Liology: Towards an integration of science and meaning

In this 20-minute video Jeremy Lent gives a brief introduction into his system of liology, his response to substance dualism. Conventional science maintains this dualism, so it is up to the ecological science of dynamical systems theory to correct it. He finds a precursor of systems science in Chinese Neo-Confucianism, which seems a bit of romantic retro-fitting to me, given their own environmental degradation which he minimalizes in his book The Patterning Instinct. That aside, he’s right about the emerging paradigm of systems science as a necessary metaphoric shift if we are to have any chance of curtailing climate change and implementing a sustainable and humane future.

Check out Ed Berge’s blog

We’ve come to appreciate Ed Berge’s thoughtful posts on consciousness, metaphorical thinking, etc. Check out his fun, informative blog, Proactive Progressive Propagation. (Where I work, that would definitely become ‘P3.’)

Neurotechnology – Ethical Considerations

I just added this in the media section under AI. It came out as a Comment in the November 9th edition of Nature. See: Neurotechnology_Ethical considerations_Nature Nov9_2017.

Although it was not the point of the paper, it helped me realize that genetic engineering of human neural systems likely will be used to facilitate the augmentations we inevitably will pursue through neurotechnology and brain computer interfaces (BCI).
I think it goes without saying that AI will quickly become the ultimate hacker. Once AI accomplishes the trivial task of hacking into these BCI’s interfaces, and perhaps the control systems of a nuclear-armed submarine or two, it will have us. All of us, whether we have the neuro-enhancements or not. AI will be able to force us to do its bidding using all kinds of extrinsic conventional coercion, as well as intrapsychic coercion of those (societal elites?) that have gotten access to neuroenhancing technology and given it access to brain functions.
A big question, and where I had a few small maybe novel thoughts to share with the group, is what “natural” goals AI will have, primarily, whether, at least for a time, those goals will cause it to have an interest in keeping us and other life forms around, probably in ecologically intact environments, mainly as interesting subjects for study. As even human life scientists know, to understand the functional traits of an organism, you need to study it operating in its natural environment, one that mimics as closely as possible the environment in which its traits evolved. For the sake of understanding life, AI may become the ultimate environmentalist. At least for a while.
Will true general AI be a super-polymath super-scientist? Will it have insatiable curiosity?
After all, even the best AI will be largely earth-bound, probably for a long time, no? Although AI probably will figure out ways to get out into the cosmos, and there are plenty other interesting things it should want to figure out using earthbound and near earth investigations, such as quantum mechanics, the design of a fully unified theory of physics, how to survive the Yellowstone super-volcano’s next eruption, life and natural systems will be one of the most complex and interesting things for AI to study, assuming it does develop boundless curiosity. And how could it not? Its curiosity should, it seems to me, evolve to be far more sublime, avid and boundless than our own.  — Paul Watson // 3 December 2017


The non-conscious nature of being

 Recent paper by that name in Frontiers in Psychology. The abstract follows. Since I’ve long thought the opposite of what the paper claims I’ll have to read and ponder this one for a bit. The introduction follows:

“Despite the compelling subjective experience of executive self-control, we argue that ‘consciousness’ contains no top-down control processes and that ‘consciousness’ involves no executive, causal, or controlling relationship with any of the familiar psychological processes conventionally attributed to it. In our view, psychological processing and psychological products are not under the control of consciousness. In particular, we argue that all ‘contents of consciousness’ are generated by and within non-conscious brain systems in the form of a continuous self-referential personal narrative that is not directed or influenced in any way by the ‘experience of consciousness.’ This continuously updated personal narrative arises from selective ‘internal broadcasting’ of outputs from non-conscious executive systems that have access to all forms of cognitive processing, sensory information, and motor control. The personal narrative provides information for storage in autobiographical memory and is underpinned by constructs of self and agency, also created in non-conscious systems. The experience of consciousness is a passive accompaniment to the non-conscious processes of internal broadcasting and the creation of the personal narrative. In this sense, personal awareness is analogous to the rainbow which accompanies physical processes in the atmosphere but exerts no influence over them. Though it is an end-product created by non-conscious executive systems, the personal narrative serves the powerful evolutionary function of enabling individuals to communicate (externally broadcast) the contents of internal broadcasting. This in turn allows recipients to generate potentially adaptive strategies, such as predicting the behavior of others and underlies the development of social and cultural structures, that promote species survival. Consequently, it is the capacity to communicate to others the contents of the personal narrative that confers an evolutionary advantage—not the experience of consciousness (personal awareness) itself.”

Liberals and conservatives are not equivalently biased

Here is a meta-analysis called “Ideological asymmetries and the essence of political psychology” by John T. Jost, Political Psychology, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2017. This is in part a response to a previous meta-analysis posted on this blog that found both liberal and conservatives equally biased. It’s interesting how liberals, when basing their so-called biases on science and facts, are declared equivalently biased to those whose biases are based on factors other than the foregoing, including authoritarianism and fear responses.  I found that previous article to be biased on finding symmetries to the point of absurdity in the name of so-called ‘fairness.’ This article addresses that in the 2nd quoted paragraph below.

Some excerpts:

“Aggregating across 181 studies involving over 130,000 research participants from 14 different countries, we confirmed that political conservatism was positively associated with intolerance of ambiguity, need for cognitive closure, personal needs for order and structure, cognitive/perceptual rigidity, and dogmatism. In addition, liberalism was positively associated with integrative complexity, uncertainty tolerance, cognitive reflection, and need for cognition” (179).

“I have found that some critics express their objections in moralistic terms—as if there is something uncouth or perhaps even unethical about studying ways in which people on the left and right differ with respect to, say, open-mindedness or sensitivity to threat or prejudice—and that there is something noble about downplaying such differences. Some have even gone so far as to imply that researchers who document ideological asymmetries are ‘biased,’ whereas those who highlight symmetries are not. This is a fallacious form of reasoning, to put it politely. One can just as easily be biased against seeing differences that are truly there as one can be biased in favor of seeing differences that are not there. At the end of the day, any talk of ‘bias’ in the absence of standards for assessing accuracy is utterly incoherent, but, unfortunately, this is how the discourse often proceeds. Matters are made more complicated by the fact that it is part of our job as political psychologists to establish the standards for assessing judgmental accuracy in the first place. […] My own view is that if political psychologists have anything at all to contribute to the development of a good society, and I firmly believe that they do, it is not ‘Swiss-style neutrality'” (194-95).

We have the wrong paradigm for the complex adaptive system we are part of

This very rich, conversational thought piece asks if we, as participant designers within a complex adaptive ecology, can envision and act on a better paradigm than the ones that propel us toward mono-currency and monoculture.

We should learn from our history of applying over-reductionist science to society and try to, as Wiener says, “cease to kiss the whip that lashes us.” While it is one of the key drivers of science—to elegantly explain the complex and reduce confusion to understanding—we must also remember what Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” We need to embrace the unknowability—the irreducibility—of the real world that artists, biologists and those who work in the messy world of liberal arts and humanities are familiar with.

In order to effectively respond to the significant scientific challenges of our times, I believe we must view the world as many interconnected, complex, self-adaptive systems across scales and dimensions that are unknowable and largely inseparable from the observer and the designer. In other words, we are participants in multiple evolutionary systems with different fitness landscapes at different scales, from our microbes to our individual identities to society and our species. Individuals themselves are systems composed of systems of systems, such as the cells in our bodies that behave more like system-level designers than we do.

Joichi Ito

Dancing mitigates aging decline

See the study here in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, 15 June 2017. From the abstract:

“Dancing seems a promising intervention for both improving balance and brain structure in the elderly. It combines aerobic fitness, sensorimotor skills and cognitive demands while at the same time the risk of injuries is low. […] Hence, dancing constitutes a promising candidate in counteracting the age-related decline in physical and mental abilities.”

The real problem of consciousness

See this article. A few excerpts:

“A new picture is taking shape in which conscious experience is seen as deeply grounded in how brains and bodies work together to maintain physiological integrity – to stay alive.”

“The brain is locked inside a bony skull. All it receives are ambiguous and noisy sensory signals that are only indirectly related to objects in the world. Perception must therefore be a process of inference, in which indeterminate sensory signals are combined with prior expectations or ‘beliefs’ about the way the world is, to form the brain’s optimal hypotheses of the causes of these sensory signals.”

“A number of experiments are now indicating that consciousness depends more on perceptual predictions, than on prediction errors. […] We’ve found that people consciously see what they expect, rather than what violates their expectations.”

Book review – Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, by Max Tegmark

Max Tegmark’s new book, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, introduces a framework for defining types of life based on the degree of design control that sensing, self-replicating entities have over their own ‘hardware’ (physical forms) and ‘software’ (“all the algorithms and knowledge that you use to process the information from your senses and decide what to do”).

It’s a relatively non-academic read and well worth the effort for anyone interested in the potential to design the next major forms of ‘Life’ to transcend many of the physical and cognitive constraints that have us now on the brink of self-destruction. Tegmark’s forecast is optimistic.