Tackling the Self

So what we’re saying in this case is that, even though Second Life is a very simplified model of reality (and thus might not be able to correlate with the atom-based reality), we have no tools to make predictions based on the data we can gather. This is precisely what happens with trying to scan the brain and understand where the self is. We’re using the same arguments. And using the same tools, too: using statistics to predict models of what essentially is chaotic behaviour, and utterly fail to make any predictions using that model. And using the same excuses, too: if we had better tools, we would be able to perfectly reproduce an avatar’s behaviour based on the data we have gathered and analysed. But we don’t have them, so we can only present thought experiments based on the hypothesis that we will have those tools in the future.

We seem to be stuck.

Well, of course this is the kind of thing that isn’t exactly new; people have been “stuck” with this problem for several millennia. The difference to past thinkers is that these days we have at least some tools to help us out. However, in all those millennia, we have remained stuck with “thought experiments” about the model of the intrinsic, permanent, core self, but always failed to validate those models. It’s just recently that we are so encouraged by the technological advances we made in so many areas that we started to believe that we would eventually reach a result. But the more advanced our technology becomes, the more complex the problem seems to be. Nowadays we start to see that behaviour is not so obviously linked to brain activity; in fact, brain activity seems to predate conscious thought, or be “merely” a reflection of conscious thought — in either case, the assumption of the cause/effect relationship (brain thinks, body behaves) starts to be questioned at well. There were suspicions that this would be the case but the conclusions are just way too weird to be yet fully understood; they also imply that we behave before we’re aware of acting at all, or so the EEGs seem to show. In that case, under some conditions, the only thing we can measure is that our thoughts and reactions influence EEG patterns, but we might not be so sure if they’re caused by those patterns. The big issue in this case is to really understand if we can actually measure “thought patterns” directly, or if we’re just measuring the reflection of those thought patterns in the brain activity. I have to say that I had read those reports a long while ago and failed to google again for them to see if some more thorough explanations have been found for that apparently anomaly of how we perceived the brain to work, and how it actually seems to be working. Or perhaps the tests are not measuring what they should be.

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