Can software accelerate consciousness? I think it can. But first we need to define consciousness, not merely in folk psychology terms, but with a powerful theory of mind. Then we need to explain how software might make your consciousness work faster than it otherwise would, using the terms of this theory. That’s what I’ve tried to do in a paper recently, and in this blog post on Medium: How Hookmark Extends Its Users’ Consciousness: Based on Merlin Donald’s Multiple Component Convergence [MCC] Theory of Consciousness. The MCC theory is described in detail in Professor Donald’s book, A Mind So Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness.
Massimo Pigliucci asked on Twitter: “Without wanting to offend, or to “troll” my own feed, as someone suggested, I am genuinely puzzled by so many people wanting to see consciousness and/or intelligence everywhere: plants, bacteria, rocks, electrons, the universe as a whole. Why?” / Twitter
My tweets often end up being mini blog posts, so I thought I’d answer here instead. But only briefly. This is not a complete answer — just a few thoughts.
This is the third and probably final installment in a series of posts in preparation for the 2015–02–22 Beacon Humanist Group’s meeting on “consciousness”. (It was due to occur at the end of January but I couldn’t make that date in the end.)
There is more material here than I can get through in my brief presentation. Make a note of what you’d like to discuss during the meeting. If I skip a statement of interest to you, we can hopefully return to it in the discussion.
I won’t be lecturing on what consciousness is or how it works. Instead I will briefly present common myths about consciousness and propose some helpful ideas to better understand conscious and nearly conscious experience. Then as usual we will have a moderated discussion.
Myths about Consciousness
In a previous post I mentioned that I will moderate a humanist meeting on consciousness. This post contains some further information on that for participants, and whoever else might find it relevant.
Here are some of the questions I will raise:
The January 25, 2015 meeting on this topic has been postponed. Watch this space, or send me an email in February, to get the new date.
On [Date TBD], I will moderate a humanist discussion on so called “consciousness”. Given that the content will be of broad interest, I will post a few articles for the participants and other interested readers.
For many years, for several reasons, I argued against using the term “consciousness”. “Conscious”, an adjective, is a helpful term that can trigger meaningful psychological inquiry; but the term “consciousness” all too often interferes with the pursuit of understanding the human mind. It tends to induce a reification fallacy, i.e., to assume that because we have a noun (here consciousness) it must actually refer to something particular. Contrast dog, which has referents, and energy which does not. Energy, like gravity, is a helpful problem-centered concept, i.e., a concept that is used to frame and solve problems. Dog is helpful, but it is not problem-centered. It was not developed to solve a theoretical challenge of understanding the world. Treating consciousness as stuff-like can cause problems.
Here’s a little fact that might help you cautiously approach questions using the term “consciousness”: Continue reading “Consciousness”: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Questions About the Human Mind
This epistolary essay was written in 2014 (with some later updates) as a response to Lam Wong’s 21 Elements: Relation, Perception and Meaning painting exhibition of Sept. 2014 in New Westminster. I blogged about the exhibition prior to writing this essay.
In 2014, Lam Wong’s 21 Elements: Relation, Perception and Meaning book was published. That book contains photos of all the paintings in his exhibition. A chapter of 21 Elements, written by Lam, which includes pictures of several of the paintings from his book, are available in this PDF.
Photos of the paintings from 21 Elements are available on Lam’s website.
A version of the essay below appears in the second edition of 21 Elements, published in 2022. That’s a limited edition print.
A version of the essay below, interleaved with photos of the paintings, will appear in Discontinuities: Love, Art, Mind. The letter reflects many of the themes of Discontinuities, including, of course, affective epistolary communication.
- Attentively developing expertise through time
- N-ary relations in art and meta machinery
- Perception: The construction of conjectures
- Rational faith and love in the dark
- Language of cognitive-affective mind
- Perturbance: Loss of control of mental processing of motivators
- Attachment, acceptance, love and happiness
- Universality of affect
- Using visual art to improve ourselves
- Consciousness, the great integrator (or integration)
- To the tune of Kevin Shield’s Goodbye
Meta-painting & Science of the Human Mind: An Epistolary Response to Lam Wong’s 21 Elements
Shadows of shadows passing. It is now 1831, and as always I am absorbed with a delicate thought. It is how poetry has indefinite sensations, to which end music is an essential. Since the comprehension of sweet sound is our most indefinite conception, music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry. Music without the idea is simply music. Without music or an intriguing idea, colour becomes pallor, man becomes carcass, home becomes catacomb, and the dead are but for a moment motionless. Edgar Allan Poe
I had the pleasure of attending, on several occasions, Lam Wong’s 21 Elements: Relation, Perception and Meaning exhibition and of discussing his art with him. As a result, I am moved to share my reflections with you.
As always, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the latest episode of Rationally Speaking Podcast. This one was On the Computational Theory of Mind, with guest Gerard O’Brien, philosopher of mind from the University of Adelaide. (Hosts: Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef.) Here are a few comments about this episode.
Continue reading AI, Cognitive Science and Understanding: Comments on RS-95 (Gerard O’Brien and The Computational Theory of Mind)