oh you lucky chip!ramble

(6 comments)
October 23, 2008

Finished Douglas Hofstadter's "I am a Strange Loop", a big study on how self-reflective systems are the key to understanding consiousness. It had this facetious passage:
"Oh, you lucky chip! If I eat you, then your lifeless molecules, if they are fortunate enough to be carried by my bloodstream up to my brain and settle there, will get to enjoy the experience of being me! And so I must devour you, in order not to deprive your inert molecules of the chance to enjoy the experience of being human!"
I went from being really excited about getting ready to read this book (when I was finishing up Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), from worrying that it was recovering territory I'd seen from Hofstadter before, to really being touched by the turn it took, where he has excerpts from letters he was writing to Dan Dennett processing his grief over the sudden and tragic death of his wife.

Those letters cover an idea that I've been mulling over, his stance that people's consciousness might well live on in other people, and not merely in a poetic sense. To really accept this view, you probably have to have "drunk to kool-aid" about Consciousness as being largely a matter of pattern, and convenience, and that the typical, layman "sense of self" is rather illusory in nature.

I've drunk the kool-aid, via various books. Probably the most important was Dennett's "Conscious Explained". Another more recent one was Hawkin's "On Intelligence". Some of the concepts have also shown up in some science fiction I've read... Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon The Deep (SPOILERS, highlight to read:) which does a FANTASTIC job of describing a single individual consciousness "shared" by a pack of animals), Greg Egan's "Permutation City" extends some What-Ifs and Thought Experiments about being able to make accurate models of our minds in cyberspace, and where the people thus transfered were also more free to modify their inner makeups (you could make yourself content in any activity, one guy made chair legs for virtual decades, then rewired himself to get the deepest possible satisfaction about climbing an endless rockwall), and even Cory Doctorow's "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" explored some implications of being able to make a backup of your brain, which you could then throw into a newly cloned (and quickly matured) body. (The protagonist is assassinated, but was a little lax in making backups, so upon "resurrection" has "lost" a few weeks... he's a bit unnerved by watching security camera footage of himself, and his assassin, events he filled happened to "him", but... not.

I'm still pondering on this.)

Photos of the Moment
Some lovely behind the scenes photos of Obama.


UU group talked def'n of Home.Nice to say "the people" but-I've lived alone, with var.loved ones-its the stuff (esp. books) thats constant.
So Nokia announced austerity policy. Not nec. a prelude to badness, but- recruiters are still pretty active, tho, and I pre-hunker downed.
masukomi Hofstadter says "there is something it is like to be that machine" (on machine's inner life or lack thereof) is hard to translate
Has Google maps always had shadows for its speech balloon-like callouts? Kind of menacing, zoomed out its shadow is the size of Rhode Island
CNN:"[Greenspan] said he was 'shocked' when that system [of lenders being self-regulators] 'broke down.'" Shoulda been "shocked, shocked!"
I have been doing well at fending off the cold everyone is having. A small chance it's that "moderate exercise boosts immune system" thing?