The Informatic Rag and Bone Shop

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: Consciousness is the gear that confuses itself for the whole machine. Thus God wipes out trailer parks with tornados.

This is basically to wipe the chalkboard clean for a new round of comments. I checked the stats, and Three Pound Brain is still getting over 500 hits a day despite the amount of semantic grease sizzling on the philosophical grill (usually it dips below 300 when I go on these jags). It’s been heavy fare. Phenomenological flies buzzing about ontological burgers. Epistemological wasps sniffing metaphysical pop cans. There’s more than a few jelly bellies out there, I’m sure.

My guess is that a lot of people want to ask, assert, or even vent. For people alienated or even angered by all this, don’t give in to the instinct to dismiss or belittle, because this shit ain’t just philosophy anymore. It’s actually informing a small but growing fraction of what you see on TV, and it’s the ‘growing’ part that has all of us in a tizzy. For people interested in learning more about Thomas Metzinger, try reading Ego Tunnel, where he translates a number of his ideas into terms lay-people can understand. Then check out Susan Blackmore’s absolutely fantastic Conversations on Consciousness: it’s the best magical mystery tour of all the wild theories being thrown around that I can think of, and in the words of the thinkers themselves. Otherwise, Peter Rankin’s Conscious Entities site is the clearest, most fair-minded introduction to the world of consciousness studies that I know of on the web.

So, this is how I see the debate:

The primary questions, it seems to me, are 1) Where are we headed? and 2) What are we are?

More and more I’m becoming fascinated by the way these two questions are becoming conceptually intertwined. Where we are headed, it seems to me, depends on what we are. If the BBH is correct and consciousness is an informatic rag and bone shop, then eliminativism (hopefully without the materialism) will become science, and knowledge and experience will find themselves utterly divorced. I’ve sketched various scenarios where the masses wander through proliferating cults of meaning while corporations and governments utilize the science to concentrate more and more power. We have no constitutional provisions for the separation of Science and State.

The world of Neuropath.

The two questions are intertwined because it could be the case that we are what we are in a way that makes it impossible to intuit what we are. Our intuitive ‘sense of self’ is largely hardwired. This means that if our intuitive sense of self is thoroughly mistaken, then we are a misapprehension. Since the masses will always trust their intuitions over discourse, they will simply adapt their discourse accordingly, rationalize our collective misapprehension into something foundational. Since science allows us to instrumentalize our environments, make tools of natural processes, the more science learns about what we are, the more those possessing knowledge and resources will be able to manipulate others. Given the cultural sacralization of our collective misapprehension into various cults of meaning, they likely will be able to do so without resistance. As seems to be the case with neuromarketing now.

In a sense, the prospect of this and related scenarios is the raison d’etre of Three Pound Brain. Or one of them, I should say. The other is to raise my profile as an author and to sell some fucking books! Which is why I’ve stashed the rest of my crazy ass ruminations here.