Where are we?

Evidently, we owe our existence to the presence of a smallish planet orbiting a medium size sun in a named galaxy, the Milky Way, existing among many billions of unnamed counterparts.  But that knowledge isn’t sufficient for us to recognise ourselves or place the universe in existence.  Indeed, the sheer insurmountability of the problem has encouraged us to adopt an alternative approach, by acknowledging that everything exists ‘in  nature’, which we identify as the ‘all encompassing fact of existence’ – as if we can become familiar with the bigger picture by generalising from the details.

However, this introduces another problem.  Whereas everything in existence can be represented as a feature of a micro reality, sometimes called the atomic flux, that’s not where we find the reality of things that transpire.  In short, we are alive and dynamic in a different way.  Nevertheless we presume to gain explanatory depth by tracing our existence back to causes operating at successively lower levels – and our ‘findings’ are taken to be all the more robust when there is nothing else to be found.  But the upshot is not realistic, namely that the atoms are living our lives for us.  Something else is happening.  Something else exists that can’t be found at that level.

So the observation that there must be somewhere for existence ‘to be’ doesn’t prove that everything condenses into its causes in a ‘first place’ – even when there is nothing else to see at that point.  And this paradoxical fact carries on up the scale to include the fact of our thinking – seen as located in the brain ‘because there is nowhere else for it to be’.  But we could ‘see’ our thoughts long before we sought to ‘find’ them objectively.  And our scientific explanations are as much the result of our thinking.  Therefore, the ‘discovery’ that the brain is thinking for us doesn’t do justice to our awareness of the fact or the place of sentience within the very real phenomena of change.  In fact, only a misplaced awareness would deem to identify itself as a mere superficiality that makes no real difference.

Mike Laidler

Links:     ‘Mindless Replicants’: A ‘Point of View’ by Will Self:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b6pjh5

‘Science Stories’: The ‘uncanny valley’ of AI: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06vy2jd/episodes/downloads

 

Questioning intelligence (QI)

Does intelligence amount to an amount of something in our heads?

What manner of intelligence knows itself as an IQ score?

Are there features of intelligence that we haven’t thought about because we lack the intelligence?

What makes us think that intelligence is the driver of thought?

Does the intellect recognise itself by satisfying its own expectations?

Are the ‘intelligentsia’ best placed to know what intelligence is?

Is intelligence the antidote to stupidity?  Is it sensible to conclude that intelligence makes us sensible?

Does intelligence evolve by making gains – to become more than it was?

Does the idea of intelligence colour our minds with the notion that some colours are better than others?

Is high culture the guardian of high intelligence, or the optimum medium for its cultivation?

Is IQ the diamond standard of the mind – prized and shaped for its showiness, but artificially over-stated, over-valued and rarefied?

Is everything about IQ so good that anything leading to its reduction has to be bad?

Can species-differences in intelligence be understood in terms of quantifiable differences?

Will the cause of intelligence explain its effects?

What kind of intelligence needs to affirm itself with proof of its prowess?

Is a measure of intelligence the measure of our understanding?

Is reason the bastion of the intellect, enabling us to tell good from bad and discover the right thing to do by weighing the evidence?  Then does a higher intellect give us a higher morality?

Are we at liberty to make ourselves more or less intelligent?

Mike Laidler

Postscript

“The IQ scores of young people have begun to fall … it’s a decline equivalent to at least 7 points per generation.

“Is it because people are on their laptops … need to write stuff down to be a bit cleverer?”

“Is it possible that the nature of intelligence is changing in the digital age and cannot be captured with traditional IQ tests?”

Links   https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b5qn7p

https://streamable.com/3pcsq (Sky news)

https://www.the times.co.uk

The question of intelligence (QI)

We readily identify ourselves as the most intelligent species on the planet and scientists say that they know why – because they know how it happened.  Apparently, we know what intelligence is because we have reliable measurements.  Also, the evidence shows us that it comes in amounts – some people have more of it than others, and more is better.  Furthermore, it has an asset value calculated in terms of its economic benefits; and, as with the supply of money, we believe that the more we have of it, the more we can deploy it to make the world into a better place. To this end, our elite educational institutions specialise in selecting the best to turn out the best – to make the most of what they’ve got – to turn uncluttered and uncultivated minds into intellectual powerhouses.  However, beyond the limits of individual/ comparative and competitive intelligence there is the unquantifiable resourcefulness of social/ collective and collaborative intelligence.  For a start, it is believed that ‘two heads are better than one’ – for instance, some analysts don’t accept that a parochially educated William Shakespeare could have singularly created the works attributed to him.  Then again, our concept of ‘the intellect’ might be a construct of our selective biases, and our myths could remain unexposed because they generate their own facts and self-fulfilling prophecies – especially when we examine the concept through the lens of educational expectation, attainment and opportunity – especially when we presume to know what we are looking for before we begin.

Amidst all the controversies, the scientific evidence has weighed-in with its findings that ‘nurture’ can only partially compensate for ‘nature’ – so inheritance is the ultimate determinant of personal capacity.  Even so, an effective educational system is seen to open up a world of opportunity for the socially and intellectually ‘disadvantaged’.  At the same time, it is widely believed that natural ability can prevail against the odds – that the prodigious talents of a William Shakespeare or a Mozart are irrepressible.  Once again, the scientific evidence points to a physical explanation based on genetic causes – because the presence of genetic variants can be seen to correlate with differences in measured intelligence – the same measures we use to tell us what intelligence is.  Also, it is common knowledge that aptitudes can run in families.  Nevertheless, there is a niggling gap in the physical evidence – for although the genes may be regarded as explanatory units of evolution and inheritance, they are neither intelligent nor alive.  Life and intelligence don’t simply pass on from cause to effect.  And despite the fact that there is a genetic basis to perception, it doesn’t mean that the genes can perceive the world. Therefore, even though we continue to believe that life, perception and intelligence ‘have to come from somewhere’, it doesn’t mean that we have found the answer in the cause or explained it as an effect, or that this gap in explanation is merely a minor detail which a suitable cause will eventually explain for us.

Mike Laidler

 

Phases of knowing

We are stardust – it’s a fact, but what does it mean? Is the stardust the explanation of our awareness? What causes this shift in the reality – to knowing? What do causes explain? Can a chain of causality explain the incremental changes in its causes? In practice, we glibly refer to the ‘thing known’ as the source of our knowing and seek to validate this truth objectively by attributing the knowledge to the facts. But what if there is a categorical difference between ‘things’ and their acknowledgement? That is to say, what if the knowing introduces a new and different phenomenon – assuming that the stardust doesn’t know anything? Or can we avoid crossing a line by naturalising the events, on the assumption that ‘the facts’ are actually imparting the knowledge to us – under the auspice of an all-embracing nature seen as the ultimate source of information about ourselves and the world? Yet, when all is said and done, is our delineation of nature just a crude metaphor for the inexplicable phenomenon of existence?

Don’t we claim to experience the world as a part of ‘nature’? But what does it mean? Would we need to collate the experiences of every creature on earth in order to know what experiencing the world is really like – and what about those yet to evolve? Though is not every experience beholding to its cause, which can be traced back to more original causes, as embedded in the ‘memory of the stardust’? Then does it not go to show that ‘nature’ is the self-sufficient cause of its own evolution. Indeed, does it mean that all the information in the universe comes down to ‘a first cause’, acting alone – because ‘nature’ was already pre-eminent in the properties of its primitive foundations – ‘the origin of everything’? Also, don’t the plants know when it is spring – prompting the conclusion that knowing is diverse and ubiquitous, whilst all we claim to know amounts to no more than a mere extract, a species-specific caricature of understandings and experiences that do yet do not actually belong to us?

Mike Laidler

Hologram universe

Evidently, the universe is observable to us because of a chain of consequences which science endeavours to explain with laws of nature. However, our understandings are not passive representations of the truth, and whilst knowledge might be said to reflect its place in nature, its transformative presence also influences the tide of events. Even so, our intellectual axioms may not give us the final word on the bigger picture in a continuum of change where rules gain exceptions and predictability rubs shoulders with unpredictability. Indeed, behind all the industrious investigations of the ‘open-minded’, we find that every thesis can attract its antithesis. Furthermore, every attempt to ‘get to know’ begins with some idea of what we want to know, in order to recognise a result – so we might expect the same with a knowledge of the universe, which begins with the notional idea of its beginning.

Superficially, all the prominent theories share a common theme or paradigm – that nature is a thing in action. The problem is that the more we analyse it, the less of the ‘thingness’ we find. Instead, we discover that ‘reality’ is a projection of something else, but so is the reality of the ‘something else’. Then is the bigger picture of existence more like a hologram – a projection of another dimension which apparently ends up as the beginnings of the more familiar nature of our universe? And might this question give rise to an exceptional discovery – that we don’t really know what we are talking about in the first place, nor do we actually get to know what we are referring to in the second place – especially if different universes can accommodate different ‘laws of nature’ within the wider ‘reality’ of ‘a multiverse’ yet to be defined.

Mike Laidler

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/professor-stephen-hawkings-final-theory-the-universe-is-a-hologram/ar-AAwEA5O?acid=spar (2nd May 2018)

The Pinocchio factor

Did life come to earth from another planet?  But what explains the origins of alien life – what accounts for the birth of life in the universe?  Are planetary environments enough to explain its emergence?  Can its evolution explain its existence?  Does life belong to the physical fabric of the universe, or does the universe ‘come to life’ because of possibilities in addition?  And what makes us believe that possibility becomes explicable by observing its incidence?  Indeed, putting all the theories to one side, do we actually know where the answers might come from – or lead us?

There are alternative ways to look at the evidence.  Perhaps life manifests properties that differ from its non-living causes, which ‘become alive’; or the causes are inherently prepotent, though ‘in the event’ the ‘possibility of life’ depends upon the environmental triggers.  Then does it mean that life is a latent property of its preconditions in the physical world – that like a Pinocchio, it is already in situ, just waiting to be carved out?  And what makes us believe that life would be explicable if only we could observe the transition from the non-living to the living?

https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/948837/Brian-Cox-aliens-martians-BBC-Radio-1-Greg-James-mars-mission-exomars-rover-life-on-mars

Mike Laidler

 

Chicken and egg

Cause or effect – which is first?

The cause, obviously

 – until you discover

that every cause is also an effect

of something that happened beforehand,

in obscuro.

Then we live in a world of effects

which we presume to observe

as a chain of causes

by relegating the truth

to an original cause

that defies explanation.

 

Mike Laidler