Re: Nothing beats science (was: This war is not about terror...)

From: J. R. Molloy (jr@shasta.com)
Date: Tue Oct 09 2001 - 10:07:43 MDT


From: "Anders Sandberg" <asa@nada.kth.se>
> This is a serious oversimplification. If I saw a brain with activity in
> those regions, I would say "this is a strongly emotional brain state,
> likely pleasurable and fairly complex" - but I am pretty sure there are
> many other mental states like that that would produce the same
> activation pattern. Functional neuroimaging is still struggling to
> become more than neophrenology. If a brain area is activated, that
> merely tells you that this functionality is involved, not which function
> of that functionality is active. If I could stimulate the above areas, I
> would most likely get something far different from love (most likely a
> kind of nausea experience with tremor) - what is required is stimulating
> certain neural networks embedded within these regions, which we at
> present cannot distinguish from the other networks dealing with other
> emotions and actions.

The point made was that these things are measurable, not that they are simple
and easy to measure. Just as measuring the speed of light may require more
than the tools one finds in the kitchen, so measuring specific emotions
scientifically requires more than we presently find in the MIT lab.
In order to accurately assign specific emotive labels to areas of the brain,
it's necessary to correlate measurements of activity in those areas (or groups
of areas, including the enteric nervous system) to known emotional content of
an observed subject.
As mentioned in the article
http://www4.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/11/08/love.in.lights.ap/index.html
the emotions accompanying love have been identified in the anterior cingulate
cortex, the middle cortex, middle insula, putamen, and caudate nucleus. What
we need to know is the exact proportion that each area is active and
participating in the function, as well as the manner in which each area
interacts with the others. Measuring the combination of these actions, as well
as their interaction with the enteric nervous system offers a big challenge to
neuroscience, but certainly no bigger than the challenge of "uploading" which
has occupied huge chunks extropian list resources.
Since the cited article is rather dated, more recent data might exist which
could help scientists to more accurately measure such phenomena as emotional
content and aesthetic appreciation.

> Correlation is not equivalence: even if I with a high probability can
> guess the right emotion from the activation pattern, that does not mean
> the pattern *is* or corresponds to the emotion. It could simply be due
> to a more subtle change somewhere else, causing both the emotion and the
> pattern.

To be sure we're measuring the correct emotion, we'd need to verify this by
asking subjects if they did in fact experience the intended emotion when
certain brain structures are stimulated or activated. Another aspect of this
kind of investigation involves noting the results of psychotropic substances
on emotional response and how this corresponds to brain activity at the
molecular level. Using this technique in reverse, that is, measuring brain
hormone levels which accompany specific emotional content may yield
collaborative data to check the validity of brain scans or neural sensing
instruments.

> As an emotion-interested neuroscientist I think we will one day
> understand emotions scientifically: how do they work, why do we have
> them, how will they be affected by different interventions and maybe
> how this ties in with the phenomenology of emotion. But today we
> are far from being able to say things like "happiness is serotonin".

I see no reason to doubt that neuroscientists (such as you someday ),
will soon discover the cognitive mechanics that underlie human emotion.
Serotonin is, of course, only one of many hormones that both affect levels and
types of brain activity, and are in turn quantitatively affected by sensory
input and interaction with the external environment. Acetylcholine, Adrenaline
(epinephrine), dimethyltryptamine, Dopamine, Endorphins, Norepinephrine,
Oxytocin, Phenylethylamine, and Substance P, just to name a few of the
chemicals which interplay in brain activity, also add to the complexity of
producing a workable schematic of the human brain.

> Science was "invented" roughly 400 years ago. But we have had largely
> the same intelligence for several hundred thousand years before that. So
> I would disagree that intelligence impels science - science-like
> thinking is part of intelligence, but turning it into an effective
> system of thought is something else.

Well if you don't agree that intelligence impels science, no doubt you'll
agree that it is _not_ stupidity that impels science. <grin> It doesn't really
matter to me whether anyone prefers to think of science as a subset of
intelligence or the other way around. When I wrote that intelligence impels
science, I simply meant that reason and logic are the driving forces as well
as essential tools that allow us to acquire real knowledge.
Intelligence, in the sense that I use the word, simply means the ability to
solve problems and answer questions. With the help of science, our
intelligence can be more practically focused than without science. It has been
suggested that our intelligence is not the same as it was 400 years ago.
Review the Flynn Effect for details.

> As an empiricist and Popper fan, I would say: Nothing beats science yet.

As an objective observer and extropy fan, I would say: Science will measure
the degree that anything beats it, and if so, will happily applaud the
improvement.


--- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.



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