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Thread: Consciousness

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    Consciousness

    Hello, just joined this forum tonight. Highly interested in all topics here. Lately though interested in theories on where consciousness comes from? Why am I me? If my parents never met would I still exist but altered? Is consciousness our brains simplification of existence?

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    I think it might be impossible for a concious entity to define itself and how it works. It would only be a conciousness understanding itself using its consciousness so it would be circular logic.
    Formerly Frog march..............

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    Quote Originally Posted by dk87 View Post
    Hello, just joined this forum tonight. Highly interested in all topics here. Lately though interested in theories on where consciousness comes from? Why am I me? If my parents never met would I still exist but altered? Is consciousness our brains simplification of existence?
    There are likely some advances in this area, but it was not very long ago that it was said:


    "Science's biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all."
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

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    BTW, welcome to the boards, dk87!
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dk87 View Post
    Hello, just joined this forum tonight. Highly interested in all topics here. Lately though interested in theories on where consciousness comes from? Why am I me? If my parents never met would I still exist but altered? Is consciousness our brains simplification of existence?
    I think that last statement is definitely true. What you perceive as reality is very much an internal model, but one that is continually revised by sensory input.

    Your reality is actually a fraction of a second behind the outside world.

    Persons deprived of sensory input start to live in an internally-synthesised reality.

    Blind persons suddenly given sight in adulthood by new medical procedures can't really make sense of it.

    When you think about it, there is no such thing as colour. In fact it goes way beyond that. There aren't even any solid objects.

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    It's a fascinating question - I frequently get into arguments with myself about questions surrounding consciousness, awareness and what we call 'intelligence' - from the oddball ideas that pop up when I'm at work at 3 in the morning to the simple surface disbelief that flies are mindless (they exhibit fear, eagerness and tactical ability; sounds pretty aware to me - now that's just a surface disbelief; not a real one, I know flies aren't intelligent - other than the white-headed ones. )

    Anyway if this helps a few years ago I found a book by one of my favourite science journalists and writers: Jay Ingram. Theater of the Mind is a fascinating book and delightful read; Jay brings all of his on-screen wit and charm to the study of a very deep, very complex field. He's not a scientist; just a science journalist but he has a solid understanding of the subject; enough to offer a layman reader a good primer into the field; you might want to check it out.

    And welcome to the boards, dk87!
    "The difference between theory and practice is that in theory, there's no difference."

    "Aikido: the art of hitting people with planets."

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    Quote Originally Posted by dk87 View Post
    Hello, just joined this forum tonight. Highly interested in all topics here. Lately though interested in theories on where consciousness comes from? Why am I me? If my parents never met would I still exist but altered? Is consciousness our brains simplification of existence?
    I am not sure what you mean by "our brains simplification of existence," but if you are referring to our brains' ability to model the outside world then no, that is not what is typically meant by "consciousness." The most prevalent view is that consciousness is awareness of one's self. Whatever consciousness may be it seems fairly evident that it is not necessary in order for a "brain" to model the outside world well enough to exist with some success in that world.

    At least not human level consciousness. In the past it was more commonly thought that consciousness was a discrete thing, that something either was or was not conscious. Evidence from modern science has changed that view. It now seems fairly well supported that consciousness is a spectrum. Not only that the degree of consciousness varies among different types of organisms but that even in an individual human (for example) the degree of consciousness varies depending on the state of the brain.

    So, are there theories that explain consciousness? To be pedantic I'd so no, because none of the ideas about consciousness are well enough supported as of yet to rate being accorded the status of "theory." But there are hypotheses and some are much better supported than others. While it may have been true even fairly recently in the past I don't think it is accurate now to say that we have no idea at all about what consciousness is. We've made some pretty good progress on it in the past 20 years.

    But, no, we haven't figure it out yet. It is pretty commonly thought to be an emergent property. That's a pretty broad statement though, lots of details to fill in. Some think that it is a trait that confers enough of an advantage to have been subjected to significant selective pressure. Other's think that it is merely a by-product of other traits that were under strong selective pressure and that it itself doesn't confer any significant advantage.

    Personally I don't think that consciousness is a Hard problem in the sense that philosophers and some scientists mean when they refer to The Hard Problem Of Consciousness. I think it is just an ordinary though very complex phenomenon that is as amenable to being figured out via the methods of modern science as any other physical phenomenon. That we haven't figured it out yet is not any cause for concern or any cause to suppose that it is somehow fundamentally different from all other phenomena and it really shouldn't be a surprise. There are plenty of things that science hasn't figured out yet. It's being worked on and real progress is being made.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernDevo View Post
    now that's just a surface disbelief; not a real one, I know flies aren't intelligent

    I think consciousness is the foundation of life(bit atm maybe*)...maybe it takes even cells to be intelligent to function, so I do believe that cells, multicellular organisms and upward have some consciousness and intelligence, so I'm not so sure that flies don't have some intelligence, which is why I only swat horseflies, but they give me no choice.
    It only takes the ability to put 2 and 2 together at some level, to have some intelligence........they don't have much, I grant you, or else they would figure out which part of a window to exit.

    * although maybe not that atm, I read once that genes may be supercomputers...
    Last edited by Mudskipper; 2017-Aug-18 at 03:47 PM.
    Formerly Frog march..............

    “One is never alone with a rubber duck.” The Golgafrinchan Ark B captain

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudskipper View Post
    I think consciousness is the foundation of life(bit atm maybe)...maybe it takes even cells to be intelligent to function, so I do believe that cells, multicellular organisms and upward have some consciousness and intelligence, so I'm not so sure that flies don't have some intelligence, which is why I only swat horseflies, but they give me no choice.
    It only takes the ability to put 2 and 2 together at some level, to have some intelligence........they don't have much, I grant you, or else they would figure out which part of a window to exit.
    I don't think consciousness is the foundation of life; I'd say it's more a development of a specific range of increasing sophistication in stimulus/data analysis, but this is where it gets real slippery, isn't it? Using flies as an example seeing something big and dark moving towards them at a slow, sedate speed (no matter how fast we swat) could simply trigger a flight response in the other direction; it wouldn't even need any kind of internal 'thought' such as 'Danger!'
    However as analysis develops - the equipment to provide such develops from ganglia to rudimentary brain - more sophisticated responses can be provided: it could go from "beep! nourishment!" to "beep! This food is better than that food" to "Bing! Good food - predator nearby...I'll get the poorer food" and so on up the line until the ultimate expression of intelligence: "What? Pineapple on pizza? Art thou mad?!" Just guesses of course; I'm just guessing that 'intelligence' is nothing more than a highly sophisticated development of stimulus/response analysis with the associated ability to make decisions based on available data. Self-awareness would be a logical aspect of that; at some point a brain must have the ability to recognize that there's a 'me' making the decisions.
    (Shrug) - I don't know; it's an interesting thing to wonder about.
    Last edited by NorthernDevo; 2017-Aug-18 at 04:56 PM. Reason: Changed 'intelligence' to 'consciousness'
    "The difference between theory and practice is that in theory, there's no difference."

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    My brain seems to contain a mental model of some external world. The model includes a mental representation of itself that seems to be much more important than any of the other stuff. Is that the difference between me and not me that makes me who I am?

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    Just a reminder that we have a thread dedicated to the discussion of reality, so let's not take this one too far in that direction. While there is bound to be some overlap, please keep the discussion focused on consciousness.
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    You can choose to define consciousness in different ways but usually the argument is about human consciousness and that is the subject that can be discussed in terms of science within psychology and psychiatry. I am convinced that the concept of interoception as a model of the brain is the right clue to understanding the development, or if you like evolution , of consciousness in the human mind.

    More later if anyone picks that up.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudskipper View Post
    ...maybe it takes even cells to be intelligent to function, so I do believe that cells, multicellular organisms and upward have some consciousness and intelligence...
    Whatever abilities you are thinking of when you ascribe they to individual cells, they are not what the rest of the world defines as 'intelligent'.

    You might be better to simply list your observations of complex behavior, and avoid giving them labels pre-loaded with meaning.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cougar View Post
    BTW, welcome to the boards, dk87!
    Thanks! Love your quote

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    Quote Originally Posted by kzb View Post
    I think that last statement is definitely true. What you perceive as reality is very much an internal model, but one that is continually revised by sensory input.

    Your reality is actually a fraction of a second behind the outside world.

    Persons deprived of sensory input start to live in an internally-synthesised reality.

    Blind persons suddenly given sight in adulthood by new medical procedures can't really make sense of it.

    When you think about it, there is no such thing as colour. In fact it goes way beyond that. There aren't even any solid objects.


    Yep, I use the color example a lot. electromagnetic waves are all it is

  16. 2017-Aug-19, 09:54 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by dk87 View Post
    Yep, I use the color example a lot. electromagnetic waves are all it is
    At the most basic level of physics yes - but the moment one considers the effect electromagnetic waves have on human photoreceptors the discussion swells to gigantic proportions.
    "The difference between theory and practice is that in theory, there's no difference."

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    Consciousness has chemical underpinnings.
    You can kill it with alcohol, or more subtly with a major tranquilizer like Haldol.
    Tell a person on too much Haldol a joke, they laugh. Wait three minutes and tell the same joke, and they laugh again, as if it were the first time.
    Interestingly, some people can do valid scientific research, and even report on it, while having drug induced amnesia.
    Consciousness, or a lack thereof, can be a very subtle thing to detect.
    It's not necessarily all chemical though: Things like Transcranial magnetic stimulation can promote some fairly odd changes to consciousness.

  19. 2017-Aug-19, 11:52 PM
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    Squink, it looks like a good post but I'm confused. You are stating consciousness has a basis in the brain's chemical structure. Could you please give evidence to support that?

    You give several anecdotes of brains subjected to a variety of mind-altering substances but totally fail to give credence to these experiments. You also link research-oriented difficulties to amnesia - which is a VERY dangerous link to make.
    I agree that consciousness can be a very hard thing to determine, but none of the possibilities in your post offer any suggestions for doing so.
    "The difference between theory and practice is that in theory, there's no difference."

    "Aikido: the art of hitting people with planets."

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernDevo View Post
    Squink, it looks like a good post but I'm confused. You are stating consciousness has a basis in the brain's chemical structure. Could you please give evidence to support that?
    I'm confused by your confusion.

    What else would - could - be its source?

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    Things seem to be caused by what's there. Chemicals are there. Is there something else there that only some of us know about?

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    There is a conjecture out there that consciousness arises from quantum mechanical entanglement of a few electrons.

    So that is not chemical in nature, but subatomic.

    I don't know how much serious treatment this conjecture is enjoying.

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    I don't suppose there's a way to disrupt entanglement without affecting the chemistry very much.

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    Yes, chemical bonds have a lot to do with entanglement of multiple electrons, so there is significant overlap between entanglement and chemistry. But the question isn't really if what we label consciousness and what we label chemistry are connected, the question is, what is the connection? Can you make a conscious brain out of a solid state circuit that does not involve anything we might label chemistry, such that the chemistry of our brains is merely a kind of arbitrary substrate for a set of processes that can be emulated by many different substrates, or is there some fundamentally chemical process that is crucial to consciousness? I don't think we even know that yet, but B. F. Skinner had an interesting insight when he said "The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do." I think he's coming at the question from the wrong direction when he says that, but a way to reframe something similar is to say the real question is how can we define consciousness such that humans actually are it? Right now, we have lots of ideas about what consciousness is that are not necessarily things people really do! Here are some related questions:

    People sometimes define consciousness as an awareness of oneself, but does that assume a connection between consciousness and identity that does not necessarily exist? Is it possible to have an identity without being conscious of it, and to be conscious without having a sense of identity?
    Are identity and consciousness real things, or are they just our mental models of something else?
    Is "what is consciousness" a scientific question at all? In other words, to be a scientific question, we must be able to frame it entirely in terms of operational definitions, thereby allowing what we mean by consciousness to be something we can test. But if we restrict to what we can test, can we still preserve the common meaning of what consciousness is, or must we in the process replace that common meaning with a kind of projection onto what science can access (often called "neural correlates of consciousness")? I realize that logical positivists hold that only what survives projections like that were ever real in the first place, but ironically, it is not at all clear that belief survives a similar projection.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2017-Aug-20 at 10:57 AM.

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    Could we ever determine whether or not a machine is conscious? It might claim to be conscious and it might be able to fool us in any Turing test, but it might just be good at simulating the behavior of a conscious being without being conscious. How could we ever tell the difference?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck View Post
    Could we ever determine whether or not a machine is conscious? It might claim to be conscious and it might be able to fool us in any Turing test, but it might just be good at simulating the behavior of a conscious being without being conscious. How could we ever tell the difference?
    "I've gotta feeling, a feeling deep inside, oh yeah", to quote the Beatles...........we will only ever really have a feeling about robots, how they act, would they have empathy, could they write a song that had feeling.....As for the Turing Test, I think if I were allowed to ask any question, I would have a good idea of whether a machine were conscious..

    edit: not that not having feelings make one not conscious...there are conscious people who had all the feeling knocked out of them by one thing or another, but maybe all their feelings are buried, and they are not aware of them.
    Formerly Frog march..............

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    I think for a machine to be conscious, its brain would have to be able to take on an infinite number of states, so I would guess it couldn't be an ordinary digital computer, however complex. Maybe a quantum computer could do it, I don't know.
    Formerly Frog march..............

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudskipper View Post
    I think for a machine to be conscious, its brain would have to be able to take on an infinite number of states
    Why do you think that? Does that mean you think the brain can have an infinite number of states?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Why do you think that? Does that mean you think the brain can have an infinite number of states?
    yes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudskipper View Post
    yes.
    It isn't clear to me how a finite system can have an infinite number of states. So what leads you to this conclusion?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    It isn't clear to me how a finite system can have an infinite number of states. So what leads you to this conclusion?
    can't really answer, as it would be against the rules, I guess.
    Formerly Frog march..............

    “One is never alone with a rubber duck.” The Golgafrinchan Ark B captain

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