Orbit

The Importance of the "Hard Problem of Consciousness"

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Let's take this apart:

 

Hoffman says:   Consciousness creates brain activity, not the other way around.

 

What evidence does he have for that? A dead brain corresponds to no consciousness, so doesn't that refute him neatly? Clearly the physical substrate makes the whole thing possible, no?

 

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On 2/19/2018 at 10:02 PM, Orbit said:

Let's take this apart:

 

Hoffman says:   Consciousness creates brain activity, not the other way around.

 

What evidence does he have for that? A dead brain corresponds to no consciousness, so doesn't that refute him neatly? Clearly the physical substrate makes the whole thing possible, no?

 

 

Because when consciousness is fundamental, that's the direction it runs in. 

 

You have to take the entire theory as a whole, from fundamental levels and conscious agents, to the material world made up of these conscious agents, to physical brains of the material world which are completely composed of these conscious agents. It's a complete rethink of the whole thing from the ground up. Consciousness doesn't mean, only human consciousness. It's an entire chain of consciousness that merely involves human consciousness as part of the whole. The human is simply contemplative, and represents a grouping of conscious agents working together. 

 

He lays it out in the pdf.

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Orbit said:

Let's take this apart:

 

Hoffman says:   Consciousness creates brain activity, not the other way around.

 

What evidence does he have for that? A dead brain corresponds to no consciousness, so doesn't that refute him neatly? Clearly the physical substrate makes the whole thing possible, no?

 

 

The empirical evidence I've gathered by being alive a while is that a dead brain means a lifeless body and so no physical communication with other bodies that are alive.

 

What happens to consciousness when a brain dies is unknown.

 

I've never been contacted by a disembodied entity so either that type of communication is impossible, or disembodied entities dont want to talk to physical bodies or consciousness does not continue after death. Or something else I havent thought of.

 

...

 

I have not read the entire pdf yet but I hope Hoffman explains why conscious agents even bother with 3D space and time. Why does a hologram need to evolve? Now if physical existence is merely about entertainment, I can see that. Otherwise there is no utility to it.

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Abstract

 


 

Despite substantial efforts by many researchers, we still have no scientific theory of how brain activity can create, or be, conscious experience. This is troubling, since we have a large body of correlations between brain activity and consciousness, correlations normally assumed to entail that brain activity creates conscious experience. Here I explore a solution to the mind-body problem that starts with the converse assumption: these correlations arise because consciousness creates brain activity, and indeed creates all objects and properties of the physical world. To this end, I develop two theses. The multimodal user interface theory of perception states that perceptual experiences do not match or approximate properties of the objective world, but instead provide a simplified, species-specific, user interface to that world. Conscious realism states that the objective world consists of conscious agents and their experiences; these can be mathematically modeled and empirically explored in the normal scientific manner.

 

 

That's the beginning of the pdf. It goes along outlining "physicalism" against "conscious realism" pretty much the whole way through. 

 

 

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Conscious realism is a proposed answer to the question of what the universe is made of. Conscious realism asserts that the objective world, i.e., the world whose existence does not depend on the perceptions of a particular observer, consists entirely of conscious agents. Conscious realism is a non-physicalist monism. What exists in the objective world, independent of my perceptions, is a world of conscious agents, not a world of unconscious particles and fields. Those particles and fields are icons in the MUIs of conscious agents, but are not themselves fundamental denizens of the objective world. Consciousness is fundamental. It is not a latecomer in the evolutionary history of the universe, arising from complex interactions of unconscious matter and fields.

 

Consciousness is first; matter and fields depend on it for their very existence. So the terms “matter” and “consciousness” function differently for the conscious realist than they do for the physicalist. For the physicalist, matter and other physical properties are ontologically fundamental; consciousness is derivative, arising from or identified with complex interactions of matter. For the conscious realist, consciousness is ontologically fundamental; matter is derivative, and among the symbols constructed by conscious agents.

 

According to conscious realism, when I see a table, I interact with a system, or systems, of conscious agents, and represent that interaction in my conscious experience as a table icon. Admittedly, the table gives me little insight into those conscious agents and their dynamics. The table is a dumbed-down icon, adapted to my needs as a member of a species in a particular niche, but not necessarily adapted to give me insight into the true nature of the objective world that triggers my construction of the table icon. When, however, I see you, I again interact with a conscious agent, or a system of conscious agents. And here my icons give deeper insight into the objective world: they convey that I am, in fact, interacting with a conscious agent, namely you. Conscious realism is not panpsychism nor does it entail panpsychism. Panpsychism claims that all objects, from tables and chairs to the sun and moon, are themselves conscious (Hartshorne 1937/1968, Whitehead 1929/1979), or that many objects, such as trees and atoms, but perhaps not tables and chairs, are conscious (Griffin 1998).

 

Conscious realism, together with MUI theory, claims that tables and chairs are icons in the MUIs of conscious agents, and thus that they are conscious experiences of those agents. It does not claim, nor entail, that tables and chairs are conscious or conscious agents. By comparison, to claim, in the virtual-tennis example, that a supercomputer is the objective reality behind a tennisball icon is not to claim that the tennis-ball icon is itself a supercomputer. The former claim is, for purposes of the example, true but the latter is clearly false. Conscious realism is not the transcendental idealism of Kant (1781/ 104 Hoffman 2003).

 

Exegesis of Kant is notoriously difficult and controversial. The standard interpretation has him claiming, as Strawson (1966, p. 38) puts it, that “reality is supersensible and that we can have no knowledge of it”. We cannot know or describe objects as they are in themselves, the noumenal objects, we can only know objects as they appear to us, the phenomenal objects (see also Prichard 1909). This interpretation of Kant precludes any science of the noumenal, for if we cannot describe the noumenal then we cannot build scientific theories of it. Conscious realism, by contrast, offers a scientific theory of the noumenal, viz., a mathematical formulation of conscious agents and their dynamical interactions.

 

This difference between Kant and conscious realism is, for the scientist, fundamental. It is the difference between doing science and not doing science. This fundamental difference also holds for other interpretations of Kant, such as that of Allison (1983). Many interpretations of Kant have him claiming that the sun and planets, tables and chairs, are not mind-independent, but depend for their existence on our perception. With this claim of Kant, conscious realism and MUI theory agree. Of course many current theorists disagree. For instance, Stroud (2000, p. 196), discussing Kant, says:

 

"It is not easy to accept, or even to understand, this philosophical theory. Accepting it presumably means believing that the sun and the planets and the mountains on earth and everything else that has been here so much longer than we have are nonetheless in some way or other dependent on the possibility of human thought and experience. What we thought was an independent world would turn out on this view not to be fully independent after all. It is difficult, to say the least, to understand a way in which that could be true." 

 

But it is straightforward to understand a way in which that could be true. There is indeed something that has been here so much longer than we have. But that something is not the sun and the planets and the mountains on earth. It is dynamical systems of interacting conscious agents. The sun and planets and mountains are simply icons of our MUI that we are triggered to construct when we interact with these dynamical systems. The sun you see is a momentary icon, constructed on the fly each time you experience it. Your sun icon does not match or approximate the objective reality that triggers you to construct a sun icon. It is a species-specific adaptation, a quick and dirty guide, not an insight into the objective nature of the world.

 

One reader commented that conscious realism and MUI theory entail not just that the objects of our experience are created by subjects, but also that particles and all the rest are so created. Eventually the theory will claim that natural selection and time are a creation of the user interface.

 

It is more noumenic than Kant...

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...just popping in to say that I haven't forgotten about this. I've just been really busy lately--too much so to put together any coherent thoughts about anything too heavy. I'll be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, carry on!

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Alright, so I've given a bit more thought to this. I'm still working through the pdf, so perhaps the following will be illuminated as I keep reading. But at the moment, I'm currently struggling with the following:

 

As we all know, a proper scientific theory must be descriptive, predictive, and falsifiable. It seems clear to me that Hoffman is proposing a theory of consciousness that is descriptive, and falsifiable. I'm not sure that it is predictive, though. Does anyone here know of any clear predictions of his theory?

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3 hours ago, disillusioned said:

Alright, so I've given a bit more thought to this. I'm still working through the pdf, so perhaps the following will be illuminated as I keep reading. But at the moment, I'm currently struggling with the following:

 

As we all know, a proper scientific theory must be descriptive, predictive, and falsifiable. It seems clear to me that Hoffman is proposing a theory of consciousness that is descriptive, and falsifiable. I'm not sure that it is predictive, though. Does anyone here know of any clear predictions of his theory?

 

See https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00577/full

 

Search for 'predict'.

 

His verbage is beyond me leaving me confused.

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On 3/3/2018 at 6:13 PM, midniterider said:

 

See https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00577/full

 

Search for 'predict'.

 

His verbage is beyond me leaving me confused.

 

This is a nice break from all the media hype and BS as of lately. 

 

I read through the pdf. Dam, dam I wish the formula's weren't all Greek to me because I'd like to understand this on the physics level. I'm left with the philosophical level to ponder. 

 

One thing that I've been thinking about today, is the aspect of truth and how truth has not been the primary concern in our evolution. This theory has many implications towards truth seeking in and of itself, from perception right on through observational science, like astronomy and cosmology. This is very similar to something that Joseph Campbell was quoted saying, "everything temporal is but a metaphor." 

 

That holds true when facing conscious realism. Everything is a simplistic, dumbed down, symbol or metaphor for is actually being perceived. And that's because of the complexities involved in the, to use Kant, "thing in itself." I can imagine something like a wall of code text behind the existence, of, say, a blooming Tulip. But being concerned with truth seeking, I like the idea of setting aside evolutionary adapted simplicity and penetrating down to the actual reality behind the symbols. Figuring out what they really are. For the sake of survival, it was irrelevant. But now in the modern age, it's more relevant. 

 

But if we found the truth, say, these walls of code and text behind the perceptual beauty of a flower, would we prefer to go back to the symbol, icon, and metaphor and forget about the truth? 

 

So our argument is that, for an appropriate unbiased measure, fitness functions

 generically diverge from truth, and thus natural selection generically favors perceptions that diverge from truth. This does not entail the stronger conclusion that natural selection never favors truth. That conclusion is indeed stronger than our premises and stronger than required for the interface theory of perception. Perhaps H. sapiens is lucky and certain aspects of our perceptual evolution has been shaped by a non-generic fitness function that does not diverge from truth. In this case some aspects of our perceptions might be shaped to accurately report the truth, in the same sense that your lottery ticket might be the winner. But the smart money would bet long odds against it. That's what non-generic means.

The account of the interface theory about Ug's perception of her kids is the same as the account in Objection 12 for the perception of lions. There are no public physical objects. Lions and kids are no more public and observer independent than are headaches. Lions and kids (and space-time itself) are useful species-specific perceptions that have been shaped by natural selection not to report the truth but simply to guide adaptive behavior. We must take them seriously, but it is a logical error to conclude that we must take them literally.

Although our eyes do not report the truth, they are not kaleidoscope eyes because they do report what matters: fitness.

 

 

 

 

 

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"But being concerned with truth seeking, I like the idea of setting aside evolutionary adapted simplicity and penetrating down to the actual reality behind the symbols. Figuring out what they really are."

 

That is the bottom line for me when I take a moment to think about this topic. If I'm not really a bag of skin in a 3 dimensional reality then who am I? And what is reality?

 

 

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I recently watched this interview, which is pretty good. He explains the theory a little more in depth in some areas. 

 

 

There's something to the whole "species specific interface" thing. And the ideas he mentions about building artificial intelligence according to this theory of consciousness, to then prove the theory, is pretty intense to think about. It seems like this line of thinking may well end up pushing technology way, way ahead. 

 

 

 

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This second video is a bit painful. Hoffman trying to deal with a christian who wants to latch on to conscious realism. 

 

This something that I expect to see happen, especially if conscious realism becomes popular. I have a lot of ideas on how this actually differs from all world religions, most of all christianity, and bolsters none of them. 

 

 

 

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Thanks, I watched parts of those videos :)

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Thanks, hard to wrap my head around that. Probably because I want to think of consciousness as some 3 dimensional object when it probably is no dimensional (if we consider consciousness to be primary).

 

Authors of non-duality books tend to say that it is impossible to 'understand enlightenment intellectually' but must be experienced directly. Enlightenment (or consciousness) being defined as your true identity. Hoffman's dumbed down user interface of 3D objects that we usually call everyday experience seems to fit nicely with advaita/non-dual philosophy.  I interact with a 3D user interface but I am not simply an object in the user interface. See maya: http://vedantastudent.blogspot.com/p/maya.html

 

As a normal everyday observation I click a mouse. Am I the mouse? No, I'm the clicker of the mouse. The mouse is not me.

Heading towards a monistic perspective, am I really the clicker of the mouse? No, I am 'That' in which all things reside (see amritabindu upanishad #22). But also everything inside my consciousness. :)

 

..................

 

One of Hoffman's papers (and videos) discusses the optical illusions that our brains create which I think can be used as a prediction of his idea that reality is generated in real time by the brain (or I assume, more precisely, consciousness). We would like to think that reality is present even if we're not conscious of it, but that isn't really so. He asks if an optical illusion drawn on a piece of paper exists when we close our eyes and the answer is no. But our brains create the 3D illusion when we open our eyes and look at the drawing. It's a indicator that we may be overly concerned with a 3 dimensional illusion and that reality may something else.

 

I think Hoffman, as a scientist is headed towards non-duality, but wants to be able to explain it scientifically and tie it into neurology and physics so he is taken seriously, and well, primarily to (garner support for and) improve our body of knowledge and open up new ways of thought about 'Everything' the way quantum mechanics has.

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6 hours ago, midniterider said:

Authors of non-duality books tend to say that it is impossible to 'understand enlightenment intellectually' but must be experienced directly. Enlightenment (or consciousness) being defined as your true identity. Hoffman's dumbed down user interface of 3D objects that we usually call everyday experience seems to fit nicely with advaita/non-dual philosophy.  I interact with a 3D user interface but I am not simply an object in the user interface. See maya: http://vedantastudent.blogspot.com/p/maya.html

 

That is a nice explanation of advaita vedanta. 

 

Beyond Maya

One obvious question is what exists beyond Maya? Advaita says that an “Absolute” is the reality. Maya is just the manifestation of this Absolute and this Absolute is the pure consciousness, pure awareness. This absolute awareness does not limit itself to any individual – it is the collective absolute awareness. This absolute, totally impersonal, ultimate reality is the Brahman.
 

Then the obvious question is what created this Brahman – the pure consciousness. Vedantists say: “We will answer this about the Brahman if you ask the right question!”. This is not an arrogant answer – it just brings forth the fact that there is no right question to address this inquiry. That is because the Brahman is beyond causation. This may be a difficult concept to grasp but the Brahman just does not have the same attributes that objects have in Maya – it is in a completely different plane of awareness. You cannot use the same attributes that you are aware of in this System and apply them to another System. Just like the 3rd dimension is an incomprehensible and inapplicable attribute for people in the 2-dimensional world – the systems themselves are different – you cannot take the attributes in Maya (space, time, causation) and apply them to the Brahman. In fact consciousness too is not an attribute of Brahman but is its very nature. There is no cause for the Brahman because causation is not an attribute in the plane of the Brahman; space and time and causation do not make sense in that plane and relativity breaks down. It is the Absolute.

 

 

 

 

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On 3/9/2018 at 2:18 PM, midniterider said:

I think Hoffman, as a scientist is headed towards non-duality, but wants to be able to explain it scientifically and tie it into neurology and physics so he is taken seriously, and well, primarily to (garner support for and) improve our body of knowledge and open up new ways of thought about 'Everything' the way quantum mechanics has.

 

I watched this video with Deepok to see how Hoffman treats something like Advaita Vedanta: 

 

 

They don't discuss it directly until near the end. He's sympathetic to the tradition. One interesting thing is that technically these conscious agents operate outside of space and time, and are, therefore, transcendent of space and time. We're looking at a scientific theory involving transcendent energy consciousness, basically. 

 

The doors of perception came to mind as they were discussing how we have to filter a potentially infinite reality in terms of finite perception. Due to the complexities involved in perceiving reality directly. So in a real way, if the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it actually is, infinite in scope and depth. Notions like seeing eternity in all of the forms and images of time gains much stronger footing.

 

I wish Mark were still with us because this theory is something that I would have loved to pin against all of the cosmological reasoning. We were there with eternal inflation. No real beginnings, infinite replication, and an extremely expanded view of what cosmology ought to entail. Then this theory of conscious realism comes along with the addition of much greater depth than what we get with the physicalist models. No doubt, as a physicalist, he would have tried hard to refute this. But I would have been curious to see where he would have gone in the event that he could not refute it. 

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This is something different, but related. The results of the double slit experiment where the observer is performed by a meditating person, non meditating person, robot, etc. 

 

 

So for the sake of this focus, the meditating person would represent a conscious agent having an affect on matter even at great distance. From across the globe in some cases. Only with the mind, not looking directly at the double slit. Just thinking and imagining it. 

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16 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

This is something different, but related. The results of the double slit experiment where the observer is performed by a meditating person, non meditating person, robot, etc. 

 

 

So for the sake of this focus, the meditating person would represent a conscious agent having an affect on matter even at great distance. From across the globe in some cases. Only with the mind, not looking directly at the double slit. Just thinking and imagining it. 

 

Wow!

 

As an aside, I believe the double slit experiment has been accomplished with molecule sized matter as well. I wonder how large a bit on a hard drive is. I'd look it up but I'm late for work. Thanks for the video. It opens up some amazing things in my mind.

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We're getting into some heavy shit here!

 

 

 

 

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