Comment by Robin_Brandt on Cynicism in Ev-Psych (and Econ?) · 2009-02-11T16:30:26.000Z · LW · GW

I´m really curious to know what you think about the other branch of ep that don´t rely as much on the more unstable assumptions of Tooby & Cosmides. I first dove into this field when I found an incredible volume titled The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology by Dunbar(leader of EP program in Liverpool) and Barett, it seems awsome! It takes a couple of steps back in certainty, and is a lot more open for new developments in biology i.e. Nieche-construction(Laland) theory and Multi-level selection(David Sloan Wilson), also the speed of natural selection, the power of culture. I can not go into more detail because I don´t have access to the volume at this moment. But it is very recommended reading, if you are not already familiar with this branch of EP in the broad.

I would really like a reply from you, this is something very important for me! I first discovered EP from you and your work has been my main teacher about reality and the mind for the last 4 years! Have also been constructing a mails to you and other heroes and thinkers for ages, but I often do not feel smart enough to have the courage to contact you, I respect your time so much. But I am starting to grow up now, and might send that concise smart mail some day!

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Whither OB? · 2008-11-18T00:50:29.000Z · LW · GW

yes, keep on with a lower posting frequency!

And some dynamic page with a ToC of all the posts would be really great. So that you have a map when you want to study this material. Although I have read maybe 60%. I would still like to read most of it again! I konw there have been some collections, but they have not been dynaimc and well, not useful enough.

For a community I would find some kind of wiki-like system, where people try to build a map of the territory together much more useful, a normal wiki might not be the best though. Something like The Brain, but much much better would be cool. I really like Tomboy, but it is a desktop program.

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Bay Area Meetup: 11/17 8PM Menlo Park · 2008-11-13T10:08:19.000Z · LW · GW

If anyone would like to bring a videocamera or some other kind of recording device it would be greatly appreciated for us poor bastards living outside the U.S.!

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Whither Moral Progress? · 2008-07-16T10:39:38.000Z · LW · GW

Eliezer:Robin Brandt, is whatever increasing technology does to a society, moral progress by definition, or does increasing technology only tend to cause moral progress?

I see, I answered quite a different question there, I had a funny feeling of that while writing that comment.

Increasing technology tends to cause moral progress yes, by making moral choices economically and experientially(as in our experience of things) more strategic/optimal. It all boils down into satisfying our adapted pattern-recognizers that gives us pleasure or a feeling of righteousness. And the human brain is calibrated to exercise a absolute optimal general morality in a much limited way, because of limited mental and limited physical(food, mates, power) resources. But the "absoulte" general morality is by itself just a set of strategies, a soultion to a game-theoretic problem. It can never be in itself moral until some mind gives it that meaning. So morality without agents is just one of other mathematical structures. But when you are a mind you percieve your approximation(regulated by genes and learning) of morality as a strong emotion, parts of it close to what we call preference, parts of it very absolute.

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Whither Moral Progress? · 2008-07-16T07:24:29.000Z · LW · GW

Technology is the single most important thing for morality. As technology allows better resources, communication, documentation, safer paths for society emerge as in the difference between bonobos and chimps, where resources makes the species less aggressive. Also when we become economically dependent on each other due to specialization and can be held responsible for our actions due to documentation, the threshold for cheating increases. Also we seem to want to generalize as many principles we dare to, if we are healthy, feel safe and have plenty of resources we may think outsiders are okey, and may even provide a benefit, but when it is tough we may start a fight and defend our teritory. Moral progress is possible because of technological and organiational progress, which means more resources, more surveillance and communication, more dependence, more general coherence, therefore equality and safety. Our inner moral modalities don't change, the environment does, and so we adapt, the moral modalities are rather flexible and general, sadly not general enough. With nanotech and quantum computing, we will have even more resourcs, and therefore possibly better morality, but I would rather not take that chance, therefore Friendly AI...

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Timeless Identity · 2008-06-03T16:42:05.000Z · LW · GW


"Other physicists argue that aspects of time are real, such as the relationships of causality, that record which events were the necessary causes of others. Penrose, Sorkin and Markopoulou have proposed models of quantum spacetime in which everything real reduces to these relationships of causality."

I guess Eliezer is already aware of these theories...

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Timeless Identity · 2008-06-03T11:10:21.000Z · LW · GW

Great summary I have sent the link to all my friends! In the wait for some kind of TOC this is the best link yet to send people concerning this series.

I would like to know your opinion on Max Tegmarks ultimate ensemble theory! Or if someone knows Elis opinion on this wonderful theory, please tell me!

Are other bright scientists and philosophers aware of this blog? Do you send links to people when there is a topic that relates to them? Do you send links to the people you mention? Does Chalmers, Dennett, Pinker, Deutsch, Barbour, Pearl, Tegmark, Dawkins, Vinge, Egan, Hoftadter, McCarthy, Kurzweil, Smolin, Witten, Taleb, Shermer, Khaneman, Tooby, Cosmides, Aumann, Penrose, Hameroff etc. etc. know about all this?

They may all be wrong in one way or another, but they are certainly not stupid blind people.

And I think your writing would definitely interest all of these people and contribute to their work and journey towards the truth. So it would both be altruistic to send them the links, and exciting if they would comment!

Especially it would be nice if these people would comment on the posts where you show your dissagreement!

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Class Project · 2008-05-31T09:36:41.000Z · LW · GW

What is the argument behind the confident negative attitude towards string theory/M-theory? I am not a physicist, but in layman's eyes it seems elegant. Is there any special argument or is it just general skepticism towards big unproven theoretical models?

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Where Physics Meets Experience · 2008-04-25T16:58:14.000Z · LW · GW

Also about the chocolate eating, you can get addicted so that you no longer even need the qualia keep on eating it. There seems to be a distinction between qualia induced choclate eating and addictive choclate eating where you continue eating although it does not taste so good anymore, wich if you notice the lameness of the qualia may make you stop eating. Why is that, if qualia is a mere confusion, there should not be such distinctions. It seems not rational to spend energy on producing qualia if they are not useful in any sense. But useful for what? Still qualia affecting our decisions seems rather impossibe to me, but that has to be a fact about my own confusion not about the territory.

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Where Physics Meets Experience · 2008-04-25T15:53:39.000Z · LW · GW

Hopefully Anonymous:

It means that I used to belive the experience of consciousness/qualia/the hard problem is just like the sound of the heart, i.e. whitout any functional role. I never thought zombies would really be possible... just in principle. And I had my doubts even then. Don´t laugh at me because the functional role of qualia is not easy to understand.


I think you missed the point here. The question is why choclate eating feels like anything, it seems that the qulia should be unessecary for the brain function of chocolate eating behavior. The same goes with orgasm. They seem to be things that try to guide one part of the brain system with input with qualia from another in order to guide our behavior towards thinks that statistically makes us survive and reproduce. If qualia has no functional role, then the zombie argument is sound. Or this is how I have understood it attending consciousness studies here at Skövde with professor Antti Revonsuo who published his book Inner Pressence on MIT Press. If qualia would just be a confusion it seems highly unlikely that evolution would have spent any time making qualias just for the fun of it, and qualia has to be a real event taking place in the universe, a real event that needed some energy and information content to produce.

To deny qualia today is like the behaviorists who denied cognitive processes yesterday. You are smarter than that!

Or it may be that some of you actually don´t experience qualia, sometimes I encounter people who I really doubt experiences qualia in the normal way, especially in the autism spectrum. So if you suffer from any disorder, please mention that if you are talking about qualia. But my quess is that everybody has qualia, it may just be easier to deny them if they are not connected to emotions.

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Where Physics Meets Experience · 2008-04-25T09:39:36.000Z · LW · GW

Agree, with anonymous, just can´t wait to read the whole book and deepen my understanding. With the right editing it will certainly be a new and even more important, insightful and rich book in the tradition of GEB! And I can´t wait to give it to all my friends and professors, and I can´t wait to hear the reception from academia, they/we have so much to learn. You will be on TED and on EDGE in no time! Your hard work, and deep thought is so precious, I think it is rather wonderful that a social ape can penetrate so deep into reality. I just think this blogform is a bit strange choice for such high quality material, a wiki would be much more appropriate and easy to use. A table of contents would be of great use in this stage when you try to recommend this stuff to other people!

About the post: I guess you are not completely ruling out the role of physics in the final understanding of consciousness, because even though QM may not play an important role, a deeper understanding of spacetime, may... But hopefully it all lies in mathematics as Hofstadter and Goerzel suggests, that would be the most elegant and also practical reality, sadly reality does not obey hopes...

I also hope that there is not a general bias amongst scientists familiar with physics towards having consciousness interfere with physics, because they are so used to have them in different domains, and because so much confusion has arisen when you have not made this distinction clear. And because so many sloppy theories are riding on this hypothesis that is so much more intuitive. It could still be the case that fundamental physics can explain some aspect of say the hard problem. There seems to be two competing aesthetics in the matter of consciousness and physics, and I am still not convinced it is more than aesthetics, therefor I wait in taking a stance myself.

But I am so grateful Eli convinced me of the impossibility of Zombies, I used to be consider epifenomenalism. But now I know better. But that leads me to the inevitable question of the functional role of qualia. Why chocolate tastes good, which seems to have a causal effect on me wanting to eat it, rather than me just having chocolate eating behavior whiteout the intermediate of qualia. Does a dog have qualia behaviour or just eating beahviour when it finds something good? Qualia and consciousness seems to be an internal monitoring mechanism with very precise input from evolutionary adaptive qualia(like emotions, strong tastes, sensations of the body parts of the opposite sex), but for what purpose, and why the qualia, and what are the effects on neurocomputation? Or if it IS the neurocomputation, then why am I experiencing such a nice whole and not a lot of different processes in my brain, why does it seem that I am only experiencing some output of the work of my brain? Why do I need to expereience anything anyway? What does the resource limitations in my consciousness depend on. Why can´t I experiences all my memories at the same time. Is counsciousness a separate brainsystem(like the thalamocortical loop, bioelectromagnetic field or even quantum mind) or just a product of the whole brain working together. If it is a separable brain system, what are the measurable causal effects. If it is not, what distinguishes conscious from non conscious processing. If consciousness is a mathematical phenomenon, then still, why is qualia so rich and strongly qualitative, compare the feeling of hunger to the color red or to the sound of a piano? Maybe it is just the way information feels in the universe. Which leads to the question if all information feels itself, does a book feel the structure of the words in it, if not then what makes information feel itself, a strange loop? Well what about a TV set and a camera pointing towards each other. But what is it with a universe that allows such strange phenomena. Well anything is strange to us really, and nothing is really strange to the universe. We will probably always find everything rather absurd but wonderful if we think really deep about it, even if we are no longer as confused in our understanding as we are now. But the universe remains neutral on strangeness. "Since the beginning not one unusual thing has happened"

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Brain Breakthrough! It's Made of Neurons! · 2008-04-01T19:30:08.000Z · LW · GW

Appreciating and understanding the obvious is what makes a wise man wise. Nothing is really obvious. But the pursuit of truth should be! Nobody can dispute reductionism if he understands that the map is not the territory.

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Not for the Sake of Happiness (Alone) · 2008-01-29T16:14:07.000Z · LW · GW

I value many things intrinsically! This may make me happy or not, but I don´t rely on the feelings of possible happiness when I make decisions. I see intrinsic value in happiness itself, but also as a means for other values, such as art, science, beauty, complexity, truth etc, wich I often value even more than hapiness. But sentient life may be the highest value. Why would we accept happiness as our highest terminal value when it is just a way to make living organisms do certain things. Ofcourse it feels good and is important, but it is still rather arbitary. I think theese things as rather important if we don´t want to end up wireheaded. Complexity/Beauty may be my second highest value after sentience, hapiness may only come as a third thing, then maybe truth and logic... Well, I will write more about this later...

Comment by Robin_Brandt on Lost Purposes · 2007-11-25T14:09:33.000Z · LW · GW

Great post again!! This seems to be a good portal to the series as well! But my gosh I feel infoleptic!! I feel as though I would need 100 more brains to be able to do and read and learn everything I would like to with 1 brain! And if I would have a 100 brains I would probably feel I would need a 1000! etc. I think it is really sad this blog didn´t have some kind of rating system! There seems to be so many good posts. And if someone totally new to this would come here it would be hard to know where to start. So a list of the most important posts would be really great! Although 80% of your stuff seems to always hold the your standards! It would also be good if there would be a way to browse only your posts. Not that the other posts aren´t good, it is just that your posts have certain themes which one would like to hold on to and go deep with!

I am a great believer in utilizing/abusing our social brain for pursuing our higher values! Have you ever thought about having some kind of minimal microblog / status indicator of your real work on AI. Of course this would take some minutes of your precious time. This could make your work feel more connected to the world of other beings, which this is ultimately aimed for. If you would not have done any progress in a week you would directly feel embarrassed in front of humanity(which I am sure you already do, and I do too). If you would make great progress you would feel proud, and people could see it and give you emotional credit! I know you may not need this kind of system, you seem to have a very robust and disciplined mental operating system. It may also be that it would be only distracting to your real intrinsic altruism, or even distort your work. But it may also be that it would act as a healthy pusher, and make it more explicit that this is not your private project but the greatest project of humanity, which you happen to be one of the few that have competence to actually work on. It could also act as a please for people to come up with stimulating ideas(i.e. bad ideas that stimulate better ideas). But you already have a lot of distraction, so the balance have to be hard to keep. Good luck! Keep on pushing!