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Author Topic: BBC Horizon ~ The Secret you  (Read 156 times)
CygnusX1
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« on: 24/10/09 @ 14:47 »

For anyone interested with the current scientific studies concerning consciousness, self-awareness, causality and freewill, then the following recent BBC TV Horizon broadcast is currently available at the BBC iplayer link below. Catch it while you can, this is an excellent investigation into self and being, and will leave you questioning your very notions of who you are.

Broadcast on BBC Two, 11:20pm Tuesday 20th October 2009
Duration: 60 minutes ~ Available until: 8:59pm Tuesday 24th November 2009

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00nhv56/Horizon_20092010_The_Secret_You/


Please note! Have recently found out that only UK isp/IP addresses have access to streaming the BBC iplayer site, (heavens knows why!) For all those with UK IP addresses you should have no problems, and note you DO NOT have to download the iplayer to stream the programme and watch it.
For more info. please checkout the BBC iplayer FAQ's.

Program synopsis..

"With the help of a hammer-wielding scientist, Jennifer Aniston and a general anaesthetic, Professor Marcus du Sautoy goes in search of answers to one of science's greatest mysteries: how do we know who we are? While the thoughts that make us feel as though we know ourselves are easy to experience, they are notoriously difficult to explain. So, in order to find out where they come from, Marcus subjects himself to a series of probing experiments.

He learns at what age our self-awareness emerges and whether other species share this trait. Next, he has his mind scrambled by a cutting-edge experiment in anaesthesia. Having survived that ordeal, Marcus is given an out-of-body experience in a bid to locate his true self. And in Hollywood, he learns how celebrities are helping scientists understand the microscopic activities of our brain. Finally, he takes part in a mind-reading experiment that both helps explain and radically alters his understanding of who he is."

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You are neither earth, water, fire, air or even ether.
For liberation know yourself as consisting of consciousness,
the witness of these.
[The Song of Ashtavakra (Ashtavakra Samhita) Chapter 1.3]
Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #1 on: 25/10/09 @ 10:23 »

Yes, I saw this - very interesting. It confirmed some of my feelings about consciousness (that the "I" is construct, that our identification with a particular body is contingent), but the most intriguing bit for me was the test for when decision making takes place. Can it really be that, 6 seconds before you are conscious of it, you have made a decision?! But then I started to think: many snap decisions take less than six seconds - does that mean that we are not conscious of them until after? I'm not sure about this - what about driving a car? Are we 'lying' to ourselves if we think that we have made a conscious decision to turn left, or to avoid a pedestrian? Hmmm...
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CygnusX1
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« Reply #2 on: 25/10/09 @ 22:29 »

Indeed six seconds does not sound reasonable. If you were running to an edge and found that you either had to jump or stop, then six seconds would most likely end in disaster.
Yet maybe the test was not reasonable, and he was trying too hard to be impartial. Pressing buttons left and right without thinking about it and even attempting to second guess the outcome oneself leads to all sorts of delayed response and procrastination.

Also I'm not so sure about the age of self-consciousness as stated here. It seems to be agreed at around 18 months, yet I feel the mirror test is not definitive evidence. And regarding other animals, I would like to guess that most intelligent mammals are still self-conscious, yet not as aware of the phenomena or can understand it as well as we do?

There was one great point regarding the constant position reference required for our self-awareness, something I believe to be a key factor.


Elephants Recognize Selves in Mirror, Study Says
John Roach for National Geographic News - October 30, 2006
Elephants can recognize themselves in mirrors, according to a new study. Humans, great apes, and dolphins are the only other animals known to possess this form of self-awareness.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/10/061030-asian-elephants.html


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You are neither earth, water, fire, air or even ether.
For liberation know yourself as consisting of consciousness,
the witness of these.
[The Song of Ashtavakra (Ashtavakra Samhita) Chapter 1.3]
Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #3 on: 26/10/09 @ 01:32 »

Yes, we need to find out more about the tests really. Perhaps, in split second decisions, consciousness is a rationalisation of a decision already made unconsciously - I don't have such a problem with that. But 6 seconds seems too long.

I agree about the mirror test - it seems a bit rigid: why should touching the mark be the only legitimate reaction? Interesting article about the elephants - but then they always were fascinating creatures.
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CygnusX1
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« Reply #4 on: 26/10/09 @ 20:14 »

Here is also an interesting slant on the notion and realisation of Freewill. Here, whilst it posits causality and conscious perception lead the mind, it suggests that a biological delay function, (evolved as an evolutionary process for survival technique?), permits procrastination which gives the appearance of freedom of choice?


Quote – "Lastly, to account for the ‘free-will’/‘agency’ problem, I turn to
Benjamin Libet’s celebrated experiments. While it is true that the
initiation and preparatory phase of an act takes place before we
become aware of willing it or wanting it, it is wrong to conclude that
the conscious brain does not play a causal role through some other
mechanism. Indeed, Libet himself emphasized that once we become
aware of wanting to act, a point he designates as ‘W’ we still have 200
milliseconds before we issue the command to the motor system to
proceed with its execution. This, Libet points out , gives us a window
of opportunity to abort the impending act by inhibiting it or by switching
to another preliminary action impulse already waiting in the
wings. Libet regards this as an effective veto function, a mechanism of
interference with a given actions implementation and notes that: ‘The
potentiality for a form of free choice in the classical sense is not
excluded by the theory, though apparently in the form of control rather
than in the initiation of an act’ "


Quote taken from "The immaculate Misconception", by Zoltan L. Torey.

Further links regarding various enquiries into consciousness..
"Journal of Consciousness Studies" > http://www.imprint.co.uk/jcs.html

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You are neither earth, water, fire, air or even ether.
For liberation know yourself as consisting of consciousness,
the witness of these.
[The Song of Ashtavakra (Ashtavakra Samhita) Chapter 1.3]
Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #5 on: 27/10/09 @ 20:21 »

I had thought of this myself, actually - the conscious mind as a sort of censor or inhibitor. However, it still doesn't get away from the problem of freewill, which is how something can be a free cause. So, all Libet does really is rephrase the problem (though interestingly and plausibly).
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CygnusX1
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« Reply #6 on: 27/10/09 @ 21:22 »

Hmm… Freewill… does it actually exist?

Are we free to think even any single original thought? Or are our thoughts entirely dependent upon causality? Something to try and test for yourself. It would appear that every original thought we have still has as its root a cause and a prime mover.

However, Freewill must be a reality must it not, or we are all doomed to deterministic slavery and the perpetual veil of ignorance, (avidya), and suffering in samsara. Enlightenment or even atonement cannot be possible without Freewill… can it?

I believe Freewill is a reality … yet…

Freewill : the freedom to choose "yes" or "no", limited to current conditions and circumstance.

Freewill may merely be a binary choice of "yes" or "no", (such like that of a computer process of 1's and 0's) - which acts out in every thought, and affects every intention, every action etc. In other words Freewill is merely the sanction or veto of every thought and circumstance that comes your way through causality.

Examine how you found yourself where you are today, and examine the multitude of yes/no choices that has lead you here?


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You are neither earth, water, fire, air or even ether.
For liberation know yourself as consisting of consciousness,
the witness of these.
[The Song of Ashtavakra (Ashtavakra Samhita) Chapter 1.3]
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