Or for recalling previous conversations or rehearsing speech
I overlooked the obvious, yes, I do that too, of course. However, less of the rehearsing speech part, and more of looking for concrete words for concepts in the moment. I do believe I would improve the fluidity of my speech by rehearsing, I'm not sure that kind of practice is aligned with my values.
Most of your meditation description sounds fascinating, it seems mostly like practicing the skill I already have to strengthen the connection between direct sensations and conscious attention. The only parts that I've never consciously done before are regulating emotions up, and paying attention in general while in emotional states.
I still find backtracking through thoughts difficult, and am not completely successful. I think the way I practice is not particularly effective, but I would like to improve.
I'm not sure I'd be willing to go to a meditation retreat, I'd have to re-evaluate quite a few things to consider actually going.
True, I didn't mention emotional balance since it usually plays little role in my daily life. I used to have issues with managing extreme emotions in early childhood that I solved by both avoidance, and 'dimming' them to the point they are mostly manageable. I avoid anger in daily life because it was always unproductive for me in the past, and is incompatible with the social strategies I use nowadays (which I picked because I suck at social 'tactics').
The environment you describe matches up well, but not perfectly with the one I grew up in. I guess you can use that as a confirmation.
I personally see an inner monologue as as much of a tool as any other part of my brain. The inner monologue, as a tight coupling of auditory and linguistic processing, is rather helpful for performing some kinds of thought, for extending working memory (the auditory loop is an extremely easy place to store small amounts of nearly arbitrary data in the immediate term, and you can abuse your language processing to store moderate amounts of linguistic data in the short term as long as you're able to retrace a path of thought through it).
I do find that I don't have a constantly running narrative of my thoughts and what I'm doing, even if I remember having one in the past. I still use internal monologue to trigger parts of my brain for things like planning, or for enhancing myself in some task as described in the earlier paragraph, but most of the time my inner monologue is inactive.
I do agree with Keep Your Identity Small, I seem to have been doing that, or something very similar, automatically from a certain point in my mid teens. This does have a side effect that I never really feel like part of most groups, which is both good and bad, as it allows me to exit groups or communities easily, and for example, permanently 'shed' online identities that I decide I can't use anymore for whatever reason (like sharing too much info that's reasonably correlatable to another identity or real life).
I'm curious what kinds of meditation you've looked into. My go-to form of meditation is focusing attention on my body, in any position, with or without muscle relaxation or increasing blood flow.
How do you define the difference between software subagents and hardware submodules?
I (feel like I) have a good understanding of what exactly which major 'parts' of my brain are capable of. I know what I can do by language modeling, I know what I can do and when with my visual cortex, auditory cortex, kinesthetic sense, motor cortex, working memory, I know what I can do with my spatial awareness. I can consciously focus on most of these parts and affect their workings, mostly by bringing them into attention. I'm also aware of, but not in direct conscious control of some other parts of the brain which makes me somewhat aware of things such as Ugh Fields. (I don't have names for all such submodules, only the most obvious ones that seem to match up to things I've read.)
These all are completely non-agenty, even if they can somewhat work independently of my central attention. Say, when you're not focusing on sound, do you view your auditory cortex as a sub-agent when it brings to your attention the fact a loud sound just happened? I don't. I also don't see these parts as separate from 'me', and I don't communicate with them in any way except with raw attention.
I should also clarify that despite my description, I don't mean whatever controls executive function when I say "central attention". I mean the part of the brain that controls the importance that affects what stays and what's replaced on the 'main bus' that other parts of the brain dump data on.
My interpretation of software subagents is that people can install a (possibly pseudo-)personality that runs in certain parts of the brain, or at least interfaces with them while your central attention is elsewhere. Importantly, it's able to use various mental resources without it coming to your central attention. This interpretation is likely wrong, as I have no experience with this other than reading people's posts on the internet, which loses a lot of detail.
Regarding "no default personality" and "no unitary self". I don't think that's the case (unless I misunderstood the term), I do have a self, I see my mind's central attention as my core self, and the rest of my brain as components that allow me to do things that make up the whole self, the externally visible person that I am. I see some of those components as more important (various long term memory, language; some higher abstraction parts of the visual cortex) or less important (the actual learned personality-like behaviors I assume in various situations, my routines, common knowledge) to preserving the 'whole' self and its values.
I believe the most important parts of self-hood happen in the center of attention, things that come to attention have a disproportionate effect on decision making, memory formation, and basically everything else that's important in the brain.
On more self reflection, and reading a bunch of posts in the subagents tag, and looking into tulpas again, I believe I just don't have the mental architecture for this kind of thing.
I hypothesize that this skill requires thinking of yourself as a personality, but I don't see myself that way. I see my 'self' as my central attention. I don't believe I have software subagents, I believe I have hardware submodules with some configuration overlays at most. There's no 'default personality'. I switch how I interact with people based on context fluidly.
I don't believe my architecture is flexible enough for this, as I can't even write fictional characters that are not a version of my mind with masked knowledge and hidden or exaggerated traits (and otherwise with a manipulated context). I don't argue with people in my head, I don't do 'what ifs' of conversations, I don't imagine what a person would say in some situation.
Oh, I just realized this post is new, and not one of the 8 year old posts I keep coming across and want to participate in.
I don't think this technique works for me, at all. For several reasons. And reading through the comments section, I feel like other people can't imagine my failure case (e.g. the people surveying others about whether they do / can do this - "Can you imagine your friend saying this?")
I'm visually aphantasic, I cannot conjure a visual image at all except in some phases of sleep, or sometimes under extreme tiredness while 'awake' (I hypothesize those mental states are closer to sleep than normal waking awareness anyway). This means the 'visual image' part falls apart instantly. I can, however consciously control my auditory perceptions with extremely high fidelity.
This means I can easily make a voice in my head say anything in a specific person's voice, but that can only happen with my conscious input. These voices are purely puppets, or more accurately, just 'voice filters' I can put on my 'internal voice'.
I believe I've never 'heard' anything other than what actually happened or came directly from (or through) my internal train of thought, with rare exceptions of simple sounds hallucinated when about to fall asleep, so it's rather hard for me to imagine an internal voice that is not THE internal voice.
That all was the first reason, another one is that I don't think I can model people accurately enough to do this even consciously, let alone subconsciously. I don't have a way to tell "what would my mom/dad/Alastor Moody say?" - for fictional characters I can only produce the most stereotypical sound bites associated with them if I don't make them say anything specifically, for Moody it's "Constant Vigilance", for Princess Celestia it's "I'm so proud of you", but for Albus Dumbledore or Twilight Sparkle it's just a thoughtful hum in their voice - I at most have a "How would they say this?" component in my head that lets me reword something I want (them) to say into their speech pattern and voice.
While writing this comment I did a few experiments with the mental 'voices' I have. If I force them to produce speech, I hear nonspecific speech. That is, I hear that there are words being spoken, breaks between words and sentences, and so on, but none of the actual words. Sort of like hearing some person you recognize in a crowd, but you can't make out what they're saying.
I also reflected on "mental constructs that are not me" - I don't think I'm able to form these anymore at all. Even the few dreams I have and recall are empty of other characters (even if there are 'people'). I used to have other characters in dreams in my childhood, but even then it was at best one antagonist + a crowd.
The discussion on this post reminded me of some incidents when I was overcome with strong emotion as a child.
I had a lot of issues controlling my emotions of anger and sadness, to the point that after other children angered me I exploded in hot, violent rage. Every such time I felt like I lost control of myself and was more of an observer. I needed to lock myself away from the world and let all that anger out somehow, until I came down and calmed down. Looking back, I think that (paradoxically) I felt more conscious during those moments. I think this might be because the overwhelming emotion purged all complex thought and made me focus less on the outside environment, so I could pay more attention to myself and my experience.
In relation to my emotional issues, I've learned to suppress certain kinds of emotions. I don't think I've truly felt angry since I was about 11, and I haven't shut down from sadness since I was 15 or so.
I still cry when seeing some movies (I blame the music - it's always sad music that gets me), and I feel irritated when someone annoys me, but I don't feel like shutting down, or that 'I want to fucking murder someone, so I better close myself in a bathroom stall until I calm down' anymore.
This means that I can't really experience emotions the same way other people do, and I have trouble with empathy, since I had to dull those emotions to be able to work with other people, as otherwise I would can up minor irritations until I exploded violently. In this way, I guess you could consider my experience as less conscious in some way.
I prefer not to form an opinion either way as "consciousness" is way too foggy as a concept, and (as we can see in adjacent comments) people (mildly) disagree on what they mean when they talk about it.