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View Poll Results: What's Chalmers' deal?
He's brilliant 1 10.00%
He's kind of a quack as far as philosophers go 4 40.00%
He's a brilliant quack 3 30.00%
On planet x, we're all p-zombies and qualia is photons 3 30.00%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 10. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 23rd March 2018, 08:46 PM   #1
kellyb
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What's your opinion on David Chalmers?

I suppose a good sub-topic would be the question of if the "hard problem" of consciousness really is a problem at all.
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Old 23rd March 2018, 11:49 PM   #2
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Who is David Chalmers?
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Old 24th March 2018, 01:37 AM   #3
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Philosopher David Chalmers on consciousness, the hard problem and the nature of reality

The hard problem is just how do a bunch of neurons firing give rise to what you experience. How does it work that you have a mind's eye/ear etc?
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Old 24th March 2018, 02:13 AM   #4
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I think it would be useful for a synopsis of his views. Why would anyone think him brilliant vs. why would anyone think he’s a crank/quack/charlatan.

Besides, aren’t there other possibilities? Maybe he’s an average philosopher who shows his workings but hasn’t made any profound or brilliant contributions. Maybe he is a mostly consistent and reasonable philosopher who has one or two “out there” positions.... etc...
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Old 24th March 2018, 05:52 AM   #5
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Personally, I think that philosophy should leave the question of consciousness to neuroscience. Endlessly trying to define “qualia” is non-productive.
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Old 24th March 2018, 06:35 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
Personally, I think that philosophy should leave the question of consciousness to neuroscience. Endlessly trying to define “qualia” is non-productive.
The neuroscientists don't appear want to own the question alone, tho. They turn to philosophers to help them suss it out. Most everyone seems to still be at a loss.

This is my new favorite discussion on the topic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bmHL1sbntw

Chalmers comes across less "out there" in this discussion than I've ever seen/heard him before.

I agree with you about the near-uselessness of discussing qualia, though (and p-zombies, for that matter.)
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Last edited by kellyb; 24th March 2018 at 06:45 AM.
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Old 24th March 2018, 01:03 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
I suppose a good sub-topic would be the question of if the "hard problem" of consciousness really is a problem at all.
Without prejudice, http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.i...y-of-mind.html

Far as I can tell, Chalmers is simply engaged in an unlikely anatomical excursion.
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Old 24th March 2018, 01:22 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
Without prejudice, http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.i...y-of-mind.html

Far as I can tell, Chalmers is simply engaged in an unlikely anatomical excursion.
Yeah. That's a pretty good breakdown of what my main beef with him has always been. It's a very "god of the gaps" kind of argument he makes about the subject of consciousness, just inserting some amorphous, unspecified, new agey "soul theory" instead of a deity.

You should check out the Harris/Chalmers discussion I linked to above. He appears to be backing away from all that now. Either he's growing up, or just being in the presence of Harris got him to drop what's possibly an act (I've seriously wondered over the years if he was always aware of how lame his argument is, but kept at it on purpose to get/perpetuate some cult following with the woo-prone crowd.)
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Old 24th March 2018, 02:29 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Yeah. That's a pretty good breakdown of what my main beef with him has always been. It's a very "god of the gaps" kind of argument he makes about the subject of consciousness, just inserting some amorphous, unspecified, new agey "soul theory" instead of a deity.

You should check out the Harris/Chalmers discussion I linked to above. He appears to be backing away from all that now. Either he's growing up, or just being in the presence of Harris got him to drop what's possibly an act (I've seriously wondered over the years if he was always aware of how lame his argument is, but kept at it on purpose to get/perpetuate some cult following with the woo-prone crowd.)
Hard to tell. Years ago, I had a colleague who was programming with me. It came up in conversation that he was degreed in philosophy.

"How did you end up programming?" I asked.

"Philosophy pays no bills and is simply a recipe for unemployment." he said.

"Surely, there must be some jobs in philosophy to be had." I suggested.

"Sure" he answered, "So long as you are prepared to bow before the academics and crawl up your own ***, but that is a closed shop".

Nobody ever went for a job interview with the IT manager, the HR director and the resident philosopher, did they?

Now, philosophy has it's place and I have no issue with that. In fact, user Phiwum is a good example of that. Philosophy has use, he claims, but it is not the answer to everything as some claim. He/she is correct (sorry phiwum, can't recall if you are F/M/else). Despite that, there exist those who are so married to bogus philosophy that they are at risk of imploding.

To put a concrete example, I am currently engaged writing a user manual for a particular lumb of software that in fact I wrote. I could write it easily in a logical manner, but I must abandon the rational in favour of the level of the audience. Even that simple task has philosophy involved. Is it ones goal to simply hand out bovine instruction, or would one rather distribute understanding? Philosophically speaking, I know which way I would rather go. I always prefer to explain how stuff works as opposed to handing out a menu of instruction. In the former case, folks can figure out a reasonable course of action, in the latter, folks are unable to know what to do in the event of any exception from the menu.
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Old 5th April 2018, 09:45 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
Personally, I think that philosophy should leave the question of consciousness to neuroscience. Endlessly trying to define “qualia” is non-productive.
...and akin to figuring out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
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Old 5th April 2018, 10:13 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
...and akin to figuring out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
Maybe neuroscience needs to start producing results viz-a-viz the causal mechanism of consciousness. So far, all we have are neural correlates to mental states.
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Old 5th April 2018, 10:36 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Maybe neuroscience needs to start producing results viz-a-viz the causal mechanism of consciousness. So far, all we have are neural correlates to mental states.
It's probably (IMO) a whole series of mechanisms that results in consciousness, and we're just not there yet with the science.
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Old 5th April 2018, 10:47 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
Personally, I think that philosophy should leave the question of consciousness to neuroscience. Endlessly trying to define “qualia” is non-productive.
I'm going with this vote.
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Old 5th April 2018, 10:53 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
I'm going with this vote.
The Harris/Chalmers discussion I linked to above actually goes into what I think of as the first interesting delving into qualia and p-zombies I've ever encountered.

Harris kind of gently jabbed at Chalmers over the ridiculousness of his thought experiments, but applied the concepts to soon-to-exist AIs that will very easily pass Turing tests and seem as conscious as any truly conscious person we've ever met, but probably won't be conscious by our standards.

He said he won't know if they're conscious or not until they start creatively arguing with each other about the nature of their own consciousness.
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Old 5th April 2018, 11:03 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
It's probably (IMO) a whole series of mechanisms that results in consciousness, and we're just not there yet with the science.
It seems to be taking a long time. This is unique to this one area of scientific inquiry. Despite decades of research we're no closer to providing a casual explanation for consciousness then we were in the 1980's. What is it about moving electrons across synaptic gaps that gives rise to conscious experience?
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Old 5th April 2018, 11:04 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
The Harris/Chalmers discussion I linked to above actually goes into what I think of as the first interesting delving into qualia and p-zombies I've ever encountered.

Harris kind of gently jabbed at Chalmers over the ridiculousness of his thought experiments, but applied the concepts to soon-to-exist AIs that will very easily pass Turing tests and seem as conscious as any truly conscious person we've ever met, but probably won't be conscious by our standards.

He said he won't know if they're conscious or not until they start creatively arguing with each other about the nature of their own consciousness.
You still wouldn't know. You'd never know for sure. That's what makes this problem so hard.
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Old 5th April 2018, 11:09 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
You still wouldn't know. You'd never know for sure. That's what makes this problem so hard.
Ha!

Yeah, the one area where I do side with Chalmers in is agreeing that the hard problem really is real, and really is qualitatively different from the soft problems. eta: I was happy to see that Harris agrees, too.
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Old 5th April 2018, 11:10 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
It seems to be taking a long time. This is unique to this one area of scientific inquiry. Despite decades of research we're no closer to providing a casual explanation for consciousness then we were in the 1980's. What is it about moving electrons across synaptic gaps that gives rise to conscious experience?
We still haven't been able to define consciousness to anyone's satisfaction!
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Old 5th April 2018, 03:02 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
It seems to be taking a long time.
Not really, they weer just starting to open the door on neurotransmitters and in 1986 when I finished my degree.
The amount of information of the synthesis of the transmitters and the interaction of the neurons was mildly known for about 5 major neurotransmitters groups at that time.
Since then the understanding of just the serotonin system has exploded, the door is opened on how the neurons actually function.

So it depends, are we going from what standard to what standard in that 30 years?

What chemistry could do in 1700 compared to 1730, 1830 or 1930 changed quit a lot depending on which 30 year slot you look at
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Old 5th April 2018, 05:00 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Dancing David View Post
Not really, they weer just starting to open the door on neurotransmitters and in 1986 when I finished my degree.
The amount of information of the synthesis of the transmitters and the interaction of the neurons was mildly known for about 5 major neurotransmitters groups at that time.
Since then the understanding of just the serotonin system has exploded, the door is opened on how the neurons actually function.

So it depends, are we going from what standard to what standard in that 30 years?

What chemistry could do in 1700 compared to 1730, 1830 or 1930 changed quit a lot depending on which 30 year slot you look at
We've been correlating brain states with mental states since lobotomies were popular. We're no closer to understanding consciousness now than we were back then. In the meantime, dark energy was discovered, animals were cloned, gravitational waves were detected, the Higgs Boson was found, etc.
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Old 6th April 2018, 01:31 AM   #21
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I haven't followed Chalmers since his early years when he espoused property dualism, but i suspect his views have evolved tremendously since then, given his shift towards meta-metaphysics that seriously brings into question the meaning of any sentence of philosophy.

Personally I judge Wittgenstein to have already dissolved the hard problem of consciousness before Chalmers was born, via his deflationary solipsism in the Philosophical Investigations.

One of the critical observations of the Philosophical Investigations, is the observation that the sense-data semantics of a psychological predicate expressed in the first-person is incommensurable with the behavioural semantics of the corresponding psychological predicate of the third-person. This to my mind is the cause of beliefs in property dualism.


For example, the semantics of the first-person predicate "I see red" is incommensurable with the semantics of "he sees red".

In today's language we might say that "I see a red object" expresses the existence of "red qualia", whereas "he sees a red object" describes someone else's behaviour in response to an object which if I observed in the first-person might elicit "i see a red object".

What the Philosophical Investigations imply, is that the very meaning of "red qualia" IS "I see a red object". So for a Wittgensteinian it should make no grammatical sense to ask whether or not other people have the same qualia as I. For "qualia" and "the first-person" are logically equivalent.

A property dualist is someone who insists on using the term "red qualia" when describing someone else's behaviour towards red objects, but as a result is now using the same term in a way that is incommensurable with its use in the first person. As a result he ends up with predicates with incompatible dual meanings.
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Old 6th April 2018, 03:38 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
...and akin to figuring out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
Sixteen.
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Old 6th April 2018, 06:38 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
Personally, I think that philosophy should leave the question of consciousness to neuroscience. Endlessly trying to define “qualia” is non-productive.
Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
...and akin to figuring out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
Maybe, but as mentioned above, how would you be able to tell if an AI was genuinely conscious or merely expertly simulating it?

It seems clear that there is a truth to the matter, but that this may not be discoverable even in principle.

It can make sense to say that the AI has "qualia" or that it has subjective impressions of the world, and that there is something that it is like to be an AI, and furthermore that we can never prove it one way or the other.
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"Evolution and Ethics" T.H. Huxley (1893)
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Old 6th April 2018, 07:02 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by abaddon View Post

Now, philosophy has it's place and I have no issue with that. In fact, user Phiwum is a good example of that. Philosophy has use, he claims, but it is not the answer to everything as some claim. He/she is correct (sorry phiwum, can't recall if you are F/M/else). Despite that, there exist those who are so married to bogus philosophy that they are at risk of imploding.
I can't believe that you don't realize that phiwum is a traditionally masculine name, derived from Sanskrit and meaning "the one with the feather".
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Old 6th April 2018, 07:05 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
I can't believe that you don't realize that phiwum is a traditionally masculine name, derived from Sanskrit and meaning "the one with the feather".
What do they teach kids in schools these days, eh?
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"Evolution and Ethics" T.H. Huxley (1893)
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Old 6th April 2018, 07:42 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Maybe, but as mentioned above, how would you be able to tell if an AI was genuinely conscious or merely expertly simulating it?

It seems clear that there is a truth to the matter, but that this may not be discoverable even in principle.

It can make sense to say that the AI has "qualia" or that it has subjective impressions of the world, and that there is something that it is like to be an AI, and furthermore that we can never prove it one way or the other.
In that case, we shouldn't judge mass murderers too harshly. After all, if the consciousness of another person is an unknowable hypothesis, then any supposed consciousness they have is at best hidden and therefore cannot justify the feelings we have towards them.
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Old 6th April 2018, 07:46 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
Sixteen.
You've not seen how much weight Angel Bob has put on - if he's dancing on it it's about 10.
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Old 6th April 2018, 07:48 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by 8Sime8 View Post
I haven't followed Chalmers since his early years when he espoused property dualism, but i suspect his views have evolved tremendously since then, given his shift towards meta-metaphysics that seriously brings into question the meaning of any sentence of philosophy.

Personally I judge Wittgenstein to have already dissolved the hard problem of consciousness before Chalmers was born, via his deflationary solipsism in the Philosophical Investigations.

One of the critical observations of the Philosophical Investigations, is the observation that the sense-data semantics of a psychological predicate expressed in the first-person is incommensurable with the behavioural semantics of the corresponding psychological predicate of the third-person. This to my mind is the cause of beliefs in property dualism.


For example, the semantics of the first-person predicate "I see red" is incommensurable with the semantics of "he sees red".

In today's language we might say that "I see a red object" expresses the existence of "red qualia", whereas "he sees a red object" describes someone else's behaviour in response to an object which if I observed in the first-person might elicit "i see a red object".

What the Philosophical Investigations imply, is that the very meaning of "red qualia" IS "I see a red object". So for a Wittgensteinian it should make no grammatical sense to ask whether or not other people have the same qualia as I. For "qualia" and "the first-person" are logically equivalent.

A property dualist is someone who insists on using the term "red qualia" when describing someone else's behaviour towards red objects, but as a result is now using the same term in a way that is incommensurable with its use in the first person. As a result he ends up with predicates with incompatible dual meanings.
Very well put.

I'll just be running off now.
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Old 6th April 2018, 07:52 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Maybe, but as mentioned above, how would you be able to tell if an AI was genuinely conscious or merely expertly simulating it?

...snip...
What would be the difference?

Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
It seems clear that there is a truth to the matter, but that this may not be discoverable even in principle.
Why not?
Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
It can make sense to say that the AI has "qualia" or that it has subjective impressions of the world, and that there is something that it is like to be an AI, and furthermore that we can never prove it one way or the other.
Your argument can be applied to other humans, all other humans apart from you may not be conscious. But I find that I can understand people more if I consider they are conscious in the way I consider myself to be. (However that got a big kick back when I realised how different my internal world is to the majority of other folk a little while back.)
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Old 6th April 2018, 08:11 AM   #30
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What little practical meaning and definition "consciousness" might have once had a concept had pretty much been whittled down to pure semantics at best, Woo apologetic distinctions without difference at worst.

Like Belz I have no desire to entertain a bunch of "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin" nonsense. There's no difference between neurological sensory inputs and "qualia" and asking if something is "pretending" to be conscious is like asking if my Xbox is just "pretending" to play Halo or a lamp is just "pretending" to turn on.

A bunch of infinite nested "what ifs" that are only unanswerable in the sense that don't actually matter or make sense.
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Old 6th April 2018, 09:06 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
We've been correlating brain states with mental states since lobotomies were popular. We're no closer to understanding consciousness now than we were back then. In the meantime, dark energy was discovered, animals were cloned, gravitational waves were detected, the Higgs Boson was found, etc.
When do you think modern physics began it's progression?
Galileo and Kepler to now is a long time.
Becquerel to know is a little less

Is science driven by technology?

When did modern neuroscience begin?
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Old 6th April 2018, 09:13 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
We've been correlating brain states with mental states since lobotomies were popular. We're no closer to understanding consciousness now than we were back then.
I presume the time frame you are referring to as when "lobotomies were popular" is the 1940s?
I think I have been through this before.
Neuroscience has made, and continues to make enormous progress in understanding the brain and how it functions. The fact that you think neuroscience should have "solved" the "problem" of consciousness "by now" means nothing other than that you have a very limited appreciation for both 1) how science works, and 2) the complexity of the organ neuroscience is contending with.
At the risk of repeating myself:
As a measure of how far we have come, lets look at some relevent Nobel Prizes in Medicine.
in 1932 Sherrington and Adrian received the prize for investigating and describing the nature of reflexes as sensory motor arcs.
1n 1963 Eccles,Hodgkin and Huxley got the prize for investigating and describing the ionic conductances responsible for action potentials.
in 1970 Katz, Euler and Axelrod got the prize for describing the mechanism of the chemical synapse.
in 1981 Hubel and Wiesel got the prize for their studies into information processing in the visual system.
In 2000 Carllson, Greengard, and Kandel got the prize for their studies on the cellular mechanisms of signal transduction in neurons.

To say we're "no closer" than we were when Moniz got the prize in 1949 for lobotomy is ridiculous.





Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
In the meantime, dark energy was discovered, animals were cloned, gravitational waves were detected, the Higgs Boson was found, etc.
but, where is the unified field theory?
I guess we're no closer than we were in Einstein's day!


From the 2000 Nobel award ceremony:
"Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine concerns the most complex structure in the universe that we know of - the human brain. It consists of 100 billion nerve cells, which is the same number of cells as the total number of human beings that have ever lived on this earth.

We talk about the "Internet revolution"; 35 million Internet users who communicate now and then - what is that compared to the nerve cells we all carry within ourselves! 100 billion nerve cells that communicate continuously."
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Old 6th April 2018, 09:37 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
There's no difference between neurological sensory inputs and "qualia" and asking if something is "pretending" to be conscious is like asking if my Xbox is just "pretending" to play Halo or a lamp is just "pretending" to turn on.
in a behavioural sense pertaining to the third person, this is sort of correct. If I hear someone else mentioning their "qualia" I can only understand them as implicitly referring to their neurological representations of a world which from my perspective exists outside and independent of their minds.

But I cannot understand "my own qualia" as being logically synonymous with "my representations of the world outside of my mind", for this creates a vicious regress.

I can understand other people's experiences as representing the world I inhabit, but I cannot understand my own experiences that way, for my own experiences constitute my very definition of my world.
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Old 6th April 2018, 09:44 AM   #34
Fudbucker
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Originally Posted by MuDPhuD View Post
I presume the time frame you are referring to as when "lobotomies were popular" is the 1940s?
I think I have been through this before.
Neuroscience has made, and continues to make enormous progress in understanding the brain and how it functions. The fact that you think neuroscience should have "solved" the "problem" of consciousness "by now" means nothing other than that you have a very limited appreciation for both 1) how science works, and 2) the complexity of the organ neuroscience is contending with.
At the risk of repeating myself:
As a measure of how far we have come, lets look at some relevent Nobel Prizes in Medicine.
in 1932 Sherrington and Adrian received the prize for investigating and describing the nature of reflexes as sensory motor arcs.
1n 1963 Eccles,Hodgkin and Huxley got the prize for investigating and describing the ionic conductances responsible for action potentials.
in 1970 Katz, Euler and Axelrod got the prize for describing the mechanism of the chemical synapse.
in 1981 Hubel and Wiesel got the prize for their studies into information processing in the visual system.
In 2000 Carllson, Greengard, and Kandel got the prize for their studies on the cellular mechanisms of signal transduction in neurons.

To say we're "no closer" than we were when Moniz got the prize in 1949 for lobotomy is ridiculous.







but, where is the unified field theory?
I guess we're no closer than we were in Einstein's day!


From the 2000 Nobel award ceremony:
"Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine concerns the most complex structure in the universe that we know of - the human brain. It consists of 100 billion nerve cells, which is the same number of cells as the total number of human beings that have ever lived on this earth.

We talk about the "Internet revolution"; 35 million Internet users who communicate now and then - what is that compared to the nerve cells we all carry within ourselves! 100 billion nerve cells that communicate continuously."
None of that deals with the causation of conscious experience. I'll grant you that a lot of progress has been made studying the brain, but that's not the hard problem. No progress has been made about why we are conscious and how a brain produces consciousness.

What is it about the actions of a bunch of neurons that give rise to subjective experience? That's still a total mystery.
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Old 6th April 2018, 09:45 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post

Your argument can be applied to other humans, all other humans apart from you may not be conscious.
Maybe a little, but not really. Other people are biological, like you, and have almost identical origins and brains, like you. To really seriously run with the idea that other people aren't conscious, you'd need evidence of some reason why you and they are fundamentally different in this regard.
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Old 6th April 2018, 09:46 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Very well put.

I'll just be running off now.
I knew it!
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Old 6th April 2018, 09:48 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Dancing David View Post
When do you think modern physics began it's progression?
Galileo and Kepler to now is a long time.
Becquerel to know is a little less

Is science driven by technology?

When did modern neuroscience begin?
Hard to say. Probably when imaging of the brain was possible. That would be, what the 70's? But you could argue the weirdness of split-brain patients is also modern neuroscience, and that was the late 60's.

It doesn't matter. There's been no progress made on the hard problem. I don't think there will be. I don't think a materialistic model of reality will lead to a solution.
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Old 6th April 2018, 09:52 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Maybe a little, but not really. Other people are biological, like you, and have almost identical origins and brains, like you. To really seriously run with the idea that other people aren't conscious, you'd need evidence of some reason why you and they are fundamentally different in this regard.
Darat's point is that a functional equivalent to a human brain must be conscious, no matter what it's made of. If a machine has something functionally equivalent to a brain, we should assume it's conscious. Even a big collection of flushing toilets

Now, if a machine is running software that simulates a functional equivalent of a working brain, should we automatically consider that to be conscious? That's a tricky one.
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Old 6th April 2018, 09:55 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
None of that deals with the causation of conscious experience. I'll grant you that a lot of progress has been made studying the brain, but that's not the hard problem. No progress has been made about why we are conscious and how a brain produces consciousness.

What is it about the actions of a bunch of neurons that give rise to subjective experience? That's still a total mystery.
There might not be a why. It's completely reasonable to think consciousness is an incidental byproduct of the other things going on in brains that are more or less robotic and computer-like.

Re: the "how" - we probably are closer, in my opinion. We might just need to know more about those correlates and elucidate all their mechanisms before the picture of what causes consciousness comes into focus clearly.
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Old 6th April 2018, 09:57 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Darat's point is that a functional equivalent to a human brain must be conscious, no matter what it's made of.
I'm not getting that at all from his words.
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