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    Profound Recursion Or Remains The Feeling That Something Profound Remains
    By Sascha Vongehr | April 15th 2012 12:46 AM | 86 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    We seem to not be able to “explain” certain aspects like the nature of time, and not for lack of trying. Especially: We cannot explain a single subjective feeling in ways that satisfy many – not subjective sounding of sound, not the redness of the color red, not why pain “really” hurts. In spite of all the science we threw at them, something unexplained seems left about how feeling feels. Do we simply commit another ‘regress-error’ here?


    Regress Error versus Recursion

    Many so called “deep questions” are based on regress errors, pseudo-issues hanging from misconstrued recursions. The useless “flow of time” implies a time of time for example, self-consistency is misunderstood as consistent consistency, cosmic expansion often misinterpreted as space bulging out into space around space, quantum randomness as meta-fair random randomness, “free will” worshiped as some nebulous meta-free willing of will, and so on. In all these cases, something ill-defined is claimed to originate or be explained via hiding this very something on a meta-level and then pulling it back out of the hat. The audience gasps for the moment but is in the end more confused than before. With regard to feelings, it is subjective consciousness being portrayed as meta-awareness, as consciousness of consciousness.



    This latter point of view may have become more popular also through Douglass Hofstadter’s Book “Gödel Escher Bach”, wherein recursion and self-reference take center stage. Modularity and recursion are important; they accelerate general emergence, for example the evolution of autopoietic systems when a biosphere bootstraps itself out of the dead surface of a planet. Darkness seems to light itself up somehow, growing brains, and similar is definitively involved inside brains, but how is it directly recursion that switches on or is somehow equivalent to the “light of consciousness”? Is something missing or is “light (consciousness) of consciousness” just totally misleading? It often seems as if a deeper reason is implied but only hinted at; perhaps recursion of recursion triggers an intrinsic explosion, a feedback loop that reaches all the way to internal infinity, finally “explaining” soul self-referentially. It feels as mysterious as ever, like the most important part remains unanswered. Is this self-referentiality fad another instance of the common regress error? Or can recursion of recursion answer satisfyingly how red feels so red; is our dissatisfaction based on regress-error thinking? For one, the feeling that it “often seems as if a deeper reason is implied but only hinted at” may be merely a misinterpretation brought on by being trapped in regress-error thinking.


    The exponential function describes its own increase (see the "slope" in the picture) and thus the increase of its increase of its increase of … - it therefore describes self-referential feedback loops blowing up and has taken on a close to religious significance for many “transhumanists” and the like:


    There are only two possibilities: Either Daniel Dennett is correct and “Consciousness Explained”, or something remains unexplained. Let’s see whether we can gain some insight from a very similar issue. Some may hold that pain and suffering is not science, but proper terminology is the vital ingredient to good science.


    Suffering of Suffering

    Either something remains puzzling about the hurting of pain, or not. Either pain just leads to us retracting and it is almost identical to us wanting to avoid it and so we do not like it and scream and all that, and that is already all there is, this is the full explanation of the feeling and why we talk confusingly about “feeling this feeling” rather than having it, or there is something left out, like why it “actually feels bad” or how it feels different from being a bat.


    If all there is to suffering torture is that we want to run away, we in some sense quite irrationally desire stopping the torture in spite of that we cannot help the situation and our desire only worsens it. Why not enjoy instead? If the behavior is all, if there is no suffering of suffering beyond that, why not just stop all suffering by simply enjoying from now on - just do not run away? OK, somebody breaks my leg, there is pain, I just enjoy it for a change. But I cannot, probably not even after ten years of meditation, as my body is triggered to cramp and sweat and puke and I cannot help but scream and wanting to get away. But why not choose all of this together, pain and my suffering it, as a welcome and interesting experience, take a torture vacation, if it is “just suffering”, if there is nothing fundamentally negative about it?


    Because there is no suffering of suffering! The suffering directly is almost identical (by definition) with being undesired, period! Subjective meta-suffering being unnecessary does not mean that there is no “real suffering” (if you do not see the relation to exact sciences: Unitary quantum determinism does not negate randomness). The issue is resolved by distinguishing pain and the suffering or enjoyment of it, by keeping them apart and being careful with terminology. Suffering of pain, yes, but suffering of suffering, no. Others’ suffering might trigger my suffering, but suffering does not suffer itself in order to be metaphysically existent. This point of view renders suffering less mysterious and more amenable: Yes we can simply chemically decouple suffering from pains without cheating baby Jesus. You may try to argue against the enjoyment of others’ suffering with ‘goes around comes around’, appealing to selfishness, but ethics is not our topic – clarity is.



    Back to The Remainder: Evolved Feelings driving Scientists and Priests alike

    As just discussed, you won’t betray the great personal losses of your beloved nation’s forefathers with chemically induced enjoyment. Such silly worries disappear together with the regress-error thinking, which is why we evolved to desperately defend such confused thinking. Regress-error thinking – we just do it again and again, all the time, we cannot stop it, because our brains have evolved to rationalize actions, to recognize intention and blame responsibility, so the feeling of “free will” emerged. We have evolved to feel comfortable with following social norms and morals; we therefore feel as if we understand them, as if we know reasons behind them, meaning we have evolved to seek and construct and accept these sort of circular regress-type argumentations; they seem fine while questioning them appears sick. Irrationally rationalizing and confabulating is the main task that distinguishes the primate brain. It is almost all “we” (persons) do, though this may be news to you, and for the same reason: we are evolved to not realize that we do little more than rationalizing a dream our bodies hallucinate, the evolutionary advantage of which comes about over timescales that are longer than seconds, i.e. they are as unconscious as processes whose descriptions require millisecond resolutions. If you do not know this as one useful description, new enlightenment has not reached you.


    And so there remains lingering the feeling that something profound remains unexplained, say about the ‘flow of time’. Here it is once more important to become aware of the regress-error issue, which is not about rejecting all recursions and meta-levels, although pseudo-skeptics writing many a science blog sadly feel that way and worship Occam's razor. Stringtheory membranes are not foolish space in space proposals. One needs to understand in which cases stratification and self-reference could achieve what they claim to do.

    There is a feeling of there being some issue left out, something missing, an aspect that remains unresolved. You are in merry company if asking “What remains?” without taking into consideration that the something-remains-feeling itself remains. Being aware of this fact facilitates considering that the something-remains-feeling may be the only issue remaining. To remove that last residue may transcend the field in which the particular question arose, say relativistic physics.


    Complete Answers remove the Question completely

    If the something-remains-feeling remains, something indeed remains “unexplained”. After all, answers are constructs that render us comfortable with some circumstance we previously felt in some way unfamiliar with. So if the feeling remains, the answer has not been fully given (this does not claim a pill removing all questionable feelings is the ultimate answer). However, explicitly realizing that the something-remains-feeling can be the main aspect remaining, this awareness opens an otherwise hidden realm which is most important when answering “deep questions”. It is the realm where logical positivists have gone before, the realm where we acknowledge that answers ultimately come from analyzing properly asked questions – the lock determines the shape of the key. Bad terminology with a helping of question marks trigger the something-remains-feeling much like LSD can bath you in this-is-the-profound-holistic-truth-feeling.


    Many clever and educated people are proudly ignorant of earthly details like the extreme bias of social reproducer brains. Being hung up on your own something-remains-feeling does not sound like a sophisticated ivory league situation worthy of tenure. It is much easier to construct elaborate card houses that provide endless fodder for academia’s publish-or-perish culture, and so it is doubly selected for; any crackpot's conspiracy theory is only half as bad as the conspiracy of co-evolution. Here is an exercise: Take your favorite mystery and for at least one day seriously assume that your main problem with it is merely your evolved ‘something-profound-remains-feeling’.

    Comments

    You are in merry company if asking “What remains?” without taking into consideration that the something-remains-feeling itself remains
    Bravo! I rather expected to cross swords with you when you started out but the above is pretty neat. Is it your own?
    Here is an exercise: Take your favorite mystery and for at least one day seriously assume that your main problem with it is merely your evolved ‘something-profound-remains-feeling'

    vongehr
    Is it your own?
    ?!? Why would I care about anything else? ;-)
    <slaps head>
    Oh yes, of course. Silly question - I'd forgotten you haven't read a book* for 20 years.
     
     
     
     *edit:  Anyone else's, that is. :p

    Look...all problems of recursion aside for the moment, one's eyeball cannot see itself.

    Look...start with this:

    All life on Earth IS the Earth, literally and concretely.

    Life is a bubbling efflorescence of the substance of the Earth, the stardust of which it is composed.

    And since I know that I am conscious...

    ...then I know that the Earth--and therefore that of which it is composed--is capable of consciousness.

    Then I cannot deny consciousness to dogs and cats, annelid worms, leaves and leaf mold, the unseen biomass of bacteria miles deep in earth's crust or ocean, bedrock.

    The Earth itself is conscious, and my consciousness is but one--temporary--light of that consciousness.

    And if the Earth is conscious, and just part of the substance of the Universe, why then it is no great stretch to understand that the Universe is conscious.

    This is neither spirituality, nor faith, nor religion, nor belief.

    Cicero wrote: "Why do you deny that the Universe is a conscious intelligence, since it gives birth to conscious intelligences?"

    Glorious it is to be a cone in the retina of the Eye of God. (I wrote that.)

    i think i'm wandering down a totally pretentious path here, but what the hell .. 8-)

    Is the human day-to-day convenience of "causation" the reason we get trapped in regression loops? Eg. the particular train of events in a self-sustaining feedback loop could be traced back to a bit of noise. But trailing back along causation to that bit of noise doesn't identify the feedback loop as being the essential system property. (eg. tracking down the cause of terrorist events doesn't identify why terrorism perpetuates.) Though, i guess trailing along causation will help identify rhythm which is a clue to being in a feedback loop. And if there's a feedback loop then there must be orthogonal yin-yang qualities to it's type of "energy". Eg in mechanical energy: force and velocity. In political-economic "energy": influence and transfer of value.

    So if conciousness has a regression quality, then it's being swapped back and forth in a feedback loop - so what are the orthogonal qualities of conciousness? .. my shot in the dark is: subjective and objective. Ie. conciousness regression is the back and forth between its orthogonal qualities of subjectivity and objectivity.

    ah! .. i found an allegory for the subjective/objective feedback loop of consciousness ...

    this is from 1963:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75V4ClJZME4
    (It's from the opening theme of the kid's sci-fi show: Dr Who)

    the video is a result of pointing a camera at a monitor showing the output of the camera. (Subjective=monitor, Objecive=camera, consciousness=the loop.

    Reall good post

    but i have the feeling that you missed something

    p

    Thor Russell
    Some questions:1. What suffers, you or the universe? (and why does it care)
    2. How does this impact on determining if something else is conscious. What does phenomenal mean if there is no deeper meaning. Is it forever impossible to truly know if something "feels" and what does this "mean"?

    Yes its a bit off topic but I would like to see you explain your personal philosophy/ethics in more detail, how you derive them and why you are so confident about them. You obviously care about suffering and get quite passionate in discussions, sometimes it seems disagreements occur because people simply don't know what your values are. 
    Thor Russell
    vongehr
    What suffers, you or the universe? (and why does it care)
    Intentional systems like mice suffer while the universe cannot care, if I understand your question correctly (probably not). This terminology we may or may not agree on in the context of this topic, without shooting engineers for writing that a dam suffers a failure under tension. (Not to belittle, just to stress that terminology is more important than what feels ontologically right - a point that especially STEM geeks often cannot grasp because it is their strong ontological commitment that made them interested in science in the first place.)
    How does this impact on determining if something else is conscious.
    Not sure whether it does much, though surely a sober attitude prevents speciesism. Whether computers for example fall into this category will depend on us becoming clearer about language of thought (LOT) and neural correlates of consciousness (NCC).
    What does phenomenal mean if there is no deeper meaning.
    It may mean the description of consciousness from the "meaning realm" as a dual description of the world, but stating this invites the charge of dualism, although conceptual dualism (and perhaps stuff like "anomalous monism"), and avoiding category mistakes, and modern physics dualities for example are not simply some naive Cartesian dualism. Or perhaps we should simply avoid this term "phenomenal" - it depends on if there remains something still missing. ;-)

    Ethics does not come in. "Suffering of suffering" is an example between "conscious awareness", where even the most insightful are easily confused, and being hung up on the "flow of time", which is my arrogant personal limit for applying the term "insightful".
    Not sure whether it does much, though surely a sober attitude prevents speciesism. Whether computers for example fall into this category will depend on us becoming clearer about language of thought (LOT) and neural correlates of consciousness (NCC).
     Neural correlates of  WHAT ????
     
    vongehr
    of reported consciousness
    of reported consciousness
    :)

    Oh yes, the uncalibrated, unverified consciousness meter. I can smell an infinite regression.

    Seems a bit speciesist if we base the decision to kill a computer on the NCRC of the human nervous system. Seems to me that anything that looks like it's conscious should be given the benefit of the doubt. Whether its consciousness has value so it matters that we turn it off is a whole new issue. Like your torture vacation, or the way we rationalize killing animals and eating their corpses.
    Thor Russell
    OK you have a go at explaining things, I admit to being confused.




    I think assuming something is conscious if it could be is perhaps a "safe" position. It sounds a bit like "anomalous monism" where the state pretty much guarantees the phenomenal feeling if that is the right interpretation.

    There is still the problem of how many states and in what order do they have to be before they become phenomenal. (Boltzmann brains etc) I mean one state can't be conscious (its just a collection of atoms) but can two? A living organism could be seen as a system (if you can digitize it) that changes between states.  Phenomenality (if it exists) somehow emerging from the states, or the change in states?

    Assigning value to consciousness seems to be a human value, not something you can derive from logic as far as I can see. There is a bit of a paradox there to me, because if there really is nothing else to it, but it is still the most important thing to us, then what does that mean?

    A thought experiment I find a bit disturbing is if say you have a human brain, and accept its conscious etc then change its substrate to be a very faithful copy in a digital medium the same size that runs at the same speed a put it in the same body, perhaps even changing it gradually from one substrate to another (more digital one) so that the person concerned doesn't even notice when their brain is now not made of neurons. Now I would definitely consider them to conscious, but if you have gone down the digital route, then why not slow their brain down 100 times, make it out of more primitive material and make sensory input simulated instead of real, well are they still conscious? Now if you finally make their digital brain out of the old punchcards used in computers and make people move them about instead of it happening automatically are the punchcards somehow conscious? It seems pretty nonsensical and I would hope that such a system would be a "zombie", but where do you draw the line and is it a fuzzy or clear one?
    Thor Russell
    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry, but you still seem to be approaching this as if consciousness is something that exists only as a result of brain processing power.  Your statement regarding punched cards makes even less sense.  Computers weren't made out of punched cards, nor did they run from punched cards.  Even in their most primitive form, they were only the means by which programs/data were loaded into memory.  They still ran at electronic speed, given the shortcomings of memory size and circuit speeds.

    You're stilling trying to treat consciousness as some "special" trait, so you don't ask the obvious question, which is "what purpose does consciousness serve?", "is it necessary?"  "what would change if it were lost?".  You seem to assume that it is a required by-product of being human.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Thor Russell
    We've had this conversation, and no you don't understand what I am saying. For the last time rather than just putting forward your own definition, write your own blog and take things further. If you have genuine insight rather than just objection to the way I see things, then put forward a coherent theory use it to make predictions and define everything in a coherent way. Thats what you need to do if you want a scientific paradigm accepted. 
    If I thought I had something genuinely new idea/framework I would do that. I would look at many experiments/fields in psychology/biology etc and see how they fit into my framework. I would discuss how they fit into it and how my system was a simpler/better way to explain them, while making novel testable predictions. This is exactly what Jeff Hawkins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Hawkins has done with his book "On Intelligence".


    Until then stop bringing up your interpretation of intelligence/consciousness with me. It will just waste both of our time.
    Thor Russell
    Gerhard Adam
    Fine.  However, this isn't MY paradigm.  I've put forth links to Antonio Damasio and V.S. Ramachandran (two renown neuroscientists), but you seem to ignore those, just like you ignore Daniel Dennett.  However, the inventor of the Palm Pilot is the guy you think has credibility regarding the brain. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Thor Russell
    I strongly feel that you misrepresent Dennett. You should note that Dennet refers to Hawkins in this talk:http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_dennett_on_our_consciousness.html
    He obviously thinks his work has merit or he wouldn't do that. Hawkins has a deep understanding of neuroscience, and spent half his life on it. Many other psychologists also think Hawkins work has merit, I know because my dad has been one pretty much before digital computers came to the fore. He is not the only one his is department who thinks its a great book. You would definitely learn from reading his book with an open mind.
    Thor Russell
    Gerhard Adam
    Hawkins has a deep understanding of neuroscience, and spent half his life on it.
    Where do you get this stuff?  Hawkins is an electrical engineer and he founded the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience.  I'm not intending to belittle that effort, but other than his interest, what makes you think he spent "half his life" in neuroscience?
    You should note that Dennet refers to Hawkins in this talk
    Refers?  He mentions that Hawkins talked about the eyes always moving, and then at the end indicated that Hawkins is trying to apply a theory to consciousness.  Again, this is your idea of an endorsement?

    I'm not trying to denigrate Hawkins and he may well have some ideas worth considering.  What I find troubling is that people would rather read about it from an electrical engineer than from the neuroscientists that actually study the brain.  That tells me a great deal.

    In addition, despite the appeal of Hawkins "memory-prediction framework", the notion of a hierarchy isn't accurate and quite probably wrong.  This is already known, because various elements of sensory processing can be missing or damaged without eliminating the ability for the brain to have an awareness [including conscious awareness] that shouldn't exist according to Hawkin's view.  Quite obviously, the phenomenon of blindsight is one such example.  Without thinking about it more, but phantom limb syndrome is another such example, as is foreign limb syndrome.  The list could continue, with items like Capgras syndrome, etc.  None of these items display the slightest indication that there is a hierarchical structure to such consciousness.  Instead it is much more akin to a peer-network.

    In any case, I know that people prefer other beliefs, because it seems to make the problem more tractable.  So, believe what you will.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Thor Russell
    [Not sure whats happened but it appears you have edited your comment to put forward some obviously inadequate criticisms of the memory prediction framework. When I first read the introduction to it, I wasn't impressed its only when I actually read the book and thought about it that it began to make sense]
    If you read his book you will learn that yes he has spent a lot of his life clearly in the neuroscience end of things. He will have spent more time studying neuroscience than  many neuroscientists with a few years of experience. Labelling someone an electrical engineer because he studies that first is no way to judge people. As I have pointed out, his ideas are respected among psychologists, those with many years more experience and MUCH broader and more in-depth understanding of psych than you.
    Thor Russell
    Your statement regarding punched cards makes even less sense. Computers weren't made out of punched cards, nor did they run from punched cards. Even in their most primitive form, they were only the means by which programs/data were loaded into memory. They still ran at electronic speed, given the shortcomings of memory size and circuit speeds. 
    Thor explicitly said he was considering a progression from 1 biological through 2 modern electronic systems, through 3 old punched-card systems and finally 4 a system in which the same cumbersome cards were used but in which the electronic operation was replaced by manual operators. This is a gedanken experiment to retain full functionality - even biological purpose (given suitable interface devices to a human body) - on a bizaarely inappropriate substrate. 

    How do you know your mind runs on a brain made of wet, squishy neurons? You don't. How do you know it's not a load of cards being moved around by children in an elaborate but boring game that they are being forced to play by an evil maniac? You don't.
      
    This example completely removes your objections that an artificial system would lack biological purpose. The functionally identical punched-card brain does exactly what a feeling conscious biological brain does. That's why Thor produced it. The question is then whether it would have feelings or not.  Any answer other "It would have exactly the same feelings as its human predecessor" puts the onus on you to explain exactly why, if it does the same things, it doesn't  have the same properties including consciousness.
    You're stilling trying to treat consciousness as some "special" trait, so you don't ask the obvious question, which is "what purpose does consciousness serve?", "is it necessary?" "what would change if it were lost?". You seem to assume that it is a required by-product of being human.
    Because those questions are nothing to do with recursive explanations of consciousness. Neither are they anything to do with the hard problem which appears to the key to removing the recursion.
    <mode="crabby">
    They also don't make any sense but that's another matter for another time.
    </mode>
     :)
    Gerhard Adam
     Any answer other "It would have exactly the same feelings as its human predecessor" puts the onus on you to explain exactly why, if it does the same things, it doesn't  have the same properties including consciousness.
    Sorry, but that's the problem with such thought experiments, because they can postulate all manner of impossible nonsense, and then claim that they are capable of doing exactly the same things. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    I wish you hadn't said that.

    added:

    There are all sorts of gedanken experiments. Some are simplified idealisations designed to probe or criticise a theory. Others are speculative and attempt to decouple the practicalities of the scenario from the consequences so that a principle can be examined without worrying about the details.

    But in *this* instance the purpose of the gedanken experiment is not to examine "all manner of impossible nonsense". The substitution sequence which Thor suggested is *not* a specification for an experimental procedure. It is designed to *illustrate* the possibility of isomorphism across a range of substrates. Thus the practicality of building a punched-card brain does not depend on its evolving from electronics - that was just a device to make the isomorphism obvious - at least it did for me. Neither does the validity of the question depend on it practicality. Technically it is possible - unlikely but possible - for such a system to appear spontaneously by quantum tunelling or thermal fluctuation.

    The canonical argument is then:

    A human brain's function can be broken down into that of miriads of synapses interconnected plus as Dennett so insightfully reminds us below, some quasi-connections due to the wet and squishy stuff.
    The function of a synapse and the weta nd squishy stuff is much much simpler than computing the wavefunction of a quintillion particles that make it up.
    The function of the brain is therefore determined by the interconnection of miriads of units whose functionality could be written down, computed etc.
    Another system could exist that is isomorphic with the brain using units that have the same function as synapses and the wet and squishy stuff. 
    The behaviour of isomorphic systems is identical regardless of substrate, right down to the "punched card" system making itself a cup of tea and sitting with its feet up to enjoy it in front of the fire.

    If you still want to call it "impossible nonsense" you had better say which of those steps is wrong. 

    Saying why it's wrong rather than just asserting it would be a nice touch.

    Gerhard Adam
    A human brain's function can be broken down into that of miriads of synapses interconnected plus as Dennett so insightfully reminds us below, some quasi-connections due to the wet and squishy stuff. The function of a synapse and the weta nd squishy stuff is much much simpler than computing the wavefunction of a quintillion particles that make it up. The function of the brain is therefore determined by the interconnection of miriads of units whose functionality could be written down, computed etc.  Another system could exist that is isomorphic with the brain using units that have the same function as synapses and the wet and squishy stuff.  The behaviour of isomorphic systems is identical regardless of substrate, right down to the "punched card" system making itself a cup of tea and sitting with its feet up to enjoy it in front of the fire.
    You can see the absurdity of the argument with a slight modification.  Apply the same reasoning to DNA during fertilization.  If the "thought experiment" is correct, then I should be able to apply the same logic and construct a faithful reproduction of the cell's processes, including all the genetic operations and produce a human being [or any other animal]. 

    After all, there's no "magical" stuff happening in the cell, any more than in the brain. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    Either there's magic, or there's not. Either it can be replace with another substrate or not.

    I content there is no magic, therefore it can be replaced, even if we don't know how to construct such a thing, and might possibly never know how.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    My contention is that it can't be replaced and retain what you started with.

    After all, why assume that you can take a part of an integrated system and conclude that it must be replaceable?  It's entirely reasonable to argue that the entire integrated system would have to be replaced.  That would certainly be possible, but then you no longer have anything to compare it to, because it would be completely different.
    Mundus vult decipi
    And what makes you say it wouldn't work? 
     



    Gerhard Adam
    ...because at some point you would either have to jump back over to biochemical processes [leaving open the argument that you haven't replaced everything and so the result is what would've occurred regardless of your substitution], or you would have to find substitute processes [leaving open the argument that it isn't the same end result].  

    While it might be a novel way to approach a problem, the difficulty is that even then your thought experiment can't verify that things would actually be the same.  That's simply an assumption being made.    
    Mundus vult decipi
    because at some point you would either have to jump back over to biochemical processes [leaving open the argument that you haven't replaced everything and so the result is what would've occurred regardless of your substitution], or you would have to find substitute processes [leaving open the argument that it isn't the same end result].
    You can draw the boundary around the zygote wherever you please. What you call "substitute processes" can be implemented at the level of the mother interfacing with her environment if that's what it takes.
    While it might be a novel way to approach a problem, the difficulty is that even then your thought experiment can't verify that things would actually be the same. That's simply an assumption being made.
    Yes it can and does.  That's what isomorphic systems do. By definition their structure and micro-behaviour are identical so their system-level behaviour must be too.

    Edit:
    The thought experiment does not rely on having an observer who knows that there is a punch-card system that is isomorphic to a zygote and can peer at it to see what's going on. That's the advantage of the thought-experiment, the parties considering the experiment can ask questions which it would be impractical to ask experimentally.
     
    In addition there is no need to speculate about how the punch-card system interfaces with the real world. It is sufficient that the building blocks remain isomorphic through to a level where everyone agrees that it's just a matter of ensuring that one side of the interface maps to the other side while preserving the same functions. There is no need to actually connect the punch-cards to molecules of glucose to emulate digestion, it is obvious that food can be emulated and the fact that real food is not used cannot have any effect on the outcome. Otherwise you would have to say that baby-ness is conveyed by the chemical and that emulated chemicals in the punch-card system do not create punch-card babies because they cannot carry the mystical spark of baby-ness. I know that you do NOT believe that kind of thing. 
     
    All that remains is the possibility that a punch-card baby is not a real baby.  "[leaving open the argument that it isn't the same end result]". Hastily backing off from the word "real" the question then becomes, having established an isomorphism (same equations governing both systems) would they evolve identically? Unless you think the whole can really, at every possible level, be greater than the sum of its parts - which you explicitly deny - they must. The punch-card zygote must grow into a punch-card baby.

    There's no question of having to verify that it does. Perhaps this is the point you are missing? I would agree that in a "plain" thought experiment you would need an operational procedure for the hypothetical observer. A punch-card midwife, a punch-card pediatrician, all peering myopically at the punch-card babyoid to see whether it's a baby - or a giant maggot like Barb dreams of in The Fly. And this would actually be a regression error as we'd be relying on the punch-card observers to work like human observers would.  However, that is why we establish isomorphism - to cut through all that. With a rough simulation, all sorts of things could go wrong, but here we are specifying that the punch-card system is isomorphic with a biological one. We don't have to prove it, it can just pop out of the vacuum as far as the validity is concerned. All the argument hinges on is whether such an isomorphism is possible at all.
     
    You made the system as cumbersome as possible since there can't be much that's more structured and functional than human embryology and yet it depends on stuff at the molecular level (and maybe even quantum). But if these building blocks can be described fully as a collection of particles plus their properties plus their organisation, then the same properties and organisation can be applied to the punched-card system. It must then behave the same way.
     
    There is, of course, another psuedo-issue here - the computational processes performed by the punch-cards are one thing, but they cannot be a baby or a conscious brain even in punch-card land. They are "merely" descriptions of what a baby or a brain would be. But this objection is trivially solved by having a few objects - even some of the cards themselves - mapping to the objects described in the computation.
     
    Gerhard Adam
    "Since the earliest days of cognitive science, there has been a particularly bold brand of functionalistic minimalism in contention, the idea that just as a heart is basically a pump, and could in principle be made of anything so long as it did the requisite pumping without damaging the blood, so a mind is fundamentally a control system, implemented in fact by the organic brain, but anything else that could compute the samecontrol functions would serve as well. The actual matter of the brain–the chemistry of synapses, the role of calcium in the depolarization of nerve fibers, and so forth–is roughly as irrelevant as the chemical composition of those cannonballs. According to this tempting proposal, even the underlying micro-architecture of the brain’s connections can be ignored for many purposes, at least for the time being, since it has been proven by computer scientists that any function that can be computed by one specific computational architecture can also be computed (perhaps much less efficiently) by another architecture. If all that matters is the computation, we can ignore the brain’s wiring diagram, and its chemistry, and just worry about the “software” that runs on it.  In short–and now we arrive at the provocative version that has caused so much misunderstanding–in principle you could replace your wet, organic brain with a bunch of silicon chips and wires and go right on thinking (and being conscious, and so forth). 

    This bold vision, computationalism or “strong AI” (Searle, 1980), is composed of two parts: the broad creed of functionalism–handsome is as handsome does–and a specific set of minimalist empirical wagers: neuroanatomy doesn’t matter; chemistry doesn’t matter. This second theme excused many would-be cognitive scientists from educating themselves in these fields, for the same reason that economists are excused from knowing anything about the metallurgy of coinage,or the chemistry of the ink and paper used in bills of sale. This has been a good idea in many ways, but for fairly obvious reasons, it has not been a politically astute ideology, since it has threatened to relegate those scientists who devote their lives to functional neuroanatomy and neurochemistry, for instance, to relatively minor roles as electricians and plumbers in the grand project of explaining consciousness. Resenting this proposed demotion, they have fought back vigorously. The recent history of neuroscience can be seen as a series of triumphs for the lovers of detail. Yes,the specific geometry of the connectivity matters; yes, the location of specific neuromodulators and their effects matter; yes, the architecture matters; yes, the fine temporal rhythms of the spiking patterns matter, and soon.  Many of the fond hopes of opportunistic minimalists have been dashed: they had hoped they could leave out various things, and they have learned that no,if you leave out x, or y, or z, you can’t explain how the mind works.

    This has left the mistaken impression in some quarters that the underlying idea of functionalism has been taking its lumps. Far from it. On the contrary, the reasons for accepting these new claims are precisely the reasons of  functionalism. Neurochemistry matters because–and only because–we have discovered that the many different neuromodulators and other chemical messengers that diffuse through the brain have functional roles that make important differences. What those molecules do turns out to be important to the computational roles played by the neurons, so we have to pay attention to them after all."

    Daniel Dennett, "Are We Explaining Consciousness Yet?", Aug 2000

    Since it's been said that I misrepresent Dennett, I figured I'd just use his own words directly.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Thor Russell
    Well you have demonstrated that you misunderstand Dennett, what Derek and I am saying, and how it fits into our discussion beyond any doubt now then.
    Thor Russell
    vongehr
    Good to be reminded once in a while that also those people I usually support and quote (like DD) are famous due to up-sucking in establishment and selling verbose rants telling people want they like to hear. This quote could be a fifth as long and say just as little.
    All excellent questions - one not so excellent assumption: :)
    "Assigning value to consciousness seems to be a human value, not something you can derive from logic as far as I can see."
    Not only you but philosophers through the centuries. And it applies to all values - assuming that derive from logic, means "without axioms that state that values exist". Even Kant, if I understand him, who *recognised* the categorical imperative for morality (which is just values applied to actions) - did not *explain* it, but merely asserted it to be part of rationality and called upon your rational intuition to decide what is right and wrong using the simple test: what would you (your rational, right-thinking self) *like* other people to abide by? Then that is what you should do and your rational decision is to do it.  In stark contrast, modern materialism denies any such anonymous voice saying "love thy neighbour".  Logic, the reasoning process itself, doesn't come into it. It's where you start from.
     
    Other than that, yes I agree, it is hard to imagine consciousness as static with nothing going on in it at all. However, I swear I come quite close to such a state sitting in traffic jams in Cardiff so maybe I'm being misled by familiarity with my normal (who me?) state of chaotic mania. However, since we have no model for the emergence of consciousness at all - plenty for various mental states, none for the attribute of consciousness - a.k.a. the hard problem, I don't think we'rer likely to answer this question - all it seems to do is underline how hard (impossible) the hard problem actually is.
     
    Why do you find the substitution scenario disturbing? Replacing neurons with mechanical objects is exactly what you do when you describe the cells in terms of the structures, materials and functions. Build an isomorphic system and it will behave the same - and presumably be as certain of its own consciousness as we are of ours.

    :-)
     
    I felt it necessary to add a giant smilie at that point because if I didn't, someone would jump in and say "But how certain actually are you? You may be deluding yourself, so there!" as if that proves anything. Of course the self-deluded p-zombie problem can't be solved until the hard problem is solved, whereupon it will be trivial. However, the hard problem is impossible, not merely difficult.
     
    I think that if you saw the staggering size of a system with 10^10 punched-card synapses and heard it protest "But I am conscious!" - though it might take a few centuries to say it - you would concede that it probably was. I know I would. And I bet Gerhard wouldn't. Sascha would probably advise it to commit suicide which would at least have the merit of making the problem go away :)
     




     
     
    Thor Russell
    Thanks,Yes I do mean "without axioms that state that values exist". I don't see even in principle how it could be any different, but then again if I could see perhaps I would ...
    Perhaps the punchcard system is conscious, but that position is certainly easy to mock (not that gives it any more credibility). If it was, I think I would be telling it to end itself also, though probably from more selfish reasons like being disturbed by its existence!
    Thor Russell
    vongehr
    I mean one state can't be conscious (its just a collection of atoms) but can two?
    No physical state is directly conscious. Transitions between states may be closer related to the reporting of the phenomenon, but claiming that transitions instantiate consciousness is troublesome.
    You ever thought about that the physical description is somewhat like a coordinate system on curved space-time (or say like on a sphere, i.e. the poles make trouble)? A general space-time needs many coordinate patches; no single system can do. That does not mean that the space-time does not "exist" or that the one that is called "physics" is wrong. In a classical physics description (no quantum solipsism), there simply isn't any such thing as phenomenal consciousness. That does not imply that I should torture you zombies, because I know that the classical physics description is not the full picture and that in another description, one that has a "north-pole" perhaps in cosmology, my consciousness of being an asshole does relate to your suffering (which is my suffering actually, since you and I are the same, just different memories).
    Thor Russell
    Yes transitions between states causing consciousness is troubling. Consciousness even being digital is troublesome to me, because say if you have 1 thousand states to cause a feeling, and if you play it backwards what do you get? or scrambled, or if states 1,3,5 occur in one system, but 2,4,6 in the one next door or further away, or if you play the sames states over again in a continuous sequence does that count once or many times. Similar thought experiments undermine whatever position you take. Is there some reason or quantum magic that makes real conscious states impossible to do such things with, I don't see how either. Some kind of the dreaded "Irreducible complexity" seems to come up.
    Not quite following you about consciousness not being possible in a classical situation, is this still a metaphor? 
    Yes my suffering is yours, how Zen. That's what I meant when I said did the universe suffer, otherwise how are we connected and how is our suffering recorded.



    Thor Russell
    Irreducible something but not necessarily complexity.
    How about dualism?
    PANIC!!!


    Heh, heh, I wrote that before your post below :)
     

    vongehr
    Seems a bit speciesist if we base the decision to kill a computer on the NCRC of the human nervous system.
    100% agreed. "Becoming clearer about NCC" does not mean just basing everything directly on human related NCC. That we must base investigations on reported consciousness should not even imply "reportism".
    You agree with me again? This is bad.

    It is reasonable thing to base your ethical decisions on NCRC, in fact it's probably the only thing you can ever do. And we don't even have to wait - the NC "score" will range over a range (I thought I'd chuck a bit of regression in here for you to enjoy) but we can fairly assume that the extremes will always agree with the layman's understanding that a rock is not conscious and that human beings are. So neuroscience can narrow the grey area down or create a scale instead of a binary division.

    However,  measuring a correlate and using it pragmatically to guide your morality is not the same thing as understanding the correlation. Until the validy of the reporting can be verified, the p-zombie problem remains. And one of the delights of the p-zombie scenario is that it does not have to apply to all systems. Humans could be deluded that they are conscious, while "computers" may correctly interpret their self-knowledge to mean that they are the only conscious systems on the planet. But who provides the independent verification in order to calibrate the consciousness claims? A p-zombie human or a mystic Apple Mac?
     
    Okay, that was a nice little digression into the ethics, but the on-topic point is that you cannot base your opinion of a machine's consciousness on anything at all without trusting a "reference system" which you have simply assumed would be terrestrial mammalian, probably human.  But in that case you don't need neuroscience, we base our belief that humans are conscious on the fact that they say so, in particular "I" tell "myself" so.

    This is regression at its finest :)
     
    vongehr
    You agree with me again? This is bad.
    Yes, of course I agree with you and your comments did influence the writing of this article by the way - in spite of Hank having just told me that all my comments are simply "I am smart, you are stupid, Heil Mao".
    trusting a "reference system" which you have simply assumed would be terrestrial mammalian, probably human.
    I mentioned that becoming clearer about NCC likely helps. I did not claim those "neural" correlates cannot be of artificial neural networks.
    I mentioned that becoming clearer about NCC likely helps.
    Well I'm sure it will help clarify our thinking. But I don't think it will help solve the problem itself. So I'm not sure that it's a huge gain - unless people admit that they only got into the recursion because they didn't like the answers they were getting.
     
    Oh well, when in doubt bring on another particle. The psychon. And a mediatiating boson, the fairy-winged quale. Problem solved.
     
    Thor Russell
    I agree with you about NCRC score also. I also think that some knowledge of the internal structure of the thing doing the reporting is important and a useful way to tell when you are just dealing with something that says "I feel" over and over again or a lookup table. This is similar to functionalism I think and why I found the previous punch card "being" disturbing. 
    Thor Russell
    Well I am pretty sure I knew my mother was conscious before I knew anything about neural pathways. (The fact they exist is a pretty complete summary of my own expertise.) I would say that rather than digging around in how the system works a more useful procedure would be to see if it can discuss the matter and show signs of at least being under the impression that it can introspect and find that it is conscious.
     
    On the latter point, it's recursive :) I have no idea how I know I'm conscious and in a bleak moment the self-deluded p-zombie scenario seems more plausible than irreducible dualism and I may doubt that I am conscious at all. This is immediately followed by the realization that of course I am. Followed by another wave of skepticism. Fairy-winged quantum qualia do not come to my rescue and it currently remains in the "unsolved problems" box.

    Sascha's recommended exercise is old hat for me but "the question" remains. I am not going to guess what Sascha would expect the outcome to be. The mystery of time should succumb but consciousness may not. From one viewpoint anything other than finally dissing consciousness just means you are not being honest - this is the Failed-Medicine Fallacy: if you are not cured you need more of the same treatment. From another viewpoint, the exercise will clear away nonsensical recursive explanations, taking impossible reductionist explanations with them and leaving consciousness as a simple fact that will annoy the hell out of religious atheists (apart from the religious atheist mystics who do exist but are a rare breed compared with materialists.)
     
    Meanwhile, the punched cards keep moving... 
     
    Smirk, smirk :)


     



     

    Thor Russell
    Well if you can talk to something, yes but if its in an apparent vegetative state or its a clever program just designed to give us the right written answers then that could lead to the wrong conclusion (ethical/physical difficulties of scanning the internal structure of something aside).

    Yes I get your point about dissing consciousness being the most logical thing to do. If you can prove this, then if someone says "but conscious experience is the most important thing to me, and you have proven it doesn't matter/exist" then why shouldn't they just reject the logic instead of their feeling, of course many people would do such a thing. 

    Yes there is a contradiction you mention about the "zombie" followed by "I am" and it probably is forever unanswerable. Having some kind of final mystery about it I find more acceptable than pretending to be a materialist then introducing what seems like irreducible dualism or whatever through the back door. 

    Thor Russell
    Yes I get your point about dissing consciousness being the most logical thing to do.
     What, that it is NOT the most logical thing to do at all?

    I didn't say it was logical. I said it was one possibility; another is to accept that consciousness is a primitive - at least at this level.
     
    Thor Russell
    What I meant was if you refuse to accept it as a primitive, then dissing it could seem logical.
    Thor Russell
    "1. What suffers, you or the universe? (and why does it care)"
    Well, THERE'S your problem. :^>

    "You" are not a privileged observer, standing apart from the universe. You are every bit as much "the universe" as the Andromeda Galaxy or dark matter. If the universe is expanding, YOU are expanding. "Your" thoughts or suffering -- or whether "you" care -- are as much phenomena of "the universe" as are the quantum vacuum within the atoms of "your" (temporary, actively changing) body or the sensation of the pressure of the ground against the soles of your feet.

    I strongly recommend Dr. Robert Lanza's book, "Biocentrism."
    Joel

    blue-green

    For clarity, I would reason in terms of being alive, first as an individual and equally important as a family unit. People do not really suffer when they know (or believe) that the work (or sacrifice) they are doing is for a worthy cause, as in helping with survival and quality of life of issues.

    “Suffering” is a vague term. Life and death are more punctuated. Measures of Quality are not so clear. However, within a specific cultural frame or family circle, there can be much agreement as to what steps to endure to move towards quality, at least for the short run.

    What's missing is simply what is over the immediate “horizon”.

    No big deal. Just keep taking intelligent baby steps in the direction of survival and quality and the horizon will move. There will always be new horizons. If something threatening looms, as with … the discovery of how to make nuclear weapons … don't panic. “When in doubt, go higher.”

    Gerhard Adam
    People do not really suffer when they know (or believe) that the work (or sacrifice) they are doing is for a worthy cause, as in helping with survival and quality of life of issues.
    Of course they still suffer.  It would be nothing short of a miracle if they didn't.  You can't turn off physical or psychological pain like that.  I suspect that you mean that they may feel that the suffering is "worth it", because of the cause or their family.

    Suffering is a vague term, but we can reasonably argue that suffering to a greater or lesser extent would encompass the range of anything that doesn't meet the standard of contentment.  This could range from serious physical pain to psychological torment, or even simple anxiety.  Certainly they vary significantly in degree, but they could all arguably be termed "suffering" in that they represent the opposite emotion of contentment or happiness.
    Mundus vult decipi
    rholley
    For there was never yet philosopher
    That could endure the toothache patiently.

    (William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing)
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    blue-green

    Gerhard, the meat in my comment is about relative horizons and what remains. Since you want to dwell upon suffering, let me ask you how you would weigh on a balance scale the discomfort and satisfaction of repairing a fence in a cold rain with your umbrella/hat? How would you measure the “suffering” and life enhancement of completing a difficult task …. be it climbing a mountain or giving birth or fighting back a cancer?

    ((I suffered immensely recently pinching my thumb and creating a nasty looking blood clot. In the grander scheme of staying alive however, the pang is irrelevant … because the thumb is healing rapidly.))

    Gerhard Adam
    The problem with your examples is that they are all based on the explicit assumption that your condition will either end or improve.  If that isn't the case, then the argument takes a different turn.
    How would you measure the “suffering” and life enhancement of completing a difficult task...
    You don't since it is a subjective sense.  However, regardless of the reasoning, you can't argue that suffering doesn't occur.  You may consider it trivial, extreme, or even beneficial.  That doesn't modify the existence of the condition.  It's only your subjective interpretation of it that can determine that.
    ...the meat in my comment is about relative horizons and what remains.
    Actually it seems that this is simply about the human idea of "hope".  Either we know things will improve because they are temporary in nature, or we have the emotional sense of "hope" that things will improve even if we can't see how. 
    In the grander scheme of staying alive however, the pang is irrelevant...
    That's assuming that "staying alive" is a sufficient goal unto itself.  We already recognize that such isn't a sufficient goal and it is irrational when death becomes inevitable.  We clearly recognize the importance of "mercy" and the role of euthanasia to end suffering, so the balance of "staying alive" versus suffering already has an argument that indicates a rational choice can be death.

    However, again, your comment about the pang being irrelevant is a value judgment.  It doesn't eliminate suffering, it simply rationalizes that according to your objectives, that it is a relatively small price to pay.  Nevertheless, it still exists.
    There will always be new horizons.
    That's simply not true.  Sometimes you just lose.

    Mundus vult decipi
    blue-green
    The cat writes: “the meat in my comment is about relative horizons and what remains.”
    to which Gerhard quickly replies, “Actually it seems that this is simply about the human idea of "hope".”
    Just curious. Has it NOT occurred to you in this Sascha corner of a science site that I am directly hinting about the curved light-cone structure of spacetime …and some irreducible indeterminism via what Bohr called “the quantum postulate”?
    And yes, when Bohr addressed The United Nations in 1950 concerning the advent of nuclear weapons, he expressed some hope that we would rise higher than supporting MAD … mutually assured destruction.

    And in response to the "Know thyself" post below, I remain firm with the physical reality that "new horizons will remain." Socrates did not know the Holographic Principles.
    There is something that remains: "Who" is it who is making the observations? Who is feeling the feeling? You have eliminated the subject. There is inherently a recursive process in all mental consideration because it continually reflects back upon itself, growing more detailed with each recursion (assuming new data is flowing in here and there, and more comprehensive analysis is occurring), but getting no closer to First Cause. The missing resolution to the recursion is the "I Am." YOU resolve the issue of recursion and the issue of what is real and what is not. Discovering who YOU are is the solution. Ignoring recursion or the "feeling that something is missing," or the idea that there is always more to perceive and know, perpetuates the recursion, actually. But in that case, the recursion never deepens: it's merely stuck in an infinite loop. The "I", the "I AM", is the answer. Like Socrates said long ago, "Know thyself." Self is the doorway to true knowing, being and seeing.

    vongehr
    I am not sure I understand what you mean, but I agree that identity philosophy is a good further example that I should have mentioned under the heading regress-error thinking. It is also a worthwhile exercise to practically use "I" to only refer to ones body or to start using the third person instead of "I" and so on. On one hand one realizes how unproblematic that is while on the other hand it forces to approach questions differently. Some simply do not arise. Who is saying "I am conscious?" I am not conscious! "I" am just the part that talks, while the phenomenally conscious part hears "I" talking. Depending on how "I" is used of course. The writer "Sascha" needs "me" but only exists on a time resolution of at least several minutes to days - nothing I write, also not this comment, has not been extensively rewritten several times. Nothing you read from "Science2.0 Sascha" would ever come out this way straight of the idiot sitting here typing! Thus, "Sascha the writer" is aware of very many aspects that "I" have usually no clue about, but it has no phenomenal consciousness that it can report on.
    Thanks for commenting on my remarks, and in such a receptive manner! Often these kinds of discussions can devolve quickly into argumentative posturing. Clearly, you are sincerely in quest of a resolution to the dilemma you have introduced, that being, on the one hand, that each individual is motivated to find a First Cause, a singularity that resolves the apparent duality of concept and nature, and yet on the other hand, all we seem to have with which to resolve the puzzle is thought itself, which is endlessly regressive in nature. That is, thought gives rise to thought, gives rise to thought, ad infinitum, no single thought being first cause, but rather only giving rise to doubt, to a requirement for further distinctions, more data, which only fuels the vicious cycle of cognitive regression. At least, that's what I perceive to be the bottom line of this discussion. Thought can't perceive itself from outside itself. Thought attempting to perceive itself is only a process of producing further thought ABOUT thought. It never ends!

    I think the bottom line is that a mental conception of self is not self. Self is the one who formed the conception, utilizing the mental apparatus, but the conception is not the self. The basic problem is we don't have a good way in our culture to explore the true self. We are only acquainted with thought and the devices of thought. But thought is only a tool, a device that is used by the self. Self is the First Cause that precedes all thought. It is the singularity that resolves all dilemmas, recursions and regressions. And it's the doorway to the ultimate reality, which is self-evident to Self. Nothing is self-evident to thought. But to the Self, reality is self-evident.

    I realize that this may sound like gobbledygook. I apologize. There's no clear way to state these points with language. It is an experiential thing, resolved by internal inquiry in the laboratory of one's own consciousness. For that inquiry to produce the result of "self realization" one has to have ingress into the realms beyond mind and thought. This now takes us beyond normal spheres of activity into the realm of the internal science. Internal science involves realizing universal laws and truths that exist in what we term the subjective sphere, things that are actually true for all, but that are subjective and therefore beyond the scope of any objective (external) inquiry.

    If one is not interested in such inquiry, that's certainly understandable. One is, of course, free to continue the quest for first cause within the realm of thought. That is the never-ending journey, however. But, for many, that is a great adventure and has its own rewards. For those who have found that journey unsatisfying, there is another way.

    An introduction to the other way can be found in these two books:

    From Light to Sound: The Spiritual Progression, by Dennis Holtje
    MasterPath - The Divine Science of Light and Sound, by Gary Olsen

    A quick search on Amazon will show these books, or they can be found at Masterpath.org.

    Or, if the idea of spirituality is a turn-off, there is another book by Brian Hines that discusses these issues in what may be a more accessible way, which again may be found on Amazon. This book is somewhat in the tradition of the Dancing Wu Li Masters, or the Tao of Physics, but actually takes their considerations much further.

    God's Whisper; Creation's Thunder: Echoes of Ultimate Reality in the New Physics

    -Kevin

    MikeCrow
    There's no clear way to state these points with language. It is an experiential thing, resolved by internal inquiry in the laboratory of one's own consciousness.
    LSD helps, but I found the piercing clarity of thought to be a illusion that turned into metaphysical gibberish when it was over.
    Never is a long time.
    I liked 'shrooms back in college. But, kind of as you said, it only makes sense when you're on them. But it sure did make sense while they were active! Better to find a "high" that can be the "norm."

    Ah. That would explain your creeping time theory :) Sometimes the bucket-load of ungrounded significance doled out gratuitously by acid seems to slosh around for many years after the event, saturating vacuous and incoherent thoughts with self-evidence where a psychedelic virgin would consign them to the scrapheap without a qualm. 
     
    Cheers

    Alpha Crab
    MikeCrow
    About 3 1/2 decades, but I guess that does qualify as "many".

    As for creeping time, it's tied to time being a real physical dimension and what that "means", combined with our arrow of time. I add this because while I know Sascha's distaste of a "time of time", I am curious his take on time being a physical dimension, and what that means.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    But to the Self, reality is self-evident.
    ... and that's the illusion.  Such "reality" is a closed self-reinforcing system so that no matter what is presented, it will be perceived as "real".  That's the whole point of it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    ... and that's you begging the question. Such "illusion" is a closed self-reinforcing system so that no matter what is presented it will be interpreted as "illusion". That's the whole point of it.
     
    Am I the only person round here who has noticed that one cannot actually answer the questions that have plagued humanity for millenia? Oh sure, modern philosophy, science and the free-for-all of the blogs provide us with great opportunities to hone our skills in polemical sophistry but it won't get us anywhere because it can't. Period. Now can we do something useful?
     
    Alpha Crab
    vongehr
    You are simply losing it with "am I the only ...". As I pointed out and others pointed out some 100 years ago and earlier I am sure, the questions/terminology themselves are the problem. Now if you want to do something useful, why don't you start? Tell us how to satisfactorily deal with pseudo-questions so that there isn't a mob (internet or academia - the latter one being worse actually, since all sense has been selected out very efficiently) accusing you of simply not understanding the so called "deep questions"?
    I wasn't losing anything. I was answering Gerhard's triumphant assertion "and that's the illusion... that's the whole point" which is a non-sequitur. The correct response is simply "That's not an answer, let's try another tack."
     
    But regressive thinking is not the only example of the muddles people get into.  My cat has just told me to avoid mentioning modality errors.  
     

     

    Yes, that is true from a particular point of view. I understand and appreciate your comment. But how many of us would honestly feel confident that our perceptions (through senses, or mind) are actually a complete experience of what is real? I think, if honest, we all agree that what one is experiencing through those intermediaries is not reality, but an image of it that is more or less helpful for daily life, as a kind of tool, but nothing more than that. We just accept what we experience as the best that one can have, assuming it is real only because nothing else has been demonstrated as of yet. That's a kind of Pascal's Wager.

    What I'm talking about is something else. Self knows, it doesn't perceive or guess or settle on something as real. It actually knows what is real, it is what is real, and it sees what is real -- not perception in the normal sense of there being an intermediary, but directly knowing, and seeing, through its being. But, this has to be experienced. There's no argument or convincing that can be done by me or anyone else as to its validity. One has to do the internal work for themselves to find out that reality can be known directly, and what we know now through mind and senses is not reality, but only reflections or shadows of reality, just as you said. I've found that the books I mentioned can all help in that work, if one is interested. They are a first step. Like Obi-Wan said to Luke after he successfully interacted with the Force for the first time, if you start with them you will have "taken a first step towards a much larger life."

    I know, I know. Too much, right? I agree.

    MikeCrow
    it is what is real
    Solipsism, we are the only thing that is real.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    No, that's the point.  It is all about what our mind believes is real, and it does not and cannot know whether what it is interpreting is "really real".

    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard, exactly so!

     
    perhaps recursion of recursion triggers an intrinsic explosion, a feedback loop that reaches all the way to internal infinity, finally “explaining” soul self-referentially
    As everyone knows, it does not have to be infinite.  Only 24 levels of recursion are required, by which time the something that remains is attenuated to zero. Thus the recursion hits a big flash of light, everything stops and the answer falls straight out with a loud thud.


     
    vongehr
    Is this related to the 23 dimensions of bosonic stringtheory?
    At a very deep level, Sascha. 
     
    Thor Russell
    NOOOOO its qualia all the way down!
    Thor Russell
    blue-green
    In a world in which “particles” can be swapped with no observable difference, the assumption of self-hood in “know thyself” is undermined. Individuality is finished.

    The inexorable dilution of information and increase in the area of the horizons is writ in the second law of thermodynamics. For solace, we can laugh at our selves as we behold the setting of suns .... in BBC's Top Gear car show.
    In a world in which “particles” can be swapped with no observable difference, the assumption of self-hood in “know thyself” is undermined. Individuality is finished.
    For solace, we can laugh at our selves as we behold the setting of suns .... in BBC's Top Gear car show.
    Go for it, Moggy. Another 100ug and you'll be there.


    rholley
    Not a comment on blue-green, but rather your psychedelic pussycat, which reminds me of:
    Louis Wain (5 August 1860 – 4 July 1939) was an English artist best known for his drawings, which consistently featured anthropomorphised large-eyed cats and kittens. In his later years he suffered from schizophrenia, which, according to some psychologists, can be seen in his works.


    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    I've seen similar things said about Van Gough.  There was a vogue for diagnosing psychosis on the basis of drawing haloes around things - like the electric moggie in picture 4. I don't think I need worry my own mental stability, my cat always looks like the picture bottom left. 
     



     




    blue-green
    There is not much in the way of pharmaceuticals out here. Just Nature. I composed the music for the following short video I shot and edited a few days ago.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mi3W5OGxxGY&list=UUE6FKkGF6w_DwOhw8eETa2A&index=1&feature=plcp
    blue-green
    On the one hand, maybe there is no shortcoming in things being self-referential or like an oroboros. How could a piece of music or rhythm even exist, if it did not repeatedly feed back onto itself?

    On the other hand, I can sympathize with the desire to derive things without assuming them from the start. There is a handful of phrases coined by John Wheeler in which he tries to jump start various programs to go deeper, phrases like “mass without mass”, “charge without charge”, “spin without spin” and “pregeometry”. A collection of essays from his colleagues in honor of his 60th birthday was called "Magic without Magic."

    The question is whether one can derive consciousness from a more “primitive” foundation that does not sneak it in a back window. It may well be that such attempts are as futile and misguided as trying to derive “music without music”. The very essence of consciousness and music lives in its recursiveness. Instead of re-cursing this fact, why not embrace it and use it well?

    Sasha, I took your advice and did your exercise. Thank you. I have suffered from that ‘something-profound-remains-feeling’ over a lot of things for some time. The pain doesn't last long anymore, it just reminds me that I'm suffering my suffering needlessly and I can stop, but now I think it's gone for good.

    I don't usually work on many 'why' questions, but I can't seem to get enough 'what's. What this feeling was for me you summed up very nicely with ‘something-profound-remains-feeling’. Leaving it behind with my Christ, my God and my immortality makes me realize my consciousness is now behind me too.

    It seems to me Daniel Dennett is right and it's “Consciousness Explained” and explained away. It's only our bodies all the way back and from now on. It doesn't matter if our bodies are biological or mechanical. That 'profound' part of us will always be some abstract summery of the information that describes us. Through the ages of our evolution this abstract character has been gods, God and now, at our present cognitive threshold, it's consciousness. Who knows what we'll make of the information we discover in the future. There is much left to be described, but there's nothing 'profound' about it.

    For me it's enough to know that I am evolving, and that's enough to not waste time worrying about it. It doesn't mean that I don't like to work at asking more of the 'what's that I am. I'm comfortable knowing that I won't get answers to all of them because when I'm gone, I'm gone, and that's it. But it's the absolute bliss of that non-existence that let's me go forward now with no fear. Or maybe I'm just being 'profound'?

    Leaving it behind with my Christ, my God and my immortality makes me realize my consciousness is now behind me too.
    Of course it could be that denying consciousness is the only way those pesky God things will leave you alone - you hope.
    But it's the absolute bliss of that non-existence that let's me go forward now with no fear.
    Oops! That didn't last long. Consciousness is back again. How can you have bliss without consciousness?

    Lama Dennett has a lot to answer for.
      
    Derek, forgive me, perhaps I wasn't clear about leaving those pesky God things behind. I have quite a lead over them now. They very satisfactorily leave me alone and haven't been a consideration in any of my thinking, including denying consciousness, for quite some time.

    I think your 'Oops' might be a little premature. Wikipedia says, "Bliss can be a state of profound satisfaction, happiness and joy, a constant state of mind, undisturbed by gain or loss." This is how I can have it. And I know you're more aligned with "Bliss can also refer to the following: A word that has been claimed by the conscious community often referring to a state of ecstasy." Which is all right with me. But as far as I can tell the jury hasn't even been picked yet nor the venue been chosen that could determine whether mind and consciousness are the same thing.

    As far as Dennett is concerned, I own this idea now and I am fully responsible for answering for it.

    Derek, forgive me, perhaps I wasn't clear about leaving those pesky God things behind. I have quite a lead over them now. They very satisfactorily leave me alone and haven't been a consideration in any of my thinking, including denying consciousness, for quite some time.
    That's what I said. Denying consciousness is par for the course if you leave "God, Christ and immortality" behind.
     
    So, you went into Sascha's exercise already convinced you were a zombie, spent a whole day pretending to be a zombie and, at the end of it... you still thought you were a zombie!

    But did you break out of regressive thinking?
    I think your 'Oops' might be a little premature. Wikipedia says
    I don't care what definition of bliss you use. The one you prefer, "Bliss can be a state of profound satisfaction, happiness and joy, a constant state of mind, undisturbed by gain or loss." appears to have five terms in it that presuppose consciousness.

    I withdraw my "Oops". Make it "Oops5!"  :)
     
    "Denying consciousness is par for the course if you leave "God, Christ and immortality" behind."

    I did and I'm happy with par. I wasn't playing for a birdie here, but I wouldn't have taken a shot if I thought I'd pull a bogey.

    "But did you break out of regressive thinking?"

    Well I got away from that ‘something-profound-remains-feeling’ anyway.

    "Oops5!"

    I'm sensing a little conformation bias here. ;) Maybe you could try Sasha's exercise.

    "But did you break out of regressive thinking?"
    Well I got away from that ‘something-profound-remains-feeling’ anyway.
    It'll be back; with God, Christ and immortality in tow. :p
     
    Surely they would have you in tow?

    That's the horror of it all! :) 
    Why should I reject the ‘something-profound-remains-feeling’ as you feel I should? As G K Chesterton pointed out time and time again, there's not reason to suppose that the truth must necessarily be something earnest and solemn, but it is one of the guiding (untested) assumptions of almost all naturalist philosophers, particularly people like Dennett and Dawkins. I think the bias against profundity in the sciences is a case of self-denial than anything else: if the truth didnt at least *seem* profound to us it's highly unlikely we'd want anything to do with it.