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The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size (Penguin Press Science) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 1. August 1999

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The "user illusion" in computing is the desktop graphical user interface (GUI): the friendly, comprehensible illusion presented to the user to conceal all the bouncing bits and bytes that do the actual work. Tor Nørretranders writes that "our consciousness is a user illusion for ourselves and the world ... one's very own map of oneself and one's possibilities of intervening in the world." Much of Nørretranders' evidence comes from comparing the wide bandwidth of experience to the narrow bandwidth of consciousness, and from examining how much of our brain function is never consciously acknowledged. Although slightly out of date (the book was written in 1991; it was a bestseller in Europe), The User Illusion has been well translated and gives a refreshing, non-Anglophone take on a problem that is not likely to go away anytime soon. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

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First published in 1998, the title refers to the simplistic mental image most of us have of our PCs. The author says our consciousness is our user illusion of ourselves. Drawing on scientific research from psychology and biology to physics and computer science, he makes a compelling case for putting consciousness in perspective.

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"War es ein Gott, der diese Zeichen schrieb?" ("Was it a god that wrote these signs?") asked the Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, drawing on Goethe to express the excitement and wonder that four brief mathematical equations could elicit in the mind of a physicist. Lesen Sie die erste Seite
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Format: Taschenbuch
This is a wonderful book translated from the Danish by Jonathan Sydenham, written more or less from a quantum physicist's point of view, but very readable, marred slightly by a Western bias.
One of the things learned here is that it takes half a second for our consciousness to be aware of what we're doing. We don't notice this time lag because the mind back-peddles and makes it appear that we are on sync. The mind must backtrack so that our system will know when in real time an event took place. Reactions to things like removing a hand from a hot stove occur faster than our consciousness has time to be aware. So the mind just reconstructs the event and there is the illusion that we were aware in real time. We weren't.
On page 256 is the example of a bicycle accident which happens too fast for the "I" to make a decision. The decision is made for the "I." So, is the "I" of consciousness really in charge or is that an illusion? The book's title gives Norretranders's opinion. I tend to agree. This is similar to the Buddhist idea that the ego-I of consciousness is an illusion.
Norretranders makes a distinction between the "I" that is conscious and has a short bandwidth of perhaps 16 bits and the "Me" that is nonconscious and has a bandwidth of millions of bits. The "I" thinks it is in charge, but all it has is a slow-moving veto. On pages 268-269 Norretranders talks about how to get Self 2 (corresponds to the Me) "to unfold its talents." One method is to overload the "I" so that the "Me" is allowed to come to the fore. Give it "so many things to attend to that it no longer has time to worry" or "veto." Then the inner Me comes forward and plays beautiful music, etc. Similarly, we could say that the use of mantra, e.g.
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Format: Taschenbuch
I'm a big fan of the recent books attempting to explain consciousness: Dennett, the Churchlands, Owen Flannagan, Damasio, Edleman, Crick, Calvin, and so on. "The User Illusion" is unique among this crowd in two ways. First, it builds from a broader base of support, in information theory and thermodynamics. Second, it does not focus on the brain, but on the experience of consciousness. This seems at first to be a weakness, but it turns out to be a strength because what the author attempts to explain is how the experience of consciousness relates to the reality around us.
In this book, a number of different lines of evidence converge on the profoundly scientific but uncomfortably counter-intuitive conclusion that conscious awareness is an extremely narrow bandwidth simulation used to help create a useful illusion of an "I" who sees all , knows all, and can explain all.
Yet the mental processes actually driving our behavior are (and need to be) far more vast and process a rich tapestry of information around us that conscious awareness cannot comprehend without highly structuring it first. So the old notion of an "unconscious mind" is not wrong because we have no "unconscious," but because our entire mind is unconscious, with a tiny but critical feature of being able to observe and explain itself, as if an outside observer.
This fits so well with the social psychological self-perception research, and recent research into the perception of pain and other sensations, that it has a striking ring of truth about it.
This does lead to some difficult conceptual problems.
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Format: Taschenbuch
After reading many books on consciousness I found this one to be the best and I am surprised that is not referenced more often by American authors.
I cannot help feeling, however, that modern scientists are only rediscovering what the Buddha found over 2,500 years ago.
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This book was an interesting tour through modern theory on information and consciousness, with alot of the author's own spin on the issues thrown in.
My only complaint is that it could have been about half the length and still conveyed the exact same information just as effectively. The author has a tendency to repeat himself over and over again for pages on end. I ended up skimming over much of the book because it was the same point being made many times over, and I don't feel like I missed out on any of the author's ideas by doing this.
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Von Ein Kunde am 28. Dezember 1998
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
An invaluable book analyzing consciousness from the prespective of information theory. Author unites physics, theory of computation & neuroscience through, still widely misunderstood, information theory. In a very clear, and at times entertaining language, the author delivers to the reader an epitome of exceptional quality. Beautiful and simple idea of discarding the information is fundamental to our understanding of the world and ourselves.
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