Susan Blackmore – The Meme Machine

Blackmore’s own chapter synopsis in italics, with my own notes in between.

 

1. Strange creatures

What makes us different, this book argues, is our capacity to imitate. We humans can pass on ideas, stories, tunes, and theories from one person to another. All these are memes – and memes, like genes, are replicators that undergo evolution. A brief history of the meme is given, and a few implications sketched out.

Stresses the importance of the ability of humans to imitate each other which we learn from a very early age. Animals are only very rarely able to do this.

The meme was first mentioned by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene in 1976, in which he stresses the importance of both memes and genes as selfish replicators. The notion of the selfish replicator was an important development for evolutionary biologists as it gave a better explanation for certain characteristics of natural selection than that offered by focusing on the individual creature. The individual gene will propogate itself if it can, that is its only function. “Selfishness” in this case should not be taken literally or as an indication of intentionality. A gene, or meme for that matter, is simply a unit of information and isn’t capable of this.

Dawkins wanted to illustrate that the principle of natural selection, and the concepts behind Darwinian thinking, had more fundamental implications than those which apply to biological evolution alone. He wondered if there were other types of replicators which could be seen as acting out their own form of evolution, presumably to bolster his arguments and provide his readers with an analogous argument which was more readily relatable and had the advantage of not taking millions of years to develop.

He hit upon the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, and singled out the Greek word “mimeme” and shortened it to “meme”. This monosyllabic abbreviation had the effect of making it catchier, easier to remember, and a better, well, meme. As examples of memes he suggested ” tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches”. Memes get stored in our heads, books and other storage media and get propogated by imitation, being talked about, read about and watched on television.

According to Dawkins a key characteristic of the meme is that it acts like a parasite infecting a host, and can be seen as a replicating entity in its own right. In this sense it is inherently selfish like a gene, and will act in its own interest, whether this benefits the genes or not, and whether its effect on the host is harmful or beneficial. Dawkins disagrees with many of his colleagues who assert that ultimately all of human behaviour must serve some biological advantage. Now that our brains have evolved sufficiently to accommodate memes and they have been unleashed, he argues, they will only serve their own purpose.

Blackmore then discusses the idea of “meme fear”, and discusses the current status of the acceptance of the concept of the meme, culturally and scientifically. When Darwin first explained his theory of natural selection there was a great deal of resistance to the idea, largely because it forced us humans, as a species, to think of ourselves as just another product of a mechanism, rather than the direct descendants of a divine being. This was a difficult exercise in modesty that took some adjusting to. Blackmore suggests that if her theories of the meme are correct, a similar leap will be necessary to deal with the implications for the origins of our minds and consciousness. (She ultimately uses memetics to deny the self, free will, consciousness and creativity. Oops.)

2. Universal Darwinism

The evolutionary algorithm requires replication, heredity, and selection to run – and when it runs it produces design out of nowhere. If memes are replicators then the design of societies and minds is an evolutionary process. We must remember, though, that memes and genes are different in many ways. Their similarity is that both effectively say “Copy me!”. Examples of self-replicating “copy me” memes are provided from chain letters to political beliefs.

Daniel Dennett is referenced (page 11), as describing the whole evolutionary process as an algorithm, or mindless procedure which, when put into motion, must produce an outcome. Our relationships with machines is very algorithmic, as when we interact with them we know we must follow certain steps in a particular order, or we won’t get the desired result (reference Hayles?). The point of an algorithm is that it is substrate-neutral, or can run on a variety of different systems, including us. Only the logic of the algorithm, the instructions contained within it, is important.

The point of the evolutionary algorithm is that it allows for design to come out of apparently nowhere, without the need for a designer or a plan. As long as there is heredity, variation and selection, attributes which Blackmore argues they do, it is inevitable that evolution will occur. There is no way to predict what kind of design will result without running the process and observing it. The complexity theorist Stuart Kaufmann is referenced (page 13) who likens the evolution of life to an incompressible computer algorithm (Wolfram, Chaitin, mathematical irreducibility ?)

American Psychologist Donald Campbell (page 17) argued that organic evolution, creative thought and cultural evolution resemble each other and do so because all are evolving systems where there is blind variation between the replicated units and selective retention of some units at the expense of others. The important point is that he wasn’t deriving this idea from biological principles directly, but suggesting that organic evolution is simply one instance of a general principle of evolution which encompasses various forms.

The idea of the memeplex, or sets of related memes that group together to more easily propagate themselves, is introduced.

Dennett referenced again (page 22) saying that our minds are the result of the interplay of memes, and human consciousness is a result of them. The haven all memes depend on reaching is the human mind, but a human mind itself is an artefact created when memes restructure a human brain in order to make it a better habitat for memes (Dennett 1991, page 207).

 

 

3. The evolution of culture

Inventions are memes, from the origins of farming, to engines, books and coca cola cans. But who benefits? We may think we do but according to memetic theory it is the memes themselves who are the beneficiaries, not the genes, and certainly not us – their creatures.

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker (1994) is referenced as explicitly applying evolutionary thinking to the development of language, considering heredity, variation and isolation in allowing variations to emerge (p 25). This is in contrast to previous modes of thought which looked at the development of culture as a simple accumulation of knowledge and ideas over a period of time. However, he stops short of considering a selfish replicator as an agent in this process, or explaining why language developed in the first place. Blackmore is sceptical of others who have the same approach, and thinks that the problem is that many theorists don’t seperate the general principles of evolutionary theory from biological evolutionary theory. (Dawkins had the same difficulty in The Selfish Gene with his contemporaries – they were always inclined towards seeing a biological advantage to everything) Blackmore argues that memetic theory can shed much light on the issue of how culture evolves.

It is essential, to understand memetic theory, to see the meme as a selfish replicator in its own right, which isn’t subordinate to the gene. Where the two coexist, there will be conflicts of interest between them; sometimes the gene wins, sometimes the meme. As for the question of who benefits (Dennett addressed this in 1995 (p 30)), the answer is nobody, apart from the replicator itself. The successful meme gets itself copied, there is no need to ask why that benefits us (it needn’t), or if it benefits the genes (it might, it mightn’t.)

From p 31 Blackmore reviews the work of several theorists who have considered cultural evolution. Two camps – herself, Dawkins and Dennett, Boyd and Richerson, who believe that the meme is a true selfish replicator not controlled by the gene, and others, like Alexander, Lumsden and Wilson, who believe the gene ultimately wins out. The “Leash Theory” is introduced, comparing the relationship of the gene and the meme to that of a dog and its owner. The dog owner (gene) can let the dog (meme) wander off on the leash, but even if the leash grows long, the dog can never escape or control the owner. Blackmore argues that the dog is just as likely to gain control.

Evolutionary psychology is mentioned (p 35), (Pinker 1997) which maintains that all our beliefs, behaviors and tendencies are adaptations we have undergone in our distant past to adapt to a hunter-gatherer way of life. In other words all of our behaviour ultimately comes back to biological advantage. Blacmore argues that this viewpoint, while useful, doesn’t sufficiently explain our development, and we need to consider the relationship between the gene and meme in our evolution.

 

 

4. Taking the meme’s eye view

Why can’t we stop thinking ? The surprising answer from memetics is that it is because the memes force us to keep thinking – and talking – to spread more memes.
Some words of caution – Not everything is a meme, only those things that are passed on by imitation are memes. Distinctions between imitation, contagion, and social learning are made. A lot of what we experience through perception and learning has nothing to do with memes.

5. Three problems with memes

Three important problems are discussed. We cannot specify the unit of a meme, we do not know the mechanism for copying and storing memes, and memetic evolution appears to be “Lamarckian”. This last has caused enormous controversy but rests upon a false comparison between genetic and memetic evolution.

6. The big brain

No one knows why the human brain is so relatively enormous. The origins of the human brain are discussed along with various theories of its origins. A new memetic theory is proposed – that memes designed the human brain for their own replication.

7. The origins of language

The evolution of language has been hotly debated for more than a century. The major theories and their strengths and weaknesses are reviewed.

8. Meme-gene coevolution

A new theory of meme-gene coevolution is proposed and applied to the origins of language. The theory suggests that language was created by the memes as a way of improving the replication of memes by increasing fidelity, fecundity and longevity. In other words, the purpose of language is to spread memes. Both our big brains and our language have been meme driven.

9. The limits of sociobiology

Sociobiology has made great progress, for example in overthrowing the Standard Social Science Model of human behaviour. However, sociobiologists believe that the genes hold culture on a “leash”. According to memetics this is wrong – the memes have leapt off the leash and are driving the genes. The concept of memetic drive takes us far beyond the interests of the genes.

10. An orgasm saved my life

Sex spreads memes. The sociobiology of sex is reviewed and the importance of love, beauty, and parental investment considered. Biological approaches can explain a lot about sex but mysteries remain.

11. Sex in the modern world

From the genes’ point of view the major mysteries of modern human sexual behaviour are celibacy, birth control, and adoption. Each of these can be easily explained in terms of an advantage to memes – not genes.

12. A memetic theory of altruism

Altruism has long been a problem for genetic explanations of behaviour. The varieties of human altruism and cooperation are reviewed. Conflict between genes and memes appear and again can be resolved by seeing that the meme is a replicator in its own right.

13. The altruism trick

A new theory of memetic altruism is proposed. Altruism spreads memes and therefore thrives even at the expense of the genes. Some memes just look like altruism, but whole memeplexes (co-adapted meme-complexes) can use the “altruism trick”. Debts, obligations, and bartering are all affected by memes.

14. Memes of the New Age

Alien abduction is a memeplex, as are many other popular new age ideas. Strong emotions and inexplicable experiences provide specially ripe conditions for spreading false memes. Near-death experiences are another, as are the memeplexes of divination and fortune telling. These may all be relatively harmless but big money is involved in peddling the memes of ineffective alternative therapies.

15. Religions as memeplexes

Religions have been used as a prime example of powerful, and usually false, memes. Their power is explained in memetic terms. Religions and genes have coevolved, providing us with brains that are especially likely to pick up and enjoy religious ideas – even when they are false. The true insights at the heart of some religions can be swamped by other more powerful memes. Group selection (so controversial in biology) may also play a role. Finally, what is the difference between science and religion?

16. Into the internet

The memes took a great step forward when they invented writing – and then printing, and then other forms of communication, from railways and ships to fax machines. The important concepts of copy-the-product versus copy-the-instruction are explained. We can now understand how and why the internet has evolved and guess at the direction the memes will push it in.

In this chapter Blackmore argues that memes essentially created telephones, computers, books dvds and in fact all the tools we have which are involved in the storage or consumption of ideas. She explains this by pointing out that as soon as memes appeared they began evolving towards better fidelity, fecundity and longevity, and in the process brought about the design of better meme-copying machinery. As it seems to any rational person a little far-fetched to expect that bits of information could achieve all of this, she point out that genes, which are bits of information stored in DNA, have created gnats and elephants (p204). The answer is the same for both cases, the information is a replicator which undergoes selection. Evolutionary algorithm runs, and this always results in design. She points out that the design of computers by memetic selection is no more mysterious than the design of forests by genetic selection, a process which is very well understood and accepted. The consciousness of a designer is not required in either case. Design comes about entirely from the playing out of the evolutionary algorithm. (p204) (need to expand more here on selection with regards to environment, what is the memes’ environment?).

For some context, Blackmore refers back to the early days of natural selection. As Dawkins and others have stated, when the first ever replicator arose on earth, it is assumed it wasn’t DNA. This precise cellular machinery for propagating genetic information would come much later. Rather, it would have been much simpler, and what was being selected was probably tiny bits of protein or other chemicals. Gradually, over time, some of these got copied more often and accurately than others, and became more prevalent. Natural selection would see to it that more of these got copied, as well as other proteins that were involved in the copying. At a much later point the system settled down so that there were very high-fidelity copies being made of long-lasting proteins –  DNA. The key point Blackmore is making is that we should see the meme as being at this crucial, early point in its evolution. It is still experimenting with differing forms of getting itself copied, hence the proliferation of various media and devices for storing them. It has not yet settled on a stable, favoured method yet. (You can see this in the progression of film storage, where we’ve gone from early film, to vhs, to dvd, to blu-ray, to super high quality digital streaming – always evolving, always improving quality and efficiency of spreading itself around. Could be a good place to reference Hito Seyerl’s essay on the poor image.)

Blackmore now traces the development of various milestones in human cultural evolution to make her way to the internet. She had previously discussed language and now comes to the invention of writing. What writing achieved for the meme was the third of the big three; longevity. (Spoken language had us well covered for fidelity and fecundity.) Writing appears to have been invented several times in human history by different cultures. In all cases though, there was a gradual development and adoption of conventions and improvements were made over time.

Human consciousness is considered, as the driving force for all creativity. Blackmore points out the difficulty in explaining this, as it leads to a dualist position – that the physical brain and conscious thought are seperate entities, and there’s no proper evidence for this. Scientists are more inclined to propose that creativity is the product of a person’s intelligence and abilities, that brain mechanisms are doing the work. (though I don’t see how intelligence differs from consciousness regarding dualism.) But this view doesn’t account for all the ideas that are already stored in the person’s brain. A mimetic approach however, takes it all into account.

Blackmore’s point is that human minds are a product of genes and memes. Daniel Dennett is now quoted (1991, p207) “a human mind is itself an artefact created when memes restructure a human brain in order to make it a better habitat for memes”. The history of writing is given a review; systems which represent each sound with a letter (our Roman alphabet) have gained more dominance than those which use symbols specific to each word as used in the far east. This is because there is far less effort required in learning the former, and the meme can be propagated further, more quickly. Therefore natural selection ends up favouring it. After the invention of the printing press and the proliferation of books, the meme scored a major boost, as now any sort of information can be in printed form. Before, with books so expensive to make by hand, the content was closely controlled by those with the resources and politial motivations to do so. The notion of memes in books Blackmore sees as a good example of natural selection at work on culture. The replicators are the memes, the selective environment is the mind of the author where the ideas battle it out for supremacy, and the bookshops where they are sold and the people who do or don’t buy them. The copying machinery is the printing presses, publishing houses etc. The point is that though people are crucial in the process, we don’t in any way constitute creative designers conjuring ideas from thin air. “We are the copying machines, and parts of the selective environment, in a vast evolutionary process driven by the competition between memes.” (p.210) Blackmore thinks of her own mind as a battleground of ideas, millions of which she has picked up from numerous sources over many years, and does not think of herself as an, independent conscious being.

The difference between the city and rural areas of population is discussed. There will be a natural memetic pressure for people to live in cities. Because cities are densely populated, there are far more opportunities to exchange and spread memes by meeting others, going to pubs, theatres, art galleries and so on. Once somebody has become accustomed to a meme-rich existence it is very difficult to go back. Competition in business, science, publishing and the arts depend on the transfer of memes, and as the methods of transferring them become faster the competition only increases. Though we may think, possibly rightly, that this is an enrichment of our lives, it really is for the benefit of the memes. (I suppose today those who are not on social networking sites advertising their shows and encouraging people to comment on them are at a disadvantage.)

The movement from analogue to digital was an important development as it increased the fidelity of information copied. The progression from speech to writing can be compared to this, language being more digital than indistinct cries or sounds, and writing furthering the process. A person who has learnt to read can distinguish a distinct letter from a variety of scrawls from various hands. This is a digital signal taken from an analogue one. Copy the instruction over copy the product is another important development. If you have a recipe or set of instructions for making something, you will produce a far better copy than if you try to guess or reverse-engineer a copy from an existing item. Working from a set of instructions each time eliminates errors and keeps the accuracy high as many items are made. This context is important because it has been key to the development of computers and programming, which are always sets of instructions. Programs are continually refined over time (actually, especially now as open-source code allows savvy users to make their own enhancements) and successful ones are copied with huge fecundity and fidelity and spread worldwide. Also, in the case of a word processor software, the documents that are produced are what constitute the vehicles to carry the original program, much as creatures are vehicles for copying genes. “The competition between replicators forces the invention of better and better systems for copying those replicators. The best systems are digital, have effective error-correction mechanisms, and copy the instructions for making the products, rather than the products themselves.” (p215)

The internet is the ultimate vehicle for the storage and propagation of memes. Blackmore wonders about the future and if the internet will ultimately remain under our control. Just because we built the machinery within which it operates, she argues, it doesn’t mean it will remain so as the system becomes ever larger and more complex.

17. The ultimate memeplex

This is not some super-invention of the web, but our familiar and ordinary “self”. What am I? A conglomeration of memes – a massive memeplex living in a brain. Many illusions are created by the memes and, if this view of memetics is true, we are not really in charge of our lives at all – the replicators are. Our “self” was created by and for the memes.

In the 17th century Rene Descartes (Descartes 1641, p 102) concluded that the only thing it was possible for him to be certain of was the fact that he was thinking, and that this confirmed his existence. This “Cartesian dualism” is therefore the notion that thinking stuff is somehow different from physical stuff, that our bodies, and our minds (or souls) are separate. This idea is not supportable though. If our minds are not made from something physical then there is no way they could control our material brains and bodies. Also, there appears to be no way to differentiate between the neurons in the brain which control automatic bodily functions, and those which produce thoughts and emotions. There are no “self” neurons.

The brain has about a hundred billion neurons or nerve cells. They are connected together in fantastically complicated arrangements to store and process the information which produces our behaviour. Neuroscientists now know that when we perform an action, such as identifying and pointing to a specific word on a page of printed text, many separate systems of the brain work in parallel to produce the action. There isn’t any one area where a series of inputs come in and processed instructions emerge however. There doesn’t seem to be any need for a “self” in this process, or any place for it to exist, and this is a very disturbing point. (Exactly why we find this so disturbing is what fascinates me, what’s the big deal?) There is the popular notion of the “Cartesian Theatre”, in which the mind is likened to a theatre with a spotlight shining on the stage, illuminating those bits of the brain’s vast store of information which are currently being thought about. This continually shifting focus is what consciousness is. This couldn’t exist though, as the brain’s focus of activity, depending on what we are doing, shifts to many different regions of the brain at once. “I” am not located anywhere. Daniel Dennet (1991) argues that there is no place in the brain where “it all comes together” but that the brain produces multiple drafts of what is happening as information flows through the brain’s parallel networks. One of these drafts is the verbal story we tell ourselves, which happens to include an author of the story. There isn’t one though, and can’t be. It’s only an illusion.

Benjamin Libet (1985). Performed a series of experiments in which subjects were asked to spontaneously flex their wrists while their brain activity was monitored. They were asked to observe a revolving spot on a clock face, and to note exactly where the spot was when they decided to act. There is a particular brain wave pattern, called the readiness potential, that is observed when the body is about to perform a complex movement, as it prepares the series of movements to be carried out. In every case where a subject moved their wrist the readiness potential was recorded more than half a second before the decision to act was made, and the action itself occurred a fifth of a second after the decision. It appears our brains don’t need us to make decisions at all.

David Hume (18th century scottish philosopher) said that even when he meditated, he would always experience some form of sensation, whether pleasurable or not, but could never catch simply himself alone without some form of sensation. He concluded that the self was no more than a “bundle of sensations” (Hume 1739-40). Consciousness also appears to take time to build up, as further experiment by Libet showed. The brain can be stimulated to experience sensations, but only if continuously stimulated for more than half a second. This leads to the idea that our conscious appreciation of the world lags behind the real events, we simply have a mechanism (subjective antedating) which restores the order to the events in our minds. As in pulling your hand away from the flame before being consciously aware of the heat, consciousness does kick in, but too late to have directed the action. (Could be good here to talk about decision-making in art practice, as I am so interested in authorship and all that)

There are then, two ways to interpret the self and consciousness. The first is as a persistent, real self which is somehow apart from and in control of our bodies. The other is more difficult to accept but much more likely given the evidence, that the self is an elaborate story or illusion that the complex workings of our brain makes us perceive. We are in fact only a bundle of thoughts and sensations tied together by a common history.

The big question remains though, why do we have such a strong conviction that we are conscious, persistent beings? It’s sometimes thought to be a necessary legacy of having evolved as beings with complex social structures. In order to survive and thrive in social communities, it is necessary to have an understanding of the possible motivations and likely actions of others so that we may act accordingly. But could we not understand our own behaviour without invented fake versions of ourselves? Blackmore wonders if we insist on believing the illusion because it makes us happy, and points out that studies have shown that happiness comes not so much from the acquisition of material wealth or recognition but from living lives where we get to do things we are skilled at; a sort of fulfilment. She references the Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990) who studied the fulfilling experience of “flow” that artists experience when they attain that point in their practice when they are lost in their work. This seems to be a sense of happiness through loss of self-consciousness.

The selfplex. Memes can change from being information which is simply out there to being something that “I” firmly believe, when they take advantage of and bolster up our strong belief of self. The more beliefs and opinions we have in our brains, the stronger the notion becomes that there is a “me” to do the believing. These memes are in very strong positions, as when they gather into memeplexes they form a self-protecting barrier into which it is difficult for other memes to break. As the memosphere becomes ever more complex and competitive, we individuals who are inhabited by them are expected to be interested in more subjects, hold different opinions, behave in certain ways, acquire certain possessions and so on. Blackmore ultimately concludes that our sense of self is so strong because the memes that have gotten inside us make it that way to aid their propagation.

18. Out of the meme race

Our place in the universe has to be reconsidered in the light of the power of the memes. We have no free will, and our consciousness is not the driving force of our behaviour. Creativity and foresight owe more to memetic evolution than to individual brilliance. In other words, we are meme machines through and through, and we need to learn to live with it. Dawkins claims that we alone can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators but really, the book concludes, there is no one to rebel.

Sociobiology has always attempted to explain the development of human culture in respect to the selection of the gene by applying the principles of natural selection to psychology. Blackmore argues that considering the meme gives a far fuller picture of cultural development, as it takes into account the memes’ own selection in the cultural environment, and its power to effect genetic development.

The model Blackmore constructs of humans is that we are biological machines which have evolved over a very long period, initially, as a result of the natural selection of our genes. At a more recent point in our history memes, when they attained the status of replicators, co-evolved with our genes to give us the large brains which now house them, resulting in the selfplex, and the resulting illusion of self and consciousness we experience. “The way we behave, the choices we make, and the things we say are all a result of this complex structure: a set of memeplexes (including the powerful selfplex) running on a biologically constructed system.“(p 236) As genes continually fight it out to get to the next generation, memes battle each other to get passed onto the next brain, book or computer, and this is how cultural design comes about. These are replicators working their way through the algorithms of natural selection; there is no need for any other source of design power, and no need to invent the idea of free will.

An example is given of a boy named Benjamin who eats cornflakes for breakfast. His body has evolved to require carbohydrates as nutrition in the morning, he lives in a society in which cornflakes have been developed as a product, and is attracted to the design and colours on the packaging. He might claim, if asked why he chose cornflakes, that he likes the taste of them, but the argument is that this is a story he tells himself after the fact. Does he have free will? It depends on who we mean by Benjamin. If we treat him as a mind and a body, then certainly he had various choices to pick from, as all people have desires, plans and aversions on which they act. Blackmore however, does not feel that this is enough to constitute free will. She points out that in order for free will to exist, there must surely be an “I” which is capable of making independent, conscious deliberate decisions, and “I” must be the agent for it to count as free will. But this “self” which is supposed to have the free will is nothing but an elaborate story which forms part of a vast memeplex. All human actions are the result of complex interactions between our genes, memes and the complex environment they inhabit. “The self is not the initiator of actions, it does not “have” consciousness, and it does not “do” the deliberating.”(p237) – (she now references Dennet (1984) as having various descriptions of free will, claiming she wants no version of free will that relies on a self who doesn’t exist)

In memetic terms, a model to examine my own creativity might go something like this. My inherited genes have formed a brain which handles visual information well, and gives me good co-ordination and motor skills. I was born into a society which has developed and values education, and a family which was supportive of individual growth. Later in life my interests and skills caused me to associate with similarly minded people, giving me a rich environment in which to exchange and absorb a huge amount of information relevant to an artistic practice. This was further strengthened and refined by attending college, where memes are concentrated and propagated to a huge degree. Therefore, when I complete a new work, it could be said that it is a combination of memes from countless sources derived from my knowledge of historical art practice, and other disciplines in which I’ve become interested over time. The complex process of my gene and meme-derived brain have given rise to something new. I may well hold a firm conviction that I was directing proceedings by making choices at all stages along the way, but this requires the belief in a “self” which was doing the choosing, which is merely an illusion forming part of a vast memeplex residing in my brain.

Blackmore notes that creativity certainly does exist, and creative acts happen all the time. She just disputes that the generative power behind these acts is a conscious self, and is instead competition between memes. She also considers the self we experience to be very important, as it is a powerful entity that affects people’s behaviour. In terms of creativity however it can get in the way, as the most potent bouts of creativity often occur when the artist is in a state of selflessness, acting spontaneously and without self-consciousness. (I myself have never experienced this.)

 

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