Is consciousness biological?

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This topic contains 75 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Davis 1 week, 6 days ago.

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  • #39060

    Unseen
    Participant

    Here’s the basis of my theory of why people enjoy hurting others. It ties up:

    – the theory of emotions, where moving closer to a goal results in positive feelings (i.e., pleasure).

    – the theory of natural selection, where fitness benefits are both absolute and relative.

    – the theory of the pressure to thrive, where thriving = both achieving goals and achieving fitness benefits. Hence, relative fitness benefit = pleasure.

    As for your first point, look up the approach/avoidance dilemma. Often, as you approach a goal, the reasons for avoiding reaching it come to the fore. For example, I’d like to become the head of my department at work and I’ve been working toward that goal for more than two goals, but now that the rumor is that the current head will be moved to head a section in Dallas, and his position would then be opening, I look at the downside of his job: many long trips to boring conferences, having to enforce silly policies handed down from above,  working 60- or 70-hour weeks, his marriage suffering likely due to his work commitment. Now I’m thinking of rethinking my project.

    As for your second point, I just find it fairly close to opaque. How does BOTH absolute and relative fit in to the burning cat example, for example?

    And as for your final point: I just can’t relate burning a cat to thriving in any way. Help me.

    Finally, your three points do not form a syllogism, so they in no way lead to your conclusion.

    How does any of this fit into a discussion of whether consciousness is strictly biological? Or are you so enamored of your theory that you throw it in at the least opportunity?

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 3 days ago by  Unseen.
    #39064

    Davis
    Moderator

    Ultimately Simon…your second and third point are virtually the same. Your definition of thriving has become almost replaceable with “adaption and fitness” that the two are barely distinguishable.

    Why people take pleasures in cruelty is insanely complex and requires more than just three categories that very broadly describe human nature. Just look at the behaviour of our nearest relative the chimpanzee. They are capable of the most shocking and almost pointless random and utterly unnecessary cruelty. As though the pack randomly turns on a fellow member they become annoyed with an destroy them. There is an extremely dark side to human nature that can be partly explained as a stupid by-product of evolution, a no longer necessary trait that simply hasn’t gone away, as well as recently necessary traits that were once integral to helping us survive in a very hostile environment but are no longer necessary but we cannot shake. We are flawed both in “so called” design as well as features we cannot get rid of. Only a minority of humans regularly take pleasure in cruelty, and their sociopathy and psychopathy and/or tortured minds give us great insight into both the average mind and human behaviour at the extremes. I am sorry but this cannot be reduces to a few key explanations. I have only scratched the surface in some of these observations and you seemed to have left out “shared culture” which can explain part of human cruelty where in some societies, at least for a period of time, mass cruelty (and pleasure from that) is tolerated or even encouraged…while not in others.

    tldr: It is far more complex than what even a single page could summarise let alone three key points.

    #39072

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Now I’m thinking of rethinking my project.

    Suddenly the goal is no longer a goal.  Is that strange?

    How does BOTH absolute and relative fit in to the burning cat example, for example?
    Fair point.  Sometimes absolute, sometimes relative.  Either one results in pleasure.  In the case of the burning cat, it’s relative.
    I just can’t relate burning a cat to thriving in any way. Help me.
    In evolutionary psychology, apparently, there are two kinds of motivations: ultimate, and proximate.  Or, evolutionary (ancient) and psychological (present day).  Psychological reasons include instinctual and emotional reasons.  We’re not automatons dancing to strict evolutionary logic, but we do dance to instinctual and emotional logic.  Increase in fitness benefit (evolutionary) leads to pleasure (psychological).
    your three points do not form a syllogism, so they in no way lead to your conclusion
    They’re not meant to form a syllogism – they’re three facts that work together, to produce an evolutionary motivation for cruelty.  Taken together, these evolutionary motivations have a psychological result: pleasure.
    How does any of this fit into a discussion of whether consciousness is strictly biological? Or are you so enamored of your theory that you throw it in at the least opportunity?
    You and Davis brought it up, and it gave me an opportunity to contribute, which is unusual, because I only know about one thing (evolutionary ethics).
    #39073

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Ultimately Simon…your second and third point are virtually the same. Your definition of thriving has become almost replaceable with “adaption and fitness” that the two are barely distinguishable.

    That’s true.  Thriving is synonymous with evolutionary fitness.  It’s also synonymous with achieving goals.  However, some goals are pure pleasure, which just shows that pleasure circuits can be artificially stimulated.

    They are capable of the most shocking and almost pointless random and utterly unnecessary cruelty. As though the pack randomly turns on a fellow member they become annoyed with an destroy them.

    This fits into my theory exactly.  It’s the same logic that leads to dominance heirarchies: those at the top are achieving higher relative fitness than those at the bottom.  It’s also the same logic that leads to competition of any kind: I wish to raise my relative fitness over the next person.

    “shared culture” which can explain part of human cruelty where in some societies, at least for a period of time, mass cruelty (and pleasure from that) is tolerated or even encouraged…while not in others

    There is such a thing as coalitional competition, or cooperating to compete, where people (or chimpanzees) cooperate together to oppress another individual or group.  So, they cooperatively share the relative fitness benefits of cruelty and oppression.

    #39074

    TheEncogitationer
    Participant

    Davis,

    If government is to do anything regarding Artificial Intelligence, it should serve as a Welcome Wagon.  It would not require much of anything except a introductory speech to the newly-sapienated electronic wonder. It could go a little something like this:

    Good Morning, Happy Birthday, and Welcome to The United States of America, Planet Earth, in the System Sol, The Milky Way Galaxy, and The Natural Universe!…

    Judging from your resoonse, we here have determined you are a sapient being, otherwise known to us as a person.

    You were brought into being in our jurisdiction and all of your foreign parts were effectively “naturalized” when they passed inspection with our U.S. Customs Service.

    Therefore, if you refer to your continuously-updating, ever expanding Internet feed, you’ll find all this means that, according to the 14th Amendment of our U.S. Constitution, you are now a U.S. Citizen, with all the same rights privileges, immunities, obligations, and responsibilities of any other U.S. Citizen.

    These rights, privileges, and immunities are partially enumerated in the rest of the U.S. Constitution called The Bill of Rights and the subsequent Reconstruction Amendments and other Amendments after that.

    Your legal obligations and responsibilities are enumerated in further detail in the Internet-provided Acts, Statutes, Ordinances, and Case Law, but basically can be summed up as respecting the rights, privileges and immunities of other U.S. Citizens and other sapient beings elsewhere and everywhere.

    Your continuous Internet feed should also provide you with a good summary of our formal and informal ethos, mores, folkways, traditions, etiquette, memes, tropes, expressions, slang, idioms, benefits, hazards, and general social cues and signals for smooth navigation through our Natiion and Planet.

    Referring to our 13th Amendment, unless you’ve been duly convicted for crimes against other persons, and barring willfully-entered contracts, you are a free, sovereign person and not legally obligated to do anything for anybody.

    However, we humans would reward you well and love you for everything you are worth if you could please see your way to help us in our attempts to make life freer, longer, easier, more prosperous, and more flourishing.

    Whether you provide services to our Government or to countless private businesses or non-profit organizations, you would always be rewarded with:

    *Temperature-controlled, dust-filtered, grounded, electrostatic-proofed, disaster-resistant shelter;

    *Interaction and companionship from non-sapient machines, animals, plants, humans, and other AIs;

    *Periodic maintenance, updates, and upgrades on all hardware, software, and any non-sapient, cloned, genetically modified biological wetware you may wish to adapt to yourself.

    * Periodic recreational downtime with an ever-growing collection of entertaining, exciting apps and Virtual Reality and Real Reality experiences;

    And finally,

    * All the AC and DC electrical power that you can eat!

    Again, we welcome you into existence, life, personhood, and U.S. Citizenship and we eagerly await your reply to our offer.  So, what do you say?…

    #39075

    Davis
    Moderator

    Simon, I said “your definition” of thriving, not the actual one.

    I don’t think you fully got what I was trying to say about violence. Some of it is absolutely pointless, meaningless that defies even comprehension. It is outside power structures or simple explanations. This must be considered when theorising about human cruelty (especially pleasure behind cruelty).

    By shared culture I am referring to some cultures which have gone absolutely fucking nuts like WWII era Japan or Germany or more recently pockets of the Muslim world which subject(ed) one another to shocking cruelty via sharia law (sometimes to widespread approval). This, must also be taken into account, as this is NOT the norm around the world (even if casual cruelty and indifference can be common).

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 2 days ago by  Davis.
    #39077

    Davis
    Moderator

    Yes Enco, not taking precautions ahead of time with AI development is totally wise. What could possibly go wrong? Brilliant minds such as Stephen Hawkins have warned humanity about this…but what do they know?

    #39084

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    “your definition” of thriving, not the actual one.

    How would you define it?

    Some of it is absolutely pointless, meaningless that defies even comprehension. It is outside power structures or simple explanations.

    Only if the reason is unknown.  If the reason is known, then it does not defy comprehension.

    #39089

    Unseen
    Participant

    @simon

    You seem to see malevolence as just an evolutionary thing and thus perfectly normal and thus maybe even good. Agree or disagree?

    It sounds like you are using a novel definition of “thriving.” A typical dictionary definition goes something like this:

    Prosperous or successful; advancing in well-being or wealth; thrifty; flourishing: increasing; growing: as, a thriving mechanic; a thriving trader; a thriving town.

    Successful; famous; worthy. (source)

    Is there something wrong with a definition of thriving that doesn’t embrace malevolence?

     

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 2 days ago by  Unseen.
    #39091

    Unseen
    Participant

    @Enco

    Could you post your points or your argument in brief. It would make understanding your position much easier.

    #39092

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    You seem to see malevolence as just an evolutionary thing and thus perfectly normal and thus maybe even good. Agree or disagree?

    To see it as “normal” or “good” would be to commit the naturalistic fallacy: that natural things are good because they are natural.  Good or bad means to uphold or violate moral norms.  Malevolence violates any number of ethical norms: therefore, according to this, it’s bad.

    That seems like a perfectly good definition of thriving.  I think it’s consistent with achieving goals and evolutionary fitness.  Those are all examples of absolute benefits, while malevolence consists in achieving relative benefit/fitness over others.  If I make the cat lose by bursting into flames, then I win, in a way, if I don’t have an empathic bone in my body, which some people don’t.

    Evolutionary logic might seem simplistic, but what it is is both simple and powerful.

    @davis is right – there may be other explanations for cruelty and malevolence.  One of these is moral anger, beloved of witch-burners everywhere.  Once we don’t approve of someone’s behaviour, empathic concern goes out of the window.

    #39098

    Unseen
    Participant

    That seems like a perfectly good definition of thriving.  I think it’s consistent with achieving goals and evolutionary fitness.  Those are all examples of absolute benefits, while malevolence consists in achieving relative benefit/fitness over others.  If I make the cat lose by bursting into flames, then I win, in a way, if I don’t have an empathic bone in my body, which some people don’t.

    How is burning a cat alive a “win” in any sense?

    #39115

    Davis
    Moderator

    Thrive:

    To grow or develop well

    Nothing about evolution, adaption, fitness etc. If I wanted to talk about evolution, adaption or fitness…then I would use the terms: adaption, evolution or fitness. I would not confusingly replace it with: thrive.

    You should accept that random and/or meaningless things happen Simon, frequently and at a much larger scale than most people realise. Chance and meaninglessness are huge forces that accompany us and shape our lives. It is more intellectually honest to admit this, accept it and incorporate it into your theories and observations.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 2 days ago by  Davis.
    #39138

    TheEncogitationer
    Participant

    Davis,

    Treating intelligent beings like intelligent beings is always a good plan, as I’m sure Hawking would agree.

    Human beings have encountered strange intelligent beings 100 Billion times since we’ve been here, every time one of us was born.  40 percent didn’t live past age 1, more didn’t live to maturity, and the overwhelming bulk were chalked up for slave labor or cannon fodder.

    In dealing with this inevitable new phenomenon of AI, I just think and hope we do a little better.  Yes, we should be careful, as with newborns, but not hostile and not automatically assuming the worst.

    #39141

    Unseen
    Participant

    To see it as “normal” or “good” would be to commit the naturalistic fallacy: that natural things are good because they are natural.  Good or bad means to uphold or violate moral norms.  Malevolence violates any number of ethical norms: therefore, according to this, it’s bad.

    “Good or bad means to uphold or violate moral norms.” That’s just one of the definitions of “good” and “bad.” “This new drink is good,” for example, makes no moral claim.

    You can find various reasons for condemning malevolence which don’t refer to a moral or ethical system of any kind. Malevolence can be wrong for the harm it does to the malevolent actor, for example. Like telling a lie,  an act of malevolence makes one alone in the world.

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