MIND

A New Science of Morality, Part 2

[9.17.10]

BACK TO EVENT PAGE: THE NEW SCIENCE OF MORALITY


Now, it's true that, as scientists, our basic job is to describe the world as it is. But I don't think that that's the only thing that matters. In fact, I think the reason why we're here, the reason why we think this is such an exciting topic, is not that we think that the new moral psychology is going to cure cancer. Rather, we think that understanding this aspect of human nature is going to perhaps change the way we think and change the way we respond to important problems and issues in the real world. If all we were going to do is just describe how people think and never do anything with it, never use our knowledge to change the way we relate to our problems, then I don't think there would be much of a payoff. I think that applying our scientific knowledge to real problems is the payoff.


A New Science of Morality, Part 1

[9.17.10]

 


BACK TO EVENT PAGE: THE NEW SCIENCE OF MORALITY


I just briefly want to say, I think it's also crucial, as long as you're going to be a nativist and say, "oh, you know, evolution, it's innate," you also have to be a constructivist. I'm all in favor of reductionism, as long as it's paired with emergentism. You've got to be able to go down to the low level, but then also up to the level of institutions and cultural traditions and, you know, all kinds of local factors. A dictum of cultural psychology is that "culture and psyche make each other up." You know, we psychologists are specialists in the psyche. What are the gears turning in the mind? But those gears turn, and they evolved to turn, in various ecological and economic contexts. We've got to look at the two-way relations between psychology and the level above us, as well as the reductionist or neural level below us.

SIGNATURES OF CONSCIOUSNESS

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80907434

"For the past twelve years my research team has been using all the brain research tools at its disposal, from functional MRI to electro- and magneto-encephalography and even electrodes inserted deep in the human brain, to shed  light on the brain mechanisms of consciousness."

SIGNATURES OF CONSCIOUSNESS

[11.24.09]

 

 

For the past twelve years my research team has been using all the brain research tools at its disposal, from functional MRI to electro- and magneto-encephalography and even electrodes inserted deep in the human brain, to shed  light on the brain mechanisms of consciousness.

I am now happy to report that we have acquired a  good working hypothesis. In experiment after experiment, we have seen the same signatures of consciousness: physiological markers that all, simultaneously, show a massive change when a person reports becoming aware of a piece of information (say a word, a digit or a sound).

 

THE REALITY CLUB: On "Signatures of Consciousness: A Talk by Stanislas Dehaene": Daniel Kahneman, Sam Harris, George Dyson, Steven Pinker, Donald Hoffman, Arnold Trehub


Intoduction

By John Brockman

On October 17, Edge organized a Reality Club meeting at The Hotel Ritz in Paris to allow neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene to present his new theory on how consciousness arises in the brain to a group of Parisian scientists and thinkers. The theory, based on Dehaene's past twelve years of brain-imaging research  is called the global neuronal workspace. It promises to offer new tools for diagnosing consciousness disorders  in patients.

"For the past twelve years",  says Dehaene, "my research team has been using every available brain research tool, from functional MRI to electro- and magneto-encephalography and even electrodes inserted deep in the human brain, to shed  light on the brain mechanisms of consciousness. I am now happy to report that we have acquired a  good working hypothesis. In experiment after experiment, we have seen the same signatures of consciousness: physiological markers that all, simultaneously, show a massive change when a person reports becoming aware of a piece of information (say a word, a digit or a sound). 

"Furthermore, when we render the same information non-conscious or "subliminal", all  the signatures disappear. We have a theory about why these signatures occur, called the global neuronal workspace theory. Realistic computer simulations of neurons reproduce our main experimental findings: when the information processed exceeds a threshold for large-scale communication across many brain areas, the network ignites into a large-scale synchronous state, and all  our signatures suddenly appear. 

But this is already more than a theory. We are now applying our ideas to non-communicating patients in coma, vegetative state, or locked-in syndromes. The test that we have designed with Tristan Bekinschtein, Lionel Naccache, and Laurent Cohen, based on our past experiments and theory, seems to reliably sort out which patients retain some residual conscious life and which do not. 

"My laboratory is now pursuing this research intensively on patients, animals, human adults and young children, with the hope of turning our brain-imaging measurements into a real-time monitor of conscious experience. The time thus seems ripe to share this work with a broader audience of readers interested in cutting-edge science and technology, but also those concerned with the philosophical, personal and ethical implications of these findings."

edgenews

Participating in the event and joining the Edge dinner that followed were:

Noga Arikha, Historian of ideas; Author, Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours 
Patrick Cavanagh, University of Paris researcher on visual perception and its implications 
Laurent Cohen, Neurologist, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière (Paris); Author, L'homme thermomètre (Thermometer Man), a science-based single-case study  similar to the work of Oliver Sachs
Emmanuel Dupoux, Director of Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique (LSCP)
Ghislaine Dehaene-Lambertz, CNRS,  Neuro-paediatrician and researcher studying  infant brain development
Janine di Giovanni, Journalist; Vanity Fair and The New York Times
Juan Enriquez, Life Sciences investor and Academic; Author, As the Future Catches Us
Etienne Klein, Physicist; Author of many books on epistemology and history of science
Katinka Matson, Cofounder, Edge
Lionel Naccache, Neurologist; Author, Le Nouvel Inconscient, (The New Unconscious), which establishes  a new science-based dialog between research on non-conscious processing and Freudian view
Gloria Origgi, Philosopher and Researcher, Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique
Sharon Pepperkamp, Linguist, University of Paris; Researcher, Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique
Philip Pettit, Philosopher, Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton; Author, Made with Words: Hobbes on Mind, Society and Politics
Jaqui Safra, Investor, (Encyclopædia Britannica, Spring Mountain Vineyards); Movie Producer
Dan Sperber, Directeur de Recherche au CNRS, Paris, Social and Cognitive scientist; Author,Rethinking Symbolism; On Anthropological Knowledge; Explaining Culture
Aalam Wassef, Digital Artist, Music Composer, Network Designer

— JB

STANISLAS DEHAENE is a Professor at the Collège de France and Chair of Experimental Cognitive Psychology. His research focuses on the cerebral bases of specifically human cognitive functions such as language, calculation, and reasoning. His work centers on the cognitive neuropsychology of language and reading, and his main scientific contributions include the study of the organization of the cerebral system for number processing.

He is the author of The Number Sense: How Mathematical Knowledge Is Embedded In Our Brains; and Reading in the Brain the Science and Evolution of a Cultural Invention.

Stanislas Dehaene's Edge Bio Page

[1hr 20 minutes]

Language and Human Nature

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80905898

"Language is an adaptation to the "cognitive niche". It facilitates exchange of information, negotiating of cooperation. But indirect speech (polite requests, veiled threats & bribes, sexual overtures) are a puzzle for the theory that language is an adaptation for efficient communication. Language is an adaptation to the "cognitive niche". ..."

The Evolutionary Approach to the Social Sciences

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80907851

"The modern social sciences are built on an Aristotlean blank slate foundation. On the Aristotlean view the mind is like a tape recorder or video recorder assumes: the mechanisms of recording (learning) do not impart any content of their own to the signal that it absorbs our mental content is therefore wholly supplied by the senses, especially from social sources (culture). Basing the social sciences on the mistaken theory that the mind is like a blank slate was a fundamental error that has kept the social sciences from being as fully successful as the natural sciences."

Evolutionary Psychology

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80905650

"There's a mismatch between the modern versus ancestral world. Our minds are equipped with programs that were evolved to navigate a small world of relatives, friends, and neighbors, not for cities and nation states of thousands or millions of anonymous people. Certain laws and institutions satisfy the moral intuitions these programs generate.

Evolutionary Psychology

Cognitive instincts for cooperation, institutions & society
[9.30.09]

http://www.edge.org/events/darwin-in-chileThere's a mismatch between the modern versus ancestral world. Our minds are equipped with programs that were evolved to navigate a small world of relatives, friends, and neighbors, not for cities and nation states of thousands or millions of anonymous people. Certain laws and institutions satisfy the moral intuitions these programs generate. But because these programs are now operating outside the envelope of environments for which they were designed, laws that satisfy the moral intuitions they generate may regularly fail to produce the outcomes we desire and anticipate that have the consequences we wish. ...

The Evolutionary Approach to the Social Sciences

[9.30.09]

The modern social sciences are built on an Aristotlean blank slate foundation. On the Aristotlean view the mind is like a tape recorder or video recorder assumes: the mechanisms of recording (learning) do not impart any content of their own to the signal that it absorbs our mental content is therefore wholly supplied by the senses, especially from social sources (culture). Basing the social sciences on the mistaken theory that the mind is like a blank slate was a fundamental error that has kept the social sciences from being as fully successful as the natural sciences.

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