Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

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Are You a Brain in a Vat in a Mad Scientist's Lab?

No, and that's a stupid question.
0
No votes
I can't be sure, but I feel it's reasonable to say I'm not.
5
20%
In all likelihood yes, but that doesn't change anything.
2
8%
I can't be sure, but it doesn't matter either way.
12
48%
In all likelihood yes, and this is deeply worrying.
0
No votes
No, but I do keep live brains hooked up to a virtual reality simulation in my lab.
2
8%
No, because all minds only exist as part of my vast linux server complex.
4
16%
 
Total votes: 25
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 09:59

Alja-Markir wrote:What if I'm both?

*waggles eyebrows*

~Alja~

this waggle and xkcd series arguments intrigues me. Go on...
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Alja-Markir » 17 Dec 2009, 10:29

I had meant both a demi-god and an advanced gif making AI, as stating before Matt's post.

I should have quoted.

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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 10:46

Alja-Markir wrote:I had meant both a demi-god and an advanced gif making AI, as stating before Matt's post.

I should have quoted.

~Alja~

oh no, i followed it, the waggling made it clear.... yep, all over it. i just also enjoyed matt's point.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby iamafish » 17 Dec 2009, 12:10

these are the sorts of dicussion that discredit philosophy because they're pointless. the premise that we are actually just a brain in a vat is not verifiable, nor indeed it is even falsifiable, therefore it is meaningless to talk about it.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 17 Dec 2009, 12:32

Well, actually, that is taking it as a skeptical hypothesis (the point of philosophical skepticism for most rational people is really the logic equivalent of an aesop, the ideas are usually taken as cautioning against overly absolutist thinking and inflexible thinking. If taken too literally they are a dead end, as you surmise). However, the brain in a vat (which not only has great history as a thought experiment reaching back to at least Descartes) serves an even greater purpose as a metaphysical and even ethical argument when taken in tandem with certain motions in science towards the possibility of creating synthetic life and even synthetic worlds. To put it another way, if we treat the Brain in a vat or similar theories (matrix hypothesis) as a metaphysical argument, then it has far greater and more useful roles in epistemology and even ethics, raising the questions such as "Does being wrong about the base nature of an object change or devalidate the object itself if we learn about its actual nature (ie if what i call my hand is made of code, and I learn it is made of code, and it has always been made of code, but until learning this I believed it was made of some sort of particles, is this object still (or was it ever) "My hand?")" and "If two beings appear the same, intellectually and in practice, but have different base nature (A person whose mind, in a Matrix Scenario in particular, is software based, and another who has a material brain as we understand it outside of its direct reality) are they equal, or is one more valid as a living, experiencing being?

The philosophy of the mind questions which it raises and helps illustrate for us are very important as science continues to move towards the line of synthetic intelligence and direct neural digital interfaces. Also, for the record, give me any philosophical doctrine or theory on any topic that verifiable. The very key to a theory's continued validity is its inability to be resoundingly proven or disproven, because if we know the answer either way there is little point or interest in continuing to tinker with it.

This area of thought experiment is only destructive when it is used to silence arguments, but as a basis for further thought experiments it is a worthwhile premise to maintain and talk about. Don't dis the vat, yo.

(And if you really want philosophies that turn people off to the whole shibang, I venture that you need look no further than Hard Utilitarianism.)
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Mister Fiend » 17 Dec 2009, 19:32

Meh, I'm like 90% sure I'm just some nightmare a pine tree is having.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Evil Jim » 17 Dec 2009, 20:57

I am merely a dream spawned in the fathomless depths of the incognizable mind of Great Cthulhu.


Ia! Ia!
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Nevrmore » 17 Dec 2009, 21:36

That's not how Lovecraft works.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Evil Jim » 17 Dec 2009, 21:42

Shhh!
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Alja-Markir » 17 Dec 2009, 22:52

Am I butterfly dreaming I'm a man? Or a bowling ball dreaming I'm a plate of sashimi?

Never assume what you see and feel is real!

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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Cybren » 17 Dec 2009, 23:06

Alja stole my post, so here's some Jonathon Swift:

They bury their dead with their heads directly downward, because they
hold an opinion, that in eleven thousand moons they are all to rise
again; in which period the earth (which they conceive to be flat) will
turn upside down, and by this means they shall, at their resurrection, be
found ready standing on their feet. The learned among them confess the
absurdity of this doctrine; but the practice still continues, in
compliance to the vulgar.



A quote relevant to the discussion, as said by the great sage Conan the Barbarian:
Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is an illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and I am content.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Master Gunner » 18 Dec 2009, 07:38

Conan pretty much exactly expresses my worldview. When I'm bored or tired, I'll go all philosophical and come up with 10-page essays on the nature of religion and morality in response to random people's Facebook notes. The rest of the time, I just don't care.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 18 Dec 2009, 10:55

Cybren wrote:A quote relevant to the discussion, as said by the great sage Conan the Barbarian:
Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is an illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and I am content.

this has an additional delicious spin coming from a fictional character. Personally, I like philosophy because I see it as useful for art and storytelling (as I do logic studies). It's mental exercise, a fun hobby when I have nothing else fun to do.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Evil Jim » 19 Dec 2009, 17:55

I am only a brain in a jar for as long as needed whilst the Mi-Go transport me through the æther to worlds & vistas beyond the scope of Man's capabilities & imaginings.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Arius » 20 Dec 2009, 03:08

?^2

...

It's funny, damn it!
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Murakami » 20 Dec 2009, 03:48

As of recently determinism sparked my interest. I've just started studying philosophy and I've yet to read a substantial amount, but one of my thoughts on the subject looked a lot like one of the points you made epocalypse - the point about what would happen if you would came to know your hands were actually made of code, about what would change then, if something would.

I was thinking: if we proofed the world to be deterministic (real, hard determinism), would that change a lot, except for science? I mean, and this is maybe an image thats too poetic or big, but: aren't there two layers? The one which is the logical, real, scientific one (which would be the knowledge that the world is a deterministic one) and the practical one (the one in which we feel sadness and anger if one of our loved ones is killed)? If the world is deterministic that would formally change the definition of free will, wouldn't it? But would that change the fact that we still feel the need for something to be done after someone killed the one we love?
In contrary to this, I think that if hard determinisme would be proven, it could also well mean a change in paradigm.

(I'm sorry if this is philosphy light, or very easy to dismiss - just some thoughts)
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby epocalypse » 20 Dec 2009, 07:16

Not at all Murakami, you're farming some free range truth there. However, the most interesting point is that proof that the world is fundamentally chaotic (random beyond any form of reasonable control) could have a very similar effect on our notions of free will, which is very intriguing.

however, this is just plain awesome (just in from my philosophy professor):
Jon wrote:ps: as an alternative to the [final] exam, build a snowman expressive of at least one of the central problems of philosophy that we've addressed, and submit a photograph of yourself with the snowman, by noon tomorrow. Points for originality, expressiveness, and technical craftsmanship.
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Re: Raise your ? if you're a Brain in a Vat–A Phailosophy Thread

Postby Murakami » 20 Dec 2009, 08:36

So either way: chaos or order? Now that you say that, it doesn't sound that strange. Both eventually mean that we have no input. Either because all is structured, even our "choices" or because there is no knowing what will happen (this last one is somewhat weak put.. but you know what I mean).

A thought that enters my mind: is it possible to proof either chaos or determinism? Wouldn't proofing chaos mean no proof? Bah, I can't seen to get my words in order.. Or wouldn't the only real proof for determinism mean to proof all the links that would determine everything?

Bah, it's almost dinnertime - eating first, philosophizing later.

Anyway: these kinds of discussions make me want to keep studying philosophy. Thankyou.

Also: keep me posted on the snowmen!

EDIT: less philosophy, more matrix - I think that if we would be in an unreal world, then it wouldn't be a world we could imagine. For example a dreamworld. This is an idea we came upon because we have dreams. Dreams seem so real but are not. Yet, why would we dream inside of a dream? It seems like an idea dismissable the same way God is dismissed by some people: God seems to much like a human to not be invented by humankind. Same with the matrix: why would the computers that control us give us the possibility to come to the idea that we are controlled by computers?
On seeing what I wrote: this seems like a rather long way of saying: if it is true that we are brains in vats, then it seems unlikely that we could discover this. But we were not discussing the reality of the example.. so this is just my little way of getting that comparison with God being invented by humans in here, haha.

And now!

I will stop writing.
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