Synopsis: This article presents and develops the original Math-Data synergy that eventually led to the author’s Theory of Attention. He noticed that his creative sessions rise to a peak and then reach a natural culmination. More importantly, interruptions seem to have a disproportionate negative impact upon these pulse-like sessions. The Pulse, a mathematical feature of Data Stream Dynamics, effectively models these 3 features, i.e. distinct duration, peaking, and harm of interruptions.
This mathematical model applies not only to creative sessions but also to Sustain Attention Experiences (SAEs). SAEs permeate human existence and have the same 3 features as a creative session. Further, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s research exhibited that a special kind of SAE, the Flow Experience, provides us with our most pleasurable experiences.
This widespread evidence provides support for several of the rules of Attention that underlie our theory: 1) Attention exhibits a pulse-like behavior. 2) Interruptions have a disproportionate impact on the ideal potentials of the Pulse. 3) SAEs provide humans with our most pleasurable experiences.
As an amateur artist, writer, musician and mathematician-scientist, I have experienced many creative sessions. While laboring away at my variety of projects, several patterns came to my attention. A creative session begins and then ends relatively naturally. Further it requires time to build up to the crescendo (intensity) of inspiration – the peaking experience. Finally, a significant interruption can permanently kill this pulse of inspiration for the session. After a phone call or a visit, I never seemed to reach the same level of intensity and insight. These conditions seemed to apply to my sessions as an organist, a painter, a mathematician or whatever else seemed to strike my creative fancy. Still today, I set aside a few hours of uninterrupted time in order to maximize the possibility and quality of these creative experiences – like right now.
In one of those Creative Sessions, a feeling came upon me – the urge to develop or even discover some kind of mathematical model for Interruptions to a Creative Session. To fulfill this urge – this innate feeling, I opened my senses wide and began searching for a matching pattern. This initial search was not active, but instead intuitive – patiently waiting and watching for a promising opening in the wall.
In my role as a mathematician, I had already begun developing the dynamics of data streams. When the Living Algorithm (LA) digests a string of numbers, it produces the ongoing velocity of the data stream. When the LA digests the ongoing velocity, it produces the ongoing acceleration of the original data stream. During this particular mathematical pulse of 1995, I also came up with a formulation for Data Stream Density, the equivalent of mass. This understanding led in turn to the notion of Data Stream Momentum.
The point is that I was no stranger to the mathematics of data streams and in fact had already developed an entire dynamical system surrounding Information flows. The primordial feelings that inspired this bizarre project are probably directly linked with my innate nature. As such, their patterns continue to drive my Intention.
During the years following the verbalization of my urge, it seems likely that my subconscious was busily attempting to come up with a mathematical model based in constructs of my investigation into data streams. The specific question that probably drove my liminal quest was: Does Data Stream Dynamics (DSD) correspond with Interruptions to a Creative Session?
Finally in 2002 the insight occurred. Not the hoped-for model, but at least a potential Key. I still had to figure out how to open the Door. The insight: Characterize the minutes of a typical 2-hour Creative Session as a string of 120 ones. Then introduce zeros as interruptions to this data stream of uninterrupted ones.
Still no model. But at least I had some data streams that matched the phenomenon, i.e. a creative session with interruptions. Now I had to find a data stream measure, derivative or otherwise, that matched the limited duration, the peaking experience and the harm of interruptions.
Data Stream Velocity, not even close to a peaking experience. What would you expect from a string of boring uniform ones?
How about Data Stream Acceleration? Bingo! A beautiful curving Pulse with a beginning and an end.
Good match for the peaking experience of a Creative Session. But the Harm of Interruptions? Exchanged a few zeros for ones in the data stream. Knocked off the peak. Ran a variety of differing scenarios. Yielded the desired results, including refinements. Eureka!
Creative Pulse (red) w/Interruptions
After achieving my goal, i.e. a mathematical model, I ran a few more experiments and then left the entire project behind for another project. The Pulse had ended and I moved on. It was only in 2011, almost a decade later, that the experiment’s growing significance dawned on me.
‘Interruptions to a Creative Session’ was the name given to the experience that was the focus of my mathematical experiment. However, it could have just as easily been called ‘Interruptions to a Sustained Attention Experience (SAE)’.
Although investigating the nature of a creative session, the original data stream of 1s and 0s was not intended to represent creativity. Instead the mathematical experiment employed 1s to represent Attention that was focused exclusively on the afternoon’s project and 0s to represent Interruptions, i.e. Attention that was focused elsewhere due to some kind of distraction.
1s à Attention on the project
0s à Attention elsewhere, i.e. not on the project.
The series of uninterrupted 1s of undivided Attention was meant to represent a Creative Session. In a more general sense, the string of 1s could also represent Sustained Attention.
String of 1s = Sustained Attention
Although set up to model interruptions to a creative session, the mathematics inadvertently had a much broader application. Rather than limited to only creativity, the mathematical model could easily be applied to any kind of experience that requires sustained Attention. Further the mathematics could model interruptions to this particular type of experience.
Let us enumerate a few of the multitude of experiences that require Sustained Attention. This broad category would include any pulse-like experience that requires sustained Attention for relatively distinct duration. Here are just a few: Creative Session, Theatre or Musical Event, Sports, Reading, Lecture, Movie, Conversation, Reading, Study, Practice, Dining, Conversations and Sex.
In this context, the more general question becomes: Do the Mathematical Patterns associated with Data Stream Dynamics match the Behavioral Patterns associated with Sustained Attention? In each case, the experience begins, seems to require time to rise to a peak or climax, and then ends rather naturally. The experience seems to be pulse-like, as is the model.
According to our mathematical model, interruptions due to shifting attention have a negative impact on these types of experiences. Is there any evidence that Interruptions disrupt the ideal potentials of these Sustained Attention Experiences (SAE)?
Virtually everyone from comedians, to speakers, to parents, to lovers has experienced the disproportionate harm of interruptions at one time or another. Following are just a few examples that indicate the harm of Interruptions.
1) Locking doors of a Theatre or Music Performance to prevent interruptions
2) Sports Coaches calling Time-outs to interrupt other teams flow
3) Classroom doors closed for duration of lecture to insure uninterrupted Attention.
4) Disruptive individuals or children are asked to leave a concert or movie.
It seems that the features of our mathematical model can be usefully mapped onto the three salient features of the general Sustained Attention Experience. Due to this mapping, could DSD reveal something about the underlying structure of these SAEs? To determine what that might be, we must look more closely at the nature of the SAE and its relationship with LA mathematics.
But first let us examine a special type of SAE – the Flow Experience.
All the evidence we’ve examined thus far has been experiential. The Creative Pulse Experiment was based upon the author’s personal experience of creative sessions. SAEs are purely observational. Both personal experience and observations are valid forms of empirical evidence. Yet they lack the precision of hardcore experimental data. Let’s examine another type of related phenomenon that does have this kind of support – the Flow Experience.
Dr. Csikszentmihalyi (Dr. C) performed a lifetime of experiments regarding human happiness. The experimental results were consistent across age, culture, and sex. Dr. C wrote a book summarizing his findings – Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. The title of his bestselling 1990 book is a fairly explicit and succinct statement of his conclusion. People regularly reported that attaining the Flow was one of the most satisfying experiences that a human can have.
A body of reputable experimental evidence supports his conclusions. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s pioneered the use of self-reporting techniques to obtain empirical data. His techniques were controversial at the time he first used them. Even though the data was obtained in a subjective manner, the results are both consistent cross culturally and fairly definitive. This consistency lends credibility to his process of data collection.
Although written in 1990, professionals in the field still cite results and insights nearly 30 years later. For instance, renowned psychologist Jonathon Haidt spends 4 pages in his bestselling book Happiness Hypothesis 2006 reviewing Dr. C’s conclusions and even has an endorsement by the author on his book cover. In his 2011 book Thinking Fast & Slow, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman suggests that he is building upon both the conclusions and experimental techniques first introduced by Dr. C.
Rather than being repudiated, Dr. C’s groundbreaking work is growing in significance. Dr. Haidt even credits Dr. C with being the founder of a growing branch of scholarship deemed happiness psychology. As to be expected, 21st century psychologists are refining and extending some of his conclusions. Yet the basic results remain the same.
Humans from all walks of life and at all ages reported that certain types of experiences were very pleasurable. Dr. C noticed some common characteristics of these optimal human experiences. One of these characteristics was attaining a state that Dr. C deemed the Flow.
What is this Flow that generates so much happiness? Dr. C identifies several salient features of the Flow Experience. I will mention those that are pertinent to our discussion.
Participants in his experiment typically reported that they were happiest when they attained an effortless state of complete absorption in a project or activity – the Flow. Generally this absorption was so deep that participants lost a sense of self. Attention must be both undivided and uninterrupted. Distractions and interruptions compromise the Flow Experience.
The Flow generally occurs during a challenging project or activity. There is an achievable goal associated with the experience. The goal must be challenging enough to demand complete Attention, and yet not too challenging in the sense that the goals will not be met.
If the goals are too easy, then the challenges don’t demand complete absorption. When unchallenged, Attention drifts to default modes of thought. These modes include a sense of self. The self is frequently linked with worries and anxieties about financial, health and social situations. The Flow doesn’t happen when attention is divided in this fashion.
This description could apply to a multitude of activities. On the simplest level, these activities could include a practice (training) session in music, sports, theatre or even homework. On more complex levels, participating in a full-on theatre production, a musical performance or a competitive sporting event could also fit the description.
Each of these activities can be very satisfying if they both demand the participant’s complete Attention and have achievable goals. Further, any of these activities can be especially frustrating if they are interrupted or the goals are too difficult to achieve. Finally if any of the activities are too easy, then an unengaged Attention drifts to the normal worries and concerns associated with the self.
The Sustained Attention Experiences that we’ve discussed have many of the same features as the Flow Experience and some notable differences. For instance, a conversation or a dining experience can be quite enjoyable, although no goals or challenges are linked with these common events. A social occasion or sensual experience can be so absorbing that one loses a sense of self. Further interruptions to these experiences are just as aggravating, as they impact the ideal potentials of the event, whether a phone call with a daughter or a simple dinner with friends. While not guaranteed, pleasure is frequently associated with these everyday events.
In this sense, the Flow is a particular type of SAE. Possibly due to its challenging yet achievable goals, the Flow might be the most pleasurable SAE. However, each of the SAEs we’ve mentioned results in selfless happiness when Attention is undivided and uninterrupted.
Let us examine a personal example of how Data Stream Dynamics (DSD) applies to the Flow Experience. Let us first review the terminology that we introduced in the first chapter.
According to our suppositions, Intention must direct, restrain and sustain Attention towards and onto the Information contained in particular data streams, whether internal, external, sensory, emotional or mental. Further some kind of Feelings must drive the criteria that Intention employs to make choices between the different types of Information contained in the data streams. We have speculated that living systems employ Living Algorithm as a computational interface with sensory information. Life or the Living Realm is name we have given to this gestalt of Attention, Intentions, Feelings, Mathematics and Information.
To better understand how this schema relates to the Flow Experience, let us examine this particular personal Creative Session. Intention is required to both choose the activity and then sustain Attention on it. At this particular moment, my Intention has chosen to engage in the process of writing upon my Realm of Attention project. Intention could just as well have chosen a different activity, e.g. taking a walk, watching sports on TV, or reading a book. But it chose this writing project.
Why? Because my Person gets a lot of enjoyment from the overall experience. Besides the resulting product, he has a great time nearly every time that he engages in this particular process. It fits Dr. Flow’s description of a Flow Experience. His results indicate that the Flow is a very pleasurable experience. There are goals and challenges, i.e. communicating. THe project requires my undivided Attention with an attendant loss of a sense of self. Most important, it yields many inspirational moments, which are exciting, satisfying and energizing.
Feelings are responsible for motivating an organism to seek pleasure and avoid pain. My personal Feelings were influenced at least in part by these pleasurable experiences from the past. It is no wonder that my Feelings motivated Intention to choose to put my Person in a position to have yet another Flow Experience.
However, Intention’s job is far from over. Sustaining Attention for sufficient duration is the only path to a Flow Experience. Fragmented and/or interrupted Attention can lessen or even abort the Peak of the Flow Experience. An uninterrupted period of time is required to attain this magical space.
Aware of this requirement from past peak experiences, the Intention synergy attempts to hold Attention upon the task at hand for a sufficient Time Duration. Attention can easily drift to a phone call, a text message, a conversation, cellular notifications or a walk in the woods. But in order to get into the Flow, Intention must yoke Attention to the project until completion of the Session. In this Creative Session example, the Intention synergy has two tasks, choosing the activity and sustaining Attention.
While Sustaining Attention upon a Project, any Project, can elicit a Peak Experience, this same process can evoke a positive, hence desirable, experience when applied to many other types of activities as well, for instance entertainment, education, sports, social events and sex. Feelings provide the criteria, Intention the direction, and Attention the relationship with Information. Intention must sustain Attention on any of these activities to have a peak experience of any kind.
It seems that the mathematics of Data Stream Dynamics applies to any of these Sustained Attention Experiences, whether the optimal Flow Experience or just a good time. Let’s review. 1s represent Attention on any particular Event. 0s represent Attention that has drifted away from this Event.
What are some common features of our mathematical model and these pleasurable SAEs?
Each of these SAEs exhibits a Pulse-like behavior. They have a beginning and come to a conclusion after a distinct duration. This condition applies to creative sessions as well as the Flow, sex and a conversation. It is a certainty that any of these experiences will commence at a certain time and then come to a conclusion at a later time.
The beginning and concluding times are certainly not definitive or precise. No one can predict when the last person will leave the party, but everyone can predict that the party will be over at some point. While fairly good approximations are possible, it is impossible to make precise predictions about the event’s duration and limits. Probabilistic, not exact, predictions are possible regarding beginning, end and duration of the SAE’s Pulse.
Further any of these activities can be too short in the sense that the participant does not achieve the experience’s ideal potentials. This could be true of a conversation that is interrupted by a phone call or an entertainment event that is closed down prematurely due to a power outage. You’ve just picked up a book to read and the phone rings. If any of these activities are cut short either intentionally or unintentionally, the participant is unable to have the full experience. Similarly, shortening negatively impact the ideal dimensions of the mathematical Pulse.
Dr. Flow felt that the Flow resulting from engagement in a challenging project is an optimal human experience. However, each of these SAEs have peak moments as well. Reading, studying, solving math problems, or a visit from daughters each frequently contain some very pleasurable moments. Most of these enjoyable moments, whether a movie or a walk in the park, require some time to build up to the peak. Similarly, the LA’s Pulse, as the name implies, is not flat, but instead takes time to attain the maximum amplitude – the peak. Peaking is another feature that links DSD with SAEs.
Just as with the beginning and conclusion, the times of peaking cannot be precisely predicted. However, everyone that engages in these SAEs expects a peaking moment or moments. Indeed they hope for as many peaks as possible. Everyone also knows that these peaks will not go on forever. In similar fashion, the LA’s Pulse rises to a peak and then naturally fades to nothing.
Finally if living systems really do employ the LA as a computational tool, then the mental synergy of Intention, Attention, and Feelings is required to take advantage of the analytics that are derived from our relationship with sensory data streams. SAEs require the same Mental Synergy. Feelings guide Intention to choose a particular activity. After choosing, Intention must sustain Attention upon the activity long enough to generate a pleasurable peak or Flow experience. In terms of the mathematics, it is necessary to continue generating 1s until at least the peak is reached.
It seems that these SAEs have quite a few elements in common with the Pulse:
1) Distinct Time Duration, not too long, not too short, just right
2) Peaking moments
3) Harm of Shortening, Interruptions or Distractions
4) Mental Synergy of Attention, Intention and Feelings
The experiment’s mathematical formulation contains each of these elements. It seems that our mathematical model matches a wide range of human experiences from the Flow Experience to a good time out with friends. Each has an undefined time limit; contains some peaking moments, are harmed by Interruptions, and are based in the Mental Synergy associated with Attention.
It seems that the SAE represents a broad category of human existence. These pleasurable pulse-like experiences seem to permeate our behavior. Is it possible that our most significant positive experiences come in the form of these Pulses of Sustained Attention? Could the SAE be the primary source of human pleasure? Conversely, are there any pleasurable human experiences that aren’t a SAE?
Let’s start by considering our biological pleasures. Our senses can produce seemingly instant pleasure. For instance a delicious taste or fragrant smell can be quite enjoyable. But both a taste and a fragrance must be savored over time to be truly appreciated. Even these sensual pleasures are generally not as fulfilling without sustaining attention upon the sensory data stream that produces them.
Drugs or alcohol produce the happiness of effortless intoxication. Although physically induced, even this rush of relatively instant happiness also includes sustained attention over time on the high. Further, the high generally includes peaking moments and loss of the nagging worries associated with a sense of self. One could even argue that the drug experience serves a dual function in this regard. The pleasure derived from intoxicants could be due at least in part to: 1) disabling the anxious self and 2) enabling us to focus complete Attention upon the joys of the moment. As we shall see, these are the same features that could produce the pleasure associated with the Flow, but without the effort.
A piece of Information can also produce what seems to be instant happiness. Here are a few examples: winning the lottery, notification of a pay raise, or an affirmative answer to a proposal. However, SA primes these bits of information in the sense that the result is anticipated and hoped for. Plus it takes time to assimilate the information. For instance, “I need time to let the news sink in,” is a common refrain from lottery winners. Although beginning with an instant, the moments of reflection accumulate to produce the greater happiness. Again SA seems to be even linked to the bits of Info that produce pleasure in humans.
Although there could be exceptions, it seems that Sustained Attention (SA) is a significant feature of our most pleasurable experiences.
This discussion raises several questions. Why do we derive pleasure from Sustained Attention? In a more general sense, why do SAEs and the Flow provide our most pleasurable experiences? What is Attention? And why is there a synergy between DSD and SAEs?
Frequently, if not most of the time, there are evolutionary reasons that pleasure is associated with a particular activity. Sex provides a prime example. Ecstatic pleasure accompanies the sexual experience to ensure the propagation of the species, whether insect, bird or human. Presumably those creatures that had less than an ecstatic experience didn’t have sex as frequently or for long enough to produce enough offspring and eventually became extinct.
If pleasure is associated with SAEs, then it is reasonable to assume that they must provide an evolutionary advantage. Why?
Dr. C suggests a few reasons behind the happiness associated with the Flow Experience, a type of SAE: 1) Self-esteem from achieving goals; 2) A jolt of accomplishment every time we overcome one of the many obstacles associated with the challenges of the experience; 3) Successfully exerting intention upon our world; 4) Losing our sense of self accompanied with everyday worries. It certainly makes sense that individuals that embrace challenges would survive to pass on their gene pool more frequently than those who don’t.
However, this analysis only applies to the Flow, not general SAEs. Social occasions (a party), sensory experiences (dining), and entertainment (a concert), all qualify as SAEs. These Non-Flow experiences are still quite pleasurable; have a limited duration, and interruptions still pose a problem to complete enjoyment. However, there are no goals, except fun, and no challenges, except having a good time. It is evident that we must look beyond Dr. C’s Flow analysis if we are to find why the general SAE is enjoyable.
If SAEs are associated with pleasure, then at least a modicum of pleasure is probably associated with just Sustaining Attention (SA). Would creatures who are able to SA tend to survive to reproduce more frequently than those who are unable to sustain Attention? It would seem so logically. Even an amoeba must SA upon food long enough to consume it.
If SA is an automatic biological process of the stimulus-response variety, then there would be no need to reward it with pleasure. For example, the internal processes that produce homeostasis, e.g. respiration and digestion, are generally automatic and provide no pleasure. Breathing and consuming food can provide pleasure, but only if Attention is sustained on these generally automatic processes.
The existence of pleasure as a motivating force indicates that Attention naturally drifts. It is evident that sustaining Attention upon a data stream requires another component. Intention is required to sustain a drifting Attention upon a data stream for sufficient duration to complete the sexual process or extract Information from a data stream. In turn, Feelings, either innate or arising from the memory of Pleasure, motivates Intention to spend precious mental energy holding Attention on track.
To take our next step, let’s take a closer look at sex. The male of the species ejaculates at the end of the sexual process. It is at this point that sperm enters and presumably impregnates the female. Attention must be sustained to finish the impregnation process. Put another way, Intention must sustain Attention upon sex until the genetic material that is responsible for the continuation of the species is transmitted from the male to the female. Because of the importance of sperm transmission, extreme pleasure accompanies sex.
Could this logic apply to the pleasure associated with Sustained Attention? Is it possible that completing the Pulse of Sustained Attention is required to transmit Information or Experience from the Mental to the Physical – from the Non-material Realm of Attention to the Material Realm? Could it be that natural selection has associated pleasure with this process because the transmission of the Information/Experience synergy enhances the possibility of survival? Do SAEs evoke an optimal human experience because of this transmission’s crucial importance to the continuation of our gene pool?
Just asking. Leading questions are the closest we can come to an answer without more evidence.
We’ve been discussing Sustained Attention: the pleasure and potential evolutionary advantages associated with SAEs. What is Attention?
Everyone agrees that Attention exists. Even the smallest and simplest Cell has Awareness. Indeed there is a general consensus among biologists that natural selection chooses mutations that maximize the capacity for Attention. There are both biological and logical reasons why increased awareness produces an evolutionary advantage.
A Cell has Awareness, but Awareness of what? In order to maintain homeostasis, the Cell must be aware of internal & external environmental data streams. Why is a Cell aware of data streams? Cells evaluate data streams to enhance the possibility of survival.
How does the Cell evaluate these data streams? Most biologists believe that the evaluation process is relatively automatic and physiologically based. There is evidence that mathematical deliberation is also involved in the process of assessing and assigning meaning to data streams.
What does Attention consist of? Again most biologists, past and present, have faith that it has a physiological basis. However, thus far the scientific community has been unable to come with a material explanation for Attention, even though it has been studied extensively. Indeed, although everyone believes in Attention, scientists have been unable to even come to a consensus as to the definition for this elusive phenomenon. Science is generally mystified by what Attention is.
Dr. C believes that Attention is a form of psychic energy. He devotes many pages to this notion in his aforementioned book. Our model also implies that Attention is a form of mental, not physical, energy. Sustaining Attention seems to have a cumulative effect in that it generates a peak. If we assume that Attention is a form of energy, we can offer a plausible reason for this phenomenon.
While Matter has substance that goes through transformations, energy is insubstantial and its effect can accumulate. Heat energy provides us with a pertinent example. Heat accumulates as indicated by the rising temperatures in a house when the furnace remains on. If we stay out in the sun too long, solar energy causes a sunburn, while a brief exposure leaves no traces.
The Flow, inspiration, excitement, and the pleasure associated with SAEs provide preliminary evidence for the cumulative effects of Sustained Attention. In each case, the rising intensity of the experience could be associated with the accumulation of the mental energy of Attention. Is it possible that the accumulating mental energy of Attention culminates in a lightening bolt that joins the mental and physical realm? Is there any evidence that supports this claim?
It seems that the Pulse’s mathematical behavior can be effectively mapped onto SAEs. Why is there such a close correspondence between DSD and so many significant aspects of human behavior? Why does the LA’s mathematical model have this broad applicability? Is this just an isolated incidence? Or are there other types of evidence? Is it a testable hypothesis or a meaningless generalization?
Perhaps this correspondence is merely a coincidence. Maybe there is a confounding variable, for instance some undiscovered mysterious physiological mechanism, that provides the connection. Or could there be a causal connection between DSD and living behavior? Could this be due to the possibility that living systems employ the LA as a computational tool? Is it possible that evolutionary processes take advantage of the features of DSD to enhance the potential of survival? Could it be that DSD reveals the rhythms of Attention?
There are certainly some perplexing features of SAEs that are not addressed by exclusively material explanations: 1) the disproportionate harm of Interruptions; 2) the distinct, though not precise, duration of the experience, (our Attention span) and 3) the peaks, whether inspiration or pleasure, that are associated with these SAEs.
If Attention is an exclusively material phenomenon, why does it have a span? Why does our capacity to assimilate new information suddenly end? If sustaining Attention is simply the physical accumulation of biochemicals, why do Interruptions have a severe negative impact upon our peaking potentials?
In contrast to the material explanations, the Pulse has each of these features. It describes a span; it rises to a peak; and Interruptions harm the Pulse’s ideal proportions.
For sake of discussion, let us pretend that Attention does represent a form of mental energy, as Dr. C suggests and our model implies. Let us further suppose that our mathematical model is an accurate representation of how Attention behaves. If these suppositions are true, what does our model reveal about Attention?
1) With each iteration of the computational process associated with Life’s relationship with data streams, Attention is issued. In other words, Attention comes in punctuated chunks (pulses) of energy, rather than as a continuous stream. Recent research has suggested something similar. In an exploration of brain waves, scientists have come to the conclusion that consciousness, rather than being a continuous stream, comes in individual pulses instead. As a parallel example from the Subatomic Realm, photons also come in the form of discrete quanta of energy.
2) Rather than steady, our experience of Sustained Attention is cumulative. While Attention comes in discrete chunks, our SAEs are pulse-like. In similar fashion, the acceleration of Attention’s DS also describes a Pulse. If our suppositions are correct, then we experience Attention’s energy as an accumulating acceleration that originates, rises to a peak, and then falls.
Obviously sometimes our Attention is not sustained, for instance when we are monitoring our environment for any unusual circumstances or waiting at the doctor’s office for an appointment. In these cases, our Attention does not accumulate to a peak of inspiration or pleasure. Instead, our experience of Attention seems to be flat, i.e. no rises or falls.
What does the accumulation of sustained Attention represent? We experience this accumulation as inspiration or pleasure. Could inspiration be the result of an increased capacity for Attention? Perhaps the cumulative effects of Attention result in a higher intensity of consciousness or a deeper focus.
Maybe each iteration enables us to tap into a wider range of neural networks when each chunk of Attention has a singular focus. Could the accumulating energy of Attention enhance neural connectivity? Perhaps regularly shifting Attention leaves us on the surface – 2D – shallow understanding, while sustaining Attention allows us to plumb the depths – 3D – deep insights. I am there right now. Could this be one of the reasons that evolution favors SA?
Why would Attention obey these rules? Why would it behave in a similar fashion to the Pulse? Perhaps Attention, the data stream that is the object of focus, and the computational process are a gestalt – a fully integrated system with separable components. When Attention is focused upon a data stream, the LA immediately begins generating analytics with their probabilities. Attention on: LA on. Attention off: LA off. The longer that Attention is focused on the same data stream, the greater the complexity and sophistication of the analytics that are generated.
Perhaps this is the greater meaning of our initial hypothesis. Attention that is unique to Life employs the LA as a computational tool to assess the dynamics of data streams. These dynamic analytics enable living systems to assign both significance and meaning to the Information contained in the data streams.
We have presented empirical evidence, i.e. personal, observational, and experimental, that SAEs have many of same features as the LA’s Pulse. In posing reasons for this connection, we suggested that Attention actually employs the LA to assess data streams. Biologists already believe that all Life forms from Cells to Humans have Awareness. They further believe that natural selection has worked to increase the capacity for Attention as this provides an evolutionary advantage. If our suppositions are true, then evolutionary forces would also seek to exploit the potentials of DSD.
Is there any empirical evidence for this hypothesis? As we shall see in subsequent chapters, Posner's Attention Model, Dement's Opponent Process Model of biological sleep, and the Cognitive Revolution provide further support for the notion that evolutionary forces have taken advantage of the many features of the system of DSD that is generated by the LA.