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machine brains

Malcolm McMahon malcolm at pigsty.demon.co.uk
Mon Mar 8 13:17:09 EST 1999

On Mon, 08 Mar 1999 09:54:53 -0500, Michael Edelman <mje at mich.com>

>Malcolm McMahon wrote:
>> On Fri, 05 Mar 1999 14:14:42 GMT, ZZZghull at stny.lrun.com (Jerry Hull)
>> wrote:
>> >>>
>> >>>Which makes consciousness part of what?
>> >>
>> >>God? Why does it have to be a part of anything, for that matter, why
>> >>can't it be just another part of the universe which "just is", like a
>> >>photon or an electron. Not everything is made of something.
>> >
>> >Everything is made of something;
>> No, only composite things are made of something. Elementary particles
>> are not. What's an electron made of?

Well, no, not leptons but that's not important.

> And quarks in turn may be made of simpler constructs.

Again, in that case the simpler constructs are the elementary particles
and quarks are not.

> All of the physical
>world may in turn be a complex wave superimposed on the background of space and
>time itself. The jury is still out on this one ;-)

In which case the waves and space and time itself are the elementary
phenomina. It doesn't matter. Reductionism can only take you so far then
you have to accept you're reached the elementary.

>But then, I don't think of "conciousness" as a part of something- other than
>being a part of the individual- but as a property that arises from the
>interaction of other structures.

That seems to me more like a leap of faith than an explanation.

>> Because it's not really _like_ any kind of mental processing. Thinking
>> is something we _do_, consciousness is something we _are_.
>An arbitrary distinction, perhaps. "Thought" is a very general term. Thought is
>what mediates mind. Mind is the sumtotal of all are thoughts, both those
>available at the level of concious awareness as well as those below. Is
>respiration a part of mind? It's centrally mediated, as are many reflexes.

Yes, I think the difference between reflex and thought is only one of

>But yes, a unique conciousness is what seems to differentiate us as individuals
>from one another. Take a number of people communicating electronically, as we are
>doing here. There is no evidence of a body here, no voice, no gesture- only a
>symbolic exchange between minds. We still percieve the discussion as being
>between a number of distinct and unique entities.

No, I don't think you see consciousnes in that. What you see is only
egos, which is to say collections of beliefs and habits.

>> > Is consciousness yet a third thing, in addition to minds
>> >and bodies?  I mean, the metaphysical problems in this area are in part
>> >taxological, so the denial of a connection between consciousness & mind only
>> >seems to make them worse.
>> Yes, but consciousness exists, requires explaning and is not adequately
>> explained by the mind.
> I don't see this. For one thing, we haven't even explained "mind", so it's
>asking a bit much to have mind explain conciousness ;-).

We haven't explained it in detail but I think we can make a fairly
convincing case for the _kind_ of explanation which is possible.

> But the point was that calling conciousness an elementary entity
>serves no purpose other than to tell you to stop looking any further.

Rather, what it does is to deal with those that say that nothing
constructed of known particles can exist.

> And anyways,
>conciousness is far too complex to compare it to an electron ;-)

Now that's an interesting aspect. If you separate consciousness from
mind, and ego then why does it need to be complex?

I suspect consciousness is extremely simple.

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