[ExI] Why stop at glutamate?

Giovanni Santostasi gsantostasi at gmail.com
Mon Apr 10 00:06:09 UTC 2023

Ok, one last point. To me people that think redness is something physical
seem not to know much about neuroscience. But also relatively simple stuff
that is well known by most educated people. In particular that we know that
you need to learn to see. There are many cases where people that had some
vision impairment of different levels and had some surgical intervention to
restore vision partially or fully they at first didn't see well at all.
Even if able to see certain shapes or colors (need to check on this one)
they could not recognize them because the brain didn't know how to
interpret these sensations.
There are strong individual differences in color perception and even
between men and women.
If it was all about a particular chemical activated all the above would not

Women and men have different color perception

Color perception is an exception. Women and men generally perceive colors
differently. Women experience the world in warmer colors, for example, and
can usually distinguish different shades of red better than men. Men, on
the other hand, are better able to perceive poor contrast and rapid
movement. It is assumed that this has an evolutionary background: in
primeval times women had to be able to see red berries on a green bush, for
example, and men had to hunt wild animals. Testosterone also plays a
certain role as it promotes the formation of nerve connections and cells in
the visual center of an unborn child's brain. Within each gender, however,
the variation is caused by defective color vision and color blindness: if
someone is color-blind
they cannot perceive any colors whatsoever, while defective color vision
involves a shift in the color spectrum – all colors can be perceived, but
in different shades and nuances. This is typically a "man's problem": 8 to
9% of the male population suffer from a red-green deficiency, considerably
more than women (only 0.5 to 0.8%).

On Sun, Apr 9, 2023 at 4:38 PM Giovanni Santostasi <gsantostasi at gmail.com>

> One more related point. How the brain came to associate red with redness
> (using Brent's somehow useful vocabulary on this subject)? Well, it was an
> evolutionary process, of course. You know the story. It goes something like
> this. We started with an animal that lived on trees that didn't know how to
> distinguish blue from red. He had a good vision system but it could only
> see in shades of grey (different levels of intensity of light). At a point
> of its evolution, it was discovered that these nice ripe fruits were very
> good and nutritious. But once in a while, it will get some fruits that were
> not very good in taste and they didn't seem to make him feel good and
> satiated. Some of the individual animals, because of random genetic
> variations, had an ability to distinguish the good ripe fruits from the
> nonripe ones by using a slight difference in reflectivity of the two types
> of fruit, basically distinguishing a type of shade of grey from another. It
> happened that the ripe fruits were what we call now red and the nonripe
> ones were green. Initially, the red experts individuals were not so great
> in distinguishing red from green but the slight advantage made them be
> stronger and more fertile so they made a lot of babies that were slightly
> better than others in recognizing the red color and as time passed by they
> become better and better and also they started to differentiate between
> different types of red, separating things that were not red in different
> ranges of non redness and so creating our sensitivity to the spectrum of
> light.
> Ok, then what happened in our brain to consolidate this ability to
> distinguish colors? Well, not just the brain but the entire physiology
> including the eyes, the optical nerve, and so on. Somehow nature exploited
> some particular chemical reaction that was slightly more sensitive to a
> type of color vs another one. This is how the cones work. Nature needed to
> find something that could make the discrimination. Again, this is done
> through random process and selection which is this crazy thing we call
> evolution.
> No matter how well explained is this process (and we have detailed
> examples in different animal models like a fruit fly that we can track over
> several generations) in terms of particular chemical processes involved,
> genes involved and so on, it is still incredible to comprehend. In
> particular, I always found it weird how a very small advantage that doesn't
> seem to change much in terms of selection (at first) can be selected vs not
> having that trait. But, again it seems to work in particular if you give
> enough time, like thousands or millions of years for long-living animals
> like us (much shorter for fruit flies).
> But before Brent jumps up and say "I told you that redness is in a
> particular physical thing like a chemical in our brain", let me say that
> physiology could have come up with other things to make redness in our
> brain. This particular chemical that activates when exposed to the presence
> of light is a particular protein called  photopsins
> <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photopsin> (check that out on Wiki) and
> they react in a certain way when exposed to the light of a given frequency.
> But there is no reason another protein could have been created to do the
> same job or some other type of compound or process. I don't know we can
> imagine that evolutioin could have created little pockets of fat with
> magnetite that oscillates at different speeds according to the EM that is
> exposed to and somehow these vibrations in the fat change the temperature
> of it and then that becomes an electrical signal that the brain associate
> with the detection of red. It doesn't matter.
> In the end what matter is that this electrical signal that has a
> particular signature (a given sequence of firing patterns in the neuron
> that works as a transducer and transforms the non-electrical event
> associated with the presence of red to an electrical impulse) is then
> recognized at a higher level in the brain with the presence of red in the
> external environment. It starts relatively simple but it goes through many
> layers of identification and processing (simply because there is noise in
> the signal, different light conditions, and many other factors that could
> create false detection). Also somehow the brain needs to tell itself, "I
> see red" which is a higher type of activation in the cortex and it is
> pretty removed from the initial process of translating EM wave to an
> electrical impulse. The redness really is in this final activation pattern.
> Why this particular activation pattern vs another? Well, I think this is
> also pretty random (up to a point). We don't know all the details of brain
> architecture. We know many things like the fact the brain tends to create
> certain regions that are associated with certain activities or
> capabilities. There are regions for processing visual or auditory
> information, regions dedicated to language processing and so on. It
> probably makes sense that neurons that were activated at the same time
> started to be selected for particular tasks. I wish I understood how all
> this works (I don't know if anybody knows in all the glorious details) but
> the general idea is pretty well understood. We call this neural plasticity.
> The brain continuously creates new connections between neurons, it
> re-organizes itself and so on. It does have a general plan that is encoded
> in the genes but also it improvises as particular things happen in a
> particular individual. For example, while there are certain regions of the
> brain dedicated to processing information for a particular finger, if you
> are a musician and use your hands a lot, and in particular use a given
> finger more than others then with time the brain region of that particular
> finger takes over other regions that are not used much. I'm pretty sure
> this would happen if I train myself in distinguishing different types of
> red. I could train myself in separating many types of red to the point I
> can give names to 50 types of red that for another person is all kind the
> same red. This can be done to the point where I would not even understand
> why somebody calls this rossastro red (rossastro is some invented word for
> this shade of red that to me is so different from other reds to deserve its
> own name).
> So nothing to do with a particular physical thing (at the level of a
> neurotransmitter) but a particular activation pattern that with training
> and learning can be changed. In fact, I could even teach myself to
> associate a particular type of red with a number or a musical tone so that
> when I see that particular type of red an image of a 3 comes to mind or
> vice-versa. This is the well-known phenomenon of synesthesia. That again is
> a very strong counterexample to what Brents claims redness is all about.
> It is all in the patterns.
> Giovanni
> On Sun, Apr 9, 2023 at 3:49 PM Giovanni Santostasi <gsantostasi at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> Let me elaborate on a point. When I say the pattern matters it doesn't
>> mean that a particular pattern matters. This is very relevant to dismantle
>> Brent's position. I can use any pattern I want to represent red. In fact,
>> let me expand on my previous statement: what matters is the pattern AND the
>> association with a given visual stimuli (in the case of red) or a given
>> thought or memory or whatever. If I associate this pattern with seeing red
>> (probably a given number of times) then that is red in my brain. Given we
>> have similar makeup and there is a lot of software we inherit from our
>> progenitors the association process (basically we come with a lot of NN
>> weights that are pre-trained) is somehow pre-programmed up to a point. As
>> we experience red in early childhood, and throughout life, we create a
>> different perception of red that can be refined or sometimes degraded. It
>> is not a fixed forever thing in the brain but it is always changing and
>> modifying. This again destroys completely Brent's misconception about what
>> redness is.
>> What about redness in a machine then?
>> If I can teach a machine to associate a certain given range of light
>> frequencies (what humans call red) with a given pattern of activations
>> (weights in a trained NN) then that experience of redness is as valid and
>> real as mine. No difference.
>> Well, with the caveat that the machine needs to have a way to "recognize"
>> it is seeing red (some kind of feedback loop that alerts the system of its
>> own states).
>> This is it. We solved the mystery of redness.
>> Giovanni
>> On Sun, Apr 9, 2023 at 3:32 PM Giovanni Santostasi <gsantostasi at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> So maybe we can read a bunch of papers and come back. Let's try to
>>> understand what is difference between direct perception and memory. This
>>> should clarify a lot of the stuff we are talking about. I'm not an expert
>>> in this field so I need to catch up.
>>> But, after a few seconds of research online, lol, an interesting paper.
>>> It seems they are claiming that perception is actually affected by
>>> language, early experiences in childhood and many other stuff that you will
>>> not think to affect something so direct as seeing a damn color. As I
>>> claimed before there is nothing "direct" in that experience, the entire
>>> idea of qualia is garbage. The red we experience is simply a complex
>>> message from the brain to the brain that a particular type of stimuli is
>>> happening. But this message is the output of a very complex chain of events
>>> that is affected by many things that happened in the brain like exposure to
>>> certain experiences and so on. This makes sense because our sensory
>>> experience can be refined for example.
>>> You can train to see colors better or distinguish between different
>>> shades. There are studies showing that people in different cultures
>>> perceive colors differently and have words to distinguish colors that in
>>> other cultures are considered the same.
>>> Again, it is not glutamate or anything physical that makes the color red
>>> but a given neural pattern (that of course is also a physical thing because
>>> it is associated with particular neurons but it doesn't matter if it is
>>> neurons or weights in a neural network equivalent).
>>> The logical conclusion is that if the patterns is what matters then
>>> weights in ANN or neuron connections in the brain are completely
>>> interchangeable. So software can be aware, Gordon and Brent. Yes, it can.
>>> Giovanni
>>> On Sun, Apr 9, 2023 at 3:16 PM Giovanni Santostasi <
>>> gsantostasi at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> What "redness" quality means? I still don't get it.
>>>> There is plenty of evidence, like entire libraries, that show that
>>>> brain stuff (I will use this term to mean stuff like perception, memory,
>>>> awareness and so on) is all in the patterns. That is what matters.
>>>> I can give you some of these examples.
>>>> 1) Working memory chips. I mentioned Dr. Beger work at UCLA. People
>>>> have studied models of memory and they reproduced an equivalent on chips,
>>>> without using any chemical like neurotransmitters, or any other physical
>>>> thing you will associate with the particular biological makeup of our
>>>> brains. All what they did was to recreate the functionality or structure
>>>> relations that their model said was relevant to reproduce memory.
>>>> This is not a theoretical work that can be debated. It worked. They
>>>> turned on and off the chip and the rat remembered the layout of a
>>>> labyrinth. They even transferred, a la Inception, the memory in another rat
>>>> !!!!
>>>> If this doesn't destroy completely anybody illusion that the a brain
>>>> made of meat (and particular stuff like glutamate) I don't know what else
>>>> it could. These people will always believe that meat brains are necessary
>>>> because God made them so. No amound of science would convince them.
>>>> 2) You can train an AI to recognize activation patterns in the brain
>>>> and associate them with particular stimuli. This has been tried with words
>>>> and even images both in wake and dreaming state. Here an example that
>>>> should blow everybody minds:
>>>> https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.11.18.517004v2.full.pdf
>>>> Again, from this study we can see that it doesn't matter how the
>>>> pattern is generated, but that there is a pattern of activation. These
>>>> patterns are unique for each individual but statistically they are similar
>>>> enough that after training over many subjects you can give a statistical
>>>> estimate that the person is seeing or even thinking about something in
>>>> particular. Again, IT WORKS people !
>>>> 3) I have worked in the field of neuroscience and in particular in the
>>>> field of the neuroscience of sleep. I have direct experience of this vs
>>>> simply reading some paper (I analyzed the data in this case).
>>>> There are several experiments that show that if you do for a long time
>>>> during the day a particular type of activity, lets say listening to an
>>>> audio book or playing a video game with a lot of visual stimuli during the
>>>> night a given brain region will light up with a lot of slow waves
>>>> preferentially in a given region of the brain, in fact, the one you would
>>>> expect. If you listened for hours to an audiobook the auditory region of
>>>> the brain will have a lot of slow waves and if you played a video game the
>>>> visual part of the brain is the one that will light up.
>>>> Slow waves are associated with the process of memory consolidation
>>>> which is the moving of memory from the hippocampus to the cortex and the
>>>> formation of new long-term memories. Notice, that in this process there is
>>>> a MAPPING of these memories from the hippocampus to the cortex that is not
>>>> 1 to 1. The pattern in the cortex is related to the one in the hippocampus
>>>> but not exactly the same and in fact, while the memory is created
>>>> associations are made with previous experiences and things that were
>>>> learned in the past, so it is a unique and individual pattern that is
>>>> created when you consolidate the memory. This is actually where a lot of
>>>> creativity takes place, in making new associations between different
>>>> experiences. Another thing to notice is that when you retrieve memory the
>>>> memory is actually actively changed and modified that it is another
>>>> indication that it doesn't matter what the particular physical means to
>>>> create the memory are, the real information is in the pattern. That is
>>>> where the redness is, that is unique for each individual but it can be
>>>> still identified as redness because statistically is similar between
>>>> individuals. We know that at least for the memory of red the activation
>>>> pattern will also change as you retrieve that memory, I'm not sure if this
>>>> true for the direct perception of redness. This would be an interesting
>>>> thing to test and it will give us some insights on the differences between
>>>> remembering a color and seeing the color directly. But it is still
>>>> activation patterns in both cases.
>>>> On Sun, Apr 9, 2023 at 2:41 PM Brent Allsop via extropy-chat <
>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>>> Of course, a single pixel which can change from redness to greenness
>>>>> can't be at the brain module level or higher, as we have thousands of voxel
>>>>> element qualities in our visual knowledge.
>>>>> The Quantum people
>>>>> <https://canonizer.com/topic/88-Theories-of-Consciousness/20-Orch-OR>
>>>>> predict redness and such is below the Atomic level.  Not really sure how
>>>>> far below they are predicting it'd be, we could ask them.  I just think you
>>>>> don't need to go down to that level, to reproduce a pixel of redness
>>>>> experience, in a way that you can change that one pixel to greenness.  It
>>>>> could certainly be at the "Molecular Biology" level, or the "Protein
>>>>> Level".  And I'd predict that the computational binding of whatever
>>>>> has a redness quality, to all the other voxels of qualities, is  somewhere
>>>>> arround the "Intracellular Level".  But yea, any and all possible
>>>>> levels are viable.  Even new physics is a possibility, but I doubt that.
>>>>> To me, the more important thing is just that there is something, at
>>>>> some level.  And our description of however it behaves, is a description of
>>>>> redness.  Or it behaves the way it does, because of its redness quality
>>>>> which can can subjectively directly apprehend as a pixel of visual
>>>>> knowledge.  I pretty much selected glutamate because it is easy to say
>>>>> things like: "If someone experiences redness, when there is no glutamate
>>>>> present, it falsified the glutamate=redness theory.  So you move on to
>>>>> something else, at any other level, till you can objectively observe
>>>>> whatever is responsible for a pixel of redness experience.  Then you will
>>>>> have the required dictionary to not only know if something is conscious,
>>>>> but know what it is like.  The fact that making these kinds of predictions
>>>>> about what consciousness is like is the big deal.  You must be able to
>>>>> demonstrate and falsify the predictions, in a way the bridges the
>>>>> "explanatory gap" and enables one to "eff the ineffable" and so on.
>>>>> We live in a colorful world.  It'd be nice to know what it is, in that
>>>>> brain, whatever level it is, which has all those colorness qualities.  I
>>>>> want to know more than just what color things in the world seem to be.
>>>>> Jason, have you, or anyone else, seen our Consciousness: Not a Hard
>>>>> Problem, Just a Color Problem
>>>>> <https://canonizer.com/videos/consciousness> videos?  I'd be
>>>>> interested in your thoughts.
>>>>> On Sun, Apr 9, 2023 at 8:24 AM Jason Resch via extropy-chat <
>>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>>>> Brent has proposed that something physical in the brain is
>>>>>> responsible for redness, and he has proposed the molecular/protein level as
>>>>>> a candidate, giving the example of the neurotransmitter glutamate. But
>>>>>> there are a great number of different levels operating concurrently in the
>>>>>> brain, and I wonder: why choose any particular level as more important than
>>>>>> any other to associate with redness? We see for example, at a quick glance:
>>>>>> Level Examples of things operating at this level
>>>>>> Whole Brain Human Brain, Dolphin Brain
>>>>>> Brain Hemispheres Left Brain Hemisphere, Right Brain Hemisphere
>>>>>> Brain regions Frontal lobe, Occipital lobe, Corpus callosum
>>>>>> Brain modules Broca's Area, Hippocampus, Visual Cortex
>>>>>> Higher Level Networks Subunits of visual cortex, Subunits of visual
>>>>>> cortex
>>>>>> Neocortical Columns Pattern Recognizers, Classifiers, Discriminators
>>>>>> Neural Connections Connections, Inhibitory and Excitatory Signals,
>>>>>> Firing
>>>>>> Neuronal Level Neurons, Dendrites, Axons
>>>>>> Cellular Level Stem Cells, Blood Cells, Nerve Cells
>>>>>> Intracellular Level Organelles, ATP, Mitochondria
>>>>>> Protein Level Genes, Ribosomes, Proteins
>>>>>> Molecular Biology Amino Acids, Peptides, Base Pairs
>>>>>> Molecular Level Molecules, Covalent Bonds, Ionic Bonds
>>>>>> Atomic Level Chemicals, Ions, Electron Orbitals
>>>>>> Nuclear Physics Atomic Nuclei, Chemical Elements, Isotopes
>>>>>> Baryon Level Quarks and Gluons, Protons, Neutrons
>>>>>> Subatomic Particles Quarks, Electrons, Photons
>>>>>> Quantum Fields force fields, matter fields, Higgs field
>>>>>> When every level above could be called a "physical" level, why should
>>>>>> we limit the investigation to the protein level of neurotransmitters?
>>>>>> If molecules/proteins, are in the end, just patterns of activity of
>>>>>> quantum fields, why can't the patterns of activity of higher-complexity
>>>>>> (still quantum fields) such as the processing done by the visual cortex,
>>>>>> count as a pattern of activity open to investigation?
>>>>>> If lower order patterns of activity (quarks, atoms, molecules,
>>>>>> proteins) etc. are possible candidates to explain "redness", why can't
>>>>>> these higher order patterns of activity be candidates for redness? (Or do
>>>>>> you consider them to be viable candidates?)
>>>>>> An extra question, consider this quote from the physicist John
>>>>>> Wheeler:
>>>>>> "Now I am in the grip of a new vision, that Everything is
>>>>>> Information. The more I have pondered the mystery of the quantum and our
>>>>>> strange ability to comprehend this world in which we live, the more I see
>>>>>> possible fundamental roles for logic and information as the bedrock of
>>>>>> physical theory."
>>>>>> -- John Archibald Wheeler
>>>>>> <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Archibald_Wheeler> in “*Geons*, *Black
>>>>>> Holes*, and *Quantum Foam*
>>>>>> <https://www.google.com/books/edition/Geons_Black_Holes_and_Quantum_Foam_A_Lif/zGFkK2tTXPsC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=The%20more%20I%20have%20pondered%20the%20mystery%20of%20the%20quantum%20and%20our%20strange%20ability%20to%20comprehend%20this%20world%20in%20which%20we%20live%2C%20the%20more%20I%20see%20possible%20fundamental%20roles%20for%20logic%20and%20information%20as%20the%20bedrock%20of%20physical%20theory.&pg=PA64&printsec=frontcover&bsq=The%20more%20I%20have%20pondered%20the%20mystery%20of%20the%20quantum%20and%20our%20strange%20ability%20to%20comprehend%20this%20world%20in%20which%20we%20live%2C%20the%20more%20I%20see%20possible%20fundamental%20roles%20for%20logic%20and%20information%20as%20the%20bedrock%20of%20physical%20theory.>”
>>>>>> (1998)
>>>>>> If Wheeler's speculation is right, then there exists another level
>>>>>> below quantum fields, one of essentially pure information. What would that
>>>>>> imply about the patterns of activity necessary for redness? Would that not
>>>>>> imply that redness is, at some level (even if it is only associated with
>>>>>> glutamate) in the end, nothing but a particular pattern of information
>>>>>> processing?
>>>>>> Jason
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
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