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How to define consciousness?
Posted: 26 August 2010 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 76 ]
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GdB - 26 August 2010 12:23 AM
kkwan - 25 August 2010 07:39 PM

In his philosophy of reflexive monism

Reflexive Monism, a philosophical position developed by Max Velmans to account for the problems of consciousness in his book Understanding Consciousness, is a modern version of an ancient view that the basic stuff of which the universe is composed has the potential to manifest both physically and as conscious experience (a dual-aspect theory in the tradition of Spinoza).

I hope Velmans has an explanation why it is that consciousness manifests the strongest in the complexest structures, like brains?

GdB

Well I figure, getting back to quantum indeterminacy(which I’m still working on understanding), a bit of basic universe stuff has an inherent property of consciousness but to a degree it can’t even be detected. Whatever causal deterministic allows humans to make decisions works as well on the quantum scale. However very limited because of the scope of it’s existence to “decide” on a particular action.

In-between would be something like a single cell organism which makes decisions about like which direction to travel to find food. But only has a certain number of perception about the environment and very limited responses it can make.

Humans of course have billions of cells in communication with each other. A hive collective consciousness. Complex and specialize cell all working together. This allows a greater scope of perception and and potential responses. The mistake I think is seeing a human as an individual entity and not a collection of cells in turn which is a collection of the stuff which makes up the universe.

We humans are starting to communicate over large distances and groups of us are starting to specialize and work together which I suspect will eventually manifest into a greater consciousness. We would be as individual cells as our current cells are to us (our current consciousness)

A fictional example is the Borg from Star Trek. Whereas in the show the humans fought against being assimilated, I think a hive consciousness is the likely next step in evolution.

If we were able to know what every other individual was experiencing and thinking at the moment they were doing so, our decisions would be based on the entirety of that information. It would be as natural as the “self” now taking in all the information from the various specialize cells of the body in deciding now.

They’ve already done experiments which by monitoring someone’s brain activity they can tell what object they are looking at. So it’s not magic or telepathy or anything lie that but an actual “mechanical” process of transferring information.

Like someone posted about the camera allowing someone to see themselves from the back. If we could see reality though another’s eyes or even several people’s eyes while they see through ours, it starts to blur the concept of self and consciousness I think. 

It would be consciousness on a whole different level. So anyway our level of consciousness would be as detectable as the consciousness of a single cell of our body is to us now.

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Posted: 27 August 2010 12:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 77 ]
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Hi Gnostikosis,

Well, yes, surely there are grades in consciousness, but roughly they go together with the complexity of neural structures. I see no reason to say that consciousness is an intrinsic attribute of matter, just because conscious structures can be build from it. With the same kind of reasoning one could say that gravel has the intrinsic property of being a sky scraper. And I don’t see what QM has to do with it. It doesn’t need consciousness to ‘collapse the wave function’, only a macroscopic system (search for decoherence). The brain happens to be such a macrosystem.

Gnostikosis - 26 August 2010 11:45 AM

A fictional example is the Borg from Star Trek. Whereas in the show the humans fought against being assimilated, I think a hive consciousness is the likely next step in evolution.

Well, I hope not… According to Lucas Piccard it is terrible to be a Borg drone.

Read this interesting fictional dialogue from Douglas Hofstadter, it is real fun. The ant eater explains how he has a very interesting relation with an ant colony (not with ants!) and how the personality of the ant is completely changed after a storm, without one single ant has died.

I did not find a good picture of the one about which is talked in the dialogue, the first and only one I found with google (click here).

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Posted: 21 October 2010 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 78 ]
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I found this quote interesting…

“while the ‘truths of science’ are found in closed systems, and we want to apply scientific results in our life (called technology) we must rebuild our environment to be a closed system too, as much as we can. So one could say, the more we apply technology, the more we live in a gigantic laboratory, proving again and again that the scientific truths are correct. The disadvantage of that is that we alienate from the natural environment we came from (through evolution). And another disadvantage is that these closed systems are in fact not really closed systems: that is the basis of our environmental problems.”


All we know is based on science.  You call it a closed system and of course we and our consciousness are bound by our five senses.  To pretend anything else is to give human beings more than we deserve.  How do we alienate from our natural environment through evolution?  We come to grips with and define our reality through what we have evolved to.  We have evolved to be able to reflect, to reason and to have complex emotions.  I have trouble with your statement that science is a closed system.  It is not.  It is the only humble way we have to open up our own world.

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Posted: 21 October 2010 04:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 79 ]
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GdB - 27 August 2010 12:39 AM

Hi Gnostikosis,

Well, yes, surely there are grades in consciousness, but roughly they go together with the complexity of neural structures. I see no reason to say that consciousness is an intrinsic attribute of matter, just because conscious structures can be build from it. With the same kind of reasoning one could say that gravel has the intrinsic property of being a sky scraper. And I don’t see what QM has to do with it. It doesn’t need consciousness to ‘collapse the wave function’, only a macroscopic system (search for decoherence). The brain happens to be such a macrosystem.

I am terribly sorry for the lack of response from me. I lost sight of this thread somehow.

QM may not have anything to do with it. It had just been brought up in support of free will and I thought maybe there was an argument there.

I understand that with reductionism the complex interactions between components may no longer exist to be observed. The assumption here is that consciousness only exists during this complex process of interaction. The “I”/self is only a mirage of the interaction of energy/matter.

Very hard to look at someone you love and care about as a mirage.

My reason, I suppose is I feel I have existence as an individual. Kind of hard to accept existence of the self as a kind of “trick of light”. I know, not very scientific to rely on what I feel but still it feels wrong to deny what I feel is true. However acknowledging that I suspect I’ll have to rethink my argument.

Well, I hope not… According to Lucas Piccard it is terrible to be a Borg drone.

My reasoning on this, I hope is a little better. We already communicate ideas and replicate thinking amongst ourselves. Large groups of people get exposed to repetitive ideology over and over and through the process of communication take up similar patterns of thinking. Now we have twitter and people send their thoughts around the world so fast and one person’s thinking can “infect” the thinking of hundreds or thousands in a moment. Especially if one is already pre-disposed to the ideology, their thought become your thoughts to “infect” someone else with.

I just see all of these thoughts and inputs coming together to form a super-consciousness. In the past, through I assume the evolutionary process, single cell organism came together to form larger organisms. They developed a means to communicate, and individual cells began to specialize and perform specific functions necessary for the survival of the organism. This seems to be the direction life usually heads in. If at some point we develop a device where you can hear my thoughts as soon as I think them then really not much difference from them being your thoughts. It would just be a different conduit of information that would just be part of who you are.

Read this interesting fictional dialogue from Douglas Hofstadter, it is real fun. The ant eater explains how he has a very interesting relation with an ant colony (not with ants!) and how the personality of the ant is completely changed after a storm, without one single ant has died.

I did not find a good picture of the one about which is talked in the dialogue, the first and only one I found with google (click here).

GdB

Didn’t read the whole thing, it is kind of long, however I did read the part you referred to. It seems a question between the holistic approach and reductionist approach. I would agree with some that the answer lies in an understanding which encompasses both.

If, however, my existence is the result matter/energy evolving into more and more complex forms which result in a more advanced form of consciousness, this has been what has happened for millions of years, I don’t think it is unreasonable to predict this pattern is going to continue.

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Posted: 22 October 2010 03:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 80 ]
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Is there a difference in conscious awareness and physical awareness.
A Venus fly trap becomes physically aware of a fly landing inside it.  But only after the fly has triggered, not one, but two sensors in the flower, which then trigger a hydraulic response filling the outer layers of the petals with liquid, forcing the petal to bend inward and thus catching the fly for consumption.
Thus the flytrap becomes physically aware of the fly, but responds in a biochemical way without thought or consciousness.

An iron filing will travel a distance to a magnet, but it does so without consciousness. However the filing must have been physically aware of the proximity of the magnet or else it would not be subject to its magnetism, as are other materials which do not repond to magnetic attraction.

Apparently there can be communication and physical interaction, physical awareness without consciousness, on several levels. Is quantum entanglement an expression of awareness or consciousness?

The more I try to visualize consciousness, the more confused I become. rolleyes

[ Edited: 22 October 2010 03:38 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 22 October 2010 05:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 81 ]
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I think you need neocortex for conscious thought, Write4U. Since a Venus fly trap doesn’t have neocortex, I doubt it becomes aware in any kind sense worth calling “awareness.”

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Posted: 22 October 2010 05:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 82 ]
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George - 22 October 2010 05:04 PM

I think you need neocortex for conscious thought, Write4U. Since a Venus fly trap doesn’t have neocortex, I doubt it becomes aware in any kind sense worth calling “awareness.”

Setting aside conscious thought for a moment, is an “autoresponse from physical stimulation” different than ” physical awareness”?  Where is the line between the two?
So far I can only come up with: conscious thought and awareness implies choice of action, whereas physical awareness may not be conscious and produces a programmed autoresponse, but also provides sensory input for conscious thought.
Conscious awareness implies choice of response.
Physical awareness implies conscious or unconscious awareness and response
Choice in response is the difference between consciousness and awareness.

[ Edited: 22 October 2010 05:30 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 22 October 2010 05:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 83 ]
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As far as I know, some studies in neuroscience have shown that we become aware of our physical actions after the brain has already sent the signal to perform the action. If you believe otherwise, I suggest you take it to the Free Will thread.  wink

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Posted: 22 October 2010 05:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 84 ]
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George - 22 October 2010 05:25 PM

As far as I know, some studies in neuroscience have shown that we become aware of our physical actions after the brain has already sent the signal to perform the action. If you believe otherwise, I suggest you take it to the Free Will thread.  wink

True, but it does not account for involuntary autoresponse (unconscious awareness) to physical stimulus without the asset of a neocortex or free will.

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Posted: 22 October 2010 05:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 85 ]
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Hard to tell. What about sleepwalking?

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Posted: 22 October 2010 07:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 86 ]
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George - 22 October 2010 05:40 PM

Hard to tell. What about sleepwalking?

Good question..
I have read that while asleep we do not use our neocortex, and the sleepwalker is, strictly speaking, not conscious and certainly not aware of his/her actions.  While sleeping, all motor functions, except perhaps for dreaming, are auto programmed and physically self controlling.
Do we have consciousness or awareness while dreaming? We may be aware of the dreamworld, but at what level of consciousness this exist, I have no clue.
I am still struggling with the the difference (if any) between consciousness and awareness.

[ Edited: 22 October 2010 07:31 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 22 October 2010 09:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 87 ]
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These are very difficult questions to answer, Write4U. To be honest, very little is known about dreaming. During R.E.M., the part of our sleep when we dream, the brain seems to be as active as when we are awake, but we are certainly not conscious; nobody really knows how conscious we are when sleepwalking—some say not at all, others think some minimal levels of consciousness are most likely present.

Also, our motor functions are “turned off” only during R.E.M., not during the whole time we sleep.

[ Edited: 22 October 2010 09:16 PM by George ]
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Posted: 23 October 2010 01:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 88 ]
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Gnostikosis - 21 October 2010 04:44 PM

Very hard to look at someone you love and care about as a mirage.

But there is nothing wrong as a mirage yourself to love another mirage, is it? At least you both are the ‘same substance’. wink

Shakespeare -

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life, is rounded with a sleep.

- the Tempest

BTW, I am also serious: if you are not dependent on a belief in some kind of afterlife, then it nearly does not matter what you really are. It is enough to recognise the other as the same ‘kind of stuff’ as you are.

Gnostikosis - 12 March 1929 08:15 AM

I just see all of these thoughts and inputs coming together to form a super-consciousness.

That is not necessary. Imagine that we could compress the history of mankind in a movie taking about an hour, seeing every human as a pixel from a distance, I suppose it would look like a time lapse movie of slime mold. Less intelligent, less conscious than the parts it is made of.

Gnostikosis - 21 October 2010 04:44 PM

It seems a question between the holistic approach and reductionist approach.

Well, to understand bigger, organised structures, you need both. On higher level phenomena appear that do not exist at lower levels. On atom level there are no galaxies, on neural level no consciousness, and not to forget (George!), on atom level there is also no evolution. But I see no reason that this moving to higher complexity will continue. Looking at global warming, I think we behave not very intelligent. In masses of people, intelligence tends to reduce.

Maybe we should change to borg in order to survive… Without the value of single drones, we could sacrifice individual, so that the higher intelligence survives.

GdB

Beam me up Scotty, there is no intelligent life here.

[ Edited: 23 October 2010 01:25 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 23 October 2010 07:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 89 ]
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To fully evaluate consciousness,  I believe we have to go back to the anthropic principle, the concept that life could have evolved differently given different pre conditions.  We evolved they way we did based on a lot of chance happenings.  Consciousness is defined by how things developed.  It is probable to assume that consciousness could have evolved in a googleplex number of ways.  To say there could have been different kinds of consciousness that evolved makes sense.   

To take a step back, the kind of consciousness a chimp has differs from human consciousness.  Human consciousness includes the ability to reflect and reason, where chimps have a more limited form.  Given a billion more years, humans would evolve to something that is analagous to the difference between a fruit fly and a present day human.  Christopher Hitchens has said something similar.  Does anyone remember his quote?

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Posted: 15 November 2010 05:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 90 ]
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questionsaboutfaith - 21 October 2010 06:12 AM

“while the ‘truths of science’ are found in closed systems, and we want to apply scientific results in our life (called technology) we must rebuild our environment to be a closed system too, as much as we can. So one could say, the more we apply technology, the more we live in a gigantic laboratory, proving again and again that the scientific truths are correct. The disadvantage of that is that we alienate from the natural environment we came from (through evolution). And another disadvantage is that these closed systems are in fact not really closed systems: that is the basis of our environmental problems.”

All we know is based on science.  You call it a closed system and of course we and our consciousness are bound by our five senses.  To pretend anything else is to give human beings more than we deserve.  How do we alienate from our natural environment through evolution?  We come to grips with and define our reality through what we have evolved to.  We have evolved to be able to reflect, to reason and to have complex emotions.  I have trouble with your statement that science is a closed system.  It is not.  It is the only humble way we have to open up our own world.

Hi QAF,

Sorry, missed this one completely.

I did not say that science is closed system, but that experiments are always done in a closed system. For technology, which is applying the results of science for daily use, to be reliable we must reproduce these closed systems, so we must change our immediate environment, and so we alienate from our natural environment.

With the ‘through evolution’ I only wanted to express that we are products of evolution, i.e. come from a natural environment, and we are maximal adapted to that. By changing our immediate environment with technology (from cities to multimedia) we create an environment which we possible cannot handle, because ‘we were not made for that’. Where simple technology (spears, fire and so) and communication were our evolutionary advantage, we now are handling atomic bombs and energy, and ‘amuse ourselves to death’. Our technological possibilities kill us (AGW, warfare).

GdB

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