The platitude of Nick Chater's mind

[réponse à l’article de Science & Vie sur ‘Et si le cerveau était bête’ (The mind is flat) de Nick Chater]

Dear Science, Dear Life,

you have probably just published the worst file capable of consuming divorce between you: the theory of stupidity is certainly that, very profound, of its author. The flat mind… here we are with a resurgence of behavioralism even simpler than Skinner's designs. A thousand apologies! Forgive this emotional beginning, usually I put the arguments before the anathemas, but this file is filled with so many inconsistencies that the issue will one day be one of those you never wanted to publish. Let's go into a bit:

1) The inconsistency of the homoncule:
"The brain explores… "The mind interprets… So what is this subject that explores, interprets? What is this pre-installed 'director general' that philosophers of the mind call the homoncule? It is found everywhere in your article and at Chater, destroying the monism of his speech. In reality, the flat-spirit is a dualism separating the neural machinery and the unknown decision maker who comes to use it, evacuated into limbo. The right answer to the decision maker's problem lies in the very organization of the data processed by neurons, in the gradual construction of these intentional floors, a progression largely unconscious, hierarchical, which is not a platitude .

2) The inconsistency of the on-the-fly interpretation:
The neural machinery would be delivered according to the circumstances. Behaviorist resurgence: it would be the collection of data received by neurons that would decide in real time the behavior. There, no need for a homoncule… but more spirit neither. It becomes a mere epiphenomenon. The tried-and-tested fusion of the self is pure illusion. But why stop in such a good way in reductionism? Why not make neurons an epiphenomenon of quantum arousals ?… Science is not to deny what everyone can experience themselves because they don't know what to do with it. A mind knows perfectly what is identity or not for him, in a changing environment. So what is this personality? Chater does not give any explanation.

3) Psychological studies in support of a neuroscientific theory:
Psychology studies an organization of concepts, neuroscience a neural organization. Foreign paradigms. It takes a lot of blindness to summon each other in support of the other. The reliability of psychological investigations is the subject of deep suspicion, of which the best publications have been echoed, for excellent reasons that I will not detail here but it is certain that including a person in an investigation is already truncating his behavior. In particular it is to erase one's specific personality. The person places himself in the state expected of him, wonders what is the desired behavior, becomes conformist. It is no longer his personality that you are studying, but rather that of the designer of the study. No surprise then if you find the designer's intentions in the results. Occulting personality because you intentionally made it disappear. But Chater does not hesitate to make a demonstration of its non-existence.

4) Other hypotheses are much more consistent than the flat-mind:
It is true that the conscious mind seeks to self-justify its own behaviors, even when they are inappropriate. Why would you do that? Precisely because it does not have direct access to the heart of its genesis and it retro-controls it after the fact. This implies a mental hierarchy and not a single, flat system. Consciousness is the place where conflicts between intrinsic and extrinsic proposals (social rules, opinions of congeners, etc.) are resolved. How can you be wrong but not put a bullet in your head? Illusions fabricated by consciousness are a safeguard for a social animal such as man, and not a proof of a mind in instantaneousness.

In an era when all scientists interested in transdisciplinarity put forward the concept of emergence, the concept of the flat mind focuses the folding of neuroscience on themselves. Consciousness dissolves in the field of neural arousals as matter disappears into the field of quantum arousals, in defiance of what everyone experiences in an elementary way.

The most distressing thing about your record is certainly that you present the theory as a fait accompli ("What happens to cognitive therapies?", "What happens to the unconscious?" …). People are their environment and especially what they read. Even if they do not have a flat mind they will integrate the representation of themselves as platitude. There is no worse guru than the scientist, since he claims that his proposals are refutable and have been refuted without success… but only within the framework of the very narrow scientific paradigm that he uses, as Has he shown. Your folder contributes to the destruction of vertical thinking in your readers. You turn them into mirrors that absorb or reflect words according to their particular atomic structure. Well, no, our brain is, among all the hardware systems processing information, the one that has the greatest thickness.

If you are looking for a scoop, here is a more valid one: our mind is not subject to stupidity but to falsehood. He establishes and maintains incorrect representations of what surrounds him, and that is what makes him act. Presented in this way, it is pejorative, and yet it is also the origin of the qualities that we find most admirable in humans: children who choose their sick parents when they are only a shadow of themselves. People positivist and hyperactive because they host an image of themselves and the world very overrated in the present. All these misrepresentations make us try to force reality to conform to it. Our mistakes are our works, our imprints on the world, this world that has nothing to do with the truth since it is already made up of it.

Can you write something that will fundamentally change how I see the world?

A2a. I will interpret your question differently: how do you see the world? What do you see?

Looking for the answer to what sees, first arises a lot of details. Too much. Is that the ' I '? A scatter? No, it's the content.

Paradoxically it is also the container. ' I ' is also a unit, merging all these contents. Colors, emotions, abstractions, languages, dreams, concepts and experiences of very different natures, manage to blend together to create a unique ' I '.

How can such a prodigy be possible?

If I took the conscience as an example, it is that the reality of the Prodigy is immediate to us. There's no need for a mathematical demonstration. No litigation possible. But many other wonders of the same type surround us.

Take a cell. It is easy to visualize as a container. Its contents are heterogeneous: biochemical, genetic, biological, structural, distributional, functional, relational… Their natures differ as much as those of the contents of consciousness. Some are inert things in isolation, others are réplicantes; There are also organizations, functions. A disparate Collection of hardware and virtual that the meeting defines a single entity: the cell.

I am not going to tell you that this cell is experiencing a piece of consciousness because it is a fusion of the same type as ours. Stupid. It would be neglecting that the contents are radically different. The container has no existence in isolation. On the other hand The Prodigy is the same: in both cases, the merging of contents is not simply their assembly. What we feel as a consciousness is not a juxtaposition of the elements of thought.

It is rather an ocean whose thoughts emerge like the peaks of the waves. White scum. Overlapping unit and fragmentation.

This difficulty in explaining the phenomenon consciousness is not an incentive to place it in a world apart. It is the proven demonstration that we do not correctly explain the physical reality, this matter which seems yet wonderfully deciphered by science.

A paradigm reversal! It is not the conscience that resists science, but science that resists consciousness…

Version 2.0 of Stratium is online

Stratium, self-organizing theory of neurons explaining consciousness, is now a chapter of the next work to be published on a general theory of reality. You can download this chapter for free at the following address:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/7vnlb0h37vzsnx9/Stratium%202.0.fr.pdf?dl=0

Feel free to post here your comments and reviews. It is these returns that advance the theory.

What is consciousness?

Consciousness is control.

Reality is a process. Levels of entangled information. The vision of reality is usually horizontal, that of juxtaposed systems. However, the vertical view is the most fruitful: how information levels are interdependent. The interaction is in two directions: 1) ascending: micro-mechanisms producing a more complex organization. 2) downward: the resulting organization has a retroactive effect on micro-mechanisms. Higher-level information is in a way a representation of all lower-level information, an addition to that simple sum. And this addition is active. A fragment of consciousness has just appeared.

No dualism in this definition. A consciousness is not an addition of micro-consciousnesses. It is constituted by the level of additional information. It is the addition of successive levels that will expand, complicate, strengthen the higher level of control, which becomes a representation of increasing sophistication, based on the underlying information.

Once the consciousness is defined thus, what is experienced is the content of the consciousness, the complexity of the representations which occupy the highest level of control of the physical structure considered. In the human brain these representations are extraordinarily varied, elaborate, and ramified. A properly awakened human consciousness is the integration of very large neural networks realizing a superposition of concepts organized in successive levels of complexity. The richness of our consciousness comes from the height of our pyramid of mental organization. It is gradually structured from infant to adult. It loses its flexibility in old age. It varies from one to another depending on the individual’s ability to elevate these conceptual organizations, and the need to do so.

By asking this question you are building up the very high level which is the representation of the self in reality.

Is the difficult problem of consciousness a valid question, or is it a meaningless question (like asking what happened before the Big Bang)?

Consciousness may seem difficult to explain, yet the “difficult problem” of consciousness is not a scientifically valid question. Here’s why :

The exposition of the problem attempts to put the phenomenon of consciousness beyond the reach of rational understanding by creating a radical dualism between neural excitations and conscious experience. It forbids linking the phenomenon and its micro-mechanisms. It requires a strong emergence, that is to say a property without any possible link with its underlying organization. A similar example would be to speak of the “difficult problem of magnetism”, impossible to explain from the properties of electrons. While the detailed understanding of magnetism was slow to obtain, it now makes it possible to classify it as a weak emergence.

Similarly, it is our poor understanding of the organization of neural networks that allows the “difficult problem” to survive. Yet we have the phenomenon under the eyes, perfectly reproducible: any incredibly complex network of neurons as it is organized at each birth of human brain produces a consciousness, as particular as the architecture of the networks in question.

It is hardly adventurous to predict that any network as complex as that of the neurons, the day when it will be correctly understood, will systematically produce a consciousness. Note that it is not necessary to have 100 billion neurons for this. Animals have a phenomenal awareness with much less. Organizational issue and not additions of neurons as we do with transistors in our computers.

So that the “difficult problem” seems to be the survival of a sacred armor placed around the human conscience, to avoid scientific dissection. Subjectivity daughter of the soul, last bastion of our dignity?

Arguments in support of the “difficult problem” are also invalid. As Glyn Williams puts it, the philosophical zombie does not exist. It is an experiment of thought, tried in all ignorance of the organization of the neural schemas, supported by a machinic and reductive vision of the mind. Idem for “automatic” behaviors in the state of narcolepsy: these are states where mental functions are so poorly integrated into each other that consciousness is no longer recognized as such. But there is a multitude of conscious states, not “the” consciousness. No need to be narcoleptic. We have all experienced the gradual transitions from the “unconscious” dream to consciousness, for some the awaken dreams. We have all experienced automatic driving back home while our consciousness was in the shadows.

The loss of certain neural connections paralyzes a muscle while others make disappear a phenomenon experienced in full consciousness. Motive action and sensation have the same kind of physical support, but they are located at different levels in the neural architecture.

In the end the “difficult problem” is not simply an admission of powerlessness shared by some philosophers and scientists. It is an active obstacle, unfortunately arbitrary and archaic, to let the consciousness phenomenon enter the knowledge.

Using the Occam Razor as a guide, why are there not more people to believe that the universe is infinite?

Your question contains three blunders: on the one hand Occam’s razor applies only to hypotheses of the same value in competition (the finiteness of the universe is a subject too speculative to be eligible). On the other hand you do not say why the razor would decide for infinity (infinity is not easy to handle). Finally the number of people sharing an idea is not a good indicator of its value.

The answer to the question « Is the universe infinite? » asks beforehand to define the universe and the infinite we are talking about. Is it only the observable universe? So it is not infinite. Is it all that exists? So do not you define your infinity exactly like this “whole”? For if the infinite went beyond this totality, it would no longer be one. And if the whole thing was “finished”, in what would one define its finiteness?

The assertion « The universe has no end » (statement unrelated to the mathematical infinities) becomes a pleonasm rather than a use of Occam’s razor.

Another way of answering the same thing is to consider the universe in its complete, spatio-temporal dimension. So, it is difficult to find limits. An “in-finite” contingent by our essentially transverse observation. Our models provide mediocre predictions about the future.

What is the Cartesian theatre? Can consciousness be explained without it?

The Cartesian Theater takes up a certain vision of the brain as an assembler of perceptions, producing a kind of entertainement played continuously. For which « I » viewer? Silence. This is a critique of dualism consciousness / neural networks. However, there is a surprising distance between neural excitations and conscious sensations. How to reconcile dualism and monism?

The brain is a complex system with inputs and outputs. The sensory inputs are very little codified (pulse sequences corresponding to photons received by the retina, etc …). Motor outputs, while reflecting complex intentions, do not in themselves contain complex code. They are also sequences of impulses corresponding to precise muscular stimuli, from which it would be very difficult to extract the complex abstractions that sometimes motivated them. Between inputs and outputs: a staggering coding of entries creating concepts of increasing sophistication, with the underlyings organized and back-controlled by the over-under. Each level can be at the origin of an action, modulated by the upper levels. Thus we have a conceptual pyramid in which the exchanges are bi-directional, with at its summit the space of integration bringing together all the mental productions in their most evolved organization: consciousness. (This is a quick summary)

The Cartesian Theater is a vision containing false and true. The false is to believe that a simple representation such as an object and a complex representation such as a close person would be at the same level in the mental hierarchy, that they would be comparable patterns and only located in different centers. No, the image of the person is higher, recruiting many more sub-concepts and biographical memories. It is a much more acting representation than that of the object, in that it is associated with a personal power and a wide range of possible behaviors, contrary to the object. During the construction of the Cartesian Theater, the spectators are arranged at the same time as the story. Everyone is perfectly in place when running real life. Even the critics are present, since the external opinions on our Self and our destiny are also the object of representations.

The truth is that consciousness is indeed an evaluative process of its own structure, of what is proposed to it. Initiation of acts is subconscious, judgment is conscious. This process goes back down the organizational pyramid. In the words of the Cartesian Theater, the consciousness level is the most intelligent homunculus that evaluates the effectiveness of the immediately subconscious level. This is the slightly more rough homunculus that evaluates the effectiveness of its own underlying level. And so on until the rather stupid homunculus that only evaluates the good coordination of muscle bundles or other basic functions. By reducing the intelligence of the homunculus according to its position in the pyramid, we can this time make the connection between the “non-intelligence” of sensory inputs (and motor outputs), and the intelligence of the conscious homunculus. This one is simply the assembly of active and particularly sophisticated concepts that flutter in the space of conscious integration. It involves specifically a surprisingly low number of neurons, most of the work being done by the underlying structure. This explains why intelligence is not measured in a species by the number of neurons or the size of the brain, but rather by the number of strata in their organization. This also explains that the vivacity of conscious impressions and their variety are not connected with intelligence. Regardless of the number of strata forming the intelligence of each mental task, the space of conscious integration is equally diversified among everybody, including all these tasks.

Science does not yet know how to make stratification measurements by studying neural interactions, but a more classical method works very well: inject calibrated inputs and collect outputs. Ask questions and analyze the answers… an excellent evaluation of this « deep intelligence ».

What happens in our brain when we look at a TV or computer screen for a long time?

Multi-stage process, from the elementary treatment of luminous points by the retina to the interpretation of images in higher concepts by consciousness. The complete answer to your question is quite lengthy if one has to consider the effects at each of these levels. Choose two:

Is there physical and neural fatigue caused by prolonged processing of repetitive signals such as a screen? At first no more than for any other activity. Whatever you look at, there are always images to process. Visual fatigue and neurons of vision comes from keeping your eyes open for too long, without a period of sleep, more than what is being watched. Of course the criteria of brightness, wavelength, and frequency of image changes can occur but are relatively incidental to the sleep time to be respected.

Is there an influence of the content of the images, a programming of the mind by the transferred concepts? Undoubtedly. We are our mental representations. Of course, all do not move around freely in consciousness. Existing concepts combine to reject the inconsistent. However, if the transferred content is presented skilfully, it fits seamlessly into the conceptual assembly that shapes your personality, in the same way that a smart talker within a group will greatly influence his behavior.

However, the most important and least known effect of repetitive mental activity is elsewhere. It is neglected because there is still no official theory of the general functioning of the brain. To understand it, you must give credence to the following axiom: the more a mental task is organized, the less it can be exercised independently of the others. For example, the neurological regulation of visceral functions is very low in the organization hierarchy. It is running almost automatically even with a brain in coma. While a highly organized task such as solving a thorny problem mobilizes all conscious attention, other mental tasks are put on stand-by.

But we must not believe that unused neural networks simply remain in the shadows, ready to serve the identical to the next solicitation. Unusual connections are fading away. This is the way the brain manages to reconfigure itself. A conceptual element proves to be wrong or of little use? The links are reformed. It is forgotten. The more the mental representations are sophisticated, elevated in the conceptual hierarchy, the more they disintegrate quickly in case of underemployment. You have certainly noticed it: for example, you assimilate complicated knowledge by having worked on it for an exam. But then it is rarely used. A few months or years later, it became very foggy in your memory. You would have a hard time explaining it as clearly as when you were learning it.

Consequence: The prolonged exercise of a mental activity, such as watching television or working on a computer screen, is at the expense of other activities of the same level. These tend to lose acuity, responsiveness, and of course complementary developments.

This does not make television or computer work harmful in itself. Question of proportion in all activities, and presence of attractive alternatives: it is the lack of rivals that makes an occupation addictive.

What is the neurological reason? It requires a small revision of our free will. High-level tasks are acting representations, that is, they call themselves. They are our tastes, our desires, our decisions. When one is used very frequently, its celebrity makes it come back to the stage, especially when it recruits a lot of hopes, rewards, identity reinforcement. Glued to a video game or a TV series? Nothing suprising. You are, temporarily, the game or the series. At least its mental representation. This popularity changes you. It is only by constructing even higher hierarchical representations, which are the image of the self in its environment, that one can « become aware of » it.

Is there any chance that the neural correlations of consciousness will be seen as its cause?

Provocative Question. The definition of neural activity is much better understood and understood than that of consciousness. In fact, to say that human beings all possess the same "type" of consciousness is a convention … based essentially on the shared anatomy of our brains, so the fact that the neural support of our consciences is the same. But surely you have noticed that it takes a lot of communication between two consciences to understand each other:-) Every neural architecture is unique.

The professor: when a "misdefined" is likely to be caused by a "better defined", the question is more logically: "Does the defined evil have any chance of being caused by something other than the best defined?". Otherwise you give the advantage to not knowing about knowledge.

The doctor: The neural correlations of consciousness are so narrow that stimulating only one of your neurons will cause a complete and accurate representation in your mind (if one has understood its position in the network), and that remove some connections you Will forget that you have one day possessed this representation (you can however relearn it by rebuilding the network). The decrease in the activity of the neurons of vigilance decreases the "current" in the network and its global integration cannot be maintained. Oddly enough, the consciousness passes at the same time in sleep. Finally all alternative states of consciousness have their own specific neural correlations. A bad setup and a man takes his wife for a hat …

Neural incentives are not the consciousness phenomenon but are undoubtedly the medium. The phenomenon consciousness, it, is the organization of these excitements, extraordinarily complex and stratified, to the point of being able to explain without difficulty the richness of the proven phenomenon.

In the end the Apothegm "neural correlations of consciousness" is it not a politeness of people who know the brain well to those who know it less? Damn it, but it is sticky, this teacher …

Would it be a murder if you turn off a computer that simulates human consciousness?

No, in the terms you chose: murder and simulation. A computer simulating a consciousness (a term whose definition we will restrict here to “apparently independent thinking”) is not a computer experiencing a human conscience. The latter does not exist yet but when it will be the case it will not be possible to give a computer scientist response because the programs will have nothing to do with those today. They will owe to their designers only what the personality of an adult human being owes to his genes. They will be just as self-organized, independent, responsible? The law has not yet thought about it.

On the other hand by choosing the term “murder” you plunge into a completely different level of the problem which is that of morality and its sociological rules. There are many cases on this planet of deliberate extinction of human consciousness that are not called “murders” in the context of war or excessively heinous acts committed by the consciousness in question. Another question that divides people: can we use the term murder in the case of a non-human conscience, animals for example? It touches the sacred of the species and poses difficulties to our moral sense.

So I would gladly answer yes to your modified question as well: “Turning off a computer experiencing an consciousness of the same order as the human conscience could it be considered a murder? “