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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 12




Michael Allen

Paranormal Adept
Re the ouroboros

View attachment 7660
Many want to approach the problem of (phenomenal) consciousness in the way they approach all problems. (I’m not sure we all understand the notion of phenomenal consciousness.) To presuppose that it came from (non-phenomenal) matter.

This is akin to supposing that the model created the model maker. Or that the model maker emerged from the model. Or that the figure created the ground.

Many confuse the model for the model maker. The figure for the ground.

The model maker wants to explain the model maker using its models.

Perceptions, emotions, feelings, and thoughts manifested in consciousness constitute models of world, self, and consciousness but cannot swallow consciousness.
...and now imagine the snake wants to vanish by consuming itself
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
yes...that's a close enough approximation of what I was getting at; probably more useful in fact...
In that case: We might suggest that IT ( Consciousness ) creates models of interdependent entities that IT ( consciousness ) applies to itself ( consciousness' self ) via the neural processing of the experience, which then generates a response that IT ( consciousness ) becomes aware of. This entire sequence of events happens fairly quickly ( about 60 ms ) for visual experiences. One might think of that as our "frame rate" for visual experiences.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
... What we are trying to grok is the very foundation of the grokker!
Indeed. Explaining the foundation of understanding has been a quest since it first dawned on someone to ask the question. Today, it appears to be the case that we aren't capable of understanding every nuance and detail of that foundation. However, I think we can at least understand that many of the details are also unimportant.

All we really need to know is what classes of details add-up to what we're looking for. In other words, we don't have to understand exactly how our bodies either manufacture or acquire every molecule, or how the atoms and subatomic parts of those atoms are imparted with whatever forces and properties they have. We only need to know that certain elements and molecules have certain properties that play a certain role e.g. as a neurotransmitter.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
In that case: We might suggest that IT ( Consciousness ) creates models of interdependent entities that IT ( consciousness ) applies to itself ( consciousness' self ) via the neural processing of the experience, which then generates a response that IT ( consciousness ) becomes aware of. This entire sequence of events happens fairly quickly ( about 60 ms ) for visual experiences. One might think of that as our "frame rate" for visual experiences.
To Add: I would suggest that it isn't really consciousness that's doing any creating. It seems that it plays more of an intermediary function, as if consciousness in and of itself has no content unless immersed in the conditions which make it manifest, analogous to the way something invisible can be given form when it interacts with something visible.

So loosely speaking, we can think of the models as being creations of the brain that become part of our experience when they interact with whatever consciousness is. I surmise from this, that we're dealing with sets of fields of some kind. I don't know exactly what kind, but they appear to be directly related to measurable EM fields within the brain. Perhaps consciousness is in physical terms, some sort of EM field state.
 

Soupie

Paranormal Adept
So loosely speaking, we can think of the models as being creations of the brain that become part of our experience when they interact with whatever consciousness is.

I surmise from this, that we're dealing with sets of fields of some kind.
This is very close to the view that I have been exploring with one significant difference.

The world and self models (the contents of the human mind) are creations of the brain.

We are dealing with sets of fields, quantum fields to be exact.

The models created by the brain do “interact” with the “consciousness field” because [and this is where we differ] both matter and consciousness are the same field(s).

The property we refer to a phenomenal consciousness is the “intrinsic” nature of quantum fields and the properties we refer to as matter/energy are the “extrinsic” nature of quantum fields.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
The models created by the brain do “interact” with the “consciousness field” because [and this is where we differ] both matter and consciousness are the same field(s).
I can see how it could be the case from a physical perspective, that on some fundamental level, matter and consciousness are both some type of field, and that it is how these fields manifest on a macro level that the universe is populated with physical stuff and our awareness of it. However that is not the same as saying that a consciousness field is one and the same field as a sensory field.

Instead, the evidence strongly suggests multiple different structures within the brain ( visual cortex, auditory cortex ect. ) are independently responsible for their own fields, and that together they are unified into an audiovisual experience by the thalamocortical loop, which has its own associated field. There is ample evidence for this in that activity in our sensory regions can be isolated and measured in the absence of any sensory experience, particularly, in REM sleep.

Sometimes, when in REM sleep, another layer of thalamocortical neuromodulation kicks in, and we become aware that we are dreaming. It isn't uncommon to continue from there into a fully awakened state. There's a pretty decent article on it here:

Thalamocortical dynamics of sleep: roles of purinergic neuromodulation

This situation mirrors exactly what I was suggesting above in that consciousness is like a blank canvass, a baseline state, and that qualia are disturbances in that state. They are manifested as particular types of experiences depending upon the properties associated with the type of disturbance they produce. Again, Persinger's experiments with the effect of EM fields on perception seem to have confirmed this.

So what seems to be happening in ultra simplified form, is that sensory stimuli reach sense organs that send signals to corresponding brain regions, that create associated sensory fields that disturb the consciousness field. The disturbances in the consciousness field then induce a reaction in receptors in the thalamocortical loop, which transmits those signals to the various processing centers in the brain.

A materialist ( not to be confused with a physicalist ), might contend that we can do away with the idea of fields and stick purely with neurotransmitters and cellular structures. But this doesn't sit well with me for all the reasons we're both already familiar with. Consciousness seems to exist outside those confines, while still having an effect on them. Fields are the only thing we know of that can do such a thing.

Maybe it's not the right model, but given these variables, it at least seems reasonable ( coherent ). I don't know enough about it to know whether I'm right or wrong. Maybe somebody else does and can elucidate? I've heard counterpoint that asserts the fields produced by the brain are too weak or short ranged to induce any action within its own neural network.

I can imagine a couple of workarounds to that, but ultimately it's out of my depth. A related article linked from Philosophy, Science, and the Unexplained deals with EM fields in neuronal structures and their effect on associated biological systems.
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
Re the ouroboros

View attachment 7660
Many want to approach the problem of (phenomenal) consciousness in the way they approach all problems. (I’m not sure we all understand the notion of phenomenal consciousness.) To presuppose that it came from (non-phenomenal) matter.

This is akin to supposing that the model created the model maker. Or that the model maker emerged from the model. Or that the figure created the ground.

Many confuse the model for the model maker. The figure for the ground.

The model maker wants to explain the model maker using its models.
What you write here seems to correspond in some respects with what MA has been writing here.

Perceptions, emotions, feelings, and thoughts manifested in consciousness constitute models of world, self, and consciousness...
This is the issue we need to examine here. What do you take to be the meaning of the verb 'constitute'? How does it differ from Husserl's meaning explicated in his early philosophy? From the phenomenological perspective, "perceptions, emotions, feelings, and thoughts manifested in consciousness" are the very experiences that constitute both a) the sense of existence/present being in a temporally unfolding world and b) the ground out of which mind {reflective thought, both epistemological and ontological}, develops.

...but cannot swallow consciousness.
So consciousness, in your view and probably in @Michael Allen's view, "cannot swallow consciousness." I realize you use the metaphor 'swallow' because it corresponds with the Oubouros symbol (whose historical interpretations we should also unpack). Granted that some humans are unsettled, even destabilized, by the recognition of/confrontation with the open-endedness of their own consciousnesses, the provisionality of what can be understood about the world and the self, and/or the spectre of death and what seems to be the end of one's connection with the world with the loss of consciousness, but most humans cope with these and other 'existentials'. I have been perplexed by the apparent desire in our time in several disciplines to attempt to escape belief in the condition of being temporally situated, experientially grounded, beings-in-the-world through increasingly distanced, increasingly abstract notional theories that deny the existence of consciousness/the lived reality of consciousness by hypothesizing explanations of consciousness as simulated experience arising out of an informational matrix that produces and controls what we think and feel from a remote source 'we know not what, we know not where' (as MA might express it). I continue to be perplexed by the motivations of those seeking some kind of comfort (what would it be?) in these presuppositional propositions that we are not embedded in an actual world in which we must bear our own feelings and thoughts and take responsibility for our own actions.
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
In that case: In theory, all writers and readers of coherent papers and books in Consciousness Studies should see coherence in one another's output, even if their particular views or perspectives are different. That is the whole point of the exercise. If the point were to write sheer nonsense instead, then we wouldn't get very far. Nevertheless, it doesn't mean that simply because a particular view is internally coherent, that it is true with respect to the question. However, it is reasonable to suggest that a coherent view has a better chance of being true than sheer nonsense.
I think you inadvertently demonstrate the difference between your concept of 'coherence' and mine. As you say, "it doesn't mean that simply because a particular view is internally coherent, that it is true with respect to the question." Yes, many researchers are able to craft papers and positions that are internally coherent within the limits of the presuppositions they adopt. My understanding is that all participants in Consciousness Studies are interested in uncovering the truth of what consciousness is. We have a thousand major issues to contest in this interdisciplinary inquiry, and a genuinely 'coherent' understanding of consciousness will have to have examined and resolved all of those issues if it is to persuade the entire company of researchers involved in the field. This inquiry might reach a coherent conclusion in the distant future. Or not.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
{in a response to @Pharoah)
The premise lies on the assumption that consciousness comes in units of measure that can be quantified as "more" or "less" complex in terms of experience depending on the complexity of the experiencer. But what is this really saying? It seems to be more of a comment on perceptual and intellectual performance than consciousness.
An assumption indeed. A presupposition that consciousness can be understood only through physical 'measurements' that humans of our time are capable of making with instruments of their own current devising.

Everything depends on "the complexity of what we experience" and the uses of consciousness all the way up in the evolution and development of living species in our local world. If we don't understand experience we don't understand anything.

The only sorts of things that are reasonably safe to include in the set of things bearing consciousness, are those with neuronal structures sufficiently similar to our own.
Not proved, thus another presupposition, or call it an article of faith.

I can't respond to your next statement since I can't make sense of it. Perhaps if you flesh out the meanings of your terms 'design' and 'complexity' I will be able to follow what you are claiming.

A super complex intelligent computer may have no experience at all of the world or of itself. Consciousness seems to be more dependent on design than complexity ( to me ).
 
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USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
I have been perplexed by the apparent desire in our time in several disciplines to attempt to escape the being of temporally situated, experientially grounded, being-in-the-world through increasingly distanced, increasingly abstract notional theories that deny the existence of consciousness/the lived reality of consciousness by hypothesizing explanations of consciousness as simulated experience arising out of an informational matrix that produces and controls what we think and feel from a remote source 'we know not what, we know not where' (as MA might express it).
The meaning of a "simulated experience" is contextual. For example we can simulate the experience of gravity via acceleration or innerta. Hypothetically an experiment could be setup in such a way that the experiencer may not be able to tell one from the other. This is an entirely different context from experience in and of itself being a simulation.

I suppose we could say that dreams are simulations produced by our minds, but our experience of them remains genuine. The core of all experience, consciousness in and of itself, is IMO genuine regardless of whether or not it has been engineered. A machine consciousness would IMO be no more "simulated" than our consciousness. Perhaps we might call it technological rather than biological, but that would not make it any less genuine.

The problem is in knowing whether or not a machine is actually conscious or not. I've illustrated that problem a number of times in the past using a clip from Transcendence. Once again for your viewing pleasure:

 
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USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
Not proved, thus another presupposition, or call it an article of faith.
As I always say, proof is just evidence that is sufficient for someone to justify belief in a claim. So for you as a someone, the claim may not be proven, whereas for someone else, there is plenty of proof. My position is neither. In other words I don't claim any proof. I only claim that it is a reasonably safe conclusion.

Consequently, making an assumption that the conclusion is wrong, would be as much a "presupposition" or "article of faith" as presuming it to be proven. This is another example of why the issue of proof is better avoided. The process of applying critical thinking to the evidence and seeing what comes out, seems much more promising ( yet eternally ignored here ).
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
The meaning of a "simulated experience" is contextual. For example we can simulate the experience of gravity via acceleration or innerta. Hypothetically an experiment could be setup in such a way that the experiencer may not be able to tell one from the other. This is an entirely different context from the experience in and of itself being a simulation.

I suppose we could say that dreams are simulations produced by our minds, but our experience of them remains genuine. The core of all experience, consciousness in and of itself, is IMO genuine regardless of whether or not it has been engineered. A machine consciousness would IMO be no more "simulated" than our consciousness. Perhaps we might call it less biological or organic, but that would not make it any less genuine.
That's an article of faith, and I think it reveals your particular motivation for celebrating the 'matrix' hypothesis/meme.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
As I always say, proof is just evidence that is sufficient for someone to justify belief in a claim. So for you as a someone, the claim may not be proven, whereas for someone else, there is plenty of proof. My position is neither. In other words I don't claim any proof. I only claim that it is a reasonably safe conclusion.
You're free to think about and respond to the questions and issues we discuss in whatever manner feels good to you. I don't actually understand the merit of "a reasonably safe conclusion" {especially so early in the investigation of consciousness}. What good does it do for you? Or, in Shakespearean terms, "how does it boot you to take what you hope is a 'reasonably safe conclusion'"? Safe from what? Safe from whom?
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
Edit: the very source of our ability to feel itself feel something ....or to think or realize our own thinking... has some very powerful tools which destroy the very foundation of our own thinking-or-realization-of-our-own-ability-to-think...once we place those tools to do the "work" of uncovering what we think is mysterious we find that the "object" (which must be created and animated by what we are examining) is nothing more than an externalized entity which is already assumed.
I think y'all have spent too much time playing around with 'virtual reality' in the last few decades. It seems clear enough now, MA, that you really do feel yourself to be a made-up entity produced by what you have called "the engine of the universe" of which 'we know not what and not where'. Why would or should I attempt to talk you out of this frame of mind since it's clear that you enjoy it. Let us all go forth in the way we each prefer to think and in good health. :)
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
That's an article of faith, and I think it reveals your particular motivation for celebrating the 'matrix' hypothesis/meme.
I would beg to differ. There is no "faith" involved. It is a simple statement of equivalency based on identical criteria, that criteria being the presence of consciousness, whether it be in something we engineer, or something nature evolves. Some would argue that there is no real difference. If you disagree, then assuming a machine experiences the color red the same as we do, you can describe for our benefit, how the machine's experience is any less genuine than ours? I'm listening.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
As I always say, proof is just evidence that is sufficient for someone to justify belief in a claim. So for you as a someone, the claim may not be proven, whereas for someone else, there is plenty of proof. My position is neither. In other words I don't claim any proof. I only claim that it is a reasonably safe conclusion.
You seem to be saying that our species can never obtain a meeting of minds on any subject of research and therefore anyone should think whatever they feel like thinking without recourse to what others have written or said. That seems curious to me. What have all these universities and libraries developed throughout our written history been about if not an attempt to understand 'what is' through a multiplication of perspectives and a dialogue concerning reasonable interpretations at each level of discovery?


Consequently, making an assumption that the conclusion is wrong, would be as much a "presupposition" or "article of faith" as presuming it to be proven.
An educated and rational reader does not make an assumption that a particular conclusion is wrong without first reading the given paper or presentation. I don't personally 'presuppose' or hold 'an article of faith' that all papers concerning brains and neurons, consciousness, and minds not informed by phenomenology are inherently wrong or false. I hope no one else does that on either side of the discussion we're having. Obviously we all read papers propounding claims and propositions that we find questionable and we naturally notice the presuppositions operative in what the author(s) claim. Evaluating such a paper's presuppositions as
'not proved' or 'not supported' after reading the paper does not amount to a 'presupposition' on my part that the entire investigation reported in the paper is without merit or value. Otherwise why would I read the paper?

It does seem that what you are representing in this post is a belief that most of us or all of us at some point make what Sartre called an 'original choice' about how we will think about the nature of reality and become attached to that idea like a barnacle. And that since we're all thereafter chronically subject to fixed ideas we can gain nothing through dialogue with others who are fixated on different core ideas. God help us if this were the case.

This is another example of why the issue of proof is better avoided. The process of applying critical thinking to the evidence and seeing what comes out, seems much more promising (yet eternally ignored here ).
It's strange to see an advocate of science and science-based technology arguing that we should all give up on the need for evidence and proofs where possible. And it's more than astonishing to me that you somehow conceive of 'critical thinking' [as characterized in your frequently cited website, which is obviously inadequate] as something that can function without evidence and proofs and in the absence of an interactive marketplace of ideas. Really? This is bewildering.
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
I would beg to differ. There is no "faith" involved. It is a simple statement of equivalency based on identical criteria, that criteria being the presence of consciousness, whether it be in something we engineer, or something nature evolves. Some would argue that there is no real difference. If you disagree, then assuming a machine experiences the color red the same as we do, you can describe for our benefit, how the machine's experience is any less genuine than ours? I'm listening.
I don't think you really have listened to/read most of what has gone on here over the last three years. Re 'color'? (as) 'seen'? equivalently by some robots and most humans I refer you back in the archives of this thread to @Soupie's detailed series of posts concerning color and vision about two years ago, maybe more.

Re the claim you make above that "a machine experiences the color red the same as we do," I ask in turn: how do you know what the machine is 'experiencing'. Do you indeed know whether the machine experiences anything at all?
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
Re the claim you make above that "a machine experiences the color red the same as we do," I ask in turn: how do you know what the machine is 'experiencing'. Do you indeed know whether the machine experiences anything at all?
That's not the point. I never made any claim that machines experience anything. I just posited for the sake of illustration, that if equivalency is assumed. As in ( "... assuming a machine experiences the color red the same as we do ... " ), then the machine's consciousness would be as genuine as any other ( including ours ) in that regard, the point being that there is no such thing as "simulated consciousness". But there very well may be engineered consciousness.
 
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