The Kekulé Problem
Conscious Entities By Peter Hankins
by Peter
3M ago
Cormac McCarthy asks an interesting question here, and gives the wrong answer, also interestingly. Along the way he manages to describe in simple language a fundamental problem of how our minds work, one that he rightly says, remains mysterious – though I think I have a clue. McCarthy briefly retells the story of Kekulé, who struggled to understand the form of the benzene molecule. A dream of a lizard biting its own tale (like Ouroboros) prompted him to realise that the molecule was a ring. So we may conclude that Kekulé’s unconscious had done the work for him and found the solution. McCa ..read more
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Seating Consciousness
Conscious Entities By Peter Hankins
by Peter
2y ago
This short piece by Tam Hunt in Nautilus asks whether the brain’s electromagnetic fields could be the seat of consciousness. What does that even mean? Let’s start with a sensible answer. It could just mean that electromagnetic effects are an essential part of the way the brain works. A few ideas along these lines are discussed in the piece, and it’s a perfectly respectable hypothesis. But it’s hard to see why that would mean the electromagnetic aspects of brain processes are the seat of consciousness any more than the chemical or physical aspects. In fact the whole idea of separating electroma ..read more
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Body Memory
Conscious Entities By Peter Hankins
by Peter
2y ago
Can you remember with your leg, and is that part of who you are? An interesting piece by Ben Platts-Mills in Psyche suggests it might be so. This is not Psyche the good old journal that went under in 2010, alas, but a promising new venture from those excellent folk at Aeon. The piece naturally mentions Locke, who put memory at the centre of personal identity, and gives some fascinating snippets about the difficult lives of people with anterograde amnesia, the inability to form new memories. These people have obviously not lost their identities, however they may struggle. I have always been sce ..read more
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Chatbot fever
Conscious Entities By Peter Hankins
by Peter
2y ago
The Guardian recently featured an article produced by ‘GPT-3, OpenAI’s powerful new language generator’. It’s an essay intended to reassure us humans that AIs do not want to take over, still less kill all humans. GPT-3 also produced a kind of scripture for its own religion, as well as other relatively impressive texts. Its chief advantage, apparently, is that it uses the entire Internet as its corpus of texts, from which to work out what phrase or sentence might naturally come next in the piece it’s producing. Now I say the texts are impressive, but I think your admiration for the Guardian pie ..read more
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Seen and Done
Conscious Entities By Peter Hankins
by Peter
2y ago
Encouraged by a recent return of energy, I have recklessly started a second blog, Seen and Done, where I will talk about creative stuff I have either experienced or produced. Please check it out ..read more
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Stories wot I wrote
Conscious Entities By Peter Hankins
by Peter
3y ago
A few kind people have asked about the stories I mentioned. The ones that have achieved some kind of recognition are these: Title Plot Competition Result Cyrano Kevin asks for help talking to a girl Sutton Writers President’s Competition  2nd  The Reddifers Dad becomes fatally dependent on his iPad Alpine Fellowship Shortlisted Bridport Short Story Competition  Shortlisted Smile A photographer finds a keen subject in a retirement home  Henshaw competition 2nd Dogsday  Dog confronts man Hastings Litfest Longlisted Locked In Paralysed man doesn’t want to die after all. Hammond House 3rd Ang ..read more
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Hiatus
Conscious Entities By Peter Hankins
by Peter
3y ago
Conscious Entities has gone quiet for some while now. Initially this was due to slowly worsening health issues which I won’t relate in detail; both the illnesses and the treatments involved cause serious fatigue. In November I had to spend three weeks in hospital getting serious antiviral treatment. In early December I was much better and came back to post something. To my surprise I found that part of my mind just wouldn’t co-operate (a disconcerting experience that might well have been the subject of an interesting post in itself!). No doubt this is partly due to continuing lack of ene ..read more
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Libet Unreadied
Conscious Entities By Peter Hankins
by Peter
3y ago
Benjamin Libet’s famous experiments have been among the most-discussed topics of neuroscience for many years. Libet’s experiments asked a subject to move their hand at a random moment of their choosing; he showed that the decision to move could be predicted on the basis of a ‘readiness potential’ detectable half a second before the subject reported having made the decision. The result has been confirmed many times since, and even longer gaps between prediction and reported decision have been claimed. The results are controversial because they seem to be strong scientific evidence against ..read more
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A short solution
Conscious Entities By Peter Hankins
by Peter
3y ago
Tim Bollands recently tweeted his short solution to the Hard Problem (I mean, not literally in a tweet – it’s not that short). You might think that was enough to be going on with, but he also provides an argument for a pretty uncompromising kind of panpsychism. I have to applaud his boldness and ingenuity, but unfortunately I part ways with his argument pretty early on. The original tweet is here. Bollands’ starting premise is that it’s ‘intuitively clear that combining any two non-conscious material objects results in another non-conscious object’. Not really. Combining a non-consciou ..read more
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Dismissing materialism
Conscious Entities By Peter Hankins
by Peter
3y ago
Eric Holloway gives a brisk and entertaining dismissal of all materialist theories of consciousness here, boldly claiming that no materialist theory of consciousness is plausible. I’m not sure his coverage is altogether comprehensive, but let’s have a look at his arguments. He starts out by attacking panpsychism… One proposed solution is that all particles are conscious. But, in that case, why am I a human instead of a particle? The vast majority of conscious beings in the universe would be particles, and so it is most likely I’d be a particle and not any sort of organic life form ..read more
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