The maturity of fiction awareness

Mesopotamian religious imagery

In an ongoing series, I'm covering topics that catch my interest as I read Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.  One topic that Harari returns to often is the idea of imagined worlds.  Homo sapiens acquired the ability to create imagined worlds in what he called "the cognitive revolution".  Most anthropologists see … Continue reading The maturity of fiction awareness

Was the agricultural revolution a mistake?

Associations of wild cereals and other wild grasses in northern Israel

I'm continuing to work my way through Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and have just finished his section on the agricultural revolution.  This is the transition from a hunter-gatherer foraging lifestyle, which humanity had followed for hundreds of thousands of years, to a settled farming one about 12,000 years ago. Harari describes … Continue reading Was the agricultural revolution a mistake?

Hard criteria for theories of consciousness?

(Warning: consciousness theory weeds.) A new paper in the journal Cognitive Neuroscience: Hard criteria for empirical theories of consciousness, takes a shot at proposing criteria for assessing scientific theories of consciousness.  The authors make clear at the beginning that they're aiming their criteria at empirical theories, rather than metaphysical ones.  So they make no attempt … Continue reading Hard criteria for theories of consciousness?

The ecological disaster of Homo sapiens

I'm finally heeding all the recommendations and reading Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.  Harari is an excellent writer, and though at times he seems to present some unproven hypotheses as proven fact, and nine years after initial publication some of the information feels a bit dated, he makes up for it … Continue reading The ecological disaster of Homo sapiens

Kurzgesagt on intelligence, and prospects for engineered intelligence

It's pretty nice to see Kurzgesagt finally continuing its "Big Questions of Life and the Universe" series.  I shared the first part on consciousness over a year go.  The series is funded by the Templeton Foundation, which I know many people have issues with, but so far the content has been reasonably scientific. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ck4RGeoHFko As … Continue reading Kurzgesagt on intelligence, and prospects for engineered intelligence

Does conscious AI deserve rights?

This is an interesting video from Big Think.  It features discussion from a variety of thinkers like Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer, Susan Schneider, and others, including a lot of intelligent remarks from someone I wasn't familiar with until now, Joanna Bryson. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETVr_lpIMO0 Consciousness lies in the eye of the beholder.  There is no universally agreed … Continue reading Does conscious AI deserve rights?

There is no phenomenality without access

How do we know whether any particular system is conscious?  In humans, we typically know because most humans can talk about their conscious experience.  Historically, if we can report on it, it's conscious; if we can't, it's in the unconscious.  But this raises a difficulty for any entity that doesn't have language, including non-human animals, … Continue reading There is no phenomenality without access

Communication and hypothetical thinking

Keith Frankish has an interesting article at Psyche pondering what ability separates modern humanity from archaic humans (such as homo erectus).  His vote is hypothetical thinking.  From the article: The ability I mean is that of hypothetical thinking – the ability to detach one’s mind from the here and now, and consciously think about other … Continue reading Communication and hypothetical thinking