Why Are We Conscious?

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This topic contains 168 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  Simon Paynton 4 months, 1 week ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 31 through 45 (of 169 total)
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  • #25698

    Andrew Brown
    Participant

    We don’t have a choice in the matter! I am that I am!

    Consciousness is fuzzy at best. We say humans are conscious, but that’s debatable 🙂 Are dogs conscious? They bark at the mirror until they realize it is themselves. Are spiders conscious? How could we even investigate it? Are rocks conscious? Same problem as spiders… Some people claim atoms are conscious and as a being made of atoms, I figure a large enough group of them can become conscious.

    Does it even matter at all? Our homoerectus ancestors probably cared little for the discussion. Live your life as you see fit, find happiness and love your life.

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 3 weeks ago by  Andrew Brown.
    #25701

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Some people might say, it’s for purposes of making ourselves understood to others

    But an ape has ape consciousness, which presumably is similar to ours* but without words.  However, they have a large vocabulary of gestures and sounds which can communicate all kinds of things, e.g. commands, or emotional states.  They don’t share information with each other like we do.  We share information, and plan and coordinate joint actions.

    An ape can be aware of the world as a general model of what happens, and can recognise elements in that model in the real world, and predict what they might and might not do, based on their model or schema they have of the world, learned from experience.

    * and adapted for living in the jungle.

    #25702

    Unseen
    Participant

    Hey @unseen ! The only reason we are conscious, is to give us something to entertain ourselves with so our DNA can continue to mutate and evolve without interruption.

    LOL

    #25703

    Unseen
    Participant

    So, ants are conscious?

    We could all be operating in robot-like fashion as stimulus-response beings, like plants, only far more sophisticated.

    We are, though? Emotions and thoughts work together to guide our actions.

    Okay. It sounds like you agree, since you’re describing how it works in a conscious being. I don’t deny we are conscious. I’m asking why. You’re giving us conditions sufficient to explain human behavior, but not conditions necessary to explain human behavior. Behavior which could simply be happening with the human (or vole) having no experience whatsoever.

    #25704

    Unseen
    Participant

    We can experience something consciously or unconsciously. Are you saying, what’s the point of conscious thought? That’s an interesting question. Some people might say, it’s for purposes of making ourselves understood to others: for discussing things “rationally” and “reasonably” – in other words, for cooperation.

    Experience can’t be unconscious (having an experience you’re unaware of?).

    The Turing machine idea is relevant here. Suppose someone designs a machine so well programmed that, at least for the duration of the test, it fools someone on the other end of the conversation that they are interacting with a person. That still doesn’t mean that the Turing machine does this in any other way than by simply executing a very successful simulation program, the machine not experiencing anything at all.

    #25705

    Unseen
    Participant

    PopeBeanie wrote:

    • Unseen wrote:
      One way to put it is to say being conscious means having an experience, as a self, of itself and the world. There’s no reason I can think of why it would be impossible to operate as a human in stimulus/response fashion and not be conscious at all in that sense. That we are conscious seems to be a gratuitous accident. Something we got but didn’t need.

    I like that explanation, but it begs deeper questions, like how do we define experience? Or feelings? Or even the word need. I think those words alone require further agreement on what they mean before the larger topic of consciousness can make headway. Those words are, btw, emotional aspects of consciousness, which are surely its most basic, primal aspects, only recently measurable across most animal species in scientific studies. That word need. It can be used philosophically, in logic (e.g. as in what’s necessary vs sufficient), and/or as a physiological trait (e.g. as in need to eat) or an emotional emotional trait (e.g. as in need to belong to the group). Now ask, how could any artificially manufactured machine ever have such a “need” that is like a human need? Sure, it needs energy, and health maintenance, but really, back to the questions of experience and feelings, how in hell can we equate AI with humans using these words, even before we can adequately define those words in a context of “consciousness”?

    Well, an insurmountable problem is that I don’t thinks what experience is can be defined. Some concepts are so fundamental or primitive that we have to resort to “it seems you and are are talking about the same thing.” Analogy in other words. The thing is this: As the Turing test implies, two entities can be talking as though they both have similar understandings, while one is human (possibly having experiences) and he other is simply a computer executing a sophisticated program and having no experiences whatsoever.

    A machine can’t have a need, but could certainly simulate a being with a need, given a sufficiently sophisticated program. Anyway, like I said, “experience” is a primitive term, much like “self.” These words will remain primitive because I can’t show you my self of my experiences. You simply analogize to your own.

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 3 weeks ago by  Unseen.
    #25707

    Unseen
    Participant

    how could any artificially manufactured machine ever have such a “need” that is like a human need?

    Since I consider humans to be complex and varied meat/electro/chemical computers, I see no issues in recreating emotions such as need “artificially”… whatever that means.

    An artificial emotion. Sounds like a simulation to me.

    #25708

    Unseen
    Participant

    There are inevitable deficiencies in language around this topic, e.g. especially the assumption that consciousness is an all or nothing kind of attribute. It’s not all or nothing, but it operates on scales of depth.

    Yes. Yes yes yes.

    The question isn’t about how deep consciousness is but is about how necessary it is.

    #25709

    Unseen
    Participant

    Parsing this question further, consider what would be meant by “gratuitous”. Speaking again of gradation of an attribute rather than it just existing or not, could “gratuitous” apply to Neanderthal consciousness? Or just Sapiens after (say) sophisticated language and discourse were developed?

    Might it not even be reasonable to say (as I think Strega humorously touched on) that gaining the cultural where-with-all over time to be able to discuss this issue of consciousness has elevated our (group, at least) consciousness to a gratuitous level!? If not, then at what point in (say) primate evolution did gratuitousness creep in?

    I’m not sure answering the neanderthal consciousness question addresses the “why” issue.

    Consciousness happened at some point in the evolutionary process. Cats and dogs, mice and voles, birds, I grant, all appear to be conscious. But go further back. Do shrimp have experiences? Maybe, I suppose. Jellyfish and coral creatures? Somehow I doubt it. Maybe consciousness and having experiences came along at some point in the evolution of the brain and perhaps developed out of a particular gene that was passed along to future genera.

    It’s unimportant since it doesn’t answer why we have experiences. It’s more of a “how” speculation than a”why” answer.

    #25710

    Unseen
    Participant

    We don’t have a choice in the matter! I am that I am! Consciousness is fuzzy at best. We say humans are conscious, but that’s debatable 🙂 Are dogs conscious? They bark at the mirror until they realize it is themselves. Are spiders conscious? How could we even investigate it? Are rocks conscious? Same problem as spiders… Some people claim atoms are conscious and as a being made of atoms, I figure a large enough group of them can become conscious. Does it even matter at all? Our homoerectus ancestors probably cared little for the discussion. Live your life as you see fit, find happiness and love your life.

    Like so many others here, you don’t want to talk about why we’re conscious.

    #25711

    Unseen
    Participant

    An ape can be aware of the world as a general model of what happens, and can recognise elements in that model in the real world, and predict what they might and might not do, based on their model or schema they have of the world, learned from experience.

    The frustrating thing for me about this topic is that most of the replies consciously (ironically) or unconsciously avoid the question of why we are conscious. This reply is typical. LOL

    #25712

    Unseen
    Participant

    I have been waiting for some Christian to pipe in with the solution to why we are conscious with “Because God made you that way” or “Because you can’t be moral if you aren’t conscious” or some such.

    #25713

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Evolution is why.

    Already said so. You avoided me. Are you conscious of having done so?

    Being conscious confers a survival benefit (adaptations or mutations which confer a survival benefit tend to be passed on because those organisms tend to reproduce more often than those lacking such-sorry to be so basic) which over the eons developed in fits and starts and has various levels and stages. That is all there is to it.

    #25714

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    What Jake says is makes enough sense to me, perhaps because “why” questions like this confuse me as to what is really being asked. As you point out, it invites a presumption of some invisible intent or force (like God) as a way to answer the why question. I’m still with you on your suggestion that consciousness might be an accident, but imo, having consciousness requires a lot of processing of environmental input and internal sensations, i.e. awareness of what’s going on, and then some calculating process or even cognition that plans out and executes behavior. (Maybe I stated that backwards. Consciousness may be required in order to accomplish those things.)

    I added my answer to the mysterious question of “why do humans have such a seemingly preternaturally high level of consciousness” because I think it’s a fascinating question, and I feel like I understand some explanations for why we have these higher levels of consciousness: mainly, we have a highly evolved culture. Culture now has a life of its own, and is the reason for our modernization, including intellectual and scientific advancements, and the ability to ask these questions about ourselves, and understand ourselves more than any other animal.

    And these higher levels of consciousness are mostly invented by us, and they are not always good for us. They are certainly not necessarily good for us.

    #25715

    Ivy
    Participant

    I think the development of our pre-frontal cortex has a lot to do with it

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