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Dominic John Repici
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— has a few connotations, most notably that everything
. Within the context of machine based consciousness, it can be limited and turned around.
Here are some of the most common connotations. (A little messy here, for now):
- Everything possesses consciousness (in the broadest sense of the word: everything) — This is the very high-level definition which is very well described (but not held) by David Chalmers. Everything here, includes things like "the number two."
- Consciousness is a state of matter — Just like liquid, gas, solid, plasma, are states of matter. This would seem to imply (jmo) that matter may, or may not, take up a state of consciousness, and that it may be in a conscious state, and not be in any other states. I sometimes wonder if those who like this possibility like it because it might be a way to explain dark matter. That would be really cool if it turns out to be the case.
- Consciousness is a fundamental property of matter — Specifically, this is referred to as panprotopsychism, and an even more specific connotation is referred to as Russellian panprotopsychism. This can be thought of (loosely) as property dualism. These include properties like gravity, charge, mass, locality, etc. These normally all exist simultaneously, as part of what makes matter, matter. For the record, this one seems most plausible to me. It comes from my own conjecture that learning —entities not merely interacting, but adapting to one another— is ubiquitous, and that such inter-adaptation can be observed, even between particles at the smallest scales. This is seen in entanglement, and in the observer effect, for example.
- Consciousness is a mental state of matter — This is the thesis that fundamental particles, such as electrons, and quarks, might have a mental state, which is consciousness. This is called constitutive panpsychism.
As stated, I'm currently leaning to the camp that considers panpsychism's "fundamental property of matter"
connotation to be the most consistent with current understanding. In this connotation, just as things like mass, gravity, and charge are fundamental properties of matter, so too is a very basic (and perhaps unrecognizable at lower-levels) form of consciousness (proto?).
“A careful analysis of the process of observation in atomic physics has
shown that the subatomic particles have no meaning as isolated entities, but can only
be understood as interconnections. . .”
— Erwin Schrödinger
I would personally add that it may be a characteristic of matter, as well as
forces, or more succinctly, it may be a characteristic of volumetric phenomena (phenomena that take up, or exist in, multi-dimensional space).
. . . . . . .
This is just my own opinion. There is also the possibility that learning (i.e., adaptation) may be a fundamental characteristic of consciousness. Learning, in this context, means an entity altering how it responds to a given stimulus in the future based on adaptive changes caused by current experiences (inter-adaptations). In this case, quantum interactions at the particle level, such as quantum entanglement, can be described as the lowest-level learning events, from which higher-level (macro) learning (adaptations) are all built. I would have referred to this as constitutive panspsychism if the name weren't already taken (perhaps "additive," or "cumulative"?). :-)
. . . . . . .
Learning's Relationship to Consciousness?
Learning, —that is, not merely reacting
to stimuli, but adapting
future responses to similar stimuli— seems to be intertwined with consciousness
Many philosophers of mind, including the one I admire most, David Chalmers
, eschew the use of reductionism to better understand consciousness. They claim that reductionism is not useful in this regard because consciousness is not reducible into constituent parts, or because it IS the agent that understands, and so can not be reduced to some other things capable of promoting understanding.
I can appreciate this argument, and can't really argue against it in any authoritative way. My armchair arguments, however, go something like this: Isn't insisting that reductionism not be used for analysis of a marginally understood entity, ITSELF a form of reductionism? — and also this: Nobody has ever seen the high-energy particles that fly through cloud chambers. In fact, we have not even seen their direct effects on other things. The observed effects are at least twice-removed from the unseeable particles and velocities that cause them.
Still, we are able to study those constituent causes and learn a great deal about them from observing the effects that ionized gas has on water vapor. Also, the eyes of the inventor/innovator in all of us will light-up any time people limit their own inquiries based on authority-driven rules-of-thumb, or "conventional wisdom." When things "like" this ("of this nature?") are evident, it is human-nature to want to explore the underlying assumptions for ourselves. Maybe it's not normal
human-nature, but whatever the DSM might say it is, I'm certainly guilty of it.
. . . . . . .
- Determining Similarity — Associating
The process of Grouping similar (like) things together may seem fairly simple at a glance,
but it is actually quite complex and nuanced. Much like consciousness itself,
one of the reasons similarity is hard to understand is because the concepts
and mechanisms at the heart of similarity are elusive. That is, they often can't be rigorously expressed.
Determining what constitutes
"similarity" in an implementable way, is where this hard-problem is exposed. (e.g., rhyming words). This is
also embodied in "discrimination" and "discernment." While it can be relatively simple (grouping by visual
morphology such as shape and color), it can also quickly go from simple to hard at more abstract levels. Consider
things such as rhythm/duration-patterns which are often easily discernable algorithmically. Now consider things like
rhyming, similar movements and behaviors, historic comparisons which are often
said to rhyme rather than repeat, etc., That said, explaining things like rhyming and things like the
sentiment in the phrase "something in the
way she moves" in an implementable way, it turns out, may not be as simple as it sounds.
To recap: The determination of what constitutes similarity is where the rubber meets the road. That is, it is the
"hard problem" part of grouping similar things. It can be extremely complex and nuanced. It is an elusive
problem, in that sometimes we recognize similarities without even being able to consciously perceive or
explain how the things are similar.
Consider how we are able to construct and understand metaphors, as one (relatively easy to grasp)
example. The similarity between, say, "sharpness" and a particular cheese-taste experience is a similarity
that might be completely inexpressible in words, but for the metaphor of using "sharp" to describe
a flavor and mouth feel. Rhyming, also, is clearly something we experience as a similarity, as are
genres of music and other art forms. We sometimes relate things that can't be concisely described by
using metaphors or analogies (e.g., coffee smells a little like how chocolate tastes). The point
here is that the key to understanding this, and to how
group alike things (experiences? sensations? concepts? relationships? interactions?) together is
in understanding the complexity of determining what constitutes likeness or similarity.
There is even a meta-level to this. Strategies for determining how different ways of grouping like
things together can, themselves, be grouped based on their (often hard to fully grasp) similarities
There is even a meta-level to this. Strategies for determining how like things are grouped together
can, themselves, be grouped based on their (often hard to fully grasp) similarities
and differences. In this first-order grouping, the concept of "similar" itself, can be grouped with
other, "similar" concepts, such as: tangential, related, class, phylum, division, etc.
Less obvious might be contextual opposite, in which pairs such as: prince-pauper, prince-tyrant,
prince-princess, and, to make the point, cynicism-optimism are all similar relationships in that they
are logical opposites. Interestingly, cynicism-optimism can also be grouped with similar things where
both assume a given outcome before having evidence to support it (in this case, one assumes a positive
outcome, and one assumes a negative outcome). That can also be grouped into a set of "things that are opposites
that are also the same." Not sure if this meta-layering ever reaches a terminal (top-most order) state, but
it seems like the brain's incessant and unyielding drive to find each next-level state may have something to
do with consciousness.
- Determining Difference — The ability to perceive differences between things and situations.
A ping-pong ball and the moon are both spheres. That's one way in which they are similar. The differences
between them include size, location, and even purpose, as well as many subtle differences. That we are able to
discern, say, the difference between a sardonic smile and a sarcastic smile is a testament to the power
of a system that is able to adapt it's future responses based on current experiences. Like the ability
to perceive sameness, the ability to perceive difference includes some very subtle and nuanced underlying
connotations. The hard problem here, is in determining just what it is that constitutes a "difference." What is
it about the sardonic smile that makes it different from the sarcastic smile. What makes an open, unassuming
smile different from these two types of smiles. In this context, what is meant by type? It is, perhaps, a
dichotomy that discernment is an underlying mechanism in both determining similarity, and determining difference.
- Adapting — The process of Learning
Inter-adaptation. That is, not simply responding in a preprogrammed way to a given stimulation
(interacting), but altering future responses to the same (or similar) stimulation. The changes in
future responses are based on, and generated here by dissonance detected in current experience/stimulus
or by similarities and difference determined/detected, in part, by the above discussed functionality.
Future, in this case, may be measured in fractions of a second, to years, or even centuries.
Inter-adaptation of this nature occurs, and is observable —obviously— between humans and other
animals, but there is also very strong evidence that this inter-adaptation occurs, even at a sub-atomic
level. The double-slit experiment seems to demonstrate inter-adaptation, even between
high-level animals such as human observers, and sub-atomic particles. Though in the world of
thought-experiments, perhaps not cats.
Dissonance — randomness, confusion, chaos, fast oscillation, lack of balance, inconsistency (can you
see the similarity?) seem to be triggering factors in adaptation as
well as in determining similarities and differences (i.e., determining ways in which things can be
considered similar or different to each other and to things in our experience). When there is dissonance, there
seems (at all levels) to be a need to make things more balanced, to make the sensory information being experienced
more consistent, less confusing, more explainable in light of previous experiences. Offhandedly, there is a desire
to make the experienced sensory input make sense.
Sources & Resources
- Panpsychism and Panprotopsychism
David Chalmers' writing on panpsychism. Clarifies the most literal (high-level) doctrine, but also states that most are not committed to such a strong interpretation.
- Consciousness Might Be a Result of Basic Physics, Say Researchers
It is surprisingly hard to explain the exact terms to describe the kind of panpsychism I (personally) find most plausible. This is a wordy article but includes yet another attempt at the explanation. It's about halfway down in the section entitled: A resonance theory of consciousness ("The panpsychist argues that consciousness did not emerge at some point during evolution. Rather, it's always associated with matter and vice versa – they're two sides of the same coin.")
- Physicists Say Consciousness Might Be a State of Matter
- Consciousness is just another state of matter, like a solid, liquid or gas, says physicist Max Tegmark
- Why Physicists Are Saying Consciousness Is A State Of Matter, Like a Solid, A Liquid Or A Gas
(no attribution, find better reference)
- [PDF]The Combination Problem for Panpsychism
In this paper, David Chalmers explores some of the objections to panpsychism.
- [PDF]The Knowledge Argument Against Dualism
This is a tangential objection and counter-argument to panprotopsychism. For the record, I am aware it spends a LOT of time pushing its straw-man, (substance-dualism) as a valid substitute for property dualism when analyzing the knowledge argument vis-a-vis dualism. For all its discussion, though, the justification for using substance dualism over property dualism never really emerges. It's surprisingly hard to find good counter-arguments to panprotopsychism right now. I promise to keep searching diligently. :)
- [PDF]Pessimism about Russellian Monism
Matter and energy turned out to be two different aspects of the same kind. So why can't phenomenal and physical also be two different aspects of the same kind? :)
- The Emergence of Primary Anoetic Consciousness in Episodic Memory
Some are exploring in a practical sense, the notion that higher forms of consciousness are built from lower forms.
- Idealism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Everything you ever wanted to know about idealism (or not). I think, if you concede a cognitive continuum between monist and duelist, I currently lean more toward dualism.