On 2/24/2012 20:51, Terren Suydam wrote:
On Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 3:30 PM, Terren Suydam<terren.suy...@gmail.com>  wrote:
On Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 2:27 PM, meekerdb<meeke...@verizon.net>  wrote:
On 2/24/2012 10:26 AM, Terren Suydam wrote:

I certainly will. In the meantime, do you have an example from Damasio
(or any other source) that could shed light on the pain/pleasure



I think emotions represent something above and beyond the more
fundamental feelings of pleasure and pain. Fear, for example, is
explainable using Damasio's framework as such, and I can translate it
to the way I am asking the question as above:

Question: What kind of organization arose during the evolutionary
process that led directly to the subjective experience of fear?
Answer: A cognitive architecture in which internal body states are
modeled and integrated using the same representational apparatus that
models the external world, so that one's adaptive responses
(fight/flight/freeze) to threatening stimuli become integrated into
the organism's cognitive state of affairs.  In short, fear is what it
feels like to have a fear response (as manifest in the body by various
hormonal responses) to some real or imagined stimuli.

Yes, that seems to be mostly it, but it's subtler than that. Those internal states that we have also include expectations and emotional memories - it can lead to the memory recall of various past sensations and experiences. Certain internal states will make certain behaviors more likely and certain thoughts (other internal states) more likely. We cannot communicate the exact nature of what internal states actually are - the qualia, but beyond a certain point we cannot say anything more than that we have them and us having them will usually correspond to some internal states in our instance of a cognitive architecture.
You can substitute any emotion for fear, so long as you can identify
the way that emotion manifests in the body/brain in terms of hormonal
or other mechanisms. But when it comes to pain and pleasure, I don't
think that it is necessary to have such an advanced cognitive
architecture, I think. So on a more fundamental level, the question

What kind of organization arose during the evolutionary process that
led directly to the subjective experience of pain and pleasure?
That's a very interesting question. Pain and fear means aversion towards certain stimuli - that is, reducing the frequency that some stimuli will be experienced, which can lead to increased survivability. Pain is unfortunately a bit more complicated than that, it leads not only to future aversion, but involuntary action-taking - forcing an immediate quick response, which may not be backed by conscious thought. It can be seen as unpleasant, because it combines the memory of constantly being forced to have to take involuntary actions and the actions being aversive. Such involuntary actions can also be seen as a huge change in attention (allocation) - one becomes much less capable of consciously directing their attention.

Pleasure is similar, but in reverse - it makes certain actions more likely to be performed, possibly even leading to some feedback loops. However, it seems that in humans, pleasure and compulsion have similar and almost parallel circuits, but are not identical. Pleasure may also have calming effects by reducing responses/actions instantly, the opposite of pain, while also making it more likely that actions that caused pleasure to be performed again - which is a bit similar to compulsion. In a nutshell, they correspond to mechanisms which lead to certain actions being more or less likely, and this eventually leads to complex goals and behavior - I'd say that's a huge reason for pain/pleasure responses to have evolved.

Or put another way, what kind of mechanism feels pleasurable or
painful from the inside?

The notion of feeling is more complicated because it involves memories and complex feedback loops.
Presumably the answer to this question occurred earlier in the
evolutionary process than the emergence of fear, surprise, hunger, and
so on.
I like these articles/videos on how AGIs may get emergent emotions from simple basic drives:






To go a little further with this, take sexual orgasm. What is
happening during orgasm that makes it so pleasurable?

My guess is that it's a fairly complex emotional and somatic response that could get broken down into simpler parts. You could ask the same question differently: what makes some music good? what makes some food delicious? what makes a picture beautiful? The answers to those questions depend heavily on the person and are probably not easy at all due to their sheer complexity. I wonder if we could one day develop implants or software which would let us break down our feelings/qualia into simpler parts so we could better understand what they're made of and what they're caused by. Greg Egan wrote a short SF novelette about this idea:

Presumably there are special circuits in the brain that get activated,
which correlate to the flush of orgasmic pleasure. But what is special
about those circuits?  From a 3p perspective, how is one brain circuit
differentiated from another?  It can't be as simple as the
neurotransmitters involved; what would make one neurotransmitter be
causative of pain and another of pleasure?  It's shape?  That seems

If we could represent our cognitive architecture abstractly and be able to decode our memories, responses, expectations, ... Such questions might be partially answerable. However, that would only be partially explainable - you won't be able to explain the color red appearing in your visual field except in relation to other colors and how they're recognized by your visual cortex - the non-communicable parts of what "red" is will likely remain forever incommunicable (except where images/data can be shared, but then how can you know my red is exactly the same as your red, besides its relative nature? I can't even know if my red doesn't change all the time and I'm incapable of knowing. )
It seems that the consequence of that neural circuit firing would have
to achieve some kind of systemic effect that is characterized... how?

There would likely be many changes throughout the entire cognitive architecture instance - changes in attention allocation, memories triggered and so on.
Pain is just as mysterious. It's not as simple as "what it feels like
for a system to become damaged". Phantom limbs, for example, are often
excruciatingly painful. Pain is clearly in the mind. What cognitive
mechanism could you characterize as feeling painful from the inside?
Watch the videos I linked, the author goes into great detail about such emotions and how they emerge. Another interesting (and compatible) view is that of the neocortex as a pattern predictor, you can find it in Hawkins' "On Intelligence".

Failure to account for this in mechanistic terms, for me, is a direct
threat to the legitimacy of mechanism.

You can account for all the behavior, but it will be hard to account for specific instances of qualia - those become indescribable past a certain point, so much that even we can't say more about them except that we have them and they are different and related in this and that way.

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