The Destructing Mind

Does thinking of the mind as a phenomenon of purely physiological origin have consequences for the way we interact with the world?

What brought the question to mind was a thought last night – that in my youth colours seemed more vivid and that many more of them were apparent then as well. Turning then to a painting on the wall I found that the colour had returned much as my clothing or hair become perceptible as soon as I consciously address them. From there it took me to the Huxley’s ‘Doors of Perception’ (which I haven’t picked up for several years) and the concept of the mind as a funnel or filter, rather than an entity constructing my reality from pieces of information gathered from the world. The problem boils down to this; does my mind seek out the world to piece together some comprehension of it, or does the world essentially force itself on my mind?

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Existential Biology

The science of the nineteenth century was dominated by the perfectibility of knowledge. Fueled by the analytic/systematic distinction provided by Kant, the European thinkers of the day were bent on elucidating all the empirical rules that governed the universe. Even if the universe was infinite everything was potentially knowable and humans were capable of detached observation that could elucidate and name all these facts and rules.

Credit Mike Libby Insect Lab – Click for Link

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Embryology of the Soul – The Science of Ernst Haeckel

There are a number of ways the soul, a theoretical conundrum as indemonstrable as the creator herself, could have come to be. Ernst Haeckel tells us that it’s not taken a bit from mom and a bit from dad, nor does it lie in wait until called upon, and it’s not a germ passed from Adam on down. It just is, and arises as such at the moment of fertilization, not coitus. While this strangely drawn argument could collude with certain anti-abortion sentiments, it is actually from the mind of man who considered himself a staunch liberal and free-thinker. Darwin’s champion in Germany, lover of that compounding of words so fancied in German, is credited with  first identifying the kingdom Protista and coining the terms ecology, phylogeny and ontology. A vexing character whose books on evolution far outsold Darwin’s Origin and Descent of Man, Haeckel was lambasted by Stephen Jay Gould for his “irrational mysticism” who also characterized Haeckel’s science as “dogmatic, unfounded and distinctly non-Darwinian.”

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Ecological Man

Contemporary understanding of what it is to be human has been morphed again and again by advancing scientific understanding. First the human went from the animistic spirit thing, then on to the the polytheistic and monotheistic soul as a specific embodiment of god(s). With the dawn of the renaissance and positivism religious definitions finally became moot and the search began anew for an all encompassing definition of humanity.  Mechanistic Cartesianisms came to dominate and have done so through much of contemporary thought, causing conflict and contention with the religious definitions of the self that attempt to reconcile themselves with the modern world-view.

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Integrative AI

What I wish to explore today – in a rudimentary and truly exploratory way – is the idea of incorporated artificial intelligence, which I will explain in a minute, and its philosophical, psychological and physiological implications and impediments. A couple of working definitions are necessary before we begin. Let ‘artificial intelligence’ refer to an entity capable of independent thought yet not of evolutionary genetic origin. When I speak of ‘incorporation’ or ‘integration’ I mean the inclusion of an artificially intelligent agent acting in close conjunction with a human actor. This, I believe, is not only a technological possibility but highly likely within the next one hundred years. In referring to ‘integrated agent’ or simply ‘agent’ I mean this theoretical entity that is inferred from the above. The ‘actor’ or ‘host’ is the being in which the entity is embedded. I leave my definitions intentionally vague because I cannot pretend to know how the intricacies of development will proceed. It is still possible and useful to examine the implications of this without knowing the details of how it will come about, or even if it will. Think of this essay as a diving board of unknown height into murky water of unknown depth.

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Life Heuristics – a la Friedrich

Life is a cheese pie; all your favourite things, just never quite the right way. Scratch that. Life is like a tennis ball, soft and smooth and always on the rebound. Wait, that was my ex. Okay, we’ve got it here: Life is like a box of 1969 chocolates: stale, mouldy, and best when consumed with THC?  (Speaking anecdotally, of course.)

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