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Philosophy Thread
Go!
Please 
transplant stuff from GA -- I like all this serious discussion for once. 
To Be Or Not To Be.... 
... that is the question.... but be what ? 
Brain And Consciousness And All That 
I have a hunch that everybody wants to talk about this, and everyone has their own ideas and everybody thinks it's a mostly philosophical thing (that's why they think they can speak even though they have very little factual knowledge).

But I feel that science and observation and research and all that has a lot to give still in this regard and it can effect the "masturbatory" and "vacuous" philosophy that unfortunately gets so easily detached from the real world.

I don't want to stifle talking, but I encourage you people to read about how the brain works. Neurons and all that. Read also about artificial neural networks. I can say it has changed my approach to these questions.

Philosophy is of course needed. Science is built on it. And philosophy can try to show us if we in fact are asking the wrong questions with science, since progress doesn't seem very fast.

Sorry if I sounded cocky. I was. But it was the shortest way to demonstrate the point. :( 
BlackDog (and Bambuz): 
We are discussing some questions here which aren't outside the bounds of science at all - whether there is an energy cost to consciousness, whether it is an adaptation, whether it is computable/can be produced with Turing complete computing devices, etc. Imo answering those with a philosophical style where you can take whatever assumptions you like for the purpose of argument isn't quite kosher.

One of the essential activities in philosophy is defining terms, and in this case I think I was fairly clear that I was using the word to describe a nonphysical/nonmaterial phenomenon: the subjective experience of existing. I even contrasted that with a bunch of mental/brain phenomena which I claimed were governed by physical laws, such as thinking, memory, awareness, etc.

I think Thomas Nagel argues fairly well that this subjective experience is outside of the objective physical model science provides.

However, if you believe as I do that the physical world is real, and you're willing to make some assumptions like "other humans are definitely conscious" and "things that function in ways similar to humans are also similarly conscious," then there is still room for science to explore the nature of the boundaries of consciousness -- the boundaries in time (birth and death), the boundaries in quality (drunkeness, dreams, deep sleep,) and the boundaries in scope (the "subconscious", automatic brain functions, etc.)

We can certainly explore how the brain works using science, and by "we" I mean scientists, not you and me. But I don't think that somehow muscles philosophy out of defining terms and asking questions. 
Philosophy And Science 
I'm taking issue with calling consciousness a nonphysical /nonmaterial phenomenon... It just sounds too much like "and then magic ensues" / "everything happens on an astral plane". I know you probably don't mean it, but I'm bad with words here.
It's trying to circumvent the scientific approach completely, if I exaggerate, throwing out all hope that we could somehow reduce the phenomenon by science to something more handlable.

If a very simple feedforward neural network can take data and turn that into decisions, refining it layer by layer... (It was not discovered until the eighties as it was assumed everything would be linear.. but it turned out not to be so!)

If a person's consciousness can be shut on and off with anesthetics...

Science is edging in on these questions from both the bottom-up and the top-down directions!


It is fascinating to deal with little children, who are only learning to speak... it is interesting to try to set yourself in their position. How do they see the world? And what about even smaller babies?

What about chimpanzees? Dogs? Cats? How well are they "in"? How many of you have ever had a dog? 
Metl 
Philosophy has it's place, but I don't agree that you should use it to determine the validity of a question that can be settled empirically. I see the question of whether consciousness and subjective experience are physical events as very much empirical, since one can (in theory) dip into whatever mechanics of thought are physical and discover what can be achieved physically.

I will look into Nagel. I suspect whatever his argument is, it could be trumped by an accurate physical theory of consciousness. 
I'll Take Science Over Philosophy 
but I think that there remain questions that science hasn't yet addressed. My view, is that it is most probable that eventually every question that can be asked meaningfully will be approached by science: neurology is obviously into territory once occupied exclusively by philosophy. Given science's history of finding phenomenon and explaining it, it seems reasonable to think that this will continue in the future and that the amount of things explained by science will continue to increase, and there will be nothing that science is incapable of addressing.

I'm vastly curious about things like copying the brain. I don't know if this is possible, there is an arguement that the mind will be unable to comprehend itself (comprehending the thing that is doing the comprehending). Personally, I think absolute determinism is the most fucked up thing ever, I mean the idea of it that consciousness is an illusion and that no choice has ever been made. This would seem to defeat all religious and even humanist-type ideas, because they all rely on the idea of choice. I do hope that free will exists, I find determinism simultaneously depressing and amazingly fucked up.

The article that started this discussion did have a few flaws. First of all the writer discounts the fact that educated people do believe in God. Sure society doesn't take religious moralizing very seriously anymore, but it's not as if the belief in God is actually dead. And furthermore this view is held not only by tons of dumbasses everywhere, but also by highly educated professionals (my example being Catholic professors and scholars). Secondly, the author clearly admires Nietzsche perhaps beyond what is credible. Personally I am a huge Nietzsche fan, but I never mistake what I like for what is true. I love Nietzsche's writing style, it's very vivid and entertaining, and many of his points show "penetrating psychological insight" (to abuse a cliche). But he is not quite so prophetic as the author claims.

I like Hume, he was awesome and did a lot to reinvigorate philosophy and move it forward. His skepticism, was so awesome. Kant, on the other hand, I can't stand. He's just the last and greatest of a long line of philosophers who take religion as a starting point and who use philosophy as a scaffolding to support their previously existing religious beliefs. I'm not against the idea of religion, but I don't like the idea of a core belief set which is unchallengable, which Christianity, Islam etc seem to take the form of rather too often. 
This... 
...exploration of the topic might in turn become relevant to game design, as we establish the ground for a thoughtful discussion of AI. Yay for inertia, for taking the burden of tolerance from GA peeps who don't want to be involved. 
Re: Determinism And Free Will 
If absolute determinism is actually true, then I don't think we lack free will. We don't have it, either. The idea of will itself is flawed at that point.

Or...? 
I Guess The Problem... 
is that I'm using a nonstandard meaning of "consciousness." I tried to explain what I mean in earlier posts, but I should probably just make up a new name for it. But read Nagel; I think he makes a pretty good case for the nature of subjective experience.

Now, on to the issue of whether philosophy is of any value, or science is totally where it's at.

It is true that historically, philosophy's reach was much larger, and included many things now under the domain of science. As science gets more sophisticated, it becomes possible to truly examine parts of the universe that we could only speculate about before. This includes things such as medicine, chemistry, the formation of planets and stars, the composition of matter, etc. BUT, first of all it is foolish to believe that all questions are accessible to scientific inquiry given the current level of scientific sophistication. And second of all, there are "meta" questions which i believe are categorically not accessible to scientific inquiry. For example, morality. For example, why is there something rather than nothing? For example, why do I exist as a conscious self rather than just as a fully functional human zombie?

I guess my attitude is a human zombie, a perfect zombie clone of me, could be sitting here typing this instead of me. He would think about it just like I do, and decide what to type just like I do, and be making the same arguments I am, and the only difference would be that *I* would not be here to feel it happening. 
Re: I'll Take Science Over Philosophy 
"good" philosophy is a kind of sience!
i'd suggest all of you to have a look at the "naturalistic school" within modern philosophy. you'll find your questions discussed from a rational and science friendly perspective in every detail there. (i'm studying phil for 4 years now, so if you want titles or names, ask me.) 
For Me... 
..philosophy is art to have lot of opinions about nothing... and also knowing nothing about everything... As I was not really good in philosophy at school, I'm completely reluctant, and really close to the allergy, with philosophy. I'd rather prefer science and Cartesian approach... At least if you have a headache: it has a real explanation ! 
So I Vote.. 
.. for mathematics, and physics !! Hurrah ! 
Jpl: What Philosophers Have You Read So Far? 
art to have lot of opinions about nothing... seems you are a (extremist) supporter of C.P. Snow's views.
please remember: cartesian = coming from
descartes (a philosopher/mathematician)
other examples:
kant (phys/phil)
leibniz (math/phil)
russell (math/phil)
frege (math/phil)
cantor (math/phil)
einstein (phys/phil)
heisenberg (phys/phil)
bohr (phys/phil)
wittgenstein (logic/phil)
popper (math/phys/phil)
d.c.dennett (bio/phil) [read!]
etc. etc. etc.
would you still say that one can either do phil XOR science? 
Metl, I Agree Absolutely 
That there are questions that the scientific method is not appropriate for, and that philosophers can bring insight to. However, it's not at all clear that the nature of consciousness is one of those questions.

Onto zombie arguments... sigh. These have always seemed deeply pernicious to me. The concept of a being which thinks every little thing exactly like I do but feels nothing *seems* to make sense at first blush, but I don't think it actually does.

Imagine a zombie BlackDog in a putative physicalist universe. Since everything is physical here there would have to be some physical process or condition responsible for consciousness occuring in me, which a zombie would have to lack in order to be a zombie. However, a zombie is supposed to be a perfect physical clone! Since it can't both lack and possess whatever attribute results in consciousness, the concept of a zombie makes zero sense in a physicalist universe.

That means that the zombie concept is built entirely on the assumption of a form of dualism to even make basic sense, and can't be used to bolster dualism for fear of circular argument.

That's my take, anyway. There are plenty of other arguments - I understand the zombie debate is ongoing. :) 
PS I Ate Ur Mom's Brains Lol 
 
Disconnected Ramblings 
(interesting thread -- what is it about a community mostly based around a 10+year old game that ends up with fairly civilized discussion about deep philosophy? I guess the fact that quake is so old means everyone here is a bit older too)

I basically agree with BlackDog's counter-zombie argument, and was going to try to make a similar argument (but probably in a much worse way). There is a potential counter counter argument: it certainly isn't possible with current science to build such a zombie machine, and it's possible that there are fundamental reasons from physics that it will never be possible, and further it's possible that the Mystery Of Consciousness (tm) lies somewhere in this gap (this is approximately what Penrose says in The Emperor's New Mind, which didn't exactly take the world of the philosophy of consciousness by storm). To me though, this argument has always seemed a bit like wishful thinking from people who would like the universe to be more mysterious than there is actually evidence for it to be. But that's probably my ardent atheism showing through.

The other point I'd like to make is that I've tortured myself with enough mathematics to know that the most abstract ends of the subject end up being just as empty and vacuous and "masturbatory" as any part of philosophy (the same can be said of large parts of theoretical physics too: http://xkcd.com/c171.html ) and just because something attaches itself to the "science" brand doesn't make it worthy and useful. 
Efdat 
I'm not referring to Descartes, Einstein, etc..: I admit they are brilliant mens. I'm just pointing up that nowadays philosophy "specialist"... (like the french Bernard Henri Levy.. I guess he is the worst case...) have a lot of opinion on all subject: They have a real talent to make try to resolve problems you shouldn't have if you didn't listen them !
OTOH I don't say philosophy is useless.. I just say I don't see how it can be useful... the more with pseudo "specialist
Good Thread. 
Worth having it up.

I've dabbled in philosophical musings a while ago....pretty damn interesting....but also a bit dry....so I don't think I'm going to try contributing! 
I Like Stanislaw Lem's Approach 
Well, I liked the man!

When humans constructed the first conscious machines, and talked with them, they asked, "what is this problem of consciousness you are talking about?". Ie they weren't much different from humans in that regard. :)

I don't like dualism. It sits strong with many people somehow intuitively, but isn't it just moving the problem behind the corner... if the soul resides on an astral plane, then what is it like over there? What is the astral plane? What happens when we fall to sleep, or die? Or when a baby grows up. Et cetera... this mystification only brings more questions and answers nothing.

I know some psychologists who are in pains as they think it's either 1) dualism or 2) if no dualism then the rest is rigorous proof there is no free will, everything is predetermined.

I don't share their point of view. To me it seems they look at the things extremely narrowly and do huge jumps of conclusion. 
My Stance 
I am a physicalist. Current knowledge in neurophysiology implies that cognition is an emergent phenomenon, arising from connections among the 100+ billion neurons in our brain. Included in these connections, I assume, is sensory input and motor output. Whether cognition can occur when cut off from all means of interaction with the "outside" world, is, I think, a critical question that must be included in any useful exploration of cognition.

I think that having a self-conception is important for any foreseeable sapient mind, but I don't think that we humans have a completely lucid self-conception. Have you ever been deluded as to what was occurring in your brain? Do you even know? Would that information be useful?

The questions I am asking in my research are:
1) What is cognition?
2) What is the most simple (and/or elegant) configuration of components needed for a cognizing phenomenon to emerge? 
On 
another note, I think that we will soon be able to engineer systems capable of having cognition. Whether those things actually do become conscious, however, will depend on how they are "taught."

We might need to introduce a process of selection that mimics what mutation/natural selection did for us: namely, causing consciousness to arise.

Trial and error FTW. 
Jpl: I Share Your Aversion To Blabber-Philosophy 
and so does quite a big part of academic philosophy. i personally would name foucault and derrida as philosophers of that same kind. BUT please don't judge on philosophy just with those folks in mind. analytic philosophy has been struggling for more than 100 years now not to be confused with that kind of phil (i tend to call blabber-philosophy simply 'literature' instead of 'philosophy').
again: if you think science is the best means for understanding the world (so do i), naturalistic philosophy will support your view! 
Even If... 
even if science could answer all your questions, why do you believe what you perceive is true?

i believe in consciousness solely because im thinking the thought. that other human beings have a consciousness on their own which i can compare to mine i am not sure of. they could easily just be a subset of my own consciousness.

also, if we take for granted that most human beings HAVE a consciousness, im quite convinced that each one is unique and different. 
Of Course 
this doesn't change anything at all about this discussion for anyone who argues to achieve results. 
Inertia 
If you produce a conscious being through artificial selection, have you actually understood consciousness? 
 
"even if science could answer all your questions, why do you believe what you perceive is true?"

Because it doesn't matter if we're hooked up to machines feeding reality to us or not. We still have to work and eat and shit, lest we die.

Those types of pseudo-philosophical musings drive me up the walls. They sound very deep, but they're not. 
Wrath 
what's with the machines bullshit?

can you PROVE what you perceive is true? no? so, then stop calling this pseudo-philosophical.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descartes#Philosophical_work

Initially, Descartes arrives at only a single principle: thought exists. Thought cannot be separated from me, therefore, I exist (Meditations on First Philosophy). Most famously, this is known as cogito ergo sum, ("I think, therefore I am").

Therefore, Descartes concludes that he can be certain that he exists. But in what form? He perceives his body through the use of the senses; however, these have previously been proven unreliable. So Descartes concludes that the only indubitable knowledge is that he is a thinking thing. Thinking is his essence as it is the only thing about him that cannot be doubted.


but i see, you're a matrix generation troll. 
Blackdog 
Hehe yeah that was my point :) 
Zombies... 
Imagine a zombie BlackDog in a putative physicalist universe. Since everything is physical here there would have to be some physical process or condition responsible for consciousness occuring in me, which a zombie would have to lack in order to be a zombie. However, a zombie is supposed to be a perfect physical clone! Since it can't both lack and possess whatever attribute results in consciousness, the concept of a zombie makes zero sense in a physicalist universe.

That means that the zombie concept is built entirely on the assumption of a form of dualism to even make basic sense, and can't be used to bolster dualism for fear of circular argument.


First of all, I've stopped using the word consciousness to attempt to avoid conflating subjective experience with cognitive thought.

So zombies require dualism? Correct, becuase epiphenominalism is a form of dualism.

However, this new thought experiment doesn't require zombies:

Suppose we design a "conscious" robot (conscious in the sense that physicalists call something conscious). We build two of them. We put them in identical rooms. We turn up the temperature in the rooms to the point that the robots are feeling pain.

Okay, now suppose I'm one of those robots. They are phsyically identical, under identical conditions, and yet...they are very different becuase I'm experiencing one robot's pain, but I experience none of the other robot's pain. 
Don't Know Much About Philosophy, But; 
The standard idea is that humans have thier homuncolus, the inner self that watches as the outer self acts, usually called the consciousness.

The difference between a machine mind and an organic one will eventually only be the components. In the future we will have the ability to make exact physical copies of anything - which raises the issue of the intrinsic worth of the original, especially when you can remove flaws and improve in subsequent versions.

The lack of free will may be real, but since it's impossible to control it then it's not worth worrying about - achieving geneuine free will could well mean evolution to the infinate. The gnosticism or hubris involved in this speculation is evident - do other people even exist?

I'd say I'm a nihilist / pessimist when it comes to the big questions. 
Megaman 
If Descartes was so smart, how come he's dead? 
 
Okay, now suppose I'm one of those robots. They are phsyically identical, under identical conditions, and yet...they are very different becuase I'm experiencing one robot's pain, but I experience none of the other robot's pain.
And the other robot would feel that robot's pain (since the feeling of pain happens in the brain). What is the difference? Maybe they even behaved prettymuch the same way.

Maybe I didn't get this analogy.

In password databases you see that people very often have similar passwords. Proof against free will? Perhaps. ;) 
New Topic! 
Well I've sort of run out of stuff to say on this specific topic, I don't think we really disagree on much, but I'm definitely failing to communicate the last 5%. Plus I would agree with anyone like wrath that accused me of borderline wankery, since this idea is in the same category as idealism, solipsism, existence of god, etc, and pretty much unresolvable.

So let's talk about stuff that has more meat, more details to chew on, like all these tangential questions you guys keep bringing up. From now on, pretend I'm a physicalist.

Consciousness (in the physicalist sense you guys keep using):

* Consciousness continuum: I take issue with the idea consciousness being a yes/no proposition, of a supercomputer "attaining consciousness" in the sense of crossing some threshold. It seems more plausible to me that all organisms are conscious, and that the more complex the brain, the more lucid the consciousness. Imagine the less lucid moments in your own life, such as dreaming, being half-awake, being very intoxicated, or being very young (3 years old, let's say.) These are all examples of being conscious, but less so. I imagine that less complex brains in animals and even in insects are similarly less lucid, but still conscious.

* Consciousness defined by nature of input: I also think it's important to think about consciousness as tied to sensory input, and I think each animal's consciousness is given shape and definition by what forms of input and what resolution/richness each form provides. For example, humans have a very detailed vision, as do many predatory birds such as hawks. On the other hand, dogs have good senses of smell, and their vision is less detailed and lacks color variation. I think this has a huge impact on what consciousness is actually like for these creatures. 
Hmm, That's A Very Interesting One Metl 
Though I'm not sure what is demonstrated by that thought experiment. Two disparate physical objects are prima facie, different - one of them is *here*, and the other one is over *there*. :) Distinctions don't get much more fundamental than that.

"Identical, different robots" is no more a problem for physicalism than are "identical, different carbon atoms", as I see it. Fascinating argument though. 
Metl 
continuum;
It's a question of definition. And of ethics. I personally have no problem classifying certain organisms as "below" the threshhold of consciousness. Chances are, consciousness requires a certain amount of available neural matter. Bio-psychology is largely a matter of real estate and energy consumption. The mere presence of a central nervous system isn't enough.

nature of imput;

I'm not so sure about that. That's very much a question of the post-thalamus neural network. Sensory systems serves two purposes; to orient the organism in space, and feed it information about its surroundings. The fact that humans primarily rely on our vision to do that doesn't mean our sense of the world is different from that of a dog or a bird. We all need to build mental maps of our surroundings. If we use vision or olfactory input to do so matters less . Smelling it or seeing it or hearing it doesn't matter, we just need to know where we are in relation to the charging bear. And how best to proceed. 
The Two Robots Analogy 
I still don't understand what's the point of it? What do you expect to reveal? It's completely trivial to me. 
Bambuz: 
I was trying to explain my claim that a subjective experience is outside the domain of objective science, by creating a situation where there is a distinction that isn't physical.

But I'm done with that; I think we'll have a more interesting conversation if we move on. 
Research Papers 
I recommend poking around on http://arxiv.org or the like to get an idea of where current AI research is going. 
Gah 
this isn't interesting at all, imho.

it doesn't matter, brings us no insight into ourselves; only in the unlikely case of us creating a new consciousness being (or something that might have one) we should make sure to give it SOME means to express itself. Then it will.

More interesting question: will we understand it? or rather, will we be able to recognize whatever it will behave as conscious behaviour? 
I came in here to fart.


...


..ahhhhhhhhh

*returns from whence he came 
 
Looking at the idea of the world objectively… If we are scientifically able to reverse engineer the cognitive processes of the brain, in the end, it must be some algorithm that creates the subjective experience. How the fuck is that possible? And what sort of scientific results, or observations, could conclude with this?
I know this sounds ridiculous, but science could never tackle questions about the nature of existence, whether it’s the subjective experience or if you believe in an objective world. In either case, science is based on results of this world, observable patterns; it can not be used to describe the world itself.

I can't believe how people attach themselves to science. Looking at the theories of the big bang, all that is known is that all the energy we perceive came from a single point of space, how is that closer to the truth people want?
Science is good for getting results in this world, but it can never go beyond that 
Bermeulez... 
What is useful that is outside of "this world"? 
Ha Ha... 
and the cycle begins again... 
 
If we are scientifically able to reverse engineer the cognitive processes of the brain, in the end, it must be some algorithm that creates the subjective experience.
Or some combination of algorithms. And it might not be algorithms at all. I happen to believe it is, the computational theory of mind makes alot more sense than many others. To me, I should say. But it might not be, we don't know for sure yet.

How the fuck is that possible?

Why the fuck shouldn't it be? Every other mystery we've cracked so far has been boiled down to algorithms or similar heuristic rules. The mind isn't magic. It exists in, and is the product of, a universe governed by laws that cannot be broken.

I know this sounds ridiculous, but science could never tackle questions about the nature of existence

Yeah, I wouldn't bet on that. Mysticists and philosophers have been singing that song since the invention of the scientific method.

"You can't explain why things fall down, it's God's will!"

"Right, but don't for one second believe you can figure out what the stars are and where in the universe we live. That's beyond human understanding."

"Ok. You did figure that out. But listen, the question of life is impossible to answer! Impossible I say!"

"Oh fuck, it's Darwin... Tell him we'll call back."

We may very well reach a limit to human intelligence and understanding. The math for theoretical physics is getting awfully complicated. Dogs can never understand radio waves, they simply lack the gray matter needed for such abstract concepts. I'm sure there is a similar limit to the human brain. though we could always try breeding smarter humans.

In either case, science is based on results of this world, observable patterns; it can not be used to describe the world itself.

Newsflash: The world, and the universe, is made up of observable patterns and probabilistic events.

I can't believe how people attach themselves to science.

I can't believe how people attach themselves to tarot cards, horoscopes, crystal healing, ley lines, and other concepts of God. When have they ever been able to accurately predict and explain the world? But there you go.

Looking at the theories of the big bang, all that is known is that all the energy we perceive came from a single point of space, how is that closer to the truth people want?

All that is known? I'd argue that that knowledge is pretty important.

Anyway, what truth is satisfied by mysticism then? That God created the world and governs it? Then what created him?

Science is good for getting results in this world, but it can never go beyond that

Beyond? There is no beyond. This is it. Just because Man can formulate the Question doesn't mean there has to be an Answer out there that satisfies him. We're not that important. 
Nice Post 
 
Hurrah Wrath 
I agree with roughly 110% of that post. 
Um 
Wow. Not to put down the original post, but hats off to Wrath. 
 
I'm awesome. 
 
Or some combination of algorithms. And it might not be algorithms at all. I happen to believe it is, the computational theory of mind makes alot more sense than many others. To me, I should say. But it might not be, we don't know for sure yet.

We don't know for sure, but based on current cognitive findings, it seems like that is where it is heading.

Why the fuck shouldn't it be? Every other mystery we've cracked so far has been boiled down to algorithms or similar heuristic rules. The mind isn't magic. It exists in, and is the product of, a universe governed by laws that cannot be broken.

How does it logically make sense that an algorithm creates the subjective experience, that is all I am saying. Comparing the creation of existence to the algorithm of how an apple falls from a tree is ridiculous.

Here is my main point, what possible scientific explanation would satisfy you. If there is no possible one that you can think of, how could you ever comprehend one? This is not like how the Earth formed, where you just simply say the laws that governed the atoms and the position of them beforehand, this is something from nothing.
This is not at all like the origin of life, or things falling down, this is an answer that is completely unsolvable, and proof of that is that an answer isn't even imaginable.

Newsflash: The world, and the universe, is made up of observable patterns and probabilistic events.
What I should have said, was, it can not be used to describe the existence of the world itself. It's like having the Quake1 player trying to figure out his purpose, based on QC physics

I can't believe how people attach themselves to tarot cards, horoscopes, crystal healing, ley lines, and other concepts of God. When have they ever been able to accurately predict and explain the world? But there you go.
I am not saying people should attach themselves to that bullshit, or people in some spiritual crap, what I am saying is that science should not at all be looked at in the same way. You can't have science as a religion, or as a meaning, in any form.

All that is known? I'd argue that that knowledge is pretty important.
It is, but not for way which many people are using it. The big bang is not a replacement for the Genesis (I am not saying that we should believe in the Genesis or some other bullshit like it).

Beyond? There is no beyond. This is it. Just because Man can formulate the Question doesn't mean there has to be an Answer out there that satisfies him. We're not that important.
Yeah, I agree. 
 
How does it logically make sense that an algorithm creates the subjective experience, that is all I am saying.

The subjective experience exists inside the mental faculties of our brain. The neurons are arranged to fire in patterns, and cannot be sovereign, they are part of a larger network. They have to communicate with other modules of the brain, and must do so by means that can be described by mathematics. How I know this is because single cell organisms, like neurons, lack the cognitive capabilities needed for other means of communication; nuanced language, persuasion, and outright coercion.

In short, they use bio-electric charges to indicate a firing state, influencing the probability of an action potential further on in the chain of command.

Comparing the creation of existence to the algorithm of how an apple falls from a tree is ridiculous.
Only in terms of complexity and scale. The term sn't properly defined. But I'd like to quote Feynman here, and have done with it.

"There was a class of philosophers who at one time sat at the dinner table in deep consternation over whether their steak was indeed real or just an illusion... we don't have to worry about these philosophers anymore since the ones who were unable to deduce the truth of the existence of the steak implied by their illusion didn't eat and have since died of hunger..."

The big bang made possible the thermodynamic exchange of energy, and thus time. That's existence.

Here is my main point, what possible scientific explanation would satisfy you.
Explanation of what? It seems to me that it is you who need to be satisfied by a scientific explanation. I am in fact, quite satisfied with the progress science has made thus far, and am quite confident it will continue to help us understand the nature of the universe, such as it is.

If there is no possible one that you can think of, how could you ever comprehend one?

There are mighty many concepts we cannot think of, but are able to comprehend once they manifest themselves to us. My ancestors from, say, six hundred years ago could never have imagined such devilry as cellular phones and nuclear power. But once the inventions and concepts rolled around, people grasped them without trouble.

This is not like how the Earth formed, where you just simply say the laws that governed the atoms and the position of them beforehand, this is something from nothing.
This is not at all like the origin of life, or things falling down, this is an answer that is completely unsolvable, and proof of that is that an answer isn't even imaginable.


It isn't because you say it isn't, or do you have something tangible to offer?

It's not unsolvable, whatever it is, I think I might have forgotten.

Again, be careful to say that things are unimaginable. It might just be that we need taller giants on whose shoulders to stand.

It's like having the Quake1 player trying to figure out his purpose, based on QC physics

Now you're flailing about in spiritual territory again. Purpose? We can never deduce a purpose to existence, because existence isn't depending on purpose. It just is. If we want to have a purpose, we have to decide it for ourselves. There are no natural laws dictating morality or ethics, those are constructions of an intelligent mind. The same is true for your theoretical purpose.

You can't have science as a religion, or as a meaning, in any form.

Science as a meaning. What the hell is that supposed to mean, exactly?

It is, but not for way which many people are using it. The big bang is not a replacement for the Genesis (I am not saying that we should believe in the Genesis or some other bullshit like it).

Of course it is. This is how everything sprang into existence. It wasn't god in six days, it was a shitload of matter in a very tiny place that went boom. That's a paradigm shift.

How shold people be using it, by the way? 
 
In short, they use bio-electric charges to indicate a firing state, influencing the probability of an action potential further on in the chain of command.
It exists inside the mental faculties of our brain as, just like you just said, a set of instructions (or algorithm).]
Now you're flailing about in spiritual territory again.
And yes, I shouldn't have said purpose.

There are mighty many concepts we cannot think of, but are able to comprehend once they manifest themselves to us. My ancestors from, say, six hundred years ago could never have imagined such devilry as cellular phones and nuclear power. But once the inventions and concepts rolled around, people grasped them without trouble.
My point was not about some physical device that people don't know the workings of. For example, some African guy could have made some story up about how all things came from one tiny spot long ago, and then exploded, creating the world. He could have imagined that, and all progress in science.
But what we can not imagine, is an explanation of existence without relying on something that is uncomprehendable (god, or spirits, or whatever). Because once you try to, it relys on infinite regression.

How can you put, something from nothing, in a textbook?
With the big bang theory, the tiny spot is space is something, it exists, it doesn't really help more than believing the earth just exists.
I don't want to put it in any other words than that, because when I use the terms 'subjective experience' you could look at it differently than I do, or if I use terms like 'purpose' and 'meaning'.

This is all I mean, and I don't think this can be misunderstood:

How can you put, something from nothing, in a textbook?
And if you can't, then science can not explain the nature of universe fully.
 
 
How can you put, something from nothing, in a textbook?
And if you can't, then science can not explain the nature of universe fully.


Here's the deal; Just because it fucks with your head, doesn't mean it's incomprehensible!

Second, it's very important to note that it's not something from nothing. It's something from we-don't-know-yet-exactly, give us some time to figure out this super-string crap, and formulate a GUT, and maybe we'll get back to you.

What constitutes nothing is a matter of perspective. The deeper we look, the more there is where we used to think there was nothing. 
 
It's something from we-don't-know-yet-exactly, give us some time to figure out this super-string crap, and formulate a GUT, and maybe we'll get back to you.
It's either something from something (which is an infinite regress, whether it's some super string crap or some more precision), or something from nothing. I think you get my point now, I should have used concrete terms such as 'nothing' and 'something' rather than 'existence' and 'subjective experience' from the start

The deeper we look, the more there is where we used to think there was nothing.
nothing is NOT a matter of perspective, this is not space we are talking about here. This is the concept of NOTHING, everyone knows what that is.

Are you saying, we can put something from nothing in a textbook? To leave that open as a possibility? 
 
Don't worry about first principles too much.

We can have an enlightened science with, or without, understanding of "first cause" or whatever you wish to call it. 
Perhaps... 
but why must we divide all questions into these two categories?

1. questions that can be answered by science
2. questions that are not worth thinking about 
Well, I Figure 
use science, reason, and logic as far as they take you. For some retards, the science that makes their cars drive is OK, but evolution isn't. That's retards. But for reasonable people, we could say, "Science currently takes us this far concretely... this far with educated guesses... and beyond that boundary, one might as well believe whatever the hell one wants."
Science has definately disproven a literal interpretation of all previous religions and also made most previous philosophies seem highly unlikely. Never the less, it still hasn't been able to answer every question, particularly, "For what reason does the universe exist," or "For what reason do the laws of physics exist." It does seem so strain credibility to say that these things just are, without a reason, one does not need to find a subjective or humanocentric meaning in them or purpose for them, but just a reason why the laws of physics themselves exist, because ultimately all explanations so far are related back to and fall within these laws. An explanation for these laws, if such a thing is possible, would go a long way toward expanding science into "ultimate philosophy" territory. But if these laws can just arbitrarily BE, then in a way they're defying themselves, by existing without cause. I suppose it is possible that the universe has no cause, but that seems so incredibly fucked, the "odds" of that being the case seem so small.

/end retard rant 
Well 
I don't find it so hard to believe that things in the universe "are." Humans are driven by reason as logical (and intelligent?) beings, and we tend to think that things happen for a reason. That may not be so. Just because humans act with a certain logic/purpose doesn't mean that everything does.

It's kind of like trying apply human behavior to cat behavior. We think that we're social animals, so cats must be social animals, which they aren't. We just kind of assume they are. Same thing with the universe. We try to have reason and whatnot, so we assume that the universe/existence should also have reason and whatnot, which doesn't have to be the case.

And if you want a quick answer to why things are the way they are, just accept the Anthropic Principle.

PS - I don't know anything about this thread and whatnot, so fire away at my ignorance. 
This Post Is Just Asking For Trouble 
Humans are not logical beings. Humans are inherently error-prone, and science is our meager attempt to overcome our own hopeless deficiencies in between incoherent ramblings, cutting our ears off to send to loved ones, and starting wars for no bloody reason at all.

So if the universe is as consistent as physicists want us to believe, then what sort of equal-but-opposite force is counterbalancing our random bullshit on the other side of the equation? 
Ignoring RPG's Comment 
Didn't we discuss the difference between physics and metaphysics a couple dozen posts ago? Are we talking about it again? 
RPG 
I didn't say we were infallible, I said we were logical. Whether that logic is absolute or obvious is besides the point - there is a thing called psychology for a reason.

So no, it might seem that people are completely stupid and do things at random, but there ARE driving reasons for actions and whatnot, no matter how stupid they may seem. People who are afraid of the dark may sleep with the lights on, even though that may seem completely retarded to most of us, but it makes them feel safer. It's weird, but the logic is there. That's why people can blow themselves up for Allah and whatnot.

And from what I understand the universe isn't 100% consistent - something WILL break over a long enough period of time. Or at least that's what they would have me believe. 
Inertia: 
yeah, it's the same discussion, essentially. 
Appeal To Higher/lower/internet Mob/whatever Thought 
Tronyn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle

Obviously, it's a bit of a get out, but I guess the way you talked about "odds" at the end of your post do make me want to bring it up...

R.P.G.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langton%27s_ant

Surprisingly complicated behaviour can arise from _very_ simple rules... maybe a sufficiently complicated set of ant rules might result in ear-severance? 
 
Ok, first thing's first;

Science is a method for explaining how the universe works. Not why it works.

rpg;

Humans are logical beings driven by emotional motives. We're not error-prone. If we were, we'd have been eaten by lions as soon as we climbed down from the trees. In fact, we're superbly adapted to the cognitive niche we inhabit. We use heuristics and stereotypes to solve problems, sometimes they fail us, but more often than not, they work.

As for wars and our ethical failings: There is no reason for the universe to cancel them out, because there are no natural laws governing ethics and morality. The universe enforces the laws of thermodynamics, weak and strong nuclear forces, gravity, electro-magnetics - making sure shit is attracted to other shit in an inverse proportion to their distance from eachother, that atoms don't crack open, that entropy increases over time, and so on. Our random bullshit is ours. The universe doesn't give a shit what we do with our lives. 
Run Away! 
I was taking the piss a bit, but I still believe that humans are ultimately illogical. And no, I don't have any sort of well-thought-out argument to back it up.

We're not error-prone.

Of course we're error-prone. Didn't the brightest people at NASA burn up several million dollars and a few years of work in the Martian atmosphere because somebody forgot to change meters to feet? Computer systems make mistakes because they were made by humans. Humans have a certain randomness, and whenever they're introduced into a system there will be more randomness than can be predicted or accounted for, and hence there will be errors. Maybe we're talking about two different things here.

making sure shit is attracted to other shit in an inverse proportion to their distance from eachother

*ahem* to the inverse square of their distance. 
 
We don't have a larger inherit tendency to make mistakes than we have to do shit right.

Of course there are plenty of times we do get things wrong, but more often than not, we get things right. It's unfair to claim that we are biased towards mistakes. We become more prone to mistakes when stakes are higher and challenges greater. But for what we are supposed to do, which is eating and fucking as much as possible, we're extremely well adapted.

Dogs have an astounding failure rate when it comes to them using telephones. Are they error-prone, or simply not people-canines, as it were?

Also, we're not random, we're probabilistic.

*ahem* to the inverse square of their distance.

See? I got that wrong, but every other word right. That's good stats. 
 
The problem with claiming that we are error-prone is...

who defines an error?

We do.

And we're the only ones who do. 
Inertia 
Following that argument, we're also the only ones who define being correct, and in which case there's no way to know objectively if we're right or wrong about anything, it's all just subjective interpretation, and therefore we should all just fuck off early from work and drink beer and fuck as many people as possible.

Maybe you should try telling that to your math professor next time he takes off marks because you made a mistake? 
RPG 
First, you said:

we're also the only ones who define being correct,

Then, you said:

therefore we should all just fuck off early from work and drink beer and fuck as many people as possible.

Er, what?

How does that follow? Why is the behavior you described the logical default? It's not.

(This is what Nietzsche was destroying when he wrote about that whole �bermensch thing, AFAIK.) 
I Believe 
If people are the only ones who define what error is, then conversely we're the only ones who define what correct is. If that's true, then by your argument we can't objectively know what truth is, so there's really no point in trying to find out. Hence, the beer and fucking thing.

I may be wrong however. 
Oh, 
That was me trying to clarify RPG's point for you, not what I actually believe. 
Clarification 
yeah, I meant what Zwiffle said. If we cannot define error objectively, then we can't define anything objectively. In which case all arguments breaks down into "well you can't define it in objective terms". Suddenly you can't prove anything, suddenly your math homework is neither correct nor incorrect, and it is neither acceptable nor unacceptable to go to work (or at least it's impossible to know any of this, and all arguments break down into "nooo, but it's not defined that way!"). Everything we do is neither correct nor incorrect because we can't define it, and so any behavior is justified.

But you will still get a zero on the math assignment if you don't do it correctly, and you're going to be unemployed very quickly if you stop showing up for work.

And if you're fine with everything being subjective, then wtf did you bring it up in the first place? 
RPG 
As I said a few posts ago, it's possible to keep on living and using logic regardless of our lack of knowledge about first philosophies.

The reason: assumptions. 
Really? 
I thought it was just because roughly only 1 in 100000 people give a shit. 
RPG 
Sometimes, "not giving a shit" and "making assumptions" are the same thing. 
Wow 
from http://www.nwfdailynews.com/article/2277

...researchers at Berlin's Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience claim they have now, for the first time, identified people's decisions about how they would later do a high-level mental activity; in this case, adding versus subtracting.

"If you knew which thought signatures to look for, you could theoretically predict in more detail what people were going to do in the future," said Haynes.


This is awesome. And scary. 
Minority Report... 
.. is real life ?? 
Moral Philosophy And Questions Of Equality 
Ok. We have a somewhat socialist bend on things here in Finland. It is reasoned that a child is not responsible what kind of parents he or she has. Hence the state tries to give equal chances to all kids. It starts from small babies, mothers get a "motherhood kit" with some clothes and equipment from the state. Education is free, universities too... etc etc.
It makes sense. There are many smart people who have bene born in poor families and have worked their way through the education system to good jobs.

Sick people are helped too. It is seen to that nobody has to starve to death here.

Now, this all is based more or less on the premises that "all men are born equal", and that some basic minimum level of living is maintained for all for humanitarian causes. But what happens when one goes to another country from Finland? Suddenly, other countries have very different systems. In many countries there are lots of poor people in hopeless situations, and not because of their own fault, all the while the rich in the same land don't just care.

But we can reason that "our jurisdiction doesn't reach over there", we can't do much about it etc... Give some help and that's it. They are not "our folks" so we spend considerably less resources (0.7% of GDP?) than to our own social programs.

Now then, if a person from that kind of country comes to my country. We suddenly start giving them money and apartments. Pretty much like our own people.

Now, what I find of great interest is this discontinuity that happens at the border. Is the person worthless while he or she is abroad, and suddenly gains value when he or she crosses the border into our land? Isn't that absurd?

I haven't yet said much, but thought that this could perhaps start some discussion. 
Well 
I thought about saying something about Schrodinger's cat, but considering how much of a literalist interpretation inertia put on my last comments, now I think it would be better to save the poor lad the confusion. 
am quite interested in Schrodinger's cat. 
In Canada 
there is socialism, but it's not all entirely good. While I agree with the idea of a minimum standard of living (I even think there should be a maximum), a significant-enough-to-bug-me amount of tax money goes towards pacifying political correct crusaders in their endless quest for "equality." There needs to be some affirmative action and grants for artists and so forth, but it's kinda ridiculous when you're living in a country where 70+% of the people speak English only, and every phone call I've ever had answered when I've called a federal department has been by someone with a thick accent, usually French (not picking on anyone that's just how it is). Also, while writer's grants and so forth are nice it would be nice if they didn't all go to lesbians and cripples. Lately a court just decided that Canadian Pension Plan money can now go to the survivors of gay couples (I mean when one partner dies), which opens another can of worms because gay marriage hasn't been legally decided yet.

While I don't intend to come across as a nazi (or a bigot, the favoured term of feminists), it would be nice of the social spending in our country was more enlightened and less ideological. Subjective ideology is never a good basis for government. 
Ok An Old Analogy 
if they invent teleports that measure you exactly when you go in, destroying you in the process, then transmit the information by light, and then do a reassembly at the other end... would you go into such a teleport?

I know I wouldn't! It would destroy me. That guy who would come out at the other end would claim to be me, but it wouldn't be me... I would be dead!

Still, that other, post-tele person would surely think it was me.

Now, what happens every night when you go to sleep? What if the guy who is reading func right now, you, is just a copy of the previous day's guy, reassembled from brain structures in the morning when he wakes up? And not the original? There's no way to know. It's funny to think about the continuity... and the importance of memory for the image of self. :)

Well, death is like sleeping but never waking up. 
Tronyn 
so you aren't a feminist? :) 
Tronyn 
heh, we have a lot of the same here in finland (although not the french part). You have to be a lesbian or write about gays at least to get the Finlandia book prize. Not that the books weren't decent, just kinda sticks out... 
Bambuz: 
according to most of the people in here, the guy who came out of the teleporter would be you, becuase there is no more to the "self" than physical body and brain. 
I Think 
the question of what is "you" is actually fuzzy. 
God Bless Solipsism 
 
If You Go Unconscious 
and wake up, the only proof you have that you were not killed and reassembled during sleep is your memories, which can be fabricated (if we believe in complete physicalism). So you have no way of knowing. :)

In an extremely physicalist sense, in the teleport example, when your physical expression is killed and transferred through fiber optics, it is you who is travelling as light in the fibers.

How would that feel afterwards, after the assembly?

Now, what if this light can be split and two copies created? Interesting thought. What would happen at the split? Or if the original wasn't destroyed in the teleport?

Of course one can run away and propose that quantum mechanics prohibits making a copy of the brain without destroying it, and same would be with the photons, the information is "untouchable". It's like how one can't make money by cutting bank notes in half.

Quantum mechanics, some say, is the only basis behind randomness and enables unpredictability of the brain and ultimately, free will. But most researchers say that the brain mechanisms are macroscopic and quantum effects have no say. That would mean that it'd be in theory possible to copy it atom by atom. (A few mistakes here and there wouldn't matter.) 
Physicalism Vs Others 
I think the strongest argument for physicalism or what you call it, is the absurdity of the other alternatives.

Let's say the soul resides on some other "plane" that can not be measured by nature's forces like electromagnetism, gravity, the weak or strong force. Hence, our measuring equipment can't see it (and we can't see or touch it), since it doesn't interact with ordinary matter.
Now, it has to effect the brain somehow somewhere, because it has to interact with ordinary matter to cause decisions etc... And ordinary matter has to give feedback to the soul, otherwise we couldn't observe anything. What is the proposal for this mechanism? Descartes thought it was the pineal gland.
But even this is not the killer problem - it's the notion that it's just another dodge!
What is the soul like in the astral reality then? What is it and what is it not? Why do people die? Does it explain anything? What happens when people sleep? What happens when people are born? Are the souls ready made, waiting in the wings? What about growth? Can the astral soul switch between physical people? etc...

I'm baiting a little controversy here, but what are the nonphysicalist arguments you find the most convincing? 
Metlslime... 
...I've been contemplating your post #34 and some of those that directly preceded same. I'm not sure we need to ditch the discussion of the ontology of mind/consciousness just yet. Your robot example demonstrates that, as it stands, physicalism will only take us just thus far. Yes, Mary the Super Scientist "knows" red until she steps outside the room and upon experiencing her first Jonathan realises that she hadn't all along...and there's nothing in our experience that can ever replace hers (I might need to clarify at this point that I'm not making an epistemological point here, which is another reason why the 'know' is in scare quotes).

The more I look into this debate, the less I am convinced by the argument from science. Maybe science will eventually help us to discover the "mind", but at this stage that "mind" will be a highly generalised, rather impoverished thing. The phenomenological dangler argument is only convincing if you believe that science "as it stands" (not the growing body of "knowledge" attributed to science, but rather the discourse - in the Foucauldean sense - of science) will be able to bring the "mind" into the fold. That science struggles so hard and fails to explain away the "mind" and "mindstuff" might be an indicator that treating human "consciousness" (that special act of being aware of being aware of) might not be an extension of - or even emergent property of complex enough - simple consciousness (e.g. my housemate's cat leaps the top of the living room sofa and stares out the window when it becomes conscious of the sound of its owner's Volvo approaching) but might actually be of a different order. This is not to say that science (or even physicalism) won't be crucial in understanding human consciousness, but rather that neither is sufficient as they stand. The route to the "mind" might involve the next Copernican Revolution...and wouldn't that be thing to live through?!?

The point regarding "consciousness continuum" is relatively mundane if (as you point out) one accepts "consciousness" in the physicalist sensed used by the majority of those responding to this thread. Panpsychism takes that discussion to a far more radical/enjoyable, if somewhat hysterical/pointless, end. The nexus of meditation for me has been the conjunction between your last statement in the "consciousness continuum" point and the "consciousness defined by nature of input" point. The reason being that it seems that:

1. Human brains continue to develop from a less complex to a more complex state following birth.
2. Human senses continue to develop from a less discerning to a more discerning state following birth.
3. The sense data that these developing brains receive over time remains constant in "nature".
4. There are distinct moments in the life of a human where 1, 2 and 3 hold such that consciousness alters (one might point to the Lacanian "mirror stage" at this point, at which it might be argued that one begins to develop a "self/mind" capable of being aware of being aware of).

The upshot seems to be that consciousness is not (for humans at least) defined by nature of input alone but more importantly by nature/mode of reception...as well.

I continue to find Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception, especially the discussion of the 'Child's Relations to Others' and of the chiasmus, inspiring on this point. And, I recommend that particular volume.

At this stage the physicalists will be pointing and announcing with glee that if I hold 4 to be true then I must accept that science will out. Not so good friends, even with 1 through 4 the physicalist cannot explain away (or in-corporate) the "mind". Further, even if I grant that 1 and 2 are time dependant and 3 is true, at no stage can I point to a part of Mary's brain and say, "Yes, there it is...red". Yeah, that might be "Red for Mary on this occasion" but little else. Adding a phenomenological accent ("phenomenological" as developed from Husserl, not the other type used in para 2 of this rant) to the physicalist discussion of the mind by the likes of Braddon-Mitchell and Jackson might be very useful.

We live in hope! 
Disclaimer: 
I realise that in the preceding rant I've made reference to the "blabber" philosophers Foucault and Merleau-Ponty, but also acknowledge the Australian Anglo-American Analytic philosopher Frank Jackson (by refering to the "Mary" thought experiment) as well as Braddon-Mitchell. Confused? Well also consider, I've been lucky enough to be present both at one of the few lectures by Jaques Derrida in Australia, and at the innaugural symposium for the Centre for Consciousness at ANU (wherein Frank Jackson admitted publicly for the first time that he was no longer sure what the "Mary" experiment actually demonstrated). I'm not bragging, rather my point is that there are decent philosophical minds on both sides of the (strangely arbitrary) divide. Certainly, the American Literary Theorists took one very small part of Derrida's work out of context and used it mercilessly to critique all and sundry, until people caught on and stopped paying them...but you can't blame Derrida for ALT. Most (but not all) Heideggerian philosophers I've met have been as dismissive of Analytic philosophy as say Devitt and Sterelny are of poststructuralism...the commonality being that in both cases neither party actually read the primary sources. Poor philosophy is poor philosophy on both sides of the continental/analytic "divide" and those that buy into the rhetoric without doing the hard yards are just plain ignorant (no offence meant to anyone in particular, all the preceding is merely IMHO, etc., etc.) 
Nagel 
has a famous essay called "What is it like to be a bat" or whatever the title is. What do you think about his point there, distrans, that even if physicalism is true, we can't pretend to understand how consciousness "emerges" from the body/brain?

To be frank, I don't know if you addressed that already in your posts, since you use lots of terminology that obliterate my senses! 
Distrans 
You write in such a "fancy" style? It's kinda annoying to read, but maybe that's just me.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary's_room

Anyway, the Mary experiment. I assume this is done by clueless philosophers who know nothing about neuroscience?

This is pretty easy to deconstruct. Basically, knowing something about something isn't the same as experiencing something. If you know what would approximately happen when someone hits you in the face, versus if someone hits you in the face, god damn, they are completely different things on all levels. Sensory, brain, feelings, you know, you could make tests, I bet the latter would make people much less happy than the former, even if you asked people to imagine hard...

In the extreme physicalist sense, seeing red things causes direct brain activation that can not happen if you see the word "red" or hear descriptions about it etc etc.. This brain activation can't be done any other way except by seeing red. There are huge areas of the brain dedicated to it, formed during the evolution.

I think the thought experiment doesn't demonstrate anything else except the sad state of philosophy - they seem utterly clueless about basic physiology, and somehow think people are very different from animals, we are not very much slaves of our senses like them "filthy" animals are, or that somehow in our high fantasies we could present to our own brains whatever we wanted.

There are direct ways to affect the brain which the brain can not itself "simulate", maybe with drugs or in some other very strong hallucinations. That way Mary could have "simulated" the sensation.

There are people who shoot themselves, just to "get to know how it feels". That's what Mary would get to know. "Ok, this is how it actually feels like to see red."
I don't know if it'd make much sense to her though if she hadn't grown up in a world of colors.

-

What's interesting if you look at the senses, is the sense of smell. People can recognize a big amount of different smells, and they all feel very different too. That is weird.

Taste, vision or touch are just combinations of a finite set of "basic" variables as senses. But smell can be different, in it that it has thousands of dimensions.

If you read basic neuroscience, you also see the anatomy and physiology of smell is different from other senses.

If I did qualia research, I'd work with smells.

-

Collective consciousness. Oh great. Maybe that's what the philosophers nowadays love to babble about. It's become utterly irrelevant to anything real anymore. 
Hi Bambuz, 
That's what Mary would get to know. "Ok, this is how it actually feels like to see red."

so, it does demonstrate something other than the sad state of philosophy.

If I did qualia research, I'd work with smells.

Indeed, my inclination too.

Collective consciousness

err...I thought I dismissed this?

inertia: I found my copy of the piece...I'll get back to you in a month or so :) 
Distrans 
Nagel just says that if physicalism is true then we have to understand how the body (brain) "produces" subjective experience.

IMHO, it's an intriguing introduction to the whole issue, but not that useful. 
Bambuz: 
the point of the Mary story is that not all knowledge is knowledge of the world, therefore a physicalist account of reality is incomplete. 
Random Spew (responding To Distrans Partially) 
interesting posts... you're into a depth I never got to in college, but I did want to mention something I hadn't before -- if consciousness is a continuum instead of a yes/no proposition, that doesn't just mean dogs and jellyfish are "less" conscious, but it also means that creatures or machines could be even MORE conscious than us. And it also opens the door for the idea that we could have our consciousnesses elevated somehow (drugs or something else).

But I also have a big concern about the difference between being more conscious and having the feeling of being more conscious. I've had dreams in which ideas seemed funny, or clever, and when I wake up and remember the content of the dream, I realize that it wasn't that funny, or it wasn't that clever. The thing about dreams that seem so compelling is that they don't have to present an actual experience (of hearing something funny or insightful or clever), becuase they can short circuit that whole process and present the feeling of having an experience (of hearing something funny or insightful or clever).

This is one thing that troubles me about this is that it means that the experience of being "more conscious" can also easily be a fake. We can easily identify things that make our brains less reliable, like sleep deprivation, drugs, etc. But with those things absent, how could distinguish between a real heightened consciousness and just the feeling of having heightened consciousness?

This sounds kind of paradoxical since I previously equated consciousness with a feeling of thinking, but that feeling does have to rest on some physical foundation, and so it can't be wholly mistaken.

Also, regarding your statement about how we get more conscious as our lives progress, is it really more of a narrowing of focus? Are we excluding more and more of raw input and is more and more of our experience pre-filtered by our expectations? This kind of plays into a suspicion I have that things like language and analytical thought actually enforce a structure on the mind, and while it may feel like the internal world becomes more and more crisp, is it really just becoming more limited? Otherwise, where does the extra complexity come from in our finite brains?

(Sorry none of these ideas are well-formed or cross-referenced to any academic tradition :) 
The Mary Experiment 
Ok, I wrote an elaborate text but I have to boil it down even more.

You are implying that if physicalism were true, mary shouldn't go "ooh"? It doesn't make sense.

Why? Your assumptions are unclear.

Mary should be able to "simulate" color sensations just with the information of brain patterns? But then she should be able to generate the actual sensations. And then she wouldn't go "ooh", as she's had it before already. She'd go "well, exactly as I predicted".

And if she goes ooh, it's just the lack of possibility of doing the experiment to herself. Physical limitations.

Metl:"Not all knowledge is knowledge of the world..." well, do you count your own mind as part of the world or not? 
99 Bottle Of Beer On The Wall... 
99 bottles of beer...

take one down...

pass it around...

oops! I posted in the wrong thread! (~_^) 
Bambuz: 
She would go "ooh" either way because her reaction is based on how her brain works.

The question is whether she learns anything new by seeing color for the first time. If we think she does, then that means that her previous knowledge was incomplete.

And I should retract my wording in the previous post ... "Not all knowledge is knowledge of the world" is sloppy. It would be better stated as "Not all knowledge of the world is objective knowledge." 
Ok 
A very atomized way of saying it:

Assumed she has perfect knowledge means either:

1)she knows exactly how red feels in her brain, so she doesn't go ooh. (This is impossible today.)

2) she doesn't know how red feels, so she goes ooh - but that means that she didn't know all, hence she doesn't have perfect knowledge, hence the initial condition isn't satisfied.


The problem with the excercise are the unrealistic and unclear assumptions.

It's the same thing as with direct brain interfaces - you can't activate certain brain areas by thinking about a certain point on the surface of the brain. Rather you have to think about something that has been measured to make activity at some spot on your brain, say, moving your left hand.

If you think that the brain should be self-aware in that you could control it like your hands, then there should be another, smaller "core brain" that should do this, but would that brain be aware of itself? Etc, we get into an endless string. As soon as you start "calculations" about what you should do to cause activation at some point in the brain, some other point activates when doing these calculations.
The brain can never think and perfectly see and control its actions at the same time. 
Bambuz 
although i agree with you, i think it could be possible to have a connectionist system like the brain be both self-modifiable and self-aware 
It's Interesting To Note 
that the brain of course has much more neurons and much much more connections than ever could be assembled according to genetic instructions - there just isn't enough place for information in the DNA.

It's that some details and some general structures are given in the genes, but a huge part of the formation of the brain in the fetus and during childhood is by self-organization.

If we take a long jump in thoughts, what self-organizing systems have humans managed to construct? Perhaps neural network learning and the related self-organizing maps (SOM):s, the latter which work by just eating data and automatically organizing it into groups (it takes a while though, but it requires NO teaching). Fascinating systems, but still very far from something as complex as what happens in the brain.
There are stuff like RAAM networks (recursive autoassociative memory) etc too... but as I understand, they're really crude too. 
And 
then you ask, what if our brains are the "DNA" to some self-organizing system? 
Yah 
the complex structure enables some even more complex activity. 
Sending Information Backwards In Time 
Do particle interactions care about the direction of time?
Everybody has probably heard about quantum entanglement and "spooky action at a distance", that would happen immediately, even if the entangled particles were separated far away, violating the speed of light limit.

There's a guy who now proposes to make an experiment that could have very unintuitive results:
http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=1152

[Cramer�s] extra twist is to run the photons you choose how to measure through several kilometers of coiled-up fiber-optic cable, thereby delaying them by microseconds. This delay means that the other beam will arrive at its detector before you make your choice. However, since the rules of quantum mechanics are indifferent to the timing of measurements, the state of the other beam should correspond to how you choose to measure the delayed beam. The effect of your choice can be seen, in principle, before you have even made it.


There are those age-old questions like why does time flow forward? On many scales, time could be reversable. Basically, only entropy is the only thing that increases with time and shows the direction of "the arrow of time". Perhaps small single particles need not care about it? 
Addendum 
I must admit that I don't know much about the things above, so might use the wrong words / ideas. In a sense, I guess saying "immediately" is questionable in the einsteinian sense as everything is relative and local, meaning it's not clear what is meant if you say that two thing happen at the same time. 
Bambuz 
You described teleportation principles... nothing else... 
Phew... 
...the discussion herein has been positively inspiring recently, and as soon as we get this bloody mission pack out I'll be back to ruminate and engage. Thanks metl and bam! 
Messrs Einstein, Podolsky And Rosen 
I agree with JPL (I think)... this or very similar things have been done already.

I saw an interesting idea in New Scientistic a few years back: you can't use EPR-type stuff to communicate faster than light, because you have to compare the results at both sensors to observe the correlation that quantum mechanics predicts -- the output of each sensor is isolation is completely random. So maybe the randomness inherent in quantum mechanics is in some sense the universe's way of preserving causality. 
Back To Teleportation 
This EPR solution is only a way to teleport something, or somebody... In fact you are copying something using the effect of the "something" on an electron. Its paired electron is reacting in the same way, so you are able to define what was the matter who gave the effect detected, and then able to rebuild the original, atoms per atoms... It'a kind of high level copy...
The issue then comes after the copy, if the orginal is a human: what are you doing with the original ? Do you kill him ? It has some ethic consequences there !
So we are not simply talking about teleportation, but more about a high cloning technology... and its collateral effects.... ;P 
BTW 
I don't know if the above explanations were clear... :( 
Interesting Article 
I read this last week.

These guys claim to have evolved simple artificial neural networks that exhibit "stage IV object permanence."

The results seem to challenge what we might think of as "necessary complexity" for intelligent-ish behavior to arise.

Watson, J. S. (2005). The elementary nature of purposive behavior: Evolving minimal neural structures that display intrinsic intentionality. Evolutionary Psychology, 3: 24-48.

http://www.google.com/search?q=www.epjournal.net%2Ffilestore%2Fep032448.pdf 
Broken Link 
Yeah 
but i wanted to provide a link to google's pdf-to-html function :) 
Inertia 
Unfortunately, the link you provided doesn't work.. at least on my PC... I don't know for others... sorry ;P 
It Takes Some Research, At Least For Me 
to determine
1) What they have done
and
2) what it means.

Of course, most probably it's just hype. Will see within time. Now bed. If the damn chess players in the living room aren't too loud. 
Filtered Thought/language 
<quote>Are we excluding more and more of raw input and is more and more of our experience pre-filtered by our expectations? This kind of plays into a suspicion I have that things like language and analytical thought actually enforce a structure on the mind, and while it may feel like the internal world becomes more and more crisp, is it really just becoming more limited? Otherwise, where does the extra complexity come from in our finite brains? </quote>

As we grow up we definitely tend to apply more filters to the input we receive and streamline our thought process in different ways. I think this is very apparent when trying to learn how to draw and paint when you have to work with the way you interpret visual data and try to see the actual appearance of things instead of just quickly looking up objects as simplified "symbols" ("face" "cup" "dolphin" .. ) stored in a big database built up throughout life.

I have no doubt that language impose structure and limit people's thought (Orwell's 1984...) and that we should question the strong dominance the spoken/written/"intellectual" language has in modern(western?) society and the way it affects/limits our thoughts.

It can be very rewarding to try to look at any seemingly insignificant thing without any preconceptions and telling the part(s) in your brain that likes to think in words to shut up. Don't lose the curiosity you had as a child!

/End of incoherent post 
Oops, Forgot The "preview Post" And Quote Tags 
Hmm 
what do you guys think is the most important thing to know? i mean this in a really grand sense 
Clarification 
what do you guys think is the most important thing to know?

How to whipe your own ass. I use that almost every day.

Ok, so are you talking strictly about knowledge, i.e. I know 2+2=4, or are you also including tasks, i.e. I know how to learn? 
It Is Important To Know And Remember Every Day When You Wake Up 
That you are a worthless failure. 
Clarification 
I'm not sure what I mean, but I think I'm asking what is the most fundamental fact needed to get more knowledge. Maybe something like "the cause of the universe" or something. 
More Knowledge About What? 
and for one individual or as a collective? Your clarification wasn't all that clear... and I think what's the most important thing to know is highly subjective. Maybe one of the better things to know is that you know close to nothing in the grand sense of things and to think that you've figured it all out and settle in a fixed view of how the universe (or whatever) works is just plain silly (although it'd be convenient). 
Subjective 
of course, that's the point, why i asked all of yous... 
Well... 
anything that we don't already know can't be too important, or else how could we have survived so long? 
Shame, RPG, Shame 
How to whipe your own ass. I use that almost every day.

How can you avail yourself of such knowledge when there are little kids in daycares in Langford, Michigan who do not have this abilaty, and instead have rashy little sore bottoms. You should refrain from using this advantage until everyone is able to wipe their asses, justice demands it! Poop'n'Go!

I bet you horde toliet paper like some obscene capitalist pig too when there is someone stuck
in a McDonald's bathroom stall at this very moment that has ran of paper and shit out of luck. The unbelievable lack of a conscience
some people display for their fellow human. 
What 
do you guys think about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and "self-actualization"? i've been interested in it for a few years, now...

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs&oldid=125745454

if it's plausible and/or true, what implications does it have for morality and value systems? 
Sometimes 
I wonder what aliens would think when watching the earthlings and spotting stuff like this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyyCcjbrWOM&feature=dir 
Well, 
I wonder what aliens would think when watching the earthlings and spotting stuff like this

Since you ask, I find it to be mildly entertaining, and some of the balloons have pretty, colorful designs that make me chuckle a 'oh, might as well let them live another day, how much harm can they really do.' As long as you keep churning out decent whiskey, coke, and slutty chicks with daddy issues who are not put off by two prong prosthetic penises, you'll be safe from extermination from the rest of the universe. 
Might Be Of Interest To Bear And Metl On Earlier Musings... 
Brief Article/review About Consciousness 
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n10/fodo01_.html

Warning: Do not try to get me to defend this article I didn't write just because you don't agree with it. :) 
Consuming Our Way To Extinction? 
Bambuz: 
interesting. Reminds me of some of the themes in the book Permutation City. 
Bambuz 
nice, is that from L2? /me bookmarks that blog

(finally someone talking seriously about matroishki brains!) 
Centauri Dreams 
it's just a blog I have subscribed via RSS. Even pictures come in that way and it's updated regularly. Works fine in Opera.

I think it's true that in some sense, SETI will be surpassed by optical observations in a decade or two when we can actually see the extrasolar planets... 
Haudi Hau 
Just browsed thru some old cybernetics stuff, and found this nice demonstration how science (and engineering) models work at distinct levels. Adjacent levels are inmiscible because of their fundamentally different approaches:
http://a.photos.cx/levels_of_modeling-a75.png 
Maybe This Should Be Politics 
But a nice discussion about decisions now affecting the future generations:
http://groups.google.com/group/globalchange/browse_thread/thread/c59cd7f688a576ba 
My Take On Existence 
If You Speak German ... 
... you might be interested in my new book =) together with two fellow philosophers i compiled 12 selftests that let you find out what type of philosopher you are:

http://www.philomat.de

have fun! 
Not Sure If This Goes Here, But Hey... 
Anyone See Sam Harris' TED Talk Yet? 
http://www.project-reason.org/newsfeed/item/moral_confusion_in_the_name_of_science3/

video is on top, with some responses to criticism below.

I think that if Harris's perspective can be advocated well enough to gain widespread acceptance, at least among smart people (who will then feel absolutely fine with discounting the moral perspective of a creationist as easily as their perspective on geology), society will be transformed in a positive way. 
 
I saw it, and also watched the debate on ABC with Sam Harris and Deepak Chopra, where he basically says the same thing against the inane ideas of Mr. Chopra. Both were awesome. 
TED Is Awesome. 
 
And Harris 
Is a very smart guy.

That's the kind of mental versatility I always try to ape, before getting bogged down in pointlessness. 
Although 
Biased towards the North American POV. Not necessarily a bad place to start. Nor good - as he mentions with the lads mags <-> Burka brigade screen.

I can see why he needs to de-simplify what would be knee-jerk reactions in the comments below. 
Interesting 
to see the controversy over what harris has said recently - and mostly from smart people - ie scientists, not theologians. in the latest back/forth I saw a whole new level of empiricism vs idealism, of course the former has always has the "science: it works, bitches" argument on its side but harris carries that to a whole new level. 
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