Development of Consciousness

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    (I wrote the following post for Unseen’s excellent topic “Why Are We Conscious?“, but decided to post it here instead so as to not distract from his intended topic trajectory. I love this topic and think it fits well here. Most significant imo is the link to Jaak Pansepp’s work in the next-to-last paragraph.)

    Again, it comes down to that question of whether intelligent behaviour has to arise from consciousness – and Tononi’s theory would suggest it’s not.


    You’re also exhibiting a prejudice based on ignorance, because you (correct me if I’m wrong) have no idea what his conception of God is. It may be something extremely abstract and/or even highly metaphorical.

    At least as far as the article on Tononi goes, I think it begs the ongoing question of “what is consciousness”, but then almost all such discussions also beg that question. Even per the hard problem (albeit not mentioned in that article, and I’m lazily paraphrasing here)–“why is it like something to experience something” begs more basic definitions of “like” and “experience”. Imo, with such specificity lacking in our language, one might just as usefully ask “why not” rather than “why”. For example, asking “why wouldn’t we be conscious” might prompt more serious discussion of how we define the words we’re using. In any case what Tononi proposes are at least useful suggestions for how we might begin to benchmark empirical (but merely preliminary) measurements of consciousness, if not a useful theory. Like measuring quasars before more fully developing cosmological theory.

    Continuing with my criticism of “how we habitually, incompletely define consciousness”, I see @jakelafort‘s criticism of Chalmer’s (seemingly biased) pov. Even though I couldn’t be sure in that interview of whether or not Chalmers is God-ist, I sensed that he strongly inferred that there’s something metaphysical going on with consciousness when he says (and I paraphrase again) “there’s something more to consciousness than just how brain parts work together”. (And btw, the interviewer has a history of deep religious affiliation.)

    We keep coming back to the “why” questions that (imo) allow too much ambiguity in language and acceptance of some mysterious secret sauce, rarely producing questions with empirical specificity, much less answers with empirical specificity. Even scientists still do this, laying us vulnerable to–or at at least distracted by–metaphysical narratives from the sidelines. I would even suggest that philosophers–though they historically usefully employ vagueness in language in preface to eventually refining our language and ideas–are still mostly guilty of discussing consciousness with too much ambiguity in language and ideas.

    Perhaps what’s needed most at this nascent stage of defining, explaining and understanding consciousness is a significant expansion of data and vocabulary, e.g. starting with a list of these “experiences” we humans share, and learn to measure enough of them in humans and other animals. (Hence my interest in Jaak Pansepp’s research. See example.)

    Discussions of “consciousness in AI” is yet another, far off useful discussion, and I posit that those discussions will be nearly meaningless until we can at least pose the right questions and learn the right answers wrt human, and animal consciousness. (I am not about to default to any supposed explanation by AI for a question like “why are we conscious”, and I’d like to see how it might even be possible for us to invent a form of AI that is guaranteed NOT to fool us with mumbo jumbo and misleading metaphysical explanations.)

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