Overweening Generalist

Monday, February 17, 2014

Qualia and Having a Nasty Cold Virus, Drinking Wine: What's It Like?

My colleague Eric Wagner recently wrote that reading primary sources rather than studying what other writers have to say about the primary sources was lately more enjoyable for him. While I read this, I had been trying not to notice that I seemed to have been "coming down" with a particularly virulent cold virus that others around me had been jousting with. (I used the quote marks in that last sentence for  fans of George Lakoff.)

This is not the flu; I have no fever. But it is a markedly aggressive HRV (human rhino virus) that has had normally hale and stout friends sneezing, hacking and croaking their speech for eight days, some even 17.

Eric's self-observation made me think of Robert Anton Wilson's line about reading primary sources to avoid the "standardization of error," which made me look up and read about Vilhjalmur Stefansson's life.

                                      If you feel not-sick while reading this, do you 
                                      remember vividly what it FEELS like to be like
                                      this guy?

As my throat got scratchier and my feeling of physical being worse and worse, I thought about our reactions to works - even people and ordinary objects - prior to contamination by others's opinions or learned "expertise."There's a long line of thinking that says Go First To The Source, forsaking all others. Both Eric and I have been influenced by Ezra Pound in this, although Ezra, much of the time, wants you to see for yourself, by thinking for yourself, that his - Ez's - esthetics were superior all along. He's funny in that way. One of Ez's students, Louis Zukofsky, wrote a book called A Test of Poetry, which seems like a better way to test your own esthetics without previous knowledge that "experts" agree that So-and-So is great, others less so, etc. In an earlier part of the Roaring Twentieth Century, I.A. Richards conducted similar tests about poetry; I did a gloss on him HERE. Wagner has a blog that's centered on his experience reading and thinking around Zukofsky.

What Pound, Richards and Zukofsky seem to want to engender in their readers is an axiology: a personal hierarchy of values about what's good and why and how works are alike in some way and not in others, etc.

I went to sleep reading about Heidegger's phenomenology, neuroscience ideas about Art, Kant's ding an sich ("the thing in itself"), and wasted into somnolence thinking how underrated phenomenology was...or that it seemed  that way to me.

I woke up feeling much worse. The virus had set up shop in me, clearly: I had observed friends with this same thing, hoping I wouldn't get it. My symptoms, as I understand them, arose due to my immune system's "war" (for Lakoff fans, again) against the virus, which only wants to hack into my own cells and use their resources to make more copies of themselves. The symptoms are a good thing, even though we feel like shit. It means we're probably winning. (Who's this "we"?)

As I felt worse and worse and dreaded the at-minimum seven day sentence of dealing with this virus, I began to realize something I'd noted many times before: being sick, for me, seems like an odd discrete mind-state. I don't think I've been sick for a couple of years, but here I am, knowing intellectually that I'm usually not in this state. The odd thing - for me - is this: I can't feel what it's like to not be sick when I'm sick, even though I spend most of my life, in effect, "practicing" the state of being not-sick. I can certainly remember the state of wellness, but it's as if I remember it by reading about it in a book.

I've talked to friends about this and it seems around half know what I'm talking about and roughly concur: a nasty cold or the flu is a discrete mental state, like being high on LSD or mourning the loss of a loved one. The other half either doesn't "see" it this way: they're still "themselves" but just temporarily feeling lousy. It's not discrete; it's more a matter of degree for them, which certainly seems legit to me. Others who haven't seemed to agree with my "discrete state" of sickness idea seemed to have either been bored with my line of thought, or that I was talking too much again about some bizarre idea.

So I dropped my thinking of esthetic perception and read all day on qualia, a topic in the philosophy of mind that generated much debate and heat, shed some light of various quality, and seems to go on and on and on.

Very very briefly and ridiculously inadequately: We both sit down to drink a glass of zinfandel and talk about rock, stocks, the Sox, or life's building-blocks. Apart from the language of wine-tasting (the gamut: oak cask, aged, berry, body, nose/bouquet, tannins, bitterness, fruitiness, etc), we're drinking wine poured from the same bottle. How do you like it?, I ask. It's very good, you say. Yea, I like it too. Nice color.

Here's the thing: those on the side of qualia's existence and importance say there's something ineffable about your experience drinking that wine, an explanatory gap. It's not like doing your income taxes. Drinking that zinfandel - your experience doing it - is not like feeling rushed and late for work. It's not like stubbing your toe after getting out of the shower. Each of these things is different from each other, even though they all involve you in the world, subject to gravity and made of atoms, possessed of articulate language, and a nervous system well experienced in myriad environments. It seems like each experience of the world cannot be completely reduced to physical processes; there's always something left-over, something ineffable and unique about our experience.

We do simulations of what it might be "like" to "be" someone famous, brilliant, beautiful, or widely hated. Some of us may have tremendous imaginations, but we cannot know, I cannot know, what it's like to be Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. Or Cate Blanchett. Or Dan Dennett.

I began to think of having this nasty cold as a suite of qualia: the feeling of being literally phlegmatic due to a virus? We've all had the experience. But how do I know your experience is the same as mine? I can't. Oh, we can talk and nod: yep, I feel that way too; those words seem adequate enough. But they are only words.

A typical thought-experiment in philosophy: You meet some alien from another world who cannot feel physical pain, but It speaks your language well and is crazy-intelligent. You explain the physiology of nerve pathways and the spine, types of pain receptors, qualities of pain from a paper cut versus a kick to the shins, etc. The alien downloads into his freakish mind, from the Cloud of info available to us via Internet and books: everything available that has any sort of important bearing on the physiology of pain. And categorizes and memorizes all of it, so any question you ask it about pain, no matter how occult and abstruse? Our alien can answer you in a matter of seconds, with a long stream of data that seems meaningful in some way. Very soon It knows everything any human has ever discovered about pain, and could lecture at the best medical schools on it. Every human authority on pain in the world recognizes our alien ("It") as the Brain About Pain. And yet: It can't feel pain. This is qualia. The alien knows everything about pain except the actual experience of pain, and what sort of "knowledge" is that? 

"What's it like to experience_____?"

"What's it like to be_____?"

Now: qualia is usually discussed in terms of basic, simple experiences, like the wine example I gave. Departures from our mundane, "ordinary" feelings of "reality" - altered states of consciousness - seem to enter into the qualia discussions less often. But if they are not the same, then surely the ideas do overlap? Being very stoned on hashish while sitting intensely close to one of the great violinists in the world as she plays the Chaconne in D minor seems like both a very radical altered state and so filled with qualia as to be qualia-stupid: just model it: This is what it is for me to be radically stoned and sitting 4 feet from Victoria Mullova playing Bach...Yes? And how was it different from the way coffee smelled, from down the hall on Sunday morning while you were still in bed and just coming out of sleep? We realize one experience was otherworldly, but only you know what it was like for you to experience both events.

A very convincing idea in cognitive psychology that has to do with the question: Why do we "like" horror movies or tragedies and sad stories? Why are we drawn to news stories about horrible things that happen to people? A big part of the answer is: we use these stories to mentally rehearse worse-case scenarios for ourselves. Just in case. The fictional horrors and depressing stories are more "enjoyable" because, while we know they could be "real" in this case everyone's safe because they are not in fact real. We build circuitry in our brains about these stories, just in case we need to draw upon the "knowledge" there. David Hume said this type of thinking about the sufferings of others builds empathy towards others. The experience of the stories have qualia, if you're into that too. But maybe I'm muddling up the topic even more than I normally do...

Daniel Dennett defends the materialist view of the world by saying that qualia is a fancy word for something that is so ordinary we hardly ever think about it: the way the world seems to us. He has a very refined and nuanced refutation (or denigration) of qualia, and I refer The Reader to his book Consciousness Explained. Because most of the eminent adherents of qualia seem to talk about it as if it's aligned with the Hard Problem of nailing down what consciousness "is" and we don't have any way to scientifically answer this to most scientists' satisfaction, it's a metaphysical concept. Which is anathema to the materialist. I disagree with Dennett and Minsky and a few other qualia-denigrators/deniers of repute, but not for reasons that seem all that robust to me: I think it's a question of personality and temperament. I think the major reason I like and "believe" in qualia is because it's fun to do so. Others choose Batman or God. Go figure.

Now, I have thought a lot about very high order abstractions like god, justice (especially informal examples), terrorism, Being, and infinity. There are similar debates about these words too, and what they refer to, or why referring to them is to talk poppycock. It's all fascinating to me. I find I think about these ideas in as many rational ways as I can; I try to articulate the points of view of those who seem to disagree with me in order to better understand where they're coming from. And I note I always have strong emotional responses to each word, for different "reasons." With qualia, I'm okay with it: I find it pragmatically useful to assume it exists, because it's pleasurable to do so. I'm well aware of a host of very good arguments against it, that it's "mere metaphysics," and that it might be an accident of language or brain evolution; it could be the result of a kludge.

V.S. Ramachandran thinks qualia is probably related to brain development that differs us from chimps. We have Wernicke's Area. Parts of the parietal lobe became differentiated in function way back in our dim past. "Rama" thinks qualia has to do with the idea of "the self" and finding meaning and brain areas - it has a whole hell of a lot to do with the Big Problem of consciousness - so he thinks qualia is a metaphysical concept now, but with further neuroscience, it can become physical.

John Searle sees consciousness as explainable by biology too, "like digestion," and I once heard him say that "conscious states are qualia all the way down."

David Chalmers posits a "principle of organizational invariance" and says that hey, if you AI/roboticists can array computer chips in a way to map the neural circuitry of the brain, you'll get qualia, which is such a trippy idea I almost feel a cannabis contact-high writing this.

But I and many others see Chalmers, Searle, and Rama as serious characters. And aye, the Materialists are worthy opponents too.

Robert Anton Wilson, as far as I can recall, never used the word qualia, but he did think we experienced it, because of the array of life-experiences and memories we brought with us to any further experience. These memories and life experiences were totally unique to us. Right there: qualia. But add to this: our nervous systems are not identical, physically, so our sensoria cannot be 100% identical. We bring cultural references and a vast suite of tricks that our language can play in our experience too. Wilson was a longtime linguistic relativist. He said we also bring moods and expectations to experience, which seem highly variable and can shape our experience of something as simple as a glass of wine. For Wilson, we lived alone on the island of our own vastly idiosyncratic subjectivities, but due to language, gestures and time-binding, we can have intersubjective discourse, bugs and misunderstandings and all.

Indeed, have you ever been so preoccupied that you took your first sip and then were asked "How do you like it?" and you realized you didn't even tune in to the taste and note anything? That's a quale right there: singular for qualia. Either lie and say it's "a bit too jammy for my taste, but all in all it's quaffable and not plonk by any means, no," or admit it: you didn't even notice, because, "I just found out the IRS is going to audit me." So...there's qualia: your total feelings about finding out you're being audited by the IRS, but only your unique feelings about it. Everyone will agree it sucks, of course. But there's more!

For Further Reference
-John Searle's TED talk on consciousness: 15 minutes. The old Berkeley dude still has it, here.
-Wiki for qualia. I was going to make most of the post about Schrodinger, but the Idiot parts of my writing brain took over. Sorry!
-Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is usually a first-rate place to dig into a topic in philosophy, and here they come through in spades.
-V.S. Ramachandran! It's worth 8 minutes of your day, probably.
-9 1/2 minutes: this guy does a very good job of giving us a basic idea about qualia
-Thomas Nagel's famous 1974 paper, "What Is It Like To Be A Bat?", which did a lot to make qualia into more of debated and then popular topic in the philosophy of mind. (Schrodinger's ideas should have done it in the late 1940s/early 1950s, but I think he was way ahead of his time.)


Anonymous said...

Vitamin C in massive dosage (2000MG)

That works if it is really a cold.
It helps to alleviate influenza a
bit. I've noticed that the new flus
are nasty bugs due to mutational
forces. Too rapid planetary transport
too many folk jammed too close to
each other in cities these days.

I think RAW encompassed qualia in
the reality tunnel concept. My own
take on "qualia" is that it is of
most interest to those who rarely
do much thinking. This makes it a
great hook for philosophers to use
in Socratic efforts among them.
Maybe there's a signal hidden in
the noise of the qualia debates
but it rarely is obvious to a
detached observer.

Does that detract from its pursuit,
not as near as I can see but I'd
be very surprised to see it start
to gain enormous explanatory
powers. Part of the great divide
between what's inside the head and
what's outside.

One of my favorite philosophical
points was someones observation
that dogshit on your shoe negated
any high flown idea that there is
no external world.

Great points about altered states,
there's a tendency to assume we
are some kind of pristine mind
existing in an unchangeable limbo
observing the mere mechanical
body. If we assume that we are an
aggregate which is effected by
everything it makes more sense.

If you figure out how to feel well
when you're suffering, you can be
rich beyond your dreams of avarice
by writing a self help book.

I notice one thing in the NSA
debates. They have no mandate to
spy on US citizens. All the rest
of the what to do about it is
irrelevant unless that part is
addressed first.

Get better, keep thinking.

Eric Wagner said...

Terrific piece, as usual, and thanks for the shout outs. I do love books about books, at least sometimes, unlike W. D. Snodgrass in his poem "April Inventory,"

The green catalpa tree has turned
All white; the cherry blooms once more.
In one whole year I haven't learned
A blessed thing they pay you for.
The blossoms snow down in my hair;
The trees and I will soon be bare.

The trees have more than I to spare.
The sleek, expensive girls I teach,
Younger and pinker every year,
Bloom gradually out of reach.
The pear tree lets its petals drop
Like dandruff on a tabletop.

The girls have grown so young by now
I have to nudge myself to stare.
This year they smile and mind me how
My teeth are falling with my hair.
In thirty years I may not get
Younger, shrewder, or out of debt.

The tenth time, just a year ago,
I made myself a little list
Of all the things I'd ought to know,
Then told my parents, analyst,
And everyone who's trusted me
I'd be substantial, presently.

I haven't read one book about
A book or memorized one plot.
Or found a mind I did not doubt.
I learned one date. And then forgot.
And one by one the solid scholars
Get the degrees, the jobs, the dollars.

And smile above their starchy collars.
I taught my classes Whitehead's notions;
One lovely girl, a song of Mahler's.
Lacking a source-book or promotions,
I showed one child the colors of
A luna moth and how to love.

I taught myself to name my name,
To bark back, loosen love and crying;
To ease my woman so she came,
To ease an old man who was dying.
I have not learned how often I
Can win, can love, but choose to die.

I have not learned there is a lie
Love shall be blonder, slimmer, younger;
That my equivocating eye
Loves only by my body's hunger;
That I have forces true to feel,
Or that the lovely world is real.

While scholars speak authority
And wear their ulcers on their sleeves,
My eyes in spectacles shall see
These trees procure and spend their leaves.
There is a value underneath
The gold and silver in my teeth.

Though trees turn bare and girls turn wives,
We shall afford our costly seasons;
There is a gentleness survives
That will outspeak and has its reasons.
There is a loveliness exists,
Preserves us, not for specialists.

I don't usual think of Zukofsky as Ezra's student, rather as his friend, but your comment made me think of Gary Snyder's poem "Axe Handles,"

One afternoon the last week in April
Showing Kai how to throw a hatchet
One-half turn and it sticks in a stump.
He recalls the hatchet-head
Without a handle, in the shop
And go gets it, and wants it for his own.
A broken-off axe handle behind the door
Is long enough for a hatchet,
We cut it to length and take it
With the hatchet head
And working hatchet, to the wood block.
There I begin to shape the old handle
With the hatchet, and the phrase
First learned from Ezra Pound
Rings in my ears!
"When making an axe handle
the pattem is not far off."
And I say this to Kai
"Look: We'll shape the handle
By checking the handle
Of the axe we cut with-"
And he sees. And I hear it again:
It's in Lu Ji's Wen Fu, fourth century
A.D. "Essay on Literature"-in the
Preface: "In making the handle Of an axe
By cutting wood with an axe
The model is indeed near at hand.-
My teacher Shih-hsiang Chen
Translated that and taught it years ago
And I see: Pound was an axe,
Chen was an axe, I am an axe
And my son a handle, soon
To be shaping again, model
And tool, craft of culture,
How we go on.

michael said...


It's a cold, no fever, no body aches. But an upper-respiratory mess of misery, and it seems like one of those bugs that hangs on for much longer than the usual human rhinoviruses that come around.

I agree that RAW's "reality tunnel" seems to encompass qualia, but then so too, as a subset of the reality tunnel: linguistic relativity, soft-Whorfianism and all the stuff that people like Lera Boroditsky are coming up with the past ten years or so.

The link I gave to VS Ramachandran has him thinking about qualia as something that could possibly be explained materialistically by neuroscience in the near future. What I thought was interesting was that he linked qualia to Wernicke's Area (comprehension of speech) and to a few other areas, and he thinks finding out more neuroscience will not only explain qualia, but how we make "meaning" in the world, "the self" and consciousness itself. Rama is swinging for the fences on this one.

The dogshit on the shoe bit seems like a more pungent update to when Boswell and Johnson are talking about Bishop Berkeley's idea and Johnson gets all worked up and walks over to a rock by the side of the road and kicks it, yelling, "I refute him thus!"

re: altered states: the tag of "mindfulness" (a sort of secular, Americanized zen?) seems to cover a lot of this, but most of its authors, for guessable reasons, shy away from the catalog of The More Interesting States. This reluctance to discuss what we take to be discrete mind states seems to me a horribly under-used faculty we have. I think we'd all enjoy life more if we could develop vocabularies to discuss our more interesting non-ordinary states. (Leary/RAW/Alli and their extrapolations of the "8 Circuits" can be thought of as an attempt to create categorical space in which to map these states?)

Re: NSA w/no mandate to spy on Unistat citizens: Clapper yesterday had the clueless, unmitigated gall to assert the NSA erred: if they'd just told the American people they were being spied on, they would have accepted it! Does this POS actually believe that we (well, I can't speak for most Americans) object to the lying? No, you fucking pretentious spook: I object to it on 4th Amendment grounds, and in a working democracy you, Clapper, would be facing criminal charges.

Clap OFF!

Why is 1791 and the guillotine such a comforting thought for me?

michael said...


Jeez, thanks for classing the place up with those lines. I appreciate the thought, its aptness, and the effort to type it out on this "qualia" meander, which seems not interesting to my readers at all, at all.

phodecidus said...


michael said...

"!!!" indeed!

I think?


Being sick and congested, my sleep quality is bad, so I wrote the qualia piece on inadequate sleep, and I read it over the next day and thought, "This guy is a miserable didactic bore."

I do think of certain classes of thoughtful, educated people whose readings and aesthetics have led them to highly value qualities of things, as against so much of the quantity-based lives of having MORE, doing five things AT ONCE, making more money than others so your status goes up, having a BIGGER house, constantly evaluating where someone or something "is" on some hierarchy...

Qualia - assuming it exists - seems the to reside at the "atomic level" for the people who take care of qualities.


Anonymous said...

Now that triggers off an interesting
topic. Let's suppose that computers
have taught us a relationship of
tiny simplistics used in complexity
to achieve non intuitive results.
Paraphrasing any comp is nothing
but tiny on off switches once you
dig down into its innerworks. But it
can produce video, music, speech
and a range of other interactions.
None of those higher level "qualia"
(used as a joke here) are inherent
in the ordinary on off switch from
the hardware store shelf. The mystery
suddenly appears as the complexity
of behavior arises. Neural process
is similar, we still haven't dug
all the way down into a neuron to
be able to describe it completely
there are a lot of people digging
into these mysteries, so it's only
a matter of time.

With sufficient time and interest
you can understand and describe a
comp complexity from the vapor
deposition level of chipmaking
all the way up to its operation.
At some level of this you run into
abstractions which have to occur
to bound it into controllable terms
for humans. This is the realm of
descriptions of descriptions.

So now you're a philosophe, you
have a black box ( human ) and
wish to say something relevant to
what you observe. The first pass
was to assume a simple structure
inside the box, then to muddle
about with the box outputs as a
descriptive method. From there on
it's all arguments which can't be

Currently we know the simple model
is wrong, has led people astray
for thousands of years, and still
have to watch the same old talk
going on (because it's fun).

In sum, comps have a lot to tell
us about qualia.

michael said...


This is the argument that my best rationality says is the best model for seeing qualia as something like a ghost in the machine. It's robust, hard to refute.

I am not strongly wedded to a "qualia are real" argument like a confirmed, hardcore xtian would be wedded to their belief. Like Kierkegaard, I simply chose to take the leap and embrace qualia despite my understanding of you here, Dennett, and a bunch of others who see it as something like epiphenomena from sufficient complexity.

Like Searle's Chinese Room, a sufficiently complex computer can tell me it experiences the ineffability of...some experience it will have. (Suddenly the qualia of memories of PKD novels floods in here, of robots who insist they're human and have feelings and are unique...) And I guess you'd have to respect that the charming, absurdly complex AI you're interacting with actually THINKS it's experiencing something like what we experience, even though it's silicon-based and we're carbon-based. I would not (inwardly) grant the smiling, even sexy-appearing robot the qualia they assert. (This is why Chalmers's argument is so mindblowing to me. I guess...I sorta...like it but still feel it's wrong?)

WHY? It's a conscious bias I have. Ironic? Yes. Olde-timey humanistic? Aye, probably.

I freely admit my bias toward meatware. I also, were I to speak to you face-to-face, would choose to believe there's an interiority and a past that is so rich and complex that I can't know about some of the qualities of your experience. (Or maybe, in the strict qualia sense, any of them.) Again, I "believe" this for William James-influenced pragmatic reasons: because seeing the world like this is "good for me." Good to think with. There are instances in which Minsky, John McCarthy, and Kurzweil could be yelling at me that what I believe is naive and idiotic; I hold out stubbornly for something ineffable. Maybe it's some sort of religious impulse, I don't know...

I'd like to read some learned paper about human temperaments and the belief in qualia. My guess is the Humanities/novel readers/pagan sensualists tend to go for it; those who earned a paycheck because they were fluent in coding/math/logic probably think qualia is bullshit. Hell, it may "be" bullshit, but, to paraphrase T.Jefferson, my belief in it harms no one and doesn't take money from your wallet. Nor does it seem to hold any appreciable weight in public policy; it doesn't have any effect on the price of tea in China that I can tell. The consequences of asserting qualia as "real" will not make other people's lives miserable because now they're being socially or politically repressed in some way.

I look forward to further neuroscience that will persuasively show qualia to be some sort of phlogiston or luminiferous ether. My valuation of qualia, again, seems mostly from aesthetic grounds based in James's pragmatism, as I understand him.

With your comments and Eric's poems, once again the comment section seems better and richer than the blogpost itself, which feels like a consolation to me.

Anonymous said...

I distrust those who decide to wish
the meat away in hopes of some
higher spirituality. That doesn't
negate the possibility that there
is a transcendant level to things
it is just a bias towards exploring
the so called material on my part.

Like Mach I don't think anything
which is out of reach of the meat
is particularly valid. When atoms
were just fishy mathematics he
would not believe in them. This
has been interpreted by his foes
to make him seem stupid. The point
is nothing which does not impact
the meatspace is particularly valid.

We have to assume someone is home
to interact with them, but we can
easily go down the rabbit hole of
acting like machines have similar
internals. From the mechanical
view, assuming that humans have a
similar mechanism inside isn't a
great leap of faith. We can then
expect a certain amount of comunity
in emotion, thought, behaviors as
our mirror nerve system tries to
reflect their behavior.

Like McKenna said "what good does
their understanding do you ?". We
all have to referent back to our
own understanding and experience.

However there are people who are
worth reading for their awesome
insights. Zygmunt Baumann is one
I'm currently enjoying, he makes
the euro/indigene divide a lot more
understandable but poses a real
conundrum for society.

For 300 plus years the work ethic
was preached to force workers into
an industrial system that was not
suited to humans. Both Capitalism
and Communism bought into this.
Now the new model human is a Consumerist, but is rapidly being
discarded by the industrial model.
So you've got two defunct systems
being preached while a newer model
is busily undermining itself. We
are caught up in this mess, most
without a clue as to why life is
such a suckfest.

In comp terms once you can see a
problem laid out then you can find
a solution. I do not think any
superstate panopticon or extinction
event for humans is a valid path
out of this mess. One thing is
sure we do live in interesting times.

My favorite Guillotine joke is that
villains are very happy Guillotine
beat Prof. Cusinart to the patent
office by four hours.


michael said...

Prof. Thresher got hung up behind Prof. Cuisinart -mobs in the street impeded forward movement - and to those whose job it was to "mop up"?: a blessing.

Some Prof at Indiana wrote a short book on the future of AI - I think his name was Greg Rawlins? - and he argued from Godel that the really impressive AI-bots will do all sorts of things we can't do - which they already calculate at a rate we The Meatware will never even come close to (unless we have our meat-brains augmented), but they won't "get" Irony or heartbreak and a few other things: They will complement us. Rawlins did think we could have emotional relationships with robots, which I think I doubted at the time, but now do not.

I appreciate Mach's epistemological stance. It seems quite sound. I suspect Ramachandran is onto it: qualia is a product of meatware, but we are now at a stage where some of us frame it as metaphysical, always-to-be so, too.

re: your two paragraphs riffing off Baumann, which ends with "We are caught up in this mess, most
without a clue as to why life is
such a suckfest.": I was talking to a friend last night and we were wondering why it's so difficult to find Thinkers who have fairly detailed plans for fixing the world. I said any intellectual is a lightweight unless they can go off for two hours detailing all the things that could or should be done to make the planet a saner, more human place to live.

And it any one of us is going to come up with a detailed plan, we have to know the score: where we were and why and where we're going versus where we could go.

I'm afraid this might require too much time for most of us: we are addicted to too many things?

What is it that we are tuned into? What might be some things we have tuned out?