Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Consciousness Paradox

I know that I am conscious. This presents me with a problem and a paradox and hence much confusion.

If consciousness is or is a product of the processes in the brain, but does not itself effect the brain, how can I know that I am conscious?

Edit on the 6th of September 2010:

Assuming that consciousness is directly related to the brain in that one's conscious experience is directly related to specific processes occurring within the brain, this 'problem' is solved by allowing that self-conscious beings' brains, or select areas of their brains, have areas that are stimulated by the stimulation of another area in such a way that one is aware specifically of entire thoughts and experiences. Put another way, when an area of one's brain becomes active due to a specific thought or feeling, another area is activated specifically by the activation of the first in a way specific to this original thought or feeling such that (our assumption being that there is a direct relationship between brain activity and consciousness) one can think about said thought or feeling as a definite 'thing'.

Make any sense? Any whatsoever?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Flash AS3 Disable Default Context Menu

This is just a quickie to answer a question many people seem to struggle to find the answer to.

After migrating from AS2 a lot of things changed; one of these was the method I used to use to disable the default options on the right-click menu such as the zoom and quality controls.

To do this in ActionScript 3 all you need to do is stick the following on frame 1 of your movie time line:

stage.showDefaultContextMenu = false;

Hope this helps some people out!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A Mental World

After reading this post, I would like you to understand that everything you experience is 'within' your consciousness, and what this entails. That's my aim, anyway.

You accept that the [physical] screen you're looking at isn't in your head and yet you are aware of it. Furthermore, you could tell me the shapes and colours of its components and how it feels to the touch. If it burst into flames you could exclaim: 'it smelt horrible!' and could also let me know what it tasted like, if you really wanted. Is there a monitor really there? If it is, does it really have these properties? Do I experience the monitor in the same way you do?

It's important to note at this point any assumptions I will be making so that you are aware of the limitations of my suggestions. The first assumption I will make is that there is a physical reality and we're not all just brains in vats nor that, for example, there is only consciousness. The second assumption is that consciousness is in some way related to the brain.

There are various other views out there. Take a look at this lecture by Peter Russell and this lecture by Thomas Campbell for some interesting and well presented differing and opposing views to my own. They're quite long, so you'll have to set aside time for them.

So, baring these assumptions in mind, let's examine the experience of looking at an object. Science tells us that before you see the object light travels from it to your eyes where it is focused onto your retina. Here chemical reactions occur to produce electrical pulses that correlate to the intensity of the light at each receptive cell. These pulses are sent, via the optic nerve, to your brain. It is here that things get a little fuzzy. Continuing my physical explanation, I could tell you that neurons fire and synapses spark, but not that you see the object. Yet you do!

No field of science - nor anything at all - understands or explains this phenomenon, hence why I describe it as "fuzzy". So what do we know? Well, although there is disagreement, I would say it's near certain that something in your brain either is the experience of 'seeing' or causes it. If consciousness was unrelated to the brain, how would it be explained that human consciousness is limited to only the inputs (senses and bodily information such as sight, how hot you are and things like headaches) the human brain receives and things it can come up with on its own (memory, dreams etc.)? Further, when conscious decisions take place the body is controlled by sending signals via the nerves from the brain; if consciousness is not related to the brain why would this be the case? Unfortunately, that's about all: we know so much about the brain, but not about its link with consciousness.

It follows that as experience is either consciousness itself or is a consequence of consciousness we can't claim that two people experience the same thing as we don't understand consciousness. Say the object you are looking at is red, if I look too will I see the same colour? If for both of us 'red' makes us happy for some reason, is my feeling of happiness the same as yours?

This leads to an important problem concerning consciousness and the brain. If my experience is the same as yours, as everyone's, why should this be? And if not, why not?

Consciousness provides you with an interpretation of the physical world as well as a window onto a number of other functions of the brain such as memory and the ability to control your breathing. Colour is not the property of an object but the frequencies of light it absorbs and reflects are. You see red but the object isn't fundamentally red; red is your interpretation. This is the same for all your senses, all your experiences. Be careful not to misconstrue this as "red isn't red" or, considering the sense of touch, "cold isn't cold". Something cold is cold (i.e. it has less heat energy than something warm) but it itself does not have the property of the feeling of cold. The feeling of cold is your interpretation or understanding of the physical property, its heat energy.

If you have accepted that consciousness is related to the brain you will also accept that it is therefore only possible to experience, be conscious of, inputs and internally generated information such as memories or thoughts. That our experience is limited by these features entails that it would be possible to experience other things, given more inputs. No one can possibly imagine what these would be like, but we do know that other animals have different or enhanced senses from our own. Dogs have an increased sense of hearing and smell, some creatures 'see' ultraviolet light and single cell creatures experience nothing at all.

Hopefully, by now I have achieved my goal. If successful I have shown you that your experience is somehow linked with your brain and that what you experience is not the world but an interpretation of it limited by your senses and brain wiring. I have more thoughts on this and will expand and extend at a later stage. First though, it's important to understand what I have presented here.

Friday, 17 April 2009

An Introduction...

... Be it brief, I have a tendency to fill pages.

I would like to start by explaining what I shall not be putting in this blog. Perhaps that seems a rather negative beginning to this exposition, we shall see. Informing you of what I ate for breakfast today is not on my priority list, despite humanity's strange fascination with the lives of others I'm sure you're not interested and I know that I most certainly am not; oh, I haven't eaten a scrap so far today, thank evolution for lie-ins!

Evolution? Shouldn't that be "thank God for lie-ins"? I hope you've gleamed by now that my life won't be the feature story here, because I'm moving on. On to what I shall be discussing! I find writing one's thoughts down clears things up wonderfully, so it is my main aim of creating this blog to provide a canvas on which I can polish my thoughts. Which thoughts? To hammer in my earlier point, I hope you're not interested in the those so crucial mundane thoughts that are so dull to most of us. I like to think: to philosophise, to contemplate and to wonder. These thoughts are interesting! I hope you will find yourself agreeing.

My reason for the 'aforemention' of evolution should be obvious now: I've been thinking about it. It's something that I had accepted, but had questions about. Research over the last couple of weeks has answered those initial questions and really had an impact on me. Further, I've been endeavoring to extend my understanding of the impossible. Consciousness. Moreover, the link between consciousness and the biology and chemistry of the brain. More on these in later posts.

Of course this won't be the limit of the content here, I'm just giving you and idea of what might come later, and the sort of thing I've been thinking about of late. Who knows, I may touch on the purpose of life sooner or later!

You may be wondering what kind of introduction this is that spares the introduction of myself. But you see, it isn't important who I am, what I look like or what religion I follow (or not). From my words you will find yourself with a partial mental image of me, unless perhaps you're autistic or tending that way. I would like to keep it that way.

There, that seems about right!