Thoughts on Consciousness

William Calvin wcalvin at stein.u.washington.edu
Mon Mar 22 13:05:22 EST 1993

erwin at trwacs.fp.trw.com (Harry Erwin) writes:
>(In the following, I will use "single-threading" in contra-distinction to
>parallel processing.)

>1. Is consciousness associated with single-threading?

The most interesting kinds of consciousness are, but that's a word used so
widely as to almost be meaningless.  I try to reserve it (c.f., THE
CEREBRAL SYMPHONY, Bantam 1989) for doing novel things with language and
plan-ahead speculation -- and use "levels of alertness" to describe that
coma-sleep-wakefulness spectrum, use "selective attention" to describe the
being-aware-of aspects.
	Yes, plan-ahead is single-threaded like speech, but both have this
enormous parallel aspect that we usually call the subconscious:  competing
not-good-enough scenarios of the kind we experience in dreaming sleep.
I see it as rather like the darwinian process:  lots of variants are
spawned, most are nonsense when compared to partial-fit memories.  Lots of
rounds of shaping up occur, perhaps in only a second or two, rather like
those in antibodies that occur during the immune response in days to weeks.
	The use of the word "modules" really doesn't fit the cerebral
physiology.  It's a reification that we can do without.
    William H. Calvin   WCalvin at U.Washington.edu
    University of Washington  NJ-15
    Seattle, Washington 98195 FAX:1-206-720-1989

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