CHOICE & CHOOSING: AGENCY & INDIVIDUALISM REVISITED

Almost 81, and I belatedly discover that Larry has been negligent all his life in learning how to choose. This enabled him to accept the hypothesis that “free will” (from consciousness) was an illusion. This was later a confirmed scientific hypothesis from empirical research. This did not say that humans lacked agency and a degree of autonomy. It stated only that agency didn’t come from consciousness itself. Brain studies demonstrated that the brain indicated a decision had been made a short time interval before there appeared an experiential {in consciousness} with the content “making a decision” {not “having made a decision}.

I use “I” to refer to the combination of nuet and Larry. Larry/nuet can learn to exhibit agency or “apparent free will”. I, my whole, has agency – and can learn to improve my performance of agency. I had neglected this learning all of my life.

I have long concluded that although nuet often channeled Larry in writing and speaking, nuet couldn’t move the mammalian/intuitive/emotional Larry to be more assertive in managing his lifestyle.

For example, this morning I lay in bed listening to a CD book (an expose of Scientology), enjoying my relaxed body, and rationalizing that I didn’t need to get up just then. This action is in conflict with what my neuropsych analyst advised me yesterday about the importance of sleeping routines. It relates to my need to get help in stopping drinking booze, and many other aspects of my life. I know that daily movement/exercise is the most important half hour each day for my future health, yet I seldom do it – even when I encounter MOVE on my daily schedule or posted above the TV. Why?

I have long rationalized that my lack of assertion had a positive aspect, in that it kept me from becoming trapped in an ideology or discipline. Societal success was believed to be a potential trap. Yet, in retrospect, it kept me at Pima College for 23 years, where I didn’t emerge as I had the potential to do.

Back to the insight that motivated this post. There can emerge a dance between Larry and nuet that manifests as a “conscious free will” with considerable futures-orientated agency. I could learn to create and execute a life strategy. Maybe it MUST work with the intuitive illusion that it is the consciousness that has the agency (and not both consciousness and subconscious). To be honest, even though I conceptually accept that the subconscious part of Larry makes the decisions, my momentary behavior is believed as Larry’s deliberate doing. As I age I am more and more aware of doing things without intention.

The literature is full of reports of special PRACTICES where a person learns to “control” his/er behavior and sometime physiological functioning. These are often presented as “training the mind”, but where the “mind” is identified with consciousness.

Awhile back, I had the insight that the term “consciousness” had two distinct sets of meanings.  One meaning set identified with the actual experiences, the nature and content of experientials. The other meaning set identified with agency and doing.

I don’t know the role my lack of mental imagery in all sensory modalities played in the development of my approach to agency – my lack of motivation to learn “control”. Indeed, the term “control” has long had a strong negative connotation.

This insight “sheds light” on my proposition that we are each like Larry/nuet, a self/world. My previous claims that we approach each other as inner-worlds was not fully correct; we are selves/worlds and should approached each other as self/worlds.  But, the point I was trying to make remains. Each of our inner-worlds is our context for both behavior and experience. That we are each different organisms living in a common “objective world” is a dangerous approach to living with others in social/societal systems, because we confuse our inner-world with the “objective world”.

When I use the term, “consciousness”, I will refer to the active process of selves/worlds, the dance between the self and the inner-world, when there are active experientials.

FREE WILL has it’s limitations when we observe all the behavior of 7+ billion humans on Earth today. That “freedom” is limited to the “accuracy” of their inner-world with “reality” (NOT best represented by a majority opinion – history proves that majorities are always wrong in the long term). In a sense, “free will of individual persons” is very dangerous when not part of a viable human society (none of which exist today).

CHOOSING DRAINS MENTAL ENERGY

A book I just started reading, The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin, reminded me of a fact I had learned recently and unfortunately forgotten.

“The decision-making network in our brain doesn’t prioritize, as one of the most useful finding in recent neuroscience sums up.”  “It is as though our brains are configured to make a certain number of decisions per day and once they reach that limit, we can’t make any more, regardless of  how important they are.”  “Recent research shows that people who were asked to make a series of meaningless decisions of, for example – whether to write with a ballpoint pen or a felt-tip pen – showed poorer impulse control and lack of judgement about subsequent decisions.” (pages5-6. I have reordered the sentences). I recall that my prior encounter with this finding related to  how persons in deep poverty are mentally fatigued by their many decisions that they can’t fulfill.

Another finding early in the book is that persons of societal power, presidents and CEOs, devote most of their days living in the present, NOT making decisions, but fully engaging in the personal encounters they are scheduled to by their staffs. They conserve their decisions to only those that are really important.

I realize that scanning my very long TODO list many times a day, and deciding which of my emails is SPAM and whether to delete, or what to do with each email I read or online post I read – let alone whether to reply/comment or not – and which of the 100+ draft essays I should return to and continue, and who to send them to, and what are the many things I’m not doing that I should be doing …. no wonder I am mentally fatigued and am not productive.

Trying to be comprehensive, and always alert to shifting contexts, is probably not natural for the human brain. Tribal humans had no need for this and it wasn’t selected as an asset by evolution. Most persons, to survive, put up censors to limit their choices. This is why I find no one with TODO lists anywhere near the length of mine. Possibly, my lack of mental imagery has enabled me to attempt to be more comprehensive; but I have long ago passed my own limit.

This pulls me towards the insight that Individual Decision-Makers can’t be the foundation of a nu humanity with its MSC (Magnitude/Scope/Complexity). What the configuration of human organization should be is a matter of creative research. My tentative thinking includes (1) habitat/work extended families/teams (not necessarily blood lines) and (2) cyber-crews and cyber-communities, with both high presence synchronous interaction and quality asynchronous discourse and semiotic construction.

Contrary to intuition, massive changes in human social/societal organization won’t require a great amount of energy or contribute to climate change. However, we must sharply distinguish between our material infrastructure and our social/societal organization. Only the former can be transformed; the latter requires UPLIFT thru Societal Metamorphosis (taking only a few decades to achieve threshold)/tipping-point.

Contrary to those who call for the re-absorption of humankind back into their biomes, biosphere, & Gaia, I propose for consideration that humans are sufficiently distinct from the rest of life that we must attend to our uniqueness. The mess we have caused is due to our lack of proper attention to ourselves, masked by believing in our delusions. We are not to blame ourselves, as these are the risks of creative emergence. This no more implies that we must continue to exploit Gaia, any more than multi-celled organisms should exploit single-celled organisms. It is not for newly emergent humankind to block the continued emergence of Gaia. Gaia and Humanity must form a new partnership.

I will continue exploring along these tracks, and attempt to re-organize my life so I don’t have to make so many small decisions (most of which are meaningless). To phrase this in a flip of Naomi Kline’s recent book’s title, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING, to EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE.

Author: nuet

01/24/1935. BS-physics RPI 1956; MS-physics UofChicago 1958; PhD-physics Yale 1965; PhD-Edu Psy Uof MInnesota 1970. Auroral Research Byrd Station, Antarctica 11/1960-02/1962. MINNEMAST curriculum dev 1964-68. Woodstock. faculty Pima Community College, Tucson 1974-1997. Transdisciplinary scientist, philosopher, educator, futurist, activist. PC user since 1982. "Wife". daughter, 2 grandsons. 5 dogs & 7 cats. Lacks mental imagery in all sensory domains.

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