Re: You can learn to be an ass.

1

"you can see part of the brain lighting up in a scan" is equated with "therefore it is innate"

People really say that? That is very, very stupid.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 6:53 AM
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That said, the same area of the brain (more or less) lighting up in everbody is a hint that something is innate.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 6:54 AM
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Or a bad scanner.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 6:56 AM
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Or shitty analysis, yes. But, you know.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 6:59 AM
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Failing the marshmallow test can also be learned, but that means that racists who use the marshmallow test to prove minorities innately have less self control have to unlearn their racism, or something.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:00 AM
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"Or," Moby? Are you saying the scanner isn't innately bad?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:00 AM
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That said, the same area of the brain (more or less) lighting up in everbody is a hint that something is innate.

Why? Why couldn't it be a hint that everybody is exposed to something universal in experience?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:01 AM
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I am hard-pressed to think of a writer who shares my sensibilities as much as Robert Wright, who is, nonetheless, wrong all the goddam time.

After all, in the environment of human evolution--which didn't feature, for example, jet travel to other continents--there would have been virtually no encounters between groups that had different skin colors or other conspicuous physical differences. So it's not as if the human lineage could have plausibly developed, by evolutionary adaptation, an instinctive reaction to members of different races.

Yes, in fact, humans could have plausibly developed various innate reactions to out-group types, and such reaction could, hypothetically, be extended to people because they don't look the same.

I'd guess that didn't happen, but the lack of air travel doesn't really address the issue. Humans are mentally flexible enough to have developed all sorts of proclivities in the absence of some direct cause-and-effect.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:01 AM
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7: I don't think that innate vs. caused by a universal factor in the environment is really a meaningful difference.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:04 AM
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1: There's quite a bit of science journalism that does say that, isn't there?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:04 AM
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7: why would it always show up in the same place?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:04 AM
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11: Why not?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:06 AM
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re: 10

Yes. Some of it written by people who should know better.*

* The S/ usan Gr/ eenfield's of this world.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:06 AM
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On the veldt, brain functions that didn't show up in the same place caused death by elephant.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:07 AM
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My impression from rubbing shoulders with neuroscientists is that functional MRI is considered dubious in general, and that newspaper reports of this or that part of the brain "lighting up" in response some stimulus or other are an embarrassment to the field.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:07 AM
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I don't think that innate vs. caused by a universal factor in the environment is really a meaningful difference.

It is when it comes to something like the impact of sexism, no?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:08 AM
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It's like no one has even seen South Pacific!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:08 AM
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12: no, you first. If nothing is innate, why should you be able to find consistent brain regions for anything?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:08 AM
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I didn't say nothing is innate. I said that just because everyone lights up in spot A just means that everyone had the same developmental trigger, be it in the womb or afterwards in the world. Just that universal response doesn't tell you that you haven't just measured a universal experience.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:10 AM
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15: "in general" is strong. Certainly neuroscientists who work with animals think (fairly) that they can learn much more about those brains by actually sticking electrodes in them and so on. But I don't think anybody would deny that there's interesting functional work here and there. (I mean, maybe they would, but that's silly.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:10 AM
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Science journalism seems pretty awful in general. It's just that if they're spouting gibberish about electrons, it doesn't really affect anything, while if they spout gibberish about anything related to human nature, the "all of my prejudices are true!" section of everybody's brain lights up.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:11 AM
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19: all I said was that it's a hint that something is innate.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:11 AM
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15: Really? So things like, observing what areas seem to be active in people with OCD versus Generalized Anxiety disorder isn't useful? Or looking at how people with schizophrenia respond to a particular self-reflective task versus "normal" controls doesn't tell you anything? I'm genuinely curious. I'm not saying anything is innate, but what other tools do we have?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:11 AM
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7,11,12: The primary sensory areas of the brain and their surrounding, supporting cortices are more or less invariant across brains and are probably written into the code, so to speak. Higher cognitive functions that tend to show up in the same regions over and over again could also be written into the code (as some suppose with language, for example), or it could be because, given that input comes into the specific places where it does, these higher cognitive functions will tend to be formed in a more or less predictable pattern as a natural consequence of that.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:13 AM
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22: Right. Why does it lean that way? Why does it provide any timeline hint?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:13 AM
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16: That's just really common. If something is actually universal, you can't test the hypothesis that it isn't innate because you have way to get data that would tell you what you need to know (short of kidnapping babies and letting bob shove them in a cage).


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:14 AM
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19: all I said was that it's a hint that something is innate.

For instance, it shows that possession of a brain is innate.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:15 AM
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26: There are other, less difficult ways, but not much less difficult.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:16 AM
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@20,23

I don't think that people think that there's no real phenomenon there, just that the whole technique has become so overhyped that it's worth keeping several grains of salt handy when reading about the results.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:17 AM
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26: There are certainly experiences that are so universal that if someone missed that experience, then they've got so many complicating factors that it will be hard to build a meaningful case about why their brain isn't lighting up in that spot.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:18 AM
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8: Yeah, that is not a good article. He, or the authors he's relaying, seems to be operating with the implicit assumption that children can't be racist until their amygdala starts lighting up around age 14. Also, he doesn't consider the possibility that perhaps non-racism is what is learned.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:18 AM
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It's just that if they're spouting gibberish about electrons, it doesn't really affect anything

It affects my mood. Because of the innate annoyed-at-science-journalists circuit in my brain.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:20 AM
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30: Yes. That's what I was thinking of. I was thinking in terms of statistical power. If something shows up in 1 out of 50 brains, you'll need many hundreds of people scanned to study it. Thousands, if your measurement is noisy and I'd guess that these are.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:25 AM
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27: it does, yup. It shows that a propensity for the brain to be divided into functional regions is probably (I mean, definitely, but I'm limiting my argument to the specific case of a single fMRI study, here) innate. It likely shows that a propensity for the brain to be divided into functional regions relevant to this task is innate.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:28 AM
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33: one of the big problems with fMRI is that if you have the statistical power to see effects that small you see all kinds of (spurious? irrelevant?) effects everywhere and it's basically impossible to usefully disambiguate what you're looking for. Which is a big problem with the "look at comparative activities of different regions" approach, but anyhow.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:31 AM
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If you work in an fMRI lab and play "I don't like Mondays" all the time, I bet you get funny looks.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:32 AM
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37

35: More brains will fix that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:32 AM
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38

29: that is definitely true. There are those (who should know if anybody should) that argue that less than 50% of currently published fMRI studies will be replicable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:33 AM
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37: More brains cost money, and getting grant money for replication is hard.
38: I like that lottery idea.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:39 AM
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The silly thing that I often hear is along the lines of, "When people spend a lot of time doing x, y part of the brain lights up, which means that something real is going on." This kind of thing may be news to people who believe there are ghosts running our bodies, but honestly, what do you expect? If I spend a lot of time practicing the piano, some piano-playing-related potentiation is going to happen in my brain. But before we had fMRIs to do these scans, there was no reason to doubt that piano practice, or improvements in playing the piano, were real.

(I understand that real neuroscientists don't say such stupid things. I do hear it from people in other fields who are just discovering functional brain imaging, and it gets repeated a lot by non-specialists. I guess most people are Cartesians and are thus constantly surprised by these studies. "And here I thought it was just the pineal gland!")


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:41 AM
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If there really were all this innate stuff in the brain, dating back to the veldt, wouldn't most of it just be "Oh shit, a sabertooth!" and the like? Seems like that kind of input would shove all of the "Get a blonde with big breasts" stuff right out.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:43 AM
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Has that great study The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations been posted here? Basically it's a demonstration that exposure to a low to moderate (undergrad-level) level of neuroscience tends to make you dumber. Instant classic.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:43 AM
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38: I think this is less a problem of cognitive neuroimaging per se than the publishing/funding culture that supports them. Cogsci is a noisy business whether you use brain imaging methods or behavioural, eye-tracking or whatever.

As described in your link, the gatekeepers don't give a shit about replication. If they insisted on it more, we'd have way less studies that were way more reliable.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:43 AM
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43.b was poorly formulated. I meant fewer and better studies.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:45 AM
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Also, with regard to sampling, I know a bunch of people who do med studies (a couple of them just got sent home without pay after the big kidney drug study imploded), and they tend to do studies over and over again for years. How many of these brains being studied for different things are THE SAME BRAINS?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:46 AM
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If there really were all this innate stuff in the brain, dating back to the veldt, wouldn't most of it just be "Oh shit, a sabertooth!" and the like? Seems like that kind of input would shove all of the "Get a blonde with big breasts" stuff right out.

That's why humans rock, we've got the capacity to have both.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:50 AM
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43.1: sure. It's specifically a problem in imaging because there are a lot of statistical pitfalls, it (well, parts of it) is a relatiely new technique, and subjects are fucking expensive.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:51 AM
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48

Something weird happened grammatically in 47.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:52 AM
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I can't say I've noticed many if any tendentious stories using fMRI to argue things are innate, specifically. It tends to be more "White people's brains talk like this, black people's brains talk like this" race or gender or age-based stuff.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:54 AM
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45: In the write-up, they always mention that the findings may not generalize to people without a fuck-ton of extra free time to sit and be scanned.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:55 AM
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48: Maybe Noam Chomsky and his deep structures can analyze it for you.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:57 AM
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"White people's brains talk like this, black people's brains talk like this" race or gender

That usually has a strong implication of innateness in the pop version, though. 'Populations that are innately different in [gender/ethnicity] are also different in what shows up on an fMRI, so the different fMRI readings are an inevitable consequence of the [chromosomal or hormonal differences between men and women/whatever genetic differences the reader imagines exist between members of different ethnicities].'


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:59 AM
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I could be persuaded if advocates of fMRI used thos little Victorian phenology head-bump maps with the areas said to be lighting up actually lighting up. Or alse if they spliced glow-worm DNA into people, so that regions of their actual real heads lit up. Or perhaps not persuaded, but entertained.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:00 AM
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Noam Chomsky and his deep structures

Doowop band.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:00 AM
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*Worriedly taps bulb in proof-reading region*


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:01 AM
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I want to ban the phrase "Literally rewires the brain"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:02 AM
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40 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:04 AM
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The post linked in 38 makes it sound like the problem isn't anything about neuroimaging per se but people fetishizing p-values without thinking about what they actually mean. Which is a problem in science much more broadly.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:05 AM
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That usually has a strong implication of innateness in the pop version, though.

Perhaps, though that's not the impression I get. It's definitely about seizing upon any research that highlights differences in brain function (no matter how tenuous), rather than about saying a particular trait is innate rather than learned. And the contrasting groups chosen are often very hard to label as innately different (eg conservatives and liberals).


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:06 AM
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It might also drive me nuts if I had ever actually heard anyone make that argument.

I do however enjoy the parlor game "innate or not?!" In the game a participant is selected, and then a characteristic of that participant is selected. The participant is Nate and it must be decided: is that characteristic in him or out of him? It goes on for hours and hours and is a hilarious game!


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:06 AM
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Is there another context in which something is said to be "hard wired"? I don't think Ive heard the term outside of pop discussion of ev psych.

I'm waiting for some kind of fMRI novelty lighting up helmet, to be worn at dance parties. I'm pretty sure this will be on the market by 2020.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:06 AM
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53: Next time I do a peer review of a paper that measures a cognitive function, I'm going to request that the authors report skull topography.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:07 AM
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From the study I linked in 42:

we propose that people often find neuroscience information alluring because it interferes with their abilities to judge the quality of the psychological explanations that contain this information....something about seeing neuroscience information may encourage people to believe they have received a scientific explanation when they have not....To test this hypothesis, we examined people's judgments of explanations that either do or do not contain neuroscience information....The three experiments reported here explored the impact of adding scientific-sounding but empirically and conceptually uninformative neuroscience information to both good and bad psychological explanations....Our most important finding concerns the effect that explanatorily irrelevant neuroscience information has on subject's judgments of the explanations. For novices and students, the addition of such neuroscience information encouraged them to judge the explanations more favorably, particularly the bad explanations. That is, extraneous neuroscience information makes explanations look more satisfying than they actually are... The students in the cognitive neuroscience class showed no benefit of training, demonstrating that only a semester's worth of instruction is not enough to dispel the effect of neuroscience information on judgments of explanations. Many people thus systematically misunderstand the role that neuroscience should and should not play in psychological explanations....However, the impact of superfluous neuroscience information is not unlimited. Although novices and students rated bad explanations as more satisfying when they contained neuroscience information, experts did not. In fact, subjects in the expert group tended to rate good explanations with neuroscience information as worse than good explanations without neuroscience, indicating their understanding that the added neuroscience information was inappropriate for the phenomenon being described.

Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:07 AM
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This week, Buck Rogers battles Professor Chomsky in his fiendish Deep-Sea Structures!


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:08 AM
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58: I fetishize the coefficients of linear regressions because beta looks like breasts.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:09 AM
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63 we propose that people often find neuroscience information alluring because it interferes with their abilities to judge the quality of the psychological explanations that contain this information

They should have submitted two versions of their paper to different journals, one with this and one saying "we propose that people often find neuroscience information alluring because it activates dopaminergic neurons correlated to learning" and compared the referee reports on the two versions.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:10 AM
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So that's why researchers neglect statistical power! 1 − β is just filthy.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:12 AM
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Or alse if they spliced glow-worm DNA into people, so that regions of their actual real heads lit up.
Well ...


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:13 AM
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The thing in 63 seems like a problem with scientistic explanations of things generally, as much as neuroscience specifically. Certain kinds of people are always likely to believe stupid things when there are sciencey words attached. This also explains economists, and expert witnesses.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:14 AM
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...and compared the referee reports on the two versions in Wisconsin.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:16 AM
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The silly thing that I often hear is along the lines of, "When people spend a lot of time doing x, y part of the brain lights up, which means that something real is going on." This kind of thing may be news to people who believe there are ghosts running our bodies, but honestly, what do you expect?

Definitely this.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:25 AM
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If only I could find the link to Standpipe's blog I might figure out 70.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:45 AM
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Heebie, are you arguing in 71 that tissue responses to specific types of stimuli ("lighting up") disproves dualism? Or are you saying something else?

I should be more clear. It could very well be that the brain is an organ which responds to thoughts in the way we would expect while a "ghost" still remains in the machine.

I read something interesting on this once. I'll see if I can find a link.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:46 AM
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72: I really don't understand it either, it just felt appropriate.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:51 AM
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It was Douglas Hofstadter, I am a strange loop. I think he believes in the soul, the physical structure relating thereto being a loop of neurons which feedback on themselves. The soul of course isn't the neurons, but is created by the process of feedback among those neurons. Only some neurons are involved -- this would allow a large part of our brain activity to be submerged in the subconscious. Anyway, I might not understand it very well, but a good link is below:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-new-journey-into-hofsta


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:56 AM
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Would anyone like me to link them the amazon page? I'm looking at you, Robert Halford.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:58 AM
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75: That's not really how I remember I Am A Strange Loop, to be honest. But it has been a few years. His main thing along those lines was that in some real sense we do have immortal (or rather post-mortal) souls, in that our "selves" live on in the minds of others. There was also an extended discussion of the relative sizes of things' souls (not as silly as it sounds, honest).

Only some neurons are involved -- this would allow a large part of our brain activity to be submerged in the subconscious.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but it's not remotely controversial that an enormous part of our mental activity is not directly available to our conscious minds.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:10 AM
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Seeing "text comments on You can learn to be an ass" in the sidebar did make me smile.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:10 AM
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79

Oh, hey, look: RTFA


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:15 AM
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77: I wasn't identifying any controversy there. The idea of consciousness or the soul as a feedback loop was simply an explanation or a different way of understanding the split between conscious and subconscious, I thought.

I could very well be wrong on this, as I am not a neuroscientist, but my reading of the book was that it went a bit further than you are going.

I also remember the size of souls thing! I think he made a chart or something. It was a library book and I don't have it around though I kept it a lot longer than I should have. Once you accept Hofstadter's definition of soul as feedback loop of neurons, the size of souls thing actually made sense, I thought.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:17 AM
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Do you really think you have dibs on making comments about that book or something? Ginger Yellow once wrote something about Hofstadter; clearly nothing more can be written.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:19 AM
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So if the size of souls between species varies, how about the size of soul between individuals?

Did Miles Davis, brilliant but interpersonally cruel, have a larger or smaller soul than JS Bach, brilliant but interpersonally petty?

I am not being snarky with these-- I suspect that there are indeed degrees of consciousness, but have a hard time taking the thought even a tiny bit further, since there are immediate contradictions. Somebody must have done this well-- I could look at Hofstadter.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:32 AM
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81: Didn't mean to imply that at all. I was just surprised and amused to discover I'd previously mentioned the book here and forgotten about it.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:32 AM
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Just trying to make this thread go somewhere. Heebie points out something that annoys her, that she thinks people might say. Others think nobody would make those statements. But that's not true -- somebody clearly did, it's just that the statements are stupid. We all agree on that -- where else can the discussion go?

So, I dunno, let's play a game instead.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:37 AM
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sorry to snap at you!


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:38 AM
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86

84. Could an omnipotent being make a stone so big that the omnipotent being could not then lift it?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:38 AM
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75, 80: OK, but I still don't see what it has to do with "only some neurons" being involved. It's not like there are two non-overlapping sets of "consciousness neurons" and "subconscious neurons".


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:40 AM
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88

Mu!


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:40 AM
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88 to 86.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:40 AM
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Yes, answers like 88 are what makes me pessimistic about turning to Hofstadter for something like degrees of consciousness.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:43 AM
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87: I think you're right on that. Consciousness might be one function of the neurons -- one type of pattern or something. This is where my lack of underlying knowledge comes to play. I thought a key insight of the book was that the feedback loop couldn't involve all of the brain's functionality, so there would be some left-over functions not involved in it -- a significant amount of potential cut off from the feedback. That would be a way to explain the conscious/subconscious split. It could be the same neurons, but different firing patterns for conscious v. unconscious. Feel free to tear apart what I've written and make something cogent out of it.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:46 AM
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More cowbell.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:46 AM
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86: Yes. This explains God's back problems.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:50 AM
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But I don't know. Different brain tissues do serve different functions. It could be that consciousness is a feedback loop limited to a specific part of the brain, at the tissue level.

Someone who knows what they're talking about should feel free to jump in and call me stupid.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:51 AM
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It could be that consciousness is a feedback loop limited to a specific part of the brain

why just the brain? There are nerve cells throughout your body that wire directly to the brain. Clearly your spinal cord isn't doing your higher order thinking but it seems quite possible for the body to be part of consciousness. Certainly I *feel* conscious of my entire body, and surely this has something to do with the constant flow of feedback from nerve cells throughout my body.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:56 AM
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lw, I think Hofstadter was equating size of soul with awareness. The idea was the bigger the feedback, the more awareness. This might also equate to things like sensitivity and kindness but I don't think he went so far as to say that outright.

He wasn't so much comparing Bach's soul to Miles Davis' soul as an infant's soul to an adult's soul. Under his thesis, an adult's soul is bigger than an infant's. It sounds kind of absurd to talk that way, but it makes sense under his analysis. Of course we don't treat an infant as having a smaller soul than an adult, but maybe that's because an infant has a much bigger potential soul than an adult -- it might reach a much higher level of awareness, have more functionality in the loop, or something.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:00 AM
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95: are there loops, though? Afferent and efferent nerves are much more linear. Sensor to neuron to CNS, CNS to neuron to effector. Yes, an afferent neuron firing could stimulate a neuron in the CNS to fire, but the reverse isn't true.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:02 AM
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That's a good question, PGD. Maybe we should think in terms of the entire neural network. It makes a lot of sense to me.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:02 AM
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97: Greek to me, ajay. The loop is more the effect than an actual physical assortment of neurons, maybe? Hofstadter compared consciousness to a series of cameras pointed at television screens, running footage from the cameras. You don't have to have a physical loop to get a feedback effect.

Would that line up with the science?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:06 AM
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The feedback could be an effect located in a specific part of the brain without it being an actual loop of individual neurons, right?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:08 AM
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I feel conscious of my bicycle, and therefore I believe that consciousness must extend beyond the confines of the body and include the bicycle. You will have noticed, said the policeman, that if a man is parted by violence or sudden happenstance from his bicycle, such as if he strikes his wheel against a stone or a pig of iron, or if he is struck in turn by an inattentive charabanc, he will as often as not lose consciousness, and this is clearly a result of the hemispheric ructions and ruptures in the fabric of his consciousness produced by the sudden secession of the bicycle.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:10 AM
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I'm not sure you can have a loop if one of the components can't be affected by any of the others. But I haven't read the Hofstadter.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:13 AM
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sounds like ajay disagrees with PGD. one question might be, if consciousness is a feedback loop or feedback effect limited to a subset of brain function (either localized in a specific tissue or limited to a subset of firing patterns) would it be a good thing to increase the loop? Maybe, maybe not. Is it better to have a mind that just knows what to do, or a mind that's more aware of what it's doing?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:14 AM
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well is it impossible for a set of neurons to affect each other without actually being situated in a loop?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:16 AM
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101: The third policeman I would have thought? But not finding it there.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:17 AM
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I suppose I should just say, is it impossible for a set of neurons to all affect each other? I doubt the answer can be yes.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:18 AM
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Of course we don't treat an infant as having a smaller soul than an adult,

Well, yes we do, if you bear in mind that when Hofstadter says "soul" he's talking about some combination of the ideas of "self", "personhood" and "consciousness".


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:20 AM
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Fair enough. It's just hard to divorce the word from the meaning it always has in other contexts. I mean, Hofstadter could have made up a new term, but he wanted to use soul, for a reason, I think.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:22 AM
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105: In the style of, but not actually taken from.

is it impossible for a set of neurons to affect each other without actually being situated in a loop?

Well, yes. If you've got a situation where A affects B, B affects C and C affects A, then you've got a loop. If A can affect B, but none of the other letters can affect A, then either you haven't got a loop, or you've got a loop that doesn't include A.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:25 AM
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Does Hofstadter think cameras pointed at their monitors are conscious? What about electric guitars on feedback? What about a game of Tower of Hanoi?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:28 AM
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why just the brain? There are nerve cells throughout your body that wire directly to the brain. Clearly your spinal cord isn't doing your higher order thinking but it seems quite possible for the body to be part of consciousness.

Especially the vagina.


Posted by: OPINIONATED NAOMI KLEIN | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:29 AM
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Opinionated Naomi Wolf, dammit! Ruined the joke, sorry.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:30 AM
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Right, ajay, so which of those scenarios is impossible in the brain?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:30 AM
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Neurons don't have to be connected to each other (with axons and dendrites) to affect each other, of course. But at this point I think I should just dig out my copy of the book.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:31 AM
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No, eggplant, I don't think he does. But under his analysis a large enough self-referential network could be conscious, I think.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:31 AM
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Please do! I would like a refresher.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:34 AM
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Well, they're all possible in the brain - but we're talking about the peripheral nervous system here, and as far as I know there's no way for a neuron in the CNS to make an afferent neuron fire, unless you include indirect things like hormone releases, blood chemistry, or proprioception. (Or indeed just banging into something. My brain can make a sensory neuron in my hand fire by ordering my hand to touch something.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:34 AM
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What if I rewrote that network with an iterative algorithm?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:35 AM
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Sounds like ajay wants to limit the possible source of neurons or tissue for this loop to a specific part of the brain -- the forebrain maybe?

Maybe that's where it is, I dunno. But I think we could include all of those factors as well -- hormone releases, etc. -- within the operative loop.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:56 AM
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I don't know, Eggplant, what if you did? Seems to me as though you'd have written a description of a self-referential network that might be conscious.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:57 AM
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Which definition of the soul do you prefer? Huh? Do you think the soul is just a feedback loop? Do you think feedback loops should be bigger? Why are the front page posters not answering these crucial questions? Is this a neuroscience blog or not?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 10:59 AM
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Is this a neuroscience blog or not?

Today this is a neuroscience blog for people who have no idea what they're saying.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:01 AM
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What is your favorite neuron and why? Is this not a neuroscience blog?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:06 AM
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120: If I have a process that executes iteratively that is computationally equivalent to a "conscious" process that executes recursively, what does recursion have to do with anything?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:06 AM
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Yes, eggplant, what does recursion have to do with anything?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:08 AM
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JP, see above. My favorite neurons all died long ago.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:09 AM
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123: I'm fond of one of my grandmother neurons, but not so much the other.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:09 AM
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I know lots of relevant information that I'm going to keep to myself. Tee-hee!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:24 AM
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Is it better to have a mind that just knows what to do, or a mind that's more aware of what it's doing?

I think that it's better to have a mind that just knows what to do and does it rather than one that procrastinates in a state of elevated self-awareness.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:26 AM
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Then you are in favor of being less conscious, lw, by Hofstadter's definition. Maybe you're right.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:31 AM
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eggplant, my guess is that if you write out a logarithm of a network, you're just describing the network. Your description is incapable of thought.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:33 AM
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In my nearly two decades of regular internet usage, I have not ever encountered so skillful a troll as text.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:49 AM
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130. Yes, I know that, and I think that this points to a limitation of the definition. But beyond noticing that the idea's incomplete, I don't have any additional useful thoughts, nor do I know of anyone else who has wriiten some down.

Well, I do, kind of-- European philosophers are not the only ones who have considered the problem of consciousness, but Nagarjuna wasn't interested in the mind-body problem.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:50 AM
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Oh I don't think text really cracks the top tier of unfogged trolls.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:50 AM
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We keep our trolls in tiers because the SPCA doesn't think keeping them under bridges is humane.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:53 AM
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Anytime the thread becomes about me, I am happy. I think I am either an upper-middle troll or a troll of high lineage, fallen into disrepair.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:54 AM
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Oh I don't think text really cracks the top tier of unfogged trolls.

What, do you have a "logarithm" for ranking them?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:55 AM
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What was Nagarjuna interested in, lw? Let's make the thread about that person. What was he about?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:56 AM
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134: No, I think he's a drunken master. Unlike trolls such as bob or Shearer, who troll through sincerity or apparent sincerity, text all but declares he's a troll before proceeding to successfully troll. It'd be like if a clown wandered into a university and gave an uninvited lecture that was mostly ridiculous, and all these academics started arguing with him in earnest.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:56 AM
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he wanted to use soul, for a reason, I think

To sell more books and equivocate about the scope of his claims, most likely.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:56 AM
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I am insincerely sincere, or the other way around.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:58 AM
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137: I just try to be conscious of them.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:59 AM
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If the blog ends, it will not be due to relentless craziness, but relentless faux-naif stupidity. I find Bob a lot more fun and less tiresome.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:59 AM
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hard to imagine how "the real" version of a backwards named person could find something else ridiculous. Are you Hanna Jeff or Jeff Hanna?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 11:59 AM
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Speaking of trolls, do I want to get in an argument with Amanda Marcotte about parents who get tattoos of their babies?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:00 PM
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Yes! Where?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:01 PM
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If the blog ends, it will not be due to relentless craziness, but relentless faux-naif stupidity.

Are you or are you not a person on the internet going by the name "Roberto Tigre"? Did you think you wandered into Yale or something? I'm pretty sure you didn't.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:01 PM
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Yes. How could that argument not be awesome? Are you pro or anti tattoo-babies?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:01 PM
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145: If you're saying "Don't tattoo your baby," yes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:02 PM
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I may have misread a preposition there.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:02 PM
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Seriously, under what definition of troll are you not all trolls? This is going to be a day of self-discovery.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:03 PM
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Let's talk specifics. Sifu, under what definition of "troll" are you not a troll?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:05 PM
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Heavy, man.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:05 PM
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61 - Science fiction! Terrible cyberpunk movies or a reasonably good cyberpunk book by Walter Jon Williams. No, it's an old electrical engineering term -- hardwired meant that the logic was defined on a circuit board rather than programmed.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:05 PM
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Speaking of trolls, do I want to get in an argument with Amanda Marcotte about parents who get tattoos of their babies?

Only if you make a point of sneering about "hipsters who get tattoos of their babies". You can't troll AM properly unless you slam hipsters somehow or other.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:08 PM
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do I want to get in an argument with Amanda Marcotte about parents who get tattoos of their babies?

Point Tedra at her.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:08 PM
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Seriously, under what definition of troll are you not all trolls? This is going to be a day of self-discovery.

My God, it's full of trolls!


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:09 PM
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Pace Friends of the Blog, tats of specific individuals* are almost invariably hideous and only get more hideous with the passage of time. But that goes for your the tat of your dear old mother as well as your baby as well as Robert Pattinson. (And it's not my business what you get tattooed on yourself.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:15 PM
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No idea what that asterisk is for.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:16 PM
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Trolls with tattoos of their little trollbabies.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:16 PM
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Yeah, OK, 85 and 131 are both pretty good.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:16 PM
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159: I figured it for a comment tattoo.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:18 PM
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Pace Friends of the Blog, tats of specific individuals* are almost invariably hideous and only get more hideous with the passage of time.

Too true from what I've seen. Fortunately, I haven't seen much of it. I wonder if people with really small pores and firm skin can have finely detailed tattoos look better as they age.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:21 PM
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an argument with Amanda Marcotte about parents who get tattoos of their babies

You are denying us links here! Give!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:27 PM
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A tattoo/portrait of a baby is especially silly. You know who's not going to look like that, very soon? That baby. You know who all look pretty much the same? Babies. So in four years you'll be all like "oh hey look there's some baby on my arm" instead of having an evocative memory of your child.

Just put the kid's name on your arm like a normal person.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:29 PM
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I had a friend who wanted to get a tattoo of a wookie, but no, if I recall correctly, she wanted it to be a wook-baby. The problem is that there are no representations of wook-babies anywhere. The men and women look more or less the same and are easy enough to get down on paper. The wook babies are hidden from all of the movies though, hopefully not because they're hideous to look at -- otherwise my friend's tat would be a fright!


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:30 PM
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164 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:30 PM
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I know I've linked to this before, but this is clearly the best stupid tattoo of all time.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:30 PM
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Is that how they do it at Yale, Tigre?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:32 PM
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Eminem had Hailie's picture put on his shoulder. I work out in a military gym, and have twice heard conversations between servicemen where dude A wants dude B to do a tattoo portrait from a photo.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:32 PM
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Here are some.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:33 PM
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171 is either Helpy-Chalk's best argument or worst enemy, depending on what side he's on.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:36 PM
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You know who's not going to look like that, very soon? That baby. You know who all look pretty much the same? Babies.

While I'm not a fan of baby tattoos (or any tattoos of people, for that matter), I believe that #1 is the very point and #2 would be hotly contested by many parents.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:36 PM
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If you got a baby a tattoo of a baby would it have a soul?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:38 PM
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I'm trying to give the medium-term perspective to the baby-tattoo inclined.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:40 PM
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169: hey, text, but do you mind stopping whatever it is that you're doing? I'd really be grateful if you wouldn't keep this up. It's frustrating and seems, as others have noted, rather pointless.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:42 PM
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171 makes more sense you realize that they're all tattoos of baby vampires.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:42 PM
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Also, and this is a serious question, what the fuck is the point* of an iPad mini?

* Other than making money for Apple, I mean.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:45 PM
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It could be accused of many things, Von Wafer, but pointlessness isn't one of them. Nonetheless it's time to leave troll kingdom for the day. Hope you'll keep my seat warm for me.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:47 PM
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178: Think about the three little bears, except with screen size instead of porridge.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:47 PM
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178: easier to hold in one hand, I guess? Amazon is selling a boatoad of Kindle Fires.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:48 PM
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The problem is that there are no representations of wook-babies anywhere.

Let me tell you the good news about the Star Wars Holiday Special!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:50 PM
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That doesn't exist.


Posted by: Opinionated George Lucas | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:51 PM
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182: Instead of clean white shirts and ties, you go door to door wearing an open-necked off-white collarless shirt under a black vest.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 12:58 PM
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It's not the brain that trolls you


Posted by: OPINIONATED NAOMI WOLF'S VAGINA | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 1:30 PM
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Hipsters would seem substantially cooler if their children all had yakuza-style suits of ink, inscribing in their growing flesh icons of their soon-to-split parents' habits: mustache wax, sleeve garters, Betty Page haircuts, artisanal Polaroid film cartridges, jugs of beer, complaining on the Internet about somebody else's privilege, the cycle of neighborhood status (measured in girl bassplayers) over the poor infant's time.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 1:41 PM
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mustache wax, sleeve garters, Betty Page haircuts

A baffling look to be sure.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 1:47 PM
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Betty Page is the dragon of the hipster yakuza.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 1:49 PM
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Mustachioed Betty Bartender aside, what's with the jugs of beer thing?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 1:54 PM
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Growlers?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 1:55 PM
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I'm curious about them getting tagged as a hipster thing, though. I think of them as more the province of chubby middle-aged dudes with a fondness for cargo shorts.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 1:57 PM
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Growlers! That's it. Specifically the earthenware ones that look like they fell out of cartoons of 1930s hoboes.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 1:57 PM
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Wine thermoses.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 1:57 PM
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On the specific topic of trolling Amanda Marcotte, go ahead - anything to draw her attention away from ceaseless pointlessly noisy twitter beefs with slackjawed no-marks. It really fills up the timeline, and they're neither worthy targets or likely to be persuaded.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 1:58 PM
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Sometimes I want to carry lots of things without having to haul a bag, but I still would never consider cargo shorts. I don't want to understand why somebody buys those to wear in public places.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 1:58 PM
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They have earthenware growlers?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 1:59 PM
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Growlers have really had quite an arc. I remember learning what the word meant as a really little kid when my dad told me about some dude who lived on his street when he was a little kid who had trained his dog to carry an empty growler to the corner bar for refills. Several decades later it became a beer dork thing. Now they have taps and growlers at supermarkets in exurban Ohio.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:00 PM
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You can buy and refill growlers at our local version of Walgreen's, so I'll say no, not hipster.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:00 PM
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178: Yeah, easier to hold in one hand, stowable in a jacket pocket or car. The 10" iPad is too big to use while doing something else unless there's a place to rest it.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:00 PM
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I've seen some. They're quite fetching in a flashback-to-grade-school-field-trips-to-the-local-orchard-and-cidery way.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:00 PM
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I have a growler, but it's just glass. There's no convenient way to fill it because of PA's dediction to messing with drinkers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:01 PM
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Sorry to post about something, not link, and then disappear. I blame work.

Marcotte, on FB, linked to a picture of an ugly baby tattoo with a comment like "The latest entry in the weirdly popular 'subsume your whole identity to motherhood' contest."

I can't find it now, because I'm not FB friends with Marcotte. It only came up in my feed because a mutual friend commented. I was mad at her partially on behalf of fiends of this blog, but mostly just because she seems to think that loving your children is an offense against feminism, so, fuck you to her.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:02 PM
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"dediction" is what happens when you can't decide between "dedication" and "addiction".


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:02 PM
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201: When I was in PA, I almost always bought beer in growlers because buying a six-pack was damn near impossible, but the local brewery chain would fill growlers.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:03 PM
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202: Is getting a tattoo the same as subsuming your entire identity to whatever is represented?


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:04 PM
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fiends of this blog

Aren't they all.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:04 PM
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The Marcotte thing is also on twitter if you feel like arguing with her there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:05 PM
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204: I'm closer to a beer distributor than a brewery chain.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:05 PM
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204: Oh, me, too. IH FTW!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:05 PM
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she seems to think that loving your children is an offense against feminism

Did she say that somewhere, as well?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:05 PM
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208: I'm more of a beer consumer.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:06 PM
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but mostly just because she seems to think that loving your children is an offense against feminism

Hipsters love their children ironically.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:06 PM
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Here we go:

http://bit.ly/POOa9O This week's winner in the dubious-but-popular contest to see who can most subsume her identity into being a mommy.

A comment on Marcotte's feed: "And I like how it's almost like she's literally being walked all over!"

I should just work. I have to get this thing done before I go home and let my children literally walk on me.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:07 PM
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mostly just because she seems to think that loving your children is an offense against feminism, so, fuck you to her.

Not the place to get into it, so I won't except to say that it is unfair and inaccurate to flatly collapse the very real erasure and self-abnegation that is pushed in some parenting mothering circles into "loving your children" and then tell Marcotte to fuck off about it. She's likely talking about Jessica Valenti's book.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:09 PM
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213: But . . . it is like she is being walked all over? That's what you'd think if you saw it outside of a context in which you felt the need to defend it.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:10 PM
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Does she care if men get a tattoo of their baby? Or the mailman's baby, whichever.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:13 PM
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mostly just because she seems to think that loving your children is an offense against feminism, so, fuck you to her.

To pointedly paraphrase Keanu

They don't belong to you


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:17 PM
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209: High five!

Oh, in case anyone was worried about the married colleague's confession of love, we took about two weeks off from seeing one another, then had a lovely time with his wife and others at a party at our Mutual Reasonable Friend's house this weekend, and then had a very pleasant and non-intense lunch date today, at which we discussed the sexual appeal of MRF. The wife has been flirting with me in an overt way (hand on shoulder, purring "you are SO funny, you know that?"), but I think the husband and I are settling into a very nice intimate friendship that had a lot of confusing feelings at the beginning. I don't know if MRF has mentioned any attraction to me, but I am happy to hear my friend able to discuss him without jealousy. We're going to be fine.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:17 PM
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There is one dude with a baby tattoo on the site she linked to.

I recognize that mothering circles often push crazy, unhealthy self-abnegation. I didn't think of that, or JV's book at the context for the comment, though. I was just thinking about the tattoo choice, which seemed more than reasonable to me.

In any case, there are several ways in which being at work right now means that I'm not in a position to argue this issue, so I'll drop it.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:18 PM
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I've definitely seen people walking around with tattoos of the footprint thing that babies get done at the hospital, presumably their own. I've only seen it in black, and these walking footprints do strike me as weirder. Lee, who hates tattoos, nevertheless was tempted to get one of the little hand gesture Mara did to signify herself as a tribute to the adoption, but then she didn't.

I am a billion kinds of torn about the motherhood=unhealthy self-abnegation stuff, because obviously I took on a sort of parenting that involves certain time-intensive emotionally dense work, but does that mean I suck and am denying my true self or something? Dunno.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 2:56 PM
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220: Your comments lack the showy "I don't matter, only my kids matter" tone that the self-abnegators possess.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:01 PM
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Plus, class class class. I think Nia's mom has Nia's birthdate tattooed on her somewhere that I could see from the normal clothes she was wearing when we met. I do think having the child's name as a breast tattoo is weird, but know (poor black) women who've done it. It would be highly nonstandard at least hear to have a baby's name as a neck tattoo, where preferably self or maybe partner are most usual, but arms are typical. I want to say Mara's mom has a tattoo tribute to her baby who died but not the other kids. Her aunts have their biological children but the aunt who's raising Mara's siblings doesn't have their names.

Actually, I wonder how common a tattoo like that would be for a parent who had kids taken into state custody. It's not uncommon to see young siblings on an adoption photolisting and the younger one (usually a boy) has the same name as the older one, which to me means the older one was already in care and second's name was a replacement/tribute but then that didn't end up working out either. I know other foster parents I know have seen parents who aren't doing much to regain custody nevertheless(?) get elaborate tattoos in tribute to their children.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:01 PM
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222's "hear" should be "here." It's one thing to devote way too much time to parenting, but I'm not going to lose my spelling!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:03 PM
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In general, there's a theory that the bigger a guy's tattoo of his child's name, the less likely he is to be up-to-date with his child support. Reality varies, I'm sure. Done now, and off to take care of my miserable kid with hives.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:04 PM
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I read the last word of 224 as "knives" and the world was briefly a much more exciting place.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:05 PM
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I can see how 223 would work on the veldt. A tattoo makes a costly signal, but immeasurably less costly than actually looking after the kid would be.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:11 PM
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After the revolution, property does not own you, and stewardship provides a social rather than personal identity.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:15 PM
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And the mix of tenses in 227 is dialectical


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:16 PM
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I do think having the child's name as a breast tattoo is weird, but know (poor black) women who've done it.

From the baby's point of view, it must be like having your own table permanently reserved at the club. "No, this one is yours. That one's for your sister."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:23 PM
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Plus, class class class.

This.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:25 PM
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I won't take up Marcotte's argument, since rob has said a couple of times that he doesn't want to discuss this now, but a question: Leaving aside the mother's identity, isn't there a way in which getting a tattoo of your child is an encroachment on the kid? It's not so much of an issue if it's a memorial tattoo, and I don't find names and/or birthdates too much, but an image of another person? It feels to me like that stakes a claim, whether or not that is the intent: Your image is a part of MY body. You are a part of ME.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:34 PM
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Actually, I wonder how common a tattoo like that would be for a parent who had kids taken into state custody.

Sometimes they don't even get their tattoo priorities right. On that particular incident I was the muscle backing up DCFS while they took five(!) kids away from that woman.

I do think having the child's name as a breast tattoo is weird, but know (poor black) women who've done it.

Not many blacks here but plenty of low class whites and hispanics and those stupid kid related tats on necks, chest, etc. are not uncommon.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:50 PM
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In general, there's a theory that the bigger a guy's tattoo of his child's name, the less likely he is to be up-to-date with his child support. Reality varies, I'm sure.

Heh, probably a lot of truth to that.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 3:51 PM
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Leaving aside the mother's identity, isn't there a way in which getting a tattoo of your child is an encroachment on the kid?

It would make the classic "showing your child's baby pictures to his/her date" scene so so much more horrifying. Think how great that's going to be. "He was such a cute baby. Just look!"


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 7:20 PM
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I've long since missed the relevant discussion, but a thought: It seems to me that there is an interesting connection to be made between Hofstadter's strange loops and Judea Pearl's notion of causality.

This is either the coolest idea I've ever had or completely stupid. Or perhaps both. Still, I'm intrigued. Maybe the idea would be that consciousness is that which has no cause? Or that which causes itself?


Posted by: Spysander Looner | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:40 PM
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Maybe the idea would be that consciousness is that which has no cause? Or that which causes itself?

I thought that was God. </Aquinas>


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:52 PM
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235: there is, and it might be found in Tononi's Phi, or somewthing else equally unfalsifiable.

There's also lots of current empirical work on the notion of conscious vs. unconscious awareness and/or brain activity and the role of recurrent neural activity in creating that. But fuck a bunch of text. Search for uh conscious awareness + trends in cognitive science, or maybe look at abstracts from ASSC.

It's not a bad idea but it's a pretty old idea, and also Hofstadter is not a neuroscientist.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 8:58 PM
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Can you elaborate on what causality has to do with consciousness? I don't get the "has no cause" thing. Consciousness is caused by brain activity and whatnot, right?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:10 PM
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I should go to bed be unconscious.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:12 PM
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238: he actually lost me there. I thought he was saying something about causal reasoning and the supra-associationist conscious reasoning being related.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:14 PM
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Well, I'm not sure I understand what either Hofstadter or Pearl are arguing. But here's what I had in mind: Hofstadter seems to be arguing that consciousness lies in (equals? arises from?) recursive loops of neurons, where A firing has an effect on B, B firing has an effect on C, and C firing has an effect on A.

I'm even less sure what Pearl is arguing. But his notion of causality has to do with the idea that you can draw arrows linking variables to each other, and that causality can be defined in terms of the directions of the arrows on all paths from one variable to another. (I'm totally mangling this, I know.) Pearl's arrows seem very like the idea from Hofstadter that there are directed links from A to B, from B to C, and from C to A. I think if you actually drew that as a Pearl-style graph, you'd conclude either that everything causes everything else or that nothing can be said to cause anything else -- I'm not sure which.

As I said, this might be a very dumb thought. And as Sifu said, it might not be at all new. But it seems like enough to justify a blog comment on a dying thread...


Posted by: Spysander Looner | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:25 PM
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240: I don't think that's at all what I had in mind. To the extent there's any substance at all in what I'm saying, it is closer to metaphysics than to cognitive science.


Posted by: Spysander Looner | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:31 PM
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Oh, I see. Well, so, on one level you've stumbled on something very fundamental, which is that the kind of directed graphs that Pearl uses tend to fall apart analytically when they have cycles in them. You could then take that to say that something to do with cyclic graphs is what we call consciousness, but... there's a big step 2, there. That step 2 could be something like Tononi's phi (adding the feedback term is going to make your graph nonlinear, right? Call that energy due to nonlinearity consciousness!) but that isn't really an (or doesn't really lead to any) empirical prediction(s).

If cosma shows up right now he will shake his head sadly and leave.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-12 9:33 PM
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Spysander made this thread interesting! Tell me more about Judea Pearl, please. My knowledge of the causation problem doesn't go far past Hume (or at all past Hume) - which I would distill crudely into saying that we just infer causation from the order in which things happen. How is what Pearl says different?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 6:31 AM
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Pearl's entire book can be read online. This is bad for my getting-things-done-my-wife-wants-me-to-get-done problem.

http://bayes.cs.ucla.edu/BOOK-2K/index.html


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 6:34 AM
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Call that energy due to nonlinearity consciousness!

Other things that are now conscious: protons. hurricanes. BZ reactions. I think SL needs to refine this definition a bit.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 6:39 AM
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If I remember correctly, it wasn't just a loop of causation, but a self-referential loop that Hofstadter said might create consciousness. That's why the videos of cameras of videos was such a salient metaphor. If you play with the images created from that, you get all kinds of interesting patterns. The idea was that the firing patterns of clusters of neurons would be reflecting the firing patterns of clusters of neurons and that created self-awareness. Or something.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 6:44 AM
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||

I'm reading an application from UF. This is the only time I've ever seen recommendation writers decorate their recommendations with little icons of alligators and little phrases about how it's great to be a Florida Gator. I mean, two out of four did so.

I'm a Gator fan of course, but it's a little silly.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 6:46 AM
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Did you go to UF, heebie?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 6:52 AM
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Nope, but I grew up there.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 6:53 AM
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Off to teach!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 6:54 AM
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220: the footprint thing that babies get done at the hospital
Is that still done in some places? I was a little surprised to realize that it wasn't done with our baby, and realized I don't know exactly what it was for, or when it was normally done.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 8:19 AM
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Isn't it baby-switching insurance? You're essentially fingerprinting the baby immediately so that if they get mixed up you can check the footprints.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 8:20 AM
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This summer somebody just stole a baby from the hospital near me. It was absurdly easy to get out of the hospital.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 8:22 AM
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I suppose once they clamped on the wristbands and Baby Lojack thing (ankle bracelet that set off alarms if you went too close to certain doors, I think) they didn't need to do that.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 8:24 AM
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I think they did stamp our babies' feet, and also did the Lo-Jack thing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 8:25 AM
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The stolen baby was Lo-Jacked in the stupidest way possible. Removing the Lo-Jack device didn't set off any alarm at all so she just bought some scrubs and swiped a baby.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 8:28 AM
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And then put up a facebook post about her new baby. She was arrested within hours.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 8:30 AM
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246: I'm not (trying to) propose a new definition of consciousness, essear. Just trying to make sense of what Hofstadter is saying. And perhaps he shouldn't be taken too seriously -- it certainly seems like a sillier idea in the light of the day.

247: I never understood what makes a loop self referential. It seems like any loop is, in some sense.


Posted by: Spysander Looner | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 9:05 AM
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259: I don't think I understand it either. Maybe it's that the loop is made of things that are highly responsive to stimuli? Maybe it's useful to think of the substance we're actually talking about here. It's a clump of nerves. The neurons are themselves constantly reflecting back and forth, and the larger structures they create are doing the same. It's like the difference between a bunch of lightbulbs stringed together and the ball they drop on New Years Eve.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 9:10 AM
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stringed together

Non-native speaker?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 9:31 AM
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Got a problem with your lightbulbs, lw?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 9:36 AM
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text, you sound a little high, strung.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 9:42 AM
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Awl, I suspect that you're funny, looking.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 9:45 AM
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I am quitting, troll kingdom, for the day. This is on advice of my wife and she often knows best. But not to worry, it's a very short hiatus.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 9:47 AM
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Dead thread I guess but some interesting issues came up --

I feel conscious of my bicycle, and therefore I believe that consciousness must extend beyond the confines of the body and include the bicycle.

I do think there is a non-trivial, non-mystical sense in which consciousness includes the object that one is conscious of. Put another way, all consciousness has to be consciousness-of something. So when we talk about what is special about human consciousness we say that humans are self-conscious or self-aware -- it is not simply being conscious but being conscious of a "self", with the puzzling recursive quality that we ourselves are conscious of our "selves" as an internal object we can reason about.

If consciousness is consciousness of something then sensory awareness can be a pretty fundamental part of it. A number of philosophers have said, and I agree, that being embodied in a physical body may be essential to human or animal consciousness, computers might not be able to be conscious in a human sense because they do not have physical sensations. (I think I might have said something about this here before).

Also, though I'm not sure I agree with Spysander concerning the specific connection he was trying to make between consciousness and causal inference (not sure I understood it either), there might be some connection there. It seems possible that self-consciousness could emerge from the human need to posit causal connections, which is part of higher abstract reasoning...our experienced 'self' might come from the need to posit a cause for our actions and our range of sensations and also to theorize those causes (think counterfactually about how we could interfere in the causal system). The neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga has written about this.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 3:22 PM
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Thanks PGD. Seems to me there's a missing step between bundles of neurons that reflect other bundles of neurons -- even within bodies that see, feel, hear and smell -- inferring causation, and the experience of self. But you never claimed -- and I don't think Hofstadter does either -- to have all the pieces to this puzzle. Maybe the missing pieces are the whole point. I do find it a very compelling explanation of what's going on, and it's the best framework for dualism I've come across.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-24-12 9:04 PM
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