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Thread: Consciousness

  1. #121
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    I think how you see yourself absolutely has an effect on most of our decision-making processes and other key survival traits. Only the very reflexive, knee-jerk decisions are made without consideration of and by conscious thought.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  2. #122
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    well while it is demonstrated that some elements of consciousness occur after the unconscious has made a decision, these are the fast thinking and reactive responses. Consciousness allows a deliberate focus on an issue either in the now, or using memory. It is both being aware and focussing in a non fast thinking way. If there is a decision to be made, sometimes the unconscious takes over but we are aware of pondered decisions. How could a zombie choose which elements to consider? I can see the argument that it's just for the ride, and sometimes it is, but there are many situations where, being conscious improves the decision. If it's an epiphenomenon it's also a selection of the inputs we receive, an overview too with a focus added. That gives an advantage in decision making over a zombie that responds only to direct stimulae.
    Is it reasonable to say one could imagine a better way to reach a fruit, too high, without a level on consciousness of the problem? I am getting into the area of definition of consciousness but to extend the role of fast decisions, conscious later, to all of our experience as Wegner does is too much of a step, throwing the baby out with the bath water.There are too many examples: music: can we explain the link between music and emotion and memory without invoking consciousness? Can we explain the deaf Beethoven writing the ninth without a conscious mind? Language: can we explain a conversation using context without two conscious minds modelling the likely meanings, what makes a joke funny?
    I don't see why any of the things you mention require consciousness - there's input, there's processing, there's output. You assign them special status because they feel special - because there's a consciousness that at least thinks it's participating in and guiding the process. But why can't all the same analytical processes occur without consciousness? Why couldn't the global workspace just run itself, pulling up memories and spontaneously focussing processing resources on particular aspects of the sensory input and the content of memory, according to previously assigned positive and negative tags?

    Grant Hutchison

  3. #123
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    a dog can be pretty smart and task orientated, and probably exhibits what can be called consciousness in modelling the dog's world with its emphasis on smells, and we know there is an innate sense of fairness from recent experiments. A dog even shows theory of mind to some degree. We can observe that without undue anthroporphism and we can speculate, I propose, how much more the dog could achieve with more of that consciousness stuff, without physical or intelligence changes. But I suppose its brain size and organisation is a low way behind human.
    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

  4. #124
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I don't see why any of the things you mention require consciousness - there's input, there's processing, there's output. You assign them special status because they feel special - because there's a consciousness that at least thinks it's participating in and guiding the process. But why can't all the same analytical processes occur without consciousness? Why couldn't the global workspace just run itself, pulling up memories and spontaneously focussing processing resources on particular aspects of the sensory input and the content of memory, according to previously assigned positive and negative tags?

    Grant Hutchison
    Well I would say because of the many options we have and the need to optimise outputs. Multiple inputs, processing, predictions, yes that happens below our consciousness but a rational set of outputs would be a long list of possibles. How would a system allocate probabilities to future outcomes for all outputs before deciding.? Consciousness is massively parallel. Its a review all the time of what the brain is modelling and OK choosing somehow to present to the conscious mind. We get a situation, in very short time we review past situations and model a number of outcomes and choose one set of actions. sometimes we might be aware that we acted without consciously thinking, but often we consider it all, consciously, and choose what we think is best. I feel that's a huge survival advantage. It's the cortex over-riding the amygdala when we see a snake and work out what to do. A monkey will scream and run, good plan, but a monkey without an amygdala will be curious and get very close, curiosity is natural. A conscious human will get the panic reaction but then evaluate all the possible actions including eating the snake perhaps. It's easy to imagine that, but what would imagination do without the focus of consciousness.? We do have a changing neural net that can operate without consciousness and provide outputs but being multimodelling, we need a supervisor program. I am sure it's not just for the fun of the experience, although fun might be an evolutionary trait.
    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

  5. #125
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    May I add another example? A self driving car can learn a race track and then go round faster than a human driver. Impressive. But now add hazards like pedestrians and a self driving car slows right down. In typical driving situations, not just sudden emergencies, the human driver is conscious of many factors, all at once, and takes fast decisions, not from instinct but from being focussed on the job. Which means not just task orientated like the race car but conscious of what is happening and might happen next. the final output is a choice from many potential modelled outputs and that's what consciousness is good at. The experience, the fun part is part of our emotional self which is our basic motivation, not necessarily conscious at all.
    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

  6. #126
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I don't see why any of the things you mention require consciousness - there's input, there's processing, there's output. You assign them special status because they feel special - because there's a consciousness that at least thinks it's participating in and guiding the process. But why can't all the same analytical processes occur without consciousness? Why couldn't the global workspace just run itself, pulling up memories and spontaneously focussing processing resources on particular aspects of the sensory input and the content of memory, according to previously assigned positive and negative tags?

    Grant Hutchison
    But the methods we humans use for processing are all tangled up with other parts of our minds. We are not calculating machines pure and simple, our actual thought processes are a mess of subjectivity and emotion and rationalizations and preconceptions. We think consciously, subconsciously, unconsciously, and maybe if we have a few neurons left over from all that, logically.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  7. #127
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    But analysing many factors, all at once, and taking fast decisions based on those factors, is just processing. Choosing from one of many potential modelled outputs is just processing. There's no apparent reason that all that processing couldn't happen equally well without consciousness.

    Grant Hutchison

  8. #128
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    But the methods we humans use for processing are all tangled up with other parts of our minds. We are not calculating machines pure and simple, our actual thought processes are a mess of subjectivity and emotion and rationalizations and preconceptions. We think consciously, subconsciously, unconsciously, and maybe if we have a few neurons left over from all that, logically.
    And where does all this subjectivity and emotion and rationalization and preconception reside? Is it in consciousness? Or is it rather part of a set of neurologically encoded data that our consciousness accesses, just like memory and sensory data? Doesn't all this stuff get a neurological vote in the global workspace, which then determines an output?

    Grant Hutchison

  9. #129
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    And where does all this subjectivity and emotion and rationalization and preconception reside? Is it in consciousness? Or is it rather part of a set of neurologically encoded data that our consciousness accesses, just like memory and sensory data? Doesn't all this stuff get a neurological vote in the global workspace, which then determines an output?

    Grant Hutchison
    We don't know exactly yet.

    Can you have subjectivity without consciousness?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  10. #130
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    We don't know exactly yet.

    Can you have subjectivity without consciousness?
    It isn't "subjective" unless it's part of consciousness, any more than a joke is "funny" unless it's part of consciousness. But that doesn't imply that consciousness is a necessary part of some neurological process that takes sensory input and generates a "subjective decision" or laughter.
    Maybe everything just flows through the neurology as input->processing->output, and consciousness sits on a sidestream, generating a sense of significance which is irrelevant to the actual process.

    Grant Hutchison

  11. #131
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    It isn't "subjective" unless it's part of consciousness
    Not sure that's true.
    An earthworm is, by all but the most generous accounts, not conscious, yet it can subjectively think its life is at risk (i.e. by going into escape mode). This is a simple stimulus-response but it leads to a direct array of actions for that worm.
    It's other earthworm buddies, a foot away, experience no such jeopardy, thus the experience for our hapless worm is subjective.
    Last edited by DaveC426913; 2017-Sep-23 at 06:47 PM.

  12. #132
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    But analysing many factors, all at once, and taking fast decisions based on those factors, is just processing. Choosing from one of many potential modelled outputs is just processing. There's no apparent reason that all that processing couldn't happen equally well without consciousness.

    Grant Hutchison
    i do see your point but i still maintain the supervisory nature of consciousness is efficient. I see that you could specify an unconscious supervisor in which case we would not need the actual experience of being. Maybe part off this is the question of whether free will exists. An unconscious supervisor of actions is an automaton. Inputs, processing outputs, algorithms. Because we are conscious we feel in control, maybe because we feel in control we are conscious, in a loop. Being in control is especially useful in a changing environment. Evolving algorithms are improved by being conscious of the changes.
    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

  13. #133
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    Not sure that's true.
    An earthworm is, by all but the most generous accounts, not conscious, yet it can subjectively think its life is at risk (i.e. by going into escape mode). This is a simple stimulus-response but it leads to a direct array of actions for that worm.
    It's other earthworm buddies, a foot away, experience no such jeopardy, thus the experience for our hapless worm is subjective.
    I guess you can use a definition of "subjective" that allows that interpretation.
    I'm referring to the Oxford English Dictionary:
    Relating to the thinking subject, proceeding from or taking place within the subject; having its source in the mind; (in the widest sense) belonging to the conscious life.
    I think that sort of definition may be what Noclevername had in mind with his question.

    Grant Hutchison

  14. #134
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    It isn't "subjective" unless it's part of consciousness, any more than a joke is "funny" unless it's part of consciousness. But that doesn't imply that consciousness is a necessary part of some neurological process that takes sensory input and generates a "subjective decision" or laughter.
    Maybe everything just flows through the neurology as input->processing->output, and consciousness sits on a sidestream, generating a sense of significance which is irrelevant to the actual process.

    Grant Hutchison
    i agree with that part, the growth of the significance idea is the root of supernatural models of causation. An unconscious automaton would never think of why it existed. But for me that is an emergent trait, not always helpful, but that's just another opinion. I see the side stream argument but I think it tries to simplify how useful being conscious is.
    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 profloater View Post
    Evolving algorithms are improved by being conscious of the changes.
    Why? How?

    Grant Hutchison

  16. #136
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Why? How?

    Grant Hutchison
    Well consider the farmer or fisherman. As well as task orientation, they must react to the weather and seasons. We know how important early societies found the seasons to be. They made models of the Suns behaviour. You need to be conscious to do that. Those are deliberate models of explanation and prediction that far exceed what could happen in a neural network fed only by sensations. Those interpretations were valuable. No matter the supernatural overplay, they survived by clever anticipation of the seasons. And they developed tools, an advanced characteristic. Tool use can be learned but new tools require imagination. The slow development we now assume in human development, I would say, is direct evidence of the evolution of consciousness.
    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 profloater View Post
    Well consider the farmer or fisherman. As well as task orientation, they must react to the weather and seasons. We know how important early societies found the seasons to be. They made models of the Suns behaviour. You need to be conscious to do that. Those are deliberate models of explanation and prediction that far exceed what could happen in a neural network fed only by sensations.
    How do you know this? Why do we need to be conscious to make models of the seasonal movements of the sun? We need to be conscious to be aware of having a seasonal model of the sun, but it's not evident to me that such a model needs consciousness.

    Grant Hutchison

  18. #138
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    How do you know this? Why do we need to be conscious to make models of the seasonal movements of the sun? We need to be conscious to be aware of having a seasonal model of the sun, but it's not evident to me that such a model needs consciousness.

    Grant Hutchison
    To see the sun does not require consciousness, but to model it does, I think
    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 profloater View Post
    Well consider the farmer or fisherman. As well as task orientation, they must react to the weather and seasons. We know how important early societies found the seasons to be. They made models of the Suns behaviour. You need to be conscious to do that. Those are deliberate models of explanation and prediction that far exceed what could happen in a neural network fed only by sensations. Those interpretations were valuable. No matter the supernatural overplay, they survived by clever anticipation of the seasons. And they developed tools, an advanced characteristic. Tool use can be learned but new tools require imagination. The slow development we now assume in human development, I would say, is direct evidence of the evolution of consciousness.
    I believe they've found that some animals make mental maps of space. Why not mental maps in time?

    In any case, consciousness is not well-defined. What is consciousness? What are the objective indicators of its existence? Is it a continuum from non-existent to something akin to what we feel humans have? Is it a binary condition that one has or does not?

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

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    I don't agree that matter, and things made of matter are just machines...I think the 'ghost in the machine' is some sort of false dichotomy. It seems to underestimate the complexity, involvement, and relevance of matter. What does it really mean for matter to be somehow 'ordinary'? So we can pick up a brick, and it seems simple, and we can chuck it at a wall, and its behaviour seems fairly straightforward, but that doesn't mean that the matter it is made of is in anyway ordinary. The stuff of bricks can be rearrange into a computer that perform complex tasks, it can be rearranged into cells that perform even more complex tasks...maybe the machine also is the ghost, it is just a more apparently more predictable ghost.
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  21. #141
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    It isn't "subjective" unless it's part of consciousness, any more than a joke is "funny" unless it's part of consciousness. But that doesn't imply that consciousness is a necessary part of some neurological process that takes sensory input and generates a "subjective decision" or laughter.
    Maybe everything just flows through the neurology as input->processing->output, and consciousness sits on a sidestream, generating a sense of significance which is irrelevant to the actual process.

    Grant Hutchison
    Maybe. And maybe not.

    Show me an example of such a zombie (other than me before coffee!), and some hard evidence that it truly has no consciousness, and I'll gladly accept that hypothesis.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    It may just be that the ability to be conscious is the same thing as the ability to understand the notion of consciousness, and that's all there ever was to it. We tend to think we understand consciousness because we are it, but that presupposes that there is "something to be" called conscious. What if it is the other way around, what if you must feel you are conscious in order to be conscious, and the ability to perceive the consciousness is all that it means to be conscious. It might be like being in pain-- we don't say we need to be in pain in order to feel pain, the feeling is already the thing. So why do we think we need to be conscious in order to understand consciousness, when the understanding is already the thing. There is no need to presuppose that consciousness is a thing, and then notice that we have it, because it was never anything more than the noticing.

    It reminds me of something I've always wondered about pain-- why does it hurt? I mean, obviously we need pain to tell us what not to do, that's its survival benefit, but why can't it simply feel like a strong compulsion not to do something-- why does it have to be so darn unpleasant? Why does anything have to be pleasant or unpleasant, you can program a computer to survive in harsh surroundings without making anything hurt. If consciousness is a kind of spandrel of higher thought, then pain could be a kind of spandrel of stimulated responses. Yet these are the things we care about, we want happiness and pleasure, not hopelessness and pain. It would seem that all the things that matter most to us are exactly the things that don't matter from an objective "physical" standpoint. This was always the paradox of the common view that the subjective realm is a byproduct of the objective realm, related to the idea that the objective brain "generates" consciousness, or "generates" pain, of "generates" these concepts separately from the experience of them, and that the objective realm could be plunking along just fine with or without any subjective experience of it-- and nobody would care in the least because there would be nothing that knows how to feel a care. But if the experiencing is the thing, then that latter argument obviously makes no sense at all.

    We say "I feel conscious" and poof, as far as we are concerned, we are, because the feeling is all we ever meant by the term. We can then ask, "but where does this feeling come from," and start doing neuroscience and so on, but we will never escape that all those pursuits will still look like us experiencing things and trying to understand them, make sense of them, and the sense we make will always be the thing.

    The point is, the objective world cannot supervene on my subjective experience of it, or my being conscious of it, because it is my subjective experience of it, my ability to be conscious of it, that allows me to understand what I mean by the objective world. A computer program might be able to manipulate this kind of language in a convincing way, but it would have no understanding of that language any more than it would understand the phrase "I am feeling pain," even though it could be programmed to use that language in a convincing way.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2017-Sep-24 at 08:31 AM.

  23. #143
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I don't see why any of the things you mention require consciousness - there's input, there's processing, there's output. You assign them special status because they feel special - because there's a consciousness that at least thinks it's participating in and guiding the process. But why can't all the same analytical processes occur without consciousness? Why couldn't the global workspace just run itself, pulling up memories and spontaneously focussing processing resources on particular aspects of the sensory input and the content of memory, according to previously assigned positive and negative tags?

    Grant Hutchison
    That's an excellent point. We could also question why the instantiation of input-output-processing needs to have a certain level of sophistication. What distinguishes "processing" from just reacting? - as an "inanimate" machine reacts to inputs.

    Our subjective feeling of consciousness involves a sensation of "the present" and a memory of the past. In groping around for a physical basis for consciousness, perhaps we should examine whether our sensation of "the present" is consistent with theories of relativity. Can there be a unique "present" time for a conscious being? My perception of my consciousness yesterday morning is that it is a phenomena that no longer exists.

  24. #144
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    Just reacting is clearly not as useful for surviving in a complex and changing environment as having a predictive model which you can access deliberately as your conscious mind. I do not deny the role of the unconscious mind in making models but we have to ability to focus on what we see as a challenge and use imagination to devise a better way. The result we observe that in peaceful times we can use consciousness for amusement like painting a picture or making music does not negate its power as a survival tool. How can a general plan a war without being conscious? I am surprised I have to press this point. Planning ahead is not just input, process, output. It's considering different imagined processes and predicting different outcomes and then choosing.
    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

  25. #145
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    It isn't "subjective" unless it's part of consciousness, any more than a joke is "funny" unless it's part of consciousness. But that doesn't imply that consciousness is a necessary part of some neurological process that takes sensory input and generates a "subjective decision" or laughter.
    Maybe everything just flows through the neurology as input->processing->output, and consciousness sits on a sidestream, generating a sense of significance which is irrelevant to the actual process.

    Grant Hutchison
    Maybe. And maybe not.
    Yes, my use of the word maybe does imply maybe not. You know that's why I used it, yes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Show me an example of such a zombie (other than me before coffee!), and some hard evidence that it truly has no consciousness, and I'll gladly accept that hypothesis.
    There's no philosophical zombie in that scenario - just two views of consciousness, inline versus sidestream. As far as I can see, there's not a shred of evidence to distinguish one model from the other. Which was my point.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2017-Sep-24 at 12:50 PM.

  26. #146
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    An automaton has a neural network to optimise certain tasks or goals. This means a set of algorithms which can be updated using remembered results. Now the automoton must choose all the time which goal has priority and some goals are contrdictory. This choice implies a supervisor, another algorithm. I think one can show that the best optimising strategy is to make the supervisor conscious with a heirarchy of selections of the underlying task programs. The internal model including pain, hunger, fear, empathy, cold and many more feed into this model. So that's one level of consciousness. The analysis of both current and past experiences is another level of consciousness and being aware of all that is feeling conscious. Self awareness is another topic, I think. So awareness of being conscious is another level. I think we see all these levels in watching infant development. Or watching an octopus perhaps.
    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 profloater View Post
    Just reacting is clearly not as useful for surviving in a complex and changing environment as having a predictive model which you can access deliberately as your conscious mind. I do not deny the role of the unconscious mind in making models but we have to ability to focus on what we see as a challenge and use imagination to devise a better way. The result we observe that in peaceful times we can use consciousness for amusement like painting a picture or making music does not negate its power as a survival tool. How can a general plan a war without being conscious? I am surprised I have to press this point. Planning ahead is not just input, process, output. It's considering different imagined processes and predicting different outcomes and then choosing.
    Pressing the point doesn't make it any more evident, or even true.
    The existence of a model, even a very sophisticated and predictive model, does not necessarily imply a conscious model-maker. The fact that conscious model-makers exist (our conscious minds), doesn't mean that they're necessary for the existence of neurology that supports successful predictive models.
    William Paley made the same error (in a different context) with his argument about watches and watchmakers.

    Grant Hutchison

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    OK I won't press further. prediction does not imply consciousness and so the evidence that we are conscious can lead to the hypothesis that C is just an epiphenomenon with no survival value in itself. I guess that's testable.
    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 profloater View Post
    OK I won't press further. prediction does not imply consciousness and so the evidence that we are conscious can lead to the hypothesis that C is just an epiphenomenon with no survival value in itself. I guess that's testable.
    I'm hard pressed to see how we could test either hypothesis, in-line or side-stream.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Well I have to turn about face now. There are people who claim to enter higher states of consciousness, I meet a load of them in my business. They enjoy it but an observer would say their survival chances have reduced, they need very protective environments. That would suggest a self indulgent concentration on the feeling of being conscious which shuts down a good deal of predictive power. No great innovation ever comes form these experiences unless you count some psychedelic art work. I am pondering whether I have ever come across anyone seeking a Lower level of consciousness, maybe some anxious people would put it that way. When we achieve relaxation or a better score on the anxiety-serenity axis, we tend to regard that as neutral on consciousness. Oh dear more definitions required.
    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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