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Trevoke
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OTW is Off The Wall.. Where we are! :)

The dolphin anecdote is interesting.. I'll look into it :)
Lemmings.. Lemmings are nowhere near as stupid as the computer game depicts them to be! :)

My question is actually this : could the will to live be simply.. A lack of understanding that you could desire NOT to ?

Is a dog aware that he is alive? ... is a dog aware that he could not be?
This, I believe, goes into the survival instinct.. Is that still on the subject?
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BaronVonOwn wrote:
Ahh, well, I've had a 300-level philosophy course on this matter, and I consider free will to be a lost cause.


Maybe it is. Since I didn't take a 300-level philosophy course as I tried to be "practical" and major in CS, I instead have to depend on observation and experience. I haven't observed a force driving people to make decisions in a particular manner. Some act according to their best interest, some act from whim, some act against their interest, and some just do whatever is "easiest". I know that I try to act in my best interest all the time, because I want certain things out of life. I also know that my present choices tend to be limited by the choices I've made in the past, but that's causality and not free will.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 8:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lemmings don't actually commit suicide. There was, in fact, a Disney movie made about this that perpetuated that whole myth. They put a bunch of lemmings on a rotating platform to film them walking, then filmed them falling into water as somebody threw them in there.

It's kind of a snuff film... Look here.

As per the original question, I think lots of people have made good points. All the talk about QM is not entirely right for this discussion, in my opinion, as we have not truly answered most of the questions about the implications of quantum mechanics. In fact, it is not even really appropriate to talk about understanding quantum mechanics. There's no agreement on what it all actually means, we can just use it to calculate things that we can then observe. I don't think we'll figure it out here, either. I read "Dreams of a Final Theory" by Steven Weinberg, a Physics Nobelist who also happens to have taught me QM at the University of Texas. In the book, he talks about a student who had to quit grad school because "...he tried to understand quantum mechanics." It's just not possible right now.

I think, though, that the original quesion really ends up coming to fore as a pseudo-religious question. Life exists, and has the will to exist, because the universe is set up in such a way that life is inevitable. The physical laws of the universe have allowed life to exist on this little blue marble we call Earth, which leads me to believe that life exists in most, not just some, of the universe. Life began on our planet at a time that we would now consider completely inhospitable to life -- volcanoes, asteroid collisions, and a generally horrid, toxic atmosphere. But, this is when life began.

I think it would be very interesting to conduct an exploration of the liquid ocean that exists under the ice crust of Europa, one of Jupiter's Galilean satellites. There is some speculation that life may exist there around volcanic vents, similar to the anaerobic bacteria that live in our oceans near volcanic activity. There is evidence that these vents do exist on Europa. If we found life there, I think it would strengthen such a hypothesis about the existence of life in other parts of the universe.

So, if life exists not just sporadically, but as the norm as opposed to the exception, then I think this provides strong evidence that life is an inevitability in the universe. Thus, the universe exists to bring life into being.

So, what's the point of life? Well, I think that the evolution of life on our planet is instructive. What is the most important trait that has evolved on our planet? I would say that it is consciousness and the ability to reason. Along with this is emotion, the ability to love, the ability to experience deeply the fabric that ties us together. Is this an end point in our evolution? That is partly up to us, as we could easily end it all by the continuation of war on this planet, but my initial tendency is to say no. I think our current consciousness is merely prelude to what we will one day be.

So, the short answer is, we don't -- and can't -- know why life exists, other than that it exists so that we (that is, entities on this or other planets) may some day finally know the answer to that question. Sound like a cop-out? Well, I guess it is, in a way, but I also think it's a statement about the nature of the universe, that it exists that it may finally be fully understood by those who live in it. And, I suppose that this also requires the belief in some kind of a creator of the universe. And that that creator wants us to be able to understand that creation.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

yardbird wrote:
This is not entirely correct. This is OK if we are in the realm of (general) relativity, but in quantum mechanics things can behave differently. I'm referring here to the entanglement effect. In certain physical phenomenons you can generate couples of particles whose properties are correlated even if the particles are spatially separated. If information can be transmitted using this phenomenon is however still highly controversial.


Nothing really controversial there. In fact, the only reason why this "instant transmission" is possible is because you cannot read that information. Now you can use this effect together with a conventional, slower-than-light channel to get some nice bonuses, but that's it.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stormy Eyes wrote:
Keep that thought to yourself, please; I prefer the idea that since I can think I possess volition and can choose which action I will take. Seeing things your way renders life pointless.


The question becomes moot if you ask yourself, what exactly is meant by "one choosing the action one will take by himself". What is yourself? And perhaps, there is really no difference in saying that and saying that neurons and electric impulses in the brain "predefine" your actions - because you are those neurons and electric impulses.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Trevoke wrote:
The dolphin anecdote is interesting.. I'll look into it :)


http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/sci/A0857792.html
under "Interaction with Humans"

http://teacher.scholastic.com/dolphin/conwin3.htm

http://www.algonet.se/~carin_o/delfiner/index-e.htm

I didn't think that was so often...
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 9:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BaronVonOwn wrote:
I hate mechanism, the idea that we can (and should) study a human just like it were a machine. Having all my thoughts being reduced to activations of brain activity at such and such Hz, just like monitor refresh rates and such, really disgusts me. I think we can do without this knowledge, as I would prefer not to think about myself as a toaster oven.


Well, then, you will be severely disappointed when someone else studies you as a machine, and uses the knowledge to control you and predict your behaviour, just like he'd de with a toaster oven.

We can think what we want; the reality doesn't care. A human body is a biologic machine, so it is at least one valid way to look at it. Same with the mind - as wondrous and miraculous it might seem, if there is a way to bring it down to "it does that because this wiring goes there" level, we should do it - or would you rather turn down all the advantages it promises (think of rewiring your brain!) for the sake of mere convenience?
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BaronVonOwn wrote:
But reducing all my thoughts and mental states down to genetic dispositions and environmental causes is, well, ugly. It's not the way I'd like to think of myself. They can keep their Prozac's and their Zoloft's and their soma. I'm going to experience life sober, the way *I* see it, and not filtered through some chemical.


Ah, but they are "filtered" through chemicals in your brain anyway; so, if you are given an opportunity to control those chemicals at will, why not use it to your advantage?

You seem to think that there is a perfect, "normal", "true" perception which mind has, and then it's being "spoiled" by medications. Well, wrong. Your brain never perceives things as they are. The filter is always there, and it's always colored; medications can change its color, but they cannot remove it or make it transparent...

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But the deeper problem is, how is free will supposed to work? We do not make our choices causally, and we do not make them randomly, so how does free will do it? It doesn't sound like a coherent idea.


The question you should really ask is, "WTF is free will?". Once someone properly answers that one (and all the other questions it implies, like "what is a personality"), we can discuss whether we have it or not; that is, if "free will" is a meaningful term at all - which, I am afraid, it is not.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Trevoke wrote:
Where does the will to live come from?
Maybe it hasn't occurred to the organism _not_ to live..


Once you come up with a definition of what it is "to live", I will gladly help to find answer to that question of yours =)
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 10:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thalion wrote:
Well, then, you will be severely disappointed when someone else studies you as a machine, and uses the knowledge to control you and predict your behaviour, just like he'd de with a toaster oven.

*smirk* I'm not worried. I think anyone who tries to do this, will be the one who will be disappointed. Cognitive scientists have rediscovered what just about anyone can tell you - people think differently. That is, one person's brain varies widely from another. So for someone to manipulate me, they'd need to have access to my brain, in which case I've probably already lost whatever battle I'm fighting anyway.

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We can think what we want; the reality doesn't care. A human body is a biologic machine, so it is at least one valid way to look at it. Same with the mind - as wondrous and miraculous it might seem, if there is a way to bring it down to "it does that because this wiring goes there" level, we should do it - or would you rather turn down all the advantages it promises (think of rewiring your brain!) for the sake of mere convenience?

Why is it I'm not so eager to rewire my brain? Maybe if I mess around with it too much, I could extinguish my consciousness and create another one (a whole new person, in effect)? Although, I am interested in genetic engineering. Smarter, stronger, faster, and whatnot. But genes are an entirely different matter than messing with neurons.

And my objection is not on the level of conveniences, it's aesthetics. Like I said, I think mechanism is just "ugly." I don't like to conceptualize myself in that way.

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Ah, but they are "filtered" through chemicals in your brain anyway; so, if you are given an opportunity to control those chemicals at will, why not use it to your advantage?

You seem to think that there is a perfect, "normal", "true" perception which mind has, and then it's being "spoiled" by medications. Well, wrong. Your brain never perceives things as they are. The filter is always there, and it's always colored; medications can change its color, but they cannot remove it or make it transparent...

Right, but I think you're attacking a bit of straw man here. I never said that I wanted to see the "true" version of the world, I said I wanted to see "my" version of the world. I want to go by *my* aesthetic tastes, not beer goggles. When I'm happy, I want it to be because *I* am happy, not because Prozac is altering my perceptions and standards for happiness. I think that antidepressants and such are really just imposing an arbitrary standard of what is pleasing, and what is not. Further, I think antidepressants, recreational drugs, alcohol, and other such drugs are life-denying (I am borrowing from Nietzsche here), that is, they say that some experiences and mental states are not worth having. I prefer the full range of experiences, from depression to elation. I think they're all good, and worth experiencing. For this reason, I rarely ever use drugs, even those as simple as acetaminophen. As far as I'm concerned, pain and nausea let me know *I* am still alive, and not some Prozac bastardization of myself.

If you're saying I really don't have any perceptions I can call my own, well, I think there is a difference between (mind-altering) chemicals my body produces, because my genes tell it to produce them; and (mind-altering) chemicals that come from without, like alcohol, Prozac, etc.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BaronVonOwn wrote:
*smirk* I'm not worried. I think anyone who tries to do this, will be the one who will be disappointed. Cognitive scientists have rediscovered what just about anyone can tell you - people think differently. That is, one person's brain varies widely from another. So for someone to manipulate me, they'd need to have access to my brain, in which case I've probably already lost whatever battle I'm fighting anyway.


You're right, there are many brands and modifications of toasters out there. But they still have a lot in common.

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Why is it I'm not so eager to rewire my brain?


I don't know. Afraid, perhaps?

Quote:
Maybe if I mess around with it too much, I could extinguish my consciousness and create another one (a whole new person, in effect)?


Aren't you doing it to yourself every day, slowly? Brain is a programmable system, you don't need to physically rewire it to change it a bit... actually, a lot. I've seen quite a few people who changed so much over just 10 years that I would dare call them "new persons".

Quote:
Although, I am interested in genetic engineering. Smarter, stronger, faster, and whatnot. But genes are an entirely different matter than messing with neurons.


Exactly how it is an entirely different matter? Both are just manipulations with natural things, made by people who know what they're doing (otherwise it doesn't make any sense) to achieve a desired result faster than it could possibly be done by other means.

Quote:
And my objection is not on the level of conveniences, it's aesthetics. Like I said, I think mechanism is just "ugly." I don't like to conceptualize myself in that way.


I can accept that. Aesthetical side is to be taken into consideration; however, as you understand, it is totally subjective.

Quote:
Right, but I think you're attacking a bit of straw man here. I never said that I wanted to see the "true" version of the world, I said I wanted to see "my" version of the world.


And how is it not your version of the world if you decide for yourself how to alter your perception? Your brain does it on unconscious level anyways, what exactly changes when you consciously decide to do that?

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I think that antidepressants and such are really just imposing an arbitrary standard of what is pleasing, and what is not.


Not really. As always, you can get the result which you want.

Quote:
Further, I think antidepressants, recreational drugs, alcohol, and other such drugs are life-denying (I am borrowing from Nietzsche here), that is, they say that some experiences and mental states are not worth having. I prefer the full range of experiences, from depression to elation. I think they're all good, and worth experiencing.


Then what's wrong with artificially enhancing those experiences for better perception? You still experience the full range, but I'd bet you have some you prefer over the others - just like food, some dishes are tastier; so why not indulge yourself by strengthening their taste?

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If you're saying I really don't have any perceptions I can call my own, well, I think there is a difference between (mind-altering) chemicals my body produces, because my genes tell it to produce them; and (mind-altering) chemicals that come from without, like alcohol, Prozac, etc.


These, your brain decides to take them. Ultimately, it's still your decision.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2004 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thalion wrote:
You're right, there are many brands and modifications of toasters out there. But they still have a lot in common.

Some toasters are more different than others.

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I don't know. Afraid, perhaps?

And why shouldn't I be afraid of killing myself for dubious gains?

Quote:
Exactly how it is an entirely different matter? Both are just manipulations with natural things, made by people who know what they're doing (otherwise it doesn't make any sense) to achieve a desired result faster than it could possibly be done by other means.

OK, you can't get much more basic than that. I can't think of any actions that don't manipulate physical things. And generally, when a human does something, he is trying to achieve a desired result. I don't see how these similarities help at all.

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And how is it not your version of the world if you decide for yourself how to alter your perception? Your brain does it on unconscious level anyways, what exactly changes when you consciously decide to do that?

Quote:
Not really. As always, you can get the result which you want.

Quote:
These, your brain decides to take them. Ultimately, it's still your decision.

These are all the same argument, so I'll take them together.

I think there is a baseline for my perceptions which constitutes what mine are. These are determined by my genes, and also, my experiences. Drugs don't change these, so it can't be called changing "your version" of the world. Drugs only add chemicals that you wouldn't normally have. As these drugs come from without, they don't define you. Foreign substances don't define a person, their genes do.

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Aren't you doing it to yourself every day, slowly? Brain is a programmable system, you don't need to physically rewire it to change it a bit... actually, a lot. I've seen quite a few people who changed so much over just 10 years that I would dare call them "new persons".

Because it's safe when something similar happens throughout the natural course of life, doesn't necessarily mean it would be safe in different cases.

Quote:
Then what's wrong with artificially enhancing those experiences for better perception? You still experience the full range, but I'd bet you have some you prefer over the others - just like food, some dishes are tastier; so why not indulge yourself by strengthening their taste?

You most certainly do not experience the full range, most drugs tend to dull or emphasize different sensations. For example, acetaminophen dulls pain, beer emphasizes attractiveness and dulls ugliness. I think you admitted as much when you compared it to different degrees of tastiness.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2004 4:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

BaronVonOwn wrote:
Some toasters are more different than others.


And yet. For one, they all have a power plug - but that's common knowledge, and has been used for centuries. What other interesting and useful things might surface in an in-depth research?..

Quote:
I think there is a baseline for my perceptions which constitutes what mine are. These are determined by my genes, and also, my experiences. Drugs don't change these, so it can't be called changing "your version" of the world. Drugs only add chemicals that you wouldn't normally have. As these drugs come from without, they don't define you. Foreign substances don't define a person, their genes do.


If you hold your genetic code sacrosanct, sure. I don't care that much about mine. As long as I get more advanced in the end - why not?

Quote:
Because it's safe when something similar happens throughout the natural course of life, doesn't necessarily mean it would be safe in different cases.


True. That's why we have to ensure it is acceptably safe first before trying. But these are technical details, and you seem to be opposed to the very idea.

Quote:
You most certainly do not experience the full range, most drugs tend to dull or emphasize different sensations. For example, acetaminophen dulls pain, beer emphasizes attractiveness and dulls ugliness. I think you admitted as much when you compared it to different degrees of tastiness.


Ah, but who stops you from taking different drugs at different times, and don't take any drugs at all on occasion? =)
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2004 5:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thalion wrote:
And yet. For one, they all have a power plug - but that's common knowledge, and has been used for centuries. What other interesting and useful things might surface in an in-depth research?

I don't think an individual could make practical use of these things. Like I said, it's a very complex affair, and a poker player, for example, wouldn't really gain any new tricks from it. The perfect bet as we see it now will remain the perfect bet, regardless of what we uncover in neurological research. An oppressive government or other organization with access to supercomputers (and people's brains) might be able to find tricks to manipulate individuals, though.

But really, the point is aesthetic in nature. I'm not willing to see myself as a glorified toaster oven.

Quote:
If you hold your genetic code sacrosanct, sure. I don't care that much about mine. As long as I get more advanced in the end - why not?

I really just hold my genes, experiences, memories, and beliefs to be that which define me. What I was trying to say is that I don't think drugs reflect our nature in a fundamental way. They're transient, and distinct from the self.

I wouldn't mind genetically engineering myself to be smarter, stronger, faster, etc. but I see no reason to change my personality and tastes, which I think define me moreso than my physical or mental acuity.

Quote:
True. That's why we have to ensure it is acceptably safe first before trying. But these are technical details, and you seem to be opposed to the very idea

I don't think it's possible to demonstrate that it's safe. How can you measure things like consciousness? These are first-person phenomena. How can you distinguish one consciousness from another?

Quote:
Ah, but who stops you from taking different drugs at different times, and don't take any drugs at all on occasion? =

I'm not sure what this means...
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