McGilchrist & Natural Information Processing

Iain McGilchrist gave a keynote speech to the “AI (Artificial Intelligence) World Summit 2022” in the full plenary session on October 12th in Amsterdam.

The Video is available here and the full transcript here for members of Channel McGilchrist. [Can’t embed the Vimeo here.]

I thought it significant that Iain chose to redefine “AI” for the purposes of his talk as Artificial Information Processing – presumably to distinguish it from any natural or living forms of information processing? I was moved to add this comment:

The summary of his work and his position on what we can do to encourage more right/left balanced approach to the world – and why – is good to see and already well known and agreed amongst those of us familiar with his work.

In terms of the relation to “AI” and the prospect of AI-enhanced human “Cyborgs” it is telling that Iain has his own preferred translation of AI – “Artificial Information-Processing” as opposed to the “Artificial Intelligence” of the conference organisers and most participants. I agree and consider it very important that Iain follows-up on this:

Artificial Information Processing (Computation) using human-devised machines – qualified as “Artificial” correctly implies the opposite, a “Natural” form of computation too, information processes that happen naturally in living things and natural systems as “Natural Computation”. Iain’s sense of the sacred has led us to Natural Theology or Sacred Naturalism already. Even in the abstract, many information and computing scientists talk in terms of “Machines” – Turing and others – which suggests, even misdirects thinking to, artificially-devised physical machines, but in fact there is a growing body of work that properly recognises information processing / computation processes of systems generally including natural living systems, brains, hemispheres and their neuro-sub-systems. I believe this work already supports Iain’s work on different hemispheric behaviours with not just evidence of the facts and of the mental & behavioural consequences, but with descriptions and explanations of the internal processes by which different-thinking and different world-views arise in the one bi-cameral brain. (I’m thinking “Active Inference” of purposeful living systems after Friston and Solms for example.)

Quality – Pirsig in Person

Wendy, wife of the late Robert Pirsig, shared an archive gem this weekend on his son Ted’s YouTube channel. An hour-long video of Bob’s talk to a Minneapolis College of Art audience about his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on 20th May 1974, then just a month or so after its publication and becoming a best seller.

Most of the content of the talk itself was transcribed and published earlier this year as the “The Right Way” introductory chapter to “On Quality” – but here we see a lot more in person. The humour and the interaction, as he detects the artistic audience recognising shared experiences in the creative process, and his feeling his way into not just his audience but his new-found celebrity status.

The mechanics of organising his ideas as individual thoughts each on many “paper slips” will later become boxes of 3″ x 5″ index cards by the time we get to his second book Lila. But here, we discover that the actual writing process, of the book written as opposed to the one not, was quite separate to any mechanical plan to write it. The actual writing flowed from narrating the motorcycle trip as a first draft and then editing that against the ideas he’d had in mind. Fascinating.

Interesting also from the outset the mechanics of the technology – videotape recording at the time – plays the part of the motorcycle in the book, against which the romantic aspects of quality are related. The main message of the book embodied in microcosm.

A gem, as I say.

Consciousness is Solved – Goff

A very good three-way debate between Ned Block, Rebecca Goldstein and Philip Goff, in person in New York, with David Chalmers as an audience member – on how much progress there has been in Science and Philosophy “solving” Consciousness. Another of those dreadful click-baity “Mystery Unravelling” titles and starts with the usual bonus question “isn’t philosophy useless anyway” from the perspective of medical science – but actually some great lucid content from all 4 participants.

Several interesting points from Goff:

~20.00 mins beautifully and succinctly summarising his “Galileo’s Error” thesis in response to Goldstein introducing Galileo into the dialogue.

~31.00 mins when differences (disagreements) between the 3 different physical/materialist <> mysterian <> pan-psychist positions take centre-stage, and

~61.00 mins when the chair calls on Chalmers input, and Goff follows up with a clear elucidation of his own pan-psychist position.

(And several prior points where Goff puts his case that the pan-psychist position has solved the problems of consciousness – of particular interest to me since I too believe the problems are solved by his kind of thinking and I was shocked to find Goff very recently stoking the “it’s all a mystery” meme.  Goldstein – the mysterian here – even points out he’s talking like there’s no mystery?)

Also, as a big fan of Goldstein’s writing, wonderful moments when the chair is introducing titles of her books as topics and ends up choosing those that are her works of fiction. There really is a lot more to this than objective science – the reason science doesn’t have, and never will have, a solution. Brilliant stuff.

Oh, and, in Chalmers observations, he uses the word “system” half a dozen times, talking the language of physical thermodynamics. The convergence on Systems Thinking rolls on. Neither a fan of Chalmers “hard-problem” nor his “zombie” and “simulation” thought environments but seems he’s starting to get real at last. (IIT mentioned several times too.)

As ever, onward and upward.

Systems – Work(s) in Progress

I gave a talk to the ISSS last weekend.

Public link to the slides (5 Meg) here.
Members link to the recording here (November 19, 2022).

I postponed an “in conversation” session with Anatoly Levenchuk at the Russian EEMI from the previous week until early new year. I made several references to EEMI and Levenchuk in my talk above and indeed Janet Singer responded with reference to a recent Levenchuk paper being the topic of an INCOSE Workshop the previous week.

Levenchuk’s most recent paper as a post “Towards a Third-Generation Systems Ontology” here. The paper as a PDF here. And an accompanying presentation as a PDF here, and as a recording here.

The significance and the connection between Levenchuk’s work and mine above is some common ground from when we worked together professionally on Russian infrastructure projects some 15 years ago. The main references are all in Levenchuk’s paper. The specific common ground is the work under ISO and the Ontology Forum around 15926 / IIDEAS / SUO / BORO generic systems modelling language (ontology) and interoperable / extensible / evolveable libraries of definitions. Matthew West OBE is the common connection between the origins of all this work since the late 1980’s and the current (2020+) BIM/CDBB Digital Built Britain work (referenced in my talk above). Matthew and I both spoke at the 2010 Russian INCOSE “Systems Engineering Challenges” event in Moscow invited by organiser Levenchuk.

Dots Joined Up.

Newly motivated by (a) positive responses to my talk above, and (b) by the convergence and consolidation of the core “Systems Thinking” ideas, to pick-up, complete and publish my #GoodFences paper. One part of my wider writing project.

Different industrial domains, indeed different mechanistic and naturalistic domains of human activity in the widest sense, as well as different initiatives in the Systems Theory / Science / Engineering domains … each have their own standardisation initiatives for their own content and methodologies. The whole of humanity and knowledge can never be a single unified or coordinated “project”. It’s about understanding how many overlapping breakdown structures (of anything and everything) work in an evolving world.

Divisions are necessary (technically, objectively and subjectively) whilst avoiding divisiveness (politically). Hence #GoodFences.

Interestingly, my Systems Thinking motivations now are almosts entirely philosophical, epistemological and metaphysical for widest applicability to humanity in the cosmos, whereas Levenchuk’s are entirely pragmatic to engineering business applications of Systems Thinking.

Ironically, due to domestic commitments on top of the systems activities above, I missed attending the INCOSE UK Annual Systems Engineering Conference (ASEC) 2022 in Newcastle the past two days, about as close to home as any such event is ever likely to be. Ho hum.

Onward and Upward.

The Mystery of Physical / Materialism?

One of my main agenda items is the demystification of consciousness, in order to make progress on more important and pressing issues for humanity. In fact, the meme “(Unlocking) The Mystery / Secrets of xxxx” is a pet hate – a click-bait meme to sell books, but not to enlighten or solve any problem.

Consciousness is no more mysterious than physicalism / materialism (or time, or causation, or …) and science has no problem dealing with these. Science already understands it has nothing to say about internal, intrinsic, qualitative (subjective) nature of … anything … material or conscious or causal or temporal or … It focuses its methods on the objective, observable, quantifiable external behaviour(s) of stuff.

Solms pleads for scientists to Cross the Rubicon and allow the subjective perspectives – their own experience – to enter their considerations, even though they know – we all know – they cannot treat and manipulate them as a “scientific” resource. That’s a deliberate choice by science, by design as it were. Keep calm and carry on. “The science of Galileo wasn’t designed to deal with consciousness.” (Goff)

I personally consider consciousness a known, understood part of reality. I was aghast at a Twitter exchange the other day with Philip Goff perpetuating the mystification of consciousness when I consider him one of those whose done much to demystify it in recent years. “If consciousness isn’t a mystery, I don’t know what is!” (Goff)

This episode of BBC Radio 3 “Free Thinking” has Matthew Sweet giving Philip Goff and Hedda Hassel Morch the opportunity to explain what is known about consciousness from the modern pan-psychist perspective. They’re both absolutely spot on as far as the above is concerned. The neuroscientist Daniel Glaser (like Christoff Koch referenced) spends his time defending what progress science “can” make and ignoring – dissing – the subjective point entirely. Lame! The “deep ecologist” Eccy de Jong at least gets the point of the subjective perspective at all eco-system levels. (Slight diversion on Spinoza and pan-theism. Spinoza is indeed wonderfully lovable, I’m a massive fan, but it doesn’t resolve the point here.)

[Hold – missed this recent PhilEvents workshop – featuring Hedda again and (my hero) Dan Dennett.]

[Hold – need to join-up my reality <> objectivity <> subjectivity “triad” with this “Perception Box” from the Tiny Blue Dot Initiative.]

Ishiguro’s “The Unconsoled”

Absolutely loved “The Unconsoled” when I read it back in 2006.

I wasn’t aware that at the time of original publication in 1995 it had been panned by large parts of the literary media. I only know this now because I listened to a fascinating documentary about it just this week, presented by Natasha Hodgson in its own style just the other day on BBC R4 “Exploding Library” series. (Link live for a year.)

I’m re-reading it.


Post Note: Might not be a coincidence, but after posting the above last week, this week I found myself at the cinema watching “Living” – solely on the strength of the fact we have a new cinema locally. “Living”, amidst the menu of wall-to-wall DC / Marvel characters and kids pre-Christmas cartoons, we both recognised as “well-received” and with Bill Nighy in the lead role in the trailers. What’s not to like? Hadn’t actually read any reviews or done any research.

We spotted Ishiguro in the opening titles, but it wasn’t until afterwards I checked out the creative history. Apart from the fact the story is tremendously powerful – no spoilers here – about our individual place(s) in the human world, here and now despite being set in the 1950’s / 60’s, the whole narrative is emotive, evocative. Sure, some set-piece scenes, where the characters explicitly voice the moral(s) of the tale, but mostly person-to-person, every-day, understated, incomplete dialogues and actions with joins to be inferred to make the overall narrative. Brilliantly done.

And the emotive incidental piano music – another Ishiguro trait – even in his writing.

Given the rhetorical devices of “Unconsoled” in the links above I was instantly intrigued. Had Ishiguro written the story this way and how was the book – I’d never been aware of the existence of – turned into the screenplay?

Well, there is no Ishiguro book and the story doesn’t exist in written form in English, except as translation of Leo Tolstoy’s 1886 “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” forming the basis of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 Japanese film “Ikiru”. The actual screenplay of “Living” being written by Ishiguro based on that film. Makes sense. Except now, as well as the creative writing lessons in the film / screenplay, I have two new references to follow-up. Reading lists never get shorter.


[And talking of emotive piano music – the whole of Christine (Perfect) McVie “Songbird” just closing BBC Radio 4 Today 1st December 2022. RIP.]

Gary Clarke Jr & Eric Zapata

Been a “fan” of Gary Clarke Jr since I saw him at Antone’s in Austin Tx back in 2009 & 2010 and later saw him on the road to fame with a 2013 appearance on Jools.

Didn’t spot he’d played Glastonbury in 2016.

Interesting comment under the YouTube video crediting the rhythm guitar. First time I saw them, Eric (King) Zapata impressed me too – loud in the mix supporting the lead man.

YouTube commenter in 2017: “I want to give a shout out to the rhythm guitarist for that build up and sustain during the peak of Gary’s solo and knowing when to come down. Really nice work.”

I had said in 2009: “Gary Clark Jr. Another great young blues guitarist – heavy too, doubly heavy with Eric Zapata on the very loud and very different rhythm guitar – good job the two obviously get on. Good and loud.”

[Fun fact: Gary is now owner (major shareholder, anyway) of Antone’s. Long-standing venue in Austin needed preservation and relocation more than once, and the last time, Gary stepped-in.]

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