Recent QRI highlights – October 2018

Some news and accomplishments from the last month:

  • Invited talk: I (Mike) gave a talk on “The Future of Neuroscience” in Moscow, Russia; the basic theme was a light introduction for non-specialists to some of the most interesting current threads in neuroscience. Slides (English) and video (English+Russian).
  • Podcast: The Waking Cosmos podcast interviewed Andrés about the nature (and future) of consciousness research; I was on the podcast earlier this summer.
  • David Pearce: QRI helped arrange and present some of philosopher David Pearce’s ideas when he was in San Franciscovideo from his discussion at Foresight Institute, and slides from the talk.
  • Burning Man: Andrés’s post about this year’s experience at Burning Man is up. The title is suitably epic: Burning Man 2.0: The Eigen-Schelling Religion, Entrainment & Metronomes, and the Eternal Battle Between Consciousness and Replicators.
  • What’s going on with ‘Is vs Ought’? – Finally, QRI has been discussing the nature of the is-ought divide recently (thanks to Winslow for kicking off the debate):
    • Andres, from his post Thoughts on the ‘Is-Ought Problem’ from a Qualia Realist Point of View: “If we construct a theory of meaning grounded in qualia and felt-sense, it is possible to congruently arrive at “should” statements on the basis of reason and “is” claims. Meaning grounded in qualia allows us to import the pleasure-pain axis and its phenomenal character to the same plane of discussion as factual and structural observations.”
    • Mike, internal discussion: “My expectation is that figuring out what exists and how to formalize it is prior to ethics. I.e. I’d strongly agree that most of ethics is at best somewhat confused, and I think the nature of this confusion is basically premature optimization around leaky folk ontologies. My hope and expectation is that a good treatment of ‘is’ will clarify the nature of ‘ought’, ideally in such a way that points to one universe-optimization heuristic that’s uniquely elegant.”
    • Romeo, internal discussion: “My take on [Robert Nozick’s] Invariances: the traditional view is that we have the is and we have the ought, and we must somehow build a bridge connecting them. This is wrong. We have no direct access to the is and no direct access to the ought. In reality we have only the bridge, one end of which feels ‘ought-like’ and one end which feels ‘is-like’. Are the two ends totally different? Nozick argues that the whole bridge is ruled by invariants. Things seem more fact-like when they are invariant in more frames. Universally invariant frames in things like time, space, and energy are our physical laws. A bit higher up we have concepts that seem fairly invariant too like modularity, extensibility, and invariance itself. At the ought end of the bridge you still have things that feel fact-like from the inside based on the same idea: more invariant in more frames and thus having higher ‘fixity’ in the information processing network. Instead of building up a physical world model this end of the bridge builds up our agentic/intentional model of the world for the purposes of coordinating our actions, where intent is something like: how can I bound my expectations on the variance of your behavior given that you have some goals and I can expect you to pursue those goals in structured ways?”