Re: virus: Re: The saga continues!

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Sat, 13 Sep 1997 14:25:12 -0700 (PDT)

On Fri, 12 Sep 1997, Nathaniel Hall wrote:

> Eva-Lise Carlstrom wrote:
> >
> > On Fri, 12 Sep 1997, Nathaniel Hall wrote:
> >
> > > > >.The best theories predict
> > > > >something otherwise unexpected! If we could not trust are own senses
> > > > >then all experimental evidence would be pointless.
> > > >
> > > > .I never said we shouldn't trust our senses, I said that the senses
> > > > should
> > > > not get authoritative status--for instance, the fact that
> > > > eye-witnesses
> > > > often give conflicting reports of the same scene means the senses
> > > > might not
> > > > always be reliable.
> > >
> > > The senses were reliable. The memory and the processing are what got
> > > screwed up. Kinda like Windows 95.
> >
> > Ok--in addition to stumping for George Lakoff, I feel the need to highly
> > recommend Dennett's _Consciousness Explained_ to the participants in this
> > thread. One of his points, which he makes fairly early on, with some good
> > examples, is that there is no way to make a clear distinction between
> > "sensing something incorrectly" and "processing information from the
> > senses incorrectly".
> But there is! We have not one but five senses. They all have to be out
> of wack is just the right way for us to be fooled by them. Otherwise
> we'd notice the contradiction. However the incorrect conclusions one
> reachs can be detected by the errors one experiances with ones
> predictions.

Actually, we commonly come to conclusions based on input from a single
sense, usually vision or hearing. And since both are full of quirky
failings, despite their immense usefulness to us based on their general
accuracy, we are frequently misled as to the nature of what we have seen
or heard. Most of the time these misperceptions probably lead to
misconceptions that don't matter (or we would have evolved something that
worked better). Sometimes, however, they matter a lot. No one can spend
their lives comparing every bit of sensory evidence with every other,
testing for inconsistencies. We survive by making assumptions.

In the video game Tomb Raider, which friends of mine have been playing lately,
the central character does a lot of underground swimming, and each time
she emerges she breaks the surface of the water with a splash and a gasp
for air. It took me watching this happen several times before I noticed
that the splash was solely auditory, and the beautiful visuals of the game
did not extend to visually indicating the splash. I thought I had seen a
splash, because I had heard one. We are more likely to remember,
wrongly, that we perceived with several senses what we did with one, than
to genuinely check them against each other for inconsistency, in the
course of our daily lives.

> At what point has a given phenomenon been "sensed"
> > and what point has it been "processed"?
> when one experiances it, and then when one thinks about it.

But this is an ongoing *process*, not a *pair of points in time*.

> Dennett makes an excellent case
> > that there is no distinct point or boundary at which a given idea can be
> > said to have "passed into consciousness".
> sure there is: right after you experiance it. whether you continue to
> remember it or not is another matter.

See above. This interpretation, while perfectly intuitive and
commonsensical, is not in line with experimental evidence.

> Rather than consciousness being
> > a "place" (physical or metaphorical--in the brain or mind) where
> > processed items are "presented for viewing" (by whom?), he presents a view
> > of consciousness as the very *processing* itself.
> It has to reside in the brain. People have had just about every other
> organ pulled at one point but were still in possession of consciousness.
> You mess with the brain however and the nature of your consciousness
> changes.

I didn't mean to imply that consciousness did not reside in the brain. I
meant to state that it does not reside in some specific part of the brain,
nor in some specific "place" in the mind. Sorry if I was unclear.

> > > > >If they were ,you'd find out about it. Natural law is self enforcing.
> > > >
> > > > Not necessarily. The nature of far off galaxies, the small
> > > > constituents of
> > > > matter or even how my own mind works could be totally different than I
> > > >
> > > > imagine. In other words, my notion of existence could be so different
> > > > than
> > > > existence itself..
> > >
> > > Far away or extremely small. Notice how you worry about things that
> > > don't affect you. If you should ever find yourself in a far away galaxy
> > > or dependent on the nature of some strange quark I advise you to get
> > > their nature down pat. As for how the mind works, it works is all I can
> > > say. If I really knew the answer to that I'd have my computer type out
> > > these responses for me!
> >
> > As for how the mind works, it certainly can't be dismissed as not
> > affecting us!
> I did'nt. I addressed that near the end of the paragraph.
> Dennett gives loads of good evidence that "how my own mind
> > works" IS "totally different than I imagine". And that this is in fact
> > important, because the mistaken ways we tend to think about thinking can
> > mislead us badly (see also _Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion_, for
> > more ways a lack of understanding how our minds work can hurt us in our
> > daily lives).
> >
> > If anyone wants to argue about Dennett's claims, great; it would be really
> > nice if they could read Dennett first, since he puts everything so well
> > and I'd really rather not type the whole book. :) Besides,
> > _Consciousness Explained_ is really fun reading and I could recommend it
> > to smart people on that ground alone!
> >
> > Eva,
> > living bibliography
> When he can make a machine that can make me believe that it is thinking
> then I'll believe his claims that he has discovered the nature of
> consciousness.

Dennett doesn't claim to have laid bare all the mysteries of the mind,
only to have made a good start at understanding how we think, by showing
where the common understanding of it fails, and presenting an alternative
hypothesis for further testing.

I won't go into vast detail explaining and defending Dennett, because, as
I stated, I hope people interested in the nature of consciousness will
read him for themselves, and I'd rather have him present his words than
try to transcribe a 500-page book from memory. I'd be delighted to argue
it out in more detail with anyone who has read him, though.