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machine brains

dmb106 dmb106 at york.ac.uk
Sat Feb 27 07:45:58 EST 1999

On Thu, 18 Feb 1999, Michael Edelman wrote:
> > ..."Thinking" occurs in mammals. It is the interpolation of extra synaptic
> > events between sensory input and motor output. ....) Don't waste time talking
> > about our
> > awareness of the brain's thoughts. That belongs to religion.
> You're  defining the problem down to a much simpler, and much less interesting
> one. Self-awareness is the heart of conciousness.
> We all know we're self-aware, and there's no need to invoke metaphysics to
> realize that humans and many other animals can plan- which is to say they can
> create internal, counterfactual models in their mind and experiment with them.
>  You seek to explain the brain as a robot with a strict mechanistic theory. But
> if that's the case, who is writing this note?

The robot is. You are nothing more that an intentional system. We
ascribe beleifs and desires to you because that gives us most
predictive power and understanding. Does that make the beleifs and
desires we ascribe real? 
	I agree that self-awareness is the heart of conciousness, but
if this is the case ask your self one more question...
What is the difference between being self aware and behaving as though
you are self aware?

We all focus our thoughts and actions on our selves, it is the best
thing to do in evolutionary terms. The big difference 
in humans is that we are aware we are aware. Why is that such a leap
of faith? - no irony intended. 

A rat is aware that a red light means food, for example, and it
behaves in such a way so as to eat. We do not, however, ascribe any
internal life to the rat. - if you do then just think of a lower
organism which could be similarly conditioned. We humans have the
added ability of being aware that we are aware that a light means
food, in some bizare experiment. 

It is my beleif that this infinate regress is what we call awareness.
The fact that it is an infinate regress is not key, it just makes it
intractable.  Just think about what it is like to be aware of
somthing? i.e. aware that it is daytime, I dont think you have to be
concious to do this. Then extend the idea and become aware that you
are aware- why would you need to be concious at the next step? yet the
effect of all this unconcious computing is what we call conciousness. 


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