[ExI] Why stop at glutamate?

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Thu Apr 13 23:08:54 UTC 2023

On Thu, Apr 13, 2023 at 3:16 PM Giovanni Santostasi <gsantostasi at gmail.com>

> *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.*
> Right, we agree in almost everything and I have to say, Jason, I'm in awe
> about your knowledge, communication abilities, kindness, and patience.
> There are so many interesting people in this list and you are the person
> that comes closest to my understanding of the world. You are a real
> inspiration. Are you sure you are not an advanced AGI?

Oh wow, thank you for those kind words. I have to say, it is a sign of the
times (and perhaps impeding technological singularity) when being compared
to a machine is a compliment rather than an insult. ;-) I should admit it
is a bit of a parlor trick. I have immersed myself in conscious-related
research the past two years as I have been working on my next article "What
is consciousness?", this is on top of the previous 15 years of working on a
book along similar topics, so if I seem knowledgeable it is because I have
been collected detailed notes (now some ~480 pages worth), and I've also
collected some nice quotes along the way.

> About qualia. It is not that I they are not real. I did say that
> everything is qualia or nothing is. I just don't see why people make a big
> deal about them. How a qualia is different from thinking about love? They
> are both mind stuff. Me thinking about love is as difficult to communicate
> as my experience of redness. Somebody can claim redness is a more direct
> experience that doesn't require words to be experienced while thinking
> about love does. Well, not necessarily I can imagine the times I was hugged
> or had passionate sex or a kitten bumped his head against mine and many
> other feelings and experiences I had related to love that cannot be
> communicated directly to others because they are mine and only mine. Is
> this a qualia?

I think so. I think it is more correct to consider a quale as an entire
subjective experience in a moment of time (rather than focus on some
element of one's awareness). In this way of thinking, there is no "red"
quale, though there is a quale of one's entire visual field filled with
some red color. But then this would be just one possibility from among the
10^(~60 million) unique possible visual experiences there are for someone
to have. In a way I think this simplifies the problem. You can imagine the
space of all possible experiences a human brain can have, and then
different possible experiences are just locations within that possibility
space, which include all the discriminations and all the information
available to one's senses, as well as all the feelings and thoughts,
running through their mind.

> If so then everything in our mind is qualia making the concept
> meaningless. One can say you need to have a direct sensory experience to be
> considered a qualia. Fine but that doesn't make a qualia something
> fundamental, simple, direct, atomic. There is just some anchoring to a
> sensory experience that is needed and maybe then these experiences are in a
> different category than thinking or feeling about something. I don't see
> how this makes them so relevant in terms of understanding how consciousness
> works.
> I'm not conscious if I close my eyes?
> What about if I'm blind and deaf?
> What if I'm in an isolation chamber?

Yes I would say each of those is a unique first-person experience.

> Actually the mere existence of isolation chambers is to experience altered
> states of consciousness that are considered even more intense and real than
> experiencing redness. The entire idea is to achieve them by isolating the
> person from sensory experience. We know that these states exist and they
> are obtained by reducing to a minimum sensory experience. So if what makes
> qualia special is sensory experience then they are useless to understand
> things like higher states of consciousness for example that is something,
> as far as we know uniquely human even more than the redness of red.
> By the way I do know a thing or two about subjective experiences and
> higher states of consciousness. Notwithstanding my scientific and
> "materialistic" stance (it is a bad name for sticking to reality) I'm
> interested in spiritual things since I was a child. I meditated for most of
> my life. I also had very powerful spiritual experiences like a full
> Kundalini awakening that lasted 12 hours.
> Since then I experience kryas that are these automatic movements of the
> body where your entire body goes in spontaneous yoga positions and your
> hands move in mudras. I can do this basically just closing my eyes and
> letting my body do it. It is repeatable and something that can be studied
> scientifically and it is my intention to do so eventually.
> One interesting thing is that actually given the existence of youtube
> several people have posted videos of them experiencing kryas. It is the
> weirdest feeling when you do. Your entire body moves like if you had wires
> inside you and there was some external force that you don't control and
> that moves your body. You can sit and just watch in awe. It is very
> pleasant for me and in fact almost sensual and blissful.

Very interesting, I had never heard of these before.

> Watching the youtube videos I can immediately recognize most of these
> experiences as authentic. It is obvious by the type of movements because
> even if it is a deeply personal experience these movements are very
> universal. Actually, that is what is interesting to me an internal
> experience like this can be expressed in such a universal way. It is
> subjective but universal.
> This is actually in line with how the ancient Eastern mystic thought about
> subjective experiences. They are not incommunicable but the opposite, they
> are universal. In fact, the entire goal of transcendence and experiencing
> higher states of consciousness is to experience something that is shared by
> all of us and it is cosmic and universal. It is the opposite idea of qualia.
> So we can have a science of subjective experiences and the Eastern culture
> has done already a lot of work in this direction.
> It would be very interesting to merge the Western understanding of the
> world with the Eastern world. More studies are necessary to understand
> experiences like kryas for example. There are few and the few I saw show
> that there are similar neural correlates in people that have these
> experiences which is an interesting clue.

We do share a lot of similar wiring and design, so I think there is
significant overlap in the experiences humans can have.

I also think that the Western/scientific/materialistic worldview is on a
trajectory that is leading it closer to the
Eastern/spiritual/idealistic worldview.


> On Thu, Apr 13, 2023 at 7:30 AM Jason Resch via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> 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
>> <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233329805_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
>> <https://www.google.com/books/edition/Trespassing_on_Einstein_s_Lawn/ZoWODQAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PP1&printsec=frontcover&bsq=At%20first%20that%20sounded%20nuts>”
>> (2014)
>> "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.
>> Yes.
>>> 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
>> <https://archive.org/details/naturegreeks0000schr/page/92/mode/2up?q=%22I+am+very+astonished+that+the+scientific+picture%22>”
>> (1954)
>> "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)
>> Jason
>>> 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
>> _______________________________________________
>> 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/20230413/51c13703/attachment-0001.htm>

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list