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Eric: Illness, part 5247

For those of you who've been paying attention, it might seem my health is... somewhat fragile.

This would be because my health is somewhat fragile. Blame it on a number of factors I won't rehash. In a practical sense, I seem to get sick easily and get significantly affected when I am sick, and we're in that right now.

This particular illness has floored everyone in my department, one by one. I just seem to be next. It got merged in with dumping, yesterday. It's nigh impossible to keep my eyes open more than twenty minutes out of each hour right now. My cat is concerned -- she can sense when I'm sick, and I think she reacts the way she would to another cat being ill -- keep the animal awake as much as possible, show affection, groom as needed, heavy purring. Which, when I just want to be dead to the world, is not really helping.

I dreamt at one point, and hit sleep paralysis -- you know, where you sense your unmoving body, and can't force it to move? We all hate that. This time, however, I dreamt that there was a dog lying on top of me. (My cat wasn't up there in real life, for the record). It was, as near as I could tell, either Buddy, who is a cockapoo of my parents, or Polly, who was the cockapoo I grew up with. Said dog was benevolent, licked my paralyzed face a couple of times, and clearly wanted to keep me warm and healthy. So if it was a ghost dog, I'm okay with that. More likely, it means my subconsciousness could sense I was getting unhappy with the whole affair, and chose to give me comforting imagery to go along with my psycho nurse-cat.

Trying to force myself to stay away, I turn to City of Heroes, only their extended downtime (which should have ended at one) has gone to three-thirty. One tries not to imagine God laughing at them, but you know...?

In more positive news -- and yeah, I'm bringing up John Stark again. Sue me -- Webcomicsnation has now enabled the possibility for page-at-a-time installment blocks instead of the elevator style, if you prefer. So Stark can now be read as God and I intended, clicking back one page at a time, artificially pumping up my pageviews and letting me link to specific strips I liked. (And, since I've brought the thing up anyway, I should mention that of the ones that have come to date, this one has my favorite punchline so far. For what it's worth.)

On the novel front, there seems to be significant support for both the romance novel and the pulp novel, among commenters who elected to give an option on my NaNaWriMo-for-publication efforts in the coming year. The romance novel folks are interested to see how I would handle it. (One note -- if I do a romance novel, I'll do it legitimately. I won't be subtly mocking it. I'll be trying my best to write a good romance novel. And I do not assume I can do it, yet -- I need to do significant research into the form between now and the first of November. I want to write something good and publishable, after all, and I can't do that in a vacuum. And even if I do research it, that doesn't mean what I come up with will be good. It would be hubris to believe otherwise.) The pulp novel folks want to see where my Not-Spider character goes. (As well as find out his name, which they certainly would.)

At the same time, I would need to ensure it remains publishable, which means a private server of some sort. I have an internal mechanism for such a thing, which is what I intended. But a cool person offered bits of their own mechanism as well, and that's tempting. I'll keep you posted.

As for the rest... all is a haze, and I need to go back to sleep. Carry on.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at October 12, 2005 3:14 PM

Comments

Comment from: Clint H posted at October 12, 2005 3:53 PM

Sorry to hear that you're not feeling well.

I've been told sleep paralysis is caused when your concious soul is out of sink (or just out of) with your body. Draw your own conclusions.

My wife is finishing her third (unpublished as of yet) Romance Novel, and went to the Romanc e Writers of America Convention this summer and got to meet several of the big name writers. She has an agent considering her work. If interested, the RWA website is a good resource. http://www.rwanational.org/

Get well soon! -Clint Hollingworth

Comment from: Clint H posted at October 12, 2005 3:54 PM

Oops. I meant out of Synch. Embarassing.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 12, 2005 4:21 PM

I get sleep paralysis several times a month, usually lasting about an hour a shot if left to run its course. Near as I can tell, it's just the reverse situation from people who interact with their environment while sleeping -- the bit that turns off your ability to move while you're out cold works just a little too well. I wouldn't attribute any spiritual/magic[k]al significance to it.

Comment from: Freak posted at October 12, 2005 4:31 PM

The sites I found say SP usually lasts a few minutes, though it's tough for the person experiencing it to tell. And on one occasion, I was able to throw off an attack almost immediately by relaxing (I imagined myself falling asleep) when it started.

Comment from: NthDegree256 posted at October 12, 2005 4:45 PM

A couple of nights ago, I was trying to get to sleep, and I saw a little speck of light drifting across the wall (from a car's headlights, no doubts.)

In my sleepy delirium, I started picturing it as a fairy. That was all well and good until out of nowhere, my imagination threw a barghest at me, lunging out of the wall.

I blame you and Greg, Eric.

Comment from: NthDegree256 posted at October 12, 2005 4:47 PM

"BarghAst." And "doubt." I think I need more sleep.

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at October 12, 2005 4:57 PM

You think you need more sleep. My first reaction on seeing the above post was, "Boy, that person is being really nitpicky to the previous poster." *headsmack*

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 12, 2005 5:18 PM

I don't know if I've ever had an episode of SP. But then, I usually go into this deep dark dreamless place which is (generally) warm, welcoming, and a great deal like a coma, til morning. I worried, in fact, that my son might have trouble waking me in the night for food, but apparently, those mom genes worked just fine. To this day, I pop right out of my coma at the sound of a little voice going "Mom!" or even a bad cough, or futzing in his sleep.

I would imagine, however, that it would be downright terrifying, at least the first few times. meep.

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at October 12, 2005 5:25 PM

NthDegree, I've been assuming it was Barghest in GC because that's how I've always seen it elsewhere. (It wins a Google fight, too, over Barghast.) How odd!

Eric, I hope you feel better soon.

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at October 12, 2005 5:27 PM

(Weird: it also seems to have turned from a Barghest to a Barghast only this week, in GC. Strange things are afoot at the circle-G...)

Comment from: WaveLine posted at October 12, 2005 5:46 PM

Oh god! Eric has the avian flu! Does anyone happen to have any spare Zanamivir or Oseltamivir? I used up all mine on my eggs this morning...

Comment from: SeanH posted at October 12, 2005 6:11 PM

I've never had "sleep paralysis", and have always half-suspected it to be a myth, in the same category as out-of-body experiences, ESP and alien abduction.

Comment from: Tim Tylor posted at October 12, 2005 6:36 PM

Hope you're better soon. I'm glad Webcomicsnation is allowing one-page blocks: huge elevator archive pages can be a pain with a slower internet connection. If you're clicking back to see the strip you missed yesterday, you don't want to wait while two months of strips load.

Comment from: kirabug posted at October 12, 2005 6:40 PM

I've never had sleep paralysis. I've slept next to my husband when he's had night sweats. Those are a joy. Every single night of mine is filled with wild and active dreams (in color, which I'm told makes me a freak) which makes sleep paralysis actually sound good.

Eric, I hope you're able to sleep it off and feel better soon. Don't worry about us. We'll amuse ourselves.

Comment from: inkbrush posted at October 12, 2005 6:59 PM

Sleep Paralysis is also known as Hag's Syndrome, and is the source of a ton of myths surrounding small creatures trying to suck the air out of people in their sleep. When you sleep, your body (more or less) floods your system with a kind of muscle relaxant, and sometimes a person can regain consciousness before the effects of said chemicals have worn off.

This just goes to show: everyone should read the Fortean Times. I have an issue here that has a wonderful article on the origins of sideshow geeks: people who would eat anything. Examples included people eating live cats, (not something I endorse) and people eating rocks. Macabre, to be sure, but interesting stuff. (And the cover for that issue needs to be a poster.)

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at October 12, 2005 7:17 PM

I worried, in fact, that my son might have trouble waking me in the night for food, but apparently, those mom genes worked just fine. To this day, I pop right out of my coma at the sound of a little voice going "Mom!" or even a bad cough, or futzing in his sleep.

Years ago an old co-worker (herself a mother) and I came to a conclusion. You can be in the same room with your mom, calling her name while she reads a book or something, and she won't hear you. A deadbolt turning after curfew though, will wake her from the soundest sleep of her life.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at October 12, 2005 7:44 PM

Really, that's what causes sleep paralysis? That only hits me when I'm at my most sick, I think. I say "I think" because the only times I remember it happening, I was really feverish and delusional, and I wasn't sure later whether or not it really happened.

Now, the flip side, when your body doesn't release as much of those relaxants, is that the explanation for somnambulism? Not to mention my trilignual somniloquism.

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at October 12, 2005 8:07 PM

Today's John Stark was awesome. :)

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 12, 2005 8:16 PM

Now, the flip side, when your body doesn't release as much of those relaxants, is that the explanation for somnambulism?

The drug they pass out over here for sleep problems like that (along with unspecified chronic pain issues, some migraine cases, and god knows what else) is amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant often marketed as Elavil. You won't move around so much and you'll sleep like a log, but you'll sleep like a log for days, and all the coffee in the world won't help if you react strongly to even small quantities of it.

So, yeah, that'd make some sense.

The sites I found say SP usually lasts a few minutes

I know my sleep paralysis lasts for as long as it does because I generally have either an audio stream of CBC Radio One or a video stream of TBN on in the background. The hearing comes on before other things, so I make a mental note of the programming and, if necessary, check the schedules. Radio One Overnight is particularly useful for this, when it's on, because every show is constantly identifying itself or being identified. (If you end up with an episode during Radio Polonia, you'll hear this one nifty little Robert Miles on a K-Mart Casio moment about fifty dozen times.)

Comment from: Ardaniel posted at October 12, 2005 8:25 PM

I've never had "sleep paralysis", and have always half-suspected it to be a myth, in the same category as out-of-body experiences, ESP and alien abduction.

Sleep next to someone who has it when they have an episode, and you'll be disabused of your belief pretty quickly.

Comment from: Thomas Blight posted at October 12, 2005 8:29 PM

I thought the comment below it was funnier than the comic's actual punchline. I don't really know why.

I've never had sleep paralysis. I have however, apparently yelled out "Mom!" in my sleep and my mother has gotten up to see what was the matter.

Comment from: wedge posted at October 12, 2005 8:35 PM

I've never had "sleep paralysis", and have always half-suspected it to be a myth, in the same category as out-of-body experiences, ESP and alien abduction.

I hear you can turn yourself invisible by closing your eyes, too.

SP sucks. Be happy it doesn't exist for you.

Comment from: Ardaniel posted at October 12, 2005 8:35 PM

In case it wasn't obvious from my first comment, my SO is a sleep paralytic. The first time he had an episode in my presence, I was torn between a towering "WTF?!" and "...oh, shit, sleep paralysis! Fucking *rad,* man! I get to *utilize knowledge of an obscure topic!* Right now! ....or, uh, as soon as he gets out of it, at least."

Fortunately, he's OK with that sort of intellectual enthusiasm. ;)

Comment from: wedge posted at October 12, 2005 8:36 PM

narf, bolloxed my quote tag on that.

Comment from: Jin Wicked posted at October 12, 2005 9:40 PM

"I've never had "sleep paralysis", and have always half-suspected it to be a myth, in the same category as out-of-body experiences, ESP and alien abduction."

Sleep paralysis is a real physical phenomena.

The things you see or hear (i.e.hallucinate) while experiencing sleep paralysis are up for debate. But it is documentable that it does happen. It has happened to me twice in my life but since I was fairly educated about it, while it was happening I was able to realize the ghost and alien beings I saw were not real.

However to do someone not familiar with the phenonmena it can be terrifying. I actually did a painting of the "ghost" I saw that's on my homepage. I have a bunch of letters from other people that have experienced it too but I haven't gotten them up on the new site yet.

Comment from: cyco posted at October 12, 2005 10:37 PM

Weird, I just recently had my first episode of sleep paralysis (that I can remember). It was right after a crazy weekend of little to no sleep, and my doctor (I had had an appointment to see him) said it usually occurs when sick, sleep-deprived, and/or under high amounts of stress.

Also, during my episode I heard someone saying "Zuzu" over and over. I have no idea what my brain was trying to tell me with that one.

Comment from: gwalla posted at October 13, 2005 1:27 AM

Never had sleep paralysis. I do occasionally get that twitch when I wake up that feels like I'm falling. It's weird how the dreams that precede it always ends with falling. My personal theory is that much of the "narrative" of dreams is generated after-the-fact as you wake up to make sense of the products of semirandom synapse firings.

Comment from: Freak posted at October 13, 2005 7:17 AM

SP is frequently listed as the reality behind alien abduction and OOB experiences.

Comment from: SeanH posted at October 13, 2005 7:30 AM

Didn't expect my comment to be taken literally - I didn't mean, guys, that I don't think it exists. Clearly it does. I'm just saying that the whole idea seems weird to me, and I've never been able to quite grok it. Sorry for any offence caused.

Comment from: UrsulaV posted at October 13, 2005 8:54 AM

Oh, lord, I get sleep paralysis at least once a week. I have to be taking a nap on the couch--it never happens in bed--but it's wild stuff. I get the "hypnogogic hallucinations" that accompany it, where I believe I've gotten up, and am walking around, then see something completely out of place, realize I'm still in bed, rinse, repeat. It used to kinda freak me out, now it's a minor annoyance.

In all fairness, while I hate sloppy woo-woo thinking with an intense and burning passion, I'm actually inclined to be sympathetic to people who have such hallucinations and believe they've been abducted by aliens or molested by ghosts or whatever. The quality of such hallucinations is un-freakin'-believable. I did vast quantities of psychedelics in my youth, and those never came anywhere close. It's not like dreaming, it's not like tripping--as far as subjective reality goes, it's damn near perfect. All five senses, and that itchy kinetic one that lets you know where your limbs are when you're not looking at them--spot on. Environment--flawless. It's not until you look out on the back porch and see it's covered in owls and go "Okay, that ain't right..." that you realize it's not actually happening.

The upside of this is that I no longer believe any claim of ghosts, aliens, possession, or astral travel that involves the person being in bed but claiming they weren't asleep. But I can easily see how people would think they were hag-ridden if they didn't know the mechanism behind it.

Comment from: SeanH posted at October 13, 2005 9:11 AM

and that itchy kinetic one that lets you know where your limbs are when you're not looking at them

Kinaesthesia. Or "proprioception", Wikipedia informs me, but I think that's a silly name.

Comment from: Kludge posted at October 13, 2005 9:13 AM

(in color, which I'm told makes me a freak)

Don't get too proud - the claim that we only dream in black and white is just another urban science legend. I mean seriously - how would people know that?

I'm skeptical, personally, that people dream in anything. I'd guess that dreams deal more in concepts than visions, and whatever we "see" in dreams is just something our visual centres put there so that the dream reality makes sense. So it puts in the perceived image, which could be colour, or black and white, or maybe mixtures of colour-sensations that aren't possible in real life.

Just a thought, though.

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 13, 2005 10:39 AM

"I hate sloppy woo-woo thinking with an intense and burning passion"

What a fantastic way of putting it. Mind if I cop the phrase "sloppy woo-woo thinking?" I'm a firm believer in stuff we don't understand, mind, but there's believing, and then there's talking to giant purple aliens in the middle of a restaurant. (I knew - briefly someone who did this. This was also the woman who couldn't stand potatoes to be in her home or on her plate, because the eyes were those of demons from another plane or somesuch, so.. well, anyway. About as sloppy and woo-woo as you could get without needing to go to a home.)

I do, however, believe that the crap we see in dreams is meaningful, at least on a personal scale. If it's just subconscious wiring flares or not, I have still found that when I'm stressed out is the only time I have dreams at all that I can remember, and they're usually indicative that I need to make some changes in my life. The being naked in the middle of the office dream is a sure sign I'm taking that darn job too seriously, etc. One attitude adjustment later, and tada! freaky dreams gone.

Anyway... I'm not sure I want to know all the mechanisms of how dreams work, etc. While I'm as curious as the next gal, learning how the magician does his tricks, while cool and exciting, kills the illusion for me. Then, every time I see said trick, my enjoyment is reduced to a technical evaluation of how well the trick is pulled off, and what methods of misdirection and obfuscation are used. Not nearly half as fun as wondering how it was done, imho.

It's pretty much the same way that studying music made it difficult, if not impossible, in college, to just *enjoy* music. Everything we did was so hyper-analytical that I found myself analyzing everything to death. Made a jackass of myself a few times, too, I might add, because I would squirm at wrong notes, etc. Totally lost, for a while, the ability to just enjoy the spirit of the music and not the technical quality. Blech!

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at October 13, 2005 11:14 AM

I have an episode of SP whenever Randy gets done drawing it and posts the thing.

(runs away now)

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at October 13, 2005 11:54 AM

It's pretty much the same way that studying music made it difficult, if not impossible, in college, to just *enjoy* music.

A friend, back in college, when asked why she wasn't an English Major, responded with; "because I like reading to much." The two English majors standing next to her when she made this comment agreed that the constant analysis had diminished the pure enjoyment of reading for them.

On the dream thing, they deffinetly are a reflection of something internal. When ever I'm stressed I have a variation of the same dream, where it is the end of the semester and I realize there is a class that I've never been to.

Also, I remember reading somewhere that the dreams where you are falling or where you're running from something, but can't run fast enough, are tied into primal fears. The idea is that the falling dream is tied in with the fear of falling out of tall trees (from when we still lived in trees) and the running dreams are tied to a fear of not being able to out run predators.

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at October 13, 2005 12:15 PM

And the dream where we're naked in public is from when we were born with trousers on? :)

Comment from: Violet posted at October 13, 2005 12:42 PM

Then, every time I see said trick, my enjoyment is reduced to a technical evaluation of how well the trick is pulled off, and what methods of misdirection and obfuscation are used. Not nearly half as fun as wondering how it was done, imho.

Goodness. I couldn't do that at all. I would perceive this as embracing and encouraging ignorance in myself, and being ignorant of something is most unpleasant. I can't even conceive of maintaining that state deliberately in order to induce what would, ultimately, be an artifically generated sense of personal wonder. I don't believe that I could even induce that state in myself; it's not even clear to me that I'd managed it in my youth.

Knowing how something is accomplished should not make it any less remarkable. If it is only remarkable by dint of remaining deliberately unaware of how it comes to be, then it wasn't remarkable to begin with. For myself, if I had to do that in order to maintain the desired levels of amazement and fascination, I would find myself to be utterly dishonest.

Then again, I find technical manuals relaxing, buy animation DVDs on the strength of their documentary extras, and prefer Penn&Teller to David Copperfield.

Comment from: jpcardier posted at October 13, 2005 1:14 PM

To add my voice to those abo I've never had "sleep paralysis", and have always half-suspected it to be a myth, in the same category as out-of-body experiences, ESP and alien abduction.

To add my voice to those above, I also have SP from time to time. To be perfectly honest, it has always scared the living hell out of me. Until now, I just figured it was just me. I had never done any research into it. Thank you all.

In my case, it only lasts a few minutes. Every time, I panic, and force all my brain into moving one hand. Once it moves, I calm down. No hallucinations, as I recall. Mind you, I did once have an OOB. I was 12. I thought it might be a hallucination, or not. Never thought they might be related.....

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at October 13, 2005 1:41 PM

I still manage to dissect something I really like and get enjoyment out of it. Part of it is enjoying the actual dissection, of course. But part of it also ins compartmentalizing what you're doing. One part of my brain is doing analysis, while the other is on enjoyment cruise control. Which one I give more precedence is determined by why I'm doing something at the moment. When I've got my critic hat on, the analysis is in the fore, and the reverse is true when I'm just relaxing.

In some ways, I find myself enjoying things more because I constantly have a running critique in my head. And if something is good enough that the passive enjoyment breaks through even during critic mode, I know I have a winner.

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 13, 2005 2:17 PM

I suppose the level of examination of something, and subsequent enjoyment of it, depends on the level of wonder inherent in such a thing. The older I get, the less I like watching magicians, et al, precisely because I no longer find them a wonderment. Does this mean I don't watch Penn & Teller shows and/or David Copperfield ones when the mood strikes? Nope, because whatever else, it's still a spectacle, and sometimes, a spectacle is just what I need.

Knowing that rainbows are caused by a defraction of light through particles of water doesn't diminish my sense of wonder about them, for there's still the question of how, exactly, such a thing came to be.

I suppose I misspoke. I don't *not* examine and analyze things; I can't help that. Poking and examining is certainly fun, and often informative. But if we're talking about something that has to be cut open and taken apart to understand how it works.. well, we may know the mechanics, but we can't truly know the why.

If you cut my brain open (ick), you might learn that I have lobes and gray matter and all that. But you wouldn't learn that music is like breathing, that I love my son and my family, and that I have a tendency to babble. That's all I'm sayin'. We may know the mechanism that causes SP, but we don't know why that mechanism really fires, yet. To think we know everything there is to know, based on the physical characteristics of a thing, to me at least, diminishes the thing, and us. And shows a bit of arrogance on the part of our scientific little selves, too.

Comment from: Violet posted at October 13, 2005 3:39 PM

If a thing is diminished by understanding it, it didn't deserve to be elevated in the first place. I fail to see how that's arrogant.

I find this approach somewhat terrifying, to be honest. Saying "we don't understand this yet" is sensible; saying "understanding it makes it less" hearkens back to the toxic elements of certain religious movements.

Comment from: SeanH posted at October 13, 2005 4:02 PM

I think I'm with Violet on this one; then again, I read the Monster Manual for fun, so, well, consider the source.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at October 13, 2005 4:05 PM

Who didn't? I mean, dude. Gelatinous Cube.

Also? Boobies.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 13, 2005 4:11 PM

Hey, Eric, when you're better? Let's go look at some boobies.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 13, 2005 4:12 PM

Although I think that I'm frightened that they follow on the heels of the gelatinous cube.

Er. That's an appalling mental image. "For a more complete story on the Nipple-Heeled Gelatinous Cube, why not contact the Canadian Wildlife Service in Ottawa?"

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at October 13, 2005 4:21 PM

See, my sense of wonder lies in the urge to find out how things happen. And to break down every possibility.

I see Violet's point, but I think it's a bit too strong of a reaction. I always want to know, but sometimes curiosity must have its limits.

As for the Nipple-Heeled Gelatinous Cube, those are clearly implants. Of course, now my mind is coming up with stats for the related D&D monster, the Silicone Horror.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at October 13, 2005 4:31 PM

"For a more complete story on the Nipple-Heeled Gelatinous Cube, why not contact the Canadian Wildlife Service in Ottawa?"

You remind me of a thirty-year-old Robert Klein monologue, about shooting a movie love scene with Joan Hackett.

"Joan didn't want to work nude. I, of course, am far to hip for even such a discussion. 'Come on! It's the human body! It's natural!' Until I realized that it was my ass that was going to be twenty feet high at a drive-in. ...

"So we shot the scene - neither of us were nude. We shot it au montage - a hand on a hand, legs moving together, our faces [untransliterable grunt] ... You didn't see any actual genitalia.

"'Genitalia'. There's a good word. [reverting to Marlon Perkins voice from earlier monologue] 'Genitalia often forage with the hippopotamus.'"

Comment from: UrsulaV posted at October 13, 2005 6:04 PM

Go ahead and cop the phrase, Larksilver, although it's just a variant of many existing ones, so no need to credit me or anything. "Woo-woo" being a fairly common term for those people who'll believe anything.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 13, 2005 6:21 PM

And a cocktail. Vodka, peach schnapps and cranberry juice, right?

Crappy cocktail.

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 13, 2005 6:43 PM

"If a thing is diminished by understanding it, it didn't deserve to be elevated in the first place. I fail to see how that's arrogant.

I find this approach somewhat terrifying, to be honest. Saying "we don't understand this yet" is sensible; saying "understanding it makes it less" hearkens back to the toxic elements of certain religious movements."

The arrogance comes from thinking that by understanding the how we understand the why. I'm not saying anyone here has that level of arrogance, but rather that it's a pervasive idea throughout our civilization, particularly in the scientific communities. The hubris lies in saying that because we are bags of mostly water, we are only bags of mostly water. A dream may be the result of a subconscious wiring flash, but is it only that, or is there more to be discovered there? We cannot say we know, as of yet, for if scientific study teaches us anything, it is that what we don't know far exceeds what we do.

I do not suggest, by any means, that we go back to a day when mysteries were maintained falsely, whether for religious or populace-control reasons. Rather, I suggest that in our quest to take every little piece apart, sometimes we destroy that which we seek to understand. This, to me, is folly, of the worst kind, and sadly is quite common.

I do not need to dissect the frog to know that it has a stomach, particularly since the poor things have been dissected over and over again, with consistent pictorial documentation. I would much prefer to study the frog while it lives, its habitat, its feeding habits, what seems to make it thrive. A dead frog, on pins, waiting for the scalpel, this holds no wonder for me. A living creature, though? This is where the wonder lies.

Hopefully, I've made my point clear here. It's not that we should not be exploring or studying, never that! It's more that we should study with an intent to preserve, and take care not to destroy our own wonder and joy in the process. Perhaps that's simple of me, ah, well, I can live with being "simple" or "antiquated."

It's not a religious thing, although it is sort of a spiritual one - my spirit, or soul, or whatever you want to call it. Oddly enough, I agree with you: if something is not worth feeling wonder over, then examination of it should not diminish said wonder.

To say that a dream is not real, that the feelings caused by it are simply a result of subconscious misfirings, is akin to saying that we don't really feel "love," but merely endorphins in our brains. It would be, to me, a very sad world if we suddenly decided that our feelings weren't really there, but were simply a result of our endocrine system's workings, and that the love we feel for our children, for example, isn't "real." to heck with that.

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at October 13, 2005 6:56 PM

See, my sense of wonder lies in the urge to find out how things happen. And to break down every possibility.

Ditto. I like working out how something's done and going "Oh, that's NEAT!"

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at October 13, 2005 7:04 PM

If a thing is diminished by understanding it, it didn't deserve to be elevated in the first place.

The issue here, I think, is a problem of semantics. The wording assumes that a "thing" is the same both before and after groking. This is not true though. The act of understanding is one of the most common transmutation processes. The act of understanding a thing changes the basic nature of that thing. A becomes B through the process of understanding.

To use the example that started this off, prior to understanding how a magic trick is done (A), it is a symbol of wonder and curiosity. After understanding, the same magic trick (B) becomes a series of steps to be followed with a certain degree of miss-direction to obscure those steps.

The enjoyment that ones receives from A is the enjoyment that one receives from curiosity and wonderment. The enjoyment one receives from B is in the art of misdirection or the skill with which the steps are followed. Since the enjoyment from A and B are derived from different areas, one can find less enjoyment in B with out diminishing the enjoyment that one found in A.

Another example. For me enjoyment comes from the act of learning. As such, A for me is a symbol of what is still left to learn. B, on the other hand, is a symbol of what I have already learned. Since my enjoyment comes from the act of learning, and learning things that I already know seems to be a waste considering all there is I do not already know, I have little time for B, but seek out A with a hunger.

Comment from: AndrewWade posted at October 13, 2005 7:12 PM

Amazing post, Lark. Very well stated.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at October 13, 2005 7:18 PM

The arrogance comes from thinking that by understanding the how we understand the why. I'm not saying anyone here has that level of arrogance, but rather that it's a pervasive idea throughout our civilization, particularly in the scientific communities.

All learning should be approached with humility. One should remember that the first astronomers, were astrologers; the first chemists, were alchemists; the first physicists were shamans.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 13, 2005 7:43 PM

Occultists aren't generally noted for their humility.

Comment from: quiller posted at October 13, 2005 8:13 PM

Of course, now that gelatinous is a template, you could have gelatinous boobies. They could hang out with the gelatinous owls.

I really have to think that whoever thought up the gelatinous cube was eating jello at the gaming table or something...

And I always thought Dieties and Demigods had the best breast pictures in AD&D. That and the drawing of Mielikki was hot! She was the best recruiting point for being a ranger.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at October 13, 2005 8:28 PM

Occultists aren't generally noted for their humility.

Which is why no one pays any attention to them.

Comment from: kirabug posted at October 13, 2005 8:36 PM

This all lead to my husband pulling out our AD&D manual to find out whether there were any boobies on or near the same page as the Gelatinous Cube. He's now reading huge chunks of the manual out loud between yelling at the baseball game on the TV. Remind me to stop quoting you folks.

Comment from: gwalla posted at October 14, 2005 2:05 AM

A dream may be the result of a subconscious wiring flash, but is it only that, or is there more to be discovered there?

Really, saying that a dream is just a wiring flash is sort of like saying that a living body is just a bunch of chemical reactions, or that a chemical reaction is just a bunch of subatomic particles moving around. The problem isn't the description (a living body is a bunch of chemical reactions, a chemical reaction is subatomic particles moving around), it's the "just", because it implies that only the lowest level of detail is meaningful. It's meaningful to talk about the human mind and the human brain. It's meaningful to talk about thoughts and about synapses firing. And it's meaningful to talk about how each level implies the next one up.

Comment from: SeanH posted at October 14, 2005 4:01 AM

Full marks for invoking John Searle!

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 14, 2005 10:22 AM

that's precisely what I'm referring to, gwalla. :) So often, the "just" is implied - heck, it's often said right out in the open, which saddens me. Both sides of the equation are valid, and make up the whole. The calculable and quantifiable pieces do not necessarily have to conflict, supercede, or compete with the not-so-easily-quantifiable bits of ourselves, and our world, and yet the two are often labeled as mutually exclusive. /sigh

Comment from: Alun Clewe posted at October 14, 2005 5:34 PM

Full marks for invoking John Searle!

Ick.

Sorry; I just don't have much respect for Searle; his "Chinese Room" analogy strikes me as one of the most dunderheaded arguments in popular science.

Although I wouldn't say gwalla's post (if that's what you were responding to) was an invocation of John Searle anyway; if anything, Searle argued just the opposite, that sentience can't be an emergent phenomenon of lower-level details, that the higher levels aren't implied by the lower, that there must be some other totally separate phenomenon involved.

Comment from: Merus posted at October 15, 2005 9:19 AM

Reading the snark and the last five comments is a sure way to confuse oneself. We've got subconscious comments and AD&D from a snark about being sick and NaNoWriMo.

Comment from: gwalla posted at October 15, 2005 7:57 PM

The calculable and quantifiable pieces do not necessarily have to conflict, supercede, or compete with the not-so-easily-quantifiable bits of ourselves, and our world, and yet the two are often labeled as mutually exclusive.

Well, my point was that they aren't mutually exclusive because they're the same thing, just different ways of talking about it.

I was unfamiliar with Searle's work and had to look him up (thank you, Wikipedia!). Alun is right. And I agree that the Chinese Room analogy doesn't really hold water. It attempts to prove that true AI can't really exist by limiting what a computer is allowed to do, and that's just cheating.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at October 15, 2005 9:01 PM

Sorry; I just don't have much respect for Searle; his "Chinese Room" analogy strikes me as one of the most dunderheaded arguments in popular science.

Like gwalla, this is my first interaction with Searle, but a quick look at the Chinese Room entry at wikipedia makes me wonder what your objection is.

From my quick glance it appears that Searle is proposing that it is possible to create a computer program which could pass a Turing Test with out actually having any kind of intelligence.

Interestingly, a quick look at the entry for Turing Test at Wikipedia shows that Turing brought up a similar possible objection.

Mechanical Objections: A sufficiently fast machine with sufficiently large memory could be programmed with a large enough number of human questions and human responses to deliver a human answer to almost every question, and a vague random answer to the few questions not in its memory. This would simulate human response in a purely mechanical way.

Unfortunately, wikipedia doesn't tell us if Turing had a response to this objection.

Though I haven't given the metaphor any serious thought, no obvious flaw appears. So, I'm wondering what argument you are using to discount the metaphor? Or, have I misunderstood something, somewhere?

Comment from: Alun Clewe posted at October 15, 2005 9:26 PM

Well, Searle wasn't just proposing it possible to create a computer program which could pass a Turing test without having any intelligence; he was trying to argue in general that intelligence couldn't arise from any purely mechanical or algorithmic grounds (and that artificial intelligence is therefore a priori impossible). There is, IMO, a lot wrong with Searle's analogy, and I don't want to get into too long a rant on it here, so I'll just address one significant problem with it: simply put, even if you accept the terms of Searle's analogy (and there are some good reasons not to accept those terms, but I won't get into that right now), there's nothing to say that Searle's Chinese Room isn't truly intelligent. Sure, it's constructed in a very bizarre way, and a way very alien to our own brains, but there's no real reason such a construction can't give rise to real intelligence. Searle basically appeals to common sense about the matter, but common sense is a very poor guide in the sciences; there are plenty of things that are very counterintuitive and run against common sense but happen to be true.

You ever heard of Girolamo Saccheri? He's famous for having attempted to prove Euclid's fifth postulate on the basis of the other postulates, by assuming the contrary and deriving a contradiction. Only he never did actually manage to get a real, definite contradiction, so he stopped at a particular conclusion that just looked to him like it must be wrong and declared it "repugnant to the nature of the straight line", and decided his case was proved.

Only since then, of course, it's been established that it's perfectly possible to construct a consistent geometry without Euclid's fifth postulate (while retaining the other four), and that in fact our own universe actually possesses such a non-Euclidean geometry (though subtly enough that we can use Euclidean geometry for most everyday matters). So as common-sensical as Saccheri's conclusion might have seemed, it was wrong.

Searle, in his "Chinese Room" analogy, does basically the same thing. He constructs an elaborate analogy, and then simply declares the conclusion, in essence, repugnant to the nature of consciousness. Only that doesn't mean there isn't really any consciousness there. Searle considers the matter so self-evident that he's actually said in writing that he's convinced anyone who says they think such a Chinese Room could really possess consciousness must be lying; nobody could really think anything so bizarre. (See discussion above, re, the importance of humility in the sciences...)

To those who are already predisposed to agree with Searle's way of thinking, his analogy may seem convincing, but only because it puts those lines of thought in starker terms; it doesn't really introduce anything new. Basically, Searle's "Chinese Room" argument is like smarmy talk radio: it may make those who already agree with him think better about themselves, but it's not likely to convince anyone who disagrees.

And that, again, is just one of my objections to Searle's Chinese Room argument--though probably the biggest one. As I said, I have rather little respect for Searle...

(Now, someone on the anti-AI side I have more respect for is Roger Penrose. I don't agree with him either, but his arguments aren't as shallow and transparent as Searle's are...)

Comment from: siwangmu posted at October 16, 2005 5:03 PM

Went and looked into the Chinese room thing; it seems to me that the one thing absolutely everyone would need in order to make any progress at all in this discussion or to seem credible to me (I'm referring to the experts and such, not you all, who may declaim with any state of knowledge and I won't mind) is a detailed understanding of how our minds actually handle language. A lot of the back and forth for something like this would be "But you could just memorize that!" "But there's too much to memorize!" "But that's a data capacity problem, not an inherent one!" and all the while it could be ignoring the way we actually acquire and use language. The complexity of the way we use language is the main reason for the prominence of things like the Turing test--language is incredibly sophisticated. An example from the introductory text for the one class I've taken in linguistics is illustrative, I think. A human exchange could consist of Woman: "I'm leaving you." Man: "Who is he?" Coding a computer with the social facts and conventions and such to make that sort of exchange comprehensible/reproducible/whatever would be very difficult, and I'd say it's not because computers can't do it, it's because we don't know our own selves all the "rules" we're using to operate our language system. And I do tend to agree that if we could give a computer all the information it needed to decode the above exchange like we do, why wouldn't we consider it intelligent?

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at October 16, 2005 6:34 PM

After giving it a little thought, I think we are interpreting what the "rule set" the person has been given, in two different ways.

When I read the Wikipedia article, I interpreted this as a static list of rules. Basically, the mother of all case statements or If/Then/Else statements. Since a rule set of that sort does not allow for learning, adaptation, or require any degree of understanding; I failed to see how such a rule set could have intellegence.

If one was to assume, though, that the rule set was system based (a "small" set of "simple" rules from which more complicated rules can be derived) then I could understand the arguement. Though, to be honest, with out any kind of feedback loop, I fail to see how the person could learn. And learning will be critical.

For the record, I disagree with Searle that AI is impossible, if for no other reason then humans have a nasty knack of doing the impossible. Though, personally, the idea that humans will create a machine that evolves into an AI, instead of creating AI out of the box, seems more likely to me.

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 16, 2005 10:04 PM

Okay, for a while there, I was following along on this. But those last couple of posts?

I'm going to hope that it's just a matter of my being tired from tromping around RenFest all day today, and not that I really am not smart enough to grok. But either way.. ow ow ow ow owie. Ow. Just wandered off into "wtf?" territory and I can't seem to get back.

Comment from: Alun Clewe posted at October 17, 2005 4:57 AM

When I read the Wikipedia article, I interpreted this as a static list of rules. Basically, the mother of all case statements or If/Then/Else statements. Since a rule set of that sort does not allow for learning, adaptation, or require any degree of understanding; I failed to see how such a rule set could have intellegence.

Well, if the rule set isn't adaptive, and can't "learn", that undermines the whole point of Searle's argument in the first place. Searle was trying to show that even if one could mechanistically simulate human mental processes, that wouldn't necessarily mean true intelligence. (Or rather, he was trying to show that assuming that one could mechanistically simulate human mental processes leads to a contradiction--although, as I said in my previous post above, he didn't actually show that.) But if there's no "learning", and no reference to past exchanges, that's not really simulating human mental processes, so his whole argument falls apart anyway.

(This is, incidentally, also an answer to Turing's concern that you quoted from the Wikipedia article. A computer "programmed with a large enough number of human questions and human responses to deliver a human answer to almost every question, and a vague random answer to the few questions not in its memory", without some sort of feedback loops, would have no sort of learning, and could be detected with questions as simple as "What did you just say?" And if it does have feedback loops, and can learn from past exchanges...then who's to say it's not exhibiting real intelligence?)

Though, personally, the idea that humans will create a machine that evolves into an AI, instead of creating AI out of the box, seems more likely to me.

That's actually a fairly common view; I actually sort of agree with that too.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at October 17, 2005 11:29 AM

Alun,

So if I understand you, the idea is that even if you could create an "AI," that it wouldn't really be intellegent, but instead simply a cheap imitation of intellegence?

On an unrelated note, have I ever mentioned how much I hate track pads? The batteries on my wireless mouse just ran out, and so now I'm having to use the trackpad on this laptop. It is, as they say, "the suck."

Sorry, just needed to bitch.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at October 17, 2005 11:37 AM

I'm going to hope that it's just a matter of my being tired from tromping around RenFest all day today, and not that I really am not smart enough to grok. But either way.. ow ow ow ow owie. Ow. Just wandered off into "wtf?" territory and I can't seem to get back.

Any specific areas that need a better explanation?

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 17, 2005 1:04 PM

Nope, thanks, though, Matt. After a few hours (very few, darn those active kittens and their bouncy nocturnal behavior!) of sleep, it makes a considerable amount of sense. Perhaps next time, I should, y'know, sleep first and post second. Yup!

And for the record, trackballs stink. I love my wireless mouse and you can't take it away from me! NONONONO. grr.

Comment from: Alun Clewe posted at October 17, 2005 3:03 PM

So if I understand you, the idea is that even if you could create an "AI," that it wouldn't really be intellegent, but instead simply a cheap imitation of intellegence?

Well, sort of, except that Searle was really trying to prove that you couldn't create an AI in the first place. I think, in a nutshell, this was his argument:

Suppose the human brain worked along mechanistic or algorithmic grounds. Then in principle, you could precisely simulate its workings in a particular regime--say, carrying on a conversation in Chinese--by some guy in a room just running through rote operations according to a manual. Obviously this "Chinese room" situation wouldn't possess true consciousness (the consciousness of the guy with the cards doesn't count, since he's not aware of the big picture), so this is a contradiction. Therefore the human brain must not work along mechanistic or algorithmic grounds, q.e.d.

Except that it's not established that the setup doesn't possess consciousness (however "obvious" it may seem to Searle), so it isn't a contradiction, and anyway the analogy contains quite a lot of questionable assumptions in the first place, so his argument doesn't (IMO) hold a lot of water--but I think that's the gist of what he was going for, anyway.

Personally, I'm not swayed by arguments that you could create something that behaved exactly like a human being, but didn't have consciousness. (Not that that's what Searle was trying to prove, exactly, but it's a related topic.) It seems to me anything complex enough to precisely simulate human behavior would pretty much have to be alive and conscious to do it (and that it sort of cheapens the wonder of the human mind to maintain otherwise)...

As for trackballs/trackpads...hey, I actually kinda like trackballs. Trackpads, on the other hand...yeah, not a lot of fun.

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