Documentary looks at old and new models of human consciousness |305|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Feb 16, 2016.

  1. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    Here's the wiki definition:

    So, for example, "Visual processing is the sequence of steps that information takes as it flows from visual sensors to cognitive processing. The sensors may be zoological eyes or they may be cameras or sensor arrays that sense various portions of the electromagnetic spectrum."

    Re: nerves, here is a description (from http://www.apparelyzed.com/spinalcord.html)

    "The anatomy of the spinal cord itself, consists of millions of nerve fibres which transmit electrical information to and from the limbs, trunk and organs of the body, back to and from the brain. The nerves which exit the spinal cord in the upper section, the neck, control breathing and the arms. The nerves which exit the spinal cord in the mid and lower section of the back, control the trunk and legs, as well as bladder, bowel and sexual function.

    The nerves which carry information from the brain to muscles are called motor neurones. The nerves which carry information from the body back to the brain are called sensory neurones. Sensory neurones carry information to the brain about skin temperature, touch, pain and joint position."

    Does that give you an idea of what I'm getting at?


    From wiki:

    Equations, as I see them, are attempts to describe certain observed properties of matter. They are attempts to describe past observed patterns in a way that predicts future patterns.

    Just as words cannot provide complete descriptions of the things they describe, neither can equations.

    There's no reason to assume that every aspect of reality is conducive to description through equation. To expect otherwise is to have unrealistic expectations.
     
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  2. So information is a sequence of enumerated symbols or states? There seems to be a great difference between symbols & states?

    How do you define those terms - in agreement with Wikipedia?

    So electricity contains information all the time? Or only when in the brain? Does a lightning bolt have information?
     
  3. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    Now keep in mind that I'm still developing my understanding here, my views are not fully formed and I'm not that great yet at explaining things technically.

    But yes, there is a great difference between symbols and states. Symbols are how I used to think of information too - written words, language, computer programming, and the like. But what I've come to understand is that information is much more fundamental than that, and plays a fundamental role in the laws of physics and consciousness.

    When you think about it, the vast majority of information that you process through your senses does not take the form of written symbols. When you look at something you take in information in the form of wavelengths of light. When you hear something the information is in the form of soundwaves. This information enters the body through various senses, gets converted into signals that travel up to the brain and then back out. Not through symbols.

    The harder concept, and one that I'm still wrestling with understanding/accepting, is that all relations of matter seem to be able to be expressed in terms of information. Information is at the core of every physical theory. It is intimately related to entropy. It plays a role down to the quantum scale.

    Above we talked about physical equations helping us describe some of the properties of this stuff we call matter. As we have noted, it is an incomplete description. Information theory is another way of describing properties of this stuff. Like physics, it is conducive for some properties, less for others.

    As I've said before, I don't think information theory, and IIT in particular, solves the hard problem of consciousness - but I think it is a much better candidate for potentially describing some properties of it. The relations between information and consciousness are a lot more direct than the relations between consciousness and physical equations. While information may not enable us to close the gap, I think it is helping us take a few more steps closer.

    Based on the above you probably will not be surprised that I say lean to saying that electricity always has informational properties, because - well - so does everything else! The thing about this stuff is that its always moving, always interacting. The way it interacts determines the effects that we see, including how we see it.

    The brain is a particular set of dynamic relations of this stuff that processes information in certain ways. Some of those ways lead to us being able to walk, some of the others to being able to see, hear, feel, and so on.

    Hopefully that's clear - again, I'm still forming these ideas and I'm sure they will continue to evolve as my understanding and knowledge evolves. But it represents I think roughly where I'm at now.
     
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  4. malf

    malf Member

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    Sure... Well us proponents all talk about different aspects of consciousness: Self-awareness, sensory awareness, internal narrative, experience, qualia, emotion, mood, personality etc, etc, and some of the neural correlates are known. Interfaces between our vision and vestibular systems are well enough understood to describe how we are able to maintain balance. Physical changes can be made to the structure of the brain to predictably alter aspects of our conscious experience. Removing sensory stimuli from infant brains can result in irreversible compromise in perception, intellect and even personality.

    I'm not discounting a non physical component to all this but I'll leave you to describe THAT interface ;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2016
  5. malf

    malf Member

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    I am a little disappointed that you are taking the "wide-eyed wonder" approach to IIT, given the thread you started on it here, and the sympathetic ear you've lent it in the past.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2016
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  6. I assure you my eyes are neither wide nor filled with wonder at the idea of information explaining consciousness.

    Honestly I was going to just post a paper by Searle on why "information processing" cannot explain consciousness and those who think so are committing an intellectual error, but then I figured sometimes it's best to start at the beginning and given the other side a chance to explain themselves.
     
  7. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Well we all accept that there are physical aspects to our existence - so what are we arguing about?

    If you don't discount a non-physical component to all this, then you are every close to my position - though maybe I would give the non-physical component a 90% chance of existing, and you would set a lower figure (but I don't want to argue this in terms of percentages!).

    Why not state why you don't discount a non-physical component to consciousness?

    David
     
  8. People who experience realization of non-duality generally don't believe in free will. I'm not claiming that as authority, just pointing it out for consideration.

    http://nonsymbolic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/PNSE-Article.pdf
    Clusters of Individual Experiences form a Continuum of Persistent Non-Symbolic Experiences in Adults
    Jeffery A. Martin
    ...
    Location 4 and Beyond
    ...
    These participants reported having no sense of agency or any ability to make a decision. It felt as if life was simply unfolding and they were watching the process happen.
    ...
    Participants who progressed to this location from one or more previous ones reported the highest level of well-being.​


    http://www.dondeg.com/metaphysics/Conquest_Of_Illusion.pdf

    THE CONQUEST OF ILLUSION
    J. J. van Der Leeuw
    ...
    CHAPTER EIGHT
    THE FREEDOM OF THE WILL
    ...
    However adverse we may be to the idea that our entire life, in all its actions
    and events, is predetermined, there are yet aeons which would seem to make
    such conclusions inevitable. Nothing ever happens in our experience without
    a cause, every event can be traced back to the influences that caused it, and
    should we fail to trace it back in such a way this is due rather to our
    insufficient knowledge of the causes than to the fact that there were no
    causes and that the result emerged spontaneously.​


    http://www.stillnessspeaks.com/sitehtml/llevenson/keystoultimate.pdf

    KEYS TO THE ULTIMATE FREEDOM Thoughts and Talks on Personal Transformation
    By Lester Levenson
    ...
    KARMA
    ...
    Get to accept karma. The idea that you can fight it is
    contrary to the accepting of it. If you accept it, your
    fears, frustrations, tensions, miseries, etc., are alleviated
    and you are no more holding onto it by attempting to
    avert it. Since there is nothing you can do about it, you
    just let it be. Everything this body is going to go through,
    it will go through. Understand this and remain as you
    really are - free.
    **
    You can't change what the body will go through. That
    was determined by you by prior action. However, you
    can choose not to be that body, but to be your Self.
    **
    The ego doesn’t like to hear that it doesn’t have free will.
    But the ego itself is a product of karma.
    ...
    We have free will to identify with the body or to identify
    with our unlimited Self.
    ...
    But you cannot change anything that the body
    was preset to do by you. You're going to do exactly what
    you preset for that body before you came into it. There is
    no free will in worldly living. However, there is a free will.
    The free will we have is to identify with the real Being
    that we are, or to identify with the body. If you identify
    with the body, you're in trouble. So the free will is one of
    identity. Knowing this, it makes life much easier; you
    don't fight it. You aim for proper identity.


    http://selfdefinition.org/ramana/Ramana Maharshi - Be As You Are--The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi--Godman.pdf

    Ramana Maharshi – Be As You Are – by David Godman
    ...
    Chapter 21 - Karma, destiny and free will
    ...
    Q: I can understand that the outstanding events in a man’s life, such as his country, nationality, family, career or
    profession, marriage, death, etc., are all predestined by his karma, but can it be that all the details of his life, down to
    the minutest, have already been determined? Now, for instance, I put this fan that is in my hand down on the floor
    here. Can it be that it was already decided that on such and such a day, at such and such an hour, I should move the
    fan like this and put it down here?
    A: Certainly. Whatever this body is to do and whatever experiences it is to pass through was already decided when it
    came into existence.​
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2016
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  9. I'd keep in mind that nondualism is, apparently, an ancient doctrine....yet for all its lineage of supposed enlightened members India still ended up with a brutal caste system.

    Actually, that probably applies to every historical mystic tradition that existed alongside, if not propped up by, the brutality of the ancient world.

    Even today notice people who blithely tell us there's no free will often enjoy the comforts of civilization and assorted privileges.

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
    – Upton Sinclair
     
  10. Non dualism arises in every age and culture. It is something that is intrinsic to the human mind. Get a bunch of people to practice meditation intensively, and some of them, even materialist atheists like Lester Levenson who know nothing about it before hand, will realize non-duality. I don't mean to say it is a "truth" just that it is a universal human experience not dependent on prior beliefs.

    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Black_Elk


    Black Elk [Hehaka Sapa] (c. December 1863 – 17 August or 19 August 1950 [sources differ]) was a famous Wichasha Wakan (Medicine Man or Holy Man) and Heyoka of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux). He participated at about the age of twelve in the Battle of Little Big Horn of 1876, and was wounded in the massacre that occurred at Wounded Knee in 1890.

    The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Tanka , and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.


    http://www.pantheism.net/paul/history/kabbalah.htm

    The Kabbalah is a system of esoteric and mystical Jewish thought which originated in Provence at the end of the 12th century and spread into Catalonia and Castile. ... After the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, other centres of kabbalistic studies emerged, including Fez, Venice, Salonika and Safed (now Zefat) in Palestine, where Moses Cordovero, (1522-1570) possibly the greatest systematic theologian of the Kabbalah, lived and taught.
    ...
    Do not say "This is a stone and not God."
    God forbid!
    Rather, all existence is God,
    and the stone is a thing pervaded by divinity.

    Moses Cordovero​


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sufi_metaphysics
    Sufi metaphysics
    ...
    Waḥdat al-Wujūd (Unity of Essence)
    ...
    Ibn Arabi’s doctrine of wahdat ul wujud focuses on the esoteric (batin) reality of creatures instead of exoteric (zahir) dimension of reality.[9] Therefore he interprets that wujud is one and unique reality from which all reality derives. The external world of sensible objects is but a fleeting shadow of the Real( al- Haq),God . God alone is the all embracing and eternal reality. Whatever exists is the shadow(tajalli) of the Real and is not independent of God.[10] This is summed up in Ibn Arabi’s own words. " Glory to Him who created all things, being Himself their very essence(ainuha)"[11]​
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2016
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  11. Well it seems to me the quoted persons are assuming causal chains logically hold, but this isn't true AFAICTell. That idea of causation doesn't account for where causal power resides. (Basically just because you see A -> B a million times, what ensures it's not A -> C the millionth +1 time?)

    As to the Transcendental Idealist aspects...I have to admit I'm deeply wary. We've seen where that can lead to in India.

    Most Hindus are theists with a sense of cosmic history and even a continual battle between Good & Evil. Karma determines some aspects of a future life but not everything. Transcendental Idealism seems to me more an idea cooked up by Brahmins who were obviously motivated to keep their high caste lifestyle going.

    Transcendental Idealism has its positive aspects but it can justify inaction, disengagement from the world and its ills when all people and their suffering is illusory or a result of an endless chain of karma.

    William James wasn't completely wrong to react with horror at the idea IMO, as this idea of All-As-One makes the individual a sort of illusion.

    Now why do people in the nondualist tradition think this idea of karmic chains is true? Well mysticism might weigh heavily toward past inclinations, and Brahmins had a desire to preserve this idea of karmic chains. It's the perfect system to preserve power. So a kind of "morphic resonanace" might act akin to inertia, in the same way that people have had NDEs that confirm cultural ideas about Heaven & Hell.

    This kind of makes all mystical experience possibly more of a veil to pierce, than enlightenment achieved though....
     
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  12. http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/62014-contents-evidence-for-afterlife.html#articles_by_subject_god
     
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  13. Alex

    Alex New

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    thx for this Flip.

    I still can't get past the ridiculousness of the whole thing. again -- what's the easy problem of consciousness! let's say I ask you to raise your left arm (easy problem right... no nasty "meaning" involved). so Dr. Dennett says that you have a little program stored in you brain for this. you access, run it, and raise your arm. ok, so where is the program/memory that knows how to access that program. and if you find that, where's the program that knows how to access the program that accesses the program (infinite regress). it's all complete nonsense... but hey, it's the dominant paradigm, so let's go with it.
     
  14. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I don't know if Searle has moved on, but for a long time he seemed stuck in an absurd position. He argued very effectively against computational consciousness/AI, but then he asserted rather vaguely that consciousness was just something that the brain produced.

    He never seemed to take on board the problem that if everything operates on purely physical laws - including the brain - then the brain could be simulated by a computer. He just didn't seem to realise if something can't - even in principle - be simulated on a computer, that has wider consequences.

    David
     
  15. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Maybe it would be fun to interview one of the hard materialists, and try to get them to tie themselves in knots. I sometimes think back to the first computer I saw, which said (or rather printed) "Hello - nice to meet you" or something like that. It impressed me for a short while, until I realised how shallow that was. Maybe the trick would be to start with a shallow computer pretence of consciousness, and then goad your guest into explaining how that could be deepened into the real thing!

    Of course, their dog might get upset and bite their microphone at the critical moment.........

    David
     
  16. Fliption

    Fliption New

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    Yes, I agree. Chalmers is the one that coined the terms "hard" versus "easy" but he was simply making a distinction because the hard problem cannot even in principle be explained by materialism. To your point he conceded there was nothing easy about the "easy" problems. And so here we are, tied up in materialism and still no answers to how any of it works.
     
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  17. I think they would just say the infinite regression is nonsense because a computer "remembers" things.

    I mean Dismantling the Memory Machine was written in 1978 -> Never made much impact?

    What is interesting is there do seem to be some materialists noting that if materialism is true then there have to be explanations that can't involve human characteristics. For example to explain the Enlightenment one can't use human related terms like "reason", "liberty", or even "science".

    You have to talk about information, or even just systems at a chemistry/physics level, that creates the supposed illusions.

    In Defense of Folk Psychology Braude notes this is insane, that you end up with a less predictive psychology than the one people use everyday. I mean this is why behaviorism isn't taken seriously anymore save for guys like Dennet or maybe the Churchlands who talk like this:

     
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  18. Reece

    Reece Member

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    I agree as had already thought the same thing reading the thread. But I think that might be clarified a bit by saying it's a smaller self, an ego based mini-me that dies.
     
  19. malf

    malf Member

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    Is there any model of consciousness that doesn't involve some form of "illusion"? For example, even if consciousness is all there is (a la Bernardo) the experience doesn't really feel like that... I mean, if Bernardo is correct, the apparent existence of an external world is an illusion.
     
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