Stop Press: AI researchers install a Right Hemisphere

  • Stop Press: AI researchers install a Right Hemisphere

    Posted by Paul on April 6, 2023 at 11:27 am

    I have been wondering from the start of the AI boom we’re seeing how long it would be before we saw a “Hemispheric” division within AI to counter its tendency to make mistakes. This work goes back quite a few years and I am currently looking for older research papers in AI to see how they formulate the problem and what other papers and works they reference along the way.

    However, this week researchers Shinn, Labbash and Gopinath have released their “Reflections” paper detailing their exploration of installing a separate layer in the AI to improve its answers.

    I would argue that AI researchers have basically implemented Iain’s finding that without an overarching system that checks, adjudicates and curates answers the mind (in this case an artificial one) will produce errors it is not capable of being aware of let alone correcting. The authors call the respective systems the “Researcher” (the system that collects the data and tries to formulate an answer) and the “Decider” (the system that evaluates the answer for ‘fitness’ and suggests improvements.

    In this sense then, it is the pragmatics of the situation (the need for AI to be accurate and autodidactic) that have led them to trying this.

    Here is the link to the current paper (and no, Iain does not appear in the references):

    And here is a video explaining what this is all about and what it means:

    Don Salmon replied 1 year ago 5 Members · 16 Replies
  • 16 Replies
  • Don Salmon

    April 8, 2023 at 2:36 pm

    If the whole universe is consciousness – if consciousness is, as Sri Aurobindo writes, “the fundamental thing in the universe”, with everything simply being movements of consciousness in varying degrees, I don’t see why there would be any particular surprise if AI were “conscious” – as everything is made of consciousness.

    • Lucy Fleetwood

      April 17, 2023 at 1:57 pm

      Hi Don, can you tell me the difference between ‘consciousness’ and ‘sentient’ ?

      • Don Salmon

        April 17, 2023 at 2:15 pm

        Oh my goodness you’re asking tough questions!

        no just kidding happy to try.

        Ah, words….. let’s see.

        I would say, loosely, the way I’m using “conscious” here refers more specifically to human SELF consciousness, and “sentient” refers to the awareness of the sensory environment common to animals – and if the latest studies are to be believed, even plants.

        In Tibetan Buddhism and Vedanta, “Cit” (translated quite loosely as “consciousness”) refers to the awareness which both encompasses and pervades and ultimately, constitutes, the universe. In simpler language, it’s related to what I wrote you in the contemplative group, awareness looking through our eyes, and ultimately, as we merge more fully into and as that awareness, we can literally – viscerally – FEEL the energy, aliveness, “sentience” of all things, even what we consider to be “dead” matter – as “made” of awareness-energy.

        These words are easy to write and it’s easy to think, if we spend some time reading them, that we know what they mean. But in my experience, it’s helpful to be very very light about them, otherwise they end up being an impediment to direct experience.

        I’m conscious of your question. There is sentient awareness of the feeling of writing, sitting in the chair, etc. There is an awareness “behind” or looking through the eyes the takes in everything, and as I relax into this awareness, everything takes on a quality of alive, sentient awareness, vibrating with Presence and aliveness.

        hope that wasn’t just clear as mud:>))

        Time for a chai break:>)

      • Don Salmon

        April 17, 2023 at 8:58 pm

        Hi again Lucy:

        My friend, Marco Masi, just posted this on the “Hard Problem of Consciousness.” In his post, he discusses sentience as one aspect of conscious experience – explains it MUCH better than I did!

    • Whit Blauvelt

      April 17, 2023 at 4:41 pm

      Hi Don,

      If every “thing” is made of consciousness, don’t we have “trouble with things”?

      We are organic, living systems (at least). So if our individual cells are conscious in some way, and if even the molecules and atoms within them are, still we as whole, living systems have dimensions of consciousness of our selves, of our wholeness.

      Now, we can take any random collection of things, and call it a “thing.” Take everything from your pockets, put it in a pile, that pile is a “thing.” Should we think the pile has consciousness as a whole, of itself as a pile? Well, computer systems are random collections of things. True, they are collections of tools which can be used by us in concerted ways. But a workbench full of tools is not, as a pile of “things” — workbench and tools — coherently conscious. Is it?

      Why should artificial information processing be conscious in any way that the collection of wood processing tools on my workbench isn’t — which is to say, other than perhaps at the molecular level of some sort of proto-consciousness, not conscious at all? When your word processor auto-corrects, is that a conscious decision? What are large-language models other than elaborate systems of auto-correction, guessing blindly at what might make sense to human beings reading their output?

      • Don Salmon

        April 17, 2023 at 5:08 pm

        Hi Whit

        Not sure I’ve correctly understood your post, but maybe if I address one particular point it might help make it clearer.

        My apologies first, as I see I’ve used “consciousness” in the sense they use it in Indian philosophy (and in Yoga in general) so obviously, since I haven’t made that explicit, it would be confusing.

        So if i understand you, you’re talking about the question of the extent to which collections of things (plants, animals, humans, machines, whatever) are “conscious.”

        Actually not just in Indian philosophy but universally among contemplatives, “Consciousness” (with a capital “C”) is the energy of which all “things” in the universe are made of.

        So in a way, from that perspective, there ARE no “things” – not in the sense of some independent, self-existent “thing”

        Ah words, this is all sounding so abstract. Let me see if I can make it more concrete.

        Say I have some tightness and pain in my lower back (In fact, I do, very mild though). Now, as long as I relate to that pain as a “thing” – it is kind of an enemy, or at least, something “I” – separate from the “Pain” want to modify, fix, control, etc.

        Furthermore, it feels, at first, like “I” am a “thing” which is inhabiting another “thing” which we call a “body.”

        Lucy Fleetwood gave a very nice phrase recently – to recognize that which is seeing “through” our eyes, that which is aware through our mind, but which (to paraphrase the Kena Upanishad) “the mind is not aware of, which the eyes cannot see.”

        So a little shift takes place. Suddenly, instead of being a localized, spatialized, temporal “thing” – I’m everythign, in and as everything. The AI software AND its output, the microorganism AND its “mental consciousness,” the stars, the sun, the planets are no longer things but formations, waves, in the all pervading ocean of Conscious-Energy (“Chit Shakti,” in Sanskrit.

        Or to put it in religious language, I have a direct visceral recognition that we (quoting St Paul quoting a secular Greek poet) “live and move and have our Being in Her” (well, Paul used the male pronoun but hopefully you get the point>))

        She then is everywhere, everywhen, nothing but Her – the object or thing is Her, the consciousness is Her, the skeptic and atheist and denier is Her.

        I hope that didn’t make it more obscure!!

        • Whit Blauvelt

          May 8, 2023 at 3:35 pm


          You say “Actually not just in Indian philosophy but universally among
          contemplatives, ‘Consciousness’ (with a capital ‘C’) is the energy of
          which all ‘things’ in the universe are made of.” Okay. My view is when the word is defined thus, you’ve made “Consciousness” mean nothing — not just “no thing,” but meaningless.

          What we’re concerned with, in discussing AI, should be whether any AI can ever rightly be considered the equivalent of human, a living being. A pile of rocks, per your contemplatives, is “Conscious.” Yet to treat a pile of rocks with the same respect and consideration as you treat another human being would entirely miss the point as to the value of human beings.

          The tree outside my window may in some sense be a conscious being. There’s fascinating recent research on plants leaning towards such a conclusion. The car parked under the tree is not. And the car that will be parked under that tree a decade from now, with an advanced AI in it, also will not be a conscious being.

          If we are to care properly for life, we should distinguish it from what is not alive. The threat of AI is that too many people will mistake it for conscious beings, to the detriment of the real conscious being which deserve our love and compassion.

          • Don Salmon

            May 8, 2023 at 6:18 pm

            “Consciousness is the fundamental thing in the universe. All motion, all that exists, is nothing but the movement, the energizing of Consciousness.”

            Sri Aurobindo, who received the highest marks ever attained in Latin and Greek at Cambridge U, is considered by many to be the greatest philosopher in the history of India, possibly the equal of Plato, Aristotle and just about any other philosopher anywhere.

            It may be that he has a little idea about how to define a word.. The above sentence was taken from a letter written to a disciple, so it wasn’t the aim to give a precise definition. But we were so taken with it, we began over 6 chapters of our book on yogic psychology with it.

            You say it’s meaningless and we should focus on whether AI is or is not “conscious.”

            I notice so far neither you nor anyone else has responded to my posts on physicalism.

            I honestly and truly don’t believe there has ever been a religious belief or sect – and I’m including the craziest fundamentalists like those who believe in the rapture – who ever came up with an idea so utterly and completely incoherent as physicalism (world religions scholar Huston Smith tells of a psychiatrist who noted that according to strict DSM standards, it qualifies as a psychotic disorder; as a psychologist who has conducted several thousand evaluations, I agree)

            The problems with AI, as with climate change, war, famine, inequality, vulture capitalism, can never be addressed much less resolved as long as we have a psychotic view of the universe. Our minds have literally conjured up non-existent “things” like stars and planets etc that are made of some abstract stuff nobody can even define, and then we wonder why no matter what great inventions we come up with to save humanity, everything falls apart.

            All contemplative traditions have said this – the original idea of “sin” had almost nothing to do with morality but living in this delusional state. The Asian traditions are more explicit – we live in Ignorance. Not intellectual ignorance, but an ignoring of the Divine Reality in which St Paul – quoting a Greek poet from the 3rd century BC – tells us “we live and move and have our being.”

            Instead of Consciousness, you’re welcome to recognize God everywhere, omnipresent Her presence all pervading and all encompassing, or the all pervading Supreme Brahman, or – if you take a contemplative rather than scholastic view of it – the Tao, or Sunyata.

            None of these words, as you rightly imply, are capable of being truly defined in the ordinary intellectual sense, but they can be KNOWN directly, by identity because “Tat Twam Asi,” Thou Art That.

            • Don Salmon

              May 8, 2023 at 6:25 pm

              So far, though I’ve made use of the dream analogy many times, I find generally, if people havent spent time living in a contemplative way, it doesn’t help that much. The Tibetan Buddhists have incredibly powerful ways of using this.

              It’s not really hard or confusing at all; I think personally it’s a natural emotional resistance. ALl this feels – it FEELS so real, that to even play with the idea of it as dream just seems to silly and maybe crazy that it’s almost unsettling to think of it seriously.

              But if you want to get a clear sense of what I’m pointing to, try it.

              Look at every object around you – and perhaps you don’t remember your dreams or have never had this kind of dream experience, but I can tell you, you can very very easily be in a dream where solid objects are infintiely more “real” than the objects of our ordinary waking state. You knock on them, they’re hard. Something falls on your hand, it hurts.

              You look through a telescope and if you’re trained as an astronomer, you will observe every celestial phenomenon you observe in the so-called waking state.

              Now this is the point where people usually bail, and i never understand why, except maybe the Dalai Lama has a clue. What you’re learning when you test whether you’re in a dream or not is what the Buddhists call “sunyata.” The Tibetans often say it’s the realization that nothing – neither the universe nor you – ‘exists from its own side” – meaning, has inherent self/separate existence.

              Many people read McGIlchrist and think it means some kind of interdependence of physical and psychological phenomena.

              But those phenomena ALSO have no self existence. Nothing does.

              So the Dalai Lama says, if you hear about sunyata and you aren’t absolutely terrified, then you don’t really get what it means.

              Now, you can glimpse that terror if you spend enough time examining why it is that it’s absolutely impossible to confirm whether you’re awake or dreaming.

              The fear of engaging with this is exactly the root of the problems with AI, racism, sexism, vulture capitalism, war, aggression, addiction, education, health care, international finance, depression, trauma, psychosis, brain disease, all disease, etc.

  • Paul

    April 9, 2023 at 12:37 pm

    Hey Don.

    Hope you’re well! Yes, whether AI agents are conscious or not is a bit of a side issue for me. I mean, we could adopt the framework that everything in the universe is continuous and inseparable which renders the question of consciousness moot.

    I am more interested it what AI tells us about language, about our own experience and how solutions to the problems of optimising them illustrate our collective lack of understanding of consciousness generally.

    • Don Salmon

      April 9, 2023 at 12:49 pm

      Hi Paul,

      Yes, quite well today. Beautiful day in the Blue Ridge mountains!

      I’m guessing our views are SO distant that we may have difficulty – at least initially – getting things clear.

      I think I do get – sort of, at least – your interest in AI and language and what it can tell us about consciousness.

      Let me try this – it may go nowhere, but hey….

      The yogis say it’s possible to reach a state of consciousness which gives us “knowledge which, having attained, all is “known.” This doesn’t mean omniscient information but rather, knowing directly the consciousness that is the substance of the universe. It does include all sorts of what in Sanskrit are known as “Siddhis” – including telepathy, remote viewing, precognition, psychokinesis, the ability to understand any language – including the “language” of any animal (or plant!)

      I’ll stop there. If that’s too crazy and woo and far out sounding, I’ll leave it alone for now. It just seems to me, one is likely to learn a lot more through such contemplative consciousness than through ordinary analytic (or even intuitive) thinking – that is, through ordinary LH or RH thought.

      Ok, it’s official – Don’s certifiably nuts:>))

  • Paul

    April 9, 2023 at 7:15 pm

    I’d be willing to accept that any or all of those states are possible Don. For me, occasional transcendent experiences are all I have to go on really. My experience is that unpreparedness to accept goes along with rigid mind states I find intolerable for any length of time. I don’t think these experiences make me special in any way and I find I am certain that thinking so would interfere with them happening. I actually think they are common, even typical but are generally ‘unshared’ experiences- anything unfrequent and not part of shared experience is treated as anomalous culturally and so reports are hard to find. The largest anonymous phone surveys suggest that maybe 1/4 of the population experience what have what could be classed as hallucinations. This before you get into anomalies that have a ready explanation available.

    Frankly, if I dismissed anything other people might classify as ‘nuts’ I fear I wouldn’t learn much of any value to me as most if not all of the things I value are unshared and idiosyncratic in nature.

  • Rodney Marsh

    May 8, 2023 at 9:59 am

    Stop Press: AI researchers install a Right Hemisphere<div>

    I had argued in the general discussion (which I wrote before reading ch 22 on Time) that since a data based approach cannot have a right hemisphere attention nor a presence in the ‘eternal now’ of the present moment – It can never have a RH virtue/conscious present attention to tasks or opinions expressed. The moderation of a RH AI instalation MUST we rules based (and rules can be gotten around!). Nor can AI ever have the imagination for what is not yet known and have an Eisteinian “ah ha” moment. This new form of intelligence is very backward looking. AI will fix us in an eternal loop from which it could never provide an escape route. Combined with an infinite capacity for banal evil I think it very dangerous. Does ANYONE see holes in this opinion? What should/could we do?

    “AI, both machine learning and language models, using an immense superhuman data bank are uncannily predictive on the basis of past learnings and so can help create great new tools to live with reality. But only creative human attention to the ‘now’ can provide the knowledge needed to live into a secure future for a rapidly changed and changing world. Past human insight and wisdom, harvested by AI, will be necessary to build the world of the future, but a secure future cannot be built without the creative leadership of the open attention of the right hemisphere to the present moment. As Jesus said, a true teacher “brings out new and old treasures from the storeroom.” Most importantly, the living practices of training the attention and paying attention, which are embodied in the world’s Wisdom meditation practices, are always ‘in the moment’ and hold the keys to humanity living in harmony with what is. We cannot live into the future without building on the past, but neither can we walk backwards into the future using old methods to solve new problems.”

    (The footnote was

    ”…we fear that the most popular and fashionable strain of A.I. — machine learning — will degrade our science and debase our ethics by incorporating into our technology a fundamentally flawed conception of language and knowledge.” Opinion | Noam Chomsky: The False Promise of ChatGPT – The New York Times ( It seems to me that a purely left hemisphere machine learning system can only have a ’second hand’ right hemisphere perspective so, whilst it can be immensely useful, there are no limits to the damage it can do. In life, only the right hemisphere can provide limits to the left hemisphere‘s capacity for banal evil. For the opposite opinion see ”The False Promises of Chomskyism” and an interesting discussion particularly Chatbot’s own opinion (comment#16) that it possesses a ”unique kind of intelligence”.)


    • Paul

      May 8, 2023 at 11:41 am

      Hi Rodney

      All excellent points. I think part of what LLM AI’s tell us about ourselves is that the crystallised intelligence represented by language is immensely useful but on its own is not enough to create a self sustaining natural system, i.e. a system that humans and other life can thrive in.

      People see such systems as ‘beautiful’- ecosystems, biomes etc. yet materialists dismiss beauty as merely an anthropocentric illusion, preferring ‘objective’, ‘functional’ definitions of these systems. It seems to me they try to recreate these systems, or ‘models’ of them using these definitions. They fail. They improve the systems, they fail again. Are they edging closer to success, or getting further and further from the whole point?

      Perhaps our grasp of the Beautiful is precisely this kind of discrimination, expressed as well as we can manage given the limitations of language itself.

      I think this illustrates what Iain is driving at, that there needs to be an overarching ‘point’ or ‘meaning’ to a system for it to be truly functional. As to whether it could never be achieved, I can’t subscribe to that but I am sympathetic to the general thrust. We are certainly missing something from our collective, explicit, verbal construction of who we are and how we work.

  • Rodney Marsh

    May 8, 2023 at 12:42 pm


    The governing metric must be utility for an AI but using such a closed data system it is not possible for the system to answer the question “utility for what?”

    We are blindly following machine learning toward an undefined nirvana which may turn our to be a big black hole from which the giant gravity permits no escape! Maybe no different to what we’re doing now only speeding up the descent.

    • Paul

      May 8, 2023 at 1:27 pm

      Yes, perhaps this is right Rodney.

      Certainly the history of humanity would serve as a strict reminder of our collective foolishness.

      On the other hand, are we to always assume a repetition of our past mistakes, that things will always go the way they always have? Is there not perhaps some way we can use each novel gateway as the opportunity to learn, collectively, what it is we need to know to live harmoniously? Should we simply think we are doomed or should we try to be hopeful? After all, AI is here whether we think it is good or not.

      I certainly hope this is possible.

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