On Tuesday, September 18, 2012 10:29:44 AM UTC-4, Jason wrote:

> Here is an example:
> Functional MRI scans have indicated that an area of the brain, called the 
> *anterior cingulate cortex*, processes pain information to determine how 
> a person is affected.  Severing the link to this part of the brain has a 
> curious effect on one's reaction to pain.  A condition known as *pain 
> dissociation* is the result.  Along with brain surgery such as lobotomy 
> or cingulotomy, the condition may also occur through the administration of 
> certain drugs such as morphine.  Those with pain dissociation still 
> perceive pain; they are aware of its location and intensity but pain is no 
> longer unpleasant or distressing.  Paul Brand, a surgeon and author on the 
> subject of pain recounted the case of a woman who had suffered with a 
> severe and chronic pain for more than a decade: She agreed to a surgery 
> that would separate the neural pathways between her frontal lobes and the 
> rest of her brain.  The surgery was a success.  Brand visited the woman a 
> year later, and inquired about her pain.  She said, “Oh, yes, its still 
> there.  I just don't worry about it anymore.”  With a smile she continued, 
> “In fact, it's still agonizing.  But I don't mind.”
> The conclusion: even seemingly simple qualia, like pain are far from 
> simple.

That is a conclusion, but I think the wrong one. Human qualia are not 
simple, but that does not at all mean that qualia re not simple. We are 
titanically enormous organisms made of other organisms. Our human 
experience is loaded with cognitive, emotional, and sensory qualia, 
corresponding to the evolution of life, our species, cultures, families, 
and individuals. Our pain is a Taj Mahal, and if you remove enough bricks, 
some towers fall and maybe one part of the palace no longer relates to 
another part. What you describe suggests exactly that - some part of us 
feels the pain on a sub-personal level, but the personal level is not 
alarmed by it because it's qualia has lost the red end of it's spectrum so 
to speak and now is blue-shifted toward an anesthetized intellectual 
quality of being.

> I think Marvin Minksy understands this well, and provides a good 
> explanation:
> Marvin Minsky considers it to be “a huge mistake-that attempt to reify 
> 'feeling' as an independent entity, with an essence that's indescribable.  
> As I see it, feelings are not strange alien things.  It is precisely those 
> cognitive changes themselves that constitute what 'hurting' is-and this 
> also includes all those clumsy attempts to represent and summarize those 
> changes.  The big mistake comes from looking for some single, simple, 
> 'essence' of hurting, rather than recognizing that this is the word we use 
> for complex rearrangement of our disposition of resources.”
He's right that there is no essence of hurting (qualia is always a subject, 
not an object, so it's essence is the same as it's 'envelope'. It's 
a-mereological. He's completely wrong about hurting being something other 
than what it is though. Hurting is an experience. A complex rearrangement 
of our disposition of resources is completely irrelevant. Complex to who? 
Why would 'rearrangements' 'feel' like something? It only seems to make 
sense form the retrospective view of consciousness where we take it for 
granted. If we start instead from a universe of resources and dispositions, 
then the idea that a rearrangement of them should entail some kind of 
experience is a completely metaphysical, magical just-so story that has no 
basis in science. Sure, to us it makes sense that the feeling of pain 
should have a function, but it makes no sense to a function to have a 
feeling. None.

> According to Minsky, human consciousness involves the interplay between as 
> many as 400 separate sub-organs of the brain.  One can imagine a symphony 
> of activity resulting from these individual regions,
A symphony of what? Who is there to hear it? Stop imagining things and 
think of what is actually there once you reduce the universe to unconscious 
processing of dead data.

> each acting on each others' signals and in turn reacting to how those 
> other regions are then affected, in a kind of perpetual and intertwined 
> feedback loop of enormous complexity.
It's an 'angels on the head of a pin' fantasy. There is no signalling 
without something to interpret some concretely real event as a signal. You 
can have a territory without a map, but you can't have a map without a 

> There are centers of the brain for sight, touch, language, hearing, 
> drawing, pain, etc.  They are all in some (or many) ways connected to each 
> other.  See this for more information: 
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modularity_of_mind

First of all, so what, and secondly it's not exactly true. Blind people use 
their visual cortex for tactile experience. The modularity of mind says 
nothing about qualia. It says only that sub-personal and personal levels of 
experience have ordered relations.

> which have no experience or qualia whatsoever, yet can detect 
>> "notifications" of a presumably epiphenomenal "state" of  "pain". 
> Pain is anything but epiphenomenal.  The fact that someone is able to talk 
> about it rules out it being an epiphenomenon.

That's the reality, but your view does not accommodate the reality. You 
have no model for how pain can interface causally with 'complex 
rearrangement of our disposition of resources'. If you have the function, 
why would you need an experience? How would such an experience appear? 
Where is the point of translation?

>> If the brain is doing all of the work, why does the top level organism 
>> have some other worthless abstraction layer of "experience" when, as 
>> blindsight proves, we are perfectly capable of processing information 
>> without any conscious qualia at all.
> It's not worthless at all.  Would you still be able to function if all you 
> knew were the raw firing data of the millions of photosensitive cells in 
> your retina?  No, it takes many layers of perception, detecting lines, 
> depth perception, motion, colors, objects, faces, etc. for the sense of 
> sight to be as useful as it is to us.

Ugh. I don't know if there is any way that I can show you this blind spot 
if you don't see it for yourself, but if you are interested I will keep 
trying to explain it. If you aren't interested, then you are wasting your 
time talking to me, because what your view says I have known backwards and 
forwards for many years.

Let's say I am a computer. You are telling me "Would you still be able to 
function if all you knew were the raw firing data of the millions of 
electronically sensitive semiconductors in your graphics card? Yes. I 
would. I require no layers of software to organize this data into other 
kinds of data, nor would it make any sense that there could be any such 
thing as 'other kinds of data'. To the contrary, the raw firing of the 
semiconductors is all that is required to render data from the motherboard 
to be spewed out to a video screen (which would of course be invisible and 
irrelevant to a computer).

>  After the different layers process this information and share it with the 
> other brain regions, we lose the ability to explain how it is we recognize 
> a face, or how red differs from green.  These determinations were done by a 
> lower level module, and its internal processing is not privy to other brain 
> regions (such as the brain region that talks), and so it remains mysterious.

All of that can and would occur without anything like 'experience'.

>> Information is very close to consciousness, but ultimately fails to 
>> sustain itself. The pixels on your screen have no way to detect each other 
>> or process the image that you see as a coherent gestalt, and the processor 
>> behind the graphics generation has no way to detect the visual end result, 
>> and if it did, it would be completely superfluous. Your graphics card does 
>> not need to see anything.
> Of course the pixels don't process themselves.  You need a brain with 
> complex software and filters to make sense of the flood of photons entering 
> the eye.

If there are photons (and I maintain that there are not) flooding into the 
eye, they only get as far as turning on a vitamin A isomer to change shape 
and turn off the rod cell's flow of glutamate. Everything else is 
biochemical and endogenous. What we see is as much vitamin A as it is 

>  And you need other regions of the brain to make sense of the visual scene 
> (to integrate it into an even larger context).

Insects have eyes too. Why do we need such a huge visual cortex to do what 
a baby mosquito can do?

>> To me it makes more sense to see information as nothing but the semiotic 
>> protocols developed by perceptual participation (experience) to elaborate 
>> and deepen the qualitative richness of those experiences. 
> I wish I did not have to struggle to translate your sentences so 
> frequently.  I completely failed on this one.

I mean that if you have information that performs functions, then you don't 
need experience. Therefore it makes more sense to see that experience is 
the thing that cannot be reduced to anything simpler and that all forms of 
information are nothing more than tools used to share experiences.

>> Of course, the protocols which are maps of one level of experience are 
>> the territory of another, which is what makes it confusing to try to 
>> reverse engineer consciousness from such an incredibly complex example as a 
>> Homo sapien. 
> Definitely.  Our consciousness is not a simple thing, it involves hundreds 
> of billions of (literally) moving parts.
>> Our pinch is a continuum of sensory, emotional, and cognitive interaction 
>> because we are made of the qualia of hundreds of billions of neurons 
> Okay.
>> and billions of lifetimes of different species and substances. 
> I don't think the preceding life times or substances is relevant.  

I know, I didn't think that either, but now I see that there is no reason 
to believe it wouldn't be. You are just going on your naive realism that 
experiences vanish when you are no longer aware of them. The universe may 
have an entirely different perspective outside of a human lifetime.

> If your duplicate were created randomly by some quantum fluctuation its 
> brain would create the same experience.

Why? Quantum events may be unrepeatable. Eventness may be unrepeatability 

>> That only means our pain can seem like information to us, not that all 
>> pain arises from information processing.
> I think it is a worth making the distinction that it is the system (doing 
> the processing) that has the experience, not the information or the 
> processing of the information.  The information from the perspective of the 
> system, makes a difference to the system causing it to enter different 
> states.  The ability to differentiate is at the heart of what it is to 
> perceive.

Then you have to explain where system-ness comes from, especially if you 
acknowledge that it can't come from dumb information. The ability to 
differentiate is at the heart of what it is to perceive, but qualia is the 
only thing that can be differentiated. What is being differentiated from 
what except afferent sensory input, and what is differentiation other than 
efferent motive participation?

>> Information does not concretely exist as an independent entity.
> "X" does not concretely exist as an independent entity.
> Is there any term "X", where the above sentence does not hold, in your 
> view?

Experience exists concretely as an independent entity.

>>  There are forms which can be used to inform if they are intentionally 
>> treated that way, as a map, but nothing is just a map by itself. Every map 
>> is A territory (not THE territory). being used by another 'territory' as a 
>> map.
> Maybe all there is are maps?

Then there would be no point in having any maps that seem like territories. 
That's the problem. If information could do anything by itself, then any 
kind of 'experience' of that function would be redundant. What would be the 
point? Why reduce everything to information if you are only going to have 
to invoke some magical and superfluous puppet show for that information to 
know itself with?

>> I might use a piece of paper with ink on it (a territory) as a map 
>> because the ink is printed in a pre-configured protocol which I can learn 
>> to read easily as part of the intended audience of the map, or which I can 
>> learn to read even if I wasn't intended as an audience. Logic circuits 
>> don't do that. They don't care about learning. They store the recordings of 
>> our intentions, and reproduce them in a trivial and mechanistic way.
> Just like our DNA stores the recordings of evolution's intentions, and we 
> follow those instructions in a reproducible mechanistic way (I won't say 
> trivial because not all machines are simple, and the resulting behaviors of 
> machines can be anything but trivial).

Evolution doesn't have any intentions, it's a backward looking analysis of 
heredity. The methods of DNA transcription seem mechanistic to us, because 
all we can see of it is through a microscope. That doesn't mean there isn't 
qualia and meaning being experienced on that level - not human qualia per 
se, but subhuman or sub+superhuman.


> Jason

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