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Reality – The Self Illusion.

October 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Bruce Hoods book The Self Illusion is a great book about the mental constructions that makes us who we are.
According to Hood, deep down, our selves might not be all that solid.
Instead, other people influence us and changing circumstances continually update our beliefs and our sense of self.

The self is shaped by the reflected opinions of others around us.
And Hood gives us a long list of very interesting observations and psychological experiments that illustrates that our selves are not rock solid things.
From Jane Elliots experiments with a third grade class (She convinced blue eyed children that brown eyed kids were smarter or vice versa) to Solomon Aschs Conformity test (Where students would rather follow the group than give the right answer) –
Hood concludes that:

We are susceptible to group pressure, subtle priming cues, stereotyping and culturally cuing, then the notion of a true, unyielding ego cannot be sustained. If it is a self that flinches and bends with tiny changes in circumstances, then it might as well be non-existent

Indeed, selves are constructed – not born, according to Hood.
People don’t remember much from before the age of four. According to Bruce Hood, the reason for this is that our selves have not been fully build at that age:

It’s not that you have forgotten what it was like to be an infant
– You were simply not ”you” at that age because there was no constructed self, and so you cannot make sense of early experiences in the context of the person to whom these events happened.

And the self is fragile. Even thinking too much about it might be a dangerous thing? We might be confused, begin to wonder if the construction, the self, can really do anything on its own? Do we, the self, have free will?

We need the self though:
Experiences are fragmented episodes unless they are woven together in meaningful narrative. This is why the self pulls it all together.
And, we also think of others as having selves. Indeed, we have not evolved to think about others as a bundle of processes. Rather we have evolved to treat others as individual selves.

What a story. What a book, full of great insights.

For more about reality – See my reality post Self, Reality and Reason.

And, notice how reality (always) loops back to mental constructs. See Reality loops.

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Todays links, April 21st 2012

April 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Tomorrows worlds:
http://www.art-spire.com/en/3d/stunning-3d-sci-fi-works-by-stefan-morrell/

People of tomorrow:
What faces will be like – The faces of tomorrow:
http://www.faceoftomorrow.com/index.php
With different personalities? Personality variation by region (USA):
http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2008/09/personality-variation-by-region-usa.php

A strange world for sure:
Brain illusions – The break of the curveball:
http://illusioncontest.neuralcorrelate.com/2009/the-break-of-the-curveball/
Quantum suicide:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/science-questions/quantum-suicide.htm

A world of XNA – not DNA?

Artificial genetic material XNA:
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/04/20/scientists-create-artificial-genetic-material-xna/
Artificial genetic material that can store information and evolve over generations in a similar way to DNA. A team at the J Craig Venter Institute , in Rockville, Maryland, are hoping to make synthetic organisms from scratch.

Still, we are part of the universe:

And kids still play:
Kids Send 3D GoPro Cameras Into Space, Get Back Stunning Footage:
http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/20/kids-send-3d-gopro-cameras-into-space-get-back-stunning-footage/
Throwable Ball Camera Captures Spherical Panoramas:
http://laughingsquid.com/throwable-ball-camera-captures-spherical-panoramas/

As do grownups:
Rotating Images:
http://www.dhteumeuleu.com/dhtml/rotate3D.html
Flying balls … :
http://www.seb.cc/particles/

It is all in the mind:
Amsterdam Anatomie:
http://www.anatomie-amsterdam.nl/sub_sites/anatomie-zenuwwerking/123_neuro/start.htm
Info overload? Don’t worry, there might be a pill for that coming up soon….
Just take a synapse-regulating inhibitor, induce temporary autism,….
http://io9.com/349956/one-pill-makes-you-autistic-++-and-one-pill-changes-you-back

Enjoy the times:
While they last …(Time might be running out, or slowing down):
http://www.breakingnews.ie/world/mheykfkfeyau/

Its all right here, on the internet:
The internet. Where people swap files:
https://simplicity.wetransfer.com/
And stay invisible:
http://www.stayinvisible.com/
Like one giant brain?

Or, just browse on.

Determinism and Free Will

April 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Free will is a tricky subject.
In the book ”Who is in charge” Michael Gazzaniga has some good insights.

The two main positions within that debate are the claim that determinism is false and thus that free will exists (or is at least possible); and hard determinism, the claim that determinism is true and thus that free will does not exist.

See more at Wiki.

The hard determinists will tell us, that:

1. The brain enables the mind and the brain is a physical entity.
2. The physical world is determined. so our brains must also be determined.
3. If our brains are determined, and if the brain is the necessary and sufficient organ that enables the mind, then we are left with the belief that the thoughts that arise from our mind also are determined.
4. Thus, free will is an illusion. And we must revise our thoughts about what it means to be personally responsible for our actions.
Put, differently, the concept of free will has no meaning.

Most people agree that the first claim is ok. Claim 2, however, is under attack.
From the 3 body problem and moving on to non linear complex systems it is seen that complex systems does not allow exact predictions of future states.

Which, obviously, puts claim 3 (and then claim 4) on shaky ground…

There are other problems though.
Can we derive the macro story from the micro story – find a mental state from neural state?
According to Gazzaniga, ”analyzing nerve states may be able to inform us how the thing could work, but not how it actually does.”
It has to do with emergence.
Gazzaniga quotes nobel prize winner Philip W. Andersen:

The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from these laws and reconstruct the universe.

Emergence is not very much liked. Finally, we have gottan rid of the homunculus inside our brains, and finally, we have gottan rid of Descartes dualism – and other ghosts in the machine – and then people propose, that there are still ghosts in there …

According to Gazzaniga:

You cannot analyze traffic at the level of the individual car.
You have to throw in location, time, weather, society and other drivers, then a new set of laws emerge, that can predict traffic.

So, once a mental state exist – is there downward causation. Can a thought constrain the brain that produced it?
Not, really, it is more complex than that.
Take genes. Codons are controlling the construction of the whole (enzymes), but the whole is, in part, controlling the the identification of the parts (translation) and the construction itself (protein synthesis). Its not upward or downward. Its complementary.

How do we get from brain state M1 to brain state M2?
M1 is produced by a physical state P1 and M2 is produced by P2.
If we just go from P1 to P2 – then there is no free will, and we are just along for the ride.
The tough question is though, does M1, in a downward constraining process, guide P2, thus affecting M2?

In genetics there is a multiplicity of events going on? And the same might be the case for action? Downward and upward causation working together.
Maybe:

Action is the result of complementary components arising from within and without.

And different levels and in different languages. Some levels completely emergent from the levels below?
And it gets worse. Social context and social constraints on the group level might also influence our actions. In a language that is completely emergent (not producible) from the level of brain hardware.

Free will is a tricky thing ….
And we didn’t even throw in quantum mechanics and the observer problem to make it tricky…. 🙂

Todays links, April 6th 2012

April 7, 2012 7 comments