Are We No Longer Alone?

Thursday, December 22, 2005


It's hard to say what this means. Allegedly, a robot in Japan, shown here, has become "self-aware". This means that it can see itself in a mirror and recognize itself. Could it be the first non-organic sentient life? Interesting, if not definitive.

100 comments:

truepeers said...

Sounds interesting, but I think they are misinterpreting human consciousness:

Imitation, said Takeno, is an act that requires both seeing a behavior in another and instantly transferring it to oneself and is the best evidence of consciousness.

-but many animals are not only capable of imitation, it is of course fundamental to how they learn life skills, like hunting. That's not to say, however, that animals share in what we consider to be human consciousness, which is something linguistic.

In fact, 70 percent of the time, the robot understood that the mirror image was itself. Takeno's goal is to reach 100 percent in the coming year.

-a nice bit of anthropomorphizing by the writer, without explaining what kind of computing is going on; it begs the question of what "under-standing" is. The word's etymology suggests that human under-standing entails some kind of relationship, not just to any old human "other" but rather to some kind of higher or sacred authority.

When you look at yourself in the mirror and are aware of yourself, your experience depends on your prior participation in a shared culture. Your solitary "psychological" experience is a residual phenomenon of the communal process out of which culture or language first emerged. A human infant raised by wolves would not have the same experience before a mirror.

We are self-aware because we share with others in the struggle to render further cultural significance as part of our knowledge of, and active deferral of, our capacity for violence and mortality.

Thus it is a logical fallacy to think we reduce the phenomenon of self-awareness to its lowest terms by studying the workings of a single mind, whether human or artificial. At its most basic level, the phenomenon is a question of social interaction around a common center or focus of linguistic attention. Our sense of individuality is in our particular relationship to the shared and sacred source of communal significance. Until the robots are able to live and die with us in a conscious sharing of scenes - both imagined and lived - they cannot be self- aware in the sense we are.

Eric Blair said...

Well, now wait a minute. Although animals usually recognize 'other', they seldom recognize a mirror image. They either ignore it, or like my pet parakeet, think its another bird and try to interact with it.

A human can't be raised by wolves, so that's not even a starting point for an analogy.

Consciousness is not just 'something liguistic' its something more innate than that.

"We are self-aware because we share with others in the struggle to render further cultural significance as part of our knowledge of, and active deferral of, our capacity for violence and mortality."

--What in the world are you trying to say here? So, somebody who does not either render further 'cultural significance' or 'actively defer violence' is not self-aware?

JB said...

Well, I can see it now.

PETR = People For the Ethical Treatment of Robots.

Kiss that chromium house servant future goodbye.

Seneca the Younger said...

In the immortal words of Mr Natural, "Don't mean shit."

-but many animals are not only capable of imitation, it is of course fundamental to how they learn life skills, like hunting. That's not to say, however, that animals share in what we consider to be human consciousness, which is something linguistic.

Oh, this should be fun. Truepeers, since you know what consciousness is, would you tell me?

Well, now wait a minute. Although animals usually recognize 'other', they seldom recognize a mirror image. They either ignore it, or like my pet parakeet, think its another bird and try to interact with it.

Actually, some proimates, at least, seem to get that the thing in the mirror is "me".

Eric Blair said...

True, that's why I said seldom. I watched Koko the Gorilla essentially talk, and have watched African Grey parrots do similar.

Although it isn't language, various cats and dogs and even rabbits I've owned have managed to convey their wants to me one way or another. So, what has communication to do with consciousness, I wonder.

Doug said...

This Week's Special: Complete Alternator Overhaul, $39.95

Barry Dauphin said...

Well, we suspect that any number of animals have some forms of consciousness. It's difficult to imagine a creature feeling pain without implying some form of consciousness. Self consciousness is another matter. I'd suggest consciousness is graded and that self consciousness is not perfectly equivalent with "consciousness" in general.

But with human consciousness, we often seem to mean some sort of first person account of experience. We tend to take other people's word for it that they have consciousness (with the exception of Maureen Dowd whom neuroscientists have determined does not possess consciousness in the traditional sense but has false consciousness and fashion consciousness). Language seems to be the primary means by which we determine the consciousness of other people, and language is likely a part of human consciousness, although I think there are other aspects to it as well.

As for the robot. Well it acts as if it "recognizes" itself in the mirror. Very impressive. I'm still hesitant to grant it consciousness until it can make sense out of Joe Wilson.

truepeers said...

Eric, I imagine the answer lies in your assumption that animals can ignore a mirror image. I think their appareng ignoring suggests they have already learned that the image is something not a threat or friend, not that they don't see it altogether. Perhaps when they were young they were first excited before the mirror, but have with age learned to place it in some index of associations and "ignore" it. COmpare with us, who are so very wordly. With all our knowledge you might think we'd just ignore the banal image we see every day, but we look in the mirror at our aging or brilliantly youthful faces and feel all kinds of emotions, trigger all kinds of thoughts, that depend on some conscious reaction to our knowledge of esthetics and mortality.

So, somebody who does not either render further 'cultural significance' or 'actively defer violence' is not self-aware?

-well anyone who has learned to sign can "render significance", perhaps an awkward expression on my part. I just mean that concsiousness, of a human kind, and language, somehow go together. The question is why do we do it - sign (keeping in mind that a sign differs from a signal)? Why did language first come into existence and reproduce itself? Was it merely a fortuitous outcome of a slow evolutionary process? Or did happen in an eventful fashion, in some punctuated equilibrium, such that we might speak of its emergence serving a purpose in the survival or evolution of the species?
I pursue these questions here, not simply out of some academic curiosity, but because I think they are essential to getting beyond postmodern nihilism and understanding our current wars with Islamists and western leftists. See, for example, how Prospero deals with this question in the opening paragraphs of this essay.

Why has the physical structure of our brain co-evolved with language? Since we are born with the physical capacity for language - big homo sapien heads - and require an unusually long rearing to learn how to use our equipment, how do you know that what you imagine to be innate is not something linguistic?

As you may not know, Prospero and I are devotees of a certain school of thought that I believe has the best answers to these questions. You can find many essays at this link that work through these and similar questions, in a way I can't do here.

Buddy Larsen said...

My Roomba only works well if I remember to buy it little gifts. Scented WD-40, maybe a dozen fresh-manufactured extension cords, little things like that. This post is going to get me in trouble, isn't it.

Doug said...

"Perhaps when they were young they were first excited before the mirror, but have with age learned to place it in some index of associations and "ignore" it"
---
Please Don't judge others by yourself:
Some of us awake each morning to an ever more exciting mirror image.

Morgan said...

Or a more frightening one.

Doug said...

"Although it isn't language, various cats and dogs and even rabbits I've owned have managed to convey their wants to me one way or another."
---
Exactly!
That's how I came to know the true meaning and derivation of,
"Pissed Off"

Buddy Larsen said...

Doug made that post without much prior reflection.

Doug said...

"With all our knowledge you might think we'd just ignore the banal image "
---
Compared with all my knowledge,
my zits look exciting.

Doug said...

"I pursue these questions here, not simply out of some academic curiosity, but because I think they are essential to getting beyond postmodern nihilism and understanding our current wars with Islamists and western leftists"
---
What's your excuse, Buddy?

Buddy Larsen said...

"Yeah but I"

truepeers said...

Oh, this should be fun. Truepeers, since you know what consciousness is, would you tell me?

-I think Barry has given a very good answer, to which I'll try to add.

Seneca, what I could tell you about, if i had the time, are all the hypotheses - from the sciences and humanities - on the origin of language and the nature of consciousness and ask you to choose the one(s) you think are the best. In other words, consciousness would become a question of your knowledge and experience of scenes and conversations of human self-understanding. You would be aware that over time people are continually evolving new understandings of what it means to be human. And I would simply say, that this is in itself evidence of your consciousness, and that what consciousness is is what every convincing writer has ever convinced you it is.

And so, one question that emerges from this, the one I like, is why do we have to talk about ourselves and what is the specifically human nature of these conversations? WHat biological, social or cultural preconditions does our talking about ourselves minimally depend upon? How could these conversations have ever emerged?

Now your choice of best hypotheses on the emergence of language and consciousness would depend on the context or intellectual need you were facing. If you were with your fellow natural scientists you would probably choose the hypthesis, or articulate the question, in a way that assumes the least. In other words, you would wish to begin with a largely blank slate, so that you could painstakingly build up your knowledge with the empirical methods that are the essence and purpose of your trade. You might do experiments like the people linked to in this article. You would do brain scanning, archaeology, etc. But could you answer all the pressing human questions that way?

Seneca, you are also a student of the humanities. You are a man of faith who recognizes that a strictly empirical science does not have all the answers to the questions of life. But perhaps these questions can nonetheless be pursued in a rigorous, scientific fashion, with Ockham's razon, if we conceive of human sciences somewhat differently from natural sciences, or find some new way to bring the two together.

In any case, until you find the science that can unite questions of humanistic faith and natural scientific skepticism, your consciousness, your awareness of yourself, will seem to be working on different levels (and it is no small thing to note that, historically, the natural scientific consciousness emerged later than many of the key develoments in the humanities, that modern science's emergence no doubt depended on prior developments in the human scene, e.g. the idea that god is good and that his creation is something we should embrace and study with a certain loving rigor, ignoring, as in the myth of Galileo, the interests of worldly power).

In other words, some people will adopt a metaphysical (i.e. scientific) approach, giving a name to a concept as if the concept has a natural existence beyond the human conversation itself, and thus explore it methodically: what is consciousness?

Others will question the metaphysical approach by asking how this method of thinking could have come into being in the first place. The question then becomes less, what is consciousness? as what human purpose does it serve? What is its basic shape or form, its necessary preconditions? Does it inhere in biology or culture?

Well, I don't know how clear any of this is. But I hope it;s fun.

Doug said...

You have some more choices now, Buddy.

Buddy Larsen said...

first i have to understand Truepeer's post--give me a few minutes...er...months....

Seneca the Younger said...

Okay, just as a quick pass here --- are you aware of Searle's "Chinese Room"? I contend that in fact the "Chinese Room" does "understand" "chinese" to the extent that we can meaningfully define the term in a scientific epistemic sense.

(I'm an Operationalist: if two phenomena are indistinguishable by experiment, they're "the same".)

By extension, if we had a super-Roomba that stopped at a mirror and, without preprogramming, moved to wipe dust off its own case, I'd think that evidence of "consciousness". On the other hand, from the description it sounds like the box here is simply programmed with an "identification mechanism" that can tell "ID 411239 (me)" from "ID 411240 (other)".

Buddy Larsen said...

I'll know it's alive when it joins me in Refrigerator-Worship.

Doug said...

So an Operationalist would conclude Buddy's 1:26 PM post,
and his 3:33 PM post are
"The Same?"

Doug said...
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Doug said...

If I got someone to program truepeers ID number in me,
I could be "The Same" as him?

Doug said...

I wonder if they've checked Roomba's response in front of a
Fun House Mirror?

truepeers said...

Hmm, maybe my previous post was not very clear, heh Buddy.

Let me put it this way. When St. John says "in the beginning was the word", I think, yes, exactly. St. John achieved, in writing that, a historically innovative degree of consciousness.

Human consciousness is what comes into existence with the word. Is consciousness the word itself? No, it is what the word or sign makes possible. And to know what that is, we have to think anthropologically about how and why human communities are centred on signs, and the things that signs make sacred, and the places where we might locate or invoke the sacred thing/sign.

In short, consciousness is a question of how humanity requires a shared public scene, a sacred center and a profane periphery that acknowledges in common the significant center(s) of communal attention.

There are no words imprinted on my neurons, I think it's safe to say. I think I can thus say that words don't actually exist anywhere in the physical world, except as script or sound wave. Since the sign doesn't exist in the material world, and yet it gives us the very ability to think of significance and the human community as having an existence across time, it seems I only know the sign through a process of making certain associations within a shared human scene. I associate the sounds, or gestures, or letters that constitute a word with its effect on the human community, an effect that I remember or anticipate in terms of past events and contexts where invoking the sign had some significant effect. I.e., a context where it worked, where it served its purpose (and that is the question, what is its purpose?)

Not having a physical existence, it seems the sign subsists in some transcendent world that is different from the world of things around me. As such, it is a paradox that provokes consciousness, in the sense that we become conscious of its essential paradoxicalness and seek to understand it and ourselves, the community without which the sign is just a meaningless sound or gesture.

Human social order is different from animal social orders because of our need for public scenes where the significant center speaks to all members of the community.

truepeers said...

I just saw Seneca's latest post, but I have to run some errands. I'll get back to this later.

Barry Dauphin said...

But I thought Searle's point was that the person in the room doesn't undersand Chinese. Searle is skeptical about computer consciousness and has argued consciousness is a biological function. Whether he's right about these things is another matter, but I think that's his position.

Doug said...

"There are no words imprinted on my neurons, I think it's safe to say. I think I can thus say that words don't actually exist anywhere in the physical world, except as script or sound wave. Since the sign doesn't exist in the material world, and yet it gives us the very ability to think of significance and the human community as having an existence across time, it seems I only know the sign through a process of making certain associations within a shared human scene."
---
I only know the sign through a process of making certain associations within a shared human scene.
---
Yes, but, couldn't all that be the same, but given that the language (and emotional) centers of the brain are to some degree hard-wired, that "the same" person (or the same brain translocated) speaking a different language, upon hearing the "same word" (describing the same shared human scene) would have a response of a slightly different emotional tone or color, absent any other differences than the different word?

Doug said...

(You should try the adrenaline high you get wondering how stupid your going to sound trying this, Buddy!)

Doug said...
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Doug said...

He did say he's coming back, gulp.

Doug said...

re:
My 5:00 PM post,
My wife informs me that I just "forgot" I'd already taken Sudafed 3 times in a row.
The rigors of age.
(rigor mortis being the most severe)

Seneca the Younger said...

But I thought Searle's point was that the person in the room doesn't undersand Chinese. Searle is skeptical about computer consciousness and has argued consciousness is a biological function. Whether he's right about these things is another matter, but I think that's his position.

Oh, absolutely. He's just wrong. Or, at least, he's saying something that can't be confired by any conceivable experiment, so he's making an assertion of faith, not of science.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

There are no words imprinted on my neurons

Not according to Comrade Chomsky.

Luther McLeod said...

Great point MHA ;-)

I don't know, how did Neanderthal communicate? Did they have language? Is that why they died out, for lack of? OTOH, for a while, they were successful. Were their 'signs' or 'grunts' language? Language enough to be evocative of other than the self? Is consciousness awareness of self or awareness of others? I just have questions, no answers, of course.

Buddy Larsen said...

Well, it's been a long time, so I can barely remember, but for example, "pass the butter, please" was, pat yourself on the top of the head real fast with both hands, grin real big, hoot, holler, and hop around on one foot.

Doug said...

"Is consciousness awareness of self or awareness of others? "
---
There ARE "Others?"

Doug said...

Those Lefty "Civil Libertarians" are getting completely out of hand:
---
I tried selling my Creatin Supplement at the Local HS,
and got arrested for teaching
"Creatin Science."

Luther McLeod said...

"There ARE "Others?""

Well I did see them coming down the ramp of the ship...and, funny, I don't remember anything after that.

Doug said...
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Doug said...

I saw a whole bunch of really stiff White Men come off that ramp.
They said it was the
Million Man Starch.

Doug said...

A Worm has imprinted itself in Roombas Girlfriends Neurons.
---
Worms Roomboxanne, Worms!

truepeers said...

Okay, just as a quick pass here --- are you aware of Searle's "Chinese Room"? I contend that in fact the "Chinese Room" does "understand" "chinese" to the extent that we can meaningfully define the term in a scientific epistemic sense.

(I'm an Operationalist: if two phenomena are indistinguishable by experiment, they're "the same".)


-OK, for certain operational purposes maybe the Chinese room does "understand" Chinese. But doesn't this just beg the question of what understanding is - how you are going to define it in a meaningul scientific sense? -and how demanding is your experiment going to be? If you let Chinese into the room it becomes clear pretty quickly that the translation machine/system doesn't understand Chinese.

I just saw a movie, and in the D-Day scene the Germans are trying to imitate American ground controllers to mislead some fighter/bombers. The American commander suspects something is wrong, the controller's voice has changed, so he asks him what the Brooklyn Dodgers are called. THe German replies "I don't understand". THe American says "I bet you don't" bombs away. Isn't that the true test of understanding?

truepeers said...

Yes, but, couldn't all that be the same, but given that the language (and emotional) centers of the brain are to some degree hard-wired, that "the same" person (or the same brain translocated) speaking a different language, upon hearing the "same word" (describing the same shared human scene) would have a response of a slightly different emotional tone or color, absent any other differences than the different word?

-well, i don't think language is hard-wired (unlike certain emotions), so I'm not sure I'm understanding the question. But all languages share soemthing fundamental in common. I assume they share in a common origin which is why they are all mutually translatable.

When peoples from completely different cultures first come into contact, they are not without means of communication. They both understand the basic forms of language and can work from there. Since they together constitute a scene fraught with evident dangers, if they wish to avoid conflict, they naturally seek to share signs, come to some linguistic understanding, to avoid violence taking over when language fails.

This is just to say that the context or scene is key to linking words and emotions.

truepeers said...

As for Comrade Chomsky, I think he's got it wrong. But now's not the time. If you Google truepeers and CHomsky you might find some comments I've dropped along the way.

Luther, I would like to answer your questions, but I've got to do some work. So, let me refer you to this little essay which will provide you with answers on some level.

Doug said...

Think I just wanted to draw you out into discussing the progression of interior scenes (thinking with words) depending on the language.
ie
Thinking about a subject in English or Chinese.
...but that's a different subject.

truepeers said...

Doug, it seems like the gist of your question has to do with our experience of language. Language is of course tied to our esthetic and ethical or religious experiences; in using language we draw on or trigger memories of such experiences which are in various ways unique for every person.

I don't know if you have any second languages. BUt one of hte things I find interesting is how not only do we use different areas of the brain when we speak our mother and second tongues, but it is easy to mix up second languages if you have more than one, as if they are mapped out in the brain in the same way and place. Sometimes I mix up French and Chinese in a single sentence, not that I ever speak either well.

Anyway, the point is that the basic relationship between language and experience and memory is somehow mediated by our mother tongue. Second languages relate to this more fundamental linguistic experience in some more distant, abstract, manner.

But if your comparison is between two people with different mother tongues... Let's say that they are, at a given moment, having very similar experiences while present on the same scene; I think they will inevitably interpret what is going on in terms of their different past experiences of language, different not just because of personal history but because of the different cultural histories, common literary forms, etc., of their respective languages.

Barry Dauphin said...

Or, at least, he's saying something that can't be confired by any conceivable experiment, so he's making an assertion of faith, not of science.

So, there's science and there's faith and there's nothing else? Is logic science or faith? Can we use the scientific method to validate the scientific method without first assuming the method is already valid?

Luther McLeod said...

Thanks truepeers, that was an interesting essay. Had only heard of Gans, but never read. Though the essay did leave me with more questions than answers :-)

Gans articulates interesting hypotheses. But honestly I am always leery of anthropological interpretation even when dealing with material artifacts, when such hypotheses enter the realm of the spirit my antenna's really start twitching.

But don't get me wrong, I think the study of our ancient selves is the surest and only way to figure out how we ended up where we are now. If I had another life to live, that's where I'd be.

But, back to topic, if language is a precursor of consciousness or self awareness could it not have been motivated by purely survivalist reasons? More efficient hunting etc, less violent social bonding...etc.

Buddy Larsen said...

Luther, some say our thumbs taught us to talk. Really. The hind-leg stand-up was to see over the grass, which freed the hands to fiddle around with objects and develop a dexterity that both enabled and created a need for more and better idea communo.

Luther McLeod said...

Yes Buddy I've read of that. Sounds commonsensical as well. Commonsense is among my first filters. Ah, what I would give for a "time machine."

Buddy Larsen said...

Say you did, and could use it once, for an hour--which direction would you go, for'rds or back'rds--and to where?

Reminds of that guy who saw the sign in the cafe window "Breakfast Anytime"...so he went and asked for an omlette during the French Revolution.

Luther McLeod said...

The first part is easy, backwards.
Though it seems strange to say I am more interested in the past than the future. I guess the 'where did we come from' question resonates deeper than the 'where the hell are we going' question. After all, in the ultimate sense, the universe will be a cold and dark place eventually, no matter the twists and turns in arriving at that point.

But you have made it tough for the second part - 1 Hour, yikes! Lets refine that, 1 place for 60 minutes or 60 places for 1 minute?

Buddy Larsen said...

920 places for 3.75 seconds.

Buddy Larsen said...

serously, just break it up--me, envelopment @ Cannae, Gettysburg Address (front row center), Sermont on the Mount, Dauntlesses over the Empire's fleet @ Midway, crossing the river @ Issus, and an 80 yrd home-game TD run as a sophomore where the film got lost--that's 6, ten minutes average each. No, skip my TD, the four ME-110s shooting down Dad's B-17 over Germany in big week 1944 (he & his whole crew survived in POW camp).

Buddy Larsen said...

hell, Luther--you've kicked off a good mental exercise in this, the point in time of New Year's Resolutions--it's been around but I'd've never recalled it--visualize yourself, on 1-01-06, as you'll be on 1-01-07. And proceed accordingly! (this means--calesthics)

Buddy Larsen said...

...which are MUCH easier than proofreading, or doing calesthenics.

Luther McLeod said...

So, your thoughts on why backwards.

OK, five minutes each, no order:

Malta at its height

Alexander in a fight

The Last Supper

Egypt in its glory (ten here)

Spartans at Thermopylae

with the guy who struck the first fire

when they brought the horse into Troy - if I get to see Helen

with my earliest ancestor by blood

and oh, on topic, with the first to speak comprehensible language

Philly at the signing of the Constitution

the oracle at Delphi

Luther McLeod said...

I forgot, glad your dad survived.

Luther McLeod said...

Wrapped up in reverie, forgot also, off to breakfast.

Doug said...

"Anyway, the point is that the basic relationship between language and experience and memory is somehow mediated by our mother tongue"
---
Think that's what I meant by more or less hard wired.
...the melding of the brain to man's need for Verbal Problem Solving Abilities, and Vice Versa for man's cultural development is infinitely intimate in it's subtlety.
...not very accessible to explanation for this mere mortal.

Doug said...

There is some classic case of a stroke victim wrt second language thinking.
...My Latin and German are so limited that I think all I used them for was to reinforce my thinking patterns/prejudices early on.
Would have been nice to have an inspired teacher turn me onto the Bard at an earlier age.

Doug said...

Buddy 10:36 AM

Doug said...

You could head North and Join Him

Doug said...

From Jefferson City to Harrisburg
STARTING ON CHRISTMAS?
Fat Man Freezing.

Buddy Larsen said...

Like a vehicle, it ain't the age, it's the mileage.

truepeers said...

Luther:
I am always leery of anthropological interpretation even when dealing with material artifacts, when such hypotheses enter the realm of the spirit my antenna's really start twitching.

-do you ever look at spiritual conversation as being itself anthropological? For example, the quote from St. John, above: "in the beginning was the word" is an anthropological hypothesis, just as it is also a spiritual one. In many respects, the Bible is good anthropology. Conversely, a true anthropology, however secular, cannot discount the importance of religion, but only refine our understanding of the mystery of human creation, a mystery that can never be fully explained.

if language is a precursor of consciousness or self awareness could it not have been motivated by purely survivalist reasons? More efficient hunting etc, less violent social bonding...etc.

-this is the right question, with of course no quick and easy answer. I do think language not only emerged but, more to the point, was continually reproduced, because it had survival value. But I see this in terms of social bonding, intragroup behaviour, more than in terms of the relationship of the first humans to the non-human environment (it may have had a lot to do with war).

If I get some time over the holidays I'm going to post some comments on Jarred Diamond's book and the recent tv show based on it. In wishing to discount the role of culture in human history (this is what bothers me), he describes, for example, the advent of agriculture in simply rational terms: the discovery that you can get a reasonably reliable and large food supply with less effort than hunting.

But Diamond cannot explain - he does not try, avoids the question - why people would first take up agriculture, with no knowledge of the future payoffs which would have required several years to fully materialize. This is a version of the same question you ask: why would the emergence of language first be related to hunting skills (as it later no doubt was), if at first you couldn't see or predict the payoff? When the food supply was low, would the first humans have experimented with better hunting techniques or started preying on/fearing their fellow protohumans? It is the threats we face from our fellows that I think our primary in creating the necessity for cultural evolution.

Just as I imagine there must have been a sacrificial basis to the first sowing of wheat, I imagine the origin of language must be connected first of all to a new religious necessity, to the need for a new form of group bonding or organization.

Sam said...

This story is bogus. A processor can analyze a digital image from its onboard camera and answer a yes/no question as to whether that image matches the stored image in its memory. Utterly irrelevant to consciousness, self-awareness, etc. It's meaningless.

Buddy Larsen said...

Luther, he lost an engine to flack, and then blew another one trying to keep up with formation, and had to drop back. the 110s were out there just for stragglers, they were 'zerstroyers' armed with multiple cannon. They made a few firing passes and dad found that if he jinked--evasive action--his own gunners couldn't shoot, and if he held steady so the gunners could shoot, the outranging 110s would hang back and shoot at leisure. When a third engine was hit & started giving up, and all four 110s were lining up wingtip-to-wingtip behind him, intent to stay outta his 50 cal. range but inside their 20mm, and do him in with a salvo, he did a head-check and still had not a man wounded. At that point he figured the war was over for his 10 guys, so he dropped gear, set the ship on auto, and gave the bail-out order.

Landed in a schoolyard in Memmigen, and was yakking with the boys--the girls were busy cutting up the parachute for silk--when the soldiers pulled, and hauled him off.

The B-17E, "Mr. Five-by-Five", crashed into a paper mill--one more blow for the Allies. Dad and his crew ended up in Barth, the Stalag Luft on the North Sea, and were liberated by the Red Army.

A few years later, contemplating his household full of terrorist tots, I imagine he sometimes wished he hadn't pulled that rip cord!

Buddy Larsen said...

...and that, sonny boy, is how to stay on-thread.

Doug said...

"But Diamond cannot explain - he does not try, avoids the question - why people would first take up agriculture, with no knowledge of the future payoffs which would have required several years to fully materialize."
---
I don't get that:
Seems like the obvious first step would be to protect something already there, "make it yours," husband it etc. and things evolved from there.
What am I missing?
Meet you at the Paw Paw Patch!

Doug said...

Amazing story Bud.
The number 10 thousand comes to mind, don't remember if it was 10,000 killed, or 10,000 17's built.
Just read about it the other day, I'll see if I can find it.

Doug said...

What nefarious scheme is Mr. Ballard up to these days?
...noticeably absent.
Can we expect the WSJ to soon tremble at the new competition?

Doug said...

Humvee Realities - The Ultimate Betrayal .

FAST TURNAROUND IN WWII?
My reporter friends who talked about "criminal negligence" and "betrayal," pointed to World War II and America's rapid aircraft industry as a basis for their argument. After all, we were thrust into the war in December 1941. We went on the offensive in 1942, and by late 1945 some 12,700 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses had been built.

Fine. But what they don't realize is the B-17 made its first flight as a prototype in the summer of 1935, six years before it was ready for deployment, which just happened to be the same time we entered the war.
Once deployed, losses were horrible.
Thousands of B-17's were shot down or crashed in training over the course of the war. In the summer of 1944 alone, nearly 1,000 B-17s were lost and nearly 10,000 B-17 airmen were killed over Europe.

Doug said...

Metaphor and Learning

Metaphor, analogy, imagery, and the like, not only make it easier to learn something - often they are what we know (shadows in the cave). The picture of that Neils Bohr atom comes to mind, like a mini solar system: that picture is a visual analogy, bearing no resemblance to a real atom. It is tough to integrate anything new without a metaphor to carry it into the brain. Jesus spoke in parables for the same reason. The below excerpt is from a piece by Hudson at The Ornery American:

"The very pervasiveness of this strange way humans have of explaining concepts to one another should lead us to question why metaphor is so prevalent in our communication. Why should the conflation, for example, of roses and cheeks in the same sentence conjure up images of cherubic children with the healthy pink pallor of youth? What do lemons have to do with defective cars? I believe that the answer to these questions may have its roots in the fundamental nature of human learning.

Nobel prize-winning neurobiologist Eric Kandel has shown that memory and learning are tied to structural changes in the connections between neurons that form the functional units of the brain. Essentially, whenever we learn something new there are new connections made in the brain, and those connections are what allow us to think about the new knowledge we have acquired. It is safe to say that any bit of knowledge that we have - whether it is knowledge about how lemons taste or what the color yellow looks like, or even how it feels to be in love- this knowledge must be reflected in the physical structure of the brain."

If you can concentrate at this hectic time of year, read entire.

truepeers said...

I don't get that:
Seems like the obvious first step would be to protect something already there, "make it yours," husband it etc.


-maybe, but this just begs the question of what husbanding entails. Keep in mind, first of all, that ownership would have only been a concept that applied to the band or tribe as a whole (in competition with its neighbors), not to any one individual, since no such thing as private property yet existed. So, it has to be a group decision to move beyond mere gathering to active farming, and hence a decision made in the language known to the group as a whole.

But how can such a decision be made out of a simple rational projection since we can be sure that no group yet is bound by rational discourse as we know it, but rather by some form of primitive religion. So no one has the knowledge or language to rationally explain the processes of degeneration and rebirth. But everyone is somehow aware of the significance of processes of degeneration, disorder, and regeneration of order because that is what language is all about for the community it binds and saves from periodic fits of its own internal disorder.

As we celebrate holidays now at the winter solstice, it's time to remember how seasonal changes were frought with religious significance for our distant forebears, and always subject to rituals. Did they have seasonal rituals as a way of confirming the knowledge they had already established, through independent discovery, or did their knowledge, e.g. of farming, somehow grow out of the ritual process (make a sacrifice to the gods, throw some seeds about, and after a while you learn how to do this in a certain way...) I think the latter.

Keep in mind that language and consciousness can only evolve on the shared and paradoxical human scene as a group activity. Independent, inquiring, minds are yet a far way off in time. If someone observes something in nature, say a place where seeds have given way in spring to new plants, the rational connection, as we understand it, would not have been made. It is a chance observation full of mystery; but to be fully an observation - i.e. memorable - some kind of mystic agency must be assumed, some myth written, some aspect of the spirit world must be at play here.

So I think we can say that knowledge leading to agriculture would have required observations that could only have been made, and then actively developed, in a certain cultural context, in a culture that had reached a certain level of development, of linguistic complexity. Or why else did our most primitive forebears take so long to get seriously creative in tool development, to move into agriculture, etc.? The record of stone tools shows they evolved very slowly at first.

But anyway, my real beef with Diamond is in how he encourages us to misinterpret or ignore the signficance of the last five hundred years of history. Much of what he says is true enough, but lacking a certain understanding of the mechanisms of change - ignoring the kidn of question I've just outlined - in his account of the rise of classical civilizations, he encourages a false or too limited understanding of the most radical historical changes that have occurred only in the last five centuries, changes in which cultural difference have come ever more to the fore, as we note, for example, in comparing Europe to Asia.

Doug said...

Great Post, 'Peers,
I will have to give it a lot more thought than I have time for right now.
So, Proto Man did not think like Galileo?
Hmm!
That does add a bit of complexity to the picture.

Doug said...

For now, please tear apart this simple minded view:
Band A Gaurds Bannana Patch
From Band B.
(to make it easier on yourself, imagine you are explaining it to a less mentally developed ancestor)

Buddy Larsen said...

band B *should* steal n. Bannana patch is n excess.

truepeers said...

Trivia call: where does the expression "gone bananas" originate?

Doug said...

Day O Day O
Daylight come and me wanna go
Day me say day me say day Me say day me say day o
Daylight come and me wanna gohome
work all night and a drink a rum
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
Stack banana till the mornin come
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
Come mister tally man tally me bananas
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
come mister tally man tally me bananas
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
lift six foot seven foot eight foot bunch!
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
six foot seven foot eight foot bunch!
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
day me say day o
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
Day me say day me say day me say day o(daylight come and me
wanna go home)
A beauitful bunch of ripe banana!
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
hide the deadly black tarantula!
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
lift six foot seven foot eight foot bunch!
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
six foot seven foot eight foot bunch!
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
Day me say day o
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
Day me say day me say day me say day o(daylight come and me
wanna go home)
come mister tally man tally me banana
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
come mister tally man tally me banana
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
Day O Day O(daylight come and me wanna go home)
day me say day me say day me say day o
(daylight come and me wanna go home)

Ok, Harry, have at it!

Buddy Larsen said...

That's the last thing he ever said that didn't have "DOWN WITH AMERIKKKA!!!" in it.

Peter UK said...

Doug,
Why was Mr Belafonte,picking bananas at night?

Buddy Larsen said...

The evening has more appeal?

Peter UK said...

No wonder he can't get the tallyman to tally his bananas,the bloke packed it in and went home hours ago.So what is Mr Belafonte doing on his own lurking in banana plantation at night,was it un-American activities? Was he fly posting?
One has to examine the subtext here

Peter UK said...

"A beauitful bunch of ripe banana!
(daylight come and me wanna go home)
hide the deadly black tarantula!"

In the light of this,Mr Belafonte's actions seem all the more questionable.

Doug said...

Ring the Bells for Bananas,
They're a Joy to Peel!

Peter UK said...

What musical sound do you get from cows?

Peter UK said...

Dung!

Buddy Larsen said...

Gentlemen, you may each take a small valise. The attendants will be by shortly.

Luther McLeod said...

truepeers,

Thanks for the reply. There is probably a name for the mental condition that causes us to look for answers when the odds of finding them are truly astronomical. Such is the case when attempting to ascertain the story of our beginnings.

I just now tried to respond to a few of your points, but find that a day in the malls does not help one's concentration. I will attempt in the morning when fresh (well, too old to ever be truly fresh.)

Buddy, great story. The bravery of those men. Airmen and Navy, I always give them extra credit. No firm dirt under their feet. Sounds as if your Dad was a solid and dependable thinker and doer. Much like yourself.

Doug, interesting thoughts on metaphor, will think on that overnight as well.

Just an aside, but I appreciate something other than all politics, all the time. Seems to me as if the blog world 'Hive' mind could have some impact on other conundrums of the world as well.

Knucklehead said...

Geesh! Ninety-two comments and I can't get past the second...

A human can't be raised by wolves

No Tarzan (or was it Mowgli?)? You're kidding, right?

Knucklehead said...

Eric,

So, what has communication to do with consciousness, I wonder.

Idunno. I do know that every AM at least one of the animals in my home starts communicating - one of them is quite loud and insistent - until I am conscious. I'm gonna brain one of the little beggars one of these days.

Buddy Larsen said...

har--break your hump teaching 'em how to talk, and then they never shut up. Yep.

Buddy Larsen said...

luther...talking about bravery, did you ever read your fellow Marine Eugene Sledge "With the Old Breed" ?

Doug said...

Peter:
Cow Doug?

truepeers said...

Luther, thanks for the note; let me say I think it's only astronomical odds if you want some kind of full and perfect answer, which we'll never have. The test of a new theory or hypothesis is only that it provide a new insight not available in the previous theories. I believe in progress; over time, while we take some steps backwards and into dead ends, there has been more generally a growth in human self-understanding and freedom. Best wishes to you and all for a Merry Christmas!

Luther McLeod said...

No, Buddy, read reviews (mixed If I remember correctly) but not the book. But I will now. Bookmarked at Amazon.

Same to you and all here, truepeers. Holdfast.

Doug said...

Truepeers:

"All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games
."

Marks could have gotten away with
"Join in any of their games,"
though the prosody's a bit off.
But, intentional or not, "reindeer games" is a master stroke, hinting at a whole world of codes and rituals, like the Masons or, er, Elks.

As it happens, my neighbour keeps reindeer. It's the middle of the rutting season right now, and take it from me, the only reindeer games they're interested in playing you don't want to get caught in the middle of.

http://www.steynonline.com/index2.cfm?edit_id=29