Is consiousness organic in nature?

Discussion in 'Intelligence & Machines' started by darksidZz, Mar 8, 2015.

  1. darksidZz Valued Senior Member

    I'm of the opinion lately that only organic life / human beings can be self aware. I don't think there will ever be a self aware machine of any sort.

    Also I have postulated that although machines are far more capable of managing information / calculations per second than a human brain if one suddenly did gain self awareness it's ability to do this would be diminished as much of that would be directed toward self awareness. Thus humans are far more advanced than computers in essence.

    What do you think?
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  3. elte Valued Senior Member

    I think that there could be made a self aware machine, yet I don't think that we will be able to upload our mental selves into a machine and continue our self-aware existence. However, we might eventually be able to augment our abilities by neuronally interfacing with machines.

    That notion about the cost of self-awareness on the brain's ability to analyze information makes sense to me.
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  5. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Yes humans have the best brains - very many processes proceed in parallel. Many are related to internal awareness you are not consciously aware are being done.

    Humans can interact with their environment in many flexible and adaptive ways. For example write a concerto and in a group play it. I'll admit that computers are getting close to man's learning and adaptive abilities when one can do this even with five times more time used (in under 30 seconds):
    but her record was short lived:
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 9, 2015
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  7. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Granting from the outset a perceptual system or input for sensory data, and a conceptual structure or program existing for representing / understanding that received information as items in a world... Then self-awareness concerns such an equipped entity taking itself to be an object of special attention; its realization of being a distinct individual in an environment (with needs or interests, goals, agendas, duties, etc).

    Such can be expressed as just outward behavior and reactions (because we don't have access to anything else, anyway, when it comes to attributing awareness to a thing; their microphysical causes are as much outward appearances or measurements themselves). Obviously, this further justifies the entity having to be an animated, autonomous agent as opposed to a non-mechanistic aggregate of material. Any sufficiently complex system of functions could yield this activity (grounded in either biological or artificial substrates), so such a limited definition of self-consciousness seems eventually achievable in robots or even "bodiless" computers (which could publicly demonstrate awareness of themselves and their surroundings via discussions).

    But OTOH... It's possible that an extended definition of self-awareness, that includes internal feelings or a "private character" of manifestations being associated with both extrospective and introspective data processing and decision-making, could only fall out of something unique to the brain / nervous system (electrochemical transactions or the structure of neurons [microtubules, etc], etc). In which case, reproducing the complete inventory of what's under the "consciousness umbrella" may not be realizable by electronic components, gears and pulleys, hydraulic valves, etc. This remains to be seen one way or the other in the future. Even if there is biotic dependency in this area, artificial contrivances might still be developed that could manipulate whatever the former is utilizing to produce visual, aural, tactile presences or "showings". [ANY refined explanation at all for experience would be necessary to accomplish that, unless blind chance slash trial-and-error exposed reliable correlates still missing a sufficient explanation.]
  8. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    Roger Penrose has pointed out that protozoa like paramecium can mimic the consciousness we associate with life quite well, including full duplex communication with others of its species using UV wavelengths. Yet being a single celled organism, paramecium has not a single structure we would recognize as a neuron. Instead, it apparently does some equivalent of neural processing using what are called "spicules".

    See this link:

    I don't think it really matters what chemical or physical details the sensory-motor integration apparatus use in order to respond to its environment. The fact that it does is sufficient to qualify it for it to be invested with some rudimentary level of consciousness. On other threads, I have made the same argument regarding the sentience of self-resetting mousetraps vs. cats. I claim that each of these are conscious entities capable of dealing with a changing environment.

    On the other hand, something like Searle's "Chinese Room" scenario cannot be regarded as having achieved consciousness at all because it only deals with symbolic logic in a form not based on anything but a fixed stored program input pre-constructed of symbols and incapable of managing any changes or erroneous symbol sequencing. It is no more sentient than Babbage's automatic loom. The latter does not rise to the level of even the self-resetting mousetrap only because it does not normally detect a break in the supply of textiles for weaving on its own, and if it did, could do nothing intelligent about it, like shutting itself down.
    darksidZz likes this.
  9. wellwisher Banned Banned

    What these this single cell and neurons have in common is ion pumping. This creates an energy and entropy potential across the cellular membrane, that is contrary to the universe. Unlike neurons that have more potential, and are more likely to spontaneously fire; brain waves, to remove the potential, the lower membrane potential of this single cell, needs a trigger, which then allows its to coordinate with the stimulus.
  10. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    They do make use of water.
  11. wellwisher Banned Banned

    I made a distinction between life and the universe, even though life is part of the universe. The "universe" is those aspects that try to lower energy and increase entropy. This reflects the bulk of the physical universe. The "life" aspect is that which stores energy as it grows, and turns molecular chaos; broken down food atoms, into its internal order.

    These two opposing directions push against each other. Inside the cell, metabolism is connected to the universe side lowering energy and increasing entropy. The life aspect takes a side stream, as ATP, and goes the other way building structures and storing energy for the future.

    Water is unique among solvents, in that water and oil do not mix, yet water is the universal solvent. The dynamics for the separation oil and water, causes segregation into aqueous and organic phases. This, in turn, helps with the ordering processes of life, with water causing the organic materials to phase separate into organelles and enzymes to pack with perfection.

    Water is also the universal solvent for polar things. This solvent action allows entropy to increase, for polar and ionic materials. We can add low entropy solid salt to water, it will dissolve and spread out increasing entropy. Water goes both ways mediating organic life and the ionic universe.

    If you look at the external membrane of the cell, the membrane is oily; lipids. This will phase separate from the water to form the bilayer design. The cations used by life can dissolve in the water and will try to increase entropy. But the action of the pumping, and the phase separation of the membrane, segregates the cations, while packing the membrane tightly, thereby opposing the free migration of the ions. The result is selective permeability for only the water.

    Only the water can move back and forth, freely, to express the potentials created by organic order and ionic chaos. This allows even the single cell to exist outside itself, connected inside to outside and outside to inside, by the water.

    The two cations, sodium and potassium affect the water differently, even though both have a single positive charge. Sodium ions are kosmotropic in that they create more order in water than pure water does for itself. Potassium cations are chaotropic and create more disorder in water than water does for itself. The cell accumulates potassium ions to add more disorder to the internal water, making the phased separated organic materials; enzymes, looser for activity.

    The disordering nature of the potassium ions helps the potassium ions loosen the pores of the membrane, via the water, so these cations can escape easier; follow the universe potential of the concentration gradient. The sodium ions creates order in the water, which creates a higher water push on the membrane to become ordered. This closes the membrane pores tighter for the sodium ions. Sodium ions help the life side with order, while potassium ions help the universe side with disorder, with water being the traffic cop.

    When neurons fire, and sodium ions enter and potassium ions will exit the cell. Neurons create a periodic flux of ordering potential; sodium ions, being added to the internal water, beyond what most cells will see. The sodium pulses adds to the internal life side; order, at the expense of universe; entropy.

    As the membrane potential is restored, and potassium ions, accumulate again,and the universe potential is better balanced inside the neuron. The net effect is an extra layer of order, due to repeated sodium ions pulses, added to the life side of the neuron; connected to memory and consciousness.

    Neurons do not replicate after a certain age. They are eternal cells. They are not impacted by the entropy increase of cell cycle, leading to dividing cells; high metabolism and activity of the cell cycle reflects the universe side. Neurons have less net universe side; due to the constant internal sodium ion pulses. Relative to the water, the brain water is at the top of the life side.
  12. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    People talk about this - about the producable complexity of in silico intelligence, about the number of connections and sub-connections that can be produced. But what is that sense of self that we possess, or claim to? Is it sheer ego? Self-aggrandizement? I can't see a machine finally approaching that, in that only artificially could the errors that humans are subject to - that which makes much of our humanity, IMHO - be got into the system. Is there a higher sense of that self? A couple hundred years of psychiatry would probably stridently argue that there is. But even that is proportional; some people are unaware, and there is nothing in the slightest wrong with that.
  13. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Self awareness is an artifact of having two conscious centers. The ego is the center of the conscious mind, while the inner self is the center of the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is older and more natural and is connected to the DNA. The inner self is he center that animal also possess. The inner self is connected to instinct and integrates animals to nature. This is done through personality firmware, which characterize the behavior of the species.

    Humans are different in that we have two centers, with the ego center relatively modern. The ideas of free choice and will power is implicit of the second center, which is able to departure from the instincts of animals; offers a counter POV to the inner self. But since the inner self is conservative via the DNA and does not go away, ego choices that depart from natural, will set a potential with the inner self.

    The inner self is the center of the brain operating system. It among other things controls the personality firmware, which define human nature. We can all fall in love with unconscious dynamics connected to the inner self and the firmware of love. The ego has will and choice and can have an impact of these dynamics. One may set up walls to avoid the blind rush of instinct. The potential with the inner self, will then trigger secondary effects.

    As the ego sets up dams and walls, via choice, to the natural flow, the potential with the inner self increases. This result is the firmware that become active, will reflect the level of the potential. On the other hand, the ego can also choose to complement the inner self ,thereby allowing it to gain energy; higher set point. This can change the firmware.
  14. wellwisher Banned Banned

    The level of the firmware, that is activated, is a way to infer whether human behavior is natural or unnatural. If the behavior is unnatural, the ego will have set up a dam in the flow of natural of potential from the inner self. Instincts are designed to be highly efficient and not wasteful; without a long term dam.

    The higher is the dam; more unnatural, the greater the potential created by the dam. This requires more energetic firmware to express the potential. The closer to instinct one is, the wall is smaller and the potential is weaker, using more subtle firmware to express the potential. A person who is calm is close to natural. While someone more animated and excited benefits by unnatural behavior.

    As examples, addictions make one very compulsive between fixes, implicit of unnatural behavior and instinctive walls. The soldiers of ISIS show primitive savagery implicit of unnatural behavior. The farther behavior regresses, the lower the level of the firmware because lower level firmware is designed to use up more energy. If the ego is being subjective and not objective, it can interpret the high level of dynamics of savagery, as beneficial to the ego's prestige; will reinforce.

    The analogy is if we need power from a river, the higher the dam, the larger the pressure head of the dam. This allows us to drive huge water wheels. The ego can create walls to generate enhanced power, it can harness. The problem is, since the inner self is seeing a constant brain drain, due to the dam, reinforced daily by the ego, the set point of the inner self can start to fall over time, until higher level firmware are out of reach. One becomes in the image of their walls, thinking this is natural, because there is no countering firmware at the lower inner self set point; no conscience to behavior.

    Most people in religions are calm and spiritual; blessed are the meek. The idea is to lower the walls of the ego, so the inner self set point can increase. Buddha, from the East, left the rat race of collective material desire and prestige, and was able increase his inner self set point, causing new firmware to appear; inner spirit.

    When cultural collectives use unnatural instinct, the collective become more restless and more energetic. If this lasts for too long the higher level firmware of meaning become lost, and ego-centric propaganda starts to take over, which reinforces the dam and the walls that give the collective its restlessness. This makes the mob ready for war. War is unnatural and is based on the walls of the ego damming the natural flow of the inner self.
  15. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    War has also made us what we are, neurologically and genetically. This is one possible reason facial recognition became a high priority, but there are others. Unfortunately, it has the downside of making bigots where for most purposes the concept of race has no scientifically significant (in terms of actual genetic variability) meaning. Which is to say, unless your 'race' has already inbred itself to the point of non-viability, most 'races' will have more genetic variability within them than exists without.

    This is a candidate cause for the eventual demise of the race that calls itself Homo Sapiens, because more often than not, genocide happens over mistaken ideas rather than over scarce resources like water. When we should all be pulling in one direction for the sake of survival, we instead go to war with each other.

    If this is what is referred to as intelligence or sentience, I'd rather be considered somewhere beyond the left skirt (low ability end) of that Bell curve.
    darksidZz likes this.
  16. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

    We are organic machines. The only difference between organic life and artificial life is the molecular makeup of the machine. It's irrelevant. Certainly the architecture of a sentient machine would be different than computers of today, they might imitate organic life at first, but they could also make leaps of intuition and redesign that evolution is not capable of. I don't see this happening any time soon, but in hundred years or so who knows.
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  17. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    There are a lot of hyponyms and their own specialized issues subsumed under the umbrella concept of "consciousness". For instance, John Searle contends that intentionality is dependent upon a biological substrate. However, if unlike experience / manifestation[3], whatever he means by "intentionality" boils down to the outward behavior / responses of an entity, and whatever internal system of micro-activity leads to that, then it seems that similar functional organization could be replicated by non-biological substrates. Perhaps not all the quasi-accidental aspects could be emulated that contribute to a biotic system (evolution outputs a messy governance for its progeny), but at least something artificially in the neighborhood.

    In the course of addressing "information processing"[1] Searle does open the door to the quandary of how sub-categorical elements of consciousness are to be prevented from being universal (potentially leading to panprotopsychism, neutral monism, matter / energy having internal states, etc). This in turn can spur a reformulation of the "Hard Problem" that better clarifies what the difficulty is with experience: Commonsense materialism prides itself in avoiding what it deems "craziness", but how can that be accomplished when it comes to those manifestations of extrospection and introspection? Especially when dissipation of any explanatory "craziness"[2] is harassed by two restrictions that together seem to negate any possibility of a solution: That _X_ can have no primitive precursors of itself to arise from and that there can be no brute emergence (the equivalent of magical conjuring).

    In addition to Eric Schwitzgebel's example below, many would consider it crazy for qualitative experiences to be generated by the gear / pulley interactions of a purely mechanical computer; or even a hydraulic system that manipulated water with valves. This suggests we have an underlying bias for electrical operations (whether electronics or bio-electrochemical based). But the latter is just as bereft of physics asserting that it harbors manifestations as the interactions of the other agencies. And again, commonsense materialism wants to dodge that capacity being global to "stuff and actions", of even crude / random phenomenal events occurring across the broad world or cosmos [i.e., panprotoexperientialism].

    A final resort -- the ascription of experience falling out of or being generated by a unique spatial and relational arrangement of working components -- is an appeal to such a formal scheme alone providing the extra causal power (independent of what physically instantiates it, beyond the limited powers of the latter). Accordingly it's the epitome of brute emergence, that a radical novelty can be conjured by regulated patterns (whether they be dance rituals, structured oscillations, chanted spells, live circuitry, interlocking parts, etc). Where here "radical" is short for the novelty being extremely unlike the affairs that preceded it / engendered it.

    [1] John Searle: The introduction of the notion of "information processing" therefore produces a dilemma: either we construe the notion of "information processing" in such a way that it implies intentionality as part of the process or we don't. If the former, then the programmed computer does not do information processing, it only manipulates formal symbols. If the latter, then, though the computer does information processing, it is only doing so in the sense in which adding machines, typewriters, stomachs, thermostats, rainstorms, and hurricanes do information processing; namely, they have a level of description at which we can describe them as taking information in at one end, transforming it, and producing information as output. But in this case it is up to outside observers to interpret the input and output as information in the ordinary sense. And no similarity is established between the computer and the brain in terms of any similarity of information processing. --Minds, Brains, and Programs

    [2] Eric Schwitzgebel: It would be bizarre to suppose that the United States has a stream of conscious experience distinct from the conscious experiences of the people who compose it [...] Yet it’s unclear by what materialist standard the United States lacks consciousness. Nations, it would seem, represent and self-represent. They respond (semi-) intelligently and self- protectively, in a coordinated way, to opportunities and threats. They gather, store, and manipulate information. They show skillful attunement to environmental inputs in warring and spying on each other. Their subparts (people and subgroups of people) are massively informationally interconnected and mutually dependent, including in incredibly fancy self-regulating feedback loops. These are the kinds of capacities and structures that materialists typically regard as the heart of mentality.

    Common sense is incoherent in matters of metaphysics. Contradictions thus inevitably flow from it, and no coherent metaphysical system can respect it all. Although ordinary common sense serves us fairly well in practical maneuvers through the social and physical world, common sense has proven an unreliable guide in cosmology and probability theory and microphysics and neuroscience and macroeconomics and evolutionary biology and structural engineering and medicine and topology. If metaphysics more closely resembles items in the second class than in the first, as it seems to, we might excusably doubt the dependability of common sense as a guide to metaphysics
    [actually ontological issues, concerning whether matter / energy is odder than we believe or not].

    [3] Erwin Schrodinger: "The world is a construct of our sensations, perceptions, memories. It is convenient to regard it as existing objectively on its own. But it certainly does not become manifest by its mere existence. Its becoming manifest is conditional on very special goings-on in very special parts of this very world, namely on certain events that happen in a brain. That is an inordinately peculiar kind of implication, which prompts the question: What particular properties distinguish these brain processes and enable them to produce the manifestation? Can we guess which material processes have this power, which not? Or simple: What kind of material process is directly associated with consciousness? --What is Life? Mind and Matter
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2015
  18. kx000 Valued Senior Member

    Mind like sex is passive. If we just sit there we tend to know with faith; things like sex and style are done, not considered. As if we just know. Not to ponder sexuality.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2015
  19. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Consciousness is, in part, a result of neuron design. When a neuron is at rest, it actually exists at its highest potential. ATP energy is used to segregate cations and create a membrane potential. The firing of neurons temporarily lowers this potential. The neuron will use up to 90% of its energy maintaining the membrane potential before and after firing.

    This design is opposite to computer memory. In computer memory, rest memory is at lowest potential. This design allows memory stability for long term storage. If computer memory was designed to be like neurons, it would be inherently unstable because it would exist at the top of an energy hill; try to lower potential into a more stable state. The result is , that type of computer memory would spotaneously change with time. This is not good if you need an accurate record. The old saying, time heals all wounds, is because neuron memory will constantly fire and increase its entropy into new arrangements. This flux of change is part of consciousness.

    One could make an intelligent computer using neuron memory design. You would have two sets of memory, one that is at lowest energy; regular computer memory, and the other at highest potential, analogous to neurons. The idea is to let the neuron style memory lower its potential and increase its entropy, so the memory changes. This can be triggered by sensory input providing the activation energy.

    Algorithms will constantly monitor this for useful changes, and then rewrite high energy memory in the image of the low energy memory, plus any useful changes; learning. Neurons do this process internally, because neuron memory is stored with internal scaffolding structures and DNA, and when they reestablish the membrane potential, slight changes can appear. The algorithm is based on personality firmware.

    The personality firmware are empty at birth, and at birth can understood as being analogous to seeds of plants. They begin in a very generic way, but will contain the genes needed to allow it to grow into a mature plant, with characteristic leaves, flower and fruit. As the memory is changing, the firmware is also growing in the image of genes, integrating the memory change into its structures, while itself being impacted by the changes in the neurons.

    The analogy is a tomato seed will always grow into a tomato plant. However, the environment will impact the final plant. If one has a green thumb or black thumb the plant can look and behave differently at maturity. This allows room for individual circumstances and choices of sensory focus to impart unique changes.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2015
  20. darksidZz Valued Senior Member

    Even if computers were sentient what good would it do them or us since we can move more freely than they? What applications would such a thing be useful for in our world?
  21. wellwisher Banned Banned

    The firmware algorithms are the key. This is how the computers/robots learn and optimize to the needs of tasks. After the hardware of high energy memory is installed, and the low energy memory is stable for rewrite, we then plant a firmware seed that starts small but is designed to grow into a final advanced structure; like a plant seed.

    The high energy memory is spontaneously firing; thinking, as well as firing due to sensory input, with the rewrite process being constrained to follow the growing firmware seed. The firmware seed sprouts, grows, forms flowers and fruits. At steady state, we have an experienced robot with a high degree ingenuity for his/her task.

    As we get more advanced, we start to add a variety of firmware seeds. These can all use the same data, so they can offer more than one POV. Or like with humans, each firmware can use different data, for a more well rounded robot. I am not a programmer, but I can see this conceptually. All I am doing is copying consciousness from the inside out.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2015
  22. wellwisher Banned Banned

    There is another aspect to organic memory. When neuron based memory is written to the cerebral, the limbic system, in the core regions of the brain, adds a feeling tone to memory as it write to the cerebral. The final data is in the form binary data; content plus feeling tone.

    This schema evolved because it is very useful to animals. As their memory is triggered, the attached feeling is also triggered, allowing then to react to the feeling without regard to the thought. For example, as an omnivore explores the world for food, things that taste good and are good to eat, may get a pleasure feeling attached; yummy! The next time they see this, the visual input will trigger the memory and the feeling, with the feeling allowing them to act quickly. An animal has basic needs for survival, with only needing a cupful of feeling tags, being used on a keg of memory.

    What this natural approach does is allow the memory to be stored in layers. In other words, although all the memory is bunched and connected, when a given feeling tag is induced, for example I feel hungry, the memories with that feeling tag will appear on the front. A layer becomes conscious with hunger options. This schema is connected to firmware activity. When the brain generates a strong specific feeling, and induces a memory layer, the firmware connected is also induced. The animal feels hungry and starts to see visions of sugar plums. He then gets up and driven by the activity of the firmware. The firmware is not only driving activity based on learning, but inducing old tags and adding new tags as he explores. All he while the firmware seed is growing and maturing into a fully autonomous critter.
  23. wellwisher Banned Banned

    There is one other layer to natural intelligence, specific to the human story of consciousness. This get computers and robots to be more human, both for good and evil. This is the layer that can cause robots to achieve high levels of creation and destruction. This builds upon the binary memory layer and firmware and is connected to a bible tradition called the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

    Knowledge of good and evil is essentially knowledge of law. Law teaches us what is good and what is evil, with each law telling us the proper path of being good, and the specifics of the evil and its punishment.

    Relative the natural writing of memory, law create a wild card for the natural brain. Because law has both positive and negative associations, the brain can't store this type of memory with one feeling tone. Rather law is broken into halved, with the good half of the law given a positive feeling tag, and the evil side of the law a negative feeling tag.

    If you like or hate any given food, this gets one tag, either like or hate. But law gets two tags with any given law existing on two layers at the same time. Since any given firmware uses one layer at the time, the other half of the law and its layer will become unconscious. This can activate unconscious firmware that use that tone.

    For example, the preacher who tries to repress all the evils of his faith, and do good, might become obsessed with hookers; pulled in two directions. Because the dark side of the law memories have its own memory layer, unconscious firmware can appear that seeks out the dark memories. This is more human; temptation to violate.

    Since the strong fear tone uses so much energy it can brain drain, lowering the inners self set point, until the good side of law, with the more subtle feeling is out of phase. Then the dark firmware gains ascendancy.

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