Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent Meeker writes:
>>>>I could make a robot that, having suitable thermocouples, would quickly 
>>>>withdraw it's 
>>>>hand from a fire; but not be conscious of it.  Even if I provide the robot 
>>>>"feelings", i.e. judgements about good/bad/pain/pleasure I'm not sure it 
>>>>would be 
>>>>conscious.  But if I provide it with "attention" and memory, so that it 
>>>>noted the 
>>>>painful event as important and necessary to remember because of it's strong 
>>>>affect; then I think it would be conscious.
>>>It's interesting that people actually withdraw their hand from the fire 
>>>*before* they experience 
>>>the pain. The withdrawl is a reflex, presumably evolved in organisms with 
>>>the most primitive 
>>>central nervour systems, while the pain seems to be there as an afterthought 
>>>to teach us a 
>>>lesson so we won't do it again. Thus, from consideration of evolutionary 
>>>utility consciousness 
>>>does indeed seem to be a side-effect of memory and learning. 
>>Even more curious, volitional action also occurs before one is aware of it. 
>>Are you 
>>familiar with the experiments of Benjamin Libet and Grey Walter?
> These experiments showed that in apparently voluntarily initiated motion, 
> motor cortex activity 
> actually preceded the subject's awareness of his intention by a substantial 
> fraction of a second. 
> In other words, we act first, then "decide" to act. These studies did not 
> examine pre-planned 
> action (presumably that would be far more technically difficult) but it is 
> easy to imagine the analogous 
> situation whereby the action is unconsciously "planned" before we become 
> aware of our decision. In 
> other words, free will is just a feeling which occurs after the fact. This is 
> consistent with the logical 
> impossibility of something that is neither random nor determined, which is 
> what I feel my free will to be.
>>>I also think that this is an argument against zombies. If it were possible 
>>>for an organism to 
>>>behave just like a conscious being, but actually be unconscious, then why 
>>>would consciousness 
>>>have evolved? 
>>An interesting point - but hard to give any answer before pinning down what 
>>we mean 
>>by consciousness.  For example Bruno, Julian Jaynes, and Daniel Dennett have 
>>explanations; but they explain somewhat different consciousnesses, or at 
>>different aspects.
> Consciousness is the hardest thing to explain but the easiest thing to 
> understand, if it's your own 
> consciousness at issue. I think we can go a long way discussing it assuming 
> that we do know what 
> we are talking about even though we can't explain it. The question I ask is, 
> why did people evolve 
> with this consciousness thing, whatever it is? The answer must be, I think, 
> that it is a necessary 
> side-effect of the sort of neural complexity that underpins our behaviour. If 
> it were not, and it 
> were possible that beings could behave exactly like humans and not be 
> conscious, then it would 
> have been wasteful of nature to have provided us with consciousness. 

This is not necessarily so.  First, evolution is constrained by what goes 
Its engineering solutions often seem rube-goldberg, e.g. backward retina in 
  Second, there is selection against some evolved feature only to the extent it 
has a 
(net) cost.  For example, Jaynes explanation of consciousness conforms to these 
criteria.  I think that any species that evolves intelligence comparable to 
ours will 
be conscious for reasons somewhat like Jaynes theory.  They will be social and 
combined with intelligence will make language a good evolutionary move.  Once 
have language, remembering what has happened, in order to communicate and plan, 
symbolic terms will be a easy and natural evolvement.  Whether that leads to 
your own narrative in your head, as Jaynes supposes, is questionable; but it 
would be 
consistent with evolution. It takes advantage of existing structure and 
functions to 
realize a useful new function.

>This does not necessarily 
> mean that computers can be conscious: maybe if we had evolved with electronic 
> circuits in our 
> heads rather than neurons consciousness would not have been a necessary 
> side-effect. 

But my point is that this may come down to what we would mean by a computer 
conscious.  Bruno has an answer in terms of what the computer can prove.  
Jaynes (and 
probably John McCarthy) would say a computer is conscious if it creates a 
of its experience which it can access as memory.

Brent Meeker

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