When I’ve tried to trace the way the world outside the skin gets inside our minds, I’ve begun with the waves of sound and light, the chemistry receptors of tongues and noses, the way the bioelectrical codes formed there travel up the filaments of neurons and enter the systems of thought — but there was always a gap. How did the awareness get from the code to the image?

In other places I’ve suggested that quantum theory is the new mysticism. The things we thought showered onto us from some supernatural source like God or an angel, can now be “explained” — or at least attributed — to the black box of quantum. And I’ve had a fine time mocking people who think that brains are XO just like computers and what is all this flesh and blood for unless it is to carry around the head. The quantum adepts have an equally fine time telling me I “wouldn’t understand”. They’re right.

Donald D. Hoffman explains his view on YouTube. He compares “fitness” with “reality.” It’s more about why than how. We’re used to the idea that there are many ways to frame reality but we haven’t always added in the idea that evolution means that even in terms of perception what works is preserved — the rest is dropped. Each species learns some things and stops even knowing about other things.


“What is it like to be a bat?” is the intriguing question philosopher Thomas Nagel asks in his 1974 article, first published in The Philosophical Review.” This work of Hoffman’s is a good explanation of why “being a bat” is different. If you need to catch up with this on-going subject, start here:


You can’t hear what a bat hears because you don’t need to in order to eat. It would just be more interesting information accessed by technology. But if you were human and wished to be effective, you might need the majority of the following kinds of intelligence. Each of them represents a working system process in the brain, attuned to managing something you need in order to survive.

You have evolved the potential capacity for these, but may have failed to develop them all. They are far more than the culturally determined checklist in a so-called IQ test developed for marketing-and-managing purposes among a modern population. Even more than the popular idea of “emotional intelligence.”

Each draws on raw sensations, their processing, and the systems that manage them. There are probably more than eight. No computer can do all this stuff. The systems have evolved partly through culture and partly through actual developments in the brain and throughout the body. Musical intelligence, for instance, might be as much in your muscles as your head. Think of drummers.

Eight types of intelligence

  • Logical-mathematical intelligence. …
  • Linguistic intelligence. …
  • Spatial Intelligence. …
  • Musical Intelligence. …
  • Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence. …
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence. …
  • Interpersonal Intelligence. …
  • Naturalistic intelligence.

The reason that our species has all these intelligences is that they are flexible, influence each other, and can fit any environment. When the environment exceeds our various intelligences and ability to adapt, we die. Every now and then some challenging demonstration comes along, like all the people dying of Covid who say on their deathbeds, “I thought it wasn’t real.”

Hoffman has proposed a way of thinking about all this to help us escape from the notion is nothing is real and we can impose our desires on our world. He calls it Multimodal User Interface (MUI). Here’s the explanatory theory from his Wikipedia entry.


“Multimodal user interface (MUI) theory[edit]

MUI theory[4] states that “perceptual experiences do not match or approximate properties of the objective world, but instead provide a simplified, species-specific, user interface to that world.” Hoffman argues that conscious beings have not evolved to perceive the world as it actually is but have evolved to perceive the world in a way that maximizes “fitness payoffs”. Hoffman uses the metaphor of a computer desktop and icons — the icons of a computer desktop provide a functional interface so that the user does not have to deal with the underlying programming and electronics in order to use the computer efficiently. Similarly, objects that we perceive in time and space are metaphorical icons which act as our interface to the world and enable us to function as efficiently as possible without having to deal with the overwhelming amount of data underlying reality.[5] This theory imples Epiphysicalism, i.e., physical objects, such as quarks and brains and stars are constructed by conscious agents but such physical objects have no causal power. While Panpsychism claims that rocks, mountains, the moon etc. are conscious, “Conscious Realism” in this theory (Multimodal user interface theory) does not. Instead, what it claims is all such objects are icons within the user interface of a conscious agent, but that does not entail the claim that the objects themselves are conscious.

There’s more, but that’s quite enough to assimilate at one time. What he’s basically saying is that human being sensory systems are like art works, selecting what is attractive and effective from the roaring abundance of “stuff” out there our bodily instruments can pick up. On the Multimodal Use Interface, which is our canvas, we perceive the depictions that work. (To hell with all the computer stuff that academics fiddle with, like the idea that the brain can discard the body.)

The brushstrokes or taut strings of the depiction may have so much meaning to the artist or the sharing perceivers that they begin to have “meaning”, impact. That valorization is what we’re calling “alive” and that’s why the perception of a rock can seem sentient. You can call it “panpsychism” if you want to, but the fancy Latinate word just means it’s potentially in everything. The MUI suggests that the quality is in the perceiver, not coming from some celestial or transcendent source.

Whatever is outside our skins is so abundant that there’s no way to cram it into our skulls. We only have room for a cartoon or quotation, a reduced derivation. If those are relevant and vivid, we will survive. Politics are involved and the systems of intelligence and emotion are put to use. Our present notion that all is mercantile and that wealth means survival is not working. So now the search begins to form a new paradigm, one that fits not just ourselves but the existence of all that stuff outside our skins. We hope for enough time to succeed. If that doesn’t survive, neither do we. This work is called “consciousness.”