Sunday, November 29, 2015

proceedings fom 2/First cfp fom 3

Yes, new age as well as hard science.......

(c) 2015 Seán ó Nualláin
The Foundations of Mind III Conference:
Science as if Being Mattered


Sproul Room, International House at UC Berkeley

This conference explores the issue of whether a “Being first!”
approach will not yield a better, more veridical science with the 
possibility of a dramatic reparse of nature.



Feb 14, 2016      3,000 word summary of papers

Feb 29, 2016        500 word abstract for posters

Mar 1                  notification of acceptance


Reparsing Nature:  Science as if Being Mattered

This conference explores the issue of whether a “Being first!” approach will not yield a better, more veridical science. It asks the attendees to consider whether there are not different types of causal explanation at each level of nature including occasionally none at the quantum level, teleology in biology, and that nexus we invoke to explain each other termed “folk psychology” at the intentional/intersubjective level. While we began our project with the insight that reduction of mind to current theories of psychology has always been what Frege dubbed “psychologism,” we now extend the argument.

 In particular, we argue that $ billions are being lost in inefficient, often unethical “science” research whose lack of attention to ontology makes it doomed to failure. The premature  application of this to human affairs, be it drugs that do not take account of the intricate interplay of genes and metabolism, meditation “techniques” that do not take account of 21st century Being-in-the-word, or simplistic accounts of how politics are processed in the brain, are engineered for failure. Conversely, appropriate use of robust dynamical systems techniques have already proven insightful and low-cost in neuroscience and elsewhere; constraining the search space by using syntax is already being used in genomics; homoiconic programming languages model DNA well; and so on

While its mythic poverty IS necessarily an ultimate constraint on science,as distinct from the equally valid exploration of reality in the arts,  much can be done to improve science education and research. As things stand, physicists search for a theory of everything that
makes other sciences redundant, Cognitivists implore us to couch our theories in the cognitive schemata they see as fundamental; neuroscientists up the ante on greedy reductionism by asserting the primacy of their findings - be they genetic, algorithmic or chaotic - over all other Sciences.

Several alternatives are also gaining traction. One, that of non-dualism, refuses to budge from the Inalienable fact of the primacy of conscious experience. Another, that of class warfare, surely due a comeback as the 2016 Democratic race shows, argues for the bourgeois nature of such speculation. Finally, an eschatological attempt to roll science, society, and culture into One Magisterium/Caliphate  now brutally occupies vast swathes of the Middle East.

This Conference is a search for alternatives. The premise underpinning this conference, a premise with which participants should feel free to disagree, is that once one has moved beyond solipsism/non-dualism,there now exists the possibility of a dramatic reparse of nature. Papers are invited which address these and other themes;

1.         Theories of everything (TOEs); in what sense would a set of equations comprehensible only to an extreme minority comprise a TOE to be taught as Hawking recommends to schoolchildren?

2.         Information; is the quantum information described by Bousso the same thing/process as Susskind’s “entropy”, information in Shannon, the deus ex machina that generates the universe of Seth Lloyd and the correlates in the biological work of Deacon and Tononi?

3.         Computation; in the 1990’s, Brian Smith argued that it was impossible to isolate a computational system to allow it perform algorithms and simultaneously to align it with the real world on which it was operating. In order to achieve “Computation in the wild”, he argued, it was necessary to identify computational systems as pure intentionality in the Brentano sense, precisely the position that the Chinese room thought-experiment rejects.  Can we rescue the concept in a way that does justice to all its manifestations from the quantum and classical Fourier transforms to using a spreadsheet?

4.         The psychological/intentional realm; Advaita Vedanta was brought into the West partly, if not largely, by George Harrison’s invocation of a transcendent reality “within you, without you.” Contrariwise, Gurdjieff’s fragment of a system, as expounded by Ouspensky, is full of clunky mechanical metaphors for the human psyche, the amoeba and indeed the Absolute. Can we do better than this in the face of the spectacular and burgeoning success of 21st century AI and robotics, and the dismal failure of psychology?

5          Science’s dark period: ”Dark energy” and “dark matter” are too well-known to be rehearsed here, and  are suggestive of a stage of crisis in science, but are mirrored in other areas. Examples are the fact that the “dark energy”/default network of the brain is currently suggested as absorbing metabolic process even when no cognition is taking place; linear models of the neuron are clearly too simple; the “dark nucleotides” result in non-coding rmas that actually code by any computing definition; and so on.

6.      Quantum mind;  Internal FOM private discussion has benefitted from the input of the great Henry Stapp. Publicly, Henry has recently stated that the Orch OR model would generate creatures that would become conscious with no memory and thus no cognition. Yet he considers the Gödel incompleteness argument sound, with the proviso that its is the unfolding of the cosmos that is implicated in humans’ ability to “see” the truth of the Gödel sentence. This is of course compatible with the pre-Hameroff Penrose, and may be the start of a fusion of computationalist cognitive science and physics in a suitably extended notion of observer status. That in turn through the frames of reference argument in SR would give us a route into a treatment of selfhood compatible with science. Can we follow the path blazed by this physicist and mathematician to a formal theory?

7.      Consciousness; there is a remarkable consensus that this has not yet been solved. Yet, in the rush to “solve’ the “hard problem’ with gazebos like Terahertx oscillations and a word salad of half-understood biology, many useful concepts have been lost and we welcome papers on them.  Examples are; the Locke/Leibniz debate on the relation between subjective state and neural event; Levine’s explanatory gap; Block’s a- and  p -;  Marxist class consciousness and its relation to emanationist systems; neural synchrony; Pribram’s Gabor transform; Global workspace theories; Crick’s comment that he came into the area 20 years too early for the neuroscience and his resulting idée fixee about a neural correlate in a specific location.

8.      Neuroscience; as predicted in FOM, the Markram/EC project has become a debacle. What are the technical and organizational desiderata to prevent a recurrence in the USA?

9.      Activism; In what increasingly looks like a fragile pause in hostilities, the neoconservative “shock doctrine” has given way to a neoliberalism that exploits distracters like gender or an African-American president. How long can this last in an era which has seen major terrorist attacks in the EU?

10.      The academy; we tend to forget that the academy is meant to produce truths to be acted on. Instead, just as the state rescued an extreme version of financialized capitalism post-2008, neglecting to pursue thousands of criminals, so the academy sees its role as providing drones for an ever more economized life. At the elite level, may post-docs find themselves 30, $100k + in debt, and with career prospects the same as if they had never gone to elementary school, let alone college. How long can this last in an are where all necessary research and educational resources are free on the web, and it is clear to the lab drones that most PI’s are hopelessly out of date?

11.       Science set free; famously, Rupert Sheldrake has invoked “morphic fields” to explain everything from crystallization to biological morphology. Can this be extended to  the human level to explain simultaneous discovery like non-Euclidean geometry in Lobachevski, Bolyai and  Gauss as well as the more famous Newton/Leibniz bother? What entities might carry these “Nuons” and what are the implications for ESP and indeed all conversation?

Poster presentation; 500 word abstract by Feb 29

Spoken presentation; 3,000 word summary by Feb 14. Notification of acceptance; Mar 1 2016


We study Science as if Being mattered. Speakers at the “Mind” conferences in the past, initially run in Ireland and England  in the 1990’s,  have included two of America’s greatest neuroscientists, Walter Freeman and  the late Karl Pribram, who reject simplistic neural models for a dynamical systems approach to the brain. Incidentally, we produced the only software implementation of Pribram’s work. Quantum mechanics was graced by Henry Stapp, an ex-colleague both of Heisenberg and Pauli, who has proposed not only an intellectually defensible dualism, but a view in which individual mental acts can be viewed as instances of the self-expression of universal mind.

At this point, we have verged on the spiritual; and fortunately we have not only had the honor of hosting Fr. Robert Spitzer of EWTN, but the philosopher and author Jacob Needleman. Our scientific bar has been raised by the presence of several associates of the late, great Pat Suppes of Stanford. In 2014-15 we verged into biology, and were assisted by Terry Deacon, Fritjof Capra  and Stuart Kauffman in this endeavour. Our next conference will be our 7th and we will continue our emphases on human freedom, the notion that mind must be viewed in the context of a transcendent reality, and the necessity of attending to ontological divisions in nature even to do computation. In short, we promote a salutary reparse of nature, one that does not make any assumptions outside best practice in science.