Will neuroscience overshadow philosophy?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Plazma Inferno!, Feb 25, 2016.

  1. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Since the internal organization and workings of a human agent would be part of its identity, I've never quite understood how such can be contended, to begin with, to forfeit the agent being the source of its own intentions and decisions. A biological body is not anarchy -- its very form and functioning are biased constraints which make it distinct from noise and random patterns (the latter being analogous to complete vulgar liberty or lack of governance).

    Thus "free volition" for an intelligent organism [in response to _x_ situation or whatever] should be expected to be limited to the options available within the nature of its identity or what falls out of its specific character (what makes a body-type what it is, what makes a human what it is, what makes a particular acquired / developed personality what it is). To literally be totally free in terms of purpose, choice, and power would mean either being the author of a dream / virtual reality (god) or to be without organization. The latter is self-conflicting since it means eliminating the very sources for generating purpose, choice, and guided / resolute action.

    Ultimately, the debates about "free will" continue no matter what because of the maintained ambiguity surrounding what FW means. There's no consensus authority for satisfying all party goers as to what its account / significance can and cannot encompass in settled fashion. "Which suit, dress, or costume should I wear to the event tonight?" .... "All of them!"
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  3. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I don't use that as the basis. I use Occam's rule to keep from postulating some non-material item (usually called a soul) to account for why some discharging mutually stimulating units (brain cells now or some day perhaps transistors) are indeed self-conscious and making internal representations of their sensed environment and acting on it.

    If you believe that it is impossible for material units to become self conscious in face of the fact that humans are, then you MUST be assuming there is something else existing, which is non-material that makes it possible. Why are you not honest enough to admit you postulate a "soul" ? Many do and acknowledge that they do.

    It is simple logic: Either material units mutually interacting can be self aware (without any non-material item) or they can not and require assistance of a non-material item to be self aware. I go with Occam and believe they don't need a non-material item, often called a soul.
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  5. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Such as can be seen at any late night frat party:

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  7. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Positing a soul is not the only alternative to your AI theory. There is panpsychism in which consciousness is a fundamental property of matter. There is panexperientialism along the lines of Alfred North Whitehead in which the universe is reducible to occasions of experience. There is Daniel Dennett's notion that consciousness is an illusion. There is Max Tegmark's theory that we basically are all made of platonic mathematical structures. There is also Kantian transcendentalism, Cartesian dualism, Berkelian idealism, Buddhist idealism, neutral monism, and property dualism. Your anti-religious agenda is made apparent in you constantly claiming this soul theory is the only option to your own theory. As if you have solved some simplistic "either/or" issue. You haven't.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2016
  8. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I liked CC's post 61 as he is vague on what the agents is in: "forfeit the agent being the source of its own intentions and decisions." Clearly we don't forfeit or deny that humans are the agents of their intentions and decisions. All societies do hold individuals responsible for their actions.

    What remains vague in CC's text, is whether or not this agent is part of the physical brain (as I believe) or is some non-material "soul." For many decades I was convinced free will was impossible in a purely material organization as the "firing" (state switching) of each of its units is 100% controlled by the physical laws of nature.

    50+ years ago I did not know about quantum effects, so held that believe. When I learned that the world was not deterministic, I realized a "chance free will" was possible (or our "agent" rolled dice to make decisions). I did not like that possibility. I would much rather not have any free will than "chance free will" as we have evolved to make self-serving decisions (on average) that are better for us than random ones.

    About 30 years ago, during extensive investigation of the visual system, I accidentally realized that the agent we all have for making decisions, etc. need not be a non-material soul. It could be a self-aware, non-material, information process running in our brains. It must be non-material or else it is governed by the laws of nature. More investigation lead me to believe this non-material information process mainly "runs" in parietal cortex and that process is creating me -I am not my physical body. I. e. I do not exist when in deep (non-dreaming) sleep or when dead as then the "information process" is not running anywhere.

    I don't postulate I am a non-material soul as there is no evidence for that.
  9. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Try "she"....
  10. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I don't have an anti-religious agenda. I am an agnostic. Certainly* there could be some of the things various religious teach. If I had to pick one, it would be one with the "after life" being one of re-incarnation as unlike the Christian POV, we know there will be newly born babies, so do not need to postulate the existence of some "heaven" some where outside of the universe. I don't like to violate Occam's rule and postulating that a heaven exist does.

    By mention of "soul" I am not defining it other than some non-material process; so it includes all the variation you listed - I don't exclude any of them.

    My only firm conclusion is that genuine free, GFW, will is impossible in a purely materialistic system as that is governed by the laws of nature. With quantum processes we can have a chance free will, CFW, but as stated in post 65 I prefer to have no free will instead of CFW and trust that evolution has made me make decisions, which on average are better for me than random ones.

    * Proving they do not exist is impossible. Only in the realm of mathematics is proof of non-existence possible.

    BTW I do mention Berkeley in my long paper on GFW. (Links to it given earlier.) I did so to note how similar my POV is to his. I. e. he believed a God gave him the illusion of living in a non-existing world and I believe I live / exist in a parietal information process. Both of us acknowledge that their may not be any physical world for us to perceive. He needs a god & I need an information process. I have a Ph. D. in physic, so of course I hold that the physical world does exist and follows regular laws. Berkeley did believe his perceived physical world did too, but for an interesting reason. Only if they exist, can God make miracles as miracles are, by definition, the violation of the normal physical laws.

    Also thanks for telling that CC is female - that is stated in her profile, where I never looked til now, but it will take me some time to consistently say "she" not "he." I don't think she minds my error as I have made it at least 100 times with no complaint from her.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2016
  11. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    It should be an intermittently expected consequence of anybody putting down just two letters for a moniker. So indeed no problem.

    Heck... James Tiptree Jr., CJ Cherryh, and the rest were at least regarded as guys for awhile till their shocked readers encountered them in person at science fiction conventions. PUBLISHER: "Now listen. It's customary in this business to either use only initials for your first name or to use a pseudonym. Trust me, the nerds of this era will be less likely to buy your work if you do not do this."
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  12. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Free will is connected to being able to make choices apart from natural instinct. An animal or bacteria is true to its instinctive nature, which is a product of natural selection. Humans have free will, allowing us to make choices apart from our genetic based instincts, which have evolved from natural selection. We can make choices based on unnatural and artificial selection. For example, no where in nature, does nature give the lions share of its resources to the sickest. This is not natural. It is based on free will. Free will means we don't have to be limited to the criteria of natural selection. This can work out for the better or the worse.

    Abortion is an example of free will. It is not natural for animals to willfully choice to end a pregnancy. This is not to say that pregnancies cannot end naturally; miscarriages, but miscarriages are never the product of the animal's choice. Human women have the free will to ignore instinct in favor of something that has nothing to do with instinct. Part of the lure of abortion, may be its connected to free will.

    In terms of the brain, what free will brings to the dynamics of the brain, is higher entropy. In other words, if natural instinct is based on paths of efficiency, needed for selection, free will adds a wild card variable that can increase the entropy of instinct.

    This can all be traced back to the way neurons are designed. The pumping and exchanging of sodium ad potassium cations, creates both an energy and entropy potential. The energy potential is connected to the membrane potential, while the entropy potential is connected to the concentration gradient. The segregated ions can increase entropy if they blend, which means the neurons need to fire. Free will offers more path for the neurons to fire beyond natural instinct; higher entropy.
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  13. BrianHarwarespecialist We shall Ionize!i Registered Senior Member

    Good comments pages 3 and 4 onwards...
  14. BrianHarwarespecialist We shall Ionize!i Registered Senior Member

    Here is an idea I have that seems to solve this debacle.

    Just a few points before I post my opinion

    The electrically neutral state create by electrolytes is what the soul is.

    This is why the soul is considered immortal it's pure electrically neutral.

    The now moment is just the soul reacting to the environment with anion cation exchanges directing neurotransmitters.
  15. BrianHarwarespecialist We shall Ionize!i Registered Senior Member

    The importance of electrolytes...

    Poly electrolytes such as DNA is the hardware that facilitates and creates the informational system or a continous electrochemical synapses aka the soul, and awareness as two different sides of the same coin.

    The soul is electrically neutral, a pure and balance stage for electrochemical tranformations. The electrochemical synapse I infer may give of photons from the cation anion chemical tranformations. These photons can then be captured as the discreet recording of electrochemical transformations captured by the photoreceptors of the penial gland. This would solve the problem of how blind people see and why we see images while our eyes are closed. This will also explain why we dream, as well as explain why people have phantom limbs.

    This puts consciouness in a state of duality electric and biological awareness in a feedback loop. The now awareness would be categorized as discreet changes between pure consciousness electrically neutral internal state created by poly electrolytes and electrolytes vs external stimulation causing this neutral state to flutuate this is what we would call the now moment or continous consciousness a series of electrochemical transformations.

    I still can't make a connection to outer body experiences yet. But it could be the breaking of covalent bonds in the process of death may create an imbalance in the electrically neutral soul state. Separating the energy form of awareness from the continous now awareness, once this seperation ventures too far then permanent death accurs. Maybe now just the pure form of consiousness will remain.

    Further this is just some wild guesses so anyone feel free to brutally disect and critisize.
  16. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    And C.L. Moore. (Catherine Lucille)

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  17. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Interesting you should mention the role of photons in the synaptic process. There is some evidence that our cells can communicate via biophotons--short bursts of ultraviolet light energy that would be analogous to our own wireless internet. Imagine holistic information stored in an electromagnetic field that is emanated from your body.
    "One of the more curious backwaters of biology is the study of biophotons: optical or ultraviolet photons emitted by living cells in a way that is distinct from conventional bioluminescence.

    Nobody is quite sure how cells produce biophotons but the latest thinking is that various molecular processes can emit photons and that these are transported to the cell surface by energy carying excitons. A similar process carries the energy from photons across giant protein matrices during photosynthesis.

    Whatever the mechanism, a growing number of biologists are convinced that when you switch off the lights, cells are bathed in the pale fireworks of a biophoton display.

    This is not a bright phenomena. Biophotons are usually produced at the rate of dozens per second per square centimetre of cell culture.

    That’s not many. And it’s why the notion that biophoton activity is actually a form of cellular communication is somewhat controversial.

    Today, Sergey Mayburov at the Lebedev Institute of Physics in Moscow adds some extra evidence to the debate.

    Mayburov has spent many hours in the dark watching fish eggs and recording the patterns of biophotons that these cells emit.

    The question he aims to answer is whether the stream of photons has any discernible structure that would qualify it as a form of communication.

    The answer is that is does, he says. Biophoton streams consist of short quasiperiodic bursts, which he says are remarkably similar to those used to send binary data over a noisy channel. That might help explain how cells can detect such low levels of radiation in a noisy environment.

    If he’s right, then this could help to explain a number of interesting phenomenon that some biologists attribute to biophoton communication.

    In several experiments, biophotons from a growing plant seem to increase the rate of cell division in other plants by 30 per cent. That’s a growth rate that is significantly higher than is possible with ordinary light that is several orders of magnitude more intense.

    Other experiments have shown that the biophotons from growing eggs can encourage the growth of other eggs of a similar age. However, the biophotons from mature eggs can hinder and disrupt the growth of younger eggs at a different stage of development. In some cases, biophotons from older eggs seem to stop the growth of immature eggs entirely.

    Mayburov’s work won’t end the controversy; not by any means. There are still many outstanding questions. One important problem is to better understand the cellular mechanisms at work–how the molecular machinery inside cells produces photons and how it might be influenced by them. Another is to understand the kind of evolutionary pressures that are at work here–how has this ability come about?

    Clearly, there’s more work to be done here."

    Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1205.4134: Photonic Communications and Information Encoding in Biological Systems


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  18. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    What's funny is that another early pioneer -- Leigh Brackett -- even used her full name, and Howard Hawks still told his secretary to "contact this guy Brackett" to help William Faulkner with the script for the "The Big Sleep". I knew back in school days that she and her husband (Edmond Hamilton) were the queen and king of old-time space opera, but didn't have a clue about her movie career till I started noticing her name in the credits as writer or co-writer of several John Wayne films.

    Of course, "Leigh" like "Drew" can be either male or female, so that's why she didn't have to resort to initials and Hawks assumed what he did after reading her "hard-boiled detective" novel No Good from a Corpse.

    EDIT: Oh, and D.C. Fonata of the old Star Trek! How many times did my brother and I when growing up become as familiar with that in the credits of those syndicated reruns as Roddenberry's!
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2016
  19. wellwisher Banned Banned

    One thing that needs to be considered, is it has been shown that no protein will work properly without water. Water is not only needed to induce the proper protein folds, but water also participate in its dynamics. Without water, there would be a loss of complete protein function, that will make the neurons and therefore the brain become static and lifeless. If add water, functionality appears in all protein, allowing the neurons and brain to return to life.

    You cannot replace water with any other solvent. This has been attempted. Life on earth evolved in water, therefore the organics of life on earth were selected based on water. Water is not only needed to make all the protein work, but water is also needed to make proper use of electrolytes in the context of protein. The organics and the electrolytes do not generate life or consciousness, unless water is present.

    With water such a critical foundation, while also representing the majorities of molecules within any level of life, it is interesting that no standard theory of the brain and consciousness traces things back to water. All the theories seem to prefer remain at the level of middlemen, which will not even operate without water.

    My theory is both life and consciousness is can be traced back to water.
  20. BrianHarwarespecialist We shall Ionize!i Registered Senior Member

    Although bio-photons seems to be an offshoot of biophotonics thats not clearly defined as per my current research. It's seems interesting and definitly plausible. But the theory seems vague I was not able to isolate the exact process that allows DNA to emit photons. It wasn't clear on that but maybe I did not do enough research.

    The claim I am making which can in a way fill this gap is the photons are produced as a by-product of biomolecular interactions.
  21. river


    Drink at least a glass of water in the morning when you wake up . apparantly when done ; as good as a coffee.
  22. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Rudimentary artificial awareness is already here with voice & object recognition software; and robots / vehicles that engage with and maneuver through an environment. So while they don't factor into natural evolution, non-biological substrates can at least technologically realize the outward characteristics of consciousness. What remains to be seen is if what's going on from a first-person POV with complex brains can be replicated eventually, or that any indirect evidence would be sufficient verification even if such was accomplished. The latter especially pertaining to the production of manifestations / appearances as opposed to the usual "absence" of matter and its activity as anything at all to itself.

    A computer-simulation of a brain which achieved experiences could even expose something striking. Though the simulation wouldn't be strictly non-biological in terms of form, at the base level its imposter cells and their dynamic structure would nevertheless actually be constituted of the computer's micro-manipulated electricity, fields, and stored states (rather than the usual or "real" chemical agencies of a non-virtual brain). There would be little doubt anymore that the phenomenal events either correlated to or were the progeny of electromagnetism leaping through organized hoops (figurative). Which might force qualitative properties or that ability onto EM's conception in physics (despite the traditional discomfort and phobias associated with that).

    In consequence [and as if the incredible downgrade in speed and integration wouldn't be a factor already), the overly broad functionalist idea that wood or metal clockwork components (and rope and pulleys, hydraulic valves and tubing, etc) could in theory also generate experiences with the proper systematic coordination would seemingly have to be abandoned as a possibility. Along with perhaps "China brain" scenarios being scrapped (might depend there upon the nature of the switching and connective apparatuses used to turn people into pseudo-neurons). Note again that the focus here is on the first-person manifestations of thought and sensation, and not cognition or "cognitive success" as purely outward characteristics and behavior of a body. "Oh, look at that gigantic, completely mechanical steampunk robot walking over the landscape and trying to avoid stepping on towns and cities!"
  23. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    I have to mention the work of Douglas Hofstadter in regards to the promise of AI. Ever since I read his description of a wind chime as a sort of sub-mind, I have been impressed by his interactionist speculations on this matter. Here's an excerpt from a NYT article by James Gleick about his work in this field:
    "Hofstadter has no shortage of metaphors for the mind. An ant colony. A labyrinth of rooms, with endless rows of doors flinging open and slamming shut. A network of intricate domino chains, branching apart and rejoining, with little timed springs to stand the dominoes back up. Velcro-covered marbles bashing around inside a ''careenium.'' A wind chime, with myriad glass tinklers fluttering in the cross-breezes of its slowly twisting strands.

    Most educated people today accept the idea that the brain is purely a thing of flesh and blood, neurons and axons and synapses. For most, religious faith in a noncorporeal soul is no longer the answer it may have been a century ago. The problem is to reach a modern understanding of how the glories of the mind might spring from pure matter. For anyone with a view of the mind as creative and self- aware - anyone, that is, with the vista on the soul that comes from looking inward - it is extremely unsatisfying to think of it as nothing but electrical impulses and biological tissue.

    ''Tissue isn't quite the right word,'' Hofstadter remarked. ''Pattern, I would say.''

    Hofstadter's sense of the soul as pattern is the core of his view of how thoughts and symbols might be built up from the physical structures that neuroscientists see in their microscopes. It hardly matters whether the pattern is rooted in the firing of neurons or the marching of ants. Or the switching of silicon chips. ''The medium is different,'' as Achilles says in one of Hofstadter's recent dialogues, ''but the abstract phenomenon it supports is the same.''

    Whatever the medium, Hofstadter's path to consciousness begins, not with reasoning, but with a level of stupidity and randomness. In an ant colony, to use the example Hofstadter develops at length in a key section of ''G"odel, Escher, Bach,'' we begin with ants. Consider a team of ants - a ''signal,'' Hofstadter names it - carrying a piece of food from one part of a colony to another. No ant knows where the food is going. In fact, what with all the random comings and goings of the individual ants, the whole original team may have long since scattered by the time the signal arrives at its destination. For ants, of course, we may substitute neurons - or some mechanical equivalent. In Hofstadter's Jumbo program, he substitutes ''sparks'' and ''flashes.''

    Signals interact, too, creating patterns at still higher levels - Hofstadter calls them ''symbols'' - and eventually, out of the food-carrying, trail-building and so forth, a genuine orderliness emerges. Of course, the ant colony doesn't exhibit anything like consciousness. Symbols in the brain represent pieces of the outside world; the ant-symbols don't. No matter how organized they get, they're still just ants, after all.

    But the ant colony as a whole does have a kind of knowledge - how to grow, how to move, how to build - that is nowhere to be found in individual ants. The colony is a metaphor, meant to illustrate how a pattern of intelligence can emerge from the intertwining of different levels of activity, instead of being imposed from above. And like thoughts, the ant- symbols are sometimes orderly, sometimes erratic, always changeable and fluid.

    A piece of food moves two feet across a colony. An entomologist watching it can describe that bit of behavior just that way, without any reference to the complicated underlying activity of scurrying ants. In the same way, some abilities at the top of human consciousness can be described with rules - the ability to manipulate numbers, to reason logically - and the rules are easy for computers to handle. But the rules are the end of the story, not the beginning. To focus on them exclusively is to sacrifice the potential richness of true intelligence.

    ''What guarantee is there,'' Hofstadter asks in his subcognition paper, ''that we can skim off the full fluidity of the top-level activity of a brain, and encapsulate it - without any lower substrate - in the form of computational rules?'' If symbols could be built up the hard way, he argues - from the interaction of many small processes, as in the Jumbo program - they would also be able to do the hard things that have so far eluded artificial intelligence.

    Computers need to get bored. They need to know when they have fallen into a repetitious, machinelike rut. In solving problems that lack definite answers - in doing Jumbles, for example, without the help of an English dictionary - a machine needs to develop a sense of when it has got close enough to stop. That requires an ability that people have, the ability to watch oneself. And that, in turn, means a program must have a symbol system that includes a symbol for the program itself, that in effect makes it conscious of itself.

    That isn't the kind of symbol that can easily be written into a program, the way numbers can be written in. But after all, in our own minds, numbers are not just tiny units moved from one place to another by a program following logical rules. They are huge, rich symbols floating at the top of a bubbling stew of subcognitive activity. A number like three, for example, has affinities with symbols like tricycle, numeral, tripod, four, waltz and countless others with or without names. That is one reason that a $10 calculator manipulates numbers more deftly than we do. A truly intelligent machine, with human-like symbols for numbers, might be humanly mediocre at arithmetic, because it might not have access to the computational power at the lowest level, any more than we can reach inside to the firing of our own neurons.

    And as Hofstadter points out, we shouldn't be able to reach them. ''The world is not sufficiently mathematical for that to be useful in survival,'' he notes. ''What good would it do a spear thrower to be able to calculate parabolic orbits when in reality there is wind and drag and the spear is not a point mass - and so on. It's quite the contrary: a spear- thrower does best by being able to imagine a cluster of approximations of what may happen, and anticipating some plausible consequences of them.'' The loss for calculability is a gain for poetry.

    This view of symbols is at the heart of the dispute in artificial intelligence. ''The crux of the matter,'' Hofstadter argues, ''is that these people see symbols as lifeless, dead, passive objects - things to be manipulated by some overlying program. I see symbols - representational structures in the brain (or perhaps someday in a computer) - as active, like the imaginary hyperhyperteams in the ant colony. That is the level at which denotation takes place, not at the level of the single ant.'' The way symbols change and interact is not programmed in from above. It is determined not by formal rules, but by the churning of the entire system. ''We cannot decide what we will next think of,'' as Hofstadter says, ''or how our thought will progress.''=====https://www.nytimes.com/books/97/07/20/reviews/hofstadter-magazine.html
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
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