Coming up on Consciousness Live!

I haven’t been very good at posting anything here lately (5 classes, two kids, and trying to write a couple of papers sucks up a lot of time!!) but I have been keeping up with the discussions on Consciousness Live! Here are some of the upcoming discussions planned.

R. Scott Bakker

Michael Silberstein

Nicholas D’Aloisio-Montilla

Keith Frankish

Also, in case you missed it, check out my discussions with Adriana Renero (on introspection) and Monica Gagliano  (on plant cognition).


2 thoughts on “Coming up on Consciousness Live!

  1. Good interview! I agree with you that he’s too pessimistic. The future is likely to be weird, but I think the transition will be gradual enough to avoid serious whiplash as we muddle through. I think humans are mentally flexible enough to adapt – possibly with help from computers, as you mention with All the Birds in the Sky. Facebook/Siri-style algorithms have both pluses and minuses.

    To paraphrase the saying about capitalism, “the only thing worse than being manipulated by a computer algorithm is not being manipulated by a computer algorithm.”

    In the computer AI vein, I was hoping you would ask him about whether an artificial intelligence could be conscious. Would an accurate computer simulation of a brain be conscious in the same way that a real brain is? If not, why not? If so, how would this fit with his inclination towards EMF explanations of consciousness? How does he deal with “multiple realization” type conundrums (e.g., Tim Maudlin’s “Computation and Consciousness”, “Fading/Dancing Qualia” arguments, or scenarios explored by Hans Moravec’s “Simulation, Consciousness, and Existence” paper and Greg Egan’s “Dust Theory”)?

    Also I’d have liked to see more of an exploration of the epistemological implications of “no free will”. For example, if physics is a painting of reality created by a “blind brain”…then how likely is it that this painting closely resembles the “truth”? Without free will, aren’t our ultimate conclusions about the universe already predetermined by the initial conditions and (possibly probabilistic) causal laws of the universe? Given this, how likely is it that these conclusions are accurate? Even evolution is just the playing out of initial conditions and causal laws, and so evolution doesn’t really count as a fundamental explanation.

    On the implications of determinism for moral responsibility – again I think he was too pessimistic. We are just molecular machines, but if a machine malfunctions we repair it, or recalibrate it, or deactivate it. I don’t think it’s obviously true that society can accept determinism in those (or similar) terms and continue functioning – but it seems reasonably possible that it can, and far from obvious that it can’t/won’t. Buddhism shows that there are options to western Christian-derived world views.

    I think Bakker has some interesting ideas about how society will react to a more scientific world view, but I don’t think he puts enough effort into exploring anything other than the worst-case scenarios. I’d be interested in hearing Bakker try to work through some of the more optimistic scenarios.

    And last, I’d like to put in another request for a James Tartaglia interview!

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