On 5/2/2013 2:18 PM, Jason Resch wrote:

On Thu, May 2, 2013 at 3:09 PM, meekerdb <meeke...@verizon.net <mailto:meeke...@verizon.net>> wrote:

    On 5/2/2013 7:47 AM, Jason Resch wrote:

        Would anyone here say that a conditional (e.g., "if/else") statement" 
(in some
        program) is conscious?

    I don't think so.  We make if/else choices subconsciously all the time.  My
    introspection tells me that conscious thought is a kind of narrative story I
    construct.  I think the function of this is to condense my experience for 
memory and
    future reference when I need to plan or predict based on my past 
experience.  If I
    were designing an intelligent Mars Rover that had to learn to deal with a 
    variety of problems which I cannot anticipate, this sort of selective memory
    narrative would be one component of it's learning.

    Of course there are different levels of consciousness.  A Mars Rover needs a
    conception of "self" as being in certain place, having completed certain 
    having certain capabilities, etc.  But it doesn't need to consider its 
status among
    peers or reflect on its own computational methods or its ultimate end.



I think you may be reading my question in the wrong way. I didn't mean to equate your consciousness with that of every if/else decision you make, but rather ask something like, "What does the shortest possible program that is conscious look like?"

I have trouble seeing why some short piece of code like:

if (x > 0) then do y() else do z();

Is not conscious of some property of x (whether it is positive or negative), at least when the two different functions y() and z() cause the program to enter different states.

I'd be inclined to call that "awareness": My thermostat is aware of the temperature. Consciousness is at a different level which is distinguished by being able to report on decisions introspectively. The thermostat can't explain why it switched on the air conditioning five minutes ago. Sometimes I find myself taking the road to work when I intended to drive to the supermarket - I can't explain what I was thinking. It was an unconscious choice.

I find it harder to justify the consciousness of a program that did not do any selection, distinction, or inspection. In most programming languages, this is done using a conditional statement, such as an "if statement", a "while statement" or a "switch statement".

Sure, that's necessary for consciousness, but I think it's less than sufficient.


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