Saturday, October 27, 2012

Waking Life - Free will

A monologue from the movie Waking Life (2001) with philosopher David Sosa (UT Austin) speaking
ht: Thanks, Tad Zawidzki, for reminding me of this.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Conscious Entities: The Cambridge Declaration

At the Francis Crick Memorial Conference back in July the participants signed a Declaration (pdf) affirming that animals are conscious. The key passage reads:

“The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also
possess these neurological substrates.”

Christof Koch: Consciousness Is Everywhere

Christof Koch: Consciousness Is Everywhere:
I've been careful to stress that any network possesses integrated information. The theory is very explicit on this point: Any system whose functional connectivity and architecture yield a phi value greater than zero has at least a trifle of experience. This would certainly include the brains of bees. Just because bees are small and fuzzy does not mean that they cannot have subjective states. So, the next time a bee hovers above your breakfast, attracted by the golden nectar on your toast, gently shoo her away. She might be a fellow sentient being, experiencing her brief interlude in the light.

Friday, October 12, 2012

QualiaSoup videos on Substance Dualism

Youtuber QualiaSoup is a "UK artist and secular humanist discussing critical thinking, science, atheism, philosophy, religion & the natural world." Check out QualiaSoup's two-parter (pun?) on substance dualism.

Part 1 of 2:

Part 2 of 2:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Responsibility and Brains: Your Brain and You

Responsibility and Brains: Your Brain and You
I’ll add here a speculation on a mechanism by which citing brain facts may lead us to assign people less responsibility than we should. Many reports of brain facts emphasize the role of some part of the brain. But we do not think of people as their parts: Jones is not his insula or his amygdala, Smith is not her frontal lobes or her neurotransmitters. So, some reports of background conditions in terms of brain facts may lead us to think of actions as the result of people’s parts, and thus not as the actions of the whole person. A corrective to this kind of mistake is to bear in mind that our encouragements of good behavior and our threats of punishment are addressed to whole persons. Whole persons generally do know what is expected of them, and in most cases knowledge of these expectations offsets deficiencies that may occur in some of our parts. Our brains are organized systems, and the effects of their parts can become visible only when the whole system is mobilized toward carrying out an action.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book review: Giulio Tononi’s Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul | Minds and Brains

Integrated information measures how much can be distinguished by the whole above and beyond its parts, and [phi] is its symbol. A complex is where [phi] reaches its maximum, and therein lives one consciousness- a single entity of experience.

And with that Tononi hopes the “hard” problem of consciousness is solved. However, the intellectual weight of Phi rests on a thought experiment involving a photodiode. A photodiode discriminates between light and no light. But does the photodiode see the light? Does it experience the light? Most people would think no. But the photodiode does integrate information (1 bit to be precise) and therefore, according to the theory of integrated information, has some experience, however dim. The theory of integrated information is therefore a modern form of panpsychism based on the informational axiom of “it from bit”.