[Fis] Final Author Response: Emotional Sentience

Eric Werner eric.werner at oarf.org
Sat May 25 17:40:24 CEST 2024

Thanks Kate for a great discussion!


On 5/24/24 11:46 PM, Katherine Peil Kauffman wrote:
> Dear FIS Community,
> Thank you all so much for this wonderful conversation. Despite 
> intervening challenges, it’s been an honor to read and ponder each 
> offering, and a delight to experience progress toward common ground. 
> By way of winding up, I’d like to address some recent emerging themes 
> and emphasize their place in the bigger picture.
> So for the big picture: Emotion is acknowledged as an ancient 
> whole-body sensory system, delivering evaluative feedback information 
> to /regulate/ – to actualize, develop, preserve, integrate, and 
> balance –- all aspects of identity (physical, mental, social, etc). I 
> offered my Tao story to ground this new view in direct experience, and 
> as a computational metaphor to address the causal processes of nature 
> (known and unknown) and source of the information encoded in hedonic 
> qualia. So in a nutshell, emotion is the /feeling of direct 
> participation /in The Tao, which – like Whiteheadian metaphysics (and 
> Bohmian & Kauffmanian physics) – reflects the creative, dynamic and 
> transformative flow between two Yin~Yang (0~1) domains of reality 
> (timeless~timebound; dreaming~waking; internal~external; 
> possible~actual; quantum~classical).
> As electro-chemical stimulus-response feedback signals, feelings 
> encode both /digital and analog/ informational processes – binary and 
> non-binary (fuzzy) logic; They define and alter /identity boundaries/, 
> reflecting the resonant self-organizing dance between /parts and 
> wholes, autonomous and collective behavior, /defining “self” as both 
> individual /me and social we, balancing cooperation and competition/, 
> and/enabling constructive interference, symbiosis and emergent 
> complexity. /They sing the song of /possibles and actuals/, of /being 
> and becoming/, they surprise us with new need-meeting environmental 
> affordances, informing us of self-relevant /opportunities and threats, 
> building associative memory, attitudes and habits. As innate Pavlovian 
> rewards and punishments, /they deliver value – defining /right (and 
> wrong/) states, balances and trajectories with universal yes~no 
> messages of pleasure and pain. They shout “/yes”/ to mindful 
> /self-development/ and bodily /self-preservation/, and a resounding 
> “no” to entropic self-destruction. Emotional feelings function as the 
> /self-regulatory music/ of the body; the common language of 
> life-giving activity at every level of scale in time and space. They 
> now offer three levels of information that deliver evermore complex 
> consciousness and creative freedom; they help build optimal mindscapes 
> and social landscapes; they liberate us from the binary limits of our 
> behavioral hardware – and ultimately from our own “unconscious” 
> biases, delusions and destructive choices.
> So for the new unexplored theme: Alex brilliantly hits the nail on the 
> head when has says that the “strange systems” with “fractal 
> physiology” do not behave like a “mechanism”, and that “consciousness 
> is plumb at the center”. Even moreso, when he says /“they give a 
> series of distinctly different, unpredictableresponses with a distinct 
> envelope of frequenciescalled a Fractal (1/f) distribution.” /Indeed, 
> as I mentioned early on, the fundamental Yin~Yang  complements within 
> hedonic qualia are traceable to the ultimate Taoist dance between 
> /disorder~order/ and “*edge-of-chaos” criticality* – which is 
> represented by the 1/f distribution, also known as “fractional” or 
> “pink noise”. //
> The concept of fractal physiology captures  some of the missing 
> theoretical pieces  – biologically relative /identity boundaries/ in 
> complex systems; the variable /connectivity/ configurations that 
> mediate parts and wholes and dynamic phase transitions; and the 
> foundational stimulus source of sensation and basal intelligence. It 
> can help us locate the significance of geometry and topology in terms 
> of boundary dynamics, informational flows and unique identity 
> structures, and clarify the organizational and informational closure 
> of a “Kantian Whole”. It also can help us overcome the common concern 
> herein of “dimensions” and consider instead /analog and digital/ forms 
> of information - both of which are present in emotional sensory-motor 
> loop (in the cybernetic /signal/ and its coupled /response/, 
> respectively, for those of you that have read my introductory paper).
> For the final unexplored theme: Howard brings us to death, apoptosis, 
> and the requirement for self-destructive behavior in living systems 
> (like the Freudian death instinct “Thanatos”.) Death and /pain /are 
> intimate biological associates, and our hardwired fight and flight 
> defenses move us to avoid them like the plague. But this underscores 
> my central point: that emotion also offers /information,/ building 
> evermore complex /software /via the/enactive mind./ The hardwired 
> defenses are temporary safeguards until /the mind comes on-line,/ 
> entering the “OODA” control loop. Such mindful intervention begins 
> with the embrace of the /binary logic of emotion/ – which as a species 
> /we have not/. Instead of aligning with the self-regulatory dynamics 
> and imperatives of nature (and /reducing/ the universal conditions 
> that elicit pain), we have created an entire sphere of man-made 
> “suffering” by leveraging the power of emotional pain as /social 
> punishment/ to regulate, control or dominate /one another./ Think of 
> the motivational, behavioral, and social capital of such complex 
> negative emotions as shame, guilt, resentment, mistrust, terror, 
> contempt, rage or hate, how they undergird zero-sum tribalism, 
> political extremism, religion indoctrination and chronic 
> self-loathing. (We even exploit and manipulate through bribes that 
> offer natural rewards, but in terms of hardwired behaviors feeling 
> “bad” is far stronger than “good”.)
> Of course there is far more to say about all this. (And Howard has a 
> gift at pointing out our human folly with great humor and wit.) But it 
> comes down to the question of /power/, and /who is in control of your 
> life?/ Many might claim we are machines devoid of free will. But if 
> that were the case, why would we need sensory perception or feedback 
> information of any variety - /why would we need pain? / Others might 
> claim that pain is our spiritual punishment for disobedience (our 
> “original sin”), if not evidence of supernatural  “evil”. But our 
> biology suggests instead that /pain is crucial information/ about 
> misuses and abuses of our free will; That we only earn as much free 
> will – and creative power - as we can utilize /optimally/, 
> /intentionally/, and /collectively/, in resonant alignment with the 
> ever-present stream of emotional sensory information. A truly 
> brilliant design actually, with the meta-crises of the day suggesting 
> we humans deserve our impending Darwin Award.
> Still, I remain optimistic that information science can offer some 
> relief. While I may now be wandering confused in the zoo of new and 
> exotic forms  “logic”, I deeply appreciate the steps we have taken 
> here toward clarifying what I mean by “eduction” – or emotional 
> reasoning. Please do feel free to interact, push back, and advise 
> behind the scenes as you see fit.
> With kindred affections,
> Kate Kauffman
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/Dr. Eric Werner
Oxford Advanced Research Foundation

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