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The Mystery of Consciousness - Not so mysterious?
Posted: 26 October 2011 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]  
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srrr - 25 October 2011 03:23 PM

Are we going to deny consciousness to rocks?

Yes. Unequivocably

srrr - 25 October 2011 03:23 PM

So anyway if you say that consciousness is the result of selected feedback, then we need to look at what selected feedback entails physically and where it occurs. I think it occurs in rocks too.

No. That’s ridiculous.

I don’t think that what you insist on calling “consciousness” emerges as a function of complexity alone.

However I do think that the there needs to be sufficient complexity in terms of material reality to embed and execute the instruction sets of simple cognitive and recognitive algorithms. When an organism can cognize, re-cognize, and respond appropriately (adaptation), the organism can be said to possess the rudiments of “consciousness”.

More complex organisms have evolved more sophisticated and more cognitive processes. Where single celled eukaryotes clearly demonstrate cognitive behavior, I’m not sure about prokaryotes (bacteria), and I don’t think we really see “behavior” or any kind at all in viral particles. Conversely the human brain, evolved over bizillion years and with trillions of cells to work with, can run all kinds of sophisticated cognitive software. Even meta-cognitive, what we are doing now, thinking about thinking….

Nonetheless, my own view is that humans are very much stimulus / response type creatures, not so un-like the rest, Their own view of themselves as creatures with “free will”, and “consciousness” are simply not with standing. i.e. no evidence.

In a figure/ground reversal kind of way, our perceptions of ourselves include only our “selves” and the environment and evolutionary forces that shaped us, (deep ecology)  makes up the background of our awareness. What we have to understand is that it’s the environment that hewed over time and makes up the boundaries of our awareness.

Again, though I hate the analogy, we are in a matrix of sorts. But but where our maps of the matrix are not the real territory, the matrix itself, the territory, is real. It represents the deep and timeless ecology into which we are embedded and cannot ever escape, even in our dreams. We literally cannot conceive of any world but this. We have no free will that allows us to think, behave or even dream of anything outside this box.

To correct the analogy, the “matrix” is nothing more than the tree of life itself.

If you were plucked from the tree of life and put in a metal and glass box and sent to explore the cosmos, how much of the earth would you have to bring with you to feel at home?

All of it, the fact is that, we are on a spaceship, and we’re hurtling through space as fast as we can go.

Did you ever notice that there didn’t seem to be any toilets on the starship Enterprise? wink

[ Edited: 26 October 2011 10:13 AM by eucaryote]
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Posted: 26 October 2011 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]  
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“ut understand that by that definition, a single cell amoeba or paramecium that successfully navigates a maze, re-cognizes friend from foe, and distinguishes food from detritus, gives us solid evidence that the organism “experiences” it’s environment”

To me the fact these simple organisms can have experience yet not have a brain suggests that consciousness is not produced by the brain. I dont care how you spin it, experience is not a physical thing. Even if you believe that matter is producing that stream of experience, you still have to acknowledge that experience is not physical. Iv enountered many who fail to see this and IMO it almost seems as if it’s too much for some people to grasp, as it would take them realizing that they are indeed not the their body\brain.

Given that experience is non-analogous to matter and has nothing in commmon with it.. Matter creating experience should be matters greatest trick, as Sam pointed out in the article. Yet the fact that that the most elementary life forms have experience, this signifies to me that it is possible the bodies of these organisms do not actually create the “experience” itself.


You seem to be arguing that beacuse simple life has experience than therefore experience must not be that difficult for matter (bodies) to create. To me it is instead a sign that perhaps the bodies of these organisms do not create their experience at all.

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Posted: 26 October 2011 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]  
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Kenneth Benjamin - WisdomWebsite.com - 25 October 2011 05:48 PM

I think you’re overlooking the power that an organized system has above and beyond a simple system.

For example, my PC does nothing more that what a binary 1/0 does. But it does it in an organized, structured way. That difference is important. Likewise, single cells and elementary particles are equivalent to binary bits in response choices. A set of ‘bits’ can be arranged to make more complex choices. A large set becomes a PC, for example. An extremely large set organized in a complex way becomes you or me.

The rock, despite being composed of the same elementary particles, isn’t organized into an effective structure and is thus incapable of making any choices (no logic mechanisms).

While a rock and a computer have different configurations of their ingredients, one cannot say that physically speaking, one of them has “logic gates” while the other has not. Neither does a computer have, physically speaking, an “effective structure” or can it “make choices”. Those are all subjective interpretations that a human has about a computer because that computer serves a purpose for that human. If you leave the human out of the equation, the computer is just a configuration of elementary particles and fundamental forces. The rock is a different configuration. A planet is another different one. Each physical object in the universe has a particular configuration, and each configuration is reducible to basic physical ingredients. That means that in no physical object does a configuration ever lead to the emergence of anything.

I also think we’re diminishing the word consciousness to the point of uselessness. Cognition, the ability to make choices, exists in simple animals and in logic systems like computers. That, I think we can ascribe to unconscious behavior.

Consciousness, for the word to retain value, I think needs to be something more. Cognition, the unconscious process I’m suggesting, combined with self-awareness, perhaps?

That would allow for a range of levels of consciousness, from simple self-aware computers, probably most animals, and even, though I admit this is a stretch, people in the opposite political party from mine ;-)

Now that I think about it, perhaps a rock is smarter than some politicians…

I think this description of consciousness, or something like it, helps retain the value of the word as a symbol for something. We can diminish most subjective words to nothingness but why? We lose the communicative value when we do so. Consciousness is imprecise and our debating the exact degree to which it exists, short of non-existence, won’t make it accurate.

In my definition, if an organism or object has any kind of experience, then it is conscious. So if some organism just feels the difference between light and dark, or it just feels a soft kind of pain, then its conscious. It doesnt need to be selfaware, do math, remember its past or imagine its future to be conscious. Thats just the consciousness im talking about here. I think you will agree that if a rock can feel pain then that rock is conscious no? I must point out that by “conscious” i do not just mean “self-conscious”.

Plenty of concepts are relative and soft, as I wrote about here not too long ago. What is fast? How small is small? What is tasty? Still, these words have meaning when used in context. Why shouldn’t consciousness be the same?

I think consciousness is actually the same, but that the consequence is opposite of what you think it is. My position is that emergence doesnt exist, and that all differences between physical things are, according to what physics tells us, differences in degrees, differences in quantities of elementary particles and fundamental forces. Lets take the white/black/grey example you mention on that page. All light is electromagnetic radiation. The difference between the different colors is due to the wavelength of that radiation. A difference in wavelength is merely a difference in the way the radiation moves. So it is a quantitative difference in motion, a difference in the degree of wavelength. Because the motion of a photon is never actually 0, there is no such thing as black light (though it is a common name for ultraviolet light, which isnt visble to the human eye).


So the example on your page about “0 to 00% grey” should actually be about 0,000001 to 100% grey. Now replace “grey” with” consciousness” and you have the answer about what the minimum amount of consciousness in a physical object is. Now you may think that 0 photons results in blackness and may be compared 0 consciousness, but electromagnetism is fundamental and exists everywhere in the universe.


So given that we know that consciousness exists in brains, and that the difference between brains and any other physical object is just a matter of degree, it follows that any other physical object has a degree of consciousness. There is physically speaking no such simple black/white or conscious/nonconscious situation.


Btw, an idea related to this is Sorites paradox (see bold bit):

  1,000,000 grains of sand is a heap of sand (Premise 1)
  A heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap. (Premise 2)

Repeated applications of Premise 2 (each time starting with one fewer grains), eventually forces one to accept the conclusion that a heap may be composed of just one grain of sand (and consequently, if one grain of sand is still a heap, then removing that one grain of sand to leave no grains at all still leaves a heap of sand; indeed a negative number of grains must also form a heap[2]).

On the face of it, there are some ways to avoid this conclusion. One may object to the first premise by denying 1,000,000 grains of sand makes a heap. But 1,000,000 is just an arbitrarily large number, and the argument will go through with any such number. So the response must deny outright that there are such things as heaps.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorites_paradox

Sorites paradox demonstrates that we have two options with regard to the heap:


1. heaps exist and every grain of sand (and even atom) is a heap
2. or heaps do not exist at all.


The same goes for consciousness. Because we know that consciousness exists, option 2 is eliminated.

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Posted: 26 October 2011 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]  
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eucaryote - 26 October 2011 01:58 PM

No. That’s ridiculous.

I don’t think that what you insist on calling “consciousness” emerges as a function of complexity alone.

However I do think that the there needs to be sufficient complexity in terms of material reality to embed and execute the instruction sets of simple cognitive and recognitive algorithms. When an organism can cognize, re-cognize, and respond appropriately (adaptation), the organism can be said to possess the rudiments of “consciousness”.

More complex organisms have evolved more sophisticated and more cognitive processes. Where single celled eukaryotes clearly demonstrate cognitive behavior, I’m not sure about prokaryotes (bacteria), and I don’t think we really see “behavior” or any kind at all in viral particles. Conversely the human brain, evolved over bizillion years and with trillions of cells to work with, can run all kinds of sophisticated cognitive software. Even meta-cognitive, what we are doing now, thinking about thinking….

Nonetheless, my own view is that humans are very much stimulus / response type creatures, not so un-like the rest, Their own view of themselves as creatures with “free will”, and “consciousness” are simply not with standing. i.e. no evidence.

Do you agree that the difference between any physical object A and B, is always a difference in the configuration of basic physical ingredients (elementary particles and fundamental forces)?


If you compare a single molecule (A) with a giant supercomputer (B), then both of them just consist of basic physical ingredients with different configurations. Both of them are reducible to(can be described in terms of) those ingredients. That means that any other term you use to describe the computer is redundant. You may say that the computer has “memory”, but physically speaking it is just a collection of atoms exchanging electrons, etc. The same goes for cognize/re-cognize/stimulus/feedback/adapt, etc”. None of those terms represent anything more than what is already present when the system is described in terms of its basic physical ingredients. Of course it is socially useful to use other language than the language of physics, because noone would be able to even talk about a coffeecup if it meant describing all of its particles and forces, and noone would understand it either.


But anyway, if we get rid of all the redundant social terms, and just stick to what the object actually physically consists of, then it means that a computer (or a microbe or an ant) does not cognize/re-cognize/etc. anymore than rocks do. Or the other way around: if you want to say that a microbe does cognize, then you must also say that rocks do it to some degree. After all, the only physical difference between a rock (A) and a microbe (B) is a one of the configuration of basic physical ingredients. There is no physical “cognize” property or “memory” property or “feedback” property to be found anywhere. Such terms are just arbitrary and redundant human labels.


I think you have tried to ‘build’ consciousness by using a hierarchy of such human labels. If we remove the human out of the equation (which is what must be done because supposedly consciousness arose without human intervention), then the hierarchy is gone and all you have left is a description in terms of basic physical ingredients. You will not find cognize/memory/feedback anywhere in that description, and as a result, you wont be able to ‘build’ (explain) consciousness either.


As for complexity: every complexity has a simpler version. People often say that consciousness IS the complexity of the brain. But the only logical consequence of that is that any other physical object has a simpler consciousness.

Did you ever notice that there didn’t seem to be any toilets on the starship Enterprise? ;-)

I never thought about that :D

[ Edited: 26 October 2011 12:39 PM by srrr]
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Posted: 26 October 2011 01:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]  
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SoldatHeero - 26 October 2011 03:14 PM

You seem to be arguing that beacuse simple life has experience than therefore experience must not be that difficult for matter (bodies) to create. To me it is instead a sign that perhaps the bodies of these organisms do not create their experience at all.

To me it shows that complex organisms have complex consciousness, simple organisms have simple consciousness. I do not know a proper reason (other than intuition) of why that line from complex > simple should suddenly stop when the situation gets even simpler (as with inanimate matter).

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Posted: 26 October 2011 01:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]  
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PBF - 26 October 2011 11:04 AM

A “dead” brain can logically be presumed to not be experiencing consciousness, even if many of it’s cells remain alive.

How can that logically be presumed?

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Posted: 26 October 2011 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]  
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I completely agree with that point, it does show that there are degrees of consciousness.. The complexity of the matter is proportional to the degree of consciousness. Although I do not see how this means all matter should have consciousness of some degree, a person who believes in emergence would just argue that minerals do not have the right “material configuration” to produce consciousness.?

Your argument makes sense if you think of consciousness as being synonymous with matter as opposed to “emerging” out of matter.

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Posted: 26 October 2011 01:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]  
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SoldatHeero - 26 October 2011 03:14 PM

To me the fact these simple organisms can have experience yet not have a brain suggests that consciousness is not produced by the brain.

Yet the brain is made up of trillions of cells.

SoldatHeero - 26 October 2011 03:14 PM

I dont care how you spin it, experience is not a physical thing.

Of course not. Experience is a process, an open process, thermodynamically.

SoldatHeero - 26 October 2011 03:14 PM

Even if you believe that matter is producing that stream of experience, you still have to acknowledge that experience is not physical. Iv enountered many who fail to see this and IMO it almost seems as if it’s too much for some people to grasp, as it would take them realizing that they are indeed not the their body\brain.

Yes, it does take something special to swallow deep woo woo. If you are not your body and your brain…....what exactly are you? Something special I suppose.

SoldatHeero - 26 October 2011 03:14 PM

Given that experience is non-analogous to matter and has nothing in commmon with it…

What are you experiencing, anti matter?

SoldatHeero - 26 October 2011 03:14 PM

Yet the fact that that the most elementary life forms have experience, this signifies to me that it is possible the bodies of these organisms do not actually create the “experience” itself.
You seem to be arguing that beacuse simple life has experience than therefore experience must not be that difficult for matter (bodies) to create. To me it is instead a sign that perhaps the bodies of these organisms do not create their experience at all.

Eukaryotic cells are some of natures most complex creations.  Bodies are not just matter, they are specialized organized matter that process logical algorithms that perform certain functions. Experience as a process is one of those functions. There are a zillion ways to experience, (sample), the world and evolution has provided each organism with a unique point of view, based on a “need to know” basis. wink

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Posted: 26 October 2011 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]  
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“What are you experiencing, anti matter?”

I could say I’m experiencing matter but that doesn’t mean my experience is matter. Your very words acknowledge a distinction between that which is being experienced and the experience itself. Matter may determine what I experience or what is occuring within my stream of experience, however that does not mean my experience IS matter itself. The stream of experience exists within its own right independant of its object.

“Yes, it does take something special to swallow deep woo woo. If you are not your body and your brain…....what exactly are you? Something special I suppose.”

A stream of experience which is upheld by perception. I am the outcome of perception, perception that has gained such complixity that it has begun to perceive itself. I can perceive being in the body but that does not mean I actually am.

I can feel my foot on the ground, I can perceive it on the ground, however I know this is just construct of my perception, I am not actually my foot on the ground. I am that which experiences my foot at the ground.

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Posted: 26 October 2011 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]  
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srrr - 26 October 2011 05:03 PM
SoldatHeero - 26 October 2011 03:14 PM

You seem to be arguing that beacuse simple life has experience than therefore experience must not be that difficult for matter (bodies) to create. To me it is instead a sign that perhaps the bodies of these organisms do not create their experience at all.

To me it shows that complex organisms have complex consciousness, simple organisms have simple consciousness. I do not know a proper reason (other than intuition) of why that line from complex > simple should suddenly stop when the situation gets even simpler (as with inanimate matter).

Really! Does “inanimate matter” give you any reason to think it might be conscious? It is inanimate after all.  I see no evidence of consciousness in rocks. If I do, I will change my opinion. wink

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Posted: 26 October 2011 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]  
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SoldatHeero - 26 October 2011 05:42 PM

“Yes, it does take something special to swallow deep woo woo. If you are not your body and your brain…....what exactly are you? Something special I suppose.”

A stream of experience which is upheld by perception. I am the outcome of perception, perception that has gained such complixity that it has begun to perceive itself. I can perceive being in the body but that does not mean I actually am.

I can feel my foot on the ground, I can perceive it on the ground, however I know this is just construct of my perception, I am not actually my foot on the ground. I am that which experiences my foot at the ground.

That’s pretty heavy. “I am the outcome of perception” would look cool on a t shirt but of course it doesn’t mean anything. Without your body and brain and the energy passing through them in an open system, “you” are nothing.

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Posted: 26 October 2011 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]  
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SoldatHeero - 26 October 2011 05:15 PM

I completely agree with that point, it does show that there are degrees of consciousness.. The complexity of the matter is proportional to the degree of consciousness. Although I do not see how this means all matter should have consciousness of some degree, a person who believes in emergence would just argue that minerals do not have the right “material configuration” to produce consciousness.

What is it about the brain’s configuration that produces consciousness? Why not the liver or does the liver produce liver consciousness?

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Posted: 26 October 2011 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]  
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eucaryote - 26 October 2011 01:58 PM

However I do think that the there needs to be sufficient complexity in terms of material reality to embed and execute the instruction sets of simple cognitive and recognitive algorithms. When an organism can cognize, re-cognize, and respond appropriately (adaptation), the organism can be said to possess the rudiments of “consciousness”.

An army follows instructions, organizes and reorganizes, recognizes threats, and responds appropriately when it engages in combat with another army. Are armies conscious? If not, why not?

[ Edited: 26 October 2011 02:07 PM by Dreadlocks]
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Posted: 26 October 2011 03:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]  
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Dreadlocks - 26 October 2011 06:04 PM
eucaryote - 26 October 2011 01:58 PM

However I do think that the there needs to be sufficient complexity in terms of material reality to embed and execute the instruction sets of simple cognitive and recognitive algorithms. When an organism can cognize, re-cognize, and respond appropriately (adaptation), the organism can be said to possess the rudiments of “consciousness”.

An army follows instructions, organizes and reorganizes, recognizes threats, and responds appropriately when it engages in combat with another army. Are armies conscious? If not, why not?

I have to question your assumptions in the first sentence. Armies are not organisms.

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Posted: 26 October 2011 05:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]  
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“That’s pretty heavy. “I am the outcome of perception” would look cool on a t shirt but of course it doesn’t mean anything. Without your body and brain and the energy passing through them in an open system, “you” are nothing.”

Yeah see thats what this debate really comes down to. I recognize perception as its own thing in that it is distinctly different than matter and energy. You seem however to see perception as being identical to matter and energy while ignoring its actual occurance as being distinctly different.

I think it is more appropriate to say I am perception because it is true that our being requires must fundementally, perception to be occuring.

Take sleep for instance. Would you not say you do not exist during deep sleep? There is no perception, so there is no experience and therefore there is no you.

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