illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
Reality as inter-dependent streams of consciousness?
On Reality and the Truth of Your Conscious Perception Thereof
This talk should be watched with the following passage from Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence firmly in mind:
Normal human adults have a range of remarkable cognitive talents that are not simply a function of possessing a sufficient amount of general neural processing power or even a sufficient amount of general intelligence: specialized neural circuitry is also needed. This observation suggests the idea of possible but non-realized cognitive talents, talents that no actual human possesses even though other intelligent systems—ones with no more computing power than the human brain—that did have those talents would gain enormously in their ability to accomplish a wide range of strategically relevant tasks. were we to gain some new set of modules giving an advantage comparable to that of being able to form complex linguistic representations, we would become superintelligent.
And keep considering this passage when the talk delves into the perception of the beetle and contrasts that to the perception of us humans.
In many ways this is a subtle talk that tries to delve into subtle but very profound points. Personally I swayed throughout the talk, with him then against him, agreeing then disagreeing. But this is understandable because Donald advocates abandonment of the concrete reality that I believe exists, and instead suggests consciousness as a primary causal entity in a deeper underlying reality; this may make some of you dismiss the talk as unworthy but trust me and give Donald 20 minutes of your time to try and sway you. At the end I’d tentatively stepped up onto the fence with one foot certainly dangling on his side, and mainly by considering the plausibility of the above passage from Superintelligence.
The potential and importance of our ability to eventually create new cognitive modules (either for ourselves or our machine descendents) that are able to perceive the world in a more realistic way, able to strip away the previous illusory interface we take for granted and so peer deeper and more truly at the underlying reality that we inhabit. At times like this it seems as if our development and growth has only just begun and we have so very much farther to go.
This metaphor paints superintelligent agents with superperception as comparable to us, as we are comparable to the beetle, and questions how different and how grand reality must appear from such an omnipresent viewpoint. There are also one or two places in the talk that paint the following passage from Superintelligence in an entirely different light:
We could thus imagine, as an extreme case, a technologically highly advanced society, containing many complex structures, some of them far more intricate and intelligent than anything that exists on the planet today—a society which nevertheless lacks any type of being that is conscious or whose welfare has moral significance. In a sense, this would be an uninhabited society. It would be a society of economic miracles and technological awesomeness, with nobody there to benefit. A Disneyland without children.
I’m referring of course to the experiments on the evolution of fitness, always at the expense of accurate and truthful representations and perceptions of reality, and indeed driving to extinction accurate perceptions of reality. For if we are to a being with superperception as a beetle is to us, then is our cherished reality only a tiny bit better than a Disneyland without children in any case?
Donald Hoffman’s page at the University of California, Irvine http://www.cogsci.uci.edu/~ddhoff/ has a great list of related resources and media to access, from talks to accessible publications like this recent one http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00577/full that delves into more academic detail the topics and themes covered in this talk.
Key parts of the talk:
➜ Listen very carefully to what is said between 16:00 and 18:00.
➜ There is something that exists when you don’t look at it, but it is not spacetime and physical objects.
➜ Perception is not about seeing truth, it’s about having kids.
#consciousness #reality #perception