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Topics - sciborg2

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Hmmm, this looks promising interesting:

There’s a quiet revolution underway in theoretical physics. For as long as the discipline has existed, physicists have been reluctant to discuss consciousness, considering it a topic for quacks and charlatans. Indeed, the mere mention of the ‘c’ word could ruin careers.

That’s finally beginning to change thanks to a fundamentally new way of thinking about consciousness that is spreading like wildfire through the theoretical physics community. And while the problem of consciousness is far from being solved, it is finally being formulated mathematically as a set of problems that researchers can understand, explore and discuss.

Given that it is a phenomenon of information, a conscious system must be able to store in a memory and retrieve it efficiently.

It must also be able to to process this data, like a computer but one that is much more flexible and powerful than the silicon-based devices we are familiar with.

Tegmark borrows the term computronium to describe matter that can do this and cites other work showing that today’s computers underperform the theoretical limits of computing by some 38 orders of magnitude.

Clearly, there is so much room for improvement that allows for the performance of conscious systems.

Next, Tegmark discusses perceptronium, defined as the most general substance that feels subjectively self-aware. This substance should not only be able to store and process information but in a way that forms a unified, indivisible whole. That also requires a certain amount of independence in which the information dynamics is determined from within rather than externally.

Lab mice fear men but not women, and that's a big problem for science

A new study casts doubt on decades of research

The history of science is one chock-full of mice and men. Historically, biological and medical research has largely depended on rodents, which provide scientists with everything from cells and organs to behavioral data. That's why a new study in which researchers found that mice actually fear men, but not women, has the potential to be so disruptive. It might mean that a number of researchers have published mouse studies in which their results reflect this male-induced stress effect — and they know nothing about it....

If the new study ends up gaining ground via examination/replication, apparently it will be a question not only for psychologicy but biology as well:
Moreover, the effect probably isn't limited to behavioral studies, because the organs and cells that are used in medical research, such as in cancer studies, often originate in rodents. "If you're doing a liver cell study, the cells came from a rat that was sacrificed either by a man or a woman," Mogil says. As a result, "its stress levels would be in very different states." This, he says, could have an effect on the functioning of the liver cell in that later experiment.

And even if women did the research, it may not matter since males of other species produce the effects:

But pain wasn't the only indicator of stress in this study. Further experiments showed that the rodents also had increased body temperatures and levels of corticosterone, a stress hormone, in response to the smell of men. And the effect wasn't just prompted by human males, either. Rats and mice "are afraid of the smell of males of any species," Mogil says, because the mice in this study reacted to the smell of male dogs, guinea pigs, and cats as well.

Mysteries of Consciousness:

Most scientists are confident that consciousness emerges from unconscious complexity. We have compelling reasons for believing this, because the only signs of consciousness we see in the universe are found in evolved organisms like ourselves. Nevertheless, this notion of emergence strikes me as nothing more than a restatement of a miracle. To say that consciousness emerged at some point in the evolution of life doesn’t give us an inkling of how it could emerge from unconscious processes, even in principle.

I believe that this notion of emergence is incomprehensible—rather like a naive conception of the big bang. The idea that everything (matter, space-time, their antecedent causes, and the very laws that govern their emergence) simply sprang into being out of nothing seems worse than a paradox.

To say “Everything came out of nothing” is to assert a brute fact that defies our most basic intuitions of cause and effect—a miracle, in other words.

Likewise, the idea that consciousness is identical to (or emerged from) unconscious physical events is, I would argue, impossible to properly conceive—which is to say that we can think we are thinking it, but we are mistaken. We can say the right words, of course—“consciousness emerges from unconscious information processing.” We can also say “Some squares are as round as circles” and “2 plus 2 equals 7.” But are we really thinking these things all the way through? I don’t think so.

Consciousness—the sheer fact that this universe is illuminated by sentience—is precisely what unconsciousness is not. And I believe that no description of unconscious complexity will fully account for it. It seems to me that just as “something” and “nothing,” however juxtaposed, can do no explanatory work, an analysis of purely physical processes will never yield a picture of consciousness. However, this is not to say that some other thesis about consciousness must be true. Consciousness may very well be the lawful product of unconscious information processing. But I don’t know what that sentence means—and I don’t think anyone else does either.

Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament
Analytic philosophy as a historical movement has not done much to provide an alternative to the consolations of religion. This is sometimes made a cause for reproach, and it has led to unfavorable comparisons with the continental tradition of the twentieth century, which did not shirk that task. I believ
e this is one of the reasons why continental philosophy has been better received by the general public: it is at least trying to provide nourishment for the soul, the job by which philosophy is supposed to earn its keep.

Analytic philosophers usually rebuff the complaint by pointing out that their concerns are continuous with the central occupations of Western philosophy from Parmenides onward: metaphysics, epistemology,
logic, and ethical theory. Those topics have been pursued in a great tradition of works that are often technical and difficult, and that are not intended for a broad audience. The aim of that tradition is understanding, not edification.

This reply is formally correct, but it fails to acknowledge the significant element of yearning for cosmic reconciliation that has been part of the philosophical impulse from the beginning. Its greatest example is Plato, who had what I would call a profoundly religious temperament -- displayed not in what he said about religion, but in his philosophy.

Who knows what: For decades the sciences and the humanities have fought for knowledge supremacy. Both sides are wrong-headed

"Before we can see where Wilson and his followers go wrong, we need to make a distinction between two meanings of reductionism. There is ontological reduction, which has to do with what exists, and epistemic reduction, which has to do with what we know. The first one is the idea that the bottom level of reality (say, quarks, or strings) is causally sufficient to account for everything else (atoms, cells, you and me, planets, galaxies and so forth). Epistemic reductionism, on the other hand, claims that knowledge of the bottom level is sufficient to reconstruct knowledge of everything else. It holds that we will eventually be able to derive a quantum mechanical theory of planetary motions and of the genius of Shakespeare."

The Forum of Interesting Things / The Science of Fandom?
« on: March 29, 2014, 04:08:33 pm »
I was talking to my sister about celebrity culture, and how it doesn't seem that hard to get really into it.

For example, I avoid reality television not only because a lot of it is trash but because I can easily get caught up in watching hours of it. It doesn't even have to be in English - in fact Korean TV is addicting to me in a weird ASMR way.

Looking at Jack Gleeson's evaluation of celebrity culture or the discussions of Jennifer Lawrence as America's new best friend makes me wonder how easy it would be for any of us to attach ourselves to a fandom and become more and more defensive about protecting our idol(s).

I find myself avoiding talking to people about this topic save in private email exchanges with a friend of mine.

I keep thinking public discussion will lead to depression or excusing of criminal behavior in others. This forum might be one of the few places I'd talk about it, as I figure anyone who is here is likely "infected" with the knowledge anyway.  ;)

Curious if anyone else feels this way?

eta: I mean I'm willing to discussing positive results like Tse's or Hammeroff's, but I'm a bit wary of expressing reasoning for the negative.

Peter Tse on the Neural Basis for Free Will

A while back I posted an exchange between Peter Tse and Neil Levy that focused on parts of Peter's new book, The Neural Basis of Free Will: Criterial Causation. In the wake of that discussion, I asked Peter if he would be interested in writing up an accessible overview of the argument he develops in the book. Fortunately, he was happy to oblige! The following is what he sent me to post here on Flickers. Given the intersection between work in neuroscience and work on the philosophy of action, I think we all need to work a little harder to understand what's happening on the other half of this discplinary divide. In that spirit, I have posted Peter's overview below the fold.

Philosophy & Science / George Berkeley's Idealism Dialogues
« on: March 25, 2014, 11:49:59 pm »
Interesting. Not much else to say at the moment, but I do think these are worth a read even if the arguments are likely to remain unconvincing.

Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous in Opposition to Sceptics and Atheists.

The First Dialogue

Hyl. I frankly own, Philonous, that it is in vain to longer. Colours, sounds, tastes, in a word all those termed secondary qualities, have certainly no existence without the mind. But by this acknowledgment I must not be supposed to derogate, the reality of Matter, or external objects; seeing it is no more than several philosophers maintain, who nevertheless are the farthest imaginable from denying Matter. For the clearer understanding of this, you must know sensible qualities are by philosophers divided into Primary and Secondary. The former are Extension, Figure, Solidity, Gravity, Motion, and Rest; and these they hold exist really in bodies. The latter are those above enumerated; or, briefly, all sensible qualities beside the Primary; which they assert are only so many sensations or ideas existing nowhere but in the mind. But all this, I doubt not, you are apprised of. For my part, I have been a long time sensible there was such an opinion current among philosophers, but was never thoroughly convinced of its truth until now.

Phil. You are still then of opinion that extension and figures are inherent in external unthinking substances?

Hyl. I am.

Phil. But what if the same arguments which are brought against Secondary Qualities will hold good against these also?

Phil. You are still then of opinion that extension and figures are inherent in external unthinking substances?

Hyl. I am.

Phil. But what if the same arguments which are brought against Secondary Qualities will hold good against these also?

Hyl. Why then I shall be obliged to think, they too exist only in the mind.

Philosophy & Science / Strassman proposes Theoneurological Model
« on: March 25, 2014, 01:19:01 am »
Interesting - are we getting to the point where any serious philosopher, neuroscientist, and theologian will have to provide proof of an ayahuasca trip?  ;D

Would probably make Lehar happy, as he's tried all sorts of drugs but says he remains committed to materialism. He'd go from the margins to the forefront of the skeptical movement!

DMT and the Soul of Prophecy (first chapter here)

While the phenomenological properties of the two states overlap convincingly, the information content of the prophetic state appears to be much more highly articulated, enduring, and pervasive as evidenced by the Hebrew Bible’s influence throughout the world over the last 2500 years. The striking differences in the prophetic message versus the DMT one then led me to propose fundamental differences in how the two states come about. This finally led to a novel model of spiritual experience—either prophetic or psychedelic— that works from a top-down rather than bottom-up perspective. The bottom-up perspective is represented by neurotheology wherein changes in brain chemistry give the impression of communicating with the divine, whereas my new model, theoneurology, posits that God communicates with us via the agency of the brain.

This is Your Brain on Buddha:
Celebrated neuro-thinkers like Daniel Dennett and Paul and Patricia Churchland are reluctant to give the "inside" of awareness or experience much explanatory weight, insisting that objective accounts of consciousness are far superior if you want to understand how the mind actually works. Such thinkers argue that subjectivity may have an undeniable intuitive appeal, but our own experience is an unreliable source of information, a morass of illusions and myths that cloud the quest to describe reality.

Yet in his 1991 book The Embodied Mind, co-written with Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch, the celebrated neuroscientist Francisco Varela insists that experience is an irreducible component of the study of the mind. "To deny the truth of our own experience in the scientific study of ourselves is not only unsatisfactory; it is to render the scientific study of ourselves without a subject matter." Varela and crew argue that while cognitive science continues to dig into the material foundations of cognition, researchers should balance their resulting models against the "disciplined, transformative analysis" of experience itself -- an analysis provided by, in their case, Buddhist meditation and philosophy. A serious student of Chogyam Trunpa, as well as the organizer of a number of formal dialogues between the Dalai Lama and Western scientists, Varela believes that Buddhism provides a sort of finely-tuned introspective tool that has been neglected in the West.

The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks' Most Devious Scam Yet

Allowing one company to control the supply of crucial physical commodities, and also trade in the financial products that might be related to those markets, is an open invitation to commit mass manipulation...

The situation has opened a Pandora's box of horrifying new corruption possibilities, but it's been hard for the public to notice, since regulators have struggled to put even the slightest dent in Wall Street's older, more familiar scams. In just the past few years we've seen an explosion of scandals – from the multitrillion-dollar Libor saga (major international banks gaming world interest rates), to the more recent foreign-currency-exchange fiasco (many of the same banks suspected of rigging prices in the $5.3-trillion-a-day currency markets), to lesser scandals involving manipulation of interest-rate swaps, and gold and silver prices.

But those are purely financial schemes. In these new, even scarier kinds of manipulations, banks that own whole chains of physical business interests have been caught rigging prices in those industries. For instance, in just the past two years, fines in excess of $400 million have been levied against both JPMorgan Chase and Barclays for allegedly manipulating the delivery of electricity in several states, including California. In the case of Barclays, which is contesting the fine, regulators claim prices were manipulated to help the bank win financial bets it had made on those same energy markets.

And last summer, The New York Times described how Goldman Sachs was caught systematically delaying the delivery of metals out of a network of warehouses it owned in order to jack up rents and artificially boost prices.

You might not have been surprised that Goldman got caught scamming the world again, but it was certainly news to a lot of people that an investment bank with no industrial expertise, just five years removed from a federal bailout, stores and controls enough of America's aluminum supply to affect world prices.

How was all of this possible? And who signed off on it?

You guys might be interested in this. First round is over but the whole thing should be available as a podcast, possibly the video as well:

Debate: The President Has Constitutional Power to Target and Kill U.S. Citizens Abroad

FOR THE MOTION: Alan Dershowitz, Michael Lewis

AGAINST THE MOTION: Noah Feldman, Hina Shamsi

RPG Discussion / Mage 20th Anniversary Kickstarter
« on: March 05, 2014, 08:34:36 pm »
Deluxe Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition

"We’re all mages, we Awakened Ones. Tradition wizards and Technocrats, Mad Ones and Fallen Ones and all the “ones” in between who refuse to choose a side in our demented little War. We’re ALL mages. Many refuse that title, or deny it to others, but that’s what we are: priest-kings holding the keys to reality.

Twenty years ago, a game came along that changed gaming. It was big and epic and confusing as hell. It dared folks to think outside the box – to not simply throw fireballs but to really think about how and why we do the things we do. Mage challenged people to make a difference in their world. And now, more than ever, that challenge stands."

EDIT: [Madness] Fixed link.

The Forum of Interesting Things / Lucid Dreaming
« on: March 05, 2014, 07:44:00 pm »
Can you do it?

I can barely remember my dreams, even after keeping a dream journal. Just curious to see how others manage.

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