Blindsight a Echopraxia

Dve knihy, ktoré napísal Peter Watts. Veľmi, veľmi zaujímavé. Nepíšem, že výborné (to mám rezervované na inú kvalitu), všeličo sa im dá vytknúť, ale sú veľmi podnetné na rozmýšľanie o vedomí, o slobodnej vôli, o tom, čo všetko je život.
 
V knihách totiž ide o kontakt s iným životom. Schválne nepíšem, že s mimozemšťanmi, lebo to už máme zaškatuľkované… možno nie úplne ako zelených mužíkov, ale vpodstate ako niečo ľuďom celkom podobné. Ale tu je ten iný život tak cudzí a tak iný, že naše kategórie jednoducho nie sú aplikovateľné.
 
Treba veľa čítať medzi riadkami. Predpokladám, že kopu vecí mi aj ušlo (a na rozdiel od niektorých iných kníh nemám chuť si tieto prečítať znovu), ale to je práve ten druhý dôvod, pre ktorý knižky odporúčam. 
nature of free will, which Wegner thumbnails as “our mind’s way of estimating what it thinks it did”
 
at least under routine conditions, consciousness does little beyond taking memos from the vastly richer subconcious environment, rubber-stamping them, and taking the credit for itself. In fact, the nonconscious mind usually works so well on its own that it actually employs a gatekeeper in the anterious cingulate cortex to do nothing but prevent the conscious self from interfering in daily operations
 
The game is never over; there’s no finish line this side of heat death. And so, neither can there be any winners. There are only those who haven’t yet lost.
 
It didn’t matter whether shackles were built of genes or iron, whether you installed them after birth or before conception. Chains were chains, no matter where you put them.
 
What do you think vision is?” she asked him. “You don’t see a fraction of the things that surround you, and at least half the things you do see are deceptive. Hell, color doesn’t even exist outside your own head. Vision’s just plain wrong; it only persists because it works. If you’re going to dismiss the idea of God, you better stop believing your own eyes in the bargain.
 
Truth had never been a priority. If believing a lie kept the genes proliferating, the system would believe that lie with all its heart.
 
Brains are survival engines, not truth detectors. If self-deception promotes fitness, the brain lies. Stops noticing— irrelevant things. Truth never matters. Only fitness.
 
We’re not thinking machines, we’re—we’re feeling machines that happen to think

The Quest for Consciousness

By Christof Koch, 2004, 429 pages, partial text, amazon

People know Francis Crick as one on the discoverers of the DNA structure. What they usualy do not know is that for the rest of his life he was pondering another, maybe even more exciting, problem: the question of consciousness. Where does it originate? What is that awareness inside our heads? Is it unique to humans? Christof Koch was one of his close collaborators in this endeavour and even though he is listed as a sole author of this book, he writes it in terms of “we, Francis and I”.

Obviously, Crick and Koch are not the only people who have been thinking about this question. For thousands of years, everybody has been to some extent, with no definitive answers (yet). To no surprise, the book does not provide answers either. It raises even more questions, but also offers a lot of suggestions and an extensive commented reference list to publications in this area of neuroscience.

What Koch has been looking for, are the neuronal correlates of consciousness – minimal set of neuronal events jointly sufficient for a specific conscious state. Did he find them? Not yet. But as he says:

We live at a unique point in the history of science. The technology to discover and characterize how subjective mind emerges out of the objective brain is within reach. The next years will prove decisive.

Even though the book does get “technical” at some points, it is still highly readable also for people not trained in neuroscience. Good way to read it might be to start with a fictional interview with the author in the last chapter which summarizes his ideas, then read the rest of the book and then return to the interview once more.

There are some things that I do not like about Koch’s lines of tought, there are some others which I can accept, but are still somewhat disturbing (especially his idea of the nonconscious homunculus in our heads who percieves the world through senses, thinks, plans and carries out voluntary actions while our consciousness is a mere reflection of all this) but despite these (actually, maybe partially because of these) the book is worth reading and thinking about.

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