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IEET > Life > Access > Enablement > Vision > Philosophy > Futurism > Staff > Kris Notaro

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The Posthuman Mind pt5


Kris Notaro
By Kris Notaro
Ethical Technology

Posted: Apr 11, 2013

As I was reading over the comments of Dick Pelletier's recent article, he suggested that “although our brain and body will be considered non-biological, our consciousness will forever preserve our definition as a human being.” I have to agree with him here, which leads me to the concept of “mindspace” and a LessWrong article written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in 2008 suggesting it is impossible to understand what mind will be like.

“Mindspace” is simply another name for the possibilities of phenomenal consciousness. Gold is gold, iron is iron, and a proton is a proton. Do we live in this infinite possible world of “mindspace”? In some regards yes, if you look into philosophical existentialism, but that is really about choice making, a choice, in the absence of a God one has to make as they have to deal with Sartre's “existence precedes essence” and “Bad Faith” concepts. However even those concepts do not truly lead to infinite possibilities.

I have to admit, I believe the above image, by Yudkowsky, is rubbish, and here is why: One has to understand three very important aspects of science and philosophy, one being evolution, two being homeostasis, and three, phenomenology. 99% of all species have become extinct, and I hypothesize that a large number of those species did not have homeostasis of the brain/mind.

Imagine a brain which is connected to an overall decent body, with a certain brain region a bit off from it's ancestors, and then imagine a brain/mind that acts if it it were drunk, or on drugs throughout it's lifetime. “Mindspace” allows for this, but the being in which has a non-homeostatic brain also probably has a non-homeostatic consciousness.

If you were to put such a being in the proper environment and took care of it, it might be able to reproduce, however that is not how nature has worked before humans. Those beings would simply stumble around any environment where it is not taken care of by a more intelligent being and simply die off, hence natural selection.

It took millions of years and millions of dead species to create what we have today via Darwinian evolution. In response to Yudkowsky, doesn't it seem fair to say that even an AI which is more intelligent than us would have to have some kind of homeostasis, that is, in this context, a homeostatic-mind?

People have reported that under LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs that they can taste colors, smell sounds, etc. If one were to “see” sounds, but under a homeostatic condition then I would grant the AI or posthuman as experiencing vibrations in the atmosphere (or water) etc, as legit evidence that consciousness can be aware of many different kinds of possible states of experience. Like that of the bat which uses sonar, or an artist which has utilized their synesthesia, the posthuman and AI would be able to exist without help.

This is where biology of the healthy brain meets phenomenology and can give us some answers as to the nature of “mindspace”. When one does phenomenological reduction, explained in length by philosopher Edmund Husserl, one reaches a state of consciousness which is absent of all theories, feelings, and information as one can get.

When you reverse phenomenological reduction and come back to the world in which you live, you then reach the state again of being conscious of theories, feelings, and information. However, like the Buddhist one must be trained or read in order to reach such a state. Therefore, while Husserl and Buddhists may be on to something, it takes first a homeostatic-mind to learn how to do phenomenological-reduction.

In conclusion, “mindspace” as we think of it today, is vastly misunderstood and perhaps a leap of faith that AI or the posthuman can indeed experience infinite or very very vast unimaginable phenomenal states. The autonomous AI or posthuman, in my opinion, will be very much like us when it comes to a homeostatic-mind, something we already know about and experience everyday. Evolution, phenomenology, and homeostasis are the building blocks of a calm, collected, and balanced brain/mind, whether it be a human, posthuman, or an AI.


Kris Notaro, a former IEET intern, now the IEET's Managing Director, earned his BS in Philosophy from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. He is currently the Bertrand Russell Society’s Vice-President for Website Technology. He has worked with the Bertrand Russell A/V Project at Central Connecticut State University, producing multimedia materials related to philosophy and ethics for classroom use. His major passions are in the technological advances in the areas of neuroscience, consciousness, brain, and mind.
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COMMENTS


This homeostasis you mention provides consistency for “Self”, yet this Self is still yet illusion? This phenomenology applied to formal consciousness, (Self-reflexivity), does not include the deep sub-conscious that “we(?)” are not aware of and cannot be aware of presently, (limitations of processing bandwidth in lame brains)?

Rationality cannot prescribe to explain all things alone, hence the critique of pure reason - and reductionism, whilst soundly applying logic, does not provide any answer for this homeostasis and static presence you hint at?

You cannot simply desist of Self, yet maybe absorb your Self to the point where homeostasis dissolves? You still have to return from this state however, else YOU would be no more? Nibbana/Emptiness - Being and Emptiness?

So what is “it”?

The evolution of mind, the mind’s eye, and Self reflexivity, may perhaps or even most likely have been required to evolve to make sense of the endless torrent of sensory input, flashing colours, sounds and feelings bombarding the brain - this executive “witness” evolving as necessity to avoid pandemonium?

What will Markham’s Blue Brain look like? - awash with sensory input without order, and in complete chaos - who knows? Some “thing” may perhaps appear, although I think that somewhat unlikely? Leave it festering for a few hundred years and order may perhaps evolve from chaos - seems the Universe and Cosmos has evolved in exactly this way?

As a footnote - I wouldn’t mind experiencing this chaos of mind and loss of homeostasis, where no rationality nor “thinking” is permitted or required - a total loss of Self sounds like an entertaining way to pass eternity?

Have you ever been so weary that you wanted to switch of your brain, or rather your mind if only for a few moments? I have!





Totally did not understand the reasoning in this article:

1. “99% of all species have become extinct, and I hypothesize that a large number of those species did not have homeostasis of the brain/mind”
Why would you assume that? What is your reasoning? What evidence can you adduce from evolutionary biology to support it? Just because a species has gone extinct does not mean there was something “wrong” with it in that sense - it could well have been a perfectly well-functioning, homeostatic entity, but simply have not been the optimal model for the environment which it occupied, and so was out-bred by more efficient models, and hence went extinct.

2. “In response to Yudkowsky, doesn’t it seem fair to say that even an AI which is more intelligent than us would have to have some kind of homeostasis, that is, in this context, a homeostatic-mind?”
Ummm, no? Not least because an AI isn’t bound by the normal “survival” aspect of natural selection. There’s no ecosystem in which it lives (unless it’s connected to an internet with other AIs trying to kill it, in which natural selection starts to apply again), it has no “predators” (same as previous), and moreover, it doesn’t have to reproduce in the usual manner - it can be as “drunk” or “stoned” or “non-homeostatic” as it liked, and all it needs is a simple module for spreading its code around the internet in order to reproduce.
And all of this is assuming you even care about whether the thing reproduces at all! If you just want it as a stand-alone entity, you can make it as dysfunctional and incompetent as you like, and it’ll still exist in the “mindspace” - even a mind with an ultimately self-destructive impulse will exist in the mind-space for a little while (i.e. from when it’s switched on until it destroys itself).

Those are the only solid concepts I can really grasp from this article. From LSD onwards it just sounded like out-and-out gibberish to me… I’m actually rather surprised you didn’t end up agreeing with Yudkowsky in the end, I thought his article on the potential capacities of posthuman minds was really quite salient, and kind of assumed that was what you were building up to throughout the series.

I loved your previous parts in this series (especially the critical thinking ones, although I thought the panpsychism one was a bit dubious), but this article just sounds like hogwash. What happened?





And then there’s this..

Nanowire-memristor networks emulate
brain functions

“Boland has discovered that exposing a
random network of nanowires to stimuli like
electricity, light and chemicals generates a
chemical reaction at the junctions of the
nanowires, corresponding to synapses in
the brain. By controlling the stimuli, it is
possible to harness these reactions to
manipulate the connectivity within the
network. This could eventually allow
computations that mimic the functions of
neurons — particularly the development of
associative memory functions.”

www.kurzweilai.net/nanowire-memristor-networks-emulate-brain-functions





@PolypMonster,

Concerning #1: I said “a large number of those species did not have homeostasis of the brain/mind” I did not say all, of course I understand how evolutionary biology works – but anthropologists and biologists are still researching the evolutionary aspects of the brain – therefore, there is no definitive percentage of species that have gone extinct simply because they had a deformed brain, and we may never know exactly what that percentage may be.

#2: So you agree that the words “dysfunctional and incompetent” are different than “homeostatic and balanced”?

Thank you for reading the past articles on the nature of the posthuman mind and enjoying them! I am always grateful for critical responses.

I think what this article is implying in the end is that “dysfunctional and incompetent” minds can exist but they are probably not as complicated as we may think, nor are the possibilities of let’s say qualia/feelings/experiences infinite in nature.

Remember, we are dealing here with philosophy of mind and evolutionary science to try to understand some aspects of mind, the self, and the possibilities of “mindspace”. If the mind does not have a homeostatic “self” to experience itself, than what is that mind and how will it function?





@CygnusX1

If the self is an illusion what kind of illusion is it? Must just be the symphony of the brain working as it is supposed to? There is no center point of consciousness, or the self?

I like you statement “Leave it festering for a few hundred years and order may perhaps evolve from chaos - seems the Universe and Cosmos has evolved in exactly this way?” it strikes me as you really know what your talking about when it comes to theory of mind, and also you explained how a simulation/emulation might not be homeostatic.

Will a simulation/emulation be able to produce consciousness? I have no clue, nor do the scientists working on it! Fascinating times we are living in!





@ Kris..

Thanks for your kind words, I am no expert at all, and mine is rather a “philosophy of mind”, as opposed to any theory of mind - I’ll leave that for the experts and scientists.

“If the self is an illusion what kind of illusion is it? Must just be the symphony of the brain working as it is supposed to? There is no center point of consciousness, or the self?”

Totally agree, all is as it should be! The Self may be illusion, yet the illusion is no less “real” for us?





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