Why Are We Conscious?

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This topic contains 168 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  Simon Paynton 5 months ago.

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  • #25802

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    LOL, _Robert_ I need to watch that movie again. Strangely, I don’t even remember that scene.

    I forgot to consider your point about humans going hybrid. That would be a reasonable stepping stone, adding artificial aids like AI, a bit at a time, and could help us research and define our own consciousness before purposefully passing any aspects of it on to machines… again, a bit at a time.

    #25803

    Davis
    Participant

    It is not surprising that the how of consciousness is not understood. The complexity of the brain is mind boggling.

    Indeed! One thing I’ve found pretty astonishing, is how many people who discuss free-will or consciousness don’t offer any theory of consciousness at all. Even more shocking is their illiteracy on what little we do know, and what we know cannot be the case. To be honest, most people who have kept up with the literature (it’s a fair bit of work and reading that has to be done) is quite quite QUITE aware that we are fatally ignorant about the brain/mind and how it works. As if we’ve only slightly slightly removed a small piece of the packaging. It’s fairly difficult to answer the question “how” we became conscious when we know next to nothing about it. It’s equally difficult to answer the question “why” we became conscious (through evolution) when we cannot even measure the consciousness of related mammals or even non-mammals. I would argue that the best way to answer these questions is not arm-chair speculation but…wait for it…you’ll never guess what I’m about to say…you can simply…pick up a book and read. If you want to know where to start I’d recommend any large book by Daniel Dennet on consciousness or free will, which delves into all of these topics. Remember, these are theories based on our microscopic knowledge of the human mind, they are not answers.

    #25804

    Unseen
    Participant

    Back on your main topic, I feel it’s important to emphasize again how we should better define type, spectrum, or depth of “consciousness”, because different kinds and degrees of consciousness will have different answers to your question. It’s also important (imo) to differentiate “modern day” consciousness vs “legacy” human consciousness, because modern day consciousness is a very different product from our legacy days of near-post genetic level evolution. Not long ago in evolutionary terms, we couldn’t even speak to each other about the abstract concepts we learn and are now deeply conscious of almost daily.

    As you point out (if I might paraphrase with my pov), we need to communicate about the nature of consciousness by assuming its “primitive” nature. This (to me) also means it should be useful to relate our ancient, legacy, primitive consciousness even further back to its more primal primate (and even lower animal) origins, in order to get the most accurate and enduring answer(s) to your “why” question. ymmv, and it’s *your* topic

    But truly primitive concepts can’t be defined and maintain their meaning. For example, in the case of the Cartesian cogito, we know what thinking is because we know what thinking is like. Some discussion of neurons and organic electrochemistry will not contribute to the concept.

    Likewise with what it is to be having experiences.

    #25805

    Unseen
    Participant

    It is not surprising that the how of consciousness is not understood. The complexity of the brain is mind boggling.

    Indeed! One thing I’ve found pretty astonishing, is how many people who discuss free-will or consciousness don’t offer any theory of consciousness at all. Even more shocking is their illiteracy on what little we do know, and what we know cannot be the case. To be honest, most people who have kept up with the literature (it’s a fair bit of work and reading that has to be done) is quite quite QUITE aware that we are fatally ignorant about the brain/mind and how it works. As if we’ve only slightly slightly removed a small piece of the packaging. It’s fairly difficult to answer the question “how” we became conscious when we know next to nothing about it. It’s equally difficult to answer the question “why” we became conscious (through evolution) when we cannot even measure the consciousness of related mammals or even non-mammals. I would argue that the best way to answer these questions is not arm-chair speculation but…wait for it…you’ll never guess what I’m about to say…you can simply…pick up a book and read. If you want to know where to start I’d recommend any large book by Daniel Dennet on consciousness or free will, which delves into all of these topics. Remember, these are theories based on our microscopic knowledge of the human mind, they are not answers.

    Explaining the how of experiencing is interesting, but I don’t think it will ever touch the question of why we are conscious. The answer to that would be something like a gene or genes that gave us the ability to have experiences and never got eliminated by natural selection because it had no adverse effect on survival.

    Beyond that, answering how we have it will probably not tell us if it’s necessary to be conscious (in the sense of having experiences of real goings on). As machines become more complex, can learn, and in some cases can even artfully resemble humans, it seems clear that behaving and being perceived as human does not require an experiencing entity. An entity, perhaps, which is aware in a sense, but with, as someone else has said, nobody home.

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 2 weeks ago by  Unseen.
    #25807

    Unseen
    Participant

    LOL, _Robert_ I need to watch that movie again. Strangely, I don’t even remember that scene.

    I remember it because it confused me that the interrogator somewhat resembled Harrison Ford so much. Maybe that was intentional on Ridley Scott’s part in that it has turned out that Ford’s character has turned out to be a replicant himself. Scott is on the record saying so.

    #25808

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Explaining the how of experiencing is interesting, but I don’t think it will ever touch the question of why we are conscious. The answer to that would be something like a gene or genes that gave us the ability to have experiences and never got eliminated by natural selection because it had no adverse effect on survival.

    I think you’re creating a strange artificial situation by reducing consciousness to mere awareness.  Consciousness is an active thing, full of high-level processes, such as the ego structure used for self preservation, and conscious thinking and reasoning.  You assume that all processing goes on below the level of consciousness – why?  This is an unwarranted assumption.

    #25809

    _Robert_
    Participant

    LOL, _Robert_ I need to watch that movie again. Strangely, I don’t even remember that scene.

    I remember it because it confused me that the interrogator somewhat resembled Harrison Ford so much. Maybe that was intentional on Ridley Scott’s part in that it has turned out that Ford’s character has turned out to be a replicant himself. Scott is on the record saying so.

    I had the same thoughts. The heavy cig. smoking looks theatrical, but the assumption that many people would still smoke in the future was an oversight.

    #25810

    jakelafort
    Participant

    At some point an attorney who is defending a serial rapist/murderer may admit the allegations of prosecutor and offer defense of no free will/anatomy is destiny psychopathy victim to negate mens rea.

    We have had evolution on trial and not just in the famous Scopes trial.

    Imagine expert witnesses in neuroscience, physics, and philosophy? How pissar would that be? The entire foundation of western jurisprudence would be tried!

    #25811

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    Beyond that, answering how we have it will probably not tell us if it’s necessary to be conscious (in the sense of having experiences of real goings on). As machines become more complex, can learn, and in some cases can even artfully resemble humans, it seems clear that behaving and being perceived as human does not require an experiencing entity. An entity, perhaps, which is aware in a sense, but with, as someone else has said, nobody home.

    I keep suspecting that you’re understanding something that I’m not. I can’t yet make sense of why the why question is even relevant, so let me try a different angle, and you can tell me if it doesn’t get close enough to the meat of your intended question.

    An issue that seems very relevant to me, and will become increasingly discussed, is about “rights of personhood”. E.g., what criteria or tests will we eventually have to add to laws that define a person’s right to exist, or how will our definition of “torture” change when our technology makes it impossible for us to perceive whether or not there’s “nobody home”.

    And that’s very related to addressing the question of how or why we should or shouldn’t care about passing the future of humanity over to AI.

    #25817

    Unseen
    Participant

    I keep suspecting that you’re understanding something that I’m not. I can’t yet make sense of why the why question is even relevant, so let me try a different angle, and you can tell me if it doesn’t get close enough to the meat of your intended question.

    Whether it’s relevant depends on you. I’m a philosopher, and in my field we discuss questions we think are relevant because they are perplexing or difficult or fascinating, even if the answer won’t impact our life in any way whatsoever. (Whose behavior ever changed when they changed their mind about free will, for example?)

    BTW, there’s no hidden agenda behind my asking the question. I’m not planning on springing a trap. I’m only looking for an interesting discussion.

    An issue that seems very relevant to me, and will become increasingly discussed, is about “rights of personhood”. E.g., what criteria or tests will we eventually have to add to laws that define a person’s right to exist, or how will our definition of “torture” change when our technology makes it impossible for us to perceive whether or not there’s “nobody home”.

    My position is, and has been for ages, that there are only two kinds of rights: legislated and imaginary. Human rights, for example, are legislated by the United Nations or some organization who can make the case for speaking for mankind (which seems kind of preposterous on its face, doesn’t it).

    Personhood is very relevant to people disagreeing over female reproductive rights. Terminating the existence of a person is murder. Unfortunately, no science can settle the issue.

    And that’s very related to addressing the question of how or why we should or shouldn’t care about passing the future of humanity over to AI.

    LOL Isn’t education a form of artificial intelligence? We hand our kids over to that AI all the time, and willingly.

    #25818

    _Robert_
    Participant

    As for the WHY question…well these are my thoughts and as Davis pointed out none of us are experts…..

    The act of formulating the next communication transmission involves internal self-communication. A more complicated message involves more formulation. Eventually we are formulating all the time, just not transmitting everything we formulate. If  working together helps us to survive; communication and the sense of self needed to support that communication will develop. The filter that decides on which thoughts get transmitted becomes more sophisticated as it also effects our survival. Saying the wrong thing to the alpha or a potential mate will have consequences to your ability to procreate. All of this ends up being what we “term” consciousness. Other animals that appear to be at least “self aware” also have communication abilities.

    #25846

    Is consciousness a battle between your beliefs and perceptions?

    #25848

    tom sarbeck
    Participant

    Infinite Simulation, as U describes it seems much like Perpetual Motion.

    And BTFW, plants show no sign of being conscious?

    Rather, U shows no sign that he is conscious of whether plant are conscious. I’ve read of research saying plants communicate externalia by emitting aromas/odors.

    #25855

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    Is consciousness a battle between your beliefs and perceptions?

    The article didn’t mention this, but there’s a theory that a cause of hallucinations (e.g. in schizophrenia) is an inability in one or more of the brain’s “discrimination” circuits to determine whether a visual or auditory perception is originating from the outside (“reality”), or the inside (e.g. one’s own thoughts or preconceptions).

    Ah, just remembered, and feelings of deja vu might also have a similar explanation, but with recalled memory being confused with the current externally-sourced (or other internally-sourced) experience.

    #25856

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    I’ve read of research saying plants communicate externalia by emitting aromas/odors.

    An ability even among bacteria (but via the liquid medium they’re in).

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 2 weeks ago by  PopeBeanie.
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