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A ‘Self-Aware’ Fish Raises Doubts About a Cognitive Test (quantamagazine.org)
162 points by toufiqbarhamov on Dec 13, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 156 comments

I’m completely out of my field, but I never understood why it was so hard for us to imagine that other animals were capable of having rich inner lives or even being self-aware.

To me it seem obvious that other animals would also possess various degrees of cognitive ability, I mean, we do.

I suspect that it's cultural and derives from our economic relationship to animals. I remember seeing a film as a child that depicted a native hunter killing a deer and profusely thanking the spirit of the deer; attributing intelligence and identity to the deer would predispose a hunter to pay close attention to the animal's behaviour and give him an edge in hunting it. In cultures with domestcated animals bred for compliance with human will, it is less advantageous to view the animal as another mind. Instead, we see them as tools to be used and discarded. To do otherwise would compromise our ability to extract maximum economic advantage from use of the animal.

The issue (today) is not whether animals have cognition, but the extent and nature of that cognition.

In the present case, the research question is whether animals have a conception of self. This is necessarily a fuzzy concept.

The test that has been used many times and with many variations basically involves providing a mirror and a condition that is only noticeable as applying to oneself by relating the image in the mirror as representing one's own body.

However, the test probe is merely an instrument used to measure an underlying construct. That is, there is an assumption that to solve the test particular cognitive processes are invoked.

But a test probe may be solved using processes or strategies other than those for which the probe was designed to measure.

Cleaner Wrasse fish have many instincts that reflect school behaviors, especially in young fish. School like behavior: One fish turns, then it turns, suggest strong control over behavior by the sight of other fish..including those seen in a mirror.

I suspect this mirroring system is having an influence on the fish's behavior here. It sees another fish with a skin condition (a mark), which may have activated cleaning behavior in itself.

I’m not so sure that’s the case though, as for example Talmudic law prohibits castrating animals. A gelded oxen is much calmer and easier to work with than a bull. I think it certainly varies from society to society, but ancient agrarian traditions also respect animals in ways you might not expect.

What is interesting is that Talmudic law goes to the trouble. There's no point prohibiting something that people wouldn't do anyway. There must have been considerable pressure to castrate animals, and some corresponding spiritual dismay at the lack of respect for them this entailed. So I wonder if it doesn't confirm the premise, rather than refute it - the Talmudic authorities may have been trying to preserve earlier value systems against a changing society.

Humans aren't perfect economic machines. A single example doesn't necessarily refute the claim. And even then there might be some other advantage to not castrating oxen that isn't being considered.

> And even then there might be some other advantage to not castrating oxen that isn't being considered.

I supposed you could come up with one. Your OP basically gave you a really knowledgeable counterexample, rooted in a rich field of study in anthropology (treatment of animals), in societies that long predated capitalism.

This is actually a pretty common pattern in HN.

When the HNers hear something like: "According to this book that the recipient of the information (the HNers) didn't read, here's an illustrative example of how rich the study is."

They respond: "But capitalism."

You've adopted a world-explaining model (capitalism) that works most of the time (that "single examples don't necessarily refute") not because it's powerful, but because it requires extremely little knowledge. That's really why derivatives of this line of thinking (think LessWrong/singularity/Paul Graham worship) are so widely adopted. Not because the ideas are right. It's that the ideas work for people who don't read, or are just really god damned rich, or who don't really know anything, or think they 'know enough,' like true hacks would say.

The downside is that when someone tells you this fascinating tidbit of Talmudic law, instead of typing in "anthropology of the treatment of animals in historic societies," the reaction is, "Well fuck this guy's knowledge."

One name for this phenomenon is "first principles." A great, positive spin on knowing nothing! This forum's discourse has declined exactly because of first principles, and others have observed the same (characterizing their criticism as a criticism of "first principles thinking.")

How is it you equate the assertion that "Humans aren't perfect economic machines" with "But capitalism."?

The usual criticism of acolytes of capitalism is that they do (unjustifiably) think humans are "perfect economic machines". You seem to be inverting the normal attack and I can't make sense of it.

If I understand it right (it's 4:30am so my ability to phrase this might also be shoddy):

You removed the context from the thread. The context was that humans have an capitalist-economic focus (as in, distinguished from other economic systems like gift economies, marxist economies, etc.) on animals-as-use, and thus this influences your ability to reason about them as animals. The viewpoint is inherently capitalistic because it assumes that animals have become a good to be sold, and that it was more advantageous for humans to see it as such. Your (or whomevers') assertion "humans aren't perfect economic machines" was inherently an argument for the arguments for the capitalist viewpoint, which the person you were responding to was calling unfounded.

> You seem to be inverting the normal attack and I can't make sense of it

Capitalism doesn't assume that humans are perfect economic machines, indeed, it relies on them not being that. Otherwise, accumulation of capital would probably either be impossible for any single person to do, or it would be much more evenly distributed than it currently is. Indeed, the entire industry of stock-trading assumes that you can 'beat the average', which under the axioms laid out, is not what a logical, perfectly rational machine would do.

I remember seeing a film as a child that depicted a native hunter killing a deer and profusely thanking the spirit of the deer

I’m guessing it was The Last Of The Mohicans?

And then James Cameron copied it in Avatar.

i remember such a scene from "the gods must be crazy".

It's hard for humans to understand that people not in their tribe have rich inner lives or can be self-aware, let alone animals. We're wired to believe almost anything if our interest depends on it. We have an interest in pillaging other tribes and eating other animals, so it's easy to convince ourselves that they are non-player characters. It makes doing those things more pleasant.

Perhaps too off topic, but I’ve often wondered how the descendants of Vikings, once considered the most terrifying raiders of the sea, are now some of the most egalitarian and nonviolent nation states.

I'm no historian, but my best guess it that it's just correlation and that the main underlying cause of "civility" is wealth. When your citizens are struggling to survive, they (at least in their own minds) don't have time to think about women's rights, racial prejudice, etc. The progressive countries of the world just happen to be a few decades ahead on the technology timeline. There are obviously other factors, but I think that's the big one.

Wealth is probably the immediate cause, but in time, it seeps into the mentality of a people. The result is a society where trust in other people is low, everyone treats everyone else like they are out to cheat you, have little civic spirit and don't want to spend energy for the betterment of the whole. They would vote with whomever gives them bigger short term gains, damn with the future and consequences, other people will inherit them. It's hard to turn a mentality around, you just have to wait for older people to die and be replaced.

Womens rights were fairly decent for the times in Viking society.

Maybe because their more aggressive ancestors went viking, conquered, and settled abroad, those remaining were more placid.

This however doesn't explain North Dakota.

The Russians are a good example.

How so?

Scandinavians (the Rus' people) are thought to have had a part in the founding of a lot of 'modern' eastern Europe.


I think it's because the vikings were also prolific explorers and traders, with great curiosity for the cultures they visited and traded with.

An interesting side note on this, the descendants of the Vikings were also the Norman's, that later invaded England, and even sailed around to Southern Italy and conquered a place down there as well (I think it was somewhere roundabout Sicily?). They developed the state of the art castle building techniques, sailing techniques, extensive trade networks, and even some interesting governing techniques (women had land-owning rights) that enabled them to conquer and hold much of Europe over time. It might be that they were "the most terrifying raiders of the sea" because they had cultural values that prized technological advancement and decently good governance, and then spread out to nicer climates (good motivation to try something new...). Interaction and adoption of values from other cultures probably helped bring down the violence after a certain point. And like someone else pointed out, when you get wealthy and own the kingdom, you typically want to develop a culture of preservation rather than raiding.

The attributes you reference are a function of culture and not DNA.

The Viking culture was replaced with a Christian culture.

For the first half of the 20th century, scientists didn't believe that human babies felt pain. What's obvious isn't universal.


Setting circumcision aside, AFAIK anesthesia is not possible when doing surgery on infants, so with serious conditions, it's either operate without it or nothing.

Therefore, believing they don't feel pain is a matter of expediency allowing doctors to save lives.

We routinely anesthetize infants with either local or general anesthesia. Here is a 2015 discussion from the American Society for Anesthesiology comparing regional with general: “General anesthesia safe for infants, does not impair neurological development, study finds” - https://www.asahq.org/about-asa/newsroom/news-releases/2015/...

I didn't think it was a matter of "impairing neurological development" but of getting the right dosage.

Also, if there is a 2015 study saying it's safe, that would seem to imply general anesthesia is not so routine.

That's today. Anesthesia was considerably more risky in the past. (For everyone not just babies.)

I don't follow you.

People have been imagining animals have complex inner lives for thousands of years. It's a natural thing for us to do in our want to relate to things.

People disagree with each other, sure, but I think that's fair that people disagree on a contentious topic. There is hardly an answer to whether fish have complex inner worlds yet.

Are you talking about scientific thought about it?

>possess various degrees of cognitive ability

I can't say I agree with this. I agree with you that perhaps people failed to recognise and test for variances within the species. (Im not in this field either so I can't say for sure...) but again, the majority of people would know that different animals of the same type don't have different quirks and differing intelligence. Anyone who has had some pet fish has recognised some as being more shy or more aggressive than the other. Cow farmers know some of their cows are dumber and smarter than the other.

To take that thought and say "well therefore some fish have rich inner lives and others dont" is a bit of a stretch to me. I would suppose that there is a limit to their capacity and variance.

Sure, Chimps, Dolphins, Elephants - very easy to convince people they do and I'd believe it easily.

Convince me that a trout does? I'm not so sure, and would need to be convinced in some way. I can imagine it, but I won't believe something just because of my want to anthropomorphise.

While I can understand that many people are too dismissive of animals as being basic or unfeeling, that doesn't invalidate the idea that animals have a more limited mental capacity for what we perceive to be conciousness, and that includes sense of self at least somewhere along the line of complexity.

There is a poster here somewhere who maintains that because animals don't have a language, they cannot think; presumably extrapolating from noticing that they themselves think in words (edit: found it - "Animals don't think, because thinking requires language...").

From what I can tell in the animal research game, it's like AI; every so often someone posits some qualitative property that only humans do as the difference twixt animals and humans, and then an observer sees that qualitative behaviour in an animal (or sometime has seen it years or decades before).

Frans de Waal's books on this are very readable. The big ones of previous years - empathy, planning, tool-using and so on - all fall pretty easily.

That’s... a weird argument. Humans can think without words (and indeed without words or images).

How do you think without words, or rather sounds, or images? How do you keep track of a concept without a label you can attach to it?

It's difficult to describe the "how".

I've had the experience of talking with a friend and having a conversation along the lines of "Do you remember the guy that was in that movie?". If there's enough shared context, I might "know" exactly who they are talking about, but not the name of the movie or the name of the actor. I'm internally apprehending some kind of abstract "node" to which properties are attached, but not immediately available for recall.

I'm not thinking about the phrase 'that guy in that movie'. I'm not thinking about the name, because I don't (yet) recall it. I apprehend a connection between a person-node and perhaps as well a recent-experience node, the latter being an unsymbolized apprehension of the recollection of having shared an experience.

If I focus on the apprehension, I can begin to recall its properties.

To abuse a computer science analogy, it's as though there's some kind of abstract associative cache between nodes, linking them to other nodes but referring only to their object-ids. To further abuse the analogy, raw object-ids are a private type that have very few public methods. Mostly: - more_or_less_the_same_thing_as(oid1, oid2) - randomly_select_a_few_related_oids(oid) returns set<oid> - recall_concrete_properties(oid, timeout) returns maybe<propertyset>

These apprehensions don't have an appearance or a sound, but they have a... brain feel? They have connections between them, and they have rough quasi-shapes, and can "fit" or "not fit" into certain other apprehended "structures".

Depending on what mode my brain is running in, I can generally render these apprehensions into words. Sometimes I can't seem to get them to cross the idea->word barrier.

The half-remembered movie is a great example. I see an actor whose name I don't recall. I remember that I've previously seen him doing something in some other movie. I do not at any point think the words "he played that FBI agent who was a reformed alcoholic chasing down a serial killer who leaves little whiskey bottles at the scenes of his murders" but all that is suddenly right there in my mind. I didn't think of any of those words, but all that is right there in my head.

Is recalling memories thinking? If not, if I then act on those memories, is that thinking?

Not everyone thinks so. See the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

While semiotic has become something of a joke, it has been seriously investigated[1]. We don't really think in language or even in symbols, it's rather a lot more complex than that.


It is not contradictory to maintain both.

There are a lot of people who think that it's literally impossible for someone else to have a different inner experience than they do. As someone who's mostly aphantasic and only has an 'inner voice' when communicating or using it as a tool to focus, I quite like this article on the subject: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pristine-inner-exper...

It's because it causes an uncomfortable degree of cognitive dissonance to imagine that animals have self-awareness and rich inner lives, and also justify killing and eating them.

I'm not a vegan, I eat a lot of meat--I just feel uncomfortable when I think about it this way.

Because we view animals as resources to be used for our ends. Cognitive dissonance is at play.

Throughout history humans have treated humans like dirt as well. There must be more to the answer.

Some of us still do, it's easy to call people from groups unfamiliar to us useless or worse.

Because it makes it easier for us to abuse, exploit and murder them.

just a minor nitpick: the technical definition of murder is the unlawful killing of another. in most cases, the killing of animals is not unlawful and therefore can't really be called murder. also depending on the source of the definition, murder more specifically refers to the unlawful killing of a human, specifically. if you remove the need for it to be a human then there certainly can be cases of killing animals that count as murder, for instance killing endangered species, or hunting without a permit/hunting a species out of season, or the killing of an animal with clear malice (eg animal abuse). but still, for most intents and purposes, the killing of animals can't really be called murder because the majority of animal death is merely to provide food and as such is most certainly not unlawful.

Lawyers are partially responsible for the dismissive attitude that makes certain humans feel superior and justified as treating others as instrumental. It is likely that present day legal concepts impede progress and deeper understanding and appreciation of the world.

Lawyers write laws that ensnare us in self-righteousness and complacency.

It is totally fine for me to determine that there are things which are legal which are unethical.

I will not wait for the law to catch up to the idea that people are not property. I will not wait for the law to classify for me which life forms are means to an end and which are ends in themselves. The American legal code has been used to justify countless injustices against indigenous peoples and does not deserve to own our language. It does not deserve the privilege to declare what is murder and not murder.

Lawyers, yes, but religion also plays a major part.

> "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

So righteous people felt entitled to exploit animals with no regard to their inner lives, and exploit nature with no concern about the ecological disasters they might cause.

Only now, after we 'multiplied and filled the earth', have come to a point where we can't just ignore ecology, there are limits and constraints we now understand. So we developed new ethics that would help humanity survive.

That’s a great explanation and sentiment about ethics. I wish more people adopted it.

Very insightful. I can't up vote this enough.

I'd call it murder when a antebellum plantation owner killed a slave, even though that was lawful.

id probably consider that to be murder as well but there are two concessions that have to be made:

1.) we are making that evaluation within the context of modern society where the ownership of slaves is generally seen as inhumane and atrocious, and that people are not property. the context in antebellum society was extremely different and as such one could make the claim that during such times, that wouldn't have been considered murder by a majority of (slave owning) individuals.

2.) another element of the definition of murder is generally the existence of malicious intent. i would say that it's fair to see the taking of life of slaves as something that generally was done with malicious intent, that is to say as an authoritarian method of controlling the rest of the slaves by using the killed slaves to show them who is in control. of course, again, this is being framed within the context of modern society, but I think this argument could be much more easily applied in a manner that is independent of the general values of the time, because im pretty sure that malice as a concept has remained a lot more consistent that what is lawful, over time.

Words have multiple meanings applicable in different contexts. Murder is not exclusively a legal term. Your parent comment clearly was not looking to make a legal argument. Was that not obvious?

it was obvious, just as it's obvious that the first words i said were that it was just a minor nitpick based on what the technical definition of the word "murder" is. i wasn't per se trying to make a legal argument, more making the claim that murder itself is defined as an unlawful act. obviously it can be used in other contexts, but then again, so can basically any other word in any language if you're willing to warp semantics enough to suit your purposes.

> obviously it can be used in other contexts, but then again, so can basically any other word in any language if you're willing to warp semantics enough to suit your purposes.

Sure. But this isn't about "warping semantics". The word predates our current legal definition. It's used frequently outside of legal discussions. The parent was trying to make an argument contingent on the legal definition so nitpicking about proper usage under that definition is pointless as best.

You're right, but here the word is used intentionally for dramatic/emotional effect, akin to a metaphor.

yes im aware. it's just that i think maybe that murder isn't the most effective terminology because of the simple fact that most of the taking of animal life in the context of providing food to the population isn't performed with any intentional malice, and even if murder isn't being used in a legal context, another important context within it is general malicious intent. i can see that maybe some people who are against the food industry could easily convince themselves that there is malicious intent and directed evil in the way that said industry works, but I'm almost 100% positive that in the overwhelming majority of cases that the only intent that exists is to provide food for the population, or arguably one of financial superiority. something something evil is banal something something

Ignoring 99% of your reality frees up tons of attention for attention-demanding tasks like engineering and officework. Not to mention somewhat insulating you from the toxicity of urban life.

It's an attention-management-strategy that's popular and efficient for cultures like ours.

Of course it's evil as hell too. So we compensate with an appropriately self-serving "well they're just dumb animals" narrative.

Because they don't act as though they have rich inner lives (especially fish and birds).

If you're actually interested in this topic, I highly recommend the book "On Intelligence" by Jeff Hawkins.

I'm not so sure about that. Certain species pf crows and parrots have long been understood (even by non-scientists) to have general/abstract reasoning abilities. And people who actually study them seem to think that we often underestimate them [0] - probably because of widely held myths like the 5 second memory one.

I haven't read Hawkins' book yet, but he and the vicarious crew tend to conflate "neocortex" with "general intelligence" in their public talks. Birds and, it seems, the vast majority of animal species rely on predictive models of the world to navigate it - even if their "model-builder" doesn't look exactly like the mammalian one.[1] It makes complete sense to me - if a lizard loses a leg, it quickly learns how to walk with just 3 legs. If a finch is born with slightly larger wings than normal, and it also loses some of its tail feathers at some point, it quickly learns to adjust its motor patterns to suit the new conditions. You solve problems like these with sensory-motor models, not with hard-coded algorithms.

[0] https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528836-200-animals-...

[1] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121001151953.h...

nor do most humans

Birds are a lot smarter than most people give them credit for. I think most people just have more experience dealing with mammals.

There is a massive segment of the movie market (primarily aimed at children) where the starring characters are anthropomorphised animals which live rich inner lives and are self-aware. This is almost Pixar/Disney and Dreamworks entire very successful business model.

So I don't think it is really so hard for most of us to imagine ...

I think imagine is probably not the best word to convey what the parent is talking about. Maybe "take seriously". We also have plenty of movies involved anthropomorphized inanimate objects, but (almost) no one believes they have any kind of inner lives or self-awareness.

Chicken or the egg? Definitely some feedback loop going on, not sure which is which.

Well even before animated movies, there were books, first that comes to mind was Charlotte's Web (1952). Winnie the Pooh (1926) has a talking owl.

I'm not particularly well read, I'm sure others could come up with better/earlier examples. If you go back in history, Eve was supposedly tempted by a talking snake.


I too am outside of my very (very very very) narrow five things that I can do BUT I've had the same question as you so allow me to throw some of my thoughts your way.

It starts off with a rough guess about something hard to define and because it's so hard to define no one ever changes it but it's not as though the rough guess was ever correct. That's the part we forget. I think it's similar to the Turing test which to some people has become like a blindly dogmatic rule for machine intelligence. I don't think the Turing test was ever meant to be used how it's used today. I think it was just a rough guess. More like a "yeah, something like that" kind of thing than a definition.

Part of it has involved controversies over language, culture and consciousness, and part of it has been not wanting to anthropomorphize animals as having human personalities, since being human has a lot to do with thinking in language derived from culture, and that we're apes with vision as our dominant sense instead of smell.

Anthropomorphism is what you described. It's not a falsifiable scientific theory.

I think it’s not hard to imagine at all and that’s exactly why they’re making time and effort to find some scientific proof.

The value of these types of tests has been called into question long before: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHSbvjq1nm4

The above video had a tremendous effect on how I view intelligence and creativity. Seeing pigeons "talking" and solving problems really puts in perspective the power of the context/environment.

That is why I think we already have the algorithms for AGI.(i.e. reinforcement learning is probably all you need) We just don't have the processing and/or the right context for it to develop. But I also think the result will have all the downsides of animals/humans. That is, it will be as hard to get the desired behavior from an AI as it is to get it out of an animal/human because the predicting the behavior out of the cost function+environment will remain extremely hard. In fact you can see this mentioned in the video. Getting the right repertoire even for seemingly "simple" behaviors is hard.

Indeed, that's BF Skinner and associates talking about how creative behavior arises naturally from learned behavior.

And key here is that things like "the mirror test" are about testing animals for what humans naively believe are their unique traits. And this seems like it could be easily faulty if these naively human beliefs are false, which seems quite likely actually.

And also I'd view the focus on consciousness as a naive belief even if psychologists and philosophers have attempted to systematize it. At the same time, Skinner in particular as "behaviorist" seems to go from a lab where he's seeing most behavior mediated by stimulus to a position that seems to imply behavior coming mechanically from stimulus.

This is an anecdotal story, but has made me feel weird about this test in general.

I have a cat (who do not pass the mirror test) who loves mirrors. She just likes looking at herself in them. It is weird. She also frequently walks in on me in the bathroom and frequently looks at me through the mirror. And I know she looks at that one because it is the one I look at her with. So it always has made me feel like this test may be doing something else, because she clearly recognizes that I'm not in the mirror, but that she can see me with it. So it seems like she understands what a reflection is, but not her self in the reflection.

So it seems that animals can understand reflections, but does that really mean they recognize a self if they recognize themselves in it? IDK, I'm not a biologist and may be missing a lot from this test.

The mirror test is very flawed because it assumes other animals think ( or recognize ) like we do. We are mostly visual creatures so we create visual tests. But animals like cats are predominantly olfactory creatures. So if you planted smells of the cat, the cat would immediately recognize the smell as itself.

Imagine if cat psychologists created a test for humans. They would probably put your scent on one shirt and 9 other scents of other people on 9 different shirts and have you "recognize" yourself by picking out the shirt with your scent. Since we are visual creatures, we would fail such a test and the cat psychologists would claim that humans obviously have no self-aware. After all, how could a self-aware creature not recognize it's own scent.

That's how absurd the mirror test is. A mirror test for most animals would be like a smell test for humans. A cat might not recognize it's own reflection, but it will recognize its own scent. A human might not recognize our own scent, but we'll recognize our own reflection.

Interesting point, but not a great analogy. A reflection is a "live" copy, you can move your arm, and see your reflection move its arm. Your scent experiment is more like recognizing from photos.

What difference does it makes whether it is "live" or not? Ultimately, the question is about recognition and self-awareness. Whether you can do that through a reflection or a photo or a video or scent, it doesn't matter.

Also, I think don't you understood my point. My point is that different species recognize themselves differently. Cats recognize themselves and others through smell. So a mirror test is not applicable. It would be like giving a blind man the mirror test and expecting an actionable result.

I have two Siamese cats, one of which does exactly what you describe. So I started testing this a bit and noticed that if she’s facing away from me and looking at me in the mirror and I reach for her from behind like I’m going to scratch her, she will stand up to meet my hand. This seems to mean that she understands that what she’s seeing in the mirror is just a reflection and that when the guy in the mirror is about to scratch the cat in the mirror, it’s actually me that’s about to scratch her.

Yes! She does exactly that too. And I do have to mention that my cat is deathly afraid of anyone that isn't me. So it wound stand to reason that she recognizes that it is the "me" that she knows.

That being said, cats don't have excellent eyesight. But it is hard to do the mirror test with a creature that is so sensitive to feels and smells. I wonder how they test it for cats. Because surely a little dot isn't good enough. Maybe a laser dot?

Cats have been observed passing the mirror test. One popular hypothesis is that they can recognize themselves, they just don't care. That or some cats are capable of recognizing themselves and some aren't.

Wait, really? Is there scientific documentation of this too?

Don't think this is grounded in reality, but if I imagine the perspective of a cat, there are a lot of other concepts that we could be taking for granted. Kind of related to object permanence, we have a strong grasp that what we see a copy of in the mirror is the same object. But for a cat, this probably doesn't hold true. I can imagine a cat modeling a mirror as a window, beyond which for some reason there lives another copy of you, and another cat (her copy) as well. But since she's checked that she can't go over there, it's not important to her, and no glaring contradictions to this view would arise to require adjusting this model. The overarching principle could simply be that a cat doesn't really concern itself with something not immediately actionable.

Reminds me of this article from 2009 where a dead salmon "reacted" to ""a series of photographs depicting human individuals in social situations."


The irreplaceable Alone, the pirate doctor, thus reacted to the dead salmon fMRIs:


Do we know what happened to him? I really miss his work.

People speculate that the "Hotel Concierge" Tumblr is him, but HC denies.

"behavior is, in large part, genetically determined"

I disagree with the qualification "in large part", which implies there is behavior that is not genetically determined.

Suppose you do an experiment to test. Disrupt the genetic code in a fertilized mammalian egg completely. You will find there is no subsequent behavior of the organism. Hence, it is clear that all behavior is dependent on genetics.

On the other hand, if you place that egg in a box for several years, you will likewise find that there is no ensuing behavior. Therefore, it is clear that all behavior is dependent on the environment.

So you're being pedantic about an especially uncharitable interpretation of "determined"? Thanks?

I was saying there is no behavior which can be disconnected from either genes or environment. Why do you dismiss that as mere pedantry?

And if I mix baking soda and vinegar they'll bubble unless a meteor strikes the glass.

This level of pedantry ruins any discussion of cause and effect, because there's always some kind of circumstance that could interrupt. Of course anything could be interrupted, people know that. It doesn't stop eye color from being genetic.

People aren't going to be an elaborate multi-paragraph disclaimer about how any physical act is uncertain, even something as simple as a rock falling when dropped, and link it as a footnote at the end of every sentence.

If you think such a disclaimer is important, maybe you should just pretend that everyone already is linking such a disclaimer. It's a secret extra meaning of periods.

That's a tame, early text, but mid-to-late Alone writes in unrivaled High Sarcasm. So he always gets uncharitably read by someone.

It may have reminded you of that study, but the points were complete different. The dead salmon paper was about the practice of double dipping (selecting for an effect, then testing for a related effect) in some people's fMRI research.

Yes, that's why I said it reminded me, not that it was the exact same topic.

We're still in the "earth is the centre of the universe" stage when it comes to other life forms.

2018 Ig Nobel Prize in Anthropology winner: Spontaneous Cross-Species Imitation in Interaction Between Chimpanzees and Zoo Visitors [1] "[...] for collecting evidence, in a zoo, that chimpanzees imitate humans about as often, and about as well, as humans imitate chimpanzees." I think this is evidence towards your point that we understand very little of cognition of other species.

[1]: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10329-017-0624-9

I'm sure this work was groundbreaking , but let's not kid ourselves that imitation is some high and misunderstood form of intelligence.

Nor should we kid ourselves that this is new information. The adage "monkey see, monkey do" has been around for, what, centuries? Is it really that surprising that apes imitate things they see? Does it really reveal a paltry understanding of monkey cognition?

Hence the ignoble prize!

Ah thanks, missed the "ig."

Yeah there is no Nobel in Anthropology.

Oh hey, Apes ape, what a concept!

I'm excited for AI to take over and treat us like pets. That will be a real wakeup call for a lot of folks.

Imagine trying to believe "God created humans in his image"in this future.

Right up until the super-AI creates a pet human or two in its own image and a little garden for them to live in.

Just so you know that phrase means with the ability to recognize right from wrong, and the free will to use that knowledge. (And it does not mean intelligence.)

And so far so I am aware animals are not able to recognize right from wrong. They can be trained not to do certain things, but it doesn't come from inside them.

I believe that bonobos have been shown to have a sense of fairness vs unfairness. I don't know if that is different from right/wrong but I suspect not.

Fairness about themself, or about other bonobos?

The first means nothing, the second would be interesting. i.e. if they see another bonobo being treated unfairly and don't like it.

But if it's just about them, then that's not the same thing.

The cleaner wrasse has long been known to be extremely intelligent. The fact that scientists are questioning the mirror test because of this fish is more telling of their credibility than the test's.

The cleaner wrasse even engages in complex economic behavior: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/animal-economics/

An anecdote here - my wife and I both met a tropical fish in a tank at a restaurant and it was clear to both of us that the fish exhibited significant intelligence. It observed us patiently and even made playful eye contact. It seems that there are different levels of intelligence within fish species and they can't just all be categorized the same. It's only very recently where humans realized the great intelligence found on octopuses. The same may be true of some fish.

The mirror test always seemed flawed to be because of its reliance on visual perception. For many animals eyes and the primary source of environmental information. For some it's the nose. Now how about a special device that synthesizes your body odor and fans it back to you - would you recognize yourself?

Unless I’m reading this incorrectly, their sample size is 4 fish, 3 of which sort of passed.

I don't know if the usual caveats about sample size should be salient when we're investigating something like self-awareness. If I found a fish who could talk, I wouldn't demur, " ... but it's a small sample."

Point taken, but we’re a far cry from evidence as strong as talking. The article itself mentions refuted studies which were later proven to not be reproduceable. It’s more likely to find three weird fish than three fish that have self awareness unlike the rest of their species. Also unclear how many chances these fish were given, and I am guessing it was very generous.

Effect size is pretty important too. If the effect is strong enough you don't need huge sample sizes. Talking fish certainly is a strong effect.

That was just the sample size when they first tried to publish. It seems like it's been retested since and only now has been accepted into publication. No hard numbers on that in the article though.

If the fish is able to bring up concerns about the test being used, it has to have some degree of intelligence.

I've been doing a 30 day vegetarian challenge this month. It hasn't even been hard. Pizza is already not working for me. You can guess where I'm going in January.

I'm pretty sure I'm not going back.

Going vegan is also easy, so many amazing recipe books and blogs, off the shelf goods, restaurants.

Going vegan isn't easy at all, I even doubt it's possible if you care about your protein intake. Plant sources are very carb rich and more and more evidence suggests high carb, low fat diets aren't good for humans. There is simply no way to get enough protein from plant sources unless you wanna eat highly processed tofu every day. A full vegan, high protein diet would require eating low carb tofu at least 2 meals a day. Otherwise you need to accept taking exorbitant amounts of carb to get enough protein (basically, from beans). Seeing that how popular weightlifting in young Americans (especially males) today, suggesting "vegan diet is easy" is intellectual dishonesty.

I'm not arguing anything about ethics or availability or cost of vegan diet. There is simply no evidence suggesting full vegan diet is healthy. The most alarming thing about vegan diet is that you'll have absolutely no source of Omega 3 except expensive açai berry and walnut (all other plant sources have trace amount of Omega 3). So in a vegan diet you get excess amount of carbs (especially sugars) and Omega 6 which causes inflammatory diseases. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171113095430.h...

If I were vegan I would eat Trader Joes low carb tofu, avacado, açai berries and walnut every day, all day and supplement it with high fiber veggies like broccoli, and brussel sprouts. This is simply not feasible and practical from a cost and social aspect. Eat too much fruits to get cheap, and widely available calories and you'll get bizarre amounts of fructose. Good luck with that.

Not sure why you're speaking with so much authority. I regularly bike 50-100 miles per day. I rock climb 2-3 times weekly. I follow StrongLifts. I'm vegan and don't obsess over my diet. I simply make an effort to eat a lot of healthy, whole foods. I feel great. I have tons of energy. It's been five years without issue.

Further, from my reading on the topic the evidence supports the healthfulness of a WFPB diet. Eating this way isn't hard nor expensive. It can be socially inconvenient. It can take time to learn the ropes if you're transitioning to cooking and eating healthier. But it's worth it!

For those of us that don't bike 50-100 miles in a day, balancing nutrient intake with caloric intake is very difficult on a vegan diet.

Should be easier for you since you're burning fewer calories and consuming fewer nutrients.

Nutrient requirements don't increase nearly as much as caloric requirements under high activity. Additionally, vegan diets with enough nutrients tend to be calorie heavy.

So flipping that around, my point is that it's difficult to have a healthy vegan diet that gives you enough nutrients, without an extremely high activity level.

What on earth are you talking about?

In a Whole Foods plant based diet you eat nutrient dense foods. For instance, substituting date sugar (dates mechanically powdered) for sugar.

How long have you been eating this way? What are your relative strength numbers

> There is simply no evidence suggesting full vegan diet is healthy.

It looks like you've been living in the low-carb bubble, like many others here on HN. I find it weird when people who identify with being rational drink the kool-aid promoted by anti-vaxxers like Dr. Mercola and ignore the positions of the ADA[1] and the BDA[2].

You should really look into where your information is coming from.

[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562864 [2]https://www.bda.uk.com/news/view?id=179

> Going vegan isn't easy at all, I even doubt it's possible if you care about your protein intake.

Literally millions of people are proving you wrong every day.

> There is simply no way to get enough protein from plant sources unless you wanna eat highly processed tofu every day.

Tofu isn't even highly processed. It's essentially a cheese made from water that's had soybeans soaked in it.

Maybe they don't care about their protein intake.

Plant and legume sources are also very fiber-rich, which offsets most of the carbs, even in fruits. While fruits have lots of sugars, the fibers also slow the digestion of the sugars.

Kelp is high in Omega 3s, as are Brussels sprouts. They're not as high as meat sources but they're still sufficient.

The vegan diet is extremely low in Omega 6s...not sure why you would think it's high, since grain-fed meat is the primary source of Omega 6 in the Western diet and dwarfs any source you'd find in the vegan world by many order of magnitude.

> Going vegan isn't easy at all, I even doubt it's possible if you care about your protein intake

Virtually nobody who eats enough calories per day is protein deficient. Even eating just one relatively low-protein source of food, like brown rice, for all your daily calories will get you over a sedentary protein requirement.

> Plant sources are very carb rich and more and more evidence suggests high carb, low fat diets aren't good for humans

This is also just not true. [1]

> There is simply no way to get enough protein from plant sources unless you wanna eat highly processed tofu every day. A full vegan, high protein diet would require eating low carb tofu at least 2 meals a day.

Addressed above. False. Beans, peanuts, peas, hemp, spinach, soy (of all kinds: tempeh, edamame, and tofu) are all packed with protein

> Seeing that how popular weightlifting in young Americans (especially males) today, suggesting "vegan diet is easy" is intellectual dishonesty.

Veganism in the general population is pretty uncommon. So it's not surprising that it's also uncommon in the world of weightlifting. But just to provide a counter-example: Patrik Baboumian. Patrik, a vegan, holds several heavyweight lifting records [2].

> There is simply no evidence suggesting full vegan diet is healthy

False [3][4]

> The most alarming thing about vegan diet is that you'll have absolutely no source of Omega 3 except expensive açai berry and walnut (all other plant sources have trace amount of Omega 3) So in a vegan diet you get excess amount of carbs (especially sugars) and Omega 6 which causes inflammatory diseases.

Flax, which is extremely cheap, is an excellent source of Omega 3s.

[1] https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-find...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrik_Baboumian

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/

[4] https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/89/5/1627S/4596952

i'm a certified personal trainer, a competitive strength athlete, best friend is a nutritionist and doctor, and we can look at a selective subset of science and studies all day long but i'll go with the research i've selected and believe in, the cohorts i know and socialize with and whose examples i can see, and the actions i've decided on.

even if we take inactive, S.A.D. eaters out of the mix, there are healthy and unhealthy examples of most eating modalities. ultimately, i'm of the belief that paining over any "healthy" modality will increase harm, and not-paining over any "healthy" modality won't.

in the end, we meet our end. until then...

You see, I don't care about Xs Ys of this thing, neither should you, or neither should anyone. I need a laundry list of things that I can eat on a vegan diet and when I look at this list I see either things that are not good for me to eat (high sugar food) or things that are too expensive (avacado, walnut) and when I eliminate these two categories I'm only left with tofu, broccoli and brussel sprouts. I can't see how eating tofu, broccoli and brussel sprouts every day is supposed to be "easy". People like variety.

I have no problem with veganism (ethics, sustainability) except the diet is too restricted to be healthy.

I know plenty of people who are vegans and also compete in some form of extreme athletics (ultramarathons, triathlons, rock-climbing, etc.). It's definitely possible to be healthy and vegan at the same time. The difficulty is that being vegan requires a conscious analysis of what you are eating, and most restaurant/packaged food is not vegan.

Also, unless for some reason you are allergic to legumes, beans can be had for very cheap anywhere in the US, and if you can't afford $3 for a week's supply of spinach or bell peppers you probably can't afford housing either.

Meat is even more expensive...

A pound of lean turkey breast is almost 900 calories, has 130 grams of protein (meets daily value even for heavy weightlifters), 34 grams of fat (of only ~7 grams is Omega 6) and in my local Trader Joes I can get this for $5. How's this expensive compared to say broccoli. 1 pound of broccoli is $3 at the same Trader Joes but is only 150 calories. So a 900 cl broccoli would be $15.

A vegetarian diet is not made of broccoli.

Calories per dollar list: https://efficiencyiseverything.com/calorie-per-dollar-list/

But you need more than just protein! Where would you get fibre, vitamins, minerals if you just eat turkey? Also, you think if you are only paying $5 for a pound of meat that some corners aren't being cut somewhere? (guess what, they are! incredibly cruel treatment of the animals, damage to the environment, excessive use of antibiotics, poor and unsafe working conditions for humans working at the factory "farm" (although I don't care about them personally), rancid meat)

You know that there are vegan athletics, even bodybuilders? Just google for e.g. "famous vegan bodybuilders".

A vegan diet is easy if you're coming from an already health-conscious diet, meat or no meat. Before going vegetarian/vegan, I was already paying attention to what I ate, cooking at home for almost all of my meals, and generally educating myself about nutrition and diet.

Going cold turkey from the kind of person who eats out for most of their meals, or generally doesn't cook much from scratch, to the kind of person who cooks their own meals using plant-based ingredients is going to be difficult, no matter what. Not only do you have to learn about what kinds of ingredients and recipes are at your disposal, you also have to get good at cooking (which is not just some skill you are either blessed with or aren't).

My wife & I live in a medium COL city, and eat a vegan diet for 2 with plenty of splurging (both w.r.t. $ and health) and very good nutrition, without breaking the bank. I'd say including our spending on treats or non-homemade convenience ingredients like Beyond Burgers and the like, we spend around $100 a week for 2 people and eat like royalty.

With a little bit of effort, I could probably reduce that spending by about half, and still have a variety of meals (ranging from asian stir fries and thai curries to BBQ and healthy pasta).

To anyone trying to get started, I'd say the main things to look into are: * Legumes. Beans and Lentils are versatile and dirt cheap if you buy dried. We have an instant pot that makes cooking them even easier, but you can get by with just soaking and a pot on a stove. * Vital Wheat Gluten & Seitan. I don't mean store-bought Seitan (though it's good, it's very expensive). Buy some vital wheat gluten at a health store or on the internet, and make some seitan meatballs, sausages, anything. It's an excellent source of protein, and you can do so much with it. * Tofu. There are a few different kinds of Tofu, as well as other soy products like Tempeh (fermented soy). Tofu comes in such varieties as silken (very soft, used to make stuff like vegan cottage cheese, or in baking), firm/extra-firm (used for stuff like stir fries or baking), and if you hit up your nearest asian market, you'll find a bunch of others like already fried tofu, tofu skins (yuba), etc. * Nutritional Yeast. I use it in a lot of ways, but it's basically a cheesy/nutty seasoning. It's definitely a staple. Try it on avocado toast. * Veggies. Figure out which veggies you like and how you like them cooked. Roasting is a good go-to for most. Get a variety of color, and check out your local farmer's markets, CSA/Crop-Shares, or local farms for cheaper produce. * Cheese made from nuts. You can make homemade cheeses using cashews. This is more on the "I miss cheese" side of things than health, but I mean, it's cashews, it's not artificial or anything.

As far as health, nutritional science changes it's mind about certain things every so often. You can see the general consensus flip from "Eggs are bad" to "Eggs are amazing", and this happens with all sorts of things. People used to avoid fats, now they try to eat fats. I personally try to limit my carb intake, but I'm not gonna feel bad if I eat a certain amount of carbs through legumes or non-starchy vegetables. I have a protein target I try to hit (which is pretty easy to do especially using seitan, peanut butter, nutritional yeast, and other such protein-packed goodies), and I don't go over a calorie limit, and that's all I track when I track. The mix of carbs to fats varies day to day and it's been working for me. You might feel better with extremely low carbs, or you might not ever get many fats.

It's also not a requirement that no one eat any meat or animal products ever. Before going vegetarian I was "flexitarian" and would occasionally eat meat when I was out and about. Now I eat mostly vegan at home, but when I'm out I sometimes get something with eggs or cheese. The current rate of meat consumption is not sustainable on an environmental level, even if you don't care about the ethics.

But it looks like I've rambled on for long enough. I just wanted to point out some of the ways a vegan diet is accessible both from a cost and a nutrition stand-point.

lol, what? You can get all the protein you need from lentils, beans, whole grains - none of which are processed. And before you go all, oh but they are not complete proteins, quinoa is a complete protein, and all you have to do is mix legumes and whole grains in a meal and you have complete protein.

Hate facts

I'm trying to have a civil conversation and I tried to express everything I know and my opinions. This sort of "if you don't agree with me you hate facts" is not a good way to discuss anything.

No your facts are “hateful” and so nobody will engage with them. It’s a joke on hate speech

What's this have to do with potentially self-aware fish? Did I miss something in the article?

I think the implication is that unnecessarily killing sentient creatures is immoral. The link is between potentially discovered sentience and abstinence from an industry that inflicts upon them suffering and death.

The ink-dot and mirror "self-awareness" always sounded ridiculous to me. Isn't it obvious that a self-aware creature does not necessarily has to care about their appearance and can ignore the dot and that a creature driven by instincts and reflexes only can be programmed to maintain their skin color pattern (as the species has developed the pattern for a reason)? I would rather believe it might be self-aware if the same creature would remove the dot some times, would do it later every now and then and would ignore it occasionally.

In fact I even doubt every human is consciously self-aware, a huge number of people probably live their lives the way we see dreams. So many people have no doubts their bare feelings and judgments are the reality e.g. believing the fact they're upset means a counterpart has done something really wrong and/or hates them while in fact they might just have not slept well or followed a bad diet...

Contrary to popular belief, other people have rich inner lives, not just you. I know it's gratifying to think you're in an exclusive club of smart people, but you're really fooling yourself.

You're like a half-step away from the "NPC" meme.

Define "rich".

> It is unbelievable how blank and devoid of meaning, seen from the outside, and how muffled and unconscious, felt from the inside, the lives of most people flow along. It's a dull desiring and suffering, a dream-like tumbling through the four season towards death, accompanied by a series of trivial thoughts.

-- Arthur Schopenhauer

> [..] the individual citizen has very little possibility of having any influence - of making his opinion felt in the decision-making. And I think that, in itself, leads to a good deal of political lethargy and stupidity. It is true that one has to think first and then to act -but it's also true that if one has no possibility of acting, one's thinking kind of becomes empty and stupid.

-- Erich Fromm, who also said

> The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

How would Schopenhauer, or anyone, know what life is like for other people "felt from the inside"?

I see a fine line between empathy and delusion.

This is why we can hardly ever know if a fish (which would care to remove the ink dot from their forhend after seeing it in a mirror) is more self-aware than a gorilla (which wouldn't) or a punk (who probably wouldn't either, and I respect punks) for sure scientifically. The matter of consciousness is outside of the domain of physical reality so we can never tell a conscious self-aware creature apart from a sufficiently complex mechanism when looking from outside of the consciousness itself.

> One day Chuang Tzu and a friend were walking by a river. "Look at the fish swimming about," said Chuang Tzu, "They are really enjoying themselves."

> "You are not a fish," replied the friend, "So you can't truly know that they are enjoying themselves."

> "You are not me," said Chuang Tzu. "So how do you know that I do not know that the fish are enjoying themselves?"

That seems to depend on the phrasing of the friend's statement, along with ambiguity in the word "know".

For starters, "rich" is always relative, compared to what we consider rich. It's not like we can help that, just like you are, just from a short quote, are making a call about someone being delududed rather than empathic.

For me, a rich inner life, for a human, today, depends a lot on whether a person belongs to themselves, or is a collection of external opinions they just repeat. People who play tetris with exclusively pre-configured pieces instead of thinking. We all do that do a degree of course, but there's a big fat line between using shorthands and being able to reflect on them, and just using them and changing the subject whenever asked to reflect on any of it, and it's drawn with crayon.

Just on HN, how often do people say "I don't necesarily think this, but it's possible to hold the view that...", or "I think you're right, but sadly the average person...", "I'm not entirely sure I'm convinced that I feel like I agree with.." and all sorts of ways to avoid having and owning a personal position?

And then there's spookyness, e.g.


Look at those replies and how partycoder got greyed out a little for having some humanity and attention span left. Maybe these people generally have rich inner lives, but that wasn't one of their rich moments. And this goes for all who passed it by, too, not their best day.

A person who is alive, and has a rich inner life, does not look the other way in this fashion when others get murdered. They don't have picnics on mass graves. They do not say things that are technically true but give off a really cruel smell, and then act offended when called out on that. And hardly anyone ever debates me on that; if I say it crudely in the wrong context, I get downvoted, if I say it cleverly in response to someone who said something dumb, I get upvoted, but either way I can't get no interaction.

So then I'll take that as the answer: not only do many people not have rich inner lives, they know that, at least subconciously, and they carefully curate their communication to hide it, with multiple people acting as if orchestrated by their own defects, their own lack, and their commeon hostility towards those who have what they lack.

> You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid... You refuse to do it because you want to live longer... You're afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you're afraid someone will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.

> Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you're just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Any discussion about anything serious and dangerous is filled with comments saying "I can't do anything", disagreed with by people who have not given up responsibility and agency, who at best get ignored, at worst punished. And I don't mean my own comments, they're crap, but I see other people say the same thing in 3 beautiful sentences, and they too get fuck all for their efforts -- and the people they corrected just ignore them and keep repeating their bullshit in other threads.

The proof is in the pudding. This shit wouldn't happen in a community where most people have rich inner lives, and such a community wouldn't happen in a world where most people have rich inner lives. I see people so dead, they outlawed the concept of deadness being discussed in earnest. We can talk about how "the average user doesn't care about privacy" (if that happens to lead to totalitarian horror, so be it, they don't know and don't care, so we're off the hook)... but pointing out how sick it is to talk about the nice landscape or even Star Wars in context of genocide being swept under the rug -- that's not cool. Being so sick is okay, calling it sick is not.

> Hobbes [..] even, through sheer force of imagination, was able to outline the main psychological traits of the new type of man who would fit into such a society and its tyrannical body politic. He foresaw the necessary idolatry of power itself by this new human type, that he would be flattered at being called a power-thirsty animal, although actually society would force him to surrender all his natural forces, his virtues and his vices, and would make him the poor meek little fellow who has not even the right to rise against tyranny, and who, far from striving for power, submits to any existing government and does not stir even when his best friend falls an innocent victim to an incomprehensible raison d'etat.

-- Hannah Arendt

Being broken in that way, which is completely accepted in polite society, is mutually exclusive with having an inner life I would consider rich. And I don't need to prove that others have a rich inner live, they need to express it. If they don't, as far as I'm concerned, there is no difference between them having a rich inner life or not. That doesn't mean I dehuamnize them, that just means when they say something, I can't take it at face value, unless I kicked their tires and they showed signs of rich aliveness.

I don't auot-import and auto-update any random crap from untrusted sources just because someone might call me "deluded" for noticing the inability or unwillingness of someone to reason themselves out of a wet paperbag. If that's all, people who I don't consider to have rich inner lives being offended at that (and then being hypocrites by being so sure I'm deluded, that I can't possibly be seeing anything they don't, but otherwise offering no argument) -- that's like saying if I use an ad-blocker, you'll show me super mean ads. It's utterly moot, and kinda like pretending to burn a bridge after I burned it. I don't care about the revisionism going on behind that burned bridge, that's why I burned it. It's like a psycho SO you can't break up with because they have to twist it around so they broke up with you. Fine, whatever, as long as it's over ^^

Anywhere on the net, and "even on HN", there's so many comments that don't really parse. There's so much people talking past each other, hiding their argument in "..", and when you ask them "how so?" or "can you elaborate", there's just nothing. Most recent example for me: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18673428

I can't say "that's a brainfart" or "that's nonsense". No, I need to say "can you walk me through the logic here", heh. And I'll never know if the other person simply hasn't seen my question.. but I know 19 times out of 20, I get no answer. It's like certain things are just facade, and when you try to access them, the program freezes. So basically, even when a program crashes half of the time, produces broken output the rest of the time, I can't make any deductions about the quality of the code? No. I can, I did, I will again.

P.S.: I'll take me, and possibly Schopenhauer, being arrogant. But you would do yourself a disfavour to hold my attitude against Erich Fromm, that dude was from a wholly different and greater caliber. He knows a lot about how unhappy and alienated people are because he actually listened to them, and it doesn't take much of his writing, or interviews, to see that he was a very kind and optimistic and loving person. He also said many things that would kinda deflate and supersede my self-righteous rants, so I never quote those parts. Read him and you shall find :D

"you are, just from a short quote, are making a call about someone being delududed rather than empathic."

That is not the case. I was not making a call from a short quote. By saying there is a "fine line" I wasn't literally endorsing a dichotomy, but rather expressing the futility of trying to make one. Irrespective of any quote, empathy is always a delusion, in the sense that there is no such thing as direct mind-to-mind contact, but at the same time one can be right or wrong about what someone else is feeling. In that sense, one may "have empathy" or not, but not final authority over someone else's humanity.

I adore you and would certainly love to live in a world where there a more people like you, nevertheless let me argue just for sake of contributing to make some things more clear (or more confusing :-]):

> And then there's spookyness, e.g. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18102401 Look at those replies and how partycoder got greyed out a little for having some humanity and attention span left. Maybe these people generally have rich inner lives, but that wasn't one of their rich moments.

I would say partycoder has been downvoted because people failed to recognize the value of his comment. A comment can be considered useful if it educates you, provokes further useful discussion, provokes a thought, gratifies or inspires you or is at least a bit fun. Consider a news post about somebody having raped and killed some other: a comment saying "that's so horrible, he is such a monster" could get a lot of upvotes somewhere else but not on HN because it says nothing but what is obvious to absolutely everybody and hackers usually dislike this kind of noise. The majority of people probably fail to realize both this example comment and the partycoder's comment could in fact provoke useful thought e.g. about why some people and even societies ever behave so violently (what makes them to even want to, I can't imagine myself wanting to commit violence and it's curious what's the actual underlying difference between us) and what can we do to prevent such incidents in future.

> A person who is alive, and has a rich inner life, does not look the other way in this fashion when others get murdered. They don't have picnics on mass graves.

If I happen to get murdered, I invite you to literally dance and have fun on my grave, re-watch StarWars and tell yourself: this guy was a jedi (whether or not I actually was doesn't really matter), I will be a jedi too; both judging and grief lead to the dark side. Then bulldoze my grave and build a cozy home where a family will live happily. Also go and save an actual living creature from violent death or unhappy life, gift your compassion to somebody who actually needs it, not my dead body nor the shadow of my history. If you let a death of somebody (or mere awareness of how much evil, struggle and ignorance does exist in the world) limit your capability to do anything positive (like having happy time with your family, friends, with random people or in solitude, climbing on an ancient temple for joy and inspiration or inspire others to do so, even just working productively to build a good thing and not giving a fuck) and put you in gloomy mood - that's the worst "spit on the grave" possible.

> You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid...

The only thing I'm afraid of is my sacrifice is going to be a waste. Provided I knew for sure it would actually result in a persistent and significant (outweighing my potential and worth inevitable sorrow of the people loving me) change I would not hesitate to sacrifice my life. I'm not suicidal but if you manage to convince me there will be no tyranny in the world any more once I die and I'm killing myself this evening. But I can't actually imagine how my death can actually be a serious contribution so the best way to fight the darkness I could find so far is spreading my vision (which can be flawed or plain wrong but at least it provokes thought) via conversations on HN (a place where many thinking, capable to argue constructively and potentially influential people are going to read it) and everywhere (and I'll be honest enough to admit this sense of potentially meaningful contribution to waking people up feeds my brain dopamine).

> Being broken in that way, which is completely accepted in polite society

There are so many things in the society and in many people that are "broken" and being enslaved by the idea you should just do just anything to address these issues, strategies doomed to fail to actually improve anything (feeling sad included) qualifying perfectly is itself an example of being broken.

> I can't say "that's a brainfart" or "that's nonsense". No, I need to say "can you walk me through the logic here"

That obviously was a joke and your question obviously was rhetorical even if you didn't intend that. You should better have said "That's brilliant" sarcastically and at least that would be some sort of fun.

It's not gratifying, it's depressing. And I didn't say anything about "just me" (I meant a portion of people and I don't know how big or small it is) and also didn't say I myself had always been consciously self-aware nor that I easily manage to maintain self-awareness all the time. In fact I wish somebody would explain this idea to me a decade ago so I would wake up and develop the skill&habit of conscious presence and critical perception of subjective reality earlier, my life could have made much more sense and less struggle for me and whoever I've interacted with then.

You're conflating the philosophical definition of self-awareness and a colloquial usage of the term.

Would you be so kind to specify them if you happen to know? The philosophical definition I've found is "Capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals." But I have never thought about "the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals" (I actually don't feel myself separate, I feel being a part of the collective body, a part equipped with a mind of its own) part and I doubt I have a correct idea of what the colloquial usage of the term is.

What I mean under conscious self-awareness is the difference between the non-lucid dream/daydreaming/flow state and the awake mindfullness state when you consciously observe everything and yourself, don't associate yourself nor the surrounding reality with your emotions and judgement (remember these are just a particularly quirky map rather than the territory) and are capable of conscious non-conditioned reasoning and acting.

There seemingly is a middle option of not-really-conscious basic self-awareness that is when a person neither sleeps nor observes their subjective perception as a distinct object (which neither is their actual self nor does it represent the actual reality around them reliably).

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