Lines of the Millennium

From someone who didn’t live to see it:

We got have peace
To keep the world alive
And war to cease.

We got to have joy,
True in our hearts
With strength we can’t destroy.

People please hear us
Through our voice the world knows
There’s no choice.

We’re begging save the children
The little ones
Who just don’t understand
Give them a chance
To breed their young
And help purify the land

People please hear us (people please hear us)
Through our voice the world knows
There’s no choice.

And the people in the neighbourhood,
Who would if they only could,
Meet and shake the other’s hand,
Work together for the good of the land.
Give us all an equal chance,
It could be such a sweet romance.

And the soldiers who are dead and gone,
If only we could bring back one,
He’d say “We’ve got to have peace”
To keep the world alive
And war to cease

We got to have joy
True in our hearts
With strength we can’t destroy

People please hear us (people please hear us)
Through our voice the world knows
There’s no choice

And the people in the neighbourhood
Who would if they only could
Meet and shake the other’s hand
Work together for the good of the land
Give us all an equal chance
It could be such a sweet romance

And the soldiers who are dead and gone
If only we could bring back one
He’d say “We’ve got to have peace”
Aah – hah, we got to have peace. Let Let the world know it
Peace, peace, peace
Aah – hah, we got to have peace

People please hear us (people please hear us)
Through our voice the world knows
There’s no choice

Save the children
Save the children
Save the children

And the people in the neighbourhood
Who would if they only could
Meet and shake the other’s hand
Work together for the good of the land
Give us all an equal chance
It could be such a sweet romance

And the soldiers who are dead and gone
If only we could bring back one
He’d say “We’ve got to have peace”
Lo – rd, we got to have peace

Let the people say it
Peace peace peace

Thank you, Curtis.

Back to Stem Cells

The confusion around stem cells is due, I think, in large part to a fundamental misunderstanding of the function of DNA. In the popular mind, DNA contains a complete description of a person’s body. From this perspective, the DNA in the 100 or so stem cells in a balstocyst fully describe what the person will eventually become. Now, if this were true, there would be a meaningful sense in which a blastocyst is a “potential” human being. But in fact, this is not how DNA works at all. Rather, DNA functions as a set of instructions and tools for building simple things, like proteins, for example. It’s more like a recipe book than an encyclopedia. When you understand this, it becomes easier to understand how human and other animal development occurs, starting with extremely simple structures, which over time become exponentially more complex. Leading eventually, by the way, to things like minds. This is the sense in which reductionism is unassailable.

Hey Nagel–not done with you yet!

The more alert among you will have long ago noticed that the cyberkrunk blog is, at its core, an extended rumination on the mind-body problem in the guise of chatty posts about pop music, restaurants and movies, all expressed in the language of a writing style I invented some time ago called “Gonzo Prufrock”.

Since I mentioned Thomas Nagel last week, let’s take a quick look at his most famous paper, “What is it like to Be a Bat?” I’ll wait till you finish.

Ok, ready? Good. Of course, it is true in many ways that I cannot know “what it is like to be a bat”. Bats have an entirely different sensory system, and don’t use language. Even if it were possible to jack a bat’s consciousness into krunkbot’s brain, that would not be what it is like to “be” a bat, that would be what it’s like to be krunkbot watching a bat’s consciousness. Right? And if I were able to somehow shut off the krunkbot consciousness while I was inside the bat, krunkbot would have no way of bringing that information back into the krunkbot consciousness; the experience would be non-transportable and therefore lost.

Why is this a weak argument against a reductionist theory of consciousness? It’s because of the way Nagel frames the question. He doesn’t ask “what is it like to echolocate like a bat?” or “what is it like taste honey like a bear?” or “what is it like to strum a power chord like Pete Townshend?” No, it’s his “be” that’s in my bonnet. How can you expect to have a reductionist response when you are essentially asking “what is the bat’s non-reducible, total experience including all memory like”? It’s a nice thought experiment, but it really proves nothing.