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jimmy m
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30 Nov 2020, 7:31 am

I read the following article on consciousness - Science as We Know It Can’t Explain Consciousness – but a Revolution Is Coming The article began with:

Explaining how something as complex as consciousness can emerge from a grey, jelly-like lump of tissue in the head is arguably the greatest scientific challenge of our time. The brain is an extraordinarily complex organ, consisting of almost 100 billion cells – known as neurons – each connected to 10,000 others, yielding some ten trillion nerve connections.

We have made a great deal of progress in understanding brain activity, and how it contributes to human behaviour. But what no one has so far managed to explain is how all of this results in feelings, emotions and experiences. How does the passing around of electrical and chemical signals between neurons result in a feeling of pain or an experience of red?

There is growing suspicion that conventional scientific methods will never be able answer these questions.


The rest of the article focused on Panpsychism - an ancient view that consciousness is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of the physical world. Physical science describes matter “from the outside”, in terms of its behaviour, but matter “from the inside” is constituted of forms of consciousness.

Not sure I follow but anyways I thought that I would define "consciousness" from my sensing perspective:

To begin with we have two independent conscious brains. One we are vary familiar with. But the other is most often hidden. This second brain normally only comes out when we sleep. It is our REM brain. Science points to:

REM sleep stimulates regions of the brain that are used for learning. Studies have shown that when people are deprived of REM sleep, they are not able to remember what they were taught before going to sleep. Sleep aids the process by which creativity forms associative elements into new combinations that are useful or meet some requirement. High levels of acetylcholine in the hippocampus suppress feedback from hippocampus to the neocortex, while lower levels of acetylcholine and norepinephrine in the neocortex encourage the uncontrolled spread of associational activity within neocortical areas. This is in contrast to waking consciousness, where higher levels of norepinephrine and acetylcholine inhibit recurrent connections in the neocortex. REM sleep through this process adds creativity by allowing "neocortical structures to reorganize associative hierarchies, in which information from the hippocampus would be reinterpreted in relation to previous semantic representations or nodes." In other words, REM sleep aids in the reconfiguration of stored memories. This is probably why around 25% of the adult sleep cycle is REM while around 40% of an infants sleep cycle is REM.

In a sense, the REM brain moves short term daily memories into long term storage. IMHO, it is a highly efficient at this task and moves information at what seems like the speed of light. It operates at a much faster clock speed than our daily conscious brain. In the process of moving data, it also samples the data. All our sense data (sight, hearing, taste, smells etc.) are sampled to determine optimal storage.

So that brings me to a discussion on sleep walking. During sleep walking the REM brain takes the human body on a joy ride. The REM brain because it samples sense data has learned many of the tools of our conscious brain. And it wonders what it is like to experience what it is like to control the human body. So in the middle of the night individuals will sometimes sleep walk.

But sleep walking may be an understatement. When I was young and driving cross country, I fell asleep at the wheel. I woke up two hours later and over a hundred miles down the road. I had fallen asleep and my REM brain had jumped in and took control. When it became confused, it woke me up and I was startled awake very suddenly.

But sometimes these two conscious brains can coexist at the same time. And this can be a rare and unique gift. This REM brain is a very analytical brain which operates at a very high clock speed.


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techstepgenr8tion
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30 Nov 2020, 8:21 am

I think the challenge here is separating concepts.

What you're talking about is looking at the deeper, more autonomic structures of consciousness that we often take for granted and in extreme cases - whether it's you sleep-driving a few hundred miles or times when I survived ordeals in my life that I wouldn't have thought possible - we come to find that there's a lot more durability and capacity than we might have otherwise thought.

I'd add - part of why a lot of people like psychedelics as much as they do is that they do open that portal between your normal waking consciousness and that part of your brain. What you discover with psychedelics is that there's a lot of 'padding' that your waking consciousness has, the best way I can describe that is you generally don't feel the emptiness of outer space in your perceptions or see gradients where human-like consciousness breaks down to almost insect-like levels of complexity, but with the doors open you can see some of that. For the 'spooky', 'groovy', or 'hippy' side if it you may also see connections in information of such strange sorts and see ways in which these stack and contribute to more solid dynamics in your internal life, you may easily end up wondering if such processes are contributing to the laws of physics.

Panpsychism, as I posted an interview between Michael Shermer and Philip Goff a couple days ago, is more simply the idea that consciousness is an interior experience of matter and that the two are inseparable. Sam Harris's wife Annaka has been following this trail of inquiry for a while and she wrote a short book called 'Conscious' that seems to work well as a sort of TL:DR on the field by giving an answer as to 'Why look at this?'. She also had a hand in getting Donald Hoffman on Making Sense for a three hour interview between her, Donald, and Sam.

Panpsychism in the sense most people mean it tends to be a bit atomistic. For the big question everyone likes to ask 'What happens when we die?' this form of panpsychism would suggest, rather than that you'll experience nothing when you die, that you'll experience next-to nothing, that having a brain and all of the recursive touch points where consciousness can feed back on itself and amplify signals means that you get a very vivid experience that the individual pieces and parts won't have on their own. The idea would be that a fundamental particle would be like a one bit agent that could experience two things - on and off, 0 or 1, red or green, whatever dipole its dealing with. I personally don't think it's a bad form of inquiry, perhaps it is the next step we can take in studying consciousness and forming hypotheses for doing that because it's as reductive as it is, but I do doubt that it's the final answer, and I think Dr. Susan Schneider in her Big Think actually does a good job of explaining one of the bigger problems with it fundamental particles still aren't 'fundamental' or separate, they're ripples in fields, and you have what we're finding that space time is not fundamental, the Plank limit is one indication of that and you also have Nima Arkani-Hamed's geometries he calls amplitouhedrons which suggest underlying support structure.

I think functionalism with multiple realizabilty is a big part of what bridges the combination problem, ie. that conscious agents can bridge to have both combined experiences and isolated ones at the same time and the two generally won't communicate in a contiguous manner, this is a bit like how so many processes in our brains are a mystery until we either end up in a hypnagogic state going to sleep where you realize 'Wait.... I was at the top of a red canyon that looked like Big Bend, and I was overjoyed to have filled up a circular crag on the edge of it with guacamole and taking a bath in that....ok.....' or taking a psychedelic where you get less of the hypnagogic loopiness and more of an encounter with the lower-level, I'll just call them 'daemons', that run the assembly code that's below the level of your everyday experience.

Another really important reason for us to be looking at this - we still have this ugly holdover from the middle ages called the 'supernatural'. It's a slush fund of miscategorized things and the topic tends to be a place where people either go for entertainment, escapism, or to relieve themselves in some manner. It's also a category that has a lot of our screw-ups in terms of misunderstanding our own minds and how they function, part of that seems to be the still clinging puritan idea that the mind is the devil's playground and that you should be strictly extroverted rather than examining it yourself. I'd really love to see that word vanish in my life time in the same way that I don't hear people say 'miasma'. This is an area where I'm really glad that Michael Shermer has had a particular insight and is more than happy to share it with whoever he can, ie. that whatever we discover to be 'real' simply becomes part of the natural because the two essentially mean the same thing these days.


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techstepgenr8tion
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30 Nov 2020, 8:47 am

Another useful thing to chew on - abiogenesis, or the first cells on earth. I think panpsychism actually might dovetail well with the RNA world hypothesis if we find that consciousness in matter as such could yield any catalyzing effect over and above what we're strictly used to with organic chemistry and the philias / phobias that you have with electron bonds. I find it particularly interesting because RNA seems to be about where things started behaving 'as if' they had intention.


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