Body in a vat

I recently watched a bit of a documentary describing hypothetical technological possibilities for immortality. It introduced a project someone was working on to completely model a brain in an electronic system, which could be seen as a way of reproducing a person’s self or somesuch in the machine.

When I thought about some of the problems with this idea, it occurred to me that some of them would also appear in the thought experiment of a brain in a vat: someone thinks they are living in the world and interacting with it, but they are really just a brain in a vat being simulated so as to experience an elaborate virtual reality. The idea of immortality by copying your brain is a bit like this scenario, because the only part of the person that is preserved is the brain — not the rest of the body. Well, for the brain in a vat to experience things like a human being, its body would have to be simulated as well, because the brain doesn’t just receive input and give input directly from and to the world without the rest of the body. So really, if you wanted to build such a system, you’d probably want to keep the person’s whole body, kind of like in The Matrix. (Except that in The Matrix, it was obviously thought enough to interface with the brain only, as the people who were unplugged but connected to the Matrix voluntarily only used the one plug at the back of their heads. Still, at least the body was there.)

I suppose this was supposed to be longer, but I don’t see that it needs anything added, as long as I don’t mind it being a fragment.

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How a double standard works, part 2

“60% of experts agree with you on this question. [citation needed]”

–Well, that just proves it! A majority of experts agree with me! Obviously it’s true, and everyone who says otherwise is deluding themselves, given this evidence!

“90% of experts disagree with you on this question. [cites an extensive survey]”

–Bah, like it matters. Appeal to authority is a fallacy, you know. Experts don’t know everything. We shouldn’t just grovel to them like we can’t know things by common sense. Anyway, I bet this information isn’t reliable in the first place.

So I’m a Goodreads author now

Nova 2015 antologiaI’ve been an aspiring writer since forever. I’d like to write both fiction and nonfiction – and also, you know, be read and published too. I’ve been taking slow steps in that direction, and just now, the first book containing a short story of mine was published. It’s the anthology for the Nova 2015 nationwide Finnish speculative fiction short story contest, in which I came fourth with a horror story whose title translates as “The Devil’s Cellar”. Nova 2015 -antologia

That was really nice, first winning and then being published. What I hadn’t realised was that this would also get me listed as an author on Goodreads. I’m certainly going to take that opportunity. And so I have an author’s blog there now: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17105199.Ville_V_Kokko/blog

My main interests as a fiction writer are in speculative fiction. The next thing coming out from me should be a fantasy short story in another, English-language anthology, although the schedule is unclear at the moment.

Miggä ihmme Turru mure?

Turrun mureTurun ylioppilaslehden numerossa 5/2107 haastatellun Turun murteen asiantuntijan Tommi Kurjen mukaan “Turkulaiset nuoret eivät koe puhuvansa Turun murretta, koska he eivät käytä vanhempien tai isovanhempien käyttämiä murresanoja.”

No eivät varmaan. Turun murre on ainoa murre, jota kukaan ei koskaan puhu missään. Yksi tyyppi puhui ennen radiossa, mutta nyt se “Uutissi Turust” -ohjelma on kuulemma lopetettu.

Varmasti turkulaisilla on oma tunnistettava puhetapansa, mutta sitä ei missään tapauksessa pidä sekoittaa Turun murteeseen. Turun murre on jotakin, jota esiintyy “Uutissi Turust” -ohjelman lisäksi esimerkiksi Aku Ankan murteella kirjoitetuissa erikoisnumeroissa ja ylipäätään joka paikassa, missä on kirjoitettua murretta. Meille kerrotaan aina, että tämä on Turun murretta. Joten, okei. Se on sitten Turun murretta. Ja Turun murretta ei sitten puhu kukaan, koska turkulaiset eivät ainakaan puhu sillä tavoin. Olen kerran kuullut jonkun sanovan tunteneensa yhden ihmisen, joka puhui siten, mutta luonnossa en ole sitä kuullut. Continue reading

All in the mind? The argument for idealism in Biocentrism

I reviewed the book Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding theBiocentrism Idealism True Nature of the Universe By Robert Lanza and Bob Berman earlier, and I was rather critical about it. I also promised to look more closely at the argument of the book that “external” reality depends on the mind to exist. Here I will do that, focusing mainly the “philosophical” beginning of the argument and much less on the quantum mechanical part.

The argument is began in chapter 3, “The Sound of a Falling Tree”. Readers familiar with such things may already see where this is going.

“If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no-one there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Lanza (he’s the main author and I take the voice of the book to be his) comments that most people will automatically think that of course it does make a sound, but he contends that this is not what science says about the matter. He goes through what he thinks science does say. There’s nothing particularly new here, at least to me. When the tree falls down, it creates disturbances in the air, and these cause our experience of sound if we’re around to hear it. If we’re not, there’s just the disturbances in the air. Continue reading

Wealthy Affiliate – A thinking person’s scam?

wealthy-affiliateI’ve been planning to start a more popular blog and see if I could get more readership — maybe even revenue from advertising. (I don’t like that it’s advertisements, but that seems to be the way to get money from views, and earning money from writing would be a dream come true.) Recently, I came across a website called Wealthy Affiliate that’s supposed to help with that kind of thing. There’s a free membership, but I was never so naïve as to think you’re not supposed to upgrade to the paid version. Still, you can at least try it for free.

At first, it seemed that reviews of the website were all positive — and credible. But now I’ve looked into it more and don’t think I will want to try it. So I can’t do a proper review as someone who’s tried out the site. You’ll find a million reviews like that online if you look, like I did. I also don’t have a definite opinion as to whether it’s a “scam” or legit or something in between. What I want to tell you is to point out some… rather interesting things I noticed about those reviews.

After all, if it’s a website about marketing your website, it ought to be pretty good at marketing itself, right? So how much can you trust what you read about it?

If you’re here to read the kind of stuff I usually write, you can read this as an exercise in critical thinking.

Continue reading

Best past posts

WordPress informed me that my last post was the 200th post on this blog. With that and the new year, it’s a good time for my idea of a post that collects some of the best posts from before, many of which have fallen way below the top of the list here but which I’d recommend people to read.

This is quite a lot of posts, but I have been posting here for years, so these really are just some of the best ones. I hope that you’ll click on something that you’ll find interesting. You can scroll down to see different “categories”, written in bold.

In particular, I think I’ve got some good old ones about critical thinking:

In addition to critical thinking, many of my articles overlap into what might called “scientific thinking” — how science works in general.

While I’m not a scientist, I also cover a few topics that could be said to be about science, be it evolution or psychology or something else:

Philosophy is the field I’m supposed to be studying, so the next ones will be miscellaneous philosophy.

  • Some difficulties in thinking about time looks at how assumptions about time pervade our thinking so much that they make thinking about the nature of time difficult.
  • The Decision Machine presents a thought experiment showing why it might be that we think that we are (or have to be) able to choose between different options when making a free choice — even if determinism is true. It’s just one of the many posts I have about free will.
  • The Ultimate Sceptical Argument (Leads Nowhere) — What things can we doubt? What can we know? Can we really refute all scepticism?
  • How Does Meaning and Purpose Emerge in a Mechanistic Universe? tackles the big question of how a mechanistic universe can become a humanly meaningful one.
  • In Two Kinds of Morality… Actually, Just One, I point out how there can be completely different bases for what people think of as “moral” — and how, once they are stripped of deceptive words, some ideas about morality turn out to be anything but moral.
  • In Possibility Is Just Lack of Contradiction, I analyse the notion of possibility and of possible worlds and give them a simple reductive explanation that accounts for all the facts and is justified by them.
  • The philosophical gap looks at a common phenomenon where really thinking about things makes it seem like what you knew was totally wrong — when really it only seems like that because you’re still stuck in the old view of how things “should” be.

Some of my posts combine popular fiction with philosophy:

I have also written about religion and spirituality from various angles, as a very well-informed outsider to organised religion.

I also have a number of posts that could be described as “answers to stuff I hear people say a lot.” Sometimes, there are things you keep hearing people say, but when you really think about it, they don’t really make sense.

  • In A Note on Things That We Cannot Understand, I talk about how people appeal to the idea that we have to accept that there are some things that we cannot understand… and why, while true enough, this doesn’t do what they want it to do.
  • In Fundamentalist on Others’ Behalf, I note how people rather absurdly complain when their ideological opponents are being too reasonable.
  • The Mythical Animal notes that people often have an automatic way of talking about what non-human animals are like… when they really mean to say something about humans and have little real knowledge to justify what they’re saying about all the other species in a huge blanket statement.
  • In Then why is it called “feminism”? (Like you don’t know.), I show that, quite aside from the fact that there’s nothing wrong with the name “feminism” in the final analysis, those asking why it refers to women if it’s about equality do already know why it’s thought appropriate — if only they thought straight instead of looking for ways to attack.
  • Finally, in These days, I talk about the minor but weird and ubiquitous phenomenon where people seem to automatically assume that anything that they observe now must be a new thing, even though they have absolutely no evidence about the past and the past may not even be at issue.

I haven’t written so many reviews, but here are a few I could highlight:

Some interesting stuff falls outside these rough categories, but that’s enough of a sample for now. I hope you’ll find some of these interesting.