What is "Mind?"

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jgill

Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Nov 13, 2017 - 11:55am PT
Hard to describe an empty stage. I doubt IIT will ultimately define consciousness - since it assumes its existence and goes from there. All the math is impressive and it may lead to greater understanding of brain processes associated with awareness, but it may not link with the meditative experiences JL describes. Traditional mathematics may not work. Just my opinion.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 13, 2017 - 04:52pm PT
One last note before I have to dive back into work for several weks:

Scott Aaronson had some keen observations about ITT, basically saying that you absolutely have the option of dismissing Chalmers’ Hard Problem as a navel-gazing distraction from the real work of neuroscience. The one thing you can’t do is have it both ways: that is, you can’t say both that the Hard Problem is meaningless, and that progress in neuroscience will soon solve the Hard Problem if it hasn’t already. That is, you can’t maintain simultaneously that

(a) once you account for someone’s observed behavior and the details of their brain organization, there’s nothing further about consciousness to be explained, and

(b) remarkably, the XYZ theory of consciousness can explain the “nothing further” (e.g., by reducing it to integrated information processing), or might be on the verge of doing so.

As obvious as this sounds, large swaths of consciousness-theorizing can be summarily rejected for trying to have their brain and eat it in precisely the above way.

We can easily interpret IIT as trying to do something more “modest” than solve the Hard Problem, although still staggeringly audacious. Namely, we can say that IIT “merely” aims to tell us which physical systems are associated with consciousness and which aren’t, purely in terms of the systems’ physical organization.

That much said, it might be a decent rule of thumb that, if you want to know which brain regions (for example) are associated with consciousness, you should start by looking for regions with lots of information integration. And yes, it’s even possible that having a large Φ-value is one necessary condition among many for a physical system to be conscious. However, having a large Φ-value is certainly not a sufficient condition for consciousness, or even for the appearance of consciousness. As a consequence, Φ can’t possibly capture the essence of what makes a physical system conscious, or even of what makes a system look conscious to external observers.

For my (JL) money, where ITT went wrong is the false claim that they started with the subjective reality of mind, that is, according to Tononni, they started “from the inside,” with the phenomenology of consciousness, and then purportedly worked back to the brain. Except they didn't really start with the foundational, phenomenological aspects of consciousness, or their starting point would have been what we all find in any close study of our conscious process - that first, we are aware, that our attention gloms onto the content of WHAT we are aware of, and our focus toggles between a view of the particulars (the "trees") and a panoramic take of the whole (the "forest").

Instead, they took as their starting point WHAT we are aware of, in this case, information, and posited THAT as foundational.

Credit Tononni for insisting that first-person evidence should play an essential role in any theory of consciousness. After all, the first-person perspective is the only perspective from which consciousness can be directly observed. Consciousness can only be indirectly inferred from the third-person, external, perspective, from clues such as speech and behavior. So perhaps, Tononni reckoned, the first-person perspective provides some crucial insight into the nature of consciousness. Had he started with the actual foundational elements of consciousness, he might have been onto something. Instead, he started with information.

It is no small wonder that from this perspective, awareness, attention and focus would be positioned as an output of information processing, and that absurd statements like, "awareness itself IS a feeling" would be believed by otherwise intelligent folk.

The point here is that while Tononni confirms what I believe is the crucial importance of starting “from the inside,” with the phenomenology of consciousness, he did no such thing, and instead started with information, or content (the WHAT we are conscious OF).

And when Dingus McGee rants about "awareness is a feeling," he is not following Tononni's lead by "starting from the inside," he is merely parroting what Tononni said, which also was NOT drawn from the inside.

In the plainest terms, if you want to know about Paris, you don't start with a high definition aerial photo of Paris and start speculating, you boot up and start prowling the streets and cafes and landmarks and back alleys and museums and so forth, down and dirty, then start pulling away as you gather information and start to objectify what you encountered on the ground floor.

Both the experiential part and the discursive part are indispensable in trying to wrestle the monster to the ground. But i can only binge on the discursive like this for a few days before getting tired and wanting to return to the internal adventures.

So pardon my ramblings. But I do find it helpful to jot out my thoughts as my views are so quickly changing on the whole business. I feel ITT has crucial things to say about consciousness, and I like it's boldness. No doubt it will be endlessly revised as more data rolls in. But again, we have to tip our hat to the ITT crew for insisting that, if it's consciousness itself we are trying to explain, that's where you start.
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Nov 13, 2017 - 06:38pm PT
if you want to know about Paris



“I thought you weren't going to ever talk about it."


"How can I help it?"


"You'll lose it if you talk about it."

"I just talk around it ''


from The Sun Also Rises
Ernest Hemingway
yanqui

climber
Balcarce, Argentina
Nov 13, 2017 - 07:15pm PT
if you want to know about Paris

Looking for the answer to "What is "Mind?"" in the city of love

Some dude's garden in Paris
Some dude's garden in Paris
Credit: yanqui

There were many statues in the garden
There were many statues in the garden
Credit: yanqui

Thinking hard in the city of love.
Thinking hard in the city of love.
Credit: yanqui

WBraun

climber
Nov 13, 2017 - 07:58pm PT
The gross managerialist always sits like that.

The gross materialist sits in such a way that all knowledge never comes .......
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 13, 2017 - 10:34pm PT
it is written in your genes, MikeL, you express it as proteins, even if you haven't the slightest idea what it is.

Your brain is smarter than you are,
thanks to your genetic inheritance.

Dingus McGee

Social climber
Where Safety trumps Leaving No Trace
Nov 14, 2017 - 06:27am PT
Largo,

I read the link of Searle's argument against the layout of IIT.

But before getting into the argument


Largo
This whole process, as posited by Koch et al, is so garbled it's hard to unpack.

After reading Searle on IIT I think he doesn't properly unpack IIT either as to have advanced the argument he did. His argument is a sequential static type logic that we cannot have one before the other.

IIT is a becoming type progression in that no conscious awareness is necessary when there are no properties to the experience. Conscious awareness is built into the transformation and whether you were meditating or awake in the world you would have no 1st person way of deciphering how the awareness creation was happening.

From what you post of your meditation hangups it seem you are quite far from the low/no brain metabolism of having zero, that is identically zero, thoughts going on while sitting. Interesting idea, but could one get out of the state of zero, zero input to conscious awareness? WE do because the brain is in control of our life processes and not the conscious awareness experience.

You are forever being bombarded ever so slightly by the subscious/unsciousous tickings of the brain from which springs the roots of being aware and homeostasis. Damasio [his ideas are different than IIT] contends that with every thought comes a feeling module -- you cannot get around this[even with the phoniness of the Zen Narrative ]as the feeling can become infinitesimally subtle to the grain of conscious awareness. At seemingly zero input you feel the awareness module, Actual awareness arises in/from the unconscious brain. Consciousness awareness [different than simple awareness] is what we talk about as 1st person experience and is a partial show of what the subconscious brain's awareness has deemed worthy by the makings of your character/genetics/sensory events happening in the here and now.

The ability to perform this jump from phenomenology to mechanism rests on IIT's assumption that if a conscious experience can be fully accounted for by an underlying physical system, then the properties of the physical system must be constrained by the properties of the experience.

Conscious awareness is constrained by the experience. In meditation we may have little external experience input but may have big internal rants while sitting. By IIT an empty mind would get no constraints? I suspect what happens would depends on what the IIT math says. If this would be a singularity, likely an implosion?
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 14, 2017 - 10:30am PT
You are forever being bombarded ever so slightly by the subscious/unsciousous tickings of the brain from which springs the roots of being aware and homeostasis. Damasio [his ideas are different than IIT] contends that with every thought comes a feeling module -- you cannot get around this[even with the phoniness of the Zen Narrative ]as the feeling can become infinitesimally subtle to the grain of conscious awareness.

Remember, Dingus, that I'm a writer, and that your impish "phoniness" rap betrays the troll aspect to an otherwise serious attempt to cram awareness into a package that you have bought into, namely ITT.

For the record, the "tickings of the brain from which springs the roots of being aware" also betrays your fealty to the creation metaphor which is not actually in strict keeping with ITT doctrine.

Consider it this way: How do proponents of Integrated Information Theory attempt to explain subjective experience?

Christof Koch’s answer: Consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe. Wherever there is integrated information, there is experience.
The theory takes its existence as a given and therefore doesn’t have to explain the mechanism behind it. It’s just a fact of nature that information has an inner side in addition to its bit-composed outer side.

Now granted, this is blurry when you go to unpack it, because someone fused to the creation metaphor might view this as saying that integrated information and awareness are selfsame, and that in some way, the information (content) CREATES awareness. It also implies that awareness does not exist except in relation to information, a sneaky way of saying that information is actually the fundamental Koch is driving at. Once again we see the obsession of trying to anchor awareness in stuff, in this case, information.

The telling thing here is that IIT takes consciousness existence as a given and therefore doesn’t have to explain the mechanism behind it. Your take on this is that content, and the information processing that sources it, DOES explain the existence of awareness. Ergo, for you, awareness IS content, or a calculation, or a computation consequent to info processing. Nada. You'll get no cigar for that one.

The fatal flaw here is that one only has to traverse into the real world to find stark examples that awareness and WHAT we are aware of are NOT selfsame.
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Nov 14, 2017 - 12:29pm PT
The fatal flaw here is that one only has to traverse into the real world to find stark examples that awareness and WHAT we are aware of are NOT selfsame.


The fatal flaw here is assuming that what you mean by selfsame is self-evident.
Dingus McGee

Social climber
Where Safety trumps Leaving No Trace
Nov 14, 2017 - 01:28pm PT
Largo,

can you keep anything straight? Reading Comprehension?? I have pointed out that part of my post was about IIT and another part was a comparison to Damasio. You ramble Damasio in with IIT and vice-versa as if my post was all about IIT.



...serious attempt to cram awareness into a package that you have bought into, namely ITT.



Wrong! You mix the two distinct ideas I have presented in that post which makes me think you do not have a very clear understanding of either Damasio or IIT?

Your fatal flaw, oh bragging writer, is that you have little reading comprehension. How about reading my post over so you might get a grade "D" on the reading of it? Or as Jgill suggests wake up or get some rest?

The telling thing here is that IIT takes consciousness existence as a given and therefore doesn’t have to explain the mechanism behind it.

What an impish howler! to assert: therefore doesn’t have to explain the mechanism behind it. What do you think the math does? The math transformations explain the mechanism to get from constraints on the physical system to conscious awareness -- kind of a mechanism as to how you get to conscious awareness. Is this the kind of learning of IIT you got through association with Chuck Wilts daughter some 30 years ago that you assert as worthy credentials to knowing IIT?

Do you comprehend the math language of IIT as to see how it is a mechanism? How about carefully unpacking the statement below?

The ability to perform this jump from phenomenology to mechanism rests on IIT's assumption that if a conscious experience can be fully accounted for by an underlying physical system, then the properties of the physical system must be constrained by the properties of the experience.

Remember, Dingus, that I'm a writer, and that your impish "phoniness" rap betrays the troll aspect to an otherwise serious attempt to cram awareness into a package that you have bought into, namely ITT.


Oh writer, please read carefully as I used the wording ...phony as the Zen Narrative ... and not phony as Zen...
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Nov 14, 2017 - 05:45pm PT
Largo, let's say you are an organism like a platypus, that "sees" by transmitting an electrical field and interpreting the signals from the various objects that "bump into" the field. I would call the ability to receive/perceive this kind of information awareness. What would you call it?
allapah

climber
Nov 15, 2017 - 12:44am PT
Would this make the synapse the organ of awareness?
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Nov 15, 2017 - 07:14am PT
Would this make the synapse the organ of awareness?


A synapse is not an organ. It is a connection between nerve cells that allows an electrical signal to pass from one to another, usually with a chemical intermediary.

An organ is a larger-scale anatomical structure made up of cells and tissues.



Does awareness reside in the central nervous system?

Put your hand slowly down into water and try to grab a fish. To be generous, assume your hand is invisible. As your hand gets near the fish it is likely to dart away so fast it seemed to become invisible, too.

The speed of the startle response of fish results from synapses connecting pressure receptors directly to a motoneuron. It takes only a few milliseconds for the reaction to take place, and it does not go through the brain of the fish, first.

Was the fish aware of your hand at the moment it darted away?

No, but a few tens of milliseconds after leaving the scene the brain of the fish will become aware of what happened.


A similar sequence takes place in you if you unknowingly put your hand on a hot piece of metal.


This sort of analysis of awareness could not be achieved from philosophical consideration alone. It might appear to you that the fish became aware of the approaching hand the moment it darted away.

Things are often not as they appear. It could be argued that things are never as they appear, but that need not stop us from looking and wondering.
jgill

Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Nov 15, 2017 - 03:34pm PT
Was the fish aware of your hand at the moment it darted away? No, but a few tens of milliseconds after leaving the scene the brain of the fish will become aware of what happened


I seem to recall experiments with human subjects along this line. This is the reason I have, in the past, brought up a distinction between awareness and consciousness. But no fish bit.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Nov 15, 2017 - 04:02pm PT
Good last posts by MH2 and jgill. If I might spell it out, the fish, being conscious, reacts to the (arm-waving or whatever) event almost immediately. Awareness, which one would would presume is a more-evolved behavior, doesn't kick in for a few milliseconds. Processing time and all. Like it!

So, I DID have it wrong and I see it, although it is totally dependent on my understanding of the words consciousness and awareness. The ability to receive/perceive the signals in my platypus scenario would be better called consciousness. Awareness would better describe the slightly-delayed response involved in turning this information into feelings or something.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Nov 15, 2017 - 04:39pm PT
How we talk about these things is so dependent on the precise definition of terms. Jgill has pointed this out and asked for contributors' opinions several times. I revisit terms frequently as a matter of course in my job. Here are my current understandings of some of the key words we throw around here.

Consciousness: Humans have it. Dogs have it. Snails have it. Rocks don't have it. Plants are a boundary case (they certainly react to light). To be conscious, you need to be in the biological realm, at least on Earth, and be capable of reacting to events emanating from the world.

Awareness: Awareness is a more evolved behavior than consciousness. Humans have it. Dogs have it. Snails don't have it. It is the ability to make predictions about the world, including about other conscious agents, based on imaging algorithms.

Mind: Mind is a more evolved behavior than awareness. It involves the aware organism to include itself in the conversation. Humans have it. Apes have it, but to a much lesser degree. Dogs may have an inkling of it.

Of course, I could be wrong.

MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Nov 15, 2017 - 05:07pm PT
But no fish bit.


Waiting for the book.
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Nov 15, 2017 - 05:14pm PT
It is the ability to make predictions about the world, including about other conscious agents, based on imaging algorithms.


Please clarify.


This kind of image:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_(mathematics);

?


Or some other kind?
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
Nov 15, 2017 - 05:23pm PT
Thanks to all of you for carrying these conversations forward.

DMT
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Nov 15, 2017 - 05:43pm PT
I'm already doubting my definition for awareness. It may well be more related to the translation of information to biological feeling algorithms. Mammals have it, for sure. Of course, it's just a word.
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