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What is consciousness?

Furyan5
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10/27/2015 10:45:20 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
As I sit here with a cigarette and a cup of coffee, my physical needs and obligations met, I contemplate consciousness. What is it? Where is it? Why is it? Is consciousness just chemical reactions and electrical impulses? Our minds contain billions of bits of information and are bombarded by our senses with billions more on a daily basis. Yet we are not consciously aware of most of this information. It's only when we think of a specific topic that we become consciously aware of any information we have regarding that topic. As if the brain is a hard drive full of information and consciousness is a processor of information.
My nose itches. I scratch it. The itch goes away.
Are we nothing more than biological information storage and processing devices?
But computers have programs which govern their behaviour in any given circumstance. Computers need to be told what to do. They do not motivate themselves. I suppose one could say that life writes our programming codes. That how we act is predetermined by past experiences. But what motivates us? Apart from physical needs such as hunger, thirst, sleep, which our bodies let us know when it needs something.
What motivates a man to climb a mountain? Is it curiosity? A need to test oneself or impress others? Or do we climb it just because it's there? The thought strikes me that apart from meeting physical needs and obligations, our thoughts and actions are motivated by desire. We do things because we enjoy doing them. This brings us to emotions. What are emotions? A sense of euphoria resulting from dopomine entering the bloodstream? Does the hippocampus control what we do, say or think? Does any of this make sense? Or is it just the effect of caffien and nicotine flooding my system?
scuzz
Posts: 18
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10/27/2015 1:19:34 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/27/2015 10:45:20 AM, Furyan5 wrote:
As I sit here with a cigarette and a cup of coffee, my physical needs and obligations met, I contemplate consciousness. What is it? Where is it? Why is it? Is consciousness just chemical reactions and electrical impulses? Our minds contain billions of bits of information and are bombarded by our senses with billions more on a daily basis. Yet we are not consciously aware of most of this information. It's only when we think of a specific topic that we become consciously aware of any information we have regarding that topic. As if the brain is a hard drive full of information and consciousness is a processor of information.
My nose itches. I scratch it. The itch goes away.
Are we nothing more than biological information storage and processing devices?
But computers have programs which govern their behaviour in any given circumstance. Computers need to be told what to do. They do not motivate themselves. I suppose one could say that life writes our programming codes. That how we act is predetermined by past experiences. But what motivates us? Apart from physical needs such as hunger, thirst, sleep, which our bodies let us know when it needs something.
What motivates a man to climb a mountain? Is it curiosity? A need to test oneself or impress others? Or do we climb it just because it's there? The thought strikes me that apart from meeting physical needs and obligations, our thoughts and actions are motivated by desire. We do things because we enjoy doing them. This brings us to emotions. What are emotions? A sense of euphoria resulting from dopomine entering the bloodstream? Does the hippocampus control what we do, say or think? Does any of this make sense? Or is it just the effect of caffien and nicotine flooding my system?: :

Psalm 139
17: How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
kp98
Posts: 729
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10/27/2015 1:47:55 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Or is it just the effect of caffien and nicotine flooding my system?

There is an effect if caffein and nicotine flood your system - that is one of the things that make it likely - perhaps almost certain - that consciousness is at root a physical process.

The question can be answered at different levels. The easiest is to say that consciousness is something that evolved because it is benficial to have an internal model of the external world and one's place in it. Just think the advantage that gives you over something without it - such as a cabbage. You are more likely to exploit a cabbage than a cabbage is to exploit you. Consciousness - at one level - is the ability to model the external world internally. It enables us to solve problems using current information and even past experience. It even allows you to use future expectation to judge alternative actions. Consciouness is undoubtedly a useful adaptation.
Consciousness is how information about the world (and our place in it) is made usable.

But could we have evolved such a internal model (with all its advantages) in a different way, one that didn't involve actual consciousness? Would zombies (in the philosophical sense) be as viable as us? One thing about that is that whether possible or not, it seems evolution didn't go down that route - we are (to make another of my safe assumptions) conscious entities, not zombies.

But the question can also be understood as asking why being conscious seems the way it does. That is something I have to leave to other posters, because I don't know.
Furyan5
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10/27/2015 6:12:52 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/27/2015 1:47:55 PM, kp98 wrote:
Or is it just the effect of caffien and nicotine flooding my system?

There is an effect if caffein and nicotine flood your system - that is one of the things that make it likely - perhaps almost certain - that consciousness is at root a physical process.

The question can be answered at different levels. The easiest is to say that consciousness is something that evolved because it is benficial to have an internal model of the external world and one's place in it. Just think the advantage that gives you over something without it - such as a cabbage. You are more likely to exploit a cabbage than a cabbage is to exploit you. Consciousness - at one level - is the ability to model the external world internally. It enables us to solve problems using current information and even past experience. It even allows you to use future expectation to judge alternative actions. Consciouness is undoubtedly a useful adaptation.
Consciousness is how information about the world (and our place in it) is made usable.

But could we have evolved such a internal model (with all its advantages) in a different way, one that didn't involve actual consciousness? Would zombies (in the philosophical sense) be as viable as us? One thing about that is that whether possible or not, it seems evolution didn't go down that route - we are (to make another of my safe assumptions) conscious entities, not zombies.

But the question can also be understood as asking why being conscious seems the way it does. That is something I have to leave to other posters, because I don't know.

Well I'm glad I'm not a cabbage, but I guess if I was a cabbage I would have no regrets. But what of animals? Why does the rabbit fear the fox? Instinct? Does a rabbit fear death? Elephants linger over the body of a dead elephant. Caress the skeletal remains. Some animals are obviously more aware of death than others. Brain size is obviously not the answer. Hydrocephalus shows us its possible to have a higher than average I.Q even with 90% of the brain missing. But I do agree that consciousness is a process and as such its does not have to occur in one location or involve either chemical reactions or electrical impulses but possibly both. I just read an interesting article regarding the influence of insulin on dopomine release in the brain. It seems as though being an optimist or pessimist is not a matter of choice. So what do we actually get to choose if even our attitude is decided by something beyond our control. The more I think about it, the more I realize that we are not autonomous. When something pushes our buttons, we act according to our programming.
Garbanza
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10/28/2015 2:54:52 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I think we need to consider consciousness functionally. We need to think, what do we need it for? Because many actions do not require consciousness. For example, you could run away from a scary beast without thinking "hey, I'm running away from a scary beast!" - in the same way as cockroaches run away from the light - and so conscious awareness is redundant for running away. And yet we have it, and so the question is, what addition function does it serve?
My view is that its purpose is entirely social and for communication. We need to think "I ran away from the beast" so that we can tell other people about it. That serves as a network of social information. The interesting thing about that idea is that we perceive in order to communicate, so perception is based on the functional purpose of communication, whatever that might be. In other words, our understanding of reality is - to some extent or entirely - relational.
Furyan5
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10/28/2015 1:23:23 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/28/2015 2:54:52 AM, Garbanza wrote:
I think we need to consider consciousness functionally. We need to think, what do we need it for? Because many actions do not require consciousness. For example, you could run away from a scary beast without thinking "hey, I'm running away from a scary beast!" - in the same way as cockroaches run away from the light - and so conscious awareness is redundant for running away. And yet we have it, and so the question is, what addition function does it serve?
My view is that its purpose is entirely social and for communication. We need to think "I ran away from the beast" so that we can tell other people about it. That serves as a network of social information. The interesting thing about that idea is that we perceive in order to communicate, so perception is based on the functional purpose of communication, whatever that might be. In other words, our understanding of reality is - to some extent or entirely - relational.

It could also just be a case of getting tired of running away from the scary beast and figuring out a way to kill it, or scare it off. In this case consciousness would serve as a functional survival tool and those who lack it would have a lower chance of survival. Planning ahead for the coming winter by storing food is one example.
Garbanza
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10/28/2015 1:50:18 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/28/2015 1:23:23 PM, Furyan5 wrote:
At 10/28/2015 2:54:52 AM, Garbanza wrote:
I think we need to consider consciousness functionally. We need to think, what do we need it for? Because many actions do not require consciousness. For example, you could run away from a scary beast without thinking "hey, I'm running away from a scary beast!" - in the same way as cockroaches run away from the light - and so conscious awareness is redundant for running away. And yet we have it, and so the question is, what addition function does it serve?
My view is that its purpose is entirely social and for communication. We need to think "I ran away from the beast" so that we can tell other people about it. That serves as a network of social information. The interesting thing about that idea is that we perceive in order to communicate, so perception is based on the functional purpose of communication, whatever that might be. In other words, our understanding of reality is - to some extent or entirely - relational.

It could also just be a case of getting tired of running away from the scary beast and figuring out a way to kill it, or scare it off. In this case consciousness would serve as a functional survival tool and those who lack it would have a lower chance of survival. Planning ahead for the coming winter by storing food is one example.

Squirrels store food, though, and presumably they're not consciously aware of why they're doing it because they have tiny little brains. Although who knows.

But it's interesting this assumption that you need to be conscious that you're running from a beast in order to figure out a way to kill/scare it, and that the intention is necessary for the consequent action. I don't think that's true. Especially in a situation like that, you probably would start running before your awareness kicked in anyway. And perhaps because I chose an example that I'm unfamiliar with, but I can't imagine what else you could do except run, climb a tree or maybe throw something at it, and all those actions could occur automatically.

The only thing would be if there were other humans to coordinate with. Then a plan could be worked out. Or, you could try and remember what someone told you about fighting beasts. Those are all communication-related thoughts, and they require consciousness.
kp98
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10/28/2015 3:39:57 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I question the centrality of communication.

For example, you could run away from a scary beast without thinking "hey, I'm running away from a scary beast!" - in the same way as cockroaches run away from the light - and so conscious awareness is redundant for running away.

I think consciousness comes into it when we don't run away. A cockroach has no choice (lets suppose) - it invariably runs towards the dark. Its tiny 'brain' serves as little more than to switch behaviours between a small repertoire of options (eat, rest, run towards the dark) according to a few crude sensory cues. That is probably all that is possible witj just a few neurones to play with.

But more advanced critters have more control over their actions. If I was faced with an angry lion then running away might be my best option (but not really!), but I will consider others - I may look around for a club or some other weapon, say. Limited size (and hence number of neurons) probably means that cockroaches are stuck with a simple stimulus/response switching system, but larger animals can evolve a system that allows for taking much more information and options into account.

The reason we have big brains is not that small brains don't work but that big brains work better. For instance in the lion scenario, I need to consider my strength, estimate the strength of the lion, judge the suitability of whatever stick is to hand, and try to recall anything I have ever heard or seen in past about fighting off lions, and finally I need to imagine how the lion will react. To bring all that information together in a useable form and produce a plan of action is going to need more neurons that the few hundred a cockroach has got.

In my version, I can't say much about how the brain actually achives this feat of data-organisation and processing, but I suggest that however it is done, it feels to us as if it done via something we call our 'consciousness', of being aware of the information and options.
Garbanza
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10/28/2015 8:57:16 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/28/2015 3:39:57 PM, kp98 wrote:
In my version, I can't say much about how the brain actually achives this feat of data-organisation and processing, but I suggest that however it is done, it feels to us as if it done via something we call our 'consciousness', of being aware of the information and options.

Yeah but that's the thing. Everything you've described is achievable without consciousness in theory. Most of our mental processing is not conscious. And we assume that other animals don't have consciousness in the same way and yet they're capable of escaping predators and finding food etc.
The other interesting thing about consciousness about our own actions and descisions is that it's not exact at all. It can be illusory. So it's like an add on feature. And what does it do? Communication and group think. That's our big evolutionary advantage, right?
kp98
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10/29/2015 7:32:44 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Good point are being made! It's not really possible to know the mental world of another human, let alone another species, but my the way I interpret the words I would say that non-human animals (say at least large mammals) are just as 'conscious' as we are, but not as 'intelligent'.

That is to say they are just as aware of the world as you or I - they see and hear just as vividly, they feel pain as keenly. But they are less capable of drawing inferences and imagining alternative futures. They are less able to intelligently exploit the mental image that their consciousness provides them with.

As you see I am defining the word 'consciousness' quite narrowly as the ability to be aware, or to have subjective experience. I'd agree there is more to mentality than consciousness (as I use the word), and all of mentality is interesting.... but I am particularly interested in subjective experience because it baffles me so completely.

As a computer programmer I can imagine programming a computer to acheive most of the things a brain can do at a functional level, but not how to get a computer to have subjective experience. I can imagine how someone might set about programming a computer to read and even understand Shakespeare - but I don't know how to program a computer to like Shakespeare(*).

(*)Faking liking it is obviously trivial - I am talking about genuine, simple, liking, as you or I like things. I'm not talking about wiring up a voice synthesiser to say 'I like this' when fed Hamlet as input. Todaty we might speak metaphorically about a chess program wanting to win, but it doesn't actually want anything.
Furyan5
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10/29/2015 8:10:04 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/29/2015 7:32:44 AM, kp98 wrote:
Good point are being made! It's not really possible to know the mental world of another human, let alone another species, but my the way I interpret the words I would say that non-human animals (say at least large mammals) are just as 'conscious' as we are, but not as 'intelligent'.

That is to say they are just as aware of the world as you or I - they see and hear just as vividly, they feel pain as keenly. But they are less capable of drawing inferences and imagining alternative futures. They are less able to intelligently exploit the mental image that their consciousness provides them with.

As you see I am defining the word 'consciousness' quite narrowly as the ability to be aware, or to have subjective experience. I'd agree there is more to mentality than consciousness (as I use the word), and all of mentality is interesting.... but I am particularly interested in subjective experience because it baffles me so completely.

As a computer programmer I can imagine programming a computer to acheive most of the things a brain can do at a functional level, but not how to get a computer to have subjective experience. I can imagine how someone might set about programming a computer to read and even understand Shakespeare - but I don't know how to program a computer to like Shakespeare(*).


(*)Faking liking it is obviously trivial - I am talking about genuine, simple, liking, as you or I like things. I'm not talking about wiring up a voice synthesiser to say 'I like this' when fed Hamlet as input. Todaty we might speak metaphorically about a chess program wanting to win, but it doesn't actually want anything.

Lol now that is the holy grail of artificial intelligence. To get a computer to feel emotions. This leads me to believe that consciousness is somehow tied into feeling emotions. After all, if we weren't conscious, we wouldn't feel anything. If we didn't feel anything, why would we run from a scary beast?
Garbanza
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10/29/2015 8:57:31 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/29/2015 7:32:44 AM, kp98 wrote:
Good point are being made! It's not really possible to know the mental world of another human, let alone another species, but my the way I interpret the words I would say that non-human animals (say at least large mammals) are just as 'conscious' as we are, but not as 'intelligent'.

That is to say they are just as aware of the world as you or I - they see and hear just as vividly, they feel pain as keenly. But they are less capable of drawing inferences and imagining alternative futures. They are less able to intelligently exploit the mental image that their consciousness provides them with.

As you see I am defining the word 'consciousness' quite narrowly as the ability to be aware, or to have subjective experience. I'd agree there is more to mentality than consciousness (as I use the word), and all of mentality is interesting.... but I am particularly interested in subjective experience because it baffles me so completely.

As a computer programmer I can imagine programming a computer to acheive most of the things a brain can do at a functional level, but not how to get a computer to have subjective experience. I can imagine how someone might set about programming a computer to read and even understand Shakespeare - but I don't know how to program a computer to like Shakespeare(*).


(*)Faking liking it is obviously trivial - I am talking about genuine, simple, liking, as you or I like things. I'm not talking about wiring up a voice synthesiser to say 'I like this' when fed Hamlet as input. Todaty we might speak metaphorically about a chess program wanting to win, but it doesn't actually want anything.

I really like this post. I wish we had like buttons, because I've got nothing to say about it, but it's interesting.
kp98
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10/29/2015 9:08:29 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
A lot of recent stuff distinguishes between AI and AC (artificial consciousness). There have been great strides made in AI, but AC remains a floundering, directionless mess.
This is a good summary of where we are at:
http://www.cs.yale.edu...
I think it matters because it impacts on the materialism/dualism debate. Unless consciousness can be fully 'materialised' then woo-woo can't be ruled out. Personally, I have no doubt that woo-woo doesn't exist - but it would be nice to prove it rather than have to dogmatically assert in debates with theists, new-age hippies and the like!
kp98
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10/29/2015 9:44:15 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
A lot of recent stuff distinguishes between AI and AC (artificial consciousness). There have been great strides made in AI, but AC remains a floundering, directionless mess.
This is a good summary of where we are at:
http://www.cs.yale.edu...
I think it matters because it impacts on the materialism/dualism debate. Unless consciousness can be fully 'materialised' then woo-woo can't be ruled out. Personally, I have no doubt that woo-woo doesn't exist - but it would be nice to prove it rather than have to dogmatically assert in debates with theists, new-age hippies and the like!

To get a computer to feel emotions.
Its not just emotions but subjective experiences in general. Consider my usual example 'red'. If you look at a london bus you will experience 'red' (amognst other things of course). A computer with a jpeg of a london bus in its RAM will have some bytes containing 255. Not being a computer, I don't know what it is like to have some of my bytes containing 255, but I don't think it is the same as me seeing something red. It may be vaguely analogous, but that is the point - the object is to achieve the same experience that I have, not an analogous, metaphorical one - we are doing philsophy, not trying to produce a convicing or amusing trick.

Obviously simply storing a JPEG of a London bus isn't the only way to attempt artificial consciousness - that is obviously not going to work. But - AFAIK - nothing works. All you can get are more or less sophisticated fakes, never genuine experience.
Garbanza
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10/31/2015 2:58:00 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/29/2015 9:44:15 AM, kp98 wrote:
A lot of recent stuff distinguishes between AI and AC (artificial consciousness). There have been great strides made in AI, but AC remains a floundering, directionless mess.
This is a good summary of where we are at:
http://www.cs.yale.edu...
I think it matters because it impacts on the materialism/dualism debate. Unless consciousness can be fully 'materialised' then woo-woo can't be ruled out. Personally, I have no doubt that woo-woo doesn't exist - but it would be nice to prove it rather than have to dogmatically assert in debates with theists, new-age hippies and the like!

To get a computer to feel emotions.
Its not just emotions but subjective experiences in general. Consider my usual example 'red'. If you look at a london bus you will experience 'red' (amognst other things of course). A computer with a jpeg of a london bus in its RAM will have some bytes containing 255. Not being a computer, I don't know what it is like to have some of my bytes containing 255, but I don't think it is the same as me seeing something red. It may be vaguely analogous, but that is the point - the object is to achieve the same experience that I have, not an analogous, metaphorical one - we are doing philsophy, not trying to produce a convicing or amusing trick.

Obviously simply storing a JPEG of a London bus isn't the only way to attempt artificial consciousness - that is obviously not going to work. But - AFAIK - nothing works. All you can get are more or less sophisticated fakes, never genuine experience.

That's interesting about the subjective experience of "red" because it feels like a very simple sensation/perception thing, but actually perceiving colors is complicated. It takes children a long time to learn their colors and also they're not culturally universal. Here's an article about it if you're interested:
http://www.scientificamerican.com...

So I think even to pick out "red" as a quality of the bus that is worth noticing, (i.e. that color is a category) is a learned thing. It's cultural. And I think that the "experience of red" would have to do with the countless associations we have with that color category and other objects/experiences. For example, little girls know pink is good for them because they've seen it on so many princess dolls which are held in front of them covered in glitter, and on the fanciest costume dresses etc. So after a while, it's impossible to see pink without thinking oh it's such a pretty color! But that's learned.

Which still doesn't address the problem of the conscious experience of pink or red. Because even if we have all these implicit associations, why do we have the conscious experience too? Sorry to be predictable, but I think it's to do with communication. It takes children a long time to learn their colors but it's much faster if you deliberately teach them. That is, if you talk to them about the different colors repeatedly, they soon learn to be able to say them too. More than that, they are learning that colors matter. In the article I linked above, they describe how some parents get really anxious if their toddlers fail the color identifying test. Toddlers would pick up on that kind of anxiety.
kp98
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10/31/2015 7:52:54 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Interesting... the more I find out about the mind the more interesting it becomes. I don't want to disagree with you about the importance of communication and association in the grand scheme of things mental. But my hobby is not the grand scheme - it is just in the narrow area of subjective experience (or 'phenomenal experience' as the professionals call it, or 'qualia', or 'the hard problem').
Furyan5
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10/31/2015 9:49:07 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Saturday morning. Once again I sit here with my coffee and cigarette. I realize that consciousness is what allows me to contemplate consciousness. Awareness of self and of my perceptions. I think, therefore I am. Do animals contemplate? Cats and dogs dream. A gorilla will sometimes sit and stare off into the horizon. I'm reminded of a funny saying a read somewhere. "Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits!"
We sometimes focus on a particular topic but sometimes our minds tend to drift. Random things pop into our heads. Answers to questions we are not even consciously thinking about, suddenly come to us. Our minds make connections between information we have stored somewhere in our heads. What does it all mean? Why am I here?
What's obvious is that consciousness is a luxury time has afforded us. We no longer have to struggle every waking minute just to survive. And the more time we have, the more we can figure out ways to save time. Perhaps that is all consciousness is. A process to save time.
Garbanza
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10/31/2015 10:41:27 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/31/2015 7:52:54 AM, kp98 wrote:
Interesting... the more I find out about the mind the more interesting it becomes. I don't want to disagree with you about the importance of communication and association in the grand scheme of things mental. But my hobby is not the grand scheme - it is just in the narrow area of subjective experience (or 'phenomenal experience' as the professionals call it, or 'qualia', or 'the hard problem').

I suppose if you want to think of something (consciousness) as separate from its function. But why would you want to do that? (not rhetorical. Really curious)
Garbanza
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10/31/2015 11:04:43 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/31/2015 9:49:07 AM, Furyan5 wrote:
Saturday morning. Once again I sit here with my coffee and cigarette. I realize that consciousness is what allows me to contemplate consciousness. Awareness of self and of my perceptions. I think, therefore I am. Do animals contemplate? Cats and dogs dream. A gorilla will sometimes sit and stare off into the horizon. I'm reminded of a funny saying a read somewhere. "Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits!"
We sometimes focus on a particular topic but sometimes our minds tend to drift. Random things pop into our heads. Answers to questions we are not even consciously thinking about, suddenly come to us. Our minds make connections between information we have stored somewhere in our heads. What does it all mean? Why am I here?
What's obvious is that consciousness is a luxury time has afforded us. We no longer have to struggle every waking minute just to survive. And the more time we have, the more we can figure out ways to save time. Perhaps that is all consciousness is. A process to save time.

You have a strong sense of self.
kp98
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10/31/2015 4:44:16 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I suppose if you want to think of something (consciousness) as separate from its function. But why would you want to do that? (not rhetorical. Really curious)

I probably have a subconscious reason due to some unremembered childhood trauma, but I think one reason is that 'phenomenal consciousness' is a glaring problem for materialism. There are many things that we don't have complete materialistic explanatons for, but in the case of consciousness it's not a question of not knowing the right answers but not even knowing the right questions.

It may not be an official definition, but peraps that is why philopshy and science are not the same - science finds the answers to the questions raised by philosophy. The other difference is that philosopy doesn't require expensive equipment - apart from a really comfy chair.
Furyan5
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10/31/2015 5:03:58 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/31/2015 4:44:16 PM, kp98 wrote:
I suppose if you want to think of something (consciousness) as separate from its function. But why would you want to do that? (not rhetorical. Really curious)

I probably have a subconscious reason due to some unremembered childhood trauma, but I think one reason is that 'phenomenal consciousness' is a glaring problem for materialism. There are many things that we don't have complete materialistic explanatons for, but in the case of consciousness it's not a question of not knowing the right answers but not even knowing the right questions.

It may not be an official definition, but peraps that is why philopshy and science are not the same - science finds the answers to the questions raised by philosophy. The other difference is that philosopy doesn't require expensive equipment - apart from a really comfy chair.

Lol don't forget coffee and a cigarette.
The fact is, philosophy points the way and science builds the road. Some destinations can't be reached and we have stumbled across some destinations quite by accident. The two go hand in hand. My belief is that philosophy is a left brain function and science is right brain.
Garbanza
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10/31/2015 6:18:40 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I don't think so. And I think you must be joking? Because of course scientists pose their own questions in the context of what's already known. I suggest that the better you are at science, the better the sorts of questions you ask
kp98
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10/31/2015 9:26:34 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I suggest that the better you are at science, the better the sorts of questions you ask

I 'd hate you to think that I or f5 aren't big fans of science. Its because I am such a big fan of science I am so annoyed that science doesn't have much of a handle on such things as consciousness and free-will. I am arrogant enought to think I know enough about science to know that consciousness is a 'better sort' of question.

I have to ask you to keep this a secret, because it would be disasterous if theists and new-age anti-scientists types really understood that science has no idea how consciousness works, or even what consciousness is, or even if it exists.

You see, conscious computers have 'just around the corner' since they were invented in the 40s, and we are still waiting. Cortana isn't HAL9000. If consciousness can be 'computerised' why has it proved so elusive? And if it can't be computerised, can materialism be saved, or even honestly defended?
ArrowofTime
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11/1/2015 4:00:49 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/31/2015 9:26:34 PM, kp98 wrote:
I suggest that the better you are at science, the better the sorts of questions you ask

I 'd hate you to think that I or f5 aren't big fans of science. Its because I am such a big fan of science I am so annoyed that science doesn't have much of a handle on such things as consciousness and free-will. I am arrogant enought to think I know enough about science to know that consciousness is a 'better sort' of question.

I have to ask you to keep this a secret, because it would be disasterous if theists and new-age anti-scientists types really understood that science has no idea how consciousness works, or even what consciousness is, or even if it exists.

You see, conscious computers have 'just around the corner' since they were invented in the 40s, and we are still waiting. Cortana isn't HAL9000. If consciousness can be 'computerised' why has it proved so elusive? And if it can't be computerised, can materialism be saved, or even honestly defended?

Does being Deist count? I am; as was Newton and so many others.

It is funny how little people realize this. That being said there are multiple approaches to understand consciousnesses and not all of these approaches are well fleshed out.

Can science reach a definitive answer? I doubt it. I doubt any religion ever reached a definitive answer either. The question you guys (especially the OP) should be asking is how to I best use this convenient thing called "consciousness" to my own advantage. *cheeky tone*

Your answer to what is consciousness is the totality of experience. What are things that can experience? You know you can. Can rocks experience things? Who knows? How do you prove a rock can experience things? How can you prove a rock does not? How far does the totality of experience extend beyond yours? Do other people have consciousnesses then (you seem to not be able to experience life from their point of view)? Engaging this line of thought is a solipsistic wankfest.

See Searle's Chinese room for more, if you discuss AIs.

This is the problem with empiricism. Science only extends this through the use of measuring tools. There might be factors that we cannot account for. How do we know? We don't and that is the problem. So be happy to use what we do know and seek for things that we CAN know.

I believe the true nature of consciousness is out of reach for the majority of humans.
kp98
Posts: 729
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11/1/2015 2:25:20 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
See Searle's Chinese room for more, if you discuss AIs.

I've been thinking about Searle's Chinese Room for more than 20 years! In my view his argument is entirely sound and logical, and I don't think it has ever been properly refuted. But that leads to a huge problem.

If Searle is right then no machine can implement mind - that is why he presented the argument. That means the brain cannot be just a machine - it must involve non-mechanistic elements. In other words dualism must be true.

I do not find that acceptable. I believe (for no logical reason, it is essentially personal bias) that dualism is false and everything reduces to the mechanistic and the material.

I'm not not alone in thinking that way! Most of the criticism of Searle seems to stem from an attachment to materialism and annoyance that Searle seems to fatally undermine it. There is a lot of excusing our failure to have got close to producing artificial mind; not enough computing power, not enought connectivity not enough 'complexity' and so on. But even if we had a super-duper computer we still wouldn't know how to program it to have a mind. If we mimicked a brain neuron-by-neuron it might produce a mind - but we don't know that it would. Asserting that it would is 'begging the question', not a proof.

Materialism needs new thinking, not more technology.
Furyan5
Posts: 1,228
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11/2/2015 11:13:54 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/1/2015 2:25:20 PM, kp98 wrote:
See Searle's Chinese room for more, if you discuss AIs.

I've been thinking about Searle's Chinese Room for more than 20 years! In my view his argument is entirely sound and logical, and I don't think it has ever been properly refuted. But that leads to a huge problem.

If Searle is right then no machine can implement mind - that is why he presented the argument. That means the brain cannot be just a machine - it must involve non-mechanistic elements. In other words dualism must be true.

I do not find that acceptable. I believe (for no logical reason, it is essentially personal bias) that dualism is false and everything reduces to the mechanistic and the material.

I'm not not alone in thinking that way! Most of the criticism of Searle seems to stem from an attachment to materialism and annoyance that Searle seems to fatally undermine it. There is a lot of excusing our failure to have got close to producing artificial mind; not enough computing power, not enought connectivity not enough 'complexity' and so on. But even if we had a super-duper computer we still wouldn't know how to program it to have a mind. If we mimicked a brain neuron-by-neuron it might produce a mind - but we don't know that it would. Asserting that it would is 'begging the question', not a proof.

Materialism needs new thinking, not more technology.

Dualism is true. But its not mind and matter or even good and evil. It's our existence as individuals and as social creatures that results in conflicting views within us. Both individuals and society have materialistic needs and sometimes these needs conflict.

Should a rich man use his money to help the less fortunate? Ethically, yes. But morally it depends on the individual. Miser and philanthropist are terms we use to describe people using ethical values, but to a miser a philanthropist is the fool and vice versa. We need to realise that a miser does not choose to be a miser. A miser is created. But people can also change. Although this too is not a choice. It is experiences which cause us to change. We are the sum of our experiences and this, combined with chemical reactions within our bodies, determines our thoughts and actions.

Take away my coffee and cigarette and my personality changes. So do my thoughts and actions. Not by choice. Nobody chooses to suffer withdrawal symptoms. But does this mean that my actions, while under the influence of coffee and nicotine are not truly reflective of who I am? Who knows?
kp98
Posts: 729
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11/2/2015 11:44:49 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Dualism is true.

Or not.... but I don't think that anyone's opinion on this is entirely a reasoned one - it reflects the individual's psychology. I am a convinved non-dualist materialist, not because I can prove it (I certainly can't) but because I am unable/unwilling to accept dualism. I don't have a choice. I suppose if the truth of dualism was proven to me in such a forcefully logical way I had to accept it I would accept it - but I still wouldn't like it!