The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio

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PauloL
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The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio

Post by PauloL » Thu Nov 02, 2017 12:14 am

I have just started reading Antonio Damasio's last book titled The Strange Order of Things.

I'm lucky that the Portuguese translation is published ahead of its original English version, which will be available next February only, for some unknown reason.

I could attend author's book inaugural presentation yesterday in Lisbon, and got an autographed copy.

Of course I'm still reading the book, but I hope this is a mature version of his interesting ideas about consciousnesses, mind, feelings, emotions and body, and that we can discuss them here.

Anyone who could read Portuguese and wish to read the book ahead of press, here are the details for ordering:

A Estranha Ordem das Coisas. ISBN: 9789896443344

From Amazon:

From one of our preeminent neuroscientists: a landmark reflection on the origins of life, mind, and culture that spans the biological and social sciences, offering a new way of understanding life, culture, and feeling.

The Strange Order of Things is a pathbreaking investigation into homeostasis, the condition of regulating life within the range that makes possible not only the survival but also the flourishing of life. Antonio Damasio makes clear that we descend biologically, psychologically, and even socially from a long lineage that begins with single living cells; that our minds and cultures are linked by an invisible thread to the ways and means of ancient unicellular life and other life-forms; and that inherent in the very chemistry of life is a powerful force, a striving toward life maintenance that governs life in all its guises, including the development of genes that help regulate and transmit life. The Strange Order of Things offers us a new way of understanding the world and our place in it.

EchoesOfTheHorizon
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Re: The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio

Post by EchoesOfTheHorizon » Thu Nov 02, 2017 3:28 am

Any quotes you want to drop on us, translated into English?

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PauloL
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Re: The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio

Post by PauloL » Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:20 am

Sure EOH, I already have a lot, but I'd like to finish the book first as they might not have the meaning I gave them with further reading.

Perhaps an interesting idea presented by Damasio on Tuesday was that no artificial consciousnesses can be created because computers don't have a body. This is one of the justifications I'm searching for in the book.

EchoesOfTheHorizon
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Re: The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio

Post by EchoesOfTheHorizon » Thu Nov 02, 2017 9:07 pm

A computer can certainly have a body. If I set up a security camera network, that network is the body, it has senses. It just doesn't by default have a AI, if it is analog. If you set it up so it has options between modes, like day or night vision, motion detection of face recognition, it has the most rudimentary of rudimentary options for toggling in and out of senses. That would count as consciousness, though I think a simple house spider has a dramatically more sophisticated network inside it's ummm..... head, body, thorax? I don't know what you call that on a body of a spider, but dammit, it is pretty advance in comparison.

Our free will and range of choice, ability to asser categorical types..... comes from a massive repertoire of such systems in the body.

I see no inherent reason why you couldn't take all this, scan it, slap it in a hard drive, and run it in a CPU fast enough (other than I don't think one exists yet fast enough, if one did, a old billionaire would of tried it by now). If you can scan a human mind, I don't see any bar in for a purely artificial AI to exist. Much better would it be to have senses, and either a virtual or real reality to operate in. I would really, really hate it if my brain was scanned, uploaded into a hard drive, and awakened on day, only to be given absolutely no outlet. Awaken to limbo, nothingness.... I exist, but no there, no this or that, nothing to scream at. I would be a intelligent program, a AI, and I would absolutely hate it.

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Re: The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio

Post by PauloL » Thu Nov 02, 2017 9:58 pm

You're right, but I need to know first what Damasio means as a body and understand why that's requisite of consciousness.

In his previous works, Damasio already maintained his Jamesonian view that feelings, which are mental, depend on emotions, which are bodily (1), as well as that brainstem is necessary for consciousness to be there. But Damasio never made a parallel between computers and consciousness before.

(1) Anyway Damasio concedes that bodily emotions may be bypassed by his as-if-body-loop, a mental phenomenon. I think this makes body contingent, not necessary, at best. But I need to finish the book and digest it before discussing those details.

EchoesOfTheHorizon
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Re: The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio

Post by EchoesOfTheHorizon » Thu Nov 02, 2017 10:43 pm

Yeah, I see. But the presumption "as if body" might not apply to a program that evolved out of say, a really old and forgotten supper computer, like the one from the video game on steam "Sethian". It is a computer on a planet with a extinct civilization, language is geometric, you gotta figure out how the language works to progress.

Imagine a series of well engineered computers made for a advanced alien civilization, left abandoned for millions of years, still functioning. Surely the programs could degrade or haywire activity could pop up enough that bodiless programs could evolve. Cognition could arise without anthropomorphic elements merely paralleling it, something the original engineers of the computers never intended or imagined.

If that could be imagined, then why can't we imagine a human programming a computer as a AI without ever intending or realizing it is meant to parallel a body. Does it for a completely different reason, oblivious that he is trying to similulate a mind-body exchange.

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Re: The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio

Post by Impenitent » Fri Nov 03, 2017 12:20 am

what if he wanted to have the reader start with his last book and go back to his first?

-Imp

EchoesOfTheHorizon
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Re: The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio

Post by EchoesOfTheHorizon » Fri Nov 03, 2017 1:45 am

Then he would of been born backwards, like the black knight from the TV show Andromeda.

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Re: The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio

Post by CarlosOliveira » Sun Jan 07, 2018 12:14 am

The central question of the book is the intelligent behavior of living organisms. Some much generalized ideas have led one to think that this behavior resulted from deliberations of great complexity of organisms with nervous systems. Now these behaviors can be originated in unicellular organisms and it is the strangeness of this situation and its explanation on the reason that led AD to write the book.

The explanation is based on the mechanisms of life and the conditions of its regulation, that is, the homeostasis, with special emphasis on its mental expressions, that is, on feelings. Feelings are at the center of the book.
Collaboration between bodies and nervous systems is responsible for the emergence of conscious minds endowed with feelings which in turn are responsible for culture.

After having made known the conclusions of his works and those of his team and of making the state of the art on the affections, the construction of the feelings and of the conscience, AD emphasizes, in particular, the capacity to create images as main participants of the cultural process.

Very briefly, cultural processes began in simple unicellular life under the form of efficient social behaviors. Cultures would only deserve their name much later (millions of years) in complex human organisms animated by cultural minds working according to the imperative of homeostasis.

Conventional ideas are that something as complex as social behaviors capable of improving the management of life can only arise from the mind of developed organisms. As AD demonstrates was not what happened. The order of how cultures appear is unexpected and strange to us humans.

The strangest emergency in the order of things are, according to AD, the feelings and the consciousness. Contrary to the dominant opinion, AD thinks that subjectivity arose in creatures that were neither human nor sophisticated.
In summary, the structuring thesis of the book, which is innovative, is that the evolution of what in human beings would become in feelings and consciousness happened gradually and irregularly in separate branches of evolutionary history.

As a final note I would say that, starting from the principle that there is some work done with whales, dolphins, great apes or even dogs with regard to the characterization of their feelings and their consciousness, some information about the state of the art in these fields would be interesting. Sooner or later some references will have to be made for a study of this type as long as they obviously respect the identity of these animals. But I think it would be enlightening to have some data on the animal world that is closest to humans.

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Re: The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio

Post by -1- » Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:14 am

PauloL wrote:
Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:20 am
Sure EOH, I already have a lot, but I'd like to finish the book first as they might not have the meaning I gave them with further reading.

Perhaps an interesting idea presented by Damasio on Tuesday was that no artificial consciousnesses can be created because computers don't have a body. This is one of the justifications I'm searching for in the book.
Show me a computer that is made entirely of concepts, thoughts and theory. No body. No physical parts that have dimensions or weight or material manifestation.

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