Talking About Consciousness With Prof. Gino Yu

What is presence? What’s consciousness? How are they related? And what are the different stages of consciousness? We covered these and more questions when I sat down with Prof. Gino Yu who’s been researching consciousness for several decades in various fields – games, psychology, medicine and more.

Video Transcript

I’m on my way to the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong where I’ll meet Gino – professor at PolyU. We first met in 2011 when I was studying here in Hong Kong. So he’s doing a bunch of very interesting stuff. He’s doing research on game design, consciousness and probably a bunch more that I didn’t even know. So every time I’m in Hong Kong, I try to meet up. This time it just worked out. Last evening before I’m leaving to Bali tomorrow.

I’m headed over to the University now. He also travels a whole lot so I was lucky to catch him in Hong Kong. Gino was one of the first people I knew who gave a TED talk. He was also one of the first people I knew who attended the World Economic Forum. Definitely the first one who attended the economic forum without having proper access. So he just snuck in.

He’s having a lot of fun with life. He agreed to just sit down in front of the camera and talk a bit and I want to experiment a bit with this as well. I meet a lot of interesting people and I want to see if there’s a way for me to share those experiences on camera with you guys.

Another cool thing about Hong Kong – the streets also have English names 

What’s very convenient about Hong Kong in comparison to many other Chinese cities is that all the street names also have English names here. For example, right now I just made a left on Austin Road. So it’s very easy for us Westerners to pronounce and remember. But also look for because there’s always an English sign. Whereas if it was just Chinese signs, that became a lot, lot harder. And sometimes in Hong Kong you think: alright now I’ve reached an area where it is mostly, like, smaller houses and those skyscrapers you turn around and, like, so there’s another one.

And this here is the Polytechnic University. Now I just gotta find my way around here and see where I can meet him.

What happens when you travel the world while you’re young

Prof. Yu: Since you’ve met me I’ve been kind of working out and trying to understand the human psyche and what’s happening and what motivates people. The reason why I’m doing this work is, just like you, and actually, when I was 25 years old I traveled around the world. And you see different cultures and two things happen when you travel around the world, especially when you’re broke (I only had $1000 cash, no credit card, this is in 1989).

Two things: one is you meet different people with completely different cultures and somehow you’re able to connect with them. So what is the commonality in man? That’s one of the things to look at.

And the second is when you just go with an open mind is that magic happens. You bump into people and all this serendipities happen etc etc etc.

If you look at things scientifically, from the perspective of all the cells in your body or from the perspective of your awareness right now… What you know from your senses, which is literally this staff club that we’re in right now. There’s how your body feels – whether you’re hungry, thirsty or have to go to the bathroom. And there’s what you know from thought. And that’s everything in the universe right now.

As an example, does this knife exist? How do we know the knife exist? Does Switzerland exist right now? That’s it. Well, arguably you know of its existence from thought. And so everything in the universe right now influencing your body is in one of those three categories. What’s physically around us right now.

Environment, body, and thought

There’s the feeling and the experience at this moment.

There’s how your body feels, the internal processes…

And what you know from thought.

If you look at every cell in the body, what’s influencing it? Yeah, it’s here, it’s the internal things and there’s what you’re thinking. Right?

Now, there’s a five-stage process of development and it looks like, well, I’ll go through the five stages:

You kind of bounce around a little bit but I have a good sense of where you’re at. And the thing about this with the physiology is that although our beliefs and experiences are different, the underlying physiological mechanisms are the same. So we’re both having lunch right now. Eventually, as this food goes through my digestive system, I’ll probably have to take a s*** at some time… Similar to you!

So although our tastes, our experiences and everything are completely different, the underlying physiological mechanisms are similar. And they’re objective and they’re measurable.

The 5 stages of consciousness

Wow, what a firework of ideas and energy and thoughts. We talked about the five stages of consciousness. I’m not gonna do this just but I’m gonna try.

I think the first stage is you just become aware of your physiology and you don’t have symbols yet. Or you become aware of symbols, meaning that’s a person, that’s a glass, that’s sad, that’s happy…

And in the second stage is: you start to zero in. You get focus.

Third is: you become present and you kind of open your focus. Or you become much better at, like, zeroing on different inputs.

Number four: I don’t know right now how to summarize it.

Number five are special abilities which I find also super interesting.

Yeah, never enough time with this guy. I hope you get some good inputs from this conversation. I have no idea yet how we’re gonna cut this interview. We talked for just over an hour. Let’s see, it’s an experiment.

Also, let me know if you would like me to feature more of the fascinating people that I have in my life and that I get to meet or what you would like me to ask them. Let me know, enjoy this conversation with Gino and with that, I’ll talk to you tomorrow!

You can listen to the audio version here: