Re: The Meaning of [your] Life

From: Bruno Marchal <>
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2007 11:37:07 +0100

Le 05-janv.-07, à 19:48, Mark Peaty a écrit :

> Bruno, Stathis, Brent, Peter,Brent, Tom, Hal and others,
> I have to be very impertinent here and try to draw your attention to
> something you are just not getting.
> There is NO ultimate answer to the meaning of life, ...

Assuming the digital mechanist thesis, a case can be made that at least
there could be an ultimate *partial* sort of meta-answer. I am not sure
about that. Recall that after Godel/Turing & Co., we can no more
pretend to really know what are numbers and machines or what they are
capable of, including their relations with fundamental question.

> ... the universe and everything except that IT IS, and you are here to
> take part in it and observe yourself and others doing so. Existence is
> the source of value, indeed it is the essence of value.


> I am not in the habit of putting myself forward, but here I believe
> the ideas are what count and I believe the issue is very important. I
> mean at 55 yo I know I have already attained 'old fart' status for
> most people I meet. But one thing I know for sure is that, just like
> me, YOU are not going to live for ever.

This already depends a lot of what you mean by "me" and "you". In any
case I am not sure you can *know* things like that. It could be a form
of wishful thinking. And in order to add something obvious: the
prediction "you will not live forever" is neither confirmable (with or
without comp) nor refutable (with comp).

> As most of you seem a fair bit smarter than me I assume that you
> can/will mostly choose how you spend your limited lifetime. Choose
> wisely 'cause it's a once-off.

You may be right and sometimes I hope so, but I have no certainty here.
After all most among those who say that there is "nothing" after death
say also that there was nothing before birth. In that case I (the first
person "I") would have emerge from nothing. Going back to nothing when
dead, how could I be sure I will not come back again? Perhaps by being
some new born baby? Perhaps with my memories reconstituted by some far
away future technologies?

> I really do think that before any of you get much older you should
> take a VERY careful look at what I have been writing here. Have a look
> also at the common meanings for the word physics [samples included
> below]. If you don't then I think you are going to spend the rest of
> your lives chasing shadows, and end up a bunch of old men sitting on
> the cyberspace equivalent of a park bench, STILL chewing over the same
> old problem! Of course, if that is what you want then that's fine. But
> don't say you weren't warned!  :-)
> the fact is, being conscious is inherently paradoxical, and there is
> no escape from the paradox, just like there is no escape from the
> universe - until you die that is.

Let us hope! To be sure even G* provides a hope we can die eventually,
but evidences are there that it could be less easy than we are used to
think. There could be a rather long Tibetan like Bardo-Thodol to go
through before ... I really don't know, for sure. I *can * ask the
lobian machine, but it is today intractable, the machine will answer
after the sun blows up.

> Your impressions, perceptions, feelings, intuitions, etc. of being
> here now [where you are of course] is what it is like to be the
> updating of the model of self in the world which you brain is
> constantly constructing all the time you are awake. When you sleep
> there are times when enough of the model gets evoked that you have a
> dream that you can remember. The paradox is that for most of the time
> we assume that this awareness - consciousness, call it what you like -
> IS the world, i.e. what it is like to be 'me' here now, whereas in
> fact it is only what it is like to be the model of 'me' here now.


> This does not mean that you don't exist; you do exist, and you must
> pay taxes in partial payment for the privilege, until you die that is.
> [I work for the Australian Taxation Office so I know about these
> things :-] There is however a lot more stuff going on in your brain
> than is actually explicitly involved in your consciousness of the
> moment, as far as I can see there are usually a couple or triple of
> very sophisticated tasks going on in parallel but swapping in and out
> of focussed attention as needs and priorities of the moment require.
> There are often also several other tasks simmering away like pots on
> the back burners of your stove.
> I believe it is the hippocampus which maintains the tasks in process
> through re-entrant signalling to the relevant cortical and other areas
> which embody the salient features of the constructs involved. Binding
> is achieved through re-entrant signalling of resonant wave forms such
> that each construct EXISTS as a dynamic logical entity able to
> maintain its own structure sufficiently to prevent certain other
> things happening and to invoke through association [or perhaps through
> reaction to patterns of inhibition, whatever] other constructs as
> necessary. Note the key word 'exists'. The energy is supplied through
> the work done as the neurons re-establish the resting potential of
> their cell membranes. And here I should point out that most of the
> posts on this list do not seem to talk much about structure, and yet
> it is the spatia-temporal structures of interacting cell assemblies
> which embody the patterns of information which make muscles move.

This is a good local description. Some of us does not mention brain and
spatio-temporal structure if only because we want to explain what are
and where does such things come from. I don't take "Nature" for
granted. To assert without doubt that GOD, NATURE or the UNIVERSE exist
is neither correct science and/or theology.

> Think about it! This is what you should be really concentrating on,
> because you and I are NOTHING if our muscles can't be made to move in
> exactly the right way and the right time.

Certainly not. Just think about people who are "completely" paralyzed.
"completely" relatively to the local available technologies. To say
they are nothing is a exaggerated shortcut. Have you see the movie:
"Jonathan got his gun"?

> I know I have written 'I believe' up there a few times, but if you
> wish I can go hunting for you and find a bunch of references that back
> up what I am saying. I do not have access to pay-as-you-go academic
> journals, so I have been gleaning ideas and items of interest about
> this for the last couple of decades. I put it to you that if you
> seriously think I am wrong, then you have a moral duty to show me on
> the basis of clear and unambiguous empirical evidence where it is that
> I am wrong about this. Because otherwise it is just a matter of
> opinion and speculation, in which case mine is as good as anybody
> else's that I have seen on consciousness related lists and what I am
> proposing is not in contradiction to any good evidence that I have
> heard about. I think William of Occam would be more than happy with
> what I am putting forward.
> I hope no one is offended by this. Is they are, sorry! But time
> returns for no one and you do not have for ever, just all the time
> there is - for you. That is what entropy is about.

I think I can agree with many things you are saying, except when you
are witnessing what I would call a reductionist view of numbers and
machine. I could even argue (as I do from times to times) that modern
(post-godelian) mechanism is a sort of very powerful vaccine against a
vast class of reductionist view of both human and machine.


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Received on Mon Jan 08 2007 - 05:38:42 PST

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