Christof Koch on ‘What is Consciousness?’

In Scientific American, Christof Koch (a giant in the field of consciousness studies) summarizes the latest status of neuronal correlates of consciousness (NCC) research, as well as the Integrated information theory (IIT), which has been the most significant theoretical development in consciousness studies in decades (“What Is Consciousness?”).

The IIT approach precludes AI from ever being conscious in the way that we, as humans, experience consciousness, which is in line with Nagel’s bat argument & Searle’s Chinese Room argument. The Hard Problem will never be transcended by AI:

IIT also predicts that a sophisticated simulation of a human brain running on a digital computer cannot be conscious—even if it can speak in a manner indistinguishable from a human being. Just as simulating the massive gravitational attraction of a black hole does not actually deform spacetime around the computer implementing the astrophysical code, programming for consciousness will never create a conscious computer. Consciousness cannot be computed: it must be built into the structure of the system.

Two challenges lie ahead. One is to use the increasingly refined tools at our disposal to observe and probe the vast coalitions of highly heterogeneous neurons making up the brain to further delineate the neuronal footprints of consciousness. This effort will take decades, given the byzantine complexity of the central nervous system. The other is to verify or falsify the two, currently dominant, theories. Or, perhaps, to construct a better theory out of fragments of these two that will satisfactorily explain the central puzzle of our existence: how a three-pound organ with the consistency of tofu exudes the feeling of life.

Posted in Philosophy of Mind | Comments Off on Christof Koch on ‘What is Consciousness?’

P.C. at Hanging Rock

We live at a time when even The Globe Theater, where Shakespeare’s plays were originally unveiled, has gone Full Woke.

Following Peter Weir’s celebrated 1975 cinematic adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel Picnic at Hanging Rock, Amazon has created a new miniseries on the book, which prompts a NYT reviewer to wring their hands in anxiety. In 2018, this is how a film review now begins:

As a novel (in 1967) and a film (in 1975), “Picnic at Hanging Rock” had a couple of features that could be problematic in 2018.

Set in 1900 in the Australian countryside, where provincial gentility rubbed up against indigenous culture and wild nature, the story centered on a series of disappearances and deaths of girls and women — symbolically done in by, or perhaps mystically transcending, their repressive environment. It was not a story of empowerment.

Even worse, by current standards, the instigating mystery — the disappearance of three boarding-school girls and one of their teachers during a hike up Hanging Rock, an actual geological feature near Melbourne — was left unsolved. Did they jump, did they run, were they killed, were they transported? No definitive answer was provided. In the peak-TV era, there is no greater heresy.

So what were the creators of a new, six-episode “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” made for Australian television and streaming on Amazon beginning Friday, to do?…

Such a conundrum.

Here’s a radical idea: Be as faithful to the novel as you can.

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NYT: “Mourning My (((White))) Husband in the Age of Trump”

Every single unrelenting day, the NYT features at least one story or op-ed designed to say “white people are evil”. There are several today. One is an op-ed titled “Mourning My White Husband in the Age of Trump” by Erin Aubry Kaplan who “teaches writing at Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is the author of “Black Talk, Blue Thoughts and Walking the Color Line” and “I Heart Obama.””

She’s a black woman who talks about the marriage to her late, Jewish liberal husband.

When I married in 2000, I changed my name. I expanded it — kept my name but added my husband’s name, Kaplan, without a hyphen. I wanted my name to reflect a conjoining that was also an evolution, literally one thing following another. This was an experiment, as all marriages are, that felt exciting and open-ended, not least because I’m black and my husband was white.

A hyphenated-woman. Oh boy, strap yourselves in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Throughout our relationship, we shared a political lens… I never had to explain or defend my racial frustrations, anxiety or even paranoia.

I can only imagine.

I could write a dissertation deconstructing the loaded emotions and latent propositions in the following passage about her husband.

I am a journalist who had been covering black matters for years at that point, and Alan was a locally famous high school teacher of American history who believed that race and racism had shaped America far more than it was willing to admit. Not surprisingly, he didn’t think changing my name was a great idea. “Black people know you as Erin Aubry,” he said bluntly. “They’ll resent a name so obviously white and Jewish. It’ll get in your way.”

He wasn’t being snide or heroic. One of the many things he’d figured out is that white people showing up in a black space, including the intimate space of a relationship, is seen by many black folks as an incursion, even if they don’t say so. That he understood and was even sympathetic to this view impressed me, but I changed my name anyway. It felt romantic.

She is basically admitting that, yes, black people don’t like it when white people enter their space. There’s zero awareness about the double-standard in this regard. Furthermore, she finds her husband’s realization of this black-initiated discrimination… romantic.

However, the best paragraph has got to be:

Alan’s anger about racial inequality was rooted in his work, but it wasn’t something he left in the classroom — and I loved that about him. Ever the teacher, sometimes he’d challenge me to justify my feelings with evidence; other times he’d cite a book or article he’d read recently — by Chris Hedges, Naomi Wolf, Chalmers Johnson — that put my feelings into a bigger, more complicated context than I sometimes wanted to consider.

A black woman encouraged to justify her feelings with evidence? That sounds like a recipe for an ass-whoopin’. And, better yet, a ‘racially frustrated’ liberal black woman had her liberal black views “challenged” by stalwart conservatives such as Chris Hedges and Naomi Wolf.

Ah, but her response is revealing:

“I’m not one of your students,” I’d say impatiently. “I don’t have to write a paragraph supporting my opinion that Trent Lott is racist. He’s racist!”

“That’s true, but that doesn’t mean you can be a lazy thinker,” he’d shoot back. “If you don’t have a strong argument, people can take you apart. They’ll take black people apart. You’ll lose what you should win.”

Read that passage carefully. Does it not sound like that, in all likelihood, Erin had a repeated propensity to be a lazy thinker, and that her lib husband was trying to nudge her to engage with critical reasoning?

Another revealing quote:

At the same time, he had racial blind spots; he could still be a white guy with privilege who thought his views should wield more influence than they did…

Our different upbringings made for different outlooks. In Alan’s privilege he expected change; in my non-privilege, I expected struggle. For all his wokeness, he couldn’t escape his American sense of entitlement, and sometimes I watched it from the outside with a kind of bewilderment, even admiration.

He could still be a “white guy with privilege”? Again, zero awareness of how this comes across to anyone but the most liberal of NYT’s readers. This marriage appears to be a microcosm of the current war within the Left between increasingly radical, racialized POCs and liberal ‘whites’.

With Alan I could say all the things too risky or too subtle to say to white people at parties or in public. Today, while I’m determined not to hold back with white folks anymore — in the age of lies-as-truth, honesty feels like the only path left — the not-holding-back feels like a job. It’s not an act of love, at least not in the immediate way it had been for me.

Good lord: she thinks she’s been too timid. Yes, the Left needs to be more open in their Hate. They have been too silent for too long!

An open question is whether Trump’s entering the Presidential race hastened her husband’s death.

In Alan’s last days, when he was conscious (but unable to speak) and I was sure he’d recover, I tried to re-enlist him in our running conversation. I gestured to the news playing on the TV in his hospital room. “Look, Alan, Trump is running for president,” I exclaimed. “Can you believe it?”

I knew the answer: Of course he believed it. He’d been talking his entire career, and our entire marriage, about the gravitational pull of racial fear and loathing on politics, and Mr. Trump’s swiftly rising appeal was the storm that had been gathering during eight years of Barack Obama.

Yet for the first time, he seemed utterly uninterested in such news; as I ranted at the screen, he turned his eyes away. Maybe he knew what was coming, and knew he wasn’t going to be here for it.

In all seriousness, how many more of these op-eds do we have to endure?

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Post-Racial Royal Wedding = Rorschach Test

Much like the election of Zero, the Post-Racial Royal Wedding™ has become a Rorschach Test upon which angry progressives can project their Id, with all its fears and desires:

Among the group of black women with whom I watched the ceremony early Saturday morning in New Jersey, she was a source of pride. Yet out of a sense of sisterly protection, we were also worried about her as she sat there alone, without siblings or friends…

She was alone in her Resistance. She’s just like Rosa Parks!

As a noted feminist, Ms. Markle has been far more explicit about her commitment to workplace gender equality, the #MeToo movement and championing the rights of girls. Yet, in this age of Black Lives Matter, she is rarely on record for expressing similar remarks about racial justice or delving into the richness of her African-American heritage.

On Saturday, she clapped back. Through a series of thoughtfully curated and expertly executed performances, the world came to see Ms. Markle as she wants to be seen and, arguably, has always seen herself. As a woman who embraces blackness as forthrightly and easily as she wears a Givenchy wedding dress and Queen Mary’s diamond tiara.

Much has already been made of Bishop Michael Bruce Curry, the first African-American head of the Episcopal Church, who embraced the soaring rhetoric and improvisational splendor of the African-American sermonic tradition in his invocation. And the 19-year-old cello soloist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the first black musician to win the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year Award in its 40-year history, gave a spellbinding, virtuoso performance that gently reminded us of the long history and thriving present of black classical musicians.

Long history? Thriving present?

In the end, the most significant celebration of racial and gender identity was completely unscripted. As the newlyweds left Windsor Castle, my friends and I rejoiced at another sound we immediately recognized: Interspersed among the crowd’s gleeful cheers, there was a cacophony of black women offering up another song — ululations recognized as congratulatory greetings throughout the African diaspora — to welcome Ms. Markle and her new husband home.

And in the famously reserved country of England, what is more quintessentially British than ululations?

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Language as a Weapon

Invited onstage, a white woman simply sings Kendrick Lamar’s lyrics, which is a cardinal sin… for a white person.

The Racial Culture War is being fought in the trenches of grammar.

Grammar is a weapon, a nexus of power.

The N-word moves from being a word with a complicated history to being a totem, a talismanic signifier of identity, closed off to others.

Collectively, we can sense in the air a Coming Era where certain people (white people) saying certain words is not only frowned upon socially, but becomes a crime (with the full force of the government standing behind the prohibition), as we are seeing happen in Britain today.

The instances are many: Michael Eric Dyson’s grunting and predatory taunting of Jordan Peterson (see 0:30 to 0:46, as well as elsewhere in this video), simply for uttering a phrase with the remotest possibility of being misinterpreted along PC grammar rules, is the same dynamic.

The speech utterance itself, regardless of context, becomes an assertion, confession, and ‘empirical’ proof of the speaker’s racism.

Throw the principle of charity out the window. It is itself a tool of the white supremacist cishet patriarchy.

Because society has capitulated on the N-word (Sidenote: it disgusts me that I myself feel compelled to say “N-word”, for rational fear of hassles & headaches I neither want nor need), the PC Brigade smells blood in the air, as well as a path to victory, so the dynamic naturally expands to wider domains of language.

“Meritocracy”? Racist.

“Objectivity”? Racist.

“The West”? Racist.

Ad infinitum.

Posted in Left, Political Correctness, Race | Comments Off on Language as a Weapon

Getting Thrashed by the Thrasher

Biracial people tend to possess, ironically, a lot more ‘black anger’ than full-blooded blacks. Furthermore, it often seems that the angriest are gay biracial black men. Sociologists ought to look into this phenomena to see if there’s anything there, but I’m not holding my breath.

In The Guardian, a biracial-looking columnist named Thrasher (appropriate name) believes the Left is too nice (!), then begins his SJW sermon with Jesus:

He was a righteously furious Middle Eastern Jew, who’d been born while his mother was migrating and grew up to put the fear of God into capitalists, putting them on the run with a whip.

Now that’s some intersectionality! Where to begin. That Mary was a ‘migrant’ is probably the topper.

Similarly, James Baldwin accurately said that “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time,” a quote I keep on my desktop to remember that being aware comes with a predictable fury…

Repeat: He keeps that Baldwin quote… on his desktop.

Angry people get things done. But American patriarchy and white supremacy have tried to teach us that anger is the domain of white, cisgender, rich heterosexual men only – and that women, people of color, transgender people, immigrants, workers, the disabled, and others need to be nice and meek in the hope that we will get some crumbs of justice.

Is somebody keeping an eye on this Thrasher?

Is he on any psychiatric meds?

Does he own a gun?

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How German-Jews Tried To Defuse Radical Eastern European Jewish Immigrants

In the annals of U.S. history, the tenuous relationship between highly-assimilated, establishment German-Jews and the huge, secondary wave of Eastern European Jews is quite an interesting one. Tablet has an article on “The Industrial Removal Office”:

German American Jewish leaders created the Industrial Removal Office (IRO) in 1901 to remove unemployed eastern European Jewish immigrants from New York City and relocate them throughout the United States to smaller cities where Jewish communities and jobs existed. From its inception to its liquidation in 1922, the IRO dispatched 79,000 Jews to more than 1,000 American towns and cities. The IRO enlisted the cooperation of the local Jewish communities to secure employment and housing for the men they sent and to ease their settlement into the communities. The central office in New York City was staffed primarily by German-American Jews, who exhibited the same ambivalent attitudes toward the newcomers as did other German-Jewish philanthropies.

A number of factors motivated the German-Jewish leaders to create this organization. By 1900, New York held more than 500,000 Jews, the largest Jewish population of any city in the world. The unending flow of Jewish immigrants into New York’s Lower East Side generated enormous problems for the immigrants and the city’s Jewish establishment. Packed together in the Jewish quarter, the newcomers endured filth, poor sanitation, disease, and soaring rates of delinquency and crime. Dispersing the immigrants would alleviate some of these problems. It would also ease the immense burden placed upon New York’s Jewish charities by hundreds of indigent and sick newcomers.

Umm… Aren’t we missing something here?

Another factor also influenced the IRO’s founders. They and other native-born American-Jewish leaders believed that New York’s huge eastern European Jewish enclave offered a prime breeding ground for radical movements such as socialism and anarchism.

Okay, that’s better.

Detaching the immigrants from this environment and shipping them to smaller Jewish communities in the Midwest, South, and West would forestall their subversion and facilitate their Americanization.

Or would it simply sprinkle radical political inclinations to other parts of the country?

IRO leaders, like others of their class, also worried that even the most admirable and assimilated American Jews would be judged as being no better than the worst of the immigrants. So they took measures that they believed would protect their own standing. They hoped that distributing the immigrants and thus aiding their Americanization would enhance the image of the Jew in the eyes of the general public and lessen anti-Semitism…

Although most immigrants remained in the cities where they were sent, some did not. The causes for their leaving varied. Loneliness, the fact that they had more relatives and friends in New York, and the lack of a Jewish environment or work seems to have been the chief motives for their departure.

But as for the Eastern European Jewish immigrants who remained concentrated in NYC… well, we know how that story goes.

The Tablet article also contains some letters from the day, from relocated Jews to the IRO, which are quite revealing:

It is five months since I have arrived to Meridian, and with pleasure will describe to you the condition in which the Jewish immigrants are around this neighborhood. The city of Meridian, where I am living, consists of about 75 Jewish families. They have been here for 8-10 years, and are all well-to-do. The most part of them are very rich, doing business in the millions. Three quarters of them are German Jews and the rest of them are Russian Jews, but every one of the Russian Jews is trying to get the title of a German Jew. Most of the business in the town is in the hands of the Jews and they are growing very rapidly in both power and riches.

The Christian population is very friendly to the Jews and the anti-Semitism is very low. This is because the Jews in this town are very honest and do business on business principles. Yet, there are some exceptions to this situation with the Russian Jews. That is because there were some crimes committed by Russian Jews against a few natives of this city. One misfortune was that a Jewish peddler stole a gold watch and chain from a farmer. Another case involved a clerk who ran away with hundreds of dollars from his employer. And what is done in New York every day is unexpected in a small town like this. 

The last sentence would today be labelled anti-Semitic… wouldn’t it?

From another complaint letter written at the time:

Mr. Kohn provided me with work in a certain factory, but after I stayed two weeks I was discharged, having been accused of organizing a strike.

I would imagine the full inventory of IRO letters would provide a treasure trove of information and insight into the full scope and true acknowledgement of Eastern European Jewish radicalism.

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Too Much Attention to White People

Such is the root cause of the internal rift & purging (i.e., the anti-white virtue-spiraling) at the progressive Wellstone Action:

David Wellstone and other Democrats close to his father began objecting last year to what he described as Wellstone Action’s abandonment of disaffected Democrats in the rural Midwest — the rural poor were an early focus of the late senator — with an increasingly narrow focus on gender politics and people of color.

“I said, ‘After Trump, we’ve got to figure out how we are going to go back after those Democrats that we lost,” David Wellstone said. “We can do all the stuff we do. We do great stuff on communities of color, we’re doing great stuff on gender identity politics. But we need to do some of these other trainings. … Nobody wanted to have a discussion about that.”

Things will be so much easier once white people just die already.

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RIP: Tom Wolfe

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St. Lincoln

In a saccharine piece in First Things (“Nuanced Patriotism”), Allen C. Guelzo waxes romantic over Lincoln and how his mystical legacy magically argues against tribalism, ethnonationalism, etc:

American conservatives never adopted a blood-and-soil mentality the way German, Italian, and French nationalism did in their heydays. When Lincoln delivered the funeral eulogy for his “beau ideal of a statesman,” Henry Clay, in 1852, he described Clay’s patriotism as only partly a love of his country “because it was his own country.” That reflected the usual patriotism of the tribe or the nation. The real engine of Clay’s patriotism, Lincoln argued, was that America “was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature.” Much as Clay “desired the prosperity of his countrymen . . . because they were his countrymen,” his fundamental desire was “to show to the world that freemen could be prosperous.” Clay was devoted to the ideals of America that are encoded into the founding documents that structure the American state. Eleven years later, Lincoln applied this kind of patriotism to himself when, at Gettysburg, he described the foundation of the American Republic resting “under God,” not on family or language or ethnicity, but on “the proposition, that all men are created equal.” This proposition animates a system of government, our system.

In this the same Lincoln who, in the fourth Lincoln-Douglas debate held on September 18, 1858, said:

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races — that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.

Is this also the same Lincoln who, in a letter dated August 22, 1862 to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, wrote:

If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.

Nothing drives me more crazy than cuckservatives who, in trying to flesh out their Civic Nationalism, project onto figures like Lincoln some imaginary, enlightened, racial blindness that he never, in fact, possessed.

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