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August 4, 2022 49 mins

Psychologist Julian Jaynes came up with a stunning hypothesis in 1976, that human consciousness only developed in the last 3000 years. And he seemed to have proof in ancient texts. Scholars have been picking it apart ever since and today we join the club.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff You Should Know, a production of I
Heart Radio. Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh,
and there's Chuck and Jerry's here too, and this is
Stuff You Should Know, the ongoing, amazing, mind blowing edition.

(00:23):
You've been into this stuff lately? What's going on with you?
I don't know. I don't know, man, but yes, I'm
definitely into it lately. It's weird approaching fifty existential crisis.
I don't know about crisis, maybe more like pondering, existential pondering.
I don't think it's a crisis yet. I've still got
five years, still fifty, So give me time now, you

(00:45):
forty five, I'm forty five and eight ninths. Uh, yeah,
you got time. Yeah, great, thank you for that. But no,
there's no like one thing that's making me say, like, hey,
when did humans become conscious? Or when did humans become intelligent?
Or what do we do if aliens come down? Like

(01:05):
for some reason, it's just maybe a little more appealing
to me than it has been in the past lately.
I don't know, but yes, I'm definitely into this kind
of thing right now. And this stuff, well, we're gonna
talk about today It's based on a how Stuff Works
article that Robert Lamb wrote, and I'm not at all
surprised that Robert Lamb is into this, but I just
want to note that I've heard about this years and

(01:26):
years and years ago and have been meaning to do
an article or an episode on it. So I don't
want you to think this is something who just stumbled across.
This is actually the fruition of years of planning and
hope and dreams coming to to pass in the in uh,
maybe the best episode will ever make. Uh. And of
course Robert and not Robert Lamb, the lead singer of

(01:50):
the band Chicago. There's another Robert Lamb, and he was
in Chicago. In Chicago, is that Peter Sata's stage name
No Stara was the bass player and part lead singer
along with Robert Lamb, who played keyboards and also sang
lead on some and before Terry Cats died, he played

(02:10):
guitar and also sang So they had three singers in
the early days of Chicago. Just confusing, but none of
them are our colleague Robert Lamb, who, along with our
colleague Joe, had been doing stuff to blow your mind
for many, many years. Another great show. Yeah, and I
didn't check, but I would place a substantial amount of
money on the idea that they have their own episode

(02:34):
on this Julian James by Camra Mind. I bet they have.
And we should also shout out Philosophy for Life, Psychology
Today and Frontiers in Psychology. And I'm gonna make one
up um psychology food Young. Okay, I've got two more
that aren't made up late Star Codex and um uh

(02:54):
poster her name Hazard on the site less Wrong. That
sounds like a great source. It is, Hazard knows what
he's talking about. Oh. In one more, I'm sorry, a
guy named Jeff Ward or jeff Ward but you know
when they say jeff um on medium. So all of
those combined with Robert Lamb's article the Coalesce and again,

(03:14):
probably the greatest episode we'll ever do. Yeah, and I
sort of get some of this. Um, I think you're
gonna help me out some because I do have some
questions that I'll just throw out here and there, because
at times I found myself reading and stuff and going, yeah,
but isn't that just blank? Okay, great, I'll do my
best to answer, and you're probably right, um, when you're
thinking that, which is probably like, yes, all right, well,

(03:38):
I mean I guess we should say then that the
whole hypothesis is that we're going to be kind of
breaking down today. Is controversial and it's not provable necessarily
scientifically speaking. So it's sort of one of those Um,
I mean, I think it goes beyond thought experiment for sure,
definitely into true hypothesis land. But it was proposed by

(04:01):
a psychologist here in the United States named Julian Jaynes
in the mid nineteen seventies. Of course, yeah, the ear
was born. So what he proposed was an answer to
a longstanding question, and that was when did humans become conscious?
Like when did consciousness emerge? Is it something that came

(04:23):
along like in the earliest archaic humans? Is it something
that came along much later than that? And how could
we ever possibly answer that, like what relics have been
left in history, um, in prehistory that would say like, hey,
this is evidence of of consciousness um. And Julian James
took that up, and he did it as an outsider,

(04:46):
which was a huge strike against him because automatically legitimate
scientists are like, well, I can't build upon this theory.
Possibly this man is in actually in my field of
consciousness studies. Um. But the thing is is this, this
hypothesis is so well liked, it's just roundly like people
just like it. It's just such an interesting hypothesis that

(05:07):
it just won't go away. It hasn't gone away. And
in fact, there's like a Julian James Institute, there's like
groups that have sprung up based on this hypothesis. And
what he says, in a very small nutshell is that
sometime about one thousand, two thousand years ago humans became
conscious in the way that we understand consciousness today. They

(05:32):
developed the ability to think about thinking, They developed the
ability to think about that other people are thinking. They
developed basically what's called subjective introspection, and then as a
result of that, they almost automatically gained free will and volition.
So what he's saying is that if we went back
in time in the Way Back Machine, Chuck, and we

(05:53):
met somebody who lived three thousand years ago, four thousand
years ago, they would not be a kind just human
in the way that we understand conscious humans. That's right,
And he thinks that it was a learned thing. And
the idea that he throws down is that our our mind,
our brain is, or was rather very important was because

(06:17):
it no longer is bicameral, which means split into two parts.
And we'll get to some actual science about the hemispheres
of the brain later on, but in this case he
means split into two parts where you have a part
that makes decisions and a part that follows. And that
neither one of them were conscious. And and here's where

(06:39):
I get a little tripped up right out right out
of the gate. Is Basically he says that instead of
an internal dialogue, which we all have and which indicates
a consciousness, uh, like us talking to ourselves, us saying
things like everything from like you know, hey, get up
and go do this, to just internally thinking about things

(07:02):
like humans do that instead of that, we were sort
of like human zombies and that we were creatures of habit.
We had routines and behaviors that we followed to a
t and whenever something disrupted that behavior, which is when
like a conscious mind you would think, would speak up

(07:24):
that instead of that that an external agent in this case, Uh,
they thought there were gods would enter their brain and
create an auditory hallucination. Yeah, and that they unquestioningly obeyed
that auditory hallucination, and that's what help them get through

(07:45):
novel situations that they didn't have like a basically a
prescribed script for you know, a mindless automatic thing. Something
new came along, they got in their way. This god
would speak to them and say, go around that rock.
It wasn't there yesterday. Don't worry about it, just go
around it. And it could be one of their gods.
It could be an ancestor guiding them. I think um one,

(08:08):
um one. I think the Sumerians maybe made reference to
angels walking beside them um or. And this is really
important later on. It's a big part of Jane's hypothesis.
It could be your local ruler, the divine king who's
in charge of you and everybody else that you know
and love and have ever lived among. It could be
that person guiding you in your life too. And the

(08:31):
idea is they these people heard this in the same
way like you said that we hear our own internal dialogue,
but they never chalked it up to themselves. It was
always coming from the outside. All right, Well, here's I
guess where I had my first issue kind of grasping
this is there were no gods speaking to them and
guiding them. This was just their internal dialogue. They just

(08:53):
didn't know it. Yes, yes, yes, there was no gods.
But to them, and this is a really important point
to them, it definitely was a god talking to them
or an ancestor talking to them. And in the same
way that if if an actual god got into your
brain and like was speaking to you and you responded

(09:14):
to it, if you could have looked at their brains
lighting up, presumably in like a wonder machine, it would
it would respond the same way. So it was entirely
real to them, and the same way that a placebo
effect has real effects on your body. Um, this would
have been the same thing. And then in addition to that,
it was culturally supported. Everyone that they knew believed the

(09:35):
same thing that the gods were talking to them, and
so like that just lent support to this idea so
that no one, no one questioned it. It was just
that's the way it was. Well, so this, I guess
brings me to let me macro this out a little
bit in my own dumb brain, and it may just
be twenty twenty one century person thinking that I'm engaging
in But if the idea is that, uh, before this,

(09:59):
there was consciousness. But what we're really saying is there
actually was consciousness that they just didn't recognize it as such.
Is that the whole point was that if you do
not recognize it as consciousness, therefore you are not conscious. Yes,
because you're not. You're not experiencing consciousness in any way
that we would recognize as you being conscious. You're just

(10:21):
kind of um Julian James referred to now. Okay, so so,
but the thing is is there's like a lot of
scholarly discussion on like, Okay, what did James mean exactly?
How literal was he because he used words like automaton.
He never called him zombies. Other people call them like zombies,
but that no one talked about zombies back then. Hard, No,

(10:41):
that's true. But um, well evil Dead had or not
evil Dead, living dead now the Living Dead had come
out by then. Yeah, but it wasn't like today. Okay, no, no,
I know. They're definitely over the automatons. So he called
them automatons, and it's essentially the same thing that they were.
They just behaved automatically. They didn't stop and think about
how they felt. They and this is really important to Chuck.

(11:04):
Of course, they still had feelings. They had feelings about
the people that were in their kin group, they had
feelings about their local ruler, they had feelings about um,
you know, stubbing their toe. It's not like they just
had no inner life whatsoever. It's that they weren't. They
didn't reflect on their inner life, they didn't think about thinking.
They didn't they didn't have what we would recognize as consciousness,

(11:28):
and in the terms that James is describing consciousness, which
is a really narrow definition of consciousness. And then on
top of that, he also goes to great links to say, Hey,
I understand that you're gonna get all up in a
tizzy that I'm saying that these people weren't conscious. I'm
not talking about consciousness in general. And I think that
you over overestimate just how much consciousness makes up our

(11:52):
our lives. Okay, how about we take a break. Okay,
I'm gonna go rip a boll uh. We'll take a break,
we'll come back and we'll talk about what lots of
other stuff right after this and stop shot stop all right.

(12:34):
So I've kind of wrapped my head around what this
guy is saying. Now it's uh. I will admit it's
a little naval gazey for me. Uh On when it
comes to certain types of philosophy and hypotheses, I get
a little bit like, uh, what's the word? Maybe I
can be a little too concrete or is the French

(12:54):
concrete and literal in my thinking, because it's not you know,
Friday night in college, like two in the morning kind
of discussion. So I think that's where I am now.
But I do think it's very interesting and that he
I mean, I think a lot of this is very interesting,
But I think it's interesting that he thought around the
first or second millennium BC is when things to him

(13:18):
changed and a consciousness began to emerge because of uh, well,
eventually language, but specifically metaphor, which is to say that
all of a sudden, we could make analogies in our brain.
We could link things together. Uh. We saw ourselves as
um almost as if they were characters. Ourselves were characters

(13:44):
that had like choices that they could make his characters,
and that as these things like connected in the brain,
then it created just an effect like a domino effect
basically where all of a sudden we could work out
our own solutions, or we we knew we were capable

(14:04):
of working out our own solutions, And wasn't God saying
God saying walk around the rock? They realized it was
ourselves making the decision to walk around the rock. Yes,
but it's but in part of that that also required
them to be able to reflect on the idea. Like
you said that that they were able to now make
their own decisions, right, And you said something earlier where

(14:25):
you're like, you know, you were talking about your own
internal dialogue where you you think, hey, I should get
up and go outside for a second. Um, Like, that's
that's different, right, You're thinking about you yourself, and you
realize that you are thinking about yourself. That's modern consciousness.
What somebody who was a bicameral person during this time

(14:47):
would have thought is get up and go outside. And
they would stand up and go outside without questioning because
God had just instructed them to do that, so it
must be important. And they didn't think about where it
came from. They definitely didn't think it was from themselves,
and they didn't reflect on it. They just obeyed it.
That's Jane's position, and that if you compare those two things.

(15:09):
You're talking about two totally different forms of mental life,
and that's so different. He said that this is that
what we understand is consciousness just wasn't around until a
couple of thousand years ago. Okay, I can buy that.
I like it as a hypothesis. I can swim in
this pool. Okay, good, good. Here's the thing it's really

(15:30):
important to to to realize, like you said something, that
you're you're a literalist, right, that's actually really appropriate to
approach this because Julian Jaynes one of the very radical
things that he did was he took the ancients literally
because when he started looking around and we'll talk more
about this later, but he was looking for those artifacts

(15:50):
that would prove his hypothesis or lend support to it
at least, and he was an expert in ancient languages, right,
so he was it was really appropriate. He could actually
read Sumerian and Mesopotamian, and he took what they were
saying when they said things like, um, you know, the
gods told us to do this, that that they thought
that the gods told him to do this, not that

(16:11):
they were using metaphors. So he took them literally on
their word and that's a real departure from anybody else
who's ever examined the ancients of what they were saying. Yeah,
and I think it's also something we should point out now,
even though it comes up later in our research. Is that, um,
when you think of an auto, I guess an automatic

(16:31):
society or society of automatons. Uh. That's not to say
that they weren't successful. He's describing some of the most successful,
you know, ancient civilizations that existed. But I think his
contention is that it was a hive mind all working
together as automatons that allowed this stuff to get accomplished,

(16:51):
and not the conscious mind, right, And he didn't I
don't think he ever used it as like, I don't
think ever explicitly said that it was an emergent prop
pretty of a hive mind. But that's kind of what
he was describing, kind of like if you take one
stone cutter and one stone mason and three stone carriers
and multiply that unit by five hundred and give it

(17:13):
a year, you have a zigguratte built. That That's just
that's just all those people knew what to do, they
knew their position in their place, and they just did it,
and so yeah, you could totally do that. With people
who are thinking in this way and weren't conscious, you
could probably actually get it done more easily than you
could with people who stopped and thought, I'm above this,

(17:33):
this work is is not suited for me. I should
be doing something else, or why is the foreman being
so mean to me today? Like they didn't think like
that under Jane's um hypothesis, So they would probably get
the work done more efficiently, at least more quietly. I
would guess. Oh, I mean consciousness proposed or brought along
a whole host of problems. I imagine if you're the

(17:57):
ruling class. Uh. I think one thing that's interesting is
that you mentioned um about what what is it? Jane's
not Johns, Jane's Jane's thought about I love Robert Lamb's
James Addison joke in here by that Oh that was yours?
Oh well, where to go? Thanks, you said, Janes says,

(18:20):
and then in parentheses you put it's a pretty good joke.
But what Jane said was that, um, and it's something
you mentioned earlier, was that consciousness. I think we think
consciousness plays too big of a role. And what is
actually a life that is can largely be still automatic

(18:42):
on a lot of levels. And this is from the
actual book in nineteen six and it's a little little
mind blowy. I kind of like it. Consciousness is a
much smaller part of our mental life than we're conscious
of because we cannot be conscious of what we are
not conscious of. It's like asking a flat and this
is where it kind of comes home to me. It's
like a asking a flashlight in a dark room to

(19:05):
search around for something that does not have any light
shining upon it. So that's where it comes home to meet,
is when you and hey, it's metaphor. So how about
that he lays down a metaphor that makes me understand
it a little bit more. Yeah, because you know, wherever

(19:25):
the flashlight looks, there's light. And his point, yeah, and
his point is is wherever your conscious mind looks, there's consciousness.
But that doesn't mean that there's consciousness all over the place.
And um, yeah. Robert Lamb does use as a really
good example of unloading a dishwasher, right, like when you're
unloading the dishwasher, especially if you're one of those people

(19:46):
who put like all of your knives in one place
all of your forks in one part of the basket,
all of your spoons and so on. Right, a maniac
in other words, sensible human. If you do it like that,
it's you can you can just be on a pilot
because you've done it so many times. But when you
do something like drop a fork, that's out of the norm.

(20:07):
That's a novel thing that doesn't happen every time. And
so in in the bi cameral mind, God would have said, um,
I command thee to pick up thine fork butter fingers,
and you would lean over and pick up the fork,
and that was that. Instead you you might not even
think about picking up the fork. You might do that automatically,
but it's still out of the norm. It's still different.

(20:29):
You have to kind of think about it a little
more than just unloading the dishwasher. Now, if you take
that dishwasher metaphor chuck, and you realize that three five,
nine thousand years ago, there were no dishwashers. There was
no ice cream scoop, there was no cookie scoop, there
was no avocado splitter, there was nothing like that. Wait,

(20:50):
what's that thing? Now? Yeah, you don't know, you don't
have one of those. No, I'll send you one. You're
missing out. It's a it's a multi tool for cutting avocados,
getting the pit out, and then slicing them as you
scoop them out. They're essential. As a matter of fact,
I do pretty well with my knife, but I would
love to see one of these. Okay, I'm gonna get
to you one for Christmas. Okay. So the point is that, like,

(21:15):
there wasn't a big variety of stuff, so there wasn't
that many novel situations, like we encounter novel situations like
almost constantly. That's just modern life. And that's the basis
of James um uh Like hypothesis that the reason that
consciousness evolves is because we started to get faced with
more and more novel situations on a much more frequent basis.

(21:37):
So it maybe it became inefficient for God to be
talking to us every thirty seconds um or maybe we
just got better at thinking for ourselves and consciousness kind
of evolved out of that. But the point is life
was much less complex back then, so you could have
something like a bi camera mind. You could have somebody
who who consciousness hadn't evolved in yet because they hadn't

(21:59):
been introduced to enough experience in life, and with that
experience came the the fork falling on the floor. In
other words, yeah, or you know, there's a lot more
dishes to put away, in much more different dishes to
put away rather than just forks, you know, you know
what I'm saying. Or you have one fork and you

(22:20):
just carry it with you everywhere, you know, like you
don't have to think about that. There was just less
stuff to think about, is what I'm saying. Well, now
you're speaking my language, because if I had it my way,
every member of my family would have one for one spoon,
one knife, one bowl, one cup, one plate, and they
were all responsible for keeping them clean and put away. Man,
every time I hear one cup there, I'm like, there's

(22:42):
a joke in there somewhere, But even if I could
come up with it, I wouldn't be able to say it.
Oh yeah, that's true. All right. So now we're at
the point where we can talk a little bit more
about this idea of metaphor and language sort of bringing
about this change. And uh so what James was throwing
down in ninety six, besides apparently a bunch of roach

(23:06):
clips was a the emergence of agricultural society is kind
of changing everything, and that all of a sudden, we
are not living in groups of you know, ten or
twelve people that are hunting and gathering, where even if
there was sort of a leader within that group, it

(23:26):
was very easy to disseminate information and follow that that leader.
Once we started settling down planting and growing things, engaging
in trade with other people's that that did a lot
of things that complicated every process, and it meant that
societies were much much larger and that rulers couldn't necessarily

(23:47):
speak directly to people anymore. Yeah, so the another not
two specific people, like they could lay down an edict
and that would get disseminated in other words, right, and
so like um, I've read before back when I was
an anthropology student that hunter gatherer bands usually numbered no
more than thirty people, Like that was the absolute maps

(24:09):
and once you reach that, you'd split off into two
different bands. So yeah, like the person in charge was
like part of your moment to moment life. And if
you're if you have if you're suddenly in a civilization
and you're building a ziggurat for somebody's probably not deigning
to talk to you. And part of Jane's um hypothesis
is that this this bicameralism emerged from you know, all

(24:32):
those new novel situations like learning to plant crops, learning
to domesticate cows, learning to engage in trade and talk
to other people, that we started to like need direction
from the gods more and more, and uh, it started
to kind of get faster and faster. Um. But in
the meantime it was a form of social control because

(24:54):
one of the people you could think was talking to
you was that local ruler who you were building the
ziggerat for. So that would be a way to keep
an increasingly large population in check, right, And as they
got bigger and bigger, uh, and they started, you know,
trading with people like we were saying that. You know,
that's was sort of the beginning of the end for

(25:15):
his uh, not his bi camera mind, but the b
camera mind. And one of the biggest problems with all
of that was when we started writing stuff down, because
all of a sudden, um, this these auditory hallucinations that
he felt like everyone was having to instruct them on
what to do. There was there was now stuffed down

(25:37):
on paper that you could read and you could refer
to and go back to and pass around and post
on the you know, on tablets at the walls of
the city or whatever. And that was all of a sudden,
you weren't waiting around for God to tell you what
to do. You could just go read that tablet. Yeah,
so the power that we gave to the god's commands

(25:57):
were kind of transferred to um, the written word. And yeah,
that seems to have been like the death knell for
the bicamera mind, right, um. And there's something really interesting
that's worth pointing out. Jaynes apparently didn't have any hy
hypothesis on what came before the bicamera mind because he

(26:19):
said it started as a result of the increasing um
organization that agriculture brought Alonge and that there wasn't bi
camera minds before then, But he doesn't say what was
before then? Um, And people even asked him like, okay,
what about you know, um hunter gatherer societies that are
still around today, you know, where would they have gotten consciousness?

(26:39):
And he never really answered that, but it's it's definitely
worth pointing out that that's an open question. But he
basically says bicameralism, Uh, or the bi camera mind. I
should say bi cameralism is the senate in the house. UM,
but the bi camera mind lasted from the advent of
agriculture about eleven thousand years ago, all about two thousand

(27:01):
ish maybe fred or no. Three thousand is years ago,
so it was about a seven thousand year span of
UM B camera minded. Then as life got more and
more sophisticated, we started thinking for ourselves. And what he
says is that language and in particular the written word,

(27:23):
but also language got more and more sophisticated, and as
it got more sophisticated, there was more of a potential
for us to start thinking in metaphors and metaphors, as
you said, is the basis of consciousness and the way
we think in Julian Jane's mind. And there's actually a
lot of support for that. Charles, may I oh please?

(27:44):
So that post by Hazard on Less wrong, it's called
consciousness as metaphor. What James has to offer and what
Hazard says, um is that like Hazard just puts out
like a paragraph from like an economic report, and it's
about recessions in Europe and it talks about Germany plunging

(28:05):
into recession or the UK falling deeper into recession or
France emerging from a recession. And what Hazard points out
is that all of these descriptors imagine a recession as
a three dimensional physical thing that we can entire nations
can move into and out of. That's not true. Recessions

(28:26):
aren't three dimensional. They aren't physical things. You can't emerge
from them, you can't fall into them. But we just
think about it like that, and that's metaphor. So we
think in metaphors so frequently we don't even recognize it anymore.
And that was Jane's point that when we gain the
ability to think in metaphors, we became conscious, We started

(28:48):
thinking for ourselves, we became capable of introspection. And it
was the evolution of language that led us to that point.
Like basically, it just we just hit a threshold where
suddenly languages sophisticated enough that it could unlock new thoughts
in our brains and in turn unlocked consciousness. I mean
that makes sense because you know, in a meta a

(29:08):
metaphor is literally not literal, and if you were, if
you did, if that was not a thing yet, then
it chives with the whole notion that everything they were
doing was very literal up and to that point, and
that that would have been a pretty seismic shift. Uh.
If you can compare like with like, you know, all
of a sudden. Yeah, and you even see this in

(29:30):
like Um, like movies that are trying to emphasize how
backwards or back in time, you know, some group is
um and they emphasize it by having that group take
everything literally, usually to comic effect, like in Kingpin when
Randy Quaid was an Amish person. Right, yeah, he took
everything literally and it was hilarious. Hilarity ensued, but it

(29:53):
was also to demonstrate how just simple and behind he was.
He couldn't he couldn't engage in metaphor, you didn't think
like that. That's actually based on I don't know whether
on purpose or not, but that's based on Julian James hypothesis. Yeah.
And you know what, that's a nice segue to children,
because when you have a human child, Uh, it's very

(30:16):
funny to see how literal they are for those first
years and that they don't understand metaphor, they don't understand
certainly don't understand things like sarcasm, and you have to
change the way you talk to little kids because they
do take everything so literally and think so literally. And uh,
children are are references are referenced with Jane's Uh the

(30:39):
idea that, um, I think what age like, kids up
until the age of five basically, uh don't really have
much of a human consciousness. Uh. And it's and you know,
the idea that children are are just little narcissist walking
around is a fun joke, but it's true because they

(31:00):
don't know that other people think differently than they think.
Up until about the age of five, they don't realize
there are other lines of thought and ways of thinking
and ways of feeling about things that other that other
people have exactly. That's what's called theory of mind, right
and um On Slate Star Codex, Scott Alexander went to

(31:20):
great links to basically say that Julian Jaynes using the
term consciousness just really muddied the waters unnecessarily and if
you just use theory of mind, it would have made
a lot more sense. And Scott Anderson Scott Alexander, I think,
I said Anderson Scott Alexander makes some really a really
good case for it, and that's kind of what he's
pointing out is um. You know, like it's it's possible

(31:43):
that because you learn it's not you're not born with it.
You you learn it through experience. It just kind of
evolves in you as you grow as a person and
experience more and more novel stuff and interact with people more,
almost like a micro azum of what happened in civilization
a few thousand years ago, you gain theory of mind.

(32:07):
So the fact that you can learn and that you
do learn something that integral to consciousness really supports the
idea that maybe consciousness, as we understand it, was learned.
It did evolve, It was an emergent property of an
increasingly sophisticated language. It's a fascinating thing to see happen

(32:27):
in a child's life. Um, to see these little lightbulbs
come on seemingly out of nowhere, but you realize it,
as you know, very much a learned thing. Very fascinating.
All Right, I say, we take a break and we'll
talk a little bit about, uh, just some other fascinating
stuff when we get back. Right after this things s

(33:15):
I was gonna summarize what we're going to talk about,
but I didn't feel like it all of a sudden
before they break. I think it's nice it's loose. Can
can I talk about one of my favorite parts of
this this hypothesis definitely is we were we're kind of
jumping around now, but jumping back to where we talked
about writing things down. All of a sudden, it was

(33:38):
around here in human history that there was a collapse
of societies, uh, in the Mediterranean around the Middle East.
It was called the Late Bronze Age collapse. And it
didn't take that long, and it meant like these very
advanced sort of societies, in a matter of decades, a
number of them, uh, a lot of their culture was lost.

(34:00):
That was it's sort of They called it, in fact,
the Greek Dark Ages, and it lasted for hundreds of years.
And jibing with this was when humans started to lose.
And it kind of all makes sense that they were
losing um with a written word, with metaphorign language coming along,
they were losing this voice as a god. They were

(34:21):
they felt like they were losing their gods because all
of a sudden, the gods were silent to them. They
weren't speaking to them in their mind because they were
gaining consciousness. And here's where it gets super interesting. James
has a hypothesis that says, it's about here where the
organized religions that we know today were born out of

(34:44):
a kind of nostalgia basically for these gods that left them. Right. Yeah,
I think that idea is really interesting. It is and
I mean that the timetable really jibes, and it is
really interesting that that late Bronze Age collapse happened when
it did. Um. But but the idea is not just
nostalgia but also desperation. Because these people had guidance, they

(35:08):
didn't have to think, and this poor set of generations
over a few hundred years are maybe some of the
most pitiful humans that ever lived, because they went from
just knowing what to do because the gods told them
what to do, to having no idea what to do
because their gods had abandoned them. And they that as

(35:29):
a result of that, they started forming religions. They started, um,
you know, beseeching the gods to give them a sign.
This is when oracles started to become a thing. Profits
started to become a thing. Superstitions um like omens grew
like there was a Sumerian omen. If a horse comes
into your house and bite you you will soon die

(35:50):
and your family will soon be scattered. Stuff like that. Right,
So this this didn't exist before because the gods were
in charge of everything. Now they were suddenly gone, and
I just think it must be must have been really
pitiful and dark to live through that time. Yeah, I
mean they were lost, I guess as a people. Yeah,
And and I mean that was figuratively they were lost,

(36:12):
but literally too because that late Bronze Age collapse they
think was brought on at least in part by climate
change and probably invasion. There's this mysterious group called the
Sea People's that seem to have overrun different cultures, and
so like culture after culture would fall, those people would
become refugees, descend upon another culture, end up pushing that
to the breaking point that culture would fall. It was

(36:34):
just like a domino effect of collapsing cultures all at once.
So they really felt like the gods had abandoned him,
like they had angered him or something like that. They
were genuinely lost. So what James did, uh to help
support his hypothesis, which makes sense, was to go back
and look at literature, uh and at the time and
see if it's sort of supported this I know one

(36:56):
of the things he wrote a lot about in his
book in six was that was Homer's Iliad, because he's
kind of like, here's proof right here. I mean, if
you look at the Iliad, they were basically automatons. They
they just listened to the gods and did what the
gods said, and they substituted, um, like, the words that
we would use to substitute in for the Iliad to

(37:18):
indicate consciousness just weren't there, right, So they were more
like physical descriptors like my belly was quivering or my
heart was fluttering or something like that, not um. I
think the example that's used as fear filled Agamemnon's mind,
and well, there wasn't a mind, so they would describe
fear and other physical terms, right yeah. And that it

(37:40):
wasn't until later on when um new translations were coming along,
that people who were now conscious turned the stuff into metaphor.
And James is saying they didn't mean it as metaphor before,
they meant it as literally, and they didn't have descriptors
her mind. And when they say the gods were guiding
them along, they meant it literally. And he was saying
that the Eliot in particular, UM started to be written

(38:02):
about eleven d b C. And then around seven b C.
It was like in its form that we see it today,
but along the way it was kind of added to
and it it was written during the transition from bicameral
mind to modern consciousness. He sees it as basically a
document that that traces that transition. Very interesting. There was

(38:23):
some other stuff too, right literature wise, Yeah, so that
wasn't the only one. UM. He also found in some
of the religious texts, like evidence that people felt like
God had abandoned them. There's something a Mesopotamian poem called
the ludlul bell Nmecki, and it says, my God has
forsaken me and disappeared. My Goddess has failed me and

(38:43):
keeps at a distance. The good angel who walked beside
me has departed. And again, most other scholars would say,
there's something happened. This guy was blue, he was in
a funk. Who knows, but it's all metaphorical. And James
is saying, no, this guy had God talking to him.
Now he doesn't anymore. So should we talk a little
bit about actual science here with the brain, because this

(39:07):
is something we've covered before in the past when we
talked about alien hands syndrome where it came from a
gazillion years ago. Um, we there were there was evidence
that when the um there there were certain epilepsy patients
who where it was so severe that they would uh

(39:28):
sever the corpus colossum, undergo a corpus colostomy, and the
corpus colossum is basically the the thing that makes the
two hemispheres of the brain communicate with one another. And
with alien hands syndrome, I think they found that it
could be brought on by this surgery where all of
a sudden, the left arm was doing something and without

(39:48):
being told to do it by the the right brain.
And they have uh James, I think, or people since James,
And was it James or was it just people trying
into uh sort of proof his theory. I think that
people saw this these experiments as support for Jenes's theory. Okay,
So they looked at these surgeries, these corpus colostomies, and

(40:13):
they're they're called split brain patients basically where they you know,
after the surgery, it's not like they felt all out
of whack. They felt like a regular you know, whole
human being. But they learned that there were these little
things that would pop up where a hemisphere would take
an action based on this information that it didn't have
access to. And the example they gave was UH, if

(40:36):
they like instructed the right hemisphere to just walk to
the kitchen, uh, and they would get up and walk
to the kitchen. But they would say, hey, why did
you get up and walk to the kitchen? The language
the left hemisphere, the language dominant hemisphere, UH, is the
only part that can respond to that. But the left
hemisphere doesn't know why it got up, and they're really

(40:59):
fast nating. Part is that they wouldn't say, well, I
don't know, I'm not sure why I just did that.
I just did it. They would make something up on
the spot and say, you know, I felt like getting
up and going to make a bowl of cereal. And
it's it's almost like we had this natural instinct to
bs somebody when faced with a question that we can't
answer about why we did something. Yeah, Because the left

(41:22):
hemisphere wants to explain things. It wants to tell the
story um using metaphors usually and this was this became
the left brain interpreter theory and um, it kind of
supports um Uh Jane's idea that the consciousness is a
flashlight looking for a dark spot in a room and
it just can't find it. And um, the idea is

(41:44):
that the left hemisphere creates the explanation the stories for
our behavior, even if it doesn't know why we did something.
But that's just what it does. And there's a saying
in consciousness research among people who subscribe to the left
brain Interpreter theory is that consciousness isn't in the oval
office like it thinks it is. It's more in the

(42:05):
press office, like it's the one that's public facing explaining
what you're doing, but it might not have all the information,
so sometimes it's just b s NG. It's very interesting stuff. Uh,
And sort of tying in with the kid thing, Um,
who is this? How do you pronounced the name of
that one researcher Kushtian Lastian Couture k k U I

(42:28):
J S c E. N Oh, yeah, I'm just gonna
say Chustian. I think that's pretty pretty dead on. That's
the person who runs the Julian James um Uh Society
today because James died in I don't think we ever
pointed that out. But this person basically says, hey, if
you look at people who hear voices, and that's not

(42:51):
necessarily to say someone that has schizophrenia, because that is
one percent of the population apparently is the highest ten
percent of the population. Can you know, does hear things basically?
So these Uh, it's the idea of the command voice

(43:11):
basically is to to do something. And uh, if you're
hearing a voice that says, you know, moved to the
window and look out on the street, that's one thing.
If you hear a voice that says, take the knife
from the drawer and you know, put it in someone's head,
then that's another thing altogether. And uh, we were talking
about kids earlier, you know, the idea of the imaginary

(43:33):
friend kind of jobs with this lack of consciousness of
kids have imaginary friends. I had an imaginary friends. My
daughter had for years what she called her ghost friends,
which is a lot creepier way to put it. But
I think that's all just sort of to say that,
like that nine percent of people who are hearing voices

(43:55):
who are not suffering from schizophrenia, is that proof of
that initial bicamera mind at work. Right, yeah, and and
I mean, um, Julian James believed that children go from
a bicamera state to a conscious state, as evidenced by
that development of theory of mind, or as evidenced by
imaginary friends. Um, and that they're they're kind of recreating

(44:19):
what society or the human species went through thousands of
years ago as they age and develop. Very interesting. So um,
there you might be out there, especially if you're a
concretist like Chuck Um thinking like you might be rocking
in your seat right now, face flushed about to faint
out of rage, Cameron, because like, this is by definition unscientific.

(44:46):
It's not provable in the form that James put it forth.
It's more of a concept, uh, an idea, and apparently
he was well aware of that. He didn't touted as
as anything more than that. But question uh. The director
of the Julian Jane Society likes to point out that, um,
it was he was basically laying the groundwork for an

(45:08):
entirely new way of looking at things so that other
people could come along and you know, take it up
and and figure out how he was wrong, how he
was right, what needed fleshing out, what made sense, and
it's that form and people have been doing that again.
This is this is like a crackpot theory that has
never gone away because the more people pay attention to

(45:29):
it and the more we start to understand about the brain,
the more sense it kind of makes. Uh. And it
it seems to be gaining traction rather than losing it
over the like fifty years that it's been around. I
think it's interesting. I don't hate this stuff. I'm not
rocking in my chair. David Bowie loved it. He said
that the origin of consciousness is the breakdown of bicameral mind.

(45:52):
I think that was it. No, he said it was
one of the top hundred books to read. Oh all right,
I believe that totally. It's very Bowie thing for sure,
and other people too. Um. And then one other thing
another way to put all this to kind of sum
it up that I saw it put is that, um,

(46:14):
we developed at some point back in the in history
a left brain bias, you know, which kind of ties
into your original view of the whole thing, which was,
you know, they weren't conscious that they were conscious? Right?
You like that? You got anything else? Uh? I might,
but I might just not be aware of it man,

(46:37):
as I said, this is the best episode we've ever
done since Chuck Giggles, which everybody loves. I think. Then
it's time for a listener mail. Uh, this is about
the freedom of the Press episode and this was a
Josh request. Hey guys, how freedom of the press word

(46:57):
struck a particular chord with me. I used to work
as a science teacher but was finding more and more
students were being duped by pseudoscience on the Internet and
weren't being provided the tools to recognize this. So I
did a master's in the library and information science and
now a school librarian on a minute mission to vanquish disinformation.
While I've included the topic of journalism in terms of

(47:19):
approaching news critically as with any online source of information,
your recent podcast on how Freedom the Press works really
inspired me to put forward more information and content about
media freedoms and the risks for journalists. Here in Sweden,
it's very easy to take freedom to press for granted.
Last year, in sympathy with my American colleagues, I put

(47:39):
up a display of banned books tracked by the a
l A, and each book had a tag listing the
years and ranking a book was challenged, and I encouraged
the students to guess what for. It led to a
lot of really good That's what I loved. This experiment
with students led to a lot of really good discussions.
Many students hadn't realized the scale of how many books

(48:00):
have been banned or challenged. Were horrified to see their
own favorite books on display. Uh And we're also shocked
by the justification, as are we always. Now that COVID
restrictions are being lifted, I'm very much looking forward to
taking students to the world's first library of censored books,
the Dowitt Isaac Library in the Malmer Archives as a

(48:23):
new mole so that students can see the extent of
limitations on the press and media freedoms around the world.
Thanks again for the fascinating show and all around amazing series.
Kind regards uh Met van liga Hell's Niggar that is
must just be a salutation and Swedish that comes from

(48:47):
ms ms Alice Antonsen. She hear hers, thank you, Alice.
That is amazing. I'm so glad we've we got to
that listener meal because I've been proud of that person
for a very long time. Ever since that you came
in totally. How about Sweden Hunt, keeping the American Dream alive?
And Chuck Also, before we sign off, there's something I've

(49:08):
been meaning to address that you said earlier. You said
you have a dumb brain. You know you don't? Did
I say that? Yeah? You did. So if you want
to get in touch with us like Alice did and
show the world what a hero you are, we would
love to hear that kind of thing, you can email
us to stuff podcast at iHeart radio dot com. Stuff

(49:30):
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