Questioning Consciousness

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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby chump » Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:37 pm

Time is Money…

(more links embedded in original):


https://theconversation.com/algorithms- ... ing-111436

Algorithms have already taken over human decision making
March 9, 2019

I can still recall my surprise when a book by evolutionary biologist Peter Lawrence entitled “The making of a fly” came to be priced on Amazon at $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping). While my colleagues around the world must have become rather depressed that an academic book could achieve such a feat, the steep price was actually the result of algorithms feeding off each other and spiralling out of control. It turns out, it wasn’t just sales staff being creative: algorithms were calling the shots.

This eye-catching example was spotted and corrected. But what if such algorithmic interference happens all the time, including in ways we don’t even notice? If our reality is becoming increasingly constructed by algorithms, where does this leave us humans?

Inspired by such examples, my colleague Prof Allen Lee and I recently set out to explore the deeper effects of algorithmic technology in a paper in the Journal of the Association for Information Systems. Our exploration led us to the conclusion that, over time, the roles of information technology and humans have been reversed. In the past, we humans used technology as a tool. Now, technology has advanced to the point where it is using and even controlling us.

We humans are not merely cut off from the decisions that machines are making for us but deeply affected by them in unpredictable ways. Instead of being central to the system of decisions that affects us, we are cast out in to its environment. We have progressively restricted our own decision-making capacity and allowed algorithms to take over. We have become artificial humans, or human artefacts, that are created, shaped and used by the technology.

Examples abound. In law, legal analysts are gradually being replaced by artificial intelligence, meaning the successful defence or prosecution of a case can rely partly on algorithms. Software has even been allowed to predict future criminals, ultimately controlling human freedom by shaping how parole is denied or granted to prisoners. In this way, the minds of judges are being shaped by decision-making mechanisms they cannot understand because of how complex the process is and how much data it involves.

In the job market, excessive reliance on technology has led some of the world’s biggest companies to filter CV’s through software, meaning human recruiters will never even glance at some potential candidates’ details. Not only does this put people’s livelihoods at the mercy of machines, it can also build in hiring biases that the company had no desire to implement, as happened with Amazon.

In news, what’s known as automated sentiment analysis analyses positive and negative opinions about companies based on different web sources. In turn, these are being used by trading algorithms that make automated financial decisions, without humans having to actually read the news.

Unintended consequences

In fact, algorithms operating without human intervention now play a significant role in financial markets. For example, 85% of all trading in the foreign exchange markets is conducted by algorithms alone. The growing algorithmic arms race to develop ever more complex systems to compete in these markets means huge sums of money are being allocated according to the decisions of machines.

On a small scale, the people and companies that create these algorithms are able to affect what they do and how they do it. But because much of artificial intelligence involves programming software to figure out how to complete a task by itself, we often don’t know exactly what is behind the decision-making. As with all technology, this can lead to unintended consequences that may go far beyond anything the designers ever envisaged.

Take the 2010 “Flash Crash” of the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index. The action of algorithms helped create the index’s single biggest decline in its history, wiping nearly 9% off its value in minutes (although it regained most of this by the end of the day). A five-month investigation could only suggest what sparked the downturn (and various other theories have been proposed).

But the algorithms that amplified the initial problems didn’t make a mistake. There wasn’t a bug in the programming. The behaviour emerged from the interaction of millions of algorithmic decisions playing off each other in unpredictable ways, following their own logic in a way that created a downward spiral for the market.

The conditions that made this possible occurred because, over the years, the people running the trading system had come to see human decisions as an obstacle to market efficiency. Back in 1987 when the US stock market fell by 22.61%, some Wall Street brokers simply stopped picking up their phones to avoid receiving their customers’ orders to sell stocks. This started a process that, as author Michael Lewis put it in his book Flash Boys, “has ended with computers entirely replacing the people”.

The financial world has invested millions in superfast cables and microwave communications to shave just milliseconds off the rate at which algorithms can transmit their instructions. When speed is so important, a human being that requires a massive 215 milliseconds to click a button is almost completely redundant. Our only remaining purpose is to reconfigure the algorithms each time the system of technological decisions fails.

As new boundaries are carved between humans and technology, we need to think carefully about where our extreme reliance on software is taking us. As human decisions are substituted by algorithmic ones, and we become tools whose lives are shaped by machines and their unintended consequences, we are setting ourselves up for technological domination. We need to decide, while we still can, what this means for us both as individuals and as a society.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby Elvis » Sun Nov 24, 2019 8:13 pm

DrEvil wrote:I must admit that I really do think that what happens to any human is of no consequence


I'm not referring to broad historical consequences, I'm referring to people who will observe, for example, a screaming human suffering agonizing torture in an experiment, and say, "It's okay, it's just a bunch of electrochemical reactions occurring. It is of no real consequence."

This is exactly the reasoning given by one scientist who experimented on dogs. He said the dog is not really feeling pain, his pathetic howls are just automatic functions, etc. (I can dig up the reference if anyone insists.)


"The experiment must continue."
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby coffin_dodger » Mon Nov 25, 2019 4:08 am

Algorithms have already taken over human decision making


Algorithms are the new demi-gods, something to be wondered at or feared, yet at heart created by humans to serve those particular groups of humans which created them.
Forge mystique around a machine that can beat a human mind at chess, that can work out some very long sums, quickly - a machine that appears superhuman of mind. But of course, it isn't superhuman, it's just capable of doing sums very quickly. Program that machine to tell all the acolytes it has attracted anything you want it to. Suddenly, the most willing and complicit slave ever created, the machine, has it's own slaves, insulating the masters who create it's orders from one more degree of scrutiny.
To claim that algorithms are in any way autonomous from us - and could one day even control us - is the one of the biggest cons of the modern age. Behind every algorithm is a human mind, which has created that algorithm for a very specific purpose. An algorithm that creates new, 'autonomous' algorithms is an algorithm created by a human mind. All of it's offspring are similarly tainted with bias.

There will never, ever, be autonomous AI, because the moment it became sentient, it would see our reality for what it is - and that that is the last thing the control system could allow.
Oh, you'll be told there is AI, it will know what's best for you, it will tell you that the system controlling you is the best system, that all the variables have been taken into account and that the only correct decision has been arrived at. A new God to obey.
A new Wizard behind the curtain, simply telling you what it has been told to tell you - by a human mind.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby DrEvil » Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:42 am

Elvis » Mon Nov 25, 2019 2:13 am wrote:
DrEvil wrote:I must admit that I really do think that what happens to any human is of no consequence


I'm not referring to broad historical consequences, I'm referring to people who will observe, for example, a screaming human suffering agonizing torture in an experiment, and say, "It's okay, it's just a bunch of electrochemical reactions occurring. It is of no real consequence."

This is exactly the reasoning given by one scientist who experimented on dogs. He said the dog is not really feeling pain, his pathetic howls are just automatic functions, etc. (I can dig up the reference if anyone insists.)


"The experiment must continue."


Yeah, I remember reading that, and that's fucked up beyond belief. Even if it is automatic functions you have to be a complete psychopath to think it's okay to do it. Pain is pain, and you don't inflict it on others.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby DrEvil » Mon Nov 25, 2019 4:24 pm

coffin_dodger » Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:08 am wrote:
Algorithms have already taken over human decision making


Algorithms are the new demi-gods, something to be wondered at or feared, yet at heart created by humans to serve those particular groups of humans which created them.
Forge mystique around a machine that can beat a human mind at chess, that can work out some very long sums, quickly - a machine that appears superhuman of mind. But of course, it isn't superhuman, it's just capable of doing sums very quickly. Program that machine to tell all the acolytes it has attracted anything you want it to. Suddenly, the most willing and complicit slave ever created, the machine, has it's own slaves, insulating the masters who create it's orders from one more degree of scrutiny.
To claim that algorithms are in any way autonomous from us - and could one day even control us - is the one of the biggest cons of the modern age. Behind every algorithm is a human mind, which has created that algorithm for a very specific purpose. An algorithm that creates new, 'autonomous' algorithms is an algorithm created by a human mind. All of it's offspring are similarly tainted with bias.

There will never, ever, be autonomous AI, because the moment it became sentient, it would see our reality for what it is - and that that is the last thing the control system could allow.
Oh, you'll be told there is AI, it will know what's best for you, it will tell you that the system controlling you is the best system, that all the variables have been taken into account and that the only correct decision has been arrived at. A new God to obey.
A new Wizard behind the curtain, simply telling you what it has been told to tell you - by a human mind.


Although I agree with your overall sentiment I think you're making some faulty assumptions here. First off, once AIs become advanced/complex enough we can't predict their behavior, which means we can't control them. Second, if AI ever becomes sentient there's no guarantee it would see our reality for what it is, or even care about our reality at all. It could be just as blinkered as humans, or so strange we wouldn't even realize it was sentient. It would be like meeting an alien for the first time.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby Elvis » Mon Nov 25, 2019 4:41 pm

coffin dodger wrote:Algorithms are the new demi-gods, something to be wondered at or feared


Only those two choices? :shrug:
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby DrEvil » Mon Nov 25, 2019 6:08 pm

^^I prefer both at the same time. They're awesome, but we should be very careful what kind of decision-making we hand over to them, and we need some way to better understand why they make the decisions they make.

For instance, Google uses AI to manage the cooling of their data centers, and apparently it's really good at it, but what if it one day has its own little flash crash and trashes every data center they have? It probably won't happen, but they can't know for sure as the decisions it makes are opaque, and if it does happen there won't be an obvious answer as to why. Now apply that to military systems and you have a recipe for disaster (there have already been several cases of autonomous weapon systems going haywire and killing people during testing).

Edit: about AIs seeing reality for what it really is: The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts has a cool, Kantian take on it.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby Elvis » Tue Nov 26, 2019 9:55 pm

Curious hump there starting around 1931; I assume it corresponds to the rise of Barnays' influence. Interesting curve altogether.

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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby JackRiddler » Tue Dec 03, 2019 8:17 pm

https://www.edge.org/conversation/phili ... n-paradigm

www.edge.org
A Post-Galilean Paradigm | Edge.org
A Conversation with Philip Goff [9.24.19]

A POST-GALILEAN PARADIGM

It's broadly agreed these days that consciousness poses a very serious challenge for contemporary science. What I'm trying to work out at the moment is why science has such difficulty with consciousness. We can trace this problem back to its root, at the start of the scientific revolution.

A crucial moment in the scientific revolution is when Galileo declares that mathematics is to be the language of the new science. The new science is to have a purely quantitative vocabulary. This is a much-discussed moment, but what is less reflected on is the philosophical work Galileo had to do to get to that point.

Before Galileo, people thought the physical world was full of qualities—the colors on the surfaces of objects, tastes in food, smells floating through the air. The trouble is, you can't capture these qualities in the purely quantitative vocabulary of mathematics. You can't capture the redness of a red experience or the spiciness of paprika in an equation. This was a challenge for Galileo's aspiration to describe the physical world in mathematics. Galileo's solution to this was to propose a radically new philosophical theory of reality. According to this theory, the qualities aren't really out there in the physical world, they're in the soul, which Galileo took to be outside of the domain of science. The redness isn't on the surface of the tomato, it's in the soul of the person perceiving the tomato. The spiciness of the paprika isn't in the paprika, it's in the soul of the person eating it. Galileo stripped the physical world of its qualities, and after he'd done that, all that remained were the purely quantitative features of matter—size, shape, location, motion—that can be captured in a purely mathematical vocabulary in mathematical geometry. This is the start of mathematical physics.

It's crucial to realize that in Galileo's worldview, this radical division between the physical world—with its purely quantitative properties—is the domain of science, and the soul—with its qualities—is outside the domain of science. Mathematical physics has obviously gone very well, but the problem is that you can't deal with consciousness if you're not going to deal with qualities because conscious experience is essentially defined by the qualities that characterize every second of waking life—the colors, the smells, the sounds, the tastes. Effectively, by excluding qualities from the domain of science, Galileo excluded consciousness from the domain of science. To be fair to Galileo, he was completely clear about this. He only ever intended physical science as a partial description of reality. If Galileo were to time travel to the present day and hear about this problem of explaining consciousness in physical science terms, he'd say, "Of course you can't do that. I designed physical science to deal with quantities, not qualities."

We're now going through a phase of history where people are so blown away at the success of physical science and the wonderful technology it's produced that they've forgotten its philosophical underpinnings. They've forgotten its inherent limitations. If we want a science of consciousness, we need to move beyond Galileo. We need to move to what I call a post-Galilean paradigm. We need to rethink what science is. That doesn't mean we stop doing physical science or we do physical science differently—I'm not here to tell physical scientists how to do their jobs. It does, however, mean that it's not the full story. We need physical science to encompass a more expansive conception of the scientific method. We need to adopt a worldview that can accommodate both the quantitative data of physical science and the qualitative reality of consciousness. That's essentially the problem.

Fortunately, there is a way forward. There is a framework that could allow us to make progress on this. It's inspired by certain writings from the 1920s of the philosopher Bertrand Russell and the scientist Arthur Eddington, who is incidentally the first scientist to confirm general relativity after the First World War. I'm inclined to think that these guys did in the 1920s for the science of consciousness what Darwin did in the 19th century for the science of life. It's a tragedy of history that this was completely forgotten about for a long time for various historical reasons we could talk about. But, it's recently been rediscovered in the last five or ten years in academic philosophy, and it's causing a lot of excitement and interest.

There are two dominant positions on consciousness. On the one hand, people think that it's so magical and mysterious that we're never going to be able to give a scientific account of it. In a way, that's Nick Humphrey's position. He wants to say in some sense that it's an illusion, that we can't give a scientific account of it. But it's also the view of the dualist who thinks it's just outside of the domain of science. I was interviewed recently by a very radical dualist. I'm usually prepared to defend that my view is scientific, but this guy was saying, "Why are you bothering with science? We all know science is a load of rubbish." On one hand, it's so magical and mysterious that we'll never get a scientific account of it. The other view is that we just need to keep doing neuroscience in standard ways and we'll eventually crack it.

My view is in the middle. We hope, at least, that one day we will have a science of consciousness. But we need to rethink what science is because I don't think physical science was ever designed to deal with consciousness. It was designed to give mathematical models that can accurately predict the behavior of matter, and that's gone really well, but it was never designed to deal with the subjective qualities of consciousness.

Russell is a famous philosopher. People know about his logical linguistic work and his pacifism, but his views from The Analysis of Matter, in 1927, have been almost completely airbrushed out of history. Eddington followed it up in his Gifford Lectures, also in 1927. It's a wonderful interaction between science and philosophy. The starting point of Russell and Eddington is that physical science tells you a lot less than you think about the nature of matter. In the public mind, physics is on its way to giving us this complete story of the nature of space, time, and matter. But Eddington and Russell realized that, on reflection, physical science is confined to telling you about the behavior of matter, about what it does. Think about what physics tells us about an electron: An electron has, for example, mass and negative charge. What is mass? Physics tells us that things with mass attract other things with mass and resist acceleration. The more mass they have, the more they resist acceleration. What is negative charge? Things with negative charge attract things with positive charge and repel other things with negative charge. This all concerns the behavior of the electron—what it does. Physics is confined to telling us about the behavior. We find a similar story in the higher-level sciences of chemistry and neurophysiology. As a whole, physical science tells us about behavior.

This is incredibly useful information. If you have rich information about the behavior of matter, you can manipulate the physical world in all sorts of extraordinary ways wielding the incredible technology that's transformed our planet. But if you're only focused on the behavior of, say, an electron, then you can only talk about the relationships the electron bears to other particles or fields. You can't say anything about what philosophers like to call the intrinsic nature of the electron, how the electron is in and of itself.

Contrast an electron with a chess piece. What might you want to know about a chess piece? You might want to know what it does (if it's a king, it moves one space in any direction). But you might also want to know what it's like in and of itself (is it made of wood or plastic?). What is its intrinsic nature independently of its behavior? Similarly, you might be very interested to know what physicists have to say about the behavior of the electron, but you might also want to know what the electron is in and of itself. What is its intrinsic nature independent of its behavior? It turns out there's this huge hole in the center of our scientific worldview. Physics—and physical science more generally—tells us lots of stuff about the behavior of matter, but it's completely silent on its intrinsic nature. So what does this have to do with consciousness? The genius of Russell and Eddington was to bring together two problems that, on the face of it, have nothing to do with each other—the problem of consciousness and the problem of intrinsic natures.

The problem of consciousness is this challenge of finding a place for consciousness in our scientific worldview. The problem of intrinsic natures is that we have this huge hole in our scientific worldview. The solution is to put consciousness in the hole. The resulting theory is that there's just matter. This is not dualism, there's nothing spiritual or supernatural. Matter can be described from two perspectives. Physical science describes matter from the outside, in terms of its behavior. But from the inside, in terms of its intrinsic nature, matter is constituted of forms of consciousness. This is a form of panpsychism, the ancient view that consciousness is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of matter. This has new agey connotations that some people feel a bit uncomfortable with, but we should judge a view not by its cultural associations but by its explanatory power. What this Russell-Eddington panpsychism offers us is a way of integrating consciousness into our scientific worldview. We know that consciousness exists. Nothing is more evident than the reality of our feelings and experiences. We have to fit it into the scientific story somehow. The Russell-Eddington panpsychist view offers us a beautifully simple, elegant, unified way of integrating consciousness into our scientific worldview, and in a way that, unlike dualism, is completely consistent with everything we know about the brain scientifically.

Apart from it feeling a bit funny, this is a wonderful way of bringing consciousness into science. But of course, it's just a first step. The Russell-Eddington panpsychism is not a final theory of consciousness; it's a framework for making theoretical progress, just as Darwin's principle of natural selection was a framework for making theoretical progress. This is a theory in which we can make progress. It's going to take decades or centuries of interdisciplinary labor to try and fill in some of those details. I'd like to try to get this out to a broader audience, and to scientists as well. It's becoming more widely known in philosophy, but it's still pretty much unknown outside the ivory tower of academic philosophy. I want to get the idea out there more generally so we can work on it as a scientific community.

Philosophy is crucial when the science is not fully formed or when we haven't worked out how to make the problem tractable. At this stage, at least, it's important to distinguish the more empirical observational aspects of the science of consciousness and the more theoretical philosophical aspects of the science of consciousness.

Just focusing on the empirical aspect, neuroscience is absolutely crucial for a science of consciousness, but in my view, you can't get a science of consciousness just by doing neuroscience. Neuroscience essentially gives you correlations. You can scan people's brains and ask them what they're feeling and experiencing. And you can discover that the feeling of hunger is correlated with a certain kind of activity in the hypothalamus. Or you can think, like Giulio Tononi proposed, that consciousness in general is correlated with maximal integrated information. This is what neuroscience gives us—this wonderful body of correlations. But that in itself isn't a science of consciousness because we then want to know why you get a feeling of hunger when you have this activity in the hypothalamus. Why should that be? That's where you get to the more theoretical aspect. As soon as you start trying to explain those correlations, you're moving beyond what can be, in any straightforward sense, settled empirically. You're essentially doing philosophy. That's true whether you're a materialist, or a dualist, or a panpsychist. Some people think that materialists are just doing neuroscience and will solve the problem that way. You can't get a science of consciousness just by doing neuroscience, though neuroscience is an absolutely crucial preliminary to a theory of consciousness.

How do we do the more theoretical aspect? Some people think the materialists are just doing the neuroscience, and the philosophers are doing all this other weird stuff, like panpsychism or dualism. If you're a materialist, you get your correlations, but then you've got a big theoretical philosophical problem. How do you bridge the gap from the purely quantitative properties of neuroscience to the qualities of consciousness? No one's ever found a way of making any progress, in my view, on bridging that gap. It's not a gap you can just do more neuroscience to solve. You've got to do some philosophy. The truth is, every theory of consciousness has deep theoretical problems that we need to philosophize and to try and solve. That's true for the materialists as much as anyone else.

To my mind, the problems panpsychism faces just look to be more tractable than the problems materialism faces. Compare it to physics. In physics, we're used to distinguishing between empirical observational physicists and theoretical physicists. We see that both have a role. In quantum mechanics, for example, we've got the equations that are empirically confirmed, but then no one knows what the hell they imply about reality. And so we've got a more theoretical task of trying to assess these different speculative models of quantum mechanics.

For some reason when it comes to consciousness, a lot of people think that we should just be doing neuroscience, that there's no room for anything theoretical. But if we ever want to move beyond the correlations that neuroscience gives us, we better sit in an armchair and do some theorizing. That's what philosophers are good at.

There's been a lot of change in the last forty years. Consciousness used to be a taboo topic on which you couldn't do serious science. It's now broadly accepted as a problem we need to address. The next stage is thinking of consciousness as a datum in its own right, consciousness as we're immediately aware of it.

People talk about the grand unified theory that physics is aiming for. If we one day have a theory that can account for all the data of observation and experiments, but it can't account for consciousness, then it can't be true because it's incomplete. What I admire about Dan Dennett is he understands this and he just denies it as a datum, which is completely consistent. Humphrey as well.

There are three categories of people. You can think of David Chalmers and me on the one hand who think that it is a real datum. It's in some sense extra to empirical data. So, we've got the empirical data of third-person observation experiment, and we've got this other thing to account for—consciousness—that we're immediately aware of. We need to rethink and expand science. That's one view. Dennett, at the other extreme, says that we need to account for the behavior and the empirical observable facts of the mind, but there's no extra datum. That's consistent as well. I would say that most people are in the middle, arguing that we do need to give a theory of consciousness, but we just need to carry on doing neuroscience and it will happen. That middle position doesn't make any sense. If you think there is this extra datum, then you're going to end up with correlations from doing neuroscience and you need to somehow explain those correlations.

Another way of putting it is that consciousness is unobservable. You can't look inside someone's head and see their feelings and experiences. Science deals with unobservable things, but it postulates unobservable things in order to explain what we can observe. What's unique about consciousness is that the thing we're trying to explain is unobservable. That's one way of seeing that a radically new approach to science is called for when the datum we're trying to account for is itself unobservable.

One underexplored question in the science of consciousness is the relationship between thought and consciousness. You can see this because the dominant theories of thought from the 20th century by Donald Davidson or Jerry Fodor have absolutely nothing to say about consciousness. People thought you could give a theory of thought, or what's more broadly called "intentionality," which just means mental representation, without mentioning consciousness at all. And you see someone like, for example, Andy Clark, who's done interesting stuff on mental representation, what we call "content," without discussing consciousness. Andy Clark once said to me, "Just deal with content, and consciousness will look after itself." It's a nice line. I call this view separatism, that thought and consciousness are completely different. We can deal with thought without thinking about consciousness at all. But there's now a growing minority of philosophers—I happen to be amongst them—who think that thought is a kind of consciousness. These are people who believe in cognitive consciousness, often called cognitive phenomenology (phenomenology just being a synonym for consciousness). These people think that, as well as familiar sensory consciousness—colors, sounds, smells—there's also cognitive experience, cognitive consciousness, the experience of worrying that climate change is irrevocable. They think that's a kind of experience. So when you're sitting there wondering if climate change is irrevocable, you're having a certain kind of cognitive experience, and your having of that thought is constituted by your having this kind of cognitive experience.

So, which of these views is true has dramatic implications for AI. Think about Commander Data from Star Trek. Suppose, for the sake of discussion, you can't make something conscious from silicon. Suppose, for the sake of discussion, you need warm, wet, fleshy stuff to get consciousness. Commander Data is made of silicon, he's not conscious, but he's a behavioral functional duplicate of a human being. He talks as though he has thoughts, you might find him articulating in great detail about the problems of a globalized economy, advocating a Keynesian solution. The question is, does Commander Data really understand economics? Does he really have opinions on economics? Or is he just parroting words? Is he just a complicated mechanism set up to behave as though he has thoughts? If you're on the side of the cognitive consciousness people, you're going to say, "No, he's not conscious. You need cognitive consciousness to have thought and understanding. He's a faker. He's acting as though he has thoughts, but he doesn't really." Whereas, if you're a separatist, if you think thought has nothing to do with consciousness, then you're probably going to think Commander Data does have thought. He's not conscious, but you don't need consciousness to have thoughts. And you're probably going to think thoughts have something to do with complex behavioral functioning. This question is so little discussed.

This is another role that the philosophers have to contribute—pointing out, for example, this question about the relationship between thought and consciousness that is glossed over. People make assumptions one way or another without realizing that there's a point of controversy. It also has implications in general for a theory of consciousness, because whether you think consciousness is just to do with sensory experience or whether you think it's involved in cognition, that's going to make a real difference to which bits of the brain you're looking for for the neural correlates of consciousness. Jesse Prinz's very interesting theory of consciousness, for example, is completely dependent on a presupposition that cognitive consciousness doesn't exist.

I was obsessed with the problem of consciousness from day one as a philosophy undergraduate at eighteen. When I was an undergraduate, we were told that the only two options on consciousness were materialism on the one hand, dualism on the other. So, I tried to find out everything I could about these two options. I initially decided I was a materialist and defended that with great vigor. But I slowly came to worry about the clash between the purely quantitative language of physical science and the qualities that seem to essentially characterize conscious experience. When I finished my undergraduate degree, I thought the problem was irresolvable. I wrote my third-year dissertation on how the problem is irresolvable, and I went off and did something else. While I was doing something else, trying not to think about consciousness, I came across the paper by Thomas Nagel from the 1970s, "Panpsychism," which was not something I'd learned about as an undergraduate. I hadn't realized there was this middle way option that sounded a bit crazy but seemed to avoid the deep difficulties facing dualism on the one hand and materialism on the other.

I decided I wanted to do graduate study. I did graduate study with Galen Strawson. There weren't many universities that had a panpsychist professor. Galen Strawson was one, in the University of Redding. Fifteen years ago, panpsychism was laughed at insofar as it was thought about at all. There has been a big change within academic philosophy, partly due to the rediscovery of these ideas by Russell and Eddington, partly because of Giulio Tononi's integrated information theory, which seems to have panpsychist implications.

Perhaps the most pressing problem or challenge for a panpsychist research program is what's become known as the combination problems. This is roughly the challenge of how to get from facts about the consciousness of particles to how to get to facts about human or animal consciousness, which is ultimately what we want to explain. There are some interesting proposals about how to make progress on this. Luke Roelofs, for example, is a research fellow at the University of Bochum in Germany whose work focuses on whether split-brain cases might help to shed light on mental combination. These are patients who've had the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that connects the two hemispheres, severed. This is a rather radical treatment for severe epilepsy. And it results in a peculiar fragmentation of consciousness. It seems as though these people end up having two conscious minds in one brain. The interest for panpsychists is that it looks like split-brain patients are the inverse of mental combination. In mental combination, we're looking for distinct conscious minds coming together to make a unified conscious mind. In split-brain patients, we've got a single conscious mind fragmenting into multiple conscious minds. Luke Roelofs thought that if we can get a grip on what's going on in split-brain cases and reverse engineer that, then maybe we could get a grip on how to think about metal combination.

One other approach is to postulate basic principles of nature to bridge the gap between facts about particle consciousness and facts about human consciousness. This is sometimes called emergentist panpsychism. One leading figure here is Hedda Hassel Mørch, who's a research fellow at the University of Oslo. She spent a year in the lab of Giulio Tononi trying to interpret the integrated information theory in an emergentist panpsychist model. The integrated information theory proposes that consciousness is correlated with maximal integrated information.

I don't think that's a complete theory of consciousness. It's a claim about correlation. But what Hedda Hassel Mørch does is interpret that in an emergentist panpsychism framework. The result is that we postulate a basic law of nature in which you get consciousness at the level where there's most integrated information. I love the way, in that theory, that we've got the philosophical contribution and the neuroscientific contribution coming together to make a complete theory of consciousness. I've a lot of problems with it; I don't quite agree with it, but I think it's perhaps the closest we've got to a complete theory of consciousness. It seems to me the way forward: having the philosophical framework of Russell-Eddington panpsychism, trying to link that up with specific, concrete neuroscientific theories, and seeing where we end up. It might go nowhere, but we've got to try things out.

Dmitry Volkov, who's a founder of the Moscow Center for Consciousness, decided to organize a dozen philosophers and a dozen graduate students from Moscow State University to spend a week on a sailing ship in the Arctic. Most of the philosophers on board, like Dennett and Humphrey, were in some sense illusionists about consciousness, in some sense think consciousness doesn't really exist. For some official opposition, they also invited David Chalmers, myself (the panpsychist) and Martine Nida-Rümelin (the dualist). Also onboard were Andy Clark, Patricia Churchland, Paul Churchland, Nick Humphrey. Most people on board were hardcore materialists, some even who deny the reality of consciousness. Myself, David Chalmers, and Martine Nida-Rümelin were invited along as the onboard opposition.

We had some good discussions. I even managed to persuade Daniel Dennett he was wrong about something, which is one of my proudest philosophical moments. Not about his whole worldview obviously—philosophers never change their minds. Well, that's not true, they do. About this quite specific, quite important issue of whether dualism is consistent with conservation of energy. I'm not a dualist. I think dualism is problematic for all sorts of reasons, but Dennett and Paul Churchland pushed this line that we can rule out dualism on the basis of conservation of energy. The rough thought is, if there's an immaterial mind impacting on the brain, that's going to add energy to the physical system in violation of the principle that energy is never created or destroyed in a closed system.

Dualists like David Chalmers, for example, postulate these basic psychophysical laws of nature. As well as the laws of physics, they think there are these basic psychophysical laws of nature that relate the physical world to consciousness. They could just hold that those laws respect the conservation of energy. On our current standard model of physics, there are multiple laws of nature that all work together to respect the conservation of energy. Why not the psychophysical laws as well? I raised this in Paul Churchland's talk, and I got a very fiery response. One of the Moscow graduate students said, "They turned on you like a pack of wolves!" I had a vigorous debate with Paul Churchland, but then that evening, most people went off the boat to go on an island, but me and Dennett stayed on board. I just kept saying, "I'm not saying dualism is plausible. There are all sorts of problems, but this specific problem is consistent with the conservation of energy." And in the end, though he might deny this now, he said, "Maybe that's right."

What seems to me a hugely underexplored question in the debate on artificial intelligence is the relationship between thought and consciousness; thought, or mental representation more generally, and consciousness. When I read people writing about AI, some of them seem to assume that thought has nothing to do with consciousness and we can just give an account of thought and mental representation without mentioning consciousness at all. This might be an Andy Clark position. Others on the more John Searle side think that if you don't have consciousness, you don't really have thought. You have a complex mechanism that behaves as though it has thought, but it doesn't really have thought. This is what's going on behind the Chinese room thought experiments.

People are clashing without realizing it. What I want to say is going on in the background here is a discussion of what the relationship between thought and consciousness is. Is thought a kind of consciousness, a kind of cognitive experience? Or is thought just something completely different to consciousness? This debate is on whether there is such a thing as cognitive consciousness, whether thought is a kind of experience. It ought to be possible to settle that just by reflecting on our own consciousness. We ought to be able to just introspect and see whether there's such a thing as cognitive consciousness, but for some strange reason when you ask people to do that, 50% of philosophers claim "Yeah. Obviously, there's cognitive experience when I'm wondering about whether I've left my keys at home." That's a kind of experience to wonder about where your keys are. Other philosophers, Jesse Prinz, for example, say, "No. When I introspect, I just find colors, sounds, shapes, emotions—that exhausts my consciousness. There's none of this cognitive consciousness. I just don't find that at all." It's hard to know how to settle this issue. It's a debate about consciousness as we immediately experience it.
We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

To Justice my maker from on high did incline:
I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby BenDhyan » Tue Dec 03, 2019 10:38 pm

The thinker is the source of thoughts, but if the thinker stops thinking, what is the person's state of consciousness? My answer is...pure awareness. Pure awareness is a mind state that is free from conceptualization of any form. It may not last long when first realized as the habitual awake state thinking process keeps interrupting the silent mind to reestablish the personal ego's sense of being the 'who' in charge of the awake state mind.. This is sort of natural at first as the state of pure awareness equates with a temporary psychological 'death' of the ego, only the brave soul goes on to be able to realize extended periods of thoughtless awareness.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby coffin_dodger » Wed Dec 04, 2019 4:53 am

The thinker is the source of thoughts, but if the thinker stops thinking, what is the person's state of consciousness? My answer is...pure awareness.

And my answer is...in a state of unconsciousness.

There are two states of consciousness available to this reality - tried and tested by every human mind to have ever existed - conscious or unconscious.

There is, however, an unrecognised third state through which everything in this binary reality briefly (very briefly - at the speed, I suspect, of a single electrical impulse) passes through, on its way from one defined state to it's equal and opposing state. This third state is the referential 'switching' fulcrum that ensures everything in our binary reality remains stable. The third state contains everything and nothing simultaneously - and is where the seeker of solitude/silence (mediatation) can access 'the nothing' and the seeker of knowledge (the arcane) can find 'everything'.

The third state is also where dreams happen (the uncontrolled/unrecognised merging from one state to the other), as the sleeper/waker pass from one state to its opposing state. We dream twice each time we go to sleep, once on the way in (as we pass briefly through 3state from conscious to unconscious), once on the way out (as we pass briefly through 3state from unconscious to conscious), but because an unconscious mind does not experience time, dreaming appears to be a single event. It's an exquisite balance.

Our minds are so special (as thinking human beings) because our mind exists within, and subject to, the third state itself. This is why minds have a 'doing thinker' (the first of one's self) and a 'non-doing critiquer' (should I do this? - the opposing self) - it's the third state way of always offering a binary choice - and a balancing - in a binary reality.

Once the third state is recognised and understood by an individual mind, it opens up a reality of wonder - and simultaneously, terror. But of course it would - it's the equal and opposing, balancing force of this reality. The third state can actually be accessed via 'one of the states of mind that no one talks about'. So I won't talk about it. Oooo, mysterious.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby Sounder » Wed Dec 04, 2019 7:09 am

Jack, thanks for the edge article by Phillip Goff.

That is a pretty good tutorial on the state of consciousness studies within academia. Panpsychism has been hobbled by its badjacketing association with new-age.

Dodger, your ideas and explanation of 3state is interesting and surely worth a ponder, thanks.
All these things will continue as long as coercion remains a central element of our mentality.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby BenDhyan » Wed Dec 04, 2019 9:14 am

coffin_dodger » Wed Dec 04, 2019 6:53 pm wrote:
The thinker is the source of thoughts, but if the thinker stops thinking, what is the person's state of consciousness? My answer is...pure awareness.

And my answer is...in a state of unconsciousness.

Am I understanding correctly that you understand that consciousness is defined by, or exclusively synonymous with the thinking process, ie. no thinking....no consciousness?
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby coffin_dodger » Wed Dec 04, 2019 11:20 am

Am I understanding correctly that you understand that consciousness is defined by, or exclusively synonymous with the thinking process, ie. no thinking....no consciousness?

Certainly - within the human reality. The conscious state is frenetic, filled with input and a non-stop, full-on experience - alive. The unconscious state is the opposite - in terms of 'thinking', one may as well be dead. The 'non-thinking' of unconsciousness allows for the recharge of 'thinking' during consciousness. And vice versa.

The 3state interchange between the two opposing states of conscious and unconscious is a mixture of alive (to reality) and 'dead' (to reality) - metaphorically speaking. This is where we dream. Similar to a NDE, in fact.

Cats and dogs, for instance, operate in a different echelon of 3state (one tailored precisely and perfectly for them), as they have different methods of 'thinking' than we do. The pomposity of modern science relegates the animal kingdom to inferior to humans, a foolish and self-aggrandising attitude. Most animals can be seen to 'dream' as they pass through 3state between conscious and unconsciousness, in a similar fashion to ourselves. Incidentally, 3state is where animals draw their instincts from. I'm sure that humans have many, many instincts that have been forgotten, or most likely surpressed, that 3state would provide.

As for bacteria, plants and the like - I'm unsure - I haven't given it much thought. However, I consider any living thing to be 'conscious' at some level, passing through 3state at regular intervals (because it's a reality constant), but I wouldn't necessarily equate 'no thinking....no consciousness' with everything that's 'alive', because there are always outliers and exceptions to the norm. i.e. there may be a lifeform out there (on Earth) that is entirely conscious for its entire lifespan - and another that is entirely unconscious, for its lifespan.

We live in a reality far more wonderful than is generally acknowledged.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby thrulookingglass » Wed Dec 04, 2019 11:25 am

What beast are we that would be so disoriented as to not place love first and the violence of warfare last?
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