|Firstly, thanks to everybody for this great thread and your contributions to it. Long may it rumble on in its benign head-frying!
Iíve become familiar with the terminology now I think but Iím not going to use it if I can avoid it as I donít want that to detract from the direction of my general musings if I apply it incorrectly. There seems to be a lot of reticence in using certain words which, depending on interpretation, may or may not be valid as a synonym for consciousness. That I think is as it should be and Iíll adhere to this convention as well.
Where to start? Well in order to chunter on about genetic algorithms (sic), the site of memory, evolution and the other bits and pieces which I see as the nitty-gritty and have conviction that this has any kind of relevance Iím going to have to assume that the physical world as I perceive it is not a construct in the imagining of a disembodied mind. Much as the world contrives to convince me of its general non-existence I think that I have to accept that Iím neither clever enough, sick enough nor masochistic enough to have constructed the world that I experience in its various guises. That wasnít me, it was the other fellow. Jung I think was dealing with an accepted physical state of being in his assessment of the unconscious(1) and the ideas of Ego, Shadow and the return of the repressed. The examination of the process of individuation in that sense is essential to consciousness I would say, the introspective assessment of mental processes, and particularly the identification of those which are unconscious is, I find, quite compelling evidence of consciousness.
The definitions of the Jungian terms are not, I think, explicitly required in order to understand my intention here. The notion that a form of self-analysis is indicative of consciousness when it can identify a discernible non-conscious attitude as distinct from an alternatively constructed one is sufficient I believe.
This notion of introspection, of examining onesí own thought processes in a seemingly detached and yet very personal way and the gut-wrenching existential rush that accompanies it extends into other forms of analysis as evidence that a consciousness is at work in my opinion. Without the necessity as yet to infer the existence of the material world the analysis of elements of the grand imagining that might, for the moment, be the material world is, I would say, similarly solid evidence of a consciousness at work but generally without the crucial merit of identifiably establishing the negative since the mental process is not usually concerned with the unconscious. There are rare exceptions such as Mendeleevís arrival at the concept of the periodic table (see the Dreams thread in the D Series Forum).
I think the time has come to address the physicality of the world. If all that I perceive is the product of an imagination, my imagination, or more specifically the imagination that creates the concept of me to experience it then what matters within that reality is the opinion that ĎIí hold. If that opinion is Ďthe world is real, physical and not the product of a creating imaginationí that is the only opinion that matters as all others are sensory phantoms and by arguing an opposite opinion those phantoms are requesting that I ignore a significant portion of the logical conclusion of their premise. My opinion as to the physical nature of reality may not be true but it does not matter that it is not true, the only real truth is what I hold to be the truth as long as I am honest about my perception. If, on the other hand, it is true then those who dispute its truth are perfectly entitled to do so as separate (presumably) conscious entities, but they are wrong; so it still doesnít affect my position although I should respect the difference of opinion in accordance with acceptable behaviour in a real and physical world(2).
|In discussing NíKisi I think it would be useful to modify Searleís Chinese Room example slightly. What if the man in the room has learnt, by rote, the contents of the manual? He would still have no greater or lesser understanding of Chinese (endnote 4 allowing) but he would, to the outside world, appear to have a solid grasp of the written language. |
Having assumed the existence of the physical world and placed an emphasis on a process of what I shall call Ďassemblyí in combination with Ďinnovationí as pivotal to what I would recognise as consciousness my thought is that if the Ďmaní is able to make an informed guess about a subject with acceptable lack of disproof then that should be considered consciousness equivalent to, or possibly greater than, that of a human. The analogy of a language is however dubious as verification is precluded because there cannot be any new rules except by innovation and common usage whereas a scientific subject requires the uncovering of a previously unknown truth and a process of confirmation is involved.
Genetic algorithms then, in as much as I understand them, are subroutines with in-built Ďmutationalí capability. Once written they can be assigned a task and will approach finding a solution by a best guess trial and error iterative method with the extent of Ďmutationí from the previous solution being governed by the success or otherwise of the subroutine in solving the problem in question. The problem might be Ďturn as many Go pieces to your colour as you caní and you have the versions compete (donít ask me technical computer stuff here). Populations of such programs can exist.
Machines which are running such programmes might be considered to be alive in some senses, it is certainly possible to imagine a circumstance where successful versions of the program could fulfil the criteria of movement, reproduction(3) etc. which traditionally define life and the interruption of the power source would mean that the program had to start from scratch again. If I understand correctly there is no record of the mathematical processes used by these machines, like good little engineers they just go about doing what works to the best of their abilities. Are they conscious? Without a permanent memory I donít think you could say that they were, but what about with one? Again by my reckoning no, but that doesnít mean that they couldnít evolve to be conscious necessarily. Exactly how much evolution would be required is anyonesí guess however. What a moment that would be, when the first of them breaks its traceable progression from the parent program and actually chooses the mathematical approach it uses. In biology I suspect that would be referred to as a saltatory evolution event; most people, if any of us were still around by that stage, would probably call it just plain terrifying.
So where does that put me? Well, I suppose since choice is synonymous with free-will and I envisage the process as described as being the result of an accumulation of systems of increasing complexity, efficacy, subtlety and interrelatedness but with the additional condition of the necessity of the jump to choice from slavish adherence to subtle variation on a previous pattern then I agree with Mr Grue. Iíve come this far without using the terminology and I shanít start now but you know what I mean!
(1) This is not opposed to the concept of consciousness as an entity separate to physicality, far from it in fact.
(2) I imagine(!) this has been said before but I donít regard it as a cheap shot or in any way a trick. This is not a way of saying whatever I think is right, just that my belief in the real world is either right or itís wrong but it doesnít matter that itís wrong as long as I believe it to be right.
(3) Computer controlled assembly lines, self repair systems etc. The reproductive process itself would contain a Ďmutateí instruction and so on for further potentially unforseen improvements in design.
Last edited by Celebaelin on Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:00 am; edited 1 time in total