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.. Epistemology
Semiotics and Body Language

.. HUM
A Mind

Culture is Ordinary

AI and Art
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Is this picture real?
NonFungible Tokens
Public Art
Tearing Down Statues
What is Art?
Working With Reality

Artificial Intelligence and the Collingridge Dilemma.
Bird Brains
Bounded Rationality
Competence Without Comprehension
Consciousness is More Like Fame Than Television
Developmental Processes
Emergence and Cognition
I Lost My Knife
Incomplete Information and Stories
Is free will an illusion?
Natural Law
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On Affordances
Pencil and Paper
Post Phenomenology
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Return of the Law of Forms
Shifting Meanings
Taking Things on Faith
The Hard Problem
The I Love You Gesture
The Imagined Order
The Phenomenology of Swim Bladders.
Thinking about medical procedures
Thinking About Risk
Underdetermination and Redundancy
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
What Does Google Know?

A Country Is Not Like A Company
Alternate ideas lying around waiting for disaster
Blood and Money
Can Capitalism Survive?
Do Our Minds Own Our Bodies?
Everyday Communism
Invisible Hand
Job Creators
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Money and Value
Money is Different
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Profit Motive Fails
Rentier Capitalism
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Spending Money Into Existence
The Metaphysics of Money
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Thinking about Money
Wealth is What Money Buys

Blowing Up Pipelines

Absolute Knowledge
I do not know everything
Rethinking Knowledge
Rethinking Knowledge
The Curious Ineffectiveness of Facts
The Past and the Future.
Uncertainty and Unpredictability
Whatever happened to The Truth?

Competition and Cooperation
Dr Malthus would be pleased
Error Correction
Evolution Defended
Evolution is not Religion
Evolution of Cars
Forces of Nature
Is Natural Selection Obsolete?
Politics and Evolution
The Evolution of Purpose.
The Problem with Natural Selection.
The Source of Bad Behavior
Thinking about Tails
Why Does a Leopard Have Spots?

Free Speech in the age of Twitter
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Libertarian Coercion

10 Views of Landscape
Affect and Effect
I pay rent.
Listening to Corn
The Reform vs Revolution Paradox
What is Public Schooling For?

Levels of Abstraction
Levels of Abstraction and Minds
What is a newspaper?

As Much As Possible
Zipfs Law

Emotional Plague
Memes: Imitated Behavior.
The Problem with Memes
What is a replicator?

Beyond Rules Based Morality
Freedom and Morality
Moral Realism.
What do we owe animals?


Maps and Territories
Metaphysics Without Absolutes
Philosophy Buds
Sincerely Held Beliefs
Sorites Paradox
Stereoscopic Vision and The Hard Problem
The Gorilla in the Room of Science
The Purpose of Science
What is Going On?

If It Walks Like a Duck
Right Wing Freedom
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Tyranny of the Majority


Constructed Life
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Too Small to See
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Weirdness in Physics

A society needs a government.
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Rules in a Knife Fight?
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Spheres of Influence
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The Collingridge Dilemma
The Dual Meaning of Power
The Homeless
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To the Moon
We Live in the Present
Why is there a shortage of nurses?
Work - Productive, Useful, Worthless, and Bad.

Implications of Very Productive Technology
Modest Proposal
Problems with Universal Basic Income
Tormenting Unlucky People
Why there are oligarchs

Stereoscopic Vision and The Hard Problem


We've discussed the problems of cognition and consciousness here many times. The position I've been exploring treats something like consciousness as something happening in the physical world. Under the assumption that any explanation we might have for consciousness can be, and indeed from the approach I've been looking at, conscious must be grounded in physical reality. And not grounded in some mysterious property of reality invented especially to account for consciousness. The same approach can be applied to other problems of cognition, from perception of colour to moral interpretations - all of these things have to be grounded somehow in physical reality. The idea of grounding is significant here - it is a very distinct idea from reducing mental phenomenon to physical reality. For instance; is a shadow reducible to physical reality? After all, a shadow has no substance of any sort. But it's easy to see how a shadow is grounded in physical reality. It's easy to explain why the shadow is there.

There are other ways of looking at this issue of course.
David Chalmer's Hard Problem explores the matter with a different assumption. He assumes that what we experience is fundamentally different from whatever physical process may cause them. That is, no matter HOW we explain how the brain might cause experience; for Chalmers we haven't made any progress at all at explaining experience itself. That's the Hard Problem - explaining experience itself.

I've never thought the Hard Problem was a real problem at all but I found it hard to express just why I didn't think it was a problem. I was reflecting on stereoscopic vision recently and had a new idea about it.

I've been fascinated by stereo vision for a long time. It's about how we perceive depth. I've made my own stereo photographs using at least 6 different techniques, where I built my own tech and viewers.

It really is a simple technology. It's based on the fact that we see with two eyes - most animals do. When you look at something in the center of your field of vision, if it's in a certain range, then your left eye inclines a bit to the right and your right eye a bit to the left. The amount of mutual inclination required to bring things at varying depths depends directly on depth. The geometry is really simple. This information is passed to the brain via muscular nerves instead of optic nerves.

So let's consider what else is happening when we look at that something in the center of our visual field. Our eyes are jumping all over the place in saccades; moving dozens of times a second all over your field of view. You have no experience of that at all - the visual field steady.

I made a stereo picture to illustrate my point.
Stereo Demo
You need to look at it right to get the depth effect. Looking at it right involves crossing your eyes in the way that causes the left half of the image be superimposed on the right.

It's not hard, and is a standard technique for viewing stereo images, but it takes a bit of practice to get it. But once you get the trick it's pretty vivid

I made the picture. I know how it's done.

Here's the point I'm trying to get at - when we perceive things as having depth and sharp edges when we know this isn't what we are looking at. A whole pile processes happen in the brain that we are entirely unaware of and the end product seems to be a SORTA knowledge. That knowledge is what the thing looks like to us. So perception isn't a representation projected on a screen. Instead it's knowing how things look.

What's going on here?
Many people have described how the neocortex seems to be composed of a vast array of interconnected pattern matchers. The interconnection is such that when lower level pattern matchers fire their pattern of firing sets off higher level pattern matchers. A cascade of this sort activity has top level pattern matchers that are more accurately thought of as interpreters (because that gets better at their role in our cognitive structure).

Basically the output of interpreters is meaning. We know what a various high level patterns mean. A sudden drop of water on our face makes us look for rain or a sprinkler or watergun - it has meaning as soon as we are aware of it. We know what that feeling means - we have no contact with the processes that gave us that knowledge, other than what we know because of them.

So - with stereographic vision we have a whole bunch of things happening in the brain. The eyes are saccading around and it's muscles are reporting the movement as the retina reports the photons. Cascades of pattern matchers extract the steady data of the saccades, and also gets informed by the information about muscle movements. By the time the high level interpreters are firing we know that this thing is in front of the other.
We don't build that knowledge by any sort of rational process.
The pattern matchers that give us knowledge of depth work and the process whereby such processes can be created by evolution are easy to imagine.

The reason evolution would do it is that creatures that could recognize depth would have a significant reproductive advantage. One eyed frogs don't live long because all the other frogs can get flies and they can't. We have reason to hope that the detailed mechanism of how that cascades of interpreters might produce stereoscopic be actually worked out in great detail. Since after all it is found that stereoscopic vision is found in animals much simpler than people, and so it seems that our huge brains aren't needed for it. And this gives hope that perhaps even Chalmers will come to see that in all it's amazingness, human cognition is grounded in physical reality.

What do you think?

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.