What is "Mind?"

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Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 17, 2014 - 07:48am PT
Ed wrote:

Well it's not at all clear what sentience is, and while you can try to eliminate various approaches to it, you may be wrong.

I say: People may be and often are totally wrong about their INTERPRETATION of sentience, but when someone practices no-mind meditation, for example, and is deep in the experience, there is no way to be wrong or right or otherwise. You simply ARE. Value judgments per right and wrong occur only when the discursive mind posits an interpretation or evaluation.

Ed said: In some ways, understanding sentience from a scientific point of view would mean being able to produce it.

I say: My friends at Caltech thought so as well, and despite Healyj’s wonky statements to the contrary – that anyone trying to program sentience is on bong water – this has been the promise of many AI folks for decades, and the BRAIN project which that charlatan hustled 1 billion Euros for promised as much by 2020.

Ed said: If your contention is that sentience is not something definable, then there is no test, and there is no point in trying to build a scientific theory of it. This would be true even if sentience is "emergent" since you still have to define that state in order to see if you produced it.

I say: This is not strictly true IME. What people are discovering is that sentience itself is not definable in strictly physical terms because what you end up trying to define are physical functions, the awareness of subjective experience. Claiming they are the same things is not helpful because when you go to define sentience – which Healyj says I never bothered doing, though I tried – you end up with terms that are not objective but subjective. So the hope is to define the objective functions off of which sentience is said to emerge and to create it that way. But when my friends looked at what would be involved to “produce” it, merely as a theoretical exercise, what they found is that neurobiologists et al had themselves often used subjective or meta terminology like “core self” and so forth, or considered sentience as a consequence of a panoply of functions involving memory, sensations, etc., none of which lent themselves to the code. Wish I had more time to go into this but I have a writing symposium to teach here in Carbondale so I gotta get cracking on that.

Ed wrote: Another issue for "consciousness" or "sentience" is the common experience that there is an earliest time that marks our own awareness of those states. we are not aware of being conscious while in the womb, or at birth, or anytime before 2 or 3 years of age...

where is "consciousness" then? where "sentience"? how does it come to be?

I say: My sense of it here is that our provisional ego “I” is really what you are talking about here, because you are saying some thing is coming into awareness, and sentience is not a thing but the awareness itself. And without some subjective experience with this material, this will not add up.

For the record, I said that sentience is the dynamic interplay or raw awareness, focus and attention. And that we DO NOT have free will over the content that arises in our Q Space (field of awareness), but rather we do, to lesser and greater degrees, have some free will per where we place our attention, and that greatly determines what plays out in our lives.

JL
MikeL

Trad climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Jul 17, 2014 - 10:06am PT
Hi, Randisi:

Sure, I use concepts all the time. One cannot talk without them. However, I don't take them very concretely or seriously. it's just talk, you know?

As for being someone (me) who is purportedly dangerous, you might want to reconsider. You don't strike me as a fascist. (It seems those folks are always concerned about dangerous people who fall outside of the mainstream.)

It's not a Cartesian point of view, btw. It's a dharma point of view. :-) How much truth can one claim if one claims that nothing can be claimed?

Have you read Derrida? (Talk about rabbit holes!)
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Jul 17, 2014 - 10:42am PT
Thanks to PSP for his very simple and clear explanations, including his comparison of Buddhism and Christianity in their results.

I do agree that psychoanalysis often fails to produce any kind of transformation. Especially in academia we have all met people who have been in analysis for 20+ years and can describe their pain and the source of it in minute detail but never get beyond that.

On the other hand, I don't believe we can just will away serious trauma and to say so sounds dreadfully like an Ayn Rand version of psychology. Such a view it seems to me, can only be espoused by someone who has never suffered serious trauma in their life.

Think of a soldier returning from combat with PTSD. Do you really think it's useful or true to say that if he wills it he can turn off the nightmares and that not being hyper alert is a choice, that when he hears a car backfire, it is a choice to not hit floor but just go with the flow?

And where is the empathy for people who are suffering? It's all well and good for those of us with comfortable lives and interesting work to hypothesize abstracts, but what about those less fortunate?
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
Jul 17, 2014 - 11:20am PT
Thanks to PSP for his very simple and clear explanations

Ditto. As previously stated I appreciate his ability to correlate meditation practices to reality.

As opposed to esoteric points about 'where is the mind?' Its such a pointless... point.

DMT
another nickname

Social climber
Yazoo Ms
Jul 17, 2014 - 11:37am PT

I certainly don't know... but the point about philosophy "making progress" since Kant has been vigorously challenged by Brian MaGee, a now elderly former associate of Bertrand Russel and Karl Popper.

He suggests all of analytic philosophy is bunk & merely about analyzing language -- the tools of philosophy-- rather than making progress with philosophy. Says Popper mostly just revived some ideas from Hume. Says Wittgenstein was a Kantian & utterly misunderstood & not very significant.

Heidegger (it seems to me) was more about describing than explaining, & has certainly been restated in obfuscatory ways, by lots of writers since.
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 17, 2014 - 11:54am PT
^^^ Huh, i thought pp's response to me was weak sauce. No depth
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Jul 17, 2014 - 01:58pm PT
. . . we do, to lesser and greater degrees, have some free will per where we place our attention (JL)


It seems to me that once one accepts a deterministic path (in the sense that choices are made at some lower level of consciousness) it might be hard to deviate to encounter free will. A few simple examples might clarify your comment, John.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
Jul 17, 2014 - 02:10pm PT
^^^ Huh, i thought pp's response to me was weak sauce. No depth

He doesn't kowtow to spiritualists from either side of the spectrum.

You just didn't get the answer you were aiming for....

DMT
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jul 17, 2014 - 02:36pm PT
For the record, I said that sentience is the dynamic interplay or raw awareness, focus and attention. And that we DO NOT have free will over the content that arises in our Q Space (field of awareness), but rather we do, to lesser and greater degrees, have some free will per where we place our attention, and that greatly determines what plays out in our lives.

First, I say that subjective experience can be replicated. Experience is subjective only because humans do not perfectly experience many very objective and definable events. If we were perfect tape recorders, it would not be subjective.

We can't remember everything in our field of vision, for example. We cannot absolutely recall everything that our eyeballs experienced at one instant.

Same goes with all of the other senses. Our brains can't (or refuse) to perfectly record every "pixel" of experience. My guess is that the mind is constantly filtering experience to decide what to keep and what to ignore. If you put these rules in place it would help. Understanding intelligence is a little tricky. So far we have only one species to study. Ourselves. If we were able to communicate with other sentient species on our planet (whales, for example), then we might see more than one way to get there.

We can get close, though, and the most fruitful path to knowledge has typically been gained by a detached, physical analysis, of a part of experience or thought.

Sorry, but religion and spiritism haven't contributed that much to human "knowledge." Religion and spiritism have gone to some lengths in the past to silence anyone who gains true knowledge that contradicts whatever religious system is in place. Look at Galileo. Look at Go B trying to disbelieve evolution simply because physical knowledge contradicts his spiritual dogma.

As per free will, I agree that it requires a certain amount of attention as Largo says. Attention actually seems to be a requirement to any understanding of that flood of sensory information. You focus your attention. Then you exercise free will. I'm experiencing free will with every letter I type, right now.

I would bet that meditation sessions are VERY quiet. You need to quiet your chattering mind, which is experiencing at all times. Meditation seems to me to be an attempt to totally de-focus attention, or to absolutely focus on a single thing.

I know a pretty famous AI researcher. He said that understanding intelligence without an examination of subjective experience is almost pointless, and subjective experience is where it gets truly interesting.

I would guess that he has been working towards a "human" form of intelligence. Who knows? There may be many types of intelligence.

Then you can go off into a really interesting area: the creative arts. How do you know if a particular piece of art is good? How do you even define art in the first place? Same goes with writing, basket weaving, you name it. Heavy on subjectivity.

As for free will, I agree that this is probably confined to something that has our "attention." There are an endless number of things that catch our attention, and any of them requiring a decision constitutes free will. I don't narrowly define "attention" like Largo is trying to do.

If your aim is to become a fully realized Buddha, you apparently must spend a lot of time ignoring awareness. Or all of it, anyway.

Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 17, 2014 - 03:11pm PT
G, I'll give you a few examples of "free will" when I get back.

So far as replicating subjective experience, you first have to understand that experience is NOT an object we can observe and measure in the normal ways. When you say we can replicate subjective experience, you're left with having to write into code awareness, focus and attention, meaning you have to morph experience into the objective. My friends at Caltech gave up on that as an immediate possibility and are now looking at the relationship between the objective and subjective, matter and experience. One is using as a functional metaphor the relationship of gravity and matter, while the other two are not.

JL
PSP also PP

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jul 17, 2014 - 03:19pm PT
Base said "If your aim is to become a fully realized Buddha, you apparently must spend a lot of time ignoring awareness. Or all of it, anyway."

You should have also started this sentence with "I would bet".

By the way, we already are a fully realized Buddha's, we are just too distracted to notice.

jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Jul 17, 2014 - 04:35pm PT
By the way, we already are a fully realized Buddha's, we are just too distracted to notice


By that pesky "I" no doubt!


;>)
MikeL

Social climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 17, 2014 - 04:43pm PT
Base: Sorry, but religion and spiritism haven't contributed that much to human "knowledge."

Other than there is more to "there" than there is there, you may be right. But science got the drift, and now almost everything is invisible and unavailable to the senses. Now almost everything is constructed, abstracted, and conceptualized. A guy can't shed a tear without all sorts of explanations and interpretations coming up.

I would bet that meditation sessions are VERY quiet. You need to quiet your chattering mind, which is experiencing at all times. Meditation seems to me to be an attempt to totally de-focus attention, or to absolutely focus on a single thing.

They can be, . . . and they can be very noisy (internally or externally). Focusing on a thing is a tactic to distract or engage the conscious mind so that the unconscious mind can be experienced.

. . . you apparently must spend a lot of time ignoring awareness. Or all of it, anyway.

Remember when you were first learning about something (you pick), you probably made some pretty gross distinctions, if you made any at all. Awareness can be like that--and all of the infinite / possible distinctions are simply awareness itself, too.

But this line of thinking is going nowhere and is not very helpful. It's just talk.

Just listen, look, touch, speak (or not), or taste very carefully. Watch a wine connoisseur, or an artist, or a foodie, or a good speaker. They don't use a broad sword in their domain; they usually spend time working through what their senses bring to them. You probably do the same thing with rocks. Awareness expands not so much broadly but intensively. It gets more powerful, more insightful, and deeper with practice.

How much can you be right here right now? You'll ramp up the intensity of awareness when you've have, or just had, a close call. Then you'll witness all of your antenna picking up signals--and lots of them. What you might perceive new will be nuanced, gentle, warm, and in some ways a bit blissful. (But it's not like shooting up or anything; it's not wild.) It just seems to be more immediate and real than what you normally feel.

You don't run from experience or awareness, or to it. You just open up to it when it shows itself. You just notice.

Weird little pops or sparkles or strangeness appears now and then to you (thoughts, feelings, visually, your hearing, etc.). When they do, don't push them aside or ignore them. Just stay with them (gently, gently) until they evaporate or leave. That's experience without content, raw, pristine experience. Ground. What the Buddhists sometimes call, Alaya. The more you do so, the more reality starts to show itself: the more you notice reality the more you notice. There is no need for concepts or abstractions. Just take everything easy.

(Well, I guess I've gone way off the reservation with you on this one, hmmmm?)
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 17, 2014 - 08:10pm PT
Base that was a really good post!

Sorry, but religion and spiritism haven't contributed that much to human "knowledge." Religion and spiritism have gone to some lengths in the past to silence anyone who gains true knowledge that contradicts whatever religious system is in place. Look at Galileo. Look at Go B trying to disbelieve evolution simply because physical knowledge contradicts his spiritual dogma.

But as far as knowledge involving moral standards, the character of man, and the character of God there is NO better reference than the bible!

But it is NOT a scientific manual of the workings of nature and the material universe. It is though a living scientific manual for man's soul.
IMO, i don't believe Christ's followers should hold so tightly the 7 day creation, and 6k yro earth. The bible doesn't say that EXACTLY specifically to our understanding to time. Do i think that "God the Creator of the Universe" COULD do it within our understanding of a 24hr day? HELL YES! Is that the way the bible explains it? Not quite.. There is some interpretation going on there without a doubt... i think if God really wanted to confirm to our Objective minds of His existence, He could have thrown in some scientific theory's or talk of "quarks" or "black holes" or some such way back when Genesis was written that couldn't have been known of then, and not understood until today. What that prove to you that some higher intelligence wrote the bible? But if there was some irrefutable scientific proof in the bible, what would THAT do to our freewill?

Besides, what would it matter to a soul that can be everlasting how old the earth is?
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 17, 2014 - 09:53pm PT

Weird little pops or sparkles or strangeness appears now and then to you (thoughts, feelings, visually, your hearing, etc.). When they do, don't push them aside or ignore them. Just stay with them (gently, gently) until they evaporate or leave. That's experience without content, raw, pristine experience. Ground. What the Buddhists sometimes call, Alaya. The more you do so, the more reality starts to show itself: the more you notice reality the more you notice. There is no need for concepts or abstractions. Just take everything easy.

This is a beautiful one MikeL!

When i finished reading, my eyes veered to the right and saw the bulging breasts on the web ad which read "Love the one You Like"
So i just sat... ....gently, until i remembered i had to do the dishes!
i know, thats experience with content. But it's pretty good too.
MikeL

Social climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 17, 2014 - 10:15pm PT
Ha-ha. Pretty funny, BB. Got a chortle out of me.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jul 17, 2014 - 11:27pm PT
Largo: My friends at Caltech thought so as well, and despite Healyj’s wonky statements to the contrary – that anyone trying to program sentience is on bong water – this has been the promise of many AI folks for decades, and the BRAIN project which that charlatan hustled 1 billion Euros for promised as much by 2020.

First, AI folks have been working on lots of different things over the past six decades, sentience however, is not one of them beyond studying in attempt to understand it. Certainly it's never been a 'promise' of AI - unless they were hitting on something way, way stronger than the aforementioned bong water. And even those so afflicted came to their senses enough to abandon ship in the late '80s. Just ain't happening man.

Second, neither the BRAIN project nor any of the other large brain simulation efforts are attempting to 'program sentience' - not a one - they are simply attempting to model brain functions. One is attempting to really pin down and characterize neuron and synapse behavior in aggregate by modeling a cubic millimeter of brain. Hardly the stuff of sentience.

Again, just give up on the computer / simulation stuff as you keep badly mischaracterizing what's going on in that field ..
Randisi

Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
Jul 17, 2014 - 11:39pm PT
Have you read Derrida?

Yes. Mostly his early works.

I don't agree with him. But he has some useful critiques.
MikeL

Social climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 18, 2014 - 07:08am PT
Randisi:

Good on ya! His works are almost unreadable. Immensely dense writing. Not exactly a Foucault. I agree with you . . . important critiques. It's been a wonder why French Theory never hooked-up with Buddhists' notions.


Largo may know some different AI folk. When I was reading AI in grad school (way back in the 80's), the objectives were completely practically oriented: assembly lines, power plant management, complicated chemical processes, etc. AI meant to replicate expert decision making. Of course, there are always theorists in the background mucking around in any practical field. That they might be now focusing on neuroscience is a bit surprising to me . . . but I'm ancient and out of touch.



I now live at the mid-level in the canyons of buildings in downtown Seattle, and in the very early mornings I sit in contemplation as close as I can to a large set of windows facing other buildings. The sea birds that roost and breed on the roof tops take flight and perform aerobatics and call out to each other as the light comes up and before the city awakens. Looking at nothing in particular, the birds look like energetic but graceful sea animals in the water. Thoughts, feelings, and emotions are like that. They have a life all their own. There is no use in making any claim to them. I just let them be, and they evaporate or disappear on their own. Everything is like this: clouds, friends, jobs, even one's own identity. How can there be anything to get really serious or concrete about?
MH2

climber
Jul 18, 2014 - 07:41am PT
How can there be anything to get really serious or concrete about? (MikeL)


You express your own viewpoint eloquently, Mike. Variety in people's experience and outlook is good in my opinion. I see it as fine that you think the way you do, but surely you don't want everyone else to feel and act the same way? I ask because of your use of the comprehensive word anything. If there is nothing that you feel is worth getting really serious or concrete about, okay for you, but are you saying that people who feel otherwise are always making a mistake?
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