Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"In other words, evolution couldn't care less if you perceive objective reality."

What If Evolution Bred Reality Out Of Us? : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR: "most of us wouldn't expect an argument denying the reality of the objective world to come out of evolutionary biology. After all, doesn't evolution tell us we've been tuned to reality by billions of years of natural selection? It makes sense that creatures that can't tell a poisonous snake from a stick shouldn't last long and, therefore, shouldn't pass their genes on to the next generation. That is certainly how the standard argument goes. But Donald Hoffman, a cognitive scientist, isn't buying it. For decades, Hoffman, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, has been studying the links between evolution, perception and intelligence (both natural and machine). Based on that body of work, he thinks we've been missing something fundamental when it comes to fundamental reality. Fundamentally, Hoffman argues, evolution and reality (the objective kind) have almost nothing to do with each other...

In other words, evolution couldn't care less if you perceive objective reality. It only wants you to have sex successfully. As a consequence, your apprehension of the world is tuned to whatever allows that to happen. Thus, your perceptions at the root level have nothing to do with some fundamental physics upon which the fundamental nature of objective independent reality is constructed. Hoffman then builds something even more radical out of his broken link between objective reality and evolution. He calls it conscious realism, and it's based on the premise that "circuits of conscious agents" are what end up defining experienced reality. While there clearly is a world separate from us, Hoffman says, evolution does not give us access to that. Instead, he claims, it's our interactions as conscious agents that give shape to the reality we experience. "I can take separate observers," he told Quanta Magazine, "put them together and create new observers, and keep doing this ad infinitum. It's conscious agents all the way down." This is a pretty head-spinning stuff. Our perceived reality has nothing to do with the world in and of itself? That's the kind of thing that's bound to piss off a whole lot of people in a whole lot of fields. I asked Hoffman about the reaction to his work. "All over the map," he replied. "I'm either a genius or an absolute stupid idiot. The emotions are pretty strong.""

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