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Why the mind is not in the head

Why the mind is not in the head | cognition | Scoop.it
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Though written almost 20 years ago, still beautifully put:

 

"Slowly the cards turned into considering that the basis of mind is the body in coupled action, that is, the sensory-motor circuits establish the organism as viable in situated contexts. Form this perspective the brain appears as a dynamical process (and not a syntactic one) of real time variables with a rich self-organizing capacity (and not a representational machinery). So in this sense the mind is not in the head since it is roots in the body as a whole and also in the extended environment where the organism finds itself.
Beyond embodied enaction, recent work with young children and monkeys (1995-) has re-discovered the profound importance of the coupling with other conspecifics. This means that the constitution of a mind is always concurrent with the extended presence of other minds in a network. Thus, beyond embodied enaction there is also generative enaction, a trend that points to the beginnings of a science or interbeing, the future for a proper understanding of the necessary unity of mind and nature."

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Why panpsychism fails to solve the mystery of consciousness – Keith Frankish | Aeon Ideas

Is consciousness everywhere? Is it a basic feature of the Universe, at the very heart of the tiniest subatomic particles? Such an idea – panpsychism as it is known – might sound like New Age mysticism, but some hard-nosed analytic philosopher
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BANK OF AMERICA: There's a 20%-50% chance we're inside the matrix and reality is just a simulation

BANK OF AMERICA: There's a 20%-50% chance we're inside the matrix and reality is just a simulation | cognition | Scoop.it
Yes, this is a real research note.
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Why we need to bring back the art of communal bathing – Jamie Mackay | Aeon Ideas

Today, many people are turning to yoga, mindfulness and other mind-body practices as a private means of resolving the sense of ‘disembodiment’ that can arise from a cramped life spent in metro carriages and hunched over computer screens. The bathhouse could provide a similar space to focus on the body but, crucially, it would do so at the collective level, bringing corporeality and touch back into the sphere of social interaction. The Japanese call this hadaka no tsukiai (‘naked association’) or, in the words of a new generation, ‘skinship’.

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Next Big Future: Neuroprosthesis to mimic, repair and improve cognition

Next Big Future: Neuroprosthesis to mimic, repair and improve cognition | cognition | Scoop.it
They have developed a ready-for-the-clinic brain prosthetic to help people with memory problems. The broad target market includes people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as those who have suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury. Surgeons will one day implant Kernel’s tiny device in their patients’ brains—specifically in the brain region called the hippocampus. There, the device’s electrodes will electrically stimulate certain neurons to help them do their job—turning incoming information about the world into long-term memories.

In Berger’s approach, electrodes in the hippocampus first record electrical signals from certain neurons as they learn something new and encode the memory. These electrical signals are the result of neurons “firing” in specific patterns. Berger studied how electrical signals associated with learning are translated into signals associated with storing that information in long-term memory. Then his lab built mathematical models that take any input (learning) signal, and produce the proper output (memory) signal.

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Period. Full Stop. Point. Whatever It’s Called, It’s Going Out of Style

Period. Full Stop. Point. Whatever It’s Called, It’s Going Out of Style | cognition | Scoop.it
LONDON — One of the oldest forms of punctuation may be dying

The period — the full-stop signal we all learn as children, whose use stretches back at least to the Middle Ages — is gradually being felled in the barrage of instant messaging that has become synonymous with the digital age

So says David Crystal, who has written more than 100 books on language and is a former master of original pronunciation at Shakespeare’s Globe theater in London — a man who understands the power of tradition in language

The conspicuous omission of the period in text messages and in instant messaging on social media, he says, is a product of the punctuation-free staccato sentences favored by millennials — and increasingly their elders — a trend fueled by the freewheeling style of Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter

“We are at a momentous moment in the history of the full stop,” Professor Crystal, an honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, said in an interview after he expounded on his view recently at the Hay Festival in Wales

“In an instant message, it is pretty obvious a sentence has come to an end, and none will have a full stop,” he added “So why use it?”

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The science of the Psychoactive Drugs Act

The science of the Psychoactive Drugs Act | cognition | Scoop.it
The world’s stupidest drugs law, the Psychoactive Drugs Act, has come into effect in the UK last week and it claims to prohibit the creation and supply of all psychoactive substances not already covered by pre-existing drugs laws.
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There is no death, only a series of eternal ‘nows’ – Bob Berman & Robert Lanza | Aeon Opinions

Here we tell you what happens after you’re dead. Seriously. Okay, it’s not so serious, because you won’t actually die. 
To lay the groundwork, let's recap the scientific view of death: essentially, you drop dead and that’s the end of everything

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A brief hallucinatory twilight

A brief hallucinatory twilight | cognition | Scoop.it
I've got an article in The Atlantic on the hypnagogic state - the brief hallucinatory period between wakefulness and sleep - and how it is being increasingly used as a tool to make sense of consciousness.
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The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality | Quanta Magazine

The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality |  Quanta Magazine | cognition | Scoop.it
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions — sights, sounds, textures, tastes — are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it — or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion — we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.

Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.

Getting at questions about the nature of reality, and disentangling the observer from the observed, is an endeavor that straddles the boundaries of neuroscience and fundamental physics. On one side you’ll find researchers scratching their chins raw trying to understand how a three-pound lump of gray matter obeying nothing more than the ordinary laws of physics can give rise to first-person conscious experience. This is the aptly named “hard problem.”

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The Big Idea: What Is Object-Oriented Ontology? A Quick-and-Dirty Guide to the Philosophical Movement Sweeping the Art World | Artspace

The Big Idea: What Is Object-Oriented Ontology? A Quick-and-Dirty Guide to the Philosophical Movement Sweeping the Art World | Artspace | cognition | Scoop.it
If you're wondering why artists are trying to turn themselves into turtles and filling rooms with flesh-toned liquids, this is the guide for you.

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Intelligent machines might want to become biological again – Caleb Scharf | Aeon Essays

Intelligence could have been moving back and forth between biological beings and machine receptacles for aeons
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But are living things really compelled to become ever-smarter and more robust? And is biological intelligence really a universal dead-end, destined to give way to machine supremacy? Perhaps not. There is quite a bit more to the story.
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Ancient history suggests that atheism is as natural to humans as religion

Ancient history suggests that atheism is as natural to humans as religion | cognition | Scoop.it
People in the ancient world did not always believe in the gods, a new study suggests – casting doubt on the idea that religious belief is a "default settin ...
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As a result, while some people viewed atheism as mistaken, it was rarely seen as morally wrong. In fact, it was usually tolerated as one of a number of viewpoints that people could adopt on the subject of the gods. Only occasionally was it actively legislated against, such as in Athens during the 5th Century BCE, when Socrates was executed for “not recognising the gods of the city.”

 

The age of ancient atheism ended, Whitmarsh suggests, because the polytheistic societies that generally tolerated it were replaced by monotheistic imperial forces that demanded an acceptance of one, “true” God. Rome’s adoption of Christianity in the 4th Century CE was, he says, “seismic”, because it used religious absolutism to hold the Empire together.

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Can religion be based on ritual practice without belief? – Christopher Kavanagh | Aeon Essays

Since the dawn of anthropology, sociology and psychology, religion has been an object of fascination. Founding figures such as Sigmund Freud, Émile Durkheim and Max Weber all attempted to dissect it, taxonomise it, and explore its psychological and social functions. And long before the advent of the modern social sciences, philosophers such as Xenophanes, Lucretius, David Hume and Ludwig Feuerbach have pondered the origins of religion.

In the century since the founding of the social sciences, interest in religion has not waned – but confidence in grand theorising about it has. Few would now endorse Freud’s insistence that the origins of religion are entwined with Oedipal sexual desires towards mothers. Weber’s linkage of a Protestant work ethic and the origins of capitalism might remain influential, but his broader comparisons between the religion and culture of the occidental and oriental worlds are now rightly regarded as historically inaccurate and deeply Euro-centric.

Today, such sweeping claims about religion are looked upon skeptically, and a circumscribed relativism has instead become the norm. However, a new empirical approach to examining religion – dubbed the cognitive science of religion (CSR) – has recently perturbed the ghosts of theoretical grandeur by offering explanations for religious beliefs and practices that are informed by theories of evolution and therefore involve cognitive processes thought to be prevalent, if not universal, among human beings.

This approach, like its Victorian predecessors, offers the possibility of discovering universal commonalities among the many idiosyncracies in religious concepts, beliefs and practices found across history and culture. But unlike previous efforts, modern researchers largely eschew any attempt to provide a single monocausal explanation for religion, arguing that to do so is as meaningless as searching for a single explanation for art or science. These categories are just too broad for such an analysis. Instead, as the cognitive anthropologist Harvey Whitehouse at the University of Oxford puts it, a scientific study of religion must begin by ‘fractionating’ the concept of religion, breaking down the category into specific features that can be individually explored and explained, such as the belief in moralistic High Gods or participation in collective rituals.

For critics of the cognitive science of religion, this approach repeats the mistakes of the old grand theorists, just dressed up in trendy theoretical garb. The charge is that researchers are guilty of reifying the concept of religion as a universal, an ethnocentric approach that fails to appreciate the cultural diversity of the real world. Perhaps ironically, it is scholars in the Study of Religions discipline that now express the most skepticism about the usefulness of the term ‘religion’. They argue that it is inextricably Western and therefore loaded with assumptions related to the Abrahamic religious institutions that dominate in the West. For instance, the religious studies scholar Russell McCutcheon at the University of Alabama argues in Manufacturing Religion (1997) that scholars treating religion as a natural category have produced analyses that are ‘ahistorical, apolitical [and] fetishised’.

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What If Evolution Bred Reality Out Of Us?

What If Evolution Bred Reality Out Of Us? | cognition | Scoop.it
Look around you. What do you see?

Other people going about their business? Rooms with tables and chairs? Nature with its sky, grass and trees?

All that stuff, it's really there, right? Even if you were to disappear right now — poof! — the rest of the world would still exist in all forms you're seeing now, right?

Or would it?

This kind of metaphysical question is something you'd expect in a good philosophy class — or maybe even a discussion of quantum physics. But most of us wouldn't expect an argument denying the reality of the objective world to come out of evolutionary biology. After all, doesn't evolution tell us we've been tuned to reality by billions of years of natural selection? It makes sense that creatures that can't tell a poisonous snake from a stick shouldn't last long and, therefore, shouldn't pass their genes on to the next generation.

That is certainly how the standard argument goes. But Donald Hoffman, a cognitive scientist, isn't buying it.

For decades, Hoffman, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, has been studying the links between evolution, perception and intelligence (both natural and machine). Based on that body of work, he thinks we've been missing something fundamental when it comes to fundamental reality.

Fundamentally, Hoffman argues, evolution and reality (the objective kind) have almost nothing to do with each other.

Hoffman's been making a lot of news in recent months with these claims. His March 2015 TED talk went viral, gaining more than 2 million views. After a friend sent me the video, I was keen to learn more. I called Dr. Hoffman, and he graciously set aside some time for us to talk. What followed was a delightful conversation with a guy who does, indeed, have a big radical idea. At the same time, Hoffman doesn't come off as someone with an ax to grind. He seems genuinely open and truly curious. At his core, Hoffman says, he's a scientist with a theory that must either live or die by data.

So, what exactly is Hoffman's big radical idea? He begins with a precisely formulated theorem:

"Given an arbitrary world and arbitrary fitness functions, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but that is just tuned to fitness."

Via Wildcat2030
FastTFriend's insight:
"Instead, he claims, it's our interactions as conscious agents that give shape to the reality we experience. "I can take separate observers," he told Quanta Magazine, "put them together and create new observers, and keep doing this ad infinitum. It's conscious agents all the way down." 

- A huge impact on the interaction of agents! for one, at the absence of an objective 'outside' arbitrator, the value complex is open and much faster...
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Why is Artificial Intelligence Female?

Why is Artificial Intelligence Female? | cognition | Scoop.it
Gendering AI boils down to business. Customers interpret these AI personalities through the lens of their own biases. Whether its stereotypes about women in service roles, the desire for a female companion, or simply that feeling of trust that a woman’s voice instills, female AI personalities are easier for most consumers to adopt. And adoption is the ultimate goal for tech companies that want to make AI mainstream.

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A civil servant missing most of his brain challenges our most basic theories of consciousness

A civil servant missing most of his brain challenges our most basic theories of consciousness | cognition | Scoop.it
Not much is definitively proven about consciousness, the awareness of one’s existence and surroundings, other than that its somehow linked to the brain. But theories as to how, exactly, grey matter generates consciousness are challenged when a fully-conscious man is found to be missing most of his brain.

Several years ago, a 44-year-old Frenchman went to the hospital complaining of mild weakness in his left leg. It was discovered then that his skull was filled largely by fluid, leaving just a thin parameter of actual brain tissue.

And yet the man was a married father of two and a civil servant with an IQ of 75, below-average in his intelligence but not mentally disabled.

Doctors believe the man’s brain slowly eroded over 30 years due to a build up of fluid in the brain’s ventricles, a condition known as “hydrocephalus.” His hydrocephalus was treated with a shunt, which drains the fluid into the bloodstream, when he was an infant. But it was removed when he was 14 years old. Over the following decades, the fluid accumulated, leaving less and less space for his brain.

While this may seem medically miraculous, it also poses a major challenge for cognitive psychologists, says Axel Cleeremans of the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

“Any theory of consciousness has to be able to explain why a person like that, who’s missing 90% of his neurons, still exhibits normal behavior,” says Cleeremans. A theory of consciousness that depends on “specific neuroanatomical features” (the physical make-up of the brain) would have trouble explaining such cases.

In theory, the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes in the brain control motion, sensibility, language, vision, audition, and emotional and cognitive functions. But those these regions were all reduced in the Frenchman. He did not, however, suffer significant mental effects suggesting that, if an injury occurs slowly over time, the brain can adapt to survive despite major damage in these regions.

Cleermeans, who gave a lecture on the subject at this year’s Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness conference in Buenos Aires, believes that the seeming plasticity of the brain is key to understanding how consciousness operates.

He believes that the brain learns to be conscious. As such, few specific neural features are necessary for consciousness, since areas of the brain are able to adapt and develop consciousness.

Via Wildcat2030
FastTFriend's insight:
“Consciousness is the brain’s non-conceptual theory about itself, gained through experience—that is learning, interacting with itself, the world, and with other people,” he says.
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nukem777's curator insight, July 10, 8:45 AM
FastTFriend's insight: “Consciousness is the brain’s non-conceptual theory about itself, gained through experience—that is learning, interacting with itself, the world, and with other people,” he says.
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'I felt as if I had become fear itself': life after a stroke at 34

'I felt as if I had become fear itself': life after a stroke at 34 | cognition | Scoop.it
Film-maker Lotje Sodderland was 34 when she had a severe stroke, losing the ability to speak, read, write or think coherently. Could she learn to live – and love – with a broken brain?
FastTFriend's insight:
"My life is now split into two: before the stroke, and after. Before, I weighed my quality of life according to how busy I was, both at work and socially. Now, I have to be selective about where I focus my attention. My brother describes the old me as “extremely dynamic, extremely social, very impassioned”. Now, he says, I don’t interact with people in the same way, that I have become introspective. I asked a friend if he thought I was a changed woman. “You’ve expanded,” he said."
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The Best Websites for Finding, Downloading, Borrowing, Renting, and Purchasing eBooks

The Best Websites for Finding, Downloading, Borrowing, Renting, and Purchasing eBooks | cognition | Scoop.it
So, you’ve got yourself an eBook reader, smartphone, tablet, or other portable device and you want to put some eBooks on it to take with you. There are many options for obtaining free eBooks as well as purchasing, borrowing, or even renting eBooks.
FastTFriend's insight:
(almost) everything there is to know about ebooks renting, borrowing and lending.
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Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales

Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales | cognition | Scoop.it
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the kinds of stories told in ancestral societies can provide important insights into their culture, furnishing new perspectives on linguistic, genetic and archaeological reconstructions of human prehistory.
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Brain's 'atlas' of words revealed - BBC News

Brain's 'atlas' of words revealed - BBC News | cognition | Scoop.it
Scientists in the US have mapped out how the brain organises language.

Their "semantic atlas" shows how, for example, one region of the brain activates in response to words about clothing and appearance.

The researchers found that these maps were quite similar across the small number of individuals in the study, even down to minor details.

The work, by a team at the University of California, Berkeley, is published in the journal Nature.

It had previously been proposed that information about words' meaning was represented in a group of brain regions known as the semantic system.

But the new work uncovers the fine detail of this network, which is spread right across the outer layer of the human brain.

The results could eventually help those who are unable to speak, such as victims of stroke or brain damage, or motor neuron diseases.

Volunteers - including lead author Alex Huth - listened to more than two hours of stories from a US radio programme while remaining still inside a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner.

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How Neuroscientists Explain the Mind-Clearing Magic of Running

How Neuroscientists Explain the Mind-Clearing Magic of Running | cognition | Scoop.it
It is something of a cliché among runners, how the activity never fails to clear your head. Does some creative block have you feeling stuck? Go for a run. Are you deliberating between one of two potentially life-altering decisions? Go for a run. Are you feeling mildly mad, sad, or even just vaguely meh? Go for a run, go for a run, go for a run.

The author Joyce Carol Oates once wrote in a column for the New York Times that “in running the mind flees with the body … in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms.” Filmmaker Casey Neistat told Runner’s World last fall that running is sometimes the only thing that gives him clarity of mind. “Every major decision I’ve made in the last eight years has been prefaced by a run,” he told the magazine. But I maybe like the way a runner named Monte Davis phrased it best, as quoted in the 1976 book The Joy of Running: “It’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time,” he said. “Also, there are those hours of clear-headedness that follow a long run.”

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Forget mindfulness, stop trying to find yourself and start faking it

Forget mindfulness, stop trying to find yourself and start faking it | cognition | Scoop.it
Why is the history of Chinese philosophy now the most popular course at Harvard? Top tips on how to become a better person according to Confucius and co

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nukem777's curator insight, April 16, 5:04 AM
Food for the soul :)
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5 Sites and Apps to Read Free, Quick Short Stories Everyday - @MakeUSeOf

5 Sites and Apps to Read Free, Quick Short Stories Everyday - @MakeUSeOf | cognition | Scoop.it
If you aren’t reading fiction already, you should be! Reading fiction has several benefits, studies have shown, from relieving stress and sleeping better to lightening your mood and keeping your mind sharp as you age.

Now, it’s advisable to target one brain-boosting habit each year. So for 2016, let’s make it about reading a little fiction every day. Like with any habit, the less resistance in getting started, the easier it will be.

We scoured the world wide web for the best sites and apps that serve a dose of short stories whenever you want them. Here’s what you need.

Via John Evans
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