Who and What is Conscious? (was Thank You)

Parisi & Watson niche at AMERITECH.NET
Tue Jul 27 19:11:58 CDT 1999

-----Original Message-----
From: Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM>
Date: Tuesday, July 27, 1999 1:03 AM
Subject: Re: Thank You

>Even if it is true that consciousness is something that just pops up when
>there is a critical mass of neurons or it is a lucky mutation, it would
>not make a difference I think.  The fact is that we've got it. Other
>things don't.  Perhaps we should proceed down this avenue for further

My cat is definitely conscious. I suppose the question is whether she has
introspective self awareness, and probably she doesn't. The awkward fact is
that I can never directly verify the introspective capabilities of anyone
other than myself, human or not. It sounds like a silly statement, but it
becomes very serious in the field of artificial intelligence. Where, if
anywhere, could we ever cross the line from a convincing simulation of
consciousness (in the sense of self awareness) to actual consciousness? And
how could we ever go about determining the answer to this question? It's
difficulties like this one that led science to behaviorism, and to something
between saying that consciousness doesn't matter and denying it altogether.
But denying it is futile, since I am unquestionably aware of my own
subjective states. So science is in the embarrassing position of neglecting
or denying the thing that we know best and most closely - the thing that we
_are_ - in favor empirical observations, especially of qualities that can be
quantified, which consciousness cannot. It may seem that I'm arguing both
sides of the issue now, but these problems are painfully apparent from the
scientific point of view, and it doesn't help anything to try to paper over

And thank you, Sir, for steering the discussion back into a more
constructive vein.


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