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What is consciousness?


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#1 Lazarus Long

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Posted 30 September 2005 - 12:36 PM


I am starting this thread to draw together into a clear framework all the various discussions we've had and are having about consciousness, what it is and whether it can be simulated or artificially constructed.

At the end of this post there will be links posted to every thread in our forums' various areas that relate to this topic and I ask that we initiate a new discussion here after a short reading from a very carefully worded article that does a nice job of summarizing the dilemma we are facing along with a bit of history for the problem.

It should come as no wonder to most of us that this is one of the hardest problems faced by both philosophy, physics, modern computer science, psychology and even theology combined. It should also be no surprise that to the consternation of those mystics wishing to see this as an impossible problem that they may soon be disappointed.

I have a personal opinion that regardless of the final answer about specifically what is mind/consciousness in particular that we will come to understand that the word we use for "soul" is not some mystical property of life apart from the mind (vitalism) but in fact simply a common fallacy that has been adopted to explain all the different qualities of the mind that we have heretofore not properly understood. In other words the words mind and soul are either synonymous scientifically or must be separated into an unverifiable mysticism theologically and science can only address the subject of the mind as the former is simply an analysis of fantasy.

To those who object to that somewhat cold logic before launching into an attack please consider that much of what we attribute to the soul can now be understood as properties of the mind, perhaps including its potential immortality.

Here then is the article and what follows will be a list of the various threads cross linked to this subject. Please, I doubt that I can find them all in one search so if you have suggestions for other threads and other sites to include in this one feel free to include them and I will also place them here to make them available quickly.


Why Great Minds Can't Grasp Consciousness
By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 08 August 2005
06:05 am ET

At a physics meeting last October, Nobel laureate David Gross outlined 25 questions in science that he thought physics might help answer. Nestled among queries about black holes and the nature of dark matter and dark energy were questions that wandered beyond the traditional bounds of physics to venture into areas typically associated with the life sciences.

One of the Gross's questions involved human consciousness.

He wondered whether scientists would ever be able to measure the onset consciousness in infants and speculated that consciousness might be similar to what physicists call a "phase transition," an abrupt and sudden large-scale transformation resulting from several microscopic changes. The emergence of superconductivity in certain metals when cooled below a critical temperature is an example of a phase transition.

In a recent email interview, Gross said he figures there are probably many different levels of consciousness, but he believes that language is a crucial factor distinguishing the human variety from that of animals.

Gross isn't the only physicist with ideas about consciousness.

Beyond the mystics

Roger Penrose, a mathematical physicist at Oxford University, believes that if a "theory of everything" is ever developed in physics to explain all the known phenomena in the universe, it should at least partially account for consciousness.

Penrose also believes that quantum mechanics, the rules governing the physical world at the subatomic level, might play an important role in consciousness.

It wasn't that long ago that the study of consciousness was considered to be too abstract, too subjective or too difficult to study scientifically. But in recent years, it has emerged as one of the hottest new fields in biology, similar to string theory in physics or the search for extraterrestrial life in astronomy.

No longer the sole purview of philosophers and mystics, consciousness is now attracting the attention of scientists from across a variety of different fields, each, it seems, with their own theories about what consciousness is and how it arises from the brain.

In many religions, consciousness is closely tied to the ancient notion of the soul, the idea that in each of us, there exists an immaterial essence that survives death and perhaps even predates birth. It was believed that the soul was what allowed us to think and feel, remember and reason.

Our personality, our individuality and our humanity were all believed to originate from the soul.

Nowadays, these things are generally attributed to physical processes in the brain, but exactly how chemical and electrical signals between trillions of brain cells called neurons are transformed into thoughts, emotions and a sense of self is still unknown.

"Almost everyone agrees that there will be very strong correlations between what's in the brain and consciousness," says David Chalmers, a philosophy professor and Director of the Center for Consciousness at the Australian National University. "The question is what kind of explanation that will give you. We want more than correlation, we want explanation -- how and why do brain process give rise to consciousness? That's the big mystery."

Just accept it

Chalmers is best known for distinguishing between the 'easy' problems of consciousness and the 'hard' problem.

The easy problems are those that deal with functions and behaviors associated with consciousness and include questions such as these: How does perception occur? How does the brain bind different kinds of sensory information together to produce the illusion of a seamless experience?

"Those are what I call the easy problems, not because they're trivial, but because they fall within the standard methods of the cognitive sciences," Chalmers says.

The hard problem for Chalmers is that of subjective experience.

"You have a different kind of experience -- a different quality of experience -- when you see red, when you see green, when you hear middle C, when you taste chocolate," Chalmers told LiveScience. "Whenever you're conscious, whenever you have a subjective experience, it feels like something."

According to Chalmers, the subjective nature of consciousness prevents it from being explained in terms of simpler components, a method used to great success in other areas of science. He believes that unlike most of the physical world, which can be broken down into individual atoms, or organisms, which can be understood in terms of cells, consciousness is an irreducible aspect of the universe, like space and time and mass.

"Those things in a way didn't need to evolve," said Chalmers. "They were part of the fundamental furniture of the world all along."

Instead of trying to reduce consciousness to something else, Chalmers believes consciousness should simply be taken for granted, the way that space and time and mass are in physics. According to this view, a theory of consciousness would not explain what consciousness is or how it arose; instead, it would try to explain the relationship between consciousness and everything else in the world.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about this idea, however.

'Not very helpful'

"It's not very helpful," said Susan Greenfield, a professor of pharmacology at Oxford University.

"You can't do very much with it," Greenfield points out. "It's the last resort, because what can you possibly do with that idea? You can't prove it or disprove it, and you can't test it. It doesn't offer an explanation, or any enlightenment, or any answers about why people feel the way they feel."

Greenfield's own theory of consciousness is influenced by her experience working with drugs and mental diseases. Unlike some other scientists -- most notably the late Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, and his colleague Christof Koch, a professor of computation and neural systems at Caltech -- who believed that different aspects of consciousness like visual awareness are encoded by specific neurons, Greenfield thinks that consciousness involves large groups of nonspecialized neurons scattered throughout the brain.

Important for Greenfield's theory is a distinction between 'consciousness' and 'mind,' terms that she says many of her colleagues use interchangeably, but which she believes are two entirely different concepts.

"You talk about losing your mind or blowing your mind or being out of your mind, but those things don't necessarily entail a loss of consciousness," Greenfield said in a telephone interview. "Similarly, when you lose your consciousness, when you go to sleep at night or when you're anesthetized, you don't really think that you're really going to be losing your mind."

Like the wetness of water (*qualia as cognitive process)

According to Greenfield, the mind is made up of the physical connections between neurons. These connections evolve slowly and are influenced by our past experiences and therefore, everyone's brain is unique.

But whereas the mind is rooted in the physical connections between neurons, Greenfield believes that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain, similar to the 'wetness' of water or the 'transparency' of glass, both of which are properties that are the result of -- that is, they emerge from -- the actions of individual molecules.

For Greenfield, a conscious experience occurs when a stimulus -- either external, like a sensation, or internal, like a thought or a memory -- triggers a chain reaction within the brain. Like in an earthquake, each conscious experience has an epicenter, and ripples from that epicenter travels across the brain, recruiting neurons as they go.

Mind and consciousness are connected in Greenfield's theory because the strength of a conscious experience is determined by the mind and the strength of its existing neuronal connections -- connections forged from past experiences.


Part of the mystery and excitement about consciousness is that scientists don't know what form the final answer will take.

"If I said to you I'd solved the hard problem, you wouldn't be able to guess whether it would be a formula, a model, a sensation, or a drug," said Greenfield. "What would I be giving you?"


*the italics are my editorial comment


Brains, Memory and Behavior

Brain copy and paste

Senses =Consciousness?

Can software alone simulate consciousness?

Emotion

Intro:'The Sentient Centered Theory Of Metaphysics

The Evolution of Language

A self worth having

A question for those that don't believe in the soul

Can all people learn to form beliefs rationally?

Consciousness As Scientific Tool

Collective Super-Consciousness

Intelligent Apes or "Human beings"?

Vitalism, the beginning of the debate

DNA & Platonic Forms

Other

Just a copy

Is Science Killing the Soul?

Uploading... would you do It?

Mission to Build A Simulated Brain Begins

Poll: Transhuman Mind Upgrade

Consciousness: Is There A "hard Problem"?

AI, slavery, and you

Ethical Issues in Advanced Artificial Intelligence

Priorities: Biotech, Computation, Nano, etc, Where to put your talents?

A Comprehensive Poll

Myths of Mind Uploading

Cyborgs are Us

Poll: Ethics of Artificial Sentience

Constructing the Relational Mind

Free Will

Representational Theories of Consciousness

#2 psudoname

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Posted 01 October 2005 - 02:53 PM

Roger Penrose, a mathematical physicist at Oxford University, believes that if a "theory of everything" is ever developed in physics to explain all the known phenomena in the universe, it should at least partially account for consciousness.

Penrose also believes that quantum mechanics, the rules governing the physical world at the subatomic level, might play an important role in consciousness.


This seems plausible, and should be testable. I was actually going to start a thread on this theory...

Instead of trying to reduce consciousness to something else, Chalmers believes consciousness should simply be taken for granted, the way that space and time and mass are in physics. According to this view, a theory of consciousness would not explain what consciousness is or how it arose; instead, it would try to explain the relationship between consciousness and everything else in the world.


We are starting to explain mass etc in terms of other stuff. Thats what GUTs about

#3 Lazarus Long

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Posted 13 October 2005 - 05:03 PM

Because the issue has come up again in another thread I am including A Comprehensive Poll on my list above.

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#4 Lazarus Long

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Posted 15 October 2005 - 01:45 PM

These older articles can be added to the study list but I think it is time to also add some more scholarly reviews and up to date research in terms of Cognitive Psych, BCI, and Computer Language Science.

I have an fMRI based experimental outline I will propose later for some of you grad students to consider modifying for application in one of your programs. Are any of you working in such lab programs now?

Building the Bionic Brain

Chips Coming to a Brain Near You

Is the Brain equivalent to a Turing Machine?

Nerve Cells Live Long And Talkative Lives In Sculpted Colonies On Silicon Chips

#5 Kalepha

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Posted 15 October 2005 - 03:08 PM

Online Papers on Consciousness
Compiled by David Chalmers

Part I: Philosophy of Consciousness [921 papers]
Part II: Other Philosophy of Mind [1044 papers]
Part III: Science of Consciousness [574 papers]

This link also appears in the pinned thread "Philosophy Links" and may be appropriate here.

#6 broccolee

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Posted 15 October 2005 - 04:54 PM

currently at my uni there was a book sale. books 70% off. yay! anyway i found this very interesting book:

Nature's mind. The biological roots of thinking, emotions, sexuality, language, and intelligence.

by Michael S Gazzangia. ISBN:0-465-04863-3

Basically the author tries to look at conscioussness another way. he argues that everywhere in nature selection is what take place. you have evolution, you have immunology. you have microorganisms who are put though selective pressure(for instance development of immunity of antibiotics). from this he attempts to take the same principle in the mechanisms of the mind. he argues that the mind our abilities are already determined at the genetical level. in other words our mind is preprogrammed, however the moving force is selectionism.

hmm... its a bit hard to explain, i need to read some more as well. hopefully some of you have heard of this before.

#7 boundlesslife

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 09:27 AM

"You talk about losing your mind or blowing your mind or being out of your mind, but those things don't necessarily entail a loss of consciousness," Greenfield said in a telephone interview. "Similarly, when you lose your consciousness, when you go to sleep at night or when you're anesthetized, you don't really think that you're really going to be losing your mind."

With a word like "consciousness", there always seems to be a problem of definition. Most of those who address the question of what it is, or how it arises, engage in a lengthy description or hypothesis without clearly setting a goal by for this by saying, concisely, what they are attempting to describe.

The difficulty then becomes an implied understanding that each person holds the same underlying picture in their minds of what consciousness is, so that all that is required is to "put it into words" (somehow). The lengths to which this can carry one astray is perhaps well illustrated by the fact that Buddhists (some of them) even slide off into a mystical idea that a "very subtle" level of consciousness exists that (for them) is a universal "shared consciousness" among "sentient beings" that (somehow) serves as a pathway for "karmic rebirth" (reincarnation).

The above quote seems, by comparison, a good level of treatment. It at least relates to things we might agree upon as to shared experiences (the question of "loss of consciousness" while sleeping, for example, so that if one is whispered to with the question, "Are you awake?" and they don't even stir, you could say at least that they "don't seem to be conscious of it").

This is consistent with what we seem to mean (and agree upon) in using the term "unconsciousness". If one receives a sharp blow on the head and does not respond to the question "Hi, I'm a paramedic, can I help you?" (the paramedic, at the same time, gently shaking the unconscious person by the shoulder), it is generally agreed that the person can then be referred to as "unresponsive; (therefore) unconscious".

Aside from defining consciousness in this way (by means of which a housefly that takes off when you try to swat it may be defined as "conscious"), the real sticking point seems to come (although many do not even make the distinction) when we speak of "self consciousness". The housefly sitting on a mirror may not (behaviorally) exhibit any interest in the image in the mirror as a possible "reflection" of his/her/its own existence, while higher levels of creatures, even less advanced than chimps, may seem to be quite curious about what they see in the mirror.

Perhaps the only way to unambigously differentiate self-consciousness from lesser states of awareness of one's surrounding would be to define it as a state in which a concept has arisen of "me" in the brain of the subject creature. That leads us to the question of how we would be able to say that such a concept exists or doesn't.

If we were to set a requirement on the term "concept" to imply that it does not exist unless some abstract symbol were assigned to it, as we find in written language, that might seem to eliminate it except in cases where we find either an external symbol representing it (as in written language) or at least a spoken equivalent, used with apparent universal understanding among others of the same species, however, there may be a way to approach this that would be equally valid and subject to being sought in the neurological activity of the being in question.

In Jeff Hawkins book, On Intelligence, he outlines a model of brain function (in humans) that involves four hierarchical levels of abstraction. The lowest level is raw sensorial data of the kind that you might find in the part of the visual cortext that receives direct input from the optic nerve. At the other end of the spectrum, you find something very different, for example (this example is used, specifically, in the book) a locus in the brain that becomes active when ever the subject under study (and no political importance was attached to this) saw a picture of George Bush.

Ths significant thing about the translation from the lowest hierarchical level to the highest was that at the lowest level, you were going to see activity anytime a particular retinal group was stimulated, perhaps, while at the other end you were going to get the activity anytime any kind of picture at all (of George Bush) was used. It didn't matter what angle the picture was taken from, or how good the picture was, whether it was in black and white or color, etc., etc., etc., the same group of neurons in the brain would become active. One could say, in effect, that the subject had a "concept" of George Bush (or at least could "recognize" him).

Now, going back to the housefly vs. the chimp, and the mirror, if you found that every time the creature under investigation was "shown" an image of himself/herself/itself, in a mirror (a video display would even be better), if the same group of neurons went into a high state of activity, one could at say that the creature, being, or whatever you wish to call it "recognized himself/herself/itself" and was therefore "self-conscious". What you later made of this, in any useful way, would vary, but it might be a useful marker for "self-consciousness".

As to "when this arises", then, it might be useful with an appropriately non-invasive technology to show an infant images of himself/herself, perhaps weekly, following birth, and then as vision became coordinated, as the first words "dada, mama, etc." were grasped, neurological "concept centers" might gradually come into focus, in the brain. In this manner, it might be possible to see points of development where very rapid advances in "self-cognition" and "self-identification" were realized, and then be able to say, with some sense of confidence, that "self-consciouness" was achieved over the course of this transition.

boundlesslife

#8 boundlesslife

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Posted 02 January 2006 - 09:38 AM

At the above-linked page in Amazon.Com's website, the following review is provided, along with many others. This one seemed to be so much along the lines of discussions in this forum as to be worth quoting here:

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.Com (link to all reviews, including the one below)

Jeff Hawkins, the high-tech success story behind PalmPilots and the Redwood Neuroscience Institute, does a lot of thinking about thinking. In On Intelligence Hawkins juxtaposes his two loves--computers and brains--to examine the real future of artificial intelligence. In doing so, he unites two fields of study that have been moving uneasily toward one another for at least two decades. Most people think that computers are getting smarter, and that maybe someday, they'll be as smart as we humans are. But Hawkins explains why the way we build computers today won't take us down that path. He shows, using nicely accessible examples, that our brains are memory-driven systems that use our five senses and our perception of time, space, and consciousness in a way that's totally unlike the relatively simple structures of even the most complex computer chip. Readers who gobbled up Ray Kurzweil's (The Age of Spiritual Machines and Steven Johnson's Mind Wide Open will find more intriguing food for thought here. Hawkins does a good job of outlining current brain research for a general audience, and his enthusiasm for brains is surprisingly contagious. --Therese Littleton

boundlesslife

#9 decide2evolve

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 12:37 AM

I really like the monistic movement and the stuff being put out by John Searle.

The idea that the origin of consciousness is the brain, that it is an organic process that we are just beginning to really become aware of.
http://en.wikipedia....iki/John_Searle

I think this movement is a direct subsequence of Julian Jaynes ideas about the origin of consciousness. He wrote a book called [from wikipedia.. ilove it] "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" (1976), in which he argues that ancient peoples were not conscious as we consider the term today, and that the change of human thinking occurred over a period of centuries about three thousand years ago."
http://en.wikipedia....i/Julian_Jaynes

Getting into the above material for me has set off a course of events that has been pretty damn exciting. My brain is just freaking out, in a really good way.

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#10 bgwowk

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 01:25 AM

Hang on a minute. Perhaps there was some change in the way humans use their *cognitive* faculties within the last few thousands years, an internal processing change analogous to the development of language that is transmitted across generations by social custom, not genes. Call this new awareness "rational consciousness" perhaps. But to assert that CONSCIOUS AWARENESS ITSELF only arose within the past few thousand years seems patently absurd. As a corollary, it implies that other primates or animals have no awareness, and we need not give them any more regard than a stone. I think that Jaynes' theory, to the extent it has any validity at all, misuses the word "consciousness".

---BrianW

#11 decide2evolve

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 02:49 AM

Of course of course. I think there is a specific definition concerning consciousness that Jaynes is speaking of.

In short, to being over simplistic, I think He's talking about the event of our ceasing to "howl at the moon" as it were, and our beginning of self-awareness and seeking explanations.

We started recognizing our individuality, and began consistently recognizing those mysterious and startling voices in our heads as our own original thoughts. We had some time on our hands because there was a stable geological period happening and we had become adept at warting off predators, saving up food, etc.

Ok, then we had this big need to express those thoughts more concisely and with less archetypal, general and expedient cave wall drawing methods. We developed a symbolic language, we started writing and reading to express ourselves more clearly, from unique and individual perspectives.

Jaynes purports, and with archeological and recorded evidence, that this phenomenon was happening pretty much spontaneously and simulteaneously planetwide. There was either some kind of trigger, or there was loosening due to circumstances.

He feels the bicameral mind began integrating, and that it continues to do so, and it gets confusing for a lot of people who think all those things going on in their heads are coming from "out there".

#12 th3hegem0n

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 04:50 AM

I really like the monistic movement and the stuff being put out by John Searle.


?!

wikipedia:

Intentionality lies at the heart of Searle's Chinese Room argument against artificial intelligence which proposes that since minds have intentionality, but computers do not, computers cannot be minds


Wow, really exciting. Brains are magical.

Oh I forgot, we don't use the word "magic" anymore, we use "quantum".

#13 bgwowk

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 07:43 AM

Thanks for the clarification of Jaynes' work. I remember thinking many years ago when I read his book that he seemed to be using "consciousness" in a restricted sense. It's good to hear that somewhere he made that explicit.

---BrianW

#14 biknut

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Posted 06 March 2006 - 06:51 PM

As crazy as this sounds I don't completely discount it. For the last 10 years or so I've felt that at least some of the ideas I've gotten came from somewhere else, especially when I've become Ill and need help.

Are our thoughts really our own?

German existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger is one of many philosophers who postulated that we don’t actually create thoughts, rather, they come to us. This theory implies that despite what we may believe, our thoughts aren’t our own, rather, they are attracted to us by some as yet unknown universal mechanism. Many metaphysical philosophers believe that in effect, beyond our own awareness, there may be a pool of conscious thought that we all draw upon. We exist under the illusion that our thoughts are our own, but there is no tangible evidence to support that assumption. How do we know that those thoughts don’t already exist in the Aether?

Scientists are aware that as an organ, the brains primary function is to act as a receiver. If that is the case, we could simply be a tool for the transportation of thought to the physical environment we live in. This possibility alarms or confuses a good many people because it would mean that it was possible that every work of art, every invention and every idea we've ever had as a species, came from outside ourselves. Who amongst us can describe where our ideas actually come from? Like Doug and Dave, we might be able to point to a specific stimulus, (in their case, the reed beds), but every single crop circle design had to be imagined in the mind prior to its creation. But where does this imagination originate?

In truth there is no answer to that question. We can’t pinpoint exactly how ideas originate – they just do. Thus it seems reasonable to wonder, when people create ‘fake’ crop circles, where the original inspiration comes from. The designers assume the ideas which inspire their creations are their own, the same applies to all our thoughts. We merely assume that they are our own; that there is no greater power than the power of our own minds.

We also assume that we have ownership of our own thoughts. But do we truly own our thoughts? Or could it be that we simply tap into a greater power that is external to ourselves; a universal ‘well of thought’ for want of a better expression? If we don’t have ownership of our own thoughts, then it’s quite possible that the hoaxer is just a tool in the divine plan of the universe which would mean that there is no such thing as a fake crop circle, but rather that crop circles may actually originate in a univeral mind, which sometimes expresses itself through the human mind, and sometimes through less obvious means.

#15 bgwowk

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 12:29 AM

As crazy as this sounds I don't completely discount it. For the last 10 years or so I've felt that at least some of the ideas I've gotten came from somewhere else, especially when I've become Ill and need help.

Are our thoughts really our own?

99.9% of what our brain does, it does outside of conscious awareness. (The exact number is arbitrary, but you get the idea.) If you want proof of how richly complex our subconscious really is, consider that all the fantastic worlds and characters you've ever encountered in your dreams were manufactured entirely by the matter between your two ears. Our subconscious generates motions before we feel them, words before we speak them, solutions before we are aware of them, and manages practically our entire network of interconnected life knowledge, all outside of our conscious awareness. We are so much, much more than what we are aware of.

It's no wonder that people have prayers answered, others have demons that sabbotage them, and almost everyone feels at times that forces beyond their perception are guiding their lives. Most of our mind is, in a sense, outside of ourselves-- not physically outside, but mentally outside by virtue of the fact that so much of what the brain does is background processing.

---BrianW

#16 featherheadfop

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Posted 03 May 2006 - 03:34 AM

Wow, really exciting. Brains are magical.

Oh I forgot, we don't use the word "magic" anymore, we use "quantum".


Yes, isn't that great? Even my grandmother's been sending me quantum physics inspired spiritualist movies and books (:) ). I personally have trouble accepting a lot of the precepts of quantum physics, but I'll give a generation of great minds the benefit of the doubt that they're accurate until I can knowledgeably question it. In any case, even people like Hawking who've annoyed me by advocating the importance of the observer are groaning at the New Agers. I hope Bohr and Schroedinger are turning over in their graves over this stuff.

#17 Athanasios

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Posted 12 May 2006 - 11:26 PM

¡°[Your] neocortex stores sensory information in its memory. At a future time when [you] encounter the same or a similar situation, the memory recognizes the input as similar and recalls what happened in the past. The recalled memory is compared with the sensory input stream. It both ¡°fills in¡± the current input and predicts what will be seen next. By comparing the actual sensory input with the recalled memory, [you] not only understand where [you are] but can see into the future.¡±(p. 99)


Bingo. This is also what is refered to as the ego. This type of consciousness is different than the type of consciousness that people who have become "enlightened" describe. They describe there being no "you" involved, but more like a combination of implicit memory, riding a bike, and insight.

#18 lesterlong

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 11:22 AM

Biknut, Boundless life and decide to evolve(good decision!)
Hi there ...i am following your discussions sincerely and i quite appreciate the way it is going. you guys are fantastic....keep it up.
please check the topic "free will" i have posted some names of the books that you guys might find very interesting !
have a lovely day
lester

Edited by lesterlong, 16 May 2006 - 06:02 AM.


#19 Lazarus Long

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Posted 15 May 2006 - 04:39 PM

It appears there is now another thread to add to the list for this discussion

Poll: Ethics of Artificial Sentience

And since lester mentions it and by some oversight it doesn't appear on this list here is a link to the thread on Free Will .

#20 Clifford Greenblatt

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Posted 14 January 2007 - 07:04 PM

Daniel C. Dennett's explanation of consciousness is critiqued in this Secular Web Kiosk article.
An abstract of the article is included in the author page.

#21 Zarrka

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 10:55 PM

I really like the monistic movement and the stuff being put out by John Searle.


?!

wikipedia:


Wow, really exciting. Brains are magical.

Oh I forgot, we don't use the word "magic" anymore, we use "quantum".


ok i have not finished reading everything yet but i have to stop here for a sec and say... oh come on. thats a pretty simplistic way of summing up Searle’s work, but what hes saying about intentionality stands, and it has nothing to do with magic. What he does say is that there is an inherent problem with attributing semantic content to syntactical things. and the idea that a pattern is all that’s involved in semantics is rather open-ended and leads to Chalmers whole panpsychism approach where Qualia suddenly seems like a plausible, scientific topic.

if you want to know where Searle stands on this read the original Chinese room article, then read the speech he gave on it 10 years later called "do brains compute" which goes through the idea of building a mind that is functionally equivalent to our consciousness and the problems there in. Searle is simply questioning the idea of functionalism, which is the basis for AI really, and not trying to put something extra in the brain that’s not there.

#22 Aegist

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Posted 04 March 2007 - 11:23 PM

Searle is simply questioning the idea of functionalism, which is the basis for AI really, and not trying to put something extra in the brain that’s not there.

And as AI is such an important thing to most people here, i dare say this is an incredibly important topic.

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#23 lucid

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 12:34 PM

Well many religious people suggest that there is an afterlife where our souls 'hang out'.

The problem with this is that our 'souls' seem to be very tied to our brains. Here are some conditions for the brain that would impact the soul:

If we suffer physical brain trauma, does that affect who we would be in the afterlife? aka does it affect our soul?
answer: ?

If we suffer brain damage via drugs or alchohol, does that affect who we would be in the afterlife?
answer: ?

If we gain cognitive function via drugs does that affect who we would be in the afterlife? You take something for OCD or ADHD or Bipolar or what ever.
answer: Most people would say yes (its easy to accept positive benefits)

At what point do we have a soul? When we are just one cell (a fertilized egg) do we have a soul?
answer: I would hope most people say no.

Are we young or old in the afterlife?
answer: I would guess we would be middle aged. Not many religions could get a big following with people in their heaven pissing themselves and carrying around a suitcase full of medicine. (by young and old I also mean cognitively : senility)

The fact is that the only times that we perceive consciousness are when our brain is working within a limited scope. If we are knocked out we don't remember things. If we are severely brain damaged and lose the ability to create new memories, then what is the quality of our consciousness? I purpose that consciousness is entirely connected to our physical brains. When our brains rot, so does our soul. Therefore, I don't particularly care for dying.

Edited by lucid, 05 March 2007 - 07:04 PM.


#24 Aegist

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 10:32 PM

100% agreeance lucid. great dot point summary of the problems with a 'soul'

#25 Zarrka

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 10:39 PM

i think the idea of the soul and the idea of consiousness are 2 rather seperate thing.. the kind of soul that is usually described by religion is not affected by the physical at all.. the after life sees you as you would see yourself, be it young or old or what ever of your choosing and is cerianly not connected to your brian in a fundementally attached kind of way.. see descartes meditations "Human minds and animal machines" for more on this. the idea there is that the soul kind of flows through the brian via a small pool and a gland. if the brain is damaged the soul is not but the soul cant work the body properly either, its like trying to water your garden with a hose that has a chink in it. the water is still fine, is the physical aspects that are causing the diffrence in behaviour.

as far as consiousness is concerned, its a slightly diffrent matter. I have not really heard people describe this as a seperate entity that flows through our body, usually its described (even by the spiritualists, or more asian religions) as being somthing that is part of our body coming from the very energy make up we are made of.. after death this energy is released back into the universe etc and hence our consiousness and self will still be there.

of course, how we experience such a consiousness when we have nothing to experience through is another question entirly. Im more of a subjective-perciever, if i had a desire to live forever id want to to do through my own perception as well, unless it turns out the christians really are right and we do get to live as real and personal souls for eternity.

(which i guess for them is a matter of faith and a matter for me of not enough proof to take that risky line- if you are still around you can change somthing, if your dead and wrong then you are just dead)

#26 lucid

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 11:25 PM

Well, it makes me sad, but I think that consciousness is an illusion. That said I don't want it to end!

When people talk about consciousness (and say anything other than it is an illusion presented by the biochemistry of our brain) usually there is an assumption that there is a soul. (this part doesn't necessarily imply that it persists in our afterlife though, but it usually does.) So that is why I felt the need to address the whole soul issue.

Consciousness is certainly still interesting as a biochemical illusion though.

#27 blarger

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 12:08 AM

Assuming a fundamentally material reality, that which we call "consciousness" is the whole package of phenomena that occur when a system with functionally specialized yet interconnected modules constantly receive data from each other, perform operations with said data, and output to each other -- resulting in a controlled tempest of feedback loops.

As such, systems with more numerous and more powerful interconnections will actually manifest more of the phenomena we usually ascribe to "consciousness".

#28 lucid

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 12:37 AM

Well I wasn't really meaning to address AI. In humans consciousness is generally defined as a the state of awareness of oneself and the world around them.
Here is a list of google definitions:
http://www.google.co...G=Google Search

Artificial Intelligence is artificial. To the outside observer it may display symptoms of human consciousness, but it is just ones and zeros. I generally dislike arguing about definitions, so just read my post in context of the definition I use which is: Consciousness is the feeling of awareness of oneself and the world in which one lives. Consciousness according to my definition only applies to beings with a biological mind where as it is a feeling or a state of the mind.

Being interested in AI myself, I like your description: "a controlled tempest of feedback loops". Cheers.

#29 Zarrka

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 01:05 AM

the only people who use the word consiousness in terms of the soul is religious people. i more prefer to link up the word consiousness with the word "mind" and as i usually take a more eliminativist stance then i agree that it a nice biochemical illusion. a helpful one too, as it allows us to "believe" that we are somthing which is an interesting concept in itsself.

i usually think of "consiousness" and "mind" as being our expereince of the world. As for breaking down AI into simple 1-0 combinations it could well be the case that that is what it boils down to, untill they somehow get the kind of world-mind relationship thats needed to create such intentionality (thats a Searle point, one thats much debated and generally disliked amongst the Cog sci populace, but none the less needs to be addressed somehow)

but this is not an AI thread so i do not intend to start a nice conversation on the limitations of AI here lol if indeed there are any.

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#30 Zarrka

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 03:01 AM

[quote]
Here is a list of google definitions:
http://www.google.co...G=Google Search
QUOTE]

hehe what i love about this kind of this is that it really demonstrates how conveluded the topic of "defining consiousness" is. There is no one answer, even amongst the psycologists who assumadly would be the ones who would know somthing of it as it is that which they deal with on a daily basis. the mind, consiousness, its not going to be able to be properly debated untill some idea of a single defition comes around. just dont let the philosophers at it htey have made enough of a mess of it already lol.




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