Theory Gang
16. Spelunking the Mind w/ Erik Hoel

16. Spelunking the Mind w/ Erik Hoel

Expeditions in error correction

Imma warn you: This is probably my favorite episode so far, but when I listened to it during editing I thought, “Oh fuck. We went in”.

A bitch always goes too far, but this one is extra. Not that we’re using a ton of jargon, but even in plain language, the topic of consciousness is intense. It’s definitely one of those episodes you could listen to more than once because there’s so much said between the lines, and Erik’s work is at the leading edge of the study of consciousness (if such a thing even exists).

I say this to inspire you. You’re going to get lost, and that’s a good thing - I mean this in a general way, too. I’m always on the verge of being lost because that’s where you find interesting stuff. As we discuss in the episode, the field of consciousness is likely still in its pre-paradigm era - this means that you don’t need a ton of highly niche knowledge to make basic observations - for now. If you can live in the liminal space between empirical science and who knows what, this is the episode for you.

I do recommend Erik’s book to anyone who is interested in neuroscience, but the middle section on Integrated Information Theory is tough. IIT is tough for many reasons, but one of them might be that it’s considered to be outside the realm of what we consider science. It gets a little more than woo-woo at times, and as you hear in the intro Erik and I agree on how absurd scientists can be. Absurd or not, none of this stuff can be digested in one sitting. The volume of people-hours dedicated to trying to understand consciousness is incalculable, so don’t feel bad if it feels over your head. It’s over all of our heads.

Time Stamps

0:00 Introduction

2:08 Two neuroscientists walk into a house of consciousness

6:18   NeuroPOV: Philosophy and/or science?

13:13 The greatest scientists are absurd

17:08 Spelunking the black hole of scientific incompleteness 

27:28 Self-reference in systems

29:50 Manipulating consciousness

32:47 Pros of a Theory of Consciousness 

34:06 Complexity vs. Consciousness

39:34  Causal emergence 

40:25 MacroScale allows error correction on a micro level

45:46 Classic error correction from information theory

51:01 Plausabile parsability/mechanistic interpretability

55:15 Substackademia

1:01:42 A supracademic structure for theoretical work

1:03:56 Science communication: Purpose and boundaries

1:06:13 Natalism cures solipsism

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This BIg Nerve Question:

What could be an unexpected place to look for a theory of consciousness?

A little clue about my answer: I’m thinking about making a video essay about this.

This episode is possible with support from ya’ll (thank you), and also BigNerve. Big Nerve is pushing hard to get thinkers funded and recognized. You should be one of those thinkers. To enter my idea tournament, win money, AND help me answer some really tough questions click the linked question and start playing!

More resources:

Video episode

Erik’s Twitter

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