004b-We are Descartes
You are Descartes.
Descartes desire to apprehend what is true and what is not true is a task we must each pursue. We must do so to understand how to create an artificial intelligence. If we do not understand why or how things are true, then we are only guessing at what consciousness and mind are.
Descartes quest to apprehend truth even if he is living in a dream or suffering under the hallucinations produced by a wicked demon, or in our modern context, living in a Matrix style reality. Is a problem we face. How do we discern what is true and what is a simulation? How do we discern what is true from what is false but believed to be true? How does an artificial mind apprehend what is true and what is simulation? How does it apprehend what is real even if it lives in a simulation?
Descartes pursuit to question what is true, without making assumptions about what exists or is true, is a problem confronted by any intelligence. How can an AI determine what is true in the face of contradicting sensations or beliefs? If we assume some fact, that assumption may be a misconception or an illusion created by our biology, or the contrivance of a dream or a side-effect in a holo-deck simulation, or the result of our use of language, or what we have heard or been taught while growing up. Perhaps we are the artificial intelligence living in a simulation.
How can we tell what is true and absolutely real even when in a simulation and without making assumptions? How can we tell what is certain? How can we tell what is true absent the constructions of language?
Thoughts of course are suspect. We may think it is day time when in fact it is night. We can think we are awake when we are dreaming. We can have a memory we think is accurate that is confused. And all these things we can think about, especially if we report on them, are not as direct as the situations which we experience. That is, experiences are more expansive than the expressions or reports of our rational and irrational thoughts.
For instance, when we report on an experience, the report is not as rich or detailed as the experience itself. Our awareness is more expansive and detailed than our reporting or expressive ability. Creating reports about experience skews experience into structures. Certain parts of experience are accentuated. A report necessarily orders experience when the experience itself may not be so arranged. After the fact of experience, we produce narratives of our experiences and act as if the narrative pre-exists the experience. But that is not how we actually experience things.
When we talk about experiences, the memory of those experiences takes on the color of our descriptions. Certain parts of memory become dominant, but at the moment of experience, there is no dominating content of an experience. We report or accentuate parts of our experience based on other factors, such as our ideas, or preconceptions, or the kind of description, or narrative we want to convey to others.
Talking modifies our experience and awareness. So does drawing. or listening, or abstaining from speech. Our expressive capacities and efforts modify experience. As an exercise, spend a day with out speaking. How does your experience and awareness of things change? This is the point of a vow of silence. To change the nature of experience and apprehension by abstaining from speech.
If expressions themselves modify experience, does this indicate that these modifications are artifacts of expressiveness? Are these effects illusions? What is real when we compare the expressed experience to the non-expressed experience? What can we show is true if our expressions about reality color or distort our experience of reality?
We have thoughts. Our expressions are based in thoughts. Absent those thoughts, experience is different. Does this mean that our expressions are illusions? No. Because even if expressions are illusions the expressions and thoughts are themselves experiences. We experience telling a story about ourselves, we relive a memory when we write it down for posterity. Expressions are kinds of experience.
Is there something below experience? Is there a substrate upon which experience and thus expression rest? If there is something beneath experience, what could it be?
How could something underlying experience be separate from experience? Does physics underly experience? We posit that a physical universe underlies our experiences because we have learned that nature, being comprised of atoms and molecules make up our bodies, our brains, and all biology. Can we know that is true apart from experience?
We make appeals to experience. We have experiences that lead us to believe and make rational statements. We believe the world is made of atoms and molecules. Not because of expressions, such as science textbooks, but because when we look at how the world works, we have experiences that correlate to ideas of a world with molecules and atoms.
We appeal to experience to apprehend the physical world. We assume that physics underlies our experiences, but we first have experiences to even give us an idea that physics exists. From those experiences, we make up a framework to develop the idea of a physical universe. But the concept of a physical universe depends on first having certain kinds experiences.
We have dreams where our self is observable. We have the occasional experience where our self becomes unimportant or where our self seems to disappear such as in meditation, or drug use, or spiritual events. In those experiences, the self vanishes to be replaced by an experience without self. Many people have reported these kinds experiences. Have you had this kind of experience?
Does the self precede experience, as Descartes assumes? Is the self which thinks and experiences a precondition to experience itself or is it a product of experience?
With some effort (or some drugs), we know the experience of self is fluid. The self proposition is a post experience proposition. The self results from experience. We have "self" experiences and we can have "self-less" experiences. Self, like the physical world, results from certain kinds of experience.
Experience is inescapable. The more we look for explanations of reality or nature, the more we must see that experience leads to these other concepts. Experience must come first. Experience precedes ideas. We can explore any idea but we always start from a presumption of experience.
Can we prove experience exists?
No, we cannot. Experience is what we are aware of. I cannot prove you have experiences. I assume you do, just as you assume I do. It's a common assumption built up from experience, but is experience itself provable? No, experience is the ground upon which a proof must rest.
We must must assume experiences come first. When we talk about experience in this way, we talk about ourselves having experiences. And what we ordinarily mean by this that we are aware of the experiences we are having. Awareness is what we mean when we speak about experiences.
Experience is the first principle.