Being “Soulful”, Animal Training, and Finding Your Bottleneck

Ever since I had a conversation with Anna Salamon a few weeks about about “soulfulness”, my thoughts keep returning to the topic. I don’t have a great definition of what being soulful is, and I’d say that it probably lines up pretty well but not perfectly with most people’s intuitive definitions.

Anna explained it using a picture, which was helpful. I won’t try to replicate it here though, both because drawing pictures interrupts my flow significantly, and because I think I’ll personally get more value out of trying to use words.

I’ll take it for granted that humans have a bunch of subsystems. Insofar as this is just a metaphor, I’ve found it to be a very robust one. The subsystems don’t start out perfectly exchanging information–I can tell by observing my daughter that it takes a while for internal communication to come online. (For example, despite because physically able to clap, she seems so far unable to do so consciously. Whatever subsystem is hooked up with trying to make gestures for social reasons isn’t connected to the subsystem that moves her hands towards each other. On the other hand, she can point consciously.)

But, while communication doesn’t start out high bandwidth, that’s different from being actively blocked. That seems to happen to just about everyone, and it happens later. I’m a bit confused about how much of it happens when, but that point, while of practical importance to me, is not central to this argument.

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