Thought expriments are great tools, but do they always do what we want them to?
- Thought experiments are quite popular, though some get more time in the sun than others.
- While they are supposed to help guide our intuition to help solve difficult problems, some are a bit removed from reality.
- Can we trust the intuitions we have about problems set in sci-fi worlds or that postulate impossible monsters?
The Swampman Cometh<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5tvT90uPz-U" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>A thought experiment we've discussed <a href="https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/seven-thought-experiments-thatll-make-you-question-everything" target="_self">before</a> that dives into questions of identity and meaningful language is the Swampman. <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/davidson/" target="_blank">Donald Davidson</a> wrote it in 1987:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Suppose a man is out for a walk one day when a bolt of lightning disintegrates him. Simultaneously, a bolt of lightning strikes a marsh and causes a bunch of molecules to spontaneously rearrange into the same pattern that constituted that man a few moments ago. This 'Swampman' has an exact copy of the brain, memories, patterns of behavior as he did. It goes about its day, works, interacts with the man's friends and is otherwise indistinguishable from him."<em></em></p><p>Is the Swampman the same person as Davidson? When he refers to things he "remembers" seeing before, even though the Swampman never actually saw them, do his words mean anything? This experiment, combined with "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus" target="_blank">The Ship of Theseus</a>" causes people to wonder if teleportation through creating a copy of a person and then destroying the original actually "kills" the person being <a href="https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017/09/is-beaming-down-in-star-trek-a-death-sentence/" target="_blank">teleported</a>. </p><p>Of course, we don't have teleportation yet, nor are there actual Swamp-people running around (Or are there!?!?!). While the questions raised by the Swampman are important ones, Dennett's warning is that we shouldn't be too quick to trust our intuition when the problem is so separated from anything we've ever encountered. <em></em></p>
The Utility Monster<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/G2HiIF8zBBY" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>This thought experiment from <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nozick-political/" target="_blank">Robert Nozick's</a> defense of libertarianism "Anarchy, State, and Utopia" asks what we'd have to do if Utilitarianism is correct and we met something capable of much greater happiness than anybody else.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Utilitarian theory is embarrassed by the possibility of utility monsters who get enormously greater gains in utility from any sacrifice of others than these others lose. For, unacceptably, the theory seems to require that we all be sacrificed in the monster's maw, in order to increase total utility."</p><p>If there was a utility monster that got a million times more joy out of everything than anybody else does, would we be obligated to give it everything it demanded to maximize the total happiness? Even if those demands cause suffering, but never enough to tip the ethical scales, elsewhere? If so, what does this mean for Utilitarianism as a moral theory? </p><p>At first, this experiment doesn't seem too bizarre. We all grasp the idea of somebody who gets more out of something than we do; this is just taking that idea to the extreme. The fundamental problem with this experiment was pointed out by philosopher <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Parfit" target="_blank">Derek Parfit</a> who argued that, while we are capable of imagining somebody who is happier than we are or who would get more out of something than we do, the idea of a creature that gets a million times more happiness out of things is impossible to imagine in a <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=6twLBwAAQBAJ&pg=PA240&lpg=PA240&dq=parfit+utility+monster&source=bl&ots=C-TcqwYRnO&sig=3wwLzjl3Z9KjAOBh3FFcb41aHG4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjYkIq7jqveAhU0IDQIHYtgAp04ChDoATAGegQIAhAB#v=onepage&q=parfit%20utility%20monster&f=false" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">meaningful way.</a></p><p>How can we get useful insights into the problem if we can't hope to grasp how this monster interacts with the world? Because of this difficulty, Parfit rejected the problem.</p><p>Utilitarian philosopher and Big Think contributor <a href="https://bigthink.com/u/petersinger" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Peter Singer</a> accepts that if there were utility monsters there might be a problem for Utilitarianism, but, as he explained to <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/back-talk-peter-singer/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Nation,</a> he finds the idea far-fetched. When posed the problem in the context of a billionaire owning a superyacht rather than donating money to fund medical treatments, he replied:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We would have to assume that Larry Ellison actually has capacities for happiness that are vastly greater than anyone else's. Ellison's yacht cost $200 million, and if we assume that $400 can repair an obstetric fistula, that means that the suffering relieved by 500,000 obstetric fistula repairs is not greater than the happiness that Ellison gets from his yacht. That, I think, is not physically possible."<em></em></p>
Roko’s Basilisk<p>Continuing on the theme of bizarre thought experiments involving monsters, we have a strange reworking of <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/" target="_blank">Pascal's Wager</a> involving a super-intelligent AI. It was created by a contributor to the website <em>LessWrong </em>named "Roko."</p><p>Given the length of the original post, I will summarize it here:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Imagine for a moment that humanity will someday create a hyper-powered artificial intelligence that is capable of solving all of the world's problems. It follows a form of utilitarian ethics and is trying to reduce human suffering as much as it can, which is a considerable amount. Given all the good it can do, it coming into existence, and doing so quickly, would substantially benefit humanity. Fully capable of simulating anything it wants, it then decides to take steps to punish those who knew about the good it could do but didn't help create it by torturing simulations of them. </p><p>Is it rational then to start donating a lot of money to those creating this super intelligence to avoid having it simulate and torture a copy of you in the future? This experiment gained a fair amount of notoriety <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/evkgvz/what-is-rokos-basilisk-elon-musk-grimes" target="_blank">online</a>, and a name based on the creature that kills with its <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilisk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gaze</a>, because by reading about it, you think about the monster and become a potential victim in the future, since now you know about it and might choose not to help create it. </p><p>Maybe I should have mentioned that part first. Oh well, so it goes. </p><p>As you might have realized, this experiment requires you to assume that we can reliably predict the behavior and motivations of a particular, ultra-intelligent AI that doesn't exist yet and may never exist. In terms of raw intelligence, this might be akin to asking a brainless starfish to predict how a human will behave one hundred years from now. While the experiment is said to have given some people <a href="https://slate.com/technology/2014/07/rokos-basilisk-the-most-terrifying-thought-experiment-of-all-time.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">nightmares</a>, it isn't taken seriously by most people outside a small circle on the internet. </p><p>Plus, the <a href="https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Roko's_basilisk#So_you.27re_worrying_about_the_Basilisk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">long list of assumptions</a> in the experiment includes that a simulation of you is actually "you" in a meaningful way. We have to solve the Swampman problem before we can agree on that point at all. </p>
People Seeds<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4ezS5vQ1j_E" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>A surreal experiment by <a href="https://philosophy.mit.edu/thomson" target="_blank">Judith Thomson</a> that appeared in her famous essay "<a href="https://rintintin.colorado.edu/~vancecd/phil215/Thomson.pdf" target="_blank">A Defense of Abortion<em>.</em></a>"<em> </em>The essay is a series of arguments for the morality of abortion in certain circumstances through thought experiments. While some parts of it are quite famous, this section seems to avoid widespread discussion:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Again, suppose it were like this: people-seeds drift about in the air like pollen, and if you open your windows, one may drift in and take root in your carpets or upholstery. You don't want children, so you fix up your windows with fine mesh screens, the very best you can buy. As can happen, however, and on very, very rare occasions does happen, one of the screens is defective; and a seed drifts in and takes root."<em></em></p><p>The question being, would it be acceptable to uproot the person-plant-fetus that gets in? Is it too much to ask that people live without cloth in their homes if they don't want people seeds to get in? How about never opening their doors or windows?</p><p>While this is supposed to be analogous to accidental pregnancy resulting from birth control failures, the downright bizarre nature of the thought experiment has been commented on by more than a few <a href="http://www.the-philosopher.co.uk/2020/09/thought-experiments-and-ethics-of.html" target="_blank">critics</a>. Philosopher <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathy_Wilkes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Kathleen Wilkes</a> argued that it was too far removed from our reality to provide <a href="https://www.philosophyexperiments.com/whosebody/Default12.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">meaningful intuitions</a> on abortion in her book "Real People<em>."</em></p><p>After all, society would probably have very different ideas on what the right to life means if we came into the world because a bit of pollen landed on the carpet.</p>
Twin Earth<p>A problem created to dive into questions of language by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilary_Putnam" target="_blank">Hilary Putnam</a>, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_Earth_thought_experiment" target="_blank">Twin Earth</a> experiment dives into questions of language and meaning using a story straight out of a one-shot comic book:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> "We begin by supposing that elsewhere in the universe there is a planet exactly like Earth in virtually all aspects, which we refer to as "Twin Earth." (We should also suppose that the relevant surroundings are exactly the same as for Earth; it revolves around a star that appears to be exactly like our sun, and so on). On Twin Earth, there is a Twin equivalent of every person and thing here on Earth. The one difference between the two planets is that there is no water on Twin Earth. In its place there is a liquid that is superficially identical, but is chemically different, being composed not of H2O, but rather of some more complicated formula which we abbreviate as 'XYZ.' The Twin Earthlings who refer to their language as 'English' call XYZ 'water.' Finally, we set the date of our thought experiment to be several centuries ago, when the residents of Earth and Twin Earth would have no means of knowing that the liquids they called 'water' were H<sub>2</sub>O and XYZ respectively. The experience of people on Earth with water and that of those on Twin Earth with XYZ would be identical."<em></em></p><p><br> Do the Earthling (who Putnam named Oscar) and his twin (also named Oscar) mean the same thing when they say "water?" Their mental states are the same when they refer to it, but the object in question is physically different in each case. If the twins' statements don't mean the same thing, then we must admit that external factors play a role in defining terms external to the speaker, a stance dubbed "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_externalism" target="_blank">scientific externalism</a>." <br><br>While this experiment is quite famous and has advanced a fair amount of <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/content-externalism/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">debate</a>, you can probably already see the difficulties some people have with it. </p><p>Philosopher <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyler_Burge" target="_blank">Tyler Burge</a> has argued that the whole experiment is flawed, as Earth Oscar refers to the concept of "H2O," while Twin Earth Oscar is referring to the concept of "XYZ." Dr. Burge argued that this means their mental states are different from the get-go. He also points out that the stuff flowing on Twin Earth <a href="https://coursys.sfu.ca/2015fa-phil-880-g1/pages/burge/view" target="_blank">isn't actually water</a>, which might derail the whole thing. </p><p>For his part, Putnam criticized others for using thought experiments that require you to ignore specific ideas to arrive at the intended ones. In this experiment, with humans presumably still being 60 percent water, you'd have to imagine that changing what water is at the molecular level would not alter the beings thinking about the water in any meaningful way. He has also admitted that Dr. Burge's first critique is actually a very good one. </p><p>Surprisingly, Daniel Dennett has spent a fair amount of time discussing the <a href="https://www.philosophy-science-humanities-controversies.com/listview-details.php?id=288841&a=$a&first_name=Daniel&author=Dennett&concept=Twin%20Earth" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">content</a> of the problem rather than on how strange the whole experiment is in the first place. It might go to show that philosophers love a good thought experiment, even if the results aren't directly applicable to the real world. </p>
Can we affirm everything in life, the beauty and the suffering? Nietzsche says yes.
There cannot be any comparable sentence in the history of Western thought.
German philosopher and writer Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844–1900).
Hulton Archive/Getty Images<p>But to reach this affirmation, first a person must fully and genuinely become aware of his own situation – and draw radical consequences from it. In Nietzsche's view, Christianity was a religion based on resentment, and thus on the sense of dislike or even envy that the weak harbour towards the strong – dislike or envy that is institutionalized, harnessed to an entire, complex mythological system, at the centre of which stands a figure of sanctified weakness, humility and modesty. According to Nietzsche, this is nothing other than a systematic means of depriving man of access to his own power, and at the same time it is the perfect way to exalt those who have voluntarily renounced this access. This form of exaltation also has a deeper sense, in that it gives the representatives of religious institutions a guarantee that the believers will be obedient to them, and by this token their position will remain unthreatened. And so the main purpose of this sort of ideology is to restrain those who could by nature pose a genuine threat to the domination of religious institutions.</p><p>Whereas Zarathustra brings a new message that allows mankind to break the chains for good and all, and to overthrow the last vestiges of the old order. Vestiges that were not so much material, as rooted in thinking and ethics based on Christian values. This is exactly what is meant by another famous Nietzschean maxim, about 'the revaluation of all values' – the profound revision of a moral system that, under the guise of goodness and noble-mindedness, leads above all to slavery.</p><p>In any case, the theme of an endless play-off between strength and weakness was, according to Nietzsche, central to the history of humanity long before Christianity became its dominant religion. This is superbly demonstrated by Professor Tadeusz Bartoś in his latest book, <em>Klątwa Parmenidesa</em> [The Curse of Parmenides]. Nietzsche had already perceived this sort of conflict within Greek culture, which for him was the basic point of departure. It was expressed in various features, including the famous division into what was Dionysian and what was Apollonian: chaos, passion and ecstasy versus structure, rationality and abstract thought.</p>
A philosopher's guide to detecting nonsense and getting around it.
- A professor in Sweden has a bold on idea on what BS, pseudoscience, and pseudophilosophy actually are.
- He suggests they are defined by a lack of "epistemic conscientiousness" rather than merely being false.
- He offers suggestions on how to avoid producing nonsense and how to identify it on sight.
The Unified Theory of B.S.<p><span style="background-color: initial;">The essay "</span><a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/theo.12271?af=R" target="_blank">Bullshit, Pseudoscience and Pseudophilosophy</a>"<span style="background-color: initial;"><em> </em></span><span style="background-color: initial;">considers much of the nonsense we encounter </span><span style="background-color: initial;">and </span><span style="background-color: initial;">offers a definition </span><span style="background-color: initial;">that allows us to move forward in dealing with it.</span></p><p>Dr. Moberger argues that what makes something bullshit is a "lack of epistemic conscientiousness," meaning that the person arguing for it takes no care to assure the truth of their statements. This typically manifests in systemic errors in reasoning and the frequent use of <a href="https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/ten-logical-mistakes-you-make-everyday-and-what-to-instead" target="_blank">logical fallacies </a>such as <a href="https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/ad-hominem" target="_blank">ad hominem</a>, red herring, <a href="https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/black-or-white" target="_blank">false dilemma</a>, and <a href="https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/the-texas-sharpshooter" target="_blank">cherry picking</a><em>, </em>among <a href="https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/" target="_blank">others</a>. </p><p>This makes bullsh*t different from lying, which involves caring what the truth is and purposely moving away from it, or mere indifference to truth, as it is quite possible for people pushing nonsense to care about their nonsense being true. It also makes it different from making the occasional mistake with reasoning, occasional errors differ from a systemic reliance on them. </p><p>Importantly, nonsense is also dependent on the epistemic unconscientiousness of the person pushing it rather than its content alone. This means some of it may end up being true (consider cases where a person's personality does match up with their star sign), but they end up being true for reasons unrelated to the bad reasoning used by its <a href="https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/the-fallacy-fallacy" target="_blank">advocates</a>. </p><p>Lots of things can, justly, be deemed "bullshit" under this understanding; such as <a href="https://medium.com/the-philosophers-stone/dismantling-astrology-and-pseudoscience-arguments-628411bc26af" target="_blank">astrology</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/12/no-scientific-case-homeopathy-remedies-pharmacists-placebos" target="_blank">homeopathy</a>, climate change denialism,<a href="https://www.popsci.com/10-ways-you-can-prove-earth-is-round/" target="_blank"> flat-Earthism</a>, <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/15-answers-to-creationist/" target="_blank">creationism</a>, and the anti-vaccine movement. </p>
Two subcategories: pseudoscience and pseudophilosophy<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/PCdcluiAOKU" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p><span style="background-color: initial;">Two commonly </span><span style="background-color: initial;">encountered</span><span style="background-color: initial;"> kinds of </span><span style="background-color: initial;">bullsh*t</span> are pseudoscience and <span style="background-color: initial;">pseudophilosophy</span><span style="background-color: initial;">. They can be easily defined as "</span><span style="background-color: initial;">bullshit with scientific pretensions" and "</span><span style="background-color: initial;">bullshit</span> with philosophical pretensions."<span style="background-color: initial;">Here are a few examples which </span><span style="background-color: initial;">will</span><span style="background-color: initial;"> clarify exactly what </span><span style="background-color: initial;">these things mean</span><span style="background-color: initial;">.</span></p><p>A form of pseudoscience would be flat-Earthism. While it takes on scientific pretensions and can be, <a href="https://www.space.com/38931-kids-can-prove-earth-round.html" target="_blank">and has been,</a> proven false, supporters of the idea that the Earth is flat are well known for handwaving away any evidence that falsifies their stance and dismissing good arguments against their worldview. </p><p>An amusing and illustrative example is the case of the flat-Earthers who devised two experiments to determine if the earth was flat or spherical. When their experiments produced results exactly consistent with the Earth being <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/behind-curve-netflix-ending-light-experiment-mark-sargent-documentary-movie-1343362" target="_blank">spherical</a>, they refused to accept the results and concluded that something went wrong; despite having no reason to <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24132210-900-feedback-flat-earthers-accidentally-prove-themselves-wrong/" target="_blank">do so</a>. Clearly, these fellows lack epistemic conscientiousness. </p><p>Pseudophilosophy is less frequently considered, but can be explained with examples of its two most popular forms. </p><p>The first is dubbed "obscurantist pseudophilosophy.<em>" </em>It often takes the form of nonsense posing as philosophy using copious amounts of jargon and arcane, frequently erroneous reasoning connecting a mundane truth to an exciting, fantastic falsehood. </p><p>As an example, there are more than a few cases where people have argued that physical reality is a social construct. This idea is based on the perhaps trivial notion that our beliefs about reality are social <a href="https://philpapers.org/archive/shatvo-2.pdf" target="_blank">constructs</a>. Often in cases like this, when challenged on the former point, advocates of the more fantastic point will retreat to the latter, as its is less controversial, and claim the issue was one of linguistic confusion caused by their <a href="https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/ambiguity" target="_blank">obscure terminology</a>. When the coast is clear, they frequently return to the original stance. </p><p>Dr. Moberger suggests that the humanities and social sciences seem to have a weakness for these seemingly profound pseudophilosophies without being nonsensical fields themselves. </p><p>The second is "scientistic pseudophilosophy<em>" </em>and is often seen in popular science writing. It frequently manifests when questions considered in scientific writing are topics of philosophy rather than science. Because science writers are often not trained in philosophy, they may produce pseudophilosophy when trying to interact with these questions. </p><p>A famous example is Sam Harris' attempt at reducing the problems of moral philosophy to scientific problems. His book "The Moral Landscape" is infamously littered with <a href="https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/strawman" target="_blank">strawman arguments,</a> a failure to interact with relevant philosophical literature, and <a href="https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/blackburn-ethics-without-god-secularism-religion-sam-harris" target="_blank">bad philosophy in general</a>. </p><p>In all of these cases, we see that the supporters of some kind of nonsense think that what they are supporting is true, but that they are willing to ignore the basic rules of science and philosophical reasoning in order to do so. </p>
Okay, so there is plenty of nonsense in the world. What do we do about it?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/omTJxZJgSKk" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p><span style="background-color: initial;">While the first step to dealing with</span><span style="background-color: initial;"> this</span><span style="background-color: initial;"> nonsense is to understand what it is, many people would like to go a little farther than that.</span></p><p>Dr. Moberger explained that sometimes, the best thing we can do is show a little humility: </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><br><em>"One of the main points of the essay is that there is no sharp boundary between bullshit and non-bullshit. Pseudoscience, pseudophilosophy and other kinds of bullshit are very much continuous with the kind of epistemic irresponsibility or unconscientiousness that we all display in our daily lives. We all have biases and we all dislike cognitive dissonance, and so without realizing it we cherry-pick evidence and use various kinds of fallacious reasoning. This tendency is especially strong when it comes to emotionally sensitive areas, such as politics, where we may have built part of our sense of identity and worth around a particular stance. Well-educated, smart people are no exception. In fact, they are sometimes worse, since they are more adept at using sophistry to rationalize their biases. Thus, the first thing to realize, I think, is that all of us are prone to produce bullshit and that it is much easier to spot other people's bullshit than our own. Intellectual humility is first and foremost. To me it does not come naturally and I struggle with it all the time."</em> </p><p>He also advises that people take the time to develop their critical thinking skills: </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"I think it is also very helpful to develop the kind of critical thinking skills that are taught to undergraduates in philosophy. The best book I know of in the genre is Richard Feldman's '<a href="http://www.susanpetrilli.com/files/II.-Reason-and-Argument,-R.-Feldman.pdf" target="_blank">Reason and Argument</a>.' It provides the basic conceptual tools necessary for thinking clearly about philosophical issues, but those tools are certainly useful outside of philosophy too."</em> </p><p>Lastly, he reminds us that looking at the facts of the matter can clear things up: </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Finally, no degree of intellectual humility or critical thinking skills is a substitute for gathering relevant information about the issue at hand. And this is where empirical science comes in. If we want to think rationally about any broadly speaking empirical issue, we need to inform ourselves about what empirical science has to say about it. We also need to remember that individual scientists are often unreliable and that scientific consensus is what we should look for. (Indeed, it is a common theme in pseudoscience to appeal to individual scientists whose views do not reflect scientific consensus.)" </p><p>A great deal of the pseudoscience and pseudophilosophy we deal with is characterized not by being false or even unfalsifiable, but rather by a lack of concern for assuring that something is true by the person pushing it. Oftentimes, it is presented with fairly common logical fallacies and bold claims of rejecting the scientific consensus. <br> <br>While having this definition doesn't remove bullshit from the world, it might help you avoid stepping in it. In the end, isn't that what matters? </p>
You actually score worse on memory tests.
- The idea of inhabiting someone else's body can be found in some of humanity's earliest mythologies.
- A team at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet conducted a body-switching experiment with 33 pairs of friends.
- The findings could have profound clinical implications down the road, such as in depression treatment.
Photo: Crystal Eye Studio / Shutterstock<p>While this might seem like a freaky and fun experiment, Tacikowski is <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200826110322.htm" target="_blank">looking at </a>the real-world applications of such a phenomenon.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"People who suffer from depression often have very rigid and negative beliefs about themselves that can be devastating to their everyday functioning. If you change this illusion slightly, it could potentially make those beliefs less rigid and less negative." </p><p>Tacikowski first wants to further investigate the neural correlates of body-switching. He's interested in how we construct the self in the first place. Once that's better understood, he believes clinical applications will naturally follow. </p><p>This sort of research also helps overturn an inherent biological impulse to separate body and mind. As neuroscientist Antonio Damasio writes, we need to recognize both aspects of ourselves as continuous partners. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They are not aloof entities signaling each other like chips in a cell phone. In plain talk, brains and bodies are in the same mind-enabling soup."</p><p>Still, an unshackled imagination leads to great storytelling, like Krishna on a battlefield and Yogananda on a riverbank. There's no harm in such tales provided we recognize them as metaphors. Until then, we dream forward the possibility until science fiction again becomes real. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
What speech is harmful, how do we know, and what do we do if we find out?
- Modern debates over free speech rage on the internet, but what do experts say?
- Some think it is easy to go too far in limiting public debate by offending parties, others argue limits are part of normal discourse.
- While the debate isn't settled, these thinkers can give you some starting points for your next discussion.