Added this to my site if anyone is interested:
*Common Criticisms of Multisense Realism*
The most common issues that people have tend not to be with the content of
my ideas themselves, but the way that I present them or argue them. From my
perspective, it seems clear that they have no intention of entertaining a
new set of ideas about consciousness, so my admittedly wordy and often
overwrought writing style becomes the reason why my ideas are
objectionable. I generally hear that they 1) don't make any sense, 2) are
wrong, and 3) are unfalsifiable. This is an interesting complaint, since
they are all mutually exclusive. Ideas which don't make sense can't be
wrong, and ideas which are wrong can't be unfalsifiable.
Let's begin with
*1) They don't make any sense. *
I don't expect that *all* of the ideas will make sense to everyone
immediately. All of the ideas do, however, make sense to me, even if I
come to realize later that the way I wrote about them is in need of editing
or re-working. I'm not saying that I'm not crazy, but I have never been so
crazy that I have looked back on my own writing and not been able to figure
out what I was trying to say. What I write makes sense to me, and it does,
believe it or not, make sense to enough people who have expressed to me
that they understand it that I am not threatened by this #1 accusation.
Ultimately, it is just an accusation, as being unable to make sense of an
unfamiliar idea says nothing about the merits of the idea, or the author of
*2) They are wrong.*
Once people have tired themselves out yelling about how my writing
irritates them, they often will find a way to make enough sense of my
writing to announce that I make this or that 'claim' which contradicts this
or that Law. Of course that's nonsense. Nothing that I propose here can be
construed as contradicting any natural observation. Not only do my ideas
about the relation between body and mind or matter and sense not require
any additional force within public physics, but they explicitly avoid it by
definition. My interpretation is a commentary on the
umbilical-symmetric-nested nature of the relation of public bodies and
private experience, not a squeezing of private experience into public
mechanics. If you cannot grasp this concept, I suggest that you stop
reading now. You will never be able to understand Multisense Realism and
you will be wasting your time to go on.
Another criticism along these lines is the mistaken impression that some
make that I am a naive idealist. Because I say that physics and sense are
in fact the same thing, and that there is no 'existence' independent of
sense, many people cannot get the idea out of their mind that Multisense
Realism is built on a Berkeleyan straw man where the tree falls in the
forest and doesn't make a sound unless a human being hears it. Not so. Lots
of organisms have ears, and the event of a tree crashing to the ground has
lots of sensory opportunities with or without he benefit of the presence of
Homo sapiens. If you get rid of all ears, however, the you would have
eliminated all possible experiences of sound. Physics, in my view, does not
merely depend on both public and private transmitter-receivers of
experience, physics is that which twists itself into public and private
ontologies (or 'verses') in the first place.
In the context of Artificial Intelligence, I get a lot of flack for
insisting that mechanical approaches to assembling consciousness are doomed
to failure. People assume that my ideas are sentimental and reflect some
sort of patriotic attachment to human beings, or an aversion to technology.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I have always been a both a
technophile and a misanthrope so that nothing would please me more than a
Kurzweilian singularity in which I could be uploaded out of this nasty
human civilization. Unfortunately, in the course of developing Multisense
Realism, I could not avoid that the nature of the juxtaposition between
private experience and public bodies is such that no experience could ever
be generated by bodies alone. Forms and functions both, are a consequence
and reflection of sense, not an independent source of it. You can't build a
mind out of forms and functions, only a sculpture of a mind - a recording.
Without using some kind of biological organism to start, with its own
agendas and sensitivity driven values, there can be no artificial
intelligence - only simulated intelligence.
This position leads people to jump to the conclusion that I am a
biocentrist - that I think there is something magical about living cells
which allows them to progress to higher quality consciousness than
molecules alone. Nope, you can't hang that on me either. It is not the
substance of the cells that matters, it is the experience which is
represented by the cells. The cell is a game piece, a marker. What it
represents is a sub-personal experience which has been around a lot longer
than we have been. The fact that only certain organic configurations have
led to biological cells should not be taken as a sign that no other forms
of life or consciousness can occur - but it should not be ruled out either.
Once it is understood that the universe is an experience in which
significance is produced, and significance has to do with monopolizing
negentropy (signals), then the development of biology as a consequence of
nucleic acids can be seen as more akin to a second big bang than a random
development. Biology is a single thread and plays a unique role in the
cosmos as far as we know. If we have learned anything by being living
organisms it is that we are both very adaptable and very finicky. We can
eat a million different kinds of roots and leaves, but not even a little
serving of arsenic. We should not blow off the difference between life and
death, organic and inorganic, until we really know what we are talking
about. We still have not made anything live from scratch, even after
knowing how to make primordial soup for decades, so it is premature to
proclaim that my conservatism here is unwarranted.
*3) It is unfalsifiable*
In my view, the question here is not so much whether MR is falsifiable or
not, but rather how legitimate of an expectation is that. Since the idea of
things being true or false or provable is a quality of the mind, it is
circular to attempt to use experiences within consciousness to prove
something about consciousness itself, especially when we know already that
the problem with consciousness is that we can't find any trace of it when
we look inside someone's brain. What we find is something like a coral
reef, which pulses and throbs with teeming microbiotic events that
correspond to subjective reports of consciousness, but without such
reports, and our own to draw on, we would certainly be looking at an
intra-cranial reef and not a 'person'. If you found this thing growing
under your sink, you would not ask it what it is thinking about.
I should offer an another ultimatum then. If you can't understand exactly,
precisely, why it may never be possible to present a theory of
consciousness which is falsifiable to consciousness itself, then you should
probably stop reading as you will only waste your time and become
frustrated. This does not mean that we can't appeal to other
epistemological standards and make more sense of consciousness than has
ever been made before, but may mean that this sense-making comes at a cost.
We may not expect to receive this understanding with Enlightenment Era
methodology, with our arms crossed, waiting to be bowled over by
incontrovertible evidence. This new understanding reveals that all physics
is participatory to the core. We have to meet the universe halfway, and our
theory of consciousness has to meet us half way. We can't be trapped in a
corner between some ion channel and an action potential, or squashed under
a millions years of hominid evolution. To find consciousness, we must stay
put and let the pieces to the puzzle fit together in the best way that they
can. The big picture has always been unfalsifiable, but at the same time,
it has never required proof. If you can doubt your own existence, then you
can't doubt that you are the one who is doubting it. Is that unfalsifiable?
Does it matter?
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