George Ellis has an article at Aeon on free will that is garnering some attention. Ellis' case is a fairly classic one. Brain are complex systems whose operations, due to chaotic and stochastic dynamics, cannot be predicted. Furthermore, minds constrain the detailed physical reactions, a case of downward causation. And if that weren't enough, there's … Continue reading The necessary attributes of a responsible agent
One of the things we often debate here is the definition of "consciousness," but consciousness is far from the only concept that is difficult to define. Others include religion, democracy, free will, and biological life. Life has a number of definitions, many of which are suitable for particular purposes. If I recall correctly, NASA, for … Continue reading Viruses and the definition of “life”
Recently I visited one of my cousins and, as is tradition for a lot of people this time of year, we had a crawfish boil. Eating boiled crawfish (crayfish for you non-Cajuns) is an ever present activity in southern Louisiana, at least when they're in season, and I've had my share over the years. Although … Continue reading Do boiling crawfish suffer?
Scientists have created synthetic DNA with four extra "letters": A couple billion years ago, four molecules danced into the elegant double-helix structure of DNA, which provides the codes for life on our planet. But were these four players really fundamental to the appearance of life — or could others have also given rise to our genetic code? … Continue reading Synthetic DNA and the necessity of biological mechanisms
This is the fifth and final post in a series inspired by Todd Feinberg and Jon Mallatt's new book, 'The Ancient Origins of Consciousness: How the Brain Created Experience'. The previous posts were: What counts as consciousness? Predators and the rise of sensory consciousness Types of sensory consciousness The neural mechanics of sensory consciousness In the … Continue reading The range of conscious systems and the hard problem
This is the second post in a series inspired by Todd Feinberg and Jon Mallatt's new book, 'The Ancient Origins of Consciousness: How the Brain Created Experience'. The first post in the series was: What counts as consciousness? Life appears to have gotten started fairly early in Earth's history. The oldest known fossils are now … Continue reading Predators and the rise of sensory consciousness
I found this study interesting: Do flies have fear (or something like it)? -- ScienceDaily. A fruit fly starts buzzing around food at a picnic, so you wave your hand over the insect and shoo it away. But when the insect flees the scene, is it doing so because it is actually afraid? Using fruit flies … Continue reading Fruit fly fear and AI sentience
ratamacue0 sent me this interesting Slashdot post: Methane-Based Life Possible On Titan - Slashdot. Randym writes: With the simultaneous announcement of a possible nitrogen-based, cell-like structure allowing life outside the "liquid water zone" (but within a methane atmosphere) announced by researchers at Cornell (academic paper) and the mystery of fluctuating methane levels on Marsraising the possibility of methane-respiring … Continue reading Methane-Based Life Possible On Titan
Click through for full sized version. via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. STRICT REDUCTIONIST: Anyway, apologies are an evolutionary survival mechanism and therefore just an illusion.
This is a pretty cool video showing the illusory distinction between life and non-life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOCaacO8wus via Sean Carroll