Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ongoing Analysis of Other Theories of Consciousness

There's one here.

There are two reasons I hate video. One, I don't like my pacing to be decided for me. I want to skim and to re-read. Second, I'm far too lazy to transcribe very much, so copypasta is far better for my readers.

"Philosophy is not a team effort like science."
Well it bloody well ought to be. For instance,
"Association for the Study of Consciousness...seeks to further international collaboration between philosophers, and scientists."
Yeah, like that.

I want to quickly critique 'Mary' who has studied colour vision to the point of textbook omniscience, but has never herself seen a colour. It's said that she knows 'all the physical facts.'

What they mean is that Mary can describe the physics of colour, how it happens, and predict what effects on the brain any vision-related event could have.

This does not mean that the events have happened to her brain, and in fact we can prove that they physically have not. So no, she does not necessarily have all the 'physical facts.' She knows all the necessary facts for prediction. Whether these are all the physical facts or not is a matter for debate. Whether these physical changes in her physical brain are somehow in the category 'phenomenal knowledge' which means they are non-physical is unknown, but it seems that the issue is rather more complicated than this gedankenexperiment takes into account.

Incidentally, for the same reason that my definition of philosophy might be inherently wrong, statements that the self does not exist is inherently wrong. The word self refers to some experience that people are having. It axiomatically exists. The only question is what, exactly, the coherent definition of self is, and while it is possible and likely that this definition will seem very counter-intuitive at first, the sensation of individuality cannot be denied. (For example, our self is clearly not identical through time; I am not the same I that I was last year, or even ten minutes ago. This is a consequence of brain plasticity, of 'fire together means wire together.' This does not mean there is no 'I' to suffer such change.)

Essentially, Thomas Metzinger is a nihilist. He is a fine example of the post-modern tradition.

Do things exist? If the argument that things don't exist is true, then the argument that they don't exist doesn't exist, and there's a barber I'd like you to meet.

Consciousness exists. The problem cannot be solved by pretending that it does not. The problem is finding out what its properties are, even if the only coherent property we can find is that very existence.

For instance, I hypothesize two properties, which I symbolize by sensation and decision. Events lead to sensation, which leads to decision, which leads to more events. However, it may very well be that decision is not necessary to describe the world.

I actually feel bad for this guy. He's worked so hard and here I go and poke gaping holes in his work with ten minute's thought. That's gotta be embarrassing, especially since I haven't done anything he could not have done himself.

On the rubber hand illusion:
If consciousness exists, monally or dually, the brain is critical in its manifestation. That the brain anatomy that generates consciousness can make mistakes does not mean that consciousness itself is arbitrary (usually called non-objective) and therefore does not exist.

As with most illusions, you can break this one easily. Moving your hand will first break synchronization with the rubber hand, and second activate the proprioception nerves to collaborate the spatial data sent by the eyes. Also as with most illusions, the brain can tell that the information is uncollaborated and will flag it as such; it will feel weird.

The real conclusion of the rubber hand illusion is that the sensation of ownership is not automatic, but must be defined heuristically, but that does not mean that actual ownership does not exist.

If my theory of mind nodes is true, this would not be surprising. The brain must upload the information to consciousness, and it must use evolved algorithms to do so. This does not mean that consciousness is incapable of sending downloads.

The thing is, whether consciousness is physical or not, the spatial location of all sensation is arbitrary. It must have an apparent location because the brain assigns a location to everything,* but sensations are not objects. That the brain uses heuristics to help define the spatial coordinates of touch sensations is not surprising.

*(Go on, just try to imagine a sensation with no location. It's exactly like trying to imagine a colour with no spatial extent. The closest approximation is that the sensation is everywhere, the very opposite of nowhere, logically speaking. AI: Science you can do at home.)

On the sequence simulation --> emulation --> self-modelling:
Emulation is an information processing machine simulating another. Except that I'm fairly sure that information is not a necessary concept to explain the universe; it does not exist. The weather is as much an 'information processing machine' as a computer is. The difference is that the computer accepts symbols as inputs and outputs, but symbols are themselves not necessary to describe the universe. The only real difference is a subjective one by conscious entities with the necessary expertise to understand the symbols. This may or may not exist, and it may or may not exist fundamentally itself or as an arbitrary arrangement of fundamental concepts.

(It's these types of sentences that suggest to me that I'm some kind of expert on consciousness.)

I personally suspect understanding exists only as an arrangement of nonphysical fundamental concepts, although I first need to define it properly.

On self-modelling:
Apparently you can't regulate a complex system without using a self-model. That's crap. A self-model is only necessary if the regulation uses the process of understanding* to do the regulation. For example the cycle of melatonin regulates the brain, but is not a self-model. Perhaps a self-regulator will turn into a model for efficiency or effectiveness, but by no means is it necessary, except if you mean that the actions of the regulator correspond to actions of the whole, much as a model correlates to the phenomenon. However, this is contained in the definition of regulator and the proof's consequences are trivial.

*(To repeat, it probably doesn't exist, physically speaking. Encoding is arbitrary.)

"How do you cure pain in a non-existing limb?"
This means the opposite of what Metzinger thinks it means. It is not simply a glitch in the brain's self-model. It is a physics-independent conscious phenomenon. If it were not, you could in fact cure that pain without having to annihilate the phantom.

What I want to know is what happens if the limb is amputated without anaesthesia. It will suck, but I don't think a phantom limb will form. Perhaps they could break the arm, wake the patient, guillotine, wince at the scream, and put them under again.

"All representational states that are embedded in the currently active self-model gain the additional property of mine-ness. (...Nonconceptual sense of ownership.)"
Translation: you're conscious because I said so.

I really fucking hope he doesn't stop there.

Oh crap, he does. Now he's talking about how the altering the process alters consciousness. Now, as a layperson we can see that this is necessary, but as anyone who's thought seriously about the brain knows that consciousness is a function of physical events in the brain. "So, Metzinger? No shit. Yes, especially as you just mentioned 'unilateral hemi-neglect.' Sure, people who can understand that* won't know that consciousness is a function of brain activity."

*(Side point; this understanding is based on prior knowledge, not on inherent intelligence, in my view. Inherent intelligence just makes faster the acquisition of prerequisites.)

This is basically politic-speak when following his previous statement. If Metzinger didn't live in a democracy, he probably wouldn't have fooled himself in this way. It supports a sub-point or an assumption, not his conclusion.

Not that it isn't interesting. Finding a dead leg...that's actually your leg? The ownership is missing?

Hey, I have a solution. Tell them that they are now cripples with respect to ownership. While they still have the leg, the ownership is gone. Suddenly they will understand what their sensations are telling them.

"One patient was sitting by the window...making the sun move."
One way you can test your free will is to do something you don't want to do. I don't want the sun to suddenly jag ninety degrees, but I'm going to make it do so anyway. Oh look! It didn't. I must not have volitional control.

It is difficult to test free will properly because we cannot define it, but there are some obvious consequences to whatever it is. Look for patterns in your behavior and break them. Exercise your unpredictability. If you have free will, this unpredictability is inherent, which is why it is often accused of being acausal.

We can see this in reverse with the alien hand. It very clearly opposes the sufferer's will.

A minor point. "Tough to translate" ...then don't use it.

Complete depersonalization is described as a complete loss of first-person states. Apparently this leads to dysphoria among other effects. Now, as we can see, there are a large number of ways that your brain and life can change without you being consciously aware of it. However, in the one way where your consciousness changes without an immediate physical change, there is a profound effect on behavior.

Of course to really diagnose depersonalization you would have to solve the other-minds problem, so it may all be an illusion. However, this strongly suggests that while the upload function of consciousness can be interrupted without changing consciousness, if the download function is disrupted, the physical world changes dramatically.

So as I'm hopefully showing, Metzinger's thought jumps all over conceptual space. While he occasionally states true things, they do not have actual logical links to the other true things.

This kind of thinking is not conducive to philosophy, and that Metzinger is unsuccessful is therefore not surprising.

"It generates this short story that it sees with its eyes."
I want to know what humans of 100 000 BC thought about eyes vis a vis vision. Their thought lead to the idea that you feel with your heart, live through your blood, and think with, as I recall, your liver. Now, these are all internal organs, but the idea that your eyes shot out rays to see with was also respectable. What do people really think about vision when they are naive?

To paraphrase,

"If you wanted to say that the self is an illusion, it would have to be an illusion of no one." There is, by assumption, no self to be deluded. Yes! Metzinger crits for massive damage!

It's fairly obvious that this man is a lot smarter than I am. He can just stumble accidentally upon true things, for instance.

Despite this, rather than trying to correct him and the institutions that spawned him, I think it would be easier and ultimately less costly to simply throw them all out and begin again.

"Strictly speaking, nobody is ever born, and nobody ever dies."
First, I think we can tell if processes begin or end. However it reveals an underlying belief of Metzinger; that while life may come and go, consciousness does not, presumably because he does not consider it a coherent entity. Consciousness is what he refers to with 'body,' and 'born.'

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