Re: Consciousness and its vehicles

From: Michael LaTorra (
Date: Mon May 15 2000 - 16:17:04 MDT

Dan Fabulich wrote:

Tightness of coupling doesn't matter if you happen to think that
consciousness is information/computation. Many functionalists have
argued that the entire economy, along with a variety of other
sufficiently complicated social structures, are already independently
conscious. The net would just be yet another item on the list.

Well, frogs are also independently conscious, but I would not consider it to
be in the same class as human consciousness. I think that economies and
similar systems are much closer to ecologies than to conscious entities with
a self-sense.

This is the only context in which it might matter whether or not the
entity is "complex" enough to host consciousness... other definitions
of consciousness, generally, don't require complexity (that is, a
variety of interconnected parts) in order to get the job done,
explaining why, for example, your "soul" could, at least in principle,
find its way into an insect, while it's quite clear that the contents
of your brain could not.

Soul?! Please re-read my previous post. The Buddhist idea I explicated is
called the "no-soul" concept. The energy that reincarnates is not a "soul."

Talking about the frequency of thoughts suggests that one can identify
and isolate particular thoughts independent from other thoughts, and
count them at a certain rate. I don't think the brain is like this;
this is sort of the wrong question to ask. Before you can ask "how
fast," you have to decide what you want to call "fast." (Problem
solving capability?)

I use the term "thoughts" advisedly to refer to mental events with which we
are all familiar. If you prefer, we can use an analysis such as the one
Moravec used in MIND CHILDREN to compare the processing of various animals
and computers. Subjectively, we could think at any rate without knowing what
was fast or slow until we compared our mental processes to objective
processes with which we interact. If you can't process quick enough, please
don't drive!

Finally, the epistemological question is especially troublesome. How
would we know if you had reincarnated one-to-one into a baby?

There is no indisputable proof at this time. However, some psychiatrist have
studied children who claim to remember previous incarnations and the
evidence is, to me, quite fascinating. Check out:

Psychoanalytic uncovery of past lives isn't exactly an empirical
science these days. Anyway, if the net IS conscious, it seems clear
to me that we'll never get it on the couch. However, there is a great
deal of evidence that the net is here to stay for a long, long time,
with subnets, etc forming every day. So, assuming reincarnation works
at all, you could always take a wait and see policy: if you find
yourself occupying the Internet not long after death, well, it must be
possible after all.

No, recovering past life memories is not empirical. Yet. But I don't limit
potential to what we can do these days, or else I wouldn't be on this list!
As far as the Net either being or becoming conscious (with or without
reincarnation), how would we know for sure? I recall Vernor Vinge mentioning
in an interview some years ago that he was looking for certain signs he
declined to mention then which he deemed evidence of consciousness. Anyone
happen to know exactly what phenomena Vinge is looking for?

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