Home > computation, consciousness, cosmology, language, Perception, philosophy, physics, society > Wittgenstein in Wonderland, Einstein under Glass

Wittgenstein in Wonderland, Einstein under Glass

If I understand the idea correctly – that is, if there is enough of the idea which is not private to Ludwig Wittgenstein that it can be understood by anyone in general or myself in particular, then I think that he may have mistaken the concrete nature of experienced privacy for an abstract concept of isolation. From Philosophical Investigations:

The words of this language are to refer to what can be known only to the speaker; to his immediate, private, sensations. So another cannot understand the language. – http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/private-language/

To begin with, craniopagus (brain conjoined) twins, do actually share sensations that we would consider private.

The results of the test did not surprise the family, who had long suspected that even when one girl’s vision was angled away from the television, she was laughing at the images flashing in front of her sister’s eyes. The sensory exchange, they believe, extends to the girls’ taste buds: Krista likes ketchup, and Tatiana does not, something the family discovered when Tatiana tried to scrape the condiment off her own tongue, even when she was not eating it.

There should be no reason that it would not be technologically feasible to eventually export the connectivity which craniopagus twins experience through some kind of neural implant or neuroelectric multiplier. There are already computers that can be controlled directly through the brain.

Brain-computer interfaces that monitor brainwaves through EEG have already made their way to the market. NeuroSky’s headset uses EEG readings as well as electromyography to pick up signals about a person’s level of concentration to control toys and games (see “Next-Generation Toys Read Brain Waves, May Help Kids Focus”). Emotiv Systems sells a headset that reads EEG and facial expression to enhance the experience of gaming (see “Mind-Reading Game Controller”).

All that would be required in principle would be to reverse the technology to make them run in the receiving direction (computer>brain) and then imitate the kinds of neural connections which brain conjoined twins have that allow them to share sensations. The neural connections themselves would not be aware of anything on a human level, so it would not need to be public in the sense that sensations would be available without the benefit of a living human brain, only that the awareness could, to some extent, incite a version of itself in an experientially merged environment.

Because of the success and precision of science has extended our knowledge so far beyond our native instruments, sometimes contradicting them successfully, we tend to believe that the view that diagnostic technology provides is superior to, or serves as a replacement for our own awareness. While it is true that our own experience cannot reveal the same kinds of things that an fMRI or EEG can, I see that as a small detail compared to the wealth of value that our own awareness provides about the brain, the body, and the worlds we live in. Natural awareness is the ultimate diagnostic technology. Even though we can certainly benefit from a view outside of our own, there’s really no good reason to assume that what we feel, think, and experience isn’t a deeper level of insight into the nature of biochemical physics than we could possibly gain otherwise. We are evidence that physics does something besides collide particles in a void. Our experience is richer, smarter, and more empirically factual than what an instrument outside of our body can generate on its own. The problem is that our experience is so rich and so convoluted with private, proprietary knots, that we can’t share very much of it. We, and the universe, are made of private language. It is the public reduction of privacy which is temporary and localized…it’s just localized as a lowest common denominator.

While It is true that at this stage in our technical development, subjective experience can only be reported in a way which is limited by local social skills, there is no need to invoke a permanent ban on the future of communication and trans-private experience. Instead of trying to report on a subjective experience, it could be possible to share that experience through a neurological interface – or at least to exchange some empathic connection that would go farther than public communication.

If I had some psychedelic experience which allowed me to see a new primary color, I can’t communicate that publicly. If I can just put on a device that allows our brains to connect, then someone else might be able to share the memory of what that looked like.

It seems to me that Wittgenstein’s private language argument (sacrosanct as it seems to be among the philosophically inclined) assumes privacy as identical to isolation, rather than the primordial identity pansensitivty which I think it could be. If privacy is accomplished as I suggest, by the spatiotemporal ‘masking’ of eternity, than any experience that can be had is not a nonsense language to be ‘passed over in silence’, but rather a personally articulated fragment of the Totality. Language is only communication – intellectual measurement for sharing public-facing expressions. What we share privately is transmeasurable and inherently permeable to the Totality beneath the threshold of intellect.

Said another way, everything that we can experience is already shared by billions of neurons. Adding someone else’s neurons to that group should indeed be only a matter of building a synchronization technology. If, for instance, brain conjoined twins have some experience that nobody else has (like being the first brain conjoined twins to survive to age 40 or something), then they already share that experience, so it would no longer be a ‘private language’. The true future of AI may not be in simulating awareness as information, but in using information to share awareness. Certainly the success of social networking and MMPGs has shown us that what we really want out of computers is not for them to be us, but for us to be with each other in worlds we create.

I propose that rather than beginning from the position of awareness being a simulation to represent a reality that is senseless and unconscious, we should try assuming that awareness itself is the undoubtable absolute. I would guess that each kind of awareness already understands itself far better than we understand math or physics, it is only the vastness of human experience which prevents that understanding to be shared on all levels of itself, all of the time.

The way to understand consciousness would not be to reduce it to a public language of physics and math, since our understanding of our public experience is itself robotic and approximated by multiple filters of measurement. To get at the nature of qualia and quanta requires stripping down the whole of nature to Absolute fundamentals – beyond language and beyond measurement. We must question sense itself, and we must rehabilitate our worldview so that we ourselves can live inside of it. We should seek the transmeasurable nature of ourselves, not just the cells of our brain or the behavioral games that we have evolved as one particular species in the world. The toy model of consciousness provided by logical positivism and structural realism is, in my opinion, a good start, but in the wrong direction – a necessary detour which is uniquely (privately?) appropriate to a particular phase of modernism. To progress beyond that I think requires making the greatest cosmological 180 since Galileo. Einstein had it right, but he did not generalize relativity far enough. His view was so advanced in the spatialization of time and light that he reduced awareness to a one dimensional vector. What I think he missed, is that if we begin with sensitivity, then light becomes a capacity with which to modulate insensitivity – which is exactly what we see when we share light across more than one slit – a modulation of masked sensitivity shared by matter independently of spacetime.

  1. October 3, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    ever so intriguing – these elements of existence have been at the forefront of my mind of late – happy to hear your thoughts in this regard

    • October 3, 2013 at 4:03 pm

      Thanks! I’ve been on that synchronicity train for a while too.

  1. January 22, 2014 at 1:47 pm

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