Explaining Bakker

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Callan S.

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« Reply #15 on: April 23, 2013, 06:57:49 am »
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The evidence? Well, uhm...
I don't know what her problem with the evidence is?

It's also the binary people seem to default into that either it's proven to them right now, or it's utterly wrong.

When there's a middle ground of just trying to form a replica of the described model in their mind. Heck, every time you read fantasy you're (attempting to) replicate someone elses model. It's not an uncommon thing to do.

She seems to grasp the model enough to get the idea that conciousness is an illusion - so ignoring evidence for now, ask her where does the model seem inconsistant with itself?

I think being asked that will cross reference real world understanding of structure (because that's where we get our idea of consistancy) with the model - and slowly start to tie it to real world elements. Ie, the evidence (that this is probably a worthwhile line of research) will slowly become clear, if you just ask if the model seems consistant with itself.

Also the question to ask is have either of these people actually initiated new lines of research? Most scientists haven't really - they refine what's already been done. So they wont percieve a crazy theory paper as a potential new line of research to follow, because they just haven't done/don't do new lines of research.

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« Reply #16 on: April 23, 2013, 07:22:07 am »
Again, it was my fault. I didn't have a solid grasp on the BBT besides a few mentions in blog posts. I couldn't really properly explain its basis, only its 'profound' implications. After I fumbled with whatever random tidbits came to mind, she flatly stated:

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You have to show me the evidence; otherwise, how do I know it's not just noise?

Now that I've read and at least mostly understood Bakker's major thesis on it, I should be better equipped to meet potential challenges.

Quote from: Callan S.
Also the question to ask is have either of these people actually initiated new lines of research?

Ahhh... I have enough latent social graces to know that I should broach something like that v-e-e-e-ry delicately in this context. Aspersions...

Of course, my interest here is not to hoard the deficits of my betters in order to rubbish them on the side...

It's to convert others so that I might feel self-efficacious.  ;D

What Came Before

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« Reply #17 on: April 23, 2013, 06:42:09 pm »
That is, we can't afford - unless we're just doing all this for kicks in our spare time, or focusing on Bakker's fiction as such - to ignore the rest of the world because 'we just get it and they don't'. That's all.

+1.

Hmm...

Remember that this is basically a script for me to recite in-person, and I'd rather not adulterate the Bakker quote. In fact, it's not clear to me whether the bolded lines are just comments or you would actually have me insert them into the...? At any rate, I don't want to come off as lecturing them on the brain rather than merely raising certain salient facts to the attention; after all, I'm a layman and they're the scientists! I'd probably get the rhetorical shit beaten out of me if I tried something like that...

But thanks for the notes. Assimilating and reorganizing what you added, here's the new version:

Yeah, just notes - I know people are generally unclear on Bakker's descriptive metaphor and was hoping only to offer more clarity.

Jorge

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« Reply #18 on: April 23, 2013, 06:58:05 pm »
Let's get a few things straight:

1. I am a scientist. I just got my PhD in biology. I am not a neuroscientist, but I understand the subject (up to a point, I'm not an expert on electrophysiology or neuroanatomy). I understand what Bakker is claiming.

2. Bakker's work is primarily in philosophy of mind, not science. One of his claims is that the "blind brain theory" can be falsified by experiment. This is problematic for a few reasons.

a) Very few scientists understand the explanatory gap and the hard problem of consciousness. This is because it has traditionally been considered a philosophical problem, not a scientific one... indeed THE PROBLEM ITSELF is that the raw 'stuff of mind' seems inaccessible to science.

b) We do not currently have the technology to falsify BBT. Nonetheless, preexisting studies (such as those on anosognosia) support its core hypothesis (namely: that consciousness turns on information LACKED rather than information HAD).

c) Not everything Bakker talks about is science. His posts on continental philosophy ARE extremely dense and philosophy-jargon heavy.

3. The "Semantic Apocalypse" is not a scientific hypothesis. It is socio-cultural speculation about the ramifications of a neuroscience that validates BBT. You must remember that BBT may be FALSIFIED by neuroscience, so the Semantic Apocalypse might not have any empirical basis whatsoever.
Any fool can see the limits of seeing, but not even the wisest know the limits of knowing. Thus is ignorance rendered invisible, and are all Men made fools.

Jorge

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« Reply #19 on: April 23, 2013, 08:40:35 pm »
From an article published in the highly prestigious journal Science last week:

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It is important to acknowledge that our research does not provide a direct proof of subjective experience. Indeed, it is a genuine philosophical problem whether such a proof can ever be obtained from purely objective neurophysiological data. Rather, we show that neural markers of consciousness found in adults can be generalized to infant populations. Such objective measures have proven useful to probe consciousness in patients in a vegetative state and in minimally conscious patients and might help pediatricians confront issues of infant consciousness in relation to anesthesia, pain, and pathologies.

See? Science is starting to rub up against this very ugly problem. Dual-classed philosopher/scientists like Giulio Tononi and the Churchlands are at least bringing this issue to the forefront.

In the above paper, the authors are essentially claiming they have narrowed the search to Francis Crick's famous 'neural correlates of consciousness'. The next step will be figuring out what is special (if anything) about the circuitry that is involved in this.
Any fool can see the limits of seeing, but not even the wisest know the limits of knowing. Thus is ignorance rendered invisible, and are all Men made fools.

Wilshire

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« Reply #20 on: April 23, 2013, 10:21:56 pm »

It's also the binary people seem to default into that either it's proven to them right now, or it's utterly wrong.


This, I think, is an important statement. Its very true in a lot of cases that people tend to see things this way, especially if they feel they are being challenged or confronted, even if its subconcious. Like mentioned earlier, having someone whip out a paper and say "hey do you get this", it would be almost (almost) an insult to themselves if they didnt understand whatever it was (depending on the person, the situation, and the context of the confrontation).


Also, Jorge, I'm glad you chimed in. I think earlier I was trying to say a lot of what you just did. You, however, did a much better job at it and have the credentials to back it up. I was mostly just whistling in the dark :P
One of the other conditions of possibility.

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« Reply #21 on: April 24, 2013, 12:30:05 am »
There's just something I'm doing wrong here...

The male, I couldn't locate. I'll deal with him later.

With the female, I had an hour-long debate with much hand-wringing and exasperated sighs on both parts.

Long story short:

1. She is a full-on experimentalist.

2. She focuses on narrow aspects of neurolinguistics, and doesn't really know or care much about consciousness.

2.a. She really doesn't understand half the terms or words Bakker uses, and refuses to read him herself. Even my simplified recap was nearly incomprehensible to her.

2.b. She dislikes all of Bakker's "unscientific" approach to presenting his ideas.

3. Once I gave as clear and thorough a summary of the BBT as I could, she repeatedly...Bakker has no evidence, apparently.

3.a. Bakker does not cite his figure (in the abstract) on the number of calculations performed by the gross brain, and does not describe the consciousness models he name-drops in the first footnote.

3.b. She doesn't see that Bakker presents any evidence toward his core premise that consciousness receives less information than the rest of the brain; we really don't know anything about the brain, and Bakker seems to her to be arguing from a perspective "2000 years in the future".

3.c. She rejected the magic metaphor and vision analogy: "I don't need analogies, I need evidence."

3.d. I hardly even got her to agree (while explicating causal histories and causal gaps with the example of a thrown ball travelling and the act itself of throwing the ball) that the CNS basically works in that example with various internal and external stimuli causing various chains of action potentials until the appropriate motor neurons are activated and the muscular contractions responsible for "throwing the ball" occur. She said, "Consider my position - if *I* don't know that this is 'the so-called 'scientific consensus', then what does that say?"

So, well, what do you make of it? I couldn't convince her of informatic asymmetry - "don't take that for granted" - and I do suppose Bakker's theory pretty much falls apart without it.

Are there any more cogent proofs of informatic asymmetry I could bring to bear? Citations to throw down? I asked her whether she could consciously keep track of all her brain's activity, or consciously control her heartbeat, but she just wasn't buying it for some reason - so that line turned out fruitless.

Any way I could impress the validity of Bakker's approach onto her? "It's just not science" to her, and that seemingly invalidates the whole thing. *shrug*

Conversations are pretty tough; their progress never seems to match my (perhaps overly optimistic) expectations. Internet participation is not preparation enough.

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Middle of the conversation: "I'm going to shoot you down somehow, you know?"

End of the conversation: "Look, I don't want to shoot you down."

...

*I propose that we schedule a friendly meeting to have a casual chat, not even necessarily about Bakker*

"Yeah, I'll take more time out of my schedule to go out and meet you to talk about...stuff."

That's sarcasm, isn't it? Though she didn't say it in an acerbic tone...

So, yeah: I get the feeling she's not going to humor me any longer, but I suppose I'd like to hear from you all if only for my own edification.







Callan S.

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« Reply #22 on: April 24, 2013, 01:04:31 am »
Again, it was my fault. I didn't have a solid grasp on the BBT besides a few mentions in blog posts. I couldn't really properly explain its basis, only its 'profound' implications. After I fumbled with whatever random tidbits came to mind, she flatly stated:

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You have to show me the evidence; otherwise, how do I know it's not just noise?

Now that I've read and at least mostly understood Bakker's major thesis on it, I should be better equipped to meet potential challenges.
The thing is, prior to the theory of evolution becoming widely accepted in scientific circles, she could have asked the same question if a theory of evolution was presented to her. What's the evidence? How does she know this evolution idea isn't just noise?

The question isn't so much 'is this correct?', but more like if Darwin asked you to help with his research on this kooky new idea he has.

She's right to be skeptical in that some research just doesn't go anywhere.

But clearly some research has been pivotal to our understanding today.


Quote from: Callan S.
Also the question to ask is have either of these people actually initiated new lines of research?

Ahhh... I have enough latent social graces to know that I should broach something like that v-e-e-e-ry delicately in this context. Aspersions...[/quote]
Oh for goodness sake...

I'll say I'm a son of a retired general practioner. When a GP asks intimate questions, it is not to cast aspersions. To a degree I am a reflection of that culture.

It amazes me how human scienctific practice still is...

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3.c. She rejected the magic metaphor and vision analogy: "I don't need analogies, I need evidence."
What does she need evidence for?

She's not stating her own hypothesis that runs counter to this idea. What is her hypothesis on the matter? You don't need evidence if you already believe the idea (if you mentioned evolution she wouldn't demand evidence before talking further) - thus she believes another idea. What is that idea?

Perhaps putting it like this "If I mentioned the idea of evolution you wouldn't ask for evidence - you'd pretty much take it as a given. But if I said something counter to evolution, you would ask for evidence. With this blind brain theory thing, what theory of yours is it counter to so much so that it makes you ask for evidence?"

If she keeps asking for evidence, keep saying if you were talking about evolution that she whouldn't ask for evidence. Her asking for evidence shows she has a theory that BBT runs counter toward. It's not just about you providing evidence, can she articulate the theory that BBT runs counter to?

Also I'm tempted to say if Jorge says he understands it, then you have a reference to give. But I can't volunteer Jorge that way (I can only prod him with a sharp stick - poke poke poke! Okay, that didn't help...)


Jorge,

Along with Wilshire I'll say thanks for posting here. It helps give an idea of the perspectives involved.

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Indeed, it is a genuine philosophical problem
Really? Why is that the case? Question begging.

Jorge

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« Reply #23 on: April 24, 2013, 06:08:02 am »
Quote from: bakker_user
Bakker has no evidence, apparently.

You should not be trying to convince any scientists of BBT, because at this stage it is backed up only by circumstantial evidence and has not been properly experimentally falsified. Your friend is correct to take a skeptical stance.

You do not need to use analogies to explain it.

Ask your neurolinguistic friend if she has heard of anosognosia. If not, you can refer her to Prigatano's "The Study of Anosognosia" which is a technical and respectable volume on the subject. Very briefly: when people suffer strokes they can lose the capacity to see or move their limbs, and yet they are unable to detect the limitation.

The brain confabulates explanations to account for the lack of information.

This can be interpreted in many ways, but one way of looking at it is that "consciousness" (which you should define to her as the private, subjective, first-person experiences which go away when we enter dreamless sleep or coma state... you can refer her to Chalmers for more on the subject)  is actually caused by gaps in information that must be 'filled in', just like the anosognosia patient does. Just as we cannot 'see' where our thoughts come from but accept their provenance as normal, and just as we concoct a magical ability called "Free Will" to explain movements that originate from our brain, the very ground of our phenomenal experiences may be illusory. This in turn explains why we have a philosophical problem in the first place.

Semi-formally:
1. Everything seems amenable to naturalistic/materialistic (ie scientific explanation): gravity, explosions, bacteria, human biology.
2. Our own subjective experiences ('my experience of red' vs. 'your experience of red') do not seem amenable to materialistic reduction.
3. Science can find correlates to conscious states, and different conscious states.
C1: Given 3 our intuition about 2 is wrong. But it doesn't seem wrong, no matter how hard you think about it.
C2: Something our 'wiring' prevents us from 'seeing' the truth of 3.
C3: We are 'blind' brains, who are mainly blind to themselves.

BBT could be partially or fully falsified by the following experiments:

1. Fine-grain neural mapping shows that networks involved in consciousness do not neglect or ignore any information.
2. Experiments using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or Transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) find that under certain circumstances the patient can detect what part of his cognition is being manipulated (BBT has already partially passed this test, in my opinion, since under many circumstances where tDCS is used to cause a patient to move a limb, the patient will confabulate an explanation for their movement other than the current).
3. Neural mapping finds that neural correlates of consciousness are not distributed and instead map specifically to a single brain region. (This would falsify BBT because then you can say there's a single part of the brain that's doing the "seeing" of the rest of the activity in the brain. This would also be contra Giulio Tononi's integrated information theory)

I have a few other (very) speculative ideas how you could go about finding confirmatory evidence for BBT, but they remain outside technical capacity for the time being.

I hope this helps.


PS: I highly recommend reading several books before speaking to scientists on this subject. At the very least acquaint yourself with-

"The Tell-Tale Brain" or "A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness" by VS Ramachandran
"The Conscious Mind" by David Chalmers
"The Mind's I" edited by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett
"The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" by Oliver Sacks
"The Brain that Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge

Further reading:
"Wider than the Sky" by Gerald Edelman (1972 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine)
"Phi" by Giulio Tononi

Advanced:
Original papers on computability (Turing, Church, etc.), information theory (Shannon, Kolmogorov, etc.), neuroscience (Kandel, Bliss, LeDoux, Eliasmith, ect etc etc etc etc etc etc) and philosophy of mind (Searle, Nagel, Churchland, McGinnis, Dennet, Chalmers, Schwitzgebel, etc etc etc etc)
« Last Edit: April 25, 2013, 03:39:52 pm by Jorge »
Any fool can see the limits of seeing, but not even the wisest know the limits of knowing. Thus is ignorance rendered invisible, and are all Men made fools.

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« Reply #24 on: April 24, 2013, 07:43:41 am »
This is good to know, at least.


Callan S.

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« Reply #25 on: April 24, 2013, 08:04:35 am »
Jorge is laying it down!  :)

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« Reply #26 on: April 24, 2013, 08:28:48 am »
Hey, why didn't I think of this earlier?

Informatic asymmetry:

Are you consciously aware of every word that makes up your lexicon, right now? How can it be that, while reading text, you spot a seemingly unfamilar word, and then suddenly realize, 'Oh yeah, that word"?

If we were fully aware of everything going on in the brain, then how could it be possible for a memory - a recollection - to be surprising in its manifestation?

I'm sure there's more to be thought up in this vein.

And hell, when I was explaining Bakker's etiological stuff, she actually challenged, "How do you know the causal chain isn't just Person X deciding to throw the ball and then throwing it?"

I should have asked her whether she holds the view that humans are fundamentally biomechanical, and if not, whether this seems to contradict all the other findings of biology/zoology. And anyway, that's not (in such a formulation) even a scientifically valid counter, right (referring to her challenge)?

I let her get away with too much, I think.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2013, 08:32:06 am by Bakker User »

Callan S.

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« Reply #27 on: April 24, 2013, 11:42:49 am »
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"How do you know the causal chain isn't just Person X deciding to throw the ball and then throwing it?"
How do you know it is?

It just feels that way?

Where's your evidence?

Jorge

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« Reply #28 on: April 24, 2013, 04:12:02 pm »
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I should have asked her whether she holds the view that humans are fundamentally biomechanical,

Absolutely. Not every scientist accepts this premise, because people are monkeys full of "believies" to use a Louis CK term. Isn't it just warm and fuzzy to think your mind is exempt from the law of causality that seem to dictate the rest of the universe?

OK, I'll stop beating this very dead horse now.

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Are you consciously aware of every word that makes up your lexicon, right now?

This is potentially a very illustrative approach. Just yesterday I used the phrase "acrid smoke" and found myself wondering where the hell 'acrid' had come from since I hardly ever use that particular adjective.
Any fool can see the limits of seeing, but not even the wisest know the limits of knowing. Thus is ignorance rendered invisible, and are all Men made fools.

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« Reply #29 on: April 24, 2013, 07:30:07 pm »
Here's an experience to add to the list of proofs: how is it possible for someone to not notice a stroke even to the loss of consciousness altogether?

Surely  - and let's say there's no pain... - the conscious brain should be able to detect, 'There seems to be something impairing specific functions of this gestalt, sir. [Localized processes affected in area of stroke] Alarm! Alarm! Prefrontal cortex indicates that this may require 'medical attention'. Reason dictates that you use your free will to call emergency services. Hurry, before the connection to your mortal coil is lost and you are left hanging in the perdition of the aether! FUCKING CIPHRANG WILL EAT YOU

*ahem* I got carried away. But, something like that, right? I'm thinking the relevance of anosognosia is similar.

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I like non-fiction, and this sounds a lot like fiction to me
: Bah! Well, I suppose at this point I'm beating a dead horse as well. But hopefully this will be useful for any *confrontation* with the male.

WHOOPS
« Last Edit: April 24, 2013, 09:57:16 pm by Bakker User »