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How Does Evolution Produce Consciousnes/Reason?
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read of this theory, the Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe, which besides a lot of metaphysical and transcientific jargon, also included an interesting geometrical proposal, so here goes. The basic idea is that logic/set-theory is physically embedded at a fundamental level, so that the basic force-structure of the universe is a logical relation represented via geometric set theory in the form of Venn diagrams. However, since this function is given in 3-space (at least?), it takes the form of Venn spheres, one of which is infinitely expanding, one of which is infinitely contracting, and the third of which comes from the difference between the two. As far as a scientific idea as it goes, it gets this from the role of the idea as a possible explanation for the "dark energy/accelerated expansion" phenomenon: as the ratio of the fundamental inflaton field-sphere to probabilistically distributed black holes (as concentrations of quantum-level information) increased, objects existing in the differential sphere would perceive a world both expanding at an increasing rate on a mass scale and infinitely collapsing on the microscopic counterpart. Okay, so some of that I didn't read in the theory or isn't how the original guy wrote of it, but it seems to me to be what could be inferred from what he does say, if given a favorable place in cosmology overall, or I should say a place that is not hostile.

Now, of what relevance is this to humanity more particularly, as far as understanding our own nature? Logic involves recursive functions, so the Venn spheres, as the primal elements in the set of Venn-dimensional relations, allow for a sort of fractal series of other such elements. That is, the human brain is conscious because it partakes of the essence of logic/set-theory in the right way, and this is by resembling an 11-dimensional (I think it was) Venn diagram, folded in 3-space. The eyes operate like a 2-circle diagram, and I would expect that hearing operates on an analogous, only spherical maybe?, principle (that is, the eyes cross 2 circles but the ears cross two spheres?). Since these are connected to the more intricate logical geometry of the brain, all the "diagrams" interconnect and form a conscious object with plural senses, one capable of representing the entire universe in its mind (because the universe emerges from the essential logical shapes to which the mind is isomorphic, here).
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I'm feeling pretty good through the first two chapters! Laughing
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm confused by something.
Quote:
The inescapable fact that has to be accommodated in any complete conception of the universe is that the appearance of living organisms has eventually given rise to consciousness, perception, desire, action, and the formation of both beliefs and intentions on the basis of reasons. If all this has a natural explanation, the possibilities were inherent in the universe long before there was life, and inherent in early life long before the appearance of animals. A satisfying explanation would show that the realization of these possibilities was not vanishingly improbable but a significant likelihood given the laws of nature and the composition of the universe. It would reveal mind and reason as basic aspects of a nonmaterialistic natural order.
Quote:
The appearance of animal consciousness is evidently the result of biological evolution, but this well-supported empirical fact is not yet an explanation - it does not provide understanding, or enable us to see why the result was to be expected or how it came about.
Quote:
A naturalistic expansion of evolutionary theory to account for consciousness would not refer to the intentions of a designer. But if it aspires to explain the appearance of consciousness as such, it would have to offer some account of why the appearance of conscious organisms, and not merely of behaviorally complex organisms, was likely.
Quote:
Earlier I discussed the question whether a physical account of evolutionary history conjoined with a nonhistorical psychophysical theory could really explain the appearance of consciousness, and I concluded that unless there were some further link between the physical history and the psychophysical theory, this would not render the result intelligible, even if it were causally accurate. It would present consciousness as a mysterious side effect of biological evolution - inevitable, perhaps, but inexplicable as such. To explain consciousness, a physical evolutionary history would have to show why it was likely that organisms of the kind that have consciousness would arise.

Why does he insist the rise of consciousness was likely/expected? Clearly, it happened, so it was possible. But likely? For all we know, life does not exist anywhere but on Earth. Which, considering how many stars there are in the universe, would mean life of any sort is very unlikely. And there are more species without consciousness than with, which I don't see as supporting the idea that consciousness is likely. What is his reasoning?

I don't really think it matters. The fact that consciousness exists, likely or not, means it needs to be explained. I just think I'm missing something he's saying.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:

Why does he insist the rise of consciousness was likely/expected?


I don't know what his reasoning is, but it could be something like this:
The consciousness DEPENDS on the fact that life happens.
So...pretend life has a 1 in 10 chance. IF consciousness is unlikely...say also 1/10...then overall odds get low...1/100. It's not 1/10, because it is the series and dependence that matters, not the odds of each independently.
So---if life is, say, once in the age and size of a universe such as ours---then consciousness, once life exists, is PROBABLY very likely indeed...because the one time we KNOW got life, we got consciousness also.
And, if you're willing to accept that some "lower" life forms have some portion of consciousness, it makes consciousness given life nearly guaranteed.
Just apeculation..could be something similar, or something completely different.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Page numbers for the quotes might help. I found that part of his argument original and convincing, but I don't think I could do it justice now without a quick review.

My own reasoning follows examples that disprove the notion that evolution is a collection of accidents. Certain solutions to the problem of survival keep popping up over and over. Take flight, for instance. It has evolved at least four separate times in four different types of organisms (bats, birds, insects, dinosaurs). There have also been several times that a saber-tooth tiger type of creature has separately evolved. The mechanics of these physical shapes make them likely solutions to certain survival contexts.

Others have also speculated that it's not so far-fetched to think that if we discover aliens, they might look a lot like us, not by coincidence, but because this particular shape is conducive to the development of intelligent creatures. A face, for instance, makes sense because all the major sense organs are in close proximity to the brain, and therefore the nerve pathways are as short as possible, making the lag between input and output shorter.

Regarding this question, I think that he's saying that an explanation that relies upon consciousness being a mysterious, unlikely, accidental by-product doesn't really explain it. To explain it, i.e. to arrive at a causal chain that ends with consciousness, consciousness would have to be a necessary effect of those causes. I think. I'll go check it out.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nagel's reasoning is given in the introduction, however, I believe he expands upon this throughout the book. From the intro:

Quote:
It is prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection. We are expected to abandon this naive response, not in favor of a fully worked out physical/chemical explanation, but in favor of an alternative that is really a schema for explanation, supported by some examples. What is lacking, to my knowledge, is a credible argument that the story has a nonnegligible probability of being true.


He then goes on to question the probability of life spontaneously arising from dead matter solely through physics/chemistry (the origin problem) as well as the probability of physical accidents creating a sequence of viable genetic mutations sufficient to allow natural selection to produce the organisms which exist today (the evolution problem).

The certainty that scientists have regarding those two questions is based more on assumption than evidence, a hope that some day they will be proven. Thus:

Quote:

...the available scientific evidence, in spite of the consensus of scientific opinion, does not in this matter rationally require us to subordinate the incredulity of common sense.


For the purpose of his argument, Nagel assumes "that certain things are so remarkable that they have to be explained as nonaccidental if we are to pretend to a real understanding of the world." It's a criteria of his project that he sets out from the beginning, to counter the uncertainty inherent in a explanation that relies too much on accident.

Quote:
[W]ith regard to evolution, the process of natural selection cannot account for the actual history without an adequate supply of viable mutations, and I believe it remains an open question whether this could have been provided in geological time merely as a result of chemical accident, without the operation of some other factors determining and restricting the forms of genetic variation. It is no longer legitimate simply to imagine a sequence of gradually evolving phenotypes, as if their appearance through mutations in the DNA were unproblematic ... With regard to the origin of life, the problem is much harder, since the option of natural selection as an explanation is not available. And the coming into existence of the genetic code--an arbitrary mapping of nucleotide sequences into amino acids, together with mechanisms that can read the code and carry out its instructions--seems particularly resistant to being revealed as probable given physical law alone.


So, his position rests in part upon the factually true observation that all of this--from the origin of life to the evolution of life--seems highly unlikely, much like finding that metal spontaneously arranged itself into a working watch. That impression is only overcome by scientists with the concept of geological time. They seem to have faith that given enough time, anything can happen, no matter how unlikely or remarkable. But if that were an explanation, it's no better than "... and then a miracle happened." It's sweeping the problem under the rug of "deep time" where proof is conveniently obscured by the very phenomenon which supposedly makes it plausible.

An actual explanation would overcome the difficulty of all this being highly unlikely by showing how it was in fact likely, given the right conditions. Natural selection is half of that explanation. Random accidents don't usually produce increases in order, much less increases that lead to conscious beings, but natural selection acts like a filter, allowing only successful accidents through, building up order over time.

However, too much of the explanatory power is given to natural selection, and not enough attention is given to these accidents .... the mutations. The mutations are like little magical acts, spontaneous events that just happen to produce literally everything we see in life on earth. Though natural selection preserved those accidents (and thus allowed them to build upon each other), they were accidents nonetheless, and their source and functioning is problematic.

This is an ever greater problem when we consider the origin of life, because natural selection plays no role at the stage prior to the appearance of plentiful genetic variation from which it can "choose." At this stage, it's entirely accidental (allegedly). And the most complex part of this--the genetic mechanisms themselves which provide the means by which mutations arise and can be passed down, must also arise spontaneously without the help of natural selection, which seems the most unlikely fact of all.

It is not enough to simply say that DNA happened. That's not an explanation. But that's exactly what science claims by saying it was an accident. This works for mutations--tiny variations and copying errors in the mechanism of DNA--but not for the appearance of DNA itself.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure if the fact that he doesn't bring up the likely/expected issue here - https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/the-core-of-mind-and-cosmos/ - where he gives a (very) brief synopsis of the book, means it's not a major point for him. I'll just continue on, and not get myself bogged down with the point.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One way to think of this is by considering something rare like comets. Prior to understanding them, comets were terrifying precisely because they were so unexpected. They seemed entirely unpredictable, which is another way to express their unlikelihood (for any given moment). But once we figured out what they were, how they function, and what determines their periodicity, they changed from seeming extremely unlikely to being entirely predictable.

However, I think Nagel's meaning goes even deeper:

Quote:
A naturalistic expansion of evolutionary theory to account for consciousness would not refer to the intentions of a designer. But if it aspires to explain the appearance of consciousness as such, it would have to offer some account of why the appearance of conscious organisms, and not merely of behaviorally complex organisms, was likely.


This quote might provide the key insight. It's not just that evolutionary theory has to explain the appearance of consciousness, but consciousness instead of merely behaviorally complex organisms. The difference between the two is not one of complexity, but an order of Being that is existentially/ontologically distinct.

Consciousness doesn't just seem unlikely because it's relatively rare (to our knowledge) and/or exceedingly complex. It's unlikely on an entirely different order, where matter crosses the divide between objective and subjective. That chasm is so fundamentally/conceptually deep, that we don't even know what a theory to account for it would look like--much less whether evolution would be compatible with such a theory. It's not just a mechanical problem, but a philosophical one. It doesn't just seem rare, but logically impossible.

Therefore, perhaps the most significant sense of "unlikely" here is that matter has within it the ability to become aware. A theory which explains consciousness would have to show that, i.e. how the principles which lead to consciousness are part of the fundamental properties of matter. (No attempt has been made to do that, AFAIK.) And if that were shown, then the fact that consciousness has arisen from matter would no longer seem so unlikely, but inevitable given the right conditions, due to the properties of matter itself.

So perhaps he means likely to arise somewhere in the universe (given its size, age, and the properties of matter which make consciousness possible), rather than--as it would seem, philosophically--unlikely anywhere in the universe, due to the mind/body problem.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2017 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good post! Thanks.

So then, I'll tell you how it all works. Not to brag, but, as it happens, I've figured it all out! Very Happy

The fundamental building blocks; THE primary particles; Brahman: "The irreducible ground of existence. The essence of every thing."; the strings of String Theory - call them what you will. They are more akin to concepts than anything else. I'm not saying they are the concepts/thoughts of any mind. It's just that this is the nature of reality. It's all made of thought-stuff. Not thoughts, but thought-stuff. Thoughticles ("Thoughticles" is a stupid name, but I haven't come up with anything better yet.) are best described as ideas. The most basic, fundamental ideas that can be.

Minds and consciousness are going to come out of this kind of soil. Hard to imagine it not happening. Not saying I know the mechanisms involved, mind you. But thought-stuff combines in many ways, and (at least) one complex combination of ways results in consciousness. Thoughts come from minds/consciousness; which are made of thought-stuff.

We've had it backwards all along, sort of. We've thought that thoughts exist because minds exist. But actually, minds exist because they (and everything else) are made of thought-stuff.

As I said, I don't know the exact mechanisms. But the general idea goes like this. An elementary particle - a photon; a gluon; an electron; etc - is one string vibrating a certain way. When they vibrate in certain ways, they can combine with other strings vibrating in certain ways.

When an electron drops to a lower level, a photon is emitted. That's because the electron's drop causes another particle to vibrate in the certain way that is a photon. We're familiar enough with things causing vibrations in the macro world.

The four fundamental forces are other ways strings vibrate. A vibration moving through a matrix of strings, and patterns of such vibrations.

When a certain arrangement of particles/vibrations comes about, it causes the strings around it to vibrate in certain ways. Brains are that certain arrangement. The physical brain does not use every string in the neighborhood. There are other strings around and within the brain. Quite a few. Quite a few trillion. And the brain causes many of those strings to vibrate in certain ways. Get a minimum number of strings vibrating in certain ways, in certain groups - interweaving patterns of vibrations - and you have consciousness/mind.

The mental state is not the brain state. But the mental state only exists because of the brain state. Both states exist simultaneously, right on top of and within each other.

The strings that vibrate in the ways and the patterns of ways that is known as consciousness have properties that the particles science has discovered do not. That's why the mind can do things nothing else we're aware of can do. And it's why we cannot fit consciousness into the rules of physics. We're not aware of the rules of particles when they vibrate in the ways of the mind.

Detecting some of these things is quite a task, but people have accomplished quite a bit. We have not been able to detect strings, though. How can we detect a concept with a machine? Strings can only be directly detected by the mind. It's a mental perception; a knowing. Unfortunately, we don't have the awareness, maybe the brain-power, to perceive them. More evolving will be required. We might be able to contemplate the idea of strings, but not a specific string.

Which is a shame. Because, if you could perceive a single string, you could mentally manipulate it. The ability to perceive it is the ability to do it. We've gotten hints of this already in the way the wave function collapses. Of course, being able to directly manipulate strings (as opposed to the ways we already manipulate them) would be a hugely powerful and dangerous thing, so it's just as well we can't. Heh. But "We shape reality with our thoughts" is a literal truth. If you have the type of mind that's up to the task. More evolving...

OK! Any questions? Mr. Green
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2017 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I was an author, that's what a series of books I'd be writing would be about. Starting with "Strings can only be directly detected by the mind." is pure fantasy. Before that? Well, nobody else has an answer. And strings being more like concepts than anything else, and the universe being built of such stuff, could, I think, fit what I have read so far off Nagel. Conditions for consciousness had to be present at the very beginning, long before consciousness or life came about.
Quote:
A reductive account will explain the mental character of complex organisms entirely in terms of the properties of their elementary constituents, and if we stay with the assumption that the mental cannot be reduced to the physical, this will mean that the elementary constituents of which we are composed are not merely physical.

Quote:
But since conscious organisms are not composed of a special kind of stuff, but can be constructed, apparently, from any of the matter in the universe, suitably arranged, it follows that this monism will be universal. Everything, living or not, is constituted from elements having a nature that is both physical and nonphysical - that is, capable of combining into mental wholes. So this reductive account can also be described as a form of panpsychism: all the elements of the physical world are also mental
.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm...from what you said, he's using a different context for "unlikely" than I assumed from Fist's quote. That's fine.
But I'm not sure it's justified, let alone demonstrable. Given all we know, and things we don't know yet, but have paths/intuitions about, I think that all the claims about how unlikely life/consciousness are are based on less, not more, evidence than claims that life/consciousness are likely. Even if the "likely" perspective is based only on this:
There is one universe we know of, and it produced life/consciousness.
The stuff from which this life is made is literally everywhere we look in that universe.
And all that stuff, as far as we can tell, is governed by precisely the same rules that function in the one place we know there is life.

So...yea, we need explanations, no doubt...but I'm not at all sure he's pointing in a meaningful direction [[without knowing all he has to say]]. Maybe he's using a bad definition of "unlikely" and/or "accidental." But there are things he seems to be dismissing, misunderstanding, or unaware of.
For instance, specifically tied to the below:


Zarathustra wrote:

He then goes on to question the probability of life spontaneously arising from dead matter solely through physics/chemistry (the origin problem)

Random accidents don't usually produce increases in order, much less increases that lead to conscious beings, but natural selection acts like a filter, allowing only successful accidents through, building up order over time.

There's a lot of stuff out there on those points and related issues...here's one path---

"The bio-physicist Jeremy England...a new theory that cast the origin of life as an inevitable outcome of thermodynamics."

"The existence of life is no mystery or lucky break...but rather follows from general physical principles and 'should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill'"


https://www.quantamagazine.org/first-support-for-a-physics-theory-of-life-20170726/
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok then. I brought up examples of macro things that are reducible to the rules of the particles they are made of. Solid objects not being able to pass through each; vision; the processes of life; and Nagel mentions liquidity.

Consciousness, however, is not reducible in this way. Here's Z's post that made me understand this:
Zarathustra wrote:
Sorry, another double post. (I don't think about this except in large chunks.)

Let's consider "sideways causation," or mental states causing mental states.

According to your view, this can't happen. A mental state containing the thought, "I'm going to figure out the sum of 567 and 678," couldn't be the cause of the mental state containing the thought, "Ah, so the answer is 1245." Instead, according to your view, what's actually happening is that some neural activity A is causing other neural activity B, and A just so happens to contain the first thought, while B just so happens to contain the second thought. The actual link between those two neural states couldn't be the conceptual numbers themselves, but would have to be explained entirely in terms of physics and chemistry, since it's impossible to ever be free of these rules, as you say.

But then how do we arrive at the right answer? How do we know the answer is right? According to your view, there's no relation between the mental states, only a causal relationship between neural activity. But the neurons don't know what they represent. So why do they fire in just this way to produce just these states? Is it just a coincidence that they seem to be doing calculus and algebra when all they're really doing is following natural laws (physics, chemistry)?

In fact, according to your view, mental states would be like epiphenomena, having no more connection between them than the shapes one might draw on a wall with a flashlight. The connections would be mere illusions "floating on top of" causal factors that are in truth much deeper.


So the questions are: a) What is going on; and b) how did it come about in a universe where everything is made of particles, and everything happens because of the ways particles interact? I've given my fantasy-book-premise explanation, which, in the absence of any other answer, I'm not going to dismiss. Not to say there's any evidence to support it, but there's no evidence to support the existence of strings, either. So maybe consciousness is (what I assume is large numbers of) strings that are acting in ways we are not able to detect in any of the ways that we detect anything else. Maybe they are more purely strings, rather than acting in ways that allow us to detect them, as we detect photons, electrons, etc.

Or not. Honestly, I'm not trying to sell anybody on this idea. I can't imagine how we would come up with any idea at all that we could prove in any way. It's just an idea that is far off the beaten path, and I think we need to be far off the beaten path in this.

So how do we approach this question? We can't study it with our sciences. And, despite millennia of people trying to understand what's going on through contemplation and discussion, there isn't even consensus on important questions about consciousness, much less answers. What would be great is if we knew which animal had the smallest amount of this mental activity that cannot be explained as brain activity. If we could observe the least possible consciousness, we might be able to see how it is accomplished. Difficult to see the root of consciousness by examining a tree the size of ours.

Obviously, we can't examine the being with the least possible consciousness (the least bit of mental activity that cannot be reduced to physics). We probably wouldn't recognize that this being possessed this quality. We certainly couldn't ask it.

I assume I'm reinventing the wheel. Just putting my thoughts down. Smile
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:
So how do we approach this question? We can't study it with our sciences.
Articles like the one Vraith mentioned above point the way toward the kinds of scientific questions we must allow ourselves to ask. We shouldn't assume that it's beyond science, but instead revise our concept of science so that it's not merely reductive materialism. Science doesn't have to get less scientific, we just need to revise the metaphysics behind it.

I think Nagel is on the right track because he's pointing out the possible "shapes" a that any theory which explains mind can plausibly have. He doesn't have a particular theory himself. He's just following the logic, tracing out the constraints which mind puts on a possible theory.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
We shouldn't assume that it's beyond science,


, tracing out the constraints which mind puts on a possible theory.


Yah, not only shouldn't, but at this point can't. Science may never reveal what things "mean," but at this point, it is the only reliable method of gaining information from the things that exist...and information is the material we build meaning from.

but on another thing---the particles and reductionism. I'm gonna take another shot at showing how even those things are being devalued in this conversation.

Take a snowflake. Literally every single particle in it...the electrons, the protons, the neutrons, the smaller particles from which those particles are built, all of them, are physically/materially absolutely identical to every other one in the universe. Every electron is precisely the same as every other electron that has, will, can, exist.
All the forces that act upon all of those particles are everywhere and all the time identical.
AND YET---every single snowflake that has, does, will exist is utterly unique.

That seems to me fundamentally important to remember/recognize.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not sure about that snowflake thing. I understand, and agree with, your point. But I doubt there are an infinite number of possible snowflakes. We may be talking about billions of water molecules, but even they have a finite number of ways they can combine to make a snowflake. Is there a mathematical reason to believe they can't combine in the exact same configuration as any other snowflake that has ever existed or will ever exist? And we sure can't look at every single snowflake that has ever existed or will ever exist, and compare them all to each other. We can't look at every flake of a light dusting over a small village.

Regarding science, I don't think there are any questions people are not willing to ask these days. Not about most any topic, and certainly not about consciousness. There's a group or individual out there willing to explore anything at this point. Maybe nobody's come up with the right question yet, but not due to lack of willingness to go in certain directions.

But how can the scientific method be applied to consciousness? I'm sure there have been people smarter and more educated than me, with all kinds of equipment and computers at their disposal, who have not been able to come up with anything. How can we go about it? I'm honestly asking.

Jeremy England's work sounds pretty cool! I don't follow all of it, obviously, but I like what I can keep up with.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:
But I doubt there are an infinite number of possible snowflakes. We may be talking about billions of water molecules, but even they have a finite number of ways they can combine to make a snowflake.

Maybe nobody's come up with the right question yet, but not due to lack of willingness to go in certain directions.

But how can the scientific method be applied to consciousness?


First: Doubt is good. Sometime within the last 5-10 years I was doubtspired by a snowflake claim---here on the watch IIRC---to check.
[[aside---I irregularly and rapidly suffer extreme phase/state changes between being ecstatic/grateful and enraged/flabbergasted by the journeys into googleholes this place causes]].
I don't recall the exact numbers...but what I found was that the smallest shape/unit of anything close to a snowflake has a number of possible configurations equal to 1/10th-ish the number of all the atoms in the universe.

But that unit/shape is like calling a brick a building.

The possible configurations of anything a normal person would call a snowflake is [remember, I'm relying on old memory...but close-ish]] something like 10 to the 50th or 75th power TIMES the number of atoms.
So..yea, in a universe that has at least one infinite dimension, you'll eventually find one. In anything smaller, the odds are horrifyingly small [[horrifyingly, at least, for the being looking for it...what a waste of immortality]].

Second: I disagree in this way---a whole BUNCH of people aren't willing to ask the questions, because they think they have the answer. And too many of them have answers like "side-effect," "illusion." They COULD be correct---but it will be based on luck/guesstimation, not evidence.

Third: the method can be applied in the same way we found that "phlogistan" is imaginary. Think about the things you know and don't and what is missing/unexplained, have an idea, check it's possibility/logic, build a machine/test to smash the new idea into real things. Sort through the debris/information.

For myself---I don't know anything. But I suspect a key part of the puzzle is entangled in the realm of fields vs. particles.
Easily messed with/inaccurate analogy:
When we read and talk about Lord Foul's Bane, the wordicles are essential to the transaction/transmission. BUT--you could know the exact definition of every wordicle and still fail utterly to comprehend what it is about---or even fail to know that it is "about" anything. Consciousness, if it is anything, is connected to, or maybe identical with, "aboutness." [[and I intuit that that "aboutness" is why it is superior, by far, to instinct/"complex behavior" without it.]]

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2017 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fist and Faith wrote:
Obviously, we can't examine the being with the least possible consciousness (the least bit of mental activity that cannot be reduced to physics). We probably wouldn't recognize that this being possessed this quality. We certainly couldn't ask it.
Anybody interested in this? I don't know how such a question could be approached. Maybe it's impossible. But I'm thinking there are three places to look for the "least bit of mental activity that cannot be reduced to physics":
1) Historically. Which being/species in Earth's past was the very first to possess it?
2) Contemporary. Which being/species currently living possess it?
3) Embryo. At what point in the womb does a human (or other creature) first develop it?

Another question is: Is this the same as awareness? Does a being's awareness begin when not-reducible-to-physics pops up? Or is it possible for a being to have it, yet still not be aware? Like, maybe the first being/species to possess it reacted to its environment better because of it, though not aware of it, thereby increasing its chances for survival and procreation. (I only recently heard of the concept of intelligence without consciousness. This seems like a similar thing.)
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2017 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interested! I just don't know where to go with it.

I read a strange little book called The Secret Life of Plants that claims plants are conscious. It gives evidence. I'm not sure if it's convincing.

Each of us makes this climb from a few cells into conscious beings. The same journey that all life has taken throughout evolution to produce us is repeated in a span of months or years as we come into being. I'm not sure when consciousness starts, but it doesn't take very long for natural processes to assemble it.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 12:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So there hasn't been any bizarre method of looking into this that I couldn't begin to imagine? I usually find out it's already been done. Laughing But I sure haven't been able to find anything.

Still, what kind of speculating can we do? What could the least possible not-reducible-to-physics bit of mind/consciousness be?
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
Very interested! I just don't know where to go with it.

I read a strange little book called The Secret Life of Plants that claims plants are conscious. It gives evidence. I'm not sure if it's convincing.

Each of us makes this climb from a few cells into conscious beings. The same journey that all life has taken throughout evolution to produce us is repeated in a span of months or years as we come into being. I'm not sure when consciousness starts, but it doesn't take very long for natural processes to assemble it.


You've read that? That's kinda cool, seems a little sideways from what I'd expect from what I know of your reading history. I wouldn't have guessed it. Do you remember why/how you came to notice it?

Anyway...yea, it really doesn't take all that long for nature to produce it, does it? [at least once the first step---becoming alive---is taken. Though I suppose it is possible that the universe is chock-full of simple/small life, and consciousness only keeps happening over and over here. Which would need its own explanation]

Fist's 3 questions:
1) We can't know for sure what was first, I don't think. But integrating that with 2) we can make some decent guesses.

For instance: it is almost certain that a fair number of birds now alive have some consciousness. Also some octopodes. Like us, and dolphins, they can reason in an abstract/analog way---they can devise plans/invent solutions across domains, recognize themselves AS themselves in mirrors, recognize other individuals--even individuals of other species--and make predictions about their behavior.

So: from fossil evidence, we know that a fair number of dinosaurs had similar brain structures and even larger capacity than the birds. That makes it likely that they had at lease rudimentary consciousness, awareness, reasoning ability.
We have similar evidence about other humanoids, and pre/off-shoot dolphinoids.
I don't know if we do for the Octs.

On question 3) We have a pretty good approximation for human embryos, time-wise. Because we know from studying brain injuries, development/structure problems/abnormalities, dying/coma people, etc, what structure/connections have to be in place and functioning for the brain to cause actions we recognize as human/conscious.
From what I've seen on this, we have a good handle on the minimum NECESSARY conditions, but a less so on the sufficient ones.

[[I maintain my objections to the "can't be reduced to physics" issue, for reasons stated elsewhere, and others not. But I'll let that horse stay dead and unbeaten for now]].

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