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The problems of Consciousness and Causation seem like the biggest mysteries facing any attempt to produce a philosophy of science that can explain the world. So it seems natural to ask how they are related, and while this commonly runs into the "Does Consciousness cause Collapse of the Wave Function?" I think there are higher level considerations at play ->

One relation would be we need Intentionality to talk about causes, as that is how we discern the cause from the effect – by dividing the world into the human conception of the world we hold in our minds.

Another would be Consciousness and Causation concern the actual nature of the relata whereas Physicalism seems to fundamentally be about the study of their relations?

Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’

The Puerto Rico work is one of just a handful of studies assessing this vital issue, but those that do exist are deeply worrying. Flying insect numbers in Germany’s natural reserves have plunged 75% in just 25 years. The virtual disappearance of birds in an Australian eucalyptus forest was blamed on a lack of insects caused by drought and heat. Lister and his colleague Andrés García also found that insect numbers in a dry forest in Mexico had fallen 80% since the 1980s.

“We are essentially destroying the very life support systems that allow us to sustain our existence on the planet, along with all the other life on the planet,” Lister said. “It is just horrifying to watch us decimate the natural world like this.”

Philosophy & Science / The Benefits of Optimism Are Real
« on: January 14, 2019, 10:11:46 pm »
The Benefits of Optimism Are Real

Far from being delusional or faith-based, having a positive outlook in difficult circumstances is not only an important predictor of resilience—how quickly people recover from adversity—but it is the most important predictor of it. People who are resilient tend to be more positive and optimistic compared to less-resilient folks; they are better able to regulate their emotions; and they are able to maintain their optimism through the most trying circumstances.

This is what Dr. Dennis Charney, the dean of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, found when he examined approximately 750 Vietnam war veterans who were held as prisoners of war for six to eight years. Tortured and kept in solitary confinement, these 750 men were remarkably resilient. Unlike many fellow veterans, they did not develop depression or posttraumatic stress disorder after their release, even though they endured extreme stress. What was their secret? After extensive interviews and tests, Charney found ten characteristics that set them apart. The top one was optimism. The second was altruism. Humor and having a meaning in life—or something to live for—were also important.
For many years, psychologists, following Freud, thought that people simply needed to express their anger and anxiety—blow off some steam—to be happier. But this is wrong. Researchers, for example, asked people who were mildly-to-moderately depressed to dwell on their depression for eight minutes. The researchers found that such ruminating caused the depressed people to become significantly more depressed and for a longer period of time than people who simply distracted themselves thinking about something else. Senseless suffering—suffering that lacks a silver lining—viciously leads to more depression.

Counter-intuitively, another study found that facing down adversity by venting—hitting a punching bag or being vengeful toward someone who makes you angry— actually leads to people feeling far worse, not better. Actually, doing nothing at all in response to anger was more effective than expressing the anger in these destructive ways.

Even more effective than doing nothing is channeling your depression toward a productive, positive goal, as Pat and Pi do.

Study Tackles Neuroscience Claims to Have Disproved “Free Will” by Matt Shipman

“Meanwhile, the journal articles that drew the most forceful conclusions often didn’t even assess the neural activity in question – which means their conclusions were based on speculation,” Dubljevic says. “It is crucial to critically examine whether the methods used actually support the claims being made.”

This is important because what people are told about free will can affect their behavior.

“Numerous studies suggest that fostering a belief in determinism influences behaviors like cheating,” Dubljevic says. “Promoting an unsubstantiated belief on the metaphysical position of non-existence of free will may increase the likelihood that people won’t feel responsible for their actions if they think their actions were predetermined.”

And this isn’t a problem solely within the neuroscience community. Earlier work by Dubljevic and his collaborators found challenges in how this area of research has been covered by the press and consumed by the public.

“To be clear, we’re not taking a position on free will,” Dubljevic says. “We’re just saying neuroscience hasn’t definitively proven anything one way or the other.”

Panpsychism: 3 Reasons Why Our World is Brimming with Sentience

These following arguments – briefly:

that the mental cannot emerge from ‘matter’,
that ‘matter’ is but an abstraction,
and that the brain is not a necessary condition for mentality

– will be elucidated by combining and augmenting the thoughts of various thinkers. Thereafter certain reasons for the rejection of panpsychism will be considered – reasons histrionic, philosophic, cultural, and historic. Ultimately my intention is not merely to inform the reader as to what panpsychism is and why it is held, but to instill in the reader the cognizance that this mind-matter theory is not only an option that is serious, but moreover, the option most plausible.

RPG Discussion / Sufficiently Advanced Diceless RPG
« on: January 12, 2019, 09:43:15 am »
PWYW at Drivethru RPG, I'd say check it out and if you like it show the creator some love via your wallet.

Sufficiently Advanced is a transhuman roleplaying game of the far future.

Humanity has been reconstructed by time and technology. Wield incredible technological enhancements and thousands of years of expertise, or the ability to mold the story of the game. Play a digital intelligence with remote-controlled robot drones, a diplomatic team that shares a group-mind, a soldier infused with nanotechnology, or even a living starship. Play an Old-Worlder witnessing our fantastic universe for the first time, or a Masquerader taking on different identities each day.

This second edition runs on an entirely new diceless system. What consequences you are willing to accept in order to win? Or, when you are outmatched, can your failure help your team succeed? Use Plots and Projects to change the world, and force Complications on your characters now to warp the plot in their favor later on.

Discover five different futures: To The Stars, where you form a first-contact team reconnecting with the lost seeds of humanity. The Divide, full of espionage and intrigue, where trust is hard to find and the sides are ever shifting. The Powder Keg, a universe tumbling into a war that may mean the end of everything. Sublight, where secret societies champion their causes by transmitting their operatives across the stars. The Patent Office, where your team of Inspectors seeks to protect humanity from its own worst excesses.

The future is bright, but not without danger. Come explore it with us.

Also get the Chronotech supplement.


Everyone wants to know the future. Now everyone can.

Build characters with Chronotech, a new Capability that brings information from the future. Use autoredactors to change sensitive information before your opponents steal it. Loop through time to line up the perfect shot or make the perfect argument. Use historical information from the future to uncover secret organizations today.

Chronotech has new material for GMs too: new civilizations and societies based around issues of time travel and foreknowledge. Learn how the universe's existing civilizations will react to the ultimate disruptive technology, and get advice on how to handle the tricky subject of time travel in your game.

Chronotech is a supplement for Sufficiently Advanced. It is focused on the second edition, but contains backwards-compatible rules for the first edition as well.

'Bionic mushrooms' fuse nanotech, bacteria and fungi

In their latest feat of engineering, researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have taken an ordinary white button mushroom from a grocery store and made it bionic, supercharging it with 3D-printed clusters of cyanobacteria that generate electricity and swirls of graphene nanoribbons that can collect the current.

"In this case, our system -- this bionic mushroom -- produces electricity," said Manu Mannoor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stevens. "By integrating cyanobacteria that can produce electricity, with nanoscale materials capable of collecting the current, we were able to better access the unique properties of both, augment them, and create an entirely new functional bionic system."

Opening Note: See What do we know about the risks of psychedelics? & free documentary What's in My Baggie? There is an incredible danger in thinking you can just find good psychedelics via illegal markets, I can say that from personal experience as I was attacked by a friend who thought LSD could cure his depression.

The Great God Pan is Not Dead: Alfred North Whitehead and the Psychedelic Mode of Perception

Eternal Objects are Whitehead’s variant of Plato’s Forms, of Russell’s Universals, and of Santayana’s Essences. They are every potential form of mentality: ideas (numbers, classes, etc.), emotions (fear, joy, etc.), sensations (colours, tastes, etc.), and other human and inhuman forms. One must be careful to distinguish these potential forms of mentality from actual forms of mentality.  The latter exist in time as the subjective phases of an organism, for instance as the thoughts we harbour during the day. The former, the Eternal Objects, can exist in time when they so ingress into actuality; but they mostly subsist out of time—eternally—in their unprehended totality.

Viewed thus the objects of our mentality are eternal, though our mentality is temporal. As the reality of such metaphysical objects may seem dubious to many, let us take an example to demonstrate the reasoning. Consider the sensation whiteness as an Eternal Object, or as a Universal as Whitehead’s student, collaborator and friend Bertrand Russell calls such objects.

Thus whiteness, colours, and all other objects of mentality are deemed metaphysical. Let us delve into the physical to examine the point. A man is seeing a patch of white. Where is this whiteness?

(1) We cannot say it is in the physical object as such, say a cloud. Here there exist the molecules constituting the cloud, which themselves are not white (akin to Berkeley’s emphasis[iv]).

(2) Further we cannot say that whiteness is in the certain reflected electromagnetic wave as

    (a) the wave without a perceiver will not be white,
    (b) the same wave can be perceived as different colours (inverted spectrum, synaesthesia), and
    (c) the same perceived colour can have different waves (metamerism).

(3) The whiteness is not actually in the anatomy of the percipient nor in its functioning. It is not in the eyes, nerves, brain: within the skull pervades darkness. The brain does not turn white when intuiting whiteness, as it does not turn triangular when intuiting a triangle.

(4) Though the object that is whiteness is correlated with activity in the brain, with the electromagnetic light wave, and with the cloud, this correlate is not thereby determined as identical to any of these. Whiteness is neither an emergent property of the brain, as such a notion commits the Emergence Category Mistake,[v] erroneously presupposing brute emergence and an analogy between nature’s otherwise physical-to-physical acts of emergence (e.g. liquidity from molecules) and a purported physical-to-mental emergence. Emergence is the magic with which materialism is spellbound.

 (5) Whiteness is thus not identical (1—–3) to its various correlates, it is not an emergent property (4) of those subvenient correlates, but nor is it simply the abstracted common feature of white objects as this would entail that those objects had the whiteness from which one could abstract it as such.

The realm in which all Eternal Objects subsist is named by Whitehead the Primordial Nature of God. This is the transcendent aspect of Whitehead’s deity, an insentient dimension as sentience requires the ingression of the Eternal Objects into physical temporal actuality to be objects of prehension. As physical organisms, the incessant selection of Eternal Objects is conditioned by our physical needs, and thus only a fraction are positively prehended, the rest rejected through negative prehensions, to use Whitehead’s terminology. It is my contention that these negative prehensions can be eliminated in degree by the impairment of practical physiological functioning via the intake of psychedelic chemicals. Such elimination entails the integration, nay elevation, of one’s consciousness into the primordial nature of this god: apotheosis. This is a mysticism without mystical groundings.

Hence, in the psychedelic mode of perception we push our identity with Pan through our integrated panentheism and panexperientialism. We thereby touch the eternal and the present, but what of the past? The past is not actual, potential but neither is it nothing. For Whitehead, all actualities pass into objective immortality: they are no longer subjectivities but their physical and mental forms enter into the composition of actual entities and their nexūs, forms of togetherness.

All perception involves perception of the past, memory. But again, those aspects commonly selected are those that are conducive to the practicalities of the organism. Furthermore, a memory is immortalized as an Eternal Object in the empyrean realm that is Pan. Thus these objects are never absolutely lost. Analogous to the emancipation from transmutation offered in lateral integration, the psychedelic mode of perception can allow for a backward integration. This is part of the basis for contemporary studies into the value of psychedelic therapy.

The psychedelic mode of perception allows for a three-dimensional integration of experience: the vertical dimension upward to primordial Pan and downward into endogenous primitive pieces of perception, understood through panexperientialism. The lateral dimension is that along which we can integrate sideward into the other exogenous entities constituting our environment. The temporal dimension can push us backward to memories otherwise lost, and fragmentarily forward in terms of glimpses of future types of sentience. These dimensions offer a panopticon of Pan, nature Himself—experiences of nature otherwise masked by our practical needs. Psychedelic perception is the essence of great experience, ultimately the object of philosophy itself...

Philosophy & Science / The Blind Spot of Science is Lived Experience?
« on: January 09, 2019, 07:34:21 pm »
The Blind Spot of Science is Lived Experience

In philosophical terms, it combines scientific objectivism (science tells us about the real, mind-independent world) and physicalism (science tells us that physical reality is all there is). Elementary particles, moments in time, genes, the brain – all these things are assumed to be fundamentally real. By contrast, experience, awareness and consciousness are taken to be secondary. The scientific task becomes about figuring out how to reduce them to something physical, such as the behaviour of neural networks, the architecture of computational systems, or some measure of information.

This framework faces two intractable problems. The first concerns scientific objectivism. We never encounter physical reality outside of our observations of it. Elementary particles, time, genes and the brain are manifest to us only through our measurements, models and manipulations. Their presence is always based on scientific investigations, which occur only in the field of our experience.

This doesn’t mean that scientific knowledge is arbitrary, or a mere projection of our own minds. On the contrary, some models and methods of investigation work much better than others, and we can test this. But these tests never give us nature as it is in itself, outside our ways of seeing and acting on things. Experience is just as fundamental to scientific knowledge as the physical reality it reveals.

The second problem concerns physicalism. According to the most reductive version of physicalism, science tells us that everything, including life, the mind and consciousness, can be reduced to the behaviour of the smallest material constituents. You’re nothing but your neurons, and your neurons are nothing but little bits of matter. Here, life and the mind are gone, and only lifeless matter exists.

To put it bluntly, the claim that there’s nothing but physical reality is either false or empty. If ‘physical reality’ means reality as physics describes it, then the assertion that only physical phenomena exist is false. Why? Because physical science – including biology and computational neuroscience – doesn’t include an account of consciousness. This is not to say that consciousness is something unnatural or supernatural. The point is that physical science doesn’t include an account of experience; but we know that experience exists, so the claim that the only things that exist are what physical science tells us is false. On the other hand, if ‘physical reality’ means reality according to some future and complete physics, then the claim that there is nothing else but physical reality is empty, because we have no idea what such a future physics will look like, especially in relation to consciousness.

You thought quantum mechanics was weird: check out entangled time

Up to today, most experiments have tested entanglement over spatial gaps. The assumption is that the ‘nonlocal’ part of quantum nonlocality refers to the entanglement of properties across space. But what if entanglement also occurs across time? Is there such a thing as temporal nonlocality?

The answer, as it turns out, is yes. Just when you thought quantum mechanics couldn’t get any weirder, a team of physicists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reported in 2013 that they had successfully entangled photons that never coexisted. Previous experiments involving a technique called ‘entanglement swapping’ had already showed quantum correlations across time, by delaying the measurement of one of the coexisting entangled particles; but Eli Megidish and his collaborators were the first to show entanglement between photons whose lifespans did not overlap at all.

Here’s how they did it. First, they created an entangled pair of photons, ‘1-2’ (step I in the diagram below). Soon after, they measured the polarisation of photon 1 (a property describing the direction of light’s oscillation) – thus ‘killing’ it (step II). Photon 2 was sent on a wild goose chase while a new entangled pair, ‘3-4’, was created (step III). Photon 3 was then measured along with the itinerant photon 2 in such a way that the entanglement relation was ‘swapped’ from the old pairs (‘1-2’ and ‘3-4’) onto the new ‘2-3’ combo (step IV). Some time later (step V), the polarisation of the lone survivor, photon 4, is measured, and the results are compared with those of the long-dead photon 1 (back at step II).

The upshot? The data revealed the existence of quantum correlations between ‘temporally nonlocal’ photons 1 and 4. That is, entanglement can occur across two quantum systems that never coexisted.

What on Earth can this mean? Prima facie, it seems as troubling as saying that the polarity of starlight in the far-distant past – say, greater than twice Earth’s lifetime – nevertheless influenced the polarity of starlight falling through your amateur telescope this winter. Even more bizarrely: maybe it implies that the measurements carried out by your eye upon starlight falling through your telescope this winter somehow dictated the polarity of photons more than 9 billion years old.

Lest this scenario strike you as too outlandish, Megidish and his colleagues can’t resist speculating on possible and rather spooky interpretations of their results. Perhaps the measurement of photon 1’s polarisation at step II somehow steers the future polarisation of 4, or the measurement of photon 4’s polarisation at step V somehow rewrites the past polarisation state of photon 1. In both forward and backward directions, quantum correlations span the causal void between the death of one photon and the birth of the other.

Just a spoonful of relativity helps the spookiness go down, though. In developing his theory of special relativity, Einstein deposed the concept of simultaneity from its Newtonian pedestal. As a consequence, simultaneity went from being an absolute property to being a relative one. There is no single timekeeper for the Universe; precisely when something is occurring depends on your precise location relative to what you are observing, known as your frame of reference. So the key to avoiding strange causal behaviour (steering the future or rewriting the past) in instances of temporal separation is to accept that calling events ‘simultaneous’ carries little metaphysical weight. It is only a frame-specific property, a choice among many alternative but equally viable ones – a matter of convention, or record-keeping.

IIRC it was Bakker who suggest McFadden and Al-Khalili's book Life on the Edge to me. I'm very curious to see where quantum biology goes though the field still seems to be a bit unsteady?

The origins of quantum biology

Quantum biology is usually considered to be a new discipline, arising from recent research that suggests that biological phenomena such as photosynthesis, enzyme catalysis, avian navigation or olfaction may not only operate within the bounds of classical physics but also make use of a number of the non-trivial features of quantum mechanics, such as coherence, tunnelling and, perhaps, entanglement. However, although the most significant findings have emerged in the past two decades, the roots of quantum biology go much deeper—to the quantum pioneers of the early twentieth century. We will argue that some of the insights provided by these pioneering physicists remain relevant to our understanding of quantum biology today.

Philosophy & Science / It From Bit, from Wheeler to the Present
« on: December 28, 2018, 04:10:18 pm »
Wheeler's original essay on this I believe is this one? ->

Information, Physics, Quantum: The Search for Links

This report reviews what quantum physics and information theory have to tell us about the age-old question, How come existence? No escape is evident from four conclusions: (1) The world cannot be a giant machine, ruled by any preestablished continuum physical law. (2) There is no such thing at the microscopic level as space or time or spacetime continuum. (3) The familiar probability function or functional, and wave equation or functional wave equation, of standard quantum theory provide mere continuum idealizations and by reason of this circumstance conceal the information-theoretic source from which they derive. (4) No element in the description of physics shows itself as closer to primordial than the elementary quantum phenomenon, that is, the elementary device-intermediated act of posing a yes-no physical question and eliciting an answer or, in brief, the elementary act of observer-participancy. Otherwise stated, every physical quantity, every it, derives its ultimate significance from bits, binary yes-or-no indications, a conclusion which we epitomize in the phrase, it from bit.

Philosophy & Science / Alan Turing's Computing Machinery & Intelligence
« on: December 24, 2018, 07:58:06 pm »
Computing Machinery & Intelligence

Seemed like one of those seminal/foundational works anyone interested in Philo of Mind should read...

Philosophy & Science / How does exercise preserve the aging brain?
« on: December 16, 2018, 06:45:08 pm »

"Further evidence that doing aerobic exercise can preserve brain health and function — and thereby reduce the risk of dementia — is revealed in a study of older individuals with slight but noticeable declines in memory and thinking."

Always Forgetting Important Things? Here’s How to Fix That, According to Science

Most people, when tasked with remembering something important, jot down a note. But a study published recently in the journal Experimental Aging Research says there may be a better way to keep memories fresh: draw a picture.

Drawing works your brain in ways that writing alone does not, forcing it to process visual information, translate the meaning of a word into an image and carry out a physical act all at once, says study co-author Melissa Meade, a doctoral candidate in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Waterloo in Canada. “It’s bringing online a lot of different brain regions that you wouldn’t bring online if you were just writing information out,” Meade explains. “We think this multifaceted approach of using the drawing technique benefits memory and the brain.”

And older adults may have even more to gain from this approach, Meade says. “In normal, healthy aging, you tend to see a lot of changes occurring to parts of the brain that are involved in memory functioning and language processing,” Meade says. “You don’t see as many changes occurring in regions that are involved in sensory processing of visual information” — so drawing may take advantage of these “relatively well-preserved brain regions” and boost memory.

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