Liminalist # 25.5: The Brain Eaters (with Peter Watts)


Second part of conversation with science fiction author Peter Watts, on the possibly mal-adaptive nature of consciousness, meat robots, cognitive capacity, Julian Jaynes and mounding fullness, consciousness vs. self-awareness, conditioning experiments, the cognitive feats of corbetts, the Cambridge declaration and self-aware octopi, why sex feels good, fractal geometry and healthy environments, does consciousness subvert the conditioning process, movie immersion and celebrity bonds, self-examination as deconditioning, uncoupling perception from the survival drive, SyNAPSE and the online simulation of a human brain, self-awareness without an agenda, the AI threat, Starfish head cheese, the rights of neuron puddles, Ardrey’s African Genesis and how self-awareness arose, cognition as the weighing of interests, theory of mind & awareness of the other, consciousness as result of conflicting motor commands, the Prismatics, a binary universe, consciousness as the result of a split, snowballing complexity, sleep crimes, self-consciousness as a flashlight, the fallacy of identity, the pond scum of selfness, how pedophiles may lay the ground rules for the Singularity, becoming post-human, the instinctive recoil, Jasun’s spider transformation vision, penetrating the border of skin, brain-mutating cabbies, neurodiversity and social factors, autistic brains, dysfunction and innovation, autistic deficit in white matter, high IQs in damaged brains, why Peter Watts never mentions autism, Behemoth and language, pre-DNA life, new forms emerging through fiction, Watts’ intuitive rescue fiction writing, walking the high wire.

Songs: “El Mariachi” and “Monkey Said” by The Freak Fandango Orchestra; “Mississippi Kite,” & “Crooked,” by Kristin Hersh; “Orangutan,” by Clinic.

11 thoughts on “Liminalist # 25.5: The Brain Eaters (with Peter Watts)”

  1. Jasun,
    I love your podcasts! I started listening following your cast with Kunstler ( fan of his early on-former architect and into his “urban planning” sensibilities) . At any rate, I have referred your site to many listeners who are looking for intelligent, conscious and out-of the-box personas, most of whom share similar backgrounds as artists, explorers and accomplished Make-the Shit Happen doers.

    Thanks for your genius!

    • Great! Thanking my genius is a bit cognitive-dissonance creating for me, here in my realm of relative obscurity. My strongest urge is to pretend I didn’t hear it because any attempts to politely decline such compliments come off as all-too “aw-shucksy,” or just pedantic. But thanks for spreading the word, I do aspire to reach parts of the listener that others podcasts can’t reach, by boldly going wherever I am afraid to go.

      Genius I can’t lay any claims to; but my particular and divergent neuroses are all mine!

  2. Hey Jasun allthough I like your music selections they sometimes take me out of the conversation, there may be too many interludes, and the monkey song is rather loud at the end, like a rude awakening just when ones contemplating the conversation.

    Loved this guest thanks for the podcast, I picked up his last book Echopraxia (August 2014, Tor Books, ISBN 978-0-7653-2802-1) the sequel to the free blindsight which I had read years ago.

  3. It took a while for me to get over just how much Peter sounds like Mark LeClair, with a similar energy level taboot. Once I got over it , I really enjoyed the intensity of the listening and the engaging between two guys achieving “the flow” together . Great conversation with lots of interesting angles explored. Good music as usual too. Thanks.

  4. Actually, I hear Peter chanelling Alan Alda with a Canadian accent (aboat = about). I’m one very pleased fly-on-the-wall…this conversation really flowed in spite of the drop-out of audio–some sort of synchronistic revisitation of Art Bell’s satellite dropout? But there was no loss of information. I agree with Susan: this is my favorite podcast. There’s something about Jasun’s voice that soothes and pleases me: his gentleness, thoughtfulness, unpretentiousness, and fearlessness–it’s there in the voice–and the editing of audio, selection of music, and the visual art are superb!

  5. Good stuff Jasun, I always find your work stimulating, well balanced and thought provoking without being too baffling, unlike Patrick Mckenna’s which is almost like attempting to read James Joyce, gloriously verbose, but utterly self indulgent and bewildering more often than not. Good music too, thank you so much x

  6. What JorisKarl said. Your voice is enchanting.

    And I think you got some stuff out of Peter that other interviewers would not have in a million years due to your world view, experiences, etc.

    I’m not sure, haven’t seen all of the episodes, but might disagree with Peter a little on the Humans show being a little different than some other AI stories. Not that it’s a particularly groundbreaking idea, but wouldn’t any intelligent life want rights? And isn’t the animal-human reaction, fear, kind of more the point than conquest or other nefarious goals of the self-aware machines? Then again, I guess it could be said the same of Bladerunner.

    • Thanks for the kind words. I only watched the 1st ep. of “Humans.” Peter’s main point was why build that reptilian fear-rage response into AI in the first place? & without it, wouldn’t AI, if it really became sentient (not that I believe it is possible, but as though experiment) then approximate the agenda-free awareness of enlightened bodhi sattva thing? ‘Course the BS is motivated by compassion for all living things, and an intelligence that had not suffered couldn’t understand suffering and therefore could not have compassion… Unless it developed empathy….


Leave a Comment