Archive for sentience/cognition

The Jovian Duck: LaMDA and the Mirror Test

 You all must know about this Google LaMDA thing by now. At least, if you don’t, you must have been living at the bottom of Great Bear Lake without an Internet connection. Certainly enough of you have poked me about it over the past week or so. Maybe you think that’s where I’ve been. For […]

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The Aspirational Zombie.

Long-time readers of the ‘crawl might remember that I’ve never had much patience for the AI’s Just Wanna Live trope. I put my bootprint on it in my very first novel— “Expert defense witnesses, including a smart gel online from Rutgers, testified that neuron cultures lack the primitive midbrain structures necessary to experience pain, fear, […]

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What Dreams May Come.

Interrogating the Dream Anyone who caught my talk at Ratio back in 2017 might vaguely recall a curious claim: that the Human corpus callosum—that bundle of neurons connecting our cerebral hemispheres—has a bandwidth in the same ballpark as that of a modern cell phone, once you take noise correction and synaptic redundancy into account. I […]

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Debunking the Debunkers: Free Will on Appeal.

If you read The Atlantic, you may have heard the news: A Famous Argument Against Free Will Has Been Debunked! Libet’s classic eighties experiments, the first neurological spike in the Autonomist’s coffin, has been misinterpreted for decades! Myriad subsequent studies have been founded on a faulty and untested assumption, the whole edifice is a house […]

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The Split-brain Universe

An extended Nowa Fantaskyka remix. The year is 1982. I read Isaac Asimov’s newly-published Foundation’s Edge with a sinking heart. Here is the one of Hard-SF’s Holy Trinity writing— with a straight face, as far as I can tell— about the “consciousness” of rocks and trees and doors, for Chrissakes. Isaac, what happened? I wonder. […]

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HemiHive, in Hiding

If you’ve been following my writing for any length of time, you’ll know how fascinated I am by Krista and Tatiana Hogan, of British Columbia. I’ve cited them in Echopraxia’s end notes, described them in online essays; if you caught my talk at Pyrkon last year you might remember me wittering on about them in […]

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My Dinner with Ramez: or, The Identity Landscape.

A week or two ago— just before all the stuff with Kevin went down— I hung out with Ramez Naam for an evening. (If you know who I am you certainly know who he is; his Nexus trilogy burned across the charts in a way I can only dream of.) We snarfed. We drank. We […]

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Dolphinese

This is how you communicate with a fellow intelligence: you hurt it, and keep on hurting it, until you can distinguish the speech from the screams. —Blindsight Believe it or not, the above quote was inspired by some real-world research on language and dolphins. Admittedly the real-life inspiration was somewhat less grotesque: scientists taught a […]

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Insect Awakenings.

Another PSA announcement: If anyone’s trying to email me, I’m not ignoring you. I haven’t got email for going on 4 days now. Alleged attempts by Dreamhost (the ISP that hosts rifters.com) to fix the problem have so far succeeded in changing its status from from “Everything’s pretty much cool, just a bit of leftover […]

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No Brainer.

For decades now, I have been haunted by the grainy, black-and-white x-ray of a human skull. It is alive but empty, with a cavernous fluid-filled space where the brain should be. A thin layer of brain tissue lines that cavity like an amniotic sac. The image hails from a 1980 review article in Science: Roger […]

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