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Aoi Android

Brushing off the cobwebs accumulated on my academic, neuroscience brain regions, I have had a series of questions that have always burned within since the beginning:

 

Is the mind a social construct? Is the mind a byproduct of the organ, or is the mind the electrical pulses running through the brain (and body)?

 

I am inclined to believe the mind is those  electric signals, but I would love to hear other views.

 

 

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Polygon

I'd say the electrical signals put out by the brain. Still, the mind is an extremely interesting thing, and the subject of some of the most tough and possibly unanswerable questions. We know so little about brains in general but they control our actions... kind of spooky. Our brains are supposedly what makes us "us", but everyone's brains are doing a bunch of things behind the scenes without our knowledge or permission... so yeah... spooky. 

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lapat67

I don't have any answers, but I'm reading A woman looking at men looking at women by Siri Hustvedt at the moment, that deals with those questions in detail (and also without coming up with definite answers), and it's really good.

 

I once asked a friend who had studied particle physics something about the relationship between particle physics and what we experience of reality at the human scale (it may have been about the relationship between the principle of indeterminacy and free will) and she said that it was the wrong question to ask because we have no way of predicting emergent "macroscopic" events from what we know about the elementary scale. And I suspect the same is true of mind and brain. I would say it's obvious the former emerges from the latter, but we have no way of connecting the two.

 

" 'Dear Hilde,

If the human brain were simpler, we would still be so stupid that we couldn't understand it.

Love,

Dad' "

Sophie's world

Jostein Gaarder

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stormrider

That is a though question as noone seems to have a definite answer. It starts by trying to define mind in the first place. 

I personally think it has to do with electrical signals and is somehow connected to the neuronal wiring of the brain. Whether it be anchored in neurons themself or comes to place through electrical fields I could not specify. 

 

What I found quite interesting is that I always assumed the mind and consciousness must have been a evolutionary advantage. But someone once told me that it might not have been but might have been a side product to some other advantage. That got me thinking... 

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E

Well, let's take a looksee at what's destroyed when a brain is destroyed.

 

At least as far as we can tell, our consciousness can't survive without a physical housing. So destroy any part of the brain sufficiently enough, be it tissue, the core regions, or frizzle out enough neurons, and you've got yourself the loss of higher consciousness. Our higher brain functions only come from the upper layers. It's built a little bit like a stack into three pieces(names of which I don't remember) The bottom of which, the brain stem(remembered one name) is the oldest most and most basic part to any living creature with a brain.

 

Technically all of our thoughts are housed and travel about in neurons, which are composed of atoms, which obey the known laws of physics. Perhaps if we look far enough thoughts themselves actually have a "physical" sub-atomic form. But even if they did, with the loss of certain functions, the energy transfer everything in existence seems to obey would take place, and therefore whatever "we" are ceases to be due to eventually being dispersed.

 

The mind is the byproduct of the organ, which is the byproduct of physics and chemistry.

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Homer
1 minute ago, E said:

The mind is the byproduct of the organ, which is the byproduct of physics and chemistry. 

This.

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chandrakirti

I'm with the electric signals, responding to stimuli and internal chemical mechanisms.

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Nidwin

mind = brain

the same way

heart = blood pumping organ

 

On 8/8/2018 at 1:21 PM, Polygon said:

We know so little about brains in general but they control our actions... kind of spooky. Our brains are supposedly what makes us "us", but everyone's brains are doing a bunch of things behind the scenes without our knowledge or permission... so yeah... spooky. 

We know nowedays more than "so little" Polygon.

 

Our brain defines who we are (makes us "us" in your words) through our personal nature and nurture. We also know that our perception of the world, our reality, at any given moment is a construct from our brain processes based on input from our senses and how our brain functions processes the received data.

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lapat67
On 8/13/2018 at 1:19 PM, Nidwin said:

mind = brain

Siri Hustvedt, in A woman looking at men looking at women, talks in detail about the misplaced confidence that AI people have, that if you create an artificial brain, that the mind will appear as well. There's a lot that's happening outside the brain, how we interact with "reality" outside our brain through our bodies, including the way that interacting with our mothers before and after birth shapes us, that makes the Cartesian dichotomy of mind and body seem like a mystifying metaphor. That it's much more productive to look at what the organism as a whole does. SH gives a lot more detail that I can't remember now; I recommend the book.

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Ashes of the phoenix
On 8/8/2018 at 7:01 AM, Aoi Android said:

Brushing off the cobwebs accumulated on my academic, neuroscience brain regions, I have had a series of questions that have always burned within since the beginning:

 

Is the mind a social construct? Is the mind a byproduct of the organ, or is the mind the electrical pulses running through the brain (and body)?

 

I am inclined to believe the mind is those  electric signals, but I would love to hear other views.

 

 

the parts don't add up to explain the mind. 

 

like, even in the wind there is a mind, even in the flight of birds there is a mind. if the bottle of coke was equivalent to the sum of its parts, why does it have a closed state and an open state? there is the same parts either way, yet there is more to it than just what is there. 

 

the "how" of how things are is where the mind is, and understanding the how is a very difficult thing to have. 

 

we create complex, huge stories about the drama of human behavior, social movements, tropes, memes, all these - they exist no where in the world. but we create them and use them and respond to them, because the mind is not limited to mere summation of parts. 

 

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Ace of Mind

It seems like this is basically the ongoing discussion in cognitive psychology of dualism vs materialism. (Guess who's taking cogpsych this semester :P )

 

For many years I've felt it seems obvious that the mind must simply be the product of complex neuron interactions in the brain. 

Just a few days ago however, I read a surprisingly well-defended position of the opposing side, which is very rare among academics these days. 

Dr. Selmer Bringsjord at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute attempted to construct a logical argument that the mind must be something more than the brain itself, which went something like this: 
1. The mind, if physical, is a product of the brain.

2. The brain is an information processing system that operates within the Turing Limit.

3. There are documented instances in history of humans solving problems that require "hypercomputing", that is; a Turing machine would be unable to solve these problems regardless of the time or memory provided. These include (supposedly) feats of legend such as proving Fermat's last theorem, or similarly uncomputable endeavors. 

4. Therefore, the mind must not be exclusively physical. 

 

I'm really not sure what to make of this.
If this position turns out to be false, that would suggest a world-shaking misunderstanding of the limits of computability, despite these limits retaining consistency across years of mathematical rigor. But if it turns out to be true, that scenario leaves the equally unbelievable notion that the mind exists beyond the physical brain.  

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lapat67

1. No. See my post of 14 August that mind is a product of the whole body.

3. This argues from the mistaken assumption that what the brain does is computation: processing data to come up with the correct answer. In fact, we can intuitively grasp at the most likely answer based on insufficient data. After all, we do not always solve problems, we just get it right much more often than if we were guessing at random. That doesn't require computation beyond the physical limits of the brain, just higher levels of abstraction that can recognize patterns from the scantiest of outlines.

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Ace of Mind

@lapat67 A few clarifications about Dr. Bringsjord's attempted argument (which I still have no idea whether I agree with) 

1. The point was that, mathematically speaking, the human nervous system and world experience are bound within physical and mathematical limits. Although very complex, the entire human body could be, with enough resources, modeled computationally within the Turing Limit. 

3. That's the troubling part of this argument; what the brain and human body does is literally process data to come up with some response. All the interactions of all nerves and cells in the body are collectively the most complex information processing system currently known to exist. However, as with what you mentioned, the human MIND seems to be capable of things that, mathematically, the human brain and body don't seem to be able to do. Dr. Bringsjord's interpretation of this is that there must be some part of the human mind that exists outside the physical world, although I remain skeptical of this, his argument does seem to strike a conundrum. 

 

P.S. - 

On 9/8/2018 at 3:46 PM, lapat67 said:

In fact, we can intuitively grasp at the most likely answer based on insufficient data. After all, we do not always solve problems, we just get it right much more often than if we were guessing at random. That doesn't require computation beyond the physical limits of the brain, just higher levels of abstraction that can recognize patterns from the scantiest of outlines.

Although this is true, this isn't really a good example of "not an information processor" because this also describes exactly the behavior of some of today's better deep-learning AI models. :P

Also, in the examples that seem to have convinced Dr. Bringsjord, the mathematical likelihood of arriving at the answer this way is astronomically small, and any 'intuition' that leads to the correct answer in one of these cases that supposedly require 'hypercomputing', does not seem to have any part of the physical body that could have been responsible for that intuition. 

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lapat67

I think we need to apply Occam's razor. As you say, we are capable of information processing feats, and we can't explain how we do this. Since we don't know, we can't build a machine that reproduces what we do. With our partial knowledge we can construct conceptual models and computer models that help us understand how we might be doing certain things and build AIs to reproduce those. For the part of our information processing capabilities that we do not know how to explain we can either invoke supernatural causes, or we can claim that they are done by the "parts" of ourselves that we don't understand. Occam's razor says that since we know for a fact there are things that we do not know about ourselves, but we do not know for a fact that there is anything supernatural at all, that it's simpler to proceed without invoking a supernatural. That doesn't mean there is proof the supernatural doesn't exist. Merely that we have a long history of invoking elves, ether, etc. that turned out to obfuscate more than they clarify, so it's better to show a marked reluctance to do so.

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Ace of Mind
1 hour ago, lapat67 said:

I think we need to apply Occam's razor. As you say, we are capable of information processing feats, and we can't explain how we do this. Since we don't know, we can't build a machine that reproduces what we do. With our partial knowledge we can construct conceptual models and computer models that help us understand how we might be doing certain things and build AIs to reproduce those. For the part of our information processing capabilities that we do not know how to explain we can either invoke supernatural causes, or we can claim that they are done by the "parts" of ourselves that we don't understand. Occam's razor says that since we know for a fact there are things that we do not know about ourselves, but we do not know for a fact that there is anything supernatural at all, that it's simpler to proceed without invoking a supernatural. That doesn't mean there is proof the supernatural doesn't exist. Merely that we have a long history of invoking elves, ether, etc. that turned out to obfuscate more than they clarify, so it's better to show a marked reluctance to do so.

That's what's troubling me about Dr. Bringsjord's reasoning. It seems as though in order to reject all 'supernatural' explanations (which I typically love to reject), it is necessary to accept that there is some part of us that is operating in an unknown way to perform these feats. This seems perfectly reasonable, except for the slight hiccup that while we still don't really know how the brain and body work to create the experience of the mind, we DO know that the brain and body are operating in a physical configuration that should confine them to within the Turing Limit. In rejecting the supernatural, it suggests that there may exist a physical arrangement of information processing procedures that can exceed the Turing Limit, which would turn decades of comparability theory on its head. For me, this is almost as difficult to accept as the supernatural, so I'm left puzzling at what to think about this line of reasoning. 

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lapat67

This is what I meant on 8 September: I believe that we solve these problems without relying, or possibly without exclusively relying, on computation, but also without the supernatural, but relying on creativity. Creativity doesn't exceed the Turing Limit, it operates at right angles to it. That doesn't trouble me at all, it tells me that we are not biological machines. "The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience." Frank Herbert paraphrasing Kierkegaard.

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Calligraphette_Coe
20 hours ago, lapat67 said:

This is what I meant on 8 September: I believe that we solve these problems without relying, or possibly without exclusively relying, on computation, but also without the supernatural, but relying on creativity. Creativity doesn't exceed the Turing Limit, it operates at right angles to it. That doesn't trouble me at all, it tells me that we are not biological machines. "The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience." Frank Herbert paraphrasing Kierkegaard.

But what if we are just biological machines that are highly adpative with automatic fault correction and create virtual realities to run the programs that make us one step above being 'just a machine'. 

 

I've read books that suggest we create our unique selves from memories and we use those memories to program the machine.  And things like strokes and trauma can temporarily cripple part of the machine, but in many cases, the brain and mind 'wire around' the damage. I know, I had it happen to me. You'd never guess to talk to me in 3D space that there are small parts of my brain that were destroyed during three of those 'brainquakes'. I recovered, as many people do.

 

On the other hand, if we are just machines, how do you explain people like Einstein? Or, for that matter, savants?

 

 

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