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Exploring the edge.
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The Global Brain
"It is not guilty pride but the ceaselessly reawakened instinct of the game which calls forth new worlds." (Heraclitus Reloaded)
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    Mind - The need for a new model (Part 2)
    Project: Polytopia
    "We do not really know what the human being truly is today, although our awareness and understanding should instruct us in this matter. How much less would we be able to guess what a human being is to become in future! However, the curiosity of the human soul grasps with great eagerness for this far distant subject and strives to put some light on such unilluminated knowledge."

    Immanuel Kant: Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens

    What is a model? Scratching the surface...

    Models are a wonderful invention. In very simple terms whenever we describe something in terms of something else, we engage in creating a model or at least an element of a model. A simple example is the well known smiley mad smileys standing for a smiling face, which, depending on context, stands for a particular state of mind, an expressed emotion, or a behavioral response etc. A model is generally a simplified approximate representation of a complex object, a phenomenon, a process and so on. At the basis of creating a model is an act of discrimination. We discriminate and extract those features and properties of the modeled entity which are significant and therefore need to be included in the model from those features and properties that can be discarded. A good model captures everything which is remarkable and interesting about the phenomenon being modeled and yet is significantly more simple and accessible. A good model is fit to replace the object or phenomenon being modeled within a designated context. A good model highlights that which is interesting and leaves everything else hidden.

    It is very important to note that nothing in the features or properties of an object or phenomenon are in anyway instructive as to whether or not they should be incorporated into their models. The discriminations that underlie every model are the product of how the modeled object is perceived by the author of the model and the particular biases involved in the process of modeling. Beliefs, images, assumptions, expectations, past experiences and the vast repertoire of other already available models are all primary ingredients of every model. A model is always an emergence of generative interactions of an observer with the objects being modeled. Generative here means that these interactions bring forth, actually generate, the differentiations that embody the model. It is the interactions and not the seemingly separate existence of either the observer or object that give rise to the contents of a model.

    What is truly fascinating about models is that generally and quite often we replace objects with their models and forget that we did just that. This so called forgetfulness is rooted in deeper cognitive processes of the brain. When we see a red rose or a charging tiger, we are not, we cannot be aware to the intricate neural processes involved in creating these complex visual experiences. If such processes would become part of our immediate perception, we would experience a fragmented, confused, incoherent nonsense. Luckily enough this is not the case. We do not experience a distance from the images we perceive, the voices we hear or other sensory modalities involved in our perception. The very fact of all these being mere representations totally escapes us. As far as perception is involved the map is the territory.

    Likewise, at higher levels of our conscious lives, we create models and representations and soon after creating them, or even while creating them, the very fact of an elaborate authoring taking place simply disappears from our remembered present. It is rarely, if at all, that aspects of such process are hinted in the periphery of our so called unmediated experience of reality. As we create models recursively, that is models of models of models, the fact that models are constructions becomes even more obscure. We find that in the course of their emergence our models and representations become entirely transparent.

    Transparency is perhaps the most essential and most evanescent property of our mental life. It is rooted in our cognitive paradigm but it pervades all aspects and all modalities of our mental activity (especially our linguistic activity). Transparency seems to be one of the most sophisticated tricks ever devised by evolution. Many generations of philosophers and thinkers invested their whole lives to decipher the riddle of being. What does it mean to be? How is it that the objects of our senses, our innermost dreams, the thoughts and sensations that arise in our minds, appear to be, just be: immanent, unmediated, non originated, irreducible? Even more mysterious is this riddle when it addresses the subject of such experiences, the so called ‘I’. It feels almost foolish to stand in front of this respectable assembly of giant minds of all ages and claim that the riddle of being may find its final peaceful resolution in realizing the full impact of transparency. The objects of experience appear to be, to have an inherent, independent existence, because of their transparency, because the process that brings them forth is hidden and ultimately inaccessible while it takes place.

    Modeling is how our mind space emerges as a dynamic virtual – existential space. Virtual because every single bit of it is a constructed representation. Existential because the transparency of its fabric brings forth a seemingly immanent, unmediated, immersive reality. This inescapable virtual existence or existential virtuality is perhaps what the old eastern teachings related as Maya – the great dreaming of a reality.

    A model of mind is unlike any other model because it must, at least in part, go beyond transparency, to try and access the authoring processes that underlie it. Mind is both highly abstract and unmediated. Unlike other models which are basically representations, a model of the mind is both generating and being generated by the mind. This apparent combination of circularity and transparency makes the mind the impenetrable riddle that it is. No feat of introspection or analytic reasoning can escape or circumvent this mystery. One must jump head first into it.

    Because of this peculiarity, we can hardly relate to mind in a manner which is free and unbiased by the model we already use. A model of mind therefore is an emergent entity, a mirror whose very properties co-emerge with the image being reflected. This wouldn’t be much of a trouble if not for the fact that our model of mind profoundly influences pretty much everything. From our most basic perception of immediate reality to the deepest understandings of existence, and the mystery of being human in particular, all derive from, and partake in our model of mind. Authoring a model of mind is our only way to know ourselves and everything else. Whether we create such a model explicitly or implicitly, everything that can possibly take place, takes place and is reflected in the context of our mind model and is (transparently) mediated by it.

    Remarkably this is something so fundamental that it is impossible to write even such preliminary statements without already projecting at least a few aspects of the model I have in mind (literally so). Take for example the subject-verb-object structure of a sentence such as “we author a model”. This structure, so ingrained in our language, implied a clear underlying model of mind which is more often than not entirely transparent. It implies for example an inherent subject-object separation, a distance that in turn allows, even prompts, action, causation, and effect. If we stop just for a brief moment and try to figure the meaning implied by this very simple and common structure, we immediately realize its immense impact on the way our conscious experience is organized. Furthermore, if we stop for just another brief moment to consider the particular impact such linguistic structure has in the context of our subject of inquiry, we cannot escape the conclusion that when it comes to mind, most of what can be put into words (including the above) is seriously inadequate, verging on sheer nonsense.

    Even as we just scratch the surface, we discover that this inquiry is both profoundly disturbing and intriguing. Perhaps because we can perceive absolutely no depth just an infinite surface of appearances, glimpsing into the mind invokes a strong sense of mental vertigo which soon becomes highly pleasurable, even addictive…

    Mon, May 25, 2009  Permanent link

    Sent to project: Polytopia
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    Wildcat     Mon, Jun 8, 2009  Permanent link
    Spaceweaver:" Whether we create such a model explicitly or implicitly, everything that can possibly take place, takes place and is reflected in the context of our mind model and is (transparently) mediated by it. "

    That is a brilliant statement, to which I agree implicitly, however a question comes to mind (transparently so ;-) : isn't it the case that transparency is a backbone or alternatively a special case of "shallow knowledge" (mapping loosely from one territory to another)?
    if such is the case, and transparency can indeed be said to be a special case of "shallow knowledge" it follows that any theory of mind, any model in fact, must by necessity be constructed of shallow knowledge. and again if that is indeed the case (and I reserve the right to provide a larger view on the subject) any model eventually 'breaks down' when details make/transform the shallow knowledge into precise knowledge. At that moment of precise knowledge transparency will for all practical purposes disappear, taking our minds along.
    if that is in fact the case, of what use will be our new model?
    Spaceweaver     Mon, Jun 8, 2009  Permanent link
    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I am not sure what do you mean by 'shallow knowledge', so I will try to iterate on the links you reflect upon.

    I see transparency as a very deep and essential characteristic of minds. It seems that every perception, feeling, emotion, thought or any other phenomenological content that is brought to consciousness is a product of a very precise and multilayered selection process that initiates with the way our senses acquire information, and continues in the various levels of neural processing thereafter. This selective process is partly a product of biological evolution, partly a product of cultural evolution and also depends on individual history. Metaphorically speaking, it is constructed as a kind of geological layered system.This selective process actually constructs, highlights and represents that which we consciously experience as phenomenal reality.

    The power of this selective process is not only on account of what is being highlighted; that which is filtered out or hidden from consciousness (or more locally from our immediate attention) is not less important. The hidden and the overt are strongly co dependent. In this important sense, if I understand you correctly, every knowledge is shallow knowledge. Moreover, knowledge is constructed not only as what is the case (after Wittgenstein) but significantly as what is not the case. Any knowledge therefore is a product of some selective process and I would even say that the selective process and the knowledge it brings forth are but two modalities of a deeper, more abstract, happening/entity (will develop this synthesis in forthcoming posts).

    In the case of minds, there is however an important difference between transparency and shallow knowledge. While so called shallow knowledge generally maps between two territories, (highlighting and hiding aspects in the process) as you write, transparency brings forth one territory, the experiential first person universe. In the case of minds, there is no territory of origination. Conscious phenomenal content appears as if from no where, hanged in the void, yet pervading and immanent. It is an inside without an outside (or vice-versa, depending on perspective). No amount of probing changes this very significant state of affairs. We can only infer, as we usually do, the second territory: that what we see represents a source reality which is somehow independent and separated from our constructed representation. But there is no such reality. Our inference is merely a semantic reflex wired into our very model of mind.

    Indeed I agree that there is no point to speak of 'precise knowledge' and there is no point to speak of a final model. Both are nonsense. Every model, a conceptualization of knowledge is inherently a work in progress that goes hand in hand with an on going selective (and transparent) evolutionary process. I tried to hint this at the end of my post: "Perhaps because we can perceive absolutely no depth just an infinite surface of appearances..." Also depth of knowledge is a product of our existential-virtual minding; as such it is bound to be hidden.

    As to your last question, I am trying to tread very slowly here and lay some foundations. I do not know what will be our new model, I have some ideas which I will try to articulate in future posts. Yet, we can already see what the combination of circularity and transparency, which I believe are inherent to minds, strongly imply: They imply that our model of mind and therefore our mind is evolving by its very nature. They also imply that whatever such new model might be, if it will emerge at all, us, its beholders/creators, will be entirely transformed as our mind space will spontaneously and transparently reorganize accordingly (collectively so...).

    Wildcat     Wed, Jun 10, 2009  Permanent link
    Spaceweaver, as a side issue I think you will find it of interest that a new conference concerning the metaphysics of consciousness is coming:

    Royal Institute of Philosophy Conference 2009
    The Metaphysics of Consciousness
    An International conference in honour of
    Timothy L. S. Sprigge (1932-2007)
    University of Edinburgh, 7-9 July 2009

    sounds very exciting and interesting, I have just read the abstracts and some promise to be of exceptional note.
    Wildcat     Sat, Jun 13, 2009  Permanent link
    Spaceweaver: “In the case of minds, there is no territory of origination. Conscious phenomenal content appears as if from nowhere, hanged in the void, yet pervading and immanent. It is an inside without an outside (or vice-versa, depending on perspective). No amount of probing changes this very significant state of affairs. We can only infer, as we usually do, the second territory: that what we see represents a source reality which is somehow independent and separated from our constructed representation. But there is no such reality. Our inference is merely a semantic reflex wired into our very model of mind.”

    Must say that I love this exposition, it finally brings some clarity to a very difficult and quite obscure subject.
    In the above quote you say that there is “no territory of origination”. I find this particularly interesting, especially with regard to Metzinger’s work, and there is no doubt in my mind that this line of philosophical inquiry will increase our understanding and clarity. However my feverish mind needs some deeper understanding here, namely:

    Don’t you think that the inference of the visual/sensory system upon reality as first order representation (more real) implies a gradation of realities/dimensions?

    That our inference is just a semantic reflex wired in our very model of mind is probably as high an approximation as can be written. My problem is with the word “just”. When I reflect upon semantic wiring, what I see is reality in the making by extrapolating peak effects intelligence (via pattern recognition) into modules of perception. Can you accept that?
    Spaceweaver     Sat, Jun 13, 2009  Permanent link
    As semantic reflexes go, the word "merely" did not come to diminish the importance of such reflexes to cognitive and perceptual functioning. Neither is was meant as a negation of a concrete reality, or a privileged reality within a gradation of realities. It was meant to indicate that the inference of a independent source reality is a reflex rooted in transparency. As you describe a reality in the making, it is entirely consistent with my view.

    As a remark, since you mention a possible implied gradation of realities. The existence of a privileged reality, the one that relates to sense perception and motor activity for example, is a difficult issue. I do not think however that the gradation of realities or planes of reality, or even a privileged reality is essential to a foundational model of mind. It might come later as a distinct characteristic of certain kinds of mind. Moreover, different minds of the same kind may arguably have different gradation criteria; one's dream might be another's reality and vice versa.

    Of course I draw much inspiration from Mezinger's work. I think his ideas are the most concise and courageous in the field of philosophy of mind as of today. Also the synthesis he creates between philosophy and neuroscience is a very important paradigmatic direction. My aims as compared to Mezinger's are different however. While he emphasizes on consciousness and the emergence of phenomenal space in brains, I would like to achieve a wider and more general framework as a model to mind. A framework that will apply to complex systems in general and not only to minds as they arise from neural activity. I am particularly interested in the essential prior conditions and potential consequences of emergent mindfulness and mind space within general complex systems with configurations which may significantly divert from our brains and mammal brains in general. For example: central to Mezinger's work is the concept of selfhood and its emergence. I do not take this concept as a necessary ingredient in a general mind model but only as a particular instance that is valid for particular kind of minds. To reach a new understanding of mind, it seems we need a kind of a Copernican leap.

    Your mention of patterns is interesting as it is the (probable) thread of my next post in this series. I will delay the discussion of patterns to then.
    Wildcat     Sat, Jun 27, 2009  Permanent link
    "The most important of Hertz’s questions to Mach is: what is simplicity?
    "Here it is not certain what is simple and permissible and what is not," Hertz
    writes (PM, xxv). In fact Hertz’s query about the nature of simplicity turns out to
    be a series of questions about the role of what Kant termed "regulative ideas"
    with respect to scientific theory: what sorts of considerations have guided us as
    we shaped our models of physical reality in the past? what sorts of
    considerations should guide us as we shape our representation now? what
    sorts of considerations with respect to shaping our models of physical reality
    help us to understand how we confuse ourselves in the interpretation of

    This comes from a paper: pdf- Wittgenstein, Hertz and Hermeneutics
    Allan Janik
    The Brenner Archives, University of Innsbruck

    in this respect I would like to ask you a similar question to that asked by Hertz, in what fashion does the model you propose takes into consideration the state of affairs of the mind at present?