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Why are we humans and not robots?

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This is not a literary discussion but a question that arises in my mind about the extra "stuff" that makes us humans.

 

Having just read "Hard Times" by Charles Dickens http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/786

one of the major characters is a man of reason called Gradgrind, who believes that facts and figures are solely what is required to turn out a well-rounded individual who has reasoning capacities.

 

One of his quotes is as follows:

 

“Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”
Charles Dickens, Hard Times

https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/6751955-hard-times-for-these-times

 

 

 

Towards the end of this proto-Socialist exposition, Gradgrind gets a tough reminder that humans cannot live on facts alone by his own daughter whose life has been ruined by parental insistence on pure reason:

 

“How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death? Where are the graces of my soul? Where are the sentiments of my heart? What have you done, oh, Father, What have you done with the garden that should have bloomed once, in this great wilderness here? Said Louisa as she touched her heart.”

https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/6751955-hard-times-for-these-times

 

Don't species have other priorities, for example, survival, rather than wasting time with all this other extraneous human stuff?


 

The question is, why did Natural Selection (and Genetic Drift) not cause humans just to function in a reasoned self interest in the same way as a robot?

 

Why do we have feelings of love, of empathy, of compassion of being upset, being happy, being blue?

 

Don't species have other priorities, for example, survival, rather than wasting time with all this other extraneous human stuff?

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Are you assuming that a robot that achieves consciousness ( self- aware and able to reason/learn ) would not have this extraneous human stuff ?

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Don't species have other priorities, for example, survival, rather than wasting time with all this other extraneous human stuff?

What you refer to as extraneous human stuff is simply an expression of the instinctive drives utilising the human skill set.

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Why do we have feelings of love, of empathy, of compassion of being upset, being happy, being blue?

 

Don't species have other priorities, for example, survival, rather than wasting time with all this other extraneous human stuff?

 

Why do you think that feelings of love, empathy, compassion, distress, despair, and happiness have nothing to do with survival?

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Why do we have feelings of love, of empathy, of compassion of being upset, being happy, being blue?

 

Don't species have other priorities, for example, survival, rather than wasting time with all this other extraneous human stuff?

 

 

These are the things that make us human. They are some of the most important things we evolved to make us so successful. I'm sure many other animals have them to some degree, but it's our advance in these areas that's one of the most important reasons for our survival. One theory suggests that it's our more advanced use of culture that caused the extinction of neanderthals.

All these things give rise to greater social bonding which is one of our greatest survival tactics.

You only need to look at other apes and elephants for example to realise that we're not alone in having all these emotions.

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This is not a literary discussion but a question that arises in my mind about the extra "stuff" that makes us humans.

 

Having just read "Hard Times" by Charles Dickens http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/786

one of the major characters is a man of reason called Gradgrind, who believes that facts and figures are solely what is required to turn out a well-rounded individual who has reasoning capacities.

 

One of his quotes is as follows:

 

 

 

Towards the end of this proto-Socialist exposition, Gradgrind gets a tough reminder that humans cannot live on facts alone by his own daughter whose life has been ruined by parental insistence on pure reason:

 

 

Don't species have other priorities, for example, survival, rather than wasting time with all this other extraneous human stuff?

 

 

The question is, why did Natural Selection (and Genetic Drift) not cause humans just to function in a reasoned self interest in the same way as a robot?

 

Why do we have feelings of love, of empathy, of compassion of being upset, being happy, being blue?

 

Don't species have other priorities, for example, survival, rather than wasting time with all this other extraneous human stuff?

The "extraneous human stuff" is very much a part of survival. Most of it has to do with social cohesion and maneuvering. Social groups have allowed a degree of cooperation that has allowed humanity to survive and thrive in ways and places that we would not be remotely successful in as lone individuals. Being able to form and navigate such groups is a critical component of our success as a species.

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Are you assuming that a robot that achieves consciousness ( self- aware and able to reason/learn ) would not have this extraneous human stuff ?

 

Yes I am. I am looking at the present and only in the present at the moment. To be honest I do prescribe to Prof Penrose's theory about the limitations of AI. http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/schneider20160322

 

What you refer to as extraneous human stuff is simply an expression of the instinctive drives utilising the human skill set.

 

And where do instincts evolve from? Why do they evolve? I don't know, but I hope you can help me out here.

 

 

Why do you think that feelings of love, empathy, compassion, distress, despair, and happiness have nothing to do with survival?

 

Would it not make sense to be a Terminator-like machine which senses its environment and acts accordingly to ensure its own survival at all costs? Showing philanthropic behaviour seems to be a waste of time at an individual level.

 

 

 

These are the things that make us human. They are some of the most important things we evolved to make us so successful. I'm sure many other animals have them to some degree, but it's our advance in these areas that's one of the most important reasons for our survival. One theory suggests that it's our more advanced use of culture that caused the extinction of neanderthals.

All these things give rise to greater social bonding which is one of our greatest survival tactics.

You only need to look at other apes and elephants for example to realise that we're not alone in having all these emotions.

 

 

Emotions are the primary drivers for actions in a social context.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social bonding and social interactions require emotional empathy etc...The question is, do we need emotions to survive? If we meet people who are high performing autistic, the skillful among them mimic empathy. People who are psychopaths mimic love and empathy but don't feel it. Psychopaths seem to be expert survivors with a superb self interest. Why did we not all become supreme psychopaths? Conscience and guilt seem to be unusual add-ons as emotions and seem unnecessary to survival. http://www.cassiopaea.com/cassiopaea/psychopath.ht

Edited by jimmydasaint

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Social bonding and social interactions require emotional empathy etc...The question is, do we need emotions to survive? If we meet people who are high performing autistic, the skillful among them mimic empathy. People who are psychopaths mimic love and empathy but don't feel it. Psychopaths seem to be expert survivors with a superb self interest. Why did we not all become supreme psychopaths? Conscience and guilt seem to be unusual add-ons as emotions and seem unnecessary to survival

 

 

 

 

We have long been a social animal and conscience and guilt help us to remain a useful member of a social group. Maybe we could survive without these emotions but certainly not as a social animal. Evolution can't choose the route it takes. If something starts off as slightly social it's very likely that becoming more so is the way evolution will progress. And after all, everything needs to be at least slightly social for reproduction to happen.

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No oxytocine, no love, no babies.

 

Why would an individual only interested in his own survival procreate? Seems like a huge liability, hindering mobility and camouflage.

 

Sure, one such individual could function in a social group by rationally weighing his actions, but there wouldn't be a social group if all the individuals were that way.

 

Even the most solitary of (sexual) animals have hormones to make them attracted to others for at least short periods of time.

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Would it not make sense to be a Terminator-like machine which senses its environment and acts accordingly to ensure its own survival at all costs? Showing philanthropic behaviour seems to be a waste of time at an individual level.

 

This isn't a problem if you consider the gene to be the basic 'unit' of evolution rather than the individual. Incidentally, i recently heard Richard Dawkins say he regrets not calling the 'Selfish Gene' something like the "Altruistic Individual'.

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The question is, why did Natural Selection (and Genetic Drift) not cause humans just to function in a reasoned self interest in the same way as a robot?

 

 

 

Why do we have feelings of love, of empathy, of compassion of being upset, being happy, being blue?

It's all about surviving...emotions allow us to live in group and find help.

 

If we are robots like in the terminator, where do we get energy from?

Solar energy and eating spinach?(a lot of iron) :)

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jimmydasaint asked these 3 questions:

 

#1 - “The question is, why did Natural Selection (and Genetic Drift) not cause humans just to function in a reasoned self interest in the same way as a robot?”

 


The simple answer is, the word “robot” refers to a person (or a machine) that behaves in a mechanical or unemotional manner ……. which is contrary to your stated “reasoned self interest” requirement. Robots are “programmable” mechanical devices with limited information storage capacity …….. whereas the human brain/mind is a biological “self-programming” super computer with pretty much unlimited information storage capacity (brain neurons and synaptic connections).

 

#2 - “Why do we have feelings of love, of empathy, of compassion of being upset, being happy, being blue?”

 

The literal fact is, ……. “We are what our environment nurtured us to be”. It is also a literal fact that a newly birthed human does not possess any of your afore stated feelings (emotions) simply because they are nurtured (learned) via environmental stimuli the child is subjected to. Monotheism religious believers are NOT “born” religious believers, ……… they are “nurtured” to be religious believers who were nurtured to believe by their parent(s) and/or guardians.

 

#3 - “Don't species have other priorities, for example, survival, rather than wasting time with all this other extraneous human stuff?”

 


”Yes”, several other priorities which are referred to as “inherited survival instincts” which are of higher priority than the environmentally nurtured traits and attributes. But, depending on the environmental nurturing one is subjected to, ……. the priority status of said inherited instincts can be altered to suit the person’s lifestyle.

 

 

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jimmydasaint asked these 3 questions:

 

The simple answer is, the word “robot” refers to a person (or a machine) that behaves in a mechanical or unemotional manner ……. which is contrary to your stated “reasoned self interest” requirement. Robots are “programmable” mechanical devices with limited information storage capacity …….. whereas the human brain/mind is a biological “self-programming” super computer with pretty much unlimited information storage capacity (brain neurons and synaptic connections).

 

Hi Sam. AFAIK, Artificial Intelligence exponents claim that machines could achieve self-consciousness but have not offered a final date. Nevertheless my point was not literal but to emphasise that, IMHO, reasoning alone cannot provide enough phenotypic advantage to the survival of the species. Are we justified in thinking that genes for emotion and nurturing are also selected for by Natural Selection events? Most contributors who answered the OP see tribal behaviour and community formations to be favoured as a survival mechanism. Are there genes selected for these particular behaviours? I don't know but would love to see some evidence of survival success as a direct result of the genetically driven phenotypes of love, compassion and empathy. I am sure there must be some modelling or other evidence somewhere.

 

 

The literal fact is, ……. “We are what our environment nurtured us to be”. It is also a literal fact that a newly birthed human does not possess any of your afore stated feelings (emotions) simply because they are nurtured (learned) via environmental stimuli the child is subjected to. Monotheism religious believers are NOT “born” religious believers, ……… they are “nurtured” to be religious believers who were nurtured to believe by their parent(s) and/or guardians.

 

If this is true, then there is no genetic basis for feelings, belief and emotions. I think you may have contradicted yourself.

”Yes”, several other priorities which are referred to as “inherited survival instincts” which are of higher priority than the environmentally nurtured traits and attributes. But, depending on the environmental nurturing one is subjected to, ……. the priority status of said inherited instincts can be altered to suit the person’s lifestyle.

 

I have been trained (as a former scientist) to appreciate the theory that the phenotype (feature characteristic, instincts) is selected by the environment and then the success of the genome is transmitted via reproduction until it becomes more widespread and ubiquitous - I am not trying to teach my granny to suck eggs here, I just wanted to foster debate. Any links to evidence would be most welcome.

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To the title of your thread: we are robots. We are also bodies that behave exactly the same when forces act on us: e.g. we fall just the same as stones. So what?

 

But we are very complex robots. It turns out that this complexity leads to phenomena like consciousness, language, science, and free will. The 'why-question' is silly. It obviously once was evolutionary advantageous to develop consciousness and the capability to anticipate the consequences of ones actions. The rest is history.

 

Don't species have other priorities, for example, survival, rather than wasting time with all this other extraneous human stuff?


The question is, why did Natural Selection (and Genetic Drift) not cause humans just to function in a reasoned self interest in the same way as a robot?

 

Why do we have feelings of love, of empathy, of compassion of being upset, being happy, being blue?

 

Don't species have other priorities, for example, survival, rather than wasting time with all this other extraneous human stuff?

 

Why do you think evolution would lead to a rational 'end product'?

 

We developed from 'lower' animals, and evolution has to work with the material it has. Mother nature is not just sitting and thinking what the best design for a survival machine would be. So our ancestors already had consciousness (they can picture their environment, see their place in it, and anticipate the consequences of their actions), and so we have. We added just language and culture to it.

 

The 'why question' is not a scientific one. (So this topic should be moved to philosophy.) The 'how question' would be, but I am wondering if you are interested in that question?

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To the title of your thread: we are robots. We are also bodies that behave exactly the same when forces act on us: e.g. we fall just the same as stones. So what?

 

The point was to say that purely rational behaviour (as exemplified by the Gradgrind character in Dicken's novel) could not achieve survival advantage by consciously utilising rationality. It was to say that we had extraneous human "stuff" that gives us an advantage in survival and that the basis of that behaviour must have a genetic origin. Where are the genes for empathy, compassion, higher emotions, altruism? Surely these factors are just as important as rationality. The genetic basis of factors other than rationality made me post in this thread.

 

 

But we are very complex robots. It turns out that this complexity leads to phenomena like consciousness, language, science, and free will. The 'why-question' is silly. It obviously once was evolutionary advantageous to develop consciousness and the capability to anticipate the consequences of ones actions. The rest is history.

Where is your evidence? Show me some papers and some links. You are dismissing humanity to the complexity argument. Remember, phenotype selects genotype.

 

Why do you think evolution would lead to a rational 'end product'?

Bacteria and archaebacteria have survived superbly well without feelings. Insects abound throughout the Earth. Avian species seem to do well without the need to cry when they see injustice and they are complex individuals. Rationally, we did not need the humaneness - we could have reproduced, produced children with superb survival and hunting skills, like lions on two legs,and lived in small tribes like the lions but we did not. Why not?

 

We developed from 'lower' animals, and evolution has to work with the material it has. Mother nature is not just sitting and thinking what the best design for a survival machine would be. So our ancestors already had consciousness (they can picture their environment, see their place in it, and anticipate the consequences of their actions), and so we have. We added just language and culture to it.

 

Two of the greatest mysteries in the world, consciousness and language dismissed by some throw away lines. Who is Mother Nature by the way? There is no Mother Nature according to your argument. It should be survival of the fittest, red in tooth and claw. Ruthless and blind. Completely random and selecting by predation, disease, starvation and natural events. You cannot add Mother Nature to this argument. We are discussing cold, hard science here.

 

The 'why question' is not a scientific one. (So this topic should be moved to philosophy.) The 'how question' would be, but I am wondering if you are interested in that question?

I think the "why?" and "how?" questions are both salient here. Millions saw the apple fall from the tree but Newton questioned "why?".

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The point was to say that purely rational behaviour (as exemplified by the Gradgrind character in Dicken's novel) could not achieve survival advantage by consciously utilising rationality.

 

You are putting the cart before the horse. It is obvious that consciousness developed first. Consciousness must have some evolutionary advantage. Even my cat shows what this advantage is: he knows that when he scratches the door I will let him in. So he knows what the consequences of his behaviour is. It makes no sense to ask why we are not robots: we are further developments of conscious animals.

 

It was to say that we had extraneous human "stuff" that gives us an advantage in survival and that the basis of that behaviour must have a genetic origin. Where are the genes for empathy, compassion, higher emotions, altruism? Surely these factors are just as important as rationality.

Maybe there are none. Where are the building blocks for text processing in your PC? The capability for certain behaviour does not mean that the behaviour itself lies in the genes.

 

Where is your evidence? Show me some papers and some links. You are dismissing humanity to the complexity argument. Remember, phenotype selects genotype.

 

Reducing? I am not aware of that. And what evidence do you want? If some trait of an animal exists now, there must at least have been some evolutionary advantage for it. So consciousness must have been such an advantageous trait. I know it is more complicated than this, but at least conscious animals exist for such a long time, that it must have some advantage.

 

Bacteria and archaebacteria have survived superbly well without feelings. Insects abound throughout the Earth. Avian species seem to do well without the need to cry when they see injustice and they are complex individuals. Rationally, we did not need the humaneness - we could have reproduced, produced children with superb survival and hunting skills, like lions on two legs,and lived in small tribes like the lions but we did not. Why not?

Maybe because it helped humans survive, in groups? Why do you have such a problem with the history of evolution just as it occurred?

 

Two of the greatest mysteries in the world, consciousness and language dismissed by some throw away lines.

I am not aware of dismissing anything. I only assume that there must have been an evolutionary advantage for them. Or do you think that consciousness and language arose in spite of evolution?

 

Who is Mother Nature by the way? There is no Mother Nature according to your argument. It should be survival of the fittest, red in tooth and claw. Ruthless and blind. Completely random and selecting by predation, disease, starvation and natural events. You cannot add Mother Nature to this argument. We are discussing cold, hard science here.

 

I think the "why?" and "how?" questions are both salient here. Millions saw the apple fall from the tree but Newton questioned "why?".

 

You are asking for reason, for a rationale of not being a robot. Your original formulation:

 

The question is, why did Natural Selection (and Genetic Drift) not cause humans just to function in a reasoned self interest in the same way as a robot?

 

So I introduced Mother Nature as exaggeration of your 'why' question.

 

I think the "why?" and "how?" questions are both salient here. Millions saw the apple fall from the tree but Newton questioned "why?".

 

Newton:

 

I have not as yet been able to discover the reason for these properties of gravity from phenomena, and I do not feign hypotheses. For whatever is not deduced from the phenomena must be called a hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, or based on occult qualities, or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy. In this philosophy particular propositions are inferred from the phenomena, and afterwards rendered general by induction

Newton explained according to which laws of nature works. Not why it works as it does.

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Two of the greatest mysteries in the world, consciousness and language dismissed by some throw away lines.

 

Who is Mother Nature by the way?

 

 

 

The above two (2) statements got my attention ......... and I'se just had to respond to them, to wit:

 

Now the reason for the evolving of the physical attributes of "consciousness and language" in most every one of the higher animal species ....... just might be claimed or considered by some people to be "two of the greatest mysteries in the world" ...... but not by me because I do not consider either one to be "mysterious" in the why or how of their origin ........ simply because me thinks both of them are rooted in "survival of the fittest" and/or "survival of the species".

 

And who is Mother Nature? Well "DUH", ...... "Mother Nature" is simply nothing more than a "catch-all" name that defines, describes and/or denotes the functioning of "the science of the natural world".

 

And I will be happy to tell you who ....... "Old Man Winter" ..... and "Jack Frost" is, ..... iffen you ask.

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Let me absolutely clear on my stance here so there is no doubt. I believe in a Creator who created and then allowed his Creation to develop by putting onto place Laws of the Universe (known and unknown). I do not believe that this Creative Energy/Intelligence is a man. There is no "human" emotion involved, nor is there permanent meddling in human affairs. This is my own particular worldview which takes into account my present level of ignorance. However, there are several aspect of the Creation which I wanted to question because, inevitably, consciousness and language HAD to develop. Emotions and the sheer bloody irrationality of humans (witness behaviour at a roundabout in the UK) also had to arrive but where is the hard evidence? Now my cards are on the table, I can respond to the answers that were given by you guys.

 


You are putting the cart before the horse. It is obvious that consciousness developed first. Consciousness must have some evolutionary advantage. Even my cat shows what this advantage is: he knows that when he scratches the door I will let him in. So he knows what the consequences of his behaviour is. It makes no sense to ask why we are not robots: we are further developments of conscious animals.

 

Not necessarily Eise. You offered no links or papers but my first search yielded the following hypothesis:

 

Co-Evolution of Human Consciousness and Language

Abstract: This article recalls Cajal's brief mention of consciousness in the Textura as a function of the human brain quite distinct from reflex action, and discusses the view that human consciousness may share aspects of “animal awareness” with other species, but has its unique form because humans possess language. Three ingredients of a theory of the evolution of human consciousness are offered: the view that a précis of intended activity is necessarily formed in the brain of a human that communicates in a human way; the notion that such a précis constitutes consciousness; and a new theory of the evolution of human language based on the mirror system of monkeys and the role of communication by means of hand gestures as a stepping-stone to speech.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2001.tb05717.x/full

 


Maybe there are none. Where are the building blocks for text processing in your PC? The capability for certain behaviour does not mean that the behaviour itself lies in the genes.

I do not agree with you here. There has to be, IMO, a genetic predisposition to human behaviours and emotions that are then shaped and selected by the environment.

Another link for you to think about:

 

The other main way in which the effects of genes and the environment collide is via so-called gene-environment interaction. This describes the situation whereby genes influence a person's susceptibility to environmental risk. For example, there is an accumulating body of evidence that variation in the gene encoding the serotonin transporter might modulate the extent to which depression occurs as a consequence of exposure to adverse experiences such as stressful life events and childhood maltreatment. Rutter argues persuasively that gene-environment interactions of this sort are likely to be common and that we must take this into account in our research.

Thus, genes are not deterministic and they do not `cause' behaviours or psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia in any direct way. Rather their effects on behaviour are indirect and mediated to a considerable extent via the environment. The challenge now is to delineate gene-environment interplay more widely and to begin to determine the causal pathways - biochemical, cellular and cognitive - that mediate psychiatric and behavioural phenotypes. There seems little doubt that this is the most promising approach to developing a scientific understanding of psychiatric disorders, but it will require increasing multidisciplinary collaboration and, particularly for geneticists and psychosocial researchers, not only to talk the same language, but also to work together. Fortunately, there are signs that this is happening.

http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/189/2/192.short

I will admit that this is a complicated matter where scientific knowledge is rather incomplete.


Reducing? I am not aware of that. And what evidence do you want? If some trait of an animal exists now, there must at least have been some evolutionary advantage for it. So consciousness must have been such an advantageous trait. I know it is more complicated than this, but at least conscious animals exist for such a long time, that it must have some advantage.

Maybe I did not express my point clearly, but are there genes for empathy? I don't know but psycopaths seem to survive quite well without empathy. and have a huge survival advantage certainly in developed society and maybe in the battlefield but these are my opinions from what I have read.


You are asking for reason, for a rationale of not being a robot. Your original formulation:

So I introduced Mother Nature as exaggeration of your 'why' question.

Newton:


Newton explained according to which laws of nature works. Not why it works as it does.

I suspect that you are dodging the issue by referring to the hypothetico deductive model. So you say that Newton described how an apple fell to the ground in a rectilinear path but not why? Semantic obfuscation Eise - semantic obfuscation!


 

The above two (2) statements got my attention ......... and I'se just had to respond to them, to wit:

 

Now the reason for the evolving of the physical attributes of "consciousness and language" in most every one of the higher animal species ....... just might be claimed or considered by some people to be "two of the greatest mysteries in the world" ...... but not by me because I do not consider either one to be "mysterious" in the why or how of their origin ........ simply because me thinks both of them are rooted in "survival of the fittest" and/or "survival of the species".

 

I stand by my original statement in the absence of any scientific evidence to the contrary. Consciousness to a human level and also evolution of language present a mystery to scientists.

 

And who is Mother Nature? Well "DUH", ...... "Mother Nature" is simply nothing more than a "catch-all" name that defines, describes and/or denotes the functioning of "the science of the natural world".

 

And I will be happy to tell you who ....... "Old Man Winter" ..... and "Jack Frost" is, ..... iffen you ask.

 

Sam, give me one paper on Mother Nature and how Mother Nature has performed experiments to reach one objective truth. Call it what you want, it is a whimsical notion. Why not just call it Santa Clause?

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Let me absolutely clear on my stance here so there is no doubt. I believe in a Creator who created and then allowed his Creation to develop by putting onto place Laws of the Universe (known and unknown). I do not believe that this Creative Energy/Intelligence is a man. There is no "human" emotion involved, nor is there permanent meddling in human affairs. This is my own particular worldview which takes into account my present level of ignorance. However, there are several aspect of the Creation which I wanted to question because, inevitably, consciousness and language HAD to develop. Emotions and the sheer bloody irrationality of humans (witness behaviour at a roundabout in the UK) also had to arrive but where is the hard evidence?

A priori, nothing had to develop.

A posteriori, everything has had to develop, otherwise it would not be here today.

 

 

Consciousness to a human level and also evolution of language present a mystery to scientists.

It may be a mystery to you, but that doesn't make it a mystery to scientists. There are plenty of animals that employ language with different levels of complexity. The "consciousness" part is fuzzy without proper definition. My computer knows its own serial number, name and IP-address and is able to perform self-diagnostics, so who's to say it is not conscious?

Edited by Bender

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A priori, nothing had to develop.

A posteriori, everything has had to develop, otherwise it would not be here today.

It may be a mystery to you, but that doesn't make it a mystery to scientists. There are plenty of animals that employ language with different levels of complexity. The "consciousness" part is fuzzy without proper definition. My computer knows its own serial number, name and IP-address and is able to perform self-diagnostics, so who's to say it is not conscious?

I won't debate First Cause argument. However, something capable of creating matter is not made of matter. By consciousness, I mean recursive thinking. I take it your computer does not pause to think about its thoughts. I would also hypothesise that few animals are able to access recursive thinking in a conscious human way. Btw, it is still a mystery how consciousness evolved:

 

 

The Uniqueness of Human Recursive Thinking

The ability to think about thinking may be the critical attribute that distinguishes us from all other species

Michael Corballis

200732713297_307.jpgenlarge-image.gif

A dog chasing his tail has nothing on the human race. Recursion—a process that calls itself, or calls a similar process—may be a fundamental aspect of what it means to be human. In the human mind, recursion is actually much more complex than the notion of returning to the same place over and over. We put phrases within phrases because we hold thoughts in memory; thus we have language and a sense of a past self. We are aware that we are thinking about what someone else is thinking; on this awareness we build a sense of self and the ability to be deceptive or to act on shared belief. Recursion gives us the ability to mentally travel in time. It is fundamental to the evolution of technology: Human beings are the only animals that have been observed to use a tool to make a tool. Looking at human language and thought, psychologist Corballis finds recursion within recursion.

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/rev/3/3/300/

 

 

For centuries philosophers, scientists, and lay people alike have assumed consciousness to be the most distinctive feature of human nature. Despite the power of that assumption the workings of consciousness continue to elude understanding. In recent years a number of influential scientists and philosophers have challenged the primacy of consciousness, dismissing it as a superficial byproduct of evolution, or even an entirely irrelevant factor in human cognition. The author draws on his own theory of the origins of the modern mind and presents the cultural and neuronal forces that power human modes of awareness. The author proposes that the human mind is a hybrid product of interweaving a supercomplex form of matter (the brain) with the symbolic web of culture to form a distributed cognitive network. Using evidence from brain and behavioral studies the author further explains how an expansion of conscious capacity was the key to the revolutionary development of consciousness. Additionally, the cognitive foundations of self-evaluation and self-reflection are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2001-06841-000

Edited by jimmydasaint

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I've always preferred the term 'self-aware' to consciousness.

Being self aware implies a recognition that some states of being are more or less preferable than other states.

In essence, we become accustomed to being with company as opposed to being alone, that being incapacitated is less desirable than being able, that life is preferable to death, etc . And almost all living things display these traits to some extent; we are not special.

 

Bender's computer may have a name and an IP address, but it does not 'fear' being turned off or having its hard drive crash. But should we ever develop AI, who is to say that those systems won't be just as self aware as we are ?

IOW a new life form .

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This is not a literary discussion but a question that arises in my mind about the extra "stuff" that makes us humans.

 

Having just read "Hard Times" by Charles Dickens http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/786

one of the major characters is a man of reason called Gradgrind, who believes that facts and figures are solely what is required to turn out a well-rounded individual who has reasoning capacities.

 

One of his quotes is as follows:

 

 

 

Towards the end of this proto-Socialist exposition, Gradgrind gets a tough reminder that humans cannot live on facts alone by his own daughter whose life has been ruined by parental insistence on pure reason:

 

 

Don't species have other priorities, for example, survival, rather than wasting time with all this other extraneous human stuff?

 

The question is, why did Natural Selection (and Genetic Drift) not cause humans just to function in a reasoned self interest in the same way as a robot?

 

Why do we have feelings of love, of empathy, of compassion of being upset, being happy, being blue?

 

Don't species have other priorities, for example, survival, rather than wasting time with all this other extraneous human stuff?

 

 

I don't understand your assertion, in my experience other living creatures have some part of the extraneous stuff you talk about. Humans might have more of it but it is just a matter of degree and not one of type. I would expect a self aware robot to have them as well...

Edited by Moontanman

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I won't debate First Cause argument. However, something capable of creating matter is not made of matter. By consciousness, I mean recursive thinking. I take it your computer does not pause to think about its thoughts. I would also hypothesise that few animals are able to access recursive thinking in a conscious human way. Btw, it is still a mystery how consciousness evolved:

 

 

I can program my computer to do recursive thinking. In fact, if I compile a piece of code, my computer is going to think about the optimal way to compile it so it has to think less while executing the program afterwards.

 

I've always preferred the term 'self-aware' to consciousness.

Being self aware implies a recognition that some states of being are more or less preferable than other states.

In essence, we become accustomed to being with company as opposed to being alone, that being incapacitated is less desirable than being able, that life is preferable to death, etc . And almost all living things display these traits to some extent; we are not special.

 

Bender's computer may have a name and an IP address, but it does not 'fear' being turned off or having its hard drive crash. But should we ever develop AI, who is to say that those systems won't be just as self aware as we are ?

IOW a new life form .

My thermostat prefers a specific room temperature, so by your definition, it is self-aware.

 

If you define fear for me, I can program my computer to experience it. I can e.g. set it up to run regular virus scans to avoid a hard drive crash and take automatic backups to reduce the consequences, if you want to define "fear" as "taking precautions to avoid something undesirable" or as "reducing risk".

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