2 of 35
2
The Mystery of Consciousness - Not so mysterious?
Posted: 18 October 2011 07:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  5
Joined  2011-10-16
arussell - 18 October 2011 10:48 PM

Consciousness is not the only thing that materialist know to exist. I can’t speak for all materialists, but I do not limit my evidence of the physical world to the direct experiences of my five senses or my subjective experience. I can’t see a microbe without a microscope, but I know they exist. I can’t see the Galilean moons without a telescope, but I believe they exist. I can’t directly experience any one else’s experiences, but I don’t doubt they have them.

Arguing that materialists world view is self contradicting is just playing with words.

You are completely missing the point.  This is not a question of direct/indirect evidence, nor whether you trust the reporting of results in scientific journals.  All evidence, even your sensory input, is indirect.

I’m a rationalist, skeptic, scientist.  All “truth” is provisional.  I am highly confident about quarks, microbes, and the Galilean moons.  But I cannot rule out the possibility that all the evidence I have—my experience of reading text books and scientific papers, discussions with other scientists—I cannot rule out that all of that is an illusion.  But even if “everything” might be an illusion, I cannot rule out that I am experiencing that which may or may not be an illusion.  The existence of my own subjective agency is the one thing I cannot rule out.  There is simply no way to explain my subject agency in terms of clockwork mechanism, however detailed or sophisticated.  Like the quote Sam put in about the gian clockwork (mill?) brain—so huge you could walk inside and see of the giant gears turning, where is the “consciousness” in those mechanisms?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 October 2011 07:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  22
Joined  2011-10-18

“We have very good empirical, consensual evidence that the physical world exists outside our experience of it and regardless of the inadequacies of our experience of it. “

Let me state that I do not deny the existance of an external world and I do not deny the existence of matter, atoms energy or forces. Instead I merely disagree that “matter” is reality and that “the physical” actually causes experience. I know the physical exists, however I suspect that the inner cause of the physical is something completely different than the physical, or non-analogous to it. ie) mind

“It’s simply not true that our own personal experience is all that we may believe in, count as true.”

Not sure I agree. You cannot deny that physicalism (however compelling you find it to be) is indeed a theory. According to materialism matter is the external cause of your internal perception of it, however as Kant pointed out, you can never know it directly. Hence it is a theorectical metaphysical entity.

“. I can’t see a microbe without a microscope, but I know they exist.”

IT doesn’t even matter if you can see it. “Seeing” is your mind creating an image to represent to substance it is not the substance itself, you cannot actually know the substance independ of your perception of it.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 October 2011 07:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20
s.k.graham - 18 October 2011 11:20 PM

Eukaryote,  neither Sam in his article, nor I in my posts, are arguing that artificial intelligence is impossible.  To the contrary, I fully expect that we will be able to create machines that demonstrate human-like intelligence, creativity, emotion, and even super-human creativity and intelligence.  I expect this to be possible within a single human lifetime from the present day.  (I emphasize “possible” because it may never come about as other advances may render the idea of a stand-alone artificial intelligence superfluous—in particular the blending of human nervous system with machine and/or the enhancement of biological nervous systems by means of genetic engineering).  If a stand-alone, intelligent, creative automata is constructed, I expect that it will think about and discuss the very issues we are discussing here.


An artificial intelligence may agree with the strict materialists (and, in my view, be wrong).  It may also point to circuit diagrams of its own hardware and source code listing of its software and say “Nothing here explains to me why I exist—why I have experience of myself.  The diagrams and software listings explain my behavior, explain limitations on my capacity to think and solve problems, but they do not explain ‘me’.  I am not my hardware.  I am not my software.  I am not the data the represents my ‘thoughts’.”

I doubt that. After all, after reverse engineering such a creature, we should have no trouble explaining precisely the very answers to these questions.  Hopefully we would pre program the same misconceptions that the evolution designed creatures suffer from.

s.k.graham - 18 October 2011 11:20 PM

Consider how you answer the following questions:


  Are you your body?
  Are you your DNA?
  Are you your genome (as abstract sequence of symbols)?
  Are you your brain?
  Are you the patterns of electro-chemical activity within your brain?
  Are you your thoughts?

I answered yes to all of these before I read your following sentence. I am nothing but these things.

s.k.graham - 18 October 2011 11:20 PM

I answer “no” to all of these.  The last two ares at least a little tempting to answer “yes” to.  Ultimately, the patterns of electro-chemcal activity are are still just physical “things” bouncing around blindly according to physical laws (or so it seems).  I really have no more reason to think that I am those patterns than I do to think that I am my brain or physical body.  As to my “thoughts”... I have the experience of having thoughts, outs me as something other than the thoughts themselves.  Thoughts are something that I have, thinking is something that I do.  I am not my thoughts.

Too bad for you.

s.k.graham - 18 October 2011 11:20 PM

I am not proposing anything supernatural here.  But the very nature of what it is to be a “subjective agent” simply is not explicable in terms of formal materialistic “laws” or “equations”.


You just contradicted yourself. Sounds supernatural to me.

s.k.graham - 18 October 2011 11:20 PM

When you say, “We have very good empirical, consensual evidence that the physical world exists outside our experience of it and regardless of the inadequacies of our experience of it.”, I am afraid you are simply wrong.  I have absolutely no evidence that anything exists outside my experience, and neither do you.  Your experience is all that you have, and you have absolutely no way to know that you are not some ‘brain in a vat’ being fed some kind of ‘virtual world’ experience.  For all you know, the rest of us could be like the non-player-characters in a game like World of Warcraft.  The “real world” may be so different from world of your experience (“this world”) as to be incomprehensible in terms of “this world”.  Your “brain” and the “vat” may have no resemblance what-so-ever to the “brains” and “vats” conceivable in “this world”.

This is all a wild fantasy that we know isn’t true. We are whole organisms that co-evolved from and with other organisms to conform to a natural world. What you can imagine is not necessarily true. If you take the limit in this way and assume your most extreme fantasy to be worthy of argument, don’t be surprised when others fail to take you seriously. This was one of the stupidest analogies that Sam could have made

It may be true that our individual senses bring us all that we can know of the world, but that does not mean they are fed entirely false and fantastical information. It’s a waste of our time to consider absolute possible experiences in this way. Like taking alien abductions seriously.

s.k.graham - 18 October 2011 11:20 PM

I am not saying that we should go around making wild assumptions about “this world” being an illusion or what the “real world” behind that illusion might be.  We have no evidence upon which to base any hypotheses.

Oh good, we were beginning to wonder.

s.k.graham - 18 October 2011 11:20 PM

“Science” operates to find patterns (laws, equations) that describe consistent, predictable regularities in “this world”, the world-of-our-experience.  We make the pragmatic assumption that there is a shared, objective world out there.  But there really is no particular basis for that assumption, and even if the assumption is true, we have no basis to assume that the world of our experience is, in fact, the shared objective reality that we think it is.

I think you are confused. There is a very strong basis for that assumption. If you really think that you are a brain in a vat then I have to question your grounding in consensual reality, much less scientific reality.

s.k.graham - 18 October 2011 11:20 PM

We study it because, by our limited experience, it is the only game in town.

Precisely.

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 October 2011 08:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20
s.k.graham - 18 October 2011 11:36 PM

There is simply no way to explain my subject agency in terms of clockwork mechanism, however detailed or sophisticated.

I’m sorry but that is where you are wrong. You are the “clockwork mechanism”* that is the proof of what you deny.

*I don’t mean that in a personal pejorative sense.

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 October 2011 12:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
Newbie
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  34
Joined  2011-10-15
s.k.graham - 18 October 2011 11:20 PM

Consider how you answer the following questions:


  Are you your body?
  Are you your DNA?
  Are you your genome (as abstract sequence of symbols)?
  Are you your brain?
  Are you the patterns of electro-chemical activity within your brain?
  Are you your thoughts?


I answer “no” to all of these. 
...
Thoughts are something that I have, thinking is something that I do.  I am not my thoughts.
...
I am not proposing anything supernatural here.  But the very nature of what it is to be a “subjective agent” simply is not explicable in terms of formal materialistic “laws” or “equations”.
...
“Science” operates to find patterns (laws, equations) that describe consistent, predictable regularities in “this world”, the world-of-our-experience.  We make the pragmatic assumption that there is a shared, objective world out there.  But there really is no particular basis for that assumption, and even if the assumption is true, we have no basis to assume that the world of our experience is, in fact, the shared objective reality that we think it is.  We study it because, by our limited experience, it is the only game in town.

s.k.graham,

This is largely a semantic argument. To say we do not have any basis for objective reality may be, strictly speaking, true. And you are also correct in stating that we may not have any basis for a subjective reality either if as you say “I am not my thoughts.”

These are errors of strict interpretation within the parameters of language.

My interest is in how when using the language as it is commonly interpreted i.e. objective reality exists and we experience it and subjective reality exists and we experience it, these two perspectives arise.

Both perspectives have value so there is no point in arguing that either one does not exist.

When you cross a busy street, I have hope that you trust your objective reality perspective to correctly interpret a speeding car as a hazard. With the subjective perspective, you have the option to imagine that the car is not real and is in fact an apparition.

With the subjective perspective, a karma will hit your dogma.

Subjective reality is a wonderful perspective to view mankind through. With this perspective we are all figments of your dream. You are Brahma, dreaming the eternal dream. All of us are one. Between you and I and all nature, no separation. Beautiful and beneficial to society.

Objective reality is useful to permit your subjective perspective to exist and to guide it within the bounds of what is real.

The fact that we cannot precisely define anything from first principles does not diminish the fact that there is an objective reality that we (all of us) experience. Perhaps this is The Matrix. The odds of that are low since it would take a computer larger than the size of the universe to contain the program.

And, if you are nothing but a dream, the subjective experiencer, then why don’t all of your dream characters agree with your dream but seemingly have their own?

Subjective reality has its place and purpose. Objective reality does, too, and I hope you continue to objectively eat, think, and act objectively as you must have done so far in your life.

Don’t be fooled by the argument that nothing is real. It’s a deception that leads to a faith in nothingness. That, my friend, is the real Matrix.

To all your questions you must answer “yes.” And you must add “Are you your experiences?” To which the answer is also “yes.”

To the question “Do I understand all of this?” To this, you, and all of us, must answer “no.”

But I’m damned curious. Aren’t you?

Kenneth Benjamin, WisdomWebsite.com - Taking the mist out of mystical.

[ Edited: 19 October 2011 12:59 AM by Kenneth Benjamin - WisdomWebsite.com]
 Signature 

Kenneth Benjamin is a veteran IT wizard, world traveler, and founder of WisdomWebsite.com, a website dedicated to improving the quality of your life by merging ancient wisdom with modern science. WisdomWebsite, Lifting the Mist from Mysticism™.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 October 2011 12:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  5
Joined  2011-10-16

I just noticed how often I somehow leave out the “ive” in “subjective agency”.  lol


At any rate, I think we’ve hit the point, where as Sam mentions, people just arrive at differing intuitions.  “Brain in vat” or whatever, is not something to be taken seriously by science, because by definition it cannot be studied in any objective way.  However “the world of our experience” is a one-off experiment, so to speak—that is N=1.  So we really cannot have any confidence in rejecting the “illusion” hypothesis.


  “You just contradicted yourself. Sounds supernatural to me.”

As pointed out already, the first thing we can each (on our own) be certain of is our own subjective agency.  So that is the most natural thing, as far as I’m concerned.  I cannot begin to consider logic or the evidence of science without first recognizing myself as a subjective agent to perceive the evidence and do the reasoning.  I simply do not see logic or the formal languages of mathematics, things which I arrive at secondarily, as able to explain the primary fact of my subjective agency.

Here we come to the point of differing intuitions.  We are using words that really can only be understood intuitively.  It is very informative that you answer “yes” to all the questions I posed while I answer “no” to the same questions.  This indicates very different underlying intuitions.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 October 2011 03:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
Newbie
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  34
Joined  2011-10-15

This looks interesting if it applies to brain cells, too:

Why many cells are better than one

Limited decision-making ability of individual cells is bolstered in masses

Researchers from Johns Hopkins have quantified the number of possible decisions that an individual cell can make after receiving a cue from its environment, and surprisingly, it’s only two.
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-10/jhmi-wmc101211.php

Looks like we might just be binary machines after all.

 Signature 

Kenneth Benjamin is a veteran IT wizard, world traveler, and founder of WisdomWebsite.com, a website dedicated to improving the quality of your life by merging ancient wisdom with modern science. WisdomWebsite, Lifting the Mist from Mysticism™.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 October 2011 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20
s.k.graham - 18 October 2011 11:20 PM

I am not proposing anything supernatural here.  But the very nature of what it is to be a “subjective agent” simply is not explicable in terms of formal materialistic “laws” or “equations”.

eucaryote - 18 October 2011 11:58 PM

You just contradicted yourself. Sounds supernatural to me.

Everything natural is explicable. If you are proposing something that is inexplicable in terms of what we know of the natural world, then you are proposing something super or extra natural. Something that strong evidence would show to be “miraculous”. The principle of parsimony suggests that this position is not likely to be true. It is highly unlikely that what you call “consciousness” represents a phenomenon that cannot be elucidated by conventional reasoning regarding the physical world, the only world we know. The burden of proof is on you, just as it is for those who make similar claims regarding gods, ghosts, and poltergeists.

Because of this, you’ll find no shelter in an argument of mutually exclusive “intuitions”. I’m not arguing from an intuitive perspective, but a scientific one.  Our intuition continues to tell us that the world is flat and that there is something called up and down in universe, but of course we know those intuitions to be untrue. I can’t help but feel those intuitions as strongly as you, but I don’t credit them with truth value.

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 October 2011 10:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  173
Joined  2011-10-16
Kenneth Benjamin - WisdomWebsite.com - 19 October 2011 04:50 AM

My interest is in how when using the language as it is commonly interpreted i.e. objective reality exists and we experience it and subjective reality exists and we experience it, these two perspectives arise.

Both perspectives have value so there is no point in arguing that either one does not exist.

Objective reality is useful to permit your subjective perspective to exist and to guide it within the bounds of what is real.

The fact that we cannot precisely define anything from first principles does not diminish the fact that there is an objective reality that we (all of us) experience. Perhaps this is The Matrix. The odds of that are low since it would take a computer larger than the size of the universe to contain the program.

Subjective reality has its place and purpose. Objective reality does, too, and I hope you continue to objectively eat, think, and act objectively as you must have done so far in your life.

Don’t be fooled by the argument that nothing is real. It’s a deception that leads to a faith in nothingness. That, my friend, is the real Matrix.

Kenneth - I think you have hit on an important issue here. 
s.k.graham - We all have to choose the more efficacious view for us as organisms invested in this life.  To do this we might take a clue from other organisms around us.  For instance, are the tiger’s actions in its natural environment dominated by intention, certainty and resolution or do we see its actions dominated by uncertainty and self-doubt?  All life-forms seem to flourish as they move with a kind of selfish certainty in the environments to which they’re adapting.  Instincts and limited consciousness seem to invest animals with predominating certainty, modified by their careful risk assessments as the environment becomes more uncertain.  Likewise, if we want to get the best out of this life, I think our level of uncertainty should relate to the nature of our local and global environment, not to the nature of our innate existence.  What do you think?

[ Edited: 31 October 2011 03:40 AM by Michael Kean]
 Signature 

“That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”  (The first article of the Virginia Declaration of Rights adopted unanimously by the Virginia Convention of Delegates on June 12, 1776)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 October 2011 11:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1763
Joined  2006-08-20
Michael Kean - 20 October 2011 02:55 AM

Kenneth - I think you have hit on an important issue here. 
s.k.graham - We all have to choose the more efficacious view for us as organisms invested in this life.  To do this we might take a clue from other organisms around us.  For instance, are the tiger’s actions in its natural environment dominated by intention, certainty and resolution or do we see its actions dominated by uncertainty and self-doubt?  All life-forms seem to flourish as they move with a kind of selfish certainty in the environments to which they’re adapting.  Instincts and limited consciousness seem to invest animals with predominating certainty, modified by their careful risk assessments as the environment becomes more uncertain.  Likewise, if we want to get the best out of this life, I think our level of uncertainty should relate to the nature of our local and global environment, not to the nature of our innate existence.  What do you think?

I think that was a great post!

We have intimately evolved into the only environment that we know. We literally cannot conceive of anything outside of, or other than the physical environment that we have evolved into. If you look at it from the perspective of deep ecology, we are in a matrix of sorts. One of the budding consciousness’s on the tree of life. The real mistake is to think of our “consciousness” as separate from or other than, or somehow not a part of, the physical environment.

 Signature 

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind, the ants are blowing in the wind.

Dog is my co-pilot

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 October 2011 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
Newbie
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  34
Joined  2011-10-15
eucaryote - 20 October 2011 03:19 PM
Michael Kean - 20 October 2011 02:55 AM

Kenneth - I think you have hit on an important issue here. 
s.k.graham - We all have to choose the more efficacious view for us as organisms invested in this life.  To do this we might take a clue from other organisms around us.  For instance, are the tiger’s actions in its natural environment dominated by intention, certainty and resolution or do we see its actions dominated by uncertainty and self-doubt?  All life-forms seem to flourish as they move with a kind of selfish certainty in the environments to which they’re adapting.  Instincts and limited consciousness seem to invest animals with predominating certainty, modified by their careful risk assessments as the environment becomes more uncertain.  Likewise, if we want to get the best out of this life, I think our level of uncertainty should relate to the nature of our local and global environment, not to the nature of our innate existence.  What do you think?

I think that was a great post!

We have intimately evolved into the only environment that we know. We literally cannot conceive of anything outside of, or other than the physical environment that we have evolved into. If you look at it from the perspective of deep ecology, we are in a matrix of sorts. One of the budding consciousness’s on the tree of life. The real mistake is to think of our “consciousness” as separate from or other than, or somehow not a part of, the physical environment.

Wow!

Good stuff. I see the makings of a unification of the “oneness” concepts and subjective reality in eastern philosophy with objective reality and science. A topic I’ve been trying to figure out how best to address.

Thanks to all of the commentators but especially Michael Kean and Eucaryote. I’m going to chew on that for a while. I’ll let you know what comes out of it but I feel an article for WisdomWebsite.com in the offing.

 Signature 

Kenneth Benjamin is a veteran IT wizard, world traveler, and founder of WisdomWebsite.com, a website dedicated to improving the quality of your life by merging ancient wisdom with modern science. WisdomWebsite, Lifting the Mist from Mysticism™.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 October 2011 02:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  2
Joined  2011-10-20

Interestingly, consciousness itself (so I don’t mean here the topic ‘consciousness) is the ultimate bottleneck for all knowledge and knowing, including scientific.
Although our brains are able to represent (or replicate, or simulate) external energetic and material processes (including those of the body) and bind these into some sort of Gestalt, from which emerges consciousness, we should not forget that our knowledge of these supposed energetic and material processes and their relationships (laws of the universe) itself is derived from consciousness. Even the severest scientific discipline is ultimately clothed in qualia.

Consciousness is the only thing we have and it might ultimately put limits to our knowledge of reality (what I call ‘extraversum’). Its many contents, though, are knowable because they can be referred to other contents (including the ‘knower’ itself).

However, for consciousness itself we have no (conceptual) reference so I wonder if it can ever be understood in the usual way we understand (scientifically) natural phenomena. But what we probably will discover is its generating mechanism in the brain, in itself an area of research as fascinating as cosmology.

[ Edited: 20 October 2011 03:03 PM by iani]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 October 2011 11:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
Newbie
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  34
Joined  2011-10-15
iani - 20 October 2011 06:45 PM

Interestingly, consciousness itself (so I don’t mean here the topic ‘consciousness) is the ultimate bottleneck for all knowledge and knowing, including scientific.
Although our brains are able to represent (or replicate, or simulate) external energetic and material processes (including those of the body) and bind these into some sort of Gestalt, from which emerges consciousness, we should not forget that our knowledge of these supposed energetic and material processes and their relationships (laws of the universe) itself is derived from consciousness. Even the severest scientific discipline is ultimately clothed in qualia.

Consciousness is the only thing we have and it might ultimately put limits to our knowledge of reality (what I call ‘extraversum’). Its many contents, though, are knowable because they can be referred to other contents (including the ‘knower’ itself).

However, for consciousness itself we have no (conceptual) reference so I wonder if it can ever be understood in the usual way we understand (scientifically) natural phenomena. But what we probably will discover is its generating mechanism in the brain, in itself an area of research as fascinating as cosmology.

I think we’re starting to touch on chicken and the egg or trees falling in the woods territory here.

It seems to me that even if we weren’t here to be conscious of nature, that nature would still exist. We have strong evidence to support this idea, particularly in light of our recent evolutionary arising.

To relegate the natural world to our observation of it is to diminish it and to elevate us above it. That, I think, is the fallacy. In essence what you are saying is that you are the god of your own existence.

I’m well acquainted with the perspective of subjective reality but there is an objective reality. We can discover it through methods other than our direct sensing and we do. The existence of photons is an objective reality that our eyes cannot directly perceive, to take one simple example. Everything in the objective reality world exists. What is more strange, and I think the point Sam was trying to make, is the arising of a subjective perspective.

Perhaps it is like this:

eucaryote - 20 October 2011 03:19 PM

If you look at it from the perspective of deep ecology, we are in a matrix of sorts. One of the budding consciousness’s on the tree of life. The real mistake is to think of our “consciousness” as separate from or other than, or somehow not a part of, the physical environment.

Consciousness is a natural arising of the complexity of our minds just as a hurricane is a natural arising of Earth’s atmosphere. At first glance, both seem surprising but once you understand the system, it all makes sense.

Our problem is that we don’t understand our minds and bodies the way we do hurricanes. Even then, we cannot predict for certain when a mere thunderstorm will become a hurricane.

__________________
Kenneth Benjamin is a veteran IT wizard, world traveler, and founder of WisdomWebsite.com, a website dedicated to improving the quality of your life by merging ancient wisdom with modern science. WisdomWebsite, lifting the mist from mysticism.

 Signature 

Kenneth Benjamin is a veteran IT wizard, world traveler, and founder of WisdomWebsite.com, a website dedicated to improving the quality of your life by merging ancient wisdom with modern science. WisdomWebsite, Lifting the Mist from Mysticism™.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 21 October 2011 01:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  36
Joined  2009-07-31

Ultimately, people who believe in the emergence of subjective experience need to explain why information processing is accompanied by an experience. The problem is that unlike other mysteries such as what is heat there is no a priory, rough and ready understanding of what consciousness is. The a priory, rough and ready understanding of heat was it is the thing that makes things melt or evaporate. If you can explain why something melts, you have explained what heat is.

It is possible that subjective experience is a brute fact of nature and may be universal. We may not believe that there is something like what it is to be an electron, but how can we possibly know. It might be that what we have thought of as minds may simply be what it is to be an electron in some structure of the brain. In that case, science would need to explain how the information that we are subjectively aware of finds its way to those electrons. That seems like something science would be very capable of.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 21 October 2011 02:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
Newbie
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  34
Joined  2011-10-15
Dreadlocks - 21 October 2011 05:19 AM

Ultimately, people who believe in the emergence of subjective experience need to explain why information processing is accompanied by an experience. The problem is that unlike other mysteries such as what is heat there is no a priory, rough and ready understanding of what consciousness is. The a priory, rough and ready understanding of heat was it is the thing that makes things melt or evaporate. If you can explain why something melts, you have explained what heat is.

It is possible that subjective experience is a brute fact of nature and may be universal. We may not believe that there is something like what it is to be an electron, but how can we possibly know. It might be that what we have thought of as minds may simply be what it is to be an electron in some structure of the brain. In that case, science would need to explain how the information that we are subjectively aware of finds its way to those electrons. That seems like something science would be very capable of.

I’m liking this information processing angle you’re taking.

When you break it down to the point of what is it like to be an electron, I think we can, in fact, define it, at least short of some more sophisticated explanation emerging from string theory or something.

The answer lies within the amount of information contained within a single electron (or photon), 1 bit. (I had to stop and check my understanding of qubits but I’m back now and sticking with 1 bit).

The maximum information that an electron ‘knows’ is true or false, 1 / 0, yes or no.

It is through the combination of increasing numbers of electrons that more information, more to like, so to speak, arises.

This reality extends beyond the subatomic world to the microscopic, too. A recent study concluded that the maximum information a single cell can contain is…you guessed it, 1 bit!

Why many cells are better than one
Limited decision-making ability of individual cells is bolstered in masses
Researchers from Johns Hopkins have quantified the number of possible decisions that an individual cell can make after receiving a cue from its environment, and surprisingly, it’s only two.

As the article title suggests, many cells, electrons, (people?) are better than one. In other words, they ‘know’ more.

I’ll go back to my computer example as a simple case in point. A 1 bit computer is no better than a light switch. Wire up a few bits and organize some simple 2 bit conditional logic (AND/OR/XOR gates) and you have something useful, a simple calculator, perhaps. You also have the foundations of cause and effect.

These simple conditional logic gates arise from the interaction of the two input bits, they either mutually support, independently support, or mutually interfere with each other. These sorts of logical gates are formed in transistors at the microscopic level but can also be created in quantum interactions directly.

Take any two bits of information, merge them in some fashion, and you have a third bit. Add feedback circuits, greater complexity (matter, say, or computer systems), and the end product is vastly more ‘knowledgeable’ than a single bit. The processes of feedback, or to put it in finite computer terms, clock cycles, is to recombine old information into new information.

Perhaps this is the basis of the universe? Although, what created the first ‘bit’ remains an open question.

The fact that emergent properties are not a priori predictable is of little surprise based on the complexity of real-world interactions.

I not long ago saw “Hubble 3D” at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Aside from being an amazing view of the universe (see it if you can), one salient point comes to mind:  When they showed images of galaxies from the distant reaches of time, those galaxies had less complexity than more recent galaxies. The feedback process creates new information by combining old information into new forms.

It does so in quasi-random fashion, where simpler structures support more complex structures, i.e. electrons and quarks form atoms due to their fundamental nature (the arising of which is the hot topic in physics so I have no great insight to offer here). And it does so through the interaction of the constituent parts, subatomic particles interact to form atoms (more information than a single bit), molecules, and on up the chain of matter and energy to us.

Likewise, we defined computers to work on this same model of least-information components interconnected and feedback enabled.

To look only at the information storage capability alone misses the full picture. We must look at the connections between the bits and the method of feedback, as well. In other words, we must understand neurons (bits), neurotransmitters and synaptic ion transfers (communication protocols), and brainwaves (clock cycles, or something akin to them).

The evidence so far convinces me that consciousness, by whatever definition you choose to describe it, remains an emergent property of matter and energy. To describe it as Gestalt, qualia, god, or unknowable only shows that you do not know. It does not demonstrate that it cannot be known any more than describing fire as a Gestalt of air misses the truth that it is, in fact, photons resonating in the long-infrared range and released from the burning matter through a process of oxidation.

Embrace your ignorance. Curiosity is one thing that makes life enjoyable, at least that’s the way my matter and energy is wired, how about yours?

P.S. If Sam’s right about our deterministic nature, does that make us unary operators? If so, then even a lowly binary electron is smarter than your honor student wink

 Signature 

Kenneth Benjamin is a veteran IT wizard, world traveler, and founder of WisdomWebsite.com, a website dedicated to improving the quality of your life by merging ancient wisdom with modern science. WisdomWebsite, Lifting the Mist from Mysticism™.

Profile
 
 
   
2 of 35
2
 
RSS 2.0     Atom Feed