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Is scientific research hitting a wall?

lpetrich

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Is Science Hitting a Wall?, Part 1 - Scientific American Blog Network Is Science Hitting a Wall?, Part 2 - Scientific American Blog Network

From the first one,
The Session was inspired in part by research suggesting that scientific progress is stagnating. In “Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?”, four economists claim that “a wide range of evidence from various industries, products, and firms show that research effort is rising substantially while research productivity is declining sharply.” The economists are Nicholas Bloom, Charles Jones and Michael Webb of Stanford and John Van Reenen of MIT.

...
These findings corroborate analyses presented by economists Robert Gordon in The Rise and Fall of American Growth and Tyler Cowen in The Great Stagnation. Bloom, Jones, Webb and Van Reenen also cite “The Burden of Knowledge and the ‘Death of the Renaissance Man’: Is Innovation Getting Harder?”, a 2009 paper by Benjamin Jones. He presents evidence that would-be innovators require more training and specialization to reach the frontier of a given field. Research teams are also getting bigger, and the number of patents per researcher has declined.

The economists are concerned primarily with what I would call applied science, ... But their findings resonate with my claim in The End of Science that “pure” science—the effort simply to understand rather than manipulate nature--is bumping into limits.

It may depend on what counts as a breakthrough. Could many breakthroughs be evident as breakthroughs well in retrospect?

Also, as author John Horgan notes, it could simply be that the easier stuff has already been done. Improved technology likely mitigates this problem, but apparently not enough.

Some scientists at The Session scoffed at the idea of a scientific slowdown. Biologists, pointing to CRISPR, optogenetics and other advances, were adamant that the pace of discovery is, if anything, accelerating. My response: Yes, fields like genetics and neuroscience are indeed churning out findings, but to what end? Gene therapy has been an enormous disappointment, and treatments for mental illness remain appallingly primitive.
I think that those biologists are right. There is a big biological mystery that has yet to be solved: how organism development works. We have such tantalizing hints as Hox genes, but not much more.


The second one discusses how drug development has become more difficult:
Eroom’s Law. The paper notes that “the number of new drugs approved per billion U.S. dollars spent on R&D has halved roughly every 9 years since 1950.”

The better than the Beatles problem.
The cautious regulator problem.
The throw money at it tendency.
The basic-research-brute force bias.
The devil is in the details problem.
John Horgan mentions a solution: "Appoint Dead Drugs Officers." To see what went wrong in a drug-development failure.

In theoretical science, one could appoint a "Dead Ideas Officer", one that could come after the likes of Freudian psychoanalysis and string theory.
 

Politesse

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Are we sure it is a dearth of research hypotheses which is at fault, rather than inefficiencies in the actual production and publication of scientific research? As an economic fact, scientific careers are much less supported than they used to be when whimsical ideas frequently turned into brilliant new technologies. Success requires more than just effort - much effort in an inefficient system can be the same in outcome to lesser effort in a productive one.
 

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It's a side effect of of explosive growth of knowledge during 20 century. If you compare what Einstein knew after finishing his university and what todays students supposed to know there is no comparison. His education which included pretty much all the physics known so far is roughly equal to first 1-2 years of modern physics major which is petty much nothing.
He did most of his famous stuff before his 30. Nowadays you really start produce anything interesting after you are 30.
 

barbos

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It is rather humorous that this "analysis" is done by economists rather than scientists or even science historians. What time length are they considering developments over, the last fiscal year?
Well, they confined themselves to medical research which is driven by economy laws, certainly more so than more fundamental stuff.
 

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four economists claim that “a wide range of evidence from various industries, products, and firms show that research effort is rising substantially while research productivity is declining sharply
Well, my first thought is that industrial research is funded on a pretty explicit expectation of results. They do not fund advancing the boundaries of knowledge just to know.
That's how you get those news articles mocking someone who spent $x bazillion on finding out if butterflies like jazz.

So I wonder if research within certain settings is hampered, not by a limitation on science, but by the researchers only being rewarded for advancing their company's industry, and choosing research accordingly. So instead of finding out the next new mystery, they spend time finding a new way to arrange things they already know. Shrinking a product by another 2% to fit ten more units on the shelf space at Best Buy.
 

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My understanding is quite the opposite, that there is just too damn much coming out. It makes it extremely hard to absorb even a tiny fraction of it, within a field.
 

steve_bank

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If there is nothing below particles, fields, and electromagnetics, yes.

Our instruments are limited by the quantization of the electron, in general.

Cosmology is limited by our ability to detect photons for example.
 

untermensche

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So-called "neurosciences" in general are a joke.

They have no working model for the phenomena of consciousness.

When they look at brain activity they have no idea what parts of it are creating consciousness.

They know that many areas are involved yet have no idea how the phenomena we have intimate contact with on a daily basis arises.

The idea that it is some effect of electricity or chemistry has yielded nothing.

No model = no understanding
 

steve_bank

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So-called "neurosciences" in general are a joke.

They have no working model for the phenomena of consciousness.

When they look at brain activity they have no idea what parts of it are creating consciousness.

They know that many areas are involved yet have no idea how the phenomena we have intimate contact with on a daily basis arises.

The idea that it is some effect of electricity or chemistry has yielded nothing.

No model = no understanding

If you are looking for a satisfying philosophical mystical emotional explanation of ourselves then science will never satisfy you.

Software neural nets that can be taught or learn have been around for decades. There are commercial products based on neural ners.


The obvious comparison is a computer with software that becomes self aware or 'conscious' realizing it is comprised of electronic circuits. And then rationalizes alternate explanations of its existence.

I must be more than a bunch of transistors....and so on.
 

untermensche

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So-called "neurosciences" in general are a joke.

They have no working model for the phenomena of consciousness.

When they look at brain activity they have no idea what parts of it are creating consciousness.

They know that many areas are involved yet have no idea how the phenomena we have intimate contact with on a daily basis arises.

The idea that it is some effect of electricity or chemistry has yielded nothing.

No model = no understanding

If you are looking for a satisfying philosophical mystical emotional explanation of ourselves then science will never satisfy you.

Software neural nets that can be taught or learn have been around for decades. There are commercial products based on neural ners.


The obvious comparison is a computer with software that becomes self aware or 'conscious' realizing it is comprised of electronic circuits. And then rationalizes alternate explanations of its existence.

I must be more than a bunch of transistors....and so on.

Teaching some man-made thing to "learn" does not demonstrate anything about the human mind except it can construct things that can learn. And calling something a "neural net" is just a bunch of nonsense. They have no connection to neurons at all.

I want scientific models for phenomena, that is all.

Not a bunch of claims to knowledge.

In science: No model to test = No understanding
 

steve_bank

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Ethics limits what neuroscince can do in some ways. I am not starting yet another debate on mind. From my experince in electronics and systems it is not hard to see how the brain may work, working out a detailed model that couuld be simulated is anoter matter. I am sure people are working at it. Goedel said he thought an articial analog to the human brain might be constructed and grown as a human would grow.

IMO fundamental scince is at a deadend unless something entirely new is found. Particle physics, fields, electromagnetics is about it .

For us to detect something it has to interact with our reality in such a way trhat we can sense it.

Sensing boils down to a force or voltage or current or detecting photons. If a phenomena can not be reduced to SI fundamental units we can not detect it.
 
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untermensche

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From my experince in electronics and systems it is not hard to see how the brain may work...

Better than you have been working on it for decades.

The 1990's was "The decade of the brain". Massive funding of research took place and has ever since. worldwide.

And we still have no objective model for the phenomena of consciousness.

And certainly have no electrical model for it.

A computer does not experience what it is doing. No matter what it does it is never experiencing anything.

No computer made experiences. They merely respond to programming.

They are not something that will ever be conscious. Despite the stupid efforts to make them behave as if they were conscious.
 

steve_bank

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From my experince in electronics and systems it is not hard to see how the brain may work...

Better than you have been working on it for decades.

The 1990's was "The decade of the brain". Massive funding of research took place and has ever since. worldwide.

And we still have no objective model for the phenomena of consciousness.

And certainly have no electrical model for it.

A computer does not experience what it is doing. No matter what it does it is never experiencing anything.

No computer made experiences. They merely respond to programming.

They are not something that will ever be conscious. Despite the stupid efforts to make them behave as if they were conscious.

HeeHee. What is experince, pain, and pleasure? And away we go.

Genetic codes are sequncers of events, AKA a program.

The brain 'nodes' are essentially logic gates. A Mealy or Moore state machine is a good first order model to talk to. From Theory Of Computation logic trees and graphs can not solve all problems. Working memory is required, hence the Turing Machine. Of course generalizations applied to the brain, but something to talk to. That is how complex problem solving and science begins. A simple model that evolves.

The concept of AI in the 80s was all the rage. It was going to be the be all end all of engineering. What resulted was forms of AI embedded in CAD that did made big gains in engineering design, but the big predictions never materialized.

I have never heard anyone in scince claim scince will see anf know all. Are you one of those anti-science ranters?

It's been what, 50 or 60 years since the double helix. Genetics has come a long way.

AFAIK medical science does not have a complete working simulation of the biochemistry of the bidy. So what?
 

untermensche

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You are waving your arms.

Not making arguments.

You have no objective understanding of consciousness or how it is produced.

There is no evidence. None. That consciousness is an electrical phenomena.

Cells respond to electrical current. That is all.

There is no electrical model that can produce consciousness.
 

Malintent

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So-called "neurosciences" in general are a joke.

They have no working model for the phenomena of consciousness.

When they look at brain activity they have no idea what parts of it are creating consciousness.

They know that many areas are involved yet have no idea how the phenomena we have intimate contact with on a daily basis arises.

The idea that it is some effect of electricity or chemistry has yielded nothing.

No model = no understanding

If that were true, then explain the demonstrated effectiveness of Trans-cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) in Patients that did not respond well to antidepressant medication. It is a non-invasive, non-chemical, FDA-passed, covered by insurance, and there is a growing database of over 6,000 cases as of present.
 

untermensche

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If that were true, then explain the demonstrated effectiveness of Trans-cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) in Patients that did not respond well to antidepressant medication. It is a non-invasive, non-chemical, FDA-passed, covered by insurance, and there is a growing database of over 6,000 cases as of present.

We use TENS to mediate pain as well. It is just electrical current that stimulates vibratory nerves. The theory is the vibratory nerves move quickly and dampen the slower pain signals.

None of this tells us how the brain creates the sensation of pain.

Pain is more a psychological event than a physiological.

The mind either attenuates the physiology or amplifies it.

This of course only happens in people with minds.

Being able to effect depression with artificial stimulation of the brain is good but it tells us nothing about depression or the consciousness.

Exercise is very good for depression too. That doesn't tell us anything about depression and it's cause either.
 

ronburgundy

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I think it is largely an issue of the "low hanging fruit" having already been picked. There is no shortage of questions, but every time a question is answered, the new questions it gives rise to are typically harder to answer. In part this is because the new questions are typically about more and more specified mechanisms and mediating and moderating factors. Finding out that X causes Y is relatively easy compared to then having to answer how does X cause Y and under what circumstances, and if the answer is via variable Z, then how does X exactly cause Z and how does Z then cause Y.

Just think about the theory of evolution. The experiments you need to test the rather crudely broad notions of Darwins day are much easier to construct than testing modern questions like what is the specific mechanism responsible for the transfer of information from the gene to phenotypic trait, or what causes some genomes to evolve much more rapidly than others?
 

Kharakov

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That working model of quale filtration is the one that impressed me the most.

Seriously- when that was published, I was like, finally, I know how pink is separated from the superposition of all possible states, and that's pretty damn cool.
 

untermensche

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That working model of quale filtration is the one that impressed me the most.

Seriously- when that was published, I was like, finally, I know how pink is separated from the superposition of all possible states, and that's pretty damn cool.

Things have a quality but that speaks to the mind, not to the things themselves.

The mind is such that it experiences qualities.

Goodby search for a quale.

Now we just need to find the mind.
 

Jimmy Higgins

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You are waving your arms.

Not making arguments.

You have no objective understanding of consciousness or how it is produced.

There is no evidence. None. That consciousness is an electrical phenomena.

Cells respond to electrical current. That is all.

There is no electrical model that can produce consciousness.
Well, as soon as you have your hypothesis, you can feel free to test it and publish your results.
 

steve_bank

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That working model of quale filtration is the one that impressed me the most.

Seriously- when that was published, I was like, finally, I know how pink is separated from the superposition of all possible states, and that's pretty damn cool.

Things have a quality but that speaks to the mind, not to the things themselves.

The mind is such that it experiences qualities.

Goodby search for a quale.

Now we just need to find the mind.

My favorite metaphor for your last sentence is a dog chasing its tail going in circles but having a great time doing it. You, aka your mind, trying to describe itself as an absolute is impossible. There are no reference points in metaphysics. Develop a description of what mind is and that is it, it is what you define it to be.

Another old metaphor is trying to pull your self up by your boot straps. Or simply you are trying to boot strap an answer. I believe boot strapping a conclusion is a legal concept as well.

Your description of sensing is qualitative, nor quantitative. That makes it philosophy.

What we refer to as our minds and our selves are learned by cultural immersion from birth.

Objectively we seems by conversion to signals in the nervous system which are processed by our neural network. Mind and all that goes with it is an algorithm, biologicall instead of electronic.
 

untermensche

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The mind wouldn't describe or know itself.

It would understand how the phenomena of consciousness generally arises.

A person doesn't know their genetic code by understanding genetics.
 

steve_bank

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The mind wouldn't describe or know itself.

It would understand how the phenomena of consciousness generally arises.

A person doesn't know their genetic code by understanding genetics.

Your self referential 'you' is an illusion of your own mind. That is what in part I believe Buddha was talking about. All thoughts are in a sense illusionary and have no reality but what we give them.

'You' as the CPU in a computer surrounded by input-output mechanism is a good a metaphor as any.

Consider a self aware conscious group of humanoid looking robot trying to describe their thought processes.. How would they begin?
 

untermensche

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The mind wouldn't describe or know itself.

It would understand how the phenomena of consciousness generally arises.

A person doesn't know their genetic code by understanding genetics.

Your self referential 'you' is an illusion of your own mind. That is what in part I believe Buddha was talking about.

The "you" to you is the "I" to me.

And I am not an illusion.

I am a creation of some kind of real activity.

I am here. In this body, observing in this place and time.

And in your sentence the "I" that believes things really believes them. But beliefs are transient. Here one day gone the next.

What you know doesn't change.

And the "I" that has been experiencing everything for a lifetime knows it has been experiencing.
 

ronburgundy

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There is no evidence. None. That consciousness is an electrical phenomena.

There is no sound model of exactly how consciousness is produced and its contents determined by electro-chemical processes.
However, there is massive evidence showing beyond any reasonable doubt that consciousness is an electro-chemical byproduct.
Every study showing the highly predictable covariance between electro-chemical brain states and conscious experience is evidence for it, including every study on the stages of sleep. Every drug study showing a clear causal dependence of conscious experience on the brains exposure to various chemicals is evidence of it. Every study on the effects of brain tumors and brain surgery on conscious experience of the patients is evidence for it. Then there are studies showing that direct current stimulation of the brain during open skull surgery alters and creates subjective experiences of seeing, smelling, hearing, sensations that are not objectively there, which could only happen if the contents of conscious experience were causally dependent upon electrical signals in the brain.

Granted knowing that the "mind" and consciousness and its variants of experience are products of electro-chemical processes is the easy part. Explaining the precise mediating mechanisms that form the causal chain between the electrical/chemical inputs and the outputs of consciousness is the "hard problem", which is why its called that.

Knowing the mediating mechanisms between X and Y is not required to know that Y is a product of X. Just like you can know that person's gunshot wound is the result of the bullet you saw enter his body and is now lodged in the wound, without understanding the precise physics of how the bullet created the wound.
 

untermensche

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However, there is massive evidence showing beyond any reasonable doubt that consciousness is an electro-chemical byproduct.

That doesn't make the mind an electrical or a chemical effect.

When you have all that electrical and chemical activity you also have quantum effects that arise from it.

There may also be some unknown effects that arise from it. Effects beyond our knowledge.

So while conscious reports may have a correlation to observed electrical or chemical activity that does not mean the mind, consciousness, is a chemical or electrical effect.

You could have a merry-go-round that has one squeaky wheel. And it is right under the blue horse.

So the blue horse has a correlation to the squeak you hear but it has nothing to do with the generation of it. Correlations are not necessarily cause and effect.

Electrical and chemical activity may have some correlation to subjective reports but they may not be the cause of consciousness. Some effect that arises from their activity may be the cause. And it may behave in ways electricity and neurotransmitters do not.
 

steve_bank

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However, there is massive evidence showing beyond any reasonable doubt that consciousness is an electro-chemical byproduct.

That doesn't make the mind an electrical or a chemical effect.

When you have all that electrical and chemical activity you also have quantum effects that arise from it.

There may also be some unknown effects that arise from it. Effects beyond our knowledge.

So while conscious reports may have a correlation to observed electrical or chemical activity that does not mean the mind, consciousness, is a chemical or electrical effect.

You could have a merry-go-round that has one squeaky wheel. And it is right under the blue horse.

So the blue horse has a correlation to the squeak you hear but it has nothing to do with the generation of it. Correlations are not necessarily cause and effect.

Electrical and chemical activity may have some correlation to subjective reports but they may not be the cause of consciousness. Some effect that arises from their activity may be the cause. And it may behave in ways electricity and neurotransmitters do not.

Mind effects beyond knowledge....back to the mind bvody duality? Shuffle over to pseudo science. Drugs affect mood and subjective perseptions. May I suggest reading Huxley's Doors Of Perceptions. on his experience with psychotopic drugs circa 1940s-50s.

Damage certain parts of the brain and we know what cognitive fubctions are affected. I had a hemotoma that compressed the speech area on my brian, I could not speak. Drain the blood and speech came back.

There is a book called The Human Biocomputer.


https://www.disabled-world.com/health/electrolytes.php

'You reject simple analogies. While our brain is more complex, a computer processor is a n eclectrical network as is the brain and body. What are called electrolytes in your body are essentially conductors. When your electrolytes areboff your nervous system suffers.
' Electrolytes such as potassium, sodium and others are crucial in allowing a person's cells to generate energy, maintain the stability of cell walls, as well as to function overall. They generate electricity, contract muscles, move fluids and water within a person's body and participate in a number of additional activities.'

Sounds like you are hanging on the early 20th century idea that humans are unique above all elese in creation, From the OT arises the idea we are separate from the rest of nature.
 

untermensche

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Mind effects beyond knowledge....back to the mind bvody duality? Shuffle over to pseudo science. Drugs affect mood and subjective perseptions. May I suggest reading Huxley's Doors Of Perceptions. on his experience with psychotopic drugs circa 1940s-50s.

Possible unknown Quantum effects or other unknown effects are hardly pseudo-science.

They become necessary because some of the greatest minds in the world have been looking at electrical and chemical effects for decades and have gotten nowhere.

They are not one inch closer to describing the mind, describing the phenomena of experience, with chemical or electrical activity.

The computer is not conscious. It is not self aware. It is not threatening to become conscious.

And I probably read Huxley's book several times before you were born.
 

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Is Science Hitting a Wall?, Part 1 - Scientific American Blog Network Is Science Hitting a Wall?, Part 2 - Scientific American Blog Network

From the first one,

It may depend on what counts as a breakthrough. Could many breakthroughs be evident as breakthroughs well in retrospect?

Also, as author John Horgan notes, it could simply be that the easier stuff has already been done. Improved technology likely mitigates this problem, but apparently not enough.


I think that those biologists are right. There is a big biological mystery that has yet to be solved: how organism development works. We have such tantalizing hints as Hox genes, but not much more.


The second one discusses how drug development has become more difficult:
Eroom’s Law. The paper notes that “the number of new drugs approved per billion U.S. dollars spent on R&D has halved roughly every 9 years since 1950.”

The better than the Beatles problem.
The cautious regulator problem.
The throw money at it tendency.
The basic-research-brute force bias.
The devil is in the details problem.
John Horgan mentions a solution: "Appoint Dead Drugs Officers." To see what went wrong in a drug-development failure.

In theoretical science, one could appoint a "Dead Ideas Officer", one that could come after the likes of Freudian psychoanalysis and string theory.

I don't see why we should expect discovery to come out as a linear function of the size of the scientific workforce and cost of their scientific equipment. There's no way to tell a priori how far we are from the next big thing to discover.

That has always been true. What's different nowadays is that science is to some extent integrated into the capitalistic system of production, and certainly more than at the time of Newton or even Einstein. This would explain why there are now economists, rather than scientists, looking into, and complaining about, the rate of discovery of current scientific research.

Yet, given the impact scientific discoveries have had on the world, political leaders are not going to question the necessity of investing more and more hard money into science. What they have to do, and are largely already doing, is try and identify research that's not necessary and then they can decide to cut the money for that. Yet, nobody has any rational way to make this call for some particular lines of fundamental research, things like the String Theory for example. And so it will go on and on unless there was a very serious set back in the economy or in the political stability of the world.

That being said, it should be expected that there are all manners of inefficiencies in current science, and announcing very loudly that science cost a lot more today and finds less and less may be a good starting point for looking into these inefficiencies and sacking a few people. Still, it's not going to change all that much overall.

I suspect it comes a bit too early. Give it again a few decades and it's possible political leaders then will be more uncomfortable than ours today spending big money on science if in the intervening period no major discovery has been made.

If science keeps making no major discovery in the years to come, less people will want to go into science. I think this has already been happening for quite some time now. It will just get worse. It's just a part I think of a general trend whereby the brightest among young people tend to become more and more motivated by the prospect of making big money than making some major scientific discovery. Science will loose out to finance. Less bright minds means a longer time to the next big discovery and at some point, it will feel just too much to assume for political leaders.

Then again, people like Newton and Einstein have shown you can make major discoveries outside big budget science. Einstein wasn't even a paid scientist when he started to work on Relativity. Humanity will always have original minds.

Anyway, we really don't know what's just behind the next corner, if anything.

And I will also guess that given the way our economy works, we really can't afford to miss out on any potential discovery.

Unless we're really, really stupid.

I mean, even more than I think we are.
EB


EDIT: You can think of it as a hostage situation. The world is hostage to the prospect of some potential major discovery.
 

steve_bank

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The mind wouldn't describe or know itself.

It would understand how the phenomena of consciousness generally arises.

A person doesn't know their genetic code by understanding genetics.

Your self referential 'you' is an illusion of your own mind. That is what in part I believe Buddha was talking about.

The "you" to you is the "I" to me.

And I am not an illusion.

I am a creation of some kind of real activity.

I am here. In this body, observing in this place and time.

And in your sentence the "I" that believes things really believes them. But beliefs are transient. Here one day gone the next.

What you know doesn't change.

And the "I" that has been experiencing everything for a lifetime knows it has been experiencing.

' The "you" to you is the "I" to me.'

The origins of philosophy....and mental illness, and wars.

'I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together
See how they run like pigs from a gun
See how they fly....I am the walrus'

Da Beattles got you beat.

You ARE in the sense a computer program IS.
 
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