All posts by LMNO

Evidence of ancient abstract thinking, or just making shit up?


This is a weird one: It’s pretty awesome that there might be evidence that abstract thought existed before language, and even before the so-called “modern” human… as far back as 2 million years.


However, when you take a step back, two things stand out to me: First, it’s been reasonably shown that some other kinds of pre-language primates have shown what could be considered abstract thinking.  So it wouldn’t be so unreasonable to think that ancient proto-humans would be able to have the ability, as well. 


Second, the author of the blog totally pulled a Law of Fives using Phi (the Golden Mean), starting with putting the oblong around a sketch of a stone axe, and the moving on to trying to fit one around his fist, with mixed results.

Humans are still nasty little monkeys.


So, it looks like ABC found a way to re-do the Milgram Experiment minus the shaky ethics. 


Has the human race evolved a compassion gland after 40 years?  Perhaps the leaps in technology have taught humans that “just following orders” is a shitty excuse?  Maybe, just maybe, people will reject a sadistic “authority” and think for themselves?


Of course not.  Just like last time, about 70% of the test subjects would willingly electrocute another human because they were told to.


However, some other interesting things were learned:


·                                 The experimenters’ physical presence has a marked impact on his authority. As cited earlier, obedience dropped off sharply when orders were given by telephone. The experimenter could often induce a disobedient subject to go on by returning to the laboratory.

·                                 Conflicting authority severely paralyzes action. When two experimenters of equal status, both seated at the command desk, gave incompatible orders, no shocks were delivered past the point of their disagreement.

·                                 The rebellious action of others severely undermines authority. In one variation, three teachers (two actors and a real subject) administered a test and shocks. When the two actors disobeyed the experimenter and refused to go beyond a certain shock level, thirty-six of forty subjects joined their disobedient peers and refused as well.

“Perhaps only when rebels outnumber authority figures can disobedience readily spread.”


That last line sounds important. 

Hey kids! Try this at home!

This might be old news for some of you mind hackers, but there are ways of proving that your brain and body filter out external “reality” and add their own interpretations.  And you don’t even need fancy drugs, or a laboratory.  Next time you’re trying to argue the Black Iron Prison position, suggest a few of these experiments:


Ok, so they aren’t earth shattering.  But at the very least, they demonstrate that we are constantly creating our own personal universe inside our heads.  It’s good to know that it’s at least possible to consciously manage some of our perceived pain.  And it should be pointed out that the Purkinje Lights effect is not only the basis for Gysin’s Dream Machine (, but it’s been suggested that Nostradamus used the same techniques to create his visions.

LMNO’s Introduction

So, my little section o’ blag will be called SEEING IS BELIEVING. It basically revolves around how we perceive things, and how we don’t; cognitive biases, altered perceptions, theories on how the mind and thought works, and more mental models and maps than I know what to do with.

As an introduction, I offer a piece I wrote for “The Black Iron Prison” project over at It might give some impression of where I’m coming from, and the kind of stuff you’ll find, when I’m not just posting interesting links and commentary on other things I’ve found around the Webosphere.

We’re mostly blind. But this isn’t really your fault; it’s because of the shell of meat we happening to live in right now. Think, for just a moment, at the nearly infinite amount of things happening right now all around us. I’m sure you can think of quite a few things. Now, let’s talk about them. You can’t see any of the infrared or ultraviolet light spectrum. Unfortunately, this cuts out quite a lot of things your eyes were built to see. Sorry about that.

You can’t hear anything below 20 Hz, or above 20 KHz . You can definitely feel about 12 Hz, if you play it really loudly. Go on, give it a try. With just those two examples, if you hadn’t before, now you can really start to understand all the stuff you simply can’t perceive. I’m sure you can think of five more examples of an immense class of Things that you can’t notice are right in front of you. But it gets worse. Stop for a moment, and try to notice as many possible things in your environment that you can, simultaneously. Notice that, as you start to identify more and more objects, sounds, smells, and tactile sensations, you can’t keep them in your head all at once. When you notice, for example, the pressure of your shoe against the ball of your foot, that distant bird chirping seems to fade from your attention.

And let’s not forget about how much stuff you weren’t paying attention to when you started reading this. Let’s face it: We all live our lives with blinders on. We only allow ourselves to pay attention to 1% of what we physically can perceive, which is an infinitesimally small percentage of all the stuff in the Universe.

And that fraction of a fraction of a percent is what we usually call “Reality”. We call it “Real”, as if it’s an unshaking firmament of solid Truth, that what we see is all that’s really “out there”. But you’re not even paying attention to the 99% of stuff that you can even sense.

And this “Reality” is what we base our judgments on how the Universe “works” and what “should” be Out There. We construct our actions and reaction to this 1% of available information, and reject everything else in the Universe. And then some Authority comes along, and tells you that they know what’s really real, and that you should do as they do. Talk about the blind being led by the blind… or in this case, the blind being led by the incredibly stupid.

So, what’s the answer? Would it be best to try our best to see everything, all at once? Is the solution to try and tear down all the filters, to let your brain accept, acknowledge, and perceive every bit of information that comes your way? Would that help?

Are you kidding? It would completely shut down your brain. Trying to identify, recognize, and notice every single thing happening, all at once, all the time, would completely incapacitate you. And let’s not forget that, due to physiology, it’s still impossible to perceive a great deal of the Universe, anyway. And because it’s totally impractical to try and simultaneously perceive what little bits of the Universe our senses can pick up, in order for us to function in our lives, we are forced to shut out certain things. But who, or what, is choosing the things we do perceive at any given moment? That, my friends, is the question.

Was it your parents? Was it the years you spent in school? Was it the TV? Was it a band? Was it a book you read? Was it a preacher you heard? Was it the kid who pushed you down when you were five? All of the above. The way you see the world, my friend, is a patchwork quilt of individual experiences, shaping the way your mind works. ‘Round these parts, we call these things the “bars and walls of your Black Iron Prison”.

Now, before you go on with the idea that all this is somehow Negative and Depressing, let’s break down the phrase. We’re not saying it’s an Iron Prison that is Black (Bleak) that you’re in because you’re being punished for some sort of Karmic wrongdoing.

Rather, what’s being said is that in order to function in your day-to-day life, there are necessary limitations your body and mind impose on your perceptions. That’s the Prison. The phrase “Black Iron” refers to cold wrought iron, which is strong, usually shaped by hand, and often beautiful.*

But back to the main question, then, and the issue of who chooses your perceptions. Of course, the Large Answer is, “your entire life up to this point,”the patchwork quilt referred to above, stitched panels of the things you have learned, whether they were imprinted, conditioned, or learned, either consciously or subconsciously. But that’s a bit too large. What it comes down to, is that you are the one in charge of your Prison. It’s you that has shaped the Black Iron bars that let you see the small parts of the Universe that you base your decisions upon. Sure, you can say that it’s not your fault that your parents raised you as a racist redneck (for example). But it is your fault if you take that as a given, as if that bar in your cell is a permanent thing, something that’s been there since before you were born.

But wait. There’s more. The guy sitting next to you, they’re focusing on completely different things than you are. Their entire upbringing has pretty much determined what they’re going to pay attention to, just as your entire life up to this point has shaped what you’re looking at right now. You know what this means, right? This means that everyone is living in a different Idea of the Universe than everyone else. It’s a miracle that we can agree on anything. Just imagine, billions of people, all looking out at a different Universe from between the bars of their own personal Prison. “Okay, big guy,” you say, “So what’s really out there, if you’re so smart?” I have to tell you…

I don’t know. I have the same blinders that you do. I live in the same kind of box. But I will say one thing. My saying “I don’t know” doesn’t mean, “I don’t know, and I don’t care, because there’s no way to escape the biology of my sense.” I say, “I don’t know, but I want to find out. I want to try and see and feel as much as I can, I don’t want to take somebody’s word for it, I want to keep exploring, and figuring shit out. I want to walk out of my Prison Cell, even if I just end up in another one. I’m not content only seeing a fraction of what’s out there.

Because hey, who knows what kind of fun I’m missing?

What it means to “think for yourself”.

Ah… what it means to “think for yourself.”

Most of us don’t, most of the time. 

I would include most of in that, sometimes.*  Because this gets wrapped up in one of the problems many of us have found to be a core issue of Discordia: the Filters, the Grids, the Prison Bars, the vital and trecherous habit of compartamentalizing.

If you start at the raw state (not the RAW state, mind you), you get an assload of sensory input.  So, the brain, all by itself, starts putting things in categories.  “This is like that, so we will associate these with those.”  Eventually, we work our way up to a rough understanding of the world.

This process tends to work pretty well, so we start using it in other ways.  But this is where we really start running into trouble.  Our compartamentalizing turns into generalizing, and slips into “All A is B.  This looks like an A, so it must be B.”  We look at new experiences as if they were old ones, so we can put new things in established compartments.

Essentially, without knowing it, we tend to fall into the habit of trusting people, or things, or ideas that are comfortable to our brains.  They get inside our bullshit detecor perimeter fence.  So when something happens, or someone says soemthing that falls within our trust zone, we accept it as truth without question.

Mind you, this is a fairly useful habit if you actually want to get things done.  There is much in this Universe that doesn’t affect you, and that doesn’t need to be parsed in fine detail.  I would guess that 95% of the shit that gets thrown at you every day isn’t really worth your time to fine tune.

But it’s that 5% that gets you.

So, back to that original point.  What is “thinking for yourself”?  I’d say it’s the art of going back to your assumptions, categorizations, habits, and tendencies, and breaking them down.  Figure out where you got your opinions.  What influenced you?  Do you trust them?  What are the counter arguments?  Which works best for you right now, not when you were 13?  Is “just because” a good enough answer?

You break down your opinions, and sniff out where you just went ahead and trusted something without a second thought.  That doesn’t mean you have to reject it; many times, you end up agreeing with it.  But now you have a more solid foundation of what you think.

*Do you like how I’m E-Priming the shit out of this?

One spag’s take on Shrapnelâ„¢

Shrapnel. Something exploded, and a piece of it embedded in your flesh. Now you have to carry that around with you for the rest of your life.

It affects you. In changes the way that you behave, you take the experience of being hit by that shrapnel with you in every decision that you make. Even if you remove it, the scar remains. Even in its absence, it informs your decisions.

For the most part, the explosions are essentially random, when taken from a subjective view. Someone else planted these things, and you walk right into it. These things may have exploded centuries ago, but the shrapnel is still in the air. Still able to pierce into the heart of you.

Often, they tell you where to go. They push you onto new paths, or keep you going down the one you’re on. They can blind you, they can cripple you, they can make you afraid to continue. They can accumulate, like scales, like armor, like a lead weight. Given enough time, they can even render you impervious to other bits of shrapnel. But not forever.

Shrapnel is not subtle. It’s just that we don’t recognize it for what it is. We get hit full in the face, and we don’t even realize what just happened. We know [i]something[/i] just went down, but what?

You heard a symphony.

You read a story.

You went to school.

You got a job.

You fell in love.

You got into a fight.

You fell out of a tree.

You were mugged.

You got an erection.

You listened to a preacher.

You took drugs.

You got lost in the woods for 3 days.

You lived your life. And you carry that with you. Each thing that got the limbic system pumping, every “aha!”, all the moments of simmering rage, each instant of bliss… They all left their bits of shrapnel in you. They all push and prod you in directions you might not even have intended to go.

But you don’t have to be one of the walking wounded. The choice is yours. Self-surgery is messy, but it’s possible. Search out the bits that got stuck into you, see if they’re worth keeping. Then get a pair of pliers and an exacto knife, and get to it.

Wherefore all the Popes?

As some of you may know, one of the things the POEE (Paratheo-Anametamystikhood Of Eris Esoteric) came up with was the True and Holy Fact that every man, woman and child is a pope (“so please treat them right”). Some people wonder what’s up with that. Well, I’ll tell you what that means to me.* 1. It pisses off the Catholics (not that hard, but fun anyway).2. It causes mild confusion in cabbages that can’t get their head around the idea of multiple, non-Catholic popes.3. It is a fairly precise and concise slice of what it means to be Discordian.

Perhaps I should expand/expound on that third one. To wit: The Christian Catholic Path teaches that Jesus gave unto Peter the earthly access of heaven’s kingdom (Matt.16:18-19: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”).

Stemming from this tradition, the Pope has become the singular conduit of God’s will on earth, having final say on moral, ethical, and spiritual matters. Their will in such matters is not to be denied.

Well, Discordians aren’t down with that. They are typically skeptical of any dogmatic authority (or, for that matter, any authority assumed rather than requested). To a Discordian, the self is the final arbiter of moral, ethical, and spiritual behavior. It would simply not do to have some old guy in a funny hat ordering me not to have fun, “just because”. I, Myself, am the key to Heaven, and the Gate; I am the Jailor; I am the Prisoner; and I am Free.

But you see, this applies to everyone. My papal edicts do not affect you, if you so choose, because you are the Pope, as well. Of course, you all know what happens when two popes disagree: SCHISM! And in that chasm awaits the One True Goddess, Eris.

And there’s nothing better than looking into the Eris’ Crack.

*It should be pointed out that, of course, I speak for myself, the One True Pope of the First Church of Last Exit Before Toll. Other popes can damn well speak for themselves, if they so choose.