You’re Ready to See the Fnords

A few nights ago I was looking into self-hypnosis and hypnosis. Sure, I’ve had many self-hypnosis tapes and CDs over the years. Not that I’m immune to suggestion, but most of them just don’t work. Often there are glaring errors. The facilitator says the stereotypical “sleep, sleeeeeeep” so much that it is comical. The facilitator tells you what not to do, which is practically guaranteed to make you think of actually doing it.

Don’t think of an elephant.

While researching self-hypnosis, I went off on a tangent and learned about some less well-known techniques.

Ideomotor Signaling is based on the concept of a split brain. The seminal book on the topic of a split brain, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes, is a must-read for anyone curious about the importance of left brain to right brain interactions. I suspect his theory was sparked by research into surgery that split the corpus collosum to prevent seizures in folks with epilepsy. The surgery had a number of interesting side effects, including what I’ll describe in the next paragraph. There are some excellent materials on split brain experiments on the Nobel Prize web site, and even a game. We love games.

The theory is that since the left half of the brain controls speech, the right half of the brain has to use other means of communication. To access information that isn’t available to the speaking side of the bicameral mind all you have to do is tell the right brain to signal its answers, perhaps by a finger tap. If Ideomotor Signalling is the force behind dowsing, magic pendulums, and ouija boards, a lot of mystics are fooling themselves.

Whether ideomotor signaling really works or not remains to be seen. According to Quackwatch, Ideomotor Action, is a well-known phenomenon that occurs so deep in the subconscious that the person experiencing it is totally unaware that their action is volitional. Often the movements are attributed to some supernatural force. Hence the spirits “talk” using the Hellboy Talking Board Ouija.

In more complex variants of ideomotor action, a person may be completely unaware that they’ve lost their objectivity. You see what you want to see and ignore the rest. This is the major flaw in religion, especially with regard to absolute morality. It is also a major flaw in the scientific method.

Essentially “Ideomotor Communication” is a modern phrase for the old concept of unconscious behavior.

Can ideomotor action be used to access information that we wish to hide from ourselves? It seems rather dangerous. We erect walls in our memories for a reason.

Continuing to surf the idea that we might want to hide information from ourselves, I came across Robert Anton Wilson’s concept of the fnord.

A fnord is a word that marks any fact that the powers-that-be wish us, the great unwashed, to ignore or trivialize. After reporting an Inconvenient Truth, print the word “fnord.” Children were conditioned to feel extreme anxiety when confronted with a fnord. For the rest of their lives they will avoid sensitive issues by forgetting not only the fnords, but also the news item that preceded it. Politics, environmental issues, economics, all can be hidden in plain sight.

Of course this led to Steve Jackson’s fnord generator. Try it out.

A related concept is that of apophenia. Apophenia is the tendency to find meaning in noise. This is how we see constellations in the stars, faces on Mars, and Kaziklu Bey’s visage grinning evilly from a slice of cinnamon toast.

This would make a good premise for a game.

Apophenia is the human mind’s ability to see connections and patterns out of random noise, so I figured it would be a good title for a game in which I’m trying to make both the appearance and the rules as random as possible.

Each game is generated by a seed title, covering the appearance, soundscape, and behavior of the player, an NPC, and a swarm. You control the player with only the mouse, potentially leading, pushing, or controlling it. Each game ends when either the player or the NPC shrink into nothingness. If you have trouble understanding the symbolic value of each game, a “pretentious mode” is provided to explain the concept behind each variation.
— Noyb, author of the computer game “Apophenia.”

The Apophenia game can be downloaded from Noyb’s web page.

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