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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 12



USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
Your last point relates to my previous post. By all means have your narrow definitions and applications. But don’t then make statements of a broader nature based on that narrow stance...
You'd have to be more specific because I'm not aware that I've made any statements that aren't applicable to the context that they were formulated in.
I’m finding this a bit tricking on a mobile. I’ll have to get to a computer...
That's understandable. I don't get all the rage about mobile anyway. I still don't have a cellphone and am not likely to get one.
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
You'd have to be more specific because I'm not aware that I've made any statements that aren't applicable to the context that they were formulated in.
I've just been reading an essay in Aeon magazine that I'll link here because it helps in recognizing the problem raised by approaching existence in an actual world in terms dictated by narrower and narrower 'contexts' defined within specialized disciplines of knowledge. A stunning example of this problem has been the adoption of the term 'ontology' in computer science to refer to the scope of the 'information' within which computers and robots function. I think this Aeon essay is relevant to our recent discussion of the varieties of ways in which the term 'information' is used in our current technologically driven culture.

Extract:
". . . It is comforting that the humblest objects resist the ongoing march of technology into our lives in this way, like still rocks in a swift current. This anchoring quality is part of what makes material intelligence special. Understanding even a simple chair is an experiential matter. Googling it will only get you so far. Material intelligence is not just about compiling information. Treating an object as a point of entry into a production chain might be clarifying, for example; but it will not get you in touch with that thing. Material objects demand an aesthetic response, and a kinaesthetic one too."

from Glenn Adamson, "Material intelligence", here:

Do you know your stuff? The ethics of the material world | Aeon Essays
 

Pharoah

Paranormal Adept
Well, I would suggest that you could do both depending on the situation. For example we could say that the alien symbols on the Roswell wreckage are alien information by virtue of them not being human information, and that there is potentially a lot more information in them than we know because we don't know how to interpret them.

Why can't physicality exist without meaning? For example the existence of that which we would call physical but remains undiscovered. To say that such a situation cannot happen would seem to contradict most of the history of the physical universe before humans came into the picture. You're not advocating subjective idealism ( I hope ).

That seems to make sense. But then what about the situation where information is created and used by intelligence alone? That is to say, an AI without the faculty to give "meaning" to anything? Hypothetically such an AI could create "useful data", but is "useful data" the same as "meaningful data".

Again it seems to me that sometimes specific situations require specific ( rather than broad ) parameters in order to work. Therefore a "narrow" definition for a particular situation might be perfectly valid, even better than a broad one. What does seem relevant is getting the differences in context so that we know which definitions are applicable to whatever situation we find ourselves dealing with. In simplest terms, it doesn't seem like the answer is a "one size fits all" type situation.
"Well, I would suggest that you could do both depending on the situation. For example we could say that the alien symbols on the Roswell wreckage are alien information by virtue of them not being human information, and that there is potentially a lot more information in them than we know because we don't know how to interpret them."
Perhaps the information in the symbols only becomes information when they become interpreted... a bit like the collapse of the wave function. Otherwise, how are we to quantify that which does not yet exist as information in virtue of its potential?

"Why can't physicality exist without meaning? For example the existence of that which we would call physical but remains undiscovered. To say that such a situation cannot happen would seem to contradict most of the history of the physical universe before humans came into the picture. You're not advocating subjective idealism ( I hope )."
That which is physical but undiscovered is physical in virtue of interacting meaningfully with other physical states (ours excepted if undiscovered): physicality exists for being meaningful to other physical states in the way that it is. So no, I am not advocating subjective idealism.

"That seems to make sense. But then what about the situation where information is created and used by intelligence alone? That is to say, an AI without the faculty to give "meaning" to anything? Hypothetically such an AI could create "useful data", but is "useful data" the same as "meaningful data"."
If a series of dominos, when falling, generate the macro image of a blooming flower the dominos are not meaningfully illustrating a flower. They are just falling over... if that answers the query at all.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
... If a series of dominos, when falling, generate the macro image of a blooming flower the dominos are not meaningfully illustrating a flower. They are just falling over... if that answers the query at all.
Let's dig into that a little more. Let's start with this question: Can thought be devoid of information?
 
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Pharoah

Paranormal Adept
Let's dig into that a little more. Let's start with this question: Can thought be devoid of information?
My email says you started off differently to what I see posted here.
Anyway, I would say that thought is a process of meaningful engagement, and from that, thought tends to conclude that the world informs it and therefore that the world is full of information that is meaningful to it. In others words information is a concept of thought to explain why the world is meaningful to it
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
My email says you started off differently to what I see posted here.
We're still on the issue of whether or not information can exist without having "meaning". I just decided to go at it bit by bit rather than the way I started off.
Anyway, I would say that thought is a process of meaningful engagement ...
Does intelligent analysis in the absence of "meaningful engagement" not qualify as thought? Does an AI not think? It is far from being a series of dominoes ( as you put it ). It seems to me that "meaningful engagement" is just our subjective impression of our thinking.
... and from that, thought tends to conclude that the world informs it and therefore that the world is full of information that is meaningful to it. In others words information is a concept of thought to explain why the world is meaningful to it
In the case of the AI however, it would seem rather limiting to say that the signals it uses to perform intelligent analysis, take action, and adapt, don't qualify as information ( for it ). Therefore it seems that information for an AI is about useful data rather than "meaningful engagement". Again, it's not simply a series of dominoes. There's intelligence, learning, adaptation.

I must stress that there is no reason that useful data and "meaningful engagement" should be equated. Hypothetically an AI could be built that passes a Turing test but has zero consciousness, appreciation, or other pre-qualifiers for the experience of "meaningful engagement" as we seem to be interpreting it here. Yet I don't see how we can justify that useful data for an intelligence contains no information, while meaningful engagement does. It seems to me that information exists in both cases.
 

Burnt State

Paranormal Adept
From another part of the forest, research such as the following, reported in this new entry (a book chapter) at academia.edu, is significant for our attempt to understand the interrelation of biological, neurological, and psychological factors affecting 'consciousness' and 'perception'. Since this paper addresses questions raised previously by @Burnt State relative to perceptions of 'ufos', I hope he might return to this thread and comment on the paper:

"Beyond ‘Salience’ and ‘Affordance’: Understanding Anomalous Experiences of Significant Possibilities"
Matthew Ratcliffe and Matthew R. Broome


Extract: ". . . As all of this illustrates, salience is not just a matter of experiencing what is
actually present. Things appear salient in the light of (a) what was anticipated prior to their arrival and/or (b) what is now anticipated from them. Experience is thus permeated with the anticipation, fulfilment, and negation of significant, variably determinate possibilities. 7
Consequently, things appear salient in a range of different ways. In cases of aberrant
salience, there is a further distinction to be drawn between experiencing something as salient in a way that is aberrant and experiencing it as aberrant. For example, there is a difference between experiencing the sofa in one’s lounge as menacing and experiencing it as strangely menacing (given a mismatch between that entity’s physical properties and the kinds of significant possibilities it points to). A further question thus arises concerning the source and type of normativity at stake when we refer to salience as ‘aberrant’. Is it a biological, epistemic, and/or phenomenological ‘ought’?

[7 It is arguable that a phenomenological account of the manner in which experience incorporates anticipation is complemented in various ways by recent work on ‘predictive coding’ and ‘predictive processing’, work that has also been related to the topic of aberrant salience and dopamine dysregulation in psychosis. See Ratcliffe (2017, Chapter 6) for a discussion.]

One might answer ‘all three’, but they do not always go together. For instance, a non-localized experience of everything being somehow not right may well be biologically ‘normal’ or even ‘functional’ under certain conditions. Regardless of the source of normativity, there are further distinctions to be drawn between different kinds of deviation from a norm. Something’s appearing salient when it should not differs from its appearing salient when it should, but not in the way that it should and from its not appearing salient when it should do (according to one or another criterion). In the latter case, an absence of salience may itself be salient.

Another important variable to consider is whether an experience is modality-specific and which modality or modalities it involves. As noted earlier, we might think of salience as principally perceptual in nature – it is a matter of how our surroundings appear to us and how various things relate to our concerns and potential activities. But it is arguably much broader than that. The weak point in an argument might equally be described as ‘salient’, as might some feature of an imagined situation or remembered event. Furthermore, it is not simply the case that we experience something as ‘perceived’, ‘imagined’, ‘thought’, or ‘remembered’ and, in conjunction with this, experience it as salient in one or another way. The kinds of salience attached to an experience also contribute to our sense of its being one and not another type of experience – an experience of perceiving, anticipating, remembering, imagining, or thinking. To explain further, it seems reasonable to maintain that the hallmark of perceptual experience is a sense of ‘presence’ (e.g. Noë, 2004). Thus, when we have a perceptual experience of a tree, that experience is not exhausted by its sensory-perceptual content. In addition, we experience the tree as here, now . It is this ‘here, now’ that constitutes our sense of the experience as unambiguously perceptual in nature. However, objects of perception sometimes look strangely unfamiliar, not quite there, somehow unreal, to the point where it no longer feels like an unambiguously perceptual experience. Erosion of the sense that one is having a perceptual experience is attributable -- at least in part -- to aberrant salience. A perceived entity that does not offer the usual range of specifically perceptual possibilities can appear ‘salient’ in lacking them. It ‘stands out’ insofar as it looks somehow more like an imagined or remembered entity – not fully ‘there’. Conversely, salient possibilities more usually associated with perception could adhere to the contents of memory or imagination. The sense that one is imagining or remembering, rather than perceiving, can thus be eroded (Ratcliffe, 2017). For instance, suppose that you cannot help imagining having done p and feel intense guilt every time you do imagine having done p . The kind of significance attaching to p is likely to diminish, to some degree, your sense of merely imagining rather than remembering p.

Hence salience is integral to the phenomenological constitution of intentionality, to our grasp of the distinctions between what is currently the case, what was the case, what is not and never was the case, and what might be the case. For that reason, it is not sufficient to refer to
‘aberrant salience’ within one or another modality. Associated disturbances of intentionality should also be acknowledged. Kapur (2003) takes delusions to be beliefs that are
‘highly improbable’. However, given that wide-ranging salience disruption can erode one’s grasp of the distinction between what is and what is not the case and -- with this -- the
way in which one believes, it should be added that these ‘beliefs’ are different in kind from more typical forms of believing.
[8 An appreciation of how salience dysregulation can impact on the structure of belief may also help to clarify the relationship between aberrant salience and delusion – how exactly the former disposes one towards the latter.]
. . . ."


Beyond 'Salience' and 'Affordance': Understanding Anomalous Experiences of Significant Possibilities
Looks like an excellent paper @Constance . Will definitely give it a read! Thanks for connecting me to it.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
n the case of the AI however, it would seem rather limiting to say that the signals it uses to perform intelligent analysis, take action, and adapt, don't qualify as information ( for it ). Therefore it seems that information for an AI is about useful data rather than "meaningful engagement". Again, it's not simply a series of dominoes. There's intelligence, learning, adaptation.

I must stress that there is no reason that useful data and "meaningful engagement" should be equated. Hypothetically an AI could be built that passes a Turing test but has zero consciousness, appreciation, or other pre-qualifiers for the experience of "meaningful engagement" as we seem to be interpreting it here. Yet I don't see how we can justify that useful data for an intelligence contains no information, while meaningful engagement does. It seems to me that information exists in both cases.

I think I see where you are coming from, Randall, given your interest in computer science and its aim of producing an artificial platform that can yield a general artificial consciousness (and mind) similar to consciousness and mind in humans. Increasingly in our time we recognize that Innumerable naturally afforded 'platforms' for the evolution and development of consciousness and mind have preceded the evolution of our species and that which we become capable of learning, thinking, and doing within and beyond the natural planetary environment in which we have emerged. Far more than likely, similar evolution and development of consciousness and mind have developed on other planets.

Our interest here has always followed the development of interdisciplinary 'Consciousness Studies' begun about three decades ago, and it is important to recall that a major motivation for this interdisciplinary investigation of consciousness in our species and others was prompted by the development of technological projects seeking to mechanically produce 'artificial intelligence'. In the discipline of AI itself it was gradually recognized that intelligence like our own would require 'artificial consciousness'.

Thus Consciousness Studies has sought not just an understanding of the nature of consciousness -- the nature of that which enables it and that of which it is composed -- but an adequate understanding/explanation of its origins in nature, of that which led to the appearance of the phenomenon of consciousness itself in its relationship to the 'world(s)' within which it has gradually appeared and functioned on our planet, in our species and others.

For millenia before our own time, in the East and the West, philosophers have queried the nature of <mind> and the relationship of mind to the being of the environing world within which our species discovers its own existence. Eastern philosophy of mind recognized the essential existence of consciousness itself long before philosophers of mind in the West began to do so. To comprehend what the Eastern philosophers recognized, Western philosophers of mind must read them. And in our technological age, philosophers and scientists alike need to read the recent history of thinking and research concerning the nature and origins of consciousness developed in the modern disciplines of phenomenology, neurophenomenology, biosemiotics, and affective neuroscience, the latter arising out of the disciplines of biology and ethology in the study of animal behavior as most lucidly developed by Jaak Panksepp.

...to be continued later since I have to disconnect my computer now due to a thunderstorm overhead.
 
Here's my opinion regarding recent consciousness craze in the UFO landscape, and recent hot topics

One of the lead proponent of this trend is Grant Cameron, and I followed his videos closely, my assessment is that he is entirely misguided, and I am extremely disappointed by his "transition".

#1, This "mental download" is nonsense. As an engineer with ~20 patents and >50 publications, inventive ideas usually come after careful logical mental construction. When they suddenly come into mind, the process is no different from suddenly having the idea to eat pizza for dinner. Calling it "download" is just laughable. The organizations I've worked at churn out hundreds of patents each year, there had never been any colleague (some of them truly world-class) who ever mentioned or agreed with this "mental download" process as claimed by Grant Cameron.

#2, The "portal" cult he is infatuated with is highly suspicious. The programmed sightings are clearly staged: they congregate in an open field, but the alien never appear in the center of this open field, but always appear from behind some nearby treeline, then disappear into the wood. The excuse typically used to prevent the members from getting too close and discover the disguise is that these aliens are from the other dimension, therefore dangerous, as if there maybe an annihilation event. As a consequence, I've never seen any convincing photographic/video evidence from such programmed sightings, even though there are dozens of witnesses. It is astonishing to be fooled by such shoddily staged fraud. As a side note, I've also seen quite a few videos shot by Greer's followers, I am inclined to think the vast majority of those are Iridium flares, or regular flares dropped by fighter jet exercises around air force bases.

#3, The metals dropped by UFOs: all the analysis mentioned in every single one of the UFO conference videos I saw are highly flawed, without exception. Both Grant Cameron and Linda Howe are clearly very poorly educated in modern materials sciences. The vast majority of electronic industry these days require metals or compounds with purity exceeding 99.995%, and generate multi-layered periodic materials deposited using MBE, CVD, MOCVD or ALD techniques, creating periodic structures such as quantum wells or superlattices. So this layered Bi-Mg can't be made by current engineering equipment is absolute bunk.

#4 Corbell's documentaries: The Skinwalker ranch documentary is an abomination, i would give it zero stars. Haven't watched the one on Lazar yet.

Overall, currently the only person who I find somewhat credible is Richard Dolan.
 
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USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
Here's my opinion regarding recent consciousness craze in the UFO landscape, and recent hot topics

One of the lead proponent of this trend is Grant Cameron, and I followed his videos closely, my assessment is that he is entirely misguided, and I am extremely disappointed by his "transition".

#1, This "mental download" is nonsense. As an engineer with ~20 patents and >50 publications, inventive ideas usually come after careful logical mental construction. When they suddenly come into mind, the process is no different from suddenly having the idea to eat pizza for dinner. Calling it "download" is just laughable. The organizations I've worked at churn out hundreds of patents each year, there had never been any colleague (some of them truly world-class) who ever mentioned or agreed with this "mental download" process as claimed by Grant Cameron.
I have to agree, at least to the extent that the word "download" has been hijacked from computer science and inserted into ufology jargon. As a ufologist I don't agree that such hijacking is appropriate. I'd even go a step further and call it irresponsible, along with with his left-brain right-brain pop psychology. It seems to fit what Sharon A. Hill calls scientifical thinking.
#2, The "portal" cult he is infatuated with is highly suspicious. The programmed sightings are clearly staged: they congregate in an open field, but the alien never appear in the center of this open field, but always appear from behind some nearby treeline, then disappear into the wood. The excuse typically used to prevent the members from getting too close and discover the disguise is that these aliens are from the other dimension, therefore dangerous, as if there maybe an annihilation event. As a consequence, I've never seen any convincing photographic/video evidence from such programmed sightings, even though there are dozens of witnesses. It is astonishing to be fooled by such shoddily staged fraud. As a side note, I've also seen quite a few videos shot by Greer's followers, I am inclined to think the vast majority of those are Iridium flares, or regular flares dropped by fighter jet exercises around air force bases.
The way Cameron describes the portal phenomena is equally problematic.
#3, The metals dropped by UFOs: all the analysis mentioned in every single one of the UFO conference videos I saw are highly flawed, without exception. Both Grant Cameron and Linda Howe are clearly very poorly educated in modern materials sciences. The vast majority of electronic industry these days require metals or compounds with purity exceeding 99.995%, and generate multi-layered periodic materials deposited using MBE, CVD, MOCVD or ALD techniques, creating periodic structures such as quantum wells or superlattices. So this layered Bi-Mg can't be made by current engineering equipment is absolute bunk.
Yup. More scientifical nonsense.
#4 Corbell's documentaries: The Skinwalker ranch documentary is an abomination, i would give it zero stars. Haven't watched the one on Lazar yet.
To my knowledge there is no scientifically valid material evidence, at least not in the hands of the public, that substantiates any claims of alien craft, stargates, portals, and other paranormal phenomena. It is reasonable however to extrapolate that the PTB does know more than the general population. But that still doesn't justify jumping to conclusions about what exactly they know.
Overall, currently the only person who I find somewhat credible is Richard Dolan.
What about our former cohost Christopher O'brien? IMO he's one of the finest examples of a field researcher and author we have. What about Michael Swords? How about Jerome Clark? Setting aside popularity in media or ufology culture, there are probably many more. I don't mean to blow my own horn, but I've been in the subject a long time and like to think that what I contribute is credible. Not every ufologist is crackpot.

That being said I also used to think Timothy Good was credible. What is it that happens to such people that sends them out into the fringes? Our recent guest Suzanne Hansen is another example ( though she denies she's part of fringe ufology).

Where for you personally do you think the line between mainstream and fringe ufology should be drawn?
 
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