1.6 The enormous capacity of the mind

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There are no limits to what can be experienced. The mind knows no limits. Your consciousness imagines "something" – and tries to understand what this strange thing can be, what it means. All previous knowledge is used in the interpretation.

Is it the brain that creates the perceptions in the mind? Or is it the thought that thinks a brain, a body and a world?
1.6.0-1  Is there a limit to what qualia can be, to what we can experience? Are there limits to your imagination?


1.6.0-3  Do you think it is possible to experience a grief so great that you die from it? In some languages ​​there are words for such grief.

1.6.0-4  Can one experience a happiness so great that it is indescribable? What about ecstasy, peace, pain, love, anxiety, etc.?

1.6.0-5  Of course, there are extreme cases of all these experiences we all know. We have usually not experienced it ourselves, but we can imagine it, because we know the "feeling".

1.6.0-6  Is there qualia we can not imagine? When parrots see colors outside the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to us - how do the parrots experience these colors? You can not answer that question, but the researchers say that the birds have such experiences.

1.6.0-7  When bats orient themselves by emitting high-frequency sounds and receiving reflections, how do they experience "seeing" the surroundings? The researchers again say that they are believed to have some form of experience.

1.6.0-8  Dogs have a much better sense of smell than humans. How is it experienced?

1.6.0-9  How does it feel to be a fish that looks in the mirror and clearly shows that it recognizes itself, again according to researchers?

1.6.0-10  What does an ant think when it works with tens of thousands of others in the construction of an anthill?

1.6.0-11  Do earthworms feel pain?

1.6.0-12  Trees send out signals via the roots during forest fires, what do they experience when the flames take them?

1.6.0-13  There are a wide variety of life forms that are less complex than us. Can we imagine more developed life forms? Completely different types, which are as different from humans as trees and ants are, only in a more advanced form than us?

1.6.0-14  Of course, all this is possible. There are probably myriads of qualia that we have no idea about.

1.6.0-15  Let's speculate further.
  • How fast is the mind?
  • How far can it travel?
  • How much can it embrace?
  • How strange things can it think?
1.6.0-16  Does the idea have any limits at all?

1.6.0-17  In theory, it is difficult to see that there should be boundaries, but in practice it obviously has. The thought thinks what it actually experiences. It deals with the narrow spectrum of qualia that we humans experience. But it is not because capacity is limited.

1.6.0-18  When I look out the window and see a tree, my thought could have shown me the branches of a huge river in a delta. It could have thought I was looking at the bloodstream in a body, the nerve fibers in a brain, a model of a computer network, a weather system or a structure in the universe. They look confusingly similar.

1.6.0-19  But the thought shows me a tree, because everything else in the surroundings indicates that it is a tree. The thought is that I have moved along a path into the forest and into a cabin where I sit and look out of an open window. Then it did not think that this branched structure next to the house is a river delta or something out in space. The thought also remembers that there were trees around on all sides the last time I went into the forest.

1.6.0-20  This is how the thought interprets my experiences of light, shadow and colors to be a tree. The thought interprets the experience of rattling sounds to be wind in the leaves. The smell is understood to come from the flowers on the twigs.

1.6.0-21  The thought does not conclude this because it does not have the capacity to imagine anything else. It imagines what is most likely, the interpretation that is most in line with everything else nearby in time and space.

1.6.0-22  The thought is lightning fast.

1.6.0-23  Yes, it takes some time before you have received enough sound waves to understand that it is wind you hear. It also takes a few microseconds before you have received enough visual impressions to know that you are looking at a tree.

1.6.0-24  It is the speed of light and sound waves - and the interpretation that takes place in the brain - that limits how much you experience, not the capacity of thought.

1.6.0-25  In your mind, you can transport yourself to Mars in a millisecond. You can imagine a monster made of biscuits wading away in a sea of ​​melted chocolate. Zero problem. Your mind can imagine everything.

1.6.0-26  But it does not hold with thoughts alone. The biscuit monster does not appear in the sea, which still consists of water, even if you think about it. It does not materialize so that others can see it.

1.6.0-27  To create a true-to-life illusion, everything must be right. You can not stand on the beach, look out over the water, and think that the monster will come at any time. You can not stand in the middle of the forest and think that the structure next to you is a river delta that branches vertically into the air.

1.6.0-28  Our experience of qualia and thoughts is "integrated", they form a whole. You feel touch against the skin, you feel heat, you experience that your hair moves, you feel wind. You see myriads of flashes of light spread over a huge surface, you see that they move, you see light and shadows that form waves, you see and feel the heat from what must be the sun, you understand that the flashes are light from the sun reflected in the waves, you think sea.

1.6.0-29  You sit in front of a TV screen and watch flashes of light from a sun in waves of light and shadow, you think the screen shows the sea. You hear the sounds of gurgling, seagulls and wind. But you know you're in front of a screen and not on the beach.

1.6.0-30  The thought is not so easily fooled.

1.6.0-31  Then you wear VR glasses so that the sea and the beach fill your entire field of vision. You put on headphones so you only hear the sounds from the beach. You step into a flat box of sand and take off your shoes. You feel waves occasionally washing over your toes. You feel wind from an uneven fan. The smell. You are in a simulator that gives you all the sensory impressions of a beach, absolutely everyone.

1.6.0-32  Would you then be able to distinguish simulation from reality?

1.6.0-33  Yes, we still know that we are not really on the beach. We still do not let ourselves be fooled.

1.6.0-34  Let it go for a week. One month. A year. The illusion persists, several objects appear in it, we experience that we move to other places, receive other impressions, meet people and do things with them. We still remember where we really belong, but we begin to doubt.

1.6.0-35  Now say that you were born in the simulator. Would you then understand that everything you experienced was not real? Would you then know anything about the outside world when you have never experienced it? Not guaranteed. Your "reality" is the sum of all your qualia and the thoughts that interpret them, give them form and put them in context.

1.6.0-36  The traditional view of science is that your sensory organs are bombarded with physical stimuli from a world outside of yourself. Your organs generate chemical and electrical signals in your body and brain, which are interpreted and create an overall experience. This experience is your consciousness.

1.6.0-37  This view is problematic.

1.6.0-38  First, there is a lack of explanation for how the signals in the brain can form consciousness. We see that thoughts and signals occur in coordinated patterns, so they are connected. But what is the physical component of thoughts? We have no idea. We have no idea if thoughts have a physical basis at all.

1.6.0-39  Secondly, based on a logical, philosophical reasoning, we have said that the world can consist of only one thing and this one must be consciousness, because that is the only thing we actually know certainly exists. This means that whatever thoughts and qualia are, this is the only thing that exists. Matter does not exist.

1.6.0-40  Third, it is not the case that the sensory impressions from an external world alone determine what we experience. We create the world ourselves. This is documented, follow now:

1.6.0-41  In a simulator, it is artificial stimuli that hit your sensory organs. There is light from screens, sound from speakers, wind from fans. There is no sea and no beach.

1.6.0-42  The sensory organs convert external stimuli into signals in the brain. Could we have sent these signals directly into the brain? Yes, in theory it is entirely possible. We do not need fans and speakers, they can be replaced with electrodes attached to the brain.

1.6.0-43  Do we need a world then? Are we then dependent on the existence of an ocean with an insane amount of particles? No. In theory, we can simulate in the brain the signals needed for you to experience an ocean, without the ocean being there. Without the involvement of your eyes or any of your other sensory organs. Signals in the brain are all that is needed. Forget the world.

1.6.0-44  For example, you can remove the experience of color if you move a magnet over a specific area of ​​the brain. The signals in the brain - just the brain - are what create the experience of colors.

1.6.0-45  People with a specific brain injury no longer experience movements in the world as continuous. Instead, they see single glimpses of images, as you do in flashing strobe lights on a dance floor. The brain constructs the "film" that we experience inside the head.

1.6.0-46  Do we need a brain? What is the brain doing? It processes these signals that we have sent into it via artificial probes. The signals are identical to those that normally come via nerve fibers from the sensory organs.

1.6.0-47  The brain works intensely to interpret the signals. Could we imagine an artificial brain doing the same thing? Yes, absolutely - this is what is called artificial intelligence. Sometime in the future, we'll probably get computers that are more powerful than a brain.

1.6.0-48  We can simulate a brain, in theory. Then only one step remains, to transform the finished results from the artificial brain into consciousness.

1.6.0-49  We have no idea how to do this. We do not know how consciousness is formed in a normal brain, much less how to create it with an artificial one. We do not know what consciousness is in the physical sense. Particles? Energy? Something hitherto undiscovered?

1.6.0-50  Consciousness is obviously something more and something other than the signals we observe in the brain. Either there is something we have not understood, or there is something in nature that we have not discovered yet. Both are likely. We do not understand, that is how we understand. We also know that 95% of all matter in the universe consists of something we are unable to observe and which we have no idea what it is. Can this heavy, dark substance be the same as consciousness?

1.6.0-51  Let us not speculate whether dark matter, dark energy, or strange quantum physical phenomena may obscure the substance of which consciousness is composed.

1.6.0-52  This is the task of science, because "physicalism" - today's prevailing philosophical view of science - says that physical matter, matter, exists as something in itself. Then it is the task of science to explain consciousness based on this. Researchers must explain the perfect interplay that enables consciousness and thought to act on physical things. They must come up with a mechanism that allows consciousness to magically take up residence in an unimaginably complex collection of trillions upon trillions of particles, atoms and molecules, which consciousness nevertheless experiences as something unified, a body.

1.6.0-53  Science has a formidable challenge.

1.6.0-54  Now science also says that everything is "energy". Einstein formulated that with E = mc2. Energy can be almost anything that is in business - and energy and mass are the same. Then it must be the case that consciousness must also be energy?

1.6.0-55  Yes, this trail we must follow. At the moment we do not know what energy really IS, but - of course, here is something that we will investigate later in the book and which will lead to interesting things. Just wait!

1.6.0-56  Right now we are going to follow a slightly different path. We have to, because we have said that the world can consist of only one thing and this one must be consciousness, because that is the only thing we actually know surely exists.

1.6.0-57  We must take a different path, because the path of science has encountered obstacles. We must keep everything in science, for everything, or at least most of what science knows is justified and solidly documented. But where science fails to provide any answers, where it has no further way to offer, there we must take another path.

1.6.0-58  Now we are going to make the little move that changes everything, but at the same time keeps everything.

1.6.0-59  We switch between cause and effect.

1.6.0-60  What causes what? Is consciousness an effect of matter and energy, as most people think? Then we face a number of unsolvable problems, as we have seen.

1.6.0-61  Or is it the other way around, that matter and energy are a notion in consciousness, an effect caused by consciousness?

1.6.0-62  Join from scratch.