Friday, September 22, 2023

A great divide in the world today.

In the contemporary world, the greatest divide would not be between the liberals and conservatives. It would be between people who believe in the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, and those who don't. Alternatively, there would be a deep chasm between believers and non-believers of the idea that the world is a simulation run on a huge computer (presumably designed by some superintelligence, natural or artificial).

When someone says that he or she believes in the simulation hypothesis, the most appropriate and fun follow-up question would be:

At what time exactly in your life did you realize that this world, including you, is a simulation? Did you notice a bug in the program, or was there a noticeable hole in the visual field?

Neither has happened to me so far, and I don't believe in the simulation hypothesis.

I thought about this rather humorous idea after a close friend of mind, Kaoru Takeuchi, who got his Ph.D in string cosmology from McGill, said that he believed in both the many worlds interpretation and simulation hypothesis. This is indeed a great divide. Rather unsettling, actually. I needed some psychological defense mechanism, and I came up with the above thoughts.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Once you become adequately connected to the central ideas of consciousness, you would become a sincerely ignorant person.

 One of the most important things in consciousness studies would be to realize that you don't understand consciousness. 

It is too easy to fall back on a particular idea, theory, and set of data to (falsely) believe that one has understood the nature of consciousness. Too many people have gone that way and basically never came back, perhaps tragically for themselves. 

I am not necessarily arguing that the cognitive closure argument of Colin McGinn (which, by the way, is a beautifully presented exposition) is correct. I am just making an observation that one of the blessings of learning the facts about the neural correlates of consciousness and related ideas in the philosophy of mind is that one becomes aware of the tremendous difficulty involved in understanding consciousness. 

Indeed, the more you learn about the intricacies of the mind-brain problem, the less confident you become as regards the power of any specific theory (be it the integrated information theory, global workspace theory, quantum theories of mind, etc.) to account for the origin of consciousness. 

In consciousness studies, an intellectual hubris of understanding would come from an insufficient understanding of the field. Once you become adequately connected to the central ideas of consciousness, you would become a sincerely ignorant person. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The enigma of free will evidently equals that of time.

 Conventional arguments about free will seems to be missing one fundamental aspect, which is the essentially non-existent nature of the future. 

Albert Einstein admitted that his theory of relativity cannot handle the enigma of the now. 

A particular point in time proceeds from the future to the present, and on to the past, in a way described in the historic McTaggart paper.

 In this temporal procession, the future does not seem to exist in any sense, until it becomes the now. 

The past is also non-existent, for sure, even allowing for the possibility of Bertrand Russell's five minutes hypothesis, which suggest that the universe came into existence five minutes ago, with all the relevant memories of the past. 

Henri Bergson's concept of pure memory would complicate this argument, which would solidify the reality of the past if taken seriously, but the five minutes hypothesis is not a logical impossibility on the surface within the conventional worldview. 

So much for the past. The future, on the other hand, is absolutely non-existent, or so it seems from the nature of the stream of consciousness. Any models of free will ignoring this remarkable asymmetry of time would be at best good for all practical purposes, but ultimately hollow. 

The enigma of free will evidently equals that of time.