Feb. 15th, 2017

wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
This is technically a reread, but the first time was around eight years ago, and I could remember very little of it. I found the first half, where he sketches out his model of consciousness - very condensed, a disparate and competing set of “content-fixation events” in the brain, some of which get retained as speech acts or memories, some of which get discarded and forgotten, but lacking any central “meaner” or “observer” co-ordinating these individual elements, and the bit of the algorithm that feels from the inside like being conscious is content-fixation events that are about other content fixation events - quite hard and slow going, and as I was reading them, wondered whether my memory of having found the book illuminating and clear was inaccurate.

Then I got onto the second half, which started looking at specific examples, and suddenly everything became much clearer, and I polished it off in about a tenth the time the first half took me. There are still bits that I don’t quite understand, or at least can’t articulate, in particular what ‘aboutness’ means as a property of a content-fixation event, but in general the theory felt quite comfortable and intuitive by the end of the book.

One thought that came out of the book that I want to follow up on is that there’s a fallacy in thought experiments, which is common to philosophical zombies, Mary the colour scientist, and the ontological argument, which goes “I can imagine this phenomenon, and using the properties of the thing I have imagined, such and such a proposition must be true (or is impossible)”. The fallacy being that you can’t actually imagine it accurately. I’m curious how much this crop up elsewhere. It almost feels as though it undermines the very concept of thought-experiments - or at least relegates them to ways of generating ideas, but not of providing any further insights.

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wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
Sebastian

August 2017

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