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LH Merlo

About life and consciousness.

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You should understand that sensible and useful abstract notions, such as numbers for example, are not human specific, in a sense that they are understandable by other species too, and that instinctive behavior defined as animal like behavior, contrasted with mentation process defined as neural activity that enables human like behavior, are not sensible and useful abstract notions, simply because their definitions are poor.

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2 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

You should understand that sensible and useful abstract notions, such as numbers for example, are not human specific, in a sense that they are understandable by other species too,... 

What you consider "sensible and useful abstract notions" must be specifically relatable to human references and experiences to be understood by humans.  Unequivocally , you cannot know what is understandable by other species without references relatable to experiences you understand as a human being and have acquired through your human experience.  Using your example, you wouldn't know other species understood sensible and abstract notions such as numbers without first observing behaviors, which you can identify and reference from your human experience as proof of their understanding. 

 

3 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

...that instinctive behavior defined as animal like behavior, contrasted with mentation process defined as neural activity that enables human like behavior, are not sensible and useful abstract notions, simply because their definitions are poor.

 I agree; the way you define instinct behaviors in contrast with mentation process here is indeed poor.  However, as I define, instinctive behaviors are those behaviors that a species engages without the appearance of a thought process; whereas, mentation behaviors are those behaviors a species engage that appear to involve a thought process.  Essentially, it is a distinction between automatic and controlled behaviors.  Rather than an abstraction, it's useful tools for assessing species that engage in thought processes and those that do not.

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I defined that? So this doesn't count as your definitions any more? How did you define thought?

On ‎9‎/‎14‎/‎2019 at 9:49 PM, DrmDoc said:

Thought is what enables humanity's ability to override it programming and rise above all other species and organism.  The way we distinguish those animals that do not appear capable of thought is by their inability to engage behaviors that override their programming."  I define instinct as those behaviors engaged without the appearance of a thought process.

I'm glad that you admit that your definitions are poor, and not very scientific, regardless of the fact that you assign them to me now. You seem to be programmed not to stick that much to your own words and thoughts, except for constant repeating that people make conclusions using their own brain and experience, and not that of horse. What a great insight.

OK, so now this does not have anything to do with human abilities, it is about that that some species are "purely automatic" beings, and others "can control their behavior", basically because "they can think". And main purpose of your definitions is to distinguish between them, am I right now? If you can envisage something else they can be useful for, please just add it to the list.
OK then, so where is that dividing line exactly in the evolution tree?
Second question, those that can think, if they think because they are genetically programmed to think, why you consider that non automatic activity?
I mean, programs are executed automatically once they are started, and their genetic program started to run from the moment their genetic code was created.

Third question, those that cannot control their behavior, can they control anything else in their life, or are they totally controlled by their program, how do they make choices in your opinion?

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4 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

I defined that?

Yes, you did as follows:

21 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

...that instinctive behavior defined as animal like behavior, contrasted with mentation process defined as neural activity that enables human like behavior...

I agree that your definition (above) is poor.  The following, from prior comment on this topic, is mine:

"...as I define, instinctive behaviors are those behaviors a species engages without the appearance of a thought process; whereas, mentation behaviors are those a species engage that appear to involve a thought process...".   

I made no statement of instinctive behaviors being defined as "animal like behaviors" nor did I define "mentation process" as "neural activity that enables human like behaviors."  These are your words and definitions and, indeed, they are poor.  

4 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

I'm glad that you admit that your definitions are poor, and not very scientific, regardless of the fact that you assign them to me now.

 Clearly, I've made no such admission as you believe, hope, or imagine by your statement above.  Perhaps you misunderstood my definition but the comments you are attempting to ascribe to me comprise your words and definitions, which do not carry nor convey my perspective, meaning, or understanding.

 

4 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

You seem to be programmed not to stick that much to your own words and thoughts, except for constant repeating that people make conclusions using their own brain and experience, and not that of horse. What a great insight.

OK, so now this does not have anything to do with human abilities, it is about that that some species are "purely automatic" beings, and others "can control their behavior", basically because "they can think". And main purpose of your definitions is to distinguish between them, am I right now? If you can envisage something else they can be useful for, please just add it to the list.
OK then, so where is that dividing line exactly in the evolution tree?
Second question, those that can think, if they think because they are genetically programmed to think, why you consider that non automatic activity?
I mean, programs are executed automatically once they are started, and their genetic program started to run from the moment their genetic code was created.

Third question, those that cannot control their behavior, can they control anything else in their life, or are they totally controlled by their program, how do they make choices in your opinion?

Devolving into inane commentary and deviations will neither support your position nor serve the furtherance of this discussion.  Fundamentally, we cannot understand anything about the nature of other species without references relatable to human experience and understanding.  As my final entry in support of the position I've tried to convey, we cannot even understand each other as humans of different nationalities without references relatable to our individual nationality, experiences, and understanding.  For example, a person of French nationality, who does not know or speak English, will not understand the words we have used in this discussion without translating these words into his or her language.  Applying references relatable to humans to the behaviors of other species is how we, as a separate species, translate those behaviors into a behavioral language we are able to quantify and understand.

Edited by DrmDoc

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I understand you much better than you give me credit for, or even realize. True, English is not my native language, but you didn’t make an effort to learn mine, and that is what makes difference between you and me from the start.

You have no response to my questions and arguments, forget about my definitions, I had no ambitions to give any, because I know it is extremely hard to come up with sufficiently precise ones, regarding that matter you are talking about. Smart withdrawal from discussion, as you realize that too.

 

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During this discussion, I wondered all the time will my fellow participant and opponent at some moment consult the freely available sources of information on the current state of affairs in science regarding these topic, such as wikipedia, to at least check if there is a potential discrepancy between his definitions and the official ones.
I knew I would, and I knew I deliberately didn't so far, because of my disappointment with what I learned about it in school, a few decades ago, but for the sake of completeness it should be done:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instinct
So, here it says that basic definition is:
"Instinct or innate behavior is the inherent inclination of a living organism towards a particular complex behavior."
As dictionary says that "innate" and "inborn" are more or less synonims, it is not strange to find that:
"Any behavior is instinctive if it is performed without being based upon prior experience (that is, in the absence of learning)."
Elaboration continues, giving futher characterization:
"The simplest example of an instinctive behavior is a fixed action pattern (FAP), in which a very short to medium length sequence of actions, without variation, are carried out in response to a corresponding clearly defined stimulus."
There is also a chapter on physiological difference between a reflex and instinct:
"The stimulus in a reflex may not require brain activity but instead may travel to the spinal cord as a message that is then transmitted back through the body, tracing a path called the reflex arc. Reflexes are similar to fixed action patterns in that most reflexes meet the criteria of a FAP. However, a fixed action pattern can be processed in the brain as well;"

So basically, emphasis is not that much on the ability of control (or choice) of engaging in such behavior, as much as on the origin of that behavior, and (in)ability to change such behavior: "Though an instinct is defined by its invariant innate characteristics, details of its performance can be changed by experience; for example, a dog can improve its fighting skills by practice."
So yeah, the devil is always in details, that show that the official definitions are also not clear cut precision.

Summary: purely instinctive species would be, according to these definitions, those that are incapable of learning, and improving their behavior. Which is IMHO, not existing in nature. Not all have the same strength of that capability (obviously), but saying that there are some who cannot change their behaviour at all, is similar as claiming that there are some that cannot evolve genetically. And those who can rapidly change their behavior, less depend on the need to change their genetics as a response to environmental pressure. I guess.

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5 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

those that are incapable of learning, and improving their behavior. Which is IMHO, not existing in nature

With regard to that, interesting is both the ability to accumulate knowledge by learning during the lifespan of a single organism, as well as over generations. And one might say that this ability is negligible in majority of species in comparison to human ability, but still not zero.

As I was intrigued, I did another check, and that is how many times the string "instinct" appears here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought (twice), as well as how many times string "thought" appears here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instinct (once).

Not that I esteem very much the current state of exactness of these subjects as presented by mainstream science, but still, can't ignore that completely. The number of the meanings of the word "thought" given there is really impressive, and at least it is honestly admitted that there is still no consensus as to how it is adequately defined or understood.

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3 hours ago, Hrvoje1 said:

As I was intrigued, I did another check, and that is how many times the string "instinct" appears here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought (twice), as well as how many times string "thought" appears here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instinct (once).

Although I've cited Wikipedia often in this forum as a convenience, I don't particularly consider it a sacrosanct resource for scientific studies and definitions.  My perspective, understanding, and definitions are primarily based on my assessment of the available metadata and peer reviewed research on the subject of the topics I've explored here and in other science forum discussions.  What I've learned from the metadata and research regarding the nature of instinct, mind, and consciousness exceeds what some may consider current or reliable in Wikipedia--IMHO.

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Now, this sounds overly defensive, for two reasons. First one is that Wikipedia may be not a sacrosanct resource, but it mentions characterization of instinct similar to yours:

>>Jean Henri Fabre (1823-1915), an entomologist, considered instinct to be any behavior which did not require cognition or consciousness to perform.<<

Because: >>Cognition is "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses".<<

So, although thought was not directly mentioned in relation to instinct, indirectly it was mentioned as a way of acquiring knowledge, that is learning, which is not required for instinctive behavior. And the other characterization you were fixed on is also mentioned:

>>For example, people may be able to modify a stimulated fixed action pattern by consciously recognizing the point of its activation and simply stop doing it, whereas animals without a sufficiently strong volitional capacity may not be able to disengage from their fixed action patterns, once activated.<<

The difference between behavior one engages without the appearance of a thought process, and behavior that is not learned, is that learned behavior can be automated due to a regular performance and can be performed without requiring much thinking and great focus and attention of our consciousness. For example, driving a car can be one such activity, depending on the road circumstances, that may allow us to think about things unrelated to driving, so that we almost forget about driving. However, if monotony is broken by a pedestrian jumping in front of our car, that would require instantaneous reaction we may be tempted to call instinctive, because of its speed, and because it doesn't require much thinking to find out what is one supposed to do in that situation. However, both unfocused driving and fast stopping the car are things we didn't know at the moment when we were born, we had to learn where are brakes in our car and how to use them, so even if it doesn't require much thinking now when one does it, it doesn't mean it didn't require thinking at the time it was learned. But, since you didn't strictly specify the timing of appearance of a thought process (not) required for instinctive behavior, you can claim it covers any time.

Theorizing about patterns of mental activities and behaviors, by establishing its systematic characterization and classification should not be a main purpose of anyone's dealing with the subject. Being able to say if something counts as instinct or mentation behavior, or something third, looks like armchair philosophy, while ability to design a system that is able to monitor brain activity and find out and display accurately what the brain does, using some technic of neuroimaging, and machine learning, proves a whole different level of understanding and technical and practical usefulness. Application of such a system would be for a brain-computer interface, medical diagnostics, you name it...
Actually, I started to grow a big interest in these things after a colleague of mine had a stroke, and never fully recovered from it, after five years he still cannot move one arm and leg. The other colleague had a large brain tumor removed, and recovered immediately fully from such a condition with no apparent consequences, although he had a problem finding a surgeon that was willing to accept the risk of operation, as the tumor was advanced. I don't know how much neuroplasticity was in question in each case, I guess more in the first case then in the other, because the tumor tissue was not functional anyway, I guess.

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As I mentioned them in this discussion, I have studied these topics, just for fun and relaxation, and in order to know at least a little bit things I am talking about:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroimaging
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain%E2%80%93computer_interface
Here I found out that there is a middle way, between resting in a complete unfamiliarity with the subject, and designing such a system from scratch in DIY manner (which would be impossible for me). That way is to buy some low-cost equipment and join the open source community, such as https://openbci.com , which is actually cool, although I am affraid I am not much of an engineer, not even for that. Anyway, that led me to the third topic, that I also mentioned indirectly:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain-reading
and that is the actual holy grail of the discussion about "life and consciousness", but there it unfortunately says:
>>Experts are unsure of how far thought identification can expand, but Marcel Just believed in 2014 that in 3–5 years there will be a machine that is able to read complex thoughts such as 'I hate so-and-so'.<<

If they manage to do it, that would be awesome. So, not just able to distinguish between such diverse states of mind as:
"focused thinking", "listening to music", "furiously angry", "sleeping", "unconscious", "coma", ...
or between less diverse mind states of focused thinking such as: "playing chess" , "working on math", "reading a technical documentation", ...
but to the level of specific precision such as: "considering Qe5", "proving Thales theorem", "reading about OpenBCI Cyton Board"
and being general at the same time, that is, not restricted to some narrow area of mind reading.

I have a strange feeling that you were talking about these things, when you were mentioning "quantification of definition of consciousness, using a cogent basis relatable to human experience", you just couldn't say that in a plain and straightforward way as I just did, or you just chose to avoid saying it that way for some odd reason.

Edited by Hrvoje1

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Ignoring for a moment the oddly consistent and unnecessary sniping above, this struck me as an interesting on-topic study:

 

https://neurosciencenews.com/l5p-neuron-conscious-awareness-14997/

Quote

Summary: Researchers believe they have identified specific neurons that are responsible for conscious awareness. Previous studies have implicated both thalamocortical circuits and cortico-cortico circuits in consciousness. The new study reports these networks intersect via L5p neurons. Directly activating L5p neurons made mice react to weaker sensory stimuli. The researchers say if consciousness requires L5p neurons, all brain activity without them must be unconscious.

 

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1 hour ago, iNow said:

Ignoring for a moment the oddly consistent and unnecessary sniping above, this struck me as an interesting on-topic study:

 

https://neurosciencenews.com/l5p-neuron-conscious-awareness-14997/.

From the article:

"In contrast, functional brain imaging studies locate the contents of consciousness mostly within the cortex, in ‘cortico-cortical’ circuits."

Although not the focus of the article, a mention should be made that the "content of consciousness" --meaning, in my view, the sensory experiences and memories comprising our conscious behavioral responses to stimuli--arrives in the cortex initially via the thalamus and that no activity occurs in the cortex without neural relays from the thalamus.  What I believe the researchers have discovered in the L5p neuron is where conscious integration occurs, which is where afferent stimuli from the thalamus merge with efferent cortical responses to produce our overall behavioral responses.  Thumbs up for the article.

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