Where did your mind come from? Bacteria to Bach

Last year, I learned a delightful phrase which perfectly describes the feeling I get when I see a long-form talk from Daniel Dennett pop up in my feed — a brain boner. (hashtag-ChildishMagician)

YES we have a soul but it’s made of lots of tiny robots.
— D. Dennett

Professor Dennett is a philosopher who give me hope for the future of the discipline of philosophy. He has a remarkable ability to re-express ideas you think you already have from a completely different — often entirely opposite — perspective. In particular, he encourages us to think in a bottom up rather than a top down way. (As he puts it, think of "cranes" instead of [magical] "sky hooks".)

In a continuation (possibly culmination) of a career's worth of work explaining things that many consider to be unexplainable, he's essentially out to tackle consciousness from a secular-materialist point of view. He relies on two important concepts, which have become personal mottos, "a strange inversion of reasoning" and "competence without comprehension".

By approaching things from the bottom up, many of the problems like "qualia" and the infamous "hard problem of consciousness" disappear. He's described a simple and elegant framework that doesn't need magic to hold itself up.


I'm about a third of of the way through the corresponding book — From Bacteria to Bach and Back.  While I was sitting in a hotel bar waiting to be called for a show, came across the following wonderful assessmen tof my own profession:

Many of the most baffling magic tricks depend on the audience not imagining the ridiculously extravagant lengths magicians will go to in order to achieve a baffling effect. If you want to reverse engineer magicians, you should always remind yourself thaty they have no shame, no abhorrence of bizarre expenditures for “tiny” effects that they can then exploit. Nature, similarly, has no shame — and no budget, and all the time in the world.
— From Bacteria to Bach and Back

He's right :)