What is "Mind?"

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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.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Jul 29, 2014 - 01:00pm PT
tvash, that's probably going to be the weirdest one I see all day!

I mean from the "science types." ;)

.....

As for complicated systems, I doubt you studied the complexity of the human brain.

That's okay. I doubt you studied geology or fossil fuels in regard to discovering them or extracting them.

So we're even!!!
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Jul 29, 2014 - 01:06pm PT

PSP

I find a lot of discursive sense in the article, but I'm not impressed by the catchfrases at the start. The article is out fishing souls, they're salesmen...

Look at our modern life! Everything is moving quickly, and it’s hard to keep up with the dizzy tempo. You try to find satisfaction, but no matter how great your effort, it seems you hardly make any progress. Finally you recognize that you cannot keep up with the bewildering, quick changes of time. That doesn’t feel good. You feel uncomfortable, upset, or sad, and you want to escape. So you cover your eyes, turn your mind away from your dissatisfaction, and live your life based on having pleasure. That is modern life. I don’t mean to criticize modern life, but something is missing.

I seldom feel "uncomfortable, upset, or sad" and when I do, it's all right. I don't "want to escape".
Tvash

climber
Seattle
Jul 29, 2014 - 01:20pm PT
A feeling, at least as described by Damasio, isn't a direct autonomic sensation - pain, hunger, heat - it is a partly deliberate reaction to that sensation - and a whole lot of other stuff.

Example: I hit my thumb with a hammer. The pain is not a 'feeling' (sure, I 'feel' it, ) - it's an autonomic sensation. The two are different processes that require different definitions, even if they share a word. Two definitions, one word. OMG!

I may have an initial autonomic emotional response - a flash of anger, etc. - but then, how do I feel?

Well, I might actually find it funny (I did last time - even though I was howling in pain). This is a feeling. It is, in part at least, a choice, and one that can be trained one way or the other over time.

I may go with raging frustration - another feeling, then throw my project against the wall - an action. I wanted to do this while laughing, but chose not to.

I may assess how well the project is going, or not, with regards to my recent change in injury status - again, a feeling. I may continue it or not - a chosen action.

You get the idea.

BTW, the way to deal with an innernut bully is simply not respond. They'll continue to bully, and you'll continue to not give a rip and appropriately ignore them.

A coo coo clock will continue attempting to bully long after they realize they've got zero influence but hey, the world is full of coo coo clocks.
Tvash

climber
Seattle
Jul 29, 2014 - 01:27pm PT
That's why I said "In the end, you usually know about how you feel about something", Mike L.

Before you finally figure it out, you often don't know f*#k all about how you feel about something.

Every word is a special snowflake.

Regarding the chaos component - a very little chaos goes a long way given a long enough time scale. With the brain or weather - it doesn't take very long at all before things become not so predictable.
Tvash

climber
Seattle
Jul 29, 2014 - 01:30pm PT
Cavemen would see a drone and think:

"Dayum, bugs are getting bigger these days"
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 29, 2014 - 01:42pm PT
getting around to reading Science...

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6194/313.abstract
Science 345, 313 (2014)
Vol. no. 6194 pp. 313-317
Role of synaptic phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase in a behavioral learning response in C. elegans

Hayao Ohno, et al.
Abstract
The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway regulates many cellular functions, but its roles in the nervous system are still poorly understood. We found that a newly discovered insulin receptor isoform, DAF-2c, is translocated from the cell body to the synaptic region of the chemosensory neuron in Caenorhabditis elegans by a conditioning stimulus that induces taste avoidance learning. This translocation is essential for learning and is dependent on the mitogen-activated protein kinase–regulated interaction of CASY-1 (the calsyntenin ortholog) and kinesin-1. The PI3K pathway is required downstream of the receptor. Light-regulated activation of PI3K in the synaptic region, but not in other parts of the cell, switched taste-attractive behavior to taste avoidance, mimicking the effect of conditioning. Thus, synaptic PI3K is crucial for the behavioral switch caused by learning.



what does it mean?

the researchers subjected the nematodes to a situation in which they were starved in an environment with a particular taste factor present (worms can taste), a taste they would usually be attracted to.

however, the worms learned to associate that taste with a bad thing, starving, and became averse to the taste.

the researchers could then track down what changed in the worm, how the memory association worked as a mechanism...

The first line of the paper:
"Signaling through the insulin-PI3K pathway is widespread in the mature brain, where it has been implicated in memory performance and neurological disorders (1, 2). However, the regulation and roles of this signaling in the central nervous system are largely unknown."

and their last paragraph:
"Our data demonstrate that the CASY-1 and kinesin-1 complex that is regulated by the Ras-MAPK pathway confers functional specificity to the insulin receptor long isoform through rapid translocation to the synaptic region (Fig. 4G). The mammalian insulin receptor also localizes to the synaptic region of neurons (24), and both insulin signaling and calsyntenins have been considered relevant to memory performance and Alzheimer’s disease in humans (1, 2, 17, 25). Our findings may lead to further understanding of the mechanisms underlying human memory formation and dementia."



memory of an experience is just that... a memory, processed to extract the pertinent information can be stored and used at a later time. Once again, this is a very nice way of "programming" where you don't have to "hardwire" in all possible conditions... and the architectures for this sort of computation are accessible to the evolution as well as expressed by von Neumann's stored program computer architecture.

this is such a fundamental aspect of organisms with a "complex" nervous system (C. elgans has 302 neurons and about 5000 synapses) that the advantages conveyed are still relevant.

Here the research is digging into the detailed mechanisms that create memory, and associative memory.
Tvash

climber
Seattle
Jul 29, 2014 - 01:59pm PT
I see your "to wit" and raise you "perforce", JL.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 29, 2014 - 02:04pm PT
A feeling, at least as described by Damasio, isn't a direct autonomic sensation - pain, hunger, heat - it is a partly deliberate reaction to that sensation - and a whole lot of other stuff.

Example: I hit my thumb with a hammer. The pain is not a 'feeling' (sure, I 'feel' it, ) - it's an autonomic sensation. The two are different processes that require different definitions, even if they share a word. Two definitions, one word. OMG!
-


I remember when I was initially doing work with EEGs and qEEGS and so forth, one of the profs had us all go and bone up on all the triune brain material - brain stem, limbic system, and neocortex. Each has it's own language or data that presents itself to awareness, to lesser or greater extents. Standard theory says that each layer or story of the triun brain can be viewed as a gear.

The brainstem is by far the largest and exerts the most crucial stuff per our survival and behavior. All of our involuntary processes and instinctual responses and impulses, from teritorialism to regulating blood pressure et al. The "language" of the brain stem is body sensations. The limbic system generates emotions - also known as (e)nergy IN motion. Feelings never arise one at a time but move throug the net of awareness like schools of fish (hence, energy in motion). There is an energetic bio-energy aspect to feelings that we can get dialed into with enough work ("Felt Sense" and all that). Hence the term, what are you "feeling." What we are feeling is energy, in this case, emotional energy. Emotions are meant to move through us and when one gets stuck, we become "emotional" and it can become pathological.

Trying to "know" a feeling is challenging for several reasons. First, it is usually a moving target and so is ever shifting. Grief may feel heavy, but anyone who has gone through it knows it too comes in waves (bio eneregy in motion). But feelings are not things in the normal sense of the word and we sometimes can get a sense of them only by way of what they do to us. You can describe senstations like heat and pins and needles and pain and so forth, but describing what maudlin or joy feels like is often only possible by describing the attending sensations. The emotions themselves remain evanescent and strangely ungraspable - like grunyon.

Learning to separate out instinctual energies like aggression, sexuality and so forth from emotions involves some heavy lifting, but emotions are much bigger drivers per our behavior than thoughts, a fact largely unconscious to people, but dead obvious to psychologists who deal with it day in and day out.

JL
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 29, 2014 - 02:09pm PT
Does this refer to discursive thought or simple awareness or imagery of yourself performing the action? How do you define "thought?"

my previous statements are a "gross speculation" that what we take to be our "thoughts," in the discursive mind aren't the thoughts that lead to action, but the explanation of those thoughts and actions, neither of which are accessible to the discursive mind, at least not directly.

our "narrative" is essentially a third person explanation of what we did, but this third person is associated with our brains. this narrative is a behavior used to inform others of our intention, which is an important aspect of living together in large social groups.



Largo doesn't want to recognize "information" because it is a physical thing, it can be manipulated physically, but the result of those operations, while physical, may not be interpreted as a description of a physical thing...

confusing, no doubt.

But we can think of traveling faster than the speed-of-light, a physical impossibility (as far as we know). Largo would ask the question "how can a process that is physical result in an unphysical answer?"

The point is that the manipulation of information follows physical rules. Those rules are all followed, and the result is the physical answer. The interpretation of the resulting information doesn't have to be something that can be physically realizable, that's not a necessary requirement of the manipulations.

Memory is information, the information that our nervous system uses in decision making. That decision making is the manipulation of information through a model of the world, our perception, and how we animate our decisions, the result of information processing into action.

Not only is the information, and that model "not the actual experiences and the actual world" but that that is further abstracted, both in the way our senses limit our experience and in the limitations of our perceptions. Those things can never be the "raw" experience.

But the amazing thing is that they are good enough to sustain the species, to allow it to survive and reproduce, even with no idea what so ever of the "raw" experience. It isn't necessary, our perceptions, our memories, and all that just have to be good enough.

Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 29, 2014 - 03:04pm PT
Largo doesn't want to recognize "information" because it is a physical thing, it can be manipulated physically, but the result of those operations, while physical, may not be interpreted as a description of a physical thing...

-

Not so. What I am pointing out here and elsewhere is that there are always two sides of the coin, physical and non-physical, and reality (the coin, so to speak) is impossible to know looking at only one side.

The obsession of many here is that only the physical side is "real," and sources every thing. What follows is the misguided question: What is NOT physical?

JL
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