Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Am a Strange Loop -- a skip all the way through to Chapter 18

     I am going to skip to chapter 18 to one of the most distinctive of Hofstadter's ideas.  In the intervening chapters Hofstadter reiterates his notion of the strange-loop, the necessity to change the locus of causality to symbols rather than to the "chemical squirting" substrate of the brain, a theory with which I have some disagreement, and contains at least one mention of his nemesis, John Searle.  In chapter 18, though, his theory of the self takes on a really interesting turn, as a subtitle has it: "I Host and am Hosted by Others(Hofstadter, pg. 301).

     I'll let him speak for himself here:

"...the idea I am proposing here is that since a normal adult human brain is a representationally universal "machine", and since humans are social beings, an adult brain is the locus not only of one strange loop constituting the identity of the primary person associated with that brain, but of many strange-loop patterns that are coarse-grained copies of the primary strange loops housed in other brains.  Thus, brain 1 consists of strange loops 1, 2, 3, and so forth, each with its own level of detail. ... Every normal adult human soul is housed in many brains to varying degrees of fidelity, and therefore every human  consciousness or "I" lives at once in a collection of different brains, to different extents."(Hofstadter pg.301 Nookbook)

Well, that is interesting.  He goes on to say: "The interpenetration of souls is an inevitable consequence of the power of the representationally universal machines that our brains are."(Hofstadter pg. 309)

If I am reading him aright, and maybe I'm not, he's saying that the actual consciousnesses of other human beings inhabit us to some degree -- like we're possessed.  The representative powers of the brain allows it to mimic some portion of the strange loop of other people; hence their consciousness inhabits us. We are therefore conscious in multiple places at once.

He says later:

"That's all I'm claiming -- that there is a blur.  That some of what happens in other brains gets copied, albeit coarse-grainedly, inside the brain of "Number One", and that the closer two brains are to each other emotionally, the more stuff gets copied back and forth from one to the other, and the more faithful the copies are.  There's no claim that the act of copying is simultaneous or perfect or total -- just that each person lives partially in the brain of the other..."(Hofstadter, pg 313)

That's all he's claiming...

Well, I have to say that I disagree with him here, rather extremely, but it is a really cool idea.  Really.

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