Orbit

The Importance of the "Hard Problem of Consciousness"

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I was watching a youtube with David Chalmers and Daniel Dennett on the hard problem of consciousness (how does the physical brain produce subjective consciousness/experience) and I think it's relevant to the concerns of this forum. Qualia (qualitative experience) is just as important to us as humans as the material substrate that produces it. The "hard problem" refers to the fact that we don't actually know how consciousness is produced, which I find fascinating. Anyway, if you have the time, take a look and let me know what you think.

 

 

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This runs forward off of the thread on awareness that I posted a while back. This taking what was discussed by Peter Russell and advancing it into a concise theoretical framework which takes issue with consciousness all the way down and explains evolution through this frame work - conscious agents and such:

 

 

Space and time as the next flat earth or geocentric threshold to cross, was a very interesting suggestion (2:08 forward). 

 

@LogicalFallacy

 

@disillusioned

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Thanks for flagging this for me Josh. I'll give it a watch in the next couple of days and get back to you guys with some thoughts.

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5 hours ago, disillusioned said:

Thanks for flagging this for me Josh. I'll give it a watch in the next couple of days and get back to you guys with some thoughts.

 

If you're able to watch the Peter Russel video in my thread, and then contrast that against the current video, it may make more sense having gone through Russell's back ground illustrations which are then advanced through the current discussion. 

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Here's another video of Hoffman talking about conscious realism with the illustrations added:

 

 

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I haven't watched all of the first one.... but dang its harder to follow than Alan Guth's eternal universe ideas!

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Here's a more simplified summary of what's going on: 

 

 

 

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This is something that was at one point simply an intuitive feeling that I was having about consciousness. No real detail, a lot of gray area. But I was noticing how two way communication between something as small as sub atomic particles (wave fronts as a method for the communication of distance and location between two particles of matter in space) could be the most primitive and primary forms of awareness in the cosmos. In empty space void of all particles there's no where for energy and information to go to and from. No real sender and receiver. But with the introduction of particles, or wave centers viewed as particles, suddenly a system for sending and receiving wave based information in space, exists. This is just very basic and perhaps fundamental level awareness taking place. No thinking, thought or contemplation by particles of course, but simply the raw awareness of something taking place in the cosmos. 

 

And I began to scale up and see how this fundamental level raw awareness would then look as it accumulates into atoms, atomic based material, living cells, and eventually complex life forms like ourselves. It seemed to render a third player to the science of evolution, if correct. I outlined some of these initial thoughts and intuitive feelings in my thread on awareness.

 

As time went on, I discovered Peter Russell with his philosophical lectures about consciousness and seeing it as something that goes all the down in scale. He took a closer look at space and time, as a physicist, and illustrated some interesting leads. And roughly speaking, Russell seemed to be on the same track that I was on in terms of seeing all of this applying to evolution in some way. It tends to suggest that there's some level of awareness involved in the trial and error process of evolution, coming as a third perspective to the materialist and ID camps. Another possible option, one which may actually explain everything better. 

 

And so now this. 

 

Hoffman going all the way with it and putting together a formal theory of consciousness which is falsifiable, explains physics, and goes further into evolutionary theory outlining how this changes it. This is the next step in this intuitive journey I've been on for around a decade now. It will be interesting if this turns out to be something substantial as it unfolds. His conscious agents are basically what takes these intuitive feelings to the next level. 

 

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Alright, so I watched the Russell video from the other thread and the first video from this thread less the Q&A, which I'll get to later. Very interesting stuff. For now, I just have a few quick thoughts. I'm sure more will come later.

 

I found the Russell video very interesting. It wasn't terribly precise, and it was a bit hand-wavy at times, but he definitely expressed some ideas that resonated deeply with me. One of the reasons that I decided not to make physics my career was that I came to be of the opinion that we need a fundamental paradigm shift if we are to advance much further. What he had to say about seeing things "from light's point of view" was deeply reminiscent of the seeds of some thoughts that I was having about ten years ago. I didn't pursue them very far, and I definitely wasn't on the ball enough to express it like he did, but what he said in the video matches very well with what I was trying to think.  I'm going to look more into this, for sure.

 

As far as the video posted in this thread goes, I found that the three speakers got progressively better. I personally didn't find what Chalmers had to say to be very enlightening. It seemed to amount to "Here's a problem. I don't know what to do about it." Well, we already knew that this was a problem. I was already somewhat familiar with Dennett's views on this topic. I always find him to be very coherent, even when I don't agree with him. Much of what he said is plausible to me, and on a lot of days I agree with him. But it doesn't resonate with me. It appeals to my scientific, rational mind, but not to my intuition. What Hoffman had to say, though, was absolutely fantastic. I only wish that his slides had been shown on the video. Literally, as I was listening to him, I was thinking "Holy shit! He's after an actual theory of everything based on consciousness!" This appeals to my intuition, and also has the potential to appeal to my rational mind. I will definitely be looking into this more.

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Ok after going through a serious of lectures by the likes of Hoffman, Dennett, Susan Greenfield et al I feel I can respond.

 

To me the biggest problem with the problem of consciousness is that consciousness is not well defined, we are not even sure what it is. Per Susan Greenfield, when we describe something like pain we describe it in terms of something else - it's "sharp" or "burning" - these things already have clear defined meanings for us. So what about consciousness? We all know what it is, but how to describe it, to define what is and is not a state of consciousness. Is it awareness? Well a flower is aware when the sun comes out and the seasons change... but is a flower conscious? I don't think anyone would agree that it is. And what about patients in comas who under certain experimental conditions show various brain centers lighting up with awareness at suggestions - they seem to be aware but would we call the conscious? Well no, we tend to call that unconsciousness. Therefore its not just awareness. 

 

So one of the problems is lack of clear definition.

 

Also Dennett has some interesting thoughts on consciousness and there there may not be a hard problem of consciousness. He seemed to think that scientists are making this out to be a hard to solve problem when its not.

 

I personally am not sure what the fuss is about. I think it has something to do with the question of how does the chemical reactions and neurons etc in our brain produce consciousness considering that its all just physics. How does matter and particles and electrical signals produce the mind? I wonder if some people are uncomfortable with the idea (I know some Christians are) that matter and energy can produce our mind, what we refer to as self?

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7 hours ago, LogicalFallacy said:

Ok after going through a serious of lectures by the likes of Hoffman, Dennett, Susan Greenfield et al I feel I can respond.

 

To me the biggest problem with the problem of consciousness is that consciousness is not well defined, we are not even sure what it is. Per Susan Greenfield, when we describe something like pain we describe it in terms of something else - it's "sharp" or "burning" - these things already have clear defined meanings for us. So what about consciousness? We all know what it is, but how to describe it, to define what is and is not a state of consciousness. Is it awareness? Well a flower is aware when the sun comes out and the seasons change... but is a flower conscious? I don't think anyone would agree that it is. And what about patients in comas who under certain experimental conditions show various brain centers lighting up with awareness at suggestions - they seem to be aware but would we call the conscious? Well no, we tend to call that unconsciousness. Therefore its not just awareness. 

 

So one of the problems is lack of clear definition.

 

Also Dennett has some interesting thoughts on consciousness and there there may not be a hard problem of consciousness. He seemed to think that scientists are making this out to be a hard to solve problem when its not.

 

I personally am not sure what the fuss is about. I think it has something to do with the question of how does the chemical reactions and neurons etc in our brain produce consciousness considering that its all just physics. How does matter and particles and electrical signals produce the mind? I wonder if some people are uncomfortable with the idea (I know some Christians are) that matter and energy can produce our mind, what we refer to as self?

 

Ah, but what you find banal I find fascinating. I like speculating on that missing definition. How do chemicals become that thought you just had? Why did you even have that thought? Why not some other thought? How does all this work?

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Ah but I don't find it banal (I had to look that word up btw :lol:) Right after I said I'm not sure what the fuss is about I put what I thought the fuss was about. Kinda did a Darwin ... i dont know how the eye could have evolved... here's how it could have evolved.

 

I do wonder in line with Dennett whether we are making an easy problem hard.

 

 

Ps Chalmers is annoying to listen to... he keeps micropausing mid sentence. There's a person at work does the same thing grr :lol:

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On 2/3/2018 at 5:17 PM, disillusioned said:

Alright, so I watched the Russell video from the other thread and the first video from this thread less the Q&A, which I'll get to later. Very interesting stuff. For now, I just have a few quick thoughts. I'm sure more will come later.

 

That's a good part of the video

 

On 2/3/2018 at 5:17 PM, disillusioned said:

I found the Russell video very interesting. It wasn't terribly precise, and it was a bit hand-wavy at times, but he definitely expressed some ideas that resonated deeply with me. One of the reasons that I decided not to make physics my career was that I came to be of the opinion that we need a fundamental paradigm shift if we are to advance much further. What he had to say about seeing things "from light's point of view" was deeply reminiscent of the seeds of some thoughts that I was having about ten years ago. I didn't pursue them very far, and I definitely wasn't on the ball enough to express it like he did, but what he said in the video matches very well with what I was trying to think.  I'm going to look more into this, for sure.

 

It would have ramifications for "time and space." Which would relate directly to what we've been discussing about the beginning of the universe and everything else. 

 

On 2/3/2018 at 5:17 PM, disillusioned said:

As far as the video posted in this thread goes, I found that the three speakers got progressively better. I personally didn't find what Chalmers had to say to be very enlightening. It seemed to amount to "Here's a problem. I don't know what to do about it." Well, we already knew that this was a problem. I was already somewhat familiar with Dennett's views on this topic. I always find him to be very coherent, even when I don't agree with him. Much of what he said is plausible to me, and on a lot of days I agree with him. But it doesn't resonate with me. It appeals to my scientific, rational mind, but not to my intuition. What Hoffman had to say, though, was absolutely fantastic. I only wish that his slides had been shown on the video. Literally, as I was listening to him, I was thinking "Holy shit! He's after an actual theory of everything based on consciousness!" This appeals to my intuition, and also has the potential to appeal to my rational mind. I will definitely be looking into this more.

 

Chalmers strangley looks like the guy from "Half Baked." Kinda herky jerky like him too. lol

 

Dennett is of course expressing what Russell got into about paradigm shits, and meta-paradigm's. When things don't tend to line up with the current understanding, you simply deny that such a problem exists. Russell pointed out traditionally that has been right before some major tipping point or break through. So Dennett steps in to play that role, and I'm assuming that if history repeats itself we can take Dennett's denial of there being any such Hard Problem as a sign of big changes and a paradigm shift right around the corner. 

 

Enter Hoffman. 

 

This could be it. This could be the beginning of a big paradigm shift in science's ability to formulate a comprehensive Theory of Consciousness (ToC). If it doesn't turn out to be, then it would have certainly taken us much further along towards that goal. The following videos that I posted do contain Hoffman's illustrations. And they outline the falsifiable ToC that he's proposing. It would be extremely exciting to see a major break through in science like that go down in our lifetime. It seems possible. Or maybe Dennett or someone could destroy it, who knows. But this is certainly a big step setting forward this coherent and falsifiable model which extends from many intuitive thoughts and feelings that have been going around for a while now.  

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Well no one seems to be able to properly define consciousness.... but never fear Deepak Chopra has a definition: "Consciousness is a superposition of possibilities." What does this mean?

.

.

.

Nothing. He is using quantum mechanical language to befuddle the bejuzezus out of the public in order to make money.

 

That gem is for free.

 

 

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So I've been looking into this a bit more over the past few days. I still have a lot of things to think and learn about. One thing is for sure though: Hoffman is an actual, bona fide genius. I can't believe I've come this far in my life without any exposure to his ideas before now. My horizons have been expanded significantly in the past couple weeks. Orbit, Josh, thanks very much for this!

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I watched this shorter vid cuz I'm low on time. I'll be watching more. He seems pretty solid.

 

If we all 'create' our own visual representation of reality, then the general 'assumption that there is a physical reality is probably suspect. I'll watch some more of his vids to see how other materialist objections are handled.

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26 minutes ago, Orbit said:

 

Funny that, I was reading a similar topic on Live Science.

 

The thing is isn't the sedation only working on the plants system as opposed to consciousness? As far as I'm aware plants have nothing resembling a brain with which consciousness would arise?

 

Depending of course on what we are calling consciousness. Is reacting to the environment, which plants do, consciousness, or is it something more like an ability to not only react but 'think'. Take my dog - you can see her thinking about where she put her ball, which ball she wants to pick up.... and how to get me to do stuff like chuck the ball. Thus its easy to say a dog is conscious in the same way we are, but not to the same level.

 

Very interesting. Might be some interesting things in store for this line of inquiry.

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17 hours ago, midniterider said:

 

I watched this shorter vid cuz I'm low on time. I'll be watching more. He seems pretty solid.

 

If we all 'create' our own visual representation of reality, then the general 'assumption that there is a physical reality is probably suspect. I'll watch some more of his vids to see how other materialist objections are handled.

 

@disillusioned

 

Did you see this slide show? Especially as concerns "time and space?" 

 

This is getting extremely interesting. 

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I got the 35:20 minute one done you posted on Jan 31. I'm poor at math so I'll have to watch it a few times. I like where he's going with it.

 

I wonder how Hoffman's work compares to Professor Sobottka's "A course in consciousness" which is also tied to non-duality. https://www.stillnessspeaks.com/images/uploaded/file/Sobottka.pdf

 

I also started reading this yesterday: http://www.cogsci.uci.edu/~ddhoff/ConsciousRealism2.pdf

 

Really fascinating theory Hoffman has.

 

 

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On 15/02/2018 at 7:52 AM, Joshpantera said:

 

@disillusioned

 

Did you see this slide show? Especially as concerns "time and space?" 

 

This is getting extremely interesting. 

 

Yes, I did watch that one. Absolutely fascinating. Still working through some of the other videos. I'm also going to have a look at the articles that midniterider posted. This is getting very, very interesting!

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Quote

Space, time, particles, and therefore natural selection are all within the user interface. But this claim comports well with recent attempts in physics to construct a theory of everything – including space, time and particles – from more fundamental constituents, such as quantum information and quantum computing (e.g., Lloyd 2006), loop quantum gravity (Smolin 2006), and others (e.g., Callender and Huggett 2001). Space-time, classically conceived as a smooth manifold, appears untenable at the Planck scale. Instead there appear to be “pixels” of space and time. The intuition that space-time is a fundamental constituent of an observer-independent reality seems destined to be overturned by theories of quantum gravity.

http://www.cogsci.uci.edu/~ddhoff/ConsciousRealism2.pdf

 

I can't help but to wonder where this could potentially lead? 

 

Could this bring changes to circumnavigating space? Understanding space on these intimately fundamental levels? More importantly, the illusion associated with both time and space. It seems like science could potentially be on the verge of some major technological breakthroughs by uncovering this hidden dimension of reality, through coherent fundamental consciousness. 

 

 

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On 2/15/2018 at 5:52 AM, Joshpantera said:

 

@disillusioned

 

Did you see this slide show? Especially as concerns "time and space?" 

 

This is getting extremely interesting. 

 

I watched this, and was discussing it with @wellnamed.  The beginning is really just basic semiotics "the sign is not the signified". Well named pointed out ideas from Aristotle and Kant that pre-date this idea that what we perceive is not reality. (I'll let him elucidate). What frustrated me about this is he never really makes a point in the end. For example, smaller brain size is meaningless when it's the convolutions of the brain that do the work. Our brains may take up less space, but be more efficient. However, he never really makes a point about that, and I'm left wondering how he thinks it fits into whatever he's trying to say. It's a bunch of interesting, but pretty standard and well worn tidbits in search of an argument. If there's something else of his that makes a cogent point, I'm willing to watch.

 

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5 hours ago, Orbit said:

 

I watched this, and was discussing it with @wellnamed.  The beginning is really just basic semiotics "the sign is not the signified". Well named pointed out ideas from Aristotle and Kant that pre-date this idea that what we perceive is not reality. (I'll let him elucidate). What frustrated me about this is he never really makes a point in the end. For example, smaller brain size is meaningless when it's the convolutions of the brain that do the work. Our brains may take up less space, but be more efficient. However, he never really makes a point about that, and I'm left wondering how he thinks it fits into whatever he's trying to say. It's a bunch of interesting, but pretty standard and well worn tidbits in search of an argument. If there's something else of his that makes a cogent point, I'm willing to watch.

 

 

The pdf actually goes into quite a bit of detail how this relates and differs from Kantian Idealism. I've added the pdf to my signature line. It's a good read. 

 

The brain thing is just some bit about predictions being verified. Apparently less pressures on survival result in smaller bodies and brain size, with brain shrinkage leading the way. Larger social numbers have corresponded to the shrinkage issue. I don't know if that's to suggest that we dumb down in large numbers. 

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