What is "Mind?"

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BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jul 28, 2014 - 02:16pm PT
I think it is a construct to say that we do not have free will. Our actions are colored to some degree by reflex, instinct, and past experience, but not entirely. Most of our conscious actions are free will.

One example of free will is the ability to override an instinct.

Our entire society has evolved on the notion that we have free will. Take a court of law, for example. We are held responsible for our actions. The idea that you embezzled a million dollars from your employer is regarded is a choice which has consequences, not an act that was fully predetermined. If you can successfully argue otherwise, you could empty the prisons.

For that matter, all of our actions have consequences. We humans have the ability to imagine our choices and actions, and their consequences, before acting. I'm doing this right now.

Ed said:

calculation of the future

That struck me out of Ed's story.

I like Ed's mention of the action of contemplating future events. Is this is a symptom of self awareness and free will? The notion that every second of our lives is captive to a deterministic physics is just wrong. Again, I offer the example of complex, dynamic systems throughout nature. Sure we are captive to physics, but that doesn't mean that our entire lives are nothing but reflexes and instinct. Our brains are far too complex for that.

So I shine a light in Largo's eye. His pupils will contract, and this action can be seen in both humans and animals. That is a reflex. Reflexes and instinct also affect behavior. If you have a fear of heights, that can be an instinct which could be so powerful that you bail from Dolt Tower on a beautiful sunny day. Our actions are colored to a degree by past experience. I didn't bail from Dolt tower the next time I tried The Nose. I imagined the consequences of just not giving up.

Largo decided to have fruit for breakfast. His hunger was either a reflex or an instinct. He "felt hungry." That part is not a conscious act.

The choice of what to have for breakfast is free will. The hunger is not. From this analogy you can see that our decisions are often influenced by instinct, but how we react to that instinct is usually free will. Everything that isn't solely the result of reflex, instinct, or learned behavior is free will. Influencing human decision making is big business. That is why we have commercials and advertisements.

We can study the evolution of ourselves, and learn many things about human minds. We can also study reflex, instinct, and action of other species, and compare them. That isn't my area of expertise other than I accept deep time and evolution as a fact.

The fact that the human mind was pretty much fully evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago begs the question of where did our mental abilities come from? The hardware was in place. The software of our minds is what has changed. Jan's comments are important, but nobody seems to listen.

Imagine a spider, whose brain is very small and simple. Somehow all spiders of a particular species spin similar webs, and the webs can be quite elaborate. This is instinctual, and pre-programmed at birth. Spiders don't go to school and learn from other spiders.

Humans spend the first 20 years or so of our lives learning things which are important to our survival in modern society. There is a huge spectrum there to draw analogies from. There are other species which can be taught, and those abilities are important to understand if we are going to understand humans.

Consider the human brain. It appears to have fully evolved 200,000 years ago. Our complex modern society, and knowledge of nature, evolved later. It seems to have really taken off about 12,000 years ago, when sedentary agriculture showed up.

Our individual abilities are greatly influenced by how we were taught. The most notable ability of humans, the one that is solely owned by humans, is our ability to have symbolic language. This has made it possible to build a collective human knowledge base which can be handed down through generations with great precision. Societies without symbolic language are at a big disadvantage. Handing down knowledge orally is not precise enough for extremely complex ideas. It only took one guy to come up with a theory of gravity. We send spacecraft to other planets using Newton's laws, for example. If every individual had to figure out every fact of nature by themselves, we would not be able to accumulate information as a societal species. Whales might be smart, but they can't write stuff down.

That ability is uniquely human. If you were raised by wolves, you would probably look like one of our ancient ancestors. If you were raised in modern society, you have the advantage of being able to learn accumulated wisdom. From that, we can see the importance of being very social animals. As individuals we have very little knowledge. Collectively, we have accumulated a vast amount of information which we then share.

That is the software which evolved, not the hardware.
Tvash

climber
Seattle
Jul 28, 2014 - 02:48pm PT
Largo homeostatic systems tell him he needs breakfast that will include protein, fibre, sugar, caffeine. His memories - unconscious until accessed, tell him he likes bananas but that he doesn't have any, so he'll settle for grapefruit, which he does.

Sure, he decides what to have for breakfast, but most of that processing is below the level of consciousness. For the most part, the actual conscious decision is a rubber stamp.

Still, he can consciously opt for a bowl of Sugar Frosted Flakes and a shot of cocaine, instead - free will does offer the override.
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 28, 2014 - 03:20pm PT

This is a feature of our perception of attention, that perception is that we have the thought first... which seems to be at odds with the science you quoted above.

Not at odds at all.

The fact that I was pointing at was indeed the minds thoughts (presumed to be manifested by neuron activity) came BEFORE the blood flows to replenish the neurons energy.

Example: I'm now thinking about when I climbed Ahab. As I pull in thoughts and details, certain parts of my brain are active reconstructing that nightmare. FOLLOWING the neuron synapses is the blood flow. The blood flow replenishes the neurons; (and maybe providing materials for building blocks of memory in the meat brain?)

Next question,
Does thought CAUSE neuron activity, or is neuron activity actually the thought happening?
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2014 - 03:42pm PT
I would just point out the fact that most all of this discussion revolves around free will and choice per what we are going to DO, what ACTIONS we will or will not take, and the various mechanisms we attribute to this process.
Ed has now adopted a kind of utilitarian action model of consciousness he says spawns “conscious thoughts after our actions,” which is consistent with many of the scientific models of "consciousness," particularly the idea that consciousness is a behavior developed to explain to other people what your intention is, and is actually looking at your actions essentially "third person."
This makes some sense, but only in relation to actions. What happens to this “scientific model of consciousness” when we have suspended all doing (“actions”) , are neither moving toward or moving away from any “conferred” or imposed intentions, are focused/paying attention to no thing in particular, but are entirely alert and present and aware of being here and alive in real time. The subject (content/actions/impulses/determined this and that) of all the previous discussions becomes moot - and yet you are still there, more present than any time in your life. Ed’s “third person” suddenly becomes first person.
Again, this is not remotely the advanced course material. The break in point, the entry level stuff (5th class) is to separate out to where you are simply a “third person’ observer or your own mechanical processes, while suspending all actions, including paying attention (narrow focusing). You’re discursive mind will immediately grope for some content, some thing, some experience, state, or action to execute, some immediate thing to DO, and the matrix will have you once again. It’s a back and forth till the content starts sloughing away.
cintune

climber
The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Jul 28, 2014 - 04:07pm PT
http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/path-back-to-consciousness/

The anesthetized brain is not actually quiet. It shows patterns of spontaneous activity that can change over time. But as the brain wakes, how do these random splashes of activity morph into the vigorous chatter of the conscious mind?

To find out, researchers looked for common patterns in the brain activity of rats as they were put under anesthesia and brought back. And they discovered a number of patterns that took place consistently. A few seemed to serve as stepping stones from deep anesthesia to waking, as if the brain were finding its way through a maze of possible activity states on the way back to consciousness.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 28, 2014 - 04:58pm PT
What happens to this “scientific model of consciousness” when we have suspended all doing (“actions”) , are neither moving toward or moving away from any “conferred” or imposed intentions, are focused/paying attention to no thing in particular, but are entirely alert and present and aware of being here and alive in real time.

Graziani's model, which is based on a particularly astute observation that we use the same internal programming components to figure out what others are going to do, or what we might do given a particular situation.

The "program" recognizes the difference between stimulus coming from our "senses" and stimulus generated by the behavior of "thinking." So it's third person all the time... in that sense.

Who do you talk to when your discursive mind is going off?

So in a software sense, there is a "homunculus," and it is the actual brain parts that lead to action... except that our adaptation of it is to use it to test ideas, so there is a way to "propose" a problem, and to use the result as a predictor. Once again, this is all a part of our perception, which is the collective of our "hardware" and the memory of experiences.

An elaboration, probably an important one, is that with language we can transmit our experience to others, it is no longer solely our own. Our experiences, transmitted through language, become a part of others experiences, to be used in this predictive manner.

The discursive behavior has also adapted and allows us to not only communicate our intentions, but to "talk to ourselves" and propose these sorts of problems, submitted to the same sets of mechanisms that we use in that "awareness schema" our perceptions of our attention.

This has a lot of interesting parallels with the sense that the "real world" is not what we perceive, which I think we all would agree to. However, as we become more adept at teasing out the "real world" we find there are important implications to the answer of the OP question.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Jul 28, 2014 - 05:08pm PT
The notion that every second of our lives is captive to a deterministic physics is just wrong.

Show me the evidence.

Again, I offer the example of complex, dynamic systems throughout nature.

As an engineering undergrad, I took a year of Control Systems, which is the study of "complex dynamic systems" - electrical, mechanicial, biological.

I don't remember studying any component or process of any complex "dynamic" system that wasn't "captive" to the underlying physics. Again, show me the evidence. Where the "miracle" occurs in the system setting the will "free" of causality or physics.

As far as I'm concerned "free will" is a nontechnical term - much like "God" or "spirit" - and until a better set of terminology comes along to articulate what's actually going on under the hood of the "complex dynamic systems" and also, importantly, to articulate what's not going on, in other words, the bs and wishful thinking - this mixed babel unfortunately it seems is only going to continue.

It's unfortunate that people cannot readily perceive that "free will" exists in some contexts and "free will" does not exists in others (e.g., at the level of causality that Sam Harris, Steven Weinberg, Daniel Dennett, E.O. Wilson, Christof Koch, Sean Carroll, Stephen Hawking and others understand).

Also, it's like Dawkins mentioned a long time ago in his evolution literature - the problem is doubly or triply difficult when people don't even know in the first place that a problem exists to be solved (whether it's the "design" of complex systems like living things and how they came about or, in our case, "free will" and its variety of forms, and what's meant by them).
WBraun

climber
Jul 28, 2014 - 05:20pm PT
HFSC ... You sound exactly as a "god" imitator ....
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Jul 28, 2014 - 05:34pm PT
Seems to me that Graziani's model, in principle, is well-represented in evolutionary biology in the sense of evolution co-opting a whole system that was originally optimized for one thing but, as it turns out, is 90% of what you need for doing another. The thing that was already well-honed is the creating and reading of mental maps to better anticipate a (say) potential predator's intentions. The thing that co-opted it is this thing that we experience as sentience.

There are several examples of co-opting whole systems or sub-systems in nature. It's one way in which big "jumps" in evolution can occur. As a software developer I totally get it. After all, modern software is largely based on re-useable components. Software developers always try to abstract the general from the particular (the re-useable components come from the general parts) and we deal with tree structures just like the tree of life.

So, Graziani's model, to me, is a very viable hypothesis, worthy of throwing up there to the scientific community because is make sense on so many levels.

And I just conferred with my cat who did not disagree.

Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Jul 28, 2014 - 05:41pm PT
"Genetic programming" implies no choice in the matter...my eyes are hazel, from my genetic programming, I am half-bald from my genetic programming...I am agnostic because...wait a minute, my gentic programming according to Jan and Ed Wilson says I can't be agnostic.

Assuming elcapinyoazz was not just being cynical and sarcastic, I think the answer is that nature provides a wide range of variation thanks to random mating, and thus not every example of a particular species will reflect the general characteristics of the group. Remember the example of the peppered moths from Manchester who went from 99% light to 99% dark in the span of 50 years thanks to natural variation that was already there when the environment changed?

Using that model, the interesting question is whether the number of religious people to agnostics and atheists will change likewise in the future or if religion will become even more prevalent as hard times increase with growing populations and corresponding ecological pressures, , and if so, what new forms will develop?
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Jul 28, 2014 - 06:00pm PT
Also, it's like Steven Pinker often points out... Growing numbers of the public are comfortable with the evolution of eye color and height, just not the evolution of feelings or mental faculties like intention or volition (will).

So that's part of the problem here also. I mean besides language failure, science illiteracy, gross inexperience in engineering type physics, material engineering and chemistry and chemistry labs, fear, etc..

"I'm an evolutionist but only so far. Eye color, sure. Height, sure. Certain instincts like hunger (btw, it's a feeling) and thirst (another one, a feeling, lol) sure. Lust, sure (definitely a feeling!) But not feelings, not compassion, not empathy, they are the province of the soul. To think they evolved is 'just wrong'." Right, Jan? Right BASE?

.....

I'd be eager to hear from anyone how it is (possible mechanisms of action) that our material bodies have what it takes to generate feelings of lust, hunger and thirst while at the same time APPARENTLY DO NOT have what it takes to generate those more "noble" feelings of love and compassion (provinces of a ghost, spirit, and/or universal consciousness, so it's claimed).

Nonetheless, for the "science types" here, as biology confirms, we are evolved biotic machines. It's not a theory but a fact (as the saying goes). Plain to anyone who's followed along. However, as Jan hints, indeed as she's pointed out many many times now and as the rest of us know all too painfully well, some folks don't have the means because of life circumstances (living in Syria or Sudan, eg) to ever come around to this realization. So how all this sorts out in the end to yield a common understanding that's any way unifying is really going to be something esp with all the world going global and cyber. I only wish I could be around to witness it and to be a part of it. Interesting times ahead.

.....

BASE104,

Come to think of it, I'd really like to hear from BASE104 on this one: How does the material body generate the feeling of hunger? Let's focus here on just one feeling - the feeling of hunger. How does that work? Feeling from material, a material body? The "spiritists" say this is poppycock, that it's impossible! to get feeling, any kind of feeling, from matter (after all, it's just atoms and molecules) but what say you?

Go-B, correct me if I'm wrong, but it's your view all feelings, from love to hate, joy and happiness, hunger to lust are all the province and providence of the soul or spirit, isn't that right? and the body is just the vehicle or receptacle. Isn't that your view?

.....

You say you're an evolutionist, not a creationist. Good, good!


So with that established then, please elaborate further: Just what kind of an evolutionist are you? Is your acceptance of evolution limited to physical traits or does it include feelings (sentience) too? That seems to be the growing $64M question worth asking here as well. At this site and in this century.
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 28, 2014 - 06:39pm PT

How does the material body generate the feeling of hunger? Let's focus here on just one feeling - the feeling of hunger. How does that work? Feeling from material, a material body?

Your about to paint urself into a corner
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Jul 28, 2014 - 06:46pm PT
Truth is, solve the problem of hunger (as a material based feeling) and you'll solve the problem of volition (as a material based faculty) and the problem of love and hate (as material-based feelings). At the level of the nervous system, they're somehow all bound together.

Good night, blu. :)
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 28, 2014 - 07:32pm PT
Ed said,

Graziani's model, which is based on a particularly astute observation that we use the same internal programming components to figure out what others are going to do, or what we might do given a particular situation.

The "program" recognizes the difference between stimulus coming from our "senses" and stimulus generated by the behavior of "thinking." So it's third person all the time... in that sense.

This is not how I was interpreting "programming", "programs".

I thought when we are programming ourselves, i mike, am consciously agreeing that my "subconscious model" and your "subconscious model" can agree on what is required to climb Ahab. And when Ahab is brought up, we can both quickly agree its a good climb!

These meetings of models, would provide the programming.

My program, which ill call "Ahab" will get added to from the outcome of our conversation.
If I'm taking a poll of who likes Ahab. You say yes, I'll store you in my positive column. If you didn't like it, I'd put you in the negative column.

Isn't "programming" what's taking place between the conscious down to the subconscious?

And the "program" is separate yea, but not quite a third person?

Could you show me where you referenced your meaning please?


BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 28, 2014 - 07:48pm PT

Truth is, solve the problem of hunger

There is a difference in neurons between Senses and Emotions I will say that for now.

I don't believe feeling hungry is an emotion?

Even you I bet could conjure up some tears for your dearly departed Greatgrandmother.

But I bet you couldn't drop one tear re imagining the pain you induerd with snowblindness or a compound fractured femur.

Senses can bring Emotions. But emotions are the Landmark...
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2014 - 08:14pm PT
The "program" recognizes the difference between stimulus coming from our "senses" and stimulus generated by the behavior of "thinking." So it's third person all the time... in that sense.

Who do you talk to when your discursive mind is going off?

Ed said: "So in a software sense, there is a "homunculus," and it is the actual brain parts that lead to action... except that our adaptation of it is to use it to test ideas, so there is a way to "propose" a problem, and to use the result as a predictor. Once again, this is all a part of our perception, which is the collective of our "hardware" and the memory of experiences."

Can you tickle this apart to make sense of it? First, there is a "homunculus," but only in a provisional ‘software’ sense of the word. The homunculus is quite naturally a thing, in this case, a brain part in charge of action. If the homunculus and the brain pert are the same, what, exactly IS the homunculus and what purpose does it serve? It can’t make any decisions or effect anything because a determined machine is all or nothing determined, not partially determined. Is Ed's homunculus determined by the brain part? Entirely? And who, exactly, is proposing a problem or anything whatsoever which is used as a predicator? What is this “who.” If you wiped the game clean of all vestiages of self, “I,” homonculous, etc., how would our actions vary, and why?
The fatal error here, IMO, is the attempt to absolutely anchor and conflate sentience to content/objective processing - i.e., memories and "hardware." This, of course is nothing new - it is simply a recasting of the old saw that "sentience is what the brain does," and that once the data is in, the subjective is actually the objective.
Going on: "An elaboration, probably an important one, is that with language we can transmit our experience to others, it is no longer solely our own. Our experiences, transmitted through language, become a part of others experiences, to be used in this predictive manner."
Of course we never transmit our actual experience to anyone because experience exists only as a first person subjective phenomenon. What we transmit is symbolic information about the content of experience. Experience itself is always one-and-done. Data and info are content, not experience itself.
Going on: "The discursive behavior has also adapted and allows us to not only communicate our intentions, but to "talk to ourselves" and propose these sorts of problems, submitted to the same sets of mechanisms that we use in that "awareness schema" our perceptions of our attention."
Million dollar question: Who is listening? In fact while there is listening, there is no self receiving that data stream. Nor is the brain talking so it can listening to itself – an absurd nothing withal. "We" listen, but we are not a thing, nor yet a homunculus nor yet an aggregate of brain parts and recollected experiences.
But the crux of this all is a very simple question: What happens to this "awareness schema" when we are NOT thinking or predicting or talking to ourselves? According to the awareness schema, awareness itself is the blowback of paying attention. That is, awareness is entirely created by paying attention or perceiving an objective and definable thing, while simultaneously holding a holographic sense of past perceptions. If this were entirely true, then awareness would vanish the moment the brain was not focused on and paying attention (was “aware of” or was perceiving) to a discrete thing or article of attention. But any student of the experiential arts can say with certainty that the exact opposite is true. In fact, raw awareness (NOT slaved to an object) is the wild card in the entire shebang.

What we are looking at here is people giving lip service to sentience and choice (Fruitcake “deciding” what cereal to eat – “I decide” – to Ed’s homonculous , which isn’t really real, but is at bottom a “brain part,” to BASE, who’s mysterious “I” weighs options presented by a brain, and so forth.

The reason this feels right to some is that it fits their existing belief per the way things are.

JL
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 28, 2014 - 08:18pm PT
The reason this feels right to some is that it fits their existing belief per the way things are.

that is usually the case...



the "homunculus" is the sense we have of a "little person" in our brain... sort of like the Men In Black scene someone put a picture of up above...

but if you take Graziani seriously, the same way we form our actions from external stimuli is the way we make a prediction of someone else's intent.

The social attention is important, and we all have it, looking at how someone is moving and inferring what they are up to. It is imitative and a part of the way we do things, but we use the same brain parts to build a model of the intent as we do to animate our own intent.

It would be a typical simplification as eeyonkee observed above, the reason being that in evolutionary development, the brain has to "pay its keep," which is to say, if it uses up more energy than it provides it's not going to make the evolutionary cut. But the evolution of the human brain is still very speculative... and it might be simply a sexual selection attribute, our peacock feathers. Time will tell.

It is relatively straight forward to see how slight modifications to the general plan gets us to the discursive mind. It is very often a 'third person' talking to us, that is the definite experience. In some ways, it perfectly illustrates the point, we are listening to an internal dialog, and thinking about what that dialog is saying, responding to it internally, just as we would to external dialog. No need to have two totally separate mechanisms to deal with the distinction between "internal" and "external" stimuli. The only thing required is to recognize when the "voice" is internal, and when it is external.

Obviously, when this get screwed up all sorts of strange behavior can occur (and does in various brain disorders).

The act of learning by imitating what you see is also a consequence of this, and this is a relatively wide spread behavior among animals and thus we could conclude that it most likely predates humans. Note that learning like this frees up "processing power," the brain doesn't have to be wired completely for every behavior, so learning becomes a way to reduce the energy used by the brain. And learning this way is also necessarily social, there is a teacher (parent) and there is the student (offspring). What is learned becomes a part of culture for that society.

As for "the raw experience" we never experience it... if for no other reason that the way we sense things are limited by those sensory organs, the raw signal of the experience is not accessible to us, we cannot sense all of what is there.

On top of that, the information from those senses are heavily processed by the nervous system even before they get to the brain. Once they hit the brain, there is even more processing, which results in our perception. It is the perception that is remembered, and so we can hear or read or view something about someone else's experience and have that become accessible to our decision making as if we had experienced it ourselves. It is trite to claim this isn't the "same thing" as the experience, we are all "third person" removed when we become conscious of all of those experiences.

What is unique is that we possess a very large set of memories of the perception of the events of our life, the collection of these events define "us" as well as the specific hardware we have under our hoods.



I don't think there is anything special when you turn off the dialog... random things happen, ideas float in and out, you still respond to external stimuli. It might be possible to so totally control your awareness that you do shutdown response to external stimuli, there are certainly acts of political protest by people who practice advanced meditation that indicate it is possible.

Learning how your brain works through meditation, or at least aspects of the brain, is a very likely outcome of the practice. I don't see that anything there requires a non-physical explanation.
ß Î Ř T Ç H

Boulder climber
extraordinaire
Jul 28, 2014 - 09:27pm PT
http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/2457893/what-is-ass
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 28, 2014 - 09:44pm PT

I don't see that anything there requires a non-physical explanation.

Don't get to complacent yet! I'm gonna drive this load of pineapples all the way to Hawaii.

We atleast have something to work from with that Aeon link. But I'm sure the mechanics aren't quite right? And we sure haven't introduced all the physical properties yet. You have yet to meet my "ghost in the water" and my "bags of water" theory. Fruity almost touched on it yesterday.

Oh yea,
Good night to you too Fruity!
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 28, 2014 - 11:23pm PT
JL that was a great post!

But the crux of this all is a very simple question: What happens to this "awareness schema" when we are NOT thinking or predicting or talking to ourselves? According to the awareness schema, awareness itself is the blowback of paying attention. That is, awareness is entirely created by paying attention or perceiving an objective and definable thing, while simultaneously holding a holographic sense of past perceptions.

And those are a blowback of consciousness.

Do you think in your meditative state of raw-awareness, you could be possibly dropping attention/awareness and experiencing Raw-Consciousness?

Same horse different color
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