Monday, September 18, 2017

673: The Brain is not a Computer...

In 1984 John Searle wrote in “Minds, Brains and Science”: “ The prevailing view in philosophy, psychology, and artificial intelligence is one 
which emphasises the analogies between the functioning of the human brain and the functioning of digital computers. 
According to the most extreme version of this view, the brain is just a digital computer and the mind is just a computer program. (…)
On this view, any physical system whatever that had the right program with the right inputs and outputs would have a mind in exactly the same sense that you and I have minds.  (…)
Most people who hold this view think we have not yet designed programs which are minds. But there is pretty much general agreement among them 
that it's only a matter of time until computer scientists and workers in artificial intelligence design the appropriate hardware and programs
which will be the equivalent of human brains and minds. These will be artificial brains and minds which are in every way the equivalent of human brains and minds.”
In that publication he presents another time his famous “Chinese Room” argument, which he published in his paper, "Minds, Brains, and Programs", in “Behavioral and Brain Sciences” in 1980.
Look at the years: 1980, 1984. The years of the introduction of the personal computer. You could have 
such a magic machine on your own desk! A time of euphoria and unlimited expectations regarding computers.
Now 2017 we are more than 35 years and a lot of technological developments further. 
In contemporary philosophy the most common move is to insist that materialism must be right and that we must eliminate consciousness by reducing it to something else. 
The well-known philosopher, Daniel C. Dennett is an obvious example of a philosopher who adopts this position. 
Favourite candidates for the phenomena to which consciousness must be reduced are brain states described in purely "physical" terms and computer programs
But all of these reductionist attempts to eliminate consciousness are as hopeless as the dualism they were designed to supplant. 
In a way they are worse, because they deny the real existence of the conscious states they were supposed to explain
They end up by denying the obvious fact that we all have inner, qualitative, subjective states such as our pains and joys, memories and perceptions, thoughts and feelings, moods, regrets, and hungers.   
This urge to reductionism and materialism is motivated by the fear, that if we accept consciousness as having its own real existence, we will somehow be accepting dualism and rejecting the scientific worldview.
But as I said in a previous lecture: consciousness
is a natural, biological phenomenon. It is as much a part of our biological life as digestion, growth, or photosynthesis.
Consciousness is a natural biological phenomenon that does not fit comfortably into either of the traditional categories of mental and physical. 
It is caused by lower-level micro-processes in the brain and it is a feature of the brain at the higher macro levels.
Concepts like “mental” and “physical”, which refer to mutually exclusive categories, are probably outdated traditional concepts. We need new theories.
A start was already made by “The Chinese Room” argument. The sheer volume of the literature that has grown up around it,
mainly attempts to refute the argument, inspired Pat Hayes, a British computer scientist, to comment that the field of cognitive science ought to be redefined 
as "the ongoing research program of showing Searle's Chinese Room Argument to be false”.
Next time we’ll pay a visit to this Chinese Room and find out why the brain is not (like) a computer.
Thank you for your attention… ^_^

The Discussion  

[13:19] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:19] herman Bergson: I promised to tease you Bejiita :-)
[13:19] CB Axel: I am not at all familiar with the Chinese Room.
[13:19] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman
[13:19] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): well, a computer might seem indeed to be close to the brain,
[13:20] herman Bergson: You will be next Tuesday CB :-)
[13:20] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): like us it have 1. memory. input and output (for ex like hearing and speech) and a way to process information
[13:20] herman Bergson: We'll see next Tuesday, Bejiita :-)
[13:21] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i saw about a month ago that there were two computers who began to invent their own language and interact between themselves and actually the creators shut them downn immediately
[13:21] CB Axel: I think I heard about that, too, Gemma.
[13:21] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): fearing what they might actually propose to each other to do
[13:21] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): yes
[13:21] herman Bergson: Yeah I heard about that too, but I think it is just a nice story
[13:21] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): however in reality a computer is just a mockup of our own brains, a computer even with artificial inteligence can not really think, behind this apparent self learning capability it will just be as dumb
[13:21] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i don’t think so herman
[13:22] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): slavically following what we have programmed it to about how to learn
[13:22] herman Bergson: We'll address that issue next Tuesday again, Gemma :-)
[13:22] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ok  will do some research on that too
[13:23] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Bejiita is writing a novel:)
[13:23] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ohoh
[13:23] herman Bergson: yes ..would be interesting to find out the exact story
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): a computer might be able to self learn if programmed to but it will still work the same on the inside = billions of tiny switches = dumb and unable to feel anything
[13:23] CB Axel: I'd like to believe you, Bejiita.
[13:23] CB Axel: Aren't our brains made up of tiny switches? The synapses between neurons?
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): on the other hand, what causes us to feel and be aware
[13:24] herman Bergson: Well Bejiita, there you already admit that a computer does or can not have a mind like we have ?
[13:24] CB Axel: I guess our synapses are more complicated, though. Different kinds of receptors in each one.
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thats the issue, but i have a hard time a device made up of billions of the same devices that are inside my amplifier - transistors can be made to feel just because there are so many of them
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but who knows
[13:25] herman Bergson: Indeed Bejiita.....
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): it is a really tricky subject
[13:25] herman Bergson: To get an understanding of what consciousness is, think of that glass of water....
[13:25] CB Axel: Since we don't really know what makes us feeling creatures, where our consciousness comes from, we can't know what computers may do someday, can we?
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed not,
[13:26] herman Bergson: Yes we can CB :-)
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): woooo now my mind start to spin from conflicting thoughts here
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:26] herman Bergson: ok....hold on for a moment......
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): its a bit paradoxical
[13:26] herman Bergson: take this glass of water ....
[13:27] herman Bergson: there is water in the glass and it is liquid...
[13:27] herman Bergson: there are NOT to things..... water and the property of liquidity....
[13:28] herman Bergson: For centuries philosophers have discussed the ontologicla status of properties...
[13:28] herman Bergson: can liquidity exist as such...on its own...and what way....?
[13:28] herman Bergson: The answer today is simply NO
[13:28] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): true
[13:29] herman Bergson: no liquidity without H2O molecules at a given temperature....
[13:29] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): exactly
[13:29] herman Bergson: we have theries why the H2O molecules behave as they do.....that is physics...
[13:30] herman Bergson: we can even predict the behavior of the molecules when we change the temperature and so on....
[13:30] herman Bergson: Now look atthe brain in the same way.......
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ok
[13:31] herman Bergson: the billions of neurons (which consist of even more molecules) generate consciousness...
[13:31] herman Bergson: how...?
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): how
[13:31] herman Bergson: We do not yet know....
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): what makes that create feelings
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thats the hard part
[13:32] herman Bergson: but we neurons/no brain , no consciousness
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): is it just like the transistors in the computer (meaning the computer can really feel)
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): however there is one thing more
[13:32] herman Bergson: We already know what parts of the brain create certain conscious experiences....
[13:33] herman Bergson: Forget the computer metaphor, Bejiita
[13:33] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:33] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:33] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): he is stuck on it
[13:33] herman Bergson: When you look at the evolution of the brain, it has developed in three stages....
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i want to try grasp the analogy in some way
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:34] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): you really cant according to Herman
[13:34] herman Bergson: about  a 250 million years ago the spin and rbainstam developed
[13:35] herman Bergson: that part of the brain controls functions like breathing, heartbeat, hunger, feelings….
[13:35] herman Bergson: upon it developed what is called the limbic system.....
[13:36] herman Bergson: which is only  a 70 million years old...
[13:36] herman Bergson: It generates emotions and the like
[13:37] herman Bergson: and upon that evolved the neocortex....the part of our brain that contains our reasoning abilities and so on
[13:37] herman Bergson: The point is that these three systems cooperate together but not in a perfect way....
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:38] herman Bergson: the neocortex is not able in some cases to prevent you from getting a fobia...
[13:38] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i guess that the brains has to develop more
[13:38] herman Bergson: or to prevent you from bestial behavior....
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): true
[13:38] Ciska Riverstone: again I would throw experiences in the mix combined with how we humans use language and how that feedbacks into our brainsystem
[13:39] herman Bergson: Decent people turn into monsters under certain conditions....
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): particularly when drunk or high on something we can loose control and in worst case murder each other
[13:39] Zorba (code2.hax): Yes, consider the Standford experiment.
[13:39] herman Bergson: the jail experiment, Zorda?
[13:39] Zorba (code2.hax): yes
[13:40] herman Bergson: creepy yes
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): aaa i think i know about that
[13:40] herman Bergson: But what was your point Ciska?
[13:41] Ciska Riverstone: the answer lays in the mix of experiences and brain reactions to it which are conditioned from childhood on
[13:41] herman Bergson: the answer to what?
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: I try to search for a way to put it in short ;)
[13:42] herman Bergson: yes plz  ^_^
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: let me think another moment and go on
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: hahah
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:43] herman Bergson: The main point is, that  as Searle says, consciousness is a feature of the brain
[13:43] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): got that so far
[13:43] herman Bergson: not some generated independent entity
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:44] herman Bergson: like liquidity is afeature of H2O molecules.....and not a caused effect that exists independently
[13:45] herman Bergson: However, we do not yet know how braincells generate consciousness
[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): why do we have consciousness?
[13:46] herman Bergson: Ther emight come a day when we have developed a better theoretical context, appropriate measurement tools and so on, that we can observe how the system works
[13:46] CB Axel: Since consciousness seems to come from a certain area of the brain, the very primitive part, have there been any studies about how the cells in that part differ from those of other parts?
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): we need to be able to measure it in some way like we can an EEG today but more advanced
[13:47] herman Bergson: Tha tis a tricky question if understood wrongly, Beertje...
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ore like copying the brains "operation system" onto an USB stick and study it
[13:47] herman Bergson: The question is only meaningful when your "WHY" means "HOW COME" that we have consciousness
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): which i doubt can be done
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): no I ment really WHY
[13:48] herman Bergson: If you read the WHY as "FOR WHAT REASON, you ar eon the wrong track
[13:48] CB Axel: What evolutionary reason is there for consciousness?
[13:49] herman Bergson: survival
[13:49] herman Bergson: survival of the species
[13:49] CB Axel: Trees seem to survive just fine without consciousness.
[13:49] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ah
[13:49] CB Axel: I think I'd be much better off being unconscious. °͜°
[13:49] herman Bergson: consciousness is not a precondition for survival....
[13:50] herman Bergson: certain tress do not survive under certain conditions.....
[13:50] herman Bergson: so they spread out towards locations with more appropriate conditions
[13:50] herman Bergson: when they are not found the trees get extinct
[13:51] herman Bergson: but if you are able to insects have more chance to survive
[13:51] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): smarter than us sometimes
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): they at least always find a way to bite me while in the middle of my golf swing
[13:52] Ciska Riverstone: you did ask " how is consciousness generated" and for me the answer in short is through experience - if we let go of dualism experience of all kinds do "infliter" the system in an osmotic way.: something happens to us and we neurologically make an inner note of it. At the same time we get information of others about what we experienced (language) which gives us the possibility to express (verbally) how we understand ourselves - of what we are conscious. That invites again a mirror back and so on- thats the "osmotic" picture and thats basically how I would thesis how consciousness comes into existence in one human being.
[13:52] herman Bergson: when you are able to experience pain and pleasure you even get more faculties to survive...
[13:53] herman Bergson: oops ..that is a complex answer Ciska....needs time to digest that....:-)
[13:53] Ciska Riverstone: sorry I tried to make it short
[13:53] herman Bergson: Allow me to save it for next time...
[13:53] Ciska Riverstone: but it did not really work hahah
[13:53] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): good idea
[13:53] Ciska Riverstone: sure
[13:53] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:54] herman Bergson: do you have any references for your answer, Ciska?
[13:54] Ciska Riverstone: well let me think hard which talk I find for that one ;)
[13:55] Zorba (code2.hax): I would contend that we inherit consciousness, and need to nothing to have access to it if I'm understanding Ciska's comment properly.
[13:55] Zorba (code2.hax): need to do*
[13:55] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): another question is is the brain truly analog or digital, (firing on and off), the digital nature of a computer is another thing making it unlikley to be able to feel cause the world is analog, not digital and made up of 2 numbers
[13:55] Ciska Riverstone: no I was trying to outline the process ZORBA!!!!!
[13:55] Ciska Riverstone: of how it comes into existence
[1[13:56] Zorba (code2.hax): I think I understood that. I'm saying it exists in us even before we're born. The baby in the womb has been though to have consciousness.
[13:56] Ciska Riverstone: I forgot that one is with the name
[13:56] Ciska Riverstone: cannot say ur name until I put it out ;)
[13:56] herman Bergson: This tends  again to a kind of dualism......
[13:57] herman Bergson: Consciousness comes into existence due to the growth of a brain in the organism.....
[13:57] Zorba (code2.hax): As you stated earlier, it's an attribute of the brain.
[13:57] herman Bergson: what we inherit are genes, but no consciousness in my opinion
[13:57] Zorba (code2.hax): I agree, with the brain, comes consciousness.
[13:58] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:58] CB Axel: Sure, we're all born with it now, but what was the first creature ever to be a conscious being?
[13:58] herman Bergson: But I have to close-read your statement Ciska
[13:58] Zorba (code2.hax): No idea, CB
[13:59] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i wil have to go now
[13:59] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): have an appointment
[13:59] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): bye Gemma
[13:59] Ciska Riverstone: have a nice day gemma
[13:59] CB Axel: Bye, Gemma. I hope we see you Tuesday.
[13:59] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cu gemma
[13:59] herman Bergson: the first creature that could respond on physical experiences, I'd say...
[13:59] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): wil try to make it Tuesday
[13:59] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[14:00] herman Bergson: Thanks for your participation Gemma
[14:00] CB Axel: I wonder what that creature was and what it thought about.
[14:00] herman Bergson: the amoebe that moved away from pain and was attracted to pleasure
[14:01] herman Bergson: don’t confuse consciousness with self-consciousness!
[14:02] Zorba (code2.hax): I think we should also be careful to separate reactions to input from consciousness. A Venus fly trap will close when a fly touches a certain part of it, but is it conscious? I can program a computer to do things based on input, but it's not conscious.
[14:03] herman Bergson: Crosssed my mind too Zorba.....
[14:03] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): trye
[14:03] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed
[14:04] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): a venus trap might have some sub conscious thing but that is like heartbeat or our own digestive system, it works sub conscious and we can not affect it in anyway
[14:04] herman Bergson: in the previous lecture I quoted Searle's definition of consciousness:"consciousness" refers to those states of sentience and awareness that typically begin when we awake from a dreamless sleep and continue until we go to sleep again, or fall into a coma or die or otherwise become "unconscious."
[14:05] Zorba (code2.hax) nods
[14:05] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[14:05] herman Bergson: this excludes the plants at least ^_^
[14:05] CB Axel: And the amoeba
[14:05] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[14:05] herman Bergson smiles
[14:06] herman Bergson: ok CB...bad luck for the amoebe :-))
[14:06] CB Axel: °͜°
[14:06] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): however an experiment have shown (even mythbusters tried this) that slapping a plant produce a measurable signal from it like it felt pain
[14:06] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and after all plants are also alive
[14:07] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but i don’t think they are concious, they cant see, talk or move
[14:07] herman Bergson: alive they are Bejiita..but when we start with ourselves and go down the ladder of organisms, we do not know where consciousness kicks in....
[14:07] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[14:08] herman Bergson: Like we have discussions About Animal Rights and the question whether fishes experience stress
[14:08] herman Bergson: is this conscious experience or not?
[14:09] herman Bergson: How to deal with all animals we send to the slaughterhouses?
[14:09] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): or of my parents trees were in pain while i trimmed them last weekend
[14:09] herman Bergson: What to do with animals in zoos?
[14:09] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): I was thinking about that too
[14:09] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[14:09] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i hope they weren’t
[14:10] herman Bergson: You could say that to experience pain you need a central nervous system, Bejiita
[14:10] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): animals have that
[14:10] herman Bergson: indeed Beertje...
[14:10] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): true and i don’t think they have such receptors, but how would that explain this signal then in that experiment
[14:11] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i need to check this up a bit more
[14:11] herman Bergson: Guess we all have to do some checking up after this discussion ^_^
[14:11] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed
[14:11] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): been very interesting thats one thing for sure
[14:12] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[14:12] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): after these lessons we all will be vegetarians:)
[14:12] herman Bergson: So, thank you all again for your participation
[14:12] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[14:12] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cu soon again
[14:12] CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.
[14:12] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^
[14:12] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): bye for now
[14:12] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[14:12] CB Axel: Bye, bye. See you all Tuesday.
[14:12] Zorba (code2.hax): well, we'll be vegetarians unless we find out that plants feel pain.. ;-)
[14:13] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Have a goodnight all and thank you Herman
[14:13] Guestboook van tipjar stand: bergfrau Apfelbaum donated L$100. Thank you very much, it is much appreciated!
[14:13] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): lol Zorba
[14:13] Zorba (code2.hax): tc all. Nice discussion.
[14:13] bergfrau Apfelbaum: thank you herman and class:-)
[14:13] herman Bergson: Then we wouldl be in serious trouble Zorba :-)
[14:13] Zorba (code2.hax): I think so too :-)
[14:13] herman Bergson: Makes even cows murderers
[14:14] Zorba (code2.hax): Murderers are to be executed, so we can go back to eating cows then....
[14:14] herman Bergson: Nice one
[14:14] herman Bergson: Class dismissed….. ^_^

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

672: The Biology of Consciousness

"How do brain processes cause consciousness?" is philosophically a tricky question. 
Many philosophers and even some scientists think that the relation cannot be causal, because a causal relation between brain and consciousness    
seems to them to imply some version of dualism of brain and consciousness, which they want to reject on other grounds.
We know what a brain is, but do we exactly know what consciousness is? Let’s give a common sense definition of the term:
"consciousness" refers to those states of sentience and awareness that typically begin when we awake from a dreamless sleep 
and continue until we go to sleep again, or fall into a coma or die or otherwise become "unconscious."
By this definition a system is either conscious or it isn't, but within the field of consciousness there are states of intensity ranging from drowsiness to full awareness. 
Consciousness so defined is an inner, first-person, qualitative phenomenon. Humans and higher animals are obviously conscious.
You should not confused consciousness with the special case of self-consciousness. Most conscious states, feeling a pain, for example, do not necessarily involve self-consciousness.
Here comes this special concept of a Self into play. Consciousness as such, however, does not necessarily imply self-consciousness or self-awareness.
Now let’s look at probably the most famous problem with consciousness.
In the seventeenth century Descartes made a sharp distinction between the physical reality described by science 
and the mental reality of the soul, which he considered to be outside the scope of scientific research. 
This dualism of conscious mind and unconscious matter was useful in the scientific research of the time, 
both because it helped to get the religious authorities off scientists' backs and because the physical world was mathematically treatable in a way that the mind did not seem to be.
But this places consciousness outside the realm of the physical world, although it is common knowledge nowadays , that the physical brain causes consciousness.
In my view we have to abandon dualism and start with the assumption that consciousness is an ordinary biological phenomenon comparable with growth or digestion.
However, if brain processes cause consciousness, then it seems to many people that there must be two different things
brain processes as causes and conscious states as effects, and this seems to imply dualism again.
In our official theories of causation we typically suppose that all causal relations must be between discrete events ordered sequentially in time. For example, throwing stones cause broken windows
Certainly, many cause-and-effect relations are like that, but by no means all. Look around you at the objects in your vicinity 
and think of the causal explanation of the fact that the table exerts pressure on the rug. This is explained by the force of gravity, but gravity is not an event
Or think of the solidity of the table. It is explained causally by the behavior of the molecules of which the table is composed. But the solidity of the table is not an extra event; it is just a feature of the table.

Such examples of non-event causation give us appropriate models for understanding the relation between my present state of consciousness and the underlying neurobiological processes that cause it. 
Lower-level processes in the brain cause my present state of consciousness, but that state is not a separate entity from my brain; rather it is just a feature of my brain at the present time.
So, basically the idea is: throw a bunch of molecules together and the resulting substance becomes the cause  of emerging features. That is something like, brain cells are put together and become conscious and even self-conscious.
Thank you for your attention …^_^

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
John Searle: The Mystery of Consciousness (1997)
Antonio Damasio: Self comes to Mind (2010) Bruin/F. Jongepier/ Maargt: IK, Filosofie van het Zelf (2017)

The Discussion

[13:18] herman Bergson: You may relax now :-)
[13:18] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): :)
[13:18] herman Bergson: BAsic idea is that brain and consciousness are not two seperate things
[13:18] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): one thing causes the other
[13:19] herman Bergson: consciousness is the result of the configuration of our braincells
[13:19] CB Axel: I noticed that both you, Herman, and Dr. Damasio speak of regaining consciousness after a dreamless sleep. Does that mean that when we are dreaming, that's considered conscious?
[13:19] herman Bergson: a special kind of..yes
[13:19] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): it is like a computer where the hardware is the brain and the consciousness is the currently running software at the moment
[13:20] CB Axel: I think my software needs an update.
[13:20] CB Axel: Maybe the hardware, too.
[13:20] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): right
[13:20] herman Bergson: We'll get to that later Bejiita, but this computer analogy is questionable
[13:20] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): brain cells are thrown together
[13:20] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): likes that part
[13:21] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): for example my computer is now "conscious" of second life but not of Unity for example cause while it is on the drive i have it not running on the cpu and in memory at the moment
[13:21] herman Bergson: We love to compare a brain with a computer......but it is a questionable analogy
[13:21] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): just like you can have stuff in the brain you are not concious of at the moment until you come to think of it
[13:21] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): remembering stuff
[13:22] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): they are indeed different but it is pretty close
[13:22] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): strange that braincells in a jar can never be concious
[13:22] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): although they are braincells
[13:22] herman Bergson: We'll discuss The Chinese Room argument of John Searle next time'll love it ^_^
[13:22] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): however the term electronic brain is not really a good name for a computer, this is what they were known as at the time of Eniac and other of the very first machines like this
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): aa ok
[13:23] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i think they all need the body to work together beertje
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:23] herman Bergson: Yes Beertje, but that is just a technical matter....
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): computer means literarily calculator which is how a computer does all its work
[13:23] herman Bergson: We have discovered why H2O molecules become rigid stuff due to below zero temperatures
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): al is math
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): all
[13:24] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): forget the computer bej
[13:24] herman Bergson: we can cause it....predict it, explain it, reproduce it...
[13:24] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed, everything have properties
[13:24] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): we have been doing all this for centuries
[13:24] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): bck to the neanderthal
[13:25] herman Bergson: we do not know so much in detail about brain cells, but it is thinkable that one day we do....
[13:25] herman Bergson: and maybe then the cells in your jar will say Hello to you Beertje ^_^
[13:25] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): amazing stuff
[13:25] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed
[13:25] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): maybe they will do that:)
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): there are a lot we dont know yet but hopefully we will soon
[13:26] herman Bergson: The idea to treat consciousness as a biological feature of the brain is an idea of John Searle
[13:26] herman Bergson: We still have a long long way to go however...
[13:27] herman Bergson: our neurobiological knowledge is limited still
[13:27] CB Axel: So consciousness is a function of the brain the way excreting insulin is a function of the pancreas?
[13:27] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): oh goodness
[13:27] herman Bergson: In a way, yes CB
[13:27] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): interesting
[13:28] herman Bergson: That is a way science looks at it at the present
[13:28] herman Bergson: but there still are dualists
[13:29] herman Bergson: Among scientists and philosophers...
[13:29] herman Bergson: Eccles, Penrose, Chamler (if I spell that last name correctly)
[13:30] herman Bergson: But I find the biological approach most promising
[13:30] Athwale: Chalmer
[13:31] herman Bergson: Ahh thnx Athwale....Chalmer....
[13:31] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): why promising?
[13:31] herman Bergson: Because it opens the gates to testable hypotheses....
[13:32] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): real science
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah¨
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes
[13:32] herman Bergson: like we can find out why molecules stop moving due to temperature, we may find out how the electricity of the braincells create consciousness
[13:33] herman Bergson: consciousness is just that our sensory machines are turned on...
[13:33] herman Bergson: when asleep they are turned off :-)
[13:34] CB Axel: Not always during sleep.
[13:34] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): That is interesting ... when mountain climbers talk about loosing abilities to think well when they are high up and cold
[13:34] herman Bergson: no...
[13:34] CB Axel: I often have dreams that are influenced by sounds around me.
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed it can depend
[13:35] CB Axel: That's right, Gemma. Brain cells need to have warmth to work well.
[13:35] herman Bergson: Yes CB....somehow sounds can be registered…even under anaesthesia....or what do you call that condition
[13:35] CB Axel: And the right nutrients and pH.
[13:35] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): another strange thing that can be a bit scary if you dont know what it is is being awake and not being able to move, sleep paralysis i think it is called, it is some form of protective muscle shut down and basically the brain have not turned on the muscles yet at the moment you awake
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): first time it feels really strange but it only lasts a very short time
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and not very common
[13:36] CB Axel: I've had that happen, Bejiita.
[13:36] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i don’t see any scientist on top of mount Everest to study that fo ra while
[13:38] herman Bergson: Any questions or remarks left? :-)
[13:38] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): thinking too hard
[13:38] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): I have to think about this subject
[13:38] herman Bergson: Then, next time we might discuss why the brain is NOT a computer ^_^
[13:38] CB Axel: I need to read the Damasio book I have.
[13:38] herman Bergson: If it were only to tease Bejiita ^_^
[13:38] CB Axel: LOL
[13:38] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): oh let us know cb
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): haha
[13:39] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:39] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:39] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): if you make it all the way
[13:39] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): :)
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): well a computer can not feel
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but we can
[13:39] herman Bergson: Which one CB?
[13:39] CB Axel: I have to start sleeping better before I can tackle it.
[13:39] CB Axel: I can't concentrate well.
[13:39] herman Bergson: Self comes to Mind?
[13:39] CB Axel: Yes. That's the one.
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): me as well, been a LOT of stuff today, more then first planned
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but all went well
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): really tired now though
[13:40] CB Axel: See. I couldn't even concentrate on the title let alone the content. °͜°
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:40] herman Bergson: Take your time CB, books are patient friends
[13:40] CB Axel: Yes, they are! °͜°
[13:40] CB Axel: And I have a ton of books I haven't read yet.
[13:41] CB Axel: And I hear of more and more I'd like to read.
[13:41] herman Bergson: They'll wait for you
[13:41] CB Axel: I think I'll go to one of our city parks and read there for awhile.
[13:41] herman Bergson: I spend more time on reading  myself these days.....
[13:42] CB Axel: That's one of my favorite things to do.
[13:42] herman Bergson: Books in stead of screens
[13:42] CB Axel: I read my books on a screen. My Kindle. °͜°
[13:42] herman Bergson: Kind of rediscovering the experience :-)
[13:42] CB Axel: I have such a short attention span that I like to be able to switch from book to book.
[13:43] CB Axel: If I carried around all the books I'm reading now, I'd injure myself. LOL
[13:43] herman Bergson: I am reading in at least 4 books at this time...:-)
[13:43] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i used to have two or three books going at a time
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): you can borrow my forklift cb
[13:43] herman Bergson: Damasio, Dennet and two Dutch authors
[13:43] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:43] CB Axel: LOL. Thank you, bejiita.
[13:44] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i don't have much time to read with a toddler in the house:)
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): speaking of that i need to take some time rearange the storage area at work tomorrow cause even its alm at moment the place is a mess and have no idea how to rearrange everything
[13:44] CB Axel: Read to the toddler. °͜°
[13:44] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): true
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): at least i have plenty of time to do it
[13:45] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): read anything to the toddler
[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes i do that:) Woezel and Pip
[13:45] herman Bergson: Very nice and exciting Beertje :-))
[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): smiles
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:46] herman Bergson: Let me thank you all again for your participation and see you nexr Thursday.....^_^
[13:46] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:46] herman Bergson: Class dismissed :-)
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): aaa cu then
[13:47] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): hope to make it on time Thursday
[13:47] CB Axel: Thank you, Herman. See you all on Thursday.
[13:47] Athwale: thank you Herman
[13:47] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): bye for now
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): bye for now
[13:47] herman Bergson: I'll keep my fingers crossed Gemma :-)

Friday, September 8, 2017

671: The Mystery of Consciousness

Before we jump on the self, we first might ask the question, where our self comes from. What is it in us that experiences this self or generates it?
The answer seems quite obvious. It is our mind that does the trick, that generates the faculty to look at itself. 
And, of course, that mind or consciousness is generated by the brain. Seems all quite clear.
“ We find consciousness obvious, says the well known neuroscientist Antonio Damasio (2010), because it is so available,
so easy to use , so stylish in its appearing and disappearing and yet we face a mystery, when we think about it. What is consciousness made of? ”
The most important problem in the biological sciences is one that until quite recently many scientists did not regard consciousness as a suitable subject for scientific investigation at all. 
It is this, according to John Searle (1997): How exactly do neurobiological processes in the brain cause consciousness? 
The enormous variety of stimuli that affect us, for example, when we taste wine, look at the sky, smell a rose, listen to a concert,
trigger sequences of neurobiological processes that eventually cause unified, well-ordered, coherent, inner, subjective states of awareness or sentience. 
Now what exactly happens between the assault of the stimuli on our receptors and the experience of consciousness, 
and how exactly do the intermediate processes cause the conscious states?  
But this is not only about perceptual cases. Also feelings, worries, itches and experiences of ecstasy are caused by brain processes.
As far as we know the relevant processes take place at the microlevels of synapses, neurons, neuron columns, and cell assemblies. 
All of our conscious life is caused by these lower-level processes, but we have only the foggiest idea of how it all works.
But this is said to be caused by the brain only. That is a material object full of biochemistry. So, you might ask, 
why don't the relevant specialists get on with it and figure out how it works? Why should it be any harder than finding out the causes of cancer?
There are some difficulties here. By current estimate, the human brain has over 100 billion neurons
and each neuron has synaptic connections with other neurons ranging in number from a few hundred to many tens of thousands. 
All of this enormously complex structure is massed together in a space smaller than a soccer ball. 
Furthermore, it is hard to work on the micro-elements in the brain without damaging them or killing the organism.
These are, you could say, just practical problems, which can be solved in some future. I assume that this will be the case indeed.
fMRI scanners are very crude instruments, if you compare them with an electron microscope. Maybe whole new instruments have to be developed to look deep into the brain.
In addition to the practical difficulties, there are several philosophical and theoretical obstacles and confusions that make it hard to pose and answer the right questions. 
For example, the common-sense way in which I have just pose the question, "How do brain processes cause consciousness?" is already philosophically loaded.   
We’ll look into that next Tuesday….Thank you for your attention ^_^

The Discussion

[13:25] .:    
[13:26] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman
[13:26] Ciska Riverstone: I feel the need to quote doug adams
[13:26] Ciska Riverstone: shall i?
[13:26] herman Bergson: plz do
[13:26] Ciska Riverstone: “If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.” ― Douglas Adams
[13:27] CB Axel nods
[13:27] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i guess that would be the case indeed
[13:27] Ciska Riverstone: that came to mind during your last part ...
[13:27] Ciska Riverstone: I strongly doubt that we will be able to really understand whats going on
[13:28] CB Axel: Also, it's hard to study our own brains using the brains we have.
[13:28] Ciska Riverstone: because when we take things apart - something else does happen with the material
[13:28] Ciska Riverstone: yes cb
[13:28] herman Bergson: That is an interesting remark Ciska...for there is no real argument to support that view
[13:29] Ciska Riverstone: no?
[13:29] Ciska Riverstone: for example
[13:29] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): so they have to study the brain material without taking it apart
[13:29] Ciska Riverstone: when you make brain scans
[13:29] herman Bergson: I would say no indeed :-))
[13:30] Ciska Riverstone: well there is this example with the guys who are scanned while using a race simulator
[13:30] Ciska Riverstone: their neurons fire but they do fire differently strong
[13:30] Ciska Riverstone: when using it on different people
[13:30] Ciska Riverstone: people who like racing
[13:30] Ciska Riverstone: have different response then people who do not
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ok
[13:31] herman Bergson: yes..I understand...
[13:31] CB Axel: Kind of like how musicians brains work differently than non-musicians.
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i guess they get more excited
[13:31] Ciska Riverstone: so the component which is different is the experience: I dislike or like something of the input I get
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): the ones liking it
[13:31] herman Bergson: But that is not the issue...
[13:31] Ciska Riverstone: well it is
[13:31] Ciska Riverstone: because the firing of the neurons depends on it
[13:31] herman Bergson: that is just based on the tools and insights we have today...
[13:32] Ciska Riverstone: well if we have different tools
[13:32] Ciska Riverstone: the neurons will still fire more or less
[13:32] Ciska Riverstone: that does not depend on the tools
[13:32] herman Bergson: we discover higgs
[13:32] Ciska Riverstone: well- so what?
[13:32] herman Bergson: in theory they were predicted...but we hadnt the tools to discover them
[13:33] herman Bergson: now we have....
[13:33] CB Axel: So you think that some day we will have tools that will help us find our selves?
[13:33] Ciska Riverstone: yes  - we can see small things but we cannot see experiences...
[13:33] Ciska Riverstone: thats my argument.
[13:33] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): aa
[13:33] herman Bergson: We didn’t know a thing about bacteria or viruses until we had the microscope
[13:33] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i guess
[13:34] herman Bergson: ahh....
[13:34] herman Bergson: That is a good point indeed Ciska....
[13:35] Ciska Riverstone: then .. the other thing I wonder is
[13:35] herman Bergson: Your argument is based on the dichotomy of what we use to cal "physical" and "mental"
[13:35] Ciska Riverstone: and maybe time?
[13:35] CB Axel: But if our experiences add up to how our neurons interact with one another, we may be able to watch that interaction.
[13:35] herman Bergson: you can see physical things....but mental things you can not see
[13:35] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): true
[13:36] Ciska Riverstone: yes cb - there are some basic explainations of how the neuronal bridgebuilding works...
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): same basically as electricity in a wire you can not see even if you xray it and thats all it is, electrical impulses going through us
[13:36] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): the only way to see electricity is to create a spark
[13:37] herman Bergson: Yes Bejiita....good example
[13:37] herman Bergson: but there is more....
[13:37] herman Bergson: maybe we have to revise our terminology....
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but you can on the other hand measure electricity with for ex a multimeter and the same goes for brain waves
[13:38] herman Bergson: the dichotomy mental/physical is not an ontological fact  but a theoretical o construct
[13:38] CB Axel: Hi, Gemma.
[13:38] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): so I'm Sorry!
[13:38] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): I sorry..
[13:38] Ciska Riverstone: hiya gemma
[13:38] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): hi
[13:39] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): was sure i would be home on time but no
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): there is a game i have tried a few times called brainball where you put a helmet in and it can feel how relaed you are and the most relaxed person then makes the machine move a ball into the other more tense and focised persons goal
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): focused
[13:39] herman Bergson: I know it...
[13:39] CB Axel: Sounds like biofeedback, Bejiita.
[13:40] herman Bergson: Isn’t it based on alpha waves, Bejiita?
[13:40] herman Bergson: Was something like that CB
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): have to be something like an ordinary EEG scanner i think
[13:40] herman Bergson: yes
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thats like a multimeter, you can measure but not physically see
[13:42] herman Bergson: As you see...not an easy subject to deal with...guess we are conscious of that :-))
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i guess so
[13:42] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes
[13:43] Ciska Riverstone: hehehe
[13:43] herman Bergson: BUt dont worry....we still have time for new lectures...
[13:43] CB Axel: We are conscious of the fact that consciousness is a difficult subject to study.
[13:43] herman Bergson: Besides that...
[13:43] herman Bergson: to put you in the middle of the debate...
[13:44] herman Bergson: just start here...
[13:44] herman Bergson:
[13:44] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): ah a TED talk
[13:44] herman Bergson: Damasio himself :-)
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): oki
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:44] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): bookmarked
[13:44] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i like TEDs
[13:45] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): yes they are very interesting
[13:45] Ciska Riverstone: me too - just the right length for me ;)
[13:45] herman Bergson: Interesting analysis of the self
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah¨
[13:45] herman Bergson: yes you should take the 18 minutes to listen to him :-)
[13:46] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): will do
[13:46] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): bookmarked it
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): me too
[13:46] herman Bergson:'ve got your
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:46] Ciska Riverstone: heheh
[13:46] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): ok
[13:46] herman Bergson: Class dismissed..^_^
[13:46] CB Axel: I'm looking forward to watching that.
[13:46] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes
[13:46] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): lo really fast
[13:46] herman Bergson: And thank you all again :-))
[13:46] CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.
[13:46] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:47] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and cu next time
[13:47] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Dankjewel Herman:)
[13:47] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): hope to be here Tuesday but not sure
[13:47] herman Bergson: Wonder where you came from Gemma ? :-))
[13:47] Ciska Riverstone: have a great day/night everyone
[13:47] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): bye for now
[13:47] Ciska Riverstone: welterusten Beertje
[13:47] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): welterusten Ciska"))
[13:47] CB Axel: Good night, everyone. See you Tuesday.
[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Have a goodnight :)