What is "Mind?"

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MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Dec 18, 2017 - 06:59pm PT
Wishing you a good climbing break in Córdoba, yanqui.


Seven weeks should be a noticeable interval of time.



When people say that science is like a religion, I have doubts that they have a good understanding of either science or religion. However, my respect for mathematics comes close to reverence even though I don't really understand much about it. There is something inside me that makes math appealing.
MikeL

Social climber
Southern Arizona
Dec 18, 2017 - 07:03pm PT
Those are good credentials, indeed, for understanding the problem...

HFCS: Not in MikeL's view, if you remember, there they count for nothing. lol

I can’t see where anyone ever got anywhere with any “problem” by parading his or her bona fides around. As the Duck points out, you gotta do the work.

Too much talk, not enough work.
WBraun

climber
Dec 18, 2017 - 07:24pm PT
For all of you out there who think that the computer metaphors for consciousness and mind are overblown, you couldn't be more wrong.

First, you have to fully know what consciousness itself is and its actual source BEFORE you can even make a computer metaphor for it.

If you don't fully completely know what consciousness really is and its actual source (not a just theory) then YOU are totally wrong ......
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 18, 2017 - 07:45pm PT
What strikes me as strange is that the original question is, what is mind. Then people go scrambling to try and reckon this by looking at machines, physics, engineering, systems theory, etc. all valid in terms of processing, but a little time spent observing mind itself would sort out many of these issues.

Consider, during observation, the back and forth between awareness and the auto-generated thoughts and impulses. In psychology this is called a pattern interrupt. Also consider the revision process of any creative task you might be doing. That shows you a lot. The output of a machine is fated. See if in your creative process if the revisions are fated in the same way.

The tricky part is the bifurcation of the mechanical and determined with ....
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Dec 18, 2017 - 07:46pm PT
I also have no problem believing that that this sense is after-the-fact from a decision-making standpoint, and that I've been fooled into thinking that I made the decision.

Okay, so here you're speaking from neuroscience. Got it. But even in neuroscience (imagine the course or department in school) there is cellular neuroscience, systems neuroscience and interdisciplinary neuroscience and each has its perspectives and different lexicons and different ways of talking and it's important to keep track of these as part of the larger conversation.

Again, language and framing rule here as well. (1) Brains like computers do make decisions. (2) Just as some computers are more competent in making decisions than others, so too, some humans (because of intelligence, education, health) are more competent in making decisions than others. (3) Are these decisions both in brain and computer entirely "determined" by system architecture and input? yes (4) Are your decisions entirely free of (a) a tumor; (b) a gun held to your head coercing a certain intent (hope you saw the Emily Blunt Sicario clip); (c) a real-world (as opposed to a fictitious mythical) demon? Yes.

If we're entirely in agreement on all of this (all these points) then I think we've seen the conversation through!

Whether or not we call ourselves "compatibilists"!
WBraun

climber
Dec 18, 2017 - 07:51pm PT
Computers don't ultimately make decisions.

People do.

If you let computers ultimately make all your decisions for you than you are a sterile robot.

Exactly what you build and think you are advancing ......
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 18, 2017 - 07:54pm PT
Are these decisions both in brain and computer entirely "determined" by system architecture and input? yes

No cigar on this one Fruity. Again, observe your creative process while handling new material. Especially the revisions.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 18, 2017 - 07:56pm PT
aside from stating that it is so, what empirical evidence is there for "free will?"
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 18, 2017 - 08:04pm PT
Ed, why not observe your process the next time your are working on a calculation, especially if it is a new one. What Fruity is driving at with his "fated" is basically old school Logical Determinism, that the future is already determined. See how this squares with your revision process when you start grinding on those numbers.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 18, 2017 - 08:17pm PT
you are assuming something about agency, which might be an interesting assumption to examine.

"working on a problem" involves a very long process, stating the problem, revising the statement, predicting outcomes, testing outcomes (by calculation and experiment), understanding the outcomes, revising the statement...


it is certainly not "hard determinism," but there is an answer, in the end, which is a set of logical propositions supported by empirical evidence, and generalizable beyond the narrow definitions of the problem's statement.

once the answer is known, the answer is pretty much viewed in deterministic language as the consequence of the logical argument leading to it.

for instance, how is it that you always come up with "4" as the answer to the question "what is 2+2?" I don't think that is such an obvious question if I insist that you must describe what the exact process is that you engaged in to obtain that answer.
jogill

climber
Colorado
Dec 18, 2017 - 08:19pm PT

DMT: one second we're talking to the anesthesiologist and then bam! we're aware in the post-op room. In between, nothing! No sense of time, no dreaming, no interruption really


MikeL: Mind training may amend that perception

I'm curious. How does mind training affect one during the period of time unconscious under anesthesia as described by DMT? I must have missed that in the general discussion. After considerable meditation are you able to recall things that occurred while unconscious? Don't memories usually arise based on conscious experiences?

Just wondering . . .

(sycorax, note skillful use of ellipses)
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Dec 18, 2017 - 08:20pm PT
I've been fooled into thinking that I made the decision...

Eeyonkee,

Isn't "fooled" a rather strong term though? Maybe? (Then again, maybe not, lol)

Based on science and based on all we agree on, it was you, YOU, (I) that made the decision (else that chose). I mean it wasn't your neighbor or any other agent near or far. It was YOU. On many counts. On many levels. It was the multitude of YOUR cells. It was YOUR underlying control system machinery. It was YOUR so-called "self-model" (Metzinger) directing YOUR decisions and ultimately YOUR behavior.

Why isn't this okay? Maybe it is? Perhaps it takes some adaptation, some adjustment to REALLY come to terms with it. Especially if we're so often or entirely immersed in a pop culture, still largely non-scientific, that has a different way of talking about these things.

Cut yourself some slack. It is YOU. It is just a different YOU than perhaps you conceived as a child or in your pre-science years.

If we've learned anything from psychology and brain science in the last couple of decades it is that our evolved perceptions and intuitions are most directly "designed" "built" first and foremost to get our genes into the next generation - and as means to this end our imagination, our mental faculties, our perceptions, our intuitions, however you prefer to describe them, routinely trick us. Some brain wonks (Eagleman, Harris, too) even wonder aloud if we can't designate all this deception, delusion, trickery as one long streaming hallucination! Thought-provoking, to say the least. Either way though, I for one have adapted I think and am open to it: We are a head-full of illusory representations that regularly "fool" us.

...

On a related subject.
In defense of expertise, science, higher education

A Conversation with Tom Nichols
https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/defending-the-experts

Grade A
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Dec 18, 2017 - 08:21pm PT
observe your creative process while handling new material.


Observing your own process?

Too easy to convince yourself of what you see. You need a way to check your conclusions.
jogill

climber
Colorado
Dec 18, 2017 - 08:32pm PT
Observing your own process?


A point made again and again: Self-referential investigations may well produce paradoxes. But for meditators, those paradoxes are obstacles that are washed away as logic is submerged in a stream of enlightened consciousness, like religious epiphanies. They have done the work.
WBraun

climber
Dec 18, 2017 - 09:50pm PT
They have done the work.

Nope, there is no they.

The work has done the work .......
moosedrool

climber
Andrzej Citkowicz far away from Poland
Dec 18, 2017 - 10:18pm PT
HFCS, I’m quite familiar with incompatibilists and compatibilist arguments.

Talking about different freedoms or social responsibility is just a word game. It always comes down to the question, are we morally responsible for our actions?

Compatibilists say yes.

I see you are buying to their arguments, I’m not.

When the fate is predetermined, there is no place for chance or choice. Even when nobody holds a gun to my head, there is a bigger gun called causation extending all the way to the beginning of the universe (if the world is 100% deterministic, which is probably not).

I fully understand that even though you are not responsible for your actions, the society has to take action. But that’s not relevant to moral responsibility.

Again, Compatibilists change the meaning of moral responsibility, but that’s cheating.

I’m with Eeyonkee.

Moose
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 19, 2017 - 02:35am PT
Where to start...?

I guess first off is that I don't find any of the computer / information / engine analogies for brain / mind particularly compelling or of more than crude utility at best and even then only in the most abstract of terms (ditto mechanism and content). That may seem an odd statement from a software engineer, but it's precisely my experience with computers and informatics that leaves me of that opinion. Our current computational technologies just lack the fundamental dynamism exhibited by all forms of life and by all aspects of the brain. And by dynamism I mean one of the typical dictionary definitions: 3. Continuous change, activity, or progress; vigor...

Part of the reason for that lack of dynamism is computers and software is they are primitive, static, and purpose-built constructs compared to brains. HFCS mentioned DNA as one basis for some of these analogies and there is some merit there though not so much computationally but rather as random access storage (it's the densest storage medium in existence). In that capacity not only does DNA store a shitload of information, but we precisely accesses it on demand, at speed, and at an energy cost that is amazingly low compared to any form of storage we have developed. In fact, our efforts to use DNA as a storage medium are largely hampered by our inability to replicate how the body does it at such a low cost energy-wise. So that's just one of many examples where our technology really just isn't up to snuff enough to be used, almost even conceptually, to explain brains and minds.

As far as the ideas such as decision engines and interpreters go, I think we as humans have a tendency to look for readily identifiable causative agents and preferably ones we can think of in the singular. My suspicion, though, is that the brain, at every level, is exceptionally granular and distributed, so much so that I personally find it difficult to assign much in the way of permanent 'agency' to more than a handful of discrete components / aspects of the brain and most of those are sensorially-linked. As a result, my perception is not of a 'ghost in the machine' so much as millions of competing temporal ghosts / agents which come and go at millisecond speeds. That those agencies arise and are organized in a similar number of temporal and permanent hierarchies and meshes and all the outputs of those are continuously amplified, filtered and aggregated upwards through the hierarchical layers and across the all the various mesh nodes within those layers in the form of increasingly consolidated agencies. And further, that all that is dynamic, coordinated on the fly, and exceptionally adaptive.

I think the work of Gazzaniga and other researchers who study the results of brain injuries and pathologies lends credence to my views though I don't think Gazzaniga goes far enough in terms of plurality. I'd say that even at very high levels of abstraction and consolidation there are myriad agencies at work within the brain / mind at any given time. Hell, the process of learning to meditate itself also supports this view from my perspective - if there were a single agent, decision engine or interpreter at work within your brain / mind then meditating wouldn't be such an frigging exercise in cat wrangling right on through to 5.15 Jhanas. And really, for me it's less of a miracle and mystery that we have subjective experience and a mind than the fact we somehow perceive a single, permanent 'senior agent' / self of any continuity at all let alone one that can survive something like jogill's mention of coma or dingus' anesthesia intact (and it's yet another absolute miracle all healthy humans exhibit basically identical agency).

With regard to Gazzaniga's interpreter in particular, based on the wildly wrong speech my mind has often been handed by my subconscious over the years I've been able to deduce a few things which would tend to break Gazzaniga's interpreter down into at least six subagents for recognizing, prioritizing, alerting, contextualizing, interpreting and narrating:

 Recognizing: fitting sounds to potential words. I'm occasionally handed what appears to be a blended result of two or more sound recognition attempts where the sound ends up as multiple homophones in some usually nonsensical construction - i.e. my recognizer came up with multiple possible sounds / words so my contextualizer, interpreter and narrator constructed a phrase or sentence which attempts to use all of them (this has never succeeded).

 Prioritizing: I can sometimes catch glimpses of the words which were discarded in the process of attempting to recognize the sounds.

 Alerting: my subconscious can't recognize and contextualize some speech or sounds of note, all attempts to do so are cut short, and I just get an urgent but generic 'some-sh#t-is-happening-in-that-direction-so-please-pay-attention' alert.

 Contextualizing: once a bunch of words are proffered from recognizing the sounds of the speech, contextualizing is best thought of like those words being random word magnets on your refrigerator door you attempt to put together in some coherent fashion following some unknown set of rules. In this case though, it's not so much an attempt at coherent meaning per se so much as just neighbor-fitting while discarding obvious word incompatibilities with the conversation at hand (may require going back to recognizing).

 Interpreting: ok, so now we have a bunch of likely words which aren't entirely random, what meaning can we organize them into which might have at least some tenuous relevance to the conversation at hand. When this fails it's usually because it ended up straying far, far afield from the current conversation in a desperate bid to come up with something. A classic example of this is from when I was in horticulture classes. One day I went from a greenhouse design class to a soils management class and, startled by a softly-spoken question just I was drifting off, I started babbling about 'heat loss' when everyone else was talking 'peat moss' - close, but no cigar.

 Narrating: So we now have the external context (the conversation) and the newly generated / crafted internal set of words which have been contextualized and interpreted to have some (hopefully) relevant meaning, now how to weave one into the other without coming off as a lunatic. Often I just have to just toss the whole affair and try to consciously figure out what the sounds were and meant or, failing that, just apologize that I couldn't hear / understand what was said.

Largo: you absolutely need time-bound consciousness to get situated on the cushion (or the chair for me with a bum leg), and to buckle don to work. But at stage 4, the stateness becomes background and statelessness becomes figure. That is, you consciously prime the pump, but when the state recedes (a relative term), you do NOT plunge into a semi-unconscious trance in order to maintain form, contingent upon "temporal continuity of purpose." It would seem that way from the outside, but as mentioned, once you dig into reality at a certain depth, at least in my experience, classical/logical thinking finds no purchase.

Hmmm, you misunderstand my statement. I did not say you plunge into a semi-unconscious trance in order to maintain form; what I did say was you maintain some semblance of state to avoid simply tumbling into said condition - i.e. a thread of awareness and purpose in order to maintain and return from a mediation. It's not like someone has to hammer a gong or slap the sh#t out of you in order for you to return; your agency still has continuity even through the most stateless / timeless meditation. I'd also comment that I find parallels between the vacuum of space and meditative no-thingness - principally that neither is ever absolutely still or empty, but rather both are always percolating at a fundamental level.
MikeL

Social climber
Southern Arizona
Dec 19, 2017 - 06:49am PT
Jogill: Self-referential investigations may well produce paradoxes. But for meditators, those paradoxes are obstacles that are washed away as logic is submerged in a stream of enlightened consciousness, like religious epiphanies. [AND MH2:] Observing your own process? Too easy to convince yourself of what you see. You need a way to check your conclusions.

Hmmmm, well, what do you think of healyje’s report of: recognizing, prioritizing, alerting, contextualizing, interpreting, narrating? Hasn't he been systematically exploring his own process self-referentially?

Look, this isn’t rocket science. Just look at anything. ANYTHING. The more you actively look, the more you will see. Do that for a few decades of mind (ala, “mind training”) and you might be more understanding of what’s being pointed at. This applies to any field of study. If it does, then your criticisms could well be leveled at any field of study (like physics, like computer science, like mathematics, etc.). How do you know that a person is not convincing themselves of physics, of mathematics, etc.? “Well, because it’s what other people see, and they have data, too!”

Yup. Just like that.

It isn’t rocket science. Epistemology is ontology. Seeing brings more seeing. Noticing brings more noticing. It’s the basis for any exploration.

I’m always surprised here when people make complaints of others but cannot see how the same complaint could ever apply to themselves. This kind of bias points to stark prejudice.
moosedrool

climber
Andrzej Citkowicz far away from Poland
Dec 19, 2017 - 07:18am PT
Healyje, interesting take on word processing. It’s a complex process, so is seeing, touching or, smelling, Those processes give us a “picture of the situation”. Is it your brain, or your mind, that sees that picture? That’s what we are discussing here, IMO (among other aspects).

While the evaluation process of the information is distributed within the brain, the FINAL decision making might be not.

You must be familiar with these kind of images:

Credit: moosedrool

You can’t “see” both, a vase and two faces, at the same time. Even though the image of both is clearly visible, YOU (your mind?) can see only either one. That suggest a single agent, rather than multiple agents.

Even in multiple personalities disorder, only one manifests at a time.

Moose

Btw, I am not really that interested in what the mind is, since there can’t be a single answer satisfying everybody. (Please, notify me when you have a mathematical formula).

The debate on free will is much more fascinating to me, and might even have a single answer.
WBraun

climber
Dec 19, 2017 - 07:28am PT
debate on free will is much more fascinating to me, and might even have a single answer.

You'll always be guaranteed two different answers ......
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