to pickup complex patterns in the environment without being aware of it — two experiments, jumped sentences to a pattern that the users are primed and now jumbled with randomness, they can find the matching items beyond chance, second experiment is staring, if the subject is given accurate feedback for when they are right or not, their performance increases, if no feedback, their performance remains chance
  • 21:00 - what we call intuition is a real thing, it is not magical, it is a result of your implicit learning — what is personal space limits
  • 22:00 - we have intuition when it goes well, when it goes bad we call it bias/prejudice — correlation vs causation — bigger social network, more resources, causes longer marriages — the bigot picked up on correlation patterns, not causal patterns
  • 25:00 - conscious intervention for implicit intuition does not improve people’s intuition!!! it get’s worse!!! implicit learning cannot be replaced by explicit learning
    • ben; is this what has happened with diversity training? it is maladapted explicit intuition, causing people to see even more false correlations!
  • 26:30 - science is a way to distinguish between causal patterns and corollary patterns - clear information - clear feedback between change and reaction - failure matters in science
  • 28:00 - John and his colleagues argued that the 3 conditions of good implicit learning, are the same 3 conditions as flow, and are the same 3 conditions as science — picking up real complex patterns — insight explores and finds new patterns, implicit learning acquires and sustains the learning — it enhances your cognitive processing
  • 30:00 - an expert of getting into the flow state, is someone you want to have around — but they will have challenges, they don’t know why they are so insightful, they can’t explain it, they just are — they have this wonderful sense of oneness with the world, they have tremendous insight, their predictions are on point
  • 31:00 - these individuals are the shaman
  • 31:30 - what is happening in this state, is that your brain is communicating to areas that normally don’t talk to each other - this is especially the case if you’ve gone through a massive disruption strategy - fasting, social isolation, psychedelics - this is your capacity for metaphor - metaphor is a metaphor for metaphor, it means to bridge, to connect things, to connect that which was not connected - what you need to understand is how pervasive metaphor is — your cognition seems to function as metaphorical enhancement — metaphor is so powerful, as it is the creative connection between ideas
  • 35:00 - the better a problem solver you are, the better your metaphorical thought — if you are stuck, come up with a metaphor to explain it, just doing so may restructure the problem and reveal the solution
    • ben: this is a somewhat rebuttal to Neitsche’s beyond good and evil - if you’re intuitions are good, then who cares that they are intuitions, they are valuable and real
  • 37:00 - the shamans literally made more meaning - if you are competing, the group with the shaman will win
    • ben: is this why there was a shaman in Silicon Valley tv series?
  • 38:00 - we say we were getting “high”, because that was the metaphysical experience that the shaman induced — why would the brain generate this? — the higher you go like a bird, the more you can see clearly, the bigger picture you can see, this is oversight, this is being in charge, this is supervision of things — these metaphors are echos, whispers of the past, of shamanic flight

  • 39:30 - invention of agriculture - individuals are now parts of complex societies - people start, for the first time, stay in the same place - large groups of strangers - individuals view themselves differently - stone gives way to metal - the first great civilisations
  • 42:00 - why have no one read anything from the Bronze Age, which contained some of the longest lasting civilisations ever?
  • 43:00 - it seems there was another great change, around 800-300 BCE (the axial age), such that we connect to those and their systems of thought after, but not before — what happened? — the Bronze Age collapses, we don’t know why, but we don’t need to know why for our purposes here — this was the greatest collapse the world has ever known, it is a greater collapse than the fall of the Roman Empire, more cities and cultures disappeared than ever, greatest collapse of trade and illiteracy, it is the closest thing humans have ever experience to an apocalypse - it was a dark age — the great civilisations failed, and left a lot of smaller tribe like societies, putting great pressure on the need to adapt, the bottleneck was adaption, people became more willing to experiment, try new forms of social organisation, importantly, they started to invest new things, including psychotechnologies (things that link brains together, something (be it a a practice) that increases cognitive function), it seems a new kind of literacy was invented then, one that was orders of magnitude easier to learn than the past, where literacy was a job (where words like scribble come form) because it was so rare, so hard, so tough, what was invented was alphabetic literacy, which is a much more effective psychotechnology, it is easier to learn, and enhances your cognition better, everything gets magnified tremendously, the number of the literate expands
  • 50:30 - literacy transforms your cognition and sense of self - if I can write things down, I can come back to my thoughts later and reflect on them, I start to become more aware of my own thoughts, and I can correct my thinking more readily, without memory constraints — I gain a capacity for second order thinking (when a psychotechnology is internalised and allows oneself to critically examine their own thinking, and correct it) — (metacognition is the awareness of your own mind) — second order thinking now emerges because of alphabetic literacy
  • 52:30 - armies also start forming, coinage is invented — money entreaties you to think in an abstract symbol system — it also teaches you numeracy, which is mathematics — it is rudimentary, but it is being trained, that implicit pattern matching organ is now birthed and evolving, adept for exaptation
  • 53:30 - merge mathematics, with second order thinking, and you get abstracting thinking - you start to get people to have a very clear sense of two things about their cognition - how much they can correct their cognition, how much they can self-transcend, it also enhances their awareness of how deceptive and self-deceptive they are, how much error is in their thinking — a tremendous capacity for self-deception and self-correction — and humans start changing themselves in the world, and introduces a personal sense of responsibility, which changes their moral senses
  • 56:00 - before this time, war and chaos were just part of the natural order - after the axial revolution, with the abstract thought - people start to recognise that they are responsible for the chaos - they start to. understand that their own mind is the enemy and the ally, undisciplined leads to violence and illusion, discipline leads to wisdom and the ability to reduce the violence and the suffering

the more often you get into the flow state the more likely you will rate your life as meaningful. The more you will experience wellbeing.
– 7:18

I wonder if there’s a source for this? He mentions the need to distinguish between causation and correlation, so I’m curious to know whether that has been applied here.

Eg. what if the people who already experience wellbeing tend more to rate their life as meaningful, and find it easier to get into the flow state more often?