Toward a Science of Consciousness 1998

Ton Maas tonmaas at
Tue Apr 28 05:45:15 EST 1998

In article <6i21sj$2j$1 at>,
patrick at (Patrick Juola) wrote:

>Oh, I'm disagreeing, vehemently.  We *have* evolving computers, we
>*have* computers (or at least multi-cpu networks) with greater storage
>capacity and comparable complexity to the human brain, and that's
>not produced anything that appears in any way conscious.  The
>argument that "evolving systems," "tinker-able systems" or any
>such is just another attempt to insert a ghost-in-the-machine through
>a process that the writer doesn't understand, even though many other
>scientists may understand quite weill.

Well, I'm not convinced we have "evolving" computers which comply with
Varela & Maturana's definition of autopoiesis. After all, in man-made,
digital computers the distinction between hardware and software is clean
cut, but in biological organisms this is a much more complex matter. Modern
day emphasis on genes as informational carriers of the "blueprint" of
organisms, for instance, is still largely unaware of the implications of
research done by D'Arcy Thompson (who showed that evolution is actually
saturated with patterns that are highly constant between species - such as
a nose above a mouth and an eye and an ear on eiter side - and which are
analogously coded rather than digitally) and the late William Bateson (who
removed limbs from embryos and grafted them back on in opposite positions,
where they grew into their "proper" shape), which have rather far-reaching
implications for the relation between genes and actual organisms. IMHO we
are approaching the limits of an "old" paradigm, with its notion of
information as storeable and quantifiable rather than defined in-process
(as "a difference which makes a difference").

Ton Maas

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