IdeaPod – Sense of Being

Ideapod – Sense of Being

Hi Mark

I can align with most of what you wrote, except for “As is we know our brain is not a machine, nor a computer”.

Certainly our brain is no von Neumann machine. The architecture of brain is very different. It is an extremely complex multi-modal set of systems. Cells can perform calculations thousands of times per second. The average neural synapses (junctions between neurons) has about 60 different simultaneous influences on the transmission and reception of signals, each of which has various function over time and space, some of which are chemically mediated by our hormonal and chemical systems.

We are starting to get some understanding of the major systems involved in the major computational networks of the machine that is brain, and should we live for the rest of eternity I suspect we will still be discovering new subtleties of the systems that are us. We are that complex.

Every thought we have feeds back to alter the physical structure.

[followed by]

Hi Mark

I think it is more about an evolving understanding of what a machine is or might be.

Some have an image of machinery as some sort of idealised clockwork mechanism that works faultlessly and regularly forever.

A modern scientific understanding of machinery is that all machinery has levels of uncertainty at the lowest levels, and acknowledging that uncertainty, we can create very high levels of reliability at higher levels. The major way that biology does it is via massive redundancy.

For me, the idea of machine has come a very long way from the simplistic clockwork machine model. So if you are using a simplistic clockwork machine model, then I recommend that you be quite explicit about that.

I work with machines every day, and now we build machines that are able to pilot aircraft and land vehicles in very complex environments, and re-plan routes to handle unexpected events. These are much more like biological machines than clocks are, and not yet human level.

[followed by]

I have been designing and writing computer systems for over 40 years. The biggest single system I have developed by myself has about 6MB of source code (substantially bigger than the bible). It is used most days by about 40 companies.
All of that computational complexity is far less than what is involved in a single cell (I trained as a biochemist). We have about 10,000 times as many cells in our body as there are people on the planet, and about 10% of them are neurons, specifically evolved for higher levels of computation.

It seems clear to me that we are not infinite, and we are so much more complex than we are consciously capable of appreciating that we are a good first order approximation to infinite (at least to our own perceptions). We are capable of infinite diversity.

I see no evidence for souls, and there is certainly a lot of spirit (software/ computational complexity) within us that seems to give rise to this experience of being we have (the qualia of life).

[followed by]

I am sorry Phuoc Anh Phung. The explanation may make sense to you, but the evidence I have for the explanatory framework I am using does not align in any significant way with the explanatory framework you are using. For me what you wrote makes no sense.

How much time have you spent studying biochemistry or the mathematics and logic of evolution or cosmology, or geology, or physics?

There is a great deal of evidence out there.
We have very strong confidence about many of the major themes of our understanding of life and how it works. Other areas are still open to multiple interpretations, and the evidence we have doesn’t significantly favour one set of explanations over another as yet.

The idea of god as an explanatory framework has been taken out of most areas as simply not being required, the other explanatory frameworks explain all observed phenomena.

If you are interested in brain and mind, check out Ginger Campbell’s Brain Science Podcast, or Ray Kurzweil’s books.

[followed by]

Hi Mark

That is a difficult question.

Certainly the fixed science of Newton is gone, and we now have science that is based on fundamental uncertainty at all levels, an eternal mystery in a sense. In some senses that takes science closer to some aspects of some religions.

However, there is a fundamental difference to most of religion as it occurs today, which is that religion is generally founded on revealed truths that must be accepted on faith, and science is based on scepticism – a willingness to question and test anything and everything.

There does seem to be a fundamental incompatibility between the two approaches.

Absolute certainty doesn’t exist for me, and I am very confident of quite a few things.

I can certainly meet with religion, I have many priests as friends. And there does seem to be a fundamental logical impasse that is hard to get past.

[followed by]

Hi Utkarsh

The Newton story is cute, but has no real comparison to our modern understanding of ourselves and the universe within which we find ourselves.

Evolution is a filter mechanism that selects from amongst random variation, and assembles levels of complexity as it does so.
Richard Dawkins’ 1976 classic – “Selfish Gene” is a great explanation.
It is the only book I have read twice in one day (in 1978) – I was a 4th year student of zoology and biochemistry at the time.

I use logic as a tool.
I am, and always have been, highly intuitive. Unlike most intuitives I understand the mechanisms of brain that give rise to intuitions. I have some understanding of the domains in which intuitions are reliable and where their reliability degrades.

It is a fascinating world. Infinitely more complex than we are capable of consciously appreciating.

[followed by]

Hi Utkarsh

For me, the understand I have of self is based on intuitions in the realms of biochemistry, games theory, computation, etc. The understanding (such as it is) is of the gross mechanisms that give us our infinite flexibility and infinite creative potential.

We are all far more complex than we have any real conception of. We can state numbers, but what do they mean? How many people can make any real sense of numbers with more than a dozen digits in them?

There is much wisdom in the ancient knowledge, but much of it has little relevance in our modern age, which is far more complex and rapidly changing than anything in historical precedent.

We need to be present to the time we find ourselves in, be informed by our past, yet stay open to the intuitions we have in the now – incorporating and integrating across all of our knowledge of history and culture, and including all that the we have knowledge of in the present.

[followed by]

Hi Utkarsh

That is a tough ask.
There is no single book that points to the mechanisms of infinite creative potential that I am aware of.
Learning some programming languages, and getting a feel for how much diversity can be expressed in just a few characters is a start.
Studying the work of Stephen Wolfram – and his explorations of the domain space of possible mathematical statements is another interesting approach.
Kurt Goedel’s incompleteness theorem is another useful approach – particularly Doug Hofstadter’s brilliant book – Goedel, Escher, Bach – Eternal Golden Braid.

Contemplating just how big our universe is can be another useful approach. Consider that a 1 with 220 zeros after it is a close approximation to the number of quantum states that have existed since our universe started. Consider that if an automated printer had started printing out every combination possible of 62 characters when the universe began (52 upper and lower case plus 10 numeric digits), at 1 line per second, the word would be just 12 characters long today, after 14 billion years of printing.

Study the modern anatomy of brain – how cells work, how synapses work, the chemistry, the physics, the computational ability. Ginger Campbell’s brain science podcast will point you to some great books.

Study physics, biochemistry, nanotechnology.

Ask questions.
Read everything, question everything, test as much as you can for yourself.

Take nothing as absolute.
Accept the probability of error in all things.

[followed by]

Hi Phuoc Anh Phung

I see it very differently.
As I see it, in your case, you seem to have accepted the idea of god, probably based on accepting cultural stories and interpretations.

For me, accepting such an idea, in the face of all of the evidence available indicating the improbability of the existence of god, is irrational.

And I get that once anyone accepts the notion of faith, there is no escape from it, no amount of evidence can shift it,

[followed by]

indeterminacy either is indeterminacy or it isn’t.
If one tries to put something at the source of indeterminacy then one removes indeterminacy.

Love is a great thing to create and foster in life, and it seems clear to me that it is the result of high level choice, not low level structure.

The thing about us as human beings is that we seem to live in a world of meaning, and we tend to put meaning everywhere, and it seems clear to me that many of the places we look for and put meaning it really doesn’t exist.

It seems clear to me how and why cultures have developed the stories they have, and for the most part the meaning part of those stories appears extremely improbable to me in the light of the information and systems and concepts that I am aware of.

The universe at large seems to be largely devoid of meaning. It just seems, for the most part, to be simply a mix of randomness and lawfulness (following such systems as do actually exist – some of which we know).

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
This entry was posted in Philosophy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s