Navigational-Mind theory

The logical Sequence that leads to Navigational Consciousness

This new paradigm— Navigational Consciousness— is so foreign to our everyday understanding that it takes a while to fully grasp the concept and the consequences. Whenever I try to explain Navigational Consciousness, I find myself going through a sequence, trying to slowly step-by-step show the logic that gave rise to the new paradigm. The final outcome—the final conclusion—of this long difficult thought-process is that human beings have a very strange kind of dual-consciousness based on navigation . This dual-consciousness has a neurological and anatomical foundation that makes perfect sense when it is understood. I wrote two books explaining this: Consciousness: A New Slant on an Old Conundrum (2017), and The Confusion Caused by Being Your Own Twin (2018). My background is in optometry and blind rehabilitation. This is my theory, based on my education and experience—you will not find Navigational-Mind Theory if you do a web search. I consider what I do now (in my retirement) cognitive philosophy. Here is the logic that underpins Navigational Consciousness:

All Creatures That Move Have Brains Attached to Nervous Systems

Neuroscientists say that the reason we have a brain attached to a nervous system is so that we can move in a purposeful and adaptive way . This makes sense and the evidence is clear: all creatures that move—bugs, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, human beings—have brains attached to nervous systems. Contrary to this, all plants—living things that don’t move—do not have brains attached to nervous systems. Plants also do not have muscles attached to nerves, nor do they have an embodied sensory system that operates in synchrony with a motor system. A brain is essentially useless unless it has something—like a real or robotic body—to purposefully move.

We have a Nervous System so we can Navigate Straight-Ahead

The neuroscience perspective described above can be refined further using dual-process theory. Purposeful movement is a broad way to consider evolution’s intentions, but the main reason we have brains attached to nervous systems is so that we can navigate straight-ahead . Our whole anatomy and physiology attests to this observation. Our feet point straight-ahead. Our eyes point straight ahead. Our face points straight-ahead. Our muscles are designed to move the whole body forward.

Evolution Designed Bilateral Creatures

From this understanding that brains and nervous systems enable straight-ahead navigation, we can now ask the next logical question: What did nature design—what was the engineering plan—that enabled straight-ahead navigation? The answer is that evolution designed bilateral creatures . Everything that navigates uses a bilateral alternating gait to move straight-ahead. Bugs, birds, fish, mammals, human beings are all bilateral creatures.

A Control System is Needed to Enable Movement

A creature designed with mirror-image halves can only move if a control system is in place that enables and modulates momentum and oscillation. This control system is located in the brain, although there is a distributed network of nerves throughout the body that inextricably operate synchronously with the brain. The job of this neuro-control system is to provide the energy necessary to get the body in motion, to keep the forward momentum going, and to precisely stop the momentum as needed. Very significantly, the brain—in conjunction with the distributed nerve network—must also “stitch” the two mirror-sides of the body together in a continuous and seamless harmony.

Mutually-Exclusive Oscillation

This neuro-control system—in its very refined and sophisticated state—has become known as the mind. Notice that the mind must send two simultaneous signals to the two sides of the body to enable movement. Essentially, the dual-signals simultaneously instruct one side of the body to move and the other side of the body to stabilize (not to move). This is a mutually-exclusive oscillation; when one side is on the other side is off . This on/off movement-fractal (as I call it) can be seen operating in the body at various scales: When one set of muscles is activated, a corresponding set of muscles is inhibited.

Dual-Minds Emerged Through Evolution

Bilaterality emerged about 600 million years ago in the Cambrian Age. Therefore, over the past 600 million years, evolution kept experimenting and modifying bilaterality, building evermore complex and capable creatures. The result of over half a billion years of evolution is that the two control systems—that system which activates muscles balanced against a system which inhibits muscles—eventually became quite sophisticated. In other words, the neuro-control system became so sophisticated that eventually dual-minds emerged —one mind specializing in activation of movement and the other mind specializing in stabilization (inhibition) of movement . These two minds evolved to be mutually-exclusive and simultaneous.

This theory of the navigational-brain replaces the notion that we have a right brain and a left brain. Bilateral brain hemispheres are to be expected in a bilateral creature. The activities of the two brain hemispheres inform us about the operation of the overall navigational-brain, which is a whole-body phenomenon. In other words, there is a partial, incompletely thought-out truth to left/brain and right/brain.

The Senses Must Coordinate in Perfect Harmony with the Muscles

To move straight-ahead requires a dual-system for controlling muscles. However, the senses must also coordinate in perfect harmony with the muscles if the organism is to navigate fluidly and accurately. Therefore, the senses evolved to use a dually-controlled sensory system that works seamlessly with the dually-controlled muscles. In other words, the sensory systems—vision and hearing, for example—had to evolve in parallel with the muscles. When a subset of muscles is activated , associated sensory sets are also simultaneously activated. Likewise, when a subset of muscles is inhibited, associated sensory sets are simultaneously inhibited. The physical design of our bodies is such that our muscles and our senses operate in a perfectly coordinated mutually-exclusive fashion. This mutually-linked activity is called embodiment .

The understanding of embodiment is helpful as we research specific muscle sets or sensory actions—in other words, whatever we discover about an activity in one unit of the embodied system can be postulated to also exist in other sensory systems and muscle sets . For example, if we find that the vision system has quantum properties, we could logically postulate that similar and parallel quantum properties would be found in the other senses and in motor control systems (and we do).

Egocentric Processing and Allocentric Processing

The sensory system that simultaneously operates when the muscles are in a stabilization-mode (when muscles are getting the don’t-move signal), I call egocentric processing. The sensory system that simultaneously operates when muscles are in movement-mode (when they are getting the move signal), I call allocentric processing. I chose these two terms because they are used in my professional field (orientation and mobility)—egocentric and allocentric are navigational concepts. Over time, I began to use the terms egocentric mind and allocentric mind and egocentric consciousness and allocentric consciousness . Mind is the whole-body neuro-control system designed to activate and inhibit muscles. Consciousness refers to two ways to attend: egocentric attention contrasted with allocentric awareness . Consciousness can be further defined as a proprioceptive-phenomenon. The derivation and evolution of consciousness—using navigational-brain theory—is explained below.

What Are the Senses Doing in a Navigational Brain?

What exactly are the senses doing in a navigational-brain? The answer is that every sensory system is simultaneously gathering information about the background (scene, gestalt) as well as the foreground (form, pattern, figures). In other words, the senses are solving the puzzle of figure-ground : What is the figure and what is the background in which the figure is embedded? Navigation is made possible because we are able to find and follow pathways around the solid objects in our domain. The two distinct sensory minds of bilateral creatures (allocentric and egocentric) are solving the figure/ground dilemma in exact harmony with the muscle sets that are activating and inhibiting muscle systems.

Two Ways to Attend

To navigate implies intention. We navigate to get somewhere. Once intention is set, the act of navigation must include a constant attending to the surround. Knowing about the duality of the sensorimotor system enables us to speculate that there would be two ways to attend. That is, indeed, what we find: we can pay attention to something , or we can be aware of ourselves and the environment (the map) as we navigate around objects and follow clear pathways. Attention and awareness are mutually exclusive yet simultaneous activities. We cannot attend to an object-of-regard the very same time as we take in (are aware of) the background scene. Therefore, there is an attention system (called egocentric processing) that operates in harmony with the mind that sends the don’t-move (stabilize) system, and there is an awareness system (called allocentric processing) that operates in harmony with the mind that sends the move signal.

Egocentric processing, which only operates in stabilization-mode (during muscular inhibition) requires a seer-seen process. In other words, the egocentric mode occurs when we (as an entity, an ego) lock-on (pay attention) to objects in a domain. To locate an object in the environment requires a sense of ego as separate from an object. The process of locating an object and holding it in the mind long enough to approach or avoid the object, necessitates this seer-seen dichotomy, an “ego and other-than-ego” perspective.

The Ego and the Self are Frames of Reference

However, allocentric processing, operating only in movement-mode, does not require a system that approaches or avoids objects. Instead, allocentric processing requires a system that avoids objects. We flow along pathways and around the objects that imped forward movement using allocentric processing. The entity that avoids obstacles and flows over a mental map is called the self (to contrast it from an ego ). The ego locates, analyses, and remembers information about the characteristic of objects/others, and sets up intention to move away from or toward features in a domain. There is no movement in egocentric mode . Contrary to the egoic mode, the self does move along pathways, flowing around obstacles. The self does not analyze or remember objects, instead, it remembers relationships, networks, and GPS coordinates. The self is responsible for relational movement.

The Egoic Mind

The egoic mind eventually evolved into a sophisticated system that names, categorizes, analyzes, and remembers that which is perceived by the external senses. In other words, the egoic mind operates only in regard to manifest entities, “attaching to” (fixating or tracking) these entities. The egoic mind also creates emotional labels that become associated with objects-of-regard: we avoid that which is distasteful or harmful and approach that which is beneficial or pleasing. Because of proprioceptive memory, the ego can also use language. The self has no access to language.

The Allocentric Mind

The self (the allocentric mind) eventually evolved into a sophisticated system that projects and remembers animated navigational maps. The brain stores animated maps of navigational territories and routes through domains. The self does not attach or have emotions regarding entities in a domain. The ego and the self are mutually-exclusive but they operate simultaneously. In other words, we operate using two minds that are simultaneous but which have mutually-exclusive (contrary) activation systems. We tend to think of reality as visual, but the vision system is just a projected animated map. The scene projected in front of us is created by the mind so that we can navigate straight-ahead. That scene is totally manufactured by the mind. Remember that visual projection is embodied—all the other senses are operating in perfect harmony with visual projection.

Two Different Frames of Reference

Because I taught blind students to navigate through diverse domains (neighborhoods, malls, city centers, and so on), I eventually realized I had to teach both allocentrically and egocentrically. I came to see that creatures that move straight-ahead use two different frames of reference: an egocentric temporal frame of reference and an allocentric spatial frame of reference . Teaching the ego how to navigate required that the seer (the ego) and the seen (the objects, the foreground, the figures) had to be understood. Teaching the self how to navigate required that the function of the ego be inhibited so that the background (the scene, the gestalt, networks and relationships) could be “understood” (felt). I ended up with an overlapping egocentric curriculum and allocentric curriculum. I taught blind kids to perceive using their egocentric temporal frame of reference, and I taught students how to perceive using their allocentric spatial frame of reference.

The Ego is Narcissistic; The Self is Relationship-Based.

The egocentric frame of reference requires that the student realize (sense) that they are the center of all things no matter where they stand—the world always revolves around the egoic center. The ego goes from one event to the next—it uses temporal (serial) processing. Contrary to this, there is no center to allocentric processing. The self is a spatial process that flows over an animated map. The self is not the center of the universe; the self is part of a network-t uses p[parallel processing. The ego is narcissistic; the self is relationship-based.

Attention and Awareness

If the entire reason we are engineered bilaterally is to navigate, and if navigation requires dual-processing, then we would expect to find duality whenever we attempt to explain the mind. It is not surprising, therefore, that from the two mutually-exclusive sensorimotor control systems came two ways to gather information about the environment: attention and awareness .

This understanding that there are two ways to attend is the beginning of our understanding the origin of binary language. In other words, we find matching or opposing (mutually-exclusive) terminology in all our realms of cognitive exploration. Here are some examples:

· In psychology we find these dualities: conscious/unconscious, anima/animus, ego/self.

· In philosophy we find these dualities: deduction/induction, empiricism/rationalism, mind/body.

· In literature we find these dualities: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, facts/metaphor, verbal/non-verbal, intelligence/wisdom,

· In education we find these dualities: knowledge/experience, attention/awareness, creativity/reasoning.

· In religion we find these dualities: faith/belief, duality/non-duality, right doing/wrong doing, divine feminine/divine masculine.

· In science we find these dualities: feedback/feed-forward, background-processing/foreground-processing, left-brain/right-brain, serial-processing/parallel-processing, short-term memory/long-term memory.


What is Consciousness?

If the mind is the whole-body neuro-control system out of which evolved dual consciousness, we can then ask: What is consciousness? A possible answer to this question is that consciousness is a sense , just as vision and hearing are senses. The eyes and ears are portals for vision and hearing, therefore there must be a portal for consciousness, and it must be related to navigation.

If the brain/nervous system was designed for navigation using an elaborate muscular system, then a logical question to ask is this: What internal sensory systems monitor muscles? The answer is that there is a set of internal senses that track movement, posture, balance, and oscillation using neuro-feedback systems from sets of muscles. The sum of all internal sensory systems—the mechanism charged with monitoring muscular status—is called proprioception. Proprioception is probably the portal for consciousness, and the sense that is being measured/perceived by consciousness is the sense of being alive—of being an animated creature .

Two Kinds of Consciousness

Just as there are two minds, there are two kinds of consciousness, egocentric and allocentric. Every sense has a duality, being partly allocentric and partly egocentric. This means that proprioception—the portal for sensing animation—must have an allocentric system that works with movement, and an egocentric system that operates during stabilization (no movement). That is, indeed, what we do find.

The Hippocampus (The HC-EC network)

We can get a quick look at what the navigational mind routinely does when we explore the hippocampus. In this area of the limbic region are found very specific control systems for navigation. Indeed, if we track the flow of brain activity, we find that information is processed in such a way that final assemblage of dual-input occurs in the hippocampus—via connection with the neocortex. Here we find cells that only fire under exact conditions:

· Straight-ahead cells only fire when the body is flowing forward;

· Boundary cells set up a perimeter that defines the extent of momentary awareness—we shrink or expand awareness to define a space (a room, or a pathway for example) using these boundary cells;

· Place cells only fire when we stand still in an exact location—every region of a space receives a uniquely coded designation;

· Grid cells fire to establish GPS-like relationships between neural networks. They fire during movement.

Place cells have a field and a threshold; therefore, we can speculate that the egoic sense of being the center of the universe might derive from processing that occurs within place cells. Grid cells also have animated (flowing, relational) fields and thresholds; therefore, we can speculate that allocentric processing might derive from the grid cell system.

Since the grid-cell network is based on relationships, grid-processing could represent different types of information (not just spatial). A single grid cell is surrounded by six other grid cells in a hexagonal confirmation. Neuroscientist György Buzsáki said that “What the grid-cell captures is the dynamic instantiation of the most stable solution of physics, the hexagon .” Perhaps nature arrived at just such a solution to enable the brain to represent, using grid cells, any relationship. In other words, processes like memory, and the emergence of thoughts could be spatially organized and represented by hexagonal grids.

The place cells have been called time-cells and the grid cells space-cells. This corresponds perfectly with the egocentric/allocentric operation of the navigational-mind—according to navigational-mind theory, egocentric processing enables time, while allocentric processing enables space.

Personality is a Set of Animations

Given all that we have puzzled out above, we can now suggest that personality is a set of animations. Body posture, facial expression, habitual movement patterns, the sum total of our individual animation characteristics, constitute our unique personality. We got these animation-algorithms both innately and from experience. Mirror-neuron systems allow us to watch the animation patterns of others (parents, teachers, and friends) and mimic them—incorporate them into our own body maps; in this way, we become like those we admire. We are impacted by the loving-kindness of a good teacher or we are damaged by the actions of a mentally ill caregiver. The luck of the draw can model our animation. Comedians are especially gifted with the ability to use their mirror neurons to replicate the animations of others.

The movement patterns that make up our habitual personalities are both beneficial—a quick way to interact in the world and establish a baseline of dependable behaviors—but they can also be harmful. We get stuck in our animation routines and these habits affect our ability to relate, create, innovate, and communicate. In a way, our body-animation freezes us at a level of consciousness. If consciousness is the sense of being alive, then how conscious we are can be read by others—as we also serve as a model for those less evolved.

The reason that gurus, monks, and self-help practitioners use different (unusual) movement patterns to teach is because our habitual personalities, our movement habits, our level of consciousness can only evolve if we breakdown the old postural/animation habits so that something new can be built in its place. This is why yoga has unusual postures, why Gurdjieff and Steiner had unusual movement routines (odd dance patterns), why the Dervishes whirl, and why sitting in a chair listening to lectures—frozen and unanimated—is the worst possible way to educate.

The Inner Voice is Proprioceptive Memory of Actual Speech

Our inner voice is often who we think we are. Inner dialogue led to an inner sense of essence and to what is called self-awareness and the ego—we can feel that we are this voice. The inner voice is proprioceptive memory of actual speech. Proprioception is directly linked to our sense of egoic consciousness.

Savant Syndrome is Key to Understanding the Navigational-Mind

Savants are a further key to understanding how the navigational mind works. Savants are both severely mentally disabled, with often catastrophic damage to the brain, and yet they have superhuman capabilities, especially extraordinary memory skills. How can a person have no self-care skills and yet remember every word of an encyclopedia after looking only once at every page? How can a person be socially inept and yet play the most complex piano pieces ever composed with no musical training?

How can a savant know something they have never learned? This ability of savants to know things that have never been taught or practiced reminds me of the difference between the egocentric mind and the allocentric mind as defined in Navigational-Mind Theory. The allocentric mind knows things (is aware of and can mirror the world proprioceptively) that have never been learned by the egocentric mind.

Apparently, we are all born with an innate potentiality to use biological algorithms that can be used to create complex musical compositions, works of artistic genius, and complex mathematical formulations. We come factory-equipped with the hardware and software to do these complex tasks. These innate potentialities have been called various names, including Jung’s collective unconscious, ancestral memory, and genetic memory—a kind of epigenetic phenomenon. All of these relate to allocentric consciousness but not to egocentric consciousness.

Our understanding of everyday reality is shaken to the core when we look at savants. Savants are hard evidence that the human mind is far more capable than we fathom. We cannot ignore what savant syndrome insists must be true: The human mind can be hit by lightning or undergo a catastrophic epileptic seizure and immediately be able to perform superhuman feats of genius where no such abilities existed prior to the catastrophe. It as if we all have superhuman ability, but it is masked, filtered, hidden away, or operating below egoic radar. How could a mind go from boorishly normal to intellectually and creatively astounding—essentially instantly? How can you suddenly play a musical instrument like a world class professional would without ever having played music? How could you suddenly compose symphonies when a moment before you were hit by lightning you couldn’t read a note of music? People are alive today who have undergone these transformations.

When physicist Russell Targ tells us that psychic abilities are real, we cannot dismiss his research—we know that the human mind is far more weird and amazing than hard science and skeptical reasoning can account for. When Jacques Lusseyran insists that totally blind people can use inner vision to actually see the surroundings, his observations cannot be rejected out-of-hand. When Zoltan Torey insists that practicing constant visualization can result in visual perception that has practical utility for the totally blind, we cannot reject his observations as fanciful and wishful thinking. When Helen Keller suggests that out-of-body journeys can actually occur—trips that move the astral body through space and time fluidly—we cannot reject her perspective simply because our own savant abilities remain hidden away. When Daniel Kish—who is totally blind—navigates effortlessly through the environment using active echolocation, we cannot rule out that he is using unknown savant-like perception to aid his extraordinary skills.

Science might find it hard to accept many claims of the “fringe-set,” but science also has brought us the evidence of savant syndrome and synesthesia—the scientific method has unearthed some otherworldly evidence that cannot be ignored.


The neocortex has a redundant architecture. This implies that a similar algorithm is being used to process the world. Why would this have evolved? Why did evolution use this design plan to create the neocortex? I suggest that this design plan works because the world is itself highly redundant. I came to know this from my experience teaching blind students to independently travel.

The navigational-brain provides individuals with a somewhat invariant set of mental templates. If I ask you to draw a scene, you will have a set of assumptions that you can use to build any scene. Another human will have the same set of assumptions so they will be able to interpret the scene. These redundancies include:

  • All movement of sentient creatures is straight-ahead and there is assumed purpose to the movement—movement is directed toward a destination.
  • Bilateral balance is an assumed invariant. The world will contain mirror images—there is symmetry—there are rare exceptions to all the “invariants,” but the unusual variations are not the first assumptions that occur to the mind.
  • Up and down will be assumed. Everything has a ground (earth, floor, surface). There are things above the ground and things below, but always there is a framework with a ground and a horizon.
  • There is an assumed invariant relationship between objects—the stars are not underground, flowers do not grow downward, building are not constructed using wavy and leaning walls—there is invariant logic in groupings. The findings of Gestalt psychologists hold across all domains.
  • Details within invariant structures can be infinitely complex, but the number of available forms (patterns) is quite limited. Domains that humans perceive will always contain the same kinds of invariants: plants, animals, rectangular or domed buildings, pathways like streets and sidewalks, mountains and trails, valleys, clouds, stars, blue skies and wind—invariants like these are known to all potential viewers.
  • Invariants are true across time lines. Image-invariants were true during the caveman days, in the 1400s, in the present moment, and they will continue to be invariant in the future.
  • Although spatial locations and time frames vary, experiences repeat . There are only so many kinds of experience; for example: birth, death, chronological growth sequence (aging), stages of cognitive development, weddings, family (group) gatherings, meals, going to the bathroom, navigating from domain to domain, and so on.
  • Spatial and temporal scale is important, but there will always be variations in scale—everything in a domain will follow the rules of scale.

Thousand Brains Theory of Intelligence

A quick disclaimer: I have just begun the long process of understanding HTM and SDRs. I do not have a hard science background. What I am trying to do below is offer some preliminary (almost off the cuff) intuitive feelings about what I know quite well—Navigational-Mind Theory—and the complex world of AI and computational neuroscience. Please forgive my speculations, especially if they are way off the mark.

The idea that the neocortex combines multiple, overlapping, and simultaneously processed models for every manifest concept, fits with the idea of embodiment. Occupational therapists built an entire profession around the understanding of sensory integration versus dysfunctions of sensory integration. In other words, muscles and senses must always, and simultaneously, work together to create an animated organism interacting within a specific domain. In my own field (blind rehabilitation), the theory of the Navigational-Brain—based on dual-process theory—postulates that the human form (the whole body) uses an on-off fractal (inhibition and excitation) to enable smooth, accurate, and efficient navigation. Synchronicity and oscillation must be embodied at various temporal and spatial scales to enable efficient navigation. Therefore, it is logical to postulate (predict) that the neocortex would be designed in such a way as to ensure embodiment.

The ancient philosophical concept “as above so below,” works at all spatial and temporal scales. If we find a system that we can explain—in the brain, for example—we can logically look for that same pattern at other scales and in other locations in the brain. In other words, finding grid cells all over the brain and body makes sense once they are initially located and described in a specific location (HC/EC neural network).

I suggest that the Thousand Brains Theory (TBT) of Intelligence is a subset of a larger synthesis called the Navigational-Mind. TBT is dealing with egocentric (form and feature) processing but it as yet does not address allocentric (flow, background) processing. The neocortex is not an isolated organ—it is embodied. As such it is involved in the larger job of navigating the whole body through specific domains. It is also constrained by the oscillatory and mutually-exclusive balance between dual-minds simultaneously processing. As a subset of the Navigational-Brain Theory it makes perfect sense that research would discover the neocortex to be involved in location-based processing. According to TBT, every cortical column generates a location signal based on grid cells. When sensory input comes in, the cortical column knows where that sensory information originates within a scene (gestalt).

TBT is a leap forward in understanding brain processing because it embraces embodiment (sensorimotor integration) and is further evidence for the validity of Navigation-Mind Theory. Finding grid-cells in the neocortex and postulating their role in human figure-ground processing is an important advancement for AI and neuroscience.

In the Numenta article “A Framework for Intelligence and Cortical Function Based on Grid Cells in the Neocortex” a list of key take-aways is provided. I will comment on this list below and relate the findings to Navigational-Mind Theory.

  • Every cortical column has a location signal that we propose is implemented by grid cells. When the whole brain—in synchrony with the whole neural network of the body—is charged with the task of efficient navigation, we would expect to find location-based processing occurring throughout the brain.
  • We propose an extension of grid cells, called “displacement cells”. Displacement cells enable us to learn how objects are composed of other objects, also known as object compositionality . This is an important conceptualization. Ken Wilber postulated decades ago that the structure of the brain had to involve the theory of holons. The Holon Theory first appeared in Arthur Koestler’s book “The Ghost in the Machine.” In terms of Navigational-Mind Theory, displacement cells suggest a cellular substrate for processing “figure and ground.” To locate the biological substrate for figure-ground is a significant breakthrough.
  • Learning an object’s behavior is simply learning the sequence of movements tracked by displacement cells. Tracking the “sequence of movements” is what the proprioceptive system does and this process is related to consciousness (the sense of being an animated creature).
  • A location-based framework can be applied to concepts and high-level thought in the same way it can to physical objects. In the Navigational-Mind it makes sense that all human mental abilities would be built on the foundation of navigation. The purpose of brains attached to nervous systems—as first designed by evolution a half billion years ago—is efficient navigation. On that navigational scaffolding was built (eventually, through millions of years of evolution): language/communication, socialization, and emotion—all other human attributes and characteristics. We would expect to find that high-level concepts and abstract thought are location-based because their origin derives from navigational processes.
  • We discuss how the “what” and “where” pathways of the brain can be thought of as performing the same computations, but modeling different object centered and body centered location spaces. According to Navigational-Mind Theory, the “what pathway” is egocentric processing. The “where pathway” is allocentric processing. Like right/brain—left/brain, the what/where pathways are part of a larger understanding called the Navigational-Mind.

Hey all, @dougbaldwin just joined the forum and was having trouble posting his detailed theory (above), so he contacted me and I helped him out.

He said he’s been working on this a long time and just wants to pass it along to anyone interested in reading it. I plan on reading it (looks interesting just from the topics). Thanks Doug for putting your ideas out there for everyone to see!


Thank you, Matt. It was very kind of you to post this and I look forward to any dialogue that might arise. My cognitive philosophy is obviously a very top down view of how human beings work–a systems theory. I notice that the Numenta community is focused on a very reductive picture of neocortical functioning–this is obviously very important for the unfolding of AI and machine intelligence. I wish you great good fortune in your work. We are coming at the issues from two polar ends, but our search for a common understanding of human cognition is a shared passion.




You are very broad in your scope - Both David Eagleman and Anil Seth came to mind - any thoughts on them?


Hi Tim

Thank you for the reply. How did you come to know about David Eagleman, Anil Seth, and Brainport? Do you have your own theory of consciousness-an overview? Numenta’s close-in biological dissection of the neocortex is fascinating and must somehow connect with a larger theory about the evolution of mind and consciousness. Do you see a way that the large and small might converge?

I came to this forum because I could see that understanding the biology of navigation was fast becoming a target of cognitive researchers. I felt as if this body of scientists needed the broader perspective that my career had given me–the proposition that the entire human design has navigation as a foundation. Dual-process theory is especially important, as is mutually-exclusive, co-dependence (the movement fractal), which operates at all scales of design.

I did not know about Anil Seth so I watched his TED talk this morning (thank you for the heads-up). I have Eagleman’s books and have watched a documentary about his ideas–I can’t say that I have a firm grasp of his worldview. I take in so much that ideas tend to get mixed up in my mind–I can’t remember who shaped my thinking. However, in general, I find myself agreeing with the neuroscientists like Seth and Eagleman about how we work. Researchers and philosophers are coming at the problems from different slants, but there is exciting overlap.

When we postulate that straight-ahead navigation caused the engineering designs that crafted the human frame, we come to see that proprioception is key to consciousness and we begin to understand why our world is rich with oppositional dualities (belief-faith, conscious-unconscious). I am so steeped in my own philosophy that I tend to repeat and reframe constantly (I almost feel like I should apologize . . .(grin). )

I spent many years thinking about high tech solutions for the blind and visually impaired. I set up a non-profit called the Institute for Innovative Blind Navigation and had the pleasure to meet many remarkable researchers. I am working on a book called Knights for the Blind in the Battle Against Darkness, which is a summary of the work of nine blind authors. During my research for that book, I read Erik Weihenmayer’s first book–he is an amazing person (he climbed Mt. Everest and all the world’s tallest peaks). Vision substitution has a long history. Brainport began decades ago as a large clunky unit that traced images on a blind person’s back. One of my best friends is Daniel Kish, CEO of World Access for the Blind. Daniel uses active echolocation to actually see–without any technology. He also navigates without assistance. Daniel told me long ago that the so called visual cortex was really an image cortex–active echolocation and braille both register in the occipital cortex. I introduced Erik and Daniel and now they have a warm friendship.


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Cool - I follow Numenta and some of the stuff out of U. of Arizona. I don’t know if you have been to their conferences. They are more ontology heavy than say Numenta which is fine. Some day I will make it. You have some esoteric stuff mixed in. That’s awesome about the Blind Navigation. I’ve Seen Daniel and also Ben Underwood in a couple documentaries. Bach-y-Rita was probably popularized by Mezernich but I forget where I got into him. I watch far too much youtube including Tommy Edison who is helpful on the subjective ontology side of blindness. I’m probably in the Koch school really but I love Searle for giving a nice explanation not so much of Ai but the divisions of basic philosophy etc. As Ai gets more invasive and directs human behavior (including becoming weaponized) I see Numenta as a crucial bridge for people to avoid insanity. Some of the other models are so alien and overpowering not to mention being black boxes to their creators. I like your dualism ideas and am definitely interested in the blind navigation side of things. Both Eagleman and Seth seem to approach the nervous system in a similar manner. I like some of the more esoteric aspects of consciousness but I also like learning about confabulation and the human tendancy towards it (which Ai is magnifying too fast for many) Teleology can be dangerous (as Eric Trump just found out :slight_smile:

I really appreciate your comments and questions. Thank you for the conversation. I am having to rethink my perspective. Sorry for these long posts, but this is my passion.

I have never been to the Consciousness and Science Conferences, although I watch their presentations on the web. After I evolved a systems theory (navigational consciousness), I got in the habit of slotting everything into that theory. That’s why it is often hard for me to listen to other systems theories. I sometimes get frustrated when I hear others speak using scientific memes (left/brain-right/brain, the five senses, conscious/unconscious) that don’t fit my own paradigm. Creating and holding onto a systems theory is a very male, almost autistic thing–very egocentric. It’s okay to go down this rabbit hole (formulating a systems theory) as long as you realize what your rabbit is doing.

Do you know Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory of Knowledge? I found Wilber’s 4-quadrants perspective helpful when I was puzzling out consciousness.

Wilber says there are four perspectives/quadrants used to discuss abstractions/concepts. Communication is often confused because people define terminology from within different quadrants. Wilber would say that consciousness can be defined from (1) a subjective (allocentric, poetic, personal) perspective (me), (2) a collective-subjective perspective (us, allocentric relationships), (3) a scientific perspective (it, egocentric materialism, logic, reductionism), and (4) a systems theory perspective (its, holistic, egocentric synthesis). Numenta is heavily dialoguing from within quadrant three–less so in quadrant four. I am in quadrant four. Very few of the posts come from quadrants one and two. That’s all good, by the way–no criticism intended.

We naturally come to an esoteric perspective using our allocentric mind. Esotericism means “rejected knowledge.” The egocentric mind rejects allocentricity—almost like a rational professor rejecting the value of poetry. This rejection makes sense once we see the mutually-exclusive (co-dependent) nature of human processing. The ego rejects the self as irrelevant, flaky, and superstition-based, because the ego cannot comprehend it’s silent, soulful, intuitive sister-mind.

Another definition of esotericism is “hidden knowledge.” There is a reason why a body of knowledge has been hidden. But hidden from whom? From the egocentric mind. The ego will burn you at the stake or drown you as a witch, if you profess hidden knowledge (it is forbidden to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden). I am heavy into the esoteric–from the Gnostics to the FreeMasons–because these secret groups knew about the allocentric mind. What I realized is that proprioception is a set of hidden internal senses. The Buddhists call this the sixth sense (or the mind). This hidden set of senses gave rise to allocentric consciousness. The esoteric crowd understood the allocentric mind thousands of years ago. During the enlightenment when the scientific method was blossoming, the ego tried to kill its twin.

I spoke with Bach-y-Rita many years ago, just before he died. He was working on the technology that eventually became the brainport.

Thanks again for the dialogue.


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That’s understandable. I’m starting to understand more of your approach and it’s interesting. I’ve journeyed down many reality tunnels to bring up RAW. Some are awesome and some a real drag. Another reason I find Ai fascinating is that offers powerful confirmation bias to consumers of media. Did you mention bicameralism? I don’t mean to dismiss esoteric teachings just they really aren’t for everybody. I googled Wilber and recognized him immediately though I can’t place from what context - maybe from the classes Benard Baars used to run online which had some broad reaching discussion topics even if he stuck to his global workspace theory and neuroscience. Thoughh maybe I took a thing on Leary etc it’s been a while. A lecturer on addiction at Harvard brought up the concept of homeostasis in terms of addiction but I think it’s very relevant. If you divide up the quadrants, it’s clear that some people are much more comfortable balancing things if they are focusing their time and effort in certain ones. I bring up U. of Arizona as they have everybody from reductionist types (quadrant 3 ) to Deepak Chopra and everywhere in between. Watching Deepak fight with physicists can be like watching a bear talk to a mountain lion. Maybe neither one is wrong but they exist in totally different umvelts with different diets and environmental needs. Another example is the genetics of creativity and scizophrenia… certain wiring diagrams seem to be both adaptive or maladaptive in certain contexts. But it’s consistent with broad inter-sectional ? reaching theories you are interested in. Plus Interlaken looks pretty. On this side of things I’ve only gotten to installing the software and running the visualizations for HTM school but it’s helpful for fleshing out the theory. Also not having the strongest quantitative grasp I enjoy trying to model using computers which run on computation even if I’m not so good at it myself. Quadrant balancing maybe or just foolishness or navigating in unfamiliar territory :slight_smile: That’s awesome about Bach-y-Rita he seemed very inventive and outside of the box in his approaches - able to step outside a strict materialistic engineering paradigm while using it’s tools to come up with practical solutions available in a democratic sense to anybody.

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I didn’t feel that you were dismissing esotericism (grin). I appreciate how each of us is unique, even as we seek neocortical generalities or try to communicate. I am off to my esoteric study group this morning–one of my favorite groups (alongside my Buddhist and philosophy gatherings). The esoteric group is run by a retired University of Arizona professor of developmental psychology.

We each have gifts that make us more comfortable in one quadrant or the other. Hopefully, during our lifespan we will discover how to help others using our gifts. Looking at the Numenta conversations, I am amazed at the brilliance of the minds gathered here. I don’t have gifts that would enable me to contribute, but I deeply appreciate that minds like these are communicating and creating together.

When Deepak Chopra debates with Daniel Dennett (for example) I am struck by two things: (1) It is as if the ego is debating the self. Two mutually-exclusive minds are trying to explain themselves to their oppositional twin. They both know they are right and that makes the whole debate comically frustrating. (2) Quadrant 3/4 is debating quadrant 1/2. Again, there is no chance these guys will get an aha moment of agreement because they are using the same words for different sentiments. I agree with you, this debate is about two groups with totally different umwelts.

Another thing that Ken Wilber talks about is levels of consciousness. I prefer to come at this from a developmental psychology perspective, but the hierarchical nature of the concept is the same. We have to be careful not to let the ego judge/classify others when it plays with this explosive perspective, but these developmental theories provide clues for comprehending the evolution of consciousness. I prefer Susanne Cook-Greuter’s ego-development scale called the “Nine Stages of Increasing Embrace.” Within Greuter’s scale is a level of consciousness called “Modern,” which is a scientific-materialistic worldview. Most scientists and philosophers dwell at the Modern level of consciousness without an understanding that there are other stages of egoic evolution “above” their perception of reality–so say the developmental psychologists.

It’s important to understand that there is a level of gravity–we are each spread across multiple levels of consciousness settling out at an average and fluid level. It is not so easy (or wise) to overgeneralize. That caveat aside, our president is at the egocentric beginning of this ego-development scale–he is at the lowest rung of development; the narcissistic, empathy-free, the-world-revolves-around-me stage of mental evolution . . .everyone with a “higher” level of consciousness is spouting fake news. (I am exposing my meager level of consciousness here (smile)

Socrates said we should know ourselves. I guess that is what we are collectively trying to do.

I think we are on the same page - I hate Socrates not because of anything he said but the people who introduced him to me needed a strong dose of their own medicine :slight_smile: Life is so arbitrary where we end up and what philosophies we find palatable. Trump had to happen in some ways as a sort of contrast but how much damage will be done we will see. Cambridge Analytica had a huge hand in his win and we are reaching a stage where the machine knows you better than any Socratic insight could.

Esotericism has a few laws that are helpful (Alchemical laws that preceded science). As above so below is the primary law. I have found this law helpful when thinking about neuroscience and AI. If we discover that a nerve cell works in a certain way, we can scale up to a collective of nerve cells to find they communicate and cooperate using an exact mirror image process. We can also go inside the cell to see a similar process going on with molecular cooperation. I find “as above so below” to be a predictive tool. For example, once I realized that the vision system had quantum characteristics–following Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle–I was able to predict that the other senses (and the whole body) also employed the same quantum-like characteristics.

Esotericism also has a basic law of three and a law of seven that repeats on many scales (maybe all scales). The law of three is like birds flocking. Three laws keep birds from colliding in a flock: go in the direction of the flock; stay a set distance from those around you; and stay in your relative location (GPS coordinates) compared to the flock as a whole. Everything is flowing (is a process), therefore, networking probably uses the law of three. I have no idea how. Do you? Maybe grid cells use the law of three in some way?

The law of seven is about octaves. I find the hexagonal structure of the grid cells to be fascinating. One cell is surrounded by six others. Nature uses formations (repeating shapes) for an engineering reason. What kind of harmonics is enabled by the hexagonal geometric formation? Again, I don’t know specifics, but members of this group might have suggestions.

What I find fascinating is that AI can inform biology and biology can inform AI–this is obvious, of course, and is a basic tenet of Numenta. But from my synthesis-habit I am wondering if AI is projecting upward (holistically) often enough. That’s why I think an overall (whole body) understanding of navigational consciousness could be supported or challenged by small scale AI discoveries.

What can you see that scales up and down the hierarchy?

My esoteric study group agrees with you. The feeling is that Trump is a rite-of-passage, necessary chaos–a kind of “good thing” so long as his madness doesn’t do permanent harm. He is a catalyst for waking people up.

One of my rants (worries) is that AI engineers don’t know about the mutual-exclusivity of ego and soul. If we build machines without “souls” we will produce very efficient beasts like Cambridge Analytica built, with no empathy and no compassion–a common sci fi theme/warning. Machines are getting very smart, very fast, but they are not getting kinder or wiser.


I’m out deeply focused on my first Temporal Memory, but just had to quickly say:

+1 for RAW and related people and topics.

+2 for synthesizing these with HTM and Neocortical theories. I have found this process to be personally very, uh, integral, to my life.

Glad to see you all here.

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Sorry I fell off track (speaking of politics) - as for birds flocking that I’ve seen modeled but it’s going to take me some time to find the notes or dig it up from memory. I’m too rusty / not versed enough on HTM to link it yet. Hexagons are engineering yes - closest you can pack with most internal volume - I think youtube links are okay on this ? Here’s a PBS colab on Hexagons in nature I remembered watching half awake which broadens on the math in Matt’s 14th video which I’ve watched twice but will need to re-digest again. It’s in my posturing space as opposed to my no clue and I need to lecture you on this spaces.

If you (or I) don’t get around the pushing through HTM school or messing around with NUPIC you can do modeling with netlogo easily and for a lot of topology / networks / graph theory or building up complexity from simple agents it can be powerful.

I don’t know how versed you are in complexity research - often times it seems very inline with holistic approaches and even esoteric approaches. Some often counter intuitive results from animal stripes to ethnic conflict.

Agree with AI informing biology and vice versa - most of the insights on consciousness as a process will come from trying to model it. Since so much our brains are black boxes to us subjectively then it makes perfect sense to work backwards from outside models where our ontology isn’t tangled into the process. Transhumanism or something like it could allow for a jump back and forth and a comparison of subjective ontologies.

I’m going to have to brush up on my psychonauts (oh wows it’s a video game now too) been a while.

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You launched me into several new (nice) directions. Thank you. I never realized–even after thinking about vision for decades–that cone cells are arranged hexagonically; maybe I knew and forgot, or it didn’t mean as much decades ago. Presumably, the grid system operates at the level of the retina as well as neocortex and hippocampal region.

I know very little about complexity research, so thank you–I will dive into that world for a while.

Do you have a definition for “information?”

Since we didn’t shy away from politics (even though it has no place in HTM dialogue (smile), I will add a link to Marianne Williamson’s announcement that she is running for president. Marianne is the Esoteric World’s choice for president. She is the anti-Trump.

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Hi Doug,

Glad to be of help for once, I’m usually just fighting people. :slight_smile:
I don’t have a definition of information - I start to max out on abstraction when you get to subjective idealism, Berkeley etc. I’ve slogged through as much quantum speculation as I could. I also max out before I can even get to Russell’s Paradox… any mapped space is a smoke filled room with soap on the floor, white noise on full volume. Having not gotten through QED in ages I don’t feel comfortable speculating without better grip on the formal theory. I’ve been listening to a podcast which interviewed Hawkins as well and I am now listening to a discussion on AI and complexity - associated with the Santa Fe Institute on Complexity I’ll link both

her webpage :

and the Hawkins which is good which I have listened to :

Taking a break from politics some - I get tired of people working backwards from theoretical outcomes and moral accounting if I agree with them or not.

Thanks for the links, Tim. I am going to watch them now.

I dropped that question about information into the post because I am working on a sci fi novel that is just about finished–my mind goes to the novel everyday now (called A Martyr for Mandelbrot). In the sci fi book I talk about the intelligence found in everyday spaces. One premise of the book is that we can harvest the information in spaces and then–through a translation process–decode the information in a format that makes sense for perceptual creatures. At some point I thought “Hey, I don’t even know what information is.” Just thought I would ask in case there was a perspective I could use in the book.

oh ok - that could be reinterpreted as the simulation versus reality problem - you have to take something turn it into a model then make that model be interpreted again as some sort of reality for us or whatever 3d dwelling organism. This goes back to Bach-y-rita and or other adaptations for the blind etc - you have to model something and then turn it into signals and then hope it can be turned back into a functional adequate and hopefully accurate model in the organism. So then it might be good to use information in a functional sense. I had a link to an Ai website but looks like the server no longer exists. On the other end of the spectrum - nuclear physics is incredibly abstract perhaps not able to be perceived but a nuclear bomb is a very real non functional reality. There is no human centric or navigational use for sub atomic theory that I can think of. So that might be some kind of insight into the type of “information” available in everyday spaces.

You could also use those language barriers where the qualia/sounds/tones aren’t even translatable or available unless taught from a very young age… that could be another expansion of the mundane.Reminds me I have to read some Heinlein. You could also look at the Integrated Information Theory of Tononi too - at what point does “information” or complexity give way to something else / emergence etc. The other question is what would it mean - I suspect all kinds of possibly important information exists already to us but has no functional meaning so is thrown out immediately. I could have eyes surgically implanted on the back of my head but that most likely just distract from being able to navigate going forward as per your theory.

The other issue you could bring up is observer relative versus observer independent things (to regurgitate recycle more Searle) say with science things exist regardless of observers whereas money has an inherent existence due to observers (it’s just paper) so it is observer relative - therefore any cultural mundanity becomes a whole new type of information that can be turned into experience and vice versa. Given the element of ontological subjectivity (Searle again I’m redigesting) there is a chance that information is based on shared imagination only which is a sort of projection onto empty space. In that sense you could play with encryption - a previously meaningless scene could come to life with small token of observer relative information. The bloches turn into a face due to pareidolias on the grilled cheese then arrive unencrypted via a believer’s eyes into the Virgin Mary. etc. I really should give Pokemon Go a shot I guess. Given my consumption of media I already have so many priming issues though :frowning:

My friend Daniel Kish is coming to visit in February. Daniel is probably the main reason I started down this path to what Jeff Hawkins calls theoretical neuroscience–I call it cognitive philosophy (same thing). I will attach some links of Daniel in action. Daniel has the same degree that I have (in blind rehab) plus he has a Masters Degree in human perception.

I compared Daniel to Louis Braille in one of my books. While Braille gave the blind access to academic literacy, Daniel gave the blind access to environmental literacy. Both braille and active echolocation show up in the occipital cortex during MRI scans, and both require self-generated movement to enable perception.

There is a plausible explanation for Daniel’s remarkable–almost inexplicable–navigation skills: active echolocation. However, I am sure there is more to his abilities, probably involving prodigious memory skills for spatial layouts . . . and something else, which I am trying to get my mind around. I think that something else has to do with projected-proprioception.

If you could ask Daniel a few questions, what might they be?

The Pod cast links you sent were brilliant–thank you. The one with Jeff Hawkins helped me fill in some background that I needed.

Here are three short links to Daniel’s world. There have been over 50 documentaries done about him by major media groups.

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Awesome thanks! - that’s amazing - it is February already? Or am I losing it again (a possibility!)
I have to do a lot of review - I’m catching up on manipulating my computer enough to play along with the comp sci people (mumbling incoherently in a foreign tongue using google to pretend I know what I’m doing wannabe “script kiddie” creating some ugly sand castles ) but I’m so rusty on neuro.

I’m going to have to stumble around -something about his sense of timing and his ability to echo-locate - tie that in vaguely to HTM - his opinion of music - dancing - I have to check if he ever was in a TMS study (can’t remember how much progress they made with the semi mobile helmets) and or EEG and if he finds it easier to echo-locate moving or still. I remember him showing Ben some shortcomings relating to depth perception but I have to find and watch that clip over again. Thinking out loud… how long do I have to make my ramblings coherent?

also is the echolocation effected by priming? Do objects become clearer on “confirmation” by a person with vision? is there any increase in resolution over iterations? I have a lot of reading to do clearly.

Would be interesting to see the beetle in the box limitations too around these conversations. I have to look into blind blind versus blind visual conversations. I tend to think of things as possible being an inverse or different version of Mary’s Room. Language is really annoying after a while.

The other issue is the loop formed by making the click and hearing it as opposed to other echoes made with higher pitched sounds with more attack.

Also consistent with HTM maybe would be moments of surprise using echo-location - how much of their echolocation is accessible via conscious inquiry and what is black box. Also does this translate into dreams which re-nagivate just like a mouse in a maze (bad analogy but well studied)

I was watching Brian Borowski use sonar in conjunction with a service dog. I’ve never had a dog but
the theory of mind and tracking seem relevant.

Seems like from an outsider’s perspective like an interesting bottom up/top down field to study.

I’ll have to watch everything and revise.