On Sentience and AI

June 15, 2022 1 comment
A comment on this article in the Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2022/06/google-engineer-sentient-ai-chatbot/661273

Sean Prophet, I am certain that the current generation of software is not sentient and my understanding is that it may in fact be impossible to assemble any sentient device. This is not, as you claim with certitude, based on unsupportable hubris and fear, but on decades of deep contemplation and discussion about the nature of consciousness, information, and matter. My view is unique but informed by the ideas of many, many philosophers, scientists, mystics, and mathematicians throughout human history.

I do not worry about machines replacing humans. I’m not particularly fond of humans en masse, but I recognize that humans are responsible for many of the best and only a few of the worst things about the world that we now live in – including computers.

My journey has gone from seeing the world through the lens of atheistic materialism to psychedelic spiritualism, to Neoplatonic monotheism, to what I call Multisense Realism. I think that reality is ultimately a kind of art gallery that experiences itself – a self-diffracting, cosmopsychic Holos of aesthetic-participatory phenomena in which anesthetic-automatic appearances are rendered as lensing artifacts: Lorentz-like perceptual transforms that make conscious experience on one timescale seem like ‘matter’ or ‘information’ to consciousness on another timescale. We are not ‘data’. We are not information-processing systems or material-energetic bodies. Both of those are appearances within the real world of authentic, and direct (if highly filtered) perception.

It’s my understanding that because machines are assembled from tangible parts and intangible rules, they are not like the bodies of natural objects. They have not evolved inevitably as tangible symptoms of a trans-tangible experiential phenomenon but have been devised and deployed by the ‘inside’ appearance of one type of conscious experience onto the ‘outside’ appearance of another. In our case, our AI efforts are deployed on geochemical substrates by an anthropological-zoological consciousness, using matter as a vehicle to reflect an inverted image of our own most superficial intellectual but most sophisticated dimensions of sense-making.

I know this sounds over the top, and to be honest, I’m not really writing this to be understood by people who are not fluent in the deep currents of philosophy of mind and computation. I’m no longer qualified to talk about this stuff to a general audience. My views pick up where conventional views of this historical moment leave off. You have to have already accepted the hard problem of consciousness and questioned panpsychism to open the door that my worldview is behind.

Anyhow, while we are on diametrically opposite sides of this issue Sean, I know with certainty that it is not for the reasons that you think and project onto (at least some of) us. I have not really run into many fans of human beings who are terrified of losing their specialness. That is a stereotype that I do not find pans out in reality. Instead, I find a dichotomy between a group of highly educated, highly intelligent men on the extreme systemizing end of the systemizing-empathizing (I call cohesive-adhesive) spectrum of consciousness, without much theory of mind skill falling into a trap of their own hubris while a mostly unwitting public with neither the time nor interest to care about the subject – but when forced to, they intuitively know that machines aren’t literally conscious, but can’t explain why.

I think that I have explained why, although it is spread out over thousands of pages of conversations and essays. For anyone who wants to follow that trail of breadcrumbs, here’s a place to start.

https://multisenserealism.com/?s=ai+is+inside+out

Multisense Realism as a Specific Hypothesis of Cosmopsychism

June 11, 2022 Leave a comment

In reality, mass and energy quantitatively describe the way that matter moves matter. There is no ‘nothing’ and physical ‘space’ and matter are just different densities of the same thing, which I think is really an irreducibly sensory-motive, aesthetic-participatory phenomenon that can be understood as tangibility.

Tangibility can further be understood, in my view, as only one band of a universal spectrum of nested aesthetic-participatory phenomena ranging from appearances that are intangible (roughly ‘concepts’) to trans-tangible (‘percepts’) and includes the appearance of tangibility (‘objects’) as a relativistic lensing artifact rather than a fundamental or universal context.It is physical appearances that are ’emergent’ from the temporalizing fragmentation and spatializing reunification of a single Totality or Holos of eternal conscious experience.

Through this anabolic/negentropic-catabolic/entropic invention of novelty/recursion there is a net accumulation of Significance, which is the saturation of aesthetic-participatory phenomena and maximal Holophoric unity expressed through minimal morphographic units.

So there.

Holosgraphic 04022022

April 2, 2022 Leave a comment
Added the Apophoric/Interpersonal range

ॐ ⊇ ש { (( -ℵ ↔ Ω ) ↓ ºt ) ⊥ ( ωª ↑ (H ← d) ) }

March 17, 2022 Leave a comment

Sensation, Realism, and Consciousness

February 26, 2022 Leave a comment

The sense of image fits into the larger picture between the Subjectively Objectified and Subjectively Subjectified groupings.

Holos (Transpersonal

(Interpersonal (Personal

(Intrapersonal (Perception

(Subpersonal (Subjectified sensation) | Impersonal (Subjectively objectified sensation)

Graphos)

A Sound by any Other Name

January 9, 2022 Leave a comment

What is the difference between thinking that consciousness requires a living body and thinking that sounds have to be made by acoustic instruments?

It seems like the same common sense intuition, and I think in both cases, it happens to be false. From audio recording we learned that we did not need to have someone play a horn to hear a horn sound. We could actually use the sound that a needle makes when scratching over a grooved surface to make a nearly identical sound, as long as the grooves matched the grooves made when the horn was played in the first place.


As audio technology progressed, people discovered that purely electronic changes in semiconductors could be used to drive speakers to drive eardrums. We didn’t need to begin with a horn being played, or acoustic vibrations to propagate from brass to air to a steel needle to a cooling disc of resin. All we needed was electronic switches to rapidly change the flow of current through a speaker in the same pattern that the needle used to make going up and down in the groove. The up and down analog became digital stop and go, all the way up to the point where you have to jiggle people’s eardrums. That could not be done electronically but required a membrane to mechanically push air into the ears.


It seems now that we are getting closer to cutting out the acoustic middleman entirely with the possibility of Neuralink type technology and broadcast music directly into your brain without any physical sound at all. No speakers, no ears…but you still need something that senses something, and you need something that senses that something as sound. Even if we play music and record our dreams electronically, it still doesn’t solve the Hard Problem of consciousness. There remains an explanatory gap between the silent operation of electrical current and the experience of sounds, sights, feelings, thoughts, and the entire material universe of objects…including brains and electronic instruments.

That last sentence is the tricky part that physicalist thinkers can’t seem to stop overlooking. Yes, the entire physical universe that you know, that you read about, that scientists experiment on, can only exist under physicalism as a ‘model’ or ‘simulation’ that simply, um, ’emerges’ from either electromagnetism itself, or electromagnetism in various brain structures, or from the ‘information’ that we imagine is being communicated by any or all of these processes.


Of course, it’s all circular. To say ‘the brain’ is to say ‘my qualitative and cognitive experiences that I call ‘brain”. To say ‘the world’ is to say ‘my’ or ‘our’ qualitative experiences that seem like a world. There is no getting around this. The last mile of any cosmological theory always has to cash out in some experience-of-a-cosmos, with or without a theory of a cosmos-outside-of-some-experience. Noumena are optional and hypothetical. Experiential phenomena, as Decscartes almost said, cannot be deined.


I argue with a lot of people about information and qualia, because it is glaringly obvious to me that this technology based idea of information conflates the purely intellectual and abstract process of learning or communicating with the concrete aesthetics of what it is being communicated. Information or simulation theory says nothing about what is ultimately doing the communicating and what literally happens when a communication is decoded, from the billions of quantifiable microphysical stop/go events in an engineered device or neurological organ to unquantifiable and irreducibly aesthetic sight/sound/objects/feelings/thoughts.


The idea of simulation only pushes the explanatory gap down further in scale, but it is the same gap. It’s not enough that a change in a computing device or brain coincides with a change in direct experience, we have to ask what is doing the correlation in the first place, and how, and why. It’s not just “what breathes fire into the equations?”, but what the hell is fire doing in equations in the first place? Why wouldn’t it make sense to ask what breathes equations into every form of ‘fire’? What could it be other than conscious experience itself? Anything we try to put in between conscious experience and nature always has that same last-mile problem. In the end, you need something eternal that can make sense – some capacity not only to run programs on hardware to manipulate hardware but for either programs or hardware to exist as something aesthetic rather than just invisible facts in an arithmetic void.

Is Consciousness Primary to Reality? (2021 Documentary)

November 23, 2021 Leave a comment

If you haven’t seen this yet, it is well worth watching. I have notes…

3:40 “Physics tells us not what matter is but only what it does.”Here I would go further and say that physics tells us not what matter is, but only what it does to matter.

Around 24:00, the video gets in to IIT. Here too, my view is that the role of consciousness is underestimated. To say that reality has a physical and mental pole is a good start, but we should understand that these poles can only exist in the latter “mental” pole of conscious experience. It is true that “a complex mind” correlates with “a complex organization with the specific capacity of aggregating a fundamental aspect of consciousness” (23:20), however I would not say that correlation is an absolute requirement. While I agree with the earlier statement at 23:12 that no serious thinker has defended any claim for conscious minds in rocks, tables, and chairs, the reason for that in my view is not because the physical structure lacks the complexity to permit it.

My view takes in to account the significance of scales of time and size in creating parallel layers of conscious experience that make up the universe. In my view, it makes more sense to see the correlation between the increasingly complex structure of nervous systems through evolution and the richness and depth of conscious experience as being driven more by conscious experience needing to record and manipulate itself rather than anything like a mind ’emerging’ from structural complexity.

The chair is not conscious, but I think the same is true of any object. The brain is not conscious either. The brain is an organ that produces ideal chemical conditions for sophisticated conscious experiences to be expressed and realized for other sophisticated conscious experiences to interact with without merging completely with each other. The brain is part of a vertebrate body, which is part of a history of conscious experience going back more than 500 million years. A chair or a table is, in one sense, carved out of wood or some other material by a Homo sapien body’s brain and hands, but in another sense, it is one continuous history of conscious experience that is carving new experiences out of conscious experiences that are older, but still ongoing on another timescale, and using them as props to enhance experiences in the human centric umwelt.

In my Multisense Realism conjectures, I have tried to lay out a cosmogony of scales of physical spacing/timing with scales of psychological depth/richness such that our anthropological umwelt is nested within and permeated by the older onion layers of consciousness using bodies/brains on a zoological, biological, chemical, and physical scales of size and frequency of perceptual sample rate (Diagrams like these are some of the many drafts I’ve hypothesized https://multisenserealism.com/art-charts-and-diagrams/current/).

To ask whether a chair or table is conscious is to assume that what what we see as an image of furniture, and touch as an object of solid matter is all that these things are. Once we factor in the hypothesis of timescales as intentional partitions of subjective and objective seeming worlds (umwelts and welts), a spectrum of realism can be devised which reflects a universal spectrum of perceptual access. This is very much along the lines of what has been proposed in many other scientific and prescientific mappings of awareness, as Ken Wilber documented in his book Integral Sprituality, and which Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary wrote about as the Eight Circuit Model. These models draw on both Western and Eastern metaphysics including Numerology, Astrology, Tarot, I Ching, as well as psychological theories of development from Gebser, Maslow, Binet and many others.

With Multisense Realism, I have sketched out a way to integrate these essential-existential correlations with quantum mechanics, relativity, and semiotic theory to arrive at a conjecture of entropy-negentropy as symptoms of the lensing of conscious experiences, separating them in some sense while uniting them in others, and producing a dynamically growing vocabulary of aesthetic Significance.

From the perspective of consciousness on a celestial timescale, where planets spin like electrons and solar systems proliferate like cells, it would seem absurd that any such thing as human consciousness could exist. The thin biosphere and its mold-like bits of greenery would seem far too small and simple to host conscious experiences.

I don’t deny that in practice, IIT-like correlations between the symptom of integration of physical functions and the condition of someone’s personal awareness are reliable and pragmatic, but I suspect that this reliability is built into the animal scale experience rather than being a universal necessity for conscious experience to exist. In my view, it is not that things that we see and touch have consciousness in different degrees, it is that our consciousness has different degrees of overlap with a universal spectrum of perceptual access and identification.

I think that the implications from info-centric views of consciousness are misleading, and in fact, no technological artifact is any more conscious than a Teddy Bear or an emoji. This is not because of any bias for biological organizations of matter over technological organizations of inorganic matter, but rather than biological appearances are an expression of a type of experience that is of another order of magnitude of aesthetic richness (Significance) than experiences that are expressed pre-biologically in our perception. The Uncanny Valley is there for a reason – even if that sense of revulsion for imitations of life is not infallible.

In my view, any use of an object as a machine is by definition the use of a low-level aspect of a conscious experience on a distant timescale, and therefore diametrically opposite to sentience. The whole point of a machine is that it automatically serves our purposes, not that it develops its own competing agendas. A truly intelligent artifact would not be a machine, but a potential competitor to biological life itself. Its agency would be uncontrollable by definition. True intelligence necessarily includes the potential for consciousness to step out of its programming and conditioning, and to change itself directly through intrinsic degrees of freedom in its own participatory experience of ‘will’.Later on in the video, the combination problem is discussed. My solution here is to re-frame the assumption of cosmic evolution as occurring through an arrow of change from simplicity to complexity, and see it instead as equally an evolution by diffraction or division-by-self-similarity. 

Seeing how an embryo develops through the division and multiplication of a single cell, and how a faceted gem multiplies the image of the sun or other illumination source without diluting the source, we can begin to see how the half of the universe that modernity has increasingly hidden from us might work. I recommend these two classic videos about this dichotomy of diffracted holism vs emergent combination.

My stroke of insight – Jill Bolte Taylor

Iain McGilchrist – The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

Another couple of classics I recommend to follow my trail of breadcrumbs to Multisense Realism are these: Cosmos – Carl Sagan – 4th Dimension (Abbott’s Flatland thought experiment)

Powers of Ten (1977)

At 32:00 the video gets in to Philip Goff’s Cosmopsychism, in which the fundamental unit of nature is the totality of nature itself. This is a logical inference from the idea of diffraction and top-down causation. Multisense Realism is a form of cosmopsychism, but with less emphasis on psyche and more on qualia: Sense and sense making experience can give rise to more complex histories of awareness that begin to have our familiar quality of personhood, but there may be many other paths down which conscious experience develops itself. My view is more of a cosmoastheticism with participatory tendencies. Understanding the bias of “smallism” is critical. The Multisense Realism view is that smallism and large-ism are both aspects of tangible-ism, but that the full picture of nature requires that tangibility always be experienced from a perspective that is trans-tangible by definition. Nothing is a tangible object in its own native timescale and frame of perception.

Another idea that I have tried to illustrate here is that the smallest and largest sheafs of tangibility have more in common with each other than they do the next largest and smallest scale-sheafs/holons. As we move into the center of the cosmic onion, the core meso-centric sheaf is the most fertile and rich context of experience, much as the clear white center of the visible spectrum is the most direct and complete access to visibility.

Intellectual Blind Spot and AI

October 11, 2021 Leave a comment

The shocking blind spot that is common to so many highly intellectual thinkers, the failure of AI, and the lack of understanding about what consciousness is are different aspects of the same thing.

The intellectual function succeeds because it inverts the natural relation of what I would call sensory-motive phenomena. Natural phenomena, including physical aspects of nature, are always qualitative, participatory exchanges of experience. Because the intellect has a special purpose to freely hypothesize without being constrained by the rest of nature, intellectual experience lacks direct access to its own dependence on the rest of nature. Thinking feels like it occurs in a void. It feels like it is not feeling.

When we subscribe to a purely intellectual view of life and physics as information processing, we disqualify the aesthetic dimension of nature, which is ultimately the sole irreducible and irreplaceable resource from which all phenomena arise – not as generic recombinations of quantum-mechanical states but as an infinite font of novel aesthetic-participatory diffractions of the eternal totality of experience. This is what cannot be “simulated” or imitated…because it is originality itself.

Numbers and logic can only reflect the creativity of that resource, not generate it. No amount of binary math can replace the colors displayed on a video screen, or a conscious user that can see it. It need not be anything mystical or religious – it’s just parsimony. Information processing doesn’t need any awareness, it just needs isolated steps in a chain reaction on some physical substrate that can approximate the conditions of reliable but semi-mutable solidity. Gears, semiconductors, a pile of rocks…it doesn’t matter what the form is because there is no sense of form going on. All that is going on is low level generic changes that have no capacity to add themselves up. There’s no ’emergent properties’ outside of consciousness. Math and physics can’t ‘seem like’ anything because seeming is not a logical/mathematical or physical function.

Evan Thompson Live! Consciousness Live! S4 E12 CW comments, part 2

September 28, 2021 Leave a comment
Part 2 of my comments on Richard Brown’s conversation with Evan Thompson

At 57:15 Richard is posing the question of why objects in a simulated world aren’t real objects in a real digital world. To this I say what is being overlooked is sense modality. We have to be as literal as we possibly can be when discussing these topics. Objects, in the most literal sense, are not images or numbers, they are tangible shapes. Solid, liquid, and gaseous volumes in public spacetime. Real objects are composed of molecules that are made up of atoms on the periodic table. Sense experience is the only thing that can generate realism. When we think of a simulation, we are thinking of some artificially stimulated sense experience – a GUI image that *we* see (birds don’t see it, hamsters don’t see it) on screen hardware. Without this, there is nothing begin simulated.

The interface hardware cannot be simulated. There is no software that can be written that will generate colors for the color blind in the way that software could be written to solve math problems for people who aren’t able to do math. No amount of computation or complexity will yield a new primary color. Eventually we will likely have hardware that is wired into the visual cortex directly but we still don’t know how or why changes in the states of cells would ‘seem like’ or ‘appear’ as anything other than what they physically are. If any data is being processed, the changes in the cellular states already ARE the data processing events. If an organ evolved to have a higher, meta-level governance of its own processes, then that too would only be and could only be more cells that are performing cellular functions which only happen to mirror a sampling of the lower level processes. There can be a functional link – for every 100 neurons that fire on a lower level, 2 neurons fire on the meta-level, and that would accomplish the result that our experience of ‘modeling’ allows us to accomplish functionally, but without any such thing as modeling. The relation of the “model” plane and the “actual” plane is metaphorical. They are both physical objects of different size and composition. It is only in human perception and association that one could seem to ‘model’ the other. There are no models in physics, chemistry, or biology, unless we understand those domains (as I do) to be scales of conscious interaction.

I very much agree with what Evan is saying around 1:05 about bits not existing apart from our practices of imposing maps and schemes. This gets us close to the big revelation that I’m pushing all of the time – It’s SENSE that matters. Matter doesn’t sense. Or it wouldn’t, if matter were primitive and real, but matter itself is just a lower rung of sense and motive engagement. That’s why QM and relativity describe the scale limits of physicality, rather than Cartesian coordinate objects. That’s why quantum contextuality and entanglement. The common denominator is always ultimately sense. Not even the sense-of-being-a-sensor or using a sensory, but sense experience itself: qualia. Matter can be qualia, information can be qualia, but neither information or matter can turn themselves into qualia materially or logically, nor can they turn themselves into each other. That’s perhaps the more important clue.

Software cannot find hardware and vice versa. When we ‘compile’ ‘code’, we are performing a physical task that just pushes physical changes in physical circuits. There isn’t a literal ‘conversion’ from ideas to physics, it’s just that the way that we set up the machine seems *to us* (and to the sense and sense making modalities we can access) to be isomorphic. There is no ‘code’ in physics – no concepts, only tangible shapes or regions where tangible shapes move in certain ways.

Electromagnetism can be reduced to that – to changes in the motion of particles. We can undo all notion of fields and forces, undo the intuitions of Maxwell and Faraday, and replace them all with sensory-motive engagements. These are the phenomena from which all laws and forces emerge. Something has to sense something before a change – any change – can be present. Present where? How? What is changing is always and only some sensed quality or property, like position of a tangible shape relative to another shape and to a memory or perception of that position quality being altered. We can look at it the other way around also, with stasis in the background and motion in the foreground. We can think of stillness as an artificial appearance that our sense filtering is presenting, and that without that filter, everything is motion on some timescale. Without sense, no present or presences can be accessed.

I don’t have much to add about the rest of the talk. I think it gets close to where my view begins to take shape, as far as Kant, Husserl, and Whitehead questioning the distinction of subjective and objective categories, etc. I agree that is the right direction to go in. Where I end up with it is that objectivity and noumenality are relative rather than absolute, and that existence itself is phenomenological, without being subjective or objective. The appearance of subjective and objective seeming qualities are artifacts of a particular scope of awareness, typically is divided and nested by timescale and distinction of modality. Scope of awareness lens each other to appear in these kinds of aesthetic categories. What we understand as the geological timescale is so slow compared to our own that we can’t empathize with it or directly access its flow. It seems static. The laws of physics, hold forever as far as we are concerned, but in an absolute sense, they may be more of a set of useful habits from which the longest and shortest timescale events are built.

Here’s a terrible hack set of images to try to illustrate what I mean:



Got it? Spacetime scales are nested inward so that astropysical timescales (longest and shortest duration, largest and smallest size) envelope geo-molecular (next longest and next shortest duration and next largest and smallest size), which envelope the most medium scaled durations and size (eco-cellular).

Now think of that in an orthogonal relation to the other half of the universe, which correlates to size and duration, but is defined by intensity of aesthetic-participatory richness, aka Significance.

The main takeaway that I can offer as a response to the video, if nothing else, is the idea that 

1. The distinction between anesthetic-participatory and anesthetic-mechanical is more fundamental than phenomenal/noumenal or subjective/objective.

2. Anesthetic mechanisms are either concrete (geometric mass-energetic force-field operations) or abstract (algebraic information-processing functions)3. Anesthetic mechanisms do not exist on their own and are in all cases a reduced, exteriorized reflection between two disparately scaled modes of aesthetic-participation.

Evan Thompson Live! Consciousness Live! S4 E12

September 27, 2021 2 comments

From Richard Brown’s YouTube channel.

A great conversation so far. As usual, I have extensive comments…

> 13:32 Richard Brown “…in terms of phenomenal consciousness, there’s something that it’s like to be a cell?

“Evan Thompson “We can put it that way if we want. I mean, that locution sometimes bears more burden than it should, but for our purposes we can feel free to use it I think, sure.

> RB “OK, good. Alright…and there’s something that it’s like to be me, and I am composed of billions of cells”

Notice that the assumption made here closes the explanatory gap without any explanation. I would say that I am experiences: Thoughts, feelings, ideas, memories, sensations…some of those sensations include a body, which I understand to be composed of billions of cells.

We do not know that the cell or the body of cells is the being that is conscious. Just as my face only reveals a tiny fraction of my conscious experience, so too does the structure and function of a cell reveal only a tiny fraction (maybe a greater fraction) of the content of any conscious experience that might be associated with it.

As far as we can tell, the interior of cells or bodies are just more objects – organelles and fluid made of organic molecules. None of that would reasonably entail anything like felt experience, and if it did, we should reasonably only expect those experience to correlate to certain specific types to physiological conditions. What we feel through our body does tend to be about the body and the world of the body, but we also have conscious experiences that would require extremely tortured reasoning and Just-So Stories to rationalize as an extension of physiology. Rather than projecting the appearance of the cellular world as geometry and chemistry, those structures and functions may, like our own face, be a kind of avatar/mask/lensing that summarizes only certain features related to the sharing of experience. If someone were somehow born without any sense of touch or sight, they could not conceive of objects or bodies. They could in theory live a full life of thoughts, feelings, flavors, sounds, etc all without ever suspecting that they could be connected to any such thing as a body. In the same way, the world of cell processes may not relate to us personally any more than the grammatical and syntactic features of this sentence are generating the meaning that I am trying to express personally.

The paragraphs of this post did not evolve from characters in the Latin alphabet. Its contents are not explained by the psychology of how language evolved to serve brains or bodies. In the same way, the microbiological world does not, in my view, exist to support a macro scale experience at all, and it may be much more like our own conscious experience than we would guess – a world of sensations and response that are largely unrelated to our own.

> 19:42 ET “…whereas the Panpsychist arguments, at least in the case of someone like Philip Goff, they’re based on intuitions like phenomenal transparency, which you know, I don’t want to start an argument there. By that I mean I don’t want to make that a premise of an argument. I think, it’s not obvious to me that there is any such thing as phenomenal transparency.”

I think it this is an example of what Raymond Tallis described as “cutting off the branch that you are sitting on”, that is, it is a perception, based on an intuitive sense of phenomenal transparency that intuition and phenomenal transparency cannot be trusted. I think that needs to be reversed. We should understand that we are always relying on some degree of assumed phenomenal transparency to conduct any sort of reasoning. Our only contact with truth, including truths about phenomenal transparency, begins and ends with an implicit assumption of phenomenal transparency. Of course, truth and phenomenal consciousness are, for humans, very complex, so there are many overlapping and contrasting dimensions of truth and sense, so it is not enough to unquestioningly follow our first intuitive, but neither is it enough to unquestioningly follow our first counter-intuitive impulse.

I think that modern science and philosophy have evolved through a dialectic shift in the Early Modern Period in which the idea of the primacy of super-subjective (theological) properties under Scholasticism was eclipsed by the antithesis idea of the primacy of super-objective (materialistic) properties of nature. I strongly suspect that now, a few centuries after that shift in the era of Descartes, Copernicus, Galileo, and Locke, we are now meeting ourselves at the other end of the fork in the path and encountering a similar but antithetical crisis in our understanding of the universe and our place in it. I think that the current crisis ultimately calls for a synthesis of subjectifying and objectifying modalities of sense and sense making that takes us beyond the previous approaches. The fear that questioning materialism will lead us into a pathological repetition of theological fundamentalism is so powerful that we are blinded and dragged into the opposite pathology, where the limits of objectifying sense appearances are denied to the point of anti-realism (MWI, simulation theory, Interface theory). That’s where I intend my ideas (Multisense Realism) to come in. Once we have understood why panpsychism is an imperfect but meaningful improvement over physicalism, then we can begin to develop some hypotheses that pick up where panpsychism leaves off. In my understanding, the inflection point of the future of that synthesis is sense. Sensation. Detection. Aesthetic presentation. Qualia. At this point, it does not seem that many thinkers share this view and the fact of qualia is constantly overlooked in favor of theories that stress the role that qualia may play for an organism or a system of computation. To me, this oversight is astonishing. It is comparable to saying that magic wands could grow on trees, since a tree with a magic wand would have a survival advantage.

There’s a great part around 24:00 where RB and ET disagree about the difference between biological cells and the types of technologies that we have developed so far. ET says that he thinks there is a fundamental qualitative difference between the organization of something like a bacterial cell and that of any artifact we have ever engineered. I agree with ET at 24:49 that we have glimmers of how we can synthesize aspects of the self production and self regulation of a living cell in a lab, but that we are nowhere near being able to generate autonomous, freely interacting, free standing self-productive entities. I do not, however see that as the cause of the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness.

I think that, pre-biological interactions are, in their own frame of reference as irreducibly aesthetic and participatory as those of our own conscious interactions, and that the appearance of those interactions as anesthetic-mechanical events is an artifact of how the universe of conscious experience segregates itself for maximum development of aesthetic novelty. I think that segregation includes a logarithmic recapitulation of biology from organic chemistry and organic chemistry to physics such that both of those steps are tantamount to a second and third Big Bang, but I think that the cosmological fabric in which those Bangs arise is sensory-motive from the start, rather than unexperienced forces and fields.

Like Evan, I think it is an illusion that we could engineer a biological cell or organism from the bottom up, and that we will have better results trying to condition, constrain, and hybridize existing cells. I don’t think we’re going to achieve a duplication of biology inorganically, only a production of recombinations and prostheses for existing cell processes. I don’t think we’re going to create a new first living organism.

In suggesting a cosmological hierarchy of recapitulation that parallels the teachings of many mystical traditions and echoed in more modern efforts such as Integral theory, I understand that there is a lot of resistance. I think that Recapitulation theory got a bad rep from how it was conceived by Haeckel and his association with it, but I think that rejecting the entire theme of encapsulating previous conditions in developing a cosmogony, and is a mistake. Our eyeball is strikingly similar to an aquarium of the conditions of the Precambrian Era. Vertebrates do share a common morphology during gestation that seems to reflect the phylogenetic history of the final organism. That’s not how we make machines. We don’t grow computers from manual typewriters. We don’t create conditions where they grow by themselves. When we build machines, we assemble fully formed parts that have no other relation to each other than the one we provide by forcing their temporary attachment to each other. Left to their own devices, machines fall apart. What we see in cell division may be not be fully explained in 3d + 1 spacetime terms. We may only be seeing/touching one surface of an event that envelopes and permeates visbility/tangiblity in the same sort of way that our personal awareness envelopes and permeates all of our subpersonal modes of awareness (sight, sound, touch, etc)

While the seeming mystery of biological life is amazing and important to us as conscious experiences with biological bodies, I think that it is a red herring distraction to understanding what qualia is, and the relation of qualia to concrete formation and abstract information. The relation that I propose is that the category of aesthetic-participatory perception is the universal parent to all anesthetic-mechanical processes of objects and concepts. I propose that objects and concepts are always and only appearances derived from a relativistic lensing of universal sensitivity/permittivity/empathy that goes all the way down. Consider the astrophysical-atomic world as a first playground for panaesthetic primordial experience, upon which a geological-molecular world evolves as a second recapitulation superimposed on the first. The eco-organic-genetic world is a third. The biological-cellular is a fourth. The zoological-somatic is a fifth. The vertebrate-neurological is a sixth. The antropological-technological is a seventh. These are all nested scales of size and frequency of events from which our concepts of space and time emerge. They are vehicles that consciousness inhabits for pleasure and for pain. It is not only for the cosmos to ‘know itself’ but to feel, see, do, and redo itself.

Around 32:00 Evan talks about rejecting the idea of zombies or consciousness as epiphenomenal/irrelevant to the function of the system based on the idea that the body is able to do what it does in relationship to the environment because it “feels itself in doing so”. I disagree with this justification as I think that it is a post hoc or retrospective justification that smuggles our conscious experience into an explanation of itself. In other words, if we use modus tollens, prospective logic instead of modus ponens retrospective logic, there would be no entailment for feeling. The physical functions of an animal’s body could evolve statistically over immense time spans by random mutation, just as we might expect geological chemistry to develop. The reproduction of simple bacteria is not much of a stretch from inorganic crystal growth in which organic molecules are incorporated that enable more types of similar crystals to persist for longer periods under more environmental conditions.

I like to point out a hole in the ‘zombie’ terminology for it’s implication of an ‘undead’ status of a randomly mutating reproductive structure rather than the more parsimonious ‘never alive in the first place’ status. A universe of molecules that evolve automatically and unconsciously would yield a world of reproducing organizations that are more like dolls than zombies. The Homo sapiens equivalent in an unconscious universe would be a species of sculptures that move each other around in repeating cycles – unwitnessed, unfelt, unseen. Behind these uexperienced tangible events would be equally unexperienced intangible mathematical relations. I would argue that even tangible shapes and intangible math require an aesthetic-participatory engagement to appear in any sense, but for argument’s sake, let’s say that shapes can “exist” and collide without any rendering by a sense of touch-feel. I can’t imagine how that would really be possible or why a functionally redundant sense rendering would develop parallel to that, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

All of this to say, Evan, don’t think of zombies that seem exactly like living people, think of dolls that “talk” and “cry”, not out of emotion or feeling their environment, but out of mechanisms to control bodies operating physically in space – lubricating eyelids, vibrating neural actuators, etc. The things that consciousness and sensation do for US are not functionally necessary to explain what a body would do and how it would evolve in a universe where sense and consciousness were replaced by automatic force and field.

The fact that we do feel ourselves in the world as a body does not stop us from looking at much more complex protein interactions and saying that they would not need to feel themselves in the world to be able to do that. Since I do think that all fields and forces are actually ranges of sensory-motive interaction on the pre-physical level, I do think that chemistry is a primitive scale or appearance of conscious experience, but if we want to try to hold on to physicalism and deny consciousness, then there’s no reason why the activities of human bodies are any different from the activities of molecular or cellular bodies. None of them functionally require awareness to exist if any of them don’t require it.

I completely agree with Evan when he says, around 33:25, that there is no reason to think that life could look like it does if it weren’t driven by consciousness. The difference is in the modus ponens/tollens flip. I think that zombies can’t exist because physics is actually a form of consciousness, whereas he, like many others, think that zombies can’t exist because consciousness is obviously so pervasive and useful in biology, zoology, and anthropology. He’s asking “why should consciousness be any different from biology?” and I’m asking “why should chemistry and physics be any different from consciousness?”.

At 34:00 Richard brings up the subject of the discovery of the unconscious and unconscious processing. From my perspective, the key is to understand that just because our personal consciousness receives guidance or can be overridden by processes that are beyond our personal scope of awareness, does not mean that those processes are not themselves subpersonal conscious experiences. Just because those experiences are rendered to us as brain activity does not mean that the structure and function of that activity is the cause rather than the symptom of the processing.

The shapes of these letters and the order that they are in are not creating the English language, and the English language is not creating this conversation, but rather the appearances are symptoms of other layers of sense and sense-making that happen to be under the hood of our personal awareness and experience. English has developed through idiosyncratic and unprecedented conditions of lived conscious experience – as an accumulation of consequences not as a cause of thinking and communication but as an effect of physiology and socially shared feelings about experiences.

At 39:55 Richard lays out an example of the hypothalamus monitoring the salt content of the blood and asks Evan if he thinks there is “something that it is like” to undergo that process. First, I point out that by conceiving of the process as something that the hypothalamus does, we have already loaded the question with a physicalist bias. The hypothalamus is a rendering in our sense of touch and sight, and our cogitative sense of understanding. I suggest instead that the actual process and monitoring (sensing and motivating effects) is not physically tangible. It is subpersonal awareness. It is an experience that is not being had by an organ or cell, just as our personal experience is not being had by a body, rather the body and cell are experiences that “we” are having. It makes sense to me that what cells and organs are doing is a result of experiences that we are not normally able to access directly, but instead are approximated in our personal awareness as feelings, sensations, urges, etc that identify themselves as closely coupled with our animal level experience. The fact that we can’t access it directly in our personal consciousness doesn’t mean the process is literally unconscious in its own frame of perception, only that our frame’s rendering of that frame’s rendering of itself is limited to the sight and feel of tangible shapes moving around under a microscope.

I’m going to stop there for now and take a break before listening to the second half. 


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