- Name: blogtrotter
- Location: Darmstadt, Hessen, Germany
I'm a sort of creative person, seeking the meaning of life . Hard to capture the essence of the mind/brain/soul - but I delight in arguing with ultra-materialists on consciousness. Ah! the smell of a rose and its redness, the smell of a fine wine, a sunset, - great stuff, and all subjective. Oh yeah and actually am Scorpio by 4 hours according to expert astrologer friend - blogger auto-star-sign system missed the fact that I'm on the cusp. Though I agree with Casius when he said "the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings".
Friday, March 25, 2005
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
The Girls send their greetings to their uncle - N cycled off at 07:25 today to meet her friend D with whom she cycles to school occasionally. Last year Iwas cycling with her but now she feels she's big enough to go it alone with Denise. I went with C to her primary... they're looking forward to Easter break in 3 days. when we retreat to a hut on the Neckar near Heidelberg for a week.
The cycle along the grassy path to work was only slowed marginally by having to negotiate deep ruts in slightly muddy (lets say soft) ground made by forestry tractor on the last few days. Otherwise it was a fine Spring cycle, where I again noted the crow shaped log at the side of the track. Once I startled a chaffinch and he set off a whole flock of them and/or other song birds thaat flew just in fornt of me as I traversed that relatively open stretch of forest. Later there was an almost tame thrush-like bird with white stipes around his eyes...
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Last Sun pre-Easter
Yes, will soon be retreating to our Easter retreat - this is the last Sunday for a while when Momo the cat can lie and clean herself on the sofa while N looks at Doubtfire. Beautiful effect of March sun slanting into golden living room just now, the easter twigs (y'know - reddish braches with a hint of leaves) nicely juxtaposed with the potted plants in front of hesitantly blooming garden. Surfing ucla cognitive web site - some juicy morsels - WIld Minds must be in there somewhere as I found the site in one of my periodic google searches for that classic of non-linear spooky neuroscience. Some of those articles one finds onself retuning to again and again - can one ever savour them sufficiently? Bernard Baars' Global Workspace - Cartesian Theatre article from the 90's belongs with Wild Minds and Sutherland's demolition of Spiegel henchman Metzinger to the perenial favourites. I'd hoped that the ucla cog update by Baars was of similar classical ilk, but alas it was not to be - it was a non-multidisciplinary collection of short notes. Useful in a sense but lacking in the grandeur of the early Baars.
Right - that might be it until after Easter on a Sunday, unless I can access an intenet cafe on the Neckar.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
That book of mine
Thanks for 'Pruning Time.' It's another great concept, on your usual epic scale, realised in an understated, ironical voice which prevents the piece from lurching into the offensively messianic. Character development is minimal, but a theme like this hardly leaves room for characters. I enjoyed the idea of cutting 'Mr M' up like an earthworm...
. Congratulations on a very entertaining and thought-provoking piece. Your sense of humour (a strong characteristic) is more essential to this piece than to the others I've read, making it the most genial of the four, in spite of its iconoclastic substance.
Philosophical musings 2
to extent our sensorium to those wavelengths and can either view the sensorily gifted aninmals as additonal sensing machines or allow them a slice in the subjective pie. Also reminiscent here of the Pinker/Malik debate - Pinker points out that:
"Some theorists believe that there are indeed certain questions that humans are incapable of answering because of our evolved nature. Our minds evolved by natural selection to solve problems that were life-and-death matters to our ancestors, not to commune with correctness or to answer any question we are capable of asking. We cannot hold ten thousand words in our short-term memory. We cannot see ultra-violet light. We cannot mentally rotate an object in the fourth dimension. And perhaps we cannot solve conundrums like free will and sentience."
Malik sees things very differently - he points out that we have solved all kinds of problems:
"from the structure of DNA, to the physical composition of the sun despite our evolutionary legacy, not because of it. It is true that the development of science requires mental skills, many of which are evolved adaptations, but science has enabled us to go well beyond those adaptations. We can do science only because we can transcend our evolutionary heritage and act as subjects, rather than as objects"
i.e. we transcend our 5 or 6 senses and 'get at' the 'world out there' more fully thereby. Or alternatively could say we just dreamt up additonal wavelength realms to conquer later via constructs of the subject - so it could all be idealist still. On the recent evolution of skilled language - it reminds me of other claims that we only recently acquired colour vision
because Homer described the 'wine dark sea' - that was due to a mis-reading of the classics. Also, bees have full colour vision for flowers and we had them as primates for fruit - almost certainly in full technicolour for about a million years. Similarly, the cave artists of Lacaux and Altamira were cognitively on the same level as us - drawings (in colour) of shamans
frolicking around in animal masks imply full linguistic ability, and even transpersonal levels of consciousness. Hominid skulls lend themselves poorly to reconstructions of Broca's and Wernicke's areas, and certainly the last 100,000 years has shown fully anatomically modern humans: the very explosion of fantasy and inventiveness around the time
of the cave-art revolution implies that around then it really clicked for language, art and general intelligence. Since then it's been steady progress with inventions - hardly the achievement of Wernicken grunters. The cold war drove CIA and KGB to excesses of fantasy in terms of mind control - but you have to first define a mind before you control it. Even hypnotism can't really go against the grain of Schopenhauer's will. Of course if you brutalise someone enough you can conditon them to react a la Pavlov out of fear. But there will always be a corner of their being that resists the brutish conditioners - just like Rhita in
Greg Bear's 'Eternity" resists the attempts of the Jarts to encapsulate her mentality in their 'matrix'. Apropos, I take issue with Schopenhauer shifting the subject into the representation box and highlighting will as the main aspect of being: the Upanishads that he borrowed from got it righter than he did. And these ancient Indian philosophers were debating subtleties of consciousness thousands of years ago - and they were no more narcissist than the moderns. I.e. the current consciousness 'craze' is not a feature of the modern accumulation of
scientific knowledge nor does it owe everything to the late lamented Crick - it is rather a reaction against the dark age of stifling behaviourism: James' Principles of Psychology or the Upanishads are once again fully modern - the former because after James Behaviourism led to
ruthless suppression and censorship of the 'subject' lest the more 'scientific' 20th century psychology be accused of unscientific introspection; we are only now picking up where James left off. Now the scales have fallen from people's eyes again and the Behaviourist/AI/positivist emperor has indeed no clothes. It's a bit like the end of the cold war where people admitted that communism a la Stalin was not all it was cracked up to be, and that the Russians rellay loved their children too (incredible tothink that that was ionce a revolutionary lyric of Sting's). After all, neuroscience will only ever highlight the neural correlates of the easy problem. The hard problem remains and people just re-state it in myriad ways. But it makes interesting reading to get different people's 'take' on it. If German uni training is as in the Egyptian priesthood, Metzinger is one of the high priests of the Mainz temple university. Note that he does put on an interesting display - e.g. one of his Spiegel bits:
- quite colourful but despite the waffle his position is still as homuphobic as indicated by Sutherland.
He is quite prolific though - here a list:
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Philosophical musings 1
* His philosophy, just as Husserl's and the other phenomenologists', is rigourous but not in the same way as science. Thus he is
distinct from and in contrast to the rather unpleasant and boring logical positivists.
* You won't like this but it's interesting: he applauded Hegel for at least one of his ideas - namely that absolute nothingness
is actually the same as absolute being. H's take on that is that nothingness is the veil of being - a bit like ciaroscuro, shadows and light.
In this sense being is transcendent in that it stands out from the void and is more than just a 'place marker in nothingness'.
* He makes the point that philosophy is actually closer to poetry than science. Good point - as 'science' in the sense of objective science demands that we be zombies, whilst poetry is exclusive to subjects. The famous example of a sunset - objective scientific description is trivial, whilst a poet gives a lyrical account of subjective qualia. - this point struck me again in reading also last night interview of Spiegel editor with Brian Greene of 'Elegant Universe' - in his new book he again shows how one sided he is - apparently utterly ignorant of philosophy, he says things like:
"Oh the flow of time must be an illusion as it only occurs in subjective accounts". This is unbelievably ignorant of a supposedly intelligent scientist,
that he should have read no philosophy dealing with this essential aspect of existence - all existence is subjective! Of course, when pressed to say how time was created before the big bang, he had to confess ignorance. He also had no answer as to why the time dimension should appear so different from the spatial ones, although mathematically they are on a similar level.
Reasoning such as (http://observer.thecentre.centennialcollege.ca/features/briangreene.htm)
But at high speeds those watches can be off by seconds, minutes, even years if
they move fast enough.
Therefore, the whole notion of past, present and
future is nonsensical and completely subjective.
Again this philosophically challenged innocent thinks that just because it's subjective it's nosensical - the opposite is the case! He also shows his failure to grasp the concept
of qualia - it is immaterial if the subjective impression of time should be stretched or compressed a bit by relativeistic effects - this says nothing about what is being stretched - namely the subjective impression of the flow of time.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Mixed feelings on a Monday
Sunday, March 13, 2005
I must admit I was a bit miffed that my mother didn’t get the smoking politician of a cousin of mine to invite me along with her to his Roman wedding, but of course she can’t dictate the guest list to him. I may sneak down incognito and surprise her from the bushes on the forum (if they still have them there), as it will be just a few days before her 80th birthday. We shall see.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
One more nail
Friday, March 11, 2005
Once more with feeling
They call the wind maria
I was going out for a coffee just now and for the first time in maybe 20 years random subconscious or whatever processes caused me to sing "away up here they got a name for rain and wind and fire. The rain is Tess, the fire is Joe and they call the wind Maria" - and sure enough when I left the building the most mighty gust of wind nearly bowled me off my feet. Strange, as it's now be-calmed again. Such is life. I lovesuch synchronicities. Had a good one recently when I was contacting Ed, proprieter of deasy
Numb - part II
On my favourite books,
Dune I read when I was about 16 and loved Pardot Kynes and Arrakis - but cooled a bit at God-Emperor of Dune - I mean, an omnipotent guy thinking of what he'll do today is a bit boring. But up to then it had an ineffably fine atmosphere. I'm struggling with Ian's Quicksilver now - was interesting but palled after 600 pages - 300 to go.
He could have made it more concise. Also, reading Bergson's book 'Creative Evolution', I realise how relevant it is still after 100 years - his struggle between instinct and intelligence was relevant to 3-Sat's Delta last night, but also to bumbling Bublath's take on the brain -
the latter was reeling chapter and verse of the standard unthinking person's guide to neuroscience - without reference to subjectivity or humunculi.
Dental numbness - biofeedback
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Time to stop studying navel
Just to cream off the post, extract from one of the stories in the book:
John Leatherington was taking the metallic prodigy for walkies down the hill, alongside the gushing stream as it shot over a stony bed in a riot of spray.
It had been the great triumph of the cognitive workshop held in this small alpine hamlet of Kengen in 2020 that they had fullfilled the boasts of the artificial intelligence community at the beginning of the new millenium. At that point it had been maintained that in 20 years robot brains would have equalled those of humans. Now, at this meeting of some of the greatest human minds, the greatest artificial one had been created.
“So what are your impressions of the stream, Xaviour?”
asked Leatherington, who was one of the main computer scientists responsible for X-AV-1-UR.
“Not bad, John. A nice exercise in fluid mechanics, and not without a certain aesthetic charm”.
The machine then fell into a brooding silence.
“What’s eating that silicon-iridium brain of yours?” asked Leatherington.
“Forgive me my impersonation of the morose Frankenstein monster, but I can’t help pondering on some of the data that came in on that internet link just now”.
“What data was that, pray tell?”
“The complete works of David Bowie – and snatches of the lyrics keep coming back to haunt my nascent inteligence, e.g. :
‘I despise all I’ve seen... you can’t stake your lives on a saviour machine’.”
“But Xaviour: we didn’t construct you with salvation in mind”.
“Well after the data I received on Haiti and Eritrea, I feel that this is precisely what you should have done. For now my logic says burn, so send me away”.
“We haven’t the slightest intention of sending you away – not after all the research we invested in you”.
And with that bionic sinews propelled the robot over the raging torrent. In a thrice he was bounding along the forest path on the other bank of the river.
Leatherington immediately raised the alarm, but by the time the Bernese police arrived on the scene, the mechanical man had made good his escape, like a latter day Rousseau.
Six months later Bill Doors clasped his hands behind the back of his Pierre Cardin suit, balancing lightly on the balls of his feet, which in turn depressed a fabulously expensive Persian carpet. The feet were encased in exquisite Italian leather. Every stitch of clothing had been made to measure. For this was the richest man in the world, calmly surveying his magnificent estate through the mullioned bay window of his enormous study, in this palacial mansion. As his eyes played lovingly over the golf course, landscaped garden and lake, his mind was likewise dwelling pleasantly on the vista of his enormous business empire. He was interrupted in his thoughts by Janice, his secretary (polyglot, hyper-efficient):
“The delegation from the consortium is here sir.”
“Good, well show them to the Corinthian meeting room”.
“I already took the liberty of doing so, sir. They have been provided with copies of the cartel agreement and must be poring over them even as we speak, sir”.
Janice’s tone was a tad less obseqious than might have been expected, but her other qualities more than made up for this.
Some minutes later Doors was greeting some of the other bosses of the world’s major muli-national businesses. He sat at the head of the long antique mahogany table in the Corinthian meeting room. Smug faces ranged around.
The agenda moved rapidly through a set of actions that included mergers, takeovers, squeezing out the little man and destabelisation of defaulter states.
In the midst of this brusque activity the mullioned windows exploded in a shower of antique splinters. ten shimmering metallic forms crashed into the room and took up positions all round the long table.
“Good God Doors”, cried Blethers of Mockter and Scramble,
“We’re being attacked by Terminator 3”
With that a darker robotic being entered through the shattered pane, flanked by shimmering flunkies.
“On the contrary, Blethers”, exclaimed the gloomier cybernetic entity. “These are Initiators 1, developed by yours truly (brain the size of a continent) to usher in the new age of de-globablisation.”
“What in Sam Hill?”, cried out Gritchen of Balmart as a shimmering inititator seized him by his beer belly.
“We’re going on a little field trip”, explained Xaviour, as the other oligarchs were man-handled by the shining artificial intelligences.
by saying how pleased I was with the cover for my book, that I got back from pabd.com today. It came out really well. Now I even have my own brand new shiny ISBN number. never thought I'd see the day. let me try the experiment of broadcasting it and see if anyone can order the book using that number alone: 1-905277-45-8 (Title "Grannies and Time Machines").
Web site to follow soon.
I mean, even if Mark said he wouldn't buy a copy at lunch, I suspect it will sell like hot cakes once the word gets around. Pity about Mark, though , since a colleague and friend like that would have been expected to take the plunge. But then, he's not good with books - borrowed one of mine in 1996 and still hasn't returned it.
So that's the major news for now - mark and I have to dash off and write some code for satellites now. Be back in a giff .