Life puts down the article on the Primacy of Attention. “Hmmm? Very interesting. The biological organisms that I embody exist as a hierarchy. Each level of the hierarchy acts as both an autonomous sub-whole as well as a dependent sub-part. I exist on each level as the parts and the whole. Sounds about right. I permeate all aspects of living systems.
The Author then makes the bold claim that Attention, the Living Algorithm, and I, are an inseparable trio. He states that my innate nature impels me to strive to survive through time in order to actualize my potentials. As an urge, I am a big picture type. As such, I require assistance. I don't want to be bothered with petty details or trivial analysis. I need an assistant who will act as my intermediary with the environment. This assistant must follow my directives and screen out the inessential. Attention provides this function.
I also require a system that digests environmental data streams. The Living Algorithm specializes in digesting data streams. Her digestion process provides the data streams with potential meaning. By digesting data streams, the Living Algorithm could provide me with the ongoing information I need to fulfill my purpose. As such, the Living Algorithm could be my operating system.
While a great mathematical tool, the Living Algorithm operates automatically and indiscriminately. Without supervision, the Living Algorithm provides me with an overwhelming amount of information. She needs direction and guidance. She needs to know which data streams to digest. Plus I need some kind of filter that will only send me the most relevant of her infinite number of measures (derivatives). It seems that Attention could provide both of these functions.
As such, Attention could be my intermediary with the Living Algorithm. Attention, whether conscious or subconscious, employs the Living Algorithm’s mathematical process to provide me with information that is relevant to my urge for self-actualization. Attention is my essential tool to screen out the inessential and provide me with only relevant information. Similarly, the Living Algorithm is Attention’s essential tool – digesting data streams to provide meaning. Accordingly, we are an inseparable meaning-making trio.
Attention acts as my filter for environment information. Just as the engineer can adjust the settings on his filter, I have some control over which environmental data streams that Attention rejects and which are passed on. Just as a water filter, for instance, automatically rejects impurities and only passes on the purified water for consumption,, Attention automatically rejects the inessential and only passes on the data streams that have more potential meaning for me. In a significant way, Attention represents my original filter.
Our sensory organs create order out of the chaotic flow of environmental information. Our senses organize the chaos by generating countless data streams from the continuous flow of information.
Attention and the Living Algorithm act as a unit upon these data streams. Attention differentiates relevant data streams from the total data stream bombardment. As Attention focuses upon relevant data streams, the Living Algorithm digests them. Attention determines which digested information is transmitted to me, Life. In other words, Attention acts as a filter for both the Living Algorithm and for me, Life.
I require the Attention/Living Algorithm synergy to fulfill my potentials. Lacking ambition, Matter just is. Accordingly he has no need for Attention. I can relate to Matter. I too have a material component that responds automatically to external stimuli. But I also have a biological component that adjusts to environmental circumstances to fulfill my urge to survive and thrive. Attention is required to satisfy this urge.
Because Attention enables me to receive and respond to ever changing environmental input, I operate in a system that is open to new info energy. In contrast, Matter operates in a closed system, where the same physical energy is continually re-circulated. Further, the Attention/Living Algorithm synergy provides rates of change that give me a sense of time, which Matter doesn’t have. Finally, due to Attention’s environmental give and take, my environmental interactions consecutive. Newton’s ‘equal and opposite’ law of dynamics imply that Matter’s interactions are instantaneous. Having the ability of Attention differentiates me from Matter in more ways than I even imagined.
But the question remains. How does Attention fulfill this crucial function? What mathematical mechanism does she employ to provide me with the most relevant digested information? I certainly don’t know. To find out, Cell says I must read the next article in the series, The Random Screen.
Life turns off the computer and reflects upon what she has learned: “Whoa! I had no idea of the Decay Factor’s importance to the Living Algorithm. To be honest, with the excitement over our building relationship I had forgotten all about his existence. It’s evident that the Decay Factor is the key to regulating the Living Algorithm’s output. He’s like a dial for regulating the intensity of Cell’s process. Intriguing. Hmmm? I wonder how Attention hooks up to the Living Algorithm’s Decay Factor?”
“In a prior article the Author developed the notion that organisms, which I embody, require a mathematical system for digesting environmental information. He went on to provide many reasons why the Living Algorithm could be the very system that extracts information from the seemingly chaotic noise of our surroundings. In the preceding articles he went on to suggest that Attention serves as an essential intermediary between the Living Algorithm and me, Life. One of Attention’s most important functions, in this regard, is to censor random data streams by focusing upon data stream acceleration, which the Living Algorithm supplies. This process prevents information overload – just as our Email service deletes spam. This is a relatively automatic mathematical process.
“While appreciative of Attention’s somewhat mechanistic service, I wondered if I had any specific control over the services Attention provides. If not, it would seem that I didn’t have any choice.
“When I posed my questions to Cell, she said in her typically laconic way that I regulate Attention via her Decay Factor. At the time, I had no idea what the Decay Factor was, much less its potentials. Cell directed me to the recent article, which explored the mathematics behind the Living Algorithm’s Decay Factor. Let’s review.
“The Living Algorithm’s specialty is digesting data streams. Her digestive process smoothes out the rough edges by filling in valleys and cutting off peaks of the data stream. In this way, she imparts shape to the data so that meaningful patterns are more recognizable to me. This process gleans meaningful information from a string of numbers.
“The Living Algorithm’s Decay Factor regulates the shaping process. The smaller the Decay Factor, the more volatile the output. The larger the Decay Factor, the more sedentary the output. These results are purely mathematical. Cell still had not answered my question regarding how I regulate Attention.
I invited Cell over to watch the sunset. We enjoyed a glass of good California Syrah with a variety of cheeses, olive oil, aged balsamic and dried cherries. We enjoyed Just Being for a while. At the magical point when the sun sinks below the horizon, I popped my questions: “What part do I play in this seemingly mechanistic process? You’ve introduced me to Attention and the Decay Factor. But how do they link up? And what control do I have over their interaction?”
Cell: “Before we examine your role in my system, we must first explore what cognitive science says about attention. In this manner, we will learn about how biological attention works and simultaneously gain an insight into the informational attention of my system.”
“A word of caution is in store. Attention is a tightly defined construct with precise functions in my Living Algorithm System. Attention is loosely defined in cognitive science. As we examine the experimental results, we must ask ourselves if these two versions of Attention could be the same? It is entirely possible that we are using the same word to mean separate things. With these cautionary words in mind, check out the next article – Posner's Attention Model & the Decay Factor. It contains a discussion of cognitive science’s current view of biological attention and it's relationship with my Decay Factor.”
Life: “Wow! I finally have an active role in this drama. According to the Author’s model, I can turn the Decay Factor up and down to regulate the intensity of my Attention.
"Plus, the Model provides a mathematical definition for Attention, a concept that is dear to me. This aspect of the study has been a delight and an amazement. The Living Algorithm System provides a mathematical foundation for concepts that are associated with my living systems. These concepts are of great interest to me because they differentiate me from Matter. For instance, Matter can’t pay Attention.
“Amazingly enough, the Living Algorithm System provides these everyday concepts with tight mathematical definitions. For instance, Consciousness is linked with the Active Pulse, Unconsciousness with the Rest Pulse, and Subconscious processes (unconscious cognition) with the Liminals. That is just one set of familiar constructs that have mathematical definitions. But there are others. Instants are defined as a data point, while Moments are defined as the trajectory of a particular point in the data stream. More amazing still, Experiences are associated with a completed Pulse of Attention. It is exciting to me that each of these constructs is associated with a unique feature of the Living Algorithm's mathematics.
“And now Attention. It seems that Attention is somehow linked to the Living Algorithm's Decay Factor. It is exhilarating that I am able to regulate Attention by turning the Decay Factor knob. This is the first element of the Living Algorithm System that I have had any control over. The other concepts – Experience and the like, were simply mathematical constructs that behaved more or less automatically. At last the Living Algorithm System provides me, Life, with some autonomy in dealing with my environment.
"I turn the Decay Factor up when I want to survey my environment in a state of general attention – Posner’s Intrinsic Awareness. When something unusual captures my interest, I turn the dial down so that I can attune to particular features in a state of specific attention – Posner’s Phase Alertness. Further, the features of the environment that capture my Attention are those whose data streams are accelerating with respect to me. I, Life, pick and choose from the data streams that are most relevant to my quest for self-actualization. When I find a significant data stream, I shift to Posner’s Orienting Network to focus more closely. Once I’ve gathered enough information about the object or idea of interest, my Posner’s Executive Network takes over. I decide whether to do nothing or take action.
"These congruencies between the Living Algorithm System, Posner’s Attention Model, and me are simply amazing. But how much control do I really have? Do I really have any control?”
We don't know. To find out, check out the next article – Science Guys vs. Life on Choice.
Life puts down the article: "Simply amazing. Instead of making no decisions, as many claim, I regularly choose whether to participate or not."
Cell: "In some ways, this is your most important decision. Before proceeding, I would like to pay homage to you."
Life: "Pay homage to me? But I owe so much to you. Without your support the Science Guys would still be intimidating me with their sophisticated terminology and attempting to dominate me with their mathe-magical equations. Because of you I can slough off their pathetic attempts to put me in their deterministic boxes."
Cell: "Thanks for your support. Yet my only purpose in being is to magnify your glory. Without you, I am nothing – just an equation without a purpose. I am only activated when you shine the light of Attention on me. In fact, none of us exist without your urge to fulfill your potentials – Attention, Mind, Consciousness, the Subconscious - the whole shebang.
"Further, my System only addresses the logic behind your information digestion process. It doesn't address the mystery of the origination of your urge to self-actualize. My System provides certain boundaries and mechanisms behind your transaction with Matter. Yet it says nothing about the myriad and miraculous ways in which you manifest yourself. My mathematics can say nothing about the urge behind the urge - the miracle that activates the living systems you embody."
Life: "Wow. Thanks. Had never thought of it that way."
Cell: "Not only that. The Science Guys love you dearly as well, even though they are in a state of denial. In contrast to the bulk of humanity, they have devoted their entire lives to attempting to uncover your mysteries. They worship at your altar. Their main flaw is overestimating their ability to understand and underestimating your magnificence. They feel that their exceptional talent for employing reason to solve difficult problems can somehow illuminate the entire Mystery that lies at the heart of Being. Unfortunately, their pride blinds them to the reality of your paradoxical grandeur.
Instead of arrogantly claiming to understand everything, I wish they would follow the lead of Newton, an undisputed star of Science, who laid the foundations for exploring the material world. Despite his amazing achievements, he remained in awe before the wonder of existence. Let me share something he wrote.
“I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
Life: “Wow! What humility.”
Cell: "Instead of claiming absolute understanding, why can't the Science Guys acknowledge their Ignorance before the Uncertainty. I wish they could let go of their immature posturing and say, 'Your urge to self-actualize has driven us to explore your wonders. And yet our feeble attempts have only scratched the surface of your glory. There is still so much we don't understand. Thank you for providing us with the passionate craving to comprehend your mysteries. It has provided meaning and purpose to our lives. Although complete comprehension is forever outside our grasp, we bow before you."
Life: "All this praise is giving me a big head. This pride distracts my urge to self-actualize. Besides I still have many questions. What is the role of Consciousness in the Author’s model? Prior articles associate the Active and Rest Pulse with Consciousness and Unconsciousness. How do these constructs fit into the Attention/Living Algorithm synergy?”
Cell: "To find some answers, check out the Author's next article - Consciousness, Attention & the Decay Factor."