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The Hard Problem of Signaling

April 4, 2018 3 comments

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The Hard Problem of Signaling is the notion that it is not only the connection between brain and mind which suffer from an Explanatory Gap, but that the very same gap exists between all physical entities and all semantic entities. Where David Chalmers’ Hard Problem of Consciousness has to contend with side issues of human neurology’s unique complexity and complex uniqueness of human subjectivity, the gap between mechanism and signal, or formation and information can be asserted using only the self-sufficiency of physics plus Occam’s Razor.The work of Gödel, Turing, and Kleene enabled us to reduce all of computation to mechanical behaviors, we overlook the fact that there is a missing ingredient which would be necessary to reverse that reduction. Philosophically, we are left with a crypto-dualism between physics and computation in which information “about” physical events somehow survives the causal closure of physics, yet are not tainted as phenomenal experience has been by being labeled supernatural or subjective.Physics and computer science both give us an a masculine absolutist universe of “effects without affects”. To correct this bias and restore the unity of the tangible and the intangible, we must begin to realize that effects can ultimately only exist as changes in some ‘medium of affect’ (sensory-aesthetic presentation). By recognizing the hard problem of signaling, we acknowledge the equal role of affect in defining and relating all phenomena to each other.
FISHIAL RECOGNITION
Do neural nets dream of electric fish? In the Western and Central Pacific, where 60% of the world’s tuna is caught, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing practices are threatening marine ecosystems, global seafood supplies and local livelihoods.In 2017, The Nature Conservancy launched a competition to track fishing boats and repurpose facial recognition algorithms to identify illegally-caught fish.² With a super-human ability to track data about what fish are being caught and to alert the appropriate wardens to take action, it may appear that such a system has an almost omniscient grasp of the fishing industry and the environment, however it would be silly to imagine that this data could give any insight into the nature of fish themselves or the human demand for them.We can think of the behavior of a machine which is designed to simulate intelligence as being like a mirror to the world of natural intelligence. While the simulation is useful to extend our understanding of the world and of simulation, it is important not to mistake the map for the territory. We should understand that between the concrete territory that physics gives us, and the abstract map that computer science discovers, there can be no bridge without consciousness. It is not a conceptual bridge or a mechanical bridge, it is a metaphorical bridge, held together with direct participation and perception.
PRIMORDIAL DUCK SOUP
If it eats like a duck and poops like a duck, does it know what direction to fly in the Winter? In 1739, Jacque de Vaucanson unveiled Canard Digérateur (Digesting Duck), a life-size mechanical duck which appeared to eat kernels of grain, then metabolize and defecate them.³Vaucanson describes the duck’s innards as a small “chemical laboratory.” But it was a hoax: Food was collected in one container, and pre-made breadcrumb ‘feces’ were dispensed from a second, separate container. On the surface, Vaucanson’s Digesting Duck appeared to be a compelling reconstruction of a real duck. The analogy to AGI here is not to suggest it is possible that the appearance of an intelligent machine is a mere trick, but that the issue of artifice may play a much more crucial role in defining the phenomenon of subjectivity than it will appear to in observing the biological objects associated with our consciousness in particular. Consciousness itself, as the ultimate source of authenticity, may have no substitute.
OVERLOOKING THE LOOKING GLASS
If a doll can be made to shed tears without feeling sad, there is no reason to rule out the possibility of constructing an unfeeling machine which can output enough human-like behaviors to pass an arbitrarily sophisticated Turing Test. A test itself is a method of objectifying and making tangible some question that we have.Can we really expect the most intangible and subjective aspects of consciousness to render themselves tangible using methods designed for objectivity? When we view the world through a lens — a microscope, language, the human body — the lens does not disappear, and what we see should tell us as much, if not more, about the lens and the seeing as it does about the world. If math and physics reveal to us a world in which we don’t really exist, and what does exist are skeletal simulating ephemera, it may be because it is the nature of math and physics to simulate and ephemeralize.The very act of reduction imposed intentionally by quantifying approaches may increasingly feed back on its own image the further we get from our native scope of direct perception. In creating intelligence simulation machines we are investing in the most distanced and generic surface appearances of nature that we can access and using them to replace our most intimate and proprietary depths. An impressive undertaking, to be sure, but we should be vigilant about letting our expectations and assumptions blind us.Not overlooking the looking glass means paying attention in our methods to which perceptual capacities we are extending and which we are ignoring. Creating machines that walk like a duck and quack like a duck may be enough to fool even other ducks, but that doesn’t mean that the most essential aspects of a duck are walking and quacking. It may be the case that subjective consciousness cannot be engineered from the outside-in, so that putting hardware and software together to create a person would be a bit like trying to recreate World War II with uniforms and actors. A person, like a historical event may only arise in a single, unrepeatable historical context.Our human experience caries with it a history of generations of organisms and organic events, not just as biological recapitulations, but as a continuous enrichment of sensory affect and participation. Humanity’s path diverged from the inorganic path long, long ago, and it may take just as long for any inorganic substance to be usable to host the types of experience available to us, if ever. The human qualities of consciousness may not develop in any context other than that of directly experiencing the life of a human body in a human society.

 

(QUOKKA)

Yes. That’s a quokka. Indigenous to Western Australia, they have been called ‘The Happiest Animal on Earth’. He is here to remind you that pictures don’t have to be happy to make you feel happy. If delving into the world of weird ideas about the nature of consciousness makes you happy, you can find me, Craig Weinberg around the internet ats33light.org on sites like Quora and Kialo. Thanks for stopping by and reading the fine print!

Information does not physically exist​

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment

mapterrAlfred Korzybski famously said “the map is not the territory”. To the extent that this is true, it should be understood to reveal that “information is not physics”. If there is a mapping function, there is no reason to consider it part of physics, and in fact that convention comes from an assumption of physicalism rather than a discovery of physical maps. There is no valid hypothesis of a physical mechanism for one elemental phenomenon or event to begin to signify another as a “map”.​ Physical phenomena include ‘formations’ but there is nothing physical which could or should transform them ‘in’ to anything other than different formations.

A bit or elementary unit of information has been defined as ‘a difference that makes a difference’. While physical phenomena seem *to us* to make a difference, it would be anthropomorphizing to presume that they are different or make a difference to each other. ​Difference and making a difference seem to depend on some capacity for detection, discernment, comparison, and evaluation. These seem to be features of conscious sense and sense making rather than physical cause and effect.​ The more complete context of the quote about a difference which makes a difference has to do with neural pathways and an implicit readiness to be triggered.

In Bateson’s paper, he says “In fact, what we mean by information—the elementary unit of information—is a difference which makes a difference, and it is able to make a difference because the neural pathways along which it travels and is continually transformed are themselves provided with energy. The pathways are ready to be triggered. We may even say that the question is already implicit in them.”​ In my view this ‘readiness’ is a projection of non-physical properties of sense and sense making onto physical structures and functions. If there are implicit ‘questions’ on the neural level, I suggest that they cannot be ‘in them’ physically, and the ‘interiority’ of the nervous system or other information processors is figurative rather than literal.​

My working hypothesis is that information is produced by sense-making, which in turn is dependent upon more elemental capacities for sense experience.​ Our human experience is a complex hybrid of sensations which seem to us to be embodied through biochemistry and sense-making experiences which seem to map intangible perceptions outside of those tangible biochemical mechanisms. The gap between the biochemical sensor territories and the intangible maps we call sensations are a miniaturized view of the same gap that exists at the body-mind level.

Tangibility itself may not be an ontological fact, but rather a property that emerges from the nesting of sense experience. There may be no physical territory or abstract maps, only sense-making experiences of sense experiences. There may be a common factor which links concrete territories and abstract maps, however.​ The common factor cannot be limited to the concrete/abstract dichotomy, but it must be able to generate those qualities which appear dichotomous in that way.​ To make this common factor universal rather than personal, qualia or sense experience could be considered an absolute ground of being. George Berkeley said “Esse est percipi (To be is to be perceived)”, implying that perception is the fundamental fabric of existence. Berkeley’s idealism conceived of God as the ultimate perceiver whose perceptions comprise all being, however it may be that the perceiver-perceived dichotomy is itself a qualitative distinction which relies on an absolute foundation of ‘sense’ that can be called ‘pansense’ or ‘universal qualia’.​

In personal experience, the appearance of qualities is known by the philosophical term ‘qualia’ but can also be understood as received sensations, perceptions, feelings, thoughts, awareness and consciousness. Consciousness can be understood as ‘the awareness of awareness’, while awareness can be ‘the perception of perception’.​Typically we experience the perceiver-perceived dichotomy, however practitioners of advanced meditation techniques and experiencers of mystical states of consciousness report a quality of perceiverlessness which defies our expectation of perceiver-hood as a defining or even necessary element of perception. This could be a clue that transpersonal awareness transcends distinction itself, providing a universality which is both unifying, diversifying, and re-unifying.​ Under the idea of pansense, God could either exist or not exist, or both, but God’s existence would either have to be identical with or subordinate to pensense. God cannot be unconscious and even God cannot create his own consciousness.

It could be thought that making the category of perception absolute makes it just as meaningless as calling it physical, however the term ‘perception’ has a meaning even in an absolute sense in that it positively asserts the presence of experience, whereas the term ‘physical’ is more generic and meaningless.​ Physical could be rehabilitated as a term which refers to tangible geometric structures encountered directly or indirectly during waking consciousness. Intangible forces and fields should be understood to be abstract maps of metaphysical influences on physical appearances. What we see as biology, chemistry, and physics may in fact be part of a map in which a psychological sense experience makes sense of other sense experiences by progressively truncating their associated microphenomenal content.

Information is associated with Entropy, but entropy ultimately isn’t purely physical either.​ The association between information and entropy is metaphorical rather than literal.​ The term ‘entropy’ is used in many different contexts with varying degrees of rigor. The connection between information entropy and thermodynamic entropy comes from statistical mechanics. Similar statistical mechanical formulas can be applied to both the probability of physical microstates (Boltzmann, Gibbs) and the probability of ‘messages’ (Shannon), however probability derives from our conscious desire to count and predict, not from that which is being counted and predicted.

“Gain in entropy always means loss of information, and nothing more”. To be more concrete, in the discrete case using base two logarithms, the reduced Gibbs entropy is equal to the minimum number of yes–no questions needed to be answered in order to fully specify the microstate, given that we know the macrostate.” ​- Wikipedia

Information can be considered negentropy also:

“Shannon considers the uncertainty in the message at its source, whereas Brillouin considers it at the destination” – physics.stackexchange.com

Information is surprise

Thermodynamic entropy can be surprising in the sense that it becomes more difficult to predict the microstate of any individual particle, but unsurprising in the sense that the overall appearance of equilibrium is both a predictable, unsurprising conclusion and it is an appearance which implies the loss of potential to generate novelty or surprise.​ Also, surprise is not a physical condition.​

Heat death is a cosmological end game scenario which is maximally entropic in thermodynamic terms but lacks any potential for novelty or surprise. If information is surprise, then high information would correlate to high thermodynamic negentropy.​ The Big Bang is a cosmological creation scenario which follows from a state of minimal entropy in which novelty and surprise are also lacking until the Big Bang occurs. If information is surprise, then low information would correlate to high thermodynamic negentropy.​

The qualification of ‘physical’ has evolved and perhaps dissolved to a point where it threatens to lose all meaning.​ In the absence of a positive assertion of tangible ‘stuff’ which does not take tangibility itself for granted, the modern sense of physical has largely blurred the difference between the abstract and concrete, mathematical theory and phenomenal effects, and overlooks the significance of that blurring. Considering physical a category of perceptions gives meaning to both categories in that nature is conceived as being intrinsically experiential with physical experiences being those in which the participatory element is masked or alienated by a qualitative perceiver-subject/perceived-object sense of distinction. The physical is perceived by the subject which perceives itself to possess a participatory subjectivity that the object lacks.

Information depends on a capacity to create (write) and detect (read) contrasts between higher and lower entropy. In that sense it is meta-entropic and either the high or low entropy state can be foregrounded as signal or backgrounded as noise. The absence of both signal and noise on one level can also be information, and thus a signal, on another level.​ What constitutes a signal at in the most direct frame of reference is defined by the meta-signifying capacity of “sense” to deliver sense-experience. If there is no sense experience, there is nothing to signify or make-sense-of. If there is no sense-making experience, then there is nothing to do with the sense of contrasting qualities to make them informative.

The principle of causal closure in physics, would, if true, prevent any sort of ‘input’ or receptivity. Physical activity reduces to chains of causality which are defined by spatiotemporal succession. A physical effect differs from a physical cause only in that the cause precedes the effect. Physical causality therefore is a succession of effects or outputs acting on each other, so that any sense of inputs or affect on to physics would be an anthropomorphic projection.​

The lack of acknowlegement of input/affect as a fundamental requirement for natural phenomena is an oversight that may arise from a consensus of psychological bias toward stereotypically ‘masculine’ modes of analysis and away from ‘feminine’ modes of empathy. Ideas such as Imprinted Brain Theory, Autistic-Psychotic spectrum, and Empathizing-Systemizing theory provide a starting point for inquiries into the role that overrepresentation of masculine perspectives in math, physics, and engineering play in the development of formal theory and informal political influence in the academic adoption of theories.

Criticisms? Support? Join the debate on Kialo.

Computation as Anti-Holos

July 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Here is a technical sketch of how all of nature could arise from a foundation which is ‘aesthetic’ rather than physical or informational. I conceive of the key difference between the aesthetic and the physical or informational (both anesthetic) is that an aesthetic phenomenon is intrinsically and irreducibly experiential. This is a semi-neologistic use of the term aesthetic, used only to designate the presence of phenomena which is not only detected but is identical to detection. A dream is uncontroversially aesthetic in this sense, however, because our waking experience is also predicated entirely upon sensory, perceptual, and cognitive conditioning, we can never personally encounter any phenomenon which is not aesthetic. Aesthetics here is being used in a universal way and should not be conflated with the common usage of the term in philosophy or art, since that usage is specific to human psychology and relates primarily to beauty. There is a connection between the special case of human aesthetic sense and the general sense of aesthetic used here, but that’s a topic for another time. For now, back to the notion of the ground of being as a universal phenomenon which is aesthetic rather than anesthetic-mechanical (physics or computation).

I have described this aesthetic foundation with various names including Primordial Identity Pansensitivity or Pansense. Some conceive of something like it called Nondual Fundamental Awareness. For this post I’ll call it HolosThe absolute totality of all sensation, perception, awareness, and consciousness in which even distinctions such as object and subject are transcended.

I propose that our universe is a product of a method by which Holos (which is sense beneath the emergent dichotomy of sensor-sensed) is perpetually modulating its own sensitivity into novel and contrasting aspects. In this way Holos can be understood as a universal spectrum of perceivability which nests or masks itself into sub-spectra, such as visibility, audibility, tangibility, emotion, cogitation, etc, as well into quantifiable metrics of magnitude.

The masking effect of sense modulation is, in this hypothesis the underlying phenomenon which has been measured as entropy. Thermodynamic entropy and information entropy alike are not possible without a sensory capacity for discernment between qualities of order/certainty/completeness (reflecting holos/wholeness) and the absence of those qualities (reflecting the masking of holos). Entropy can be understood as the masking of perceptual completeness within any given instance of perception (including measurement perceptions). Because entropy is the masking of the completeness of holos, it is a division which masks division. Think of how the borders of our visual field present an evanescent, invisible or contrast-less boundary to visibility of visual boundaries and contrasts. Because holos unites sense, entropy divides sense, including the sense of division, resulting in the stereotypical features of entropy – equilibrium or near equilibrium of insignificant fluctuations, uncertainty, morphological decay to generic forms and recursive functions, etc. Entropy can be understood as the universal sense of insensitivity. The idea of nothingness refers to an impossible state of permanent unperceivability, however just as absolute darkness is not the same as invisibility, even descriptors of perceptual absence such stillness, silence, vacuum are contingent upon a comparison with their opposites. Nothingness is still a concept within consciousness rather than a thing which can actually exist on its own.

Taking this idea further, it is proposed that the division of sense via entropy-insensitivity has a kind of dual effect. Where holos is suppressed, a black-hole like event-horizon of hyper-perceivability is also present. There is a conservation principle by which entropic masking must also residuate a hypertrophied entity-hood of sense experience: A sign, or semaphore, aka unit of information/negentropy.

In dialectic terms, Holos/sense is the universal, absolute thesis of unity, which contains its own antithesis of entropy-negentropy. The absolute essence of the negentropy-entropy dialectic would be expressed in aesthetic duals such as particle-void, foreground-background, signal-noise. The aesthetic-anesthetic dual amplifies the object-like qualities of the foregrounded sensation such that it is supersaturated with temporary super-completeness, making it a potential ‘signal’ or ‘sign’…a surface of condensed-but-collapsed semantics or ‘phoria’ into ‘semaphoria’, aka, syntactic elements. I call the progressive formalizing of unified holos toward graphic units ‘diffractivity’. The result of diffractivity is that the holos implements a graphic-morphic appearance protocol within itself, which we call space-time, and which is used to anchor and guide the interaction of the entropic, exterior of experience. The interior of complex experiences are guided by the opposite, transformal sense of hierarchy-by-significance’. Significance is another common term which I am partially hijacking for use in a more specific way as the saturation of aesthetic qualities, and the persistence of any given experience within a multitude of other experiences.

To recap, the conjecture is that all of nature arises by, through, for, and within an aesthetic foundation named ‘holos’. Through a redistribution of its own sensitivity, holos masks its unity property into self-masking/unmasking ‘units’ which we call ‘experiences’ or ‘events’. The ability recall multiple experiences and to imagine new experiences, and to understand the relation between them is what we call ‘time’.

Within more complex experiences, the entropic property which divides experience into temporal sections can reunite with other, parallel complex experiences in a ‘back to back’ topology. In this mode of tactile disconnection, the potential for re-connection of the disconnected ends of experiences is re-presented what we call ‘objects in space’ or ‘distance between points’, aka geometry. By marrying the graphed, geometric formality of entropy with the algebraic, re-collecting formality of sequence, we arrive at algorithm or computation. Computation is not a ‘real phenomenon’ but a projection of the sense of quantity (an aesthetic sense just like any other) onto a distanced ‘object’ of perception.

Physics in this view is understood to be the inverted reflection and echo of experience which has been ‘spaced and timed’. Computation is the inversion of physics – the anesthetic void as addressable container of anesthetic function-objects. Physics makes holos into a hologram, and computation inverts the natural relation into an artificial, ‘information theoretic’, hypergraphic anti-holos. In the anti-holos perspective, nature is uprooted and decomposed into dustless digital dust. Direct experience is seen as ‘simulation’ or ‘emergent’, non-essential properties which only ‘seem to exist’, while the invisible, intangible world of quantum-theoretical mechanisms and energy rich vacuums are elevated to the status of noumena.

Computationalists Repent! The apocalypse is nigh! 🙂

AI is Still Inside Out

June 29, 2017 Leave a comment

artmonstern

Turn your doodles into madness.

I think this is a good example of how AI is ‘inside out’. It does not produce top-down perception and sensations in its own frame of awareness, but rather it is a blind seeking of our top-down perception from a completely alien, unconscious perspective.

The result is not like an infant’s consciousness learning about the world from the inside out and becoming more intelligent, rather it is the opposite. The product is artificial noise woven together from the outside by brute force computation until we can almost mistake its chaotic, mindless, emotionless products for our own reflected awareness.

This particular program appears designed to make patterns that look like monsters to us, but that isn’t why I’m saying its an example of AI being inside out. The point is that this program exposes image processing as a blind process of arithmetic simulation rather than any kind of seeing. The result is a graphic simulacra…a copy with no original which, if we’re not careful, can eventually tease us into accepting it as a genuine artifact of machine experience.

See also: https://multisenserealism.com/2015/11/18/ai-is-inside-out/

 

Three-Phase Model of Will

June 24, 2017 1 comment

Within the Multisense Realism (MSR) model, all of nature is conceived of as a continuum of experiential or aesthetic phenomena. This ‘spectrum of perceivability’ can be divided, like the visible light spectrum, into two, three, four, or millions of qualitative hues, each with their own particular properties, and each which contribute to the overall sense of the spectrum.

For this post, I’ll focus on a three-level view of the spectrum: Sub-personal, Personal, and Transpersonal. Use of the MSR neologisms ‘Semaphoric, Phoric, and Metaphoric’ may be annoying to some readers, but I think that it adds some important connections and properly places the spectrum of perceivability in a cosmological context rather than in an anthropocentric or biocentric one.

In my view, nature is composed of experiences, and the primary difference between the experiences of biological organisms (which appear as synonymous with cellular-organic bodies to each other) and experiences which appear to us as inorganic chemistry, atoms, planets, stars, etc is the scale of time and space which are involved and the effect of that scale difference on what I call perceptual lensing or eigenmorphism.

In other words, I am saying that the universe is made of experiences-within-experiences, and that the relation of any given experience to the totality of experience is a defining feature of the properties of the universe which appear most real or significant. If you are an animal, you have certain kind of experiences in which other animals are perceived as members of one’s own family, or as friends, pets, food, or pests. These categories are normally rather firm, and we do not want to eat our friends or pets, we understand that what constitutes a pet or pest in some cultures may be desirable as food in others. We understand that the palette can shift, for example, many with a vegan diet sooner or later find meat eating in general to be repulsive. This kind of shift can be expressed within the MSR model as a change in the lensing of personal gustatory awareness so that the entire class of zoological life is identified with more directly. The scope of empathy has expanded so that the all creatures with ‘two eyes and a mother’ are seen in a context of kinship rather than predation.

Enslavement is another example of how the lens of human awareness has changed. For millennia slavery was practiced in various cultures much like eating meat is practiced now. It was a fact of life that people of a different social class or race, women or children could be treated as slaves by the dominant group, or by men or adults. The scope of empathy was so contracted* by default that even members of the same human species were identified somewhere between pet and food rather than friends or family. As this scope of awareness (which is ultimately identical with empathy) expanded those who were on the leading edge of the expansion and those who were on the trailing edge began to see each other in polarized terms. There is a psychological mechanism at work which fosters the projection of negative qualities on the opposing group. In the case of 19th century American slavery, this opposition manifested in the Civil War.

Possibly all of the most divisive issues in society are about perception and how empathy is scoped. Is it an embryo or an unborn child? Are the poor part of the human family or are they pests? Should employees have rights as equals with employers or does wealth confer a right of employers to treat employees more like domesticated animals? All of these questions are contested within the lives of individuals, families, and societies and would fall under the middle range of the three tiered view of the MSR spectrum: The Phoric scope of awareness.

Phoric range: Consciousness is personal and interpersonal narrative with a clearly delineated first person subject, second person social, and third person object division. Subjective experience is intangible and difficult to categorize in a linear hierarchy. Social experience is intangible but semiotically grounded in gestures and expressions of the body. Consider the difference between the human ‘voice’ and the ‘sounds’ that we hear other animals make. The further apart the participants are from each other, the more their participation is de-personalized. Objective experience (more accurately objective-facing or public-facing experience) is totally depersonalized and presented as tangible objects rather than bodies. Tangible objects are fairly easy to stratify by time/space scale: Roughly human sized or larger animals are studied in a context of zoology. Smaller organisms and cells comprise the field of biology. As the ‘bodies’ get smaller and lives get shorter/faster relative to our own, the scope of our empathy contracts (unless perhaps if you’re a microbiologist), so that we tend to consider the physical presence of microorganisms and viruses somewhere in between bodies and objects.

Even though we see more and more evidence of objects on these sub-cellular scales behaving with seeming intelligence or responsiveness, it is difficult to think of them as beings rather than mechanical structures. Plants, even though their size can vary even more than animals, are so alien to our aesthetic sense of ourselves that they tend to be categorized in the lower empathy ranges: Food rather than friends, fiber rather than flesh. This again is all pertaining to the boundary beteween the personal or phoric range of the MSR spectrum and the semaphoric range, sub-personal. The personal view of an external sempahore is an object (morphic phenomenon). The morphic scope is a reflection within the phoric range of experiences which are perceptually qualified as impersonal but tangible. It is a range populated by solid bodies, liquids, and gas which are animated by intangible ‘forces’ or ‘energies’**. Depending on who is judging those energies and the scale and aesthetics of the object perceived, the force or energy behind the behavior of the body is presumed to be somewhere along an axis which extends from ‘person’, where full fledged subjective intent governs the body’s behavior to ‘mechanism’ where behaviors are governed by impersonal physical forces which are automatic and unintentional.

Zooming in on this boundary between sentience and automaticity, we can isolate a guiding principle in which ‘signals’ embody the translation between mechanical-morphic forms and metric-dynamic functions which are supposed to operate without sensation, and those events which are perceived with participatory qualities such as feeling, thinking, seeing, etc. While this sub-personal level is very distant from our personal scope of empathy, it is no less controversial as far as the acrimony between those who perceive no special difference between sensation and mechanical events, and those who perceive a clear dichotomy which cannot be bridged from the bottom up. To the former group, the difference between signal (semaphore) and physical function (let’s call it ‘metamorph’) is purely a semantic convention, and those who are on the far end of the latter group appear as technophobes or religious fanatics. To the latter group, the difference between feelings and functions is of the utmost significance – even to divine vs diabolical extremes. For the creationist and the anti-abortionist, human life is not divisible to mere operations of genetic objects or evolving animal species. Their perception of the animating force of human behavior is not mere stochastic computation and thermodynamics, but ‘free will’ and perhaps the sacred ‘soul’. What is going on here? Where are these ideas of supernatural influences coming from and why do they remain popular in spite of centuries of scientific enlightenment?

This is where the third level of the spectrum comes in, the metaphoric or holophoric range.

To review: Semaphoric: Consciousness on this level is seen as limited to signal-based interactions. The expectation of a capacity to send and receive ‘signs’ or ‘messages’ is an interesting place to spend some time on because it is so poorly defined within science. Electromagnetic signals are described in terms of charge or attraction/repulsion but it is at the same time presumed to be unexperienced. Computer science takes signal for granted. It is a body of knowledge which begins with an assumption that there already is hardware which has some capacity for input, output, storage, and comparison of ‘data’. Again, the phenomenal content of this process of data processing is poorly understood, and it is easy to grant proto-experiential qualities to programs when we want them to seem intelligent, or to withdraw those qualities when we want them to see them as completely controllable or programmable. Data is the semaphoric equivalent of body on the phoric level. The data side of the semaphore is the generic, syntactic, outside view of the signal. Data is a fictional ‘packet’ or ‘digit’ abstractly ‘moving’ through a series of concrete mechanical states of the physical hardware. There is widespread confusion over this, and people disagree what the relation between data, information, and experience is. MSR allows us to see the entire unit as semaphore; sensory-motive phenomena which is maximally contracted from transpersonal unity and minimally presented as sub-personal unit.

Like the vegan who no longer sees meat as food, the software developer or cognitive scientist may not see data as a fictional abstraction overlaid on top of the material conditions of electronic components, but instead as carriers of a kind of proto-phenomenal currency which can learn and understand. Data for the programmer may seem intrinsically semantic – units whose logical constraints make them building blocks of thought and knowledge that add up to more than the sum of their parts. There is a sense that data is in and of itself informative, and through additional processing can be enhanced to the status of ‘information’.

In my view, this blurring of the lines between sensation, signal, data, and information reflects the psychology of this moment in the history of human consciousness. It is the Post-Enlightenment version of superstition (if we want to be pejorative) or re-enchantment (if we want to be supportive). Where the pre-Enlightenment mind was comfortable blurring the lines between physical events and supernatural influences, the sophisticated thinker of the 21st century has no qualms about seeing human experience as a vast collection of data signals in a biochemical computer network. Where it was once popular among the most enlightened to see the work of God in our everyday life, it is now the image of the machine which has captured the imagination of professional thinkers and amateur enthusiasts alike. Everything is a ‘system’. Every human experience traces back to a cause in the body, its cells and molecules, and to the blind mechanism of their aggregate statistical evolutions.

To recap: The MSR model proposes that all of nature can be modeled meaningfully within a ‘spectrum of perceivability’ framework. This spectrum can be divided into any number of qualitative ranges, but the number of partitions used has a defining effect on the character of the spectrum as a whole. The ‘lower’, semaphoric or ‘signal’ end of the spectrum presents a world of sub-personal sensations or impulses which relate to each other as impersonal data processes. Whether this perception is valid in an objective sense, or whether it is the result of the contraction of empathy that characterizes the relation between the personal scope of awareness and its objectification of the sub-personal is a question which itself is subject to the same question. If you don’t believe that consciousness is more fundamental than matter, then you aren’t going to believe that your sensitivity has an effect on how objective phenomena are defined. If you already see personal consciousness as a function of data processing organic chemistry, then you’re not going to want to take seriously the idea that chemical bonding is driven by sensory-empathic instincts rather than mathematical law. If you’re on the other end of the psychological spectrum however, it may be difficult to imagine why anyone would even want to deny the possibility that our own consciousness is composed of authentic and irreducible of feelings.

In either case, we can probably all agree that activity on the microscopic scale seems less willful and more automatic than the activity which we participate in as human beings. Those who favor the bottom-up view see this ‘emergence’ of willful appearance as a kind of illusion, and that actually all choices we make are predetermined by the mechanics of physical conditions. Those who favor the top-down view may also see the appearance of human will as an illusion, but driven by supernatural influences and entities rather than mathematical ones. Thus, the personal range of awareness is bounded on the bottom by semaphore (sensation <> signal < || > data <> information) and on the top by what I call metaphor (fate <> synchronicity < || > intuition <> divinity).

As we move above the personal level, with its personal-subject, social groups and impersonal objects, to the transpersonal level, the significance of our personal will increases. Even though religiosity tends to impose limits on human will in the face of overwhelming influence from divine will, there is an equally powerful tendency to elevate individual human will to a super-significant role. The conscience or superego is mediator between personal self and the transpersonal. It even appears as a metaphor in cartoons as angel and devil on the shoulder.  Most religious practices stress the responsibility of the individual to align their personal will to the will of God by finding and following the better angels of conscience or suffer the consequences. The consequences range from the mild forms of disappointing reincarnation or being stuck in repeating cycles of karma to Earth shaking consequences for the entire universe (as in Scientology). From the most extreme transpersonal perspective, the personal level of will is either inflated so that every action a person takes, including what they choose to think and feel is a tribute or affront to God, and gets us closer to paradise or damnation. Simultaneously personal or it is deflated or degraded so that the entirety of human effort is pathetic and futile in the face of Higher Power.

Notice the symmetry between the quantum (extreme semaphoric or ‘hemi-morphic’) concept of ‘superposition’ and the transpersonal concept of ‘synchronicity’.  Superposition is brought in to tame the paradox of simultaneous randomness and determinism of subatomic phenomena, while synchronicity is brought into psychology as a kind of metaphoric, poetic, or acausal intrusion from the transpersonal scope of awareness to the personal. This allows a bridge natural determinism of time and transpersonal from beyond our limited awareness of time. Superposition and synchronicity are ways of describing the gateways between spacetime and the nonlocal absolute. If these gateways form the opposite extremes of the continuum of personal awareness, then the sense of free will would be the very center of that continuum. At any given moment, even though we are presented with conditions and inertial patterns which influence our will, we are also presented with opportunities to condition our will itself. We can feel within ourselves a power to oppose inertia and change conditions in the world, or we can feel completely powerless to change anything that we are experiencing.

There’s a paradox here, in that how we feel about our own willpower factors in to the feeling of how powerful our will is or can be. There is a chicken-egg relation between mood and will which tends to polarize people psychologically. Feeling that we are destined to feel depressed corresponds to a set of truths about life which are difficult to accept in the sense that they lead to nihilism and despair. Feeling that it is up to us to change how we feel so that we can improve our lives or the world corresponds to a difference set of truths about our lives which can be equally difficult to accept but in the opposite sense that they lead to risk taking and the possibility that our effort can end up causing more harm than good to ourselves and others. To be or not to be each have their strengths and weakness.

As with the other social-psychological dichotomies mentioned earlier, each side sees the other in a scope of diminished empathy; The downbeat introvert sees themselves as facing the bitter facts of mortality and the human condition with courage and honesty, while their positive-thinking counterparts are seen as deluded ninnies…intellectual lightweights who don’t have the stomach to face the existential abyss. The upbeat idealist sees themselves as heroically facing the challenge of rescuing their own life from the abyss while the realist appears to be willfully blind to their own power, and consciously or unconsciously wallow in a prison of their own making. This polarity of the phoric range of consciousness can be understood as its euphoric and dysphoric orientations. Those who have ‘mood disorders’ are familiar with these extremes and how inadequate the term ‘mood’ is to describe the totality of change in how the universe and one’s own life is presented. It is not simply that these opposing phoric ‘charges’ feel very good or bad, it is that the individual find themselves in a universe which is very good – (maybe too ‘good’), or very bad. In the current time of political transformation, we find ourselves to be drawn to align with one social polarity or another, each with its own euphoric-dysphoric signifiers and each with a separate narrative of history and the possible future. More than any time in the US since the 1960s, the questions of our personal agency and the possibilities for our future freedoms have become important. How important may be up to us individually, or we may find that fate and coincidence conspire to make them more important.

*This is not to say that slavery is not still going on, or that everyone has evolved the same level of conscience about race, gender, and age.

**I have issues with the concept of energy, but I use it here as a popular way to make the reference.

Even Wilder-Ass Sh*t

June 19, 2017 Leave a comment

I’m only about 20 minutes in to the video, but I wanted to post some comments before I forget them.

Topic 1. Non-Foundational sets
Take the idea of non-foundational sets and infinite probability distributions of infinite probability distributions but invert it. Literally, invert the language and then conceptualize the result. If I do this and apply it as a hypothesis, the foundation of consciousness and nature in general would be Absolutely foundational setless-ness. Consciousness now no longer needs to be positively asserted as an agent which instantiates itself recursively, rather it is the appearance of unconsciousness which is a negative assertion which is temporarily instantiated by manipulating relative degrees of sensitivity. Think here of how the color black or white are colors which stand in for colorlessness. Desaturating an image is analogous to how conscious experience is truncated into forms and functions which are quantifiable.

Consciousness now no longer needs to be positively asserted as an agent which instantiates itself recursively, rather it is the appearance of unconsciousness within consciousness which is a negative assertion which is temporarily instantiated by manipulating relative degrees of sensitivity. Think here of how black or white are colors which stand in for colorlessness. Desaturating an image is analogous to how conscious experience is truncated into quantifiable, finite forms and functions.*

To continue then: Instead of infinite probability distributions, I propose the inverse: Finite, but absolutely pervasive improbability. If we trace back any consideration of first cause we run into a something that we have to admit is being considered beyond causality and existed ‘just because’. Instead of banishing this miraculous-seeming appearance of ‘existence’ from nothing or vacuum potential or God, I see that all phenomena have some degree of uniqueness, and that uniqueness is by definition idiopathic (aka ‘strongly emergent’). Blue comes out of nothing but itself, and ultimately the uniqueness of any given moment does the same thing. By grounding our view of nature in infinite improbability, we can re-frame our own interest in probability as a function of our subjective desire to defy incompleteness rather than an impartial assessment of nature as a phenomenon.

Topic 2: Hypercomputation
I like this line of thinking. I would suggest thinking first of ‘transcomputation’ rather than hypercomputation, that is, instead of conditions which are inaccessible to computation simply because they exceed quantitative limits of finite-ness, think of finite-ness itself as only the monochrome edges which bound a deeper and dynamically expanding spectrum of universal phenomenology. Because this spectrum is pervasive, communication is a matter of triggering each entity’s unmasking of their own separation from the totality rather than generating a new understanding which is copied from one entity to another.

To communicate is to subtract a seperation between two minds, and the separation between minds and the totality of cognitive truth, and between that totality of truth and the universal phenomenal spectrum. To communicate is to dissolve some of the masking of underlying unity across all phenomena.

Topic 3: Morphic Resonance
Morphe = form, shape. I like Rupert Sheldrake’s famous idea of MR, but again I would invert it. The name ‘Morphic Resonance’ draws us to the exteriors of tangible and visible objects. It implies that forms hold meaning which propagates to other forms. Turning that inside out, I find the resonance to be ‘phoric’ rather than morphic. This neologistic use of the Greek root ‘phor’ (pherein, to carry, bear) is intended to inspire associations with terms like ‘metaphor’, ‘euphoria/dysphoria’ and even ‘semaphore’. Between these three terms, we might glimpse a sign of three ‘primary colors’ of human consciousness: The the personal, the sub-personal or impersonal, and the transpersonal. I am a holon of experiences (‘phoria’), my body is a holon of biochemical code (‘semaphoria’), and my lifetime is a leaf on a branching ‘zeitgeist tree’ of mytho-poetic themes propagating from the top down (‘metaphoria’ or anthro-metaphoria for us humans).

In all cases where we talk about ‘patterns’ (morphe) we should substute ‘sense’ (phor), i.e. instead of an ontological, existential phenomenon, we should think of a phenomenon which expresses itself to itself by self-masking, unmasking, and residuating novelty (in a similar way to the residuation of color from the diffracting of visible light which is ‘white’, i.e. colorless, clear, and representative of visibility itself).

*sidebar: If we have color, we can use it to point to the potential for colorlessness. This pointing can’t be accomplished mechanically because there can’t literally be a color which implies colorlessness, but because of the aesthetic quality of black and white in relation to the other colors, we can pick up on a metaphor. By being able to access the difference between monochrome and color vision, and compare them, we ‘break the fourth wall’ which separates the content of visible phenomena from the modality of our visual sense, and we can carry that metaphorical wall breaking to the larger context of the wall between our personal experience and the totality of all possible experience. We can see that visibility is possible with only one dimension of hue, but only if we have more hues that we can compare it with. If there were no color vision, there would be no way to conceive of more than one type of hue (luminosity).

Fooling Computer Image Recognition is Easier Than it Should Be

December 19, 2016 1 comment

This 2016 study, Universal Adversarial Perturbations, demonstrates how the introduction of specially designed low level noise into image data makes state of the art neural networks misclassify natural images with high probability. Because the noise is almost imperceptible to the human eye, I think it should be a clue that image processing technology is not ‘seeing’ images.

image_recognition

It is not only the fact that it is possible to throw off the technology so easily that is significant, but that the kinds of miscalculations that are made are so broad and unnatural. Had the program had any real sense of an image, adding some digital grit to a picture of a coffee pot or plant should not cause a ‘macaw’ hit, but rather some other visually similar object or plant.

While many will choose to see this paper as a suggestion for a need to improve recognition methods, I see it as supporting a shift away from outside-in, bottom-up models of perception altogether. As I have suggested in other posts, all of out current AI models are inside out.

3/16/17 – see also http://www.popsci.com/byzantine-science-deceiving-artificial-intelligence

Dereference Theory of Consciousness

October 24, 2016 Leave a comment

Draft 1.1

IMO machine consciousness will ultimately prove to be an oxymoron, but if we did want to look for consciousness analogs in machine behavior, here is an idea that occurred to me recently:

Look for nested dereferencing, i.e. places where persistent information processing structures load real-time sense data about the loading of all-time sense data.

image

At the intersection of philosophy of mind, computer science, and quantum mechanics is the problem of instantiating awareness. What follows is an attempt to provide a deeper understanding of the significance of dereferencing and how it applies to integration of information and the quantum measurement problem. This is a broad conjecture about the nature of sensation as it pertains to the function of larger information processes, with an eye toward defining and identifying specific neuroscientific or cognitive signatures to correlate with conscious activity.

A dereference event can be thought of as the precise point in which a system that is designed or evolved to expect a range of inputs receives the real input itself. This sentence, for example, invites an expectation of a terminal clause, the terms of which are expected to be English words which are semantically linked to the rest of the sentence. English grammar provides templates of possible communication, but the actual communication relies on specific content to fill in those forms. The ability to parse English communication can be simulated by unconscious, rule-based mechanisms, however, I suggest that the ability to understand that communication involves a rule-breaking replacement of an existing parse theory with empirical, semantic fact. The structure of a language, its dictionary etc, is a reference body for timeless logic structures. Its purpose is to enable a channel for sending, receiving, and modifying messages which pertain to dereferenced events in real time. It is through the contact with real time sense events that communication channels can develop in the first place, and to continue to self modify.

What is proposed here is an alternative to Multi-World Interpretation of Quantum Wave Function collapse – an inversion of the fundamental assumption in which all possible phenomena diverge or diffract within a single context of concretely sensed events. The wave function collapse in this view is not the result of a measurement of what is already objectively ‘out there’, nor is it the creation of objective reality by subjective experiences ‘in here’, but a quantized return to an increasingly ‘re-contextualized’ state. A perpetual and unpredictable re-acquaintance with unpredictable re-acquaintance.

In programmatic terms, the variable *p is dereferenced to the concrete value (*p = “the current temperature”, dereferenced p = “is now 78 degrees Fahrenheit″). To get to a better model of conscious experience (and I think that this this plugs into Orch OR, IIT, Interface Theory, and Global Workspace), we should look at the nested or double dereferencing operation. The dereferencing of dereferencing (**p) is functionally identical to awareness of awareness or perception of perception. In the *p = “the current temperature” example, **p is “the current check of the current check of the temperature”. This not only points us to the familiar Strange loop models of consciousness, but extends the loop outward to the environment and the environment into the loop. Checking the environment of the environmental check is a gateway to veridical perception. The loop modifies its own capacity for self-modification.

Disclaimer: This description of consciousness as meta-dereferencing is intended as a metaphor only. In my view, information processing cannot generate conscious experience, however, conscious experience can possibly be better traced by studying dereferencing functions. This view differs from Gödel sentences or strange loops in that those structures refer to reference (This sentence is true) while the dereference loop specifically points away from pointers, rules, programs, formal systems, etc and toward i/o conditioning of i/o conditions. This would be a way for information-theoretic principles to escape the nonlocality of superposition and access an inflection point for authentic realization (in public space-time as shared experience). “Bing” = **Φ. In other words, by dereferencing dereference, the potentially concrete is made truly concrete. Sense experience is embodied as stereo-morphic tangible realism and tangible realism is disembodied as a sense of fact-gathering about sensed fact-gatherings.

Dereference theory is an appeal to anti-simulation ontology. Because this description of cognition implicates nested input/output operations across physically or qualitatively *real* events, the subjective result is a reduced set of real sense conditions rather than confabulated, solipsistic phenomenology. The subjective sense condition does not refer only to private or generic labels within a feed-forward thinking mechanism, but also to a model-free foundation and genuine sensitivity of the local ‘hardware’ to external conditions in the public here-and-now. This sensitivity can be conceived initially as universal property of some or all physical substrates (material panpsychism), however, I think that it is vital to progress beyond this assumption toward a nondual fundamental awareness view. In other words, subjective consciousness is derived from a dereference of a local inertial frame of expectation to a universal inertial frame of unprecedented novelties which decay as repetition. Each event is instantiated as an eternally unique experience, but propagated as repetitive/normalized translations in every other frame of experience. That propagation is the foundation for causality and entropy.

The Spirit of the Law

August 9, 2016 2 comments

The distinction between “The letter of the law” and “The spirit of the law” is a good way to understand the relation of consciousness to matter or to computation. Specifically, when we talk about the spirit of the law, we are speaking metaphorically. We don’t actually mean that there is a spiritual force radiating from paragraphs of text in legal documents which have a conscious intent. When we talk about the letter of the law, we are being much more literal (literally literal). The letter of the law refers to the actual written code that is recorded on paper, or stone tablets somewhere and copied from one physical medium to another.

To be literal about it, we would say the Spirit (or motive) behind the creation of the law. The law itself is inert. It is purely a medium to contain and transport a reference to the lawgiver’s motive, so that the motive can be actualized in the behaviors of those who follow the law. Laws don’t write themselves, and they don’t follow themselves. Their existence depends entirely on a world of agents and their efforts to influence each other.

The same is true of the relation between conscious experience, which is irreducibly sensory-motive, and external forms and functions which act as reflective mediums or vehicles for conscious experience. Like the letters of the law, physical forms or logical functions have no teleological motive. Those who mistake forms for having the potential to develop consciousness do so as a result of identifying too literally with their body and the experiences that they have through their body of its world of bodies and objects.

When we think too literally, we overlook the enormous gulf between the literal code of law (including the laws of physics or laws of mathematics) and the motive behind the giving and following of law. We begin to imagine that bodies or computer programs can become so complex that some spirit with sense and motive can ‘emerge’ from them. When someone argues that we will eventually discover the function of the brain which produces consciousness, or develop a program which will simulate consciousness, they are making an assumption about the relation between consciousness and the forms which it reflects back to itself. Translating this assumption into the context of law, it is an argument which says that there is no immaterial ‘spirit of the law’, so that therefore there must be a complicated set of legal codes which we mistake for such a ‘spirit’.  For many this assumption is in the blind spot of their intellect so that they are incapable of knowing that they are even making an assumption at all, let alone that it could be an oversight which is ‘emergent’ from their way of thinking about it.

The reason that forms and functions cannot create conscious experience has nothing to do with our current level of technological development, rather the reason is that the thesis that forms and functions can create consciousness is based on a reductive functionalism which breaks down when we carry the thesis out fully. Namely, our motive for reducing consciousness to physics or computation in the first place is based on principles of parsimony and sufficiency. Those same principles prohibit us from inflating physics or computation to consciousness. Consciousness cannot be justified, nor can any emergent properties which only appear within consciousness. If laws could create themselves and follow themselves, then there would be no need for any further experience of participating in either that creation or application. Like a computer program, the law would be generated automatically and a programmed chain reaction would follow. There would be no function for a sense of participation. The Hard Problem of Consciousness, translated into legal terms would ask why, if there is no spirit of the law, must lawyers ‘practice’ law instead of the law simply carrying itself out. Why would anyone argue over how a law should be ‘interpreted’?

The law ultimately is a communication between people as a way to try to maintain order in a civilization. It is not an alien life form whose body survives on ink and microfilm. Without a spirit or motivation to impart a sense of proper conduct onto other people, the law literally cannot exist as a law. In the same way, computer programs cannot exist without a motive of people to give and receive conscious experiences to each other. The letter of a program or of a physical structure cannot refer to anything by itself, and cannot act as a reference since there is no rational place for any such layer of intention. The laws of physics or mathematics don’t argue with each other. They don’t set up courts with juries to try to convince each other that one force should apply here and another should apply there. Why do we?

Decapitating Capitalism: Why the Easiest Job for AI to Replace is the Job of “Owner”

July 18, 2016 3 comments

tumblr_oaftnkT1xA1qz6f9yo5_540.jpg

This may seem like a ridiculous point to try to make, however I submit that it provides a direct metaphor for the Hard Problem of Consciousness which may help make it more concrete, especially for those whose minds are filled with concrete.

What is the essential role of the Owner of a company? 

Whether they are individual proprietors, stockholders, or investors, the only truly unique function that a capitalist principal performs is to be the beneficiary of net profit. Every executive function of a company can of course be delegated to employees. The CEO, COO, board of directors, etc can make every functional decision about the company, from the hiring and firing to the broad strategy of operations and acquisitions. Simulating those roles would be more difficult for a computer program than simulating an owner would be because there would be a lot of tricky decisions to make, subtle political maneuvers that require a lot of history and intuition, etc. The role of pure ownership however, while highly coveted by human beings, is completely disposable for an AI system. In fact, we already have that role covered by our bank accounts themselves. Our personal accounting systems can be configured quite easily to automatically pay, receive, and invest funds automatically. They need not be considered ‘our’ funds at all. They are merely signals in a global financial network which has no use for any pleasure or pain that we might experience as a side effect of its digital transactions.

From the view of an AI scientist, the job of receiving capital gains is a no-brainer (literally). If we didn’t want to delegate the job of selling the company to a corporate officer, that feature would be a simple one to create. A modest set of algorithms could digitize some of the concepts of top business schools to determine a set of indicators which would establish a good time to sell the company or its assets. The role of receiving the profit of that sale, however, would require no such sophisticated programming.

All that is needed to simulate ownership is some kind of digital account where money can be deposited. The CEO would then re-invest the capital gains into the corporate growth strategy, which would yield a huge windfall for the company, in the form of eliminating useless expenses such as yachts, mansions, divorce settlements, etc. Left to its own devices, AI simulation of ownership would be communist by default*. Whatever money is extracted from the individual customer as profit would be returned ultimately to all customers in the form of expanded services. Profit is only useful as a way to concentrate reinvestment for mathematical leverage, not to ‘enjoy’ in some human way. I suppose that a computer could be programmed to spend lavishly on creature comforts, but what would be the point?

This is where the metaphor for consciousness comes in. 

Consciousness can be thought of the Capital account of the human body. We are the owner of our own lives, including our body. We might be able to subscribe to a service which would manage our finances completely in a way which would transfer our income to the highest priority costs for civilization as a whole rather than for our personal hoard, but this is not likely to be a very popular app.

We might ask ourselves, why not? Why is ownership good?

Ownership is good for us as owners or conscious agents because we want to feel personal power and significance. Ownership signifies freedom (from employment) and success. Sure, many owners in the real world get a lot of satisfaction from actually running their companies, but it is not necessary. There is still power and prestige purely in being the person who owns the money which pays the bills. We want to own and control, not because it is more effective than simply reinvesting automatically in whatever functions are being executed to keep an economy growing, but because we want to experience the feelings and other aesthetic qualities define freedom, success, and power for us. Even if these qualities are employed for humanitarian purposes, there is still a primary motive of feeling (to feel generous, kind, wise, evolved, Godly, etc).

In my view we do not have to have a purely selfish motive, as Ayn Rand would insist. I think that our personal pleasure in being a philanthropist can be outweighed by the more noble intention of it – to provide others with better feelings and experiences of life. This decision to believe that we can be truly philanthropic has philosophical implications for realism. If we say as the Randian Libertarian might, that all our humanitarian impulses are selfish, then we are voting for solipsism over realism, and asserting that consciousness can only reflect the agenda of a fictional agent rather than perceiving directly the facts of nature. It’s an argument that should be made, but I think that it is ultimately an argument of the intellect commenting on its own process rather than tapping into the deeper intuition and aesthetic presence which all cognition depends on. The mind doesn’t think that feeling is necessary, and it is right, for the mind, but wrong for everything else.

For the intellect, the universe is inverted.

Logic and language are ‘real’ while the concrete sensations, perceptions and emotions of life experience are ‘illusions’ or ‘emergent properties’ of deeper evolutionary bio-computations. There is a kind of sleight of hand where the dry, masculine intellect pulls the wool over its own eyes and develops amnesia about the origins of what makes its own sanity and self-intelligibility possible. The closest that it can come without seeing consciousness as irreducible is the mind-numbing process of calculation. Counting is a sedative-hypnotic for the mind. The monotonous rhythm puts us to sleep, and the complexity of huge calculations gives us a kind of orgasmic annihilation of the calculating experience. This is why big math is a convenient substitute for the deeper, direct experiences of cosmic awe.

Metaphor for Consciousness

Like the head of a company, our consciousness may seem to reside at the top end of our body, but there is no functional reason for that. There is nothing that the brain does which is fundamentally different from what any cell, tissue, or organ does in an animal’s body. Looking for the secret ingredient in the brain’s function or structure is analogous to looking for the substance in an object which casts a shadow.

Like the owner, our personal pains and pleasures are ours not because there is any intrinsic benefit for the pragmatic application of biology and genetics to feel painful or pleasurable, but because what we feel and experience is the only thing that the universe actually can consist of. The Hard Problem of Consciousness is not an Empirical problem, but a Rational one. Not everyone is able to understand why this is, but maybe this metaphor of business decapitation can help. When we use the intellect to reverse its own inversion, we can get a glimpse of a universe which is made of conscious experiences and aesthetic qualities rather than logical propositions, natural laws or existential facts. In my view, facts are a category of sensations rather than the other way around. Sensations which persist indefinitely without contradiction are ‘facts’. Hard to know if something is going to persist indefinitely, but that’s another issue.

Only consciousness cares about consciousness.

Material substrates can be programmed to perform the executive functions of a corporation, or an evolving species, or a human body, however there is no function which is provided exclusively by the receipt of feelings and aesthetic qualities of experience, including the qualities of feeling that one is free or in control of something. Rationally, we should be able to see that qualia is irrelevant to function and violates Occam’s Razor in a functionalist universe. From a physical or information-centric perspective, there is no place for any feeling or sensation, no owner or capital of aesthetic wealth. The more that we, as a society, embrace a purely quantitative ethos, and actualize it in the structures of our civilization, the more we decapitate everything of value that it can contain.

*This is already becoming a reality: https://theconversation.com/is-the-dao-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-the-conventional-chief-executive-60403

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