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.

WeWork Park South, New York, NY

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

Consciousness Club #25

Consciousness Club #25

Join Columbia University Director of Astrobiology, Caleb Scharf, in a ranging discussion on the origins and evolution of awareness.

Topic: TBA

WeWork Park South, New York, NY

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

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

CC #23: Creating Consciousness

CC #23: Creating Consciousness

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

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