Re: the origin of subjective 'feelings'

From: Durant Schoon (
Date: Fri Feb 07 2003 - 18:21:38 MST

> From: "Jonathan Standley" <>

> Indeed chemicals and electrical activity are involved in mood regulation.
> Take the example you gave about alcohol delaying synaptic firing: these
> delays are what you feel, not the alcohol itself. If one were to devise a
> way of creating such delays using a totally non-chemical means, you would
> feel the same way as you would if those delays were caused by alcohol.
> That's what I mean by emotions not being intrinsic to chemical effects.
> IMO, emotions are states and changes in brain activity patterns - and that
> the whole of brain activity is what gives rise to the 'mind'. As such, what
> causes a given shift in activity is essentially irrelevant to the subjective
> experience of emotion. The change is what you feel, not the underlying
> mechanism(s)

Oh, yes, I see what you're saying, now. I agree. And hopefully we'll be
able to transfer our minds, to faster, more reliable hardware. I do
think the the enlargement of possibilities for our future mental states
will lead to what we'll call entirely new emotions. We'll just have to
get there and find out, won't we :)

Speaking of feelings, I'm just recovering from a cold and as I was in
the throes of cough and fever, I decided to finally read _Blood Music_.
The added irony of being ill at the time increased my appreciation of
the book. I recommend the experience to anyone if you're going to be
sick anyway :) I got the book from the Singularity book list thread
on sl4 sometime last year. I had no idea there were books out there
that addressed these ideas so well. I must find more. Childhood's
End is next on that list for me.

On the topic of books, I also just happened to finish _The Advent of
the Algorithm_, by David Berlinsky. I really liked the imaginitive
style and the historical information provided. The vocabulary was
rich and kept me reaching for my cpen(*). However, there were
several biases that did not agree with me. I kept feeling that he
somehow felt that mathematics held supremacy over computer science
(algorithms). And he kept tip-toeing around whether computers could
have consciousnesses and then he'd lean heavily in the direction of
the idea of a supreme being in charge of everything. I pretty much
wanted to retch in the final fanciful discussion with the archbishop
and the scientist. The argument Berlinsky was championing was fatally
flawed (forces are a part of physical reality, though he concludes
they are least their verifiable manifestations are and that's
all that matters, IMO. That part is really minor though compared to
my reaction to it) It's too bad I can't recommend the book. I almost
really liked it.

One book that I did like, eventhough I did not agree with the author's
final conclusions, was _Non-Zero_, about how, from the biological to
the sociological, Non-Zero games proliferate and beat out zero sum
ones. Wright's conclusion that this implies there is a supreme being
I think also has flaws, but at least he separated those comments into
a final section at the end and generously warned the reader that those
ideas were highly speculative and that it could be skipped altogether.
I can recommend that book. Much less double-handedness in it's
implications and the thesis, by itself, is a really good one. There
may be a Supreme Being, as I suggested in my essay to sl4 "The Frozen
Accident God", but so far, most of the arguments for it seem based
more on hope than reason. Then again, I only have a biased monkey
brain, like the rest of 'em :)

(*) (I think)

PS - If I'm not able to post much in the up coming weeks (as I
continue work on the Hulk), I hope to see some of you at the
Foresight Conference, this year.

Durant Schoon

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