where hypotheses come to die (madman101) wrote,
where hypotheses come to die

"The Illusion of Consciousness"

What is consciousness?  Well, the very asking of the question already, "begs the question," doesn't it?  (A large part of the meaning of life is just the ability to be able to ask, "what is the meaning of life?")  Ever since you were born, everything you do, everywhere you go, is written on the dynamic slate of your consciousness, a priori.  So, how can we question or measure something that already contains everything, as it was in the beginning?  It would be like trying to measure out one cup of water whilst being submerged in the ocean.  How can we ask what it is, when our very asking is what it is? There is no way to step out of it, to get around it, and look back at it to study.  We ARE consciousness.

And, when you are sitting at the park, on a picnic table, you can listen to all the birds, take in all the beauty, feel the wind on your skin.  Relaxed, you can sense that this is what it means to be fully conscious.  (Well, it is one form of consciousness).  You seem to be in touch with nature, with all things.  Meanwhile, time sneaks onwards, and little things happen to remind you that make little cuts in your supposed universal connection.  A mosquito bites you, woops.  Some damn radio is playing somewhere.  Your ability to define and identify and analyze these things is also a manifestation of consciousness.

But, you look over and see, in the distance, a boy and a dog playing.  DO you know what is on that boy's mind?  No.  You can surmise that he is happy.  You might learn enough to believe that he is neither running in fear, or goading the dog - and you proceed to observationally collapse him into your reality in time - into your story.  Commit this to memory.  Use it to help predict the future.  But, can you really predict what he will do next?  No.  You can hypothesize - and many will judge - and many will try to force and control the boy.  But, the fact that he cannot really be predicted is an indicator that he has a will separate from yours, right?  At least, he has a different trajectory and existence.  He has his own consciousness - it is not an extension of narcissistic or borderline you.

Oh, you can try to conform other consciousnesses to your own plans and ways.  And masses have bent themselves to the will of controllaholoc psychos.  But, you will never see through his eyes, nor he through yours, but by love.  So, most of us are grown up and human enough to allow for the reality that everybody has their own mind and consciousness, (despite all the psychic and social bleed-over). And so our agreed-upon world-view has been this:

The boy has human consciousness. Since he is a child, he requires some control and guidance, until his consciousness matures. The dog, on the other hand, is not self-aware, and certainly cannot talk. Therefore, the dog has no consciousness - Well, OK, the dog has a lower form of consciousness. We must oversee him, and he has nothing like human rights. But those insects, though.

Those insects are definitely not conscious. Insects are only the incarnations of habits, just zipping about, here and there. They are the vesicles of instinct. Since we have no real understanding of what this means, we consider them to be part of God's vast, mystical creation. And, in that way, we retain our narcissistic right to reign over them. As we do over the plants - and all that we eat. The more we eat something, the less it has consciousness. And as far as the things that eat us? We don't really have the time to philosophize about it.

According to this world-view, which sort of designates a kind-of hierarchical caste system to all beings, according to some quality or degree of consciousness, we may be separated from other beings, yet we can still maintain our narcissistic connection, through the technologies of definition and control. But these technologies are not consciousness. Mindless machines can do as much. The connection is a lie. It is a substitute for any kind of real universal consciousness. It is a religious assumption by the very nature of our own unique consciousness. (And, this may tell us something about consciousness itself). It is the externalisation of being into materialism, which we sometimes call, "objectification".

We go through life mainly unaware of an infinite paradox. Each being somehow has the ability to have its own universe of consciousness. Somehow, a host of other beings manage to have their own universes of consciousness, off on the horizon. Logically, all of these should be negating all others. But, snd so, our ability to negate is limitted and graded. Beings in the "material world" work out hierarchies of caste and "AUTHORITY", which defines who has the more or less "valid" thoughts.

We can end up seeing the world entirely as a mean real-game, ultimately where only might and cunning makes right. Similarly, we convert all the personal strivings and woes of people into something called, "economics." Finally, we move to convert all thought into a technocracy of artificially intelligent control.

By this, we forget that each one of us is a universe of awareness and will - and choice - as was advocated in history's documents of freedom. Because we are incapable of getting our minds around the vast paradox of existence, we settle for base common denominators of struggle, hate and incarceration. Thus, one day, the way we habitually and religiously collapse other beings into the control of our story/s may turn back upon us all, subjecting us to the will of one controller. Thus, our tools end up ruling us. This has been the major theme of most Science Fiction, which usually retains some one element or character fighting for personal free will and thought - or consciousness.

Man versus Machine.

By the reduction of our world into overlording technology, by science and skepticism and social Darwinism - and atheism - and warfaring religions - and other mean-world views - shall it be concluded that there is no more space for the idea of consciousness? Even though consciousness gave birth to it all, shall it one day be deemed that consciousness is nothing but an illusion?

(Then, tell me, who would be experiencing the illusion, but consciousness!)

Here we go...

A recent episode from NPR's RadioLab looked at the tensions between Man and Machine. For example, one MotherJones reporter did work as a picker for someone like Amazon. As you probably know, pickers race around in giant warehouses so that online-purchases can get to your door in a matter of hours. Soon, slow trucking speeds will be overcome through the use of aerial drones.

(It is not unlike the race of computer quants to get the shortest, fastest line into Wall Street, to make the fastest micro-trades. It is all the logical extension of our mass race to judge, to collapse. Despite the fact that Wall Street is not saving us. Online economy is not saving us. But, it all makes a had full of controllers a bit of profit).

The working life of a picker - who has the early echoes of an android - is controlled by seconds on the clock, and by a system of ruthless credits and debits, running them ruthlessly into the ground, and offering virtually no human benefits. It really is as if the harsh dystopias of Phillip K. Dick exist here and now in these warehouses. The mean-world-view has become all-powerful, as a prototype for the future. The picker has no time to think or question - just to follow the commands. And it all shakes out into a set of numbers, seconds and dollars.

I once studied game theory, and also stress and cognition in psychology. I wrote of the increase of stress and mistakes under, "time demands." Time demands also relatively increase when one is more and more stressed or fatigued, (which is a spiral), because of the tax on the physical ability to retain clear consciousness. (And energy). It has also been shown that empathy is less from people who are in a hurry to meet time demands, than for the same people who are just sauntering about. People in a hurry choose to overlook the homeless or injured, as they themselves are under duress. Lacking in empathy, they defer to demands of authorities. They choose to become "less" conscious, like animals fighting or fleeing to survive. A society under stress likewise arranges hurried people into castes of greater or lesser value.

Once we have big supercomputers and economics and all that, we should be able to figure all this out, and deduce that, yes, they chose to become less conscious. They chose to support the idea that consciousness is not real. Choice is not real. The numbers shall say they were never conscious to begin with. They were just numbers in the perpetual pogrom - no different than a prairie fire. All for the greater good, and freer will, of the elites.

Who collapse us into their stories.

I wondered how far gone we are, that technology and its entrepreneurs, with politics, should keep pushing and pushing us to conform to its own design - its own momentum. It is as if, beginning with pickers, we are being made into automatons in the service of iPhone aps.

So, RadioLab also had a part where a guest was suggesting that technology has its own tendency to bend us to its, "will." The author of, "What Does Technology Want?", claimed that technology and human consciousness are cut from the same cloth. They are made of the same physical nature. Everything in nature works by the same physics. Therefore, just as a flower "wants" to bend itself towards the sun, technology "wants" to change things around it, including us, to facilitate the course that it is on.

I have written of something I call the, "standard value grid." (This concept was mostly in my extensive written journal, which was lost/stolen). Begin here: When clocks were first built, some went counter-clockwise. Soon enough, there emerged an agreement to have all clocks move in a "clockwise" direction. (The universe, and proteins, works in the same way. If everyone is going to agree on some mutual "time" there must be certain laws that apply to all).

Next: Apply this to industry. Many plastic bottles of many shapes and sizes are made. But they only have a few sizes as far as the mouth of the bottles go. This is because there are only a few sizes of screw-on tops available, at an economical price. Bottles comply to this standard. It is the same with screws. And electrical outlets and plugs. And adapter plugs. And motors. And wheels. And so on and on. The, "standard value grid," is a massive network reaching into every crevice and corner of industry, without which, industry would be completely lame and profitless.

But, just like a wonderful yet aging national INFRASTRUCTURE, the standard value grid is an institutionalisation or installation of a STATUS QUO. For a good while the status quo infrastructure or system permits ease-of-use and lots of profit. But, after a while, it starts getting overtaken by entropy, both internally and socio-economically.

According to the guest, today's technology also has a similar, vast arrangement, (or standard value grid, which is my own term). Devices and circuits and aps and programmes and even outlets and advertisers are all keyed into certain ways of doing things, manufacturing things, selling things. All combined, there is a certain inertia to this conglomeration, which no single entity can resist. Just think of WINDOWS for most computers. Most programmes are catered to WINDOWS.

Yes, it is even worse when this conglomeration is controlled by monopolies - but the argument is that technology itself has a kind of will, or desire, or WANT, to make everybody conform to its story. It is as if it has a kind of consciousness!

Could that be possible? If all things are made of the same physics, is it possible that technology - or computers - can sport the emergence of a kind of will? Why should we look so askance on this - as if only we and maybe dogs - garner the rights to any kind of consciousness? And yet -

He makes a fatal error. He asks us to compare this not so much to the, "want," of a human, but to the tendency of a plant to automatically follow the sun: "Of course, the plant does not have any CONSCIOUSNESS!" You see? There it is. The hierarchicalisation of consciousness, from (rock to plant to insect to) animal to pet to human. The same hierarchicalisation which ultimately supports a central authority controlling the thoughts and standard values of the rest of society. That would one day put technology - and its profiting pro-technologists - in charge.

The problem is that plants DO have consciousness - it just isn't human predatory consciousness. It is wholistically driven. But sensuous and alive nevertheless.

He is trying to say that we need not fear technology because it is not alive and willful. It has a dumb, plant-like "want" which we can control. He should have used the word, "WONT," for this. A natural inclination, as in chaos theory and emergence.

When we consider that plants are indeed conscious, to some degree, however, we come away with a more sinister picture of encroaching technology. That is why the host kept flipping out whenever the guest said that technology, "wants," to spread in a unique way - a seemingly willful way.

But, it is the divisions in saying that this has consciousness and this does not, which is the problem. Why cannot we say that we humans do not, "want," something, but that we merely, "wont." And why cannot we say the reverse for, say, a worm? Or a root or a branch? It is because we naturally build up these hierarchies of power and value, largely embodied in semantics, like concrete reinforced by ribar.

"Big Data Revolution"

Either way, technology has the power to encroach. So, at this point, I recommend you listen to the RadioLab episode: Man vs Machine

"Are new ideas and new inventions inevitable? Are they driven by us or by a larger force of nature? In this episode, we look at the things we make—from spoons to microwaves to computers—as an extension of the same evolutionary processes that made us. And we may need to adapt to the idea that our technology could someday truly have a mind of its own. "

The secret life of plants is a compelling springboard into the discussion on consciousness. Plants are just absolutely amazing in what they can do. They reach for the sun - and the rain. They know when pollinators or predators are present. They know the difference between areas of electromagnetic difference. They are not only exactly attuned to the seasons, but to every "second" of the days. They produce stress responses when threatened. They grow better when cared for, talked to, or played classical music to. They SPEAK to each other through their roots. I mean, what more do you want?

When a plant has a wont to move towards the sun, I'd say it is also a WANT. I do say that all of the universe is imbibed with the same physics and dynamics that makes a virus wont, or a plant or a human want. All of nature is consciousness. Because of this, every timely being in nature is wont to cut away at the existence of others, by its own existential bias.

Got it? Now. Consider that, because all of nature is run by the same physics, then it can be said that all consciousness is nothing but (brain) physics. All consciousness is nothing but computer programmes and billiard balls. How can we not say that all thing are of the same physics? Why should we hold consciousness, and bacteria not? All is alive and willful.

Recommended reread of post: Beyond Two-Dimensional Paper: The Origami Universe

BUT AND THIS IS A BIG BUTT: Whereas I used have this premise of universality to say that all is willful, the skeptics can use this same premise to say that all is determined - there is no will - and consciousness is an illusions. (If all is the same physics, then it can be one, or the other - no more hierarchicalising!)

The NATURALLY ironic thing is this:

I agree.

There is no way for us to wrap our heads around the paradox of consciousness and existence, other than to accept the paradox, which is in accord with both a universe of one time and perspective, and a universe of many times and many perspectives(!) And so, while I, on the one hand, assiduously hold that everything in the universe is conscious - I also maintain - with equal fervour - that all is just a big non-willful accident, and there is no consciousness anywhere which is not just some function of other forces that be. IF you expand your mind far enough, you will see that these two apparent contradictions are just as compatible as are the concepts of, "wont," and, "want."

Therefore. Bring on the skeptics. I welcome their hatred with open, loving arms. Because I agree with them. Consciousness is an "illusion".

Or, is it NOT an illusion? Well, lets just say this. It's pretty much: What astro-political point-of-view do you take? That's where the answer lies. Or tells the truth.

It all depends on YOUR OWN FREE CHOICE. To the extent that consciousness is ultimately only YOUR domain, then all theories are quashed, and YOU get to choose. God bless America.

I do hope that you can check out the following:

Daniel Dennett: The Illusion of Consciousness, (TED Talk).

From Bacteria to Bach and Back by Daniel C Dennett review – consciousness explained?

Beyond belief

Daniel Dennett: ‘I begrudge every hour I have to spend worrying about politics’
Tags: all * consciousness, all * entropism, being - & consciousness, consciousness & being, consciousness - universal consciousness, consciousness/ nature of consciousness, dennett - daniel, free will, physics - consciousness, radio - npr/ pri - 'radiolab'
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