You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts
is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials
, heartbreaking eulogies
, and agonizing run-ins with fascists
) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting
science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed
2006 novel Blindsight [full text]
-- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room
, the Philosophical Zombie
, Chernoff faces
, and the myriad quirks and blind spots
that haunt the human mind.
's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew
, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism
), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section
, tomorrow will see the release of
Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website]
, the long-delayed
"sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi
on Aug 25, 2014 -
Is Psychometric g a Myth?
- "As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi's essay g, a Statistical Myth
approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g
." [more inside]
posted by kliuless
on Apr 11, 2013 -
"Beyond the Brain" In the 1990s, scientists declared that schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses were pure brain disorders that would eventually yield to drugs. Now they are recognizing that social factors are among the causes, and must be part of the cure.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies
on Sep 20, 2012 -
"...Pam agreed to die in order to save her life—and in the process had what is perhaps the most famous case of independent corroboration of out of body experience (OBE) perceptions on record...Pam later said, she felt herself “pop” out of her body and hover above it, watching as doctors worked on her body. Although she no longer had use of her eyes and ears, she described her observations in terms of her senses and perceptions...with considerable accuracy.
Near Death, explained. [more inside]
posted by anazgnos
on Apr 23, 2012 -
NDE studies [such as these] suggest that after physical death, mind and consciousness may continue in a transcendent level of reality that normally is not accessible to our senses and awareness."
Your Brain in Love and Lust
- This Valentine's Day, Scientific American traces the flow of chemicals in the brain during different phases of romance and describes surprising insights from the science of attraction.
posted by nickyskye
on Feb 14, 2012 -
"Piloting London’s distinctive black cabs (taxis to everyone else) is no easy feat. To earn the privilege, drivers have to pass an intense intellectual ordeal, known charmingly as The Knowledge
. Ever since 1865, they’ve had to memorise the location of every street within six miles of Charing Cross – all 25,000 of the capital’s arteries, veins and capillaries. They also need to know the locations of 20,000 landmarks – museums, police stations, theatres, clubs, and more – and 320 routes that connect everything up." Acquiring The Knowledge changes the brains
of those who acquire it.
posted by vidur
on Dec 8, 2011 -
The International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge 2010
- "Researchers are generating mind-boggling volumes of data at exponentially increasing rates. The ability to process that information and display it in ways that enhance understanding is an increasingly important aspect of the way scientists communicate with each other and—especially—with students and the general public. That's why, for the past 8 years, Science and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) have co-sponsored annual challenges to promote cutting-edge efforts to visualize scientific data, principles, and ideas. This year's awardees
span scales from nanoparticles to colliding galaxies, and from microseconds to millennia."
posted by Blazecock Pileon
on Feb 19, 2011 -
Swimming around in a mixture of language and matter, humans occupy a particular evolutionary niche mediated by something we call 'consciousness'. To Professor Nicholas Humphrey we're made up of "soul dust
": "a kind of theatre... an entertainment which we put on for ourselves inside our own heads." But just as that theatre is directed by the relationship between language and matter, it is also undermined by it
. It all depends how you think it.
posted by 0bvious
on Feb 4, 2011 -
The simulated brain
- "The scientists behind Blue Brain
hope to have a virtual human brain
functioning in ten years... Dr. Markram began by collecting detailed information about the rat's NCC
, down to the level of genes, proteins, molecules and the electrical signals that connect one neuron to another. These complex relationships were then turned into millions of equations, written in software. He then recorded real-world data -- the strength and path of each electrical signal -- directly from rat brains to test the accuracy of the software." Is it possible to digitally simulate
a brain accurately? Can it only be analog
? And are there quantum effects
to be considered
? (previously 1 2 3 4
) [more inside]
posted by kliuless
on Jul 18, 2009 -
Neurosecurity: security and privacy for neural devices.
"An increasing number of neural implantable devices will become available in the near future due to advances in neural engineering. This discipline holds the potential to improve many patients' lives dramatically by offering improved—and in some cases entirely new—forms of rehabilitation for conditions ranging from missing limbs to degenerative cognitive diseases. The use of standard engineering practices, medical trials, and neuroethical evaluations during the design process can create systems that are safe and that follow ethical guidelines; unfortunately, none of these disciplines currently ensure that neural devices are robust against adversarial entities trying to exploit these devices to alter, block, or eavesdrop on neural signals. The authors define 'neurosecurity'—a version of computer science security principles and methods applied to neural engineering—and discuss why neurosecurity should be a critical consideration in the design of future neural devices." [Via Mind Hacks]
posted by homunculus
on Jul 8, 2009 -
We've discussed trepanation
, the boring of holes in the head as practiced in antiquity and by a fringe do it yourself-ers, before. There now seems to be research indicating that the procedure may have medical merit
, and even help stave off age related cognitive decline. This curious research brought to you by the Beckly Foundation
which "promotes the investigation of consciousness and its modulation
from a multidisciplinary perspective" and has a sweet logo.
posted by phrontist
on Jun 18, 2009 -