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Entropy and Free Will

 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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14 June 2021 10:46
 

Yes, sleep allows for all sorts of memory-forming chores as well as a ton of memory-forgetting to take place while we dream. And some of the things we forget help us to assume (and appear) to know what’s going on in the world. Other things we forget just help us remain at least a little bit sane.

Here are my questions now: Is what gets referred to as unconscious mind or subconscious mind a process that’s a result of memory access/blockage, or something else? Also, Do we need to have a thought remembered for that thought to have been part of what we refer to as conscious experience?

We were conscious of the thought while we were experiencing it. It just doesn’t get stored anywhere. Right? Or am I off here in some way?

Interesting comment about smell memory and whisky tasting. The wine fanciers have really run with what you describe, and I’d never thought of it that way before. They’re probably still con artists, but less so now. Thanks.

Also, my singular coursework: psych. 100, so we’re only one number off.

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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14 June 2021 12:53
 

A lot of wine/whiskey tasting stuff is a con.  The idea that someone can identify dozens and dozens of flavors/smells is pretty farfetched (within a single sip of wine/whiskey).  That said, you need the database to compare things, and we do get desensitized to stimuli.  For example, if I drink a lot of Islay scotches, the iodine and smoke flavors start to fade into the background and I can taste other flavors.  If I don’t have one for a few months, then when I go back I get a mouthful of smoke and iodine again.  And when I’ve been drinking some regularly, I can tell you region, age +/- 2 years, and ABV +/- 2%.  With the exception of Canadian whiskey, they’re allowed to put stuff that isn’t whiskey in it, and that throws it all off for me.

I’m not sure how to answer your question in a satisfactory way.  A good rule of thumb in my experience seems to be that our brain is lazy.  Running this much processing power is very expensive, and so our brain has developed shortcuts and tricks to reduce the amount of work it has to do.  Because of this, our brain leaves behind whatever information it doesn’t think is important.  You can see the inverse of this happen in highly stressful moments (like those that can cause PTSD).  The brain works in overdrive and records everything.  Why?  Because the sensation of fear and being in a life-threatening situation is the most important for survival.  This is part of the reason people report time slowing down for them.  It’s not that they actually perceived time slower, but their memory has so many details that they can go through it almost frame-by-frame, that their memory of it appears slowed down.

The flip side is also true.  If there’s nothing signaling your brain to be in a highly emotional state, it just dumps the information as soon as it can.  Think of a time when you were bored.  How many details, moment to moment, can you really recall?  Most likely almost none.  You’ll know some basics, like staring at the clock, where you were sitting, but when you try to recall how long the time felt it’ll be next to nothing. 

A good video on temporal illusions and how we perceive time.

One of the big problems I have with how a lot of other people construct their argument for consciousness is that it ignores the passage of time.  Without time, I don’t think consciousness exists.  It’s the changes in our brain states and the constant flow of time and stimuli is where consciousness actually exists.

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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15 June 2021 20:55
 
weird buffalo - 14 June 2021 09:07 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 13 June 2021 04:24 PM

(Ironically, intelligent people are probably more susceptible to the illusion, by virtue of being better able to rationalize their subconscious conclusions.)

I don’t disagree at all with this (other than the use of subconscious).  If conscious decision making is an illusion… then there is no “consciousness”, only “subconsciousness”.  And if the part that lacks a prefix doesn’t exist, then we can just take the prefix off the other part.  Ie: if “consciousness” doesn’t exist, then “subconsciousness” just loses the prefix and is the actual consciousness.

No! Consciousness is the part that does the rationalizing.

But actually, I don’t buy the claim that consciousness is limited to rationalizing our subconscious choices (and more importantly, conclusions). I think that’s what happens most of the time with most people. Maybe it’s the “default” state of mind. That would go a long way to explaining why a large chunk of our citizens believe a version of reality that is mutually exclusive with that believed by a different large chunk. Which is why I think it would be beneficial to teach this in school. We can learn to do better.

Here’s another reason why I think it makes sense to differentiate between “conscious” and “subconscious.” Some people theorize that “consciousness,” unlike “subconsciousness,” is not an adaptive trait, but a learned skill. Not quite a spandrel, but close. I think this theory makes a lot of sense. The human brain wasn’t “designed” (from an evolutionary standpoint) to be conscious, which is why we’re so bad at it. There must be better and worse ways to learn it, and it seems to me that most people are not learning it in the best way. Hence the two mutually exclusive versions of reality.

For some reason I feel compelled to point out those rare occasions when we agree, so here’s another one. I agree completely that “muscle memory” is a misnomer. It may be a useful misnomer in the context of sports, but it’s still a misnomer for exactly the reason you stated. The process by which “muscle memory” is created is actually called Hebbian learning, which is basically just repetitive practice. “Cells that fire together, wire together.” When the neurons that control a certain swing of the bat fire immediately after the neurons that recognize a particular baseball trajectory enough times, those neurons become wired together. The stimulus (recognizing the ball’s trajectory) triggers the response (the swing of the bat) automatically, bypassing “consciousness.” The key to being successful at a high level then becomes keeping the “conscious” mind from interfering with the automatic, “subconscious” execution of the skill. Because “consciousness” is far too slow to be effective at it.

Finally, since one of my pet peeves is people debating consciousness without ever offering a definition, here’s the one I’ve come to prefer: Consciousness is the process by which a model of reality—including the model of self—is constructed in the mind. That process takes time: by the time the baseball’s trajectory has been incorporated into the model, the ball has already passed the plate.

The model constructed by the process of consciousness constitutes everything of which we are “aware.” And while I can’t define “aware” without using the word, “aware” or some close synonym, I can offer the example of accidentally putting your hand on a hot stove. Your subconscious reacts to the stimulus without involving consciousness. By the time consciousness has incorporated pain into the model, you’ve already pulled your hand away. Only then do you become “aware” of the pain—or of having pulled your hand away.

Also, I’m not convinced that the phenomenon I’m calling “aware” necessarily has to be called “aware.” I don’t want to argue semantics. If you don’t like the word, “aware,” feel free to substitute it with one you like better.

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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16 June 2021 07:20
 

I agree with parts and disagree with others, but I want to bring it back to what I was talking about before.

The point of my OP though was to go to a more basic level.  Decision making necessarily requires the creation of new information if it is to not be deterministic.  For the actions and decisions of “consciousness” as you describe it to even be possible, the universe has to be capable of having new information added to it.  If there cannot be new information, then it is theoretically possible to know all prior information and use it to plot out exactly where every particle in existence will be at some point in the universe, and this includes the particles in our bodies.

To use the baseball analogy in a wholly different way, either we can predict exactly the outcome of the game or the act of the game creates new information making it impossible to completely predict.  And by “predict exactly the outcome”, if the universe is deterministic, it would be possible to know ahead of time which fan would catch each foul ball.  For any decision to be novel, the creation of new information would a necessity.  If the choice to swing or not swing was a new piece of information, then we would be incapable of knowing even if a fan would catch a foul ball on a given pitch.

Fundamentally, if you think there is the potential for a “conscious” choice to alter a “subconscious” behavior, then there has to be some mechanism in physics that allows for that choice to exist.

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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16 June 2021 07:35
 
weird buffalo - 16 June 2021 07:20 AM

For the actions and decisions of “consciousness” as you describe it to even be possible, the universe has to be capable of having new information added to it.

I don’t think that follows. “Consciously” making choices that aren’t determined by the “subconscious” doesn’t necessarily mean that those choices aren’t determined by other prior events, does it? 

As counterintuitive as it seems, I believe that with perfect information going all the way back to the Big Bang or whatever got the universe started, we could predict with perfect accuracy which fan will catch the ball. But I’ve never really thought about it in terms of entropy, so maybe you’re on to something there.

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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16 June 2021 09:21
 

To me, consciousness seems to be a mental mechanism of registering of events and states. Time does seem to be a factor. Consciousness also seems to be a sort of spectator to everything going on within its realm, both internally and externally. It takes information gleaned from spectating and creates a model of reality that it uses, a sort of working hypothesis of the past, present and future. It uses it to predict what might happen, as with a spectator at a baseball game (to continue in that vein) saying “based on how everyone playing is doing, I think Team A will win”.  This ability to use the past and present to construct a model of the future does seem to give an evolutionary advantage - we don’t always have to wait for some danger to be upon us in order to prepare or act.

 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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16 June 2021 09:49
 
EN - 16 June 2021 09:21 AM

To me, consciousness seems to be a mental mechanism of registering of events and states. Time does seem to be a factor. Consciousness also seems to be a sort of spectator to everything going on within its realm, both internally and externally. It takes information gleaned from spectating and creates a model of reality that it uses, a sort of working hypothesis of the past, present and future. It uses it to predict what might happen, as with a spectator at a baseball game (to continue in that vein) saying “based on how everyone playing is doing, I think Team A will win”.  This ability to use the past and present to construct a model of the future does seem to give an evolutionary advantage - we don’t always have to wait for some danger to be upon us in order to prepare or act.

I get what you’re saying here but on some level, all animals on earth keep track of time and events as they occur whether or not they have human-style consciousness. It’s easy to lose track of how mentally skillful non-human animals need to be in order to survive for millions of years.

I’m assuming you’re going by ASD’s above definition of consciousness? If so, humans would appear to be the sole proprietors of consciousness. While appearances can be deceiving, it really does seem that this brand of consciousness has thrown over our former more instinct-driven survival techniques and skills. But human consciousness-driven survival has yet to prove itself nearly as well as sharks, turtles, birds, even the enormously complex elephants do. Human consciousness is certainly a hurdle to overcome in such ways, and I hope our species eventually figures out how to make it work permanently. I have my doubts, especially these days.

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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16 June 2021 10:15
 

I think it is a continuum.  Some animals do some level of mental modeling - I’m thinking of the snow-skiing crow I saw on a video once. He looked at the metal lid, figured it could allow him to “ski” down a snow-covered roof, jumped on and skied to the bottom, picked it up and did it again. He was doing something akin to conscious action. But humans are so far ahead it is like we have entered into a new domain. 

I don’t think this gives us actual free will, but I think it allows us to be aware or register processes in our brains that allow us to model, and that modeling itself becomes more neural input that affects other outcomes in the future. I also think that consciousness at a very basis level is just part of the fabric of the universe. Things “register” the presence of other things. Burt has a lot of thoughts about this.

 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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16 June 2021 10:55
 
EN - 16 June 2021 10:15 AM

I think it is a continuum.  Some animals do some level of mental modeling - I’m thinking of the snow-skiing crow I saw on a video once. He looked at the metal lid, figured it could allow him to “ski” down a snow-covered roof, jumped on and skied to the bottom, picked it up and did it again. He was doing something akin to conscious action. But humans are so far ahead it is like we have entered into a new domain. 

I don’t think this gives us actual free will, but I think it allows us to be aware or register processes in our brains that allow us to model, and that modeling itself becomes more neural input that affects other outcomes in the future. I also think that consciousness at a very basis level is just part of the fabric of the universe. Things “register” the presence of other things. Burt has a lot of thoughts about this.

It’s all in method-of-communication and thumbs or some such thing. It’s been a while since I’ve read Gould.

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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16 June 2021 11:39
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 16 June 2021 07:35 AM
weird buffalo - 16 June 2021 07:20 AM

For the actions and decisions of “consciousness” as you describe it to even be possible, the universe has to be capable of having new information added to it.

I don’t think that follows. “Consciously” making choices that aren’t determined by the “subconscious” doesn’t necessarily mean that those choices aren’t determined by other prior events, does it? 

As counterintuitive as it seems, I believe that with perfect information going all the way back to the Big Bang or whatever got the universe started, we could predict with perfect accuracy which fan will catch the ball. But I’ve never really thought about it in terms of entropy, so maybe you’re on to something there.

I don’t think it’s that counterintuitive.  From a Newtonian perspective it would even be expected.  This is why Leplace’s Demon became a thought exercise.  It was the advent of quantum mechanics that initially took apart this model of the universe, and if this concept of entropy and information theory is correct, there’s even more reasons why Leplace’s Demon cannot exist.

The question then is what exactly is information and does entropy create new information.  Even if this were all true, I would not argue that we are entirely free willed beings.  Biology is still a major determinant.  You can’t formulate a new theory of quantum mechanics while in the womb, human biology is not adapted for this behavior at that developmental stage.  Even if free will is real, addictive chemicals still impact the brain and cause addiction.

 
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