The answer to consciousness

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nazra7
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The answer to consciousness

Post by nazra7 » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:20 pm

Hello everyone. I've been posting this idea on several philosophy forums to get criticism for it. This post is going to be very short because I'm trying to make things as simple and clear as possible. We might have all heard about David Chalmers' hard problem of consciousness, the question being, how can the brain produce something we can call "human perspective" (or as another forum poster put it, the RICHNESS we feel in our lives).

Well I believe I have an answer to consciousness. We can't understand how the brain produces consciousness unless we know what it is first. Most definitions of consciousness are unclear or circular at best, and they do not explain everything we feel as conscious beings. But I believe this definition will lead us to answer all the fundamental and mysterious questions of consciousness.

If you look at the very fundamentals of what it means to be conscious, and what consciousness is capable of, you find this simple fact. Consciousness is the result of making comparisons. At every moment in our conscious state, we are constantly making comparisons about how we feel and why we feel that way. It is impossible to be conscious and NOT make comparisons! For THAT very reason, it is clear that consciousness and making comparisons are exactly the same thing. One cannot exist without the other. Thus, doesn't it suffice to say that consciousness is simply the act of making comparisons? I think clearly it does. And from that, we will be able to solve the question: "why is the brain conscious" when we understand how the brain makes comparisons.

Know that there are two ways this can go. There's the very radical position, which I believe is fundamentally more correct, that because consciousness is indistinguishable and inseparable from making comparisons, then that must mean that consciousness IS the act of making comparisons. This would mean that consciousness is not something you either have or do not, as traditionally thought. But rather, consciousness comes in levels, the lower levels of consciousness being the entities that make small amounts of comparisons about a small amount of ideas, and the higher levels of consciousness being the entities that make larger amounts of comparisons about larger amounts of ideas. This would mean that something as insignificant as an electron would be on the lowest end of the spectrum because it makes comparisons with its environment, while intelligence beings like us are on the higher end of the spectrum, because not only do we make countless amounts of comparisons in any given moment, but we are also able to make comparisons about countless number of things. It is these two things that determines which entities have higher levels of consciousness. And whatever makes no comparisons at all (if there even is such a thing) is something with absolutely no consciousness at all. It is this view that I think most people will find hard to accept, but I believe if they do, the fundamental mysteries of consciousness can be solved.

The less radical position is to say, there is a certain amount of comparisons that are needed to be made, at any given point in time, and THAT is the line between consciousness and non-consciousness. More specifically, the amount of comparisons needed to be made in order to form, retain, and reflect on memories, is the amount of comparisons which defines consciousness. I think this view is something everyone can agree on, but please correct me if I'm wrong about that. Though, I need to say that this view adds more ambiguity to the definition. For example, how long is a single moment in time? And how many comparisons are needed to form, retain, and reflect on memories? Either way, I believe the former is more accurate because memories cannot be formed, nor can they be retained, nor can they be reflected on, without making comparisons.

In either case, which ever side you find more appealing, the same principle is clear. Comparisons lead to consciousness. Are either of these sides correct? Which one is more correct? And why? Please let me know what you think about this, as I have never heard any philosophers ever mention the idea that comparisons lead to consciousness. Thank you.

BigWhit
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by BigWhit » Tue Jan 12, 2016 7:30 am

I don't think comparisons lead to consciousness because I think it is perfectly plausible to be conscious and think of nothing at all. Furthermore, the extreme of this view of consciousness has electrons themselves as being conscious. I think this is absurd (though not impossible) because consciousness is far more complex than any one action.

In my opinion, consciousness is a combination of experience (through the senses), awareness (interpreting the experience), and intent (or will).

Ultimately, the brain is an organic computer and consciousness arises from analyzing data in some form, and comparisons are such a computation but it is merely one of the ways we are capable of.

Obvious Leo
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by Obvious Leo » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:38 am

What you're basically outlining here is cognition rather than consciousness, but it accords quite closely with cognition as it is defined in the Santiago school of cognition established by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. In this model cognition is specifically defined as an informational process of interaction between any physical entity and its environment. For example we can say that the moon cognises the earth via the medium of gravity and consequently orbits it. The roots of the tree cognise water and thus grow towards it. However to avoid confusion the word consciousness in the Santiago school is generally only applied to organisms with a centralised information processing network, i.e a brain and central nervous system. However it is fair to say that ALL organisms with such a networked system are conscious and that consciousness should be regarded as a spectrum phenomenon where the consciousness of more complex organisms is quantitatively different from the "lesser" animals but should not be regarded as qualitatively different. The notion of awareness then becomes a totally different construct altogether and is reserved for yet a more complex class of organisms. Awareness is an observation and only organisms with highly sophisticated neurally networked brain structures can actually observe the fact that they are conscious.

nazra7
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by nazra7 » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:06 am

BigWhit wrote:I don't think comparisons lead to consciousness because I think it is perfectly plausible to be conscious and think of nothing at all.
That is not correct. You wouldn't even by alive if your body was not making comparisons about the fuel you need to metabolize (whether it has enough fuel or not).
Obvious Leo wrote:What you're basically outlining here is cognition rather than consciousness
This is also not true. As I stated before, consciousness comes in levels, something as insignificant as an electron being one of the lowest, and the human mind being one of the highest. What determines what goes where on this spectrum? The amount of comparisons being made and the amount of things being compared. Cognition only comes with enough comparisons are made, as we wouldn't call an electron reacting to its environment cognition.

Obvious Leo
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by Obvious Leo » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:17 am

If you persist in using commonly understood terms in non-standard ways then your prospects of having your ideas discussed in a meaningful way are not great. Electrons exchange information with their environment via massless particle transfer but to define this behaviour as consciousness is a misuse of language in both physics and in cognitive neuroscience.

BigWhit
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by BigWhit » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:43 am

nazra7 wrote:
BigWhit wrote:I don't think comparisons lead to consciousness because I think it is perfectly plausible to be conscious and think of nothing at all.
That is not correct. You wouldn't even by alive if your body was not making comparisons about the fuel you need to metabolize (whether it has enough fuel or not).
This isn't true because that does not require a comparison. There merely either is or is not that fuel.
Obvious Leo wrote:If you persist in using commonly understood terms in non-standard ways then your prospects of having your ideas discussed in a meaningful way are not great. Electrons exchange information with their environment via massless particle transfer but to define this behaviour as consciousness is a misuse of language in both physics and in cognitive neuroscience.
^ This

nazra7
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by nazra7 » Wed Jan 13, 2016 5:20 pm

BigWhit wrote:
nazra7 wrote:
BigWhit wrote:I don't think comparisons lead to consciousness because I think it is perfectly plausible to be conscious and think of nothing at all.
That is not correct. You wouldn't even by alive if your body was not making comparisons about the fuel you need to metabolize (whether it has enough fuel or not).
This isn't true because that does not require a comparison. There merely either is or is not that fuel.
Whether the body has fuel or not is a comparison made by your cells, and the cells react accordingly. Its all a simple matter of making comparisons.
BigWhit wrote:
Obvious Leo wrote:If you persist in using commonly understood terms in non-standard ways then your prospects of having your ideas discussed in a meaningful way are not great. Electrons exchange information with their environment via massless particle transfer but to define this behaviour as consciousness is a misuse of language in both physics and in cognitive neuroscience.
^ This
Sometimes you need to think of things in different way in order to be able to understand it on a much more fundamental level. Traditional definitions of consciousness are, at best case scenario, circular in nature. At worse, they are vague and defined by pretty much everyone differently. My definition would be much more standard, and it would give us the ability to answer the questions that current definitions cannot.

Obvious Leo
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by Obvious Leo » Wed Jan 13, 2016 8:54 pm

nazra7 wrote:Sometimes you need to think of things in different way in order to be able to understand it on a much more fundamental level.
I completely agree and I'm all for it. However thinking something and conveying the thought are two different processes because once a thought is committed to words the meaning of it passes out of the ownership of the thinker of the thought and becomes the property of the reader of the thought. That's why no meaningful dialogue can proceed in the philosophical discourse without first agreeing on a common definition of terms.

FlashDangerpants
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by FlashDangerpants » Wed Jan 13, 2016 11:00 pm

nazra7 wrote: If you look at the very fundamentals of what it means to be conscious, and what consciousness is capable of, you find this simple fact. Consciousness is the result of making comparisons. At every moment in our conscious state, we are constantly making comparisons about how we feel and why we feel that way. It is impossible to be conscious and NOT make comparisons! For THAT very reason, it is clear that consciousness and making comparisons are exactly the same thing.
That's not a valid argument. If A and B have identical properties you can argue that A and B are therefore identical. But if B is formally dependent on A, they are merely related. Consciousness may very well depend on comparison - or it may inevitably result in comparison - but that does not entail that it is nothing else but comparison. Nor does it guarantee that there can be no comparing independent of consciousness.

And if it did, doesn't that leave you with a hard question about comparison (what is it like to compare a bat?).

nazra7
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by nazra7 » Thu Jan 14, 2016 5:31 am

FlashDangerpants wrote:
nazra7 wrote: If you look at the very fundamentals of what it means to be conscious, and what consciousness is capable of, you find this simple fact. Consciousness is the result of making comparisons. At every moment in our conscious state, we are constantly making comparisons about how we feel and why we feel that way. It is impossible to be conscious and NOT make comparisons! For THAT very reason, it is clear that consciousness and making comparisons are exactly the same thing.
That's not a valid argument. If A and B have identical properties you can argue that A and B are therefore identical. But if B is formally dependent on A, they are merely related. Consciousness may very well depend on comparison - or it may inevitably result in comparison - but that does not entail that it is nothing else but comparison. Nor does it guarantee that there can be no comparing independent of consciousness.
But this is not my argument. My argument is simple modus ponens. If consciousness cannot exist without making comparisons, and making comparisons is only done done by conscious beings, (if A) then consciousness and comparisons are the exact same. (then B). A is true, therefore B. B is not dependent on A, there are simply equal. Why is A true? Because at every moment, every single level of your consciousness, even down to its molecular biology, even down to its quantum particles, is nothing more than a large compilation of countless comparisons being made about countless number of things. And yes, this doesn't answer the hard problem of consciousness directly, but it shows us what to look for, something traditional definitions of consciousness does not. And that will lead us to the final answer. It's pretty ridiculous that traditional definitions are vague, different for every person, and circular at best. My definition changes all of that by making things clear and simple. And it will help us answer all the mysterious questions about consciousness that the traditional definitions create.
FlashDangerpants wrote:Consciousness may very well depend on comparison - or it may inevitably result in comparison - but that does not entail that it is nothing else but comparison.
Perhaps then you'd agree more with the 2nd definition I have provided which follows: the amount of comparisons needed to be made, to result in the "human range" of creating, retaining, and reflecting on memories, then that is consciousness. That's fine, though you would be much wiser to realize none of that is possible without first making comparisons. It's all just a matter of how many comparisons being made and how many different things being compared. Everything in your brain has to be alive in order for you to make, retain, and reflect on memories, and in order for it to be alive, it has to have fuel, and in order for it to have fuel, your body must act to put fuel inside it (eating, breathing, ect), and in order for it to do that, it needs to be able to make the comparisons that the fuel is available for consumption. (you wouldn't try to breathe underwater on purpose, because you know there's not enough oxygen in it to sustain you). And in order for that fuel to exist, its chemical activity needs to be occurring, and in order for that to happen, its particles need to be working. And in order for it to do that, its sub-atomic (and possibly quantum particles) need to be working.

All of these are comparisons being made. I can go into great detail and explain why consciousness is nothing more and nothing less than making comparisons. But that would be a whole book of its own. And I shouldn't need to do this. It should be obvious already. I think you're just failing to grasp the wide range of implications of my argument. Comparisons and consciousness cannot exist without each other. They're indistinguishable.
Last edited by nazra7 on Thu Jan 14, 2016 5:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

Dalek Prime
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by Dalek Prime » Thu Jan 14, 2016 5:36 am

Computers compare all the time. Does this equate to consciousness? How about an old-fashioned weight scale? That's a comparison machine. Fire cannot exist without at least 13% oxygen. What consciousness is comparing the oxygen content, before and after it ignites? I could go on with a very long list, and probably die before I finished it.
Last edited by Dalek Prime on Thu Jan 14, 2016 11:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

Obvious Leo
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by Obvious Leo » Thu Jan 14, 2016 6:28 am

nazra7 wrote: Everything in your brain has to be alive in order for you to make, retain, and reflect on memories,
Once again you're using non-standard language to make your point. The brain is simply composed of matter and energy like any other physical entity and matter and energy cannot be said to be "alive" in the way we generally understand the term. Life is an emergent property of the way that matter and energy are organised and not a property of the constituent parts themselves.

The so-called "hard problem" of consciousness is a dualist myth which simply disappears when consciousness is regarded as an embodied and dynamic process. Assuming that consciousness is solely a brain function is regarded in modern neuroscience as utterly wrong-headed.

nazra7
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by nazra7 » Thu Jan 14, 2016 1:59 pm

Dalek Prime wrote:Computers compare all the time. Does this equate to consciousness? How about an old-fashioned weight scale? That's a comparison machine. Fire cannot exist without at least 13% oxygen. What consciousness is comparing the oxygen content, before and after it ignites? I could go on with a very long list, and probably die before I finished it.
Please remember what I wrote. I've said that consciousness comes in levels, something as insignificant as an electron being on the lowest end of the spectrum, while something as significant as human mind being on the higher end of the spectrum. What determines what goes where on this spectrum? The number of comparisons being made and the number of things being compared. Our brains interpret the comparisons it makes into
thoughts and emotions, a lot like how computers interpret electrical transistors being on or off as binary code and software. Computer's still aren't as powerful as our own minds, and I think we have a ways to go, but as long as Moore's law continues to be correct, we should be getting to the point where artificial intelligence is just as good, if not better than, human intelligence sometime in the future.
Obvious Leo wrote:Once again you're using non-standard language to make your point.
Once again, because standard definitions of consciousness are not clear, even circular at best, and that vagueness creates the mysteries we have such a hard time figuring out. My definition for consciousness explains it for what it is on every single level of existence. Even George Berkeley uses a non-traditional definition of existence. I don't think he's right, but no one says that because his definition of existence is different, his argument is therefore wrong. So I fail to see why this would be a valid objection. At least my definition is clear and demonstrably true.
Obvious Leo wrote:Assuming that consciousness is solely a brain function is regarded in modern neuroscience as utterly wrong-headed.
My definition agrees with this. Our minds are capable of much higher levels of consciousness than, perhaps, anything we've ever seen before. That's why we've been so successful dominating the planet. But the only reason why this is the case for us is because our minds are able to make countless comparisons about countless number of things. Usually, for most matter in the universe, there is only a very small amount of comparisons that something can make, and very few number of things that it can compare. An electron only looks for the particles it interacts with, nothing more and nothing less. For electrons, I'd say they are somewhere within the single digits when it comes to making comparisons, and it only can make comparisons about the few things it interacts with. But our minds, we make over millions upon millions, billions even perhaps, of comparisons about millions upon millions of different things, all stored in our memories. And that's just our minds, not counting the countless comparisons our bodies make to keep us alive and thinking. Thus human minds are much higher on the spectrum, perhaps higher than anything we've ever seen before.

And if there ever come a time when we meet advanced alien civilizations, if they would be light years ahead of us in technology and science, it will be because they are able to make a higher number of comparisons about higher number of things in any given single moment. Thus being on an even higher level of consciousness.
Last edited by nazra7 on Thu Jan 14, 2016 2:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.

David Handeye
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by David Handeye » Thu Jan 14, 2016 2:13 pm

Do animals make comparisons? I think so. Do animals have a consciousness?
You'd better define "comparison", before.
Last edited by David Handeye on Thu Jan 14, 2016 2:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

nazra7
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Re: The answer to consciousness

Post by nazra7 » Thu Jan 14, 2016 2:19 pm

David Handeye wrote:Do animals make comparisons? I think so. Do animals have a consciousness?
I'd rather define "comparison", before.
Why wouldn't they? Animals rely on their senses just as we do. Perhaps people don't think animals feel emotions, but every time I do something to annoy my dog, and he gives me that "wtf stop it" look, I have to think he's feeling annoyed. I give people the same look when I get annoyed. And when he's happy he will jump around with joy and acts silly. I'd do the same if I won the lottery. I think we all would.

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