My ketamine session on the 19th was the last one I’ll ever have with Kaiser Permanente. That’s because, during my work’s open enrollment, I decided to switch to Aetna because Kaiser is so atrocious when it comes to dealing with mental health. Since Aetna has no doctors of its own, that also means my last session was also the last one I’ll have in San Francisco! With any luck, I’ll have future sessions in San Mateo just as I originally did.
Well, my latest session was like a milder version of the previous one, probably because they were only a week apart. I had much the same thoughts as before, but I felt less of an impact. There were a few new thoughts this time, however.
I thought about how much time I spend thinking with a bird’s eye or grand view of the world and often lose focus of what’s happening around me. Not just our eyes but our focus seem to work like camera lenses. Zooming into something in our immediate vicinity can cause the bigger picture to go out of focus while zooming out can cause it to come into focus but obscure the details. We can see the forest or certain trees but not both at the same time.
I also thought about how we always need to map or tie some concept to something else. We are much worse at abstract reasoning than at reasoning about concrete things, and that’s why we often need examples. Even our memories are that way. We have an easier time recalling the person, the face, and so forth more easily than the person’s name.
But why? An entire person is far more complex than a name. Kids learn addition and subtraction by working with fake money to illustrate the Arabic numeral system works, but even money is more complex than the number 1 or 13.
Well, when we consciously think of tangible, real-world objects like people, we don’t try to think of all the aspects of components of people, generally speaking. We only vaguely think of their outward appearance and broad personality traits. We don’t of how their digestive systems must work in great detail or how the molecules that make up their heart must be interacting with each other. Our prefrontal cortex (PFC) only thinks about the concept of a person in broad strokes. But why is that concept easier for the PFC to comprehend than a number? Is it really any simpler?
No, but there is no “number 1” out there in physical space, so we turn to something else to tie it to. If we can’t tie a concept to something tangible, it can feel as though we are trying to work with nothing in terms of trying to understand it. That's why understanding something abstract is more intellectually demanding if there’s nothing concrete to tie the concepts or rules to.
It ultimately comes down to what our senses can perceive, it seems. The tethering of concepts generally ends with something that could be perceived through our senses. Based on what this article on object identification, this video on slime molds, and that video on quantum computing say, I suspect parts of our brain function like a slime mold’s “intelligence”, which is like bubble in that a bubble is a mindless thing that has great computational power to find the most efficient surface area for the shape of an object dipped into it.
Bubbles simply wiggle around until they minimize their energy. Quantum computers similarly can be programmed to map problems onto quantum objects, thereby exploiting nature’s way of quickly and efficiently finding the optimal solution. To find the smallest possible surface for something computationally can be a very complex and involved process, requiring sophisticated mathematics.
For the PFC, trying to, say, identify objects in the real world would be like a classical computer trying to find the smallest surface area that can be stretched over some bizarre shape. It would require complex mathematics and be far too slow and mentally dreaming. That must be why it’s so much easier for us to understand concepts if we can map them to tangible objects. Something far “smarter” than our PFC has done most of the heavy lifting for it.
Anyway, the session had a small impact on my ability to think clearly and a smaller one on my mood.