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How Does Evolution Produce Consciousnes/Reason?
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2017 3:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avatar wrote:
By definition the universe cannot have purpose.
Whether or not it can isn't decided by definitions. It's an empirical question decided by evidence. The evidence that causes me to question the modern dogma against teleology is the fact that purpose does indeed exist in the universe. How is that possible, if the universe can't have purpose? How do blind physical processes governed by non-teleological laws produce entire ecosystems populated by purposeful organisms? That's a puzzle I've never heard anyone even attempt to explain. If the goal-oriented activity of organisms don't violate the laws of physics, then the laws of physics don't preclude the possibility of purpose in the universe.

I understand that this is a radical position, one that is equated with Lamarkian evolution or even superstition, but perhaps we were too quick to dismiss purpose in dismissing things like these examples.

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I can't see (or accept) that the universe has an objective, (or purpose) because an objective implies a desired end, and the universe as a random collection of cause and effect has no desires or intentions or plans. It just is.
The universe is certainly not random, or we wouldn't be able to engage in science. The universe operates on a bewilderingly complex set of natural laws which produce regularities of astonishing mathematical structure. This is as far from random as you can get.

However, structure doesn't necessarily imply purpose, I'll grant. But out of this structure purpose has emerged. In the case of life--its production and evolution--I think that nature operates on a different level than bits of matter. There is something about life that crosses the barrier of time and looks ahead to the future in a way that rocks and dust do not. In Bakker's terms, this is "what comes after determining what comes before." I know it sounds like magic, but it's what literally happens on earth.

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That's quite different from saying that the universe has purpose. Rather say the universe contains things which have purpose. (Which at the moment as far as we know, is just us.)
I'm not sure that distinction is as important as the fact that purpose exists at all, rather than not, because of the problem of explaining how physical systems can become purposeful in a supposedly purposeless universe. Where does the purpose come from, if the universe has none? If the laws which produce us have none?

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Just because we can subvert that purpose through our consciousness doesn't mean that consciousness evolved for a reason. The fact that we can choose our own purposes is more a side-effect of consciousness. Very Happy If its evolution did have a purpose, wouldn't it have been to make us more likely to survive thanks to its ability to alter our circumstances in our favour?
I have a feeling that once parts of the universe awaken to themselves, all bets are off. We're in a new ballgame. I think that life may tend to consciousness, rather than it being merely accidental.

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If humans had never evolved, but other life was present, there would still be options for nature to "select" from, despite that other life not having the same sort of consciousness.
I don't think purpose is limited to humans. The purpose of a poppy seed is to turn into a poppy. To ignore the destiny that lies before it is to ignore what it is.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 6:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
Whether or not it can isn't decided by definitions. It's an empirical question decided by evidence. The evidence that causes me to question the modern dogma against teleology is the fact that purpose does indeed exist in the universe. How is that possible, if the universe can't have purpose? How do blind physical processes governed by non-teleological laws produce entire ecosystems populated by purposeful organisms? That's a puzzle I've never heard anyone even attempt to explain. If the goal-oriented activity of organisms don't violate the laws of physics, then the laws of physics don't preclude the possibility of purpose in the universe.


Ok, I suppose I am operating under an assumption, namely that there is no god or controlling power or whatever. However, if we take that as given, then by definition there can be no purpose, because the definition of purpose requires intention/whatever. If you're defining purpose differently to the way I am, then first we need to settle on a definition for the word. If we mean different things when we say the same thing, then obviously nobody is going to get anywhere.

Quote:
The universe is certainly not random, or we wouldn't be able to engage in science. The universe operates on a bewilderingly complex set of natural laws which produce regularities of astonishing mathematical structure. This is as far from random as you can get.


So where did those "laws" come from? Could they be otherwise? Are they as a result of the inherent properties of matter? Are they actually laws? Why is the boiling point of hydrogen -252.9 degrees C and does it matter that it is? Couldn't it be -250 instead and still function the same?

Quote:
However, structure doesn't necessarily imply purpose, I'll grant. But out of this structure purpose has emerged. In the case of life--its production and evolution--I think that nature operates on a different level than bits of matter. There is something about life that crosses the barrier of time and looks ahead to the future in a way that rocks and dust do not. In Bakker's terms, this is "what comes after determining what comes before." I know it sounds like magic, but it's what literally happens on earth.


You talk about purpose as though there was meant to be purpose, and as I suggested above, that's something I just can't accept, because it automatically (by definition Wink ) implies that something intended it. Yes, the structure of the universe is such that life evolved in it, and some of that life did develop the ability to look ahead to the future (most life does not) but nothing suggests to me that this was in any way intentional or happened in order that something may be accomplished.


Quote:
I'm not sure that distinction is as important as the fact that purpose exists at all, rather than not, because of the problem of explaining how physical systems can become purposeful in a supposedly purposeless universe. Where does the purpose come from, if the universe has none? If the laws which produce us have none?


If the universe has purpose, and the laws which produce us have purpose, where did that purpose come from? It's far easier for me to accept that purpose arose as a side-effect of life or evolution than it is to accept that there is a purpose to the universe (other than to eventually reach maximum entropy). (Which isn't a purpose so much as it is the inevitable end result.)


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I have a feeling that once parts of the universe awaken to themselves, all bets are off. We're in a new ballgame. I think that life may tend to consciousness, rather than it being merely accidental.


Life may tend to consciousness, but that doesn't mean it's not accidental.

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]I don't think purpose is limited to humans. The purpose of a poppy seed is to turn into a poppy. To ignore the destiny that lies before it is to ignore what it is.


The poppy seed doesn't mean to turn into a poppy. It just does. It doesn't have a choice. If the conditions are just right, it will turn into one. If they are just a bit wrong, it won't. Whether they are or not is either down to random chance, or purposeful intervention by us.

The "purpose" of the seed is purely a matter of our perception. Yes, poppy seeds exist in order that poppies may reproduce. They are the mechanism for reproduction. So yes, they have a purpose. But it's not a purposeful one. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2017 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Having purpose might be associated with having the capacity to imagine something in some detail, so to attribute a purpose to the universe as such would seem to presuppose a mind-of-the-universe or something along those lines. Now there is an "outside" stance where we consider the minds inside the universe as the universe's minds, and reflecting on this showcases the purposivity of the universe in itself (for having minds inside it), but there is no hypermind (or is there?) over all the individual ones.

OTOH let us suppose that the universe at least has a semi-organic character overall, that events happening over the long term in galaxies might be comparable, relative to some larger object over them, to the activities of cells in a terrestrial creature, or who knows but something along that line. Again, no "purpose" in the direct sense but definitely a process that has reference over time. (A process according to which its parts do not happen at random or by accident, but "for the sake of" the process as a whole coming to be completed, so to speak.)
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mighara Sovmadhi wrote:
...Now there is an "outside" stance where we consider the minds inside the universe as the universe's minds, and reflecting on this showcases the purposivity of the universe in itself (for having minds inside it), but there is no hypermind (or is there?) over all the individual ones.
That's close to what I'm saying. I don't know what to think about a hypermind (unless it's developing now, in lots of places in the universe), but what about a "submind?" The universe as a slumbering beast that can awaken to itself? And we are its first stirring (that we know of)?

I'm not saying I believe these things literally, except in as much as we are literally bits of the universe awakening. The rest is trying to deal with how that was possible in the first place, and where it's going to end.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avatar wrote:
Ok, I suppose I am operating under an assumption, namely that there is no god or controlling power or whatever. However, if we take that as given, then by definition there can be no purpose, because the definition of purpose requires intention/whatever. If you're defining purpose differently to the way I am, then first we need to settle on a definition for the word. If we mean different things when we say the same thing, then obviously nobody is going to get anywhere.
Good point. I think there is both "hard" purpose, i.e. the intentions of conscious beings, and "soft" purpose, i.e. like the destiny of a seed to become a plant. I know the former is taken as illusory on modern interpretations of Darwinian theory, but after reading Mind and Cosmos, I'm no longer sure. In fact, I think that maybe consciousness itself evolves out of a more primitive purposeful quality of matter. Yep, I think maybe consciousness seeks consciousness, because life on earth doesn't really need it. You could have an organism programmed with behavioral adaptations be just as fit as a conscious organism, and not be able to tell the difference. Consciousness appears to be unnecessary, from a survival standpoint ... and yet we have it anyway. That mystery needs to be explained, and I don't believe it can be explained reductively.

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You talk about purpose as though there was meant to be purpose, and as I suggested above, that's something I just can't accept, because it automatically (by definition Wink ) implies that something intended it.
I think that life intends itself. I think there is something about being alive that embodies purpose. Biologists list qualities that distinguish life: reproduction, growth, response to environment, adaptation, etc. I think maybe "an existence that anticipates the future" should be added to this list. Whether you call it purpose or proto-purpose, hard or soft, doesn't matter so much. It's simply a fact that living beings--no matter how primitive--have their meaning through time. Things like "reproduction," "growth," etc. are meaningless without considering their end states, what they are tending towards. Living things exist for outcomes, in virtue of these outcomes. That's precisely what makes them alive, the essence of their living. Stars, asteroids, etc. do not exist for outcomes. Whether or not this future anticipation happens by accident is debatable. But perhaps the emergence of life itself in the universe is like the emergence of a plant from a seed: inevitable, given the right conditions.

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If the universe has purpose, and the laws which produce us have purpose, where did that purpose come from? It's far easier for me to accept that purpose arose as a side-effect of life or evolution than it is to accept that there is a purpose to the universe (other than to eventually reach maximum entropy). (Which isn't a purpose so much as it is the inevitable end result.)
You can ask where anything came from, including entropy. Having a mysterious origin doesn't mean it's not real. Why is it okay to say that entropy "just happened" but purpose did not? Both are tending toward a certain inevitable future. One, however, increases order while the other does the opposite.


Quote:
The poppy seed doesn't mean to turn into a poppy. It just does. It doesn't have a choice. If the conditions are just right, it will turn into one. If they are just a bit wrong, it won't. Whether they are or not is either down to random chance, or purposeful intervention by us.
Whether it succeeds in its purpose does involve chance, but the genetic code driving it toward that future is not an accident, at least not in the random sense. Matter doesn't just accidentally clump into genetic codes that produce poppies. The origins of life--i.e. the very first DNA molecules--are still a big mystery. We have made great progress in describing what happens once nature has enough alternatives to start "selecting," but we have no idea how that first genetic diversity arose. In other words, there are organizing principles in nature of which we're not aware. Natural selection of random mutations doesn't get you all the way to the bottom.

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The "purpose" of the seed is purely a matter of our perception.
Whose perception? Who is to say that all life--which responds to its environment--doesn't have some kind of perception? If the purpose of the seed is "purely a matter of the poppy's perception," then this is no longer just a "matter of perception," but real purpose.

Granted, that's pretty far out there. Most people aren't going to agree that poppies strive purposefully to reproduce, or that they have any kind of perception. But I think the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction when we decided to stop anthropomorphizing nature. Now we are tricking ourselves with new metaphors--like clocks and computers--things that aren't alive at all. Organisms aren't machines.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And all this time I though Evolution was pulling a joke on the existing
lifeforms.
Glad it wasn't a game..
Roll the dice..
CRAPS!!!! Shocked

Oh wait.. I've seen some cases where it might be a game.
Other cases it looks like a joke...
Maybe we will never know.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking for a jumping in point, but do not have time, so GIRONOMO!

Of course evolution contributes consciousness as we know it. If we want to simplify it to the point of saying falsehoods, we can view consciousness as running software and our brains as hardware. To run certain complex programs requires a sufficiently complex hardware (one that can handle all the operations),

Evolution provides us with the hardware. Where does the software come from? I have no time to consider that right now! Besides, I think this analogy has run its usefulness.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2017 6:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh hell, forgot I owe Z a reply here...will come back to it. Somebody else post so I remember. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
[[[[snip]]]] because life on earth doesn't really need it. You could have an organism programmed with behavioral adaptations be just as fit as a conscious organism, and not be able to tell the difference. Consciousness appears to be unnecessary, from a survival standpoint ... and yet we have it anyway. [[[[snip]]]]

But perhaps the emergence of life itself in the universe is like the emergence of a plant from a seed: inevitable, given the right conditions.


On the second, I'd say given that---which I think is very likely---then consciousness is also inevitable in the right conditions.

Which leads me back to the first above. You've said something similar a few times. I think at least once I replied that perhaps it isn't necessary but it is extremely advantageous. Maybe the greatest advantage.

I should say I'm not trying to nit-pick or even really disagree so much as interested in if/how it alters/expands/ your thoughts if I can seed/fertilize your contemplations.
So, a couple examples/wonderings:

You know, I think, that a computer beat the worlds best at the absurdly complex game of Go.
Here's the thing: one part of the "mind" was trained on 30 million expert game positions. This part then played against itself a few millions of times. Then played some giant number of against another, different program---one that had its own data set with 100k possible moves for every position.

Then another part of the mind was trained on 30 million games.
Misleadingly simplistic summary of the two, one part was learning to predict moves that would/could be made by experts, the other part was measuring how "good" moves were. These were combined with a decision tree that no human could possible have in memory. And it won. YEE HAW.

But---the human [Seedol] at most could only have played 25k games [thats if 5 games a day, every day, since 5 years old.]
That means, roughly, it took the machine 2000 games to learn what Seedol learned from each single game.

On top of that, the machine only learned 1 thing. How to play Go.

Seedol learned thousands [at least] of other things. Like making his hands work, to pick up a piece and put it somewhere on the board. Like talking---the purely physical part AND how to use it to communicate. Like walking around without running into, or being run over by, things. Literally hundreds of things that, if purely "stimulus/response" and non-conscious, would require data and practice in those same tens of millions the machine needed to play Go.
----For each and every particular thing----
The time and energy requirements for a living thing to survive that way are unfathomable.
A lot of words just to say that some forms of life/survival are possible without consciousness. But the further up the complexity chain you go, the more necessary it is...at some point in that chain, things survive and evolve to what they are BECAUSE they are conscious to some extent.
I'd say the Blindsight thing that you mentioned supports much of what I've said. The individuals can, to some extent, get by. But what the examples I've seen show is this: a person with the condition reacts only at a level greater than chance in some specific conditions. A person without the condition reacts with nearly 100% accuracy under those conditions and very wide variety of other conditions.

This is strongly connected to something I know you favor: that the mind is not algorithmic.
It seems to me that the non-conscious/pure input/reaction life would have to be algorithmic, like the machine, with all the same limiting requirements. If not totally so, nevertheless, consciousness is vastly more energy-efficient if nothing else.
Heh...a whole bunch more words just to get back to: even if consciousness isn't necessary for lower orders of life, what if it IS necessary for lizards...or ferrets, wolves, dolphins, people? [pick your level---I'm not sure where or if I'd draw a hard line]. Or what if not necessary but simply hugely advantageous? [[which in its way comes to the same thing]].
[[some support for that---for a long time the dominant idea was that the brain---particularly the part that manages most of the conscious---was selected for because of skeletal and muscular weakness, so smartness mattered. But it appears to actually be the case that we became physically weaker BECAUSE big brainers with weak bones and muscles out competed the strong little-brainers in the hunger games. We didn't get brains out of weakness, we got weakness due to brains.]]

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 6:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Isn't consciousness as we experience it an emergent property resulting (most likely) from the 'cognitive revolution' - essentially a rewiring of the connections within the brain that occurred about 70,000 years ago, allowing for much greater communication of information via sophisticated language. I don't know if this revolution is 'proven' as such, but I believe the anthropological evidence for it is strong - take the (relatively) sudden development of art, increased tool making abilities and the development of more sophisticated social/cultural practices (burial, totem usage etc) as pointers. The complexity of our thoughts is directly proportional to the complexity of the language we have available as a tool for building them, thus the jump from being able to communicate "look out for that lion!" to "there was a lion by the river earlier, but he's probably gone now", is a highly significant one.
Second point: (question rather) Did we actually evolve 'higher intelligence'? What I mean is, is not intelligence (whatever that is - no easy question to answer in itself!) a thing that appears essentially fully formed, but is just a thing that by chance (or genetic predisposition) people get more or less of? Would not the intelligence needed to be able to survive in the brutally hard environment of the pre-civilised world be every bit as great as that needed to produce the calculus, rendering the argument of early humans having an excess of surplus intelligence simply wrong?
Third point: Is there not some body of neurological evidence building that suggests much of what we experience as 'consciousness' is in fact illusory in its apparent influence on the decisions we make? That investigation is increasingly showing that the brain makes its decisions pertaining to our actions before the conscious part of our mind is engaged, the subjective experience we get of having been the 'conscious' decision maker being superimposed on the already in progress action. This would again support the idea of consciousness as an emergent aspect of our development - an accidental by-product of the brains rewiring - sweeping aside any teleological considerations at a stroke.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

peter wrote:

Third point: Is there not some body of neurological evidence building that suggests much of what we experience as 'consciousness' is in fact illusory in its apparent influence on the decisions we make? That investigation is increasingly showing that the brain makes its decisions pertaining to our actions before the conscious part of our mind is engaged.


Not to ignore other things you said, just pressed for time. The answer is there is such evidence. And when I first encountered it, I thought it was interesting and important. I even mentioned it around this place a few times. And it is---for instance this almost has to be strongly connected to the problems of bias.
BUT I repented/put on the brakes. From what I can tell---only having access to abstracts and blurbs about the research, not the works themselves---there is a whole lot of unjustified overreaching, overstating, and speculating going on.
Quick examples.
When I see [or hear] 3x3, I start reacting with 9 before conscious thought is activated. But that's NOW. Because the solution has been memorized and shifted, for efficiency's sake. The FIRST time I needed to deal with it, consciousness seriously mattered to figure it out, to understand it.
[[[there are a ton of further issues immediately created in relation to that---how conscious, what kind? How much is memorized/shifted? A good situation/teaching, the person is learning to do math, to know what multiplying MEANS. A bad/weak situation, the person is merely shifting the input/output by rote. No math is learned]]].
Or
You've got a pair of clones, identical in every possible way. The one who decided to learn to box, and consciously trains and "shifted" the info, will kick the shit out of the one who trained for the decathlon. [[ If he/she can catch him her. Smile and the decathlete isn't currently holding a javelin.]]
Or
The process of learning to drive.
Or
I'm walking by a park, and there's a crowd and a podium, and the guy behind it begins "And the Lord said..."
Instantly, preconciously, I begin responding...my mouth prepares to speak, examples of historical and textual lies and contradictions cue up in the layer below...BUT then he continues "Fuck all that" or some other new/different/surprising thing? Suddenly, I'm aware.
Some things are instinct for people...though not many compared to less-conscious beings.
Some things [many] we instinctualize/offload so we don't have to think about every damn thing, every damn time [[how fucked would your life be if every time you tried to read you had to consciously process each stage of S-E-E [SPACE] S-P-O-T [SPACE] R-U-N? ]]
But we have to at least begin with some conscious process to do that.
Some things we can't/don't do that.
The offloading does cause problems that need to be recognized and dealt with somehow.
Interesting thing about that---learning and practicing philosophy has been shown [in one smallish study that I'm aware of, so preliminary] to aid in avoiding the preconscious biasing. And like creating ideological followers, the younger you start the better. Yea, you can instinctualize the tendency to think critically, to weigh arguments, to bring things to consciousness.
Oh, last thing---IIRC, the evidence/research you mentioned also only shows an initialization stage...the beginning, however does NOT strictly determine the outcome.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2017 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lots of good points being made here. I only have about 10 minutes, so I can't address them all.

If consciousness is largely illusory, then why did we evolve such an illusion? That was kind of my point on the OP. If it's illusion--if our brain has already made up its mind before we know it--then why do we need to know it? It can't possibly have a survival advantage if our decisions would have been no different without the input of consciousness.

It makes the problem more apparent, not less.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
Lots of good points being made here. I only have about 10 minutes, so I can't address them all.

If consciousness is largely illusory, then why did we evolve such an illusion? That was kind of my point on the OP. If it's illusion--if our brain has already made up its mind before we know it--then why do we need to know it? It can't possibly have a survival advantage if our decisions would have been no different without the input of consciousness.

It makes the problem more apparent, not less.
That's an interesting way to frame things. I wonder if consciousness is more of a "gather info/make future decisions" sort of mechanism than a "make decisions now" kind!

So instead of making a choice "in the moment", your brain makes up its mind based upon what "came before", leaving consciousness to gather up intel to be used to make future decisions.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If consciousness is an emergent property doesn't this imply that it wasn't actually the product of evolution at all? In this scenario it would be something else that evolved - say for example increased neuronal connectivity pertaining to some other area of brain function, I don't know, say sensory input data collation - from which the new property of consciousness 'emerged' fully formed by chance as it were.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orlion wrote:
That's an interesting way to frame things. I wonder if consciousness is more of a "gather info/make future decisions" sort of mechanism than a "make decisions now" kind!

In our current state, I'd say it depends on the kind of decision. There's almost certainly a mixture in most decisions, and a flow between, but with one or the other dominating depending on context.
And obviously errors and conflicts happen.
But I'd bet a lot that the initial leap to consciousness was that kind of change.
I'd also bet the path to understanding it begins with examining memory. The different kinds of it, the selection process of save [short and/or long], delete, store ["deep" and/or "shallow"], and MOST important---the real change point perhaps---compare. contrast, correlate. Those "steps" probably evolved in roughly that order [speculation].
A point I've made elsewhere, and am in total agreement with Z on here, and always have been: certain kinds of topics/issues, the claim that something is "illusion" always makes the thing MORE complex, raises MORE questions, demands MORE evidence. It dismisses the problem at hand, it doesn't even address, let alone answer it.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 6:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quick point; I'm not sure that it has been posited that consciousness is an illusion - more specifically that the role that it appears to us that our consciousness seems to play in our decision making process might be illusory. (Sure I don't need to make it, but just so's were all reading from the same sheet......... Wink ) I seem to remember that neurologist David Eagleman in his excellent six program series on the brain did discuss this idea and the research which led to it, and was able to suggest some reason/s why even such a sidelined consciousness would still confer a selective advantage on it's possessor (but I can't remember for the life of me what it was which isn't helpful I grant you....... Laughing
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd like to just post a quote from a book - Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harare - that I came across [by chance] last night that seems pertinent to this thread.
Quote:
Finally, some scientists conclude that consciousness is real and may actually have great moral and political value, but that it fulfils no biological function whatsoever. Consciousness is the biologically useless by-product of certain brain processes. Jet engines roar loudly, but the noise doesn't propel the airplane forward. Humans don't need carbon dioxide, but every breath fills the air with more of the stuff. Similarly, consciousness might be a kind of mental pollution produced by the firing of complex neural networks. It doesn't do anything - it's just there. If this is true, it implies that all the pain and pleasure experienced by billions of creatures for millions of years is just mental pollution. This is certainly a thought worth thinking even if it isn't true. but it is quite amazing that as of 2016 this is the best theory of consciousness that contemporary science has to offer us.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

peter wrote:
I'd like to just post a quote from a book - Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harare - that I came across [by chance] last night that seems pertinent to this thread.
Quote:
Finally, some scientists conclude that consciousness is real and may actually have great moral and political value, but that it fulfils no biological function whatsoever. Consciousness is the biologically useless by-product of certain brain processes. Jet engines roar loudly, but the noise doesn't propel the airplane forward. Humans don't need carbon dioxide, but every breath fills the air with more of the stuff. Similarly, consciousness might be a kind of mental pollution produced by the firing of complex neural networks. It doesn't do anything - it's just there. If this is true, it implies that all the pain and pleasure experienced by billions of creatures for millions of years is just mental pollution. This is certainly a thought worth thinking even if it isn't true. but it is quite amazing that as of 2016 this is the best theory of consciousness that contemporary science has to offer us.

I think there are quite a few leaps there. Leaps that require a list!

1) Biologically useless does not necessarily equate with evolutionary useless. If the mechanism of evolution is determined primarily with traits that help a species survive its environment and propagate, Consciousness could still be considered evolutionaryily useful even if it is just "mental pollution".

2) Pain and pleasure are biological processes. Being consciously aware of them does not mean they do not serve a real function and operate biologically. Equating (at least all) pain and pleasure as mental pollution is an unsupported leap, I believe.

3) Not having the book in front of me, does so-called Yuval go over other theories of consciousness that contemporary science has to offer? Does he even really significantly go into this one "theory", or is this just an aspect "some scientists" believe that he goes on and labels as an entire theory into human consciousness?

Trying to think about where I saw the book mentioned before, Bakker did a review of it. I place it here mostly so I can easily find it because I do not wish to book mark it Razz

https://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/visions-of-the-semantic-apocalypse-a-critical-review-of-yuval-noah-hararis-homo-deus/
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

But if consciousness had no effect on the things that influence survival chances (as the noise has no effect on moving the plane forward) it couldn't have any evolutionary consequences could it?

In respect of pain and pleasure I think the suggestion is that it is not the conscious aspects of them that is fulfilling the operative biological function, these being again simply side effects within the consciousness and of no functional significance. An example of this is the simple reflex arc. When you step on a pin your leg is instructed to pull away long before the pain is recorded by your conscious mind, and additionally your conscious mind has no ability to influence the action at all.

Harare does refer to other theories of consciousness in the book - but granted in a limited fashion given the scope of the book and it's overall subject area (the examination of where our journey will take us in the near future). In fairness to the guy he is quite prepared to accept that the idea is incorrect, just more suprised that it seems to be up there as a serious candidate for a workable 'theory of mind's at this late (or early?) stage of the game.

Thanks for the review Orlion - I'm off to read it right now and will most likely post my thoughts on it in due course in the manner of all incorrigible off-topic offenders! Wink
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting Orlion! I love the guys articulation of the fact that humanism (placing humanity as it does, firmly back in the center of the universe) has risen to become the dominant 'religion' of our time not because of increased scientific understanding of who we are but because we remain the one thing in the universe that science has failed to reduce to numbers! Our mind remains in its black box stubbornly refusing to give up its secrets. The guy goes on to give a chilling account of how our ever increasing dependence on our connectedness actually deconstructs us as individuals, rendering us down to predictable biochemical pathways whose actions and choices can be known even before we make them. (Somewhat at odds with the black box thing above I'm aware but hey.......)

But to steer back onto topic - isn't this the point: that we have reached a point - or are fast reaching it - where our consciousness (useless by-product of otherwise) has shouldered our evolution out of the game! We are the first organisms in the history of Earth with the power to make ourselves as we choose to be, not to be forced to go where the blind rails of evolution takes us! And this is down to that very mind, that very consciousness that evolution may or may not have provided us with.
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