[ExI] Why stop at glutamate?

Giovanni Santostasi gsantostasi at gmail.com
Mon Apr 10 00:08:25 UTC 2023

As I said you can train to see colors:


On Sun, Apr 9, 2023 at 5:06 PM Giovanni Santostasi <gsantostasi at gmail.com>

> 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 happen.
> From:
> https://www.zeiss.com/vision-care/us/better-vision/understanding-vision/why-do-people-see-differently.html
> 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
> <https://www.zeiss.com/vision-care/us/better-vision/understanding-vision/red-green-color-deficiency-red-green-color-blindness-and-total-color-blindness.html>,
> 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>
> wrote:
>> 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
>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>> extropy-chat mailing list
>>>>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
>>>>>>> http://lists.extropy.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/extropy-chat
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
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