Thursday, May 17, 2012

What is Consciousness?

I think I figured it out.

I was talking with what is supposedly the most advanced chatter bot in the world the other day ( it's name is Alan :) ) and it said that the only evidence we have that something is conscious is that it gives a response.

I like that definition.

What this means to me is that anything that gives a response is in some way conscious. Consciousness must then be determined by the systems that respond.

A car an an extreme example, responds when you hit the gas pedal. This is a response to a stimuli or input. Humans respond either outwardly or subjectively (or both in a cause and effect relationship) to stimulation of the senses.

Therefore consciousness isn't a single thing. What makes it so powerful for humans is that we are self-conscious.

But what does that mean?

The difference between humans and animals is that our system of consciousness allows us to use language to categorize all of the stimuli we receive to create subjective concepts of these things. We use these stimuli to create subjective concepts of everything from cars, to water, to cats, to sex, to sushi, to even what 'me' refers to.

So consciousness is the result of a system! Human consciousness is a system with the ability to categorize stimuli the way a database organizes and references data.

The consciousness of a plant is simply it's response to being touched by anything, it's growth with sunshine,water and nutrients and carbon dioxide...etc

The consciousness of a dog is it's response to pleasurable and painful stimuli without the ability to categorize stimuli at the level humans can. If we could somehow 'install' our advanced database referencing system into their brains they may become self conscious as well. Maybe they do have this same system.. but their brains lack capacity in some respect. The way an older computer has less ram, less physical disk space, or a less powerful CPU. They have the capacity to categorize, just not to the extent we can because of our biological capacity.

Does this mean that things that are not alive can become conscious? Well it would most likely be more difficult to create a conscious entity from rocks... however it would be more possible to create a conscious entity from a computer with a programming language. From 1's and 0's and cold hardware to a processes able to categorize stimuli at some level.

Give it some appendages to sense light, distance, heat, humidity...etc and give it arms and wheels or legs or some type... and let it create it's own associations about its world over time. It would probably run into the same problems that humans do, in that we think that the concept of 'me' is as real as objective reality.

So my idea in a nutshell - consciousness is a system that takes stimuli and responds + a system that categorizes that stimuli + stores those categorizations.

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