Saturday, January 09, 2010

Who Are You

When I open up my favorite part of the paper (the comic page) this cartoon is one of the ones I usually read. Today's strip was especially good.

Get Fuzzy


  1. From A Friend: I see you have found the section of the Newspaper which you can fully comprehend...

    My Response: Yes indeed, and if you go even further than the cartoon above does, then the characterization of consciousness as an emergent attribute of motile organisms I think is also correct. The complexity of the attribute goes hand in hand with the complexity of the motility.

  2. Also, a way to combine this comment with the comic strip above is to say that time can be thought of as the way consciousness experiences the bifurcation of the universe as described by the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. There may be no mathematics or physics that is even possible to quantify this but it does have a nice feel to it.

    This is certainly the case (no way to quantify this) when you include the word consciousness. If you only say that time is the bifurcation of the universe as described by the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics then this seems simpler to describe using mathematics.

    Consciousness can be thought of as a 'prediction-engine' that allows motile organisms to get from point-A to point-B. A motile organism must respond to its perception of its immediate environment in order to persist. When this response rises above a certain level then you can say that consciousness emerges.

    The example of an amoeba or a bacterium is on one end of the spectrum and multi-cellular organisms that actively explore and in some cases modify their immediate environment in order to persist are on the other end.
    Humans and termites, since they both actively modify their environment to persist are on the high end of this scale. An amoeba that sort of floats around in its three dimensional nutrient bath really does not seem to have much of this stuff (consciousness).

    Humans and termites with their ability to create and maintain large air conditioned structures they live in seem to have lots of this stuff.

    Time also comes back in to the picture when you say 'prediction-engine' or ‘modeling engine’. Motile organisms must successfully predict/model the future to successfully negotiate their environment. The inputs to the engine come from the senses of the organism and the output of the engine is the organism’s actual path through its environment.

    In the case of termites their senses are almost just equal to, or very closely coupled to, their immediate environment. It seems like there is not a lot of introspection going on when they build large air conditioned structures.

    On the other hand humans seem to have lots of the ability to do introspection. Introspection is a way of saying that consciousness has the ability to recurse or contemplate itself. This ability is an attribute of the prediction/modeling engine, the more complex the ability to model its environment the more likely that this self contemplation attribute is to exist. Another way to label this is to call it imagination.

    This way of characterizing consciousness seems to do a very good job of differentiating between the consciousness of termites and humans. This assumes, of course, that termites only have a sort of fixed or built in engine that is almost hard-wired. The idea of instinct fits here.

  3. I wrote a comment on this blog post "" it connects the 'modeling-engine' with answers to questions like: Is Mathematics Discovered or Invented? and Does God Exist or Not?

    So this modeling engine must be so that it never freezes up or grinds to a halt. What this means is that organisms the are conscious have their brains hard-wired to come up with answers to "The Big Questions".