1 min read27th Nov 202010 comments
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Is there a name for this mental state I sometimes find myself in after reading for a while? My breathing slows, I start to feel very "focused", and my physical perceptions start to blur. The book or screen I'm reading seems simultaneously both small/near and huge/far, my limbs feel simultaneously heavy and weightless, and time seems to be simultaneously slowing down and rushing forward. Has anyone here experienced this, and do you know what it's called?

Could it be a form of hyperfocus

It sounds like a meditation-like state. Focussing very deeply on something - in your case, the book I guess - can make all other sensations fade into the background. There are many kinds of concentration meditation that are like that. On the other hand, you do seem to be aware of these going on and that is more like mindfulness meditation. The Mind Illuminated teaches that both are needed in advanced practice. Maybe you lucked into a comparable mind state. Can you reproduce it intentionally?

I've never tried to make it happen intentionally. It does seem to happen more often when most of the lights are off and I'm the only one still awake, so maybe it is a focus/attention thing. Something about the combination of low mental effort, low sensory input, and the pleasure reward from reading?

Hypothetical question about copyright law: Suppose I have some copyrighted work X in a digital format. I generate an equally sized file of strongly random bits—call it A—and use XOR to combine X with A resulting in a third file B. Now A and B are each, on their own, indistinguishable from noise, but A XOR B yields the copyrighted file X. If I publish A and my friend publishes B, are either or both of us violating copyright law (can I/we be prosecuted without evidence of how A and B we're generated)?

What if I just publish random data and someone independently constructs and publishes the other half without my knowledge?

By most implementations of copyright laws, your embodiment of B was derived from X, and publishing it without permission is an infringement. If you had first generated B and then derived A from it using X then your publication of A would instead be an infringement.

Nothing inherent in the bit strings A and B make them infringing: it is their provenance that makes publication infringing. The fact that a random looking A and B can be combined to form X is very strong evidence that one or the other was derived from X and therefore publication without permission is infringing.

A court may find it difficult to determine which of you or your friend actually committed the infringement, but they can find that on the balance of evidence that at least one of you was, and hold you jointly and severally liable.

If you are actually an innocent party, you might use your earlier publication as evidence that the other party committed the infringement. After all, if you first published A and then someone else publishes B that xors with A to form X, then it's much less likely that you used their innocent B to derive A instead of the reverse.

I like this question. I imagine the deeper motivation is to think harder about credit assignment. 

I wrote about something similar a few years ago, but with the question of "who gets moral patienthood" rather than "who gets fined for violating copyright law". In the language of that comment, "you publishing random data" is just being an insignificant Seed.