On 8/10/2012 4:57 PM, Russell Standish wrote:
On Fri, Aug 10, 2012 at 09:36:22AM -0700, meekerdb wrote:
But a course of action could be 'selected', i.e. acted upon, without
consciousness (in fact I often do so). I think what constitutes
consciousness is making up a narrative about what is 'selected'.
The evolutionary reason for making up this narrative is to enter it
into memory so it can be explained to others and to yourself when
you face a similar choice in the future.
Maybe - I don't remember Dennett ever making that point.
He didn't. It's my idea.
importantly, its hard to see what the necessity of the narrative is
for forming memories.
It's not necessary, but it's efficient. As opposed to a tape just recording everything, a
narrative picks out what's important and encodes it relative to what's already known (if
it's routine - forget it). It's also important for social interactions, for explaining
yourself to others, persuading them, lying to to them (liars need good memories).
Quite primitive organisms form memories, yet I'm
sceptical they have any form of internal narrative.
I agree. But I don't think they are conscious in a human sense either.
That the memory of these
past decisions took the form of a narrative derives from the fact
that we are a social species, as explained by Julian Jaynes. This
explains why the narrative is sometimes false, and when the part of
the brain creating the narrative doesn't have access to the part
deciding, as in some split brain experiments, the narrative is just
confabulated. I find Dennett's modular brain idea very plausible
and it's consistent with the idea that consciousness is the function
of a module that produces a narrative for memory. If were designing
a robot which I intended to be conscious, that's how I would design
it: With a module whose function was to produce a narrative of
choices and their supporting reasons for a memory that would be
accessed in support of future decisions. This then requires a
certain coherence and consistency in robots decisions - what we call
'character' in a person. I don't think that would make the robot
necessarily conscious according to Bruno's critereon. But if it had
to function as a social being, it would need a concept of 'self' and
the ability for self-reflective reasoning. Then it would be
conscious according to Bruno.
IIRC, Dennett talks about feedback connecting isolated modules (as in
talking to oneself) as being the progenitor of self-awareness (and
perhaps even consciousness itself). Since this requires language, it
would imply evolutionary late consciousness.
I don't recall that Dennett referred to talking to oneself, but that's Julian Jaynes idea
and indeed it makes consciousness very late indeed. According to Jaynes, human
consciousness as we have now didn't come about until the interaction of different tribes
and it become advantageous to lie or at least to conceal your own thoughts.
I do think that self-awareness is a trick that enables efficient
modelling of other members of the same species. Its the ability to put
yourself in the other's shoes, and predict what they're about to do.
Yes, but that it a higher-level of self-awareness. Even dogs have awareness of being who
they are (having a name and a location) and even of having a status in the pack. But they
have no need or ability to explain their actions to others.
I'm in two minds about whether one can be conscious without also being
I think a solitary animal, like a tiger, is self-aware in that it knows where it is,
whether it's hungry or thirsty, that there are other tigers and other animals. But since
it's not social it needn't have a sense of status or position within a society. It
doesn't care what other tigers think. But wolves probably care what other wolves think.
But without language it's hard for this kind of recursive reflection to get very far or
even to be evolutionarily useful.
"I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members
of a weird religious cult."
--- Rita Rudner
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