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Can weCan we
UnderstandUnderstand
ConsciousnessConsciousness
and Free-will?and Free-will?
And Why?
From “The Emergent Meth...
Discussion AheadDiscussion Ahead
• We will explore how we might understand the mechanisms of free-
will.
• We will establi...
DefinitionsDefinitions
Consciousness is the quality or state of self-awareness, or, of being
aware of an external object o...
The ProblemsThe Problems
• The problem of consciousness. Computers are intricate, and able to
do incredibly complex calcul...
New ScienceNew Science
• There has been a paradigm shift…
o Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. Physicist John Wheele...
New ScienceNew Science
o Genetics and Darwin’s Theory, which established that you need
genetic uncertainty but not an agen...
Definition of LifeDefinition of Life
• Paul Bourgine and John Stewart, in their 2004 MIT paper
labelled “Autopoiesis and C...
Blind CognitionBlind Cognition
A difflugia amoeba shell. Pseudopods (‘legs’) normally extend out from
the upright shell. T...
Free wonFree won’’t andt and
Conscious AcquiescenceConscious Acquiescence
• Physicist Albert Einstein said, “Imagination i...
We are Future TrappersWe are Future Trappers
• The only thing a living organism or computer program can
change is somethin...
Homeostatic SystemsHomeostatic Systems
• All systems (living or non-living, natural or manmade) have
border constraints th...
Personality GrowthPersonality Growth
• If all goes well, our systems can drive us toward an oasis of
near-optimal operatio...
Personality GrowthPersonality Growth
• More bland in childhood, personality becomes more colourful in
adulthood. As this u...
Loops within LoopsLoops within Loops
• Similarly, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio suggests that what makes
conscious beings...
• However, all of this self-imagery still does not escape determinism
and explain free-will…
• The next piece in the puzzl...
Environmental AcquiescenceEnvironmental Acquiescence
• Free-will requires self-aware psychosocial claims. That is, we
must...
Environmental LoopsEnvironmental Loops
• Our interrelationship with the environment at various levels and
via various prob...
The Separation of PowersThe Separation of Powers
• Finally we’ve arrived at an explanation of consciousness and relative
f...
The Triumph of Free-willThe Triumph of Free-will
• How did we get here? It wasn’t easy:
Relativity/Instability/Evolution –...
Questions RaisedQuestions Raised
Questions arise from free-will derived from an emergent monism:
• Can we derive basic hum...
• Programmers compete to create moving 2D entities on a computer
screen (see bottom right-hand corner) that must regain th...
• Blinking pixels might equate to blinking neurons in the brain and
free-will to the Application code, but who pushes whom...
ARITHMETIC
LOGIC UNIT
IN (OPERAND A) IN (OPERAND B)
OUT (RESULT)STATUS BITS
MICROPROCESSOR CODE,
E.G. ‘ADD A + NOT B’
MACH...
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Can we understand consciousness

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Can We Understand Free-Will? And Why? By Michael Kean

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Can we understand consciousness

  1. 1. Can weCan we UnderstandUnderstand ConsciousnessConsciousness and Free-will?and Free-will? And Why? From “The Emergent Method” © Michael Kean, 2014. All rights reserved. The human mind/body is perhaps the most complex thing in the universe…
  2. 2. Discussion AheadDiscussion Ahead • We will explore how we might understand the mechanisms of free- will. • We will establish that we live in a relativistic universe and find that the nature of relativity is integral to an understanding of free-will • We will slowly zero in on a more complete explanation of free-will by discussing life’s autopoiesis and cognition, and our practical limitation of free-will to ‘future trapping’ • We will add to this picture the homeostatic nature of our mind/body systems and the emergence of self-aware personality • We will include a discussion of the brain imagery of self and our psychosocial claiming • We will end with the environmental legitimisation of our free-will claims
  3. 3. DefinitionsDefinitions Consciousness is the quality or state of self-awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined as: sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness, accessed May 2014) Free-will is the ability of agents to make choices unconstrained by certain factors. Factors of historical concern have included metaphysical constraints (such as logical, nomological, or theological determinism), physical constraints (such as chains or imprisonment), social constraints (such as threat of punishment or censure), and mental constraints (such as compulsions or phobias, neurological disorders, or genetic predispositions). (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will, accessed May 2014)
  4. 4. The ProblemsThe Problems • The problem of consciousness. Computers are intricate, and able to do incredibly complex calculations, but are not conscious. Ability to calculate alone is not the essence of consciousness – so what is? • The problems of hard determinism, neurologist Benjamin Libet’s experiment, its readiness potential, and its ~300[ms] Gap • The problem of the ‘Is’ and the ‘Ought’ • The problem of the ‘First Cause’ and other classical axioms of thought (e.g. identity, non-contradiction and the excluded middle). These old paradigms seem to be holding us back. A new paradigm for thinking and explanation is required…
  5. 5. New ScienceNew Science • There has been a paradigm shift… o Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. Physicist John Wheeler – “Space tells matter how to move; matter tells space how to bend”. Everything we perceive is relative - there are no absolutes. The universe is not like a machine or billiard ball. o Quantum Field Theory and physicist Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. You can’t know beforehand both the position and velocity of a particle. Everything we perceive is indeterminate. o Mathematician Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems. A fully specified mathematical system (including its axioms and proof theorems) cannot demonstrate its own completeness. It cannot be both consistent and syntactically complete. This suggests every logic we conceive is inter-dependent and incomplete.
  6. 6. New ScienceNew Science o Genetics and Darwin’s Theory, which established that you need genetic uncertainty but not an agent for evolution o Science philosopher Karl Popper’s rejection of induction (e.g. ‘all observed swans are white therefore all swans are white!’), and insistence on trial-and-error testing, falsification, and deduction as the solid basis of the Scientific Method. Through testing the ‘null hypothesis’ we don’t discover certain knowledge, we reject certain errors in knowledge and tentatively acquiesce to the rest. • In summary, because there is only one reality, every relativistic system is also a mutually dependent, uncertain, incomplete and evolutionary system - that we can only ever know tentatively. Can this idea provide us with a new way of understanding life and consciousness?
  7. 7. Definition of LifeDefinition of Life • Paul Bourgine and John Stewart, in their 2004 MIT paper labelled “Autopoiesis and Cognition”, proposed the thesis “A system that is both autopoietic [i.e. can maintain itself and reproduce] and cognitive [i.e. can deal with future contingencies or satisfy the viability constraints imposed by its environment] is a living system”. • This proposed ‘necessary and sufficient’ definition of life is very interesting because it is a systemic definition, rather than one that depends on an underlying body, such as one made up of organic molecules. This suggests there is a relativistic relationship between life & body that extends the relationship between space & matter • That is, life moves the body, but the body gives shape to life
  8. 8. Blind CognitionBlind Cognition A difflugia amoeba shell. Pseudopods (‘legs’) normally extend out from the upright shell. The amoeba is cognitive, but lacks free-will. Do we?
  9. 9. Free wonFree won’’t andt and Conscious AcquiescenceConscious Acquiescence • Physicist Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. That is, he asserted we have free-will, which is somehow tied to our ability to imagine • Philosopher Dan Dennett and others who also believe in a soft determinism, suggest more accurately that we have something more like free won’t than free-will. Like the Scientific Method, subconsciousness often requires the acquiescence of consciousness for its decision-traffic to flow into action, e.g. feelings of love or anger • That is, consciousness guides subconsciousness, but subconsciousness provides content to consciousness
  10. 10. We are Future TrappersWe are Future Trappers • The only thing a living organism or computer program can change is something anticipated to happen. That is, we can modify a gene, stimulate the frontal lobes of the brain, or program a computer, to allow for future contingencies before they happen. Organisms can set ‘future traps’, but that’s all. This is the basis & limit (but not proof) of free- will. • That is, living organisms (including computers as our ‘extended phenotypes’) have the limited ability to perceive, interpret and guide the local environment either blindly or with self-awareness • However, if this ability is deterministic, how can it ever be an act of free-will? Let’s take a step back…
  11. 11. Homeostatic SystemsHomeostatic Systems • All systems (living or non-living, natural or manmade) have border constraints that define their operating limits. They have ‘degrees of freedom’ within these borders. • Unconscious body – seeks biological homeostasis (not too hot, not too cold) • Subconsciousness – seeks the psychological middle paths of operation (not too sad, not too happy) • Consciousness - seeks the sociological middle paths of operation (not too aggressive, not too submissive)
  12. 12. Personality GrowthPersonality Growth • If all goes well, our systems can drive us toward an oasis of near-optimal operation over which there is little behavioural preference coming from these underlying systems. Here, there is room for probabilistic behaviours. Small influences can be selected and others safely ignored without rejection (with acquiescence); the unique preferences of self can slowly grow Self – integrates inputs from extrosomatic and introsomatic reality External environment Self-reflection – both an output and input to our introsomatic reality. Its beginning is necessarily probabilistic Extrosomatic Output (intention) Extrasomatic Input (attention)
  13. 13. Personality GrowthPersonality Growth • More bland in childhood, personality becomes more colourful in adulthood. As this unique personality emerges, it affects those homeostatic systems, and their limits. It attenuates and amplifies perceptions, providing us with individual but incomplete interpretations of reality. There is an emergent outcome of our homeostatic systems & personal preferences (or our body & mind) that extends the outcomes of matter & space Personality (incomplete filters and integrations of reality) External environment IntrospectionSomatic Motor System Extrospection
  14. 14. Loops within LoopsLoops within Loops • Similarly, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio suggests that what makes conscious beings special is the opportunity to perceive our successes, or to see self emerging from its introsomatic & extrosomatic inputs • Cognitive scientist Doug Hofstadter describes this ability to observe self in his book, I am a Strange Loop. He and Damasio suggest that self observation arises and integrates in the mind much like rich stereo sound arises through providing and arranging split signals to the left & right ear, or 3D TV arises through providing and arranging split signals to the left & right eye (please look at the picture below) • If we could remove the ‘4D’ glasses of consciousness, we would see the harmonic overlays of the split signals that make it up. The corpus callosum provides the necessary left brain / right brain, initiator/follower harmonic overlays of relativistic thought. The rich mental imagery of the mind is greatly reduced without a left brain / right brain interpenetrating relativism
  15. 15. • However, all of this self-imagery still does not escape determinism and explain free-will… • The next piece in the puzzle is to understand psychosocial claiming. Please look at the picture in the bottom corner… • The possible female mate of the strutting male peacock finds blind meaning in his sexual signalling. Instincts have built in the appropriate heuristics or shortcut signalling and behavioural response. The male is the traffic initiator and the female the respondent traffic cop. That is, the animal world is full of self-evolved meanings and values without even seeking or articulating them • We humans are largely no different. Our psychosocial claiming can be blind or self- aware, so still doesn’t prove free-will • Nevertheless, sexuality & psychosocial claims are relativistic. It takes two to tango Psychosocial LoopsPsychosocial Loops
  16. 16. Environmental AcquiescenceEnvironmental Acquiescence • Free-will requires self-aware psychosocial claims. That is, we must have an anchor point ‘outside’ of objective reality to compare the real with the imagined or reconstructed and plot the difference. This relativistic objective-subjective difference can be used as a basis for understanding and second-guessing reality and thus as a basis (but not proof) for our self-aware agency and free-will • Each self-aware claim is legitimised by its worldly success. The indisputable and self-aware worldly value of our claims is the ‘real’ basis and authority of our free-will and moral agency! • Thus, free-will requires a transformation from unique, self-aware claims to self-aware recognition and success (or lack of rejection) through a kind of environmental acquiescence • The environment in all its forms (including our friends and culture) is thus our necessary partner in our emergent but tentative free-will
  17. 17. Environmental LoopsEnvironmental Loops • Our interrelationship with the environment at various levels and via various probabilistic loops creates and enables our free-will • We don’t have an independent freedom from the world, but rather an inter-dependent & relativistic freedom with the world. The complete self is not triune in nature, but quadune – it has 4 elements that includes the environment. Action and reaction. • We can only claim a self if we observe ourselves within the environment before and after its non-negative response. Does the environment claim us? No. The environment is just the sum of entities like us. We are each a flourishing extension of relativistic reality. We each have a tentative reason to be appreciative • The ‘ought’ emerges from the ‘is’. Nature is arbitrarily the initiator and morality is the follower. Morality tells nature how to do, but nature provides the moral circumstances (even in a moral vacuum where no ‘policeman’ is present)
  18. 18. The Separation of PowersThe Separation of Powers • Finally we’ve arrived at an explanation of consciousness and relative free-will. Free-will incorporates new freedoms that evolve over time • There was a kind of separation of powers between our minds and environments, or the subjective and objective, or the ought and the is. Just as in Darwinian evolution, without this diversification of powers, no emergence of new properties such as free-will is possible • The relativistic interrelationship between self & environment manifests itself in e.g. Politics (representatives & electorate), Military Systems (actions & strategy), Finance (production & money), Economics (buyer & seller), Language (verbs & nouns), Sociology (conscious self & society), Psychology (unconscious body & subconscious mind), and free-will (in the gap between the subconscious & conscious mind). It really does take two to tango! • The mistake in Libet Gap interpretations was to see the mind in terms of cause and effect rather than as a relativistic device that diversifies powers and thus emerges, bringing order to relative disorder.
  19. 19. The Triumph of Free-willThe Triumph of Free-will • How did we get here? It wasn’t easy: Relativity/Instability/Evolution – Cognition – Future Trapping – Homeostasis & Emergent Personality – Brain Imagery of Self – Psychosocial Claiming – Environmental Acquiescence (lack of failure) – emergent Separation of Powers! • Why should we be interested in understanding consciousness? Know thyself! Be Thyself! Love Thyself! (Socrates’ path to the mastery of life). Free-will is not narcissistic or ignorant independence • Core takeaway: Subjectivity is both the reward and cost of our shared but very personal free-will. Subjectivity fully circumscribes our agency. Our inter-dependent free-will is full of valued possibility • We are gods, but the very subjectivity that our moral agency affords us also bedevils us. The same is true of all gods (and heroes) • For self-aware humans there is not just an emergent self-organisation, but also an exciting self-actualisation • Note: This theory of free-will only stands until a better theory replaces it…
  20. 20. Questions RaisedQuestions Raised Questions arise from free-will derived from an emergent monism: • Can we derive basic human nature from relativistic first principles? • Can we develop a quadune model of self from these first principles? • Can we individually answer the very personal question, “What ought I to do?” from first principles? • Can we learn from first principles an appropriate life stance that could make us more aware, and better tackle the risks to wellbeing we face? This is the story of the ‘Emergent Method’… A free life is one in which we do what we love and love what we do. We inspire others because we continue to inspire ourselves. Our sense of purpose (free-will) is our lives’ driving and creative force… For further information please contact Michael Kean via mekean1@gmail.com or leave me your details on the sheet here…
  21. 21. • Programmers compete to create moving 2D entities on a computer screen (see bottom right-hand corner) that must regain their shape to ‘survive’ encounters with the screen edges or other 2D entities. • The 2D behaviours are not well described in terms of blinking screen pixels. A ‘glider’ is a transient manifold of pixels that displays properties or behaviours in its own right without contradiction of processes turning on and off pixels at the lower level. • Machine, Microprocessor, Operating System and Application code all work together, as does all from quarks and gluons to molecules to consciousness. The codes we use to describe these various levels are ↔ Physics ↔ Chemistry ↔ Biology ↔ Psychology ↔ Sociology ↔ E.g. ConwayE.g. Conway’’s Life Games Life Game
  22. 22. • Blinking pixels might equate to blinking neurons in the brain and free-will to the Application code, but who pushes whom inside the cranium - neurons or free-will? Relativity suggests each share the process. It suggests the brain/body is the initiator and mind/free-will the follower • Is free-will an illusion? Would we say water is less real than hydrogen and oxygen because it displays properties at a higher level of organisation that are not relevant at lower levels? Would we say subconsciousness is real and consciousness less real? The brain/body is part of the direct real (or part of matter) and mind/free-will is part of the indirect real (or part of space) • Free-will is real, and we share moral responsibility to the extent we are self-aware moral agents. Our freedom is defined by, and increases with, our environmental interpenetration or coupling… E.g. ConwayE.g. Conway’’s Life Games Life Game
  23. 23. ARITHMETIC LOGIC UNIT IN (OPERAND A) IN (OPERAND B) OUT (RESULT)STATUS BITS MICROPROCESSOR CODE, E.G. ‘ADD A + NOT B’ MACHINE CODE E.G. ‘0101’ OPERATING SYSYEM CODE, E.G. ‘SET CPU CYCLE’, (or ‘REFRESH SCREEN’) APPLICATION CODE, E.G. ‘IF, THEN, ELSE’ If A = B then display “OK”, else display “Error” THE DIRECT REALTHE INDIRECT REAL Relativity => Natural Selection => Emergent Order The Free-will Agent=>Artificial Selection=>Your Self-actualising Order

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