Re: Animal Consciousness (was Mindless Thought Experiments)

From: M T (
Date: Fri Mar 07 2008 - 13:42:15 MST

I think what you are describing is the world through a procedural perspective.
Sure, the procedures are there and everything can be described as a procedure but does a solar flare have subjective experience? The field of poppies could possibly evolve intelligence in a million years but right now it's just there... computing... Nobody is hurt if I stamp all over them but your pet poodle would suffer greatly if I hurt it and even if I hurt you.

There is a practicality to my original question in respect to ethics, morality and friendliness. I didn't become vegetarian because of fear of what the future AGI would see me like (though it certainly crossed my mind), but how do you explain to the fledgling AGI that it *must* be friendly to you while you are enjoying a choice of prime dissected lower mammalian lifeform's dead flesh?

----- Original Message ----
From: Larry <>
Sent: Friday, 7 March, 2008 3:35:28 PM
Subject: Re: Animal Consciousness (was Mindless Thought Experiments)

On Fri, 7 Mar 2008, M T wrote:

> While on this topic, I have to ask:
> What is the lowest level level of complexity in life forms that you would
> assign consciousness and self-awareness?
> Mice? Ants? Mussels maybe?
> It is also obviously impossible to answer objectively, but one has to
> try.....

Electrons :)

Seriously I'd argue that consciousness is an issue of quantity (1-N) not
a unique quality.

Consciousness is just a stream of events and awareness. Being human we are
a bit biased in wanting to say why our consciousness is intrinsically
special qualitatively different than a whale, worm, plant or solar flare.
The only reason we are able to have this conversation is not due to being
uniquely conscious, its due to our species advanced level of tool use.

Thought is simply a greatly sped up form of evolution. Patterns of nerve
firing compete. If you look at the nervous system you see all sorts of negative
feedback, loops that will tend to shutdown all but the currently dominant
pattern. The cells firing in that pattern eventually weakens and another
pattern takes over.

I'd argue that in the broad sense of things a field of wild flowers is
conscious and thinks (evolves), its just a much much slower version of
the competition of ideas (patterns) that happen in our own brains. Don't
expect to have a philosophical conversation with it for a billion
years or so until it figures out how to build a high speed brain of its

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