What is the Reality of Existence?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Huntn, Apr 19, 2018.

  1. Huntn macrumors P6

    Huntn

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    #1
    I’ve already have a thread of being a Competant Theist, but I thought a more scientific approach might be an interesting topic of discussion about reality, existence, and one of, if not the most important aspect, consciousness. I exist, I am aware. What am I?

    Despite fairly advanced technology (from our perspective and spectrum of knowledge) we don’t know what the origin of our consciousness is. We presume that it originates in our brains, our central biological computer, but my understanding is that it’s exact source and function is a mystery. It can’t be pinpointed as any particular function of any specific part of the brain. If you know otherwise, please jump in!

    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Consciousness
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness/

    Why can’t the world’s greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness?
    https://www.theguardian.com/science...ds-greatest-minds-solve-mystery-consciousness

    the Hard Problem of Consciousness – and it’s this: why on earth should all those complicated brain processes feel like anything from the inside? Why aren’t we just brilliant robots, capable of retaining information, of responding to noises and smells and hot saucepans, but dark inside, lacking an inner life? And how does the brain manage it? How could the 1.4kg lump of moist, pinkish-beige tissue inside your skull give rise to something as mysterious as the experience of being that pinkish-beige lump, and the body to which it is attached?

    —————————————————
    Part 1: What is real vs artificial? How is real defined?

    Part 2: What is the essence of our self awareness? What makes us different than a toaster?
    • Is there an unknown element that makes us different from a machine with sensors?
    • What is required to attain consciousness?
    • Could an advanced computer, with the computational ability to match or exceed a human brain, supplied with equivalent sensors achieve self awareness, consider it’s existence, and regard itself as “I”?

    Part 3: Are we living in reality or a glorified simulation? How would we know? Or is this not worth contemplating? If intrigued this would be the Matrix effect to some degree, which helps if you have watched the Matrix (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Matrix). ;) We could very well be living in an advanced biology based simulation.


    What do you think? :D
     
  2. mgguy macrumors 6502

    mgguy

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    #2
    Cut back on the coffee? :D
     
  3. Night Spring, Apr 19, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2018

    Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

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    #3
    Try some scotch.

    When I was in college, my roommate took a course called "Brain." In the introductory handout, it said something like "when you study the brain, you are using the brain to study itself."

    Also, when I was young, I wondered if plants and rocks had consciousness, but we just didn't know about it, because we couldn't recognize the signs that they were conscious.
     
  4. Huntn, Apr 19, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2018

    Huntn thread starter macrumors P6

    Huntn

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    #4
    Definitely not. Coffee gets those brain cells firing! :p
    --- Post Merged, Apr 19, 2018 ---
    The speculation about what existence is, can be tricky. It can be so vague, that an argument can be made that we are each living in our own personal reality. We assume other (for lack of a better term) real souls surround us, experiencing what we do, but what do we know, it all could be an elaborate personal simulation, where you are the only thing with a real essence. Or maybe you are artificial too?

    The Lateness of the Hour (Twilight Zone Episode)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lateness_of_the_Hour

     
  5. BoxerGT2.5 macrumors 68000

    BoxerGT2.5

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  6. Mousse macrumors 68000

    Mousse

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    #6
    I subscribe to Descartes' "I think, therefore I am."
    I know I exists. I don't know about the existence of the rest of you.;) For all I know, everyone of you could be an NPC in a reality of my creation.:eek::oops: I'm just an NPC in your reality.:D
     
  7. Btrthnezr3 macrumors 6502a

    Btrthnezr3

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    #7
    I really like these videos for topics like this. I teach a course called World Religions and we watch some Crash Course Mythology and some Crash Course Philosophy videos...they integrate well and help the kids really connect their inner struggles/thoughts with modern interpretation of religion/life/existence (which is my goal for the course other than the obvious teaching of general religion characteristics, etc.)



     
  8. A.Goldberg macrumors 68020

    A.Goldberg

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    #8
    “Reality is a hallucination we all agree on”
     
  9. LizKat macrumors 601

    LizKat

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    #9
    The monetary value of an entire human body in terms of its chemical composition was around 93c when I was a kid. I believe now it's up to a buck. When I first heard that I wondered (and still wonder) how something like "learning how to read" got crammed into a bunch of cheap chemicals sloshing around in water. Our bodies including our brains are made up of:
    • 65% Oxygen
    • 18% Carbon
    • 10% Hydrogen
    • 3% Nitrogen
    • 1.5% Calcium
    • 1% Phosphorous
    • 0.35% Potassium
    • 0.25% Sulfur
    • 0.15% Sodium
    • 0.15% Chlorine
    • 0.05% Magnesium
    • 0.0004% Iron
    • 0.00004% Iodine
    ... and... trace amounts of arsenic, aluminum, copper, zinc, fluorine, silicon, manganese. A brain is thrown in for free? Such a deal for a dollar...
     
  10. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #10
    We are all, in the end, critters. Like all such, we have critterly needs. If you have engaged with pets, you have seen that they – especially the mammalian types – exhibit familiar behaviors and evidence of the capacity for reason.

    What makes us unique is our innate capability and affinity for complex language. Dialog and writing has elevated our reasoning capability to very high levels of abstraction (calculus, molecular biology, philosophy). But, if you cut off your leg, you realize that the effects of physical reality defy abstraction.

    As critters, we are driven to survive and reproduce. Death is an undesirable thing and non-existence is unfathomable to the existent. Our ability for abstraction have led us to surmise metaphysical realms, incorporeal beings and unknowable forces, but, in the end, the “soul” idea works out to nothing more than an extrapolation of our survival instinct.

    So, really, whether or not we are avatars in a simiverse is not very relevant when compared to the hard reality of hard reality. Ideas are great, but you still need lunch.
     
  11. Huntn thread starter macrumors P6

    Huntn

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    #11
    I’ll check these out and report back. :)
    --- Post Merged, Apr 19, 2018 ---
    We are critters, but some speculation about the bigger philosophical picture, seems to separate our intellect from our mammalian bodies and genetic programming as if it might exist separately from our mortal bodies. This especially comes into play when the notion of existence within simulations is entertained.
     
  12. Huntn, Apr 20, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2018

    Huntn thread starter macrumors P6

    Huntn

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    #12
    The first video is outstanding. There are so many good examples in it such as the child’s perception of the Teddy Beards compared to a real bear. I’ve never read Plato. His example of 3 men living in a cave thinking that shadows from the outside world were the reality is also excellent. Although not mentioned, the realization of the sub-atomic world and realativity was probably the single largest leap in awareness humans have achieved in understanding reality, but at best we’ve made baby steps.

    I’ve frequently said our reality is like living in a room with no windows or doors, where we can sense vibrations and muffled sounds. With regards to what is outside the room, there are three types of people:
    • Those who claim to know what is outside the room (religious equivalent: Heaven and Hell).
    • Those who claim there is nothing outside the room (religious equivalent: Atheist).
    • Those who understand that they are mostly ignorant about reality outside the room and make no claims (religious equivalent: Agnostic).

    You can make determinations about what you observe, but it’s a mistake to rely on your observation as ultimate truth or even temporary truth. You can say what I observe is good enough, serves as my truth, until something happens that changes my mind. :)

    One of these events might be mortal death where we are released from our room. This is not to imply that our consciousness will continue, or that there is eternal non-existence. We don’t know. But we do know that with all eternity stretched before us, a group of atoms formed to create our current mortal form, and that may never come back, or with eternity, it might.

    But if there is an aspect of ourselves that would have a better chance of continued existence it would be the manifestation of individual consciousness which maybe, is interchangeable with the idea of an other worldly essence or soul, something that could easily be connected to this reality, but separate, not dependent on the rules of this reality to exist. Sure, for those compelled, call it wishful thinking. Guilty as charged. :)

    Take always from the video:
    • Philosophy: Never take things at face value.
    • Always be willing to accept there is more to the world than meets the eye.
    • What seems the obvious truth today may not seem that way tomorrow.
    • Ponder what is really real vs what you think is real, and how you could ever know the difference.
    • The Movie Inception, a great movie.
    • Plato’s example of the people who are chained in a cave and only see shadows of the outside world.
    • Teddy bear vs a real bear.
    • Our mistake is thinking that the ordinary objects of the material world are the most real things.
    • Plato urges us to consider the world is not as it seems, accepting what what you’’ve always believed might be false.
    • You know enough to realize what think you know may be unreliable, but you don’t know enough to feel comfortable making determinations about what is real.
    • No cat has 2 tails. Every cat has one more tail than no cat. Therefore every cat has 3 tails. ;)
     
  13. Snoopy4 macrumors 6502a

    Snoopy4

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    #13
    Imagine if we were all geniuses in pods on a spaceship headed to another planet because our planet died and this is just to occupy our time until we arrive. Rehashing what we did so we don’t do it again. We’d never know would we...we’d wake up and say WTF only to find the pilot lost consciousness and we’ve been drifting for years.

    LOL
     
  14. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

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    #14
    So what you’re saying is that, taking inflation into account, we’ve lost a lot of value....
     
  15. LizKat macrumors 601

    LizKat

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    #15
    Not sure... I'm afraid to look up how little that "93c" may actually have been when I was actually "a kid". :D

    The point of wonderment remains though: Whoever or whatever managed to put that "Heath kit" pack of ingredients together, a list of stuff that assembles to a human being, seems pretty innovative even today by our human standards of what's clever and (often) cost-beneficial.
     
  16. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

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    #16
    The hardware’s pretty cheap, but I bet the software costs a pretty penny. I hear they want to move to a subscription model too.
     
  17. Huntn thread starter macrumors P6

    Huntn

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    #17
    Generally, I agree, although some people will argue reality as an unchangeable constant of their choosing.

    What is consciousness made of, is it identifiable matter or an electrical field, where does it originate from and how is it controlled? :D

    In my estimation, the biggest question is how does a biological organism generate a consciousness, versus an elaborate computer if equipped with the equal senses of the average mammal? Could an A.I. ever develop spontaneously self awareness, morality, or would these aspects just be really good simulations? These themes are frequently explored in sci-fi stories.

    Would you ever know if Data (Star Trek reference) had consciousness or was just superb programming that mimicks a human? My impression is that survival instincts could be programmed to such a point, that we would observe no decernsble difference between a biological organism and a manufactured machine. When actions become identical how would we know which entity has a soul?

    Speaking of the STNG the episodes, The Measure Of a Man (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/The_Measure_Of_A_Man_(episode)) and The Schizoid Man (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/The_Schizoid_Man_(episode)) are two episodes that deal with the idea of advanced A.I. However, I never bought the idea that you could upload your memories to a robot and that it would really be you versus a machine with your memories.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 20, 2018 ---
    Would you mind clarifying this post? Not meant as an insult. I agree it’s vital as a species we learn from and remember our past.
     
  18. Snoopy4 macrumors 6502a

    Snoopy4

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    #18
    We already screwed up and our thoughts are a rehash if history while we sleep enroute to a new home where we don’t make the same mistakes.
     
  19. LizKat macrumors 601

    LizKat

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    #19
    It may be a long, long time before we know. We do now know there are sets of multi-dimensional neural networks formed on a temporary basis to address brain stimuli. The structures come and go as needed and have been confirmed using algebraic topology to have as many as 11 dimensions to them. We cannot see all of these structures or processes using lower dimensioned methods of analysis. What we don't know about them vastly exceeds what we do know, for instance whether we must also create these structures in the process of setting conscious focus on a task.

    I have cited this piece before in another thread, mostly because it's in layman's language, but below are some excerpts possibly relevant to the thread here


    "It is as if the brain reacts to a stimulus by building then razing a tower of multi-dimensional blocks, starting with rods (1D), then planks (2D), then cubes (3D), and then more complex geometries with 4D, 5D, etc. The progression of activity through the brain resembles a multi-dimensional sandcastle that materializes out of the sand and then disintegrates," he said.

    Henry Markhaam, director of Blue Brain Project, said the findings could help explain why the brain is so hard to understand. "The mathematics usually applied to study networks cannot detect the high-dimensional structures and spaces that we now see clearly,” he said.

    "We found a world that we had never imagined. There are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures with up to eleven dimensions."

    ---

    “The stereotypical response pattern that we discovered indicates that the circuit always responds to stimuli by constructing a sequence of geometrical representations starting in low dimensions and adding progressively higher dimensions, until the build-up suddenly stops and then collapses: a mathematical signature for reactions to stimuli.

    “In future work we intend to study the role of plasticity—the strengthening and weakening of connections in response to stimuli—with the tools of algebraic topology. Plasticity is fundamental to the mysterious process of learning, and we hope that we will be able to provide new insight into this phenomenon,” she added.
     
  20. Huntn thread starter macrumors P6

    Huntn

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    #20
    Intriguing, I remember this. :) The bottom line is what is the essence of being a human or even being a mammal? Are there processes going on that we can identify much less even duplicate?
     
  21. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

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    #21
    And then what about non-mammals? I often watch fish in a tank and wonder if they are conscious in the same way we are.
     
  22. TC_GoldRush macrumors 6502

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  23. Huntn thread starter macrumors P6

    Huntn

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    #23
    I agree!
    I mentioned mammals just to keep it relatively simple. ;) There are several aspects of the discussion, one is on the scale of simplistic to advanced life, how is the environment perceived vs available choices that the organism can make? At what level do animals understand their place in the Universe? Dogs react to their environment, and form social groups, but my impression is they don’t understand where they are.

    The other aspect is when considering other species is the concept spirituality, and what are its limits? All speculation of course is based on our filters and perception. If I run with the soul idea, I’d assume bugs are like little organic machines able to change with time, but lacking in souls, while other mammals which show emotions just like us, affection, loyalty, sad, they miss us when we leave them, etc, these would have a much higher chance of having souls because they are more like us. We’re prejudiced.;) Ants are like little aliens, their perception and reality could exist in a completely different framework than ours.
     
  24. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

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    #24
    Well, cats seem to have a sense of time. They always go sit in front of their food bowl around the same time in the morning, no matter when they were last fed.
     
  25. LizKat macrumors 601

    LizKat

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    #25
    It seems to me that only humans are curious about the "why" of things. Lots of critters and we as well do care about "how" stuff works, or doesn't work. The "what", and the "how" are good enough lots of times. But we're the lot forever chasing after "why". I think caring about "why" is what has led us to keep pushing limits other critters default to accepting.

    There's a vast territory in between elemental reactions like breathing and having a pulse, and the place where humans indulge in advanced curiosity and imagination. We'd like to know more about those advanced ways in order to jump-start what might be natural evolution towards that understanding or knowing how to get computers to emulate certain human characteristics better. But we don't even know yet how we got around to asking "why" things we observe have occurred.

    Speaking of breathing, it interests me that the elemental stuff gets in its own way sometimes, pointing to limitations on purely electrochemical reactions in human life. We can only hold our breath for so long, for instance. If we're drowning, we may well know that to breathe in water will kill us. Nonetheless our primal brain will finally insist on our taking that last breath: it operates on chemical "knowledge" of the need to acquire oxygen and so sends out the usual signals no matter what other signals of distress then ensue. The feedback --choking, coughing, thrashing-- doesn't matter to the primal brain so long as "I need oxygen" still provides the cue it's evolved to care most about. In short, it's not that basic signal's problem that inadequate responses to an elemental need are all that are forthcoming.

    "Caring about" is key. A lot of what hangs us up in making advances in computing lies in making sensors or software care about circumstances that have not been tested. That leads to discussions of "common sense" which is another feature of humans (and maybe some other critters) that we have trouble installing in machines.

    An arrival at what we might call common sense often has to be pointed out to a computer in excruciatingly detailed paths of discovery. To safeguard against disasters of various magnitudes, a good programmer lays out some paths to sensible actions and then stipulates what to do, including nothing, if it's clear the computer hasn't been told to care about enough things but is still trying to find a good next instruction. In the meantime the computer has been taught to care about -- to test-- assorted situations and consider the results of those tests.

    Well a human being can often generalize and so reduce "caring about" to "suspecting". And then to make some maybe-valid assumptions about assorted realities of which he or she has little actual experience. We don't know a damn thing about how our brains help us through those transitions at a chemical level yet, as that Newsweek article quote from one of the researchers pointed out.

    We understand the brain's response to stimuli but not how it responds to a conscious choice to consider a complex task. Again, we're stymied (so far) by not being able to measure the details of "consciousness".
     

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