Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

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Queequeg
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

Post by Queequeg »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 1:17 am
Dorje Shedrub wrote: Mon Jun 21, 2021 6:59 pm Malcolm, could such creations be considered sentient either now or with future advancements?
Unlikely. Machines are machines.
Four types of birth - womb, egg, moisture, spontaneous

If an entity is aware, why wouldn't it be considered sentient? The manner of its genesis would seem to be a secondary characteristic, with awareness being primary.

At some point, it is conceivable that a human being could be conceived and carried to term in an artificial womb. Would that be a machine? If it develops into a human being that otherwise is indistinguishable from one born from the womb of a woman, calling it a machine would lose its present meaning. This points to both the problem of language as well as the underlying question - what is a sentient being? What is the defining characteristic?

Turning to the question of the OP - does consciousness = awareness? I would argue that these are different things, and this distinction is supported in Buddhist ideas about the psychological and (im)material constitution of sentient beings.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
Malcolm
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

Post by Malcolm »

Queequeg wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 2:04 pm
Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 1:17 am
Dorje Shedrub wrote: Mon Jun 21, 2021 6:59 pm Malcolm, could such creations be considered sentient either now or with future advancements?
Unlikely. Machines are machines.
Four types of birth - womb, egg, moisture, spontaneous

If an entity is aware, why wouldn't it be considered sentient? The manner of its genesis would seem to be a secondary characteristic, with awareness being primary.
Correct, there is no fifth birth, manufactured.

Define “awareness.”

Are Venus Fly Traps aware? Plants in genera? Does reaction to external stimuli constitute awareness?

How does a consciousness seeking rebirth appropriate brain tissue in a vat?

If you are suggesting that a machine could suddenly become conscious, how is this different than the materialist claim that consciousness is merely an epiphenomenon of having a brain?
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
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Queequeg
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

Post by Queequeg »

Malcolm wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 2:21 pm
Queequeg wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 2:04 pm
Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 1:17 am

Unlikely. Machines are machines.
Four types of birth - womb, egg, moisture, spontaneous

If an entity is aware, why wouldn't it be considered sentient? The manner of its genesis would seem to be a secondary characteristic, with awareness being primary.
Correct, there is no fifth birth, manufactured.

Define “awareness.”

Are Venus Fly Traps aware? Plants in genera? Does reaction to external stimuli constitute awareness?

How does a consciousness seeking rebirth appropriate brain tissue in a vat?

If you are suggesting that a machine could suddenly become conscious, how is this different than the materialist claim that consciousness is merely an epiphenomenon of having a brain?
I'll work backwards on your questions.

Asking how this is different than a materialist claim is premature.

We need to define some terms here - by machine, are we talking about engineered, lab created biological "beings" (I'll put that in quotation marks for now because we're not sure if they are beings (sattva)), or are we talking about some sort of electronic computer made with silicon circuits and chips and processors, maybe with robotic means of action? Either way, if such a thing was conscious (difficult to answer as that would go to the heart of the Hard Question), at the least, we'd have some re-evaluation to do - along the lines of Jambudvipa v. the reality of Earth evaluation.

One option would be to admit defeat to the materialists. Then we'd all be materialists. Another might involve asking and investigating a variation involving your second question... how does a consciousness seeking rebirth end up in a robot? I don't particularly see why rebirth as a robot is not possible. Seems any such a priori conclusion that it is not possible would be error. At this point, no reason to think it is possible, but seems premature to say never. Further, I don't think it would have much consequence on how I conduct myself even if it were found to be possible meaning its a low stakes consideration that is perfectly acceptable as a hanging question.

Regarding your second question, I'd suggest a consciousness seeking rebirth that appropriates brain tissue in a vat had the causes and conditions to end up there. (reminder, the question is not whether consciousness can arise in such a manufactured condition; for purposes here I am assuming that we've overcome the various aspects of the Hard Question and can in fact establish consciousness outside of our own). The same answer would apply to a being appearing as a robot.

Your first question - what do I mean by awareness - By "awareness" I'm taking that phenomenon we are working toward realizing in contemplative practice - Buddhanature, Tathagatagarbha, Amala Vijnana, Sunyata, etc.

With all of its pitfalls of doing so, I am assuming it as an irreducible dharma for the purposes of this discussion. Its there or it is not.

Do plants have awareness in the sense of having the capacity to wake? The sutras say no. If, however, we were to overcome the Hard Problem and establish that plants do have awareness and are as such capable of awakening...

I guess we have to come back to that question that always lurks - when confronted with evidence that the teachings handed down are inaccurate, should we dogmatically hold onto the legacy or do we have to do the hard lifting and reevaluate?

In the bigger picture, I'd suggest embracing that tension is where the Buddhist movement finds its real vitality.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
Malcolm
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

Post by Malcolm »

Queequeg wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 6:28 pm
Malcolm wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 2:21 pm
Queequeg wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 2:04 pm

Four types of birth - womb, egg, moisture, spontaneous

If an entity is aware, why wouldn't it be considered sentient? The manner of its genesis would seem to be a secondary characteristic, with awareness being primary.
Correct, there is no fifth birth, manufactured.

Define “awareness.”

Are Venus Fly Traps aware? Plants in genera? Does reaction to external stimuli constitute awareness?

How does a consciousness seeking rebirth appropriate brain tissue in a vat?

If you are suggesting that a machine could suddenly become conscious, how is this different than the materialist claim that consciousness is merely an epiphenomenon of having a brain?
I'll work backwards on your questions.

Asking how this is different than a materialist claim is premature.

We need to define some terms here - by machine, are we talking about engineered, lab created biological "beings" (I'll put that in quotation marks for now because we're not sure if they are beings (sattva)), or are we talking about some sort of electronic computer made with silicon circuits and chips and processors, maybe with robotic means of action? Either way, if such a thing was conscious (difficult to answer as that would go to the heart of the Hard Question), at the least, we'd have some re-evaluation to do - along the lines of Jambudvipa v. the reality of Earth evaluation.
I define a machine as any engineered device, whether biological or mechanical, that performs a specific function for which it was designed.
One option would be to admit defeat to the materialists. Then we'd all be materialists. Another might involve asking and investigating a variation involving your second question... how does a consciousness seeking rebirth end up in a robot? I don't particularly see why rebirth as a robot is not possible.
How would it be conceived?
Regarding your second question, I'd suggest a consciousness seeking rebirth that appropriates brain tissue in a vat had the causes and conditions to end up there.
Then explain those: in the case of four kinds of birth you mention, the process of conception is quite well described. Consciousness in three kinds of birth appropriate reproductive material from parents at the moment they meet. Since there are no mating parents for a brain in a vat, not sure how that can work.
Your first question - what do I mean by awareness - By "awareness" I'm taking that phenomenon we are working toward realizing in contemplative practice - Buddhanature, Tathagatagarbha, Amala Vijnana, Sunyata, etc.
Why? What is special about awareness as distinct from consciousness? When one is conscious, one is aware; when is unconscious, one is unaware. One cannot be aware and be unconscious.
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
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Queequeg
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

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Malcolm wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 7:16 pm Then explain those: in the case of four kinds of birth you mention, the process of conception is quite well described. Consciousness in three kinds of birth appropriate reproductive material from parents at the moment they meet. Since there are no mating parents for a brain in a vat, not sure how that can work.
This gets the heart of what I'm talking about. I don't think taking some teaching, no matter the purported source, as a conclusive starting point into which phenomena need to be categorized is a particularly wise way to approach things. If the phenomena is obvious but doesn't fit the preordained categories, then its the categories that need to give.

Now, we don't have any such phenomena to actually consider, so until then, its just speculation. If I were to venture how such a rebirth could happen it'd be my speculation on stilts that are themselves matters of faith for me. Do I KNOW how rebirth works? No. I am familiar with how its explained.

I just don't have the grounds to say it is so, or to say it is not so.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
Malcolm
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

Post by Malcolm »

Queequeg wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 8:16 pm If the phenomena is obvious but doesn't fit the preordained categories, then its the categories that need to give.
The phenomena has not even happened yet. There are no sentient brains sitting in vats that were grown from stem cells, AFAIK.

I don't think it will ever happen, personally because I don't think vat birth will ever happen.

A better question is this: how is it that a consciousness appropriates an egg that is fertilized in vitro. Now that is an interesting question, and one requiring no speculation, since we know it occurs. I know a couple of kids like that, they are just as normal as every other kid.
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

Post by Jesse »

Gentle Bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind

https://www.amazon.com/Gentle-Bridges-C ... 1570628939

https://archive.org/details/gentlesbrid ... 5/mode/2up
What is the essence of the mind? Could computers ever have consciousness? Can compassion be learned? When does consciousness enter the human embryo? These are just some of the many questions that were discussed during a historic meeting that took place between several prominent Western scientists and the Dalai Lama. Gentle Bridges is a chronicle of this extraordinary exchange of ideas.
I thought some might be interested in reading this. It mentions many of the topics that have been discussed here, (not just AI)

A quote from the book:
Gentle Bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind by Jeremy Hayward and Francisco Varela. Shambala, 1992. pages 152-153.

Dalai Lama: In terms of the actual substance of which computers are made, are they simply metal, plastic, circuits, and so forth?

Varela: Yes, but this again brings up the idea of the pattern, not the substance but the pattern.

Dalai Lama: It is very difficult to say that it’s not a living being, that it doesn’t have cognition, even from the Buddhist point of view. We maintain that there are certain types of births in which a preceding continuum of consciousness is the basis. The consciousness doesn’t actually arise from the matter, but a continuum of consciousness might conceivably come into it.

Hayward: Does Your Holiness regard it as a definite criterion that there must be continuity with some prior consciousness? That whenever there is a cognition, there must have been a stream of cognition going back to beginningless time?

Dalai Lama: There is no possibility for a new cognition, which has no relationship to a previous continuum, to arise at all. I can’t totally rule out the possibility that, if all the external conditions and the karmic action were there, a stream of consciousness might actually enter into a computer.

Hayward: A stream of consciousness?

Dalai Lama: Yes, that’s right. [DALAI LAMA laughs.] There is a possibility that a scientist who is very much involved his whole life [with computers], then the next life… [he would be reborn in a computer], same process! [Laughter.] Then this machine which is half-human and half-machine has been reincarnated.

Varela: You wouldn’t rule it out then? You wouldn’t say this is impossible?

Dalai Lama: We can’t rule it out.

Rosch: So if there’s a great yogi who is dying and he is standing in front of the best computer there is, could he project his subtle consciousness into the computer?

Dalai Lama: If the physical basis of the computer acquires the potential or the ability to serve as a basis for a continuum of consciousness. I feel this question about computers will be resolved only by time. We just have to wait and see until it actually happens.
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Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Malcolm wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 10:28 pm
Queequeg wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 8:16 pm If the phenomena is obvious but doesn't fit the preordained categories, then its the categories that need to give.
The phenomena has not even happened yet. There are no sentient brains sitting in vats that were grown from stem cells, AFAIK.

I don't think it will ever happen, personally because I don't think vat birth will ever happen.

A better question is this: how is it that a consciousness appropriates an egg that is fertilized in vitro. Now that is an interesting question, and one requiring no speculation, since we know it occurs. I know a couple of kids like that, they are just as normal as every other kid.
My theory is that this occurs in conjunction with the fact that things like spermatozoa intentionally swim towards eggs, that white blood cells intentionally attack bacteria. There is already a kind of proto-consciousness in single cell and sub-cellular entities (which I call “awarity”) similar to taxis in biology.
This is not a sutra-based theory. But it is my theory.
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

Post by Queequeg »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Sat Jun 26, 2021 1:33 am
Malcolm wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 10:28 pm
Queequeg wrote: Fri Jun 25, 2021 8:16 pm If the phenomena is obvious but doesn't fit the preordained categories, then its the categories that need to give.
The phenomena has not even happened yet. There are no sentient brains sitting in vats that were grown from stem cells, AFAIK.

I don't think it will ever happen, personally because I don't think vat birth will ever happen.

A better question is this: how is it that a consciousness appropriates an egg that is fertilized in vitro. Now that is an interesting question, and one requiring no speculation, since we know it occurs. I know a couple of kids like that, they are just as normal as every other kid.
My theory is that this occurs in conjunction with the fact that things like spermatozoa intentionally swim towards eggs, that white blood cells intentionally attack bacteria. There is already a kind of proto-consciousness in single cell and sub-cellular entities (which I call “awarity”) similar to taxis in biology.
This is not a sutra-based theory. But it is my theory.
That's more or less where I intuitively tend... the quality of consciousness is intrinsic to matter, and matter is intrinsic to consciousness, and so complex consciousness as you find in mammals is a sort of concatenated effect of optimally arranged matter...

That, in my speculation, could support these waves of ego (consciousness continuum) that appear as various beings. Not necessarily Buddhism, and not necessarily something I'd bet anything on. Just the sort of prapanca that I indulge in when I have no one else to talk with.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Queequeg wrote: Sat Jun 26, 2021 2:12 am... and matter is intrinsic to consciousness...

Here I would have to disagree.
Matter is only intrinsic to whatever aspect of, or you might say “layer of” consciousness that interacts with matter.
But that’s the extent of it.
I would argue that consciousness doesn’t require matter any more than a face requires a mirror, which it only does in order to see a reflection. You look into a mirror and you see you are there. Likewise, consciousness sort of sees its reflection in matter: looking at an object lets you know you have sight.
It’s sort of like in a sensory deprivation chamber, where sensory stimuli are eliminated, that consciousness is still there.
In a physiological sense, we can say that consciousness depends on physical brain matter in order to function inna material world. But this doesn’t at all exclude the possibility of consciousnesses functioning in a formless world, without any need for a material mechanism.
Just like you don’t need shoes to swim in the water.
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

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PadmaVonSamba wrote: Sat Jun 26, 2021 3:49 am
Queequeg wrote: Sat Jun 26, 2021 2:12 am... and matter is intrinsic to consciousness...

Here I would have to disagree.
Matter is only intrinsic to whatever aspect of, or you might say “layer of” consciousness that interacts with matter.
But that’s the extent of it.
I would argue that consciousness doesn’t require matter any more than a face requires a mirror, which it only does in order to see a reflection. You look into a mirror and you see you are there. Likewise, consciousness sort of sees its reflection in matter: looking at an object lets you know you have sight.
It’s sort of like in a sensory deprivation chamber, where sensory stimuli are eliminated, that consciousness is still there.
In a physiological sense, we can say that consciousness depends on physical brain matter in order to function inna material world. But this doesn’t at all exclude the possibility of consciousnesses functioning in a formless world, without any need for a material mechanism.
Just like you don’t need shoes to swim in the water.
That's certainly a view shared by Buddhists.

The sensory deprivation tank example isn't convincing. The consciousness there is in the least associated with a body, albeit one to which stimuli has been reduced.

I heard Bob Thurman on a podcast say that even in the formless realms there is a material basis for consciousness, albeit extremely subtle, but that HHDL doesn't like to talk about that lest materialists get the wrong idea. He didn't elaborate and it never mattered enough to me to pursue it, so that's all I can say.

There is a version of the twelve nidana taught in the Tipitaka, attributed to a past Buddha, whereby namarupa and vinnana mutually give rise to the other. Even in the usual formulation where vinnana gives rise to namarupa, my understanding is that its incorrect to view the relationship as successive and that rather its patityasamudpada.

I freely admit all of this is in the realm of speculation for me, though some of it is informed by Buddhist teachings. Its all in the "undecided" bucket as far as I'm concerned.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Queequeg wrote: Sat Jun 26, 2021 12:04 pmThat's certainly a view shared by Buddhists.
There is an assumption that individual consciousnesses somehow “attaches” itself to a particular grouping of matter.
This is a reasonable assumption, because I can mentally move my body but not yours. And if I have a toothache. you don’t feel my pain in your body.
But when you break down physical matter, ultimately you get atoms and subatomic particles, and even more empty space between atoms than there is atoms.
So the question pops up, at what level, or at what point does this consciousness attach? To atoms? To cells? To electrical pulses in the brain synapses? Even if one goes along with the Bardo teachings which say a consciousness meets up with joining of the egg and sperm, those things are also composed of composites.

Another assumption is that consciousness is itself a “thing” rather than a process, or a continually replicating series of arising and disappearing moments, like the wind. We don’t say that the wind is really a “thing” in itself. It turns a wind turbine but doesn’t attach itself to it in any way.

So, I think that to fry a much clearer picture, both of these assumptions will have to be set aside.
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

Post by Queequeg »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Sat Jun 26, 2021 12:24 pm
Queequeg wrote: Sat Jun 26, 2021 12:04 pmThat's certainly a view shared by Buddhists.
There is an assumption that individual consciousnesses somehow “attaches” itself to a particular grouping of matter.
This is a reasonable assumption, because I can mentally move my body but not yours. And if I have a toothache. you don’t feel my pain in your body.
But when you break down physical matter, ultimately you get atoms and subatomic particles, and even more empty space between atoms than there is atoms.
So the question pops up, at what level, or at what point does this consciousness attach? To atoms? To cells? To electrical pulses in the brain synapses?

Another assumption is that consciousness is itself a “thing” rather than a process, or a continually replicating series of arising and disappearing moments, like the wind. We don’t say that the wind is really a “thing” in itself. It turns a wind turbine but doesn’t attach itself to it in any way.

So, I think that to fry a much clearer picture, both of these assumptions will have to be set aside.
I speculate (not assume), that consciousness as we recognize it in sentient beings is an intrinsic quality of matter that is so complete and integral that it could equally be said that matter is a quality of consciousness. The fluffy nature of matter on careful examination maybe tends to support this idea because matter is not quite what we naively think it to be. In any event, what I'm describing is different than thinking consciousness attaches to matter. I might even suggest that its that quality of consciousness that exerts a subtle force even at subatomic levels that counters entropy and organizes matter into optimal forms that in turn give rise to the more robust forms of consciousness that we recognize in sentient beings. Mind streams and rebirth would then be vectors of movement through the medium that have the force to organize matter into higher levels of consciousness. Neatly, there is no self in those movements any more than there is self in a ripple moving across a pond.

The takeaway I still hold from grade school Earth Science is that matter seeks stability. Hydrogen, with its incomplete shell of electrons readily combines with other hydrogen and oxygen molecules in order to form a stable, inert, molecule. That molecule has characteristics that are different than the components. Maybe this tendency to stability is the rudimentary form of what we call consciousness - that deep craving to avoid suffering. The instability is intrinsic to the structure of the atom/molecule/subatomic particle itself. Hydrogen is highly reactive because it has one electron and needs two for stability. Oxygen needs two electrons - still a pretty volatile structure, though not as volatile as Hydrogen or Flouride - neither of which tend to appear in their pure form. Consciousness is a form of attraction between unstable elements. That would make helium, buddha...

Anyway, consciousness here is not an epiphenomenon of matter because matter itself needs to be reconceptualized as something other than matter; consciousness, too, would need to be reconceptualized.

Maybe tanha is just this impulse to stability at these higher levels of organization. This would frame the impulse to bodhi as perhaps the tendency to stability at higher levels of complexity and organization.

By the way, I don't think these ideas are materialist since consciousness is not an epiphenomenon but rather intrinsic. I think it tends to a complete over haul of the usual conceptual categories.

I'll close with, I have absolutely no support for my views. Maybe I can point to the inspirations of lsd and thc back in my younger days.

:rolling:
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
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Re: Can lab-grown brains become conscious? Answer: We don't care

Post by penalvad_uba »

The Karma of the brain is that of the lab and the components, only a buddha can say anything about this
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