Hallucination

#1
The recent discussion about LSD and its effects, has brought up the question of what is an 'hallucination' and what is 'real'. I have gradually come to feel that this is a false question, or at least that there are endless shades of gray between the two.

I mean, let's say meeting someone and having a discussion, or engaging in some activity counts as REAL 100%.

How about watching that same person on TV or YouTube - maybe 90%.

How about going to a lecture and taking a large dose of caffeine to ensure you stay awake for the duration - since it involves drug taking, maybe also 90%.

Is it 'real' if you have an idea on your own - so the phenomenon exists only in your mind?

How do you argue that anything that happens under LSD is real, but then if you deny that it is real, in what way can you argue that NDE's are real (unless perhaps they come into the rare category of shared NDE's

I don't think the hallucination vs real distinction is easy to defend at all.

Discuss!

David
 
#2
The recent discussion about LSD and its effects, has brought up the question of what is an 'hallucination' and what is 'real'. I have gradually come to feel that this is a false question, or at least that there are endless shades of gray between the two.

I mean, let's say meeting someone and having a discussion, or engaging in some activity counts as REAL 100%.

How about watching that same person on TV or YouTube - maybe 90%.

How about going to a lecture and taking a large dose of caffeine to ensure you stay awake for the duration - since it involves drug taking, maybe also 90%.

Is it 'real' if you have an idea on your own - so the phenomenon exists only in your mind?

How do you argue that anything that happens under LSD is real, but then if you deny that it is real, in what way can you argue that NDE's are real (unless perhaps they come into the rare category of shared NDE's

I don't think the hallucination vs real distinction is easy to defend at all.

Discuss!

David
David,
That is a very good point and the concept needs to be fleshed out. I agree. It is a very challenging topic.

If you take LSD and see musical notes as colors (a not uncommon perception on LSD), is that an hallucination? Sure, normally we don't literally see sounds. But poetry is full of those kinds of images. So even not on LSD there is some part of us that senses the world that way. LSD just brings it to the forefront. Is poetry all hallucinatory? Why do we relate to it then?
 
#3
David,
That is a very good point and the concept needs to be fleshed out. I agree. It is a very challenging topic.

If you take LSD and see musical notes as colors (a not uncommon perception on LSD), is that an hallucination? Sure, normally we don't literally see sounds. But poetry is full of those kinds of images. So even not on LSD there is some part of us that senses the world that way. LSD just brings it to the forefront. Is poetry all hallucinatory? Why do we relate to it then?
And of course, Donald Hoffman would claim that everything we see is a symbol on our 'desktop', so is seeing notes so ridiculous?

David
 
#5
Hallucinations are produced by the brain.

NDEs are not produced by the brain.
If you ascribe such powers to the physical brain, I think you hit all the problems about how physical matter can experience anything. The model in which the brain simply passes stuff on to the mind eliminates that problem.

So both these phenomena happen in the mind - as doe experiences of multiple personalities etc.

David
 
#6
The recent discussion about LSD and its effects, has brought up the question of what is an 'hallucination' and what is 'real'. I have gradually come to feel that this is a false question, or at least that there are endless shades of gray between the two.

I mean, let's say meeting someone and having a discussion, or engaging in some activity counts as REAL 100%.

How about watching that same person on TV or YouTube - maybe 90%.

How about going to a lecture and taking a large dose of caffeine to ensure you stay awake for the duration - since it involves drug taking, maybe also 90%.

Is it 'real' if you have an idea on your own - so the phenomenon exists only in your mind?

How do you argue that anything that happens under LSD is real, but then if you deny that it is real, in what way can you argue that NDE's are real (unless perhaps they come into the rare category of shared NDE's

I don't think the hallucination vs real distinction is easy to defend at all.

Discuss!

David
One could argue that what is experienced is real -- including a hallucination. Suppose I drop some acid and see a two-headed unicorn, but I know it's not literally there; I still have the real experience of seeing something not literally there. Usage of the word "real" is usually predicated on on whether something is literally existent, not on whether we experience it. Then again, I could have experienced a two-headed unicorn and taken it as real, but still, that wouldn't be definitive proof that it was real; only that I'd had a real experience of something I'd interpreted as real.

What about an interpretation that is based on no sensory datum? What if I think there are fairies, for example, even if I've never seen them? What is the epistemological status of fairies in that case? Are they, or are they not, real?

Here it seems to me that we're talking not about hallucination, but pure imagination, which says nothing about reality. I could be imagining that fairies are real when they aren't; but equally, they conceivably might be real -- it might just be that I've never seen them. What's missing in this case is any experience of fairies; if I'm honest with myself, in this case I can't claim they're real, either literally or as misinterpretation of (non-existent) experiences.

I suppose it's easy to confuse hallucination with pure imagination (defined as above). A hallucination is a real experience that can be interpreted as literally existent (real) or not. Something purely imagined isn't based on any experience, and to my mind is epistemologically less reliable than hallucination. I know we may use the two words more or less interchangeably, which is why I've been careful to say "pure" imagination to keep the distinction.

Now we come to whether or not something I perceive can be perceived by someone else. If I see a fairy, it may or may not be literally such, quite independently of my opinion about its nature. What about when two, or three, or a hundred people simultaneously see it? To be sure, if they're all honest, they're having a real experience, but whether or not it's of a real, existent fairy is still debatable.

What about when, as recently, a picture is published of something purported to be a black hole? Well, that the picture is of something real seems epistemologically sound; but whether it's actually a black hole is much less certain. Many astronomers think so, but does that make it so? Nah. It could be, and in my opinion most probably is, a pareidolic, sharable hallucination.

Astronomers are seeing something, that granted, we can all see, but they're interpreting it as a black hole, just as one might see a face in clouds. It's an interpretation that fits in with the standard model of Big Bang cosmology. Conversely, astronomers edit out (sometimes quite literally) the evidence for bridges between quasars and nearby galaxies because if they admit they're real, the standard model is likely balderdash: red shift isn't due to wholely to the Doppler effect, but the result of light from young galaxies ("quasars") being intrinsically shifted; as much a sign of relative age as as of distance.

Here I hope one can see clearly the distinction between pure imagination and hallucination as I've defined the terms. If I'm right, astronomers aren't imagining what they see in the pictures (we can all see it), so much as hallucinating an apparent reality that explains it. In general, I'd posit that scientists habitually hallucinate all sorts of (admittedly real) experiences in terms of their accepted, theoretical models of reality. Just as do we all, to some degree or other. It's a question of how near our models are to actual reality; quite possibly, few if any of them are.
 
#7
For me, the very notion of "hallucination" is a misnomer, an empty non-concept commonly (let me say, mainstreamly) used to dismiss each and every type of non-physical (or even non-mainstream in general) experience and perception (as well as "delusion" may be used - and oftentimes is used - as a derogatory term for any non-mainstream idea).

For me, there is just experience of 3 types: 1) verifiable and successfully verified (objectively true), 2) verifiable and unsuccessfully verified (objectively false), 3) verifiable but not verified (objectively unclear / dubious); 3) unverifiable (subjective).

Examples:

1) "There was a chair right here 10 minutes ago", and there are some witnesses beyond me, who can attest to it (or photo / video of this chair in this place during this time etc.)

2) "There was a chair right here 10 minutes ago", yet no one but me who was present seen it (or the photo was taken video was made and there was no chair).

3) "There was a chair here 10 minutes ago", yet I was alone and without any recording equipment.

4) "I had an experience of merging with the mind of God 10 minutes ago". Try to verify this...

The most interesting here is no. 3 - the evaluation of such lone-witness claims (were they objective or subjective) is largely dependent on our trust in this person (of course, in no. 1 and no. 2 trust also plays a role, but a lesser one).
 
#8
Hallucinations are produced by the brain.

NDEs are not produced by the brain.
Well, Jim, seems to me you're implying that the brain and consciousness are different kinds of thing; the former is something that has hallucinations, whereas the latter (i.e. whatever produces NDE's) isn't. To my mind, that's a kind of dualism, albeit perhaps not of the usual sort.

IMO, neither hallucinations nor NDEs are produced by the brain. They're both produced by consciousness, and the brain is just the appearance on the screen of perception of an alter's thought processes from "this side" of a dissociative boundary. An NDE is something that may appear on the screen of perception during the process of being close to death. At such a time, maybe the dissociative barrier expands, includes a bit more of universal consciousness or MAL.

After actual death, who knows, it may expand even further; but I don't suppose we'll know until we experience death.
 
#9
The recent discussion about LSD and its effects, has brought up the question of what is an 'hallucination' and what is 'real'.
I think the question of meaning has some bearing on this interesting question.

For example, I tend to think that my cat doesn't have a strong sense of meaning. If that's true, then from the cat's perspective, it doesn't matter if what she's seeing is real or a hallucination. If the cat doesn't have advanced cognition and sophisticated language (like people have) then nothing matters from the cat's point of view because the cat has no sophisticated concept of "matters" just like it has no sophisticated concept of "real".

Meaning itself may be an unsolvable mystery. The guy at meaningness.com thinks meaning is an interaction, kind of like a rainbow or a mirage is an interaction.

The interesting thing about rainbows and mirages is that you can take pictures of them with a camera, which is one way to "know" that they aren't hallucinations. On the other hand, while rainbows certainly exist in some way, they aren't really out there, and you can't ever touch a rainbow in nature, because, per the nature of the interaction, the rainbow recedes as you try to approach it.

I think a similar principal may be at work with regards to all the big mysteries, including the big mystery about what is real and what is hallucination. Just when you think you've got the solution, you look up and realize that the solution has receded further into the distance. People can and do choose to BELIEVE they've got their arms wrapped around this or that solution to the big questions. But I think in some technical sense, the big solutions remain elusive.
 
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#10
For example, I tend to think that my cat doesn't have a strong sense of meaning. If that's true, then from the cat's perspective, it doesn't matter if what she's seeing is real or a hallucination. If the cat doesn't have advanced cognition and sophisticated language (like people have) then nothing matters from the cat's point of view because the cat has no sophisticated concept of "matters" just like it has no sophisticated concept of "real".
I think cats have a keen sense of meaning, but about different things. For example, if another cat wanders into the garden, and ours sees it, you can see him become extremely alert almost instantaneously. They also learn a lot of meanings, often when I get out of bed in the morning, I can hear him jump down from a chair and run to the bedroom door, ready for his breakfast.

On the other hand I suspect they consider our houses filled with meaningless rubbish, that they just ignore!

David
 
#11
I once had a 'real' hallucination, without the assistance of LSD, ecstasy etc, which was as if from inside a white cone-shaped space. The cone was made apparent by many tiny black hairs spiralling down into the point. Large globules of (the most beautiful) violet/purple were slowly sinking into the cone point, something like the view you'd get if inside a lava lamp. I then noticed an uneven rim of the same colour around the edge of my vision, which was oval or eye-shaped, and that the purple blobs were breaking away from this rim. I 'stared' at this for 2-3 minutes, although my eyes were closed, against my forearm and in a totally dark room.

There is nothing to compare it to in our 'common' reality so in what way was it real? Later I made a connection, that I had been crying hard just prior and it was a visual metaphor for my tears. Also I love ingres paper that has the same tiny hairs pressed into it.

In that case NDEs are hallucinations as they must inevitably be formed from the visual vocabulary of our minds. But since they occur without brain function, the blind can see etc, these visions may be perceptions made manifest in visual form, from a previous personal or shared reality. This, I agree with Michael Larkin, comes out of consciousness.

Could NDEs be what we call seeing with our mind's eye?
 
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#12
I think cats have a keen sense of meaning, but about different things. For example, if another cat wanders into the garden, and ours sees it, you can see him become extremely alert almost instantaneously. They also learn a lot of meanings, often when I get out of bed in the morning, I can hear him jump down from a chair and run to the bedroom door, ready for his breakfast.

On the other hand I suspect they consider our houses filled with meaningless rubbish, that they just ignore!

David
I didn't mean to start a conversation about the interior life of my cat, but I think it may have some relevance to the question at hand, so let's do it. ;)

This is a conversation I have from time to time with my significant other. My perspective is that the cat may have some interior life like we humans do -- she may have some picture of reality like I do, some inner awareness of sensory input, and some very basic "thoughts". "memories", "fantasies" that she is aware of. On the other hand, it may be the case that my cat has no interior life at all, no inner picture of the world, no sense of awareness of its sensory input, no "thoughts"--in other words, while the cat undoubtedly senses the world around it and behaves in response to sensory input and in response to its own needs, it may all be "blind" instinct; the interior life may be a black box. ("Blind sight" in humans is the most similar phenomenon in humans--where some people experience blindness, but some part of their mind is still perceiving, so they can still navigate while walking through a maze and they can still tell you how many fingers you're holding up, even while experientially "seeing" nothing.)

My significant other insists that the cat has an interior life, but I say that she is just taking it as a matter of faith that the cat has an interior life, and that we will never be able to know for sure, because we can't trade places with the cat and experience the world like it does. And then my significant other says, well how do we know that other people really have an interior life, and I say that to some extant, we take it on faith that other people aren't philisophical zombies; I take it on faith that I'm not the only person who has real awareness.

Please note that I'm not trying to argue that I know whether the cat has awareness or not, and I'm certainly not trying to argue in favor of solipsism. But I am trying to make the point that in some technical, logical sense, we can't really say with absolute certainty that we know what it's like to be a cat. I have no problem with going through life with the faith that other people and creatures have real interior lives, but I do like to keep in mind that it is a question of faith.

That's kind of the point I'm trying to make with the idea of "touching a rainbow". We can't ever touch a rainbow that we see outside in the sky. But culturally we very often prefer to take it as a matter of faith that we are touching the rainbow. Whenever I hear people with deep convictions about the absolute nature of "extended consciousness" or the absolute nature of the afterlife, or the absolulte nature of some realm beyond this one, or the absolute nature of mind at large, I often feel that in some technical sense , they are accepting their convictions on faith, because we can never know for sure that there's not something BEYOND extended consciousness, beyond the afterlife, beyond the spirit realm, beyond mind at large, that may be unavailable to us, even in our most mind expanded states. No matter how much we know or experience, we can never know for sure that there's not more to it all, that will always remain "just around the corner" like a rainbow will always remain in the distance, no matter how much we try to get close to it.
 
#13
I didn't mean to start a conversation about the interior life of my cat, but I think it may have some relevance to the question at hand, so let's do it. ;)

This is a conversation I have from time to time with my significant other. My perspective is that the cat may have some interior life like we humans do -- she may have some picture of reality like I do, some inner awareness of sensory input, and some very basic "thoughts". "memories", "fantasies" that she is aware of. On the other hand, it may be the case that my cat has no interior life at all, no inner picture of the world, no sense of awareness of its sensory input, no "thoughts"--in other words, while the cat undoubtedly senses the world around it and behaves in response to sensory input and in response to its own needs, it may all be "blind" instinct; the interior life may be a black box. ("Blind sight" in humans is the most similar phenomenon in humans--where some people experience blindness, but some part of their mind is still perceiving, so they can still navigate while walking through a maze and they can still tell you how many fingers you're holding up, even while experientially "seeing" nothing.)
Ideas like this have been proposed, but as I see it there is a big problem - you have to assume that animals do things analogous to us humans, but that the mechanism by which they happen is utterly different. Thus humans (and cats) engage in courtship behavior prior to mating. Now we know what motivates humans to do this, but we have to imagine that cats (say) have a similar but totally unconscious set of activities that really serve no purpose whatsoever.

As regards things like blindsight - I don't know. I always wonder if we are hearing the full truth about some phenomena like this - or maybe the part that fits the materialistic agenda. There is a lot of meticulously (and professionally) accumulated data about a huge swathe of strange mental phenomena in humans - see Irreducible Mind, for example.
My significant other insists that the cat has an interior life, but I say that she is just taking it as a matter of faith that the cat has an interior life, and that we will never be able to know for sure, because we can't trade places with the cat and experience the world like it does. And then my significant other says, well how do we know that other people really have an interior life, and I say that to some extant, we take it on faith that other people aren't philisophical zombies; I take it on faith that I'm not the only person who has real awareness.
Philosophy is full of blind alleys like that, but for example, if you are the only aware human, then that leaves nobody aware to have collected the science on which this whole debate depends!
Please note that I'm not trying to argue that I know whether the cat has awareness or not, and I'm certainly not trying to argue in favor of solipsism. But I am trying to make the point that in some technical, logical sense, we can't really say with absolute certainty that we know what it's like to be a cat. I have no problem with going through life with the faith that other people and creatures have real interior lives, but I do like to keep in mind that it is a question of faith.
There is an important sense in which science can never prove anything. Take Ohm's law for example. You take a resistor and apply a voltage and measure the current. However, you can only take a finite number of measurements, so if you plot the data, and get a straight line, it might be that the curve diverges from linearity in between the points. You can't push things to absurd limits in the way that you can mathematics.
That's kind of the point I'm trying to make with the idea of "touching a rainbow". We can't ever touch a rainbow that we see outside in the sky. But culturally we very often prefer to take it as a matter of faith that we are touching the rainbow. Whenever I hear people with deep convictions about the absolute nature of "extended consciousness" or the absolute nature of the afterlife, or the absolute nature of some realm beyond this one, or the absolute nature of mind at large, I often feel that in some technical sense , they are accepting their convictions on faith, because we can never know for sure that there's not something BEYOND extended consciousness, beyond the afterlife, beyond the spirit realm, beyond mind at large, that may be unavailable to us, even in our most mind expanded states. No matter how much we know or experience, we can never know for sure that there's not more to it all, that will always remain "just around the corner" like a rainbow will always remain in the distance, no matter how much we try to get close to it.
Well we don't really do faith here! I myself would only say I am fairly sure there is a hereafter - there seems to be a fair amount of evidence that is hard to explain well in other ways, but all you can ever do is balance probabilities. Nobody demands believe here. By giving up unconditional faith, you remove that niggling feeling in the back of your head that what you profess to believe might be wrong!

Has your significant other taken a look at this forum?

David
 
#14
Ideas like this have been proposed, but as I see it there is a big problem - you have to assume that animals do things analogous to us humans, but that the mechanism by which they happen is utterly different. Thus humans (and cats) engage in courtship behavior prior to mating. Now we know what motivates humans to do this, but we have to imagine that cats (say) have a similar but totally unconscious set of activities that really serve no purpose whatsoever.
If courtship behavior (that serves to demonstrate genetic fitness or let others know they're interested in mating) developed in our prehistoric ancestors before self awareness came online, then I think this would be less of an issue. Courtship behavior among contemporary humans would just be a more self-aware (and verbal) version of behavior that developed earlier. The cats would still be doing the non-aware version.

As regards things like blindsight - I don't know. I always wonder if we are hearing the full truth about some phenomena like this - or maybe the part that fits the materialistic agenda. There is a lot of meticulously (and professionally) accumulated data about a huge swathe of strange mental phenomena in humans - see Irreducible Mind, for example.
I agree that blind sight is a controversial phenomenon. The only reason I mentioned it is because the idea of it is a good way to help my conversation partner (normally my significant other) understand my point about the cat.

A couple years ago, I had an elderly family member land in the hospital and she developed a bad case of "hospital delirium" (partially the result of a serious medication withdrawal), and she would say things like "I can see the shirt you're wearing, but I can't see you" and "I can't see the cup of orange juice that's on the table". I think that's close to blindsight. I like thinking about the idea of blindsight, and I don't think it necessarily supports materialism--I could imagine the concept of blindsight being helpful to explain psi phenomena, especially psychic abilities.

Philosophy is full of blind alleys like that, but for example, if you are the only aware human, then that leaves nobody aware to have collected the science on which this whole debate depends!
If I'm the only aware human, it may just be the nature of the universe (or whatever is beyond my awareness) to manifest a bunch of other people (philosophical zombies) who behave as if they're aware. It may be the nature of the universe to have these p-zombies collect scientific data and write about the science of why they're not p-zombies. (Sounds like something dream characters may do in a dream, for example.)

There is an important sense in which science can never prove anything. Take Ohm's law for example. You take a resistor and apply a voltage and measure the current. However, you can only take a finite number of measurements, so if you plot the data, and get a straight line, it might be that the curve diverges from linearity in between the points. You can't push things to absurd limits in the way that you can mathematics.
Here I believe that we are in agreement. I think what I'm trying to work out for myself is what do I really know or experience and what do I take on faith.

Well we don't really do faith here! I myself would only say I am fairly sure there is a hereafter - there seems to be a fair amount of evidence that is hard to explain well in other ways, but all you can ever do is balance probabilities. Nobody demands believe here. By giving up unconditional faith, you remove that niggling feeling in the back of your head that what you profess to believe might be wrong!
I am too hung up on the idea that the universe (or whatever is beyond) may provide people with evidence (near-death experiences, mystical experience, shamanic journeys, psi experiences, etc), but that evidence may not reflect reality. What if there is something beyond that just creates these illusions for us? How would we ever know?

Has your significant other taken a look at this forum?
Nah, she has other things she likes to do ... I will peridocially give her a summary of what's being discussed, though, as she does have some background and interest in spiritual ideas and she is kind enough to humor me and my big ideas. LOL.
 
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#15
Here I believe that we are in agreement. I think what I'm trying to work out for myself is what do I really know or experience and what do I take on faith.
Well I think this is the point to deal with first. NO evidence is ever logically enough for any conclusion. That means that ideologically committed people are usually not persuaded by evidence of any sort. This is exactly why I value this site, we don't have a set of beliefs - OK the site has gradually acquired a non-materialist slant, but this has happened because the standard explanations for a whole range of phenomena turned out to be so weak. Also, I guess convinced materialists don't really want to think about alternatives.

The rules of scientific discussion are sufficiently weak that scientists can play dirty.

Thus they claim to know a lot about consciousness because they can measure electrical activity in the brain. But they can measure electrical activity in a cat too - yet some would indeed argue that animals don't have consciousness. If you really want to ground yourself ideas in experience, you might try this guy:

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00577/full

In recent years he has produced more videos on his ideas - he is easy to find.

David
 
#16
What if hallucinations, NDEs and LSD or Ayahuasca visions, whether ecstatic or scary, are not so much a place as a state of mind, informed by consciousness which (Jung says) is also collective?

We are told by NDE experiencers that the dead can be met, but it seems an exclusive experience. Has anyone who's astral-travelled been able to rendezvous with another living person?
 
#17
We are told by NDE experiencers that the dead can be met, but it seems an exclusive experience.
There are, of course a small number of shared NDE's, where someone at the deathbed actually shares part of what is actually a DE for the other person.
Has anyone who's astral-travelled been able to rendezvous with another living person?
I have a feeling Bob Monroe reported something like that.

David
 
#18
There are, of course a small number of shared NDE's, where someone at the deathbed actually shares part of what is actually a DE for the other person.

I have a feeling Bob Monroe reported something like that.

David
Yes, shared NDEs are very significant, although the living participant seems to be just a witness, not communicated with by those greeting the one who caused the NDE.

The three dream visitations I've had with my dead mother were completely pertinent to current events in my life but one was in an 'unreal' setting created by my imagination. The other two were in a familiar place to us though set in the day while I was asleep at night. So were they 'real' disembodied connections and could she have created them, or did I? You don't have to answer these! I'm working on it

Thank you, I will look into Bob Monroe. I am still getting to grips with your last link
 
#19
My significant other insists that the cat has an interior life, but I say that she is just taking it as a matter of faith that the cat has an interior life, and that we will never be able to know for sure, because we can't trade places with the cat and experience the world like it does.
Excuse me butting in on the cat reference. For me, while cats are cold-blooded killers who get away with murder, so that definitely puts them on the Dark Side, there must be some reason why they were revered by the Egyptians.
 
#20
Well I think this is the point to deal with first. NO evidence is ever logically enough for any conclusion. That means that ideologically committed people are usually not persuaded by evidence of any sort. This is exactly why I value this site, we don't have a set of beliefs - OK the site has gradually acquired a non-materialist slant, but this has happened because the standard explanations for a whole range of phenomena turned out to be so weak. Also, I guess convinced materialists don't really want to think about alternatives.

The rules of scientific discussion are sufficiently weak that scientists can play dirty.

Thus they claim to know a lot about consciousness because they can measure electrical activity in the brain. But they can measure electrical activity in a cat too - yet some would indeed argue that animals don't have consciousness. If you really want to ground yourself ideas in experience, you might try this guy:

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00577/full

In recent years he has produced more videos on his ideas - he is easy to find.

David
I like Hoffman's metaphor about our sensory experience being like icons on a computer screen. The linked article goes over my head quite a bit. I watched one of his videos years ago; may be time for me to revisit his ideas.
 
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