Consciousness: A State of Matter? (General)

by BBella @, Saturday, October 29, 2016, 21:09 (359 days ago)

PHYSICISTS SAY CONSCIOUSNESS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A STATE OF MATTER:
THE “NON PHYSICAL” IS REAL

http://tinyurl.com/hch7qvd

"He is basically saying that the immaterial ‘substance’ of consciousness is directly intertwined with what we perceive to be our physical material world in some sort of way, shape or form, that consciousness is required for matter to be, that it becomes after consciousness….and he’s not the only physicist to believe that."

We have been here before in this discussion -
but interesting to revisit at this point.

Consciousness: A State of Matter?

by David Turell @, Sunday, October 30, 2016, 00:52 (358 days ago) @ BBella

Bbella: PHYSICISTS SAY CONSCIOUSNESS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A STATE OF MATTER:
THE “NON PHYSICAL” IS REAL

http://tinyurl.com/hch7qvd

"He is basically saying that the immaterial ‘substance’ of consciousness is directly intertwined with what we perceive to be our physical material world in some sort of way, shape or form, that consciousness is required for matter to be, that it becomes after consciousness….and he’s not the only physicist to believe that."

We have been here before in this discussion -
but interesting to revisit at this point.

My take has always been that consciousness came first, then matter, which is how I interpret the thoughts in the above website

Consciousness: A State of Matter?

by dhw, Sunday, October 30, 2016, 12:28 (358 days ago) @ David Turell

Bbella: PHYSICISTS SAY CONSCIOUSNESS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A STATE OF MATTER:
THE “NON PHYSICAL” IS REAL

http://tinyurl.com/hch7qvd

"He is basically saying that the immaterial ‘substance’ of consciousness is directly intertwined with what we perceive to be our physical material world in some sort of way, shape or form, that consciousness is required for matter to be, that it becomes after consciousness….and he’s not the only physicist to believe that."
We have been here before in this discussion -
but interesting to revisit at this point.

DAVID: My take has always been that consciousness came first, then matter, which is how I interpret the thoughts in the above website.

Chicken and egg. If consciousness came before matter, we have some form of God. If matter came first, we have no God (at least of the conventional monotheistic kind). The expression “a state of matter” is not clear to me, but it would seem to imply panpsychism (the true meaning of which is that all forms of matter have some mental aspect). I don’t know how this leads to the conclusion that “The Universe is immaterial – mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy”, but there are gaps in the quote, so perhaps it’s out of context. Clearly none of us would be alive if matter was not a real part of the universe, so my conclusion would be that, regardless of what came first, unless you believe that neither we nor our thoughts are real, our world at least (we don’t know about the rest of the universe) is both material and mental, and we can enjoy both.

I am hoping to find a spare hour this week to formulate my own dastardly plan to reconcile dualism and materialism!

Consciousness: A State of Matter?

by David Turell @, Sunday, October 30, 2016, 14:21 (358 days ago) @ dhw

Bbella: PHYSICISTS SAY CONSCIOUSNESS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A STATE OF MATTER:
THE “NON PHYSICAL” IS REAL

http://tinyurl.com/hch7qvd

"He is basically saying that the immaterial ‘substance’ of consciousness is directly intertwined with what we perceive to be our physical material world in some sort of way, shape or form, that consciousness is required for matter to be, that it becomes after consciousness….and he’s not the only physicist to believe that."
We have been here before in this discussion -
but interesting to revisit at this point.

DAVID: My take has always been that consciousness came first, then matter, which is how I interpret the thoughts in the above website.

dhw: Chicken and egg. If consciousness came before matter, we have some form of God. If matter came first, we have no God (at least of the conventional monotheistic kind). The expression “a state of matter” is not clear to me, but it would seem to imply panpsychism (the true meaning of which is that all forms of matter have some mental aspect). I don’t know how this leads to the conclusion that “The Universe is immaterial – mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy”, but there are gaps in the quote, so perhaps it’s out of context. Clearly none of us would be alive if matter was not a real part of the universe, so my conclusion would be that, regardless of what came first, unless you believe that neither we nor our thoughts are real, our world at least (we don’t know about the rest of the universe) is both material and mental, and we can enjoy both.

I am hoping to find a spare hour this week to formulate my own dastardly plan to reconcile dualism and materialism!

If you read the whole website, my statement stands, consciousness first.

Consciousness: A State of Matter?

by dhw, Monday, October 31, 2016, 11:52 (357 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: Chicken and egg. If consciousness came before matter, we have some form of God. If matter came first, we have no God (at least of the conventional monotheistic kind). The expression “a state of matter” is not clear to me, but it would seem to imply panpsychism (the true meaning of which is that all forms of matter have some mental aspect). I don’t know how this leads to the conclusion that “The Universe is immaterial – mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy”, but there are gaps in the quote, so perhaps it’s out of context. Clearly none of us would be alive if matter was not a real part of the universe, so my conclusion would be that, regardless of what came first, unless you believe that neither we nor our thoughts are real, our world at least (we don’t know about the rest of the universe) is both material and mental, and we can enjoy both.

DAVID: If you read the whole website, my statement stands, consciousness first.

Yes, I realized that the article agrees with you. That is why I tried to restore some balance in my comment!:-)

Consciousness: A State of Matter?

by David Turell @, Monday, October 31, 2016, 17:06 (357 days ago) @ dhw


DAVID: If you read the whole website, my statement stands, consciousness first.

dhw: Yes, I realized that the article agrees with you. That is why I tried to restore some balance in my comment!:-)

Thank you.

Consciousness: not split in split-brain patients

by David Turell @, Monday, January 30, 2017, 20:53 (266 days ago) @ David Turell

The two hemispheres of the brain are connected by a band of fibers known as the corpus callosum. In patients with one-sided epilepsy, this body has been entirely sliced apart. In some patients it appears that consciousness might be split apart. New research says not so:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/315508.php

"A new research study contradicts the established view that so-called split-brain patients have a split consciousness. Instead, the researchers behind the study, led by UvA psychologist Yair Pinto, have found strong evidence showing that despite being characterised by little to no communication between the right and left brain hemispheres, split brain does not cause two independent conscious perceivers in one brain.

"Split brain is a lay term to describe the result of a corpus callosotomy, a surgical procedure first performed in the 1940s to alleviate severe epilepsy among patients. During this procedure, the corpus callosum, a bundle of neural fibres connecting the left and right cerebral hemispheres, is severed to prevent the spread of epileptic activity between the two brain halves. While mostly successful in relieving epilepsy, the procedure also virtually eliminates all communication between the cerebral hemispheres, thereby resulting in a 'split brain'.

"This condition was made famous by the work of Nobel laureate Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga. In their canonical work, Sperry and Gazzaniga discovered that split-brain patients can only respond to stimuli in the right visual field with their right hand and vice versa. This was taken as evidence that severing the corpus callosum causes each hemisphere to gain its own consciousness.

"For their study, Pinto and his fellow researchers conducted a series of tests on two patients who had undergone a full callosotomy. In one of the tests, the patients were placed in front of a screen and shown various objects displayed in several locations. The patients were then asked to confirm whether an object appeared and to indicate its location. In another test, they had to correctly name the object they had seen, a notorious difficulty among spit-brain patients. 'Our main aim was to determine whether the patients performed better when responding to the left visual field with their left hand instead of their right hand and vice versa', says Pinto, assistant professor of Cognitive Psychology. 'This question was based on the textbook notion of two independent conscious agents: one experiencing the left visual field and controlling the left hand, and one experiencing the right visual field and controlling the right hand.'

"To the researchers' surprise, the patients were able to respond to stimuli throughout the entire visual field with all the response types: left hand, right hand and verbally. Pinto: 'The patients could accurately indicate whether an object was present in the left visual field and pinpoint its location, even when they responded with the right hand or verbally. This despite the fact that their cerebral hemispheres can hardly communicate with each other and do so at perhaps 1 bit per second, which is less than a normal conversation. I was so surprised that I decide repeat the experiments several more times with all types of control.'

"According to Pinto, the results present clear evidence for unity of consciousness in split-brain patients. 'The established view of split-brain patients implies that physical connections transmitting massive amounts of information are indispensable for unified consciousness, i.e. one conscious agent in one brain. Our findings, however, reveal that although the two hemispheres are completely insulated from each other, the brain as a whole is still able to produce only one conscious agent. This directly contradicts current orthodoxy and highlights the complexity of unified consciousness.'"

Comment: I view this study as strong evidence for my contention that the brain is a receiver of consciousness. If the brain creates consciousness its two separated lobes should produce dual consciousnesses. That is not the case. If the brain is a receiver, then both sides receive one whole consciousness which works as a whole in the patient's perception. Note that there is separation in physical sensation, visual appreciation as noted. A major finding!

Consciousness: not split in split-brain patients

by dhw, Tuesday, January 31, 2017, 21:22 (265 days ago) @ David Turell

QUOTE: "According to Pinto, the results present clear evidence for unity of consciousness in split-brain patients. 'The established view of split-brain patients implies that physical connections transmitting massive amounts of information are indispensable for unified consciousness, i.e. one conscious agent in one brain. Our findings, however, reveal that although the two hemispheres are completely insulated from each other, the brain as a whole is still able to produce only one conscious agent. This directly contradicts current orthodoxy and highlights the complexity of unified consciousness.'"

David's comment: I view this study as strong evidence for my contention that the brain is a receiver of consciousness. If the brain creates consciousness its two separated lobes should produce dual consciousnesses. That is not the case. If the brain is a receiver, then both sides receive one whole consciousness which works as a whole in the patient's perception. Note that there is separation in physical sensation, visual appreciation as noted. A major finding!

It certainly is a fascinating discovery. Am I right in thinking that you have drawn attention in the past to cases in which a whole section of the brain was actually missing, and yet the patient was somehow able to fill the “gaps”? It would be interesting to hear the response of a materialist to these findings. In the meantime, I must mull over the implications for my attempted reconciliation of the two schools of thought!

Consciousness: not split in split-brain patients

by David Turell @, Wednesday, February 01, 2017, 00:51 (264 days ago) @ dhw


David's comment: I view this study as strong evidence for my contention that the brain is a receiver of consciousness. If the brain creates consciousness its two separated lobes should produce dual consciousnesses. That is not the case. If the brain is a receiver, then both sides receive one whole consciousness which works as a whole in the patient's perception. Note that there is separation in physical sensation, visual appreciation as noted. A major finding!

dhw: It certainly is a fascinating discovery. Am I right in thinking that you have drawn attention in the past to cases in which a whole section of the brain was actually missing, and yet the patient was somehow able to fill the “gaps”? It would be interesting to hear the response of a materialist to these findings. In the meantime, I must mull over the implications for my attempted reconciliation of the two schools of thought!

Yes, full mentation with missing brain! But complex enough to receive consciousness.

Consciousness: not split in split-brain patients

by David Turell @, Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 16:53 (27 days ago) @ David Turell

A comment by the research scientist who produced the result in the prior post:

https://aeon.co/ideas/when-you-split-the-brain-do-you-split-the-person?utm_source=Aeon+...

"In so-called ‘split-brain’ patients, the corpus callosum – the highway for communication between the left and the right cerebral hemispheres – is surgically severed to halt otherwise intractable epilepsy.

"The operation is effective in stopping epilepsy; if a neural firestorm starts in one hemisphere, the isolation ensures that it does not spread to the other half. But without the corpus callosum the hemispheres have virtually no means of exchanging information.

***

"We’ve got to admit that split-brain patients feel and behave normally. If a split-brain patient walks into the room, you would not notice anything unusual. And they themselves claim to be completely unchanged, other than being rid of terrible epileptic seizures. If the person was really split, this wouldn’t be true.

***

"Based on these findings, we have proposed a new model of the split-brain syndrome. When you split the brain, you still end up with only one person. However, this person experiences two streams of visual information, one for each visual field. And that person is unable to integrate the two streams. It is as if he watches an out-of-sync movie, but not with the audio and video out of sync. Rather, the two unsynced streams are both video.

"And there’s more. While the previous model provided strong evidence for materialism (split the brain, split the person), the current understanding seems to only deepen the mystery of consciousness. You split the brain into two halves, and yet you still have only one person.
How does a brain, consisting of many modules, create just one person? And, how do split-brainers operate as one when these parts are not even talking to each other?"

Comment: More proof that consciousness has no true basis in the idea that it is being produced by the brain. The brain receives the mechanism of consciousness and uses it.

Consciousness: not split in split-brain patients

by dhw, Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 10:49 (26 days ago) @ David Turell

QUOTE: "And there’s more. While the previous model provided strong evidence for materialism (split the brain, split the person), the current understanding seems to only deepen the mystery of consciousness. You split the brain into two halves, and yet you still have only one person.
How does a brain, consisting of many modules, create just one person? And, how do split-brainers operate as one when these parts are not even talking to each other?"

DAVID’s comment: More proof that consciousness has no true basis in the idea that it is being produced by the brain. The brain receives the mechanism of consciousness and uses it.

This is a fascinating discovery. It’s based, though, on an almost throw-away statement that slightly bothers me:
“But without the corpus callosum the hemispheres have virtually no means of exchanging information.
Why “virtually”? If there is any means at all of exchanging information, how do we know the extent to which it can be operative? As I say, I’m only slightly bothered by it, and the source and nature of consciousness and the force that unifies ALL our cell communities, including those of the brain, remain an endlessly intriguing mystery which we shall keep returning to. As usual, many thanks for keeping us so well informed about all the latest findings.

Consciousness: not split in split-brain patients

by David Turell @, Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 15:07 (26 days ago) @ dhw

QUOTE: "And there’s more. While the previous model provided strong evidence for materialism (split the brain, split the person), the current understanding seems to only deepen the mystery of consciousness. You split the brain into two halves, and yet you still have only one person.
How does a brain, consisting of many modules, create just one person? And, how do split-brainers operate as one when these parts are not even talking to each other?"

DAVID’s comment: More proof that consciousness has no true basis in the idea that it is being produced by the brain. The brain receives the mechanism of consciousness and uses it.

dhw: This is a fascinating discovery. It’s based, though, on an almost throw-away statement that slightly bothers me:
“But without the corpus callosum the hemispheres have virtually no means of exchanging information.
Why “virtually”? If there is any means at all of exchanging information, how do we know the extent to which it can be operative? As I say, I’m only slightly bothered by it, and the source and nature of consciousness and the force that unifies ALL our cell communities, including those of the brain, remain an endlessly intriguing mystery which we shall keep returning to. As usual, many thanks for keeping us so well informed about all the latest findings.

The word 'virtually' implies that there might be an unknown way of communicating. Just covering all possibilities.

Consciousness: And relation to quantum mechanics

by David Turell @, Sunday, February 19, 2017, 20:12 (246 days ago) @ BBella

This is a very long review article which takes us from the realization that what we decide to do in quantum experimentation affects how the particles themselves react as if our consciousness is related directly to the particles. He then goes on to discuss the way quantum activity might be present in cells, in neurons, and thus somehow create consciousness:

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170215-the-strange-link-between-the-human-mind-and-qua...

"For one thing, the mind seemed, to the great discomfort of physicists, to force its way into early quantum theory. What's more, quantum computers are predicted to be capable of accomplishing things ordinary computers cannot, which reminds us of how our brains can achieve things that are still beyond artificial intelligence. "Quantum consciousness" is widely derided as mystical woo, but it just will not go away.

***

"Today some physicists suspect that, whether or not consciousness influences quantum mechanics, it might in fact arise because of it. They think that quantum theory might be needed to fully understand how the brain works.

"Might it be that, just as quantum objects can apparently be in two places at once, so a quantum brain can hold onto two mutually-exclusive ideas at the same time?

These ideas are speculative, and it may turn out that quantum physics has no fundamental role either for or in the workings of the mind. But if nothing else, these possibilities show just how strangely quantum theory forces us to think.

***

"The physicist Pascual Jordan, who worked with quantum guru Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in the 1920s, put it like this: "observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it… We compel [a quantum particle] to assume a definite position." In other words, Jordan said, "we ourselves produce the results of measurements."

"If that is so, objective reality seems to go out of the window.

***

"just as Bohr confidently predicted, it makes no difference whether we delay the measurement or not. As long as we measure the photon's path before its arrival at a detector is finally registered, we lose all interference.

It is as if nature "knows" not just if we are looking, but if we are planning to look.

***

"physicists do not agree on the best way to interpret these quantum experiments, and to some extent what you make of them is (at the moment) up to you. But one way or another, it is hard to avoid the implication that consciousness and quantum mechanics are somehow linked.

"Beginning in the 1980s, the British physicist Roger Penrose suggested that the link might work in the other direction. Whether or not consciousness can affect quantum mechanics, he said, perhaps quantum mechanics is involved in consciousness.

***

"Penrose first proposed that quantum effects feature in human cognition in his 1989 book The Emperor's New Mind. The idea is called Orch-OR, which is short for "orchestrated objective reduction". The phrase "objective reduction" means that, as Penrose believes, the collapse of quantum interference and superposition is a real, physical process, like the bursting of a bubble.

"Orch-OR draws on Penrose's suggestion that gravity is responsible for the fact that everyday objects, such as chairs and planets, do not display quantum effects. Penrose believes that quantum superpositions become impossible for objects much larger than atoms, because their gravitational effects would then force two incompatible versions of space-time to coexist.

"Penrose developed this idea further with American physician Stuart Hameroff. In his 1994 book Shadows of the Mind, he suggested that the structures involved in this quantum cognition might be protein strands called microtubules. These are found in most of our cells, including the neurons in our brains. Penrose and Hameroff argue that vibrations of microtubules can adopt a quantum superposition.

"But there is no evidence that such a thing is remotely feasible.

***

"In a study published in 2015, physicist Matthew Fisher of the University of California at Santa Barbara argued that the brain might contain molecules capable of sustaining more robust quantum superpositions. Specifically, he thinks that the nuclei of phosphorus atoms may have this ability.

***

"In other words, the mind could genuinely affect the outcomes of measurements.
It does not, in this view, exactly determine "what is real". But it might affect the chance that each of the possible actualities permitted by quantum mechanics is the one we do in fact observe, in a way that quantum theory itself cannot predict. Kent says that we might look for such effects experimentally.

"He even bravely estimates the chances of finding them. "I would give credence of perhaps 15% that something specifically to do with consciousness causes deviations from quantum theory, with perhaps 3% credence that this will be experimentally detectable within the next 50 years," he says.

"If that happens, it would transform our ideas about both physics and the mind. That seems a chance worth exploring."

Comment: We are as confused as ever about consciousness. Can we ever understand quantum reality? Perhaps we are not supposed to.

Consciousness: And relation to quantum mechanics

by dhw, Monday, February 20, 2017, 16:04 (245 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: This is a very long review article which takes us from the realization that what we decide to do in quantum experimentation affects how the particles themselves react as if our consciousness is related directly to the particles. He then goes on to discuss the way quantum activity might be present in cells, in neurons, and thus somehow create consciousness:
http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170215-the-strange-link-between-the-human-mind-and-qua...

Thank you for this article, which as you say leaves us “as confused as ever about consciousness.” I’ll cherrypick some quotes:

QUOTE: “These ideas are speculative, and it may turn out that quantum physics has no fundamental role either for or in the workings of the mind.”

Yep. Both materialism and dualism are speculative too. Nobody has a clue.

QUOTE: In other words, Jordan said, "we ourselves produce the results of measurements."…"If that is so, objective reality seems to go out of the window.”

Even if it is so, I suggest for the umpteenth time that all of these quantum physicists should do another test and step in front of a moving bus.

Quote: "Beginning in the 1980s, the British physicist Roger Penrose suggested that the link might work in the other direction. Whether or not consciousness can affect quantum mechanics, he said, perhaps quantum mechanics is involved in consciousness.”

Might or might not, perhaps or perhaps not.

"Penrose first proposed that quantum effects feature in human cognition in his 1989 book The Emperor's New Mind. The idea is called Orch-OR, which is short for "orchestrated objective reduction". The phrase "objective reduction" means that, as Penrose believes, the collapse of quantum interference and superposition is a real, physical process, like the bursting of a bubble."

Give something a name, and you give it scientific credibility. Multiverse, string theory, dark energy and dark matter, Orch-OR… Except (let me put on my theist’s hat for a moment) if you theorize that life and the universe are the product of design and you call the designer God, you will lose all scientific credibility.

Quote: “Penrose and Hameroff argue that vibrations of microtubules can adopt a quantum superposition…But there is no evidence that such a thing is remotely feasible.”

As the bard put it, then: Much Ado About Nothing.

Consciousness: And relation to quantum mechanics

by David Turell @, Monday, February 20, 2017, 17:48 (245 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: As the bard put it, then: Much Ado About Nothing.

Except we have to live with quantum theory that underlies all of reality. We use it but don't understand it.

Consciousness: using total brain connectivity?

by David Turell @, Friday, March 17, 2017, 14:26 (220 days ago) @ David Turell

this article decries the modular approach to brain function and suggests that the whole brain must be studied to understand consciousness:

https://theconversation.com/the-brain-a-radical-rethink-is-needed-to-understand-it-74460

"Understanding the human brain is arguably the greatest challenge of modern science. The leading approach for most of the past 200 years has been to link its functions to different brain regions or even individual neurons (brain cells). But recent research increasingly suggests that we may be taking completely the wrong path if we are to ever understand the human mind.

"The idea that the brain is made up of numerous regions that perform specific tasks is known as “modularity”. And, at first glance, it has been successful. For example, it can provide an explanation for how we recognise faces by activating a chain of specific brain regions in the occipital and temporal lobes. Bodies, however, are processed by a different set of brain regions. And scientists believe that yet other areas – memory regions – help combine these perceptual stimuli to create holistic representations of people. The activity of certain brain areas has also been linked to specific conditions and diseases.

"The reason this approach has been so popular is partly due to technologies which are giving us unprecedented insight into the brain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which tracks changes in blood flow in the brain, allows scientists to see brain areas light up in response to activities – helping them map functions. Meanwhile, Optogenetics, a technique that uses genetic modification of neurons so that their electrical activity can be controlled with light pulses – can help us to explore their specific contribution to brain function.

"While both approaches generate fascinating results, it is not clear whether they will ever provide a meaningful understanding of the brain. A neuroscientist who finds a correlation between a neuron or brain region and a specific but in principle arbitrary physical parameter, such as pain, will be tempted to draw the conclusion that this neuron or this part of the brain controls pain. This is ironic because, even in the neuroscientist, the brain’s inherent function is to find correlations – in whatever task it performs.

"But what if we instead considered the possibility that all brain functions are distributed across the brain and that all parts of the brain contribute to all functions? If that is the case, correlations found so far may be a perfect trap of the intellect. We then have to solve the problem of how the region or the neuron type with the specific function interacts with other parts of the brain to generate meaningful, integrated behaviour. So far, there is no general solution to this problem – just hypotheses in specific cases, such as for recognising people.

***

"Some researchers now believe the brain and its diseases in general can only be understood as an interplay between tremendous numbers of neurons distributed across the central nervous system. The function of any one neuron is dependent on the functions of all the thousands of neurons it is connected to. These, in turn, are dependent on those of others. The same region or the same neuron may be used across a huge number of contexts, but have different specific functions depending on the context.

"It may indeed be a tiny perturbation of these interplays between neurons that, through avalanche effects in the networks, causes conditions like depression or Parkinson’s disease. Either way, we need to understand the mechanisms of the networks in order to understand the causes and symptoms of these diseases. Without the full picture, we are not likely to be able to successfully cure these and many other conditions.

"In particular, neuroscience needs to start investigating how network configurations arise from the brain’s lifelong attempts to make sense of the world. We also need to get a clear picture of how the cortex, brainstem and cerebellum interact together with the muscles and the tens of thousands of optical and mechanical sensors of our bodies to create one, integrated picture.

"Connecting back to the physical reality is the only way to understand how information is represented in the brain. One of the reasons we have a nervous system in the first place is that the evolution of mobility required a controlling system. Cognitive, mental functions – and even thoughts – can be regarded as mechanisms that evolved in order to better plan for the consequences of movement and actions.

"So the way forward for neuroscience may be to focus more on general neural recordings (with optogenetics or fMRI) – without aiming to hold each neuron or brain region responsible for any particular function. This could be fed into theoretical network research, which has the potential to account for a variety of observations and provide an integrated functional explanation. In fact, such a theory should help us design experiments, rather than only the other way around."

Comment: On its face the modular approach makes no sense, even if it is the current approach. Look at the figures showing the connectivity of the whole brain.

Consciousness: Dennett says it is an ilusion

by David Turell @, Thursday, March 23, 2017, 00:48 (214 days ago) @ David Turell

John Horgan thinks he is wrong:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/is-consciousness-real/?WT.mc_id=SA_MB_...

"The idea that consciousness isn’t real has always struck me as crazy, and not in a good way, but smart people espouse it. One of the smartest is philosopher Daniel Dennett, who has been questioning consciousness for decades, notably in his 1991 bestseller Consciousness Explained.

"I’ve always thought I must be missing something in Dennett’s argument, so I hoped his new book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds, would enlighten me. It does, but not in the way Dennett intended.

"Dennett restates his claim that Darwinian theory can account for all aspects of our existence. We don’t need an intelligent designer, or “skyhook,” to explain how eyes, hands and minds came to be, because evolution provides “cranes” for constructing all biological phenomena.

***

"But human cognition, Dennett emphasizes, still consists mainly of competence without comprehension. Our conscious thoughts represent a minute fraction of all the information processing carried out by our brains. Natural selection designed our brains to provide us with thoughts on a “need to know” basis, so we’re not overwhelmed with data.

***

"Our perceptions, memories and emotions are grossly simplified, cartoonish representations of hidden, hideously complex computations.

"None of this is novel or controversial. Dennett is just reiterating, in his oh-so-clever, neologorrheic fashion, what mind-scientists and most educated lay folk have long accepted, that the bulk of cognition happens beneath the surface of awareness.

***

"Trouble arises when Dennett, extending the computer-interface analogy, calls consciousness a “user-illusion.” I italicize illusion, because so much confusion flows from Dennett’s use of that term. An illusion is a false perception. Our thoughts are imperfect representations of our brain/minds and of the world, but that doesn’t make them necessarily false.

***

"Consider how Dennett talks about qualia, philosophers’ term for subjective experiences. My qualia at this moment are the smell of coffee, the sound of a truck rumbling by on the street, my puzzlement over Dennett’s ideas. Dennett notes that we often overrate the objective accuracy and causal power of our qualia. True enough.

"But he concludes, bizarrely, that therefore qualia are fictions, “an artifact of bad theorizing.” If we lack qualia, then we are zombies, creatures that look and even behave like humans but have no inner, subjective life.

***

"Dennett gets annoyed when critics accuse him of saying “consciousness doesn’t exist,” and to be fair, he never flatly makes that claim. His point seems to be, rather, that consciousness is so insignificant, especially compared to our exalted notions of it, that it might as well not exist.

"Dennett’s arguments are so convoluted that he allows himself plausible deniability, but he seems to be advocating eliminative materialism, which the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines as “the radical claim that our ordinary, common-sense understanding of the mind is deeply wrong and that some or all of the mental states posited by common-sense do not actually exist.”

***

"Reviewing From Bacteria to Bach, Nagel rebukes Dennett thus:

“'To say that there is more to reality than physics can account for is not a piece of mysticism: it is an acknowledgement that we are nowhere near a theory of everything, and that science will have to expand to accommodate facts of a kind fundamentally different from those that physics is designed to explain.”

***

"Some people surely have an unhealthy attachment to mysteries, but Dennett has an unhealthy aversion to them, which compels him to stake out unsound positions. His belief that consciousness is an illusion is nuttier than the belief that God is real.

Comment: I'm with Horgan and Nagel.

Consciousness: Dennett says it is an ilusion

by dhw, Thursday, March 23, 2017, 13:07 (214 days ago) @ David Turell

QUOTE: "Some people surely have an unhealthy attachment to mysteries, but Dennett has an unhealthy aversion to them, which compels him to stake out unsound positions. His belief that consciousness is an illusion is nuttier than the belief that God is real."

DAVID's comment: I'm with Horgan and Nagel.

So am I, apart from the totally unnecessary comparison with belief in God. Why on Earth does he bring God into it?

Consciousness: Dennett says it is an ilusion

by David Turell @, Thursday, March 23, 2017, 14:31 (214 days ago) @ dhw

QUOTE: "Some people surely have an unhealthy attachment to mysteries, but Dennett has an unhealthy aversion to them, which compels him to stake out unsound positions. His belief that consciousness is an illusion is nuttier than the belief that God is real."

DAVID's comment: I'm with Horgan and Nagel.

dhw: So am I, apart from the totally unnecessary comparison with belief in God. Why on Earth does he bring God into it?

I believe Horgan admits to atheism

Consciousness: physicist/psychiatrist explains?

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 18, 2017, 15:51 (158 days ago) @ David Turell

This odd mix of PhD's does not lead to an explanation:

https://aeon.co/essays/consciousness-is-not-a-thing-but-a-process-of-inference?utm_sour...

"As a physicist and psychiatrist, I find it difficult to engage with conversations about consciousness. My biggest gripe is that the philosophers and cognitive scientists who tend to pose the questions often assume that the mind is a thing, whose existence can be identified by the attributes it has or the purposes it fulfils.

"But in physics, it’s dangerous to assume that things ‘exist’ in any conventional sense. Instead, the deeper question is: what sorts of processes give rise to the notion (or illusion) that something exists?

***

"As a consequence, I’m compelled to treat consciousness as a process to be understood, not as a thing to be defined. Simply put, my argument is that consciousness is nothing more and nothing less than a natural process such as evolution or the weather. My favourite trick to illustrate the notion of consciousness as a process is to replace the word ‘consciousness’ with ‘evolution’ – and see if the question still makes sense. For example, the question What is consciousness for? becomes What is evolution for? Scientifically speaking, of course, we know that evolution is not for anything. It doesn’t perform a function or have reasons for doing what it does – it’s an unfolding process that can be understood only on its own terms. Since we are all the product of evolution, the same would seem to hold for consciousness and the self.

***

"Applying the same thinking to consciousness suggests that consciousness must also be a process of inference. Conscious processing is about inferring the causes of sensory states, and thereby navigating the world to elude surprises. While natural selection performs inference by selecting among different creatures, consciousness performs inference by selecting among different states of the same creature (in particular, its brain).

***

"But if consciousness is inference, does that mean all complex inferential processes are conscious, from evolution to economies to atoms? Probably not. A virus possesses all the self-organising dynamics to qualify as a process of inference; but clearly a virus doesn’t have the same qualities as a vegetarian. So what’s the difference?

What distinguishes conscious and non-conscious creatures is the way they make inferences about action and time.

***

" In our daily lives, this suggests that temporal thickness or depth waxes and wanes with the sleep-wake cycle – that there’s a mapping between the level of consciousness and the thickness of the inference we’re engaged in. On this view, a loss of consciousness occurs whenever our models lose their ‘thickness’ and become as ‘thin’ as a virus’s.

***

"We’ve gone fairly rapidly through the arguments. First, if we want to talk about complex systems, including living ones, we have to identify the necessary behaviours that their processes exhibit. This is fairly easy to do by noting that living entails existing in a set of attracting states that are frequented time and time again. This implies the existence of a Lyapunov function that is identical to (negative) self-evidence or surprise in information theory. This means that all biological processes can be construed as performing some form of inference, from evolution right through to conscious processing.

"If this is the case, then at what point do we invoke consciousness? The proposal on offer here is that the mind comes into being when self-evidencing has a temporal thickness or counterfactual depth, which grounds the inferences it can make about the consequences of future actions. There’s no real reason for minds to exist; they appear to do so simply because existence itself is the end-point of a process of reasoning. Consciousness, I’d contend, is nothing grander than inference about my future."

Comment: He describes what consciousness does, but not its inner mechanism if one exists. Very long complex article.

Consciousness: relationship to time

by David Turell @, Thursday, June 29, 2017, 00:12 (116 days ago) @ David Turell

Time is something our consciousness observes, but physics treats it differently than our approach in which it has a one way arrow:

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-time-of-our-lives

"But it is the unfolding of time, and its apparent “unidirectionality” — always moving (or so we are inclined to say) from earlier to later — that matters most in our experience of time. The attempts of physicists to explain this feature of time have on the whole been thoroughly inadequate, including the attempt, which we will discuss later in this essay, to define the direction of time in terms of an accumulation of information. The idea of time as an “arrow of information,” as it is sometimes called, shows the general inability of physics to accommodate the conscious observer that makes physical science possible — the inability, that is, to connect an objective explanation of time, understood as a feature of material events, with a person’s subjective experience of time.

***

"Physicists and philosophers of time feel that the unidirectionality of time is not simply a matter of definition but is connected with something fundamental about the universe in which we live.

***

"While every event in the universe is in theory temporally related to every other event, without an observer to experience the events and to connect them, they are neither “earlier” nor “later,” “before” or “after.” For example, an unobserved event on a distant planet does not have this ordering in relation to the events that I am aware of as going on around me now or indeed other unobserved events on that planet. This is why some have argued that, if there is an arrow of time, it must be built not out of the intrinsic properties of material events but out of the linkage of events through the succession of the experiences of them. Without this linkage, two happenings would not as it were reach beyond their own boundaries to relate to each other. Thus the basic argument for time’s arrow being a “psychological arrow.”

***

"The psychological theory of the arrow sits ill with the fact that something outside of consciousness, or a conscious individual, is the final determinant of the succession of events. What’s more, implicit in the notion that time’s arrow is based on our perception of the succession of events is the assumption that there is a succession of events to be perceived — that temporal order and direction is intrinsic to the events we perceive — that gives rise to the experience of succession. There is a confounder arising out of the fact that the order in which we perceive things also to some extent depends on us (just as what we perceive depends to some extent on where I choose to look from and the direction of my gaze). But this is not sufficient to determine the order of events, though it does determine the order of my perceptions.

***

"the forward movement of time is an accumulation of information, reflected in a difference between what we have known and what we will know; or between a remembered past of irreversible, determinate events, and an unknown, indeterminate future.

"This is expressed most clearly by Paul Davies: “The fact that we remember the past, rather than the future,” he says, “is an observation not of the passage of time but of the asymmetry of time.” Given that (as he and many others believe) memory is a matter of “information,” so the difference between the determinate past and the indeterminate future is also a matter of information. We obviously have more information about the past than we do about the future. Indeed, in one sense we have no information about the future, except at a probabilistic level. So, as the indeterminate future becomes a determinate past, information accumulates.

***

"Paul Davies again: As physicists have realized over the past few decades, the concept of entropy is closely related to the information content of a system. For this reason, the formation of memory is a unidirectional process — new memories add information and raise the entropy of the brain. We might perceive this unidirectionality as the flow of time.

***

"The notion of the unidirectionality of time, in short, is inseparable from our awareness of our mortality, of a life that has a diminishing quantity ahead and an increasing quantity behind; of birth as a one-way ticket to the grave. And a sense of our ignorance in the face of the future — contrasted with our knowledge of the past — lies at the root of the “arrow of information.” We may know how things turned out; never how they will turn out.

***

"In the final count, time is a fundamental property of the relationship between the universe and the observer which cannot be reduced to anything else.

***

"The project of understanding time is to try to get a clear and just idea of the nature of the relationship between the universe and the observer in respect of time. By rethinking time in this way, we may elude a form of naturalism that sees us as being at bottom material objects whose nature will ultimately be described by physics. We are more than cogs in the universal clock, forced to collaborate with the very progress that pushes us towards our own midnight. By placing human consciousness at the heart of time, it is possible to crack ajar a door through which a sense of possibility can stream."

Comment: We have consciousness, therefore we have time. That is a simplest view. Very long article, much skipped.

Consciousness: a neurosurgeon's observations

by David Turell @, Friday, June 30, 2017, 00:02 (115 days ago) @ David Turell

Egnor has been quoted before. As a neurosurgeon he has seen awake patients react while under brain surgery. Consciousness works seamlessly as parts of the brain are removed:

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/06/a-map-of-the-soul

"Francis Crick, neuroscientist and co-discoverer of the helical structure of DNA, expressed the widespread view that the mind is a function of material stuff: “A person’s mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells, glial cells, and the atoms, ions, and molecules that make them up and influenced them.” How, then, is it possible to converse with someone while removing the large portions of her brain that serve thought and reasoning?

***

"I have scores of patients who are missing large areas of their brains, yet who have quite good minds. I have a patient born with two-thirds of her brain absent. She’s a normal junior high kid who loves to play soccer. Another patient, missing a similar amount of brain tissue, is an accomplished musician with a master’s degree in English.

***

"Aquinas began by reaching back to an earlier thinker. Following Aristotle, he posited that the human soul has three kinds of powers. It has vegetative powers, which serve physiological functions such as heartbeat, respiration, and metabolism. It has sensitive powers, such as sensation, perception, memory, sensitive appetite, and locomotion. The vegetative and sensitive powers are caused by matter, in a purely physical way.

"But the human soul also has intellect and will, powers of a wholly different kind. With our intellect, we can think of universal concepts, such as mercy and justice and abstract mathematics. With our will, we can act on abstract principles. Because thinking of abstract concepts entails thoughts removed from particular things, Aquinas reasoned, intellect couldn’t be a material thing. Intellect and will are immaterial powers.

"Aquinas taught that our soul’s immaterial powers are only facilitated by matter, not caused by it, and the correlation is loose. His insight presaged certain findings of modern neuroscience.

"Wilder Penfield, an early-twentieth-century neurosurgeon who pioneered seizure surgery, noted that during brain stimulation on awake patients, he was never able to stimulate the mind itself—the sense of “I”—but only fragmented sensations and perceptions and movements and memories. Our core identity cannot be evoked or altered by physical stimulation of the brain.

"Relatedly, Penfield observed that spontaneous electrical discharges in the brain cause involuntary sensations and movements and even emotions, but never abstract reasoning or calculation. There are no “calculus” seizures or “moral” seizures, in which patients involuntarily take second derivatives or ponder mercy.

"Similar observations emerge from Roger Sperry’s famous studies of patients who had undergone surgery to disconnect the hemispheres of the brain. This was done to prevent seizures. The post-operative patients experienced peculiar perceptual and behavioral changes, but they retained unity of personal identity—a unified intellect and will. The changes Sperry discovered in his research (for which he won a Nobel Prize) were so subtle as to pass unnoticed in everyday life.

***

"The woman on the operating table who was talking to me while I removed her frontal lobe had both material and immaterial powers of mind. Our higher brain functions defy precise mapping onto brain tissue, because they are not generated by tissue, as our lower brain functions are.

"Materialism, the view that matter is all that exists, is the premise of much contemporary thinking about what a human being is. Yet evidence from the laboratory, operating room, and clinical experience points to a less fashionable conclusion: Human beings straddle the material and immaterial realms. ((my bold)

"We can do better science—and medicine—when we recognize that human beings have abilities that transcend reductionist material explanations. In this century of unprecedented advances in brain research, it’s remarkable that the deepest insights emerge from an ancient paradigm: Thomas Aquinas’s map of the soul."

Comment: Key point, when we stimulate the brain we only get sensory or motor events, never immaterial thought. Why? Because the brain is an active receiver and user of an immaterial consciousness which exists in the universe and is received by each newborn human.

Consciousness: video of active human brain fibers

by David Turell @, Friday, June 30, 2017, 14:46 (115 days ago) @ David Turell

Take a look:

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/49772/title/Image-of-the-Day--Gol...

Comment: The pinnacle of evolutionary complexity. Do you think God is not present?

Consciousness: awareness and metacognition

by David Turell @, Thursday, September 21, 2017, 00:54 (32 days ago) @ David Turell

Raises the question whether we develop consciousness or is it given?

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/consciousness-goes-deeper-than-you-th...

"An article on the neuroscience of infant consciousness, which attracted some interest a few years ago, asked: “When does your baby become conscious?” The premise, of course, was that babies aren’t born conscious but, instead, develop consciousness at some point. (According to the article, it is about five months of age). Yet, it is hard to think that there is nothing it feels like to be a newborn.

"Newborns clearly seem to experience their own bodies, environment, the presence of their parents, etcetera—albeit in an unreflective, present-oriented manner. And if it always feels like something to be a baby, then babies don’t become conscious. Instead, they are conscious from the get-go.

"The problem is that, somewhat alarmingly, the word “consciousness” is often used in the literature as if it entailed or implied more than just the qualities of experience. Dijksterhuis and Nordgren, for instance, insisted that “it is very important to realize that attention is the key to distinguish between unconscious thought and conscious thought. Conscious thought is thought with attention.” This implies that if a thought escapes attention, then it is unconscious. But is the mere lack of attention enough to assert that a mental process lacks the qualities of experience? Couldn’t a process that escapes the focus of attention still feel like something?

***

"Jonathan Schooler has established a clear distinction between conscious and meta-conscious processes. Whereas both types entail the qualities of experience, meta-conscious processes also entail what he called re-representation. “Periodically attention is directed towards explicitly assessing the contents of experience. The resulting meta-consciousness involves an explicit re-representation of consciousness in which one interprets, describes or otherwise characterizes the state of one’s mind.

***

"Because the study of the Neural Correlates of Consciousness (NCC) is, by and large, dependent on subjective reports of experience, what passes for the NCC is liable to be merely the neural correlates of meta-consciousness. As such, potentially conscious mental activity—in the sense of activity correlated with experiential qualities—may evade recognition as such.

***

"By mistaking meta-consciousness for consciousness, we create two significant problems: First, we fail to distinguish between conscious processes that lack re-representation and truly unconscious processes. After all, both are equally unreportable to self and others. This misleads us to conclude there is a mental unconscious when, in reality, there may always be something it feels like to have each and every mental process in our psyche. Second, we fail to see our partial and tentative explanations for the alleged rise of consciousness may concern merely the rise of metacognition.

"This is liable to create the illusion we are making progress toward solving the “hard problem of consciousness” when, in fact, we are bypassing it altogether: Mechanisms of metacognition are entirely unrelated to the problem of how the qualities of experience could arise from physical arrangements.

"Consciousness may never arise—be it in babies, toddlers, children or adults—because it may always be there to begin with. For all we know, what arises is merely a metacognitive configuration of preexisting consciousness. If so, consciousness may be fundamental in nature—an inherent aspect of every mental process, not a property constituted or somehow generated by particular physical arrangements of the brain. Claims, grounded in subjective reports of experience, of progress toward reducing consciousness to brain physiology may have little—if anything—to do with consciousness proper, but with mechanisms of metacognition instead."

Comment: Exactly. Consciousness may be a mechanism we receive at birth. Some paragraphs are skipped which may help in following the discussion.

Consciousness: awareness and metacognition

by dhw, Thursday, September 21, 2017, 13:14 (32 days ago) @ David Turell

QUOTE: If so, consciousness may be fundamental in nature—an inherent aspect of every mental process, not a property constituted or somehow generated by particular physical arrangements of the brain. Claims, grounded in subjective reports of experience, of progress toward reducing consciousness to brain physiology may have little—if anything—to do with consciousness proper, but with mechanisms of metacognition instead." (dhw’s bold)

DAVID’s comment: Exactly. Consciousness may be a mechanism we receive at birth. Some paragraphs are skipped which may help in following the discussion.

An awful lot of words to describe the obvious and absolutely vital fact that there are different levels of consciousness. My bold suggests panpsychism. Your agreement that consciousness may not be “generated by particular physical arrangements of the brain” is, of course, essential to your dualism, but also makes a mockery of your claim that brainless organisms cannot be conscious.

Consciousness: awareness and metacognition

by David Turell @, Thursday, September 21, 2017, 14:59 (32 days ago) @ dhw

QUOTE: If so, consciousness may be fundamental in nature—an inherent aspect of every mental process, not a property constituted or somehow generated by particular physical arrangements of the brain. Claims, grounded in subjective reports of experience, of progress toward reducing consciousness to brain physiology may have little—if anything—to do with consciousness proper, but with mechanisms of metacognition instead." (dhw’s bold)

DAVID’s comment: Exactly. Consciousness may be a mechanism we receive at birth. Some paragraphs are skipped which may help in following the discussion.

dhw: An awful lot of words to describe the obvious and absolutely vital fact that there are different levels of consciousness. My bold suggests panpsychism. Your agreement that consciousness may not be “generated by particular physical arrangements of the brain” is, of course, essential to your dualism, but also makes a mockery of your claim that brainless organisms cannot be conscious.

You forget that being conscious is not the same as consciousness. Of course, the brainless receive stimuli and have responses which are generally automatic.

Consciousness: awareness and metacognition

by dhw, Friday, September 22, 2017, 13:07 (31 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: An awful lot of words to describe the obvious and absolutely vital fact that there are different levels of consciousness. My bold suggests panpsychism. Your agreement that consciousness may not be “generated by particular physical arrangements of the brain” is, of course, essential to your dualism, but also makes a mockery of your claim that brainless organisms cannot be conscious.

DAVID: You forget that being conscious is not the same as consciousness. Of course, the brainless receive stimuli and have responses which are generally automatic.

Unless you're talking about syntax, I don't know what you mean. Being conscious is the same as having consciousness. But being conscious is not the same as having the same degree of consciousness as a human. I like your "generally". I’m interested in the responses that are not automatic.

Consciousness: awareness and metacognition

by David Turell @, Friday, September 22, 2017, 15:02 (31 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: An awful lot of words to describe the obvious and absolutely vital fact that there are different levels of consciousness. My bold suggests panpsychism. Your agreement that consciousness may not be “generated by particular physical arrangements of the brain” is, of course, essential to your dualism, but also makes a mockery of your claim that brainless organisms cannot be conscious.

DAVID: You forget that being conscious is not the same as consciousness. Of course, the brainless receive stimuli and have responses which are generally automatic.

dhw: Unless you're talking about syntax, I don't know what you mean. Being conscious is the same as having consciousness. But being conscious is not the same as having the same degree of consciousness as a human. I like your "generally". I’m interested in the responses that are not automatic.

Do any organisms but humans have consciousness? Not proven. We do not know where in the progression of evolved organisms, being conscious appeared. You and I debate this all the time.

Consciousness: awareness and metacognition

by dhw, Saturday, September 23, 2017, 12:41 (30 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: You forget that being conscious is not the same as consciousness. Of course, the brainless receive stimuli and have responses which are generally automatic.

dhw: Unless you're talking about syntax, I don't know what you mean. Being conscious is the same as having consciousness. But being conscious is not the same as having the same degree of consciousness as a human. I like your "generally". I’m interested in the responses that are not automatic.

DAVID: Do any organisms but humans have consciousness? Not proven. We do not know where in the progression of evolved organisms, being conscious appeared. You and I debate this all the time.

The debate goes nowhere unless you explain what you mean by consciousness. Some people say that not even humans are conscious. Definitions mean translating words into other words, so one can play an endless game of asking for definitions of definitions, but I would hope for a more productive approach. By consciousness I mean an organism’s awareness of things inside and outside itself. The degree of consciousness will correspond to the quantity and nature of things the organism is aware of. I would assume – perhaps wrongly – that the simplest organisms are only aware of things in their immediate environment. Humans are aware not only of things that exist outside their immediate environment, but also of things that may not exist at all and even of their own awareness of being aware. However, awareness on its own would be pretty useless unless the organism used it to some purpose. That is where intelligence comes in. If consciousness is awareness, intelligence is the ability to use awareness. I can only define intelligence by its attributes, the most basic of which I would suggest are sentience (awareness of the environment), the ability to process information, to communicate, to take decisions. Every organism we know of possesses these basic attributes, but not to anything like the same degree as humans.

I regard it as feasible that the basic attributes listed above appeared when life began, i.e. that the first living cells possessed them. The only way we can gauge whether this is true is by studying the behaviour of single cells, and there seems little doubt that they conform to my definition. If, however, you have a different definition of consciousness and of intelligence, then perhaps you would share it with us.

Consciousness: awareness and metacognition

by David Turell @, Saturday, September 23, 2017, 14:34 (30 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: You forget that being conscious is not the same as consciousness. Of course, the brainless receive stimuli and have responses which are generally automatic.

dhw: Unless you're talking about syntax, I don't know what you mean. Being conscious is the same as having consciousness. But being conscious is not the same as having the same degree of consciousness as a human. I like your "generally". I’m interested in the responses that are not automatic.

DAVID: Do any organisms but humans have consciousness? Not proven. We do not know where in the progression of evolved organisms, being conscious appeared. You and I debate this all the time.

dhw:The debate goes nowhere unless you explain what you mean by consciousness. Some people say that not even humans are conscious. Definitions mean translating words into other words, so one can play an endless game of asking for definitions of definitions, but I would hope for a more productive approach. By consciousness I mean an organism’s awareness of things inside and outside itself. The degree of consciousness will correspond to the quantity and nature of things the organism is aware of. I would assume – perhaps wrongly – that the simplest organisms are only aware of things in their immediate environment. Humans are aware not only of things that exist outside their immediate environment, but also of things that may not exist at all and even of their own awareness of being aware. However, awareness on its own would be pretty useless unless the organism used it to some purpose. That is where intelligence comes in. If consciousness is awareness, intelligence is the ability to use awareness. I can only define intelligence by its attributes, the most basic of which I would suggest are sentience (awareness of the environment), the ability to process information, to communicate, to take decisions. Every organism we know of possesses these basic attributes, but not to anything like the same degree as humans.

I regard it as feasible that the basic attributes listed above appeared when life began, i.e. that the first living cells possessed them. The only way we can gauge whether this is true is by studying the behaviour of single cells, and there seems little doubt that they conform to my definition. If, however, you have a different definition of consciousness and of intelligence, then perhaps you would share it with us.

I'm sorry but I disagree. To be conscious is not consciousness. Organisms are conscious by recognizing stimuli and reacting to them both inside and out. Consciousness involves being aware of that state and philosophizing about it. I make a much sharper distinction than you do. As for intelligence and use of stimuli, simple organisms respond using intelligent information they are given.

Consciousness: awareness and metacognition

by dhw, Sunday, September 24, 2017, 13:19 (29 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw:[…] By consciousness I mean an organism’s awareness of things inside and outside itself. The degree of consciousness will correspond to the quantity and nature of things the organism is aware of. I would assume – perhaps wrongly – that the simplest organisms are only aware of things in their immediate environment. Humans are aware not only of things that exist outside their immediate environment, but also of things that may not exist at all and even of their own awareness of being aware. However, awareness on its own would be pretty useless unless the organism used it to some purpose. That is where intelligence comes in. If consciousness is awareness, intelligence is the ability to use awareness. I can only define intelligence by its attributes, the most basic of which I would suggest are sentience (awareness of the environment), the ability to process information, to communicate, to take decisions. Every organism we know of possesses these basic attributes, but not to anything like the same degree as humans.
I regard it as feasible that the basic attributes listed above appeared when life began, i.e. that the first living cells possessed them. The only way we can gauge whether this is true is by studying the behaviour of single cells, and there seems little doubt that they conform to my definition. If, however, you have a different definition of consciousness and of intelligence, then perhaps you would share it with us.

DAVID: I'm sorry but I disagree. To be conscious is not consciousness. Organisms are conscious by recognizing stimuli and reacting to them both inside and out. Consciousness involves being aware of that state and philosophizing about it. I make a much sharper distinction than you do. As for intelligence and use of stimuli, simple organisms respond using intelligent information they are given.

You seem to think the noun has a different meaning from the adjective! You agree that an organism is conscious if it recognizes stimuli and reacts to them both inside and out. I’ll settle for that, thank you. Bacteria are therefore conscious. But I do not for one second believe that their degree of being conscious extends to their being self-conscious and philosophizing about being conscious.

Consciousness: awareness and metacognition

by David Turell @, Sunday, September 24, 2017, 14:41 (29 days ago) @ dhw


DAVID: I'm sorry but I disagree. To be conscious is not consciousness. Organisms are conscious by recognizing stimuli and reacting to them both inside and out. Consciousness involves being aware of that state and philosophizing about it. I make a much sharper distinction than you do. As for intelligence and use of stimuli, simple organisms respond using intelligent information they are given.

dhw: You seem to think the noun has a different meaning from the adjective! You agree that an organism is conscious if it recognizes stimuli and reacts to them both inside and out. I’ll settle for that, thank you. Bacteria are therefore conscious. But I do not for one second believe that their degree of being conscious extends to their being self-conscious and philosophizing about being conscious.

My goodness, we agree!

Consciousness: awareness and metacognition

by dhw, Monday, September 25, 2017, 13:17 (28 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: I'm sorry but I disagree. To be conscious is not consciousness. Organisms are conscious by recognizing stimuli and reacting to them both inside and out. Consciousness involves being aware of that state and philosophizing about it. I make a much sharper distinction than you do. As for intelligence and use of stimuli, simple organisms respond using intelligent information they are given.

dhw: You seem to think the noun has a different meaning from the adjective! You agree that an organism is conscious if it recognizes stimuli and reacts to them both inside and out. I’ll settle for that, thank you. Bacteria are therefore conscious. But I do not for one second believe that their degree of being conscious extends to their being self-conscious and philosophizing about being conscious.

DAVID: My goodness, we agree!

I have just walked round the house, announcing your agreement that bacteria are conscious, and I heard a strange sound in every room. It took some time for me to identify it, but with my newly invented microscope-amplifier-unicell-detector, I eventually discovered what it was. All the bacteria were singing “Cellelujah!”

Consciousness: awareness and metacognition

by David Turell @, Monday, September 25, 2017, 14:29 (28 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: I'm sorry but I disagree. To be conscious is not consciousness. Organisms are conscious by recognizing stimuli and reacting to them both inside and out. Consciousness involves being aware of that state and philosophizing about it. I make a much sharper distinction than you do. As for intelligence and use of stimuli, simple organisms respond using intelligent information they are given.

dhw: You seem to think the noun has a different meaning from the adjective! You agree that an organism is conscious if it recognizes stimuli and reacts to them both inside and out. I’ll settle for that, thank you. Bacteria are therefore conscious. But I do not for one second believe that their degree of being conscious extends to their being self-conscious and philosophizing about being conscious.

DAVID: My goodness, we agree!

dhw: I have just walked round the house, announcing your agreement that bacteria are conscious, and I heard a strange sound in every room. It took some time for me to identify it, but with my newly invented microscope-amplifier-unicell-detector, I eventually discovered what it was. All the bacteria were singing “Cellelujah!”

I'm sure as a cell committee they Handeled it well.

Consciousness: awareness and metacognition

by dhw, Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 12:07 (27 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: I have just walked round the house, announcing your agreement that bacteria are conscious, and I heard a strange sound in every room. It took some time for me to identify it, but with my newly invented microscope-amplifier-unicell-detector, I eventually discovered what it was. All the bacteria were singing “Cellelujah!”

DAVID: I'm sure as a cell committee they Handeled it well.

A great line, which they have greeted with a chorus of approval.

Consciousness: bird brain vs. human brain

by David Turell @, Thursday, September 28, 2017, 14:52 (25 days ago) @ dhw

Pigeon vs. human in a speed test, the bird wins. Why?

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/50506/title/Pigeons-Can-Switch-Ta...

Recent research has demonstrated that many bird species have high-order cognitive processing abilities comparable to primates. Sure enough, in a new study, when researchers asked pigeons and humans to switch between two activities as quickly as possible, they found that the birds performed just as well as, and sometimes even better than, the people. The scientists say the results emphasize that the brain region once thought to be required for such capabilities in humans may not be necessary.

“For a long time, scientists used to believe the mammalian cerebral cortex to be the anatomical cause of cognitive ability,” coauthor Sara Letzner of Ruhr-Universität Bochum says in a press release. But birds have no cortex. “That means the structure of the mammalian cortex cannot be decisive for complex cognitive functions such as multitasking.”

Instead, pigeons have a brain region known as the pallium, which, while it doesn’t have the layered structure of the human cortex, does have a high density of neurons—with about six times more cells per cubic millimeter than the human brain. This means that pigeon neurons are about 50 percent closer together than human neurons, which may allow for electrical signals to be relayed at a faster rate.

In this study, published this week (September 25) in Current Biology, the researchers asked both birds and humans to switch the nature of the task they were performing. For humans, this involved pushing buttons when they saw certain patterns on a screen. Pigeons were trained to peck at particular buttons based on light signals. 

When the signal to commence the second task came at the same time as the signal to stop the first task, both bird and human participants were able to switch with about the same speed. But when there was a short, 300-millisecond delay between the signal to stop the first task and the signal to start the second, the birds performed better than the human volunteers, with response times about 200 ms faster.

Comment: I think the study is misinterpreted. The birds are trained to respond automatically. The human metacognition, introspective brain comes to play when the delayed signal is introduced. But those birds are bright!

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