Re: Definition please

From: Joe Dees (
Date: Wed Dec 12 2001 - 04:46:42 GMT

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    > "Dace" <> <> Re: Definition pleaseDate: Tue, 11 Dec 2001 11:08:57 -0800
    >> The brain is a bit more complicated than a piano. With 100 billion
    >> neurons each with at least 1000 connections compared with a few
    >> thousand circuits in an electric piano the brain is at least a few billion
    >> times more complicated. If your premise is that something as simple
    >> as an electric piano shouldn't be capable of having a mind then I think
    >> I would agree with you. However, since the brain is a few billion times
    >> more complicated I would place little value on your analogy.
    >Do worms have minds? The conscious mind requires only a sense organ, an
    >afferent nerve, a central nerve, an efferent nerve, and a muscle. That's
    >it. Complexity has nothing to do with it.
    >It won't be long before computers attain the same degree of complexity found
    >in the human brain. Will they suddenly become conscious just because of a
    >few more interconnections?
    No, the way in which that complexity is constructed is important as well. Complexity is not just a matter of quantity of interconnections, but also of the complexity of the cortical modules thus interconnected, and the functions that such modules subserve. Complexity manifests in the human brain on many levels, not the least of which is that of the structure of the subsystems as well as the complexity with which they are interconnected.
    >It was the sociability of the great apes, not the complexity of their
    >brains, that triggered the emergence of reflexive consciousness. Whether
    >the issue is mentality, consciousness, or mental self-perception, complexity
    >is not the point.
    But such sociability is not possible in the first place without a great deal of underlying complexity, and that complexity was further bootstrappingly enhanced by coevolution with both their material and their special conspecific environment.
    >> Personally, the thing that I have always had trouble with is how a
    >> sophisticated organ like the brain has so much trouble adding two
    >> three digit numbers together. I wonder more at how consciousness
    >> can be so simple and slow when the brain appears to capable of so
    >> much more.
    >The brain does not add numbers. It regulates the flow of neurotransmitters
    >between neurons. Anything else is cerebral superstition. "Numbers" have no
    >physical existence. They reside exclusively in our imagination. As
    >physical objects, synapses and neurons cannot contain numbers. This is not
    >to say that imagination could exist without the activities of neurons and
    >synapses. In other words, they facilitate the functions of the mind rather
    >than containing them.
    They do more than that; in their absence, the brain itself is also absent, as it is comprised of neurons connected by axons and synapses, and without a material substrate brain there can be no mind.
    >> Joe Dees argues that in fact consciousness does arise because of
    >> increased complexity. He has offered a hypothesis that humans are
    >> distinct from other animals because our brains have reached a certain
    >> level of complexity which results in consciousness.
    >I've read his paper. Very informative, though I can't agree with the
    >complexity argument.
    >> He points out that only humans and a few primates are capable of
    >> recognizing their own faces in a mirror as evidence of self-
    >> consciousness. Personally, I don't think the mirror test he points to
    >> really is an indicator of something as sophisticated as consciousness.
    >> I think it points towards a specialized ability to recognize external
    >> visual representations which humans are better at.
    >That's what I said to him as well.
    But lower animals recognize thise mirror images as images on members of their own species; only homo sapiens and the higher apes recognize these images as images of themselves. I happen to believe that this is because they recognize the contingent relationship between the movements of the images and their own perceived movements.
    >> The model test is the better analogy. No primate other than a human
    >> is capable of recognizing that a miniaturized model of a room and
    >> the placement of objects in it correlates to a real room.
    >Fascinating. This would seem to demonstrate that apes, despite their germ
    >of mental self-perception, haven't attained the capacity to generalize
    >perceptions into abstract ideas.
    It seems to mean that they are unable to grasp representations as representations of entities other than the representations themselves, however precise they are. In other words, they have a problem assigning meaning relations between signs and referents.
    >What do you make of the hand axe? It appeared abruptly 1.4 million years
    >ago in several locations. According to Richard Leakey, this is the earliest
    >known object that could not have been created except by people who held in
    >their minds an abstract idea of what the tool would look like before they
    >started making it. This suggests to me that the mental self-perception in
    >the hominid mind was sufficiently developed to allow for minimal abstract
    I think that these protohominids were indeed capable of assigning meaning relations. let it be noted that tool use appeared at least a million and a half years before the advent of arbitrarily created language (where there is no essential relation between the sign and its referent); this would indicate to me that the coevolution involved in the construction and use of these tools expanded the hand-eye coordination area, which was later coopted, in a meta-mutation, by the mouth-ear nexus to allow for the production and auditory parsing of words, as Philip Lieberman opined in his book UNIQUELY HUMAN. Such protohominids also did not have a dropped adam's apple like we do (dogs can eat and breathe at the same time - we can't). Now what evolutionary benefit could such a mutation serve that outweighs the dangers of choking that it introduces? The possibility of making deep vowel sounds such as 'o' and 'u' (and even 'i'), permitting the emerging human, when combined with conson!
    antal sounds, to have enough possible differentiations in their linguistic toolkits to support a useful vocabulary. Possibly the nreanderthals died out because they had the prerequisite neural equipment to construct vocabulary, but not the oral and alimentary modifications necessary to implement such a cognitive ability.
    >> I really do not know what creates a consciousness or understand what
    >> does and does not have one. Unlike you though, I am sufficiently
    >> impressed with the known physical world to accept that a consciousness
    >> can arise without resort to a new law of physics.
    >David Chalmers, of the University of Arizona, argues convincingly that we'll
    >never understand mind and consciousness until we've discovered one or more
    >laws of nature currently unknown to us. The late physicist Walter Elsasser
    >made a similar point. He argued that biologists needed to stop depending on
    >standard physical and chemical principles and approach life the same way
    >Newton approached the solar system. Like Sheldrake, Elsasser identified
    >memory as the central mystery that could never be explained according to
    >conventional physical principles.
    Religiously influenced luddites are all too willing to claim that a problem to be solved is instead a mystrey to be contemplated. I do not see the need to postulate a new law of physics to explain the mechanism of memory, any more than I see the need to postulate a munificent deity. I do not even see where such a hypothetica principle could fit or what use it could possibly be.
    >> As I have said before though in the study of memes we should concern
    >> ourselves with the existence of a non-genetic evolutionary system. There
    >> is nothing about evolution that requires consciousness. Our studies
    >> should focus on transmission, variation, and selection of memes.
    >Once you cross the line between the self-contained mental universe of
    >humanity and the blind workings of the organic realm, there's nothing to
    >stop you from descending all the way back to the most elementary bacteria.
    >In universalizing the meme, you render it meaningless. It becomes a synonym
    >of repetitive behavior. This is no different than the issue of language.
    >Yes, animals communicate, but if we call their grunts and squeals language,
    >then why not refer to the transmission of chemicals between cells as
    >language? I don't deny for a moment that we can learn a great deal about
    >memes from birds, but that doesn't mean birds literally have memes. They
    >just have what, in the context of human mentality, would constitute memes...
    .....but they lack the prerequisite neural underpinnings to engage such a context. Here we are in substantial agreement.
    >This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    >For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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