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Comment by ken4 on Psychic Powers · 2008-09-15T01:31:50.000Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A few things.

First, I have actually been through a process of diagnosis that I submitted myself to for this very purpose -- to uncover whatever underlying neurological issue I had. They found nothing out of the ordinary, and I function perfectly well. I am well adjusted, not on medication, and otherwise "normal."

Second, comments like Eli's about the lottery aren't fair, because I never claimed to be omniscient, only to have some sort of extra perception.

Imagine a scenario in which the world is filled with deaf people. Human beings have never had a sense of hearing. I, through some genetic quirk, am born with a sense of hearing, however faint it may be, and I am faced with convincing the people around me that I can "hear." My first obstacle is to explain what hearing even means to someone who has no basis for understanding it.

Even if they were able to form a mental image of what a sound might be like (I'm not sure how they would, but for the sake of argument...), they wouldn't have a sense of the boundaries. Why can I hear air planes that are very far away from me but not hear what's going on in the next room very well?

I cannot see lotto numbers, I'm afraid... however, and this brings me to the next point, I can "see" people's superficial thoughts and one great way to demonstrate it is paper rock scissors.

I have done an experiment in which I played 100 games in a row with my wife, and wrote down the results. I can see which she'll throw, and I'll throw the opposite. I won 90% of the time (91 I think, but I didn't keep the paper I wrote it on). That's not really possible statistically.

You might wonder why I don't submit myself to public scrutiny if my results are so consistent. Frankly, I'm terrified of it. Anyone who cared to test me would be doing so in the spirit of "outing" me, with the attitude that I was a crackpot... I don't generally enjoy such circumstances.

If I did go forward in the interest of research, despite my personal reservations, then I know any mistake on my part would be magnified by the researchers and public to debunk me thanks to confirmation bias. In addition, I would expect to be faced with experiments devised in ignorance and so I'd be asked questions like "what are tomorrow's lotto numbers?"

Frankly, under those conditions, I will fail. I am not that good. It's a weaker sense that's easily overwhelmed by the normal senses and by emotions, and I'm not that good. I couldn't perform under pressure.

Even if I could, there would be very little upside: if I perform less than optimally, I'd be chided as an idiot or charlatan, and if I performed perfectly the experiments would be disregarded as flawed, and the subject matter silly. That's all without mentioning the possible damage to my reputation... there's not a lot of incentive.

Comment by ken4 on Psychic Powers · 2008-09-14T21:36:06.000Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I considered going anonymous for this because I know I'll be decimated here among you guys, but I decided to be bold because I think it's an argument worth making.

I have a world view that's very similar to many of you here, with reductionism as one of the center pieces.

So now to queue the lamentation and ridicule which I bring willingly: I am a psychic as well.

Many, many wishful people come at this from the fairy tail perspective of wishing paranormal things to exist, and therefore convincing themselves that they do.

I came from an opposite perspective.

I began with the assumption that it couldn't be true because of my reductionist beliefs, but am faced with a body of evidence so overwhelming that I cannot deny it.

I do not WANT to believe in psychic phenomena, but I am forced to as a result of the evidence I've been exposed to.

How can I explain the improbably accurate and precise information I know about people and the future? How can I explain the images that come into my mind that have such a crushingly high correlation with the images in the minds around me? How can I accurately guess the history of the occupants of particular building?

I mean, seriously, I hardly believe it -- why in the hell would someone occupying some arbitrary location in space, that happens to be surrounded by a building, leave some kind of information there after his body is gone? What is the mechanism by which the information is stored? It flies against my entire world view, and my concept of how the universe is fundamentally organized. Yet there the information is, and on the occasions I'm able to get corroboration on the information I receive, I'm right about it the overwhelming majority of the time.

If I say to you, Eli, that as an experiment to rule out this nonsense, I had my wife imagine an arbitrary object, and that I was able to tell her what that object was within a minute, then you would have no reason to believe me. But imagine, hypothetically, that it was you who had done such a thing, and had done it often, with a high degree of success. You might not be able to compel others in your circle to believe you, but you yourself would HAVE to take notice. Even if you couldn't explain how it worked, you'd have to acknowledge that it worked, or at least try hard to find the trick your mind was playing on you.

I do not pretend to know the mechanism by which this works, but I am confident that it does, in fact, work, and that the mechanism is natural, not supernatural.

To those skeptics, I ask: why are you confident at all that your map matches the territory in anything more than a fleeting, superficial way? If the territory is so much more complex than we're capable of mapping, then why can't there be entire apparati built into our brains or other constituent parts that we have no basis for detecting or understanding at this point? Parts of our mind that despite our ignorance, can deliver accurate perception to those parts that we currently DO understand?

Most people here would answer: why would we try to hypothesize some extra constituent part that do not constrain our expectations in any way?

To that I answer: I am one who has observed evidence for which I have no explanation, which may in fact require those extra constituent parts.

I know psychics exist because I've worked hard to debunk my own abilities but I've failed. I'm also sure reductionism is correct, and therefore I'm sure reductionism and psychic abilities are not mutually exclusive.