comment by __nobody ·
2020-12-20T18:10:34.168Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Some more details on each of the categories in order:
Visual - I don't really see things, I just get some weird topological-ish representation. E.g. if I try to imagine a cube, it's more like the grid of a cube / wireframe instead of a real object, and it's really stretchy-bendy and can sometimes wobble around or deform on its own. And attributes like red / a letter printed on a side etc. are not necessarily part of the face but often just floating "labels" connected by a (different kind of) line that goes "sideways" out of 3-space? o.O Even real objects like a tree are abstracted (and it depends on what I focus on), e. g. it's more like a cylinder with a "fuzzy sphere" on top and a "fuzzy cone" below. Or maybe I focus on the bark, then that gets more detail but everything else becomes even less defined. Or maybe it's just general "tree-ness", then there's just some elongated blob and I can't even query whether it has sharp corners/edges or not without it changing shape to become more defined (and then it could end up either way, so no clue).)
Sound - sometimes, I get runaway "earworms" ("stuck tune" doesn't really fit) that morph over time and evolve away from the source material. Sometimes there's two of them at the same time, fighting each other or working in harmony. (If that's (the illusion of) two full orchestras, it can get quite exhausting...) I lack the music education / knowledge to write down or play what I hear.
Taste - negligible, mostly on the "floating tags" level. "Here be salty."
Smell - was on the same level, but getting a lot better now that I consciously care about smell in real life.
Touch - mostly negligible but sometimes I can cook up scary real stuff. (Like imagining a friend biting my neck and hairs raising up and also noticing how the muscles around that spot would move if that were real, even if I didn't consciously follow that before, and then later validating the memory of that against the real thing. That was so surprising that I still remember it.) I find it a lot harder to imagine touch on extremities than the torso. E.g. I can't really imagine a stubbed toe, the feeling of walking across carpet, grabbing a cabbage with my hand, but I can vividly imagine a drop of water running down my chest or a spider crawling across it. (Lower resolution is easier to fake?)
Internal monologue / thinking in words - I can't imagine how that would be. Even when talking, I don't really know (on the word level) what I'm going to say before I actually say it. I generally don't think in words and have a hard time translating back and forth from words into my internal representation and back out. There's lots of concepts that I use that I can't really describe because they're several abstraction levels up from stuff that maps to known external words, so I'd have to explain/translate several layers of wordless stuff before I could even describe the perspective from which these concepts arise. (And the "floating tags" mentioned above also aren't words but just "nodes" that somehow represent the stuff.)
Memory - no clue how to assess that, I don't have a baseline to compare against. Some stuff gets regularly forgotten (names, anyone? .), other stuff (like small random details) just sticks around far longer than justified. (I also tend to notice lots of weird details.)
Another potentially notable thing about memory: I can't randomly access or scan memories, but if I have a specific query I tend to get results, including context (e.g. why this memory is probably trustworthy, stuff that helps locate it in space/time etc. etc.)
Mind control - I can't stop an ongoing battle of two orchestras or other things that make themselves hard to ignore, but for stuff that's not as overpowering, I can mostly just ignore it and it's gone?
Synesthesia - I think sometimes I get whiffs of it, like 3 smelling slightly cake-y and 7 rather bloody / putting a metallic taste in the back of my mouth, but it's rare / hard to notice. (Might be imagined, but the associations are consistent.) I also get some angle-dependent coloration on narrow grids, not sure what that is. (I know that you can supposedly trigger that effect by looking at training images and it'll persist for a long time, but I didn't (knowingly) look at any similar images, and also it's doing a full 360° / full color cycle for me vs. that effect only getting you like 2 or 3 colors IIRC?)
Some other stuff:
I can feel even pretty small heat sources across fairly large distances, I notice the exaggerated impression / it presents as a tingling sensation on my face, or my hands if I'm searching with them (in which case I also notice it along my arms unless they're covered). E.g. I can locate a small desk lamp that's 8°C above room temperature from the other side of the room with my eyes closed and after the lamp was turned off (so I don't react to any stray light), or notice on what side of a sofa a human has been sitting on.
Several years ago I did an experiment where I tried to do as much as possible with my eyes closed for the better part of a week. That seriously improved my ability to navigate with eyes closed. I unlearned a lot of that, but I still like to e. g. shower with eyes closed because it reduces the amount of sensory data coming in. Sometimes, when I'm stressed / close to sensory overload, closing my eyes doesn't help and the falling drops of water create a fairly stable "image" of the bathtub / wall / curtain. (It's like every drop's impact creates a small gray circle that fades over ~0.2-0.5 seconds and that's approximately aligned with the normal of the surface. Together, from all the drops, I get something resembling a picture of the surroundings. The dots are relative to my head, not the external world, so if I move my head, they move along and I get garbage until the old dots fade and things stabilize again. Aaaaaaaaaa exhausting.)
I generally have trouble navigating unknown areas, but if I reserve a few brain cycles to manually track "north" (or any direction really), that persists and I can navigate relative to that. (The marker that I use is like an "arrowless arrow", a "shapeless shape"? It's really weird trying to describe it. It's pointy and has a clear designated "pointy end" but it's not really "physical" (even in mind space). It generally floats above my head and can turn really quickly - I can jump around, whirl in place, ... and it just stays glued to the target.) However, as soon as I forget to keep it active (even just for a moment) it comes loose and no longer updates relative to my movements. "Keeping it active" isn't "thinking at it" but just observing it do its thing, don't really know how to describe that. It also doesn't work when I'm being moved (cars, trains, ...), it seems like my guts (body location-wise) do the tracking and they don't get (all) slow rotations.
When I do mathematical proofs, I don't really think, I just "feel" my way through the tree of possible derivations, pick a step, see where I end up, repeat. If that doesn't work, I get stuck. I lack the experience with manually/consciously enumerating the top layers (or this combinatorial stuff is just really exhausting for me?), and so I can basically just wait a few days and try again until I get some progress.
The same "either it works intuitively or not at all" applies to a lot of things that I do, from other technical stuff like coding to things like cooking. Usually whatever I cook tastes good to great, but sometimes it comes out weird and then I have no clue how to fix it. (That's getting better, I'm slowly accumulating things to check / try - like aim for 0.5-1% salt (saliva is around 0.4% and anything below tends to taste weird), check if it needs more acid, add a bit of sugar, etc., but there's still a big difference between things just working and something being not quite right.)
Replies from: justinpombrio, lejuletre, maxwell-peterson
↑ comment by justinpombrio ·
2020-12-21T03:27:25.285Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Visual—I don’t really see things, I just get some weird topological-ish representation.
My visual imagination matches your whole paragraph exactly. Great description.
I think the rest of my responses are typical: reasonable sound imagination, minimal taste&touch&smell imagination. Thinking is a mix of abstract stuff and words and images. Little mind control, no synesthesia. Strong internal monologue: at the extreme, most everything I think is backed by the monologue in some way, and the monologue is nearly continuous; at the other extreme if I've been meditating a lot in the past month there's much less monologue.
My memory is worse than average, I think. I don't remember a whole lot after a year has passed. I get the impression that many people associate many of their long term memories with time (like, what month it was or what season it was). I don't, at all. I'll remember something that happened during undergrad, but have to reason from context about whether it would have been the first year or last year (which is usually easy to figure out, but that knowledge is not attached to the memory).
↑ comment by lejuletre ·
2020-12-20T21:05:11.850Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
All of this is super interesting to me! Especially where we differ.
I can't really imagine a stubbed toe, the feeling of walking across carpet, grabbing a cabbage with my hand, but I can vividly imagine a drop of water running down my chest or a spider crawling across it. (Lower resolution is easier to fake?)
I can imagine all of these extremely vividly. Even multiple different types of carpets, and walking on carpets in different shoes. Could you imagine the feeling of lying on a carpet without a shirt on (ie the feeling of a carpet on your torso) ? What about a spider crawling across your hand ?
I am very jealous of your ability to ignore your thoughts and track north. I am terrible with directions, navigating familiar places only by landmarks.
Not to get too speculative, but you mention doing mathematical proofs, which I've never done in my life. Even learning syntax for linguistics (expressed as binary branching trees) was very difficult for me. I'm studying French literature and anything to do with words comes very easily to me. I wonder if there's any tangible overlap between brain function and fields of interest.Replies from: __nobody
↑ comment by __nobody ·
2020-12-21T12:00:39.380Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Could you imagine the feeling of lying on a carpet without a shirt on (ie the feeling of a carpet on your torso) ?
Somewhat... it's too diffuse. I can imagine the effect at single spots, the whole thing at once doesn't really work. (I get "glitchy partials", brief impressions flickering and jumping around, but it's not forming anything consistent / stable.)
What about a spider crawling across your hand ?
Back of the hand is manageable (it's "only" tracking of 9 points - 8 legs plus occasional abdomen contact) and it can even become "independent" and surprise me with what direction it will move in next, front is basically impossible. (Glitchy partials again.)
I am very jealous of your ability to ignore your thoughts[.]
If there's usually not much happening that reaches the conscious level, that's really not that hard. I've talked at length with people who have a near-constant internal monologue and I get that that's much harder. I just notice that it's also relatively easy for me to ignore other constant or near-constant things like loud buzzing noise (server fans?), most extreme smells (rotting/feces) where others flinch away, etc. but basically impossible to ignore constantly changing impressions. (I currently have a construction site in front of the house and I can't work at all while they're active, even with earplugs.)
[I am very jealous of your ability to] track north.
Again, I have to constantly keep an "inner eye" on that or it comes loose and then it's broken / de-synced. A question from someone that makes me think just a little bit too much can be enough to break it, unless I remember to explicitly save the current heading and reinstate the thing afterwards. (I suspect you can do/imagine something similar and it'll get less costly and more precise over time of using it.)
I wonder if there's any tangible overlap between brain function and fields of interest.
Probably - you're more likely to do stuff that's easier for you, which makes it easier... But I expect that to be fairly weak / to have lots of noise on top. (External expectations, stuff that you don't even know exists, etc. etc.)
I guess what also plays a big role is how you approach your brain / how you model it & yourself / what expectations you place on it. I treat mine as a substrate that can spawn lots of independent processes of varying size and with more or less expressive interfaces, and "I" just happen to be one that's fairly big and stable. So making that arrow pointing north is basically just me spawning yet another small process on that substrate that subsequently does its own thing (unless swapped out because of capacity constraints), likewise the imagined spider can become independent and choose its own direction, because I fully expect it to be an independent process and not something that I have to manually control.
(Treating your brain as some sort of "expectation realizer" seems to be a powerful model/perspective, but totally expect really weird "replies" when you try to apply that to external stuff. (Like weird feelings, sudden anxiety, strange preferences, etc. guiding you in the direction that your brain thinks is best - be careful (and keep track of) what you wish for.) Internal seems to be relatively safe compared to that.)