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Distinguishing Brain From Mind

Distinguishing Brain From Mind | cognition | Scoop.it
In coming years, neuroscience will answer questions we don't even yet know to ask. Sometimes, though, focus on the brain is misleading.

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luiy's curator insight, May 31, 2013 5:53 AM

Understanding the brain is of course essential to developing treatments for devastating illnesses like schizophrenia and Parkinson's. More abstract but no less compelling, the functioning of the brain is intimately tied to our sense of self, our identity, our memories and aspirations. But the excitement to explore the brain has spawned a new fixation that my colleague Scott Lilienfeld and I call neurocentrism -- the view that human behavior can be best explained by looking solely or primarily at the brain.

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A Theory of Reality as More Than the Sum of Its Parts

A Theory of Reality as More Than the Sum of Its Parts | cognition | Scoop.it
New math shows how, contrary to conventional scientific wisdom, conscious beings and other macroscopic entities might have greater influence over the future

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Tononi argues that this special “integrated information” corresponds to the unified, integrated state that we experience as subjective awareness. Integrated information theory has gained prominence in the last few years, even as debates have ensued about whether it is an accurate and sufficient proxy for consciousness. But when Hoel first got to Madison in 2010, only the two of them were working on it there.
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Your Sense of Smell Is More Powerful Than You Think

Your Sense of Smell Is More Powerful Than You Think | cognition | Scoop.it
Humans have a centuries-old reputation as poor smellers. Though we can see more colours than the average mammal, our noses are simply no match for the questing snouts of rabbits and hounds.

Sure, the aromas of coffee and pie are great. But intelligent humans outgrew the need to sniff our way through life. Or so the thinking went.

In a review published Thursday in the journal Science, John McGann, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University in New Jersey, argued that this is a flawed perception dating back to the 19th century.

He blamed pioneering French anatomist Paul Broca, who wrote that, given the comparatively small olfactory organs in the primate brain, "it is no longer the sense of smell that guides the animal."

As for smelling in apes, humans included, "All that exceeded the needs of this humble function became useless."

Broca was hunting for the part of the brain that gave humans free will, McGann said, to separate us from animals. At the time, too, the Catholic Church in France was criticising Broca's work at the Faculty of Medicine in Paris.

"He's under pressure for humans to be special," McGann said. "He's under pressure for humans to be different."

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The Myth of a Superhuman AI – Backchannel

The Myth of a Superhuman AI – Backchannel | cognition | Scoop.it
Debunking the myth of a superhuman artificial intelligence: Hyper-intelligent algorithms are not going to take over the world for these five reasons.

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‘Your animal life is over. Machine life has begun.’ The road to immortality

‘Your animal life is over. Machine life has begun.’ The road to immortality | cognition | Scoop.it
Here’s what happens. You are lying on an operating table, fully conscious, but rendered otherwise insensible, otherwise incapable of movement. A humanoid machine appears at your side, bowing to its task with ceremonial formality. With a brisk sequence of motions, the machine removes a large panel of bone from the rear of your cranium, before carefully laying its fingers, fine and delicate as a spider’s legs, on the viscid surface of your brain. You may be experiencing some misgivings about the procedure at this point. Put them aside, if you can.

You’re in pretty deep with this thing; there’s no backing out now. With their high-resolution microscopic receptors, the machine fingers scan the chemical structure of your brain, transferring the data to a powerful computer on the other side of the operating table. They are sinking further into your cerebral matter now, these fingers, scanning deeper and deeper layers of neurons, building a three-dimensional map of their endlessly complex interrelations, all the while creating code to model this activity in the computer’s hardware. As the work proceeds, another mechanical appendage – less delicate, less careful – removes the scanned material to a biological waste container for later disposal. This is material you will no longer be needing.

At some point, you become aware that you are no longer present in your body. You observe – with sadness, or horror, or detached curiosity – the diminishing spasms of that body on the operating table, the last useless convulsions of a discontinued meat.

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nukem777's curator insight, March 26, 10:28 PM

Worth the read, more worth the meditation

fairmath's comment, March 27, 12:29 AM
amazing
nukem777's curator insight, April 1, 11:00 AM

ReeeDicuL0us...

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The problem with facts

The problem with facts | cognition | Scoop.it
Tim Harford on how today’s politicians deal with inconvenient truths
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Facts rarely stand up for themselves — they need someone to make us care about them, to make us curious. That’s what Rosling did. And faced with the apocalyptic possibility of a world where the facts don’t matter, that is the example we must follow.
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The Purpose of Sleep is to Forget

The Purpose of Sleep is to Forget | cognition | Scoop.it
A pair of papers published on Thursday in the journal Science offer evidence for another notion: We sleep to forget some of the things we learn each day.

Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald, CORTEX MAG
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On the dark history of intelligence as domination – Stephen Cave | Aeon Essays

On the dark history of intelligence as domination – Stephen Cave | Aeon Essays | cognition | Scoop.it
Intelligence has always been used as fig-leaf to justify domination and destruction. No wonder we fear super-smart robots

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Why upgrading your brain could make you less human – Michael Bess | Aeon Ideas

Within the lifetimes of most children today, bioenhancement is likely to become a basic feature of human society. Personalised pharmaceuticals will enable us to modify our bodies and minds in powerful and precise ways, with far fewer side-effects than today’s drugs. New brain-machine interfaces will improve our memory and cognition, extend our senses, and confer direct control over an array of semi-intelligent gadgets. Genetic and epigenetic modification will allow us to change our physical appearance and capabilities, as well as to tweak some of the more intangible aspects of our being such as emotion, creativity or sociability.

Do you find these ideas disquieting? One of the more insidious effects of such self-editing is that it will blur the boundary between persons and things. The reason is simple: bioenhancements are products. They require machines, chemicals, tools and techniques that develop over time. They become obsolete after a number of years. They are likely to be available for purchase on the open market. Some will be better than others, and more expensive than others. Some – like cars or jewellery or your house – will confer a greater or lesser degree of prestige.
But if we’re not careful, we ignore the fact that these ‘products’ are altering key aspects of a human being’s selfhood. Without realising it, we drift into an instrumental mode of thought, which would reduce a person to the sum total of her modified or unmodified traits. We could lose sight of the individual’s intrinsic value and dignity, and start comparing people as if they were used vehicles in a car lot.

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The Grasshopper - Third Edition - Broadview Press

“Philosophers are not generally known for fine writing, but once in a generation or two a book appears out of nowhere, unclassifiable, inspired, amazing, mesmerizing, wonderful, classic … ” — Philosophy and Literature

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echo chambers: old psych, new tech

echo chambers: old psych, new tech | cognition | Scoop.it
If you were surprised by the result of the Brexit vote in the UK or by the Trump victory in the US, you might live in an echo chamber – a self-reinforcing world of people who share the same opinions as you. Echo chambers are a problem, and not just because it means some people…
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The Benefits of Talking to Yourself

The Benefits of Talking to Yourself | cognition | Scoop.it

A stranger approached me at a grocery store. “Do you need help finding something?” he asked. At first, I wasn’t sure what he meant. Then the realization kicked in: I was talking out loud, to myself, in public. It was a habit I’d grown so comfortable with that I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

The fairly common habit of talking aloud to yourself is what psychologists call external self-talk. And although self-talk is sometimes looked at as just an eccentric quirk, research has found that it can influence behavior and cognition.

“Language provides us with this tool to gain distance from our own experiences when we’re reflecting on our lives. And that’s really why it’s useful,” said Ethan Kross, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

When we talk to ourselves we’re trying to see things more objectively, Mr. Kross said, so it matters how you talk to yourself. The two types of self-talk you’re likely most familiar with are instructional self-talk, like talking yourself through a task, and motivational self-talk, like telling yourself, “I can do this.” It might be corny, but motivating yourself out loud can work.
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One study published in Procedia — Social and Behavioral Sciences researched the effects of both motivational and instructional self-talk on subjects playing basketball. It found that players passed the basketball faster when they motivated themselves through the task out loud.


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Consciousness is not a thing, but a process of inference – Karl Friston | Aeon Essays

Consciousness is not a thing, but a process of inference – Karl Friston | Aeon Essays | cognition | Scoop.it
The special trick of consciousness is being able to project action and time into a range of possible futures
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"I have a confession. As a physicist and psychiatrist, I find it difficult to engage with conversations about consciousness. My biggest gripe is that the philosophers and cognitive scientists who tend to pose the questions often assume that the mind is a thing, whose existence can be identified by the attributes it has or the purposes it fulfils."
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The Kekulé Problem - Issue 47: Consciousness - Nautilus

The Kekulé Problem - Issue 47: Consciousness - Nautilus | cognition | Scoop.it

Cormac McCarthy is best known to the world as a writer of novels. These include Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and The Road. At the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) he is a research colleague and thought of in complementary terms. An aficionado on subjects ranging from the history of mathematics, philosophical arguments relating to the status of quantum mechanics as a causal theory, comparative evidence bearing on non-human intelligence, and the nature of the conscious and unconscious mind. At SFI we have been searching for the expression of these scientific interests in his novels and we maintain a furtive tally of their covert manifestations and demonstrations in his prose. …


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The Cognitive Upside of Aging

The Cognitive Upside of Aging | cognition | Scoop.it
Big Data involving thousands and thousands of participants is enabling researchers to track the development of different cognitive skills across the lifespan with increasing accuracy. And the results of these studies bring light to some surprising — and perhaps heartening — findings about the aging brain.
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Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming | cognition | Scoop.it
A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens

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We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.
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In Hospital ICUs, AI Could Predict Which Patients Are Likely to Die

In Hospital ICUs, AI Could Predict Which Patients Are Likely to Die | cognition | Scoop.it
Hospitals have an understandable goal for their intensive care units: to reduce “dead in bed” events.  

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Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence?

Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence? | cognition | Scoop.it
We are in the middle of a technological upheaval that will transform the way society is organized. We must make the right decisions now
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The Function of Reason | Edge.org

The Function of Reason | Edge.org | cognition | Scoop.it
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Contrary to the standard view of reason as a capacity that enhances the individual in his or her cognitive capacities—the standard image is of Rodin’s "Thinker," thinking on his own and discovering new ideas—what we say now is that the basic functions of reason are social.
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On shared false memories: what lies behind the Mandela effect – Caitlin Aamodt | Aeon Ideas

Would you trust a memory that felt as real as all your other memories, and if other people confirmed that they remembered it too? What if the memory turned out to be false? This scenario was named the ‘Mandela effect’ by the self-describe
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Move over Asimov: 23 principles to make AI safe and ethical

Move over Asimov: 23 principles to make AI safe and ethical | cognition | Scoop.it
Poised to seriously disrupt the world, will the impacts of artificial intelligence be for the good of humanity, or destroy it? The question sounds like the basis of a sci-fi flick, but with the speed that AI is advancing, hundreds of AI and robotics researchers have converged to compile the Asilomar AI Principles, a list of 23 principles, priorities and precautions that should guide the development of artificial intelligence to ensure it's safe, ethical and beneficial.

The list is the brainchild of the Future of Life Institute, an organization that aims to help humanity steer a safe course through the risks that might arise from new technology. Prominent members include the likes of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, and the group focuses on the potential threats to our species posed by technologies and issues like artificial intelligence, biotechnology, nuclear weapons and climate change.

At the Beneficial Artificial Intelligence (BAI) 2017 conference in January, the group gathered AI researchers from universities and companies to discuss the future of artificial intelligence and how it should be regulated. Before the meeting, the institute quizzed attendees on how they thought AI development needed to be prioritized and managed in the coming years, and used those responses to create a list of potential points. The revised version was studied at the conference, and only when 90 percent of the scientists agreed on a point would it be included in the final list.

The full list of the Asilomar AI Principles reads like an extended version of Isaac Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics. The 23 points are grouped into three areas: Research Issues, Ethics and Values, and Longer-Term Issues.

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Why Tolkien's fantastic imaginary languages have had more impact than Esperanto

Why Tolkien's fantastic imaginary languages have had more impact than Esperanto | cognition | Scoop.it
JRR Tolkien began writing The Fall of Gondolin while on medical leave from the first world war, 100 years ago this month. It is the first story in what would become his legendarium – the mythology that underpins The Lord of the Rings. But behind the fiction was his interest in another epic act of creation: the construction of imaginary languages.

That same year, on the other side of Europe, Ludwik Zamenhof died in his native Poland. Zamenhof had also been obsessed with language invention, and in 1887 brought out a book introducing his own creation. He published this under the pseudonym Doktoro Esperanto, which in time became the name of the language itself.

The construction of imaginary languages, or conlangs, has a long history, dating back to the 12th century. And Tolkien and Zamenhof are two of its most successful proponents. Yet their aims were very different, and in fact point to opposing views of what language itself actually is.

Zamenhof, a Polish Jew growing up in a country where cultural and ethnic animosity was rife, believed that the existence of a universal language was the key to peaceful co-existence. Although language is the “prime motor of civilisation” he wrote, “difference of speech is a cause of antipathy, nay even of hatred, between people”. His plan was to devise something which was simple to learn, not tied to any one nation or culture, and could thus help unite rather than divide humanity.

As “international auxiliary languages” go, Esperanto has been very successful. At its peak, its speakers numbered in the millions, and although exact estimates are very difficult to make, even today up to a million people still use it. It has an expansive body of native literature, there’s a museum in China dedicated exclusively to it, while in Japan Zamenhof himself is even honoured as a god by one particular Shinto sect who use the language. Yet it never really came close to achieving his dreams of world harmony. And at his death, with World War I tearing Europe apart, the optimism he’d had for it had turned mostly to disillusion.

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This Simple Philosophical Puzzle Shows How Difficult It Is to Know Something - Facts So Romantic - Nautilus

This Simple Philosophical Puzzle Shows How Difficult It Is to Know Something - Facts So Romantic - Nautilus | cognition | Scoop.it
In the 1960s, the American philosopher Edmund Gettier devised a thought experiment that has become known as a “Gettier case.” It shows that something’s “off” about the way we understand knowledge. This ordeal is called the “Gettier problem,” and 50 years later, philosophers are still arguing about it. Jennifer Nagel, a philosopher of mind at the University of Toronto, sums up its appeal. “The resilience of the Gettier problem,” she says, “suggests that it is difficult (if not impossible) to develop any explicit reductive theory of knowledge.”

What is knowledge? Well, thinkers for thousands of years had more or less taken one definition for granted: Knowledge is “justified true belief.” The reasoning seemed solid: Just believing something that happens to be true doesn’t necessarily make it knowledge. If your friend says to you that she knows what you ate last night (say it’s veggie pizza), and happens to be right after guessing, that doesn’t mean she knew. That was just a lucky guess—a mere true belief. Your friend would know, though, if she said veggie pizza because she saw you eat it—that’s the “justification” part. Your friend, in that case, would have good reason to believe you ate it.

The reason the Gettier problem is renowned is because Gettier showed, using little short stories, that this intuitive definition of knowledge was flawed. His 1963 paper, titled “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” resembles an undergraduate assignment. It’s just three pages long. But that’s all Gettier needed to revolutionize his field, epistemology, the study of the theory of knowledge.

The “problem” in a Gettier problem emerges in little, unassuming vignettes. Gettier had his, and philosophers have since come up with variations of their own. Try this version, from the University of Birmingham philosopher Scott Sturgeon:

Suppose I burgle your house, find two bottles of Newcastle Brown in the kitchen, drink and replace them. You remember purchasing the ale and come to believe there will be two bottles waiting for you at home. Your belief is justified and true, but you do not know what’s going on.

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