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Thread: Consciousness - The Touchstone

  1. #1 Consciousness - The Touchstone 
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    Why do we actually always presume that consciousness is the "big thing" in the universe, the touchstone of where everything should be directed at? Isn't it just a result of evolution that we happen to have a conscious mind, and isn't it possible that consciousness is only a minor thing in the universe, and that there are completely different things, beyond our faculties, that are much more significant than consciousness?
    I mean...when you die your consciousness vanishes, and technically "nothing" of you remains.

    Maybe there are creatures who are highly intelligent and have not a bit of consciousness?
    So why do we always emphasize consciousness as the ultimate thing to be explained?

    Thanks


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    I don't think it's the big thing in the universe because if your talking size we are pretty insignificant, but it's all we have as a window to see. You're making quite a few speculative comments there though, how do you know it just vanishes, maybe it moves onto this new level of perception that is unknown to our concious mind here on earth.

    I think we think of it as the ultimate thing because it's the most advanced thing "known" to man, until someone can proove otherwise then it will remain the focus.


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    @crichton:
    Well, consciousness is not something that can just be imbued into the mind, but it is much more a logical result of other factors:
    My brain calculates together all senses, and that gives me an overall perception of the world. It all merges together as one whole thing continuum.
    Without a body, we wouldn't feel, wouldn't perceive, couldn't dream or think.
    That results in no conscious existence.
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  5. #4  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    for an elephant, a trunk is the touchstone of everything
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Quote Originally Posted by mastermind
    My brain calculates together all senses, and that gives me an overall perception of the world. It all merges together as one whole thing continuum.
    If consciousness is solely based on calculations of a system as a whole, then we could determine a computer to be conscious as well, right? But, this is not the case. At least, we do not agree that computers are conscious. There must be more to it than calculations alone. And, I am not speaking in terms of some type of spiritual manifesto. However, this is a tough subject. One that needs much more research. Until much more research takes place(as it is in the works, of course), I do not know of anyone who can truly say where consciousness derives from, with great confidence. I also, am unsure when I say that it does not contain a spiritual element. Though, I do not necessarily believe in such a dimension. At least, not until one is proven to exist(either by experience or hard evidence).

    But, in regards to your main question. I believe some of us often tend to focus more on conscious, because, though we live within it, we cannot explain it. It is as if it completely baffles us, over all other elements in the universe.

    But, is your general statement, that we all tend to focus on the conscious element, true? I wouldn't be sure myself if this is the question of majority. There are many different individuals focused on many different topics of their most purest interests. And, I am sure that the question of consciousness does not rule them all. But, only statistics could tell.
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    @Nanobrain:

    Nano,
    Let me expand that a little bit:
    Our brain is an amazing network of electric circuits, all working together to build one whole continuum for us. However, there are only two possibilities for one neutron: fire or not fire. That's what is similar to computer: they only know "0" and "1".
    Now, what distinguishes us from computers is that computers do not have circuits that represent themselves as something that form the self.
    The self is constituted by representations of the process that information is translated. Computers just work, because they get input and output whatever their programs tell them to do.
    In human beings, however, there is a meta-level that says:
    Something is translating something.
    The computer does not have such a thing as to know that something is translated. Humans do know that the translation are themselves, because the neurons relflect the whole thing and constitute the "I".
    To get a better understanding of this, I recommend the book "Descarte's Error" by Antonio Damasio.
    Second, and most important: The computer is a closed system, which doesn't communicate with us. It is just in itself, in no contact with the outside world. When I am typing these lines, then I input something, but that won't change the computer a bit. The computer can't interact with us, it just can output what the program tells it to do.
    So humans influence each other, while computers are not influenced at all. I can yell at my computer, but my computer won't care. It cannot interact with us.
    But now to the important stuff:
    We know now that we are similar to a computer by the calculation process: neurons either fire or do not fire. If my motherbord burns, because I left my computer switched on for 3 months uninterruptedly, then it will all come to a stop. Information can't be delivered anymore.
    When my brain dies, now, then information can't be transported anymore, and not translated. That means that the stream of consciousness is broken, and it "remains" a void.
    There would be only zeros left, but without ones ("fire"), there is no distinction of what is what. It is true that there is still information delivered: no firing neurons anymore.
    However, other than computers, neurons are based on chemical signals, while computers base on, I think, electromagnetical signals. Now, if the chemistry fails to work (which is the case when you are dead), then the neurons themselves cannot decide anymore if to fire or not to fire, and they end up like a computer like Microsoft: "Fatal Error".
    It is not zeros because the information is given not to fire, but it doesn't fire just because there is no information whatsoever anymore to let them decide to fire or not.
    And, consciousness is completely dynamic, so far as memory is. That is, there are certainly different levels of consciousness. BUT: The highest level of consciousness wouldn't be achieved if you are dead, but if your brain would end up having an infinite number of "zeros" and "ones" to shoot. Now think: The signals go lightspeed. That means, if even your brain had an infinite number of neuronal connections (and neurons), there would still be a limit of conscious process DUE TO PHYSICAL LAWS!
    That means that consciousness is just as relative as anything else.

    What I meant by the "touchstone" was not that everybody is interested in that subject so much (in fact, I know very little people who actually are), but I meant that almost everybody seems to praise this phenomenon as being essential to the universe, and being outstanding above all else, (oftentimes it is only implied, though), and that with consciousness, existence can be explained...and nobody appears to see that it is just one of so many physical phenomenas.
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    When you put it like a computer just running simple 1 and 0's that can't communicate with us humans it just makes me think that there could be something sitting there in a higher dimension watching our human 1's and 0's, for example we watch the computer but it just carrys out it's tasks unaware of the human input. Could it be possible that we have something similar?

    I like your post mastermind, very interesting.
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    @crichton:
    Thank you.

    Well, I think it is indeed possible that something sits there and watches us doing things, while enjoying it to watch.
    We'd probably call it god(s).
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    what a lovely thought - god as a peeping tom !
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    yeah i've imagined, if there is a god, humanity is probably more like a TV show that god loves watching.
    when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth
    A.C Doyle
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    God's reality TV series... :?
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    never thought god would be into soaps ...
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    And if hell exists, this soap is more tragic than any series on TV. Quite sad to think, that god with all his foreknowledge of time and eternal circumstances, might just enjoy tragedies.
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    that's why there's so much suffering in the world - the script writers put it there !
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Quote Originally Posted by mastermind
    We'd probably call it god(s).
    Or Microsoft

    We could be a test tube universe, made as an experiment. Just we are so small compared to the things that created us, like us looking at single particles could be our universe.

    Or maybe we are a virus, attacking this cell we call earth. The things that we don't understand could possibly not understand us either. If they did then maybe they would wipe us out with a cure and rid us from this cell.
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    @crichton:

    Ah, that would fit perfectly...
    The "evil" things in the world are then caused by Microsoft's inherent fatal errors.

    But what exactly makes the creator(s) of the universe greater than us?
    There MUST be something.
    I mean...even if we suppose that it is like two mirrors face to face, neverending, and that it ascends further and further, there must be something that our creators have that we don't have.
    It's not necessarily omniscience (since the mirror-stage-example is possible).
    What would make US (not U.S.), I mean us, greater, if we created such a thing on our own?
    Is it even possible? Or is the mirror-stage-example not valid?

    Are they even consciously working, if at all there should be (a) creator(s)?
    And there I am again at my initial question:
    Is consciousness the essence of everything, or is it just another appearance unimportant for the ultimate answer of the universe?
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    I think there has to be a total opposite to conciousness, for example everything in life has it's counters, positive & negative, creation & annihalation, life & death, good and evil etc everything works as a perfect balance.

    So could it be possible that there is actually something at opposite to conciousness to keep this balance, if so what would it be? we can't just call it nothing, maybe like what you say with the mirror stage but it's the total opposite to what we experience now, a total reflection of opposites.

    back to thinking about creators

    there must be something that our creators have that we don't have.
    Yes, anti conciousness


    I mean us, greater, if we created such a thing on our own?
    Is it even possible?
    Say we built a robot but never included the means for it to communicate with us, it would just be as if we didn't exist (the creators of the robot would still be there), it would walk around carrying out it's programmed tasks, nor could it have feelings but us as creators have feelings etc but it is impossible for the robot to ever experience them. So maybe our creator has other perceptions that we simply will never understand.

    sOrry if i have made no sense lol
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    Yes, it may be so.
    But there remains the question that if we are only programmed to do as we do, what about the free will, then?
    I mean, how can we have a perception of something that, if it didn't exist, we couldn't grasp?

    You understand what I mean?
    If there was no green light, we couldn't possibly imagine it.
    If there was no free will, how could we think of it?
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    Sorry I didn't specifically mean us as being the robot on the programmed path because i agree with you on the free will, the point i meant was comparing it that our senses may not be able to pick up these other dimensions or the creators themselves then we are similar to the robot as we don't have the receptors to tap into anything but what we know.

    If there was no green light, we couldn't possibly imagine it.
    Let's say our eye's couldn't see green light, so green light wouldn't even exist, yet it would still be there just we couldn't see it.

    If that was the case how could you describe green light if you couldn't see it, it would be rather like trying to describe what a creator looks like...we couldn't

    Free will is around us and we use it with our choices each day so we need to give it a word so we could easily think it because we use it on a daily basis.
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    Some mint ideas comming out in this post!!

    I was reading a news article the other day that kinda relates to 1 of mastermind's posts earier in this thread where he compares our brains to computers.

    Take a look:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6600965.stm

    Cheers

    Nate
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    who says computers are not conscious?
    it is just a matter of definition isnt it. the whole thing is circular.

    when u say computers are not conscious, even though they satisfy the first dude's test, then concluding that the first test is wrong, you are infact using a different definition of consciousnous to the one he used in the first place. so ofcourse you will not agree with his definition of consciousness.

    it seems to me that there is no clear line that can be drawn between conscousness/non-consciousness. any such line can only be idological.

    rock - bacterium
    bacterium - ant
    ant - frog
    frog - dog
    dog - ape
    ape - man

    what is the test to distinguish? and where would your computer fit in all this.
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    @Sohy:
    Well, life is certainly different from what we call computer.
    Consciousness is something that comes into existence when an individual interacts with its environment. Computers, however, don't interact with their environment. Their memory works also differently.

    I agree with you that consciousness is not really an either - or - thing.
    But consciousnes requires a living thing, and a computer doesn't live.
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    i dont see why you think that consciousness requires an interaction with the environnment (although i can consider the possibility) and definately do not agree that it can only exist in biological entities.

    firstly, computers do interact with the environment, thus the input and output devices. certainly in my book, a computer is far more conscious than lets say an ant.

    in addition why do you think there needs to be an interaction? would you think that a person whose senses have been disabled (by whatever means) is not conscious in any way?

    the issue of consciousness is a lot more delicate a subject than can be solved by just stating living things are conscious, nonliving things are not. a lot depends on your criteria for what conscious is. Do you require some level of self awareness? an ability to reflect on one self? well maybe that that is what we speak about when we talk about consciousness and by that criteria most living things would not be conscious.

    but this is in a sense arbitary (but perhaps any concept or word has to be). what level of self awareness is sufficient to equate consciousness? what if there existed a creature so self aware that it was aware of the processes that drive its own thoughts, desires, emotions and "consciousness". then to such a creature we would be mere automatons in the same way that a dog might seem like a automaton to us.
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    i always assumed that consciousness was the ability to differentiate fact from fiction, good from evil, ect, ect with out the need of basic instinct....or maybe just free will in general. and not like the choice to graze in the field or drink from the watering hole...but to actually percieve situations and make meaningful choices.


    am i wrong in thinking this?
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    i always assumed that consciousness was the ability to differentiate fact from fiction, good from evil,
    so by your definition psychopaths and schizophrenics are not conscious.
    Its also funny how everyone has their own idea of what consciousness is and isnt.
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    I would consider conciousness the ability to process information and come up with a course of action without having to have that course of action pre-defined by a seperate species.

    In this case Computers are not yet concious entities. However it might be hard to tell if they ever did. For their environment would probably, initially, not be the physical world, but something like the internet. How would you even know if your comptuer was having a conversation, or was searching for programmable sustenance or doing some thing as yet defined in the virtual environment of the internet?

    Say a computer became consious enough to make it's own decisions and learn new information without human interaction. It couldn't yet interact with the physical world, and if it were turned off, it's conciousness would cease for a small time, like sleeping or even 'temporary death'. when activated it would wake up and look for an ISP and then start doing something, without neccicarily conforming to a single set program. One day it decides that it needs to download a program to do something with. or to interact with another computer in some way. or find nourishment in some electronic form. That would be a concious machine. However there still is the arguement "It was put together by a person, and can be changed at random. It cannot reproduce itself and make more computers, and indeed it might not even see that as a requirment."

    in this line of thought, Conciousness is the ability to make decisions and to learn new things spontaniously without the design of another creature. Current Machine archetecture does not physically allow for this.
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  28. #27  
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    Isn't it amazing how a non-conscious creature with the add of only one neuron could be a cardriving, churchgoing, woodchopping, conscious idiot?
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    Isn't it amazing how a non-conscious creature with the add of only one neuron could be a cardriving, churchgoing, woodchopping, conscious idiot?

    i dont get it
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sohy
    Isn't it amazing how a non-conscious creature with the add of only one neuron could be a cardriving, churchgoing, woodchopping, conscious idiot?

    i dont get it
    You act like you were insulted, I wasn't actually refering to anyone.
    I hope no one was insulted.
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  31. #30  
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    no, I literally dont get what you are talking about.
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    Obviously some here think that some creatures are unconscious, I just wanted to point out the flaw in that argument. how can one neuron of your choice, last of the required, make a difference between consciousness and non consciousness?
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