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Cormac McCarthy: "My perfect day is sitting in a room with some blank paper. That’s heaven. That’s gold and anything else is just a waste of time."

Q: What kind of things make you worry?

Cormac McCarthy: “If you think about some of the things that are being talked about by thoughtful, intelligent scientists, you realize that in 100 years the human race won’t even be recognizable. We may indeed be part machine and we may have computers implanted. It’s more than theoretically possible to implant a chip in the brain that would contain all the information in all the libraries in the world. As people who have talked about this say, it’s just a matter of figuring out the wiring. Now there’s a problem you can take to bed with you at night. (…)

Well, I don’t know what of our culture is going to survive, or if we survive. If you look at the Greek plays, they’re really good. And there’s just a handful of them. Well, how good would they be if there were 2,500 of them? But that’s the future looking back at us. Anything you can think of, there’s going to be millions of them. Just the sheer number of things will devalue them. I don’t care whether it’s art, literature, poetry or drama, whatever. The sheer volume of it will wash it out. I mean, if you had thousands of Greek plays to read, would they be that good? I don’t think so.”

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Douglas Hofstadter: The Man Who Would Teach Machines to Think #consciousness #AI #cognition #MachineLearning #Escher

"In 1931, the Austrian-born logician Kurt Gödel had famously shown how a mathematical system could make statements not just about numbers but about the system itself. Consciousness, Hofstadter wanted to say, emerged via just the same kind of “level-crossing feedback loop.” (…)

“Cognition is recognition,” (...) That’s what it means to understand. (...)

“Look at your conversations,” he says. “You’ll see over and over again, to your surprise, that this is the process of analogy-making.” Someone says something, which reminds you of something else; you say something, which reminds the other person of something else—that’s a conversation. It couldn’t be more straightforward. But at each step, Hofstadter argues, there’s an analogy, a mental leap so stunningly complex that it’s a computational miracle: somehow your brain is able to strip any remark of the irrelevant surface details and extract its gist, its “skeletal essence,” and retrieve, from your own repertoire of ideas and experiences, the story or remark that best relates.

“Beware,” he writes, “of innocent phrases like ‘Oh, yeah, that’s exactly what happened to me!’ … behind whose nonchalance is hidden the entire mystery of the human mind.” (…)

“Nobody is a very reliable guide concerning activities in their mind that are, by definition, subconscious,” he once wrote. “This is what makes vast collections of errors so important. In an isolated error, the mechanisms involved yield only slight traces of themselves; however, in a large collection, vast numbers of such slight traces exist, collectively adding up to strong evidence for (and against) particular mechanisms.” Correct speech isn’t very interesting; it’s like a well-executed magic trick—effective because it obscures how it works. What Hofstadter is looking for is “a tip of the rabbit’s ear … a hint of a trap door.” (...)

“I have always felt that the only hope of humans ever coming to fully understand the complexity of their minds,” Hofstadter has written, “is by modeling mental processes on computers and learning from the models’ inevitable failures.”

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Heart in your hand? Neuroscientists discover a new illusion of consciousness

"The sight of a virtual-reality hand pulsing in time with your heart beat is enough to convince your brain that it’s part of your body, according to new research carried out at the University of Sussex. (...) Neuroscientists and psychologists have long been fascinated by the ‘rubber hand illusion’, a clever trick whereby a fake hand is perceived as part of one’s body if it is stroked simultaneously with one’s real hand. This illusion shows that the brain constructs the experience of ‘having a body’ and that this experience depends on integration of visual and tactile (touch) sensory signals.

"Until now, little has been known about how the experience of ‘body ownership’ depends on perception of the body’s internal processes, like the heartbeat. Yet perception of the body “from within” is thought to be crucial for emotion and consciousness. (...)

The researchers found that the virtual hand was more likely to be experienced as part of a person’s body when the ‘cardio-visual’ feedback was aligned with the actual heartbeat, than when it was misaligned. This shows that the brain integrates its perception of the body from the outside with its perception from the inside in determining what is experienced as its body."

See also: "Multisensory integration across exteroceptive and interoceptive domains modulates self-experience in the rubber-hand illusion"

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Van Gogh’s Shadow by Luca Agnani ☞ over a dozen of Van Gogh’s paintings suddenly filled with life & movement

"Luca Agnani, an Italian designer and animator, has taken the classic works of Vincent Van Gogh, and brought them to life. He’s created a short film called Van Gogh’s Shadow which shows over a dozen of Van Gogh’s paintings suddenly filled with life and movement, perhaps giving us an insight into how the artist may have seen the world he lived in. (...)

"To calculate the exact shadows, I tried to understand the position of the sun relative to Arles at different times of the day and, according to my calculations, even the river [in The Langlois Bridge at Arles] should flow in that direction," Agnani told The Creators Project over email. "If the video was projected over his paintings, my interpretations would superimpose perfectly, like a mapping of a framework.”

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"Technology has culturally evolved over time to possess a wealth of discoveries about the biological principles governing us, and so it’s possible to engage in something one might call “tech-inspired biology.” (...)

Writing is a technology (one that’s been designed without a designer) that has discovered stuff about our minds. (...) [W]ee dips into what may be a vast library of implicit “knowledge” about the visual system. If you study writing systems or any visual utterances in this light, with the brain or biology or their evolution as your target, then you’re doing one variety of tech-inspired biology. (...)

[T]he relationship between technology and evolution consists of much more than just biomimicry. Technologies evolve to fit our natures, and this is why “tech-inspired biology” is a sensible enterprise. It’s not only sensible, but can give us insights into the functioning of the entire brain in complex scenarios, insights we would never get in the lab."
You Know About “Bio-Inspired Tech,” But You May Not Have Heard About “Tech-Inspired Biology”

My latest piece, this time at This View of Life.  

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Study: Musical Training Teaches Us to Detect Our Own Mistakes and rapidly make needed adjustments

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