Friday, July 29, 2005

Wright & Dennett and the Meaning of Life(tv)

Today I happily stumbled (i.e., googled a related topic) upon a website discussing '‘meaning of life'’ issues. I immediately watched Robert Wright interview Daniel C. Dennett. The latter is one of my favourite authors, while the former was author of an evolutionary theory book that I quite enjoyed. This interview demonstrated the differences between the two men, but it was not so much an interview as it was a discussion/debate about consciousness, evolution, free will, quantum stuff and death. Though interesting, it was a bit disappointing. As I seem to have idealist oratorical standards, Dennett fell a bit short of how I would want him to speak. Such expectations and their fall out occur when one reads the thoughts of another and then hears them discussed; there simply is not enough capacity to have speech parallel written argumentation. On the other hand, as the interview continues, I feel Dennett did a fine job talking with Wright, despite Wright'’s disorganized queries and obstinate behaviour. If Dennett fell a bit short, Wright fell down. He was not terrible, but as the interviewer he failed. Wright appeared quite blase, and looked like he was '‘winging'’ it, apparently overestimating his abilities. He should have been more efficient, organized and used his notes (those little cards).

It just seemed like a very inefficient discussion, mainly because of Wright'’s style. Of course I may be a bit biased, but Wright tries to pigeon-hole Dennett on the consciousness of robots, even when Dennett makes his qualified view obvious. As well, at one point Wright sounds a bit desperate when he says, "…That'’s interesting and I'’ve thought about it a lot lately…"” as if by saying he has thought about it, he should be listened to more. That is probabilistically true, but also probabilistically, Dennett has thought about it more. The one snotty comment by Dennett, amusing and somewhat justified after an inefficient back and forth, was, "“I'’ll say it again slower I guess."” (I can sympathize.)
I enjoyed the discussion about epiphenomalism, now realizing how nonsensical a concept it is.

I think the interview is worth watching because of '‘meta'’ level aspects: how two people present their thoughts and react to the points raised by the other. I had hoped this website would be a goldmine, similar to the Edge, but Wright'’s style might dampen the delight of hearing smart people discuss smart things. (Looking the site over again, the benefits easily outnumber the costs.)

Lastly, watching Wright'’s confusion regarding some of Dennett'’s ideas, in addition to some discussions I'’ve had recently and over the past few years, is leading me to think of a '‘lack of (emotional) bias’ as a key factor of intelligence.

I'’ll ponder and get back to you.

(Addendum: Wright has displayed his love of sophistry and 'dunce-osity' by trying to make it seem like Dennett agreed to something he didn't. At best, it is ambiguous, yet Wright feels like there is gold here. Even at the main page, Wright engages in sensationalism about the potential implication of Dennett's putative remarks. It is saddening when smart people don't realize there are people smarter.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Today I happily stumbled (i.e., googled a related topic) upon a website discussing '‘meaning of life'’ issues."

Yeah, sure Darren, "related topic" my ass. You googled "meaning of life," didn't you? Admit it...

5:15 PM  

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