• Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    Or are you guys trying to argue that neuroscience can't really study the brain at all?Isaac

    Or perhaps that neuroscience can't really study the mind at all? :chin:

    No, not "at all". But I can see difficulties....
  • Coben
    832
    OK, but none of that is 'spooky' stuff. Me being aware of the fact that my taste receptors have just started neural chain reaction is no less a sensory stimuli response than the apple tasting. Its just the stimuli I'm sensing is my brain working.Isaac

    I've come in the middle. I don't know what 'spooky' means or doesn't mean. There is something that third parties cannot see happening. They can see all sorts of chemical reactions. They can't see that awareness. I am not claiming that is spooky.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    There is something that third parties cannot see happening. They can see all sorts of chemical reactions. They can't see that awareness.Coben

    Yes, there is a certain amount that a third party can see from the outside, but there is more that can only be appreciated by doing it: by being a conscious human being. And I agree it's not 'spooky'. :up:
  • Coben
    832
    It may be spooky, I don't know what people mean by that here. I just wasn't saying it was spooky.
    but there is more that can only be appreciated by doing it:Pattern-chaser
    I would say that there's more that is experienced that cannot be seen. 'More' as in more than what can be seen.
  • Isaac
    1.1k
    I think you are simply confusing my posts with other people's? Not sure who's.bongo fury

    Maybe, it's a long thread with a lot of transgressions. We were talking about defining consciousness, right? So that whole sub-thread came about because the subliming of the term was my primary objection to those claiming consciousness could not be investigated by neuroscience. If you're making only the claim that there are alternative working definitions, then I agree.

    Are they using yours? Links welcome.bongo fury

    By and large in my reading neuroscientific investigation into conscious use verbal reports of brain activity as the measure of consciousness. Ie, Tey use the fact that the subject has a memory of the actual mental activity on which they can draw to produce an account. There are other definitions (such as performing purposeful actions, but these are less well used). As for links, just look up 'consciousness' on Wikipedia, it should give a reasonable overview.

    I don't know, but I don't think we invent it. We find it delineated (vaguely, but with clear cases) in common usage.bongo fury

    Again, I'm happy that we have a fuzzy definition of consciousness which we can't always mark the boundaries of, but feel we know the centre point. What I was arguing against originally was the idea that this was not inter-subjevtive in any way, that scientist A could not see signs of consciousness in patient B and say to himself "oh, I know what this is". I think he could, others here seem to think he could not.
  • Isaac
    1.1k
    Or perhaps that neuroscience can't really study the mind at all? :chin:

    No, not "at all". But I can see difficulties....
    Pattern-chaser

    I can see difficulties too, so can almost all of neuroscience, I'm sure. The claim made here (which is the only one I'm arguing against) is that neuroscience cannot investigate consciousness in a way that philosophy can. If neuroscience can investigate anything at all, it does so by use of an assumption that verbal reports or external signs are an indicator of the same internal processes that we personally experience when we exhibit those signs or would use those words to describe it. Any investigation involving language must make this assumption otherwise language is impossible. We cannot even use the word "pain" without making the presumption that what I feel when hopping up and down saying "ow, my foot!" is the same thing another person feels when doing the same. That goes for neuroscience in no less a way than it does for philosophy.
  • Isaac
    1.1k
    I don't know what 'spooky' means or doesn't mean. There is something that third parties cannot see happening. They can see all sorts of chemical reactions. They can't see that awareness. I am not claiming that is spooky.Coben

    By 'spooky' I mean non-physical, it's an expression I picked up from physicists talking about the way woo-merchants misuse quantum uncertainty as if it were evidence for their latest product (be that God, free-will or new-age spirituality). I thought the term was more commonly understood than it evidently is.

    Third parties can see the stuff happening. In the same way you can see the sun.
  • Coben
    832
    Third parties can see the stuff happening. In the same way you can see the sun.Isaac
    I specifically mentioned the third parties seeing things happening and contrasted this with the first person awareness. They can't see the taste of the apple, my hand from that angle, what I feel like when I see my aging hand, the way I am partly thinking of what happened at the job, while also thinking the apple is a bit sour and so on. I mean, I'm sure you know this.

    As far as 'spooky', well if its spooky from physics, that came from Einstein who was not talking about woo-woo merchants but the conclusions of other physicists, conclusions that still seem to be the case, or are at least considered to be the case by many physicists, despite their no doubt incredibly deep respect for Einstein. And please don't take my pointing this out to mean that qm proves new age beliefs. But they do sure shake up common sense and we don't know what the implications are.
  • Isaac
    1.1k
    I specifically mentioned the third parties seeing things happening and contrasted this with the first person awareness. They can't see the taste of the apple, my hand from that angle, what I feel like when I see my aging hand, the way I am partly thinking of what happened at the job, while also thinking the apple is a bit sour and so on. I mean, I'm sure you know this.Coben

    But I maintain that they can see all this, in the same way as you can see the sun. When you look at the sun, you're not seeing it at all, you're seeing it's effects, you're seeing the light that came from it 8 minutes ago and using that information to inductively assume that the sun is there. You've no direct evidence that it is there at all, you just presume it is on the basis of the effects it has. The same with temperature (you can't actually see the vibrating particles), responses to stimuli in others (like bright light, or noises)...we just assume all these things on the basis of the effects they have on the world which we can observe. This causes us no hand-wringing consternation whatsoever, we just get on with science and our daily lives quite happily with this level of uncertain induction. So why is consciousness any different?

    And if it is so different, what is it about philosophy which suddenly makes it able to investigate, to talk about these things without running into exactly the same problem?
  • Coben
    832
    But I maintain that they can see all thisIsaac
    This can be tested. People look at other people and see if they can tell what they are experiencing. The experiencers think about different things, get prodded, out of sight, by a needle and so on. And we can see if they can see these things.

    I feel like we must be talking at cross purposes here. We can't see the qualia, to put it one way, that others experience. Sometimes we can see their emotional state, but often not. I can't see if they are thinking about their third grade teacher or an avacado. Etc.

    no hand-wringing consternation whatsoeverIsaac
    I don't have any hand-wringing consternation regarding consciousness. I don't think we know why it occurs, why there is this facet to at least certain matter. But I haven't expressed any particular emotional reaction to this.
    So why is consciousness any different?Isaac
    Different from what? From the Sun`?
    And if it is so different, what is it about philosophy which suddenly makes it able to investigate, to talk about these things without running into exactly the same problem?Isaac
    It seems to me philosophy can talk about the science related to the sun, if there were some specific conclusion that, for example, the induction did not really support or if there were paradigmatic issues that a philosopher thought was skewing some conclusion or precluding something unnecessarily.

    One uniqueness to consciousness in relation to science is: let's say we compare it to the study of the Sun. No one is priviledged. We could all use telescopes, we could all be trained to go through the experimental procedures - yes, intelligence might play a role in understanding how scientists got from A to hypothesis C and then texting X....

    But basically a wide variety of people each have the same access to studying the sun and moving towards conclusions.

    With my consciousness, what I am aware of, I have both advantages and perhaps disadvantages. A scientist studying my consciousness, what I am aware of moment to moment cannot have the same access I do. If we are both scientists and what we want to study is my consciousness, we have quite different access to it.

    If we are both astronomers, we can both study our sun and have precisely the same access to more data in the exact same ways. There is no phenomenon - in any case, that we are aware of now - that would make that study different for either one of us. We can trade off the same tools, computer programs and so on.

    But if we decide to study my consciousness, what I experience, it is not the same.

    Yes, we could each study our own consciousnesses, now again on even ground. But there is not parallel contrast with stars. This is my star and I can study it in ways you cannot.

    Note: I am not saying that the access I have to my consciousness means I will be right in my conclusions (all the time). It might make me reach false ontological conclusions. But it sure gives me a radical advantage over someone else when studying what I am aware of now, and now, and now......And it also gives me an advantage regarding what these experiences are like.

    If the Sun is conscious, well, then it would have a different access to one facet of itself than the astronomers.
  • Isaac
    1.1k
    People look at other people and see if they can tell what they are experiencing. The experiencers think about different things, get prodded, out of sight, by a needle and so on. And we can see if they can see these things.Coben

    Yes, and we can. With the addition that we ask the experiencers what they just experienced and they report it to us. Which is exactly what happens in neuroscience. They say "I felt a sharp pain in my back" and we think "I know what sort of feeling I would describe as a sharp pain in my back, I'm going to work on the presumption that's what they're feeling, otherwise language stops working altogether if we go around having our own private meanings for words".

    Different from what? From the SunCoben

    Different from all the other things scientists routinely investigate (with great predictive success) despite the fact that they are relying on verbal reports of qualia.

    A scientist studying my consciousness, what I am aware of moment to moment cannot have the same access I do.Coben

    Yes he can, you can tell him, in words, what you're aware of, and, presuming he understands the words and has experienced something he too would use those words to describe, then he now knows what you do (or close enough to it to yield useful investigative results).

    If we are both astronomers, we can both study our sun and have precisely the same access to more data in the exact same ways.Coben

    No, it's no different (or at least, not different enough to justify the claims being made here). If you report to me that you saw the sun pass by Neptune (or whatever, astronomy is not my field), then in order for me to make any use of that information, I must presume 1) that the things you mean by those words are the same things I do, and 2) that your 'seeing' indicates the same external world activity as my 'seeing' would. If I don't make those presumptions then I'm just as trapped in my own little world of sun observation as you suggest we are with consciousness.

    To investigate your consciousness, I ask you what you are experiencing (in response to my various test environments) and then, when you tell, I presume, from our joint experience of the world, that I know what the words mean (at least well enough to be getting on with). I do this with a few thousand people to average out any idiosyncratic language use and I have me some useful scientific knowledge about consciousness.

    It's no different to the presumptions about shared meaning I have to make when I speak with my fellow sun observer about his measurements.
  • Coben
    832
    Yes, and we can. With the addition that we ask the experiencers what they just experienced and they report it to us. Which is exactly what happens in neuroscience. They say "I felt a sharp pain in my back" and we think "I know what sort of feeling I would describe as a sharp pain in my back, I'm going to work on the presumption that's what they're feeling, otherwise language stops working altogether if we go around having our own private meanings for words".Isaac
    And then we have to wonder how much is lost in the translation, but sure, we do that. Then we have a much harder time with animals. OK, what I notice in the way you frame the issue above is. You say we can ask, which is true, and then you talk about what we assume - we tend to assume that what they say is something we can understand via thinking of what it would mean if we say it.' And they you say if we don't work with that presumption language stops working altogether. That's a false dichotomy. It might be wrong to varying degrees regarding various experiences. We do not deal with that kind of individual to individual various and mediation through language with any other study of a scientific object or phenomenon.
    Yes he can, you can tell him, in words, what you're aware of, and, presuming he understands the words and has experienced something he too would use those words to describe, then he now knows what you do (or close enough to it to yield useful investigative results).Isaac
    that is not the same access. And with most phenomena we are not going qualia to language to qualia. That is a difference.
    No, it's no different (or at least, not different enough to justify the claims being made here).Isaac
    It's different. I don't really care about the othe claims.
    To investigate your consciousness, I ask you what you are experiencing (in response to my various test environments) and then, when you tell, I presume, from our joint experience of the world, that I know what the words mean (at least well enough to be getting on with). I do this with a few thousand people to average out any idiosyncratic language use and I have me some useful scientific knowledge about consciousness.Isaac
    And with other phenomena, regarding stars, we do not have the stars ability to introspect involved. We have no individual experiential past/culture on the part of the test subject that affects interpretations, use of language.

    This means that there is an extra layer, at the very least, of a different kind. We do not have to worry about the cultural biases of a star.

    Because our data is mediated by another consciousness, not just our own. We are playing that children's game with it: telephone.

    This does not mean that we cannot study it or come to great conclusions.

    But it means that in this way it is not like other phenomena.

    This does not prove there is a God or dualism. But it is a difference.
  • Coben
    832
    Yes, and we can. With the addition that we ask the experiencers what they just experienced and they report it to usIsaac

    Which is not the case in any other research of any other object of research. And in no other research can the culture, upbringing, self-knowledge, language use, introspective ability of the subject affect the data IN ADDITION to the how the thinking of the research(s) might affect the data. We do not play telephone via another person with any other object of research. We look at the heart of a person and we do not have to think that perhaps the way their parents treated them or that they grew up in Malawi is affecting what we see in the microscope. Nor with the sun.
    I know what sort of feeling I would describe as a sharp pain in my back, I'm going to work on the presumption that's what they're feeling, otherwise language stops working altogether if we go around having our own private meanings for words".Isaac
    This is a false dilemma. Either we accept it or language stops working. When in fact we are dealing with degrees of distortion or, in fact, possibly use of the same words for different experiences, that are regularly experienced differently. They smell something quite different when they smell coffee, but since there is consistancy on boht sides, the use of the phrase smell of coffee works, except when one person thinks their dog smells like the coffee after the dog gets wet. And we get a hint they might be having quite different qualia. And that happens. God knows how much it happens with emotions.

    No other objects of study do we play this kind of telephone game with. Where even the motives and concerns of the one with the consciousness being studied might affect their honesty, consciously or otherwise. Along with all the other filters mentioned above.



    You almost acknowledge the difference....

    No, it's no different (or at least, not different enough to justify the claims being made here)Isaac
    I don't care about their claims. It seems to me here you are indicating motive not to accept any difference since this might encourage 'them'.


    .
    It's no different to the presumptions about shared meaning I have to make when I speak with my fellow sun observer about his measurements.Isaac
    Of course it is different. You didn't both have to wonder if the sun is withholding information, if the sun means the same thing either or both of you would mean by it. You don't have to wonder if the sun's culture being the same as yours, as opposed the Alpha Centauri's culture, is leading you to make false generalizations about minds, when in fact it is only certain minds. You don't have to wonder if when the Sun says coffee - see above.

    You do not have a broad set of new factors to consider that are not like any other factors in any other scientific exploration.

    Geologists don't have to wonder about the motives of mica.


    It seems like I am getting caught in the crossfire between those you see as conclusing things without foundation and you who it seems to me wants to say it is just like everything else. It may be to some objective observer, but for us in situ, it is a different kind of object of study because the access is mediated by other people. And I know stuff about my consciousness or awareness that you cannot know, even if I use words to describe it. Even if I do this well and honestly. There will be a huge asterisk next to what goes through your mind as being the same as what went through mine.

    I sense motives. I could be wrong. But I sense in this interaction a very strong motive, perhaps connected to the hand-wringing you see in others, to have no difference. Just as you see strong motive to see different in those with agenda in the other direction.

    I have to say I am getting tired of this, which means I am getting tired of internet philosophical discussions. They feel part, always, of ongoing culture wars with little curiosity.

    I'm gonna leave this here. There are still a few places in these forums where people actually explore.
  • Mww
    994
    When science tests for anything, it can only find the effects of natural law. Because consciousness must be a derivative of the brain, and the brain must operate under natural law, science should be equipped to test for consciousness.

    Consciousness is a metaphysical invention of philosophy. Even if philosophy itself, and therefore it’s inventions, must be derivatives of the brain, science is still require to test in accordance with natural law, of which a mere invention of thought can never show.

    Science can show the brain mechanics from which the thought of consciousness is derived, but can never show consciousness as it has been thought, in the same way that science can show that it is the sun I’m thinking about, but absolutely cannot show my consciousness of the object “sun” of my experience.

    Pretty simple really. Just because science can figure out where to look to see me being conscious of an object in particular does not tell it where to look to see my consciousness of objects in general.
  • Coben
    832
    Consciousness is a metaphysical invention of philosophy.Mww
    I am not sure what you mean here. I assume you don't mean that philosophy invented the awareness and presumably animals experience. But I am not sure what you do mean.
  • Mww
    994


    No, philosophy doesn’t invent the fact of experience, even if it makes assorted attempts to identify the quality of it.

    I guess, simply put, I reject that science can test for an abstraction of pure reason. I mean.....where would it look for it, exactly, within the proverbial 8lbs of wetware, and what would it look for, exactly? If it doesn’t know these things, how would it ever possibly know it found it?
  • Coben
    832
    I don't rule it out, but I think that is where we are today, what you say. A phenomenologist looking at a rock would never have figured out what geological processes led to it being as it is with the components it has. That's sort of the opposite problem.
  • Mww
    994


    Which sorta demonstrates the whole point: the methodology of physical science is not impeded in its investigation of physical objects, but it is certainly impeded in its investigation of abstract objects.

    Like looking in a cupboard: this is where a “2” will be found, but when the door is opened, there’s nothing there. This tells, e.g., where in the brain the thought of “2” manifests, but nothing like a “2” as it is thought, can be shown on a screen.

    I understand the various technical details of neurocognitive investigations, insofar as one might say a certain ion potential across a certain synaptic gap is a direct correlation to the thought of “2”, or some such. But that pathway is not what I see in my head.
  • Coben
    832
    first reaction: I am not sure it is abstract objects science impeded in approaching. In fact, I would say there is nothing more concrete than experience. Note: I see the impediment. I am focusing on the word 'abstraction.' (and with the proviso that right now my experience is more concrete, for me, than anything else, But my experience is not so concrete for you. But it's not abstract for me.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    The claim made here (which is the only one I'm arguing against) is that neuroscience cannot investigate consciousness in a way that philosophy can.Isaac

    If we allow that philosopher(s) can examine themselves, their own minds and consciousness, as well, then they can achieve more than science can by the exclusive use of external, maybe impartial, observers. Who can do better depends on who is able - according to the rules of the discipline they practice - to see the most, from the greatest number of (metaphorical) vantage points. If the philosopher is permitted to make the observations the scientist can make, and also add self-observation, then the philosopher has more data to analyse. This might well give the philosopher the lead.

    But this would not be down to any superiority on the part of philosophy. The rules of scientific observation don't allow self-observation by a partial observer. If that wasn't the case, there would probably be nothing to choose between the two.

    What do you think? :chin:
  • Mww
    994


    Isn’t it experience itself that is an abstraction? Whether the external object affects the brain and the corresponding state of the brain at that time represents the object, or, the external object affects the mind and the corresponding state of the mind at that time represents the object......the representation is nonetheless an abstraction of the object.

    Science just wants the physical brain state that represents the object to be entirely sufficient to identify it. Which is fine, it can certainly do that, but that in itself doesn’t necessarily relate to how the human thinks about the object. The human brain acts according to brain states, but the human reason of which consciousness in an integral constituent, doesn’t think in accordance with the way the brain acts.
    —————-

    Addendum:
    I edited eliminative materialism out, because it is absurd, and as soon as I wrote it, I realized it didn’t belong here. Sorry for throwing a curveball at you.
  • Coben
    832
    Or are you guys trying to argue that neuroscience can't really study the brain at all?
    — Isaac

    Or perhaps that neuroscience can't really study the mind at all? :chin:

    No, not "at all". But I can see difficulties....
    Pattern-chaser
    Which is why, for example, it was considered irrational in science to think animals had consciousness and were not, more or less, compicated machines. This was the position in science up until the 70s. And I think one could argue it was because animals couldn't disagree. They couldn't say 'hej it's damn boring in this cage'.
  • Coben
    832
    Isn’t it experience itself that is an abstraction? Whether the external object affects the brain and the corresponding state of the brain at that time represents the object, or, the external object affects the mind and the corresponding state of the mind at that time represents the object......the representation is nonetheless an abstraction of the object.Mww
    I can imagine that model being useful, but that's in terms of contents. The most concrete thing is experiencing, since that is what we base all other understanding on. If we take a specific object, a tree for example, that word gets its meaning from your experiencing. Everything is abstracted from this experiencing. We come up with the idea of a tree out there. I am not saying we make the tree. But for us, the base we touch and know what 'solid' or 'rough' means via is experiencing.
    Hence, the theory of eliminative materialism, which claims certain brain conditions, such as consciousness, are either impossible or nonsense.Mww
    I think the strong position of eliminative materialism is absurd.
  • Mww
    994


    Ahhh...I see what you mean. Yes, the concreteness of brain activity gives us the basis of understanding, agreed. But I maintain that the basis for, is not the same as the experience of.
  • Coben
    832
    LOL. I think, but I am not sure, you may have moved further away from me. I am not referring to the concreteness of brain activity - iow those things that one could perhaps monitor via current technology - glucose absorbtion in brain areas or beta waves or whatever. I am referring to our experience. Right now I am experiencing the letters forming on what is primarily a white screen. My experiencing. That is the basis for all our knowledge about things. You say, 'ball' and I imagine a round thing, and this is based on my experiences, earlier of balls. This ongoing experiencing is the foundation of all meaning, what is referred to, descriptions of things.

    my LOL above it not at you, it is at the toughness of discussing this, at least sometimes. It is so easy to talk past each other.
  • Mww
    994


    Oh. Sorry. You said the most concrete thing is our experience-ING, and the only aspect of experiencing that can be concrete, is the effect of objects on brain activity.

    The ambiguities of language, perhaps? Your “right now I am experiencing the letters...” would be my “right now, my experience of letters...”. I consider experience as an end, rather than experiencing as a process. Probably because I consider reason itself as the process, with all its components, culminating in experience.

    But that’s not the only way to approach the subject, I suppose.
  • Isaac
    1.1k
    If we allow that philosopher(s) can examine themselves, their own minds and consciousness, as well, then they can achieve more than science can by the exclusive use of external, maybe impartial, observersPattern-chaser

    We already allow such a thing in science by necessity. A scientist investigating pain must ask his patient about the pain they're feeling, he cannot measure it directly. The patient will respond in words (or maybe just actions if they're in a lot of pain) and the scientist uses their self-examination, their own experience, to understand what those words or actions might mean in terms of experience. Otherwise the experiment is pointless. Just to check which areas of the brain are associated with pain, for example, the results aren't "the thalamus shows increasing activity when the patient is writhing around yelling 'ow', but I've no idea what might be happening". The results are "the thalamus shows increasing activity when the patient is in pain (a fact I deduced from their writhing around and yelling 'ow' because that's what I do when I'm having one of those experiences, we're all human, it's a pretty safe bet for now that it's the same thing)". It is the scientist's own introspection about their subjective experience which allows them to interpret the external signs the patient shows as internal experience.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    A scientist investigating pain must ask his patient about the pain they're feeling, he cannot measure it directly.Isaac

    A doctor may be scientifically-trained, but her methods are not those of a scientist. There is good reason for this. Her subjects are humans, so there's a lot of subjective communication, and a lot of partiality, going on. That is entirely correct and appropriate for a doctor. But it goes against science as it is practised. For as long as science continues to worship impartial and external observation, it cannot investigate any human-related matters like this one. And so it will be inferior to another discipline that is able to do more than the scientist.

    This isn't the fault of the scientist, or of science. It's down to how science works. We might just as well complain that trees don't grow fur instead of leaves. Science is constrained. This is one price it pays for the investigative power it wields. Philosophy is a Swiss Army knife; science, in contrast, is a stiletto*. If stabbing is what you want, science is your best option. But for other cutting-related stuff, you may do better with philosophy. :up:

    * - I.e. it is very highly optimised. That's what gives it its power.
  • Coben
    832
    Oh. Sorry. You said the most concrete thing is our experience-ING, and the only aspect of experiencing that can be concrete, is the effect of objects on brain activity.Mww
    I'm not sure about the 'objects' part. At the very least, I am not there yet.
    The ambiguities of language, perhaps? Your “right now I am experiencing the letters...” would be my “right now, my experience of letters...”. I consider experience as an end, rather than experiencing as a process. Probably because I consider reason itself as the process, with all its components, culminating in experience.

    But that’s not the only way to approach the subject, I suppose.
    Mww
    Well, it is true that reasoning underlies what we experience. Or at least filters, biases, language, tradition, preconceived ideas, habits, many of which may be the results of reasoning, though perhaps someone else's like our parents. There isn't pure experiencing which we then reason around.

    That may not be what you are getting at. But it is what first struck me.

    For each of us, we arise into existence, experiencing. In the process of experience. We learn words via this experiencing and their meanings connect to experienced contexts and sensory qualities. When we encounter ideas we then 'check them' against records of experiences and meanings that are built up around experiences and are internally experienced. So, for me experience is the basis or most concrete. I realize we tend to attach concreteness to things: like the chair is made out of oak. But to me chairs and oak, the concrete portions of that assertion, are, in each of us, based on experiencing - experiences of chairs and woods. And the meaning is harking back to those experiences. Not to the ding an sich.
  • Mww
    994
    for me experience is the basis or most concrete.Coben

    I can agree with that. But perhaps you would agree that only works by using experience to qualify what you know to be the case presently. If you are met with a completely new event, all experience will tell you is what the new event isn’t, but cannot tell you what it is.

    And yeah......the “ding an sich” has no bearing or import with respect to the common understandings of Everydayman.
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