Monday 13 March 2017

Born to do Math 6 - 1,001 and the Box (Part 4)

In-Sight Publishing
Born to do Math 6 - 1,001 and the Box (Part 4)
Scott Douglas Jacobsen & Rick Rosner
March 13, 2017

[Beginning of recorded material]

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Then I have a question.

Rick Rosner: Okay.

SDJ: Do the unfair versions of the arguments reflect less on the validity of attempted disproof and more on the tendencies in personal bias of the person making the critique? So someone has spiritualist beliefs or materialist beliefs.

RR: I don’t know. So many bad ideas float around consciousness. Consciousness has this long history of bad explanations or theorizing or mysticizing, or unhelpful definitions of consciousness. That everything is conscious in its own way. Trees in a tree-like way. Rocks in a rock-like way.

SDJ: [Laughing]

RR: The term itself is subject to all sorts of abuse.

SDJ: Then I’ll pose something else.

RR: Okay.

SDJ: The brain is a physical system. It is in the universe. The universe can be described by math. So the brain can be described by math. If a theory lacks math or the future prospects for math, then it seems to off-the-bat disprove that theory as a possibility.

RR: I don’t know if it disproves it, but given the highly successful record of math in explaining things. Math can—it’s not that math explains thing. It’s that if you have a theory, and if you can mathematicize it, and the math fits, then that’s a powerful thing. If you have a theory that doesn’t have te potential to be mathematicized, maybe, your theory needs more work. However, I think there’s a kind of reasoning via forecasting and poetics.

At various points in humans’ intellectual and scientific history, you could kind of guess what was coming next. It wouldn’t always be right, but using poetic irony three thousand years ago, we had supreme confidence we were at the center of existence, the universe, the Solar System. A cynically poetic person could’ve said, “Nah.” What will happen is we’ll get our asses kicked, we think we’re all so great, and we’re going to find out we’re not that special.

That is a kind of poetic prediction. I don’t know if any of the ancients actually reasoned that way, saying we had too much hubris and that we would have our asses kicked by actual conditions, but you can cynically reason or poetically reason the other way too. Which is for 300, 400, a 1,000 years, we’ve been finding ourselves. Every discovery we make tends to make us less important. More of the product of random processes.

On an ordinary planet orbiting an ordinary star in an ordinary galaxy, that’s not at the center of anything. And somebody, I’d like to say some of my reasoning goes in the opposite direction, which is you can only go so far in that direction and the future will bring partial reconciliation between what we are and what the universe is, or what lots of things in the universe are. The cold, random universe of the 20th century where nothing matters because nothing is in charge, except randomness and chance. That’s not necessarily the end of thinking about the world. 

[End of recorded material]
Rick Rosner
American Television Writer
Rick Rosner
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
In-Sight Publishing
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