Max Tegmark's TEDx-Talk On Consciousness
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Those interested in consciousness will be aware of David Chalmer's "hard problem". This refers to the difficulty of understanding 'qualia', or, subjective phenomenological experience. For example, we may want to understand the colour 'red' which appears to us, phenomenologically, when we see a red car, a red apple or red hair (etc.). We may quantify this experience by measuring brain waves upon a subject's sighting of something red. But, it appears that even if we are presented with all that a physicalist can account for being 'red' (the mathematics, the science) we would see wavelength descriptions and brain waves. But we would not 'see', or 'feel' red amongst the equations. The equations would not suddenly turn from written letters and numbers into the colour 'red', despite being a 'complete' description of it. Therefore, it appears that there is something that it is like for us to see, or feel, 'red' above the physicalists description of it. We have subjective experience of 'red'. The problem becomes more complicated when we attempt to synthesise the idea of having a brain and a 'mind', where the 'mind' is responsible for this subjective experience and the brain more 'functional' duties such as motor control (movement). This is because if the physical (our brain) and the non-physical (our mind) inhabit the same space but yet are fundamentally distinct by following different physical laws, they cannot have any causal effect upon one another. If the 'mind' behaves according to the physical, material laws which we understand then it's the brain. If the mind does not behave materially (particles, chemical reactions etc.) then it cannot affect that which is governed by material laws. And so the 'mind' can have no affect upon the brain because if the 'mind' were to see 'red' and wanted the brain to pick up the juicy red apple because it looks delicious, it could not direct the brain towards it because it would have no way to influence it, physically. There would be no neurochemical influence, no synapses firing and the apple would not be retrieved.
Max Tegmark (physics professor at MIT), discusses this debate within neuroscience, and theorises that we already have the ingredients to understand this hard problem, in this TEDx-Talk. For me this is a major step in synthesising qualia and the physicalist's understanding of the brain. And, ultimately, an extremely positive message: we have the tools already, so let's stop arguing and go forward! Theoretically, I love this. Enjoy!
TED talks - Ideas Worth Spreading:
Beginning in 1984 and becoming an annual conference by 1994 in Silicon Valley California, TED talks are now widely available through YouTube. In around 20 minutes, presenters give a lecture on topics which concern us and the modern world. Whether that be technology, philosophy, psychology, climate change, sleep, work, poverty or even orgasms. Past presenters include: Malcolm Gladwell, Bill Clinton, Gordon Brown, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners.
A few of my favourite talks -
Click the image of the talk you wish to watch.
John Kay : Obliquity - How Complex Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly
My Source: YouTube
Last viewed: 10th September 2013
I discovered John Kay after reading an article of his in the Financial Times and then typed him into Google. He is a lead Economist, a fellow of John's College Oxford and a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. So, he's quite clever! By using real life examples Kay explains how the best way to achieve our complex goals is by using indirect routes. To highlight this, Kay paraphrases a quote from John Stuart Mill who was a keen advocate of his own philosophy (naturally) Utilitarianism and the maximisation of happiness. However, being unhappy himself led Mill to conclude: "I now thought that this end [happiness] was only to be attained by not making it the direct end. Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on such subject other than their own happiness.". This is my favourite TED talk because it reminds me not to focus too much. Not to not think that everything I do will directly result in what it is I hope to achieve. That sometimes luck, someone you know or some turn of events may be what plays a crucial role in your success.
Elanor Longden: The Voices in My Head
My Source: YouTube
Last viewed: 18th September 2013
A fascinating insight into schizophrenia whereby Elanor Longden gives a detailed, personal account of her own struggles with paranoid schizophrenia which began at university. She also describes how she overcame the voices in her head, what she went on to achieve (extremely impressive) and delivers a powerful message to all psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health care professionals, families and friends of those suffering and to, of course, those who are suffering with schizophrenia themselves. I find this video uplifting because it is so incredibly positive. Which is a breath of fresh air in mental health rhetoric!
Philip Zimbardo: The Psychology of Evil
My Source: YouTube
Last viewed: 25th September 2013
Many know Philip Zimbardo as he brought psychology one of its most famous and emotive field experiments - The Stanford Prison Experiment (1971). In a some-what extension of this, Zimbardo talks about the psychology of evil in this TED talk. Beginning with God's favourite angel Lucifer (Satan or Iblis/Shaytan in Islam) Zimbardo uses the arc angel's cosmic transformation into the devil as a way of explaining the transition from good to evil in human beings. Zimbardo calls this 'The Lucifer Effect', which he has written a book about of the same title.
- The Stanford Prison Experiment Documentary (BBC): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_LKzEqlPto
The most viewed talks so far -
Click the underlined portion to view the talk.
Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity (2006): 8,660,010 views
Jill Bolte Taylor‘s stroke of insight (2008): 8,087,935
Pranav Mistry on the thrilling potential of SixthSense (2009): 6,747,410
Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry demo SixthSense (2009): 6,731,153
David Gallo‘s underwater astonishments (2007): 6,411,705
Tony Robbins asks Why we do what we do (2006): 4,909,505
Hans Rosling shows the best stats you’ve ever seen (2006): 3,954,776
Arthur Benjamin does mathemagic (2005): 3,664,705
Jeff Han demos his breakthrough multi-touchscreen (2006): 3,592,795
Johnny Lee shows Wii Remote hacks for educators (2008): 3,225,864
Blaise Aguera y Arcas runs through the Photosynth demo (2007): 3,007,440
Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing your genius (2009): 2,978,288
Dan Gilbert asks: Why are we happy? (2004): 2,903,993
Stephen Hawking asks big questions about the universe (2008): 2,629,230
Daniel Pink on the surprising science of motivation (2009): 2,616,363
Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice (2005): 2,263,065
Richard St. John shares 8 secrets of success (2005): 2,252,911
Mary Roach 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm (2009): 2,223,822
Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire action (2010): 2,187,868
Chimamanda Adichie shares the danger of a single story (2009): 2,143,763
BA Criminology & Sociology
University of Kent
Third year undergraduate