What is "Mind?"

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BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jul 29, 2014 - 08:43am PT
problem of hunger (as a material based feeling)

What is the definition of "feeling"? Can't you describe it in less sloppy terms? I agree that it is material based, but not some nebulous feeling.

Animals seem to have a "BIOS," for lack of a better word. A particular spider species spins an elaborate web without being taught how. Humans begin to walk in about a year, and talk in a little less than two. A butterfly knows how to fly instantly after it emerges from its chrysalis. A bird learns to fly in only a couple of months. These behaviors are not taught. They are innate, and somehow genetically pre-programmed in each particular species.

Clearly, some behavior is strictly genetic. We see it throughout the animal kingdom, a genetic BIOS.

Hunger is an involuntary response to being hungry. If you are on a diet, you can override this reflex or instinct. Calling it a feeling is a poor choice of words. The word does not imply a reflex or instinct. It doesn't imply causation.

As for complicated systems, I doubt you studied the complexity of the human brain. I doubt you studied the brain of an ant. We know that the human brain has roughly 20 billion neurons, and each neuron is connected to thousands of other neurons. That is some serious complexity.

The human brain is the most complicated thing that we know of in the entire universe. Modeling it is not as simple as modeling the life cycle of a star. Behavior is not just controlled in the brain. It is also controlled by the endocrine system. Adrenaline, for example. Not to mention the billions of synapses and the effect of hundreds of neurotransmitter and hormonal influences.

If you define behavior as simply as a response to a stimulus, that begs the question of what behavior is genetically predetermined in our BIOS, (innate behavior), and what behavior is learned. Clearly we can see examples of both types of behavior.

Innate behavior can be thought of as objective behavior, and learned behavior can be thought of as subjective behavior.

That subjective behavior can be studied in not only humans, but other animals. We know that it exists. We are at the other end of a spectrum from the spider who spins its particular type of web without being taught. We still have innate behaviors, though.

Control theory is cool, though. Have any of you seen the TED talk on programmed drone quadcopters?

http://www.ted.com/talks/raffaello_d_andrea_the_astounding_athletic_power_of_quadcopters

I would wager that a primitive civilization would think that these suckers are alive.






BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jul 29, 2014 - 09:08am PT
Here is another cool one:

http://www.ted.com/talks/vijay_kumar_robots_that_fly_and_cooperate
Tvash

climber
Seattle
Jul 29, 2014 - 09:09am PT
FYI a brain has over a trillion connections.

What makes us feel one way or the other? One part the state of our entire fully integrated neural/body system - the health of nearly every part of our body - one part the state of our emotions (did we just fall in love or get dumped?) - and one part choice.

Emotions are autonomic reactions - specific physiological reactions to stimuli (internal - thoughts, or external).

Feelings, in contrast, are not autonomic. They are a combination of the state of health and well being of our entire fully integrated neural/body system - the state of our emotions (did we just fall in love or get dumped?), and how we choose to feel. Our awareness schema experiences these incoming signals (which are the final result of a very two way conversation between the schema and all the rest) as an overall sense of well being, or not. When its all said and done, how do you feel about your relationships, health, life, breakfast, etc?

We don't choose emotions, although, over time, emotional responses can certainly be trained, just as other autonomic processes can be as well.

We have a lot of choice over our feelings, however. One event, two people, two completely different reactions.

Feelings inform our conscious actions, but even so, our conscious actions are also choices. They are broad brush - they are a summary of a whole lot of stuff, but in the end, you usually know how you feel about something.

Thus, hunger is not actually a feeling, nor is it an emotion, but a more basic autonomic response to stimuli, like pain or heat. We might 'feel' hunger (basic autonomic response), then get grouchy (autonomic emotional response), then choose to feel like our day isn't going well (feeling), then choose to go to Dick's and get a Deluxe, fries, and strawberry shake (action).
Tvash

climber
Seattle
Jul 29, 2014 - 09:26am PT
It's helpful to remember that Graziano's is a schema of our awareness, not a true homunculus. It's doesn't call all the shots, or even a majority of the shots - it sits atop a mountain of subconscious processes and partially or fully delegates decision making to that mountain.

Largo's critique of a fully deterministic biomachine might be, in essence, accurate if it weren't for the role chaos plays in systems as complicated as a brain/body system. We can't predict the weather - a much simpler system than the brain in terms of its structures and relationships, but one with a whole lot of moving parts, all nudged by chaos.

If I have one criterion for making a decision - that's pretty deterministic.

If I have 10,000 criteria, many of which hail from a dynamic environment, and each feedback loop involved has even a small chaotic component - good luck predicting what that system's gonna do with any lead time.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 29, 2014 - 09:34am PT
hunger is an interesting response, and our understanding changes as we learn more...

recent work on the importance of the human body as an ecosystem, where there are human cells and there are other bacteria living on that body, and all of it interacting not just as an organism but as a synergistic (in the actual meaning of the word) system of organisms.

to wit, the largest serotonin production occurs in the gut... makes you wonder how that biota is affecting our behavior. So a conjecture might be that if you are trying to understand our dietary habits, you have to include the non-human biological components too, the behavior of the flora/fauna living on us (with us).

this isn't some act of a freeloading bacterial world, it is a co-evolved relationship, a mother's breast milk contains bacteria that are essential for the development of babies... and the milk also contains nutrient elements specifically for those bacteria.

so to understand "hunger" one now has to understand a much more complex system, not just the human, but the human along with all of these other biological factors.

Interestingly, these other factors have an effect on the "mind" too, this effect utilizing the hormonal "reward" system inducing behavior that benefits the bacteria as well as the human...

here is an interesting twist to the "free will" narrative, maybe you have less then you think when you are dieting... you have to convince an ecosystem, not just your own "will. "
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
Jul 29, 2014 - 09:37am PT
You're parsing the word 'feeling.'

I touch something, I feel it.

When I'm hungry I definitely feel it.

If I stick a pin in my finger I feel it.

I perceive my embarrassment through my feelins too.

I will not cede the definition of 'feel' to the Mind discussion.

Feelings are nervous system responses, the origins of which might or might not be mechanical.

I do not think you are correct to try and disconnect them. It doesn't feel... right.

DMT

ps. Thanks for that intervening post Ed.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 29, 2014 - 09:49am PT
while "chaos" theory, "emergence" and the like are often touted as possible explanations of deterministic systems for which predictability is not possible, those cases where you can understand the dynamics are very prescribed.

whether or not the nervous system follows "chaotic" dynamics is certainly an open question, and at this point is a possibly interesting speculation.

the hallmark of such deterministic systems is sensitivity to the initial conditions. to track the systems in their dynamical phase space, one can show that in some regimes the need for precise statement of the starting point is greater than the achievable precision. As the dynamical system evolves, the path in phase space departs from the predicted path, that is, the prediction fails.

if you apply this to human behavior, then in an evolutionary sense, the system is "trimmed" away from the phase space regions of initial condition sensitivity if the resulting, unpredictable behavior results in mortality.

if this is not the case, that the behavior doesn't affect mortality, it is of neutral evolutionary importance, there is no "evolution."



I would wager that a primitive civilization would think that these suckers are alive.

I don't think it is limited to a primitive civilization, our perception initially tells us that things moving on their own are animals... upon further observation we may change our initial reaction.

Civilization provides us with experiences that include moving things that are not,

animal
Middle English: the noun from Latin animal, based on Latin animalis 'having breath' from anima 'breath'; the adjective via Old French from Latin animalis.

Oxford English Dictionary
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
Jul 29, 2014 - 09:54am PT
I would wager that a primitive civilization would think that these suckers are alive.

Probably so!

And when that primitive culture learns there is a Wizard of Oz hiding behind the curtain, controlling those terrible devices? They'll know they were right.

DMT
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 29, 2014 - 09:56am PT
The article appears to be gross speculation.

it is in Aeon... perhaps you could read one of the science papers that were linked... though I predict you will find them equally unconvincing....


and what has been written that is not "a gross speculation"?
it is speculation that gets you started on the path of understanding.

you could resist going down a path, and sit at the trailhead waiting for enlightenment to be revealed.

everyone makes their own decision, wait for revelation, or seek understanding. it's their choice.
PSP also PP

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jul 29, 2014 - 10:36am PT
"everyone makes their own decision, wait for revelation, or seek understanding. it's their choice. "

The pitfall of waiting and seeking. Who's waiting and seeking ?
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Jul 29, 2014 - 10:51am PT
I'm having a little trouble keeping up with all the conflicting commentaries on this thread, separating scientific fact from scientific speculation, etc. So, someone please clarify a simple issue for me:

Suppose I'm sitting at a table in a lab and on the table are three poker chips - red, green, and blue. I am instructed to choose a chip, pick it up, turn and drop it in a basket beside me. I choose the blue chip and finish the task.

(1) My "choice" of the blue chip was actually made at a below-conscious level an instant or so before I consciously "made" the choice.

(2) As I executed the physical procedure, my actions took place an instant before I was aware of myself taking the actions, even though the actions and the awareness seemed to coincide exactly.

(1) I think has been verified. Has (2)? Is there anything else going on here that is scientifically verified?
MikeL

Social climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 29, 2014 - 11:20am PT
Tvash: . . . in the end, you usually know how you feel about something.

The field of counseling and psychology might disagree with you there. Most people do not appaer to know they are in a feeling state, be it a mood or a short-term emotional state (e.g., anger, love, surprise). Check out Ekman's book, "Emotions Revealled." His research is the basis for profiling of terrorists at airports, as people cannot help but physically betray (signal) what they are feeling to other beings of the same species--even when they don't know it themselves. You have about 150 muscles in your face, of which about 50% are not under your control.

Listen to your wife or husband when they say that you're acting out your anger--when you object and say you're not being angry at all!


Ed: it is speculation that gets you started on the path of understanding.

you could resist going down a path, and sit at the trailhead waiting for enlightenment to be revealed.

There is no need for any of that, Ed. If speculation is important or interesting to you, then you will probably do just that. But speculation is not necessary, and I would say that speculation simply complicates what is inherently simple and pragmatic. Discursive thinking (the kind that invariably goes on here) are artificial abstractions and elaborations.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 29, 2014 - 11:22am PT
even though the actions and the awareness seemed to coincide exactly.

seemed is an indication of perception... what you perceive and what was may not correspond exactly, especially once you push it to the 10s of millisecond level of "coincidence"

certainly untangling all these perceptions with measurements is a part of ongoing neurological investigation
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 29, 2014 - 11:23am PT
Discursive thinking (the kind that invariably goes on here) are artificial abstractions and elaborations.

you can always choose not to be discursive...
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Jul 29, 2014 - 11:31am PT
what you perceive and what was may not correspond exactly, especially once you push it to the 10s of millisecond level of "coincidence" (Ed)

Clearly that's the case. What I was getting at was the statement "thought follows action." Does this refer to discursive thought or simple awareness or imagery of yourself performing the action? How do you define "thought?"

Simply a William James' comment having no particular scientific connection?

From what you said earlier I thought there was something deep going on here.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 29, 2014 - 11:59am PT
Ed said: "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."

Experience itself is NOT a memory but a real time phenomenon. Begging to believe or pandering the idea that the some of the data carried by experience is the "same thing" as the real time experience itself, and insisting that it is trite to belive otherwise, is in IMO, yet another attempt to prune and objectify subjectivity down to a quantifiable or definable data stream, and insist that this IS subjectivity.

Anyone steeped in the empirical work recognizes this as another attempt to transmust the sutjective into the objective. The compulsion to conflat the two is a strange kind of obsession particular to quantifiers - but of course it does not make the subjecive the objective anymore than it makes heads, tails.

My issue with Graziano's is not so much with the AEON Magazine piece per se, or even that he "grossly speculated" per awareness, attention, and so forth, but that his beliefs were not empirical, and instead were the standard efforts of investigating objective functioning and guessing about how awareness and attention and so forth operate within our experiential, subjective sphere.

As mentioned, his were rather glaring rookie mistakes that anyone doing any sort of subjective adventures can quickly and perfectly verify for themselves. It’s almost astonishing that they could find play here as boni fide when they are so clearly way off base.

The one claim that is almost exactly the opposite of true is the belief that awareness itself is “created” by, or is sourced through the process of paying attention or being aware of (attention creates awarenes) some discrete person, place, thing or phenomenon, internal, external or otherwise.

To wit: In beginning meditation classes the subject is instructed to sit perfectly still, straight back, eyes half open and softly focused on the ground at a 45 angle. To neither move toward or move away from whatever arises in your field of awareness, to foregoe all efforts to concentrate, and to be aware of or pay attention to NOTHING AT ALL and to simply hold the intention of BEING ALERT AND AWARE of being there on the mate on in the chair.

Anyone who has done ANY mind training knows that this is totally impossible at first. So what happens?

Until you learn to stabilize your awareness and attention, the first thought or feeling or memory that comes along shanghai’s ALL of your awareness and carries you off to la la land. Instantly, without knowing it, your real time sense of being alert and being aware in space and time is destroyed as your mind takes an unconscious sleigh ride with that thought or feeling or memory to which you are fused (solely aware). In a real sense, there is no "you" in this state. Strangely, usually after a minute or so, you will wake back and once more become aware of being there trying to keep your focus open and maintain your awareness.

So contrary to Graziano’s speculation, that attention “creates” awareness, we can easily verify for ourselves that once our attention become connected to a person, place, thing or phenomenon, it is entirely possible if not probable that our raw awareness in not created, but entirely destroyed to the point that we instantly forget what we were trying to do (remain aware and alert) as our attention is fused to that thought, etc.

Again, this is not remotely an advanced or revolutionary maxim of the subjective adventures, but pretty much the climbing equivalent of a 5.0 slab.

JL
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jul 29, 2014 - 12:26pm PT
"thought follows action."

This is another thing that doesn't smell right. Can action exist without thought? Thought can certainly exist without action.

Swinging a bat at a baseball is a conscious decision that involves thought prior to the action, even if that thought is purely subconscious. I don't see how action can precede thought except in autonomic situations.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Jul 29, 2014 - 12:41pm PT
You're an automaton, BASE. "Get over it." :)

.....

Thus, hunger is not actually a feeling...

tvash, that's probably going to be the weirdest one I see all day!

Of course, "hunger" describes a state of the body regarding homeostasis; but it also describes the sensation or feeling (or sentience) one gets that signals the former.

Maybe BASE would've been happier had I used the latinate equivalent for the anglo "feeling" - that being "sentience" - but who the hell knows?

Base, I think you're our resident Joe Biden, lol!
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Jul 29, 2014 - 12:45pm PT

Automatons...
PSP also PP

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jul 29, 2014 - 12:57pm PT
http://archive.thebuddhadharma.com/issues/2007/fall/time.php

This is an interesting article by Katagiri Roshi it is called "Being in real time". I think it is on topic re discursive vs non discursive. It is a bit long but also gives a very good explanation of zen.
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