On 18 Oct 2013, at 16:04, Craig Weinberg wrote:

On Friday, October 18, 2013 9:23:19 AM UTC-4, stathisp wrote:
On 18 October 2013 12:24, Craig Weinberg <whats...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> The decision to go to the store, A, is associated with certain brain >> processes, and the getting in the car and driving to the store, B, is
>> associated with different brain processes. The brain processes
>> associated with A *cause* the brain processes associated with B. That
>> is to say, a scientist anywhere in the universe could observe the
>> physical processes A and the physical processes B and see how the
>> former lead to the latter without necessarily having any idea about
>> the supervenient consciousness.
> Ok, I can work with this. First let me say that, given your assumptions, > your reasoning is absolutely correct. The assumptions themselves, although I > don't think they are even conscious, are also completely reasonable. That is > a perfectly reasonable expectation about nature, and it is one that I myself
> shared until fairly recently.
> Starting with the first assumption: >"The decision to go to the store, A, is
> associated with certain brain processes"
> To that I say, lets slow down a moment. What do we know about about the
> association? As far as I know, what we know is that
> 1) measurable changes in brain activity occur in synchronization to
> self-reported or experimentally inferred changes in subjective states. > 2) the regions of the brain affected have been mapped with a high degree of > consistency and specificity (although the anomalies, such as with people who > live seemingly normal lives with large parts of their brain 'missing' makes
> that kind of morphological approach potentially naive)
> 3) that externally induced brain changes will induce changes in subjective
> experience (so that brain changes cannot be epiphenomenal).
> What we do not know is that
> 4) the entirety of our experiences are literally contained within the
> tissues of the brain, or its activities.
> 5) that the brain activity which we can observe with our contemporary
> instruments is the only causal agent of subjective experience.

OK up to here.

> 6) that subjective experiences cannot cause observable brain changes (to the > contrary, we count on subjects being able to voluntarily and spontaneously
> change their own brain activity).

We don't know this for sure, but it goes against every scientific

The scientific observations that you are thinking of are those which fail to account for the difference between personal level awareness and sub-personal awareness. Sure, if you erroneously assume that personal consciousness is definable only as a single logical path of instructions, and then fail to consider that the lower levels of neuronal activity could also be the product of sub-personal consciousness, then, like the stop-motion video, the natural urge to draw a false chain of causality from bottom to top becomes hard to resist. If the top level consciousness were in fact dictating awareness to the bottom some of the time, the scientific observations would look exactly the same. How could it look any different?

A low level bottom universal machine can emulate a high level universal machine changing its low level bottom universal machine.

Babbage already saw this: the universal beast can eat its own tail. Post, Turing and the others showed mathematically that it brings some mess in Platonia, but that mess is fertile.

If a subjective experience is supervenient on the
underlying physical process

It is not supervenient. The science does not make that conclusion inevitable at all. Supervenient means one way. Since we can control a single neuron from the top down, that means that that neruon's behavior is being dictated by the collective activity of other neurons - which, as far as we know, can only be yoked together by subjective intent at the personal level.

Partially. But there is no problem for machines doing that. The machines will not understand the roots of its own personal instinctive behavior, but she can also build theories.

In my view, the more likely explanation is that there is not one underlying physical process, there are physical descriptions on multiple levels, each with corresponding *ranges* of a single phenomenology. The personal range is only one level, and it does nor correspond to cellular process most of the time, nor does it correspond to evolutionary process either.

That does not imply that it does not correspond to some relative computational state. What you say fit nicely. The person, with its absolute first person experience, and its relative third person states, is an arithmetical reality, which is not Turing emulable as it is a conscious selection on an infinity of computations. The soul (the first person) is in touch with the infinite. It is unique, it is not duplicable, it has no name, and ... is not a machine, even if machine or number relation can incarnate them locally, thanks to that universality feature.

Personal awareness corresponds to a experiences within a human lifetime.

You mean human personal awareness.

But the human brains is very old and encapsulates deep information. I guess we share many of them with many animals.

And there is a non trivial part that we share with all the universal systems/machines/sets/polynomials/numbers.

The lifetime is the fundamental phenomenon, not the physiology or the genes or the ego.

It is fundamental for us, no doubt. But I think it is better to bet on some simpler reality, and to explain from that, instead of postulating the mystery at the start.

You anthropomorphize. Better to de-anthropomorphize as much as possible, taking care not making the person disappear. There is no reason for that, on the contrary, it helps us to recognize persons in larger sets.


then the observable brain changes can all
be attributed to this underlying physical process.

Of course, they would have to be because you are using physical instruments for your physical body. Again, it's the stop motion video. If we only look at half of the story, we can invent the other half to match it, and it will make sense, but not for the universe that we actually live in, which is not the universe the stop motion measurements imply.

If not, then the
observable brain changes cannot all be attributable to the underlying
physical process; i.e., a miracle will be observed. But no miracles
have actually been observed.

Not a miracle, just the limitations of public physics to describe private physics. If you look at that stop motion video as a naive tribesman, you might think that those kids were doing miraculous things.

> 7) that neuronal activity is not also associated with microphenomenal > experiences which are subconscious to us at the personal level. (The article > at the top of the thread shows that the opposite is true, in the sense that > we can access and control individual neuron behaviors strictly through
> direct subjective attention).

> The next assumption I think takes a turn from the relatively innocuous to
> the ideologically biased.
> To say "The brain processes associated with A *cause* the brain processes
> associated with B." doesn't really work. Let's say that some alien
> neurologist thinks that the world financial markets are the activity of a > global brain. She observes that certain numbers that come out of the NASDAQ > are associated with the construction of new suburban houses. Having access > to a precision magnetic stimulation instruments, she is able to change the > numbers in the NASDAQ computers, and sure enough, most times the expected > effect materializes. She concludes therefore, as you would in her position, > that the market indicators associated with the real estate development A > *cause* the market indicators associated with commercial development months > later (B). This view assumes that the actual participants in the economy, > and the actual conditions of their experienced lives are not functionally
> necessary to transform A into B.

If the alien neurologist is wrong she is wrong about details. She is
not wrong about the fact that the building of new houses in the
suburbs is caused by antecedent physical events.

> In the same way, we could say that a drug like cocaine changes brain
> activity to match that of a person who was living a very exhilarating life, > and by the logic that you are suggesting, as long as the drug supply did not > run out, the person's life would eventually have to change automatically to
> match the enhanced brain activity.

The cocaine may cause a feeling of exhilaration but it will not cause
all the other thoughts, memories, achievements etc. of an exhilarating
life. The two situations have different physical antecedents and a
different result.

Even if you implant false memories it doesn't change anything. No physical antecedent in the brain can change public conditions, so there will always be a mismatch.

> By underestimating the role of consciousness, and overlooking its obvious > significance in creating and shaping its activities *through* the brain, > rather than activities *of* the brain, you wind up with a worldview in which
> no form of consciousness could plausibly exist. For that reason, the
> hypothesis you assume must be abandoned with prejudice. Not only should we > resist falling back on the whole set of hypotheses which fail to account for > consciousness in any way, but I recommend that we start from the polar > opposite assumption, in which the association of brain states A and B are > not the relevant causes, but are actually the event horizon of a completely > different set of causes which are impersonal but intersect the personal, > sub-personal, and super-personal ranges of awareness. It is like the stop > motion video that I linked, where impossible things seem to happen without
> any camera tricks.
> There will always be a plausible chain of causality to explain how A becomes > B, but it is wrong. If we look at traffic patterns of a city, we can imagine > that a flood of people leaving a parking lot is not leaving a concert at the > same time, but just a statistical inevitability because of the nature of how > traffic events are distributed around cities. It's a perfectly reasonable
> and scientific view, and it may be statistically successful even in
> predicting these parking lot evacuations accurately. It's still the wrong > way to look at it. It still doesn't work if you try put a thousand cars in
> the middle of the desert and expect them to build a city.

That you can't exactly account for the physical cause of something
doesn't mean it isn't there. Traffic patterns like weather patterns
are entirely due to the motion of atoms bumping against each other.
They can be roughly, but not precisely predicted. The lack of, or
indeed impossibility of precision does not mean they are magic.

> Can you see how modeling nature from the outside in has a big hole in it, > and why that hole would be a catastrophic mistake to overlook when studying
> consciousness?

No account of consciousness is needed in explaining behaviour.

Exactly! That's why mechanism fails even at locating consciousness. If behavior can exist without awareness, then what difference does it make whether the body is the size of a cell or a person? It's still ontologically impossible for us to be having this conversation in a universe of only unconscious behaviors.

account of consciousness is needed in explaining the weather either,
even though for all we know, weather patterns have associated
subjective experiences too alien for us to guess at.

Right, that's what I'm saying. We cannot internalize these weather reports and neuroscientific reports as the private truth, because they are completely inappropriate. Not only is it superimposing a public model on private physics, it is superimposing a microphysical mosel on a macrophenomenal presence. You cannot build New York City based on statistical vector models of pedestrian traffic. That's a story about traffic patterns, not about New York.

>> This is according to the scientific
>> account of nature. If the scientific account of nature is wrong then >> the scientist would look at the physical processes B and declare that
>> there must be some supernatural influence,
> Not supernatural, just transmeasurable. How would the scientist presume to > speak for nature? A terrible scientist if you ask me. "Whatever doesn't fit > in my microscope is supernatural". This is the problem. We already have, > with our own consciousness, a better window into neuroscience than any > instrument could possibly give us. Not that the perspective of a non-human > system is not valuable, of course it is, but nothing about the brain would > be worth the effort were it not for our own subjective appreciation of what > it does. No fMRI machine has the faintest idea what a brain is or why is has > to generate images of it. From the perspective of non-humans, the brain is
> food, or a source of energy, or just a blob of decaying ooze.

The scientist might be wrong about what exactly goes on in the brain
but is probably not wrong in the assumption that the only influences
on brain behaviour are physical ones.

I don't think that is even a scientific assumption, it's more like an ideological vendetta. There is no scientific support at all for limiting consciousness to what can be measured by inanimate objects. To the contrary - we *are* the instrument which reports a billion times more accurately on what (who) 'the brain' really is than any kind of primitive, molecule counting medical device. You can't judge a movie by reverse engineering pixel statistics.

>> as he cannot explain how
>> they come about given the antecedent A and the laws of physics.
> IMO, there are can be no 'laws' of physics. There is only sense. Incidents
> and co-incidents of orderly 'seems like'.

The "laws" are just observed regularities.

Yes, patterns that make sense observed by sense that makes patterns.


Stathis Papaioannou

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