RE: Study shows brain can learn without really trying

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Fri Nov 02 2001 - 11:09:07 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "RE: Study shows brain can learn without really trying"

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Study shows brain can learn without really trying
    Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2001 11:09:07 -0000 
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    Hi everyone,

            <The self is based in consciousness, not images. We exist because
    apes that
    > know they have minds-- and who surmise what's on the minds of their
    > rivals--
    > have a reproductive advantage.>
            Whilst it's fair to suggest that self-awareness is adaptive, since
    otherwise it wouldn't have emerged at all, it's not something that we should
    assume to be correct. After all, so far as we know, humans are one of
    possible only a handful of species on the planet (and that's being generous)
    who have some level of self-awareness. Millions of other species, over
    millions of years, seem to have been perfectly well adapted without
    (apparently) a sense of self-awareness. How much edge does it really give,
    especially relative to an opposable thumb, or enhanced brain power?

            What if, instead of being a product of selection, self-awareness is
    a by-product, something that has persisted because it doesn't hinder
    survival and reproduction (a bit like those genetic disorders that don't
    start affecting people till old age, thus meaning people can survive and
    reproduce, and thus perpetuating the existence of genes that kill people-
    speaking very superficially, of course). Thus natural selection didn't
    "anticipate" the impact that self-awareness might have once the environment
    changed from the ancestral environment to larger scale communities of
    humans, and thus couldn't cope with the effects of social pressures on
    individuals in ways that might impact on survival and reproduction, or

            <Since memetic transmission entails both a transmitter and a
    receiver, a
    > theory of memes depends on a theory of the authenticity of the self.>
            See, this I think is where the Buddhist lot get into trouble here,
    because their line appears to be "accept (meaning pretend) the self doesn't
    exist, and then all the rest will fall away, and you'll be happy". To me
    that really is delusionary. I agree with Dennett that if the self is an
    illusion, it's a benign one.

            A different way to think about it is the existence of cultural
    behaviour in apparently non-self aware organisms, like Dugatkin's guppy
    experiments. Perhaps culture has little to do with the perception of the
    self and choice, and a lot more to do with behavioural algorithms like how
    fish move in shoals or birds fly in flocks. I think Wade may have suggested
    something like this, in our earlier discussion of such things.
            Anyway, transmission and reception of memes does not require a self,
    only a transmitter and a receiver which are not necessarily the same thing
    as selves.


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