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Not specific to algorithms or even to CS, but Douglas Hofstadter (Gödel, Escher, Bach, I Am a Strange Loop) touches on many of the logical fundamentals in a relatively layman-digestable manner.
I wouldn't call him easy reading compared to Sagan or Kaku, and don't know a "pop computer science" equivalent to those two, but you definitely don't need a CS or math degree to get through GEB. Whether it's on-topic enough here is definitely questionable.
Edit: I haven't read it, but from the description this one by Thomas Cormen looks like it might be close to what you're looking for: Algorithms Unlocked.
"This is a unique book in its attempt to open the field of algorithms to a wider audience. It provides an easy-to-read introduction to an abstract topic, without sacrificing depth."
From the TOC, it looks like it's probably fairly light on math but gets into code or pseudocode relatively quickly. I still wouldn't call it pop-CS, but if that sounds like a fit, maybe give it a shot!
lawl, that's a fun one.
>You had no choice.
Some fun with semantics: This isn't going to fit into words right, so you're going to have to explore it to understand it, but you do have a choice, but control isn't quite what it seems to be. You obviously get the bit about control, but calling it a choice is misleading. I made the same mistake for a while, until I tried explaining it to people and realized the misunderstanding:
A choice is when there are multiple options, and you pick the best option. You're still picking that option, despite the delusion of control. Even if there is no you, and control is made up, there is still a choice.. a decision, a process. It just isn't real; choice is formless, it is language, it is psychological.
Have you explored consciousness yet? If you're the type that likes to nerd out and go beyond simple teachings checkout I Am a Strange Loop and it's more advanced cousin Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.
This guy eats poultry and fish...the explanation he gives in his book for giving up mammal meal is really striking.
Read this book -- https://www.amazon.com/Am-Strange-Loop-Douglas-Hofstadter/dp/0465030793
meta much? :D
You may be interested in checking out I Am A Strange Loop (or GEB as a more math heavy equivalent).
Read naturalist explanations of decision-making, the image of the self, how thoughts work, qualia, etc. You probably want to start with I am a Strange Loop, then Consciousness Explained, and work your way to Godel Escher Bach. There are also many essays online about the non-supernatural nature of the mind, this one being one that atheist Redditors link to often. Also see Wikipedia articles about the mind, free will, etc.
Even after I became an atheist, I could not shake the feeling that consciousness could not be just patterns of atoms. Even in a universe that follows rules and that was not deliberately created as part of a plan, I thought that maybe there's some kind of "soul stuff" that interacts with our brains and is responsible for consciousness. But then, if I can tell that I am conscious, then 1) the soul stuff impacts the natural world and is thus observable and not supernatural, and 2) I am no different from a computer that understands itself well enough to say it is conscious. (It helped me to think of AIs from fiction, like HAL and Data, and try to think of what it would be "like" to be them. Books like The Mind's I are full of such thought experiments). So after thinking about it for a while, I was able to shed that last and most persistent bit of supernaturalism and embrace the naturalistic view of the mind.
Douglas Hofstadter's I am a Strange Loop.
> One more question I would like to present is how did I get awarded the conscious of xSaintJimmy, and not somebody else, such as Barack Obama, or a citizen of Zimbabwe in poverty?
Well, it seems to me that one of the simplest things we would have to say about a consciousness is that it is a thing which can have thoughts - in fact, how else could we differentiate one consciousness from another if not be the thoughts which they each have? Now memory certainly seems to involve thought right? If we consider memory-thoughts and other thoughts (and memories of other thoughts, and thoughts about memory-thoughts, and so on) to all be particular thoughts held by some consciousness, it appears as if two people's thoughts and memories would differentiate them. But hang on, what is that consciousness if not something which has just those thoughts? What would it mean for you to be 'awarded' the consciousness of the impoverished Zimbabwean? Would that still be 'you?' If 'you' (as in 'your consciousness') is just that thing which has your thoughts and memories, and having the Zimbabwean's consciousness meant having his thoughts and memories - well how could 'you' be both 'you' and 'him'?
On top of all this, if consciousness is being 'awarded', whoever's doing the awarding certainly has a peculiar selection process; we don't see rocks, trees, or the number three getting this award - just people (arguably, maybe some animals too). But all people all the time? What about infants or embryos? Perhaps the former is arguable, but would the latter really be 'conscious'? Between this, our considerations on memory, and evidence like this, consciousness seems less 'awarded' than gradually developed; intellectually, personally, and biologically - after all, for 15-24 months of your life, your consciousness didn't even involve a 'you'.
If you're interested in this sort of thing, I would definitely recommend Hofstadter's 'I Am a Strange Loop' - compared to most philosophy it's a great read, and while not exactly comprehensive, it's an engaging treatment of this sort of philosophy of mind.
Moar chaos!. If you're the reading man, I highly recommend reading Chaos: Making a New Science about the discovery and applications of fractals and I Am A Strange Loop about fractals and their relation to the concept of self and other things with "strange loopiness".
Time for a funny story. I actually know the author, and he told me he once got on a plane to discover that his seat neighbor was reading it. "Oh, I wrote that book!" "You read the whole thing?"
Yes, it's very long. It took me several tries to get through it. I finally did it on a long vacation where I had a lot of plane travel and downtime. I am a Strange Loop is somewhat shorter and easier to get through.
I always post this just 'cause' when these threads pop up. Very interesting book on consciousness.
But from my personal experience I think it is a degradation of conscious short term memory, then long term memory picks up the pieces and trips out.
ya. I am a strange loop is a bit more accessible, but still probably too hard for a 13 year old. keeping with the hofstadter bent, maybe metamagical themas would work.
Consciousness by Christof Koch is an excellent short read. The author is the chief science officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Research, which makes it feel a little more credible than other pop-neuroscience books.
I am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter Covers a lot of the same ideas as GEB, but more succinctly.
+1 for Vision by David Marr and The Computer and the Brain by von Neumann mentioned by others.
Also it's definitely a more technical book, but I've really enjoyed reading Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms by David MacKay. It explains many of the relationships between
info theory, Bayesian statistics, machine learning, and computational neuroscience.
[I am a Strange Loop by Hofstadter](
http://www.amazon.com/Am-Strange-Loop-Douglas-Hofstadter/dp/0465030793) explains the idea, my claim is that the way the prefrontal cortex cortical columns loop back a part of their output into the Thalamus could be a hint that consciousness arises from this feedback loop.
And I don't believe anyone has ever come back from having no electrical activity in the brain. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think this is the case. Even when scientists argue against flat-EEG being equal to brain death, their arguments are that EEG does not capture electrical activity deep enough in the brain, just in the higher cortex.
And by wave function, I mean it in the literal mathematical sense. We are the state function generated by the brain. What happens is that I also believe this function is a continuous, wave-like function (generated by the delay in the loop between prefrontal cortex and thalamus). It is electrical by nature, obviously.
The only claim I'm making is that consciousness is not only generated by the brain, but that it is the continuous generation of electrical activity by the brain and the state of that electrical activity at every point in time. A way to simplify it, if you are mathematically inclined, is that we are a continuous wave function, f(x, t). This means that for consciousness to be transferred, one would have to move this function somewhere else. Maybe it is possible to do it gradually, but I don't think it will be as easy as some think.
The thought experiment in the link you sent obviously has no change on the fact that I believe I am the wave function generated by my brain. In fact, I would cease to exist simply because my wave function would be destroyed. The person in Mars would not be me.
And I disagree that the claim that I am the electrical pattern is like the claim that a computer is made by electricity.
A computer has no feedback loops that spontaneously generate the operating system via emergence. It is a very linear system with precise inputs and outputs, all controlled by software and hardware.
The architectures of brains and computers work so differently that arguing that they are in any way similar is pointless.
Even von Neumann argued that the brain may not even be digital, therefore, trying to emulate it via digital computers could be an insurmountable task.
Anyways, hopefully this clarifies a bit of my thoughts on the matter. They come from my own blending of mathematics, neuroanatomy and computer science. I may be wrong, but I also think people that equate computers with brains are wrong. It would be interesting to know the answer either way.
>There is no conceivable mechanism by which the brain could generate consciousness, yet I am conscious.
Yes there is, check out I am a strange loop..
>There is no conceivable mechanism by which the universe and everything came into existence, yet here it is.
Yes there is check out A Universe from Nothing or The Grand Design.
You can argue these all you want, but (here's the important bit), even if there weren't conceivable mechanisms for these things, and even if our prior probability was really low for these things, we have roughly 10^500 times more evidence for our existance, and for our consciousness (ignoring the semantic problem with this word), than we have for things like para-psychology.
If I walked around every day, communicating with others psychically, and, when I ask the neighbor for sugar psychically, she comes over with some sugar, and when I psychically scream "Stop!" everyone stops and stares at me, then yes, I would be a fool to dismiss psychic communication.
This is exactly what happens with consciousness. I notice that people behave exactly as they would as if they are conscious (myself especially). If they weren't conscious, they (and I) would behave differently, so their behavior is a testing mechanism.
This is exactly what happens with existence. I notice that things... exist, and behave as if they exist. If something didn't exist, I wouldn't expect everyone to behave as if it did.
It's all about probabilities. nd with para-psychology, the probability is simply really, really tiny.
>He that will only believe what he can fully understand has either a very short creed or a very long head.
Your leaving out the other half here. While it may be stupid to only believe thing you completely understand (by the way, I believe many things that I only partially understand, advanced mathematics, for example), the alternative, believing everything you don't understand, is far more "stupid. (really, personal attacks, is that necessary)."
I Am A Strange Loop
>I do enjoy myself some Alan Watts, truly a wise man.
Coincidentally, right after I asked my questions about free will in relation to the self, I got to the part in wisdom of insecurity where he speaks on free will. It seems he takes a compatiblist approach.
>I'd recommend reading the book "I Am a Strange Loop" by Douglas Hofstadter; In it he talks about feedback loops, specifically ones which are self-referential. He then goes on to make the case that our sense of "I" is an side effect of the way we perceive.
This makes a lot of sense. I don't know if it was you or another poster I was reading, but they used the phrase "_____ unto itself" which I had to look up and discovered basically refers to what one could call a feedback loop. I'm going to go check the book out as soon as I'm done typing this, so thank you!
>As per your edit:
>That user states "If the self is an illusion, then who experiences the illusion?"
>I think that may be a loaded question, it is assuming a 'who'. Perhaps it is rather a 'what'. "What is experiencing the illusion?" I'd answer the same mind that created it. I believe that our minds operate within many linking feedback loops.
While I wouldn't have been able to articulate further as you did, the first thing that caught my eye was his intentional use of "who" rather than "what" as well.
I recommend reading: The User Illusion by Tor Norretranders, Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter, and I Am a Strange Loop also by Douglas R. Hofstadter for some interesting reading on the subject (Warning: Gödel, Escher, Bach isn't for everyone- it's a bit strange, but I love it). I read a lot of books on science in general and, based on that, it seems like many believe consciousness and also free will is just an illusion. In fact, just a few days ago, physicist Brian Greene sorta-kinda said as much in his AMA - granted, he's talking specifically about free will and not consciousness per se, but I think the two must be very related.
I, too, believe in God and also have a very strong belief in and enthusiasm for science, so this is an especially fascinating question for me.
BTW: if you're interested in the way the brain works in general, I highly recommend How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker.
My dreams are always multiplayer.
I suppose technically it's still myself making up the other people -- or maybe it's a copy of their thinking patterns that made it into my brain's subconscious? (Not sure if this book is related.)
"I am a strange loop" Douglas Hofstadter
The book "I am a strange loop"  goes into idea of "living on in others" in great detail. It's easy to see this as a huge cop-out compared to "a real afterlife" but it's not. It's a super deep and interesting, and it's also 100% literally true.
Even while they are alive we all have mental models of those we know well, and we "run" those models all the time. How often have you thought "Person X would love this!" and then you send them a link or something. Or "Person Y would not approve of this!". Those models will still run when they are not alive. And if the've influenced hundreds or thousand of people in their life, their model is running in all those places, in varying degrees of fidelity. None of those models blink out the day the person dies, far from it they might become bolder and stronger at that point knowing the original is no more.
The deeper answer to why it doesn't matter that there is no traditional "afterlife" is that we don't exist today, not as individuals. All there is is a giant soup of quarks, or of vibrating strings. We draw a loop enclosing zillions of these quarks and call it Bob. And then another loop and call in Mary. But there is no Bob and there is no Mary, except in the mind of the person that drew the loops. So Bob can't die and Mary can't die. That particular pattern of matter and energy might start to degrade, even degrade rapidly, but Bob and Mary's influence on the universe is diffuse, and it's been expanding since they were 1 second old. You cannot contain the universe inside some silly little lines.
 - https://www.amazon.com/Am-Strange-Loop-Douglas-Hofstadter/dp/0465030793
What do we mean when we say "I"? Can thought arise out of matter? Can a self, a soul, a consciousness, an "I" arise out of mere matter? If it cannot, then how can you or I be here? I Am a Strange Loop argues that the key to understanding selves and consciousness is the "strange loop"--a special kind of abstract feedback loop inhabiting our brains. Deep down, a human brain is a chaotic seething soup of particles, on a higher level it is a jungle of neurons, and on a yet higher level it is a network of abstractions that we call "symbols." The most central and complex symbol in your brain or mine is the one we both call "I." The "I" is the nexus in our brain where the levels feed back into each other and flip causality upside down, with symbols seeming to have free will and to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse. For each human being, this "I" seems to be the realest thing in the world. But how can such a mysterious abstraction be real--or is our "I" merely a convenient fiction? Does an "I" exert genuine power over the particles in our brain, or is it helplessly pushed around by the all-powerful laws of physics? These are the mysteries tackled in I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas R. Hofstadter's first book-length journey into philosophy since Godel, Escher, Bach. Compulsively readable and endlessly thought-provoking, this is a moving and profound inquiry into the nature of mind; the book Hofstadter's many readers have long been waiting for.
Douglas Hofstadter has a very interesting book called I Am a Strange Loop in which he argues that consciousness is a self-referential loop.
I do enjoy myself some Alan Watts, truly a wise man.
I'd recommend reading the book "I Am a Strange Loop" by Douglas Hofstadter; In it he talks about feedback loops, specifically ones which are self-referential. He then goes on to make the case that our sense of "I" is an side effect of the way we perceive.
As per your edit:
That user states "If the self is an illusion, then who experiences the illusion?"
I think that may be a loaded question, it is assuming a 'who'. Perhaps it is rather a 'what'. "What is experiencing the illusion?" I'd answer the same mind that created it. I believe that our minds operate within many linking feedback loops.
For example: You see something you want, your hand reaches out to grab it, you see the hand reaching out and grabbing it. Your mind combines the 'want' and the movement of the hand and bundles them together. You then believe that: "I" wanted that and so "I" reached out for it. After enough time, this "I" begins to seem very real to us.
> I'm sorry but mystical experiences ARE lesser. Mystical experiences are an extremely poor tracker of truth.
I think you misunderstood the context in which mystical experiences are applicable. They are not greater or lesser. They simply are.
> It has wildly inconsistent and contradictory results.
Can you qualify that statement? My own research has brought me to the belief that there is a convergence of the 'truths' that can be derived from mystical experiences across mystical traditions and history.
> It is fueled by emotion, a slew of chemicals which measurably impair sober thought.
It is a slippery slope to dismiss altered forms of consciousness as resulting from mere 'chemicals'. The entirety of your conscious experience is resulted from the complex action of your brain, which includes neurotransmitters even in a 'sober' state. This does not make it any less real. This is how our consciousness is brought about. I invite you to read I Am A Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter or perhaps listen to this clip from an interview with Dennis McKenna
> One doesn't have to put science on a pedestal to realize that mysticism deserves to be in the gutter.
I fail to see the reason this would be a good idea.
> I wouldn't go so far to say that science has authority in philosophy, as philosophy asks why. Science answers how.
Can it though? Can you give an example of this?
>Yeah probably I have no problems admitting that! But then again people much smarter than me who have studied philosophy/kant at the doctorate level struggle to wrap their head around Kant and some of his arguments. Are you going to claim you have it all figured out? If you do, get it published. Not even kidding.
lol I'm not an academic. For me, knowledge is a tool, not an intellectual exercise :)
>What is your background anyways? I am going to guess that maybe you double majored in psych and philosophy. Very common. Or one was your major and the other was your minor.
Yep. Psych was my major, Phil was my minor. Switched majors a couple times too, Poli Sci (father had his Masters from Yonsei, mother had Ph.d from U of M) and Sociology were my original majors. Masters was Labor-Industrial Relations. Whole family was deep into the liberal arts, my sister double majored in English and Political Science at UChicago and is currently studying Public Policy for her Masters at Berkeley. All of them are highly opinionated and disagree on basically everything. I don't mind disagreement, I have respect for different opinions, but not stupid opinions ;P
>noumena - The way things actually are - not necessarily observable or understood by us
>phenomena - the world as experienced through our observations and senses - the observable manifestations of the noumena
Yep, and phenomena are what's most important to us as human beings. Objectivity exists within subjectivity, that's why levels of analysis are so important. Good book by Doug Hofstadter that talks about this concept in physics:
At the human level, the level where we see, experience, and interact with phenomenal objects, those objects appear to follow rules (causal relations). Human knowledge is just a sum of approximate guesses at these rules. The rules themselves may not actually be True (capital T), but they are true in the sense that they allow us to predict events on our subjective, phenomenal, human level. That's where the "useful" criterion comes into play (and Nietzsche said this too). Human knowledge is not a collection of truths, but a constellation of guesses based on fundamental axioms (see Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem) that shifts from generation to generation based on changing social mores (what Kuhn called "paradigms"). If human knowledge is not a forward march towards Truth (Feyerabend) because of the limitations of human reason, but instead ever-changing constellations of theories and ideas, what is the purpose? To predict phenomenal events.
That is where the "useful" element comes into play. Human knowledge is actually a tool for predicting the relations between phenomenal objects with the ultimate aim of manipulating our phenomenal reality. Knowledge, quite literally, is POWER -- the ability to influence our phenomenal world. Spinoza made a similar claim for the sanctity of the Bible (its holiness lies not in the accuracy of its pages, but the divine feeling it inspires in readers).
So when we say we know something, or we're arguing about issues within the realm of human existence, the measuring stick is accuracy in prediction. That's why empiricism is the only language for human beings to describe our phenomenal world (we take from the Rationalists the Cartesian belief that we do not live in a hostile simulacrum due to a higher power -- many Western philosophers resort to God as a justification device for skepticism, see Camus). Unfortunately, human beings are not wired to think empirically (we are actually wired to generalize off of extremely limited data sets -- n=3 is all it takes, see Kahneman) and we have a whole host of cognitive biases because again, consciousness is an emergent phenomenon arising from a lump of meat ;). Psychology has discovered a whole host of more limitations on pure reason.
Therefore, when discussing the nature of any phenomena, more evidence is always better than less. You can argue interpretations of studies (the causal relations offered up as best guesses), but given the limitations of the human minds, you accept those findings unless new findings arise that provide counter examples in a sufficiently statistical way (edit: i.e., NOT ANECDATA :P). THAT'S AN OPINION. OPINIONS ARE BEST GUESSES AT CAUSAL RELATIONS BASED ON ALL AVAILABLE INFORMATION, not concern trolling of studies based on motivated reasoning. There's Truth (which we cannot know), human knowledge (body of ideas that help us grapple with and predict phenomenal reality -- schemas, which as you correctly pointed out, are usually tinged with value judgments, but again, the criterion is DOES IT WORK), and ignorance. Fuck ignorance, I don't tolerate it :)
We can talk more in depth if you want (I didn't even touch on morality) tho I don't know if this is the best forum for it. But don't concern troll me pls kthnx <3