Thought-provoking and hugely compelling, this collection of bite-size thought-experiments is a fascinating insight into the instinctive beliefs of some of the most brilliant minds today. Passar bra ihop. Possible Minds John Brockman. The Last Unknowns John Brockman. Culture John Brockman. Yet neither the brain nor the neural correlates cause consciousness; instead, consciousness constructs the brain. Yet neither the icon nor the recycle bin, each a mere pattern of pixels on a screen, causes its deletion. How do we remember the past? There are many answers to this question, depending on whether you are an artist, a historian, or a scientist.
As a scientist, I want to know the mechanisms reponsible for storing memories and where in the brain memories are stored. Although neuroscientists have made tremendous progress in uncovering neural mechanisms for learning, I believe but cannot yet prove that we are all looking in the wrong place for where long-term memories are stored. I have been puzzled by my ability to remember my childhood even though most of the molecules in my body today are not the same ones I had as a child—in particular, the molecules that make up my brain are constantly being replaced with newly minted molecules.
My hunch is that the substrate of old memories is located not inside the cells but outside, in the extracellular space. My intuition is based on a set of classic experiments on the junction between motor neurons and muscle cells. When the neuromuscular junction is activated, the muscle contracts. This occurs even if the muscle cell is also killed. The extracellular matrix at synapses in the brain may have a similar function and could well maintain overall connectivity despite the comings and goings of molecules inside neurons.
How could we prove that the extracellular matrix is responsible for long-term memories? The theory predicts that if the extracellular matrix is disrupted, memories will be lost. This experiment can be done with enzymes that selectively degrade components of the extracellular matrix or by knocking out one or more key molecules using molecular genetic techniques. It might be possible someday to stain this memory exoskeleton and see what our memories look like. The neural code is the software, algorithm, or set of rules whereby the brain transforms raw sensory data into perceptions, memories, decisions, meanings.
A complete solution to the neural code could, in principle, allow scientists to monitor and manipulate minds with exquisite precision. You might, for example, probe the mind of a suspected terrorist for memories of past attacks or plans for future ones. But the data that you glean from studying me will be of no use for interpreting the signals of any other person. For ill or good, our minds will always remain hidden to some extent from Big Brother.
He has been the director of a laboratory devoted to psychological and neurophysiological research and is the author of The Cognitive Brain. I have proposed a law of conscious content, which asserts that for any experience, thought, question, or solution there is an analog in the biophysical state of the brain. As a corollary to this principle, I have argued that the conventional attempts to understand consciousness simply by searching for its neural correlates in both theoretical and empirical investigations are too weak to provide a good understanding of conscious content.
Instead, I have proposed that we go beyond this and explore brain events that have at least some similarity to our phenomenal experiences—namely, neuronal analogs of conscious content. In support of this approach, I have presented a theoretical model that does more than address the sheer correlation between mental states and neuronal events in the brain. It explains how neuronal analogs of phenomenal experience can be generated, and it details how essential human cognitive tasks can be accomplished by the particular structure and dynamics of putative neuronal mechanisms and systems in the brain.
In addition, the model accurately predicts many classical illusions and perceptual anomalies. So I believe that the neuronal mechanisms and systems I have proposed provide a true explanation for many important aspects of human cognition and phenomenal experience. Providing the evidence is the best we can do—I think. I am optimistic that the so-called Hard Problem of consciousness will be solved by empirical and conceptual advances—working in tandem—made in cognitive neuroscience.
What is the Hard Problem? No one has a clue at the moment how to answer the question of why the neural basis of the phenomenal feel of my experience of, for instance, red is the neural basis of that particular phenomenal feel rather than a different one or none at all. There is an explanatory gap here that we do not know how to close now, but I have faith that we will one day.
The Hard Problem is conceptually and explanatorily prior to the issue of what the nature of the self is, as can be seen in part by noting that the problem would persist even for experiences that are not organized into selves. No doubt solving the Hard Problem i. But I am optimistic nonetheless. My friend asks me, through the steam he blows off the surface of his coffee, how I can trust the laws of physics back to the origins of the universe. I ask him how he can trust the laws of physics down to his cup of coffee. His experiments with gravity, heat, and light began in childhood, when he palpated the world to test its materials.
I simultaneously believe more and less than he does. But it is a belief nonetheless. One is no less real than the other simply because it is remarkable. How can I know that mathematics and the laws of physics can be reasoned down to the moment of creation of time, space, the entire universe? In the very same way that my friend believes in the reality of the second double cappuccino he orders. In formulating our beliefs, we are honest and critical and able to admit when we are wrong—and these attitudes are the cornerstones of truth. But how do I really know? If I measure the temperature of boiling water, all I really know is that mercury climbs a glass tube.
Not even that: All I really know is that I see mercury climb a glass tube. Maybe nothing is real—not the mercury, not the glass, not the coffee, not my friend. There is no external reality, just me. My creation. But this solipsism is ugly and arrogant. But if I am wrong and there is no external reality, then not only is this essay my invention but so is the Web, edge. And if you are reading this, I have created you, too. These systems will talk, walk, wink, lie, and appear distressed by close elections. They will swear up and down that they are conscious and they will demand their civil rights.
What do I believe is true but cannot prove? The answer is: You! Todd E. I believe that the human race will never decide that an advanced computer possesses consciousness. I believe this because I hold, but cannot yet prove, that in order for an entity to be conscious and possess a mind, it has to be a living being. Being alive, of course, does not guarantee the presence of a mind. A plant carries on the metabolic functions of life but does not possess a mind. A chimpanzee, on the other hand, is a different story. In addition to being alive, therefore, it appears that a living thing must be a being—must possess a self—to possess a mind.
But silicon chips are not alive and computers are not beings. Watson Research Center. If we believe that consciousness is the result of patterns of neurons in the brain, our thoughts, emotions, and memories could be replicated in moving Tinkertoy assemblies. The Tinkertoy minds would have to be very big to represent the complexity of our minds, but it nevertheless could be done, in the same way that people have made computers out of 10, Tinkertoy pieces.
The philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz liked to imagine a machine capable of conscious experiences and perceptions. If you could make a copy of your brain with the same structure but using different materials, the copy would think it was you. This seemingly materialistic approach to mind does not diminish the hope of an afterlife, of transcendence, of communion with entities from parallel universes, or of God himself. Even Tinkertoy minds can dream, seek salvation and bliss—and pray.
I believe that human consciousness is a conjuring trick, designed to fool us into thinking we are in the presence of an inexplicable mystery. Who is the conjuror, and what can be the point of such deception? Natural selection has meant it to be hard. Can I prove it? And in this case there may be an added catch. Nonetheless there may be a loophole by which science could still enter. While it might seem—and even be—impossible to explain how a brain process could actually have the quality of consciousness, it might not be at all impossible to explain how a brain process could be designed to give rise to the impression of having this quality.
Would I want to explain consciousness this way, if I could? If the illusion that consciousness is an inexplicable mystery is a source of human hope, I suppose there is a real danger that exposing the trick might send us all to Hell.
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Any predictive power this understanding has will be useful, especially with regard to unexpected outcomes and even unintended consequences. But it will not be infallible, because the complexity of such behavior makes exact prediction impossible. He hired and managed teams who developed Microsoft Multiplan, Word, Excel, and other applications.
What We Believe But Cannot Prove by John Brockman | Waterstones
In he founded Intentional Software Corporation, a company dedicated to perfecting software relationships. I believe we are writing software the wrong way. Computers are demonstrably 10, times better than they were not so long ago, yet we are not seeing their services improve at the same rate with some exceptions—for example, games and Internet searches.
An administrative problem, say, that would take maybe pages to describe precisely will take millions of dollars to program for a computer, and often the program will not work. But for a schedule we would need only one or two—at most ten—pages per crew member. We need to store and process, at the maximum, ten pages per person, when we have capacity for 2, times more than that in one cheap laptop! Of course, the problem is complex in terms of the problem domain, but not shockingly so.
All the rules relevant to aircraft-crew scheduling are probably expressible in less than 1, pages—or 0. Software is the bottleneck on the high-tech horn of plenty. The scheduling program for the airline takes up far more memory than it should; hence, the software represents complexity far greater than that of the problem itself. Note that the cost of memory is not the issue—we could afford that waste.
What is going on? I like to use cryptography as the metaphor. That is how this rule can be encoded in computer language and turned into an algorithm. The act of combining is the programming process, whose result is the source code. It can be that obscure. The amazing thing is that today it is the source code—i. But viewed through the funhouse mirror of software coding, it becomes all but unrecognizable: 1, times fatter, disjointed, foreign. What can be done? Follow the metaphor.
This is called generative programming. For this reason, I believe that generative programming is the future of software. There are, for example, very few interesting actual proofs in computing. So a guess in computing is often architectural or a collection of covering heuristics. As the media philosopher Marshall McLuhan pointed out, when you change the nature of representation and argumentation, people who learn in these new ways will turn out to be qualitatively different thinkers and better thinkers?
For example, I believe that the mind is organized into cognitive systems specialized for reasoning about objects, space, numbers, living things, and other minds; that we are equipped with emotions triggered by other people sympathy, guilt, anger, gratitude and by the physical world fear, disgust, awe ; that we have different ways for thinking and feeling about people in different kinds of relationships to us parents, siblings, other kin, friends, spouses, lovers, allies, rivals, enemies ; and several peripheral drivers for communicating with others language, gesture, facial expression.
In each case, I can provide reasons for my belief, both empirical and theoretical. The idea of a richly endowed human nature is still unpersuasive to many reasonable people, who often point to certain aspects of neuroanatomy, genetics, and evolution that appear to speak against it. I believe, but cannot prove, that these objections will be met as the sciences progress. From the standpoint of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, critics have pointed to the apparent homogeneity of the cerebral cortex and the seeming interchangeability of cortical tissue in experiments in which patches of cortex are rewired or transplanted in animals.
I believe that the homogeneity is an illusion, owing to the fact that the brain is a system for information processing. Just as all books look the same to someone who does not understand the language in which they are written, and the DVDs of all movies look the same under a microscope, the cortex may look homogeneous to the eye but nonetheless contain different patterns of connectivity and synaptic biases that allow it to compute very different functions.
I believe that these differences will be revealed in different patterns of gene expression in the developing cortex. I also believe that the apparent interchangeability of cortex occurs only in early stages of sensory systems that happen to have similar computational demands, such as isolating sharp signal transitions in time and space. From the standpoint of genetics, critics have pointed to the small number of genes in the human genome now thought to be less than 25, and to their similarity to those of other animals.
The genes themselves may code largely for the meat and juices of the organism, which are pretty much the same across species, whereas how gene products are sculpted into brain circuits may depend on a much larger body of genetic information. I believe that modern humans greatly underutilize their cognitive capabilities. Proving this, however, would mean embracing the very same sentient possibilities—visceral hunches—that were possibly part of the world of archaic humans.
This enlarged realm of the senses acknowledges reason but also heeds the grip of the gut, the body poetic. This assertion is shocking to many people, who fear that it would demote animals and prelinguistic children from moral protection, but this would not follow. Whose pain is the pain occurring in the newborn infant? If selfhood develops gradually, then certain types of events only gradually become experiences, and there will be no sharp line between unconscious pains if we may call them that and conscious pains, and both will merit moral attention.
And, of course, the truth of the empirical hypothesis is in any case strictly independent of its ethical implications, whatever they are. But it can, I think, be proved eventually. This is an empirical hypothesis, and it could just as well be proved false. It could be proved false by showing that the necessary pathways functionally uniting the relevant brain systems in the ways I claim are required for consciousness are already provided in normal infant or fetal development and are present in, say, all mammalian nervous systems of a certain maturity.
I doubt this is true, because it seems clear to me that evolution has already demonstrated that remarkable varieties of adaptive coordination can be accomplished without such hyper-unifying meta-systems—by colonies of social insects, for instance. What is it like to be an ant colony? Nothing, I submit, and I think most people would agree intuitively.
What is it like to be a brace of oxen? Nothing even if it is like something to be a single ox. Evolution will not have provided for the further abilities where they were not necessary for members of those species to accomplish the tasks their lives pose them. We need these abilities to become persons, communicating individuals capable of asking and answering, requesting and forbidding and promising and lying. Finally, since there is often misunderstanding on this score, I am not saying that all human consciousness consists in talking to oneself silently, although a great deal of it does.
If a nervous system can come to sustain all those abilities without having language, then I am wrong. I believe that cockroaches are conscious. Rather, the world is full of many overlapping alien consciousnesses. Why do I think there might be multiple forms of consciousness out there? Before becoming a journalist, I spent ten years and a couple of postdoctoral fellowships getting inside the sensory worlds of a variety of insects, including bees and cockroaches.
Bees could learn all about the pattern of key features in the room and would show that they were confused if objects had been moved while they were out of the room. In contrast, when they were busy gorging on the sugar almost nothing could distract them, making it possible for me to paint a little number on their backs so that I could distinguish individual bees. For the bee, it is the feeling of being a bee.
Some creatures live in sensory worlds that are much harder to access.
To think this way about simple creatures is not to fall into the anthropomorphic fallacy. Rather, it is a kind of panpsychism I am quite happy to own up to—at least until we know a lot more about the origin of consciousness.
This may take me out of the company of quite a few scientists who would prefer to believe that a bee with a brain containing only a million neurons must surely be a collection of instinctive reactions with some simple switching mechanism between them, rather than an entity with some central representation of what is going on which might be called consciousness. But it leaves me in the company of poets, who wonder at the world of even lowly creatures.
In this falling rain, where are you off to snail? Like the owners of the New York apartments who detest them, they suffer from stress and can die from it, even without injury. They are also hierarchical and they know their little territories well. When they are running for it, think twice before crushing out another world. I believe that animals have feelings and other states of consciousness, but neither I nor anyone else has been able to prove it.
But as soon as we turn to other species and start asking questions about feelings, and about consciousness in general, we are in risky territory, because the hardware is different. When a rat is in danger, it does things that many other animals do: That is, it either freezes, runs away, or attacks. People pretty much do the same. Some scientists say that because a rat and a person act the same in similar situations, they have the same kinds of subjective experience. This broad zone is much more highly developed in people than in other primates, and does not seem to exist in other creatures.
So certainly for those aspects of consciousness that depend on the prefrontal cortex, including our knowledge of who we are and our ability to make plans and decisions, there is reason to believe that even other primates might differ from people. Another dramatic difference is that humans have natural language. Because so much of human experience is tied up with language, consciousness is often said to depend on it. If so, then other animals are ruled out of the consciousness game.
For these reasons, it is hard to know what consciousness might be like in another animal. Most of what I have said applies to the content of conscious experience. This is exactly what is done in studies of working memory in nonhuman primates. One approach that has had some success in the area of conscious content in nonhuman primates has focused on a limited kind of consciousness, visual awareness.
But this approach, by Christof Koch and Francis Crick, investigates the neural correlates of consciousness rather than the causal mechanisms. Interestingly, this approach also emphasizes the importance of the prefrontal cortex in making visual awareness possible. So what about feelings? My view is that a feeling is what happens when an emotion system, like the fear system, is active in a brain that can be aware of its own activities. Viewed this way, feelings are strongly tied to those areas of the cortex that are fairly unique to primates and especially well developed in people.
There are other views about feelings: Antonio Damasio argues that feelings arise from more primitive activity in bodysensing areas of the cortex and brainstem. Jaak Pankseep has a similar view, though he focuses more on the brainstem. Because this network has not changed much in the course of human evolution, it could therefore be involved in feelings that are shared across species.
Pankseep argues that if it looks like fear in rats and people, it probably feels like fear in both species, but how do you know that rats and people feel the same way when they behave the same way? A cockroach will escape from danger—does it, too, feel fear as it runs away? But is the brainstem responsible for feelings? Even if that were proved to be the case in people, how would you prove it in a rat?
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I think rats and other mammals, and maybe even roaches who knows? And because I have reason to think that their feelings might be fundamentally different from ours since human consciousness seems to depend on special circuits and on language , I prefer to study emotional behavior in rats, rather than emotional feelings. I study rats because you can make progress at the neural level, provided that what you measure is the same in rats and people. During the years I spent kayaking along the coast of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, I observed that the local raven populations spoke in distinct dialects.
The divisions between these dialects appeared to correspond to the traditional geographic divisions between the indigenous human language groups. I believe, but cannot prove, that babies and young children are actually more conscious, more vividly aware of their external world and internal life, than adults are. I believe this because there is strong evidence for a functional trade-off with development.
This trade-off makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Our species relies more on learning than any other and has a longer childhood than any other. Human childhood is a protected period in which we are free to learn without being forced to act. There is even some neurological evidence for this. With experience, some connections are strengthened and many others disappear entirely. What does this have to do with consciousness? Consider the experiences we adults associate with these two kinds of functions.
In contrast, when we are faced with the unfamiliar, when we fall in love with someone new, when we travel to a new place, our consciousness of what is around us and inside us suddenly becomes far more vivid and intense. In fact, we are willing to expend lots of money and emotional energy on those few intensely alive days in Paris or New York, which we will remember long after months of everyday life have vanished. As we become expert, we need to pay less and less attention, and we experience the movements and thoughts and keystrokes less and less. We sometimes say that adults are better at paying attention than children are, but really we mean just the opposite.
Adults are better at not paying attention. There is a certain amount of brain evidence for this too. Some brain areas, like the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, consistently light up in adults when they are deeply engaged in learning something new. For more everyday tasks, these areas light up much less extensively.
The astute reader will note that this is just the opposite of what Dan Dennett believes but cannot prove. And this brings me to something else I believe but cannot prove. I believe that the problem of capital-C Consciousness will disappear in psychology just as the problem of Life disappeared in biology.
Babies may be more conscious in one way and less in the other. The consciousness of pain may be entirely different from the consciousness of red, which may be entirely different from the babbling stream of Joyce and Woolf. Certainly, however, the vivid, even ecstatic awareness of the world that accompanies discovery is at least one kind of consciousness; indeed, it is the kind of consciousness that makes us grateful to be human. The McGill psychologist John Macnamara once proposed that children come to learn about right and wrong, good and evil, in much the same way they learn about geometry and mathematics.
Moral development is not merely cultural learning, and it does not reduce to the maturation of innate principles that have evolved through natural selection. It is not like the development of language or sexual preference or taste in food. This cannot be entirely right. And no serious theory of moral development can ignore the role of natural selection in shaping our moral intuitions. It allows for the existence of moral truths that people discover, just as we discover truths of mathematics.
And so I believe though I cannot prove it that the development of moral reasoning is the same sort of process as the development of mathematical reasoning. William H. Dan Dennett has it right when he puts the emphasis on acquiring language, not having language, as a precondition for our kind of consciousness.
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Humans also seem to have one for structured language, judging from studies of deaf children with hearing parents who are not exposed to a rich sign language in the preschool years. In Seeing Voices, Oliver Sacks described an eleven-year-old boy who had been thought to be retarded but proved to be merely deaf. By the second year, the toddler is busy picking up new words, each composed of a series of phoneme building blocks.
In the third year, she starts picking up on those typical combinations of words we call grammar or syntax. She soon graduates to speaking long structured sentences. In the fourth year, she infers a patterning to the sentences and starts demanding proper endings for her bedtime stories. It is pyramiding, using the building blocks at the immediately subjacent level.
Four levels in four years! These years see a lot of softwiring, with the pruning or the enhancement of prenatal connections between cortical neurons, depending partly on how useful a connection has been so far in life. Some of the connections must be in workspaces that could not only plan sentences but an agenda for the weekend, or negotiate a chain of logic, or assess a potential chess move—or even be tickled by structured music, with its multiple interwoven melodies.
Tuning up the workspace for structured language in the preschool years would likely carry over to those other structured aspects of intellect. CALVIN language as a precondition for consciousness: Tuning up to sentence structure might make a child better able to perform nonlanguage tasks that also need some structuring.
Improve one, improve them all? Is that what boosts our cleverness and intelligence? Robert R. The argument is not that we lack consciousness but that we overestimate the conscious control of behavior. We are misled by an inner voice that generates a reasonable but often fallacious narrative and explanation of our actions. That the beam of conscious awareness illuminating our actions is on only part of the time further complicates the task.
Since we are not conscious of our state of unconsciousness, we vastly overestimate the amount of time that we are aware of our actions, whatever their cause. Observations of social context showed that such explanations were usually wrong. When challenged to laugh on command, most subjects could not do so. In certain, usually playful social contexts, laughter simply happens.
However, this lack of voluntary control does not preclude an orderly, predictable pattern of behavior. Laughter appears at those places where punctuation would appear in the transcript of a conversation; it seldom interrupts the phrase structure of speech. Other airway maneuvers, such as breathing and coughing, also punctuate speech and are performed without speaker awareness.
The discovery of structured but unconsciously controlled laughter produced by people who could not accurately explain their actions led me to consider generalizing this situation to other kinds of behavior. Do we go through life listening to an inner voice that provides similar confabulations about the causes of our action? Can the question of animal consciousness be stood on its head and treated in a more parsimonious manner? Instead of wondering whether other animals are conscious, or have a different, or lesser, consciousness than ours, should we be wondering whether our behavior is under no more conscious control than theirs?
The complex social order of bees, ants, and termites documents what can be achieved with little if any conscious control, as we think of it. Is machine consciousness possible or even desirable? Is intelligent behavior a sign of conscious control? What kinds of tasks require consciousness? Answering these questions requires an often counterintuitive approach to the role, evolution, and development of consciousness. I believe but cannot prove that we vastly underestimate the differences that set the human brain apart from the brains of other primates. Certainly, no one can deny that there are important similarities in the overall layout of the human brain and, say, that of the macaque.
Our primary sensory and motor cortices are organized in similar ways; even in higher brain areas, homologies can be found.
What We Believe But Cannot Prove: Today's Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty
Using brain-imaging methods, my lab has observed plausible counterparts in the human parietal lobe—areas involved in eye movement, hand gestures, and number processing—to several areas of the macaque brain. Yet I fear that those early successes in drawing human-monkey homologies have tended to mask notable differences.
Many of us suspect that in regions such as the prefrontal and inferior parietal cortices, the changes are so dramatic that they amount to additional brain areas. At a more microscopic level, there is a type of neuron reported to be found in the anterior cingulate region of humans and great apes but not in other primates; these so-called spindle cells send connections throughout the cortex, contributing to the much greater long-distance connectivity in the human brain.
Such surface and connectivity differences, although they are in many cases purely quantitative, have brought about a qualitative revolution in brain function. Human beings may have roughly the same specialized cerebral processors as our primate ancestors; however, what may be unique about the human brain is its ability to access the information inside each processor and make it available to almost any other processor through long-distance connections.
Once the internal connectivity of a system exceeds a certain threshold, it begins to be dominated by self-sustained states of activity. I believe that the human workspace system has passed this threshold and gained a considerable autonomy: That is, the human brain is much less at the mercy of signals from the outside world than the brains of other primates are. Writing, arithmetic, science—all are recent inventions.
Our brains did not have enough time to evolve for them, but I speculate that they were made possible because we can mobilize our old areas in novel ways. Likewise, when we learn Arabic numerals we build a circuit to quickly convert those shapes into quantities—a fast connection from bilateral visual areas to the parietal quantity area. Amazonian people who have not invented counting are unable to make exact calculations as simple as, say, 6—2. Education is likely to greatly increase the gap between the human brain and that of our primate cousins.
Virtually all human-brain-imaging experiments today are performed on highly literate volunteers—and therefore, presumably, highly transformed brains. To better understand the differences between the human and the monkey brain, we need to invent new methods—both to decipher the organization of the infant brain and to study how it changes with education. These days, it seems obvious that the mind arises from the brain not the heart, liver, or some other organ. Let me explain.
This idea rests on three key observations. For example, try multiplying by in your head. You would be happier with a pencil and a piece of paper—or, better yet, an electronic calculator. The second observation is that the major prosthetic system we use is other people. A good marriage may arise in part because two people can serve as effective SPSs for each other. The third observation is that a key element of serving as an SPS is learning how best to help someone. Those who function as your SPSs adapt to your particular needs, desires, and predilections.
And the act of learning changes the brain. By becoming your SPS, a person lends you part of his or her brain! And if the mind is what the brain does, then your mind arises from the activity of not only your own brain but also those of your social prosthetic systems.
There are many implications of these ideas, ranging from reasons why we behave in certain ways toward others to foundations of ethics and even of religion. In fact, one might argue that when your body dies, part of your mind may survive. What would it be like to be part of a distributed intelligence but still with an individual consciousness?
Well, for starters you might expect the collective mind to take over from time to time, directly guiding the individual minds. Angry mobs and frightened crowds seem to qualify as examples of a collective mind in action, with nonlinguistic channels of communication usurping the individual capacity for rational behavior. But as powerful as this sort of group compulsion can be, it is usually regarded simply as a failure of individual rationality, as a primitive behavioral safety net for the tribe in times of great stress.
If human behavior were in substantial part due to a collective tribal mind, you would expect that nonlinguistic social signaling—the type that drives mob behavior—would be predictive of even the most rational and important human interactions. Although people are largely unconscious of this type of behavior, other researchers Jaffe, Chartrand and Bargh, France, Kagen have shown that similar measurements are predictive of infant language development and of empathy, depression, and even personality development in children.
We have found that we can use these measurements of social signaling to predict a wide range of important behavioral outcomes with high accuracy. Examples of objective and instrumental behaviors whose outcome we can accurately predict include salary negotiations, dating decisions, and roles in the social network. Examples of subjective predictions include hiring preferences and indications of empathy or interest.
These are activities for which we prepare intellectually and strategically, sometimes for decades, and yet the largely unconscious social signaling that occurs at the start of the interaction appears to be more predictive of its outcome than either the contextual facts Is he attractive? Is she experienced? Our measurements tap into the discussion and predict outcome by use of social regularities. In our data there seem to be patterns of signaling that reliably lead to the desired states.
One question to ask about this social signaling is whether or not it is an independent channel of communication—that is, is it causal or do the signals arise from the linguistic structure? Moreover, in our studies the linguistic and factual content seem uncorrelated with the pattern or intensity of the social signaling. So even if social signaling turns out to be only an adjunct to normal linguistic structure, it is a very interesting addition—a little like having speech annotated with speaker intent!
Retrieved on The Edge. Retrieved July 9, Retrieved December 11, John Brockman persuaded of the world's great thinkers to answer the same big question in What We Believe by Cannot Prove. And, yes, aliens are involved, says Tim Adams The Observer. August 28, Paperbacks The Daily Telegraph. January 5, "Intellectual and creative magnificence. Full article hosted by redorbit. August 19, Truth believers. The Guardian.
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