For some reason, Mary's room has been garnering attention lately. This TED Ed video on it was shared on Aeon's site this week. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGYmiQkah4o The wording of the actual thought experiment is important, so quoting Frank Jackson's words (via the Wikipedia article on the knowledge argument): Mary is a brilliant scientist who is, for whatever reason, … Continue reading The problem with Mary’s room
There's an interesting article in Psyche: How to foster ‘shoshin’. "Shoshin" is a Japanese Zen word referring to a "beginner's mind." The idea is that when we take ourselves to be a beginner in a subject, or at least still a student of it, we're more open to possibilities. But as we begin to think … Continue reading Fostering an open mind
The hard problem of consciousness, a term coined by philosopher David Chalmers, asks how physical systems can produce phenomenal consciousness. Chalmers' term, coined in the 1990s, applied to an older problem that's been around for along time, the mind-body problem. More recently, Chalmers noted his intuition that the hard problem is widely and intuitively held … Continue reading Regular people: What hard problem of consciousness?
When I was very young, the top of my feet started itching, so I started scratching. The itching continued for weeks and months, with me constantly scratching. My poor mother, seeing my red and scratched feet, implored me to stop. But the itching was relentless and I was maybe five or six, so I kept … Continue reading The complex composition of pain
I found this Existential Comic interesting for its insight on what things might be like for J.R.R. Tolkien's version of elves. The author, on Twitter, shared a short video on Tolkien's thoughts on death. If you're familiar with the mythology behind The Lord of the Rings, as revealed in The Silmarillion and other works, the … Continue reading The Elflord and the Mayfly
I'm not a moral realist. But I think we definitely have personal morals, the moral norms of the culture we live in, and the moral rules we encode in law. These all interact and influence each other in an ongoing feedback process. They can be studied with psychology, sociology, anthropology, law, history, and probably some … Continue reading The forlorn search for moral realism
This is the final post in a series about or inspired by Yuval Noah Harari's book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. This final post is a brief summary of the overall book and some final comments. Harari's subject matter, as the title suggests, is the history of the Homo sapiens species. He breaks that … Continue reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
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
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?
A question that has come up in a couple of recent conversations: Is there any hope within a scientific or philosophical view of reality for immortality, something like an afterlife that is typically promised in the major religions? The most popular hope these days is the Technological Singularity, the idea that sometime soon we will … Continue reading Scientific and philosophical possibilities for immortality