SKA SA’s Jasper Horrell writes open letter to Elon Musk - htxt.africa

edited April 2015 in Site discussion

imageSKA SA’s Jasper Horrell writes open letter to Elon Musk - htxt.africa

SKA's General Manager has some advice for tech entrepreneur Elon Musk.

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  • Sadly, Jasper, as evidenced by some your comments you, like many others even among those engaged in the sciences, still cling to the mystical traditions of introspection and fall foul of the recursive traps inherent in this time-honored but now obsolete subjective approach.

    Certainly we can never be absolutely certain that the evidence of our senses is, for the most part, valid.
    But this assumption is the one upon we base our everyday activities and is also the main foundation of all science. To assume otherwise, in fact is tantamount to solipsism.

    Rather strangely, we can trace the evolutionary roots of the human aspect of the phenomenon of consciousness right back to the divergence of the pre-human ape which involved the trading of the snout for the hands to serve the primary food-processing function.

    The near-obligate use of tools which arose thereby having triggered the co-evolution of language and its correlate, an enormously enhanced level of consciousness. Rather strangely, we can trace the evolutionary roots of the human aspect of the phenomenon right back to the divergence of the pre-human ape which involved the trading of the snout for the hands to serve the primary food-processing function.

    The near-obligate use of tools which arose thereby having triggered the co-evolution of language and its correlate, an enormously enhanced level of consciousness.

    Today, although the details of nervous system function of ourselves or other animals is very far from complete, we have sufficient information to have a rough idea of the gross workings of these systems.

    From evolutionary considerations we can also now see how the essentially navigational function we like to call "consciousness", "self-awareness" "sense of agency" and so forth is bound to arise.

    Most, if not all organisms must, in principle, have some degree of consciousness (self-awareness). Even if only as the locus of its sensory and effector interactions with the external world.

    This, of course, includes such creatures as bacteria and plants. Here's why:

    From our understanding of biological evolution by natural selection it becomes quite clear that provision of a navigational feature that involves some degree of self awareness is required for an organism to interact optimally with its environment. It is a measure of its fitness for the prevailing environment and subject to selection pressure accordingly.

    In the case of our own species, the co-evolution of language with an exceptionally high level if innervation of our hands and vocal apparatus has led to a situation such that we are not only self-aware but aware of being self-aware.

    Furthermore, from a quite different discipline, we now have an excellent understanding of functionally analogous computational systems. And the composite that we call the Internet has, even now, comparable processing power to the human mind and is rapidly becoming endowed with the semantic linkages required of our particular kind of consciousness.

    With these new tools at our disposal we can now view the phenomenon in a truly objective way.

    This issue is discussed at length in chapters 23 and 27 of my latest book "The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill", now available from Amazon, etc.

    Also, very informally, in a previous book "The Goldilocks Effect: What Has Serendipity Ever Done For Us?", which is a free download in e-book formats from my "Unusual Perspectives" website
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