[ExI] Why stop at glutamate?

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Thu Apr 13 14:09:48 UTC 2023

On Thu, Apr 13, 2023 at 7:01 AM Giovanni Santostasi via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Hi Daniel,
> Yes.
> But let me add a few things.
> 1) There are not many other particles to discover. At least, not
> fundamental ones. The Standard Model of Physics is a pretty complete
> picture of nature. That is something that not many people appreciate. Yes,
> there are things we still need to understand in Physics, major ones, like
> why QM and GR do not get along but in terms of fundamental blocks of nature
> we know pretty much what they are and there is not much space for others.
> That is what is both beautiful and sad in the current state of Physics.
> 2) About qualia, it is not that they are just meaningless but also that
> people that care about them are usually open or closeted theists.
> They believe that they are something magical and point to something unique
> about humans that make us different from computers.

Since Giovanni and I agree on so many things, I think it is especially
important to point out the few places we may not entirely agree. Here I
disagree with him that qualia are meaningless, magical, or unscientific. I
do agree that some people might argue for qualia being that way, or
conceive of them being that way, but I don't think it is necessary to. I
think qualia are real, humans have them, and an appropriately programmed
computer could have them too.

Qualia are incommunicable for several reasons (incomparability, complexity,
limitations of language, limits of introspection, the modular nature of our
minds, their infinite possible variety, our inability to get behind them,
etc.) but I think chief among them is the difference between Being and
Describing. Particular qualia are experienced by virtue of being a
particular being. Descriptions are inadequate for changing one's state of
being. Hence, private experiences cannot be described. And even if we could
change our being to exactly equal that of another, so that we could
experience the world the way they do, upon changing back that memory would
be lost, as would any point of comparison. We can't take someone else's
qualia with us when we morph back into the person we were. Hence a
particular qualia, and how it is like to be a particular person, are
forever tied with and remain an unextractable property of simply being that
person. A private experience cannot be rendered into a textual or bit
string pattern which upon being looked upon by anyone else would adjust
their mind state in a way that they perceive that experience. We sometimes
fool ourselves that it is possible, for example, when we listen to someone
describe their latest dining experience, or what it was like to bungee
jump, but we are always ever interpreting and imagining the experience with
our own existing mind-hardware, never theirs.

> My main beef with Gordon is exactly around this issue. I think Gordon is a
> very smart and eloquent person. I don't know much about his profession but
> I'm an admirer of his passion and skills for bird photography. It is
> obvious by his elaborated descriptions of his worldview that is a smart
> person. But because of his superstitious belief (and I'm from other posts
> he made he does believe in a creator for example), he wants to defend at
> any cost his view that machines cannot be conscious, and that brains are
> special. Why? Because humans are made in the image of god. It is that
> simple. They can deny it but it is their main motivation. So
> qualia==soul==God. And I say, f that.

There are rational definitions of God. Some religions define God as all of
reality (e.g. Brahman), which exists by definition. Other religions define
God as the world soul, or universal consciousness, for which there are
strong rational arguments for (see: "One Self: The Logic of Experience
other religions define God as an all-powerful creator, able to intervene in
the laws of physics, which there would be if we exist within a computer
simulation, and for which there are evidence-based arguments supporting
this hypothesis).

Likewise, as my other post showed, purely rationalistic theories of
consciousness, (such as computationalism), imply that consciousness is able
to reincarnate, resurrect, travel to other universes, survive the
destruction of its body, etc. This makes consciousness into quite like
traditional conceptions of the soul. I don't think that science and
religion need to be at odds, rather science may be the best tool we have to
reveal truths and hone foundational ideas and beliefs, in effect it would
define a kind of revealed religion, not one revealed by mystics or books,
but one revealed through observation and contemplation of the natural world.

In the end, the goals of the theist and the scientist are the same, to find
the truth, and better understand our place and in reality.

> Gordon goes all the way by finally admitting "I'm not a strict
> empiricist". At the same time, he believes in the importance of grounding
> and referents. LOL. You see the problem with these theists' views is that
> they contradict themselves even internally not just in terms of how their
> view doesn't match reality.
> Jason, just posted a super interesting paper about consciousness showing
> that all that is needed is just self-referential loops. I didn't read it
> yet but that paper is exactly the type of work we need to put the nails in
> the coffin of the soul believer's worldview.
> One more thing about why the universe is just relations and not things.
> And why there are no referents.

I agree with this. Just as we never can share our own internal states of
awareness, we also can never escape from them. All we ever have access to
are our conscious perceptions, we never gain access to the fundamental
things of nature. Scientists and physicists never say what anything is, all
they can do is describe how it behaves. What are the rules that govern
something's behavior and its relation to other things. Here are some quotes
to this effect:

"Maybe the relationships are all that exist. Maybe the world is made of
math. At first that sounded nuts, but when I thought about it I had to
wonder, what exactly is the other option? That the world is made of
“things”? What the hell is a “thing”? It was one of those concepts that
fold under the slightest interrogation. Look closely at any object and you
find it’s an amalgamation of particles. But look closely at the particles
and you find that they are irreducible representations of the Poincaré
symmetry group―whatever that meant. The point is, particles, at bottom,
look a lot like math."
-- Amanda Gefter in “Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn

"Physics, in itself, is exceedingly abstract, and reveals only certain
mathematical characteristics of the material with which it deals. It does
not tell us anything as to the intrinsic character of this material."
-- Bertrand Russell in "The Analysis of Matter
<http://strangebeautiful.com/other-texts/russell-anal-matter.pdf>" (1927)

"I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from
consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk
about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness."
-- Max Planck in “Interviews with Great Scientists
<https://archive.is/AqT80>” (1931)

"Every day, it seems, some verifiably intelligent person tells us that we
don’t know what consciousness is. The nature of consciousness, they say, is
an awesome mystery. It’s the ultimate hard problem. [...]
I find this odd because we know exactly what consciousness is — where by
“consciousness” I mean what most people mean in this debate: experience of
any kind whatever. It’s the most familiar thing there is, whether it’s
experience of emotion, pain, understanding what someone is saying, seeing,
hearing, touching, tasting or feeling. It is in fact the only thing in the
universe whose ultimate intrinsic nature we can claim to know. It is
utterly unmysterious.
The nature of physical stuff, by contrast, is deeply mysterious, and
physics grows stranger by the hour.
-- Galen Strawson in "Consciousness Isn’t a Mystery. It’s Matter." (2016)

So it is not only the nature of experience, things like "what is red" that
we cannot communicate, but even the true nature of matter -- e.g., "what
are quarks" -- is likewise something no scientist has ever been able to put
into words. All scientists can do is describe how quarks behave, all the
"what is it" questions at the most fundamental levels, as Russell points
out, remain off limits to us.

Let's talk about some of the most fundamental "things" in the universe.
> Physical laws. Let's take one of the most fundamental laws of all. The
> second law of Newton F=ma.
> This law is a tautology. What do I mean? Well, it basically says if you
> have an object A with mass m1 and you apply an external force F1 then the
> object will experience an acceleration a1=F1/m1. But then you say but how
> do you define mass? Well, it is the resistance that an object experiences
> when we apply a force F1, so m1=F1/a1. You go back in a circle.
> How do you get out of this madness? By understanding that F=ma is an
> "operational definition" it is basically describing a relational way to
> organize the world around us. What do I mean by this?
> For example, to define what mass is do the above over and over for many
> objects with mass m1, m2, and m3 that are organized in terms of how big
> their acceleration is when I apply the same force. I have a pulley with a
> weight attached that pulls objects with a given force F1 and I attach a
> rope from the pulley to different objects m1, m2, and so on. I measure the
> acceleration and then I can do m1<m3<m5<m2 and so on. I can order the
> objects in terms of their mass in this way. But you see all that I know is
> simply how these objects are related nothing else. No referents.
> The same applies to other fundamental properties of nature like charge and
> so on.

Yes exactly, all we can describe are relations, never the things
themselves, because at the heart of it, all we can see are our perceptions,
never the things themselves as they truly are.

> It is not obvious we can do this with everything, even abstract words, but
> we can. Maybe the relationship is not a simple ordering, maybe it is some
> more complicated relationship, but this is how we derive meaning for
> anything, through relationships.


> This is not my idea but how actually the world works and it is really the
> only self-consistent and logical approach to knowledge.
It was Galileo's idea to strip scientific language of qualities. This wa
perhaps necessary to advance the domain of shareable knowledge, but it does
have the effect (which we should not forget) of ignoring personal
(unshareable knowledge), which we cannot deny exists despite it not being
shareable. Several scientists lament this deficit. Philip Goff even wrote a
book (called "Galileo's error") in effect, blaming Galileo's decision as
the reason consciousness cannot be tackled scientifically. While I am not
sure I agree fully with that hypothesis, it remains true that science, as
presently formulated, leaves out the qualities which are inherent to first
person (non-shareable) experience, as others have noted:

"I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around
me is very deficient. It gives us a lot of factual information, puts all of
our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly
silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart that really
matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and
sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful
and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity."
-- Erwin Schrödinger in “Nature and the Greeks

"We find that our perceptions obey some laws, which can be most
conveniently formulated if we assume that there is some underlying reality
beyond our perceptions. This model of a material world obeying laws of
physics is so successful that soon we forget about our starting point and
say that matter is the only reality, and perceptions are nothing but a
useful tool for the description of matter. This assumption is almost as
natural (and maybe as false) as our previous assumption that space is only
a mathematical tool for the description of matter. We are substituting
*reality* of our feelings by the successfully working *theory* of an
independently existing material world. And the theory is so successful that
we almost never think about its possible limitations."
-- Andrei Linde in “Inflation, Quantum Cosmology, and the Anthropic
Principle <https://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-th/0211048.pdf>” (2002)


> On Thu, Apr 13, 2023 at 4:00 AM efc--- via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> On Wed, 12 Apr 2023, Giovanni Santostasi via extropy-chat wrote:
>> > No matter how many examples, applications, reasoning, logical proof,
>> and evidence from experiments we give to Brent and Gordon they
>> > cling to their nonscientific view. I still engage in this conversation
>> for a few reasons.
>> > different way. But I see how misguided that way of thinking is. That is
>> simply not how the universe works. 3) Maybe people on the
>> > fence or casual observers of this list can read these debates and think
>> more deeply about these issues too. They are very important
>> Hello Giovanni, you got me with nr 3! Every couple of years (well,
>> probably decades) I stumble upon a good old qualia discussion, and I am
>> kind of set in my ways (or someone hasn't persuaded me to change my
>> view yet).
>> So I apologize for potentially kicking a dead horse, but could you
>> correct me?
>> Last time I was engaged in this type of discussion, I ended
>> up in the following "camp".
>> 1. I think that materialism is quite a nifty way of explaining the world.
>> And with "matter" I mean the current physics point of view all the way
>> down to what ever particles are still not discovered.
>> 2. Based on (1) I think qualia and redness is a "process" that includes
>> object, subject, and interpretation of information and signals.
>> 3. I think based on (1) and (2) that "subjective redness" is nonsense or
>> at least meaningless, and I'll happily sacrifice that, souls and
>> platonism to be consistent with 1 and 2 until proven wrong.
>> Do I understand you _kind of_ correctly?
>> Since I am not a physicist I'm just trying to understand if I managed to
>> understand you correctly.
>> Best regards,
>> Daniel
>> _______________________________________________
>> extropy-chat mailing list
>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
>> http://lists.extropy.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/extropy-chat
> _______________________________________________
> extropy-chat mailing list
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
> http://lists.extropy.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/extropy-chat
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.extropy.org/pipermail/extropy-chat/attachments/20230413/4683c51e/attachment-0001.htm>

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list