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"The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality" 
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Post "The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality"
I'm listening to Sam Harris's interview with this guy, interesting stuff. Harris's podcast just went to a subscription model, so it might only play half the interview. I have access for now at least, I contributed a few bucks a while ago. But Hoffman has made the rounds on other podcasts.

https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-evol ... -20160421/

https://samharris.org/podcasts/178-reality-illusion/



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Post Re: "The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality"
I haven't listened to the podcast, but I did read the article. Help me understand this because I'm really not getting it.

Hoffman wrote:
The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality.

Well, why? We may not have evolved to always see the world accurately, but certainly what we perceive with our senses is something that exists in reality. When I see and touch a cat, I have detailed knowledge of that cat’s physical characteristics. I can weight the cat on a scale. I can describe the animal and someone else, who has seen cats before, will know exactly what I’m talking about. We even use the same word for “cats.” The word is a reference to something—an animal—that exists in the real world. I don’t know a lot about quantum physics, but apparently no one else does either. If I can see the cat with my own eyes, I think it exists in the real world.

Hoffman wrote:
So while neuroscientists struggle to understand how there can be such a thing as a first-person reality, quantum physicists have to grapple with the mystery of how there can be anything but a first-person reality.

The cat doesn’t exist when I’m not looking at it? I don’t think so.

Hoffman wrote:
If snakes aren’t snakes and trains aren’t trains, what are they?
Snakes and trains, like the particles of physics, have no objective, observer-independent features. The snake I see is a description created by my sensory system to inform me of the fitness consequences of my actions. Evolution shapes acceptable solutions, not optimal ones. A snake is an acceptable solution to the problem of telling me how to act in a situation.

Snakes exist and they can be dangerous, which is why evolution has instilled in us a healthy aversion to them. Using Occam’s razor, this is the most straightforward answer. Though we are limited in what we can understand and prone to bias and logical errors, humans still can perceive physical objects in the real world. I’m not sure what Hoffman is saying here. I think snakes (and cats) do have objective, observer-independent features, such as length and weight and texture and many other details that give us a pretty good idea what they are. Hoffman’s theory sounds a little like solipsism to me. It seems a little too clever by half. Then again, I don’t really understand the Schrodinger’s cat thought experiment either. The cat is either dead or alive; we just don’t know which state until we open the box and look.

Of course, now that I've run my mouth, I'll have to listen to the podcast.


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Post Re: "The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality"
I was kind of losing him when he started talking about his theory of consciousness and how he's got some kind of mathematical theory for everything he's saying. But the basic point about reality being an illusion, and his metaphor of the computer desktop, seems reasonable to me.

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You could not form a true description of the innards of the computer if your entire view of reality was confined to the desktop. And yet the desktop is useful. That blue rectangular icon guides my behavior, and it hides a complex reality that I don’t need to know.


I don't think he described it this way, but the way I like to think of it, take the perception of some other animal or insect. Their reality is never going to correspond to ours, they might just see some vague shapes, or maybe they can see wavelengths that we can't, take the example of sonar. How could our perception be accessing the "true" reality? It's just a different way of interacting with our surroundings. For some superior intelligence, our perception might seem ridiculously primitive. But it's useful for our evolutionary fitness game. He goes even further in that spacetime and even causality is part of the "computer desktop" that we are interacting with. I don't understand quantum theory enough (or at all) to say whether that is now obvious for physicists, which is what he seems to be saying. I assume no one really understands this stuff yet.



Sun Dec 15, 2019 7:50 pm
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Post Re: "The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality"
Dexter wrote:
I was kind of losing him when he started talking about his theory of consciousness and how he's got some kind of mathematical theory for everything he's saying. But the basic point about reality being an illusion, and his metaphor of the computer desktop, seems reasonable to me.


I believe I greatly misread what Hoffman is saying. I assume the human way of looking at the world is objectively meaningful. but what we ultimately understand is dictated and limited by by our senses. You really helped bring it into focus with the computer desktop metaphor. Obviously humans have a very selective way of looking at the world that makes sense to us, but that other critters "see" the world through a very different lens. And who's to say a human's perspective is better or more important than a rabbit's?

And, yet, humans may have a higher level of consciousness that is capable of some objective understanding of the world. I would still have to listen to the podcast to get a better understanding of Hoffman's ideas. The podcast is 3 hours long by the way. The first hour is available without subscribing. I wish there was a way to subscribe to just one month or just buy one episode. On the other hand, you can click the link "Contact us" and get a free subscription.


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Tue Dec 17, 2019 11:08 am
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Post Re: "The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality"
Do a search for "Donald Hoffman podcast," I'm sure most of his interviews are pretty much the same. He was on Michael Shermer's podcast.



Tue Dec 17, 2019 11:26 am
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Post Re: "The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality"
Good suggestion.

https://www.skeptic.com/science-salon/d ... -our-eyes/

In this conversation, Hoffman and Shermer get deep into the weeds of:

the nature of reality (ontology)
how we know anything about reality (epistemology)
the possibility that we’re living in a simulation
the possibility that we’re just a brain in a vat
the problem of other minds (that I’m the only sentient conscious being while everyone else is a zombie)
the hard problem of consciousness
what it means to ask “what’s it like to be a bat?”
does the moon exist if there are no conscious sentient beings anywhere in the universe?
is spacetime doomed?
quantum physics and consciousness
the microtubule theory of consciousness
the global workspace theory of consciousness, and
how Hoffman’s Interface Theory of Perception differs from Jordan Peterson’s Archetypal Theory of Truth (Shermer’s label for Peterson’s evolutionary theory of truth).


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Tue Dec 17, 2019 11:38 am
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