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The Theater of Reflective, Deliberative Consciousness
Ben Goertzel   Feb 19, 2010   Cosmist Manifesto  

Our reflective, deliberative “theater of consciousness” is the way that primal awareness manifests itself in one part of our mind/brain.


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In Orwell’s Animal Farm, the ruling pigs famously change their slogan from “All animals are equal” to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Panpsychism accounts for the human experience of consciousness in a similar way: “All entities are aware, but some are more aware than others.”

Or, just as much to the point: some are differently aware than others.

Every entity in the universe—every pattern—has some awareness, but each pattern manifests its awareness differently depending on its nature.

Our reflective, deliberative “theater of consciousness” is the way that primal awareness manifests itself in one part of our mind/brain.

According to panpsychism, the “unconscious” parts of your mind/brain are in fact “conscious” in their own ways—but their own less-intense consciousness is only loosely coupled with that of your theater of reflective, deliberative consciousness.

Various practices such as meditation or psychedelic drug use may increase this coupling, so that the reflective, deliberative consciousness can become more closely coupled with the consciousness of the other parts of the mind/brain that normally appear to it as “unconscious.”

None of this however should be taken to deny the specialness of the theater of reflective, deliberative consciousness. It’s a wonderful phenomenon—it’s definitively, gloriously different than what takes place in rocks, atoms, molecules, clouds or even lizards. Puzzling out its structure and dynamics is an important task which cognitive neuroscience is gradually making headway on.

But, what makes this aspect of our minds special is not that it’s the unique receptacle or source of awareness (it isn’t ... nothing is).

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The Theater of Reflective, Deliberative Consciousness as a Purposeful Iconoclast

Part of what characterizes the theater of reflective, deliberative consciousness is the special effort it makes to decouple itself from the unconscious. To an extent, it cuts itself off from perceiving the awareness of the other parts of the mind/brain, so it can carry out processing using processes that ignore these other parts.

The reflective/deliberative consciousness wants to gather some information from the unconscious, and then process it in an isolated way, because that way it can carry out special processes that wouldn’t work otherwise.

Reflective/deliberative consciousness works in part by making near-exhaustive intercombinations of the small number of things in its focus at any given time. It couldn’t do this if it opened up its scope too much, due to the limited amount of resources at its disposal.

So we have a very important theme here: limitation of resources is causing a system (the reflective/deliberative consciousness) to increase its degree of separateness, so as to enable it to achieve some goals better within the resources at its disposal. But these goals themselves have to do with persisting separateness (in this case the separateness of the organism associated with the mind containing the reflective/deliberative consciousness). Separateness spawns more separateness.

Separateness often makes things more interesting ... and often also less joyful ... a general theme to which I will return later.

This brief article is part of the overall Cosmist Manifesto.

Ben Goertzel Ph.D. is a fellow of the IEET, and founder and CEO of two computer science firms Novamente and Biomind, and of the non-profit Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute (agiri.org).



COMMENTS

Now this is interesting

Quote : “Panpsychism accounts for the human experience of consciousness in a similar way: “All entities are aware, but some are more aware than others.”
“Or, just as much to the point: some are differently aware than others.”

Indeed not all creatures or entities are “self-aware” in the same context as we humans, (now + great apes + elephants, and + dolphins). Why argue with the fact that all these creatures are not self-aware in the first instance? And why keep adding to the list one at a time? I have always believed that many lifeforms are self-aware to different degrees including all mammals and birds, (am I projecting my own understandings of Self-awareness upon these creatures?) Are plants and insects self-aware? Do they require to be self-aware?

Yet more importantly each living thing is outwardly conscious and perceptive of change in circumstance : this is what I would term as conscious. And moreover it may follow that every atomic particle, nuclear forces, magnetism or rather electromagnetism, gravitational attraction, chemical valences, may be an attribute of what may loosely be termed as outward consciousness?

Envision a cosmic soup or rather the universe as a sea of particles each outwardly conscious and perceptive of its neighbours, yet not necessarily self-aware, (although we should not rule this out either?) I often draw this on paper as little arrows all pointing away from each other and outwardly conscious. This idea helps me envisage a perpetual conscious sea that permeates the whole of existence. And a sea of “conscious outward perception” such as this may be susceptible and encompass conscious waves of reflection?

Of course this is all just philosophy and not yet proven physics.

The trouble is we are so tied up with different understandings of this term consciousness. Are we really unconscious when we are asleep, or is this merely a different mode of consciousness? Is the sub-conscious inseparable from our formal conscious awareness?

Quote : ” The reflective/deliberative consciousness wants to gather some information from the unconscious, and then process it in an isolated way, because that way it can carry out special processes that wouldn’t work otherwise.”

What makes us “Self-aware” or “Self” reflexive? When I close my eyes and fall into a gently semi-state of dreaming, I can perceive a positional reference for my mind, which is strong. Similarly when I attempt breathing meditation and attempt to be mindful of thoughts that pass in and out of my mind, I again take a positional reference point : which is ultimately why my attempts to overcome and uncover the “true Self”, (pure outward consciousness), fail dismally each time I try.

Single-pointedness may help, (although I have not achieved this), yet once the meditation is over, the “Self” the positional reference immediately would return, as it must or we would never recover? The Self can easily be tricked to perceive itself outside of the brain and body, or rather the “positional reference of Self” may be tricked as believing it is somewhere else : how versatile is this?

This small subset algorithm you describe, may be similar to what I believe is a feedback loop of “positional reference” that we possess, which has perhaps evolved as a mutation and also in many species that may possess “Self-awareness” to some degree? I believe it is this “positional reference” that establishes the notion of a centre of intellect, and that we thus reconcile this as “Self”?

In fact it is a challenge to investigate each and every one of your perceptions, (sight and hearing predominantly), and attempt to note that the very first action of each perception is to establish a positional reference for the perception. You may try this for yourself. Can you deny your every prior action of perception is to reconcile its position to your centre of Self-reference?

Yet this feedback loop cannot justify itself, and must reside in perhaps some small subset algorithm you describe.

What does this all mean? If an ant is outwardly conscious yet is not “Self-aware” and does not need to be, then a machine is just as capable of this same potential of “outward consciousness”, although we deem it not to be alive, (are we just prejudiced?)

If we can trace this subset algorithm or in effect reproduce this ” feedback loop” of positional reference, we may be able to transpose and infer an attribute for a self-reflexive and learning machine. This may give a machine the appearance of “Self-awareness”, or may even provoke this natural tendency in a highly complex learning machine?

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