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Is this where I should post about aliens?

Re: Is this where I should post about aliens?

Postby jonperry » Fri Aug 18, 2017 10:01 pm

Carmine,

I agree that consciousness is different than intelligence but I don't understand the claim that it must be supernatural. What do you mean by supernatural? There is a long history in science of "supernatural" being a placeholder for "stuff we don't understand yet". Diseases were supernatural punishments from demons or gods, for example, until we learned what they actually are.

I'm not sure there is any consensus in the scientific community on what consciousness is but I see it as an emergent property of the chemical/electrical interactions between cells and molecules of the body.

Consciousness/self is an activity, not a thing. It's a party, not a cake.

The guests in the party are the cells and molecules of the body. Change the guest list by removing some molecules and cells (Alzheimer's or brain damage) or by adding new molecules (alcohol or LSD) and the party will completely change. If you were to stop cells and chemicals from interacting, the party would end. In this view, death is the permanent interruption of the party we call consciousness.

May your party be long and filled with joy!
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Re: Is this where I should post about aliens?

Postby TruthInLove » Sat Aug 19, 2017 12:45 am

Hi Jon,

Thanks for the reply. When I say consciousness is supernatural, I do mean that it has no physical explanation, as of yet at least. I don't believe it ever will, though, because the argument that complexity can give rise to awareness results in a logical contradiction. That is, that fundamentally, the awareness of a system lies within an unaware subcomponent of the system.

If consciousness is truly along the lines of what you explained it to possibly be, what physical component of our being could possibly be said to perceive the electrical/chemical energy as it passes through our cells and across our synapses? Can any number (party, as you put it) of these types of energy exchanges ever produce an awareness of the energy exchanges themselves? If so, what is it (in physical terms) that has the property of being aware of them?

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Re: Is this where I should post about aliens?

Postby TK » Sat Aug 19, 2017 9:50 am

When I was younger is used to say "It's amazing how the brain can understand itself."

That may be in a sense what you are saying, Carmine, but I am not sure.

The brain produces something "higher" than itself. It produces thoughts or consciousness that can actually contemplate what makes the brain work. Its kind of weird actually.
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Re: Is this where I should post about aliens?

Postby jonperry » Sun Aug 20, 2017 3:53 pm

Carmine, I just found an amazing video on the philosophy of knowing. It goes over a bunch of stuff we're talking about here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L45Q1_psDqk

TK, you say the brain can contemplate what makes it work. I agree that it sort of can, which is absolutely amazing, and is what we're trying to do in this conversation, but I suspect a human mind will never be able to fully grasp how it works for the same reason a snake could never fully swallow itself. To start to understand the brain, we need to use models that simplify it for us. If I'm right on this, we could study the brain/mind our entire lives and only ever get a cartoon understanding of how it works. We might, however, be able to build a computer that eventually leans and understands how the brain/mind works. Then we could consult it when needed.
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Re: Is this where I should post about aliens?

Postby Jason » Mon Aug 21, 2017 9:49 am

Jon, do you think it will eventually be possible to create what you describe as consciousness in a non-organic AI? I know describing consciousness is incredibly difficult, even if we find simple words to do so. It's like describing life as the presence of vital signs, but we all know that description isn't quite adequate for what we usually refer to as "life."

Also, given your current understanding of consciousness (that of an emergent mind), would you say you're a fatalist when it comes to human free will? I've heard Sam Harris argue for this view. If one is truly a reductionist in the sense that everything emerges from the property of physical matter, then choice can't truly exist. What we think of as immaterial (mind, choice, etc) is actually material (electrical impulses) and out of our control. What do you think?

Sorry for being off-topic!
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Re: Is this where I should post about aliens?

Postby jonperry » Fri Sep 22, 2017 5:21 pm

Jason, we might be able to create something like human consciousness in a computer but we might also just end up making something that acts so much like us that we think it self-aware, even if it is not. I suppose it's possible that computers already have a type of consciousness. By that, I mean, there is something about a computer that experiences existence. I doubt it though. It's a hard thing to think about because I have very little idea what it would be like to be anything other than a human.. other than me, I guess.

"If one is truly a reductionist in the sense that everything emerges from the property of physical matter, then choice can't truly exist." I suppose I am a reductionist (though energy and the order of matter through time is also important, not just the properties of physical matter) but I don't see things the way you described. When a new property emerges from lower properties, that new property is just as real as those found on the lower level. I experience choosing things all the time. I don't consider this to be an illusion.

I may not understand Sam Harris correctly but I think he argues that because decisions are made of multiple small calculations in the brain, we don't really have free will. I think that's like saying "because a chair is made of wood and nails, I'm not really sitting on a chair". He is ignoring emergence. Choice might disappear when you zoom in too close, but that's true of everything. Even atoms are made of smaller parts. Does that mean an atom isn't real? I don't think I understand Sam Harris's arguments though. What he's saying might make sense but he and I are defining things differently? Definition problems are huge in these types of discussions.
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