MC Escher panorama

Click Mr. Linky for a Tribute to Escher

How true!

“… people are much more likely to listen to you when you are dressed as a giant banana.”

via: RSA Projects.


“What does it mean to think?  Can machines think, or only humans? These questions have obsessed computer science since the 1950s, and grow more important every day as the internet canopy closes over our heads, leaving us in the pregnant half-light of the cybersphere.  Taken as a whole, the net is a startlingly complex collection of computers (like brain cells) that are densely interconnected (as brain cells are).  And the net grows at many million points simultaneously, like a living (or more-than-living?) organism.  It’s only natural to wonder whether the internet will one day start to think for itself.

(Or is it thinking already?)

These questions are important not only to the internet but to each individual computer.  Computers grow more powerful all the time.  Today, programs that are guided not just by calculations but by good guesses are important throughout the software landscape.  They are examples of applied artificial intelligence — and the ultimate goal of artificial intelligence is to build a mind out of software, a thinking computer — a machine with human-like (or super-human) intelligence.

In a way these possibilities are frightening, or at least thought-provoking.  But after all, human intelligence is the most valuable stuff in the cosmos, and we are always running short.  A computer-created increase in the world-wide intelligence supply would be welcome, to say the least.

It’s also reasonable to expect computers to help clean up the mess they have made.  They dump huge quantities of information into the cybersphere every day.  Can they also help us evaluate this information intelligently?  Or are they mere uncapped oil wells pumping out cyber-pollution — which is today just a distraction but might slowly, gradually paralyze us, as our choices and information channels proliferate out of control?  As each of us is surrounded by a growing crowd of computer-paparazzi all shouting questions and waving data simultaneously, and no security guards anywhere?

Here is an unfortunate truth: today’s mainstream ideas about human and artificial thought lead nowhere.

We are trapped by assumptions that unravel as soon as we think about them: “we” meaning not only laymen but many philosophers and scientists. Here are three important wrong assumptions.

Many people believe that “thinking” is basically the same as ‘reasoning.'”


An Agnostic Manifesto

“Let’s get one thing straight: Agnosticism is not some kind of weak-tea atheism. Agnosticism is not atheism or theism. It is radical skepticism, doubt in the possibility of certainty, opposition to the unwarranted certainties that atheism and theism offer.”

More at:  The rise of the new agnostics. – By Ron Rosenbaum – Slate Magazine.

Race Doesn’t Exist. Or Does It?

An interesting podcast:

WNYC – Radiolab: Race Doesn’t Exist. Or Does It? (November 28, 2008).

On the subject of just seeing with eyes

click on the picture and …

Amor Fati – The Embracing of an Undecided Fate

“Amor fati is a Latin phrase coined by Nietzsche loosely translating to “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate”. It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good. That is, one feels that everything that happens is destiny’s way of reaching its ultimate purpose, and so should be considered good. Moreover, it is characterized by an acceptance of the events or situations that occur in one’s life.”

via Amor fati – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Is this something or is this nothing?

So I’m watching this, and it’s very pretty I guess … unless you’re Buddha of course and the whole pebble in the lake thing becomes metaphor FAIL!

Ugh … there’s consequentialism for you …

Looks expensive.  🙂

I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure (I do, I do, I do)

“The only sex that is unfeminist is sex that any of the people involved don’t want to be having. There is no particular meaning in a blowjob. You are not sending a political message by having anal sex. What I do in my bedroom is not preventing the Revolution from happening.”

via:  I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure (I do, I do, I do) — Feministe.


Consequentialism, as its name suggests, is the view that normative properties depend only on consequences. This general approach can be applied at different levels to different normative properties of different kinds of things, but the most prominent example is consequentialism about the moral rightness of acts, which holds that whether an act is morally right depends only on the consequences of that act or of something related to that act, such as the motive behind the act or a general rule requiring acts of the same kind.

cont …

What is Consequentialism?

This array of alternatives raises the question of which moral theories count as consequentialist (as opposed to deontological), and why. In actual usage, the term ’consequentialism‘ seems to be used as a family resemblance term to refer to any descendant of classic utilitarianism that remains close enough to its ancestor in the important respects. Of course, different philosophers see different respects as the important ones. Hence, there is no agreement on which theories count as consequentialist under this definition.

To resolve this vagueness, we need to determine which of the various claims of classic utilitarianism are essential to consequentialism. One claim seems clearly necessary. Any consequentialist theory must accept the claim that I labeled ‘consequentialism’, namely, that certain normative properties depend only on consequences. If that claim is dropped, the theory ceases to be consequentialist.

It is less clear whether that claim by itself is sufficient to make a theory consequentialist. Several philosophers assert that a moral theory should not be classified as consequentialist unless it is agent-neutral (McNaughton and Rawling 1991, Howard-Snyder 1994, Pettit 1997). This narrower definition is motivated by the fact that many self-styled critics of consequentialism argue against agent-neutrality.

Other philosophers prefer a broader definition that does not require a moral theory to be agent-neutral in order to be consequentialist (Bennett 1989; Broome 1991, 5-6; and Skorupski 1995). Criticisms of agent-neutrality can then be understood as directed against one part of classic utilitarianism that need not be adopted by every moral theory that is consequentialist. Moreover, they argue, the narrower definition conflates independent claims and obscures a crucial commonality between agent-neutral consequentialism and other moral theories that focus exclusively on consequences, such as moral egoism and recent self-styled consequentialists who allow agent-relativity into their theories of value (Sen 1982, Broome 1991, Portmore 2001, 2003).

A definition solely in terms of consequences might seem too broad, because it includes absurd theories such as the theory that an act is morally right if it increases the number of goats in Texas. Of course, such theories are implausible. Still, it is not implausible to call them consequentialist, since they do look only at consequences. The implausibility of one version of consequentialism does not make consequentialism implausible in general, since other versions of consequentialism still might be plausible.

Besides, anyone who wants to pick out a smaller set of moral theories that excludes this absurd theory may talk about evaluative consequentialism, which is the claim that moral rightness depends only on the value of the consequences. Then those who want to talk about the even smaller group of moral theories that accepts both evaluative consequentialism and agent-neutrality may describe them as agent-neutral evaluative consequentialism. If anyone still insists on calling these smaller groups of theories by the simple name, ‘consequentialism’, this narrower usage will not affect any substantive issue.

What matters is only that we get clear about exactly which claims are at stake when someone supports or criticizes what they call “consequentialism”. Then we can ask whether each objection really refutes that particular claim.

Much much more at:  Consequentialism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Necessity Defined

via: the good friend   😀

Panexperientialism and Cosmogenesis as Celebration

A side of an alternate coin …


“Two great talks on the rise and rule of the global ruling class, by David Rothkopf. How a select, insular group of the six thousand most powerful people on the planet make daily decisions that impact the lives of millions across borders and develop ideas that are shaping the history of our times.”

via the great folks over at:


As I head to Paris on Monday … interlude de l’après-midi

The Identity Theory of Mind

Interesting consideration highlighting, in my opinion, the natural self generating extrapolations inherent to the approximative nature of nomenclatures.

Thus we have the pleasure of relating the relationship of “mind” vs. “brain” … something undertaken by the smart folks over at Stanford:

The identity theory of mind holds that states and processes of the mind are identical to states and processes of the brain. Strictly speaking, it need not hold that the mind is identical to the brain. Idiomatically we do use ‘She has a good mind’ and ‘She has a good brain’ interchangeably but we would hardly say ‘Her mind weighs fifty ounces’. Here I take identifying mind and brain as being a matter of identifying processes and perhaps states of the mind and brain. Consider an experience of pain, or of seeing something, or of having a mental image. The identity theory of mind is to the effect that these experiences just are brain processes, not merely correlated with brain processes.

Some philosophers hold that though experiences are brain processes they nevertheless have fundamentally non-physical, psychical, properties, sometimes called ‘qualia’. Here I shall take the identity theory as denying the existence of such irreducible non-physical properties. Some identity theorists give a behaviouristic analysis of mental states, such as beliefs and desires, but others, sometimes called ‘central state materialists’, say that mental states are actual brain states. Identity theorists often describe themselves as ‘materialists’ but ‘physicalists’ may be a better word. That is, one might be a materialist about mind but nevertheless hold that there are entities referred to in physics that are not happily described as ‘material’.

In taking the identity theory (in its various forms) as a species of physicalism, I should say that this is an ontological, not a translational physicalism. It would be absurd to try to translate sentences containing the word ‘brain’ or the word ‘sensation’ into sentences about electrons, protons and so on. Nor can we so translate sentences containing the word ‘tree’. After all ‘tree’ is largely learned ostensively, and is not even part of botanical classification. If we were small enough a dandelion might count as a tree. Nevertheless a physicalist could say that trees are complicated physical mechanisms. The physicalist will deny strong emergence in the sense of some philosophers, such as Samuel Alexander and possibly C.D. Broad . The latter remarked (Broad 1937) that as far as was known at that time the properties of common salt cannot be deduced from the properties of sodium in isolation and of chlorine in isolation. (He put it too epistemologically: chaos theory shows that even in a deterministic theory physical consequences can outrun predictability.) Of course the physicalist will not deny the harmless sense of “emergence” in which an apparatus is not just a jumble of its parts (Smart 1981).

Much more at: The Identity Theory of Mind (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Epic ZEN!

Age of Significance

A very interesting and rather esoteric extrapolation project  is unfolding at Age of Significance.  For those who are interested computational philosophy , and who isn’t, it might be worth following:

A systematic analysis of the conceptual foundations of computing. Written in the form of an extended essay, it will be published simultaneously online and in traditional book format by the MIT Press. Chapters will be released at a rate of one chapter per month, starting in the fall of 2010 and continuing for a period of five or six years.

The project is framed as a critical analysis of various extant ideas about computing: formal symbol manipulation, information processing, effective computability, digital state machines, etc. It is argued that:

1. Our current theoretical frameworks must be profoundly rethought, in order to do justice to real-world computing.

2. No current account, nor any group in combination, can serve as an adequate theory.

3. More seriously, we will never have an adequate theory.

4. While this might seem a dismal conclusion, in fact it is liberating.

5. Only if we realize there is no such thing as computing can we appreciate computing’s monumental impact on our understanding.

6. Computing is neither more nor less than a site for the construction of meaningful mechanisms—the best we know how to build.

7. The importance of computing stems from the role it plays: helping to usher us from three centuries of mechanical philosophy into an era in which meaning, interpretation, and significance take their rightful place alongside mechanism and causality in our overall understanding of ourselves, the world, and our place within it.

About the author:

The whole thing

Hermeneutics Blog: The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness

by: Gilbert Wesley Purdy, May 19, 2010

“I intend here to forward a Theory of Consciousness. The first step in developing this theory will invert the approach generally used to this point. Attempts to this point have generally begun with intuitions of limited scope checked against the brain’s processing of sensory data, or against widely acknowledged qualia (what we collectively acknowledge is felt by us as conscious beings, such as a “sense of self”), and have tried to piece together, in this way, some preliminary picture of consciousness. I submit that this approach makes unacknowledged assumptions about consciousness, assumptions which, being incorrect, have led to misinterpretation of data.

It is true that, while the aforementioned attempts have gone under the banner of Theory of Consciousness, they have clearly been attempts to comprehend only certain aspects of consciousness. Nevertheless, lacking a nominal definition of “Consciousness” to provide a touchstone against which to compare experimental results and/or deductions inevitably a provides great deal of data and very little effective interpretation. I submit that, without a definition of Consciousness this situation promises to continue for a very long time.

The following, then, is an attempt to recount the process I have followed in order to arrive at a predicative nominal definition of Consciousness which will allow one to discriminate what is and is not specifically in the realm of Consciousness with a considerable and increasing degree of precision. I have since had many occasions to test this definition against the results of formal experiments undertaken by others, and less formal observations by myself and others, and the results seem almost uniformly to support the definition.

I intend, then, to provide a predicative nominal definition of Consciousness-qua-Consciousness in order to provide a viable touchstone against which to interpret data. I intend to do this beginning with seven simple axiomatic truths:

1. Reflexive neural action exists

2. Reflexive neural action resides entirely in proto-brains and/or in neural networks

3. Instinct exists

4. All brains exhibit instinct

5. Some or all of instinct resides in the brain

6. Consciousness exists

7. Some or all of consciousness resides in the brain

I will combine these axioms with a reformed-Macleanian overview of the evolution of the brain [Maclean, 1990], and, in particular, the morphologically normal human brain. By “normal,” I refer to a human brain with all brain areas and interconnections intact, of appropriate weight, orientation, and neuronal density, orientation and function, as determined by valid statistical methods.

While Maclean’s theory of human brain evolution has been shown to be too simplistic to satisfy the data since generated by experiments and observations in the field of neurology, the base concept remains intact. It is widely acknowledged that the layers of the human brain, upward and outward from the brain stem, represent a temporal evolutionary progress arriving at the brain’s present state in human beings.”

Much more at: Hermeneutics Blog: The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness.

And so it goes

Time to pay attention again …

Self-determination theory – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Self-determination theory (SDT) is a macro theory of human motivation and personality, concerning peoples inherent growth tendencies and their innate psychological needs. It is concerned with the motivation behind the choices that people make without any external influence and interference. SDT focuses on the degree to which an individual’s behavior is self-motivated and self-determined (Deci & Ryan, 2002).

Speaking of …

… gatekeeping and velvet ropes.

A friend of mine from my days in the club business wrote this a while back … perhaps not the most eloquent expression, but there’s validity sprinkled within:

“Speaking of fulfillment, the act of entry into a club is sexually charged and strikingly similar to the physical act of penetration.  The club, a dark warm soothing place, is clearly representative of the womb.  The patrons, descending en masse, often with a frenzied fervor to get in, are the sperm trying frantically to enter the uterus, however, resting firmly in between the two are the velvet ropes and security, the woman’s diaphragm and spermicide, respectively. The remaining variable in this equation is the doorman, who in true egocentric fashion plays God.

In this light it is easy to understand the rush of adrenaline as you approach the club door, to attempt penetration, and you must face the wrath of an individual whose power will determine the course of your night and possibly the course of human events.  This could be the night you meet your significant other and standing there between you and your eternal bliss is Saint Peter at the gates with a six second visual judgement.  No wonder some need to defend their honor and justify their very existence. Is it any wonder that the rejected become so irate?

The satisfaction would definitely not be there if everyone got in. The thrill then for many is the initial act of penetration.  In this way clubs provide an adventure and physiological fulfillment.  In fact there are those who linger at the door taunting those excluded and displaying their sexual prowess in a ceremony of bondage (this heeled out by the rope) and domination (those who have conquered). Perhaps one of those reasons lounges have become so successful is because n one wants to pay much to get into a club (i.e. no one wants to pay for sexual penetration) because it is psychologically disturbing.”

Consider the case of …


“In a country where 58% of African American 4th graders are functionally illiterate, The Lottery uncovers the failures of the traditional public school system and reveals that hundreds of thousands of parents attempt to flee the system every year. The Lottery follows four of these families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in a charter school lottery. Out of thousands of hopefuls, only a small minority will win the chance of a better future.

Directed by Madeleine Sackler and shot by award-winning cinematographer Wolfgang Held, The Lottery uncovers a ferocious debate surrounding the education reform movement. Interviews with politicians and educators explain not only the crisis in public education, but also why it is fixable. A call to action to avert a catastrophe in the education of American children, The Lottery makes the case that any child can succeed.”

OFFICIAL SITE:  The Lottery.


Does the U.S. Need a Neurowarfare Strategy?

“We are approaching a time when brain science will be critical to our national security. Whether the basis for enhanced human performance or more intelligent machines, the impacts will be broad, motivating innovations in technologies, policies and practices. The prospects are similar to an earlier time ( i.e.- the 19th century) when advances in scientific understanding of the chemistry of explosives revolutionized weaponry, and the ways in which war was conducted. Brain science is poised to incur similarly far-reaching changes. There is need for a coordinated strategy as brain science becomes an increasingly important component of, and the basis for potential threats to, our national security. This strategy should provide a roadmap for translating advances, bolstered by initiatives such as the proposed Decade of the Mind and National Neurotechnology Initiative, to the national security domain. This strategy should also assure safeguards and governance, promoting U.S. leadership in establishing standards for the application of brain science to military, intelligence and other security domains. At the Fourth Decade of the Mind Conference, January 13-15, 2009, four areas were identified wherein national security will be impacted by advances in brain science.

1. Adversarial Application of Brain Science exemplified by: (a) nanoparticles engineered to affect specific brain processes, (b) “super soldiers” created through pharmaceuticals and/or brain stimulation enabling troops to think/react more quickly, exert greater concentration, etc. (c) brain imaging for interrogation/lie detection, and (d) intelligent machines replicating the mechanisms by which humans and other animals perform signal detection, information processing, etc.
2. Expanding the Limits of Human-Machine Systems Performance through technologies overcoming human perceptual and cognitive constraints limiting today’s technological solutions.
3. “Learner Specific” Education and Training – customized to the variable strengths and weaknesses of learners minimizing knowledge acquisition time and maximizing outcomes.
4. Brain Injuries and Disorders – treatments curtailing and reversing brain damage with understanding of mechanisms underlying psychological resilience suggesting techniques for assessing susceptibility, protecting against and treating stress-related pathologies.

It is reasonable to assume other nations have focused research and development on each of these areas. We assert that the U.S. should not engage in compensatory, “catch-up” research programs, as this will be costly to our national security from both an economic and pragmatic perspective. There are few fields that are as rapidly advancing as brain science. Combined with innovations in nanotechnology, genetics, microelectronics, etc., advances in brain science will only accelerate, and it is probable that major breakthroughs relevant to national security are both viable and imminently achievable. Consequently, we argue that there is need for a coordinated, strategic effort to address the ramifications of brain science in the interest of our national security.”

Note: For more about the legalities of neurowarfare I recommend this paper written by Cornell Law School student Stephen White.


So there’s that …

A Cosmist Manifesto: Might There Be Intelligences in Other “Dimensions”?

“Many people, after having certain meditative experiences or taking certain psychedelic substances (especially DMT), emerge with a strong intuitive sense that they have been communicating with intelligent transhuman beings in some other “dimension” — a dimension quite close-by to us, but normally inaccessible to us due to the nature of our mind-architecture and self-structure….

Some folks, such as Terrence McKenna, have hypothesized that the technological Singularity will put us in touch with these beings (which he whimsically labeled “nine-dimensional machine-elves”!), via allowing us to occupy more flexible mind-architectures and lose the restrictions of the human self…

Interestingly, this hypothesis that we’ll contact such beings after the Singularity is verifiable/falsifiable… we just need to create the Singularity to find out!

If nothing else, this line of thinking serves to remind us that it’s mighty hard to meaningfully chart what might happen after Singularity. After all, if McKenna is right and post-Singularity we will contact these beings and ingest information from them or in some sense join their world — then from that point on the direction of our mind-evolution will be quite independent of any detailed prognostications we might make now…”

Source and more:  A Cosmist Manifesto: Might There Be Intelligences in Other “Dimensions”?.

Sunday Interlude

Quote of the day…

“Stupidity has a knack of getting its way.”

– Albert Camus