Intelligent Design Mind Naturalism Neuroscience

If the mind is an illusion, how can amputees control robotic arms?

Spread the love
Monkeys were trained to use their thoughts to move a robotic arm and grasp a ball/Nicho Hatsopoulos, Karthikeyan Balasubramanian

Maybe the arms are an illusion too… From ScienceDaily:

Neuroscientists have shown how amputees can learn to control a robotic arm through electrodes implanted in the brain. The research details changes that take place in both sides of the brain used to control the amputated limb and the remaining, intact limb. The results show both areas can create new connections to learn how to control the device, even several years after an amputation.

The researchers worked with three rhesus monkeys who suffered injuries at a young age and had to have an arm amputated to rescue them four, nine and 10 years ago, respectively. Their limbs were not amputated for the purposes of the study. In two of the animals, the researchers implanted electrode arrays in the side of the brain opposite, or contralateral, to the amputated limb. This is the side that used to control the amputated limb. In the third animal, the electrodes were implanted on the same side, or ipsilateral, to the amputated limb. This is the side that still controlled the intact limb.

The monkeys were then trained (with generous helpings of juice) to move a robotic arm and grasp a ball using only their thoughts. The scientists recorded the activity of neurons where the electrodes were placed, and used a statistical model to calculate how the neurons were connected to each other before the experiments, during training and once the monkeys mastered the activity. Paper. (public access) – Karthikeyan Balasubramanian, Mukta Vaidya, Joshua Southerland, Islam Badreldin, Ahmed Eleryan, Kazutaka Takahashi, Kai Qian, Marc W. Slutzky, Andrew H. Fagg, Karim Oweiss, Nicholas G. Hatsopoulos. Changes in cortical network connectivity with long-term brain-machine interface exposure after chronic amputation. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01909-2 More.


“using only their thoughts”? But what are thoughts anyway? As J. Scott Turner says in Purpose and Desire:What Makes Something “Alive” and Why Modern Darwinism Has Failed to Explain It, the monkeys have a purpose and desire (acquiring juice). In their case, a conscious desire. Their thoughts are immaterial (though actual) forces even though they are only thoughts about juice.

The practical benefits are obvious to everyone. But this isn’t a great time to be a materialist.

See also: Philosopher exposes neo-Darwinian Daniel Dennett: Claims “so preposterous as to verge on the deranged” Dozens of elegant and worthless “consciousness is just a … ” essays are doubtless in the works anyway.

Neurosurgeon: Craniopagus twins demonstrate separate “souls” without separate brains The 21st century is not turning out at all the way pundits thought.

Psychologists: Consciousness is an illusion, like a rainbow.


The illusion of consciousness sees through itself

10 Replies to “If the mind is an illusion, how can amputees control robotic arms?

  1. 1
    critical rationalist says:

    What’s the difference between the monkey’s original and the robot arm? Was the monkey not controlling its original arm with “only its thoughts”, what ever that means?

  2. 2
    News says:

    ” “only its thoughts”, what ever that means?” Ah, critical rationalist, that’s just it! What does it mean? Robotics focuses the question: Are the thoughts an illusion? Whose? Of what?

  3. 3
    Dionisio says:

    Who controls the robotic arm/hand?

    The signals come out from known spots in the brain that have been located through numerous fMRI and other experiments. The robotic limbs are connected to electrodes in contact with those brain spots.
    But why are those signals generated at given times.
    What triggers those fMRI detected signals, which are not gathered by the electrodes and amplified for the robotic arm?

  4. 4
    es58 says:

    OP: If the mind is an illusion, how can amputees control robotic arms?

    Trick question! Obviously they don’t. The “control” is also an illusion.

  5. 5
    mike1962 says:

    An illusion of what?

  6. 6
    J-Mac says:

    People who have had their limbs amputated feel as if they are still there…


  7. 7
    mike1962 says:

    J-Mac: People who have had their limbs amputated feel as if they are still there… Why?

    Because the brain still has the systems to process neurological action to the missing limb, and the brain gets confused and presents a false sensation to consciousness. It’s a genuine illusion based on confused sensory data.

    If consciousness itself is an illusion, what is it an illusion of?

    In the missing limb example we can say the sensation of a real limb is R and an illusion of a limb that is now missing is I, which we can represent with the following relation:

    I -> R

    Same for a mirage. The mirage of water is I, and a real puddle of water is R.

    Now, if consciousness is merely the illusion, I, what would the R be in that relation? What is the Real Thing that consciousness is merely an illusion of? If there is no answer to that question, then calling consciousness an illusion is meaningless.

  8. 8
    Dionisio says:

    Who feels?
    Who gets and interprets the signals ?
    Voluntarily or involuntarily?
    In the former case, who decides?
    Who receives/experiences the sensations?
    What is this “who”?

  9. 9
    Dionisio says:

    more [popular stuff] on brain and consciousness:

    It seems that there is a hole in our scientific picture of the world, what philosopher Joseph Levine called an “explanatory gap”.

  10. 10
    Dionisio says:

    here’s an interesting report on a most sophisticated information system that we still don’t comprehend well enough [to put it nicely]:
    control systems engineers and computer scientists would be in awe at the sight of such a fascinating system, thinking they are just dreaming.
    but someone out there would assure them that all that is the product of RV+NS+…+T+…?

Leave a Reply