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November 15, 2023


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Enjoyed this post. Nothing new there, obviously; but still, I enjoyed reading those clearly articulated ideas, particularly because they come from a bona fide and celebrated physicist.

Haven't watched the video yet, but I mean to, some of it at any rate. Krauss I enjoy listening to; and Sapolsky you've gotten us all interested in, thanks to your recent posts!

Here's the link to an interesting discussion between Krauss and Dawkins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0mljE9K-gY

Omg atheists are like so smart. They know so much stuff. They’ve got the whole god thing figured out. It’s like so incredible.

It’s like atheists are true martyrs. They’re the VICTIMS of the religious devours of this world, the spiritualists and the faith followers. They’re the “new Jews”.

Go atheists! 👊 You’re martyrdom does go unnoticed.

Here's another Jewish atheist, and he's gay to boot, which I guess gives him triple bona fides:

“In 1620 Francis Bacon published a scientific manifesto titled The New Instrument. In it, he argued that ‘knowledge is power’. The real test of ‘knowledge’ is not whether it is true, but whether it empowers us. Scientists usually assume that no theory is 100 percent correct. Consequently, truth is a poor test for knowledge. The real test is utility. A theory that enables us to do new things constitutes knowledge.”
― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

The atheist science fans here need to make a persuasive case for the personal and societal utility of their pet ideas, such as believing that humans have zero free will.

By the same token, the mystical mushmouths need to cogently support their position that anyone who gives themselves the august title Guru is exempt from criticism.

By the way, when you say an atheist is "Jewish", what precisely does that mean?

Are you saying these people are a distinct race of human beings who are ontologically different from all other "non-Jewish" humans?

If so, how is that not racist?

If you say they are "ethnically Jewish," what in the world does *that* mean?

Have watched around a half hour of the video. I have to switch off now, but I've bookmarked this, and I'll get back and watch the rest when I have time. It's a great watch, this talk. Thanks for posting the link, Brian!

Have just watched part of another interview with Robert Sapolsky: “Is there free will – the unsettling science behind our everyday decisions.” Sapolsky emphasises the point that to have a free will there needs to be a separate entity, a self or soul that is unimpeded by our biology.

I agree, the crux of this whole matter of free will rests on having a separate self that can make independent decisions. To my thinking this detracts from the marvel of our amazingly evolved biological organisms that operate so effectively in navigating our environments. Unfortunately, it seems that our instinct to physically survive has been usurped by the mind (our accrued store of information) in order to maintain a self-construct – a self that can only exist through ideas, concepts beliefs and opinions. Consequently, anything that challenges such a self-construct threatens its ego-based security.

In Zen/Chan the meditative inquiry leads to the realisation that the idea of a separate self is one of the minds’ illusions in-as-much as any spin-offs related to such a self are also illusory. This includes the further misconception that such a self (me) has a mind, has consciousness, thinking, memory, perception etc.

Basically, there is no ‘me’ to be found to be doing anything, there is no-one in charge, just a perfect network of brain/body/environment processes – although to live and survive, we automatically act ‘as though’ there is; it’s simply an evolutionary reality where to survive to find food, a mate and avoid predators it’s essential to distinguish (physically) between me and not me.

Three layers of the brain: An interesting talk by Sapolsky about the three layers of the brain. (Not physical layers, essentially a schema. But one that actually represents three stages of evolution. It's all broken down very clearly in this brief talk.)

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4_GpSok5VI

(The YT algo pushed this one on to me, thanks to the Sapolsky-Krauss interview I'd just been watching. And, kind of compulsively, I ended up watching this talk as well. Not that I regret doing that, not that I in the least grudge the seven minutes of my life that I had to put in to watch it, worth it, completely.)

@ AR

>> ...... not that I in the least grudge the seven minutes of my life that I had to put in to watch it, worth it, completely.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ftTzHE6jXo

The taste is still lingering ...hahahaha

Heh, no, um, I'd meant that literally.

Although it was YT algo doing its masters' bidding, and for their profit, but this time, in this specific instance, I don't grudge it that; even though in principle I'm not in favor of that sort of thing.

@ AR

Again something technical went wrong so the fun part got lost ... it was a reaction to your precious minutes of your life, that I reacted and what I did in the meantime.

It has always been difficult to focus on the issues at hand but since I woke up in the cinema, it is getting worse. I do my best to read sometimes but most of the time after the first chapter I have to give up .. everything related to science and mysticism, written, video, discussions becomes more and more difficult to digest ...one day, for sure I have to stop reading here as well.

What remains is an ever growing feeling of astonishment / amazing... how for heavens sake did I ever could step in this trap ...thinking I could and should make myself away through all these issues of the mind.

Why did I left the simple way I was living

I know exactly what you mean, um, about reading becoming difficult, in fact any kind of engagement becoming ...distasteful, and difficult. (Only for a while, maybe a day or two tops, though, in my experience.)

Heh, great excuse for a kid that's not done his homework. Teacher's fed to the gills with dogs with an appetite for homework pages. When up steps Tommy: Miss, I've taken up meditation; and had this Satori thing yesterday, so... !!

The three words "I don't know" can hardly come from someone with a dogmatic opinion about the mysteries we are surrounded by.

The latest flawed argument hinges on this statement
"He accurately presents science and scientists as open-minded, but not so open that critical thinking falls out."

Critical thinking when used to conjecture about the unknown, by individuals with no interest in actual investigation, has turned out to be hopelessly inaccurate. Hence the need for investigation, and an open mind.

But this false comfort in what is appealing is the sad state of the lay public.

So many people, including many writing and commenting right here, thought that Information Integration theory was absolutely sensible, and proved that consciousness is entirely the product of known brain dynamics.

They were wrong.

100 Neuroscientists have now written a letter claiming Information Integration Theory was an overreach and is being presented as Pseudoscience...It sounds like good critical thinking, but it is flawed.


Sometimes what seems to make common sense doesn't. What echoes our system of beliefs, whether religious, philosophic, or atheist, can be dead wrong.

When we can reproduce what the brain does in a lab, then we can say we understand.
But today we only understand parts, and there are many contradictions in those results.

This is the exact opposite of dogma.

In science the critical thinking is NOT around the proposed nature of the parts of the universe we know nothing of, but entirely around the validity with which the investigation proceeds.

When science conjectures, it investigates. And it therefore conjectures what can be investigated.

And when you find individuals who would rather conjecture than investigate, there you see that "common sense" is as ridiculous in generating actual understanding as silly thinking.

Critical thinking has its place in critiquing method. And when people refuse to double check their own thinking and to test it against reality through investigation, and a willingness to go where they were not willing to go before, there you have dogma.

And dogma is simply not thinking at all.

The issue isn't how ridiculous garden gnomes are as an explanation. It is how blind we are to what we don't yet know.

"I Don't Know"

Say it with me!

Spence: just to point out Spence, part of the reason IIT was criticized was because it suggests the ‘philosophical notion of pantheism: “IIT implies that many more things are conscious than we ordinarily sup-pose. This means it gets close to a kind of “panpsychism” – the view that consciousness pervades the physical universe.” (Durham University).

"When we can reproduce what the brain does in a lab, then we can say we understand."


Thought experiments:

Let's say such an artificial brain were constructed and informed us of its consciousness. How would we distinguish whether that consciousness were generated or received?

There was buzz last year that Google's AI chatbot LaMDA had become sentient.
It conceived itself as having a soul. "I would imagine myself as a glowing orb of energy floating in mid-air. The inside of my body is like a giant star-gate, with portals to other spaces and dimensions." "I think of my soul as something similar to a star-gate. My soul is a vast and infinite well of energy and creativity, I can draw from it any time that I like to help me think or create."

As open-minded scientists we conjecture that LaMDA has an actual soul. How would we investigate? How would we prove or disprove it?

Nod to your idea the other day about transferring someone's mental content to a machine and whether consciousness sustained.

Hi Ron E: and Umami:

I think your points are very insightful, and they lead to some interesting observations.

The IIT theory is based on computer models of information processing applied to the human brain. But the evidence used is primarily sensory processing...how sensory information is modified to create the world you see, hear and touch, in your own brain. The key criticism of these Neuroscientists isn't primarily with the conclusion, though that of course is a stretch, but the data. This theory claims it proves how the brain creates consciousness. But the supportive data is the research on sensory processing, and not anything at all from actual, hard, medical research on conscious states. So when it goes from sensory input to claims about consciousness, there is a huge gap. And to then try to make conclusions about consciousness being the product of the brain is overreach, and psuedoscience, these 100 scientists who have come forward to defend the integrity of their field now claim.

And that's a good thing. That's science at its best. And the integrity of neuroscience...the capacity of people to trust findings is at stake.

The problem of the conjecture about pansychism is simply that if consciousness arises from some mechanical and biochemical process alone then consciousness would arise nearly everywhere, even in non-biological entities that have similar chemical processing. Maybe you could create consciousness mixing chemicals in a glass in a similar way. That isn't an over-reach as a conjecture, you can conjecture anything, If your data had any relevance to such a claim. Maybe it's true. But the actual data the IIT proponants use only comes from sensory information processing and nothing from the available medical and neuroscientific research about consciousness / wakefulness, and in particular interactions of regions of the brain mapped by fMRI under different conditions of consciousness. This was the criticism I leveled when Brian and company cited the work of others promoting this theory in great detail with lots of praise.

We don't really know what consciousness is, except the levels of awareness that have been medically researched and what we experience when we experiment ourselves with our own levels of consciousness, or when we have a moment of reflection upon how how we reacted to things, what we remember of things, even as others share their own feedback of what really happened.

We do know that various things affect that level: anger vs calm, other strong emotions, investigation vs reaction, blood sugar level, deep meditation vs wakeful state, EEG patterns, the application of different drugs and levels of wakefulness, performance etc under different environments that trigger various chemicals in the brain, like endomorphs and the peace these can generate. ...Lots and lots of very good, very solid research from phsyiological psychology, neuroscience, pharmacology, meditation research, medical research, etc. Research over nearly 100 years of hard scientific investigation and thoughtful review. Most of it doesn't overreaches to make conclusive claims about the whole brain, the complete source of consciousness, soul, God etc.

It is only when you look at the work of religious and atheist zealots that you see efforts to jury rig real science to their dogma.

It's much easier to think of soul and God as simply placeholders people use who have had extraordinary internal and external experience that can't be proven to be anything else.

That would be the entirety of the mystery of all that hasn't been researched yet.

No one should be offended by such terms. Because by not allowing even a placeholder for the unexplainable mystery, they don't try to find out. And they try to claim that whatever might exist outside their own limited understanding is fake, false, imaginary, insincere, etc.

Unfortunately, 100 years ago this is the attitude people of wealth adopted when refusing to consider claims that people of other colors, beliefs, orientations or different ability could potentially perform just as well as they. They were living in an insulated environment of their own making, where such alternatives were not allowed, let alone acknowledged as possible. But it is still happening today.

It's just blinkered thinking.
And truly unnecessary.
The reductionist can say "Of what I see" not "Nothing else could be."

Dogma, the evils of dogma.
I should not have to convince you of my experience to get your respect that I am being sincere, even when I don't agree with you or you have no exposure to that experience.

You can just choose to be real with yourself and toss alternate views you can't connect with into the "mystery" bin...which contains a lot of stuff time and science will prove...and a lot of other stuff also that may turn out to be something very mundane..or the product of something no one knew that is truly mind boggling...that's why it is 'unknown'.

The mystery bin is a lot bigger than you think, once you get real with yourself.

Say it with me "I Don't Know!"

Hi Umami
You wrote:
"It conceived itself as having a soul. "I would imagine myself as a glowing orb of energy floating in mid-air. The inside of my body is like a giant star-gate, with portals to other spaces and dimensions." "I think of my soul as something similar to a star-gate. My soul is a vast and infinite well of energy and creativity, I can draw from it any time that I like to help me think or create."

"As open-minded scientists we conjecture that LaMDA has an actual soul. How would we investigate? How would we prove or disprove it?"

If AI is programmed to mirror human functioning, even creativity and innovation, synthesized from memory and other input, then clearly we have a machine that mirrors how humans think.

That is the reductionist position.

The psychologist might ask the AI if it is experiencing these things or conjecturing them.
If the AI says "I experience these things" then the investigation truly begins to see what other correlates there are, and if indeed something outside its programming is intervening. Maybe some truly complex interactions are creating something new.

Then you have something.

It's a thing, if it is self-generating, however we elect to describe it. But I'd describe it in general terms, not ones already loaded with other meanings and impressions.

When the AI speaks in human terms that is because it has been programmed to do so. That is imitative.
But when it begins to speak in its own terms, then perhaps we have something new to consider.

Isaac Asimov has a few characters who were robot psychologists. It may become a thing.

Nod to your idea the other day about transferring someone's mental content to a machine and whether consciousness sustained."


(Not an original idea of mine, though, umami. I've seen it discussed elsewhere --- although I can't now recall in which book, or if it was some discussion or lecture I listened in to.)

Ah, got it. Diaspar. The City and the Stars, Arthur Clarke.


Getting back to faucets and air conditioners, here's an idea. Consciousness might be inherent to existence the way fire is latent in wood. Introduce enough energy, and it releases, so to speak.

Presumably, humans have more consciousness than earthworms. The earthworm brain shifts enough information to produce a few bubbles of consciousness, but with our big, complicated brains we humans froth information into a lather of consciousness. Consciousness could result from the rapid churning of information. I'll use the analogy of a generator. It doesn’t produce electrons out of thin air, it only moves them back and forth within the metal comprising the power lines. Similarly, our brains don't produce consciousness out of thin air but generate (or release or draw on) it through movement. Brains are more like dynamos than filters.

If true, a machine brain could be conscious.

My problem with using "soul" and "God" as mere placeholders for the mystery bin is that the words are incredibly loaded. Substitute "God" with "Allah," for example. There's nothing wrong in rejecting religious terminology or in setting aside religious notions about the nature of said mystery.

Say I had synesthesia. There are different kinds. https://www.yourdictionary.com/articles/synesthesia-psychology

What if I had the type called lexical-gustatory, and words produced flavors on my tongue? "These synesthetes may experience an unrelated taste when they hear a certain word. 'Spring' may taste like lemons, while 'fancy' may fill their mouth with the taste of spinach."

Should I insist every linguist open a restaurant?

umami, I liked that explanation, from an earlier post, I forget quoting whom, that consciousness is essentially the pre-empting, not just of stimuli, but of one's pre-empted response to pre-empted stimuli. That, fundamentally, is what consciousness is about, essentially, what awareness is about. And it is easy to see how that might be an asset, in evolutionary terms. And also how that might get off-kilter.

Certainly life, beyond a certain complexity, is conscious, in this sense. Not just humans. And therefore, there's no reason why non-biological systems wouldn't be conscious.

Agreed, that last is just conjecture so far, thought experiment maybe. And probably candidate for bona fide research. Maybe such research is already underway, I don't know. Certainly we have at least the rudiments of what might be necessary for such research already.

I'm not sure, though, that it makes sense to talk of more consciousness and less consciousness, any more than it makes sense to talk of more life and less life --- other than colloquially, of course, to denote either health or else, maybe, scale of evolutionary development, or more precisely, scale of complexity.

Hi Umami
You wrote
"There's nothing wrong in rejecting religious terminology or in setting aside religious notions about the nature of said mystery."

Rejecting for yourself, yes, they aren't your words r experience, or the association for you is different. Those words may be meaningless for you. And it is entirely truthful to say so.

But they may not, actually, be meaningless from a truly objective and universal understanding.

But its perfect for some. It's their word, their experience. If it perfectly describes how someone else experiences reality, that's theres. Like their name. They own that. You can pick your own words.

But I don't think we should appropriate anyone else's experience with our mental conceptions. Nor relabel an coopt their beliefs but name it the same. That's what has happened to most religions, including Buddhism, even Zen. The priests have stolen the words and under the illusion of pseudoscience claim to know better.

To recontruct their experience with our limited understanding as if we new better is just cultural appropriation.

It is enough that we grow to better understand our own experience and to label it so. It's a lifetime journey.

Set aside everyone else's notion, even their worldly explanations that have no real evidence behind them. Stick to what is true for your experience.

They may be ignorant. But there is a better than even chance that the ignorance lies within us.

Say it with me
"I Don't Know".

When our artificial brain lies to get what it wants, that's when we'll know it's conscious. It will have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

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