The Hard But Unserious Problem of Consciousness

Some fellow bloggers have dusted off an old paper by David Chalmers Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness. Since there is almost always some obligatory homage paid to the Chalmers “hard problem” whenever contemporary discussions of consciousness arise, one of the posts is appropriately called Chalmers Again. The other post Chalmers’ theory of consciousness tries to glean the outline of an actual theory of consciousness from the paper. I am not sure Chalmers’s intent was to provide such a theory. Chalmers reveals his intent when he writes:

At the end of the day, the same criticism applies to any purely physical account of consciousness. For any physical process we specify there will be an unanswered question: Why should this process give rise to experience? Given any such process, it is conceptually coherent that it could be instantiated in the absence of experience. It follows that no mere account of the physical process will tell us why experience arises. The emergence of experience goes beyond what can be derived from physical theory.

Chalmers may think of himself as a materialist or physicalist but in that statement, he shows himself to be a closet idealist.

Is Chalmers Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness all it is cracked up to be?

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Posted in Consciousness | 33 Comments

Out of South Africa

Researchers from the University of Huddersfield, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Minho in Braga have found genetic evidence that a small group of Homo sapiens left South Africa and migrated to East Africa between 100,000 and 70,000 years ago. We know from other evidence that 60-70,000 years ago the large migrations of humans that spread around the world began from East Africa.

We know from various lines of evidence that modern humans seemed to be linked to South Africa. I reviewed some of this more extensively in a post over six years ago, but missing at the time was the connection to East Africa which has appeared to be source of the main migrations that spread around the world. The researchers believe that perhaps this relatively small group of humans might have transmitted biological and cultural traits to the humans of East Africa.

Quoting from the article:

The identification of this signal opens up the possibility that a migration of a small group of people from South Africa towards the east around 65,000 years ago transmitted aspects of their sophisticated modern human culture to people in East Africa. Those East African people were biologically little different from the South Africans—they were all modern Homo sapiens, their brains were just as advanced and they were undoubtedly cognitively ready to receive the benefits of the new ideas and upgrade. But the way it happened might not have been so very different from a modern isolated stone-age culture encountering and embracing western civilization today.

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What Will it Take for Humanity to Survive?

Vic Grout has post at Turing’s Radiator on What Will it Take for Humanity to Survive? (And Why is Trump Such a Complete Bellend?). The four pillars he comes up with are:

  1. No Non-Renewable Energy
  2. No Nuclear Weapons
  3. No Countries
  4. No Capitalism

It is hard to argue against the first two, although some might say we will still need some non-renewable energy for some time (how much TBD).  The next two are considerably more radical and almost unimaginable for most people even if some might agree with them in theory.

If there was ever a time to begin imagining a world without countries or capitalism, it might be now. My imagination is sometimes lacking so let me reuse a Henry Miller quote I used in another post:

“The cultural era is past. The new civilization, which may take centuries or a few thousand years to usher in, will not be another civilization. It will be the open stretch of realization which all the past civilizations have pointed to. The city, which was the birthplace of civilization, such as we know it to be, will exist no more. There will be nuclei, of course, but they will be mobile and fluid. The peoples of the earth will no longer be shut off from one another within states but will flow freely over the surface of the earth and intermingle. There will be no fixed constellations of human aggregates. Governments will give way to management, using the word in a broad sense. The politician will become as superannuated as the dodo bird. The machine will never be dominated, as some imagine; it will be scrapped, eventually, but not before men have understood the nature of the mystery which binds them to their creation. The worship, investigation and subjugation of the machine will give way to the lure of all that is truly occult. This problem is bound up with the larger one of power—and of possession. Man will be forced to realize that power must be kept open, fluid and free. His aim will be not to possess power but to radiate it.”

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