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Scientists say your “mind” isn’t confined to your brain, or even your body

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  • Scientists say your “mind” isn’t confined to your brain, or even your body

    After much discussion, they decided that a key component of the mind is: “the emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within and among us.”
    https://qz.com/866352/scientists-say...ven-your-body/

    I have had occasion when discussing some topic to try and dispel some widely held beliefs. One of those is the idea that the mind is a product of the brain. You could think of it as experience is imputed and the brain processes it and in the process produces the mind. Not only is that a perfectly reasonable hypothesis it appears to be true. What is missing from the equation is that the brain is also a product of experience. Not only is the mind "the emergent self-organizing process" but the brain is as well. To illustrate the nature of this phenomenon consider that DNA is not the blueprint for the organism but the blueprint for the environment in which the organism will recreate it's evolutionary history. The idea that DNA was the blueprint for the organism lead many scientists to reject what is now the established science of epigenetics thinking that Lamarckism was completely regulated to the dust bin of theories.

    Neither the brain nor the mind are static entities. The power of the human mind comes from manipulating abstractions. We have evolved a large brain because we started manipulating abstractions where a stone was not just a stone but a potential tool. Not only could we abstract a tool from a stone but we could share the concept with others. This ability allowed for humans to evolve larger brains because tools allowed for the high caloric intake necessary for a large brain. If the first ape to abstract a tool had simply let it slip through it's mind and not used the abstraction or shared it evolution of the brain would have been stunted. This is the important concept in so far as it is inter action with the environment that determines the scope of the mind. For example if someone explains something to you you never considered and you accept it you do not have the same mind you had in the proceeding moment.

    The relationship between memory and consciousness is an interesting topic. Consider a sleep walker. We say that a sleep walker is unconscious or semi conscious. A sleep walker general does not remember the activities they engaged in before being made conscious by waking up even though they can appear conscious to the casual observer. This example implies that memory plays an important role in consciousness. The relationship between consciousness and the mind is of course a matter of self awareness. The paradox arises because a sleep walker must be self aware in some sense to walk but we could general describe that as "mindless" self awareness. At the other extreme a person deprived of all sensation or sensory perception could be "completely" self aware if not asleep. Of course all of the above is subject to common definition of terms that could be debated but the point is that the mind is a distinct definition of self awareness or mindfulness. Although we consider the products of our subconscious an aspect of our mind if those processes never rise to the level of consciousness then what we define as the mind does not exist. It is also true that without a subconscious the brain could not function and consciousness would be impossible. The fact that we do not consciously organize the contents of the subconscious validates at least in part the original definition " that a key component of the mind is: “the emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within and among us". The concept depends on the fact that we are not in complete control of our experience, which is better defined as environment, nor our subconscious.

    The importance of the redefinition of the mind leads to another controversial topic. That is whether the human mind is superior by degree or kind to other animals. The simplest explanation of the problem would be that differences in kind are not reducible. For example the human mind has properties that cannot be reduced to size and complexity. However if the mind is not completely contained in the brain, perhaps by terms of swam intelligence or external technology such as language tools that are shared then size and complexity become a secondary issue to technology. Another way of putting it would be that the mind consists of abstract intuition pumps that can be stored externally by some sort of memory technology. It is only if the mind were contained in the brain that the argument for kind would stand.

    For the purposes of these forums the above discussion leads to another common point of disagreement. That would be the age old nature vs nurture debate. For relationship we could say environment vs brain. No sane person makes the either or argument so we can set that aside. For political purposes we are concerned with how environment effects the mind and how the collective mind effects the environment. The collective mind however is not evenly distributed. By definition some people will be more mindful than others. If we want to develop the collective mind we take those differences into account when establishing the environment. The fundamental nature of the abstraction we call reality argues against equality of control over the collective environment. Making hierarchies of competence not only desirable but unavoidable in the definition of reality. This requires one more clarification. Reality is abstract to the extent that it is communicated because language itself is abstract and the mind is also abstract because it doesn't have an isolated physical existence but is rather an emergent self-organizing process. Which requires the further
    clarification that abstractions are real they just are not what you think they are. The best example would be money. Money is also a abstract self-organizing process that is symbolic of somethings elses. As we are not fully conscious money is never exactly something we can define and while it has no physical counterpart it impacts our physical existence.

    I want to make it clear that I'm not saying I have solved these profound questions. I'm only trying to clarify what I want to communicate as my world view.
    We hunt the hunters

  • #2
    Actually, the mind is in and of the brain. It cannot function otherwise, and the sole purpose of that bodily organ is to process sensory input in order to determine necessary action/reaction. Along the way, it provides you with what we call your personality, which is merely your overt way of responding to sensory stimuli and communicating.

    A lot of people like to make it far more mysterious than it is, because they cannot/will not accept the fact that we are merely a higher order of animal life, and if it weren't for opposing thumbs we would be on the food chain along with all the others.

    "I think; therefore, I am." is pure garbage since even animals think.
    Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
      Actually, the mind is in and of the brain. It cannot function otherwise, and the sole purpose of that bodily organ is to process sensory input in order to determine necessary action/reaction. Along the way, it provides you with what we call your personality, which is merely your overt way of responding to sensory stimuli and communicating.

      A lot of people like to make it far more mysterious than it is, because they cannot/will not accept the fact that we are merely a higher order of animal life, and if it weren't for opposing thumbs we would be on the food chain along with all the others.

      "I think; therefore, I am." is pure garbage since even animals think.
      You are misunderstanding Descartes. The statement is part of a set of philosophical reasoning
      as a first step in demonstrating the attainability of certain knowledge. It is the only statement to survive the test of his methodic doubt. The statement is indubitable, as Descartes argued in the second of his six Meditations on First Philosophy (1641), because even if an all-powerful demon were to try to deceive him into thinking that he exists when he does not, he would have to exist in order for the demon to deceive him.
      I doubt that animals do a lot of philosophic thinking

      https://www.britannica.com/topic/cogito-ergo-sum
      Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
      Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
        Actually, the mind is in and of the brain. It cannot function otherwise, and the sole purpose of that bodily organ is to process sensory input in order to determine necessary action/reaction. Along the way, it provides you with what we call your personality, which is merely your overt way of responding to sensory stimuli and communicating.

        A lot of people like to make it far more mysterious than it is, because they cannot/will not accept the fact that we are merely a higher order of animal life, and if it weren't for opposing thumbs we would be on the food chain along with all the others.

        "I think; therefore, I am." is pure garbage since even animals think.
        I understand you don't have much use for philosophy and I can't say I blame you. I would however be careful thinking of the brain as a wet computer. It is better to think of it as a type of swam intelligence organ where each cell is an individual single celled animal. In fact it is best to think of all multi celled organism this way regardless or them having a brain or not.
        We hunt the hunters

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        • #5
          There is more to us than the processor in the cranium. We possess a very complex nervous system and ganglia in some parts of the body exchange information and make 'decisions' although these are not apparent to the concious mind. Nevertheless, these can both influence and be influenced by that mind. One of the major "sub brains" is located in the digestive system and controls the balance of the various chemicals used to process our food and transport "fuel" through the blood stream to the engines that we call muscles. The degree to which we are are anxious or calm will provide the cue for differences in the balance of those chemicals so the concious mind can control the process to some degree without realising it. However there is a feed back loop so that changes in the balance can affect mood and increase anxiety. Listening to one of the pioneers of the new discipline of Evolutionary Psychology on the Beeb the other day he was making the point that such loops were highly functional back in the days when our early human and prehuman ancestors evolved and were still prey animals and a tendency to anxiety both increased the propensity to run without needing to think too much about the need to and ensured that the muscles got the right fuel to do so ensuring that the anxious individual's genes were more likely to get passed on. Today when we don't need to worry about sabretooths lurking near the waterhole it may be more dysfunctional. The point is our mind is not some isolated main processor sitting in a control room in the head.
          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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          • #6
            Sometimes you think with your big head and other times you think with your little head...

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            • #7
              Originally posted by MarkV View Post
              There is more to us than the processor in the cranium. We possess a very complex nervous system and ganglia in some parts of the body exchange information and make 'decisions' although these are not apparent to the concious mind. Nevertheless, these can both influence and be influenced by that mind. One of the major "sub brains" is located in the digestive system and controls the balance of the various chemicals used to process our food and transport "fuel" through the blood stream to the engines that we call muscles. The degree to which we are are anxious or calm will provide the cue for differences in the balance of those chemicals so the concious mind can control the process to some degree without realising it. However there is a feed back loop so that changes in the balance can affect mood and increase anxiety. Listening to one of the pioneers of the new discipline of Evolutionary Psychology on the Beeb the other day he was making the point that such loops were highly functional back in the days when our early human and prehuman ancestors evolved and were still prey animals and a tendency to anxiety both increased the propensity to run without needing to think too much about the need to and ensured that the muscles got the right fuel to do so ensuring that the anxious individual's genes were more likely to get passed on. Today when we don't need to worry about sabretooths lurking near the waterhole it may be more dysfunctional. The point is our mind is not some isolated main processor sitting in a control room in the head.
              That is a perfect illustration of what we are discussing because as it turns out some of our "intelligence" comes from bacteria colonies.
              We hunt the hunters

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              • #8
                Originally posted by wolfhnd View Post

                I understand you don't have much use for philosophy and I can't say I blame you. I would however be careful thinking of the brain as a wet computer. It is better to think of it as a type of swam intelligence organ where each cell is an individual single celled animal. In fact it is best to think of all multi celled organism this way regardless or them having a brain or not.
                Philosophy is not truth, merely the recorded opinions of certain people who think they understand how things work. If it agrees with people they pronounce it a profound truth - if they don't, they move on to the next pundit in line. Some of the most truthful sayings I have ever heard came from very ordinary people making spot observations, and not from"great thinkers". And where does philosophy stop and the ordinary world begin? Is scientology a crackpot 'church', or a profound philosophical concept? Is religion really faith, or just some individual's philosophy who thought he was talking to some god, and convinced other to buy into his delusion? "I think; therefore, I am" describes a computer just as well as a human.

                We are still prey. Today's sabretooth is the CEO and his OCD over the bottom line, the consulting efficiency expert, the corporate financial officer, the human resources director and your immediate supervisor.

                Meanwhile things meaning to harm or kill you lurk everywhere in our culture today,from complete strangers to a neighbor who goes off the track and starts shooting at you, or a disgruntled kid in your kids' school with a gun. The anxiety derives from inability to accurately predict and deal with unseen, unkn0wn hazards every minute of every day. Just driving to work in some places provokes humans into a killing rage.

                All of this takes place in your animal brain and your lizard brain. Your human brain is left trying unsuccessfully to cope with things completely beyond its control.

                None of this, however, has much of any bearing on the question posed in the OP - is the mind within or without? I am above all a realist, and I have yet to meet a scientist who can show me a "mind" operating outside of a body. That concept seems to me to come perilously close to religion.
                Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post

                  Philosophy is not truth, merely the recorded opinions of certain people who think they understand how things work. If it agrees with people they pronounce it a profound truth - if they don't, they move on to the next pundit in line. Some of the most truthful sayings I have ever heard came from very ordinary people making spot observations, and not from"great thinkers". And where does philosophy stop and the ordinary world begin? Is scientology a crackpot 'church', or a profound philosophical concept? Is religion really faith, or just some individual's philosophy who thought he was talking to some god, and convinced other to buy into his delusion? "I think; therefore, I am" describes a computer just as well as a human.

                  We are still prey. Today's sabretooth is the CEO and his OCD over the bottom line, the consulting efficiency expert, the corporate financial officer, the human resources director and your immediate supervisor.

                  Meanwhile things meaning to harm or kill you lurk everywhere in our culture today,from complete strangers to a neighbor who goes off the track and starts shooting at you, or a disgruntled kid in your kids' school with a gun. The anxiety derives from inability to accurately predict and deal with unseen, unkn0wn hazards every minute of every day. Just driving to work in some places provokes humans into a killing rage.

                  All of this takes place in your animal brain and your lizard brain. Your human brain is left trying unsuccessfully to cope with things completely beyond its control.

                  None of this, however, has much of any bearing on the question posed in the OP - is the mind within or without? I am above all a realist, and I have yet to meet a scientist who can show me a "mind" operating outside of a body. That concept seems to me to come perilously close to religion.
                  Rugged individualism seems to me to be almost as religious.

                  Scientists by and large are not dualists so you would probably have a hard time getting many to agree with the original article. Most professional philosophers today are engaged in mathematical logic or something similar not what people think of as philosophy. I don't think the original article is about science or philosophy but about the trap of determinism vs indeterminism. I use those philosophical concepts not to engage in a formal philosophical discussion but because they are useful to avoid a page of definition. When you say you are a realist that too has a long philosophical history that you probably absorbed unconsciously. Fortunately you are in the good company of most intellectuals today because determinism is very popular. I'm only trying to establish that most of human life is social and by definition abstract. The important thing is to not get hung up on the formal definitions and focus on the degree to which abstractions are real. To do that it is almost impossible to avoid philosophical concepts such as realism unless you want to rewrite most of human intellectual development. In philosophical terms it is a contradictory position of being a determinist and a dualist or neither but something entirely new perhaps. I have no problem with someone being a realist as long as they are not an absolutist. I think you can see that what we are doing is using philosophical terms to deconstruct philosophy as we know it. As an empiricist I think you can appreciate that knowledge is always incomplete and what we know is an approximation of not a facsimile of reality.
                  We hunt the hunters

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by wolfhnd View Post

                    Rugged individualism seems to me to be almost as religious.

                    Scientists by and large are not dualists so you would probably have a hard time getting many to agree with the original article. Most professional philosophers today are engaged in mathematical logic or something similar not what people think of as philosophy. I don't think the original article is about science or philosophy but about the trap of determinism vs indeterminism. I use those philosophical concepts not to engage in a formal philosophical discussion but because they are useful to avoid a page of definition. When you say you are a realist that too has a long philosophical history that you probably absorbed unconsciously. Fortunately you are in the good company of most intellectuals today because determinism is very popular. I'm only trying to establish that most of human life is social and by definition abstract. The important thing is to not get hung up on the formal definitions and focus on the degree to which abstractions are real. To do that it is almost impossible to avoid philosophical concepts such as realism unless you want to rewrite most of human intellectual development. In philosophical terms it is a contradictory position of being a determinist and a dualist or neither but something entirely new perhaps. I have no problem with someone being a realist as long as they are not an absolutist. I think you can see that what we are doing is using philosophical terms to deconstruct philosophy as we know it. As an empiricist I think you can appreciate that knowledge is always incomplete and what we know is an approximation of not a facsimile of reality.
                    I'm not entirely sure what "determinism" is. A realist - to me - is someone who acknowledges what he can verify through his own senses, and who do not accept 'facts' or 'truths' merely because they are claimed or proposed by others. Empiricist works just well.

                    I see a range of mountains and I think geological and tectonic forces, not 'god". Same thing when a tsunami kills thousands of innocent people.

                    However, in some ways I'm a bit like Fox Mulder. There are things I would like to believe, but they don't stand up to the empirical tests. Things like the innate goodness of Man, for example. "The meek shall inherit the Earth" is another one - a kind of cosmic oxymoron that flies in the face of all of recorded human history. And since when does a 'benevolent and loving god' kill thousands of innocents including children? Or let them starve to death every day all over the world? The world and the cosmos are empiral places and survival is knowing how to swim. That is also a reasonable definition of sanity in this day and age.

                    Meanwhile, Descartes never thought it through enough to wonder if he was only thinking that he was thinking. What would he make of virtual reality?
                    Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post

                      I'm not entirely sure what "determinism" is. A realist - to me - is someone who acknowledges what he can verify through his own senses, and who do not accept 'facts' or 'truths' merely because they are claimed or proposed by others. Empiricist works just well.

                      I see a range of mountains and I think geological and tectonic forces, not 'god". Same thing when a tsunami kills thousands of innocent people.

                      However, in some ways I'm a bit like Fox Mulder. There are things I would like to believe, but they don't stand up to the empirical tests. Things like the innate goodness of Man, for example. "The meek shall inherit the Earth" is another one - a kind of cosmic oxymoron that flies in the face of all of recorded human history. And since when does a 'benevolent and loving god' kill thousands of innocents including children? Or let them starve to death every day all over the world? The world and the cosmos are empiral places and survival is knowing how to swim. That is also a reasonable definition of sanity in this day and age.

                      Meanwhile, Descartes never thought it through enough to wonder if he was only thinking that he was thinking. What would he make of virtual reality?
                      I appreciate you playing along. I want you to know I have no interest in religion other than it's literary and historical value. Religion is one way we can look at cultural evolution. I have little interest in spirituality at all other than as a place holder for certain psychological concepts. If I gave the impression that I was headed for a dualism argument concerning body and spirit I was not. Dualism as I was using it was concerned only with mind and body.

                      The Descartes concept is a philosophical problem of establishing that there are absolute truths and I agree with you that in general it is mental masturbation. For the problems I'm concerned with the zombie question doesn't really interest me. It isn't terribly important if people have freewill or just act as if they have freewill. I have always argued that absolute truths are trivial and the focus should be on empirically derived arguments. That doesn't mean that people who explore absolute truths don't have interesting insights or that absolute truths are not a part of abstract reasoning. Mathematics for example is both useful and absolute. Applied mathematics is not absolute because almost all data is derived empirically and has "sensory" limitation. Since the development of quantum mechanics absolute truths have taken a bit of a beating even in physics. The world appears deterministic at large scales and indeterministic at tiny scales. Certainly the clock work view of nature seems incomplete. It is important to remember that scientists remain attached to determinism because nobody knows what quantum indeterminism really has to do with most questions outside physics.

                      People think practicality in these questions is an attempt to avoid or neglect problems but I'm of the opinion that an engineering approach is acceptable. You can apply scientific principles without them being complete and the results can be tested within limits. The standard you apply in terms of accuracy and precision needs to meet the objective. More or less true is close enough for many objectives. Philosophy took a wrong turn when it started focusing too heavily on the "deep" questions. We are lucky is we can solve the shallow questions.
                      We hunt the hunters

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                      • #12
                        The problem with applied sciences is that it is all self-derived. When we felt the need to measure time, we created it. When we felt the need to measure accurately, we created specific measurements, ironically based in some cases on anatomical features of specific people.

                        However, it is our system, and there is no proof that I am aware of that our standards and measurements and mathematical structures exist anywhere but here on Earth. We know for a fact that cosmic time is far different concept than the fleeting version we created here on Earth, and because we happen to have ten fingers, we use base ten mathematics, but I see no reason whatsoever for any other species, quite likely with different anatomy and morphology, to follow suite.

                        Time itself has undergone an enormous change, going from hours to minutes to seconds to microseconds to nanoseconds and now to even smaller units. Why? Because our arbitrary units were not initially adequate to measure actual events so we made up new ones.

                        One of my favorite issues is "the speed of light"concept, which we claim is absolute. Not so long ago, the speed of sound was absolute, as have been other barriers. Quantum physics has shown us that two particles can be in the same place at the same time, or go someplace else in that fraction of time as well, and that the speed of light does not seem to regulate their behavior. What else is the universe operates on scales and times that we do not know, or cannot even comprehend? After all, when we don't know, we make stuff up. We don't know what is between stars, so we made up a theory about "dark matter" to make our calculations work our correctly. In any system of measurement, that is a seriously flawed approach. Imagine telling your math professor that you could not arrive at the correct answer, so you made up a fudge factor that corrected all of your calculations. So it is with "dark matter".

                        In all things, we are hampered by being part of the spectrum we are observing, and according to Heisenberg, observing the experiment alters it. (In fact, it does not; it merely reveals the truth; it does not change it. Heisenberg overthought the whole thing, just like Descartes.) Therefore, we cannot know what is really taking place, or alternatively, Heisenberg is wrong. I personally suspect the latter because I find it hard to believe that mere humans can define the rules by which the entire cosmos is operating, and that applies even more to philosophy, a science create entirely within the minds of flawed and biased humans, and religion, a philosophy created by frightened and insecure little beings on a huge world full of forces they could not possibly understand, let alone how both it and they came to be there.

                        Or maybe we just need to make up some different stuff.
                        Last edited by Mountain Man; 13 Feb 19, 13:14.
                        Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                        • #13
                          Made up stuff such as money is useful.
                          We hunt the hunters

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by wolfhnd View Post
                            Made up stuff such as money is useful.
                            Is it? Because it comes with enormous problems that were never envisioned by the original creators, and isn't even backed by anything of substance anymore. Like everything else in our existence, it is an arbitrary unit of translation between "work" and worth, and it isn't even remotely accurate. Is a grown man whose only ability is to keep on playing children's games and who can hardly speak his own native English language really "worth" thousands of times the efforts of a person trying to cure Alzheimers or cancer? No...but that's how our totally corrupted system calculates relative values. Arbitrarily and without logic or reason.

                            And the entire planet uses different versions of the same system such that none of it makes much sense in the end. An Italian genius making millions of Lire a day is practically broke.

                            And now we have entrusted the entire system to the ethereal realm that can be hacked, crashed or obliterated with a single key stroke...and we're the dominant species?

                            Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post

                              Is it? Because it comes with enormous problems that were never envisioned by the original creators, and isn't even backed by anything of substance anymore. Like everything else in our existence, it is an arbitrary unit of translation between "work" and worth, and it isn't even remotely accurate. Is a grown man whose only ability is to keep on playing children's games and who can hardly speak his own native English language really "worth" thousands of times the efforts of a person trying to cure Alzheimers or cancer? No...but that's how our totally corrupted system calculates relative values. Arbitrarily and without logic or reason.

                              And the entire planet uses different versions of the same system such that none of it makes much sense in the end. An Italian genius making millions of Lire a day is practically broke.

                              And now we have entrusted the entire system to the ethereal realm that can be hacked, crashed or obliterated with a single key stroke...and we're the dominant species?

                              If you don't like money then how about language. There are critical periods of brain development for acquiring language. Under development of areas of the brain responsible for language have been observed in feral children. The significance of this observation may be missed if you don't appreciate that language is abstract. When you say see spot run the person you are talking to understands you mean a dog. The thing is there is no such thing as a dog. Dog is a abstract representation of a domesticated carnivorous mammal that typically has a long snout, an acute sense of smell, nonretractable claws, and a barking, howling, or whining voice. There has never been nor will there every be a generic dog yet almost everyone understands what you mean when you say dog. The point is that failure to acquire the ability to abstractly represent physical reality causes physical changes to a feral child's brain. That which isn't real alters reality.
                              We hunt the hunters

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