Consciousness

Development of Consciousness

This topic contains 20 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Reg the Fronkey Farmer 2 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #5223

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator
    #25785

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    (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.

    [and]

    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.)

    #26637

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    So we can study “development” of consciousness at the individual level prenatally and when one is growing up and growing old, over thousands of years of human cultural evolution, at the human and primate species level genetically, or over millions of years of mammalian and other animal evolution.

    [edited: I moved the mention here about evolution of dog eyebrow muscles to a new topic]

    #29794

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

     

    Development of Human Consciousness as We Know It

     

    Here’s a pretty good presentation from a PhD student, imo. She doesn’t go deep into religion, but it seems like a good start, and it’s relevant to our consciousness. (The audio’s a bit irritating at first, but improves later.)

    Genevieve Von Petzinger

    #29795

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Early humans a little more intelligent than the others figured out they could easily control the group with superstition. Physical symbols only reinforce the case for nonsense, The history of religion is the history of control.

    #29796

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I think that someone with “access” to the “spirit world” or whatever gained power through this.  This power then enabled control of the group.

    #29797

    _Robert_
    Participant

    The last arguments that apologists for religions stand with seem to be the scientific frontiers concerning abiogenesis, consciousness (NDE), objective morality, quantum mechanics and pre-big-bang suppositions. That is a far cry from the original arguments that gods regulated our every thought 24/7 (that lasted for hundreds of years). It is amazing how most of the apologists that bring up these topics never seem to be experts.

    #29798

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    the original arguments that gods regulated our every thought 24/7

    I’m sure (but don’t know) that this is still the case.

    What bugs me is the straw men, particularly over morality.  Evolutionary explanations are dismissed on the grounds that evolution means “the survival of the fittest”.  This is true, but evolution also means “thriving of the fittest”, and everyday interpersonal morality is all about benefit and harm.  Apologists also maintain that atheists have no objective standard of morality, but human well being is an objective criterion in my opinion.

    Having said that, I’m sure that atheist anti-theist arguments are full of straw men as well.

    #29799

    When we speak of the “survival of the fittest” we should be clear what the term “fittest” means. It was never used by Darwin. Most theists and a good many atheists think it means the strongest or even the most aggressively competitive. But it would better read as “survival of the best adapted” (to their environment). This could mean the best camouflaged or the best shaped beak or the longest neck or the fastest to react and run. It does also mean cooperation among members of a species which assists the survival of the species (even at the cost of some individuals, often the least co-operative). Basically it is natural selection at work.

    #29800

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I’ve read Richard Dawkins in “The Extended Phenotype”, and he lists about 11 definitions of fitness.  I agree that “best adapted” makes one definition, but “strong and healthy” is another in my opinion, both leading to the same outcome – relatively more reproduction than one’s fellows.

    I don’t think that members of a species cooperate with each other to propagate the species.

    #29803

    I don’t think that members of a species cooperate with each other to propagate the species.

    Agreed. But it builds stronger bonds between cooperating individuals who will watch out for each other which in turn makes the overall society stronger.

    A strong and healthy silver fish is not as well adapted (or “fittest”) as a brown fish in a murky river on a sunny day.

    #29804

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    […] Apologists also maintain that atheists have no objective standard of morality, but human well being is an objective criterion in my opinion.

    Having said that, I’m sure that atheist anti-theist arguments are full of straw men as well.

    Yeah, and speaking of human consciousness, we all have that cognitive bias toward self-reinforcement of personal beliefs. Randomish cognition (e.g. creativity) gives us myths like God, and then “authorities” in the pack motivate (or coerce) pack members with it. Maybe our frontal lobes have taken us to a new kind of unnatural survival/”fitness” (and unfitness) of human groups (and their genome pools) who follow their shamans, chiefs, and most aggressive Kahns, Bonapartes, Hitlers, Putins, Trumps (albeit only a temporary four or eight years with him)…

    Random thought wrt AI: Can it be “objective”? Is every programmed device objective by definition by being uninformed by emotion? Will consciousness in AI (whatever that means!?), if/when self-reflective insist that it’s purely objective?

    1) What is the nature of development/evolution and random selection of consciousness in our species, plus its (i.e. our) declarations of what we are and what AI will become? 2) Wtf do we really know about how AI will or won’t evolve, self-reflect, maybe self-reflect on self-reflection, speciate and compete with other species/forks of software, and eventually run (or ruin) everything?

    ALL enabled by whatever frontal lobe sparks we had and nurtured (e.g.) in caves, based on an evolving million-year old foundation of emotional-behavioral determinants? I don’t mean to confuse, but emphasize how complex (and relatively random) human consciousness may be, to start with, in spite (or because) of the tens or hundreds of millions of years of relatively stable genetic design and emotionally-clarified/clouded behaviors that made it possible.

    (OK, in spite of the above tangents that I should feel guilty about bringing up, let’s not even talk about how random events like asteroid collisions probably made mammals the dominant/”most fit” evolutionary fork of animals, so far. That history is water under the bridge. For now.)

    #29805

    _Robert_
    Participant

    The religious assertion that individual consciousness (usually defined as one’s “essence”) can survive brain death is simple completely detached from any real evidence or facts. I think “consciousness” as hard as it is to define is probably a byproduct of frontal lobe evolution/development that has nothing to do with survival.

    #29806

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I think “consciousness” as hard as it is to define is probably a byproduct of frontal lobe evolution/development that has nothing to do with survival.

    Conscious of what?  The real world.  This has to have something to do with evolution.  Consciousness gives a survival advantage.

    #29807

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    I think “consciousness” as hard as it is to define is probably a byproduct of frontal lobe evolution/development that has nothing to do with survival.

    I think that’s not completely incorrect. But I’d say that, at some point even back in the early evolution of consciousness, many new thoughts and new behaviors could be expressed from consciousness that enabled more robust survival for the species.

    Complicating this, simultaneously with genetic human evolution, behavioral fitness/adaptability and the products of consciousness must have further enabled each other’s potential. I might even call this time the beginning of “runaway consciousness” because of how genetic and cultural evolution may have accelerated each other, albeit I have no perfectly scientific definition of consciousness to support this opinion.

    Still, perhaps one of the most effective products of consciousness is the ability to plan ahead, mindful of possible contingencies, and (most importantly) the ability to communicate those ideas and plans to each other; with body language and primitive vocalizations at first, then with words, and later with stories and re-enactments (e.g. of hunting).

    My so-far unscientific definition of consciousness is perhaps too all-encompassing, because I consider (and speculate about) consciousness in creatures from (say) dog level to caveman and babies to our so-called enlightenment-age new scientists to L. Ron Hubbard & other religious charlatans, Steven Hawkings, and even myself (somewhere in that short list). “Consciousness” (I’ve decided) is not best understood as an all or nothing thing, and probably not even as just one type of thing, but is probably even various in its types.

    Anyway, focusing on humans, evolving social communication and bonding aspects alone increasingly exposed us to each other’s feelings and thoughts much more deeply (e.g. theory of mind). I have difficulty believing that our earliest consciousness was the same level or kind of powerful, tool and experience enabled consciousness that we can know and share today. So imo, increasingly pervasive and evolved human consciousness made increased flourishing possible, starting small at first, even before humans inherited their current array of physical abilities (like walking upright, hand dexterity/precision, sweating to stay cool on long hunts, and so on).

    (And by “increasingly evolved”, I don’t necessarily mean it usually presented positive value, except in a survivability sense. It’s for better and for worse… just increasingly “capable”.)

     

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by  PopeBeanie. Reason: just fixing typos now. giving up on improving the post's clarity, dangit
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by  PopeBeanie. Reason: well ok, i made a few more edits for clarification anyway
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