Hallucinating Suction

post by Johannes C. Mayer (johannes-c-mayer) · 2023-06-02T14:16:34.676Z · LW · GW · None comments

This post is about hallucination and how self-induced hallucination might be useful in steering your mind.

I was just standing in my room after using the vacuum to suck off a duster. The whole time I was wearing my X5A earmuffs. Right next to me, I had an air filter running on the maximum setting. It was quite loud, but only barely audible when wearing the earmuffs.

After briefly doing something on my computer, I turned around. I was hearing the sound of a running vacuum cleaner. I was pretty sure that I had turned it off, though hearing the vacuum sound seemed much stronger evidence than my memory. I walked over to the vacuum and put my fingers into the snout, to feel if there still was suction. I expected suction, and sure enough as soon as I had put my fingers into the snout, I felt air moving over my fingers ... for perhaps a second or so. Then the feeling rapidly vanished. I realized that the vacuum was actually turned off and that I had been hearing the operating sound of the air filter. My expecting to feel the suction made me hallucinate the feeling of suction. I think it's quite interesting that you can have hallucinations like this.

This seems very related to what happens when lucid dreaming, where you can turn around, and imagine a detailed scene behind you. Once you turn back, there's a good chance that that scene will now actually be there in front of you. In a lucid dream, the world is determined by your expectations. But even in the real world, where the state of the world is not directly determined by your expectations, you can still manipulate your experience of the world with your expectations, even for something as tactile as feeling air flowing over your fingers.

In my brief excursion into reading about tulpamancy, this also came up. I have read about people claiming that they can change the color of the sky that they perceive and modify how certain foods are tasting. I was already leaning towards believing these people, based on my own experience of what you can do in tulpamancy. But this is even more evidence, I think, that doing something like this is possible.

The question is reduced from "Is this possible at all" to "Is it possible for you to really expect something to happen artificially" (there might be other ways to achieve the same effect though). Can you make yourself inhabit a state of mind where you really believe that ice cream tastes like Kale and Kale tastes like ice cream? This is an extreme example of cause. I expect smaller modifications to be easier.

It's easy to play video games or watch your favorite TV series for hours on end. It's something that you're pulled towards even if your consequentialist reasoning module thinks that this is not something you should be spending time on. On the other hand, studying mathematics might be ranked highly by your consequentialist reasoning module, but perhaps school has drilled into you an instinctive aversion to thinking about anything related to mathematics.

It is hard to shape your mind such that the things that your consequentialist reasoning module evaluates as good, are the things that the more primitive parts of your mind are pulled towards doing.

Now, if you could make yourself really expect to feel good when doing things like studying math (when you have an aversion towards it), you might be able to generate a positive reinforcement signal for doing this specific thing. And it seems possible that if you generate enough of this positive reinforcement, your brain will update itself such that it will develop primitive urges that pull you towards doing the specific thing and the aversion will fade away.

None comments

Comments sorted by top scores.