From: Steve P
Hi Greg - I love this book and was wondering about your influences in developing the psychological theory that underpins Martin Burke's Country of the Mind and of emergent consciousness (i.e. the self-other modelling system and subsystems). I can see elements of Jung, Object relations, Klein, and Multiple Intelligence theory in there (maybe Wertsch as well) but I would love to see some references and I think the way you have put it all together is daring and makes a lot of sense. I think the concept of primary and sub personality elements, agents, talents etc is very powerful and relates well to some of my own musings (I'm a psychologist and therapist with an interest in evolutionary biology and the origins of self - esp Stephen Mithen's work which I think fits well with some of these ideas - do you know it?).
From: Greg Bear
Thanks for writing Steve! These ideas began filtering into my brain quite a while ago--back in the early seventies. A combination of Jung and general myth plus some unquantifiable insights led to my early vision of the country of the mind, and the role of self-awareness--already established by the time I read the highly influential bicameral mind theories of Julian Jaynes. I found myself in thorough agreement also with Marvin Minsky's SOCIETY OF MIND--but mostly, the origins were dreams, fairy tales, and introspective exploration. If you could cite more writers and thinkers, I'd like to look them up!
From: Steve P
Thanks for the information Greg. I read Jaynes many years ago and found his book fascinating. It may interest you to know that many of his ideas were anticipated by a (former) Soviet Psychologist called FT Mikhailov in a very interesting book called "The Riddle of the Self". Hard to get hold of these days. I have heard of Minsky but haven't read any of his book - must correct that. His "society of Mind" hypothesis looks very close to Burke's theories - reminds me a bit of some of Stephen Wolfram's theories on complexity and emergence (and also Koestler of course).
I can see other antecedents of this sort of thinking about the mind as an emergent phenomenon built up from simpler structures in Object Relations theory and the work of people like Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott. For example when AXIS realises it's need for an "other" in order for it to be a full individual (and it's eventual "splitting" - a very Kleinian response) is very close to the view of the self as developing through the assimilation and "dialogue" between internalised and externalised "objects" (for simplicity I could quote the Wiki entry "Object relations theory is the idea that the ego-self exists only in relation to other objects, which may be external or internal. The internal objects are internalized versions of external objects, primarily formed from early interactions with the parents. There are three fundamental "affects" that can exist between the self and the other - attachment, frustration, and rejection. These affects are universal emotional states that are major building blocks of the personality. Object relations theory was pioneered in the 1940s and 50's by British psychologists Ronald Fairbairn, D.W. Winnicott, Harry Guntrip, and others") Some of these ideas have been taken further in the modern Cognitive Analytical Therapy (Ryle, Leimman). At the same time there have been developments in evolutionary psychology and cognitive archeology that also see the mind and intelligence as distributed and non unified phenomena composed of numerous specialised "modules", systems and subsystems - a good example (which also relkates well to Jaynes) is Stephen Mithen's great book "The Prehistory of the mind" (and his later "After the Ice" and "The Singing Neanderthals") You would love those! This alsorelates to the work on consciousness as self-other modelling which is developed in the work of psychologists like Gardenfors ("How Homo became Sapiens") and to an extent, Dennett.
Finally you would probably also like Wetsch's "Mind as Action" which is in turn based on the work of Kenneth Burke (I thought you might have named Martin after him?), Vygotsky and Bahktin. He develops a concept of "mediated action" and the role of "agents", "agencies" etc.
From: Greg Bear
Thanks for the sources, Steve! These sound fascinating--and productive.
I have read Marvin Minsky's "Society of Mind" and think it is analogous to an earlier work by Eric Berne called "Transactional Analyis" (his later book "Games People Play" is not as good).
Transactional Analysis (TM), which was published in 1962, is also based on the premise that human consciousness is not a single unified entity, but is separated into cognitive identities he calls ego states. There are usually three ego states in a competitant adult: child, adult, and parent; and these ego states can exists as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd order complexity. TA is rather hard to find in used book stores, but can probably be found through Amazon
I have read "Transactional Analysis" several times and found it much more understandable than "Society of Mind".
From: Greg Bear
I believe Berne's ideas are more similar to Freud and Jung's, with a fixed set of states within or beneath the conscious personality. I postulate many more divisions, fluctuating with circumstance, age, and individual--indeed, personality may be explained in part by how our "software" is set up within a custom-built (but fairly standardized) nervous system and body.
Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
Bern uses the same language as Freud and Jung (ego, etc.) but his ideas are actually quite different (and more empirical) than theirs. His concept of ego states (first, second, and third order) is more analogous with your descriptions of talents, agents, and what not in your novel than is Minsky's "Society of Mind". And, yes, the first, second, and third order decribes the development of these ego states based on age and experience. I'm sure that you are correct that there are more divisions than the basic three that Berne postulates. The proof will come with further developments in neuro-biology and neuro-chemistry.
In any case, I think Berne's work is more insightful and relevant than Minsky's, which is the reason for my first comment. I am not as impressed with Marvin Minsky as many others are.