Consciousness Club #25 The Danger of Memes (or why talking to aliens may be a bad idea)

Consciousness Club #25 The Danger of Memes (or why talking to aliens may be a bad idea)

Join Columbia University Director of Astrobiology, Caleb Scharf in a discussion about "The Danger of Memes (or why talking to aliens may be a bad idea)"

 

A little knowledge can be a tricky thing, especially if it's injected into human thoughts without warning. The ultimate challenge might be how to handle ourselves should we ever be on the receiving end of extraterrestrial communications.

As much as that prospect is currently in the realm of science fiction, it raises some intriguing points about the human trajectory and tools like AI.

WeWork Park South, New York, NY

Wednesday, September 27, 6 p.m.
Registration required

Expectationalism and Artificial Intelligence

Expectationalism and Artificial Intelligence

Institutue of Advanced Studies (map)

In my talk I will present the account of understanding I am developing under the title of 'expectationalism'. The account draws heavily on Jamesian Pragmatism and the thought of Heidegger and Merelau-Ponty. Its central premises are: 1. That the meaning of something is its consequences, and to understand something is to grasp its consequences. and 2. That expectations are not some internal content, but are rather actualized by our bodies. 

 

I will link this account with contemporary approaches in cognitive science and philosophy of mind, and suggest that if the account is correct this implies that strong AI is possible and that limited instances of it already exist. 

Quantum-Cosmic Journeys: An Exploration through the Arts

Quantum-Cosmic Journeys: An Exploration through the Arts

Institute of Advanced Study (West Building Seminar Room) (map)

Smitha Vishveshwara (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

The Universe at the quantum and cosmic scales instills wonder and exercises physical laws quite foreign to the human scale. Here, I share my three interconnected collaborative ventures that explore these two awe-inspiring realms through the arts. One concerns the writing of a popular book on quantum physics and Einstein's relativity in the format of letters between father and daughter. Another relates to science-art creations stemming from an interdisciplinary course,  Where the Arts meets Physics. The third involves devising a performance piece entitled Quantum-Cosmic Journeys. 

Consciousness Club #26

Consciousness Club #26

Join YHouse philosopher Yuko Ishihara in a discussion of the phenomenon of consciousness and techniques for observing and investigating individual experiences of conscious awareness.

Topic: TBA

WeWork Park South, New York, NY

Wednesday, October 11, 6 p.m.
Registration required

Buddhist Emptiness as a Tool for Pragmatic Reasoning about Consciousness

Buddhist Emptiness as a Tool for Pragmatic Reasoning about Consciousness

Institute of Advanced Study (West Building Seminar Room) (map)

Jonathan C. Gold (Princeton University)

Drawing upon (but not dwelling in) my work in Buddhist philosophy, I propose that the Buddhist doctrines of the two truths and the three natures can be understood as expressing and formalizing Occam’s Razor. This provides us with articulate tools to challenge reification of abstract entities and to privilege, always, pragmatic assessments as the defining criteria of reality. When we turn to the nature of consciousness, then, questions around illusionism and the requirements of satisfactory explanations can be made sharper by adopting the strict epistemic modesty that a Buddhist critique entails. 

Organisms as Integrated Wholes

Organisms as Integrated Wholes

Institute for Advanced Studies (map)

Speaker: Randall D. Beer (Indiana University)

I will briefly describe two intertwined research programs.

The first concerns issues of embodiment, situatedness and dynamics in understanding how an animal's behavior arises from the interaction between its nervous system, its body and its environment. Specifically, we use genetic algorithms to evolve model brain-body-environment systems and then analyze their operation using the tools of dynamical systems theory and information theory. This approach has been applied to a wide variety of behaviors, including locomotion, action-switching, learning, categorization, selective attention, and referential communication.

Chasing Consciousness: 'Non-human intelligence' with Prof. Diana Reiss and Frank Grasso

Chasing Consciousness: 'Non-human intelligence' with Prof. Diana Reiss and Frank Grasso

Caveat (map)

Join YHouse at Caveat for an evening exploring non-human intelligences.

The human mind, and our consciousness, is one of the greatest mysteries. But what are we missing about the other minds that share Earth with us? Are dolphins good at divination? Do octopuses orate? Perhaps some of the answers we’re looking for about ourselves can come from a better understanding of these alien intelligences. YHouse welcomes two world-renowned experts, Diana Reiss and Frank Grasso, for an evening of ideas and surprises that may, almost literally, blow your mind.

Tickets $15.00. Order Here.

Consciousness Club #24: Matter, Experience, and Reality

Consciousness Club #24: Matter, Experience, and Reality

Physics and Chemistry have made enormous advances in our understanding of matter, during the last few century. Recently, great progress has been made in the study of experience, in a wide range of interdisciplinary areas, from Biology, Neuroscience, Cognitive Psychology to Artificial Intelligence and in particular Machine Learning.

Are we now reaching a point that we can confidently talk about the nature of Reality, as something that we are beginning to unravel? Or is the question of the nature of reality ill posed, not something that has any clear answer? Or does it remain an intriguing question, perhaps the most intriguing question in science and philosophy, and if so how so?

Join Piet Hut, President of YHouse, and Professor of Astrophysics and Head of the Program in Interdisciplinary Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, for a lively discussion, following his short presentation.

Registration is required on Eventbritehttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/consciousness-club-24-matter-experience-and-reality-tickets-37496268348.

WeWork Park South, New York, NY

Wednesday, September 13, 6 p.m.
Registration required

CC #23: Creating Consciousness

CC #23: Creating Consciousness

With Dr. Ryota Kanai (Araya, Inc., Tokyo)
Registration required

Past Events

Towards a Family Resemblance Definition of ‘Life’

Towards a Family Resemblance Definition of ‘Life’

With Erik Persson (CTI & The Pufendorf Institute of Advanced Studies, Lund)

Abstract: Finding a good definition of ‘Life’ is a task that has turned out to be very difficult. Some say, it is even impossible, or at least meaningless. We believe both that it is possible, and that it is in fact crucial to achieve at least a tentative definition of ‘Life’, especially when searching for the origin of life on our earth or for extraterrestrial life. We are not sure, however, that the classical way of approaching the task of defining ‘Life’, that is, by trying to make a list of necessary properties that together makes up a sufficient set of criteria for being alive (a de redefinition), is the best way of approaching the task, however. The main problem with this type of definition is that it is inherently essentialistic. It is doubtful, however, that life as it is understood today, that is, in Darwinian terms, can be meaningfully said to have an essence. An alternative approach would be Wittgenstein’s family resemblance definition, according to which a concept is defined by a cluster of properties that are associated with the concept. If we use this concept to define Life’ it tells us that something is alive if it has a number of properties that are associated with being alive though it does not have to have all these properties and it does not have to have exactly the same set of properties as any other living entity. In our paper we present an extension of the family resemblance model by combining it with state of the art methods for statistical modelling in the form of cluster analysis. That way we hope to be able to construct the kind of overlapping clusters needed to achieve an informative and practically useful definition of ‘Life’.

A paper entitled “The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI”

A paper entitled “The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI”

Discussion led by Michael Solomon (RWJ Barnabas University Hospital )

Abstract: We will discuss a paper by Will Knight that can be found at the following link: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604087/the-dark-secret-at-the-heart-of-ai/. Everyone is invited to read the paper before the lunch, but Michael Solomon will present a synopsis of its contents for the benefit of those who might not have time to do so.

Read a synopsis of the event on the YHouse blog.

Top-Down Causation

Top-Down Causation

With Andreas Losch (University of Bern)

Abstract: Can the human mind actually control the body? This seems to be an experience we all have every second. Yet doesn’t it imply the existence of a free will to perform its decisions with bodily means? How could this scientifically be imagined, the causal nexus of the physical world provided? Amongst others, Karl Popper and John Eccles – drawing on the ideas of Michael Polanyi and Donald T. Campbell – propagate the idea of a “top-down causation“ as a potential answer. I will discuss the origins, extent and shortcomings of this idea.

Providence

Providence

With David Fergusson (University of Edinburgh)

The notion of ‘providence’ as divine foresight and provision is present in Stoic and Platonist philosophy. Analogues can be found in other cultures. Adapted by the Christian religion as a central element in belief and piety, this concept of providence was later secularized in a variety of ways. I seek to explore the historical varieties of providentialism and to consider whether a chastened account can be appropriated by contemporary Christianity.

Characterizing Cognition as Information Flows

Characterizing Cognition as Information Flows

With Olaf Witkowski (Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology)
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ

The Mind-Body Problem and Scientific Regress

The Mind-Body Problem and Scientific Regress

With John Horgan (Director, Center for Science Writings, Stevens Institute of Technology)
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ

A Behavioral Test for Consciousness In Other Minds

A Behavioral Test for Consciousness In Other Minds

With Susan Schneider (University of Connecticut/Yale University) and Ed Turner (Princeton University)
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ

Non-Darwinian Evolution Theory

Non-Darwinian Evolution Theory

With Nicolaas Rupke (Institute for Advanced Study)
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ

The Moral Standing of Machines That Can Think

The Moral Standing of Machines That Can Think

With Michael Solomon (RWJ Barnabas University Hospital Bioethics Committee & Medical Society of New Jersey Bioethics Committee)
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ