The Mind

[ 4/July/22 Paul Lowe posted – “The mind only exists in the human mind”. What do you think? True or false? Please clarify your answer.]

All depends what you mean by those words.

For me, it seems beyond reasonable doubt that there is an existence which is greater than human beings, not dependent upon the existence of human beings, and of which human beings are part.

Then there is us, with our perceptions and experiences of being.

It seems beyond reasonable doubt that we are each composed of deeply layered sets of complex adaptive systems, and at the highest levels some of those layers give rise to the experience of being we have. Those highest layers are essentially “software”, but a very interesting class of software built upon the very complex suite of computational systems that is the human body, but also requiring language (which is a cultural construct). We are thus each both individuals and parts of cultural systems – we have both essential natures, necessarily.

One of the things about our brains is that they have to operate in near real time, but their highest levels of comprehension are necessarily very slow (taking several seconds). Evolution seems to have solved that problem by creating a predictive model of reality that is the experiential reality that as conscious entities get to experience. That leads to the ability to “experience” many things that are essentially “artifacts” of the constraints on the modeling systems embodied in brain rather than any direct attribute of “objective reality” itself – leading to many of the confusions in the history of theology and philosophy and science.

And the thing to get about evolution, is that it is always optimising around solutions that work well enough to survive in practice (ie leave enough children across the population, over the generations, in all the contexts encountered over deep time, for the population to survive) and that tends to select things that use minimal energy and least time and are near enough to be useful most of the time. That preference deeply biased in our neural networks leads us towards simple distinctions like “True/False” or “Right/Wrong” rather than towards more accurate but complex and nuanced distinctions like “Close enough to be useful in this set of contexts/ Not sufficiently close to be reliably survivable”.

We are all, necessarily, deeply biased towards the simple – the Right/Wrong, True/False, Good/Bad. Friend/Foe; rather than towards the deeply more nuanced and fundamentally uncertain acceptance of complexity and uncertainty and the need for making our best guesses in all contexts – and the inevitability of some of those guesses being far from optimal (mistakes).

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) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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