LH Merlo

About life and consciousness.

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Where it might be difficult to agree on an exact definition of consciousness, I think some of the following must at least apply. 

For an organism, or more general, a system, to be conscious,

  1. it must have some 'mental picture' of the environment
  2. it must be able to see its position in this environment
  3. It can anticipate the future, i.e. have a notion of what can happen (soon), dependent on its 'mental picture'
  4. It can anticipate the future dependent on different actions it can do

It is difficult to see that a system is conscious, but has none of these capabilities. Now you can decide if a stone, a lichen, a potato, a spider, a rabbit, a crow, or a human has consciousness.

There is a fifth point, which is not quite as clear for me, but think might be essential for a system not just to imitate consciousness, but to be conscious: that it is, as I call it, a universal anticipation machine.  As an example, one could defend on basis of the above 4 points, that a chess computer is conscious. But the environment of a chess computer is of course very limited.

And then there is a sixth point, namely that the system can report about its inner states: e.g. it can report about reasons why it thinks something is the case ("I've seen it"), or why it acts as it does.

Maybe, all the six points taken together, we can say a system is conscious, i.e. these six conditions are not just necessary, but sufficient. But here I hang a little out of the window...

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15 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

but all must have something in order to stay alive.

15 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

Because rock and water, unlike a lichen, are not alive. That small detail sometimes presents huge difference.

 

Some rocks were alive once and then it evolved. The mistake most people make is that evolution is a thing with a things consciousness. There's no real difference between a rock and lichen, they both evolved without an awareness of the fact.

Of course a living thing tries to stay alive (it wouldn't evolve otherwise), but that doesn't mean it wants too. Does a potato grow because it wants to be eaten?

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5 hours ago, Eise said:

Where it might be difficult to agree on an exact definition of consciousness, I think some of the following must at least apply. 

For an organism, or more general, a system, to be conscious,

  1. it must have some 'mental picture' of the environment
  2. it must be able to see its position in this environment
  3. It can anticipate the future, i.e. have a notion of what can happen (soon), dependent on its 'mental picture'
  4. It can anticipate the future dependent on different actions it can do

It is difficult to see that a system is conscious, but has none of these capabilities. Now you can decide if a stone, a lichen, a potato, a spider, a rabbit, a crow, or a human has consciousness.

There is a fifth point, which is not quite as clear for me, but think might be essential for a system not just to imitate consciousness, but to be conscious: that it is, as I call it, a universal anticipation machine.  As an example, one could defend on basis of the above 4 points, that a chess computer is conscious. But the environment of a chess computer is of course very limited.

And then there is a sixth point, namely that the system can report about its inner states: e.g. it can report about reasons why it thinks something is the case ("I've seen it"), or why it acts as it does.

Maybe, all the six points taken together, we can say a system is conscious, i.e. these six conditions are not just necessary, but sufficient. But here I hang a little out of the window...

I think you are setting the bar too high with this one because I think it requires self-consciousness i.e  an organism needs to be able to 'mirror' itself mentally. 

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1 minute ago, StringJunky said:

I think you are setting the bar too high with this one because I think it requires self-consciousness i.e  an organism needs to be able to 'mirror' itself mentally. 

Is that an intellectual requirement or an emotional one? 

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13 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Is that an intellectual requirement or an emotional one? 

Neither. It's a matter of brain physiology whether an organism is equipped with the necessary apparatus to be self-conscious, or not.

Edited by StringJunky

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2 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

Neither. 

Neither? 

4 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

It's a matter of brain physiology whether an organism is equipped with the necessary apparatus to be self-conscious, or not.

Who decides that? Science has a lot to say about brain size to body ratio, but that seems a rather blunt tool; until we learn dolphin, Dr Doolittle would be a useful asset...

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16 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

Because rock and water, unlike a lichen, are not alive. That small detail sometimes presents huge difference.

I don’t think saying one is alive and the other isn’t helps very much. The problem is more about define what we mean by “aware” or “self aware” or “conscious”. For example:

The speed of a simple chemical reaction may vary depending on temperature or the nature of the substrate. Is it “aware” of its surroundings?

We can get DNA to replicate and express proteins in a test tube. Is that living or non_living?

A virus will take over cells to replicate itself. It has evolved solely for that purpose. Most scientists say it is not alive, yet it seems to have “drive” and “motivation” by your definition. 

I can build a simple robot that searches out light to recharge its batteries and runs away from loud noises. It is not alive but is it aware?

I am just presenting these as a few simple examples to show that isn’t as black & white or alive & dead as you seem to think. 

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30 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Neither? 

Who decides that? Science has a lot to say about brain size to body ratio, but that seems a rather blunt tool; until we learn dolphin, Dr Doolittle would be a useful asset...

Certain neural configurations or organs within a brain, which can be seen, determine whether  an organism is likely to have certain abilities or not... it's not magic.

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6 hours ago, Eise said:
  • It can anticipate the future, i.e. have a notion of what can happen (soon), dependent on its 'mental picture'
  •  

I have a brand new grand daughter. I don't think she can anticipate anything at all about the future.

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1 minute ago, StringJunky said:

Certain neural configurations or organs within a brain, which can be seen, determine whether  an organism is likely to have certain abilities or not...

At what point is that true? Bacteria can't but a human can...

It's a little like our perception of size, a grain of sand is halfway between the size of the Earth and an atom IIRC.

When does size mean a significant number of neural connections has been reached?

Just now, zapatos said:

I have a brand new grand daughter. I don't think she can anticipate anything at all about the future.

She can't is different to she won't.

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8 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

She can't is different to she won't.

Yes, I'm aware of that. I'm pretty sure she has consciousness now though.

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1 minute ago, zapatos said:

Yes, I'm aware of that. I'm pretty sure she has consciousness now though.

Possibly/probably, did you ask her?

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5 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Possibly/probably, did you ask her?

Yes, then we had a lengthy discussion on the aesthetics of art.

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It's the point on the continuum that's vital, it seems... i.e. When is abortion legitimate? 

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8 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

It's the point on the continuum that's vital, it seems... i.e. When is abortion legitimate? 

The question of abortion involves much more than consciousness and thus is likely off topic.

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11 minutes ago, zapatos said:

The question of abortion involves much more than consciousness and thus is likely off topic.

Is it? If your happy to eat a potato then your happy to make a distinction.

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5 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Is it? 

You really want to use this thread to discuss whether life begins at conception? A woman's right to choose? Whether or not a "right to privacy" actually exists in the Constitution? Societal norms across countries? When the fetus becomes a 'person'? 

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Just now, zapatos said:

You really want to use this thread to discuss whether life begins at conception? A woman's right to choose? Whether or not a "right to privacy" actually exists in the Constitution? Societal norms across countries? When the fetus becomes a 'person'? 

No, but you have to, at least, acknowledge that at at some point a cell becomes a person or a potato becomes a plant.

 

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1 minute ago, dimreepr said:

No, but you have to, at least, acknowledge that at at some point a cell becomes a person or a potato becomes a plant.

 

Sure, I'll acknowledge that.

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We are discussing a conscious being, rather than a collection of cells that is good to eat.

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8 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

We are discussing a conscious being, rather than a collection of cells that is good to eat.

They're not mutually exclusive. Now, please pass the bacon

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/animal-emotions/201506/pigs-are-intelligent-emotional-and-cognitively-complex

Edited by iNow

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3 minutes ago, iNow said:

They're not mutually exclusive.

Indeed, but there is a moral imperative. 

For instance, it's OK to eat insects... 

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16 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

For instance, it's OK to eat insects... 

Only because we arbitrarily classify them differently despite the tremendous overlap on key dimensions discussed above

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10 minutes ago, iNow said:

Only because we arbitrarily classify them differently despite the tremendous overlap on key dimensions discussed above

Kinda my point.

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1 hour ago, dimreepr said:

Kinda my point.

Good to know. Thanks. I admittedly wasn't really sure what that was. :D

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