Monday, January 13, 2014

Creating Reality?

When I was in the hospital lying in the ICU I was later told that during that time I was 50/50 of living/dying.  I find that fascinating.  During this time in ICU I had no clue what was happening.  No one told me and I suspect that I was drugged much of the time that this was happening, I don’t know.  So anyways I’m lying there whether unconscious or not I had no clue that I might die.  Interesting.  Makes you wonder about life and death.

Life, what is it?  I’m sure Biologists have a definition of it and I’ll look it up and add it to this post:

Ok lets look at that.

noun, plural: lives
(1) A distinctive characteristic of a living organism from dead organism or non-living thing, as specifically distinguished by the capacity to grow, metabolize, respond (to stimuli), adapt, and reproduce

Ok, that sounds good.  I have that, you have that.  So now what makes me, me?  My consciousness?  What’s that?

Medical Definition of CONSCIOUSNESS
: the totality in psychology of sensations, perceptions, ideas, attitudes, and feelings of which an individual or a group is aware at any given time or within a given time span <altered states of consciousness, such as sleep, dreaming and hypnosis—Bob Gaines>
: waking life (as that to which one returns after sleep, trance, or fever) in which one's normal mental powers are present <the ether wore off and the patient regainedconsciousness>
: the upper part of mental life of which the person is aware as contrasted with unconscious processes

Sounds good to me. Just these two simple questions give rise to a large amount of human thought.  Life and consciousness have been discussed at least since Plato and will continue to be discussed.  I suspect the new movie coming out called “She” will also stimulate a lot of discussion about these topics.  So how do we perceive what we call reality around us?  Again many folks have written on this subject again going back to at least Plato I’m guessing.  A good book about this is Jim Holt’s “Why Does the World Exist?”  I have an earlier post on my review of this book.

 Let me just comment on my thoughts about reality that as far as I can tell are called either Physicalist or Functionalist by folks who think about such stuff.

As I posted before.  We perceive what most scientist would say as our reality through our senses.  We have with technology added devices, such as microscopes and telescopes that amplify or add to our senses.  So what we define as reality is what we get through our senses.  With these we have developed with physics at least a description of reality that explains the physical universe from the size of neutrons and protons up to  the observable universe.  With our present knowledge of physics we can understand simple systems over this range.  We then generalize this knowledge to understand even more.  What I mean by generalize is to model large systems by what we know about physics of simple systems.  A large part of science works is on understanding larger systems.  These are difficult problems in all areas of science.  Technology takes what we know from science and makes useful stuff with this knowledge.

So we have all this data that we have obtained through our senses and developed theories to describe the physical universe.  What about consciousness ?  I have yet to hear of anybody creating an artificial conscience and that would be something that everyone would hear about.  Could anyone make a conscience object and how would you know it is conscience?  Think of yourself.  When did you realize you were conscience?  Think about it, when did you realize that you were alive?  It would seem to be a pretty important event in your life.  Can you remember  it?  I can’t.  Why not?  I don’t know.  What’s your earliest memory?

Here’s an interesting experiment.  Think Star Trek and “beaming up” or teleportation. How would that happen?  Imagine a device that can scan your body and determine the location of every atom in your body.  So it has a map of all the atoms in your body.  It puts that information in a computer.  So are you stored in there?  Is your consciousness there?  I don’t know, no one knows that as far as I can tell. Ok, so now we beam you to the beach in La Jolla.  Is what appears on the beach you?   Would this object have your conscience? No one knows.

Do you think this is just science fiction?  It’s not.  Research groups around the world are working on a variety of projects simulating the brain.  Simulating in the largest supercomputers what we know of the human brain.  People are simulating neurons and the connection that they make to other neurons using information that we have obtained from studying brains.   If you look at the brain it weighs about 3 pounds and has about 100 billion neurons.  One group has a computer model with 10,000 neurons with 10 million interconnection between the neurons.  Comparison to results from the computer simulation has been compared to rat’s brains results but I don’t know the outcome.  Also research groups are using real physical circuits the model the human brain.  I’ve read some about these works in the physics trade publication Physics Today but I can’t remember the details.

So you have groups modeling the brain.  Will they come up with devices that are conscience? A good question is how would you know that they are conscience, or even capable of becoming conscience? How would these artificial “brains”  communicate to us?

Next step use an advanced "3-D printer" similar to a present 3-D laser printer only now instead of using material that present printers have we have at our disposal all the atoms that make up your body.  We load into the printer the information about all the atoms in your body and have it print “you” out.  This is just like teleporting in star trek  Is that you?  Is that object alive?  Is it conscience?

Interesting questions.

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