On Fri, Jan 8, 2010 at 10:03 AM, Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com> wrote:
> Isn't it? Bruno presents "comp" as equivalent to betting that replacing > your brain with a digitial device at the appropriate level of substitution > will leave your stream of consciousness unaffected. From this people are > inferring that the discrete states of this digital brain instantiate > "observer moments". But suppose (which I consider likely) the digital brain > would have to have a cycle time of a billionth of a second or less. I don't > think you believe you have a different conscious thought every billionth of > a second. What it means is that "a state of your consciousness" corresponds > to a million or so successive states of the digitial computation. These > sets of a million states can then of course overlap. So the idea of > discrete "observer moments" doesn't follow from "yes doctor". It's plausible that "observer moments" correspond to what are called "chaotic attractors" in complex systems theory. The brain passes through a complex, dynamic trajectory of states. A stable attractor is a cycle of discrete states that repeats exactly, in the case of a "limit cycle", or more often, retraces a similar but not exact trajectory, in the case of a "chaotic attractor". Chaotic attractors are robust to perturbation, up to a point, and many complex systems can be characterized by a succession of chaotic attractors separated by rapid transitions driven by external perturbations exceeding some threshold. I use the term "meta-state" as a synonym for chaotic attractor in this context. My working hypothesis is that nervous systems developed into complex systems capable of generating quasi-stable meta-states which were evolutionarily advantageous, and over (evolutionary) time, were able to reach a level of organization which eventually produced consciousness. In this model, brains are continuously cycling through patterns of firing, which, absent external stimuli, are self-sustaining in some sort quasi-stable chaotic fashion, or meta-state. Sensory input of various types may be "ignored" if it doesn't reach a threshold of activation which tips the brain into a new meta-state. Or, "novel" sensations may drive the system into a new meta-state (dynamic cycle) that corresponds to some classification of that input in the context of whatever the current meta-state is. Observer moments, then, correspond to some subset of meta-states in the brain. They aren't discrete states of zero duration, but trajectories of states in a chaotic cycle. A succession of these meta-states would then make up a stream-of-consciousness. As an aside, I strongly suspect that in practice, our sensory input serves to constrain the brain into a (relatively) small set of meta-states that has allowed us to survive in a harsh evolutionary context, and produces what may be called "consensus reality" (I think Bruno calls this 1st-person plural.) Other chaotic systems do spend most of their time in a small subset of possible states. Yet there is evidence that perturbing the brain in a variety of ways (fasting, breathing exercises, meditation, religious contemplation, drugs, disease, injury, etc.) can allow it to wander off into meta-states that are quite subjectively different from the typical states associated with "normal" functioning. All of the above speculation could still hold true in a non-physicalist, computationalism-based view of consciousness, where one would replace "brain" with "computational substrate at appropriate level of substitution." Johnathan Corgan
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