Hi Russell,

From: Stephen Paul King 
Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2011 11:29 AM
To: everything-list@googlegroups.com 
Subject: Re: Self-aware <= Consciousness?
Hi Russell,

From: Russell Standish 
Sent: Monday, May 02, 2011 7:25 PM
To: everything-list@googlegroups.com 
Subject: Re: Max Substitution level = Min Observer Moment?
Stephen King wrote:

> >>PS, to Russell: I think that you are conflating consciousness
> >>with self-awareness in section 9.5 of your book. <wlEmoticon-
> >>sadsmile[1].png> The two are not the same thing. Consciousness
> >>is purely passive. Self-awareness is active in that is involves
> >>the continuous modeling (passive consciousness) with the
> >>continuous act of choosing between alternatives (free will).

I missed this comment earlier. It surprised me, as I do not conflate
the two (self awareness requires consciousness, but consciousness
without self-awareness is at least conceivable). 

Section 9.5 is about evolutionary explanations of self-awareness and
free will, so is not about the more general phenomenon of
consciousness at all. However, maybe you thought I was conflating the two
in the very last sentence: "I can conclude in agreement with Dennett that
consciousness is an extremely rare property ion the animal
kingdom". If this were only based on section 9.5, then this would be
overreaching conclusions from the mirror test and Macchiavellian
theory. But I also base the comment on the anthropic "ants are not
conscious argument" (section 5.4), which is about the more general
concept of consciousness, not just self-awareness, and also the Occam
catastrophe argument (page 84) leads to a (tentative) conclusion that
self-awareness is actually required for consciousness after all. It is
one of the more contentious conclusions of the book, so I'm happy for
that to be pulled apart and debated,


Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
Principal, High Performance Coders
Visiting Professor of Mathematics      hpco...@hpcoders.com.au
University of New South Wales          http://www.hpcoders.com.au

   Umm, no. It was not just the last sentence. I would like to expand on your 
thought process that lead to the conclusion. AFAIK, my idea of bare 
consciousness does not involve any form of selection (other than the 1p 
appearance of collapse of superpositions) and should apply to even a quark! I 
am taking an idea from Chalmers and pushing it to see where and if it breaks 
down; “that consciousness is a fundamental property ontologically autonomous of 
any known (or even possible) physical properties, and that there may be lawlike 
rules which he terms "psychophysical laws" that determine which physical 
systems are associated with which types of qualia.” 

    As I see it any entity that has continuation in time has consciousness. I 
know that I run the risk of crack-pottery, but let’s go back over the Ant’s are 
not Conscious” argument. Your argument follows the form of the Doomsday 
argument, which I have serious doubts about per QTI, but setting that aside, 
why does not the complexity of the organism not factor into the consideration 
about the presence or absence of qualia in ants? AFAIK, Bruno has argued 
effectively that amoeba are conscious... The factor that I think that the 
argument ignores (as does the Doomsday argument) is the ability to communicate 
and the level of complexity that can be communicated.  
    When we consider the question “what is our expected body mass if we are 
randomly sampled from the reference class of conscious beings?” are we covertly 
selecting only that subsample of entities that we would consider as conscious, 
say per a Turing test, like ourselves? What would be an appropriate Turing test 
for an ant? How does body mass inform us of the possession of qualia? Surely 
very small body mass limits the number of brain states that we can claim 
supervene mentality, but what is that considering? Are we missing something 
perhaps in thinking that only a certain size brain or number of interconnected 
neurons supervenes consciousness? I think we might be making the inverse of 
Searle’s mistake of the Chinese room! 
    I think that we need to nail down exactly what we mean by “consciousness”. 
The definition of “possesses qualia” is only the first step. I need to read 
Nagel's papers some more ... 


Hi Russell,

   Allow me to add something to this. In tracking down more of Nagel’s papers 
to read, I found this review of Galen Strawson’s book Selves: An Essay in 
Revisionary Metaphysics : http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n21/thomas-nagel/the-i-in-me

    In it the idea of “thin subject” is discussed and critiqued by Nagel. From 
what I can tell so far the idea of consciousness that I am exploring is similar 
to this “thin subject” notion. Here is a quote from Strawson that illustrates 
the idea of a thin subject:

“When I consider myself in the whole-human-being way I fully endorse the 
conventional view that there is in my case – that I am – a single subject of 
experience – a person – with long-term diachronic continuity. But when I 
experience myself as an inner mental subject and consider the detailed 
character of conscious experience, my feeling is that I am – that the thing 
that I most essentially am is – continually completely new.” (my italics)

    Nagel’s comment on this is:

“I do not understand what it would be like to live like this, to feel ‘that 
there simply isn’t any “I” or self that goes on through (let alone beyond) the 
waking day, even though there’s obviously and vividly an “I” or self at any 
given time.’ If Strawson experiences guilt or shame for episodes in the past, 
it must be very different from mine.

However, this strange phenomenology of impermanence makes palatable to him the 
equally strange metaphysics to which his arguments drive him. Because the 
diachronic unity of the self, like its synchronic unity, must be a purely 
experiential unity, he is led to the conclusion that the self is a ‘thin 
subject’ – something that exists only if experience exists of which it is the 
subject. Further, this thing cannot be distinguished from its properties, and 
those properties are exhausted by the experience, which is in turn identical 
with the experience’s contents. (Strawson maintains that no object can be 
distinguished from its properties – another piece of radical metaphysics.) The 
result is that the self which exists at any time is simply a unified 
experiential process or episode. In light of materialism, the self can be 
presumed also to be a neural process: ‘a synergy of neural activity which is 
either a part of or (somehow) identical with the synergy that constitutes the 
experience as a whole’. But even though it has physical features, it is single, 
and therefore a self, only in virtue of its experiential unity. Finally, by the 
standards of diachronic unity appropriate for the thin subject of an 
experiential process that is indistinguishable from its content, there is no 
reason to think any self outlasts the lived present of experience – let alone 
that it lasts as long as a human life.”

    I think that Nagel’s is misunderstanding Strawson’s idea! I think that 
Strawson is correct, but the idea of thin subjectivity is more like something 
that can be integrated into what Nagel is wanting. Just as the area under a 
curve can be considered as being built up (via summation) of a sequence of 1d 
line segment under a point that is part of a curve

    If this idea of bare consciousness, ala Chalmer’s consideration, is to work 
(and apply even to quarks!) then something like Strawson’s idea here has to 
follow. This does have some support in Pratt’s discussions, the idea is that as 
the Logical algebra evolves it collapses into a singleton as its truth 
valuations are altered, thus it must be continuously reconstructed from scratch 
because of the destruction created by this alteration! The idea is that the 
consciousness is implicit in the relation between logical algebra and its Stone 
dual (some topological space). Pratt wrote in 
http://boole.stanford.edu/pub/ratmech.pdf : 

“Set^op is equivalent to the category of complete atomic Boolean algebras
(CABA’s). But the free CABA generated by the set X is the power set 2^2^X.
Hence the Boolean operations of each arity X, X empty, finite, or infinite,
consist of all functions from 2^X to 2. This is the maximum possible language
compatible with CABA homomorphisms; not only is every arity represented but
every operation of that arity. Furthermore the equational theory of CABA’s is
maximally consistent in the sense that no new equation can be added without
collapsing the entire algebra to a singleton. A CABA as the ultimate know-it-all
is as mental as any object of traditional concrete mathematics can be.”

    The idea here seems to be (and I am completely projecting my own thinking 
on Pratt’s words!) that for each  CABA (or weaker version) to evolve it must 
have some form of updating, such that it can maintain some non-zero truth value 
relative to its bisimulations with other logical structures. If we have to add 
a new equation (new information => new predicates) to the maximally consistent 
structure (necessary for it to be “true” in all bisimulations of it!) then it 
must act like the phoenix of legend. To immolate itself and be born 
continuously anew from the fire of its destruction.

    If we are going to think of a mind as a logical structure then many minds 
–> many logical structures. As each mind interacts, it must change into a form 
that can incorporate the new information gained and its so doing it must be 
reconstructed anew. The “body” of a mind is, ala Wolfram, its best model 
(topos) and the mind, of a given body, its its best logical representation 
(Logical algebra). This loops us back to my question regarding Bruno’s 
substitution level and your OM level! Do you see what I men?

    Now, think of many minds evolving this way, how do we think of 
synchronizations between them?


Stephen (going out on the crack pot edge!)

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