Bittiavaruudessa kaikki kuulevat huutosi

Thinking zombieKansan keskuudessa Risumiehenä tunnettu mies kuoli maaliskuussa 2017. Kymen sanomien mukaan[1] 72-vuotiaan miehen terveyden tilan heikkenemisen “taustalla on kiusaaminen ja häirintä, jota mies on joutunut kokemaan Raivokas risunjemmaaja -videon julkaisun jälkeen.” Kesäkuussa 2016 lenkkeilemässä ollut henkilö yhytti hänet jättämässä risuja laittomasti lenkkipolun laidalle ja otti esiin puhelimensa, jolla alkoi kuvaamaan ja haastattelemaan häntä. Kiinni jäämisestä säikähtäneen vanhan miehen reagointi haastatteluun oli monien mielestä huvittavaa ja sosiaalisessa mediassa videosta tuli kuuluisa ilmiö. Continue reading “Bittiavaruudessa kaikki kuulevat huutosi”

The Descartes Thing

Thinking zombieBy reading my blog you will find that I’m quite enthusiastic by Michael Graziano’s theory of consciousness[1]. Just recently I came across this other book on consciousness[2] (also from 2013) by Gerald Edelman and Giulio Tononi that I’ve been now eagerly reading as well. It has given me more insight on what is known of consciousness… or awareness… or sentience…

And here lies a problem: There are several terms in the English language that seem to be used almost interchangeably for this thing that René Descartes reached for in 1637[3]. This is partially due to negligence, but I believe, most often due to people having focus on different things, where the Descartes thing is only a somewhat relevant side track.

We have, at least, consciousness, intelligence, awareness, soul, and sentience. Continue reading “The Descartes Thing”

Everything Looks Like a Nail

Thinking zombieI recently came across this article by senior research psychologist Robert Epstein, titled “The Empty Brain”[1]. It was linked on a critical Facebook posting that was upset about the article’s superficially most important point appearing to be that the brain is not a computer. Ironically, this Facebook poster had become upset about Epstein’s wording and got stuck with the verbal term, not seeing the actual thought behind the phrasings.

I started reading the article and found myself initially with the same ire as the Facebook poster had. Fortunately I have experience in looking past my first reactions. It looks like Epstein uses provocatively roughly formed language as a tool to try and shake people awake from being satisfied with how they are looking at the world through tainted glasses. His point would not be that the brain couldn’t abstractly be considered as a computer. As I understand, Epstein’s point is the same as in the old proverb: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Here I am, of course, on a bad footing, being first a computer scientist, who only has a minor subject and a keen interest in psychology and awareness. My hammer and nail is the computer, so I should be biased to see everything, including the brain as a computer. Continue reading “Everything Looks Like a Nail”

Posthumous Messages in Interactive Bottles

For a great deal this post is an extension to my earlier post, The Ghost Leaving the Shell. There I discussed how a system designer leaves an echo of their “ghost” in the design. You might like to read that before reading this entry, but you should be able to understand this post without it too. Both of these entries are actually in the very core of this blog, discussing the question of whom we are interacting with, when using digital services.

The remake of Total Recall movie, once again featured a personal message in the form of an interactive hologram. The idea is that you interview the hologram for the information that was sent to you. Also in I, Robot, Dr. Lanning had left, before his death, a holographic note to the murder investigators, where the message was something rather of a riddle. Finally, at least, the hologram confirmed to the main character: “That, detective, is the right question.” Continue reading “Posthumous Messages in Interactive Bottles”

What’s this thing they call Big Data?

Two apparently different occurrences in my life yesterday appeared to share more synergy that I first observed.

Thinking zombieOne of these things has been puzzling me for several months already: What is this thing they call Big Data really? A mass of data generated so fast that it cannot be practically managed by conventional methods. So, how much can be? And tomorrow we can manage more data than we could yesterday, as technology advances, so what is Big Data today might not be tomorrow? – Of course, tomorrow we will also be able to produce data faster that we were yesterday, for the same reason.

The other thing is, how my taxi driver yesterday had problems with his touch-screen system for accepting taxi calls, and I talked with him about how things are typically built, not perfect, but sufficiently good. Continue reading “What’s this thing they call Big Data?”

Bread and circuses

Thinking zombieErkki Tuomioja asked and wondered in his blog: “What is happening to Finland?” (The entry is first in Finnish and after that in English.) He finds that “it has long been the case that irrespective of the original subject by around the twentieth comment the “discussion” will have degenerated to insane and often racist slander and libel, without any connection to the original subject.”

In general this is compatible with my proposition that people do not understand the actual forum of social media. They feel like they are just rambling in their own livingroom alone of among people they know full well. They do not see the consequences or their own responsibility of their actions in social media. Lot of the hate speech would seem to be from people who actually find themselves so small and insignificant that their actions bear no remark or they are little people trying to rally the heroes of “good” to come find and save them from the world that is too big and complex for them to completely understand and therefore evil. Continue reading “Bread and circuses”

The mind is a palace

Thinking zombieEarlier I wrote about Graziano’s attention schema theory. I recently discussed shortly the theory with a psychology researcher in person. The researcher appeared abhorred to perceive the theory rejecting free will. I disagree.

Firstly I was a bit surprised at the reaction. Already in the current elementary course I’m taking on psychology, they have told me that apparently our decisions are formed in our brains well before we become aware of them.[1] Am I to assume that these results are the most abhorred ones, as this would suggest that our conscious mind couldn’t affect at all the definitions we make? We were even introduced the possibility that even if we don’t have a free “will”, we might have a free “won’t”.

I see no problems here. No need to call off punishments for criminals due to them not having had a freedom of choice upon their behaviour. (Here I could branch widely into the discussion of the philosophy of justice systems, but it is not the point of this text.)

I perceive here overrating of the role of consciousness. It is not so that our mind and personality would be our consciousness. It would seem that our mind is something of a palace, where the consciousness is the emperor.

The palace has other actors that function independently. They come up with ideas and proposals and bring them forth to the emperor’s court. There the emperor can consider them and they can be commented by other actors – other parts of the mind/brain. This court is the emperor’s focused awareness.

Some proposals are actually executed bypassing the court, if not most of them. The palace guards will not run to the court to ask every time someone approaches the gate for entry. Only if the emperor’s sworn enemy, or something else problematic approaches. This equivalent for us to greeting and smiling automatically to people who greet and smile to us, unless we have a dislike for them; or to inhaling automatically, unless there is a strange odour.

Something being unconscious or subconscious doesn’t mean that it isn’t a part of what we are. It just means that the palace we are running is executing decisions without confirming them at the court first. Certainly, these decisions may often in the court be constrained due to decency and other causes of “self-control”. It doesn’t, however, mean that the decisions wouldn’t be what the court has been all along teaching the mind, or what the mind has learned through the experiences on the outcomes. If the emperor always scowls the guards after the visit of person A, the guards will be less likely to open the gates for A, without at least confirming from the court first. If the guards always have to stop a big fight at the court yard after letting person B in, even if the emperor appears delighted of the visit (and even the fight) they will learn to go ask the court, if person B should really be let in, rather than automatically opening the gate. And they typically will obey the court’s final order, unless the court is drunk and unresponsive to the question, or the problem is a phobia or such.

This is well compatible with the neurological point of view to the brains. There are separate areas specialised for separate tasks. They are given tasks that they process and they will contact the consciousness about the tasks with different levels of enthusiasm. There is the competition for the attention. The tasks come in from senses or other neurons. Cone and rod cell activations initiate tasks in the visual cortex. The visual cortex may raise an alert on something of importance, which can affect how the auditory cortex starts to focus on incoming signals from a certain direction. The consciousness may demand attention on some particular detail. It is like the palace guards can be alerted to open the gate through the request of the arriving person, or by the palace cleaner wanting to get the light in through the open gate, or by the order of the court.

So, our mind is a palace that is ruled by the emperor of our consciousness. The emperor is really only the main director, who doesn’t have it’s own initiative. All ideas arise from the lackeys in the palace, who come forth with proposals and the emperor just confirms them. Any dilemmas too arise with different lackeys having conflicting proposals – or possibly just one lackey having several proposals in conflict with each other. The palace could be run without the emperor, and possibly within less intellect animals it is so. Their palaces are more modest and reaction to triggers is more instinctively direct and less constrained.

The important thing is that you are not the emperor. You are the whole of the palace. Your consciousness, the emperor, is only one part of your personality.

[1] – Internally generated preactivation of single neurons in human medial frontal cortex predicts volition. Fried, Mukamel & Kreiman. 2011