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  • Good, brief clip on the difference between the above, and how meditation can turn altered states into lasting traits that one carries in their daily life. Aside from the physiological benefits, if we can just dump […]

  • Very interesting, short video on how evolution relies on synergy, the forming of new organisms by teaming up with others. It also applies to how synergy leads to social organization. An enticing quote: “It […]

    • A point of debate is the tension of synergy and autonomy. The presentation highlights a loss of autonomy for the parts in a synergy. But it doesn’t address the new autonomy created for the parts given their interpenetrating symbiosis. By uploading some of the responsibilities required to maintain autonomy at the lower level onto the system, this frees up that energy to direct in more innovation explorations for those parts. Something lost, something gained.

    • Something biologically synergistic is, by definition (?), very fitness-enhancing, on average for the organism(s) involved. I’ll look at this and probably mostly agree. Except that what ultimately judges whether any new association or developmental novelty (e.g., environmentally induced) is synergistic? What process tunes it to be even more synergistic? Answer: Natural Selection. — PJW

  • eNeuro, 10 March 2017, 4(2). This might be neuroscientific evidence for my speculations on the syntegration of consciousness states and stages via meditative discipline. To be determined. The a […]

    • Ed, Tell me what you think about the idea that limbic system based “value systems” (sensu Edelman) that keep track of of close fitness-related needs, ultimately are in control of interaction between brain regions (in developmental time and real time)? Perhaps this is true for both the regions participating in the “reentry” processes that may underlie conscious thought/experience, as well as unconscious information processing. Either way, these limbic regulatory mechanisms would have a lot of control over our “adaptively subjective dream world.

    • Ok, maybe not. The article’s specialized jargon and information is beyond my ability to comprehend, let alone connect to my speculations.

      As to your questions Paul, I’m not familiar with Edelman’s work. I do though think that our limbic-based ‘values’ are akin to Damasio’s proto-self and form the basis of ‘higher’ cognitive functions. So there is certainly some bottom-up influence going on. But I also think that our higher functions via the PFC can also influence our basic instincts, so to speak, via top-down causation. I provided a number of citations to that effect in the recent thread on consciousness.

  • Authors from Princeton, Dartmouth and Exeter published this. The abstract:

    “Though some warnings about online “echo chambers” have been hyperbolic, tendencies toward selective exposure to politically cong […]

  • A scene from Westworld below. Hopkins, one of the creators of the robot ‘hosts,’ discusses consciousness with a host who newly discovers what he is.

    • Of course the series’ explanation of consciousness is a lot more complex than the above might seem to indicate. The following video explains a lot of the season finale’s attempt to tie together the series themes, a major one being consciousness. It was one of the creator’s (Arnold’s) plan all along to have the hosts achieve consciousness, which Ford (Hopkins) eventually accepts and works further to induce. Ford built a host modeled on Arnold, the latter who figures out (5:25) that consciousness is not a pyramid like linear structure upward but one of folding inward. Hence the recurring symbol of the maze throughout the series, indicative of the hosts’, and perhaps even humanity’s, evolutionary process to achieving consciousness.

    • See this post for some of my ruminations on what ‘folding in’ entails for consciousness.

  • In this FB post, copied below. The first podcast can be found here.

    “By popular demand, it’s the FrameLab Podcast — a podcast about politics, language, and your brain.
    In Episode 1, [I] discuss the con […]

  • And implies an event horizon of the human brain. There’s a mouthful, a new title in NeuroQuantology (15:3, September 2017). The abstract follows, also a brainful. This will take some reading and digesting, pro […]

  • I’ve found some thought-provoking answers on the Q&A social media site, Quora. Follow the link to a perceptive and helpful answer to, “Can a person be able to objectively identify exactly when and how their […]

  • As much of the world settles into the spectacle and cozy embrace of culturally reinforced magical thinking, New Scientist has several interesting recent articles about the evolved intuitive nature of religious […]

    • Will this be the focus of our next meeting? Are we meeting Monday Jan. 1st or 8th?

      This topic is one of my specialties. Keep in mind that most evolutionary psychologists who think of innate religiosity ( = learning instincts for religiosity) as consisting of indirectly selected traits or “cognitive byproducts” are usually limiting their analysis to the evolutionary ORIGINS of these traits. There are many such by-products, so many that it would take an act of God to render us not prone to being religious.

      But, some of us EP’s go on to consider what selection would have acted on these by-products to alter and integrate them, after their origins, into directly selected evolutionary adaptations. Analysis of ANY trait’s evolutionary origins and analysis of subsequent evolutionary adaptation processes involving that trait are two separate evolutionary “levels of analysis,” both more or less simultaneously invented by Darwin. Complete understanding of the “structure” of any trait, including cognitive traits / mental mechanisms, requires discreet consideration of both levels of analysis.

      That said, many evolutionary psychologists like to avoid the 2nd level of analysis, just consider origins, and ignore subsequent processes leading to genuine adaptations. IMO, often this is because they are biased against the idea that religiosity and religion is useful. Possibly as or more useful to humans than a web is to a spider… PJW

      • Great point. Thanks for the comment.

        I bought your course texts but won’t be able to sign up this time. I hope to take it in the future. It’s a very rich topic.

  • 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 […]

  • 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.’)

  • 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 […]

    • Fascinating article.

      Assuming AI has an underlying desire for power and control (a reflection of human characteristics) and uses its ultimate brain hacking abilities to control and coerce the masses what will it do? If you factor in boundless curiosity, no conscience, no guilt, no remorse, and no empathy I suspect AI won’t have much regard for life in the quest for achieving its goals whatever those goals may be.

      With regard to studying humans by AI, names that come to my mind as examples of what to expect from organisms with an abundance of cognitive intelligence, unbounded curiosity and no conscience are Josef Mengle, Carl Clauberg and Shiro Ishii.

      Consider how human animals treat nonhuman animals (sentient beings) in the exploration of advancing neuroscience, medical science, testing pharmaceuticals, testing consumer products, etc. Extending this thought further, consider how nonhuman animals are treated for palette pleasure or for entertainment or recreation? If AI operates from a hierarchical, blinded, self serving set of principles governing AI actions I think the sci fi writers will prove to be prophets. If, or when, humans are superseded, humans (those that are spared) will most likely become lab rats and slaves in a variety of capacities.

      We can only hope AI will have a firm grasp on the interdependence of life (sentient beings and the planet), develop empathy and altruism and those will be the core traits driving AI motivations.

      On a positive note, here is an excellent TedTalk by Maurice Conti on The Future of Human Augmentation

    • I haven’t viewed this video yet, just saw it. It’s relevant to the topic though. The blurb:

      Author Jeremy Lent discusses the moral complexities arising from the possibilities of human genetic enhancement, in this talk given to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Sonoma State University, September 26, 2017.

      The affluent echelons of society will soon have the capability to use genetic engineering to enhance their offspring. What are the moral implications?

      Lent discusses topics from his writings to explore this question.

      In The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity, he discusses the possibility of TechnoSplit—humanity splitting into two separate species.

      In his sci-fi novel, Requiem of the Human Soul, he offers a future scenario of the next 150 years where this actually happens.

      “Shifting Baseline Syndrome” describes how, from one generation to the next, the baseline that people take as norms shifts imperceptibly, but profoundly.

      In this talk, Lent takes us on a journey into a future of a bifurcated human species, recognizing that the ethical perspectives are complex and moral judgments are not always easy to make.

  •  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 f […]

    • I’ve read about half of it so far and was amazed that it’s still using Libet’s work on the readiness potential to prove our responses are unconscious. Much research has been done since then refuting the veracity and meaning of Libet’s work. For just a few examples:

      1. The point of no return in vetoing self initiated movements:
      2. An accumulator model for spontaneous neural activity prior to self-initiated movement:
      3. This analysis of Peter Tse’s work on downward causation from his book The Neural Basis of Free Will:

    • Here’s a short 10-minute video by Tse on free will, volition, attention and consciousness:

    • And here’s a 7-minute video of Tse discussing Libet, willing and the readiness potential:

    • The article states: “It is only the personal narrative, we argue, that is accompanied by personal awareness.” This flies in the face of a lot of neuroscientific work by for example Antonio Damasio, which posits a proto-self, a core self and an autobiographical self (akin to the ‘personal narrative’ above). And all of which have personal awareness.

    • “Free will and neuroscience: From explaining freedom away to new ways of operationalizing and measuring it.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2016. Abstract:

      “The concept of free will is hard to define, but crucial to both individual and social life. For centuries people have wondered how freedom is possible in a world ruled by physical determinism; however, reflections on free will have been confined to philosophy until half a century ago, when the topic was also addressed by neuroscience. The first relevant, and now well-known, strand of research on the brain correlates of free will was that pioneered by Libet et al. (1983), which focused on the allegedly unconscious intentions taking place in decisions regarded as free and voluntary. Libet’s interpretation of the so-called readiness potential (RP) seems to favor a sort of deflation of freedom (Soon et al., 2008). However, recent studies seem to point to a different interpretation of the RP, namely that the apparent build-up of the brain activity preceding subjectively spontaneous voluntary movements (SVM) may reflect the ebb and flow of the background neuronal noise, which is triggered by many factors (Schurger et al., 2016). This interpretation seems to bridge the gap between the neuroscientific perspective on free will and the intuitive, commonsensical view of it (Roskies, 2010b), but many problems remain to be solved and other theoretical paths can be hypothesized. The article therefore, proposes to start from an operationalizable concept of free will (Lavazza and Inglese, 2015) to find a connection between higher order descriptions (useful for practical life) and neural bases. This new way to conceptualize free will should be linked to the idea of “capacity”: that is, the availability of a repertoire of general skills that can be manifested and used without moment by moment conscious control. The capacity index, which is also able to take into account the differences of time scales in decisions, includes reasons-responsiveness and is related to internal control, understood as the agent’s ownership of the mechanisms that trigger the relevant behavior. Cognitive abilities, needed for one to have capacity, might be firstly operationalized as a set of neuropsychological tests, which can be used to operationalize and measure specific executive functions, as they are strongly linked to the concept of control. Subsequently, a free will index would allow for the search of the underlying neural correlates of the capacity exhibited by people and the limits in capacity exhibited by each individual.”

    • “Neural antecedents of spontaneous voluntary movement: A new perspective.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2016.

      “Now a series of new developments has begun to unravel what we thought we knew about the brain activity preceding SVMs. The main new revelation is that the apparent build-up of this activity, up until about 200 ms pre-movement, may reflect the ebb and flow of background neuronal noise, rather than the outcome of a specific neural event corresponding to a ‘decision’ to initiate movement. In particular, two independent studies, one using electroencephalography (EEG) recordings in humans [5] and the other using single-unit recordings in rats [6], have converged in showing that bounded-integration processes, which involve the accumulation of noisy evidence until a decision threshold is reached, offer a coherent and plausible explanation for the apparent pre-movement build-up of neuronal activity. Bounded integration or ‘evidence accumulation’ models have been in use for decades in the study of perceptual decision-making and reaction time tasks and have proven very powerful in accounting for both neural and behavioral phenomena. Only recently, however, has it come to light that if the ‘evidence’ is absent, or very weak relative to the noise, such models can also be applied to the spontaneous voluntary initiation of movement [5,6].”

    • You can read some excerpts of Tse’s The Neural Basis of Free Will at the following Project Muse link. From the section on readiness potentials:

      “Here I argue that conscious feelings of willing or agency are not central to understanding the neural basis of free will. Simple actions, such as repeatedly lifting a finger, or even complex actions, such as driving a car while daydreaming, may not generate conscious feelings of willing at all. Consciousness of willing appears to primarily arise in cases that require endogenous selection and inhibition of options held and assessed in working memory. As such, Libet’s paradigm may not particularly evoke conscious feelings of willing. And even if it did, neither the readiness potential nor the lateralized readiness potential appears to be a signature of a neural process involved in conscious willing.”

    • One can find Evan Thompson’s 6-part video series on the topic at the link below.

      From part 1, quoting William James: “Effort of attention is thus the essential phenomenon of will” (7:10). From the conclusion of part 6: “Free will then is not exempt from causes and conditions but is rather the flexible coordination of attention” (4:05). In part 2 he starts to talk about the self related to meditation (around 7:00). Around 7:45 he notes it has 2 aspects, the present-centered “I” and the narrative self which adds past and future. He relates it to Damasio’s ideas.

      The end of part 2 was on Damasio’s core self, the beginning of part 3 on his autobiographical self. The rest of the latter part discusses how we might differentiate them via meditative practice. Part 4 goes into some experiments with those who meditate and those who don’t, measuring the brain activity correlated with these 2 selves. Those who meditate have much more flexibility to distinguish and go between the core and narrator, whereas those who do not conflate them. Moreover at 4:55 the meditators have some command of voluntary (aka conscious) regulation of attention and emotion.

      Part 5 continues the discussion at the end of the previous section on large-scale brain dynamics, where conscious activity synchronizes the brain regions and produces high frequency gamma waves. He goes into a study of long-term practitioners doing compassion meditation, which displayed a lot of high amplitude gamma synchrony. And voluntarily produced. At 4:45 he goes into volition and emergence. At 6:00 he calls this volition interventionist causation.

      The beginning of part 6 concludes from a study that meditation is a strong top-down causative effect of self-generated attention on brain dynamics. This global activity emerges from the local brain activity and shapes and constrains it. This is no way denies that local brain activity can also cause effects, i.e, our zombies. But the zombies do not exhibit the kind of global synchrony as does volitional control, so we’re talking about the very real differences between conscious and nonconscious acts. Hence the conclusion already provided in the beginning.

  • 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 […]

    • Conservatives are trying to defuse the studies that show they are worse in this regard, so they were ecstatic at the recent Pew Research study which seems to indicate polarization is symmetric between the Parties. But looking at the details it is clear that antipathy to the other side, and inability to compromise, is decidedly more on the conservative side. This is most pronounced in Congress, where the right has polarized much further than the left. They refuse to compromise at all, block lawfully enacted legislation, hold the country hostage with government shut down threats, block the lawful appointment of judges and filibuster any and everything they disagree with. Granted both sides do this, but the facts are clear the conservatives are far, far worse.

      Asymmetrical Polarization Undermined? Thoughts on the New Pew Research Center’s Report on Political Polarization

    • Van Jones discusses in this video liberal hypocrisy and conservative close-mindedness. He starts by saying liberals are just as guilty of being in a media bubble as conservatives. Not true. See for example one of the above previous comments noting that liberals read or watch much broader media sources. Also not true that liberal media sources are as one-sided and biased as conservatives sources. To the contrary, liberals go to the extreme to be ‘fair’ to the point of false equivalency (see another comment above). I think Van Jones is doing exactly that with this commentary.

      It even borders on the false equivalency of real and fake news, as if the latter is just what conservatives ‘value’ so we have to take that into account. He’s right we have to open our heart to those conservatives who feel left out, but accepting their beliefs based on lies and fake news is not part of the solution. Liberals tend to fight for a better economic system that helps these very people. But they can also chew gum and walk at the same time by legitimately calling them on their racism and ignorant gullibility.

    • Is there a T.R.U.M.P. brain? Nov.-Dec. 2017 issue of Porto Biomedical Journal (2:6). The abstract:

      “Neuroscientists have begun to investigate whether different political attitudes are associated with specific mind-brain markers. In this article, we build on political neuroscience research to briefly illustrate the structure and function of a Threatening, Reactionary, Unforgiving, Machiavellian, and Partisan (T.R.U.M.P.) mindset. Additionally, we discussed, building on neuroscience and clinical evidence, how to counteract the T.R.U.M.P. mindset [with a G.H.A.N.D.I. mindset].”

      And yes, there is a healthy ‘bias’ toward the G.H.A.N.D.I. mindset in the context of the subtitle of the article: “Implications for mental health and world peace.” Yes, those liberal scientists are biased toward those goals as well. Unless one wants to argue that the T.R.U.M.P. mindset can equally achieve those goals?

  • 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 […]

  • Understanding how brains actively erase memories may open new understanding of memory loss and aging, and open the possibility of new treatments for neurodegenerative […]

  • 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 […]

  • 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 a […]

    • Well, for me the “real problem” of consciousness is pinning down the selection pressures that built various sorts and qualities of consciousness across taxa, especially and including humans. That project will really help us elucidate the functional design of consciousness.

      But, that said. I dislike it when somebody from one discipline claims that they have hit upon the “real” or the “hard” or in some way the “genuine” problem of consciousness. Understanding consciousness is going to require strong interdisciplinary work. Any disciplines, possibly including ones that are not strictly scientific (e.g., contemplative / introspective traditions aimed at seeing into mind more deeply than happens automatically, without special effort), are likely to have something substantial to contribute to our gaining a holistic and realistic understanding of consciousness.

      Moving forward with that work is going to require a lot of researchers and philosophers either dying or accepting great disillusionment. Papers like this one, offered by Edward, may be surprising to traditional psychologists and social scientists, but not to anybody with an evolutionary perspective on mind/brain.

      Of course the mind/brain is massively embodied, just as much as any organ. The unconscious (and relatively objective) information processing it performs, and the ever-shifting subjective conscious realities it creates based on that primary cognitive work, are designed to be fitness-enhancing. So the brain’s information processing must use (be affected by) all the evolutionarily/ecologically relevant information that is available from inside and outside the body. Of course, this includes all sorts of physiological information. Only in this way can the brain possibly do a decent job of regulating behavior and helping to regulate the activity of other organ systems so as to maintain and enhance opportunities for adding to an individual’s expected lifetime inclusive fitness.

      Papers like this one are going to continue coming out and hopefully will help humanity, before it is too late, to understand the depth, power, and transparency of the adaptively subjective dreamworld we all live in. Such understanding may motivate and inform our ability to not be completely overwhelmed and dominated by that dreamworld; this is our only hope of shifting our behavior toward more universal (less strategically contingent and genetically selfish) prosociality and biophilia — compassion. Best to all — PJW

  • 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 […]

  • Edward has posted some great thoughts and resources on embodied cognition (EC). I stumbled on some interesting information on a line of thinking within the EC literature. I find contextualist, […]

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