Archive for March, 2008

Neurosemantics Bibliography Up and Running

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Sufficiently many people have written on neurosemantics in the past decade or so that it seems worthwhile to try to review the field as a whole. As preliminary work toward such an end, I’ve cooked up a bibliography containing abstracts and links to online works, linked here: [link]. It’s likely that I’ve accidentally left out relevant work, so recommendations for additions are highly appreciated.

Introducing Pete Mandik’s Philosophy of Mind MetaResource

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Pete Mandik’s Philosophy of Mind MetaResource available here: [link].

They probably couldn’t put in on while driving and talking on the cellphone, but…

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Neanderthals wore make-up and liked to chat.

Evolving Virtual Creatures: The Definitive Guide

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Alex J. Champandard has compiled “Evolving Virtual Creatures: The Definitive Guide“. Excerpt:

AI research ties into games and simulations in many ways, but one of the most fascinating is the evolution of artificial life. Here’s a compilation of the best videos and white papers about applying genetic algorithms to generating the morphology and behavior of virtual embodied creatures in 3D worlds.

One of the cool things about the following video is it’s inclusion of an animation of the creature’s neural network:

Also supercool, this one:

The Perils of AutoGoogling

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Normally I’d think an article that satisfied the search string “zombie +computers +Mandik” would be a good thing. Google yourself too much, and this is what you get. From “Zombie Pfizer Computers Spew Viagra Spam“:

Pfizer’s computers appear to have been infected with malware that has transformed them into zombie computers sending spam at the behest of a hacker. Oddly enough, they are spamming the public’s inboxes with ads for the company’s own product.
Much of the spam originating from Pfizer’s machines pretends to be sent from Gmail accounts, says Wesson. Products hocked include penis-enlargement products with the names “Mandik” and “Manster,” as well as pharmaceuticals like Viagra, the sleep drug Ambien and the sedative Valium. The spam also includes ads for Cialis, a Viagra competitor made by Eli Lilly.

I’m changing my name to “Manster”.

The Easter Ape Hatches on Monday This Year

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Photos (c) 2005 by Pete Mandik

Now You Can Count It

Easter Ape

Defining “Modal Argument”

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

I’m working on my first draft of Key Terms in Philosophy of Mind, a book under contract with Continuum Books. From time to time I’ll be posting draft entries on Brain Hammer, especially for controversial or especially difficult to arrive at definitions. Here’s “modal argument”:

modal argument, an argument for property dualism (see DUALISM, PROPERTY) in which key roles are played by the modal concepts of necessity and possibility or contingency. The basic gist of the argument involves arguing from premises concerning the necessity of identities (if x=y then necessarily x=y) and the contingency of any relation between mental and physical properties. Since, allegedly, for any physical property, it is possible for it to be instantiated without any mental property to thereby be instantiated, no physical property is identical to any physical property. According to a version of the modal argument formulated by Saul Kripke, although all identities, if true, are necessarily true, some identities, such as the identities found in natural science (like “water is identical to H2O”) seem contingent. According to Kripke, the appearance of contingency for such identities can be explained away in the following manner: what is contingently related to H2O is the watery appearance to us of H2O. While H2O is necessarily water, H2O is not necessarily water-appearing to us. So, any apparently contingent identity, that is, any apparently possible non-identity, is not really a non-identity if the appearance of contingency can be explained away in terms of a contingent relation between the appearance and the reality of a phenomenon. Contrapositively, if some apparent possible non-identity cannot be explained away in such a manner, then it is a real non-identity. Kripke offers that the apparent contingent relation between PAIN and neurophysiological events (“c-fibers firing”) does not admit of any such explaining away. Since, according to Kripke, anything that appears to the mind as a pain just is a pain: there is no distinction between the appearance of pain and the reality of pain. In versions of the modal argument due to David Chalmers, the contingency of mental-physical relations is supposed to follow from the conceivability of hypothetical scenarios such as the INVERTED SPECTRUM and the ZOMBIE.

Precedents of Pan-x-ism

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

I’m no fan of panpsychism, but I’m not going to let that stop me from posting on it. I’d like to raise questions about theories of which panpsychism is but one instance. Call such theories “pan-x-isms”. My main question is whether there are any non-controversial examples in which a pan-x-ism turned out to be a good idea.

One of the main problems that any pan-x-ism runs into is to explain the apparent differences between x’s and non-x’s. Thales’s panhydrism invites the question of what’s the difference between water and the glass that contains it. Is glass merely slow water? Another is that once everything is alleged to be explainable in terms of x, you pretty much give up hope of explaining x.

But back to my main question. When has pan-x-ism been a good idea? Post-Aristotelian conceptions of space where there aren’t distinct spaces for distinct substances (“fire goes here”) I think are pretty clearly improved conceptions, but should they count as pan-x-isms?
Pancomputationalism gets kicked around now and again but it’s about as controversial as panpsychism.

When, if ever, has there been a pan-x-ism that obviously didn’t suck?

Fake Fight

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

The thing I like best about Wikipedia is its obsessively detailed coverage of shit that isn’t real. See, for instance, the absolutely gorgeous entry on fictional martial arts and the best fictional martial art of all, Gun Kata.

Gun kata excerpt:

“Through analysis of thousands of recorded gunfights, the Cleric has determined that the geometric distribution of antagonists in any gun battle is a statistically-predictable element. The Gun Kata treats the gun as a total weapon, each fluid position representing a maximum kill zone, inflicting maximum damage on the maximum number of opponents, while keeping the defender clear of the statistically-traditional trajectories of return fire. By the rote mastery of this art, your firing efficiency will rise by no less than 120%. The difference of a 63% increased lethal proficiency makes the master of the Gun Katas an adversary not to be taken lightly.”

I like thinking that the developers of Gun Kata utilized massive computer simulations to generate new karate moves previously regarded as impossible. That’s computational karate, dude. Sister fields include computational skateboarding, computational parkour, and computational cup stacking.

A Mary-in-the-box-type story in Esquire

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Thanks, Franklin Scott, for emailing me the following:

I thought you’d appreciate this passage:

Never had a symptom. The pain came like a bullet out of the blue. I was alone when it started. My wife and my daughter had gone out. The pain is often described as the worst pain you can have. The pain was so severe that I would have welcomed anything to relieve it — including death. I wasn’t going to fight it. I look upon death as a part of living, just as some trees lose all their leaves in the winter and have them replaced in the spring. But at the same time, part of me was thinking, What caused this pain? Part of me was doing a diagnosis on myself — which, as it turned out, was correct. Aortic dissection. I’d written more articles about the condition than anybody in the world, and I resigned myself to having a heart stoppage. The pain didn’t teach me anything about the heart. It simply emphasized what I had already learned.

- Michael DeBakey, Heart Surgeon

February 28, 2008, Esquire