Re: MEDIA: Forbes ASAP

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Fri, 26 Feb 1999 09:46:10 -0800 (PST)

> There is also a good piece there entitle: "The Eternal Now" by
> Jaron Lanier. <URL:>. I
> completely agree with his declaration: "Information processing will
> never spawn human consciousness in computers."
> I really like what he says about "anticonsciousness smart
> alecks":
> A small but robust cadre of intellectual shock
> artists these days is paid to assert that people aren't
> real. Every year one sees more books, mislabeled as
> popular science, aimed at furthering the claim that the
> reader is an illusion: The Astonishing Hypothesis;
> Consciousness Explained; The User Illusion; How the
> Mind Works. On and on, the formula repeats itself. An
> arrogant, overreaching title is essential, as is an
> overview of recent brain research to create an
> atmosphere of scientific authority. But the science is
> peripheral to the boast that the author has attained a
> superior vantage point from which to decimate the
> reader's tender sense of self.

I had just the opposite reaction: what tentative respect I may have had for Mr. Lanier was lost with this silly paragraph. I suspect that Mr. Lanier simply can't understand Dennett, so he invents this defense to excuse his ignorance.

The sense in which these authors claim that "we" don't exist is exactly the same sense in which a rainbow doesn't exist: it's not a thing "out there" that two people can observe and agree upon; it is an illusion in which my experience differs from yours (since my rainbow is centered on me, yours on you). This is a simple, explainable fact of science that any high-schooler should know. Many people, presumably including Mr. Lanier, hold the assumption, perhaps unstated, that the "mind" or "self" is something like a cloud and not a rainbow; i.e., some "thing" that exists "out there" rather than an effect of our perception. This is a quite simple thing to understand, and a reasonable thing for authors like Dennett to try to explain. Lanier's straw man parody and attack is about as silly as someone saying "What do you mean a rainbow doesn't exist--look, there it is!" Nothing but clever prose to mask ignorance of facts.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
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