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Data and Dualism

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

“Define “dualist” and “supernatural.”

Many years ago, I participated in a USENET discussion about whether data structures in computers existed.  The debate raged on.  One side argued that they did, because look, there they are in the code.  The other side argued that they did not, because at the machine level, it was just 1’s and 0’s represented by voltage levels.  No consensus emerged.

Now, we know everything about computers, and if we cannot answer such a question about them, what hope do we have about the brain and mind, about which we know almost nothing?”

Not to dredge up any bad memories from USENET, but I think my framework provides a conclusive way of understanding the issue. Unfortunately my model also predicts that many people, because of their specialized intellectual focus, may not be able to understand the model.

The question of whether data structures exist in computers can be resolved this way:

1. Since we are not the computer, we can only talk about the behavior of the device on different levels. With our own mind, we can go much further.

2. In the case of computer data, we can say that voltage levels (which are really statistical averages of electromagnetic dynamism…the extent to which matter pushes and pulls matter) exist in a geometric sense of bodies across space. This is the literal presentation of microelectronic structure. If we anchor our intellectual inertial frame in exterior geometric realism, then it is the 1’s and 0’s which are the representations – unreal except for our labeling of them. There are no literal ones or zeroes in a computer, rather they are in the story which we tell ourselves to enable our control over semiconductor arrays.

3. If we anchor our intellectual inertial frame in the algebraic-sequential presentation instead, then the logic behind the Boolean instructions are the relevant reality as they can be exported into many different mechanisms. The specific materials and geometry which are used to execute instructions are only there to serve the encoded information.

This should explain why both sides are correct and incorrect in their own way, but neither side understands the other’s point of view. The issue of our own consciousness escalates this problem to a new level, as not only is there the same antagonism between geometric-topological materialists and information-theoretic idealists, but both of them together are equally blind to a whole other axis of non-commutative qualities related to perception and participation.

For the Explanatory Gap, we really have two orthogonal dualisms, Western arithmetic-physicists who see the universe from the outside in and what I might call Eastern spiritualist-idealists who see the universe from the inside out. The same principles of reconciliation apply here, but the application of them is even more inflammatory. The solution involves a profound relativism which recontextualizes the literal and figurative, fact and fiction, in a way which challenges many (all?) established religious, philosophical, and scientific assumptions, birthing an entirely new view of cosmos and psyche. It is a hard sell, but I suspect that unfortunately it may be the only solution which can actually work.

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  1. November 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    If a computer (or its program) were sentient, then it would have the meta perspective to look at itself and see its thoughts in terms of data structures. It’s that meta perspective we humans use when we think about our thoughts, think about thinking, but which disappears when we stop being an observer and simply experience the now. Skeptics and supernaturalists argue from different perspectives as well, that the world is either external or internal, and neither side accepts that the universe is both (or neither?). The data doesn’t observe itself, and the observer isn’t the data — or is it? I don’t always understand what you write, but I keep reading.

    • November 20, 2012 at 7:28 pm

      Thanks for commenting. My thoughts have led me to doubt the existence of data as real thing. Data is a way for a bona-fide participant in the universe to experience making sense of another experience. If a computer was sentient, what would it be that was sentient? The lines of code? The configuration of memory? the semiconductors?

      It’s easier to see if we think of a mechanical computer. Say we put a cup on a scale underneath a leaky cup. When the scale tips from the weight of a certain amount of water, it bangs into a bell. The idea of ‘data’ is useful for analysis, but it has seduced us into forgetting that all that exists is a story made of bell, scale, and water which we interpret as meaningful. If the bell doesn’t know why it’s being rung and the sale can’t remember holding less water in the cup, there really can’t be any story to tell on that level of integration. There is only mechanical parts, not an observer of the mechanism as a whole. There are, however, observer/participants on the atomic level I would imagine, just not likely that their scope of awareness extends much beyond that level.

      • Vivek narain
        March 19, 2015 at 1:55 pm

        Hi msr, Talking of sentient beings, i recall what tiger lily said to alice,”we can talk ,when there’s anybody worth talking to”(ttlg).

  2. November 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Heya Ogrodzenia ! Your piece of writing rocks in addition to being a respectable amazing recognize!Wi

    • November 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      Thanks, glad you like it. What’s Ogrodzenia? Googling it looks like fences in Poland? Is that where you are? Cool!

  3. March 22, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    I am not sure where you’re getting your info, but good topic. I needs to spend a while learning much more or figuring out more. Thanks for magnificent info I was searching for this information for my mission.

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