Blog Profile / Conscious Entities

Filed Under:Academics / Philosophy
Posts on Regator:359
Posts / Week:0.7
Archived Since:March 17, 2008

Blog Post Archive

On the phone or in the phone?

At Aeon, Karina Vold asks whether our smartphones have truly become part of us, and if so whether they deserve new legal protections. She quotes grisly examples of the authorities using a dead man’s finger to try to activate finger print recognition on protected devices. There are several parts to the argument here. One is […]

The Philosophy of Delirium

Is there any philosophy of delirium? I remember asserting breezily in the past that there was philosophy of everything – including the actual philosophy of everything and the philosophy of philosophy. But when asked recently, I couldn’t come up with anything specifically on delirium, which in a way is surprising, given that it is an […]

The Meta-Problem

Maybe there’s a better strategy on consciousness? An early draft paper by David Chalmers suggests we turn from the Hard Problem (explaining why there is ‘something it is like’ to experience things) and address the Meta-Problem of why people think there is a Hard Problem; why we find the explanation of phenomenal experience problematic. While […]

The Ontological Gap

There’s a fundamental ontological difference between people and programs which means that uploading a mind into a machine is quite impossible. I thought I’d get my view in first (hey, it’s my blog), but I was inspired to do so by Beth Elderkin’s compilation of expert views in Gizmodo, inspired in turn by Netflix’s series […]

A Meeting of Minds

The self is real – it just, like Walt Whitman, contains multitudes. That’s the case made by Serife Tekin in Aeon. She begins by rightly pointing out the current popularity of disbelief in the self. She traces antirealist thinking right back to Hume, who said he was never able to spot his self by introspection; […]

Phrenology revisited

Could phrenology be true after all? The nineteenth century theory that bumps on the head correlated with personality traits has always been dismissed as absurd by most, right from its earliest days. Perhaps because of this, it has rarely received serious attention; but now O. Parker Jones, F. Alfaro-Almagro and S. Jbabdi have given it a […]

Secret Harmonies

We need a richer idea of consciousness and of our minds: Jenny Judge suggests that our experience of music in particular points to a need for an expanded conception of the mind to include visceral apprehension.  Many who have championed the idea of an extended mind that isn’t just identifiable with the brain alone will […]


You may already have seen Jochen’s essay Four Verses from the Daodejing, an entry in this year’s FQXi competition. It’s a thought-provoking piece, so here are a few of the ones it provoked in me. In general I think it features a mix of alarming and sound reasoning which leads to a true yet perplexing conclusion. In […]

Not really feeling it

It’s not just that we don’t know how anaesthetics work – we don’t even know for sure that they work. Joshua Rothman’s review of a new book on the subject by Kate Cole-Adams quotes poignant stories of people on the operating table who may have been aware of what was going on. In some cases […]


Tom Stafford reports on an interesting review of the psychology of conspiracy theories – the persistent belief that ‘they’ are working secretly to conceal the truth about the assassination of JFK or the moon landings, for example. The review suggests current research is better at explaining the forces that drive conspiracy theories than at examining […]

Augment me

All I want for a Christmas is a new brain? There seems to have been quite a lot of discussion recently about the prospect of brain augmentation; adding in some extra computing power to the cognitive capacities we have already. Is this a good idea? I’m rather sceptical myself, but then I’m a bit of […]

Phenomenal Epiphenomenalism

Our conscious minds are driven by unconscious processes, much as it may seem otherwise, say David A. Oakley and Peter W. Halligan. A short version is here, though the full article is also admirably clear and readable. To summarise very briefly, they suggest three distinct psychological elements are at work. The first, itself made up […]

Mrs Robb’s Sex Bot

“Sorry, do you mind if I get that?” Not at all, please go ahead. “Hello, you’ve reached out to Love Bot…No, my name is ‘Love Bot’. Yes, it’s the right number; people did call me ‘Sex Bot’, but my real name was always ‘Love Bot’… Yes, I do sex, but now only within a consensual […]

Jerry Fodor

Jerry Fodor died last week at the age of 82 – here are obituaries from the NYT and Daily Nous.  I think he had three qualities that make a good philosopher. He really wanted the truth (not everyone is that bothered about it); he was up for a fight about it (in argumentative terms); and he […]

Mrs Robb’s Help

Is it safe? The Helper bots…? “Yes, Enquiry Bot, it’s safe. Come out of the cupboard. A universal product recall is in progress and they’ll all be brought in safely.” My God, Mrs Robb. They say we have no emotions, but if what I’ve been experiencing is not fear, it will do pretty well until […]

Quando Libet

New light on Libet’s challenge to free will; this interesting BQO piece by Ari N Schulman focuses on a talk by Patrick Haggard. Libet’s research has been much discussed, here as well as elsewhere. He asked subjects to move their hand at a time of their choosing, while measuring neural activity in their brain. He found […]

Mrs Robb’s Kill Bot

Do you consider yourself a drone, Kill Bot? “You can call me that if you want. My people used to find that kind of talk demeaning. It suggested the Kill bots lacked a will of their own. It meant we were sort of stupid. Today, we feel secure in our personhood, and we’ve claimed and […]


Like some other elderly sites, Conscious Entities is finally moving over to SSL. This is a more secure standard for websites which protects all the information exchanged while you’re visiting, reading, commenting etc.  It means the normal address now begins with ‘https’ instead of ‘http’. For a non-commercial, non-confidential site like this one, it is […]

Robot tax

This short note by Xavier Oberson suggests how we might tax robots; I think it raises a number of difficult issues about the idea. You can see him expound the same ideas in a video interview here. It’s not made altogether clear here why we should apply special taxes to robots at all. Broadly I’d […]

Mrs Robb’s God Bot

So you believe in a Supreme Being, God Bot? “No, I wouldn’t say that. I know that God exists.” How do you know? “Well, now. Have you ever made a bot yourself? No? Well, it’s an interesting exercise. Not enough of us do it, I feel; we should get our hands dirty: implicate ourselves in […]

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