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I think though I am not

  1. Mar 4, 2006 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    Every now and then I run across this idea that the human mind may not work in such a way that there is a single I. In fact, one day I caught a noted neuroscientist saying that there is no I, instead we only percieve the illusion of an I that results from an ensemble of separate minds working together.

    This has always bothered me since it seems to ignore the question: Who is being fooled?
     
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  3. Mar 4, 2006 #2
    I think Daniel Dennett also thinks this is true, and on top of that he seems to believe that once the "I" is gone, then consciousness is gone aswell. Actually, he thinks that consciousness is an illusion in the first place, based on misunderstandings. It just looks like we are conscious, when in fact we arent. And u end up with the same thing u said, if it just looks this way, then who is looking?

    Susan Blackmore also believes this is the case, as u can read here:

    Personally it sounds to me like "we cant explain it, so lets deny it exists".

    Maybe the "I-human" feeling is artificial, but once that is gone, it could be that there is a feeling of "I-something else" (like the "I-universe" feeling that so many people experience).
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2006
  4. Mar 4, 2006 #3

    selfAdjoint

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    Iv"an, nobody is being fooled. The same people who insist that our physical encounter with reality is very different from our memory of it ( which is what fuels out "conscious understanding" of it, in their view), are firm that there is no homonculus, no "central understander". It's all distributed processing.

    If you accept that what our brains use to construct our stream of consciousness is our short term memory, then you have to at least consider the possibility that that memory store may have been fiddled with before our physical consciousness-constructing processes had access to it.
     
  5. Mar 4, 2006 #4
    I do not agree.

    I agree.

    Perhaps, to fully understand what I am, i needed to consider the possibility that many things were "fiddled with" prior to having the ability/physical body to make use from the access of short-term memory of anything.

    "i" was not able to fiddle with anything.

    i was fooled by i usually because i was thinking of that which i was not, and I saw it all go down.

    I have observed and understand that I am prior to flesh.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2006
  6. Mar 5, 2006 #5

    loseyourname

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    Read this primer from the FSU medical school. In cases such as these patients with hemispheric separation, each half of the brain has its own "self" that is cut off from the other, as if two people occupied the same head. Although we'll likely priviledge the half of the brain responsible for creating verbal responses as being the true "I," there really is no good reason I can think of to do so.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say that the unity of subjective experience in normally functioning humans is a complete illusion, but it certainly is not a necessary aspect of human existence. The self you have now is fully contingent, and could be split at least in two, possibly moreso.
     
  7. Mar 5, 2006 #6

    -Job-

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    Maybe the question is, if you wanted to make something be conscious, how would you go about it? Like, write a computer program that thinks it is conscious. I think what i would do is start by having some simple data input to the program. The program reads this data input, but it also must be aware that it is reading the data input. That seems to be fundamental. So, interestingly, if you think about it, the program doesn't only have data as input, it also receives itself as input, because it must be aware of itself reading the data input. It sounds like a recursive function.
    If i had to bet i'd say one of the things that leads to consciousness is the fact that our outputs are also our inputs. We can hear our own words and see our own movements, but also, most importantly, we can read our own thoughts.
    So our minds start with some data, modify it into output, then read it as input along with some other data, and this process continues.
    Say the initial data is data0, then, if our mind is represented by function Mind(data), then:
    data1 = Mind(data0) + externalData0
    data2 = Mind(data1) + externalData1
    data3 = Mind(data2) + externalData2

    Which can be rewritten as:
    Mind(Mind(Mind(Mind(Mind(data0, externalData0)), externalData1), externalData2)

    So it would be recursive function, which is basically a loop. This seems reasonable because in my experience at least, consciousness seems to be the product of a loop. It's like what you get when you place two mirrors facing eachother, except in this case, it's more like a mirror facing itself.
    If you want a picture showing recursion, then take a look at this one:
    http://www.teezeh.info/wp-content/recursive.jpg
    Or this animation, kind of creepy:
    http://www.mantasoft.co.uk/_stuff/Recursive.htm
    Notice that this establishes a timeline. Our perception of time could be based on the recursive nature of consciousness.
    It's also interesting to note that, assuming that the function Mind() stays the same, the only thing that determine the next output is the previous input and the current external input. What this means is that there must be some versions of the function Mind() that would be able to "intentionally" produce certain outputs, effectively telling the function where to go next (read: tell itself what to do).
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2006
  8. Mar 5, 2006 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    Then who is it that has been fooled into starting this thread? :uhh: Somewhere along the line there is a guy who seems to think he - an I - is here. It seems a bit as if you have moved the observer a layer deeper. Also, I am thinking more of a silent observer rather than the central understander. "Understanding" seems a little strong as it implies another level of thought to me. After all, I can certainly observe a mathematical proof on a chalk board but not understand it. :biggrin:

    But no matter who we may be at any moment - referencing LYN's post here as well -we are still aware that we exist in the moment. For example, even before I am able to perceive what I see, I am aware that I see without perception; and, the observer even has to wait for the observation to make sense in some cases. So it is as if someone - the observer - waits for the different minds to agree.
     
  9. Mar 5, 2006 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    This does seem to strike at the heart of the the question of how a computer can be made self aware. Of course, how do we know that they're not?
     
  10. Mar 7, 2006 #9

    Les Sleeth

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    IMO, you are speaking as most people would who have a sense of what they are. It is the mechanists who want to figure out some way to make us doubt our humanity.

    Let's say you become infatuated with math, so much so that you ignore every other facet of your being. If someone asks you what you most fundamentally are, you might answer you are a calculating device because that's all you do.

    Those, like Dennett, who claim we are nothing more than processing, are, in my opinion, simply reflecting both what they are obsessed with and what they are ignoring about themselves.

    If one chooses, one can focus on the "singular" aspect and become quite familiar with it. After enough dedication to experiencing that, one becomes certain there really is a singular "I." Those who spend no time looking at that part of themselves may claim it is an illusion, but they don't really know since they choose to give top priority to the mechanistic aspect of their being.

    Regarding brain effects, if we are housed in and and dependent on the brain while occupying biology (which we clearly are), then if the brain is segmented, or damaged, or split, then we will follow along to one degree or another. But do we ever fully lose that part which watches? I don't think so (I never have), and as long as that "observer" exists then I say we remain consciousness no matter how much our physical condition taxes and confuses us.
     
  11. Mar 7, 2006 #10
    don't know if this is relevant or not..

    I have taken massive amounts of hallucinegens...and my "I" has always stuck around to observe things. It seems the inputs are routed through various segments before you can observe them, and under hallucinegen they take a different route, or to put another way the route changes in some way...the senses hit the observer more directly without "I" having much knowledge about what they are or mean, but they always hit the observer. Don't know whether the change or effect actually is in the observers understanding or in the processing units output, but the form seems to remain intact.
     
  12. Mar 7, 2006 #11

    Les Sleeth

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    Same here.

    I was thinking recently of a thought experiment where one has to imagine a way to eliminate one's own observing self. Can anyone posting here report they have managed to get rid of themselves (as an observer)? I remember being really sad or freaked about things when I was younger and trying my damnest to get rid of my aware self with drugs, booze, etc. I never achieved it, not once.

    I believe those who can't explain the observer have to try incredibly hard to ignore it and/or rationalize it away. What's funny to me is that when I am talking to someone trying to do that, I can still see the observer in them! So I end up convinced I know them better than they know themselves.
     
  13. Mar 7, 2006 #12
    Les, I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but I'll try. I have a method I use. I call it quantum universal extrospection. I try and see the universe just happening as it happens; everything is natural. I also made a formula for this. There is no conceptualization of consistencies without expectation, all things are simply natural. It's the closest thing I could think of to what you are asking about. Close your eyes and take yourself far away, so that all you can see are the stars and galaxies... from an above view. Be on top of the whole universe looking down. Maybe I just wrote a whole post that has nothing to do with what you're saying. If so, could you explain more? I'm very interested in what you are trying to get at the bottom of, and I believe I can help you achieve this. I Did my best to help! :) Fill me in on some more suggestions and specifications. I want to get a better idea about what it is you are speaking of.
     
  14. Mar 7, 2006 #13

    -Job-

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    I believe the "i" goes away when you go to sleep, but i can't prove that beyond any reasonable doubt. But consider the following: the "i" can't possibly be continuous if it is produced by neural activity. The reason for this is that, even though there are neurons firing at all times, there is an interval of time small enough such that no neuron fires in that interval. What happens in that interval? Are we aware? Wouldn't the "i" then be non-constant, but interrupted every so often? Would we notice the interruptions though? Why would we? I could be coming and going without noticing it. If i'm not around when i go away then i won't notice it and the result is a constant "i".
     
  15. Mar 8, 2006 #14
    You all seem to be talking about an "observer".
    You seem (though I may have this wrong) to be viewing the "observer" as independent, or at least as an independent quality of, the brain.

    The brain is the center of the nervous system for most higher-order animals, like mammals. (Some animals don't have brains -- many insects, or even starfish). The nervous system's job is to collect data from the outside world so that the organism knows what to do in order to survive. The nervous system is built to observe. That's what our brain is -- a collector of data. An "observer".

    Obviously, the advantages of having a center to the nervous system (brain) include the ability to cross-reference data more efficiently. Combining current sensory data with memorised recorded data and instinct, we are able to make reasoned predictions and decisions in order to decide the best way to get what we need to survive. By cross-referencing data, we can identify patterns, thus comprehending the idea in question (we can think about and predict the behaviour of the idea in question confidently, thus we consider it understood).

    We call the continual cross0referencing of data to identify new patterns "thought".

    Now, my point: the ability to observe is the most basic function of the brain. The ability to reason is another important, and easily explained, survival function. Our brain is the "observer"; it is us. The assumption that there must be something mysterious about what we are (a collection of sensory data translated into memes that mean something relative to each other) is an illusion. The idea that "thought" exists in its own right is an illusion. Thought is simply the mind's chemical language.
     
  16. Mar 8, 2006 #15

    Les Sleeth

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    We are talking about the idea that consciousness isn't just sensitive to information, but that there is something more central present which knows consciousness is sensing things; and, in fact, that is exactly what defines consciousness. This has been criticized by, among others, functionist thinkers who claim there is no "little man" (homunculous) observing what we feel and think, but rather the sense of "I" is an illusory fog that arises from the complex processing the brain does.

    So I can't see why you say you eliminate your observing self in "quantum universal extrospection." Everything you said indicated a you was present. You say take "yourself" far away (i.e., who is aware of you being taken far away?), and "you" can see . . . " It seems you have created even more of an observer experience, not less of one.

    I wouldn't want to eliminate that aspect of my self since the way I see it I would be unconscious.
     
  17. Mar 8, 2006 #16

    Les Sleeth

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    Possibly, but to whatever degree the "I" disappears we would say the sleeper is UNconscious. So really the disappearing "I" in unconsciousness supports the observer concept.


    I accept your logic. But the ultimate question (for physicalists and nonphysicalists) is whether or not consciousness actually is produced by neural activity. The question isn't easy to answer. Let's say you are speaking through a microphone, and its wiring fails to some extent so that only every other word makes it through. Does our observation of a faltering voice mean the speaker is inconstant or that the microphone is failing to communicate what the speaker says?

    Simlarly, we don't know if the results of brain damage indicates the brain was creating consciousness, or if consciousness is still intact but merely unable to work through that portion of the brain.
     
  18. Mar 8, 2006 #17

    Les Sleeth

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    Some may say so, but most would say the brain cannot be shown to produce an observer and therefore either the observer is an illusion or it is real but isn't a product of the brain.

    All true.

    Oops, you slipped up. Collection of data is one thing, and then having something else observe that collecting process is another. You are simply describing the physical ability to sense or detect. As of now, there is no known way to prove what or who is aware of what is sensed. That is why this subject is controversial.


    Well, computing (thinking) is also something different than the thinker. You are still one step away from accounting for the "self" of consciousness.


    Are you familiar with the zombie analogy? We don't need an observer aspect of consciousness to function in ways beneficial to survival. We could go through the motions, like a zombie, and never need to know we did, or have a sense of self. So why is there a self? Of course, one explain the observer aspect away by insisting it's an illusion.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2006
  19. Mar 8, 2006 #18
    Isnt this "its an illusion" idea also what emergence ("the brain produces consciousness") boils down to? I think i read somewhere that all known cases of emergence are actually psychological. This was written by Chalmers:

    But if consciousness is a psychological emergence, it would need a psyche(observer) to create itself.

    Btw, is it true that all known emergence is actually psychological?
     
  20. Mar 8, 2006 #19

    Les Sleeth

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    It seems that Chalmers is referring to a human observer of any emergent phenomenon, and that it is psychological in the respect that what becomes termed "emergent" depends on that human observer becoming interested in the phenomenon (i.e., human "interestedness" is psychological). I don't think he is saying the emergent property itself is necessarily psychological.

    But IMO the issue of emergence is crucial to physicalist theory. The quality of current examples of physical emergence reminds me of the quality of examples of complexity theory . . . all are trivial. In fact, every high level example of living functionality is built on a theoretical sand foundation. How did organs (and therefore organisms) evolve? Accidental genetic change did it. Can we observe "accidents" today operating so fortunately. Not even close. How did the first life get started? Chemistry self-organized. Can we observe any such example of chemistry performing at that level of self-organization. Not even close. How did consciousness come about? It emerges from neural processing. Can we observe that quality of emergence in any physical setting? Not even close. It might be that physicalness can do all that physicalist believers think, but right now the foundation of their theory is based just as much on blind faith as creationist theory.

    It might be that physicalness cannot explain everything, and it might be that science and/or rationalist efforts to understand consciousness are inadequate for the job. It might be that one has to learn to directly experience the "essence" of one's own consciousness to gain insight into it. Just because researchers choose not to learn that skill doesn't mean it isn't required or they can circumvent it. Right now it seems to me brain researchers are theorizing without enough experience of what they, as consciousness, actually are in essence. If empiricism is experienced-based research, I don't see how one can proceed without the ability to directly experience what it is one is researching.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2006
  21. Mar 8, 2006 #20
    Isnt he saying that it is humans who call a property emergent, depending on how well they understand how it arises from the fundamental properties?

    For instance u have a car that u can drive. A human may think "driving" is an emergent property, but in reality "driving" is nothing more than motion, which is a fundamental property of matter. So while "motion" is a real property, "driving" was just a label to describe this property in a particular arrangement. This means that "driving" (the label) was dependent on the human observer.

    But how can this be with consciousness? It cant be dependant on an observer, since it is an observer itself. Unless of course observing is also a fundamental property of everything.

    I agree and i think over time physicalism/materialism will go extinct and be replacd with panpsychism/liberal naturalism :biggrin:
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2006
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