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Octopuses Gain Consciousness.

popculturepooka
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8/28/2012 7:20:59 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 8/21/2012, Katherine Harmon wrote:

Elephants cooperate to solve problems. Chimpanzees teach youngsters to make tools. Even octopuses seem to be able to plan. So should we humans really be surprised that "consciousness" probably does not only exist in us?

This privileged state of subjective awareness in fact goes well beyond Homo sapiens, according to the new Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness (pdf), which was signed last month by a group of cognitive neuroscientists, computational neuroscientists, neuroanatomists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists who attended the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals at Cambridge University in the U.K.

"The weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness," the scientists wrote. "Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates."

The octopus is the only invertebrate to get a shout-out at all. And plenty of research has been accumulated to back up this assertion. A 2009 study showed that some octopuses collect coconut shells to use as portable shelters—an example of tool use, according to the researchers. Other research has documented sophisticated spatial navigation and memory. Anecdotal reports from researchers, such as Jennifer Mather, describe watching octopuses in the wild make errands to collect just the right number of rocks to narrow the opening to a desired den. And laboratory experiments show a distinct change in behavior when octopuses are kept in tanks that do not have enough enrichment objects to keep them stimulated.

What was keeping scientists from accepting the existence of consciousness outside of our own family tree? Simple brain anatomy. Older models of brain activity lodged complex, conscious experiences—like musing about a piece of music or reminiscing about a piece of cake—in our highly evolved cortex. But, as the authors of the new declaration noted, many nerve networks involved in "attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g. octopus)."

Even emotions (or, according to the declaration, their "neural substrates") are not dependent on an animal having particular brain structures, such as our cortex, after all. In fact, many other neural regions are activated when we emote and "are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals," the scientists noted.

That does not necessarily mean that you could have a distraught octopus or an elated cuttlefish on your hands. But this new, formalized conception of consciousness does suggest that the octopus has used its own, more foreign-looking brain to develop some sense of subjective experience.

"Exactly how organized brain matter gives rise to images and sounds, lust and hate, memories, dreams and plans, remains unclear," Christof Koch, chief science officer at the Allen Institute of Brain Science, and co-presenter of the new declaration, recently wrote in the Huffington Post. And although brain structures, such as the cerebral cortex, in mammals seem to be highly conserved evolutionarily, Koch noted, other organisms, such as birds and cephalopods force us to reexamine other neural components of consciousness. "The challenge that remains is to understand how the whispering of nerve cells, interconnected by thousands of gossamer threads (their axons), give rise to any one conscious sensation," he wrote.

And so, with the new declaration (and with apologies to David Foster Wallace), science has considered the octopus. And found it conscious. …Now we just need to figure out what, exactly, the octopus experience is.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com...

This is really cool and interesting. Thoughts?
At 10/3/2016 11:49:13 PM, thett3 wrote:
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royalpaladin
Posts: 22,357
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8/28/2012 10:10:26 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I read a news article about how dolphins are also functionally conscious and ought to be treated as non-human persons. I think this is pretty interesting, and I'm starting to be convinced by animal rights positions. Doesn't this, however, prove that evolution is capable of producing conscious creatures? I mean, I can see why elements in the religious community will dislike this.
Lordknukle
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8/28/2012 10:30:39 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 8/28/2012 10:10:26 PM, royalpaladin wrote:
I read a news article about how dolphins are also functionally conscious and ought to be treated as non-human persons. I think this is pretty interesting, and I'm starting to be convinced by animal rights positions. Doesn't this, however, prove that evolution is capable of producing conscious creatures? I mean, I can see why elements in the religious community will dislike this.

Depends on how you define consciousness. If you define it as interacting with the environment then even bacteria will be conscious. If you define it as in taking in the environment and making choices about it then pretty much all mammals and most fish will be conscious.
"Easy is the descent to Avernus, for the door to the Underworld lies upon both day and night. But to retrace your steps and return to the breezes above- that's the task, that's the toil."
Maikuru
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8/29/2012 1:48:53 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
I prefer the plural octopi.

Anyway, this is absolutely fascinating and perhaps a little unnerving. The first time I read that cephalopods and various shellfish can experience and remember pain, I felt a rush of guilt over our comparatively cruel cooking methods. The thought of such creatures experiencing consciousness on a more mammalian level should result in a reevaluation of their treatment. I doubt that will happen, though; we only care about cute creatures.
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Sidewalker
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8/29/2012 8:13:27 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
No doubt we aren't the only creature that is conscious, by almost any definition of consciousness, and because life is so diverse, the problem becomes where do you draw the line?

I think it's obvious that it must feel like something to be an octopus, but is that consciousness, or sentience, or awareness? Is consciousness the same as mind, what the hell is it anyway; we use the word all the time so it must have a definition. If "must feel like something to be it" is a good definition, then there's a lot of animals that are conscious, or are we just projecting all of that onto them? In associating consciousness outside of ourselves, the definition problem is exacerbated by the fact that we have to extrapolate from behavior to the presumed internal cause of that behavior and that introduces the problem of assumptions, bias, and our anthropomorphic tendencies, the projection thing again.

From studying the behavior of bacteria we seem to be looking at sensate beings, they appear to be extraordinarily perceptive with elaborate responses and adaptations to a broad range of stimuli, they show some form of memory and a rudimentary ability to learn, the ability to communicate, social behavior on at least a rudimentary level, a discriminatory ability to "choose" among alternatives, and they appear to be teleological, which is to say they demonstrate purposeful behavior. All of this looks like it is integrated into a self organized and sensate being that in at least an extremely attenuated way, is perceiving, discriminating, remembering, communicating, and even "thinking"; in the end it is hard to say bacteria aren't conscious on some level.

Then you look at the way people behave, and right here on these boards we find a couple of Canadians that don't appear to possess half of the mental capabilities that bacteria do. And when you go back even further down the evolutionary ladder than even Canadians, you find that plants demonstrate a lot of the "mental" capabilities that bacteria do, so how do you define it and where do you draw the line? And you know you have to be careful with your definition or you end up having to attribute consciousness to the thermostat on the wall.

The problem is further exacerbated because there are associated ontological and epistemological difficulties, and on top of that, it really matters how you go about it because there are big consequences. It's a matter of our identity, it has social and ethical implications, it involves our religious sensibilities and ideological convictions, which means additional motivations and hidden agendas come into play, and when that happens logic and science can just go out the window. I have relatives with a tradition of positing intelligence to pretty much everything, and on the other end of the spectrum, on these boards we have what appear to be reasonably intelligent people that try to argue that human beings don't even possess consciousness, of course, they are completely unhinged and I suspect they have just spent too much time in Canada.

By almost any definition it's hard to make the case that we are the only creature that is conscious, but there is certainly something mental going on in human beings that distinguishes them from the rest of the animal world, it's just very hard to define, and what is it about how it operates in human beings that makes us different. If you look at the world, our place in it, and the effect we've had on it, you can't really deny that there is something completely different going on with human beings. It's apparent that at some point in our evolution there was a phase change of some type that occurred in our inner world that was more than a difference of degree, it was a difference of kind, and it made us unique in some defining way, and from that language, culture, society, science, logic, art, mathematics, computers, television, cities, countries, and Lady Gaga came on the scene. But what is it exactly?

The thing that makes human beings unique has traditionally been referred to as "self consciousness", we not only know, we know that we know, but that only seems to complicate things further by introducing that damn self referential paradox that hoses up any attempt at certainty. Without a distinction between subject and object, between knower and known, knowledge itself would be unaccountable, so the question becomes can we even have knowledge of it. And even if you decide that elusive unique thing is "self consciousness", it's hard to not have to attribute that quality to quite a few other animals.

We know it's a definition issue and the problem is that there isn't anything even approaching common agreement on what consciousness is, and for every different attempt at a definition, it's still hard to know where to draw the line because life is so diverse and we don't have access to the inner world of anybody but ourselves. So we look at ourselves and we look at other animals and try to find similarities and differences.

The problem with that is that I can't even be sure other people are conscious, I can only presume it about other people and some of them make that really hard to do. We do have access to our own inner world, so I know I'm conscious, I can start there, but I can't even examine my own consciousness very well because it's constantly changing, it just won't sit still long enough to become a well defined object of analysis. Despite the fact that we directly experience it and so we know it with greater certainty than we can know anything else, the object of study, consciousness itself, remains hidden behind its effects, it's like trying to understand and analyze the movie projector by watching the movie in a theater. I'm having this experience, I know it's back there in the back of the theater causing these images to appear on the screen, but the movie just doesn't help me describe the projector with any degree of accuracy. Consciousness if just too fuzzy of a concept and the experiential data we have to go on is even fuzzier, hell, before I've had my coffee in the morning the experience of consciousness is even fuzzy.

As I said, this question is a matter of our identity and "Know thyself" is an ancient aphorism that appears to be something of a philosophical mandate, but when you set yourself to the task, it's hard not to think these ancient philosophers weren't a bunch of comedians just trying to pi$$ us off. I have this image of Socrates and Plato smoking a joint and Socrates says to Plato, "Hey man, let's put a lot of stuff about "know thyself" in there, that should keep them flustered for thousands of years", and they both start laughing hysterically while Plato says "Stop it man, you're killing me".

OK, I've rambled all over the place here but I think it's all relevant to the topic, I don't have a conclusion to end with so I think I'll just paraphrase Forest Gump, "a discussion about consciousness discussion is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get."

Good one Pooka, I love this topic and I'm real curious to see what were going to get.
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
Wnope
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8/29/2012 4:10:33 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I must say, this is actually one of the most unnerving things I've read in some time.

While I knew that emotional affective states could be housed in animals without a neocortex, I am fairly shocked to see that animals lacking neocortexes have the same attentive abilities we associate with consciousness.

It should be noted that the claim is that animals possess the neurological substrates associated with what is physiologically needed for consciousness. The document isn't making a philosophy claim about dualism.

Still, the implications are fairly devastating to much of how I've interpreted the evolution of neural networks.
slo1
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8/30/2012 12:54:52 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 8/29/2012 1:48:53 AM, Maikuru wrote:
I prefer the plural octopi.

Anyway, this is absolutely fascinating and perhaps a little unnerving. The first time I read that cephalopods and various shellfish can experience and remember pain, I felt a rush of guilt over our comparatively cruel cooking methods. The thought of such creatures experiencing consciousness on a more mammalian level should result in a reevaluation of their treatment. I doubt that will happen, though; we only care about cute creatures.

Well, next time just feel good that you are not giving them a chance to "remember". Oh, and put a little more butter on it. That will make it go down a little smoother.
slo1
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8/30/2012 1:04:25 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Thanks for the post. Very interesting.

I have often dealt with angry children and even adults for that matter and wondered if we have a much over inflated view of ourselves over animals.

It seems to me after viewing how others and myself seem incapable of using logic and choice when we are angry we are probably a bit more like animals than we like to think. We just have better language and conceptual skills to hide/rationalize it from ourselves.

In away I think we need to think of it as "Humans are just like animals" rather than "Animals show human traits".
The_Fool_on_the_hill
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9/1/2012 11:36:33 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 8/28/2012 7:20:59 PM, popculturepooka wrote:
At 8/21/2012, Katherine Harmon wrote:

Elephants cooperate to solve problems. Chimpanzees teach youngsters to make tools. Even octopuses seem to be able to plan. So should we humans really be surprised that "consciousness" probably does not only exist in us?

This privileged state of subjective awareness in fact goes well beyond Homo sapiens, according to the new Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness (pdf), which was signed last month by a group of cognitive neuroscientists, computational neuroscientists, neuroanatomists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists who attended the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals at Cambridge University in the U.K.

"The weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness," the scientists wrote. "Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates."

The octopus is the only invertebrate to get a shout-out at all. And plenty of research has been accumulated to back up this assertion. A 2009 study showed that some octopuses collect coconut shells to use as portable shelters—an example of tool use, according to the researchers. Other research has documented sophisticated spatial navigation and memory. Anecdotal reports from researchers, such as Jennifer Mather, describe watching octopuses in the wild make errands to collect just the right number of rocks to narrow the opening to a desired den. And laboratory experiments show a distinct change in behavior when octopuses are kept in tanks that do not have enough enrichment objects to keep them stimulated.

What was keeping scientists from accepting the existence of consciousness outside of our own family tree? Simple brain anatomy. Older models of brain activity lodged complex, conscious experiences—like musing about a piece of music or reminiscing about a piece of cake—in our highly evolved cortex. But, as the authors of the new declaration noted, many nerve networks involved in "attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g. octopus)."

Even emotions (or, according to the declaration, their "neural substrates") are not dependent on an animal having particular brain structures, such as our cortex, after all. In fact, many other neural regions are activated when we emote and "are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals," the scientists noted.

That does not necessarily mean that you could have a distraught octopus or an elated cuttlefish on your hands. But this new, formalized conception of consciousness does suggest that the octopus has used its own, more foreign-looking brain to develop some sense of subjective experience.

"Exactly how organized brain matter gives rise to images and sounds, lust and hate, memories, dreams and plans, remains unclear," Christof Koch, chief science officer at the Allen Institute of Brain Science, and co-presenter of the new declaration, recently wrote in the Huffington Post. And although brain structures, such as the cerebral cortex, in mammals seem to be highly conserved evolutionarily, Koch noted, other organisms, such as birds and cephalopods force us to reexamine other neural components of consciousness. "The challenge that remains is to understand how the whispering of nerve cells, interconnected by thousands of gossamer threads (their axons), give rise to any one conscious sensation," he wrote.

And so, with the new declaration (and with apologies to David Foster Wallace), science has considered the octopus. And found it conscious. …Now we just need to figure out what, exactly, the octopus experience is.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com...


This is really cool and interesting. Thoughts?

The Fool: I think Almost all like is conscious, I found it wierd that you would have questioned octopus concsious. It possible all Life has something. I don't By life popped up randomdy answer One bit!
"The bud disappears when the blossom breaks through, and we might say that the former is refuted by the latter; in the same way when the fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false form of the plant's existence, for the fruit appears as its true nature in place of the blossom. These stages are not merely differentiated; they supplant one another as being incompatible with one another." G. W. F. HEGEL