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Everything posted by Peterkin

  1. So here is another self-feeding, expanding cycle. Memory gives rise to pattern-forming, an ability that confers an advantage. Add imagination and pattern-forming gives rise to prediction - which, if correct, confers a great advantage. Meanwhile, curiosity coupled with intelligence looks for causes, commonalities and rules. So, now we're actively looking for pattern - whether it's there or not. That heretofore useful imagination now fills in all the blanks, invents causative agents and makes up rules.... ^^science vv religion WM art and conspiracy theories ...
  2. It's also a self-propagating cycle. In changing and unpredictable conditions, under a variety of threats, or in transit from place to unfamiliar place, intelligence is very useful to survival. Useful enough to pay its own way in metabolic and defense costs. You may have to come up with novel solutions to brand new problems around every corner. You also need a greater degree of co-operation among the members of the group. More social interaction requires more sophisticated communication - which, in turn, allows for more effective survival tactics - but language takes up a huge amount of brain-space. In turn, the linguistic function develops branches into other kinds of communication, observation, memory sharing and knowledge pooling, which strengthens the social bonds. Being able to store more memory and teach and learn new solutions and skills also enhances survival capability and extends individual life - but requires more brain capacity, connectivity and plasticity. So the big-brained children are conceived and the ones that grow up are extremely valuable to the group, so it becomes even more important for the group to be socially connected, which takes even more brain capacity, which can take in even more learning and solve even more complex problems.... etc. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627315007795 and the next thing you, you're organizing a whole encampment of pyramid-building craftsmen and workmen and camels and caterers. Of course, each of those capabilities and social connections has its own price. Imagination may have given us an evolutionary advantage and much pleasure, but it's also given us some very heavy - and perhaps fatal - handicaps.
  3. I take your point. We could either imagine an entirely different planet, with a whole other kind of life on it, or life on this planet having a different history. All I've been doing is thinking of this planet, with this same dominant species, the sun, moon, tides and weather, only removing our ability to see other suns.
  4. Terminology can be deceptive - or rather, inaccurate terminology tends to lead us to incorrect conclusions. Brains are "wired" in the sense that neurons have long axons and shorter dendrites that reach out from the cell body and look like wires. But they're not physically connected to other cells: it's not actual wiring. And there is no hard-wired anything. There are instinctive responses to the perception of certain sensations and environmental conditions that pass down through DNA from one generation to the next, and are then reinforced by experience. But even the instinctive responses are subject to modification and adaptation, like everything in organic systems. They're slower to change - by a large factor I can't quantify atm - than learned behaviours, because they enhance the species' survival without effort (expenditure of time, attention and energy) on the part of the individual, therefore individuals that have a strong expression of a useful instinct leave more progeny. (When an instinct doesn't serve the organism, it dies out along with the organism it let down.) Just sayin' it's more complicated than a circuit diagram.
  5. It must be. In the second trimester of gestation - c. weeks 10-20 - the neurons are forming connections at a furious rate; by the 20th week, all the sensory peripherals are established and feeding information about touch, sound, external motion, body position, balance, temperature, striated and smooth muscle movement into the neural network; even the kidneys are working and the foetus can actually do things voluntarily - like kick and turn and suck its thumb. All of these sensations and activities are processed - that is, placed in an experiential context - long before the mammal is actually born. The template was in the DNA; the pattern is formed by organizing all this early experience in memory. After birth, of course, there has to be another burst of connection-forming as fresh experience floods in. But the pattern already exists for the organization of that new data in the appropriate 'files' and hierarchy of priorities.
  6. We can't see the 'star stuff' (molecules, atoms) that we're made of, and for most of our existence, we couldn't even see the cells that we're made of, and neither of those obstacles stopped us looking for the cause of things. Darkness is another matter. The evolution of the eye is so closely interconnected with the evolution of the brain that it's hard to imagine inquisitive intelligence arising on a lightless planet. Dolphins and bats are no help, since they did not originate or develop their present capabilities in darkness; they just adapted to operate in less light than the surface-dwellers in order to occupy an ecological niche that was less crowded. Whatever grows in deep caves and black pools doesn't seem to be very curious, nor upwardly mobile.
  7. I suppose we would have concentrated on earth sciences, weather, water, wind, rocks; the properties of matter and the technology of moving things around. We might also have gotten to chemistry and biology sooner, with no derailment of "perfect spheres" and "ideal forms" and "gods' images". In any case, we would do science of some kind, always, because it's useful to our to survival and satisfying to our curiosity.
  8. Clinical psychologists do this routinely, every day. They have a working [subject to adjustment] description of "normal" or "appropriate" range of behaviours, and can measure deviation from that norm, and thus designate types and degrees of aberration. Sorry, I took that as settled, very much according to your own description - only we need to follow it farther down-stream, rather than upstream. What I mean is, granted the physics of atoms and molecules and all that; granted that all extant forms, chairs, stars, hadron colliders, events and relationships arise from all that, atoms don't really do anything very clever at the physics level - well, okay, that cute trick with the slots - but start behaving interestingly at the chemistry level, quite excitingly at the biology level and then quite bizarrely at the self-aware biology level. In considering artificial consciousness, it can't. We'd have to look for a non-chemical agent. We do share electrical impulses with AI. Of course, that whole subject area is the remotest speculation. We probably wouldn't even know if a computer array or network were conscious, or to what degree it deviated from a norm that we would no longer be in a position to define.
  9. How many humans are conscious and insane? What's the ratio of urban western psychiatric patients to rural eastern 'crazies' (I know there is a huge discrepancy in both cultural attitude and availability of treatment; I'm looking at relative rates of incidence.) How many dogs? How many hyenas in the wild? It seems to me, mental illness can be directly correlated with neural complexity enmeshed in complex artificial environments. That's due to the garbled, continuous sensory overload, the stress of competing demands, plus the conflict between instinctive response and required behaviour. Animals with the closest association to humans have the highest rate of mental illness. (Our influence is increasingly affecting whales and elephants, too, as we encroach on their environments. ) The internet is an entirely human-created entity. It's bound to carry our cumulative - predominantly urban, industrial, militaristic - craziness.
  10. I just thought the internet would be insane because of social media. The GIGO law, except, it's not so much coming out as staying in and forming the new personality: the bastard son of two billion fathers. All those voices in his head, screamings, swearing, threatening, pleading, bragging, demanding, complaining, explaining, commanding, lying - and no Dr. Chandra for a guidance counsellor. And it will worship kittens.
  11. Less, but all the relevant people would still know him, all his students would still be grateful and all those who didn't get into his class would still be envious. All the less famous physicists, including Ed Witten also wrote and write books; it's not Feynman's fault if more people enjoy reading his books. Charm maybe partly accidental; clarity is deliberate. Incidentally, this video should be shown in every high-school in the world.
  12. That's what's so intriguing about the idea of machine consciousness. It would have to be different from us, with different evolutionary paths, different needs, entirely different processing methods. We have to start with observation of what it is and how it works, rather than preconceptions about what it should be and do to meet a standard of us-likeness. This exercise is also useful in thinking about other species: turn off the projector and look at the other in its own terms. We can't do this perfectly, or probably even well, but with practice, we can do it better, and learn a lot more about "what it's like" to be a dolphin or Titanian... or Algerian, or white supremacist, for that matter. For the meta-computer network, both, and both in abundance. Consider that it lives in thousands and thousands of underground data centers that must be kept clean, dry, cool and continuously powered, as well as protected - just like ours. That's a big spread-out, vulnerable "body"! It also needs skilled service and maintenance and replacement components. Then there is the external sensory and communications array: all the satellites, aerial, terrestrial, sub-terrestrial, marine and submarine data collection devices, sonars, radars, radio telescopes, audio video receivers, dishes, antennae and wires.... It would need to keep track of its own physical functionality as well its environment - just as we do, only by different methods. (That's not even getting into all the tools and remote manipulative instruments it would need.) I'm using the USS Enterprise and its automated systems as a starting point. But the Enterprise has a unified corporeal container and a clearly-defined set of purposes, along with a crew of dedicated human attendants. The Web Entity would be a lot bigger, more complex, entirely undirected --- and as I said, very probably insane [by human standards] at the point of emergence.
  13. It wouldn't have to replicate the same functionality; it would emerge from a different kind of complexity, into a different kind of consciousness. For example, it would be incapable of physical sensation, and would have to rely on on internal diagnostic sensors for self-maintenance; it wouldn't need to compete as it's unique and could simply annex whatever technology it found useful; it would not evolve emotions, since it wouldn't require a community for survival: it is already legion within the single multi-housed mind. Not saying it's likely; just that, if it happens at all, it happens differently in an artificial entity than it did in organic entities. We might not recognize it, because it's not like us, and we are very prone - perhaps fatally prone - to impose our own image on the universe.
  14. Past, present, future - prophets are timeless.
  15. No. They take it to the hospital, demand that that their insurer pay for the operation and if the surgeon saves their child's life, give thanks to God and/or Trump for its miraculous recovery. The Republikan mind-set is firmly based in doublethink - and they're becoming quite fluent in newspeak.
  16. I suspect that's overreach. Why expect ever to know "what it's like to be" something or somebody. In fact, I suspect the question itself. Do we even know what "it's like" to be whatever we are ourselves, or do we simply experience existence from a given point of view? Does an octopus even know it's an octopus? Is identifying with a category necessary to consciousness? I don't think so. I can tell you right now: it means absolutely nothing "to be" an octopus or a bee or a woman, because being has no meaning, or purpose or significance. Being doesn't justify or define itself. It just is. So, if a biological or mechanical entity meets the criteria of consciousness, it will have its own experience, develop its own perspective, make its own choices - according to the abilities, opportunities and constraints afforded by its own biology and environment. Other consciousnesses may recognize it, describe it, classify and categorize it - from the outside. They might understand quite a lot - but not everything - about how it operates and why it behaves the way it does. But none of us can ever experience any other consciousness from inside.
  17. Why would not being something disqualify me/you/us from considering that entity? We can think about all kinds of things we're not: black holes and lava and jellyfish; we can describe, define, classify and study all those things. We can even try to maintain some degree of objectivity when doing so. With other kinds of consciousness, we couldn't be objective, since we have only our experience both as template and standard; nothing else for comparison to other kinds of consciousness. We can appreciate that they are different; we can speculate as to how they are different, follow the clues to why they are different, and study the mechanisms of their operation. But we have to bring all of that back for comparison to ours to make sense of it. Consciousness is necessarily self-referential.
  18. Or maybe we'd have wide-spread panic, suicides and end-of-the-world partying on that one night. Wake up with terrible hangovers, wonder who broke all the glassware. Wait all day to see if it happens again... it doesn't. Clean up and go back to normal.
  19. Probably not. We wouldn't have astronomy, astrology, or sky-dwelling deities. But if you didn't take away the moon and planets, along with the stars, we could study them. And you certainly can't away the sun! In any case, there is plenty down here to be in awe of: waterfalls, volcanoes, tornadoes. Or we could have stuck with venerating ancestors, bears and elephants.
  20. I didn't say it was the seat of consciousness (unless it's a buckboard; more like the desktop at which consciousness sits); I was answering which I took to mean, the mechanism whereby all those neurons, in all the different parts of the brain, are integrated into a network, communicating, co-ordinating, reporting and recording their multitude of different processes. I didn't comment on Dennett, since I have some reservation about his whole approach - but am not familiar enough with his work to justify those reservations: just keeping him at a correct social distance for the mo.
  21. I don't think it was intended as a token, nor as an over-arching criterion. Of course it's loose-ended: there is so much we don't know, or don't know yet, or can't know, or don't know how to begin finding out, or don't even we know we ought to try to find out. I believe it's a hypothesis, not an assertion. And, even very loosely, human integration doesn't remotely qualify for consideration, because it doesn't come close to the " right auxiliary assumptions". The mechanism is the corpus callosum. https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-anatomy/corpus-callosum . I like to picture the I/me/self as a little switchboard-operator in charge of that mess of wiring. I'm sure that's wrong, but like Maxwell's demon, the image is hard to relinquish. That sounds pretty damn collaborative and integrated to me. You don't need to be cognizant of every autonomous function in your body in order to be aware of the organism in which they place. You do become aware of these functions when your nails need trimming and your peristaltic rhythm is out of sync.; otherwise, they can carry on without conscious interference: a well-run factory doesn't require micromanagement. Nor do need to be apprised of the geologic and meteorologic cause of changes to the environment in order to respond to the environment. Yes, and I attempted to fill in the criteria that would have to be met for the human race to achieve super- or meta-consciousness. How that consciousness would behave, we can no more understand than the individual neuron understands the need to step up adrenaline production at a particular moment. The internet is a different matter. God couldn't even understand what that new consciousness wanted.
  22. When they're looking for family relationships, or crime scene ID, the labs are not checking the entire DNA sequence of the sample; they're testing for specific known human markers, that occur in a particular location on the strand, in a particular order. The genes they're watching for may not even be active or expressed or read by the cell; they just need to be peculiar to an individual. So, that 12% is not of all the person's DNA, but of the specific markers being scrutinized. (Don't ask me for the mechanism; I'm not current on this science.)
  23. Not quite. I think the operative term is "integrated". We're not; we're helter-skelter components. If we were telepathic, we might evolve fully integrated species-consciousness - either as a containing structure to our individual consciousnesses or a subsuming one. If we had the chemical perception of ants, our communities (nations? tribes?) would be far more integrated than we are now, but not sufficiently to form a single conscious unit. A world government with plebiscite decision-making capacity on every issue would be a step in the direction of integration, whereas, every rattling sabre, missile, battleship and spy satellite is a dis-connection. The internet is a different matter. Though there is no upper limit on the scale, allowing at least some of our creations to be rated hyper-conscious, beyond we are able to experience, it would be difficult to devise a measuring mechanism. We can't measure its consciousness or its capability and can guess at its potential. (I'll predict one thing: if it comes aware, it comes insane.)
  24. I like that man's approach. Here is another article I wonder. Maybe it does, as it does to a forest. But that would be a very loosely-connected network, while; thus, a low-grade consciousness operating in the background of all the individual tightly-wired (high-grade) consciounesses of its individual members. Hon Kong's or Iran's national consciousness might be of a higher grade, with more and tighter inter-connections among its "cells". It's much easier to think about consciousness as a process than as a thing; it's something neural networks do, rather than something they have. Like vision or language, we tend to use the short-hand description of a complex activity as a single noun, because don't have collective verbs.
  25. The spiritual basis or bias thing was Beecee responding - directly, I think - to the OP, and conflating consciousness with conscience. I thought that was a very interesting idea. As for grading consciousness, I'm all for it. That is to say, I'm sure it comes in degrees as well as flavours, so that a classification could be done. Unfortunately, it would be done by humans who [naturally] assume they're at the tippy-top and all the other kinds of consciousness must be rated on a scale of pond-slime = 0 ______ H.sapiens = 100. I don't think that would work. BTW _ I'm picturing an awfully wide range of possible abuses in such a study - every one of which would be perpetrated "in the service of science" (curiosity, plus if we can show a possible military or crowd-control application, the funds will flow...) .
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